Blogs by Bill Johnson
Notes on Splice, How to Train Your Dragon, Ironman 2
6/12/2010 3:13:17 PM
Brief story notes on some recent movies.
This is an old-fashioned horror film, with the set up of two scientists playing God to create a
new life form and then finding their personal issues clouding their judgement in a way that
dooms them all. The film generates a quality of menace and creepiness more than outright horror. A stronger,
initial note about one character's unsuitablity to be a parent would have given the story more depth.
The creature they create for all the right and wrong reasons, Dren, is well-designed to be human-like
but not quite. Feral but with some human emotions.
People who like horror that is thoughtful might give this a try.
Hot Tub Time Machine
This movie shows the danger in creating an unsympathetic character to generate a character arc and set up a
happy ending. One of the characters is
such a crazed creep, however, that the first third of the movie is weak and not funny, and it raises a huge
question of why the guy has any friends at all. The plot does play with the idea of
characters traveling to the past needing to not change anything that affects their present lives. Some laughs.
How to Train a Dragon
Stories aimed at children often have clearly defined characters. Here, a young Viking boy is thoughtful
and frail and the son of a powerful, super-sized father who routinely states his disappointment in his son. When the
boy captures a deadly dragon, he learns enough about the dragons who attack his village to change the lives of his clan for
Every significant character has a dramatic truth and an issue that plays through the plot.
Where the first film was muscular and enjoyable, this is trival and muddled. The film has its own Jar Jar
Binks as a comic bad guy. Unfortunately, buffoons carry no dramatic weight, so the story feels slight, the
arc for the main character unclear (or just not important). Hopefully everyone involved got paid well.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I viewed this movie within a week of reading the novel, so it was interesting to compare the two. The novel creates
narrative tension for the main characters by revealing their inner thoughts and feelings. In the movie, the character
who makes the strongest impression is Lisbeth, who has some immediate, and powerfully presented, goals and issues
to resolve. The movie recreates the story along a vein of visual action, finding out what happened to a missing girl, while
the book covers much more ground with more characters.
In the book, the main issue for Lisbeth is gaining an ability to feel and experience love in a relationship. The movie
ends on a different, visual note that undercuts her real journey.
The main goal for another character in the novel is getting his life back and getting revenge on someone who got him
sent to prison. Getting revenge registers in the film, why getting his life back was important to him, not so much.
A central issue in both the book and movie is how women are treated by men and fascism in Sweden during and after WWII.
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More Blogs by Bill Johnson
Notes on The Hunger Games Movie & Other Recent Movies - Monday, June 25, 2012
Quick Cuts - Capsule Reviews of Current Movies - Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Quick Cuts - Capsule Movie Reviews - Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Capsule Movie Reviews of The Skin I Live In, Submarine, Finding Joe - Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Notes on Splice, How to Train Your Dragon, Ironman 2 - Saturday, June 12, 2010
When Minor Characters Take Over a Story - Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Notes on Knowing, Star Trek, and Sunshine Cleaning - Monday, May 18, 2009
Notes on Watchmen, Twilight, Revolutionary Road - Friday, March 13, 2009
Notes on Changeling and Ghost Town - Friday, November 07, 2008
Notes on Cthulhu, Righteous Kill, Burn After Reading - Monday, October 06, 2008
Notes on Iron Man, Deception, The Ruins, Young at Heart - Sunday, May 04, 2008
Notes on The Band's Visit, Spiderwick Chronicles, The Eye, The Golden Compass - Thursday, March 15, 2007
Notes on The Guatemalan Handshake and The Bridge - Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Notes on Pan's Labyrinth and The Good Shepard - Saturday, January 20, 2007
Notes on Flags of Our Fathers, The Departed, Stranger Than Fiction - Sunday, December 24, 2006
Notes on The Black Dahlia, The Illusionist, Pulse, The Descent - Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Lady in the Water - Sunday, July 30, 2006
The Da Vinci Code - Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Notes on Underworld: Evolution, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Narnia, King Kong, Bee Season - Sunday, January 22, 2006
Notes on A History of Violence, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Flightplan, and Hustle and Flow - Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Notes on The Brothers Grimm, The Island, Four Brothers, Mr & Mrs Smith, and The Fantastic Four - Sunday, August 28, 2005
Notes on Willy Wonka, Dark Water, The Snow Walker - Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Notes on Land of the Dead and Oldboy - Friday, June 24, 2005
Notes on Batman Begins - Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Notes on Hitchhikers, Sin City - Saturday, April 30, 2005
Notes on The Ring 2 - Sunday, March 20, 2005
Notes on The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou - Monday, March 14, 2005
Hitch - Sunday, March 13, 2005
The Pacifier - Monday, March 07, 2005
Quick Cuts - Saturday, March 05, 2005