I went to the gym this morning. That’s not the news. I go to the gym two or three times a week. I do things that hurt and make me sweat not because I want to get “ripped” or “shredded” but simply to counter-act the gradual decay my aging body is subject to. You know what I mean.
While I was there I went on the treadmill – you’ve seen one even if you haven’t been on one, that endless belt thing that you trudge along and never get anywhere. I was looking at the TV built into it and there was a promo of a new movie coming out soon. Part of the promo was a shot of the two protagonists dressed in black, walking in slo-mo towards the camera, while behind them is an explosion, also in slo-mo. The classic “hero walks away from endless destruction and certain death” shot. All special effects, of course.
I wasn’t going to give the name of the movie, but it might be better if I did. Hansel and Gretel. I haven’t seen it yet – probably won’t, either. The promo put me off. And I want to explain why.
I don’t have a problem with the re-make of the traditional Hansel and Gretel story. It actually sounds kind of fun. If modern audiences want to see our two little lost waifs all grown up and wielding crossbows and guns and blowing up the bad guys, that’s fine. It’s all fantasy anyway. It’s not like it actually happened.
I don’t have a problem with the violence, either. It’s not like the bad guys are real. They are evil fantasy creatures who don’t exist in the actual world. So, again, it’s all just make-believe.
I don’t have a problem with the horror. Prosthetics are getting really good these days and I like to watch something like this just to admire the make-up work and try to guess which bits are CGI and which are an actor in a mask. It takes a lot of entrails and oozing faces and bulging eyes to get me scared.
What I do have a problem with is that “slow explosion” shot.
I can’t actually remember how many times I’ve seen it before, in how many movies. There is a variation, where the hero leaps towards the camera as the explosion goes off behind him. But this one has them walking away, not even looking back at the huge fireball behind them, smirking at the camera with an “I’m too cool to run” attitude.
It’s a cliché.
Another part of the promo had Hansel dodging an arrow by bending backwards in the classic “defying gravity” way made famous by that other over-the-top cliché extravaganza, The Matrix. Seen that trick before, too. Too many times.
Do the producers have a meeting before they start shooting to think of how many over-used “tough guy” clichés they can jam into the picture? “Well, folks, I think we should do the slow explosion trick and then have them do that Matrix gimmick and then how about some buddy humour and of course we must make sure that every gun never needs reloading and that the bad guys can’t hit the side of a barn door if it was falling on them. That ought to make our film unique!”
How about something new? I don’t mind that the actual explosion is mostly gasoline catching alight, as that looks better on screen than a real explosion does. I don’t mind that if it was real the characters would lose their hearing and be thrown to the ground (if not ripped apart) by the shockwave. It’s pretend, it’s all good fun. I can suspend disbelief as much as anyone.
What I do mind is that this particular thing makes the movie the same as every other movie of the same genre. That’s all. Another good idea made banal by not trying.
So I don’t think I will watch Hansel and Gretel – a pity, really, as it looks like fun.