Wednesday, September 28, 2011

TGTBTKIWF 3. The Wickerman (2006) *SPOILERS*


DISCLAIMER. The Wickerman (2006) is a remake of a horror movie of the same name. This film would purport itself as being a horror movie but instead is so over the top it fails. In fact, it fails so hard that rather than retreading over familiar ground of other critics...I will try to give it a more interesting spin. First, I will talk about Nicholas Cage. Then, for the people who can't bare to watch the film or don't remember it, I'm gonna give a full breakdown of it's plot with lots of spoilers. Finally, I will break down whether the movie succeeds or fails.
Quick note on my rating system?
*/5. So Bad Its Good- If I give a movie a "*," that means a special little turd. Its a movie that is so bad that its hilarious (even if the directors didn't mean to make it that way). These movies are great for sharing with friends and tearing it apart. Ex. The Room, Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation, Mac and Me.

 1/5 Kill It With Fire, If I give a film a rating of "1" it means the movie isn't just bad. It is barely a movie or so offensive that to even uses a single sensory organ to witness it would be an insult to the heavens. If I give a movie a 1, avoid it at all costs. The film is pure garbage. Kill it with fire. Ex.  Shrek The Third, Punisher: Warzone, 10,000 B.C. 

2/5. Bad, A movie that lands itself in the bad category means that, while a failure, is not a complete failure. The movie might have some entertainment value, like a good character/scene, but as a whole it fails or is offensive. Ex. Wolverine Origins, Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace, Hancock.

3/5. Okay, The movie was neither bad nor great. Its probably worth at least once viewing and maybe more if it really catches your fancy. This is probably the easiest rating to give a movie. ex. Night at the Museum, Simpsons Movie, Prince of Persia.

4/5. Great, These are the movie I recommend you check out at least once before you die or it you're just bored. These are the movies that really deserve attention and help elevate film as art and entertainment. ex. Iron Man, How to Train Your Dragon, The 40-Year Old Virgin.

5/5. Favorite, These movies are instant classics....or at least in my book. I reserve 5/5s for movies that I HAVE to own and watch and share with everyone. At some point this year, I'll probably make a list for my top 100 films. Wink. ex. Big Trouble in Little China, Brazil, The Royal Tenenbaums. 



 Nicholas Cage is one of my favorite actors in modern cinema- let me rephrase that. Nicholas Cage is one of my favorite actors in modern cinema but he has a fatal flaw. Nicholas Cage's acting theory seems to come from a point of detachment. This sort of detachment works wonderfully in certain kinds of roles. Other actors, like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, usually employ this tactic to present a sense of detachment from the events at hand, either because of insanity or because the events at hand are so insane but unavoidable that the only escape is detachment. Unfortunately, while the events of the film I am about to discuss are quiet absurd, Cage sometimes fails to use the method effectively. Nicholas Cage usually uses this method to one of two effects. The Elvis Approach, which if over extended, like in Ghost Rider, will fail every time or come off as unintentionally hilarious, Dead Fall. The other approach involves Cage basically playing himself but with increasing detachment. This approach I will call the Sponge Appraoch because it is completely reliant on the material of the rest of the movie. In a zany comedy like Raising Arizona, or it is very effective in some more serious fair like Con Air because his character is desperate to escape the situation he is in and, more recently, in Kickass, his role as Big Daddy is successful because his character is a sociopathic vigilante who uses the concept of a dual identity as a shield for his actions. The Sponge Approach fails in films where the content at hand is either to absurd, Knowing or to bland, the Family Man. Despite this Achilles Heel, I would like to make it very clear that I do enjoy Cage's better works, alot, and even get a perverse pleasure out of his crazier roles. Few films are more perverse or crazy than The Wicker Man (2006). In The Wicker Man, Cage's greatest crimes are that because of his detachment in the face of the most ludicrous and silly events at hand that he doesn't just come off as detached, he comes off as Nicholas Cage trapped in a terrible (terribly funny?) movie.

The film starts by establishing our character as a good guy, he even gets called "Honey," (ha ha, what clever irony) but the story really begins with good highway cop, Edward Malus (Nicholas Cage), following a station wagon after the little girl inside drops her dolly out the window. He grabs the doll and attempts to return it to the little girl. Except the little girl is being quite the obnoxious brat. She tosses the doll back out at him and he goes to pick it up. It is important to note that the cinematography of this first scene is extremely clean, so much so that colors pop more than a nature documentary, but this never changes. We'll get back to to this queer directorial choice later on because, right now at this very moment, Edward Malus is picking a doll up off off the road for an attractive blonde single Mom and her child.Oh, and right now at this very moment, an 18-wheeler plows through the station wagon. Edward leaps into action but the car is in flames. Awkwardly, the little girl inside of the station wagon is watching him with disinterest as he tries to smash the windows, but is interrupted by the vehicle blowing up in his face. It is in this moment that we are granted the first of many questions to come throughout the film, "What happened to the mother and her little girl?" This immediately brought up as a question in the very next scene when Edward is back in his home, months later, recovering from the trauma. We soon discover through the info-drop of a blonde cop friend that they never found the bodies of the mother and girl. We also discover that Nicholas- Edward- (wait, goddammit. I am not even going to pretend that the audience is going to not call Cage's character, Nicholas Cage, so, for now on to preserve my sanity and for my own amusement, I will simply refer to Edward Malus as Nicholas Cage or Cage. There. Moving on.). Cage receives a letter from an old flame, Willow (Kate Beahan), asking for his help. Her blonde daughter has, apparently, gone missing and he may be the only one that can help. (Second question, where is the daughter? )Called to action, Cage says good bye to his cop buddies and goes to find the daughter by visiting Summer Isle. He hops on a ferry to get to a dock where he hopes to hire a pilot to fly him to the secluded location. On the ferry, he has terrible visions of a little blonde girl in a red sweater getting nailed by a semi (which if I went into this with more seriousness, could've been jarring but instead was just embarrassingly funny). As he gets closer to the docks, he finds that his cell phone has lost its signal. We are about to leave the bright set-up and enter a new world. The funny thing is that this is very much the good beginning of a horror film and is a set-up right out of Stephen King's book (except this is set in the Pacific Northwest). Except for one problem. Summer's Isle is anything but the typical horror setting.

 The next scene involving the pilot is fairly uninteresting except that it establishes that pretty much no one comes to or leaves the island. The pilot at first refuses to give him a ride but after being offered to take Cage and his friends *pulls out a couple of Benjamins*, the pilot agrees to drop him on the shore. He walks up the shore, where we see people dressed in fairly humble clothing. He sees a red-haired woman and two men carrying a dripping sack. They ask him why he is there and he explains its for Willow. Then we get our first silly, awkward line of the movie. Cage looks at the sack and asks, "What's in the bag? A shark or something?" He receives a cold reception from everyone, who obviously wants him to leave. The inhabitants of the island appear to mostly be women, and when he goes to the local bar, he meets Sister Beech (Diane Delano). The bar is filled with women, almost all blonde, and its barmaid does not seem amused by the male intrusion. Beech gives him a mug of mead but when he spots a bee, he squishes it, getting everyone's attention. Beech asks, "Why would you do a thing like that?" to which Cage responds that he is allergic.When he asks about the missing girl, they all tell him no such girls exists. He gets a room, and soon ends up finding Willow, who he had been engaged to and who tells him not to trust anyone. During this conversation, he is more obsessed with their relationship than the missing girl, Rowan. It is at this moment that the good cop begins his descent into being a complete and utter a**hole, but to be fair, the film is going to drive him there. Before going to bed, he spies to creepy blind elderly twins having a meeting with the other "Sisters" and asking if a Lady Summer's Isle plans to join them. In this short time, this just raises six new questions: What is the deal with the bees? Does the girl exist and if so why are the women lying? Why did Willow just contact him? Why is Willow afraid of the others? Are the inhabitants witches, Wiccan or part of some sinister cult? Who is Lady Summer's Isle? So far, the film is trying to build tension...under bright sunlight.
There is a rather scene with Cage chasing a ghost of the little girl, Rowan, into a barn after dark and then just returning to bed. (This scene is completely pointless so I'll just move back to stuff that is more useful). In fact, there are several hallucinatory scenes like this but all are pretty unimportant to the film. The next big scene we have involves Cage visiting the school, all the while everyone being a jerk to him, including the plethora of pregnant and/or blonde women (one asks him to help him escape) to talk to the teacher and students. He soon discovers that all of the students are little girls, mostly blond and there is even another couple of creepy twins. Even more disturbing is the fact that the girls were learning the lesson that all males are basically phallic symbols as they walked in and when he tries to interrupt the teacher tries to brush him off and asks if he has a warrant (he does not) but he strong arms his way in. He asks the girls if they knew Rowan and they all deny she existed. He loses his patience when, after opening a desk and a crow flies out, they tell him they did it to see how long it took for him to want to escape. On one hand, everyone so far on the island has been creepy and a jerk but on the other hand, he is acting like a maniac in front of children. He then forces the student attendance record from the teacher's desk and finds Rowan's name has been crossed out. Sister Rose (Molly Parker), the teacher, takes him outside and compares him to Don Quixote. She basically mocks him as a knight with a pointless quest. After being pressed to explain, she reveals that Rowan died in a fire and was buried in an old churchyard at the request of Willow. He goes to the graveyard and meets Willow who tells him that they're lying. He also discovers the women of the island are part of Celtic religion and abandoned Christianity long ago. This is where Willow grew up but if he helps her find Rowan, they will leave the island together. Rowan is his daughter, by the way. Minor detail.

Speaking of minor details, he catches a blond girl running off the path in the woods and soon he ends up in the middle of a huge beehive farm. The islanders raises bees for the honey and harvest. He panics and stumbles down hill, knocking over hives along the way and going into an allergic coma.
This comes off as more Benny Hill than Alfred Hitchcock. He looks like an idiot because, rather than slowly walking out the way he came, he runs, like an idiot, tripping over his own feet, and nearly getting stung to death. Nearly because the creepy doctor he met earlier in the film saved his life. He wakes up in the home of Lady Summer's Isle and asks if he can talk to her. He soon meets the leader of the island who explains, matter of factly, that she is the physical embodiment of their god, Lady Summer's Isle, and that they view men as basically being inferior and no good except for their seed. Frustrated with this male-hating cultist, he asks for permission to dig up Rowan's grave and gets it. It is important to note three more questions raised: What is going to happen in a couple day's at their festival day? Why are the men so few, submissive and silent? Who are the bee keepers?
It is at this moment that film goes from awkwardly made and over the top in all elements to downright ridiculous. Cage digs up the grave, alone, and discovers that their is no body, but a burnt up doll. He grabs Willow and yells, "HOW DID IT GET BURNED!? HOWD EHT GERT BURD?!" Furious that he has been deceived so much and, desperate to find a daughter he never knew, he tells Willow to wait for him while he literally searches everywhere on the island for Rowan. He then goes to the Lady's manor where he sees creepy things like a chick covered in bees but nothing else. All the while, the women prepare for some festival event. He returns to the Inn to ask the men for help but discovers they can't talk! He then begins his search by stealing the bike from the b****y teacher and searching every home. No one seems to take him seriously, making his over acting seem evil sillier, especially when a little girl jumps out of a closet and laughs at him.When he returns to the Inn, he sees Sister Beech, who mocks him as she is about to put on a bear suit. It is in this scene he becomes even more ridiculous by first knocking out Beach and then starting to pull on her bear costume. He is then attacked by the teenage worker of the bar and knocks her out as well. Disguised as the bear, he goes to meet up with the march, where he sees Willow joined them despite what he asked. They soon reached a cross where a little girl is tied. He runs up, unties her and then runs in the woods with her. He soon ends up encircled, threatening them with his gun, but they just laugh at the dumb man. That is when we have our big reveal!
It was all a TRAP! Rowan was never missing. Their island's harvest was bad last year and they need a sacrifice. The best sacrifice is a gallant hero who is connected to them (through Rowan being his daughter). How do you find a gallant hero? Trick him into thinking a little girl is missing, than his daughter and after he proves himself, you've got him. The worst part? Willow was in on it and drops the bullets from his gun, that she stole, on the ground (this is so fricking silly). He tries to fight but they tie him down. They then break his legs, the whole while he shouting, "You bitches! You bitches! This won't bring your god back!" It all so silly as he mumbles and curses them and is dragged up into a huge wooden idol, the Wicker Man, and sent up to the head. The wood idol is filled with male animals, all hanging upside down, and as he reaches the top they begin to burn him and the animals alive. He curses them with his last breaths. The end.
NOW, to be honest, this film is not a complete failure. In fact, it  has plenty of good ideas, and not just the ones from the original. The idea of having the evil cultists be all female and to play on those rather bizarre terms was clever. Furthermore, the use of imagery, like the blonde hair, was also a good idea to help tease the deliriousness of the main character. So really? Why does the movie fail? First of all, there are the pointless hallucination scenes that really serve no purpose other than to extend the movie by about thirty minutes. The movie loves wasting time. The real reason this movie fails is that it takes every element it has that could work and takes it to eleven. The women are far to b****y, the men are too submissive, the island is far to bright and natural, the plan is far to perfect, the cruelty is too cruel but one big criminal, besides the main offender, is the sound track. The soundtrack is over the top and does not lend a creepy enough tone. In the end, we have a film that comes off as an hour and forty five minute episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? with a big budget and Nicholas Cage.The biggest tragedy is that this film could've worked if they scaled back some of its method and unnecessary parts (bee beard) and recast the lead. Nicholas Cage is just not a good choice to set against such bizarre circumstances. Even he admits the film "There is a mischievous mind at work on The Wicker Man, you know? You know what I mean? And I finally kind of said, 'I might have known that the movie was meant to be absurd.' But saying that now after the fact is OK, but to say it before the fact is not, because you have to let the movie have its own life." But honestly? This film needs to be burned.

2/5 or *3/5
Just watch the video below:

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