Centurion vs The Eagle

One of the things Hollywood likes to do at times is to make several movies on the same subject and release the two {or three} which are basically about the same themes. “Country” and “Places in the Heart” were very similar films released in almost the same year. Two Wyatt Earp/Doc Holliday movies were done at the same time-the endless stream of Batman and Superman comics-all run together. They are about to release two stories of “Snow White”, one with Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, one with Charlize Theron. In 2010 they chose the heartwarming story of the lost Ninth legion of Rome. The two films were “Centurion”-critics rated this one the better of the two, and “The Eagle” with Channing Tatum. Personally, I thought “The Eagle” was the better of the two for several reasons. “Centurion” was overtly violent in spots where it was pointless and needless to exhibit gore. When a corpse has no head, do we need to see more blood gushing from the body? I think not. The culprit, I suspect, is the world of gaming videos that show violence as a part of a game and it rises to the level of a cartoon. I would add this on the subject of violence in film. When grizzled, elderly, World War II veterans gather together, they don’t want to talk about the gore that was on the battlefield. Sometimes understatement works best. When Hitchcock made “Psycho” he understood the chilling effect of blood circling a drain to underscore the horror of the violent murder of Janet Leigh in a shower. “Centurion” also featured a chase sequence that, at first, vaguely reminded me of the classic chase from, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. The tag line for the movie poster from “Butch Cassidy” was, “Who are these guys?” and they used a paraphrase of this same dialogue in the new film. A vague reference or subtle homage is expected. But I knew they wouldn’t end the chase by having the group jump off the cliff. That would be too much. But not, it seems, for the makers of “Centurion”. By damn if they didn’t end the chase with a leap off of a mountain cliff. That means that the last gasp of original thought has left the building for the makers of this movie. Recently, “The Grey” used a similarly too-close for-comfort sequence from another film. This was so close in detail to the moving episode in “Sometimes a Great Notion” where Paul Newman attempts to keep a man from drowning and fails that I couldn’t help but wonder if they would be fined for lifting material so blatantly from the original storyline. Where is the line drawn in films when the sequences begin to look more than vaguely familiar? Just askin’

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MLJ

Author of "6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village", Ms. Johnson continues to blog on film and publishes a newsletter plus the Flipboard magazine 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies. Her book is currently available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Degrees-Film-Future-Global-Village/

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