Mark Twain’s America

Mark Twain’s
written and directed by Stephen Low is the latest in IMAX 3-D and
illustrates that basic critical principle, the law of the inverse relationship
between the sophistication of a film’s
technique and the quality of its content. The feeble idea on which this movie is
based is that you can relate various events in Mark
Twain’s life to people alive today who
are doing similar things. Thus there is a old guy who builds and drives replica
steamboats, and another old guy who builds and drives replica steam trains and a
whole bunch of guys (and gals) who re-enact Civil War battles. Their relevance
to Mark Twain is that he once drove steamboats and rode on trains and fought,
for two weeks before deserting, in the Civil War.

The film includes little snippets from
MT’s witticisms or wisdom, such as
that there has “never been a just or
honorable war—but there some things worse than war
itself.” Uh huh. Or, on journalism,
“first you get the facts, and then you
distort ‘em any way you
please.” Naturally there is a lot
about the “native criminal
class” of Congress, now that the
Republican congress in our own time is here to kick around. But the fact that
the film opens with the July 4th festivities in Twain’s hometown of Hannibal,
Missouri is the most telling thing about it. Like the local Twain industry, the
movie is essentially nothing more than a tourist trap.

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