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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 17.76%
Average: 7.48%
Pretty Bad: 0.93%
Total Crap: 4.67%

7 reviews, 65 user ratings

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Corporation, The (2004)
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by David Cornelius

"Stick it to the Man!"
3 stars

I’ve always found that those who riot outside of global corporate summits are just folks looking to recreate the hippie days. Before Bush gave us a war, there just wasn’t much worthy of protest, so those itching for a good, solid rhyming chant picked corporate world as its target.

Which seems lame, really (bored suburban white kids yelling about Nike is supposed to match the fire and fury of the Vietnam era?), and yet you gotta hand it to ’em - they sure picked a good group of jerks to annoy. These “jerks” are the companies that pollute our land and water, that abuse struggling nations for sweatshop purposes, that lie and cheat and steal, all in the name of the bottom line. And it’s all OK, because corporations are required by law to put the interests of its stockholders above all other interests - even general human interest.

That’s just one of the interesting factoids you’ll learn in “The Corporation,” a sprawling documentary that’s out to prove, among other things, that if you were to run down a checklist of trademark psychopathic behavior, you’d find that big companies fit the bill. Blatant disregard for others’ safety? Inability to feel guilt? Lack of concern for the law? Check, check, and check - you’ve just described most of the megacorps on the planet.

Another interesting factoid: in the eyes of the law, a corporation is granted the status of a person, a choice that has been bent by lawyers over the past century or so to their advantage. Most notably: the fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the one that in its dealing with equal rights, stated that government may not “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This has been disturbingly twisted over the past century and a half to protect the rights of businesses as well. Claiming a corporation as a “person” in court is an easy way to protect your business - and your money - from any pesky “laws.” They’re just trying to make money, you see, and anti-pollution, pro-worker, and all those other laws deprive them of their liberty. Sheesh.

That’s just the first of many conversations this film, from writer/directors Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott (and co-writer Joel Bakan, whose book, “The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Power,” was a major source). There’s a lot on the filmmakers’ minds, and they’re eager to spend the time discussing every last bit of it. What we get, then, is a movie that’s far too big for its own good; pushing two and a half hours, the film tires the viewer with an unyielding barrage of anti-corporation information. (I’m tempted to call it “propaganda,” as it’s certainly out to push an agenda. But that term sounds sinister, and so I’ll just label it an “opinion piece” - albeit one backed up with plenty of usable information.)

Over the mammoth running time, we get the scoop on sweatshops in Latin America; a scheme to control Bolivia’s water supply (including rain itself) that backfired on the company that imposed it; the psychological impact of branding as an advertising tool; the money-first way of thinking that has one commodities banker yakking about the “opportunity” of Sept. 11; and yes, even the Nazi card.

There are no badder bad guys than the Nazis, and the filmmakers don’t mind drudging them out to argue that IBM sold their souls to make some scratch by selling Germany a computer that would let them handle the processing of all those concentration camp prisoners. But here’s where Achbar and Abbott go where few opinion docs have lately: they openly invite debate on the subject. To some, the IBM/Nazi link is the worst story never told; to others, it’s a cheap lie, an urban legend shared among conspiracy theorists. The movie provides one point of view, then the other, refusing to settle.

That said, it’s clear that even if proven innocent, the filmmakers wish to lump IBM into the “bad” category of businesses merely by association. Yes, they play fair by allowing dissenting voices, but as so many of those voices sound downright insane (one interviewee declares that sweatshops are a “godsend” for the countries that house them), it’s hard to tell if Achbar and Abbott selected the craziest opposition, just to help their case, or if crazy is all the other side has to offer in the first place.

The other problem we encounter with the movie is that the filmmakers seem afraid of talking heads. They’re not confident enough to just show us experts talking to us. Instead, they overlay a series of images - old film clips, nature footage, random confusion - in an attempt to ensure that the screen remains forever busy. This bit of forceful editing detracts from the overall picture, tiring the viewer. The facts as presented are compelling enough. Why did we need so much visual gimmickry?

Ultimately, however, the message wins out over the style. “The Corporation” is loaded with stories that are fascinating, shocking, angry, sometimes even wonderful. Some of the most effective include the testimony of Ray Anderson, the head of a major carpet manufacturer who recounts his epiphany on the environment and how he’s managed to turn his company into one that’s working to undo the pollution of its past. Or the tale of the investigative journalists who uncovered a major scandal in the dairy industry, only to have it shelved due to legal interference. (Needless to say, the network afraid to air the piece was Fox.) And then there’s that Bolivia water thing, which proves that not everyone is helpless to the insane whims of a monopoly.

“The Corporation” is overlong, yes, and opinionated, true. But it’s also fine journalism, a sort of all-encompassing introduction to anti-corporation sentiment. It does everything a good documentary should do: it informs, it entertains, it pulls the viewer in. Sometimes it’s sloppy and rambling in its delivery, but the times where it’s airtight make up for it. This is fascinating stuff indeed. Future rebels looking for their cause will take this as their bible; everyone else will find it useful as a depository of intriguing facts. Either way, it’s well worth watching.

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originally posted: 04/06/05 02:36:07
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.
This film is listed in our political documentary series. For more in the Political Documentary series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/24/07 Ida Ansharyani It teach me how to see myself, and the reality of life in my country into a wider scheme 5 stars
8/01/07 fools♫gold So pretty it leaves me with these ineloquent sentences. Can't give it a high enough score. 5 stars
6/20/07 johnnyfog smartest guys in the room 4 stars
6/16/07 dnnxkz The professionals of Full Tilt Poker include the best and most famous poker players in the 1 stars
5/31/06 Kevin Very informative. Definitely intended for the "average" audience, though 5 stars
5/24/06 sean g GREAT! SHOULD BE required viewing for business ethics 101 courses 5 stars
5/08/06 Simon Very engaging, worthy of praise, but please do not enslave yourself to its activism... 5 stars
2/16/06 carole fuenzalida a real eye opener!! some of it i was already aware of..great movie 5 stars
1/05/06 Andrew Coomber Absolutely Thriving. The horror of globalization lies in here. 5 stars
10/26/05 Scott Extreme Left bashing of the freedom we fight for. 1 stars
6/04/05 Mike Jozic A little 'simple' in its execution but an otherwise well done doc. 3 stars
4/24/05 shirley kelley a life changing experience! 5 stars
11/06/04 Katie Heath Quite a few people got up and left when I was there but I was rivetted! 5 stars
10/28/04 David Delucchi extraordinary film 5 stars
9/28/04 Elendil ..but simplistic. Read Powers' Gain by if u want entertainment + history of corporations. 4 stars
9/27/04 Helen Bradley Brilliant. Fast paced documentary well researched 5 stars
9/20/04 David Löfgren I've been dreaming for so long... It's time to wake up! 5 stars
9/14/04 Johnna Laurel great concept,and also casting 5 stars
9/10/04 joe smith true,accurate countervailing statement 5 stars
9/07/04 Gene Beed Shallow, sophomoric, manipulative. Should appeal to most neoilbs. 1 stars
9/04/04 BC I feel I need to look more closely at my life and institute changes wherever possible 5 stars
9/03/04 sunny Great film, makes you think and want to make things better 5 stars
8/28/04 capitalbliss Great movie but now that we know, what next? I think we need a sequel Micheal. 5 stars
8/21/04 Mark Ridiculous anti-capitalist tirade obviously popular with brainwashed lefties 2 stars
8/01/04 Nikolai Corporations will buy the Vatican and gain a soul. War creates jobs and democracy. 5 stars
7/18/04 Cassandra Farrar makes you think! 4 stars
7/18/04 Michael Kwiatkowski I have not yet seen this film, but I want to. In fact, I most likely will. 4 stars
6/16/04 Thomas Hickey Great! A must see film for everyone! 5 stars
6/08/04 Anthony Pereira One of the most important movies I have seen in 37 yeares on our planet, or is it theirs. 5 stars
5/21/04 Rich Pretty damn important. 5 stars
5/16/04 Jean lacks objectivity and focus, still very interresting and enjoyable 4 stars
5/05/04 thejames go see it fucker! 5 stars
5/04/04 beatrice quite freaky....facing reality ...really good documentary..those docs are needed 5 stars
4/23/04 Ed Maher Required viewing for all Americans. 5 stars
4/14/04 Cameron Slick Totally awesome! 5 stars
4/13/04 Rob Bond Very thorough and informative! A film's GOT to be interesting to 4me2 want more after 3hrs! 5 stars
4/11/04 Tim Powerful, Incisive, Important documentary, Works VERY well as a commercial-release movie! 5 stars
4/08/04 filmguy fantastic! clear-headed, well-researched and tremendously engaging. Not to be missed. 5 stars
4/06/04 Jessie I had to watch The Corporation as a class assignment. It was a great film, makes you think 5 stars
4/04/04 The Kind Anarchy Organization founder people in the theatre were laughing...i was crying 5 stars
4/04/04 G Spafford Best movie I've seen in a long time. 5 stars
4/03/04 Hilarium It'll be in the US in June. Can't wait to see it again. 5 stars
4/02/04 Ken Shepard Take your family and friends 5 stars
2/26/04 Nicholas Engelking Looks good, hot topic, good facts, bad process, see it anyway. 3 stars
2/24/04 KC Grant Will it play in the US 5 stars
2/17/04 rgpratt Must-see 5 stars
2/15/04 ben backward logic, retarded 1 stars
2/08/04 Ten EVERYONE needs to see this movie 5 stars
2/07/04 Jason Andrew A must see! 5 stars
2/04/04 Larry McDonald Very interesting! 4 stars
2/03/04 Rosie R Riveting, shocking, HUGE wake-up call 5 stars
2/03/04 Isabelle This movie should be seen by all high school students & parents all over the world. 5 stars
1/29/04 Graham Doll enlightening 5 stars
1/29/04 sophie Brilliant!!!!!! 5 stars
1/29/04 theo the usual cast of (left) wing nuts 1 stars
1/25/04 sunil kumar see review 5 stars
1/24/04 mel amazing and eye opening. 5 stars
1/24/04 Immaculate If you have a place on this planet right now wake up and do some change 5 stars
1/22/04 Zamir A clairvoyant look at our corporate society 5 stars
1/21/04 Rosco Act on this!!! 5 stars
1/20/04 Tim Unbelievable - changed my life! 5 stars
1/20/04 L. Lapage Eye-Opener 4 stars
1/18/04 Nick I can't help but look at everything in a diffrent way 5 stars
12/03/03 Rita FANTASTIC 5 stars
10/20/03 Josiane Absolutly fantastic MUST see 5 stars
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  04-Jun-2004 (NR)
  DVD: 05-Apr-2005


  02-Sep-2004 (PG)

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