When their country is invaded and their families are taken, eight unlikely teenagers band together to fight.When their country is invaded and their families are taken, eight unlikely teenagers band together to fight.When their country is invaded and their families are taken, eight unlikely teenagers band together to fight.
I have not read the book, but as an Australian I really wanted to enjoy this movie, and I did, but I also came away thinking that it could be a lot better. This is probably the most controversial film I have watched in a long time, because I enjoyed the experience of watching it but I found so many problems with it as well:
The Good: Ellie and Homer's character growth is strong and impressive, impressive enough to carry the film past its problems.
The action scenes are generally exciting.
The film manages to maintain suspense even outside of the action scenes. It's good at conveying the emotions one should feel to find that their homeland has been invaded. I cared about the characters, worried about the way they fought with each other, and gritted my teeth for their success.
The other characters don't grow much.
Some dialogue is clunky. The beginning is a little cheesy as all the characters are introduced. The film does not start quickly.
The action scenes are generally implausible: petrol explosions are all too frequent: a crime to intelligence that Hollywood itself has committed numerous times but don't we know better than that now? Petrol is rather hard to make explode because you need to make sure that it's mixed with a specific ratio of oxygen. Yet everything carrying petrol goes off like TNT. At one stage, something containing petrol explodes three times. How?
I complained to some friends about this issue and they said it was the same as in the book. When I suggested changing the explosive they disagreed, because the movie should stay loyal to the book. But the book was about CHARACTERS. It wasn't about the way they did things, but for anyone with a bit of technical knowledge it's clear that John Marsden didn't do a whole lot of research if this is an exact representation of the text.
None of the characters look like year 12 students. I'm a high school teacher. It's very rare that any female students look like the long-legged, tall, slim, beautiful models used in this movie. Likewise not all boys look like buff sportsmen, but in this movie they do. Hence the movie loses some of its plausibility: it doesn't look like school children taking the war to the enemy. It looks more like university graduates. Only one character - Robyn Mathers - actually looked like a real school girl (except her clothes were so cliché-conservative Christian that even she looks a little unbelievable).
Action scenes were implausible: I like the idea of a movie where a bunch of teenagers outwit an invading force. But the director must be careful not to make the soldiers look dumb or incompetent. Instead he/she must make the teenagers look clever, or lucky. This movie does not succeed here.
Enemy strategy is questionable: the whole TOWN was put in a concentration camp! This is not how you invade a country. Are they going to do this for every town/city in Australia? When you're invading a country you dedicate your forces to fighting that country's military, and even once that's finished, you allow the population to keep going about its daily business and put soldiers on the street to keep order. You try to keep local law enforcement intact so they can do it. You don't herd everyone into a camp because then you need to feed them and clothe them yourselves, which, even if not done well, will draw resources away from where they're needed more.
Despite all of these issues, Tomorrow when the War Began has the framework of an interesting story and an interesting concept. It's a shame that anyone with a small amount of technical knowledge will be able to find more holes in this than a colander, nevertheless if these things aren't a concern to you then here is an emotional adventure with a fair dose of suspense and action. I'll be going to see the sequel, and I'll be praying someone remakes the movies in twenty years time.
- Sep 9, 2010