Sunday, May 04, 2008

Why Hollywood Movies Are Like Hamlet

Emily's choir group is off touring this weekend, so we took Nathaniel (who felt neglected) out to see Iron Man. Felt like a lemming doing so, being stampeded right in the direction that most lemmings go.

The film is what (I hope you) would expect; for $100 million plus, you get a polished script with some funny and witty lines, and striking special effects. It is also emotionally dishonest in the way that virtually all big-budget Hollywood films are: it trucks essentially in one theme, Redemption, which is achieved at no real cost. The protagonist was a roguishly charming bastard at the film's beginning, and now he's a roguishly charming hero, but exactly what has he renounced, and with what effort? He has, in the climax, done the Right Thing, at certain cost of his life, but he didn't die, the Right Thing did exactly what it was supposed to, and now he's universally adored.

Look at just about any contemporary Hollywood epic (at least one with a male protagonist) and you get the same thing. Which is to say that the film is, on one level, basically Cars.

And on another level it's basically a bargain-counter Hamlet. Has anyone noticed how many Hollywood movies are about a charismatic, brilliant, but troubled young man who acts badly and, instead of being roundly censured, has everyone wondering exactly is going on in his head? And a dead father figure, not necessarily murdered by the false father who stands in his way, but usually something like that? And bad behavior toward women, which the film wants us to forgive readily?

I don't get to watch a lot of movies, but I see this quite often when I do. Did anyone else notice that The Truman Show is basically Hamlet?