Tuesday, November 24, 2009

18th Nov 09 - 2012

I wasn’t there, but this is how I imagine the conversation went between Roland Emmerich (“RE”), and Roland Emmerich’s subconscious film-making mind (“SC”), when trying to decide on whether to make 2012:

RE: I quite fancy a period drama next.
SC: I think you should destroy the world again.
RE: Oh… all right then.

And so 2012 was born. Though he was cajoled into it, Emmerich seems to have decided that if he is going to destroy the world again (he really hates the world – see Independence Day and the Day After Tomorrow) he’s going to do it so much that there can no longer be another disaster film. It’s like everyone’s had a go at folding down a cardboard box to shove it in the bin, all with varying degrees of success, but Emmerich has stomped in, doused the box in petrol and set it alight. No one can even attempt to have a go now. The box is gone.

Well it’s sort of like that.

Anyway, the key ingredients to this sort of disaster flick are all there – an everyman trying to save his family (John Cusack), some hot British scientists on hand when explanations are needed, an American president (randomly being Danny Glover), a crazy man (Woody Harrelson), a scattering of token “foreign” people (it is the whole entire world that’s going bust this time after all), and a cute doggy. The action, when it kicks in, is giggle-inducing fun. Cusack driving away from a collapsing planet is probably the best action sequence you’ll see this year, and shot in such a way that it would be a crime not to convert it into some sort of simulator/3-D/coaster experience in Florida. The pure scale of everything is awesome, and you can almost feel Emmerich chuckling behind the camera as he smushes buildings, sticks two fingers to religion, and just generally causes chaos. Great fun.

Great fun for about 40 minutes, that is. Trouble is, 2012 is 158 minutes long. The usual padding – slow build up to mass destruction – is forgivable and necessary for the genre, but post-destruction events take a dull turn as the surviving humans board their getaway ships (and that’s sea-ship, not space-ship) and everything goes a bit Titanic. We’ve just seen the entire earth destroyed – some water in a cabin is suddenly a million times less interesting.

You then add in the typical problems with this sort of thing – our hero always managing to be on the brink of every new moment of chaos and managing to just avoid everything over and over again, the usual American way of saving the American world with occasional glances at how the rest of the planet is doing – oh yes, there goes another country, ah well – before back to who’s really important, and Cusack looks too bored with the role, his trademark sardonic pout clashing with the CGI pandemonium around him. Once you’ve added all that, 2012 starts to look a bit crap, really.

The highlights – uber destruction like you’ve never seen – are thrilling, fun and quite superb. It’s a pity this beast has become a bit too bloated, the airy pockets smothering the juicy good centre into a passable way to spend several hours. Go for DVD, skip to the mid 40 minutes, then discard. For the best scenes, 2012 gets a CF2. But the score is diluted to a disappointing CF-1. I’ll still be making friends with a pilot though, just in case…

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

11th Nov 09 - Up

Call me old fashioned, but I just don’t get this new fangled 3-D obsession in cinema nowadays. If I wanted things appearing to poke me in the face then I’d attach a pen to a spinning bicycle wheel and sit a few centimetres away from it with my eyes taped open. And I’m obviously not going to do that.

As a short-sighted glasses wearer I don’t need to wear an extra pair of specs on top, with a fuzzy bit at the top of my vision which neither glasses cover. Therefore in defiance of the future of cinema, I strode into a 2-D version of Up. And it just goes to show that 3-D is unnecessary, because even without the fancy gizmos, Up is simply marvellous.

With a plot obviously written while on magic mushrooms, Up is a joyous blend of childlike silliness and adult heart-wrenching sadness. The opening ten minutes managed to reduce me to tears with a montage, echoing Wall-E’s amazing knack of conveying deep emotion without using any dialogue. It features the crushingly cruel truth of the outcome to any long-term love, and deals with it in such a beautiful, mature manner that you’d be forgiven for thinking it wasn’t a child’s film at all. And then the balloons come out.

Anyone miffed by the sudden change in tone from cold hard truth to vibrant sugar-fuelled insanity should be branded an idiot fool – and I mean literally branded. On the forehead. A film about a man who attaches balloons to his house and flies away – an inescapable point given all posters feature a picture of said event – must surely hint that the plot is far removed from the realms of the possible. Just how far it takes you into crazy territory is surprising, but if you’re going along for the ride it becomes not only hugely enjoyable, but also absolutely hilarious and thrilling too.

Picking an old dude for the main character seems a bit of a stuffy move for Pixar – who the hell wants to watch old people in films anyway? All they do is shuffle and pee. But Pixar win again, because not only is it original to feature a geriatric hero, they also accomplish two genius things – one, an OAP fight scene that’s just gold, and two, the idea of small children coming out of this film and never seeing their Granddad in the same light again.

Never one to disappoint, Pixar have done it again with an original gem, scoring points for tackling such deep emotional issues and mixing them with some old fashioned childish nonsense. Funny, exciting, heart-warming – just beautifully enjoyable, Up storms up the CF point scale to reach the dizzying heights of a CF4. Highest scorer of the year? Cor blimey I believe it is. Up yours!