War Horse on Broadway: Can Spielberg's film match up to the stage show? Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson, http://flic.kr/p/9quAnq
Steven Spielberg’s War Horse has premiered in New York. The movie tells the story of a young farmer’s son who is engulfed in World War I as he searches for his horse across Europe. Based on a hugely successful children’s novel and stage show, and boasting a quality cast, the film has been hotly anticipated by critics and viewers. But does War Horse live up to the hype?
Spielberg at his best. Joe Marino hailed War Horse as a return to form for Spielberg in The Telegraph: “It has all the hallmarks of the Spielberg we’ve missed so much: powerful, gutsy, honest, and effective,” he said. Marino felt the director captured the emotions of the characters perfectly: “I felt each emotion as if I was a marionette, manipulated by the director’s strings.” He also suggested that the war scenes were as good as any in Saving Private Ryan.
Lack of explicit violence. Raine Devries praised Spielberg at Examiner for keeping explicit bloodshed to a minimum in War Horse, despite the backdrop of war: “In this film, the viewer is told so much through the cavalry charging scene yet never actually witnesses gratuitous violence to the horses.” Describing the movie as an “epic”, Devries said her only criticism was that the opening section was a little slow.
Formulaic? Culturemob’s Allie Hanley suggested there was something “mechanical” about War Horse: “It’s as if Spielberg has figured out the exact science to making a good film… It’s like he is working from a check list that combines into a set formula that is enjoyable but is almost forced,” she said. Nevertheless, Hanley called the film “an instant family classic”.
Praise for the horse. At Movie City News David Poland was impressed at Spielberg’s deftness at not over-anthropomorphising Joey the horse. Despite the excellent performances from cast members including Benedict Cumberbatch, Poland argued that the horse stole the show, meaning the actors are unlikely to garner Oscar nods: “No one but the horse really has the time to either be the show or steal the show in a way that makes a nomination seem obvious.”