Funny thing is I never really bought into the Superman mythology, but this looks pretty cool.
Funny thing is I never really bought into the Superman mythology, but this looks pretty cool.
When I saw the trailer for It's a Disaster, about a brunch at the end of the world, I couldn't help but think the producers were ripping off, er, I mean riffing on Nevil Shute's On The Beach, which was a late '50s movie (Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner no less) and an early naughties TV series. The movie was famous for Ava Gardner remarking that Melbourne was a perfect place to shoot a movie about the end of the world.
But no, It's a Disaster seems to be mining a much fresher seam of apocalypse comedy, which maybe came to note with Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. And by 'came to note' I mean 'passed by unwatched and unrecognised and not really noted at all.'
Or if you want to get pedantic, maybe it was Shaun of the Dead which kicked of the end times comedy tour. But I'd argue Shaun and Zombieland were more specifically about refashioning the undead subgenre than any overarching apocalypse theme.
The more interesting contrast is probably with the unabashedly bigger, dumber and louder This is the End, which looks a lot more Hollywood, despite its indie stylings.
This looks a lot more, I dunno, 'self aware'? No... self conscious, I think, than the Julia Stiles vehicle, but both of them look worthy of a night in front of the flat screen.
There's probably a metacultural point to be made about the existential exhaustion which leads up past fear of the end and into laughing at it. The rise of the disaster movie, in the 1970s, had a lot to do with Irwin Allen, but even more to do with Irwin's finding a way to cash in on a generalised fear of decay and collapse that gripped the western imagination after the 1960s finally shrivelled up and died in 1973.
The thing about those first disaster movies?
They had no sense of humour at all.
I've always been a fan of the Stephen King theory that sci-fi and genre work through the issues and fears of the day a lot earlier than literature does. I know there's been plenty of dystopian world building in SF movies over the years, but this is the first I've seen since the emergence of the Occupy movement that seems to be a conscious response to the Dickensian Future meme.
Oh and it looks fkn AWSM. Props to the Space Lizard for the heads up.
A Little Updater.
Apparently I'm not the first person to bring up the 1% thing. Buzzfeed has an interesting feature on the flick, quoting the writer-director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) waving off any deep reference to the Occupy movement:
Blomkamp did not mean for Elysium to directly mirror the Occupy Wall Street arguments. "If you think you're actually making a difference, you're on pretty dangerous thin ice. But you can put ideas in there that are real issues that happening in the world," he said. "If I wanted to make something and actually have it make a difference, I would make a documentary. The film does speak about topics that really have a big impact on me. But I don't know how much the audience takes away from it."
Another tasty nugget from Buzzfeed, the villain of the piece is based on the South African spec ops guys of the 1970s Border Wars.
As much fun as Hanoi was, I didn't just go there for the wine and cheese. I've been working on a screenplay about Wilfred Burchett, an Australian war correspondent who was the first journo into Hiroshima after the bomb. Burchett was later famous, or perhaps infamous, for reporting some of the hottest conflicts of the Cold War from the 'wrong' side. Because he reported from behind North Korean and North Vietnamese lines, he was traduced in the Western press, and especially in his homeland by News Limited publications. I know. I know. Who'd a thunk it? I was as surprised as anybody.
Interestingly, outside of his own country, his access to Eastern Bloc leaders was recognized as a valuable and important conduit. Henry Kissinger sought him out in the early 1970s to ask his advice about Nixon's trip to China and the course of the Vietnam War. Or the American War as it's known in the host country.
He was a remarkable man, Burchett, and the story of his trip into and out of the atomic ruins is a great one. I've been working on it for a while and the trip to Hanoi gave me a chance to meet with his son, George, to try and get more of an insight into the man than is possible from just reading his extensive published works.
I was very lucky to be able to catch up with George, not just for the purposes of researching the film, but because he proved an excellent host and guide to the Vietnamese capital. He's a significant artist in his own right – the mural in the Park Hyatt at Sydney, if I remember correctly, is his – and he very generously gave me a tour of Hanoi's museum of fine arts. A small but beautiful collection held in an old colonial building, a former boarding school, the museum compresses a couple of thousand years of history down into a couple of hundred paintings and artifacts. There aren't many ways you can gain a quick appreciation for the history of the country in just an hour or so of walking around.
I did a lot of walking around, of course. The old quarter of Hanoi is a walking city. A dangerous one, because of the hell traffic, but negotiable if you keep your wits about you and go with the flow, as counterintuitive as it might be sometimes.
If anyone is looking for a decent holiday spot in Southeast Asia, I'd be hard-pressed to recommend somewhere above Vietnam. I didn't visit the old Southern capital, but my understanding from talking to locals and other tourists is that Saigon is not nearly as pleasant as Hanoi. There are also any number of Western-style resorts dotted up and down the coastline which, again, I did not visit, but which were very popular with those who did.
Orin asked me on twitter while I was over there whether I found myself imagining what the country might look like if the South had won, backed by American power. In fact, that thought never really occurred to me. But what I did find myself thinking, again and again, was what a terrible mistake it was to have come to this country as soldiers and laid waste to so much of it. If the policymakers of the 1960s could see what they were fighting against, how Vietnam would have turned into a stable, comparatively prosperous and happy place, well… I don't suppose it would have changed what they did. But it should have.
All of the blood and treasure that was spilled here? Utterly fucking wasted.
As a guy who’s, er, enjoyed the experience of having one his books adapted for the screen (and stage, he added, dipping his lid to Mr Bedak and Ms Clumsy) I feel obliged to say a few more words about the Brad Pitt adaptation of World War Z. I have no idea how Max Brooks feels about what’s happened to his book, but I know from a couple of days of super-fan snark on the twitterz that even if he isn’t a hot mess over it, there’s plenty who are.
Fair enough. It is a great book. One of the touchstone titles of the last ten years and it probably played as big a role in revitalizing the zombie genre as Joss Whedon’s Buffy did with bringing the vampire back into the centre of mass culture.
I understand it when fans of a book feel disappointed by the film adaptation. But sometimes that disappointment is inevitable, even if the adaptation is great. Cinema and the novel are two very different forms of story telling, and there is no reason to assume that a faithful translation from one form to the other is desirable, let alone possible.
He Died With A Felafel In His Hand was not a book that would lend itself to a faithful adaptation. The stage play, in all its various iterations, about fifteen of them now, was closer to the original text than Richard Lowenstein’s film, but it was still a thousand miles removed from the directionless vignettes which made up the book. There are about three lines of dialogue in Felafel. Maybe four. There are no characters who survive more than a page, other than the narrator, floating over and through it all. Nobody goes on a journey, except to the fridge, and even that comes with no guarantee of success. Nobody learns. Nobody grows. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was not a book made to be filmed.
Neither was World War Z.
Brooks was inspired by a lot of things, but few more than Studs Terkel’s oral history of WW2, The Good War. If you’re familiar with that book, and you should be if you have any pretensions to civilisation, you’ll recognise it’s form and rhythms in Z immediately.
But what you won’t see is a shooting script.
There are any number of brilliantly realised scenes, but none are connected to each other in any way but at the most rarefied thematic level. Filming Z as a faithful homage to the text would have been a fascinating project for a recent graduate of film school. It could have been a brilliant hour long mockumentary, without the lulz. But it was never going to work as a mainstream feature.
Should the producers have gone so far from the source?
The fuck do I know?
The only question you can legitimately of World World Z, when it’s finally released and you have actually seen it, is whether it is a good film. The question of whether it’s a good adaptation is entirely separate.
Lookin' a lot more actiony, than shambly. And there's almost no point of contact with the books that anyone can see.
But I don't mind actiony. I've read Z three times, and I'll see this at least once without preconceptions.