The best advice typically goes unheeded, which goes double for Hollywood. A young man is cautioned that he’ll shoot his eye out if his Red Ryder dreams are fulfilled. A golden droid explains the low odds of survival to the captain of the Millenium Falcon. But our heroes strive on, often paying the price for their boldness and thrilling us in the process. Here’s a look at six such movies that tempt fate…don’t say we didn’t warn you.
One of the reasons “Raiders” retains its credibility as a “smart” blockbuster is that it hints at the power of the Ark of the Covenant throughout the film with tact and subtlety. Images from the Bible, the death of rats that venture too close to it, the parading of the box through mountain terrain -these are all events that hum in the background of a kinetic plot. By the time Nazis are getting their souls eaten by Old Testament Seraphim in a big light show, it makes for a payoff that is as satisfying as it is slightly surprising. If Michael Bay attempted to make something in the ilk of “Raiders” the bad guy’s face would ice-cream melt in the first reel.
During a torture scene that “nails” the brutality of antagonist Captain Dargent Peytraud, he warns his subject, “What did you dream about this afternoon?…You dreamt of me and of the grave. I know because I was there. And I can be there every time you close your eyes.” Despite these warnings to stay out of the voodoo underworld of Haiti, Bill Paxton’s Dr. Dennis Alan chooses to endure one of the coolest perpetual mindf***s this side of “In the Mouth of Madness” and “Enter the Void.”
There are multiple stories of D.W. Griffith’s largest film, all of which deal with the vengeance of a higher power in one fashion or another. That said, for its opulence and grandeur, the Babylonian sequence is worth noting in its portrayal of the fall of King Balshazzar after warnings from the Mountain Girl that his high priests are planning a revolt. Balshy’s pride in the great walls of Babylon and his faith in Ishtar are the weakness that High Priest Bel exploits to gain entry and overthrow the grand city.
P.T. Anderson’s 3-hour San Fernando Valley epic features a diverse array of characters trying to outrun their respective fates. Although the tales of the jaded and damaged characters steeped in the muck of the Los Angeles life are hurtling out of control, they are still unable to avoid a random and unheralded raining of frogs upon them. The event does not resolve each story thread, rather it distracts all parties involved from their anxieties.
When Dr. Seth Brundle is developing his Teleopod technology, his first teleportation experiment with a living creature turns a baboon inside out. This is, in essence, the entirety of the film right before our eyes, a big red flag that the good doctor ignores. Over the course of 96 increasingly-gory minutes, Director David Cronenberg slowly unveils the lesson that man is not meant to tamper with the laws of nature. Nor is he meant to live on a diet of candy bars and fear.
“Slumdog” is a rarity on this list in that it deals with antagonists who simply refuse to understand destiny. The always-mesmerizing Anil Kapoor hands over his champion “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” contestant to the police on the grounds that he believes that the young man is cheating. It is a matter of fate, then, that Dev Patel’s Jamal is merely recounting the knowledge of his life’s experiences, and that luck, faith, and love have converged into the very game itself. Look for American adaptation “Trailer Park Jeopardy” next summer.