Review: ‘The Tree of Life’ (not for human consumption)

If I can prevent just one person from watching this, it’ll have been worth suffering through it.

After an opening sequence of scenes flashing between past and modern times, the story is interrupted by the barely audible questioning of God, something that becomes a running theme and occurs at completely random intervals throughout the film. This first instance triggers a breathtaking, Discovery Channel-worthy “Creation of the Universe” sequence (almost sixteen minutes long) complete with a shot of a beached Nessie and Darwinian evolutionary jumps (none of which seem to have anything to do with the random jumble of info provided at the opening). Following this is a montage of family film clips, extreme point-of-view shots, and dramatic orchestra music. Finally, fifty minutes in, something resembling a narrative begins at the dinner table with Big Daddy Pitt in his Waco, Texas home… no, wait, now we’re in an airplane (sigh). We learn in Sunday school that everything dies while Big Daddy Pitt says “You can’t be too good in this life, and you can’t say ‘I can’t.'” Enter the long-haired brunette schoolgirl, a drowning, Snow White in a glass coffin, and (finally!) something interesting: ‘tweenage rebellion and defiance. Sean Penn at last reappears (at the two-hour mark!) in a suit… in the desert. No, wait… back to space. People from every era of the film appear together while wandering aimlessly at the beach. There are doors, masks, sunflowers, and water… lots of life-giving, boring water. The end. No, really.

Incredible cinematography? Check. Beautiful soundtrack? Check. Narrative? You won’t find any such thing ’round these parts. There’s been little secret that Terrence Malick isn’t among my favorite directors. One of the most meaningless, wasteful films I’ve ever reviewed, The Thin Red Line, has stood as this reviewer’s all-time least recommended film. With the hype and awards for his newest creation, The Tree of Life, I had hoped that the reclusive yet inexplicably celebrated auteur might have crafted something, well, watchable. Congratulations, Mr. Malick; you’ve topped yourself and my every expectation, and The Thin Red Line must be relegated to my second least recommended film of all time.

Brad Pitt does a fine job as “dad” (or “father” or whatever his name was), but Sean Penn couldn’t have had more than three actual minutes of screen time. And for the record, a boy’s inner monologue (circa 1960) would in no way sound like Yoda (“Wrestle inside me mother and father does! Always you will!”) If you must watch any portion of this film, start twenty minutes in, enjoy the amazing CGI creation of our solar system, laugh at the raptor that passes up a free meal, then PLEASE stop at the thirty-six minute mark and try to ignore the one-to-three word whispered narrations (because watching the rest of the film doesn’t help them make any more sense).

(a zero skull recommendation out of four)

Addendum: I’d like to make a point of clarification about the above review (and some of the comments I’ve heard since posting it).

This is not “the worst film of all time” in my book; it is, however, as of this writing, my least recommended… ever. The distinction is this: this film was made by one person specifically for one person and can only be the product of much soul-searching and intense introspection. It should be viewed by that one person and only by that person, sitting alone in the middle of an empty theater like a widower watching old home movies and reminiscing of days gone by. If I was Terrence Malick reviewing my own film, I would champion it as the accomplishment of a lifetime… but I’m not, and neither is anyone else. This is like one of those elaborate music videos (featuring camels that had to be procured after midnight) that Kevin Smith says Prince makes for his own personal collection that will never be shown to anyone until long after his death (unless he mandated that they be buried with him).

I’ve since heard that it took years to put this production together and that many months of that were spent just finding the right boys to play the three brothers (although you could have found those three, many times over, out hunting with their with their dads in any West “By God” Virginia woodlands during deer season). If I am wrong, if this wasn’t an introspection into the formative years of Mr. Malick and a personal goal finally accomplished, then you should be more afraid of what subliminal mind alterations were the true intent of this mad, mad auteur.


  1. And the fan mail starts pouring in! Here’s a less-than-positive comment from RottenTomatoes:

    I’m disgusted that people like you are given the opportunity to live the life of a film reviewer. Even if you didn’t enjoy this, you would have to be extremely ignorant to dismiss a lot of what this film accomplishes. On a level of storytelling, the quality of acting, the beautifully music and cinematography. I would forgive the average moviegoer if they said they thought it was rubbish but you are a man who watches movies; mainstream and independent on a regular basis. How can you dismiss this so easily? Don’t you understand what malick is trying to do? Even if you don’t like it, how can you not admire the ambition on some level?

    My reply is: Did you read my review, or just the quote and rating? Have you seen the film? My concern is not with what the director was TRYING to do rather than what they actually managed to accomplish. “Tree of Life” oozes with pretentiousness, the kind of film held up at awards time as “best picture” while other films are glossed over and dismissed because something explodes or because it takes place on a space station. Oh yes, I watch a lot of these films, and “Melancholia,” by way of example, thrashes “Tree of Life” into existential oblivion. Kudos to Terrence Malick for thinking outside the box, but a box has definitions, boundaries, and something resembling a structure. Trying to make sense “Tree of Life” is like trying to hold a pound of Jell-O in one hand.


    • Do you require movies to have recognizable plot? I’m honestly curious. I would say that Tree of Life has no ‘recognizable’ plot, but rather than a limitation, I find that to be a great accomplishment. Also (if you forgive the prying), are you religious? Again, in all honesty, I think this is a film harder to swallow for an atheist than someone who believes they have had a spiritual experience. Finally, while a lot of your review sounds to me to be rather subjective judgment of a disagreement with Malick’s point (after all, pretension doesn’t exist in a person, WE lend pretension to them), I would have liked to hear you praise the beautiful cinematography a little bit more. Buddy Rich was a far better drummer than Gene Krupa, but Krupa is still credited with basically inventing the drum set. Do you place value in how Malick has revolutionized his field?


      • Plot? Not always. Beetlejuice has nothing at all resembling a plot, and yet it works. Substance? Yeah. That’s something that The Tree of Life really, really needed. And I did and have praised the cinematography, but if it doesn’t serve the story, does it matter? Could it have worked better if it was gritty, dirty, and static? Who knows; Malick didn’t make that film. Am I religious?! I can certainly see where faith might be a requirement for blind appreciation of disjointed, happenstance filmmaking.

        I don’t have a problem with Malick making deeply personal films for himself any more than I have a problem with Prince making videos that no one will ever see locked away in his gold and purple vault; I do have a problem when those who attach artistic merit to the ravings of a lunatic claim the rest of us are wrong because we refuse to be so deluded.


  2. A great review. I had almost exactly the same thoughts as I watched this thing on my couch. This is one of those movies where somebody is obviously trying to win an academy award and/or impress some artistic types and woe be upon the audience. But I did think the dogs were superb.


  3. More comments imported from

    Tim Hughes (Tim H on 01-1-2012 03:33 PM)
    I am sorry I did not see your review prior to renting this “movie.”

    Cheryl Stevens (Cheryl S on 01-1-2012 04:02 PM)
    This was a terrible movie I suffered through it to the end hoping for an answer to the arty rubbish I had sat through – there was none!


  4. I agree with the review totally. The worst film I’ve ever seen. I really wish I’d read your review beforehand. Total crap. Pretentious bollocks and the biggest load of twaddle ever. The narrative was indistinct, such as it was, and I was unable to decipher most of the words. A glorified ego trip by someone so far up his own backside that he must be deaf. Please, do not bother with this film – life is too short to waste on such nonsense.


    • Thankfully, some people like you still have reason enough to call a dog a dog. Will you lead the charge with me to riot, loot, and smash thing when this dreck wins Best Picture?


      • There’s a very good chance that it won’t, although (as you may have seen already) some select critic’s groups have already championed this (full disclosure: including the one to which I belong).

        The reason I doubt that it will is because, while there were a number of good films this year, there weren’t many great films, and “Tree of Life” is fairly old (came out over the summer, actually, and is already on DVD) in terms of being fresh in the minds of voters and Academy members. This enables other “art” films (like my personal current favorite, “Melancholia”) to leap to the forefront if enough others champion it first. By the way, I’m also not saying YOU might enjoy “Melancholia,” only that I did; it’s depressing as all hell but imparts a curious insight into people who are depressed and those who care for them (all while the Earth is about to be destroyed in a freak one-chance-in-a-b’jillion interstellar collision), so you have been warned and I consider myself absolved if it makes you want to slit your own wrists.

        Here’s some free insight for you into Awards season! There are so many films being pitched to potential voting groups that no one (and I mean NO ONE) with a life can watch them all, so they pick and choose what they like and listen to fellow voters champion their favorites. Those early winners tend to allow Acedemy and other award groups to whittle down their piles to a few select choices. Savvy marketers can influence these votes by blanketing specific memberships with screeners (copies of their films) to influence a vote; after all, you can’t vote it up if you haven’t seen it.

        Best save getting your riot on for something more likely and important, such as your favorite sports team losing (or worse yet, actually winning). See you at the aftermath…!


  5. Something else I’d like to throw out; I don’t hate Terrence Malick, I just don’t enjoy his particular brand of filmmaking. This is similar to the distaste I have for films by Uwe Boll; while some people can’t get enough of what these guy’s do, it’s not my cup of tea, and as a critic I try to articulate why that is. Interestingly, I think Boll is improving in his filmmaking efforts while Malick is sliding backwards into his own ego, but he does keep managing to convince studios with lots of money to fund these things, and that feat is no smaller than actually finishing a film.

    However, that doesn’t mean that just because you got the money and did something with it that it was ever your intent to make something that others would enjoy, only yourself, and that, mortals, is the difference between the filmmaker and the studio: the filmmaker wants to make art while the studio wants to make money. So why fund an overpriced art project? For the potential prestige of winning an art award instead of only being seen as a greedy, money-grubbing movie studio (or whatever lets you cash that check when you get to the bank).


  6. You summed up my feelings exactly, grimdreaper. This “film” is the biggest pile of self-indulgent, incoherent tripe I’ve ever had the misfortune of enduring. I should’ve known better after The Thin Red Line, but he’s outdone himself this time.

    How the hell he managed to convince Fox to part with the $32 mill, or Pitt and Penn to appear in it, I’ll never know. Perhaps it was because they both could’ve done all of their scenes over a single weekend? The script must’ve been about 3 pages long!


  7. As the reviewer responsible for the “If I can prevent just one person from watching this, it’ll have been worth suffering through it” comment, it IS a polarizing film, and I’ve tried to articulate why people would or wouldn’t want to see this film (isn’t that why people read reviews?) With the sheer volume of films that both make it into theaters and don’t, many critics like myself must pick and choose, and normally I would pan Malick (as I’m familar with his work).

    There’s a reason these kinds of films are called “art house” since fans prefer to see them in that venue, but studios trying to recoup tens of millions of dollars in production bills tend to advertise these kinds of movies any way they can to pack theater seats, and very often the advertising is dishonest (listing star performers, hinting at a nonexistent narrative, championing special effects) rather than try to convey what a film like this actually is: a series of clips and images intended to provoke an emotional response without the constraints of a narative. While audiences tolerate or even prefer this kind of artitic sound and imagery in a three-minute music video or YouTube clip, it wears thin after enduring over two hours of it without a conflict-struggle-resolution framework to contextualize it in.


  8. Another comment from

    Ira F on 01-4-2012 09:40 AM
    Except for “Ryder P.I.” this was the worst movie I had ever seen. Sometime i watch a movie that is so bad it is funny. This was not one of those. This movie had one redeeming quality: Although the theater was uncomfortably crowded when i entered, I had plenty of room to spread out after an hour. I am a tremendous Brad Pitt fan as well as appreciating Sean Penn and still the movie sucked. Sorry, I didn’t read your review before I saw this movie. “I stayed for the entire movie!” I wanted to be able to say that. I am ready to be waterboarded.

    True fact: when I saw the old and new family wandering around the beach like escapes from an optometrist after they put those drops in your eyes, anyone could see the credits were coming up in moments. I screamed when they actually did, and it wasn’t a pretty sound.


  9. Thank you for saving me any more pain. I had to look up reviews to see if it was as bad a s i thought. It’s worse. All that money for that. Oh dear. I had to switch it off. The religeous chants were grinding at me.


  10. I started to watch this movie yesterday but after 15 minutes I suddenly realized that this movie is going to waste my time (it was worse than my initial impression from the trailer) so I decided to watch an episode of David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet. Thanks for this review. Now I realize what a good choice I made.


  11. I was deeply disappointed in Malick’s latest film, Tree of Life, reason being that I am one in a million poor souls who actually enjoyed Thin Red Line. I saw Thin Red LIne at the Cinema at a young age, which may have made the movie more spectacular. Anyway I was very excited to see Tree of Life, believe it or not, and dragged half of my family with me into fifteen minutes of hell (I say fifteen minutes because even I had to admit to my fellow viewers that this is crap, and switched it off). I think you are spot in your rewview, there are boundaries to art and creativity, especially due to the fact that I get the idea that Tree of Life is marketed as main stream entertainment. I have never stopped a movie mid way, never, but I could not bare another second of this rambling pretentious philosophy. I used to be open minded about arthouse films, but I have found my limit. To be honest I watched the Tree of Life due to Malick’s Thin Red Line, but I will never watch a Malick film again before doing exstensive research about the film among reviewers as yourself.

    Damn that was terrible!!!!!!!


  12. Here, here (regarding The Tree of Life). We come from a long evolutionary lineage- we’re small in the face of the enormity of time and the universe- yet we love, we feel, we fail to understand (death, loss, love, aggression, God). So what else is new??? I couldn’t agree with you more, this is drivel that provides no focus, asks no new questions, and is painfully pretentious in its self-seriousness. Beautiful, yes, profound, no, I say see 2001 or Where the Wild Things Are for better treatments.


    • “2001” suffered from silmilar issues but was tolerable due to original imagery; the suggestion of an evolution intervention is intreguing (and was brilliantly spoofed later in Mel Brook’s “History of the World, Part I”). It also didn’t hurt that there was a great deal of narrative on oboard the Discovery that help marry the opening nature-channel opening with the dream-like ressurection ending.

      Can’t agree with you on “Where the Wild Things Are.” Loved seeing the book monsters coming to life in the real world, but listening to celebrity voiceovers fussing like four-year olds trying to sound self-important was grating and not what I’d call a good time.


  13. All of you people should go and watch Transformers and leave this kind of masterpiece to people with brains who appreciate art when they see it.


    • Not sure that’s a good alternative. Watching “The Tree of Life” is like sitting in a sales meeting listening to last quarter’s numbers; sure, it’s important, but boring as all hell. Watching a “Transformers” movie, on the other hand, is like being hit in the head repeatedly with a pretty, shiny, hi-tech 3D toaster. Best to go with alternative three: rewatch “Scott Pilgrim Vs The World” and call it a day.


    • So glad to be artless, or is it heartless, or brainless. Enjoy your art. You look like you need it.
      I’m sure ‘The Tree Of Life’ has inspired you. Why not enlighten us all with its message by writing a rave rewiew?


  14. Grim, you surely hit the nail on the head with this one. Malick is truly the Emperor whose lack of clothes still is yet to be discovered. “Tree” is one gorgeously-filmed bore. A few moving moments and nice photography….but that’s it! Can you say, “Heaven’s Gate.”?


      • I might have liked The Tree of Life if the family lived on Paper Street. Instead of points could I get a back rub?


  15. It seems clear that this film has triggered in many — perhaps not most, I don’t know — an extremely visceral and rewarding emotional response. A review from someone who did not have this response is worthwhile and important to me in deciding whether to see this movie. But it makes your peroration about trying to save us from seeing the movie seem to miss the mark. It makes it hard for me to take your review seriously. Which is a shame. There is not much in the way of well-written negative criticism of this polarizing movie, and it would be nice if those who are in the minority took the job a bit more seriously.

    On the one hand, I have several respected critics and viewers who explain that they found the film deeply moving and work very hard at trying to explain why, as best they can to someone who has not seen it. On another, you tell me little more than that it didn’t happen for you. Not really why, other than some stuff about your feelings about the director’s prior work. And, most of all, no attempt to explain why others might have been so moved. Merely a blanked dismissal of them.

    I guess there is a hint of a why in your review and subsequent comments. Perhaps it is a belief that a two-hour movie without a traditional narrative structure can never be good. I don’t believe that. If that’s your view, it’s certainly a worthy one, but you should state clearly that you’re rejecting this film on categorical grounds.

    It just doesn’t seem to be a movie that one can review as one might review “Just Go With It.” That sort of film seems appropriate for the “I hated it, I tend to know a thing or two about films, therefore it is hateable” review. Maybe there are some in the audience who dated Dentists that look like Adam Sandler who will cry at the end. That’s not what I’m talking about. Here you have a movie that clearly strains for a brass ring and thoughtful people are saying it gets there. If I ask you take it as an article of faith that one of ten will have this same emotion reaction, is your snide “if I can get just one of you not to watch it” nonsense still appropriate? Why not use your obvious talents at writing to help us understand whom will be in the nine and whom will be in the one, instead of simply abdicating because you were in the nine? (Unless your premise is that thoughtful movie-goers are dumb and simply swayed by something that looks artistic, and that they are being either disingenuous or manipulative. I simply don’t see that being correct, given the bredth of the comments of thoughtful people I have come to trust explaining not merely that they like it but why.)

    I very much disliked the movie The Fountain. But though I haven’t acquired the skill of good movie criticism, I understood enough of what the Aronofsky was attempting to achieve and how he was executing it to know that if I were ever to attempt to persuade another that my opinion was correct, “that one sucks, brah, don’t waste your time” wouldn’t cut it.


    • When someone says something bad about a black man, they call him racist. If they say something bad about a woman, they’re obviously sexist. Just because I didn’t like this particular film, does that make me an existentialist?

      The gist I’m getting from you (in addition to my new favorite word, “peroration,” which I pledge to use in at least one sentence daily this week) is that I didn’t give credit to what the director was trying to accomplish, and for that reason alone he should be given “props.” However, doesn’t making the case that some films deserve such ire (as in your own example “Just Go With It”) reveal your own predisposition towards pretention? No filmmaker makes any film without a specific reason; if they did, those films wouldn’t exist. This is a given, whether it’s Lloyd Kaufman making The Toxic Avenger or James Cameron making Avatar. Some are better at their craft than others, and some have access to more resources than the rest.

      My point about Malick is specific: this is what he wants to see and believes that others will want to see. The film is beautiful, probably the best images that could be bought for the eye of a talented cinematographer with top-of-the-line camera and editing equipment. In spite of this, a narrative would have benefitted his film because too much of it is inaccessible while the rest of it is cliche. All the meaning of life stuff works in short bursts (like Peter Gabriel’s video to his song “Sledgehammer”), but too many scenes are too open to interprtation. Take the bit with the raptor and his prey; anyone who watches nature shows knows that if a hungry predator has the opportunity to grab a free meal, it isn’t passing it up unless there’s a reason. Was it diseased? Did it smell bad? Was the raptor full? Many viewers claim it was “Divine Intervention” serving as a bigger “But why?” in relationship to one kid’s sibblings being offed. Another scene has “mom” flying about as if in zero gravity; was it because she was ethereally angelic or foolishly innocent? If you don’t think exactly as Malick, you’re either hopelessly lost or damnably bored, but even if you do get it, it’s still trite from something shouting from the balcony how self-important it is (and, likewise, the director himself).


      • “However, doesn’t making the case that some films deserve such ire (as in your own example “Just Go With It”) reveal your own predisposition towards pretention?”

        Perhaps, but I don’t think so. I think one has to review a movie like Deuce Bigalow differently from how one reviews Enter the Void, and it’s not a matter of pretension. On the most basic level, there is the matter that these movies have different audiences with different expectations. But even deeper, a review that does not attempt (even if just in a sentence) to measure the movie against what it was attempting to achieve does not help me as much as one that does.

        But I will take the premise that there is some objective, paradigmatic concept called “movie” against which any film can be measured, making it possible feasibly to analyze and prepare to write a review for Citizen Cane exactly the same as for Avatar. If that is the style in which one wishes to review films, and if the reviewer makes a commitment to seeing the movie without having seen any other commentary, that’s a legitimate m.o. I think. But I also think that’s largely impossible with a movie like Tree of Life — maybe it was possible in the initial review from those who saw it at Cannes and didn’t read the paper, but by the time one gets to the point of commenting on a blog about how others view the movie, at that point, this isn’t really possible anymore.

        In any event, your interpretation of my comment as saying you should have given props to the director for what he was trying to accomplish, indicates I wrote it very poorly. I would hope a reviewer would never give props where he thought they were not due. For the record, I haven’t seen Tree of Life, and so I don’t have any opinion whether or not it deserves props. Perhaps like you, I am offended by movies that treat me as irrelevant and were made only to appeal to the person that made the film. The point of my comment was that there are a great many — including those like you who have spent more time than the rest of us thinking about movies and what they mean and can be — who do not feel that way at all about Tree of Life. There are plainly a large number of thoughtful, reasonable people who were hit foresquare in the gut by this movie and had an intense emotional response. To me it is a shame that all the negative reviews I have read about this film — save for Kenneth Turan’s — have not delved more deeply into what the movie was trying to achieve and why it misses. If you stand in a circular room with two globes of equal size hanging from the ceiling at eye level, at two places in the room, the globes will align exactly and if you stood there, you’d swear there was only one. The critic who can understand both perspectives in that room, even though he can personally only stand in one place, is the one I want to read. (To the extent you care, I thought your second paragraph in response to my comment was better than your initial review.)

        For any “art house” film, one can pretty much always blog, “it was pretentious, don’t waste your time,” and get dozens of supportive comments. As mentioned, I can get as annoyed by inaccessible films as the next guy. But when someone self-consciously attempts to make a masterpiece, and there are clearly elements along those lines there, knowing why it didn’t hit the mark can be as valuable if not more so than if it had made it. I’m just raising my hand to let you know there are others out here that care about film criticism and think it’s sometimes nearly as vital as film itself.


    • You misused “whom”, and misspelt “breadth”. Sheesh.

      Oh, and Tree of Life was awful.

      If you do see it, I’d be interested in your take. The two aforementioned lapses aside, you write wonderfully, and are obviously an intelligent bloke.

      Also, Tree of Life was awful. Beautiful. But awful.


  16. If your assessment that my “pull quote” was intended to get attention, of course it was. Can you sum up every thought in a 400+ word critique in the 175-character limit allowed by Rotten Tomatoes? Of course not (no more than “one out of four stars” is a complete assessment or that “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” sums up Star Wars), but we have to start somewhere and a little attention goes a long way. That “If I can stop one person” quote was my first initial thought after the whole thing, and I kept it.

    I have a predisposition towards the horror genre (something many in my profession instinctively look down upon), and I admit that I grade it harder when it’s bad and praise it higher when they get it right. Fortunately, once a year during awards season, my obligations with the Online Film Critics Society affords me the opportunity to see films that often very few ever do, and there are a few gems out there.

    It’s not that I don’t understand Malick; I think he’s transparent and obvious, and it astounds me that so many are taken in by very standard fare. I have a witness that can tell you that, half way through the film, I could tell you what image was coming up next. The praise I’m hearing sounds as though it’s coming from people who have never seen such a film before (or any film at all, ever), and these are people who see films like this all the time.

    Case and point: battle sequences. In a movie like Gladiator, for example, critics complained that the quick-cuts during fights were too hard to follow, ten-frame flashes of blades and blood. To simulate the speed and immediacy of battle, this is agood technique, but it’s puts off people who want to see the battle unfold rather than feel like they’re fighting it themselves. Similarly, Tree of Life quick-cuts reality, like snippets in a dream. When we wake, we may remember a few of these and wander what falling naked into a classroom with our old spouse means, but Malick has yet to convince me that he can effectively base a feature-length film on a technique that works far better for three-minute music videos, and it’s not like he hasn’t been given plenty of chances to prove otherwise.

    Finally, there’s a reason why some of my comments after the review may have been more specific: they are. I pride myself on writing reviews that convey how a film makes me feel rather than give away too many specifics (for those who want to watch). If you wander into the comments section afterwards, let the reader beware of spoilers.


  17. I think 75% of viewers that say they liked this movie are lying, and the other 25% are delusional about what they think they saw. What bothers me about movies like this is that they back intellectuals and artistic types into a corner. If you consider yourself one of these types, it’s hard to come out and tell people you didn’t like it, because to put it simply, it makes you look dumb. The reality is–for those of us willing to admit it–this movie is a mess, and oozes with pretentious undertones. I could sense the arrogance of Malick right from the beginning, and knew almost immediately I was in for a rough one. It’s like he’s saying to the viewer, “I’m going to win an Academy Award for this whether you even halfway understand this or not,” and from there you either get with it or spend the next two hours reminding yourself this is a slew of gibberish, and not an indicator of just how stupid you might actually be.

    As a side note, I think a viewer rating also has a lot to do with how religious you are. Many people told me they cried during this thing. They were all Christians and I’m willing to bet that the moment they cried was during the beach scene, as it clearly represents what a Christian interprets as heaven: everyone sort of wandering around locating family members, hugging and all that good stuff, with a beautiful backdrop. So for the atheists, agnostics, and indifferents out there, we were all dead in the water when this thing started.


  18. More comments imported from Rotten Tomatoes

    Seb M. on 01-4-2012 06:06 PM
    Grand m, anyone who says that a movie is boring and doesn’t back it up with sufficient evidence has no weight in their argument. Ignorant remark really.

    And Ira f, maybe you should have done some research on the film before you saw it. This isn’t a brad Pitt and Sean penn summer blockbuster, this is a Terrence malick picture. And if you knew anything about the director you wouldn’t of seen it and probably wouldve better spent ur money on the latest transformers movie. Maybe that film would’ve been easier for ur head to get around.

    Samuel Gallentine

    Samuel G on 01-5-2012 07:41 PM
    That’s a great point. I mean, no Malick film has ever focused on anything other than character buildup and the human nature. Even The Thin Red Line wasn’t about war, it was about the people involved and how they handled it.

    Winston Nilumol

    Winston N on 01-7-2012 08:36 PM
    I went out of my way just to write this…LISTEN TO THIS CRITIC!

    i laughed twice while watching this movie.

    1)thinking about the $32M budget for this movie
    2)reading these comments

    Lauren Zirbel

    Lauren Z on 01-7-2012 11:37 PM
    You were too late to save me. We had to fast forward through the random universe shoots… that went on set to music for way to long. Waste of 2 hours I’ll never get back!

    Stuart Hacking

    Stuart H on 01-11-2012 07:53 AM
    I have to agree. I had to switch off about 30 mins in. And I never do that! Sorry, i just couldnt get into it!

    Seb M.

    Seb M. on 01-11-2012 09:00 PM
    i cant believe how many people hated this movie. am i in the minority here?

    Ryan Field

    Ryan F on 01-14-2012 09:09 PM
    Before I saw this film I used to think you couldn’t go wrong with a Brad Pitt film. I was wrong!! This isn’t a one star nightmare it is a DNF….did not finish.

    Eduardo Tobias

    Eduardo T on 01-15-2012 01:56 PM
    I liked it and it wasn’t the least painful for me to watch. Transformers 3 was way more painful.

    William Sinclair

    William S on 01-18-2012 05:31 AM
    Honestly, this film is like the Transformers 2 of artistic movies, it’s way to long, stretches things way too far, and the characters are bland. What’s even worse is that if you dislike it, you’re called an idiot and get a lecture on what the film was trying to do.


  19. Why? Why didn’t I read this before wasting my precious and insignificant life on this movie? You’re now bookmarked to hopefully avoid future life-wasting.


  20. Ya the cosmic stuff was a bit much, but this movie made me cry, and in a good way. It’s the story of a boy’s spiritual life. This reviewer just doesn’t get it, and doesn’t show much evidence of trying to get it.


  21. I absolutely LOVED this movie. I should also say that I tend to love long, boring, pretentious art films, but I will attempt to make a case as to why this movie cannot be described as such. This movie was emotionally wrenching for me, and a lot of it did not make me feel good. A lot of devices are used in it that people associate with pretension. But he uses these devices sincerely, without any immediate emotional payoff. I think of self-indulgence as being short-sighted (ie, “throw some birds in there to get this immediate feeling”) but every part of this movie is a patient puzzle piece that rewards you when viewed as a whole. I mean, when the goal of a movie is to explain the beginning of life, everything that has ever happened, a young boy’s childhood and adolescence, and his search for meaning as an adult, you are going to have to use some imagery that can be called pretentious, but only by people who are so jaded that they are already looking for a reason to hate such a challenging, draining, spiritual work of art.


  22. PS I’m reading a lot of comments about how people don’t get it, or say there is no plot to be found. What is there specifically that you don’t get? It’s a simple story really, and doesn’t require a clear storyline to get it across. It’s about how people deal with loss, rejection, and hearbreak. Anyone who thinks that is cliche, well of course it is! That doesn’t make it any less true!


  23. I bought this on DVD at Blockbuster previously viewed for $5 and feel cheated. This is a pretentious, meaningless, silly yawnfest. For those who praise the alleged spiritually uplifting aspects of this film, are you really impressed by shots of sunrises and trees, while character voiceovers mumble about God? Really?

    Every decade there are a handful of films that the critics praise as landmark masterpieces and the public rejects utterly. “Thin Red Line” is a good example; “A.I.”, my personal lowest rated movie, is another. In a year or two it will be completely forgotten. “Tree” cost $32M to make and earned $13.3M in the US. The public has spoken.


    • I’m sorry… what will be forgotten again?

      Also, I didn’t have issue with A.I. up until (spoiler!) the underwater ferris wheel scene (end spoiler). If they had stopped there, it all would have made sense. Then there’s another tacked on ending which not only seems out of place but completely undermines the drama of “sad little robot boy.” Up to that point, I loved A.I. After than and taken as a whole, I can’t recommend it.


  24. Oooh, here’s a good one:

    I was hoping this film would touch me… and it did, like a late-night sneaky uncle. So I did what I was supposed to do: I told as many adults as I could until someone believed me.


  25. I have to jump in to defend this brave reviewer. In a world where praise, hype and award nominations have been heaped at the foot of “The Tree of Life” this amazingly brave reviewer said “ummm bullshit”.

    I agree. Now I have never heard of before this moment. Let me explain how I found this review and MovieCrypt. My wife and I wanted to kill some time with a movie and thought to ourselves ok let’s watch The Tree of Life. Neither of us knew anything whatsoever about the film. I knew it was getting praise and awards etc., but I seriously didn’t know anything at all other than Brad Pitt was in it.

    After having to turn off a background fan and cranking the volume up so we could hear the first inaudible whispers at the initial flame scene we should have known something was amiss. By the time the National Geographic montage went by we found ourselves looking at each other in confusion. A “WTF?” moment if you will.

    In fact at that very same moment I began coming up with other pretentious films that worked and I enjoyed: Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey & Antichrist to name a few. Don’t hate me. I know they are works of art and masterpieces, but that’s my point. Heavy on the art and they work in my opinion.

    This confused mess of preachy love and appreciate life while you live it and you’re smaller than a grain of sand in the universe etc. blah blah blah does not impress. It infuriates, bores, and makes you disgusted you were punished with this unedited, unrelated, pointless mess. Why was Sean Penn in the movie? Why the random nature images? Why was the mom floating in the air or a house underwater? Dinosaurs really? Was the Velociraptor not hungry? Did he call his friends to come eat the dying one in the river? What is the director’s obsession with volcanoes?

    We kept checking the film length and this started maybe around 60 minutes in and you know that’s not a good sign. I kept imagining firing a machine gun and throwing grenades around that boring ass neighborhood. Aliens invading, serial killers, less church more satanism. Anything to break the monotony. In my defense I enjoy foreign films (preferably with subtitles, not dubbed), drama, comedy, thrillers, horror, whatever the case may be. Oh I just remembered another pretentious movie that worked better than this one: Synedoche, NY.

    So we struggled in our seats for the movie to end, sat through the unbearable beach scene ending which had us asking WTF? yet again this time out loud trying to make sense of it all (the TV series Lost comes to mind and was a resounding success with neatly wrapping up their ending compared to this failure *note sarcasm).

    We were actually pissed that we wasted our day on “The Tree of Life”. I was stunned that such a pointless exercise in abuse of film making got good reviews so I went to a fairly trusted source Low and behold an 84% average??? 61% of the audience reviewers liked it so obviously a more honest figure, yet I still can’t figure out why this film was not more polarizing numerically speaking.

    I started scanning the critic reviews for people like myself who saw through the utter bullshit that fertilized the soil for “The Tree of Life”.

    That led me to Kevin A. Ranson and to Excellent, honest and ACCURATE review! This movie is not for the public and anyone in the public that is giving it rave reviews probably agrees with us on it, but want’s to sound intellectual and important by applauding this mess of shit.

    **I’ll reply to one of your critics about “how could we not appreciate the cinematogrophy, acting and message?” and simply say all of the components were there for an excellent film and they were squandered because they forgot an important step: editing. If this movie had been tweaked here and there and the message not been so lost in convolution it may very well have been a great film, but it is not. The end.


    • Right on! In Synecdoche, New York, the joke was that the main character was an artist who couldn’t produce art – his attempt at art was to make a complete replica of the world ad infinitum. That’s what hurt my brain so much watching this movie – the superlative and hypnotic cinematography of the A) cosmology bit (less the retarded dinosaurs) was compelling and nourishing, but the B) human life plane of it had less art than a computer program. One part A) hypnotizes you and then the B) part was just…gross in the definition which means heavy-handed…an expression of how scary perfectionists can be in their inability to understand humanity…as though people just walk around thinking to themselves..”how did i lose you. wandered. forgot you.find me. where were you? who are we to you? answer me.”…they don’t…and I highly advise that any person who thought this was a perfect film talk to some people sometime…and maybe some real artists amongst the selection.


      • Yeah and I actually really enjoyed Synedoche, New York. Not in the edge of my seat kinda way, but it really had me thinking and “wanting” to really understand. It had me thinking after the movie was over and I read what other people were thinking about thinking about Synedoche haha.

        Tree of Life just made me angry and I want to forget I tried to think about it…

        Completely off topic, but Thank God Walking Dead is back on tomorrow! Even though I should have boycotted the show after Frank Darabont got screwed over at the expense of the show, but they did a decent job so far so I’m willing to stick with it.


  26. It would have been more honnest, respectful and humble to simply admit that you didn’t understand the film. Because that is the first (and probably only) reason why you hated it so much.

    I loved it the 1st time I saw it, and loved it even more the 2nd, 3d and 4th time.

    It is profound, philosophical, spiritual, very human and sensible, contemplative (visually and musically), and also, VERY, VERY well acted by all the actors.

    The way you describe the movie is so unfair. You make it seem like it is meaningless, while it is profoundly meaningful, exceptionnaly well felt and amazingly efficient, this at many levels.

    Please be humble and accept that there are some types of films you shouldn’t evaluate, because you do not understand them. It would be more respectful, and less unfairly destructive.

    Thanks for taking the time to think about it. Some humility is needed here.


    • My stars! I’ve been a fool, giving my opinion of a film I neither have the sophistication to fathom nor the means with which to articulate my opinion. Woe is me!

      Or, perhaps, I believe that I very CLEARLY understand the film, what Malick was trying to do, and what he failed to do as over-perfectly as he intended. It’s a beautiful and very personal film, and I’ve said that many times over. However, when you can afford to hire someone to shoot the scenes you give them with the best film technology available, of course it will look spit polished (all three “Transformers” movies look outstanding, but I don’t think I’ll find too many takers to say these were the best films of the year).

      When was the last time you walked the earth and abstractly questioned the Creator of All Things? Does that happen a lot? Do you go door to door and encourage others to do so? I believe I understand the film all too well (life sucks, get a helmut, trust we’ll all be together again on a phantom beach one day) and am therefore fully capable of giving my opinion (because that’s exactly what it is). It is no more correct than yours, but from the contents of the above comments, I am in no way all by myself in that opinion.

      I’m very happy that you are happy with the film (okay, not really), but please don’t insinuate that I should forfiet the right to my opinion because you feel I lack the ability to contemplate life, the universe, and everything (the answer to which is 42, by the way, and that’s not an opinion).


      • Yeah I was not intelligent enough either. I wish I was, because I’m sure I would have loved it then!

        Random sidenote: I have actually really enjoyed movies the author did not such as A.I. and maybe more importantly The Thin Red Line, however, we are in 100% agreement on Tree of Life.


  27. What makes you think that the voice-overs are literally what the characters are thinking. I think you are reaching for things to call stupid. I didn’t think of it as their literal, second-to-second thoughts, but rather, a poetic interpretation of their feelings. Make any sense? Ok, continue ignoring my comments.


    • What makes you think the narration ISN’T literal? You seem to be suggesting that every element of the movie is a metaphor, that every glance, each glint of light, and every shade of gray holds some secret meaning that only “the chosen elite” can ever of shall ever understand. You’re right, of course (if you happen to be Terrance Malick).


      • . . . because narration of a character’s literal thoughts is a hackneyed, lazy device that is only sincerely used in raunchy teen comedies. I mean, give him some credit. He uses voice-over in every one of his movies but never once has used it as a characters literal thoughts. And no, I don’t think there is a ‘chosen elite’. Just saying that you’re being a little harsh in your attempts to make this movie look dumb and by extension, anyone who actually liked it. I never said there is a ‘secret meaning’ to the voiceovers, just that i’ve never actually seen a serious movie use literal voiceover (except Adaptation, which is a can of worms in itself).


  28. I know you only go for easy targets. God forbid you acknowledge any flaws in your criticism or the fact that you went completely overboard in your crusade.


    • If only you knew the power of the Dark Side! (shakes fist)

      Easy target? You must not put a lot of faith in the director if you’re suggesting he can’t handle a little criticism.


      • Wasn’t calling Malick an easy target, just pointing out that you were picking and choosing what to respond to and what to conveniently ignore.


      • I’m trying to respond to everything, but ya’ll got a lot to say! 😉

        I’ve got one guy trying to tell me that I have no right to any opinion (since I didn’t like the film) and another reader implying that I think people are dumb for liking it (not pointing any boney fingers at anyone in particular). Something you should try to understand (although I’ll understand if you don’t) is the sheer number of films like this I see every year.

        Every form of art is subjective, including film, and not everyone is going to like the same things. I enjoy horror films, a genre that many of my peers reject on principle in the same way the Oscars won’t give a scifi film Best Picture. My observation, however, is that people are reading a lot more into the imagery than what’s actually there, and that’s a bit of a cheat on the director’s part (one I’m sure he’s at least partly aware of).

        Narration is an attempt to translate the thoughts of a character on a page into an audio/visual medium, and this is why screenplays exist: it doesn’t work. “Blade Runner” was the last serious attempt I saw of this, but the director was flat out told “too bad” by the studio (he got his way in the director’s cut and it worked SO much better).

        Malick’s imagery is in no way original, but if you don’t see a lot of art films, you’d have no way to know this. That’s what this is: an art film masquerading as mainstream. As you can tell from the comments, it isn’t mainstream (and shame on the studio for even attempting to bill it this way), but for those who are championing it, there are so many better and more original things out there than this. My opinion is based on the collective knowledge of all the films I’ve seen in my life and the reviews I’ve written for 15 years, and I can feel it in my soul that an entirely different film was shot and likely sitting on the cutting room floor. If you had any idea how many great films have been gutted by studios who won’t release the movie the director they hired actually made, you’d understand why Indies have gotten so popular (because no one wants their work taken away from them and altered).

        Malick’s work is very tired. “Thin Red Line” was “War happens.” “Tree of Life” was “Life happens.” Sure, there are people performing, but there’s water, celestial events, dinosaurs, beaches, and moms floating in the yard. In my opinion, it’s trite and uncompelling. By contrast, “Melancholia” was far superior, but because that film’s message was “You die and that’s it” instead of “Look! You get it ALL back: your friends, family, lost single socks, and missing sunglasses!” it got glossed over in spite of being equally (if not even more) beautiful.


      • And I agree that it was wrong of those commentators to deal in absolutes like “you must be too dumb to get it”. I know that art is subjective. But I never said that this film is objectively great and anyone who dislikes it is dumb. My first comment was a passionate explanation of how I felt about the movie. You ignored it in favor of arguing against the easier ones. So, I went on to explain what I felt was problematic of your review. I can’t respect a review that begins by outlining the reviewers plan to stop as many people from seeing it as possible. You make some fair arguments, and if you had presented those impartially without accusing everyone who likes it of being ‘duped’ (I realize this is also your opinion that you are entitled to, but it is a little insulting and counterproductive) then your review might have some integrity in my opinion. Also, your website is a little buggy ;p


      • Never saw it, but the house on the cover definitely has an “Addams Family” vibe going on. (I know, one track mind, right?)

        I may have to check “young” Malick out!


  29. Hey look! MORE comments from!

    Renee S on 02-1-2012 09:26 PM

    I wanted to like it. I wanted it to have a point. I wanted SOMETHING to justify my time spent watching it. It didn’t happen. I didn’t need the 30 minutes of universe creation – a well crafted story could have served the purpose better. I felt like Cliff Notes were needed; “in this scene what the director actually meant by the single rock on the road was a statement on the hardness of life” or some other BS…
    Annie Wilson

    Annie W on 02-2-2012 03:08 PM

    OMG I love your comment. I am so glad you are honest and tell it like it was heheheh
    Annie Wilson

    Annie W on 02-2-2012 02:58 PM

    I am so glad you understand how boring this film was — people only say they LOVE this film because it’s artistic/different/so deep that if you didn’t love it you must be an idiot.
    Everyone gets all bent out of shape when you don’t like a film that is so ‘artsy’ and ‘unique.’ I understood the film just fine, but it was boring as hell.
    Christian Jugans

    Christian J on 02-2-2012 07:39 PM

    Wow, you sir are so right, I notice that you probably have the most comments since you left a negative review. This movie is the cure for insomnia, I fell asleep during it and had to pause midway through. Also I was thinking the same as Brent, I thought this was a 3 part National Geographic Special. Why is this a nominee for Best Picture, i’m still trying to figure that out. Anyone else planning on watching all the nominees for Best Picture, skip Extremely Loud, and Midnight in Paris or you’ll be equally as dissapointed as watching this film..
    Sarah Mullin

    Sarah M on 02-4-2012 08:20 PM

    Horrible movie! I totally agree.
    I should have saw this comment before watching the movie.
    Jeremy Weyrauch

    Jeremy W on 02-5-2012 04:50 PM

    Amen. Dead on.
    Jody Bobcat

    Jody B on 02-9-2012 10:35 PM

    This movie was not hard to follow. It was dreamlike and filled with symbolism. It had a narrative; of the human lives it followed. It showed snapshots of moments which are more meaningful than any words. Maybe you think it is pretentious to show human moments of simplicity which can be the most powerful moments in our lives. I was moved to see the agony of the woman’s loss of her son through the story of creation of life itself, to the point of her sons life, showing how valuable he was to her, How truly amazing it was he existed, that life exists and how tragic when it is lost. I did not enjoy the ending as much but otherwise thought the film was very deep and not fake artsy like movies such as Black Swan.
    Debbie Wick Thompson

    Debbie W on 02-11-2012 06:34 PM

    Omg I a so sorry I did not read your review first. I’m a deep thinker but when the dinosaurs came out I said forget it.
    Charlie Rice

    Charlie R on 02-12-2012 04:54 PM

    then obviously your are not a deep thinker. Explaining origins and existance is not an easy process or is it intended to be understood by the feeble minded.
    Charlie Rice

    Charlie R on 02-12-2012 04:56 PM

    Thought it was a good movie. Sort of brought me back to the book “The Shack”, hard to explain and show how, what and why we are here and i wouldnt expect many people to understand or get the film.
    Mark Morris

    Mark M on 02-12-2012 08:27 PM

    I only wish I had read your review before wasting 2 hours and 15 minutes of my life!


  30. I usually enjoy movies that make you think, but this movie made me feel like I was in a lava lamp. I would choose having a root canal over watching this movie again. PLEASE, save the 2 hours of your life that this movie will take away from you and enjoy your own life.


  31. Lol at people wasting their lives talking about how they are not wasting their lives

    Lmao at people probably spending more than 2 hours and 15 minutes reading reviews. . .


  32. For films that I know I will see, I never read reviews first for fear of spoilers, bad advice, etc. I saw this movie two days ago and I can’t let go of so many images and ideas. I loved this movie. During the movie, many audience members were laughing out loud at the movie, and when the credits rolled, many in the audience applauded because it was “finally over”, as some stated out loud.

    But then weirdness ensued. I started a conversation with a group of people as I stood to leave. We talked, other groups talked, and there were at least half a dozen debates raging in the movie theatre auditorium a good ten minutes after the end of the movie. I’ve never seen a film with so much discussion, debate, and difference of opinion after credits have rolled. And isn’t that the point of art, to inspire discussions, etc.?

    For me, this is a great and very unusual movie. If you prefer a a nice, linear film with a happy and clear ending, this isn’t the movie for you. On the other hand, if you like something different, something weird and thought-provoking, then I recommend Tree of Life.


  33. It’s not the reviewer’s fault. Seriously. Probably doesn’t have any worthwhile life experience to pull from aside from playing videos games, drinking beer and masturbating to silicone enhanced bimbos. It’s like trying to get a zombie to empathize with a living human being, heart still beating and all. It just won’t happen. Same thing with this “reviewer” liking or understanding amazing films like TREE OF LIFE.


  34. It’s odd that people seem to love The Artist because it’s something different. Well, it is sorta different in that we haven’t seen a black and white silent film at the local multiplex in some time. But Tree of Life is far more original than The Artist, imo.

    Anyway, of all the movies nominated for Best Picture, I liked Moneyball the best. Amazing!!! (And yes, I’ve seen all nine of them.) I thought 2011 was a pretty good year for movies. We didn’t get anything close to the double hitter of No country for old men/There will be blood, but still there were some good movies last year.


      • @grimdreaper>As far as “The Artist”, I hadn’t thought about the “innocence” factor, but that ‘s a great point. I liked it very much, and it’s the kind of movie I will watch many times in the future. But I didn’t understand why the lead character couldn’t move on to talkies. For a while I thought maybe he couldn’t talk at all. And I’m not sure why the tap dancing routine solved the problem. Did it mean that he would be a tap dancer in all of Peppy’s movies? One more thing, I’ve never really cared for camera shots that call attention to the shot itself. I sort of check out. Like the shot of the pouring liquid on the table. It was beautifully done, true, but I was immediately distracted by the story as I was trying to figure out how it was done. All that beautiful camera work in “Citizen Kane” is amazing, but every time I watch Kane I get side tracked by the camera work.


      • My take on “The Artist” (spoilers to follow) was that the main character couldn’t move on because he believed no one would WANT to hear him. Without sound, he can appear any way he wants to; he’s that good of an actor. In a world that suddenly put sound on a pedastal, he understood that he might be rejected, and that possibility was enough for him to fear it and wish to avoid it (better to assume than to confirm). He viewed dancing, on the other hand, as a universal language, something he knew he was both good at and that people would want (at that time) to see him do regardless of what he sounded like. “Pride goeth before a fall” and all that; his pride nearly destroyed him because he couldn’t see past it to what everyone (especially Peppy) saw in him.


      • @grimdreaper, thanks so much for your thoughts on “The Artist”. It’s interesting to note that you open your reply to my questions with, “My take…” I saw this film during an AMC Best Picture Showcase in which there were five movies shown this past Saturday, the day before the Oscars. The audience was basically composed of people who truly love movies, who were willing to sit through five in one day, who were actively and passionately discussing each film during intermissions. My take on “The Artist”, at first, was that (spoiler alert) Valentin was deaf up to the point where he suddenly hears the sound of himself sitting a glass on a table. He is shocked at the sound, shocked at the sound of the dog barking, and is subsequently shocked at other sounds. It seemed that he was selectively hearing some, but not all, sounds. Perhaps he reads lips but can’t hear people talking for some psychological reason. I discussed my viewpoints with others, and there were several different interpretations of various scenes. All in all, I appreciate very much that “The Artist” seemed to be an ode to the primarily visual medium of film. But was it a silent film? No, not at all, there was sound and indeed (spoiler alert) during the final few minutes there was the sound of dialog from various members on the sound stage, but no sound from Valentin or Preppy. So, I’d argue that 95% of “The Artist” is silent.

        Now, back to “Tree of Life”. If the definition of a “Silent Film” is a film that is primarily without talking/speech, then “Tree of Life” fits the bill, as probably more than 50% of the film has no sound other than music. In fact, thinking about all the imagery included in the segment with the family in the 1950s, most of what we learned about the story was from imagery. For example, we never heard anyone actually discuss (spoiler alert) the death of one of the sons except for a few oblique references by one of the brothers. We saw the agony, certainly, and the inability of the parents to discuss the issue. (I thought the glass house which allowed us a clear view of the agony of the family as opposed to their first house which had a lot of walls and small windows and only allowed us a peak into their misery, was particularly effective.) I’d argue that “Tree of Life” could very well have done without all dialogue as the imagery was strong enough.

        Oddly enough, “Hugo” was an ode to film preservation, and silent movies were at the forefront of this film.

        I appreciate that we had three great films in 2011 which focused on film as a visual medium. One could argue that “The Artist”, “Tree of Life”, and “Hugo” were a trio of films honoring silent movies.

        And as far as our disagreements and discussions over “Tree of Life”, I can’t remember a film which so divided its audience since “2011: A Space Odyssey.” And isn’t that a good thing? While some people praise the wonders of “The Artist” as a silent film while at the same time deride “Tree of Life” because of extended scenes of the creation of the universe set to music, I can only admire both for many different reasons. I’d say that watching the creation and destruction of the universe set to music is as interesting as watching the fall of a silent film star set to music.


      • Thanks for noticing! My ratings are something I hate to use. One should neither assign a numerical value to (nor hold one up as the subjective summary of) any film, but such is the way of things and I am required to do so as part of my critical duties. As such, I have always billed these “stars” (or skulls, in my case) as recommendations because that’s what they are. Even hearing the words “Best Picture” often makes me cringe; that’s like saying the candidate with the most votes is “Best President.” Unfortunately, “Best Picture” sounds cooler than “Most Recommended.”

        Someone else on suggested that “The Tree of Life” was more fun to argue about than to watch, and I’m inclined to agree. If nothing else, Terrence Malick has a way of stirring the pot, and there’s truly something to be said for that. However, I can say the exact same thing about Uwe Boll, so there you are.


      • I haven’t seen any of Boll’s movies, so I’ll have to at least check one out.

        Absolutely, I’m with you, I cringe at the term “Best Picture” or “Best Actor”. Why, even the Grammy folks were smart enough to drop “Best” from “Best Album of the Year.” (Now I’m not saying that the Grammy people get it right from my point of view, as, for example, it is statistically impossible that a classical album has never won the big award, but that’s a different discussion.)

        I love movies and I sort of know how difficult it is to get anything on any big screen anywhere at any point in time. So I pretty much appreciate every movie for one reason or another (except for torture porn, which I don’t watch at all and which I find to be more pornographic than any triple-X sex porn video, but again that’s a different discussion). I’ve only walked out of two films in my life from sheer boredom (and both subsequently won Best Picture, and I hesitate to mention them because most peole love them) so I understand absolutely how some people feel about Tree of Life.


      • One I enjoyed that I get grief from is “The Human Centepede,” a film absolutely entrenched in the torture porn category. The very concept is pure gimmick, but what held my attention is what was at the core: an outrageous concept deftly explored and well acted. I even met the star, Lazer (pronounced, in his words, “like the beam”), who showed up in costume (since he assembled it himself) and the director, Tom. Fundamentally, it’s a reimagining of “Frankenstein” since the the doctor never once considers the rammifications of what he’s doing. Couple that with the plight of those unlucky enough to be cobbled together as part of the monster in question and you have the makings of a fantastical but still very human (if very gimmicky) drama.

        I enjoy horror (could you tell?) because of its possibility and ability to surprise. Most critics pan horror as a throwaway because it can be cheaply made, but I am its biggest champion when they get it right and its harshest critic otherwise.


      • @grim, I also appreciate a good story which is well-executed. I did see the first “Saw” film and I found the story to be very good. However, I could barely get through the second one because of the violence, and it was then and there that I decided these kinds of movies are not for me. (I’ve learned from others that the “Saw” films are comparatively non-violent compared to many others films of this genre.) There are numerous TV shows that I don’t watch for the same reason (too violent) and I don’t understand why one can show dismemberment on television but a when brief millisecond of a nipple appears you would think armegeddon had arrived. Weird.

        GREAT discussion today, grim, but I gotta get to ‘work.” And, by work, I mean switching to Final Draft and addressing my latest screenplay, in which characters are screaming in my head to get on to the rest of the story.


  35. My wife and I saw this film. We’re both art school graduates (big pretentious art schools), and we thought we would be prepared for something like this. We were not. We were bored out of our skulls. I would argue that part of being artistic is to be stimulating. This movie was numbing. It requires the audience to do too much creative work. And YES when you release something as entertainment it should be entertaining! I thought the film was very lazy. It displays things which it trumpets as important but are actually really mundane. There is absolutely nothing new in it. And if there is, it fails in communicating that. I usually do not comment on movies as I am a filmmaker as well. But I had to in this case since it was nominated for an academy award, and had such positive reviews. It makes me think something sinister is afoot. I did not believe in conspiracies before, but I do now! This movie could have said what it said (whatever it was, I don’t care. I was so freakin bored. It could have said I was on fire, and I would have let myself burn! Sometimes you just have to say something and move on!) in ten minutes, and it should have.
    You want a mind expanding experience that really does ask some deep questions, makes you think, and stimulates? Read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” collection of books. Sheer genius. Not pretentious and very entertaining. I even like the movie too!
    Again, I would not have commented on “The Tree of Life” if it did not get such good reviews. Now I am afraid! Where’s my tin foil hat?
    Thank you GrimReaper for your opinion.


    • You hit the proverbial nail on the head. My opponents (on the this thread and elsewhere) seem to think I just don’t “get” Tree of Life, but I maintain there’s nothing to “get.” I fully understand what the director was trying to do (and as I’ve said previously, if I’m wrong, then he really is completely off his rocker). “Tree of Life” demands that you immediately plunge yourself into the directors mindset, questioning a divine entity’s fickleness in life as if though mere mortals had any right to challenge God’s plan.

      If the entire film had been exactly like the astral sequence (a series of loosely relelated images that had zero narrative continuity), then I could easily argue in favor of the art film premise. Having taken too much time thinking through what the real problem with the film is, I have concluded at this point that the confusion is in using any narrative imagery at all. In showing us whole scenes with the same people in it (Brad Pitt, Sean Penn), his captured footage hints that there is a continuity about what is happening onscreen: a passage of time. Unfortunatly, Malick wants to have it all and say that this is all timeless at the same time, but memories don’t work that way. This happens, and then that happens. I’m neither saying this isn’t a very personal film for Malick nor that the editing wasn’t deliberate, but I truly beleive he’s the only person capable of “getting it.”

      Finally, when I say “off his rocker,” here’s a possibility of something that took way too much time to consider; what if the entire point of the film is that Sean Penn offed himself before the movie ever started? The imagery, while beautiful, is hit-you-over-the-head obvious, and the film is edited to resemble one’s life flashing before their lives, as if to suggest we’ll one day hear that the director was found clutching a scrapbook in a hotel at some point, dead of an apparent overdose. If true, I do hope Terrance Malick has surrounded himself by people who love him (and care for his well being by watching him very closely) because “Tree of Life” might just be the most expensive suicide note in cinematic history (his life, not his career… okay, well, maybe both).


  36. …. and the comments continue on

    José Ramírez Moya

    José R on 02-16-2012 07:55 PM

    The film did have a point. Several. It’s one of those films that doesn’t feed you everything on a plate. Most scenes have a purpose, but you won’t be able to see it if your just waiting for “Oh no dialogue, oh no action, oh it’s slow.”

    The director is telling us something, but we have to dig deeper in order to understand it. Life, our creation, our world-

    I’m not lashing out at anyone, because that would be disrespectful. Everyone has an opinion, after all films are subjective. But the Tree of life is neither pointless or pretentious, it’s just not a traditional and fast-paced film like most are used to watching.

    Some will hate it, others will love it. Some will find it boring, others won’t.

    I for one loved it, because I did see not just one point- but many. It forced me to watch it twice and now I ordered it on bluray, hoping to watch it in HD for a third time. I was so captivated with the film, because I’m used to watching slow moving films that challenge my perception of life. Lets not forget the amazing score, acting, cinematography and editing.

    I understand why many will find it boring, but it’s not a FACT for everyone else.
    Mimi Spaz

    Mimi S on 02-17-2012 08:25 PM

    I agree with Kevin Ranson, this movie was so pretentious and long for no reason; isnâ??t the purpose of movies to tell a story and entertain; this movie did neither. In some senses it seems like the director ripped off national geographic with all the volcanic eruptions and Tim Burtonâ??s Sleepy Hollow with the mom elevating in the air and connecting with nature; but the birth scene really made my eyes roll, really using water as the imagery to illustrate birth, how original. Cinematography is supposed to enhance the story and lure the viewer in, but this was too much, I would have much rather watched planet earth!
    Shane Clendenning

    Shane C on 02-18-2012 02:44 PM

    Tried my best to watch it, fell asleep the first time then tried again and decided to get a second opinion on it by looking up this site. Thanks you have saved approximately one hour of my life which I can replace by watching an episode of the sopranos.
    Seb M.

    Seb M. on 02-18-2012 06:43 PM

    God, most of you people are idiots, complete idiots. This isn’t a brad Pitt, Sean Penn, summer blockbuster. This is a Terrence malick picture. And by the look of most of the comments, I bet none of you know who Terry is. I don’t want to sound condescending but I have had it with ignorant people pulling this movies great name through the mud. If it’s not for you, fine. But don’t say it was boring and have no sufficient evidence to back it up. and for the people who tried to like it but struggled to find it’s reason for being, don’t over think it. You have to let the experience wash over you. Trust me, repeat viewings of this film with that sought of mindset makes the film get better and better each time
    Seb M.

    Seb M. on 02-18-2012 06:50 PM

    Mr. Ransom last year gave fast five, cars 2, fright night and puss in boots all 4/4. He also gave green lantern 3/4. Need we say more?!
    Gerardo Florez

    Gerardo F on 02-19-2012 06:16 PM

    Very useful movie to runthe chores at home
    Susan Willardson

    Susan W on 02-21-2012 11:17 AM

    I want my 139 minutes back.
    Cam Fidock

    Cam F on 02-25-2012 05:09 PM

    I am currently trying to watch the film as I type. I had to go onto the web just to see if if anyone had any idea what the point of this film was.
    I love films of almost any genre but what the heck was with the random dinosaurs? I felt like I had got a Bali DVD by which they had recorded the wrong movie in the middle so that it included very loud and horrible opera singing and shots of random universe bits.
    I am so glad to read that others fast forwarded as well. It is like the directer had wanted to make the film Baraka (which is a beautiful film) but forgot that it already exists.
    Thank you for your honest comments, I will turn it off now and go and read a book.
    Sheri Gray

    Sheri G on 02-25-2012 06:31 PM

    What the hell is this movie about?
    Eileen Bennett

    Eileen B on 02-26-2012 03:51 PM

    Totally agreed
    Marlene Lawson

    Marlene L on 02-27-2012 04:25 AM

    I agree. wasted 40 min of my life before changing the channel.. when the dinosaurs showed up, that did it for me!


  37. This mega budget film with big budget actors and a great special effects team, has been a very pretentious movie; the kinds which aim to say a lot without having much to say at all.
    It’s unfair that they garner so much of media attention, much to the detriment of other eminently viewable movies.And yes, why a sci fi or horror movie never makes it to best picture is beyond me as they can be as visually appealing and with great story lines.
    I can’t say I wouldn’t have watched the movie till the end, as I would any movie no matter how banal, but that it warrants highest echelons of praise just for having a coterie of famous figures doesn’t sound justified.


  38. I now know what hell is: Spending eternity enduring a perpetual loop of this mindless, pretentious, precious, self-indulgent, steaming pile of cinematic dung. Repent ye, all ye sinners, lest ye suffer such this fate!


  39. The “Tree of Life” is spectacular in vision, in sound, in acting, in pacing, in tension, in framing, in literally everything it attempts to do. How a person could be so tone-deaf on so many facets and still attempt film criticism is beyond me. Personally, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, and I’m OK with that, but I wouldn’t hang out a shingle as a singing coach, either.

    I’ve little doubt that the reviewer hated 2001, waiting for something to happen, *anything*, missing the stark fullness in the minutiae, praying for an asteroid to shake things up a little.

    And Koyaanisqatsi, another boring stunner, vastly bigger than its parts.

    Some people learn it’s better to be thought dumb than to open their mouth and remove all doubt.

    And some don’t.


    • I love your distancing language. Phases like “How a person could be so tone-deaf on so many facets and still attempt film criticism is beyond me,” and, “Some people learn it’s better to be thought dumb than to open their mouth and remove all doubt.” It’s as if someone wanted to be thought of as attacking a critic for their opinion but still sound superior not openly saying so. Fortunately, I am therefore fully able to assume that “you” don’t mean “me.” Thanks for reading!


      • Is your ego so large that you are entirely incapable of realizing you’re not the audience?

        I will step through this slowly, so as to not confuse you on the stark difference between circumspection and not being the center of the universe.

        I’m talking TO your readers.

        I’m talking ABOUT you.

        Life is hard. Wear a helmet.


  40. I saw 2001 a space odyssey, I loved 2001 a space odyssey, this film is no 2001. To be honest I can understand why it took so long to put this film together, gathering all the admittedly beautiful visuals. But beautiful visuals does not guarantee a great film. I had a hard time understanding a lot of the whispering dialog and I didn’t even realize till the end credits that Sean Penn was playing the elder Jack. I agree 100% with this review.


  41. I got 20 minutes into this crap, for the 2nd time, before i changed channels. What is this crap? A total waste of 20 minutes, twice.


  42. The quint essence of the part of this work I could enjoy is easily put into words. It ended. It had an actual ending, where the movie stopped. I am so grateful for that months after seeing it.


  43. Good news, everyone! Both audiences and critics alike seem to be wising up.

    At the Venice Film Festival premiere of “To the Wonder” — Terrence’s Malick’s second film to debut in the last 16 months, but only sixth since 1973 — audience members reportedly booed the romantic drama, much to the consternation of some critics in attendance.


  44. Thank you, grimdreaper.

    I’d read this review BEFORE attempting to find a flick for this week-end and flirted with, ‘Tree of Life’ for a nano second then came to your review. Phew!

    Crisis avoided. You saved me form the wife shaking her head in disgust at me, maybe resulting in my sleeping on the couch if taking in, Tree of Life’.

    For that, Sensei you are 1 of my go-to reviewer’s for future Yay’s and Nay’s, respectively.


  45. Horrible, horrible movie. Can’t imagine why Brad Pitt would choose to produce AND act in it. Maybe Mallick didn’t let anyone see the shots before it screened in Cannes, a bit like Christopher Walken’s “masterpiece” in America’s Sweethearts.

    I have a theory about why there seem to be so many ardent supporters crying over the beauty of the imagery and the “depth” of the message (?), while I am left cold and uninspired. I am not a Christian. I already have faith in the afterlife (or at least I know where I’m going after I cop it), and I don’t need 135 minutes of pretentious, meandering, muddle-headed, cosmic soul-searching, hand-wringing self-indulgence to give me hope.


  46. What a shame that blogsites like this are spoilt by flamers who cannot help but personally attack an author for his views. Just accept that not everyone has to agree and not take offence because someone doesn’t support your viewpoint. To do so is the epitome of intolerance, as well as being tedious for otther readers.


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