Not the break-the-formula formula again
Seeing this (again, actually) on the heels of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within makes an interesting comparison. Both are examples of some of the top rendering technology available, but are very different films - Shrek the epitome of the medieval fantasy genre sticking its tongue out at itself, and Final Fantasy being a straight but imaginative science fiction story. (Ironic, isn't it, that Final Fantasy is not so much a fantasy here?)
From that perspective I'll assert that, while Final Fantasy is the more technically adept film, Shrek really uses the technology more to its advantage.
What do I mean by that? Final Fantasy is, like many films of its genre, a largely cold and sterile world - while the rendering is simply amazing, and done well, especially in relation to what the film is, there is a distance between the audience and the images that comes from the story, and reinforced by the rendering. Shrek, with a much more playful and artificial world, can take advantage of the rendering technology to trigger the audience's imagination. The rendering is detailed, but there is no intention of eliminating the sense of being just a fabrication, leaving room to concentrate on the important touches for conveying the characters' emotions and so on.
There are certain bits in Shrek that don't completely work, certain shortcuts in designing the renders that can be seen if you look for them. It's not perfect, but both films show how far technology has come, and hint at what is yet to come.
Of course, technology is not all there is to a movie. You need something else to enjoy it. One trick ponies are no longer enough to entertain us for ninety minutes.
The framework of the story is a typical fantasy arc, and Shrek pokes fun at it all the way through, along with all the fantasy movies that came before it. Aside from any interest in the technology, this is where only real interest for adults comes in. Beyond that, it's primarily kids stuff - fun and goofy kids stuff, but the stuff of kids nonetheless. The moral messages are updated for the more self-actualized present, but they're plain and unambiguous, requiring no thought from the audience. What we have is a well executed children's movie, with enough adult teasers to get you through it once, but a second viewing isn't going to be necessary.
It bothers me some that there's a Shrek 2 in the works now.
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