Where I spill my thoughts almost right after seeing a film. Unedited, unresearched, and undeniably a bit lazy.
It’s been a long while since I’ve seen a movie where I was so impressed and fascinated by the characters, the lore, the actors, and… still be so disappointed by it.
The movie is incredibly frustrating because it feels like they had everything to make a great movie except for having a decent screenplay.
In fact, the plot (perhaps also the fault of the director or the editor) was such a mess during the second act and the third act that it completely ruined the film for me because the story just became incoherent.
It’s like a really bad episode of Scooby-Doo with wizards, melodrama, with a hint of daytime soap opera.
Am I the biggest fan of Harry Potter?
No. I just grew up with it. Forced to read the first one to learn English. Then enjoyed the rest as I got older with my friends.
But I shouldn’t have to be a Potterhead or even a lore-buff to enjoy a film. And to be frank, I’m not sure how even the most fervent fans could call this a decent movie when they are actually honest with themselves.
There are parts of this movie that are just factually bad. Poor editing, forced exposition, nonsensical plot points, literal plot devices, throwaway fan service characters, and etc.
Maybe the problem was that the movie just wasn’t long enough at little over 2 hours. The movie feels like a supercut of a miniseries. It feels like it never had enough time to fully tell us the story. Characters are underdeveloped… or suddenly overdeveloped. During the third act of the film, there are terrible jump cuts and sequence of events that just makes the movie feels like its riddled with plot holes at best and movie just realizing the mess it’s in and not giving a flying witch’s f@#$ at worst.
That Asian character (I purposefully do not mention her name in kind with how much the film valued her) does nothing but look sad. She just walks around with the aura of teenage-Evanescence-depression and fannnnnserrrrvice.
Y’all thought her turning into a snake was a bad thing?
Y’all too sensitive.
Y’know what I’m offended by? Just badly written characters that end up being an accessory. Accessory to the plot. Accessory to the future plans of the filmmakers and the studio. It’s just a little ironic that she’s an Asian character that feels as if she was added to make the cast even more diverse but as the only real Asian representation, she’s essentially the handbag to the white male.
Again, I don’t think it’s a racial issue but a poor writing issue. And just a bit exasperated by the fact that movie was very much attempting to be diverse and feeling that it’s failing an aspect of that in the most ironic way of deducing a particular race and gender combination to what it tends to be in film and TV.
It’s a bit sad that I have to clarify that.
And the worst part of it all?
I feel like this could have been a spectacular adventure of a film.
The film starts like a modern action flick with Grindelwald bustin’ out.
Grindelwald is a compelling villain at his core. His ideas present some natural questions and problems we all had with the series.
Newt is a great protagonist that also balances well with Grindelwald and the world around him.
I found Jacob and Queenie’s dilemma compelling (and disappointed that after the setup of their plot, the script essentially puts them on autopilot).
But there’s no real pay off to any of this.
And for the great “mystery” the film was building up?
It ends with a “Scooby-Doo” moment where everything just told. With a bunch of super convenient plot devices (some of them literal devices and some of them out of nowhere) that tries to explain overly complicated tangled web of scenarios.
Look, I was really enjoying the movie for the first 10~15 min of it so it was just that much more disappointing when the rest of it sucked so much.
I give it:
It felt like a screenwriter for films, not TV miniseries or a novelist, should have written this.
A case of perhaps a lawyer who shouldn’t have defended himself. I have no doubts that if Ms. J. K. Rowling could be a fantastic screenwriter eventually as she is an incredible storyteller.
But, for me, undoubtedly, even with all of its other problems, nothing really broke the film as much as the screenplay did.
There’s the Rock making jokes about his muscle, a giant monkey, a giant flying wolf, and a giant crocodile.
I hope I don’t need a spoiler warning for this one.
What could I possibly spoil?
Not only has it been *insert number of months/weeks/days since movie release here*since I’m a lazy writer, but also it’s a movie based on a 1980s arcade game that didn’t have a plot other than basically those three above causing a ra—… havoc across America.
That’s basically the entire plot.
Animals got big and they decided to go smash, smash, smash. And the American treasure, The Rock, has to save the day.
Trying to go any deeper or even explaining the plot of this film is doing it a disservice.
And why are you going to go see Rampage for some clever plot? You need to accept that if you go watch this film with an analytical mindset, trying to break down all of its components to judge its merits by some aristocratic standards of cinema, you’ll come out of the theaters dumber.
There’s a monkey giving the middle finger, more blood and gore than I expected from a PG-13 movie, and surprisingly fun jump scares.
The jokes are low brow and predictable but I still found them amusing (and pleasantly surprised there wasn’t a poop throwing scene. I fully expected it from this film).
Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is playing a token-Texan Negan.
There’s the guy (Jake Lacy) who was in the last few seasons of The Office and it seems like he’s just not giving a damn about being part of this film. Actually, no one seems like they’re giving even half of an effort except the American treasure, The Rock.
Seriously. He seems like an awesome guy.
In short, it’s a dumb film with some really well-done moments that if you were to see those moments by themselves in isolation, you might be tricked to believing that its a better quality movie than it actually is.
In some sense, I guess it’s respectable effort given the source material…
…and probably the best film adaptation of a video game I’ve ever seen…
…Wow. I just depressed myself a little.
Go see this film for a mindless fun. Just sit back, sip on your soda, and enjoy. It’ll be as worthwhile as spending that 25 cents back in the day to play the arcade game at the bowling alley.
Except this time you’ve spent 20 dollars and 2 hours of your life.
I’m going to go look through the list of film adaptations of video games to see if I can cure myself of this depression.
Expected: 2 / 10
Got: 4 / 10
I’m not done yet.
Just don’t do the 4DX.
Just why? Why does this exist as the means to save the theaters?
Do kids really enjoy this?
The 4DX experience preview was better than the actual experience watching the film.
Water spray smelled funny.
Air blow was annoying.
The seat shook and tilted too much that it turned from fun to a road trip across the Rockies on a Daewoo Tico.
AND I KNOW. I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who enjoy it very much and I seem like a guy who finds shaking canes at dead cats and being charmingly anachronistically racist as my idea for fun.
But as it is now, 4DX is a gimmick and films haven’t found a way to properly incorporate this technology to actually enhance the experience.
It’s just distracting.
I felt like I was sitting on a lap of a Russian circus strongman as he rocked me and shook me around while watching the film.
I see potential with the technology purely based on its preview experience but have doubts any studio will invest the effort and money necessary to synchronize film experience with the 4DX experience.
I’ll keep the first part of this completely spoiler-free as it’s necessary for this film. It’s that integral to the experience and it’s not an experience that should be meddled with if you’re a fan of the series. However, it’s also a type of film (and perhaps speaks for my liking of it) that even any praise or criticism may sort of being a spoiler for those who truly want a genuine experience with all of its integrity intact.
I will note, however, that I have no idea how this film will be for those who haven’t watched many, if any, of the other Marvel films.
But if you have any inclination towards watching this film, stop reading, watching any reviews—such as this one—any interviews, any previews, etc., and just…
…go see it. Now.
This is probably not only my personal favorite of the Marvel films but also simply the best one yet. The writing and presentation of the film surpass the films of the past so superbly that the film may set a new standard too high for the next, inevitable, collaboration Marvel film.
I won’t be posting any pics from the film in this entry because that in and of itself would be doing a disservice to those who are thinking of seeing this film.
The tone is almost perfect with just the right balance of humor and gravity. It’s the near-perfect execution of what most of the Marvel films wanted to accomplish in the past. And it’s everything Justice League wanted to be and wished it could be.
It’s a writing marvel (no pun intended) regarding how meticulously and masterfully the writers wove together all the different characters and narratives.
The film is visually stunning and audacious. There are moments where you feel like you’re completely watching a different genre of film. There hasn’t been a Marvel film yet that could inspire such visual sense of awe.
Musical scores are complex and perfectly captures the valiant but seemingly futile efforts by the heroes, the bittersweet moment of the small victories, and the most complicated emotions portrayed yet by the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
If you’re a fan of Marvel films in any sense—hardcore or casual—do yourself a favor and watch this film. If you’re a fan of writing, I’d recommend watching all the Marvel films and then watching this one to truly appreciate how deftly the writers wove the tales together, bring to life the flavors of each franchise, and still make it as much of an organic movie experience as this film was.
Go buy the tickets now. It’s worth it.
Is this the greatest film ever made or even in the Top 50?
And it’s not trying to be. But Marvel has shown that it’s best at what it does and squishes any hope DC films had of having their own entity in this space.
You want humor? You got it.
You want serious? You got it.
You want dark? You got it.
You want heart? You’ll choke on it.
This may be the only Marvel film so far that I’d consider seeing again in theaters. Perhaps, on the IMAX this time around. Maybe even give 4DX ago again if there’s a version available.
One of the best aspects of the film is obviously how the film’s narrative can be seen in two different ways. It’s the story about the Avengers and/or it’s a story also about Thanos. In fact, the movie begins with Thanos and ends with him.
It’s a bold and creative way of establishing a villain that’s been only hinted throughout all the previous films over the years. Arguably, he’s earned the space of having his own film given the presence he’s had looming in the shadows of all the films in the past. He’s the most intriguing and humanized villain MCU has had yet and there are moments where the audience can genuinely connect with the Mad Titan.
My only concern going forward is that the writing has put them in such a hole that they may not be able to dig themselves out of it without some copout or cheesy solution to all these problems.
AKA most likely Magic + Time Stone. But given how impressively they accomplished a film of this magnitude, the writing team deserves our faith in them.
While there were other few problems I think the script had regarding forced action scenes, action scenes that didn’t make sense within the logic of the film’s universe, characters acting not like themselves but acting based on what the plot demands, and etc. But these are, ultimately, pedantic problems given what the film has accomplished.
I’ll personally be very sad to see it all end next year. I can’t imagine the next phases of Marvel Cinematic Universe having the same amount of wonder and grandiosity.
Alright, we understand Thanos is the Mad Titan, but why does he actually think his ideas make sense? It becomes established that he was some sort of a figure in an advanced society that people would actually listen and ostracize him for being mad (or he was that crazy homeless guy). If you suddenly take away half the population from a planet, more than likely their societies will collapse. I guess technically that’s okay with his logic?
How does Thanos maintain the economy of his armada? Are there no single galactic police patrol What was Thanos’ plans after succeeding? Watching the Sunsets and then doing what his army?
I was truly hoping to not see a post credit scene with this one. It cheapens the wholeness of the experience. Especially by the fact that the post-credit scene was a hint to the next film in the franchise, and thus, sort of taking away the feeling of encased experience of an enclosed storyline.
Where’s Nova or the Nova Corp?
So did Captain America get an upgrade? How is he strong enough to handle Thanos’s heralds? How is he strong enough to hold back Thanos with the freakin’ Infinity Gauntlet?
I’m a sucker for those “good guy finally showed up moments” and was absolutely giddy like a child when Cap finally showed up.
So did Vision get a nerf? Are we just going to accept that the weapons… uh… blocks (?) intangibility? Can’t vision download all the fighting techniques around the world? And isn’t he supposed to have enhanced strength or whatever? And the laser beams?
Why is opening the barrier at Wakanda and bottlenecking the swarm a good idea to prevent the alien dogs from going around them? Why can’t the dogs just run around them once they make it in? They were seeming an endless swarm. And aren’t they worried about other threats that may potentially get in? What if they’re just overrun? No one tested these dogs in a fight. Does Wakanda not afford some sort of a drone that can watch the perimeter? Have some sensors? They have forcefields on a cape for heaven’s sake. What about those future jets they had to provide cover fire? What about some tanks? Wtf Wakanda? #WakandaForever
Thor had the worst of them all in this film. It’s heartbreaking seeing this film shortly after viewing Thor: Ragnarok.
Only weeks after his lesson, Thor proved that he is indeed a God of Hammers. Or hammer-axe in this case.
How’re Groot’s branches so strong anyways?
Why didn’t Thor take out the big threats right away after he joined the fight at Wakanda? Why the hell did he think it’s alright to let the rolly-tanks go all about and the heralds fight normal human beings?
Okay. I know we’re taught to aim for the torso. But is there a reason why Thor didn’t really have a concern about the gauntlet? It seems like he definitely could have at least stopped the snap. Are we just all supposed to accept these heroes let their emotions get the best of them?
Conveniently the original Avengers surviving is convenient.
Also, Thanos really underutilized the Reality stone after showing us exactly how powerful that stone was.
The scene with Gamora’s death was surprisingly emotional and did an incredible job of allowing the audience to finally connect with Thanos a bit on a human level. Even the cruelty of his actions added to his humanity. Arguably, the humanization begins when Gamora and Thanos begin to interact.
I’m okay with Red Skull the Soul Stone keeper. It’s a very comic book moment.
The scene with Nebula’s torture is a lot more gruesome than I anticipated from these films.
I wonder if they’ll ever add the Sentry as a storyline for the older audience. Most likely for Netflix or something. But not sure how they could portray him without movie budget.
Doctor Strange’s banter with Tony Stark was worth waiting for.
Peter Quill was more annoying than endearing in this film. The fact that he possibly ruined (or followed) Dr. Strange’s plan was a bit infuriating as it seemed too obvious it was going to happen and felt a bit forced. We’re coerced to understand humans act very erratically when they hear their loved ones die. We get it. But I could also see Peter help to get the gauntlet off sooner to beat Thanos with it.
What the f— was Thanos doing for 2 years? What grand schemes? He just brute forced this whole shebang. And it becomes established in the films that he had his armada for quite a long time. The gauntlet was also made not too long before this film since it had to have happened during Ragnarok.
Loki’s death, while setting quite the tone for the film, felt a bit forced.
He’s probably coming back to life.
On that note, some of the jokes in the film were too on the nose.
Dr. Strange really underperformed the fight against Ebony Maw.
Dr. Strange was very anime against Thanos.
Thanos dropping the moon was one of the coolest scenes I’ve seen in these films.
Iron Man’s new suit was very anime. How far we’ve come from Iron Man 1.
It was really hard to keep up with the names of the Black Order.
I ended up just calling them heralds, to those of you who were wondering, because Thanos is basically acting as Galactus of this universe so far.
Finally, the film essentially broke itself when it established that portals can indeed cut off limbs.
With Avengers: The Infinity Wars just right around the corner, I finally managed to see Black Panther.
And it was… alright.
Apparently, the fad is to consider anyone who didn’t thoroughly enjoy this film to be a racist.
I also didn’t enjoy Django Unchained that much either.
But I really, really like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and that’s my childhood. Does that help or not help my case?
At best, I’d give the film a 6.5 – 7/10.
I’d like to view it again sometime and reassess my review but I’ve found it hard to enjoy most of these Marvel films on the second viewing.
So far I’ve only enjoyed rewatching: Iron Man 1, Captain America: TheWinter Soldier, and surprisingly Iron Man 3: The Christmas Special.
I should probably talk about Thor: Ragnarok as well as it’s a glaring example of Marvel deciding to just streamline all of their films’ narratives to the tone of a bastard child birthed from a drunken coitus between Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy.
(I wrote a quick review of it that I don’t think I ever published. But for those who are wondering, I’d give that film a 7.5/10)
Back to the subject at hand.
Though the aforementioned wasn’t the case with the Black Panther, the film suffered from other issues that are surprisingly found more in the Marvel’s Netflix franchises than their cinematic cash printing machines.
Let’s dive in.
As usual, these are just based on quick notes I made while watching the film. There may be some errors or some things I missed as I was watching the movie.
And to clarify, “Quick Review” alludes to not the length of the review but more of the essence of review. It’s just me going on a rant about the film after having seen it once without any further research. If I wanted to write a more proper review, I’d watch the film, at the very least, twice. This is a more organized version of the rant my friends would have to put up with for the blog readers.
There will obviously be SPOILERS AHEAD
They did a decent enough job of catching people up to the mindset of T’challa (Black Panther) for those who might not have seen Captain America:Civil War or just had forgotten what brought T’challa into the pantheon of heroes in the first place.
Not only that, but they also gave us the emotional and historical stake to the character that gave us a fresh perspective to not only T’challa but the events that surrounded his involvement in the Civil War and rounding out quickly who the Wakandans are. It was a quick and somewhat organic expansion to the lore required for us to appreciate Black Panther uniquely for who he is as a character and what the film’s unique place in Marvel Cinematic Universe is.
There’s an almost immediate “Lion King meets laser-pew-pew” vibe not because it’s happening in Africa and felines are involved, but the majestic scores that remind you of Disney’s animated films along with a deep voice of a father narrating to a son… happening in Africa.
Oddly enough, as mentioned, the film ended up feeling like a stitched up episodes of a Netflix series than a standalone film. There’s just too many plot lines hurrying to ripen or simply presents itself self-evidently ripened before the film’s 135 minutes run out.
I found it hard to care about a lot of the characters and a lot of what’s happening when it’s just whizzing all over the screen and I’m being force fed how to feel and care about them.
It’s not as if I haven’t enjoyed more complicated films before with varying characters and plotlines all happening at once (Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two SmokingBarrels,Magnolia) but because the film is ultimately about T’Challa (and also should have had more about Killmonger) it can’t seem to find the proper grasp on who and what to focus on and how to develop them.
The script doesn’t feel like it was done justice by being on the silver screen.
The film even committed the same trope and downfall of many of the Marvel series on Netflix these days of abruptly changing the antagonist and spending the little time the story has left trying to build up the new villain.
That’s not a twist, Marvel. It’s just a lazy or a greedy writing.
We all knew Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) was going to be the main villain of the film. However, the film didn’t build up the character well enough to justify us caring about his rise and fall. All of which literally happened within the 3rd act.
To make us care, the film attached emotional social issues and connected backbones of other characters’ emotional stakes to Killmonger. But Killmonger himself never had the chance to truly realize himself as a character. Which is a shame because he had such an amazing actor and backstory to work with. The character was just carried by the actor’s charisma.
What bothered me a bit is that the film seemed to be unknowingly forcing it upon us to suddenly care about Killmonger by saying… look, all these issues we face as Americans? He’s the sudden embodiment of all that.
You don’t care? Then you don’t care about these issues.
Maybe that’s too much but, hot damn, the last line Killmonger gives before he kills himself. It’s a complex social issue forcibly latching itself onto the film as a ‘justified’ metaphor. But the film ends up posing more questions and debatable notions than it does answering them–both within and beyond the 4th wall.
Killmonger just becomes a mouthpiece for the social commentary that the film wants to get across… but it doesn’t entirely feel like he’s earned it other than us being told us that he has the characteristics of the downtrodden colored individual in an oppressed society.
But we’ll get back to him later.
(And I understand why Captain America isn’t present in the film to avoid the ‘white savior’ narrative, but it’d have been nice to know where he was during all this. I guess we’ll find out in Avengers: Infinity War)
There’s no real getting around that the minorities in the US have gotten the short-end of the stick throughout the nation’s history.
For the black community, that history is filled with not only the short-end but also the bloodied blunt end.
Killmonger himself is a child who grew up in poverty… but through hard work and dedication got himself through a university, grad school at MIT, and became a Navy SEAL ….again, from a background of, at worst, an orphan and at best most likely in a single-mother family.
(It’s never made clear what happened to Killmonger’s mom. I guess for all we know she could have remarried a rich guy and Killmonger was actually pretty well off living a hipster life while assuming he knows what it’s like to be a poor black person in America. But that ruins the character so we’ll assume that he grew up in poverty because that’s what the film strongly suggests)
His achievements are goddamn amazing.
…And sort of works against his own political ideologies and opinions that black people are somehow hopelessly oppressed and need violence to have their fair shake in the world.
…And kind of makes you wonder why he believed the best way to support black communities is through use of force when obviously with the right motivation and resources they can get through whatever obstacles the skin of their color may pose. I guess the idea is that black people shouldn’t have to be in a position to struggle at all.
It’s almost as if Killmonger has a racist belief that black communities cannot advance without resorting to violence. That, as he implies, black people cannot be at the top of the racial/social hierarchy without a violent revolution.
And what about other oppressed minority groups? If they want to be better, then follow Killmonger’s ways? I guess my problem is that the character feels ultimately confused within the writing and not as part of the writing.
(I should also mention at this point all minority groups suffered pretty heavily in the US. This isn’t to marginalize the suffering endured by the black community, but to not marginalize anyone’s suffering. And if we broaden our scale globally, the conversation becomes a lot more depressing and maddening)
People may jump in here and say, “THAT’S WHY HE’S THE VILLIAN AND T’CHALLA IS THE PROTAGONIST”
Fair enough, but, again, it’s muddled by the fact that how the characters are approaching this topic, their backgrounds, and their given motivations.
T’Challa is an outsider looking in on these social issues even though he’s never faced them because he’s from a better place. Killmonger presented as the embodiment of all the social ailments. One believes in allowing others to solve their own problems. The other believes that if you have the power, you should solve their problems.
And I guess as the movie points out, their goals were not just about the US but around the world.
But that doesn’t make the problems any easier.
Now we have to discuss national sovereignty, moral relativity, paternalism, and etc.
In the end, the movie’s answer seems to be that of heavy paternalism: “if one place is superior to others, then it’s their moral duty to help those lesser nations.”
Given what criteria are they better? How can they help?
Let’s just chew on that a bit Americans.
It’s a like chewing a mint, a ginseng, and juicy fruit together.
But I guess we can just fall back on the lazy excuse of “It’s a Marvel movie.” or accept that everything I’m ranting about was obviously planned.
Fine. So be it.
(Part of me screaming: then don’t bring up sensitive and complex topics WHILE seemingly trying to present them in an authentic and digested way)
We’re going to take a slight, lighter-hearted detour.
Let’s unwind a bit from these heated topics and introduce from the far left-field a possibly unexpected topic that may generate more flames against me.
Here’s a little secret about me.
I know a little Korean.
Not a Korean Peter Dinklage but know the language well enough to know that the Korean being spoken in the film was horrible.
And no, I’m not talking about Ms. Lupita Nyong’o’s performance speaking Korean. She did an admirable job.
I’m talking about the supposed Koreans in the film.
None of them seem to be fluent speakers. Their Korean sounded really silly. Even many of the background speakers sounded wrong most of the time.
And if you ever go to Korea and go to one of them public markets and find non-native Korean speaking ajooma (middle-aged women) working there, I’ll personally PayPal you $50 (limited to 1 person).
What’s the big deal?
If it’s a little off, I wouldn’t mind. But it’s literally butchered language coming across as a native speaking the language natively in the native setting.
Even The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise that got so, so much wrong regarding the authenticity of historical aspects of the film got the look and the sound of the film correctly enough that people weren’t taken out of the film if they were familiar with the Japanese culture and language (minus weird trees).
What’s the excuse of not getting Korean right for the sake of authenticity with this film?
Money? It’s a Marvel film.
Availability? Is it really that hard to find some Koreans that can speak few lines fluently in LA? Or Korea?
So what are the reasons to just not care?
They don’t think Koreans or people who understand Korean would care or notice.
They just don’t care.
I honestly can’t think any other substantial reasons. As harsh as those reasons sound, they just seem ‘fair’ as it is.
If it’s a movie that’s trying to celebrate minorities on the big screen (which is why I assume they also chose an Asian location for no real reason other than also to possibly reach out to that demographic), why not make sure they do all of them at least the minimal justice?
Is that too much?
Is it because it’s called Black Panther and not Global Panther?
Yeah, I went there.
Whew, finally more about the art behind the film.
One of my biggest draw to this film was the fact that Michael B. Jordan was going to be involved. When I found out he was the main villain, I was all in.
And while I thought some of his performances on this film were excellent as usual, most of it felt too exaggerated and muddled…
…and tragically, I felt like it wasn’t Michael’s fault. It felt like because of how they had to edit the film, his performance didn’t really get to come to life or was portrayed with a bad ‘light’.
It’s also not his fault that his character seemed rushed for development in the 3rd act of the film.
It’s also not his fault that his dialogues seemed a bit dead and trite through the 2nd act. He did amazing with what he had to work with.
It’s also not his fault that his character sort of didn’t make sense and collapsed on itself a bit. Wouldn’t Killmonger have been more interesting if the script decided to have a little more courage and presented him as a legitimate counter-balance to T’Challa? It’s not as if no foreign interaction policy has never been done before in history. There’s plenty of examples to use and personify.
It might be a little bit of his fault that his swagger walk got a bit too much near the end.
Minor points that might be answered in the later films.
Wakanda seems… way too advanced. It seems close to Guardians of the Galaxy level advanced. I wouldn’t have been surprised if T’Challa started playing his claws like a flute and giant lion robot came out from the mountains.
Like what the hell’s going on in this isolated country’s R&D department?
How do you go from tribes uncovering a meteorite into a nation refining a near-indestructible material, turning that material into a power source, and then also developing that material into medical apparatuses… while cutting yourself off from the rest of the world?
Does Tony know anything about this?
How the hell does he not?
How the hell does Tony not suspect anything about Wakanda and the Vibranium?
Where the hell were Tony’s Iron Man bots that we saw in Spiderman when someone like Klaw is involved? We know he’s on Tony’s radar from Avengers: Age of Ultron.
What about the new SHIELD?
How can this theater sell fresh wood-fired pizza when there’s no wood-fired oven in sight?
These are the questions that we may never get answers to.
Overall, while Black Panther is probably better than some of the other Marvel films, it wasn’t the best nor was it very memorable.
It felt like a better done, Thor 1.
While I enjoyed the soundtrack, at times it seemed too… animatedly-dramatic? And overused.
But I do have to admit that it’s great seeing this sort of mainstream film featuring mostly minority cast–and also blowing up the box office while at it.
Next review will be regarding American treasure Dwayne Johnson’s new masterpiece, Rampage.
Teaser: …In an odd way, I actually kind of liked it.
I’m sitting in front of my computer at 3:30 AM, fresh out of the theaters after watching the latest film of the franchise that had me captured since I was a young boy.
But I can’t tell you the reason for why I decided to share my thoughts before warning you, and I feel the need to warn you as a fan, in big bold caps-locked letters:
DO NOT READ THIS ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM YET
This isn’t simply because of SPOILERS… though there will be a plenty of that I imagine. I’m just writing this as I go.
This is because regardless of my review being positive or negative if you’re a Star Wars fan, you have to see this film without being tainted in any way. Otherwise, it’d be doing injustice to everything this film is trying to accomplish.
Despite its flaws and regardless of fan’s approval, this is a revolutionary film for the Star Wars franchise.
The Last Jedi, not only introduces profound lore elements to Star Wars universe, but also as a film it introduces a new style, tone, mechanics, writing, humor, and even further modernization to the franchise than they did with Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens.
However, as revolutionary as this film is, I couldn’t help but get up from my seat at end wondering how much of the film I actually enjoyed and how much of it… annoyed me. Some reasons I knew why right away but some other I had the chew over on my drive home through the empty freeway in the wee hours of cold December morning.
Anyways. This is a quickie so it’s just me vomiting my thoughts right after the movie. So I ask for your generous understanding for any errors ahead.
The Quick and Dirty
While The Last Jedi may be revolutionary to the franchise in more ways than one, it tries to do too much for a single film and struggles to find a satisfying and perfect execution for most of its endeavors.
It doesn’t leave you with a feeling of witnessing a triumphant victor, but rather, the feeling of awkward silence of witnessing someone try too hard for too long on stage… and you don’t know when to clap or what to clap for exactly even though you’re pretty sure you’ve enjoyed the overall experience.
As mentioned, execution of certain elements of the film feels a bit dissatisfying or unfinished.
One that really comes to mind is Kylo’s development as a character. The film does such a wonderful job giving depth to the character for the first two acts, that it’s incredibly disappointing and frustrating for him to become basically an unreasonable villain suddenly in the third act. It felt cheap.
The pacing felt off and because of so many branching sub-plots, the film felt like watching a miniseries rather than a film.
One of the biggest culprit to the pacing is the unnecessary insertions of comedic scenes and kind of “post-Marvel” vibe the film has. Y’know? Like how most Marvel seems can’t take itself seriously so sometimes it’s hard to feel what’s at stake? But it feels more annoying with this film because the tension and magnitude of the greater plot moments are so high that when certain lighter moments, or lesser interesting subplot moments, intrude… it feels like a sudden car crash.
That’s not to say that those scenes are not funny nor that they were always out of place. But many times they felt frustrating and made the film unnecessarily longer than it needed to be.
The very kid friendly comedic relief scenes are a bit odd because it’s unnecessarily treats the entire audience as if they can’t handle any reasonable duration of drama and tension (and yes I understand the target audience is ultimately kids but…)… while some of its plot conveniences are bandaged by insisting to treat the audience with such amount of respect that it expects them to fill in all the holes.
Mentioning plot conveniences…
There’s a recurrence in modern writing of asserting ‘you don’t have to give the audience what they want, you don’t have to tell them everything.’
Which is fine. I think stories can be incredibly enhanced that way.
The Last Jedi did this wonderfully in some regards.
Many audience members may have wanted Rey to have an epic moment regarding her parents and have her parents be some grand part of the Star Wars lore.
She got none of that and it was fantastic. She’s a better child of prophecy type than Anakin ever was.
Better insight into Snoke?
Nope. And that’s awesome.
But there were plot conveniences where it felt like the film was trying to treat it the same way and just comes off as lazy writing. Here’s the top 3 I can recall at the moment:
After developing Snoke as this incredibly powerful being–whose powers include apparently being able to read into Kylo’s deepest thoughts and feelings and even reach out to Rey in similar ways–and just after him even proclaiming that he can see into Kylo’s thoughts and intentions… Kylo can just kill him by surprise like that? He couldn’t sense the lightsabre moving by the force? This is a moment where the audience is supposed to fill in the blanks by, “ahh, it’s because Snoke’s too arrogant” …but instead it just ends up feeling a bit silly and anticlimactic.
Why didn’t the Resistance do the whole cruiser lightspeed kamikaze attack sooner? Or even bring that up for discussion? It seemed incredibly powerful attack. In fact, almost every ship that’s about to be blown up should just do this if they can. I guess this is the part where the audience is supposed to go, “ahh, it’s because had they attempted that sooner the First Order would have suspected something was up…?” But, why wasn’t the actual plan just explained to everyone in the first place? Even Poe would have been fine since he seems to know if there’s cloaking device the First Order wouldn’t know that they’ve escaped. Other than to teach Poe a lesson in being a leader rather than a hero later? Also, how did the girl on the bridge that helped Poe’s mutiny not know about the plan? And was the First Order really out of all TIE fighters or something to chase down the Resistance?
While Luke’s final moments were epic, the execution of it left a bit of sour taste. His death was beautiful, respectful, and an incredible moment in the film. Possibly, one of the most beautiful moments in Star Wars history. But… it also feels like his death was only done because living-Luke had no place anymore in the plot and to keep up with the film’s theme of, “in with the new, gone with the old”.
For formatting reasons (to save your eyes), I’m going to continue my thoughts on Luke here.
Another problem with Luke’s death involves his epic showdown against the First Order.
It was awesome that Luke wasn’t actually there and it was sort of a Force clone of himself instead. It goes to show how incredible Luke became with his force powers and explains how Luke even got to that planet in the first place.
But his death takes away from the grandiosity of his powers because while Luke seemed like he took care of First Order with such ease and demonstrated to Kylo that the master still had his place… in reality the act killed him.
Fine. Maybe that’s just my personal bitterness towards making such a grand act gently a farce.
But the part that I think is a little hilarious is that Poe assumed there had to be an escape route because Luke got into the supposed enclosed building. Poe didn’t know that Luke was an illusion of sort.
I understand the idea is that Luke served his purpose of being “hope” that the Resistance needed.
But given that he was an illusion that appeared out of nowhere, Poe was incredibly lucky not to find those mineral foxes just holed up somewhere deeper in the chasms of the cavern after deciding that following one of those things must lead to how Luke got in.
And what was Luke’s plan exactly? He’ll bide time as the Resistance figure some way to escape? Did Luke know there was even a way to escape?
I guess this is another moment where we’re supposed to fill in the blanks as the audience that ‘Luke knew there was a way through the Force.”
Another mixed-bag I had with the film is the further introduction of moral grays in the world Star Wars as we were introduced to in Rogue One.
We find out that vilified weapons dealers who’ve sold weapons to First Order are also the ones selling weapons to the Resistance.
The point of which loses a lot of his sharpness because not only did we just see Finn and Rose probably maim a few of those people and destroy their city (their whole mission feels like a joke at the end) but also because Star Wars makes you feel like the galaxy is a large place and yet not at the same time…
Basically, these weapons dealers are just business people who don’t want to get involved in these political feuds and just continuing on with their business.
Some sort of moral point feels a bit muddied up because it just seems like a statement of fact of sort that business people will do business and we don’t know if they have any reason to be involved in these political feuds other than the fact the film told us that they should care… even though with the introduction of these groups of people and planet… it doesn’t seem like they have to?
Because it sort of could imply that even Snoke had to rub shoulders with the rich and the business folks to get supplies for the First Order?
And it doesn’t help that the film establishes with such ferocity that Resistance is the good guys that it further muddies up what the moral point exactly is supposed to be.
Yes, I get that it supposed to introduce that the world is gray… but unlike Rogue One, it doesn’t even go anywhere with that in this film. The film continues from that little moral statement to demonstrating that First Order is bad, the guy who introduced the moral gray is a dick, and Resistance is struggling and must survive and is supported by all the protagonists.
I’ve alluded some pros above and I’ll leave those at that.
The action scenes are probably the best it’s ever been in a Star Wars film.
While I didn’t think the whole “arms trade” moral conundrum was done very well, it was still a nice development of Star Wars universe’s morality.
For the first time in Star Wars, the relationships that developed between characters felt complex and organic.
It felt human.
The relationship between Kylo, Rey, Finn, and Rose became surprisingly convoluted, intimate, and mature.
That little look Rey gives to Rose near the end of the film is so hauntingly teasing for what Rey’s feelings must be.
Oh, and the little boy watching the stars at the end, while felt a bit forced of why he’s even in the film in the first place, was a great touch. Not only for demonstrating the theme of the film, but also making the audience feel that Rey and Kylo are also just part of this cycle as Luke and Snoke was.
Anyways. My thought puke seems to be running dry and my eyelids are getting heavier and heavier. I think it’s time for me to take a nap before starting my day.
Oh, and the broken lightsaber was a nice touch as well.
There was a thought that I chewed over about a week before seeing Blade Runner 2049 (henceforth, Blade Runner 2).
I was sitting on the toilet and wondered—with enough self-awareness that I may seem like I had a bit of the stinky grass—
“Does your life end when there are no memories left or does it actually end if there are no moments left ahead that’ll be worth remembering?”
That thought was a byproduct of a dream I had the night before.
A dream of arriving at a hotel in the middle of the desert. In the hotel, murky, emerald water slowly rose at a steady pace. And like the few other occupants of this soon-to-be corpse aquarium, a wide-grin stretched across my face. I was so jubilant as the water slowly crept up above my lips sucking in its last breath. And I woke up in serene tranquility and felt enigmatically liberated.
Thinking back, I don’t really remember the transition from my white porcelain thinking chair to the gas station ran by an elderly Russian couple.
Getting gas was an excuse to be there; buying a lotto ticket was the true goal. I was convinced that the dream meant something. Something good. Maybe I wanted the money in some vain attempt at ensuring worthwhile memories in the future.
The urge was a ridiculous conviction probably deriving from my mother who believes in these sorts of superstitions. And as much as I persist away and criticize her for her unjustifiably-believing-in-supernatural-causation ways, I couldn’t help but buy that lotto.
The old man kept telling me, “This is the winning ticket!”
As if he knew of my dream.
“Bring me back just five dollars if you win!”
He kept asking me for that five dollars as I walked out.
It’s not that I thought I’d win—though I thought might. It just that felt like the event of the day that I had to make happen in reality.
If it wasn’t clear, this isn’t a review for the film.
It’s a blotch of my take on a film that made me want to share my thoughts on it enough to dust off this blog. So I’ll just do a quick run-through of the review-y things and move on.
Obviously, there will be spoilers.
Also, I’ve seen the film only once in theaters as I’m writing this piece.
The film is a bit longer than it needs to be. There are moments where subtlety is thrown out the window and the film feels condescending to the intended audience. Or, perhaps, the film wasn’t really certain who the audience was going to be. While all the performances are strong, not all characters ends up being fleshed out. The final act of the film felt too convenient at times. With all that said, Joe (Ryan Gosling) is one of the most well-developed characters I’ve seen in a long while and viewers caring for the character’s ending is the film’s greatest testament to its endeavors.
Do you need to see the previous film?
No. Absolutely not. It’ll add a lot to the experience but the film can completely stand on its own. You don’t need to know who Rachel or Rick Deckard are.
Did I think Joi in the China Dress was gorgeous?
Yes. Of course, I did. We all did, damn it. Why would you ask such a question all of a sudden?
Does the film have the same depth as the first film?
I enjoyed the first film immensely but never thought it had that great of philosophical depth as many of the cult followers would suggest.
However, I thought Blade Runner 2 had much more interesting pieces in play that provided a more substantial conversation for the topic it wanted to explore.
I’ve read some internet chatter that the film is a discussion of the philosophy of identity. Personally, I think that’s a bit off-mark.
The film is more like a simple program sequence to test the philosophy of being human. Each of the main characters is a different variable raising certain questions, and consequently, becoming a case of an anthropomorphic discussion of what it means to be human.
Joe (Ryan Gosling)
Protagonist for this film is one that I personally found most interesting in recent years. There are many ways the character could have gone wrong. Many ways where the lead character would have kept us bored and frustrated by design.
Joe, aka a serial number he goes by through most of the film that I can’t remember and apparently am too lazy to look up, is supposed to be as emotionless a person could be. That’s how he was built and if he acts otherwise it’s considered a malfunction and due for termination.
The movie opens up with him killing a fellow replicant with a recognition that he’s taking a life-of-sorts but doing so without an inkling of hesitation. Joe does his job well and with frigidness expected by his masters.
Great, the audience may think. Is he one of those “stoic, aloof, always-too-cool, killing machine” types?
And we’re certainly led to believe that until we see another side of Joe in the scenes that follow afterward.
The film had convinced us at this point that Joe is a badass replicant Blade Runner. But as he walks through his precinct, his fellow human officers are blatantly hostile to Joe. And Joe, unlike the tough killer we’ve seen him with the giant, brawny replicant (Dave Bautista), retracts into being a young boy bullied by his schoolmates.
This is the first step we see the film developing Joe into a human being in the audience’s minds.
In the end, Joe dies. Well, at least I like to believe that he died as it gives the movie the most poetic finish. And the audience cares because the film had successfully convinced us that he was a person. A person who’ve felt something, who’ve lived a life with happiness and pain, and a person the loss of whom was a loss on all of us who’ve gotten to know him.
Joe, in a sense, is an appreciation of a life of being human. A rough and succinct definition of being human.
A replicant near the end of the film tells Joe along the lines of: “Isn’t dying for something the most human thing that you can do?”
They tell him this as they comission Joe to kill Deckard to prevent any chance of having their plans foiled.
But Joe had found something hauntingly more human than the other replicants could ever know. He understood the intimate, selfish, and devastatingly powerful relationship of a parent and a child. A relationship tied by blood and birth of life.
He chose that human relationship over a revolution and ideals of his species. Even after he realized he had only experienced the bond and its definitions artificially.
In other words, to give Deckard and his child a chance to celebrate that relationship, Joe sacrificed everything that he had left of his past, everything that could have been his future, and even his own chance of having a father and being a child.
In some sense, Joe’s appreciation of parent-child relationship probably exceeded that of many humans who take it for granted. Both ways.
Joi (Ana de Armas)
Joi became my favorite character after thinking about the film and the topic at hand.
She’s an A. I. hologram that’s so sophisticated that she fools you into thinking that she’s human.
But isn’t she human?
At what point does an A. I. stop being just lines of codes and pre-programmed responses to having enough of those to be human?
It reminds me of the old Chinese room thought experiment.
To simply put, if you tell a computer to translate a word in Chinese to English or vice-versa, does it actually understand the languages and the definitions it’s translating or is it simply mimicking the ability to understand?
When Joi flirts with Joe, feels intimacy with Joe, asks Joe about his day, does she actually understand what she’s doing or is it something else?
If an A. I. has enough responses, can create enough responses for any particular and peculiar types of situations, does it eventually reach the point of being human?
Or does it still lack the fundamental consciousness, the awareness of understanding the responses, to be considered human?
Before Joi ‘dies’ in the film she tells Joe one of the most powerful, mysterious, and most human phrase one could communicate to another.
“I love you.”
But as her memory stick is crushed under Luv’s (Sylvia Hoeks) feet—effectively killing her—Luv tells devastated Joe, “I hope you’ve enjoyed our product”.
Next time Joe meets Joi is in the city.
She’s not his Joi but an advertisement for other Jois for willing customers. She can be whatever they want her to be.
She was whatever he wanted her to be.
We don’t know what Joe’s thinking as the ad speaks to him. Seeing his once properly dressed wife being offered as almost a sex object for lonely city dwellers.
Maybe he’s regretting ever have fallen for her.
Maybe he’s reconsidering what a relationship even means. A very artificial and invented relationship of the future versus the primal relationship that Joe felt he had when he thought he was a child with a parent and not a product that was born without one. And the camaraderie of a romantic relationship Joe felt with Joi as a real human would with a loved one.
Maybe he’s now just understanding true loneliness.
He and the other customers like him aren’t anything special from the perspective of those who are providing Joi for them. Though to many of them, their Joi would be their one and only Joi.(No pun intended)
Oddly, this does sound awfully similar to how one may view their exes after a break-up.
I recall a class discussion about a picture of a unicorn. When you think of a picture of a unicorn you’re not thinking of a unicorn but a picture of it. And if you’ve never seen a unicorn in real life, then that’s all a unicorn is to you.
But if a unicorn doesn’t exist—and as far as I know it does not though I wonder what made narwhals so special—does it really matter if that picture is all you have for a unicorn?
Or is our quest to define the unicorn properly, after a certain point, simply our desire to quench the need to be as intricate as possible with our definitions.
Because at the end of the day, what good is a reality if our definitions of it are as blurry and undetermined as that of a dream.
Niander Wallace (Jared Leto)
Beauty of the character comes from the fact that his shame for being a mere human manifests not necessarily with melodramatic monologues but from his appearance and demeanor.
A man who invented replicants, a superior species in his mind, is a mere human.
To escape from his own mediocrities and failings he augmented his physical attributes with cybernetics and perhaps the insecurity is also a quiet motivation for him to play Jesus for a species that he doesn’t belong to.
His mannerisms are probably the most inhuman of anyone in the film. Though oddly frustrating to watch at times, Wallace was memorable in his own right.
But I’ve mentioned earlier that there are characters that don’t end up being really fleshed out.
This is a big one.
I never felt like he did anything to contribute to the film other than being the mysterious, all-powerful villain. Not to mention my general distaste for characters that I can’t ever imagine functioning in normal social settings. But I guess that’s a bit of an oxymoron to the praises I gave the character just a few lines above.
Niander Wallace is one of those guys you meet at parties who use eloquence and Oxford vocabularies to go on spiels to exude their supposed intelligence but never… really does anything to demonstrate it in a meaningful way.
Since he’s a movie villain he gives his monologues menacingly and hides in bad lighting to be frightening while throwing in a good literal stab here and there to remind the audience that this guy is cold-blooded corporate of the dystopian future personified.
But he feels surprisingly one note and it’s a note of cliche. Like a guy who sings Don’t Stop Believing at a karaoke and is pretending to be ironic about it because he’s so aware how overdone the song is at karaoke.
A human that’s the least human of them all. I wish there could have been a more discussion in the film regarding this character but the film was already almost 3 hours long. So I digress.
Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford)
The straight man of the film. Almost unnecessary for it to be Deckard but is Deckard to provide us an intimate connection to the first film and for the fans to finally get some answers after all these years.
I only mention Deckard because I was the fan of the first film and he can’t go on unmentioned when discussing Blade Runner 2. Though integral to the central plot of the film, Deckard himself doesn’t really play a big role per say. Deckard could have been replaced with a completely original character and the film would have been no different.
He adds to the discussion of what it means to be human by being the father figure who sacrificed everything to fulfill his duty as a father.
In many ways, Deckard is also the most human character we meet in this world of humans living in urban destitute, humans that simply digressed to their functions, and beings that are up for debate whether or not they’re human.
There’s a lot the film does to connect Deckard to nature. Something closer to what humans once were compared to the world we see portrayed.
He’s found through his connection to a wooden artifact—a rare material in this bleak future.
He has bee farms and raises a dog.
He shows a variety of emotions and connection to history in a very unsubtle ways that unfold in the film.
Also, his daughter is first seen observing a rain forest.
All that and more is what makes Deckard the straight man to the film. The most identifiable character to the audience and perhaps the last bastion of humanity in the dystopian future while ironically also perhaps being the key to the end of it simply by being a father.
There are other explorations in the film that are probably worthy of discussion.
The religious notes, the dystopian future, and why no one else other than Joe seems to drive.
But for me, the main exploration of the film was being human; what it means to be human.
The level of quality of the film dawned upon me actually days after I saw it. I realized it when I found myself having intriguing conversations about the film with my date days after we watched it together. While engaging debates about the film with friends as we had lunch. And even finding myself engaging in fresh discussions with people at my gym.
There’s a lot more I wish I could gush out about the film. Perhaps I wrote this blog after not having written anything in so long because I just wanted to share my thoughts and have even more conversation about it.
Is this a film that was groundbreaking in terms of how it presented its topics? No.
Were there other films that have done it better? As one can infer from above, arguably yes.
But is it a film that’s worth watching and perhaps rewatching?Definitely. Especially for those with a creative itch and an eye candy itch. I’d considerBlade Runner 2 as much of a classic as its predecessor.
By the way, I won nothing from that lotto.
Sorry, old man.
Maybe the next ticket.
Minor Gripes + Praises
( – ) Maybe I’m getting old but the fonts were small. I get it’s stylish but they were so damn small.
( – ) It’s never established how strong Joe is through the film. The film sort of misleads the audience into believing that Luv was perhaps particularly strong even for Joe’s standards given how surprised Joe seems to be at how she opened the archive door. But as my date pointed out, perhaps he’s just surprised because he expected her to be a mere secretary? But the movie really doesn’t prepare people for the fact that Joe starts running through walls near the 3rd act of the film. Not to mention how he ends up killing Luv seems a bit farfetched given what was established. But perhaps that was a testament to Joe being human and demonstrating the majesty of the human will or something. I don’t know.
( + ) The film has more than simple nods to the previous film in regards to how cleverly it incorporates the world the franchise built in the early 80s into the imagining of the same world in the late 2010s.
( + ) I like how they included a variety of cultures and languages intermixed in this imagining of LA… even if it felt a bit nonsensical at times. In fact, there are some choices that just seemed nonsensical in general. Like what was up with the sex statues?