After I spent quite a bit of time ripping the new terminator last week a very close friend asked me if I was “angry” and if everything “was okay.” One comment after the review on here was that I “love to hate things.”
Well, I love to love things too, and for an anti-terminator to balance this hate I only had to wait one week. On Saturday night I saw Up in 3D at the Landmark. The interesting thing about the landmark is that it is one of those few theaters that lets you pick your seat in advance. This does two things: #1 it lets you know you’re getting a great seat if you just plan ahead. #2 you can show up when the movie starts and not have to watch 30 minutes of trivia about bit parts in movies you forgot existed (“pop quiz, what color was the ink in Jim Carrey’s notebook in ’23?'”) or lame coke commercials (if those commercials are the state of our current young crop of directors, wow, are we in for a few decades of bad movies!).
Anyway, there is something great about waltzing into the theater a minute before the lights go dark and sitting down right in the middle. Perhaps that great starting point peppered my opinion of the film I was about to see. Perhaps not since I’ve only read one negative review so far (and the sticking point for this review was “hey, who was taking the photographs in the photo album?”).
Up was thoroughly enjoyable. I enjoyed Ratatoille, I remember being blown away by the rendering of the water in the “rain and run” sequence at the beginning. Wall-E had a coolness factor to it because it was in space, but somehow it seemed like a step backwards because, hey, we don’t know what future space robots/spaceships are supposed to look like. We know what merit badges and waterfalls look like though, and in Up they’re rendered beautifully. Throughout the film I found myself enamored with the small details existing just on the fringe of the film; the laces on Carl’s shoes, the transparency of Steve’s wings, the cheaply sewn lines on Russel’s merit badges, etc. All these things were done with exacting (one might say “lovingly crafted”) detail.
The story is also one so atypical that you can’t help get swept away. Of course it is predictable and of course willful suspension of disbelief is required. But, unlike in Terminator, the characters are developed with such care that when a boy is using a leaf blower and a few balloons to fly from zero to 30,000 feet we’re simply mesmerized by how the physics of this feat somehow… work and look believable on the screen.
The only thing in the entire film that doesn’t look “natural” is the appearance of the wealthy businessman, taking on a very alien appearance. However, this works to the film’s benefit as this man’s presence is really the only villain we’re presented with in the first half hour (and we aren’t presented with the “real” one for at least another half hour). Unlike most children’s movies the villain isn’t revealed until nearly the end of the film. And when I say “revealed” I don’t mean we hear about him and finally see him at the end – I mean the children in the audience may not even know a villain is coming until, well, he’s there. I’m sure most of the adults in the audience could put together instantly who might have had the ability to create “talking” dogs, but I doubt the kiddies put two and two together that quickly.
I also applaud Pixar for (again) creating a film with elements of real life relationships. In real life there are sad little boys waiting for a deadbeat dad (or mom) to show up to their cub scouts merit badge ceremony. And there are adventurous old men who grew up dreaming of exploring far off places of the world that still had some mystery left (before Bear Grills taught us all how to skin a lizard with a blade of grass) and now are doomed to recline further and further back watching a tube that has multiplied greatly in quantity but decreased further in content.
One gripe I saw in the comments to some of the reviews of Up was how much “explaining” parents would have to do afterwards. After all, this film (in some instances more subtly than others) deals with death, miscarriage (or was she/he sterile?), imminent domain, absentee parents, broken homes and more. My argument for this is the same I would give to anyone “scared” (google “gathering storm NOM” if you aren’t in California) their child will learn about gay people (existing)… If it is part of life you should be teaching your child about it. Humans are born 9 months premature… not 9 years.
Unfortunately, I must agree with Roger Ebert and say that the 3D “adds nothing.” As I’ve seen before, the 3D is used to much greater effect in the previews than in the actual film. I flipped my glasses on and off and noticed that the glasses were tinted as well and made the film appear less bright than it should. I also noticed that the format was not in the standard wide film format, but a shortened version. Was this on the 3D version only, or are all Pixar films in this more boxy format?
I’d also like to mention that the opening short film “Partly Cloudy”, although being somewhat confusing because we just watched a preview for another film called “Partly Cloudy (with a chance of meatballs)”, was much better than the shorts in front of Ratatouille and Wall-E. Did the grey cloud remind anyone else of the Rock Biter?
**note: the image at the top doesn’t appear in Up… even though this scene (the actual image is obviously not a final rendering) was used repeatedly in marketing materials leading up to the release. In fact, this is a re-imagining of one of the pivotal last scenes, in which Carl is in the blimp, Russel is hanging from the garden hose and nobody at all is in the house. Should I tell these people?