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Welcome to Marwen is a 2018 American drama film directed by Robert Zemeckis, who co-wrote the script with Caroline Thompson. It is inspired by Jeff Malmberg's 2010 documentary Marwencol. The film stars Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Diane Kruger, Merritt Wever, Janelle Monáe, Eiza González, Gwendoline Christie, Leslie Zemeckis, Siobhan Williams and Neil Jackson, and follows the true story of Mark Hogancamp, a man struggling with PTSD who, after having his memory erased from being physically assaulted by white supremacists, creates a fictional village to ease his trauma.
The film was released in the United States by Universal Pictures on December 21, 2018, and received generally negative reviews from critics, who criticized the tone and screenplay, although the visuals and Carell's performance received some praise. The film was also a box office bomb, with projected losses for the studio running as much as $60 million.
PlotA World War II warplane piloted by a doll-like figure is hit by enemy fire and forced to ditch. The pilot's shoes are burned in the forced landing and he finds women's shoes, which he wears instead. The pilot is confronted by doll-like German soldiers, who taunt him for wearing women's shoes. The Germans threaten to emasculate him, but are killed by a group of doll-like women who come to the pilot's rescue.
As told in flashback, it’s revealed that the doll-like figures are actually modified Barbie dolls photographed by Mark Hogancamp, who has created a model village named Marwen (later renamed Marwencol) to help him deal with his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and memory loss from an attack some time earlier by five men after he unwisely told them about his fetish for wearing women's shoes. Mark fantasizes that the dolls are alive and act out in scenes which he photographs. The dolls correspond to people that he knows in real life: himself as "Cap'n Hogie", the pilot; female friends as his protectors; and his attackers as Nazi soldiers. A green-haired doll named Deja Thoris is a witch who prevents Cap'n Hogie from becoming too close to any woman, sending the women far into the future. Deja Thoris herself represents the pills which Mark takes to relieve his pain, to which he has become addicted.
Mark has a court date to make a victim impact statement at the sentencing of the men who attacked him. After being initially reluctant to appear in court and confront his attackers, he comes to the hearing but flees when he imagines the defendants becoming Nazi soldiers and shooting at him. The judge reschedules the sentencing hearing for the same day that Mark's photographs will be shown to the public at an art gallery.
Mark falls in love with a woman named Nicol who moves into the house across the road, and buys a doll named Nicol to represent her. The doll Nicol is in love with Cap'n Hogie and they get married. In real life, Mark proposes marriage to Nicol, who tells him that she just wants to be his friend and Mark takes this rejection very hard while contemplating suicide. Mark imagines Nicol being shot by a Nazi, who in turn is killed by Cap'n Hogie and brought back to life, along with other Nazi soldiers, by Deja Thoris. Cap'n Hogie realizes that Deja Thoris is a Nazi spy, and Mark realizes that the pills that he thought were helping him were actually hurting him. Mark pours the pills down the sink and vows to break his addiction to them.
Mark goes to the rescheduled sentencing hearing and delivers an inspiring impact statement. That evening, Mark attends the exhibition of his photographs and makes a date with his friend Roberta, who is a sales clerk at the hobby store where he is a frequent customer. The film ends with a photograph of the real Mark Hogancamp, who has a successful career as a photographer.
- Steve Carell as Mark Hogancamp an aspiring artist who was beaten up by five men and creates a miniature village called Marwencol.
- Steve Carell also portrays Cap'n Hogie, a pilot and Hogancamp's counterpart in Marwencol.
- Leslie Mann as Nicol, Mark's neighbor.
- Diane Kruger as Deja Thoris, the Belgian Witch of the fictional Marwen who is a Nazi spy.
- Merritt Wever as Roberta, a kind friend of Mark who works at the hobby shop where he buys the models and toy figurines he uses to build Marwen.
- Janelle Monáe as Julie, a social worker who becomes a friend Mark makes while in rehab.
- Eiza González as Caralala, Mark's friend at the bar where he helps out a few times a week.
- Gwendoline Christie as Anna, Mark's Russian caretaker.
- Leslie Zemeckis as Suzette, Mark's favorite actress.
- Neil Jackson as Kurt, Nicol's rough and poorly mannered ex-boyfriend.
- Neil Jackson also portrays Major Meyer
- Falk Hentschel as Hauptsturmführer Ludwig Topf, Deja Thoris's henchman.
- Falk Hentschel also portrays Louis
- Matt O'Leary as Lt. Benz
- Matt O'Leary also portrays Carl
- Nikolai Witschl as Rudolph
- Nikolai Witschl also portrays Rudy
- Patrick Roccas as Stefan
- Patrick Roccas also portrays Stevie
- Alexander Lowe as Werner
- Alexander Lowe also portrays Vern
- Eric Keenleyside as Larry
- Eric Keenleyside also portrays a Friar
- Stefanie von Pfetten as Wendy
- Siobhan Williams as Elsa
- Conrad Coates as Demaryius Johnson
- Veena Sood as Judge Martha J. Harter
ProductionOn April 28, 2017, it was announced that Robert Zemeckis would next direct an untitled fantasy drama film that would star Steve Carell. On May 19, 2017, it was announced that Leslie Mann and Janelle Monáe had joined the cast. On May 23, 2017, Eiza González joined the cast. In June 2017, it was reported that Diane Kruger had joined the cast to portray the villain  while Gwendoline Christie also joined the cast. In July 2017, Merritt Wever and Neil Jackson joined the cast of the film. On August 6, 2017, the studio hired a German actor Falk Hentschel to play the role of a villain, as Hauptsturmführer Ludwig Topf, a Nazi captain to a squad of SS Storm Troopers who terrify the people of Belgium. On August 21, 2017, the director's wife, Leslie Zemeckis, was cast in the film for an unspecified role; she plays an actress in a pornographic film that Hogancamp watches.
Principal photography on the film began in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on August 14, 2017. The filming was completed around October 19, 2017.
In June 2018, the film was officially titled Welcome to Marwen.
MusicThe film's official soundtrack was scored and composed by Alan Silvestri.
ReleaseThe film was released in the United States by Universal Pictures on December 21, 2018.
MarketingThe first trailer was released on June 20, 2018.
The studio spent $60 million on promotion and advertisements for the film. The original plan was to spend $120 million on promoting, but after early test screenings went poorly, the costs were cut.
Box officeIn the United States and Canada, Welcome to Marwen was released alongside Aquaman, Second Act and Bumblebee, and was projected to gross $7–9 million from 1,900 theaters over its five-day opening weekend. After making just $909,000 on its first day (including $190,000 from Thursday night previews), three-day weekend estimates were lowered to $3 million. It went on to debut to $2.4 million, finishing ninth and marking the worst opening of Zemeckis' career. It then made $490,000 on Monday and $1.3 million on Christmas Day for an "awful" five-day total gross of $4.1 million. Following its low opening, insiders estimated the film would lose Universal $50–60 million, the second straight week the studio released a film that was a box-office bomb following Mortal Engines. The film made $2.2 million in its second weekend, dropping 5%.
Critical responseOn review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 27% based on 105 reviews, with an average rating of 4.8/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Welcome to Marwen has dazzling effects and a sadly compelling story, but the movie's disjointed feel and clumsy screenplay make this invitation easy to decline." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 40 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it a 57% overall positive score and a 37% "definite recommend".
Writing for IndieWire, David Ehrlich gave the film a "C" and wrote, "In trying to celebrate the healing powers of art, Zemeckis has created a sometimes fun, often morbidly compelling, and always ill-advised testament to the ways in which those healing powers can create problems of their own." Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 1.5 out of 4 stars and said, "The way Zemeckis shapes these stop-motion animation scenes, they're meant to be exciting, funny, scary, a little of everything. But they whack the movie completely off-kilter. We lose the strange, quiet intimacy of Hogancamp's careful manipulation of this world. The real-life scenes don’t feel like Hogancamp's real life; they feel like a Hollywood falsification of it, despite Carell's and Mann's valiant efforts."
Contrarily, Richard Roeper of The Chicago Sun-Times praised the film, giving it 3.5/4 stars and saying, "Leave it to the innovative and greatly skilled veteran director Robert Zemeckis to deliver a beautiful and endearingly eccentric movie based on the life and the imagination of Mark Hogancamp. And leave it to the chameleon everyman Steve Carell to deliver a subtle, layered, empathetic and memorable portrayal of Mark — both the man and the doll."
Production companies: Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Perfect World Pictures, ImageMovers Productions Distributor: Universal
|Welcome to Marwen|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Zemeckis|
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Cinematography||C. Kim Miles|
|Edited by||Jeremiah O'Driscoll|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$9.7 million|
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