May 9, 2007

Stuff that's been going into the brain

All sorts of media this last while...various forms...various quality...

Let's start with just the flicks and go for the comics and music another day...

Caught Meet the Robinsons in 3d.

First off, I was surprised and how natural and impressive the 3d effect was. The last film I saw in any 3d was Superman Returns with about twenty minutes of 3d in the entire flick. Robinsons, however, was all 3d, and the use wasn't just a cheap stunt. Instead it seemed a natural extension of the animation to come toward us in the theater. The characters looked like well-sculpted dolls rather than like flat, computer animation.

Second, this isn't a film with lots of levels to the humor. Where Shrek and many other animated fatures have worked differently for adults than for children, Robinsons was all there for the kids. There weren't any adult in-jokes or risque double entendres. The whole movie was written on the kids' level, and it worked well.

Third, the artistic style - based on William Joyce's A Day with Wilbur Robinson is a treat to behold, particularly to see what Joyce himself has done to adapt his barely-mentioned-in-passing characters to much larger rolls in most cases. The book is more beautiful than the film, but the visual style carries over quite nicely.

I enjoyed the film and was just fine without the touch of more adult humor that we often see in animated features. There isn't a lot of character development, and some of the twists can be seen coming from a mile away, but the heads on the screen are likeable enough and entertaining enough that it all works well.

This one would be perfect for kids of nearly any age, and a decent little lark for the adults who have to ferry them to and from the movies.

The Girl and I walked in about ten minutes late to Pan's Labyrinth and found ourselves entirely and completely lost. The titular faun had already been introduced and the entire scene set. We missed it all.

Luckily, we sat through the between-showings downtime and caught the first ten or so minutes of the next showtime, because those ten minutes cleared up a whole lot of plot questions for us and left us with an excellent fantasy film that turns out to be much more about escaping the sometimes awful circumstance into which you've been thrust than it does about following Pan on any sort of labyrinthian quest.

The plot centers around Ofelia whose life has been turned upside down as her mother has taken on a new stepfather whose military position sees the whole family taken to a remote outpost in the fight against the 1940s Spanish guerillas. In her misery at her new circumstances, Ofelia either creates (The Girl's view) or stumbles into (my thoughts) a fantasy world where she is nearly eaten, sometimes berated, and rarely given any clear directives as to what she should do or what consequences might befall her if she doesn't follow the letter of her instructors.

Despite the fantasy world's striking visuals and the trailer's dominant position of these fantasy scenes, most of the movie takes place in the real world where a capricious step-father and Captain tries to run his camp as he sees fit in spite of treachery taking place within. Ofelia is given little freedom, few opportunities, and no companionship of her own age. It is no wonder that the girl would choose an escapeist fantasy - whether she creates that fantasy from whole cloth or simply falls into a world that she never quite understands.

The film is dark but excellent, filled with dimly lit, oddly tinted worlds to show Ofelia's difficulties of trying to be a child in a world of quite formal, military grownups. The few moments of fantasy world provide a bit of excitement, but little that takes place there rarely leads us to anywhere else, never quite revealing whether the fantasy world is real or imagined.

And then there's the big daddy of the early summer: Spider-man 3.

Early reviews of this film have been decidedly mixed, but I'll offer no such middle of the road criticism. I was excited to see this one because I enjoyed both of the first two films, and I managed to wait until Monday just so I wouldn't be one of those "first weekend" freaks who have to see everything the day it opens up.

Take that, Hollywoo! (intentionally misspelled as an homage to 1941)

The film stunk.

There, I've said it.

It stunk.

Wait, I should say something positive before ranting: The Sandman looked right.

There. That was the one good aspect of the film. They got the Sandman character's look absolutely spot on perfect.

(spoilers coming, folks)

(You have been warned.)

The story was far too crowded, never allowing any of the plotlines the room that they needed to develop, leading to a very episodic feeling with each action connected to another that we wouldn't see until three scenes later because the director needed to check in with each of the other ongoing plots.

The directing was heavy-handed
  • Spidey doesn't just chuck the evil black suit, he had to chuck it and then let us see him in the shower metaphorically washing himself clean - in case we hadn't noticed that he's the good Peter Parker again.
  • We don't get a scene with Spidey swinging in, we get Spidey swinging in, pausing in front of an American flag - in case we'd forgotten that he was a hero again.
  • The redeemed villian doesn't die, he dies in front of a sunrise with his two best friends holding one of his hands. And the camera pans down to give us a better view of the backlighting.
  • The bad guy doesn't have to have a heart of gold (in spite of the fact that he's trying to kill our hero and doesn't seem to give a crap what buildings he knocks down in the process), he has to have a kid on a ventilator...and walking crutches...and a mean ex-wife to make him a good man.
  • The fight doesn't tell us that Spidey's dying - the overwraught newscaster has to inform us that "this could be the end of our beloved Spider-Man"
  • Peter doesn't get to act evil, he has to comb his hair forward and let that hair get a little dirtier - in case we had missed the transformation, you know.

Then come the desparate retcons that are needed to make this flick's story work. There are two instances in the film where a character has to preface what he says with a line to the effect of "I have known this for two years but haven't said a word until now..." In one case, it's to alter a huge plot point of the first film - that the bad guy Spidey let go eventually killed Uncle Ben. Now it turns out that the cops have known for two years that somebody else killed Ben...and coincidentally the real killer escaped yesterday. What bad luck.

In the other instance of retconning, a character says "I haven't said anything for two years, but you've been wrong. Sure, I could have cleared this up long ago, but then we wouldn't have had a second movie at all. I couldn't very well do that, now could I?"

Ok, that last part is made up. The character doesn't say it...but it's true. Had that one character spoken up, lives would have been saved, and the major plotline of the second film would never had taken place.

The only enjoyable moment in the film - evil Peter dancing his way down the street and through a date with Gwen Stacey - is so out of tune with the rest of the movie, so out of character with Peter Parker (whose level of agression, not smarminess is ramped up according to Doc Conners) that it breaks whatever momentum the movie might have had going for it.

Everything else you could think of about a film (the dialogue, the acting, the plot, everything) stunk.

Oh, except for Bruce Campblell's obligatory cameo. That was hilarious, and it fit into the flow of the movie.

Even Stan Lee's now overplayed cameo was poorly done - which is tough considering what most of his Marvel-film cameos are like.

Sorry, folks, but I took the $6.75 hit for you on this one. Now you don't have to.

Avoid Spider-Man 3 like it's radioactive.

...and has cooties.

...and bad breath.

...and works for the IRS.

(spoliers over, folks, you can come back now)



Jonathan M. said...

This film gave a bad name to parted hair everywhere.

PHSChemGuy said...

Not if it was parted neatly, in which case it suggests that you're a hero.