Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Hagiwara's Review of Movies

So I was doing some shopping yesterday afternoon, and I decided to see one of two movies I was vaguely interested in. I'm not much of a movie person. Not that I don't enjoy movies. I just don't often go see them. But two movies presented themselves in my path, conveniently scheduled, and there you go.

So the choice was between "Get Smart" and "Journey to the Center of the Earth". I like Steve Carrell, and I loved "Get Smart as a kid, so I figure I'll see it at some point. So I decided to see "Journey", in order to partake of the 3D experience.

Okay, 3D effects were pretty good. A few gratuitous straight-at-you things just for the cool 3D of it, but not so many that they were annoying. A couple of them were actually quite well done--well placed, cinematically thinking. Occurred at the right moment and evoked the appropriate response from the viewer, i.e. shock or fright or start or something.

Several straining the edges of credulity sci-fi adventure moments. Confusions between being 'miles' and 'hundreds' and 'thousands of miles' below the earth's surface. The earth is only about 8 thousand miles in diameter, and magma and iron core and such notwithstanding, it doesn't take that many miles to potentially enter a new world. That and falling that distance, or shooting back up that distance, even with terminal velocity and such, would be a lot more injurious than it was made to look. I'm not complaining in general about 'bad science' or 'poor research', so much as inconsistency. Falling miles and miles and miles and ending up completely uninjured, 'slowing down in the waterslide' not withstanding, is just not necessary, when falling a mile or so would do plenty. Although the fall itself was a riot.

Storywise, this has little to do with the Verne novel, although this is explained early--the lead character (Brendand Fraser) has a brother who apparently believed (and disappeared trying to prove) that Verne's novel was a history, and that Arne Saknusemm (the fictional alchemist whose notes lead the novel's protagonists on their adventure) was historical. Accompanied by the now 13 year old son of the lost brother, Brendan Fraser's character discovers seismic conditions are now identical to those that started his brother on his last journey, and they go off to find out what happened. They pick up a beautiful mountain guide in Iceland (who is more more interesting than the taciturn post-Viking guy they pick up in th enovel), who is the daughter of another "Vernian", now deceased, blah blah blah.

So they end up encountering a lot of the stuff from the novels--the giant mushroom trees, the reversed magnetic polarities, the underground sea, and yes, the monsters, while trying to get out of the big hole they fell into (see above).

They make it back, and a sequel (Atlantis, the Lost Continent) is implied, and all in all, it wasn't a bad movie. I mean, it won't win any big awards, except for visual effects, but it wasn't a complete waste of money.

I have one serious problem with it, and it's the yo-yo. They spend a long time setting up the kid and a yo-yo. It was his father's. They find it in a box of his father's stuff his mother hands to Brendan Fraser. "Mom doesn't talk about him much." So apparently the missing Dad was a whiz with a yo-yo. SO the kid picks up the yo-yo and after a couple of tries discovers he can do a few simple tricks with it. Nothing unbelievably for a beginner, mostly walking the dog and throwing the yo-yo around (leading to a 3D effect that is only half-gratuitous). He spends the flight to Iceland (if you've read the book you get Iceland, if you haven't, it's where the volcano with the holes to the interior of earth is) practicing.

So when the dinosaur comes to hassle the kid, or the flesh-eating fish, or something, you expect the kid to whip out the yo-yo and bop some monsters in the nose. Or at least knock some fruit out of a tree or open a hole in a wall to get some water or something with it. But he doesn't.

As far as I can tell, the yo-yo doesn't appear even once in all of Iceland, or afterward, unless it's what fell out of the kid's pocket at one point near the end of the film when he's clinging to a rock. I mean come on. You start with a yo-yo. He's the son of a yo-yo guy. He's a yo-yo savant. Brendan Fraser even says 'you know, these things started out as weapons, not toys'. And it DOESN'T FIGURE INTO THE FILM AT ALL.

I mean, there's a mention of batting cages near the beginning of the film, and they don't even go, but at a critical moment, both the kid and Brendan Fraser both start clubbing things out of the air. There's even a joke about switch hitting in the middle of it all.

Setting up the yo-yo and then not paying it off is just a screenwriting/filmmaking ERROR. Plain and simple.

But the 3D is cool. And it's not really a bad film. But not great. But how great were you expecting?

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