I’m Back (for a Little While)

Hello, everyone! And by everyone, I mean anyone who might still be out there, checking in on this blog. I haven’t posted anything here since May of this year, and that is due primarily to my busy schedule now that college is underway. I have plenty of homework, and midterms are just around the corner. Tomorrow, I play piano for a funeral, sing in a homecoming concert, and I might find time in between to relax and recuperate after such a busy week. Also, I’m sore because working out is hard and I don’t like it, even if it’s good for me.

Notwithstanding my complaints about college, things are going well! I am feeling decently productive, I am making new connections with people, and the stress of it all hasn’t brought my spirits too low yet. Still, you’ve come for content, have you not? Remember when I used to post movie reviews here and stuff like that? Yeah. I still think critically about movies these days, especially with the advent of all this Marvel superhero stuff. The most recent movie I went to see was Guardians of the Galaxy, and sorry folks–I HATED IT. I get that people were excited about the 60s and 70s throwbacks and all that jazz (has “Hooked on a Feeling” ever been this popular?) But in the end, it was just another cheap action film with a gimmick that some people liked. Not necessarily a bad thing–standard fare for the Marvel movie franchise, in fact. Just not my cup of tea.

What frustrates me is that foreign-made films are starting to outclass the grimy muck that Hollywood is spewing out these days. I recently watched two movies with a friend–Ip Man and Ip Man 2–both made in China and roughly based on actual events. Ip Man was one of the best films I have seen in a long while. It tells the story of a master of Kung Fu whose home is attacked by the invading Japanese. The whole movie details his fight against the invaders and how he protects his friends, his wife, his son, and trains the villagers to fight back. What’s interesting about this movie is the main character doesn’t have an arc. He doesn’t change from a bumbling fool who can’t protect himself to a master of martial arts (like the protagonist of Karate Kid, for example). But his character and the nature of the historical context and plot do not necessitate an arc. This is a film purely about a guy standing up and doing what’s right because he has the power to do so. Most significantly, he treated his wife with respect, he avoided fighting if he could, he avenged the unjust death of a friend killed by the Japanese, and he rallied the Chinese people together to fight back against their enemies.

Also, the fighting in this movie is ridiculously good. It got me thinking about how movies depict action in our day and age. In Ip Man, there was no CGI. We only saw human actors demonstrating immense skill in martial arts, and it was thrilling to watch. I considered how I felt during a film like Guardians of the Galaxy, or the Avengers, or even Thor. These films boast a myriad of special effects, ranging from huge fleet battles to gods demolishing armies. But I don’t feel anything. Sure, it’s cool to look at. But there’s nothing to relate to. It’s just a bunch of seizure-inducing, computer-generated explosions and nice particle effects and cool ship models. In Ip Man, I feel every punch. I feel Ip Man’s rage as he overcomes the men who took away his livelihood. It is a great irony that, in pursuing the biggest, best, most impacting action sequences in cinematic history, these movies fail to connect with us on an emotional and physical level. The fact that Ip Man enables us to physically feel every punch is a testament to its brilliance. You know how they achieve this? We see real people fighting each other. We see them bloody, exhausted. In Guardians of the Galaxy, what do we get? I guess some of the characters have scratches sometimes. One of the characters drifts out into space and only gets a little cold without a helmet on (REALLY?) There are no consequences in the Marvel universe. There’s nothing at stake to care about because no one can die, and if they die, they’ll probably come back to life through deus ex machina or some macguffin like the Tesseract.

In Ip Man, I know that if the main character dies, it’s over. I’ve seen other people as skilled as him die. I’ve seen the Japanese kill people. I know this is serious. I’m rooting for him to win. The tension of his possible defeat is constantly hanging over me. It’s brilliant, it’s intense, it’s gripping. I sat down to watch for a couple minutes because I had homework to finish, and I ended up sitting through the whole thing because it intrigued me so much. If it had been another superhero movie–let’s be honest, I would have gone and done my homework. Same old, same old.

Yes, people will argue with me that Guardians of the Galaxy had character arcs and all that. I mean, they all come together in the end, right? To save the universe! They all stop hating each other! Yay! Happiness! A simple plot is not bad, but come on. It’s obvious that this plot’s sole purpose was to give Marvel Studios a platform for more one-liners and flashy action sequences. In the end, it never really means anything. Not necessarily bad in the minds of some people, but hey, each to his own.

It’s just not my cup of pointlessly-flashy battle scenes.

So yup. Time permitting, I will continue to update this blog with more stuff. If anyone is still out there, I hope you enjoy what I write! If you disagree with what I say, comment, PM me, DO ANYTHING. I like chatting about stuff.

In Christ,

Ryan

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