Friday, April 17, 2009

Pounds vs. The Day

In the past week, I watched The Day the Earth Stood Still and Seven Pounds. The connection: the Smith family actors. The other connection: I wish I hadn't watched either. (**Yes, this has spoilers.**)

I have two, no make that three, complaints about The Day the Earth Stood Still. First off, can we talk about the title? The title that had absolutely no bearing on the film, no correlation to the events, no real tie-in except that it makes the movie sound more dramatic than The Day the Aliens Unleash a Tidal Wave of Microorganisms That Nearly Wipe Out the Human Race. There was no point in the movie when the Earth stood still. There wasn't even a point in the film where it felt like time had halted, or that everyone was waiting with bated breath, conveying a sense of stillness across the human race to equate to a feeling of the Earth standing still. Nope. Titles are important, and I don't appreciate being mislead.

My second complain has to do with young Mr. Smith himself, or perhaps with the director/writer who gave this character too much screen time for too little plot advancement without character depth to back it up. Now, this could be a personal taste point. There may be fans out there who couldn't get enough of the kid, thought he brought hidden depths to the character, and didn't mind that his emotions seemed more like plot devices than genuine character traits.

My third complaint is by far the largest. The movie had, at most, two acts. The third act was completely missing! The overarching theme was explored, but not concluded. The reason: the learning curve was spread across the cast of characters, so that no character tied to the theme (changing humanity for the better/being less selfish and more appreciative of the environment and fellow man) actually made a change.

Perhaps this was because there didn't seem to be a main character. Granted, movies like Independence Day have proven that a single main character is not needed, but even so, this movie lacked a story arc with any single character. Rather, they all had their own part in the story arc, but the character who returned with the elixir (if we go by Campbell's famous Hero's Journey) is the alien, a character whose lesson was incongruous with the theme of the movie. He had to learn to trust and have faith in humans. The two lead humans in the film were already good people, kind to their fellow man, and hybrid-driving, Earth-conscious citizens. They didn't need to learn the theme's lesson.

Which brings me back to my point about the missing third act. By the end of the film, the main character is no longer the female lead, the child, or the alien--it has become humanity as a whole. The film set up the premise that humanity has to learn its lesson regarding Earth and start treating the planet as if it were precious. Thus, to complete the story arc, we would have needed to see humanity, as a whole, learning this lesson and making changes in the way they act, react, and live on a day-to-day basis. Instead, the movie ends at the end of the second act, and the point in which the main character (now humanity) has experienced its point of death. From here, at the very least, we needed to see the return with the elixir (the learned lesson) for the plot to finish its arc.

Of course, I have a feeling the director/writer was trying to leave the third act up to its audience. That's all well and good...if I were watching a documentary. I do not buy this cop-out in my fiction.

As for Seven Pounds, my one flaw with the movie is actually a flaw within myself: I'm simply not up for dramas. I should know this by now. I don't like to be saddened by my literature or my film. If I want something sad, I can find it in real life. Seven Pounds haunted me for the rest of the night (despite the fact that I'd figured out about 20 minutes into the 2-hour film exactly where it was going and how it was going to end). I dreamed about it. I woke up sad. At least it reaffirmed my stand that I should stick to comedies and action films.

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