Saturday, October 27, 2012

D52 - Week 43 - Treasure Planet

Amanda's Loot

Treasure Planet is what happens when you take a classic that has been beloved by generations, and retold hundreds of times on film and on radio, and try to change all the parts that make it a classic in the first place.

Treasure Island was written in the mid 19th century about the 16th or 17th century.  To me part of the draw is that the characters were living in a semi-primative time that was more violent, more simple, and colored with the kind of nostalgia of those who have only lived it through tales from an older generation.  I get the same feeling when watching black and white reruns of I Love Lucy, but certainly not when the setting is of an unknown future.  This is not to say the future isn't cool and interesting, but it doesn't give me the sense of glowing familiar adventure that I hope for through this sort of story.

Treasure Island had a much more sympathetic main character in Jim Hawkins.  A poor kid who lost his father and dreams of helping his family and just gets roped into a big adventure.  Treasure Planet's Jim may have been introduced as a bright eyed kid with big dreams, but when we meet him as we will have him for the remainder of the film, he's a teenage ruffian who is breaking the law and being hauled to his house by law enforcement! I don't want to root for this kid!  I want him to go to Juvie and pay his debt to society!  He doesn't deserve a fun adventure!  Also he easily has the worst haircut I've ever seen on any Disney character ever.  How does combining a "seagull" and a "rattail" possibly result in something attractive?  It doesn't.

I'm also quite a bit concerned about our so called "villain."  It's one thing to portray someone as good just to pull a gotcha in the end, but in Treasure Island, John Silver is found out as bad and stays that way to the end.  In Treasure Planet he goes bad, goes soft, is still bad but gets set free.  I just can't get behind this.  Not only that, it really adds to my dislike of the hero character.  He really ought to have turned him in.  A Disney Hero ought not have such gray ethics at the end of the movie.  At the beginning, sure, he's still figuring things out, but at the end A Disney Hero doesn't set a proven murderer free.

And as for Ben Gunn....Good Lord, Martin Short.  I know you pretty much can't portray any character without making him eccentric and spastic, but this has got to be the least likeable portrayal I've ever seen you do.  Stop trying to be funny because it's just too painful and annoying to watch.  Why can't you go back to the late 80's and be a little more sincere?  You were both funnier and more likeable then.

As for the structure of the movie, well, I'm glad that the plot was easy to follow.  However, it must be said that there is a very fine line between a montage and a music video. Treasure Planet does not know where that line is.

Favorite Character: Ugh. I guess Morph was cute-ish.
Least necessary character: Flatulence Alien.  WAY overused.  Mind you, this is coming from someone who is utterly utterly comfortable with her own bodily functions, so to say that FA was too much really ought to tell you something.
Overall: Read the book and culture yourself, because watching this movie sure won't.  Only for completionists.

Kevin's Treasure

Treasure Planet has a lot of good ideas going for it, but good ideas alone do not always a good movie make. I like the idea of John Silver being "updated" to have cyborg parts, his "bird" being a physical-and-audio mimic alien, the map being a... a whatever it was. There are many good ideas, but those ideas aren't used very well. In the book, Jim is warned of a one-legged man, and when John Silver, a man with one leg, comes into the picture, you figure, "Ah, hmm, that must be the guy." because you have a rough idea of how uncommon one-legged men are. In this movie, Jim's warned of a cyborg, and you see a cyborg guy, and...well you assume he's the guy because you figure that's what the movie's trying to tell you. But I find myself thinking at the back of my mind, "In this alternate science fiction fantasy, how common are cyborgs? There's all manner of aliens and such, and a lot of weird out-there technology, so maybe when Silver talks of so many other cyborgs around, it's not much of a stretch? As Amanda mentioned in the Atlantis review, when you want to use an incredibly fantastic fantasy world, the trick is in making the rules and history of that world clear near the beginning of the story. Treasure Planet latches us with a probably fascinating setting of a leash but yanks us with it, dragging us along non-stop while giving us a rushed tour of it all. At the climactic end Jim Hawkins seems to be done for as he falls down a pit on his jet board that he can't seem to be able to restart, but saves himself by reigniting it from the sparks of the wall and - well, even putting aside the Mythbusteretics of whether or not this could work this way... was I supposed to realize the thing worked on a fire ignition system? For all I know it was just a lawn mower type of start-up. Granted you need a fire somewhere to get a jet blast, but then again there's all of that glowing orb and portal technology that just exists and - well my point is, when he restarted his board, I think the movie expected me to think, "That Jim is clever and quick-witted! He figured out how to create the required sparks for his impromptu jet surfer under pressure!" but what I thought was, "How is he going to .. oh. I guess when he does that, the thing works that way."
And speaking of technology, isn't it funny the way things in the TP world are so advanced that people use holographic story devices and projection orbs instead of paper but haven't gotten past a more complex form of rope than...just plain ol' rope? And how the spaceship has the expense and technology to propel itself and create an artificial gravity but passes on any form of automated dish-washing system? It is funny, but in the sense that I hope it's intentionally meant to be funny. So maybe it's not all so bad if you look at it as a "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" or "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"-esque outrageous retelling. But even then I think I'd still even rather choose Tim Curry and Muppets.

Favorite character: The narrator. Heck, can't I just listen to Tony Jay read Treasure Island instead?
Least necessary character: Was there any helpful help provided by BEN that the others wouldn't have been able to do themselves?
Overall: Have you ever had someone describe a dream they just had the night before to you, with such excitement that you feel you should be excited for them about it too? But they're so excited that they include unnecessary details? And you can't quite find it as interesting as they seem to, even though you know the events of the dream should be exciting by their very nature? Treasure Planet is like that.

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