The one thing you hear most often in respect of Australian movies is praise for the cinematography. Australian cameramen certainly know make the place look good, and Australia obliges by being very photogenic. But at least most Australian movie makers know that there is a little more to it than pretty postcards.
Little things like a good script, talented actors and coherent direction. By these standards, this movie is a just pretty postcard from Australia, and I hate to say that, because I am Australian.
Tomorrow (When the War Began) is taken from the novels by John Marsden, which got a boost in sales from being required reading for high schoolers in the 90s. The series has a lot of fans, and follows the exploits of a group of youngsters who return from a trip to the bush to find their town - and their country - has been overrun by a foreign army.
First fail in the film version - the invaders, while never specifically described as being from anywhere in particular in the books, are in the movie very obviously Asian. Come again? What are ridiculous old prejudices doing in a movie aimed at a modern young audience?
Second fail - most of the actors playing these youngsters look way too old for the roles, and some have been recruited from Australian soapies to boot. Maybe Director Stuart Beattie was hoping for a double barrelled effect from this - Australian audiences would recognise familiar faces, and overseas audiences would be interested in what would be to them fresh faces. Fail on both counts. Aussies would know that lame acting could be the only result, and overseas audiences wouldn’t even know why.
To balance the soapie overload, the movie also features Rachel Hurd-Wood, a British girl who appeared in Perfume and Peter Pan, presumably to give it some acting cred overseas. Australian movies are always doing that.
The movie takes so long to get these characters established that I wondered when it was ever actually going to start - and why Beattie should have bothered anyway. Maybe you have to be Australian to recognize all the stereotypes and cliches in this movie, such as the feisty country sheila who can do everything from shooting a gun with deadly accuracy to driving a semi-trailer; the Greek ‘bad boy’ who is always in trouble with the cops and wears a blue singlet to proclaim his working class status; the dumb bogan who wears a knitted hat pulled down over his eyes, a vacant expression and a soul patch; the Asian boy who is a gifted pianist and works in his family’s restaurant; and Australian bush towns that always have at least one fundamentalist Christian sect wearing buttoned up clothes and prim expressions.
Yes, characterisation is pretty much confined to stereotypical costuming and traits, but also involves getting these ‘teenagers’ to have long deep and meaningfuls, especially when the enemy is creeping up behind their semi trailer. This is such an irritating movie. The kids take on an army that is presumably well equipped and motivated enough to invade a huge country like Australia - even down to an obscure country town - but who are in fact so stupid that a bunch of airheads like this can whup ‘em. Guess they wore themselves out on the Australian Defence Forces, who must be all dead or too busy in Afghanistan to have noticed the planes flying overhead.
So its down to our doughty little band of model agency heroes to save Australia with perfect hair and make up that never looks less than freshly applied, no matter how much running around blowing things up they do. But then they always manage to find a hide out with a working shower.
I could go on, but all I really have to tell you is that this movie cost $27m AUD to produce and grossed less than half of that at the box office - oh, and it was Australia’s highest grossing movie for 2010. Says it all really. Enough of the postcards, get back to making original movies like Mad Max.
I saw this movie at the cinema using my own funds.
Tomorrow, When the War Began [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.4 Import - Australia ]
Tomorrow, When the War Began (The Tomorrow Series #1)