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Film: Recent Movies

Dan, Hector & Shrek

Some thoughts on movies I’ve seen over the past week:

Timecrimes

Timecrimes is a Spanish time travel film on a fairly small scale (the cast is tiny), focusing on a man getting caught up in a time travel event and trying to minimise the damage it does to his life. Ultimately it never tries to explain the time paradox at its core, and to explain that but avoid spoilers I’ll explain it with reference to an episode of Star Trek: Voyager that did something vaguely similar:

In the episode, Time and Again, Voyager discovers evidence of a massive disaster on a planet, and upon visiting the ruins several of the crew are teleported back in time to before it happened. In the end they discover that it’s their presence that causes the disaster and naturally they’re able to save the day and make it so it never happened, changing the timeline so that they never even visited the planet (being a ‘pre-warp civilisation’ the crew are forbidden from visiting).

The issue there though is that it means there’s no cause. Voyager visits the planet because of the disaster, but the disaster happens because Voyager visits the planet. Neither event can happen before the other, so it should never have happened. If I remember the episode correctly the crew do bring that up at the end, but Janeway tells them it’s easier not to think about it and that she hates time travel (the Star Trek equivalent of Mystery Science Theater 3000’s “just repeat to yourself it’s just a show, I should really just relax”).

The paradox in Timecrimes isn’t really relevant to the story though so it’s not a major issue, it’s an interesting time travel story and I really enjoyed it.

Dan in Real Life

I much prefer Steve Carrell in his more understated comedy roles like this and Little Miss Sunshine (especially over tragedies like Evan Almighty). In this one he plays the titular Dan, who takes his three daughters to the annual family reunion and while there has a chance encounter with a woman that helps him start to move on from the death of his wife, only to discover she’s his brother’s new girlfriend. Trapped together for the next several days, lots of awkwardness ensues as they both try to act like they don’t have feelings for eachother.

It’s a good central performance from Carrell, and even though it shares a lot of its DNA with romantic comedies that focus on that initial attraction and uncertainty, the kind where finally getting together or getting married is considered a Happy Ending rather than the first early days of a relationship where anything could go wrong, I still liked it a lot.

Shrek Forever After

I’m not a big fan of Dreamworks. Maybe things would be different if they weren’t directly competing with a marvel like Pixar, whose fantastic films really show up Dreamworks’ efforts for the throwaway childrens’ films they are, all zany antics, pop culture references and predictable plots. While the first two Shrek films weren’t bad I didn’t think they were particularly great either, but Shrek the Third was dull and I really wasn’t looking forward to the fourth, only going because it was with a couple of relatives.

To my surprise Shrek Forever After wasn’t bad. It’s not perfect of course and falls well short of being great, but it was watchable. It does some odd thing though, with the central plot being that Shrek hates his life and his family so much that he makes a deal with the shady Rumplestiltskin to let him have one day where he’s alone and hated again. Rumplestiltskin hates Shrek for rescuing Fiona, as that scuppered a deal he was making with Fiona’s parents to trade the kingdom in exchange for curing her of her curse. He uses the deal to wipe Shrek from history, changing reality into one where Fiona wasn’t rescued, her parents made the deal and Rumplestiltskin became king, leaving Shrek with just hours to set things right before he fades from existence forever (and I’m sure you can figure out how it ends).

As a plot it doesn’t quite make sense. In the original film Shrek didn’t rescue Fiona because he was seeking true love, he was hired by Lord Farquaad because he was looking for a wife and Shrek wanted to be left alone. Shrek wasn’t the only contender for the role of her rescuer and if he hadn’t existed one of the knights he defeated would have gone instead. Even if she wouldn’t have been rescued in time to stop her parents making the deal it’s explained later on that she was imprisoned for a long time, eventually having to rescue herself, when surely she would have been rescued by Farquaad’s knights, married him and maybe even become permanently human (assuming she felt marrying Farquaad was True Love).

It’s not worth dwelling on though because mostly the writers just wanted to do the whole It’s a Wonderful Life thing, and while it’s still generally as forgettable as a lot of Dreamworks’ output I didn’t hate it.

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  1. August 16, 2010 at 17:05

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