“This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a whimper, but with a bang.”
Existing on its own, Southland Tales is a mosaic mess of a narrative. Yet, coupled with the three-part “Prequel Saga” graphic novel, Southland Tales is an acceptable and intriguing complexity. Think of the graphic novel as a prescribed dose of medication to treat a cluster headache prophylactically; without this dose, one would surely develop a painful attack of mangled ideas and unsure conclusions. However, with the first three chapters of back-story under your belt, the graphic novel makes the film (the final three chapters) smoother sailing, more enriching, and exponentially vast.
Writer/director Richard Kelly has crafted an intricate six-part saga — reminiscent of Star Wars, with its Roman numeral “episodes.” Only each chapter does not stand alone as its own feature. As a remedy, Kelly compounds IV, V, and VI into the two-hour and twenty-four minute motion picture and presents I, II, and III in the 311-page alternate medium. Coupling the film and its expansive graphic novel with its elaborate website, Southland Tales is more than a movie, it’s an interactive experience.
The titles of the six chapters read as follows: I: “Two Roads Diverge,” II: “Fingerprints,” III: “The Mechanicals,” IV: “Temptation Waits,” V: “Memory Gospel,” and VI: “Wave of Mutilation.” Between “The Mechanicals” and “Temptation Waits,” sits a prologue — mainly to clue in those who didn’t read the graphic novel. Featured are only snippets of the “Prequel Saga” and a brief introduction to assist in painting the picture. By no means does this preamble (a quick summary of chapters I, II, and III) serve as a replacement to consuming the graphic novel.
In the wake of two nuclear disasters in El Paso and Abilene, Texas on July 4, 2005, the world is a different place. The draft has been reinstated; strict borders have been established at state lines requiring interstate travel visas; and, the Republican regime keeps close tabs on its citizens through a colossal think tank called US-Ident — an extension of the Patriot Act.