Saturday, July 04, 2009

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D

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I think Ice Age has already established a strong franchise, and if it sticks to its own narrative formula, it should still find some legs to carry on the laughs with more movies to come, since the character base keeps on expanding, and unless the box office receipts tells the filmmakers otherwise. Like the adage goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

As always, the film opens with the adventures of Scrat from what you would already have seen from the trailer, where he encounters Scratte and has to decide which to give up, a potential relationship with a lover who sometimes prove to be manipulating his feelings, or that perennial piece of acorn that is always just as elusive. That'll bring you to the opening credits, before you're introduced to the all too familiar characters in Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) the Mammoths, Sid (John Leguizamo), Eddie (Josh Peck) and Crash (Seann WIlliam Scott) the possums, and Diego (Denis Leary) the sabre-tooth tiger, that rag-tag team of a makeshift herd who have stuck together through thick and thin, ready for one more adventure.

The story's somewhat scattered this time round, with each character being pre-occupied with their respective concerns. Many and Ellie having to face some jitters with the looming expectations in being new parents, and in so this threatens the dynamics of their herd, with the aging Diego having his morale low due to his physical deterioration and decision to leave the herd, and Sid being a little more idiotic than before, this time adopting some three baby dinosaurs as his own kids.

And because this surrogate parent role was especially not welcomed by the baby dinosaurs parent, which turns out to be of the T-Rex species, Sid's failure to give them back meant they all had to be forcefully taken to the dino's natural habitat, in a lost world still filled with lush greenery and plenty of other roaming prehistoric, and supposedly extinct creatures. In other words, with the action taking place in this part of the world, the title "Ice Age" did somewhat seem like a misnomer, as gone are the usual white, snow covered environment, that made way for thick forests and undergrowth.

Which somewhat took the polish off the film, and I felt that both the characterization and the plot and subplots suffered. The usual themes which has been beaten to death in the earlier films, like trust, sacrifice and friendship get repeated again here, and the first half of the film really looked tired despite the 3D enhancement that I've opted for, with only depth of field, and as far as I can tell, no specific set action sequence to milk the potential of a 3D presentation. The story became bogged down with trying to handle too many different character motivations at the same time that it only managed to give each some cursory attention.

Thankfully the slack was picked up in time for quite an exciting finale. This was in fact like a culmination of what the new character, voiced by Simon Pegg, could do, as Buck the possum which had gone bonkers. The filmmakers here seemed totally satisfied with allowing Buck to steal the show, and stole the film it did, with his Jack Sparrow-like swagger for that sense of adventure, coupled with an unsound mind, a fearless and gung-ho attitude, and plenty of wonderfully crafted dialogues and comedic instances. Comedy, a staple in the Ice Age movies, seemed to be stuck at a low with the usual name-dropping references to pop culture that Buck actually arrived at the right time to save the day.

What could be a problem was of course the lack of a strong antagonist to shake things up a little. In the first installment we got the sabre-tooth tigers, and the second being a fight against the nature's wrath. This one had a tough cookie dinosaur in a T-Rex, but seriously, do we need another Rex as a bad character? Otherwise the "villains" just pop up whenever the situation calls for it, or became a sort of an enigma before finally appearing for some 2-3 minutes worth of screen-time. This made the film lose that sense of urgency in developing its narrative, and looked for the most parts that it was just coasting along, waiting for something major to happen.

Given the way it bade farewell, I think there is still enough fuel for a couple more Ice Age movies, but the next time, I'm hoping for a lot more focus, a lot more genuine comedy, and for the animation to remain as flawless as it currently already is, if not better. Amongst the three, my least liked, story-wise, but it surely had the most memorable character of the lot in Buck.

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