Be wary of superheroes that seem like they were invented as puns. You might end up with a passionate mess, with 85% Dutch angles, undeveloped characters, and a soundtrack like a prepubescent DJ’s iPod on shuffle. “Justice is blind,” proclaims Daredevil. So is Matt Murdock. So is Mark Steven Johnson.
If Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was a tour of fantasy-land (who else thought their feelings seemed stuffed with baubles like gift-bags from a theme park?), The Chamber of Secrets is like accidentally wandering into the maintenance closet. Something is disenchanted by it, and I can think of no harsher criticism, to call something squinty that once was wide-eyed.
Harry possesses none of the fairytale virtues: no great strength or speed or cunning. When they were handing out panaceas, the poor kid must have been grounded. His destiny follows him, as other people make it. (“She knows more about you than you do,” Ron says.” Harry’s reply is from someone losing to his identity crisis: “Who doesn’t?”).
The film blasts an affectionate symphony of action spy movie set pieces, which Bird composes with such a self-believing style that he reminds me less of a director than of a virtuoso performer. And even they become a back-drop to what is essentially a mid-life crisis film, about a man who misses himself so much that he doesn’t even notice he has a family. Bird offers a genre fattened on mythic pretension a trimming alternative of joyous energy and dazzling characters.
Fukasaku proves to be a master of the micro-story, the combinations of tiny joys and creeping terrors into one huge, fleeting, emotional whole. After decades of cultural regression, he evokes Japanese cinema’s desperate, horrific roar. It has a primal beauty, of the kind that will always be repressed, misunderstood.
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.
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.
I’m not overextending an analysis of Hulk (2003) by connecting it to mythic lore and Shakespeare – its idea of drama is unquestionably what is in those fables, even if it is the worst in them. Its psyches are all torturous, exaggerated, archetypical. But what is worst in myth, what is flagrant and flawed, is also what is human and endurable.