So - War Horse; a heart-wrenching tale of boy meets horse meets hardship, has over 30 decades taken the less than usual transformation from novel (Michael Morpurgo), to award winning play (Which admittedly I haven't seen but have been backstage at) and then to the greatest pleasure a story can find - being the subject of a film directed by none other than Stephen Spielberg.
So when I heard the unabatedly phenomenal reviews that the film was released to, announcing that crowds stood cheering in the theatres and left screenings to buy towels for their tears, I wanted to see if this was really 'Spielberg at his best'. So, I watched some trailers, and after three minutes of orchestra-laden, uncomfortably emotional clips of horses, crying people and facial hair close-ups, I decided that I was going to need some sort of preparation for this film.
So today, I found myself talking about ex-boyfriends, clothes shopping, and singing along to Taylor Swift - all this in homo-best-friend-o preparation for two hours of sobbing, holding hands and cheering on a horse. You think I'm joking? No. I have dedication to the film industry.
So you can't imagine my shock when I found out that the film wasn't actually 2 hours of what was in the trailer. Yeah, that old trick. Although the film was rather up on the sob factor, Spielberg did a good job of padding it out with emotionally bearable content - albeit with only 2/3 scenes not having orchestral backing. Does John Williams do anything but compose? I mean, seriously, the amount of music in this film, you'd think he had to be fed through a tube as to keep up his working pace.
So despite being not as emotional as the trailer portrayed, and despite me starting every paragraph so far with the word 'So', there were a number of things that the film was filled with. They were:
1) Orchestral Pieces
2) Ridiculous and/or Stereotyped Facial Hair
3) Anthropomorphism. (Look it up)
"Is it just me or do these horses keep making kissy-face?"
I mean, seriously, I know I'm a teenage boy, and facial hair is something I am obsessed with - but this film was full of it. Whether it was the hope-encompassing close ups of Ted Narracott's mutton chops, or the 'I'm such an honorable gent' close ups of Captain Nichols' Kitchener mustache, or the 'Mwahaha I'm such an evil bad person' close ups of Generic German Soldier #1's Kaiser mustache - there just seemed to be an awful lot of it.
Another bone that I had to pick with this film, albeit a minor one, is the level of realism. This is aimed at a younger audience as well as older, and Spielberg has acknowledged this with a drop on the real-factor. Unrealistic horse births, Military continuity errors, and 'I've been to Devon, and that isn't it' backdrops, had me writhing in my seat whilst actors who thought that a German accent consists of speaking English and changing all your w's and f's into v's talked about friendship and ponies and shooting each other. This isn't a genuine critique of the film - but if you're one of those people who will overlook the entire plot-line just because you saw a sticker on the apple that Aragorn throws Pippin in Lord of the Rings, this isn't going to be your cup of tea.
But there's something that, as I was wondering before I went to see it, and no doubt you are as well. Is War Horse Spielberg at his best? The answer, is simple. No. They said this for Schindler's List, and they said this for Jaws, and they said this for E.T, and for pretty much every other Spielberg film that you could name.
Although he has stepped back from World War II into the slightly muddier World War I, and mixed the beautiful natural imagery of horses against the harsh, mechanical background of the Genesis of modern warfare (A change to the Saving Private Ryan-esque 'bang bang explosion I love you man' technique), and realised the success-potential of facial hair and orchestral backing, this is not Spielberg at his best.
This is however, a crowd-pleasing mix of emotion, action, spectacle and continuity errors that will have you saying 'Sh*t yeah, explosions', your girlfriend crying, your little brother gape in awe and your Dad noisily point out every incorrect uniform to everybody sat near you.
Quote of the Film:
"For a German, you speak good English."
"No, I speak English well."
(I know it's World War I but this just made me think - Grammar Nazis, gotta love them)