Editorial | Do the Old Movies Hold Up?

Well? Do they?  This morning I read this fantastic article from the AV Club  discussion how well Willow, Ron Howard’s 27 year old brainchild, withstands the test of time.  The author discusses the deep impact the movie had on him as a child, and how many years later, he has recently dug out a copy of the movie and watched it, finding the imagery, while dated, to be as fantastical, macabre, and imaginative as he did as a child, if slightly less engrossing–different from other movies of the same time frame, which have aged more poorly.I get a unique perspective on pouring over entertainment from past eras.  Unlike most geeks my age, I was not raised on Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, or Harry Potter.  Truthfully, I thoroughly enjoyed fantasy (always my first love), but except for a few of the classics, I was not supposed to be reading books in which magic played a prominent role.  If my parents only knew that C. S. Lewis, beloved for his children’s fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia, was nothing like so pristine in any of his other works.  (The final book in the Out of the Silent Planet series, That Hideous Strength, left me scarred and haunted for months after I finished it.)  But no matter how much I read Patricia C. Wrede, Piers Anthony, Mercedes Lackey, Ursula Le Guin, or Andre Norton by flashlight under my covers, I couldn’t sneak movies so readily.  Therefore, now, as an adult geek–especially recently–I am experiencing some of the bastions of geek trivia for the first time, and not all of it has maintained its charm.


First, I have to say that the wonder that the author of the AV Club piece felt when he realized that Willow was the same disturbing, magnificent move he remembered is the complete inversion of what I felt when I watched Blade Runner.  I spent most of the movie waiting for the pacing of the movie to pick up.  I have no qualms with a movie that takes a little bit to find its feet, nor with one that takes its time to introduce and develop characters.  However, in this movie, it felt as though I spent the entire viewing time waiting for something to happen.  The art and style of the movie are truly iconic, and I can see how this is considered the defining movie of the punk/sci-fi genre, but it simply did not deliver on the promise I’ve heard from fellow geeks who watched it when either it or they were young.


Robin Hood: Men in Tights, while not properly a sci-fi, fantasy, or superhero movie, is definitely considered one of the classics in comedy, and since the original story it is extremely loosely based on is, in fact, steeped in mythology, I’m including my impressions.  As a parody that relies heavily on pop culture references for humor, this movie suffers because its source material had no staying power.  Unlike Spaceballs, Mel Brooks’s best known masterpiece, the pop songs and celebrities mentioned in the film have long since faded into obscurity, making the movie lose its comedic edge and its relevancy.  Perhaps a student of 1980’s culture (such as Wade Watts, or Parzival, from Ready Player One)  would still find the majority of this movie amusing, but I did not.


The Mad Max franchise caught me off guard in a different way.  The original Mad Max is completely bizarre in that way that old cult classics all seemed to be.  I couldn’t understand quite a bit of what the characters were saying (and the subtitles were pretty useless), and what I did understand was very foreign to my understanding of the usual relationships between officers of the law and motorcycle hoodlums.  Interestingly, I found that once I started The Road Warrior, that this disjointed storytelling style actually was good for the franchise, because it made it very easy to ret-con all of Mad Max into the branded character that has survived an apocalypse and four movies.  What I find curious about this set of movies is that each entry into the series is very different from the others–almost to the point of not seeming related–except for The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Fury Road, which are clearly cousins.  I like that George Miller, the creator of the franchise, is not afraid to update his formula for the series when it makes sense to do so.

There are plenty of classic movies from the late 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and even early 90’s that many geeks would claim as early influences on their geekhood.  I think I have the unique opportunity to look at them with fresh eyes and objectively determine whether or not they stand up to modern scrutiny.  As for Alex McCown’s claims about Willow, I’ll be checking them out and seeing for myself if he (or she) is correct very soon.

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Filed under Editorial, Tracy Gronewold

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