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July 10th, 2008

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10:17 pm - The Mist
The Mist is an interesting film. It resembles Starship Troopers in many ways: it's about people fighting massive bugs, it's a fairly close recreation of an older type of SF, and it's a rather broad left wing allegory wrapped round right wing iconography. But which is the heart of the film, the lefty parable or the right wing metaphor? And is it ironic or not? Also, like Starship Troopers it's extremely silly, with rather cheap actors (and Frank Pembleton - yay).

In other ways The Mist is nothing like Starship Troopers. It resembles a black and white cold war 1950s SF film, rather than a lurid golden age SF pulp novel. It's an elevator episode (in fact it's very like that recent Doctor Who set in the bus) not a space opera. It's frugal rather than expensive.

At the start of the film the hero is shown to be a populist sell-out artist, painting lurid movie posters. He seems to be working on a Clint Eastwood poster in fact, and the casting resembles a Clint Eastwood film: the short-arse side-kick, the feisty blonde, the patrician old lady, the bloody minded ethnic person, the cute kid. You know the way Clint ladles that kind of thing on: 'I am not a simple macho stereotype'. Except it all revolves on the superior white butch man. Who - hilariously - takes his shirt off in front of the blonde in a completely gratuitous shot. It's Galaxy Quest all over again.

But all of this might be neutralised/ironised by having a Clint Eastwood poster as the first shot in the film.

The plot (this is in all the reviews so it's not a bad spoiler) is a blatant allegory about Bush, fundamentalism, Iraq etc, as a religious nut-case preys on people's fears, offering them simplistic violent solutions. But is this just a bolt-on? Why does the mother always disappear at the start of these films? Why are Hollywood films always about the father&son? Why do the black people get killed first? Why are all the active people men? Is this still irony?

I thought the last ten minutes were exceptionally good. I can't say anything about that, but I thought the last section pushed the film up a whole notch.

So, a silly bug movie, that I quite enjoyed on its own terms, and I also thought interesting in its politics and (I could have had a whole post on this) lots of homage to other SF films and images.

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:July 11th, 2008 07:19 am (UTC)
Of course, it's (pretty much) the identical plot to the original short story...
[User Picture]
Date:July 11th, 2008 08:15 am (UTC)
I haven't read the story, but I wonder whether the ironical tension between the allegory and the imagery is the same. Stephen King is at the liberal end of American mainstream opinion, and that tension might be within him, brought out by the film maker, or the film maker might have added it, like Verhoeven did with Starship Troopers.
[User Picture]
Date:July 11th, 2008 08:46 am (UTC)
Why does the mother always disappear at the start of these films? Why are Hollywood films always about the father&son?

It's one of the rules of action movies. Need the stunted-relationship thing. From my homage to The Tough Guide to Fantasyland:


By and large, you are probably an orphan. Both parents will have died tragically in some accident a few years before, or possibly when you were a child; that's why you have had to find different FATHER-FIGURES. If your father died separately, then you can guarantee that, whatever the claimed circumstances of his death, the VILLAIN had something to do with it. Not to worry, though: there will be an opportunity for revenge.

If you still have a father, you won't see eye-to-eye, because he'll be a gruff old man who is every bit as emotionally stunted as you. Don't worry about this, and don't try to form any lasting attachments; he'll be dead by the end of the adventure. If your sole surviving parent is your mother, then she'll be menaced a bit, but you'll pull her through.

Step-parents are hiding something, and there's a good chance that your step-father is working for the VILLAIN.

Parents who disappeared mysteriously will turn up during the adventure, only to be tragically lost before the end of it.

Basically, parents cause nothing but trouble, and you'd be wise to stay well clear.

[User Picture]
Date:July 11th, 2008 09:08 am (UTC)
I think there's a difference between the fantasy/fairy story trope of the orphan, and the modern Hollywood fantasy which idealises the father-son bond to the denigration of all other family relationships. I have a theory that it's because affluent and influential American men don't spend much time with their kids but feel guilty about it. Also the influence of Protestant Christianity.
[User Picture]
Date:July 11th, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
Sure it's not the other way around? That male filmmakers don't spend enough time with their fathers, or just can't speak openly? I'd have never even thought about Christianity - I'd have just put it down to Hollywood just being a boys' club. Of course, including the mother would give female actors over thirty a role to play, and that would never do...

[User Picture]
Date:July 11th, 2008 06:22 pm (UTC)
I suppose my theory is it goes back through Christianity to Aristotle and behind that a whole ethnic tradition that is patrilineal, with generative power in the male body not the female, passed on from father to son. Which isn't - interestingly - the same family concept that you get in fairy stories, which makes me think they come from a different ethnic tradition, perhaps a peasant tradition. But this is just me and my theories.

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