Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Movie Night: The Adventures of Tintin

Girlfriend loved the film. I enjoyed it, but was also disappointed.

There was a lot of good stuff here. The action scenes were fast-paced and awesome, with a car and motorcycle chase through the streets of a terraced middle eastern city being the highlight. The CGI work is unparalleled. There's not a trace of uncanny valley, despite the cartoony style. And the animators threw in all these amusing background events, so that half the fun of the film is trying to catch them all.

But when I walked out of the theater, I was miffed because, for all that, the film cheated me out of the payoff. Twice.


The trailers mentioned "a weapon that could have changed the course of history." That's bullshit. The Unicorn's secret cargo is your bog-standard piles of pirate's gold. But an even bigger cheat is that they don't find the treasure. Instead they find a small portion of the gold, a nice hat, and a sequel hook. If you read my other blog, you know that I hate it when books do this. Translating the story from paper to the big screen does not improve my opinion.


There are other storytelling issues, too. Most seriously, the movie isn't quite sure whether Tintin or Haddock is the hero. When Haddock first shows up, he seems to be a comical sidekick. But from the plane crash onwards, he gets nearly all of the character development and focus, to the point that the villain fights Haddock in the final battle while Tintin just kinda runs around trying not to die. The film also isn't 100% certain if it's supposed to be a serious adventure, a tongue-in-cheek adventure, or a straight-up parody. And there are some frankly amateurish mistakes: Tintin is a cipher with little personality, the whole pickpocket subplot is a waste of time, and the ending is rather blatantly obvious.

I did like the film and would watch the sequel willingly, but this is a B- effort. They could have done better.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Movie Night: Shelock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Disclaimer #1: I never saw the first movie.

Disclaimer #2: I'm biased by means of being a huge fan of the Grenada TV Holmes adaptations (the ones with Jeremy Brett as Holmes that still play on PBS sometimes).

Disclaimers aside, I was somewhat less than impressed.

It's an okay movie, but it was repeatedly failing to live up to my expectations. Robert Downey Jr. plays Holmes as brilliant but comically batshit, with the script and cinematography emphasizing his photographic memory and ability to MacGyver together insane plans on the fly. Jude Law's Watson is the grounded one who tags along despite an ever-present sense of being Fed Up With This Loony. I prefer an eccentric but dignified Holmes, which this movie certainly doesn't give us. I do credit the script with not falling into the common trap of making Watson an idiot. Instead, he's intelligent and competent, a fairly good investigator on his own.

The big problem is, the best Holmes stories are intellectual puzzles with only a smattering of action. But Guy Ritchie, true to his roots, throws in one setpiece after another. Of them, only the Cossack fight and the train sequence are truly memorable, and both are fairly early in the film. Meanwhile, the actual case to be solved fades into the background. We know Moriarity's planning something, and we eventually find out what, but it's more a matter of following the trail until his hideout is found then any test of deductive reasoning.

Also, do not make your entire mystery revolve around a MacGuffin which isn't even mentioned before the climactic revelation. That's just cheating, and it's especially annoying because one or two shots of the book earlier would have been all we needed.

Also also, Stephen Fry's fat ass in a birthday suit is not funny. It's traumatizing.