Sunday, January 8, 2012

War Horse: A Review

Bob and I went to see War Horse tonight. 

The <7 word summary
Too much war. Not enough horse.

A review for horse people
Those hoping for horsie realism will be disappointed. 
  • The movie started with the birth of Joey the War Horse. I laughed out loud at the many-weeks old foal that they tried to pass as a newborn. Bob even exclaimed, "they squirted a 2-month-old with water."
  • Joey's early training started out fairly promising, with the boy Albert averting his gaze from the horse as he offered him a bucket of grain. The equiscenti know that horses, being prey animals,  don't like to be stared at. This horse training realism falls apart in the subsequent scenes, where Albert taught Joey to ground tie by explaining verbally, in English, what he wanted. That happens a lot in this movie.
  • Also, Joey learned to accept a harness because Albert put it on first. Hmpf. Horses don't learn through observation, studies have shown that.
Oh, I could go on, but most of the fake horse behavior does advance the plot and establishes Joey as a heroic, altruistic character.  The real problem with the movie?

Too much war. Not enough horse. Very, Very Formulaic. I could predict several scenes ahead what was going to happen. And the war scenes were looooong.

One interesting thing was how many scenes were reminiscent of Gone with the Wind. Did anyone else feel that way?

Both as an equestrian and as a movie-goer, my advice is to give this a pass. Let's wait for the next movie, WARmblod Horse!


  1. You are the only horse person I've heard of not liking the movie, and I agree with you!

    I read the book first, and thought it was shoved full of predictable scenes and overly sentimental stuff to tug at our heart strings. Actually thought the movie was much better than the book, which tells you something about the book!

  2. I completely agree. The training was completely laughable and many times I looked to my horse friend there with me with a quizzical look on my face. It was almost embarrassing as a horse owner. Far too much war, and while Joey was a sweet character it was entirely Hollywood with no horse research involved.

  3. Summed up the movie perfectly. A lot too "disney" feeling for me!

  4. Agreed. I was very excited about it, as I loved the book. The was movie, was, well... sappy. Not happy I spent $8 on a movie ticket (a matinee, too!)

  5. My non-horsey husband went with me to War Horse on Christmas day and even he sarcastically commented on the training methods in the movie, "See honey, look how easy that is. I don't know why it takes you so long to train your horse!"

  6. NOOOOO!!! I haven't seen this movie yet but this makes me sad. The play got such good reviews!

    I find anything involving horses and the movies to be predictably inaccurate. Sometimes movies get something right...but not many times. Vikings ride clydesdales, Zorro rides a friesian (but calls it an andalusian), and every other hero needs a "white" horse. Even "horse movies" are really for laypeople.

    Rant over. Lol.

  7. Uh oh, rather harsh, but then again, a true horseman's assessment. I'm still going to see it, but I too probably will "deppreciate" the fake horse stuff. I'm the kind that notices things like that.

    I have a feeling the battle scenes are what "sells" the film to the non-horsey public. Action flick and all that. Too much real horse stuff can be pretty dull to the uninformed. Did you ever watch a non-horseperson's eyes glaze over when you began talking just a little too much about your horse? *lol*

  8. We're holding out for the DVD; although I'm sure it's much more exciting on the big screen. I'm not too keen on the war part myself.

    As long as it doesn't get too ridiculous, I can handle a bit of fudging on Hollywood's part. Had to laugh at the beginning of Black Beauty when "he" was born. Great male narrator for Beauty and all, but the foal they used was definitely a girl (got a little too up close and personal with the camera in some of the shots.

    I agree though. Sometimes it's rough to be "in the know", you know? ;o)

  9. haha!! I went to see it with another horsey friend & we couldn't help exclaiming, "you mean all we have to do is TELL them what we want? what have we been thinking?!" lol! (in a hushed voice, of course, we weren't actively trying to be rude! haha!)


  10. I saw it last night too, and I'm going to have to disagree with you on the "too much war" statement.

    Spielberg's objective was not to create a movie about a horse, but to use the horse as a vehicle to tell the story of WWI and the universal suffering it brought--to human and animal, Allies and Central powers. In that sense, I believe it was an innovative and compelling way to approach the topic.

    I agree that a lot of the horse scenes were less than realistic, but they were still cute. Joey's behavior as a young untrained colt however was entirely realistic -- my three-year-old was pulling those tricks on me just this morning :)

  11. I went and watched the movie, and I really enjoyed it. Once I got past the lack of horsemanship and fake horsey behavior (which is a norm in just about any horse movie now-a-days), I really really enjoyed it.

    I did not feel that it was "too much war". At all. WWI was a nasty, grueling ordeal. I thought the movie did an excellent job of portraying the difficulties and sacrifices the European countryside had to endure. Also, the steep military learning curve that the British army had to undergo. Cavalry charges were a thing of the past, trench warfare was prevailing, and the horse was becoming less and less of a necessity for the army.

    No, not a 100% accurate movie as far as horse realism goes. But, a VERY good movie nonetheless :)

  12. I loved the book, but it's exciting when any horsey movie is in theaters. This one, felt like I could've waited for DVD. Straying from the book and details aside, I was surprised it didn't sweep me up with emotion or didn't seem to have as much of the Spielberg magic as anticipated.

  13. We went to see it last night too. I went expecting to need kleenex, but really the only part that got me teary-eyed was the scene where the horse remembered the whistle. When I rescued a filly I had raised and sold years earlier from a bad situation, she came at my call just like that. Horses remember, both the good and the bad.

    I spend most of the movie wishing our American thoroughbreds had as much bone and solid structure as the horse playing Joey!

  14. ShadowRider, I have (good) news for you: the horse who largely played Joey IS an American TB!!! Here's a quote from another website:

    "When I first learned who was playing the part of Joey, a Thoroughbred named Finders Key, I wanted to know more about the horse. Finders Key is a great example of a now-13-year-old Thoroughbred who was simply in the wrong role when he was a racehorse. He started only four times, all in $2,500 maiden-claiming races at Los Alamitos Race Course, in Los Angeles, and never placed. He now has a few movie credits to his name, and certainly his performance in War Horse should guarantee him a great career going forward."

    There is plenty more about Finder if you Google his name. But yes, I also wish more of our TBs had his structure. He is beautiful and oh-so-smart, of course!

    P.S. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, despite crying a lot and having to suspend disbelief over the unrealistic horsey action (the barbed wire, for heaven's sake). I am almost done writing a post on my own blog about it.)

  15. Although I agree that the training methods shown are not exactly realistic I can't help but disagree with the not enough horse in the movie statement. Steven Spielberg has clearly stated that this is not a movie solely about a horse. The movie was only shown through the movement of Joey from place to place. This allowed us to see all sides of the war from many different people's views. The war scenes were realistic and well done and gave a very good understanding of what these people had to suffer through in order to protect their countries

  16. Hi Kathryn and others who liked the movie -- I have quirky taste in movies, and I also didn't like Titanic (hated it, in fact). I didn't care for it myself but can certainly understand why others would like it. I'm not big on war movies and that portion just seemed to go on and on -- for me.

    After the movie Bob and I had an interesting conversation. Bob mentioned he has never seen GONE WITH THE WIND which is inconceivable to me. He can't believe I have never seen STAR WARS.

    Maybe I was comparing War Horse with GWTW -- both are epic type movies, and similar in some ways.

  17. I personally liked the movie, but I agree it had many unrealistic things. As far as too much war... The movie is called WAR horse... That's the point of the movie is the war. But everyone has their own opinions. :)

  18. I saw the play in July at the Lincoln Center Theater and watched the movie the week after Christmas.

    I tried not to compare the two, but my attempts to do this were in vain. Of course the puppets were amazing and like nothing I had ever seen before, but even if I excuse them from my comparison, the story in the play was much better than the adapted version in Spielberg's movie. He eliminated my favorite story sequence which involved Emily, her mother (no grandpa), and a German soldier, as well as Topthorn and Joey. There was also conversation between characters who did not speak the same language in the play, but were both speaking English for the audience's sake, so they had to pretend to struggle to communicate. I found this to be a very clever, amusing aspect of the play which could have been reproduced with greater realism in the movie by using subtitles (!!!). My husband and I also felt that the officers were villainized in the movie (on both sides) and then there were the extraneous characters...

    It is tough to make a horse movie that entertains the masses and the horse folks. The Black Stallion is still number one in my book!


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