Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Spiderman 3: Id, Ego and Superhero!

Director Sam Raimi, Release date May 1, 2007, Running time 140 mins

"Yeah! They'll love it!"

Superheroes project national desire, surpassing collective inability to deal with greater enemies (real and hyper-real). Whenever a society recognizes an enemy a superhero is created to defend it. A superhero then cannot be manifested in terms of superpowers or weaponry, but in his ability to take care of common enemies. Superheroes thus ought to win therapeutic battles. In this judgment, Spiderman 3 cannot apparently justify his superheroship. His personal intentions and persuasions overshadow his national superheroism and apparently his enemies cannot be recognized as national enemies. Revenge (in case of Hary Osborn), parental responsibility (Sandman), professional rivalry (Eddie Brock Jr.) – these commonplace personal motivations reduce them to personal enemies to the Spiderman. These matters are too 'private' to be taken as something of public interest. And the whole engagement ring episode with two love triangle (provisional) dancing out of the blue – is not probably something a superhero fan would look for.

"How long can any man fight the darkness... before he finds it in himself?"

But, that's might not be the story. If we attempt to decode the hidden symbolism in the film, we may find something else. American superheroes have always been shaped by its national desire. Before Vietnam and Watergate Spiderman has been conservative; from early 70s he turned into liberal. But today he is not taken as a 'social crusader', and his 'justified violence' is not too applied against social evils. Post 9/11, he is really not somebody dependable to rescue his city: New York. Therefore his heroic actions are ought to be confined to things like saving young ladies falling from skyscrapers. Therefore, through his historical evolution, Spiderman has become a signifier without a signified.

Or, if not completely so, Spiderman is here to represent the insubstantiality of American desire. He is not an American Idol; he is America, with all its false promises and propositions. He fights to get rid of Venom, textures like crude oil, which takes over not only is body but his soul. He fights with ever swelling Sandman. He fights with Sand, the Middle East. And, yes he fights with Hary Osborn, with Hi-tech weaponry, technology that has gone beyond human control. Most interestingly, he cannot defeat them till the end. Americans are fighting a wrong war that will lead them to nowhere. Spiderman 3, I believe tries to convey this simple message. At the end of the movie the only thing eliminated is: unreasonable mistrust (between Spiderman and Sandman and between Spiderman and Hary).

Some dialogues from the movie

Peter Parker: Flint Marko; the man who killed Uncle Ben, he was killed last night.
Aunt May: Oh my... What happened?
Peter Parker: Spider-Man killed him.
Aunt May: Spider-Man? I don't understand, Spider-Man doesn't kill people. What happened?
Peter Parker: I uh... he... he was... I thought that you'd feel... He deserved it, didn't he?
Aunt May: I don't think it's for us to say wether [sic] a person deserves to live or die.
Peter Parker: Aunt May, he killed Uncle Ben!
Aunt May: Uncle Ben meant the world to us, but he wouldn't want us living one second with revenge in our hearts. It's like a poison. It can take you over, before you know it, turn you into something ugly...

"I'm not asking you to forgive me. I just want you to understand."

The counter-ego, the black Spiderman has a hairstyle like Hitler. Does it suggest that, an American hero has finally turned out to be a demonic despot?

Spiderman was once created by Jewish writers. He was then driven by Judaic ethics: eye for an eye. But through times, his actions started to be determined by Christian Morality too. Spiderman now has to pass through different spiritual phases, of sin, redemption and salvation. Spiderman's story is not very much different than that of the Ancient Mariner. They both had to free themselves for their own prejudices. That is the point where, Spiderman 3 has a gospel like narrative. Friend Monami has reminded me of one thing that Spiderman movies have a funeral shot. It might have a lot to with theology. At least Parker's last speech sounds biblical:

"Whatever comes our way, whatever battle we have raging inside us, we always have a choice. My friend Harry taught me that. He chose to be the best of himself. It's the choices that make us who we are, and we can always choose to do what's right."

But to me, it's all political.

here is an interesting New York Times Article on American Superheroes ..

Monday, August 6, 2007

Sahara: If It Has To Do Something With US History

Director Breck Eisner
Writer Clive Cussler (novel)
Screenplay James V. Hart and Others
Release date April 8, 2005
Running time 124 min.

Isn't it interesting how history travels through geography?

American Civil War era ironclad ship CSS Texas crossed Atlantic, reaching Africa traveled unto the Niger River, finally got buried in the deserts of Mali. To some reviewers it is "A mindless adventure flick with a preposterous plot". Some asks, "How many leaps of logic do you allow an action movie before that thin strand of suspended disbelief snaps?" Valid question no doubt. But, sorry to remind you of Coleridge, still this suspension of disbelief doesn't depend on the movie-makers but on the will of the audience.

I find it interesting. CSS Texas was a part of confederate navy, which was fighting against the Union. Naturally it was fighting against anti-slavery. And the historical irony is (within the 'truth' of the film) – Drik Pitt and his Co. used this very ship against the neo-colonial machinery, which depends on cheap industrial slaves to run. That is the point I enjoyed the film. However, it is true that African Slaves needed yet another White liberator according to the stereotype colonial narrative. A reviewer writes, "It's a little hard to have silly fun when you are constantly being reminded that Hotel Rwanda and similar stories have been playing out down the road." Even then, the film has touched upon (though not seriously enough) sensitive geo-political issues like environmental disaster, power crisis, proliferation of mass-destructive arms among African warlords. Mali, where the climax takes place, has been exploited by the French for long and it is one of the poorest countries of the world. And even after, its independence, we see a French Solar Power Company making profit out of it and involving in internal politics. That can be considered as a critique of Neo-colonial expansion into Sub Saharan Africa. The film also criticizes American bureaucracy. So, it has an anti-neo-colonial, thus an anti-US stand. To our friend Monami, this is the very reason why it is marked one of the biggest financial flops in Hollywood history.

PS: According to the novel as well as some historians, CSS Texas was the ship where Abraham Lincoln was kidnapped and taken prisoner. Suggesting, some other, not he, was assassinated, and he died in the hands of confederates

A Passage To India : To NOT From

Director David Lean
Starring Victor Banerjee, Art Malik, Judy Davis, Peggy Ashcroft
Release date December 14, 1984
Running Time 156 minutes

Nothing is significantly new to tell about a 'loyal' movie version of a novel. It doesn't deal with anything further and deeper than the novel dealt with.

The book was published in 1924, and the movie released in 1984. Even after these six long decades 'Sir' David Lean has succeeded to maintain the attitude of his predecessor. Times changed, perspective didn't. His portrayal of Indian people (in general) as superstitious, overwhelmingly politicized, reason-less even sexually overactive (to the extent of perversion), and Indian nature full of ornate elephants, demonic monkeys and venomous snakes - is just another effort to reinforce the discourses prevailing from the days of old glorious British Raj.

In short, the film (so was the book) a stupid and unintelligent attempt to create a colonial narrative behind the mask of liberal humanism. The film is even shallower than the book.

One thing we must remember that this is a Passage 'to' India, not the other way round. And this is a 'passage' that transports not a 'bridge' that connects. So either way its one way. It is meant to satisfy the British desire and nothing else. Even today, I see the DVD cover, and I find, Dr. Aziz (played by our won Mr. Victor Banerjee) couldn't get himself printed. The simple reason: though he is considered to be 'the' protagonist, he is not a British. And the complex reason: this 'intentional fallacy' (probably I am not using a right term) , the characterization of Dr. Aziz is something that the colonialists now want not to be spoken of at large.

One more thing I may mention here. Our old new wave friend François Truffaut once made a valuable comment on Lean's films : describing them as nothing more than "Oscar packages" !

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Flightplan : Fueling Great American Anxiety ?

Director Robert Schwentke
Producer Robert DeNozzi, Charles J.D. Schlissel , Brian Graze
Writers Peter A. Dowling,Billy Ray
Starring Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean
Release date September 23, 2005
Running time 98 min

A little more than locked-room-mystery. Can a post 9/11 airplane hijack movie but have some political undertones ? The answer's no. And yes, there is no attempt to malign Muslims, East Europeans, Russians or even Black Americans. Rather, it, through showing an all-American terrorist bunch (duo, to be precise), kind of self criticizes American jingoism.

However so some it turned out to be putting slur on a particular occupational group. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, with 85,000 members, had called for an official boycott of the film! Yet, this is not something which cannot be neglected as a 'fictional demand'.

In the film we see a Middle East origin passenger (his accent and appearance suggest) is suspected for a few moments by the protagonist. But finally, at the last scene that very passenger is seen to help her hand. Not unusual. End of mistrust, beginning of global friendship – a cliché technique nowadays. And this is not for sure the dominant theme of the film, leaving a scope for it to work yet another agent to fuel the Great American Anxiety to be attacked by the aliens.

At the end of the day the supremacy of United States is confirmed. Wiki points out, 'as in many US-made films, the jurisdiction of the FBI seems to have been expanded beyond the borders of the United States. FBI Agents are seen making enquiries and arrests in Canada when the plane lands there. Additionally, those agents cite the fact that our office in Berlin has detained the morgue director. Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers, according to Canadian law, would have been the ones to detain suspects.'

Crash : Reinforcing Discourse ?

Director Paul Haggis
Writers Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco
Release date September 10, 2004
Running time 122 Min Theatrical

Crash advocates peace, inter-racial harmony and humanity above all.

But, does it try to cover up the hegemonic suppression (by so called wasp Americans) on all minor ethnic groups, by shifting its focus on inter-racial conflict? Does it reinforce the enlightenment discourse that white men acts form reason, and all 'others' from pure instinct? Is it a white-self-written 'confessional' narrative where, it reaches 'realization' though a reasoned path, whereas the others reach 'epiphany' through divine intervention? "Moving at the speed of life, we are bound to collide with each other" – is this tagline a kind of lame excuse to deep rooted ethno-political conflicts? These are the questions came to my mind.

From Persia to Mexico, from China to El Salvador or Puerto Rico, the ethno-geography of the film is too elaborate to discuss each case keeping in mind its exclusive reality. And moreover I don't know whether the collage presented here is made up of real pictures or not.

Wiki reminds, some critics also thought institutionalized, anti-minority racism wasn't evaluated enough in the film, and that by focusing more on individual prejudices it is "self-indulgent" for white Americans who "want to feel victimized".

I can't be sure if it fell victim of the very discourse it intends to fight.

Friday, August 3, 2007

From Dusk Till Dawn : The Postmodern

Director Robert Rodriguez
Story Robert Kurtzman
Screenplay Quentin Tarantino
Starring George Clooney, Tarantino
Release date January 19, 1996
Running time 108 min.

What should be thought of a freaky fantasy: is it a 'free-play' that can be rigorously examined or just an arbitration?

A stereotypical Tarantino-Rodriguez movie – full of excitement and post-watch anxiety. Amusing yet disturbing. Now, not only because of the variety its of motifs and aesthetic schemes, discontinuity and a tendency to surpass probability, embracing possibility, not caring for any 'equalization' among the diverse (and incongruous) types of visual and auditory elements used – one can call it postmodern. It's postmodern (rather a post-structuralism) also because it (or any of its characters) doesn't stay on a permanent statement. After an archetypical struggle of good vs. evil finally the good comes out as a winner, but the film doesn't go anywhere. No truth it can finally offer.

I have tried to figure out if there is any hidden political agenda. I have not thought much though. In the final shot, we can see the evil (?) bar is actually situated on an archaeological remnant of an Aztec temple. What does it signify? Aztecs are grotesque? Or colonizers will someday face the consequence? Vampires are Aztecs who actually take revenge on the living white men (outsiders are not welcome into the bar) or they have no 'rationale' only an evil instinct?

One of the film's tags is "A terrifying evil has been unleashed. And five strangers are our only hope to stop it." Can it be considered as an expression of the collective anxiety of the white men on facing the challenge thrown by the (long-dead perhaps) of the colonized 'other'.

Frank Frazetta

The director originally commissioned one of his favourite painters, Frank Frazetta, to create the one-sheet poster for the film (added here). Although the poster ultimately wasn't used, Rodriguez struck up a friendship with Frazetta and the two planned on working together.

According to Wiki Frank Frazetta (born February 9. 1928) is one of the world's most influential fantasy and science fiction artists. He is one of the most emulated artists of these genres in the world.

(if interested visit

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