Mel Gibson — the spasming and scandal-ridden one-time movie star — is poised to debut his first starring-role movie in eight years. Articles are being written about a Comeback! The questions is, do we really want Mel Gibson back?
No, actually, we don't.
Now, the whole comeback language might be a little premature, but GQ's Tom Carson certainly wants us to be prepared. As does The Telegraph. And Entertainment Tonight. And lots of other people! Assuming these folks are right, that Mel Gibson really is going to force himself back into the warm glow of movie stardom's gold-smelted spotlight, is this a good thing, like, at all?
Everyone's always all, "Let's divorce the artist's personal life from their art" and stuff, which makes some degree of sense to us, but still... Gibson's a royal, bigoted asshole isn't he? Sure his drunk-talk Jew-hating sugar-tits Escape From Moonshadows had nothing ostensible to do with whether or not we simply adored him in What Women Want, but aren't we tacitly endorsing someone's lifestyle choices (in this case, blotto Jew-hatery) by supporting their business? Lots of conflicted Hollywooders seem to ignore that conundrum in the case of someone like Roman Polanski, because sure he did a terrible Rape-Rape thing a hundred years ago, but he made The Pianist, which is about the Holocaust, so... all is movie-forgiven. The man isn't forgiven, really, but his art is allowed to transcend the person. (And then they give the person a raggedy Oscar. Sigh.) While we don't really agree with that rug-sweeping-under, we can sort of see where it's coming from. Shame to let true art go unseen because its creator is (or was) a bad person.
But in the case of Mel Gibson... well, he's not making capital-A Art, right? Sure The Passion of the Christ had a certain creative verve to it — that much lovingly orchestrated violence can't be created without some measure of artistic prowess — but it was also a fucking batshit insane movie to make. Same goes for Apocalypto, a bizarre fever dream about how everything in the jungle can kill you except the Conquistadors, who will kill you, but they will also save you with their precious non-heart-cutting-out Christianity. These kinds of aggressively brutal film experiments aren't the stuff that reap forgiveness, or at least earn an overlooking of the personal. They're unsettling feats of endurance cinema, less self-aware versions of Funny Games told on an epic scale. Only Michael Haneke is, like, intellectually insane. Gibson is just old-fashioned nuts.
And we've seen nothing recently that dissuades us from believing that Mel Gibson is a crazy person, one touched in the head by grim and operatic visions of celluloid violence and real-world Jewish warmongering. This makes him interesting, we suppose, but it makes him far from likable. And we are allowed to think that! We have enough evidence. Why would anyone really care about Mel Gibson as an actor anymore? Though he's newly sober (again), we're still haunted by bizarre chat show appearances like this one, in which he comes across as a stuttering, manic wreck. It's scary. And it's kind of sad. Who wants to watch a movie star who's reviled most of the time and shiveringly pitied every rare so often? We certainly don't.
Especially given that his movie choices don't seem to have changed much. He's working on a super-violent movie about vikings, which might be kind of awesome in a way (same way Apocalypto was awesome in its insanity), but knowing it's made by Gibson will probably infect the whole thing with that air of creepy menace that's surrounded him since Christ. His new acting movie, Edge of Darkness, is about an angry Boston cop who threatens people while investigating the slaying of his daughter. That sounds... angry! And it's called Edge of Darkness. Just add a : The Mel Gibson Story and you have a documentary.
The fact is Gibson makes us nervous. He has since Christ (maybe even before that, what with gay-hatin', or at least gay-not-likin', Braveheart and all). And his PCH escapades, followed by the fetishistically bloody Apocalypto, only sunk him even lower in the court of public opinion (or at least our opinion). A broodingly dark thriller isn't exactly the right way for him to convince us we'd misjudged him either. Nor is a gory movie about raping, pillaging vikings. Even an upcoming comedy, Beaver with Jodie Foster, is about a crazy man who talks to a hand puppet. Yikes! Too much of Gibson's personal life has bled into his work and vice versa. The fun-times Gibson of Lethal Weapon and Maverick is long gone. Even the pleasantly intense Gibson of something like Ransom is gone. All that's left is a jittery, scary shadow person that we don't want to see in movies anymore. It's too bad, but it's just what happened. The man is entitled to make movies if he wants, but we're not obligated to see them just because he gave us Bird on a Wire a million years ago.
At this point, he's a man without a case.