The Kid Stays in the Picture was a great documentary with a refreshing style that managed to keep me hooked into a subject that I honestly wasn't very interested in. So I was extremely excited to see Brett Morgen creating this documentary about history that I was very interesting in and.. Well, Morgen probably reached a little too far on this one.
This documentary is a mix of the very powerful archive footage of the demonstrations and events leading up to them, and a rather insipid animated recreation of the trial. There are no retrospective interviews (many of the 8 are now deceased) and there is no narration - both omissions that suit the style of the director and help emphasize the time and place of the events.
The archive footage could possibly have carried the film by itself. But this documentary is also about the trial. Without any footage or audio of the trial, how do you recreate it so that it appears as the farce that it was - while doing justice to the amazing news footage of protesters being maced and beaten? To do so would honestly have been an amazing accomplishment. Animating the trial was a bold move, but the end result is visually inadequate and mixes poorly with the news footage.
I have no problem with the use of animation, but the animation itself is of very low quality and isn't rather creative. For the trial scenes, I believe the intention was to create a comic look and feel to highlight the nature of the trial itself - but the uninspired designs are too smoothly rendered with wooden mo-cap movement that appears borderline uncanny valley. Other demonstration scenes were animated in a hand drawn/cut out style at an extremely jerky 3-4 frames per second that is difficult to watch to say the least - thankfully they are short. The one redeeming quality of the animation is the voice acting which is top notch across the board, even if Hank Azaria's Abbie Hoffman sounds a lot like Moe from The Simpsons.
My other complaint is the soundtrack, which is about half a mix of 90's rap and another half a mixed bag of pop and metal. The music has no connection to time or events and seems to only take away from the authenticity of the events. I've read the interviews where Morgen describes this movie as being about now, and not 1968 - but I think that is a disservice to the Chicago 8. Sure, there is a war going on right now as was then - but in 2008 young people are more likely to protest high gas prices than the current war.
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