Can it be? I actually have something appearing during the week? And it’s not a DVDs Or Death, P.E.S.T., or Student Teacher Chronicles? Not only that, but it’s reviewing two movies? That’s right! You’re in for a treat, as I actually have a 2 In 1 for y’all! For this 2 In 1, I’m focusing on two movies wherein both are partly live action and partly computer animation, and where the computer animation kicks in when the main character gets introduced into a brand new world other than the human realm. And both are movies that I had just seen for the first time before reviewing them. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!
Luc Besson is my favorite writer/director/producer/filmmaker, but when this film first came out, I had a similar reaction to Robert Rodriguez doing Sharkboy and Lavagirl… and didn’t see it. But I recently saw it coming on Showtime, set my DVR to record it, and finally got around to watching it. And I have to say, it wasn’t as bad as I figured. Arthur (Freddie Highmore) is an imaginative boy living with his Granny (Mia Farrow), because his parents (Penny Balfour and Doug Rand) are off trying to make some money. So Granny tells Arthur stories of the adventures of her missing husband, Archibald (Ron Crawford). The latest story is that of the Minimoys, a tribe of incredibly tiny, elf-like creatures that Archibald had found in
This movie is like mixing Arthurian Legend, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and really any fantasy story that follows Joseph Campbell’s Monomythic structure. The Arthurian Legend is quite literal. The main character’s name is Arthur, and he’s able to pull a sword from a stone when the apparent ‘chosen one’, Selenia, couldn’t. The Monomythic structure is blatantly obvious, as well (though, really, Arthurian Legend follows the Monomyth itself, anyway). There’s the princess/love interest (Selenia), the friend/guardian (Betameche), the mentor (Archibald), the villainous mastermind (Maltazard), and the numerous helpers along the way. And they’re all on a ‘quest’ to find a special item (the rubies) and to slay the villain.
But this is part of its downfall. The movie is a short 94 minutes, but acts a lot more epic than it is. There’s a whole world and mythology behind all of this, and you can really tell this movie was based on a set of books. Unfortunately, not all of it is explained (such as the random appearances by the African tribe, or the stone guardians), and a lot of it comes off as episodic or choppy (think A Series of Unfortunate Events). They go from one location and set of characters to the other, each with its own big sequence, but only long enough for something cool to happen before moving on. In other words, the movie is so focused on the idea of the story and characters than the story and characters themselves. There is no character development or depth. There is no rise from reluctant hero to hero from Arthur; he starts out heroic and ends heroic. There is no build in the relationship between Arthur and Selenia; they’re enraptured by each other from the start, and with absolutely no warning or whatever, they’re suddenly soul mates. The story and characters are about as flat/static as they can get.
However, all of that being said, the movie was still really enjoyable. The parts that were animated looked really great. My favorite simple scene was the part where they go to sleep in the flower pollen. That just looked amazing. But my favorite scene in the whole movie was the fight sequence on the record player. I thought that was quite imaginative and pretty fun. Oh, and even though it was silly, the goofy bad-guy soldiers were great and funny.
The voice acting is something to commend, as well. As I’ve already stated, Freddie Highmore lends his voice (as well as doing real-life acting at the beginning and end), as do Madonna, Jimmy Fallon, and David Bowie (I love this man in villainous roles). But then the movie also has Snoop Dogg, Emilio Estevez, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Anthony Anderson, and Jason Bateman. Though while Snoop Dogg and Anthony Anderson’s characters don’t have too much screen time, they are in my favorite part of the movie (the part that leads into the record player fight). But I think the best voices of the film were Madonna, David Bowie, Jimmy Fallon, and Jason Bateman. You can’t even tell it’s Jason Bateman, but the way he speaks is hilarious. And, as I’ve already stated, David Bowie is just awesome.
It’s sad to think that Luc Besson stated this was going to be his last film as a director, though. It’s not totally true, as he’s coming out with two more films (as director). However, those films are the two sequels to this film, so who knows (though that does make me a bit happy, as they never explain what happens to the bad guy). It was a fun little film and had some good visuals (and some cool music). However, they made it almost too child-friendly by dumbing down the characters and story. Hopefully the next two won’t be as choppy or static as the first, and I know this man can write intricate characters, so I know it’s possible. I’ll go see the sequels, but if they’re the same as the first, it’ll be disappointing.
(And I still refuse to see Sharkboy and Lavagirl).
I Am McLovin!
So of course I’d heard all about Tron and knew everything about it (after all, I wouldn’t have been able to get through Kingdom Hearts II sanely without having known anything about it), but I just hadn’t seen it before now. And with a sequel on the way, I figured it was as good of a time as any to check it out. After Flynn (Jeff Bridges) gets all his video game codes stolen from him and fired by Dillinger (David Warner), he begins to hack into their computer system in order to find proof that he was robbed. But it’s not that easy, as Dillinger has created and set up the Master Control Program, which is a security program that is slowly taking over all other programs and becoming stronger and smarter. Meanwhile, Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) has come up with a security program of his own, Tron, that could be used to take down the Master Control Program. But when they and co-worker Lora (Cindy Morgan) try to use Tron and hack into the system, Flynn gets hit by a brand new particle laser beam that transports him into the computer world, wherein he must fight for his life in different video game trials whilst venturing with Tron to take down the Master Control Program.
For a movie with outdated special effects, it really holds together through the test of time. I wasn’t really bothered at all by the cheesy special effects and thought it worked well. And I really can’t wait for the sequel, which should look really cool (though I figure people will react one of two ways—they will either think it looks stupid a la Speed Racer and it’ll flop, or they will be like “OMG TRON 2 LETZ GO!” and be hypocrites because they just finished bashing the stylistically similar Speed Racer).
On the acting level, Jeff Bridges was great as usual. I’m really starting to think this man can do anything (even though Flynn reminded me a little bit of The Dude here and there). Besides him, though, everybody else did alright. The one acting level that bugged me a bit was Bruce Boxleitner as Tron. At his introduction, Tron was almost emotionless. Halfway through, he starts getting a bit bubbly at times. At the end, he’s different yet again. It’s like the character of Tron couldn’t find a suitable personality.
The other low points for me on the movie were strange little inclusions. For instance, what was the purpose of the Bit (the little ball that Clu sends off at the beginning and comes back later on to Flynn for a couple minutes)? It’s set up to be important, but after it comes back, it’s on screen for only a couple minutes, as I said, before disappearing from the movie completely. And then there’s the inclusion of Yori (the program equivalent of Lora). I didn’t even have a clue how the two were connected until I read up on it later and saw that you have to pay close attention during the laser test run toward the beginning of the movie. But even then, how do Yori and Tron know each other? And why did Tron go to get Yori’s help? What was her purpose other than to have the actress show up in the computer world? And it was a sad attempt at a love triangle, as well. At the end, she ends up kissing both guys and without any resolution to that fact?
Otherwise, the movie was fine and fun. There were just those little things that could have been explained much better if the movie were a little longer. I’m not gonna go rush out and buy this movie or anything, but it was an entertaining 90 minutes that I wouldn’t mind experiencing again. And I’m probably going to check out the sequel when it comes out, as well.
I Am McLovin!