What is With the Knee-Jerk Aggression Toward ‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox’?

Photo: Fox Searchlight

The opinion on the trailer for Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox seems to either be screams of delight or scowls of discontent. It seems as if it is just one more example of people forgetting completely about the story-telling aspect of movies and hoping the look fits into the nice little box they have in their mind, or at the very least matches up to everything else we see in theaters nowadays.

Over at Slash Film Russ Fischer says, “There are great little moments in here, mostly through dialogue, but the animation doesn’t have me convinced. It looks very flat… That sense of creepy ’60s/’70s television animation hasn’t gone away, and the whole clip has a feeling of disconnection.” Considering Fisher points out liking the dialogue, but got so caught up with concern over the animation has me a bit bewildered. I really don’t see where “creepy” comes in or even “flat”, but I guess his comparison to ’60s/’70s television makes sense, but doesn’t everyone love “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”?

S.T. VanAirsdale at Movieline doesn’t even wait to get to his text before lobbing a grenade via his “The Fantastic Mr. Fox Trailer: Who’s to Blame For This?” headline, and while I am thankful his attack isn’t aimed at the animation – or even the movie – he seems to be eviserating the trailer itself:

The movie itself may be great – just the right kind of risk-taking diversion Anderson’s critics have been demanding all this time. Look at Mr. Fox’s subtle slumping gesture when Badger cries out his expertise in explosives, and say Anderson and his animators weren’t paying attention. But for everything that looks like it went into the film, how can 20th Century Fox not take the same meticulous care in cultivating its audience? I thought that was the point of trailers. (See: Serious Man, A) Sigh. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was anything but a letdown like this.

Christopher Campbell at Spout merely says he has “no interest in this thing after seeing the trailer” but doesn’t give much of a reason before bringing in his cast of supporting links, outside of saying he’s not “a big fan of stop-motion” and is “against huge stars being employed for voice work in animated films.” The first reason I can give him, but are you really going to blame a film for employing big name actors? To each his own.

Katey Rich at Cinema Blend piles on the voice work saying the voices “don’t particularly match the animal characters they’re voicing.” I guess this means George Clooney doesn’t actually look like a fox, which I would have to agree with, he doesn’t. I would also argue James Gandolfini doesn’t match the monster Carol in Where the Wild Things Are, but then I would be assassinated by the online masses so I won’t say that…

Mickey Pagels at The Playlist wonders if the movie “was made for the Wes Anderson fans or for the people that plan on seeing Aliens in the Attic this Friday.” I guess there is no in-between on that one… perhaps people who enjoy good story-telling and aren’t immediately concerned with whether or not this is specifically a Wes Anderson movie as much as they hope it simply is a good movie. Also, I’m sorry, but to say “Bill Murray sounds bored as does Owen Wilson” is looking at a trailer way, way, way too closely in my opinion.

Finally, there are a pair of comments on my own posting of the trailer with “Hohn C.” saying, “Woww… this looks HORRIBLE,” and Patricia saying, “Agreed. Wallace and Gromit made this look easy. But this is seriously awful.”

Everyone has a right to their opinion, of course, and while some of the issues raised seem a little silly to me they aren’t entirely invalid concerns, and don’t bother me as much as the fact so many movie-lovers seem so quick to dismiss something merely for looking different. Especially when “different” is typically part of the online battle cry.

Looking back, I will quickly point to VanAirsdale’s argument comparing a trailer for an R-rated film (A Serious Man) to what appears to be a PG-rated kid flick is preposterous. Perhaps the fanboys in the audience are also upset there aren’t any giant CG robots or masked men in tights and will also quickly write this one off as well. How’s that for keeping an open mind? Come on.

Glenn Kenny took another look at the VanAirsdale complaints and Campbell’s round-up of negative publicity and posted on his blog:

The Loud Family’s “Ballad Of How You Can All Shut Up” goes out to Movieline’s S.T. Vanairsdale and Spout’s Christopher Campbell, whose concern-trolling (no links) over the putatively underwhelming trailer for Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox isn’t really anything more than very poorly disguised pre-emptive poking at a film that they’re clearly dying to shit all over. The bad faith is palpable; you can practically hear the guys honing their boasts about how they helped “bring” the movie “down” that they can recite at all the corporate holiday parties they hope the recession won’t be canceling. Really makes you love the internet even more than usual.

However, for the rest of the complaints I am actually quite shocked. If anything, the trailer previewed an animated film that looked nothing like any of the studio-driven animated films we have seen over the past several years. Considering we are talking about a group of movie bloggers that beg and demand originality it seems incredibly odd they would be so quick to pile on a film so obviously 100% unique when it comes to comparing to everything from the latest rash of CG features and even the recent stop-motion animated work of Henry Selick and Tim Burton.

Photo: Focus Features

Actually, Selick’s Coraline (talk about creepy) is a perfect example of a film that looked amazing, but the story was incredibly weak. I think the animation in Fantastic Mr. Fox is a breath of fresh air in a medium that has nothing but a series of copycats hellbent on wowing us with visuals and – other than Pixar films – hardly determined to interest us with story. Hell, everything now also comes tagged with the gimmicky “In 3-D” tagline to which I was incredibly happy to see a good online friend in Vince Mancini at Film Drunk tackled in his posting of the Mr. Fox trailer:

A lot of the other movie sites out there are complaining about the animation looking “weird” or “flat”, but I like that it’s easy on the CGI and not 3D. 3D is particularly stupid. I like to be free to look at any part of the frame without getting a GD headache, and the screen looking like a pop-up book isn’t a huge selling point for me. And if I wanted to wear glasses I would’ve been born a nerd. I don’t want 3D, I don’t want my chair shaking around, and I don’t need an “immersive experience.” How bout you just make a good movie and let me sit here with my nachos and stay outta my sh*t, eh hotshot?

Nope, The Fantastic Mr. Fox is not in 3-D. It’s not a CG-driven film either. It doesn’t even use motion-capture technology designed to revolutionize the history of cinema. However, it looks like it has compiled an incredible list of talented actors to voice what looks like a wholly unique animated experience with a story that looks like it could be a lot of fun.

Of course, I say this knowing full well the animation is all pretty much everyone is going to look at, completely dismiss and most likely turn this into a box-office failure as they go marching on to the Jeffrey Katzenberg CGI 3-D drum beat. At least, come November 13th, I have something unique to look forward to before the next 3-D CG motion-capture, knock-my-socks off with 70-foot tall movie screens assaults my senses and steals my soul. Will it be good? I don’t know, but I am anxious to give it a try.

Here’s the trailer one more time for those that didn’t watch it at the opening of this post.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Am I crazy or hypocritical? Do you agree/disagree? I know this is a small round-up of opinions and there were a lot of positive comments in the Internet as well, but I pretty much focused on the negative because this seems like the kind of film to champion rather than put down at first sight.