3:10 to Yuma

This week-end my wife and I watched the movie “3:10 to Yuma“. We streamed it via netflix. It’s a very good film. It’s not too long, 93 minutes or so I think. The story is pretty simple, but in that short time and with a short narrative, the film explores a lot of different aspects of human nature. The film is based on a 1953 short story that I wouldn’t mind reading, to see how it compares. We both enjoyed it quite a bit and I think it has held up well over the years. I recommend checking it out.

In 2007 a new version of “3:10 to Yuma” came out. It had two big names for the lead roles, Russel Crowe and Christian Bale. I saw it shortly after it was released in the theater with a friend of mine. At that time I had never seen the original and did not know what to expect at all. I enjoyed the film. The ending though left me a bit conflicted and confused. Now that I’ve seen the original, I see that the new version ends completely differently.

The films are also very different in how they get to that end. There is a lot more action in the newer film. The new film is longer, and I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the additional time is mostly bullets flying everywhere and such. (It’s been over 2 years since I saw the original so I could be mistaken. My memory fools me quite often.) I think Crowe did a good job of developing the bad guy and Bale was given more to work with as the hero. The original film isn’t nearly as confusing, as things are stated more directly. But even with things being simpler I think the acting from Glenn Ford and Van Heflin is better. This may reflect some prejudices of mine though. I think there’s a lot less moral ambiguity in the older version and I like it a lot better.

That said, I think the new one was a pretty good western and I’ll probably watch them both again at some point.

Karate Kid

Saw the trailer for the Karate Kid remake for the first time today. Been thinking about it quite a bit. You may be wondering why. I wouldn’t blame you.

Well the original film came out in 1984. I was 15 and I fell pretty firmly right in the target audience of that film. I loved it. I would rent it (along with a vcr) at the local grocery store and watch it repeatedly. I wasn’t as keen on the sequels, but I thought that first film was great.

So the new film intrigues me though I must confess my expectations are that at best it can be ‘almost as good’ as the first. And really I don’t expect that. I expect it to be not all that good. Why? Well, I think Jaden Smith is too young/small for starters. And based on the clip it looks like they are going to be heavy handed with the humor on his part. I don’t care for that approach. They look to also be doing the same with some of the fan service stuff.

The next issue is that another favorite facet of the original is Pat Morita’s incredible work and the character they gave him. The death of his wife in an internment camp while he’s out fighting the war – that was incredible stuff the way they brought it in. It gave real depth to what was happening and how he responded to what was going on with Ralph Machio’s character.

What intrigues me though is how they will deal with the fact that while the events are obviously going to be similar the entire cultural context is shifted. A small, black American in China. What will Mr. Miyagi (now Mr. Han) have for a back story? On the plus side, as is obvious in the trailer, the scenery is going to be just gorgeous. The most attractive set in the first film was Mr. Miyagi’s back yard. That wont be the case here.

I have to imagine that if this thing does even modestly well, that the sequel will be Jaden Smith coming back to the states and going all Kwai Chang Caine on roughs in the hood. Which of course brings up the Karate/Kung Fu issue mentioned at the site that posted the trailer. Funny. It’s going to make some people absolutely beside themselves and that cracks me up.

I do look forward to hearing someone scream out, “Sweep the leg Li Hong!” because we certainly wont be hearing, “There is no pain in this dojo! There is no fear in this dojo!…” There is no pain in this kwoon? Doesn’t have the same ring to it. (I have no idea if the term is used that way at all – I have zero knowledge of the Chinese language. Which I’m sure I’ve made apparent but just want to acknowledge that I’m aware of it.)

Perspective

My kids were talking to an adult friend of ours about movies. The kids (ages 8,7,5) proceed to explain that one movie they really like is about “A boy who dates a girl but becomes bad and wants to kill her and her whole family.” Well, we were shocked. We couldn’t for the life of us think of what that could be. We don’t own any movies like that. We wouldn’t let our kids watch something like that. So we asked quickly, “What movie was that?” and they respond, “The Sound of Music.” I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

Prince Caspian

The whole family went and saw Prince Caspian today. Let me just say that it was awesome.

Why was it awesome? Well, I think that they were able to take the intent of the book and translate it into an exciting film. That ought to be enough to let you know that they departed from the original text. The first film took a few liberties but was very true to the text. Prince Caspian wanders much further, but I would argue that it makes for a better film and was worth it. To the true fan, I guess those would be fighting words, but it’s what I think.

There are major omissions – but it’s nothing to do with length. Lewis was very careful to keep all the books to roughly the same length, and none are long. They are all meant to be read aloud to children. This means even chapters are kept to a similar and short length. (Having read them all aloud, to children, more than once myself – I appreciate the effort he took in this regard.) That length didn’t drive the omissions is further proven by the fact that there are some major additions. This is really almost a different story in some ways – though major outcomes and a few key events are untouched. What is also untouched, in my opinion, are some of the main points of the tale. The major themes still come out strongly.

This film is much more violent and much more dark than the first in this series. My kids are 8, 7 and 5 and they didn’t watch at least a couple times because they were a little scared. When it was over they said they enjoyed it and my middle daughter asked, “When it is out on dvd can we buy it and skip the scary parts?” My son, the youngest, wanted to go watch it again as soon as it was over. There was only one scene that really gave him trouble – due to a creature that was pretty creepy. For me as an adult – the film moved quickly and was full of some great action.

I think the Pevensie kids were cast very well. This really crushes the old BBC versions of the tales. I thought the acting was decent, Edmund really comes into his own and the girl that plays Lucie is just adorable. I’m so psyched for Voyage of the Dawn Treader that it isn’t funny.

Special effects were decent. Nothing new – and some bad cgi in a couple spots – but it was good. I wonder if budget is what drives that kind of thing. I’ve seen other films do better with things that were less complicated, so I assume the only difference is how much can be spent on making it right.

The Christian allegory is not as completely obvious as it is in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. At least I don’t think so. Of course it is still there – and Aslan is in it of course – and it is quite difficult to forget who he is supposed to be. For me, this is a strong part of the appeal to the story and the film. For others I guess it could be a drawback. I think it is interesting though, because I think a large part of what Lewis portrayed in this story is what makes some of my favorite recent authors so compelling. Right now I’m specifically thinking of Steven King and J.K. Rowling. It’s that theme of faith and doing the right thing, even when doing the right thing is really pretty much hopeless. (With King I think of this mostly in terms of stuff like The Stand and Dark Tower.) The protagonists can’t win on their own. They will lose. In the face of that, they don’t back down, but they push forward and it is faith that keeps them going. And that faith pays off in the end.

I think this has value and resonates with people well outside the circle that could be called Christianity. Of course, I make more specific connections and applications of the ideas in my life, but the bigger picture is there too. I guess the only people this would really bother are those who reject any external force or power that could step in and take action on behalf of the people. I would think that someone like say, Ayn Rand would find this film to be frustrating and stupid.

To sum up – I love the books, and this film is very different from the book in some ways but I believe it stays true to the heart of the story and is excellent.