Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ratatouille & His Dark Materials

Lynda came home from the grocery store with Ratatouille, so I thought I'd give some thoughts about it while it's running. (And it sure beats trying to wrap my brain around the corporate work that I will regret not doing either tomorrow or (most definitely) on Monday morning.

Anyway, the movie, as I'm sure you've heard, is about a rat with a highly developed sense of taste and smell. Not content to live a scavenger's life, he reads a cookbook and begins concocting his own recipes, walking on two paws (so he won't need to tasting the dirt on his food), etc.

His quest for betterment leads him to Paris where he finds a kitchen and hooks up with inept chef and begins pulling strings to make good recipes.

But enough plot.

Two things shocked me so far--1) Even if it's animated, there is something viscerally disturbing about the first time Remy the rat is running around the kitchen, avoiding feet, carts, etc. We are programmed to not like seeing rats in a kitchen. Even if the rat is the hero, it's just disturbing. And the rat had even fallen into a sink of soapy water, so it wasn't about the rat being dirty.

2) In the opening scenes, there were two instances of people randomly grabbing guns to shot things. The first time, Remy and his rat brethren are escaping from a house. The woman in the house decided to get rid of them by pumping shotgun blasts everywhere. The second time, while Remy is crawling through an attic area, he espies a French couple arguing (one of them has a gun). The gun goes off, missing Remy. When he looks through the blast hole, the couple is now embracing.

I was surprised by the casual use of guns in unexpected ways. An odd choice.

From movies to books. I read the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials trilogy over the last few weeks. I read them because many people had said that fans of the Harry Potter series would enjoy these books. I did enjoy them, but it did take me a bit of time to get into the flow of the plot.

Book 1, "The Golden Compass" took a while to get started and I felt that I wasn't going to keep reading because the plot wasn't quick to develop and because I was annoyed by Pullman's writing style.

But I kept going and I was generally pleased with things in the end. I won't say that I like Pullman better than Rowling or Tolkien, but he does have a particular vision.

As to the controversy swirling around "Compass," I am not entirely informed because I haven't seen the movie. From what I have read, the movie seriously downplays the clear, anti-religious themes from the book and tries to make it more of an adventure film that happens to have talking bears and other stuff. Again, I have heard that the film is visually stunning and does a good job of living up to Pullman's vision, if not to his motivation. But, what is Pullman's motivation?

It's clear that he's not a fan of religion. Religious figures are seen as corrupt and the hero characters are clearly lined up against the idea of a body of people using their theology and power to repress the human spirit. But I don't think the campaign led by the Catholic League is going to do itself any good. It is far more damaging for a film to be seen as poorly made than have the CL come out against a movie and ask people not to go.

I'll see "Compass" the movie some time, when it comes out on video probably. And I won't worry about my salvation being threatened by the fact that I read the books.



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