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Entries in warm bodies (2)

Friday
Mar012013

Jack the Giant Slayer

One question kept lingering in my mind as I watched Jack the Giant Slayer: how do the giants procreate? Aside from some physical abnormalities, they’re basically big people who sleep, eat and produce all the bodily fluids one would expect, yet they’re all male. Where are the women in this land of the clouds? Without them, do they reproduce asexually? If so, where are the (comparatively) little ones? If they aren’t able to procreate, are they immortal? Normally, a lack of answers would bother my obsessive compulsive brain, but in this case, they gave me something to think about while I was otherwise bored out of my mind. Jack the Giant Slayer is a lackluster production all around that features thin characters stuck in an even thinner story that stumbles along boorishly, never really building all that much excitement despite its titular promise of giant slaying.

Nicholas Hoult, who was so good in last month’s Warm Bodies, plays Jack. He’s a poor farm boy whose father told him stories of a mystical land full of giants when he was younger, which gave him hope to one day go on a grand adventure. Little did he know, however, that those stories were actually true and his adventure was going to mimic the stories he loved so much as a child. After making a deal with a monk, he finds himself in possession of some magical beans, one of which sprouts a giant beanstalk that soars to the sky and above the clouds. Unfortunately, this beanstalk takes his home with it, with the kingdom’s princess, Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), inside. He, along with the king’s men, Elmont (Ewan McGregor), Roderick (Stanley Tucci) and Crawe (Eddie Marsan), begins his ascent to rescue her.

It’s not unreasonable to expect a fantasy tale to have an imagination. Thinking outside the box is paramount to the genre’s success, but Jack the Giant Slayer is as bland as they come. This fantasy world in the clouds is severely lacking in the fantastical elements to make it come alive, aside from the actual giants, of course. The land is virtually no different than the one beneath them at the bottom of the beanstalk. There are grassy knolls, waterfalls, small ponds, forests and little else. Much of the film’s supposed appeal comes from the exploration of this land in the moments leading up to the confrontation, but, despite an abundance of CGI, there’s nothing particularly interesting to see.

More startling than its lack of imagination, however, is a narrative that is stretched so thin that it feels like two movies in one. After about an hour or so of wandering around and a moment or two of heroism, the film comes to a conclusion that one might expect the first part of a multi-part franchise to have. But then it starts again. It almost feels like the filmmakers shot the first half of the film, realized it wasn’t long enough to be justified as a feature length movie and expanded the story with the more action packed part two. Even more surprising is that when the film actually ends, it sets itself up for an actual sequel that could be set in modern day.

But making a sequel to an idea that wasn’t particularly interesting to begin with seems unlikely. Jack the Giant Slayer won’t be heavily panned, however. Some will see the charm in it, mostly due to a script that is a lot goofier than the trailers have led us to believe, complete with groan inducing puns. “He wouldn’t spill the beans,” one character says while trying to extract information on their whereabouts from that aforementioned monk. Although this goofiness will appeal to some, it’s a pandering type of goofiness, one that’s trying to trick viewers into thinking it’s amusing while simultaneously hiding its lackluster story. When you tack on a useless 3D that creates constant double vision and even further darkens some already visually dark scenes, as most films in the format do, you have something that simply doesn’t work. Director Bryan Singer is a talented guy who, unfortunately, seems to take more flack these days for the underrated Superman Returns than praise for his knockout X-Men movies and The Usual Suspects, but he failed to bring Jack to life.

Jack the Giant Slayer receives 1.5/5

Friday
Feb012013

Warm Bodies

It wouldn’t be unreasonable for a cynic to look at Warm Bodies and fear that it will ruin zombies the way the Twilight franchise ruined vampires. Like Twilight, it takes a creature that should be scary and feared and turns it into a lover, trapped in a teen-friendly romance that is sure to be endeared by young girls across the country. Luckily, Warm Bodies is nothing like Twilight. It’s funny, self-aware and all around charming. It occasionally devolves into cheese and hits a few narrative lulls that drag the overall product down, but this is a solid film that takes a concept that really shouldn’t work at all and makes it palatable to a wide reaching audience.

Eight years ago, something happened. What that something was is unclear, but it caused the dead to rise and hunger for human flesh. Now, the humans still left alive have retreated into a confined part of their city, protected by a humongous wall. Of course, resources within that space are finite, so teams must venture out occasionally to gather more necessities. One day, a group of young kids, including Julie, (Teresa Palmer), the daughter of the city’s leader, go out to do just that. Unexpectedly, they are ambushed by the dead. However, one of the zombies actually takes a liking to her, probably due to his prior consumption of her boyfriend’s brain, which causes him to gather his memories and feelings, and he ends up protecting her from the zombie horde. For some reason, when he’s around her, he feels different and actually becomes more humanlike. Nevertheless, he still speaks in grunts with only the occasional monosyllabic word and he can’t remember his name, so Julie starts calling him R (Nicholas Hoult).

The film begins in R’s head with an inner monologue. He’s dead and his brain doesn’t quite function properly, as one would expect from a zombie, but he’s aware of this (just one of many contradictions that deviates from zombie lore). He can’t feel physical pain anymore, but he feels loneliness and lost, sometimes literally given that he tends to wander around unfamiliar places. His desire to be alive, to feel and to love is something we all feel from time to time, especially when our lives become a monotonous loop we seemingly can’t get away from. Not many movies have a set-up and structure that enable them to explore such themes, or at least not in this way, which makes Warm Bodies a unique offering. He may be a zombie, but R is one of the most likable and, oddly enough, relatable characters to be on the screen in quite some time.

Its themes don’t stop and start there, however. Other themes include some we’ve already seen, like the idea of humans living like we’re dead (which was better explored in Shaun of the Dead), and some that are a little too obvious to really work, like desegregation and acceptance in a world of people that are different than you, but the fact that these themes are there at all just goes to show how thoughtful the movie is. It doesn’t desire to be the mopey tween romance it so easily could have become. It shoots much higher. Granted, its central message of “love is what makes us human” is inherently cheesy (and it singlehandedly killed 2008’s Hancock), but Warm Bodies handles it as delicately as a similarly themed movie possibly can. When the end rolls around, you won’t be wiping away tears, but you also won’t be rolling your eyes. In fact, you’re likely to find it kind of sweet.

Although a cliché saying at this point, Warm Bodies is greater than the sum of its parts. If each part was analyzed individually, it would be easy to point out their flaws (like those aforementioned memories that aren’t seen in first person as they should be, but rather in third person, the way they were shot), yet there’s a gentleness and warmness to the film, despite some blood splatter and organ eating, that can’t be overlooked. It poses no threat to the dominance of the more brutal zombies we know and love, instead creating its own little nook in zombie lore that reinvigorates the walking dead in a way few have done before. It’s not your typical romance, but it’s the movie to see this Valentine’s Day. Men and women alike will find something to cherish.

Warm Bodies receives 3.5/5