Monday, January 5, 2015

Have We Learned Nothing From Indiana Jones?

I saw the Jack Reacher movie the other day. Now, before anyone harps all over the diminutive casting choice, I have not read the books. After the movie initially came out, and seeing the furor and the obvious popularity, I did pull one off the library shelf. After reading the dust jacket, I promptly put it back. All of the blurbs read like too much Marty Stu guy fantasy fulfillment, and the movie, while for the most part entertaining, did nothing to disabuse that notion. While I will spend two hours on a movie that does that, the time invested in a book is another matter.

(I used to read things like that back when I was younger; I just grew out of them after a while. Which is not to imply I "grew up" or anything else, just that tastes change as we get older. A trip through the cd's that have been sitting in a box in my closet for years will demonstrate that.)

But I did have one major problem with the film, and something I hope was Hollywood insertion. At the climax of the film, in the midst of the big action scene, Reacher has just gone several rounds of both gunplay and hand to hand with the big bad's burly henchman, and has finally managed to mostly overcome him. A henchman who has spent a good deal of the film attempting to kill - often successfully - numerous people, including the hero and the leading lady. A henchman whom, there is no doubt, our hero will have to shoot.

Now, just to further the Raiders of the Lost Ark comparison here, the leading lady is, at that very moment, in danger. It would behoove our hero to be done with the henchman as absolutely quickly as possible, as decisively as possible, before the bad guy kills the leading lady.

Fortunately, in the ensuing struggle, Reacher has wound up with the gun, whereas the henchman has not. Reacher has him point blank, and all he has to do is shoot.

Which is when he throws the gun away in order to go mano a mano in fisticuffs with the guy.

I'm pretty sure that's the moment I yelled at my tv.

Now, I know there are certain conventions in the movies. Cars blow up, even when someone just bumps the fender. Heroes shake off concussions like they've been okayed to play by the team doctor. Every explosion is a gas explosion with a giant fireball (see the aforementioned car). I accept this, even though I know it's wrong, and it's okay. It's called suspension of disbelief. (Also a Michael Bay film.) Even so, I would think we had put to rest this dumb as a post macho need to go fist to fist with the bad guy when we can just *shoot* the guy and it's expedient to do so.

Even Andrew Dice Clay knew better than this in The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. Yes, I am citing the Dice Man as a supporting reference here. That's how put to bed this trope should be. It does not prove the hero is a manly man. It does not demonstrate a sense of honor (which, it should be said, Indy has, to a certain extent, as did film Reacher, but they both demonstrated a great deal of flexibility with that, too). All it demonstrates is that they put testosterone (because this is by and large a failing of male heroes. Female heroes seem much more willing to just shoot the bastards, and rightly so) over the need to do what they should be doing in the first place.

Which, I will remind you, was saving the person Reacher had deliberately gone there to rescue in the first place.

So please, Hollywood and writers everywhere, learn from Indiana Jones: just shoot them.

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