As I said in my review of Tim Burton’s Dumbo on Tuesday, I mentioned that it’s been a while since I last watched the animated version. It was definitely when I was a child because I didn’t feel weird about the crows. Something I didn’t bring up in my review. Not because I don’t think it’s problematic: I do. But because I didn’t see what more I could say on the issue that hasn’t already been said. Yes, there is a Jim Crow reference in the middle of the film. Yes, it’s clearly bad. But it happened over 40 years before I was born. Of course, it’s going to make me uncomfortable. We should just be grateful that there was no attempt to make that scene fit into the live action remake. There was already a lot about Tim Burton’s film that stressed me out without coming face-to-face with his interpretation of Disney’s racist past.
I definitely watched Dumbo when I was younger but I can’t say that it was ever one of my favourites. I don’t think I ever really rewatched it. Of course, I remember the adorable elephant because it’s the cutest creature to come out of any Disney film. I remember the clown scene, the song, and, obviously, the flying. My memories of the film were that it was a really sweet but not very exciting film. We were more of a Lion King and Aladdin family. So, I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the upcoming remake as I have been with some of the others. Besides, I’m a huge Tim Burton fan. I even liked his reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. Although, I never saw the second one so I might hate that. Still, I was excited by the first look at this film. It had a great cast and it looked fantastic. And, with the dodgy history of this film, making it a bit darker or creepy. If nothing else, it’s 2019 and the idea of keeping elephants captive to perform in a circus is not exactly great.
We all know the story of Dumbo, right? Tiny elephant with massive ears who learns how to fly. He becomes a star and lives happily ever after. Although, in Disney’s latest live-action remake, Dumbo isn’t even the star of his own film. For whatever reason, the decision has been made to give the film a human face thanks to Colin Farrell and his motherless children. Farrell plays Holt Farrier who has returned from the war with one less arm and one less spouse. Holt and his wife were the equestrian performers in the Medici Brothers’ Circus before Holt was called to serve in the army. Whilst he was away, his wife died from Spanish flu leaving his children in the care of the circus owner, Max Medici (Danny DeVito). Unable to go back to his old act, Holt is given the task of caring for the circus’ newly acquired elephants.
It is the baby elephant that Max hopes will pack the punters into the circus but they turn against him when his massive ears are revealed. Thankfully, Holt’s children discover that he has a special talent. They encourage Dumbo to fly in front of an audience and he quickly becomes a star. But all Dumbo really wants is to rejoin his mother who was bought by the villainous V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton). Can Holt and his family save the pair before they become another attraction in Vandevere Dreamland?
I’ll be honest, I remembered Dumbo as being a sweet and charming tale about a flying elephant. I know there were some sad moments with his mum and everything but it was mostly nice, right? Tim Burton’s Dumbo made me feel stressed. There were so many awful moments. The bullying of Dumbo by the audience was so extreme. The scene with the fire was way over-the-top. Everything just seemed to be ramped up to cause as much stress as possible. I don’t wish to sound melodramatic but I was on edge through most of the film. Which would be fine if that was the point. But I don’t think it is. This isn’t a film that is trying to play up the horror elements that Burton is known for. It just feels cruel in points. Unnecessarily.
Cruel and a wasted opportunity. We know from films like Edward Scissorhands that Tim Burton knows how to make great films about weird outsiders trying to find a place in a supposedly civilised society. Dumbo should have been the perfect film for him to remake but, unlike its main character, it never quite gets off the ground. It’s weighted down by so many extra plots and distractions. There are too many characters, which means that nobody gets the development that they need. The CGI elephant is cute and all but you don’t care about him in the same way as the original. There is too much focus on Colin Farrell and co. But even they aren’t given any depth. Everyone just feels like a stock character who is only there to fill space in the frame.
And the story itself feels like it’s just rushing to get to where it wants to be. There isn’t enough build up before we first see the elephant fly. It all happens so quickly and then we’re racing off to a weird futuristic theme park. I know the original Dumbo wasn’t much longer than an hour but they’ve stretched the story so much you can basically see through it. And then there’s the weird message at the centre of the film about the exploitation of big corporations. Considering we’re watching a Disney film this feels kind of disingenuous and jarring. There’s too much going on and you get the impression that Burton wasn’t able to make the kind of film he wanted. The visuals are all beautiful and the cast is, mostly, great. But the script is messy and cluttered. And there’s just not enough Dumbo.
On Tuesday I posted my spoiler free review of Avengers Endgame. I wanted to make sure that anyone silly enough to come to my blog before they watched the film wouldn’t see anything that ruined any aspect of that film for them. But, I also have a lot of feelings and ideas about it. So, just like I did with Infinity War last year, I’m also posting my spoiler-filled post about the film. Last year I did a separate post from my TBT but I wanted to dedicate most of this week to this film. It feels that important. Plus, what film is good enough to pair with such a meaningful film? And, I want to do a final post on Friday without getting too post heavy this week. So, I hope you’ll forgive me this once.
Let me tell you a story about social media: it sucks. Last year, before I’d managed to see Infinity War a person I used to follow on Instagram gave out a massive spoiler to the film. It was a girl who thought she was being really discrete. She said something like, “I don’t want to spoil anything but I just think it’s so sad that after just after he gets his life together he dies”. Her exact wording made it super obvious that she was talking about Loki and that he died very early on in the film. Now, I’d already guessed this was going to happen but to have it confirmed by someone who didn’t think she was making it obvious bugged me. I promptly unfollowed her and anyone else who even mentioned the film. What is the matter with people? I get that we aren’t going to stop people talking about having seen the film but why go into any details? I even feel like all the people who have talked about being devastated are giving too much away. I’m planning to write a specific post about it later so I’ll stop ranting. But because of last year, I knew that I wanted to see Endgame as quickly as possible. I couldn’t risk anyone ruining this for me. It was going to be the movie event of the year. The culmination of 11 years of fandom. The culmination of 22 films. It was the end of an era and I wasn’t ready for it to be over. But I couldn’t wait to see it.
I don’t know who is in charge of creating the trailers for Joe Cornish’s films but he needs to have a quiet word. The first time I saw the Attack the Block trailer I absolutely hated it but, as a long-time lover of Adam and Joe, I wanted to give it a chance. The film was certainly better than the trailer made it seem. It was a fun play with a much seen genre and Cornish really made the most out of his younger cast. It was the film that introduced us to the great John Boyega and gave us yet more evidence that Jodie Whittaker was a force to be reckoned with. And look where they both are now. An ex-Stormtrooper and Dr Who respectively. Cornish has a talent of gathering a great cast and making things work despite appearances. So, when I first saw and hated the trailer for his second film, I couldn’t help but cringe at The Kid Who Would Be King. It just looked like a boring children’s blockbuster that made obvious jokes and wasn’t very exciting. But I had hope. And, let’s face it, it had to be better than some of the adaptations of the Arthurian legend, right? I mean there have been some stinkers.
As you already know, I’ve been trying to get ahead with posts. Tonight I went out for dinner for a friend’s birthday. Tomorrow night I’m going to see Adore Delano after work. I came home already to get an early-ish night feeling quite smug when I remembered. I needed to write this TBT post. I’m already a book review behind so it’s not as if I can even push it back until Friday. I’m devastated. I’ve not slept well the last few nights because I was so obsessed with finishing Daisy Jones & The Six. Sleep didn’t matter when I was so deep in that story. So, the idea of another night being up later than I meant to just fills me with sadness. Thankfully, I no longer work weekends or bank holidays. This means, for the first time in years, I have a four day Easter weekend. What am I doing? Is sleeping an adequate answer? I should probably do stuff so I don’t waste it but my bed and books are calling… but I guess they’re always calling. Just like now so I’d better not put this off any longer.
Is there something of an Arthurian revival going on at the moment. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched two films that involve the legend of King Arthur. Last week I finally managed to see The Boy Who Would Be King and now we have Hellboy fighting a foe who was almost vanquished by the legendary King. Am I missing something? Not that I’m complaining. It’s a great story. You know I love swordy stories about Knights and Wizards. It just seemed like my life was being dominated by it. Anyway, I should really be reviewing the Joe Cornish film this week as it was the one I watched first but I came back from Hellboy on Saturday night needing to get this out. I have a lot of thoughts. So many thoughts that I don’t think I really talk about the plot much in this review. Basically, the set-up is much the same as 2004 film but this time we’re fighting an evil old witch who wants to release Hell on Earth. She was stopped by Arthur and Merlin years ago but is back. So Hellboy and some new friends, have to stop her. Standard comic book stuff really. But could it possible live up to its predecessor?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Podcasts at work lately but I don’t like to listen to the grown-up ones. I tend to listen on my way to and from work and during the quieter times in the office. So, they need to be light and not distract me from what I’m doing. Obviously, film podcasts are up there for my listening pleasure and I’ve just started getting into a new one. I plan on talking about that in-depth later this week but, for now, a recent episode has inspired me for this TBT post. In one episode, Nish Kumar (British comedian interested in politics and social commentary. Also, one of my weird comedy crushes but enough of that) was talking about how he can’t watch Woody Allen movies any more. And I get it. I’ve read Dylan Farrow’s letter and I get it. The allegations prove that Allen is not a nice man but how far do we tie up a person with their art? Do the awful things he’s done suddenly mean that Annie Hall isn’t a good film? It’s a question I’ve continually asked myself and I have no answer. But it came to my mind when I decided to finally watch Carnage this week. I’d forgotten who directed it so when the name Roman Polanski came up on the screen I paused the film. Ultimately, I decided that watching the film wasn’t me letting him off. But I still felt weird about it. But this isn’t the place to get into this.
So, I think I’m finally at the end of my list of outstanding reviews. It feels like an absolute age since I saw this film so it’s a relief to be finally writing it up. And I was pretty excited about seeing this one. I mean, there was a time when seeing the names Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly on a movie poster would bring nothing but glee. So, the idea that they were coming together to reinvent Sherlock Holmes, another of my major loves, was perfect for me. Let’s be honest, since Stephen Moffat came along, the baker street detective has started to be taken a bit too seriously. The fan girls want him dark, broody, and sexy. Despite the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch is a far cry from the man Arthur Conan Doyle came to despise. What we really needed was for someone to come along and take him down a peg or two. But then Holmes and Watson came along. Complete with rescheduled release dates and Sony refusing to screen the film for critics. It quickly became clear that this wasn’t going to be the film we wanted it to be.
I vividly remember writing my first review of The Lego Movie back in 2015. It was because I was writing it with a pen and paper. I was on a train going to and from a course at work but, because they’re always held in the middle of nowhere, it meant a 3-hour round trip. So, I decided to try to get my thoughts in order after recently re-watching this film. It was a second watch because I, stupidly, hadn’t been mad keen the first time. I enjoyed it but everyone was raving about it. So I figured I might be missing something. And I’ve never been more happy that I did. I bloody loved it second time round. It was fun and the twist was brilliant. The animation was, obviously, stunning and the voice performances were perfect. I became a firm fan of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and the pair have only continued to do wonderful wonderful work. I’m sorry I ever doubted them.