I have noted that much of the difficulty that people have in regards to assessing this movie is an unwllingness or inability to let go of certain expectations and presumptions so that they may view the material strictly as it is presented. This is true for the great majority of critics, but it is also true for many fans, especially when it comes to the character of Lex Luthor. How you analyze Wallace Keefe’s role in the film depends chiefly on how you analyze Lex’s. It’s easy to look at the character of Lex and interpret the storytelling in a way that supports the idea of the genius master criminal with the intricate two-year plan because ridiculously complicated schemes are what we expect from the character of Lex Luthor. A super-villains gotta super-villain, right? So we allow for certain assumptions to be made, regardless of how reasonable they may or may not be, because we understand Lex as a character that is as intellectually capable as Superman is physically. But that expectation flies in the face of the fact that every other aspect of the films storytelling is firmly rooted in some logical process. Just making sure to leave enough information on screen to allow for an analysis like this to even occur takes a hell of a lot of work, and my appreciation for it grows exponentially every time a challenge is met.
Director Darren Aaronofsky’s 2017 sense and sensibility assaulting film Mother! is not a difficult movie to understand if you’re willing to do a little digging. The director has been very clear about what the movie is, and this information is not difficult to find. Even without the blatant explanation, the moment someone clues you in to even the slightest degree the pieces of the movie should all fall into line like Sandpeople on Bantha’s. At the risk of serving dessert before the meal, at this point it shouldn’t be a surprise that Mother! is an metaphorical retelling of the Christian bible conveyed in both an amazingly vague and yet painfully direct way. What may not be so easy to immediately grasp is the allegory the film weaves about mankind and it’s relationship with mother Earth, and what a nice house she had before we came along and fucked it all up.
Writing this has been difficult for me because I really thought I was learning something about something in this game of talking movies. But what I’ve come to realize is that no matter how much information I gather, no matter how much of the lingo I absorb or how well I can phrase a critique, none of that matters. I don’t like director James Wan’s Aquaman. I don’t like how it’s written and I don’t like how it’s produced. But the reality is that none of the little nit-picks I have with it, none of the things that people might agree with me are weak or poor makes any difference because a lot of people had a really great experience with the movie. And my defense of films like Fight Club or Sucker Punch, no matter how factual or persuasive I might be, don’t mean a goddamn thing if someone had an unpleasant experience with the movie. There is, and has been, a great argument over whether or not film can be objectively analyzed or if everything is subjective, and that’s ultimately a terrifying conversation for someone like me. Because if film is totally subjective, and the only thing that matters is the experience it creates, then the reality is that nothing matters except what you feel, then what the hell have I been spending all my time trying to learn? Honestly; it can be incredibly humbling to realize how little you really matter.
Man of Steel might not be the Superman movie some people wanted; no one can argue that. However to not only ignore but grossly misrepresent the storytelling and characterization because it didn’t fit into the heart shaped box one has built for the character is just pure anti-intellectualism. Perhaps the path through the film cannot be followed at a leisurely pace, but it most certainly does not leave you wanting for connective tissue and storytelling that takes you through the characters experience every step of the way. Though more difficult for people to grasp, a flat character arc is not unique for this kind of film. After all; for Clark to have a transformative arc he’d have to start out as someone very different from the heroic Superman we expect, and I can tell you for a fact that is something that simply would not fly with the very same people that criticize this character as it is. And as for what the movie is about? What one takes away from a film emotionally is never wrong as we all have our individual experiences and reactions. And no one is required to engage in the same level of analysis that I choose to. But if you take nothing else of value from this piece, I hope that it encourages you to develop and engage in some manner of process building of your own. Put together your toolkit and learn how to work it. And don’t do it because I said so or you feel like you have to.
Do it because you choose to.
A line of storytelling can be traced that runs through almost the entire first half of the movie, making the brandings something more useful than just Batman doing, “a really bad thing”; storytelling wise. There is an entire substructure of storytelling that operates beneath the main events of the plot, adding rhyme and reason to events that would otherwise appear random. An interesting thing to note is that even with the foundation this storytelling provides, because it’s never directly confronted by any entity within the story, understanding how it works becomes more or less irrelevant. The answers are there to find if you want to ask the questions, but you don’t have to have those answers for the movie to function. You don’t need to know why these things happen, you just need to know that they do. Could director Snyder have made all of this more obvious? Of course he could.
But being obvious isn’t interesting.
The Lighthouse is a dirty, grimy, dark, lout, disturbing, uncomfortable movie – and that is a very good thing. It’s cinema that pushes you out of your comfort zone and makes you consider the value of entertainment. It’s going to be a movie that many people will be hard pressed to decide whether or not they even enjoyed it – and that’s perfectly okay. A movie like this is one that has artistic merit that extends far beyond the confines of a simple up or down/ like or dislike function. This movie can be challenging and that alone will be enough of a reason for some to ignore or dismiss it. But if you’re up for a little challenge and you want to experience something a little more akin to an old man’s version of cinema, then maybe The Lighthouse is just the beacon in the dark you need.