Rather than explore its fertile premise, Slumberland revels in visual extravagance. Which is a pity.
Nemo happily lives with her father in an isolated lighthouse, but her blissful days come to an end when her dad dies at sea. Forced to move in with her nerdy, estranged uncle, Nemo seeks solace in the wondrous stories previously told to her by her dad, wild adventures that soon prove to be far more than imaginative tales. While exploring the myriad realms of Slumberland, the dreamworld that the stories are set in, Nemo also uncovers a long-forgotten tragedy. One that involves an unexpected character.
This Netflix fantasy movie exclusive requires patience. Quite a fair bit of patience for despite the story moving at a frenetic pace, and with one after another CGI-soaked fantasy world dished out like a rushed dinner, the movie takes painfully long to come together.
Like dreams that are indulgent but never quite feel a whole, the story is riddled with plot leaps and conveniences too, and these really bother before long. In my case, I stopped the stream just before the big twist/reveal came, i.e., just before the movie finally gained life. Had I not loathed leaving a movie unfinished, trust me, I wouldn’t have finished watching the rest of it last night.
Admittedly, this disjointed storytelling approach could be an attempt to mimic the feel of the legendary comic strip Slumberland is based on. (Which, by the way, no one has ever managed to successfully adapt) For obvious reasons, such strips rely on readers to “fill in the gaps” and it’s often fun for readers to do so because that’s the subliminal way that print media interacts.
But movies don’t work that way, do they? They are not vignettes. There’s got to be some degree of deeper engagement instead of just serving one visual spectacle after another. In other words, a crucible to hold the entire tale together. One without holes everywhere.
For example, why is Nemo so terrified of being alone? Her phobia clearly didn’t originate from her father’s passing. She had a nightmare before she was told about her father’s accident.
Did Nemo’s dad tell her about Slumberland? Perhaps as a bedtime story. But the way the teen effortlessly adapts to her discovery implies she long knew the dream world is more than fanciful tales.
As a story exploring the resolution of grief via dreams, well, the message is certainly there. But this is inevitably sidelined by all the chases and otherworldly sets, to which Slumberland devotes most of its energy. The discussion never does go beyond skin deep.
(I know I seem to be nitpicking. But, you know, some knowledge of these would have enriched the story)
Coming to Jason Momoa’s Flip, one word, ewww. Cringeworthingly ewww. I know Flip’s prancing and dances and sneers are meant to represent the unbridled, man-child persona of the real-life counterpart. But seeing a six-foot-tall, bedraggled Momoa attempt a copy of Captain Sparrow is still ewww. And mind you, he was doing it to a teen, which makes it double creepy.
The whole concept of BOSA is also too familiar to be comfortable. I mean, we’re talking about a 70s-like office building with a lift that takes you to incredible realms, and managed by agents obviously beyond time and human physics.
Sounds like something we’ve recently seen?
But I’ll stop nitpicking. I’ll assume BOSA was merely inspired by Loki’s TVA.
Check out my other snappy movie reviews.