It takes zero seconds for Shark Tale to be the worst DreamWorks animated film I’ve ever seen. To find something worse you’d have to watch one of those Disney knock-offs that you pass over on Netflix with a cold shudder, or one of those YouTube-only CG student projects, or a film by Illumination. I’m going to scoop out its anchovy-sized heart and squeeze out the grease between my fingers before feeding it to my cat.
From Willem Dafoe approximating a German to Penelope Cruz approximating a maid to Judy Dench stretching no imaginations as a frowsy curd whose gaze would cure mustard, the train certainly carries cargo with the promise of becoming precious. But the cogs it winds up never outgrow their clock: the plot remands wit to the backstage of Branagh’s eyes and the film lulls almost indefinitely as soon as the mystery begins.
Christophe Gans admirably refers to Jean Cocteau’s 1946 La Belle et La Bête while presenting a version of the fairytale that should read as authentic even to those who have only seen the Disney one. What he does not do is capture the original’s symbolic poetry or frame the old pieces in such a way that their retelling is a revelation.
I’ve seen great filmmakers make bad movies. But I’ve never seen them willingly create the antimatter to their own style. With only the earnest request of his audience to question and unravel everything they believe about their brittle capitalistic existence, Shyamalan instead has made a film that makes me question and unravel everything I believe about Shyamalan.
Moonraker skips the part where all is as it seems, a noble approach for a film in a formula series (they might have made it stick as self-aware humor, but even that would have been too “wink-wink” with Moore at the Helm). “You appear,” says Drax after Bond’s fourth miraculous escape, “with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.” Here is an oddity: a franchise that doesn’t know it knows itself.
What DreamWorks have done with Ghost in the Shell, if it is a cultural invasion, is more potent than catering to an international market (or their idea of it). The new film is an inversion of its material, to an extent that its entire symbolic framework has been hacked by the virus of three-act Western superhero stories.
By remaining outside after dark, Kubo invokes the inevitable quest for three sacred pieces of armor so that he may defeat the Moon King. Kubo weaves its story with the mythologist Joseph Campbell’s pattern, which he called the “monomyth,” by telling a story about a boy and his Mother as though it represented all boys and all Mothers.