Sunday, December 8, 2013
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *irony*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *metaphysical, sociological*
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
In NO SUCH THING Hal Hartley, who made his name with low-key naturalistic films like 1989's THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH, attempts to provide a modernist take on the classic fable BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. By "modernist" in this case, I mean that his project involves undercutting the expectations of anyone who expects traditional narrative. Allegedly Hartley wanted his "Beast" to be played by avant-garde director Jean-Luc Godard, similarly known for movies devoted to breaking down normative narrative.
Literary modernism was in general not kind to faerie and fantasy, so it's a bit of a surprise that the film begins by focusing upon a genuine Beast (Robert John Burke), who lives in the wilds of Iceland, sustained by tribute from neighboring, regularly-terrified villagers. In contrast to the lion-like Beast favored by both Jean Cocteau and the Walt Disney Corporation, this Beast has goat-like horns and the ability to breathe fire like a dragon. In contrast to being a lord enchanted by magic, Hartley's Beast has no origins; he claims to have existed since the dawn of mankind, but has no idea how he came to be. Though he's remained hidden under the cover of his legendary status up until the 21st century, his tedious, unrewarding existence comes to an end when a gang of journalists come to investigate the legend of the monster, and he kills them all.
In the traditional story "Beauty" is drawn to the Beast because of her father's trespass against the Beast's privacy. In THING, the Beauty is the slightly dowdy office-worker Beatrice (Sarah Polley), and she's drawn to the Beast because one of the slain journalists was her fiancee. As she works for a major news organization, run by the acerbic "Boss" (Helen Mirren), Beatrice is given the chance to fly to Iceland and investigate the murders--
--at which point we see one of Hartley's first deviations from customary expectations. A normative narrative, be it an archaic fairy tale or a modern imitation thereof, would have Beauty on the Beast's door right away. Instead, Beatrice's plane goes down in the sea. She alone is rescued, albeit crippled. The Beast's story is put aside while Beatrice, sent back to a hospital in the U.S., endures a lengthy and painful operation that restores her to her normal status. In the film's best moment, when Beatrice leaves the hospital, people touch her for good luck, as if her miraculous rescue imbued her with godly power.
This sequence is Hartley's biggest flouting of the expectations of normal narrative; thereafter, she eventually makes it to Iceland, interviews the people in the Beast's neighborhood, and finally beards the Beast in his lair. But Beatrice has no obligation to stay in the Beast's company to expiate a parent's debt: rather, she pulls out a gun and tried to kill the creature who murdered her fiancee. The creature can't be harmed by guns, but he would dearly like to end his pointless life. Beatrice resembles the fable's "Beauty" only in that she is able to repress her horror of the unknown and speak with its living incarnation. Thus she learns that the Beast knows of one scientist who claimed to be capable of ending an immortal's existence-- one "Doctor Artaud," probably named after the founder of the so-called "Theater of Cruelty" in the 1930's.
At this point THING verges away the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST text almost completely, taking on more resemblance to 1933's KING KONG, a film which arguably patterned itself after the traditional tale. In exchange for helping the Beast locate Artaud, in order to put an end to the Beast's existence, he must follow her back to civilization and suffer the ignominy of being ballyhooed by the press, as well as swearing not to kill anyone no matter how aggravated he becomes. The Beast's ennui is such that he agrees, and eventually this Beauty does something worse than almost bringing about the Beast's death: she puts him on display for her own career-furtherance. Just to further puncture the romantic theme of the original story, during one of the Beast's publicity tours Beatrice, now somewhat famous herself, enjoys a one-night stand with a handsome stranger.
However, ignominy is not the Beast's worst problem. The Boss presciently comments that soon the average civilized viewer will become bored with even a miraculous being who can neither die nor be killed. The U.S. military and its grant-hungry scientists are interested in the Beast, though, for they take him prisoner and subject him to assorted deadly forces, indifferent to his sufferings.
Only here does Beatrice shows something akin to "love," though not of a romantic sort: she uses her celebrity to liberate the Beast and lead him to Doctor Artaud, who deduces that the reason the Beast is so invulnerable is because he fundamentally does not exist-- which is the clue to the oblivion he desires. Yet even here, Hartley ends the film enigmatically. Hartley conjures with the imagery of the Cocteau film, suggesting that as he dies-- if he dies!-- the Beast first transforms into something like a normal human man. But the film ends with a close-up of Beatrice's face, her expression ambivalent, which no doubt mirrors the expression of many who watched the film.
Though I myself prefer traditional narrative to ironic twists on same, I believe it's possible to devise an intelligent satire upon the template of "Beauty and the Beast." But like a substantial number of modernist works, Hartley's NO SUCH THING doesn't have much to offer beyond turning expectations upside down. Most of its jabs are at easy targets-- the bored consumer, scientists who prostitute themselves for funding-- and the relationship of the lady and the monster, rather than being interpreted in some radical new way, is merely pushed to the side as-- to quote the aforementioned Hartley film-- just another "unbelievable truth."
Thursday, December 5, 2013
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *cosmological, sociological, metaphysical*
The fourth Godzilla film is also the third to pit the big lizard against a second colossal creature. However, while Godzilla's previous foes Angilas and King Kong present the same danger to humankind that Godzilla does, Mothra-- making her second appearance following her 1961 debut--
has a different tonality.
Indeed, though the film was retitled GODZILLA VS. THE THING for the American market, the Japanese title shows the correct emphasis: this is structurally a Mothra film in which Godzilla is the giant moth's antagonist.
A typhoon, rather than atomic tampering this time, is responsible for causing the gigantic egg of the next Mothra to be carried from Infant Island to the shores of Japan. Indeed, nuclear power is only occasionally addressed in this film, mostly by picking up on the plotline of 1961's MOTHRA, which argues that Infant Island has been reduced to a wasteland by atomic testing. It's not abundantly clear as to how the islanders can live there at all, though it may be that their resident moth-god provides some help in that regard. When the storm deposits the egg off Japan, greedy businessmen, much like those from the first Mothra film, lay claim to it and advertise it as a spectacular attraction for "Happy Enterprises." Some noble reporters, primarily lead male Sakai and lead female Junko, question the businessmen's right to the great egg. The "Mothra-fairies" appear first to the businessmen, attempting to regain the egg of their deity, but the corrupt corporate types merely try to capture the fairies for further exploitation. The fairies then appeal to the reporters for help, but even the Fourth Estate can't do much to stir up opinion against Happy Enterprises. It's rather surprising that the government doesn't intervene in the matter, since the fairies warn that the adult Mothra may attack to regain the egg, and the creature's last rampage would be an event the government wouldn't want to repeat.
Enter Godzilla, rising once again from a short-lived hibernation. Sakai and Junko journey to Infant Island, hoping to persuade the islanders to summon Mothra to save Japan-- and the egg-- from Godzilla. The islanders initially refuse, but Junko delivers an impassioned speech which sways them. The giant moth, moved by the prayers of its people, attacks and almost defeats Godzilla, only to receive a death-wound from the Big G's fiery breath. Godzilla rises to attack again but the Japanese military delays him again, notably with an electrical trap.
However, the egg has been kept safe long enough that it can now hatch, which it does in a bravura sequence, nurtured by the sacral song of the fairies and the islanders. (There's even a suggestion that the islander-god may have some existence separate from Mothra herself, since one of the islanders' idols flashes with magical power.) Two Mothra-larvae hatch from the egg and end up defeating Godzilla by ambushing him with gobs and gobs of enfolding silk. The larvae and the fairies then return to Infant Island as the reporters bid them a cheery farewell.
In my review of MOTHRA I noted that because the giant moth was female, this signified "the hegemony of feminine nature." MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA underlines this hegemony even more than the first film. If Godzilla and similar creatures represent the face of an unforgiving nature, striking back against the abuse of humanity, Mothra symbolizes the feminine virtue of motherly forgiveness. It's surely not accidental that Junko, not the more forceful Sakai, is the one to speak most eloquently on the need for the islanders to forgive and forget. Even the notion of the egg's spawn twin larvae-- mirroring the image of the twin fairies-- speaks to the feminine prodigality of the natural world, as against the destruction wrought by male-oriented technology and weaponry.
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *sociological, psychological*
This U.S.-Spanish co-production, put together by roughly the same team that came out with 1983's HUNDRA-- also starring blonde Laurene Landon-- is pleasant enough escapist adventure. Compared to many other ersatz "Indiana Jones" knock-offs, YELLOW HAIR is probably near the top of the pack, though it suffers from a wandering, "make it up as we go along" script.
Writer-director Matt Cimber throws in a little metatextual humor, mostly consisting of voiceovers that adjoin the viewer to watch for the next installment of Yellow Hair's supposedly serial adventures. But happily there's not too much of this. The titular "fortress of gold" is a hidden sanctuary of a lost tribe called the "Tulpan"-- implicitly pattened on the Aztecs-- who have survived into the late 1800s. No one knows the location of the hidden warriors, though they emerge from time to time to taunt the Mexican military. The one "marvelous" aspect of the Tulpan is what appears to be a magical pool with the Midas touch, for when they lower a victim into it, the pool takes on a mystic glow and turns the victim into a statue-- I presume a golden one, though the material doesn't look much like gold. At no time is the magic pool given any explanation.
Yellow Hair (Landon) is a half-Comanche, half-white woman who has been raised with the tribe since childhood. She regards her adoptive mother Grey Cloud as her true parent but otherwise knows nothing of her parentage. Grey Cloud also takes in a Caucasian orphan, who grows up along Yellow Hair as an adoptive sibling and takes the name of "the Pecos Kid." Pecos leaves the tribe and apparently travels around acquiring girlfriends in every small town, while Yellow Hair becomes the tribe's pre-eminent warrior. Early in the film she uses her fighting-skills to fend off a male suitor who challenges her, and it's plain from Yellow Hair's conversations with Grey Cloud that she's learned to fight so that she won't live the life of a squaw-- though she doesn't seem to have any better goal in mind.
Pecos gets in dutch with the commander of the Mexican militia, partly because he's claimed to have information about the Tulpan. When Yellow Hair finds out about Pecos being in captivity, she sneaks into the compound and breaks Pecos free in the film's best action-sequence. The commander retaliates by sending some of his men, led by the Comanchero Flores, to the Comanche camp, where Flores murders Grey Cloud. While Yellow Hair seeks vengeance on the commander's forces, she also becomes intrigued by the "Fortress of Gold" when an old seer tells her that her true parents came from the Tulpan sanctuary.
After a number of lively-- but low-cost-- action-scenes, Yellow Hair and Pecos manage to enter the mountain sanctum of the Tulpan. Yellow Hair naively accepts the apparent welcome of the lost tribe and vows to remain with her parents' people. Pecos leaves for the outside world, but doubles back, in time to rescue his quasi-sister when she learns that the Tulpan plan to turn her into a golden statue.
Though the action is not lively enough to grab anyone not already in the mood for a RAIDERS-lite flick, YELLOW HAIR is serviceable in that regard. There's a passing suggestion that the two quasi-siblings may have a thing for each other: Yellow Hair seems jealous of Pecos' many trysts, and in one scene she claims that Pecos once tried to see her without her clothes. Though he claims that it was only to verify whether she was male or female, the issue is dropped and no romantic liaison takes place, though they're implicitly together at film's end. The fact that the male is allowed many sexual encounters while the female is occupied in defending her chastity incarnates a certain prevalent sociological myth about male-female dynamics, though this too is not explored in any depth.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *metaphysical, psychological*
I suppose that in terms of plot coherence THOR: THE DARK WORLD (hence just DARK WORLD) isn't really any better than the 2011 THOR, which I castigated for its murky motivations and political correctness. But DARK WORLD is a far more entertaining film than its predecessor if one doesn't obsess over the plot-points. Further, DARK WORLD comes much closer to emulating the look of the great fantasy-films. I mean, the central palace in Asgard still looks like nothing more than a gigantic pipe organ...
...but at least there are enough scenes set in Asgard that the place looks like something people might *live* in. The design of Asgard is nothing special, and looks derivative from the Peter Jackson LORD OF THE RINGS films, but it communicated a good fantasy-vibe nonetheless. The costumes, which I also praised in the first film, remain a strong point. But the film's greatest improvement is to impart a Norse *ethos* to Thor's home, so that it seems a credible place for heavily-armed warriors-- including Thor and Loki's war-maiden mother Frigga-- might disport themselves.
I have not re-read the Walt Simonson comics-epic on which DARK WORLD is very roughly based. Simonson's storyline introduced the "dark elf" Malekith, who sought to bring about an apocalyptic catastrophe, just as his cinematic counterpart does. However, I recall Simonson's Malekith as a malevolent master schemer, almost as entertaining as perennial Thor-villain Loki. DARK WORLD's Malekith is in comparison a one-note figure. The script throws in a few portentous phrases about how Malekith hails from the unformed chaos-world that preceded the existing cosmos of the "Nine Worlds," and this chaos that Malekith wishes to bring back is presumably the "dark world" of the title. But a few dimestore myth-quotations, probably culled from some familiar translated work like the "Elder Edda," are not enough to make Malekith a memorable villain. The audience gets that he's pissed to have the world of light succeed the world of darkness, and that's about it. Christopher Eccleston attempts to give Malekith a frosty, malefic attitude, but it's clear that the scriptwriters weren't interesting in the character as anything but a plot-device.
But this time there's a good reason for this bit of negligence: that of placing the relationship of noble Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and conniving Loki (Tom Hiddleston) on center-stage. DARK WORLD begins a year or more after the events of THE AVENGERS, during which time Thor and his warrior-companions have been traveling through the Nine Realms, subduing what one assumes are unjustified rebellions against Asgard's authority. Loki has been locked away in a high-tech prison, given succor only by his adoptive mother Frigga, though he professes not to need her attentions. Meanwhile a new threat appears on Earth: a super-weapon called "the Aether" which the Dark Elves created to hurl "cosmos" back into "chaos." A prefatory opening establishes that during a war between the Dark Elves and the Asgardians-- the latter party led by the father of Odin-- the Asgardians wrest the device from their foes. Somehow the device ends up on Earth, and in 2013 starts emitting various freaky phenomena, like creating anti-gravity and dimensional portals. This leads super-scientist/Thor-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) and her intern's intern to investigate the site of the weird stuff, not long before Thor himself shows up. In addition to some romantic tensions between Thor and Jane-- the guy did leave without explanation for over a year-- Jane is possessed by the Aether, a power that will destroy her even if it isn't used to destroy the universe.
Whereas Thor was the "duck out of water" in the first film, Jane then gets that honor in DARK WORLD, since Thor must take her to Asgard for possible treatment. This prompts the Dark Elves to attack Asgard to regain the Aether. Following the repulsion of the first assault,, Odin digs in his heels, defying Malekith to strike again. Thor enlists Loki to spirit Jane out of Asgard in order to seek out Malekith. The gambit is partly successful in that Malekith removes the Aether from Jane, but Thor and Loki are unable to prevent the Dark Elf and his goon squad from departing with their treasure. Loki pays-- or appears to pay-- the ultimate price for helping his brother, while Malekith is poised to oblierate the universe once "the stars are right," as the cliche goes. The last quarter of the film is dominated by Earth-based action, as Thor goes it almost alone against Malekith's forces. He's aided only by Jane and her friends, who have whipped up some ill-defined portal-manipulating gizmos, whose use adds to the frenetic action of the climax. Inevitably the apocalypse is postponed and all is right with the world-- apart from the hearkenings of the next few plot-developments of other Marvel movies, not only for another THOR but also for the forthcoming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY flick.
This quick summary does nothing to convey the film's best asset: its humor. Without the character-based jokes-- stronger here than in the first film because there's some history to play with-- the fast-paced action might have worn me out. Kat Dennings' Darcy, who barely had two quips worth rubbing together in the first film, gets the lion's share of the funny lines, probably a consequence of the fame she gained from her CBS sitcom TWO BROKE GIRLS, which enjoyed breakout success in the fall after the original THOR's debut. But other characters get a fair share. Hiddleston's witty, charming Loki has his expected moments, but even the sobersided Thor gets in a few shots. In contrast to my feelings towards the stodgy original, I find myself looking forward to at least one more episode in the Thor saga.
Monday, November 25, 2013
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *cosmological, sociological*
I suppose I could have waited to review GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN until I got my hands on the DVD set that shows the original Japanese version of RAIDS as well as the Americanized version, as I did with the original 1954 film. However, critical consensus seems to be that RAIDS was a quickie sequel executed by a lesser talent at Toho Studios, while one of the men most associated with GODZILLA's breakout success, director Ishiro Honda, was assigned to some other project. For that reason, and because I was impatient to compare the sequel to the original-- even in a somewhat compromised form-- I decided to simply review the American version here.
I found that though the absence of Honda and a sufficient budget made a sizeable difference in the essentials of RAIDS, there are interesting points of continuity between the first two iterations of Godzilla. Despite the necessity of creating a "new Godzilla" after the old one was skeletonized, the script for RAIDS remains generally consistent with the concept of the first film, possibly because at least one of GODZILLA's credited writers, Takeo Murata, contributed to the RAIDS script. And of course effects artist Eiji Tsuburaya's work is largely uncompromised in the Americanized film, which is more than one can say of the original film's musical score. Perhaps the best way to describe the difference between the two films is to say that while GODZILLA was a response to and amplification of the content and themes in 1953's BEAST FROM 20.000 FATHOMS, RAIDS is more of a response to 1933's KING KONG.
In my review of KING KONG I observed:
Kong is the character toward whom everyone else looks, while he himself sees only Ann. He is, as Denham says, a "god in his world," and he maintains his godhood through his unstinting superiority in combat. Prior to the great ape's being taken prisoner through human trickery, we see Kong battle and vanquish three prehistoric enemies: a tyrannosaurs, an elasmosaurus, and a pteranodon.
To be sure, the film begins very differently from KING KONG, centering not on a band of explorers looking for exotic animals to film, but on two "fish spotters," Tsukioka and Kobayashi, whose job is to track the movements of tuna schools at sea. Mechanical failure causes Kobayashi to land his plane on a remote island, and Tsukioka lands there as well to render aid. No sooner have the men come together than they see two titanic creatures battling on the island. These are another Godzilla-- dubbed "Gigantis" in the American version-- and Anguirus, a new beast based roughly on the authentic prehistoric creature, the Ankylosaurus. The two pilots flee for their lives, becoming the heralds of the warring titans to humanity.
The broad implication of the American film is that these two creatures have been awakened from centuries-long hibernation by atomic testing, just as in the case of GODZILLA. What seems less obvious is the question as to why the reborn creatures are fighting. In 1933's KING KONG, Kong fights with various monsters who are seeking to eat Ann Darrow. With what we are given, one can only assume that the new Godzilla and Angurius had been competitors for territory in ancient times, and that upon being revived, they simply renew some earlier battle as if there had been no interruption.
The contending monsters plummet into the sea, causing them to become separated, though both of them proceed roughly in the direction of the city of Osaka on the Japanese island Honshu. Doctor Yamane from the first film appears briefly to recap the history of the first Godzilla's rampage, as well as the fact that the weapon that slew him is no longer available. There is a curious attempt in this film to equate both monsters with a primeval "fiery past" of the Earth's history, an equivalence which will become providential at the film's conclusion.
Strangely, as if to mirror similar scenes in the first film, we see residents of Osaka celebrating the fact that the monsters haven't attacked long before they should credibly believe themselves safe. Perhaps the scripter and director wanted to conjure once more with the image of Godzilla as an ancestral dragon sent to chastise modern Japan. Godzilla finds his way to the shores near Osaka, but the military-- once again treating Godzilla as if he were an enemy invader-- distracts him by shooting flares toward the ocean. However, an incident involving convicts escaping their imprisonment brings about a large fire, so that Godzilla returns to Osaka, roughly about the same time Anguirus arrives.
One immense benefit of the battle between the two creatures is that their conflict distracts from the audience's expectations of seeing Osaka ravaged as Tokyo was in the first film. That said, their conflict also has some of the same ego-boosting effect seen in KING KONG: when Godzilla triumphs over the formidable Anguirus, he proves that he is "top lizard" much as Kong did in defeating various dinosaurs. Thus Anguirus is in some sense a stand-in for Osaka: their extended-- and exciting-- wrestling match takes the place of a more expensive general destruction of the city. Though this maneuver may have had its roots in economics, the "monster duel" would become one of the central tropes of the Godzilla franchise, becoming far more important than the trope was in the original KONG or in most of its recapitulations.
The army expends its usual might against Godzilla, to no effect, though the Big G does proceed back out to sea, ending up on an island covered with ice. To solve the dilemna of his presence, the film happily avoids bringing in yet another miracle-working scientist. Instead, Tsukioka's somewhat comical pal Kobayashi nobly sacrifices his life divebombing Godzilla kamikaze-style. Kobayashi's heroic act gives Tsukioka an inspiration: if the army shells the icy cliffs surrounding Godzilla, they can bury him in ice. The military follows Tsukioka's plan, and Godzilla is duly entombed. In addition to duplicating the natural processes that plunged both Godzilla and Anguirus into hibernaiton, there may be some sense that "fire monster" Godzilla has an antipathy to the cold and loses power in its vicinity.
The human characters in this film are somewhat one-dimensional and are in no way as compelling as Serizawa, his fiancee and his young competitor from the first film, though I presume that RAIDS' characters were somewhat better presented in the Japanese original. Interestingly, though RAIDS' box office was so disappointing that the studio did not make another Godzilla film until 1962, that film followed the template of RAIDS far more than the original GODZILLA as well, in that it centered around another "monster duel," albeit one brought about by meddling humans. This was of course KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, whose popularity revolutionized the Godzilla franchise. It might be said, then, that GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN offered a more practical pattern for imitation than the original, by its singular nature, could have.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
A little over a year ago, I downsized my frequency of reviews down from "one for each day of the month" (which started in Oct 2011) to "one for each weekday of each month." Since I feel that I've covered a lot of the essential ground I needed to cover to explicate my Ten Tropes, and the movie-blog takes away from a lot of other things I'd like to do, my new minimum will be no less than three reviews for each full five-day week on the calendar of a given month.
I may end up doing more than twelve reviews at any given time, but starting this month twelve will be my current minimum blog-rate.
I may end up doing more than twelve reviews at any given time, but starting this month twelve will be my current minimum blog-rate.
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *comedy*CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *psychological*
My second viewing of DESPICABLE ME was much like the first. It's a film with some good bits of business, layered into a pleasantly predictabe storyline. Hollywood has produced any number of similar films in which a rogue does something beneficent with a selfish end in mind, and ends up being converted to good by the simple act of being forced to act good.
DESPICABLE's main interest is that it presents an alternate world derived from the superhero idiom: one in which there exist some unspecified number of super-villains, but no superheroes. Following the opening stunt-- in which the world is horrified to learn that the Great Pyramid of Giza has been stolen-- a newsman wonders "which of the world's villains" is responsible. We only see two, however: Felonious Gru, the needle-nosed, stocky-shaped "me" of the title, and his enemy, the young whippersnapper Vector. Both establish that this is a world of purely comic villainy: one where villains exist in a state of what Veblen called "conspicuous consumption." After it's revealed that Vector is responsible for stealing the Pyramid, Gru determines that he wants to top his rival by shrinking and stealing the Moon itself. It's never clear about how either supercrook could profit from these bizarre deeds, but their actions are very much in keeping with the attitudes of certain comic-book villains-- the Joker in particular-- who often indulge in stealing absurd objects less for profit than for the sheer thrill of defying the law. Here the forces of law and order are barely even seen; DESPICABLE's world is an arena in which two ludicrous lawbreakers cross swords-- or ray-guns, as the case may be.
In order to recover a vital weapon from Vector-- one that Vector heisted during Gru's original heist of the object-- Gru adopts three adorable little girls. He uses the girls as catspaws to infiltrate Vector's sanctum, accomplishes his mission, and then-- can't seem to figure out how to get rid of the rambunctious trio. Refreshingly, the three girls are reasonably well characterized so as to keep them from being overly sentimental in their growing attachment to their new "daddy," whom they're not initially too crazy about either. But the expected filial bond takes place nonetheless, not least because Gru nurses some frustrated familial feelings as a result of an indifferent-- but still comedic-- mother-from-hell.
There's never a direct combat between Gru and Vector, for throughout the flick they fight one another largely through the use of super-weapons-- though Gru has a nice moment toward the end, personally invading Vector's fortress single-handed and quashing its many threats. His motive by that time is no longer the satisfaction of his ego but his concern for the safety of the girls, whom Vector has kidnapped. This in turn leads to a Big Climax in which Gru rescues his adoptive daughters from Vector's ship, all while Vector has lost control of the situation because the shrunken Moon has begun to assume its former size. Still, I regard this as a "combative comedy" because the outcome-- in which Gru re-acquires his daughters and puts the moon back into place-- takes place because of his decisive actions in pursuing Vector's ship. Still, Gru's success and Vector's humiliation take place because of their ongoing opposition, so it's the outcome is the result of that combative stance. In this DESPICABLE resembles a number of other combative comedies I've reviewed here, such as
1991's HOOK and 2012's DARK SHADOWS, where fate more than the central hero strikes the final humiliating blow against the antagonist.