Sunday, October 20, 2019

A bad movie in a good movie

Perhaps it's the amateur fiction writer in me, but I seem to see or look for different things in a film than professional film critics or most movergoers. Sometimes, when I'm watching generally bad movie, I think to myself, "There's a good movie trapped inside this bad movie." Of course, most bad movies are just plain bad, but there are exceptions. 

Paradoxically, a bad movie with a good movie struggling to get out can be much more interesting than a conventionally good or even great movie. For instance, Casino Royale (2006) is a great movie of its kind. Flawless craftsmanship in terms of acting, smart dialogue, clever plot, exotic locations, and all that. So many movies suffer from shoddy indifferent craftsmanship because they're made for a quick buck, so it's refreshing to see a movie where real care went into every element of the movie. But it's a pity that the flawless execution is wasted on a Bond vehicle. At the end of the day it's just an high-end popcorn film. 

Now let's compare it to Skinwalkers (2007), a low-budged werewolf flick. It was panned at Rotten Tomatoes. Indeed, I don't know that any major movie critic even deigned to review it. It was beneath them. 

Yet it has some compelling dramatic ideas. Much more interesting than a better film like Casino Royale:

• A Golden Child (Timothy) who's a savior or natural-born healer

• The Golden Child was heralded by an ancient oracle

• The curative power lies in his unique blood type

• His blood can break the curse of lycanthropy

• But his life is threatened by werewolves who don't want to be cured

• Several characters sacrifice their lives to protect the Golden Child 

• The film has a conspicuous number of Christian names: Adam, Caleb, Huguenot, Jonas, Rachel, Timothy

I think many people panned the movie because they're too theologically illiterate to recognize the sublimated biblical motifs. Admittedly, given the widespread animosity to Christianity, they might pan the movie if they did recognize the biblical themes. 

It's striking how often secular films will appropriate and allegorize Christian theology. There are variations on the theme of humans facing a plague or mass extinction, but one person has a curative mutation, viz. Children of Men (2006) and "The Nest" (The Outer Limits). 

As we approach Advent, I've been listening to Handel's musical setting of Isaiah 9 ("For unto us a child is born…"). There are obvious parallels between the Christchild and the character of Timothy in Skinwalkers. Ironically, some secular filmmakers unintentionally do what C. S. Lewis intentionally did, by encoding Christian motifs in stories, which slip under the radar. 

One change I'd made to the movie is that in the original, Timothy is hunted by Varek, who doesn't realize that Timothy is his son. Varek bites him, but ingesting the blood restores his humanity. Biting Timothy is a simple efficient plot device to get the cure into Varek's system.

However, I think it would be more dramatically effective if, when Varek is about to attack Timothy, as he comes within striking range, he senses a mysterious affinity between them, which restrains him from attacking Timothy. Later he finds out that Timothy is in fact his son. Perhaps at that point he willingly accepts the gift his son offers. 

There are many improvements that could be made to the film. The point, though, is that it has some elemental themes that transcend the material and the execution. It could be turned into a much better film because some of the raw material is so potentially powerful, whereas there's nothing to work with in the case of Casino Royale. That's as good a film as you can make, given the raw material. It can never transcend its intrinsic superficiality. What you see is all you'll ever get, whereas there's more to Skinwalkers than meets the eye if you know what to look for. Watching Skinwalkers, I think it myself, "There's a good movie trapped inside this bad movie!" Someone like Brian Godawa might be able to extract the core elements and rework them into a powerful film. 

1 comment:

  1. 'There are variations on the theme of humans facing a plague or mass extinction, but one person has a curative mutation, viz. Children of Men (2006) and "The Nest" (The Outer Limits).' // Yes and one can add the movies 'The Last Man on Earth' (V. Price); 'The Omega Man (C. Heston) and 'I Am Legend' (W. Smith). One man who could save humanity with his blood in all 3 movies based on the same book.