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08 January 2006 @ 06:11 pm
and now some thoughts on movies  

War of the Worlds. It wasn't until the closing credits of the movie that I was reminded that Steven Spielberg had directed this, which then retrospectively explained a lot. This was an interesting kind of experience; I didn't know the story, and even on my small TV screen, it was incredibly intense--the kind of movie described as an aerobic exercise. But when it was over, I was disappointed, and I have no inclination to see it again. The movie wasn't the sum of its parts, let alone more. The ending in particular was unsatisfying--that Mary Ann's parents' townhouse was intact and that Robbie made it back safely just stretched plausibility so much that at first I thought it was a dream sequence.

I respect that they didn't try to have Cruise's character be the big hero in some takeoff of Independence Day--that's one of the things that stands out about the movie, actually; the helpless, erratic path of Ray and his family across the devastated landscape, completely at the mercy of whatever whimsical, terrible, and unpredictable thing they encounter next, and the fact that the aliens succumbed to simple viruses or whatever it was. That was cool. But overall, I don't know--I just wondered, what am I taking away from this? There's no real pleasure or catharsis. In fact, I found the second half of the movie almost unbearably grim in a way that failed to make up for a very small emotional payoff. Tim Robbins' character induced deep gloom, and the bloody fertilization with humanity's drained bodies was--I don't know how else to say this--the ultimate downer.

Random thoughts on the actors: Dakota Fanning *is* good. I thought she'd annoy the piss out of me, but as usual, Spielberg gets brilliant performances from child actors. Tom Cruise is finally succumbing to gravity, poor guy. Tim Robbins was nearly unrecognizable (I was like, oh that's him, and then five minutes later doubted myself) and did a decent working-class accent that I recognized but couldn't place. Justin Chatwin was incredibly compelling to watch and reminded me of Vincent Kartheiser, a similarity intensified by the father/son friction subplot.

Revenge of the Sith. Who the fuck edited this? Some of the movie was so choppy I couldn't figure out how much time had passed from scene to scene, and the scenes themselves often had no real segue--their sequence seemed random. There was too much story packed into the movie for its length, far more so than in any of the others, I thought. Yet compared to the last two (and editing aside) it was also far more dramatically cohesive and compelling, and the personal stakes of the characters were higher and easier to understand.

I've been told that the small TV screen undermines the success of CGI, and I could see that from time to time, but the imaginative variety of worldscapes--some of them barely more than a casual backdrop for a few seconds of screen action--was one of best things about the movie. And I loved that feathered lizard-horse thing. So! Cute! So sad when it died--I suppose it might have survived the fall, since Obi-Wan did. I hope so.

Drama-wise, the betrayal of the Jedis was one of the most affecting sequences. Padme did *not* seem appealing or interesting enough to serve as the trigger for Anakin's downfall. In fact--

Padme: Natalie Portman looked like she had many sleepless nights during filming, though if her puffy reddish face was meant to be a symptom of pregnancy, I suppose I shouldn't have a problem with that. Her character had no inherent interest. Wasn't she supposed to be a senator? WTF?

Obi-Wan: I like Ewan McGregor a lot, and maybe it was an issue with the material, but Obi-Wan didn't really convey a sense of raging grief at Anakin's betrayal and agony over the epic events. He kind of put the "wan" in Obi-Wan.

Mace Windu: Had more to do than previously. Go, Samuel Jackson.

Yoda: I have never recovered from the new Yoda. It's like New Coke. He's just creepy, yo.

Chewbacca: I have deep not-so-secret Wookie love. (*waves to flambeau, grinning*)

Palpatine: Ian McDiarmid did a hell of a job, though to be honest, I kept thinking: why the hell doesn't Anakin notice what a sinister shmuck this guy is? I mean, right up front he's urging Anakin to kill Dooku with malice and relish in his voice. Anakin is supposed to be an honorable Jedi, and this is the guy he looks to as a patron? I realize that Anakin was supposed to *be* susceptible to the Dark Side, but it never really rang true on that score. I guess we're supposed to believe that Palpatine had been working on his mind for a while, shaping it, but if so, why the hell didn't the other Jedis tune in better to what was going on? Eh.

Anakin: Holy fucking hottie. I couldn't take my eyes off him. The darker he got, the more mesmerizing he was. I'm not sure he was the ultimate evil hottie, but I think he made my top three. I'd hated him in the second film--at that time I thought Hayden Christensen was unattractive and badly cast. He really turned it around here.

As I was watching, I had the thought that the Star Wars is one of the closest things to sustained, filmed fan-fiction we have--a long epic series--and I wondered what would take its place if they're not filming any more of the movies. When will we get something like it again? Someone needs to take up Lucas's dropped reins.
timian on January 9th, 2006 02:27 am (UTC)
I actually quite enjoyed War of the Worlds, which surprised me. I was, however, intensely disappointed that Robbie lived. That ruined the entire movie for me. Heh. I mean, god, could he have reacted in a more idiotic or life threatening manner? And yet he lived, when so many others died. Blech.

The actor was really good, though.
Katie M.katie_m on January 9th, 2006 02:35 am (UTC)
So sad when it died--I suppose it might have survived the fall, since Obi-Wan did.

I'm sure it's fine. It could swim! Yeah, that's it.
Pouncer: Dark Side Rising Anakinthepouncer on January 9th, 2006 03:00 am (UTC)
Anakin got so much hotter the deeper he fell into the Dark Side. Yummy.
AynAtonal: I got no pants!aynatonal on January 9th, 2006 03:55 am (UTC)
I think that, like Haley Joel Osment (who I realize some folks consider to be a creepy little manikin, but who I like quite a bit), Dakota Fanning is a child actor who exhibits some signs of real craft in addition to any natural, reactive instincts she brings to her acting. You can see both intelligence and technique in her performances. Hopefully, she won't grow up to be like Natalie Portman.
Kest: kitties!kestrelsan on January 9th, 2006 04:03 am (UTC)
Hee! I actually just finished watching War of the Worlds a couple of hours ago, and had a similar viewing experience as you. Very intense, and the Tim Robbins scenes were bridging over into horror, almost--I mean, I expected Tom Cruise's character to find dead bodies buried in the basement and various instruments of torture. The looks Robbins kept giving the little girl was creeeepy.

And while like you I appreciated that the narrative angle was different from what we're usually dished up, also like you I'm not sure it was a strong or compelling enough angle to sustain the movie. It reminded me a lot of Signs, but not as well done--the aliens are just a handy mechanism by which we see how humanity will react and treat one another in such a crisis, blah blah blah. War of the Worlds was gripping, but it didn't really take you anywhere. I didn't agree with where Signs went, but at least it was somewhere.
little Alexlitalex on January 9th, 2006 05:05 am (UTC)
I think "War of the Worlds" is a rather typical Spielberg movie, in that the message seems to be, in the midst/aftermath of a world-shattering catastrophe, as long as your loved ones came through, everything will be a-okay. Doesn't matter that the world will be so screwed up afterwards that it'll require decades, even centuries to fix, etc.

For me, Spielberg movies always feel like watching him put a bandaid on someone who got a gaping hole in the stomach. I mean, really.

But you probably weren't asking for a rant; so I'm just going to say, yeah, I agree with you (and the virus bit was from the original book; so I can't even credit Spielberg for the idea).
fish_23 on January 9th, 2006 05:41 am (UTC)
I nod my head. I thought War of the Worlds had some brilliant set pieces but overall I thought it was a fairly shitty movie. It just didn't hang together at all. And the bit with Robbie turning up just annoyed me no end. Last time we see him he's running towards the machines unarmed and then just turns up half way across the country safe and sound? What ever!

Revenge of the Sith had a lot of money thrown at it with lots of talking made up of bad dialogue. It was a pity that they made Padme so drippy - they could have sparked things up a bit by maybe showing her trying to flee with the baby Jedi until Darthie caught up with them, screamed out 'NOOOOOO', and then fell on her, killing her tragically underneath his hulking metal body.
Roquelaureroquelaure on January 10th, 2006 08:11 pm (UTC)
I don't see why the lizard wouldn't have survived. Obi-Wan did. Jedi's are in good shape, of course, but they're generally just as soft and susceptible to injury as other humans. They're just much better at dodging. :)

Also, go here: http://desiringhayden.net/media/movieclips.html - and download shower scenes 1 & 2.

You're welcome.
Estepheia: It's only a movie...estepheia on January 19th, 2006 12:59 am (UTC)
I must have listened to Jeff Wayne's War of the World about a hundred times or more, so I knew all about the bacteria wiping out the aliens.
I thought that the movie was excellent. I saw it both in a decent cinema with a good sound system (very creepy) and at home on DVD (still very good).
As a parent, I was very moved by Ray's plight and the way he was forced to choose between his two children.

I found the movie very intense. Robbie's survival is contrived, I agree, but I wouldn't say it ruined the movie for me.
Oh, and I thought Tom Cruise looked really hot. I like him better than when he was younger. And I liked the scruffy realistic make-up they gave him.