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New Escapist Column! On “The Lord of the Rings” as a Blockbuster for the Post-Ironic Age…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the twentieth anniversary of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings fast approaching, it seemed like a good opportunity to place the films in the context of their times.

Obviously, every work reflects the time in which it is produced – it speaks to a variety of factors (consciously or unconsciously) acting on the creative talent as it evolves into its final form. However, audiences also can’t help but engage with a work in the context of the time in which it is released. Peter Jackson shot most of his Lord of the Rings trilogy before 9/11, even if The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings was released in theatres three months after the attack. Still, it’s not to feel like the films’ earnestness and sincerity resonated with an audience looking for meaning in seemingly chaotic and arbitrary time.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Klaus

Around midway through Klaus, the film’s title character has an introspective moment. The film’s protagonist, a wiry and self-interested postman named Jesper, has decided that Klaus need not settle for delivering the toys that he has already handcrafted. Instead, Klaus could fashion new toys for all the boys and girls of the local community. Klaus’ mood darkens. He stares off into middle distance. “I don’t make toys,” he tells Jesper, in an understated manner. After a beat, he clarifies, “Not anymore.”

It is a very strange moment for a family-friendly animated movie that promises a glimpse at the origin story of Christmas. It obviously hints at a dark and traumatic back story for the muscular woodsman. Klaus has experienced things. It is the children’s movie equivalent of the shell-shocked combat veteran, of Sylvester Stallone retreating from his failure at the start of Cliffhanger or Sergeant Powell having sworn off the use of his sidearm in Die Hard. What horrors could Klaus have experienced that would have made him stop designing adorable handcrafted toys for children?

Snow bad ideas.

It’s a very weird beat, one that feels all the weird for the way in which it tonally clashes with the more openly absurd slapstick elements of the plot or the occasional nods to contemporary pop culture. Klaus is a very odd film, which seems to have little idea of what it actually wants to be. It is a mishmash of themes and influences, awkwardly bouncing between various extremes and never settling on any one long enough to find a grove. It’s a film that really needed more time on the original story break and scripting phases, requiring a stronger vision of what exactly Klaus is supposed to be.

This is a shame, because Klaus looks absolutely gorgeous.

Making a play for the animation market.

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