Location: Los Angeles, California

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Benjamin Button

I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button last night, and while the $150 million film is an impressive achievement, it's also somewhat underwhelming.

David Fincher's decision to shoot with digital cameras only heightens the artificiality of many sequences. While the computer effects used to make Brad Pitt age in reverse are nearly flawless, the CGI elsewhere in the film is rather shabby. For instance, the exteriors in Russia look as if they're from a video game. And any ocean shot in the first half of the movie reeks of obvious CGI enhancements. It's odd, then, that Fincher later chooses to shoot a few scenes on real water, with the result being much more authentic.

The central problem with the film's appearance is that I never really felt I was there. I never thought I was truly out to sea with Benjamin, or in Russia with Benjamin, or in New York with Benjamin. There was always this vague sense that the scene was enclosed in some sort of virtual space, akin to how I felt when watching 300.

The film's other significant flaw is that save for Benjamin's extraordinary reverse-aging condition, he's not much of a protagonist. He's a good-hearted and inquisitive man, and he has the benefit of eventually looking like Brad Pitt, but the character wasn't quite able to hold my interest for 165 minutes. Cate Blanchett's Daisy, on the other hand, easily steals our attention from Pitt's Benjamin, especially during the film's second -- and more emotional -- half.

Still, I'm amazed that this movie exists at all. I'm always pleased to see a director aiming for the stars and trying to accomplish something this complex and epic in scope, and I hope the film doesn't stumble too badly at the box office because I'd love to see more big gambles like this one.

But, ultimately, Benjamin Button is a disappointment. It will probably still be nominated for Best Picture due to its sheer size and pedigree, but this isn't your Best Picture winner, folks.


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