Saturday, November 12, 2016

A tale of two movies

The election of Trump has made talking about movies seem like unimportant trivia; but I said in my 10,000th post that I wanted to write about two I saw last weekend.  And I should try to distract myself.  So here goes:

1.  Interstellar.

Look, I admit - with Matthew McConaughey (an actor I have never liked) in the lead, there was every chance I wouldn't like it.

But I was completely unprepared for the awfulness of this movie in every respect:

a.   (and this is where the main blame has to go) The Worst Script Ever Written For What Was Meant to be Serious, Adult Science Fiction.   I can just imagine the actors saying to their agent "Christopher Nolan?  Big budget outer space adventure?  Sign me up!", and then despairing when they actually read the lines they were supposed to deliver.

The dialogue was terrible, undeliverable in an convincing fashion by any actor - but with McConaughey doing his Texas drawl turn, it was unbearable.

And look, I'm no cynic about "love talk" in movies, and emotional scenes - I'm a Spielberg fan after all, and the endings of Ghost, ET and even Shakespeare in Love  reduced me to tears;  but the whole relationship stuff in this movie just rang false from beginning to end.

b.   apart from the lines, and clunky exposition (seriously, the old pencil through folded paper explanation for a wormhole just before they are about to enter the wormwhole?  Is Nolan surrounded only by Yes men?)  the whole concept of the story was so derivative and underwhelming.  It's a cross between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr Who, but with none of the awe of the former and none of the emotional resonance of at least some of the Tennant episodes of the latter. 

c.  good direction?   I couldn't detect anything special.  Good visual effects?:  I was much more impressed with Gravity than anything in this.  Good music?:  it was continually invasive and preaching a seriousness that the story itself was failing to hit.

d.  Improbabilities in the story?  Well, I want to make the point that I am not really even emphasising these - I don't usually engage in hypothetical logic challenges to movies - such as why didn't they send in more probes instead of humans; and the whole "by his bootstraps" paradox of time travel.  That didn't matter to me - the movie was still bad enough on every other level that I am utterly surprised how it got any good reviews at all.

Jason Soon - didn't you make a positive comment about this movie?   It's off to the cinema re-education camp for you if you did.

2.   Dr Strange

Great fun.

As I expected, Cumberbatch and Swinton are just terrific.

I wanted to note in particular that I find Swinton almost mesmerising, at least in this type of role.  (I haven't really seen her in any lengthy part where she plays a normal woman - but as with her White Witch in the first Narnia movie, there is just something about her elocution and the features of her smooth, alabaster face that means I can't take my eyes off her for a second.) 

The script is very witty, the visuals are impressive (yes, Jason, even if Nolan first did folding cities first - he didn't do them in such an exciting fashion), and I liked how one oft-repeated effect - the portal with the residual fire sparks that would fall to the ground - was rather like how you would expect old fashioned magic to look - a bit different from the normal glowing rocks and holographic style effects.

As with Guardians of the Galaxy, parts of the movie had that retro 70's science fiction book cover palate about them, and I also liked the cleverness of the final battle being the reverse of (what I take to be) the typical ending of a Marvel movie.

The movie started very strongly in America, and around the world, although I wonder if depression at the Trump election might cause a bigger drop off in box office this week end than would otherwise happen?

And God knows, if the nation ever needed a real time bending superhero, it is now. 

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