Saturday, December 01, 2007

The attack of the 9/11 movies

I saw The Mist tonight. Nobody told me it was all about 9/11. The previews included The Poughkeepsie Tapes (like a serial-killing Blair Witch, with video purported to have been filmed in September of 2001) and Cloverfield (another disaster movie with lots of superrealistic shaky-cam "Oh my God, I've got to capture the carnage of New York being destroyed for posterity"). It just hit me like a tin of bricks how 9/11 and War on Terror-soaked our culture has become.
Incidentally, imagine how much easier it would have been to make Starship Troopers and The Siege after 9/11. It would have required half of the imagination at most.
Here's a little list of the 9/11 inspired movies I've seen. Incidentally, in making this list I checked out Wikipedia's 2002 through 2007 in film pages, and was tickled to find that some patriotic Korean had gone through them all and put all the big Korean movies on the lists, which are otherwise almost completely filled with American and British movies.

  • 28 Days Later - Remember the "Have you seen my Timmy?" wall, soon to become the easiest, most emotionally resonant shorthand that lazy writers could use to relevance up their project.
  • War of the Worlds - Features New York's destruction, followed by scenes of society breaking down. Relentlessly pessimistic in its view of mankind, the movie is typical of post-9/11 movies in that the characters are completely helpless to stop the events shaping their lives (see also the Final Destination, Hostel, and Saw series).
  • Hostel - Helpless Americans killed in an unforgiving, non-understandable foreign world.
  • V for Vendetta - Fascism and plenty of it; terrorism grapples with and justified (see also Battlestar Galactica season 3)
  • Babel - More Americans misunderstanding foreigners and vice versa.
  • Children of Men - Civil liberties crushed, hysteria over foreigners, people everywhere adrift in a world that has spun out of their control, torture by intelligence services, terrorism, etc.
  • 300 - Didn't see it. I assume it is 9/11 influenced because it has Persians in it.
  • 28 Weeks Later - Green zones, naughty military men, and more helpless people being terrorized.
  • Hostel: Part II - Helplessness!
  • The Mist - Disaster followed by helplessness, logical reactions confronted with an emotional/religious mindset, dissention and inability to form consensus on the proper response to the tragedy.

What does the future hold for us? Judging from the above list, the continued trend in torture-based horror movies, and the trailers for Cloverfield, The Poughkeepsie Tapes, and I Am Legend, plenty of desperate helplessness. Get ready to squirm!


Jeff said...

So your criteria for 9/11-inspired movie is disaster movie with shaky photography (I'm not trying to be sarcastic here, I know what you mean) or post-apocalyptic disaster movie? I need a solid set of requirements before I can annoyingly try to poke holes in your theory.

Also, despite what mathematics may have told you, it would be impossible to use half the imagination of what went into Starship Troopers.

Joe Mondello said...

I would characterize such a film as containing any number of the following features:
1. Overt 9/11 or War on Terror imagery or characters or events based on the Islamic terrorism-related events of the past several years.
2. Characters coming to contradictory conclusions about the nature of a non-understandable enemy or phenomenon, resulting in an inability to respond effectively to the threat.
3. An emphasis on random tragedy and helplessness.

And how can you say that about Starship Troopers? Going from the book, a literal glorification of the military, to an extended riff on the attractiveness of fascism? A master stroke.

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