December 18, 2008

Not-so-Nano Film Review #21 -- Delgo

(SPOILER WARNING. Not that you need to worry about it, since you're not really going to see this movie, are you?)

Needed to get away last night. I have a check from a script I wrote a few months ago. I hadn't been to a movie in a while.

I went to see Delgo for four reasons:

1. I'd heard about it over the years and was curious. It's had a long and tough history, struggling to find a distributor, even with an all star cast and good buzz online.
2. Wanted to see if it really was THAT bad. Couldn't be, could it?
3. Figured I'd be alone in the theater.
4. Knew it wouldn't last long in theaters.

#3 was correct. In fact, according to this article, it averaged to two people per screening last weekend. Wow. This means that #4 is also correct.

And yes, to #2, it was that bad. Mash all the annoying things from Disney movies (but leave out the awesome) with Star Wars semi-mystical mumbo-jumbo and Lord of the Rings battle scenes and you get Delgo, a movie that can't seem to figure out who its audience is or where it wants to steal its plot points from.

I hate to be harsh, but . . . man.

You've got a painfully unfunny slipstick sidekick and a dog-creature that pees on someone, juxtaposed against casual killing (the main character knocks some troll-like creatures to their death miles below, a smile on his face) and assassination and gambling addiction.

All the deaths are off screen, usually with the implication of a stabbing and then a hand falling limp, which lessens the emotional impact of a screen death for children, but also lessens the emotional impact of a screen death for the older viewers that the death was put in the story for in the first place. It happens multiple times, as well.

Add to that confusing, inconsistent character development (Delgo hates the buterfly-ish people because they killed his parents, butterfly-ish people ruin his sacred temple, but he still keeps his date with the butterfly-ish princess, has a painful Disney musical number "we're gonna put all our hopes and dreams and troubles into two or thee sentences for each other so the audience doesn't miss it" only without the music number, flirts with her, almost kisses her, and THEN remembers he's supposed the hate the butterfly-ish people -- the worst example of inconsistency).

Oh, and don't forget the (SPOILER WARNING) bad guy who got killed ten minutes before the end of the movie who turns out not to be dead ten seconds before the end of the movie, but no one noticed before he had time to crawl through not one but TWO cheering armies to get close enough to throw a spear at the heroes who are about to kiss, only so the sidekick can save the day. It's a useless scene that does nothing for the theme or story, and it's not the only scene like that.

The theme of revenge is never fully explored with the characters. It's given lip service by the mentor-character, but when (SPOILER WARNING) Delgo's new friend, a butterfly-ish warrior, is killed in front of his eyes, the killer runs away and Delgo never gets a chance to internalize and use his lesson about revenge. He smashes some tables in anger. But the filmakers are making a movie where the theme deals with revenge, and they make a point to have the murderer of Delgo's friend run away and do not let Delgo confront the theme! Then Delgo goes off to the next part of the story, and it's as if his friend's murder never happened.

Or (SPOILER WARNING -- do I need to say that?) when butterfly-ish princess confronts her mother's murderer, gives her a cool looking flying butterfly-fu kick to knock her into a deep crevice. The princess intends to kill the bad guy. It's the final climax of the movie (except the OTHER bad guy who rises from the dead ten seconds before the credits roll). The princess (the other lead character, next to Delgo) wants to kill the bad guy. Kicks the bad guy toward the crevice. But the bad guy doesn't fall down. Oh, wait, then the ground opens up beneath the bad guy. Good. The princess doesn't kill the bad guy. She wants to. She tries to. She fails. But the bad guy dies anyway. But it wasn't by the princess's hand, so that means it satisfying to us! Bad guy dies! And good princess didn't do it!

The backgrounds and creature design are awesome. The voice acting is decent (there's a big name cast . . . well, they were big names when the movie was made ten years ago). The character design is nice and expressive. Some animation is weak, but forgivable. The popcorn was okay.

Overall, Delgo is a movie that loses sight of its audience, characters, and story, though. Which is amazing, considering it had six credited writers and something like twenty story consultants. (Maybe more.) Is this an example of writing by committee? Is that why it fails to deliver? Or is it an example of a bad script that couldn't be rescued? I don't know where the blame lies. I just know this is the only time I have left a theater really wanting my money back . . . especially in this economy.

Not recommended. But you don't need me to say that. You already didn't see it.

~ Ben

PS -- I do find watching and reading bad examples of storytelling to actually be helpful to me as a writer. You can learn from seeing people do it wrong, just like you can learn from people doing it wrong.

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