This will be my 153nd movie review... and I mention this not because it's a particularly significant number, but because of the way this particular movie came to be my 153nd movie review.
Last Tuesday I got a comment on my last review essentially inviting me to come along to a preview screening tonight. Which doesn't sound like much, but really, it's something that I always thought happened to other bloggers, not me. So I was more than a little tickled to even be contacted.
It helped that the movie in question was Let Me In, the American remake of the Swedish movie Let The Right One In... so it was something I wanted to see anyway.
As I just mentioned, it's a remake... an English language, American remake of a movie that I only saw in April last year. So not a very long time between that version and this in the scheme of things. And normally I would shy away from the whole idea of remaking something that was so whole and so beautiful, because what could you to to improve it.
But I'd heard good things about the new version.
And that's exactly what it is... a new version. I don't think it's exactly a remake of the first movie although it certainly pays homage to it, but I'd say it's a new interpretation that comes from the same source. Some parts are as good or better, some parts aren't.
Going firstly with the things that are as good... the two leads Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz are excellent... I was worried that Chloe was going to be too "pretty" based on a couple of photos I'd seen, but they actually give her an androgynous quality that works for the character. Kodi comes across as very frail and vulnerable, partly due to a dorky haircut, but it also shines out of his eyes.
Props also have to go to Dylan Minnette (last seen as Jack's "son" on the final series of Lost) who adds a definite viciousness to the school bully... it's not just casual teasing... there's something rotten there. Much more so in this version... and I think vicious is the right word for it.
The character of The Father (played by Richard Jenkins) also gets fleshed out a little, still leaving it open for interpretation, but making him more of a real character. And if anything is better in this version, I think it's his character as a whole.
Some of the incidental characters get removed or replaced or merged or truncated which doesn't particularly hurt the story. In fact a couple of the changes actually increase the dread and anticipation that perhaps wasn't there in the original.
That's definitely something that is still there... the dread and the anticipation... partially perhaps because I essentially knew what was going to happen next, it was just waiting to see how it played out. But I definitely felt my heart racing in a couple of the major scenes.
It also has that sense of sweetness between the two main characters, and the fact that they're drawn to each other for the reasons they lack themselves.
And then there were the things they perhaps didn't do as well this time around...
At the very top of that list is the CGI Abby. Why? Really, I want to know... Why? In the original there were incredibly bad CGI cats... in this one they turn the lead actress into incredibly bad CGI on at least four separate occasions. And it completely pulled me out of the moment, partly because it was so bad, and partly because there was absolutely no reason that they had to use CGI. I know that they were trying to make her character seem superhumanly strong and agile, but it just came across as fake with a capital everything.
There is also a scene at the beginning of the movie that seems completely out of place. I mean it is out of place because after the scene a title card flashes up that ways "Two weeks earlier". But then we end up playing through most of the same scene again when if comes up in the movie. Again, I just felt it was unnecessary. Not bad like the CGI, but not needed.
I also found it odd that this version was set in New Mexico of all places... I could understand somewhere in one of the states that borders Canada... that idea of isolation, cold, lack of sun... but New Mexico isn't any of those things, at least not in my mind.
In comparing the two movies (which I'm trying not to do extensively, but I don't think I'm going that great job at it), this is a much louder film. I remember mentioning in my review of the Swedish version that it could almost play as a silent film. There wasn't a large amount of music (that I remember) and the dialogue was often minimal.
For two movies that are exactly the same length, the Swedish version definitely feels a lot slower and more measured, whereas the American version is a lot louder, and seems to contain a lot more music and dialogue.
Actually I'm not sure about there being less dialogue, but there definitely seemed to be more music. Which I'm sure was a stylistic choice on the part of the director, but I do think that as a result this version lost some of the dreamy, unreal quality and felt a lot more grounded in reality... which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your interpretation.
Interestingly enough I think the place that that feeling of being grounded in reality plays out the most is in the final scene... in the Swedish version I was left with a feeling of hopefulness and moving on to better things, whereas with this version I very much ended up thinking "well how are they going to survive now?". Same scene, different results.
The movie was also missing the sense of preteen sexuality that made me somewhat uneasy in the original. The idea of it is there in a couple of scenes, but it's decidedly lacking. But since that made me somewhat uneasy in the original, I'm not sure I miss it in this version.
The other thing that seemed to be slightly lacking, although again I'm sure it was a stylistic choice by the director, was some of the subtlety, particularly around Abby. Whereas in the original her vampire transitions were quite subtle, to the point of being "blink and you'll miss it", this time around they've gone for white contacts, veins, the whole bit. And I think there's a lot more blood being splashed around this time... I could be wrong about that, it just felt bloodier.
If you haven't seen the original version, I think you'll enjoy this one (but I'd still recommend you watch the original after you see this), and if you have seen the original I think you'll be hard pressed not to make comparisons between the two, but I think it's still worth seeing.
yani's rating: 3 bare feet out of 5