Thursday, January 24, 2013

Where's My Django Unchained Review? AKA My Django Unchained Review

I have failed you, dear reader. It's been weeks since Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained came out and yet there's been nary a word from MaxRambles about it. Tarantino's last flick, Inglourious Basterds, stands as one of my favourite movies of all time, and I previously said that Django was one of my most anticipated films of the year, so what gives? Where's the bloody review?

Believe me, it's not for lack of trying that I've failed to write a review. I've seen Django twice since it came out, and on no less than three occasions I've started to write a review of it for this blog. Hell, I even re-watched Wild Wild West to try to give myself a comparative angle (pro-tip: don't re-watch Wild Wild West, it's far worse than you remember and not in a fun way). But each time I end up second-guessing myself and ultimately unsatisfied with what come out.

The truth is that the reason I can't seem to write a Wild Wild West Django Unchained review is that I just didn't care enough about the movie to have much worth saying about it. I didn't like it anywhere near as much as Inglourious Basterds, nor did I find Django comparably intelligent and nuanced, but I didn't hate the movie either. The title of my review was going to be "Django Unchained: More Kill Bill Volume 1 than Inglourious Basterds 2," and to be honest that kind of says it all. The movie had style and was entertaining and interesting, but beyond that I just didn't feel there was much there. Certainly Django had Tarantino's characteristic layering of film history and references, but on its own that's not enough to elevate the movie from good to great. My expectations undoubtedly had a lot to do with that perception, but regardless I just didn't think Django had as much going for it as I hoped it would/Tarantino is capable of.

To quickly give credit where credit is due, Django was quite well executed. The performances were all quite effective, particularly those of Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz (whose callbacks to his role in Basterds stand as my favourite part of Django). The soundtrack was entertaining, and John Legend's "Who Did That to You" has permanently entered my iTunes collection (listen to it on the YouTube embed above). I also found the movie a lot funnier than I had expected, and most of it worked quite well (though not all *glares at the overly long lynch mob masks discussion*).

But execution can only do so much in the face of a poor script, and while I haven't read the actual script I can say that the written words behind what ultimately ended up of film were severely lacking. More than any of Tarantino's other films, Django suffered from scenes that went on too long, pointless tangents, and (most surprisingly) boring dialogue. The film is almost completely barren of Tarantino's hallmark flare for writing, and with a few exceptions all of the speeches were terse and uninteresting. Those that did rise above the rest were almost exclusively performed by DiCaprio and Waltz, and there's a part of me that attributes it more to their acting abilities than the writing.

I have other problems with the movie but I'm getting dangerously close to the problem I mentioned above with my previous attempts at writing a Django review. I think I've made my point that I both enjoyed it and didn't find it particularly memorable or noteworthy, and hence don't care enough to write about it beyond this post. The only other thing I'll say is that the passing of Sally Menke was felt quite strongly, and that might be the root of all Django's problems. What we saw onscreen was a mess, both in terms of the pieces that were chosen and how they were fit together, and Django worked in spite of this only because Tarantino is just that talented. I certainly hope he finds whatever his co-operation with Menke used to give him, because I for one would love to see him rise to the level of Inglourious Basterds once again. Maybe Django Unchained could have done so, but what the movie ultimately became falls well short of the high-water mark.

So that's generally my take, sound off below and let me know what you thought of it/that you think I'm crazy.


  1. Fucking crazy.

    You over thought this one.

    It's 57 rounds of bare knuckle boxing to the solar plexus of your emotions. That is what this movie is. But I will accept that making you feel awful does not in itself a good movie make. It needs more and this does deliver. Though it doesn't deliver dialogue, I do grant you that, it does deliver style and acting, and it delivers those masterfully. I will agree that it is more Kill Bill 1 than Pulp Fiction. It is also not Basterds, because I would say that Basterds is a perfect mix of Pulp Fiction (dialogue) and Kill Bill 1 (style). But where we differ is that Pulp Fiction is my favourite movie all time and Kill Bill 1 is my second favourite Q.T. movie. Where we'll really disagree is that I place Dogs third, then Django, then Death Proof, then Jackie Brown on my Q.T. scale (really hope I didn't forget any - Four Rooms doesn't count).


    I chalk this movie up to high expectations and controversy. For one, it wasn't better than Basterds so it seems like a disappointment. That might be why I didn't like Jackie Brown. It seemed like shit after having watched Rev Dogs and Pulpy Fic. Maybe that's a bad example, since I don't think that Jackie Brown is even close to as good as Q.T.'s other movies. So instead I'll use the new Star Wars movies. Were they awful? Yes, but so were the old ones. The difference is that the old ones didn't have the shitty special effects and the over-producing that all movies of the last 20 years suffer from. Older movies are "pure" and therefore seem more genuine. But I digress. The newer Star Wars movies (minus Jar Jar) are still Star Wars movies. They just aren't the Star Wars movies that we have grown to love. Nah I can't really directly compare because those movies don't switch from dialogue to style and/or a combination. I also wanted to try the Coen brothers movies as examples but they are all golden on dialogue but just change the plot so much that it feels like a different style when really the Coen style has been the same since Blood Simple.I got be continued

  2. Ernie, you know me well enough to know that saying I over thought something is either a compliment or a baseline. That's, like, the whole point of this blog.

    Where do you place Basterds on your QT scale? I gather you liked it but I'd be curious to hear where it ranks among the rest of them. For me it's far and away his best, followed by Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill 2, Kill Bill 1, and then Django. I won't rank Jackie Brown as I haven't seen it, and Death Proof doesn't deserve being on any "Top/Best Of" list, period.

    High expectations definitely played a major role in this, I'll give you that. Again, I went in hoping for Basterds, and that undoubtedly played into my disappointment in a big way.

    Haha, I'm not sure I follow the rest of your logic, I'll be curious to hear your continued thoughts if you ever come back to this one.