Django Unchained – Why It’s Not As Good As Everyone Says

Before I make anybody too mad let me say.. I don’t think this is a bad movie.  I wouldn’t even go as far as to call it overrated.  The Majority of the great things people say about this movie are true.  It’s funny, got great acting, great action, everything that comes with a Tarantino film, even the bad things associated with that.  What I’m doing is talking about the things people aren’t talking about.  But let me be clear, I really do love this movie.  I’m going to buy it on Bluray, and I haven’t enjoyed a Tarantino movie this much in quite a while. But it’s not ” The greatest movie ever made” as people like to say.

The Story

One of my main problems with Tarantino is that, while his scripts have excellent and probably the best dialogue ever written depending on your taste and preference, his stories usually don’t go anywhere.  There are exceptions, but most of the time his movies are showcases for the actors and the dialogue. Nothing wrong with that.  Except here he’s attempting to tell a pretty traditional story. And to his credit he doesn’t have as many distractions as usual.  But unfortunately the story still feels underdeveloped, and the pacing is ruined as you can’t tell where the movie is going.

Doctor Schultz says to Django ” We’re going to go to every plantation until we find them” , which gives you the sense this will be a long journey that will teach Django how to be a better Bounty Hunter, and be a buddy western.  But in the very next scene they’re already at the plantation, and 15 minutes later they have already the bounties killed.  After that we see a little of the team’s dynamic of Schultz teaching Django, but it’s mostly through a Montague.  This is the first act. After this Schultz has a conversation with Django stating their going undercover to infiltrate Candy Land.  So you get the impression that it’ll be a tense game of deception similar to Inglorious Basterds.

After that it’s the Leonardo DiCaprio show for an hour until the bullets start flying.  But there’s no real tension. It feels like a completely different movie, except for about 5 minutes, and an action scene that literally kept me smiling the entire time, until Tupac started playing in a spaghetti western, but I’ll come back to that.   Basically the first half and second half are two completely different beasts.  And both suffer.  You never really get the full feeling of the Django and Schultz team, and the second half is all talking.  Not to mention Schultz and Candie are both killed off making the hour of talking completely unnecessary.  And then when you think the ending is coming Django gets free comes back and kills Samuel Jackson’s character.  Anybody who understands film or writing knows there has to be a climax.  The big shoot out with Django could be considered the climax, but there’s no resolution at the point and it’s not built up to, and when Django arrives at Candiland there’s not really much of a threat enough to call it a climax.  There’s no third act.  I know Tarantino was trying something different, but he really shot himself in the foot.

The Humor

This is subjective to me of course, and some of the humor here was great. Whenever Tarantino writes a character he enfaces them with a lot of good jokes with the dialogue, blocking, and the way they interact with other people. Schultz kept me chuckling , and Calvin Candie was outright hilarious.

The Humor that bothered me were the jokes that felt like somebody trying to write like Tarantino.   Also the problem with trying too hard to be funny is it undercuts the weight of the situations.  Not to mention this is a film about slavery.  A lot of people commend Tarantino for ” Finding humor in such a bleak subject”, but a lot of the jokes are somebody saying ” Nigger”.  Now a few times it’s funny through Delivery, but that’s cheap and flat out offensive.

There’s also a scene involving a clan and a riff on the bags they wear.  At first it was funny, but it went on for what felt like 5 minutes.  I get he’s trying to make fun of the clan, but it was approaching overkill.  Also when Broomhilda sees Django she faints for comedic effect.

The Worst offender was when Schultz lets Django pick out a Blue Suit that looks like something Prince wouldn’t wear in public.  It’s bright blue and awkward.  Django does something that’s seemingly doing something empowering, but he has to wear a Tinker Bell outfit from his own choice.

The Colored Problem

If you talk to Tarantino about this movie he says it’s a movie about slavery.  Not really though, Roots and Amistad are a movie about slavery, this is more of a western that has mentions of slavery.  There’s discussion about it that are interesting, but most of the movie really is just a standard western.

Except for when the movie stops to talk about slavery or have a moment to show how brutal slavery is.  There’s a scene that has a man ripped apart by dogs, that doesn’t serve the story.   There was already a scene earlier that involved two black men fighting to the death.  A few characters even looked at it in shame.  Even the white character.  That scene is good because it shows that , much like with germans in Inglorious Basterds, not all white people treated black people like shit.  It also shows how cold Candie is the the watches and even enjoys the carnage as the other characters look away.  Very subtle character development and I almost feel like I’m reading too much into and giving the movie credit it doesn’t deserve.  The dog scene  Is just there to say “Wasn’t slavery bad” Wow Tarantino is really breaking new ground.  I already mentioned how the n word is used as comedic effect.

Tarantino has a habit of using the “n” word in his films a lot.  Usually it has a context so I don’t mind.  But here’s a guy who pushes the envelope on that word just because it sounds cool to him.  It’s like when a white guy asks you can he say the word and then when a rap song comes on he sings along with it and emphasizes it.  I feel like he made this movie just so he could have the excuse to use the n word so much.  I feel like any other director , black or white would’ve tried to use it when necessary to avoid ruffling feathers. It felt like Tarantino looked at the first draft, said ” Fuck Spike Lee” and added 2 extra nigga on every page.

The Tone

Once again going back to a word I learned in high school English Tone.  The overall feeling a movie is trying to get across.  At times it’s a black comedy, a western, an action movie, a heavy drama, and a slapstick comedy.  It doesn’t fit together at  all.  I’ve heard people describe this movie as having 3 parts.  They’re absolutely right and some people don’t mind.  Personally I would’ve liked for it to fit together better.

A movie is supposed to be a seamless experience.  You’re supposed to be taken into the world and forget you’re watching a movie.  To do that a movie is supposed to be consistent.  Some of the music in this movie really works.  The Rick Ross song really compliments the scene and is short. Later, in the throws of the action in the “semi climax” Some Tupac starts playing mixed with James Brown samples , it really doesn’t fit.  Once again music in a film is supposed to serve a scene and Tupac can and has worked thematically before, I think it’s unnecessary.

Calvin Candie

The most disappointing thing about this movie is how Candie is killed. First of all he’s introduced half way into the movie.  And then he’s killed before he gets to do much of anything.  Leonardo is great of course and is given the best dialogue, but just like with Javier Bardem in Skyfall due to the short comings of the script his performance is cut short.

Overall Tarantino doesn’t write a lot of character development.  He writes movies with actors in mind and then they fill it in with their own personality. Everybody in Pulp fiction were in mind when he wrote the script.  There are exceptions and when it happens it’s great.  Christopher Waltz in Inglorious Basterds is a good example.

While Calvin Candie is an interesting character, he’s not a very good villain. He’s not really a threat, He’s not all that smart, and He’s not even the head “nigga” in charge.  Wouldn’t be a problem if the movie didn’t build up to his confrontation with Django, THAT NEVER HAPPENS.  I don’t even hate him as a villain.  All things considered he was very reasonable, he has honor, and even though he executes a black person just for the sake of testing Django and Schultz, that’s not out of the ordinary for a plantation owner.  Basically his character is worthless as a villain.

The Solution

This movie could’ve been incredible had they split it up into Volumes.  Volume one could be Django and Schultz hunting the Bounties at the start of the movie and developing their friendship And Volume 2 could develop the villains as they set out to get Broomhilda.  Also Tarantino would’ve had longer to tell his story and really made this the epic that I think it could be. Overall Good Movie Just not great

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