Thor: Ragnarok Review (a.k.a Asgardians of the Galaxy)

Thor: Ragnarok

The newest installment for the MCU is here. Thor: Ragnarok is the third film centered on the god of thunder and takes him to many places that he has never been before. Thor’s movies in the past have been set more on a galactic stage rather than being confined to Earth and this one is no exception. So where does Ragnarok stand when compared to the others in the trilogy?

Likes:

Adam

  1. I love how Thor has evolved as a character. The Thor in this movie is a very different Thor from the one we met in the first film. This isn’t some strange change that came out of nowhere, but a change that you see happening through all of the movies that he has been in. Thor has learned from his mistakes and has become more clever. He is able to plan ahead instead of his old hotheaded approach.
  2. I love the humor. I love how the movie knows when to take itself seriously and when to have fun. There is a lot of fun to be had in this movie. I feel the humor is used well. While there are still plenty of times where the humor is there just to be silly, it isn’t overloaded the way Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was.
  3. The conclusion to the movie. The end of Ragnarok may not be everyone’s favorite but I enjoyed it. You don’t necessarily see it coming but the lessons and morals behind it are excellent. It’s a great way to end the stand alone Thor films.

Luke

  1. Marvel has continued its effort to add more color to their movies and put an end to the flat color grading seen in the earlier movies. This movie looks fantastic and is one of the best designed of the Marvel Films.
  2. It was definitely funny, the director is known for his quirky indie films that have a lot of humor. This movie does take that approach and I was laughing throughout. There is a negative side to it that I’ll discuss in the dislikes below.

Dislikes:

Adam

  1. There is one scene where the background looks way too green screened. Where the character’s are standing look great but the sky and the other background effects don’t look quite right. Minor I know but it took me out of the movie a bit.

Luke

  1. I agree with the comment above, I noticed that as well. The issue was that they weren’t lit properly. I’m honestly shocked that no one picked up on it during post. It could have been a shot that was rushed because they were behind schedule. But who knows?
  2. To add to my comments on the humor, the down side of this movie was that it refused to take itself seriously when it really needed to. I’m not saying that super hero movies need to be serious and somber like the DC movies but there were times when the story suffered because of it. The tone is so bright and happy that certain character motivations were confusing because flaws were played for laughs rather than things for characters to overcome. I wish I could discuss it further without giving away spoilers. Overall, there is a time and place for humor and drama, and this movie refused to have any drama in it even when the story really needed it. The thing this movie really lacked was an emotional core, it could have been there but that would either get in the way of a joke or get “too real.”
  3. The plot was also extremely predictable. The ending was somewhat surprising and welcome but everything leading up to that point was nearly exactly what I was expecting from this movie.

Awkward Walk-in Meter: 3/5

Adam: 

There is a little bit of language, some intense fighting, and drinking. Fairly standard for the MCU. There is an underworld like scene that may be scary for real young kids but not that bad in my opinion.

Overall:

Adam: 

I really enjoyed Thor: Ragnarok and I think that it has a great character arc for Thor, not only in this specific film but a great continuation of his MCU arc. I enjoyed how the movie ended and also how it brought the Thor trilogy to an end. All new characters were well cast and some of the new history that we learn in this film was great. On top of that, I laughed a lot and just had fun. Definitely go see this in theaters, I plan on going again soon.

Luke: 

While I didn’t hate the movie, heck I’d say that I overall liked it. But there was something amiss that I’m still trying to articulate that stopped me from loving the film. The film looks great, had great humor, had good action and was entertaining. But honestly I think it will be forgotten in the long run like the other Thor films. Again, not bad films but I can hardly remember the last movie. This may warrant another essay so I can figure out why Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor: Ragnarok just failed to impress me while Logan, Wonder Woman and Spiderman: Homecoming did. If you’re a fan of Thor and the Marvel movies I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one. But I think I’m beginning to feel superhero fatigue.

Blade Runner 2049 Review

In 1982, Blade Runner, the Ridley Scott film loosely based on Phillip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, was shown to the world with lackluster box office sales. It wasn’t until the VHS release of the film did it find it’s audience and become a cult classic. The film’s dark noir-like setting, tone and world building would influence a new Sci-Fi subgenre called steampunk, making way for books, movies, and video games.

Despite the rough production and poor ticket sales. Blade Runner was rereleased twice, developed a huge fanbase and now after 35 years, a sequel. But does it live up to the classic that changed Sci-Fi?

Likes:

  1. Anyone who watched the trailer should know how beautiful this film is. The movie as a whole is always interesting to watch. The production design is top notch, and truly oscar-worthy. While the original is one of the best looking films of the 80’s, I think it’s safe to say that this one holds true to the Blade Runner tradition of beautiful and haunting sets, a deep world and top notch cinematography.
  2. I don’t wish to spoil anything about the story as most of it has been kept secret. I will say that it is quite a bit easier to follow than the original. It really is the movie I think most people going into Blade Runner would be wanting. It’s smart and well-structured, which is good since it’s nearly 3 hours long. There’s a lot of plot twists, red herrings and everything else you’d want from a mystery film. But none of it comes out of the blue either. Hints peppered throughout the film give you clues. In the end everything does make sense (with the exemption of one minor detail). The story actually is better than the first film. However the original isn’t known for it’s well told story but its setting and special effects.
  3. Well done acting. I know that some of the jokes about the deadpan performance of Ryan Gosling as Officer K, but it’s rather appropriate for the film about a blade runner dealing with existential angst. Harrison Ford, while an important character doesn’t show up until past half way, but does a good job returning as Deckard. Jared Leto gives a haunting performance as Wallace as well.
  4. While we aren’t getting the great Vangelis back for the soundtrack, Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch have composed a fantastic score that is very much at home with the Vangelis synch music from the first movie. Classic musical cues are brought back at important moments. They not only honored the original movie but added the visceral flair that the scene needed.

Dislikes:

  1. This is a personal nitpick, but this film has less of the film noir mood than I loved about the original. The original movie takes place entirely at night or at least in twilight (the studio mandated ending in the theatrical cut doesn’t count). It was weird to see daytime scenes in a blade runner movie. Fortunately it’s never sunny so nothing is too beautiful. Then again, the scenes wouldn’t really work during night time either so again, I’m just trying to find fault at this point.
  2. There is a minor plot hole that I noticed. But I don’t think the movie should have stopped to fill it. The plot hole involves some semi-spoilers so I won’t go into detail.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 4/5

This movie earned its ‘R’ rating for violence, sexuality, nudity and language. So there are some ‘F’ bombs dropped. The violence does get bloody but not super gory. I think the thing that may get people is the nudity. I would say that the nudity was at least used for reasons other than a cheap sexual selling point. The nudity at least as a purpose to it.

Overall:

It’s safe to say that I really enjoyed the film. It performed it’s purpose of a sequel perfectly. This film adds to the original. It stands on its own and the world of Blade Runner has deepened and improved overall. It’s a movie I may have to watch few more times as I think it’ll improve over repeated viewings. If you’re a fan of the original Blade Runner then you must see this movie.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Review

Valerian

I don’t know how many people have heard of the Velerian and Laureline comic series before the trailer of this movie started popping up everywhere. I certainly haven’t, but if you don’t know it’s a french sci-fi comic series that was allegedly an inspiration for Star Wars and other Sci-fi franchises. The trailer looked pretty cool so I figured I’d check it out on $5 Tuesday. Is this the next Star Wars or is it going to pull a John Carter?

Likes:

  1. The production design on this movie was top notch. There was a bit of Star Wars, Star Trek, Mass Effect that was really cool but ended up having unique designs that stood out from other franchises. The world and characters were truly realized and you can tell that this was what the filmmakers was hoping to do. It was a truly visual splendor to watch.

Dislikes:

  1. While the movie looked pretty, it was boring and directionless for most of the movie. My friend fell asleep near the beginning and I didn’t feel the need to wake him until he started snoring. The set pieces were exciting by themselves, but failed to push the overall plot forward. Which only lead to me asking “When are we getting back to the plot?!” several times during the second act. It really felt more like a video game that required you to complete several side quests before advancing the main story. Works great in a video game but not in a movie. The movie really needed structure that would allow the scenes to push the plot forward. Much like BvS, this movie is nothing more than trailerbait, with cool looking scenes but we could care less because they don’t drive the movie forward.
  2. The actors weren’t too bad but the writing for these characters wasn’t thought through. Valerian is made out to be a womanizing loose cannon that is full of himself but also very effective. He then only flirts with Laureline, whom he professes to love exclusively. Goes out of character to object to disobeying orders near the end of the movie. This is one of the many examples of characters acting out of character for plot convenience.
  3. It’s full of annoying cliches that keep popping up. Was the preachy message of the noble savage from Avatar too annoying for you? It’s here in this movie too. Hated the “love conquers all” from Interstellar? There’s a bit of that here too. Hate it when difficult decisions made in the heat of battle are turned into a simple “Because I’m war-mongering imperialist pig.” There’s that too. This is all in one scene by the way.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 2/5

There’s one scene where Valerian has to make a detour in the red-light district to find a shape-shifting working girl. The dance she does is impressive on a technical and visual level, but also rather suggestive. I don’t remember any strong language and the violence is PG-13 level.

Overall:

It’s pretty apparent that I didn’t like this movie that much. It’s a real shame because there was some clever and unique set pieces in the movie. But the story and plot didn’t hold it together at all and makes it difficult for you to care about what’s going on. Had they hacked a bunch of scenes, rewritten it to make a cohesive plot and fixed the character problems this would have been a fun sci-fi adventure. But you can skip on this one, which I don’t think needs to be said since the movie bombed over opening weekend. No one saw it, so I guess this is the new John Carter.

Spider-man: Homecoming Review

Spider-man: Homecoming

Spider-man has had many faces in the past. Each actor who has played him has had a different take on who Spider-man is. Who is this new Spider-man going to be? We have already had a little taste of who our new Spider-man is in Captain America: Civil War but as we really get to know him in Spider-man: Homecoming how will he compare to the others? Let’s dive in and find out.

Likes:

Adam

  1. This is the youngest Spider-man that we have seen. In Homecoming Peter Parker is a sophomore in high school and only 15 years old. The previous two Spider-men were seniors and high school grads. Having him this young with so many parts of regular life left to figure out and sort through was fun and interesting. We also get the youngest Aunt May as well.
  2. Spider-man doesn’t have all of the answers. He like any kid that age is really trying to figure every thing out. Tom Holland really sells that he is a 15 year old, he does the teenage rebellion, taking on more than he can chew, angst, and so much more so well. He deals with things that every teenager deals with on top of his super powers. It felt very real and relatable.
  3. The way Peter was portrayed as an outsider was way more realistic. In the past two Spider-man series, Peter is usually picked on in fairly exaggerated and violent way. In Homecoming he is more verbally and emotionally bullied which is, in my experience, far more realistic.
  4. The effects and fights overall were really cool to watch and looked great.
  5. It was pretty funny but not too over the top like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was.

Luke

  1. I would say that Tom Holland has become my favorite Spider-man. Not only does he pull of a geeky yet likable Peter Parker, he also has the energy and quips for a good Spider-man.
  2. The villains for the Marvel movies are usually fairly weak (except for Loki of course). I wasn’t sure how they’d pull off Vulture as he was a B-list Villain at best. But Michael Keaton pulled off a performance that made him much more likable and memorable than most other villains in the MCU.

Dislikes:

Adam

  1. There were a couple of times when Spider-man is climbing up walls, and running across rooftops where his movements are somewhat unnatural and it is clearly computer generated. But other times he looks great. It would have been better if they could have kept those effects more consistent.

Luke

  1. Yeah we get it, Aunt May is hot. You don’t have to have 3 jokes back to back at the beginning about it.

Awkward Walk-in Meter: 1/5

Adam:

Spider-man: Homecoming was very clean and fun and the only thing that could be frighting at all is the peril that comes from Spider-man’s fights with the bad guys.

Luke:

Bullies have a nick name for Peter which is Penis Parker.

Overall:

Adam:

This movie was a lot of fun and in my opinion the best Spider-man yet. The humor was there as you would expect from Spider-man but it wasn’t over done. I felt he was way more relatable, and acted closer to how a teenager in this situation would really act. The story and arc for our hero is good. One major twist I did not see coming, and I’m happy that this one genuinely surprised me. Definitely go see this one and stay for the mid credit and post credit scenes.

Luke:

I think this may be equal to or even greater than Spiderman 2 in quality. It was obvious that Sony let Marvel do what they wanted and not ruin it. The humor was on point but still had a solid character arc about Peter learning what it means to be a hero. I was worried about Superhero fatigue until I saw Wonder Woman and Spiderman: Homecoming. So far 2017 has been a solid year for the comic book super hero films.

Why are we still watching Transformers? (Not a review)

Transformers

I’m afraid that I don’t have anything profound to discuss concerning the Transformers series. I don’t have any psychological reasoning or a hidden message that the Transformers movies tries to teach us to explain why these movies are still making money. This can’t be nostalgia, can it? I wouldn’t know because I was right after the Transformers as a kid. I didn’t grow up with the cartoon or the toys.

All that I know is that after 10 years, Hollywood is still making these movies despite poor reviews and generally a “meh” audience response. It isn’t like anyone I’ve talked to actually likes these movies. The first one was dumb but at least a little fun. The second one was so bad that I swore off the series completely. The only Transformers apologist I talked to tried to talk me into watching the third movie only because “it was better than the second one.” Unfortunately the second one was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Heck, Dragonball: Evolution was better than Revenge of the Fallen (oh yes, I just went there). At least I could follow what was going on in Dragonball.

The fourth movie was trying to go into a different direction at least, by that I mean statutory rape jokes. Every time one of these movies comes out, I just keep hearing about how terrible they are. I go to Rotten Tomatoes this morning and saw that The Last Knight got a 16% score. Keep in mind that is lower than even Revenge of the Fallen (19%). Granted it could change as there was a review embargo and critics may need to wait until today to see it. Even then, a review embargo usually means that the movie is crap and they don’t want bad review scores affecting opening weekend revenue. Fortunately for us, the internet has sped up the word-of-mouth process to where a review embargo makes little difference.

The thing that irks me is that despite every sequel being a let down, the movies are still making money. A lot of that can be due to international box office revenue. However, the blame is on all of you who go see it. I would include myself to be fair but I haven’t seen a Transformers movie since Revenge of the Fallen. I’m doing my part but not giving them any of my money. In short, stop watching these movies. Let it crash and burn and die already. Hollywood will stop making these movies when we stop going to them, it’s that simple. In a capitalist society like ours, our money is our vote to what we want the industry to provide.

Stop pretending that this one might be the one that is good, we have 4 movies as proof that the series isn’t going to improve. Sorry I don’t have anything substantial or meaningful to this rant, but there is nothing substantial or meaningful in these movies either. If you want to watch a fun action movie that is good, go re-watch Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman Review

Wonder Woman

To put it mildly the DC Cinematic Universe has had a rough start. With the mixed bag of Man of Steel to the outright disappointment in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. There’s a lot riding on the new addition to the DCU, the first live action film of Wonder Woman. Does this movie give the most popular female superhero justice, could it save the DCU?

Likes:

Luke

  1. One of the biggest complaints of the DCU is that the films doesn’t depict the characters truthfully, which I agree in the case of Superman (a future article may come about this). One of the advantages of being the first movie for a character is that this movie isn’t going to be compared to other films. So the movie wasn’t compelled to reinvent the character, but rather was able to depict Wonder Woman in the same way as the current comics and animations do. So to answer the question earlier, yes, this movie does the character justice. This isn’t a super broody or edgy version from the 90’s comics, but rather the beginning of a naive but never-the-less heroic character learning about the world of man. It is refreshing to see a superhero movie look back to what made superheroes powerful story devices in the first place. In short, they got the archetypes right.
  2. One of the concerns I had with this movie was that it was going to be full of post-modern feminist crap. I don’t mean the egalitarian feminists but the misandry-fueled feminism. I was fully expecting very male character to be depicted as idiotic, cowardly, hate-filled brutes. However, they depicted the men in the film in a very human way, where indeed there was corruption but also valor. They also made Wonder Woman heroic by doing heroic things and not just by the virtue of being a woman. This is a clear example of how to do female superheroes, which is to treat them as heroes going through the heroes journey and getting the archetypes right.
  3. The actions scenes were incredible. There was something really refreshing about it and had an energy that isn’t seen much in modern action movies. I think there are two reasons for this, firstly is the context of the action. The best action movies are always character-driven. You actually care about the action because we care about the characters, which is why the action scenes in the original star wars trilogy were more memorable than the prequels. Secondly is that they actually took the time to properly choreograph and block the action scenes to make the action scenes easy to understand, get the action grounded and not rely on shaky-cam or overloading the shot with too many moving parts.
  4. The color grading was good, I was a bit worried since the war scenes looked nearly black and white, but there is color where it makes sense. The beginning on Paradise is very vivid but becomes muted when they get to the war. It made sense why they did it and I thought it looked great.

Adam

  1. One of the problems that I have had with the DCU is that it is just to serious and dark. The lack of humor (Batman vs Superman) is exhausting. Wonder Woman has remedied this. There was a fair bit of humor and it is all played out very well. Humor isn’t there for the sake of humor but is is all there for a reason. There is a lot of laughs that accompany Diana learn about the world of men. She never looked dumb or inferior, but it showed her innocents and naivety.
  2. Diana’s growth was very interesting to watch. You learn that she is very smart, and has a lot of knowledge that many others don’t. But as she starts to interact with Chris Pine’s character and ends up in the world of men you see how they she didn’t have a lot of our problems to deal with. As the movie goes on you see how she starts to adapt and learn how to survive, blend in and live in our world.
  3. The action scenes where amazingly done. I don’t think that I have seen this type of style before, it was very clean and easy to follow. However it kept me on the edge of my seat and looked amazing.

Dislikes:

Luke

  1.  I can’t think of anything that I really disliked about this movie. Maybe the London scenes might be a bit dull but I think it played an important part in teaching Diane about the world of man, her relation to it and what she needs to do to fit into that world. So nothing major here.

Adam

  1. The only things I had a little problem with was exactly what Luke said. The contrast from Paradise to London was so extreme that it was jarring. It was for a purpose however so it was forgivable.

Awkward Walk-in Meter: 3/5

Luke:

There is a lot of attractive woman in tunics during the beginning. But nothing that’s intentionally provocative. In fact, there is a scene where there is more nudity of Chris Pine than the ladies (which is zoomed out and covered). There is talk about sex in one scene but nothing too graphic. The violence actually has weight to it but it isn’t bloody or excessive. The language is minor.

Overall:

Luke:

Just when I thought I was getting superhero fatigue after watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it was actually the DCU movie that pulled me out of it. And the reason it did was that it went back to basics. The director Patty Jenkins said that she wanted to go back to character over spectacle with this movie and it clearly shows.

As far as origins stories go, I hold this as high as the first Iron Man movie. Maybe not as high as Batman Begins, which I do have a soft spot for as it’s one of my favorites, but it is easily the best DCU movie to come out so far. Patty Jenkins needs to direct more big Hollywood movies, not because she’s a female filmmaker but she’s a good filmmaker that happens to be female. I now have hopes that the DCU can be saved, at least there is now one solid movie from it.

Adam:

I was hoping that Wonder Woman was going to break DC’s current streak and it did. The tone of this one was so much better and more natural. There is always humor in life even if it is in the little things. This film was still more serious than many of the Marvel movies. It still had it’s light hearted parts and laughs naturally placed through out. The journey and self discovery that Diana goes through was enjoyable and very well executed. This is by far the best DCU film thus far. If DC continues down this path then we have a lot of good films to look forward to.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Review

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Unlike the title of the fifth pirates movie, seemingly dead franchises still have tales to tell. It’s been 6 years since the last pirates movie and 10 years since the ending of the Will Turner trilogy. Dead Men Tell No Tales takes place 19-20 years after At World’s End. So was the brief hiatus what the series needed to turn out a sequel that wasn’t lackluster? Does it stack up with the first pirates movie (the only good one)? Let’s find out, eh shavvy?

Likes:

Luke

  1. The story is not a standalone Jack Sparrow adventure like the previous movie, but actually continues off the original trilogy where Will Turner is the captain of the flying dutchman, still cursed to ferry the dead at sea (an ending that I absolutely hated). The story continues with his son, Henry Turner, seeking the Trident of Poseidon, that has the power to break his father’s curse.  I love that the film is basically seeking to fix the ending that I hated so much.
  2. The new villain played by the brilliant Javier Bardem, is truly a foe worthy of his infamy among pirates. The problem that many of the previous pirate movies had (except the first one) was the insistent of adding antagonists to the point where it’s hard to keep track of everyone’s motivations. This movie starts off as having a secondary antagonist but half way through the movie is taken out of the picture. I was relieved to say at least the plot wasn’t a muddy mess that the previous movies were. By the end of the movie, it was very clear who the protagonists and the antagonists were.
  3. The action scenes were dynamic and unique. Some were really outlandish but I had to remind myself that this was a movie about ghost pirates seeking a mythical trident. If you loved the silly action set pieces from the previous movies, then you’ll be right at home with this one.

Adam

  1. Captain Hector Barbossa was magnificently played by Geoffrey Rush. The amount of acting that he could do with just his facial expressions and how much he could convey was simply amazing. He went through the whole range of emotions and I love the arc that he has made through the series. Any time that he is on screen is great.
  2. The effects for this movie were top notch. The way Captain Salazar and his crew looked and what they were able to do was just amazing. The overall look of the movie was beautiful.

Dislikes:

Luke

  1. While the new characters aren’t as boring as the previous movie, the next generation probably won’t have the lasting effect as the original characters. Carina, the new female lead was pretty good as the scientist astronomer which is different for the series. Henry Turner was just a less interesting Will Turner though. Jack Sparrow is beginning to lack his charm. They set up Jack to be a washed up has-been who is a dying breed of pirate which would have been interesting had they not promptly dropped it once the adventure started and he went about doing his usual thing. They really need to find a new angle for him, or maybe give him an arc for once, like the first movie.
  2. I don’t like the implications that the post credits scene made. The ending of this movie was quite satisfying and they’re trying to muddy it up with sequel bait.

Adam

  1. I was very disappointed with Jack in this film. In all of the other films he is almost always in control of the situation and if something doesn’t quite go his way he has back up plans. In this film he very rarely seemed to have a plan and when the plans he did have went wrong he didn’t have backup plans. I agree with Luke, he lost some of his charm and also some of his wit.
  2. The post credit scene was completely sequel bait and, I feel, didn’t make any sense based on how the movie ended. They are making and exception to the films resolution just for the sake of a sequel.

Awkward Walk-in Meter: 2/5

Luke:

There is some suggestive humor in it that will likely go over the kid’s heads. Pirates drinking rum is a mainstay of the series. Some parts might be too scary for the little ones. It’s your typical PG-13 movie.

Overall:

Luke: 

It’s safe to say that this movie is the second best pirates movie to date. Not hard to do as the last three were pretty lackluster. There are a lot of things this movie does right that the previous movies failed to do but it still doesn’t live up to the charm of the original pirates movie. If you were disappointed in the ending of At World’s End, you will want to see this movie as it delivers a much more satisfying conclusion for all your favorite characters from the first pirate films. So while this movie wasn’t great like the first movie, it was at the very least good.

Adam:

Dead Men Tell No Tales was a good attempt to return to what the was so good about the first film. It didn’t quite make it there but there was still a lot of good in it. There was several touching moments that were lacking from many of the other films and several character arc were excellent. The ending of the movie was extremely satisfying and clean. If you are a fan of Curse of the Black Pearl then go see this one in theaters.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The first Guardians of the Galaxy was one of those great surprises that Marvel pulled out. Many people didn’t know about them and the hype wasn’t as big surrounding it. No one knew what to expect. It quickly turned into a favorite for many fans and introduced some very untraditional and very funny heroes. As we move on to Vol. 2 how will it compare with the first and fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Likes:

Adam

  1. The comedy. This is really one of, if not the funniest Marvel movie to date. I laughed so much during this movie. Drax is always getting a laugh for his social ineptitude. Quill for his ill timed boasting and his love of retro things. Rocket and Groot are always such a good funny team.
  2. The Relationships. In this movie they explored and deepened the relationships between many characters. Now they didn’t go super deep but I was amazed at how many characters we gained a greater understanding about, and how much relationships grew between the characters.

Luke

  1. I’m happy that they actually brought color into a Marvel movie. While the first Guardians movie had color, they turned up the saturation quite a bit. Ironically many excuse DC of lacking color in their movies, but the fact is that the Marvel movies are really flat when it comes to color grading. This is not the case with this movie where there are dark tones, bright tones and an entire spectrum of color. This is easily the best looking Marvel movie to date.

Dislikes:

Adam

  1. Space Jumps. In this movie they use a technology previously unseen, space jumps. The design of them is cool looking, but was confusing to me. It looked to me like they were breaking through a holographic wall and there was no sense speed or how far they were going. It also leads to a very goofy scene with Rocket part way through the movie that I didn’t care for.

Luke

  1. I don’t know why Disney has the need to introduce the antagonist late in the plot. It’s usually for some shock twist in the form of betrayals or motivation reveals. The main antagonist reveal is so obvious that the twist doesn’t feel earned. There also seems to be too many different sub-antagonists in the film that it starts to give me flashbacks to the pirates sequels.
  2. The ending is drawn out way too long. It was one of the few sober scenes and even then they tried to push too much comedy into it. The comedy for the large bulk of the movie was quite great actually, but the ending it just seemed inappropriate for the scene’s tone.
  3. There wasn’t much tension for the third act, as we go in knowing the a third movie has been approved and that the guardians are going to show up in the third Avengers movie. This is a problem with superhero movies as the planet destroying (in the case of this movie, galaxy destroying) super villain plot can’t happen for the sake of future movies. There could have been a more personal conflict to end the movie (like Civil War for example) where failure is actually possible (setting a more dire situation for the next film). Then the ending could be a lot more suspenseful.

Like & Dislike:

Adam

  1. I like how this movie shows just how powerful the guardians are. We see to a greater extent what they are capable of and they can do some really cool stuff. They show off their skills and it is awesome when they do. However there is a scene with Drax that I feel was just too over the top with how much punishment he can take with out a scratch.

Luke

  1. The post credit scenes are a bit overkill. There are a bunch of them and most of them are references to obscure comic series. There are two that I do like though, the first one then the middle one. Those are pretty funny.

Awkward Walk-in Meter: 2/5

Adam:

There was a scene with what was implied as a android brothel but with nothing really shown except for a character finishing buttoning up his pants. The whole scene was very brief. There was also a little more language than normal and some talk of male genitals.

Overall:

Adam:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. I was laughing for so much of this movie and like how they did stick to using old songs for the sound track like the first one did. There was a lot of good character growth but every one keeps their personality and I was able to gain a better understanding of many of the characters traits. Make sure to stay to the very end because there are 5 post movie scenes sprinkled through out the credits. Is it as good as the first one? I haven’t decided yet and will need to go back and see it again to decide.

Luke:

I agree with Adam where the movie, much like the first one, is a fun and entertaining movie. However the first one was different enough to be fresh, this one kind of felt like a bunch of other movies I’ve seen before. While it is the most visually stunning of the Marvel films, it lacked the deeper subtext, emotional core or ingenuity that has made other movies stand out in the superhero genre (i.e. Logan, The Dark Knight, Civil War). But it is still a fun popcorn movie that you can have a good and fun 2 hours.

What does Luke’s statement in the The Last Jedi Teaser mean?

Personally I find it rather futile to guess and speculate the meaning behind a 1 minute teaser designed to market a movie. Ironically I find people who really hate spoilers are also ones trying to piece together a story out of the limited footage revealed in a trailer. I say, just wait for the movie to come out and you’ll find out. However, as the hypocrite that I am, I’m going to speculate on the new teaser for The Last Jedi with this article including a click-baity title. Why? Because this website needs more views and I’m going to indulge your need to speculate to get views. Firstly, if you haven’t seen the trailer already go watch it here:

I don’t know why these Star Wars teasers require a jump-scare at the very beginning. Anyways, the big thing that people are going on about is the statement Luke makes at the end of the teaser.

I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.

People have been freaking out over the meaning of this statement. Did Luke turn to the dark side?! Has he become so defeated from the betrayal of Ben Solo that he’s giving everything up?! Is he Rey’s father?!

Well, lets take a step back and look at the Star Wars series as a whole. Some facts to be aware of before I give my educated guess as to the meaning of Luke’s statement. George Lucas was heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell when creating the Star Wars universe. Joseph Campbell is an anthropologist who studied mythology from all around the world. His studies were not to discover the differences between them but rather the values, meanings and purpose behind these myths that is shared by the whole world. He wrote several books but the one most important to this discussion is his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

In this book, Campbell discovered a structure that is shared by mythology all over the world. This is known by many as The Hero’s Journey or The Monomyth. This structure has been influential to storytellers all over the world and is used heavily by films, books, television and video games. A textbook example of the Hero’s Journey is actually the first Star Wars film. George Lucas was in fact one of Campbell’s students in school and was very familiar with the themes, meanings and structure found in mythology as outlined in Campbell’s book. Here’s s basic outline of the Hero’s Journey:

http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/Workshop-stuff/Joseph-Campbell-Hero-Journey.htm

Several lectures can go into each step so I won’t attempt to go through the whole thing in detail. For the purposes of our discussion though, I wish to focus attention on Apotheosis (it’s misspelled on the diagram). Apotheosis is the process of a man (meaning the overall broad sense of humanity) becoming a God. In the context of the screen-writing, it’s a transformation that is made that allows him/her to reach beyond a stage of ignorance into a stage of knowledge, giving them power to achieve a goal that the hero has set out to do in the story.

So how does this have anything to do with the The Last Jedi teaser? Reading deeper into Campbell’s work helps you to understand the mythic context behind Apotheosis. A large portion of the text talks about the concept of the unity of opposites which can be summarized in the concept of the Yin Yang. If you don’t know, Yin Yang is a symbol of a eastern philosophy that two seemingly contradictory elements are actually two sides of one great whole. According to Campbell, apotheosis is a stage where both opposites come together to form a God using the example of the Male-Female Gods of mythology. God in many religions represent many contradictory sides, a God of creation and destruction, of time and eternity, light and darkness, justice and mercy and so forth.

So let’s bring it back to Star Wars, where the central conflict with the series has always been the light side versus the dark side of the force. In the prequel trilogy, the Jedi council speak about a chosen one destined to bring about the “balance of the force.” Because the prequel trilogy was poorly written, they do not explain what that actually means. Many in the series interpret that to mean the destruction of the dark side. But how does that bring balance?

Let’s go back earlier in the teaser when Rey talks about seeing the light and dark, the balance. Luke tells her that there’s more to it than that. Here’s where I start speculating on how Luke has changed over the years in exile. I believe he discovered that which one who was raised by the Jedi could not understand. That the force is not divided into light and darkness but is both all in one. Where Anakin failed to bring balance to the force, the reincarnation of the chosen one seen in Rey (they both are expert mechanics, pilots and force users) may in fact bring balance to the force. But in order to do that, the Jedi, who represents the light side of the force, can no longer exist. It doesn’t mean that Good needs to give into Evil, but rather the Jedi need to transcend the exclusive use and study of the light side and become one with the force as a whole, both light and dark. This would also mean the end of the Sith has to happen. Perhaps Anakin did fulfill his role as chosen one by ending the Sith by killing his master and himself. Leaving the end of the Jedi to his son and his reincarnation, Rey.

So worry not Skywalker fans, I do not believe that he has turned to the dark side. Rather I think he discovered a secret to the force that the Jedi and Sith have ignored for centuries. In fact, according to non-canon Star Wars history, both groups came from one group of force users who practiced in both light and dark sides of the force and sought true balance with the force named the Je’daii. So perhaps Rey will do what Anakin could not, which is to fully bring balance to the force and end the conflict between the light and dark sides for good.

Again, this is all speculation. But there is strong evidence that this is the direction they will be going. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait until December to find out for sure.

Racial Identity in Ghost In The Shell (2017) **Contains Spoilers**

44% on Rotten Tomatoes and $18.6 Million on the opening weekend. With these numbers it is safe to say that the adaptation of Ghost In The Shell is an utter failure, both financially and critically. So why did I love this movie so much? Am I stupid for loving this racially-insensitive Hollywood cash-in or am I seeing something that everyone has missed or ignored? As amusing as it would be to make an article of me facing my own cognitive dissonance to realign my thinking to popular views, I think I’m going to do the dangerous thing: Have my own unpopular opinion and defend it. So here’s why Ghost In The Shell (2017) was great and why everyone missed the point of the movie.

Let’s start with the problem that many people have with these movie: the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi, a Japanese cyborg counter-terrorist. Hollywood has had a lot of issues of racially insensitive casting for movies throughout its whole history. Blackface, yellowface, and redface were all common place for decades where white actors were put under make-up to play roles that are for other races. This allowed for the spreading of negative racial stereotypes that still continue to this day. While many improvements have been made in our current media, there are still examples of Hollywood whitewashing traditionally ethnic characters like in the live action The Last Airbender and The Lone Ranger. This article is not to defend such practices by any means. Minorities are extremely under-represented in popular culture, even today. However, in the context of the themes, story and world of Ghost In The Shell the casting of Scarlett Johansson was not only justified, it allowed the movie to take a self aware look into how capitalist-driven corporations seek to change our identity for profit.

So in the movie, the plot is primarily driven by Major’s desire to find out who she is. The dilemma of that is faced with being a human-like cyborg but not completely human. In the world of Ghost in the Shell, many people have cybernetic implants. Some like the Major, have a completely synthetic body. So the way that many people retain their humanity is by having a “ghost.” A ghost is the mind, so the identity of a person is linked to the mind or their “ghost.” Both the new and the original movies show the problem with this as memories are hacked and altered by both cyber-terrorists like the Puppet Master or mega corporations like Hanka Robotics. In both films, Major struggles with their own identity as she’s unsure if her memories are her own or is artificial like her body is. The animated film doesn’t seek to answer questions as to the truth of Major’s identity, rather it ends with her finding her humanity by ironically evolving into a higher and completely technological being by merging with The Puppet Master. This is where the live action version differs.

In the live-action version, the central focus is on finding out Major’s identity. In the film, she is introduced as a (presumably American) refugee that survived a terrorist attack, thus giving her the motivation to hunt down terrorists in the anti-terrorism unit Section 9. However, after meeting with hacker Kuze, her identity is put into question and she seeks answers. She finds out that not only is the terrorist attack that killed her parents a fake memory implanted by Hanka, but her real identity (or ghost) is a Japanese runaway named Motoko Kusanagi (surprise!). So yes, The Major in the live-action movie is in fact Japanese, or specifically she is a Japanese Ghost in the American Shell.

So does this justify white-washing Major’s character in the first place? Or, as some of the critics claim, a sloppy means for the filmmakers the hop around a sensitive issue? First of all, the story antagonizes the corporation that kidnaps children, brain washes them with a new identity and then gives them a new body as a means to get profit. I don’t think the film is trying to say that changing a person’s race and identity for your own gain is okay. I’m happy that the filmmakers were ballsy enough to even attempt to be a mirror at Hollywood’s own race problem. Do you know how many actors and actresses needed to change their name to make them sound less ethnic? Charlie Sheen was born Carlos Irwin Estevez, his father’s name is Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez, you know him as Martin Sheen. That is an example of only one actor out of many that had to change their name. The closure for The Major in the live action movie comes from discovering her real name: Motoko Kusanagi. Only then is she able to connect to the world around her, using not her American shell but through her Japanese ghost.

By the way, I asked two friends of mine, both of whom are Asian American, how they felt about the movie. Both of them enjoyed the movie and weren’t bothered by the casting. One of them even said that Scarlett Johansson did the character justice. The anime doesn’t even address her ethnicity so her race doesn’t effect her characterization at all. Ironically the one time it does is the American adaptation because it’s part of her character arc. The big irony in all this though is how everyone is upset that Hollywood changed the identity of the protagonist, and the movie agrees with you wholeheartedly.

If the plot itself isn’t enough to convince you, then I will start talking about the themes of the original animated classic and the cyberpunk genre as a whole. The opening text in the Ghost in the Shell (1995) says that “The advancement of computerization, however, has not yet wiped out nations and ethnic groups.” The keyword in that statement is ‘yet’. The implications are important to understanding the multicultural themes in both cyberpunk and Ghost in the Shell. The original movie, Major does in fact transcend race and nation by merging with The Puppet Master and evolving into a computerized ghost without age, gender or ethnicity. The world of cyberpunk is filled with multiculturalism. Blade Runner is a world full of different ethnicities (primarily Chinese) even though it takes places in a future Los Angles. Ghost in the Shell is a Japan full of multiculturalism as well. Here’s an excellent video essay by The Nerdwriter about how Ghost in the Shell does this.

One of the themes in Ghost in the Shell is developing a world that is truly uni-cultural by the use of technology. When all differences are removed by uniting the world on a global network and controlling our appearance via synthetic bodies. However this may present a problematic dilemma in the current discussion on race. Does this uni-culturalism mean that we should be color blind? What I mean by that is, does the mixture and evolution of multiple cultures mean we must lose our past in order to make a future where no race exists? I think the movie makes that clear when The Puppet Master says this:

“All things change in a dynamic environment. Your efforts to remain what you are is what limits you.”

The difference between the original animated film is that the live action film is about embracing your cultural identity. The ending is Major accepting her past and reuniting with her mother. This is ultimately what I loved about the live-action version is that is it not the same as the original. It is not a remake but an adaptation, which I think it did well for the current discussions on race which promotes the acceptance of one’s heritage, promote diversity and the tolerance toward other’s ethnicity.

So it would make sense for the cast of the new Ghost in the Shell to be multicultural. Many of it’s supporting characters are Chinese, Japanese, Black, and White. It reflects the multiculturalism found in America and (increasingly) in other countries around the world. It may not focus attention on the ethnic characters as much as I’d like but none of them I would say are stereotypical. I mentioned in my review that “Chief” Aramaki, a Japanese character played by a Japanese actor (the great Beat Takeshi Kitano) that speaks Japanese throughout the whole movie, is one of my favorites (pictured below). I think the movie did try to show a world of people of different colors to work together in a much more optimistic way than your typical cyberpunk movie.

The new Ghost in the Shell is not here to mimic what made the original anime great. Instead it took the source material and adapted to a more international and contemporary audience. It’s okay with me if the new Ghost in the Shell didn’t work for you. But I feel like I have to explain myself why I seem to be a minority in how I feel about this movie. I just feel that people are watching the film without reading what it’s trying to say, or worse, not watching it and judging it based off the opinion of others. It isn’t a perfect movie, but it at least got me to not only think about the depiction of race in pop culture but also be a fun and visually stunning movie to watch. I have to give credit to a movie that does that for me.