Trailers are my Achilles heel. I abandon reason when it comes to trailers. And a trailer like this – so thrillingly nonsensical! – was bound to floor me. This is, for me, what Inception should have looked like. The sheer momentum of this thing! Those pounding drums. That killer tagline. The ridiculous, fetishized, sword-wielding heroine…so unstoppable she makes you giddy. I love the fact she seems to be battling the same samurai Jonathan Pryce fought in Brazil. The enthusiasm for mayhem is infectious. Yes, it does seem a bit like exploitation cinema. But Russ Meyer never delivered this kind of adrenaline. Okay, so the plot is baloney. The pitch is: “Alice in Wonderland, with machine guns”. Are you in?
Is it fury that makes a man? It would explain why boys’ video games are all about killing, and girls’ video games are all about being kind to horses. Pre-video game, men took violent inspiration from nature. Now it’s obvious why men have such fury. The unpaved world, the one lacking in concrete, is a savage place. Big spaces aren’t peaceful; they howl for blood. Hills and fields are, by nature, indifferent to suffering. Timelessness does it. A hill stays a hill for eons, grass grows and grows. Why should the earth care for us? We only expect it to be humane because we’ve humanised it. Old peoples, like the Vikings, knew not to expect much. You’re born, you fight. Valhalla Rising is about a man who fights well.
You want this movie to break your heart. Come on, admit it. You want the same sentimental rush you got from Toy Story 2, when Sarah McLachlan sang “When She Loved Me” (the song that sounds like a faithful pet is dying). The secret to the success of the Toy Story franchise is the crippling sadness that embalms the toys. Woody, Buzz, and the rest can scarcely smile without pathos engulfing the grownups in the audience. As a wise critic observed: we are the toys; old, worn, and desperate to be loved. That “when” in the song’s title is primed like a nostalgic depth charge. If it was “if”, you’d have a prayer. But “when” says “it happened”. You loved and were loved. We are all flimsy, doting playthings.
Every third episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation was about dreams. It fit right in with the egocentric, touchy-feely, “End of History” haze that was the 90s. Bad TV (like Star Trek) fed on a lack of world-changing events, so that even a show set in outer-space turned inward, with whole episodes where people slept. In an episode called “The Inner Light”, one character lives out an entire lifetime in a dream; marrying, raising children, growing old…only to wake. This plotline is dreamt-up again in Leonardo Dicaprio’s new movie, Inception. In both cases, dreams offer me-time. It’s just that – in Inception – Leo’s job is breaking into heads.
“Have you finished that crappy magician book yet?” I was asked, repeatedly, while reading Carter Beats the Devil. My interrogator hadn’t read the book…but she was right. Glen David Gold’s epic tale of magic, romance, lions, pirates, Pez, and television is…not…half as exciting to read as it is to summarise. Magic is sexy. Magicians aren’t. It’s the same as the difference between “electricity” and “electricians”. One connotes wonder; the other connotes a hard hat. The moment the man is the focus, instead of the magic, that man had better be the most sexy, dangerous, multi-faceted bastard out there…or you’re in trouble. Charles Carter is about as exciting as soap.