Monday, May 12, 2008

Reel Resurrection: Empire of the Sun

A lot of film snobs hate Steven Spielberg. I get it. Film snobs are a lot like music snobs – they’re always looking for something new, daring, different - and Spielberg is sort of like U2: He’s done some amazing work, but its hard to make the argument that he’s revolutionized the art form. The snobs are always pining for a revolution.

But despite his penchant for sentimental endings and his difficulty creating good female characters, I’ve gotta come down on the pro-Spielberg side. (Just like I’d have to put The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby among my favorite albums, and admit I find Bono’s quest to save the world really kind of cool). Sure, Jurassic Park lacked soul and Minority Report lacked a second half, but you can’t argue with Indiana Jones, ET, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.

All of which is a really long way of telling you to watch Empire of the Sun. I’m going to go out on a limb and call this a “forgotten” Spielberg flick, because I had never heard of it before my boss suggested I add it to my Netflix queue. (Of course it was nominated for 6 Oscars, so maybe I just missed the boat). It’s about a 12-year-old British boy growing up in luxury in pre-WWII China, and how his insolated little world is literally blown apart when the Japanese invade. Christian Bale is great as the lead in his film debut; its crazy that someone so young can carry an entire movie. The movie follows him as he gets separated from his parents, has to fend for himself in a prison camp, and does all the usual growing up in the process.

Empire of the Sun is a fairly long movie at 2 and half hours, but it has great pacing and enough surprises to keep you interested. It’s historical without being dry, familiar without being boring, epic without being cliché. It’s “All I want is You” and “Where the Streets have no Name.”

It’s Steven Spielberg, in a good way.


Red said...

Spielberg brought the world the summer movie blockbuster. If that's not revolutionary, I don't know what is.

I was 9 when Empire of the Sun came out. I saw it at least three times in the theater. It was, for most of my childhood, my favorite movie (I guess my obsession with lonely characters began early on).

Great movie. I'm glad you watched it.

doorknob_dan said...

I saw this movie when I was a kid, probably 10 or 11 and of course it didn't make much sense.

What I'm afraid of is that it still won't make much sense.

BeckEye said...

I think I was too young to appreciate this when it came out. Maybe I'll watch it again.

Garney said...

This is the best reel resurrection yet.

Hick Flick said...

This was literally the only movie that made me cry when I was a kid. And it adds credence to my theory that Christian Bale is the best and most underrated actor of his generation.