Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Spielberg Double Feature

Steven Spielberg is my favorite film director, and I was lucky enough see two of his films over the weekend. It's a testament to Spielberg's power as a film icon that he was able to release two films in the same week (the week of Christmas, no less!), and a testament to his talent that both films are so different from one another.

Anyway, let's get to it:

War Horse

I probably wouldn't have seen this film had Spielberg's name not been mentioned in the trailer. It looked like a nice movie and all, but I don't really like horses and I rarely see family films. However, this wasn't really a family film or a film about horses, so much as Spielberg's first attempt at a World War I epic. And boy do I like those.

Actually, this film kind of defies description. It's not really about horses, since the story focuses on war and the effects it has on people. It's not really a family film since there is so much death and destruction. And it's not really a WWI film since very little about the war is actually explained, and if you don't already know what's happening -- or even which war is being fought at all -- you're not going to learn anything. If I had to describe it in a single sentence, I might say it's a picaresque story about one horse's journey though a world torn about by war.

And I'll be the first to admit that that doesn't sound like it would be a very good movie. But boy would I be wrong, since this was just about as brilliant a film as Spielberg has ever directed. It's not his best or even close to being his most entertaining, but it was definitely brilliant: brilliantly conceived, executed, and realized, and pretty close to being as perfect a film as he's ever done. Visually, it was amazing and as stylish and interesting to look at as anything he has ever made. The acting, by a group of mostly unknowns, was as great as you'd expect from any Spielberg film.

All things considered, a war film told from the point of view of a horse turned out to be one of the most honest way to convey the horror of battle. The horse doesn't know what is happening or why anybody is fighting, so when he is pulled from side to side, the sides themselves stop mattering and all we see are humans fighting against each other. Anyway... I liked it. Go see it.

The Adventures of Tin Tin

Remember when Spielberg followed up Jurassic Park with Schindler's List? Well, same deal here. While War Horse was a thoughtful, melancholy, look at war and man's inhumanity to his fellow man, Tin Tin was just a mad capped, over the top, rousing adventure story.

Oh, and it's also the best film Spielberg has made in almost ten years.

I'm the perfect audience member for a film based on Tin Tin. I love comic books and I used to live in Europe, so I know of the comics and have read several, but never to such an extent that I can get annoyed or mad by any changes Spielberg made or infidelity his film showed to the comics. I like Tin Tin, but I'm not a fanatic, so I was able to enjoy how well the character was brought to the screen, even if I was only able to pick up on very few of the in-jokes and references. This seemed to be the same Tin Tin character I've seen in the comics, and that's a good thing, since Tin Tin is one of the best and most beloved comics in the entire world. Outside of America, of course, since nobody here knows who he is.

I'm still not entirely convinced that motion-captured CG was the best way to adapt the character, however, since the Tin Tin from the comics was a cartoony character running around a hyper realistic enviornment. If original aritst Herge had wanted Tin Tin to look like an actual human, he would've drawn him that way. The character still looked like Tin Tin, of course, but like a strange, oddly human version, sort of like if somebody made a version of Bart Simpson that looked too realistic. But I can't complain too much since even though I think the film should've been in hand drawn 2D, this was without a doubt the best looking and animated film I've seen. Oh, and the 3D was pretty superb as well.

But even forgetting the original comics and the visual design of the film, this was just a great story that was as entertaining as anything I've ever seen in the theater. It was a great, globe-trotter adventure full of thrills, excitement, and some of the best chase sequences ever put on film. It was also moving, funny, uplifting, scary, and awe-inspiring. The only thing it didn't have was any pretty girls, but then again, maybe the original comic didn't either. Just because it was European doesn't mean it had lots of naked chicks.

I'll admit that I had my reservations going in, since the film didn't really look like Tin Tin, and I wasn't sure how Spielberg would fair as a director of an animated film. It turns out Spielberg's wild imagination and visual style is perfectly suited to the world of animation, since he was literally able to bring anything to life and place his camera wherever he wanted. There is one stand out set piece involving a battle between two clipper ships that was just about the coolest sequence I've ever seen, and I'm not exaggerating at all.

Anyway, Tin Tin. It was one of the best films I've ever seen by my all time favorite director. Not a bad way to start the new year. Go see it.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

I'd love to see both of these films, but I am actually particularly interested in seeing Tin Tin if only because when I was a kid, I think it was HBO that used to show these episodic animated adventures of Tin Tin, and I really enjoyed them. Never read the comics.

Donald said...

I didn't know there was an animated series.

But seriously... if you ever have time, go see it. It was awesome. There are many movies that I could call entertaining or good, but few I would actually describe as fun. This was all three.

Mugato said...

I thought War Horse looked decent, yet an odd concept. But, I have trouble watching that type of "animation" that is used in Tin Tin. But if you say it's that good then I'll check it out.