The title of this entry has quotes around it because it's an old, old aphorism.
[aph·o·rism [af-uh-riz-uhm]: a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation, as “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”]
A cursory scan of a few reviews of a certain just-released animated film forced me to the laptop for this brief post. One of the more positive ones is sub-headlined, "Though impressive, the 3-D retro-futurist look and time-travel plot feel almost old-fashioned."
The first thing I think--instantly--is, "what exactly is "wrong" with "old-fashioned"? The reviewer is apparently implying that certain large elements are tired, been-there, seen-that--but when those elements are a lonely boy, or a beautifully-moderne design of the future...what the heck? I'm sincerely baffled with the problem.
See, as far as I can tell, every element of storytelling was "done" by the time those cave paintings were drying in France.
My previous post was a nod to a film from 1959, an "old" movie--a black and white movie, for heaven's sake--and moreover a film that was set in the jazz age of gangsters and flappers...old-fashioned stuff even then, 50 years ago. Describe any of the plot contrivances and see if someone doesn't say "but they did that in The Untouchables/Road To Perdition/Gloria/The Professional!" It neither takes away from or diminshes any of the subsequent movies that they share situations and themes. And I'm not even adressing the drag aspect.
Anyway, I haven't yet seen the film in question. In a few hours I will have. I'm looking forward to it.
But not having seen it, I can't defend anyone's take one way or the other. What I can do is protest the lazy fallback of too many film writers vis a vis animation these day--these reviews where the reviewer is bored to tears not because the movie is slow, or lousy, or stupid, or poorly-done(in fact, I've noticed that increasingly animation's artistry is virtually--gah! no pun intended --ignored as almost irrelevant...and when it is criticized, it's done from what often seems a very uninformed observer).
No, the reviewer is bored, or jaded, and why? A sighing plaint of "but...this is all so old fashioned. We've seen orphans before(really? Where lately?), singing frogs before (as if the existence of the short "One Froggy Evening" meant that 60 years later a filmmaker is risking ridicule if he uses a frog in an animated film, no matter the context? You've got to be kidding--yet a writer made just that beef in his review)".
And to them I say, well, [see post below]: did any of the characters come alive for you? Did you settle down and believe in any of it for any amount of time? Were you entertained, or is this all an intellectual reporter's excercise in animation overload?
There's no percentage in arguing reviews, none. But I do mind, and am bothered, when the reviews seem so disconnected from the actual film itself, and more a general indictment of my profession.
It's unfair and anti-film to look at ANY film and review it as if it owes its impact to any other film. This is where I guess a writer has to pretend as hard as he or she can that they haven't seen every. single. film. released in the last 10 years, and compare them to one another. Because each is made to be seen for the first time, and especially in the case of family audiences, many of the viewers will have seen none of the preceding movies that a new one is "too much like". When they do each and every individual film will stand--or fall--on its own merits.
And personally I suspect good movies are good not because everything in them is new! but because the things in them are old: warmth, humor, wit, friendship, awe, drama.
I hope this little screed makes some sense.