Thursday, October 12, 2006

In Memoriam: The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course


Dir: John Stainton (Crocodile Hunter TV Series; first film)

Every once in a while, I watch a film where the context of viewing overtakes the story itself. For obvious reasons, I sought out Collision Course to have just that sort of experience. Yes, it's a kid's film, an extended version of the TV show, the work of those who are looking to make a quick buck on a franchise. But in this narrow window of history, it is a fantastic time.

It is a fact that Steve Irwin was a tremendous personality, a force that filled the small screen and does a pretty good job commanding the big screen as well. Thankfully, his greatest feature was his combination of enthusiasm with self deprecation. He knows he is a clown, an entertainer that we are laughing even as we admire his courage. So, Irwin thrusts his fingers into crocodile poo and smears it on his shirt, a big grin on his face. But he also holds a snake by its tale and flings it around. Irwin was a showman, a daredevil with an act full of one-liners. I often find myself flipping by his show and watching ten minutes or so. And I pass by lots more stuff than I linger on, so that is worth something.

The parts of the movie that are not directly related to Irwin teasing deadly animals are what you would expect. There are some bad actors playing some bad roles. Some silly humor and some stuff blows up. There is some sort of plot about government secrets that matters very little. One odd note is that inter-agency in-fighting in the American government has become so routine that it even shows up in a kid's movie about Australian crocodile wranglers. If that is not reason for intelligence reform, I don't know what is.

None of that, though, mattered much while I was watching the film. This is well worth tracking down in the near furutre so that you can truly appreciate the irony of Irwin's death. It is at one level obvious; the man who provokes animals for a living died at the hand(tail) of an animal. But in this film, the constant allusions to danger, the admonishments to the audience not to do the very dangerous things he is doing, are so common that the irony of the whole thing overwhelms. It's morbid, it's fascinating, it's creepy.

And I had a great time experiencing it. I guess if entertainment value is why we watch films in the end, then Collision Course delivers. Here is hoping that Steve Irwin is poking dangerous animals with short sticks somwhere in TV heaven. He tempted fate so that we might be moderately entertained. He seemed to enjoy doing it, which is the only way to judge a life.