Alphabetical Movie – Last Action Hero
Last Action Hero is a film that, depending on who you ask, is either an expensive failure or far better than people think. In geek circles, it is one of those movies that typically inspires lengthy tirades about how the movie is misunderstood and how the critics were idiots and how the movie is actually brilliant.
And when it comes to the critical savaging the film received, I’m in general agreement that they blew it. The movie wasn’t as bad as all that. It isn’t that bad at all. In fact it is, at times, very good.
I’d stop short of calling it brilliant.
Misunderstood? Yeah. It was definitely that.
Reading excerpts from reviews on Rottentomatoes, critics really seem puzzled by what the movie wants to be and that puzzles me. They ask if it is supposed to be an action film? A comedy? A spoof?
Uh…yes. I didn’t know there was a law that said a comedy couldn’t have action in it or that a movie with comedy and action could not be a spoof. It is as if every critic had forgotten than when you put chocolate and peanut butter together, they could still taste pretty good.
The intent of the film is pretty obvious. It is making fun of Hollywood tropes and spoofing The Arnold’s on-screen persona. The tropes are the 80’s action movie so yes, there is going to be action. It will be over the top because it is supposed to be.
Listen to what Roger Ebert said about the film:
From beginning to end, the movie is about its gimmick, without ever transcending it.
I mean seriously – did Ebert even watch the…wait a minute. He’s actually pretty spot-on there.
Ebert, in fact, pinpoints exactly why I’ve always liked the movie but never felt my geeky heart beat with a burning love for it. I’ll sit down and watch it any time. Sure. Heck, I’ll do it for the scene when the villain shoots a guy on a New York street and nobody even notices. Or the scene when Ian McKellen steps out of a Bergman film.
But Ebert is right. The movie is about the gimmick but it doesn’t really have anything to say about the gimmick. It is all a lot of fun but even when the characters move out into the “real” world, you never really feel as if there is any sort of threat.
Where I think Ebert is wrong is in the evaluation that the movie fails because of that.
What most critics tend to ignore is whether or not a movie is just fun to watch. They are so busy being critics that they forget to be movie lovers.
As much as I love films like Magnolia, I really can’t watch them all that often. Escapism is a completely valid reason to see a movie.
Last Action Hero recognizes that and makes fun of the silliness of escapist fare without ever rising about the genre it is spoofing.
OK, yeah. That’s fair.
But that doesn’t make it an awful film. It feels more like the critical community blames Last Action Hero for failing to be the film they wanted it to be.
And that sort of feels like their problem.