October 25, 2006

Finding Meaning in Milla

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So I’ve been underestimating the Ithaca weather for at least two weeks now, although it’s more like a continuous form of psychotic denial. Naively setting my hopes on a medium jacket every morning, I am usually rebuffed at around noontime by nature’s seemingly endless supply of cold shoulders (What fuels this limitless surplus? The Cornell population, in general?) after ten minutes of hill climbing. Not to be defeated, I decided that what I needed was not a Violet Beauregarde tribute (a la North Face bubble vest) or for a large bear to sacrifice two of its limbs to be made into furry boots so that I could finally obtain my lifelong dream of looking like an Animorph. No, it was time to go back to basics, back to what had always managed to give me the warm fuzzies: a marathon of nonsensical action movies. And my guide through these treacherous waters of brain rot and wit deterioration? Milla Jovovich (that’s pronounced “yo-yo-vich”).
Oh Milla, the number one “hey it’s that girl!” of outrageous action flicks that feature ass-kicking heroines and absolutely no semblance of plot continuity. You might also remember her from contexts such as “the second guest on Late Night with Conan O’Brien” or “the chick on TV who tries to sell me mascara” or “always being photographed by the paparazzi.” Actress, model, singer, fashion designer — you could almost think of Milla as some sort of waif-like J-Lo. But, today we are only going to focus on one aspect of Milla’s colorful career: somewhat actress and frequent weapon wielder.
Like most, I first encountered Milla as the bandage-fixated “supreme being” in Luc Besson’s acid trippy The Fifth Element, where her dialogue was primarily gibberish interwoven with what were meant to be earth-shattering monosyllabic declarations (Help! Please! Love!). Bad dye-job aside, the movie moved quickly and mercilessly strained Bruce Willis’s facial muscles with frequent demands for frowning (A rudimentary training model for Jennifer Garner on Alias?). Nevertheless, Milla’s role as the ultimate weapon against evil managed to solidify her presence in the dwindling pool of female action stars.
Next came The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, which I must confess I could not stand, primarily due to Milla’s unfortunate bowl haircut. Moving along, we come to the year 2001 and Zoolander. As Cold War era James Bond villainess clone, Katinka, Milla was stiff, cruel and seemingly encased in “pleather” for the entire duration of the movie. Despite the film’s comedic overtones, it was the same scowl and the same entirely creepy I-want-to-drink-your-blood expression from Milla.
But then came Resident Evil, most likely my favorite of all the Milla movies. I know you’re probably vomiting a little in your mouth right now, but just remember that I also enjoyed The Transporter and perhaps even Starship Troopers. Resident Evil pitted Milla, this time innocuously named Alice, against flesh-eating zombies and incompetent males, but more importantly, spawned two sequels to guarantee more Milla movies for years to come. For 2006, this trend manifested itself in Ultraviolet, which somehow managed to eclipse even Aeon Flux in terms of confusion. She’s a vampire? What? Huh? Isn’t baring one’s midriff a bad idea when fighting with swords and projectiles?
Not to rebel against cinematic substance, but I must admit I miss the glory days of celebrity-headlined action flicks. Did I care who or what or when Steven Seagal, Harrison Ford, BruceWillis and Arnold Schwarzenegger were fighting? Not really, but I just needed the entertainment. In Milla, I see a return to the gratuitous old days. Though zombie vanquishing may not require a strategically torn dress, cheesey tough expressions, complicated weaponry or a combination of the three just makes it that much more fun to watch.