Category Archives: Movies

Stuff about movies.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

I like The Chronicles of Narnia. There’s so many things you can throw against them: they’re really, really poorly written, the characters are somewhat lame, and last but not least there’s the annoying presence of Aslan, the great talking Lion slash metaphore for the Messiah. When he comes, the dead rise again, the blind can see and the tailless get their furry ass aspect back. I mean seriously, is there a character more annoying in literature?

Even despite my rants about Aslan – who seem to be going on and on once I start – I am reading every book (I’m almost done with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) and I do tend to go see the movies. To, you know, see what they did and stuff. See how they made a non-epic, poorly written essay into a poorly executed epic masterpiece (in the case of the first movie). Beause here’s the deal with The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe: while the movie was enjoyable and quite magic, some of the set pieces looked flimsy and unreal, killing everything it had hoped to build.

However! It is with joy in my heart I can say that Prince Caspian has been turned into an epic movie that’s so immersive it’s actually – dare I say it – exciting. If, of course, you can forgive them for the first half. You know, the half that was in the book?

Losing Faith

C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian is all about doubt and losing faith. This theme was carried over nicely from the books – in fact, it was even enhanced. While the book doesn’t really invest in the children’s psychologies that much, the movie does: Peter’s struggle in faith becomes more of a manly feeling: we can see him giving up hope in Aslan – even though it pains him to do so – and trying to do things the manly way: on his own. Susan’s losing faith has more to do with her interest in the other sex – even though it was carried out a bit too much, I feel – and once again, we could feel the pain it caused her. It was part of growing up.

Lewis never used this approach in this book – in a way, it appears to me that Lewis was underestimating his core public (children) and making the story as straight forward as possible, hoping they would learn something incidentally along the way. The movie takes the viewer more seriously, and hopes they will understand the normal struggles the oldest Pevensies are going through. This not only makes those two Pevensies more interesting, it also makes the viewer long for Aslan’s coming to set things right. Which, in turn, makes Aslan a less annoying character for me.

Poor, poor Edmund

So Susan and Peter became more interesting. That’s good: the only interesting Pevensie in the book obviously was Lucy, seeing how she was always right all along. This leaves us with Edmund, who seems to be the shadow side of the bargain: while the script develops Susan and Peter, it leaves dear little Edmund standing in the cold. This is a point where the book shone: we could see Edmund making up with Lucy for the grief he caused her back in the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe. In the movie, this was one sentence – after which Edmund was reduced to comic relief and the necessary two-three sentences for continuity’s sake. What a shame.

In a way, this is perfectly reasonable on behalf of the scriptwriters: Susan and Peter’s big role in the Narnian Chronicles is over, while Lucy and Edmund will be seen again in a later story. In a way, I also had the same feeling about Caspian: there’s a lot more to be told about his psychology. Maybe they’ll leave this for the next movie as well?

135 Minutes

All this psychologizing makes this movie so much better. It also makes it perfectly reasonable that the movie is 135 minutes long. Before the movie started, I wondered how hard it could be to turn a 100 page novel into a 90 minute feature. You wouldn’t even have to cut that much – just dust out the fluff and you have yourself a movie script. What I hadn’t expected, however, was for them to add things like I mentioned before. Obviously the (poorly written) battle scenes would have to be at least fifteen minutes each and contain extra elements, but adding character development to a movie where there was practically none? That was a bold move. A bold move which succeeded and only once broke the Narnian continuity (Seriously – Caspian and Susan?! I see where you’re taking this, but STILL.). A bold move which made the movie a bit longer than it should have (at certain times I was hoping for it to get on with it quickly) but better than my idea of having a shorter feature with no additions.

In all…

Is Prince Caspian better than the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe? In my opinion, it is. Granted, Prince Caspian is less magical – but if you hold that against the movie, you’re not giving the stories themselves a fair treatment. Prince Caspian – the book – is a darker story, a harder story, a story with less magic but more punch. That’s also the way this movie is. On the other hand, it’s so much more interesting than they made the first movie. There is so much more stuffing in this turkey, making it taste so much better!

Oh, and there’s no rocks that looked like styrofoam. Seriously, for those praising the production values of the first movie, you really oughta watch it again. It is a good movie, but I can never unsee those rough edges. Ever!

Favourite Quote:
Lucy: I wish you would all stop trying to sound like grown-ups! I didn’t think I saw him, I did see him.
Trumpkin: I… *am* a grown-up.

The Dark Knight

When I first read that they’d honour Heath Ledger pusthumously for playing The Joker in The Dark Knight, I frowned. Sure, Heath Ledger’s a wonderful actor and undoubtedly he went before his time, but oscar talk before a movie gets released? That’s pushing it a bit, in my opinion. Boy was I wrong: after having seen this movie, not only am I sure that Heath Ledger deserves this oscar, I actually believe he will get it.

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is not your average “Iron Man” superhero movie – all about special effects and GLORIOUS METAL MUSIC playing in the background while people in shiny armour fly around the screen spouting one-liners. In fact, The Dark Knight is nothing like that, in so far that it actually starts to feel very unlike a superhero movie at all. We get offered a dark story about a normal person who happens to wear a latex suit, and we get it with such sense of realism that Gotham City doesn’t quite seem like Gotham City, but like New York. Christopher Nolan did a superb job at making this city one of “our very own”. It all seems very, very real – even the two featured villains get a realistic overhaul, in which for one less is more (the case for The Joker) and one where more psychology… is indeed more as well (Two-Face).

The Dark Knight

Which brings us to the inevitable point every Dark Knight review has to tackle: Heath Ledger as The Joker. While The Dark Knight undoubtedly is a superb movie, Heath Ledger makes is an even better one: his way of acting out this psychotic madman, aided of course by the wonderful script, is the best thing since Hannibal. He takes the Joker and lifts it up beyond what we know and love about The Joker and delivers an unforgettable experience on his own. I immediately felt intrigued by this Joker, whereas this character never intrigued me before. The poorly done make-up, the greasy hair, the rolling of the tongue, the psychotic laugh that always sounds different… You kind of get the impression Heath Ledger isn’t acting anymore, that he became his role. Which is kind of scary, considering the man’s dead.

The Dark Knight

Behind this stellar performance (ever second of Joker time is simply breathtaking), it’s easy to forget about those “other actors”. Like Batman himself. Christopher Bale once again brings us a solid, two-faced batman: on the one hand there’s the careless spender called Bruce Wayne, on the other hand there’s Batman who is torn apart by insecurity. This typical superhero complex gets done really well in The Dark Knight, once again due to brilliant acting and a great script. Harvey Dent, also known as Two-Face, is also performed wonderfully by Aaron Eckhart, who can be seen slowly sinking down the abyss and being confronted by the limits of his own sense of justice. Great acting performances, aided by a superb script.

The Dark Knight

That last sentence pretty much sums it all up: this is a terrific movie where every little piece (Heath Ledger, Christopher Bale, Aaron Eckhard, Morgan Freeman…) is really good, but where the script is the one thing that makes the experience complete. Where Batman Begins felt like a superhero movie, The Dark Knight feels like a really good action drama. I can’t quite pin down where the difference between the two lie – “silly superhero” elements like the Batmobile or the Batsuit feature in both films – but you can sense it the moment the movie starts: this is something else, this is something really, really good. Maybe it’s the continuous testing of the border between good and evil that does it?

Favourite Quote: The Joker: Come on, I want you to do it, I want you to do it. Come on, hit me. *Hit me!*

The Golden Compass

Golden Compass 1Last Saturday, I went to go see the movie adaptation of what is the first part in the best story of the year (except LOST’s third season), The Golden Compass. I devoured the books, loved them, hated them, and went completely along this emotional roller coaster ride through different worlds. So, with high expectations which I tried to repress, I went to go see the movie, which came out last week.

And, just like most movie adaptations of complex novels, it’s pretty much a mixed bag. This is one of those rare occasions where I would wish that they had shown us less plotline, and a bit more in-depth analysis. And that is my greatest critique: the whole thing felt unbelievably rushed. Oxford! London! Ship! North! gyptians! Witches! Bears! Everything came by at the speed of light, slapping new characters and locations in your face; characters which were not always needed either (one of them wasn’t even in the first book yet). Everything came by, but nothing really stuck around – there was just too much info being told.

I reckon the creators tried to fix this problem with the thing I dread most in movie history: the one-line-in-between-of-scenes-recap. “Oh Pan, we have got to go to Bolvangar and save Roger the kitchenboy who was taken prisoner by the Gobblers which are led by Mrs. Coulter and then bring the Alethiometer – or the Golden Compass – to Lord Asriel,
who is my uncle but not really my uncle!” Oh, the horror, the horror.

And I lied, oh I lied. The above wasn’t the worst part of the movie. The part where they left out the showdown between Lord Asriel and Lyra, that’s actually quite a bit worse. And believe it if you will, it gets even more unforgiving from my side: apparently, all those parts of the movie were intended to be in it. In fact, they were shot! But hey, it’s Christmas: people don’t want no sad ending. They want a happy ending with no message, no sense, no cohones whatsoever. My AUTHORITY!

I did like the way the religious undertone of the book (which as actually not that obvious in the first part) got neutered. The only trace – a chat between Coulter and Lyra about “the authority” and “impurity” – felt like a blissful insider. Really, I don’t think I would mind if the movies stayed this way: leaving the religion as a bit of information for people who read the books. Then stupid people would have no reason to shout heresy were there is none.

I’m sorry for sounding a bit harsh – I did really like the movie. There are so many things done perfectly right. For example: the cast was simply wonderful. All of them were great actors, and Dakota (who played Lyra) simply rocked. Too bad Daniel Craig’s best scene got cut out – making you wonder what he still had to do with the plot – but when he was around, he was all about kicking ass and taking names. The daemons were credible, as well. Not astonishing, mind you – the execution of an etherial, poetic concept is always a bit dumbed down when put into movie – but still well done. Esther (Lee’s hare) was great, as was Pan, who made an exceptionally cute bobcat. The golden monkey was more like a golden collectible wookie statue, though – totally unlike the cuddly bear ready to rip out your guts, not scary at all (especially when compared to Nicole Kidman).

The bottomline: go watch this, but prepare to be annoyed. And then some more.