Possibly Unpopular Opinion: Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson has become by his own choices in life both an amazingly competent director and actor, but by the same hand he has also made some severely poor choices in his personal life at varying times of distress. My argument here is not to convince anyone to forget the things he said, but to understand not only the context of those situations, but that he apologized profusely, and has not committed such grievances since that time. Plus, outright dooming an actor for previously unwise decisions isn’t always the right way to go. Think about it, if we hadn’t all given Robert Downey Jr. a second chance the Marvel Cinematic Universe would either look very different than it does today or not exist at all. So with that lets explore why Mel Gibson should be considered an icon in the world of film.

Mad Max. It feels strangely poignant to come full circle with the renewed interest in Gibson’s original Road Warrior, albeit in the new flesh of Tom Hardy. “Mad Max: Fury Road” was an insanely impressive feat of filmmaking, but George Miller started the character off decades ago and was Gibson’s first major role in movies. The original Mad Max movies combined insane stunt work, gripping visuals and score, with the quiet charm subtly imbued in Max through Gibson’s emoting in an intense and gritty post apocalyptic setting. If you haven’t seen them, I highly suggest it, “The Road Warrior” in particular is one of the best sequels of all time in the new and exciting ways the Max’s world has expanded to become even more mad than the original. In fact, for a taste, check out this link below* in it IGN dissects one of the initial scenes in the sequel that sets the tone for the rest of the film.

After the success of the Mad Max movies Mel Gibson became a a sought out figure in the movie making business. His next major role came in the form of Martin Riggs in “The Lethal Weapon” movies. Likely the best of the “Buddy Cop” action flicks Gibson does a 180 from the solemn and deadly, yet speculative, Max to the absolute balls to the walls unpredictable bolt of lightning that is Riggs. Nothing but testosterone and one liners “Lethal Weapon” is truly a product of its time, and it is a damn fun time. Throughout the four movies Riggs and Danny Glover’s Roger Murtaugh get into all sorts of collateral damage, high speed car chases, and plenty of fists are thrown, and bullets fired in the name of taking down the bad guys. Not exactly high level acting, but oh so much fun. **If you haven’t (somehow) seen any of these movies yet I’ve linked the trailer for the first entry in the series below, it’s wonderfully 80′s and oh yes, plenty of neon wide font graphics to boot!

It’s after this period that Gibson ascends to greatness in my opinion. In ”BraveHeart”, pretty much the greatest thing Gibson’s ever done, he portrays William Wallace in a historical epic set in 13th century Scotland. The film depicts the Scottish revolt against the iron-fisted rule of the English led by none other than Wallace himself. The film was a critical and commercial success for Gibson’s directorial debut netting him the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography Oscars among others. I could go on and on about “Braveheart” but trust me, if you haven’t seen it, stop reading this right now, go watch it, and come back in three hours for the rest, believe me, it’s worth the runtime. Again, here’s the trailer*** just in case you need persuading, I’d link you to the great speech at the end, but if you haven’t seen it, you need to build up to that moment for the initial viewing. Here I will also include the trailer for “The Patriot” **** Mainly because its essentially just “BraveHeart” in America, but don’t let that stop you, its a damn fine historical war epic like its Scottish predecessor. Gibson’s acting in the Patriot might also be slightly better than his previous efforts, I say this because he is really, really good in several scenes and I would challenge anyone that claims Gibson can’t act to watch this movie in entirety because it gets tearfully emotional and powerful at times. Another solid performance to add to Gibson’s repertoire.

After this period things get somewhat sticky for The Lethal Weapon with the lucrative, yet disappointing “Signs” and “The Passion of The Christ”. Some of you out there might love these two movies, but here is the speed bump in quality content for me concerning Mel. “Signs” wasn’t really his fault, and I’ll give the movie some credit, there are times it works with its scenes setting up tension. However, that Shyamalan twist with the water was just too silly for me,


Why would those aliens invade a planet mostly covered by the one substance that can kill them?! You can make all the “That’s why they were only in the cornfields invading people” arguments you want, but guess what? Farmers use water every god damn day to WATER their crops!! I mean, c’mon, WE’RE mostly made out of water!!! Ugh. Okay, so that was mostly aimed at the terribleness of Director M. Night Shyamalan, but I digress, you lost me on that acting choice Mel.

As far as “Passion of The Christ” goes, Gibson may know how to direct a movie well (remember Braveheart?), and technically he might be a genius because of the rampant religious fanaticism that fueled the box office for this movie, but is it really even a movie? I say no. It’s literally just two hours of Jesus getting his ass kicked, brutally. Then they do what we all know the movie was leading up to, and crucify him. I know, I know, but hear me out, if you have essentially no build up to the brutality, why do I as the viewer care? “He’s JESUS though!” I digress, in the realm of the story, you need to give me something more than just a hell of an ass whooping for that long, demi-god or trinity member status does not make up for a lack of substance. Also, I haven’t seen that movie in forever so maybe I’m just being too harsh here, but I really did not care for it at the time.

Fast forward a few years and you have a wildly different movie come from The Road Warrior’s creation, “Apocalypto”. This was a return to directing form for Gibson, done entirely in subtitles and extremely intense once the action sets in motion, this movie was a return to Gibson’s previously well mined storyline arcs of “The little man gets pushed and he pushes back harder for his freedom”. The story takes place in undiscovered central america during the height of the Aztecs rule. The story centers on a small tribe that is torn apart by the imposing rule of the warlike Aztecs. They invade and kill whoever imposes them while gathering young men for rituals and slaves, then they simply leave the small children behind with their village burning and their dead lying about the place. Nasty. One young man of the captives has a wife left safely behind in a well and throughout the rest of the film he is simply trying to return to save her and his young child. It gets rather heart-poundingly extreme from there and I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you, but there is a scene where the main character essentially just runs for days while being relentlessly pursued! Check it out, again, trailer below. *****

So, what has he been up to lately you ask? After a few years passed since his public meltdown/racist/anti-Semitic episode, and everyone cooled down, Gibson returned to several acting roles. Notable mentions here being his quirky yet charming role in Director Jodie Foster’s romantic dramedy “The Beaver”. I’m including it here to showcase Gibson’s range, but also, it really was a heartfelt quirky charming bit of a movie.Not his best work, but a good deviation nonetheless.****** He’s also starred in several smaller projects like “Get The Gringo” and “Edge of Darkness” but they were more or less just “ok” genre pieces. The crazier titles he’s been a part of since then include his villainous roles in “Machete Kills” and ”The Expendables 3″. Both are ridiculous but fun in different ways and if you enjoy a good mindless action flick, they’re both worth a watch. The third Expendables entry may have under performed massively at the box office (though that may have been due to the film leaking a full two weeks before the release date) but its still chock full of sizzling action sequences, and Gibson gets to chew some scenery and he looks like he’s having a hell of a time with Stallone and the rest of the gang, here’s a bit of dialogue for fun!******* Machete Kills even has Charlie Sheen as the President of the United States. Tiger Blood does wonders for the campaign trail I suppose.

What’s next for this controversial character? It could seemingly be anything at this point in time. My point here is that if we can all let Tom Cruise get back into the business and prove his entertainment value once more a la “Edge of Tomorrow” or “Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol” then we should all at least give him a shot when he does try for something worthwhile. Robert Downey Jr. has been publicly rooting for Gibson to be involved in the Marvel cinematic Universe, and I’m just saying, how cool would it be if he turned out to be Star Lord’s father? Take my money please. Until he does something bigger and better he’ll most likely do bit acting jobs that he’s sees as somewhat lucrative or at least a good bit of fun a la “Machete Kills”, there’s even a rumor that he’ll reprise his role for the third movie, “Machete Kills, in Space” I’m not kidding, check the IMDB link below. Personally I hope he continues making solid acting or directing choices because he’s proven that if he cares about a project and really puts his blood, sweat, and tears into it, then it’ll turn into a great film. He can do it. We might just have to let him.









Practical Magic

This September brings the home video release of one of the biggest surprises of 2015, “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Without going through a typical movie review of the film I’ve come to the conclusion that having a conversation about what makes this movie so special would be more productive. Seriously though, if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out, a solid 9/10. In my opinion the feminism portion of the story is all good and well for a modern movie, but what burned into my memory more so than the story of Furiosa and her gang of fiercely independent women was the mind bending practical effects utilized throughout the movie. That was, in my opinion, what made the movie stand tall above other CGI focused movies currently in the market.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed a fair amount of movies that rely heavily on computer generated content, but the balance between these two types of filmmaking is what matters most though. It’s what gives the movie it’s allure, it’s magic. Thinking back on it, the movies that inspired wonder and awe most for me were the movies that poured their hearts into every prop, car crash, prosthetic, and miniature set. “Back to the Future” “Indiana Jones” “Jaws” “The Nightmare on Elm Street” “Star Wars” All of these movies, and a great deal more, successfully merged reality with a flair of fantasy (not simply swords and magic for all you D&D’ers out there) that transcended whatever genre they existed in to create just the right amount of immersion.

Take “Raiders of the Lost Ark” for example. Remember that infamous Nazi face melting scene? They achieved it by making a mold of the actor’s face out of gelatin, meat, and liver among other things and had it set next to a heat lamp that slowly melted it. Afterword they sped up the footage and there you have it! C’est magnifique! I could go on for days detailing numerous effects over the last century of filmmaking, but more importantly, there was a time in the last decade or so when it seemed like practical effects had been thrown to the wayside by the new and shiny computer effects brought on by newer technologies in filmmaking.

Films like ”Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow”, a film that was entirely shot in green screen (They didn’t even use sets or locations, nothing at all except handheld props and costumes) were being lauded as the new way of modern filmmaking. This thinking held true for much of the 2000′s, some deviations being the wonderfully practical ”Lord of The Rings” trilogy among others, but for the most part CGI had seemingly taken over.

Recently however in the last five years of movie releases a peculiar thing began to happen. Slowly but surely people seemed to tire of overly fake sequences and practical effects began to creep back into the limelight. Now I’m not much a of a horror fan, but the recent “Evil Dead” remake heavily embraced such filmmaking, and knowing that they created a moment with practical filmmaking just baits the question of “How the hell did they do THAT?!” I’m still at a loss as to how they sawed a girl’s arm completely off onscreen. I would have assumed she might have just only had one arm and a prosthetic was sawed in half, but I’m also pretty sure they blatantly showed her utilizing that very real arm beforehand. However they did it, I was wowed. Mission accomplished.

More and more movies began to reincorporate on location shooting, heavily ornate and “lived in” setpieces, and all kinds of manmade visual tricks. Even more dramatic films like the brilliant “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” meshed palpable effects back into the light. “Predators” was one such film. It went back to the jungle, an actual jungle in Hawaii, utilized practical tricks for the Predators themselves, and props aplenty. Now the more you look around the more you see a real effort to wow audiences with a respective meld between both CGI and Practical effects. Even “Interstellar” was lauded for it’s use of special effects sequences, and that was about wormhole traveling through space and across galaxies! Hell, even the Muppets are back!

What George Miller did with this newest iteration of Mad Max was wonderfully brilliant because it lovingly crafted the look and feel of the film with equal parts practical effects and CGI. Just check out this excellent article that details the minutia of several key sequences! In today’s world of filmmaking anything is possible. From Galaxies far far away to indie darlings that focus on more down to earth questions about love or death, there is room for both takes, and in many cases you need to embrace both. Sometimes the effects can be so good that you can’t tell which is which either. Anyone remember the scene late in “The Wolf of Wall Street” when DiCaprio and Hill are walking down the Italian boardwalk to their boat? Only the pier is real. Which is astounding when you think about it.

My point being that practical effects can be used to great effect in a multitude of ways, as can CGI. We shouldn’t be demonizing CGI either because when they are both used in tandem, the results are spectacular. Personally, I’m most looking forward to JJ Abrams entry into the “Star Wars” universe and he has seemed to be heavily utilizing both resources, as he should. So, I say to you Hollywood: Thank you. Thank you for realizing that movies can be made in many ways, and that using the best of all our abilities to wow audiences is the point. Necessity maybe the mother of invention, but when you have an abundance of skills and tricks, we all win.