Friday, June 22, 2012

Quick Takes: "Up", "Monsters Inc.", "A Bug's Life", "The Incredibles"

"Up" (**1/2)
Directed by Pete Doctor & Bob Peterson

My oh my, how a single month in between can make all the difference. At the tailend of April I took this film as a lighter friend. What changed? In a word, me. To be perfectly honest, "Up" has aspirations of being something more intimately emotional, but there's a stillness to each shot that stuck out to me this time. The intimately hued color palette doesn't illusion the stillness of nearly every shot. It's as if Wes Anderson directed a Pixar film, and the small emotions simply don't come to the fore the way they used to. The narrative is there, but it all just seems odd and uninviting. For a film that's meant to feel like a waltz, "Up" is rather stiff.

"Monsters Inc."  (***)
Directed by Pete Doctor

This is admittedly Pete Doctor in an even more cartoony light, but there's something closer to reality about this film than his more recent endeavor. Maybe it's just a further sweetness to it, or maybe it's the real impact of a company forestalling societal collapse by use of children's fear. That is an interesting concept that they don't quite go into. They don't make it so clear that what they are doing is wrong, which is where my issue with the film comes in. It just seems like so simple a narrative stroke to add, but they only frown upon kidnapping of children. They don't bring it full circle to insight guilt into our main characters. Also, the relationship between Mike and Sulley is a little bit too inferred. Maybe that's what they're hoping to do with the prequel. I hope so anyway.

"A Bug's Life" (**)
Directed by John Lasseter

Not quite Pixar's worst, but only because of obvious penalties against "Cars" and "Cars 2". "A Bug's Life" does however represent a studio trying to figure things out, and coming up rather shorthanded. There are areas of this film that are done well, particularly in Kevin Spacey's character of Hopper. He just oozes menace, and is one of the company's better villains. The grasshoppers in general read a little forced, since we know that grasshoppers don't oppress ants in nature. The idea of a hive mind intellect in the ant colony isn't anything new. The problem is finding ways to shade characters and arcs that isn't simply and story based. This film doesn't take its cues from character, and that lowers it to being this somewhat irritatingly obvious thing.

"The Incredibles" (***1/2)
Directed by Brad Bird

I came to a realization recently regarding "The Incredibles" that made it much more distinct in my eyes. It occurs to me the the golden and silver ages of comics were around the 50s and 70s, respectively. Well, if you take cues from the film's colour palette, and the general feel of the place, that is genuinely when the events of this film are set. I didn't find anything that discredited the idea, since all that crazy villain technology feels so grounded in 70s Bond-esq sleekness. It really speaks to those times on an unconscious level of adventurous attitude. What's more, the film isn't just painted on the wall for people to wait and see what happens.

Brad Bird's film is radically emotional, and it speaks to a man who will not make a single mistake if he can afford not to. That aspect may not cling so reverently to live action, just because that's an area of less control and taking bigger risks. With both of Bird's animated films, you can tell that most of what's in there is a necessity to the mood and tone of the piece. There are real emotional stakes at play, and it gets very intense as these characters come closer and closer to death. It's not tidied away. This is a truly nasty world, and it's that brave approach to these stories that is embellished in their best films. Being willing to bring the intensity and emotion to term, where it's most potent and you can truly feel it.

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