These two movies are nowhere near as “arty” as some of the stuff I really love. However, they’re worthwhile movies in their own right due to how each movie has their own bits of subversiveness along with heaps of fun (not as much as “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night”…which is itself no “Born in Flames”, but it’s something). Those two movies are “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water”.
“Kingsman” is subversive to the degree to which it has explicit violence and overt sexuality (not exactly Playboy channel variety, but still)…oh, but it uses such content as an edge against civilization, politics, wealth and even celebrity. But how can a movie whose title explicitly references royalty be so subversive and wild? Well, Matthew Vaughn’s direction, along with a script co-written by Jane Goldman, that’s how.
Vaughn hasn’t just shown that he can do action like in the movie adaptation of “Kick-Ass” (Mark Millar’s work as well), he and Goldman show a knowledge of character development (like in “X-Men: First Class”), letting people have an arc, even allowing the “fun and games” portions of their work have consequences. Granted, the movie has the very same tonal issues of “Kick-Ass”, and while the movie has a few neat twists, the movie’s overall irreverant nature prevents said twists from elevating the movie from being above entertainment level. Given that this is based on a Mark Millar comic, one would be best to expect less a “Dr. Strangelove” or even a “Small Soldiers”…and more of a lesser “Hot Fuzz”: a movie that seems to subvert lots of genre conventions only to build said conventions back up with extra spice (this time letting the problems with said genre conventions fester instead of questioning them the way it questions other things). Still, fun is fun, and “Kingsman” is worth checking out.
…oh, you also wanted my opinion on that big fight scene in the middle of the movie? Yes, it is outrageous and awesome. Probably going to end up being one of the best sequences of 2015, at least in my book. Don’t want to spoil it, just go see for yourself.
7/24/2015 Edit: If you want a better explanation of how subversive and darkly perceptive, “Kingsman” really is, check out Film Critic Hulk’s review (lots of spoilers, though).
So…”The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water”. I am a longtime Spongebob fan, myself. Yes, I know, subversive young me being a fan of a huge multi-gazillion dollar franchise that brings happiness to many kids (and older folks) while also being propped up by lots of human rights abuses (I mean, where else do those toys come from?). How could I do such a thing, right?! However, like “The Simpsons”, Spongebob and his gang are in a position where they are popular enough to be quite useful to their money-makers but not loved enough to be used at a level that made them so great in the first place. Now, don’t get me wrong, the new “Spongebob Squarepants” stuff can be quite enjoyable in its own right, but almost everyone knows at this point that the show has been established as an cultural institution. As every jaded person knows, when something/someone is established, there’s a moment where they just stop trying…because they don’t have to.
But, “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water” brings a bit of hope for an old fan like myself. Oh, it has it’s problems: it’s obviously more of a long “Spongebob” episode than it is a movie in its own right, to the point where it does get grating (despite show creator Paul Tibbit being involved as the director). Until then, however, it’s actually funny, to the point where it nears the same level of wild but somehow grounded fun that the older episodes pre-“The Spongebob Movie” had. Not as quotable, mind, but anything is an improvement after some of the newer stuff, like that episode where Spongebob keeps a lot of trash around his house and is in danger of being evicted, therefore justifying that drawn-out “Litter Cop” gag. God, remember that episode? What a lazy stinker.
As for the subversiveness? Well, even as this movie is enjoyable, it’s still an expression of an institution. Yes, Plankton wants the Krabby Patty formula, but like many a movie there are some bits the adults can appreciate, like the narrator/pirate played by Antonio Banderas selling ACTUAL Krabby Patties from a food truck. Really. I’m personally appreciative of the mix of animation styles along with live action, and while the live action stuff does leave one a bit wanting, it’s still quite fun. The characters stay in…well, character, so seeing them react to the live action world (when they get there) is kind of a treat. Obviously a somewhat calculated move to make “Spongebob” merchandise that mixes the superhero movie sensation with the traits (or rather, aspirations) of the characters, but hey. I can enjoy stuff without thinking TOO hard (sometimes).
So…yeah, “Kingsman” and “Spongebob”. Two enjoyable movies from the mainstream that may toe the line for the “Bread & Circuses” model, but have more than enough enjoyable stuff for one to savor while the world goes to shit. Just don’t expect these movies to change your life or make you run for congress.
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