Sunday, January 30, 2011

Showdown #1: Manliest Movie Ever?

Time for the first ever Showdown!! Since this is going to be a long one, I'll keep the introduction brief. Simply put, occasionally whenever the lightbulb above my head lights up, I will pit movies, actors or even characters against another one of similar nature.

So this time around we are going to look at two of the "manliest" movies ever made, you can almost see testosterone dripping around the corners of the screen. But out of these two, which one is the manliest of them all? Let's find out!

Exactly twenty years apart, which will reign supreme?

The case for Predator [1987];

Premise: A team of six battle-hardened commandos was sent on a rescue mission somewhere in Central America. Or so they thought... Little that they know that it will not be as simple as "get in, get it and get out". They were actually being hunted by a creature from outer space whose raison d'etre is to hunt and kill.

Just How Manly is it?

#1 The Cast
Before we go elsewhere, have a look at the cast;
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham and Bill Duke.
You can almost give Predator this title based on that alone.

Now, right off the bat, we can already see glimpses of just how badass this movie is going to be. A chopper lands, and the door opens...


... Revealing half of the squad, who happens to be some of most muscular men working in the movie industry at the time. But that's only half of the surprise. One by one they got off board, all but one.


Nope. He had to light a cigar first, and he did it with style. Note that despite the limited space inside a chopper, he still managed to put up both of his legs, each the size of a timber. This is especially impressive if you consider that only minutes ago, this chopper was full of six guys - four of which are over at least 100kg. That's right, he was so manly, even the laws of physics decided to let this one slide.

Then the team made their way to the headquarters and Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) met his old friend, Dillon (Carl Weathers) and they greeted each other in the manliest fashion.

Mid-air arm wrestling!! W00t!
With those two arms combine, they amass a hell of a lot more muscle mass than the entire pack of werewolves in the Twilight series. Don't believe me? Heck don't take my word for it, these guys spend 90% of the movie exposing as much skin as they possibly can.

Trust me, this is just a glimpse to it all...
 Which brings us to the next point;

#2 Feats of Manly Labour
The whole point about making a manly movie goes beyond making them look the part, you also have to actually show the audience that these guys are the real deal.

Now, the guys have been trying to fight the Predator the "movie-commando" way - which means it involves very little subtlety. They had very little success since the Predator used the jungle to his advantage. So the guys decided to show that Earthlings are no pushover.


In case it isn't clear what they're doing; They are getting the trees to bend low enough to make a trap for the Predator. That's kind of like telling the tree to forget that it has roots, and telling the laws of gravity to buzz off.

It didn't end there. As they wait for the Predator to come, Sgt. Mac (Bill Duke) showed us that while all men at some point in their lives had cut themselves shaving...

This shaver ain't man enough for me!
... None of them ever bled this much and snapped a shaver in two while they're at it.

And we can't forget Billy (Sonny Landham) because you see, while almost everyone who died had the advantage of looking at the Predator in the eye, Billy was the only one who went;

"Screw this, I'll fight you Mano-a-mano..."
He tossed his gear into the river below, armed only with a machete and a huge set of balls, he just stood in the middle of the tree-bridge with a look on his face that says, "Come get me, motherf*cker..."


Sure, he gets killed off-screen a second later. But that's beside the point. Billy here just showed us that if you're going to die anyway, you might as well go out with a roar.

Then it all goes down to Dutch who showcased some feats of manly labours himself;


Not shown are plenty of other shots showing him making some makeshift weapons using whatever he can find. But you get the idea. Is he doing this to prepare for a getaway? Heck no! That wouldn't be very manly  wouldn't it?

He's making another stand, only this time he is without anyone to command.

Now, put into perspective that by this time, he had already knew that by covering himself up with mud, he is practically invisible in the Predator's eyes. He could have just make a run for it. Instead, what did he do?

Subtitle: "YEAAAARRRHHHHH!!!!"
That's basically saying, "You want a piece of me? Here the fuck I am!!"

You ever played the cat-and-mouse game with someone who wants to add your skull in their trophy collection? That's exactly what Dutch here did. After a spectacular sequence of one-on-one battle, Dutch wins almost by luck. Technically he didn't manage to kill the Predator, but he did enough damage to make the Predator resort to something I can only describe as an Atomic Hara-kiri.


Needless to say, Dutch made it out of the explosion alright. Imagine the amount of manliness on this guy, he made it out unscathed, without any sort of disorientation and best of all, he had enough sense to stick a cool pose for the chopper that came to his rescue.

What took you so long? You missed the best part!
#3 Big Toys for Big Boys
I think I've put a lot of emphasis on how big these men are (or were...?). So it's only natural that big boys need big toys, and this movie does not disappoint in that department either.

Blain (far right) carries a goddamn minigun!
They have big guns and they're not afraid to use it.

Indeed they're not...
The above shows only 10% of the total action.

#4 Homoerotic Undertone
Safe to say, this movie has almost none. But of course, if you seek to fuel extra testosterone into a film, one can't help but unintentionally include some homoerotic undertones. In the case of Predator [1987], it's only limited to six sweaty, beef-cake of a man in close quarters.

Although I can't help but look for the things that will add a notch or two to the Homoerotic-o-meter by taking getting some screenshots and take them out of context altogether. Like these two;

Till death do us part...


err... Okay, that was inappropriate.

#5 Tough Guy Talk
There isn't an action movie made in the 80's and 90's that didn't include some badass quips. Pretty much all of the dialogue in the movie were meant to showcase just how menacing these guys can be, and it was almost like they were constantly sizing each other up.

Blain : "Bunch of slack-jawed faggots around here. This stuff will make you a god damned sexual Tyrannosaurus, just like me..."
Poncho : [holds up his grenade launcher] "Yeah, strap this on your "sore ass", Blain."

Sgt. Mac : You're ghostin' us, motherfucker. I don't care who you are back in the world, you give away our position one more time, I'll bleed ya, real quiet. Leave ya here. Got that?

And what may be the best line in the movie;

Poncho : You're bleeding, man. You're hit.
Blain : I ain't got time to bleed.

So that's pretty much all of the arguments for Predator [1987]. But we're not done yet, let's have a look at;


The Case for 300 [2007]

Premise: Based on the true events surrounding the Battle of Thermopylae. The advancing Persian army was so vast in number, it rendered all efforts to defeat it futile. That is, until they had to face the 300 men of Sparta, led by the infamous King Leonidas.

Just How Manly is it?

#1 The Spartans
Please note that I am basing this on the movie depiction of Spartans, so that rules out anything from the actual civilisation that we may not be so agreeable with. For example, I know that the actual Spartans didn't actually fight wearing only a helmet, a cape, some leather underpants and shin armours. I know that Leonidas never actually broke out of the phalanx formation and fought in slow-motion, killing each Persian in ways cooler than the last. Bear in mind that we're talking about the Manliest Movie Ever.

For me, the best thing about 300 is that the movie showed us that you don't have to be a misogynist to be manly. Just like their real-life counterpart, these guys are the toughest of the toughest, yet they held their women in high regard.

So the question from here on is, just how manlier can anyone get from these guys?


For cryin' out loud just look at them! If you remember the hype surrounding the movie, you'd remember the amount of attention and emphasis given to the training of the actors themselves. Gerard Butler in particular was given so much attention, and rightfully so.

He went from already looking lean and muscular, as seen here in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life [2003]...


... To a 100% certified beefcake.


Now, the Spartans may look comparatively smaller than those in Predator [1987], who are pretty much bodybuilders, but according to what I've read these guys are just as strong, if not stronger than those who earned their mass in the gym. This is because the training that the Spartans went through were meant to emulate how warriors of the old days strengthen and condition themselves; which means none of those muscles were just for show.

But they did give us a heck of a show through;

#2 Feats of Manly Labour
The movie pretty much began by showing us that these Spartans are the real deal. In fact, you can somehow summon it up based on the film's most iconic scene.

Yeap, the famous "THIS... IS SPARTA!!!" cry followed by a badass front kick.


The whole idea of 300 is to show just how tough these guys are, so much that it made the ancient Persian army look like a bunch of pussies and nancy boys by comparison. Well, what else would you expect from them since they worshipped a king who looked like this;


Yes, yes I know that the real Xerxes did not stand over 7 feet tall, and he looked nothing like a bedazzled Dhalsim from Street Fighter. Again, we're talking about the movie. Now, anyone would agree that you are only as good as the people you serve, which means the Persians doesn't stand a chance as Leonidas and his men sliced their way through them like a hot knife through butter.


That didn't work. So the Persians launched a blood-curdling attack, a shower of arrows that actually blotted out the sun.


But did our Spartans pee in their leather underpants? Heck no, they merely laughed it off under those shields. After that's over, Leonidas showed both his men and the Persians why he is the manliest of man. He stood up and snapped all of the arrows in two, pretty much saying;

"What, are you fuckin' kidding me?"


Soon after, the Persians had another bright idea. If the might of man can't stop these 300, then perhaps beasts can get the job done. They sent forth a rhino complete with its own customised battle armour...


... yet the Spartans didn't even flinch. They maintained their position, and Astinos (Tom Wisdom), the captain's son decided to have a little javelin throw event. This crowd could use a little entertainment. Sure enough, the rhino only managed to kill  a couple of Persians, but didn't even reach the Spartans.

But the Persians still have a couple of tricks up their sleeve. You'd be wrong to think that an action movie could do without an explosion, apparently the Persians had themselves some old school grenadiers.


I don't know why they even think that would work, remember what happened next? Stelios (Michael Fassbender) leaped behind enemy lines like he was nightmare incarnate...


... and managed to make those ancient grenades work against the Persian. BOOM BABY!!

Speaking of Stelios, remember that guy? Let's rewind, otherwise we'd miss some more feats of manly labour by Stelios and a dozen other Spartans.

So there was this scene where the Spartans built a wall using their bare hands, stones and Persian scouts as the mortar.


This time around they wore nothing but leather underpants, with every inch of their tight body glistening under the sun. Don't tell me that's unmanly. Trust me, when a guy has a body like that, he'd be inclined to do even the most menial of tasks bare-chested.

By the way, this is Stelios. He may not be as big as Leonidas, but you do not want to get on his bad side.


Because he can get within striking range on a single leap, chop your hand off and snigger at any threat of retaliation.


It would appear that the Spartans would have won the battle, if it weren't for a deformed douchebag ratting them out. They did lose, but not without a fight. Three things happened here,

One; Leonidas had a clear shot, he could have killed the arrogant Xerxes if he wanted to. But what's worse than death? That's right, you let them live in shame.


Two; Leonidas' captain showed why he's the King's right-hand man. As their final stand was coming to an end, he charged into enemy lines and got stabbed by a spear and a sword to the gut.


But you won't kill him that easy. No, he killed two of the Persians who thought they had checkmated him. Then he grabbed that spear and impaled himself further so he can get closer to the last one. One roar later and that spearman was dead.

It would take several more stabs including two to the spine to take down the captain.

Three; Leonidas showed us yet again what a real man should be like, you can be tough as nails yet soft at heart like a plush toy. His last words were not a roar or a quip directed at Xerxes. At his last moment, he thought only of his wife. With teary eyes, he said "my love...", barely a whisper.


Still even though he's dead, it was Leonidas who got the last laugh, even in death. Somehow he positioned himself so well to ensure that he would not die in an unsightly pose.


Mimicking the famous Christian imagery, Leonidas died in the Christ-like pose, centuries before Christianity came into existence. Again, I know this is a movie.

Furthermore, his death became a rallying call for all Spartans, and the movie closes with the entire Spartan army charging towards the Persians. If you think the 300 was already a death machine, imagine what happens when the Persians fought these;


Oh, you are so dead.

#3 Big Toys for Big Boys
Now, plenty of other period piece make use of spears, shields and swords. But none of them ever made such a great use of them, it was awesome watching the Spartans slicing and dicing away the Persians. Other than that, there really isn't much else to say about this. So let's move on.

#4 Homoerotic Undertone
This is where 300 takes the cake because there has never been a movie that walks such a fine line between masculinity and homoeroticism, yet it walks away leaving both feeling satisfied. I really don't need to say much about this either, I think. Once you put a homoerotic twist to the movie, everything simply becomes so gay.

Muscular men in leather speedos marched to that guy playing that double-flute thingy...
Is it hot in here, or is it just me?
Singing, screaming, jumping and hugging in the rain...
You're so tense...

#5 Tough Guy Talk
Again, this is another case of art imitating life. Most of the badass lines in the movie were not made up. Sure, they made some minor changes as to who said what, but even the real-life Spartans were known to make smart and witty quips. So perhaps you can even say that Spartans were pioneers of the whole business with tough guy talk.

Xerxes : You Greeks take pride in your logic. I suggest you employ it. Consider the beautiful land you so vigorously defend. Picture it reduced to ash at my whim! Consider the fate of your women!
Leonidas : Clearly you don't know our women! I might as well have marched them up here, judging by what I've seen.

Leonidas : Spartans! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty... For tonight, we dine in hell!

Dilios : Immortals... we put their name to the test.

Persian : A thousand nations of the Persian empire descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun!
Stelios : Then we will fight in the shade.

Well, I'll be damned. This has got to be a record on FPBM! I never thought I would write this much for one post. But I had great fun writing it, and I hope you had fun reading it.

Without further ado, the winner of this Showdown is...




Reasons
1. The kind of awe that 300 achieved using 300 men, Predator did it with nine actors.

2. Predator has no subplot, it was a pure showcase of manliness.

3. The characters in Predator are comparatively more three-dimensional. In 300, only Leonidas can lay claim to that.

4. The Predator himself is one bad motherfucker, while the Persians were mostly cannon fodders.

5. Predator was made at the time when CGI was used sparingly.

6. Then there is the question of the weapons used. Now, if you were to say that the Spartans were superior because they used only spears and shields, while the guys in Predator had automatic assault rifles, you also have to put into perspective that they used the best weapons available in their time. Even so, those high-end weapons didn't work on the Predator, so remember what Schwarzenegger did? He resorted to a makeshift spear and a bow and arrow made by hand. We all know how that ended. He fought the toughest creature in the universe using "primitive" weapons and lived to talk about it.

So there you have it. If you have some dispute as to the outcome of this Showdown, feel free to drop a comment or two. I'll be on a lookout for more "manly" movies, right now at the top of my mind is Fight Club [1999]. Will Predator [1987] still reign supreme then? We'll find out next time!

5 comments:

Ninja said...

I think 300 is more manly because the Spartans fight army of billions using only spears, shields, swords and speedos...

Whereas, the Predator guys used guns :-P

Besides that, I think Spartans talk manlier... Tonight, WE DINE IN HELL!!!

Mamü Miguel Ellezda Vies said...

Maybe so, but I still stand by the reasons I gave.

The Persians were poor opponents, although that's not the Spartans' fault, still made the guys in Predator appear so much tougher.

And don't forget, guns were useless against the Predator, so Schwarzenegger resorted to a spear, a bow and arrow... Then he set up traps using the jungle against the Predator.

And so Schwarzenegger won the fight against one of the fiercest creatures in the universe... While the Spartans fought weaklings led by a gay king.

Mamü Miguel Ellezda Vies said...

Thanks for bringing that up, by the way. I forgot to address that particular issue. I'll update this post in a couple of minutes.

Ninja said...

Anyway, I love all ur reviews...
U should try writing movie reviews for newspapers...

Mamü Miguel Ellezda Vies said...

aw thanks man! And I love it when you comment on this blog as well, 'cause I like people who make me think harder.

I think I just might apply for that. I'll let you know if I get lucky :)

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