Letter From The Editor - Issue 58 - August 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
February 2009

Spilled 'Ink'

Something is amiss in 'Inkheart,' and it's not the "fairy tales coming to life" thing

Inkheart
Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Iain Softley
Screenplay: David Lindsay-Abaire, based on the novel by Cornelia Funke
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Eliza Bennett, Paul Bettany, Andy Serkis, Helen Mirren, Sienna Guillory, Rafi Gavron and Jim Broadbent
Rated PG / 1 hour, 46 minutes
(out of four)

Oh, bother. This again?

How is it that a movie featuring fire-breathers, killer cyclones, medieval mercenaries, unicorns, flying monkeys, minotaurs, mystical worlds and the great Andy Serkis somehow came out so . . . bland?

Where's the vitality? Is it just because of the constant threat of danger that we're never allowed to actually experience or, you know, enjoy all that's going? Is it just the tone that gets in the way. All throughout Inkheart, I tried to figure it out - why wasn't this working? The answers were too many and too slight.

Most of the movie seems to work on one level, while absolutely not working on another. We can't enjoy the fantasy elements - inventive as they might be - because we're constantly running from them. We can't enjoy the characters - good as the actors might be - because they're constantly being overshadowed by the fantasy.

We can't enjoy the special effects - decent as they might be - because in almost every scene in which they make a prominent appearance, our eyes are being directed toward something else. Maybe Iain Softley (K-PAX, The Skeleton Key) is just a crappy director, and can't figure out how to balance all of these elements. Maybe that.

There's a solid premise at the center of Inkheart - one that would certainly be challenging to translate from text to screen. If you can ignore any logistical hurdles and just see it for what it is, there's something to be done with this concept - that certain people (Silvertongues) have the power to bring books to life by reading out loud. This could be The Wizard of Oz, Rapunzel or, oh I don't know, the Book of Revelation.

The potentially cataclysmic downside to such a gift is personified in the visage of Capricorn (Andy Serkis), a former small-time hoodlum who was "read out" of a book called Inkheart and has decided to stay in the modern world and take it over. His diabolical plan is to accomplish this through the use of Silvertongues, who will read at his command until the things he wants - riches, women, etc. - fall out of the sky.

His adversary is the silvertongue Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser), who years ago inadvertently read his loving wife into the novel while reading Capricorn out. He has been on a quest ever since to find another copy of the book and get his love back.

Oh, and he has a daughter, Meggie (Eliza Bennett), who loves to read, knows nothing of her father's gift nor her mother's fate. The other important character is Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), who Mo also read out of Inkheart, much to his chagrin. He is on Mo's trail, ready pounce should he ever find another copy.

Helen Mirren is also in this movie, though her character serves no discernible purpose. But hey, now the film has double Oscar clout, so there's that.

What proceeds is the predictable series of unfortunate events leading up to the expected twists, the inevitable changes of fortune, the obligatory changes of heart, the compulsory peripheral characters who save the day and the de rigueur ending. None of it is especially bad, but with so much going on, you'd think it'd be . . . well, more.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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