The Lileks Zone

More bravery from Hollywood

“Independence Day” was probably the last good movie Roland Emmerich made, and it was junk. Fun junk, though. We all saw the previews of the Empire State Building and the White House blowin’ up reeeeal good – the latter apparently being made of wood that theatrically fragmented when struck by energy rays – and we all couldn’t wait to see some state-of-the-art monument destruction. In the boring old days all we got were models that fell over. Computers let us get in touch with our inner 10-year-old boy, and revel in AWESOME destruction.

Once they ran out of things to blow up, the idiocy of the movie was revealed like a shoal on low tide. Will Smith bare-knuckle punching an alien who had a thick chitinous skin, and knocking him out. Jeff Goldblum writing a computer virus that would bring down the alien defense, AND taking care to insert an animation of a skull-and-crossbones that would show up on the aliens’ monitors. He used a Mac, which was nice, but in those days a Macs were not known for having an OS compatible with alien computers. This may have changed since the adoption of USB 2.0 as a universal standard. You may recall the movie had a president who fit the fantasies of Hollywood at the time – one of those muscular liberals who could fly jets!!! And pass important social legislation!!! XXOXX, whatta man. When we got a president who actually could fly a jet, history was rewritten so Bush the Latter spent two hours in the seat of a Cessna in the hangar, making machine-gun sounds while his instructor stamped DEFERRED FROM VIETNAM on his folder.

I bring up “Independence Day” because Mr. Emmerich has a new movie coming out, “2012.” It’s about things blowing up and the end of the world. Yes, that movie. Previews look spectacular and banal – a combination Hollywood has honed to an art – and monuments galore go crashing down. The Vatican: rubble! The statue of Christ in Rio: timmmberrrrr! Why? Emmerich explained in an interview: “Because I’m against organized religion.” But he declined to blow up the Kabaa in Mecca.

“Well, I wanted to do that, I have to admit,” Emmerich says. “But my co-writer Harald said I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie. And he was right. … We have to all … in the Western world … think about this. You can actually … let … Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have … a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is. So it’s just something which I kind of didn’t [think] was [an] important element, anyway, in the film, so I kind of left it out.”

Yes, he kind of left it out, by which he means he left it out entirely because he’s afraid of having his head removed. He’s not alone. If they remade “Lawrence of Arabia” today, they’d set it in Kansas. Just to be safe.

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