A Christmas Carol
Wed, Nov 4, 2009 (5:55 p.m.)
Listen, Robert Zemeckis, I think we need to have a talk. Remember when you used to make those cool popcorn blockbusters full of real actors and cutting-edge special effects and lots of heart? You know, stuff like Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Contact? Or when you made a whole movie that was basically just about sticking Tom Hanks on an island with a volleyball and filming him? When people thought you would be the next Steven Spielberg, and it seemed plausible?
I know you’re all hot on this motion-capture thing, and you don’t seem to want to make live-action movies anymore. You were always a filmmaker who was as concerned with technological advancements as with narrative. That’s cool, I guess, when the two can find a balance. But these motion-capture movies—come on. The newest one, A Christmas Carol, is yet another dead-eyed dip into the uncanny valley, and like the other two (2004’s The Polar Express and 2007’s Beowulf), it’s as much an amusement-park attraction as a movie. You take the classic, oft-adapted Charles Dickens tale about a crotchety miser who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve and make it into a deadly serious action movie, sort of a strange choice when you have Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge and all three ghosts.
Not that I wanted you to let Carrey loose to mug and spaz out like crazy—good job on restraining him. But what’s up with the drawn-out chase sequences and zooming flights? And can you maybe think about retiring the point-of-view shots that make the audience feel like it’s on a roller coaster? Most importantly, why bother with this story at all? You don’t exactly add anything new to it here (especially when alternate options include versions featuring Mickey Mouse, the Muppets or Bill Murray), and the ominous, scolding tone is probably going to be too much for kids to handle (this is a Disney movie, remember?). Those hyperrealistic motion-capture characters still look like plastiscine molds, even if the eyes have grown less soulless since The Polar Express. The whole enterprise is just so empty and pointless, a bunch of bland technical wizardry that will be dated in five years. That’s not what you want as your legacy, is it?