I understand one usually has to wait for the third occurrence of something in order to speculate about that something becoming a trend, but let me jump the gun here. One of the sole memorable moments of Doug Liman's spectacularly misbegotten Jumper earlier this year came right at the beginning, as the title character (you're not going to actually make me look up his name, are you?), who can globe-hop limitlessly through sheer force of will and who we first see here standing atop Egypt's Sphinx, gives a voiceover description of his day—breakfast in Paris, getting "digits" from "this Polish chick" (Jesus), and so on. Wow, he's so cool. And as we ease into the flashback, he says, "I wasn't always like this. Once, I was a normal person. A chump, just like you."
The insult was all the more irksome in that it emanated from the lips of pouty/smirky non-acting dipshit Hayden Christensen (just how was Billy Ray able to get that performance out of him in Shattered Glass? maybe worminess just comes to the guy naturally or something?), but I shrugged it offâI'm didn't pay to see your dumbass movie, pretty boy, so eat it. But seriously. I know that superheroes are supposed to be envied by their audiences—although I do dearly hope that even the most avid consumers of this sort of material understand that superheroes actually cannot be envied—but this particular take on the practice of bringing a little excitement into our humdrum lives seemed gratuitously smug. I could riff on gratuitous smugness in Hollywood and Hollywood product until the cows come home,but I need to stay on topic here.
Yesterday I did pay money to see Wanted, which has a similar voiceover line, this one coming at the end rather than the beginning, and intoned by rather-more-skilled performer James McAvoy, playing a onetime milquetoast accountant who is now an assassin nonpareil (happens all the time). "Six weeks ago, I was ordinary and pathetic, just like you."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," I thought. "I've met you, James McAvoy, and basically you barely come up to my waist. Watch it, fucker." I know, I know—McAvoy's playing a character here. Still. What is this bullshit? Have screenwriters become so defensive/resentful on account of churning out quasi-nihilistic, faux-convoluted, graphic-novel-mytho-Babel tripe like this that they feel compelled to lash out at the audience that laps their nonsense up?
If so, they should understand that audiences don't quite lap it up in the way they might think. The 2:50 show at the Court Street Regal yesterday was pretty packed; my vibe on the crowd was that it was composed of folks who were interested in seeing a bright shiny noisy thing, and nothing but. I see my friend Jeffrey Wells is bemoaning " younger males" whose "appetite for brutish ultra-violent degeneracy is alive and thriving," but the one-man control group for this crowd, far as I could tell, was the middle-aged African-American gentleman sitting behind me whose running commentary consisted of variations of "Shit is crazy" and "She looks good." Although the one bit of dorsal nudity from Angelina Jolie, the she in question, elicited a "She needs to eat something."
For all its crassness, the picture is rather surprisingly affectless; and for all its putatively adrenaline-pumping fast-slow-fast-slow breakneck-the-laws-of-physics action, rather no big deal, leaving the audience impressed with its bright shine and noisiness, but hardly stirred or stirred up. Hence, McAvoy's "ordinary and pathetic" crack, and the punchline that followed, didn't register overmuch, getting merely pro forma chuckles. Because the crowd never believed in any of this for a minute. Just a bright shiny noisy thing in an air-conditioned room. Anybody wants to pat himself on the back on account of maybe being responsible for getting folks to shell out money for such a thing oughtn't strain his arm too much.