I apparently spent part of the past week contributing to the success of the two biggest money-making films of the weekend. Which means either that my tastes have gotten way more mainstream lately, or that my sometimes quirky taste in movies is spreading.
Although, it truth, I didn’t choose either movie, relying on friends to make the choices. As it turns out, both choices were very, very good.
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we went to see the newest Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’ve seen the previous films in the series, but I’m not nearly as big a fan as the friends I went to the movie with, and this is the first of the films I’ve seen in a theater since the first one came out several years ago. I went in expecting to like the film, but not to like it as much as I did.
The main actors are growing into adults, and into really good performers. The effects were very nice, and the story was involving (with the exception of the first of J. Rowling’s novels, I have not yet read the books, so I did not go in knowing already what was going to happen). I think the franchise went in the right direction with this film after a couple of missteps with earlier episodes. While the subject matter in the films keeps getting darker and darker, for example, the photography in this most recent film is significantly lighter than in the previous one, which was so dark sometimes that there was nearly nothing visible on-screen. I don’t like films that I can’t actually see. There were also more outdoor scenes in this film, which (possible spoiler alert, but only for those who don‘t know much of anything about the films) has Harry, Ron and Hermione on the run from You-Know-Who, which helped with the lighting issue. And even in the indoor scenes, the film seemed considerably more open than the previous films, which took place largely at Hogwarts School.
Then, on Thanksgiving Day, some of us went to see Tangled. Tangled is a Disney animated film (according to a card at the beginning of the film, the 50th animated film from the studio), targeted squarely at a younger audience, that retells the story of Rapunzel with some significant twists. Those of us who went to see the film ranged in age from 30 to 54, much older than the intended audience. But you know what? We all liked the film a lot. For one thing, it continues the new tradition of Disney heroines who find their power rather than just being traditionally submissive women. That is all to the good. Yes, there is a love story, and a fairly syrupy ending that will not, in the end, leave the kiddies traumatized…although Mother Gothel, the character who has locked Rapunzel in her tower, is farily scary, and I expect her to take her place in the pantheon of Disney villains. Still in all, Rapunzel does not have to sell out her newfound power and confidence in order to get her happy ending.
A very good indication of how good Tangled is, is the fact that in an audience made up largely of kids below the age of ten, there was no talking, no running about. There were essentially none of the usual signs that there were a lot of children in the theater. The film held their attention for the entire 92 minute running time of the film, a significant achievement in a time when kids’ attention spans seem to get shorter and shorter with each passing year.
Just a word about the animation in Tangled: This is not traditional Disney animation. I expected that to bother me, because I love traditional animation. Instead, this animation is in a sort of 3-D, in that it rounds characters and landscape out rather than being a series of moving flat drawings. But it isn’t the kind of 3-D that throws things out of the screen at the audience, nor does it require any kind of glasses to view correctly. And it works quite nicely. Although I really wouldn’t like to see Disney abandon traditional animation completely.
Anyway, for those of you who are interested in such things, the preliminary reports for the weekend box office at US theatres reports that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came in in first place, earning an estimated $50.3 million dollars over the weekend, while Tangled came in a close second at $49.1 million. In third place, another animated film, Megamind, took in an estimated $12.9 million. Cher’s new film, Burlesque, came fourth with estimated earnings of $11.8 million, and Unstoppable (about which I know absolutely nothing), made around $11.75 million.
In sixth through tenth place, Love & Other Drugs made $9.9 million, Faster took in around $8.7 million, Due Date made $7.3 million, The Next Three Days took in $4.8 million, and Morning Glory made an estimated $4 million.