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CONTEMPLATE THIS o/t TREE OF WOE

22 December 2007

I'm in high spirits at the moment, because everything is going swell and life is working out for me on all fronts. It may be the tinge of Christmas in the air (though I've thankfully been spared the endless reruns of golden oldies on the radio through deliberately never exposing myself to it or any situation that might engender such horrors), but I feel like a beacon of warmth wanting to share my good fortune with everyone around me.

Let's talk movies. First up is the documentary Earth, which is a movie distilled from the voluminous material shot for its televised predecessor series Planet Earth. In it, we follow the journey from the North to the South Pole, discovering the myriad wonders of our planet (mostly animal, almost exclusively mammal -talk about your racist preferences!) and following a handful of migrating creatures in their desperate struggle for survival. As a movie, the documentary is a wonderful tribute to the beauty of our world. Indeed, at times, when the camera swoops up to expose tens of thousands of white birds flying southwards in a massive, organized matrix; the test that lies before us is realizing that this is not computer generated imagery, but real. The only shame is then that the movie doesn't seem content on letting the beauty of our earth speak for itself, but insists in the end to smother us with a nauseatingly straightforward ecological message. This hurts the movie, because it could have been spectacular if ended with a triumphant celebration of the wonders of life, appealing as it did for its entire length to our hearts and feelings. Instead, it comes with a rational plea for changing our life, which belittles the core message of the movie. Nothing, however, can hurt the gorgeous footage shown, so don't let this ecological pampering withhold you from seeing some astounding vistas of forests, deserts and snowcapped mountains. Also, it's narrated by captain Picard.

The second movie is I Am Legend, which shows Will Smith in an astoundingly good role as the last remaining survivor on Earth. If you plan on seeing the movie, I actually recommend you don't read what follows, as it's better to go in unprepared. It's quite impressive to see how Smith handles this solitary role. There's a lot of depth in his performance, and what's shown on screen is beautiful. The shots of empty New York avenues with weeds growing out of every crack, deer jumping around abandoned cars and lions prowling the streets are impressive. The movie builds up very slowly towards an incredibly scary, satisfyingly horrific point where the revelation comes that He Is Not Alone. The sheer terror and paranoia that follows is nerve-wrecking and one scene in particular, showing Smith's cool crumbling in the face of something that shouldn't have been able to happen, is unnerving (though half of the theatre audience was snickering, presumably because in their own shallowness they couldn't grasp the complex emotion being appealed to on the screen). After these tense moments, the movie unfortunately takes a predictable and disappointing turn for the generic horror-movie; and what should have been an interesting study into what being alone in such an environment does to you becomes a rather disappointing action yarn with monsters that sadly lost their lustre the moment they stepped into the nightlight (besides also being too obviously CGI). So all in all, it's a two-sided movie. The alone-on-the-world bits are brilliant; the zombie-bits are mostly generic. Not bad, just... by far not as interesting as what came before.

The third and final thing is the trailer for The Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins. I was secretly hoping the movie would be called Batman Begins Again, or perhaps Batman Continues, but this might be better overall. The trailer is actually not that good; featuring mostly a lot of explosions and oneliners. I understand it's meant to appeal to the widest audience possible and its main feature is introducing probably the scariest Joker ever conceived, but it doesn't show the depth that trailers of, for instance, their previous movie (The Prestige) had. A certain sophistication. Don't get me wrong, this trailer pushed all the right fanboy buttons in me, but if you look at the Dark Knight teaser of a few months back; that one actually had some more psychological depth to it. I fully expect this to be present in the movie though, especially through the interaction between Batman and butler Alfred, wonderfully portrayed by the eternal mentor, Michael Caine. The real torture then is having to wait until somewhere in June before we can see this in cinemas. I want it now! Why so serious?

Join me next week when we discuss the coming apocalypse of 2008! Cheap laughs and thrills guaranteed!

Roderick.