Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou [2004]

We join documentary film auteur and oceanic explorer, Steve Zissou, as he sets out on a journey for revenge against the Jaguar shark, who killed his best friend and first mate, Esteban. Along with him is a crew of misfits - his film crew, a bonds man, a reporter and a young pilot who may be his son.

There is something about the sheer joy of filmmaking that Wes Anderson brings to his films that makes them so appealing to someone who watches a lot of movies. He combines elements and influences that make you say – “that reminds me of...” or “after watching that I feel like watching...”

He brings a subtle humor to most of his films – he doesn’t go with the easy joke – he goes with the smart joke. Though in The Life Aquatic he goes for a few of his broadest of jokes – none of them feel forced or contrived. Bill Murray is brilliant as the aging Zissou – who desperately wants to stay relevant – but plays it in such a deadpan way as to not fully show his hand.

Anderson’s films aren’t overly bitter or mean – everyone is typically kind of caricatures – but that’s not to say they don’t have some depth – and a sense of a history to them. You get the feeling that they’ve all got stories in their past worth hearing – and they will go on to have more stories in the future. This is one of the aspects that I’ve always enjoyed about how Wes Anderson approaches his characters – I’m always left thinking about them.

His cast of characters – and talented actors of course is outstanding. Willem Dafoe, Cate Blanchett, Michael Gambon, Jeff Goldblum, Angelica Houston and of course Owen Wilson and the Wes Anderson staple – Bill Murray.

The soundtrack of pretty much all early 70’s David Bowie tunes –most of which covered in Portuguese by singer Seu Jorge - was an inspired choice for a soundtrack. There’s an excitement about Bowie in that time frame that really goes along with this film – as Bowie (on the surface) is singing about outer space and aliens and wonders from beyond.

The Life Aquatic captures an innocence of childhood wonder and the spirit that adventure is all around you – but it doesn’t’ require you to be childish to enjoy them. You could imagine this film as a kids movie if there wasn’t the nudity or swearing – and this film goes as kind of a tribute to childhood.

“Let’s get the gang together guys and have an adventure! Watch out for pirates! We discovered a wreck! Oh no, leeches!”

The stop-motion animation critters they encounter along the way – the snakes and exotic animals all over – the over the top action – all those things you get from old adventure films – and things you envision in your childhood adventures playing pretend with your friends.

I’ve watched this film several times – and it’s been one of those films that has grown on me to the point where I love it and give it full marks 5 out of 5.


  1. I'm afraid I got halfway through that one and couldn't get any further.

  2. "What is the purpose of killing this shark?"