Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Dreamworks Spirit Review

Occasionally you experience something you can’t explain, something that makes you question your established place in the universe. I’m not exaggerating when I say that watching Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is one of the weirdest, most confusing experiences of my life. The strange surrealist films of David Lynch and the Brothers Quay have nothing on Spirit. Most abstract cinema seems to be purposefully trying to be unusual and is unmistakably made by humans, for humans. Spirit seems to be made primarily for horses and to be more precise, 19th Century American horses at that. The very fact that the marketing team went with "A motion picture experience for everyone" on the poster shows they knew this was going to be an uphill struggle. 
Spirit loosely follows a horse, coincidently also named Spirit and his adventures against the MAN, in this case oppressive white frontier settlers, oppressive Native Americans and shitty humanity in general. The movie starts with an opening narration from Spirit. To be fair he narrates everything since he doesn’t ever talk but I have a few issues with this opening speech in particular, as I shall now explain. 
“They say the history of the West was written from the saddle of a horse, but it’s never been told from the heart of one, not till now” Why tell this story? Who honestly was sitting around waiting for this story to be told?  The great American horse tale finally brought to our screens! I guess those Fievel dollars finally dried up. 

“They say the Mustang is the spirit of the West, whether that West was won or lost in the end, you’ll have to decide for yourself” SPOILER ALERT! It was lost. This film is incredibly preachy, the West was lost and so were we. What the films preaching isn’t entirely clear, there’s the environmental message about the destructive spread of humanity but the horses are all shown to be equally as narcissistic and species self-obsessed as we are. There is an attempt made to show how the Native Americans were treated badly but then they go on treat Spirit in much the same way that the settlers do. Not only that but they make a point of showing how the main villain The Colonel has honour to him as well.
“But the story I want to tell you is true, I was there!” Ok, now when Fargo made the point of lying and saying that it was based on a true story people were brought in, it was a live action crime movie, this stuff could have happened. Why are you telling the audience that the stuff that an animated horse experienced is all true, when it clearly isn’t? Is this to add authenticity, people know that the old West happened, people know that wild horses exist, so what does this add?
ANYWAYS moving on, Spirit gets captured by the army who attempt to break him and make him an enslaved horse. The army also capture a Native American, Little Creek and are treating him in the same shabby way…subtle. They manage to escape but then Little Creek tries to break him and…wait what? Anyway Little Creek has a super sexy horse called Rain who Spirit falls madly in love with, the issue being that she has Stockholm syndrome and has fallen in love with Little Creek. Now with Spirit not being cool with an interspecies threesome he has to try and convince her to leave with him and move back in with his mum.
Basically horse based peril happens for another hour and it all works out ok, unless you like steam trains. 
I honestly don’t know how to rate this film, animation is really good, soundtracks ok. In terms of story it makes sense, although it’s really hard to get engaged with. I can’t say the overall experience of watching it was bad, in much the same way that I can’t imagine watching a fish bowl all day is interesting, but cats seem to love it. If you’re a horse, particularly a xenophobic one wishing for the good ol’ days, give it a watch.

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