Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
Over 100 years after his death, Jules Verne still stands as one of the grandfathers of science fiction, certainly the most prolific and entertaining! His influences are still felt today, and will be for a long time. His stories are so timeless, educational, and forward thinking. Both the science and social attitudes in his books are a marvel, especially for their time, and his worldwide popularity is a testament to his skill. Among his classics, such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, From the Earth to the Moon, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth, etc, many have received film adaptions, some more divergent than others. Today I'll be looking at one such entry, for Around the World in 80 Days...
Eccentric inventor Phileas Fogg is trying his best to help change the world, but is curtailed by the stuffy and restrictive Royal Academy of Science, headed by the = Lord Kelvin. After he makes a theoretical conjecture concerning a fugitive bank-robber, the guild challenged Fogg to prove it, and circumnavigate he globe in 80 days. Terrified at first, Fogg is reassured by his new assistant Passepartout, who has his own reasons for wanting to travel, and the two begin a grand journey that will take them beyond their wildest dreams...
When I saw the trailers for 2004's Around the World in 80 Days, I wasn't that enthused. Dunno why. Just half paying attention, and it seemed a bit silly, which naturally a young = like me was eager to be mature and =. However, a short while later, during the last day of school for that year, they played a movie-This one. Since there was only like 40 minutes left of the day, we only caught part of it, but I was hooked, and that very evening I rented it from the video store and watched the hell out of it!
If you believe a lot of the = that gets thrown at this movie, you'd think it was the worst ever, an appalling piece of drivel that personally assaulted everyone in the movie theatre. I feel this attitude is totally ungrounded! Even if you don't like it, the movie's not offensively bad, it's just a harmless comedy. Either you like it or you don't. And yet some people pillory it like it's =! What are my thoughts? Well let's get into it...
Around the World in 80 Days is a thoroughly enjoyable watch. =, lighthearted, and brisk yet epic. It uses its two hour length well, never feeling boring or dragging, but also having the necessary = that this kind of adventure needs.
movie is very quotable, with an abundance of great lines and moments.
An important area to discuss with this film is its faithfulness as an adaptation. Now I'd be lying if I said this was accurate to the book, but I adore it anyway. I'm cruel to bad adaptions too, so I'd normally be in a position to tear such a movie to shreds! Why I don't here is simple. It may not be accurate to the specific events or characters in the book, but it truly does get across the spirit of the source material, and that's what's important. Beyond that, I view this as a new story based on the book, and drawing inspiration form it, but not a direct retelling. that's the best way of looking at it, really.
Now let's come to the characters. Unlike his more robotic and mathematically obsessive original, this Phileas Fogg is more of an idealistic dreamer, and wacky inventor. I actually felt he was a good analogue for Verne's own attitudes towards science and the world, and if you're gonna change a character for any reason, reflecting the author's = viewpoints is a good enough reason as any. Lastly, it's funny how the Fogg of the book wasn't established to be an inventor, but just about every adaption adds that element!
The biggest diversion from the book comes in the form of Jackie Chan, who naturally Sure, the kung fu is all =, but his character does feel like a natural part of the story, and gets good = moments. The curse of any licensed = adaption starring Jackie Chan is that it would become a Jackie Chan film. That is true here, but the film strikes a good balance, and he doesn't hog the =. Even the stolen Buddha storyline is sensibly resolved three quarters in, leaving the true = focusing entirely on the race. Also softening the blow is that Passepartout was already the viewpoint character in the book,
Replacing Indian maiden Aouda is Frenchwoman Monique la Roche, and while fans of the book may miss the original character, Monique is a spunky heroine, and more than fits the bill!
Inspector Fix is very different to his book counterpart, but fits the same bill of the dogged policeman. Here he's a long-suffering comic relief figure, and while some might groan at the scenes where he appears, finding him too exaggerated or the comedy too slapstick, I always have fun when he's onscreen, and he handles the physical comedy well. One last thing to note, his portrayal here seems to me like a good punishment to the original Fix for his actions in the book! Or cruel. Depends on your opinion.
The acting here is great. Steve Coogan makes for a solid lead, and gets across the bumbling and clever sides of his character well, always amusing and likeable. Jackie Chan, in many ways the true hero, is his typical self, which is high praise! He's fun, lighthearted, and he also feels at home in the =. Cecile de France is confident and charming, sexy, and absolutely adorable, making a great =! She and Coogan share good chemistry And Jim Broadbent meanwhile is deliciously evil, with both a grand booming voice and = evil tones. Ewan Bremmer is funny too. Over-the-top, but effective, and can take a beating!
The rest of the cast all do a mixture of good jobs. Karen Mok is another great villain, with a juicy role. The guy playing the gang leader in China is goofy and hard to take seriously, but in a fun way. Sammo Hung also has a brief role, and gets some funny lines and nice martial arts. Lord Kelvin's entourage is funny too, especially in the end. Mark Addy shows up for an amusing role too! Thankfully all these actors and more are balanced well enough, appearing a few minutes at a time and that's it, rather than be a big muddled hodgepodge.
There's a sizeable amount of cameos and small appearances here, and they're very good! There's not a self-indulgent amount, and many of them work in various ways. For example, casting Owen and Luke Wilson as the Wright Bros. is a great casting choice, and they deliver a fun = in their short time. Rob Schneider on the other hand is apt to cause extreme consternation, although he's not that bad here, and the choice of role is at least perfectly fitting of his talents. Kathy Bates makes for a great Queen Victoria, looking perfect in the role and nailing the accent. John Cleese is a more obvious cameo, and it's ok, though he's barely there, and half his scenes are only in the trailer.
What really surprised me was Macy Grey! Yeah, she's in this movie! How?! I've seen this movie too many times to mention, and yet I only realised she was in it very recently. I thought back and tried to place her, wondering how they could fit in such a garish modern day pop star, big afro and all, in a period piece. As it turns out, she plays the sleeping French woman Passepartout rescues from a fire! What a surprise, right? It's a very reserved and low-key role, no big wink or nudge about who it is, and you could be easily forgiven for never noticing! Quite a pleasant surprise!
Making a surprising appearance is Arnold Schwarzenegger of all people, as a Turkish prince! Strange casting, but it's actually kinda genius in a way casting a German* as a Turk! Funnily enough, when I first saw the movie I didn't even recognise it was him! I know, I know, how, you ask? Well he's playing a long-haired = prince in a period piece, so he did look familiar, but it just didn't occur to me he was The Terminator!
*I know, I know, Austrian, same thing.
Where any adaption of this book must nail is the locations, and that's an area this film excels in.
The scenery here is often great, and =. What I especially appreciate is the colour for each country. England is more grey and muted, France is full of light pastels, India has lots of deep brown, orange, and green, and China has a natural earthiness too. China and France get plenty of time, while America gets the most variety with three little scenes rather than just one big one in the specific area. India is the only one that gets a bit left our, since that section is just there for a fight scene, but otherwise it's used well.
The fight choreography here is very good. No surprise when Jackie Chan and his mates are working in front of and behind the camera. There's solid fight scenes, great hits, creative moments (such as the fight in the art storeroom), and everything comes together well, including the classic Jackie humour.
The music is another high point, with nice regular tracks, great inspirational and epic tunes, etc, and a sweet ending song.
Overall, Around the World in 80 Days is a great watch! Whether it appeals to you isn't a 100% chance, but it's also hardly a 0.1 chance like is widely believed. It's great fun, might make you laugh, and lets you see the world from your couch at home, which is always a great feeling.