Sunday, February 21, 2010

Movie Review: Ink

Recently, my wife and I settled down for a movie night. Not wanting to head out, we booted up the 360 and loaded Netflix to see what I had in the queue. This one movie, Ink, stood out as an unknown but fairly highly rated film (with a surprising consistency of 3.4 / 5.0 on Netflix and 6.8 / 10.0 on It wasn't rated on Metacritic since the movie was never actually released by a publisher. Apparently no one wanted the script, but the director decided to go for it anyway. With glowing written reviews, we decided to brave the unknown and check it out.

Sadly, I now worry that my wife won't trust me to pick out movies she hasn't heard of any more.

First off, it's excruciatingly, painfully obvious that this was a low-budget movie. Most of this comes from terrible cinematography and some extremely weak acting. There were a few genuinely good special effects and character designs (mostly with the villains in the movie - the heroes seemed to wear whatever they had in their closets at home), but these were often obscured immediately by shoddy work elsewhere. This was all slightly surprising since the opening of the movie was rather solid, with an excellent opening 2 minutes and a perfectly reasonable plot setup following. But then things went downhill very quickly.

The general idea behind the movie is that there are two factions of beings who provide dreams to people - the Storytellers (good dreams) and the Incubi (nightmares). They are apparently at odds with eachother, rather than working in any sort of symbiosis. There are also other beings who are part of neither side, and the titular character is one of these. He steals the...soul, I guess...of a girl in her sleep in order to try to become an Incubus. The plot then follows Ink as he attempts to reach his final goal, all the while the Storytellers track him down and try to stop him.

There's an additional side plot about the girl's father, who has become a workaholic and isn't really a part of her life any more. It's some nice family drama to add to the story I suppose, though isn't necessarily all that believable. Which brings us to the truly damning quality of this movie: the writing is weak.

When you're going to tout your movie as the great screenplay that no one was willing to pick up but you decided to make anyway, you had better have some great dialog and a truly compelling and original plot. Instead, the dialog is often silly, characters are shallow and at times completely undeveloped, and the plot left neither my wife nor I surprised, or even really guessing (confused, but obscurity doesn't substitute for clever plot development). For a film with extremely low production values, the entire experience rests on acting and writing, and sadly those just aren't solid here either.

A quick bit of credit does go to the blind Pathfinder character. While his introduction was over-acted and poorly written (with the actor sounding like he was being naughty by saying a few swear words), the character himself had a few funny lines and was genuinely fairly interesting. Also, I recall the music being decent throughout, so good job to the composer.

In any case, it's clear that the writer wanted to have the next Matrix movie (complete with alternate dimensions, a modern good/evil mythology, lots of special effects, multiple fight scenes, etc.), but unfortunately it really doesn't get even close. I've been going back and re-reading reviews written of the movie trying to figure out what people saw in this movie, and I still don't understand it. If anyone has seen it and would like to leave a comment explaining why I'm wrong, please do. But as it stands, I can't give it better than a 4/10. If you like low-budget cult-classic movies, you can download it (apparently it's big on the torrents and the film-makers are cool with it) or stream it if you want, but definitely don't spend money on this movie.


  1. Ive seen alot more hallywood films worse than INK. The story was touching. Not everyone is going to like it, but the writter to say the least was extremely creative which is why alot of the viewers who saw it loved it. Some people see this film past the "bad acting" and "bad graphics". Ill say this again, some of the stuff that comes out of big production studios with big budgets loose the creativity because they are so political, This writter was able to express himself and his film better with less.

  2. w00t! A comment and some good discussion on my blog. :)

    So, I can appreciate your point, but I'm going to have to disagree with some of it too. The story was fairly cute, though I think a bit confused at times any some of the characters were both silly and under-developed. Was the story more interesting than some big-budget Hollywood movies? Sure. But this is a movie, not a short story. If you just want an interesting story, you write text. If you want to make a movie, you need to have music, sound, cinematography, lighting, acting, etc.

    You can't just dismiss these elements and say that it has a good enough story. I don't feel bad because I didn't "look past" the bad acting and visuals. I fault the creators for attempting to go beyond their means - it was unwise to be so ambitious because it ended up being an ugly mess. It would be fine as a student film, but if we're going to measure against "real" feature length movies, it really doesn't hold up.

  3. As I watched this movie, all I could think about was "student film." The writing, I think, is a mixed bag. The story unfolds in a relatively clever manner, but the dialogue is often poorer than Hollywood could ever let slip through the 30th rewrite. "Creativity" is not really the word that I would use. People tend to confuse creativity with a mixed bag influences. This movie borrows pretty heavily from the Matrix and every character reminds me of the kind of characters that a kid might imagine after watching too many 1980's cartoons.

    The story seems incredibly half baked and the characters, besides maybe the biggest stereotype of them all (the dad), are really really shallow and weak.

    I don't want to be all negative here. The dad is a decent enough actor maybe.
    Also, the score was good. The character design of the incubi was the only place where that uber stylized thing really seemed appropriate and not gimmicky and pretentious.

    Here is my thing. Does anyone remember the band Bush?
    This movie is like the Bush of movies. Lots of flash, little substance, suuuuppppeeeerrrrr derivative of better work, and with extremely bad lyrics.

    To me it seems like a film student who really liked the Matrix and fantasy novels tried really hard to be "creative" and ended up with some cool costume design and hopefully a chance to try again.

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