Excitement is a difficult thing to pin down. It is gained through a multitude of varied pursuits: skydiving, fast cars, the discovery of a hidden box of teabags at the back of the cupboard which mean you don’t have to venture to the shops (a personal favourite). It can be quashed and converted into disappointment equally easily; parachute failure tends to do it, as does a cold walk to the shops for teabags.
Perspective is required I know, but when it comes to human emotion, certain notes can be struck very easily. Filmmakers have been aware of this vulnerability almost since cinema was invented and have used it to great/mediocre effect. ET (spoilers) dying and (spoilers) coming back to life, Butch and Sundance going down shooting and the ripples in a glass of water signalling the approach of a T-Rex being just a few of my favourites. My week in cinema spanned that spectrum from almost end to end.
I saw Midnight In Paris last week almost by accident. I had the good fortune of being offered an opportunity of chatting with Tom Hiddleston, who plays F Scott Fitzgerald in Woody Allen’s latest. It is chiefly concerned with Owen Wilson playing a Woody Allen type in Paris, who gets to go back to the 20s every night at the stroke of midnight and mingle with the artists of the age.
I haven’t done that many interviews and to get to talk to one of Britain’s rapidly rising stars filled me with huge excitement. Now you know which side of the spectrum we’re starting on. He was a charming and interesting interview and was clearly very humble in his achievements. He even put up with me asking what it was like to fight Thor, although I did say a friend’s son wanted to know, which was a lie.
I went along and made sure I saw the film the next day, smug in the knowledge that I had a deeper insight than most at this point. I am probably the furthest you can get from a Woody Allen expert but what I’ve seen of his I’ve largely enjoyed, and for the most part left the cinema wishing I was smarter. This time I actually got it, I had a grasp of the themes and characters, I got a sufficient number of the artistic references, I laughed and my attention was thoroughly held throughout.
This is where we begin to slip down the scale. A few days later I went to see The Three Musketeers, the latest incarnation directed by Paul WS Anderson. That name is enough to strike fear into the heart of any self-respecting film goer. I’ve applied for the time back I spent with Resident Evil and Alien Vs. Predator, but it would appear it is non-refundable.
Alexandre Dumas’ classic work is a story that has everything -swashbuckling adventure, romance, intrigue, heroes, villains. Although apparently that’s not enough, all this time we’ve been unaware that it needs 3D, slo-mo and ninja-like moves to fully realise its adventure potential. Although despite all the factors that would normally deter me, I must admit I’ve never seen it done like this before and the overblown, well-distilled daftness did have me chuckling at times. It’s the best Paul W.S Anderson film I’ve seen (which is the definition of damning with faint praise).
This is where things get a little strange. Real Steel is the realisation of the classic American toy Rock Em, Sock Em Robots. In a future without physical fighting Hugh Jackman is forced to operate giant metal robots that fight to the death (mechanical death?) from the side of the ring. He largely sucks at this until the arrival of a son from a long forgotten relationship.
It is a solid and entertaining kid’s film, providing exactly what you’d imagine 11 year old boys go to bed dreaming about. Things got weird pretty quickly; I found the hairs on the back of my neck going up in the usual places of triumph and a faint lump in my throat as tragedy befell them. Nothing new you may think, but I didn’t actually feel the experience. It was more like my body was simply reacting to well-rehearsed audio and visual cues it had seen a thousand times before. I was being controlled as easily as the massive metal robots in the film. That’s when it hit me exactly what was happening, Hollywood was taking control and pushing the buttons without my consent; they knew the exact places to play music and when to have the kid cry to evoke an immediate response.
That was when my excitement went to the recycling centre, when I realised it can be so easily manufactured. Although I was comforted that I could taste the difference between the hard-won and diet variety.