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The Films of Robert Zemeckis

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Used Cars

Romancing the Stone

Back to the Future

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Back to the Future: Part II

Back to the Future: Part III

Death Becomes Her

Forrest Gump


What Lies Beneath (August 15/16)

Robert Zemeckis' first foray into thriller territory, What Lies Beneath follows Michelle Pfeiffer's Claire Spencer as she becomes increasingly convinced that her home is haunted by a ghost - much to the consternation of her patient, disbelieving husband (Harrison Ford's Norman). It's a solid premise that's employed to surprisingly middling effect by Zemeckis, as the movie, which runs a ludicrously overlong 130 minutes, progresses at an excessively deliberate pace that prevents the viewer from connecting to the material on an ongoing basis. The lackadaisical vibe, in a far more problematic development, ensures that What Lies Beneath suffers from in an overwhelming lack of tension or momentum, which is certainly an insurmountable obstacle given that Zemeckis and scripter Clark Gregg are striving for feel and tone of an atmospheric, Hitchcockian chiller. And while the movie remains fairly uninvolving for much of its running time, What Lies Beneath, at the very least, boasts a number of positive attributes that prevent it from becoming an all-out disaster - with, especially, Zemeckis' predictably strong visuals going a long way towards elevating one's interest on a regular basis. It's worth noting, too, that the film improves substantially as it progresses into its comparatively enthralling third act, as Zemeckis transforms What Lies Beneath into a full-on horror movie complete with suspenseful interludes and quasi-effective jump scares. (There is, in terms of the former, a very engrossing bit of business involving a bathtub.) It's ultimately impossible not to label What Lies Beneath as a missed opportunity that could and should have been much, much better, with Zemeckis' refusal (or inability) to deliver a tight, taut narrative playing a key role in confirming the movie's relative downfall.

out of

Cast Away

The Polar Express

Beowulf (January 4/08)

Despite the ballyhoo surrounding filmmaker Robert Zemeckis' use of 3D technology on Beowulf (as well as on his last effort, 2004's The Polar Express), it remains exceedingly clear that the format simply isn't appropriate for use within the context of full-length, fictional endeavors. While there are a number of admittedly eye-popping sequences within Beowulf, the overall effect is one of needlessness - as the combination of the uncomfortable glasses and the relentless effect of things jutting out of the screen ensures that the initially impressive visuals are ultimately negated by the annoyance of the technology. That being said, there's certainly no denying the effectiveness of the movie itself - as Zemeckis has concocted a thrilling piece of work that's rife with some of the most exciting action set-pieces of this new century. The relatively simple story - which follows legendary warrior Beowulf as he sets out to defeat a feared monster named Grendel - moves at a surprisingly brisk pace, though the emphasis on expository (and downright uneventful) matters within the midsection does lend the proceedings a distinctly uneven vibe (the thrilling finale ensures that the film ends on a high note, however). Zemeckis' use of motion-capture technology to animate the film does take a while to get used to, yet there's little doubt that the uniformly strong performances play a significant role in breathing life into these glassy-eyed characters (Ray Winstone and particularly John Malkovich are Oscar-worthy here). In the end, Beowulf is clearly the movie that 300 was trying so desperately to be - ensuring that, despite its various flaws, Zemeckis has deftly regained his footing following The Polar Express (which was entertaining but inconsequential) and proven once again that he remains a master storyteller.

out of

Disney's A Christmas Carol (November 29/09)

Robert Zemeckis' infatuation with the motion-capture animation process has officially gone too far with Disney's A Christmas Carol, as the film, which marks the first out-and-out failure of Zemeckis' career, boasts a consistently (and distractingly) artificial visual sensibility that inevitably exacerbates the familiarity of the storyline. There's consequently never a point wherein the viewer is drawn into the main character's plight, which, given that the narrative revolves solely around Scrooge's transformation from cold-hearted miser to joyful humanitarian, is especially problematic and ultimately ensures that the movie remains woefully uninvolving virtually from start to finish. And although Zemeckis' expectedly over-the-top directorial choices initially prove effective at compensating for the stale atmosphere (ie an eye-popping flight through Victorian England), the inherently low-rent animation style becomes more and more difficult to overlook as the film progresses - with the shot-on-the-cheap appearance of the supporting figures belying the movie's almost absurdly inflated budget (ie did all the money go into creating the admittedly striking protagonist?) It's a shame, really, as Zemeckis has lined up an undeniably impressive roster of periphery performers (including Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Bob Hoskins), though it's clear right from the get-go that this is Jim Carrey's show through and through - yet there's little doubt that the actor's larger-than-life take on his four characters rarely meshes with the antiquated nature of Charles Dickens' story. The uneven and pervasively tedious atmosphere ensures that the uplifting finale is hardly able to pack the emotional impact that one might've anticipated, thus cementing the film's place as a woefully misguided endeavor that hopefully marks the end of Zemeckis' mocap experiment.

out of

Flight (December 9/12)

Flight casts Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker, an alcoholic airline pilot who miraculously manages to avert disaster after his plane undergoes a mechanical malfunction - with Whip's subsequent efforts at quitting booze (and cocaine) thwarted on a consistent basis by a number of outside factors. Filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, working in the live-action arena for the first time since 2000's Cast Away, does a fantastic job of immediately drawing the viewer into the proceedings, with the inclusion of several impossible-to-resist elements - eg the spellbinding plane crash, Washington's riveting performance, etc - establishing an impressively promising atmosphere that does, unfortunately, prove to be short lived. The film, which admittedly remains quite watchable from start to finish, begins to demonstrably fizzle out at around the one-hour mark, with the progressively meandering nature of John Gatins' screenplay compounded by an almost impossibly overlong running time (ie the movie's subdued character-study vibe virtually demands a much more brisk sensibility). The overstuffed narrative - which is never more evident than in its emphasis on Kelly Reilly's intriguing yet superfluous Nicole - inevitably lessens the impact of the film's overtly positive elements, and it's ultimately impossible not to lament Zemeckis' decision to place such a simple story within the context of an epic framework. Flight is, in the end, a tremendously erratic endeavor from an otherwise flawless filmmaker (within the live-action realm, that is), with, one can only hope, the movie standing as a stepping stone back to bigger and better things for Zemeckis.

out of

© David Nusair