24 May 2015

Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly and Me, Part 9: "THE BOX" (2009)

[Part 9 of a not-exactly-weekly 12-part blog series about Donnie Darko, S. Darko and the works of Richard Kelly]
Part 1 - "Donnie Darko"
Part 2 - "Donnie Darko: Director's Cut"
Part 3 - "Cindy's Thoughts on Donnie Darko"
Part 4 - "Eric's Pros & Cons of Living in Middlesex"
Part 5 - "Donnie Darko: Deleted Scenes vs. Director's Cut"
Part 6 - "S. Sarko: A Donnie Darko Tale"
Part 7 - "Donnie Darko vs. S. Darko"
Part 8 - "Southland Tales"

THE BOX

German Title:

The Box - Du bist das Experiment

USA, 2009
Director: Richard Kelly

6,5/10








Richard Kelly's "Donnie Darko" follow-ups "Domino" (2005, written) and "Southland Tales" (2006, written & directed) both bombed so spectacularly,
I was convinced we wouldn't see any Kelly-flick for a very long time. However, he somehow was able to obtain some magical Shyamalan-powers and convince yet another filmstudio to give him money for yet another film. The result: "The Box", a highly weird mess of a film that bombed again, though it gladly turned out to be better than its predecessors.


"The Box" is the second film adaptation of Richard Matheson's short story "Button, Button" (which first was adapted as an episode of "Twilight Zone" in 1985). It's one of these films that actually start out really awesome and end up totally meh, in this case due to a fantastic first half, and a weak, confusing, messy and hugely disappointing second half. It's not a bad film, but it could have been so much better if done by a completely different director / screenwriter.

While the short story was more about mysteries and morality, Kelly took it to a completely different level and decided to let it take place in his bizarre Donnie-Darko/Southland-Tales universe. There's humans controlled by aliens, portals, space stuff, superpowers and, for whatever reason, lots of water. Kelly basically made the same mistake he already made in his director's cut of "Donnie Darko": turning an intriguing mystery-film into a mediocre kind of pulp fiction rubbish, by smearing clichéd science-fiction stuff all over it.


The first half is stylish and incredible suspenseful with lots of scary scenes, unsettling images and tons of gripping tension. I was intrigued, I was thrilled, I was fascinated. Then, the whole thing takes a u-turn, and suddenly nothing makes sense anymore. The fact that the movie is clearly too long (120 minutes!) doesn't help. The minute it stops making sense, it begins to drag and bore *yawn* and when we finally reach the climax, I already wasn't interested in the film anymore. Even worse: there are too many unanswered questions. What's with these water portals? What's with the giant light warehouse? What is the actual
purpose of the aliens? etc.

Aside from all this negative stuff, there's still a lot to enjoy, especially the acting: James Marsden is simply terrific and builds a splendid chemistry with Cameron Diaz. Ok, her accent sounds a bit weird, but it's wonderful to see her in a darker, non-comedic role. Frank Langella deliver a super-eerie performance,
Holmes Osborne is great as always, and Celia Weston... well, I just have
a soft spot for her :)


The string score - composed by three members of "Arcade Fire" [Win Butler, Régine Chassagne & Owen Pallett] - is delightfully haunting and sets the mood perfectly. "Donnie Darko"-cinematographer Steven Poster proves again that he's an underrated genius, the set design is gorgeous and the editing is simply excellent. I also think that the CGI is fairly good. Not perfect, but believable enough not to piss me off. The water portals look ace and Langella's CG'd face
is pretty superb.

The movie's tagline "You are the Experiment" should have been changed to "This is an Experiment" because that's exactly what it is: an experiment.
Well, a failed experiment, but at least an interesting one.

Wiki ~ Imdb

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