Periscope Depth

hello again, friend of a friend

I had the day off work on Friday, so I saw three movies.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The most fun I’ve had at the theater since Iron Man. The opening credits are better than most movies and the soundtrack is cooler than your best haircut. The pacing struggles a little in the first reel: it takes more than a few minutes to establish any sort of tension. But once everyone’s moved into place – Scott Pilgrim, his ambitious band, his awesome new girlfriend, his naive former girlfriend and the League of Evil Exes – the story takes off. The action is fun and intense, the throwaway gags will leave you howling, and there’s a mature story of how a boy becomes a man, too. Plus, did I mention the soundtrack? Awesome in every particular. See it in theaters.

Salt: Action-packed but joyless. I came in late, just in time to see Angelina Jolie getting beat up in a North Korean prison. She’s released in a prisoner exchange and returns to a desk job at the CIA, where she exchanges one or two japes with her boss, Liev Schreiber. And that’s it as far as humor goes. I know I complained about how grim Inception was, but Inception is a Jackie Chan movie in comparison. Everyone’s mean, everyone’s serious, everything’s dark and the stakes are high. The plot’s ridiculous but the action stacks up to a Bourne movie. Jolie looks too skinny to be an action star in the first act but appears a little more healthy by acts two and three. Maybe the shooting schedule ran long.

Here’s a short list of laughable plot elements:

  1. The method in which Salt’s bona fides are called into question obviates the need for her to have been captured by North Koreans. So why did that happen? Did I miss something crucial in the first three minutes?

  2. “Day X”?

  3. Really? No one thought to check that he was really dead?

The Expendables: imagine you and your male friends rent a house on the water for a weekend. One night, between beers five and nine, you rattle off a list of everything that was awesome about action movies in the 80s. Someone writes that list down. The next day, someone films that list for forty million dollars. That’s The Expendables.

The Expendables has a convincing attitude instead of a plot. People do things, and reasons are given, but everything exists in that fuzzy realm of action movie logic. And I mean everything. When we realize that UFC veteran Randy Couture is a good guy and WWE veteran Steve Austin is a bad guy, we know that the movie will end with them fighting at least once. It just has to. When the team of mercenaries shows up to take out the bad guy’s island fortress, Stallone syncs everyone’s watches and lets them know they only have “twenty minutes.” Why? Why not fifteen or thirty? Because there has to be a scene where one guy falls behind and everyone debates – briefly – whether to go back for him or not.

Get drunk first, then see it.