Moriarty Stumbles Into THE TERMINAL Premiere!!
Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
Let’s just say I got caught by surprise.
Last Wednesday, I was busy getting ready to go out of town for the weekend. My wife and I went to Memphis for a wedding, and we had to do some last-minute errands to get ready. I’ve been dropping so much weight lately that I didn’t have anything to wear, so I picked her up from work so we could go shopping.
The plan was for us to finish in time for the press screening of THE TERMINAL that we’d been invited to, and by the time we found clothes for me that actually made my wife happy (any of you who are married will understand just what sort of Sisyphean process that was), we were later than I liked. Thankfully, we were already on Wilshire Blvd., on the other side of Beverly Hills from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences theater, one of the nicest in town.
By the time we parked and walked from the garage on Doheny, I realized that we weren’t attending any simple press screening. You don’t bring out five blocks of private security for a press screening. You don’t set out a red carpet and a photographer’s section for a press screening.
And you certainly don’t dress the way I did for a premiere.
Worn and faded jeans, my BNAT 5 t-shirt, totally unshaven and scruffy, my freshly-cut hair still unwashed and itching something fierce... I couldn’t have looked less appropriate. I was halfway convinced my tickets weren’t going to work as we stepped up to the velvet rope and I handed them over. They let us in, though, and we made our way up the wide sweeping front staircase to the auditorium on the second floor, past usher after usher. We picked seats right on the edge of the reserved section, where Mrs. Moriarty could turn completely around in her seat to watch people come in, delivering a running report on the arrivals for me.
”Look... there’s Raymond. My sister loves his show. He looks better in person, I think. My god, that woman’s dress shows her whole concha! I think I see the big guy who made that documentary about the guns. Why is everyone shaking his hand so much? Ohmygodohmygod, there’s Martin Short! Oh, wow, Catherine Zeta-Jones is so beautiful. I think that’s the girl from ANCHORMAN coming in behind her.”
Eventually, my own curiosity got the best of me, and I had to turn and peek as well. When John Williams walked by, I’ll confess that I got that undeniable geek buzz going. I’ve been to premieres before, but I’ve never been to a Spielberg premiere. I couldn’t help myself, and as Williams took his seat about five feet away from me, I said, “Good evening, maestro.” He smiled back and offered a friendly greeting in exchange.
As the lights started to dim, there were two notably empty seats. Spielberg and Hanks were both still missing, much to my wife’s chagrin. She’s an enormous fan of both of them, and she seemed disappointed until I reminded her that we were actually there to see a film.
Which brings us to the review. How is the film, the whole reason we were there in the first place? Short answer: good, but not great.
As you no doubt know by now, THE TERMINAL is the story of Viktor Navorski, played by Tom Hanks, who travels to New York on a very specific mission. Carrying a small single suitcase and a Planter’s peanut can, Viktor arrives from the fictional country of Krakozhia, one of the many small volatile Slavic countries that seem to have erupted after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Viktor speaks no English, so when he gets pulled out of line at Customs, he has no idea what’s going on. Much has been made of how THE TERMINAL is based on a true story, but the more you worry about that, the less you’ll enjoy what is obviously a fable about the tensions and anxieties of modern travel. This isn’t meant to be any sort of true story. Intead, it’s a film set in the same fantasy world as most of Spielberg’s movies, and has to be judged through that filter.
Right now, our world changes around us so fast and red tape has become so maddening that it feels like it might actually be possible to fall between the cracks and simply get lost in the system. Especially when there’s an officious little prick like Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) in charge of things. Having said that, this is a film that is constructed entirely on convenience. There are many things that occur for no reason other than because that’s the way it has to occur in order for the film to continue. The more you pick at the internal logic of the movie, the more it’s going to come apart and frustrate you, and I think it would be fairly easy to simply give up on the movie. It would be a shame, though, because there is some nice work in it, and there are things well worth seeing. For example, the moment where the film really clicked into place for me is when Viktor finally starts to realize what’s actually happening to him. It’s after Dixon has taken away Viktor’s passport and dumped him into the International Travel Terminal, and Viktor’s just sort of... adrift, meal vouchers clenched in his hand, not really sure what he’s supposed to be doing. It starts out as a comic scene, but then Viktor catches sight of a news broadcast on a bank of TVs overhead where they’re discussing the coup d’etat in Krakhozia that has left him stranded.
As the images of violence play out, Viktor’s sunny disposition finally falters, and he ends up having to chase the images from TV to TV, desperate to figure out exactly what’s being said, unable to communicate with anyone around him. The horror in his eyes really pulled me in, and Hanks makes Viktor undeniably human without being able to really use any dialogue to communicate. The notion of being unable to reach out to anyone around you even when surrounded by a sea of humanity is pretty wrenching, and even though this film always seems to perch on the edge of giving in to its most sitcommy instincts, a moment like this elevates things and serves as a reminder of just how great Spielberg can be with purely visual storytelling.
If there’s any key flaw here, it’s the sporadically pedestrian screenplay by Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson, based on a story by Andrew Niccol and Gervasi. There are story threads that play out enjoyably, and there are other threads which end up going nowhere. The best way to enjoy the film is from scene to scene, since there are definite pleasures along the way.
Viktor’s extended stay brings him into contact with several people who work in or around the terminal. There’s Enrique Cruz, played by Diego Luna, best known for his work in Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN. He drives one of the mini-trucks that delivers meals to the various airplanes, giving him a chance to observe Viktor as he deals with his seemingly unwinnable situation. Every day, Viktor goes to see Officer Delores Torres (Zoe Saldana), who sits in the visa office with her two stamps, one that reads APPROVED, and one that reads DENIED. Every day, Viktor hopes for that APPROVED stamp. And every day, he leaves DENIED. Somehow, Viktor ends up serving as an unlikely Cyrano between the two of them, and there’s some really uneven material here. Luna is charming, Saldana is adorable, and Hanks plays well off both of them, but it’s just not terribly credible, the way it’s handled, particularly in regards to the resolution.
Another interesting character who gets tragically abbreviated screen time is Joe Mulroy, played with all the laconic charisma Chi McBride always brings to his roles. Because he’s so underwritten, he barely registers and ends up as a footnote in the film, which is frustrating. When he gets to do something, he’s eminently watchable. The one character who is given almost exactly the right amount of emphasis is Gupta Rajan, played by the wonderful Kumar Pallana. If you’re already a fan of Kumar’s work in Wes Anderson’s films, then you won’t be surprised to hear that he steals almost every moment he’s in onscreen. If you aren’t familiar with him yet, prepare to be smitten. Kumar is one of those character actors who can simply sit quietly at the edge of a scene and make it more interesting with his mere presence, and Spielberg seems to have fallen in love with him, using him to maximum effect.
Stanley Tucci is an exceptional actor, and he does what he can to make Dixon more than just a generic foil for the kind-hearted Viktor, playing the sort of role William Atherton always got stuck with in the ‘80s. He’s saddled with some weak material, though, and only really gets to shine a few times. Watch for the scene where he turns to Viktor for help in a tense situation. It’s the best stuff Tucci’s been given to do, and he seems to come alive, really relishing his opportunity to sink his teeth into a scene.
Still, the most problematic character in the script is Amelia Warren, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. She and Viktor give good flirt, and for much of the film, it feels like Spielberg is finally pulling off that light-as-air romantic tone he tried for in ALWAYS, but some overwhelmingly poor choices in the third act render the character pointless. It’s like all those writers couldn’t figure out one fresh idea about what to do with this character, who could so easily have been interesting and unconventional. Personally, I fly so often these days that I can’t help but wonder what sort of person voluntarily lives out of a suitcase, always on the move. I hate dealing with airports and air travel and the generally shitty dispositions of most people onboard planes. It’s like there’s some magic Asshole Potion being pumped through the air vents. I can’t imagine subjecting myself to that human zoo any more than absolutely necessary, and if we’d gotten some sort of glimpse at what makes Amelia tick, she might have been worthwhile. Instead, she’s reduced to just being “the girl,” and her resolution with Hanks is so unsatisfying that it’s an affront.
Technically, the film is a delight. No discussion of the film’s merits can overlook the absolutely amazing work of production designer Alex McDowell. He’s done great work before on films like FIGHT CLUB and FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS and THE CROW and, for Spielberg, MINORITY REPORT, but what he’s done here is create a set that actually becomes an emotional extension of the main character, a persuasively-realized playground that gives Spielberg and Hanks all the room they need. Spielberg’s surrounded himself with more of his regulars, including master editor Michael Kahn and Janusz Kaminski, who does just as good a job as you’d expect, effortlessly painting with light and allowing the camera to drift fluidly through the set, unfettered, always in just the right place.
And as much as Spielberg always downplays his own chops as a comic director, seemingly still feeling the sting from the slapdown of 1941 all those years ago, I think he’s proven just how nimble his wit can be in recent years. I was wildly enthusiastic about CATCH ME IF YOU CAN when it came out, and the best material here is the gentle human comedy laced throughout. There are some sentimental moments that pay off, too, particularly involving the contents of that mysterious Planter’s can.
Meanwhile, John Williams seems to be enjoying his recent work with Spielberg quite a bit, judging by this jazzy, effervescent score, and even in the film’s least successful moments, Williams is so good he almost convinces you that it works. What ultimately makes THE TERMINAL worth seeing, above anything else in the film, is the work by Tom Hanks. It would be very easy for this film to be one big joke about his gravitationally-dense accent, but Hanks doesn’t milk that joke the way you might expect. Instead, he delivers a wonderful comic performance that verges on silent comedy. It’s been 20 years now since SPLASH made him a movie star, and he continues to find new comic grace notes to play. He’s one of the few working movie stars who also seems to remember that he’s an actor, and he never just coasts on the voluminous goodwill that he’s earned with audiences.
After the film let out, we headed back downstairs, where the lobby had been set up for an afterparty. Still convinced that security was about to pounce on me at any moment, my wife and I joined everyone else in some food and drink. Or, more accurately, I should say that she went to get some food. My attention was diverted by the uncommon and unexpected sight of Roger Ebert in Los Angeles. I made my way over to where he was and realized he was with his lovely wife Chas, who I so enjoyed meeting when he had me as a guest at his Overlooked Film Festival a few years ago. She told me that Roger was in town to receive a special honor from the AFI at the same time as John Kerry, and they’d come straight from that ceremony to this screening. As I was speaking to Chas, I realized that Roger was actually chatting with Spielberg. As he finished, Roger turned to me, and we had a chance to talk. It’s been two years since I’ve seen him, and I was startled by the weight loss up close. As always, it was a pleasure to talk to him, if only for a few minutes. Since I was standing right there, I took the opportunity to also talk to Spielberg for a moment or two, but I’ll admit that I didn’t have the nerve to identify myself as being from AICN.
On the other hand, I had no problem doing so with Tom Hanks when he finally made his way downstairs. I spent a lot of time on the set of THE GREEN MILE watching that incredible ensemble of actors work together, but never in any sort of reporter capacity. Hanks recognized my face, but I don’t know if I’d ever introduced myself formally until this particular moment.
I had to introduce Mrs. Moriarty to him, or she never would have forgiven me. We made our way through the people in orbit around him, past all the cameras shooting him for various TV shows, my wife so excited that she speed-dialed her mother on her cell phone so she’d be able to hear his voice when we said hello. We stepped up, I introduced myself, and he lit right up, greeting me warmly. When I introduced my wife, she got so excited that she actually forgot how to speak English, reverting to her native Argentinian. He laughed, doing his best to set her at ease, and we talked for a few minutes about BAND OF BROTHERS, the upcoming Pacific Theater follow-up to that series that he’s working on, Frank Darabont as a director, and a number of other subjects. Offscreen, he’s just as effortlessly charming as he is onscreen, and by the time we walked away, even my wife felt relaxed while talking to him.
The rest of the night gave us a chance to chat with people like Bonnie Hunt, John Williams (again), and Kumar himself. He seemed to be a crowd favorite, as everyone pushed in to compliment him and commend him on his work. When my wife and I talked to Diego Luna for a few moments, they both dropped into Spanish, and I feared that I would have to lay down some kung-fu on him if he tried to romance her in a language I barely speak. I was sure I heard “puffy white guy” in there somewhere, but he seemed nice enough. When we finally left, we were given Planter’s cans like in the film, stuffed with coupons for free Whoppers (you’ll get it when you see the movie), and then we had to make our way past the paparazzi lurking outside and back down Wilshire to retrieve the car. Despite feeling that the movie is uneven, and a minor effort from some major talents, it was a great evening.
I just wonder who those invitations were really for, and I wonder if they’re still cursing the Post Office for their balls-up.
I’ll be back with my LIFE AQUATIC and SKY CAPTAIN pieces as soon as possible. Keep checking in this weekend for those and much more. For now...
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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June 18, 2004, 6:10 a.m. CST
You got to party with the greats, good for you. Too bad the movie wasn't as good, the trailers didn't get me excited for it so I'm probably going to skip it this weekend.
June 18, 2004, 6:13 a.m. CST
June 18, 2004, 6:22 a.m. CST
thought it was gonna be good...how wrong?
June 18, 2004, 7:14 a.m. CST
You would've gotten a free meal outta me!
June 18, 2004, 7:32 a.m. CST
by Evil Chicken
The above article had me giggling a couple of times. Speaking as a married guy, I'm glad you didn't get hit over the head for wearing the BNAT
June 18, 2004, 7:41 a.m. CST
by Sgt. Black
kidding. I'm just jealous. No details about the Pac. Theater follow up for BoB?
June 18, 2004, 8:06 a.m. CST
And I mean a function, not a description. One to watch at home, where you can save yourself from snoring with some caffeine-spiked drinks, definitely... if anywhere.
June 18, 2004, 8:07 a.m. CST
I tend to trust Ebert the most. Well, more than any other major critic. The worst is Peter Travers. Him and his three sentence reviews. ON a side note, anyone ever notice that Travers will often just cite scenes from the trailers? Almost implying that he never actually saw the film. Just my 3 and a half cents.
June 18, 2004, 8:36 a.m. CST
by Punisher Fan
Um guys I do believe Drew was referring to Eberts weight loss...or Siskels, I KNOW that dude has lost some poundage..
June 18, 2004, 8:43 a.m. CST
. . . if I were doing great fighting a weight problem, in what sounds like a great relationship, both while realizing my childhood dream of working in Hollywood. Especially if it was a known fact that a huge number of anonymous strangers were actually interested in what I had to say about things. As it stands, I don't have a weight problem, nor have I realized my childhood dreams, but I AM in a great relationship. That's probably part of what prevents me from being the type of loser that freaks out with hatred towards internet movie columnists.
June 18, 2004, 10:44 a.m. CST
And you didn't take any pictures? What kind of reporter are you, anyway? sk
June 18, 2004, 11:18 a.m. CST
by Spike Fett
June 18, 2004, 11:27 a.m. CST
Williams: (rolls eyes, thinks "Dork.")
June 18, 2004, 11:34 a.m. CST
by Wet Soul
...talk about painful exposition.
June 18, 2004, 12:38 p.m. CST
Meow......WAHPISHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! (haha! I am married btw and I totally understand).
June 18, 2004, 12:40 p.m. CST
Sooooooo much envy in these talkbackers' posts. Don't you losers have an ounce of dignity or self-respect? So many bitter, green faces. It's like a Thark convention in here.
June 18, 2004, 12:52 p.m. CST
by Fish Tank
Personally, I liked your story. Made me feel like I was there. I like that you were selling the experience as well as the review. F the others.
June 18, 2004, 1:09 p.m. CST
Sooo, your post: "...just because you brought up the issue, I have a wife of seven years, a well paid job, one 11 month old child, no debt and every personal posession I could ever wish for. I've travelled a lot and have a great family who I have a lot of love and respect for.", indicates that you're less of a "self-congratulating cunt" than you accuse Mori of being in exactly WHAT way? Kindly do your species a favor and don't produce anymore offspring. You know what I mean: castration, vasectomy, sex change operation, suicide? You get the picture
June 18, 2004, 1:15 p.m. CST
If this had been presented as a striaght review and then we later found out that it was based on a premier screening, where mr and mrs moriarty, from the Jason X DVD, were surrounded by the fella from Bachelor Party and so on, we'd of been suspect. I'm not sure if this tells us anything particularly worthwhile about Mori's thoughts on the film, since he makes it quite clear that the situation was rather overwhelming. Like when Harry did two reviews of Godzilla back in the day, the day being the day that Godzilla came out, with the first one being a highly positive number based on a fantastic screening of some sort, and the other just a regular normal-guy-in-cinema reaction. We can't expect to relate terribly much to someones opinion of a spielberg film when spielberg has been yacking to them before and after, which is not to say that the review is biased, i dont mean that, man, but i'm sure Mori would agree that his opinion of the film might have been different (positive, negative, who knows?) had those really been tickets to the press-screening he was expecting. Thanks folks. Duke De Mondo. www.mondoirlando.com
June 18, 2004, 1:31 p.m. CST
My new ID works. Farewell, EdWood4321, but The Duke needs to shove you aside is what. Sorry, pseudonym, i loved you is the honest to motherfuck truth of it all.
June 18, 2004, 1:35 p.m. CST
by Pontsing Barset
Which is more irritating? Fawning fanboys? Or pretentious self appointed "celebrity" experts such as yourself? I know who *I'd* rather hang out with; and "Gay" isn't part of their User ID. *** All you cats bitching out Moriarity on this TB sound like a bunch jealous low self esteem asswipes.
June 18, 2004, 1:52 p.m. CST
by Pontsing Barset
What I said was that I'd rather hang out with a "fawning fanboy" like Mori, than some pretentious asswipe like you. I didn't say anything about having a problem with Gays. Christ, YOU picked the user ID. Do you have trouble finding shirts that fit over that huge chip on your shoulder? Pay attention next time!
June 18, 2004, 2:05 p.m. CST
by Pontsing Barset
My problem with you isn't that you're gay, if you are. One more attempt: I'd rather hang out with a fawning movie geek, gay or otherwise, than a prententious asswipe, gay or otherwise. Guess which shoe fits you GMG.
June 18, 2004, 2:15 p.m. CST
good interview. I like Spielberg, I like Hanks, but the look and sound of the flick really doesn't catch me. Maybe wait for video or even cable.
June 18, 2004, 5:25 p.m. CST
by attention whore
I would just like to say that moriarty rulez!
June 18, 2004, 7:01 p.m. CST
If anyone else had made this it would be dismissed as easily as any romatic comedy.
June 18, 2004, 11:01 p.m. CST
Besides I'll watch any movie from the Spielberg-Kaminsky duo ,no matter how much the story might suck the visuals are my fav bar none.
June 19, 2004, 10:44 a.m. CST
I was dumbfounded as I watched this movie. (And I'm a HUGE Spielberg fan). Logic is totally thrown out of the window throughout the movie. I know it was based on a true story but the only similarity to the real story is that a man was stuck in an airport due to a military coup in his home country. (I believe he was stuck for, at the most, 2 months as opposed to Hanks' 9+ months in the movie). Beyond that this story takes place in a fairy-tale land airport that is supposed to be JFK but is inhabited by more 2-dimensional characters than a paper doll convention. (Bad movies deserve bad metaphores). I'm convinced Spielberg and the screenwriters have never interacted with airport employees. I'm convinced Tom Hanks was channeling "Balki" from "Perfect Strangers". I'm convinced that if Stanley Tucci's character had a moustache, he would've been twisting the ends as he bellowed evil laughter. Finally, and sadly, I'm convinced Speilberg has gone on autopilot for this pathethic piece of tripe.
June 19, 2004, 12:07 p.m. CST
June 19, 2004, 1:23 p.m. CST
That's pretty funny...or gay.
June 19, 2004, 10:36 p.m. CST
I just couldn't take the endless inconsistencies (now Hanks understands English, now he doesn't), contradictions (now Tucci's a nice guy, now he isn't; now Hanks follows the rules, now he doesn't), implausibilities (leaning English in about a month; the concourse that's forever under construction), "quirky" minority characters (insane Hindu janitor; lovesick Hispanic porter) and outright impossibilities (in what universe would CZJ give a goofy, penniless immigrant the time of day?). I know I'm being too hard on this, but Spielberg has his choice of any script and any star--the studio even built the largest set to date for him! This would've been better as a low-budget independent film, shot at a shopping mall (doubling as an airport) by someone with an unsentimental eye for America as it is today. Can't believe Spielberg passed up MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA for this. I bet he actually thought it would be another FORREST GUMP (a simple man overcomes adversity with sheer goodness). Rant over.
June 20, 2004, 12:57 a.m. CST
HAhahahahahahahaahah.... The studio thought they could sell this shit because of the Spielberg and Hanks names but they were wrong. Hahah...it still may do well overseas, but I hope not. But it is flopping here.
June 20, 2004, 1:34 a.m. CST
This movie looks like such a major yawn. Never a big Spielberg fan, never a Hanks fan. Put 'em together with a bland script and wild horses couldn't drag me into the theater, Catherine Zeta-Jones or no Catherine Zeta-Jones. In any case, I am one AICN reader who really enjoys the longer, tangential reviews... the meal before the movie, the mood of the reviewer's companions, etc... I know a lot of people bitch about "extraneous" stuff but those kinds of reviews are what I started coming to AICN for lo these many years ago.
June 20, 2004, 1:39 a.m. CST
June 20, 2004, 9:35 a.m. CST
(1) I love dresses that show the whole concha!; (2) That guy who made the documentary about guns is not a "big guy", he's a fat fuck - even if you agree with his political view; (3) "Good evening, maestro"; are you serious? That is fetid ass-kissing. But that's what Hollywood is all about. In the words of the great Chuck D, burn Hollywoood burn, I smell a riot going on!
June 20, 2004, 7:20 p.m. CST
by Judge Briggs
First off, Zeta-Jones is extremely annoying. She is next to J.Lo on the annoying scale. Secondly, when will Hollywood wise up and hire actors who have natural accents for roles that call for them? For example, this movie and "K-19: The Widow Maker"... and so many more have sucked because of the phony accents. Damnit, Riddick was a dope movie... I want a sequel!
June 20, 2004, 7:28 p.m. CST
by Judge Briggs
... cited Steven Spielberg's movies as ..."director of such movies as "Always" and "1941." South Park is the best cartoon being made today.
June 21, 2004, 9:30 a.m. CST
when you reach puberty maybe you'll be mature enough to have an opinion...until then, get fucked
June 21, 2004, 6:49 p.m. CST
What the hell was Spielberg thinking when he picked this?? And to piss away 110 million on a sappy romantic comedy...sheesh, hope this gives him the reality check he seems to so desperately need.
Aug. 26, 2004, 2:53 p.m. CST
by Dan James
Yes the others examples aren't words but "ironical" is, and is defined as "characterized by or constituting irony" If you're gonna correct grammar, check you're right first. However, where are you correcting them from? I didn't see them in the article or the talkback :S
June 25, 2005, 11:21 p.m. CST
Just saw this on HBO today and it was actually OK. Sure some of this had to do with the fact that I was sitting watching it at 11 AM and did not may $11 to see it, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. Hanks was good. The movie was funny and oddly poignant and made many bigger points than initial reviewers realized. The one thing wrong about it was the overdone set design (completely wrong for this small story) and also the casting - generally bad. But Hanks and Tucci were great. Others seemed to revel to much in their own characters and not enjoy them. The screenplay was actaully OK and in the hand of someone else or even if Spielberg had toned down the set and not been so heavy-handed at times it could have been fantastic.
June 25, 2005, 11:40 p.m. CST
Meant to say "did not pay $11" and "seemed to revel too much."