Saturday, 18 December 2010

Films: Dogma (1999), Highlander (1986)

I was pointed towards Dogma in an SFF discussion forum, so I gave it a spin recently. The plot of this comic fantasy is novel: two fallen angels (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon), living as humans in present-day USA after having been banished by God long ago, conceive a plan to get back to Paradise. The problems are that if they succeeded this would prove that God is fallible, and thus cause the end of all creation; and that God, who could stop them easily enough, has gone missing while in disguise, somewhere on Earth. To help prevent disaster, God's spokesman (Alan Rickman) recruits a woman (Linda Fiorentino) who, unknown to herself, is the last scion of the family of Jesus of Nazareth. She is tasked with stopping the angels, with the aid of an assortment of dubious characters.

This is the excuse for a lot of rather heavy-handed and sometimes crude humour, mostly at the expense of religion in general and the Roman Catholic Church in particular - I gather that it prompted protests from Catholics in the usual Pavlovian manner. Subtle it ain't, but it fires enough comic shots for a number of them to score hits. All in all, worth watching if you are in the mood for some broad humour, unless you are religious and of a sensitive disposition.

I've been meaning to watch Highlander for years, but have only just got around to it. The story of the accidental immortal Connor MacLeod (played by Christopher Lambert) who spends centuries battling the Kurgan, another immortal warrior, must be well-known by now. Two plot threads run in parallel with the scenes flipping between them; one in the sixteenth century, when Connor first discovers he is immortal and is trained by fellow-immortal Ramirez (played by Sean Connery) and one in 1985 when the climactic battle takes place.

I have to say that I was rather dissatisfied. There are yawning plot holes, with no attempt at any explanation for what is going on and why. Lambert makes a broodingly impressive hero but the Kurgan is a cardboard cut-out villain and the rest of the cast (except Connery) are unmemorable. I found the background pop music jarringly inappropriate, and the whole film rather pretentious and overblown. It compares badly with some of the more recent superhero movies. I gather it has cult status and is highly regarded compared with the sequels, so I won't be wasting time on them…

7 comments:

The Photon said...

The trick to Highlander is, you have to compare it to its sequels. Then it starts to look more like Citizen Kane.

Anthony G Williams said...

I'm happy to take your word for it!

WCG said...

I thought Dogma was fun, Tony, but Highlander is one I haven't seen. I keep thinking I should watch it sometime, but it's never really appealed to me. Maybe it's a good thing I never bothered with it, huh?

Anthony G Williams said...

I'd say so, Bill - there are lots of more rewarding ways to spend a couple of hours.

M Pax said...

Highlander isn't supposed to make sense. If you watch it that way, and as Photon said, compare it to the sequels, it's brilliant.

Have not seen Dogma. Will have to check it out.

Anthony G Williams said...

My problem with Highlander is that I like stories to be internally coherent, even if they are impossible. For instance, I don't need to know why some people are born immortal (I can accept that as a plot device), but this notion of "only one can survive" - Why? Who said so? How do they know?

Similarly, the Kurgan has no problems finding the Highlander whenever he wants to. How? Why can't the Highlander find him? If the Kurgan can keep finding the Highlander and is usually a better fighter (except in the final scene), and all he has to do is cut off his head - once - to finish it, how come he has failed to do so over several centuries?

It's this kind of - literally - nonsense which irritates me.

WCG said...

Tony, you describe that very well, and it's the key to enjoying science fiction and fantasy, I think - at least, for me.

I know people who can't understand why I'd read such weird, far-out stuff. But it's fiction. And in fiction, I can usually accept any premise, readily suspending my disbelief, as long as the story makes sense, given that premise.

So yeah, I enjoy fiction that could never happen in real-life, but at the same time, nothing irritates me more than a story that makes no logical sense. Maybe you have to be a science fiction fan to understand this, though.