Tintin was awful

Here’s my terribly negative review of the recent film The Adventures of Tintin.

The_Adventures_of_Tintin_-_Secret_of_the_Unicorn

I’ve never read the comics.  And, to be honest, from the previews, I didn’t expect it to be that great.  But it was worse than I could’ve possibly imagined.

I didn’t much like the character design.  On the technical side, they were amazing.  But on the design side, they were a bit disgusting.  Realistic enough to make their cartoon-ness quite creepy. 

The acting all seemed a bit overdone; everyone was gesturing and moving their arms about and turning their heads curiously too much like awful high school actors in a school play.

The camera kept doing this constant wobble.  I guess the director was trying to make it seem more natural, more realistic, but it was just annoying.  Yes, you can make a computer camera seem natural, you’re very smart, stop it.

The worst part, though, was the dialog.  The main character, Tintin, feels the need to say all his thoughts out loud because we’re too dumb to figure anything out for ourselves.  “Now where did I put that magnifying glass?”  I don’t know, Dora, where could it be?  This goes on and on.  Shut up already!  Let me enjoy the atmosphere of this CGI world.  No, you just have to keep on telling me how curious everything is to you.

Maybe one has to be familiar with the comics for this movie, because I just didn’t care about Tintin at all.  I guess it was because Tintin himself didn’t really care about anything.  He just wanted to solve the mystery and find the hidden treasure because… oh, just because!  Character motivation?  Pfft!  Who needs that?  He was just born to go after the treasure, save for the all-is-lost moment near the end, when he gives up for the simple reason that he’s supposed to at that part of the story.  What will get him to break into act 3?  Some of the worst scriptwriting ever, of course!  “Don’t let failure stop you!”  Wow, thanks!  How encouraging and inspiring!

The humor was atrocious.  We’re meant to laugh at people getting hit on the back of the head with a plank of wood and passing out.  Hahahaha!  How innovative!  Bumbling police men.  Hahaha!  Being drunk!  Hahaha!  I never thought I’d see humor so worse than Disney Channel’s dismal laugh-tracked offerings.

The elements that I did appreciate (for the bad elements were so bad that the most I can do for the good elements is “appreciate” them) were the over-the-top action sequences, especially that magnificent one near the end when the characters are racing through the city chasing slivers of paper, all shown in one long glorious long shot like an epic level from a video game.  I can’t help but imagine how awesome the scene might have been if the story surrounding it wasn’t complete drivel.

I also appreciated the clever scene transitions, possible only with CGI.  Again, though, not enough for the quality to be considered redeeming.

Overall, it was a horrible movie.  One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.  Just depressing.

It’ll be interesting to see whether or not they make a sequel as planned.  If Peter Jackson directs the sequel, I may give it a chance.

On Gollum sinking into lava

Wired had this interesting article which states:

Gollum, if you remember, dove into the lava of Mount Doom after his precious ring was thrown in — he proceeds to sink into the lava (see below) and leaves the ring floating on the lava until it melts away. Guess what? Sinking into lava just will not happen if you’re a human (or remotely human). You’d need to be a Terminator to sink into molten rock/metal …

On a discussion of the article on some other site, author John Scalzi wrote:

In a film with spiders of physically impossible size, talking trees, ugly warriors birthed out of mud and a disembodied malevolence causing a ring to corrupt the mind of anyone who wears it (and also turn them invisible), we’re going to complain that the lava is not viscous enough?

I can understand Scalzi’s point, but I disagree with his argument that one shouldn’t complain about the physics of Middle Earth lava just because one has accepted the existence of fantastical Middle Earth creatures.

I agree with Scalzi when he writes:

… you should consider the work in its totality and ask whether in the context of the work, this specific thing is inconsistent with the worldbuilding.

I’d also add (though it should be obvious) that this will be a subjective issue. Some people can more easily suspend their disbelief about certain things than others. If your area of expertise includes lava, lava falsehoods will stand out to you more than talking trees (and Ents are not trees, by the way).

Personally, the lava issue doesn’t bother me, but I’ve never seen a living creature fall into lava before. And it’s not something I ever really want to see. But if I did see such a thing, aside from being scarred and depressed for the rest of my sad sorry life, I can understand why Gollum’s death goop might stop working for me, even while I accept all the other magic of Middle Earth. There’s nothing in the story that signifies that the lava should behave in any other way than it does here on earth. Similarly, gravity behaves the same way, temperature behaves the same way, elf and hobbit and wizard emotions behave the same way. So it’s not like we assume that everything is so different that we have to just accept everything that comes our way.

Imagine if Gollum had bounced on the lava as if it were a trampoline. Who would accept that? Would me saying “hey, you accepted talking trees!” make you change your mind? I doubt it. You expect the lava to behave a certain way in the context of the story.

I would say that most audiences accept the physics of Gollum’s death because that is exactly how most of us imagine falling into lava should look, because most of us haven’t witnessed creatures falling into lava before. When we watch videos of rivers of lava pouring down the side of a volcano, it looks as viscous as it does in Gollum’s death scene. So our acceptance of the physics of Gollum’s death is based on our own lava-physics ignorance, not on our consideration of our own acceptance of the wizards and talking trees and giant spiders that preceded it. This lava-physics ignorance is also what makes the Wired article interesting at all in the first place (at least to me). It’s fun and educational!

Also, I think we could argue that as the lava liquefies Gollum’s innards, because the ring of power has turned him into the ugly gross unnatural goblin-like creature he is, his unnatural innards would liquefy in such a way that they mix in the lava in such a way that what we see in the movie makes perfect sense. That is, the Wired article may be right about the physics of the lava, but it hath no knowledge about the physics of melting Gollum guts, which might become extremely dense at high temperatures. (Sure, why not?)  Or perhaps his skin vaporizes easily at lava temperatures, and lava pours into muscles and bones.  He’s not really sinking; he’s being pulled down by the flow of the lava.  Why didn’t Tolkien specify these sorts of things?  He could’ve had an entire section of the appendix for this!

Neverland

neverland

I just finished watching the miniseries Neverland that came on the Syfy channel here in the USA.  The miniseries provided an interesting explanation for the nature of Neverland involving an 400 year old alchemist from Queen Elizabeth I’s era (how do you write possessives with roman numerals?) and some galactic space-time continuum jargon.  I enjoyed the friends-to-enemies back story of Peter and Hook, and the explanation of how both pirates and Indians wound up in Neverland.

What I felt was most lacking were the main characters’ motivations.  In fact, I’m not even sure what Peter wanted, besides to oppose Hook.  Meanwhile, Hook wanted superpowers (in the form of a special mineral dust; I’m glad they didn’t call anything “pixie” or “fairy”), but seemingly for no deeper reason than any typical villain wants superpowers—because they’re superpowers.  I would’ve tried to give them deeper issues.  For example, perhaps Peter is seeking parental guidance and approval.  Perhaps he knows what kind of loving relationship he’s missing out on by being an orphan, and this is torture for him.  It would be pretty cliché (orphans in books are always struggling with this issue), but Peter might get away with it, since it would help explain the whole “Wendy is our mother” element of the traditional Peter Pan tale.  An issue for Hook: perhaps he sees in Peter everything he could’ve been were he a bit more clever and popular.  Perhaps he’s just plain jealous of Peter and the relationships he’s able to forge in Neverland.  He hates Peter because he craves everything he has.  Wanting the superpowers is his way of getting even, or at least that’s his hope.  “Once the power is mine, I’ll have nothing to envy.”  These are just examples; the point is, I think the characters would’ve been more sympathetic with these deeper issues plaguing their minds.

The special effects were fantastic for a TV film, though the flying looked rather awful.  But I can’t blame them too much for that; I think humans always look pretty horrible flying.  The flying looked much better in Disney’s animated version, I reckon because animators could have so much more control over the characters’ feeling of weight, and how the center of gravity swings back and forth during a flying move so that it looks like the body is moving of its own accord and not attached to some invisible string.

Lastly, the ending made no sense at all, but this is another thing I can’t blame them too much for.  Neverland is trying to set the stage for the tradition Peter Pan story, and the beginning of the traditional Peter Pan story makes no sense.  But J. M. Barrie could get away with that in his day, because back then people didn’t have very high standards.  (OK, different standards at least.)

Over all, it was some good food for my writerly imagination.

This review says:

When this Peter Pan origins tale isn’t gutting small children with giant swords, it’s pumping Native Americans full of bullets and pushing Pirates off cliffs. Oh and there’s sex in it too, and fairy genocide — so yeah, "gritty" is one way to describe it. Or you could say: a bunch of adults ham-fistededly stuff somewhat salacious origin tropes into a poor, unsuspecting fairy tale.

Apparently someone grew up watching too much Disney and not actually reading many fantasy stories.  Neverland was hardly what I’d call “gritty” at all.

Hugo 3D

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I saw Hugo in 3D tonight.  I am now going to praise it a bit:

The film’s use of 3D was the best I’ve ever seen.  Yes, it is the best 3D film yet made.  All those people who complain: “eh, it doesn’t really add anything.”  In this case, it does.  But even with one eye, the cinematography, use of color, composition, etc. is just beautiful.  The movie posters and trailers don’t at all capture the spirit of the film itself.  The adaptation from the book is wonderful.  It’s not the same as the book—there are additions, deletions, and changes—but that should be expected from any adaptation.  And in this case, I think they all worked superbly.  The movie’s use of history’s earliest films makes the story seem like it is much better suited as a movie in the first place.  I really loved the story’s celebration of the human imagination, from books to magic tricks to mechanics to movies.  And the theme about how the world is like a clock.

So, if you get the chance to see it, I highly recommend it.  And in 3D.

Ender’s Game film to start shooting in 2012… ?

endersgame

After years, nay, decades of being stuck in development hell heck, it seems a film version of one of my favorite books of all time, Ender’s Game, is finally getting the big screen treatment. According to this article:

Summit Entertainment, the production company behind "The Twilight Saga" films, has acquired the rights to the youth-oriented "Ender’s Game" franchise. … The shoot is scheduled to run from February 24, 2012 through June 8, 2012.

To be honest, I’m not holding my breath for the film to be amazing. It certainly has potential, but I think it will be a very tough adaptation. Although it’s sci-fi, and there’s certainly some sci-fi battle action involved, it is not an action adventure story. It is, I think, a drama more than anything else. And if they overdo the action and underplay the social issues, I don’t think it’ll work story-wise. But if they overdo the social issues and underplay the action, it will be a marketing nightmare. The story deals with a "battle school" filled with children, yet it is certainly not a happy Disney-ish or Nickelodeon-ish kids’ adventure, and I hope they don’t try turning it into one, even though that would make it much more marketable.

All that said, I’m excited that it’s finally gotten to this point of development, and I look forward to watching what happens.

New Brave trailer…

Brave

Pixar’s 2012 animated feature Brave has a new trailer.  Looks interesting, though I still can’t really guess what it’s about.

Pirates

Aardman Animations’ 2012 animated feature The Pirates! also has a new trailer.  Not sure if I’ll see this one in theaters or not, but it definitely looks more interesting than their Wallace and Gromit material, in my humblest of opinions.

Jurassic Park on blu-ray

I got the Jurassic Park Trilogy on blu-ray yesterday, and couldn’t resist watching it last night.

I have not yet watched the two sequels or the new special features.

The Bad

I really hate how Universal structures their blu-rays; I’m forced to sit through their annoying logo three times before the movie starts, I hate their generic menus, and my laptop’s blu-ray player is not compatible with their screen saver which pops up automatically whenever the movie is paused long enough for me to go get a snack. Whenever it popped up, I had stop and restart the film.

The early 90’s CGI dinos unfortunately do not quite hold up on blu-ray. While most of the live-action shots are crisp and clear, the CGI dinos remain a bit blurry, and it is more obvious than ever before that they were pasted in there.

The Good

The live-action shots and the mechanical-puppet dinos look better than ever. Overall, the movie looks so much better on blu-ray than DVD.

It’s Jurassic Park.

Finding Nemo in 3D?

It looks like Finding Nemo, my favorite Pixar film so far, will be rereleased in 3D next year. Monsters, Inc is scheduled for the beginning of 2013, which makes sense, since the prequel will come out sometime around there. The post also mentions 3D versions of Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, no doubt influenced by the success of the recent 3D rerelease of The Lion King. If I get the chance, I will try to catch all of these as they come out, but I would especially love to see Finding Nemo on the big screen again.

Hold on to the beard…

Very vague memories of this movie popped into my head today. (I was working on my novel and had a character say the phrase “land of far away” which suddenly conjured up half-remembered images from this film.) I was able to Google around figure out what it was… though this particular scene was far less cheesy and much more mysterious and magical in memory.

Short Limitless review

limitless My little review of the 2011 film Limitless, which I just watched.  Might be some spoilers…

"You know how they say you can only use 20% of your brain?  Now you can use it all!"

Or something like that.  The movie’s about a drug that helps you remember stuff, stay focused, and make rapid and accurate logical conclusions based on your subconscious perceptions.  The "20% of your brain" thing is such a common cliche myth, I wouldn’t have put that in the movie.  I’d either think of some more scientific way to explain the increased intelligence, or just left it completely mysterious.

What does the main character do with the extra mental power?  The first thing I would try to do is figure out how the drug works so I can keep using it forever.  He saves that for later, and is never really able to do it.  But he writes a brilliant book.  OK.  I would do that too.  But then he gets into the stock market, with plans to go into politics later.

It’s amusing but annoying how some people seem to think that there are secret patterns to be found in the stock market, and if only they could find them, they’d be rich.  Even this movies makes a reference to an "algorithm for the perception of stocks."  Um… no.  Even if there was a pattern, or an algorithm, finding it would change it because you’d have to factor in your own finding of it.  It’s ultimately just a silly daydream.  Silly because it emerges from misunderstandings about how the world works.

And then he wants to go into politics?  Why?  I can only guess it’s because he’s less concerned about using his intellectual drugs in pursuit of science and creativity, and more concerned about climbing the social ladder and gaining power.  Vanity!  All is vanity!  For many daydreamers, I suppose that’s the real value of intelligence.  It gives you a social advantage.  You achieve fame and power, and other people admire or envy you, and that makes you feel good about yourself.  The main character enjoys getting attention, and having intellectual arguments with people, in which he participates in a laid-back I’m-so-cool kind of way.

I’d be more inclined to keep the increased intelligence a complete secret, using it to have fun (write books and symphonies and program things) and pursue other areas of intellectual interest (artificial intelligence, unsolved math problems, philosophy).

The writing was a bit odd in some parts.  There were some weird metaphors in the movie.

Something like, "One minute you’re his best friend, the next you’re a leaper."  A leaper?  I guess it gets the point across, but it conjures up the image of a leaper.  Why would you want that in the context of the scene?  (It sort of reminds me of a metaphor they mentioned on the podcast Writing Excuses, something like: "Her skin was the color of a 3-day old corpse."  It might be technically accurate, but conjuring up the image of a corpse might not exactly set the tone properly.)

Later in the movie: "… like Oliver Twist begging for gruel."  I don’t remember Oliver Twist begging for gruel.  He was forced to ask for more after drawing lots.  He didn’t beg for it.

There were some other weird ones, but I forgot them.

Overall, it wasn’t a terrible movie, but it was nothing very amazing either.  I can see how some people might like it, though; it was very fast-paced and captivating.  The cinematography was pretty interesting, with these weird perpetual zoom-ins every now and then, which were a lot of fun.  For example, here are the opening credits:

Weeee…