The Patriot with Mel Gibson

Where has all the creativity gone? Who sucked the originality from Hollywood? I watched a movie today. I usually don’t go to the theater to see movies–I’m cheap. Today I coughed up the money and sat through a movie I was told was good. And for the most part it was a pretty good movie. I didn’t mind paying $3.50 (ah, bless those matinees) to see it. It was The Patriot with Mel Gibson. If you’re thinking about seeing it, here’s the run down: no sex, no foul language, lots of bloody war violence. The battle scenes are similar to Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan, although a bit milder.

And while we’re talking about Braveheart, there are some obvious comparisons. Let’s just say if you’ve seen Braveheart, you’ve seen The Patriot. It’s just the American version. Instead of the nasty English in the 1200’s, it’s the nasty English in the 1700’s. Instead of Scots fighting for the freedom, it’s Colonial Americans. Replace the swords with muskets, the kilts with colonial attire, and find a new, yet strikingly similar reason for vengeance, and you’ve got the same film. I don’t mean to give it away, but that’s just the way it is. There are some differences. The British don’t draw and quarter Gibson in the end of The Patriot, but let’s do a minute by minute comparison (which leads to another similarity: both movies were around three hours long).

Unfortunately I think the movie had a lot of potential that it let drift away. The image of the cross kept reappearing in various ways, but it never really amounted to much. Gibson continually spoke of his past sins that were coming back to haunt him–yet this darker side of the film is forgotten in the wake of glorifying the fight for independence. If the movie focused on this darker issue, it would have gone much deeper and been much more powerful. It would have broken the Braveheart mold and created something new and original. But we can’t be original. We have to use stock characters, pulling the evil villain from this pile, the beautiful damsel from this pile, the good buddy from this pile. A number of times the movie stumbled upon a really interesting character development or plot twist–but they never developed. At one point part of Gibson’s past is revealed and the dialogue just sweeps it aside as if it wasn’t there. For a moment I thought they had accidentally edited something out.

But if you’re looking for an American version of Braveheart, this is it–with all the blood and cries for liberty. Overly dramatic, overly simplified. But that’s the way with Hollywood. Don’t get me wrong, I did think it was a decent movie. It just could have been so much better.

The one thing I just don’t get–and it’s no fault of the film–is why wars were fought back then by lining up and shooting each other like gentlemen. I don’t get what’s so honorable about that. War is never honorable. Perhaps mowing each other down with volleys of musket fire just makes it go faster. Seems kind of silly to me. I think I’ll hide behind a rock.

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