Monday, December 22, 2014

The Book of Life

Ok let's get this done as it has long been overdue. If it is not because of the the free movie pass that I got from the Maze Runner premiere event, I will definitely not watch this. As much as I enjoy cartoons, graphics is still the most important thing for me and although The Book of Life has a rather unique art style, it is not exactly something I like.

The story takes place using Day of the Dead which is a real-life festivity in Mexico in which the living prays to remember their dead loved ones. La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered (or call it heaven) and Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten (or call it hell) get bored and decide to take a bet on 3 kids at the city of San Angel: Manolo, Joaquin, and Maria. La Muerte bets on Manolo to be the one who eventually will capture Maria's heart while Xibalba picks Joaquin. If La Muerte wins, Xibalba must no longer interfere with the life of the livings. If Xibalba wins, Xibalba will get to rule the Land of Remembered.

The bad guy will obviously cheat. Xibalba gives Joaquin a medal which will protect him from any harm. While this medal does not make Joaquin a bad guy, it allows him to be the hero and defender of the town from outsiders who wish to attack the town. When Manolo wants to propose his love to Maria, Xibalba sends his snake to bite Maria. People think she is dead and this makes Manolo feel very guilty. Xibalba tricked him to die in order to see Maria again.

Manolo goes to the Land of the Remembered, sees his ancestors there, and tries to look for La Muerte to find a way to save Maria because it is Manolo's "fault" to cause her dead. They discover that Xibalba is now the ruler of the Land of the Remembered and his tricks to win his bet. Manolo and his family decides to find La Muerte who is now at the Land of the Forgotten. Although it is usually impossible for souls to travel between the lands, Manolo is able to do as his Book of Life is empty. Basically it means that he is not supposed to die yet and his death is due to Xibalba's interference. La Muerte gets very angry after she realises that Xibalba has cheated and interfered with the lives of the living.

Back in the world of the living, Maria is getting married with Joaquin since Manolo is dead. The city is in danger of attack from a renowned bandit, Chakal who is the previous owner of the medal that Joaquin gets from Xibalba. To clear the mess, La Muerte and Xibalbla allows Manolo to return to live and for his dead ancestors to join his fight to protect the city. At the end, Manolo marries Maria while La Muerte and Xibalba also falls for each other.

On the surface, the story is quite simple but yet it offers a fresh plot. Despite the art style that I am not fond of, I am still impressed with the amount of details they put to make Land of the Remembered very beautiful. Well, it is the heaven in the story after all. I also love the way they use a different art style for the dead vs the living. To be more critical, however, I think the bet between 2 gods here are very petty. I mean it is kinda scary if the gods of this world also behave in this way: to interfere with human's life when they are bored.

I actually love little Manolo, Joaquin, and Maria. Unfortunately, the adult versions develop into cliche personalities. When they are little, it is quite difficult to tell who will end with Maria as both Manolo and Joaquin are nice. When they are adults, it is quite obvious that Manolo will be the one who will get Maria. However, it is really something fresh that Joaquin does not turn out to be the antagonist. That is something that people will expect from a love triangle stories. He may be irritating and obnoxious, but he is not evil or bad.

The message that the movie makers want to bring across to children, which is presumed to be the main target demographic of the movie, is that everyone's Book of Life is still empty and can be written in the way that we want it to be and the way to write is from the way we live. The message is good but the presentation is poor. I omit this part from the review but the movie opens with a group of delinquents arriving in the museum. The whole story int he movie about Joaquin, Manolo, and Maria is actually a story told by the museum guide to these kids. I find it very disruptive when the story gets interrupted with these kids asking the guide "What happen next? Why such things happened? Bla bla bla".

Let's end this with a good point: the audio. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed listening the Latin accent used throughout the movie. In additioon, the music and some of the songs that Manolo sings are actually good and they suit well with the theme of the movie.

The Book of Life is a rare gem. I came expecting to be disappointed but I came out of the theater happy and satisfied. This is just my personal opinion but it is still not good enough for my personal taste. I mean although th emovie is good and makes me feel good, it is not good enough to make me want to re-watch the movie or get the DVD (or download it lol) or to buy the Making Of book.

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