Sunday, November 13, 2011

If I have to hear just one more rousing battle speech ...

If you're anything like me, you might have been super psyched to see Braveheart for the first time. In fact, you might have been so psyched, you saw it twice in the theater.

The film had numerous things to recommend it. The great battles. The political intrigue. Several emotionally involving romantic subplots. And don't forget the bagpipes.

But there was no doubt that one of its most memorable scenes involved Mel Gibson spewing forth the following lines:

"I am William Wallace. And I see a whole army of my countrymen, here, in defiance of tyranny. You've come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What will you do with that freedom? Will you fight? Fight, and you may die. Run, and you'll live. At least for awhile. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here, and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take ... OUR FREEDOM!"

That was 16 years ago, but it feels like ancient history.

That speech to the troops, to help them keep their courage in the face of steep odds, has been done so many times since then, it now seems to belong solely in the domain of parody.

Which is why I kind of laughed the first time I saw the Immortals trailer below:

"Fight for honor! Fight for your future! Fight ... FOR IMMORTALITY!"

If this were one of my ordinary posts, I might tell you how the writers of Immortals are total hacks who haven't had an original thought in their lives. (I probably wouldn't say that, actually -- at least not without parenthetically clarifying/undercutting myself, the way I'm doing now.)

But as concept made it to execution, I came to recognize that the rousing battle speech presented in this trailer does not owe a debt to Braveheart any more than it owes a debt to a hundred other movies that preceded Mel Gibson's Oscar winner. In fact, you could go so far as to say this: Is there any more well-worn chestnut in the history of cinema than a field general whipping his army into a fightin' fervor?

It's really a matter of when you came of age. For today's young people, Braveheart may as well have come out in the 1950s. They know Mel Gibson not as a one-time box office superstar, but as a racist, sexist, antisemitic and probably homophobic old bastard. If they note any similarities between Immortals and a film that came before it, they are much more likely to compare it to 300 -- with which it also shares a comical number of common elements. Just as Braveheart may have reminded the generation before mine of Patton or Spartacus or something like that.

But note that I did call this post "If I have to hear just one more rousing battle speech ...", and that sentiment is something I don't have to clarify. My own standards and my own tolerance levels are my business.

And I speak the truth when I say that my eyes rolled when I heard the lines of dialogue above, directed at a legion of CGI soldiers. My own personal saturation point had been reached, and no matter how excellent the visuals looked, how well the action was cut to the trailer music, how much I love director Tarsem Singh's The Cell, and even how epic the 11-11-11 release date is, I knew I would not be seeing this movie in the theater.

Rouse those soldiers to action all you want. Just don't expect it to send chills down my spine like it did a decade and a half ago, when a charismatic antisemite spoke similar words to a bunch of blue-faced men in kilts.

By the way, what kind of noble cause is fighting for immortality, anyway? Sounds just plain greedy to me. Or at the very least, a calculated gamble that results from something so dispassionate as a cost-benefit analysis. Risk dying now for the chance to live eternally later on.

William Wallace would not approve.


Jonathan Hardesty said...

Weirdly enough, I find myself more moved by these speeches the older they are. Recent example: In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I much prefer the speech in the Two Towers to the one in Return of the King. Less recent example: I prefer the speech in Spartacus to the films after it.

But yeah, I agree. They need to cut down on the speechifying and just go straight to the killin'. If these speeches were in video game cutscenes, I'd be skipping them. :P

Vancetastic said...

Well, Two Towers is the superior movie, IMHO, as well.

You know, it's funny, I saw Spartacus only like three months ago for the first time, and I don't actually remember the speech from it.

I am so lame. I don't even know what a video game cutscene is.

Thanks for the comment!