January 3, 2009

A post post-apocalyptic post

A couple of thoughts after watching a few more post-apocalyptic movies.

A Boy and His Dog is a film just begging for a remake. Pretty entertaining as it is, it could benefit enormously from, first of all, a higher budget. Or any budget. I'd love to have seen more of the anarchic above-ground society, and anything of the screamers. And Down Under needs to be completely re-imagined so that it doesn't look like a bad rip off of The Prisoner. More importantly, the movie had some very intriguing ideas that remained buried. A thorough exploration of the contrasts (and similarities) between the lawless topside society and the orderly, but more brutal, Down Under could actually end up saying something about the meaning of "civilization." A smart screenwriter could take it in any number of directions, but one thing the story ought to do is manipulate the audience into siding with Quilla June as she comes to believe that the free-spirited world that Vic lives in can transform and redeem the stultifying, banally evil Down Under... which would only add to the punch of the ending as she pays the grimly hilarious price for her romantic naivety.

I Am Legend was inevitably a disappointment after 28 Days Later (yes, I was warned). But if you've seen it, I strongly recommend checking out the alternate ending. Not only is it better than the theatrical version, it retroactively makes the entire movie significantly more interesting. SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP.

See, now the film is actually about something. Neville's inability to imagine a perspective other than his own blinds him to the possibility that he is the monster. The dark seekers may not be the same kind of people that they once were, but they are the future of humanity, and Neville is a would-be genocidal freak. The new ending pulls its punch a bit by trying to have it both ways as the heroes escape toward the promise of refuge and others like them -- ideally they should be forced to come to terms with the reality of the situation -- but it's still at least something worth chewing over. It also doesn't help that by changing the ending (the alternate one is clearly the original), the movie is left with dropped threads (Neville's wall of victims, the unacknowledged intelligence of the dark-seekers) that not only leave you unsatisfied, but undercut the supposedly upbeat conclusion.

Now on to DC!

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Why would they toss out the far superior "alternative" ending in favor of the version shown in theaters? I get the feeling the producers thought Americans wouldn't be satisfied with being forced to realize the lovable will smith was himself the monster serial murderer and kidnapper. Or perhaps they felt it wasn't clear enough. From the 8 minutes you posted, it is not at all obvious that Neville realizes he is some kind of monster, he may just feel relieved that all he needed to do to save himself was give the girl back. Is there more of the alternative ending after the clip you posted, a tidy voiceover perhaps?


Neville's recognition of his monsterhood seemed obvious to me. I believe the segment where he looks at his wall of victims -- after his apology is accepted by the dark seeker -- is meant to underscore the point.

In the original version, after Neville hands over the lead darkseeker's girlfriend and they grunt and wail at each other, the original script description line read:

"Monsters love too."

This is true.

@ jb: I agree. I think anonymous' first scenario was correct. Also, test audiences probably wanted more catharsis, having been well trained by Hollywood to associate catharsis with killing the bad guys.

BTW, I can vouch for Michael. If he says that's true, it is. And yes, they did Hollywoodize even the darker original ending -- I hate the way the darkseekers' faces suddenly soften and rounden till they look not unlike smiling newborn pandas. It would have been so more powerful if they still looked every bit as scary as before. (Come to think of it, don't get me started on the makeup).

And better too if the "love" equation didn't enter into it. What if Neville had 3 or 4 subjects he'd been keeping alive for testing, and the seekers wanted all of them back. Then the become not redeemed by the capacity to love, blah blah blah, but by their capacity for brotherhood -- their humanity. The audience would see them as the heroes from Saving Private Ryan or something. Much cooler.

as i commented before, it's hard to take a movie seriously that has so much crappy (ford) product placement. That ending is more interesting, but also seems absurdly emotional at the end of a movie that was mostly just about Will Smith blowing away zombies.

as for a boy and his dog that would be a great remake. I saw it a little too young and it freaked the shit out of me, specially the underground stuff. I think if I watched it again it would be a disappointment, for it still represents one of the most disturbing levels of hell in my personal psyche.

What's kind of ironic is that all the things that would help us identify the dark seekers as 'not bad' at the end are somewhat human values, right? Loving a specific mate, wanting back several 'brothers'. Why not their relentless pursuit of prey or some kind of hive loyalty?

I read the original script. Nothing like that happens. In fact, in the original, there was no issue sentience -- the monsters could speak normally.

Always loved "A Boy and his Dog," mostly for its low-tech absurdist/experimental theater piece feel and ironic comic tone. Also it was well-known that luscious 25-year-old bisexual Don Johnson was playing li'l brother to juicy Sal Mineo at that time (yeah, yeah, allegedly).

A remake would no doubt be overwrought, overlong and CGI'd to death. Tim Burton might have the right stuff for it.

I recommend reading the excellent novella that "I Am Legend" was based on; the whole point is that Neville realizes he is now the monster. The title refers to that revelation.

What of The Omega Man? Seriously, I haven't seen it in years, how does it end? I can't imagine Heston having any sort of self-awareness nonetheless self-critical insight. [although obvs the written text is paramount, in this case, to me]

I only recall it vaguely, but from Wikipedia, it sounds like the whole story was pretty different, and that the ending sort of splits the difference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omega_man

That ending is more like the original story. In it, the hero seems to be the last surviving normal person--everyone else is a retarded, animalistic vampire. He goes around in daytime seeking out the cubbyholes where they hide and sleep, methodically killing them, while hiding out at night in his vampire proof home (the vampires in the story are not superhuman as in the movie--he mainly needs to lock his house and bar the windows to be safe). He meets another survivor, but she turns out to be a vampire, too, with less pronounced symptoms. It seems that some of the vampires aren't mere animals. She tricks him into being captured, and he realizes, just before he is executed, they they think he is like a legendary monster, a Grendel, who has killed so many of them. Hence the title, which seems nonsequeterish in the movie.

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