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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Welcome to Marwen (Blu-ray)
Welcome to Marwen (Blu-ray)
Universal // PG-13 // April 9, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $19.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted May 28, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

One thing is for sure when it comes to the films of Robert Zemeckis; you're going to be taken into a world that you have likely not experienced before and one that is memorable for reasons beyond the story. Some of them are great like Back to the Future while others are well, less so (looking at you, Flight). And while I was unfamiliar with Welcome to Marwen before the film, seeing that it was a film that Zemeckis wrote and directed, it seems like a natural fit.

The film is inspired by the events in Mark Hogancamp's life. Mark (played by Steve Carell, Foxcatcher) was beaten by several people outside an upstate New York bar for admitting that he liked cross-dressing. The beating left Mark in a coma for several days and upon emerging, a lack of remembering basic skills like walking and talking. He also began to build a town set in the second World War, along with models, all of which was built to 1:6 scale. The film looks as Mark's relationships with people around the neighborhood and how they impact the fictional town of Marwen that he built, and his coming to terms with testifying at the court proceedings of the people accused and convicted of assaulting him.

Many of the people in Mark's life are women; Carlala (Eiza Gonzalez, Baby Driver) works at the bar with Mark, Julie (Janelle Monae, Hidden Figures) and Anna (Gwendoline Christie, Game of Thrones) are part of Mark's rehabilitation. But it's Nicol (Leslie Mann, This is 40) who is the most impactful. Mark's neighbor from across the street, she connects with Mark's innocence in a charming way and she serves as his inspiration of sorts. All of them are pieces in the world Mark has created, along with some others. The Nazis in this WW2 play are those who attacked him.

Expanding on a thought I mentioned in the opening of this, Zemeckis films tend to be overly enamored with the process at times, resulting in storytelling that can be inconsistent tonally. The cast of the film is shot with motion capture technology designed to put their face on a miniature body, which gives them a new look that gets deeper into animation than most films tend to do. You see the dolls go through the grass in Mark's yard and the bodies against the tall blades keep you in the middle of Marwen and engaged for most of it.

It's the time away from Marwen, in Mark's real world, that is problematic for the film. Ultimately the story DOES have to come out of Marwen for reasons of character development and story cloture, but doesn't get too involved in the rationales. Why is Mark distant from others? Most importantly, why is Marwen here to begin with? Is this a coping mechanism, a recovery one, does Mark get introspective about this stuff at all? Can he? The last question appears to be answered for the film with a "No," but it's not enough to reconcile.

Given the incomplete nature of New York, the performances are whatever they are I suppose. The main ones including and between Carell and Mann are good but unremarkable. They do not bring the story out of the flaws it has, nor do they separate them. Bob Zemeckis has gotten so happy about the technology with these characters that he actually forgot to focus ON these characters, by far the biggest flaw Welcome to Marwen has in it.

The Disc:
The Video:

Welcome to Marwen is presented in 2.39:1 widescreen and looks excellent for a mix of live and motion capture action. The faces on the dolls' bodies are seamless and the light reflecting off them look sharp. Darkly lit scenes are solid in the black levels and provide a nice contrast; a moment of dark black and red is vivid against the characters that are in the foreground and look as clear as can be. Flesh tones are natural in the scenes without the miniatures and other shots that serve as a segue between the worlds like the camera shots look vivid and natural as well.

The Sound:

The TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack gets to work from the opening with Hogie flying through anti-aircraft fire and his eventual rescue by his guardian angels. The booming of the rounds in the former and the whizzing and thuds of machine gun fire in the latter place the viewer in the midst of the action. Dialogue is well-balanced and in other dynamic scenes like in the bar for example, music sounds clean and presents an immersive sound stage. All in all, a very good presentation from Universal.

Extras:

Some fairly quick hits in the bonus department, starting with eight deleted scenes (11:22), most of which cover the court actions. Some of these would have been better served in the final cut, but such is life. "Marwen's Citizens" (3:51) looks at the cast, their thoughts on the material and on the star, while "A Visionary Director" (4:53) casts a similar eye on Zemeckis. "Building Marwen" (4:03) looks at the set and production design and challenges therein, while "Living Dolls" (4:02) takes a peek at the motion capture for the film.

Final Thoughts:

In a way, Welcome to Marwen serves as a greeting and an encouragement, because bringing Mark and those characters out of their scale world proves to be clunky and at times strangely storybook journey, and not in a good way. Technically the disc is a good one (as most Universal releases are these days), though the scant amount of extras, including nothing on Hogancamp himself, is a bummer. A rental for a Carell departure performance but little past that.

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