Mini-Movie Review: Se7en (Seven)

Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as detectives stare out at the viewer.
Image Source: https://theamericanmag.com/se7ven/

So, I watched this movie before my preliminary exam, so this mini-movie review might a bit vague as I try to remember what I was feeling about the movie. Did I like it? This is a complicated question (for a complicated movie). This will be a shorter entry, but I’ll try to put my feelings about the movie into words (& hopefully those words make sense).

Seven Deadly Sins

So, as I’m sure I’m going to be told, the concept of a serial killer enacting the the Seven Deadly Sins was probably unique at the time, but I found it a bit trite. Now, again, I must remind readers that I am interested in Sci-Fi and Fantasy and had little interest and patience for movies outside of those two genres. However, with TV series like Law and Order, NCIS, and a myriad of television shows on stations like Crime TV have probably blunted the shock value that the movie might have had on me.

Good Characters, But They Don’t Always Do Smart Things

Without getting into spoilers, the resolution of the movie is set up because the characters, while smart and determined, don’t always do the smartest things. I guessed the ending (partially) about 20 minutes before it happened. While I wasn’t able to guess one of the character’s reactions, I did guess the lead-up to his final choice in the movie. The characters, however, are more realistic in that they have real desires and goals outside of the main plot. This, I’m finding, is crucial to helping characters seem real. They need to have goals and interests that have nothing to do with the main plot–and these characters do have them. What I didn’t like, especially with Brad Pitt’s performance, was the “twitchiness” of his character. Much like his character in 12 Monkeys, Pitt jerks and twitches quite frequently (but not as much as the 12 Monkeys character), and I (personally) found it distracting.

Nihilistic Storytelling

It also has a nihilism that I find quite annoying. Sometimes the world seems to mirror the emotions/actions going on in the story. Rain seems to come down at times to help aid the depressing air of the story. While not Grimdark, but it still isn’t a “pleasant” movie to watch. There is a grit and grunge to the world that accentuates the gruesome atrocities of the serial killer.

Overall Rating: B-

While I recognize the significance of the film in terms of cinematic quality, I found it a bit tedious (and as I said above, a bit trite). Looking at it with 2019 eyes, it seemed to be trying to make a statement that has been made over and over: life sucks and people can be cruel and perpetuate that cruelty. No matter how critically acclaimed those films are in culture or cinematic history, it doesn’t make me like the film any more. I can appreciate it, but I think that, for me, films that are full of nihilism simply turn me off, no matter how well they are made or present their ideas.

Sidney


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12 Monkeys (Mini-Review) — Some spoilers

Bruce Willis with a bald head and a red light shining from one eye.
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Monkeys

So, I watched 12 Monkeys over the weekend (the movie, not the TV show–although I will take a look at it one of these days now that I’ve seen the movie). I will do a mini-review, but there will be some spoilers that I simply can’t avoid–you can’t talk about the movie without talking about it in terms of its ultimate narrative structure (which, once presented, is a “spoiler”). I will leave the major spoiler points to the end, so if you don’t want to be spoiled be sure not to read to the end of the post. Unfortunately, I can’t guard against a search engines picking up the words in the spoiler section, so you have been warned.

Party Like Its 1995

So, Twelve Monkeys is a movie that I’ve wanted to watch for a while. I’ve heard about it spoken in reverence in the sci-fi community as some sort of harbinger of where sci-fi was heading. And in some ways that was true–this is an older movie after all. However, this is one that never came to streaming and when it originally released, I remember it being just as DVD was hitting and the prices were fairly high.

Not What I Was Expecting

This movie wasn’t quite was I expecting. I was expecting a sci-fi neo-noir futuristic thriller/mystery about the finding of a plague. While there are elements of this in the movie, it isn’t the primary focus. This one has a “concept” (more below) that it adheres to and a narrative structure that was fairly unique (for the time). I have to say that, honestly, I was a little disappointed by it as there have been many, many imitators that I’ve seen over the years, and that has blunted my enjoyment of the movie, as well.

Spoiler Warning–The End

Okay, so this is your final warning, STOP READING NOW if you want to stay unspoiled on the movie.

—————————————————————————————————————

Okay, here goes: this is the movie that popularized a certain type of time travel story, “the bootstrap paradox” story. Okay, what is a bootstrap paradox–literally, it is a time travel story that is both self-fulfilling and has no antecedent. When we enter the story, the plague has already happened, and then we see the way the plague happens when we go back in time with the protagonists. However, the idea of the plague was brought back to the past and that’s how the it gets started (this is simplified). So the plague is started by going back into the past (don’t go back to the past, no plague–no antecedent) and as it plays out, it happens just as the protagonist “remembers” it (self-fulfilling). Why am I spoiling this movie to talk about the end? Because it set the stage for the multitude of “time travel” stories and “boot strap” stories that permeated the landscape for (at least) 10 years after this movie released. Now I understand why there were so many movies that featured this time travel arc. This movie is influential in the genre, that only “ended” with Bruce Willis in another time travel film, Looper. However, in between 12 Monkeys and Looper, there were a ton of time travel/psuedo time travel films released (you can find me talking about them in a post from a few years ago: https://sidneyblaylockjr.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/where-you-end-is-not-where-you-begin-time-travel-in-movies/

12 Monkeys is where all these movies got their ideas/start, so it is a “referential” movie in the field of science fiction (time travel films) and has influenced films for over a decade.

Overall Grade: C

I might have rated this higher had I seen it earlier. However, so many later movies that I watched “stole” (paid homage/or more kindly, thought they could do the idea even better) that much of the movie’s uniqueness had already been worn through. It also doesn’t help that I’d already read many of the concepts in Sci-Fi novels even before the movie originally released. Generally speaking, its Short-stories–>Novels/Graphic Novels–>Film in terms of progression for Sci-Fi ideas. Want to be on the cutting edge, read sci-fi mags and anthologies, want to see the idea propagated to a mass audience, wait for the film. This is one that, at its time, might have made more of an impression (as it did to the countless filmmakers of successive time travel stories, but now, if you seen any of the recent time stories of the last 10 years, Source Code, Deja Vu, etc., then you have a pretty good idea of where the story is headed.

Robin Hood (2018) Mini Review (No Spoilers)

Robin Hood and Azeem stare out into the distance as arrows fall around them on cloudy black night with orange fire at their backs.
Image Source: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/film/blame-game-of-thrones-for-the-useless-new-robin-hood-movie-1.3705686

I hate to do negative reviews for movies. Yes, yes, I know there are lot of people, both in print and in video (YouTube and where ever else) who love to savage a movie (I assume because it shows how “elite” they are in film and their eruditeness), but I’m not one of them. I recognize that a film is the result of a lot of hard work by individuals coming together to collaborate on a creative endeavor. Robin Hood (2018), was one of those movies, however, that simply did not come together based on the quality of the writing and choices made by the director.

The Scripting “Steals” All the Fun

So, it looks like Robin Hood (2018) was trying to go for an anachronistic tale in the vein of A Knight’s Tale, starring the late Heath Ledger. Now, for as fondly as that film is received currently, there are still a lot of problems with it that I will discuss in the next section. For this section, the quality of writing of the script simply was not there (for me) and really worked against the story. Yes, the second major area that I’m studying while working on my PhD is film, but I will say this: I’m still learning about film (probably will be for the rest of my life, but that’s okay). I don’t know every film nor do I have ALL of the historical movements down (yet–though I’ve bought a book that should help–more on this in a future post). However, even I could see quite a few reference points for the script. Telling your audience that this “isn’t the Robin Hood you know” still doesn’t alleviate the need for you as a writer to craft a believable tale. Credibility went out the window when there’s a “machine gun” like ballista/crossbow that pins down Locksley’s “squad” at the beginning of the movie (well, honestly it was gone with the anachronistic “draft notice” that Locksley was sent within the first 5 minutes of the movie, but that’s just piling on). This beginning part has shades of any recent war movie that’s come out in the last few years. One review referenced The Hurt Locker, while I saw shades of Black Hawk Down as well. Once Robin is back and becomes “The Hood,” I saw (way too many) parallels with The Mask of Zorro (especially in terms of story construction) down to the concept of a “mine.” One of the “carriage chase scenes,” even seemed shot like the motorcycle chase scene from Skyfall. I looked up the writer, while there are two listed in for the screenplay, I chose the one who was also listed for the “story” as that one is the one who has usually come up with the story and “pitched” it to Hollywood (usually through an agent, but possibly himself or through some 3rd party). However, I could find very little for this writer online, so I”ll be very dubious should I see his name listed on a future film.

Anachronism “Robs” the Movie’s Realism

So, in addition to the poor screenwriting of Robin Hood (2018), the choice to lean into it through anachronism pretty much sealed its fate. Anachronism rarely works well except in a comedic sense, such as Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Since that movie is a comedy, we know we’re supposed to laugh when we see an anachronistic element. The problem with anachronism (especially in Robin Hood 2018) is it ignores realism and tries to be “relevant” and “edgy” by telling a contemporary story in a contemporary way with contemporary elements mixed in with historical elements. I would argue that the only reason it worked in A Knight’s Tale is that the technique hadn’t been used in so long outside of comedy and it had a fairly likable protagonist in Heath Ledger. Also, it’s source material wasn’t as obvious as it pulled a bit from The Canterbury Tales and it did not (pay “homage”) to scenes/plots from other movies. However, as I recall, the original reviews weren’t always great. Even now, the Rotten Tomatoes score for it is 58% (79% for audience) and that’s with time coming to “mellow out” some of the film’s detractors. Robin Hood (2018)’s Rotten Tomato score is (as of this writing) if 15% (41% for the audience). Simply put–if you’re going to be anachronistic–it would probably be better just to create a “contemporary” version of the story, however contrived. At least, this way you’d get to tell the “contemporary” story you wanted without all the “historical” bits getting in the way.

Overall Score: F (59 or below)

This is the first movie on the blog that I’ve ever given this score. The only other movie I would have scored this low (for strictly artistic reasons–and not for political reasons) would have been Happy Feet. “Political reasons” just means my own personal ethos in life–there are films that I don’t agree with in message, content, and whatnot, but I’m cognizant to realize that my ethos works for me and not for everyone else, so even though I didn’t enjoy the movie, I’m mature enough to see the “qualities” of those movies.) Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with Robin Hood (2018). I was taken out of the story from the very beginning and even the set pieces seemed derivative. Again, I hate to throw this movie “under the bus” as it were, as many people worked on it and the actors do a fine job. However, the script was simply too derivative and the anachronisms too pervasive for me to enjoy and get invested in the movie’s world or story.

Sidney

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Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (Mini-Movie Review–No Spoilers)

Spider-Man (Miles Morales) Movie Poster with him swinging in his iconic black and red Spider costume across Brooklyn New York.
Image Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4633694/

Wow! Just wow! So I told a GTA collegue who works in the Writing Center on Friday that I was trying to expand my Film knowledge by watching films that were outside of my normal Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Superhero genres and that I was going to try to find a nice, innocuous Romantic Comedy (Rom-Com) to watch–I actually had one in mind–the one with Sandra Bullock & Ryan Reynolds (The Proposal–sorry, had to Google the name) which I’ve watched some, but not all before. However, I forgot that Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (Spiderverse) released this weekend on Netflix, so I watched that instead (sorry for the unintentional lie there!). This movie is SO good.

Maybe My New Favorite Spider-Man Movie?

So, it is liable to be a while before I get to see the latest Spider-Man movie (Spider-Man Far From Home), but so far, I have to say that I think Spiderverse is my new favorite Spider-Man movie. There was a level of spark, creativity, and pluckiness to the new movie that won me over quite a bit. I really liked the way that Miles Morales was portrayed in the movie as a character first and as a character of color secondly. The writers manage to capture the angst of not fitting in the school setting for me in a way that (mostly) eliminated the things that I dislike about the school setting (which are the cringe-worthy awkwardness that usually happens there–although there were two “cringy” scenes still). Like Spider-Man 2, Spiderverse is a reflection on how to be a hero in everyday life. Spider-Man stories are best when one gets a sense that no matter what life throws at our main hero, he’s going to find a way to rise just a little higher to meet the challenge, even if it looks like he’s broken and down for the count.

This Movie is a Love-Letter to Spider-Man Fans!

Seriously, if you have any interest at all in the Spider-Man mythos, lore, and Rogues Gallery of the character’s various incarnations over the years, then this movie is a definite treat! There are little nods and references to all things Spidey all over the place. I saw “toy” Spider-Man motorcycle in the movie (I had the “Spidey-copter” and I need to go back and see if that was referenced — it would blow my mind if it was) and that’s just the beginning. I won’t go into spoilers, but just know that other versions of Spidey’s iconic self and suits do make an appearance in the movie. They even reference some of the classic scenes from the previous Sony movies at the beginning to help set the scene (in a fun way that is almost a referential self-parody). This movie is, while not quite perfect, is still one of the best representations of the Spider-Man mythos that I’ve seen in (and I’ve seen a lot of them starting with Spider-Man from the Electric Company TV series from the 1970s all the way through present). If there has been a representation of Spidey in the past 40 years or so, then I’ve probably seen it (or heard about it) somewhere and this one is fantastic!

Overall Grade: A+

If I was giving it a score, it would easily earn a 97-98 as I feel that it hits pretty much that I want in a Spider-man movie while minimizing the usual crap-tacular school awkwardness that is inherent in the adolescence version of the character. There are a couple of “cringe-inducing” moments still (having to relate to the school — again, without spoiling it, Miles’ early interactions with Gwen, while funny, do still exhibit that cringyness that I don’t enjoy–but it was so brief and so well done that it really didn’t hamper the movie or my enjoyment of the overall movie significantly, which is the reason for such a high rating. If you have Netflix (or even if you don’t but like the character), I would HIGHLY recommend checking this one out. Spiderverse is something special!

Sidney

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Bumblebee Mini-Review

Movie Poster with BumbleBee and two lead characters beside the Golden Gate Bridge.

Over the Memorial Day Weekend, I saw the Transformers Prequel movie, Bumblebee, and thought I’d take a moment to write up my thoughts about it. I thought that it was a pretty fun movie, although I thought that it was a little small in its scope. I’ll try to keep this review spoiler free (although I might need to discuss certain elements to talk about in regards to other Transformers movies) so I can’t promise that this will be completely spoiler-free (I’ll try my best).

Not Sprawling, But Still Good

One of the things that I liked about the movie was that it was a more contained movie. While I liked the Transformers movies, the first one specifically, I found that the later movies were just a little too long and didn’t have the same narrative coherence as the earlier movies (especially the first one). In other words, the other movies had become bloated and a bit of a mess, while Bumblebee was much more of a conventional movie with a 3 Act structure. I think that this added in my enjoyment of the movie immensely as I felt that it allowed the characters to shine, especially in regards to their motivations–something that I think was lacking in other Transformers movies.

Not Quite Enough Action

So, if there’s one thing that I could fault the movie for, then it would be the fact that while there’s action in the movie, it doesn’t really have the level of action that I would like. While an action movie, some of the elements are very much cut down or minimized. The writers, while looking for characterization and humor, downplay the action of the piece and (for me) that really made it not as fun as it could have been.

For instance, the scene in which she is goaded into diving, but ultimate decides to not do it, while revealing character, is something that doesn’t really work for me–I think it could have been revealed in a different way.

Overall Grade: B-/C+

I liked the increased focus on characterization, but not at the expense of the action of the Transformers’ movies. While more intimate and character-focused, it also lost a lot of the grandeur of the original film. This is why I think I was always so resistant to focusing on character–too much on character and not enough on the plot can leave a movie (or story) that should feel “epic” as feeling underwhelming rather than truly epic.

Sidney

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Mini-Movie Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

MV5BOTY4NDcyZGQtYmVlNy00ODgwLTljYTMtYzQ2OTE3NDhjODMwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzYzODM3Mzg@._V1_

Okay, so this weekend I watched Tomb Raider, the 2018 version, and I actually found that I liked it much more than I thought I would based on the low Rotten Tomatoes score.  While it isn’t a perfect movie, there is more to like (for me at least) than I thought.

Lara Croft

Okay, so I kind of like Alicia Vikander’s performance of Lara Croft, almost more so than I do the one presented in the “rebooted” timeline.  I still think the “posh” Lara from the games such as: Tomb Raider II and Tomb Raider: Legend are the best versions of the character (the ones that Angelina Jolie based her performance of the character on in her set of movies).  However, I think this particular Lara Croft is closer to the original conception that the one portrayed in the “rebooted” games (that I’ve played so far).  Lara seems both competent and sympathetic at just the right moments.

The Script

Okay, so if Vikander’s performance is so good, why the low score on Rotten Tomatoes?  For me,  the script, or more to the point, the story.  In this story, we’ve seen variations on it many, many times.  Daughter loses father, daughter goes on quest to find father, father seems to have delusions of mysticism tempering his judgement, daughter ultimately finds her destiny after her quest to find her father.  I can think of this particular story “form” for half-a-dozen Hollywood movies.  Essentially, the 2nd “reboot” of Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-man (with Andrew Garfield) tells the same story–Peter loses his family, Peter discovers his powers, but also discovers that something nefarious happened to his parents.  At the end, Peter ultimately finds his destiny.  Again, this particular plot strand has happened multiple times in Hollywood movies.

Overall Verdict: 81 (B-)

By my grading scale 0-100, this would earn an 81.  A performance that I like, with (fairly) obvious CGI special effects, but those effects are at least clever and inventive, saddled with a plot sequence that we’ve seen multiple times, means that this is just barely above average in terms of quality, but not the best, nor most emotionally engaging fiction around.  However, for me, it was certainly better than the 51% it currently has on Rotten Tomatoes.  With a more inventive story (that doesn’t crib so much from Hollywood and that isn’t a simplified rehash of the “rebooted” game–which it also is to an extent–this one could have been great, rather than simply passable.

Sidney




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Annihilation Movie Review (No Spoilers)

Annihilation_(film)
Annihilation Movie Poster.  Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annihilation_(film)

Annihilation is a movie that I’ve wanted to see every since it was released–however, I could tell that, while Sci-Fi, it was not one that falls within my preferred genre of Action Sci-Fi, or Space Opera.  It is generally described as an “idea” Science Fiction movie, meaning that the ideas and concepts are what takes precedence.  In my experience, I find that while there is some character development and some light action, generally speaking, they tend to be on the slower side in terms of narrative flow.  Not complaining, just an observation–unless it is farce, I generally like all types of Sci-Fi.

Alex Garland

So, this movie was directed by Alex Garland, and he has a visually striking style.  The problem is, based on the movie’s narrative, I’m not sure yet whether I find his style to my liking.  I’ve tried several times to watch his other Sci-Fi movie, Ex Machina, but I only have managed to get through about half an hour so far (probably just going to have to watch it in half-hour “spurts”).  However, while I appreciate his style, it was hard going to try to get through the movie.  I knew that if I stopped at any point, I probably would not come back to it and it would be another recent Sci-Fi movie that I abandoned mid-stream (Inception and Looper), so I just plugged on through.  I don’t think Alex Garland’s narrative style works for me . . . his visual style is arresting and very distinctive, but I’m not sure that story-telling-wise, that I like the way the narrative connections come together.

Science Fiction of “Ideas”

Yes, Sci-Fi is a genre of ideas and is driven by great ideas.  The problem is that one should also really focus on characters and characterization and setting.  The problem that occurs is that while their are characters in peril and/or crisis, we are often held at a distance from these characters (especially in Annihilation) and it is hard to form a bond with the characters.  While I’m not the best with names in real life, I’m usually pretty good with character’s names, yet I’m struggling to remember the names of the major characters and I just saw the movie 3 or 4 days ago.  I remember them, what their actors looked like, what occupation/role they fulfilled, but I don’t remember them as characters and I think this is where the movie ultimately failed for me.  Even the ending has a twist (that I won’t spoil) that changes the way the characters might be perceived at the end, but because I didn’t really care about the characters, the ending didn’t work for me because I just didn’t care.  The story, as presented, focused too much on the visual effects and the mystery of the “Shimmer” and not enough on the characterization and why I should care.  Even the mystery of the Shimmer, while sufficiently explained during the course of the film, didn’t lead to a moment of Epiphany for the main character, but was rather presented as simply a random, if extraordinary event, that was ultimately rendered moot by the main character’s actions during the story.  As much as critics dislike The Cloverfield Paradox, I feel that ultimately, while Annihilation is a movie with better special effects and better overall logical storytelling plot points, I find that I enjoyed The Cloverfield Paradox more because I could understand and get behind the characters and their motives.  In Annihilation, there was simply too much distance between the viewers and the characters.y

Overrall Grade: C

For a .99 rental, it was at least worth seeing, but I’m glad that I did not pay full theatrical price to see it.  Too much focus on the visuals and the ideas behind the visuals and not enough on characterization really dampened my enjoyment of the movie.  It also shows some graphic content with the deaths of a couple characters (I guess the director wanted to show the the brutality of the world–but it came off, to me, as unnecessary and exploitative–violence for violence sake and it pulled me out of the narrative when those two scenes occurred.

Sidney




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Avengers Infinity War — Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

Avengers-Infinity-War-Trailer-1-44
Image Source: https://www.technobuffalo.com/2018/09/03/avengers-4-where-are-the-avengers/ (Possible Spoilers-tells where everyone ends up AFTER the movie, click at your own risk!)

Not Your Typical Marvel Movie

So, I’m just going to assume that most people who are interested in Marvel movies or comic book movies has already seen this movie, but just in case people haven’t, this is a Marvel movie like no other.  It has been setting up since the very first Avengers film.  It is essentially the entire Marvel universe (with exceptions) in multiple storylines fighting against the “big bad” of the movie, Thanos, to keep him from getting the Infinity Stones (various items that have been teased in Marvel movies like the Tesseract).  However, this movie doesn’t follow the typical Marvel formula because it has multiple heroes in multiple places trying to keep Thanos (or his agents) from getting the stones. While some times wildly inventive, these multiple storylines are also wildly disjointed and make the movie feel more disjointed than it probably should be.

People Keep Dying

For me, I’m just going to come right and say it (don’t worry–no spoilers), people just keep on dying in this movie.  Here’s the thing, deaths in movies are sometimes justified (such as the death that occurs in Star Wars.  Each death of each of the characters (both major and minor–I’m thinking of the Death Star scene and the “Trench Run” scene especially) either propel the movie forward or increase the tension and make us feel that the main character’s lives and mission are in serious peril.  In this movie, characters keep dying, but it doesn’t feel earned.  It feels like the filmmakers wanted to be shocking and provocative.  See, look who can kill, now just wait and watch who we kill next.  While guaranteed to keep you glued to your seats to see who’s dying next, it doesn’t really make for compelling drama, nor does it really engender repeat viewings (I’ve owned the movie for a week now and I’ve not rewatched it once–by this time with the other Avengers and the later Captain America movies (which are essentially Avengers 1.5/Avengers 2.5 movies), I would have rewatched them multiple times by now.

Avengers: Infinity War (part 2)

Next year, we will have the resolution to this story with part 2 of this movie.  I’m pretty sure the “solution” to the movie was sown by “seeds” planted in this movie (pay particular attention to the scene where Stark and Doctor Strange discuss possible outcomes after Strange looks into the future), but it is possible that this is a misdirect by the filmmakers.  Either way, I’m not sure how much “fun” I’m going to have with the second part based on the “bad taste” the first part left in my mouth.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a case of Empire Strikes Back, where the second entry is by necessity darker than the first, but rather one where I feel the filmmakers tried to use shock value to enhance the tension rather than going with heroic and meaningful deaths.  In closing, I also have to say I wasn’t a fan of Thanos’s motivation. Genocide, for any reason (and that includes population control) is still Genocide.  While he was “a bad dude,” there was a surprising amount of sympathy given to the character for this movie that 1) wasn’t earned, 2) other movies featuring him in scenes didn’t show/highlight and 3) wasn’t actually relevant to the character. Sure, you don’t want a scene chewing villain, but in my mind, Thanos lacks the cold, calculated terror of a Darth Vader, who while there is good inside of him, does some personally horrific things to get his motives accomplished.  Thanos is from the newer, Kylo Ren school of villainy, where he has to whine, emote, and act like a petulant child before he can enact his twisted schemes because, by golly, we (the audience) gotta’ feel sorry for the poor slob as he’s only trying to do the “right” thing by his way of thinking.  Oh, boo hoo.  Sorry, I (personally) don’t care for this particular type of villain and it throws me out of the movie every time I encounter one like that (Syndrome from the Incredibles has a similar effect on me).

Overall Score: B-/C+

Okay, so I’m being charitable with the B- as there are some very inventive and terrific fight scenes (as usual for the Russo Brothers).  However, some characters do some pretty dumb things (especially for Marvel movies) and I really didn’t care for the way Thanos was sometimes handled/depicted.  It is a spectacle, no doubt, and is pretty much required viewing to stay relevant with popular culture, but as a movie, it isn’t nearly as strong as several other Marvel movies.  I’m not sure where I’m going to place it on the list, but I can give you a preview here: it will not unseat my top 3 Marvel movies currently.  Not slagging on the movie per se, but it just didn’t connect with me. Too much emphasis on cheap, unearned deaths, not enough on true characterization and story pretty much sums up my reaction to it in one sentence.  This is the first Russo Brothers Marvel movie that has been a swing and miss with me.

Mini-Review: Supernova

supernova.jpg
Movie poster: Supernova. Image Source: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Supernova

Not Good, Not Terrible

So, I watched this movie a couple of weekends ago, and I wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I was going to be. Yes, I know that is damning with faint praise, but I found my time the in universe of Supernova to be more mindless than mind-numbing. The problem with the movie is simple: too formulaic without real thought behind what makes the characters tick and what is happening in the universe. I recognize this because (I think) this is what do when I write and submit my first drafts. Pretty much everything we need to know is told to via dialogue (exposition) and there is a lot of telling rather than showing. The universe outside the ship barely exists and it only does so when the plot calls for it.

A Walk on the Not So Wild Side

So, what went wrong with this movie. This movie is all about concepts rather than story. For instance, in a twist on Alien and Aliens where people “hypersleep” in the underwear, in order to be titillating, Supernova, says no, in this world everyone sleeps in the nude. Now, they don’t show anything in the movie (at least not what I saw on streaming), but there’s no explanation or rhyme or reason as to why this is necessary (if there was a scene explaining this, it either never made it into the rewrites or was left on the cutting room floor). Way, way too much of the movie is like this: interesting concepts thrown out there and then poorly explained/explored, if explored at all.  It is as if there were three different sci-fi movies happening, but the creators said, “hey, Aliens was marketable, let’s take this jumble and run it through the Aliens template and see if our movie can be successful, too.” Sadly, it just didn’t work.

A Black Eye for Afrofuturism

So, one of the main characters in this story is an African American female. She is intelligent and determined. However, the story continually undermines her agency as it depends upon the main character to “save” her. There are situations in which she “saves” herself, but again, because we have formula, rather than form, there has to be a male hero (who happens to be white in the story, but any male of any race–including African American–would have been just as bad) to save her. As the male is cut from the formulaic “silent, brooding type,” the woman’s role is by far the most interesting and really could have been something special if she had to both save the ship and outwit the antagonist at the same time. This is something that I’m striving for in my own work, and I hope that I will not allow Tana (or any other female character) to be “saved” by males (and vice versa when I write male characters). Supernova needed to pick the most interesting character (the woman) and let her be the hero of the story rather than trying to delegate hero duties between the two main characters.

Overall Grade: D+

This could have been so much better had the creators just trusted their most interesting character and threw her into a situation where she had to battle herself, battle the floundering ship and possessed crew, and the antagonist at the same time. As it stands, it is just a formulaic sci-fi action movie that simply doesn’t explain its world or characters in enough detail to be truly enjoyable.

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