As per usual, my thoughts were everywhere: on the movie, on the food, on the beer, on what we were going to have for dinner, and why the dogs can’t clean up their own dog run.
That’s when I realized something (I do have occasional single thought bursts): I’d just watched a good guy –Judge Dredd—shoot a bad guy –generic bad guy name—in the head. This in itself isn’t unusual in films today, but as I stuffed my mouth with M&M’s and washed them down with beer I realized that I was watching everything in slow motion. The bullet moved at a rate of about two feet per hour. It pushed on the bad guy’s forehead a bit before punching through. It came out the back of his head in a slow-motion explosion of red and grey gore.
I think some of the spray even ended up on the camera lens, but by this time the action had sped up again.
And then I wondered how I could eat M&M’s and drink beer while watching a guy’s head explode and not even think too much about it. I figured it out right away.
Of course, I had to pat myself on the back for a bit because I’d used a word with more than three syllables, but once I got my mind back on track I thought some more on the concept itself.
It didn’t bother me to watch this gore-fest, because I’ve seen it in films so many times before; I’ve become desensitized.
I’ve never been in combat, but through films I’ve seen people shot, exploded, stabbed, parts cut off, hit, beaten, crushed, dismembered, tortured, water-boarded, and even put on the receiving end of some pretty severe noogies.
It’s a wonder we all don’t have PTSD.
I read an interview with a filmmaker recently, who was quoted as saying that given the special effects and CGI capabilities they have now, they can literally show you anything you can imagine on the big screen. The only limitation is money.
Think about that: Anything. You. Can. Imagine.
That’s both exciting and a bit scary –I guess depending on your imagination.
Ah, but therein lies the rub. (Okay, now I’m giving myself mega-kudos for using ‘desensitization’ and quoting Shakespeare in one blog post…but back to what I was saying.)
By providing us with ultra-slow-motion, ultra-detailed effects, aren’t filmmakers actually killing our imaginations? They’re showing us everything and our imaginations don’t have any room to get its groove on.
For example, when I was a kid we watched “The Adventures of Superman” on television. Of course, there were only three channels, but we’d have watched it anyway.
George Reeves played Superman. Google a picture. The Superman of yesteryear looked nothing like the Superman of today.
The Superman of yesteryear had a potbelly. He had no muscle definition whatsoever. He even had a bit of a waddle under his chin. When he flew he would run a couple of steps and jump. You could literally see him starting to come back down before the camera cut away to his flying.
Poor George looked like he was straining to keep his head up and his arms level with his body. His belly sagged a bit. He looked unsteady –as though Superman hadn’t read the rules on drinking and flying.
You could see the wires! Small wires at his shoulders, waist and knees lifted him off the ground. The only other effect was a long “Whoooooooooosh,”—supposedly the air he carved through like a red and blue marshmallow.
You knew that after filming that twenty second shot George probably had to go for a smoke break and a drink. They used the same shot over and over and over and…well, you get the idea.
But here’s the thing…
WE DIDN’T CARE!
We loved it anyway. Our little imaginations kicked into overdrive. We could overlook the potbelly, the wires, the awkward takeoff, the cheap suit and cape. We could ignore all that because for those twenty seconds we were Superman.
Our imaginations filled in all the plot and productions holes and delicately painted over all the cheap effects.
It was the same with Batman.
As a kid, I wanted to be those heroes. I wanted to be those guys. I knew I could be those guys.
Hell, now at 53, I could still probably be those guys.
Today, Superman’s body is perfect. Ripped muscles (or is it cut? I forget), six-pack abs, hair perfect. Batman is the same. And when the newer Superman flies, it looks, sounds and feels like he’s actually flying.
My imagination doesn’t have a single thing to work with here. Everything is provided.
And I sure as hell can’t imagine myself being one of these new superheroes. They look like they spend eight hours a day at the gym. The closest I get to a gym is when I drive past one on my way to get a donut and coffee before work.
I miss the old heroes. The ones that allowed me to use my imagination –which was much better than any special effects they had.
Just for nostalgia’s sake, I think this afternoon I might do what I did years ago when I was a wee-shaver. Mom would safety pin a towel around my neck and for an hour or so I was Superman. Or she’d let me run around the house in my undies, rubber knife in hand (yes, they actually sold those as toys) and be Tarzan for a while. I usually passed on playing Batman, because he had so much crap in his utility belt that even a five-year-old me did some major eye-rolling.
But if I do that now the neighbors might start talking again and there’s the chance my wife could walk in on me. The neighbor thing would be bad. The wife can be a wild-card. She might actually enjoy a bit of pretending too. Maybe I should reconsider that utility belt...
Nah. I think I’ll get back to watching movies and stuffing my face with M&M’s and beer while someone else provides the imagination for me.
It’s a whole lot safer and easier that way.