A wild-card vision came to me late last night, just before nodding off. The only way Terrence Malick can save The Tree of Life from embarrassment and possible ruin is to deep-six the dinosaur sequence. How do I know that embarrassment and possible ruin are likely or even possible scenarios for this much-dithered-over film, which may or may not be released in 2010? I don't. I haven't the first clue about how Malick's dinos integrate with the whole. Nada, nothing. It may turn out that The Tree of Life will be seen as a work of genius because of the dinosaur sequence.
But I've always suspected on some deep, murky, primordial level that mixing a time-flipping personal drama (i.e., Sean Penn's screwed-up older guy looking back at his dysfunctional family travails with Brad Pitt as his dad) with some kind of dinosaur sequence was a nutball idea that just couldn't work. And I'm just thinking that if -- if, I say -- Malick is having dinosaur difficulties, that perhaps he needs to man up and cut bait and just drop the whole thing, and make The Tree of Life into a straight personal/psychological weight-of-the-world drama, and let it go at that.
In other words, Malick may need to follow in the footsteps of James L. Brooks when he decided that I'll Do Anything, which he filmed as a musical, didn't work in that mode and that he needed to remove all the songs. What a painful decision that must have been, and what a shame that the musical version never saw the light of day.
I got started on this jag when I completely cracked up after reading the following section from Scott Feinberg's assessment of The Tree Of Life: "The story, from what little we know about it, is set in the 1950s Midwest and focuses on a character during both his happy childhood and his troubled adulthood; the sad events and experiences that brought about the change; and his quest to regain meaning in his life. Somehow or other, dinosaurs come into play, according to a visual effects artist who worked on the film and apparently didn't get the gag-order memo from Malick."
"Somehow or other"....exactly!