Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sorcerer's Apprentice

“Sorcerer’s Apprentice” really isn’t worth writing about. Honestly, folks are better off just watching the preview as the most ‘exciting’ bits of the movie are in there. As there are no surprises at all either in plot or character, nothing will be lost by missing out on the other 90 minutes of film. I didn’t expect much from this, nothing much at all. The visuals were nice enough, I suppose, but the movie was every bit the case of throwing money at the screen and hoping enough of it will stick. Bruckheimer movies all seem to suffer from a single, crippling ailment; that of overly complicated plots.

There are still a few things I would choose to do to streamline this movie and give it some kind of flow. As it stands now, it smashes into rocks, so to speak, seeming to be more a collection of details than something resembling a cohesive whole.

When one is given a history lesson as the start of a film, one knows that one is in store for some choppy storytelling. I would suggest that the first thing that happens is that the monologue at the beginning of the film simply be replaced with the ‘final’ battle between Merlin, Morgana and the others. The audience isn’t so stupid that they will be unable to figure out everyone’s place and character. As the old English professor’s addage goes, "show, don’t tell."

Next thing I would do is to totally chop off the next part of the film which depicts our hero, David at ten years of age. We don’t need this. Yes, it sets up his fixation on the Becky character but it takes up time we don’t need to spend. There is no training here, nothing is really lost. All this section of the film does is make us wait for the next bit. This time would be far better used for character development later on so that we might have a chance of caring about these people. Right now, we really don’t. And as all of the characters are clear archetypes, we don’t need to know WHY David might be a nerd. It’s enough that he is. We get it. Move along.

I could also make an argument here for removing the Becky character all together. Here’s the thing; the focus of the film should either be that of the apprentice learning from the master to overcome evil OR it should be the love story between Becky and David (reflected through that of Balthazar and what’s her name). As is often the case when the love story isn’t the focus of the story, this one feels tacked on and is barely explored. Again, it wastes screen time that could easily be devoted to something more interesting. Also, there is nothing here that Becky does that couldn’t be accomplished by David’s best friend and roommate. Since all she really accomplishes is to kick a satellite antenna out of the way, I can’t say her part is particularly deep. Cutting her out, I’m sure would be unpopular on the executive level as it would be seen as removing the interest for a part of the potential audience. Instead, since there is the feeling that a love story HAS to be a part of things, we get a watered down one thrown in with yet another un-fleshed out character. Cut her out. Don’t need her. Or make her and David’s relationship the center of the story and rewrite.

David’s progress seems amazingly fast, especially considering the size of the book he’s supposed to learn from. All the while, we’re told that there is going to be a moment when he gets over himself, gets some confidence and learns to cast magic without the use of a ring. Ok. So, telling us this over and over only makes that moment, when it comes, less exciting. All that time wasted on the tacked on love story could instead have been used to show David’s training, making it seem like something he actually had to work at instead of what appeared to be a minor annoyance in the way of him getting a date.

Magic is tough stuff to deal with in movies. For the audience to feel any kind of conflict is actually present, it should have some kind of internal logic, should have some kind of cost and most of all, should not look as if anyone who can wield it should be running foreign countries. There is nothing subtle about magical spells in this movie at all, with the one exception of David and Balthazar disguised as cops at the end of the situation in Chinatown. Calm it down, way down. Make it hard to do. Make BIG things even harder to do. Let us know that there’s a cost of some kind. Show us why these people aren’t running things or sitting on mounds of stolen treasure or puppet-stringing presidents and kings.

There is NO motivation for Morgana at all. She’s going to escape and destroy the world. Why? What does she get out of it? All we know is that she’s “EVIL,” and I suppose she is. It’s hard to be afraid of her, or really worry about her at all when the space she occupies is about as large as that of a chess piece. Is she crazy? Does destroying the world do something for her? Is she appeasing a demon? Does she get power? Is she Queen of all that is Evil? No idea. As such, we don’t care and never worry that she will actually succeed. Again, some of the time wasted on the love story could have been used to define her. I think there should be a balance between a protagonist and its opposite, that characters with equal definition will make for a better conflict. Even if the screen time isn’t strictly equal, something a lot more close than exists here would help a great deal.

That’s probably more than this movie deserves. I saw it last night, it was still fresh in my mind and I haven’t posted in awhile. It seems to me that more time and effort spent on story would also equate to less money wasted on trying to patch together a lousy story and would also likely equal more profits in the end. I’m speaking from the outside here, but am I wrong?