Dear Dr Tinman: Yay or neigh on this Spielberg flick?
Welcome to the sixth edition of Dr Tinman’s Ignorant Remedies for the Aching Soul. I am Dr Tinman, life-doctor and former builder of tiny Scandinavian model houses.
Over the past month and a half, I have been providing you with exceptional pieces of advice to help you escape the existential filth-pit that is your life.
This week is no exception. And while I have been told that writing out “prescriptions” on post-it notes does, in fact, break several laws (except Newton’s Three Laws of Motion – which are only violated if a lavender-coloured note is used), I shall continue to metaphorically bathe your emotional sores with my sponges of understanding. And so, we move on to this week’s question:
Dear Dr Tinman,
Should I see Steven Spielberg’s War Horse on DVD?
Not Anthony Sharwood
Dearest Not Anthony Sharwood,
I must begin by saying that I have not seen this movie. I am told it was recently released in moving picture houses across the nation. But due to my severe allergic reaction to dark, enclosed spaces, proximity to strangers, projected light and Emily Watson, I was unable to attend a viewing.
Earlier this week, I missed $1 Tuesday at my local video rental business – which allows customers to rent films for $1. So unfortunately, person who isn’t Anthony Sharwood, I shall have to wait until next week’s $1 Tuesday.
And because I am a moral, upstanding man of dignity and honesty, I will not be engaging in the practice commonly known as “pirating”. Also, I don’t know how.
But back to the issue at hand. There are really two questions you need to ask yourself: Do I like war movies? And do I like horse movies?
Obviously, you have a passing interest in both, given the title of the film in question.
Personally, I love a good war movie. There’s frenetic action, powerful narrative and that sniper guy in Saving Private Ryan who shoots other sniper guys through the scope. I even didn’t mind that war movie starring Mel Gibson made before his multiple public and horrifically-racist meltdowns.
Often, I have viewed moving war scenes where two battle-weary soldiers discuss their dreams and fears against the backdrop of terrible carnage and unimaginable cruelty. And each and every time, I have thought: This scene would be so much better if it featured a horse.
The horse wouldn’t necessarily have to have a big part - it wouldn’t even have to have any dialogue. It could just passively stand there in the background and chew grass or drink moonshine out of a tiny mug or whatever it is horses do. Every so often, the horse could do that thing horses do where they scrape at the ground with one of their front hooves. I think that would help move the story along.
Which brings us to horse movies. These typically tend to comment on the relationship between man and beast by having a small child or stern, stoic adult befriend a horse (which often dies for dramatic effect). Sometimes, the horse is brown. Sometimes, it is white. But it always a strong and noble companion who is loyal ‘til the end. That’s why people always enjoy horse movies. The Horse Whisperer, for example, is about Robert Redford being a very good-looking person who talks to horses in an effort to steal Sam Neill’s wife. If only every movie were about that.
As far as I can tell from briefly glancing at the DVD cover (which depicts a horse and a man in war uniform), War Horse brings these two magnificent genres together. Originally, I thought it was about a war between two groups of horses, with one horse in particular being a talented sniper who can shoot other sniper horses through the scope. But alas, it is not. Nevertheless, a review on Rotten Tomatoes describes it as “proudly sentimental” and an “emotional drama that tugs at the heartstrings” – which I think means that the horse probably dies at the end.
It is also directed by Steven Spielberg, the genius behind the endlessly-nightmarish horror film E.T: The Extra Terrestrial. So, there is a good chance that the soldier in the movie befriends the horse by making it follow it a trail of M&M’S – until scientists try to steal it, causing him to escape on a bicycle with the horse in the front basket so they can leap a ravine and cast an iconic silhouette against the moon.
While he is yet to develop a reputation as a fine director of horse movies, Spielberg was involved with Jurassic Park – a movie about dinosaurs, which are kind of similar to horses in that they have four legs and can probably be ridden if Robert Redford shares a wine and a laugh with them.
There is also the fact that the film has achieved a score of 72 per cent on Metacritic.com, with a user score of 6.3. While many would have enjoyed the combination of wars and horses, some viewers may have felt that there was either too much war and not enough horse, or too much horse and not enough war. User reviewer “Passenger56” hit the nail on the head when he/she wrote: “If the horses had spoken it would actually have been a better story!”
Although, it should be noted that there is the possibility that Passenger56 is actually a horse who has taped pencils to its hooves so it can use a standard keyboard to encourage film-makers to use talking horses.
So, it would appear War Horse has something for everybody – except people who don’t like wars or horses. Provided you like at least one of these, it is my medical opinion that you should probably see this film.
Kindest of warm regards,
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