Published at: Feb. 6, 2009, 9:14 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
The problem with PUSH is not so much that which you will actually see on the screen. Rather, the problem is more about what you won’t see. PUSH is actually a fun little film, a pop song version of a Vertigo style storyline crammed full of cool ideas, a neat mythology and some great young talent. But if you’ve seen the movie JUMPER, then you know exactly what’s wrong with this film – because they both suffer from the same debilitating flaw.
They were made by people who wanted to make a series more than they wanted to tell a story.
A good film has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Everyone knows that. But having an ending doesn’t mean that the story just stops – or that many of the ideas introduced have a resolution. No. Having an ending means that you feel like you’ve heard the whole story; it means that when you walk out of the theater, while you may want to spend more time with those characters, THIS story is over with. A first film in a proposed series on the other hand, doesn’t. And every flaw that PUSH has stems from the fact that when you get to the end of the movie, many of the characters walk off into the sunset talking about a sequel.
The biggest problem with the film is that it is a setup story. It merely wants to introduce us to the characters. No one has anything resembling a real character arc and everyone’s backstory is boiled down into a short piece of dialog that they can drop on the audience in a matter of seconds. By the end of the film you know more about how the character’s powers work than you actually do the characters themselves. Who the hell is Dakota Fanning supposed to be anyway? She can see the future. Her mom could too. But she’s not good at it. They’ll tell you all that. What you’ll never understand is what effect seeing the future actually has on a 13-year old girl, or what she’s had to do to stay alive with people chasing her. Because that’s not important. She’s not a little girl who can see the future – she a plot point delivery device.
That’s not to say that making a character out of her isn’t their intent. But you won’t see any real character out of ANYONE in this movie. They are powers, not people. And that’s always the biggest sin of any comic book style movie. Every bit of information we’re given feels like they’re keeping three or four other secrets to go with it – secrets we’ll see in another movie. There are characters mentioned but never seen; story angles hinted at but never fleshed out; and an entire plot structure that revolves around a McGuffin that doesn’t even serve a real purpose in this film. At all.
By the time you get to the end of the film, you don’t feel like a single character has been used up, that a single person has accomplished anything or that this film served any purpose but to show you some cool special effects and introduce you to characters who you might give a shit about later. And the effect leaves you feeling rather hollow throughout the whole film. Not a bit of it really resonates because we’re never given a reason to care about these characters. Oh sure the government is EVIL…because the government is ALWAYS EVIL in these things. But that’s not reason enough to root for our good guys. Unfortunately, it will have to do. Because that’s all the motivation there is here.
Walking out of this, I felt like I’d just watched a mediocre TV pilot. Something cool, but lacking, that made me say “Yeah, I’ll watch a few more episodes and see if it gets any better before I make up my mind.” If the next movie kicks ass and weaves in a number of plot points that explains some of the weaker points of this film, GREAT! But that doesn’t make this a good movie now. As a film, PUSH fails because while it has several fun moments and ideas, it isn’t really a very good story. It’s just the beginning of what could be a very good story. THE MATRIX, STAR WARS, HIGHLANDER, ALIEN. These are great first stories that were able to spawn larger, more evolved mythos. But when you finish watching them, you never feel like they haven’t told you the whole story. This does.
I feel like I was cheated out of what could be a good movie because they wanted me to watch three movies instead. There’s nothing wrong with trying to design a series of films – but when you can’t write it solidly enough to make us feel like we saw the whole thing when we didn’t, you have failed. You want an audience to want to return to your story because the last one was so good, not begrudgingly because they want to find out how it ends to make the time they’ve already spent worthwhile. If they make a second film, that is exactly the reason I would see it. Not because I really liked this one – but because I would really like to like it.
And that’s no way to tell a story.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.