April 20, 2009 | Category: Uncategorized

Film Fight: March 2009

A few weeks into April? It must be time for the March film fight…

Watchmen is a film that I was generally quite excited about, given that it’s based on a stunningly brilliant graphic novel whose every panel oozes detail and links together so well that it warrants many, many reads. By all accounts, this was to be a (mostly) faithful adaptation; and that’s the problem. It starts off well, going over the death of the Comedian and his funeral, re-enacting what he meant to the other characters, but it takes its time about it. Having covered maybe two issues of the comic, there was no way that the remaining ten could fit intact. That, by itself, is fine. I’m all for properly adapting material, but this was not a proper adaptation. It would seem the writers picked out all the “must-have” scenes from the novel, the stuff fans would want to see, and cut lots between them. When the path through to those scenes has been so heavily cut-back, it starts to not make much sense and feel rather rushed. I’d have rather have seen far more cut out and for the film to be coherent and solid, rather than a quick bout of fan-pleasing moments flung together. I could go on at some length about how some of the characters were badly neutered (Laurie), some of the visuals were cheap and plasticky, and the story was left a pretty flimsy mess (and let’s not go into the crappy ending), but it’s not worth it. Wait to see how the extended version comes out (fingers crossed it has the extra material the film so badly needs) or, better yet, just read the graphic novel. (See my Watchmen Twitter review).

Next is the lovable but largely forgettable Marley & Me. It’s ostensibly about a journalist (played by Owen Wilson) who buys a badly trained dog for his girlfriend, but is really more about the relationship and hardships they endure, with the dog as a lens into that. It doesn’t have a huge amount to say, and is basically light Hollywood fun. That’s not a criticism, but don’t go in expecting anything more meaty. Enjoyable, yet flimsy. (See my Marley & Me Twitter review).

You’d expect Bronson, the story of Britain’s most violent inmate, to be a straight forward if unusually brutal biopic. It’s not. Instead we get a nightmarish, carnival atmosphere, with the title character himself as our ring leader, taking us on a bizarre and twisted journey through his life in an attempt to get fame for the only thing he knows he’s good at: brutality. Tom Hardy puts in the performance of a lifetime, as the film evokes an atmosphere of slightly-off darkness that hasn’t been seen since A Clockwork Orange. It’s brutal, ugly, a little funny, and very entertaining. A fantastic movie. (See my Bronson Twitter Review).

Finally, Gran Torino is a lazy and largely dull story about an old man coming to terms with changes in his neighbourhood, and finally befriending the immigrants who he has despised for so long. Clint Eastwood is the only person who puts in a half-way decent performance, and even that is stifled by the over the top racism he shows. Subtly, you see, is something this film lacks. Rather than tell you a story and let you judge the characters, everyone seems intent on telling you exactly what they’re feeling so that they don’t have to act it or buy too much into their ridiculously one-dimensional characterisations. About as subtle as a pink brick to the face in every aspect. Even if you can somehow swallow being spoon fed, there’s very little here to make it worth while. Avoid.

That makes Bronson the deserved winner for March.