We all like an underdog, one who can end up surmounting all the odds and obstacles to achieve their goals… even if they have to kill to get what they want… Even if they aren’t animate at all. In 2010, a film with a peculiar premise, won both hearts and minds, as it told the story of the love and rampage of a killer tire in Rubber.
In this film, we follow the exploits of a sentient tire, yes a car tire. One that roams around the Californian desert, with the desire to destroy things with its mysterious psychic powers. As audiences both on the screen and off gather to see the result of the tantalising premise. Without a car, we learn what drives the tire, explicitly the obsession of a woman, but we also learn what drives both audience, and the varied cast of characters as they attempt to stop this tire.
In its intro, Rubber delightfully debunks the many preconceptions with a fourth-wall-breaking monologue. Becoming a rallying cry to the mantra of “No reason”. Rubber certainly knows your expectations going in. The meta concept of the audience being in the film certainly isn’t lost. Much like the majority of people who end up hearing the film’s brief synopsis and decide to explore the imagined B-Movie charm, will end up with something more. There have been many times films with a supposed B-Movie quality have transformed into something a lot greater: Bruce Campbell has performed one of the best depictions of an ageing Elvis Presley, and he did so fighting a Mummy! Here, Rubber takes its premise and manages to do something unexpected with it.
Props should go to the literal prop of the tire, (or to give it its proper name, Robert.) Robert feels like a playful cat, in that it is both silly and serious at the same time, excluding his penchant to kill. The way the tire moves is fun to behold, and he manages to convey many personalities, despite being practically inanimate. As can be ascertained from the aforementioned opening monologue, there are numerous characters and scenes that happened for what appears to be no reason and that can probably be interpreted as having sagacious meanings. Like scenes depicting a cooked turkey that may be rotting from the inside, and a mysterious suited man who tries to assassinate a boy in a wheelchair. They’re intriguing sequences, and it does feel like it all ties together. If you just want to see a tire commit a rampage, you can, yet there are elements to suggest that something deeper is going on.
While a serial killing sentient tire would be a fitting for a fun eighties frolic, Rubber instead goes for something a lot more arty and cerebral. Don’t misunderstand, it does lean into the goofiness of its premise, but not in the way you think. Rubber offers a wider cinematic treat to test an audience’s notions of what they would want out of a film about a killing tire. Rubber reminds us that it is not the destination, but the journey that matters.
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