Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"I Am Death"-- not a good opener

I forget who it was, but someone was telling me about how the opening voiceover of Lord of the Rings was just so important in setting the tone and getting you into the world of the film:

At the time I was a little bit "well yes, it's a nice enough voice-over" and mostly "LORD OF THE RINGS LORD OF THE RINGS LORD OF THE RINGS." I think at the time I hadn't quite fully embraced the idea of the epic. I sort of thought everything epic should be smart-epic, kind of unfeasible given that there's only one Joss Whedon and right now he has enough on his mind.

BUT those words came back to me today when I saw The Spirit, which begins (this is not a spoiler, it's literally the first two seconds of the movie) with Jamie King in shadows, beaming blue light and saying "I am Death." It's an awesome effects shot--accounting for all that blue silhouetting in the trailer:

Her hair is all antigravity and blue light is streaming through it and you're sitting there like

"IT'S TOO SOON I'M NOT READY. I haven't turned my PHONE off for crissakes. I am still reeling from the trailer for My Bloody Valentine 3D. I'm not in the epic mindset, and it's way, way to early for a pretty blue lady to be saying 'I am death.' That's just silly."

So, for the record: You can start a movie with a woman translating Elvish and saying "the world has changed, i feel it in the water," over a black screen. You can't start a movie with Jamie King saying "I am Death." It's a big difference. Even if Jamie had just a little black slug and a little lead-up... "I will always be near you, watching, waiting--" that's like the second thing she says, it should have been the first. You really can't just hit us with this "I am Death" business.

It's really the whole first quarter of the film that makes you think Frank Miller has never seen a movie before, and doesn't know what they're supposed to be like. By the end it sort of gathers enough momentum to be considered an actual motion picture, but until about minute 45 you really have no idea what you're watching. It's crazy, it's weird, I'm glad it was made, and EVERYONE IN IT IS SO INSANELY LIKEABLE that I really enjoyed it a lot.

Not "good moviemaking" per se, though. Just not.

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