Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A third disappointment

Shrek the Third is a technical masterpiece. I kept wondering at the texture of Shrek's skin, the different state of Puss in Boots fur, and Prince Charming's bouncy and behaving hair.

And for an hour and a half, I kept thinking about how white the world of Far Far Away is. Beside Eddie Murphy, there are no black voice actors in the film. Antonio Banderas (who is technically white, let's not forget) is the only other bit of colour in the acting roster.

And yes, I'm sure the argument that it's based on European fairy tales, so why not have all of the characters be European* looking will be put up against my complaint? Por que, you may ask? Why should they include non-white characters? Porque si. Just because. (*Also, Europeans come in many shades. See: Antonio Banderas.)

If that doesn't move you, here's another reason: Because there is a talking donkey and a cat who wears boots and is an excellent swordsman - BECAUSE IT'S FUCKING MAKE BELIEVE.

I sat there thinking that we have the chance to relate to a bunch of blondes (various fairy tale women including Rapunzel, Cinderella, plus the new boy King, Artie), a lone black haired character (Snow White), and a few brunettes. If we don't relate to them, we've got Donkey, Puss in Boots, or a grab bag of characters like the three pigs, blind mice, gingerbread man, etc.

Yuck. It really makes me sick, spiritually, to be mired in this space - but I'm not going to pretend I wasn't disturbed by it. I tried to enjoy myself and did at times.

One thing I was bothered by even before I saw this installment was the basic premise of the plot. Princess Fiona's father dies and instead of Fiona becoming the Queen, everyone assumes that Shrek would be the King (of course Fiona would rule as Queen, but her place as rightful heir to the throne is never made explicit). If Shrek is capable of ruling the kingdom, then why the hell isn't THE QUEEN, the late King's wife, just ruling alone? It's so disgustingly sexist and patriarchy-y, I cannot stand it. Shrek doesn't want to be King so he goes off to find the only other rightful heir (again, I ask why the QUEEN is suddenly incapable of running Far Far Away? WHY? ::smashes some furniture::), a high school boy.

The idea of the princess turned ogre is rich with possibility, possibility which they didn't touch after a bit in the first film - Fiona is incredibly girly and defers to Shrek more often than not. The only good thing about her in this film is that she has retained her shape (not super skinny) - although I swear her waist to boob ratio has moved to a booby-er profile.

The musical choices are not as good in this film (I loved the song "Accidentally in Love" from Shrek 2) - the use of "Live and Let Die" was particularly stupid. I think they seem to be stuck with a huge budget and the desire to buy expensive songs which may not really link to the story, such as it is. The Sly and the Family Stone song over the ending credits was nice, but by that point in the film I was really sick of Eddie Murphy's buffoonery.

Final analysis? I was really, really, really disappointed at the messages of Shrek the Third - sure, there was a little bit of "stick up for what's right" and "believe in yourself", but it was couched in such sexist drivel as to be useless. And the lily landscape was just too much for my delicate wishing-to-be-seen sensibilities.

The animation techniques have gotten so incredibly good, it was really stunning at times - light and shadow and skin/hair textures especially so.

I won't say "don't go", but man, I'm still kind of bummed out about it.


Palmer said...

Nice use of alliteration! ;)

What did you think of the first 2 Shrek films?

LavaLady said...

I remember being struck by the whiteness of the people in Shrek, but letting it go at the time. The story was unique in many ways, and the non human characters were fun. Also, the animation (at the time) was pretty striking.

Shrek 2 was fun for a few reasons: the story was pretty good with some actual subtlety (newlywed and in-law woes, anti-ogre sentiment in Far Far Away, and the commercialization of society), the imagery was fun (much more of the fairy tale universe was shown - there was a sense of discovery there which was really missing from the third film), and the dialog was well written.

I was talking to someone this week about this and I compared it to Little Britain's first and second series; once something different (and perhaps subversive in some way) has become mainstream, it tends to stop reflecting the ideas of the creator and start reflecting the ideas of the society at large.

In Shrek the 3rd, there are fewer unique characters, ideas, and statements. The film relies more heavily on tired stereotypes than it needed to, than it ever should have.

We have Shrek 2 on DVD and I think I'll try to watch it again soon and compare. There's a silly montage at the beginning which I find really charming.