Friday, May 30, 2008

What’s wrong with people?

Today I saw the new Indiana Jones movie. Frankly speaking I am disappointed. Of course, my expectations were high. Well, you have every right to expect good things from the Spielberg-Lucas-Ford combination. They have worked before. But it seems that not all formulae are fool-proof. Watching the movie I had the same impression I have been having with quite a few movies these days. The days of good old-fashioned stunts are gone. All we have are bunches of (seamless) special effects. CGI has taken over. Yes, now effects are mind-blowing, film-makers are being able to what no one ever had imagined. But there seems to have begun a competition of fantasy. Each and every film must out-do some other in terms of sheer action. The end result is, my opinion strictly, instead of superhuman (but human nevertheless) heroes and heroines, now we have inhuman (cold, softwarish) images. With that comes a host of other problems. The old Indy movies were irreverent, funny, mysterious and above all intelligent. Spectacle without a strong plot is – even Aristotle knew – something of a disaster.

I am a big fan of the old Star Wars movies. They are sci-fi, they are a fairy-tale shifted to stars. They are full of effects. But they are warm, human. When a stunt-(wo)man is doing something, even with all the illusion, all the effects, all the precautions, it has a faint touch of reality. One can somehow associate/aspire to that. But when it is a cold computer image doing the impossible it ceases to have a soul (could not think of a better word at the moment, with due apologies to Mr Asimov). Star Wars Episode III made me sick, because 90% of the film was digital. When I saw the new Superman I was duly impressed. But when I compare it to the old one (Christopher Reeve proved that he was in life a superman) I miss the wow factor. Playing the role of old Clarke Kent was tough. They had to hang the actors with wires and do all sorts of things to them. Now a blue screen is more or less is gone. Where is the credit? Pretty soon CGI would take place of actors – forgive me, if you have seen Final Fantasy then you know they already have started to do so.

I know I am old-fashioned. Give me a romance like Casablanca any day, or give me an action-thriller like Dirty Harry, even give me a sci-fi like Outland – but give me men and women. It does not have to be mushy (or pissy) human interest story. It can be trash (the latest Die Hard struck a good balance), it can be anything. But it should have the digital as a tool, not as the USP. Thank God Indian cinema are still tech-wise a little backward. Good old Akshay Kumar (why does he steal Thums Up bottles? I thought he had a good career and was earning enough!) can jump to his heart’s content. Fans like me can actually be impressed. Incidentally, a 70 year old Harrison Ford did some stuff which, at half his age, I would be hard-pressed to do!

Bit of a spoiler so don’t read on if you are planning to watch Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – but I think it is high time that Lucas and Spielberg grow out of their obsession with those typical Lucas+Spielberg alien types. Close Encounters of the Third Kind was boring enough. E.T. was cool. Even War of the Worlds impressed more than the other disaster movies. But even there the digital rules. Christopher Nolan thankfully has the right idea. He uses CGI only when required. In his Batman Begins he actually tied a Stunt Man to the top of a building. See Ironman – Robert Downey Jr takes the whole thing to a different level. He takes nothing very seriously, not even being Ironman. That touch was there in Ford. The casual swagger, the weakness for the hat, sometimes a bit of overconfidence – here he is not given that chance. Neither is Cate Blanchett. She is probably the saving grace of the movie. But she has no counterpoint. The only point of interest could have been Henry Jones Junior Junior. In this respect Superman Returns scores better. But that is the trend now. Preparing the path for the next generation. Nothing wrong with that. But it should be done properly. It should be done entertainingly.

There is nothing wrong with people, and with people-like qualities. A human touch is always welcome. The digital should not replace the human.

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