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Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Hunter

The Hunter posterSynopsis

Starring Willem Dafoe as a scientist hired by a biotech corporation to track down the Tasmanian tiger, previously presumed extinct.  He is regarded as a ‘greenie’ by resentful locals fearful for their jobs.  Dafoe passes himself off as Martin David studying Tasmanian devils.  He stays with a family.  Frances O’ Connor plays Lucy the wife of a scientist who went missing on some field trip.  Defoe has to face the hostility of the locals over his relationship with Lucy as he helps restore the family to normal functioning.  Dafoe is initially accompanied by Jack Mindy (played by Sam Neill) as he goes into the wilderness.  Dafoe has to deal with a rival hunter.  He thinks he has tracked the animal to its lair…

Criticism

Like the film Into the Grey this is about a Jack London type story about a man up against the wilderness.  In films about hunters we usually get the macho loner on some professional and personal mission.  He is usually meticulous with details, indeed downright pernickity and antisocially jealous of his freedom.  He has a pedantically proprietorial attitude to his craft and suffers no fools (nearly everyone but himself).  He usually has a gorgeous woman in his life who waits patiently for him or she may be deceased.  Defoe’s character fits into this mould rather unsympathetically.  The Tasmanian scenery he works in is magnificent, the details of the grey and white wood acting as foreground or camouflage make it look like a great perceptual puzzle.  Defoe in the wilderness is dwarfed by its vastness resolving into hallucinatory detail, a vivid and strange gestalt.  He seems to compensate for his intrusive and threatening presence by his vigilance for the tiger, this ordeal initiates him into the rhythms of life in the rainforest.  The curiosity about the search for this animal is that it’s a tragic irony, the pursuit of it will probably guarantee its extinction, yet there are many plants and animals we could already save without searching for something which may not exist.  Still, I suppose the tiger becomes a sort of metaphor of the psychological ‘elusiveness of Defoe’s hunter’.  In searching for the tiger, if he finds it, what will he do?  If he leaves it alone, others will come, and if he finds it he will guarantee its harassment and unintentional extinction.  What he does is to resolve this dilemma in a tragic manner.

Defoe is up against that familiar role from central casting: the surly, resentful, local peasant/farmer/redneck who wants the new arrival to get lost or else.  Sam Neill plays that familiar stand by, the helper who may have a sinister agenda of his own.  Defoe as the rugged loner also has the Clint Eastwood role of surrogate father and mentor to a wild hippyish family.  He briefly brings contentment to the abandoned house, and after there is tragedy he might find love.  In spite of the familiarities, this is a spectacular and involving film, well acted as it holds attention throughout.

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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man posterSynopsis

Goes back to the original story after the Toby McGuire films.  Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker plays a science student who has lost his father (Richard Parker), a colleague of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who is a leading herpetologist who dreams of growing back his arm like lizards can regenerate limbs.  Peter is in love with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) whose father is the police chief.  Parker lives with Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field).  Parker gets bitten by lots of spiders in a science lab and he tries out his powers on the class bully and then tries to find the robber who has killed Uncle Ben.  He is seen as a vigilante, and the police are after him.  He duels with Curt Connors who has become a giant lizard after falling foul of his corporate bosses…

Criticism

This Spiderman is less of a nerd who has to prove himself and more the victim of a self contempt liberated by his new found powers.  He becomes an unaccountable bully seeking revenge, but conceals this to himself by thinking that he pursues justice for the weak.  He simply repays the victim in his own coin, to the bully he is a bully, and to the greedy or cynical he is a cynic with superpowers.  Garfield’s Parker is much more smitten with his girlfriend than Toby McGuire was with Kirsten Dunst, indeed Garfield’s character goes on being himself with the distraction of arachnid aerobatics.

Like Molina’s multi-armed baddie in the McGuire Spiderman film, Curt Connors starts out by wanting to do good but the obsessive Faustian pact with techno power always ends badly.  The conception is total, but then there is eleventh hour repentance.  Garfield’s Parker also has to learn self knowledge through the use of his powers.  I wonder if the writers of these comic books were trying to teach simple lessons about the abuse of American military power in the mid 20th century.  Garfield’s Peter Parker is no nerd glancing over his shoulder at comic book purists, he doesn’t do a Clark Kent (the civilian identity of Superman) and pretend to be a decent wimp in order to enhance by contrast the spell of his superpowers.  This time the powers are acquired quickly as a fun jaunt that might end any time.  The spun webs keep Spiderman from the airy nothing of just flying about, his powers depend on the use of buildings.  In Spiderman gravity is aestheticized so it makes his use of space more like a techno circus stunt.  He’s a sort of glorified base jumper who recognizess the limits of his powers as enmeshed with the city, it’s almost a sort of CGI performance art in a daft spandex outfit.  Good fun.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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