Caveat: Venter

Think about all of the things that make your brain itch. These are mine.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Spielberg Needs Help

Maybe it was the stress of selling SKG that did it, though that can't explain AI and too many other movies. Who knows? In any case, Spielberg has once more proven that his work these days falls far short of his earlier work: Munich, the film, is a disaster.

In every review I have encountered there is plenty of awareness of Vengeance, the novel on which the film is based, but there is never any mention that Spielberg's is the second adaptation of that novel. While The Sword of Gideon may have been made for TV in 1986, it is a better film. Lynn Cohen's Golda Meir is brilliant in the newer film, but it can't erase from memory Colleen Dewhurst's amazing work. Eric Bana is better than Steven Bauer, and I am pleased to see Daniel Craig get a superb un-Bond performance in before Casino Royale, but I miss someone of Michael York's level in support. In the best casting match-up between the two films, Rod Steiger out-acts (and has better lines than) Geoffrey Rush. That's all well and good, but the real problem is elsewhere: Logan's Run director Michael Anderson is not as capable as Spielberg, but neither is he so full of himself, and that makes a difference here.

It's tough to know why Spielberg made the film. He doesn't spend enough time showing us the care the team takes in isolating its targets. He doesn't give us enough conflict within the team to provide any real character development (Daniel Craig's character ends up being the most fully realized). He seems to want to spend time on the larger issues involved in the right to statehood—one brilliant section in Greece shows how Spielberg could have surpassed the earlier adaptation, had he put the thought into it—but he just won't commit. There is too little about Munich in the beginning for many people to understand it and too much in Avner's head later to be anything but a distraction.

By the time the credits roll, what happened in Munich is not a tragedy, it is something too boring to care about, and that is a shame. The story of the killing of eleven Israeli athletes is tragic, and it needs better care than Spielberg provides (see One Day in Speptember for something that does it justice). Similarly, his treatment of Avner's team as little more than trained butchers makes them expendable not only to Israel but to the audience. I wish I could have cared for more than one supporting character in Munich, but I couldn't: Spielberg just refused to let me.