1993 was a transitional period. We were slowly, ass a country, shedding the action movie template of the 70’s and 80’s while experimenting with some headier notions on how we relate to media. Last Action Hero was, is, seeming, a product of this time. Woefully misunderstood or, at the very least, disliked and, probably, mostly unexamined, this episode is really going to try to dig in a little more.
I’ll drop a quick link here for Patrick (H) Willem’s Plot Holes video to set the level. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9HivyjAKlc
And additionally, if you would like to just be unhappy with other people on the internet, you can check out the reply or reaction videos. Not my favorites. However the Willems video touches upon the exact concept I was thinking about as I had recorded this episode: verisimilitude. The “joke” is that the movie world of Last Action Hero has a very loose grip on verisimilitude and logical consistency. There are some movies that do exactly that and the Jack Slater series takes that up a notch. Well, several notches, to be honest. To completely ridiculous with a wink, and a nod, and an elbow to the ribs, and a “eh? eh?” and I actually dig that. It’s possible that audiences were expecting a more straight-forward movie world. That means that the movie isn’t going to be enjoyable but it doesn’t make it bad. Those are two different things. There are people so caught up in the verisimilitude of the media they consume that they watch 20 seasons of procedurals who rarely, if ever, deviate from their structures and concepts. They’re invested in those worlds. It’s quite often that those worlds are ridiculous parodies of our own “real” world–especially when technology is involved–but that doesn’t make them “good” or “bad” qualitatively.
We all watched The Social Network (2010) and we were not terribly concerned with the inconsistencies with our own reality but, in contrast, immersed in the verisimilitude of that movie. It felt more real than reality in some ways. And maybe that was the part of the execution that didn’t land. How do you make falling into a very over-the-top and ridiculous action movie feel real? Movies where cars explode into huge fireballs in a display of exhibitionist pyrotechnics. Heroes who are impossibly wounded still performing at the level of an Olympian at their physical peak. We, as an audience (and by “we” I mean “I”), get into the action movies like that. They’re internally consistent, sure, and definitely entertaining and engaging to varying degrees, but they aren’t “real”. But when you put this in a Picture-in-Picture frame and have something much more consistent with our “real” world (even if it’s gone past realism into just pessimism with realistic physics) it can all look very silly. There is a huge contrast in the color palette (if you’ve seen a US vs Mexico color grading it’s about that jarring) and that type of action movie wasn’t always quite as bright or childish while, to a certain extent, still being marketed to young boys. Perhaps that’s what Shane Black was talking about–maybe it wasn’t William Goldman giving the movie “heart” but instead having a cartoon cat voiced by Danny DeVito. Maybe those frames, layered on top of each other, were too different. Perhaps the original intent was lost. Maybe I’m just a fan and forced it to work in my head but, in thinking about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and believing that this was a dry run for that type of movie, I think that Shane Black could have pulled it off. It just would have been more like Lethal Weapon or The Last Boyscout and I don’t have a concept in my head of how that would have worked. I’d love to read the fully Shane Black pass, though. Where he took the Faustian blood-soaked morality tale. The movie still has a message. Would it have kept it? Would it have doubled down on cynicism? Would Danny have actually used the gun on THE PROJECTIONIST? Perhaps that was an empowerment fantasy; the world had already challenged Danny in big ways (even the thief challenges Danny) and this was Danny rising to meet and over come it.
Anyway, there are some other links.
Yes, it became obvious to me at some point that I missed using just about every catchphrase. I am probably more disappointed than you are. I also was recording outside and I just had some weird terrible noise that I had to remove. The result is an eerily silent(ish) recording that is punctuated by birds. I do not keep birds.
The Last Action Hero: Official Moviebook is also incredibly cool. Tons of behind the scene content and essentially took the place of a making-of featurette (or various making-of featurette’s). If you’re interested you can probably find it used for a few bucks. I don’t remember how much I paid for mine but it was in good condition. Not incredibly cheap but also not expensive enough to be weird about. I also wonder how influential this movie was to the Captain America: Winter Soldier glass elevator. That one obviously was executed with just more… everything but they don’t feel too dissimilar.
@coolmarkd on twitter. markd20 on Letterboxd.