Over on Twitter, I said that The Dark Knight was a flawed movie, but it had a perfect ending for Batman, in that that film’s ending would have worked for no other superhero.
Which raised the question: is there a flawless movie?
Now, on the one hand, that’s a rather silly question, because of course every movie is flawed: if nothing else, there’s always continuity errors where a glass of water is filled when viewed from one camera angle and then empty when we cut to the next. But I mean without meaningful flaws. Which opens up a huge chasm, because somebody somewhere is screaming, “THAT GLASS OF WATER IS DESTROYING MY BELIEF IN THIS FILM’S REALITY,” so “flawless” is obviously a personal call.
In addition, society has this weird belief where “great” == “flawless.” But some of the best movies in existence are seriously flawed! Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is a sloppy mess of a dystopia where the romantic leads have zero chemistry, some seriously plot-meaningful lines are stepped on by gags in the background, and some scenes go on for too long. It is not a flawless movie, but somehow it manages to transcend its flaws.
So when I was thinking of flawless movies, the first one that came to mind is Casablanca. But it’s not flawless. Actually, the intro is rather amateurish, complete with 1940s voiceover clunkily info-dumping you about Casablanca, montages of cliched characters, and the inevitable line-drawn-on-a-map. I’d argue it approaches flawless once Rick comes on-screen, but that’s a surprisingly long time in coming.
My gut reaction says “Galaxy Quest,” because it has everything: comedy, serious adventure, great characterization, a character arc where everybody learns something, and of course Tim Allen. I’ve watched that movie at least twenty times and there’s always a new laugh squeezed in there somewhere. And it’s magnificent in how it starts as a Star Trek parody, then ultimately becomes one of the best Star Trek movies ever.
(I’d say “Princess Bride,” but for me there’s a serious flaw in the swamp scene, where the ROUS is attacking. The first two viewings, I didn’t realize we were supposed to take it seriously, because the rat is such a bad special effect that I thought it was another gag. To this day, that really bothers me.)
In terms of drama, well, the traditional choices are gloriously flawed. The Godfather is often slow and takes a long time to get going, so much so that I had to watch it twice before I could get into it. Gone with the Wind has a lot of good points, but again, with a movie that length there are some seriously draggy bits to go along with the highlights of the burning of Atlanta. And even I won’t present Star Wars as a perfect film merely because it sings to me.
The flawless drama for me? “The Royal Tenenbaums.” For me, the mixture of emotions in it are pitch-perfect, every scene this little ball of interaction between quirky characters that could take place between them and only them, no scene going on for too long. And there is redemption, but it is not easy, and there’s enough humor to leaven the load. I just wish someone hadn’t stolen my copy of it.
Then we have the flawless action movie, which I think only has two real choices: Die Hard and Raiders of the Lost Ark. And I think Die Hard has a few not-great moments, but Indy? Hell, I’ve been sucked into Raiders more times than I can count, because someone’s watching it and I go, “Oh, I should go – but the fight next to the plane is coming up! And then, oh God, I can’t miss the car chase scene where he goes under the car!” And so on. As far as getting me to the next scene, it’s incredibly hooky.
So. I ask. What’s your flawless movie? And please, I will reiterate, a flawless movie is not “a movie you like so much you’re willing to overlook its flaws,” but rather “a movie that doesn’t misstep in any meaningful way.”
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.