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Friday
Jun222018

Yes No Maybe So: Welcome to Marwen

by Salim Garami

What's good? The trailer for Robert Zemeckis' new film Welcome to Marwencol just dropped and it's quite the interesting mix of live-action and animated. It loosely follows the true story of Kingston artist Mark Hogencamp's terrifying attack by neo-Nazis and his attempts to rebuild his life in the aftermath. Turning to his creativity he built a 1/6-scale model town based on WWII Belgium and filled it with his friends and assailants. Zemeckis' film not only dramatizes the real-life tale of Hogencamp trying to pull himself back together but overlaps it with animating the dolls with his usual inclination towards effects-work. It's also the second time Hogencamp's story was commit to film after the 2010 documentary Marwencol.

Let's break down the Yes No Maybe So after the jump...

YES 

  • Janelle Monáe's previous two film performances - Moonlight and Hidden Figures, both 2016 Best Picture nominees - are the kind of charismatic turns of supporting personality that you can't help but hope for in this go-round.
  • Steve Carell is much more impressive in his straightfaced dramatic roles than in his comedic roles (though he's a talent both ways). He has an ability to let terrified and helpless feelings drown him in an unbearably sympathic manner. This leads to a lot of shuffling and loose eye contact. And honestly it looks like this role is pooling from that side of him, however...

NO

  • ...it's also the attitude of yours truly that Carell's dramatic films are rarely worthy of the A+ performances he gives and it will be a shame if this turns out to continue that streak of dramedy films not worth his effort.
  • Leslie Mann wasn't lying when she said it seems pretty violent. There is a surprising amount of pseudo-action scenes that might undercut the poignant emotional core, especially when it comes to interrupting the court case regarding Hogencamp's attackers with the dolls rescuing him.
  • There's also not a single mention in this trailer of Hogencamp's cross-dressing which might feel like erasure of some sort, although the documentary also kind of back-loaded that important element.
  • (This one is really unfair because it appears to just be the trailer but like, as a diehard fan of Foo Fighters, using that chorus of "Walk" to Hogencamp literally learning to wal-- move his feet again is a ridiculously bad needle drop and I sure hope the film doesn't lay it on that thick).

MAYBE SO

  • I guess The Walk stuck with Zemeckis. Is he just going to keep adapting stories already immaculately told through documentary form?
  • For now, the uncanny usage of human faces superimposed on plastic dolls bodies is no less unsettling than Zemeckis' past usage of fully motion-captured environments and characters such as the infamous The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol, BUT they totally look as plasticky as a doll would be and I can see myself getting used to the look eventually. And since visual effects dramas and comedies are a Zemeckis speciality he might be able to wring something human from it. 
  • Marwen is essentially a product of Hogencamp trying to deal with his trauma by controlling his own world. The uncomfortable look of the dolls could actually prove an advantage.

The film was originally going to be titled "The Women of Marwen"

Perhaps it's unfair of me to call this a whole lot of 'Maybe So' based on Zemeckis shaky recent work, sincethere's always room for an artistic comeback. And hasn't Zemeckis earned a lot of good will for his continued exploration of technology's growth in cinema, something this doll-laden story will give him a lot of room to indulge in.

So where do you fall on the Yes No Maybe So scale? Do you think Zemeckis is headed for a return to form? Do you think his playbox modus operandi with technology will reap benefits here? Tell us in the comments.

 

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Reader Comments (8)

I love Janelle Monae and would like to see her act more, and I like Steve Carell a whole lot (more than most TFE regulars). But particularly given all the outstanding fall movie trailers, this looks like a big no. As with The Walk, people should just see the documentary instead.

June 22, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I've said this elsewhere, but: it's a story of someone overcoming trauma via a fantasy world of stylized women warriors. Did Zemeckis accidentally make "Sucker Punch 2"?

I can't figure this out at all. If the movie knows how strange and jarring some of this imagery is, if it's meant to be unsettling on purpose, it could really be something. Even if it plays up hero/recovery tropes at a disconnect from the odd specificity of its story, I think that's an interesting choice. Make use of the friction between the man's internal logic and how it comes across to others, maybe, and how it doesn't jive with narrative expectations.

But this trailer seems like it's being pushed as a generic inspirational movie, and I don't have much faith the Zemeckis can or would handle a darker tone...

June 22, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

It looks creepy just like Ready Player One.

June 22, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I'm going with a maybe as I want to see Marwencol first.

June 22, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I'm not even clicking on the trailer. I guess it's a maybe, but leaning no, even though I love Carell. I have no faith in Zemeckis whatsoever.

June 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Dave S.: The biggest problem with Sucker Punch was always the setting of what is supposedly the "base layer." We have this dreary reality, that then transitions to a Moulin Rouge!-esque brothel (suspicious, but not impossible) for fantasy layer one and then transitions to an action packed world of cyborg samurai, Kaiser Zombies and dragons for fantasy layer 2. The problem is Sucker Punch is set in the early 60s. Where most of the component parts don't even exist for BOYS to fantasize about? The "double layered fantasy" thing was a cool conceit, especially since layer one amounts to "what boys WANT us to be dreaming about" and layer two was supposed to be "What we ACTUALLY want to dream about", but I just wish both layers of the fantasy were plausible fantasies relative to the timeframe. Welcome to Marwen is going to be...more coherent than Sucker Punch, but its probably just a less interesting competent. So, basically, Modern Zemeckis do what Modern Zemeckis do.

June 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

(Sigh), did my comment stop the reactions to this dead? Or is Zemeckis not nearly the draw he used to be?

June 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

No. Zemeckis playing with dolls is creepy.

June 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJono

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