Looking back at the retrospective we did of George Miller's work on the Mad Max series a few months ago, it's easy to spot some of the superficial similarities with those releases and this one - after all lone cars roaming a wasteland evoke a very obvious comparison. However this is a story that immediately diverts from that tone and style, and is anything but an action film. This is an all together more sobering experience devoid of cartoon characters and wacky outfits. But its strengths do lie with the characters for other reasons since they offer the most real meat in the story, one that may not entirely work as a revenge plot or a straight up drama. But those stronger elements are something to be considered.
While The Rover is indeed a post apocalypse genre road movie, its setting is never fully explained - a single title card explains this is '10 years after the Collapse'. Which in a way is a nice, a lack of sledgehammer exposition is refreshing to see. The hints it provides along the way suggest some kind of economic disaster in Australia, if not the whole world - it's become a land where US money and Chinese language are intermixed with the what you'd expect in terms of gun toting store owners and seedy tenants of run down apartments trying to gain money by any means. Military vehicles patrol the desert and private mercenaries watch over train supplies while everyone else lives in apparent poverty. It's here we meet the handful of main characters which are the highlights. Guy Pearce gives a compelling performance as a totally burnt out guy trailing the hoods that stole his car during a getaway from a shootout. Why he cares so much about this when it's clear vehicles are still in use doesn't get revealed until much later on, but it's a convincing portrayal of someone who has been through a decade of the world going to hell. Robert Pattinson also gives a good turn as Rey, the younger brother of one of those gun men. Left to die by the thieves, he is subsequently taken along under duress to help find them. His intelligence seems somewhat limited but his limit of his wits and his conscience slowly increase as the pair go on their journey. For better or worse Rey does seem to be growing as things develop, particularly when they come into some difficult situations.
It's a subtle, slow piece of cinema with a good eye for bleak visuals out on location in the outback. There's also some fine music that increases the sense of unease as things transpire, at times greatly adding to the mood with percussion and guttural instruments. However as a story overall it may be too light for its own good in places in terms of narrative even if less is of course more at times. The unlikely partners bond a little on the trip but whether this really goes anywhere isn't clear even if it's obvious that Eric may not be made of stone and Rey is not as unintelligent as he first appears. The story is a little jumpy at times which doesn't help the pacing, while it's very engaging early on things get a little less effective later as events pick up speed with some moments ending awkwardly; it would have helped the characterisation if things were explored further or having certain scenes that played out a little longer. Still while these short comings are present it's atmospheric enough, and as far as unsettling drama goes this worth some attention.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (2014)
While the love affair people seem to have with Toothless and Hiccup shows no sign of diminishing, the original movie was a lot like other Dreamworks releases with plenty of likeable material and less in the department of real depth. Much like the sequel to Kung Fu Panda this follow up pushes out on all fronts from the quality and complexity of the visuals, the action sequences and also to the humanity of events that take place. But while the developments in terms of story here are definitely a big plus, it does feel a bit by the numbers towards the end when it starts to become predictable and the sequel bait for a third installment becomes more obvious. A number of the new character additions have meaningful moments but others seem to be sidelined with some odd choices in terms of side stories cropping up for relatively little pay off, if any. Little things like new dragon riding techniques are dropped as the finale builds and several mystical or magical elements come out of nowhere, things I can only assume will be developed properly next time around unless they're present just for convenience. It's still a lot of fun but feels more mechanical while having all this extra emotion, which is just odd.