When Judge Paul Prichard told people he'd found a race of elves at the bottom of his garden, he was sectioned.
The New Minimoy Adventures.
Luc Besson's first foray into the world of children's cinema, 2006's Arthur and the Invisibles, generally drew derision from critics. Since it lacked the style and imagination we'd come to expect from the man behind Subway and Leon, it was a surprise when not one, but two, sequels were developed to complete surely the most unwanted trilogy of the decade. Though Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard was afforded a limited theatrical release in the States, the conclusion to the trilogy, Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds, was a total no-show at the nation's multiplexes. Both are now available for the first time on DVD and Blu-Ray as a WalMart exclusive.
Facts of the Case
In Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard, Arthur (Freddie Highmore, The Spiderwick Chronicles) must return to the world of the Minimoys (a race of tooth-sized elves) when a spider delivers a grain of rice inscribed with the word "help." With the aid of The Bogo Matassalai (an African tribe that live in his grandparents' garden), Arthur is magically miniaturized during an ancient ritual. Once back with the Minimoys, Arthur is reunited with Selenia (Selena Gomez, The Wizards of Waverly Place) who denies sending the S.O.S. to Arthur. Bemused, Arthur tries to find out who is responsible for his return, that is until the evil Maltazard makes his appearance and quickly takes Selenia hostage. Still sore from his defeat by Arthur in Arthur and the Invisibles, Maltazard reveals it was he who was behind the message. He has brought Arthur back as part of his plan to not only conquer the Minimoys, but the whole world, too.
Following on directly from where The Revenge of Maltazard left off, Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds sees Maltazard (now seven feet tall, having escaped the Minimoys realm) putting his plan for world domination into effect. With Arthur trapped in his Minimoy form, it seems little stands in Maltazard's way.
If the plot synopses above seem confusing, that's probably because there's very little about the Arthur and the Invisibles franchise that makes sense, a problem that in many ways only gets worse with these two sequels.
Kicking off with arguably the weaker of the two films included in the set, The Revenge of Maltazard is all build up and no payoff. The film is frustratingly slow-paced. It's a good 40 minutes before Arthur is miniaturized, and a further 20 before he joins back up with the Minimoys. It wouldn't be so bad, had it not meant that until that point we were subjected to nothing but poor slapstick and enough environmentalist bleating to make even the greenest child consider boycotting renewable energy sources. What passes as the plot finally kicks in after the hour mark, when bad guy Maltazard makes his appearance and reveals that it was he who sent the S.O.S. to Arthur. Having revealed his ruse, Maltazard proceeds to take Selenia hostage and subject us to 5 minutes of monologuing, whereby we are told of his plan for world domination.
The Revenge of Maltazard ends abruptly, with Maltazard now seven feet tall—having discovered Arthur's escape route back home—and ready to put his evil plan into action, leaving Arthur trapped with the Minimoys and apparently helpless to stop his nemesis. Just to rub salt into the wounds it has already inflicted, the film ends with a cover of Lady GaGa's "Poker Face," where the "ma ma ma Poker Face" intro is replaced by "ma ma ma Maltazard." It wouldn't be wide of the mark to suggest that I was less than thrilled at the prospect of sitting through yet more of this garbage.
Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds doesn't start off much better, with a noticeable return to the slapstick that plagued the second installment and a reluctance to move out of first gear. Still, things do eventually pick up, initially during a sequence where Maltazard undergoes plastic surgery to conceal his real appearance. The results are brilliantly creepy. Had this been the Eighties (when I grew up), I'd not feel the need to warn parents that more fragile children may be a little distressed by Maltazard's rather bizarre appearance (which comes complete with heavy scarring), but so few children's films understand the importance of scaring the bejesus out of our offspring nowadays that many will be unprepared.
Compared to The Revenge of Maltazard, The War of the Two Worlds is a masterpiece. There's an exciting duel atop a speeding toy train, and a surprisingly violent "dust up" which results in a character being impaled. This emphasis on upping the ante is confirmed during the film's final half hour, which erupts into a frenzy of action and rarely lets up. As Maltazard raises an army to conquer our world, all hell breaks loose as hordes of giant insects wreak havoc on the streets and our heroes make a desperate last stand. It's not great by any means, but I'll admit to finding The War of the Two Worlds more than just passable entertainment; in fact, against my better judgment, I'll concede that I actually found myself enjoying it. It's way too late, but right at the last, the franchise finally kicks into life. There's even a goofy Star Wars gag that works better than it has any right to.
Both films, much like their predecessor, suffer due to the misplaced belief that a lack of logic and invention can be forgiven in a children's film. It is consistently the case that the pacing drops considerably whenever we are below ground with the Minimoys, largely down to the lack of thought put into their realm. If one were to take the world of the Minimoys, and then compare and contrast it with, say, the world we are introduced to in Pixar's A Bug's Life (which itself is no masterpiece), these problems are magnified tenfold. There's little in the way of a society, and never once is there anything to suggest there may be events going on off screen.
The cast, just like Arthur and the Invisibles, offers up some unlikely names. Though some of the voice actors have changed from the original, we still get an eclectic mix with the likes of Mia Farrow, Lou Reed, Jimmy Fallon, Freddie Highmore, Snoop Dogg, and Iggy Pop. Lou Reed in particular gives a memorable reading as the villain of the piece, Maltazard. Not necessarily a great performance, there's something about his distinctive tones that just work perfectly.
The screeners sent for review each contained a sharp 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, with decent levels of detail and bright colors. For the most part, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is fine, but there are moments where a little echo is evident-mostly during outdoor scenes. No extras are included in the set.
In the U.K., these two films were edited into one feature, Arthur and the Great Adventure. Though admittedly I've yet to see this cut, it isn't hard to imagine how excising much of The Revenge of Maltazard would result in a far less grueling experience. With a combined running time totaling more than three hours, there's just too little story to spread across two films.
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