Bren’s writing and movies blog

Because I have an opinion about creativity and know how to use it

Posts Tagged ‘movie critique’

A more nuanced critique of “In the King’s Name”

Posted by brenatevi on July 31, 2008

So I watched “In the King’s Name” with my friend Josh, and presented a scathing and hilarious (or so I’ve been told) review of that movie. Yet, as Josh said, “The great thing about very bad movies is that it shows you what NOT to do.” So here’s a more serious, and much less profane, look at King’s Name (Don’t even hover the mouse cursor over this link, because I call it my evil blog for a very good reason.)

Things I learned not to do from King’s Name.

1) Don’t use Semi-important Characters. It isn’t the first thing I’ve learned, but I think it’s the most tragic. Leelee Sobieski is a fine actress, yet in this movie, I really have no idea what the point of her character. She seems like a strange combination of Eve, Gandalf, and a damsel in distress (the first scene is her and Ray Liotta in bed, with some very odd things happening with Ray’s face.) The character was everywhere in terms of development, and it was very hard to sympathize with her at all because I had no idea where they taking the character next. What I was hoping for was Leelee to stomp into the chambers and kick Ray’s butt from here to eternity. (I don’t even remember the character’s name… actually, I can’t remember any of the charaters’ names, except for Farmer.) Instead, she stopped two spells, in the course of thirty seconds… Not exactly the show stopping display of wizarding I was hoping for.

2) Don’t try too much with a script. I’m writing by the seat of my pants, at 7am, so it’s quasi-excusable (I could wait, but it’s here and now, and I probably won’t sleep…) but for a movie, figure out where you are going, and try to tie your characters in better. There were four characters in the room at the end, and there wasn’t enough to do with them all at that point. As I type this out, I realized what they should have done: the old magus was kept around waaaaaay too long. He should have been Obi Waned earlier in the movie, so that Leelee’s character was the one that faced Ray’s character in the duel, or alternatively, made Ray’s character crazy powerful, so that he was sword fighting Farmer at the same time he was wizard dueling Leelee… It would have fixed a problem with the fight between Farmer and Ray, where Ray wasn’t using his powers at all, leading to “Playing with your prey” syndrome, something a insane wizard might do, but to an intelligent viewer it is as annoying as hell. On the other hand, my solution might have had the exact opposite effect, “Way too much happening.”

3) Ye gods, watch the edits. There was a scene where Farmer and friends were making their way through a forest, and the scene cut to black three or four times. We were like, “What the hell?” I know what they were trying to pull, using the cuts to simulate passing of time. There are smarter ways of doing it, and the first time everyone watched the cuts they should have said, “Whoa, that didn’t work.” And they did funky cuts in both big battles, which made an unwatchable mess even worse, and several other times (only once did it work, and that was when Ray was messing with Claire’s head, but that scene was supposed to be jarring.) I think this might be the problem with the entire movie. I remember from reading about Lucas’s attempts to edit Empire Strikes Back closer to his vision in the Secret History of Star Wars. Everyone, including Lucas, agreed that his edits were unworkable. I wonder if what was originally shot might have been much better than what ended up in the theaters. I also wonder if the actors ever watched the movie and said, “Uh, that isn’t the movie I acted in.” Or they knew it was crap, they were under contract, and they made the best of a bad situation.

4) Try to make the battles make some sense. Choreography is very, very, VERY important in movies with battles. This looked like people were just swinging swords at each other (although I did get a laugh out of the so-called “looting” scene, where an old lady was beating at a orc… err, trog? with a broom. Made as much sense as everything else.) And there were too many parts that made no sense in the grand scheme of a battle. In real life, while on the battlefield everything is chaotic, there is at least a very basic organization, “This unit is here, that unit is there, this is this army’s objective, that is that army’s objective.” Here… it was like a mosh pit with swords, and that’s insulting mosh pits. I could go on and on and on about the battles (what in the bleeding hell was the point of the leaders fight by themselves? And not to mention Farmer’s acrobatics when he was pulling turnips in the beginning…)

And there’s more if I wanted to waste the time, but it’s pointless. I think if they had done better with just those four points, the movie would have been much more engaging. I feel sorry more for the actors, all of whom I know could have turned in a much better performance with a better director, and a tighter script. Hell, I could have done better, and I’m a neophyte hack (although I’m working on improving that.)


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