The Brothers Grimm
This movie is a visual feast. The plot has a quick and neat set up. The Brothers Grimm are con artists swindling German villagers by exorcising phony witches, trolls, and other gremlins. When they are captured by a French General, they are ordered to uncover who or what is terrorizing a German village. It turns out to be a real witch.
The plot question here is straightforward: will they be able to defeat the
witch (and outsmart the French general).
The story, however, is a stew in the Van Helsing tradition. A story is suggested in an opening scene, then referred to twice more in the film. Generally, what the story is about has almost nothing to do with what's happening on the screen.
One of the ideas in the film is to take snippets of many of the Grimm fairy tales and use them in the service of the film's plot. But, those fairy tales often
had an underlying point or moral. With no underlying point that connects to
a story, these scenes fail to develop the story dramatically. They are just clever ideas.
This is compounded by the three leads being clean, neat, Hollywood actors
with million dollar smiles in a film populated by dirty, rough-hewn peasants; demented, often dirty officials; or foppish military officers, all against an amazing background of muddy villages or a dark and musty forest.
Since the actors only have a plot question to resolve for much of the
film, they aren't able to generate much narrative tension over the outcome of the plot or story or their purpose in the story. This isn't just an issue of acting (although stronger actors could have given the impression of a better story). What's vital to the three leads just doesn't make a strong impression, or connect to all the plot threads. Because Terry Gillian is such a great visual artist and the film is a marvel to watch, the film is always interesting
Just not compelling. In the end, that which should have defined the relationship of the brothers has all the power of a minor childhood spat.
The film is a great example of, once again, the difference between resolution
(plot) and fulfillment (story), and what happens when a story's promise is
Strong idea at the heart of this action film, that clones are unknowingly being
'raised' in what seems a perfect society, until they 'win' a lottery and are
sent off to be cut up for body parts. When one of the clones discovers the
purpose of his existence, he fights to survive.
There are some great chase/destruction scenes ala the second Matrix film. Much money appears on the screen.
Part of the structure of the storytelling is to show the slow journey of the main characters to gaining human feeling and identity. This works as a story
device, but it also undercuts the fulfillment of the story (the middle section is mainly chase scenes). In the end the film doesn't get to a deeper level like Gattaca, because the audience is asked mostly to just observe the characters and their world in the first third of the film, and to understand the ideas underpinning the world of the clones. The storytelling is solid and takes care of business.
Four men who were raised by a saintly lady in inner-city Detroit set out to find her killers. The plot question is built in, will they succeed? That the brothers are black and white and with very different mind-sets and temperments sets up the issue of family being more than blood-related. But, in spite of the solid story and some good acting, the film never quite aspires to the heights it aims for. Less dialogue would have helped. What could have been suggested to powerful dramatic effect is often spelled out in serviceable dialogue.
Mr & Mrs. Smith
This film has a five act structure. The first act is the weakest, because
it introduces its two beautiful stars as husband and wife who are not
attracted to each other, but without offering any reason why they
married. With the revelation that they are hired killers working for different companies, the plot kicks into a higher gear as the characters form a deeper bond admists their attempts to first kill each other, than kill minons sent by their companies to kill them.
The action in the middle acts is more fun and engaging than the big climax at the end of the film (staged to be like the ending of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid but without the emotional payoff).
If the characters (hard to separate from the actors) had been given a basis
for their marriage, the story would have been stronger and the ending more
The Fantastic Four
The promise of an action film is action. The Fantastic Four breaks that
promise. It should have been called An Introduction to the Fantastic
Four. The Incredible Hulk breaks through to connect with the audience.
The other actors have roles to play, not characters.