My feelings for Ink are similar to John and Jeff's; I figure I'd start there so that you could choose to stop reading if you wanted to, Ben ;-)
I can understand liking some of the ideas behind Ink, but the execution is very poor. I see that Jamin Winans directed, wrote, produced, edited, and wrote the score for Ink. Out of all of that, his best work was done on the score. And in keeping with that idea, this movie gave me the impression that he'd probably be better off directing music videos or something. He has some interesting visual ideas, but his writing and direction for Ink doesn't work. Like Jeff, I'm curious what is it about the movie that makes it one of your favorites from 2009, Ben. And like Jeff, I mean that in a sincere way...which I hope goes without saying.
I'm not exactly sure what the movie wants from me. Does it want me to take it seriously, or should I be amused by most it in an awesomely bad kind of way? I realize it's a fantasy film and certain disbelief needs to be suspended, but I'm not even talking about the story...I'm mainly referring to the corny dialogue and acting. Any scene that had potential was often ruined. For example, at the beginning of the film, John and his daughter share a fairly nice moment where she's pretending to be carried off by a monster, and eventually John rushes to her rescue. As he does, though, he shouts the word "asshole" at his invisible adversary. His daughter then uses the word, "bastard." I get the sense that Winans is amused by a father swearing in front of his daughter. To me, it seems a little ridiculous and immature to add those words to a scene like that. And I like to swear in front of kids as much as the next asshole.
I looked at some of the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, one of which being from our very own Jason Poole. Anyway, one reviewer not named Jason wrote that the pacing of the film was deliberately slow/meticulous and was well-done. I didn't find this to be the case at all; given the script, time is not on Winans' side. There's a lot of wasted time in the movie, and it would have been better off with a running time of 80-90 minutes. As tweeted by John, there was too much exposition. And the viewer was often shown the same bit of exposition just dressed up slightly different each time.
For me, it just seemed as if Winan's didn't make the right choices with his story because when he does move through it at a quicker pace, any sort of character development feels rushed. Ink is hell-bent on offering Emma as a sacrifice, but within five minutes he starts to feel sympathy for Liev and Emma because Liev doesn't attempt to fight back?? I don't get it. The only explanation that I can think of is that since Ink is really John, there was always a good part of him and so it makes sense that this change of heart would move fairly quickly. I guess I just take issue with the specific reasoning for the change of heart.
The alternate timeline idea for the twist ending is interesting, but I'm not sure that I follow exactly. In an alternate reality, John is so grief stricken by Emma's comma that he shoots himself. Then he turns into Ink and enters another timeline in which Emma isn't in a comma, and he snatches her from her bed? That or Emma was taken while she was actually in the comma?
The rivalry between the Incubi and the storytellers is underdeveloped, but the movie is trying to juggle that along with John's backstory, so I guess it's understandable for a lot of details to get lost in the shuffle.
Anyway, Winans fails because he hasn't learned that when you're dealing with inexperienced actors and actresses, as a director you need to play to those actor's strengths. Cliched storylines and dialogue aren't the way to go. The guy who played the pathfinder was completely ridiculous...as was the guy Ink fights in the warehouse. I forget what his purpose was, but he was guy who claimed that everything was his. That guy was definitely hamming it up.
I think Jerzy's Power Rangers comparison is accurate; the woman in the wedding dress who wants Liev's hair seemed to come straight from that show with those over dramatics.
To be fair (kind of), I did watch Anatomy of a Murder and His Girl Friday (two great films) before watching Ink, so really, this film was fighting an uphill battle from the beginning.
Forgive me, Ben. I hope we can still be friends. I really didn't want to lay into the film as much as I did, but when I think about the overall experience of the film, I came away with nothing.