The John Wesley Fellowship began in 1977, with Steve Harper and yours truly being two of the first John Wesley Fellows chosen. I have told the story of Ed Robb and AFTE this past Fall on the blog so I will not repeat it. Here are some of the senior fellows attending the meeting. […]
We seem to like our myths about the battle between good and evil relatively clear cut, but we also like our heroes vulnerable, sometimes even indulging in various sorts of guilty pleasures, while supposedly being ‘at heart good persons’. ‘Superman Returns’ is a quite interesting and lovingly crafted update of the Superman saga. Superman in this telling has been away for a while looking for the remains of his home planet, only to discover there really wasn’t anything left. He returns to earth once more, to encounter a much aged Mom Kent (played quite fetchingly by an over 80 Eva Marie Saint no less), and a world which has moved on beyond Superman. Superman’s sometime girl friend Lois Lane has even won a Pulitzer for her story on ‘Why the World no longer Needs Superman’, but methinks she protesteth too much (trying to exorcise the demon of her love for the man marvel). Brandon Routh does a marvelous job walking into the shoes of Christopher Reeve, even to the point of recreating the crooked smile of Clark Kent, and much of the apparel of the characters in this movie seem to have been brought out of mothballs from an impossibly old Goodwill store. However, crime has not been sleeping or become obsolescent, for Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor has every up to the minute techno gadget one could want at the cusp of the 21rst century. It is this juxtaposition of old and new which makes this movie both comforting and unsettling in different ways.
While Farrell and Fox both play their parts well enough the discrepancy in acting ability becomes all too clear when these two are juxtaposed. Fox is expressive and brings life to his character. Farrell is mostly deadpan, and while looking the part of a vice cop, seems like someone sleepwalking through the part. Both men have difficulties with their women of differing sorts. The supporting cast in this movie is strong, but for those of us who love the AFLAC duck commercials, it is hard to erase the image of those commercials from one’s mind when the lead Fed in this movie is the African American man who plays the lead in those commercials!
Not that this movie could not have used some comic relief. The action is taut, there is no filler in this drama, but there are also few, if any, memorable lines either. The bad guys are thoroughly believable, and the good guys have only a modicum of redeeming features—one of which is the loyalty of Crockett and Tubbs to each other and to their difficult tasks. There is not only an effective graininess to the film texture. This is also the case with the lives being portrayed. But the question remains about these cops— do the ends really justify these kinds of means, including getting in bed with the crime lords in order to expose them— so to speak? Perhaps we should take the title ‘Miami Vice’ as a double entendre. Who better to dabble in vice, then a vice squad which is so familiar with its practices?
The subtext of a movie like Miami Vice is of course that in violent times one must fight violence with violence ‘by any means necessary’. But if we do this, do not we become what we despise? ‘Superman Returns’ cosmetizes the violence and makes it palatable. ‘Miami Vice’ doesn’t and yet the audience seems to get vicarious thrills in watching the bad guys ‘get what they deserve’. As it turns out, it is not just public discourse that has become coarse in our culture. So has our entertainment, and unfortunately that tells us a great deal about the direction our culture is listing towards. It was an inspired writer who warned that ‘those who sow the wind, will reap the whirlwind’. I fear that the storm warnings for our culture are all too evident— especially when it even surfaces in our summer blockbusters.