This new Spider-man franchise, is everything I always feared Spider-man movies would look like. I wasn’t alive in the 60’s but when I think of Spider-man comics, it’s those Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, John Romita books that I picture in my head. Maybe most people don’t understand what a triumph Sam Raimi’s first two movies were to have captured the tone and spirit of those comics so well. The first Marc Webb movie was so bad and now the trailer for the second one appears to be doubling down (and tripling, and…) on the same thing.
I’m too old to still care about this, right?
— Kent Jones (via bbook)
It made sense to put these two next to one another on my Netflix queue. They’re not as similar as say, two white house-based action movies, but they’re similar enough to warrant comparison.
I watched Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers first and it led to a lengthy discussion with my girlfriend afterwards. The movie is an acid trip to spring break. The colors and imagery are bold and almost overwhelming. They drown any performance that isn’t James Franco’s. There is too much going on for me to feel like I have any idea if someone was giving it their all or if I was just caught up in Korine’s movie-making thunder storm. Throughout the picture, which is increasingly violent, Korine sporadically returns to images of an MTV-style spring break beach party, forcing comparisons between the blithe drunkenness idealized by the cable TV of my teenage years and the gross danger inherent in such behavior. But if Korine is trying to make a point, the final moments of the film confuse the shit out of it.
With Sophia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, we’re in very different territory. Coppola is in control of her film, as she always is. She has something concrete she wants to talk about and she knows how to make a movie so we can enjoy the actors work (in this case, its Emma Watson proving she has real skill). The main characters’ obsession with celebrity and idolatry of those famous people who seem to have it all drives the movie (and the thievery in which the characters engage). The Bling Ring is a beautifully photographed picture. I could talk for hours about just one shot of a glass house, in which we can see a pair of Bling Ringers doing their thing. It’s a gorgeous and brilliant shot, telling us the story of both these misguided kids as well as the decadence of their victims without ever having to move the camera . But Coppola would have been better off just making a documentary. In fact, she uses transcripts of real interviews her subjects gave to reporters during the trial. She never takes an interest in humanizing the characters or investigating their lives outside of their criminal activity. The only one who has any kind of home life showcased on screen is Emma Watson’s character (based on a real girl with a reality show that I couldn’t take more than 45 seconds of) and while it does give us insight as to how these kids could be so confused, it elicits no sympathy. The direction is precise but the script feels unfinished.
While promoting the movie, Korine said he was interested in putting together images he thought would be interesting to see on screen and I believe him. I think he has opinions but Spring Breakers isn’t about them. It’s about how provocative Korine can be with his cast of Disney princesses. He does provoke indeed and left me with plenty to chew on even if the movie itself is rudderless. In that way, I liked it more than The Bling Ring which was more assured but a misfire and a missed opportunity.