On 9/11, terrorists flew airplanes into the Twin Towers as acts of war. In Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder utterly demolishes almost half of Manhattan for no other reason than to show off and to make the audience go “ooh” and “neat”; I’m sorry, but I think that’s sad and pathetic. Man of Steel is a movie in which Superman’s adopted father suggests his son should let kids die rather than reveal who he is and in which his mother has no issues with sending a man to his death to save a dog during a tornado. Not only is Man of Steel a movie that has its priorities shockingly out of whack, it’s simply one of the worse movies in recent memories.
But it’s not like anyone should be surprised or shocked. It’s not like Snyder and the writer David S. Goyer lied to anyone or misrepresented the movie in any way. This is what studio films have become like in the last fifty years. Some are better than others, true, but generally speaking they are more and more becoming soulless monsters and no one has a right to get mad at anybody about it because, by now, everyone knows the drill, everyone knows this is what they’re going to get before they buy their ticket (the audience is becoming more and more like Louise Renault in Casablanca: I’m shocked, shocked that studios are making such horrific films).
However, even for a Hollywood blockbuster, this one is almost bottom of the barrel and is so bad, I just can’t bring myself to waste any more time and words on it.
Where Snyder destroys half of Manhattan, director and writers Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg destroy not just Los Angeles, but the whole world in This is the End. Not only do they destroy the world, they kill off large numbers of people in particularly gruesome, offensive and horrifyingly grotesque ways. But where Snyder’s film just seems sad and pathetic, Rogan and Goldberg’s film is often very, very, very funny…very.
This is the End stars just about every friend Rogan has playing just about every friend Rogan has, and as themselves. The result is a huge number of in-jokes that get quite the chuckle now, but may make the movie harder to enjoy years later when no one knows who the hell Danny McBride is anymore.
The basic premise revolves around the Rapture and Armageddon literally happening and the few stars (i.e., the ones who have played leads in successful movies and/or earned an Oscar nomination) that manage to take refuge in James Franco’s earthquake (and apparently rapture quake) proof renovated house in the Hollywood Hills (which are hills, not mountains, since you can get over them in ten minutes by taking Cuhuenga Pass, a joke that will make sense once you see the film). The humor is based on the same style as another end of the world comedy that came out this year, This is a Disaster: the people involved keep focusing on unimportant things, like the petty problems in their various relationships, rather than the world collapsing around them.
This is the End is not a perfect movie by any means. It has a wonderful first third and the onset of the rapture and the resulting cataclysms is wondrously delightful, at times beautiful, and just rather clever. But once the second act begins with Franco, McBride, Rogan, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel and Craig Robinson barricaded into the house, the movie has difficulty finding places to go. No one has an overall goal, no one is that interested in trying to figure out what is really going on, or coming up with a game plan for survival; so instead, the audience gets stuck with many of the same jokes over and over…and over, again. It’s not that the laughs go away or that there are no interesting scenes here, but this section tends to lose forward momentum (in contrast, This is a Disaster is much tighter, more focused and in the end a much better written film).
However, what actually may be the most disturbing aspect of the film is that there are no woman around (well, Emma Watson has a fun little bit). But Rogan, et. al., don’t need them, or even want them, really. They can get all their emotional needs met from each other (one of the more than reoccurring jokes is the idea that the guys have no problems relating to each other like gay men–for no other reason, it feels, so that they all can prove to the audience that they are really, really straight, really, even if they take a demon’s cock up the ass). And if they want sex? Well, Franco has a porn magazine. (In fact, they all seem amazingly sexless and make one wonder if that’s the real reason why movies are so female-less these days—filmmakers and actors are all like Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory.)
Once the survivors are forced back out into the world, the whole thing picks up steam again and Rogan and Goldberg manage to somehow get their characters out of the corner they have painted them into. Of course, the result is a heaven that resembles a James Franco party, and it’s a little disturbing that Rogan and Baruchel reveal that they like The Back Street Boys more than Hill and Franco, but based on Rogan and Goyer’s view of Revelation, the characters could have ended up far worse.