Friday, July 20, 2012

Surrealism vs. Comedy (Or: Vroom, Vroom, Gas, Gas, Beep, Beep)

195) Maximum Overdrive (1986) Dir: Stephen King Date Released: July 25, 1986 Date Seen: June 21, 2012 Rating: 3/5

I mostly enjoyed this because I like this type of story. Specifically, I like stories where a group of smalltown peopls have to band together against an unknown evil, even if that unknown evil is a pack of killer sentient appliances, and trucks. Maximum Overdrive's more silly flourishes don't throw me because I think I get where Stephen King is coming from. This is the macabre-ly goofy sensibility of a man that read a lot of EC Comics as a kid and is now getting the wiggles out of his system. 

Plus, I don't know, maybe I'm too de-sensitized to this kind of hokey humor, but I didn't think it was /that/ corny. I mean, yes, ok, it's corny, ya got me. But also, that's an effect King's going for. 

For the sake of argument: I had a friendly argument with my former Comics Journal editor Michael Dean about Marvel Zombies before we ran our big Robert Kirkman-centric issue. And as a result, Mike kicked off our Kirkman-centric content in the Journal with an essay defending Marvel Zombies. That essay was followed by my interview with Kirkman, then my critical essay on The Walking Dead. I feel that symmetry really helped our presentation: in his essay, Mike expressed admiration for Kirkman's more disreputable side, while I had a hard time stomaching his more serious side. Still, we both essentially agreed that Kirkman was (and probably still is) a guy worth paying attention to. 

Anyway, Mike really felt that Marvel Zombies succeeded because, unlike me, he felt that it was not trying to be funny. Accordign to Mike, watching Marvel super-heroes like Captain America or Spider-Man talk about how hungry they are after they've been turned into zombies is not funny. Instead, watching the Hulk rip off the Silver Surfer's head with his teeth is downright surreal. 

Now, I don't think Robert Kirkman is the best surrealist in the world. In fact, while I agree with the thrust of Mike's argument, I can't say I really agree with its particulars. Still, I feel the distinction between a story that is trying to be alienating-ly surreal and one that's just blackly humorous is key here. The best example of this can be seen in Maximum Overdrive's mostly dialogue-free subplot with the little leaguer. After watching his friends, family and community get massacred at a peewee baseball diamond, this kid stumbles away alone and in a daze. 

In this subplot, King gives us an indelible image and one of the main reasons I feel this movie is totally defensible: that singular image of the poor kid's dead baseball coach. This guy's got a huge bloody dent in his forehead after a soda can, propelled by a manic vending machine, nails him right between the eyes. And it's scary and off-putting, and yes, a little funny, too. But mostly, and I hope I'm not over-using the term, it's surreal. 

Again, Maximum Overdrive is not great movie or anything. but still, I was thinking about this when I watched it. Is all.

No comments:

Post a Comment