Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Generation Kill vs. Full Metal Jacket: A Look at Modern Storytelling

I own the box set of Generation Kill, and it's one of my favorite all-time war series/movies. I'm not girly in that I have always been interested in history and war films. I watched with great interest the HBO mini-series The Pacific and Band of Brothers. In fact, if I were to compile a list of my all-time favorite shows, Band of Brothers and Generation Kill would probably make the list. The other day, I happened to catch an old favorite I watched many years ago, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. I remember when I watched it for the first time how intense and enthralling it was. I remember the scene where they photographed the dead body sitting in the chair just how upsetting that was to watch. Then at the end when Matthew Modine's Joker performs an act of mercy and kills the sniper how absolutely unsettling it was to watch such violence. Now fast forward to the 21st century. I was re-watching Full Metal Jacket and it hit me. After watching all of the gore and violence and realism of Generation Kill, this older film didn't even resonate the same way. The up-close and personal reality depicted in Generation Kill made Full Metal Jacket look staged and fictional. Generation Kill is so gritty, they didn't even include a soundtrack, and it has a documentary style about it. So going back and reviewing and older classic like Full Metal Jacket just amplified the feeling of it being a scripted movie. Also, modern film is so much more violent, gory and realistic that it made this classic film seem almost hokey. What does this say about modern storytelling and violence? It's a good question. Think about it? When First Recon's lead team drives over a decapitated body in the road and Joker shoots a sniper in the head (we presume in the head), what seems more realistic? Nothing in Generation Kill is varnished down to the naked Iraqis surrendering in the road. We see full nudity, because that is real and truthful. We don't have music to manipulate our emotions in Generation Kill either whereas Full Metal Jacket's soundtrack (which is fantastic) is all about loading our emotions. It's kind of interesting to compare the two and think about it, especially as a modern storyteller.


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