Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Cinema Screams...

I really wanted this to work.

Too many hecklers doing the fanboy thing of judge first, watch later. I hoped they'd be proved wrong.
I hoped my worries about Frank Miller stamping over Will Eisner's creation were wrong.
Yeah, well. You can't have everything.
Lets start positive. It looks great.
Each frame is a perfect recreation of Frank Miller's brilliant storyboard panels. I love the black, white and red colour scheme and would like to see more films play with the colour like that.
Yep, every frame would look great on the wall.
The design is great. Sam L Jackson as a Doctor, a Nazi, a samurai (all Miller fave themes). Highly stylised and iconic frames.
Notice I say frame and not scene.That's because they barely qualify as scenes because Frank Miller has forgotten the key element of why movies are called movies. THEY MOVE. MOVING PICTURES.
Eva Mendes is very hot, totally watchable and very much the film's saving grace. I dread to think how dull the film would be without her. Especially her semi-naked scene. If that sounds cheap, what can I say? She looks stunning. A classic femme fatale. Easily best part of the film. Which it shouldn't be. One of the highlights maybe. But not the highlight.
What really hits you is that the film is a mess. Mess that started with the best of intentions when Robert Rodriguez (very generously) gave Miller a codirector credit for Sin City.
The excuse was that because RR build so much from actual comic panels, Miller deserved the credit. Then came 300. Again, Zack Snyder using comic panels as direct reference. Some bright spark decided that anyone who draws the panels must be able to direct.
So here we are.Miller has applied his comics knowledge to making a movie. Both visual mediums but an ill fit together. In way of an analogy, it like a 100m sprinter suddenly applying that technique to a marathon.
Miller's rookie status shows BIG. Is it film noir? Is it screwball? Is it Sin City? Is it camp 60's Batman? It's all so uneven in style. Gabriel Macht in the role as The Spirit appears to have been given confusing orders. Is he heroic, goofy, cheesy?
It's quite early on that something feels really off. Whether its the sub Batman prep sequence. The goofy, bouncy way he runs along the roof top.And then there's the noir voiceover, full of the most damned awful 6th form goth poetry. All delivered in that overused Alec Baldwinish husk. Which is odd as the Spirit himself doesn't even talk like that onscreen.
All the way through you can see the change from frame to frame where Miller has done another about turn on how to play things. For some unknown reason The Spirit suddenly breaks the 4th Wall to talk directly to the audience.
Worse still, Miller has done the very thing that ruins any superhero film. Unnecessary character additions. Some kind of supernatural immortality riff that just doesn't fit the character.
The action is limited both in screentime and execution which makes things quite dull. Mixed with the chop/change tone makes for a dragging pace.
As for the rest of the cast, the less said about Scarlett J the better. Her delivery has that falling spanner quality.
Fans of 24 will get to pick out much of the cast. Then there’s Mr Jackson.
Sam Jackson provides the one memorable line about "Egg on my face!". Not memorable in a good way. Like the famous quote about George Lucas' Star Wars dialogue 'You can write this stuff, you can't say'.
The dialogue would be fine in a comic. Again, film is a different world. They talk differently there.
Add to that, Sam Jackson doing that SAM-UEL L JACK-SON syllable boosting performance. Autopilot in other words. But what else could he do? The direction is AWOL.
I really wanted this to work but it comes across as too much of a vanity project in the worst sense of the term. Not just for the very-extended cameo Miller gives himself. More the way Miller has stamped his DNA all over another creator’s character.
Its common in comics. Miller did it to Batman many times to great effect. But to do it in such a way on a character's first film outing makes the director look limited, but mostly arrogant.
In the end its a badly directed film that would work better if the frames were turned into a comic book.

You said you'd find me, and now your'e here....

First post is the deepest.
Maybe not. This blog is going to review books films and DVDs.
Where I can I'll link to sites to purchase, unless its a cinema release, in which case, go to your local multiplex.
As a bonus there may even be some unique artwork to accompany the reviews.
Inspired by the extra sections of the monthly comic Criminal where the excellent Shaun Phillips paints while eminent writers hammer the keys about their favourite crime movies. Yu have to buy the monthly comic version for the essays as they are not included in the graphic novel. That called an incentive and I've veered from the point.
Well this will hopefully be similar to the extra bits in criminal.