If there is one thing that The Lord of the Rings trilogy showed us, it is that sometimes you just get lucky with the source material.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy was so ready to be made into a great film series that I now believe a dozen other directors with a budget, passion and time could have done a great job and come up with something almost as good as what we now have, if not better.
Sacrilege you might say Fanboys? Well please answer this: What else has Peter Jackson made that was worthy of any more than a middling review?
I liked The Frighteners but would never call it vital. His early stuff was more notorious than celebrated, and the less I talk about King Kong the better. In fact, the second best film on PJ’s record was made only last year, only by a different guy, that was District 9.
What I will concede is that Peter Jackson is capable of putting amazing visuals on the screen, but he doesn’t seem to know where to stop or how to tell a story, which is why Return of the King was 40 minutes longer than it needed to be and that King Kong was basically a series of trailer highlights without a decent story to bring them together. (Need I mention here that the LOTR trilogy was based upon one of the more celebrated series of novel in history? Didn’t think so.)
Which brings us to The Lovely Bones, also based upon a successful novel (apparently, I haven’t read it), so as long as Jackson sticks to the story he can run wild with his pretty pictures and a good film is a cert. Right?
To summarise TLB in one sentence is easy: The spirit of a young murdered girl looks down from heaven and watches as those left behind after her untimely death deal with daily life without her.
(Given that the young girl Suzie acts as the narrator and informs the audience in the first three minutes that “I was fourteen years old when I was murdered December 6 1973”, I would argue that this fact couldn’t be included as a spoiler.)
To expand even a little further is very difficult, as there are so many competing points, none of which add much or seem that much more important than the others, which brings me back to my bitch about Peter Jackson: Sometimes you need to cut stuff that doesn’t matter, and make the stuff that does seem more important to the story.
The Lovely Bones seems well acted and includes many different characters who waft in and out of the storyline, never seeming to demand attention or to do anything of great significance after the initial events. Despite having (Marky) Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon
Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz are the young parents left behind after their daughter’s abduction and untimely death in the early 70s, along with their surviving daughter and son. All of the traumatic repercussions are touched on after they realize that Suzie is indeed dead, but they seem glossed over.
Wait up… I’m stuck again here.
I want to cover the various things that happen only I can’t decide which are important enough to include without ruining the film, and I keep coming back to the fact that they are simply events or actions, and that none of them seem important to moving the story along or memorable enough to say “you need to see this scene”.
The Lovely Bones is a genre-identity problem. It isn’t a comedy and has no action sequences, isn’t a whodunit as we are told that very early on and despite having a murder at its core it isn’t so much a revenge fantasy or a crime procedural.
It is an undramatic drama. For some reason I kept recalling a 90s Robin Williams film called “What Dreams May Come” that I watched once, didn’t think much of, and couldn’t help but feel that the problem was it had no home.
The Lovely Bones I think wants to be a grandiose and deep exploration of death and the impact it has on those left behind, (again I only think), but it seems a mish-mash of ideas that never grabs your attention by identifying what the film wants from the audience in the first place.
It is visually spectacular at times, especially in the “afterworld” sequences where Suzie (and Peter Jackson) can let their imaginations run wild.
But visuals alone don’t make a great film. Even great and talented actors can only do so much with the material and screen time that they have, and if the guy pulling the strings doesn’t keep things moving in the right direction all we are left with is a pretty mess.
Final Rating – 6 / 10. I know Peter Jackson has another great film in him. First he needs to align himself with a great scriptwriter. And a more brutal editor.