Thoughts on “Hotel Artemis”

I’ve had other things to write about and so haven’t talked about the other movies in that five movie pack that started with “Dredd” for a while, but I had watched more of them (at the time of writing, I only have one left) and so since I don’t have games or other movies to talk about I can move on to the next one, “Hotel Artemis”.  Like, well, most of the movies in this pack it’s set in a dystopian future — I guess that’s the theme of it — where there are nightly riots.  The main character is a doctor who runs a medical clinic for criminals, basically, that they can essentially get a subscription to and so can enter whenever they need to.  Another character who is trying to get out of the business has his latest caper go wrong, and his brother — the only thing keeping him in the business — is shot and badly injured, so he has to go to the clinic to save his brother.  There’s also a paid assassin there for a job even though the clinic is supposed to be neutral ground, and later the guy who owns and pays for the clinic — and who recruited the doctor into this after the tragic death of her son due to drug abuse — has to come in for treatment, escorted by his psychotic son.

This movie, to me, encapsulates what’s wrong with modern movies (and to say why I have to spoil the ending in a bit, so be prepared).  All of these elements have potential, and almost certainly sounded really, really good on paper.  You have the doctor who lost her son and ends up working for a criminal in her despair, but at the end it is revealed that the person she works for sold her son the drugs that killed him, and after it all falls apart she goes into the riots to, presumably, just be a doctor again.  The crime lord is killed by the assassin, and his psychotic son is killed trying to avenge that and attack the clinic.  After the assassination attempt ends up killing his brother, the first criminal is freed from all his obligations and goes off to find and enjoy his freedom.  The assassin ends up having to use her skills to defend lives instead of taking them.  The orderly survives and reopens the clinic so as to maintain the purpose that stopped him from simply being a fighter and killer.  All of these ideas sound really good and have a lot of potential, but the movie stuffs too many of them into one relatively short film, as it clocks in at about an hour and a half.  Thus, there’s not enough time to develop these storylines properly so that we really get the emotional connection that we need to them.  Even in the doctor’s story, we aren’t sure why we are supposed to think that simply selling her son drugs is something that should make the doctor so angry with the crime lord when, well, he’s certainly done much worse to other people.  It almost seems like the idea was that he would have done that to acquire her services, but that isn’t made clear, and more time to develop these things and spell things out would have worked so much better.

Thus, at the end when she walks off into the riots to treat injuries and he drives off into freedom, we don’t have the emotional connection and so don’t feel the emotions that the scene clearly wants us to feel.  We can tell from the structure of the scene what it was trying for, and yet ultimately it seems flat and doesn’t pull off what it was trying for.  I’ve talked a few times in the past about horror movies and other movies aping the conventions and tropes of stories without understanding what they were used for and so seeming to simply having the trappings of proper stories, and that those movies seemed to think that all they had to do was add the trappings and they’d be able to pull off the same sorts of feelings and power that the other works that used them did, ignoring the fact that the reason these trappings work in those movies is because they took the time to develop those plots and then used those scenes as a culmination of what happened in the rest of the movie.  Here and in a lot of modern movies it really seems like they leave out the development and yet still expect things to have the same power.

So, yes, this is a prime example of a flawed modern movie.  It’s too short to properly develop the many plot and character arcs it wants to have, and so ends up referencing these things rather than developing them properly, which means the references fall flat.  And as a flawed modern movie, I don’t have much interest in watching it again.  It is definitely a deeper movie than “Dredd” was, but it doesn’t manage to pull off what it was trying to do, at which point being deeper is a detriment, not a benefit.  I continue to be puzzled at why so many modern writers seem caught up in using tropes but fail to understand how those tropes should be used to enhance a work, which has led me to believe that perhaps they are overeducated, and so know the tropes and have been taught that they are good things to use but haven’t really done simple writing to see what works and what doesn’t and then identified the tropes and their effectiveness from that.  At any rate, tropes are not bad, but tropes are not necessarily good either, and it seems to me that modern film making far too often things “Tropes are good!” at which point their use of tropes becomes bad.

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