Was saying that i will be writting about Escape From New York
yesterday or Today, so i come back and you know what it's next. I warned you, this is probaly going to be large, because there are some ideas here with extended explanations:
*this review needs to be readed while listening this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3z2hHsPYdc
Until now i had talked about 5 Carpenter's movies and basically everything is covered thematically: his obsession about Rio Bravo's theme and his western ideas and style, the constant reference to his film and literary heroes, his anti-heroes and his political ideas behind all his films
Yet, this Escape from New York
is probably one of the most important and personal movies Carpenter has made because for all the subtle that his proclaims were in Halloween
or The Fog
. Here most of them are cristal clear, this the most critical Carpenter movie not in the fact that like always he is doing a Political proclaim, but in the fact that he is letting us know it (just like in They Live
), and we are challenged to get the most of it. And this is highly remarkable in a action movie (or in all the great ones at least).
First, just like The Fog
this is a irony about the american dream and the realization of that. But this time not in the origins but in the present, the structure is so messed up that the crime rate is over 400% from 1988, New York is not the dream city and the reflex of the dream now is a Prisson and walls are constructed to isolete the city from the world. And not just that, we get from the conversation between Hauk and Snake that USA lives in a constant war and from the attack at the air force one we also know that the politic ambience is heavily polarized.
There is also this critic of the autoritharian politic figure made in the President role. He will be portrayed like a coward across the entire film wich only purpose is to retain his power and survive being completely cynical if he needs to.
This is all cristal clear, and seeing this elements and the portray of New York is possible to understand why the majority of the reviews in the era were talking about a "cynical and dark movie" who portray "rebel morals, individuality and is completely pessimistic about the future"
And i aree to a certain degree, because is easy to be this kind of critic without putting a solution or a option to stop this panorama. So the question will be, why is Escape from New York
so great? The answer is easy: Snake Plissken and the contrast between both worlds in the movie.
When i was talking about Assault...
i said that Napoleon Wilson was the first really archetype character of Carpenter and even more, he is main character of the movie in a subtle way. Here Carpenter plays his move straight the movie is about Snake, a defense of his values (and with this we can understand that from a moral stand point all this Anti-heroes are alter egos from Carpenter) and you know it from the begining. Snake Plissken same a simple anarchist, a myth we is only interested in survive when he said one liner like
But this is just in the surface. And to understand this we need to go again to the subtle.
For starters, yes, Snake is an Anarchist who defend individual rights in opossition to authoritharism. But any Character in this kind of movies is the same, a pack of codes and political ideas like Rambo or Dirty Harry in the right wing. The difference and the thing who made Snake unique is that he is not deffending collective ideas, or nation ones. He defend his personal/Carpenter vision of the world
In this regard is interesting to see the contrast between both worlds: New York and the rest. This in the figure of the two leaders, the president and The Duke. And Carpenter despise both sides equally xD, The President is this figure who, like said previosuly, is cynical and pathetic for a leader, that base all his power in his role but is despicable enough to kill other people (The Duke in wich is a stupid revenge) and lied infinitely to keep his position and power, the typical corporate leader. And for the side The Duke who rest in this "Cult of personality" and personal power to put him above everything else.
And in middle of all of this is Snake Plissken, a former militar hero who is now a criminal, an outsider. Another contrast because you have this former hero who has to see something wich leads him to change, and this idea of the "criminal" not like someone who is badly per-se, but like someone who doesn't fit in a dominant moral code. Even more, this kind of character are portrayed like people who see the world in a different way (the dark patch from snake, The Glasses from Nada, etc)
So, he is not a "superhuman" who destroy armies in hope of a better future, he just wants to survive because he is dissapointed at the world, he doesn't care enough. But like we will see at the ending while the previous characters fight for maintain an idea of the world Snake Plissken at the end (and for extension all the Carpenter anti-heroes) of the movie even for omission change the entire world in where they live, destroying status-quo. This is the resolution that is often forgot, the idea of the outsider changing the System, and exterior force need to resolve the problem that society is now and defend the rights of the people to be themselves.
At the end then the movie is a reflex of the present in the future, and this can be also reflected in this dark visual sense of humor classical in Carpenter. For example when we see the liberty statue at the begining, just like today reciving the foreign people, because in this kind of fascism state we all will end in New York someday. Or when Maggie and The Brain discuss what street take to avoid traffic (New York in the future is not so different from New York Today). Or this sub culture that live in the suburbs
This idea will go even further in L.A. where Snake/Carpenter critics religion, cult, ecology, smokers and even meat-eaters, but that is another history (and hopefully someday i will tell that
Next Movie: The Thing
1- Assault on Precinct 13
3- 1997: Escape From New York
4- The Fog
5- Elvis (TV Film)
6- Dark Star