|Box, The (2009)|
|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Friday, 19 February 2010|
"The Box" is more than about the box device. The year is 1976, which is not the right time period for this film. The audience can't really make the connection with the setting and the story. I think the filmmakers realized this and tried like crazy to throw things into the film that link it to the era, such as the Viking landing and Arthur C. Clarke.
Norma and Arthur Lewis (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) is a couple that is living from paycheck to paycheck. Yet, Arthur is a rocket scientist for the NASA program and Norma is a teacher. Sounds like enough to get by to me, but okay, I'll let that go. Their son, Walter, is a somewhat typical schoolboy that is always ragging on his mother. His presence in the film is not grounded and is really there to only serve one purpose at the end of the film.
When the film opens, Norma finds a package left on her doorstep in the wee hours of the morning. When it is opened, the infamous box is found. The premise is that after a key unlock the lid, one push of the red button would result in someone, somewhere, that neither knew, would die and the couple receiving one million dollars in cash. When Norma loses her discount and Arthur is rejected from a space program, the couple agonizes over whether or not to push the button. Well, in order to keep the movie running for nearly two hours, Norma pushes the button and the games begin.
Arlington Steward (Frank Langella) is the conspirator behind this device. Who he is remains a mystery for much of the film. In fact, come the end of the film, you still are not sure who he is, which is disappointing. And that is how this film leaves you feeling all around. Nothing is resolved. The audience is left with so many questions. I started keeping track of them as they arose in the film. And of the 58 questions I had, only four were answered. That is a poor outcome.
The audience might expect that the film is going to be based on the push of the button and the person that is going to die, some chasing, etc. However, this film turns toward science fiction. There are a bunch of snippets about aliens, Mars, demonic possession, you name it. It all becomes too much with nothing being resolved.
The video is a bit disappointing. I suppose that it is more director's intent than the transfer, but it still isn't a great picture to look at. The image was either filmed with diffusion and filters (of which I'm sure that at least plays a part) and/or the image has been heavily processed with noise reduction. Details and textures are absent, or at least inconsistent. Just as such, the image's softness comes and goes. While there is not artifacting, the image still looks processed. Film grain has been wiped clean. Colors are muted or exaggerated. Fleshtones are natural for the most part, but can become a bit much during the NASA plant sequences. Black levels are not as deep as I would have like. Shadow delineation is decent considering the weaker black levels. The CGI is horrible. Perhaps it was the budget, but Langella's partial facial deletion looks like it is floating in mid air and the melting water sequences are just cheesy. Depending on the mindset that you enter this film with, the image may be suitable. The transfer isn't horrible, the artistic notions brought to the table by the director doesn't allow for a stellar-looking image.
The audio doesn't fair as well as the video, and that is saying something. For the first time in a while, the dialogue is not clear and intelligible. It is actually muddy and tonally flat. It seems that the re-mix for home theater boosts the mid-lows in the voice too much. Then there are other times in which the mid-lows are completely absent from the vocals and they sound hollow and reverberant. The LFE channel is absent for the majority of the film. It pops in on less than a handful of occasions. The rear channels are disappointing as well. Ambience is so slight in the rear channels that you have to stick your head right up against the speaker to hear it. Sound effects in the surrounds pop up as frequent as the use of the LFE channel. The entire soundscape is muddy. Balance is not a strong suit of the audio track. The audience has to make a conscious effort to listen for certain things in certain sequences. The dynamic range is fairly flat with a couple of startling spikes here and there. Frequency response is a mess as already noted. This track definitely needs to be taken back to the raw tracks and re-edited and mixed.
The special features are also fairly disappointing. First, there is a director's audio commentary with Richard Kelly that covers a wide range of topics but never sticks. There is definitely a lack of passion in the director's tone. "The Box: Grounded in Reality" has Kelly discussing the inspiration for the film, it's adaptation and some personal events in his own life that contributed to the story. "Richard Matheson: In His Own Words" has the author commented on his own career. Surprisingly, he never comments on the film, which is an indicator of his thoughts on it in its own right. "Visual Effects Revealed" is a brief look at the cheesy visual effects. Lastly, "Music Video Prequels" is a section with three short films that somehow fit into the story. Sadly, there are not deleted scenes to try and explain some of the numerous plot holes. The package also comes with a DVD copy of the film that also acts as a Digital Copy for portable devices.
"The Box" is filed with plot holes, which is probably what happens when a short story of a just a few pages is adapted into a two-hour film. The video transfer is decent, but suffers from poor production choices and audio transfer is riddled with issues. If you are an eager science fiction fan then you may want to give this one a try, otherwise you might want to skip it.