Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cut It Out: The Green Hornet and Battle: Los Angeles

I recently watched two movies which were good, but not as good as they could have been had they undergone some proper editing. The two movies that I'll be talking about today, as you could probably tell from the title, are The Green Hornet and Battle: Los Angeles. Now, I don't go into movies trying to pick things out that are wrong with them. But when something does go wrong, it tends to stick out like a sore thumb.

First, lets start with The Green Hornet. Hidden underneath this jumbled mess of film, there's actually a decent movie here. Sadly, as it is, this movie is riddled with scene after scene that either overstay their welcome or should have been cut altogether. There's dialogue-heavy scenes that just go nowhere, such as James Franco's cameo near the beginning of the movie. Yeah, it was neat, in a geeky sort of way, seeing the Green Goblin make an appearance in The Green Hornet, but this scene does little to actually add anything to the movie. Franco's lines start out funnily enough, but as he continues to go on and on and on, the comedy quickly runs thin, and I'm left anxiously waiting for them to just get to the point already.

There's also a number of action scenes that overrun their course and just become tiresome. For example, there's a scene where our two main characters engage in a brawl throughout a house. It starts off entertaining enough, and actually has somewhat of a comedic aspect to it. But then the brawl just kind of goes on and on and on. And just when you think it's about to end, it doesn't. Nope, it still goes on and on and on, and by the time it's finally over, you'll be feeling exhausted.

But scenes that run longer than necessary aren't the worst offenders in this movie. Nope, it gets worse. There's an entire sequence near the end of the movie which is completely out of place, and it takes you completely out of the film (you know, where this scene belongs). It's a sequence where our main character plays out the entire story up to this point through his head, narrating it all the way. It's an offensive scene that slaps the audience in the face with its redundancy, and assumes that everyone watching is a complete and total idiot who hasn't been paying any attention at all. The only purpose this serves is to waste even more time than have already been wasted up to this point. It's also filmed in an entirely different, almost psychedelic, style from the rest of the movie, which makes it stand out even more. They try to play off this scene as an excuse to show us how slow and dumb our main character is. The thing is, for anyone actually paying even the slightest bit of attention, we already got that part earlier on in the movie.

It's almost as if they were trying to make this movie longer on purpose. But had they just trimmed some of the scenes down, yeah, it would have made the movie a little shorter. But it would have made it a helluva lot stronger, too. Like I said before, though, there actually is a good movie hidden underneath all of that rubbish. Some of the action scenes are actually done well, and the movie can even be really funny at times, too. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this movie, but I wouldn't completely dismiss it, either. I've read that they had a number of issues producing this film, and it shows. But as much time as they may have spent fixing things up, it clearly wasn't enough.

Now, the next movie I want to talk about doesn't have nearly the number of problems as The Green Hornet, though the problems it does have are similar. Battle: Los Angeles is actually a good movie. In fact, while I know it's early, I'd be willing to call it the best movie this year so far, if not for one major, major problem. And that problem is the beginning.

The first 15-20 minutes of this film are just horrible. They introduce us to our main characters, just hours before the alien invasion begins. This is all pretty much standard stuff, but what sucks is the way in which these opening scenes are filmed. It's as if someone handed a camera to some newbie who wanted to try out all of the different camera options while filming. The shots are wobbly, with random zoom-ins and extreme close-ups on faces throughout.

To clarify, this handheld style of filming can work, assuming the film is supposed to be shot from this perspective, ala The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield. But here, it's clear that our characters aren't involved in any sort of documentary type feature, so the fact that it's filmed in this amateurish style hurts it a great deal. It quickly becomes nauseating the watch, and I actually considered just walking out of the theater right then and there. No way was I about to sit through two hours of this horrible, unprofessional style of filming.

It's a good thing I decided to stay, because once our introductions are over, the film is actually really good. It's pretty much non-stop action from this point on, and the movie excels in this respect. And finally seeing an alien invasion film from a military perspective is really refreshing. It's just a shame that it has that horrible opening scene holding this movie back so much. They should have gone one of two routs there. Either completely re-shoot the scenes properly, or completely scrap the opening entirely. Hell, that may not have been a bad idea, cutting out the whole opening scene. Most of what we learn about our characters in the opening is played out through the rest of the movie anyways, and it's brought up in a way that honestly wouldn't leave us feeling lost or confused.

As it is, I would recommend Battle: Los Angeles if you like a good action movie, and are looking for a fresh take on the classic alien invasion film. However, it's the first time I would actually recommend that you show up to the theater a little late.

It's a wonder how some of these scenes made it to the final cut in both of these movies. They're obviously not the only films I've seen with this issue, though they're the two most recent examples, and I happened to catch them both relatively close to one another. If they had someone else take a look at it and slice off a minute here, a minute there, or in some cases, entire scenes, then the final products would be so much stronger.

Watching these movies was almost like watching an "extended" DVD version of a film, where they include the scenes that were cut from the theatrical version. When you watch the additional scenes, you can always tell why they were cut, and the same holds true for these two movies. The difference is, their additional scenes were left in the final movie, and the quality of both films suffers for it. It's a shame, and it's frustrating, but it is what it is.

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