25 April 2017

The Truth in Fiction

I went to the movies twice last week and my experiences were pretty distinct. 

The first movie I went to was The Fate of the Furious. I was definitely entertained by the movie, as I have been since the first one came out when I was in college. I remember driving back to the house with my roommates (Tom & Justin) and definitely doing so in a manner "inspired" by what we'd watched.

I think the film franchise peaked with the 5th movie. The 6th and 7th were entertaining, trying to top the extremes reached in the climactic vault race through the streets. The 8th certainly exceeds the scope in some ways but it is not a better movie.

The longevity of the franchise is impressive, but I think it has caused a little too much praise for what these movies really are. I understand and often enjoy movies that require a high amount of disbelief suspension, but I feel like I had to try too hard this time. Maybe it began with the initial street race through Havana, imagining the kind of vibrant and romantic street racing scene that seems ludicrous in light of decades of communist repression. 

The bigger issue behind my Furious-fatigue is what I think is a lack of truth in the films. This is particularly evident as they've bent over backwards to explain the motivations of previous bad guys (like Jason Statham). Earlier movies, especially the first, have some realistic and relatable motivations behind the characters' behavior, beyond lazy storytelling.

This leads to my second trip to the theater, to watch The Lost City of Z. This is a good time to explain that when I say Fate of the Furious lacked truth, it doesn't mean that I am looking for documentary filmmaking. By the director's own admission, The Lost City of Z is not meant to be 100 factual. Time is condensed, characters combined to composites, and conversations are imagined. This is a requirement of condensing a story to a 2.5 hour runtime.

But even if a movie is not "true," it can contain truth, and I felt that truth in much of The Lost City. Even a scene which we know to be fabricated by the writer can convey truthful and relatable emotions. This is what makes a movie (or any story) special and enduring.

I don't know that The Lost City of Z will be considered a classic, but the themes it conveys are timeless, and I'm glad I could see it.

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