My Film Week In Review | 13 Ft. The Interview
So, The Interview… you may have heard of it? The film that caused all the outrage from the people of North Korea? The film that led to the Sony hack which released tonnes of confidential information? The film that was pulled from release due to fears that cinemas would be bombed? Well. I watched it… and I wasn’t blown up. In fact I wasn’t even blown away.
Described as a “war-crime” by North Korea, The Interview tells the story of fed-up reporter/TV producer (Seth Rogen) and his TV presenter colleague (James Franco) as they get an opportunity to interview Kim Jong-Un, the evil, despotic leader of North Korea. On hearing this, the CIA see an opportunity to have him assassinated by the hapless TV duo. While I am a big fan of Rogen and Franco, with Pineapple Express and This Is The End being two of the funniest films of the past decade, I have to concede that The Interview lacks the same edge and flippant humour found in many of their previous works, with many jokes simply falling flat and the endless Lord of the Rings references getting old after about two minutes. There are moments of brilliance, mostly delivered by Randall Park who plays the dictator Kim Jong-Un, but they don’t counteract the undisciplined and poorly derived jokes spread throughout.
In these turbulent times and continuing debates about free speech, I think it was an utter mistake that Sony ever pulled this film from release. The coverage of the hack and media hype surrounding the film would have meant a box office smash for the company, however now they have a mildly successful film, and a severely dented reputation. Sony succumbed to the pressure of an impotent dictatorship and once the credits roll, you kinda have to ask yourself if it was worth it. There are no true victories here, bar the propagandist victory the North Korean regime will undoubtedly sell to its people. Luckily for Kim Jong-Un, the film missed its chances to incisively ridicule and decisively satirise the totalitarian leader and his regime, leaving only a poor film and a dark chapter in its place.
Into Eternity: A Film for the Future (2010) Dir. Michael Madsen
This strangely hypnotic and thoroughly brilliant documentary looks at the process of nuclear waste disposal and in particular at the Onkalo deep geological repository for nuclear waste located on a remote, geologically inert Finnish Island called Olkiluoto. This repository is in the process of being built and when complete it will begin to fill with copper capsules containing the hazardous nuclear waste. By 2140 the 700m deep repository will be full and all shafts and access to it will be destroyed. But it will take 100,000 years before the nuclear waste is safe, so how do we ensure that nobody will disturb the site for all this time?
This is the main hypothesis raised by Danish director Michael Madsen (no, not yer man from Reservoir Dogs!) who explores the idea of how to safeguard something for eternity and whether it is just madness to assume that the structure will last 100,000 years (considering the Pyramids in Giza are a mere 5,000 years old.) The film’s narration is structured as a letter to the beings of a distant Earth and raises metaphorical and sociological questions about how we treat our Earth and how we perceive our own knowledge and abilities. One of the main points of debate is how do we communicate with future beings and some argue that the area above the repository should be covered in horrible looking structures and evil architecture as a warning for people to stay away. Others argue that Edvard Munch’s The Scream is a perfect symbol to warn our future descendants from disturbing the site, while others argue that no markers should be left at all and all memory of the repository should be wiped clear from the memories of future generations so that if anyone happens upon it, it will be by pure chance.
The film is shot wonderfully with long slow takes and perfectly composed, almost sci-fi landscapes, backed by a thoughtful, rolling narration. Madsen’s influences are clear and it’s as if Herzog met Kubrick in terms of style and delivery. Luckily Into Eternity is available to watch online and is worth your time, and consideration.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) Dir. Peter Jackson
The concluding part of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy picks up where the action ends in The Desolation of Smaug and pretty much doesn’t stop for its near 144 minute running time. Many felt the previous two films in the trilogy were lacking action set pieces and were a bit stretched furthering comment that Jackson’s decision to extend his intended two Hobbit films into a trilogy was a bad and somewhat cynical move. Bilbo Baggins probably had a premonition in the first Lord of the Rings film when he said “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” about what was to come with The Hobbit trilogy.
But as a fan of both the Lord of the Rings book and trilogy and as a fan of The Hobbit book and films, I have to admit I was sad as the credits began to roll on the final film in Peter Jackson’s 15 year odyssey into Middle Earth. Even though the first two Hobbit films did lack action, it is such an immersive world that is so well rendered and designed that the escape factor negates the slow pacing throughout. Jackson’s world is so well defined that the 20 or so hours you can spend in there (amongst the 6 Middle Earth films) is time well spent, and it is hard to see someone else doing as good a job on these films as Jackson did. He has stated that he will not return to Middle Earth, and The Battle of the Five Armies is a fantastic way to end his journey.
With little time to catch your breath, the film capitalises on the main action found in the book (which, in fitting with Mr. Jackson stretching policy, comprises of a single chapter told in hindsight) and weaves a fast paced conclusion to the story with simplicity and heart. Whereas the final Lord of the Rings film Return of the King took an age to conclude, The Battle of the Five Armies wraps up the story of Bilbo’s journey sweetly and soundly. It is fitting that Peter Jackson’s magnificent series of Middle Earth films finishes on a high note, and while he may never make another film about Hobbits and Dwarves, he has made 20 hours of fantasy escapism of the highest order and it will be these films that cement his legacy as a master of adventure storytelling and visionary detail.