Friday, January 20, 2012

Film Friday: The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

I see where The Adjustment Bureau looked like a brilliant concept. Random chance brings a man and woman together. They fall in love. But God’s plan for the world requires they be apart. Angels separate them, but the man fights against God’s plan to be with his true love. That’s an incredible amount of fascinating conflict. Sadly, Bureau mishandles every aspect of this and muddles all the conflict, which makes it feel as tired and indifferent as the last few weeks of a canceled television show.

** spoiler alert -- I will talk about the ending **
The Plot
Matt Damon is the idealized liberal politician destined to become President. Damon meets a woman (Emily Blunt) and falls in love. Damon is kidnapped by men who turn out to be angels, and told he cannot be with the woman because it violates “the Chairman’s” plan (i.e. God). If he tries to be with her, they will blank his personality and leave him insane. Damon still tries to find her because he’s fallen in true love. He finds her. Now the angels warn Damon he will ruin her life and his if he doesn’t leave her. He does, but then goes back to her. Surprise! They chase him. He tries to see God to get God’s plan changed. True love conquers all.
Where It All Went Wrong
Based on a Philip K. Dick story, Bureau is one of those films that feels wrong when you watch it because you have a hard time caring about the things they tell you to care about, the mystery doesn’t seem mysterious, and it all feels pointless. Here’s why. Films are about conflict, and conflict requires interesting stakes. If there’s nothing worth gaining or losing, then the conflicts won’t interest the audience and the story will be hard to care about. Bureau is packed with conflict, but it keeps undercutting every single stake it tries to establish.

For example, there are problems at the outset with the believability of the characters. Damon is running for Senate and dreams of becoming president. This desire to be president is a vital point to the story, as you’ll see in a moment. But Damon’s character seems indifferent to the prospect. In fact, the only reason we know he wants to be President is because other characters tell us this is what Damon wants. This is bad writing and it happens throughout the film -- we are constantly told things are true even though there’s no evidence to support them.

The love story suffers similarly. Instead of finding some way to show us how much Damon and this woman love each other, we get only good- natured, self-depreciating ribbing along with a couple kisses. To convince us this is love and not just acquaintanceship, the writer has the other characters tell us repeatedly that these two are in love. In fact, they don’t just tell us they are in love, they tell us they are in God’s plan-shattering destiny LOVE. Yet, there isn’t the slightest hint of this from Damon or the woman. This is mainly the fault of really poor writing, but Damon plays a role in this failure too. Matt Damon has become a nasty man, and I don’t just mean politically. The likable Matt Damon of Good Will Hunting and Ocean’s 11 has been replaced by the brooding Jason Bourne, and Damon seems angry throughout this film.

Even beyond the love story, Damon’s character is hard to believe. He’s presented as the ideal (liberal) politician -- a young good looking environmentalist outsider who isn’t like other politicians. . . he’s “authentic!” And what proves he’s authentic is a concession speech he gives where he exposes the sordid underbelly of candidate packaging. But here’s the problem. This speech is pedantic and pointless. We’re supposed to believe he’s exposing some big secret which makes the world fall in love with his authenticity, but all he’s really doing is confessing that he paid a consultant to pick his tie and scuff his shoes. There’s no substance in the speech which would make the public love him. So how do we know the public loves him? Because every character tells us so -- the writer even obnoxiously has random characters call out Damon’s name as he walks around town and tell him they voted for him and they love him.

As an aside, Damon is clearly a white version of Barack Obama and the script is laced with Obamaism, like when one of the angels says he doesn’t know God’s plan because “that’s above my pay grade.”

But all of that is just the beginning of the problem. The film really falls apart when it gets to the stakes. The angels tell Damon that if he doesn’t abandon the woman, then his dream of becoming president will be destroyed. Those are the stakes: true love versus fulfilling his dream. But these are problematic stakes, because wanting to be president isn’t a dream people consider realistic. And there’s no reason to think he needs to be president to cause something good or stop something bad. Nor will he end up homeless eating garbage if he fails, he’ll still be rich and famous. That’s not really a horrible loss, so it’s hard to get worked up over this. Also as mentioned above, he certainly doesn’t seem to care about this personally.

And it gets worse. As the story unfolds, the angels tell us the reason he wants to be president is the plan calls for it, hence the angels put the desire to be president into his head. But this kills the stakes. Now Damon is being asked to give up true love or he won’t be able to fulfill a dream that was never his. See the problem?

It gets worse yet. For one thing, a little earlier in the film, when they established what the angels can and cannot do, we were told the angels can’t change your desires. Suddenly, we have a story-rules breakdown. Also, this undercuts his greatness as a politician because the angels tell us this desire derives from a desperate need to be loved by crowds. In other words, he doesn’t want to be president because he’s a principled person with good ideas, he wants to be president because he craves the public’s love.

Further, Damon is looking to give up “his” dream because he has fallen in true love with this woman, right? That’s what we’re told. And it is God’s will that they never hook up. Thus, this film is about Damon’s free will challenging the God-created fate which the angels are trying to impose -- indeed, this free will v. fate point is made repeatedly throughout the film. Only, it turns out that God had a plan before the current plan and in that Plan A, Damon and the woman were to fall deeply in love. And the reason the angels are having a problem keeping them apart is that remnants of the original Plan A are still out there interfering with the new Plan B.

Now think about this.
● This means Damon isn’t acting according to free will. He is instead a victim of two contradictory versions of fate colliding. Ergo, the entire free will v. destiny conflict is phony and we no longer have any reason to care how it resolves.

● This means the whole “greatest love ever” bit is phony as well. They haven’t fallen in love against the very will of God, they fell in love because God told them to under Plan A and screwed up his math on his new Plan B. Their love is not real, it is forced upon them. Thus, it’s really not worthy of being a stake and this undercuts the entire love story.

● The whole movie is premised on the idea that God can’t change his plan. This is why the angels are so desperate to force Damon to surrender his (non-existent) free will. But now we’re told God changed his plan already once for Damon. In fact, we’re told of two other instances where God changed his plan. Further, there’s a whole division of angels who swoop in to erase people’s personalities when they don’t do as they’re told, and thereby completely re-write the plan again. In effect, we’re told Damon is going against an unchangeable plan, yet that plan gets changed all the time.

● In the end, Damon tries to get God to change his plan. To do this, Damon goes through a door by turning the doorknob left instead of right, something he’s been told never to do because “that’s only for angels.” He does it anyway, “risking everything” and thereby proving his love is so powerful that God sees it as worthy of changing the unchangeable plan. But he’s not really risking anything because the angels are chasing him to blank him out. Thus, he either does this or he dies. That’s not “risking everything.”
This is why this film fails. It promises some interesting ideas but has no clue how to handle them as it keeps undercutting everything it does, from the conflicts it establishes to the reasons we’re supposed to believe the characters. And despite the cool philosophical implications of this film, the writer basically just wrote a chase-movie. Not only are ideas like omniscience, omnipotence, faith, and even the mercy of God ignored, but the writer chickens out on his subversive idea of man v. God by making the angels fools who can’t stop Damon, by refusing to call God “God” and instead calling him “the Chairman,” and by studiously avoiding all of the philosophical and theological questions. “The Chairman” could just as easily have been some alien or a government conspiracy and little would have needed to change in this film.


ScyFyterry said...

This was a great film! Just kidding. This felt like a film with a lot of motion, but little point to it. And I agree that none of it felt very believable or likely.

One of the first problems I noticed was that the angels were trying very hard. I also never got the feeling Damon's character cared about anything.

Doc Whoa said...

I skipped this one because Matt Damon turns me off. It sounds like a mess though. Excellent review.

Kelly said...

Interesting review! I think your analysis of the film by conflicts is right on point, that's probably the best way to review a film! I like the photo you've picked too it actually shows the lack of chemistry. I recall that scene and they couldn't have cared less about each other. The whole scene felt like two people forced together to read lines that they hadn't even read before they agreed to do the scene.

AndrewPrice said...

Terry, LOL!

Good point about the angels. That really was another problem with the film. They tried to explain that the reason the angels couldn't fix things was because of the prior Plan A interfering, but that doesn't explain how they could be so incompetent? When they chase him for example (which happens all the time), they never seem to be able to catch him because he's just too fast or turns suddenly -- yet, they can go anywhere to be waiting for him, they can manipulate people and objects... and yet, they can't just block him in somewhere? How do you escape from angels who can see everything and go anywhere?

And Damon was really weak in this role. He came across as angry and indifferent.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, The thing is, it's not a mess in the sense of "I don't understand what was going on... it made no sense!" This movie makes sense as you watch it and it's very easy to follow, but it feels wrong and indifferent throughout. In other words, the failure isn't that it comes across as nonsense when you watch it, it just seems dull and indifferent and you're constantly asked to believe things that you really just don't believe. It's only when you stop to think about it that you realize how contradictory and not-credible the film is.

AndrewPrice said...

Kelly, Stories are about conflicts, that's what drives them. It is very hard to write stories without conflicts and it's virtually impossible to write an interesting story without conflicts.

This is one thing you'll see authors and screenwriters speak about consistently -- not only making sure the story contains conflict, but also making sure each scene involves conflict. The more conflict the more interesting the story and the greater the conflict the greater the impact. But most film reviewers aren't actually interested in dissecting films, that's why they don't tell you what the film does right or wrong -- they just give you a synopsis and then tell you if they liked it.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, I am consistently amazed at your ability to delve into horrible films. I usually just try to forget. But I didn't forget this one. I remember thinking when I saw it that it is probably the most liberal film I've ever viewed. You summed it up. We are constantly told things are true even though there’s no evidence to support them. Reagan put it similarly, "The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn't so."

And that only scratches the surface. That the writer couldn't bear to call God "God" speaks silent volumes. And, unsurprisingly, said god (or is it unsaid?) is the embodiment of all liberal ideals: He is singularly capricious, spared from being Hellenistic only by being good-natured; he errs but denies his errors to the point of cover-up; he lies and manipulates but it’s okay because he means well; and he constantly says things are true even though there's no evidence to support them. The Chairman is exactly the sort of god one should rail against--a tyrant!


Additional thought: Are we to take it that Damon, after his Big Speech, continued his political career without a single paid consultant from then on? Puh-lease!

Joel Farnham said...


I can come up with a better story than this! I did the other day with LawHawk's Smoke Gets In Your Eyes in the comment section.

What the writer and producer didn't do with this picture was create a suspension of disbelief. They didn't mention one limitation of the angels. They also didn't bring up free-will versus fate.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Thanks... I think! ;)

I only write about films that did something that interested me. I've seen many bad (and good) films that just offered nothing interesting to talk about, so I skip those. In this instance, what I thought was interesting was how they started with a really fantastic premise and then undercut it at every single turn. At every single point, this film sets something up, tells you it's true without any evidence to support that, and then contradicts it ten minutes later.

I think you're absolutely right about their presentation of God. The whole "free will has been taken away" speech at the end is deeply liberal and deeply tyrannical -- we can't trust the peons.... only the enlightened few like Matt Damon. And then for the rest of it, God is repeatedly shown to be stupid and employs inept angels, is unwilling to tell them the truth, lies to everyone, uses truly sick means (like killing Damon's family and making him crave public attention just so he would want to be president), etc. This is not God in any real sense, it's a spoiled child working a puzzle by any means possible.

As for Damon's speech, I thought he was having a breakdown as he read it actually. I thought that was where the film was going -- not that people would somehow find this "authentic." Indeed, his speech was rambling nonsense that was basically a confession that he's cynical. I saw nothing redeeming in it.

And no, I don't buy for a minute that he had no advisors after that. In fact, doesn't he keep calling his advisors later throughout the film? Not to mention, Mr. Authentic immediately goes to work for a lobbying firm when he loses. How authentic is he?

He is a fraud, his speech is a fraud, this version of God is a fraud... that's the problem with the film. Who ever wrote this was in WAY over their head to deal with the issues they've raised (i.e. stolen from Philip Dick).

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, That's true, it was very hard to suspend your disbelief. Throughout this, nothing felt like it could really happen. Damon would never get elected. He could never be President. The angels would never screw up this badly.

On the free will v. fate thing, the problem is they hit that point over and over throughout the film. Indeed, they mention it constantly, but then they do something to undercut it. Indeed, every time they tell you "he's using his free will now!" the turn right around and say something to explain that the reason he's acting is that the idea was planted in his head.

That's the problem here. They undermine everything they do.

Kelly said...

Andrew, I've noticed that! I stopped reading the professional reviewers a long time ago precisely because of that. What do you get out of their reviews? Ok, so Roger Ebert liked it? So what? If you're going to discuss a film, you might as well explain what works and what doesn't, not just give an outline of it and say "I didn't like the ending."

AndrewPrice said...

Kelly, Keep in mind, I'm not specifically "reviewing" films. I'm in this for the discussion of the film, not just to say if I like it. I would rather delve into why it worked or why it didn't or how it could have been better or even just a moment or two which proved to be brilliant. I find that much more interesting that just reviewing.

Ed said...

I didn't hate this film, but I didn't like it either. I agree with tryanmax too that this film felt very liberal to me in all aspects. Their treatment of God felt like a benign dictator. Their treatment of politics was stupid, false liberal idealism and very hypocritical. I too noticed the constant references to Obama. It felt like this film was a love letter to Obama: "oh Great and Powerful Obama, only you should have free will because the crowds love you!"

Now that I think about it, I did hate this film.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, LOL! I'm glad to hear we've helped you sort out your thinking! :)

The script did feel like a love letter to Obama. They suggest in many ways that Damon's character is the white version of Obama. So I think you're right on point thinking that.

I also think you make a good point about their liberalism being hypocritical and false-idealistic. It is. They say things like "he's not like other politicians," but then he works for lobbyists. They say "he's authentic," but the only reason he wants the job is ego. The people love him, but why exactly? What's he done except give one speech where he confesses to having misled the public for his whole career? The whole film works that way. It's "good intentions trumps reality."

tryanmax said...

How did I leave out the "free will has been taken away" speech? That is the moment when I had that thought, though it was coalescing from the outset. Put more precisely, that is the moment when I exploded with rage at my TV set.

Joel Farnham said...

Too bad Roger Corman isn't involved with this movie. According to Corman,
How I Made A Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, he would futz with a movie until it worked well enough to earn back what was paid on it.

He would change it around so the so-called angels are actually demon familiars or some such thing and "God" or some higher being is actually interfering with them.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I have to agree. That speech left a really bad taste in my mouth as well. That was a moment where the message of the movie because very nasty in my opinion -- "you stupid savages are all too stupid to take care of yourself, so let a select few enlightened people handle everything."

As if I didn't have enough reasons to feel disappointed in the film already, this just amplified everything.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I have actually enjoyed a great many of Corman's films. Not because they were good, but because they were entertaining... somehow. LOL!

I think the problem with this film is that they set out to write (as tryanmax says) a very liberal film with a very liberal message and then they filled in the rest as quickly and generically as possible. And in the process, they created a confused jumble that becomes little more than a nonsensical chase-film with suggestions of depth that aren't really there and an overriding liberal message that says "trust in power."

I don't think Corman would have ever gone down any of those roads in making a film because he wanted to make something entertaining first and foremost. The idea of writing a film around a message and then filling it with other messages probably runs directly counter to what he believes as a filmmaker.

Joel Farnham said...

Anonymous Strikes Again!

DOJ website is down. I say again. DOJ webiste is down.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I'm getting a kick out of this. Mess with the wrong people and they will make your lives hell. The days of the government being able to use its power without the people fighting back are over.

Thanks for the link!

Joel Farnham said...


The hand-wringers and conspiracy theorists are in full-panic at Breibart's Government site. Their collective noses are full of snot and they are wiping it on their sleeves. Some of them don't even understand what is at stake. They just see the hackers as being illegal and doing naughty things.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, That's long been the problem with establishment types -- especially Republican establishment types. All you have to do is say "law and order" and they'd agree to open gas chambers... it never occurs to them that the government can abuse its power when it comes to protecting law and order.

What's more, as you saw with a guy like Santorum last night, they talk worshipfully of the Constitution, but they don't actually trust it because it gives people freedom to do things they don't like. They are no better than leftists who want to the government to control our lives -- they just wants different things imposed on us.

Ed said...

Joel and Andrew, I agree 100%. The Republicans need to learn that freedom means letting people make their own decisions and when you try to take away freedom, the people will fight back. And it's the PEOPLE fighting back, not criminals.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, Sadly, too many Republicans are no better than liberals. They frighten themselves with boogeymen just as much and they like controlling others just as much.

Anonymous said...

I hate commenting on movies I've never seen, especially movies based on stories I've never read... so that's all I've got.

Just kidding. :-)

I wonder how much of the material you find objectionable was taken from Dick's story. Then again, considering Hollywood's track record with Dick adaptations (it all seemed to go downhill after Blade Runner, with maybe one or two exceptions), I find it entirely possible that the film is 90% original/10% Dick.

It sounds like one of those stories that sounds interesting at the beginning but there's absolutely no good way to tie up all the loose ends without screwing it up or alienating viewers. If what you say is true, the whole thing is invalidated by the fact that Damon's character only wants to be president because the people trying to stop him put the thought in his head in the first place.

It's the old ex post facto writer quote: "We wrote ourselves into a corner!"

As for the politics of the politician, I can't say I blame most screenwriters for making their fictional politicians liberal Democrats but, in order not to offend anyone of any stripe, it's like they have to make them vague all-around do-gooders: "No more corruption!" et cetera. Besides, the second a screenwriter creates a fictional conservative politician who isn't a villain, the media goes into crazy mode: "The film's lead character is a gun rights nut! Is this film propaganda?!"

Then again, no creative person should let the media dictate their choices, but that's just common sense. And I'm sure even the best writer would have trouble with making someone like Santorum into a likable hero. ;-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, There is no way to make someone like Santorum appealing.

My complaint with the character's politics isn't that he's a leftist. They actually try to hide his leftism by never mentioning what his party is or what he believes except in broad strokes like "I want to free the world from fossil fuels"... yawn.

What troubled me about the political aspect of the character is how poorly it was handled. His "big speech" which makes him "authentic" (the actual word they use many times in the film) is just awful. It's the kind of speech people left or right would hear and say, "what a turd." No one would fall in love with his suddenly being authentic. But since they couldn't actually come up with anything worth saying, they instead went the bad writing route and just kept telling us what we were supposed to believe.

Moreover, it was all incredibly hypocritical. Oh, he's authentic now because he dumped his handlers... except he immediately goes to work for lobbyists and he hires all new handlers for his next run. Oh, he's so idealistic.... except the reason he wants to be a politician is he loves being loved by crowds.

It was the same thing with the love story. Not only was there NO chemistry to make us feel it, but there weren't even good lines to allow us to accept it intellectually even if not emotionally. It felts like two people standing 3-4 feet apart trying to make conversation as they wait for a bus. And then suddenly everyone would say "oh, they are so in love!!"

Basically, they had ideas for characters but they had no idea how to execute any of them.

On writing themselves into a corner, I don't think that's the case. They didn't need to add any of the things they did which undercut the original idea. I think they just kept adding them because these things sounded dramatic so they tossed them in.

On Dick, I'm honestly not sure, but I suspect very little of his original story made it into the film -- his writing was so messed up that usually all you could get out of it was an idea or two but no actual story.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I'm trying to reply to your e-mail but the whole system is down. I think this is the same thing that blew up on me yesterday. I'll respond when it comes back up.

CrispyRice said...

Wow, sounds rotten! Good thing I pretty much avoid anything with Matt Damon in it.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, That's becoming an excellent rule to follow. I can't think of the last thing I liked him in?

Anonymous said...

I heard Contagion was pretty good but Damon isn't the lead - he's part of an ensemble of much more likable actors (and Gwyneth Paltrow). :-)

I also heard We Bought a Zoo wasn't too bad either, though not quite the comeback for Cameron Crowe (who deserves another hit).

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I'd heard that both movies stank, but I haven't seen either. I will see Contagion at some point, but I honestly can't see a reason to see the Zoo movie. I'm done with movies like that and Mr. Popper's Penguin and Mall Cop. I just can't take those anymore.

The only recent Damon movie that I've heard good things about was True Grit and I haven't seen that yet.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I knew I was forgetting True Grit but even then, he's part of an ensemble of much more likable actors (can't go wrong with The Dude!).

You had an animal thing going on and then you threw in Mall Cop... but I understand. :-)

I once came up with an idea that, while not like Mall Cop was kinda cut from a similar cloth: I had an idea for a spy parody based in the world of mystery shoppers, but I could never figure out a good villain.

Tennessee Jed said...

Ha! I fell trap to last year's schedule ;) Anyway, thanks for the warning on this. I can't see myself watching this now. Admittedly, I have an anti-Damon bias, which really is the weakest of reasons to avoid what otherwise might be a great film.

That said, your rationale for explaining why this movie sucks does the job rather nicely of avoiding it on it's own merits. Which means I can spend my time on other more worthwhile films with an absolutely clear conscience.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I would say the villain in that situation should be the evil monopolist! And they can be working with a corrupt regulator! :)

Animal movies are usually an excuse for really generic, poor comedy... like Mall Cop!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, With a clear conscience! LOL!

There are very few actors I avoid on principle, and I would hate to miss out on a good film because it included some actor I don't like. But in this case, this film is worth missing because it's just not a very entertaining film. It's angry and flat and pointless before you even get to the question of politics. And that's a shame because the idea itself is really strong and has amazing potential -- they just don't come anywhere near fulfilling that potential.

(No problem on the schedule, I've moved everything to 9:00 am for convenience. And you can comment at any time even a couple days later!)

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

While you know we differ when it comes to boycotting, I do understand.

What I hate are the idiots who chime in on some websites with statements like, "I only watch Fox News and TCM! I haven't seen a new movie since 1978!" or some such bullshit.

I honestly don't know if they're trolls or being serious (which would be even worse!).

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I agree with you.

I don't like ignorance and I hate willful ignorance. And when someone says "I ain't never seen it because I know it stinks and I ain't gonna support those people" that is someone reveling in their own ignorance. Not only are they making a blanket statement (which is usually a foundation of ignorance) but they are admitting they have no actual idea whether they are right or not.

Add in the obnoxious self-righteousness which suggests that anyone who dares to actually investigate must be somehow "not a reel Amerkan" and you have an opinion that no one on the planet should ever be proud of expressing.

That said, I do disagree about boycotts. The only language Hollywood will listen to is money -- profit and loss. That's how you tell them what you want and what you don't. They are well within their rights to make whatever they want and I am equally within my rights to support only that which I want. And I understand your point that more people get hurt than just the actor or director who angered you, but that's life. Maybe they should have thought twice about casting/hiring that person?

Also just to clarify, I'm not calling for a boycott or anything like that, I'm just saying that I am sick and tired of these marketing-films that do little more than swap out the leads and the animal types or locations and then rush to theaters. I'm not wasting my time with any more of those.

tryanmax said...

Without revealing much, I can say that Damon's personal haughtiness suits his character well in True Grit.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

On your last point, I totally agree with you, and I cringe whenever I read about a new film in development involving one of those ideas you mentioned.

It's even worse when I read about new TV pilots that the networks order:

Example: Love is Hard about two twenty-somethings who move in together and realize maintaining a relationship is more difficult than they thought. They also have to deal with her annoying mother and his nerdy best friend.

Oooh, what a new concept! (And yes, I made that up in 10 seconds.) :-)

Then again, every idea has been done - it's only the talent of the filmmakers that can keep the execution fresh.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, "Haughtiness" is a good word for him. He rarely seems likable these days. Too much anger.

Joel Farnham said...

Be careful guys, his haughtiness might have to get people to read to him and when he hears it, he might think it means, his Hottyness.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, LOL! You should pitch that idea to Hollywood! ;)

You hear that a lot that every idea has been done and at a certain level, that's true. You can always keep describing something in more and more generic ways until you get to the point that everything appears to be a repeat.

But I think the problem today is one of degree. In other words, they aren't just using the same set up for things like sitcoms and films, but they are populating them with the exact same characters you've seen a hundred times, using the same jokes, same action sequences, same timing, same film style/direction, same structure for the stories, same emotional peaks... etc.

In other words, they aren't just taking an idea and building a new movie or show around it, they are literally copying what they see and only changing the names.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, That would stink if Damon thought we are talking about his hottyness. Arg.

Joel Farnham said...


It would, but then again.... How would you like to have him announced as "His Haughtiness" at some party. Then someone come over to him and actually explained to him that he was insulted. Must think on this. ;-)

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Now that would be funny. I could see him at interviews bragging about how he's known as "his hottyness online"!

tryanmax said...

I just looked at the full size version of the movie still. There should be a caption that reads:
"The f--- are you lookin' at?"
"Not much. Just some b----."
because that is the extent of their love affair.

LawHawkRFD said...

Thanks for the in-depth analysis. Of course it just means there's another film I won't be wasting my time with. It's already a very dicey question whether I will bother to watch a Matt Damon film anyway, and this just seals it.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That's still too much emotion. The caption should read more like:

"So, uh, nice weather?"
".... I guess, whatever."
"... I'm Matt Damon, I know George Clooney."
"... I gotta go."
"...yeah.... ok."

Then the angels swoop in and tell us "ohhhh! They are soooo in love we'll never be able to separate them!"

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, You're welcome. You won't miss anything with this one.

CrisD said...

Hi Andrew,
I saw this with my 25 year old son-otherwise I wouldn't see Matt Damon-but Emily Blount I liked from Victoria movie. Anyway, the main thing is we thought it was an action adventure movie but were embarrassed to be viewing what we considered a romance-date movie!!!

It was preposterous as you have outlined but I did like the scene where they walked into the baseball field. That was a powerful ad clever visual.

tryanmax said...

I was just going by the expressions on their faces. They both look pissed.

AndrewPrice said...

Cris, The marketing on this was atrocious. First, they marketed it as science fiction/suspense. Then they marketed it as action. Finally, they started marketing it as romance. I think the idea was to hit each segment of the market without ever really telling people exactly what it was and thereby sucker in different audiences.

I would say in the end, it's a very flat romance jammed into a chase film.

On the baseball park, I agree. That was an excellent visual. And in that regard, I should point out that from a technical standpoint, the film was nicely done. There were good visuals, good sound and excellent pacing. It's just the rest that didn't work.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That honestly hadn't occurred to me, but you're absolutely right. When you enlarge the image, it looks like they're in the middle of some fight and one of them is about to storm out. LOL!

That should tell us everything we need to know about the romance since this is the big scene where they fall into love at first sight!

Individualist said...


Interesting analysis. I think one of the problems is that liberals tend to think in terms of archetypes. I did not really understand this until I saw the movie "The Watchmen". In each fight scene you knew who was going to win and as a matter of fact the fight was always onesided.

Rorshak always beat the prisoners because he was supposed to, the end of the movie the bad guy whins and the nukes are not stopped because he is better than every one else. He has speed and can think faster which makes him smarter, Boom!

I just saw Red Tails and while the movie had some great scenes and the story of the Tuskugee Airmen is certainly one that is uupligting and intriguing it fell flat for me.

Why because we see the Airmen with cheap planes, never allowed into combat suddenly shoot down eight german fighters including an ace and then follow the german home to shoot up the airfield. No scenes showing us the effort in getting this good, the mistakes they must have made to get the experience.

They are black, the white people have done number two on them thus they get to be wildly successful without effort because that is their archetype. Boom! Well, to me it seemed somehow anticlimatic. We were never shown the Tuskugee arimen getting "good". We were oonly told that they were by all the other characters.

Thinking about this I think this is on par for how liberals think. While you may find the film to be lacking because it has no depth the liberal finds nuance.

To a liberal "saying" you are for something is all that is needed for it to be so. The characters in the adjustment bureau are archetypes. They are to be what they are because that is what is right for them to be. There does not have to be any real conflict.

For the same reason a liberal can decide a murderer must be innocent because of his skin color the Matt Damon character must be suceessful. The archetype is never broken. What has to happen must happen because the philosophical concept or societal norm the character represents is more important than the character appearing to be real and human.

Not sure, I know this is a long post but I think I saw similar themes.

Anonymous said...

Indi -

I get where you're going with this but I wouldn't say archetypes are a specific example of liberal thinking (at least the way we define the term) - the concept has existed for hundreds of years.

Of course, if you're noticing the archetypes on display, then that's probably a result of bad writing. One of the criticisms I read about Red Tails had to do with poor screenwriting and how every character is your typical WW2 cliche: the rebel, the romantic, the drunk, etc.

tryanmax said...

Archetypes are just a tool in the writer's toolbox; They can be used well or poorly. But there is something to be said about the sorts of archetypes liberals gravitate towards. Indie makes an interesting observation that liberal narratives are often marked by characters who never break archetype. It just shows how rule-bound liberals are.

That goes far to explaining their easy acceptance of double-standards and PC nonsense. It really is the lazy way through life, categorizing everything as good or bad based on obvious markers. Peace=Good. War=Bad. Dark Skin=Good. Light Skin=Bad. Liberal=Good. Conservative=Bad. The problem with this manner of thinking is that it doesn't allow for exceptions or, if it does, they are necessarily convoluted.

It also leads to the thinking that says if you don't like the rules, just change them. That is a wholly foolish approach to rule-making, and I think we see it on display in movies like Bureau. The writer created a universe and laid out rules for it, but when they became inconvenient, he simply changed them. Effectively, he created a universe where rules do not apply.

What he could not change, however, are the rules that make a story satisfying. Those are rather firmly fixed, akin to rules like gravity. When he created his rule-less universe, he violated a rule of good storytelling. We see this sort of thinking all too much in Washington. Politicians who believe they can actually change the way the world works if they just write a different set of rules.

Sorry if that rambling was less than coherent. My mind was all over the place. I could go so many directions with these ideas.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I haven't see Red Tails but what you say doesn't surprise me in the least. First, Lucas is a poor storyteller. That's been obvious for years now. He simply doesn't grasp the "show, don't tell" rule of writing.

Secondly, I think you make an excellent point about liberals and archetypes -- though in this case I would prefer the word "trope" because I don't think these are genuine archetypes so much as liberal tropes. They have certain views that they've reduced to caricatures of reality and they repeat those mindlessly every time. Thus, for example, oppressed blacks are actually well educations, noble and with greater skills than all around them. Once they are given the change, they will always show up all the whites who have oppressed them. Similarly, the evil whites will instantly lose their racism and accept the blacks as brothers without a second thought. And in liberal minds, there is no reason to "show" any of this because "it just is."

It never dawns on them how condescending this idea is. It's like telling blind people "hey, you don't have any problems because your other senses are now better than ours so you should be happy."

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I don't think archetypes is the right word either. Archetypes are single issue characters which usually represent a position and they are meant to be shown at an extreme end of the spectrum to make an intellectual point. For example, the characters in The Fountainhead or Atlas Schrugged are archetypes because they represent things like capitalism and socialism and government and individualism.

I think "tropes" is the right word here. These are stock characters and stock set ups used to convey "conventional wisdom" on the left of "how we know things are," whether they are like that or not. They are meant to put liberals in a comfort zone where the good guys and bad guys are clear and all of their beliefs about reality are taken to be true even if that's simply not reality.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I think what you're touching on is that liberalism is a worldview without principles and I mean that in the literal sense. They will tell you that they believe in many things, i.e. equality, fairness, goodness, etc. But none of these have actual meaning to them. Instead, they are all situational and they mean different things depending on what they like and what they don't.

Thus, stealing from a poor man is horrible, unless he was a jerk. Stealing from the rich is ok, unless he's a good liberal. Killing someone is unacceptable, unless they're worse than you, or unless you grew up in a broken home, or unless the races were aligned correctly. Equality is vital, unless it results in unequal results then it needs to be fixed, unless the unequal results are biased in favor of the right people. Etc.

They think they believe in ideas, but they don't. What they ultimately believe in is "I will favor whoever I feel deserves it." And when that is your worldview, you are not someone who grasps or cares about consistency or who can share the worldview of others.

Story-wise, this does two things:

1. It means that the rules of the "story universe" are not relevant. Only the outcomes matters -- Indi's point. If Person A is better than Person B because of some bias in the liberal writer, then Person A must win no matter what.

2. To generate the characters the liberal must reach for certain well-worn tropes which are designed to make sure the characters fit their worldview. Thus, for example, all blacks "suffer" racism. But since they also must prevail (see Rule 1), they can't actually suffer the effects of racism because they need to be shown to be better than all of their oppressors. It wouldn't do to suggest that there is any legitimate basis for racists to have their beliefs. Thus, they will all be shown as ultra-educated, have ultra-strong personalities, and having extraordinary skills.

Similarly, retarded kids have hidden wisdom or special math skills that will be needed at the end of the film. This is necessary to the liberal mind to show that anyone who thinks retarded children should not be treated exactly like normal kids is wrong. It's not just enough for liberals to believe in the principle of equality, they need to actually believe that in reality they are exactly alike.

This is what I see going on all the time with liberals. They are struggling to digest contradictory “beliefs” and then distort reality to conform to what they want it to be like at that particular moment.

tryanmax said...

liberalism is a worldview without principles

Exactly! In fact, I just said that to a friend over the phone because our conversation was very close to this one. When one is without principles, then he requires a set of arbitrary rules to live by. The thing I forgot to put in my last post is that those rules operate by another equally arbitrary set of rules.

So you get things like oppression is bad unless you oppress the oppressor. And, of course, the definition of who is or is not an oppressor is equally arbitrary. The point is, there is a massive web of rules to keep track of, and it is a wonderment that anyone would bother to track them, but the liberal must because they make his world livable in the absence of principle.

As it relates to the movie, I would imagine the average liberal viewer would not notice all the plot hole and would actually be comforted by them. I would not even be surprised if, having the holes pointed out, the liberal would defend them much as you explained, Andrew; i.e. the rules don't matter because the message is more important. He does not see how the lack of structure strips the message of meaning.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, ....I take it you told your friend to start visiting the site, right? ;)

Seriously, well said! I think you're right that liberalism is an inconsistent set of rules premised on dozens of other inconsistent and often times conflicting biases: X is better than Y, Y is better than Z, Z is better than X. And in the end, there is no way to predict how liberals will ultimately resolve any particular conflict except the most obvious ones.

Indeed, when their conflicting rules clash, it can be quite nasty, such as when feminists end up pitted against blacks because of a rape allegation.

I think you're right that liberals would not see the plot holes because they live with similar logic holes in their own lives and they have learned to simply ignore the gaps. And you're right that they would ultimately fall back to something along the lines of "that doesn't matter, all that matters is ____," and thereby declare their intent to ignore the hole to achieve a particular outcome. Then they would sort through their list of insane rules until they found the highest valued outcome.

tryanmax said...

Of course I have told her to come, but she's not much of a web user. I email her articles from the site that I think she'll find interesting.

tryanmax said...

Another example of conflicting rules clash is the unions vs. the environmentalists.

My captcha is "pubsquid" which I think could make a very funny cartoon.

AndrewPrice said...

You should try the patented "Commentarama Brainwash Pills!" They make you want to visit the site. The one bad side-effect is a craving for oatmeal cookies, but that can't be helped. :(

"pubsquid"? That sounds like the name of some comic strip!

On the unions, I think liberalism is crawling with these kinds of conflicts and none of them have (or can be) resolved because there is no set of principles that would allow it. It's like two kids screaming at each other: "Mine!" and "No, mine!" There just is no way to settle the issue.

Individualist said...

ScottDS ** S[poiler Alert **

Andrew's points in the Adjustment bureau remind me of this. The story is strained because it revolves around warping some metaphor to prove facets of a liberal politcal science lecture. The Watchmen was so blatant that one could not help notice the sledgehammer that was being dropped on one's psyche. Once I
noticed it the other items seem to be more noticeable.

To me this is something lacking. The characters in Red Tails gave these speeches that seemed lacking in passion. The one character punches out a fellow officer in a bar for calling him the N-Word and ends up in the brig.

The Colonel chews him out but then tells him how much he respects him and how he should use his mind touching the man's forehead. I just could not see a combat soldier ever talking like that. Did not matter though because this had to be "a mind is a terrible thing to waster" moment and to heck with whether the film made sense. You end up missing the next three minutes of the film because your mind is saying WTF.....

Conservatives in my experience tend to discuss there philosophy directly in venues dedicated to it without hiding it in metaphor and story. When they go to see a play or movie they just want entertainment. When the movie does represent some political or philosophical point they pretty much expect for it to be generated from the organic nature of the story.

Liberals in my experience, some of them anyways, tend to be so engrossed in making sure that they udnerstand what every character represents andthat the proper message is put forth by the plot that the actual story told becomes secondary.

I remember a guyu talking to me about why some play was so great and I kept explaining problems I had with the characters actions seeming unreal to me. He started explaining the nuances of what everyone represented and when I pressed about how the actual story felt I was told, it did not matter. I'll admit I was young at the time and the menaing of this eluded me but I think I am at least seeing this.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, What you're describing is called "speaking in code." That's something liberals do all the time (it actually forms the basis of political correctness). They are basically trying to send messages without having the courage to actually state what the message is because the message sounds ridiculous when it's spoken out loud.

Thus, in the speech you mention from the one officer, the point they are making is: "you acted correctly, but the system won't let me say that and we should excuse violence in a good cause."

This is also a sop to the liberals in the audience who like to judge the past based on modern standards and who like to think that if only they had been there then they would have made everything better. In this instance, you know that white liberals will see this speech as "that's what I would have done because I am so enlightened I would never have seriously punished him for that 'offense.'" You hear this all the time.... "if I had been there, I would have stood up to Hilter/freed the slaves/protected the Indians from the honkeys, etc." It's liberal revisionist porn. It makes them feel morally superior to pretend that they would have been generations ahead of their time.

It also denigrates the people who actually did fight for change. But then liberals don't care about the people who actually make the change because style is all that matters to them -- not substance. You see this in the heroes they select (and how they turn them into mythical figures) and where they do things like ludicrously driving their SUVs to an environmental rally, litering when they get there, achieving nothing, and yet describing themselves as brave and heroic for "taking a stand."

It's all the same thing. It's about self-aggrandizement.

tryanmax said...

Indie, what you are describing is precisely the problem I had with the way literature (and also history) was taught in HS and college. The discussion never centered on the message of the story itself, only on picking apart the minutia. The latter would be fine so long as it were kept in the context of the former, but that was never the case, so it seemed pointless.

I can see this being much of the problem with our society in general: we've trained a whole bunch of micro-thinkers with no macro context. Most of the time, this results in simple myopia, i.e. single issue oriented people who champion their one cause and will follow anyone who says they champion it also. Occasionally this results in what I can only describe as "big picture myopia." That is a person who is intent on a grand vision with no concept of how to achieve it. Also known as politicians.

The reason I can't call these latter sort big picture thinkers is because that would be someone who is able to zoom in and out on the big picture and see and understand all the smaller workings of the larger whole. Not to toot my own horn, but that is the way I have always tried to think and learn and, wouldn't you know it, I was so often chastised by peers and teachers for being a "small thinker." It took me some years to unravel that.

tryanmax said...

RE: "speaking in code" This is my biggest aggravation of liberals because they project this habit onto conservatives and conservatives respond by adopting the code. The trouble is, the code is constantly changing for the purpose of stymieing outsiders/conservatives, so adopting it is a fool's game.

We saw a lot of this in the last election and 0bama's first year. The race "experts" took any criticism of "the 0ne" and extrapolated a racist "code" from the most innocuous of phrases. The only thing that stopped it was that it was taken to ridiculous extremes. If the 0bamatons had been more restrained about it, they could be doing it still today.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That is a problem with our politicians across the board. They are either big or small thinkers, but none of them can do both.

Santorum is blinded by his one issue and can't see anything else. He's easily the most blind of the candidates and the most dangerous.

Next comes Obama, who is a big picture thinker, with zero ability to see smaller details. But his big picture is also fuzzy because he's not very smart. He sees vague broad goals but has no vision of what he actually wants: "fix healthcare." That's not a useful thought. Fix it in what way?

Then comes Paul who is Obama with a brain. He's a big picture thinker who knows what he would like, but doesn't bother with the littler details of how it works at the smaller level. "Live by the Constitution" is as meaningless as "fix healthcare."

Then you have Newt, who is a small thinker who has learned to fake saying some big picture things but doesn't really have a big picture. He's probably the least principled in the group.

Then you have Mitt, who is a small thinker and also can't see the big picture. But at least he seems to understand this.

What's missing is anyone who has the big picture vision and actually understands the details of how their big picture would work.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That's true on all points. Liberals love to project their own sins on others. And they constantly attack conservatives for speaking in code, which conservatives don't do (with the possible exception of certain religious conservatives like Santorum -- who, as you've seen, is not a real conservative).

And it drives me nuts that conservatives fall for this, and they do fall for this -- repeatedly. It's shameful and stupid and cowardly.

You're also right about the "criticism of Obama is racist" attacks. If they hadn't overplayed their hand, it would probably still be working.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't watch after Blunt's character puts Damon's phone in his coffee and then they both laugh. Cmon!

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, That was indeed a truly stupid moment. I can't think of anyone who would think it would be funny if someone else destroyed their phone. Heck, most people probably don't even keep their phonebooks in paper form anymore and would lose half their numbers.

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