Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Postman Isn't That Bad

Yes, and I thought Battlefield Earth was fun too. Maybe I'm more tolerant in general, or maybe speculative fiction people are a small enough slice that the broader public's tastes won't align with ours; who knows. For what it's worth, David Brin thought it captured the spirit of his book. No, it still doesn't quite get where it was going, but it's better if you take the film for what it was trying to be. To inject a pretentious note, this was one of John Updike's main rules for reviewing fiction, and it's true in any medium. If you pick up an Elvis record, and form an opinion according to classical music rules, you're wasting everyone's time. (In general if you consume things trying to like them, you live a better life. True with wine, true with movies; I wish more people would figure it out.) There are a lot of ideas if you pay attention, though they're subtle enough that they're maybe better rendered in writing than on screen - the barbarian general who maintained the trappings of civilization (making paintings - of himself; Shakespeare quotes about violence, understanding history well enough to see that he was at the head of a feudal system) with the protagonist serving as a nucleus of law and order just by doing something as glitterless as delivering messages reliably.

Importantly: like Lord of the Rings, this movie made me mad that I'm not out in the mountains where it was filmed. I haven't spent nearly enough time in Oregon and Washington. And I've spent a lot of time there. The scenery alone is reason enough to watch it so you can plan your next road trip.

It may just be that it was too damn long (2h59m). There was no one on the set with the stature to stand up to lead actor and screenwriter and tell him some scenes shouldn't be in; same in the editing room for which ones could be left out. Star Wars Episode I is another example.

Final note: I knew I'd heard antagonist Will Patton (General Bethlehem) somewhere before. I listened to Al Gore's The Assault on Reason on CD, read by Patton (whose performance I thought was the best in the movie). Once I realized the previous source it was an odd juxtaposition: the neo-Ostrogoth with the voice of an environmental spokesman.

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