It has been a while since I last did a movie post. I had started one way back in January, but it was too ambitious and still sits somewhat unfinished. I’ll get to it soon, since those movies are starting to come out on home video now.
I did see a couple of movies a bit more recently, though, and so I offer up my thoughts on those.
The Secret World of Arrietty
This is the latest animated Studio Ghibli film to be released by Disney in North America. While Ghibli’s legendary director Hayao Miyazaki did not helm this one, he was heavily involved in the script and planning, and it bodes well for the future of Ghibli that this movie turned out awfully good. The movie is a Japanese transplant of Mary Norton’s classic Borrowers children’s novels about tiny people who beneath the floorboards of our homes and “borrow” things to survive, and focusses on the Borrower girl Arrietty.
In typical Ghibli fashion, the animation is lush, beautiful, and detailed. The perspectives they use evoke the sense of being a tiny person in a giant world better than anything else I’ve seen. From duels with cockroaches, using leaves as umbrellas, and the dangers posed by the cat and the hungry bird attacking from above, it really gives you a sense of a whole other world surrounding us in our everyday lives.
The story skews to the family-friendly end of the Ghibli spectrum, but is oddly slow-paced and contemplative. That is not to say it is boring—I was rapt throughout—but much of its wonder arises from the discovery of the world of the Borrowers rather than artificial external dangers, though those arise in due time. It succeeds by being genuinely beautiful and interesting, not simply because it keeps throwing cheap gags and explosions in your face.
While I wouldn’t say this is the best example of what Studio Ghibli has to offer, The Secret World of Arrietty can stand quite comfortably alongside it. Anyone who is a fan of quality animation—or quality film in general—should definitely check this out.
John Carter is another Disney release that has already gained notoriety as being declared one of the biggest flops of all time within 2 weeks of opening. There has been much debate over why that is the case even as the film continues to do okay worldwide, so who knows whether it might eventually earn back its massive production budget.
Had Disney actually cared enough to market the film properly, it might have done better domestically. As a science fiction reader, I knew that the titular John Carter referred to John Carter of Mars, the hero of Edgar Rice Burroughs‘s (creator of Tarzan) Barsoom novels. This was not at all apparent from any of the trailers I saw. The one I sort of vaguely remember made it unclear whether it was a science fiction film at all, or a superhero film, or a dumb fantasy movie. I’m not sure that there was a single thing done to market this film to people who didn’t already know who John Carter was.
Anyway, all of that is beside the point. John Carter is a good movie. It has its flaws, to be sure—it starts too slowly, throws in some unnecessary back story, gets a bit muddled in the middle, and has villains with unclear motivations—but it is a fun, enjoyable movie.
It is approximately ONE BILLION TIMES BETTER than any Michael Bay film. Especially those ones with the transforming robots.
It looked beautiful and the action was fun and well-choreographed. There was good chemistry between John Carter and Dejah Thoris (the Princess of Mars played by Lynn Collins, who is providing competition to Princess Leia for my Favouritest Space Princess Ever!), and the supporting cast (both human and alien) was strong. And it did a pretty decent job of evoking a sense of wonder at Burroughs’s vision of
So John Carter was a good (but not great) movie that I enjoyed more than, say, James Cameron’s Avatar (which was well-made and more tightly scripted, but less interesting to me for all its technical superiority) and which did not suck like those bowel movements that Michael Bay keeps excreting onto screens around the world and calling movies. John Carter is not a deep, mind-blowing, revolutionary movie, but it is a lot of fun, and if a sci-fi action movie is the sort of thing you like, it is well worth seeing.