Zemeckis has had a misfire of sorts when creating Welcome To Marwen
The story of Mark Hogancamp, though unbeknown to many, seems to be one that has been told many times, in many formats. Hogancamp is an alluring character with his intricate and unique artwork all revolving around the miniature town of Marwen, a village he has created in his back garden. Marwencol, a documentary created by Jeff Malmberg, known most recently for his editing work on the successful 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, was a huge success in its own right, garnering critical praise for showing Hogancamp’s creative process particularly intimately.
Welcome To Marwen, directed by long time favourite Robert Zemeckis, has taken a scripted approach to the story, turning Hogancamp’s life-altering moment into a mini-blockbuster with a real dramatic turn. The film is a unique blend of animation and live-action that is in fact fairly unprecedented.
Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) is a small-time photographer known locally for his small model village of Marwen where he creates moments representing Nazi’s in Belgium during the Second World War. Supported by a group of female dolls, Marwen’s captain Hogie becomes besotted by Nicol, a new doll visiting the town. However, Nicol in model form is remarkably similar to the Nicol (Leslie Mann), a woman who recently moved in across the street to Mark’s current home.
The issue Welcome To Marwen has fallen upon however, as do the majority of actual blockbusters, is that it relies on it’s CGI. The best animators or creators in the world cannot make a film. They can absolutely enhance a film, as the have done here, but they don’t create a way for the film to let up in other departments. This is absolutely down to the director, and Zemeckis has had a misfire of sorts when creating Welcome To Marwen.
There is nowhere near enough empathy given to Hogancamp, a man who we, as an audience, should be enticed by because of his story, and able to fall for because he is so special. His story is one of genuine woe, with an important self imposed fight at its core. Far too often is Hogancamp left seeming as just model character lover, rather than someone who desperately needs the attention of these dolls. The sentiment is there, but only because of the story, not because of what is displayed on screen.
The animation is wonderful, almost too good, as the dolls interaction gives off such a realistic and small-minded nature. They don’t play up to the big screen in a way that could perhaps enhance some of the more lacking elements of the film. An excellent job has been carried out, but simply one that is too good for the actual film.
Even from the first live-action spoken line the script quality is poor, and throughout it lacks much creativity and connectivity, holding back Carell’s performance. It is a difficult task to make an audience feel for a character, especially one as complicated as Mark Hogancamp, but the gratuitous doll violence and lack of explanation tip Welcome To Marwen into the realms of far too much individualism, making it too indulgent for its own good.
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