I went into the cinema with the lowest expectations. The trailer showed us wooly mammoths building the pyramids and good white guys fighting evil Arab-dudes; not exactly a promising premise. So I was surprised to find that Roland Emmerich has finally made another good movie (the other one being Stargate ). Not brilliant, no. There are some scenes that could’ve been very touching, but the movie never quite takes off emotionally. Emmerich is competent, but not visionary, and the Zimmer/Badelt-knockoff music fares likewise: good, but not special. Which is still a whole lot better than most movies.
So, here are some thoughts:
- The writing was mostly good. I’m sure some people will disagree, but the way it lived somewhere between folk tale and epic was really well done, especially in the narration; the only place where the writing fell down a little were Evolet’s scenes.
- Unfortunately Evolet not only sounded too modern, she looked too modern, too. Casting someone with more normal (and therefore more interesting, more specific) looks would’ve been a big plus. The generic nature of the love interest kind of harms a story that is all about a man trying to save said love interest.
- The effects were pretty good. It’s strange. Everyone went all orgasmic about the effects in Independence Day , which were terrible (yes, even at the time) and yet when it comes to this movie, where the effects are actually quite good, people complain.
- The landscapes were fantastic. Utterly ridiculous in how close they were together, but truly beautiful.
- The cinematography was also competent. Certainly much better than all the crappy shakycam bullshit Peter Jackson pulled in The Lord of the Rings . Quite often I did wish for close-ups when the camera was far away and for wider shots when they were using close-ups, but except for the scenes in the jungle it all looked pretty good, and you could actually see stuff, which is always a plus.
- Unless it was night. Can somebody please forbid day-for-night shoots? Or explain to filmmakers that nights aren’t completely blue? You can use darkness as a visual tool, you know.
- Cliff Curtis is a god. What a wonderful actor. He was stunning in Sunshine (one of my favourite movies of all time), and here he is clearly the strongest presence in the film.
- A couple of scenes were truly hilarious – intentionally so. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I do want to say that those scenes were really well-written and clever, and the acting was perfect.
- Some people (idiots, we call them) are bound to complain about the film’s message of universal cooperation. They’d much rather be told that all humans are inherently evil and we will keep on bashing in each other’s heads for eternity because that’s just how it is, no sense trying to change anything, besides, being a misanthropic nihilist is totally in these days, maybe that way you can also get chicks. But the scenes with people of different tribes/races working together, becoming friends, were beautiful and touching – more touching than the love story, actually.
All in all – a good and entertaining way of spending some time. It won’t change your life, but it’s not forgettable, either.