Perfect Husband took me to a movie yesterday. Due to the appalling array of complete garbage that has been spewing into theatres these days, we haven’t seen a movie in a long time. However, we noticed that “How To Train Your Dragon” was getting a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and so we figured we’d go see it.
It’s a really cute movie. It has some great lines, a very cute dragon, and the storyline is basically “young misfit discovers that positive reinforcement is more effective than punishment”. Could it BE any further up my alley?
Even though we enjoyed it very much, we both came out of it feeling… unsatisfied. Like getting a great dessert but missing the actual main course.
“Why is it,” Perfect Husband said to me when the last of the credits had rolled (yeah, we’re that couple you see that sits to the end of every movie, pointing out the bizarre names that go by on the screen), “that whenever we see a movie in 3D, the characters are JUST NOT?”
We realized that we have been spoiled by Pixar. When we go to see an animated movie, we expect to get a GOOD movie. Not just a fun or an entertaining movie, but a movie that really uses the medium that it has been created in. A movie which moves us. A movie about real people, with real issues, that really means something. A movie you could write an essay about.
Pixar doesn’t rely on goofy dialogue or physical gags to create a story. In fact, when Pixar introduces us to a character, they often don’t bother using words at all.
Wall-E goes a good seventeen minutes before he even says a word. By the time that seventeen minutes is up, we understand pretty much everything we need to know about him. The rest of the dialogue in the movie consists largely of single-word sentences, usually questions that aren’t answered. But the story probably the richest and deepest of all the Pixar movies to date.
Up‘s signature opening act condenses the entirety of a couple’s life together into a just few minutes, without a single word being spoken, and at the end of it… everyone in the room (including my husband) is sniffling and not looking at each other while pretending to pick dust out of their eyes, because no one wants to admit that an animated kids movie has just made them cry.
(If you haven’t seen Up, don’t worry, this is one of the opening segments, so it doesn’t exactly contain spoilers. That’s right. This is the opening of the movie).
Pixar doesn’t tell you. Pixar SHOWS you, and makes you care*.
By comparison, even a good Dreamworks film like “How To Train Your Dragon” sounds like
“HI I’M SO-AND-SO AND I’M A MISFIT. TAKE MY WORD FOR IT.
THIS IS MY DAD AND HE IS VERY UNLOVING FOR NO REASON THAT IS EVER EXPLAINED.”
The movie industry, Pixar excluded**, seems to think that if they make enough fart jokes and make the movie in three dimensions, then they don’t have to worry about things like character development, or deeper meanings. In fact, some of them advertise their movies as 4-D, instead of 3-D, which of course they can get away with since the fourth dimension is TIME, which all movies (except, arguably, The Andromeda Strain) naturally incorporate.
But the characters are as trite and flat as paper dolls. The most notable example being that atrocious cinematic abortion, “Fly Me To The Moon” which made us want to die inside, while self-flagellating with oversized maces.
I’d rather have depth of character, than depth of perception, if it’s all the same to you.
*Except, inexplicably, Cars, which is just Doc Hollywood but with anthropomorphic inanimate objects. I guess if Dreamworks made a fluke good movie with Shrek the first, then Pixar gets one bad fluke with Cars.
**Again, except for Cars.