Monday, June 18, 2007

Actiongirls: Soldiers of the Dead - Part 1

Rarely does an object come along that so sublimely exemplifies the cultural zeitgeist. A spectacle of such extravagant profundity and disregard for modesty that you’d be willing to cart out to the bonfire every Dostoevsky ever published, every Miles Davis ever captured on tape, every Botticelli ever framed, all the while suffering a heavy dose of acute embarrassment at the substandard antecedents that besmirch the object by their mere presence. Devoid of precedent, Actiongirls: Soldiers of the Dead – Part 1 cannot be classified as anything less than the zeitgeist incarnate, a supreme microcosm of all the multifarious aspects of the human condition that make one stop mid-sentence to breath the air in solemn remembrance of the transitoriness of life.

The cruel fate of temporality mocks those figures, long-deceased, who may have had reason to gaze and meditate upon the charms of the object: what path would his ruminations on the cogito have taken had Descartes experienced the pleasures of Actiongirls: Soldiers of the Dead – Part 1? how might the Crimean War have concluded had some or all of the participants been privy to a viewing of the film cited heretofore? in what ways would the most gruesome atrocities of the Stalinist purges have been averted had Joey been sat down to an exclusive screening of Actiongirls: Soldiers of the Dead – Part 1?

As with all these speculative matters, it’s impossible to answer with any level of accuracy. However, my supposition would be that the kernels of history that could have been feasibly ameliorated by the interpolation of said flick into the situation are immense in number. Its multifaceted quintessence can simultaneously function as sweet anodyne syrup to hostility and sagacious riposte to warbles of stupidity. In short, those spectres of the past missed out, we don’t have to.

Actiongirls: Soldiers of the Dead – Part 1’s narrative, like Martin Heidegger’s phenomenological terminology, is dense and intricate, encompassing a panoply of shades that, looked at from the wrong angle, can plunge the beholder into a deep chasm of endless philosophical wrangling. With this in mind, let’s address each strain of synoptic fruit with fastidious intensity.

The film is set in a barren future where women are held as slaves, forced to battle one another to the death in front of baying hordes of male savagery. Helman Himmler (any relation?) is the bloated orchestrator of much of these girl-on-girl fisticuffs. He’s a successful entrepreneur in the slave trade, perpetually on the receiving end of exaltations irradiated by the cuddly death squad he keeps around him. Life is good for our Helman: the steady flow of captured women ensures continuous fodder for barbarous pursuits in his makeshift Parthenon and his girlfriend, who seems to be some kind of dominatrix Nazi, never fails to be by his side. But headaches are afoot when his most prolific combatant escapes. This rebel takes her hardened sensibility out to the dilapidated remains of the urban jungle, wherein she teams up with another renegade female – who may or may not be the cop from the first Silent Hill game – and together they evade the clutches of the fiery men folk, kicking whatever ass comes their way.

Their veritable Sex and the City lifestyle (what a glorious apartment they keep) is disrupted when Helman’s leather-clad missus stumbles upon a formula that will transmogrify the dead into a rampaging legion of unstoppable, flesh-hungry maniacs. Our heroine and her buddy become the target of these gurning soldiers of the dead (lest we forget) and are forced into long, drawn-out sessions of cross-country running as one eponymous coterie goes up against another.

Ignoring the specific filmic precursors for a second, one almighty coalescence offers itself for dissection with Actiongirls: Soldiers of the Dead – Part 1. Unlike such piffle as Girls Gone Wild, Actiongirls is not simply a smorgasbord of vulgar objectification and misogynistic perversion, for it attempts a twofold process of dialectical thinking and paying tribute to vast of swathes cinematic wonder. By the amalgamation of mindless action with the verdant serums and aggressive groans associated with the undead, Actiongirls: Soldiers of the Dead – Part 1 is a pristine homage to both the most startling brilliance observed in US action cinema (cf. the filmography of Jean Claude Van Damme) and the fabulous wealth of underrated gems found in the region of the zombie film. Just imagine if Steven Seagal had to battle congregations of scabrous zombies, then imagine he were a buxom babe with a wardrobe restricted exclusively to scant bikinis and you have an picture of how Actiongirls: Soldiers of the Dead – Part 1 plays out.

Scotty JX, the director, keeps his cinematic ancestors close to his heart. The milieu harkens back to the Mad Max trilogy, while Helman’s malicious bondage ladyfriend brings to mind the many adventures of Ilsa. The mortality-shattering fluid, a fluorescent green in colour, would put a smile on the stoic countenance of Herbert West, while the bronzed figure of the heroine would make Lara Croft jealous. And, of course, there’s a long lineage that features the likes of Romero, Hooper, H.G. Lewis, Zombie, etc. Less illustrious comparisons abound concerning the WWE’s pantomimes (alongside their recent cinematic offshoots) and a host of pseudo-pornographic nonsense that can’t be given away at the best of times.

However, a few dodgy influences do not detract from the colossal attention to detail found in Actiongirls: Soldiers of the Dead – Part 1. The throng of men – clearly pleased at the triumph of patriarchy, as inferable from their constant drinking and mutual antagonism – have their screen presence augmented with a choice selection of subtitles. Hence we do not miss out on such vital pieces of dialogue as: “give me that chicken.”

Othello? Bah!

How about: “communist pigs, I’ll rip your heart out!” spoken by a man seemingly more interested in social democracy than the revolutionary fervour espoused by Marx and Engels. The performativity insight opened up by the inclusion of the subtitles is an invaluable element in Actiongirls: Soldiers of the Dead – Part 1.

As the astute reader will have noticed by now, there is an addendum to this film’s title: the fine slab of Part 1. The film has been crafted as the first instalment in what could be a protracted franchise in the guise of Police Academy – if we are lucky. Personally, I cannot wait for Part 2 so as to see in what masterful and complex ways those countless intertwined narrative threads find themselves resolved. Just what will become of our heroine as we leave her running away from the zombie drudges? Is packing in more sequences of running than an endless replaying of The Island achievable? Will the army of rats ever get their moment in the spotlight? Who will be the first man to sober up long enough to exploit the dearth of womenswear afflicting the planet? And, finally, will the sequel be able to redefine the speed of time passing in quite the way that its prequel has succeeded in doing?