I’m a little too tired to write a full knock-down, drag-out, comprehensive comparitive quadruple review right now, but this will be a good marker/reminder for me, may spark conversation, and should express my general positions without the time-consuming and tedious backing-my-opinions-up-with-references-to-the-actual-details-of-the-movies that will surely be included should I be able to pull this ultra-mega-super-quadruple-tag-team-review together.
But here’s the short version:
Ella Enchanted is to The Prince and Me as
The Punisher is to Man on Fire
That is, while EE and tPaM have a similar basic groundwork, commoner gets wooed by prince despite her desire to avoid same, falls in love, lives happily ever after – they are significantly different experiences.
That is, while tP and MoF have a similar basis for character motivation and similar drive for action of an ex-Military/Special OPS guy who experiences a personal loss going after the man and his organization who caused that loss in a violent, vigilante way despite the fact that their loved ones are already dead – they are significantly different experiences.
And here is how: EE and tP differ from tPaM and MoF in that the former two do not have any meaningful emotional hooks, are not based in a believable reality, and are not peopled with believable characters. EE and tP have to go over-the-top with special effects, makeup, and unbelievable fights/challenges to get your reaction, while tPaM and MoF elicit genuine emotional responses and really hook you into the characters through powerful storytelling.
Now, none of these four films is a master-work of acting and storytelling, and it is perhaps only in comparison with the ‘lighter’ fare of EE and tP that the other two films seem so much more fulfilling and engaging. Yes, there are cliches in tPaM, yes the art direction and visual tricks/flares go a little too far in MoF, but all is forgivable because despite these and other flaws, I cared, and was emotionally involved in the characters’ journies. EE and tP did not deliver in these key ways. They were simple diversions, but do not stick to the palate the way tPaM and MoF will, long after you have left the theatre.
And now, I shall sleep, perhaps to discuss this at length another time.