Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Monsters vs. Aliens


Speaking of 3D … Drive-ins don’t do 3D (they’d lose too many glasses), so we had to make do with the flat-screen version of this one. Just as well. How many times do you want to see a paddleball flying into your face? When this came out I heard a radio interview with the director. He emphasized that he didn’t want to do the same old, same old with 3D, didn’t want to have objects projecting from the screen purely for the purpose of reminding the audience they were seeing a 3D movie. So what does the first reviewer I read have to say? That every few minutes something comes flying out of the screen at you. And he was right. Of course, in the 2D version we saw nothing comes flying out, but you do tend to notice that that little red ball would come flying out if you had those damn glasses on, and that the only reason the character is playing with a paddleball at all is to demonstrate 3D, as if anybody needed a demo at this point.
As I write this, Pixar’s 2009 summer movie, Up, is a few weeks away from opening, and it’s going to be in 3D. I’m divided about whether I want to see it that way or not. I am hopeful that Pixar will use the process in a more intelligent way, like Alfred Hitchcock did in Dial M For Murder, back during the original 3D craze that turned out to be just a fad. But there’s the matter of color, and brightness. Those polarized glasses are certainly 1000% better than those awful red/blue cardboard things, but they are still pretty dark. Do I really want to wear sunglasses to watch a movie?
As for MvA … it’s just another slam-bang action film with no real heart. Contrast it to Pixar films and Disney films, and it comes off very badly. Kids will be amused, I’m sure, and the writers tried to get adults interested with a lot of jokes and movie references. Some of them are even funny, but I wasn’t laughing much. There is one good action sequence on the Golden Gate bridge involving the 50-foot woman and the big alien robot. Other than that, it’s entirely forgettable.
I can’t end this one without registering once more my protest concerning the hiring of movie stars to voice characters in animated movies. I know it’s far too late to go back to the world where voice actors like Mel Blanc, Paul Frees, June Foray, Stan Freberg, and many others made a living doing voices without being marquee names. Back then, nobody went to an animated movie and expected to see A-list names in the credits, and nobody seemed to mind. These artists labored mostly in anonymity … but they labored. Now those days are gone. You mention a new animated film and the first thing people want to know is, “Who’s in it?” When you think about it, it’s pretty silly. Very few actors have voices so distinctive that you instantly say, “Why, that’s Stephen Colbert as the president!” (It didn’t sound like him at all.) If you didn’t see it in the credits, if it wasn’t plastered all over the promotional material that Reese Witherspoon and Seth Rogan and Hugh Laurie and Kiefer Sutherland are in this movie, most of us would never, never guess it. So what is the effect of this insistence that million-dollar names voice cartoon characters? Why, it means the cartoons cost many millions of dollars more to make. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of actors out there who would be just as good, and often a lot better, and they’d work for relative peanuts, believe me. More important, they’d get some work, that they need, instead of all that money being squandered on Big Names who do not need it.
I know this is a lost cause. I know that celebrity names in animated films is here to stay, because the people who make them think that those names draw people to the box office. And they’re probably right. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.