Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Marine versus The Rundown: It pays to recycle

Okay, remember this post, way back in the day? Well, I finally saw the second of the two movies to which it referred, John Cena's The Marine. At least, I think I saw two movies.

Okay, I'm going to start by saying this: it's not my intention to make fun of these movies for being similar, or to make snarky comments about how they were, like, TOTALLY the same movie, or Cena couldn't do better than The Rock so he did the same damn thing, or anything like that. My point is to look at my experience as a movie-watcher, and to ask myself: why can't I see The Marine as anything but a watered-down version of The Rundown? Will I ever be able to get over that?

Bottom line, though: there are dozens of minor cosmetic similarities. Let me list them.
  1. The obvious similarity: both are action movies whose lead roles are beefy, violent, exiled mavericks, played by dirty WWE champions in tight shirts.
  2. Both shot in jungle-like tropical settings, involving a lot of traipsing through the woods.
  3. Both include a fight scene where somebody gets smashed in the head with a plank that's burning at the end.
  4. Both include a vehicle flying off a cliff and landing in a pool of water while its passengers plummet down same cliff, miraculously escaping said vehicle and surviving.
  5. Both include dialouge where two options ("Option A... Option B") are explicitly outlined.
  6. Both use a specific close-up, slow-motion graphical technique: in The Marine, this only happens once, at the beginning, when the shell from the shotgun flies through the air. In The Rundown, it happens all throughout the final firefight scene.
  7. Both climax with a slow-motion shot of the hero moving slowly away from a huge explosion.
  8. Both include the line "Why so angry?!?" yelled by a nerd to the beefy main character who's subduing him.
Am I noticing these because I was looking for them? Maybe; after all, The Rundown was one of my favorite action movies ever, and it was hard not to make some comparisons. Still, it's hard for that psychological excuse to explain the almost identical lines of dialogue. Was it the same writers? No! Check the IMDB names, and nobody is repeated who's in charge of anything substantial... unless you count Vince McMahon, who's mainly listed because he manages the wrestlers.

Was it a pure case of a rip-off, intentional or unintentional? I'll wager that a lot of people in charge of The Marine had already seen The Rundown, maybe even recently... did they decide to recycle the same techniques in another ridiculous, even less successful action movie? Did they write "Cena hits henchman with burning plank," and think, WOW! THAT'S THE BEST IDEA EVER, not realizing that it surfaced from their subconscious mind?

Or was it what Umberto Eco calls "riding the same cultural wave"? Maybe the cultural influence doesn't just affect our general ideas about style and entertainment... maybe, somewhere in the collective unconscious, there's a voice saying, "WHY SO ANGRY?" to all of us, and maybe these WWE-based writers are just especially attuned to it. Maybe our media culture feeds us EVERYTHING, right down to the dialogue we write, and ends up sneaking the same lines and visual effects into unrelated movies, just because they both sprang up in the same cinematic/narrative era.

That's the coolest conclusion I could come up with. Here's my ultimate advice: if you see The Marine, make sure you also see The Rundown. The Marine is a good action movie, worth a weekend evening, but it couldn't compete with The Rundown, and I hope it wasn't trying.

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