Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Waiting For The End And A Purpose: The Terminal Leaves Me Unimpressed.

The Good: Likable protagonist, Generally good acting, Interesting initial plot
The Bad: Ridiculous turn of antagonist, Pacing, Plummets into boring
The Basics: As a man caught in an administrative crack, Viktor Navorski is forced to live in an airport, with consequences that quickly become dull and uncompelling in The Terminal.

It is easy to see, after the first half hour of The Terminal why this movie did not generate boatloads of money to help United Airlines. According the the trivia before the movies open, Steven Spielberg has been quoted as saying "Most movies have a beginning and just keep beginning." Spielberg doesn't know when to end movies. Like A.I. (reviewed here!), The Terminal drags on and on after the first half hour, begging the viewer to ask "Why am I still sitting here?"

The Terminal begins with real potential, more than I would have thought. Viktor Navorski arrives at JFK Airport in New York City and learns that his nation has become engulfed in a civil war. As a result, there is no legitimate nation of Krakozha and thus his passport is no longer a legal passport. Without a legal passport, he may not get a visa to enter the United States and he is forced to reside within the confines of the airport terminal.

Navorski is sentenced to live in the terminal by Frank Dixon, a field agent with the Department of Homeland Security. Dixon is simply doing his job, which is waiting out the Krakozhian civil war so that Navorski may either return home or enter the United States. The main problem with the film develops when Dixon becomes obsessed with Navorski's presence. Navorski is not harming anyone, he is not a nuisance in any real way, and is not even terribly conspicuous. Dixon becomes determined to pass the Navorski problem onto someone else, though Navorski is not a problem anyone would notice except the Department of Homeland Security.

For example, at JFK, there is are carts that may be used to aid passengers in transporting their luggage. Unfortunately, most people do not bring the carts back to their designated areas. So, there is a system that rewards those who do bring the carts back with a quarter. Navorski soon realizes that if he rounds up the carts and returns them all, he can make enough money to buy food at the Burger King within the terminal. Dixon sees Navorski doing this and, rather than tacitly approve of it, he thwarts Navorski's efforts by hiring a new staffmember whose sole job is to return the carts to where they belong. Dixon's determination to rid the terminal of Navorski climaxes in the most over-the-top way and then senselessly disappears.

In short, The Terminal suffers greatly from a forced antagonist that, in the final analysis, makes little to no sense. And the film does not need a man vs. man conflict, the piece would work extraordinarily well as a man vs. society piece. But Dixon does not simply represent the overbearing society created by the Department of Homeland Security, he reveals personal ambition and a serious emotional stake in getting rid of Navorski.

And then there's the romantic subplot. While residing in the airport, Navorski falls for a flight attendant named Amelia. The relationship between Navorski and Amelia is far less interesting than the relationships Navorski makes to survive in the airport, like his relationship with janitor Gupta.

What does work is the acting. Catherine Zeta-Jones is well-used as Amelia and she manages to not steal the scenes she is in. In fact, it is more a movie displaying the talents of Stanley Tucci. Whatever the faults with the character of Frank Dixon, Tucci portrays him well and with as much consistency as the script will allow. Tucci plays reasonable very well and, while it is inconsistent with the established character, he is able to make over-the-top anger seem very realistic.

The film rests on Tom Hanks, though and he delivers as usual. Hanks appears somewhat bloated and only slips out of character once when yelling. The majority of the movie, he looks like Ed O'Ross (Nikolai from Six Feet Under) and his transformed body language and accent work quite convincingly to establish his character.

Even Hanks cannot save The Terminal, though. The idea is not bad, but the execution of it is. Spielberg and the film's writers try to create intrigue by providing Navorski with a reason for wanting to come to New York City, clouding it in the peanut can he carries with him constantly. The problem is, by the time we learn what is in the can, it is almost impossible to care. The movie has stretched on for far too long.

And once we do learn why Navorski is in New York City, it makes even less sense that he would be willing to stay in the terminal as opposed to making a run for the City outside. The last half hour of the movie is an uncompelling plodding experience to try to resolve all of the plot and character aspects introduced earlier in the movie. The problem is, by the time they start to be resolved, Dixon is ridiculously villainous and the rest of the aspects seem far too removed from our interest to be compelling.
The Terminal lures the viewer in with a deceptively good beginning that quickly takes a turn toward the boring and ultimately the disappointing. There are better Spielberg and Hanks films. There are a lot of movies that are better. Period.

For other films with Zoe Saldana, please check out my reviews of:
Star Trek


For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the movies I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2005 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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