Scorpion King 4, part 2…

Why Didn’t I Like It More?… After the break…

Scorpion King 4, part 2…

I wrote about the “Direct-to-Video” movie “Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power” earlier. If you read it, you realized that I didn’t appreciate the movie very much.

I don’t want to disparage the crew of any movie production. They work hard. They set up lighting and make sure that the sound works and that the cameras are focused and “whited out” and set up camera tracks for tracking shots… There’s a lot of work that goes even into a lousy production. I don’t want people to think that I don’t appreciate hard work, even when that hard work turns into absolute rot.

For the past day, I’ve been wondering why, specifically, I didn’t like the movie. What caused me to have such a harsh reaction? Why couldn’t I have verbalized why I found the movie so distasteful in the earlier post?

And I have found the answer.

It’s how the movie treats the fourth wall.

The “fourth wall” in cinema is that invisible barrier between the audience and the events in the film. In typical movies, the fourth wall isn’t broken; The movie operates in it’s own separate universe from the audience. The movie, quite literally, has no idea that it is being watched by the audience.

The fourth wall can be broken in any number of ways, both blatant and subtle. Whenever you see an odd camera angle from inside of a room that you know could not be achieved through normal means, the fourth wall is broken (odds are, they literally removed a wall from the set to make the camera angle possible). Whenever someone turns to the camera and winks or makes a witty comment, the fourth wall is broken. Whenever someone makes a joke about their real-life persona or someone else’s real-life persona to another character inside of a movie, the fourth wall is broken.

It used to be that a movie used to either break the fourth wall or that it didn’t. It shattered the fourth wall or it didn’t. It either copiously broke the fourth wall on multiple occasions throughout the movie or it never broke it once.

Nowadays, it seems that a new type of movie has emerged: The “casual” movie. The movie that not only doesn’t take itself seriously but doesn’t even take the creation of it’s own material seriously, either.

I’m not a stickler; I enjoy all types of movies. I like comedies. I like horror movies. I enjoy dramas and documentaries. I’ve been entertained by spaghetti westerns and post-apocalyptic film and science-fiction movies of all types, from space operas to space comedies.

There’s a difference between movies that don’t take themselves seriously and movies that don’t take themselves seriously but also don’t take the production of their own material seriously as well. “Deep Rising” is a movie that could be a classical case for not taking itself seriously. A contemporary horror movie on a cruise ship, the film doesn’t take itself seriously but it presents that material seriously. It doesn’t break the fourth wall to any significant degree (filming inside of the PT boat, naturally, needs to be forgiven and I can only imagine the logistics for those sets). As a result of it not breaking the fourth wall, either through snarky comments or looking at the camera or impossibly-ridiculous camera angles… The movie has a certain heft to it that it wouldn’t otherwise have. The material might not be dead serious but it is presented with seriousness.

The same can not be said for these “casual” movies where there are equally ridiculous plots but, in these films, the very movie is in on the gag. Perhaps the first modern film to truly be considered a “casual” movie would be “Scream 1.” On the surface, “Scream 1” was a horror film. It billed itself as a horror film. This was not billed as a horror-comedy but as a horror film. Yet the movie carried an incredible amount of self-awareness about it. The entire movie was all about destroying the slasher movie genre and, in order to do that, had to draw attention to a lot of the slasher horror movie cliches that had developed over the years.

This overwhelming amount of self-awareness is, in my opinion, is what caused me to be very harsh about “Scorpion King 4.” Scorpion King 4 doesn’t take the process of making it’s own movie seriously. That is it’s problem. I can handle fanciful sets and guest appearances and glorified cameos and stilted acting and the whatnot. I enjoy it when movies attempt to try to be a little bit more than what their budget truly is (often times, they fail, but that’s for another blog post). What I don’t appreciate is when a movie doesn’t even attempt to portray their own material in the best possible manner which, quite honestly, is a breaking of the fourth wall even more egregious than a character turning directly to the screen and addressing it.

I don’t mind comedies. I don’t mind action movies. When a production mixes the two, it has to be honest about what the movie actually is. “Scorpion King 4” tries to have it’s cake and eat it: It wants you to laugh at the comedy bits and take it deadly serious during the drama/action bits. You can’t. This is the casualness of the movie coming into play; It’s not presenting it’s material fairly and, as a result, simply outright breaking the fourth wall. If you don’t take the creation of your own material seriously, why should I?

That’s why I was as disappointed as I was with “Scorpion King 4.”

There. I feel better now.

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