Setter’s ‘Spectives: Retelling the Story of ‘Dracula Untold’

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613If I never had to watch another vampire movie again, I would be a happy man.

Not that I’m generally forced to watch vampire films. In fact, I generally avoid them, as they’re about monsters that, as a rule, don’t inspire me – unlike, say, snarky, misanthropic, hobbit-hating dragons, which often do.

I have to say something about Dracula Untold, the upcoming fang-o-thon slated to hit theaters next month, however, and that is: Do we really need another movie about these long-lived bloodsuckers? Really? I mean, come on. This is the umpth incarnation of the Dracula story. Why, Hollywood, why?

Vampires, like zombies, are easy subjects. You’ll always find an audience for flicks concerning them, methinks. I just wish horror/fantasy moviemakers would mine less superficial subject matter, though, instead of gravitating toward the same ol’ thing. It’s hard to top the F.W. Murnau Nosferatu when it comes to vampire stories on the big screen, anyway, you know? So why try?

I suspect there will be no reason to tell, again, the story of Dracula Untold and that it will be comparable, in terms of cinematic quality, to a pile of bat guano. That probably won’t stop the hordes of vampire-loving viewers from seeing it. It will, though, serve as sufficiently preventative garlic for me. I’m avoiding it … while lamenting the dearth of good, non-vampire horror films out there.

Dracula Untold? Too many times told, if you ask me.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: ‘Smaug’ Lifts Spirits Despite Draggin’ at the End

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613So I saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug yesterday.

Well done … for the most part. It got a bit overdone toward the finale, what with all the running and jumping and dragon-escaping. And the abundance of chase scenes became somewhat exhausting. But in general, this is (as usual for director Peter Jackson) ace moviemaking, with memorable visuals, quick pacing, strong performances and a powerful score driving the picture. Plus, you’ve got a Gandalf-Sauron confrontation, barrel-riding galore and the wonderfully villainous Smaug crammed into it, so there’s no shortage of set pieces, while the entrance of the latter character is a testament to Jackson’s skill at providing good, old-fashioned suspense.

Like most quality movies, Desolation merits watching again. I’m curious to find out if it’ll lose its luster the second time or, like the Arkenstone, stay shiny after multiple viewings.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Wizards and Balrogs and Oscars, Oh, My!

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613It’s become trendy these days to knock The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, as well as draw unfavorable comparisons to its immediate predecessor, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King—with the underlying suggestion that the era of taking these fantasy films seriously is over. We’ve grown out of that, right? We’d rather watch important flicks such as Lincoln from now on, no?

Perhaps some critics might. But I don’t. I thought Peter Jackson’s Hobbit was brilliantly done and see no reason to dismiss it because of its genre, length or resemblance to his cinematic adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s LOTR trilogy, which I adore as well. And I’m looking forward to the next hobbity installment, The Desolation of Smaug, which I’m sure will be much more entertaining than any prestigey part of Lincoln—and less pretentious to boot. I’ll venture to guess that any picture with a talking, fire-breathing dragon in it won’t be in the same “for your consideration” pool come Academy Awards time.

But that’s the problem. Return of the King set a precedent for CGI-filled fantasy films … and the awards folks have been reluctant to dip into that well since. Look at Guillermo del Toro’s spellbinding Pan’s Labyrinth, as great a movie as any that has appeared in the last two decades, yet it was stepped over at the Oscars some years ago for The Lives of Others. I gotta think the special effects were the deciding factor. They’re components that everyone wants to see at the movies—as long as no one thinks they can help create a work of art.

I don’t believe in that balderdash. It’s based on the idea that popular entertainment can’t be important, which has remained pervasive despite centuries of being disproven by everyone from Charles Dickens to Aaron Copland. Art isn’t restricted to any particular theme or genre; it’s restricted to quality. And I think The Hobbit makes that grade.

Do I think it’s the most fabulous film? Nope; it’s got script issues like almost every movie, and it does feel padded in parts. But by and large, it channels the stirring spirit of Jackson’s previous LOTR flicks, and that’s a worthy breed. I’d rather watch that any day of the week over Lincoln and won’t convince myself not to because it’s based on a fantasy novel.

“What does your heart tell you?” Aragorn asks Gandalf in Jackson’s Return of the King.

Not what Lincoln tells me, that’s for sure. And boy am I glad about that.