Category: developers journal

The Tree of Life

Author: Daemon October 24, 2011

It has been a while since I did some movie review, and what better movie to spark the talk than “The Tree of Life“.

First, a digression. “Inception“. Inception is a movie about making movies. If you haven’t figured that one out yet, let me be the one to shine a candlelight at the obvious. In case you did not read that entire rant, which you should, here is just the quick version.

The main crew in Inception is a parallel to the main crew in making movies. The team goes into a dream which is setup by one person – parallel to the storywriter or scenarist. There is a guy for props, a guy who directs it all. There is a guy who finances the whole operation, etc. Every role in Inception has a parallel in the world of movie making.

The parallel becomes most obvious when they talk about people in the dream realizing something is wrong and they stare at the dreamer. Same happens at the movie when something in movie goes wrong, lately this means computer graphics done bad – entire movie audience stares at the screen because some glitch broke the illusion of perfect story.

And in the end the moral of the movie is simple; it’s really not important if what you saw was real or illusion (or in Inception, it does not matter if the first world is real or a dream) as long as the movie touches you and makes you think – the film makers’ job is done.

Everything in Inception is done correctly to convey the message about how movies should be made.

Back to “The tree of life”.

This is a movie about how movies SHOULD NOT be made. I believe that Terrence Malick purposefully made a movie where absolutely everything is wrong so that there is another end of the spectrum to movie making. Inception is on the good side; that’s how you make a movie, The tree of life on the other end; this is how you screw up.


THE STORY FAILS: In short, a movie centers about family of 5 (father, mother, 3 brothers). We first see a letter delivered to the family notifying them of their son’s death. Then we jump into future where one of the brothers is grown up and relives through flashbacks his childhood. We see how father was strict in upbringing, and how mother was kind. At the end there is no moral to the story. No punchline. How one of the brothers died is never shown. Did the harsh upbringing from his father have to do something with his death? Why did he die? During the whole movie you have a feeling that parenting, and the way the family functions (disfunctions) will setup a platform for his death, and teach us something. Nop. In the end – the audience learns nothing. The movie shows us how not to end the movie. If you have shown to the audience that an important member of the story dies, and then you spend entire movie showing his upbringing – then bloody tell the audience what happened.

THE CASTING FAILS: The movie has Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in lead roles. At least that’s advertised on posters. In reality, Sean Penn could have been replaced with a wooden plank. Brad Pitt is awesome tho, but this movie shows us how not to cast actors. Take Sean Penn – do nothing with him.

THE CAMERA FAILS: There are some nice shots in the movie, but overall, most of the audience started to get dizzy after an hour of rotating camera, weird angled and random spliced of frames. I have an iron-stomach. I never get dizzy or vomit. This movie almost made me vomit. It’s clear that this movie teaches us how not to handle camera.

THE MUSIC FAILS: Some truly epic tracks were used in this movie. At completely wrong places. It’s like playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy at the funeral.

THE DIGRESSION FAILS: At one point in the movie we are taken to the beginning of the universe. The Big Bang, forming of stars, the Earth, primordial soup, first proteins, evolution of life, we see dinosaurs and we see the meteor crashing on Earth spelling doom to the dinosaurs. What the hell has that to do with the movie? Nothing. It teaches us how not to digress, how not to show something else other than the main storyline.

“The tree of life”. It sets the ZERO marker on the meter against which the movies are measured. Good job Malick, the International System of Units is bloody proud that you have helped define one more SI unit.


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