Saturday, February 17, 2007
Let me start by saying that I have nothing against Giant's director, Brad Byrd. I'm criticizing his film because that doing that helps me to make a point about the way I believe animated films should be made. In other words I'm contrasting my own pie-in-the-sky ideal of film-making against what Brad was able to do in the face of real-world obstacles. It's not a fair comparison and I recognize that. With that caveat in mind watch the clip above and come back here for discussion.
Well, to start with the robot looks pretty good. Whenever he leans there's a great perspective shift and his glancing back and forth at the rock and tree was impressive in the sense that the space between those items seemed immense. I don't know if I've ever seen that awareness of horizontal space in an animated film before. How did they do that? And the grinding metal SFX were great! Anyway, that's what I liked about the sequence. For me the rest of the clip was all about lost opportunities.
There's no art in the way the kid tried to teach the robot to talk. Theatrical dialogue is supposed to be better than the way real people talk. What if Romeo had said to Juliet," Hey, Juliet! It's me, Romeo! Boy, you look great standing there on the balcony!" Would we still remember the play after all these years? There's no excuse for lackluster dialogue. Hollywood is full of dialogue enhancers. Remember how interesting the language teaching sequences of "My Fair Lady" were? It's an interesting subject if it's handled right, even in an abreviated time frame as it was here.
This dialogue problem set a bunch of dominos to falling. Lackluster dialogue led to a lackluster recording and the lackluster recording led to lackluster animation. The reading and animation were convincing all right, you can't walk off the street and do that, but that's the problem. That's all that they were -- convincing. As I've said elsewhere, it's not enough for an actor to be convincing in a role. Real life is convincing and I get all I want of that for free. When I pay for media I want it to be better than life. I want a performance in the true sense of the word, one that'll blow my mind and make me want to tell my friends about it.
Now there were some good animators on this film, you could tell, but they had nothing to work with. The writing wasn't there. did you feel chemistry between the robot and the kid? I didn't. The exchange between them was cold as ice. The boy's mother called and the kid simply turned his back on the robot and matter-of-factly started for home. Didn't it occur to anyone that if boy didn't care for the robot then we had no reason to care for him either? Imagine if the boy had been a real fleshed-out character like Penny in "The Rescuers." A boy like that would have never have willingly turned his back on his new-found friend.
The writing also hurt the interrogation sequence. The CIA guy's threats were so artless and blunt. Imagine a similar scene played by Darth Vader. Fans would have lovingly quoted the threats for decades. The villain is supposed to be a guy we love to hate. I didn't love to hate this guy.
And why the arid silence? Didn't the filmmakers believe in music? Music might have soothed over some of the writing problems and explained the characters' emotions to us. Maybe the money ran out. If they ever re-release this they should add some sound.
Well, that's it.
Posted by Eddie Fitzgerald at 6:06 PM