Film Review: Welcome To Marwen

If you couldn’t think of a better example where Hollywood puts its hands on something and made it boom, pop and explode like never before, Welcome To Marwen is the film to prove all of your theories correct.

Based on the 2010 documentary Marwencol, the film is a fictional and glamoured retelling of a documentary feature film that showcases the triumphs of a man who was severely and brutally attacked that left him with irreversible brain-damage. Mark Hogancamp is undoubtedly a survivor. After the attack, the once established and successful artist began creating a 1:6 scale world where he finds therapy, healing and redemption from the horrors of his past.

In the 2018 fictionalization feature film, Steve Carrell plays Hogancamp, a man whose hyper-fantizies sex, violence and victory in Marwen. While the city of Marwen is inhabited by Captian Hogie, a miniature version of himself, as a ruthless and brave military captain, the only other residents are the women of Marwen, each represented by strong and kind women in Mark’s life. While many of the women’s stories become as interesting as Mark’s, we come to fall in love with the women of Marwen, no matter how treacherous they are to the “Nazis” that constantly threaten their home.

Although Welcome To Marwen is the story of Hogancamp, the direction quickly shifts to his feminine rebellion; GI Julie (Janelle Monáe), Carlala (Eiza González), Anna (Gwendoline Christie), Suzette (Leslie Zemeckis), a group of influential women that help Mark recovery from epic tragedy. Even though each of the women are a representation of the women in Mark’s reality, he quickly makes them sexy and tough-as-nails heroes of Marwen, constantly standing by and protecting Hogie, no matter how hocus the narrative really is.

The shift in Mark’s life comes with the introduction of a new neighbour across the street, Nicol (Leslie Mann), who has her own story of tragedy and strife. Together, Mark and Nicol, as well as all the other women in Mark’s life face the many challenges of their lives head on, and without apologies.

Welcome To Marwen is a story about pain; embracing the pain, loving the pain and dealing with the pain and using it as fuel for recovery and successful. Yet, while the themes of Marwen are very strong and incredibly inspiring, one cant help but notice just how painful the film really is. Mixing stop-motion capture technology for the fictitious world of Marwen, and integrating the fantasy with reality, really symbolizing real life issues with action figures, the themes in Zemeckis’ newest feature get lost in over-ambition. One of the biggest disappointments of Marwen is the poor use of such a talented and great cast, and under utilizing the fantastic actors for pure spectacle.

While, at first, the animation becomes quite charming and humorous, it quickly overstays its welcome. Zemeckis, a master of story-telling and innovating the medium of cinema and motion-capture technology (as seen in The Polar Express), it’s over stylization here gives Marwen a bloated and bizarre entrance; and instead of getting lost in a world, the audience feels more like they are stuck in Marwen with no exit for the film’s two-hour runtime.

While hate and discrimination spark the world of Marwen, love and determination save it. Yet, authenticity is lacking within every frame of Welcome To Marwen, especially when a filmmaker like Zemeckis is at the helm; it truly becomes an example of the expectations of film-lovers and how they react to film that’s poorly made or executed with such dissatisfaction.

Based on the true triumph of a man who used his tragic story into a story of success and glory, Hogencamp’s pictures of his figurines of Marwencol were featured in a New York gallery in 2006, and eventually made into a documentary in which this film is based on. While Hogencamp still suffers very severe forms of post-traumatic stress following the incident and violent hate-crime that nearly left him dead, his story is one that inspires so much hope and strength to others who have had near-death experiences, or even just need a little hope in the everyday and mundane difficulties of life. Unfortunately, Welcome To Marwen isn’t the film to illicit many of those feelings.

Isolated from the outside world, threatened by everyday acts and routines and surrounded by endless love and kindness, Mark Hogencamp is the real deal when it comes to overcoming your demons and facing your fears. Sadly, Welcome To Marwen comes short on proving to being a story to ignite emotions of inspiration, hope and new beginnings.

Night Film Reviews: 4 Out of 10 Stars.

What did you think of Welcome To Marwen? Oscar hopeful or Razzie front-runner? What did you think of the motion-capture? What did you think of the live-action sequences? Fan or foe? Leave your comments below! 

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