The satire is the most fragile of all the genres. Drama fails or succeeds on the strength of very definite qualities like story, character, and pathos. Comedy has leeway with its execution on account of its casual tone, as even the blackest comedies have a jokey kernel. Strict genre fare or action is even more forgiving: as long as the film hits a few key points, we enjoy the parts that hit, and dismiss the parts that miss (i.e., the recent Mad Max, which is awesome yet fairly bereft of story). But with satire, if certain elements are missing – a unifying vision, a stylistic conceit, or even a single performance – then the product just feels off. So is the case with War Machine, the Netflix film from Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B Entertainment. Though the satirical aspirations of this send-up of the War on Terror are apparent and welcome, there are simply too many missteps.
The first scene in Saban’s Power Rangers features a joke about jerking off a bull; the movie never gets more clever or subtle. It also probably never gets less weird. Saban’s Power Rangers is full of clichés, takes forever to get going, and suffers from Transformers Syndrome (the dreaded disease where your million-dollar CGI results in indistinguishable characters and clumsy action sequences). Still, there is a bombastic charm to the movie. The director and five credited screenwriters don’t seem to worry if three training montages is too many, or care that using the theme song from the 1990s results in tonal whiplash. Elements of the movie are undoubtedly stupid, but it has a nostalgic kind of irreverence about it, as if to say, “It’s Power Rangers, everyone. Relax.”