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Volume 16, Issue 3: Ex Imagibus

Biggies of Summer 1.0

Nate Wilson

This summer was the summer of the every-seventeen-years cicadas. It was also the summer President Reagan died, and I think it no coincidence that the last summer the cicadas chirped in the east was during his administration. They were waiting for him. Or he was waiting for them. This was also the summer of morning glory. The weeds are everywhere and practically tied my bicycle down overnight. And, as far as I can tell, it is also the summer of the mushroom. The things were exploding up all around my house and left devastation in their circular wake through my parents' lawn. No doubt it was all planned. Like a once in a lifetime comet, this summer brought together a conglomeration of things that only occur once every generation. Or maybe three times. Melodrama is a healthy thing, especially in film reviews.

Anyhow, this was the summer of the sequel: Shrek 2, Harry Potter 3, Spider-Man 2, King Arthur (not a sequel but semantically defensible in this list as it is a story retold, or continued, or destroyed. However you like), and The Bourne Supremacy. Those are the biggies. I've seen four of them. The last one is not yet released as I write this. Herein lie blurbs on the four I have seen, as well as one video release.

Shrek 2

Mike Meyers is a crass man. He is also a funny man. Far funnier than most of this movie. I yawned, I stretched, I asked my wife to rub my scalp. However, there were some enormously funny stretches in which I went so far as to laugh.

To wax thoughtful: Mike Meyers does not want his stories to be predictable. He wants this film to be atypical in its resolution. In the first one, having an ogre do the actual rescuing of the princess is in fact atypical of the fairy tale genre, and could be played for laughs (as long as the character isn't really an ogre on the inside but is actually more noble than the nobles within the story). Shrek makes potty jokes and acts selfish about his swamp. That is the extent to which he is an ogre. The nobles are the ogres in their closedmindedness.
In Shrek 2, we have a Shrek, still selfish about his swamp, who eventually learns to give up even that, and becomes a strapping good-looking fellow to give his wife a better life. For Mike Meyers to leave Shrek a man to live happily ever after would have been a surprise. That would have been unpredictable. Instead, we find out that it was the gesture that counts and once again, Fiona makes the sacrifice and Shrek gets to be true to himself and his fondness for filth. After all, acceptance is good, we all have dirty little secrets, and just being yourself—and liking yourself for it—is the most important thing. Modern gospel-tale.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

If J. K. Rowling's books are strong on character and place, they are weak on good and evil. People who burn candles shaped like spinal columns or who are tattooed, semi-insane, and out for the blood of vengeance, may in fact be good and sweet on the inside. The hippogriff is fun, the film is frequently enjoyable, but the occult confusion bothered me more in this film than in the others. Voodoo heads don't have the privilege of being neither good nor evil but simply amusing. As far as the rest of the story goes, some of its most pleasant aspects were left out, and I could get to complaining if I wanted, but I don't. It was visually enjoyable but frequently frustrating. The actors, however, are much better with a little age and experience under their belts.

Spider-Man 2

This was a good movie. I liked it, as someone once said, lots and lots. I enjoyed the first one despite inadequacies, because my expectations were low and because Spider-Man was the only superhero that I had the least amount of interest in as a child. The second one managed to abide by the rules of the genre (melodrama, some heavy-handed but foundationless moral dialogue, and wild scientific stretches) but it was at the same time far more thoughtful than I had suspected. Spider-man is both hero and anti-hero in the same protagonist. Better than the first one, probably better than the third one will be, but hope springs eternal. I don't know of any other movie lately that has told people to give up their dreams.

King Arthur

This is the "true" story of Arthur. Turns out Pelagius (of Pelagius fame) was his godfather, Arthur was actually a Roman cavalry commander, and believed that he was fighting the Saxons in the name of Enlightenment abstractions (Equality!). Guinevere is a deviant weirdo (though pretty), nothing more. Arthur, the only Christian out of his knights (the rest appear to be atheists) leads his men on a wild adventure to earn their freedom, only to discover that there's a little bit of freedom in everyone, or equalness, or pelagianism, or maybe a substandard narrator. Anyhow, he becomes king in the name of Descartes (I think).

To End All Wars (video release)

This was better than I expected. The screenplay was written by Brian Godawa, whose book (Hollywood Worldviews) I have not read, though it comes highly recommended. There are inadequacies, but the movie is very worth watching if you have the stomach for the genre of prison camp film and the necessary brutality that comes with it.

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