Roundtable: Martyrs (2016) Opinions
The remake that set message boards and internet comment sections on fire has officially hit VOD. Our formal review of Martyrs (2016) was done by Spencer White – a man who had never seen the original. You see, many of us (myself included) found it impossible to separate our feelings of the original from the “re-imagining” and could simply not be trusted to provide an unbiased opinion. But now that the film is available to the general public – it’s time to let our staff’s opinions fly:
It’s that particular act that screenwriter Mark L. Smith (The Revenant) sought to change. Liberties are taken with the lead characters as he attempts to explore Anna and Lucy’s friendship and garner more emotional investment. The Goetz brothers deliver smoother transitions between acts, and the film feels more whole as a result. Unfortunately, Smith and the Goetz brothers don’t diverge their reimaging far enough. The violence that was so polarizing in the original does exist, but due to the more consistent pacing it’s not lingered upon. In the end, the remake doesn’t change enough of the story to complement their initial intentions – nor does it pack the same punch of the original. It’s not a bad film by any means, but its attempt to inject American heartstrings does feel watered down. It’s not memorable or controversial enough to elicit the hate and vitriol aimed at it by devout fans, either.
The first act was fine, albeit pretty close to the source material. There were some interesting shots that enhanced things and kept me interested. The second act is where things started to go in the wrong direction in my opinion. It still kept generally in line with the original, but in a more diluted fashion, and in the third act, things pretty much fell apart.
The movie held onto the basic premise of the original, but veered in some directions that not only hurt the narrative, but just didn’t make a lot of sense at times. I don’t mind that they tried something different. It’s just that what they tried didn’t quite work.
As expected, the brutality was significantly toned down, and in some cases that might not be a deal breaker, but it’s kind of an important part of the original Martyrs. It serves the narrative. It’s visceral and makes you feel what the characters are feeling, which is important for the overall goal of what the villains are trying to achieve and what the characters are enduring. If you don’t feel it, it’s hard to care. And you’re really supposed to care here.
The diluted brutality was far from the only problem and was not even the biggest problem. I think the screenplay is at most fault.
For me personally, the score of the original film contributed significantly to its power, but the remake’s score is instantly forgettable. That’s not to say that it’s bad. It just doesn’t have that power, and ultimately, I’d say the same thing for the movie as a whole. It’s not necessarily bad, it just doesn’t have the power. This isn’t going to stay with people the way Martyrs is supposed to stay with people.
Either way, I’m still looking forward to more original projects from the Goetz brothers.
My favorite thing about Martyrs is how well shot it is. It’s downright gorgeous at times, especially when we go back to the foster home, Spencer described it as dreamlike and I couldn’t have said it better myself. I also think he was on point about Martyrs not knowing what it wants to be and because of that it sort of stumbles along until something interesting happens. Thankfully, interesting moments do occur often enough to be an entertaining movie, but overall there are just too many weak points for me to really love it. In the end, Martyrs succeeds as a film on its own, but personally it’s only made me that much more curious about the original it’s based on
The original film had grit and emotion that I hadn’t seen in many genre releases. Many characterize it as a torture film (including the Goetz Brothers), but I simply see that as a necessary byproduct of the final act. It’s interesting how wildly opinions vary here. I find the ending of Martyrs (2008) to be incredibly thought provoking and done with an air of class that more than balances out the grotesque imagery found earlier in the film. It’s here that the 2016 “re-imagining” falters.
Aside from having an unusually warm color palette in the outdoor scenes – it’s quite attractive. While I find the Goetz Brothers previous work, SCENIC ROUTE, to be superior on almost every level, it’s not a poorly constructed film. The problem is its heart… or maybe where the heart is located. The original film rips your heart out of your chest and leaves you with a feeling of utter nihilism before the big “moment” As a viewer, you almost go through the same progression as Lucy. But in 2016, the heart is nurtured and cared for. We build more feeling around our leading ladies in an attempt to make it mean something later. I’m not saying that’s a bad approach, but I personally appreciate being dropped into a scenario and learning my way around the characters on my own. I don’t need nurturing.
There’s ultimately nothing wrong with the remake. It’s arguably more appropriate for many audiences. But for us, the diehards of the population – it’s hard to recommend it over something that is still readily available and far more rewarding.