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Massawyrm really wanted to like INKHEART, but...

Hola all. Massawyrm here. In the rush to duplicate the success of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies, the studios snapped up anything and everything fantasy with any following at all and have spent the last few years trying to make them work. Some have worked with mixed success (the Narnia films, The Spiderwick Chronicles) others have been miserable failures (Eragon, The Seeker: The Dark is Rising.) But there have been few, if any that were solid, well intentioned misfires. Until now. Filling the vacancy in the studio success rate is Inkheart, a film with a solid concept, a wonderful cast and good story…that just fails to ever connect properly with the audience. Inkheart is not a bad film. In fact, it is one I quite would like to enjoy. But the whole thing feels hollow – like it is the Tin Man of movies. Everything is in the right place and functioning as it should. There’s just one thing missing. But despite how interesting the concept is, despite how well done much of the design work is, despite how much heart was put INTO this, there’s very little heart that comes OUT of it. No matter how hard you try, it is almost impossible to care about these characters. They try really hard to get you to care, and you just can’t. The basic concept is simple: there are people in this world born with the gift to read passages aloud and summon the characters and items right off of the page. Trouble is, when you do it, it sends someone or something back into the book you were reading. Now, this element is never properly explained and seems to only be used when it is appropriate to the story (and not, you know, during the climax.) But when our hero (Brendan Fraser) reads to his wife and daughter, one of the characters comes out and his wife pops in. Fast Forward 12 years and Fraser and his daughter (Eliza Bennett who looks disturbingly like a prepubescent Laura Dern) travel the globe looking for another copy of the out of print book his wife is trapped in while being chased by an evil character from the book who wants to use his power to summon riches and powerful creatures. Trouble is Fraser, in spite of being the lead, is the least interesting character in the movie. Despite such a cool power, he’s given even less of a character than can be found in most of his other characters. And the entire crux of the film hinges upon his relationship with his daughter, which is just kind of there. I like Fraser a lot – he’s found his niche and is becoming the Doug McClure of this younger generation. He’s the plucky, strong jawed hero with a good humor about him and this likable gosh-darn quality. And if this was the 60’s, he’d be rolling around on the ground with rubber monsters rather than running from CG menaces. We’ve seen greatness out of him (Gods and Monsters) but he’s the kind of guy that can’t bring anything extra to a role. If the soul of the character doesn’t exist on the page, Fraser won’t invent one to fill the gap. And this character is a paint by numbers dad that desperately needed someone to bring something different to the role. Everyone else is at least interesting. Bennet is adorable as the plucky daughter and brings a lot to her (mostly underwritten) character. Paul Bettany BRINGS IT, as he is oft to do, and really makes a lot out of the role of Dustfinger – a wily, selfish fire summoner pulled out of the book Inkheart. There’s even a cool moment in which real-life wife Jennifer Connolly shows up in flashback as…his wife. Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent both seem to be having the time of their lives playing over the top caricatures and Andy Serkis is great as the slimy villain. But as hard as everyone seems to be trying to bring this to life, it just always fails to connect. Even though it’s very lean and doesn’t have a moment of fat to it, it just gets boring as you just find it hard to care about what’s going on. And all of that is before you even begin to think about how fast and loose they play with their own laws, rules and setups throughout the film. They’ve essentially created omnipotent characters (the movie introduces three that exist at the same time) but assume that despite these beings existing for thousands of years, that no one has ever thought of the things they do in the climax. And once you begin wondering about that, the entire concept of the film collapses in upon itself. But like I said, it’s not a terrible film. If you’ve got kids, they might enjoy it. It’s fairly fast paced and has a smattering of cute moments – and some REALLY COOL special effects at times. There’s some Wizard of Oz flying monkeys in here that would tickle Harry’s brain into thinking about that updated version of the film he’d like to see that he wrote about in his book. But ultimately it is a mostly forgettable affair that will leave you shrugging at the end. It’s cute, but will most likely suffer the fate of many of its other fantasy contemporaries, never to see the rest of its series brought to the screen. Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. Massawyrm
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Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 21, 2009, 8:53 p.m. CST

    You haven't seen the reviews.

    by noncents


  • Jan. 21, 2009, 8:55 p.m. CST

    It Couldn't Be Any Worse Than Last Chance Harvey

    by WriteFromLeft

    So if your significant other says, hey, we can go see InkHeart or Last Chance Harvey, pick InkHeart. You'll thank me.

  • it either steals or couldn't wait to put all of "the good stuff" from and into much better, more expensive and greater looking movies. the whole "story coming to life" thing was done a month ago by bedtime stories after it was stolen from pagemaster, goonies, etc. etc. now, percy jackson and the lightning thief is coming next feb, hopefully they will get that one right instead of either milking it or not focusing on what made the book a hoot with pop songs from the cast and crappy cgi, and so on and so on.

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 9:14 p.m. CST

    Can barely stand Harry Potter films

    by Heckles

    The rest look worse. At least parents have mildly entertaining films to occupy their kids.

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 9:15 p.m. CST

    I tried to like the book too. Tried and failed.

    by FlickaPoo

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 9:48 p.m. CST

    Golden Compass part deux

    by Redfoot the Fence

    Massa's wrong about one thing: this isn't the first "solid, well-intentioned misfire" in the genre. That designation goes to last year's Golden Compass film. I really believe there was a good movie in there somewhere...New Line's meddling just buried the damn thing.

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 9:54 p.m. CST

    Oh, see...

    by Massawyrm 1

    I really liked The Golden Compass. I know others didn't and many found it too dense, but I saw it twice.

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 10:01 p.m. CST

    Hands up who thought the next line after the headline was:

    by Vim Fuego

    "But it starred Brendan Fraser". C'mon now, admit it.

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 10:06 p.m. CST


    by laraz

    I have to say Narnia is one of the best fantasy films to be released out of the LOTR & HP craze. Who cares if DISNEY doesnt have the balls to make the third one, some company will. You know why! Because it is the CHRONIC of NARNIA bitches!

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 10:28 p.m. CST


    by Charlie_Allnut

    That movie still pisses me off. What sloppy terrible film making. Not one thing was done right in that film. Bad script, bad costumes, bad acting, bad cast, bad directing, bad editing. Ugh.

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 10:33 p.m. CST

    The Golden Compass

    by Series7

    Would have been awesome if right after the bear fight the credits ran, but no there is this whole other story no one cares about. Something about the girl getting cut in half from her spirit animal and Mrs. Kidman poking her with a cattle prod or something.

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 10:36 p.m. CST

    Series7, you might want to rewatch that movie.

    by Player 1

    Sounds like you missed the point of the entire movie there, Series7. Dumbass, lol

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 10:39 p.m. CST

    I don't even want to like Inkheart

    by zooch

    Seriously Brendan Frazier? Didn't you learn anything from "The Mummy 3" and "Journey the the Center of the Earth".

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 10:45 p.m. CST

    I remember...

    by somethingcool

    somebody saying the exact same thing about Lemony Snicket and my appreciation for that movie grows with each viewing. If you're right though, well, all least it's not terrible. Small steps, Hollywood, small steps.

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 10:48 p.m. CST

    If I were a movie critic...

    by Ronald Raygun

    My review would be, "Inkheart? More like Stinkfart!" Aw, shucks. I really am a retard, huh?

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 10:54 p.m. CST

    eh I dunno...

    by The Amazing G

    sounds interesting to me, maybe a rental

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 11:01 p.m. CST

    I read the first half of the first HARRY POTTER...

    by Darth Deezen

    It was entertaining, but the first half was enough to get the point of it all. I can't imagine anyone wanting too keep reading past the first book.

  • Jan. 21, 2009, 11:45 p.m. CST

    that title

    by frank cotton

    is a strike against it right out of the gate

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 2:10 a.m. CST

    Massawyrm really wanted to like Inkheart...

    by yodalovesyou

    But it wasn't realistic enough. Where's Christopher Nolan when you need him to strip all the imagination out and just have random oddities running around a generic looking city. Ooh, that's right, I went there. Happy New Year, btw.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 2:41 a.m. CST

    Massawyrm, the book had the same problem

    by MorpheusTheSandman

    I quited it after reading the first half of it (which I almost never do), because the ideas behind the book were a lot more interesting then the book itself.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 2:59 a.m. CST

    Oddly, Brendan Fraser's really good in this.

    by palimpsest

    It's not a bad movie at all. Much better than, say THE DARK IS RISING and ERAGON, though not quite as much fun as SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES. Some original effects sequences, and Paul Bettany and Andy Serkis are fine value.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 3:24 a.m. CST

    Stopped reading at "But when our hero (Brendan Fraser)"

    by ricarleite

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 4:09 a.m. CST

    Artemis Fowl is coming to the big screen

    by Iron-kong

    And that book series was trying to cash on on the Harry Potter craze. I read the first book on a Greyhound going to Memphis. <-- Damn! Sounds like a blues song don't it?

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 4:10 a.m. CST


    by Iron-kong

    should read... "cash in on.."

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 4:11 a.m. CST

    On a Greyhound going to Memphis

    by Iron-kong

    Sounds like a blues song.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 4:21 a.m. CST

    Morpheus: "I quited it after reading"

    by half vader

    Hmmm. You might wanna read a little bit more often my friend. Y'know, get those skills up...

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 5:25 a.m. CST

    brendan fraser

    by El Borak

    damn. just damn. he is automatic bad movie man.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 6:10 a.m. CST


    by El Borak

    lemony snicket was great.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 6:15 a.m. CST

    Harry Potter as inspiration, yes. LOTR, no.

    by Kevin Holsinger

    I've seen people treat LOTR as if it helped spawn this massive trend of fantasy movies. However, those movies...Narnia, Bridge to Terabithia, Golden Compass, Lemony Snicket, etc...have all been kids' movies.<BR><BR>On the other hand, while children can get into LOTR, it's not specifically targeted at them.<BR><BR>As much as I loved LOTR, it didn't seem to set off a trend of ADULT fantasy movies. No Jordan, no Goodkind, no Feist, nothing.<BR><BR>If anything, I'd say that Harry Potter is really the movie that set off the fantasy trend of the past few years.<BR><BR>I'm still waiting for more adults to get into this trend.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 6:17 a.m. CST

    Yeah, BUT...

    by spud mcspud

    In the books, there's only one Silvertongue who can WRITE as well as READ - the mighty Orpheus, who is in fact evil. So the whole stupid climax couldn't have happened the way it did - either Meggie has to read what Finoglio has written, or it shouldn't work. Her writing AND reading it just shot down one of the best ideas in the book by making Meggie WAY more powerful than she is in the book trilogy.<P> You're right about one thing, Massa: Paul Bettany BROUGHT IT! He's fucking awesome in everything he does. Can you imagine how much better an Anglo CONSTANTINE would have been with Bettany as John Constantine? GAAAH!!!

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 6:19 a.m. CST


    by spud mcspud

    Be honest here - I'm a huge fan of Fraser, but he was weak in this. Not his fault though - I just think Mo wasn't written well for the screen AT ALL.<P> SPIDERWICK ruled though. And WATER HORSE was very under-rated also.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 6:21 a.m. CST

    Why no FIGHTING FANTASY movie?!?!?

    by spud mcspud

    Set a PG or 12 rated fantasy in the Fighting Fantasy universe on the continent Allansia! Imagine how cool THAT could be!!!<P> Paging Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, STAT. Though I DON'T think the movie ought to necessarily follow the way the books worked:<P> If you head left and out of the cave towards the meadow, keep watching. If you head right and deeper into the cave, following the orcs, go to the direct-to-DVD movie MINES OF MADNESS...

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 6:22 a.m. CST

    Why SPIDERWICK ruled

    by spud mcspud

    Because that troll that followed the kids through the tunnels as they headed to meet their mad Aunt was right off the cover of FOREST OF DOOM - and I thought right there and then: if a movie was ever to be made about FIGHTING FANTASY, get the design and SFX team from SPIDERWICK to do it. The creature designs were AWESOME...

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 6:26 a.m. CST

    "As he is oft to do"?


    Do you mean, "As he is wont to do"? Or, "as he often does"? Or, "as he always does", since Paul Bettany always brings it?<br><Br>"As he is oft to do" is an Internet construction, as far as I can tell. People who write, you know, professionally, are never "oft" to use it.<br><br>More on this incredibly important issue here:<br><br>

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 7:12 a.m. CST


    by IAmMrMonkey!

    I wish he'd bring his wife's pussy to my cock.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 7:17 a.m. CST

    spud mcspud!

    by IAmMrMonkey!

    I love you, man! (In a non-gay way) I used to TOTALLY LOVE those books!<p>Can you imagine how totally awesome a Creature Of Havoc or Deathtrap Dungeon movie would be if they got it right? Or Phantoms Of Fear! That would make an excellent fantasy-horror movie! The pictures in that book still haunt me many years later.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 7:20 a.m. CST

    by IAmMrMonkey!

    You realise this is a place where a grasp of the English language doesn't seem to matter, right? This is AICN!<P>I mean, look at me. I've already mis-spelt Paul Bettany's name, even though it's written correctly in capital letters in the article above!

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 7:23 a.m. CST


    by spud mcspud

    There's a built-in trilogy right there: WARLOCK OF FIRETOP MOUNTAIN, LEGEND OF ZAGOR and RETURN TO FIRETOP MOUNTAIN. Awesome stuff.<P> DEATHTRAP DUNGEON would be amazing, ditto CITY OF THIEVES - imagine seeing Port Blacksand on the big screen! - and stuff like CAVERNS OF THE SNOW WITCH. I'd personally like HOUSE OF HELL, but it's more of a Hammer Morror movie and not set in Allansia.<P> I genuinely cannot believe no-one's seriously thought about an FF movie before now. How fucking obvious an idea is that?<P> You can even take the first DUNGEONS & DRAGONS movie as a textbook example of how NOT to make the FF movie, though inexplicably I actually ENJOYED the first D&D movie. No, I don't know why, either...

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 7:24 a.m. CST

    Hammer Morror

    by spud mcspud

    The MOR version of Hammer Horror. I am barely literate today.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 7:45 a.m. CST

    I thought I had absolutely no interest in seeing this

    by Shut the Fuck up Donny

    until Massa said Andy Serkis was in it. Now I *MIGHT* have to throw a few bucks down as I just really want to continue to support him, as I feel he's a talent that's vastly underappreciated.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 8:36 a.m. CST

    Shut the Fuck up Donny

    by spud mcspud

    There's a lot of fun to be had here - Jim Broadbent has fun with the author role, Helen Mirren is wonderful as the mad aunt, and Andy Serkis is quite good fun as the villain (though Mrs-Spud-To-Be insists he's not right as the character in the book - just a little bit too likeable in the movie). There's more fun to be had spotting Brit character actors in there - John Thomson from THE FAST SHOW is virtually unrecognisable - and the whole mythology of Silvertongues and how their legend fits into the real world, particularly with bookmending and huge European second0-hand book markets etc, is very clever and neatly described. Massa's right though... something is off, something's amiss. Bettany fires on all cylinders - in parts, he's almost too good for this movie - and the poignant glimpses we get of the world of Inkheart made me wonder why the hell we never got to see it properly in the movie (the answer is they really go into the Inkworld in the second and third books, INKSPELL and INKDEATH, and they would make much better movies than the first, which is mainly setting up characters and the mythology. The last book in particular is a bloodbath, and VERY dark for younger readers!). Fraser is likeable, as always, but he's not given the best script to use, and he's quite passive, a pussy even - which you just don't buy him in after associating him in role after role of heroics and ass-kickery. Maybe he has too much baggage to effectively play Mo. His daughter Meggie is played by Eliza Bennett, who again isn't given much to work with, but (like Dakota Blue Richards in GOLDEN COMPASS) looks to be a major talent to watch. Even Sienna Guillory, wasted in ERAGON and fucking terrible in RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE, is great as Resa, Mo's missing wife. It's really Bettany who does the heavy lifting of pulling off the only clearly delineated character arc in the movie (or maybe he's just so fucking GREAT that he transcends a terrible script) and he is, as always, magnetic when he's on screen.<P> INKHEART isn't terrible, not by any means. I don't think it's a waste of money, if only for the gorgeous location shooting, the fantastic mythology that's clearly played out and the performances of Serkis and the awesome Bettany. Fraser is utterly wasted - the script is by far the worst element in this, astonishingly so as the book is fantastic - and it's a shame this will probably bury a franchise whose two sequels are just spectacular in scope, imagination and general ass-kickery. Get a new scriptwriter, a little more budget, and make a decent follow-up to this, and you'll see why this could have been great - because the sequels DEFINITELY could be.<P> Not bad... but not awesome either. Just satisfactory, if that.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 10:36 a.m. CST

    if the only critique is 'doesnt connect with audience'

    by ArcadianDS

    then you know you are reading a terrible review by someone who just doesn't care either way.<p> Mass - did you take a straw poll of the audience to see if it connected to them or not? Because I THINK what you meant to say was "doesn't connect with ME" and then you extended your personal disconnect to everyone else in the room. Maybe - just maybe, it was you would couldn't manage to connect to the movie. Next time, instead of telegraphing your own lack of opinion one way or the other onto everyone else around you, just tell us why the movie worked or why it didn't work. Leave all your assumptions regarding what goes on in everyone else's head out of it - thats just amateurish.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 10:53 a.m. CST

    Kevin Holsinger

    by yomomma

    Adult fantasy seems to be trying to merge on the small screen. Goodkind is a TV show, the Song of Ice and Fire is comming on HBO... Actually, HBO shows are better than most movies anyway, so good. LOTR is like Star Wars in the 70-80's, a massive hit that spawns a lot of 'budget' imitators and kid's movies that are ultimately forgettable. Until Hollywood is willing to go large again, we won't see the return of adult-oriented fantasy. I just hope these prequels are better than Lucas's.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 12:14 p.m. CST


    by Kid Z had Branden Fraser in it!

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 12:54 p.m. CST

    Brendan Fraser is Mo

    by Tindog42

    The author of the book, Cornelia Funke, created the character (Mo AKA Silvertongue) with Fraser as the model. The physical description is very close, there is even a reference to the Mummy movies. The father makes up a story to tell (not read from a book) his daughter that is set in a desert with the dead rising from pyramids. The second book in the series, 'Inkspell' is dedicated to Branden Fraser and credits him as a major inspiration. According to IMD the Funke strongly insisted that only Fraser could play the father. Have not yet seen the movie so can't judge is this was a good move. Somethings work better on the page.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 2:01 p.m. CST

    Ahh, Brendan Fraser

    by Organs

    That's all the explanation I need. Okay.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 2:59 p.m. CST

    I agree with ArcadianDS here.

    by The Reluctant Austinite

    Unless you're psychic, you can't speak for "the audience." Maybe they're just respectful, quiet Alamo people. And this was an early screening. Maybe they were all critics and film hipsters. I've been guilty of projecting MY feelings about a film onto an audience too. I walked out the midnight screening of "The Phantom Menace" assuming everyone thought it was as bad as I did (I didn't hear any laughing or cheering or anything really) only to start talking to people in the lobby who said they loved it.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 3:10 p.m. CST

    I could have sworn I liked this movie

    by FamousEccles

    but if the Almighty Massawyrm, says it didn't connect with me, then I must be wrong!!!! what a donkey!!!

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 3:54 p.m. CST

    I liked Lemony Snicket too

    by johnnyangelheart

    I thought what's his name was great as that character, you know. I'll never forget that movie. Just fuckin' with you man. Bill Murray was excellent.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 3:57 p.m. CST

    judging from the commercials

    by vaudeville villain

    is there any way this movie could have been anything *other* than an epic fail? seriously.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 4:32 p.m. CST

    Artemis Fowl - talk about your "wannabes"

    by Puddleglum

    I read that book and really didn't care for it. Maybe if there was no such thing as harry Potter, I might have foudn it novel and more enjoyable. Like if it was 1989 and I was 12 when I read it. But, Artemis Fowl just reeks of wanting to breate another Harry Potter sensation, but perhaps like Inkfart, it just had no heart.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 5:50 p.m. CST

    brendan frasier ..........

    by mojoman69

    Last good moive was,hhmmm,,,,Encino Man! With Samwise and Pauly Fucking Shore! How sad. Brendan Frasier eats Mummy ass, he really,really sucks.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 5:59 p.m. CST

    I felt the exact same way

    by Silverhour

    when I read the book. I acknowledged the story, but didn't really care for it. It certainly didn't inspire me to run out and get the next two. I just didn't care. I might catch this in 6 months when it's on Movie Central.

  • Jan. 22, 2009, 6:50 p.m. CST

    Brendan Frasier = "Epic Fail"

    by Puddleglum

    What happened to the guy? <p> I mean, seriously. I thought he had potential when he did School Days. And the first Mummy was a great spotlight film for him and he was good in that one. <p> In conclusion, all I have to say is COWARDS!!!!!!

  • Jan. 23, 2009, 12:07 a.m. CST


    by somethingcool

    Why has no one thought of this until now? That's a great idea.

  • Jan. 23, 2009, 12:51 a.m. CST


    by ironic_name

  • Jan. 23, 2009, 2:22 a.m. CST

    Artemis Fowl

    by Vergil

    Artemis Fowl is the best kids series written since Hank the Cow Dog. Of course, I have yet to read a Harry Potter book, so perhaps my opinion will change...

  • Jan. 23, 2009, 4:15 a.m. CST


    by The McPoyle Clan

    He's not a bad actor, but he either needs to fire his agents, or learn how to pick better projects.

  • Jan. 23, 2009, 5:06 a.m. CST

    Fraser DID show promise...

    by Rakafraker the first Mummy movie, but he should have taken his earnings and enrolled in an acting course or two. <p>Not that I hate the guy, because he is "gosh-darned" nice, but he doesn't seem to break out, or at least grow from role to role. <p>Maybe I was just eternally turned off by Encino Man (P-U!!!).