Saturday, June 19, 2010

Movie Musing: Short Circuit 2 and Violence

What the Hell was up with 80's childrens' movies?

Watching Short Circuit 2, I'm struck by the realization that even Resevoir Dogs wasn't this violent. Mr. Blonde only takes an this, we watch two thugs hack the main character apart. They take an axe to him. Hitting one of the thugs in the ass with a big remote-controlled plane doesn't make that any less horrific.

Then, instead of the sob-filled conversation between a mortally wounded Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth, we get to watch Johnny 5 make his horribly maimed, spark-dripping way down the street to sad violin music. Please recall, this is after he ran through a crowd, screaming out for any sort of help, completely ignored by the confused amateur aereonauts. These are people, note, who watch a man with an axe running through a park and don't think to ask what's happening.

The 'bot can't even talk. When the sleazy swindler feller catches up to him, Johnny has to write on the wall with chalk to communicate that he is dying.

Johnny's triage instructions provide an interesting theological argument: "My memory is me. If it loses power, I die." I would have been 4, maybe 5, when I saw this movie. I'm not sure if a 5 year old needs exposure to that sort of material (though I suppose I'd been going to Sunday school for a time by then).

What renders all of this more ridiculous from the perspective of someone watching in 2010 is that Johnny proudly proclaims he has 500 MB of memory. This heart-wrenching examination of morality and survival is presented in the words of a character with less memory than the flash drive I bought years ago.

Despite, or perhaps because of, all of this, Short Circuit is very much a part of my life. When the villains are hiding their ill-gotten gems they use a bunch of plastic dinosaurs (and at least one Kaiju). I still have two of the creatures sitting on the table during that scene. Rewatching it now, I wrestle with the question of whether or not kids' movies today ought to treat their audience with a similar presumption of maturity. I know there's a vast gulf between G and PG, but I've seen PG-13 movies made in the last five years with less profanity and certainly less visceral violence.

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