The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Review

8 Jan

See the Trailer

So I went to see ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ courtesy of the movie studio itself Paramount Pictures (thanks paramount!). This is because I vote in the annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. The film is based on a George Carlin joke. (just kidding)

Anyway, I’ll do a conclusion first then elaborate.


The Bad

The film is too long ( 3 friggin hours???), lacks direction, has unconvincing old age effects. The whole 2nd half of the film is boring. Cate Blanchett’s character is boring and lacking any depth. Unoriginal story elements of having the main characters appear in the movie very old then flashback to when they were young (like ‘The Notebook’ or ‘Away from Her’ or ‘Titanic’)

The Good

The film is visually beautiful (you’d expect nothing less from Fincher), the youthful effects are 100% convincing and amazing to behold. The first half of the film is awesome, reminds me of Forrest Gump. Tilda Swinton is in it. Good memorable eccentric characters like Benjamin Button himself, his mom, Captain Mike.

Elaborations (has some spoilers)

The movie is about a man who is born old and ‘ages’ young. The more years he is alive, the more youthful his body becomes. His father abandons him because he is horrified by his babies monstrous appearance. He is adopted by a black woman who can not have children of her own and raises him in a retirement home. The story is told from the Diary of Benjamin Button as his love interest Daisy lay dying on a hospital bed.

This first half of the film (covering about 25 years of his life) is the best part. I really enjoyed the eccentric old people in his retirement home and their stories, especially the guy who keeps saying he got struck by lightning seven times. I am pretty sure there is some symbolism there, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

The film gets a bit creepy when Benjamin Button meets his love interest, a 5 year old Cate Blanchett. It is creepy because this is a grown man (Brad Pitt) made up to look like an even OLDER man who is flirting with a 5-6 year old. At least they didn’t kiss but they come close and yah..weird.

There was also a pointless sequence where he goes on a bus ride with a Nigerian man who tells him some stories about his wives being eaten by alligators. He eventually gets a job on a tugboat and meets one of the films best characters that injects some much-needed energy into the film, Captain Mike. Working with Captain Mike gets Benjamin the money and experience he needs to go off on his own, visit Russia, fuck Tilda Swinton (god I think shes gorgeous) and sink a German U-Boat.

Speaking of pointless, why did they set the film’s modern sequence during Katrina? More symbolism I suppose, since multiple times in the film there are references to a ‘coming storm’. Probably symbolizes our unavoidable eventual death as a brewing storm.

Anyway, The film gets VERY cheesy then by having Captain Mike become a Humming bird after he dies, since he loves Humming Birds. (‘Tha’ is not a bird..tha’ is a friggin’ miracle!’) and then having Benjamin become a hummingbird when he dies.

Oh, just remembered another pointless sequence in the film. They tell the story of an old blind watchmaker who makes a clock that runs backward, so that he might get his son back from death. The insinuation is that somehow this caused Benjamin Button to be born. But its pointless and silly and just adds more time to the already too-long film.

Let me go on a tangent about movies that are excessively long.

Tangent on Excessively Long Movies

Ok quick movie history lesson, once upon a time Directors were Gods. Studios let them do anything they wanted. As a result, the directors would make ridiculously long movies (3 hour long Deer Hunter, 3 hour long Godfather, 5 hour long Heaven’s gate) because well, the movie is their baby and they didn’t want to cut off any chunk of it. Eventually the studios got tired of this and the modern movie era was born, the 2 hour or less running time for the MTV generation.

Lately, the studios have reverted back to allowing big-name directors make really really long movies. So they let Peter Jackson smoke crack and make the 3 hour long King Kong, the 3 hour long Lord of the Rings movies (even longer directors cut too if your that bored), the 3 hour long AI , 2 hour 30 minute batman. Personally, I feel there is almost no excuse for making a movie over2 hours. This usually happens because the director is in love with their own work and feel its just pure genius and the more we see of it the better. But they miss the important lesson of subtlety. Loud and excessive is not elegant, it is low brow. Its better to display only one sculpture for example than to display 100 beautiful sculpture..they get lost in their own excess.

Did we really need to spend ANY amount of screen time in The Dark Knight on ‘Evil Azn Investment Banker Man’? Did we need to have a 20 minute long dinosaur stampede sequence in King Kong? And in the case of Benjamin Button, did we really need to waste any screen time on the visiting African man? On Benjamin going to New York and meeting Daisy’s new BF? On him getting stuck on a roof as a old baby? On The blind watchmaker sequence? The unfurnished apartment sequence? There was so much excessive wasted screen time. The old lady Daisy was unnecessary and we as an audience could give less of a shit about their daughter. Anyway…

Back to the Review

The movie nukes the fridge when Benjamin finds out who his real father is, travels to New York and meets Daisy and her new BF. The film loses all focus and becomes an uninteresting unrequited / lost love story. Daisy’s character is totally undeveloped, she comes off as a bit shallow and we really don’t learn much about her other than she likes to dance and New York city and likes (much) older men. Around this point the only thing keeping me in the theater is to see what happens to Benjamin when he dies. Will he be a 5’10” baby? Will he turn into a fetus? Sadly nothing that interesting. He just becomes a little boy and then a baby and then dies.

Which makes no sense. They established he was born with all the ailments of old age, arthritis, brittle bones, non-elastic skin. Yet they have him develop dementia when he has the youthful body?

That was just a convenient way I guess, to make it so Daisy is not making out with a 8 year old since he forgets his past. But that didn’t stop other films.

The film lacks any real direction. What was the point? What did we learn? It wasn’t even that good of a love story. As cheesy as it was, ‘The Notebook’ was way better than this film and had an identical premise except for the reverse aging thing. About the only reason to see it is if you are a big Tilda Swinton fan (I am) or a big David Fincher fan (I am) or have a free ticket (I did). My butt was hurting around hour 2.45 like you wouldn’t believe.

Also as a side thing:

Ten Things we learn from Benjamin Button

  1. The Father of the penguin in Batman returns wasn’t the only guy who deserted his son because he was UGLY.
  2. twirling head-on into the middle of the street without heeding traffic is a perfectly safe activity that only bad luck could turn into tragedy.
  3. You can inherit a factory without ID.
  4. Aging makeup still sucks
  5. German submarines are no match for rickety tin tugboats
  6. If you get shot several times by heavy machine gun through vital organs, you will still have enough time to say something really profound before you die.
  7. Just because its 2009 does not mean we can not use the old ‘Magical Negro’ story device.
  8. When your wife starts to show signs of age, abandon her and your newborn baby to ride a motorcycle and wash clothes in India, then return years later for some sex.
  9. Dogs can live to be 30 years old
  10. Even after being born with a fantastic mutation that reverse ages you, you can still lead a very boring, unremarkable life.

17 Responses to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Review”

  1. asharak January 8, 2009 at 9:21 pm #

    So this IS as bad as it looks.
    I guess they had to have a person getting hit by a car in this Brad Pitt movie, too.

  2. dazz January 8, 2009 at 9:24 pm #

    dude. It’s fucking impossible for any Christopher Nolan Batman movie to be too long. What you say is madness, surely!

    • bboyneko January 8, 2009 at 9:40 pm #

      So you agree that the amount of screen time spent on evil azn investment banker man was worthwhile when we had the joker and two face as villains already?

      • dazz January 8, 2009 at 10:37 pm #

        Well, Twofie wasn’t a villain yet. And the whole point of that first act was showing (A) the Joker knows not to underestimate Batman but the Mob don’t, (B) Batman and Gordon make the mistake of underestimating (or at least overlooking) Joker in favor of going after the Mob which really comes back to bite them in the ass later, and (C) Bats hadn’t got a chance to try out/show off the new gear yet.

      • bboyneko January 8, 2009 at 10:52 pm #

        Meh, waste of screentime. There was no need to introduce the azn invester banker man and the whole fly to hong kong sequence was totally out of place. This is BATMAN not James Bond or MI:3. And that sequence in hong kong was ripped off scene for scene from MI:3

      • dazz January 9, 2009 at 3:24 pm #

        …Were we watching the same movies? 0.o

  3. Anonymous January 8, 2009 at 9:35 pm #

    I love this review because it completely reflects my own feelings.
    #6 was especially an irritating plot development to me.
    “When your wife starts to show signs of age, abandon her and your newborn baby to ride a motorcycle and wash clothes in India, then return years later for some sex. ”
    Advice: when seeing an exessively long movie, try the new Landmark theatre in Baltimore. Very comfy and roomy, and there’s a bar! 😉
    P.S. the deer hunter and the godfather were great and thoroughly engaging movies that didn’t come off like these new long films which just seem like they never went through any editing process.

    • bboyneko January 8, 2009 at 10:04 pm #

      Re: yeah!
      I agree the godfather and deer hunter were great, but they would have been just as effective cut to 2 hours in my opinion.

  4. spatulistic January 8, 2009 at 9:42 pm #

    Interesting write-up.
    I agree with you that the movie was too long. I did like the special effects, though. I didn’t think they were cheesy.
    Your Top 10 list made me laugh but uh… I guess I don’t remember the dog.

    • bboyneko January 8, 2009 at 10:01 pm #

      remember when the woman who dresses in nice clothes moves in to the retirement home? She promises the dog has 3 paws in the grave? Well the dog is still alive decades after she dies, according to the movie timeline.

      • spatulistic January 8, 2009 at 10:24 pm #

        I do remember that scene, now, but where do we see the dog again?

      • bboyneko January 8, 2009 at 10:30 pm #

        a few times in a few later scenes. The dog was even at her funeral.

  5. docwho88 January 9, 2009 at 12:54 am #

    In trying to give examples of films that were “too long”, your selections of Dark Knight, King Kong, and LOTR are made of fail. I guarantee you could come up with some actual shitty examples if you tried a little harder.

    • bboyneko January 9, 2009 at 6:44 pm #

      I still maintain those films were too long. The same effect could have been achieved in 2 hours or less. my butt was hurting and my interest waning in all of those films the longer they went.

  6. Anonymous January 19, 2009 at 4:08 am #

    I love the imagination that went into making Benjamin Button; can’t help enjoying those southern accents as well

  7. Anonymous January 22, 2009 at 9:56 pm #

    Nice review
    Nice review – hollywood is so clueless on ways – but they try

  8. Anonymous December 8, 2009 at 5:50 pm #

    wow did u say old magical negro what an idiot
    Ur not intelegent enough to see the deep meaning and symbolism that makes this movie the master peice it is
    your as ingnorant as you look

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