Saturday, November 21, 2009
Cast: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Robin Wright Penn
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Runtime: 96 min.
Verdict: This is the best 3-D can get, and I say it doesn’t work.
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
3-D doesn’t work. Doesn’t work at all. It cannot work. Reader, the screen boundaries have always been a window into an alternate world. When we speak of depth perception, it is implicit that all the action is happening inside the frame, both two-dimensionally and three-dimensionally. As long as the window is small enough to fit within the purview of our gaze, our perception simply cannot be impressed by an illusion that pops out. It is called depth for a reason. Whatever happens, the boundaries of the window need to be respected. Ask yourself, dear reader, when you watch a movie, are you going inside the film, or are you letting the film come to you? Isn’t watching a film akin going near to the window? I believe so, and 3-D and its exponents do not seem to respect that fundamental of movie-viewing at all. Mr. Zemeckis, though, seems to know this better than most. That doesn’t mean he is not guilty of throwing the occasional spear into us. Still, his 3-D tends towards my idea of how it ought to be used. That is, as an alternate way to achieve deep focus. Maybe, even a better way, for 3-D is better equipped to make us feel the effect of depth. But when things start popping out, or their out-of-focus images float in the foreground, it pulls us right out of the illusion. I don’t think there is a way around.
As a film, I don’t think there is much to say about A Christmas Carol apart from that it is occasionally warm, occasionally funny, consistently involving and thoroughly predictable (No, I wasn’t aware of the Dickens story.) Of course, I assume that you are aware of the tale of the stingy Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts that haunt him one Christmas eve. What is interesting is the imagery Mr. Zemeckis conjures up, and how thoroughly brilliant they are, even for 3-D. Scrooge is a wonder of animation detail. His crooked fingers, his crooked nose, the gaunt figure are somewhat of a masterpiece. Mr. Carrey’s voiceover is just about fantastic, capturing a character who is as close to an animated version of Daniel Plainview as this little cheerful Christmas tale would allow. The shadowy Ghost of the Christmas yet to come is a brilliant example of expressionistic nightmare. One is reminded of Nosferatu. I believe children will be scared. The movie is what it is supposed to be, scary when needed, and heartwarming when the time comes. Much discussion has been made of the eyes, something I have been listening to since The Polar Express. Yes, there is scope for improvement, but matters aren’t really that bad, considering most of the emotions and expressions are conveyed. It is the only the stock expression that creates a problem, because when the characters have nothing to show, or nothing to say, they really look blank. But I guess, Mr. Zemeckis is working around the problem, and is getting better at performance capture with each passing film.
I am not sure I represent the target audience for this film, or this tale. It is too simplistic. I might be only interested in its formal details. But one thing it isn’t is being too Christmassy, or too cheerful, or too saccharine. I can imagine myself as a kid watching it, and I think the film might have made a very strong impression on me. The dark horse chasing Scrooge through the streets is not for one moment funny, like one of them chases we so often come across in animated fare. It is, in fact, serious and often scary. In the relentlessness of it, I felt a certain claustrophobia sneak in. The images are courageous, daring to paint something that would make the parents a tad worried. But one thing I know. If I was a kid, and I was watching this film, I would swear to all my Gods I would never ever betray the spirit of Christmas, or goodness.
And hey, one more thing. I suffered a severe headache. Cause: 3-D. As an audience, I don’t deserve that.