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December 13, 1999 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-12-13

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, December 13, 1999 - 9A

noriginal
'Anna'uses
%verdone
eas, story
k Podoisky
ArsWrite
"Anna and the King" is the second
daptation of the tale of Anna
eonowens of England and King
ongkut of Siam to hit screens this
ear, after the disastrous animated
ttempt at "The King and I."The title of
latest effort should be warning
nogh, placing the woman Anna first
a our minds - look, kids, a feminist
telling of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
f ' told from her perspective there
us be new ground to cover, right?
Jedie Foster plays Anna, and it is a
le she has played before (and played
el,) Repetition is unbecoming to
osr. I say that as someone who great-
admires her work, but there's no
ng the fact thatAnna is little more
than Ellie
Arroway of
"Contact" bound
with a British
Anna and accent and a
the King corset. Same
ideas, same right-
eousness, same
opens Dec.17 impossible cir-
c umstances:
Woman plays
with boys, tries to
change an entire
culture and warp
it to fit her (possi-
bly correct) moi-
stions and needs. That is what is at the
ot of the problem with the movie as a
hole: Ignoring the fact that this spe-
fi story has been told before, its
eas have been told before, too. There
t an original bone in 'Anna"'s
>which positions itself as a tale of
woman's empowerment in the 19th
ntury - and then insults itself(and us)
lshifting into a ludicrous romance, of
I things.
Based on the real Leonowens'
aries, 'Anna and the King" plays like
mne prud schoolgirls fantasy written
hi looking in on the edges ofa royal
ur. It's worth noting that the real
in hardly mentions Leonowens at all
Mtorical documents. Now, nobody -
er said there was anything wrong
t fictionalizing a historical account,
d apocryphal "based on a true story"
>vies are plentiful and often enter-
ning, even exquisite.
But that's not the case here. Mongkut
how Yun-Fat) spouts forth such Zen
ilosophies as, "When a woman who
s much to say says nothing, her
e can be deafening." The rest of

Author Crichton engrosses
with time travel in 'Timele'

Timeline
Michael Crichton
Knopf
One of the most frequently used
premises in science fiction over the
years has been the idea of time travel.
In his latest novel, "Timeline,"
Michael Crichton gives both aspects
of this seemingly impossible phe-
nomenon refreshingly serious treat-
ment. As engrossing and provocative
as "Jurassic Park" was ten years ago,
his newest offer takes the reader on a
whirlwind adventure through two fas-
cinating fields, science and history.
In the deserts of New Mexico, a
corporation focusing on quantum
mechanics has come up with a
method to transfer people from our
universe to others. In France, a team
of Yale historians and archeologists
are digging up a village that has been
abandoned for more than 500 years.
What the two events have in common
is one man, Robert Doniger, the mas-
termind behind both of them.
Doniger, a brilliant scientist and a
tough businessman believes he has
created the newest entertainment
phenomenon, the ability to go into
the past (or other parallel universes

where the past is currently happen-
ing). After years of experimentation,
he and his team have amassed
tremendous knowledge of the same
fourteenth century village that the
team of historians (who are working
for Doniger) are researching.
After a few too many accidents, the
secret starts to leak and the leader of
the research team, Professor Edward
Johnston, soon finds himself stuck in
the 14th century and in danger. If
Doniger wants to keep his discovery
a secret, he must go to the past to
recover him.
Once they take the trip back, they
are met with a world that is very dif-
ferent than even the most in-depth of
historical accounts could prepare
them for. At this point Crichton
turns on the suspense by tossing
obstacles at the rescue team in the
past. Johnston's team of assistants,
three of which have gone back in
time to find him, and one staying
behind in the lab, are all fascinating
characters who rise to the situations
presented to them in a way that is
entertaining to read.
After a while, the building sus-
pense becomes slightly repetitive, but
it does keep the reader hanging on to

the edge of his or her seat as Crichton
juggles two related stories through a
37-hour countdown (at which point it
is no longer possible for them to
return). Crichton forces the reader to
think through many of the situations
that he has created. Therefore, the:
reader is willing to forgive him for
using such traditional storytelling
elements where the good guys always
come out on top.
The real hero of this novel, howev-
er, is Crichton's research. His treat-
ment of the notion of time travel is
backed up with some surprisingly
solid scientific facts. At the same
time, his in-depth look at a period
that we are more than 600 years
removed from is also refreshingly
credible. Itsis clear that he has don-
his homework, and because of that
the reader does not easily dismiss his
ideas as pure fantasy.
Going all the way back to "The
Andromeda Strain," Crichton has
forced us to confront the scientific
world around us through some pretty
outlandish adventures. "Timeline"
continues this tradition well; it is a
fast-paced read that will leave you
thinking long after putting it down.
- Nick Broughton

Courtesy of Fox 2000
Chow Yun-Fat falls for Jodie Foster In another adaptation of "The King and I."

the dialogue is as painful and kludgy,
raining down like grenades. This is all
well and good for a musical - nobody
ever said that show lyrics had to be sub-
tle - but in a movie that purports to be
a serious drama, they're a gross miscal-
culation. "Anna and the King" reads on
a fourth grade level, and that's not a
good idea when you're playing to an
audience you want to be made up of, at
minimum, high school graduates.
The so-called love that arises
between Anna and Mongkut is so far
beyond silly that it's actually pitiful.
Apparently in old Siam, a few stern
glances and a smile or two pass for a
courtship. Chow does what he can, but
he is lost without his ubiquitous tooth-
pick and sidearms to anchor him.
"Anna" fares much better when concen-
trating on schoolteacher Anna's rela-
tionship with the King's children,
whom she must instruct in the ways of
the larger world. Even then, though, its
lessons are strained, as is its credibility.
This is director Andy Tennant's fol-
low-up to "Ever After," which was
nothing if not "Anna and the King"
without the unconsummated love
affair. The ideas they hold near and
dear are the same, only here in this for-
eign Asian land they grow tedious

instead of magical and inspiring. It
doesn't help that unlike most other
period pieces, "Anna" fails to transport
us to a land of time gone by. Tennant's
Siam seems like a circus sideshow-
type place that you could drive an hour
into the country and accidentally run
across, then stop to buy a couple of
souvenirs. I half-expected there to be a
travel agent hawking one-way tickets
to Thailand waiting outside the theater
on my way out.
By the tenth "look, this is important
and uplifting!" crane shot, Tennant's
direction loses steam it never had to
begin with and the boisterous produc-
tion colors signal that this is a boring
old tale costumed in the clothes of
modernity. He is at war with Foster and
Chow, desperately trying to undermine
their attempts at giving quality perfor-
mances. But, Tennant wins the battle,
leaving his actors to fend for them-
selves amid a pathetic screenplay and
the overpowering lushness of Siam as
photographed by Caleb Deschanel.
"Anna and the King" wants very
badly to be a period epic of a forbidden
love. It succeeds - but only in its epic
length of two and a half hours, and only
in the love that cannot be between itself
and the audience.

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