Friday, April 30, 2010

Movie Review: Full Metal Jacket

I just watched Full Metal Jacket online.  It was about what you would expect from a Kubrik movie about war; I mainly watched it because it is so culturally relevant.  I want to call attention to one thing that is symptomatic of this particular movie, and Hollywood in general.

Towards the end of the movie, I noticed something that bothered me.  All of the shots in the war zone showed fires everywhere.  Each shot would have several fires burning, and everyone would be walking around ignoring the fires.  The fires were just there, not growing or changing size, and not dying out, and you could never see what was actually burning.  This kind of thing happens so often in movies that we have become accustomed to it.  Fires everywhere is the standard way of showing a ruined or dystopian environment, or the aftermath of some kind of chaos.

But this standard is really quite ridiculous.  Fire simply does not act like that.  Fire never stays the same size unless it is carefully and actively managed by a person or machine.  It either dies out or expands to consume everything.  If you look at actual footage of anything, you will never see little fires scattered around like that.  And people never ignore fires.  If they see one, they either try to put it out, or get away from it, depending in its size and how much other flammable stuff is around.

This is one of many ways that Hollywood portrays completely inaccurate things just to set a mood or deliver a message.  And people accept it.  It even took me a while to realize, "Wow, this is really stupid".  Our vision of reality has been so shaped by fake things that we have a hard time telling real from fake.

And of course, if the movie gets something as basic as the nature of fire so wrong, I have no reason to trust anything it says about war or the military.  The fake fires are a symptom of the movie caring much more about a manufactured image than a realistic portrayal of anything.

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