Sunday, August 8, 2021

The Green Knight - A Real Hero

The pandemic stole a lot of movies from us last year, but this one (and Dune) hurt the most for me. The first trailer was atmospheric and intriguing. As someone who taught the “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” short story for years as a teacher, I was excited to see this interpretation because I am always on the lookout for new visions of old works. And while this film does take place in the appropriate time period, that’s where anything resembling a traditional interpretation ends. I’ll be SPOILING the film throughout my review, so before I get into it, I’ll just say that I loved this movie, and it lived up to and surpassed my expectations.



A Real Hero


The Knights of the Round Table stories typically make people think about bigger-than-life heroes and the mythic adventures they went on. One might argue that these stories were a kind of predecessor for comic books. These stories tell us what a hero is supposed to be. But somewhere over the years, it became more important to make these heroes nearly perfect and physically indestructible. Yes, even today’s comic book heroes have flaws and whatnot, but even with, say, Iron Man’s egotism, he’s still a billionaire genius in a robot suit. Who can relate to that? And how can an audience be expected to truly consider what it takes to be a hero with all the spectacle going on in the background as the world is inevitably saved? 


The stories of King Arthur’s knights contained plenty of spectacle, and The Green Knight certainly does, as well, but overall these stories were meant to teach the reader what it takes to be a good person by putting these knights in fantastical but relatable situations. Sir Gawain is the main knight for this type of story. 


The Green Knight, despite all its mesmerizing visuals, is a very simple story about an unproven knight being forced to decide what kind of person he is going to be. At the beginning of the film, Gawain (an absurdly good Dev Patel) is just there to have a good time. His uncle is the king, but Gawain doesn’t feel worthy of the Round Table. Instead, he spends his time, drunk, at a brothel. So his mother, Morgan le Fay, summons forth the titular knight to force Gawain’s hand. 


After accepting the challenge of delivering a blow then receiving one a year hence, Gawain isn’t changed. It’s only when Arthur tells him he must complete the game a year later that the weight of the situation hits him. Rather than charge off triumphantly, Gawain leaves as if he’s on the way to his own funeral. 


The film then turns into a sequence of events testing Gawain in the five elements of knighthood (generosity, chastity, piety, friendship, and courtesy), which he mostly fails. For a few examples: he gives the scavenger very little for his help, and has to be convinced to even give that; he succumbs to temptation with the Lady; he fails to honor the deal he made with the Lord; he asks Winifred what he will get in return for helping her, etc. Gawain is not a very good knight, which is what makes him so interesting and relatable.


Modern action and comic book movies, for all their entertainment, are severely lacking in creating real heroes. Writer/director David Lowery had to go back to the Middle Ages to find a story with a real hero. Who wouldn’t relate to Gawain’s failures? Aren’t we told constantly that “nobody’s perfect,” and we should learn to accept our failings? There’s nothing wrong with that, although the saying should be more like this: “Nobody's perfect, but you should still try to be.” 


Gawain being a bit of a failure isn’t the only relatable aspect of his character. The quest he is on, while supernatural, is actually something nearly everyone grapples with. Gawain meeting the Green Knight is mostly a spiritual quest in which he figures out what kind of person he is going to be in the face of his inevitable death. As the Lady points out during her cryptic monologue, green represents nature and how it will eventually reclaim the planet and wipe away everything humankind has ever done. In the face of this, what does facing the Knight matter? It doesn’t. What matters is what kind of person Gawain will be as he faces the Knight. We all will face our own Green Knight in this life, and we have to decide who we will be when that face-off happens.


Dealing with the inevitable death of mankind is something we’ve confronted since conscious thought began. It is truly a timeless theme, and it’s what makes The Green Knight such a relatable, though fantastic, film. Typically, a movie should serve as a diversion. But in a cinematic world clogged with spider people, thunder gods, talking rodents, tree people, and green giants, it’s actually refreshing to consider the inevitable death we all must face. And hey, The Green Knight was able to do this while still featuring a green tree person, a talking fox, and giants.




A Real Trip


If considering your inevitable death isn’t your thing, The Green Knight also works as a visual splendor. The mesmerizing camerawork and trippy visuals make the film a nearly psychedelic experience (Gawain does eat some bad mushrooms and start hallucinating during his journey). The film could very easily be enjoyed as a silent film. 


In fact, two of my friends I watched the film with (hey, Mark and Michael, do you guys ever read these?) commented on how the last portion of the film basically is silent. If you embrace the world of the film, it can be a cool, enjoyable experience. 


So when inexplicable giants show up, or the camera does a slow rotation either upside down or in a 360, or the fox starts talking, or...hell, the movie begins with the main character’s fucking head catching on fire. You’re in for some wacky shit from the get-go, and the film is much better if you just go with it and enjoy the ride.


The trippy nature of the film also means the quest is more of a mental trial than a physical one. So Gawain is not judged by his prowess with the sword. I love action films, but it was nice to see a hero’s quest that relied on his character rather than his physical abilities. Once again, it comes down to relatability. I can relate to Gawain expecting a reward for helping someone or lying about receiving something that will protect him. I can’t relate to someone hacking through hundreds of enemies with a broadsword, as awesome as that might look.


David Lowery has made his best film yet (and he’s made some great films, like A Ghost Story). The Green Knight is a very loud announcement to the cinematic world that we need to pay close attention to everything Lowery does.



A Real Actor


In a film with a lot of unexpected moments and visuals, the biggest revelation is Dev Patel’s performance, but it shouldn’t be. Ever since Slumdog Millionaire, Patel has been consistently great (before The Green Knight, I considered Lion to be his best performance). It’s not that I expected him to be bad in this movie; in fact,I consider Patel to be one of the most reliable actors out there. For The Green Knight, it all comes down to the final moments of the film.


Patel does a fine job of portraying a wayward knight who is afraid to challenge himself. But he shines when the film presents us with the possible future he would face if he ran away from his deal with the Green Knight and became king under dishonorable circumstances.


The entire sequence is wordless, yet Patel says more during these moments than in his dialogue throughout the rest of the film. As he does and witnesses terrible things (paying off his true love for their child, witnessing that child later die in war, watching as his kingdom crumbles all around him), his face says it all. This is a regretful man whose life is built on a lie.


It’s easy to look sad, but Patel conveys regret with such ease it made me realize that he’s an even greater actor than I thought. The Academy Awards are mostly a joke these days, but hopefully they can redeem themselves and at least nominate Patel for his best performance to date.



Random Thoughts


My alternate title for this article: The Green Knight - Giants and Gism.


Seriously, though, I was not expecting to see giants or semen in this movie.


The scene with the Lady in her library basically serves as an explanation of how stories continuously change throughout time. It’s kind of an argument for doing multiple adaptations of the same story forever...or until the green reclaims the planet. She talks about how she makes copies of books and makes “improvements” where she sees fit. This is what filmmakers do every time they take on an old story, such as this one, and add their own stamp to it.


I don’t know if I’m just on some kind of existential kick right now, but I love it when movies acknowledge the eventual extinction of the human race, at least on this planet. Hopefully, it’s millions of years away, but at some point (I think I learned this in school) the sun will explode and destroy Earth. It’s important to me to keep this in the back of my mind as a reminder that, historically speaking, nothing matters. This does not make me despair; it actually calms me down. I don’t need to worry about my name or accomplishments; I just need to worry about what kind of person I’m going to be and how I treat my loved ones. 


I was excited to see a non-children’s movie in the theater, and then the fucking fox started to talk. I cannot get away from talking animals! To be fair, this was more along the lines of Antichrist than Disney.


I used to teach a version of this story to seniors. Because of that, I loved that this was made at all. But I would have been very disappointed because I would not be able to show this in class (you know...because of the semen…). 


If I was able to show this in a classroom, I would have loved to point out the fantastical elements as an example of how storytellers would add interesting elements to keep your interest while also teaching a life lesson, and that each storyteller adds their own elements. Don’t get bogged down with what the giants represent or whether Winifred was real. It’s all just part of the story. Arthur asked for a myth from Gawain at the beginning of the film, so you can imagine that anyone who tells Gawain’s tale in the future would feel compelled to add some fantastical elements to add some entertainment value to what is essentially a “how-to-be-a-good-person” lesson.


My thoughts on Morgan le Fay are that she summons the Green Knight to help her son, not to punish him. She sees greater things for him, but realizes he needs a push. Also, that’s her at the Lord and Lady’s house, watching over Gawain. This is why the Lord and Lady fail to comment on the old, blind lady living with them.


Ralph Ineson is so perfect for this role. He has such an amazing voice. I still think my favorite line reading from him will always be “What went we out into this wilderness to find?” from The VVitch. But his few lines in The Green Knight are powerful (“One...year...hence.”) and even funny (“Now...off with your head.”).


Speaking of that final “off with your head” line. I felt that the Green Knight said this almost jokingly. Because of that, I don’t think Gawain dies at the end. I felt like the line was more about how mental his journey had been. But, like the director has stated, even if Gawain dies at the end, it’s not a “bad” ending because he has gained his honor by the end of his journey.



Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Jungle Cruise - What If Werner Herzog Made a Disney Adventure?

It’s been a while, but my seemingly yearly burnout has come to an end, and I’m writing about movies again. I don’t technically own Jungle Cruise, but I do have Disney+, which the film will eventually be a part of without an extra fee. Also, thanks to the studios realizing that digital screeners are a good idea, I was actually able to watch this at home rather than drive three hours to the nearest theater providing an advance screening, so it inspired me to write about a new movie for a change. Here are my thoughts.


A Sleepy Movie


Jungle Cruise is the latest attempt by Disney to turn one of its famous rides into a movie franchise a la Pirates of the Caribbean. Though it’s unlikely that Jungle Cruise will turn into the unwieldy juggernaut that the Pirates films became, it is still a very solid, and very predictable and plain, summer film. 


Predictable and plain are not typically considered a good thing when it comes to film, but in this case it was oddly refreshing. Jungle Cruise attempts to be a modern twist on classic adventure films of the 1940s. It’s a classic adventure in that the story is very simple. In 1916, a doctor (Emily Blunt) enlists the help of a con artist boat captain (Dwayne Johnson) to navigate the treacherous Amazon River in search of a fabled tree that has flowers said to be able to cure any ailment. Of course, other nefarious parties (an evil German [because why not?] and cursed conquistadors) want to find the tree, as well. Adventure, romance, action, and hijinks ensue.


The modern twist of it all lies only in some minor character elements. Emily Blunt is a woman who dares to wear pants! Which is such a big deal that “Pants” becomes her name for much of the film. Another character is gay...in 1916! And...that’s pretty much it. These elements are a bit gimmicky, but they do add another layer to a simple film. The homosexual reveal is easily the most emotional moment in the film. And the misogyny of the time is rightfully mocked (a historical society has no issue with the idea of 400-year-old cursed conquistadors [I really like typing the phrase “cursed conquistadors”], but is outraged at the idea of a female tribal chief). These elements don’t elevate Jungle Cruise beyond being a simple adventure, but they are a nice touch.


What makes all of this oddly refreshing is that Jungle Cruise is as relaxing as its title suggests. This movie is the cinematic equivalent of floating down a river. Certainly, that could be a negative experience for anyone seeking more from the film, but if you’re in this for a couple hours of distraction and not much else, then it’s exactly what you want from a summer movie. The best comparison would be to the National Treasure movies. Much like those Nicolas Cage films, there’s nothing about Jungle Cruise that’s annoying enough to hate, and even though the story isn’t as interesting (I just prefer American history, even when it’s mostly made up, to be more interesting than jungle curses), it’s just entertaining enough to enjoy.


Jungle Cruise is a good example of a sleeping movie. If you’re like me, you like to put on a movie or TV show as you fall asleep of an evening. I always try to pick something interesting enough to watch, but simple enough to fall asleep to. If I put on Aguirre, the Wrath of God at midnight, it’ll keep me up for the entire running time. But if I put on Jungle Cruise (once it’s available on Disney+ without a fee), I’ll be asleep before they even get on the boat, and that is the kind of movie I need Jungle Cruise to be.


A Werner Herzog Disney  Film


Jungle Cruise appeals to me beyond its simplicity. I’m a sucker for boat-trips-on-a-river movies. Apocalypse Now, Aguirre, and Fitzcarraldo are among my favorite films of all time. I guess it’s the sense of exploring the unknown, but the visuals of the dense, dangerous river and forest coupled with main characters on dangerous and/or insane quests just hit the cinematic sweet spot for me. That’s why Jungle Cruise is such a fun oddity to me. It features the plot points of one of the Werner Herzog films (Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo), but rather than focus on insanity or blind determination as those films do, this film is instead a family-friendly adventure. It’s as if Werner Herzog made a film for Disney.


Herzog is one of the most varied filmmakers of all time because he is interested in humanity in all its forms. It’s not impossible that he would make a fun Disney film, but it is very unlikely. Because of that, Jungle Cruise will always be an interesting watch for me as I compare it to Herzog’s river movies, and wonder what he would do differently. I like to imagine that he would try to insert more dark humor and a bit more of a focus on insanity. For instance, Dwayne Johnson’s character (SPOILERS from here on out), revealed to be one of the undead, cursed conquistadors, could be portrayed as genuinely insane due to his centuries-long life on the river rather than the pun-spewing con artist he is in the film. Johnson is a stronger actor than he is given credit for, and when allowed to go a bit crazy, he can turn in a memorable performance. Instead, he’s just the Rock on a boat.


But maybe Herzog wouldn’t have been meant to direct such a film. He has turned up as an actor here and there, most notably as a villain in Jack Reacher and The Mandalorian. I liked Jesse Plemons’s manic performance as the crazed German prince in this film (even if I somehow missed just why he is crazed aside from the need to turn any German villain in a film set in the early 20th century into a crazy person), but imagine Werner Herzog in the role instead. He would be much more menacing, and he can seem crazy without going big. I just picture Herzog talking to a bee (as Plemons does late in the film), and I think of the missed opportunity.


Herzog in The Mandalorian is probably the most Disney we will ever get, but at least Jungle Cruise provided me enough to wonder what could have been.


Random Thoughts/Favorite Quotes


Didn’t expect this to start with an orchestral version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.”


I prefer Werner Herzog’s story of Aguirre.


This would be a very different movie if those swords Emily Blunt knocked down at the beginning killed those dudes, but then Jesse Plemons wouldn’t have anyone to kill…


Within the first ten minutes I got some Aguirre (because, well, Aguirre is a character), The Mummy (because of the academic love interest with a dipshit brother), Pirates of the Caribbean (because of the curse), The Lost City of Z (because of the Amazon and the historical society stuff), and Fitzcarraldo (because of the boat) vibes.


“Might be me. Warm, liquid fear.”


That jaguar scene looked bad, and was pretty fucking pointless. How does fighting a jaguar prove that the Rock can successfully navigate the Amazon? I’m glad it’s revealed that he set the whole thing up since the fight was so ridiculous, but it definitely felt like tacked on shit because there hadn’t been enough “action” yet in the film.


Is Paul Giammatti just the go-to now when a film needs an extra, unnecessary villain?


"I don't trust you as far as I can throw you. Which clearly isn't very far, because you are huge." At over an hour in, this is only the second time anyone has mentioned the gigantic stature of the Rock. I kind of like that they mostly ignore it, but it's also more plausible to believe in a curse that turns a conquistador into a bee monster than it is to ignore what the Rock looks like compared to other humans.


Even as a snake monster, this Aguirre isn't as crazy as Kinski's version.


Jesse Plemons is having a very good time playing the evil German.


I honestly don’t understand how the flowers at the end of the film work exactly, and why they can’t just get a ton of them. But, in the film’s defense, I kind of shut down during some of the exposition in the later part of the movie.


..

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Apocalypse Now: Final Cut - "Just When I Thought I Was Out, Coppola Pulled Me Back In!"

Before feeling the need to write about Zack Snyder’s Justice League and that director’s need for various cuts of his films, I was going to write about the “Final Cut” of one of favorite films of all time: Apocalypse Now. It turns out writing about Snyder made for a great transition to Francis Ford Coppola, who recently got to re-edit one of his past films, The Godfather: Part III. That new edit made people revisit a famously reviled film and many came away with a more positive reaction (myself included), which is fairly similar to what is currently going on with Snyder’s version of Justice League. Since I’ve already written about Coppola’s new edit of Part III, I figured I’d write about his latest edit of Apocalypse Now, which came out a year and a half ago. The difference with Apocalypse Now is that the film has been considered great since its original release, yet Coppola has revisited the film twice. I want to get into why Coppola can’t leave the film alone (and if that’s a bad thing), why I love the film in general, and which version is my favorite.


The Final Cut - “Why the Fuck Would He Do That?”


Apocalypse Now is arguably more famous for the drama behind the scenes than what ended up onscreen. I’m not about to attempt to get into everything that happened (especially when there are numerous special features you can dive into, including the excellent documentary, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse [which is included with most versions of the film]), suffice it to say that Coppola ended up as figuratively and literally upriver as Colonel Kurtz. So if the filming of Apocalypse Now was such a trial for the filmmaker, then why keep coming back to it?


I would like to make the case that making the film was truly like a war for Coppola, and he simply can’t shake the experience. That might be true, but I don’t like how that trivializes actual war. More likely, Coppola has felt the need to re-edit this film because he famously feuds with studios and felt like he had more freedom as time passed to do what he truly wanted to do. With Apocalypse Now, he originally released the Redux version, which basically just included a ton of stuff that ended up being cut from the theatrical release. Apparently, Coppola didn’t consider this a director’s cut so much as a kitchen sink version of the film.


When the time came for a 40th anniversary screening of the film, Coppola was asked which version he wanted them to screen. This is when it occurred to him that neither the Redux or the theatrical cut were his preferred version of the film. And now we have the “Final Cut.” 


I believe Coppola when he claims the Redux wasn’t a director’s cut, but I do think the theatrical cut was the movie he wanted to release at the time. My theory is that Coppola’s taste has changed over the years, and this means his preferred cut for his movies has changed. It’s no different than a viewer revisiting a movie from the past and having a different reaction to it; the difference is that the viewer doesn’t have the power to change the movie. 


Coppola certainly butted heads with studios over the years, but he actually had a lot of freedom when it came to Apocalypse Now. Why else would he be allowed to extend production so far beyond the original plan? Not to mention, he put up a lot of his own money to get the film made. Because of this, I think the theatrical was what he wanted to release at the time. And forty years later, he wanted to change things up. But should he even do this?


Director’s cuts tend to be the better versions of most movies. They are often an attempt by the studio to correct their mistake in hampering the original vision of the director. This is why you get the celebrated versions of Blade Runner, Kingdom of Heaven, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, etc. Typically, a director knows what the best version of the film is. But what if a director does this to a movie people already like and that is already successful? Most famously, George Lucas has revisited the original trilogy of Star Wars to the point that fans have been campaigning for years for the theatrical cuts of those films to get a proper release. They feel his tinkering has fundamentally changed the films they fell in love with. 


I had a similar reaction to Redux. I found the included scenes to ruin the pace and/tone of the theatrical cut. The difference here, though, is that every time a new cut of Apocalypse Now is released on the latest technology, it also includes the theatrical cut. That’s where Lucas, and now Disney, messes up. Change the films all you want, but give fans access to what they loved originally. I don’t care if Coppola and Lucas change their movies once a year, as long as I have access to the version I prefer.


Part of me thinks that directors should generally leave their movies alone, unless the movie was taken away from them, and a director’s cut is the only way to achieve their vision. I like the idea that once a piece of art is out there, it belongs to the world. But the movie fan in me wants to see new versions of films, as long as each version of the film is preserved. I’m down for Coppola’s next “final cut” of Apocalypse Now, if he wants to change it again. I have my copy of the theatrical cut no matter what, so I’m good.



The Voice-over...the Voice-over...


It would probably make more sense for me to move on to which version of Apocalypse Now is my favorite, but I feel the need to explain what I loved about the original cut before I can explain what I don’t like about the two newer cuts.


I love Apocalypse Now for all the reasons you would expect. I find that it captures the absurdity of war while also remaining entertaining. All the famous lines are great, and I just dig movies where characters have to go on a metaphorical and literal journey into the unknown/jungle (this is probably why I’m also a huge fan of Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, the Wrath of God). But what makes Apocalypse Now stand out to me is Martin Sheen’s voice-over. 


In a film with surfing in a war zone and some of the most iconic lines in film history, my favorite moments are of Willard going through Kurtz’s file. When I watched this when I was much younger, it was the first time I encountered a movie with a voice-over that included cussing. “Why the fuck would he do that?” is still one of my favorite lines from the film. It made me realize that good voice-over can add a realism and darkness to a film that couldn’t be accomplished otherwise. How else could Coppola convey Willard’s surprise at Kurtz’s actions in that scene in an effective way.


I get defensive about the voice-over in Apocalypse Now because narration in films in general is frowned upon. Its use breaks the classic rule: show, don’t tell (which is why I titled this section as a play on “The horror…” line). I get that, but the narration in this film is telling. Yes, it’s exposition, but it’s setting up Kurtz’s character while also revealing Willard’s through his reactions and attempts to understand Kurtz. A line early in the film explains why the voice-over is necessary: “There is no way to tell his story without telling my own. And if his story really is a confession, then so is mine.” The voice-over is Willard’s confession, and we’re the absolving priest for listening to it.


Obviously Coppola felt strongly about the narration, as well, since he gives a credit just for the narration to Michael Herr (who also received the same credit for Coppola’s The Rainmaker), who’s an authority on Vietnam since he was a war correspondent who went on to write Dispatches and the screenplay for Full Metal Jacket. Coppola realized how important the voice-over would be, both for the story and for the authenticity of the film.


In that regard, I find it perfect. The voice-over provides plenty of character development while also placing you in the mind of a soldier. For me, it draws me into the film completely. Once Willard’s narration begins, I’m in for the whole film. Or the whole theatrical cut, I should say.



Favorite Cut - “You’re Looking at the [Redux]. Sometimes He Goes Too Far.”


In general, when I love a movie and a version with more footage comes out, I get interested. If I loved two plus hours of this, then surely I’ll love another hour of it. But that just isn’t the case for me with this film. 


Coppola kind of admits this by even creating the “Final Cut.” This cut is his way of saying Redux was just too much. But it’s not just that it’s too much, it’s that the majority of the added material seems to be from a different movie. I want to break down three major additions to Redux: stealing Kilgore’s surfboard, meeting up with the Playboy bunnies, and the...ugh...French plantation sequence.


Due to the voice-over, Willard comes across as a very serious killer. He’s not completely joyless or emotionless, but he’s there for a job (which would explain his killing of the injured woman on the boat and the crew of the PT boat not exactly loving him). This is a bit different from John Milius’s script, which presented itself more as a version of The Odyssey AND Heart of Darkness. Updating The Odyssey into a more modern setting, no matter how dark, still leads to goofiness (just look at how it works in the Depression in O Brother, Where Art Thou?), and that clashed with the Heart of Darkness storyline. So when Milius’s Odyssey stuff is left in, it makes the film feel like two separate stories with two different main characters. 


With The Odyssey adaptation in mind, that makes Kilgore the Cyclops, who is defeated by the wittiness of Odysseus. In this case, it means Willard has to steal Kilgore’s surfboard to defeat him. That kind of bold movie might work for Odysseus, but for Willard it’s uncharacteristic. What had he done so far to suggest he would do such a thing?


Yes, he clearly had a disdain for Kilgore, who he sees as fighting a different kind of war. Stealing the surfboard in itself isn’t necessarily against his character; his reaction is, however. Willard jumps onto the boat with the board, laughing. Later, he jokes around with the guys on the boat as a chopper flies by playing a recorded message from Kilgore pleading for his lost eye...I mean, surfboard. It creates a bonding moment with the guys on the boat that disappears in other scenes.


After besting the Cyclops, Willard and his crew must deal with the Playboy bunnies, sirens who keep them from their mission. Once again, this is simply not in keeping with other scenes. It feels shoe-horned in to fit this Odyssey theme.


Finally, and worstly, we get the French plantation scene. In an already long movie, the film grinds to a complete halt as we deal with the Lotus Eaters of Milius’s script. The French serve as an unnecessary history lesson for the film and as a warning to Willard, and America, to respect the Vietnamese resolve. Once again, this takes away from the stronger Heart of Darkness aspect of the film. As a loose adaptation of Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now is a film about war in general and the madness and abuse of power that comes with it. Including the French makes this movie just about the Vietnam War, which turns it into more of a historical document than a statement about war itself. 


Most importantly, the French plantation sequence is just way too long, and it makes the film lose focus. I get that that is part of the point, but when there’s already a great theatrical cut of this film, why fuck it up with a French dinner scene? 


When the “Final Cut” was announced, I assumed this would be the first thing to go. Nope. Instead, Coppola mainly just got rid of the extra Playboy bunny stuff. Because of this, I do prefer this cut to Redux, but neither of them are even close to the theatrical cut.


What I wished Coppola had done instead was make a cut of the film that omitted as much of the Heart of Darkness stuff as possible and inserted all The Odyssey stuff. There might be a way to make two completely different versions of this film with a completely different main character. I would find that infinitely more fascinating than just adding shit in that doesn’t jive with the rest of the movie. I like The Odyssey stuff in itself and thematically, but I hate how it clashes with the film I know and love.


I’m glad to have these two alternate cuts of Apocalypse Now, but I feel that most of the stuff added could’ve just been presented as deleted scenes. Perhaps others really dig all the extra stuff, but for me, whenever I watch Apocalypse Now in the future, it will always be the theatrical cut.


Why Do I Own This?


Apocalypse Now is one of my favorite movies of all time. Until recently, I would tell people that it was my singular favorite film ever (now, if I’m forced to pick just one, I go with The Thing). So I’ve bought this movie multiple times. I had the original cut on DVD, then I got the “Complete Dossier” version, then I got the “Full Disclosure” version, and now I have the “Final Cut.” Let’s hope it truly is final because buying a movie this many times is pretty fucking stupid.



Random Thoughts/Favorite Quotes*


*Just assume I dig all the famous quotes, too. I just don’t feel the need to type out all the lines everybody loves. 


On IMDb trivia, it claims that Martin Sheen’s brother, Joe Estevez, provided the voice-over while Sheen recovered from his heart attack. But this is the only place I have found this info, so I doubt this was the case. But if it is true, well done, Joe Estevez!


I'm a huge Doors fan, so any film that starts with "The End" is a winner in my book.


"If his story is a confession, then so is mine."


G. D. Spradlin is perfect casting for a general that's giving nefarious orders while sounding folksy as fuck.


"...this [...] army of his that worship the man like a god. And follow every order, however ridiculous." Sounds familiar…


I love the absurdity of the general and CIA dude having this discussion with Willard during a meal.


Jerry the CIA dude is perfectly normal looking, which makes him kind of terrifying.


Originally, the soundtrack was going to be nothing but Doors songs. I would totally dig that, but I can't imagine this movie without its score now. It's so perfectly eerie. 


Aside from some diegetic music, the music of the film is fitting for a horror film, which it is.


"Airborne? He was 38 years old. Why the fuck would he do that?"


Kilgore's salute and general disdain towards Willard always amuses me.


Kilgore's interaction with the dying VC soldier perfectly encapsulates his character. Honorable enough to give water to a dying enemy, but enough of a dick to get distracted while doing so and pour the water just out of reach of the soldier's mouth.


I always forget that R. Lee Ermey is in this (Kilgore's helicopter pilot).


"What do you know about surfing? You're from goddamn New Jersey!"


I've watched this movie dozens of times, but I can never tell what the Playboy promoter guy throws on the ground before he takes off on the chopper.


Willard is seen as so brutal for killing the injured woman on the boat, but I don't think it's any worse than the initial shooting.


The pure chaos of the situation at the bridge that keeps being destroyed and rebuilt is terrifying. I'm sure all war is chaotic, but that seems particularly insane.


Ugh...the French plantation section.


So we’re two hours in and we still haven’t seen Kurtz onscreen, so let’s stop to eat dinner and smoke opium with the fuckin’ Frenchies?


The annoying sounds Harry and Lloyd make in Dumb & Dumber don't have shit on the noise Lance makes when they're going through the fog.


Chief kind of gets on my nerves (I think he cuts Clean too much slack and always seems to be harsh on Chef), but I respect his decision to try to choke out Willard as he dies.


"The heads. You're looking at the heads. Sometimes he goes too far."


Kurtz talking about the Ohio River always interests me because I live in a town on the Ohio River. I’ve never come across an abandoned gardenia plantation, but I have been on the river many times and come across stretches where there is nothing on either side and felt an odd peace being in a place with no signs of civilization. I hope I’m not becoming like Kurtz…


“We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won’t allow them to write ‘fuck’ on their airplanes because it’s obscene!”