The Wicker Man: AHHHH IT’S IN MY EYES
First off, I want to talk a bit about what I’m looking for and doing with these reviews. The focus point of this project is to analyze Nicolas Cage and his acting choices. Whether he’s given a bad script or a good script, Nicolas Cage acts the living shit out of whatever he’s doing. This can make a decent movie slightly entertaining, or it can make a bad movie downright puzzling. With something like Ghost Rider, it can turn a terrible script into an unintentional masterpiece, and with something like Bad Lieutenant, it can turn an incredible script into a wildly enjoyable movie.
With this in mind, I have to immediately bring up how fucking horrible The Wicker Man’s script is. Dialogue fires back and forth between characters aimlessly, it always seems like people are arguing, anger is met with stammering confusion, and the plot meanders aimlessly until the third act melodramatically brings everything crashing down on itself.
And Nicolas Cage makes the entire fucking thing tolerable.
I know that there is a back story behind this movie. I think most people who didn’t go see it in theatres saw the compilation videos on YouTube before they actually saw the movie, if they saw it at all. It’s widely derided and beloved for being a perfect example of a “so bad it’s good” movie. I don’t disagree with that statement at all. However, I think it is absolutely mandatory to note that without Cage’s involvement, this movie would have been entirely forgotten ten years later.
Cage’s character is a cop dealing with the trauma of being unable to save a little girl in a car accident. When his ex-fiance contacts him to tell him that her daughter has gone missing and that she needs his help, Cage treks off to a remote island inhabited by a strange cult that seems to worship bees or something. At one point the leader says that she’s descended from Celtic immigrants, so I guess they’re sort of Pagans. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The moment he lands on the island, Cage treats everything with a level of frustration and irritation found only in a man who is an inch away from screaming “Fuck all of this bullshit.” He shows up, these three old women tease him, and from there on out he’s pretty much just yelling at people regardless of the situation. I don’t think the character was written to be a complete and total asshole, but Nicolas Cage just plays him like the guy’s a complete sack of shit.
It’s fucking hilarious, and without Nicolas Cage playing the character so belligerent and confrontational, the movie would have been absolutely uninteresting. There’s no real conflict in the first two acts beyond Cage looking around for the missing kid, and Cage treats everybody on the island like he knows that they murdered her.
The cult is objectively evil from the get-go, and you’ll probably clue in that there’s some sort of human sacrifice shenanigans about a quarter of the way in. I think that if Cage had tried to play the character squeaky clean, or at least as a normal person, the movie would have been boring and straightforward and predictable. But because Cage plays the character like such an unlikable jerk, there’s some interesting conflict where you aren’t really sure if you should be rooting for him or for the cult.
Furthermore, the dialogue frequently gets bland, and the Cage Rage makes it not only fun and interesting to watch, but it makes it infinitely memorable. Cage screaming “HOW’D IT GET BURNED!?” at a shocked and confused woman is one of the most memorable scenes in the film. Nicolas Cage turns a pivotal moment in the character’s progress with the case into the breaking point of an already unhinged man.
We hit a solid seven Cagemarks with this one, folks.
Cage never fully pops his shirt off, though he does go swimming in his white t-shirt several times.
We never see him shaving, though we do see him smacking some cologne on his neck early on in the film.
Cage Screams are everywhere, but special mention needs to be made to the final torture scene where Cage is pretty much doing nothing but screaming.
He overacts the living shit out of this movie. After the fifteen minute mark, there are maybe like five lines delivered by Cage at a volume that won’t blow your eardrums out.
And thankfully, in those first fifteen minutes, we get some great underacting, too. A lot of casual smiles and chuckles before he actually lands on the island.
Cage runs SO much in this movie that I’m tempted to give him an extra Cagemark.
Cage doesn’t really do a lot of describing violence in this, but there’s a point where he’s doing a voice-over while he reads about the human sacrifice, and the only words that he actually mouths on-screen are “Killed in a blood ritual,” so I’m giving him a full point for this. He also threatens to shoot a school teacher if she doesn’t give him her bike. God this movie is great.
The second he said “Ex-fiance,” I knew that Cage was going to make out with her, and guess what? He did!
Like I said earlier, a lot of people mock this movie as an example of Cage being a bad actor, but I think it’s actually the opposite. This is Cage single-handedly turning a boring B-movie into an unforgettable cult classic. I don’t really think it’s Cage’s best performance, and it’s definitely not a script that caters to Cage’s strengths, but this film is a perfect example of how compelling an actor Cage is to watch, regardless of what he’s in.
Also, this is something that Nicolas Cage has actually said:
So. Let that sink in.
May it never be the bees,