Saturday, December 5, 2015

Winter's Tale

Year 7, Day 339 - 12/5/15 - Movie #2,195

BEFORE: I'm back from a month away from movies - it feels odd to have not watched a film in nearly 30 days, so I'm anxious to get back to it, and close out 2015.  Jennifer Connelly carries over from "Little Children", and I get to start my winter-themed and holiday-themed chain.  My watchlist got all the way down to 130 films, but as I feared, during the time off it's shot back up over 150. 

I set myself some goals for the time off, let's see how I did.  Thanksgiving with my parents at a nice restaurant - done.  Getting ready for "Star Wars: Episode VII" - check.  I read no less than six "Star Wars" novels, thanks to a longer subway ride twice a week.  I realize that most of these books are now non-canonical, and will not give me any insight on the new film, but that's OK.  They've been piling up in my library for years, and I needed to get them read.  They were: "Tarkin" (set prior to Episode 4), "Scoundrels", "Choices of One", "Honor Among Thieves", "Razor's Edge" (all set between Episodes 4 + 5) "Aftermath", and I'm now on "Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor" (those last two set after Episode 6).  I had to do a form of triage, and determine which books were the most relevant - ones set 40 years after "Return of the Jedi", featuring the New Jedi Order have now been wiped from the official timeline - I'll get to them some other time.  

Television - I made great strides in the last month, and I caught up on all my nerd shows, like "Heroes Reborn", "Gotham", "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Face/Off".  Stayed current on "Survivor", "South Park" and "Fargo" also - there are still a few shows that I'm a month behind on, but a lot fewer than before.  

I picked out tracks for my annual Christmas mix CD, and I burned a bunch of copies at the office.  If I can label them this weekend, I can start mailing out some holiday cards.  I got the outdoor lights up, so if I can just get some Christmas shopping done, I'll be in good shape.  Considering all the horrible news lately, if anyone wanted to take a pass on Christmas this year, I think I'd have to understand.  But I'm willing to give it a go.

THE PLOT:  A burglar falls for an heiress as she dies in his arms. When he learns that he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her.

AFTER: I honestly do not know what to make of this film.  There's very little explanation given for any of the many unusual things that appear on the screen, which suggests a reality different from our own, one that doesn't seem to follow the same set of rules.  A man appears to die, only he doesn't die, he comes back.  Is this reincarnation, or divine intervention, or someone who has superpowers, who cannot die or even age?  And I say this as someone who enjoys films like the "X-Men" franchise, where everyone has superpowers - WTF is going on in this film?  

It's not just the lead character, there's a whole mythology here, with apparent angels and demons vying for control of the New York City territory.  The demons seem to run the city's gangs down through the centuries, and there's one leader who himself seems to be immortal.  And he reports to someone, presumably the devil, who is alternately powerful and also bound by a set of rules.  OK, maybe it seems cool to impart some order to the universe, that's what all religions do anyway, but creating a whole new mythos for a story just seems like one contrivance after another.  That's why I don't watch the "Twilight" films, and why I hated "Underworld", they just portray worlds full of rules that are just designed to bring about the maximum amount of contrived drama from a story.  

The story starts with a couple turned away from entering Ellis Island, and they decide to float their baby on a small boat toward Brooklyn so he'll be raised as an American.  Contrivance #1 - no parents in their right minds would do that, 100% of people would just bring their baby back with them to their home country, right?  When we next see the child, he's running from this very evil man that he used to work for - Contrivance #2 - and he escapes on a magical white horse that just happens to be right there.  That's Contrivance #3.  He later meets a beautiful woman while robbing her family's home - Contrivance #4 and immediately knows they're meant to be together.  

I can go on and on - but eventually I lost count of how many contrivances made up this very thin plot.  Characters both good and evil just seem to "know" things, without being told them, or doing any research or taking the time to figure things out.  That makes everything feel sort of half-written and unexplained, which is not a good way for a story to feel.  Especially when people "know" things, and seem very sure about them, and then turn out to be completely wrong.  Well, then I guess they didn't really "know" those things, did they?  So why did they think that they did?  

Things get worse when the action shifts from 1916 to 2014 - and there's no explanation for how our hero is still alive.  The villain's still alive too, so we can assume he's not human, but what about our hero?  There's some half-hearted explanation about how a person can't die until they've fulfilled their destiny, but as human beings we know all too well that's not true.  Anyway, what about the characters in this same film that DID die, did they fulfill their destinies, or did they just not have notable ones?  It doesn't seem to make any sense, no matter how you look at it. 

Then there's some nonsense about how people go up into space and become stars when they die, which seems like icing on this big nonsensical cake.  I suppose it's not much worse than thinking people's spirits go beyond some golden gates into a cloud-like heaven where they wear white robes and play harps, but it's not really any better, either.  And I haven't even touched on the flying horse or curing cancer with magic.  

It just goes to show that a series of small questionable story choices tend to combine to form a large, questionable, confusing and incoherent film.  Wikipedia says that Martin Scorsese turned down a chance to adapt the novel this is based on, calling it "unfilmable", and I do believe he was right.

Also starring Colin Farrell (last seen in "Seven Psychopaths"), Russell Crowe (last seen in "Noah"), Jessica Brown Findlay, William Hurt (last seen in "Altered States"), Will Smith (last seen in "After Earth"), Kevin Corrigan (also last seen in "Seven Psychopaths"), Matt Bomer (last seen in "Flightplan"), Lucy Griffiths, Finn Wittrock (also last seen in "Noah"), Kevin Durand (ditto), Graham Greene (last seen in "Thunderheart"), Eva Marie Saint (last seen in "North By Northwest"), Alan Doyle (last seen in "Robin Hood"), McKayla Twiggs, Ripley Sobo, with cameos from Norm Lewis, Scott Grimes.

RATING: 3 out of 10 plates of oysters