Filed under: Animals & Nature, Countdowns & Lists, Humour & Comedy, Movies & Films, Television & New Media | Tags: 3d, avatar, babe, captain planet, dancing, dennis quaid, disaster, environment, ferngully, george miller, james cameron, lost, mad max, message, michael caine, mr. eko, na'vi, nature, on deadly ground, pandora, penguins, planeteers, robin williams, smoke monster, steven seagal, the day after tomorrow, the witches of eastwick, tim curry, unobtainium, world
Movies are great. Movies with a message…not so much.
Now, I’m not saying that I only enjoy mindless entertainment full of one-liners and blood and gore splattering over naked women while they blast away at zombies with artillery that is needlessly devastating (though, I have to admit, that’s pretty okay too), I’m just saying that if you want to teach me something with your film, at least make an attempt to be subtle.
One of those messages that movies seem to enjoy beating us over the head with, is that we, as a race, are effectively destroying the planet. I’m not entirely sure why that is, unless, indeed we actually ARE destroying the planet, and Hollywood is more aware of that then we are.
Regardless, here are five films that attempt to teach us just that – we’re doomed, and it’s pretty much our own damn fault.
Five. Happy Feet. (2006)
So I’ve kind of got a thing for penguins. Not like a weird, tuxedo fetish thing – I just think they’re neat. And, really, so should you.
As such, when I heard about the film Happy Feet, I got pretty excited. I’m not ashamed to admit that I enjoy the occasional animated film from time to time (The Little Mermaid is a classic, so suck it) and the idea of animated penguins dancing for ninety minutes both intrigued and delighted me to no end.
The fact that it was directed by George Miller, the guy who gave us Mad Max, The Babe Movies, and, apparently, The Witches of Eastwick, only made me more interested – if not a tad trepidatious. Is this really the guy I want directing a movie about dancing penguins?
As it turns out, not really.
Maybe I’m missing something here, because the reviews for Happy Feet, along with an honest-to-goodness Academy Award (which, to be fair, isn’t really the mark of brilliance it once was) suggest that this is actually a pretty good movie. I however disagree – despite the fact that it does indeed deliver on it’s promise of dancing penguins, the movie otherwise fell pretty flat for me.
Apparently even the novelty of dancing cartoon penguins can wear off, and wear off it does…long before we reach the movies confusing climax where the lead penguin (voiced by Elijah Wood) takes on the fishing industry, and by some degree all of humanity, effectively ending over-fishing in the Antarctic, and saving his penguin brothers.
All through the power of dance, of course, which somehow teaches us a valuable lesson.
Four. The Day After Tomorrow. (2004)
This movie was basically written with the use of a Mad-lib. Hunky scientist Dennis Quaid advises ignorant politicians that a world wide disaster is imminent due to man’s folly; ignorant politicians ignore hunky scientist, call him “crazy” and “paranoid” instead, world wide disaster destroys the world, ignorant politicians learn a valuable lesson (or are destroyed) and life begins again, rising like a retarded phoenix from the ashes of whatever’s left. Sub in the bolded words for any number of wacky ideas or characters, and you have the basis for pretty much every disaster movie that’s ever been made.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure, we all openly mocked The Day After Tomorrow for it’s cardboard characters, unoriginal plot and general stupidity, but while it may lack in basic coherence, it more than makes up for that in spectacle – which is why we all went to see this in the first place. I mean, look at that poster…it looks AWESOME.
Generally that seems to be all these movies have to offer – violent, cutting edge special effects tacked on to the most heavy handed environmental message they can muster.
So, if you’re looking for some mindless destruction coupled with a message about how society if royally fucking things up, this movie’s for you!
Good times, good times.
Three. On Deadly Ground. (1994)
Now we’re talking. Forget dancing penguins and international devastation. We got Steven Seagal fighting Michael Caine in the oil rich wastelands of Alaska. That’s GOTTA be good, right?
Except that really, there’s no possible way that set-up COULD be good. And it’s not. Steven Seagal plays some ex-CIA operative mystical Indian environmentalist shaman (or something) and Michael Caine plays Michael Caine, but with ridiculous black hair (he’s evil, you see).
The two square off in the Alaskan wilderness, with Caine’s greedy oil baron the target of Seagal’s pro-environmental ass-kickery (though one has to wonder how pro-environment his assault actually is, considering the number of arbitrary explosions and senseless destruction he causes to the landscape along the way).
Ah, but clearly he’s serious about the environment! Need proof? Check out this heartfelt speech that Mr. Seagal’s aptly named Forrest Taft delivers at the end of the flick. If you want to see the full speech, head on over here. But for now, to save you the pain, I’ll just post the thrilling climax.
How many of us would have believed 20 years ago that on a certain day we wouldn’t be able to see 50 feet in front of us; that we wouldn’t be able to take a deep breath because the air would be a mass of poisonous gas; that we wouldn’t be able to drink out of our faucets; that we would have to buy water out of bottles; that the most common and God-given rights have been taken away from us; and unfortunately, the reality of our lives is so grim nobody wants to hear it.
Now I’ve been asked what we can do. I think we need a responsible body of people that can actually represent us, rather than big business. This body of people must not allow the introduction of anything into our environment that is not absolutely biodegradable or able to be chemically neutralized upon production.
And finally, as long as there is profit to be made from the polluting of our earth, companies and individuals will continue to do what they want. We have to force these companies to work safely and responsibly, and with all our best interest in mind, so that when they don’t, we can take back our resources and our hearts and our minds to do what’s right.
Pretty heavy stuff. Especially considering it’s from the end of a Steven Seagal movie. You know, right after he’s dropped the ridiculously over-the-top villain into a vat of his own oil. (Presumably with a witty quip). You want to talk about beating your audience over the head with a message? I’m pretty sure this entire movie was crafted around that fucking speech.
Now, unfortunately I can’t find video of Mr. Seagal’s heartfelt plea for environmental tolerance, or whatever. Believe me, as ludicrous as that speech reads on paper, the comedy aspect is only multiplied by Steven Seagal’s squinty-eyed, harsh whisper-y (so you know he’s fucking serious) delivery.
Instead, please enjoy this clip of Michael Caine’s oily villain Michael Jennings where he proves he doesn’t give a shit about the environment and shows us all just what Steven Seagal’s fighting for and, of course, yells at some caribou.
Whoa. That guy’s totally evil.
Two. Ferngully: The Last Rainforest. (1992)
Gosh, it’s been a while since I’ve seen Ferngully – in fact, I’ve probably only seen it once, as a child. Even then I thought it was “a bit much.”
To the best of my recollection, (and with ample help from Wikipedia) the movie centers around a young pixie girl who shrinks down a lumberjack to her size, and then teams with him and a wacky fruit bat ( voiced by Robin Williams, naturally) to save the forest from greedy humans and a demonic smoke monster played by Tim Curry.
All of this occurs amidst catchy songs, gorgeous animation, and who gives a shit because nobody remembers this stupid movie.
Apparently they made a direct to video sequel in 1998, but shockingly, none of the original cast returned. Nope, not even Tim “works for cans of tuna” Curry.
Like I said…NO ONE remembers this movie.
One. Avatar. (2009).
Except for James Cameron.
Did anyone ask for a remake of Ferngully, only more cartoonish? No? Well, fuck you! James Cameron heard yes.
Now, anyone who has read this blog may already be aware of my dislike for Avatar and perhaps even for my general annoyance with the doucheiness that is James Cameron. I mean, the gave his Golden Globe acceptance speech in the language of the Na’vi – the fictional race from Avatar that he invented.
Anyways, Avatar pretty much tells the story of Ferngully (or Dances With Wolves, or Pocahontas, really, take your pick) but with fancy blue special effects and ultimate three dimensional awesomeness. Seriously, to Mr. Cameron’s credit, the visuals are unbelievable. But the storyline, about a mythical race of blue aliens trying to protect themselves from the evils of Corporate America who are desperate to harvest the unobtainable mineral Unobtainium (I am not making this up) doesn’t really live up to the hype.
Also, the fact that at some point I think I actually found myself rooting for the humans suggests that whatever message Cameron was trying to get across was somehow lost in the shuffle – the 3D space battle shuffle.
Better luck next time, Jim.
(For the record, as much as I detest Cameron as a human being, this is literally the FIRST MOVIE BY HIM that I have actively disliked. Douche, yes. Visionary…also yes. Shame).
I had thought about including Captain Planet and the Planeteers in this post, but as it is a television show, and also as it is perhaps the most blatant use of the medium for the message in the history of trying to get your fucking point across, I left it out.
And I’m totally okay with that.
5 Comments so far
Leave a comment