Category Archives: violence

What I’ve Been Watching: Summer Blockbusters (Dragons, Apes and Mutants)

how-to-train-your-dragon-2-posterThis summer has left me somewhat busier than usual due to finding myself a Mrs Observealot to share my adventures in time and space with. Because of this I’ve not had the time to write up my thoughts and insights into many of the summer’s films I’ve been fortunate enough to catch.

Three of these films are X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and How to Train Your Dragon 2. All are big budget, high quality films, but more importantly thematically they actually have a surprising amount in common.

More so than most other big budget franchises, X-Men, Planet of the Apes, and How to Train Your Dragon are all about two rival groups and the struggle to find peace between them.

For this reason, all three films appealed to me as someone who grew up in Northern Ireland in the midst of such a struggle. Whether the ‘other’ are mutants, apes, or dragons there is a sense in these films that peace is a possible, if difficult, outcome, and the protagonists in all these films are all doing their hardest to bring reconciliation to their worlds.

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What I’ve Been Watching: The Raid

The raid posterOne of the most unique and enjoyable movies I watched last year was Pina by Wim Wenders. It’s a movie about expressionist dance, and basically features lots of very talented dancers using their body to convey a plethora of emotions. In short, as much as I enjoyed the movie, I’m perfectly aware that it’s not for everyone. You really have to appreciate the art form on show to get any enjoyment from it.

The Raid is not a dance movie; at least not on the surface. On the surface, it is the mother of all action movies. It portrays a police squad as they carry out a drug’s raid on one of their city’s most notorious gang lords.

All that stands in their way is floor after floor of bad guys equipped with knives, swords and guns doing everything they can to stop the police from ever trying anything like this again.

In many ways the movie has the pace of a video game, with a wave of bad guys coming at the police before a short breather, and the next wave (slightly more fierce) than the last appears. Naturally this leads us to a fight with the ‘final boss’ at the end of the film.

Whether the film works or not for you will depend entirely on your enjoyment of the action scenes, as the characters and story are so thin as to be almost transparent.

Thankfully the action is of sufficient quality and creativity to justify such strong emphasis. It’s difficult to remember being as impressed by action scenes since the latest two Bourne films or The Matrix.

Trying to describe action scenes in always difficult, but the easiest way to describe those in The Raid is that they essentially choreographed dance routines. Violent, brutal, bloody dance routines, but dance routines nevertheless.

You see, while action movies like this are undoubtedly impressive technically in so many ways, I couldn’t help but feel that what they were conveying and celebrating was an incredibly negative and empty thing.

And while the narrative of the film made it clear living the violent life of a crime lord or even a police officer was a risky and often short-lived business, this film can only be enjoyed if you enjoy the choreographed portrayal of violence; something I find it increasingly difficult to get on board with.

So The Raid was ultimately a fairly uninspiring experience for me. Then again, if choreographed fight scenes are your thing, I’m sure you’ll have a great time with it; just promise me you’ll rent Pina afterwards, and tell me which film left you found more inspiring?