We give a thorough examination to The Green Knight, Reminiscence, Space Jam: A New Legacy, and Enforcement in this latest grab-bag-aploosa. Are they worth your time or not worth a dime? Tune in and find out!
I should look after myself better. I really should. Eat better, take more exercise, watch fewer terrible films… Now this last is more difficult to do than the former, because it’s not always possible to know a film is terrible until afterwards, but sometimes there are clues, and in this case, I should really have paid more attention to the writer and director, because The Green Knight was written and directed by David Lowery, the man responsible for the execrable A Ghost Story from 2017. Now, one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and I’m willing to give filmmakers second chances (I’m looking at you Ari Aster), however my life is finite, but there are functionally infinite films, and sometimes you should take those shortcuts.
And, alas, like A Ghost Story before it, I feel, given the praise which has been heaped upon it, I either saw a different film called The Green Knight, am taking crazy pills, or am living in some sort of alternative reality, because it’s gash.
Based on the oft-adapted medieval tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Green Knight stars Dev Patel as Man with Beard (he has no discernible personality), a would-be knight and nephew to the legendary King Arthur (a mumbling Sean Harris). One Christmas a fellow calling himself the Green Knight, and looking like a combination of Treebeard from The Lord of the Rings and the Nome King from Return to Oz, bursts in to Arthur’s court and lays down some sort of challenge, something to do with laying a stroke on him and then giving the same in return one year later, in exchange for his axe and the glories and/or riches that go with it (I forget which, as they never seem to transpire).
Man with Beard is the only person who will take up the challenge, which ends in him decapitating an unarmed man. Well, unarmed man-tree thing. This is, apparently, a motif of medieval literature, but I will refer to it as “a crime”, because I happen to think chopping people’s heads off while they stand there idly is a bit wrong. There’s me and my precious snowflake “don’t kill people” morality spoiling things again. Sorry.
The people at the court are not similarly bothered, however, and cheer young Gawain, and seem supremely unfazed when the Green Knight stands up, picks up his own head and saunters away. I can’t help but feel that people in a pre-internet world (or even a post-internet world, come to that) should probably show a little more reaction to such a thing than none at all. Anyway, Gawain seems to spend the next year alternately inebriated and inbedriated (with ladies of negotiable virtue), brooding on riding north to meet the Green Knight at the next Christmas.
Next Christmas comes, he rides north and meets him, then runs away, and a bunch of weird crap happens on the way. For two hours, though it seems like four.
Now, stories can be, and often are, allegory or metaphor or parable, but shouldn’t they also be, in the first place, stories? And in any way at all interesting? Like, even a little bit? Because this very much is not that. Dev Patel, who I like a lot, is such a damp squib here, though the fault clearly lies in the writing (though whether the medieval tale or Lowery’s script I am unable to say, not being familiar enough with the source material). The tale is supposed to demonstrate knightly virtue (chivalry and whatnot), but Man with Beard displays nothing, not once facing a challenge: he demonstrates no act of strength, no daring, no resourcefulness, no courage, no bravery, no inventiveness. He just stumbles from one event to the next, while things happen around him, and at one point eats a hallucinogenic mushroom, raising the strong possibility that 50% of the film only happened in his head.
“Is this really all there is?” Gawain asks the Green Knight at one point, to which he replies, “What else ought there to be?” I don’t know, but off the top of my head: A story? Characters? A Point?
Much of this lack of anything is accompanied by infuriating overscoring and underscoring, and does itself no favours by beginning with the silly, modified, portentously deep voices so beloved of fantasy films and sci-fi. It’s well shot, I guess, but so what? It’s boring rubbish with nothing to say. Oh, and it also has a post-credits scene, because of course it does. Please, do not waste your time with this.
Hugh Jackman’s Nick Bannister and his buddy Thandiwe Newton’s Emily “Watts” Sanders make their living in near future, partially submerged Miami running a business that plugs folks into a computer to relive and record their memories, whether that’s just for nostalgia’s sake, or for, say, trying to remember where your keys are, such is the request of Rebecca Ferguson’s femme fatale Mae, whom Nick soon falls in love with.
A few months in, their relationship seems to be going well until the point that Mae simply vanishes, causing Nick some heartbreak before he resolves to find out what happened to her. Pulling on this thread reveals, as you will perhaps expect from this sort of thing, that Mae is not quite who she seems to be, and in discovering her past Nick will find himself dragged down to the seedy underworld of drug dealers, corrupt hyper capitalism backed land barons and their politicking, while exploring the strange new canals that used to be Miami’s streets.
I suppose the most revealing thing I can say about Reminiscence is that when I started watching it there was a substantial pile of messily dumped laundry on the bed next to me, and ninety minutes later there was a stack of neatly folded laundry, so to say that it kept my full attention would be a bit of a porky. Indeed, on a quick look around the Interwebs, Reminiscence has been rather poorly received. That feels a little harsh to me, but ultimately it’s not a film I can go to bat for too strongly, even though it’s got a lot of stuff in here that I’m normally open to liking.
I mean, I’m a sucker for noirish films, and Hugh Jackman is his dependably likeable self. The post climate change world is a cool setting, ahaha, and there’s some interesting world building going on. While I perhaps didn’t get much in the way of chemistry between Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson, I did at least believe that Jackman’s character felt there was, so there’s more than enough there to theoretically engage my interest through the various strands of the underworld and Nick Bannister’s obsession.
I suppose it’s ultimately trying to be about the redemptive power of love, and the destructive power of obsession, and quite where the line between them is, which I could just about argue that it manages to do, but at the same time it’s trying to be a film about climate change, and about inequality, and about government, and about capitalism, and humanity’s perseverance in the face of adversity, and about a half dozen other things that I’m forgetting, and there’s just too much competing for the sunlight here.
It’s perhaps not all that surprising that writer / director Lisa Joy has most recently been making the Westworld series, as there’s a solid argument that this could have been more suited to a miniseries. Y’know, so it could spend more time building a believable relationship between the leads, and fleshing out the role of land barons in this new world though means other than voice over, flashing back to the resource wars that are again mentioned in voice over, and well, what I’m saying is that near enough anything Jackman says in voiceover, and there’s a lot of it, could more or less be a complete episode of a TV series.
There’s some more quotidian criticism I could throw at it, like the sudden all-out gun battle that seems to have dropped in from a different film, or the nicely reasoned from world building perspective, but entirely counterproductive switch of the traditional roles of day and night, meaning this is a very brightly lit noir which is a complete tonal disaster, and there’s some less than stellar CG compositing, and some sets that look particularly, well, like sets, and so on and so forth, but I think you get the picture that I’m not recommending this.
I don’t hate Reminiscence, but I’d steer you away from it. Watch Strange Days instead.
Hopefully this is going to be short, I’m really only including this review in the podcast as a warning to others who, like me, might retain some small fondness for 1996’s Space Jam, which is the only reason I watched Space Jam: A New Legacy.
I actually watched the original again, for the first time in probably 20 years, before watching this new film, and it is as I remembered: fine. Slight, but with moments of charm, and with some reasonable appeal if, like me, you were a fan of Michael Jordan. It actually had a pretty good soundtrack, with a bunch of decent, memorable songs, most of which were written for it. Amazingly, the album for Space Jam went 6 times platinum. The soundtrack for Space Jam: A New Legacy may have been written for it, but I don’t know and, frankly don’t care because, if it was custom, all involved ought not to have bothered as there’s not one memorable song amongst them. It’s just some sound and the occasional insipid cover. I did, however, note during the credits that one song, “MVP”, has 21 credited songwriters. 21.
You’ll no doubt have noticed I’ve mostly talked about the original film so far, and I’m sure you know where this is heading. But don’t get me wrong, the original Space Jam is no masterpiece, but it’s an OK film with good music and the Looney Tunes, but it’s mostly forgettable, though. So why, 25 years later, Warner Bros. thought it needed a reboot-cum-sequel is beyond me, but not for the first time I observe that, as a company, Warner Bros. does not know its arse from its elbow.
This time around it’s LeBron James who gets sucked into the Looney Tunes world, to rescue his son from the clutches of Don Cheadle’s, and I can barely bring myself to say this it’s so spectacularly naff, Al. G Rhythm. Yes. Al G Rhythm. This algorithm (actually an AI, but this is only the beginning of how little the screenwriters and director know about computers and, well, anything – the coding genius child is referred to as “Little Stevie Jobs” at one point) is butthurt because LeBron James has shot down his ideas for interactive entertainment involving the basketball star (in this world, all of Warner Bros.’s ideas seem to be generated by this computer program, and that explains A LOT – there’s more than a ring of truthiness to this whole thing).
Lifting from Tron, Al G transports LeBron’s son, Dom, into the Warner Server-verse, and holds him hostage because that big bad meanie LeBron James didn’t like his ideas. Really, the whole plot is based on a butthurt computer programme. I’m not exaggerating. He then challenges James to win his son back, which will be done in a scaled-up version of the basketball-like game that Dom has been coding. Then, somehow, huge chunks of the world’s population are also transported into this digital domain (this seems to cause little consternation or problem anywhere), and if LeBron and his Looney Tunes teammates lose, the Tunes are being erased from the server, and the humans are never getting back out into the real world. It’s remarkably stupid. It’s also remarkably dull. And long.
The original film had the good grace to come in at an entirely acceptable, and appropriate, 87 mins. A New Legacy is touching the two hour mark when it finally finishes. Bugs Bunny doesn’t turn up until 27 minutes have elapsed. 27 minutes! Around this time we’re also “treated” to a tiresome trawl through many, many, many Warner Bros. properties, which is presumably some sort of wet dream for the corporation’s marketing department but I suspect both bewildering and boring for any children. I could be wrong, of course, but I’m doubtful how well the film’s target audience is going to respond to seeing Mad Max: Fury Road, Austin Powers or bloody Casablanca.
The last third, the sort of basketball match, is a visual assault, where everything is happening all the time, yet is singularly uninteresting, and in which the beloved Looney Tunes characters have been made 3D. It’s just wrong. As is the fact that the film opens with a young boy being pressured to get good at basketball as it’s the only way to get his mum out of the slums and poverty; or Warner Bros. apparently having surveillance access to every computer, phone and camera in the world. Definitely not creepy, and the company seems oblivious to how any of this would come across. (Not that this is new, though, as Space Jam heavily relied on the idea of the Looney Tunes being enslaved, and actually featured an animation of Michael Jordan with a ball and chain, forced to work against his will. Tone deaf, much?)
Performance-wise, LeBron James, like His Airness before him, is passable but clearly out of his element, and Don Cheadle is terrible, but still gives this horror more than it deserves. A bigger problem is the voicing of the Looney Tunes, which somehow, rather than just being not very good impressions of the legendary Mel Blanc, are not very good impressions of the not very good impressions in the 1996 film, coming across like the voice performance equivalent of a third-generation VHS copy. It’s all so very bad.
So, it turns out this wasn’t short. In fact, quite the opposite. Bugger. Sorry. However, before I leave this, I do try to find a positive where I can (I really am an optimist, honest) and here it is: Sonequa Martin-Green is there. That’s it. She’s there. As LeBron’s wife hers is a small and rather thankless role, but there she is, and she’s not objectionable in any way. And if you know how deeply I hate her as Michael Frakking Burnham in How I Wish This Was Actually Star Trek: Discovery, you’ll understand how remarkable this is. Wonders will never cease.
The inciting incident in Shorta is the Danish police’s arrest of one Talib Ben Hassi a few days ago that sees the 19 year old hospitalised after being held in a chokehold. The two arresting officers are placed on administrative leave, while the other copper present, Simon Sears’ Jens Høyer has just returned after a few days on the sick. Internal Affairs would like a word with him, but with tensions running high in the Arabic community, he’s needed on patrol.
He’s assigned to ride along with Jacob Lohmann’s Mike Andersen, who is essentially every all cops are bastards trope rolled up into one repugnant lump. Racist, abusive, violence as a first resort, etc, etc. Very much one of those bad apples you hear about, and he’s keen to get Jens in line, closing ranks with his police brothers and absolving themselves of any wrongdoing while arresting Ben Hassi.
Before they can make much headway into that conversation, they chase a suspicious car into the majority Arabic ghetto of Svalegården (which I though sounded a bit pejorative, but that’s the Danish government classification, not mine). The police have been told not to patrol there today. I think the reason given was “because of the plot”. At any rate, they wind up deep in there when news breaks that Ben Hassi has died, kicking off city wide unrest and meaning that when they get targets painted on them by the locals, they need to get out of their on their own.
Well, not quite on their own, as it turns out the kid that Mike was trying to arrest on a trumped up non-offence, Tarek Zayat’s Amos Al-Shami, will help them navigate out of an increasingly violent and unpredictable situation. I guess he’s one of the good muslims. What starts as a tense game of cat and mouse between the cops and the mob grows increasing daft and morally confused until it reaches an ending that will bring no closure or satisfaction to anyone.
Writer / director partnership Frederik Louis Hviid and Anders Ølholm are biting off a lot here, and could have used a few more chewing lessons. The tone taken here might be appropriate for something more schlocky like Assault on Precinct 13 but taking very real-world, keenly felt problems with policing and dropping it into an action framework is crass, at best. at least with a script and characters this stupid. And frankly, the least said about what appears to be some attempt at a final act redemption for Mike, a character that was recently gleefully machine-gunning the people he’s sworn to protect, is, well, a tad stupid.
I’m not writing these creators off, there’s enough good work done in the early going of this to show they can wrangle an action thriller together, but maybe they should go a bit easier on the social commentary, or work on abstracting it a bit more so that it feels less grotty. Alternatively, there’s for sure a number of films to be made exploring the tensions between the police and the policed, the institutionalised racism, police training, the atmosphere caused by a lack of integration of migrants, and the causes of that lack of integration, and so on, but the avenue for that exploration should not be modelled on Dredd 3D
Watch Dredd instead.
Thanks to everyone who has got in touch with us on this, or said kind words about the show – it’s all very much appreciated.
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