December 8, 2010


At first I thought I was watching the worst movie of 2010. But it somewhat ameliorated itself. But the beginning is a true mess. On many levels. “Warrior” should have scrapped the beginning and made it match the rest of the film—it was finding its way for a long time, dragging us along, embarrassed for it. Writer-director Sngmoo Lee offers up a martial arts film (“Crouching Tiger” style) with a surrealist twist. But it’s also a Western. And a comedy. And it doesn’t really work. The U.S. Bishops/Catholic News Service gave it an “O” rating, that is, morally objectionable, and I agree.

Yang, a ninja warrior (South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun—a fine thespian) spares the life of a baby princess from a rival tribe (this baby, Annalin Rudd—cutest on film since “Babies"--is somehow actually acting, and with better reaction shots than many of the adult actors!), and flees to America’s Wild West to hide. He runs a laundry, plants a flower garden, and meets tomboy Lynne (a little too precocious and precious Kate Bosworth, but it was a tough role) to whom he teaches the art of fighting with knives and swords.

The town is filled with all the usual suspects: the town drunk (the awe-inspiring Geoffrey Rush—what in tarnation is he doing in this film?), the savage U.S. Calvary Colonel (Danny Huston, who surpasses even Dong-gun’s quality performance—no wonder: his father is director John Huston, his half-sister is Anjelica Huston), the midget from the circus (Tony Cox), etc., who don’t really seem to have much of a connection to each other until the final showdown when they band together to save their collective necks.

There is much (even some mostly-hinted-at sexual) sadistic violence and carnage. The long end-battle is pure, gratuitous, choreographed, ain’t-it-cool violence. What’s most disquieting is that cute-as-a-button Lynne (because her whole family was murdered) has a huge taste for revenge that the usually quiet and dignified Yang makes sure she gets to satisfy. But, we shouldn’t be too surprised at Yang, because he is a trained assassin who must “destroy everything he loves,” and his ninja-master comes to the land of the free and the home of the brave to remind him so.

The love story build-up is slow and sweet as the lovers get to know each other as persons, and each other’s deepest values/dreams. There’s a lovely scene in the desert under the stars where Yang and Lynne do a kind of romantic dance with swordplay. Films are supposed to find new ways to say: “I love you” and “Warriors” does. Quite well. Until….

The ethic at the end—which has been simmering all through—is so profoundly unChristian, un-life-affirming and un-Theology-of-the-Body (but so are many classic Westerns!) that nothing short of a round rejection, a sounding “strongly disagree!” is in order. Or, as the movie would say: We should “put the greatest distance between” ourselves and this film.


--Why is “Warrior” un-Theology-of-the-Body? SPOILER ALERT! Because the man walks away from family. St. Joseph STAYED, people! Mary and Jesus needed him. WITH them.

--From a recent book review I did of “Myth of the American Superhero”:

The American Monomyth:
“A community in a harmonious paradise is threatened by evil; normal institutions fail to contend with this threat; a selfless superhero emerges to renounce temptations and carry out the redemptive task; aided by fate, his decisive victory restores the community to its paradisiacal condition; the superhero then recedes into obscurity.” (p. 6)

The authors contend that the American Monomyth of heroic redemptive violence is unique to America by contrasting it with the “Classical Monomyth”:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” (p. 5, from “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” Joseph Campbell, p. 30)

One of the main differences between the Classical/American Monomyth is that in the Classical Monomyth, the hero returns as an integrated, mature adult to the community, who can serve in new ways, whereas the American Monomyth portrays a lone, celibate [the authors use the term “sexless” which I believe is inaccurate] hero who disappears.

Some say that Americans are living in a “postmythical” culture, but the authors disagree. They believe there is a clearly recognizable mythic pattern in American pop culture artifacts (films and TV) such as Rambo, The Matrix, Star Trek, Star Wars, Left Behind, and even Touched by an Angel.

The American Monomyth derives from tales of Judeao-Christian ideas of redemption (linear) rather than pagan (circular), and secularizes them, makes them about temporal matters only. The “supersaviors” are replacements for the Christ figure.

--At least the fighting (which I do not enjoy, unless we’re talking hockey here) is artistic. But so much surround-sound-blood-gurgle-spurting and heads-popping-and-rolling and throats-slitting that it rivals “300.” Yeesh.

--SPFX did nothing for me. But then again, they never do. I’m convinced that SPFX are almost totally a guy thing. We women are in it for the drama, emotions, romance, story.

--Annalin Rudd (the baby princess) is just such a natural! Her parents must be very proud.

--Every time I harshly review movies, I ask myself: And what have YOU produced???

--The most peaceful person I ever met was an AAA guy in Los Angeles when my alternator exploded on the 405 late at night. I mean, he had those imperturbably peaceful eyes like Yang, and it turns out he was a serious practitioner of Aikido.

--Cinematographically, the close-ups are great. Lee really excels at close-ups.

--Good soundtrack.

--“Gallipoli” is one of the best war films ever made. Shows the reality. The fragility of human beings. That we are not made for war. (Not even the toughest of warriors.)

--There’s something just wrong about women-warriors, killer-girls. When did we start to see a proliferation of them in film?

--Anachronistic automatic weapons in the old-time Wild West. Seems to be the only anachronism in the movie. Just had to ratchet up the mayhem I guess. The rhythmic pounding of the “artillery” almost becomes a sick* soundtrack at a certain point.

--Kate Bosworth is very pretty.

--When Yang is young and in training, his ninja-master tells him his heart isn’t hard enough, that he has the heart of a “priest.” Hmmmm.
*original meaning of word “sick,” not “cool”

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1 comment:

  1. I can understand that this type of storyline is a mix of conventions from different genres, the blood may be overwhelming, the brutality can be gruesome, and the ending isn't conventional but it is because of these things I loved it. You can probably say that I'm not the typical 21-year-old female who gushes over the superficiality of most romance movies, I love special effects and warrior women. As vengeful and brutal as they can be they are also strong in almost every aspect, determined to get what they want, and are forces to be reckoned with. In the case of Yang leaving, the family he came to love will always be in danger as long as they were with him, so I can respect his heart-wrenching decision to leave them. I respect your opinion and I now ask that you respect mine...