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Tag Archives: 3d
Life of Pi (Ang Lee, 2012)
Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is one of the most visually beautiful movies I have seen. So was his Brokeback Mountain. But here’s the thing: the two films are beautiful in totally different ways. Lee is such a strong and versatile director that he seemingly reinvents himself for each movie; you could love every one of his movies but still not consider him as your favourite director, because he’s like a different one each time.
Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012)
Ridley Scott’s return to science fiction, thirty years after Blade Runner, would be a big deal on its own. That he has returned with a revisitation of the universe of his other science fiction classic, Alien, makes this an even more enticing prospect. Yet there’s a reason the trailers have soft-pedalled the connection to the 1979 film: Prometheus is quite a different film in both intent and execution.
It takes place before Alien, and follows a deep space mission to find a star system that had been depicted in ancient cave paintings. Led by archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and the improbably icy project sponsor Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), the mission hopes to uncover secrets about Earth’s origins. The team lands on a moon, finds and enters an ancient alien structure, and undertakes an orderly, well organised series of explorations in relative safety things start to go disastrously wrong.
Scott’s original Alien took a very similar opening set-up and turned it into a single-minded exercise in suspense and occasional visceral horror. Prometheus, commendably, is more ambitious. There’s a strong element of Alien-style menace, but Scott also wants to have a try at more thoughtful, idea-driven science-fiction. The film works to some extent on both fronts, but never really gels as a whole: it’s a film more interesting and laudable for what it attempts than what it actually manages.
Avatar (James Cameron, 2009)
James Cameron’s long-awaited Avatar is at once a state-of-the-art journey through imagined interstellar landscapes, and a rather more prosaic expedition through familiar story-telling terrain. “Great effects, so-so story” is perhaps the classic form of review for post-1977 Hollywood movies, and it’s a little sheepishly that critics have arrived once again at this basic conclusion. Yet, they have, in droves, because at the fundamental level that’s the key conclusion to be drawn about Avatar. The more interesting points to make about the film, then, aren’t those most important but most obvious observations. The sub-plots here – like the progress of James Cameron’s once-imposing directorial career, or whether the film is a giant leap in the evolution of film technology – are rather more interesting.
I saw Bolt the other day. I won’t get a chance to review it properly, but I will note for the record that it’s enjoyable without being especially memorable. It’s a testament to the professionalism of the creative people at Pixar / Disney: having torn the film down and rebuilt it halfway through production, they still made it slick and fun and involving. Nevertheless, there’s an unmistakable by-the-numbers feel about it: there’s not much sense that anyone had any real passion for this story. Toy Story, you sensed, reflected real interests of John Lasseter; The Incredibles unmistakably meant something to Brad Bird; and Finding Nemo‘s story doubtless had personal meaning to Andrew Stanton. But with Bolt the original director was gone, and it really feels like they only made the film because they didn’t want to write off all the story development. So it’s fun, but passionless.
The most interesting thing about it is actually the 3-D. I have seen a few reviews, like Jim Schembri’s and Stuart Wilson’s, really complement the process. I’m afraid, however, that I don’t buy it. It’s true that it’s way better than old 1950s red-blue 3-D, but that’s faint praise. Beyond the novelty value, does it actually improve the movie experience?
Beowulf (Robert Zemeckis, 2007)
Beowulf is a test-bed for a combination of technologies that might be the future of the movies. It utilises “performance capture” animation, which some think will revolutionise computer animation. In many theatres it is being exhibited in 3-D, and that technology is acting as something of a trojan horse for the accelerated roll-out of digital cinemas. And its regular theatrical release is paired with showings in IMAX. It’s all very reminiscent of the 1950s, when extreme widescreen processes and early 3-D were used to try to give theatrical exhibition a competitive advantage against the threat of television. Today, the threats are DVD and illegal downloads, but the impetus is much the same. And Robert Zemeckis, in particular, has devoted much of the last decade to this technology: he hasn’t made a live-action film since 2000′s Cast Away, and won’t for some years (with his next picture locked in as the computer-animated A Christmas Tale, due in 2009).