Saturday, January 15, 2011

On the varying ability to accept blatant breaking of the laws of physics

OK, I know, Indiana Jones should not have been able to survive a nuclear blast by hiding in a lead-lined refrigerator.  But you know, he's Indiana Jones, maybe it was a side-effect of drinking from the Holy Grail or something; let it go.

None of that stuff from the later Die-Hard movies should have really worked either, you don't see anybody complaining about that, do you?

But once in a while a plot point comes along that I just have to hit the mental brakes and scream "now HOLD on there!"

The Kid was just watching (and I can't believe I'm typing this) Tom and Jerry meet Sherlock Holmes. Malcolm McDowell  voices Moriarty, so there's that.  But here's the deal.  Moriarty has invented a device that uses the sun's rays, intensified by large diamonds he's stolen, to make a steampunky heat ray.  He plans to use it so steal the Crown Jewels.  "I intend to use the power of a solar eclipse to generate a beam SO powerful that it will cut right through the Tower of London", he says.



You're going to do what?

The whole film is centered around the idea that the Napoleon of crime is going to use a solar powered device at the one moment in time that it will do him no good.

I explained this scenario to The Wife.  She has less knowledge of hard science than the average Republican Senator, and SHE saw the problem.

I hasten to add, he was explaining this plot to a young woman, a cat, and two clothes-wearing mice.  So his mental stability is already in question.

I get it, it's a kids' movie, I shouldn't get my knickers so bunched up about it.  But there's a slight difference between, say, getting Planck's Constant wrong and suggesting that a solar eclipse is a good time to attempt to harness the sun's rays for nefarious purposes.  I'm reminded of the (insert ethnic group of choice) space program planning a manned mission to the sun, but they're going at night so they'll be fine.

I also saw The Green Hornet today.

Now this was another film that a lot of people couldn't believe was happening.  I've been waiting for it as far back as when George Clooney was going to star, based on a Kevin Smith script.  Needless to say, this is not that movie.

But I tell you, Seth Rogen pulls it off.  The film is funny as all get out, but is not played for laughs.  Britt's desire to help the city is legitimate, his motivation works, and he doesn't become a super-buff fighting machine all of a sudden.  Kato builds Britt the Gas Gun specifically because he has the pugilistic acumen of a arthritic giraffe.

Christoph Waltz has a ball as the crime king of LA who fears he's no longer intimidating to his younger underlings, and Cameron Diaz gets a solid role as Lenore "Casey" Case, Britt's new secretary, personal girl Friday and resident genius.

The film worked, it was drop-dead funny (very much in the same "funny action movie" as his previous film Pineapple Express) but there was a moment where I was totally won over.  In the middle of a traditional "We're not friends anymore" man-fight between Britt and Kato, they tumble into the pool.  Kato can't swim, and Britt has to save him.  Now, if you don't know much about the history of the Green Hornet (Also known as "Everyone in the world"), you'd never know that in  the original Green Hornet stories, that's how Britt and Kato met; Kato is drowning, Britt saves him, and Kato pledges his life to Britt's service.  So for them to have gotten a nod to that bit of history was a REAL thrill.  According to the end credits there was a nod to the Lone Ranger in the film as well, but damn if I could find it. (George W. Trendle created both the Hornet and the Lone Ranger, and according to canon, John Reid is an ancestor of Britt).  It worked, and wonderfully.  The old school logo and themesong from the TV show get a cameo, and all told, it hit more notes that suggested that they really had read the books and heard the old radio shows than many other comics films have.

So why am I mentioning it in the same breath as a Tom and Jerry film?  Because like the other films I've mentioned, it has moments of patent OH COME ON.  The Black Beauty, always a wondercar, now leapt up to Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang levels of efficacy, including being able to drive after being cut in half, with a quick explanation that it has front-wheel drive.  Oh, and was the gas tank in the front as well? 

You're having so much fun there's really no time to sit back and note the lapses in the Newtonian laws that hold our universe together.  But in a brilliant bit of marketing, the producers did a tie-in episode of Mythbusters, in which they actually tested some of the more outlandish stunts in the film to see if they could happen in real life, and proved that they were "pretty much bullshit", as Seth Rogen described them on a recent appearance on Opie and Anthony.  So it was kind of cool that they tried to take control of the argument by calling themselves out on it. 

So I didn't get upset when they escape from being buried alive by setting off all the car's armaments.  But if those weapons had been solar powered, I'd'a been right there railing against it.


  1. It's a wise man indeed who knows when to call "Shenanigans!" on a plot point that doesn't make sense, as well as knowing when one should relax and run with it in good fun. Delightful blog post; now I want to see THE GREEN HORNET! The Sherlock Holmes Meet Tom & Jerry flick, not so much - but I know The Kid will enjoy it anyway. :-)

  2. OK, let's back up a bit more here. Moriarty already has enough large diamonds to build a working heat ray, and he wants to use them to steal the British Crown Jewels (estimated monetary value: twenty million pounds)?

    Am I the only person who's scratching his head over this one?

    Then again, maybe the attack on the Crown Jewels was more for symbolic purposes than for monetary gain. With Moriarty, who could say? Especially a Moriarty voiced by Malcolm McDowell.

    A pity we couldn't have had the McDowell Moriarty facing off against Mel Blanc's Dorlock Homes and Watkins (accompanied by Chuck Jones' direction). Then you would've really had something.