Daily Archives: 09/04/2011

George Lucas – cease, desist, just quit it!

By now, you may have read that the upcoming Blu-Ray releases of the complete “Star Wars” saga features a suite of visual and audio tweaks to the original and prequel trilogies, as part of director George Lucas’ apparently ongoing campaign to merrily widdle away whatever goodwill he may have accrued as the SF auteur of many of an 70’s/80’s kid’s childhoods.

This post at Topless Robot neatly summarises many of the inanities awaiting those who purchase the box set.

Fanboy rage or stoic acceptance that Lucas can't leave well enough alone?

We’re used to Lucas feeling that he needs to update his saga every so often with digital tweaks, sound upgrades or the addition of footage left on the cutting room floor but surely the time comes when he can just put a full stop on his creation and move on with his life?

Short of doing away with the awkward, technically-dated but still well-loved analogue aspects of the films entirely, where does he purport to cease his ongoing campaign of revisiting the “Star Wars” saga?  As one commentator on a forum which I frequent asked this week – is he going to wait until Ewan McGregor is old enough to play Alec Guinness’ role in “A New Hope” and thereafter graft on some Hayden Christensen for good measure, just to retcon the whole damn thing into even more absurdity?

Lucas seems unwilling to let things be unspoken, to be hinted at – every change that he seems to make wishes the underscore and highlight (in neon pink, if possible) moments which were subtle or underplayed in the original films – see the B.S. sound-effects now grafted on to the climax of “Return of the Jedi”, in the Vader/Skywalker/Emperor confrontation.   It’s as though the ultimate theatrical presentation for Lucas would be the chance to show the films in your home cinema, replete with a telestrator pen, where he could show you what he actually wanted to do before the constraints of time, money and release dates upset his apple cart.

No, don't fix the stuff that's still broken - stick Jar Jar in the Death Star battle, eh, George?

I can see the argument for creating a through-line to the movies that the new, young “Star Wars” fans can relate to and feel a kinship with but there’s also the inescapable truth that a great many fans would like to have access to the original, technically inferior but iconic films that they grew up with.  Just keep them as ‘branching’ versions on the discs – Lucas doesn’t ever have to watch them again, but a great many of us would like to.

It isn’t as though any of this stuff is actually that important, in the grand scheme of things.  The movies are Lucas’ to do with as he will, any informed consumer can decide to buy the new box set or not and the world will move on anon.

However, I may find myself at the point where the good ship “Star Wars” is abandoned once and for all.  Insert your most apposite “You’ve Just Taken Your First Steps Into A Larger World” meme here.

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Filed under Geekery, Spoiled!

“Pathfinder” – bloody, awful.

The occasional joy of a DVD rental site is that you add titles to your rental list, receive them through the post and find that you’re watching an unheralded gem of a film.

Case in point – Serbian romantic absurdist fantasy “Tears for Sale”.  I saw the trailer preceding another DVD, became instantly intrigued by the Gilliam/Jeunet-esque visual energy hinted at within and waited patiently for it to turn up.  When I did get to see it a few weeks ago it became one of my favourite films of the year.

The same cannot be said for director Marcus Nispel’s ‘Native Americans Vs Vikings’ historical action adventure, “Pathfinder”.

Wow, epic poster, bro.

To call this film insulting to it’s intended audience of attention-deficit-afflicted American teenage boys is to do it an injustice – to watch it is to feel yourself becoming progressively more stupid, as the initial promise of the story is swiftly undercut by the director’s apparent desire to ignore that boring, old people crap and instead remake “Predator” with naively sketched Native American heroes facing off against pantomime Vikings in an anachronistic America 600 years before Christopher Columbus’ intervention.

Whatever visual acumen Nispel has – he’s got an eye for an image – is wholly offset by his short-comings as a storyteller.  I have no way of knowing how much of Laeta Kalogridis’ screenplay made it through the film-making process but you hope that it was somewhat better than the end product we get to see on-screen – clichéd scene follows clichéd scene, and each one is presented by the director as though the audience should be rapt in wonder at the unfolding spectacle they are beholding.  This is pretty rich, as Nispel’s vision ultimately resembles an unholy melange of high-end car commercial, AAA metal band video and a feature-length trailer, with coherence sacrificed for posing that looks kewl

The bare-chested, slow-motion running toward camera is essential to the truth of the art...

The shame of it is that a team of talented professionals behind the camera are at the mercy of Nispel’s relentlessly empty-headed artistic vision.  For the most part, the technical personnel do a great job – although the quality of CGI in the finale suggests that it is rather more last-minute than anybody connected with the production would probably admit in public: if you’ve ever wanted to see some really dodgy green screen and matte work on screen, check out (or rather, don’t) the Blu-Ray version of the film which manages to underpin just how bad special effects can be, even in this day and age.

Talented actors like Karl Urban, Clancy Brown and Moon Bloodgood are marooned in this film, trying desperately to breathe life into hastily-drawn templates rather than fully-realised characters – the story presents archetypes rather than people.  The Vikings are blood-thirsty, gutterally-growling psychopaths clad in elaborate armour, the Native Americans are stoic, soulful, peaceful souls who only move to violence when forced to defend their way of life – there are no shades of grey to behold, only a tale told in the broadest swathes of black and white.

Nispel’s previous films – the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” reboot, the “Friday the 13th” retread, and this year’s remake of “Conan the Barbarian” (are you seeing a trend here?) – hardly mark him out as a master of subtlety but this is paint-by-numbers, uninspired film-making at its absolute nadir.  There’s so little inspiration in play here that you’ve probably seen original Asylum/SyFy movies which out-do “Pathfinder” for wit and execution.

It’s the type of utterly uninspired, disgracefully generic product which so often clogs the multiplexes and most often emanates from the general direction of Twentieth Century Fox – Crass, forgettable Product with a capital ‘P’, and barely worthy of consideration let alone the time that it takes to watch it.



Filed under Films, Spoiled!