Tag Archives: gratuitous love triangle

The Lost Future (2010)

thelostfuture

“Fighting for survival”

Directed by Mikael Salomon
Starring Sam Claflin, Corey Sevieras, Annabelle Wallis and Sean Bean

In a post-apocalyptic world, a tribe of human survivors scrape a living at Grey Rock, hunting sloth-bears and trying to avoid the Beasts, humans mutated by disease whose bite turns others into Beasts as well. Kaleb (Claflin) is a tracker and dreamer, overlooked in favour of the chief’s son Savan (Sevieras) by most, including Dorel (Wallis), the hypotenuse of a pointlessly forced love triangle.

When the Beasts attack their village, most of the tribe hide in a cave, while Kaleb, Savan and Dorel meet up with Amal (Bean), a member of a Brotherhood who retain some knowledge of the old world. He tells them of a powder which cures the Beast disease. If they can reach the city and find notes left by Kaleb’s father, they can make more of the powder, but the notes and the powder are guarded by a power-hungry tyrant, and only Kaleb can read.

Sean Bean doesn’t die. Continue reading The Lost Future (2010)

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

 

snow-white-and-the-huntsman-poster

“The Fairy Tale is Over” (possibly; it doesn’t seem to appear on any posters)

Directed by Rupert Sanders,
Starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron and Sam Claflin

A beautiful queen wishes for a beautiful daughter, but the queen dies, the king remarries, and the new Queen (Theron) carries the kingdom in a coup d’etat, locking the princess – Snow White (Stewart, eventually), whom everyone adores for her beauty, dauntless spirit and pathological kindness to vermin – in a tower because reasons. Ten years later, the Queen’s powers – which appear to be fuelled by either youth or beauty, depending on whom you ask and when – are waning, and only Snow White’s oh so fucking perfect heart can save her.

Snow escapes, and is later aided by the Huntsman (Hemsworth), her childhood chum William (Claflin) and a band of semi-mystical British character actors CGId onto the bodies of little people, as well as a village of Amazon archers, and a horde of faeries who will basically never show up again after a scene apiece. Returning to the castle, Snow leads a bloody stupid charge that somehow works, kills the Queen and saves the world.

Hoorah!

What’s wrong with it?

Snow White and the Huntsman is a film that is replete with symbolism, but doesn’t actually seem to know what much of it means, or which bits of it are important beyond the visual moment. Snow White is purity, she is life, she is fire; she is innocence, she is inspiration, she is a warrior, she is a weapon. She is almost worn down with despair when her horse is pulled into the Swamp of Sadness (in a blatant knock-off of The Neverending Story). She is kissed by both of her love interests when ‘dead’, but neither is given any symbolic weight in her waking, instead being pointless gestures kept in because the film doesn’t seem to realise that they don’t matter without that weighting.

It also doesn’t seem to know how to build to a climax. It foreshadows the village of self-scarred bow-women, the faeries and the trolls, hinting at a climactic battle in which all of those whose lives have been touched by Snow will come together and defeat the Queen’s army together, but in the end that doesn’t happen at all. The archers who could have been so useful on the cliffs above the castle? Not there. The trolls that could have smashed the gates while the dwarves took on the catapults? Nowhere to be seen. After pitching Snow as a pseudo-mystical force of supernatural vitality, her gambit for the final battle was commando dwarves opening the gates for a cavalry charge against a defended fortress across more than a mile of open beach into a surrounded courtyard.

Kristen Stewart is not a terrible actress, but she is utterly incapable of delivering the sort of stirring speech she is given in this film.

William is entirely pointless, and basically seems to be present to fulfill some contractual  obligation that Stewart must have a love triangle.

The actors seem to be being whipped into some manner of frenzy by the director, and the end result is an almost theatrical over-exaggeration of facial expressions. Theron is the worst, apparently trying to swallow the world with every line. Meanwhile the Queen’s brother (Sam Spruell) just looks completely baffled by her choice of outfits.

The dwarves in this film (who caused upset among the pressure group Little People of America for the casting of full-sized, British actors) are quasi-magical healers from an otherworldly place, which in this instance appears to have been a much less po-faced film, with a rough, scatological approach to humour.

What’s right with it?

As you’d expect from a film on this level, the production values are top notch, and the design – especially of the Dark Forest and the Sanctuary – is impeccable.

Chris Hemsworth has tortured soul down to a tee, even with that accent he’s doing, and underused as he is, Claflin plays his role – essentially a poor man’s Legolas – to the hilt.

How bad is it really?

Oh boy, is it bad; laughably. In a cheaper, more cheerful movie a lot of its flaws could be forgiven, but this stinkburger cost real money and involved some pretty serious talent.

Speaking of cheaper, more cheerful movies, this came out around the same time as Mirror, Mirror, another Snow White movie which featured broad comedy throughout and ended on a Bollywood-style dance number. From the trailers, it looked as though Snow White and the Huntsman would be the better movie, but Mirror, Mirror is the one without a review here.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The Sanctuary scene is almost mesmerisingly beautiful, although it loses some impact on the smaller screen.

What’s up with…?

  • The eye-shrooms of Sanctuary? For the magical land of lovely, they’re actually kind of creepy. Mind you, so are the fairies who meld into the flesh of animals and control them like puppets, even if you don’t stop to realise that they were guiding poor Atax II into the Swamp of Sadness.
  • Stewart’s final expression? Seriously, is she trying to look like a woman who has just figured out that power is fun? When she looks in the mirror a scene earlier, is she supposed to be being tempted? Is this a downer ending? Actually, that might be much better…
  • The source of Queen Ravenna’s power? Is it youth? Beauty? She talks about stealing youth, but the Amazon village scar their daughters to protect them and it seems to have worked.
  • The whole ‘she is life’ bit? Whatever became of the faeries after that?
  • The glass warriors? This would make way more sense if the mirror were glass instead of burnished bronze.
  • Snow White’s inspirational speech? The whole thing is basically a meaningless jumble of words and trite aphorisms which sounds like the kind of thing someone might offer as an inspirational speech if they were really, really high. I like to imagine that the word ‘like’ or ‘man’ is inserted into every sentence.
  • Geography and travel in this land? It takes days to get Snow to Duke Hammond’s castle, but William can apparently flit across the land as if by magic.

Ratings

Production values – I can’t take this one away from them, it is pretty beautiful. 5
Dialogue and performances –  Note for future reference: Kristen Stewart should not be given inspiring speeches, and Charlize Theron needs to turn it down a notch. The rest turn in solid performances, but the script is doing them no favours. 14
Plot and execution – Convoluted, weighed down with symbolic scenes which have no pay-off or purpose beyond being there, the plot is also heavily dependent on expounded backstory rather than what we actually see on the screen. 17
Randomness – Random Amazons, random faeries, random dwarfish poo jokes. 15
Waste of potential – So much money, so much talent, so much waste! Lighten up, for crying out loud; it’s a fairy tale picture16

Overall 67%

Planet of the Apes (2001)

IF

“Rule the planet”

Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Roth

USAF astronaut Leo Davidson (Wahlberg) works with trained apes aboard the space station Oberon. Attempting to rescue one of his apes, Pericles, during an electromagnetic storm, he crash lands on a strange planet, where he finds a primitive human culture subjugated by intelligent apes. Using his arrival as a catalyst, General Thade (Roth), the leader of the ape armies, launches a massacre of the humans, but the kindly ape Ari (Bonham Carter) tries to help him escape and learn the truth of the planet’s origins.

What’s wrong with it?

In remaking The Planet of the Apes, Burton quite deliberately avoids sticking too closely to either the original novel or to the 1968 adaptation starring Charlton Heston. Unfortunately, what he manages to do is jettison most of the point in favour of dumb action.

In both earlier versions, the apes live almost exactly as humans do, and vice versa; the humans of the planet are literally dumb animals, incapable of speech and devoid of sophisticated facial expression. In the film they still don’t speak, although they do wear clothes. The apes, meanwhile, have mobile, expressive faces and language, as well as an advanced, scientific culture. The point of it all is not that the apes cruelly oppress the humans they falsely cast as inferior, but that they with the positions reversed, they treat the human animals exactly as humans treat apes.

In this version, the humans are obviously intelligent and sophisticated, and Thade’s father (played by Charlton Heston) specifically describes their power as lying in technology and invention, of which apes are incapable. The apes, meanwhile, are animalistic and instinctive, able to craft hand weapons and clothes and domesticate horses, but lacking any actual science. The role of chimp scientists Zira and Cornelius are replaced by equal rights campaigner Ari, replacing the central issue – the treatment of animals – with a far less controversial anti-racist slant.

The film throws away supporting characters pretty much willy nilly; Krull (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa)’s final duel with his errant pupil Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan) is a pitifully one-sided beat down that does nothing to advance either plot or Attar’s character, while Erik Avari as a ‘house human’ (in case we hadn’t got that this is about slavery) is offed with barely anyone noticing.

The normally watchable Wahlberg phones in his performance, including the worst rousing speech before Kristen Stewart in Snow White and the Huntsman, and Estella Warren is completely forgettable as his disposable love interest whatshername. Bonham Carter and Roth turn in game performances as the good chimp and bad chimp, but she is saddled with a bizarre love triangle with Davidson (replacing Zira’s “I’d kiss you, but you’re just so damned ugly”) and he with a series of bad wire-work temper tantrums.

Speaking of which, the apes are saddled with some of the clunkiest wire-work yet seen in a mainstream movie, defying gravity rather than leaping convincingly, as well as displaying superhuman strength well beyond that of an actual ape.

The climactic battle is completely enshrouded in dust, but this is not used to much dramatic effect. That the fight is then ended by the arrival of Pericles’s space pod is a flagrant Zaius ex machina.

The ending, in which Davidson returns to Earth to find it ruled by apes – these ones with cars and guns, but revering Thade as their founding father – is just nonsensical, and yet speaks of a better movie that wasn’t made.

What’s right with it?

The set and costume design is lavish, and the ape actors give polished performances, at least when their feet are on the ground.

How bad is it really?

It’s just a mess, which squanders its platform for social commentary by turning the apes into senseless oppressors. Davidson’s claims of human superiority should come across as racism, but the truth is that the apes in this version of the film are inferior, dominated by instinct and driven by rage and cruelty. Ari’s appearance is notably more human than any other ape – more like the make-up of the 1968 version than that of the others in this movie – which serves only to emphasise the human good, ape bad overtones.

It might not be so bad, but the final scene makes the whole thing so nonsensical that it’s hard to interpret the film as anything but a near-death dream before Davidson’s final plunge into an ape-ruled Hell.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The film is perhaps at its best when calling back to the original (“Get your stinking paws off me you damn, dirty human”, “Damn you all to Hell”), but it’s a reflected glory.

What’s up with…?

  • The mighty ape leaps? Apes don’t leap as if they were on wires. They’re also not strong to the point of tossing humans around like rag dolls.
  • Attar’s sudden face turn? He kills his mentor and revels in it, but one sight of Pericles and he’s willing to believe everything Davidson says about the arrival of the first apes.
  • Ape culture? They build houses, make clothes, forge steel cages, but can’t put together a rudimentary bow and arrow?

Ratings

Production values – The production, as you’d expect from Tim Burton, is gorgeous, although points off for the laser pistol that turns into an automatic between takes. I presume that the automatic was used as a working blank gun for long shots where the gun had to go off, but it appears in close ups as well. 3
Dialogue and performances –  While a number of the actors are giving it their all, Wahlberg and Warren drag the standard way down, and the material only sparkles when riffing from the 1968 film. 14
Plot and execution – The film works hard at putting across a message that doesn’t need to be put across, as no-one who still thinks that rounding up and either enslaving or murdering ethnic minorities is bad is likely to be swayed by a Tim Burton movie, and by going all out it loses any impact on the issues of animal rights or even of the more insidious racism which still affects society. Sadly, at the same time it fails to be an effective movie in its own right. 15
Randomness – Most of the film’s failings are fundamental, but there are a few moments of random failure as well, including a minor sub-plot where a young man tries to prove himself and stuffs it completely, forcing Davidson to abandon his position to save him, as a result of which… well, nothing happens at all. And then there’s the ending; most of these points are for that ending. 10
Waste of potential – The earlier movie was better, the more recent remake was better, and Tim Burton is a good movie maker on his day. This cast, with that director and that basic brief could have made so much more. 16

Overall 58%