Saturday, 23 January 2010

Films, films and more films

Today I managed to watch 2 films I have been meaning to see for quite a while. Where The Wild Things Are (from here on in it shall be referred to as WTWTA) and The Fantastic Mr Fox ( TFMF). Both films are based on books I read/ was read to when I was a little one so seeing them made into massive films is slightly odd and surreal in a way, for instance I can't imagine Burglar Bill being made into a film (if it is though I'll definitely get myself a ticket, that book cracks me up...)
The films are not only helped on by the fact that I loved the books when I was little, but they are also incorporating some of my favourite people into the production/adaption/design/filming/writing processes into the films.
Some of you may have read an earlier post of mine detailing my love for Wes Anderson and his adaption and production of TFMF did not disappoint. His trademarks are obviously tuned down for the most part, the Futura used in the titles is swapped out, long panoramic scenes don't work so well in animation as they do in his film films (that doesnt really make sense but I know what I mean) and animals don't smoke so the usual mass smoking of characters is restricted. However there is still the strong female lead, male lead who needs to prove himself/is dissatisfied, a family crisis and the usual bunch of actors are cast. I do wonder that why Wes Anderson sticks to the same cast again and again, but in the same respect why you would need to replace Bill Murray, Jason Schwarzman, Willem dafoe, Brian Cox, Owen Wilson etc? George Clooney does a great job at voicing Mr. Fox himself and Meryl Streep does equally well as his long suffering fox wife.

The film is also a lot more upbeat than his earlier films, the slow, awkward, almost uncomfortable humour present in Bottlerocket and Rushmore is replaced with a more direct line of comedy, slapstick and punchy one liners are used to good effect. With TFMF being a kids film this could have been expected and it certainly doesn't affect my view on Andersons ability to direct a film. 

The story line is as it was in the original Roald Dahl book for the most part and certainly kept me entertained throughout. The sets are a joy to look at with minute details adhered to and really well made puppets as well. there are no attempts to have things over realistic, which I feel ruins a lot of animated films, the story is a surreal, childs based story and the characters are displayed as such.
Not a must see, but highly recommended and I'll watch it again I'm sure.

Now then WTWTA, I was a little nervous about this one, with the book having a word count a whole lot lower than this blog post I wasn't sure that it would translate well to the big screen at all.
But with help from Maurice Sendak (the original author), oddball director Spike Jonze, director of Jackass and Being John Malkovich, and Dave Eggars, author of the wonderful novel A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius the film has turned into an incredible success in my humble opinion. 
The film looks incredible for a start, all the shots seem timed to perfection and the scenes of Max and 'the wild things' are simply stunning. On the subject of Max I believe this film could easily have flopped without him in the lead role. For such a young kid to handle the role so well is amazing. Max is played by 12 year old Max Records and I hope that he manages to get taken seriously as an actor because he was brilliant in WTWTA. To act for almost an entire film with only 7 other characters, all of which are the wild monsters of Max's imagination is quite impressive. 

The story did stagnate a bit in the middle and I didn't lose interest, just lost a bit of patience with the characters. I think that Carol and KW take the roles of max and his father perhaps? Carol is certainly Max, angry at times, misunderstood, unable to hear Bob and Terry, wanting the attention of KW and the lack of said attention causing his rages and return to a more animalistic nature. KW seems to be the father figure due to her desire to keep going missing. Max's father is gone from Max's life, how and why is not explained. KW is kind and soft to Max, a far more parental care for him than the others. The rest of the characters are seemingly unconnected to Max's family, they are used well to show how Max needs to start growing up and can't get his way all the time anymore though. 
For a film that has a large chunk of its run time devoted to building a fort and being happy it has some incredibly sad moments. The slow revelation that Max is the one in the wrong, and that he can't carry on living as a child is very moving. More so because not only does Max have to deal with growing up, change and loss, but his new found friends in the land of the wild things have to as well. 
I think I'd be more likely to recommend WTWTA than TFMF, I don't think its the better film, it just has something about it, Max's acting, the beautiful scenes and filming make it a real pleasure to view.
The critics who said that it's too strung out have a point but I think the good points definitely out weigh the one downpoint. If you want to see a film that artistically captures what it is to be young and desirous, crazed, insecure and confused then WTWTA does all these things sublimely.

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