' ' Cinema Romantico: Misapplications of Star Power

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Misapplications of Star Power

“Eternals”, the 554th movie in the ongoing 10 jillion Marvel movie series, opened over the weekend. As I did not see it, I have no thoughts. Or, at least, I should have no thoughts. Because if I did not see it, what is there to say? And yet. I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself. Because during the week social media was inundated with an “Eternals” clip, one uploaded by the MarvelHD+ Twitter handle, showing Angelina Jolie, 54th moon of Jupiter, with some kind of glowing movie weapon in each hand, twirling and fighting a dragon [Editor: plz verify if dragon]. “Who cares about the Rotten Tomatoes score,” MarvelHD+ asked, “I came here for Angelina Jolie being a badass.” Show me someone who professes not to care about a Rotten Tomatoes score and I will show you someone who cares about a Rotten Tomatoes score all the livelong day aside, this post was a kind of pre-riposte, I assume, to the people who tend to crap all over these movies. Of course, the clip lent itself to all kinds of crap, given the glaringly obvious cut from green screen to real location. It’s not as bad as the late period Elvis movie where you can literally see the stuntman fall from a window and land safely on the ground when the editing cut is a beat to slow, but it, eh, wasn’t good, especially for something that cost [eyes bulge] $200 million? Honestly, though, what bothered me most about the clip wasn’t even the editing, though yikes, but the whole intent of the post in the first place.

There is another whole post to be written here, one about Jolie being, as MarvelHD+ said, a badass, underlining how often that is the only way in which we, the general audience, can think of complex female characters: as badasses. For purposes of this post, though, I don’t want to define badass as that kind of badass but as Movie Star. I know, I know, I’m sorry, loyal frustrated followers, I go on and on (and on) about Movie Stars, about the properly using the camera to harness their power, about how Angelina Jolie is rarely utilized as the Movie Star she is and here I go again. But has it ever been laid so plain as in that clip? Imagine if you were looking at the 54th moon of Jupiter at some cutting-edge observatory but someone on the other end of the telescope was futzing things up with a hand puppet show. And though “Wanted (2008)”, while not Marvel, was a comic book movie too, despite an abundance of its own action movie dipsy doo, like curving bullets, it contained one of the preeminent case studies in Jolie Movie Stardom. 

It happens at a pharmacy where meek cubicle lifer Wesley (James McAvoy), destined, as characters in such movies are, to become a super duper secret assassin, has gone to pick up a prescription. As he waits in line, he senses someone to his left and looks over. 

That someone not so casually tries to act as if he was not looking, ducking back behind the shelf.

We return to the previous shot, though now Angelina Jolie’s subtly named Fox has entered the frame. And...that’s it. She’s not in the shot and then she is in the shot. In this moment, at least, director Timur Bekmambetov honored the ancient cinematic equation, Less = More, a reminder that silver screen immortality can be summoned from nothing more than just standing there.

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