What’s that? I know what you’re saying. “Two movie reviews in one post? Who you tryin’ to get crazy with, ese? Don’t you know I’m loco?”
Yes. I saw both of these movies last week. Both movies also feature Charlize Theron. Both movies were similarly surprising and slightly disappointing in different ways. Let’s get started, Mr. Pants.
Snow White and the Huntsman
With Snow White and Huntsman, Universal and first time feature director Rupert Sanders managed to accomplish what Disney and Tim Burton failed to do with Alice in Wonderland, which is fully actualize the Disney interpretation of a fairytale in a modern live action movie. Not a literal translation like Enchanted, but making all of the touchstone elements that define a Disney fairytale work for today’s audience.
Something that was lost on me going to the theater, but I realized as I was watching the movie, is that this is a kids movie. It’s every bit a kids movie. I feel like it was marketed as a dark fantasy for adults, or at least teenagers. But it really reminded me of that run of fantasy kids movies in the ’80s. Legend and Labyrinth and Time Bandits and The Neverending Story. Fairly dark, and taking itself seriously enough that it’s not pandering or condescending, but also willing to have fun with all of the crazy shit the genre allows for.
It was also pretty silly. It’s a hard thing to weigh out, how much you’ll forgive in a children’s movie with silly shit that makes no sense. Taken as just a movie, the story is full of absolutely absurd leaps in logic (like, for instance, Snow White is locked up in a tower cell since she was eight or so and then is on the front lines leading an army into battle, seiging a castle almost immediately after escaping). A lot of things that happen make very little sense. But then again, that’s true of most fairytales. They tend to be pretty silly. Dark and ominous, but completely ridiculous and nonsensical. This movie is all of those things. So I suppose it accomplished what it set out to accomplish, and that’s a success in my book. So good for them.
In order to fully enjoy this movie, I think there needs to be some adjustment made prior to viewing. It could be just a conscious decision to put aside the rules and expectations you put onto most other movies. I might also recommend (not officially) certain chemical alterations to your perception before viewing. Put it on the shelf next to Heavy Metal, Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards, and The Wall and you’ll be alright.
The real strength of the movie is Charlize. Charlize. Charlize. Charlize all day long. She is friggin amazing. Somehow over the last six months or so, she’s managed to completely and utterly change my perception of her. I think it was Young Adult that really got me on board with Charlize. Now it seems like she’s on this upward trajectory toward the top of my list of favorite actors. She’s fucking CRAZY in this movie. Like, I would put her performance on par with Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns. That’s who she really reminded me of. It was just so much fun watching her be completely batshit insane and clearly loving every second of it. She’s got these steely, intense eyes that stare lasers into your soul and burn out all of your happiness and joy. The first 20 minutes or so of the movie are almost entirely scenes of Charlize being insane and doing fucked up, horrible things to people. It’s a wonder to behold her performance, and is well worth the price of admission. Nearly every line she speaks is in these shuddering, snarling, breathy jags, like some kind of sustained, prolonged orgasm that lasts for the entire movie. I kind of fell in love with her watching this movie. I don’t know if it’s obvious.
The fact that Charlize Theron is the most beautiful, amazing perfect woman in the world (as of last week) makes the weakest aspect of this movie that much more obvious. I’ll let you try and guess what the weak link was. Here, maybe this comic strip that I made after watching the trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman will help make it clear.
You know how people joke about how Kristen Stewart is a terrible actress? It’s easy to assume that it’s because she’s in a series of easily mocked terrible movies. But the root of it all is that Kristen Stewart is really not a good actress. Like… I don’t get her at all. It’s like… when Sean Penn cast her in Into the Wild, he went on and on about what an amazing actress she was, and I think Hollywood people are afraid to disagree with him. Because I saw Into the Wild before I knew who she was and I said to myself “Yeah, the movie was alright, but that chick that played the hippy guitar girl was absolutely atrocious and sucked all the life out of every scene she was in like some kind of acting Sarlacc pit.” That’s what I said to myself.
Now, I won’t say that she was as bad in Snow White as she was in Into the Wild. But she wasn’t good. There’s just a fundamental lack of charisma there. Especially considering that her character is meant to be the embodiment of beauty and people are drawn to her natural majesty and she inspires the world to be a better place simply by existing. She walks through fields of dead plants who suddenly bloom back to life. All the animals of the forest follow her around and help her. Just because she’s beautiful and amazing and a wonder to behold.
Now, obviously beauty is subjective and I wouldn’t speak definitively about anyone’s looks… but to me, the idea that Kristen Stewart is more beautiful than Charlize Theron? That’s absolute lunacy.
One thing that surprised me was the caliber of actors they had playing the seven dwarves. This movie stirred up a little controversy (sorry, had to do it) among the little people community. There was a bit of an outrage about the fact that they used special effects to make average sized actors appear to be little people rather than hiring little actors to play those parts. Some were comparing it to an actor wearing black face. I don’t really have a solid argument against that, except to say that if there was a little person actor as badass as Ian McShane, then I’m sure he would have been cast. The talent pool simply isn’t big enough to always cast Little People in Little People roles. If I had to choose between being politically correct and getting the best actors for the roles, I’ll go with the quality over hurt feelings. I mean, Peter Dinklage can’t play every awesome dwarf in every movie.
Besides, when you cast all little people in your little people roles, you end up with that other Snow White movie that came out a couple months ago and lines like “SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!”
But yeah, some pretty solid actors as the dwarves. I won’t say any more than Ian McShane, just because I enjoyed the surprise and I think you will too.
Chris Hemsworth continues to play hunky, blond, vaguely European guys. He’s playing essentially the Brad Pitt role as The Huntsman. The greasy, well intentioned, smart mouthed rogue with a killer smile and a painful past. He’s a fine actor and I have no complaints. This movie was no Avengers by any means though.
In closing, Snow White and the Huntsman was better than I expected, but it’s not something I would recommend if you’re looking for anything intellectually stimulating. It’s visually stunning and Charlize Theron is amazing in it, but it’s also incredibly silly and Kristen Stewart is frustrating to watch. For me anyway.
Listen here. For some reason, as soon as I heard that Ridley Scott was returning to science fiction with an Alien prequel, I decided that I wasn’t going to watch a single trailer and that I would immediately close any website talking about it. I decided that I would walk into this movie with as little information about it as possible. And I mostly accomplished that. I never saw more than three seconds of any trailer or commercial (pretty much as long as it took for me to scream at my wife “CHANGE THE CHANNEL CHANGE THE CHANNEL!!!!” as soon as I realized what I was seeing) and I never read any synopses or looked at any (almost) of the viral marketing. I did get hit with a few small bits of information. I knew that Michael Fassbender played an android. I knew that Charlize was in it and that chick that played Lisbeth Salander before Rooney Mara. I did see the fake Ted Talk video with Guy Pierce, only because someone suggested that it might be related to the rumored Blade Runner sequel. Other than that, I didn’t know much about it. I only learned that it was in 3D a couple of days before it came out.
I went through the same ethical dilemma that I go through every time a movie I want to see only plays in 3D at theaters around me. I had to weigh out my steadfast refusal to allow movie studios and distributors to bully me into paying three dollars more for an movie going experience that I enjoy less with the year or so that I’d been anticipating this movie.
I had a couple of conversations with people about my predicament. One friend pointed out that because Ridley Scott chose to film the movie in 3D, it was his creative decision rather than something that the studio slapped onto a 2D movie to inflate the box-office numbers. That kind of swayed me a bit. So I decided I would go see it in 3D. It was playing at the new IMAX theater in town and I have never been there either, so I forced myself to be okay with it. I saw it as a very last chance I’d give 3D to impress me. If anyone can make it work, it’ll be Ridley Scott.
As it turned out, they opened another two screens with Prometheus at that theater, one of which was in 2D. But the timing didn’t work out for me, and I’d already made up my mind to go to the IMAX so I went ahead and watched it in 3D. Plus I got the ticket with a free coupon that came with the Blu-Ray of Alien I’d bought a couple weeks earlier.
I really, really wish I hadn’t seen it in 3D. It added nothing to the experience. All it did was distract me from the movie. Occasionally I would notice that something was standing out and I’d look at that instead of watching the movie. Plus my eyes have a really difficult time adjusting to the 3D. It’s like they’re constantly trying to refocus through the entire movie. It sucks.
So yeah. There was that.
The reviews of this movie have been mixed at best. My own is mixed as well. It’s hard to absolutely love certain aspects of a movie and be perplexed and downright disappointed about other aspects. Let’s start off with the good.
It’s a gorgeous movie. Stunningly beautiful. I recently re-watched both Alien and Blade Runner on Blu-Ray, and both movie struck me with just how epic and beautiful they looked. Especially Blade Runner. Prometheus is definitely cut from the same cloth, aesthetically speaking. Everything from the spacesuits to the ships to the landscapes and the wonderful, nostalgia ticking HR Giger designed alien ship interiors and monsters. All beautiful to watch and perfectly realized on film. The special effects and creature designs were top notch and everything to do with the look of the movie was as amazing as I wanted it to be.
Noomi Rapace was likable and sympathetic as the lead. While she didn’t blow me away (she’s no Charlize) she was perfectly pleasant and competent.
Hmmm. I’m trying to think of more things I liked about it.
It was interesting. I wanted to know more about what was happening. That’s something.
I’m trying to also think of things I can say that don’t reveal specific plot points. After spending a year being as spoiler free as I possibly could be, I feel dirty even talking about the movie now.
Okay, let’s talk about this:
Prometheus started out as a direct prequel to Alien. It was telling the story of the “space jockey”, the big alien skeleton the crew of the Nostromo found on the planetoid where they picked up the alien.
Originally James Cameron was involved in the production and working with Ridley Scott, but after Alien vs Predator came out, Cameron decided that the Alien franchise had been cheapened beyond repair and he bailed (good riddance I say). As the film started to come together, Scott began seeing it as not only a prequel to Alien, but a first film in its own series of movies. He brought on Lost co-creator and Star Trek reboot scribe Damon Lindelof to rework the script into more of a stand-alone film than an Alien prequel.
At this point I need to disclose something about myself. I was (still am, IDGAF) a massive fan of Lost. I fucking loved Lost. I was also one of the few people who wasn’t particularly dissatisfied with the way the show ended. Now, without getting into it (you can read my feelings about it here if you’re interested) I was a pretty loyal defender of Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (the producers and creative force behind the majority of Lost) and I feel like they were in a tough position, and that the shit they got over the ending of the show was entirely unwarranted and unfortunate.
A lot of the criticism about Prometheus that I’m seeing is about the script and people seem to want to lay it all at Damon’s feet. I think that’s partially because a lot of the bigger questions explored in Prometheus are about the meaning of life, where did we come from, the nature of god. Big philosophical and spiritual questions. The kind of questions that became a big part of Lost, especially toward the end.
It should be pointed out that Blade Runner also raised those sorts of questions. That’s typical of science fiction. Now, that said, the script was really problematic at times. The characters were incredibly two dimensional and, aside from Noomi Rapace’s character, seemed to completely lack any coherent motivation.
For instance, I still have no real idea of what Charlize Theron’s character wanted or even why she was there. Don’t get me wrong, she put in a fine performance with what she had to work with. Unfortunately, what she had to work with was the completely scattershot character that just bounced around being aggressive without any real agenda.
There’s been a lot of talk about Michael Fassbender’s performance as David the android. I’m strangely on the other side of that. I was kind of put off by his performance. He seemed to be too overtly menacing and weird for the sake of being weird. And I like Michael Fassbender. I think he’s a solid actor. I’m not trying to shit on him. I just felt like the character was kind of cartoony in its malice, pretty much right from the beginning of the movie. But that was likely a script problem rather than a performance problem.
It’s unfortunate, because for a lot of people, all they care about is the script. I look for a lot of things in a movie, a good script being one of them. I think if they had waited another year and hammered on the script a bit more, worked out some of the kinks, brought in some more writers to help beef up some of those characters, then we would have had one of the most amazing science fiction movies ever. Unfortunately we ended up with an incredibly beautiful, ambitious as hell, but severely flawed movie.
It made me long for the movie that could have been. That almost was. Because there was so much to like in it. Great actors in a really interesting premise, but it just didn’t come together properly. I can’t say it’s Damon Lindelof’s fault, because he wasn’t the only one working on it. It needed more time to cook and that’s all there is to it.
I’ve since read that they left a lot of things intentionally open ended and vague because they plan to make a sequel (which would take them even farther away from Alien). I call shenanigans on that bullshit. That’s not cool. You have to make a movie stand alone. I have no problem with open ended resolutions and vagueness. Like I said, Blade Runner is the shit and it’s got a fairly vague ending (depending on which version you watch). I don’t need everything spelled out for me. But if it’s going to be open ended, I want it to be because that’s the best way to tell that story. But doing it because you may or may not get to wrap it up in another movie is crap. That’s just lazy. That’s sweeping the dirt under the carpet rather than doing your work.
So yeah, that bothered me.
But, in the end, I fall on the side of liking Prometheus. Like with Snow White and the Huntsman, there’s enough good there to keep the movie afloat. Sure, it has some pretty glaring problems, but it also had a lot of really great things going for it. Some amazing photography and effects, some pretty cool monsters, a few really awesome scenes, and good old HR Giger and his overtly sexual designs. It made me want to see this potential sequel happen. It made me glad that Ridley Scott decided to end his 30 year break from the genre he’s best at.