Vision Never Grows Old
"Is it worthy to see it in the cinema?" was the very first question I got right after seeing this film and posting my mini review up on Weibo. Sure it is, even worthy to see it on the imax-kind-like screen. (It is said this film doesn't have a deal with IMAX, the cooperation, but it's still made in the large format.)
More or less in our life, I believe, we may have, at a certain point or more, experienced the moment of "awakening", where something "random" shows up, which seems to have come out of no where yet miraculously makes great sense to you, and to you only. - It may be a self-help book that was thrown out of somebody's window and landed near your feet. Or it could simply be an inspiring short article shared by your friend on Wechat. Or it could even romantically be the banner flew by a small airplane that said, "This is your guy", like the running gag usually adapted in Hollywood chick-flicks. - Well, in my case, it is the simple but loud-enough campaign poster hung up on Fanshawe Street that reads "FURY". Yes, it only takes a single poster of this particular film to set me on flame.
As the birth father of Aliens, Ridley Scott certainly has the vision for his precious little baby. Memories of his original drawings were immediately recalled to me upon the beautiful settings/landscape showing up. He created them with his own hands and vision then, and he might have done the same this time, despite the roaring development of CGI. His hands may have grew old along the years, but his vision has remained as sharp and bright as it was in his golden years. "Vision" is absolutely THE THING to see in Prometheus.
My story with FURY dates back to one day, roughly two years ago, when browsing through industry news like usual, did I land my eyes on a particular piece titled "Brad Pitt won the script auction of FURY", which consumed a very small proportion of the page with a handful of lines that made the article, yet among which a few key words spontaneously gave me a big alert. So, soon after a swift correspondence with my boss who was enjoying the holiday in Cuba back then in the veil of American Film Festival, a tornado of events was built up quickly and strongly enough to a point where we merged as one of the top international bidders, excelling in our commitment to the project. Even though it didn't get to win the trophy of a signed contract from the producer, there is no doubt that it was one-hell-of fun experience, especially for me, the discoverer and diligent digger as self-claimed.
However, storywise, it fails me on the expectations I drew from Alien as a thriller. Prometheus is more fancy than thrilling. Sure it shocks you a few times by the sudden appearing or disappearing of something which mostly can be predicted, but as a whole, it doesn't "thrill" you. Most importantly, I'm more confused than pissed wondering what Ridley was thinking when doing the supposedly climax scene happening at the last 20 minutes. I mean, it is supposed to be a climax but startlingly ends up mediocre...
So, here we are, two years later, the final product revealed himself to me in the cinema tonight, just like the very shot in the film that showed the scar-filled back of "Wardaddy", the leading character played by Brad Pitt, and it is... - not good.
There might be piles of piles of handbooks answering questions like "What does it take to be a good director?" In my two cents worth, directors come from every aspect of this field or even outside of it. He or she might have been a model maker in the case of James Cameron, or a student who studied literature in Cambridge like Christopher Nolan, or a set designer in BBC like Ridley Scott. It certainly takes various things for each one of them to become a great director but the one thing that links them together to me is something named vision, the world being seen beyond what he or she lives in.
To anyone who shares a similar feeling towards the film, to be fair, the original script is GREAT, so well thought and beautifully done that the temperament of an epic film can be easily sensed. Unfortunately, the great script was not well executed, or not even properly delivered, that the nicely-bridged twine of war sequences and humanity shining in the script has become a clear-cut crack in the film that tempts frowns. A few times during the course of the film was I thinking, "Move on, David (the director). Don't be indulged burying yourself in the odd humanity."
Another important issue lays with the array of the five key characters. Originally in the script, every single one of them has a unique and strong personality that lets them shine through yet simultaneously to make a great harmony - "Wardaddy", played by Pitt, is a war veteran/mother-fucker who fights Nazi all the way from the very beginning from the war land of Africa, to France then to Germany, intimately with his buddy tank "FURY". "Bible", by Shia LaBeouf, is an ex-priest who certainly has his dorky part with God and never tiring of fighting for it against his "tank mates". Norman, by Logan Lerman, is a rookie whose vocational training has nothing to do with military and ammunition but secretary and accounting. Gordor, the Spanish/Mexican, is the one that usually throws out the jokes of races. Coon-Ass, who is also quite a cracker himself, has the dirtiest mouth on board. In the script, everyone has a coming and a going, more or less, despite differences in proportions, which allows the audience/readers to draw up and fill in their own images for those characters.
However, in the actual output, not only is the light of the assembly dims, but also some crucial part of their stories is missing. Who the hell is Wardaddy? Where is he from? (in the script, his motivation to join the army came after the horrible car accident he suffered back home where he lost his mom and dearly wife, which was missed in the movie.) How come his civility seems so odd against his extreme calm towards the war? And my biggest problem with this character exploded around the corner of the final climax of the film, where his very own essential decision to sacrifice himself by staying on to stop the upcoming Nazi seems to come conveniently from a fool's pat on his head. He basically gives nothing but like, "Well, I want to stay, but you guys go to the tree line."
Well, With the critics aside to cut it some slack, there is one particular moment that I really like in the movie, which, to my surprise, comes from Shia LaBeouf, stereotypically a candy boy from whom I barely expect much. He, or his character in the movie "Bible", has a moment of truth where he has delivered an excellent performance in showing his determination-packed vulnerability, or in other words, his "fear of death" before the coming of death, which is quite preciously human.
Vividly as I remember, one of the many debates our acquisition team used to have on this project was whether or not the director, David Ayer, together with the producing team, CAN "pull it off", which means if the team is able to well deliver what the script has presented, an epic war film filled with authentic humanity. Seeing from now in my point of view, he has certainly not made it.
With constant noise in the business whining about how difficult it is to find a good script, FURY is the perfect case bouncing back to say, "With a great script at hand, can you deliver?"