The sin of repetition
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (MA15+) National release The Infinite Man (MA15+) Limited release The Maze Runner (M) National release
FOR fans of comic books and graphic novels, Frank Miller is something of a superstar, not least for his Sin City series, a strikingly designed pastiche of 1940s film noir, heavily influenced by Raymond Chandler and other writers of the period, that he began in 1991. In 2005, Miller co-directed, with multi-talented Robert Rodriguez, a well-received film based on three of the stories and titled, simply, Sin City. Nine years later Miller, Rodriguez and several members of the original cast have returned for
a belated sequel that, although it encompasses four stories in contrast to the original’s three, is about 20 minutes shorter.
Once again, the entire film was filmed in a studio against a green screen; once again some of the characters, like Mickey Rourke’s hulking Marv, have undergone such drastic makeup that they’re virtually unrecognisable; and once again there’s a high level of extreme violence. So despite the gap of almost a decade between the two films, they could be shown together as one long feature and you’d hardly notice the difference, except that the character of Dwight, once played by Clive Owen, is now played by Josh Brolin.
The films stick very closely to the look of the original comic books, which were used as storyboards during production. The images are in stark black and white, with blotches of colour (often red for blood or yellow for the hair of the latest femme fatale to crop up); the hard-boiled narration and dialogue is right out of Chandler on a bad day. There are some startling moments: a sideways shot of Eva Green, naked, diving into a swimming pool uses a mirror effect with uncannily beautiful results. Fans will thrill to the accuracy with which Rodriguez (once again credited as having “shot and cut” the film, as well as having contributed to the music score) and Miller have transposed the material from page to screen.
Yet the film isn’t as impressive as its predecessor because, despite its shorter running time, it seems repetitive. There are too many brutal beatings, including eye gouging; too many untrustworthy female characters; too many killings. Returning as Roark, the corrupt politician, Powers Boothe gives perhaps the best performance in a film where acting doesn’t count for
The Maze Runner, much. Brolin and Joseph Gordon-Levitt portray fall guys with what charm they can muster under battered facades. Green oozes sex, and is rarely clothed, as a manipulative and lethal wife, while Jessica Alba takes centre stage in the fourth story.
There’s a bleak beauty to all of this, but also there’s a reliance on stereotypes, male and female, that, while they come directly from the source material, are starting to become irritating. Perhaps that’s why the film has so far not been as successful as its predecessor.
is a cleverly constructed and well-acted Australian sci-fi drama about a lovesick fellow who invents a time machine so that he can have a second chance to win over the girl he loves. Working with the most basic ingredients — three actors, a single location — writereditor-director Hugh Sullivan has fashioned an ingenious film although by its very nature and design it becomes repetitive the longer it plays.
Dean (Josh McConville) brings Lana (Hannah Marshall) to the same seaside motel where they enjoyed a wonderful time a year before. Since then, we gather, things haven’t been so good between them, and Dean is obsessed with recreating the previous experience in every detail. But the motel is derelict and empty (why didn’t Dean book in advance?) and there’s an intruder out to spoil Dean’s idea of heaven: Terry (Alex Dimitriades) is Lana’s ex-boyfriend, and she seems quite pleased to see him.
So the weekend is a disaster, but Dean doesn’t give up. A year later he’s invented a time machine (don’t ask) and sets out to replay what happened before but to make it work this time. It all gets pretty confusing when he conjures up two Lanas and two Deans (and, eventually, two Terrys) and finds himself jealous of himself.
Does this make sense? The good news is that Sullivan juggles a plot fraught with relentless complexities and presents it with such skill. There’s a scene in which one version of Dean finally achieves everything he wanted with Lana, while another version of Dean (the real one?) spies on them in an agony of jealousy. But of course the Lana he’s spying on might not be the real Lana at all. It’s fun trying to sort all this out in a film that seems to be demanding more than one viewing to clarify the details, but that’s how cult movies are made and this has “cult movie” written all over it. Full marks to Sullivan and his team for creating this bizarre puzzle of a movie, even though the use of the single location and the endlessly repetitive (with variations) plot inevitably becomes over-familiar as it proceeds. LIKE The Giver last week, is a movie adaptation of the first in a series of YA (young adult) books about a dystopian future. This literary phenomenon, with its passionate devotees, is providing plenty of pre-sold material for Hollywood, but the more we see of films like The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Giver the more they start looking and sounding alike.
The film, like James Dashner’s novel, published in 2009, begins when Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) finds himself trapped in some sort of cage in which, accompanied by loud noises, he’s being transported somewhere. When he arrives in The Glade, he can remember nothing of his past (at first he can’t even remember his name) but he finds himself among a group of young men of various ages (one, Chuck, played by Blake Cooper, a good deal younger) who have become reconciled to being trapped in this mysterious place, surrounded by impenetrable cliffs — impenetrable except for the portal that opens from time to time and leads to The Maze, where lurk nasty creatures known as The Grievers that seem like a cross between an octopus and a tarantula, with the creature from Alien somewhere in their genes.
Thomas is that typically American hero who refuses to accept the status quo and who dares to venture into The Maze. The confrontations that follow are not particularly well handled by first-time director Wes Ball, whose commitment to over-editing leads to confusion. Nor does the late arrival of Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) add a great deal to the conventional story, or the even later appearance of Patricia Clarkson, whose presence is the subject of plot developments that shouldn’t be revealed.
The increasing sameness of these films (an evil future society, a young hero/heroine who must both confront the authorities and escape from them) is becoming pretty familiar, and since The Maze Runner ends with the story unfinished the sequel can’t be far behind. I’m not holding my breath.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in
above; Dylan O’Brien in