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The Brothers Grimm is a 2005 fantasy/comedy film directed by Terry Gilliam. The film stars Matt Damon and Heath Ledger in an exaggerated portrait of the Brothers Grimm as traveling con-artists during French occupied Germany in the early 19th century. However, the brothers eventually encounter a genuine fairy tale curse which requires real courage instead of their usual bogus exorcisms. Supporting roles are portrayed by Peter Stormare, Lena Headey, Jonathan Pryce, and Monica Bellucci.

In February 2001, Ehren Kruger sold his spec script for The Brothers Grimm to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). With Gilliam's hiring as director, the script was rewritten by Gilliam and Tony Grisoni, but the Writers Guild of America refused to credit them for their work, thus Kruger received sole credit. MGM eventually dropped out as distributor, but decided to co-finance The Brothers Grimm with Dimension Films and Summit Entertainment, while Dimension took over distribution duties.

The film was shot entirely in the Czech Republicmarker, where Gilliam often had on-set tensions with brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein. This caused the original theatrical release date to be pushed for nearly 10 months. The Brothers Grimm was finally released on August 26, 2005 with mixed reviews and a $105.32 million box office performance.

Plot

Will and Jake Grimm [as con-artists] arrive in French occupied Germany during the early 19th century. They ride into the town Karlstadtmarker to rid the town of a witch's ghost. After killing the "ghost", it is revealed that the Brothers Grimm have actually set up fake demons and monsters to trick the village. Afterwards, as they are celebrating at an inn, Italian torturer Cavaldi takes them to the French General Delatombe. Delatombe forces them to solve a mystery: the girls of the small village of Marbaden are going missing and the villagers are convinced that supernatural beings are responsible. The Brothers are charged with finding out who is responsible, under the assumption that it is the work of con artists like themselves. However, they soon discover that it is in fact the work of a real supernatural force: a beautiful, yet dangerous, 500-year-old, Thuringianmarker Queen stealing young girls to restore her own beauty.

Long ago, King Childeric I came to the forest to build a city while his Queen experiments with black magic to gain eternal life. A plague swept through the land and she hid in her tower, while her husband and everyone below her perished. She did not understand the Plague was carried by wind and soon rotted away as she decayed over the years. Her spell granted her immortal life, but not the youth and beauty to go along with it. Her youthful appearance now only exists in her mirror, the source of her life, as an illusion and nothing more. She needs to drink the blood of 12 young women to regain her beauty, 10 have already been reported missing.

The queen is working an enchantment to regain her beauty with the aid of her werewolf huntsman with a magic axe, crow familiars, and various creatures in the forest. The Brothers Grimm—with the help of Cavaldi and Angelika, a knowing huntress from the village—intend to destroy The Mirror Queen. After another girl goes missing, Cavaldi takes the Grimms and Angelika back to Delatombe. Because they have failed, Cavaldi may kill both of the Grimms, but after convincing Delatombe that the magic in the forest is actually caused by German rebels, he sends them back, while Cavaldi stays behind with Angelika in the village. Jake gets into the tower, but another girl named Sasha is captured, despite Angelika and Cavaldi's efforts to save her.

Near the tower, Jake notices 12 crypts in which the twelve victims must lie. When Sasha's body comes up from a well, the werewolf takes her to a tomb. After rescuing Sasha and taking the wolfman's magic axe, the Grimms return to the village. The magic axe is the only thing of which the trees in the forest are afraid. Delatombe captures the Brothers and believes them to be frauds. French soldiers begin burning down the forest and Cavaldi represses his sympathy to the brothers, but they are eventually saved by Angelika. The werewolf is revealed to be Angelika's father, who is under the Queen's command by a spell. Angelika is drowned by her father, becoming the 12th victim. The Brothers reach the tower while the Queen breathes an ice wind which puts out the forest fire. Delatombe notices that the Grimms have escaped and goes after them with Cavaldi. When Cavaldi refuses to kill the Grimms, Delatombe shoots him, but is impaled by Will.

The climax ensues with the death of the Mirror Queen, caused by Jake shattering the enchanting mirror in the tower, therefore preventing her to complete the spell that will restore her youth. The werewolf transforms back into Angelika's father (the woodsman) and destroys the rest of the mirror by jumping out of the window with it and Will, who was trying to destroy the werewolf as he had been bewitched by the Queen. Outside, Cavaldi seems to have survived, having donned the Grimm's faux-magic armor. He recites an Italian curse and the tower falls apart. Cavaldi informs Jake that he can break the spell and awaken Angelika, which in turn resurrects the other 11 girls and Will. With the menace gone and their daughters returned to them, the villagers of Marbaden celebrate and give their heart-felt thanks to the Brothers Grimm. Cavaldi stays in the village and joins the villagers for the feast. The Grimms decide to pursue a new profession, presumably recording fairy tales. The film ends with one of the queen's crows flying off with the last shard of her mirror, still holding the queens watchful eye, and presumably her living soul.

Cast

  • Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as Wilhelm "Will" and Jakob "Jake" Grimm: Johnny Depp was Gilliam's first choice for Will Grimm, but producer Bob Weinstein believed Depp was not commercially famous enough for the role. Damon joked that Weinstein "was kicking himself because half-way through production, Pirates of the Caribbean came out and Depp was all of a sudden a big sensation." Ledger met Gilliam in November 2002 when Nicola Pecorini recommended the actor to the director, comparing him to Depp. Gilliam intended to cast Ledger opposite Depp. Damon and Ledger were originally cast in opposite roles before they petitioned to have their characters switched. Damon had wanted to work with Gilliam for years and actively campaigned to land the role of Will Grimm. The actor "grew up loving [Gilliam's] Time Bandits, the way that movie created this weird but totally convincing world". Gilliam elected to have Damon wear a prosthetic nose, but Weinstein said "it would have distracted audiences from Damon's star-studded good looks". Gilliam later reasoned that "it would have been the most expensive nose job ever".
  • Peter Stormare as Mercurio Cavaldi: Italian associate to Delatombe. Cavaldi originally has a grudge against the brothers, but eventually has a change of heart. Robin Williams was cast in the role before dropping out.
  • Lena Headey as Angelika: Her father is a woodsman transformed into a werewolf by The Mirror Queen's spell. Gilliam's first choice for the role was Samantha Morton.
  • Jonathan Pryce as General Vavarin Delatombe: A cruel French military commander. Delatombe attempts to burn down the forest and kill the brothers.
  • Monica Bellucci as The Mirror Queen: A beautiful, evil queen who experimented with black magic before being struck by the Bubonic plague. Nicole Kidman turned down the role over scheduling conflicts.
  • Mackenzie Crook and Richard Ridings as Hidlick and Bunst: Duo sidekicks for the Grimms. Hidlick and Bunst are eventually beheaded by French soldiers.
  • Roger Ashton-Griffiths as the Mayor who is duped into employing the Grimm Brothers to rid his village of its haunting.


Development

Pre-production

Ehren Kruger's screenplay for The Brothers Grimm was written as a spec script. In February 2001, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) purchased the script, with Summit Entertainment to co-finance the film. In October 2002, Terry Gilliam entered negotiations to direct, and rewrote Kruger's script alongside frequent collaborator Tony Grisoni. However, the Writers Guild of America refused to credit Gilliam and Grisoni for their rewrite work, and Kruger received sole credit. After Gilliam's hiring, production was put on fast track for a target November 2004 theatrical release date. The budget, originally projected at $75 million, was to be MGM's most expensive film ever. The studio had trouble financing the film, and dropped out as main distributor. Weeks later, Bob Weinstein, under his Dimension Films production company, made a deal with MGM and Summit to co-finance The Brothers Grimm, and become the lead distributor.

Filming

The original start date was April 2003, but filming did not begin until June 30. It was decided to shoot The Brothers Grimm entirely in Czech Republicmarker over budget constraints. Gilliam reasoned that "this is an $80 million movie, which would probably cost $120—$140 million in America". The majority of filming required sound stages and backlots from Barrandov Studiosmarker in Praguemarker. Filming at Barrandov ended on October 23. Location filming began afterwards, which included the Křivoklát Castlemarker. Along with Alien vs. Predator and Van Helsing, The Brothers Grimm provided work for hundreds of local jobs and contributed over $300 million into the Czech Republic's economy. Gilliam hired Guy Hendrix Dyas as production designer after he was impressed with Dyas' work on X2. Gilliam often disputed with executive producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein during production. The Weinstein Brothers fired cinematographer and regular Gilliam collaborator Nicola Pecorini after six weeks. Pecorini was then replaced by Newton Thomas Sigel.

"I'm used to riding roughshod over studio executives," Gilliam explained, "but the Weinsteins rode roughshod over me." Gilliam got so upset, filming was shut down for nearly two weeks. Matt Damon reflected on the situation: "I've never been in a situation like that. Terry was spitting rage at the system, at the Weinsteins. You can't try and impose big compromises on a visionary director like him. If you try to force him to do what you want creatively, he'll go nuclear." The feud between Gilliam and the Weinsteins was eventually settled, although, Bob Weinstein blamed the entire situation on yellow journalism. Filming was scheduled to end in October, but due to various problems during filming, principal photography did not end until the following November 27.

Visual effects

Post-production was severely delayed when Gilliam disagreed with the Weinsteins over the final cut privilege. In the meantime, the conflict lasted so long that Gilliam had enough time to shoot another feature film, Tideland. To create the visual effects, Gilliam awarded the shots to Peerless Camera, the London-based effects studio he founded in the late-1970s with visual effects supervisor Kent Houston. However, two months into filming, Houston said that Peerless "ran into a number of major issues with The Brothers Grimm and with the Weinstein Brothers". He continued that "the main problem was the fact that the number of effects shots had dramatically increased, mainly because of issues that arose during shooting with the physical effects."

There were originally to be about 500 effect shots, but it increased to 800. The post-production conflict between Gilliam and the Weinsteins also gave enough time for Peerless to work on another film, The Legend of Zorro. Four different creatures were required for computer animation: a Wolfman, a mud creature, the Mirror Queen, and a living tree. John Paul Docherty, who headed the digital visual effects unit, studied the animation of the computer-generated Morlocks in The Time Machine for the Wolfman. Docherty depicted the Morlocks "as a nice mix between human and animal behaviors". The death of The Mirror Queen was the most complex effect of the film. In the sequence, the Queen turns into hundreds of shards of glass and shatters. With computerized rendering, this couldn’t happen, as the 3D volume of the body suddenly turns into 2D pieces of glass. The problem was eventually solved due to sudden advances that occurred with Softimage XSI software.

Release

Marketing and box office

The original theatrical release date was due in November 2004 before being changed many times. The dates had been moved to February 2005, July 29, November 23, and finally August 26. Executive producer Bob Weinstein blamed the pushed back release dates on budgetary concerns. To help promote The Brothers Grimm, a three-minute film trailer was shown at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, while twenty minutes of footage was shown at the 2005 event. The Brothers Grimm was released in the United States in 3,087 theaters, earning $15,092,079 in its opening weekend. The film eventually grossed $37.91 million in the United States and $67.4 million internationally, coming to a worldwide total of $105.32 million. The Brothers Grimm was shown at the 62nd Venice International Film Festival on September 4, 2005, while in competition for the Golden Lion, but lost to Brokeback Mountain.

Reception

The Brothers Grimm was released with mixed reviews from critics. Based on 172 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, 37% of the critics enjoyed the film, with an average score of 5.1/10. The Brothers Grimm was more balanced in Rotten Tomatoes' "Top Critics" poll, with a 30% approval rating based on 33 reviews. By comparison, Metacritic collected a score of 51/100, receiving 36 reviews. The majority of critics believed Gilliam sacrificed the storyline in favor of the visual design. Roger Ebert called the film "an invention without pattern, chasing itself around the screen without finding a plot. The movie seems like a style in search of a purpose, with a story we might not care about."

Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post wrote that "The Brothers Grimm looks terrific, yet it remains essentially inert. You keep waiting for something to happen, and after a while your mind wanders from the hollow frenzy up there with all its filigrees and fretwork." Mick LaSalle from the San Francisco Chronicle felt "despite an appealing actor in each role, the entire cast comes across as repellent. Will and Jake Grimm are two guys in the woods, surrounded by computerized animals, putting audiences to sleep all over America." Peter Travers, writing in Rolling Stone magazine, largely enjoyed The Brothers Grimm. He explained that "if you're a Gilliam junkie, as I am, you go with it, even when the script loses its shaky hold on coherence." Travers added, "even when Gilliam flies off the rails, his images stick with you." Gene Seymour of Newsday called the film "a great compound of rip-snorting Gothic fantasy and Python-esque dark comedy".

DVD

Currently, the Weinstein Brothers own home video rights, while Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer holds television rights. The DVD release of The Brothers Grimm in December 2005 includes audio commentary by Gilliam, two "making-of" featurettes and deleted scenes. The film was released on Blu-ray Disc format in October 2006.

References



Further reading



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