Michael Scott

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Welcome to Marwen


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Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:
Final Score: :4stars:



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Movie


Robert Zemeckis is one one of the kings of modern fantasy, having given us a plethora of fantastical adventures to pull from (Back to the Future trilogy, Romancing the Stone, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol, The Polar Express, Contact, and many more), and he is not stranger to embracing different technologies to tell his stories. He embraced the oddly photo realistic CGI of Polar Express and A Christmas Carol, while going fully CGI animated in Beowulf. This time around he takes a true story and infuses it with CGI enhanced dolls to create a fantasy world of pain, despair, and hope in Welcome to Marwen. It’s a solidly entertaining flick that uses trade mark fantasy elements from Zemeckis and blends with the tragedy of a real life tragedy in a way that is both sweet and sad. The ending of the film struggles under it’s own weight a bit, but overall it’s a very endearing watch from the guy who gave us so many childhood memories of joy and adventure.

Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) is a severely traumatized graphic illustrator who suffered a brutal attack that left him shattered and broken. For the “crime” being drunk and admitting he had a woman’s shoe fetish, he was brutally beaten by 5 men that night, leaving Mark barely alive. Recovering from his physical injuries is one thing, but the illustrator is left with no memories before that fateful night, and the only way that he has to cope with the loss of his memories (and the terror of what those men did to him) is to sink into the fantasy town of Marwen, a little Belgian town in World War II where he utilizes dolls as avatars for people in his life. Each one of the “women of Marwen” are a person in his life that he cares about, and through those dolls (including one of himself entitled “Captain Hogy”) Mark is able to slowly heal his wounds with said fantasy.

Mark’s peaceful life is on the verge of cracking though, as he has an impending court date to face his attackers in their sentencing, and his fantasy life is spinning out of control. The world of Marwen is under attack by 5 Nazis (who seem to bear the faces of his 5 attackers in real life), and they are constantly terrorizing the Captain Hogy and the women of Marwen. No matter how many times the good captain comes victorious, they seem to be magically reincarnated and mercilessly attack the village time and time again. However, a glimmer of hope for the beleaguered Captain (and Mark) emerges when a new neighbor named Nicol (Leslie Mann) moves in next door, prompting Mark to add another Woman to the cadre of freedom fighting dolls.

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Obviously attracted to Nicol, the broken man crafts new fantasies in his head, using her as a crutch to force himself to deal with reality. Nicol’s own brazen and blunt personality aids in this healing process, as she doesn’t shy away from Mark’s eccentricities, and her refusal to back down only reinforces his will to “survive” this trauma. However, the proverbial monkey on his back comes in the form of the mysterious witch De Ja (Diane Kruger), who seems to be resurrecting his demons night after night, and no matter how hard he tries to escape her clutches.

Welcome to Marwen is fantastically sweet and charming for the first two acts. The two world (reality and fantasy) play a very obvious mental picture for what Mark is going through. Zemeckis doesn’t really hold any surprises in check, as the fable is pretty straight forward, and the lessons he has to learn in order to overcome his demons will come as no surprise. Rather than be boring as a result of that straight forward nature, the tale is saved by incredible saturation that Steve Carell does in order to sell the character of Mark/Hogy. He’s completely immersed in the world of Mark/Marwen, and you’re literally rooting for the poor guy as he’s so likable, so sweet, and so relatable to people who hand undergone grief counseling that you can almost taste his victories and feel the bitter taste of his defeats.

The real flaw comes from the third act of the film, which buckles under it’s own weight. Again, this is not to say that he film is bad, or that the third act ruins the movie, it’s just that it wraps up too neatly, too easily, and undermines some of the progress that was made. The end romantic reveal is almost disturbingly awkward, and the secret behind the evil witch handled in a rather cliché manner, robbing the story of some of it’s impact. It’s not wildly damaging, but the third act has trouble sticking the landing and draws the film down from a great one, to a really good one.





Rating:

Rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence, some disturbing images, brief suggestive content, thematic material and language




Video: :4.5stars:

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Digitally photographed and then transferred to a 2K digital master (from what I could glean from a few sources),
Welcome to Marwen is a gorgeously shot movie, and one that looks near perfect on the 2.39:1 framed disc. Zemeckis use of digitally enhanced dolls and crisp photography makes everything looking glossy and sharp. The digital world is clean and clear of any imperfections, and the colors just pop off the screen when “Hogy” is in Marwen world. The outside world is nearly as crisp, showing the lines and wrinkles on Carell’s aging face, as well as nuanced backdrops such as his cluttered home, or the blades of grass out in the fields where he works on the dolls. The black levels are generally exceptional, with great shadow detail even in the dimly lit interior of Mark’s house. There is some mild black crush in a few scenes, but it’s fairly fleeting and not anything to really focus on.






Audio: :4.5stars:
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I was a bit surprised to see Universal pictures using the Dolby TrueHD encoding method (they’re usually sticklers for DTS-HD MA or Atmos, and it’s been a long time since they used the less popular Dolby offering), but the 5.1 TrueHD mix is a stunner to be sure. The film starts out in Mark’s fantasy world of Marwen with a slamming action scene that has fighter planes screaming from all directions, gun shots ringing out with deep weight and authority, and thunderous crashes. The real world is not nearly so exciting, but the sound stage is pretty dynamic. The entry into the world of Marwen can come up suddenly and with great ferocity, changing a scene from a simple dialog centric bit, to a rocking action sequence that has gunfire (lots of gunfire), explosions and general chaos as Mark’s fantasies are played out in his head.





Extras: :2.5stars:
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Deleted Scenes
• Marwen's Citizens
• A Visionary Director
• Building Marwen
• Living Dolls









Final Score: :4stars:

Welcome to Marwen is a sweet and engaging film that is entirely a unique sensation from director Robert Zemeckis. It’s fascinating to watch Steve Carell in these serious roles, and while he infuses Mark with a sense of whimsical humor, there is a glaring sheen of pain and suffering under his tumultuously frail surface. The film succeeds on many fronts, but has this strange feeling of being incomplete at the end of the day. I’m not sure whether it’s how simple and straight forward the Nicol character is in that she doesn’t doubt or feel off put by Mark’s coping mechanisms, but the Marwen story seems to feel more substantial than the real story of his recovery. Either way, the movie is very entertaining and the Blu-ray is stunning in the technical department (extras not withstanding). Worth checking out.




Technical Specifications:

Starring: Steve Carell, Falk Hentschel, Matt O'Leary, Nikolai Witschl, Patrick Roccas, Alexander Lowe, Eiza Gonzalez, Leslie Zemeckis, Merritt Wever
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Caroline Thompsons
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish, French (Canadian) DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Studio: Universal
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 116 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 9th, 2019






Recommendation: Good Watch

 

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. I was kind of interested when it came out but now, I am more interested in checking it out.
 

Asere

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I will be watching this one. Thanks for the review.
 

Michael Scott

Moderator / Reviewer
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