Thursday, February 16, 2012

Your mom is derivative!

This whole thing started when we watched Real Steel last weekend.  This was a movie that I had wanted to catch in the theaters, but was unable to.  So, we watched it on Blu-Ray, and I was not disappointed.  Suffice it to say, this movie is AWESOME!  I am a sucker for boxing movies, and this one delivers.  Starring one of my man-crushes, Hugh Jackman, it has a familiar, yet timeless story, excellent performances, and FREAKING BOXING ROBOTS!!  If you don't think that concept alone is cool, what are you doing in my country, you pinko commie slime!?!

All that being said, after watching the movie, my wife and I were talking about the similarities to Rocky, and I wondered aloud what Stallone thought of it.  If I were Sly, I'd be flattered.  After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  However, in the world of film critics (both professional and armchair), they prefer the word "derivative"; it's not meant as a compliment.

I see this word thrown around a lot when it comes to works of fiction.  And usually it's written with an uppity sneer, as if taking elements form someone else's story, and making them your own is some kind of cheap shot that somehow lessens the original work.


I have a reproduction of this
poster hanging in my house
Personally, I prefer the term "homage" when talking about these kinds of things.  Rocky will always be a classic.  Nothing could ever take away the brilliance of that film.  Not even a shot-for-shot remake (which, thankfully, Stallone would never let happen).  So, the fact that Real Steel borrows many elements from it (and from Sly's critical stinker, Over the Top), speaks more on how much of an iconic film Rocky is, and how Real Steel was made, at least in part, for fans of Rocky.

But the oddest thing I noticed about ALL of these reviews who use the word "derivative" with all of its negative connotations, is that they still give the film a thumbs up/four stars/etc.  They readily admit that it's a very fun, entertaining, and heart-warming film.  They all applaud the great performances, the superior special effects, and the "humanity" in the robots.  For all intents and purposes, it's (almost) universally seen as a great film.  Except, it's derivative.

You people need to get over yourselves.  A good film is a good film.  Watch it and enjoy it for what it is.  And keep your high-brow criticisms to yourselves.


Paul R. McNamee said...

I would have been quick to dismiss this as "Rocky meets Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots", but once I saw it was based on a Richard Matheson story, I reconsidered.

I haven't see it yet, but I do want to.

Tom Doolan said...

I read an interview where Matheson said he loved it. He said they changed a lot, and updated it for modern sensibilities, but at its core, it's a great story.

Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, I didn't know about the Matheson connection but that's interesting. I just read that very story in a collection of his tales. Now that you mention it I know exactly what this is and will definitely watch it.