Director: Luc Besson
Screenwriter: Luc Besson
Running Time: 102 mins
Thank God for Luc Besson’s decision to end his directing career with his tenth film! It would be difficult to stomach an eleventh after the incoherent experience that is Arthur and the Invisibles.
Adapted from his own 2002 children-book Arthur and the Minimoys, the film tells the adventure of 10-year-old Arthur, who wants to save his grandmother from eviction. He has 48 hours to find a wondrous treasure of rubies, given by an African tribe to his missing grandfather. With the help of a magic key, a telescope, and the power of a full moon, Arthur shrinks down to pea size and enters the kingdom of the Minimoys, tiny elfin creatures who live underground in his Granny’s garden, and are in charge of guarding the treasure.
The live action sequences are fairly convincing, thanks to the lively performances of young Freddie Highmore, previously seen in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Mia Farrow, as the sweet and ethereal Granny. Despite a premise similar to the Ant Bully, where a little boy is reduced to the size of garden bugs, the film’s fairytale beginning is engrossing. Granny’s house in idealised 60s Connecticut, with its poppy fields strangely reminiscent of the sunny South of France, offers a colourful counterpoint to Arthur’s dark bedroom, surrounded with exotic artefacts from a faraway Africa.
Unfortunately, one of Besson’s bad habits is to blithely steal from others without managing to successfully incorporate his find into his own work. Just as The Fifth Element borrowed shamelessly and indiscriminately from sci-fi classics Blade Runner and Star Wars, Arthur and The Invisibles’ CGI animated sequences are an ill-digested rehash of Dark Crystal, Lord of the Rings, and the Arthurian Legend. Arthur has barely set foot in the Minimoys’ Kingdom before he distinguishes himself by drawing a sacred sword from a stone. It looks as if conceptual artist Patrice Garcia and Besson couldn’t decide on one thing to copy, so they ended up copying them all.
Besson’s animated tale is no exception to the increasingly celebrity driven path taken by other recent children’s animations. While actors should be in the service of their characters, the animated characters like Madonna’s Minimoy Princess Selenia, Arthur’s ageless love interest, or Snoop Dog’s Max, a humanoid Rasta bartender, seem to be modelled on these celebrities’ appearances and/or personalities. This star-spotting tendency is detrimental to the story’s enjoyment.
The only successful voice work comes from David Bowie’s rendering of Malthazard, former Minimoy turned evil Necropolis warlord, and leader of an army of mosquito riding rebels. The singer successfully lends the character his polished and perfidious accent. However the character’s visual attributes, his pale skin, thin torso, flattened face and black robes is too obviously copied Lord Voldemort of the Harry Potter film series.
With Arthur and the Invisibles, Besson doesn’t need to hide behind gunshots, futuristic cities, or within ocean depths, to express his fear of growing-up. He stays in touch with his childhood by simply exploring a messy garden with a suitable audience. However his recurring directorial traits, naïve and shallow, are the logical ending to a series of visually entertaining though poorly scripted films. Arthur and the Invisibles is harmless but pointless.
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