Sunday, January 16, 2005

A tale of two action flicks.

Lovely Wife Cheryl and I went to a double feature this weekend: Elektra and House of Flying Daggers. These movies were similar in many ways. They both had cardboard characters, melodramatic acting, interminable speeches, long boring parts, and cool action sequences. The aforementioned movie is being savaged by critics (06% on Rotten Tomatoes, although it's rising slowly since Friday) and the latter movie is being praised to the high heavens (88% on the Tomatometer, and both films have similar scores at Metacritic).

I don't get it. LWC said, "I think I liked Elektra better," and she has no preconceptions from comics or Frank Miller worship to color her opinion. House of Flying Daggers had two brilliant action sequences, as detailed by Roger Ebert's glowing review (the Echo Game and the fight in the bamboo forest). Otherwise, it was talky, boring, and wooden. To be fair, Zhang Zyi was wonderful as always, both in her action sequences and elsewise. Elektra was better acted (not by much, I agree) and didn't have the same stunning action, but it held together better and was not as boring (not by much, I agree).

I am puzzled by critic's reactions to these two movies. Film critics are exceedingly bored and jaded, and when they see a scene or performance that is outstanding or something they have never seen before, they tend to rate the film very highly, even if that film doesn't hold together well and most of it is boring as hell. House of Flying Daggers was no better than The Phantom Menace in my book, which also had two brilliant action sequences and was otherwise a lousy movie.

This hearkens back to Ebert's (and many other critics') review of The Big Sleep. All declare that the movie had wonderful performances from the two principals, even if the plot didn't make sense. How can that be a great movie? Doesn't the plot count for anything? Ebert even goes so far in his review of Daggers to say "as with some operas, the story is almost beside the point, serving primarily to get us from one spectacular scene to another." I don't want to have to wade through the lousy crap to get to two great scenes. I'm looking for a complete film before I give you my glowing review.

Critics gush uncontrollably about foreign films, even if those films are not much better than their domestic counterparts. To be fair once again, I'd wager that the dialogue and pacing in Daggers is much better in its native Chinese. Unfortunately, I have to view the film with the tools I have, and I'm not willing to cut it some slack just because it's subtitled.

I fell asleep in the theater during Hero because the movie was boring, not because I'm narcoleptic or senile. I used to watch Doctor Who episodes late on Sunday night on the local PBS affiliate in St. Louis. Often, I fell asleep before the end, missing important plot developments like Adric dying (I hated that kid). I thought it was the Sunday night scheduling until they moved them to Sunday afternoon, and I still fell asleep. It was Doctor Who's fault, not mine.


Anonymous said...

You know it has to be said. Are you sure you're not narcoleptic?


Shocho said...

How can I be sure? It seems like every night, about 11 p.m., I fall asleep. I almost slept through 12th grade Physics, but then the teacher sometimes fell asleep at the blackboard, holding a book, in the middle of writing down a problem. Let's just say I shouldn't be the next Ambassador to China.