The Movie Binge

Review: Peaceful Warrior

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It may perhaps surprise you to learn that Peaceful Warrior is the worst super-hero film of the summer. “Bwuh?” You are perhaps thinking. “I was under the impression that it was a trenchant and richly philosophical inspirational character piece.” To which I would respond “Perhaps that’s the film you thought you were making, Mr. Salva,” (since he, i.e. you, would be the only person on the planet so generous in their appraisal) “but in fact you’ve wound up with a turgid, overlong sad-sack of a film that embraces the YOU CAN DOOO EEET! mentality to an absolutely ludicrous extent, playing fast and loose with the laws of the mind, body, and external reality for virtually no reason beyond dramatic expedience.”

All of that is a long-winded way to say that Peaceful Warrior was really kinda stupid. Dan Millman’s novel, which I have not read, appears to be a sort of low-rent magic-realist Karate Kid, blending Millman’s own true story of Olympic gymnastic competition with a rather fanciful account of the wonders of his mentor, “Socrates,” a service-station proprietor who taught him wonderful lessons about life, the soul, etc. etc. while seemingly performing fantastic feats of physical and spiritual prowess (One of the partner reviews on the Amazon listing for the novel describes the patently unrealistic character of Socrates as "drawn from emotional rather than factual memory," which I'm prepared to accept as a valid artistic decision under certain conditions, but we'll get to that in a second). As a story, it’s frankly the worst kind of wish-fulfillment claptrap, using the hoary chestnuts of “Believe in yourself!” and “Know what’s inside you!” to justify why a character who is in just about every way a toxic douchebag should merit the admiration of his peers, the accolades of the professional world, and the love of a beautiful woman. But the entirely ridiculous nature of Socrates’ accomplishments – fifteen-foot vertical leaps, near-telepathic reflexes, the power to induce visions – come off as just plain silly, as the film’s tone is consistently awkward, making every moment that violates the laws of physics feel either obnoxiously overblown or puzzlingly de rigeur.

Something interesting could’ve been done with a premise so clearly unhinged from the norm, but these filmmakers simply weren’t up to the task – the script is riddled with clichés, from the teeth-gnashingly awful deep proclamations (“It’s about the journey!”) to the audaciously contrived plotting (“It was all a dream!” That one comes into play more than once, I’m sad to report), all depressingly mundane notes that manage to make the story feel as if it is not unhinged from the norm, but is in fact an entirely by-the-numbers athletic-inspiration film wearing the makeup of a more ambitious movie. It’s a pleasure to see Nick Nolte perform with some gravitas and a marked lack of scenery-chewing (since my last Nolte exposure was in Ang Lee’s Hulk, you’ll forgive me if I was peering through covered eyes when he first appeared on screen), and he does bring more than a few moments of dignity to the otherwise less-than-stellar material, but he can’t save a film that has nothing particularly memorable to say about any of the subjects it engages. Imagine the bastard child of Stick It and Waking Life, without the half-retarded glee of the former and the inventive visuals of the latter, and you’re halfway there.

Comments

Who ever wrote the comment above needs to learn a thing or two about the subject of the book, i won´t talk about the movie because i haven't seen it, but the book is not just about "believe in your self", it is much more than that, and obviously you don´t know what you are talkin about... It´s a true story with details about things you might never get to understand. This isn't a comercial book nor movie, and not many will understand it.

Being a good book and being a good film are two things that should go hand in hand, but in this case don't.

The telling of the story visually never matches the thoughts and images portrayed by reading a story, but often times are done well enough to satisfy the non-reader (85-90% of people).

The Bourne Trilogy was well done. I have not read a single book from that trilogy, but really enjoyed the movies.

It shouldn't be necessary to read a book (Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Shining) to appreciate its cinematographic counterpart. The movie should 'iron cross' on its own two limbs without the aid of a book.

i would have to strongly agree with the first comment... whoever posted that must not have read the book and if they did, that is the worst interpretation of the story that i have ever heard. i also have not seen the movie, but i have read the book more than once and i believe there is much that can be gained from reading it... more than a simple "you can do it"

I haven't read the book, but I've seen and own the movie. It is definitely highly spiritual, inspirational, and mind-bending: all amazing qualities in any piece of art. It touches on points that are usually missed in spiritual movies (e.g., being vegetarian to train a strong body, mind and soul).

Sometimes, we pass judgement at on a topic/entity at one point in time, and later we may come back and look at it with new "eyes." We are all on a journey of growth; it helps to be patient and watchful and withhold judgement when we feel something is not good enough. What bothers us usually is striking a dissonant chord within us that is meant to wake us up to some lesson(s).

I hope you come back to it with a more open heart in the future.

WuWeiLuv

this film inspire me a lot in many ways. I don't care the non-human ability the old man can do, there are so many useful points to live in a better self.

It's definitely not " YOU CAN DO IT". more like "you are alright if you can not do it.just do it with your heart"

PS. I haven't read the book but the film.

If you read Dan Millman's book you will understand all the gaps. I loved the film and I adored the book (and all Millman's books). Please try to learn as mush as you can about something before you judge it =)
Greetings from Greece

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