Thursday, January 24, 2013

2012 Catch Up (Les Misérables / Zero Dark Thirty)

Les Misérables (2012)

Director: Tom Hooper
Writers: Claude-Michel Schönberg (book), Alain Boublil (book), Victor Hugo (novel), Herbert Kretzmer (lyrics), Jean-Marc Natel (original: French text), James Fenton (additional text), and William Nicholson (screenplay)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway

A very poor adaptation of some very strong source material. Obviously, the story and characters are great but the direction, casting and lazy adaptation completely let it down. When I say "lazy adaptation," I primarily mean choosing to keep the sung dialogue which doesn't translate well to film and totally ignoring the possibilities that a film gives over a stage production (using background images, flashbacks, etc to enhance the narrative in the songs). Jackman and Crowe are obviously in way over their heads when it comes to actually pulling off the singing required and aren't aided at all by the choice to record live on set and in extreme close-up for 90% of the film. It is the most lazily directed film I've seen in a while - I was glad when the non-solo songs came around because it actually forced Hooper to move the camera a bit. Most of the supporting cast is good (particularly Hathaway and Barks), which saves this from being a total disaster. Still a major disappointment.

Score: 3 / 10

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal (screenplay)
Stars: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton and Chris Pratt

I'd have to say that this is probably the best adaptation of this material that I could have really hoped for. A decade-long manhunt is documentary fodder, not material upon which to base a traditional Hollywood drama. The story is laid out well, the acting is solid and the direction and pacing are very good. The only place where this movie really falls short for me is in the script, which is fine from a plotting perspective, but weak in the characterization and dialogue departments. Most people just feel as though they are there to fulfill their purpose in the story and don't exist outside of the frame of the shot. A little more depth would have been nice and would have allowed for further investment in Maya's personal struggle, rather than just the overarching goal. The final raid is pretty damn tense and I did appreciate the apolitical stance taken, as the filmmakers avoid both propaganda-style flag waving and any sort of direct condemnation. It's very much a "here it is, think of it what you will." I liked that.

Score: 7 / 10

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