on not seeing movies

March 4, 2013

I decided not to go see Jack the Giant Slayer.  It seems like I would want to — a big action special effects extravaganza based on a fairy tale, starring the guy from Warm Bodies, plus stealth Ewan McGregor, what’s not to love?  There was a time when big special effects were enough to get me into the theater.  That time was before Transformers 2.  Nothing in the previews to this one interests me.  Sure the special effects look nice, but story-wise it’s all stuff I’ve seen before.  And then there’s this:  according to the previews and IMDB, there’s exactly one named woman character.  Now, I’m not keeping quotas or demanding that every movie comply with the Bechdel Test.  I mean, I love Master and Commander and that’s got ZERO named women characters.  But when I watch the previews for Jack, see that the one woman character is a plucky fighter princess type who nevertheless seems to need to be rescued, I know what the story is without even seeing the movie.  Humble Jack will have adventures, there will be lots of semi-amusing sight gags and cute jokes, there will be battles, he will win the heart of the beautiful princess, and the movie will end with them kissing while the music swells, and the bad guys do something to set them up for a sequel.  I have seen this movie.  The idea of seeing it again, even with great special effects, even with Bryan Singer directing, just makes me tired.

Standard storytelling tropes don’t usually immediately turn me off on a movie this hard.  John Carter is also clearly about a plucky fighter princess type getting rescued.  But it also had Mars.  And it also had Sola, and airships, and the previews made me think, “Wow!”  That’s all I want, to get me to see a movie.  To not be bored with the previews, for crying out loud.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe Jack is a fine, fine movie that I would enjoy immensely.  You know what will tell me that I’m wrong?  Word of mouth.  I’m still waiting…

You know what would have gotten me to see Jack?  If it was Jackie the Giant the Slayer.

(I have now heard back from some friends who saw Jack.  Their verdict:  “It was better than we expected, but it still would have driven you crazy.”  And I think, “My God, when did “better than we expected” become the best thing we can say about movies?)


9 Responses to “on not seeing movies”

  1. I gave up movies for Lent, I think that it was a weak offering on my part.

  2. Elke Weiss Says:

    I’m agreeing with you and skipping it. It’s a matter of what is being offered that is original. I feel like I know the story, I’ll be able to predict every scene before it happens. I’m not sure if a female Jack would be a much bigger draw in of itself but the lack of a princess in distress love plot would be a much bigger draw. Heck, a Jack and Jill, Giant Slayer would have been more fun. Anything but something that seems so predictable.

  3. Do you watch ABC’s Once Upon A Time? Their version of Jack was female.

  4. carriev Says:

    I watched the first 3-4 episodes of Once Upon a Time and found them problematic, so I stopped. Too much catfighting, too much “the only good mother is a “real” mother.”

  5. kehtaci Says:

    Agreed – ‘better than expected’ tends to be my verdict on most movies these days. I usually catch myself wondering how long it will be until the movie is over, while I’m watching it.

  6. Nonny Blackthorne Says:

    I saw it with my girlfriend, and while it is possibly worth grabbing via RedBox or Netflix when it comes out on DVD, I would avoid seeing it in theatres. The trailers — and some reviews I read! — indicated that the princess has an important role in the story.

    And she really doesn’t. This is probably one of the worst cases of damsel in distress I’ve seen in recent movies. There’s, in particular, a section towards the end where she could have stepped in and had her chance to shine (and I honestly thought they were going to from the set-up) — but nope, that’s restricted to the male players only.

    I did like a couple of the side characters, and I liked that Jack seemed to respect Isabel and didn’t take her for granted, but the fact that there there were NO WOMEN except the damsel in distress (who was, thankfully, not TSTL, but still a damsel… but honestly, in some ways that made it worse).

    It did some things well, but the treatment of women was such that it really ruined the movie for me.

  7. And I think, “My God, when did “better than we expected” become the best thing we can say about movies?)

    This is not really a new development in cinema. Throughout its history, as with the history of any media, 90% of the films at any given time are likely to be crap, according to Sturgeon’s Law. The reason we may look back on the films of the past with fondness is due to the fact that the 10% of movies that are actually good at any given time are the ones that will be remembered, while the rest are forgotten. This is one of the aspects of the nostalgia filter, and makes the state of cinema in the past look much better than it probably actually was. To quote from the second page to which I just linked:

    As new material is released, the vast majority will be of mediocre or worse quality, but over time, a powerful selection pressure causes all but the best material (and in some infamous cases, the worst) to be rapidly forgotten, leaving an increasingly inaccurate impression of the overall quality of the genre over time.

    To make a long story short (too late :-P), despite what it may feel like at the moment, from an objective point of view, movies are in no worse a state than they were in the past, at least as far as quality is concerned.

  8. Carrie V. Says:

    I’m just trying to apply that filter *now* rather than waiting ten years…

  9. Jakk Says:

    I also skipped the movie, and stayed home and watched Night of the Comet instead. I think i made a good choice. 🙂

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