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Transformers: The Last Knight •1/2

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel
Director: Michael Bay
Screenplay: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 149 minutes
Release Date: June 21, 2017



(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, it seems like these Transformers never change.

It turns out they really are not more than meets the eye. Let’s recap:

In the 5th century, Merlin has teamed up with a dozen transformers in England to defeat the Saxons. In the present day, most of earth has outlawed transformers but they appear to be everywhere and they keep arriving. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) has devoted his life to protecting the transformers, and he befriends a 14-year-old girl named Izabella (Isabela Moner). Meanwhile, on the planet Cybertron, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) has been captured by the evil Quintessa (Gemma Chan).

Over in England, Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) has summoned Cade because he’s been chosen by an ancient Transformer to the the last knight. Cade meets the beautiful and educated Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock). She knows the location of Merlin’s staff that can repel Cybertron. Now it’s a race against time as Cade and Vivian try to escape the Army, the TRF, ancient Transformers, and the Decepticons to defeat Quintessa and evil Optimus Prime and save Earth.

Greg, these Transformers movies are exhausting. No wonder this movie clocks in at two and a half hours – its tries to pack in every character and every plot device from every action movie ever made. We have a confusing array of heroes. First, there is a young girl in the ruins. Then there is Mark Wahlberg’s character Cade Yeager. Then Anthony Hopkins shows up. Then a beautiful professor of history joins in. There are also many villains: A floating metal woman named Quintessa, the TRF police hunting the transformers, plus a criminal gang of robot freaks led by Megatron.

It’s as if this movie wants to be an amalgam of Men in Black, National Treasure, and even Star Wars (as there are two robots resembling R2D2 and C3PO). This film has the same basic problem that plagues previous installments of Transformers, namely, it doesn’t know what it wants to be or who in the audience it should appeal to. The movie is too juvenile to appeal to adults and too crude to be appropriate for kids. Maybe that’s why it throws in everything plus the kitchen sink. If you include enough of everything, maybe something will stick to someone.

I could not agree more. What I saw was drones that looked like Tie-Fighters and robot destructors that looked like At-At’s. And plot twists that came out of The DiVinci Code. As if that weren’t enough, this was more like two separate movies. The first half resembles the plot of Logan with Izabella the Hispanic girl chasing our hero. She’s tough and resilient – just like Laura from the aforementioned movie. Then the movie abandons this storyline in favor of a sort of a DaVinci Code plot with the vivacious Vivian where they must decode the mysteries of historical artifacts. It is as if the writers could not agree on a plot so they combined two. It was a colossal mess.

I don’t think this film is a total disaster, as it does try to hit some key elements of the hero’s journey and heroism in general. Optimus Prime redeems himself and transforms back into his old benevolent self when an old friend expresses a willingness to die for him. This scene actually moved me. But I also know that the filmmakers threw in a few ingredients of heroism as an afterthought, just to make sure they covered a few key bases in the most perfunctory way.

For example, at the film’s end there is a brief speech about how our heroes just want to find home and how so much of our inner discoveries remain mysteries. Cade Yeager even has a secret identity as a knight, which is a classic theme in hero mythology. That’s all well and good but this film is guilty of superficially exploring these heroic themes. Sadly, Transformers movies are first and foremost hyper-masculine films consisting mostly of violence, cleavage, and “dickhead” comments.

Yeah. There are a lot of tossed-in elements. It’s like some sort of movie salad. Borrowed elements from other movies. Borrowed archetypes. Borrowed characters. The most heroic character (and by far the most interesting) was Izabella. She’s wise beyond her years, tough, and capable. Cade tries to treat her like a naive child and she has none of it.

Likewise, Vivian is a lot smarter than Cade and when the chips are down, it is she who can wield Merlin’s staff and save the day. Which is very confusing because it makes us wonder what Cade is there for. The artifact that chose him to be “the one” true knight. The artifact turns into Excalibur and then in a flash disappears. The most interesting characters in this film are the two women and there isn’t a single scene with the two of them together.

I think your “movie salad” description really says it all, Greg. Transformers: The Last Knight is an oversized casserole that you can’t possibly finish, nor would you want to. There’s just too much sound and fury with too little substance. There’s quite possibly a good movie lurking somewhere in this sloppy stew, but it’s hopelessly obscured by a cacophony of sights and sounds, most of them unnecessary. I’m generously awarding this film 2 Reels out of 5.

We do have several worthy heroes. Izabella is a good character who deserves more character development. She’s an example of heroic potential wasted. Cade Yeager is also an admirable hero who grows into his knightly role, but he’s also a flimsy character due to this film’s emphasis on action, CGI effects, flash, and noise. Burton and Wembley also have potential but are lost in the blaring cacophony. Heroic themes of home and inner discovery are buried as well. Thus all I can muster is a hero rating of 2 out of 5.

You’d think a Transformers movie would be bursting with interesting transformations, but alas, the vast majority of transformations here are of the physical variety. Machines become monsters and monsters become vehicles, etc. Optimus Prime does undergo a moving transformation from hero to villain and then back to hero again. But it’s all done on an unsatisfying surface level. As a result, I can only must a rating of 2 transformation Deltas out of 5.

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:

Scott, you are far too generous to this film. Transformers: The Last Knight is a mashup of a dozen other films. There’s nothing original here. And it was bloated to over 2 hours and 30 minutes. Yet in all this mess there was a barely perceptible plot. The goal was to save the Earth – but that isn’t established well into the second act. It took a long time to know what this film was about. I can only give it 1 Reel out of 5.

There were a bunch of heroes in this film that we haven’t really talked about. There were many Autobot Transformers to play sidekicks. And the Decepticons were there for a minute. There’s a big scene where Megatron picks his Suicide Squad – and then they never appear in the film. These heroes are weak and uninteresting. Aside from the two women, I don’t have any use for them. I give this film 1 out of 5 Heroes.

And despite the many transformations from robot to automobile back to robot – there really isn’t much growth or transformation for these characters. I give them all just 1 Delta out of 5.

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:

Rough Night ••

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Zoë Kravitz
Director: Lucia Aniello
Screenplay: Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs
Comedy, Rated: R
Running Time: 101 minutes
Release Date: June 16, 2017



(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, was it kind of rough watching this next movie?

It was truly a “rough night” for me sitting in the theater waiting for this movie to end. Let’s recap:

We meet four women who ten years earlier were hard-partying college friends at George Washington University. Their names are Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Alice (Jillian Bell), Blair (Zoë Kravitz), and Frankie (Ilana Glazer). The four are now planning a weekend of debauchery to celebrate Jess’s impending marriage to Peter (Paul W. Downs). A male stripper arrives at their rented beach house, and when Alice jumps on top of the man, his head hits the fireplace hearth, killing him

Hilarity ensues as Australian friend Pippa (Kate McKinnon) joins the crew and the women decide to hide the body – because if there’s no body, there’s no murder. They try to dispose of the body in the ocean only to find that they’ve been recorded on security cameras. Meanwhile, Peter and his straight-laced buddies are having a wine-tasting bachelor party. Jess phones Peter and he misunderstands her to say that the engagement is off. So he packs a load of disposable diapers, Red Bull, and ADHD meds and makes an all-night trip to Florida to save his marriage.

Greg, I wish hilarity had ensued. All that ensued for me was disappointment. Clearly this film showcases a lot of talent in the form of Kate MCKinnon, Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, and several others, not to mention a good director and writing team. Yet the final product is reminiscent of Adam Sandler’s lesser movies. Many IQ points were lost in the viewing of this film, and if that comes across in my review here, then I apologize. This movie is a giant underachievement from which I’m still recovering.

Recently, I gave a negative review to a similar movie, Snatched, starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn. Self-honesty demands that I ask myself whether I have a prejudice against female comedy ensembles. I hope not. My goal is to be ill-disposed toward bad comedies, regardless of gender. Looking back at my reviews of the latter Hangover movie installments and Adam Sandler throwaways, I think it’s pretty clear that I hate any bad comedy that relies solely on raunchiness for humor.

I think we differed on Snatched, Scott, but we agree on this film. Just because a film is written, directed, and stars a majority female cast does not automatically make it a great film. The writing team of Lucia Aniello and  Paul W. Downs have done hilarious work on “Broad City.” That series showcased the comedic talents of Abbi Jacobson and  Ilana Glazer (Glazer plays Frankie in this film) and is regarded as one of the great situation comedies of recent years and a landmark in female comedy. Rough Night has none of that.

I’m also perplexed by Kate McKinnon as an actress. She’s great in SNL’s sketch comedy. She creates weird and wonderful characters. But in both Rough Night and last year’s Ghostbusters, she created a throwaway character who is an outsider from the ensemble. I fully believe that if the Aussie character of Pippa had been removed from Rough Night no one would have noticed. It’s almost as if she were brought in at the last minute and just told to mug at the camera.

At least this movie attempts to show personal growth among the characters. While dealing with the crisis of how to dispose of a dead body, Jess and Alice work out the angst of their friendship. Jess evolves from being a deadly dull political candidate who no one wants to vote for to being the cool hip candidate whom everyone loves.

As a result of this ordeal, Jess and her boyfriend Peter also experience a deepening of their commitment to each other. Alice and the cop stripper each realize they’re looking to settle down and they begin to fall in love. We also saw significant transformations in Snatched, another movie that I disliked, which proves that transformation is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for good storytelling.

I felt the ensemble cast was well constructed. Everyone had something they wanted. Alice wanted to regain her partying days from College. Frankie and Blair had an underlying romantic interest. And Jess wanted to enjoy herself away from the hassles of the campaign. Each character had a personality flaw that needed addressing. And they all learned something in the end. Except Pippa. She didn’t seem to transform anyone, be transformed by anyone, learn anything, or solve any problems.

For a dull, predictable, penis-filled 120 minutes I can only garner 2 Reels out of 5 for Rough Night. The ensemble heroes were adequate but not exciting. I give them just 2 Heroes out of 5. And the transformations were tacked on for good show. Just 2 Deltas out of 5.

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:

You’ve pretty much summed up my sentiments, Greg. Rough Night is a ‘tough blight’ on the film industry, a silly, inconsequential, and not-so-funny comedy that wasted the talents of its cast and wasted my time in the theater — although I did enjoy eating my cookie-dough bites. The less said, the better, really, so let’s just give be generous and give this movie 2 Reels, 2 Heroes, and 2 transformation Deltas out of 5. Let’s hurry onto the next movie, please!

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:

The Mummy •1/2

Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Screenplay: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie
Action/Adventure/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 110 minutes
Release Date: June 9, 2017



Scott, I’m all wrapped up in this new Tom Cruise film.

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, you sound all wound up. I’d switch to de-coffin-ated coffee if I were you. Let’s recap.

We’re introduced to two travellers on horseback in the sandy dunes of Iraq. Government contractor Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) encourages his sidekick friend Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) to ride into the town below and steal some religious artifacts to sell on the black market. Vail is dubious, especially considering that the town is overrun with Iraqi insurgents. They race into the town and are immediately surrounded by gunfire. Vail calls in an airstrike that scares away the militants. But it also reveals a giant Egyptian tomb buried under the town.

Morton’s recent love interest, Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) is an archeologist on the scene. She’s excited to discover the tomb of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) along with the sarcophagus. It is priceless.  Morton makes the mistake of making eye contact with the sarcophagus, as it causes a curse to be passed from Ahmanet to Morton. The sarcophagus is transported out of Iraq by plane but the curse of Ahmanet leads to the evil possession of Vail and causes the plane to crash, killing Morton. Or so we think.


Scott, The Mummy is the first in a potential series of films in the Dark Universe franchise from Universal Films. It’s an attempt by Universal to cash in on the latest trend of extended universes as seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe. Universal is tying together such classics as The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, and others. This incarnation of The Mummy is an origin story for the Tom Cruise character to become the main character on a quest to seek out and destroy evil monsters who live amongst us.

Exactly, Greg. Only Universal’s plans are a universal failure. This movie simply doesn’t work, and the reasons for the failure are numerous. We just reviewed Wonder Woman, which falls roughly in the same genre making it impossible not to compare the two films. WW told a good story and didn’t rely on the CGI effects to be the main attraction.The Mummy, on the other hand, is solely about placing Tom Cruise in scary situations and then watching zombies, rats, or birds wreak havoc on him. There are numerous chase scenes that we simply don’t need to see. The story felt flat and lifeless to me.

Other problems abound. Morton’s sidekick Vail becomes possessed and goes on a stabbing spree on a plane, bringing it down and killing many people. Yet afterward this still-possessed sidekick regains his normal personality and kids around with Morton as if nothing had happened. We also have an unfortunate regression to the days when women constantly needed to be rescued by men. We witness Morton save Jenny’s life over and over again, which causes her to fall in love with him (insert gag reaction here). I was left completely disappointed by the film’s end.

I agree, this was a complete waste of celluloid – if only it were on film. There were so many problems with this film. At the core the biggest problem is that we don’t know what anyone wants in this film. Morton saves Jenny, wakes up cursed, and he doesn’t want to do anything about it. He doesn’t want to cure himself. He doesn’t want to find the mummy. He doesn’t seem to want or need to get back to his job. WIthout a main goal for each character, the story is pointless. And so it meanders – as you point out – from chase scene to chase scene.

Another problem with this story is Morton’s relationship with Jenny. In the end of the story Morton gives his life to save Jenny. But the filmmakers never establish a strong relationship between the two. We know they had a one night stand, but otherwise, there is no strong feelings between them. So his sacrifice is an empty one.

Well, I suspect the filmmakers were hoping to create a believable love story, the kind where two attractive people start out on shaky ground and then bond through adversity. We talk about romantic duos in our latest book Reel Heroes & Villains. So our two heroes are destined to undergo an emotional transformation, with each helping the other grow. Jenny helps Morton become a better person and see the value of things beyond monetary profit. In turn, Morton’s good deeds win Jenny’s heart. I found neither of these transformations to be authentic or believable. They are based on insulting gender stereotypes from yesteryear.

As a hero Morton comes up short. He’s not very honest or courageous. He does occasionally do something good – like saving Jenny. But overall, he’s not someone we think of as a model citizen. He’s selfish and self-serving. In the end he gives up his life to save Jenny. As you point out, it’s not a believable transformation.

There are other transformations, however. We see the goddess Ahmanet going from a high priestess, to a murderer, to a mummy and ultimately dispatched into nothingness. We see Vail go from a headstrong (albeit reluctant) profiteer, to a ghost, back to living sidekick to Morton. None of these transformations are particularly interesting as The Mummy isn’t really about characters and their transformations, it’s about creating ghastly images. And frankly, I’ve seen better quality scary stuff on HBO and Starz this year. The Mummy is pretty dull.

Enough said. The Mummy is a film that disappoints on many levels. At the center of this disheveled story is poor Tom Cruise being pulverized by various objects and creatures. His reputation as an actor takes the biggest hit, however. If this movie’s goal was to kickstart Universal Films’ new franchise of monster movies, well, I’m sorry to report that the franchise is off to a bad start. The Mummy earns only 1 Reel out of 5.

Our two heroes’ love story never rings true, with Jenny being a damsel in constant distress and Norton saving her repeatedly despite having the moral center of a sea-slug. Yes, there is a hero’s journey here but it is “forced” and anachronistic. As mentioned earlier, I also had a problem with Norton’s sidekick Vail who one moment is a possessed killer and the next moment is a wisecracking buddy. The hero rating here is 2 Heroes out of 5.

The emotional transformations of Norton and Vail never ring true, and in fact they are irrelevant in a movie whose main goal is to incessantly throw bats, ravens, and zombies at our two heroes. A rating of 2 transformational Deltas out of 5 seems about right to me.

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:

That’s a nice “wrap” up Scott. The Mummy is a dull, uninteresting monster thriller that deserves only 2 Reels out of 5 for its lackluster story. The hero’s journey is likewise dull and forced. I give Morton just 2 Heroes out of 5. And while there are several transformations in this story, I can only muster 2 Deltas out of 5. It seems Universal is off to a slow start in its new franchise. If The Mummy is any indication, Dark Universe will also be dank and disappointing. Let’s hope things get better.

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:

Wonder Woman ••••1/2

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright
Director: Patty Jenkins
Screenplay: Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder
Action/Adventure/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 141 minutes
Release Date: June 2, 2017



(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

No more wondering when we’ll review Wonder Woman. It’s now, Greg.

She’s a wonder, that Wonder Woman. Let’s recap:

In the present day, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) receives a photo of her taken 100 years earlier during World War I. We then flash back to her childhood on the island of Themyscira, where young Diana yearns to become an Amazon warrior but is discouraged by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). We learn that Ares, the god of war, corrupted all of humanity and killed all the gods including his father Zeus. The Amazons were left with one weapon able to destroy Ares if he ever returned.

Then, one day, a plane flies into the waters off Themyscira. Diana, now grown, jumps into the water and saves American pilot and WWI spy Capt. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). But he was followed by Germany’s navy. The Germans attack Themyscira and the Amazons defend their turf, but at a high cost. Diana’s Antiope (Robin Wright) was killed along with a score of other fierce Amazon warriors.

Queen Hippolyta interrogates Trevor using the magic golden lasso of truth. He tells her that the war has consumed the world and the Germans are planning an all-out attack that will kill millions and destroy any chance at armistice. Diana is convinced that Ares is behind this world war. She makes a plan to take Trevor back to London and go to the front to destroy Ares and restore the world to peace.

Greg, DC Films has done it. The movie studio with an uneven track record has produced a fabulous Wonder Woman film that succeeds wildly on several different levels. Let’s begin with aesthetics. The fight scenes in Wonder Woman are as good as we’ve ever seen in the movies, a couple of levels beyond The Matrix and countless action films since then. The look and feel of this film really has no precedent, with the dynamic artistry and physicality of Wonder Woman leaving me dazzled and wanting more.

There is much, much more to commend this movie. Gal Gadot delivers a superb performance in a film saturated with strong female heroes along with a wickedly memorable woman villain in Dr. Poison. Going into the film I was concerned that the character of Wonder Woman would be relegated to the role of a hyper-masculinized ass-kicker. Yes, we do see the ass-kicking side of our hero but the filmmakers here wisely endow her with compassion and a gentle wisdom, too. This androgynous balance is often sadly lacking in male heroes and it bestowed Wonder Woman with refreshing depth and appeal.

So very close, Scott. But not quite. Wonder Woman is by far the best of the new DC Extended Universe movies. Like the other films in this series the special effects and acting are superb. However, previous films (Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad) offered flimsy, dare I say, terrible, storylines. Wonder Woman’s script was much better than its predecessors.

But there are still problems with this film. First, let me say that “origin story” films always suffer from front-loading the backstory of the hero and so often give short shrift to the hero-villain story. WW does particularly well here – balancing Diana Prince’s life on Themyscira with her main goal of destroying Ares in “the real world.”

But the story gets a bit muddled and rushed as the end draws near. Wonder Woman kills the “Big Bad” – German General Ludendorf (Danny Huston) – only to find that he is not Ares, but an ordinary man. Ares is, however, British Sir Patrick (David Thewlis) in disguise. This realization is followed by a flashy CGI battle between her and this new Big Bad. It raises a lot of questions about why Sir Patrick sent her and Steve Trevor to the front to begin with. And Wonder Woman’s proclamation that “I don’t believe in war, I believe in love” is not just corny, but was not part of the theme of the entire movie. It was a confusing and anticlimactic ending.

Much of Wonder Woman’s success derives from its effective use of deep archetypes to which we all resonate. For example, Diana Prince has a secret identity known only to the elders of the Amazon society, and it is an identity she must discover on her own. The “search for self” is a classic story theme in literatures throughout the world, and the hidden identity motif is seen in stories from The Ugly Duckling to Cinderella. All heroes, it seems, possess an inner greatness, a royal heritage, and a secret power that beg for discovery. Discovering our divine birthright is the classic basis for all heroic transformation.

A central compelling element of Wonder Woman is the coming-of-age story of Diana Prince. She starts out innocent and naive about the world, and her mother makes a telling comment that Diana’s naivete may in fact protect her from Ares. Yet the simplicity of Diana’s worldview belies a wisdom in her that Chris Pine’s character Trevor underestimates. It is jarring for Diana, who is so empowered by her Amazon upbringing, to witness the oppression of women in the early 20th century, and she recognizes that only love can save women, and the world, from the influence of corrupt gods such as Ares. Diane experiences the epiphany that “there is so much more” to people than the evil she’s seen, recognizing that Ares’ destructive influence can be countered by love. To his credit, Trevor helps her reach this insight.

To me, there is nothing corny about the take-home message of love, especially in light of the incessant acts of terrorism and violence that plague our contemporary world. Diana Prince realizes that one cannot fight evil by performing similar retaliatory acts of evil. The only solution to war is love, and at the end of the film she makes it her life’s mission to save the world through the use of her native sense of empowerment, her newly developed wisdom about human nature, and her compassion for all people. We’ll have to see how her mission plays out in future installments of Wonder Woman.

Very passionately said, Scott. I don’t have a problem with love as a solution to war. Except that nothing in this film drew Diana Prince to this conclusion. It’s a throwaway line that was meant to be dramatic but falls flat for me because Diana never had a problem with love v. war in the whole of this movie. It’s only at the end that she comes to this conclusion. It’s a nice premise that was not proven by the events of the film.

Wonder Woman (the movie) is a skillfully crafted film that incorporates great cinematography, acting, and choreography to deliver a visual feast. I was disappointed in the final act as the conclusion was not a natural result of the preceding events. Gal Gadot is the legitimate heir to the Wonder Woman crest. I give Wonder Woman 4 out of 5 Reels.

Wonder Woman (the character) is a great heroic entity. She embodies all the characteristics of an emerging hero. She’s moral, ethical, honest, and yet naive. She is naturally charismatic without being self-centered or egotistical. She’s confident and bold without being arrogant. I don’t think it’s possible to construct a more solid and powerful hero than this incarnation of Wonder Woman. I give her 5 out of 5 Heroes.

The transformations here are quite good. Diana is presented to us as a child with ambitions to be a warrior. Her mother opposes that goal but relents in the end. She is mentored by Antiope and grows to be the best of the Amazons. Then she leaves the nest of Themyscira where she has been safe and sound for the world of men. There she falls in love and loses her naivete when she loses Steve Trevor. Few stories have so much transformation for a single character. I award Wonder Woman 4 out of 5 Deltas.

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:

Wonder Woman is an artistic tour de force for DC Films and is not only one of the best films of 2017 but also a fabulous triumph for the woman superhero genre in film. In fact, Diana Prince’s heroism transcends gender. She is a hero and role model for both men and women, demonstrating an inspiring pattern of lifespan development that mirrors Joseph Campbell’s stages of the hero’s journey. Wonder Woman is a landmark cinematic achievement that easily deserve the full 5 Reels out of 5.

The character of Wonder Woman possesses a depth and complexity that we haven’t seen in the movies in a long time. She is naively innocent yet also profoundly wise; she shows great strength yet also warm tenderness; she grows as a person without losing the cherished values of her culture of origin. Wonder woman’s journey is arduous, illuminating, surprising, and ultimately inspiring. She no doubt deserves the full 5 Hero points out of 5.

This coming-of-age story of Diana Prince yielded an embarrassment of transformational riches. Our hero undergoes physical transformation from her aunt during training, and while on her mission with Trevor she acquires key insights about humanity and the genesis of evil in the hearts of men. This mental transformation also includes a discovery of her secret powers, her hidden ability to be the slayer of evil gods. It’s a beautifully crafted story of self discovery that merits the full 5 transformational Deltas out of 5.

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:

Everything, Everything •••1/2

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose |
Director: Stella Meghie
Screenplay: J. Mills Goodloe,  Nicola Yoon
Drama/Romance, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 96 minutes
Release Date: May 19, 2017



Scott, if you had everything in the world, where would you put it?

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

The Everly Brothers once sang, “Every thing, Every where, Every time.” Let’s recap.

We’re introduced to young Maddy (Amandla Stenberg). She has Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and hasn’t left the house since she was three years old. That’s when her brother and father were killed in an automobile accident. Now, she’s celebrating her 18th birthday when something special happens: a cute young man named Olly (Nick Robinson) moves in next door. They strike up a relationship over text messages and begin to fall in love.

Maddy and Olly arrange to meet in person, without Maddy’s mother’s permission. Soon they kiss, and shortly thereafter Maddy runs outside her home to comfort Olly after the boy has a violent run-in with his father. Maddy gets sick briefly but recovers. She realizes that she can’t avoid life and love forever, and so she applies for credit cards and arranges for her and Olly to go on a secret vacation to Hawaii. Maddy gets sick there, too, but soon the truth about her illness is revealed and forever changes her life.

Scott Everything, Everything is based on the popular young-adult novel by the same name. We’ve seen many YA books translated to film with great results that appeal to both young and old. Sadly, EE does not fall into that category. EE is very simplistic in its dealing with disease, loss, isolation, and betrayal. This is more an “Afterschool Special” made for TV than a full cinematic presentation. I was very disappointed.

As a case in point, Maddy seems very happy and well-adjusted in her closed-off world. She doesn’t seem to yearn for the outside life. After having spent her entire life within the same 4 walls, you’d expect that she’d have a pretty big case of cabin fever. And, she’s never had a crush of any sort. With her access to the internet and social media, I would expect her to have at least had an online romance. But she seems perfectly happy to create her scale models of diners and buildings as part of her architectural studies. I found it all a bit too simplistic.

I guess I’ll be the contrarian here. Greg, Everything, Everything won my heart. How could anyone not love these two kids who fall in love and face seemingly impossible odds of their relationship working? The only possible criticism of this movie is that our two romantic leads are just a bit too perfect, too good-looking, and too well-adjusted. Given Maddy’s isolation from the world, you’d think she’d be more socially awkward, and given Nick’s violent father, you’d think he’d have some dark baggage for the audience to see. But even with the implausibility of these hyper-perfect kids, I was drawn into the story and was moved deeply.

True, the film does have a made-for-TV feel, and yes, it’s a simple love story that won’t win any awards for originality. Yet I couldn’t help detect the metaphorical significance of Maddy’s SCID disease. I believe that many people today, Millennials especially, have trouble “connecting” with people due to self-inflicted barriers to intimacy. I suspect that a lot of viewers of this film can relate to feeling separated from others and feeling unable to find love. It’s no coincidence in this movie that the barriers to love are dismantled once they are discovered to originate from the corrupt older generation, a theme we’ve seen in many YA dystopian future movies such as Hunger Games and Divergent.

The two characters represent a romantic duo. But the story is clearly Maddy’s. It’s all about her isolation, her new-found love, and her ultimate ambition to escape the confines of her home. Olly is the catalyst for her journey and in many ways a mentor to her as she reaches out to a world beyond her jail. She starts out naive and ultimately learns a difficult secret. She’s a good hero – but not great. She has no flaws that we can see. She’s beautiful, polite, refined, obedient, and just too perfect. To be relatable, we need heroes to have some flaws.

Good hero stories usually feature heroes who transform in significant ways. In this film Maddy does grow socially and emotionally. She also acquires an important insight about her mother, a painful mental transformation she must undergo. Olly grows in similar ways but we’re not as privy to his transformations.

In our last book, Reel Heroes & Villains, we noted that one thing that separates heroes from villains is that heroes transform but villains don’t. Everything, Everything provides ample evidence of this distinction. The film’s villain, Maddy’s mother, does not see the light and in fact cannot see the light. She needlessly imprisons her daughter and never becomes enlightened about the cruelty of her actions. She remains stuck in an untransformed state.

Everything, Everything is The Boy in the Plastic Bubble for a new generation. It also resembles another film: The Space Between Us. EE is very light fare made for the younger viewers in the audience – especially young girls. It treats Maddy’s situation and illness with a light touch and so is appropriate for that group. I give Everything, Everything 3 out of 5 Reels.

Maddy is a bit too perfect in every way. She undergoes a great transformation from acquiescing to her mother’s every whim, to becoming a full adult and making decisions for herself. The realization at the film’s end – where Maddy learns that her mother made up her illness – is a devastating moment for her and a stark illustration of how fragile trust is. I wish that Maddy were a more realistic character, so I give her just 2 out of 5 Heroes.

There’s not a lot of transformation other than for Maddy in this film. Olly is pretty much who Olly is all throughout. And the other ancillary characters are mere shadows. I can only muster 2 out of 5 transformation Deltas for Maddy’s transformation.

Movie: Transformation: Heroes:

I’ll acknowledge some of the weakness of this film that you point out, Greg. Yet the bottom line for me is that Everything, Everything moved me at a deep emotional level, despite the flaws we’ve identified. This movie tugs at our heartstrings in telling a timeless tale of unrequited love, and in doing so it evokes strong emotional payoffs. I give the film 4 Reels out of 5.

Our two romantic heroes go on a classic hero’s journey and help each other grow socially, mentally, and emotionally. These heroes possess most if not all of the qualities in the “great eight’ traits of heroes: they are smart, strong, reliable, resilient, charismatic, caring, selfless, and inspiring. I award our heroes 3 Hero rating points out of 5.

As I’ve noted, both our heroes help each other grow and transform in significant ways. Moreover, we sadly see that Maddy’s mother suffers the fate of most villains in good storytelling. She remains stuck and in denial, thus forever untransformed. The lesson is clear here and in all good stories — unless you are willing to grow and change, you risk either painful stagnation or, worse, a harmful regression that poisons hearts and relationships. I award these characters 3 transformation Deltas out of 5.

Movie: Transformation: Heroes: