Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fantasy #9 - The Thief of Bagdad (1924)

So here’s the thing about movies – they don’t age well. Watching an old movie is not like reading an old book. Reading an old book is roughly the same experience as reading a modern one, but watching an old movie is totally different. Not only have acting and filming styles changed, but technology is miles and miles better now. We have better film, better sound, and better special effects. I know that a lot of people don’t think that you need technology to tell a good story and that good-old-fashioned elbow grease is far more effective and all that, but I just don’t think that’s true. Not in movies, anyway. A really old movie is just not going to measure up to a more recent one, simply because of the restrictions of the technology. Half of movies is how good they look, and a movie that does not look good is not going to be able to effectively tell its story in such a visual medium.

This is slightly less of an issue with The Thief of Bagdad, though. Not because it looks good, because it doesn’t, but because technology is the least of its problems. The Thief of Bagdad is a silent movie and it is weird. I cannot believe that movies got as popular as they did without sound. It is not a fun movie experience. It forces people to mime, it doesn’t allow for real, subtle acting – everything has to be big – and it makes the characters really hard to tell apart. Obviously, at the beginning of movies, the actors weren’t that important to movie makers. I can’t see how they could have been.

I guess my point is that this is simply not a sophisticated movie. Not in story - the beginning is an Aladdin-esque love story and the second half is very…video-game-y, of all things. You have guides and little objects to gather and monsters to fight, it was very strange – not in acting, not in themes or visuals. When I compare this movie to the other films in the project, it just doesn’t have the same amount of depth or thought put into it. It doesn’t have as much to say, or hardly any symbolism. What they put on the screen is all there is to this movie. It was charming for…twenty minutes, maybe? But then it just kept going. This movie was over two hours long.

I just cannot comprehend why the American Film Institute thought this movie needed to be on this list. Maybe because Douglas Fairbanks is in it? Because it’s old? Is it…the Pegasus? I don’t get it. I can tell you that this movie has virtually nothing on the rest of this entire list.

1 comment:

  1. Could not disagree more. Watch it as a fantasy movie and an artistic masterpiece and not as a modern action movie. The Rimsky-Korsakov soundtrack on some versions helps make this one of my favorite movies, ever.