Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m starting writing this up over 40 hours after I woke up to attend BNAT and I haven’t slept (solidly) once. I think I’m going to turn into William Hurt in Altered States before I end up sleeping. If that happens, then you’ll likely see a more reasoned, thought out shift in this piece as I seriously doubt I’m going to finish all my coverage in one go.
With that in mind, I want to focus on a handful of my favorite BNAT moments and not try to cover every single second, especially since Nordling already did that and I like doing as little work as possible.
The first big holy shit moment of Butt-Numb-A-Thon was when Harry not only introduced the 2nd feature of the fest as being The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but brought up Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens to share some words.
I’m in a bit of a tough spot with The Hobbit as I in no way can provide an unbiased opinion of the film, so I’m not going to log a full review for that reason. I saw way too much of the movie being made to fully separate myself from the process vs the final product.
I will say that I do love Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth universe and while it certainly does take its time to get going I find it hard to believe any LOTR fan won’t enjoy revisiting the Shire, meeting up with very old friends and a whole gaggle of new ones. I think people will look back on the first Hobbit film even more fondly over time as well because it has the large task of setting up multiple plotlines, some 14 main characters all at once and all while flipping past your eyeballs at a higher frame rate than you’re used to.
The question of 48fps or 24fps is not settled with me either, I’m afraid to say. My kneejerk is that I’m not a fan of the 48fps 3D presentation I saw. The trailers looked better lit, the sped-up motion given by higher frame rate really was jarring and made the film look a little like British TV. Whether that’s the intention I can’t tell. I can not pass any final judgment until I see the film in 24fps because it’s quite possible some of the issues I had with it were style and photographic choices made by Jackson and his DP Andrew Lesnie.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the Riddles In The Dark sequence is just as good as anything in the LOTR films and if Andy Serkis wanted to play Gollum in a movie every year until he dies I wouldn’t complain.
It also my sad duty to announce that Mr. Fredegar Chubb didn’t make the theatrical cut of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The fish I sell Bilbo did indeed get cooked up, but Mr. Chubb is nowhere to be seen. I actually caught up with Peter after the film and got an immediate, heartfelt apology for cutting my big scene followed by a hearty promise that Fredegar Chubb will make a triumphant appearance in the eventual Extended Edition.
He also mentioned that the EE will be 20-25 minutes longer than the theatrical cut, but the real big news of the night is, of course, that the fish monger scene is in the film.
Peter answered a lot of questions from the audience about 48fps and said that he believes it’s an interesting experiment, but that high frame rate also only amounted to about 5% of the worldwide theatrical distribution of the film and that he didn’t feel everyone will like it. Basically he likes that there are multiple choices out there (2D and 3D 24fps, 2D and 3D 48fps and IMAX 3D for example) and the audiences will decide which they like the most.
He was also asked about Guillermo del Toro’s involvement and how much of it survived to the film we’ll be seeing and responded with a very frank and reasonable statement that Guillermo’s input was mainly in the first draft of the script, input into the characters and structure of the films and that Peter essentially went back to the drawing board in terms of design when Guillermo left. “The only person who should be making a Guillermo del Toro-looking movie is Guillermo del Toro,” Jackson said.
Speaking of Guillermo, a few hours later Guillermo showed up with the director and co-producer of Mama to screen and talk about that film as well as show some Pacific Rim stuff.
There were only three premieres (and one that I can’t talk about, that only goes by the codename Brain Damage and is technically a new movie, but falls hardcore in that “so bad it’s good” line of movies that I don’t really believe in… so I just thought it was hard to get through and found my only enjoyment of it was in sharing the war stories of surviving it with my fellow BNATers later): The Hobbit, Mama and Walter Hill’s Bullet to the Head. Mama was the biggest surprise of the night.
Mama was the biggest surprise of the night for me. I love that Guillermo shepherds young filmmakers whose visions fall within his personal passions. So you get movies like The Orphanage and now Mama that have del Toro’s fingerprints on them, but aren’t just rehashes of his personal vision.
The biggest success of Mama is in how we are made to empathize with everybody in the movie, whether it’s the punk rock bassist turned reluctant parental guardian played with great fun and realistic humanity by Jessica Chastain, the ex-feral girls who come to live with her (played by Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse) or even Mama herself, a combination of Javier Botet’s unique movement work (he also played the creepy possessed big baddie in the REC films) and Hannah Cheesman’s face… twisted to horror movie standards, of course. No offense meant to Ms. Cheesman!
It is obvious that director Andres Muschietti and co-writers Neil Cross and Barbara Muschietti share Guillermo’s passion of injecting sympathy into movie monsters as Mama is creepy, insane, pissed off, scary and unpredictable, but also sad, lost and oddly protective. Mama is one of the most interesting new movie monsters to make its way to the screen in years.
Chastain makes a lot of her character, giving her multiple layers as she’s saddled with more and more responsibility for these young girls. What Luke Skywalker was to reluctant hero Chastain’s Annabel is to reluctant mother. Her arc is surprisingly emotional and multilayered for a genre film.
She also gets one of the best “smart people doing smart things in a horror movie” moments I’ve seen in recent years when she hears something move in a closet and young Victoria (Charpentier) tells her not to investigate it. I will say no more about that moment.
The only one to get the short end of the stick is Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who takes a backseat about halfway through the film and feels surprisingly unimportant for the lead guardian character he started off as, but Annabel is the more interesting arc so I didn’t mourn that too much.
Visually the flick is sharp. Great cinematography, some incredibly effective creepy movement techniques with Mama and the feral children and some great design work on the monster. Mama’s a bit more digital than I’d like, but she’s so well designed and executed that I found myself not being as harsh as I tend to be with CG in horror.
And speaking of horror, I want to get to the Evil Dead footage we saw during the night’s festivities before I crash (and that’s happening super soon).
I may or may not have some interesting things to say about Fede Alvarez’s overall take on remaking/rebooting/rewhatevering Evil Dead, but that will have to wait until an embargo lift. I can, however, talk about the scene they showed us at BNAT.
Essentially we saw a Deadite transformation, which is hinted to us as one of the girls in the movie is in the bathroom looking for a needle (insulin, maybe?) and catches a glimpse of her face completely Deadite-d out, cheek missing, eyes all creepy, etc.
The takeover happens and we then find Lou Taylor Pucci looking for this girl, entering the bathroom and hearing a wet sawing sound (which is never a good thing to hear in movies or real life).
Of course he finds this girl cutting her face off with a broken mirror shard and then slips on a chunk of her cheek as the deadite attacks, stabbing him with the mirror shard and then going for the eyes with the needle. His thick glasses deflect most of the needle attacks, but it’s vicious and eventually we find out he didn’t make it out completely unscathed when he kicks the deadite off him and backs into a corner, realizing the needle has broken off in the baggy flesh area underneath his eye.
We get an extreme close up of of Pucci pulling this needle out and then bashing this girl’s brain in with a hunk of sink broken off during the fight, much to the horror of one of his friends who comes into the bathroom to find the horror show aftermath.
The camerawork was very fluid, with tons of motion throughout this sequence. Maybe not 100% Raimi, but definitely in the Evil Dead visual wheelhouse. The tone was what was interesting to me. They seem to be going for really hardcore imagery, practical gore effects and an overall viciousness I wasn’t expecting.
Time will tell if any of the fun of the series (even that first movie, as serious as it was compared to its sequels, had a certain fantasy fun factor) makes into this film or if it’s just dire from beginning to end, but either way I gotta say I liked what I saw.
If I had slept at all post-BNAT I’d finish my coverage out here, including looks at the many vintage titles and the rest of the sneak peaks (including World War Z’s opening 8 minutes, which was much better than the trailer, and the first trailer for Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain), but I did not and will not be able to finish tonight.
So stay tuned for my wrap up in the next 24-ish hours!