tek's rating: meh and a quarter

Southland Tales (R)
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This came out in 2007, but I didn't get around to seeing it until 2013. I remember before it came out being aware that the movie was just one part of the whole story, which would begin with a three-part graphic novel. And I kind of thought there was more to it than the comics and the movie, but by the time I got the DVD, I couldn't remember what else there might have been. I guess probably it was just an interactive website, but as far as I can tell that's gone now. So it's too late for me to check that out, but it probably wasn't very important, anyway. So um, I read the comics, and I should try to explain them before getting into the movie itself. But it's all pretty weird and I didn't completely follow it.

It begins on June 30, 2008, but this is an alternate future. (The movie was originally written "shortly before the September 11 attacks," according to Wikipedia, so I guess that means 2001; I'm not sure if the comics were written that early, but they must have been written at least a year or two before the time in which they're set). A man named Boxer Santaros wakes up in the Nevada desert. He gets picked up by a gambler named Fortunio Balducci. Boxer has amnesia, but Fortunio informs him of his name, and tells him he's one of the biggest movie stars in the world. He also tells Boxer that the country had changed after a pair of nuclear terrorist attacks in 2005; one in El Paso, and one in Abilene. Since then it's been difficult to cross the border between states, because of something called US-IDent, I guess. The government (particularly the Republican party) has become very Big Brother-ish. They control the internet and commerce and travel and have tons of surveillance around the country.

Anyway, Fortunio introduces Boxer to a porn star named Krysta Now, who has connections that could help them cross the border, to California. (I think the whole area where the story takes place, including Nevada and part of California and probably other states, is referred to collectively as "Southland.") Krysta tells Boxer that he'd been researching a role for a movie he was going to star in, along with her (she was becoming a legitimate actress and entrepreneur). Krysta had written the movie's screenplay, but she tells Boxer he wrote it. Um... each of the three issues of the graphic novel include several pages of the screenplay, which interrupt the normal flow of the comic itself. And it becomes fairly clear that what's going on in the screenplay bears some relation to what's going on in the "real" world (there are characters in the screenplay who seem to exist in reality), though there are differences.

Basically, there's this cop named Jericho Cane, who is to be played by Boxer. He and his partner, Chuck MacPherson, are on a case that involves a stripper named Dr. Muriel Fox (Krysta's role), who is also a psychic. And an astrophysicist (or something). And there's a woman named Tawna McBride, who has a baby named Caleb, who eventually turns out to be, like, the second coming of Christ, or something. I guess. And I think that's all I want to say about the screenplay. Except that at various points in the graphic novel, I would forget whether I'd read something in the screenplay or the main part of the comics. But it probably doesn't matter.

In part two, we meet a guy named Ronald Taverner, who also has amnesia. And apparently his destiny is linked to Boxer's. Anyway, Ronald has a twin brother named Roland, who's been kidnapped by Neo-Marxists, who are in opposition to US-IDent. Ronald is introduced to someone named Zora Charmichaels, who takes him to Los Angeles. The Neo-Marxists want Ronald to impersonate Roland, who had been a soldier in Iraq (in World War III, I guess), but was now a cop. Meanwhile, there's a company called the Treer Corporation, which created mega-zeppelins, as well as something called Fluid Karma, which produces wireless electricity that could power pretty much everything in the world, I guess. Though Fluid Karma also is used as injections that are part of some experiment that apparently gives people psychic powers. And I guess Boxer and Ronald have both been given these injections.

In part three, we meet a Republican senator named Bobby Frost, and his wife, Nana Mae Frost, and their daughter, Madeline, who is Boxer's wife. I guess Bobby is running for vice president, and Nana Mae is the head of US-IDent. And they're working with a guy named Baron von Westphalen, who had invented Fluid Karma. And he has a mysterious girlfriend named Serpentine. And um, there are tons of other characters introduced throughout the graphic novel series, and I couldn't really keep track of them all, who they were affiliated with and what they were doing, and all that. It's weird. And the comics do a certain amount of skipping around in time, though basically within a period of a few months at most, I think. And I should mention there's lots of references to things like the Book of Revelations, and Robert Frost poetry, and... stuff.

Anyway, I was hoping the movie would help me make more sense out of everything from the comics, but in fact, I thought it made a lot less sense than the comics. I should say, there are plenty of movies that may have tie-in stories in the form of comics or whatever, where the comics aren't really necessary, but in this case, I really can't imagine watching the movie without first reading the comics. Not that it really helped improve my appreciation or understanding of the movie, but... even if I don't think the comics made the movie make more sense, I somehow feel it still would have made less sense if I hadn't read the comics. I guess. Or something.

So um... the Neo-Marxists planned for Boxer to go on a ridealong with Ronald, pretending to be the police officer Roland, to research his role as Jericho Cane. However, they had another part to this plan that I don't want to even try to explain, because it made no sense. And because the plan got shot to hell by a double-cross from within the Neo-Marxist ranks. From that point on, I haven't got a bloody clue what to tell you. It seemed to me like there were even more characters in the movie than in the comics, and I didn't feel like any of the characters talked or acted the same in the movie as in the comics. (The movie was much more comical than the comics, ironically.) I kept hoping that eventually the plot would make some kind of sense, but I'm pretty sure it didn't. Everything that happened seemed totally random and nonsensical. Eventually there's something about a rift in the space-time continuum, which could have been used to explain everything... and maybe it was, but I didn't feel that the explanation made any more sense than anything else. It seemed just as random and meaningless and incoherent as the rest of the plot. I still feel like it all could have meant something, and that the events of the film could have a huge impact on the future of the world, an impact as profound as the life and death of Jesus Christ was... but it's not even remotely clear what the impact would actually be. (Okay, there's a lot of talk throughout the comics and the movie about the end of the world, but at the end of the movie, I was definitely not left with the impression that the world was actually ending, or that any sort of Rapture was going on.)

So, in the end, all I can really say about the movie is that I liked the cast, which included The Rock, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seann William Scott, Wallace Shawn, Miranda Richardson, Zelda Rubinstein, Mandy Moore, Bai Ling, John Larroquette, Jon Lovitz, and many more.

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