A review of “Goodbye World” (2013)

“Goodbye World” (2013) is technically a post-apocalyptic drama.  I say “technically” because this sometimes misguided movie contains little tension associated with its apocalyptic event.  (A cyber-attack destroys the technological infrastructure of America and possibly the world.)  Indeed, this catastrophe doesn’t even truly drive the plot — it’s more of a background subplot that fails to even affect the tone of the film.  (The poster you see below is misleading.)

Instead, the film scrutinizes the personal lives of a group of thirtyish college alumnae who have an informal reunion at a mountain cabin — one of their number is a plot-convenient intellectual-turned-survivalist.  They’re portrayed by an (admittedly quite good) ensemble cast.  I think a lot of my friends would smile at “Gotham’s” Jim Gordon (Ben Mckenzie) being a rather meek, feckless husband.  And Caroline Dhavernas here is no longer the alpha female we saw in NBC’s “Hannibal,” but is rather an insecure, overly sensitive young wife who immaturely pines that she was the student “everyone hated.”

And there lies a problem that the movie has … few of these characters are terribly likable.  Only Gaby Hoffmann’s surprisingly tough civil servant made me root for her.  And Kerry Bishe’s perfectly performed, chatty neo-hippy eccentric was also pretty cool … Bishe might have given the best performance in the film.  Finally, Linc Hand is a surprise standout, arriving halfway through in a menacing supporting role.  It’s a far smaller role, but damn if he doesn’t nail it.  (Please, Netflix, cast this guy as Bullseye in Season 3 of “Daredevil.”)

The others all seem either self-absorbed, self-righteous and preachy, or inscrutable and vaguely dumb.  Dhavernas’ character actually steals a child’s teddy bear (which she herself had brought as a gift) and … sets it free in the forest.  It was a belabored character metaphor when written.  Worse, it just seems jarringly weird when it plays out on the screen.

All the characters seem strangely detached about the watershed national or global crisis. Some cursory dialogue is devoted to the imagined welfare of their family, colleagues or other friends; the character interaction is devoted mostly to  marriage issues and personal emotional crises that I have mostly forgotten as of this writing.  And those seem maudlin and slightly selfish compared to the Fall of the United States.  The characters mostly failed at engendering viewer sympathy in me.

The screenwriters’ juxtaposition of personal matters and the end of the world also seemed tone deaf.  We follow what the writers hope are educated, successful and endearingly quirky fun people, and we’re asked to worry about their love triangles and spousal communication issues.  But … we’re then asked to view this in the context of a pretty frightening collapse of society, complete with plot elements that are interchangeable with those of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”  (One secondary character turns violent over the issue of resources, then charismatically justifies his violence to  a crowd using a half-baked ideology that seems to channel “The Governor.”)

I felt like I was watching two movies at once, and not in a good way.  The opening motif is brilliantly creepy — the virus causes cell phones everywhere to receive a text reading the titular “Goodbye World.”  Our laconic, uniformly telegenic protagonists kinda just shrug at it.  And even when suspicions arise in the group about whether one character is connected to the cyber-attack, there is dry, dialogue-driven humor instead of any real consequent tension.  It was like John Hughes wrote a thirtysomething dramedy, but then tried unsuccessfully to sprinkle in the human pathos of one of George A. Romero’s more pessimistic zombie films.

But don’t get me wrong.  This wasn’t even really a bad movie.  I didn’t hate it.  It held my interest, its actors gave good performances, and I am a shameless fan of Dhavernas in particular.  The cinematography was very good too, and the story’s tonal differences were occasionally interesting.  (This is definitely a unique end-of-the-world tale, if nothing else.)

I’d honestly give “Goodbye World” a 7 out of 10.  I think my expectations sitting down with it were just unusually high, seeing Dhavernas attached to what looked like an independent, cerebral, apocalyptic science fiction thriller.  I might even recommend it if you’re in the mood for a really unusual doomsday movie.  Just don’t expect “28 Days Later” (2002) or “The Divide” (2012), and you might like this.

 

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A few quick words on Season 2 of “Daredevil”

As though you hadn’t guessed, I absolutely loved Netflix’ second season of “Daredevil.”  It might have had a problem with its concluding Elektra storyline, but I’d still rate it a perfect 10 — I just can’t give a lower rating to a season that made me cheer out loud while watching it.

I really loved it that much.  I’ve started to think of this gritty little corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as my own “Star Wars” — these are characters that I grew up with, and to whom I’ve developed an emotional attachment, however strange or childlike that may seem to non-fans.  If adults can cheer during the opening crawl of “The Force Awakens,” then I can cheer “KICK THEIR ASSES, MATT!!” when the ninjas of “The Hand” noiselessly and acrobatically swarm Daredevil.

It’s just a superb show.  On one level, it’s a good character drama and legal thriller that can easily please a modern mainstream television audience.  On another level, one of those characters just happens to be a low-level hero in the Marvel Comics universe.

The show succeeds nicely on the first level and goddam brilliantly at the second.The martial arts and costuming are perfect.  John Bernthal is perfectly cast as The Punisher.  It’s a cliche, and something I’ve written here before, as well, but I’ll say it again anyway — Netflix succeeded in bringing some of my favorite comic book characters from page to screen.

My only minor criticism is that the Elektra storyline was muddled, and understandably confusing for those who haven’t read the source material.  (And if memory serves, it wasn’t all that easily understood in the original comics.)

Now bring on Bullseye!!

 

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“You see, I’m Irish — but I’m not a leprechaun!”

“You wanna fight?  Then step up and we’ll get it on!”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

And Happy Throwback Thursday, too.  House of Pain’s “Top O’ The Mornin’ To Ya” dates from 1992.  It actually has a pretty nifty “Return of the Jedi” reference, for you Star Wars fans who currently rule this little thing called the Internet.

And the song is memorable to this comic book fan for being a great intro track for Colin Farrell’s Bullseye in 2003’s “Daredevil.”  I actually am the rare (or possibly unique) individual who really likes that movie.  I bought it on DVD, and I’ve seen it more times than I care to publicly admit, given its ignominy.