By Fred Topel | Image property of 20th Century Fox
Baz Lurman is usually good at playing with archetypes. I mean, you don’t get much more archetypal than Shakespeare, and Moulin Rouge's characters only serve the style of the piece. Alas, he has finally found a genre where archetypes just aren't enough.
Australia follows all the rules of epic movies: country-spanning vistas, tumultuous romance, historical impact. It just has no emotion. The intensity of the action scenes doesn't really bring the one dimensional characters together. Boy, I really never thought I'd be holding up Speed as the high watermark for relationships through circumstances.
I had hope that the film was going to play with things, because when the prim and proper aristocrat gushes to whimsical music, they kind of throw it in her face. That's the only time the film sort of winks at its own indulgence though.
Otherwise, it's happy to revel in the phony antagonism leading to phony attraction. I mean, to pay quaint homage to the genre is expected but at least do it with the same heart and spirit. You don't even buy the hate part because they're already telegraphing the three act journey. Yeah, they're a hot couple but I really don't care when it gets rocky.
The politics of cattle barons is really kind of boring. There are some rousing stampede action scenes with a few more nuances brought to life via CGI. Back in the old days, they would have had to really throw a cow off a cliff. Still, it's City Slickers. I mean, come on. The war stuff is totally crammed in because all epics have wars. The story could easily resolve before then.
It definitely feels like the film is long just for the sake of being long. They could easily tell the story in two hours. They just make extra stuff happen to qualify as epic. It's still better than The Assassination of Jesse James because there's stuff to look at, but it also mistakes length for importance.
The villain it really evil for absolutely no other reason but because he wants to be evil. There's no self-justification. He's just like, "This is gonna suck for you but I'm gonna enjoy it."
The film will definitely look way better on Blu Ray than it does in theaters. On screen it looks dry, faded and hazy. On blu Ray you'll see the grains of sand in the epic desert or the lavish colors of the plantation. On screen you can barely see the crust on the hull of a boat.
And I'm sorry, the kid's name is Nallah? That just makes me think of Nala from The Lion King, which is a much more emotional, heartfelt desert epic. And that was constructed by the Disney corporation!