Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Moral Trifecta

The idea of morality can be viewed narrowly, either something is or is not acceptable. Three films I viewed this weekend showed just how complex of an issue this can be.

In Asphalt Jungle, the question of morality has a number of different perspectives. We see characters as simplistic as the ditsy Angela that will tell the police a lie or the truth depending on how stern her lover is being. Mr. Emmrich seems content with not only ignoring, but deeply loving, his wife, letting others steal from banks for him and then attempting to double cross them. Protagonist Dix is a hardy criminal, but mostly a petty one. Though he commits to his image as a badboy, his dying wish is to go back to childhood innocence, if only for a moment. Then there is Commisioner Hardy, who's black and white view, though practical, defines no one is this film, or probably in the world.

In Rodger Dodger, cool talking Rodger Swanson (Campbell Scott) gives his visiting newphew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) a crash course in getting ladies. In the process of the film, we learn that despite his great bedroom successes Rodger is isolated from his family, no speaking to his grandfather or his sister and seeing Nick for the first time in three years. Just what is this guy trying to Dodge? He is also sexually attached to his boss, who feels he should find another mistress. Nick seems to connect emotionally with a pair of attractive lounge bunnies while Rodger only drives them away (intentionally for Nick's carnal benefit). As a last resort he takes Nick to an underground prostiution ring, which Nick gladly rejects. The director uses blurred street nights as a symbol for questioning whether Rodger's methods are ethical. The nighttime sceneary is another such tool. By morning, they have apoligized to each other for overboiled emotions from the previous evening. Rodger even begins talking to his sister again (because apparently, Nick did not bother to tell his mother that he was going to visit his uncle).

Even comic book nerd can get in on this morality question. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the namesake character's settings reflect the deepest question of the film: should you release the animal inside of you? Wolverine first tastes blood when, as a ten year old boy, he beleives that a man has killed his father. This takes place deep in the woods where his home had been up until that point. In the second scene, the ageless future X-Man, goes through three wars (WWI, WWII, Vietnam) murdering as efficently as the weapons he carries but does not use. The wilderness of Africa is a place where his brother, Saber tooth, almost murders a few women and children when the main character stops him. After he decides such behavior is unneccessary, he runs of to the Canadian Rockies with a lover for six years. Though he has a job as a lumberjack, a home, a car, and is going about life normally, the rugged terrain that surrounds him shows what is repressed inside of him (a fight that nearly breaks out is an indicator). It also forshadows just how much of an action flick this is going to be. The specai effects are nothing short of wild and other untamed locals include New Orleans and a nuclear plant.

In this age of a dead God, morality is a constantly question. Who has it right? Because of such uncertainty, films like these can arise to put our curiosity into perspective and crystalize them for all to appreciate. The fact of the matter is that it is a pressing, complicated question and each of these films offer a different take on it.

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