Lots of movies are filmed here, but a lot of them — like Night at the Museum, which takes place in a New York museum and was shot mostly on a soundstage, and Pathfinder, which takes place over a thousand years ago — are set in other times and places, so there’s no point in expecting Vancouver to reveal itself in those films.
But sometimes a movie makes extensive use of the cityscapes and scenery here, and on many of those occasions, we are asked to believe that the story is actually taking place in Seattle.
Now, sure, Seattle is only three hours’ drive from Vancouver, give or take, depending on the border traffic; and sure, because both cities are in the Pacific Northwest (as people south of the border call this region), they do have a very similar look and feel.
And sometimes, for story reasons, it is important that a film be set on the American side of the border. Case in point: The Last Mimzy, in which American national-security issues are a key part of the plot. As I mentioned in my review of that film, it is a little absurd how the buildings — filmed in Vancouver, but made to look like Seattle — “all have names like Seattle Elementary School and Seattle Research Facility, as though a city the size of Seattle would have room for only one each of these things.” But I can certainly understand the need to set that story in a particular place.
But then you get a film like The Invisible, which opened yesterday. It’s a remake of a Swedish movie about a high school student who is left for dead, and whose spirit begins tracking the murderers. I have never seen the original film, but to judge from the remake, this story could take place anywhere. So why not just say it happens in Vancouver, the city where it happened to be shot?
The question comes to mind with regard to this film in particular because it has several shots of the Vancouver skyline and cutaway shots of local things like the SkyTrain, and much of the film takes place at Burnaby Mountain Secondary School, which doesn’t even bother to hide its name on the “Graduation 2006” banners. (Yeah, the film was shot in late 2005 and was presumably intended for release the following summer… but instead it was dumped into theatres on a slow weekend in spring 2007, without any preview screenings. Now what does that tell you?) I don’t think we ever see the Space Needle, but we do see the Harbour Centre a few times. And yet the cars all have Washington license plates, and the cops pass out business cards with Washington addresses and so on.
Was that always in the script? Or did they decide on those details after they decided to make the movie here? If the latter, then why not just decide to set the movie in the city where it was shot?
Would it really have impacted the film’s box-office chances if the story had been set in Vancouver? If stories like these can be set in Anywhere, U.S.A., then why not just Anywhere, period?