Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Leading a Horse to Water, Relative to Making Them Drink

I just, sorta, watched the movie Ladder 49. I had to stop because it was hurting me. Let me give you a brief idea of the movie: We open on a big burning building, the firefighters rush in, Joaquin Phoenix gets trapped, we flash back to the beginning of his career as a fireman and go from there. He's such a sympathetic character that I get tired of him. We get to the point where he's starting a family, and I turn the movie off.

For crying out loud, could they have tried any harder to make him Mr. Perfect? Doubtful, truly doubtful.

The really disappointing part is how they totally missed the boat on making a compelling story. First scene: fireman trapped, possibly doomed. Then, we flash back. Okay, I'm fine to there. Now, what would've made it work for me: our trapped fireman isn't perfect. In fact, he's heavily flawed. Now we see how he's really a jerk, but he still saves lives, and he's trapped. There's the built-in sympathy because he's near death, fighting the fact that we don't really like him. Now I'm interested. Alas, this is not the movie they made.

I just looked the movie up on imdb.com and it turns out the movie is based off a real person's life. Is that why they tried so hard? I'm sure the real person was a wonderful guy, but this is a movie, not a documentary. I wanted more than hero worship.

Part of me wonders if, by turning off the movie mid-way, I've missed the good part(s). However, my curiosity is simply not strong enough to make me watch more. The story wasn't good enough. I deserve better. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks so, either: "Instead of humanizing the firemen, the movie idolizes them, and thus renders them into cardboard characters." - Rotten Tomatoes, http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/ladder_49/

1 comment:

-John said...

That's a toughie. If you show negative aspects of the character too much, you risk making their heroic efforts nearly irrelevant. I will concede, perhaps they tipped that hand too early. Maybe if they at first painted him as a creep, but from a distorted perspective, and throughout the movie it's slowly revealed that he is indeed a decent person about to be burned alive, that might be interesting.

But, what's so bad if the guy is truly a thoroughly good person? I suppose a conflict-free individual may not have good drama, and I think the issue is having a story to tell with believable conflict to make it interesting. Still, it sounds strange to hear that a story about a hero can be boring. I haven't seen the movie myself, perhaps the filmmakers didn't properly capture the right elements, as if they forgot that though his loved ones may have thought the world of him, he's a human being. I personally have yet to meet a perfect human being.