RAPA NUI
DIRECTOR: KEVIN REYNOLDS
USA 1994
CINEMATOGRAPHY: STEPHEN WINDON
MUSIC: STEWART COPELAND
CAST: Jason Scott Lee, Esai Morales, Sandrine Holt, Zac Wallace, George Henare, Eru Potaka-Dewes, Nathaniel Lees, Pete Smith
WRITTEN BY: Kevin Reynolds
ONE WORD: The islands.


On the surface, this could, and should be a good film. But the shooting style, with its touch of sensationalism, kinda eats away at the whole thing, and makes it come off as either, badly designed, or just plain badly directed. Given what looks like a very good script, the whole thing can't quite decide what is more important. The downfall of the old line of leaders, the love affair that helps the new revolution to take place, or the senseless destruction of the islands.

The film does all three, but all the stories suffer and appear unfinished, which means there probably is a director's cut somewhere in the vaults of the Easter Islands.

It is the story of the aborigines in these islands and their apparent differences between various clans. The long ears have ruled for a long time, mainly because their contests for choosing the winner of a yearly race, is often rigged. But time has not been kind to their rule, and various uprisings are beginning to appear. In subtle forms. The leaders want statues made to appease the gods, but its creation is causing the trees in the islands to get cut down indiscriminately. Thus both the people and the nature of the island are being slowly destroyed.

Amidst it all are two boys who were once friends, but have become bitter enemies. They represent the two main opposite forces of the island. And the short ears, wish to be included in this year's race. But with a tough price to pay. Since the runner is one of the leaders, his head will roll if he loses. In between making the largest statue yet, he trains as much as possible, for a race that is not specially easy, involving climbing, swimming, and then returning with one egg in their possession.

The race day finally comes and the various contestants start the competition. We immediately see that there is at least one man who is in the competition with the intent of making sure that some do not finish, whoever they are. But the two stronger boys prevail. An accident at the finish prevents the leader of the short ears to win, which means that the main clan is still in power.

But the old man is getting tired of all this and an iceberg comes along, which gives him the perfect reason to take his long journey to die. Without its leader and a clear direction, not that there was any before, the island is now a matter of civil war, and the results remain to be seen.

The hero, young man, is gifted with a large canoe with a sail from an old man who had the chance to leave the island several years ago, but did not. And the tale, is presumed to have gotten here through them. End of story.

It's an abrupt ending, but the only one possible, to this confusing story, where many things are undecided, and unfinished. And the main fault always lies in the hands that wrote and directed the whole thing, which happens to be the director.

With some good performances by the young ones, the film does well, but the older characters come off as weak and sadly lacking in any kind of strength, or history for that matter.

The film, to its credit, does have some magnificent photography every now and then, but much of it is lost in the process of a story that lacks the same grandiose appeal. The statues are large and important to the reigning clan, but our point of view of them is always from above, rather than from below. An inconsistent point of view. It may have been easier to shoot it all from underneath, which is what the people really see, and work so hard to create.

3 GIBLOONS

 

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