Thursday, November 06, 2008

Meta Action Hero Duel

Parallel production isn't all that uncommon-back to back summers hosted dueling volcano movies (Dante's Peak vs. the more direct Volcano) then Killer Asteroid movies (Armageddon vs. Deep Impact). I compared before battling up-coming 're-dos' of franchise films.

Coming soon two very different kinds of action heroes are staring it two very different kinds of self-referential films. This, of course, is not new. Marked by some as the beginning of the end for action hero turned 'governator,' The Last Action Hero was essentially a ham-handed commentary on Schwarzenegger's career. This new pair of films combines The Last Action Hero's 'treatise on the star' element with open referential elements in movies like The Player, Being John Malchovich, or the recent What Just Happened?.

First up is JVCD, starring Jean Claude Van Damme as Jean Claude Van Damme, aging, relevance fading, barely enough energy to keep up even his tarnished star. The down on his luck Van Damme finds himself in the middle of a hostage crisis - no stunt co-coordinators, no fight choreographing - just plain pedestrian victimhood, seasoned with the reputation of a former action star. His groin aching splits and lightening kicks don't win the day, but instead appear as a side show display in an attempt to amuse his captors and prolong his life.

The other side of the coin is My Name is Bruce, starring Bruce Campbell again as Bruce Campbell, B-movie star drunk (almost literally) on his own niche fame. In contrast to JVCD's image in contrast to stark reality approach, My Name is Bruce has the reality meet the fantasy of Campbell's persona. Ultimately they are the same story - actor meets 'real' situations that they have portrayed in movies and has to deal accordingly. It just so happens that Campbell's world is of pure fantasy.

On the surface, these stories are not new. Comedies such as The Three Amigos and Galaxyquest have dealt with actors famous for a genre of film being thrust into a 'real' situation. There's even a Twilight Zone episode where a cowboy hero finds himself face to face with the 'real' Jesse James.

My Name is Bruce takes the traditionally self effacing route, appearing to paint himself as comedically incompetent after previous false bravado. (the trailer seems to even take a swipe at Van Damme as the overly arrogant Campbell touts his action hero credentials including, "Speaking English.")

The self-effacing also has a strong tradition, such as in Free Enterprise where William Shatner leans heavily on his reputation of being a slightly off balance good natured ego maniac (in the film hoping to stage a one man show production of Hamlet).

In contrast JVCD seems to take a slightly more sober 'treatise on the twilight of stardom' look, a sort of high kicking Sunset Boulevard. (Alright, I admit that at this point part of me is just seeing how many films these two can be said to drawing upon)

This is keeping with dueling concept movies, Dante's Peak being the slightly more sober volcano movie to Volcano's over the top 'volcano in LA' premise, Armageddon's 'rock star drillers on an asteroid' vs the 'there's nothing we can do but accept that we're going to get hit by an asteroid' Deep Impact. For what it's worth, over the top trumps sober every time. (though that doesn't seem as likely this time as Campbell will be touring personally with his film, joining Tarantino's Grindhouse throwback to personality driven B-movie hey day. (seriously, once you start it's hard to stop...) and JCVD will have traditional release)

Which means in all likely-hood I won't be able to compare them (not that after my long to-do about Diary of the Dead I actually saw it...<.< >.>) unless this suddenly becomes a well read and often updated site making me an actual critic and I get invitations to these things. But for that to happen these rambles would have to come to some sort of conclusion. But for a dueling themed movies, I'll take self-examining action heroes over asteroids any day.

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