The Review: So far, so predictable for the output of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The Office, Extras and their podcasts all mine a very similar, and very contemporary, vein of humour. It also feels as if Gervais brings more of the jokes and Merchant more of the emotion – that may go some way to explaining how last year’s The Invention of Lying turned out so horribly misjudged.
If that’s the case, then maybe this is more Merchant than Gervais, as this is their first period piece. Set in the Reading of the seventies, this is very much a coming of age story, with several different narrative threads focusing on the challenges that face us as we enter adulthood – changing friendships, starting work and the first tentative steps towards romance. There are subtle differences in the humour of each, but the three strands are satisfyingly woven together.
Gervais and Merchant wisely take something of a back seat in the acting stakes, Merchant taking a brief but entertaining cameo, and Gervais helping to fill in the family of Freddie, the lead of the three young men at the centre of the movie. The family, also featuring Julia Davis and Anne Reid, add both a warm core to the movie, in their bigoted Seventies way, and also give a narrative impetus to Freddie’s desire for something different. Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson get the best of the grown-up roles, using their considerable skill to sketch in what could have been slight roles on the page.
And if there’s any criticism to be made here, it’s that the whole enterprise does feel both slight, almost as if it was made in the Seventies and has lain undiscovered until today, but also slightly jarring, as some of the language, while no doubt as common then as it is now, does feel somewhat out of place with the overall tone. And while there are no major surprises and everything is wrapped up very neatly indeed, the trip to Cemetery Junction is still one worth taking.
Why see it at the cinema: The direction does actually get away from the static camera moves of the pair’s previous TV directing efforts, and the Seventies environment is very successfully realised.
The Score: 7/10
The Review: Titans. Will. Clash. Will they? Will they really? Not only one of the least imaginative taglines of all time, but also a false promise, as if suggesting that your Christmas stocking will contain a giant, fire-breathing, axe-wielding robot, but actually there’s just a small tangerine, that’s gone a bit off, and you’re allergic to tangerines.
Everything about this movie screams apathy, from the storyline, which barely manages to scrape together three acts, to the effects, which fail to generate anything other than a mild sense of surprise, rather than the awe which they should inspire. Only the Medusa sequence feels even vaguely suspenseful or dramatic, and even then plays out in an entirely predictable manner.
There are a few plus points in the acting – Ralph Fiennes and Gemma Arterton both feel like they should be in something better, and hopefully will do better in Potter and Persia respectively later this year. Hardly anyone else has anything to get their teeth into, and Sam Worthington continues to prove his abilities to suck the charisma out of almost any scene. The mythology is a little corrupted, but a new spin on some elements would have actually brought some freshness.
I’ll try my best not to mention the horribly derivative Hans Zimmer lite score or the the orangey cinematography. I’m trying to forget the horrible, horrible Bubo cameo which stops the film almost stone dead, making no sense in context. But I cannot avoid mentioning the worst crime, which was to slap a half-hearted 3D conversion on, which rarely has any depth of field and renders many of the action scenes unwatchable. For absolute die-hards only.
Why see it at the cinema: See it in 2D if you must see it, but Fiennes and Arterton really are the only worthwhile elements. If you see it in 3D all you’ll be doing is proving to yourself why conversions are a bad idea.
The Score: 3/10