Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Thursday, June 02, 2005 11:43 pm
Christian Bale & The Empire of the Sun
In the last week I’ve been watching 2 movies which I previously watched when they were first released—The Empire of the Sun and The Color of Money. And then I watched something new:
The Machinist. It’s a Tom Cruise/Christian Bale bonanza, just like the upcoming summer movies.

Empire of the Sun is such a fantastically done movie. When I first watched it I remember wondering “where’s the beef?” However I never really forgot it. The song Suo Gan made an indelible impression, as did many, many visuals from the movie. The current repeat viewing on DVD was an amazing experience.

I expect the portrayal of the Japanese troops as a fairly benign would have been a criticism when the movies was released. Considering the Japanese war crimes in China, such a portrayal seems blasphemous even today. Spielberg did humanise some of the Germans in his other “serious” war movies as well.

I’m not much of a film critic, but I think EOTS is a look at events through the eyes of the spoilt 11–15 year old Jim Graham (played by very young Christian Bale). Hence the “braver” victorious Japanese—especially the pilots—would have a greater influence on him at the time. Jim did appear in most of the scenes in the movie, and the story makes more sense told from his point of view throughout.

Some of the earlier scenes depicting Shanghai were amazing. English movies in China typically seem a little out of place to me. I think filming The Last Emperor in English for example, was a bad move. And every time anyone speaks English in a Jackie Chan/Stephen Chow Hong Kong movies, it’s always for a laugh. In EOTS the early scenes were done realistically on such massive scale against a backdrop of 1940s Shanghai. It’s a credit to the director, and whoever organised those crowds/costumes. Thank goodness computer generated visual effects wasn’t as widespread then. I think I know what George Lucas would have preferred…

The movie is quite sanitised in terms of cruelty by the Japanese. Knowing the events on the Death Railway etc, it seems odd that a large group of prisoners would be kept alive and fed in the middle of China for years. Instead, the movie places much emphasis on real hunger. Jim’s and the other character’s desperation when short of food and water occurs several times in the movie and looked authentic. Politeness and graciousness among prisoners goes right out the window when everyone is famished. Criticism: everyone still looked so fattish at the end.

With the combination of the on-location filming, incredible set pieces, multiple kids on the set, and a kid in the lead role, so much could have gone wrong. But it didn’t. In fact, somehow Christian Bale gave an excellent 2.5 hour performance, and together with the usual Spielberg touches, the team really pulled this one off. It may not have been a monetary winner, but it is still an incredible experience.

[posted with ecto]

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