The Emerald Forest

The Jones family summer movie viewing continues. My wife and I have been introducing our children, both teenagers, to features we remembered enjoying when we were about their same age.

Some of the movies I enjoyed in the ’80s don’t stand up well. Alright, a lot of them don’t. I remember thinking that Sixteen Candles was hilarious, and when I sat down with the wife and kids to re-watch it there were plenty of moments of humor… until I was suddenly aware how unconscious I’d been about all the sexism. That the love interest, Jake Ryan, passes over his girlfriend to the geeky character played by Anthony Michael Hall to do whatever he likes with is awful. I vaguely recall being uncomfortable with the moment before, but not so much so that I’d remembered it in detail. Now it struck me as incredibly icky. THIS same guy is the one we’re supposed to be pleased Samantha ends up with? I could no longer shrug the moment off and say, “oh, it’s just a comedy, Howard. It’s supposed to be light.” How could any father, brother, or son have written those scenes? Blech.

The Emerald Forest is a very different animal from Sixteen Candles. But it was an ’80s flick, and I’m a lot older, and I wondered if the messages about deforestation I thought subtle would now be like hammers on a gong.

Nope. The Emerald Forest was still pretty darned good. It could have been simplistic with its depiction of civilization as evil and the men of nature being good, but there are good and evil players amongst those from outside the forest and those within. It’s more a story of human nature than it is an anti-progress polemic.

One of the things I most enjoyed was the way things played out without a whole lot of dialogue explaining internal states. You had to infer some of what was going on. There were no moments of a character suddenly explaining to a friend — for the audience’s sake — what they were feeling inside, and how they had learned and grown. If you were paying attention, it all made sense. The movie assumed you were clever enough to follow along. There were times when a scene ended just when some other movie might have focused in on a juicy discussion about what someone had felt or learned. Well, since we could guess what they were going through, for pacing’s sake the scene ended. And sometimes it was almost as though the scene ended so that the characters could have a moment of privacy to discuss what had transpired, something that we could imagine and did not need to hear.

My son commented that the movie had a different kind of pacing than more recent movies but that it had still commanded his attention. Both he and my daughter quite enjoyed it. And my wife and I did as well. I have to say that while all the actors did a commanding job, young Charley Boorman absolutely makes the movie. He’s utterly believable in a role that would have been far simpler to render ridiculous.

Now, since I’m a writer and not a movie reviewer, and I assume the reason a lot of you are here is to see what I’m working on, I’ll report that I’m currently drafting a short story for Paizo that’s related to my upcoming Pathfinder Tales novel. Once I finish, I’m probably back to work on my new secret project, which is currently taking precedence over a third Dabir and Asim novel.

One Comment on “The Emerald Forest

  1. Oddly, I watched this movie in a Philosophy class in college. Our radical (at least to me) professor had us sit in a circle, and we discussed all sorts of things, including this film. The focus on human nature was what the Professor wanted us to take away from the film

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