Notes on the Journey

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Expendables 2"

I saw the movie, "Expendables 2" this afternoon and really enjoyed it.  I have to note that my response to this film and all the violence that it entails, is 180 degrees from my response to "Dark Knight" and its violence.

The overall vibe of "Dark Knight" was too bleak and depressing for me.  It felt oppressive and relentless.  It went on for too long and I felt icky watching it.  It was out of balance, and, for me, by the end, nothing could bring it back.  All I felt at the end was relief that it was over.  And, relief that Christopher Nolan would be making no more installments in the franchise.  Maybe the next director will lift it up a bit.

But, "Expendables 2" is a much more balanced piece of work.  You like the main characters who all seem to accept themselves and the life they've chosen.  They're good guys saving the little guys and taking down the bad guys.  There's humor to balance out the tougher stuff and all the killing.  And, the killing is at such a proportion that it becomes comical at times.  The filmmakers never seem to lose their way, or stay too long at the party.

I love Sylvester Stallone.  I've always liked him in the roles he plays and I have great respect for his writing, directing and producing talents.  He didn't direct "Expendables 2," Simon West did.  But, it was Stallone's story and he was one of the writers.  He did direct the first "The Expendables," but the choice of Simon West to direct this film was a good one.

Violence is never an answer to anything.  But, we still have violence in our world, and violence still seems to be part of our response to certain things.  I found it intriguing though that the violence of one film bothered me so much more than the violence of the other film.  I think part of what makes the violence in "Expendables 2" so much easier to take is the self-deprecating manner of its characters.  They don't take themselves too seriously.  And yet, there are some scenes of pure evil behavior.  There's also plenty of drama to balance the humor and the action.  And, as over-the-top as the action gets sometimes, the general balance of the film makes it okay.

Thank goodness "Dark Knight" had Anne Hathaway.  The only humor I can remember from that movie came from her character.  And, there was very little of it.  There's a woman in "Expendables 2" as well.  And, she's just as bad ass as the guys, but remains feminine throughout.  She also has a sense of humor.

I do think we need to exercise our discretion when choosing to see films that include violence.  Sometimes it's too much for our sensibilities, and other times it's okay.  I know now, after seeing all of his work so far, that Christopher Nolan's vision is generally darker than I like.  And, I'll be careful before going to see another film he does that includes violence.  I liked "Inception" far more than I did "Dark Knight."  And, I also liked "Memento."  I just need to exercise discretion when it comes to his work.  But, I wouldn't have any reservations about seeing anything that Sylvester Stallone is involved with.  He knows what makes a compelling story.  He knows how to make us root for someone.  He understands balance.  He doesn't overdo things more than the story needs.  He understands pathos as well as violence and when to use them.  And, he has a great sense of humor.

It will be wonderful when we grow beyond the need for violence.  But, while it's still here, we need to be careful how and how much we let into our experience.  It's not easy to process out of our consciousness images and experiences of violence.  So, we need to be careful what we let in.  But, if you feel like a little excitement and action, I think "Expendables 2" would be a good choice. 

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