Two perspectives. First, Baz Luhrmann, who clearly spent a lot of effort and time to make this film - the first since Moulin Rouge! 7 years ago. Baz is such a meticulous director that he is clearly not ready to release this film. Unconscientious audiences will chuckle at the lousy composite work of the horse riders against the backdrop and landscapes - and there are MANY. It seemed like they focussed completion on visual effects work on the most important and stunning spectacle - the bombing of Darwin, an awesome sight to behold. However, the film is so obviously designed to be all at once commercial, film festival-worthy and Oscar-bait, that the filmmakers didn't really have a choice other than to release the film now.
Then, the point of view of the audience. Or more specifically, my friend's, who saw the film with me. He didn't like it. He thought the story contrived. ("Not much story," he said, even though there are a good 3 hours of it and Malaysian audiences, as typical, got whiny when film plots stretch out over the usual 3 acts.) I suspect that is due to Baz's style of filmmaking utilised on a more conventional film (giving it a very weird quality which I never did get used to, namely weird camera angles for dialogue scenes that's oddly cut together, sudden ellipses at certain points of the story, contrivances in order to drive the plot to where Baz wants it the way drovers drove cattle, excessive melodrama accompanied by grand music that sometimes leaves the audience behind, etc).
My friend was so dismissive of the film that I thought it interesting to bring those two perspectives together and look at it - a film that was so lovingly and expensively made (though perhaps burdened by other requirements, such as to make Australia the next tourism haven - and steal it from those damn Kiwis and their blasted LOTR legacy - and to address the unsavoury issue of racism) is summarily waved aside by an annoyed audience who didn't enjoy the film. That shows the perverse stakes in the business of motion pictures.
Australia will not do well. It will probably do okay, but a lot of audiences are going to be disappointed by the disjointed editing - and surprisingly, from as skilled an editor as Dody Dorn. But, as I said, it's partly because of the choices of cinematography. The cinematography IS awesome, however, when showing the landscapes of the Northern Territories in all its glory. As for the story itself, well, truth be told I didn't ask too much of it. I would rather point out, for example, the part that worked surprisingly well - Nicole Kidman's character Lady Ashley's maternal relationship with the young half-caste boy Nullah. Their scenes together were the nearest the film got to tear-inducement.
I did find the Aborigine old wizard King George rather annoying though. The fellow's just ... there.
The ending is one of the most speculated about point of the film, with people who saw the film insisting that the ending was changed last minute, while Baz defends it by saying that it is just one of his 6 endings and yes it was different from the one at the test screening but so what? At any case, that supposed twist was not why the ending didn't work - the entire ending just wasn't emotional enough.
I hate to say this, and it's not an easy film for me to rate. On the one hand I like that Baz worked hard for this one, and for the most part the film is gorgeous and elegant. It is Hollywood, you know? It is his Gone With The Wind. With the gloss, the glow on the characters' unblemished faces, the saturated images, the way they looked sexy even when covered with dirt, characters who are all noble or entirely villainous, etc. In a world of movies which has gone the way of the modern age, when audiences demand more realism, more Bourne and less old Bond, these sort of movies are rare now.
The bit about the kangaroo was priceless though. The entire first act is almost just one big joke about the character of the Australians - thoughtless cavalier. They're really proud of that.
How Good I Think The Film Is: 6/10 How Much I Liked It: 7/10 Oscar Noms That It Deserves: None