Valhalla Rising

22 05 2010

To me, Nicolas Winding Refn films have always been perfect examples of all style and no substance.  Even Bronson, a biopic about one of the most compelling living figures, turned out to focus more on Refn’s visual tricks than the actual plot or characters.  What could have been a fascinating, dramatic character study ended up being more of a 90 minute music video.  It’s a fatal flaw, but Refn’s films survive because he’s just that damn good when it comes to visuals.  The cinematography in Valhalla Rising, for example, is un-freaking-believable.  Refn found the perfect look and feel for a gritty, violent viking movie.  He even found the perfect lead in Mads Mikkelsen, who is great in the role despite sadly having not one single line of dialogue.  If only Refn could find a way to marry his visual style with some great pacing, characters, and drama, the sky would be the limit.  Sadly, I don’t see that ever happening, and Valhalla Rising is more evidence of that.  As beautiful as it is to look at, there’s absolutely no emotion whatsoever in this film, and it’s not for a lack of trying.  Refn wants us to care about Mads’ character “One-Eye,” he trys to create a touching relationship between One-Eye and a young boy, and he even attempts to piece together a narrative, but mostly fails on all counts.  It probably would have been better had Refn decided to go completely abstract with it rather than even attempting any sort of narrative, since it does work so well on just an atmospheric level.  So if you see it, see it for those reasons alone, or if you just really like vikings, but don’t go in expecting anything more.

7/10





Clash of the Titans (2010)

7 04 2010

Here’s a question for you: With such great source material, an awesome version made years before to work off of, new technological advancements in the world of computer graphics, and a decent cast, how can anybody end up making an awful, boring movie?  I guess I shouldn’t actually be asking you though; I should instead pose that question to Clash of the Titans director Louis Leterrier and his three screenplay writers Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi.

Admittedly, the 1981 Clash of the Titans had its corny moments (mostly due it’s lead, Perseus played by Harry Hamlin).  But you have to admit, claymation or not, those monsters were pretty incredible.  And who doesn’t like a very graspable story of good versus evil to save the damsel in distress by completing  a series of awesome tasks?  I mean, that’s been the recipe for good storytelling for forever.  Not to mention the intriguing and honest characterization of the gods and goddesses as conniving, greedy, manipulative, and horny beings with all the flaws of humans but an ironically disproportionate amount of power over us all.

The new Clash of the Titans removes all that goodness from its plot and visuals.  First off, can Sam Worthington be any more wooden in his role of Perseus?  And I thought that Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson as Hades and Zeus was going to be pretty good, but it just felt like they weren’t even trying.  On that same note, why did the movie become more about Hades versus Zeus than Perseus’ adventures?  Greek mythology isn’t like Christianity; Hades isn’t the Devil and Zeus isn’t the one and only God.  And what was up with that weird side story of obsessing believers of the gods who were really just annoying and distracted from the main plot?  Also, the owl just making a cameo was absolutely not enough for me.

Overall, this movie was not good.  It’s frustrating just writing about it, and thinking about how much better it could have been.

My rating: 3/10