Review of Tales from the Warner Bros. Lot from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
By KENDRICK KUO
In commemoration of Warner Bros. 90th anniversary the studio has released a feature-length documentary about the grounds and the stories brought to the screen on its campus. The entire film takes place on site–in fact, it was a non-negotiable that all actors interviewed for the documentary had to be physically present on the Warner Bros. lot. In making a documentary about a geographically located place, it’s hard to make things interesting–what’s the plot, who are the characters, what’s the conflict? Tales from the Warner Bros. Lot overcomes this difficulty and gives its audiences a wonderful introduction to its history, culture, and the people who have made it what it is today.
The creators of the documentary decided that the lot itself would be the story arc. The film progresses as the audience learns about this department, then that department, and what’s so famous about this building (hint: it was famous in X film). Interspersed between things like the costumes department and seeing the famous back lot or the various studios are interviews with famous actors, directors, producers, and executives, not to mention the history of how Warner Bros. began and rose to where it is today. Famous people like Christopher Nolan, Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, Martin Sheen, Ben Affleck, Mel Gibson, and the list can go on, all participated in the film.
But no matter how interesting the lot is, it’s all about the movies. What grabs the most attention is hearing the director or actor talk about famous Warner Bros. films they were involved in (e.g., Batman trilogy, Goonies, Harry Potter series). Yet the documentary creators decided not to include any clips. We see snapshots of certain scenes, but no running footage. Initially I was annoyed that we weren’t being given any eye candy, but eventually I grew to appreciate this artistic decision. Including clips would dominate the viewers’ attention and people would just wait for the next flick to be discussed, and then the documentary would be nothing more than a Hollywood insider report. Instead, the human element behind each film’s creation is preserved.
My main takeaway was the staying power of well-crafted stories. Warner Bros. is in the storytelling business, no matter what the CGI or 3D graphics may hold, because it’s the stories that will be remembered. The 90-year history of Warner Bros. demonstrates this truth. But the staying power of stories is inherent in the nature of myth itself. Who can say it better than Lewis and Tolkien, who are seated in the Christian pantheon of storytellers?
One evening, Lewis told Tokien that myths were “lies breathed through silver.” Tolkien objected and this was his rejoinder: “We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God…myths may be misguided,…they steer however shakily toward the true harbor.”
The same goes for all the arts, whether it be cinema or music. I thought a little bit about this in my review of the Josh Garrels documentary and the relationship Christianity should have with the arts and cultural expression. A new voice on the Christian music scene that interacts with biblical ideas much in the same way as Josh Garrels and Andrew Peterson is The Gray Havens. They have a song titled “Silver,” inspired by this Tokien-Lewis exchange. Take a listen.