I don't know if there's an embargo on this one. So this isn't a review. It's a few thoughts on the source material.
Seeing the film, I was startled to think back on some of the early nay-saying reactions. There's already a resistance to the film for what is perceived as typical Spielberg sentimentality.
But the film all but says "Once upon a time" at the beginning. And considering that its source material is a book for children
, along the lines of The Black Stallion
-- and, of course, the play based on Morpurgo's novel -- it is entirely appropriate for Spielberg to approach this story as a simple one... about a horse. The boy and his parents are drawn simply because this is that kind of old-fashioned story. Heck, in the novel, the horse understands human languages.
And these simple sketches of human characters make sense for another reason: they are not the subject of the film. The subject is the horse, and they are only one example of humankind that the horse must deal with. As in Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
, each episode brings us to a different group of people, and each episode reveals a little more about humankind. (Heck, for that matter, Au hasard Balthazar
isn't a bad comparison either... although that is a story for adults, dealing with far more adult subject matter, and doing so in far more sophisticated ways.) Here, each chapter serves to reveal a little more about humanity, a little more about struggle and war and how people deal with hardship, and a little more about what happens to a horse... or, more broadly, creation
... in human hands.
So, I haven't written my review yet. And I'm still trying to figure out what I think of it all. But I wish I could send out an all-points bulletin, reminding reviewers of the source material: a novel for children
Ah well, I can feel the impact tremors already. The haters gonna hate. I have problems with a lot of Spielberg films and it really annoys me when he goes all sentimental and asks us to feel things that the films haven't earned. (The closing scene of War of the Worlds
, for example.) But I hope people will pause and think carefully before they level the same accusations at this one. You might as well hurl the same accusations at Scorsese for Hugo
. Interesting that we have two "masters" turning in films for all ages this year, films based on books that evoke powerful emotions... emotions that I would argue are, for the most part, earned.
The film's most intense scenario will quickly remind many of us of another movie -- or two, actually -- that have a very similar climactic event. Those films impressed critics all over the place. I hope reviewers think about that before their reflexes kick in.
Edited by Overstreet, 07 December 2011 - 12:32 AM.