El Cid, la Leyenda
Jose Pozo I 2003 I Spain
What a worthless waste. El Cid, the latest in Spanish animation, is a film that will very likely disappoint more than just one person. I went to see it with my family [not excluding my two brothers and two sisters] but it turned out none of us liked it one bit. In fact, we disliked it quite a lot. As it is known, there was an earlier cinematographic version of El Cid Campeador with Charlton Heston in the lead role, [who has held the cinematic monopoly of El Cid for almost forty years]; if you get the chance to see it, then do so its a very fine film. However, director Jose Pozo has got the chance to do a re-telling, a re-imagining if you will [with little historical accuracy and ignoring some of the legends most pivotal points], of the story of one of Spain's greatest heroes. The production is 100% Spanish, but, unlike in Samuel Bronstons epic of monumental proportions, there is nothing really spectacular about the new version. If there is one redeeming facet about the film, it has to be, simply put, the animation. It is very risky, what with the personages' exaggeratedly big arms et tout, but I have to admit that I loved it. The characters seem to have gone through some kind of metamorphosis - surely this isn't your typical design in a film whose main audience is younger than ten years old? Nonetheless, it remains surprisingly effective, if a little too bewildering, [despite its visible, erm, ugliness], but it is the rest of the animation's components that prove to be the most amazing; Castilla's beautiful landscapes are magnificently illustrated here, the sky, the land, everything as far as animation goes is top-notch. Oscar Araujo's score is often excellent and the voice work is also reasonably good. But that's it. If I were to point out the positive elements about the film [which I have just done, but anyhow], the positivism of it all would finish right here.
Onto the negative aspects of the film [and there are many]:
The story of El Cid is a legendary one, full of splendour and magic. It is rather stunning to find out all he did for Spain, to discover how heroic he was and in how many battles he fought. Yet, that amazement that was meant to be present in this film ca'nt be found anywhere - it's pretty much non-existent, really. It seems to me as though Jose Pozo hasn't really taken patience and time, or at least paid attention. El Cid, to put it bluntly, is a total and utter mess. For a film that's aimed at children, El Cid commits two sacrileges a children's animation film should never do: it bores and it doesn't make you laugh. It's not that these were the makers' intentions, oh no, because one can clearly see that this wasn't done deliberately. And tha'ts the problem. So many faults in the film, yet the creators dont seem to have noticed that they're there [or could it be that they're just ignoring them?] Either way, its masturbatory and wrong. The film is very tedious. It may be a little longer than an hour, but without the excitement, the magic, the laughs and with no real sense of danger, the film is shallow and therefore bores because of its nothingness. It's a space filled with emptiness. Stare at it for more than an hour and bore yourself. As I said, the film is not funny; it's surprisingly humourless. But how can an animation film for kids not be funny, when it just has to be? Who knows? But didn't they tell us in Singin' in the Rain to make 'em laugh? Make no mistake: the director has put plenty of jokes and "hilarious" moments for the mere delight of the younger audience - but they're just not funny. They're either monotonous, tasteless or whatever, but they dont fulfil their duty. I can say, with absolute sincerity, that nobody [nobody!] laughed through the entire film. And if anyone did, it would be at the utter idiocy and lack of self-awareness that the film contains [which would have been me]. Capital sins aside, the film is presented to us as a succession of brief moments, with no sense of continuity or direction whatsoever, all edited with the poorness of a blind monkey that suffers from Parkinson's. Characters come and go, on and off screen; and we don't get to know who they really are or what they're doing. It all proves to be somewhat perplexing - my younger sisters [and I] didn't have a clue what was really going on and at the end one reaches the conclusion that the film was a muddled and pitifully conceived chaos. The battle scenes lack any true sense of spectacle [partly due to the horrible editing], there are scenes that seem to have been ripped right off The Prince of Egypt and they just had to include the little cuddly animal for the enthusiasm of the younger public [which, funnily enough, has been copied from Pocahontas]. True, so there is lots of worse visual diarrhoea out there, but the film is told with such vagueness one can't avoid but feel ashamed of having seen it. If you have a good story, but don't know which way to tell it, then just don't bother. At the end, I ultimately left the theatre very disappointed. And some minutes later, I regretted it all.