Saw II (2005) — Weirdly life-affirming?

“Those who do not appreciate life do not deserve life.”

Nancy’s rating: Two out of my three biggest phobias. (If only they could have figured out a way to work Jaws in).

Nancy’s review: Saw, both one and two, are some of those delicious little psychological thrillers, along the same lines as Se7en. I wouldn’t say that Saw is a rip-off in any way. The feel of Saw is far different — it moves faster, it’s more colorful and interestingly set and we don’t get in-depth characters (excluding Jigsaw) (kinda). Se7en is paced slowly, drew deep into it’s protagonists lives and loves, and set its tale in a deep and dark city.

However, the basic concepts behind them are the same. We have a life-affirming and yet death-delivering psychopath who plays on your fears and points out your weaknesses. He picks out his “scum-of-the-earth,” studies them and punishes them for not living life the way he feels is right. He teaches his lessons through pain. Now, this might not be too extremely terrifying for the avid movie-watching folks who flock to this site. WE know to cherish every single second, make it count and love life and love and happiness. Our rosy cheeks shine as the sun hits our dimples and we twirls around in the greatness of a beautiful day. We skip across mountaintop and scream out the wonders of a life worth living, a day worth appreciating, an existence that is to be cherished. And we dance. By golly, do we dance.

What? You don’t do that? Man, you are missing out! It’s a lovely way to start your day!

The point is, after watching flicks like American Beauty, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and Shawshank Redemption, it’s pretty tough not to live every day to the fullest and appreciate each second. Even Fight Club makes me stand up and shout “I am glad to be breathing!” Some movies can put a real genuine joy into our hearts, and that’s the beauty of them. Sure, something like Se7en can end on a depressing note, but only because the characters did not grab the world by the balls and follow their dreams. We ALL KNOW IT’S GOOD TO BE A DREAMER! With this life aesthetic embedded into us by floating rose petals and Tim Robbins escaping from prison, we have nothing to fear from Jigsaw and John Doe. WE, the few, the proud, the movie nerds, live each day to the fullest. We love life. Jigsaw ain’t got nuttin’ on me, son!

Except sarcasm and mockery. Darn, I jinxed myself.

What I like about Saw is how I feel good watching it, and yet I am totally freaked out. Somehow it subtlety combines my two favorite films — those happy whirly ones that make my smile bright, and those totally f-ed up creepy ones that I’m oddly addicted to. Jigsaw never ‘kills’ per se. All he does is show his character the importance of life and why it is worth fighting for. Most of them cower and shrivel up at the sight of their impending death. Jigsaw tells them to face it head on, and fight, because oh man is living worth the fight.

What I don’t like about Saw 2 is that it doesn’t necessarily hold up to it’s own truths. In this one, characters DO fight. Characters do all they possibly can. It’s tricky to think of examples without forming spoilers, but in my typing of examples and deleting them because they ruined the ending, I discovered perhaps one could argue that Saw 2 DOES let each character get exactly what it deserves, and no innocent people die. Well, I would L-O-V-E LOVE to have this debate, but there’s the spoilers rule that happens here, and man I am frustrated. So everyone who thinks Jigsaw is totally fair in the sequel — let’s have a chat! Drop me a line! Debate with me til the break of day, brother!

Either way, I thought Saw 2 was incredibly interesting. I didn’t expect the great dramatic twist that I got, even though it made perfect logical sense and I was punching myself for not figuring it out before hand. Now personally it happened to play on my two biggest phobias, which are injuring the w-r-i-s-t-s and p-u-n-c-t-u-r-i-n-g the v-e-i-n-s or the a-r-t-e-r-i-e-s (when you type a word you think of the image, and yet if you just wedge hyphens everywhere, you just think in letters, and you come out thinking “gee i love letters” instead of “AH! AH! AH!”) and needles (clearly I’m not as freaked out by the latter). I have a serious problem with the former. I can’t really explain it and I’m pretty sure it’s not some deep-seeted emotional thing or a repressed childhood memory.

I think it’s just wicked creepy and I can’t deal with it. If you have any problems with those two concepts I highly suggest shielding your eyes more than you would at most movies. Perhaps take a cool mask without eyeholes, so when the freaky things happen, people will just think you’re cool and you have a mask, as opposed to them thinking you were a scared little girly boy/girly girl who drinks juice and can’t hear monster stories.

Saw 2 is life-affirming while being sick, twisted, grotesque, creepy, disturbing, and sickness-inducing. But still, I walked out of the theater, took a deep breath, loved the air that was in my lungs and even loved the sick smell of stale popcorn and crowds of people outside of my local movie theater. Call me twisted, but man life is great!

Kyle’s rating: We’ve only just begun to live (a kiss for luck and then we’re on our way)

Kyle’s review: I assume it’s a widespread phenomenon, but if it’s just among me and my friends forgive me: one of the essential roles that pop culture staff/crap plays in life is providing a looking glass into the reality of the world, and into our true selves. Which is to say, in a complicated way, that while our individual tastes tend to run a wide gamut, there are always a few pieces that speak very clearly and truly to something inside us, so that every time we re-experience them it’s like coming home or finding yourself again or just reaffirming everything you thought and are now sure that you know.

For me, Saw II does not play anything even remotely close to that role. I’m still good with Fletch, The Prisoner, The Beatles, and the work of Grant Morrison. Thanks for asking, though.

That said, I can totally see how the two Saw films could fill the sweet spot for someone. They have pretty heavy-handed moral messages, there is (at least the superficial appearance) ambiguity over who exactly is heroic and who is villainous, and the rusty and filth-stained setting and atmosphere is really cool in a vaguely hip industrial sense. If your identity is still in any kind of flux (pre-pubescent or otherwise), it might seem rewarding and even fun to immerse yourself in the value system presented in the Saw universe. Especially if it means considering and perhaps even identifying with the oddly charismatic central madman/genius Jigsaw (Tobin Bell).

Hey, if it works for you: go with it. Who’s to say your cultural touchstone is any worse or better than mine?

I’ll admit that I admire the Saw films, but I don’t quite like them. The premise, which is basically a cancer-stricken evil MacGyver type using cool rust and grime-encrusted inventions of pain to teach the importance of life to all kinds of unwilling victims, is definitely interesting. The dialogue, which is often lame, and the plotting, which serves it purposes but never ventures anywhere truly new or innovative, are slightly less so. In order to reach the climatic revelations where we realize so many assumptions are wrong and that the truth was sort of before us the entire time except we could have never figured it out fully on our own, Leigh Whannel and director Darren Lynn Bousman (especially here) employ a couple tricks in the script to reach the finish line. Often, this sort of practice can be very impressive, particularly when executed properly and effectively. But the execution thus far just hasn’t been appreciably dynamic or memorable, at least on the whole.

Actually, these films are an excellent example of the parts being greater then their sum. Of the first Saw, all I really remember with any kind of enthusiasm is the music video-style camera rotation about Shawnee Smith as she struggles in her helmet-of-certain-death. Of Saw II, which just finished up about ten minutes ago, all that really stands out is how Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, and va-va-voom Dina Meyer all looked great in their roles. Otherwise, nothing.

Saw II is worth seeing if you dig this sort of thing. I went to my rental store for Elizabethtown and didn’t want to leave empty-handed, and since they put out movies as soon as they get them (street dates be damned) I was able to get Saw II a couple days before it should have been released. That secret thrill in breaking accepted DVD release rules didn’t carry over into the film for me. But maybe for you, that thrill will be found within the film itself. The questions raised among the on-screen carnage and tetanus are supposed to be intriguing, but I’ve already gotten my pop culture-filtered philosophical conundrums from other sources. Beyond that, I couldn’t find much there for me. But if you get a good time and some exposure to those great unanswerable questions from something like Saw II, well, more power to you!

Didja notice?

  • When Matthews’ friend is watching the puppet explain his situation on TV at the beginning of the movie, the channel indicator on the television keeps changing from displaying channel 3 in one shot to being covered up with duct tape in the next.
  • Hey! It’s the girl from Becker!
  • Gah!
  • That guy’s a jerk. Youuuu know which one.
  • There’s a character named Eric Matthews! When this boy meets wooorld! BOY MEETS WORLD! Tra-velling down this road, that weee call liiiiife… is what we’re doing. (ya know, in a way, the boy meets world theme song kind of applies to Saw. It’s about… life… in a way)

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