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My Problem With Star Wars: The Last Jedi Isn’t That It Changes Too Much—It’s That It Doesn’t Change Enough

Buried beneath the madness of plot developments and huge moments, The Last Jedi ultimately paints a standard picture for the future of Star Wars.

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Internet, you absolutely tire me out sometimes. And there’s no better example of that then the discussion surrounding the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Technically, the film has only been released in America for five days, but I’m already exhausted by the pure amount of conversation around it. The thousands of tweets, the hundreds of think pieces, the almost uncountable numbers of long, drawn out comments filling up all the message boards — it’s exhausting, even for a film that has so much to talk about (like The Last Jedi undebatably does.) And for someone like me, who both A) writes about movies online and B) likes to have things stew in my brain for a while before putting hypothetical pen to hypothetical paper, it creates this feeling that my thoughts on the film are coming out wildly late compared to the rest of the world, and that, at this point, absolutely nothing I write about the film has not already been expressed a hundreds of times by dozens of other more talented, more deadline driven writers than me.

Let me once again remind you that it has only been seven days. But in internet time, that might as well be a month.

But, hey, talk surrounding The Last Jedi has really yet to abate, once again proving just how divisive and loaded the finished product turned out to be. I already laid out my initial thoughts on the film in last week’s timely piece but, since then, I’ve had a lot of time to further reflect (and, to be quite honest, grapple with) my ultimate feelings on the film. I also got the chance to see the movie a second time, which really does refine my overall thought process, for both better and worse.

Because, seeing The Last Jedi again, I was certainly taken in more with the experience. I generally like the movie, and even did at the time I initially wrote about how disappointed I was in what it ultimately was. But, make no mistake: I still remain somewhat disappointed in what we got with The Last Jedi. Because, as much as I can now appreciate it is a good movie…it has failed to really convince me of its ultimate greatness.

And that dichotomy ultimately struck out a great deal watching the movie a second time. Finding so much more to enjoy, the things I didn’t like became all the more glaring. And the more and more I thought about it, the more I realized that my problems with the film stem from one essential truth: as good as the concepts were in The Last Jedi (and make no mistake, pretty much all of them were), I feel like Rian Johnson didn’t take things far enough to really push the film into the all-time great echelon…even just amongst Star Wars films. Unlike what the internet tries to tell me, my issues with The Last Jedi don’t stem from a place of being afraid of change — my favorite moments of the film, really, are based around the idea of “playing around” and doing something different with the concept of Star Wars. But, time and time again, I was left with the feeling like The Last Jedi was still pulling its punches, especially in regards to what everyone was telling me otherwise.

Which is an interesting point when it comes to this film: inevitably, there was going to be a lot of hype from others sitting in my head as I watched the movie. Which, for what it’s worth, is no fault of The Last Jedi itself — you can’t really blame a film for the hype around it. That being said, having all the pre-release buzz about how The Last Jedi changes Star Wars and does things that are unpredictable and controversial certainly peppered my initial reactions. In a perfect world I would be able to avoid all this pre-release conversation and hyperbole that Film Twitter unleashes upon my brain…but a perfect world this isn’t. So, going into The Last Jedi, I was really expecting a movie that would change everything I expected from this new trilogy of films.

Suffice to say, The Last Jedi did not, and I’m baffled by both the insistence that it A) it does and that B) the reason I didn’t love the movie is because I’m afraid of said change. It’s a narrative being toiled about all over (though, again, mostly through Twitter) from the people who unabashedly love the film, and it simply has to stop. In fact, all the assumptions made by either side about why or why not someone might love the film needs to be given the kibosh. But, since I already made that point clear on the social media network that thrived on such discourse, I’ll let the Twitter thread below speak for itself:

But, being Twitter, I could of course not delve into the actual meat of this argument, and explore the fact that my disappointments with The Last Jedi stem from something no one else (except a few other detractors like myself) seem to see: hidden beneath the admittedly beautiful gloss and fast-paced, roller coaster ride atmosphere, The Last Jedi is a movie that wants to have its cake and eat it too. It’s a Star Wars film that wants people to know that it’s BOLD and DIFFERENT and doesn’t think ANYTHING IS SACRED…but then spends the entire denouement putting things back into place, rather than moving things forward. On the surface of the movie are bold decisions, ones that could leave all our characters in fascinating places before the final installment. But it doesn’t take long before The Last Jedi renegs on all its ballsiest developments, returning things to the status quo and abandoning potential plotlines that, frankly, would have been far more exciting than what we actually got.

I’m being vague, though, so let’s go ahead and dive into the nitty-gritty (with SPOILERS attached, obviously.) Probably the most keen example of the “change” that everyone keeps talking about is in regards to the light side vs. dark side debate, and how both Rey and Kylo go about it. Personally, though I liked the plotline, it didn’t feel particularly fresh for this universe: arguments over the light side and dark side are stock material for Star Wars at this point, and it’s just slightly starting to get old. I for one can only take so many conversations about how close someone is to going to the dark, or how someone can turn the other to their side, or what have you. So much of The Last Jedi delves into the light side/dark side issue in a way that I personally didn’t find very different to what we have seen before from this franchise but, to be fair, it didn’t have to be. The only reason I expected something more was because people were telling me TO expect something more and, once again, I can’t really blame the film for that.

But what I CAN blame the film for is flirting with something different, before rejecting it completely. In what might be the highlight of the entire movie, Kylo ends up killing Supreme Leader Snoke, in a clear nod to Vader killing the Emperor at the end of Return of the Jedi. We all expect it to go into a similar, predictable manner from here (with Kylo joining forces with Rey, him getting redemption, etc)…until it doesn’t. Instead, Kylo used Snoke’s death as a power grab of sorts, and tries to bring Rey onto his side by speaking of how harmful living in the past is, and how they both need to push the galaxy forward, and so and so on.

This is a really interesting beat for the film and, as much as it would hurt to see Rey join forces with Kylo, would make for a fascinating conclusion to the sequel. If Rey choose to actually join Ben, if they dismissed the forces of both The First Order AND the Resistance, and truly set out on their own path, that would have been interesting. That would have been new, and different. But, instead, Rey denies Kylo’s request (as all heroes must do,) manages to escape unscathed, and embraces her destiny as a true Jedi. Kylo, meanwhile, becomes the ultimate force of evil, leading The First Order (THE BAD GUYS) against The Resistance (THE GOOD GUYS.) So, basically, we are back to where we started from…we just now know that (hopefully) the issue of Kylo’s potential return to the light has been put to rest.

And, really, it’s the 100%, black-and-white view on morality that kind of irks me by the end of the film. Because there’s plenty within The Last Jedi that leads viewers to think it might go against such a firm grasp of good and evil. From Benecio del Toro’s whole speech about the arms dealers who sold to both the Resistance AND First Order (and his final line, which seems to echo a sense of pure exhaustion from the endless back-and-forth between the two groups, something I wish the film delved far heavier into) to the reveal that Luke pushed Ben to turn to the dark side due to his premptive actions, it seems the entire goal of The Last Jedi was to upend what we think about this universe, and present us with a Star Wars story we’ve never seen before. But the only problem is that the movie doesn’t do that — in fact, all it does by the end is reinforce what we all thought to be clear from the get-go: First Order BAD, Resistance GOOD. And, once again, there was so many opportunities presented in the film itself for that NOT to be the case.

Guess what, guys? Kylo Ren is actually REALLY evil. *shrug*

Take, for instance, the entire subplot with Poe Dameron. I was digging the storyline throughout the first half, and thought the moment that Poe ended up committing mutiny on Vice Admiral Holdo was, once again, pushing things back into the whole subversive nature of the movie that I was promised. I mean, how ballsy would it have been if Holdo actually WAS evil? What a bold statement it would be if the hierarchy of the Resistance was just as crooked as The First Order, and a civil war of sorts broke out within the group, spurred on by the power vacuum of Leia’s (narratively more interesting) death? What if this film left us with a disillusioned look at the Resistance, and only our core group of main characters (Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, Leia, etc.) left to fight both sides? Wouldn’t that create not just the ultimate downer ending for the sequel, but also reinforce the film’s themes of throwing the past away? After all, the Resistance is just Rebellion 2.0, and to turn our understanding of “The Good Guys” completely on its face would truly be ballsy.

But, instead, Holdo turns out to totally be a hero, Poe was being an idiot, and should have totally trusted his superior officer despite giving him literally zero reasons to do so other than the fact that, currently, she was the one in charge. Even more frustrating, Poe’s mutiny was treated with little more than a slap on the wrist, with both Leia and Holdo immediately afterward complimenting the former Commander, as though his little bout of treason was just a funny little character quirk they all kind of like (“That’s our Poe!”)

It is here where the failure to truly embrace change also backfires on The Last Jedi. Next to the whole “forget the past” mantra at the center of the film, another major theme in The Last Jedi is the idea of embracing failure, learning from it, and finding ways to move forward despite the setbacks it presents. That’s an admirable theme, if it wasn’t for two main problems: 1) seeing our main characters continue to make stupid mistake after stupid mistake is frustrating to watch and 2) the characters never actually face any consequences for the mistakes that they make, which leaves me scratching my head about the reason to have the lesson in the first place.

When Rey stupidly turned herself into Kylo Ren and Snoke, based on a single force vision that she could turn him, did she suffer at all for being wrong? Not really, no. Sure, her lightsaber broke in half, but I imagine that will just give her the opportunity to turn into a double bladed one for the next movie (which, admittedly, will be pretty sweet to see.) And she gets a little cut, which kind of sucks. But, after the whole throne room scuffle, Rey literally just walks away, escaping off camera and disappearing for like 20 minutes of the film (this happens to a lot of characters in The Last Jedi, unfortunately.) When she returns, she is joviality shooting shit on the falcon, making wisecracks and overall enjoying her day.

Forget the fact that we have no idea how she ended up rendezvousing with Chewie and the Falcon again (was he just circling around in the back or something, just waiting for her? Where exactly did he go during the entirety of that throne room confrontation? How did she find him again using Snoke’s escape pod? The film knows this entire chain of events is messy so, like most things it deems messy, chooses to completely ignore it instead.) My bigger issue is the fact that Rey made a stupid decision, and she never once has to come to terms with her failure. Nor does Poe with his mutiny attempt, or even Finn with his attempted suicide run towards the end of the movie (sure, Rose gets injured, but it probably would have had far more impact if his actions actually killed her.)

This comes in stark contrast to The Empire Strikes Back (probably the closest analog to The Last Jedi), a movie which also had many of its main characters fail in what they were trying to do. But when Han’s trust in his friend ends up backfiring, he gets captured and frozen in carbonite, potentially never to be seen from again. When Luke makes his own stupid, arrogant choice and goes to fight Vadar, he ends up getting his entire arm chopped off. Empire is so brilliant because it perfectly ramps up the tension for all our main character, making the grasp of the Empire envelop them like a tightening noose. After such a heroic victory in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back is true to its title, which I would argue made for a very brave and, more importantly, very satisfying sequel. The Last Jedi, by comparison, only goes halfway on both of those things.

THAT’S why you don’t abandon your training to fight an evil Sith Lord and save your friends!

I’ve already gone long bagging on a film that I (once again, feel like I should reiterate) mostly liked, but one more final note before we conclude things. If you’ve read this article to this point (somehow), there might be one prime argument you will try and use to refute me: I keep judging the movie based on what I wanted to see, rather than what The Last Jedi actually is. This is another very common bit of fansplaining that I’ve heard people use to detract from the detractors (what a time for discussion that we live in, folks!), and it’s one I have thought about quite a bit. Are my issues with the film solely that it didn’t go the way I wanted?

It’s an interesting question, and I certainly feel there are people who hate the film (you know, the ones giving it like 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and the like) primarily for this reason. Clearly, I too have put a lot of thought into the future of this trilogy after Star Wars: The Force Awakens (a movie I still really love, by the way), and did indeed spend a lot of time dreaming about where the future of the series would go after such a strong reintroduction. There were plotlines that I created in my head, potential developments and twists in the story I was hoping to see happen. None of them were of the “DUH SNOKE IS DARTH PLAGUEIS” variety, but they were certainly still predictions, and could probably be pushed into the category of fan theories.

But here’s the thing: that was not a thing I do exclusively for Star Wars. I do that for damn near EVERYTHING I watch, because I’m a geek and a writer and I like to tell dumb stories in my head sometimes. And though I often create the plots of movie sequels wholesale just to entertain myself, that very rarely prevents me from enjoying the actual, final film on its own terms. Take another sequel to a blockbuster film I loved: War for the Planet of the Apes. 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is probably my favorite blockbuster of the past decade and, after its big cliffhanger ending, I dreamed plenty about what would come in its follow-up. But not a single one of my predictions could prepare me for War for the Planet of the Apes, which ended up being a weird, atmospheric character study masquerading as a summer blockbuster, with only the bare minimum of action and adventure you would expect from something titled War for the Planet of the Apes. It was 100% not the movie I was hoping for, or the one I created in my head. But, taken on its own terms, it was FANTASTIC, and ultimately, I loved that it wasn’t the film I initially made thought it would be. It was, plain and simple, better.

I do not feel similar about The Last Jedi. To reiterate a point I’ve made countless times in this article, it’s not the fact that The Last Jedi went in directions I didn’t expect, or even necessarily want. It’s the fact the fact that the path there was filled to the brim with plot contrivances, missed character beats, and extremely rushed plotting. You can only get so far with a film based solely on the ideas that it’s tackling: like all things, execution is key. And, with a good amount of The Last Jedi, I found the execution to be lacking. Even worse, at the end of the day, I found myself in an odd place: I don’t care about what happens next. The only reason I (and millions of others) created the fan theories we did and “geeked out” about what the rest of the trilogy could contain was because the conclusion of The Force Awakens got us EXCITED. The possibilities were wide open after that film, and I was so eager to see how the story would build with its sequel. But this feels like less of a ramp-up for the conclusion of the trilogy, and more like a wrap-up to it. After this one, I have literally no idea what is to come in Star Wars: Episode IX. And, far worse? I have no desire to try and figure it out.


Also published on Medium.

Matthew Legarreta is the Editor and Owner of Freshly Popped Culture. A big ol' ball of movie, TV, and video game loving flesh, Matthew has been writing about pop culture for nearly a decade. Matthew also loves writing about himself in the third person, because it makes him feel important (or something.)

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10 Years Later, Cloverfield Remains The Pinnacle of Found Footage Films

There’s been a lot of found footage films. But none of them can equal the scale and ambition of Matt Reeves’ monster movie masterpiece.

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There could be a bit of recency bias in my recollection here but, for me, there might be no more important year in the history of 21st Century film than 2008. There’s a few reasons for that, most of which I will discuss in the months ahead (let’s just say it was a big year for superhero movies, and leave it at that for now.) But when it comes to notable film’s celebrating their 10th Anniversary, one film in particular instantly sticks out to me: Cloverfield. And the reason why is two-fold — not only is the film’s release date extremely memorable (it was going by the title 1-18-08 for the longest time, after all), but the film itself has been one I’ve been thinking about quite a bit in the decade since.

Sure, there might be other films in 2008 that had a larger impact on the world and on cinema, but for me, at least? Cloverfield remains an absolute marvel of a film, a technically brilliant disaster film that not only defined a format, but pretty much give it a kick in the pants the moment it needed it the most. Since Cloverfield we have had many, MANY found footage films, but none have had the initial impact that Cloverfield had for me. And with the film turning ten today, I thought it would be the perfect time to reevaluate its mertis. After so many years, and what feels like a lifetimes worth of other movie releases, would Cloverfield be able to elicit quite the same response? For me at least, the answer is a clear yes. Cloverfield is a film that left me absolutely gobsmacked the first time I saw it and, revisiting it 10 years later, still leaves me rather breathless.

And, for me at least, that euphoria all comes from the result of some absolutely stellar filmmaking. At the time, it was rather shocking just how well made Cloverfield was: nothing about the shaky cam footage and blurry visuals looked like they would amount to much, at least from what the vague trailers showed us. But, now, it’s far easier to see just how technically proficient this film is. Hindsight is 20-20, but also having a grasp on who’s behind the camera helps you appreciate the artistry on display much more.

That man here is of course Matt Reeves, who made his directorial debut with Cloverfield. Reeves would go on to make two of the best blockbusters ever made (IMHO, but it really should just be considered a fact at this point) with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes, but right from the get-go he proved himself an able craftsman with Cloverfield. While the film bares resemblances to both its found footage forefathers AND later successors (think The Blair Witch Project, Chronicle, and Paranormal Activity), it’s clear from the get-go that Cloverfield is working on an entirely different scale altogether. This is a film packed to the brim with huge special effects, crazy monster designs, and the literal destruction of New York City in the span of a half dozen hours. Paranormal Activity, by comparison, is about a bedroom.

None of which is to belittle other films in the found footage genre: I happen to be a fan of the conceit, generally. But, man, none of them have been able to push my buttons in the way that Cloverfield did. It was a revelation, and one that only got better and better as it spun out into grander territory. Even with the intense viral marketing and captivating trailer, I was not prepared for the ride that I initially went on with Cloverfield. And I was far from the only one — remember all the reports of the people getting sick in the theater, becoming disoriented and dizzy by the action unfolding onscreen? That’s purposeful, and though I’m sure those who experienced it would probably disagree with me, very much one of the film’s strong suits. On the surface, it’s a mere monster movie. But the way that the film tells its stories turns it into a powerful, disorienting, enthralling thrill ride.

Cloverfield

The shot of the beheaded Statue of Liberty is ICONIC, and for very good reason.

Which is kind of the point anyways, right? The whole reason found footage exists as a genre is to give viewers a rawer, more visceral experience. Take away the excesses of traditional film techniques, and you also separate the barrier between what appears fake…and what doesn’t. You end up taking away people’s perception of it “just being a movie,” to the point that they too might really be convinced that a witch killed some kids in the forests of Maryland.

Now, obviously, the same can’t really be said of Cloverfield. No one was going to get fooled into thinking the events of this film actually happened, unless they just happened to chose the film as their first bit of entertainment after coming out of a twenty-year long coma. But the fact that it feels so real despite that is what makes Cloverfield so magical: through the use of its found footage conceit, it strips away the artifice of the standard disaster movie template, and creates something far more horrifying and powerful in the process. The found footage element of Cloverfield isn’t just some gimmick to make the movie stand out amongst other monster movies — it’s essential to what the film is trying to accomplish and, ultimately, what it is trying to say about the very nature of the genre.

While it would be incorrect to say Cloverfield is the most “realistic” monster movie for this reason, I would argue that it makes it the most down to Earth one. In fact, what I love so much about the movie is the fact that it takes your standard Godzilla-esque story, and recontextualizes it entirely by focusing on your standard, run-of-the-mill people. Throughout the film, our main group bears witnesses to a bunch of soldiers running around, trying their best to combat the unstoppable monster and save the city. In most movies, you would be following the military dudes going after the monster, with the background characters trying to escape simply serving as the backdrop. But what Cloverfield so beautifully realizes is that the more interesting story is buried within these background figures, that a tale of basic human survival is far more affecting than the umpteenth story of some military figures or scientists trying to save the world.

Cloverfield

And if you’re going to commit to telling that story, what’s the best way to bring the action down to their level? Why, by literally presenting it from their point of view. The camera only catches the occasional glimpse of things, and misses a bunch of key moments, and is usually just overwhelmed by the sheer amount of chaos happening on screen. But if you were in the shoes of Rob, Hud, Lily, Marlena, or Beth, wouldn’t you be overwhelmed too? The camera is a nice way to give the film some flair but, more importantly, it’s a way to get into the headspace of the main characters.

Main characters who, by the way, are far better handled than they had any right to be. Props should most likely be given to screenwriter Drew Goddard in that department — like Reeves, time has only gone to further show how amazingly talented this man is, with The Martian and (especially) Cabin in the Woods subsequently earning raves. But even in penning his first feature film script, Goddard already showed a knack for inventiveness, and a willingness to form strong character arcs even amidst the nuttiest of concepts. While the center love story between Rob and Beth isn’t the most amazing one in the world, it has its benefits. The idea of risking your own life and safety just to save another in a time of crisis is a meaningful one, and the film’s use of in-camera flashbacks (through a pretty smart “overwriting” technique) also provides a powerful glimpse into how simple and relatable the lives of our main characters used to be before things went to shit. But most important of all, fleshing out the characters the way Cloverfield did gives the film a drive and emotional throughline that so many modern blockbusters really lack.

…Like Godzilla, for instance. Now I was going to try my best not to make this article just another takedown of that 2014 remake, but rewatching Cloverfield reminded me just how much better this film handled the idea of a stripped down, barebones disaster film. While Godzilla wasted about an hour of time with secret military tests, scientists talking about ultimately unimportant things, and criminally underutilizing Bryan Cranston, Cloverfield opens with a bunch of 20somethings having a fun party, and using that party as a way of laying down the groundwork for their future behavior and character arcs. While Godzilla spends an agonizing amount of time following ARMY MAN Aaron Taylor Johnson doing absolutely nothing of value while hopping from country to country, Cloverfield lays out the central mission of the movie a third of the way in, and focus on said mission for the rest of its runtime. While Godzilla got off on withholding its main monster through smudgy cinematography and baffling cutaways, Cloverfield uses said withholding to instill a sense of foreboding and chaos. While Godzilla is an overlong, dreary mess, Cloverfield is a brisk 85 minute roller coaster ride of action and horror. One that also happens to feature a cast of characters I actually give a shit about which, believe it or not, is pretty important for a film! Anyways, I’ll stop picking on Godzilla now. I just needed to release that rant, since I’ve been holding on to it for nearly four years.

Godzilla

Eh, at least this scene was pretty rad.

Anyways, what more can I say? Clearly I love Cloverfield and, rewatching it now, I’m taken aback with how much it still very much works. Not quite as much as it did the first time I watched it unfold on the big screen but, to be fair, what could? Seeing Cloverfield back then was a magical moment for me, as I sat in pure awe watching this crazy monster movie unfold before my very eyes. The fact that the experience can even be 1/10 as awesome some ten years later speaks to how, even pushing aside the mystery and the presentation, the film works incredibly well as a subversive, visceral disaster movie.

Part of me wants to say that I wish we got more original blockbusters that are as gutsy and crazy as Cloverfield but, really, that’s one of the film’s ultimately greatest accomplishments. Even with the found footage format being one of modern horror’s go to devices, there is nothing else that can quite match the scale and ambition of Cloverfield. And, honestly, I doubt there ever will be. I can only just hope that the ongoing Cloverfield set of anthology films will continue to find equally compelling ways to tell unique, compelling sci-fi stories. Hey, they are two for two so far! Hopefully April’s mysterious Cloverfield 3 will continue the trend.

But, until that happens, I highly recommend revisiting Cloverfield. The film unfortunately isn’t streaming on Netflix or Hulu or anything like that, but you can rent it on Amazon, and where all purchasable streaming films can be found. Or you can just watch it on a Blu-Ray disc, like me. PHYSICAL MEDIA 4EVAH.

(You might disagree with what I have to say about the film, but no one can argue this isn’t one of the all-time great teaser trailers, right? Makes one hell of a first impression, and perfectly sells the madness of the finished film.)

Here are some other things of note I thought about while re-watching the film. Also they are spoiler-heavy thoughts so, if you got this far and haven’t seen the film…just go do that instead, okay? Okay.

  • There’s a lot of oners in the film, which must have been very difficult to do with the budget and level of secrecy that the film had. Just makes the technical wizardry all the more impressive.
  • The scene where Rob has to tell his mother that his brother died is so, so great. Once again, it’s not the type of shit you usually get in a monster movie. You don’t get the time to see the direct human cost of the monster wreaking havoc, at least not as it extends outside the core group of characters. Of course all the mothers of the world would be calling their children. And of course a fair amount of those mothers are going to end up heartbroken.
  • I remember there being a huge uproar from people about how stupid it would be for someone to keep filming throughout the entirity of such a crazy attack. But, personally, I never got the argument. Hud from the beginning explains why he keeps filming everything (“People will want to see this”), and I found the sentiment mostly rang true. It was also clearly a way for him to handle the enormity of the situation, which rather intelligently made the motif an additional, but intrigual character quirk. Also, in the modern age, the idea of someone filming everything they are seeing is more believable than ever. If Cloverfield actually happened in real life, you bet your ass someone would be streaming the entire thing on Youtube.
  • The tunnel scene is TERRIFYING. The visualization of the hatchlings is just so perfect, with the creature designs overall being top notch. Props to man designer Neville Page and the rest of his team on that.
  • Marlena’s exploding head death was a visual that stuck with me for a decade. That’s when you know a film is good.
  • The slanted skyscraper also made for some neat compositions, and even cooler set designs.
  • Pulling the rhubarb out of Beth’s shoulder is horrifying, and without even showing a damn thing. It’s the little things that make this movie so great.
  • “What is that!” “It’s a terrible thing!”
  • “What is that?!” “I don’t know, something else, also terrible.” Like any good thriller, Cloverfield also takes the time for some very much appropriate comic relief. Shame it has to come out of the mouth of T.J. Miller, though. Time has been kind to Cloverfield in many areas but, uh, not that one. 
  • Speaking of genuine emotions: I love how people are actually FREAKING THE FUCK OUT throughout the entire film. Not your standard screams and other crowd noises, but genuine “OH MY GOD I AM GOING TO DIE” rantings. Can see how some could be turned off by the detail, but it just makes me appreciate the film’s authenticity even more.
  • The shot of Hud being eaten/seeing the monster for the first time. Next level stuff, people. Matt Reeves is a brilliant, brilliant man. I’m so happy he’s doing a Batman, and I have all the confidence in the world it will be great.
  • “My name is Beth McIntyre. And I don’t know why this is happening.” Can’t think of a more succinct line to express the film’s ultimate theme than that. At the end of the day, the main characters are just a bunch of tiny figures, going through a world-shattering event, and trying their best to make it out alive.  And, if a monster attack happened in real life, you can bet the vast majority of audiences would be right there with them.
  • “I had a good day.” And then that final line is just…mean. 


Also published on Medium.

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Why The Hell Did Fox Just Push Back The New Mutants To 2019?

And why the are they still trying to make that Gambit movie happen? These questions, and more, below.

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Fox is in an incredibly weird position when it comes to the future of their Marvel mutant properties. By far one of the studios most profitable properties, they recently doubled down on the franchise, putting what seems to be dozens of X-Men adjacent films into development. But then a wrench was thrown into all these spin-off plans, a wrench in the form of a corporate takeoff and a massive, groundbreaking acquisition. 

Yes, Disney now is in the process of purchasing Fox, which will certainly have repercussions on how the two studios proceed with the future of their Marvel properties. But, for now? Fox has no idea what to expect, so is just proceeding with business as usual when it comes to all the X-Men plates they have twirling in the air. And business today, I guess, is pushing back a film, moving up another, and continuing to live in denial about the increasingly slim possibilities of a third one while they are at it.

All this happened just a few hours ago, as The Hollywood Reporter filled us all in on the shifting schedule of Fox’s X-Men branded films. The most surprising of the bunch by far is Fox’s decision to completely push back The New Mutants, not just by a few weeks, but by AN ENTIRE YEAR. The horror-tinged mutant film was on track for release on April 13, with marketing already commencing and everything, but will now hit theaters on February 22, 2019. Yes, a grand 13 months away…or a substantial 17 months after the film first concluded filming. 

That type of delay is rare to happen on a big Hollywood blockbuster, especially one so close to release. So the question must be asked: why did Fox delay the film? Well, like all things to do with Hollywood blockbusters, the answer is pretty muddled. THR’s sources tell them that Fox was afraid of having too many X-Men films in release at the same time, what with Deadpool hitting theaters in June (at least at the time — more on that in a second.) But that excuse doesn’t at all add up, as it was Fox’s decision from the start to release the film’s so relatively close together. Why wasn’t it a problem back when Fox chose the release?

(Might want to change the date at the end of this trailer now, Fox.)

Furthermore, why couldn’t Fox have just delayed the film a little bit to, say, August? Or maybe push back X-Men: Dark Phoenix instead, giving it the February 22 release and putting New Mutants in its November 2 slot? Marketing hasn’t really kicked off for the former film, and a delay of three months for it is far less drastic than the 10 month one for New Mutants. Or, if Deadpool 2 is the problem, why not push that one to July, giving a healthy gap of three months to all the Mutant properties? No, no, that reason does not hold up in my mind. Far more likely is the fact that New Mutants was having trouble in the editing room, and isn’t up to snuff to what Fox is wanting. Will the Josh Boone helmed horror film manage to come out of this delay a good film? History is not kind to films that get delayed in such a substantial way, but anything is possible I assume.

But New Mutants failing is Deadpool 2‘s gain, as the still untitled sequel has been pushed up from its original June 1 release date to a prime May 18, 2018 slot. That’s great…on the surface. But beneath the assumed confidence such a move would dictate, I’m kind of baffled why Fox would do this. It’s been widely assumed that Disney was going to own May 2018, what with the release of Avengers: Infinity War at the start of it and Solo: A Star Wars Story at the end of it. Why would Fox chose to throw Deadpool 2 right smack dab in the middle of the Disney madness?

The way I see it, releasing Deadpool 2 at the start of June pretty much gave the Merc with A Mouth the whole month to himself — the only other real blockbuster competition was in the form of Incredibles 2, which wouldn’t even be opening until a couple weeks after anyways. All I see happening from placing Deadpool 2 in May is the film running into Avengers: Infinity Wars legs, and having its very own cut off by Solo: A Star Wars Story. Did Fox learn nothing from War for the Planet of the Apes, which faltered at the box office by being smack dab right in the middle of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Dunkirk? And did they learn nothing from the FIRST Deadpool, which managed to be their highest grossing movie by, in large part, having little competition in its February release? C’mon movie studios, stop overcrowding all the blockbusters!

Moving on to the final bit of X-Men franchise news is our old friend Gambit, which at this point has been in development for about 77 years. The Channing Tatum led (maybe?) spin-off was supposed to be directed by Pirates of the Caribbean helmer Gore Verbinski…until he abruptly quit the project earlier today, making him the 124th director to do so (my numbers might be a little off, but you get the point.) Due to once again having no one direct the film, and New Mutants now occupying the previous February 2019 release date, Fox has moved the film to June 7, 2019.

Of course, the movie isn’t going to actually come out then — in fact, I am starting to question that this movie will ever see the light of day. Despite what seems to be the initiative of one executive (or maybe Tatum himself), no one is demanding a Gambit movie. And even more troubling for the film’s production, no one is willing to make one either. When the Disney/Fox deal is finalized, I expect Gambit to be one of the first movie casualties. But, until then…sure, Fox. Believe what you want to believe. When Marvel Studios reabsorbs the X-Men, will any of this even matter anyways?


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Kevin Feige Shrugs, Figures Now Is The Time To Make That Black Widow Movie Everyone’s Been Clamoring For

It only took two phases of near constant requests, but Big Brother Marvel is finally listening.

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There have been 17 Marvel Cinematic Universes films thus far released, and literally dozens of others making their way through various stages of development. And, as the years go by, the choices of characters that Marvel chooses to make movies about are only going to get more and more obscure — after all, with all the bigger heroes taken, there’s a lot more room in the development world for the likes of Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy. And yet, even with the slate expanding to lesser and lesser-known characters, Marvel continued to ignore what seems to be a sure-fire, established property: that of Scarlett Johannson’s Black Widow.

She’s been featured all over the MCU thus far, and is almost certainly one of the most beloved members of the main Avengers team. Furthermore, she’s played by Scarlett Johansson, undoubtedly one of the most bankable actors in the world. And with Marvel very much trying to expand what an MCU movie can be, and delving into a bunch of different genres as a result (Ant-Man is a heist movie, Guardians is a space opera, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a high school coming-of-age movie, etc.), it would make sense to add Black Widow on to the pile — the espionage/noir movie you can build around the character practically writes itself!

And, yet, Marvel has been oddly reluctant to actually give Natasha Romanoff her fair due. They’ve talked about it for years (since she came out as one of the breakout heroes in The Avengers, really), but a movie was never actually produced. It’s been nearly seven years after the character was first introduced in Iron Man 2, and its just been endless talk after endless talk. But coming off 2017, whose 3 highest grossing films all starred a female, it seems Marvel might be thinking twice about having such a male-heavy slate…and is once again looking at giving the Black Widow character her chance at a standalone.

That’s at least my takeaway from today’s big news, as the much-discussed project finally moves forward into development. As first broken by Variety, Marvel has hired up-and-coming writer Jac Schaeffer to pen the script for the potential project. Schaeffer is a bit of an unknown quality at this point, with her only produced projects on IMDB being the indie sci-fi comedy TiMER (which she also directed), and, umm, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. But I’ll try not to hold that last thing against her.

Johansson is of course attached to reprise her role which, by the way, she has done in SIX MCU films as a supporting character so far. If you ask me, she more than deserves her due to lead a standalone. In fact, she deserved it like five Marvel films ago. Honestly, it would have been great to have Black Widow lead the current charge of female-led action films, rather than simply being an effect of it. But I guess this is one of those situations where I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. This movie is probably happening, and that should be celebrated. Even more so if Marvel manages to attach a strong director to it. May I be the first (of probably many) to suggest one Michelle MacLaren? If DC won’t have her, you can!


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