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Robert Zemeckis returns to the director’s chair for Welcome to Marwen, but his return is unfortunately a mistake. Welcome to Marwen is simply not a good movie. It’s a really, really bad one. The reasons why this film is making crpWrites’ worst of 2018 list lies ahead...
Zemeckis made an error in his choice to have the film rely heavily on the imaginary world of Marwen. Especially when there’s little to no reasoning behind the scenarios taking place within that world. Welcome to Marwen doesn’t feel like a Zemeckis film, and his attempt at being creative fails to elevate the very serious topic of a hate crime. Interweaving the world of Marwen and Mark’s real life problems doesn’t work as well on the screen as it may have on paper - especially when undermining it with blatant Easter eggs that aren’t hidden very well from Zemeckis’ previous work (*cough* Back To The Future). Zemeckis hasn’t recently been top of his game, but this film might just take the cake for a reason to take a break.
Taking the true story of Mark Hogancamp, a man who was brutally beaten for mentioning that he enjoys wearing women’s shoes, rebuilds himself through the use of models and photography in the fictional city of Marwen. It’s a shame that this rebuilding isn’t shown on screen, and his sudden realization of who the antagonist is all along is purposely confusing, aside from the obvious Nazi villains. The film is so littered with cringey interactions that it’s exhausting. Every scene, whether in the real world or in Marwen, is entirely awkward and underdeveloped. An extended metaphor for the healing process through the world of Marwen he has created fails to spark a connection between the two in the film. It’s a mystery as to how this film found its way onto the big screen or through test audiences with all of the cringe worthy dialogue. Robert Zemeckis and Caroline Thompson’s screenplay makes the entire film incredibly uncomfortable to sit through from beginning to end.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Talking about dialogue, the characters saying these terrible lines are just as cringey, and even worse, completely forgettable. Some so forgettable that they are simply mentioned or shown for a moment and disappear from the film entirely. Steve Carell gives a career low performance as Mark “Cap’n Hogie” Hogancamp, delivering his lines incredibly poor and never being able to elevate the written word. As Hogancamp, he’s not as awful to watch, but to listen to him as Marwen’s Hogie is torture to the ears. He doesn’t belong in that role, he doesn’t fit in to that character persona, and it’s not played off as funny, but serious - objectifying women only to then act like he’s been on the side of women the entire picture. Beyond Carell, there’s only two people who serve a partial role in the main story; Leslie Mann and Merritt Wever are two characters that show a tiny bit of personality, but only the tiniest amount. However, none of the acting can save even the slimiest amount of Welcome to Marwen. Besides Welcome to Marwen’s awkward nature, it’s other gigantic issue is its roster of characters. It has far too many; some are duplicated and almost all are lacking an identity to make them unique. The film is a waste of an intriguing story of a man coming back from being beaten mercilessly, as it is hidden underneath the unfortunate fantasy of Marwen that doesn’t manage to capture any redeeming attributes to assist the real story from coming to its rightful end. Real world characters start and conclude just as plastic as their counterparts.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Welcome to Marwen’s score appears to be almost entirely lifted from Robert Zemeckis’ previous work, with a few tweaks here and there of course. This is incredibly clear near the films finale when it becomes eerily similar to the familiar sound of Alan Silvestri from The Polar Express. The score is easily the best part of the picture, but the fact that it sounds so similar to other work of the composer is ultimately a little disappointing as he has produced some fabulous original scores in his day. For nostalgic reasons, some may enjoy the soundtrack but I’d recommend 2018’s Ready Player One to fulfill that desire, or better yet watch the original film the score originates from to get the full experience - I’d just not recommend sitting through this one for only that reason. All-in-all, the sound design isn’t remarkable, but it’s nothing to be angry at the film for, as it’s a portion of the film that seem to at least capture my attention.
From the man that brought us Back to the Future and The Polar Express comes this CGI misuse of a film. The trailers made the animation look much worse than it actually is, however the digital effects for the world of Marwen just doesn’t look correct - it makes the toys in Toy Story look more realistic than any of these characters. Less time is spent in the real world, but the distress that Carell carries throughout the film is majorly helped by the makeup department successfully wearing him down. The town of Marwen is a neat idea, but as you dive deeper into the lore of this city, it becomes much too small and underdeveloped for the amount of stories that Hogancamp creates for his photography. The design does leave a lot to be desired, and possibly a side-by-side of the real Marwen and the film’s version would shine a light on how accurate it is. Without this though, there is much more to be seen and a lot of opportunities left not utilized. Not as ugly as The Polar Express, but a poor mixture of the CGI and human interaction makes the film display the digital effects in a extremely bad light.
Welcome to Marwen is unsalvageable, as it’s a good central idea with a botched execution that leaves nothing satisfying to want to spend almost two hours watching. A career error for all involved, but most importantly Carell, as he has built quite a great reputation for himself over the past couple of years in serious films and more sincere comedies. With Back to the Future being my favorite all time film, I always hope for the best from Zemeckis, but this is one of the many reasons my hope for anything magical from the man has began to fade.