Movie Review: The BFG

The BFG is a fantasy-adventure film based off of the Roald Dahl book of the same name. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg.

The_BFG_poster

Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) roams the halls of the orphanage where she resides. After organizing the mail and fixing the clock, she settles in bed with the house cat. Moments after scaring away drunkards, Sophie witnesses a giant (Mark Rylance) skulking through the streets. Knowing he’s been found, he takes Sophie with him to his home. Sophie pleads that the giant not eat her, with the giant heartily assuring her he is not a giant that eats “human beans.” Instead he has a special diet that includes snozzcumbers, a smelly vegetable and frobscottle, a special soda with downward-moving bubbles. Sophie insists she will run away, but after a bad dream provided by the giant, she decides to stay for the time being. The following morning, a much larger giant named Bloodblotter (Bill Hader) identifies the other giant as Runt. Bloodblotter almost takes Sophie away, but is tricked by Runt. The giant is further tormented by a group of giants including Bonecruncher (Daniel Bacon), Gizzardgulper (Chris Gibbs), Manhugger (Adam Godley), Childchewer (Jonathan Holmes), Meatdripper, Maidmasher, and led by Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement). Runt does everything in his power to prevent the other giants from finding Sophie so she won’t be eaten. Sophie, moved by Runt’s kindness and capturing dreams for others, instead calls him the Big Friendly Giant, or BFG.

Plot

The plot of the movie is incredibly straightforward to cater to the target audience: kids. The whole movie is just under 2 hours, and though it seems the movie could be shortened by 20 minutes, it’s moderately paced to keep everyone’s attention.

8/10

Characters

The BFG

Sophie’s character is revealed in two parts. Right at the beginning, she’s shown as a learned yet isolated girl with a sense of wonder. The BFG is also a loner in two respects: he’s committed to not eating children like his brethren and he’s the shortest of them by a considerable margin. He’s more intelligent than the other giants due to his interactions with regular people through the dreams he collects and gives to them. The other giants are all rather one-dimensional, with their characteristics limited to not liking vegetables nor being wet. In fact, the giants have distinctive names but are not on directly identified on screen enough times to keep track, save for Bloodbottler and Fleshlumpeater. Sophie briefly mentions the caretaker of the orphanage, whose shown twice in the film. She’s portrayed as, at best, absent-minded. Sophie insists that she’s also abusive, but the audience is left to just take her word for it. Without going too into detail for spoiling the second and third acts, the other humans portrayed in the film are all willing to accept the fact that giants are real without the least hint of skepticism. I’d like to see a bit of pushback from those humans and then be more willing to accept the fact when they see it for themselves.

7/10

Language

Perhaps my favorite part of this movie is it’s broken vocabulary. While Sophie and the other humans speak properly, the giants make use of several mispronounced or completely made up words. Expected grammatical errors like replacing “is” and “have” with “are” and “has” give the BFG a little bit of charm.

9/10

Theme

Both of the main characters feel like outsiders from the atmosphere they live in. Sophie’s insomnia and interest in reading makes her feel different in the orphanage where she resides, and the BFG’s want for intelligence and active interest in dreams make him very different from the other giants in Giant Country. These two outsiders stick together and accomplish something extraordinary. Also, while not blatant or in-your-face, the BFG insists on a vegetarian diet instead of his brethren, who only subsist on eating people, promoting a cruelty-free way of living. The film does go into a good detail about disappearances of people and the giants eating them, making for a dark tone for a film directed at kids.

8/10

Music

A Steven Spielberg film is usually complemented with a score by John Williams. This film is not an exception. The beautiful music pairs well with the fantastical scenery, particularly in Dream Country.

9/10

Spectacle

The film is largely composed through computer graphics, showing the giants in significant contrast to the actual humans in the film. There’s a brief compositing problem when Sophie and the BFG are in close proximity, like where Sophie stands on his shoulder and the camera focuses on their faces. Aside from that, the scenes are well-crafted. The closeness of British streets are made more apparent when the BFG sneaks through them in the first and second acts of the movie. Dream Country and the BFG’s workshop are the most colorful, each emotion of dream are given distinct colors. The facial movements of the giants were captured with mocap technology and closely reflects the actors portraying the characters.

9/10

Star Power

The BFG cast

I really enjoyed the performance of Mark Rylance, the actor playing the BFG. While several other recognizable stars are in this film, it mainly focuses on Rylance and Ruby Barnhill. Barnhill has been on TV before and this is her first feature film credit. Other actors include Bill Hader as one of the man-eating giants, Penelope Wilton, Rafe Spall, and Rebecca Hall as Mary.

7/10

Audience Demographic

The film is an adaptation from a book written in 1982 by Roald Dahl. Primary audiences are kids, being a Disney-produced film, and the adults who grew up reading the book. I myself read the book back in third grade. The movie will not reach everyone like most other Disney films, but garners enough nostalgic feelings to make for a successful weekend.

7/10

Post Movie Thought

The movie was a good amount of fun, but it wasn’t as climactic or satisfying as I expected it to be. It could be that I haven’t read the book in so long, but the excitement of the final act was overshadowed by how funny I found the toast at the end of the second act. The toast won’t be received as well by every audience as I received, and without giving away the context, I know not everyone finds that kind of humor funny.

6/10

Source Material

As I mentioned before, the movie is based off a 34-year old book meant for children. I’m please to see that most of the material of the novel is maintained in the book. Among the altered scenes are any with Sophie’s caretaker in the orphanage, named Mrs. Clonkers in the book. Her appearances are limited to a brief moment of her picking up magazines in a pile of mail and her silhouette looking in on the children after Sophie goes to bed. She’s mentioned once more by Sophie as a terrible person, but the audience is told this instead of being shown.  The ending is also altered from the book, which I didn’t remember until referencing it for this review. While the tone of both endings are positive, I prefer the movie’s ending to the book’s ending. Everything else is kept pretty well intact, the language, dark elements, and happy notes.

9/10

Overall: 79/100

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Movie Review: Finding Dory

Finding Dory is an animated film and sequel to the 2003 film Finding Nemo.

Finding_Dory

The film opens with a young Dory living with her mother and father (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy, respectively). Dory struggles with her short-term memory loss and her parents trying their best to keep her safe. In an instant, Dory is carried away from her parents in an undertow current and spends her life looking for them. Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), now an adult, keeps swimming in the ocean asking for help, but almost immediately forgetting. She witnesses a boat driving by and runs into Marlin (Albert Brooks), who’s desperately looking for his son. Dory helps Marlin look for his son, forgetting she’s also looking for her family.

One year after meeting Marlin, Dory now lives with him and his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence). Dory attends Nemo’s school despite Marlin’s concern that she’ll wander off. Mr. Ray (Bob Peterson) takes everybody to the site of a stingray migration. While witnessing the migration, Dory comes across an undertow current and has an epiphany about her original home. She insists going to “the jewel of Morro Bay, California,” the only clue she remembers about her original home. Nemo wants to help Dory, knowing what it’s like to be separated from a parent, and Marlin reluctantly goes to make sure Dory stays focused.

Plot

The plot is very much straight-forward, it was just a matter of the twists and turns to get to the emotional moments that occur in just about every Pixar movie. Unlike the first movie, with the dangers of the open ocean, this film takes place in a marine-life sanctuary, a fragmented and relatively closed location. With the B-plot being much closer, figuratively and literally, to the main plot of Dory looking for her parents, it’s a lot easier to follow than shifting from one side of the ocean to the other.

8/10

Characters

Finding Dory Hank

Almost every character from the first film makes another appearance in the sequel, keeping their personalities and quirks. Among the new characters is Hank, voiced by Ed O’neill and my favorite new character. He’s very purpose-driven and a bit of a curmudgeon. There are also a pair of sea lions, Fluke and Rudder (Idris Elba and Dominic West, respectively) befriend Marlin and Nemo in the film. Bailey (Ty Burrell) is a beluga whale that’s convinced his echolocation abilities are no longer working. Destiny is a whale shark played by Kaitlin Olson and Dory’s best friend. Finally, there’s Dory’s parents, whose characteristics are sprinkled throughout the movie.

8/10

Language

There’s a good deal of discussion regarding underwater life, the most prominent being undertow currents (starting the plot of the whole movie) and migration patterns. What I like is the setting for all of this, being in a marine sanctuary/exhibit, the language is easy enough for kids to understand. Also, Dory shows off her multilingual skills by speaking whale with her friend Destiny.

9/10

Theme

Importance of family remains the primary element of the movie, though it shifts from importance of the kids to importance of parents. This inevitably broadens out to the necessity for friends, who ground the people they care about when they lose their way. The film touches on but doesn’t go into dramatic detail about human interference with wildlife. The intention of the marine sanctuary is to make every attempt to rehabilitate and return wildlife to the ocean, so the overall interference in that respect is helpful. In terms of direct  negative interference, there are two examples: one played for drama and the other for comedy. Dory gets tangled in plastic rings in the first act, while the other plays out like the preschool kids scene from Toy Story 3. Finally, the movie really drives the point of unrelenting hope. Dory, despite her mental disability, does not stop in the search for her parents.

Speaking of mental disability, I want to focus on that for a moment. While the idea of Dory’s short-term memory loss, or anterograde amnesia, is played for laughs, it’s one of several mental issues that many people struggle with on a daily basis. She isn’t shy about being disabled in this way, mentioning it in several scenes and almost always after introducing herself. What that does, however, is leave several well-meaning fish confused in terms of helping; they don’t know how to approach the idea of her mental disability. Marlin, in the first act of the movie, asked Dory to stay away from the class because he doesn’t want her seen as a burden to Nemo’s teacher. As with real life, mental disability isn’t totally understood and therefore mishandled. With giving a major character in a kid’s movie a disability, it may bring positive change to how mental disorders are recognized.

10/10

Music

Much of the music takes a similar tone from its predecessor, usually being very bubbly and melodic during travel scenes or turbulent during the more action-filled scenes. Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” plays in the movie and Sia’s cover of “Unforgettable” plays during the credits.

8/10

Spectacle

The film maintains the many colors of different fish and other aquatic animals, but given the environment of an aquarium it didn’t seem as vibrant as it could have been. Hank’s ability to change colors makes for a fun element in the movie and was enjoyable without being overbearing or forced. And Dory as a little fish? Super adorable.

8/10

Star Power

Finding Dory Cast

As I mentioned earlier, most of the cast returns for their respective roles, though some appear briefly. Ellen DeGeneres is obviously the main attraction for the movie, with Albert Brooks reprising Marlin. Modern Family cast members Ed O’Neill and Ty Burrell as well as It’s Always Sunny in Philedelphia star Kaitlin Olson star as new characters. One cast member that I didn’t expect was Sigourney Weaver, acting as the narrator for the animal sanctuary. I was overall very satisfied with the new cast and the performances of the returning cast.

10/10

Audience Demographic

Pixar and Disney films in general have a wide range of audiences. The films are obviously directed at children, but also cater to the adults that end up bringing the kids to the movie. The film is also in an interesting position of being released 13 years after it’s predecessor, meaning children that watched Finding Nemo when it first came out are in their last year of high school or college aged. Most of them have the advantage of driving down to the movie theater and seeing it on their own accord.

9/10

Post-Movie Thought

There’s a minor plot point established in the first film that isn’t addressed in this one. When Dory first introduces herself to Marlin, she mentions her memory problem and makes it clear that it runs in her family. She questions where they are before promptly forgetting what was going on and asks Marlin if he needs help. While her questioning where her parents are is indicative of what she’s been doing up until that point, the fact that she mentions that memory loss runs in her family is never addressed. On the contrary, her parents struggle with giving her mnemonic devices so she can remember not to wander too far or swim into currents. Despite that moment, the film does make up for it by giving us a proper epilogue on another story element in the first movie, which I won’t spoil here. The trick is you have to be patient in finding out what it is.

7/10

Long-Awaited Sequels

Finding Dory came out a full thirteen years after Finding Nemo. That’s a long time between movies. It led me to question the state of the movie industry and the necessity for sequels. While a long period of time between movies can be a good thing in a meta sense (such as Toy Story 3, where the characters aged with the audience and was a big success), this movie doesn’t follow that formula, only taking place about one year from the conclusion of Nemo. While I found the movie to be a lot of fun and enjoyable, it didn’t seem like it was necessary to take so long between movies, if they planned on doing a sequel for that long.

6/10

Overall: 83/100

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Movie Review: Warcraft

Warcraft is a fantasy action movie based on the video game of the same name.

Warcraft Poster

After a brief introduction of a human fighting an orc, Durotan (Toby Kebbel) and his pregnant mate Draka (Anna Galvin) are preparing for an invasion. Several clans of orcs gather at a portal connecting their world, Draenor, and the new world of Azeroth. The orc warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) gathers many of the orcs to conquer Azeroth to replace their dying world. Gul’dan activates the portal by siphoning the life out of caged slaves. After crossing the portal, Draka gives birth to a stillborn orc. Gul’dan, despite being upset that a pregnant warrior crossed in the first place, uses his dark magic to transfer the life force of a nearby deer to the baby.

Meanwhile, at the Dwarven kingdom of Ironforge, Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) receives a Boomstick, a firearm, from the Dwarf King Magni Bronzebeard (Michael Adamwaithe) before receiving news of human towns being raided. Anduin comes across a former Kirin mage named Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) studying the dead bodies. Khadgar concludes that the villages were attacked with Fel, but refuses to elaborate. Anduin approaches the king of Stormwind, Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) to deliver the news and permission to seek out The Guardian, a powerful mage possessing great knowledge and power to protect Azeroth. The Guardian, named Medivh (Ben Foster), describes that Fel is a dark magic that corrupts the user and pollutes where the magic was used. While investigating the Fel, Medivh and Anduin’s group is ambushed by orcs. Several men are killed before Medivh activates the Fel magic in the orcs to turn it against them. Among the surviving orcs is Durotan, who frees a half-orc slave following the battle. He witnesses the destructive power of the Fel and finds it too dangerous to be used by anyone.

The orc slave, Garona (Paula Patton), is captured by Khadgar and taken back to Stormwind. She reveals the origins of the orc presence and Gul’dan’s intent to eventually take over Azeroth. At the same time, Durotan consults his mate and second in command about leaving Gul’dan for the sake of orc longevity.

Plot

Many of the beats of the film were standard of an action/fantasy film. As such, the movie was largely predictable for most of the movie. Thankfully, a few unexpected events during the final act made it more enjoyable. However, given the opening scene and the legacy of Warcraft, the ending of the movie shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

6/10

Characters

Warcraft Characters

There are a lot of interesting characters in this movie. Development comes in a few spurts, with only a few characters at a time to avoid overwhelming the audience with exposition. However, there are a few things that are left to be desired. For example, Dwarves are introduced very early in the movie but have a much less interesting part in the long run of the movie, making only one or two additional appearances in the movie. Orcs and their culture get the spotlight, focusing on their traditions and personalities of at least 2 clans.

8/10

Language

Humans and orcs, the two primary races in the film, speak different languages. Fortunately, the only time this is an issue is when Durotan and Anduin’s forces meet in a canyon. Garona, spending most of her time as a slave, acquired several languages and conveniently translates for both groups in the second act of the film. Otherwise, orc language is automatically translated for the audience without the use of captions.

9/10

Theme

Family bonds are touched on for both factions of the movie. Anduin’s sister being the king’s wife and his son participating in the royal legion. Durotan has the responsibility of protecting his son and assuring his wife that he is doing the right thing. Both are also burdened with the responsibility of leadership; Anduin a commanding knight of the king’s legion and Durotan being the chieftain of the Frostwolf clan. Something unique to the orcs in the movie is the preservation of tradition. At many points in the film, particularly in the final act, orc culture is discussed, challenged, and ultimately retained. I found it particularly interesting, given that orcs aren’t a race that’s typically brought up as having a code of ethics.

8/10

Music

There isn’t any licensed popular music in this film. Instead, it was composed and presented as sweeping songs that reflect the world of Warcraft (no pun intended).

8/10

Spectacle

This has to be one of the most ambitious uses of CGI I’ve seen in movies. Almost all of the scenery feels authentic and part of the world, not something manufactured by computer. However, the lone scene that did not portray that was the very final scene. The background of the film seemed out of place, almost like it was a SyFy original movie graphic. This cleared up when the camera closed in on one or two particular characters, but that was half the scene. Also, though it doesn’t come up as often as you would think for a fantasy-based movie, some of the spellcasting doesn’t seem in place, either. When shown the glyphs for casting spells or glowing eyes of mages, my thought is that something slipped past the composite stage of post-production.

8/10

Star Power

Warcraft Cast

Less than half of the cast actually show their faces on screen, most of them playing orcs and therefore CGI. That being said, I liked a lot of the casting choices made. Travis Fimmel plays the human antagonist and is most recognizable from the TV series Vikings. Clancy Brown was also a cool choice as Blackhand. While playing Officer Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, he also made a promising career in voice acting. Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga are the king and queen of Stormwind, and have recently worked together on Marvel projects and AMC’s new show Preacher.

8/10

Audience Demographic

I was expecting a lot of mid-30s, early 40s men watching this movie, being based off a 20+ year old computer game. The demographic seems very limited despite games like World of Warcraft being accessible and played by several different age groups and both genders. I want to say that the recent trend of fantasy and action films would allow for a big audience, but the result was much less satisfying.

5/10

Post-movie Thought

While withholding spoilers, the end seemed like a big set-up for a potential movie franchise. There’s a lot to pull from, of course, but the idea that it wasn’t a stand-alone movie seemed off to me. Well, not so much that it wasn’t, but it was set up that it couldn’t.

5/10

Source Material

The movie is obviously based off the game series of the same name. There is a large world to pull from and many different stories and characters to focus on. I feel that they grabbed the right amount of characters and story line to make an good impression. But as I said earlier, the end of this movie seems to bank on a series being made, which doesn’t provide a lot of closure for the movie I paid to watch. There’s certainly a lot to explore, but without the closure it seems they could have taken an extra step but decided not to.

9/10

Overall: 74/100

 

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Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War is a superhero film starting Phase 3 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Civil War Poster

The film starts in a hidden Siberian base in 1991. James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is triggered to become the Winter Soldier through an activation phrase, is given orders to intercept a vehicle, and take its contents without any witnesses. The vehicle contains five samples of Super Soldier Serum.

Cut to present day, Wanda Maximov/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) communicates with Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to stop the theft of a biological weapon orchestrated by Brock Rumlow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo). While the mission was a success, Scarlet Witch’s attempt to contain a blast resulted in the destruction of a building. She is particularly affected, feeling guilt and responsibility.

Meanwhile, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) shows off his new technological marvel to M.I.T. students and allows all of them grant money for their experiments. While leaving, he comes across a woman that lost her son to the incident in Sokovia and holds the Avengers responsible. General Ross (William Hurt) gathers several members of the Avengers and proposes the Sokovia Accords, a registration of super-powered people to maintain accountability and analyzing threats. The act is met with support from over a hundred different countries and the heroes are left to sign and comply, retire, or break the law and be arrested. Each member gets into a large argument why the Accords are a good or bad idea. Steve Rogers, shortly after, attends the funeral of Peggy Carter. Her niece, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) recounts a story about compromise and standing by conviction. Rogers commits to not signing.

While in a U.N. meeting, the King of Wakanda recounts the story of the stolen Vibranium used to make the anti-gravity weapon responsible for the destruction of Sokovia. His son (Chadwick Boseman) notices a bomb and fails in his attempt to save his father. He finds that the Winter Soldier was seen planting the bomb and dons the Black Panther outfit to find and kill him. Captain America catches wind of this and tries to help Bucky escape, only for both of them to be caught. With the Sokovia Accords now in effect, Captain America is arrested.

Plot

The two main points of the movie are putting the Sokovia Accords in place and the relationship between between Captain America and Winter Soldier. The former splits the Avengers in terms of ideology and the way superheroes need to carry themselves. The latter takes the majority of the movie, being a Captain America movie. While the movie is advertised toward the former, the focus on the latter leaves a lot to be desired.

7/10

Characters

Almost all of the characters in this movie were introduced in previous movies, with the primary exception of Black Panther. As such, we already have an idea of their emotional temperament, what they stand for, and how they solve problems. In terms of numbers, it has more heroes than Age of Ultron, which would normally be a source of confusion having so many characters available at once. The simple solution is having characters in groups, each time allowing to adjust to their personality. The climactic fight of the film has everyone together with their own fighting abilities.

My biggest concern is the character change in Tony Stark. Given his history in previous films, Stark has been very anti-government when it comes to his technology being used for federal purposes. While he may have developed some sort of change following his vision in Age of Ultron, where Captain America insists that Iron Man didn’t do enough to save them all, I don’t think it’s enough to escalate from developing an artificial intelligence to giving the government allowance to use his services whenever. It seems too dramatic of a step for Stark to let go of his ego and narcissism since it’s been built up since the first Iron Man movie.

7/10

Theme

Much like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a month and a half ago, the idea of superheroes unilaterally making decisions for fighting crime is a universally interesting point for all comic book characters gives way to the smaller-scale conflict. In the movie, Vision brings up the escalation of super villains with the presence of heroes. Since the introduction of super heroes, super-powered villains have escalated to match or overwhelm their power (to name a few: Iron Monger to Iron Man, Abomination to Hulk, and Yellow Jacket to Ant Man). Vision argues that because of these escalations, a check of powers can be beneficial to contain catastrophe.

The film expands on the relationship between Bucky Barns and Steve Rogers. It goes to a deeper theme of standing up for what you believe is right. Steve Rogers actively breaks the law because he’s sure that Bucky didn’t do what he’s accused of doing: blowing up the U.N. His justification, other than Bucky being his best friend, comes from the first act of the movie. During a eulogy, Sharon Carter shares a message that from her now deceased aunt, which is paraphrased, “When the world tells you to move, you dig in your heels and say ‘no, you move.'” He believes that the Sokovia Accords is wrong because it gives up his personal liberty and allows the government to dictate his actions as Captain America.

No You Move

Amazing Spider-Man #357

Captain America’s conviction is to be commended and is often considered to be in the right for the movie (it’s his name in the title, after all) and the source material it’s based on. In the case of the movie, his actions are personal instead of right. Instead of defending Bucky in a court of law, he takes it upon himself to help him escape custody. Iron Man eventually confronts Steve on a personal level, insisting that his crusade for one relationship damages another.

Civil War So Was I

9/10

Language

The movie builds off of the vernacular set up from previous movies, so it’s assumed that the audience has seen most of them to cut down on exposition.

8/10

Music

There’s a small amount of licensed music in the film, but mostly relies on an orchestrated score. There’s a lot of swells to match the action of the movie. Henry Jackman returns from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He updates some themes, like Brock Rumlow, to the more fitting presence of Crossbones. The new themes are exciting and relevant to the plot of the movie.

9/10

Spectacle

The scale of this movie is very large, having more heroes than either of the Avengers movies. The movie prevents the audience from being overloaded by not having all of them on the screen at once, even during the climax fight. There’s plenty of special effects to keep attention, and with the new heroes comes a more dynamic fight.

10/10

Star Power

Civil War Cast

There are plenty of recognizable stars, with the newest to the movie being Daniel Brühl and Martin Freeman in small but significant roles. Chadwick Boseman joins the fray of superheroes as Black Panther and will get his own standalone movie in 2018.

10/10

Audience Demographic

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands, a lot more of it is expected from its audience. With Civil War being the start of Phase 3, this is not a movie where anyone can just drop in. The audience has to know the main characters at least from the previous Avengers movies. If not, the audience will be left swimming in questions of “Who’s that character? What does s/he do?” The movie will be a hit for action movie fans and obviously those invested in comic book movies.

7/10

Post-movie Analysis

As with other Marvel films, there are extras following the movie. In Civil War, there are two after-credits scenes: one following the animated credits and another at the end of the main credits.

The lingering thoughts of the movie deals with which character was in the right. Was Iron Man correct in saying that superheroes need to be held accountable for their actions? Was Captain America correct in saying that superheroes need to maintain their autonomy? While it’s a good marketing strategy, picking a side isn’t exactly the point of the movie. Its recognizing the merits of both as well as their faults.

10/10

Source Material

Civil War was a Marvel crossover event from 2006 to early 2007. Although there were different circumstances, the Superhero Registration Act in the comics are largely identical to the Sokovia Accords of the movie. The number of characters in the former is much larger than that in the latter due to movie licensing, though a full adaptation may have made the movie much harder to follow. The message of the movie is slightly altered, putting a focus on Captain America rather than super heroes as a whole. I feel this is not a good move, as it takes away from the significance of how it affects superheroes as a whole, rather than how it affects Captain America personally.

8/10

Overall: 85/100

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Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a superhero action film. It is a sequel to Zac Snyder’s Man of Steel. The film stars Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, and Jeremy Irons.

BvS poster

Plot

A perspective-flipped battle from Man of Steel shows Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) driving and running through the streets of Metropolis as it’s being destroyed by Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod (Michael Shannon). Bruce witnesses the deaths and maiming of several people as well as the brutality of two aliens tearing apart a city.

A year and a half later, Zod’s terraforming ship is in the middle of the Indian Ocean, slowly being excavated for materials. Superman stops a plot in Egypt that almost has Lois Lane (Amy Adams) killed. His actions don’t come without consequence, as the collateral damage causes a few civilian deaths. This catches the attention of the government, particularly Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) as she holds Superman particularly accountable for the civilian deaths.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne continues his crusade as Batman, branding sex criminals with his signature symbol. The criminals are reported on the news being beaten severely in prison, catching the attention of Clark Kent, Superman’s secret identity. Senator Finch is welcomed into LexCorp by its eccentric CEO, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). He reveals to her that Superman has a vulnerability lying in the remains of Zod’s spaceship after experimenting on Zod’s cadaver. In a gala event hosted by Luthor, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent finally meet and question each other on the ethics of the “heroes” in their respective cities, neither back down on belief that they are doing the right thing.

The plot is very understandable, but it doesn’t follow a hard narrative, making the flow of the story difficult. There are a few moments for Bruce Wayne and a singular moment for Clark Kent that I could best describe as an insert; some sort of moment that was hastily added in order to push forward either the justifications of their actions or an attempt at characterizing them. There are times where moments linger much longer than they need to, where the audience has already picked up on what’s happening but the scene stays for another 10 seconds before moving forward again. Then in the third act, while the motivations are clear for the characters, everything seems to veer off in a different direction and the audience is quickly jolted into a different motivation for the characters. This change had to be done, but the way it was implemented was jarring.

5/10

Characters

BvS 1

Clark Kent/Superman has already been established in the previous movie, so his characterizations are more reactions to how people perceive him. Bruce Wayne/Batman, on the other hand, has a legacy of films to pull from (particularly the Nolan films) but has no history in the Snyder-established universe. It’s revealed that he’s been crusading as Batman for the better part of 20 years and hints that he lost a sidekick to Joker.

BvS Robin

At three points in the movie, he’s haunted by dreams that more or less drive his actions. As they’re portrayed in the movie, these dreams are at best unnecessary and at worst nonsensical.

Alfred (Jeremy Irons), is introduced early on as Bruce’s confidant and butler. His biting snark breaks from the continual sense of dark and brooding atmosphere. Lex Luthor starts out as an eccentric CEO with a mission, but with each appearance he becomes more of a megalomaniac. Seeing the evolution of his character (or devolution, whichever you prefer) in a somewhat controlled fashion makes his character arc one of the most interesting in the movie. Clark Kent’s mother Martha (Diane Lane) makes a few appearances that more or less frame up Superman as a hero that he wants to be, not the hero Metropolis wants. Finally, there’s the mysterious Miss Prince (Gal Gadot) that crashes Luthor’s party and derails Bruce’s plans. She turns out to be Wonder Woman and gets in on the last battle of the movie, but other than that her entire existence seems to be a framing device for the upcoming Wonder Woman and Justice League movies. The movie talks about her very little, likely in an attempt to characterize her in her own movie, but I feel it leaves her existence in the movie as very little than “Oh look, another super hero!”

As I mentioned previously, the characters motivations are easy enough to follow, but into the third act one of the main characters has a significant change of heart that would make sense in theory, but sloppily put into practice.

6/10

Language

I really don’t have much to report here. The big thing is the introduction of Kryptonite and references as such. In the previous movie, Kryptonite was implied as the atmosphere in Zod’s spaceship which caused weakness in Superman. Here it takes physical form and frequently discussed, immersing the movie into the comic culture instead of the realistic culture that DC hero movies have been striving for recently.

7/10

Theme

Superheroes working outside the law and accountability for their actions is the main concern for Batman and Superman. Clark Kent feels that Batman working outside the law and literally branding criminals is a step for far for a vigilante and remarks that he may be doing more harm than good. Bruce Wayne feels that Superman’s existence is dangerous to people because of his capabilities to level cities and the fact that a literal alien is able to do these things and apparently not be held accountable. Both Bruce and Clark make their feelings known to each other and don’t recognize the hypocrisy of their criticism. But the discussion isn’t just between them. There is a montage of several people, in-universe and real life, that comment on the idea of super heroes and the problems they cause if they are idolized. Specifically, the idea that if Superman is capable of saving people but doesn’t, does leave a question of his being all-powerful, or all-good?

8/10

Music

There are plenty of heroic swells throughout the movie to tense up the action scenes, most notably in the fight scenes of the third act. One of the main composers is Hans Zimmer, and many movie-goers will be familiar with his work in the Nolan Dark Knight films. He’s gone on record that trying to make the score different from his previous films was difficult, and he’s right. I believe that despite his and his co-composer’s efforts, there are still elements that sounds distinctly Dark Knight, and I even picked up a hint of Inception, another film where he composed the score. That’s not entirely a bad thing, I enjoyed the music from those films, but I’m not watching those films. I feel Zimmer’s formula is getting the better of him.

7/10

Spectacle

My biggest praise for the film comes from the perspective flip in the first major scene. Looking at the Superman/Zod fight from a different angle really set the tone for the film. There’s plenty of fantastical sights, from the ruins of the terraforming ship to the high speed chase of the Batmobile. The inevitable fight scene between Batman and Superman looks like something pulled right out of the comic book (more on that later). My biggest complaint is really just an observation of Doomsday (sorry if it was spoiled, but the character is shown in the trailers) looking incredibly similar to a Lord of the Rings cave troll or an unmasked Ninja Turtle. There’s plenty of materials to go off of when developing him, so the final result just leaves something to be desired.

9/10

Star Power

BvS cast

I like the casting choice for the movie. Returning actors like Henry Cavill and Amy Adams generate a lot of buzz for the movie. Jeremy Irons is my favorite addition. His delivery with Alfred’s remarks are better than Michael Caine’s in the Dark Knight movies. Gal Gadot has been criticized for her stature in respect to recent depictions of Wonder Woman. The way I see it, strength isn’t always portrayed by being muscular; she portrays it through relentless action. Jesse Eisenberg’s performance is well enough to recognize that he isn’t just a comedic or overly dramatic actor, but his age held him back from being too believable.

And of course, there’s Ben Affleck. His being cast was a controversial topic for a long while, citing his performance in the poorly received Daredevil back in 2003. The thing is, that was over a decade ago, and a solid actor can’t act his way out of a bad script. Since then, he’s proven himself to be a solid choice for main characters, such as Argo and Gone Girl. Affleck recreated a character tic that I didn’t recognize at first, but is present all the way back to the animated show; the half smile. It’s a small gesture, but I feel this show of amusement helped.

8/10

Audience Demographic

A lot of movie goers are on the edge for this movie because of its predecessor. Comic book fans in particular are torn because they have the opportunity to see the fight they’ve all been waiting for, but in the context of Snyder’s universe. Even fans who aren’t as heavily invested in Batman’s story knows how he became Batman, but everyone has to go through the same origin story of having watch Bruce’s parents get shot. Zac Snyder doesn’t seem to trust his audience to know how Batman came to be, so that starts off the movie and leaves a bad impression to those who watched his movie.

5/10

Post-movie Discussion

This movie took too many steps that it didn’t need to take to make the story as long as it was.

5/10

Source Material

BvS DKR

The fight scenes are very reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, where an aging Batman has to confront Superman. He uses similar tactics when fighting Superman, as well. There’s a lot of comic material to pull from, and I think that’s what hurt the movie instead of help it. There are so many elements that were chosen for this film that it doesn’t blend as well as it should have. At one point, I thought I was looking at elements from Batman Odyssey, which if you’re not familiar with, is the most brain-bendingly confusing story about Batman that I’ve ever seen (and certainly doesn’t make for a good movie).

6/10

Overall: 66/100

 

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a space drama. It is the 7th film in the main Star Wars franchise.

Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens_Theatrical_Poster

Plot

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone missing. As forces loyal to the Empire become The First Order, Leia Organa (Carrie Fischer), now married to Han Solo (Harrison Ford), leads as General of the Resistance. As the First Order grows in power, The Resistance grows more desperate when whispers of Luke’s location motivate both factions to action.

Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), is given a digital map with a clue about Luke Skywalker’s location by his father. He and BB-8, his companion droid, prepare to give the information to the Resistance when a settlement on the planet Jakku is attacked by a fleet of Stormtroopers. The town is quickly overrun, so Poe orders BB-8 to get as far away as possible and to meet up later. BB escapes and Poe fights back to even the odds. He is quickly outdone by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a hooded figure with a unique lightsaber. He is accompanied by Captain Phasma (Gwendolyn Christie), leader of the Stormtroopers. Poe is taken prisoner while the other Troopers are ordered to kill the remaining fighters. A lone trooper watches in horror as the settlement is destroyed.

Poe is interrogated by Kylo Ren and learns that the map is with the droid. A Stormtrooper, while escorting Poe away, reveals to have turned from The Resistance and offers to break him out. Poe introduces himself and the Stormtrooper, only assigned an identification number, takes the name Finn (John Boyega). They crash land back on Jakku, but when Finn wakes, all he finds is Poe’s jacket among the wreckage.

BB-8 comes across a scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley). While she’s initially dismissive of the droid, she eventually allows it to accompany her. They come across Finn as he looks for water, and he introduces himself as a member of the Resistance. BB recognizes Poe’s coat and is frantic to find his owner. The First Order attacks, forcing Finn, Rey, and BB to flee. They stumble across and escape on an old ship, and begin their quest for answers.

10/10

Characters

While Star Wars is the most successful movie franchise of all time, it doesn’t rely on the characters already established in the universe. It fleshes out the new characters with their own stories, motivations, and personalities.

One of the best uses of establishing character moments focuses on a “show, don’t tell” method. Finn’s defining moment is an epiphany while he still wears his Stormtrooper helmet, denying him any facial expressions but still getting across the idea that he’s remorseful. BB-8 doesn’t speak (outside of beeps and whirs, like R2-D2) but still manages to express himself through actions.

BB-8

“Whee!”

10/10

Language

A lot of language is carried over with legacy films like The Force Awakens. Already established concepts like the Force are mentioned, but take on a different meaning for the newer characters as opposed to the legacy characters. Concepts of the Jedi and use of the Force are considered mythical to Rey, while Finn only knows of the Dark Side of the Force when Kylo Ren uses it for the benefit of the First Order.

Furthermore, the presence of alien species forces the use of alien languages. Fortunately, most of them are translated or used in a context that’s understandable. Either way, the subtitles are never distracting or overpowering to detract from its associated scene.

10/10

Theme

With the main plot following the disappearance of Luke Skywalker, the moral use of the Force is frequently referenced; balancing the Dark and Light. Furthermore, it’s existence is a lot less questioned as it was in the original trilogy. The commanding officers of the First Order know better than to question the legitimacy of The Force, seeing it used dramatically and frequently by Kylo Ren. Han Solo writes it off as “hokey religion” in A New Hope but makes a dramatic change with his admission in the new movie.

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Its_true_all_of_it.0

The film also addresses the familiar concepts of letting go of past circumstances or present troubles (Rey and Finn, respectively) in the pursuit of something greater.

10/10

Music

You know the music. That familiar theme that takes you back to a galaxy far, far away.

John Williams returns to score the movie, as he’s done with the previous movies of the franchise. All of the music will be familiar to the audience, the key difference is the magnitude. The big moments have larger orchestral sweeps than the previous movies, and the dramatic scenes seem to carry more weight. Minor changes to some of the music include length and changes in key. An unfamiliar arrangement plays during the second half of the credits, following the main theme that finishes every movie.

10/10

Spectacle

The expectations of this movie are very high due to the visuals and scenes of the previous trilogies. The graphics are escalated, but not in a way that seems arbitrary. How is the series supposed to grow from not one, but two moon-sized space stations capable of blowing up planets?

On the smaller scale, We have the dog fights with TIE fighters, X-Wings, and some nice aerial maneuvers from the Millennium Falcon.

And most importantly, the use of lens flares. Normally used as some sort of signature, J.J. Abrams reduced them and only used in places where they make sense.

Star Trek: Into Darkness lens flare

#154 in Into Darkness

10/10

Star Power

wars-comic

The three main faces of the original Star Wars are of course a big pull for the movie, while the newest three stars are relatively unknown. Oscar Isaac is best recognized as the star of A Most Violent Year alongside Jessica Chastain, but has other roles in Sucker Punch and Inside Lewyn Davis. John Boyega has been in 4 prior films, and Daisy Ridley has been on a handful of TV shows prior to this movie. Andy Serkis has a motion-capture role as Supreme Leader Snoke and makes two “appearances” throughout the film. Adam Driver plays Kylo Ren, and has several movie roles as supporting characters, most notably Samuel Beckwith in Lincoln.

10/10

Target Audience

The film is rated PG-13, an abnormality of the franchise (previously only used in Revenge of the Sith). That being said, the film’s violence is largely sci-fi and not at all as bad as some of the shows readily available on TV. The fans of the series are already committed to watching the movie, and with movies coming out since the late 70s, the franchise has a very dedicated following. Anyone unfamiliar with the franchise will have to have at least some knowledge regarding Luke Skywalker’s family tree. But with so much time being among America’s most popular movies, the only people unfamiliar with it are people who’ve actively avoided the movie or kids.

10/10

Post-Movie Thoughts

It’s been said by J.J. Abrams that a lot of things that had to be deliberately kept under wraps to avoid spoiling the plot of the movie. I obviously won’t explain any of them here, but the revelation of them one after another was very cathartic. Each scene had something spectacular, culminating in the last act and the final scene.

10/10

Legacy Movie

This movie lives up to the hype it’s been generating for the past few years. The last movie, Revenge of the Sith, was released over 10 years ago and was largely panned for lack of characterization and poorly filling in spots between the prequel films and the original trilogy. Disney bought the rights to the franchise in 2012 and almost immediately announced plans for a sequel to Return of the Jedi. The movie properly builds off of its source material while not entirely relying on the older characters. It paves the way for its own significance without being anchored on Darth Vader.

10/10

Overall: 100/100

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Movie Review: Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak is a gothic horror and romance film directed by Guillermo del Toro. The film stars Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, and Tom Hiddleston.

Crimson Peak theatrical poster.jpg

Plot

Edith Cushing has been haunted. At 10 years old, she’s visited by the spirit of her dead mother, warning “When the time comes, beware of Crimson Peak.” A decade later, a full-grown Edith (Wasikowska) has taken to writing about ghosts. While explaining this to her childhood friend Alan McMichael (Hunnam), other social women and her editor believe she should either work on romance novels or drop the endeavor entirely. While in her father’s company, she comes across Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston), an aristocrat from Cumbria seeking financing for an invention. After some flirtation, the two become romantically involved. Edith’s father’s unease of Thomas and his older sister Lucille (Chastain) stirs an informal investigation leading to a coercive deal made between Mr. Cushing and the Sharpes. A series of events leads to a marriage proposal and Edith moving to Allerdale Hall with Thomas and Lucille. As the winter rolls in, Thomas off-handedly tells Edith that she will see why his house is nicknamed Crimson Peak.

8/10

Characters

The majority of characterization falls on Edith and Thomas. Edith is mainly explained in the first act while Thomas develops through the second. Thomas in particular starts off putting his best impression to get an invention funded, but is exposed from his lack of experience. It seems as though the rest of the movie he wants to break out of the projection of inferiority. Lucille is introduced as an accomplished pianist. Throughout the rest of the movie, she produces an air of concern for Edith as she adjusts to her father’s passing and moving to a different country. Despite this, she is coarse when not tending to Edith. The least developed of these characters is Alan McMichael, immediately introduced as a childhood friend, somewhat of a frequent traveler, and in love with Edith. For the moments he’s on screen, he didn’t hold a lot of interest. It stands to reason that there wouldn’t be an explanation of his love for her if it’s a defining trait of his character. 

7/10

Language

American and English accents are used throughout the film. Of the few swears that are used in the film, I found myself wondering if they were used in the time period portrayed in the film, but it didn’t seem out of the ordinary enough to dwell on. Finally, the descriptors of things like the Allendale estate are all expansive instead of straightforward. For example, fragile and formidable are used in place of weak and strong.

9/10

Theme

Frailty is the most frequent idea of the movie. During a dance, Thomas Sharpe makes it a point that precise moves are important for a waltz, so much so that the moves won’t extinguish the flame of a candle. Naturally, when he dances with Edith, the flame wavers but never goes out.  One of the things that stuck out the most were the use of moths and butterflies, moreso the former than the latter. In the first act, a group of dying butterflies are noticed by Edith and laments their sickness. Lucille watches over her and says explicitly that beautiful things, like butterflies, are fragile. Conversely, the moths that are native to Cumbria are formidable but aesthetically unpleasant. Throughout the movie, moths are all over the old Allendale house, which is itself still standing despite being in ruins. Early in the movie, the ghosts in the book Edith planned to get published serve as a metaphor. Thomas later explains to Edith in the second act that the house prevents souls of the departed to move on, instead lingering in the house. Each of the ghosts carry a message, whether it be a warning or a story of the past.

9/10

Music

The film starts with a child’s lullaby, which repeats sporadically throughout the film. Solemn piano, almost always played by Lucille in-film, sets many of the scenes to unsettle the audience. There are many tells of a jump-scare when the movie abruptly stops with the background music.

8/10

Spectacle

Guillermo del Toro has a penchant for fantastical scenes and imaginative characters. Though instead of a faun, Hellboy, or giant mechs, the imaginative characters are the ghosts. Each have distinct features for things like color or body structure. However, the ghosts seem just out of reality enough to rest on the edge of an audience’s suspension of disbelief. The unsettling house almost takes on a life of its own with rattles and shakes. It literally has layers detailing

9/10

Star Power

Tom Hiddleston is the biggest pull for this movie in terms of the cast. Mia Wasikowska may be most recognized in the Diney live-action movie Alice In Wonderland as the title character. Jessica Chastain has been in a string of movies, one of the most recent being the critically acclaimed The Martian. Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy rounds out the top billing and working again with del Toro, originally working with him in Pacific Rim.

9/10

Audience Demographic

While this movie is advertised as a horror film, I feel it’s about as horrific as Pan’s Labyrinth, which is to say that the horror was not the driving force of the movie. Many who follow del Toro’s films have an idea that while characters in his films are unsettling, it’s not always meant to terrify. Fans of Hiddleston will naturally be drawn to this movie.

Can’t imagine why.

8/10

Post-movie thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, Edith uses ghosts in her writing as a metaphor, that not all stories written by women are love stories. As each ghost makes an appearance, it points out an important message, as a metaphor does in a story. I was left wondering if that was meant as a deliberate self-awareness or just a foreshadowing of the rest of the story.

While the movie as a whole was satisfying, there were a few unresolved plot points that disrupts suspension of disbelief. The moments are in the third act, so for the sake of spoiler free I won’t go into detail.

6/10

 

Overall: 73/90

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