Be wary of superheroes that seem like they were invented as puns. You might end up with a passionate mess, with 85% Dutch angles, undeveloped characters, and a soundtrack like a prepubescent DJ’s iPod on shuffle. “Justice is blind,” proclaims Daredevil. So is Matt Murdock. So is Mark Steven Johnson.
The plot of Duck Soup doesn’t exist in any conventional sense. The fictional country of Freedonia appoints Groucho Marx their king but that isn’t the point. Duck Soup understands that plots exist not to make sense of the ensuing antics, but only to get Groucho into the center of attention for an hour.
The Neon Demon shares a Grecian passion for allegory, telling a story of envy as a clash of idols in an uncertain realm. This film speaks through its eyes. It’s not really a movie with “characters.” It more resembles a statue gallery: Refn might be an over-imaginative child walking through it, making up the life and times of the stone prisoners cursed to stare at each other forever.
If Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was a tour of fantasy-land (who else thought their feelings seemed stuffed with baubles like gift-bags from a theme park?), The Chamber of Secrets is like accidentally wandering into the maintenance closet. Something is disenchanted by it, and I can think of no harsher criticism, to call something squinty that once was wide-eyed.
When Mary Poppins pops out on stage in stockings and Mia Wallace hair I was reminded of some Mary Poppins-themed miniskirt ensembles I saw in a shop window in Disney Springs. From then on, I was half-afraid of the Banks home staging a rendition of the sexy maid porno situation. I’m fairly certain Andrews’ version would have scoffed the scanty jollity of this number in particular. I’m positive that author P.L. Travers would have wept.
The Western is a myth of values. True Grit is a story that appreciates these values without necessarily approving of them. This is a film made in the spirit of a long tradition, which is surprising coming from the usually more provocative Coen Brothers. But its subtle changes should not be ignored – they contain all its secret truths, and theirs.
The film actually makes the fictional landscape of the gangster film more real, by taking its troublesome boys and distant, unknowable broads and making them children at an age when that’s just the way things are. The mysterious sexual tension is made strangely innocent, though the archetypes haven’t changed from when Bogart and Cagney inhabited them. Bugsy Malone is a gangster film that took a good look at itself and wondered if it could do better. It’s really close.
A Christmas Carol is such a tired tale by now that the first task of this new film should have been to make old hat seem tailored for the first time. But as Dickens picks up well-known artifices of his story off the street, you become infected by that terribly un-jolly feeling that this is one of those movies – one in which random people will speak full Dickensian quotes for the good author to overhear and jot down, in which everyone he meets has a name that will go into one of his stories.