After several abortive attempts at a second entry in this ~series~, I am back with two more 80’s flicks. Both are considered to be cult classics, both lived up to their reputations, and both are available to rent on iTunes. Again, I’ll be rating them in terms of how much I enjoyed watching them and in terms of their general 80’s-ness.
It’s a lady. It’s a hawk. It’s LadyHawke, the 1985 medieval comedy starring Matthew Broderick that you’ve never heard of. Full disclosure: I hate Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I think it’s an insufferable ode to nihilism and entitlement. Despite this deep flaw in my character, I still love some adorable ‘lil young Broderick, especially in War Games, so I was excited to jump into Ladyhawke.
Our young protagonist, Gaston (Broderick), is a small-time thief and recent dungeon escapee who runs into a mysterious black-clad knight named Navarre who carries around a hawk. Turns out the hawk is actually the lady Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer). Here’s the deal: Navarre and Isabeau were in love, but a jealous, evil bishop cursed them. Isabeau becomes a hawk during the day, and Navarre turns into a wolf at night, preventing the pair from being together in human form. What’s even more of a bummer is that they don’t retain their human minds when they animorph, nor do they remember any of it, which totally defeats the purpose of turning into an animal. They have to go find the bishop to break the curse and end up enlisting the help of Gaston.
The tone isn’t as strictly comedic as, say, The Princess Bride, which is probably the first movie you think of when you think medieval comedy. There are times when you almost think you’re watching a semi-serious period piece, but then the heavily synth-laden soundtrack kicks in. It makes no sense, but it’s kind of amazing.
As I expected, Broderick is his absurdly charming self, and gets all the best one-liners. I was not expecting this movie to have such pervasive religious themes and references: Gaston is in constant dialog with God, bargaining, promising, and explaining. The main antagonist is a disloyal bishop who has aligned himself with Satan. The seal of confession is a major plot point. There’s a Lent joke. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a comedy that engages with Catholicism so sincerely. Both the drama and humor rely on religion, but it’s never the butt of the joke, nor is it portrayed as inherently bad, despite the rotten clergyman.
80’s-ness: 3/5 for the soundtrack alone
The takeaway: “The truth is, sir, I talk to God all the time, and no offense, but He never mentioned you.”
Mad Max 2: Road Warrior
Like everyone who saw it, I was completely mesmerized by Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller’s revisitation of his earlier action trilogy starring Mel Gibson. I have been meaning to check out the original movies, but the first Mad Max was released in 1979, so obviously I had to skip ahead to Mad Max 2: Road Warrior for the sake of this very important journalistic endeavour. This didn’t end up being a problem, since Road Warrior starts out with a nice recap of prior events, setting up how Max came to be a lone wolf in the parched Australian post-apocalypse.
Narrative-wise, Road Warrior is a textbook old-school western. A group of settlers must find a way to defend themselves from the cadre of bad guys who are about to to ransack their home. Max is the hardened mercenary who reconnects with his humanity by selflessly lending his services to the community. Just sub out the climactic gun fight for a car chase laced with explosions and gore.
The pacing is slower and the effects are obviously less sophisticated, but Road Warrior is more similar to Fury Road than I expected, in terms of both visuals and tone. The manipulation of frame rates to create jerky, surreal motion is already present. There’s plenty of weird, colorful characters, including a boomerang-toting feral child. Although the dialog-to-action ratio is higher, Max is very much the same steady and reticent hero. One big difference is the hair. Shampoo is apparently much more readily available in the 2015 version of the world.
The takeaway: Not all boomerangs can be caught. Also, why don’t I have my own mini helicopter?