“Ink” is a frustrating movie. It is generally idiotic but has brief moments of genius, totally half-baked but kind of fascinating, a cheap knockoff of other films but also surprisingly filled with ingenuity. Unfortunately, the story disjointedly flows from one needless plot convolution to the next and it becomes increasingly difficult to care about any of it.
The film, which had its world premiere Friday night at the festival, tells the story of a young girl whose soul is kidnapped by an incubus-in-training and whisked away to an alternate dimension. A group of supernatural heroes try and save her while her father deals with a billion-dollar business deal.
Not much in this movie is clear. I’m all for being thrown into a fantasy world without tedious exposition, but the world of “Ink” just never coalesces into something that makes sense. A film like David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” is genius. Though it never explains what the characters are doing, there is a sort of unifying logic to their actions. “El Topo” is even better, because it feels like watching a movie that escaped from some alternate dimension. Unfortunately, there is no such structure to “Ink.”
Our protagonist’s actions remain totally unmotivated throughout the film. There is a mildly amusing blind man (a “pathfinder,” whatever that means), an angry warrior girl with black hair, a soft-spoken “storyteller” (read: exposition machine) with blond hair and a black man who is given no dialogue. There is also a weird “Wizard of Oz” motif to this set of characters, but the film never commits to it.
Basic story elements remain unclear throughout the film. Are we seeing a dream world or the afterlife? Why are the villains called incubi when they don’t do any of the things that incubi do? Why does a woman doing a bad Bette Davis impression cut off one character’s hair?
There is some sort of code that the incubus-in-training needs to get. Why? I don’t know, but I think it had something to do with a broken drum he carries around. And, given the twist at the end, what is the ultimate fate of said incubus-in-training? And then there is the fact that the film sort of feels like it’s intended for young children, but there is also a completely gratuitous flurry of F-bombs.
The film uses dream logic when it works as a plot device, but otherwise seems content to stay slavishly attached to standard formula. And though it never explains anything about the dream world heroes, it seems to have all the time in the world to explain that the young girl’s father is driven to success at any cost because he was once humiliated by using food stamps as a child.
Here and there, the audience is a treated to a shot or visual effect that really stands out, and that makes it painful. It’s easy to brush off something like “Southland Tales,” because that film was never going to be good, no matter what. But hidden somewhere deep inside, I’m sure there’s a great movie in “Ink,” or at least something a whole lot better than what I just watched.