July 29, 2014

Podcast Episode 24: HERCULES and LUCY Raise The Bar For Stupid

If you like dumb action, then have I got a podcast for you.

This week Bart and I tackled not one, but TWO action movies that sound great on paper but ultimately fall short of their own massive potential.  I had very high hopes for each of these movies to clear a very low bar.  Instead they both managed to trip over it.

First you've got Lucy, the latest film from Luc Besson starring Scarlet Johansson as a party girl who gets accidentally dosed with a new synthetic drug that gives her superpowers.  In fact, the entire premise is built upon the patently untrue assertion that humans only use 10% of their brains, so as the drugs activate more and more of Lucy's mental capacity (illustrated by towering percentage title cards interspersed throughout the film) her ability to control matter, energy, time and space all increase exponentially.  Now that sounds pretty fucking stupid, but it's the kind of stupid that I kind of adore.  And Johansson's flat, emotionless persona (this makes her performance in Under The Skin look downright bubbly) only makes her delivery of such dialogue as "I can feel my brain" all the more entertaining.  Throw in scene after scene of Morgan Freeman either soliloquizing idiocy in the guise of hard science or staring at Johansson in abject befuddlement and we could have had an all-time classic on our hands.  If only Besson had used all that brain percentage nonsense as the starting point for any kind of compelling story or character trajectory.  Instead the movie wanders aimlessly while Lucy does and says non-specific cosmic shit and Korean gangsters, led by a criminally underutilized Choi Min-sik, shoot up French hospital seemingly just because.  That's what's most frustrating about Lucy: while there's plenty of entertaining action and slick special effects, it's all completely unmotivated by anything at all.  Shit just occurs.  It's exhausting.

On the other hand there's Hercules, starring The Rock wearing a lion for a hat.  Actually, it's more of a hoodie, since he literally flips the lion head back and forth depending on his particular mood.  At one point he tosses a horse across a battlefield.  Yes, that's right, HE THROWS A GODDAMN HORSE.  How is this not the best movie of all time?  Part of the fault lies in the script and part of it lies in the marketing.  None of it lies in The Rock.*

I'm honestly not sure if Paramount's marketing department was trying to do some kind of cute subversion-of-expectations thing or if they just didn't know how to sell the movie they had and settled on a deceptive bait & switch routine instead.  Seriously, just watch this trailer:

That looks like an epic tale of a Greek demi-god battling a host of weird creatures while defending an oppressed people from an army of demons sent from the underworld, right?  That is not the case.  In fact, not only is Hercules not that kind of movie, it actively mocks and berates those movies.  This Hercules is just a really strong dude with a mind for military tactics.  He's not even really a soldier, he's the leader of a band of mercenaries.  They play into Hercules' own mythology and even employ his nephew as a storyteller who bolsters his allies' confidence or weakens his enemies' resolve, depending on the situation.  Herc, along with his merry band of badasses, wanders the countryside from job to job, hoping to retire and live out his days in solitude after maybe causing the death of his wife and children.  And here's the thing: that doesn't sound bad!  A grizzled, guilt-ridden Hercules who outsmarts his enemies a travels with a group of hired guns?  Sign me up!

But you lied to me, Paramount.  You got me all hot and bothered to see The Rock fight mythological monsters and then five minutes into the movie you basically spat in my face.  All that business with the Hydra and Nimean Lion and Cerberus the three-headed dog?  It's all bullshit.  What's in that trailer is essentially the sum total of what's in the movie and none of it turns out to be real.  That cool fire whip that grabs Hercules by the neck?  In the actual movie that's a whip made of bones and those fire effects are nowhere to be seen.  All John Hurt's talk of "an army descended from Hades"?  I don't even think that line is ever spoken.  That's some trailer-only ADR right there.  It's such a shame.  When it comes right down to it, what I really want is to watch a Hercules movie where The Rock kills a guy with one punch to the face, not one where he sneakily hides arrowheads in his fist to make himself look cooler.  Still, I probably would've enjoyed this movie so much more if only I didn't feel like I had been tricked into seeing it.

Bart and I cover all this and plenty more in Episode 24 of the podcast before delving into some of the news that came out of San Diego Comic Con and then drooling over that Mad Max: Fury Road footage.  I'm happy to say that this is easily the best sounding episode of the podcast to date thanks to some newly  acquired microphones.  (Thanks, eBay!)  Also, there's a silly little easter egg for those of you who listen all the way to the end.

Next week we're talking Guardians Of The Motherfucking Galaxy.  I can't wait.

*How do you know when to refer to him as Dwayne Johnson and when to refer to him as The Rock?  I've chosen to employ Justice Potter Stewart's approach to pornography: I know it when I see it.

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