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Robert Zemeckis

Who Framed Roger Rabbit – Robert Zemeckis (1988)

December 1988. I just turned 13 as the oldest of four and my mother thought it was a good idea to take the entire family to the movies. I believe it was Sinterklaas night (the Dutch gift-giving holiday early December). There were many more people than expected and the early showing was already fully booked, so we took the late one. “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, a unique film in which film and animation were combined.

I do not really know if I ever saw the film a second time, but my guess is I did, because I suppose it has been shown on TV numerous times. On film fora the title often pops up when yet another person asks for “neo-noir” films and a while ago my girlfriend mentioned she would like to see the film again. Heck, why not? I remember it being funny.

Well, it is. It is quite amazing that the combination of cartoon and film still works well most of the time. Also there is an amazing amount of references to Disney cartoons, almost as if every possible character had to have a part in the film.

Roger Rabbit is married to sexy cartoon woman and framed for murdering his boss, but the toon-hating private detective Eddie Valiant sets out to help him of course running from one weird cartoon situation into the next.

Still quite funny!

Allied – Robert Zemeckis (2016)

A romantic spy adventure with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, that bound to be a popular Hollywood production. This fairly descent film is only rated 7.1 on IMDb though.

Pitt and Cotillard are coupled on a mission to kill some Nazis and when they survive the mission against the odds, they leave for London where Max Vatan (Pitt) remains under the employment of the British secret service.

The secret agent professionalism initially looks a bit forced, but as soon as the spark of love enlightens, the two actors seem to be more in their element. The story is perhaps not be too surprising, but well-written. Also the film shows well how life continued during the war, while at other times it did not.

A descent film. Very much a Hollywood production, but not a bad watch.

Contact – Robert Zemeckis (1997)

This film looks older than it is. Perhaps that is because I connect Jodie Foster to older films? Perhaps I thought it to be older, for a scifi with a ‘big story’ it still is an early one.

“Contact” is based on a big ‘what if?’, but keeps pushing the original idea. What if we would receive messages from a civilization of another planet? What if this message contains a means to travel to them? And what if the technique is way different from what we are used to?

Eleanor Arroway (Foster) is a promising student in the field of space exploration, but her determination to find alien life forms makes her career difficult. Of course, after a while she succeeds against all odds, but the film does not stop there. A good story unfolds with many considerations of the discovery, scientific, religious, the reaction of the general public, etc.

The film contains some way too thick drama and Hollywood moralizing, but when you can set yourself over these elements, “Contact” is a good film about an interesting subject.

Beowulf 3D * Robert Zemeckis * 2007

BeowulfIt seems that the filmindustry has come up with something to get the audience back from their supersized tvs and dolby surround sets: the 3D movie. Because of the theme I was interested in this film and also I was curious how far the technique of 3D film actually is, so we went to see the spectacle of “Beowulf”. Let me start with the film.
The version of Zemeckis stays much closer to the 8th century poem than “Beowulf & Grendel”, which is a big plus. Beowulf comes to help king Hrothgar who has problems with a man-slaying monster which is much closer to the description in the classic epic than in the other film. The fight with Grendel is rather short and some details are nicely introduced to the film. The killing of Grendel doesn’t solve the problem, since his mother comes to take revenge and it is with the introduction of this mother, that the story begins to show adaptations. Instead of a fierce, man-eating monster, the mother of Grendel has become the beautiful, naked (but sexless) Angelina Jolie who seduces kings and has great riches. Beowulf goes to fight her like in the story, becomes king when Hrothgar dies and builds a massive castle. None of this comes from the poem. The drinking cup that unleaches the dragon (see later) got a big promotion too. What Zemeckis does use and very well, is Beowulf’s fight with the dragon, a part of the story that is completely left out in “Beowulf & Grendel”. Also the end follows the poem, so inspite of a few (rather big) adaptations, this new version of the Beowulf poem is fairly true to text.
Next, the film. Instead of red and green coloured glasses, you now get glasses that slightly shift your view in order to bring the two layers of film together. This produces amazing depth! I was impressed how clear this 3D looks and how much depth can be made with this technique. What is less impressive, is that everything is ‘animated’, so even though in the characters you can clearly see Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich or Anthony Hopkins, they all come from the computer obviously. What I found most strange is that the character such as Beowulf, Wiglaf of Grendel’s mother is amazing in detail, while Unferth and sometimes Wealthow look like clay figures. It is af if there was not the time or the money to make everything equally perfect. What is a big pro of the computer technique is that Grendel is brilliant. He is big, ugly, drewls and bleeds all over the audience and at least is able to eat a man in a few bites (the fact that Grendel is turned into a pityfull creature is an adaptation, but does add something to the film). As for the rest, the film is obviously made to be a 3D film. I wonder what it looks like in the normal version, because scenes in which the camera slowly moves backwards through a forest, or into the mead-hall from above or a warrior pointing his spear towards the audience will look silly if not in 3D. The 3D here and there has Disneyland things just to show it is 3D, but in many cases, it really adds an extra layer to the film experience. When Wealthow almost falls down the way too high castle of Beowulf, the depth is amazing and especially with the extremely carefully constructed fight with the dragon is impressive (I think this scene used most of the budget). In normal scenes with people in a hall, the 3D is a nice extra, but it really shows its value in fighting scenes (men and rubble being thrown into the audience, the extreme depth of a cliff that the dragon flies over, etc.).
Because the best effect is produced when looking through the classes in a particular way, I had to keep my head quite still and eventually I got a bit of a headache. There are also some elements can have to be improved (try working with real actors please!), but overall, for the first 3D film that I see, I am really impressed and it surely is a technique to develop further in order to give cinema a new impulse.
Conclusion: a 4 out of 5 for the film (story) and a 4 out of 5 for the filmimg. If you want to see “Beowulf”, be sure to see it in 3D!