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IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS, part one.

This is a new semi-regular thing I’ll be doing whenever I feel like it, not unlike my “Poetical Excursions”. We’ve all had the experience of seeing a movie and noticing a small detail that either enhances the mood of the film or imagination of its setting (these are almost always intentional), or that detracts from the goings-on in a bad way (these are not). Basically, in this mini-series I will simply cite some details that I’ve noticed in films I’ve seen, for good or ill. These details won’t always reflect on my overall opinion of a film, however; I may cite a detail that I love in a film I dislike, or vice-versa.

So, here we go….

GOOD: Dumbo. In the film’s very last scene, after Dumbo has learned how to fly with his ears and has saved the circus and become a celebrity, he is flying along behind his circus train while his mother, the previously harshly-treated Mrs. Jumbo, relaxes in style in her new luxury car. As the music climaxes, Dumbo swoops down into his mother’s waiting arms, and returns her embrace by wrapping his immense ears around her. I love that.

BAD: Contact. There are a few grating details in this film, which all arise from the digital creations of things that weren’t there to begin with. Now, I can deal with actual CNN personalities appearing in the film, although I would really rather that Bob Zemeckis and the film’s crew had gone the way of, say, The West Wing and created their own White House Press Corps and news reporters. Seeing Bernard Shaw report on fictional events in the film is jarring. Equally jarring are the appearances by Bill Clinton, who was President at the time of the film’s making. They use actual speeches of his, with the words edited so as to reflect the President’s reaction to the film’s events, but still the whole thing seems fake. And finally, there are some aerial tracking shots over the immense crowds that gather at the VLA in New Mexico and Cape Canaveral for the testing of The Machine. In these shots, the same green tent appears…over and over and over. Ugh.

GOOD: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. After the big chase through the Coruscant skyline, which began when Obi Wan Kenobi lept through a glass window to grab onto the flying assassin droid, some worker droids are shown replacing the glass. A lovely touch.

BAD: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Now, you’d think that a filmmaker of George Lucas’s attention to visual detail would notice the fact that late in the film, Padme presses the exact same button on her ship’s control panel to do completely different things. This is not unlike the fact that the “Fire Phasers” button on Star Trek is rarely in the same place twice.

BAD: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Speaking of Trek, how can the bridge of the Klingon Bird of Prey in STIV be completely different from the bridge of the Bird of Prey in the preceding STIII: The Search For Spock, when they’re the same ship? Were Kirk and crew sufficiently bored during their time on Vulcan that they rebuilt the bridge and still left it looking like a Klingon bridge?

GOOD: Superman. When Lois Lane is hanging for dear life from the helicopter that has crashed on the roof of the Daily Planet building, Clark Kent exits the building at street level. Something flutters to the ground behind him, and it turns out to be Lois’s hat. That’s pretty good, as is Clark’s small expression of frustration when he looks for someplace to change into Superman and notices that phone booths have been replaced by phones-on-poles.

BAD: Raiders of the Lost Ark. When Indy and Sallah take the headpiece of the Staff of Ra to the Imam for deciphering, they are told that the staff is to be “six qadam high”. (I have no idea how that unit of measure is really spelled, by the way.) Sallah helpfully puts in that this is about seventy-two inches, which we can deduce is six feet. Therefore, one “qadam” equals one foot. But on the reverse of the headpiece is the direction to subtract one “qadam” to “honor the Hebrew God whose Ark this is”. That makes for a five-foot staff. So far, so good — until the actual scene in the Map Room, where the Staff of Ra is shown to be at least six inches taller than Indy himself. So, are we to conclude that Indy’s height is four foot six?

Tune in again….

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