Sunday, April 7, 2024

Movie review: "Civil War"

As I watched the current highly promoted movie, Civil War, I had the recurring thought: "This is stupid." Yet I did not walk out, as I sometimes do. Why not?

The characters look and speak like contemporary Americans, but the politics is fiction. The US has ruptured into factions that are at war with each other, but there is no mention of MAGA or Blue and Red zones, no clear casus belli. Everyone is just fighting. We get a general picture of coalitions between states- unexplained and sometimes improbable, like California joined with Texas- who fight against other coalitions of states. The federal government is isolated and besieged, with the President barricaded in the White House, trying to organize supportive factions against the "Secessionists," who are not identified.

The protagonists are improbable too. They are war photographers obsessed with getting as close to the carnage and pain as possible, looking for that one great career-building "shot." They are improbable because they are cast as heroic, implying that what they are doing is good or helpful, an idea which, like the politics of the story, is not explained. The group of four war photographers- led by a very stern Kirsten Dunst- travels through dangerous territories on their way to the White House, where they plan to interview the President, a feckless, desperate man who makes empty, slogan filled speeches.

There is one indicator of xenophobic ideology in the story, when a rural militant asks a prisoner where he is from. The man answers, "Hong Kong." The militant exclaims, "China!" and shoots him. To my many Hong Kong readers I ask: Are there people in the world who do not want us to mingle and find commonality? It would seem so.

Now I need to fill in a unique element of this movie-going experience: My desert companion Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster was tucked into my partially zipped jacket, watching the movie with me. Readers will recall the disaster that unfolded the last time I smuggled Robert into a movie theater (see below, Harold Pinter through the eyes of a gila monster), when Robert, an unusually opinionated reptile, went wild with movie criticism, exposing his presence to other theater-goers and necessitating our hasty retreat. Robert, who monitors my thoughts several times a day, gathered that I planned to see Civil War without him and pleaded for another chance. I relented after he promised to remain silent throughout the film, communicating with me- provided it was important- via telepathy only, no vocalizations like last time. [Note for new readers: I am one of about 5,000 human telepaths in the world. All gilas are telepathic, however they consider telepathy with creatures beyond their species an abhorrent perversion. As you'll see in future posts, Robert has been exiled from his clan for being such a pervert. I take some of the blame.]

Not surprisingly, Robert did not obey my stricture against constant intrusion of his thoughts during the film. The rest of this post consists of my mental interchanges with Robert.

Robert (after about 20 minutes of scenes showing people tortured or blown apart): Jeez, what is it with your species? No wonder you took over the world.

Me: Robert, please don't start with your superior species routine. Look at yourselves: Gila monsters don't love.

Robert: Yes they do, you just can't see it. All you see is a male gila sticking it in, then sprinting away to the next gig, while the female gazes into the distance thinking,"Hmm, it's a nice morning." But you forget, gilas are telepathic. That male is sprinting away, but an orgasmic telepathic flame shoots between him and his love, lasting for hours. Eat your heart out!

Me: Robert, I am trying to follow this movie, and you are making that difficult.

Robert: Why? Are you afraid you'll miss some critical plot element, maybe explaining why the cute girl needs to get two feet from the face of the man coughing up blood and take ten pictures of him from various angles? I don't think that's going to be explained, Harry.

Me: Ok, well, not to totally disparage my species, but I'll admit that sometimes I get an involuntary kick out of the violence in movies like this, especially things blowing up; I'm not so much into gore and pain.

Robert: There you go, Harry! Humans are drawn to explosions. Every time you see something blowing up in outer space you get excited. You love that our sun is itself an atomic bomb going off. So different from gilas!

Me: How so?

Robert: We're just chicken. Explosions do not thrill us at all. That's why we live in the desert; it's nice and quiet out here.

Me: Then why did you want to see this movie?

Robert: It's part of my study of your species.

Me: I see. What have you learned so far?

Robert: This movie reenforces my view that humans are drawn to matter breaking apart, to fission, to, as it were, destruction.

Me: Why would we be that way? What's the evolutionary advantage?

Robert: You get sustenance from the juices emerging between atoms as they're ripped apart, and you must take your juices where you can. Humanity was expelled from evolution's womb prematurely, and the world has been a confusing threat to you ever since. You fight the world because it fights you.

Me: Robert, should I start a religion where you sit on my shoulder and I speak your holy words?

Robert: Hey, it's your life.

Me: One last question: What do you think humans should do about their situation?

Robert: Like I would know?

I apologize to readers who were hoping for more enlightenment from this post. Actually I thought Robert's reply was enlightened enough. Maybe Robert and I could start a sect whose spiritual message is, "We don't know." That's certainly the message I got from this movie.

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