Not long ago outside the Laemmle 5 Theatre on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, I remember seeing an intriguing poster. It had figures with foreboding, glowing eyes across the top, and a man in a ragged cloak leaning over to a child. The title was simple, Ink. It seemed like the kind of film a lover of “Akira”, “Dark City” or “Bladerunner” would enjoy. It also looked like an animated film, which I love. So it stuck.
It is not an animated film. That was the first thing that upset me. To be honest, I was not impressed by the first 30 minutes. There was too much unearned sentimentalism, too many emotions playing too big, it was clunky setting up the world and a little dopey. The fight choreography felt tacked on. It was all a little too earnest. “Like me because I’m different and yet still the same”, it screamed. But there was one scene that made me keep watching. A scene in which a Father gives into playing “fight the monster” with his Daughter. It nailed the tone it was shooting for perfectly. And I felt a bit of emotion well up. Quite unexpected. I also think the digital quality of the film cheapened it all.
Cut to two hours later and I was bawling like a baby. What starts out like an awkward child wanting to run before it showed you it could walk, turns into a moving and thrilling experience. Perhaps it’s a movie that you have to give into to enjoy it. You have to want to play make believe to overlook some of it’s flaws. The mythology itself is wonderful and that’s where the film succeeds. You see the Daughter is kidnapped by a creature named Ink. Ink takes her into what I will call the dream world. Where beings live that either give you good dreams or nightmares, and of course they all know martial arts. The beings that give you good dreams also provide you with hope. The beings that leave you with nightmares also take your soul away, so you’re an empty carcass of a human being.
Half of the story follows Ink and the girl, as he travels to give her as a gift to the beings that give nightmares, so that he can become one of them, as you see Ink is scarred and ugly. The other half of the story follows the Father of the Daughter as he comes to terms with the empty carcass of a person he’s become; scarred on the inside. Needless to say that these two stories eventually come together in a way, that even if you’re expecting it, hits you pretty hard.
It’s a children’s story for adults. A fable with swearing, and kicking, and fighting. With turmoil. With struggle. And at the middle of it all is the fight for a single soul. How many movies now-a-days are concerned with the soul of an individual?
Despite the cheap make-up effects and the first half hour, there is wonder and love of life at the center of this film, that if you open yourself up to it (even if it is slowly), anyone with a shred of intelligence will find themselves engrossed and gratified.
If you want a film that’s similar to this, in both the fact that the first 15 minutes are “eh” and also that it turned into one of the most intriguing movies I saw last year, check out Terry Gilliam’s “Tideland”.