Monday, May 7, 2007

Slap Me When The Credits Roll

The lad and I caught "Spider-Man 3" on Friday, and my suspicion that the franchise is leaking fuel was quickly confirmed. "S3" is a loud, cluttered mess, jumping around with no real continuity, the comedy cheap, the romance contrived, the drama thin and stale. Even the computerized fight scenes were poorly choreographed and hastily shot. At least in the first two Spidey installments, the action had snap and keen timing (especially the fight between Spidey and Doc Ock on the subway train). But not here. Hopefully, this will be it for Spider-Man. Mega-success has dulled the web-slinger, at least for this generation.

While watching this crap amid a crowd of middle school and high school kids (I was one of the oldest people there, and brother did I feel it), I marveled at the blatant cynicism of the thing. Sony Pictures, along with a once-good director, Sam Raimi, clearly believe that people, primarily kids, will swallow whatever shit they throw together, so long as Spider-Man zips across the Manhattan skyline on cue. And judging from the film's record weekend gross, they're probably right.

Afterwards, the boy asked what I thought. I didn't want to dampen any enthusiasm he had for the movie, so I fudged a bit and said it was okay. He replied, "Yeah, it wasn't as good as the first two. Too many characters. And the fight scenes -- I couldn't tell what was going on!"

"So, you didn't like it?"

"Ehhh . . . so-so."

A "so-so" from him is pretty much a thumb's down. That's my boy.

"I'll make my own Spider-Man sequel" he said, then began acting out the various parts, leaping and running inside the house and out as I finally broke down and mowed my lawn. I love watching his creative energy, even when I'm pushing my mower uphill over towering grass, sweating and grunting like the old man I'm rapidly becoming. Still, it was the first cut of the year. By mid-June I'll be in lean mowing shape.

On Saturday, the wife, teen, and I watched "Children Of Men", Alfonso Cuarón's bleak but riveting take on P.D. James' dystopian novel about the dying, fragmented human race, and a newborn child that serves as a symbol of possible renewal. Set in 2027, chaos is everywhere; endless war persists, from the mechanized state down to various militias and terror groups. London resembles present-day Baghdad, with car bombs going off every day, gun battles raging, the dead and dying littering the streets and gutters. There are detention camps for those resisting what government remains; suspects wear black hoods and are tortured under signs that read "Homeland Security." The air is gray from the smoke of explosions as people literally run for their lives when outside. It appeared all too plausible to me, and I said to the teen, "I hope for you and your brother's sake the world doesn't look like that in 20 years."

She shrugged and replied, "It probably will."

"Yeah. You're probably right."

Who says family time can't be fun?

When Michael Caine's character appeared, sporting long gray hair and a thick gray beard, smoking home-grown weed, ranting about the loss of freedom, then laughing and telling entertaining stories as the rock music of his youth (the Stones, primarily) blasts from his living-room speakers, the teen looked at me and said, "Hey -- that's you in 20 years!"

I could see it. I don't know if I would be as upbeat as Caine's character, given the surrounding madness (I mean, look at me in present time!), but there are worse ways to age, I suppose. And I bet the weed of '27 will be killer shit -- it better be, if the world then looks anything like it does in "Children Of Men". What a fucking nightmare.

Cuarón's film stayed with me on Sunday. I couldn't get many of the depressing images out of my mind. They boy noticed this and suggested that I watch "Night At The Museum" with him, one of his current faves that we just purchased.

"It's really funny, Dad. And it has history in it. You love history!"

True. But the movie stars Ben Stiller, who's become locked into a dopey but profitable wide-eyed, taunting shtick, light years removed from the eclectic work seen on his old Fox show, alongside Bob Odenkirk, Janeane Garofalo, and Andy Dick. That didn't inspire me, but the boy's enthusiasm was too infectious to ignore. So we watched "Museum" and it wasn't all that bad -- a by-the-numbers film comedy, yes, complete with the standard, smothering soundtrack, yet I enjoyed it. Light and diverting. Robin Williams' "Bully! Bully!" Theodore Roosevelt was right out of central casting; and, as always, TR was shown as a man's man, a brave soldier, ever valiant and heroic. Why this beautification of a mass murdering racist prig continues in our culture mystifies me. It's not as if TR's actual, bloody deeds are unknown, and the reality of his helping to make the US a military empire would make for an interesting, serious film.

But I didn't want spoil my son's happiness with a revisionist history lesson. We'll get to all that in time -- hopefully before the endless war returns to the homeland, with me ranting Caine-like in an easy chair, pumping the volume on some classic Black Sabbath in order to drown out the steady explosions and machine gun fire.