This is not a review the movie Mimic. This is my attempt to understand my relationship with a movie that I never enjoyed but felt an incredible compulsion to finish.
Scrolling through the Netflix, what made me stop on Mimic was the name of the director: Guillermo Del Toro. I’d seen Del Toro movies before - the first half of Cronos (intriguing), Hellboy (good), Pan’s Labyrinth (excellent), Pacific Rim (fun as all get out) – so I figured that I could put some trust into the name. Mutant bugs, science gone wrong, what’s not to love?
As it turns out, a lot. But, again, the point of this article isn’t to disparage the movie or Del Toro’s good name. What I want to try to understand is why I would keep coming back to a 2-hour movie that I knew after 10 minutes I wasn’t going to enjoy. And, as it turns out, a big part of the reason is this blog.
I have made a commitment to myself to write something for Death By Hippopotamus every day. I’ve had a few lapses, and I’m always posting but I am doing a pretty good job of fulfilling my expectation that some fingers hit some keys and some words get written down whenever sleep deprivation allows for it. Sticking a pin in that for a moment, I started watching Mimic with my partner and, when she fell asleep after ten minutes, I turned it off in case she wanted to finish it. The next day, once it became clear that she couldn’t give less of a crap, I was faced with the decision to continue on or to start something new.
Ten minutes hardly seems like enough of a chance to give a movie before you give up on it, especially when you intend to write something critical about every movie that you watch, so the decision was made to give it another go. After another half hour or so, sleepiness and boredom teamed up to kick my ass and I ended up with another pause in the experience.
At that point, it became more about an issue of investment. I’ve heard it said (in a Cracked.com article that I can’t be bothered to look up) that human beings are terrible at making decisions because of the perception of past time having present value. We will continue to pour money and energy into projects, belongings, and relationships because we are constantly weighing the value of past expenditures against present circumstances. By now, I had put 40 minutes into Mimic and refused to see that go to waste. I don’t have much free time to watch movies so dammit, I wasn’t going to throw away that chunk of my life without having an article to show for it.
After two attempts at viewing, it also became a matter of will. Somehow I convinced myself that I would be proving some kind of point if I could just suck it up and get through to the credits. If I could have the discipline to finish a movie I couldn’t give less of a shit about, it must mean that I’m a serious writer and that I must be earning some kind of critical integrity points. I’m well aware of how little this thought process stands up to scrutiny but when you’re dealing someone who is having an internal struggle about how to spend their couch time, you’re probably not going to win by bringing logic into the conversation.
So I sat down for the third sitting and made it up until the end. Except I was bored again, and tired, and watched most of the last 20 minutes through a hazy fog of sleep. I dozed off a bunch of times and, eventually, shook myself awake to see that it was over. A brief sense of relief washed over me. Then I realized that, despite the “If you liked Mimic, maybe you should try Phantoms” message on the screen, this wasn’t over. I hadn’t done it. I hadn’t slayed the dragon (or cockroach or whatever) because there were still parts of Mimic that I hadn’t seen. I vaguely remembered an explosion and a happy-ish ending but that wasn’t going to cut it. You don’t start a marathon and then sleep through the ending (unless you’re an Aesopian rabbit, which I’m not).
So night number four came along and I made it through to the end. I paused a bunch of times to do Sporcle quizzes or look up other movies I was going to watch afterward, but I got through it! Mimic was conquered so now I could finally, triumphantly, start writing a review. A review about… nothing.
The problem became that I had put so much stock into finishing the movie that I really just stopped watching it. I stopped caring about the characters (not that I ever really started). I wasn’t invested in the horror of giant cockroaches. All I cared about was completion, as if some giant XBox achievement was going to pop up over my head for doing so.
So I tried to write about the movie. I jotted down some themes or ideas but it just ended up being a hodgepodge of trivial bullet points, (ie. hey that guys looks like Josh Brolin… holy crap, it *IS* Josh Brolin!). In forcing myself to watch a movie for the sake of eventually writing an article, I ended up in the ironic situation where all I now have to write about is the process of forcing myself to watch the movie. It may be that Mimic is completely brilliant and contains answers to the universe’s most important questions but for now, it’s the white whale that I conquered with nothing to show for it but 1,000 words of rambling self-psychology and a memory of laughing at this unintentionally hilarious moment…
…where a guy rests his face against a recently peed-upon pregnancy test.