This review is as spoiler-free as possible, as the film is still playing in theaters and is currently not available on streaming services.
No Way Home picks up right where the mid-credits scene for Far From Home ended: with J. Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle streaming a video of Quentin Beck (Mysterio) revealing Spider-Man’s secret identity to the entire world. Peter is made a celebrity overnight, but he’s not much a fan of that as it puts MJ and Ned in the spotlight as well. Because of their association with him, all three teens are rejected from MIT: their dream school, where they had planned to start over.
Wanting a normal life more than ever, Peter goes to Doctor Strange for help. He asks for a spell to make everyone forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Strange agrees to cast the spell for him, but loses focus with Peter’s repeated revisions during the spellcasting to make at least his loved ones remember who he is. While Strange manages to contain the spell, it was very difficult – and didn’t work. People from other dimensions are coming through, all of whom knowing that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. All of whom also seem to remember a different Peter Parker, a different Spider-Man, and their final battles with them before being pulled into a different universe. All of whom, they figure out together, seem to have died during their battles with their own Spider-Men. Peter won’t let that happen to them, and sets about curing all of them. When they are betrayed, Peter must decide what being Spider-Man truly means.
… Wow. Just… WOW. This movie was everything I wanted in a Spider-Man movie and then some. Despite the issues I had with it, especially regarding a glaring plot hole, Husband and I highly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend.
Let’s start with that plot hole which concerns Doctor Strange’s communication with Peter about the spells. Why didn’t he think to tell Peter about the consequences of the first spell he cast, but not the second one at the end of the movie? Because the plot needed him to NOT do that. Nothing in the movie would have happened if they had taken 5 minutes to ensure all of Peter’s loved ones still remembered he was Spider-Man before casting the first spell. At the same time, Strange needed to explain the consequences of the second spell at the end of the movie in order for Peter and the audience to fully understand them. So this was a double-edged sword: a problem, but a necessary one.
The CGI was also sometimes okay at best for a Marvel movie. Some CG characters were (likely) deliberately kept in shadow for most of their scenes, as it’s easier for CG to look better when in shadow. Costumes on characters appearing from other universes were also obviously CG, where they might not have been in their original movies. That took away some of the experience for me, but mostly because I’m old and cantankerous =P
With this being really the first completed Spider-Man movie arc, this Spider-Man’s story wrapping up is extra satisfying. Through the characters appearing from other franchises, we also get a glimpse of their stories being wrapped up as well. This wasn’t just a ploy for the nostalgia-bait trope that’s so hot right now. No Way Home was an opportunity for ALL of the Spider-Men movies to be wrapped up. Remarkably, this doesn’t take away from Tom Holland’s Peter Parker’s arc at all. This Peter was (to me) most believably a teenager with great power thrust upon him, and his struggles to learn to use them responsibly felt authentic and up-to-date for teenage and young adult audiences today. His great sacrifice at the end of this movie not only proved how much his character grew and matured, but gave us an ending for Spider-Man that movies have been trying to give us since 2002.
I’ve read that further movies for this Spider-Man are in the works. I am totally against this. No Way Home was a definitive end for this Spider-Man. A bittersweet, cathartic, yet hopeful, ending, but nonetheless: an ending. There is a case to be made for letting franchises run their course, and No Way Home is the poster child. This Peter is done. Let him be and introduce another Spider-person, such as Miles Morales (MY VOTE, PLEASE) or Gwen Stacy.
No matter which Spider-franchise you’re a fan of, you will find something to love in No Way Home. Please be safe and take every precaution to stay healthy if you venture to the theater for it.
Watts, John (director). Spider-Man: No Way Home. 2021.
Did you read The Long Halloween and wished there was a movie adaptation of it other than the Dark Knight trilogy taking inspiration from it? You’re in luck! Earlier this year, a two-part adaptation of this critically acclaimed graphic novel was released.
I went into the plot pretty well in-depth in my 2019 post linked above, so here’s a quick recap:
Johnny Viti, nephew to Gotham mob boss Carmine Falcone, is murdered on Halloween night. A Jack-o-Lantern is placed next to his body. He had been ready to testify against Falcone in court and provide evidence of his wrongdoings, so in Commissioner James Gordon’s mind, this can’t be a coincidence. He, District Attorney Harvey Dent, and vigilante Batman make a pact to take down the mob by whatever means necessary – within the law. However, as the year (“The Long Halloween” as it’s called by Gothamites) goes on, and the murderer they dub “Holiday” kills more and more people inside the case on each major holiday, the three men begin to suspect one another. Can they keep the promise they made to each other a year ago – if they’re even the same men anymore?
The movie did well by being split into two parts. The pacing wouldn’t have felt right if it had been condensed into one. This is a slow-simmering noir story and it only benefited from the extra run time.
This also allowed extra story elements to be incorporated. For example, there is more background to Harvey and Gilda’s relationship, a bit more insight into Jim’s home life, and more significantly, more screen time devoted to Batman and Catwoman. Some of these extra elements are more successful than others. What was supposed to be Catwoman’s motivation and then big character development moment was not well-executed and didn’t go anywhere, it was just… dropped. Perhaps this was supposed to add to her mystery, but it could have been omitted from the movie and it wouldn’t have been missed. We would have accepted at face value that she was acting in her own self-interest as is usual.
The voice acting was well-done. Jensen Ackles as Batman is a treat, as he previously voiced Jason Todd in 2010’s Batman: Under the Red Hood. Josh Duhamel’s Harvey Dent/Two-Face was by turns vulnerable, brash, and intimidating. Billy Burke as a tired dad Commissioner Gordon was a great choice as well. Troy Baker as Joker almost had Husband and I fooled thinking it was Mark Hamill! The late Naya Rivera’s Catwoman was smooth and sultry. There truly was not a bad performance to be heard.
This movie sees a welcome departure from what’s become the standard DC animated movie style. It looked and felt as if the creators and animators made an effort to match the illustration style of the graphic novel. This is most obvious in the title cards, which were beautiful! The backgrounds literally look like they were painted on watercolor paper; the texture is distinctive. The characters are modeled after their comic counterparts, and therefore are less sharp and angular than most DC animated movies. The coloring is darker and less stylish than in the book, however, and the stark shading that made the book work so well is also missing (to the animator’s credit, this may have been hard to pull off). While it doesn’t totally get away from the “standard” DC animated style, it does veer off in another, more stylistic direction, to pay homage to the source material. I hope future animated features do this, too!
If you’re looking for something to watch this Halloween weekend, look no further! Both parts are available to stream on HBO Max and to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
Palmer, Chris (director). Batman: The Long Halloween. 2021.
It’s been quite a summer for me. I hit a milestone birthday, got promoted at my part-time job and am now down to 1 (ONE!) full-time job, and just this past weekend: moved into my husband’s and mine first house.
My body still aches from moving – I’m not as young as I used to be 😉 Not being able to go to the gym for over a year couldn’t have helped either. So this morning instead of unpacking more I had a feeling I needed to watch a Ghibli movie. Howl’s Moving Castle is my favorite, but – it didn’t seem right. Kiki was calling my name for some reason. So I curled up on the couch and clicked “Play.”
Kiki is a witch who has been waiting for the perfect night to leave home. As is tradition, 13-year-old witches leave their homes for a year to begin their training. On a clear midnight under a full moon, Kiki and her black cat Jiji take off on her mother’s broom and are drawn to a city on the southern coast near the sea. While searching for a place to live, they witness a baker attempting to give back a pacifier one of her customers dropped. Kiki offers to deliver it on her broomstick, and the rest, as they say, is history. The baker, Osono, gives Kiki her attic room and use of her phone for Kiki’s new flying delivery service in exchange for occasional help around the bakery. As time goes on, Kiki and Jiji gain customers, make deliveries, and find friends in aviation enthusiast Tombo and painter Ursula. After a delivery gone wrong, Kiki becomes depressed and slowly begins to lose her powers: flight and talking to Jiji. Will she be able to recover them and resume deliveries?
I see why I was drawn to this movie: it was just what I needed. Kiki is finding her independence and becoming self-reliant, but she also needs help occasionally from her loved ones. When she starts to lose her powers, she needs to look inside herself and find her inspiration again. After her introspective period, she doesn’t go back to exactly how she was before. She still can’t talk to Jiji, but she adjusts and accepts it. In her letter to her parents, she admits that while she’s having a great time and finding her way, she still gets homesick. By the end of the movie, she has grown through her “artist’s block” (as it were) and learned to be vulnerable and ask for and accept help when needed and offered – while still maintaining her independence.
The animation – oh, the animation! – is just lovely. It has a painterly feel to it. There are multiple points throughout the movie where there is just a pause. A pause to take in the scenery, or the character standing still. These points taking place in Kiki’s attic room reminded me of Johannes Vermeer’spaintings, most of which he composed and worked on in his attic room in Delft. While the characters’ movements and expressions are buttery-smooth, the big draw of these films for me are the scenery and attention to detail of everyday life. You can smell the bread and pastries in Osono’s bakery. You can feel and smell the wind coming off the sunlit sea. I was astounded by the sound direction: the pattering of Jiji’s feet on a wood floor, Tombo’s voice being distorted through the propeller on his invention. The thing that makes Ghibli movies so successful and immersive is this high attention to detail.
Immersed I was, so immersed that I’m fully awake, fixed my tea, and am rolling up my sleeves (well, I would if I weren’t wearing a tank top) to get cracking on unpacking before my second first day at work tomorrow. Just like Kiki, I have found my inspiration and am ecstatic to be starting many new chapters of my life all at the same time.
Miyazaki, Hayao. Kiki’s Delivery Service. Original Japanese release 1989; English dub released 1997.
In order for me to fully critique the movie, it’s easier to spoil it. The movie is still in theaters, and will be on HBO Max until January 25th, so there is still ample time to watch it even from home =)
A young Diana participates in a contest on Themyscira. Though she performs admirably for most of the race, she cheats to get to the end. Her Aunt Antiope pulls her out of the race, explaining that no good thing is worth getting dishonestly.
In the present day, it is 1984 in Washington, D.C. Diana works at the Smithsonian while moonlighting as Wonder Woman. A new coworker, Barbara Ann Minerva, is asked by the FBI to identify articles from a robbery. Diana has taken a liking to Barbara and offers her help (also, Diana was the one to stop the robbery, as Wonder Woman 😉 ). The two women become friends, but Barbara begins to grow jealous of Diana.
Businessman Maxwell Lord also takes an interest in Barbara, but for a different reason. He was behind the attempted robbery and is after one of the artifacts: the Dreamstone. It can grant one wish to anyone who holds it. It has unknowingly been used by both Diana and Barbara: one wish for more time with a loved one, and one wish for becoming like someone else. Maxwell Lord wishes to become the Dreamstone, so he can make everyone else’s dream’s come true – but at a terrible price. For as the wishes get granted, something gets taken away. In Diana’s case, Steve Trevor being back means the gradual loss of her powers. How can she let go and renounce her wish, when she finally has everything she ever wanted?
I’m sure you guys have been wondering for my take on this movie. I’ve been putting it off because… I didn’t like it. I was entertained enough to sit through it once. Don’t get me wrong. My expectations weren’t very high to begin with. I figured they wouldn’t be able to top the first movie, and I was right on that. I just wasn’t expecting it to be… that bad.
My biggest issues were with the length of the movie and the writing. It could easily have been 45 minutes shorter. WW84 suffers the Aquaman problem of wanting to use more villains in a single movie than they know what to do with. As Aquaman underutilized Black Manta, his arch nemesis, in favor of Orm; WW84 did the same thing with underutilizing Cheetah, her arch nemesis, in favor of Maxwell Lord.
And, oooh boy, did they mess up with Cheetah. It felt as if they tried to do the New 52 route, where Diana and Barbara were close before Barbara’s transformation. But it was so rushed, so little time dedicated to building their relationship, to where it might as well not have been in the movie at all. I was SO hoping and looking forward to seeing Diana build a female friendship equivalent to Carol Danvers’ relationship with Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel (Nancy’s review and my comparison of CM and WW). These relationships are so, SO important and I was hoping there would be more of it in the DCEU after CM’s release. Instead, we got one work scene, one dinner scene, one gross scene of a drunk guy trying to assault Barbara, wherein Diana saves her and leading Barbara to make her fatal wish – and that was it. That was the only time dedicated to their relationship. At that point they may has well plopped Cheetah into the movie as an arch nemesis, with no context, as was the case with some villain introductions over comic book history.
Speaking of gross guys… this movie is full of them. And full of the gross, blatant misogyny that made Captain Marvel so insufferable for me to sit through. I get that it was the ’80s, and maybe it is a somewhat realistic representation of what women went through at the time, but I was totally surprised at the lack of subtlety from the first movie to this one. The microaggressions that were so effective in the first movie are totally missing here, in favor of the insultingly obvious “jokes,” unwanted advances, and the like. “They Captain Marvel‘d it,” I said to my husband later: an inside joke with us that means a complete and total lack of subtlety.
I don’t know that much about Maxwell Lord in the comic book lore, and I’m not opposed to the character making an appearance in the DCEU, but I do believe that the movie focused way too much on him, to Cheetah’s detriment. To me, he felt like the epitome of the ’80s sleazeball character, though I believe he’s supposed to be a Lex Luthor equivalent. I would have liked to see less of him – perhaps him effectively stealing the stone back, but not much more than that – in favor of a more developed relationship between Diana and Barbara, and a more gradual transformation from woman to Cheetah, from friends to enemies. They still could have had their showdown in the end. Diana’s speech about truth and honesty would still have been effective had she just been talking to her friend instead of the whole world.
(My bias could be because I’m just not a fan of Pedro Pascal… but I think my point about the writing still stands)
The best part of the movie for me, hands down, was Steve and Diana’s role reversal. This time around, Steve is the naïve one, the fish out of water, and Diana is his mentor. Of course, Gal Gadot and Chris Pine were able to recreate their magical chemistry from the first movie. But that was about the only carryover. I did also appreciate that Steve was able to lead Diana to more of her powers developing, namely the ability to make an invisible jet, and the power of flight. The contest at the beginning was a welcome scene, as we never got a “traditional” contest of Amazons to see who would be worthy to take up the mantle. I was so excited to see the same young actress who played little Diana in the first movie to reprise her role!
I found no issue with the cinematography or editing. It was a nice movie to look at, but in a different way than the first. The look of these movies reflected the times they were set in. The first movie, set in World War I, was more toned down and monochromatic. There was a bit of a sepia tone overall. WW84 was brighter, more vibrant without being as garish as the decade is known for being. Unfortunately, due to all the issues I have with it, I found it to be all beauty and no substance.
Of course, my very favorite part was the mid-credits scene… if you know, you know 😉
I have seen people both love and hate this movie. I can see it both ways. Fans of Wonder Woman the character will always love anything Wonder Woman that comes out. Fans of Wonder Woman comics will always be critical.
I can see it both ways, and I find myself more in the middle. As a fan of Wonder Woman the character, I was entertained enough by the movie. It was nice to look at, the action sequences were adequate, and Hans Zimmer’s score was effective. The message of truth and honesty is much needed in these times. But as a fan of Wonder Woman comics, I was so shocked with the nosedive the quality of the writing took, and Cheetah being cheated out of adequate character development and screentime, that ultimately… this movie was a miss for me. I didn’t love it by any means, but neither do I hate it. I meant to watch it again before reviewing, but I honestly couldn’t bring myself to. Truly, you are not missing anything if you don’t get around to seeing it. I was hoping to see it in theaters later, perhaps a re-release when it’s safer, but now I don’t think I will.
On our quarantine weekends, Fiancé and I have been marathoning movies. We pull out the couch (it doubles as a futon), sprawl out with pillows and snacks, and go to town. So far we’ve marathoned Lord of the Rings (extended editions, obvs), Batman (pre-Nolan and Nolan directed), Christopher Reeves’ Superman saga, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, bounced around between some DC animated movies we haven’t seen yet, and now we’re working on the DC Cinematic Universe that started with Man of Steel.
I’m sure this has been done, because how could it not have been, but I couldn’t help thinking while watching Captain Marvel of the comparisons it drew to Wonder Woman. Watching Wonder Woman again only threw the differences into greater relief.
Wonder Woman is the DCU’s take on Diana’s origins. Set during World War I, Diana leaves her home, Themyscira, when she rescues a pilot named Steve Trevor. He carries important information that could end the course of the war. Believing that Ares, the god of war, is behind the rampant destruction, Diana spirits Steve off the island and pursues Ares to fulfill the Amazon’s sacred duty of protecting the world from the vengeful god.
Captain Marvel follows the story of Vers/Carol Danvers, a Kree Starforce member/human fighter pilot. After absorbing a vast amount of energy from an experimental engine, she gains incredible powers but loses the memory of her life on Earth. What she does remember comes back to her in dreams and short flashes. In 1995 she winds up back on Earth, escaping from the Skrull (with whom the Kree are at war), and instead of trying to get back to Kree, decides to team up with a man named Nick Fury to find out more about her past.
The simplest way to explain the plots of both movies is perhaps: flagship female superhero finds herself out of her element, and must find a way to save the world while simultaneously working within the confines of a setting she’s unfamiliar with.
Wonder Woman did this SO much better than Captain Marvel did, and here’s why.
The first reason is in the portrayal of the heroines by their actresses, and how they interact with their mentor of the world they are unaccustomed to. Gal Gadot’s performance of Diana suggested naive innocence and idealism. Diana is doggedly determined to rid Man’s World of Aries’ influence and stop the war, but she has very different ideas of how to do it than everyone else. She doesn’t understand all the hoops and red tape Steve knows they need to navigate, and gets frustrated with the inconveniences. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is cynical, world-weary, yet focused and determined to do something too – and he’s willing to indulge Diana’s seemingly crazy ideas if she’ll help.
Watching these two – it’s magical. There’s real chemistry between these characters. Half the fun of watching this movie is watching Steve’s exaggerated, exasperated patience with Diana asking a million questions a minute, like a petulant child. Yet, you can’t help but love them each for it. Their relationship progressed organically from mentor/student to friends to lovers, all while remaining mostly equals, making it seem more real and believable.
Brie Larson’s portrayal of Carol was, to put it nicely, unemotional to the point of being flat. I suppose it was to show how the Kree are generally in strict control of their emotions… but Carol is human and not Kree, right? So despite her thinking she was Kree for most of the movie, it would stand to reason that we would see some excess of emotion from her at some point, right? Even if it was on accident?? Even in moments where it’s completely warranted and expected, such as her reuniting with her best friend, Maria – right???
The vibe I got from Carol and Nick Fury’s interactions were more of almost a buddy cop dynamic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s just less of that mentor-ship that we see going on with Diana and Steve. It’s clear both Carol and Nick have been around the block, albeit in different ways and in different galaxies. However, their connection seemed a bit forced to me; yes, they teamed up out of necessity, but if I felt Carol was feeling anything at all, it was smug arrogance, solely through her interactions with Fury. More on this in a moment.
Though both Diana and Carol are superhuman beings, and warriors to boot, Diana is shown to be more well-rounded in the emotions department. There was never any point in Captain Marvel where I felt emotionally connected to Carol. I think this is more the fault of the writing more than it is Larson’s portrayal, which leads me to my second point:
The way misogyny is handled in both movies is VASTLY different, and makes a HUGE impact on the way the titular characters interact with their environments, and the emotional weight of each story.
You ever wonder why the No Man’s Land scene in Wonder Woman is so powerful? Why you cry like a baby every time you watch it? Admit it, you know it’s not just me 😉
It’s because, for the entire movie up until that point, we see Diana being told “no.”
No, you can’t be a warrior
No, you can’t leave home
No, you can’t dress that way
No, you can’t come into this war council
No, you can’t go to the front
Now, no one says these things in so many words, and it’s not always that obvious. It may be only on your second or third viewing that you REALLY pick up on all the subtle ways that Diana is being restricted – which mirrors what happens in real-life with instances of misogyny. It’s not always being told “no” exactly, more often it’s being dismissed or sidebarred – which we see Diana go through. When we get to the No Man’s Land scene, and Steve tells Diana they are not going to help the village of Veld, Diana has heard her last “no.”
It’s so powerful because Diana is FINALLY standing up for herself, what she believes in, her mission, and she is going to do it no matter what anyone says. It’s so powerful because she has tried to assimilate into Man’s World and to their ways, but she finally realizes that their ways don’t work, and she carves herself a new path, her own way. It’s so powerful because she is embracing her feminine power to save the world, and her ultimate superpower: not her brute strength, but her ability to provide hope in a completely hopeless situation.
The brilliancy and beauty of this scene is in the movie’s moves up until this point to try and hem Diana in, so subtle that it’s nearly subconscious. When you see her finally break free in this scene, the movie has earned all the ugly tears you shed over it, and then some.
Captain Marvel didn’t have an equivalent scene, though it tried to. Near the end of the movie, Carol confronts the Supreme Intelligence and breaks her inhibitor chip. It also gave us a slew of flashbacks to Carol’s childhood in which we are shown in quick succession how Carol has been told “no,” and that’s what’s allows her to break free and come into her full power, which we then see in the next scene: the “I’m Just a Girl” scene, where Carol fights her former Kree squadron for the Tesseract.
The problem with this scene – and with the movie in general – is Carol is explicitly told “no,” in so many words, in those flashbacks. We are beaten over the head with scenes like this:
Carol and Maria getting hit on by a sleazy guy at a bar
Carol and Maria can’t become fighter pilots
Carol needs to control her emotions
Carol can’t play baseball
Carol can’t go that fast on a go-kart track
… All because they are girls or women.
Carol, and the audience, are explicitly told these things, instead of being shown them. The subtlety that worked so well in Wonder Woman is missing altogether from Captain Marvel. The obviousness of the misogyny in this movie strip much of the meaning away from the instances in which they occur, or their motivation for Carol.
I mentioned above that I felt Carol to be a cold, arrogant presence throughout this movie – this is why. It felt as if she was so hell-bent on proving her worth, despite her being a woman, that that’s all her character became. This crippled her relationship with Fury. Instead of Fury becoming a guide to Carol when she returns to Earth, he became the receiving end of the superiority she picked up from her time as a Kree. It felt as if he was reduced to a comic relief sidekick alongside Carol, instead of the force of nature we had previously seen and known him to be. Though this is a prequel movie for Fury, and he arguably doesn’t quite have the experience to be a mentor yet as he’s early in his career, the fact remains that as far as she knows, he is still Carol’s bridge between Kree and Earth – and to me it felt like Carol knew better than he did.
Now, I know Carol was brainwashed to believe she was really a Kree. It seemed as if all the flashbacks from Carol’s former life on Earth shown in the movie were instances like these: blatant misogyny. What it really needed was more of Carol being a badass like Maria talked about during the kitchen scene. The Carol Maria talked about sounded awesome! She was a pain in her best friend’s butt! She was an amazing pilot! She loved to go out and dance and do kareoke! She was an aunt figure to Maria’s daughter, Monica! THAT’S the Carol we needed to see – the truly human Carol!!!
In fact, the one thing Captain Marvel did better than Wonder Woman was the inclusion of Maria’s character. What little we saw of Maria and Carol’s friendship was AMAZING!!! They had such a great friendship, of two women (one of them of color!!!) LOVING AND SUPPORTING EACH OTHER UNCONDITIONALLY!!! There wasn’t enough time spent on any female characters other than Diana in Wonder Woman for us to see any friendships form between her and another woman (though I am hopeful we see this between Diana and Barbara Ann Minerva in WW84, coming out in October at time of posting).
The movie needed more of this truly human Carol. The pre-brainwashed Carol as seen through Maria and Monica’s eyes, to make the audience care about her, and to make us believe that she is more than a single dimension: that of being a woman with something to prove. It’s otherwise difficult for the audience to remember that she IS supposed to be human, and therefore it’s difficult for the audience to emotionally connect with her.
The heavy-handed misogyny in Captain Marvel also strips away any and all emotional impact we are supposed to feel from anything – especially the final fight scenes, after Carol finally comes into her full power. The movie tried SO HARD to show us Carol’s girl power that that’s all her character was reduced to. When we finally get to the “I’m Just a Girl” fight scene, we just roll our eyes at yet ANOTHER in-your-face instance of Carol’s femininity. Captain Marvel hamstrung itself on its’ own feminism.
The dynamic of each movie within its’ respective universe is also interesting to think about. The DCEU was okay at best until Wonder Woman (the 4th installment) finally helped them to find their stride. While no DCEU movie they create afterward will come close to being on the same level, their subsequent movies have become overall lighter and more fun in tone than their predecessors – and more like the MCU.
The DCEU tried too hard in their beginnings to become what the MCU was in their middle that they rushed into a huge crossover with no other basis than Man of Steel, and failed at it.
The MCU is a carefully-crafted, decades-long cinematic event. I may be a die-hard DC fan, but even I can admit that Marvel’s movies FAR outstrip DC’s in scope, continuity, and storytelling. Captain Marvel was the third to last installment in the Phase 3 of the MCU saga – between Ant Man and the Wasp and Avengers: Endgame (technically, but I personally consider it the second to last because I don’t count Spiderman: Far from Home as being part of Phase 3, but that’s a post for another day). My point being, this movie is smack dab between a hilarious, high-stakes heist, and the epic ending to one of the greatest cinematic sagas in all of film history, and introduces a character VITAL to that ending, just one movie before. And it unfortunately feels like a slog to get through. It feels like forced required reading just before that cinematic climax that only serves two purposes: to explain the Carol-Ex-Machina moment in Endgame (disappointing), and how Fury lost his eye (even more disappointing).
The MCU tried to recreate with Captain Marvel what the DCEU did with Wonder Woman – a first movie for a female hero in their camp – and failed at it.
… Okay, now that I got my nice, objective views out of the way, I’m sorry I can’t hold it in anymore I need to say it the very biased way I said it to a friend: Captain Marvel??? More like Captain Knockoff: Superman Without Any of His Likeable Qualities Wearing a Chinese Bootleg Wonder Woman Costume
Y’all KNOW they PURPOSELY created CM’s costume to look TOO SIMILAR TO WW’S like JUST LOOK AT IT AND TRY TO TELL ME I’M WRONG
I think y’all knew which camp I was in to begin with, but I hope I explained the important differences between these two movies, and why those differences had a significant impact on each movie, sufficiently!
A few weekends ago, our state moved into Phase 3 of their COVID-19 reopening plan. This enabled non-essential retailers to open with recommendations for mask-wearing, disinfecting, and social distancing for staff and customers.
What did this mean for Fiancé and I? A trip to our favorite used media store.
I didn’t buy anything. I was just happy to be there and browse: doing something somewhat normal. While Fiancé was looking for something specific, he couldn’t find it. He did find this movie and bought it for us. We already own the first season of the ’60s TV show, which we enjoy, and he wanted this film for his collection.
Batman and Robin, along with their friend District Attorney Harvey Dent, attend a secret demonstration of a new machine built by Dr. Hugo Strange. He calls it an “Evil Extractor,” and it’s designed to suck out evil in a person. At first, it works! The evil in the villains Strange selects to demonstrate the machine is extracted and deposited in a vat. Things go awry when the villains start to laugh, overloading the machine and causing the containment vat to explode. Harvey is splashed with the pure evil extract and transforms into Two-Face, despite Batman’s attempts to save him.
After six months of Two-Face’s villainy, Harvey Dent has had reconstructive surgery and is fully rehabilitated. Eccentric millionaire Bruce Wayne is ecstatic to have his friend back, but his ward Dick Grayson isn’t so sure. Batman and Robin have had to deal with multiple stings by different villains, all of which leave behind clues of duality, or the number two. Surely this points to Two-Face being behind everything? When the Dynamic Duo come face-to-face with the Cleft Criminal, they are forced to admit that Two-Face is back – with a vengeance!
As mentioned above, this animated feature is done in the style of the 1960’s Batman TV show. And boy, did they knock it out of the park! There are action stunts, sound effect speech bubbles, and visual gags and Easter eggs galore. Character designs stay true to their source material. One change I really liked was that the eyebrows on Batman’s cowl were animated: they didn’t change shape much, but moved up and down to indicate emotion or tone. This was a nice touch that’s been done in other animated iterations of Batman (BTAS comes to mind). It may have been difficult to determine emotion from voice alone, without any other body language cues we get from Adam West while watching the live action show.
Speaking of Adam West, this was the last project he worked on before his death in 2017. All his lines were already recorded before he passed. There is a lovely tribute to him at the end of the film. Burt Ward and Julie Newmar reprised their roles as Robin and Catwoman, respectively. William Shatner was brilliant as Two-Face. It was clear that everyone had fun lending their voices for the film, whether they were an original cast member or a newcomer.
I felt the story was a little too convenient and predictable. I also thought the visuals could have been better served by animating more in the style of the times, not the ultra-clean, modern imitation of traditional animation we get today. In spite of this, there were a whole lot of laughs to be had through written or visual jokes, over-the-top camp, excessive but impressive alliteration, and so on. This is where the real joy of the movie comes in: perfectly capturing the spirit of the beloved classic in a new, modern package.
Well-known fact about me: Halloween is my favorite holiday. Little-known fact about me: I love musicals. Whether they are movies with songs or written for the theater, I love them all. I hum show tunes under my breath while doing every day tasks. I love to dress up, do my makeup, and go to the theater with my fiancé to see them on stage. The experience of live theater is simply unmatched. However, most of the time, tickets are too expensive, or we’re too busy – luckily for me, many musicals have been recorded or remade into movies 😉 I have an annual viewing of these musicals every Halloween:
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas/Corpse Bride
I mean, come on! You can’t have a spooky musical marathon without a little Tim Burton animation 😉 Of the two, I personally favor Corpse Bride, in which Victor accidentally marries himself to a corpse named Emily while practicing his vows for his arranged marriage to a girl named Victoria. The muted color palette of the land of the living versus the color of the land of the dead challenges your expectations; you’d probably assume it would be the other way around! The three main characters’ struggle to reconcile their misunderstanding and make the most of a bad situation is inspiring to me. While Nightmare is a classic, it just doesn’t do too much for me. I find the Nightmare-inspired levels in Kingdom Hearts more fun than the actual movie… however, Zero is just the cutest lil ghost puppy and I love him.
Jim Henson’s Labyrinth
This cult classic starring the late David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly is a new addition to this year’s rotation. In a moment of frustration, the imaginative Sarah wishes the Goblin King would take her baby stepbrother, Toby, away. To her astonishment, the Goblin King shows up and abducts Toby. Sarah must navigate his realm, where nothing is as it seems, and outwit the master trickster himself to save her baby brother. The world building is whimsical and dark. All of Jim Henson’s creatures are crafted beautifully. And, of course, who doesn’t enjoy Bowie’s music?
The Phantom of the Opera
This classic Beauty and the Beast type story takes place in Paris in 1881, where we see the titular Phantom’s obsession with chorus girl Christine Daaé unfold. For her part, Christine is caught between her fascination with, physical attraction to, and desire to save the Phantom, but also her love of her childhood friend and betrothed, Raoul. Joel Schumacher’s rendition is beautifully rendered in a gothic style. While not particularly “scary” in the traditional sense, it’s frightening to see the lengths that an obsessed man will go to win the heart of a woman, and frightening how the Phantom is cast as a tragic figure more often than a creepy one… But if it’s Gerard Butler, it’s okay, right??? /sarcasm
Repo! The Genetic Opera
I was introduced to this movie by a high school friend, and was instantly fascinated. In a not-so-distant future, a corporation called GeneCo offers transplants to the population of a world that’s suffered from an epidemic of organ failure. There is a price to their services, however. If a patient fails to pay, the Repo Man will hunt them down and take the organ back by any means necessary. Science fiction, horror, black humor, drama, and tragedy are blended here in a catchy rock opera format. You are drawn into the world and not let go until the end, when you sit back and ruminate upon it some more.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
This Stephen Sondheim production based on London’s urban legend is my favorite musical. I’ve seen the Tim Burton movie, and a YouTube upload of the original 1982 run with Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury, dozens of times. I’ve seen two different live productions: one with a boy not worth mentioning during my college years, and one with my fiancé just a few years ago. That last production was easily the best I’ve ever seen.
Now, you might be thinking. Why the heck is THIS your favorite musical, Kathleen? It’s about a couple of crazy cats who kill people and bake them into pies! Well, yes, but also no. It’s the allegory that really makes it my favorite. The entire story is a metaphor for the way society “eats,” or takes advantage of, the lowly, the disadvantaged, and the castoffs. It’s why the climax of the story is so satisfying, when one of those castoffs finally gets his comeuppance against the high society person who wronged him.
… Or something =P
Any of these musicals your favorites, too? Any more spooky ones to add to the list for next Halloween? ;D
I’ve been waiting and wishing ( ;D ) for this movie for a while. Aladdin is my very favorite Disney movie and I was curious to see what else they could do with it in a live action remake. Last year now I reviewed the Broadway show, and I’m excited to review the live action movie too! I’ll keep the story synopsis simple, and talk more about the similarities and differences between the original animated movie (abbreviated from here on out as “OG animated film”), the Broadway show (abbreviated as “BW show”), and the live action remake (abbreviated as “LA remake”).
The young man Aladdin is street-wise, charming, and dashing. Everything a girl could wish for. One problem. He’s a street rat – an urchin and a thief living on the streets of Agrabah. He’s got dreams of becoming something, someONE, more. He believes he can when he meets a beautiful girl in the marketplace, and it turns out, she’s the princess! The law states that Princess Jasmine can only marry a prince, so Aladdin’s got next to no chance. That all changes when he is recurited by the Royal Vizier, Jafar, to steal a treasure from the legendary Cave of Wonders, and by accident Aladdin ends up with that treasure: a magic lamp with a Genie inside. He can now wish anything he wants, including turning himself into a prince. Changing himself on the outside affects how people see him, but can it change who he is on the inside?
First, the similarities!
The core story is unchanged. At it’s heart, Aladdin is two tales. The first is a tale of integrity, honesty, and friendship. Beneath it’s glamour and gusto, it whispers “Be careful what you wish for.” As Aladdin discovers, having a magical Genie and three wishes at your disposal won’t solve all your problems – it can, in fact, make them worse.
The second tale is Jasmine’s. She’s an interesting Disney princess in that she’s not the star of her own movie, but a secondary character. However, in every iteration of the story, we see her struggle to assert her worth and independence in a world that allows women no agency. We learn from her that love can be found in unexpected places, and not to judge a book by it’s cover.
Guy Ritchie takes this desert romance and gives it a different spin. There are elements of action, heists, and even hip hop. Though there are more high-speed magic carpet chases through the Cave of Wonders and the streets of Agrabah, but the film never loses sight of the core stories.
Though the OG animated film was rich in desert colors, in my opinion, the BW show and the LA remake have the “real” Agrabah feel. Through the sets and costuming, we get all manner of luxurious textures, sparkles, a deeper rainbow of colors. The rich sensual experience translates better in either live-action experience for me, though I will admit the magical and fantastical elements translated best in the OG animated film. There’s some things that just work best with traditional, hand-drawn animation, and the Genie’s magic was one of them!
Speaking of, let’s talk about the blue elephant in the room for a moment. I believed from the start that Will Smith could pull off the Genie. Of course, no one can replace the late, great Robin Williams, and many were afraid of that. But replacing Robin Williams was never the point. No one was up in arms about Genie’s Broadway casting, were they? Will Smith got a lot of crap from fans about “getting Genie right” and “replacing Robin,” which made me sad. I don’t believe Robin Williams would have wanted this. Will Smith has the acting chops, plus the comedic ability, and he is also a record-selling rapper and musical artist. If I was afraid of anything, it was that Will Smith’s performance would overshadow those of Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott, the relatively new actors they cast as Aladdin and Jasmine.
(Though, really, it’s like tradition for Genie to overshadow everyone – I just didn’t want him to be too much)
Will Smith was phenomenal, just as I’d predicted. I had the biggest, goofiest grin on my face throughout the whole Friend Like Me sequence because I had just KNOWN he would be great, and he didn’t let me down. They let Will Smith… well, just be Will Smith. They gave him a whole lot of razzle dazzle in post (while not a fan of blue Will in the first trailer, I’m adamant the CGI wasn’t finished at that point; he looks MUCH better in motion), but for the most part, they just cut him loose and let him have fun. His enthusiasm billowed out through the screen and infected everyone in the theater.
Casting was spot on for most everyone else as well. Mena Massoud’s Aladdin is as charming and bumblingly endearing as the original. His rougish smile melted my heart; I couldn’t bring myself to be mad when he broke into Jasmine’s quarters to talk to her again (oh, I wanted to. Oh, HOW I wanted to be mad. NEEDED to be mad. I could not!). Naomi Scott brought new life and new elements to Jasmine (more on this in a moment) while staying true to her independent nature. She and Massoud had great chemistry, though I found their singing abilities left something to be desired. I wasn’t moved to tears during A Whole New World as I should have been; the BW show had me sobbing in the theater and I wanted the same experience, dang it!
Now for the differences.
While Jasmine’s character was given more agency, more of a voice, and a new song to match (Speechless as opposed to These Palace Walls from the BW show), her new voice amounted to… next to nothing, unfortunately. Her moment was built up from the very beginning, when Jafar told her to hold her tongue in the presence of a man. She finds her voice in the climax of the film – only for the rest of the third act to unfold exactly as it did in the OG animated film. I was waiting and rooting for her triumph only to be extremely disappointed when she became the damsel in distress once again. I suppose there would have been no other way to do it without changing the ending events too much… but I am a little bitter about it.
More backstory was added about the Queen, Jasmine’s mother, and Jafar and how he rose to his station. However, this exposition was so paper thin, added nothing new to the story, and was mentioned only once or twice. At that point, why bother? I couldn’t suspend my disbelief about Jafar’s backstory especially.
Jafar was the only character I took real issue with. Though Marwan Kenzari portrayed Jafar appropriately misogynistic, he didn’t appear scary enough… or dare I say, old enough. In the OG animated film, Jafar is a creepy, lecherous, and truly sinister old dude. I don’t think the film gained anything by aging him down. His preying on Jasmine was toned down, I think, in favor of his thirst for Agrabah’s throne, but I wasn’t truly sold on his performance.
And, speaking of mothers, to my last point: why on Earth didn’t they include Aladdin’s mother, or at least the song about her? Proud of Your Boy, Aladdin’s ballad about mourning his mom and wanting to do right by her, was cut from the OG animated film. It was included in the BW show, however, and brought feeling and depth to his character. I was expecting it here, for whatever reason… dunno why I’m so surprised it’s not! Apparently I’ve forgotten how much Disney hates mothers! After hearing the less-than-stellar vocal performances by much of the cast, I can now understand why it was cut here, too… but I still feel it should have been included. I would have welcomed an effort at Proud of Your Boy and the reprise over the two “blink and you miss it” mentions each of Jasmine’s mother and Jafar’s past.
I’ve heard mixed things about all live-action remakes Disney’s made to date, and only seen one and a half myself (all of 2015’s Cinderella and the second half of 2014’s Maleficent), but overall I was not disappointed with this live-action remake of my childhood favorite. Guy Ritchie’s direction took us to a more action-oriented Agrabah, but his vision never lost sight of the desert glamour or the heart of the story. Casting for the most part was done very well; Will Smith’s Genie especially. Going in with an open mind on this one makes for a magical carpet ride at the movies ;D
I’m gonna be honest here. I’ve learned the hard way to go into a DC movie with low expectations. My fiancé and I’ve endured too much: trudged through too many sluggish, gritty, grey overtoned color palettes; winced through too many poorly-written, edgy, grimdark facades of the characters we know and love; and pointed out so many potholes, the whole DCEU could easily be mistaken for one of many poorly-maintained streets in the major city nearest us. To say DC movies have been a slog to sit through is a major understatement.
It was with this mindset that I sat down in the theater with my fiancé and ordered my dessert. The trailers had looked good, much better in my humble opinion than those of Shazam’s Marvel counterpart, Captain Marvel (and made me laugh at the use of Eminem’s “My Name Is” in one of the trailers; after the use of “Without Me” in Suicide Squad, it makes me wonder exactly how much of a hard-on DC’s marketing team has for the rapper’s old hits), but if I was optimistic it was cautiously so.
Billy Batson is a 14-year old foster kid. He’s been shunted from home to home, because he keeps running away. Billy is on a mission to find his mom. When he was very little, he and his mom got separated at a carnival. He’s tracked down half a notebook’s worth of female Batsons in the Philadelphia area, but none of them are his mother. Nevertheless, he’s determined to find her, whatever it takes.
A couple named Rosa and Victor Vazquez are the next family to take Billy in. They foster five other children who have been difficult like Billy has been, or have special needs. The Vazquez’ are a loving couple, who were foster kids when they were younger, so they know the ropes and are confident Billy will fit in well and become part of the family. All the children take to him: Freddy Freeman, his new roommate and superhero enthusiast, most of all. Billy, however, doesn’t really want anything to do with anyone in the house; to him, it feels like they’re keeping him from finding his mother, from his real family.
While plotting to run away again to chase down the next Batson on his list, Billy is summoned to a mystical cave. A very old wizard named Shazam tells Billy he has been chosen to become the next champion to protect the world from the manifestations of the Seven Deadly Sins. Out of everyone else in the world, Billy has been chosen because he has the purest heart. Billy is skeptical; there are no truly good people left in the world, right? And he can’t possibly be one of them, right? But the wizard is adamant, and Billy lays his hand on the mystical staff and shouts, “Shazam!”
A crack of thunder, a flash of lightning, and Billy is transformed into an adult superhero. The wizard fades away, his quest fulfilled, leaving Billy alone and very confused. He makes his way back home to Freddy, the superhero expert, and together they test the limits of Billy’s powers, film them, and post them on the internet. He immediately becomes a viral sensation, and Billy soon starts using his powers not for good, but to show off and make money. When the Seven Deadly Sins escape and a threat arises, can a teenaged and untrained Billy even rise to the challenge? Will he keep chasing the mother who gave him up for adoption, or learn the true meaning of family?
As usual, the good first:
Guys. GUYS. GUYS. THIS is what a superhero movie should be. Shazam! was everything I had previously been missing from the DCEU, and more.
The difference with this movie was, it felt like they finally just let loose and had FUN with it. They took the concept “what would a 14 year old boy do if he suddenly got superpowers?” and really rolled with it. Of course he would not know how to pee while in costume! Of course he would film himself showing off his powers to become famous! Of course he would try to buy beer while in his older disguise!
What would you have done if you acquired superpowers at that age? Probably about the same stuff, if you’re being honest with yourself! I know I might have ;D Billy behaved exactly as I would expect any 14 year old to, as I would have expected myself to at that age. It was for that reason that the entire theater was in stitches for what I’d say was the first third of the movie.
For all the laughs it provided, it has soul too. Billy has a good heart and is worthy of the mantle of Shazam, though he doesn’t believe it and doesn’t show us at first. It’s over the course of the movie that we, and him, learn it. Rosa and Victor, though they have limited screen time, are obviously loving and caring parents for their foster children. I wish they were my parents! Freddy has a physical disability, for which he has to use a crutch to walk, but his knowledge of superheroes is encyclopedic, and he at turns acts as Billy’s conscience and rival, much as real brothers would.
For all their faults, the DCEU sure knows how to cast. Asher Angel and Zachary Levi are perfect for the roles of Billy/Shazam. Angel is quick on his feet and unafraid to show deep emotion, allowing him to bounce from sarcastic joking to disbelief to fear all in the same sentence. He’s so young, but obviously an artist to watch. Levi, maybe pulling from his own childhood fantasies of gaining superpowers, gives a hilarious and believable performance as adult Shazam. The character fumbles a bit at first, but soon finds his stride, much as a teenager really would.
The bad? There isn’t much. I’ve been mulling it over for a few weeks, and really my one big nitpick is that Billy went from typical teenager in a costume to a hero too fast. That character development was saved only for the third act. At that point you’ve sat through the hilarity of the first act, the very middle-y and bogged down second act during which the Big Bad gets a lot of attention and Billy’s antics have gotten kind of old, before getting to any “meat.” A two-hour movie isn’t a long time for significant character development, but a little bit more of a gradual uptick in hero-ness as the film went on would have been appreciated.
Oh, more of Mary would have been most welcome too. She’s an American treasure, a sweet baby, and must be protected. The cameo right at the end could have been expanded upon a tiny bit more, buuut I suppose there was a good reason, so I can let it slide =P
Overall, Shazam! is a genuinely funny romp through finding the true meaning of family, and back through childhood dreams of becoming a hero. All through the hilarious first act (and at the very end!), we the audience are also back in Billy’s shoes as children, longing for superpowers of our own. To see our wishes fulfilled through Asher Angel and Zachary Levi’s Billy Batson on the big screen is truly fun and heartwarming. I stated in my Aquaman review that it was DC’s best since Wonder Woman, and while nothing DC does can ever top Wonder Woman for me, I feel Shazam! was leaps and bounds above what Aquaman accomplished. Shazam! had more consistent characterization (despite my above nitpick), a main character you truly saw yourself reflected in, and overall, superior writing, a bit of a tighter plot, and a better time at the theater. I appreciate that the DCEU is letting lesser-known characters come out to play… if the rest of it (though I’ll settle for a spin-off series) could be Shazam Family Shenanigans, I would be very satisfied indeed ;D
After Justice League was yet another disappointment, I gave the DCEU three chances to redeem itself in my eyes. With Aquaman and Shazam!, it used two of those chances, the third being Wonder Woman 1984. I mean, I’ve never doubted WW84 would be good, but now I truly have hope for the rest of the DCEU going forward. Don’t screw it up, DC!!!