It’s not that Kill Bill Vol. 2 is “bad” so much as it contains all the clues and seeds of Quentin’s imminent self destruction. All the self-indulgence, all the voyeuristic hard-ons at watching _____ do _____ to each other, the utter lack of characters with any depth… it’s all here, waiting to hatch. If QT manages to contain his impulses enough to deliver an entertaining yarn one last time with Kill Bill, it’s probably due to some combination of a) his still-youthful delight at making movies for a living b) his need to prove himself after the lackluster commercial performance of his previous film, and c) Uma Thurman, aka “The Bride”.
Uma gives such a compelling performance, it transcends “The Bride”‘s comic-book dimensionality, even though the truth is, after spending four hours with this character, we still really know nothing about her. Of course, for Quentin, what’s to know? People in his world are merely archetypical action figures created for the sole purpose of play inside his sandbox. And that’s fine, as long as the story’s good enough to hold it all together, which, in this case, it is- barely. Told mostly in flashbacks, the film works so long as Tarantino’s nostalgic imagination runs wild- remaking kung-fu films, etc. It all comes crashing to a halt the minute he introduces a real human being in the film, aka The Bride’s 4-year-old daughter, wherein we’re supposed to all of a sudden think of everyone as an actual human being and feel happy that this murdering mom is about to eliminate dad and raise a healthy child by herself. All in good fun, I guess?
Of course, post-Kill Bill Tarantino is another story. His next film, Death Proof, is so painfully awful, its only saving grace is that it came bundled with Robert Rodriguez’ Planet Terror as part of their Grindhouse double-feature. And sure, Grindhouse itself is basically yet another “let’s pretend we’re 12 year olds living in the 70’s” escapist retro-fantasy, but at least Rodriguez knows that movies need to be fun for the audience as well as the director, and delivers the goods. The entire length of Death Proof feels like a film student’s attempt at sounding like QT without having a lick of talent- utterly pretentious, utterly boring. Quentin’s next feature, Inglourious Basterds is a little better, but by then it was clear he had fallen into a creative pattern (or rut) from which he has yet learned how to escape.
Sure, his films have long, sweeping, cinematic scenes with lots of long, dramatic pauses between each line- after all, that’s how they did it in the 70’s, QT’s favorite decade. But those movies did it for a reason; Quentin nails the style, but forgets to include the substance that motivated said style… over, and over, and over. He also clearly has no idea how to tell a compelling story, and so he relies on the tricks he does know- rapid-fire (or overly verbose) dialogue, Sergio Leone moodiness, and lots of cartoony violence- preferably in the form of a colossal shoot-out right at the end. Oh, those endings- Quentin has yet to figure out how to end his long, rambling films, which is why they all end the same way- with a pointless bang. It doesn’t help that his teenage-boy mind eternally gets off on watching chicks fight, watching Black dudes call each other certain words, basically watching all the stereotypes he grew up with do “unexpected things”, because that’s so Badass. To Quentin, these little ironic twists make the movie edgy, his films being moronic attempts at making grandiose statements (“Fascism is bad, Slavery is bad, etc.”) Movie after movie with the same cheap tricks, one would think Tarantino might get bored at some point and push himself to dig a little deeper- but no, not Peter Pan- he’s decided to remain a pre-pubescent 12 year old forever.
It’s too bad, because QT could have chosen a different path, one of maturity, where he learned to temper his talents and craft them into truly compelling narratives, with characters you actually care about, and a plot that might be actually worth telling. Oh, wait- he did do that, back in 1997, with his post-Pulp Fiction masterpiece, Jackie Brown. Not only is it, by far, Quentin’s greatest achievement, it’s also one of the best films of that decade, and heck, one of the best films to come out of Hollywood since its 70’s heyday that Quentin loves so much. But why blather on about it now, when you can watch the film for yourself in Part 3 of this Tarantino Takedown?
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