Ring, The (2002) Review

"The Ring" Theatrical Poster

"The Ring" Theatrical Poster

Director: Gore Verbinski
Writer: Ehren Kruger, Koji Suzuki, Hideo Nakata
Cast: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Brian Cox, Jane Alexander, Lindsay Frost, Amber Tamblyn, Rachael Bella, Daveigh Chase, Shannon Cochran
Running Time: 115 min.

By Numskull

This is a remake. Hence, the source material should be taken into consideration before it is discussed.

Go read my review for Ring in the Japanese section if you haven’t done so already.

I’ll wait.

Hmm hm hm hm hmmm…

Doo dee doo dee doo…

Damn, look at that. A hangnail. I hate these f*ckers. *clip* Ah, that’s better.

La la-la lee la-laaa…

Finished? Good. Be advised that minor spoilers lay ahead.

What we have here is a pretty faithful rendition that neither copies the original too closely nor diverts from it too wildly; I daresay it’s about as good as we could have reasonably hoped for. Naomi Watts and Martin Henderson assume the roles played by Matsushima Nanako and Sanada Hiroyuki in the Japanese film; both turn in decent but not spectacular performances. Young David Dorfman will no doubt be compared to Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense even though his character and portrayal are much less emotional. Director Gore Verbinski taps the Hideo Nakata vein pretty well in terms of visuals, and generally keeps the tension level high.

At first, this film follows in the original’s footsteps quite closely, but as the story progresses, two major differences become apparent.

One: it’s longer, and not because it has a lot more detail. This is bad. The “time limit” aspect of the story means that a quick pace is preferable, but Verbinski and screenwriter Ehren Kruger instead take more time than necessary, thus weakening the desperation of the protagonist’s predicament. Normally, I’m one of the last people to adopt Weinsteinian “thinking” and say “less is more and shorter is better” but in this particular case, that’s true. Ironically, most of Rachel Keller’s seven days take up very little screen time, giving us the impression that she constantly drags her ass and accomplishes very little each day. Perhaps reducing the number of days that each of the tape’s victims is allotted would have tightened everything up.

Two: instead of psychic powers running in “HER” family, we get a subplot about horses going insane and killing themselves. Where this came from I don’t know, but sticking to the more straightforward formula would have made the supernatural aspects easier to swallow. Psychic powers ARE certainly at work here, but the horse business, in my opinion, is somewhat distracting and was not the wisest course to take.

Another minor gripe: near the very end of the film, she moves too fast and the “flicker” was a bad idea. If you’ve seen the original, you know what I mean.

There IS a bright side, though. This version circumvents the ridiculous plot hole which marred the original’s well scene. Glad somebody else noticed how stupid that part was.

Watching this in the theater was interesting since I was probably the only one there who knew what was going to happen (in a nutshell, at least). The three gabby assholes seated to my left were particularly audible in their preparations to get up and leave once they thought the end of the film was just a few (thousand) frames away.

“FOOLS!”, I thought.

And, sure enough, nobody expressed their surprise at a higher volume than they did when…you know…IT…happened.

Japanese version: nasty ending. US version: ominous ending. Both good.

And now for the part that really pisses me off: there are no credits at the beginning of this film (not even the title) and the “based on” credit (both novel and film) is strategically placed long after those single screen credits at the end have begun. Even the costume designer (no offense to the individuals in that trade) is listed before any recognition is given to the source material, without which, needless to say, the film would not exist. By the time the names “Koji Suzuki” and “Hideo Nakata” appeared, there were only three other people in the theater besides myself, and two of them weren’t looking at the screen. Even half-assed reviews for this movie (like this one!) will mention the fact that it’s based on a Japanese film, but considering how many Americans simply don’t read unless they absolutely MUST, I would bet that at least 50% of the people who see this thing will go into AND walk out of it thinking that it’s an original Hollywood creation.

I repeat: “FOOLS!”

And now, my two cents long since spent, I conclude. Goodbye, cruel world.

Numskull’s Rating: 8/10

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