Sunday, September 28, 2008

[movie review] Mongol


Mongol was a good movie. I could easily imagine the director/screenwriter was trying to create a visual epic poem, rather like Der Niebelungenlied or Táin Bó Cúailng or Beowulf (the real one, not the movie). The film's images are often figurative ( "the clouds covered the land until it was as dark as night" = film at night) or archetypical (wife waits for hero to return = happens repeatedly with great stoicism from her). There isn't really character development in the modern sense. Of course, in these epic poems, the hero is either sprung fully formed as a hero, or simply goes from abandoned, enslaved boy to hero in a few lines of poetry/scenes in movie. Don't get me wrong, I like the old hero-poems. Just don't expect declamations of motivation and thoughtful consideration of behavior by the characters.

It was grand. Everything was grand. The scenery was grand; the characters' relationships were grand; the fighting was grand; blood spurting was definitely grandiose.

Someone figured out how to make blood spurting look impressive. Then she wanted to make sure you knew just how impressive and really cool it was, or perhaps just wanted to justify the amount of money spent on people like my brother, so she did it over and over and over and over again. And again. It got a little old by the culminating battle.

Speaking of Mr. STFU's profession: everyone in the industry has obviously been impressed with LotR, since we keep seeing more epic battle scenes in movies. The advancing lines of Mongolian hoards was very reminiscent of the Battle of Pelinor Fields in RotK. Better strategy (attack enemy with 10,000 of your buddies, rather than a couple dozen), but equally impressive looking.

Basically, as an action movie, this was pretty damned good. As an overall assessment, it was good. It was violent with lots of blood, though little gore. It was visually stunning. Parts of the dialogue were pretty funny to a modern audience, e.g. Temudjin's father describing to his 9-year old son how to pick a wife. Some parts of the story simply went from point B to C to D to H without mentioning how. After falling through the ice, how did the hero wind up on shore? Being eyed by a rather curious wolf, why is he still not eaten? It's back to the stylized epic, don't worry about it.

This definitely put Ghengis Kahn in a rather favorable light. Oh, yeah - this is the story of how some young boy turned into the Khan of all of Mongolia ruling the largest empire ever seen on the face of the earth. Hell, maybe he was a really nice guy driven by a sincere desire to bring order to the Mongols and the desire for the love of his life. However, anyone bloodthirsty enough to create an empire stretching from Korea to Kiev is probably not someone you'd want as your kid's godfather, even if he was great to sit around a campfire and drink beer with.

Nominated for the '07 Foreign Film Oscar from Kazakhstan, it's the first film I've seen in Mongolian. The Conterfeiters won the Oscar that year. I don't really see that being such a better film than Mongol. I even rather suspect that Jews in a concentration camp resisting the Nazi war machine elicited a more positive response from a predominantly American judging population than a blood-thirsty not-white guy who conquered most of Asia in the 13th Century. I don't know much (read: nothing) about Mongolia then, so there's no opinion about the quality and authenticity of the costumes, mannerisms, or culture. It sure looked grand, though. It was interesting enough to get me to at least glance over the entry on Wikipedia to see how historically accurate the basic story line was. Compliment, I suppose.


Elizabeth’s rating: 2

The cinematography just begs to be seen on the big screen

1 - Go see it on the big screen at full price.
2 - Go see it on the big screen, at matinee prices.
3 - Buy your own on video.
4 - Definitely see it on video.
5 - Well, if someone else it paying for it ...
6 - Go get your teeth cleaned.

1 comment:

ccyager said...

Sounds like Oliver Stone could have learned something about directing epic stories about conquering heros ("Alexander") from this movie. As for blood, nobody does it like Francis Coppola....(smile)

Glad to hear you had a nice anniversary despite #1 disappearing off the face of the earth. What happened to her?