Tag Archives: film review

The Dark Knight Rises to New Depths of Messy Storytelling

Batman, you superhero of the superheroes. Don’t roll your eyes! Yadda yadda Superman yadda yadda Spiderman blabla Iron Man yap yap Avenger what? Let us face an eternal truth – cause of course it is not just my mere opinion – the best superhero movie that has ever graced this planet with its presence is none other than *drumroll* Batman Returns!
Yeaha, that’s right, bitches, Batman Fucking Returns directed by Tim Fucking Burton and featuring Michell Pfeiffer as Cat F… ermh, let us not go there. I will gush about how amazingly awesomely gorgeously fantastic Batman Returns is and why at some other place some other time, but it needs to be stated here to make clear what I compare every other Batman moment ever to. The Dark Knight compared pretty well. The Dark Knight Rises oh so doesn’t and Imma gonna give you a rant as to why that be.

via collider.com

What I thought would be my major problem with this movie turned out to be one of its nicer features – Catwoman. I am such a hardcore sucker when it comes to Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. From her backstory, to her costume, to her behavior and the way she “disappears”. Everything about that character I think is written and performed incredibly well. So naturally I was very afraid of Anne Hathaway, even though I generally like her actually, as Catwoman, given past disasters with that character (Halle Berry. I can’t. Even.). BUT to my very surprise I felt her character was not only well performed but also very well written. And let us be very clear about one thing: Hers was the only character well written in this mess of a movie. Yessir, I just called this a mess of a movie.

via batman-news.com

Gosh, I feel like a broken record, but why oh why keep studios releasing movies with characters that lack any sort of plausible motivation?
I could go on and on about how the villains this time around are just plain boring. Bane and Talia al Ghul? Really? That’s the epic conclusion of this trilogy? Blergh. But my, if they at least had some sort of understandable motif to do what they do. They fucking don’t. So they were all kinda love-birdy, except not, cause protector and girl sorta relationship and then they went to super-evil organization of her father, cause of course, and then father is kind of a dick to Bane and they decide: fuck this shit, we’re out and we hate you for like ever and then? Batman kills daddy whom we hate for like ever and first thing you know Talia and Bane turn around and she feels it’s her duty as a daughter to fulfill his evil plans of massive destruction of Gotham. Even if we ignored all that supposed backstory shit – why would she even be interested in destroying Gotham? What’s in it for her? What’s in it for Bane? Fucking nothing is what it is. The Joker at least was crazy and wanted anarchy and that is why he started shit, but these two? They get nothing out of this except a whole lot of trouble for a whole lot of destruction of a city that they probably don’t even care about. What sort of connection would they have with Gotham? No fucking clue.

What is she even wearing? (via caughtonset.com)

And let’s stick with The Joker for a minute here: He wanted to unleash anarchy and handed the people and prisoners of Gotham a tool to destroy each other. What did they do? They rose above it and proved to be better human beings than he ever imagined them to be. That is what made The Dark Knight so outstanding in the end – that the tale being told was not just about all the crazy and the evil and the struggle, but also a moral tale about what it means to be humane and respect the order of society and its functioning because ultimately it boils down to respect for your fellow human beings. And that is some seriously wicked shit for something fluffy as a superhero move – oh and again, don’t roll your eyes to me, cause superhero movies tend to be about nothing really, except for poor hero suffering or his love interest in dangerous situations, which: yawn.
In The Dark Knight Rises we get none of that grandeur. Bane and his minions swarm the city and all of a sudden people go all crazy for no apparent reason whatsoever. Why do they all look like they spent the last three months hungry in the desert? Why do they listen to the judgment of lunatics released from prison? Why does it feel like this movie wants to act as if these people were the Occupy movement and it needs major capital a.k.a. billionaire Bruce Wayne to save our precious society?
Well, not only is there a classist subtext that really unnerves me, but there is also no visible gain for the masses of people who suddenly turn berserk on Gotham. Just like Talia and Bane, suddenly most of Gotham’s population acts on behalf of motivations that we can only guess at and that seem contrived at best.

Who are these people even? (via geeksofdoom.com)

The core of the problem of the whole Batman saga is IMO that his motivation always falls back on the very-hated-by-me “because my parents” trope. Same with Talia. And in Nolan’s trilogy it seems to be taken a step further. All heroes must fit the parent mold. We don’t question them and they should be dead, because then we can glorify them without any shame. That was the quibble with the predecessor The Dark Knight – this whole “Harvey Dent must be remembered as a hero” thing seemed really weird and totally illogical. And I thought “the heck, sure they’ll resolve it in the next instalment”. Except for they don’t. Only lame ass attempts to connect this plot with the one in the last movie and it falls all flat. That is why found the Catwoman character surprisingly refreshing. She seems to be the only one not motivated by avenging her parents, plus her actions contained a kernel of social critique and she – kinda – stands up for that.

via prometheus-unbound.org

I also have to bemoan the absolute randomness of things in this one. What’s with the bomb? Oh, super powerful, could produce energy, yadda yadda. Dude, if that shit is so mega-dangerous, why do you build it in the first place. And hide it beneath the city? As if water would really be a major obstacle hindering determined individuals to get that thing out there and working. And even if you flood the room – isn’t there still the slightest possibility that by some mistake the thing might go off? Then again, I am clearly not a physicist.
Then the prison. Where is that even? Who puts the prisoners in there? Why is there a fucking TV? And really, only Talia and Batman make it out of there, cause those steps they is oh so dangerous. The Fuck What? Not to mention that Batman is outta there and next thing we know pops up on some random street in Gotham, just in time to have a little chat with Catwoman who just defended herself against some muggers. Whud?
And please explain the subtext of Thalia being a political activist for the environment and then turning mega-villainess to me. Sustainability is evil? Protecting the environment means you have daddy issues? Yuck. But fits right in with the classist shit concerning major capital rescuing the world from evil protesters against socio-political conditions. Oh movie, anti-elitist you are clearly not.

via myfreewallpapers.net

I actually liked a few things. GASP!! Yep, even beyond Catwoman.
Another thing I wasn’t even expecting but would have dreaded if I had known: Robin. The Robin character in the whole Batman mythology does ABSOLUTELY ZERO as in NOTHING WHATSOEVER for me. And every time somebody starts saying: “Robin should be in the next…” I just switch off and go like “lalalalala”. Cause I don’t wanna hear it, that’s why. But here: actually pretty nicely done. Whoda thunk it?
I also liked the twist to the prison escape story, even if I thought the prison itself was ridiculous. How we were all like: ah, yeah, right, Bane made it. But then the movie is like: Suckers, haha, sitting there thinking it was Bane but it wasn’t, it was TALIA!! I thought that was really well executed. Oh and yes, the list ends here. Alfred was too emo in this one to make it. Sorriez.

“Please arrest me for this mediocre film!” (via serienjunkies.de)

I really expected a grand old BANG! for the conclusion of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. What I got was a “meep” and it sucked hard. Having all those expectations shattered. The problem is that I don’t even know how they could have saved it. Nothing in The Dark Knight Rises reeks of plausible story or interesting plot to me. It’s not that they should have just fixed some minor things. I wanted something entirely different. But oh, who knows, maybe the next director will surprise us with awesome Batman movies again. Pretty please?

Advertisements

The Hunger Games – Hungry for more…substance?

I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty excited for the Hunger Games movie. Oh, I know, I’m a little late with a review, but then again, whatever. Admittedly, I haven’t read the books, and I am still not sure if I actually want to. I thought it was a pretty decent movie. WHAAAAT? Y’all are screaming now, cause how can I think it was only decent? Well, let me explain.

via wikipedia.org

I have exactly three problems with the movie. Two minor ones and one major big-ass problem.
The first minor one concerns the characterization of the people living in the capitol. For my taste it steers a little to far into the territory of glorifying simplicity (apparently equaling plain fashion and little make-up) as a sign of moral superiority. I get it, the people in the capitol are supposed to be over the top and their running after the latest fashion fad is supposed to underline how they have lost sight for what is really important. But then again, we are watching the movie in our days, and that sort of statement seems to imply that people who are interested in fashion and whose style is unconventional by most standards are – what? Stupid, selfish, ignorant? I am sorry, but wearing a pair of jeans and a black T-shirt does not signify that you are a better person. Nor does wearing Haute Couture by Alexander McQueen and shaving your head signify that you have no respect for the life and fate of others. It’s a twisted and complicated message, which is not helped AT ALL that the men are portrayed as more effeminate than their counterparts in the outer districts. It all reeks of a pretty conservative worldview. Work hard, dress plain and adhere to gender-conventions – then you’ll be the perfect human being. Ermh, whud?

The second minor problem is the love-story bullshit. Now, having not read the book I only heard that in the novel she fakes the affection for Peeta in order to gain the viewers’ sympathy and thus medicine and gets confused over her own actions. In the movie that does not come across. Neither does the supposed relationship with her buddy Gale. I am mostly ok with the portrayal of the relationships here, and I think the complexity of the relationship between Katniss and Peeta is delivered rather well, but I cringe at the love-triangle crap that awaits us in future instalments of the series. Cause they are just too predictable. Now throw me a twist and I’m in, but seeing her be like “oh, Peeta?” or “oh, Gale?” is boring before it even happens.

via buboblog.blogspot.com

The major problem is on a whole different level. It’s the movies supposed message of how perverted the Hunger Games as an event are, how the viewers are jaded and emotionally blind, because they accept and celebrate the violence and don’t bother for a second to question the games and their problematic morale. While that is what the movie is trying to get across –it makes the same mistake. There are deaths we are supposed to feel sad about and those characters get a sympathetic characterization. But then, when Katniss has to actually kill someone, it is always the ones who have been portrayed as assholes. The movie, via its characterizations, tries to justify why she kills the ones she kills instead of daring to ask the question why it should be ok for her to do it – when it is not for the others and it is actually not ok at all. Her killings are portrayed as a necessity, as self-defense, as acts of selflessness, but with the right backstory and editing that would have worked for every tribute, but just like in the reality TV formats of our time, it doesn’t happen, because the story and the way it is told, relies on the editing to create pro- and antagonists to make us care for some and hate others.

via myhungergames.com

And that is weak, because it diminishes the message the movie is trying to get across. If a movie tries to tell you how this whole reality-TV stuff is horrible and how it creates viewers that are emotional monsters and then employs just the very same techniques without questioning them – then that is just bigoted. It acts like it wants to stand in for something but does exactly the opposite, act the way it allegedly wants to criticize. And that leaves a horribly bitter taste in my mouth, because if they had avoided that route in the making of this movie it would actually have a really powerful message and would be a great feature film instead of a merely decent one which is nice to watch but extremely problematic in what it is trying to say.

via hungergamesgermany.de

All of this, plus the love-triangle-crapfest awaiting us, make me wait for the sequels with a little fear in my innocent little heart.

Oh, Tim Burton, why hast thou failed me (so bad)?

Yeah, yeah, apologies for not updating etc. BUT! We have to talk about how Tim Burton just keeps disappointing us (meaning me) constantly (meaning every now and then) and how we cannot deal with it (meaning, you know…). Of course I am talking about Dark Shadows and of course I am going to rip it a new one.

via wikipedia.org

My disdain for Dark Shadow stems from the fact that the trailer actually looked very promising and like the movie would be a lot of fun. Granted, that’s what trailers are supposed to do, but in the case of Tim Burton we have to consider the history of his filmmaking. Which basically means that there are some beautiful gems and masterpieces alongside some horrible failures. One of the biggest failures is also his second most recent film – Alice in Wonderland. Which was a disappointment, because you know, Alice in Wonderland, the story where he could go all out visually and story-telling wise and he sort of didn’t. So, my hopes were high, that his new feature Dark Shadows would bring back Burton the Masterpiece Maker a la Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollows etc. But, my oh my, he didn’t and it was painful to watch. Actually, for a lot of the same reasons that Alice didn’t work for me.

The reason I expect so much from a Burton movie is mostly my undying love for Batman Returns where the superhero-movie genre gets an infusion of Burton visuals, which are at the least creative in an out of the box sort of way plus a rock-solid characterization of the main protagonists and antagonists. I believe in what they say and do, even though it might seem ridiculous, because their motivation seems real and grounded in their experiences and feelings. Over the top characters like Catwoman and Penguin work, because their backstories, their characters and ultimately their motivations make them believable within the surroundings of the story.

via paperblog.com

Sad to say, but all of this does not take place in Dark Shadows. Characterization does not happen, or rather only to the extent that someone says: “Look, he is a strange boy” and we are supposed to base our judgement of the boy and other chraracters reacting to him on that statement. Instead of, you know, seeing him behave strange. My biggest problem with the movie is how it wastes it characters. There are so many of them, but none of them get enough time, nor enough backbone to their story to make them round characters with believable motivations.

via fanpop.com

It’s not that these are boring characters – I mean, who is Elizabeth and how come she is such a determined woman? Why is her daughter a werewolf and whats the relationship with her mother? Why is her brother Roger such a douchebag and steals from people? How is it, that he neglects his son? Why is Dr. Hoffman drinking like a maniac and behaving the way she does? All of this questions are actually interesting and some answers and insights would not only deepen our understanding of the characters, but make us actually care for them.

via yahoo.com

That is the major problem with the main protagonists Barnabas and Victoria and the antagonist Angelique. We know basically nothing about them as human beings. Ok, Angie is in love with Barnabas and a witch. And ok, Barnabas is in love with Josette and then Victoria and thinks family comes always first. That’s nothing. Like, there is not even a reason given for these character traits. Why does Angelique love him so much? Why does he think family comes first? Cause his father told him so? Weak. Why not give a few examples of how the family held together and formed strong ties? The weakest link in this non-explanation territory of the movie is Barnabas’ love for Josette. Why the hell does he love her? We don’t even know her. She gets about one minute screentime and we’re supposed to buy that this is the greatest romance of them all and care about her as a character? Sorry, but bullshit. The entire movie is based upon how Angelique is in love with Barnabas and how he denies her. There is your big love story, there is what is driving the plot. The character of Angelique and her motivation are so much more interesting and even though they are explored far too little, they are infinitely more believable than all that talk of the great love for Josette.

via warnerbros.com

Which ties in with the sub-plot of Barnabas falling in love with Victoria. He falls in love with her because she looks like Josette? And that is why we’re supposed to care even though him and Angelique have a real history of relationship and drama going? And ultimately it is supposed to be a happy ending, that Victoria isn’t even really Victoria but just a reincarnation of Josette? This infuriates me, cause yet again, a potentially interesting character is completely wasted for the sake of a really lame plot twist that had better been avoided. The fuck, the movie only takes seconds to explore how Victoria talked to the ghost of Josette and got abused in a mental institution. Which is a wicked story in itself and it would have been fantastic to see how she deals with it and overcame all that. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter, because her tragic life is annihilated by the fact that she just stands up and IS Josette from that moment on. All the experiences we should and could have cared about are thrown overboard. None of it actually mattered and the person we were introduced to in the movie doesn’t actually exist anymore. Because the movie, just like the doctors in the mental institution, didn’t care about her as a human being. And that is really infuriating on a variety of levels.

via klatsch-tratsch.de

Granted, the movie looks cool. I like the overall Seventies style, Barnabas and Dr. Hoffman just look great as characters. And Michelle Pfeiffer gets to showcase how hot she still is and is allowed to have the camera linger on her face, her precious blond curls and those impeccable outfits. Now, I love Michelle Pfeiffer, but Burton should just take her and make that Catwoman movie he always wanted to make with her. And he better not ruin that fantasy for me. And before I go, one more complaint: Why have Helena Bonham Carter in your movies in such potentially interesting roles as a crazy character and then make absolutely no use of it? Every time she looks great and could go all crazy on everyone’s asses, but then she never gets to realize the potential. Tragic waste.

via dvd-forum.at

All in all: Super-Blargh. That one could have been so much better and turned out to focus on all the boring nonsense instead of what it had going for itself. Yea: I expected more!
How about you?

Miyazaki March – Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Keeping with the unconventional castle theme we’ll have a look at Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky for Miyazaki March (all other posts HERE), in which we will discuss why pirates love the color pink, why mining cities are awesome and how robots will save all our asses. Take a seat, enjoy the ride.

via disneydreaming.com

To me at first it seemed that Castle in the Sky was a rather new Miyazaki/Ghibli feature because it was released to theaters in Germany after Howl’s Moving Castle. However, it is the first ‘official’ Ghibli feature and was released in Japan in 1986. It was released to German theaters twenty years later. You are probably not surprised by this, but Castle in the Sky is one of the lesser financial successes of Studio Ghibli. It made enough, but wasn’t a massive smash and in the US it was a straight to DVD release.

So, right away: the beginning felt too long. I missed being thrown into the whole narrative, even though the movie tried to do just that. We get main characters and pirates and falling from the sky within the first few minutes. But then the whole introduction of Pazu and where he works and where he lives and how he and Sheeta get to know each other and how they are chased and how they escape… It just seems to never end. I want them to get to the damn castle already, but it takes soooooo long. And while I usually really appreciate movies taking their time I am especially frustrated, because I know that the whole Laputa bit is pretty exciting and brings up some relevant points and plot developments. So I get super-impatient if I have to sit through the third chasing scene where they just barely escape when I know that so much more interesting stuff is going to happen. And on top of that I believe that some of that time could have been used way better in giving us some more so see in Laputa itself. Some more time for wonder, some more time for the movie’s eco-friendly message, for example. Grah!

via thefilmpilgrim.com

Having bitched and moaned about the too long intro in the mining city: the mining city is an awesome place. Sure, it probably sucks to live and have to work there, but the way the city nestles itself into the crevices of the cliffs and rocks just looks really amazing. Oh, and the railroad-tracks are ridiculous! In the best way imaginable, of course. There is so much steampunk going on, it’s even going to hurt modern reinterpretation Sherlock Holmes’ head. While I am actually a proponent of shortening the time the narrative spends in the city, at the same time I want more time to just have to look at it. Maybe this is really my critique: we get to see those incredible and incredibly beautiful places, but spend too little time there to appreciate their full beauty and wonder.

via steampunkfilm.wordpress.com

But let us move on to the characters.
The pirates are a lovely lot. Castle in the Sky is an exception to an otherwise pretty accurate Miyazaki rule in that we have a clearly identified villain who remains a villain until the very end. And since he sucks and is rather lame cause his motivation is a little movie-villain-esque I am just going to omit any discussion of him as a character. However, we also witness the occurrence of another basic rule: introduction of villains that turn out to be good guys actually, which in this case is of course Dola and her pirate gang. And holla, are they hilarious or what? From Dola herself and the pink color palette chosen for their vehicles and uniforms alike (most probably due to Dola’s hair color), these pirates are very reminiscent of the Porco Rosso air pirates and as such they are both sweet and adorable (although they also heavily play into the stereotype of men thinking with their dicks, which is something that the movie will not outright state, but which is certainly what’s going on). And Dola is just one heck of a character. If I ever wanted to encounter a pirate, it would most certainly be her. Also, what is going on with the family ties? She clearly isn’t everyone’s mom, and the dad clearly isn’t everyone’s dad (and the two of them might never even ever had any sort of romantic or sexual involvement), yet they all consider each other close family. How utterly endearing. I’m all pro-choice (so much for controversial statements today), especially when it comes to choosing your family ties.

via auradis.wordpress.com

Castle in the Sky, together with Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke is Miyazaki’s strongest and most overt message for the conservation and preservation of nature, coupled with the graphic damnation of the brutality of humankind (and certain forms of technological ‘progress’). Which is really interesting in this case, because it is an unlikely setting and actually not something the movie seems to be about in the beginning. Does it work as the eco-friendly tale it tries to be? I am actually not sure. I think the robots taking care of trees and animals on Laputa are powerful imagery, but as I’ve stated before, I think we spend too little time with them. I think the impact could be much stronger if only we got to witness their commitment a little more.

via geekncraft.tumblr.com

And are those robots iconic characters? Well, I know there is a replica of one in the Studio Ghibli museum in Japan, but then again, there are other rather similar robots in other animation features. But that should not distract us from the fact that these robots here in Castle in the Sky are sickening in the most positive sense of the word (drag-references, ahoi!), because those dude_ttes care and do so with a (electronic) passion. Besides them being really super-cute as animal shelters and tree-huggers I am also fascinated by how efficiently the movie presents the various sides of them. We first encounter one as a relict from ancient times just to see it become this machine on a killing spree, and honeys, a killing spree this is. Make not mistake about Laputa being pretty and cozy and alla that, these robots are crazy weapons. They blast through anything and make it burst, which looks (aesthetically) amazing but also really scary. But then there are those who ran out of power, and my oh my, am I the only one who is so thoroughly touched by the imagery used here? Them sitting down on the roots of the tree to slowly be enshrined and absorbed by it? Because when we talk about choosing your family ties, this is what we need to address as well: These robots are beings we think of as unrelated to or even existing in opposition to nature, but here in the floating castle of Laputa they choose to “return” to nature and lie down in the embrace of a ginormous tree. This conception alone is so freaking fantastic, it makes me shed some tears of joy (at least theoretically).

All in all, this is not my favorite Miyazaki film, but it certainly is a good movie with a powerful message that could be a tad shorter than it is. Indeed, I consider it to be one of Miyazaki’s weakest, but that is really just a testament as to how amazingly superior these films are to other material in general, so a strong movie like this can be ranked that low on a list.

A Re4iew of Se7en

So, a review of David Fincher’s Seven? Aren’t you like 16 years late, Alex?
You also wait for a fine wine, so why not wait for a fine review? Or for the film to become finer? Or for you – or in this case: me – to finally understand how fine the movie is? Let’s get this shit started.

via wikipedia.org

Re-watching Seven there is one thing that stands out: that is one all-star cast if I’ve ever seen one. And not in the let’s-produce-a-christmas-movie-about-love-with-all-current-stars-and-wannabes sense but in the sense of actual stars, who are stars today, because this movie was a vehicle for all of them to cement their Hollywood-careers. We have Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey and one fine director named David Fincher, who I’ve talked about briefly before when discussing, of course, Alien 3 (here).
Oh, and from here on out, assuming that since it hit theatres 16 years ago you’ll probably have seen it, I’ll be spoilering majorly, so just be warned, kthanx.

This is a movie about two cops, which works very often. About two cops in a city that might or might not be New York, which works equally as often. About and oldie and a newbie who both got to come to terms with each others’ existence and their mandatory alliance, which is a story we know. It’s about a serial killer and it’s about the seven deadly sins, even more so, it is about a serial killer who is obsessed with God and of course the seven deadly sins and thus serial kills in seven deadly sins fashion, which does sound oddly familiar. And yet, all of those well known ingredients are mixed and mashed in this and bring out one stellar movie. I have a theory which states that there are four major reasons for this, and generous as I am, I’mma share that ‘lil theory with you, right here, right now.

via whatculture.com

Reason no. 1 is pretty obvious, but should nonetheless be stated: That is one good plot. The way it introduces its characters is fantastic, the way it builds up to the moment they almost capture John Doe, up to when he surrenders and up to the final reveal, which is a nasty twist, because it crushes not only Detective Mills, but also my feeble viewer’s heart, since it takes away one sympathetic character and destroys another completely. Which leads directly to reason no. 2.

Reason no. 2 is the effortlessness with which the movie produces likeable characters. There is a limited set presented here, basically just Mills (Brad Pitt), his wife Tracey (Gwyneth Paltrow) as a minor – yet plot integral – character, Morgan Freeman as Detective Somerset, their very minor character boss and last but not least serial killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey). The movie doesn’t give us much information about them, but it gives us enough in a way that makes them round and believable. The interpersonal conflict between the oldie Somerset and the newbie Mills, the former’s apathy and the latter’s idealism, the warm-hearted outreach by Tracy to Somerset which lays the groundwork for the bond between Mills and Somerset and finally the disgust and/or aggression that connects our two cops to Mr. Killer John Doe, all these relationships are constructed with only a few brushstrokes, artfully placed, and they become believable and relatable human behaviour.

via best-horror-movies.com

Reason no. 3 lies IMHO in Fincher’s eye for darkness and grittiness. He tried the same for Alien 3, where he failed because he probably had too much money and too much interference. Here, he presents a film noir New York unnamed city, complete with curious and grotesque murders, long trenchcoats, rain, blood, gore and worn out sofas and desks. Not only do I love it, but more importantly it feels all real to me. Nothing looks constructed and placed there because the movie required it to be there. It was just there, dirty and old and ignorant of the camera capturing it for the Hollywood-Blockbuster.
At this point I have to give a major shout-out to one scene in particular, or rather one concept in particular: the “murder” representing the sin sloth with the drug-dealer who lies in the bed like a corpse but IS STILL ALIVE. Gee, major super-creepness level. Like ultra major super creepy. And one heck of a powerful punch. And no, I don not want to talk about the dildo-knife. I shudder.

Leaving only reason no. 4 to elaborate on. And this one I’d say is the movie’s timelessness. Which is surprising, all the more since I started this review by pointing out that it came out 16 years ago. And I did so on purpose, because it influences the movie in a way that places it firmly in a time past: There is no New York police today working without computers and internet, there are no New York cops today who do not communicate via cell phone. These things are completely absent from the movie. Even though it was produced in a time when these things were already around, they were not around to the extent that they necessarily had to be in a movie to make it believable. However, their exclusion was most likely deliberate, and is one of the reasons why the movie feels relatively timeless. It feels like a tale that could have been set in the 1950s as well as today, the end of 2011. It helps to some extent in focusing the story on what I’ve commented on before, the plot, the characters, their interaction. But it also speaks volumes about who I am, what time I come from and how I relate to this movie. There are generations of viewers now who do not know a world without cell phones or internet and to them this might seem extremely odd and out of place while for me this still represents a totally relatable concept and context. I grew up during the second half of the 80s and the entire 90s. I’ve seen the beginnings of it but I also remember how people considered these things as new and something one had to get used to. Therefore, I wonder: how “timeless” is the movie for someone born in 1994? What do you think?

Yup, time to re-watch Seven.

The Last Unicorn is so rare, it has books and films written and made about it

Every Christmas here in Germany “The Last Unicorn” animation film is shown on TV (usually on crappy RTL2). I’ve grown up watching the movie, I know it by heart, and ever year I force my poor family through another screening of the thing. By now, I got my sister hooked, so I’m not the only one forcing it unto other members of my family. Just recently I read the book after years and years (and years) of not doing so, so I thought: Good time to write about one of my favorite movies in the entire world!

via wikipedia.org

The Last Unicorn was written by Peter S. Beagle and published in 1968. It has turned into a classic, although it initially wasn’t overly successfully apparently. By now more than five million copies of it have been sold and it has been translated into many languages, and I’d like to think a lot of that has to do with the movie. The movie has been produced and directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. for ITC Entertainment, and its screenplay had been written by Peter S. Beagle as well (who stated that he thinks the movie is magnificent). It has been released in 1982.

via wikipedia.org

There are a few differences between the book and the movie in terms of plot and characters. The main difference is the whole storyline about the town of Hagsgate that prospers and knows no death because the rest of King Haggard’s country has to suffer, and the whole connection that Prince Lír has to the village, the foretelling about him bringing down the king and his castle and his subsequent ascendancy to the throne. There are also minor differences like the four soldiers in King Haggard’s castle in the book, the extension of the scene of Schmendrick with the enchanted tree in the movie, and the physical description of characters (most notably when it comes to Mommy Fortuna). Apart from that a lot of the dialogue in the film is taken directly from the book and reading it I felt like watching the movie. I read the book in German, so I guess a lot of its beauty in English is lost to me (well, I can still go and read it in English another time), but the German version was well-written and didn’t read like a translation, so, no complaints there.
Would you ask me to pick I probably would go with the movie. Part of that is without a doubt me growing up watching it every year, but I also like the concise point it makes, more so than the book with the Hagsgate storyline (which is short, admittedly) that reads overly moralistic in a book that already asks a lot of moral questions. Then again, the film version has its own flaw: The musical interludes. Yep, sometimes the characters sing, and it is especially painful when Lady Amalthea (aka the Unicorn) and Prince Lír profess their love for each other in song. Argh, now that I think about it maybe I should rather pick the novel over the film. Bottom line is, they are both really good.

via animatedviews.com

So, what is The Last Unicorn actually about? Other than the plot of a unicorn finding out about being the only one and saving all the others.
The question is not that easy to answer, which has to do with the different characters and the different things they stand for, I guess. One possible answer is: happiness. A world without unicorns is a world without happiness. As much as King Haggard is portrayed to be the villain, he is also one to identify with: There is little that makes him happy, entertainment, money, power, they all do nothing for him, even human contact doesn’t. But to look at unicorns and feel the joy, that is what keeps him alive. But what then is happiness? Possessing beautiful things? Pets? Enslaving other creatures? Hardly. So we could dig deeper and ask what the unicorn potentially stands for, and obviously there is also a moral tale. The unicorn and its close relationship to the forest is a strong symbol for the unity of all living matter, the necessity of cooperation between creatures and nature to make things work, to create a beautiful and healthy environment. However, the unicorn also stands for magic, being a magical creature it is a symbol of human imagination, of the things and the beauty human beings can come up with when they dream. The novel does not endorse just any sort of dream though, because as it repeatedly makes clear: you have to be pure-hearted and kind-spirited to be able to recognize the unicorn for what it is.

via laidown.com

One thing the unicorn is, is immortal. And another major theme of both novel and movie is the relationship we human beings have with death. The unicorn cannot die and once it is trapped in a human body it feels the flesh dying, something it has never felt before. Now, we don’t exactly feel ourselves dying, but we feel ourselves getting older, and facing the reality of our own death is something we all eventually have to do.
The Last Unicorn presents and comments upon various concepts of dealing with death and decay. There is Schmendrick, a sort of antithesis to the unicorn, because he is a mortal who becomes immortal temporarily (which is a paradox, I know thankyouverymuch), but wishes to age and die, because for him immortality is not just a symbolic sign of stagnation and zero development, but actually a very concrete reminder of his own inability to use magic the way he is supposed to be using it.
Molly Grue as a character feels like people we all know I’d say: Someone who hasn’t aged well, not only in a physical sense, but also in a spiritual one, because she had dreams and hopes and nothing ever really came of it. “Where have you been?” she asks the unicorn, “how dare you come to Molly Grue now that I am old?” Which is touching, because I’ve seen people like that time and again. And I always think that those people should not give up, which is what saves Molly Grue in the end. She thought that she had reached a point where it was all that is to it, but then there is the unicorn, the ability to dream of magic, and adventures ensue, which for her really mean doing chores somewhere else, but also expanding her horizons, meeting challenges and forming intimate bonds with other people.
King Haggard on the other hand has obviously been around far too long. He doesn’t even want to live, and he knows it, but he isn’t strong enough to let go. He is a slave to the Red Bull and/or the Red bull is a slave to him, the relationship is so old that they both don’t really remember, I suppose. He has never been happy, and he probably never really will be, cause his greed has brought him only one thing: Loss. He lost the ability to enjoy what he has, to appreciate it, and the only time he remembers what it means to appreciate what you have is when he looks at something he possesses but doesn’t really have: the unicorns and their connection with all living beings.

via tvmovie.de

There is not much to comment on with Prince Lír. Other than his father he too experiences loss (the love of his life, no less), but he becomes a better person for it, grows because of it, instead of stagnating like his father. Captain Cully becomes a better person because of losing his wife and men, singing and touring across the countries. And yes, of course, the Red Bull himself … There is a lot he potentially stands for and just because I can, I leave this one untouched for now.
A pet-peeve of mine is inconsistency within fictional universes. Now, The Last Unicorn is clearly fictional, although there is the occasional hint at a connection to our world, like e.g. the whole Robin Hood scene that brings Molly Grue to Schmendrick and the unicorn. And I can accept that, that is mighty fine with me. But what bugs me, is the butterfly and his crazy talk which would be okay if it weren’t for him talking about events that happen in a time that is clearly in the future (at least in my head) for the characters within the story. Or are we supposed to think that the world in The Last Unicorn is set in the future of our world? Then there is no representation of noble deeds other than Robin Hood? C’mon, really? It’s like this point in Lord of the Rings when Gandalf says to wakening Frodo in Rivendell “It’s October” and I’m all like: Wait what? You invent whole languages for peoples populating this fictional universe and you won’t even come up with other terms for months? Or another system of counting time, a different sort of calendar? Can’t accept that, sorry. So, Mr. Butterfly, you get little love from me.

via brer-powerofbabel.blogspot.com

However, there is one part of the story I particularly like. In the movie even more so than in the novel, probably because that is really my image of the character. It is of course the part about Mommy Fortuna, how she captures the unicorn and Schmendrick, who we meet there for the first time, sets her free.
What I love about the whole passage is how it sums up so nicely what the rest of the story tries to convey: we are all mortals, trying to find a way to immortality, but we probably couldn’t even handle it.
Mommy Fortuna knows that she is a minor witch and will never become a great person that all humankind will remember infinitely. But she managed to capture two immortal beings, the unicorn and the harpy. She doesn’t say it in the book, but if I remember correctly says it in the movie: This is her kind of immortality. She might be long gone and forgotten by all other mortal beings, but the harpy cannot die, she is immortal and will forever remember the time she was held prisoner by Mommy Fortuna – and that is Mommy’s kind of immortality, being remembered forever by the harpy she humiliated by capturing. I love the brilliance of the concept, the sharpness of the honesty that Mommy Fortuna is able to tell herself that she isn’t made for greatness, but that the unlikely event of capturing immortal beings grants her a place in history that will be remembered longer than any history that human beings write down and pass on. And although I think we should not get stuck on dichotomies, I kinda really like the dichotomy of two immortal beings who are so very different from each other that one of them is willing to kill the other.

Okeyi, sum-up time. Needless to repeat it, but I do so nevertheless: The Last Unicorn, both novel and film, is a great story. It is grand exactly because it knows how to avoid mere gestures of grandness, the characters do not need to be stereotypical heroes and princesses, but they need to be flawed beings (even the unicorn, who has to learn that a mortal existence is no less of an existence than hers) in order to be able to achieve greatness and thus make the story grand and epic.

Get it, read it, watch it.