I never thought that I'd call something pertaining to Roland Emmerich genius, but I must say that this film is brilliant... in its marketing. No, but seriously though, that trailer was so incredible, which is why they brought up the words "A Roland Emmerich Film" very early on in it, so that when the trailer got cool, you'd forget and be tricked into not thinking that the guy behind this is an absolute, tasteless, hack of an idiot. Jeez Roland, didn't you destory history enough with "10,000 B.C."? Well, now that I think about it, as much as I hate this hack, he was great casting as director, because when I think of a dramatic political study on the conspiracies behind famous literature, I think of big dumb blockbusters. No, I'll be the first to admit that Emmerich has got quite the handsome stylistic choices, but you can say that about countless other directors, most of which are immensely superior and have plenty of experience in these kind of dramas, and were they to go with any of those people, this would have been a much better film for it, but as it stands, Roland Emmerich wastes potential yet again. Of course, that doesn't mean that it's a bad film, because regardless of Das Stupid calling the shots, this film turned out alright, but not really much more than "alright", because it's still not without more than enough missteps that keep it from hitting the high mark that it was almost certainly going to hit until those six, horrible, dreaded words that no one wants to hear when beginning production of a film: Get Roland Emmerich on the phone.
There is limited evidence supporting Roland Emmerich's presence, but it's not like you ever forget it, because what evidence there is to support his presence screams, "Roland Emmerich", only it's not always his strengths proclaimed by the film. The film makes little pretense of being anything more than pure sensationalism, and that is made clear, considering that Shakespeare's own taste in melodrama has been incorporated into the script to support both the theme and fictitious tone, but what Emmerich fails to realize are the limitations on that melodrama. Emmerich's a weak storyteller enough as it is, but when he's given all of this super melodrama to play up, he overplays his hand, leaving plenty of moments to feel overwhelming in their suddenness and noisiness, and it really powers down the film's intrigue and intellegence. Still, as much as I give that idiot a hard time, he's not the only one to blame for this film's moments of lacking in the intellegence department, because John Orloff's screenplay gets rather spotty. Orloff is clearly with good intentions - and certainly with a good premise -, but his additions to this big mystery get to be a bit too far-fetched, while many of his additions to the progression of the story feel rushed and rather convoluted, and it really throws you out of the film, and to add insult to injury, the screenplay also hits some pretty low points in dialogue from time to time. Now, I'm not reaching for stuff to pick apart, because I don't trust a Roland Emmerich film; when I first heard he was on board, I was worried, because I genuinely wanted this film to succeed, and I still want it to even now, especially with that admittedly pretty darn sharp final half-hour, but I've got to be perfectly honest and say with a combination of Emmerich's mediocre direction and Orloff's spotty screenplay, this very high potential goes unrealized and after a while, the film loses enough steam for it to finally sit as just alright. Still, the film dances far from mediocrity, because in spite of all of its missteps - of which there are many -, the film has enough ink in its pen to sketch its portrait well enough.
I hate considering him an aesthetic person, so I'm only assuming that Emmerich has the taste in style that he does simply because he thinks it looks cool, but hey, it's not like he's wrong, because the film looks cool to a dumb person like Emmerich. Anyone else, the film doesn't so much look cool as it looks dashingly handsome, to say the least, because this film looks absolutely beautiful, having a gracefully saturated, almost fluid aura that brings the essence of this world to life and keeps it engaging. Still, something else that also brings this world to life is, well, what actually recreates the world: The visual effects, which are subtle and seamless, boasting authenticity and slickness in their reconstruction of old England, and with fine production designs, as well as the aforementioned beautiful cinematography complimenting this lively world, it's hard to not be captivated by, if nothing else, the handsome rebirth of a time lost. Still, the film is not only impressive aesthetically, as there is another fine element that keeps this film afloat whenever it is incorporated: The guy playing Shakespeare. I mean, he was cheesy to the point of not only being an additional offense to Shakespeare, but to the point of feeling like an anachronism, but he was actually kind of funny, and plus, I do like Russell Brand, and Shakespeare's portrayer, Rafe Spall, clearly took some notes from Brand. Wow, I think I just solidified how surprisingly unintellegent this film ended up being by drawing comparisons with Russell Brand, but it's not like the film is all out stupid - and not just because Russell Brand is actually pretty darn clever -, partially because of the other performers. True, there are some tertiaries that are definately improvable, but the head hanchos definately show how they got to be head hanchos, because, on the whole, this film is packed with fine, sometimes charming and sometimes boldly emotional performances, whether it be the subtle, graceful Vanessa Redgrave or the great Rhys Ifans, who's portrayal of a man facing the facts that he can never be honored for the masterpieces a fool is claiming credit for is heartbreaking, and for every turn in his character, you're on the edge of your seat, maybe not enough times to where Ifans is entirely worth mentioning alongside some of the best performances of 2011, but for every moment he's onscreen, he spends his time well.
In the end, Roland Emmerich's overwhelmingly melodramatic direction that exacerbates a sometimes far-fetched and often convoluted screenplay leaves the film to pop out steam with every step, until it all but slows to a crawl as a "just fine" film, when it could have been a great film, but what keeps it genuinely enjoyable regardless is the handsome visual style that compliments sharp production design, as well as generally charming, when not very strong performances, leaving "Anonymous" to stand as a generally intriguing tale, improvable though, it may be.
2.5/5 - Fair