|Index||7 reviews in total|
This review covers both versions of "Flatland" released in 2007, one by
Ladd Ehlinger, Jr. with a mostly unknown voice cast, and the other by
Jeffrey Travis with some Hollywood big names providing the voices.
The source material for both is the 1884 novella by Edwin A. Abbott, but the approaches of the two films differ radically. The book is a staple of science fiction, and one of the few to address mathematical issues at its core. Being a product of its time, the book is technically naive, and politically incorrect based on current sensibilities.
The Travis film is visually slicker, but significantly shorter, and tackles philosophical issues relative to the passage of time from initial publication. As such, it tampers with the plot to mixed effect. Unlike some others, I have no problem with some of the revisions to the underlying plot since they do help bring some of the book's major issues into somewhat sharper focus. On the other hand, they also add a "feel good" and politically correct sensibility that seems out of place.
The Ehlinger film is much truer to its source material, which is both a strength and a weakness. Given a current perspective, its 19th century depiction of the political and social subjugation of women is a distraction that the Travis film avoids. It's also a longer film and could have been more effective with some of the same plot and editing license employed in the Travis film. Where it does tamper with the plot, some of the decisions are questionable as other reviewers have pointed out.
So which is better? In my opinion, the short answer is the Ehlinger film. Despite its length, political incorrectness, and technical inferiority (the animation of the Travis film is much more sophisticated), it resonates at a technical level to a degree that the Travis film can't match. As a scientist, this means a lot to me. On the other hand, the Travis film resonates on an emotional level that the Ehlinger film can't match. So the answer may be whether you're looking for technical insight or emotional satisfaction.
Most jarring in the Travis film is that, unlike the Ehlinger film, the animators never quite caught on to the implications of a two-dimensional universe. It is filled with objects which are instantly recognizable to us, yet would be clearly impossible or meaningless in the film's reality (e.g. the protagonist's daughter has toys which only make sense to someone with a 3-D perspective, and how does he open his briefcase?). The cover art is an obvious first impression example. The Travis film's characters look more human, but ask yourself how their eyes work. One detail of the book is that looking at a Flatlander from above, all of his internal organs are clearly visible, as they should be. Travis' animators hint at this, but don't meet it head-on. The Ehlinger film's animators may not have had the resources to make as slick a film as Travis', but they obviously gave a great deal of thought to what they were doing (or maybe not, since the necessary designs were all in the book). In short, Travis had the budget, but Ehlinger had the passion for the project - albeit perhaps a bit too much respect for the source to create a truly superior adaptation.
The differences reflect different target audiences, though. The Travis film is an educational short film which was obviously meant to be viewed by classrooms of middle school and high school students. As such, it had to be socially inoffensive while conveying concepts of geometry that would never occur to non-mathematicians. That it includes recognizable names voicing the characters will help it grab a bit more attention - an educational short film for the "X-Files" generation. The Ehlinger film would mostly appeal to people with a college level interest in mathematics, or others who are already familiar with the book.
Neither film is perfect, but I'm giving the Ehlinger film a rating of 8 and the Travis film a rating of 6. Depending on your sensibilities, your conclusion may be exactly opposite of mine, so I hope this review includes enough information to guide you to an informed selection.
Or, like me, you could simply buy both... ;-)
I was lucky enough to catch this film about a month ago, and I highly
recommend it for anyone who loves math, learning, or great animation.
It's beautiful and visually stunning; the acting is great, and the
story manages to explain difficult math concepts in an engaging and
creative way. Wonderful film for use in classrooms or at home. I heard
several kids in the audience say this is "my favorite movie ever!"
Additionally, the on screen interviews with Martin Sheen, Kristen Bell, Tony Hale and Michael York are superb. Hearing them encourage students to learn about math is refreshing and should be a great motivational tool. There's also a great featurette about the 4th dimension - even I could almost understand it, thanks to the amazing visuals!
Psssst! - Confidentially speaking (from an adult's perspective) -
"Flatland" (a 35-minute, CGI, geometry lesson for the kiddies) was just
Hollywood, once again, frantically scrambling to come up with
something/anything truly original and interesting to dazzle and
entertain, and, then, falling "flat" on its (*bleep*bleep*) face one
Yes. I will admit that, visually, "Flatland" had some "OK" moments - But, for the most part, its story contained way too much mean-mindedness and the whole scenario got pretty tired by repeatedly driving home the point about the existence of the 3rd dimension.
I was really hoping that "Flatland" was going to be one helluva total roller-coaster ride of non-stop animation wizardry, but, instead, it was, pretty much, the same/old, same/old from start to finish.
I loved how Dano and the production team got across very complex
scientific concepts with a true, emotion-based Story with a capital
"S". This is the kind of stuff we need more of.
I attended a talk at the 2012 Wisconsin Science Festival called "Science and Storytelling" and the presenter showed us a 30-minute film that was just like any other PBS documentary about a scientific concept. Sure, it had a loose narrative on how this discovery led to that breakthrough which led to this experiment, but that's not a STORY.
A story is what Dano Johnson has created with the FLATLAND films. A story has great characters, something at stake, and reversals of expectation.
The world of science doesn't have enough myths to its name -- but FLATLAND and FLATLAND 2: SPHERELAND are perfect contributions to that endeavor. As a storyteller/filmmaker myself, I found the FLATLAND films to be incredibly inspiring.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The 2007 35-minute short film "Flatland: The Movie" is one of the most famous adaptations of Edwin A. Abbott's book. It is animated actually has a pretty good cast. Sheen, Bell, Estevez, Hale and York all have appeared, sometimes even starred, in notable movies and television series. And even if they are "only" voice-acting, you can see the experience they bring. I think it's a really challenging endeavor to bring Abbott's work to the screen in a credible and convincing manner. In order to combine something cold and logical like geometry with the emotion included in finding a completely new world (apart from the grandpa-girl relationship) is pretty tough to deal with. Unfortunately, I must say they did not succeed here in meeting my expectations. All in all, it was a pretty mediocre short film and I did not like the animation style particularly. There are good moments in this, but maybe they should have kept it at around 10-15 minutes and come up with a more essential film. Not recommended.
As a loyal fan of the book, I must say that, despite what I'm sure were
good intentions and top quality talent; this movie is unwatchable in
the context of the original novel. They changed the story, the
elements, the plot, and the context. They twisted every element out of
proportion so completely it might as well have been called Spiral Land
as in out of control.
The novel was deep and meaningful and this film is light and useless. I was hoping for something close to the original with some helpful graphics. There was some value graphically speaking as far as illustrating the dimensions and this would have been very challenging no doubt. But to completely change the story line and turn it into some kind of mediocre fairy tale was a huge mistake in my opinion.
If you are a fan of the novel and are looking here to see if watching this film is worth it, it's not. Don't do it to yourself. You have been warned.
We just finished watching the Ehlinger version; and by finished
watching I mean jump to the titles to see who had made this awful
adaptation. As someone with a passing knowledge of the original novel,
some training in maths, and a solid background in cognitive science, I
assure you that there were few (if any) things this movie got right.
Annoying things about the film: the plot is stupid and so slow, the voices and dialogs intolerable, the characters I would not even be able to call flat... There are 'signs' at the beginning which are supposed to be funny, but simply come off as insults, treating the viewer as an imbecile who cannot tell what to pay attention to. So bad. Let's turn to 'math,' then.
It's impossible for a 2D organism with a 1D retina to suddenly 'see' in 3D. He would continue to see the perspective through a plane (e.g. slices of his conspecifics, seen from above in a single plane crossing the flatland, NOT a bird eye's view. On the other hand, it is false for a 2D object NOT to have an idea of what perspective is (it is still the case that an object will appear bigger when closer in 2D).
Too bad to continue. Better check out the book in the Guttenberg project.
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