5 Movies That Preach Grand Messages (They Totally Ignore)
Whether it's "Family is important," "Don't try to be someone you're not," or "Never mess with Liam Neeson," every movie has a message. Unfortunately, a whole lot of them seem to forget that message about halfway through, either because of sloppy editing, lazy writing, or voodoo hexes. And still other times, they wind up contradicting themselves completely. Like how ...
Wonder Woman Says "You Can't End A War By Killing One Guy," Then Does Exactly That
Wonder Woman follows Diana, princess of the Amazons, as she ventures from her all-female island into a world full of strange customs and even stranger genitalia. Diana spends most of the movie chopping Germans in half, trying to figure out which one person she has to kill in order to magically end World War I.
All this happens while her love interest, Steve "Not Rogers" Trevor, tries to make her understand a hard truth about war: It's a messy, complex problem without a single root cause, and you can't make it go away simply by walking up to the Big Boss and stabbing the glowing spot on his forehead.
Diana doesn't take Steve seriously at first, but when she finally comes face-to-face with the bad guy, Ares, he basically tells her that Steve was right. Ares may be coaching humanity on ways to more efficiently kill each other, but the actual problem is rooted in a big complicated set of human failings, rather than the corrupting influence of a single villain.
That's a bold message for any action movie to present, but especially for the superhero genre, which is largely based on the wish-fulfillment fantasy that all your problems are punchable.
Immediately after Diana explodes Ares, the war ends -- pretty much as she originally expected. The Germans take off their dehumanizing gas masks and stop fighting, as if a spell has been lifted. Some even hug each other! Then the movie jumps forward to London, where everyone is celebrating the end of the war.
In other words, after spending two hours insisting that you can't achieve peace just by killing the guy with the meanest-sounding name, that, uh, happens. Diana was supposed to be "naive" because she thought she could personally end a war, but it turns out that's precisely what she could do. Although we have to admit, if the sequels are nothing but Wonder Woman wading into all of history's different wars and jump-kicking them in the throat, we're in for that.
The Lion King Is All About Facing Your Past Mistakes (As Long As You Never Admit To Them)
In The Lion King, Simba believes he's responsible for his father's death. So he spends years living with Timon and Pumba -- the animal equivalents of stoner friends who let you crash on their couch after a bad breakup -- as a means of avoiding his responsibilities. Then Simba gets a pep talk from his sky-dad and wise old Rafiki literally beats the moral of the movie into his skull: You must face the past, no matter how painful, because only then can you learn from it and grow.
Simba returns to his former home, owns up to his mistake, and ... immediately gets crushed for it. When Scar confronts Simba about killing his father, Simba admits it's true, but says he's "put it behind him."
The other lions? Not so much.
Simba's posse falls apart within seconds. Nobody -- not even Nala, his childhood friend -- stands by him after hearing that. Without the power of "emotional support," Simba gets rocked in the ensuing battle. Only when Scar reveals that he's the real killer does Simba get any kind of advantage. So what did he gain from facing down his past? Nothing. His people turned on him, he lost all his strength, and was nearly killed. Had Simba actually caused his dad's death (even accidentally), he would have ended up as well-done lion steaks. In that scenario, running from his problems and sticking to his new, carefree life would have been the best course.
So the new moral is: If you did something horrible, lie and hope things work out. Children already know how to do that, Disney. They're actually super great at it.
Minority Report Shows Us That There Are No Magical Solutions To Crime ... Except The One Magical Solution That Worked Great
In Minority Report, the authorities use a trio of psychics to predict and stop murders before they happen. Would-be murderers are immediately imprisoned without trial, using a special device that places them in a coma, and another that politely covers their junk.
The big twist: Those psychic predictions aren't perfect, and the people who run the program know that, and have been covering it up. Their psychics are only seeing possible futures, not certain ones, and they'll sometimes disagree on the outcome. When Tom Cruise reveals this, the psychic police program is shut down entirely, and we learn that there aren't magical solutions to complex societal problems like crime.
Actually, the magical solution worked amazingly well. The movie specifically says that the psychic police enforcement had reduced the city's murder rate to zero. The problem wasn't really the psychic predictions; it was throwing people in jail without any sort of trial. Who knew that would turn out to be a bad move?
Early in the film, the psychics predict that a man will kill his wife and her lover after catching them in bed. The cops arrive right as he's coming at his wife with a pair of scissors.
What's wrong with charging that guy with attempted murder? Or at least issuing a restraining order? Or at the very least still showing up to potential murder scenes and being like, "Hey, quit it"?
But no, the movie's happy ending is "We should let that guy kill his wife; it's better than the alternative." When it should be "Pay the psychics, and still hold trials like usual, but now with some bitchin' evidence."
In Man Of Steel, Superman Can Choose His Own Destiny, From A Set Of One Options
Man Of Steel sets itself up as a parable on the evils of excessive control and the importance of choosing one's own path in life ... as told via flying jerkholes punching each other through IHOPs.
The film opens on planet Krypton, which is days from destruction, its galaxy-spanning empire now all but extinct because they assigned their citizens predetermined roles and grew them in Matrix-style baby farms. Plucky renegade Jor-El believes that the answer lies in this crazy concept called "freedom." So he and his wife have a child by natural birth, and send him to Earth as "a second chance for all of Krypton ... free to forge his own destiny." In hot pursuit is Zod, a Kryptonian with his own solution: Rebuild the same society as before, but impose even harsher rules. The problem was lack of harshness all this time!
The baby grows up to be Superman, who must dropkick Zod through an office building to prevent him from turning Earth into Krypton 2.0. It's a gripping tale of freedom vs. oppression!
Clark has about as much say in his destiny as a North Korean does in their government officials. First, he has to spend his entire life hiding his godlike abilities on the say-so of his adoptive Earth dad, who wields the one thing even more debilitating than kryptonite: passive-aggressive guilt trips.
Clark ultimately accepts his abilities and meets a hologram of his biological father, Jor-El, who tells him all about "freedom" and "choice." Then it tells him he has to shepherd all of humanity, and even shows Clark the suit he wants him to wear while doing that:
And if Clark decides he wants to ditch all this nonsense and go be, like, a craft beer reviewer or something? Well, Jor-El also infused his body with the only copy of Krypton's genetic database, from which all Kryptonians are born. Not only does this make Clark solely responsible for the resurrection of an entire race, it's also the reason Zod launches his attack on Earth, which only Superman is capable of stopping.
In other words, Clark is free to choose whatever destiny he wants ... as long as it's what Jor-El has planned for him. Otherwise, humanity will be destroyed and the Kryptonian legacy wiped out forever. But no, the choice is yours! So much choice! Look at 'em all splayed out there, the veritable buffet of choices you have, son.
Demolition Man Teaches Us That Fascism Is Terrible ... But Effective
Demolition Man is set in 2032, when ubiquitous surveillance has turned the megacity of San Angeles into a crime-free utopia. But repressive morality laws are strictly enforced, to the point where you get a hefty fine for swearing once, and they immediately call the police if you do it twice. With security cameras everywhere, dissidents are reduced to hiding in the sewers. They can't even spray graffiti without government machines cleaning it within seconds.
Fortunately, '90s-era Sylvester Stallone shows up and tells everyone to relax, drop the occasional F-bomb, and reconsider this whole Disney-brand fascism thing.
The message would be a lot more effective if the rest of the movie didn't portray the tech panopticon as a really great society. The place looks beautiful, pollution and violence are things of the past, and there hasn't been a single murder in 22 years. OK, you aren't allowed to eat meat or whatever, but what kind of gravy-gargling ham-bastard wouldn't choke down a little tofu now and then in return for no murders ever?
Meanwhile, the resistance members are living in filth, reduced to eating rats, Denis Leary is there ... it's a huge mess. At the end, Leary stops waving a gun around long enough to give a big speech about freedom, but it's all about how he wants the freedom to be an asshole.
Seriously, two of his examples are that he wants to able to smoke cigars in the non-smoking section and run nude through the streets jacking off to Playboy. That only sounds fun for Denis Leary, and maybe the one person on Earth with a Denis Leary fetish.
The only other society depicted in the movie is "near-future 1996" Los Angeles -- a crime-ridden burning hellscape in which super-criminals like Wesley Snipes murder entire busloads of people with impunity.
And yet everyone in San Angeles seems quite content, even though they're often standing right next to Rob Schneider. The only good news is that we might get to see how this all plays out in reality when Disney buys the government in 2019.
Riley Black didn't want to give us his Twitter account, but he lost a bet with us, so here it is. Nathan is a Christian and says things like, "Hallelujah!" He is also called "Treegnome," and has a hilarious website called Supertreegnome.com.
Man, these undercut their messages like a pair of left-handed scissors.
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