Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reviews and More: Coraline (in 3D), Star Trek, Terminator Salvation

I haven't done reviews in a while. Been busy. So I'll speed through these.

Coraline was fun, if a little awkward at times. Not entirely sure I'd want young kids to see it, and older kids would probably boycott, thinking it too juvenile. Henry Selick delivers an eerie atmosphere on par with the Nightmare Before Christmas. The visual appeal is great. It's colorful, dynamic, and geometric. If you're excited for a dark but playful nightmare world, check it out. The 3D even helps the film, instead of distracting.

Star Trek is a blast. It is. It's just plain, simple, action fun. J.J. Abrams knows what he is doing, as I've mentioned before. You don't have to know a thing about the Star Trek back-story or mythology. You don't even have to like sci-fi, because while this uses the tropes of a sci-fi, at it's heart it's an action flick (even action-comedy). It's good-looking people doing really cool stuff, with chase scenes, fights, explosions, kissing, and jokes. It's the bread and butter of a Hollywood film, and in this case, that isn't a bad thing.

Terminator Salvation was entertaining, but ultimately a letdown. Next time I won't get my hopes up when the director calls himself McG and has an ouvre consisting mainly of Charlie's Angels. There seemed to be no consideration for the style and feel of the previous films, especially the well-loved first two.

I will say this. While it lacked any pacing, buildup, or subtlety, it was a very impressive wrecked world. The effects were seamless, the sound was immersive, and the actors did an effective job with what they were given. I guess that's all it takes for mainstream reviewers to like it, too.

Speaking of Terminator, Angela pointed out an interesting article on why the Terminators make us so uncomfortable. The Uncanny Valley is a concept I've known for years now. Though it's a common query today, it's not a new idea. It never seems to lose my interest, either. It's at the heart of a surprising amount of great fiction, I think because it begs the question of identity.

That Uncanny Valley might have seemed like an impossible chasm for some film-makers (you listening, Zemeckis?), but it may have finally been crossed, and did it so fluidly that we hardly noticed.

The possibility of photorealism with even the human face plays right in with the trending cinéma vérité fictional narrative style showing up so often. We're in a post-reality-TV world, well on our way through the maturation of YouTube. We see films like the Bourne series, where shaky camerawork "immerses" the audience, where you feel the uncontrolled reality of the situation (though I feel that particular example was excessive and alienating).

You'll see more and more films not only using the documentary aesthetic, but the form as well. The Blair Witch project broke that ground, showing how effective the technique is. Their mockumentary on the Sci-Fi channel took me in as a sixteen-year-old, hook, line, and sinker. I've talked before about the "found footage" techniques used in Cloverfield and Diary of the Dead. It was even recently featured in a BYU Film project manned by a class that unfortunately didn't fit in to my schedule. Would have been great to be a part of that.

The style is becoming recursive, with doctored videos showing up on YouTube as though they were home videos. Here is a recent example that's floated around the Web.

The same form is used for an upcoming sci-fi picture presented by Peter Jackson.

The trailer for District 9 plays out as though it were a documentary, with the only indication of fiction coming from the impossible premise. That same premise was used in a short film from the same director. District 9 is really an expansion of that short (seen below). I'm excited.

Of note is the fact that I can't think of a single major film in this style that didn't use some kind of ARG and/or viral marketing. Viral ARG is becoming more and more common, but is far from universal. It's the exception rather than the rule. However, when we see first person narratives, it's a must, a staple. The film form and the promotional techniques play together to draw the audience in, to have them not only watch, but experience the world of the film.

How is all this for some stream of consciousness?

I've got more to say on the matter. A lot more. But for now, I'll leave it as is.

Expect more on this and related topics soon.

1 comment:

anna. said...

hah...mcg was also the executive producer for the smash hit, "the oc." what more could you possibly ask for?