03/08/2004: "to tide you over"
Once again, I decided to actually DO something Sunday evening instead of sitting at home working on carpal tunnel syndrome and eyestra... er, my article for this week. I can tell you that I know exactly what I'm writing about, and that I've already started, but I simply did not have enough time to both sleep and write, so I slept instead.
To get you into the mood for what will be forthcoming, and to tide over you voracious Monday morning readers, I present to you my mini-reviews of Battlefield Earth, and Bowling For Columbine.
I don't remember the exact circumstances surrounding my decision to read L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth, but I'm glad I did. As far as sci-fi goes, I found it to be an enthralling read. Yes, there are points that I could pick at, but I enjoyed the novel enough to really want to see John Travolta's screen adaptation.
From what I've read, Travolta did this movie as sort of a tribute to L. Ron Hubbard. Yes, the same L. Ron Hubbard of Scientology fame, of which Travolta is reportedly a devout member. With that kind of motivation, I had high hopes going in that Travolta would be as true to the the book as possible, making for a great cinematic experience.
All in all, he didn't disappoint. While the movie covers only the first half of the book, and simply does away with some of the subtleties that the book covers in great - and interesting - detail, the movie still tells a good story and is fun to watch. As with the book, there are aspects I could pick at, but much different ones. If you're looking for sci-fi that can hold up to the best of scruitiny and criticism, you might look elsewhere, as there are some details that require an elevated level of suspension of disbelief. Trying to cram even half of a decent sci-fi novel in to a 2-hour movie can sometimes result in a less-than-perfect product, and in this case that manifests itself as a rushed storyline. The story in the book develops quite believeably, at a slow, relaxed pace, but everything seems just a tad on the conveniently quick side in the movie.
Unlike many reviews I've read, I'm not going to slam Battlefield Earth as a failure. Travolta did a good job taking a story from print and putting it on the screen, and only lost a bit in the process. Could he have done better? Of course - hindsight is 20/20. All things considered, I liked it. It's certainly not LOTR or Star Wars, but it's a good rental; five and a half out of ten.
Bowling For Columbine
Michael Moore is brilliant. He's also crazy, in a wonderful way, and Bowling For Columbine shows this in an extremely engaging way. If you liked his moxy during the Academy awards, publicly chiding President Bush for a "fictional war" in Iraq, you'll like the movie that garnered that award for him even more.
Bowling For Columbine is a documentary. Unlike a stereotypical documentary that simply goes on and on about a subject in excrutiating detail, Moore jumps all over the place. He talks about guns, fear, Canada, K-mart, Columbine, the National Rifle Association... and brings it all together into a very clear and frightening picture about the United States of America.
There is so much in this movie that I'm not even sure what to talk about. How about taking Columbine survivors to K-mart headquarters to show off their wounds? Or ambushing Dick Clarke to ask him about using the work-for-welfare system? What about talking to the creators of South Park, and getting them to contribute a very South-Park-esque short within the film about the history of fear in America? There's opening a bank account to get a free rifle, talking to Canadians and confirming that Canadians leave their doors unlocked, leading all the way up to confronting Charleton Heston about two of the NRA's poorly-timed and callous rallies.
Bowling For Columbine is packed. Packed with everything. It's such a heady mish-mash that I can't clearly recall all of it, but pieces of it stick out quite memorably. Despite the seemingly disjoined nature of this documentary, the overall message comes out loud and clear, and has made a profound impact on both my wife and I in regards to ever living in the United States. While there may be 165 reasons not to live in Canada, the nearly 12000 reasons not to live in the United States are really quite frightening. It's good, but not quite perfect, yet still an excellent film. It earns a nine out of ten from me.