Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Reeve’

EXISTENCE, NOT RESISTANCE, IS FUTILE

December 31, 2008
The Borg, whose place in popular culture is assured (despite the obsessive need to ‘assimilate’ people) thanks to the phrase “Resistance is futile,” got it only half-correct. As cracked.com famously – and brilliantly – pointed out, Man-At-Arms (he of He-Man fame) had to try to fight off the sodomites even though he was surrounded and outnumbered in jail, because “to give in passively to a prison-rape would be to die a little inside”.

My best friend’s little brother was in a serious car accident last night or early this morning. Now this is a kid I haven’t seen in years, so suffice it to say that he’s not such a kid anymore; still, it seems I shall always see him as such, regardless. I recall being intrigued by her family, and liking them very much – especially her mom and her two little brothers, despite their natural tendency to cause her trouble, as little brothers are often wont to.

So imagine my abject horror when, about two years ago, Valerie told me that her littlest brother – let’s call him Daniel, say – may have either cancer or Crone’s disease. Cancer to me was the biggest villain of the 20th Century (Mr. Hitler can go fuck his crazy-ass self), the deus ex machina of the real world (i.e. the borderline incurable disease with nary a root cause that life kills you with when you’ve dodged every other bullet known to man). The other was rare enough that neither my mother – a lifelong health professional – nor my many seasons of watching House M.D. could inform me about. Talk about a choice between a kick in the nuts and a punch in the throat.

I researched Crone’s, as I am wont to do, but to what end, really? Was I hoping to find an online concoction that would be the mysterious cure that doctors had all but overlooked, because they were glued to their soap operas instead of researching Wikipedia? No, I can’t save myself, let alone save someone else, and that’s an infuriating fact of life.

It turns out that Daniel didn’t have Crone’s, or cancer, which was a big relief, no doubt especially for Valerie, who was hundreds of miles away in Scotland; I don’t dare imagine how overwhelming the sense of powerlessness must have been. But since that happy resolution, I have heard snippets of things that are rather upsetting and disturbing – things I shall go into no further detail about for privacy’s sake (yes I can talk about my attempted suicide and my darkest fears and shortcomings because they’re mine). Suffice it to say that it proves that every cloud has a silver lining, and that silver lining is just indicative of a Katrina-style thunderstorm ready to shit-storm on your world.

Which makes me wonder as to the point of it all. Life is hollow without love, and love of course makes one incredibly vulnerable. How do you protect those nearest and dearest to you? How do you ensure they are happy? And how can you truly ever be happy if you can’t be 300% sure that they are truly happy, and vice versa? You can’t control everything they do and that happens to them to make sure that their lives – in this world and the next – meet their fullest potential. And even if you could, what makes you so right? I thought of Chris Reeve last night and I almost cried. Few will argue that he wasn’t a good, strong man, blessed and a blessing, but is that enough? Will his suffering in this life negate any in the next?

Heaven Can Wait is one of those resilient fantasy comedies, probably because it’s supposed to speak to us about how wonderful life truly is. It depicts a life so blissfully perfect that, when it is prematurely and unjustly ended (like any premature and most ‘mature’ deaths are just) he demands it be restored precisely as it was before. But really, what this proves to me is how arbitrary it all is, that one man’s life can be neatly slotted into another’s (or 2, or 3 or 4 or 5, if you count the countless remakes, which seems a contradiction in terms).

I may seem like the wrong person to espouse the pointlessness of existence, given that I – reputedly, there’s no proof – tried to off myself one time. But all I’m saying is how do you live when the propensity for grief and tragedy is so unbearably high – not to yourself but to those around you? (Which is why suicide, while allegedly painless, is irrefutably selfish, ‘cos you neglect the hurt you’d cause). Does anyone have a concrete, no-bullshit answer to that?

My best friend’s little brother has been in a serious car accident. I have no more info except for this. And I cannot comfort or assure her, despite her status on Facebook, despite the early-morning text message today, New Year’s Eve. Despite the fact that I love her more than life, more than myself. Because all I have are words – hollow, echoey, showboating even. I cannot save her (though I’ve tried) – I cannot even save myself. Words are only of significance when directed to the One Person who can help, who can do anything, and that I have done with as much limited ability as is vested in me these days.

But even when praying to God, words alone are simply not enough. And for someone who has had absolutely nothing but words for the longest time, that is a frightening notion.

From ‘Superman’ (1978) to ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008): Comic Books Come to Life and (finally) Come of Age – over 30 years: Part II

December 31, 2008

The continuation of my Top 10 comic book movie adaptations (once again, the likes of Road To Perdition, American Splendor and A History Of Violence simply exist on such a different plane that I’d rather not consider them in these rankings, as excellent as they are).

5. Spider-Man 2 (**** ½; A-)
This film really surprised me. I saw the first one in theaters and found it a tedious, boring, unimaginative and poorly executed endeavor, and naturally expected more of the same from the second. But it soared majestically on a well-realized love story that became the crux of the film, never mind the rather ridiculous A-story with Doc Ock’s incredibly lame plot. It has gained staying power with its lovely insight into Parker’s real world problems. On top of that it managed the excellent monorail battle, which is one solid action sequence more than either the prequel or the sequel could muster (and the less said about the travesty that is Spider-Man 3, the better).

4. Batman Begins (**** ½; A)
Now this is where the gloves come off. Batman Begins marked the first true live action incarnation of the Caped Crusader on the silver screen – all prior were just flashy impostors dressing the part. Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan gave us a fully realized Bruce Wayne, brimming with palpable and gripping angst that carried over fantastically into the psyche of the Dark Knight himself, finally giving audiences an inkling of what it was for him to do what he does. There have been endless complaints about the cutting and shooting of the action sequences, but I’m having none of it: that’s the way I’ve imagined Batman handing out his beatings (it just sucks when you see it in IMAX). On top of that, it’s perhaps the best plotted film on this list, and the pyramid scheme of multiple villains (knock off one to find another bigger and badder underneath) is very richly orchestrated. Definitely took its cues from the best origin story of all (see #2).

3. Superman II (*****; A)
This is the near-perfect blueprint of what a sequel should be: more of the same, but bigger. It fleshes out the Lois-and-Clark love story, introduces us to a troika of villains as powerful as our esteemed hero, and raises the stakes from saving California to saving the Earth. This is the Godfather Pt II of superhero movies – on par with the original on so many levels, but just missing that very negligible X-Factor that will always make it a second generation. But what really stops this film from being the A+ that it should have been, is knowing what this film could have become. Director Richard Donner had shot the bulk of this but was fired to be replaced by Richard Lester (a shared first name was about as close as these two came to matching talents), he who wrought upon us Superman III. Do yourself a favor and pick up Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut; there are one or two inferior elements there, but everything else is on a grander, more incredible scale. And even in its rough cut, the climactic interaction between Jor-El and Superman (sans his superpowers) is absolutely heartbreaking.

2. Superman (*****; A+)
The film that started it all, and that for 30 years held the top spot uncontested; I naturally expected that would never change. It took its subject matter seriously, creating a fully-fleshed out universe where you could honestly believe a man can fly. It’s almost three movies in one: the opening on Krypton, the second phase in Kansas (I remember being so fascinated and so moved by this part, especially around Father Kent’s death), and the bulk of the story in Metropolis. And these boast three different tones, with three different looks, that blend into a delicious, mind-boggling whole. Whether it’s simple but spectacular set pieces (the helicopter rescue, the pursuit of the nukes, spinning the world on its axis) or the well-plotted narrative that focused on character above all else (Clark in Kansas, or Superman’s midnight flight with Lois), it worked on level few blockbusters could. And the music – who could forget the music? Easily John Williams’s greatest ever score, from the Krypton theme to the main title to the incredibly moving Love Theme (‘Can You Read My Mind’?); all this showed that this was the kind of superhero movie that would (and perhaps could) never be undertaken again. And there’s no justice without mentioning Christopher Reeve’s bravura performance as Kent/Superman – you’ve got to watch carefully to realize the slight of hand and amazing ability he brings into the role. Watching his physical transformation (that encompasses emotional and psychological) when he contemplates spilling the beans to Lois? Priceless. It’s the best bit of casting since they got Brando as the Godfather, and the best acting ever in a movie like this (until the next, equally tragic case, 30 years on).

You'll believe a man really can fly, which is all we ask of the great movies

You'll believe a man really can fly, which is all we ask of the great movies

1. The Dark Knight (*****; A+)
There’s not possibly enough I can say about this movie. It’s epic; it’s personal; it’s brooding; it’s thrilling; it’s violent; it’s hopeful. What it is not, however, is just another blockbuster. From its phenomenal score (of course no threat of comparison to Maestro Williams’s Superman symphony) to its phenomenal cast’s phenomenal performances to its ridiculously epic (in a great way) set pieces to its well-oiled plotting, deep-seeded themes and impactful emotional resonance, there’s little this cinematic achievement is lacking. Nolan has done the unthinkable among beloved indie directors: top even his most cherished low-budg masterclasses with a gigantic spectacle of a summer blockbuster. It represents genuine hope for the future – that big-budget blockbusters can be crafted with indie flick thoughtfulness and sensibilities: caring for characters, justifying their every controversial move, fleshing out the world they inhabit and drawing strong parallels to ours. It is the most intense blockbuster I’ve ever seen in theaters; probably one of the most intense and relentless ever. Once it gets its screws into you, it doesn’t let up or let go, and returns haunting you, with resonance and sometimes heartbreaking clarity, long after the lights have flickered off the screen. Here’s to 30 years (at least) at the top of the food chain; Superman has (barely) lost to a very worthy adversary, and it might take just as long if not longer for such a realistic and sustained challenge to rear its head. Yes, I said it: these two films represent quality that’s almost once-in-a-lifetime, so enjoy them as you’re privileged to. Chris Reeve and Heath Ledger (among a worldful of others) never got to.