Really great cinema makes us ask questions. What’s our relationship to the world around us, and the people in it? What can we learn from the past, both our own and our history’s? How do we deal with our emotions? Film can dig into those questions, explore them, suggest new ways of looking at them. Unfortunately, the only question this week’s new releases prompt is, “Who thought making this was even remotely a good idea?”
Let’s start with Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Now I’ll admit, I’ve got pretty fond memories of Rocky and Bullwinkle from when I was a kid. Most of the grown-up satire I didn’t really appreciate until years later, but I won’t deny the pull of nostalgia when it comes to these characters. But we’ve already had three failed attempts at bringing characters from that show to the screen; what made anybody think the fourth time would be the charm? And if they were determined to push ahead with this, why take these characters and essentially shove them into a Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure remake? Come on, these are niche characters from a niche show that people fondly remember, but that fondness doesn’t necessarily translate to spending $12 to see them in what looks like pretty much every other standard animated film to come down the pike in the last five years. And why they didn’t back up a truck full of money to David Hyde Pierce’s door to be the voice of Mr. Peabody is beyond me (although Ty Burrell isn’t a terrible choice). Not that he’d have gotten me to buy a ticket, but I might have felt a little more charitably towards the film.
On top of, “Who thought 300 actually needed a sequel?” 300: Rise of an Empire begs a different question: who thought eight years later was a good time to finally make it? I was completely surprised by Zack Snyder’s original film, a vivid, rousing comic book brought to life that didn’t leave a whole lot left to tell about the story. Leonidas died, but the Greeks eventually won, yay city-states! But now here comes the sequel, which also apparently serves as a prequel, showing us how Xerxes got to be so big and shiny before deciding to start stomping his way to Thermopylae. The filmmakers certainly know where their bread is buttered; they’ve done their best to ape Synder’s style without actually hiring Snyder, which makes sense commercially if not artistically. I mean, imagine being director Noam Murro, looking forward to putting your personal stamp on this project, and instead being told, “Direct it the way Snyder would have.” That’s got to be disheartening. But, since this is likely to win the weekend, hopefully he’ll be getting a nice paycheck to smooth that over.
I was glad February ended, but so far, March isn’t looking all that much better. I guess the question now is, “Can April hurry up and get here?”