Thursday, February 02, 2012

'Super' vs. 'Colombiana'--- Weird & cheap vs. Slick & shallow

Recently saw two films that I was curious about... one was 'Super' written/directed by James Gunn, a screenwriter who reportedly makes a FORTUNE in Hollywood over the years ("Scooby Doo" is one of his big credits) but is also a big comic book fan and 'Super'had a lot of buzz on and the other was 'Colombiana' produced by the Luc Besson ("Le Femme Nikita", "Leon", among other things) action factory.

Let's start with "Colombiana"--- A family member said it best- "A good action movie, but not very realistic". I'd agree with that, but also add that it was a pity that the movie wasn't a little more ambitious and went out out on a limb somewhere. Robert Mark Kamen, one of the screenwriters, (Writer of "The Karate Kid 1, 2, and 3) seems to be able to write engaging enough action films- but with little leftover a day later to remember it.

The movie was engaging enough, with a scenario that's a bit unbelievable at times- but I just wish that there would have some scene or bit that would have made me go, "Ah, THAT'S why the filmmaker was driven to make this movie".

Back when John Woo was making personalized action films (Now it's hit or miss), I'd be thrilled by the action scenes, but more thrilled by the point in which the movie would reveal the scene or two that would take you off guard by the intensity of emotion that would rarely be seen in a formula action flick (There are plenty of them in early John Woo action films- the last great American film that Woo did with this had to be "Face Off"). John Woo at his best tends to have a lot of sappy moments when he's unfiltered- but at the same time, extremely emotional ones as well that take you off guard.

Colombiana....doesn't have any of that. It's engaging for a far-fetched premise, but just engaging enough. The broad strokes of the story are made even stronger by having someone on screen explain what's going on every few minutes or so- but it's decent enough for a dumb action film. In watching the size of the crew behind the film at the end, it's a bit painful knowing how impersonal the final result feels.

It's slick and got the basic job done, though I wish I could have been a little suprised.

On the other end of the spectrum.... We have "Super".

Now, on first viewing, I just thought that the movie was really a mess. The film looks ugly (why not just have it be shot on video on a steadicam if going for such a look?), and the movie felt like it couldn't decide if it wanted to be taken serious as a drama, if it wanted to be a comedy, if it wanted to be a gross-out Troma film, if it was making a statement--- I'm not sure, but outside of parts I liked, it had 'cult' written all over it--- particularly because despite a lot of misfires in the film, the last five minutes takes a turn that I thought was sad and made sitting through the film worthwhile.

Then, after listening to the feature commentary, I don't know if I liked the movie more because of it..... but it was refreshing to hear that both actor and director made almost EXACTLY the movie they had in mind, crazy tonal shifts, underdeveloped screenplay and all. They even were so bold as to share that for the actor, this was THE movie that made him feel artistically satisfied so much so, that he could die and be satisfied.

The joy and satisfaction on the commentary made me feel a bit more respect for the film.... why?

Well, to me, there's little that's more painful to see all the time and effort put into a film- and then have the results go astray for a multitude of idiotic reasons... and so, what's gotten onscreen is an embarrassing mistake that didn't even really represent what the creative person had in mind in their head to begin with.

In any case:
"Colombia" was engaging enough, but was slickly made for a decent budget with a big crew.

"Super" was downright weird (and unpleasant in a Troma way at times) with some very entertaining bits (particularly the crazy almost love-romance between the main wannabe superhero character and his psychotic fangirl groupie)and a strangely beautiful ending.

In other words, it was high budget slick film vs. crude low-budget vanity project--- in the end, it's funny how the weirdo vanity project has me remembering more bits and pieces and lines of dialogue from the film, than the slick formula flick.

Or maybe it's not so suprising.

In any case, shelling out the money for "Super" feels better than shelling out the money to see "Colombiana".

Why? Because ultimately "Super" feels far more personal- like a labor done out of love- after listening to the commentary, it really confirms it. "Colombiana" feels like a project designed to make money (even if it may or may not be).

Weird, cheap, and passionate as hell ftw over the successfully slick.
Maybe not always, but in this case I think so-

Or, as the superhero in "Super" would say:

(*Not that it makes any particular sense, but, hey, it's one of a few memorable signature lines in the film and is fun to write.)

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