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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom •••

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall
Director: J.A. Bayona
Screenplay: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 128 minutes
Release Date: June 22, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!


Are we reviewing a new Pokemon Movie with new dinosaurs and we “Gotta Catch ‘em All?”


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

No, Greg, the only thing we’re catching is sequel fever. It’s a Hollywood epidemic. Let’s recap.


We’re introduced to Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is running an organization to save the dinosaurs left on the Jurassic Island. The island is on the verge of exploding due to volcanic activity. She’s approached by entrepreneur Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) who wants to save eleven species – especially the Raptor named Blue. She enlists the aid of her old friend / love interest Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) who wants nothing to do with the rescue. She convinces him by reminding him that Blue was his favorite ‘saur. And they’re off to the island of misfit dinosaurs to catch ‘em all.


Of course things go badly on the island. Not only do Claire and Owen barely escape with their lives, thanks to the irritable volcano, but they also discover that the paid mercenary rescue team has been ordered to move the ‘saurs to the home of Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), a long-lost partner of Dr. Hammond who established the original Jurassic Park. All the ‘saurs will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.


Scott, I’m at a complete loss to understand why any of us should care about these ‘saurs. They seem really dangerous and vicious. It really seems like the world would be better off without them. We don’t see any examples of how the ‘saurs are compassionate, or cute, or cuddly, or in any way worthy of saving. Jeff Goldblum even reprises his role as Dr. Malcom to tell a Senate subcommittee that they should let the ‘saurs die with the island because they don’t belong here. So, the entire premise of the movie – that we need to save the dinosaurs – is in no way validated. So I can’t buy in to our hero’s goal to risk their lives to save really dangerous animals.


I admire your cynicism, Greg. You could say that our two romantic heroes are driven by two needs — the need to preserve life, however dangerous that life may be, and the need to prolong the longevity of the Jurassic Park franchise, which is making millions for Universal Pictures.

This installment of the Jurassic Park franchise has all the familiar ingredients – bloodthirsty ‘saurs, bad dudes who underestimate these ‘saurs, good dudes who try to stop the bad dudes from exploiting the ‘saurs, and a cute little kid who eludes the ‘saurs. There is also a romantic couple devoted to these creatures but are helpless to do anything about their mistreatment. To top it all off, Jeff Goldblum is the expert narrating the story and giving us the usual Jurassic Park commentary about the dangers of tampering with nature.

So you’d might think from my tepid description of the film that I was bored to tears and am ready to beg the filmmakers to euthanize this series once and for all. But I refuse to do that. Jurassic Park has always managed to entertain me even when I know exactly what’s going to happen before it happens. There’s no logic to my liking these overgrown lizards. It should be time to retire the raptors, terminate the T-Rex, and jettison the Jurassic. I plead guilty to liking a movie I have no business liking, and there’s not even an interesting hero story I can single out to justify my poor taste. Could it be that I’m partial to films starring Zefram Cochrane (played by James Cromwell), inventor of the warp engine?


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is what it is: a summer blockbuster popcorn movie filled with action and adventure. It’s not driven by a coherent plot, but at least the acting was pretty good. I give it 3 out of 5 Reels.

The heroes in this story are Owen and Claire. As a buddy and romantic pairing they do pretty well. Although Claire is played up as the beautiful brains behind the operation, she’s also pretty tough in her own right. Owen is the masculine save-the-day classic hero. I give them 3 out of 5 Heroes.

As for the archetypes, I noticed that they replaced the DAMSEL IN DISTRESS with a screaming, inept, and impotent COMPUTER GEEK. Good for them in the age of the #MeToo movement. There’s the classic CORPORATE FAT CAT only interested in profit without regard to life, liberty, or ethics. They also went to great lengths to create a family unit harkening back to the original Jurassic Park. Claire is not a fan of children, but by the end of the movie Claire, Owen, and the CLONED GIRL Maisie (Isabella Sermon) come together as the NUCLEAR FAMILY that the audience can recognize and root for. I give these archetypes 3 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


Damn it, Greg, I hate it when we agree on all three ratings. This is a flagrant violation of the laws of nature and the world feels off-kilter now. This rendition of Jurassic Park is indeed a prototypical summer action flick that appeals to my reptilian brain, my inner ‘saur. There is a dark side to this film that is much more horrifying than the bloodthirsty lizards on the screen — the reality of human cloning, which is thrown at us without much fanfare. If the next film in the franchise runs with this idea in imaginative ways, we could have a really fresh future for this franchise.

So yes, my ratings are identical — 3 Reels, 3 Heroes, and 3 Arcs. The heroes of this story undergo the same journey as the heroes in all the previous Jurassic movies. They are not so much transformed by their journey as they are horrified and damaged by it — yet with each installment, they come back with renewed enthusiasm for saving the ‘saurs. Also, with each film we have a fresh new set of bad guys who underestimate the power of nature and whose cages for these creatures never seem strong enough. Did they never see the original King Kong movie? It’s definitely a ‘saur spot for this franchise.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

Hotel Artemis •••1/2

Starring: Jodie Foster, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista
Director: Drew Pearce
Screenplay: Drew Pearce
Action/Crime/Thriller, Rated: R
Running Time: 93 minutes
Release Date: June 8, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!

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

Greg, is this film a remake of Grand Budapest Hotel?


No, it’s like the Hotel California – you can check in but you can never check out. Let’s recap.


We meet two bank robbers, Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry) who unsuccessfully rob a bank vault with Honolulu getting shot in the process. Waikiki takes him to the Hotel Artemis, which is a secret hospital that treats high-level criminals. The hospital is run by a semi-elderly Nurse (Jodie Foster) and her hulking assistant Everest (Dave Bautista). This is no ordinary night at the hotel, as several other interesting guests arrive.


All the guests have code names based on exotic locations. We’re introduced to femme-fatale Nice (Sofia Boutella, who has history with Waikiki), and weasel Acapulco (Charlie Day). What Waikiki did not know is that his brother has stolen a pen-vault that contains millions of dollars worth of diamond owned by the Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum). It won’t be long before the Wolf King arrives and all hell breaks loose.


Greg, Hotel Artemis is a clever depiction of a not-too-distant-in-the-future dystopia, with rioting in the cities and organized criminals running amok. Initially I had trouble getting into this film and was about to write it off as lightweight fare, but things got interesting at the halfway point. On this night the hotel has attracted several memorable guests whose intentions are not pure – who would have anticipated such an eventuality at a criminal hospital?

This film works on the strength of its visuals — the hotel itself is an unforgettable character, with its vintage murals, elevators, dials, and accessories. Jodie Foster shines in her portrayal of a woman with a secret that tears at her heart; Sofia Boutella delivers a memorable performance as a ruthless hit-woman; Sterling Brown is a brave, loyal friend; and Dave Bautista basically plays the same likeable character that he plays in Guardians of the Galaxy. Even Jeff Goldblum gives this movie a playful boost. The ensemble cast pulls off a nice story with a satisfying ending.


Hotel Artemis is an unusual story. It’s all based on honor among thieves. There are rules at the Artemis: no guns, nobody kills anyone, no cops allowed, and nobody uses their real names. And, of course, rules are made to be broken and all of the rules do get broken. Things go awry when a cop who knows Nurse asks for help. Nurse lets her in because she knew her long-ago dead son. Waikiki fashions a gun from a 3-D printer. Eventually, Nice kills the Wolf King, and the cop exposes Nurse’s real name.

It’s hard to say who is the hero of this film. Nurse and Waikiki lead the story, but this is hardly a buddy story. It’s more of an ensemble treatment where everyone has something they desperately desire and something to hide. It’s the tension between these different goals that push the story along and make the characters relatable. Despite the fact that everyone is this story is in some way villainous, we pull for them to get what they want. And in the end, most of them do.


Hotel Artemis is a highly creative and enjoyable depiction of a dark future for Los Angeles — and presumably for the rest of the world. This film boasts a tremendously talented ensemble cast that carries us emotionally scene by scene. One sign of a successful movie is that it leaves me wanting more; I want to know more about the Nurse, about her son, and about the dark connection between her son and Wolf King. Not to mention more about Everest and how he developed such a deep loyalty to the Nurse and her cause. This film is not likely to win any awards but it’s still worth viewing. I give it 3 Reels out of 5.

The main hero in this ensemble is the Nurse, and her hero’s journey is proof that a hero doesn’t need to travel physically anywhere to go on her journey. The hero’s path is always a path toward inner discovery, and the Nurse must discover the truth about her son’s past and the nature of his demise. She takes risks, makes self-sacrifices, and in the end lives the life she is meant to live on her own terms. I give our hero a rating of 4 Heroes out of 5.

Archetypes abound in this film, many of them dark archetypes that I enjoy calling ‘darketypes’. The Nurse is the classic ‘healer’; Everest is the prototypical guardian of the Artemis galaxy; the Wolf King is the mastermind hero, and his son is the dark prince in Paul Moxnes’ deep role theory. Nice is more than a mere femme fatale — she is the most dangerous individual in Artemis, a true archetypal killing machine. All these archetypes are worthy of a rating of 3 Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


I might disagree with you on the awards front, Scott. This film has a lot of original special effects and offers a unique dystopian future. I can see Nebula awards for science fiction and even Golden Globe and Academy awards for the performances. I’m reminded of the Purge movie franchise. It’s a similar, bleak view of the future and has a similar dark feel. I give Hotel Artemis 4 out of 5 Reels.

As an ensemble cast, I see several anti-heroes. Nurse is performing illegal operations on criminals. She’s a benevolent character, but she’s lost her medical license because she fell into drugs and alcohol after the death of her son. Waikiki is a bank robber and a thief. But we admire him for his tenacious duty to his brother, Honolulu. Nice is a vicious assassin who seems to be heartless. But in the end, fights off a band of evil minions to help Nurse and Waikiki escape. I give this cast of anti-heroes 4 out of 5 Heroes.

You’ve nailed the Archetypes in this movie, Scott. But I liked them more than you and award them 4 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

Deadpool 2 ••••

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin
Director: David Leitch
Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Action/Adventure/Comedy, Rated: R
Running Time: 119 minutes
Release Date: May 18, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!


Scott, Ryan Reynolds is back in the gene pool with Deadpool 2.


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

I’ve been dying to swim in the Deadpool again, Greg. Let’s recap.


Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool) has dispatched a ‘pool’ of bad guys when he returns home to his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The two are canoodling when one of the remaining bad guys interrupts and kills Vanessa. Now, Wade is despondent and attempts suicide by blowing himself into small bits – hoping that his regenerative powers are not sufficient to pull him back together.


Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) picks up Wade’s pieces and attempts to rehab him by enrolling him as a trainee in the X-Men school. On his first assignment, Wade is asked to diffuse a situation in which Russell Collins (Julian Dennison) has exploded in anger over being mistreated by the headmaster. Wade mishandles the situation, leading to he and Russell being incarcerated together. But a cyber-thug named Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives from the future to wreak havoc and kill Russell.


Scott, ‘Deadpool 2’ is the sequel that should not have been made. Or at least, a sequel that is really just a transition to a new franchise. It seems the purpose of this film is to create a new group of mutants called the X-Force. If you liked the first Deadpool, you may like this film, too. Although the shock value of a superhero who is nearly as bad as his villains has worn off. Reynolds’ sarcastic humor is still in force here. There are a lot of pop culture references that probably will go over the heads of younger audience members – so it seems every joke has to be explained (for example, Deadpool is regenerating his lower-half and he uncrosses his legs in a style reminiscent of Sharon Stone in ‘Basic Instinct’. So, someone quips that Wade has given in to his ‘Basic Instinct’. So on-the-nose.)


Greg, it’s no secret that I’ve had issues with several recent films from the Marvel Comics universe. But I’m going to have to differ with you here and proclaim Deadpool 2 to be an unequivocal winner, perhaps the best Marvel film I’ve seen in years. Like most Marvel movies, this one is a comedy, but it is no ordinary comedy. The filmmakers have taken the comedic elements to another level here, breaking the fourth wall in clever ways and giving us many laugh-out-loud moments. This movie also has a stylishness here that is usually reserved for classier films outside this genre. I was particularly taken with rather inventive, surreal scenes of the afterlife involving Deadpool’s slain girlfriend.

When we reviewed the first Deadpool, I believe we disagreed on the issue of whether Wade Wilson was a hero or an antihero. I think it’s pretty clear in this film that Wilson falls into the hero camp. Inspired by dreamlike encounters with his girlfriend in the afterlife, Wilson develops a desire to save Russell Collins before Collins becomes irredeemably bad. At the end, Wilson even sacrifices his life to save Collins’s life, with a convenient time machine able to reverse Wilson’s death. All this makes Deadpool a first-rate hero.


I’m not so easily convinced, Scott. Deadpool seems to kill without provocation – assigning himself the roles of judge, jury, and executioner. I don’t think a proper hero would do that. Compare to Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War – is he a hero or villain? Most would consider him a clear villain. But Thanos put himself in the same role of deciding for the universe who lives and dies.

Deadpool crosses the “Batman Line” in that he’s a vigilante. But unlike Batman, he doesn’t let the justice system determine the villain’s outcome – he takes it upon himself to dispatch justice. This is what X-Men Colossus and Negasonic are trying to teach him. And that is the very reason we find him in jail. However, by the end of the film, it looks like he may have found a balance. We’ll see in the next installment of this franchise.


Deadpool 2 represents a breath of fresh air in offering us a fun story with clever, comedic irreverence. The fact that I was once critical of Ryan Reynolds as an actor has come back to haunt me; he’s proven himself to be absolutely perfect in the role of Wade Wilson. This movie has many layers of nuanced humor that will require a second viewing to fully appreciate. I’m eager for more Deadpool and am sad to have to wait a couple years until the next installment. This film merits a rating of 5 Reels out of 5.

The hero’s journey stands out in bold relief, with Wade being thrown into the journey when his girlfriend is murdered. He’s rather pitiful for a while but the combined influence of Colossus, Russell Collins, and his love interest (in the afterlife) do a tag-team job of pulling Wade out of his funk and into his best heroic self. Wade undergoes a terrific heroic transformation in this film. I award this Pool of Dead 4 Hero points out of 5.

In this film we see many of the usual archetypes depicted in superhero movies. The super-strong hyper-masculine male is on full display in Wade, Colossus, and Russell. There is also the archetype of the revenge motive, which spurred Deadpool into action in the first movie as well as in this one. The time-travelling archetypes is old and worn yet used well with self-deprecating humor here. I give this film a rating of 3 archetypal Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


I was bored during most of Deadpool 2 – perhaps I’m suffering superhero fatigue. There was just so much demolition that I had trouble parsing out the story. I enjoyed the twist that Cable was not out to kill Deadpool, but the kid Russell. This gives Deadpool someone to protect. But in the end, it’s Cable who is trying to save his daughter by preemptively killing Russell who ultimately kills her. It creates a dual “saving the cat” motive that creates depth for both characters. I give Deadpool 2 3 out of 5 Reels.

As we’ve discussed, I’m not sold on Deadpool as a hero. Although, in this film, it looks like Wade Wilson may have come to some resolution on his villainous choices and may, in the future, not be so heavy-handed with doling out judgement. I give him 3 out of 5 Heroes.

The archetypes are typical superhero fare. Wade as the SUPERHERO, Russell as the SIDEKICK, Cable as the MISUNDERSTOOD VILLAIN, Vanessa as the FALLEN BRIDE, and Colossus as the MENTOR. I give them 3 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

Overboard •••

Starring: Anna Faris, Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria
Director: Rob Greenberg
Screenplay: Leslie Dixon, Bob Fisher
Comedy/Romance, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 112 minutes
Release Date: May 4, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!


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

Greg, let’s not go overboard in our praise for this movie, okay?


I have to admit, I was not over bored by how much better this remake was than the original. Let’s recap…


We meet Kate (Anna Faris), a woman studying to become a nurse while also holding down two jobs to feed her family. One day, while cleaning the carpets aboard a yacht, Kate runs into the playboy owner of the yacht, Leonardo (Eugenio Derbez). He insults her and literally throws her overboard, along with her equipment which she must now pay for.


Leonardo doesn’t waste much time getting wasted and falls overboard his yacht. He ends up in the hospital with amnesia. His sister Theresa (Eva Longoria) wants to take over the family business and having Leonardo out of the way makes that easy. So, she leaves him there. Meanwhile, Kate sees Leo’s picture on the news and hatches a plan to make him pay her back by serving as her husband and father to her three children while she studies for her nursing degree.


On the surface, Overboard is a lightweight throwaway comedy, with a far-fetched plot, stock characters we’ve seen a million times before, and a predictable, saccharin ending. Yet from a hero’s journey perspective, this movie is pure gold. Our romantic hero duo of Leo and Kate are both thrust into a new world of a faux marriage that transforms them both, especially Leo. His riches-to-rags change in setting produces a total personality makeover, transforming him from a spoiled jerk to a humbled, loving husband and father. This discovery of the true self as a result of the journey is the hallmark feature of any good hero’s tale.

When Leo returns to his rich lifestyle, he is now “Master of Both Worlds”, a man who knows wealth but who can also thrive in impoverished circumstances. While experiencing poverty, Leo transformed into a humble, devoted family man, and once transformed our hero cannot become untransformed. His faux marriage allowed him to find his “true self” who, in the terminology of Joseph Campbell, has found his bliss and emerges as a man who is in union with all the world.


Great analysis of the hero in this story, Scott. Overboard is an unlikely Hollywood comedy remade from the Goldie Hawn 1984 original. I thought this version did a great job of paving over the plot holes in the original. The production values, acting, and writing were also much better. As ridiculous as I found the plot, watching Leo commiserate with his fellow workmates was hilarious. (At one point he says, “I feel like this is not my life. Like I was destined for more. And I haven’t had sex in months.” To which his hard-working, married, and low-wages compatriots reply – “Yup. Me too.”)

While this is very much Leo’s story of redemption, Anna Faris’s depiction of Kate as a hard-working, earnest, but still wide-eyed naive single mom delivers the goods. Faris is known for her screwball comedies. But here she gives us a warm, harried, flawed, but genuinely likeable character. Regardless of whether we agree with what she’s done, we agree with her motivations.


Overboard is a silly, far-fetched story that we’ve seen in various forms many times before in storytelling. Despite the tale’s predictability, Overboard manages to touch our hearts by depicting a man’s arduous journey toward becoming his best self. The method by which this transformation occurs is heavy-handed and disturbing in a Beauty and the Beast kind of way. If you’re willing to overlook kidnapping and abuse as a means of helping someone change, this movie is for you. I give Overboard a rating of 3 Reels out of 5.

As mentioned earlier, the hero’s journey is almost textbook, with Leo’s accident on the boat propelling him (pardon the pun) onto his journey toward self-realization. His transformation is aided by the group of construction workers with whom he works, and also by Kate’s three kids who manage to squirm their way into Leo’s heart. Leo’s amnesia and subsequent self-discovery are wonderful exemplars of timeless tales of unknown hero identities becoming fully known in their richness and connectedness with the world. I give the heroes a rating of 3 Hero points out of 5.

Regarding archetypes, we have a clear example of psychologist Paul Moxnes’ family unit archetype consisting of Leo’s father (the patriarchal king), his evil sister (the dark princess), and his good sister. There is also the archetypal idea of the hero’s obliviousness about his true identity and his undergoing suffering to discover his authentic self. Then we have a very problematic archetype (which I’ll call a “darketype”), seen before in Beauty and the Beast, involving the idea of kidnapping someone long enough for them to fall in love with their kidnappers. Why this “darketype” exists really baffles me. These archetypes merit a score of 3 Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes:   Heroes:


Overboard is a lot of fun and Derbez and Faris make it work. I had fun the whole time. Everyone likes to see the rich and powerful taken down a peg, and Leo definitely has his day. The “amnesia” trope is impossible to believe, but if you can swallow that, the rest plays out in a very fun way. And if you can get over Leo’s “Stockholm Syndrome” – falling in love with Kate – then you’ll have fun, too. I give Overboard 3 out of 5 Reels.

Yes, this is a redemptive story for Leo. It’s possible only because Leo has selective memory about what he is entitled to as a rich man and gaps about being married. He also doesn’t seem to question the fact that virtually nothing in the house belongs to him. But we like to see our flawed hero become a better man. So I give Leo 3 out of 5 Heroes.

Finally, you’ve covered the archetypes very well. As you said, we have the Moxnes’ family unit with Leo as father, Kate as mother, and the children in play. And it’s the fulfillment of this family structure that completes Leo as a FATHER and HUSBAND. I give these archetypes 3 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes:  Heroes:

Avengers: Infinity War •••

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Action/Adventure/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 149 minutes
Release Date: April 27, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!


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

Greg, if there can be an infinity war, can there be an infinity peace?

 


Only if we have an infinity of time – and the stones to do it… Let’s recap:


Thanos and his henchmen have just obtained the Power Stone and are now plotting to acquire the 5 remaining sacred stones. Doing so will give Thanos (Josh Brolin) complete rule over the universe. Sure enough, Thanos obtains the Space Stone from Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Meanwhile, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) warns Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) of Thanos’ plan to kill half the population of the universe once he realizes his goal of acquiring all the stones.


Fearing for the Mind Stone embedded in Vision’s (Paul Bettany) head, Captain America (Steve Rogers, Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) appear in Paris to assist Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) in fighting off more of Thanos’ helpers. Meanwhile, Thor is found alive among the debris of his ship by the Guardians of the Galaxy. Now the fight is on to prevent Thanos from getting his hands on all the Infinity Stones and decimating the universe’s population.


Greg, this movie exhausted me. Yes, it’s a triumph of sorts, weaving dozens of super beings into a story about saving the universe. But my goodness, what a clusterfuck. For 150 minutes we’re subjected to one fight scene after another, after another. A cacophony of characters and physical mayhem, it’s a wet dream for people with ADHD, and it left my brain bleeding.

There are so many questions that need answering. Why do these magical creatures bother punching each other when they are impervious to punches? They slam each other into skyscrapers when they know their adversaries are immune to the ill-effects of such slamming. These super-peeps can be impaled, crushed, and mangled yet bounce right back up with only a slight cut on their forehead. They withstand every kind of physical abuse and we watch them pound each other to smithereens ad nauseum. What is the point?

The other problem that this film shares with many others is the problem of “superpower convenience”. When the plotline demands it, a seemingly invulnerable good guy or bad guy will suddenly show a vulnerability, or the reverse will happen, with a previously established super-strength from someone disappearing conveniently because the story demands it.

If I overlook these issues, and the problem of film-length (always my pet peeve), then we have an extremely large-scale good versus evil superhero movie. Our heroes must work together to stop Thanos from obtaining all 6 infinity gemstones, which would give him dominion over the universe. I like Thanos as a villain; he’s a morally ambiguous dude, a guy with good intentions but a questionable game-plan. But Thanos cannot rescue this frenetic mess of a film.


We’re in basic agreement, here Scott. However, in true Marvel fashion, they managed to get a dozen major stars and their characters in one movie – and no egos were bruised. Everyone gets screen time. Everyone gets great dialog. All the heroes are equals. It’s a monumental task and the writers delivered a coherent, albeit bloated, movie.

Having said that, this is just one immense battle scene after another. When you strip away all the explosions and fisticuffs, there’s not much of a story here. And since we’ve had introductions to all the major heroes in the story (through their own franchised films), the only character who has any depth is the villain – Thanos.

And what a villain, indeed. Thanos believes the universe is overpopulated. (Which is never substantiated in ANY way in this story. AND, it appears that Thanos is aware of UNIVERSAL problems when GALACTIC problems are not made clear. I would have preferred that Thanos’ goal were to cure the galaxy of overpopulation. The universe is a pretty big place.) Thanos is given the option of trading the one thing he loves (his daughter Gamora) for the Soul Stone.

This is a huge deal. Thanos is not a PURE EVIL character after all. He cares about his planet enough to take initiative to save half the population. And he actually loves his daughter. But he loves the universe enough to “give his only begotten daughter” to save it. This is the stuff of heroes to certain ways of thinking. As we mention in our book Reel Heroes and Villains – the villain often thinks he is the hero of the story. Thanos fits this to a tee.


Infinity War is a triumph of sorts but it falls victim to the mentality of “more is more” when we all know that “less is more”. My fear is that the billion-dollar success of this film will open the door to many more movies of this type, movies with too many characters, too many explosions, and too many illogical fight scenes. I am hoping that the DC Comic universe will not follow suit, but the cynic in me suspects that Infinity War has ushered in a new era of the bloated superhero movie. I give this film 2 Reels out of 5.

There are many, many heroes here trying to stop Thanos and his hench-army. There isn’t much of a journey to speak of, not much going on  in terms of character development, and not much indication of hero attributes to discuss (other than super-strength). As such, I give this humongous ensemble of heroes a rating of 2 Hero points out of 5.

In terms of archetypes, there is much more to talk about. Superhero movies are replete with archetypes of power, strength, and hyper-masculinity. Greg, you’ve nicely pointed out the archetype of sacrifice — Thanos’s daughter must be sacrificed and half the universe must be sacrificed, all presumably in the name of promoting the greater good. These and other archetypes earn this film 4 Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


Infinity War would have been a nice cap on the Avengers franchise, but based on the ending credits easter egg, it looks like a new hero is coming. I try to rate films in the genre in which they’re set. Superhero films are supposed to be filled with screen-smashing explosions and bigger-is-more effects. Infinity War does this “infinitely” better than others. But the lack of any character development is a negative. I give it 4 out of 5 Reels.

As you say, Scott, these are heroes we’ve met before. The only real character development happens in the villain. I give this film 3 out of 5 Heroes.

And the archetypes are all standard fare. Superheroes will be superheroes. Superwarriers will fight super hard. I give them all 3 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

I Feel Pretty ••1/2

Starring: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski
Director: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Screenplay: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Comedy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 110 minutes
Release Date: April 20, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!

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I feel pretty … good about this movie, Scott.


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

Pretty funny, Greg. Let’s get right to it, shall we?


We’re introduced to Renee (Amy Schumer) , an average-looking woman who is working for a fashion make-up company. She wants to move up in the company, but fears that she doesn’t have the high-fashion attractiveness that is necessary to be promoted. After watching the movie Big she wishes on a fountain that she might be “pretty.” The next day while working out in spin class when she falls off the bike and bangs her head. When she comes to, she believes that she has been transformed into a beautiful woman.


With new-found confidence, Renee begins seeking triumphs she normally would eschew. First, she has an encounter at the dry cleaners with Ethan, a man waiting in line behind her. They exchange phone numbers and she calls him later to ask him on a date. Much to his shock and admiration, she enters a bikini contest during the date. Next, she applies for a job as a receptionist at the exclusive Lily LeClair cosmetics corporation. Her winsome spirit during the job interview lands her the position.


Scott, I’m a big fan of Amy Schumer and her comedy. This movie seemed like the perfect vehicle for her brand. But, while the film starts out pretty strong, it falls apart in the third act. There’s a scene where Renee is talking to a fashion model who is lacking self-confidence and Renee tries to bolster her friend and comes to the conclusion that even pretty girls face body image issues. It’s very on-the-nose dialog that seems to be written by first-timers.

The climactic scene where Renee realizes that her appearance never changed is also a let-down. She comes to the conclusion that her attitude is what garnered her new-found success, not her appearance. It could have been an emotional moment, but in the hands of these writers fell completely flat. The writers attempted to wrap everything up in a tidy bow in two minutes. It was a major disappointment.


Greg, I think we disagree a bit on this film. I Feel Pretty works on its own as a charming and enjoyable romantic comedy, yet it also manages to convey a “message” with considerable gravitas. The message, of course, focuses on the importance of self-confidence in determining our success. Golf legend Jack Nicklaus once said, “Self-doubt stinks,” and I believe wiser words were never uttered about life in general. This film shines light on society’s obsession with outer beauty and reveals that obsession to be ugly. More importantly, this movie shows us how even a slight attitude adjustment about self-worth can pay big dividends.

I Feel Pretty represents a refreshing departure from last year’s Snatched which was largely a waste of Amy Schumer’s talent. I described Snatched as “a throwaway comedy with no real redeeming value”, and that was me being kind. The best movies give us a hero who is ripe for a meaningful change, undergoes the change but not without great suffering, and then gives back to the world. Our hero Renee touches all of these bases and we, the viewers, are left satisfied at the end – especially because Renee demonstrates to us the supreme importance of having confidence in ourselves.


We’ve seen this message delivered more powerfully and skillfully in other films like Big and Shallow Hal. There’s even an episode of Star Trek (Mudd’s Women) from the 1960s that does a better job. As much as I enjoyed elements of this film, the clumsy delivery made it difficult for me to enjoy. I give I Feel Pretty just 2 out of 5 Reels.

Renee does pretty well as a redeemed hero. When she believes herself to be unstoppably beautiful, she shuns her friends and grows a huge ego. When she realizes that she was herself the whole time, she also realizes that she acted badly and makes amends, thus redeeming herself. I give Renee 3 out of 5 Heroes.

The archetypes here are pretty sparse. We see the GOOD BOYFRIEND in the man she attracts. We also see the MEAN GIRLS in the fashion models in Renee’s company. I give the archetypes just 2 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


I Feel Pretty is a comeback of sorts for Amy Schumer, whose last film Snatched was one of the worst films of 2017. I Feel Pretty is by no means a cinematic masterpiece but it endears us with its simple message of believing in oneself. There are some comedic moments and also moments that remind us of Schumer’s genius as a physical comedian. I award this film 3 Reels out of 5.

The hero’s journey is followed by a hero to near-perfection. Renee’s bike accident transports her to a new world where she transforms herself (psychologically). Her fall in the shower later transports her back to her old familiar world, but now she has changed and is compelled to bring the change into the old world. Renee accomplishes this feat by summoning up the confidence she acquired earlier on her journey. Overall, it’s a highly effective use of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, earning our hero 4 Hero points out of 5.

You’ve mentioned two archetypes, Greg, and I’ll add the Lauren Hutton archetype of the aging matriarch along with the archetype of the muscle-bound frat-boy that we see in Lily’s brother. A non-character archetype pervades this film in the form of magic, which is the hallmark of films such as Big And Shallow Hal. These archetypes merit a rating of 4 Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

A Quiet Place ••• 1/2

Starring:  Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds
Director: John Krasinski
Screenplay: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck
Drama/Horror/Sci-Fi, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release Date: April 6, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!

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

Greg, it’s time to review Simon & Garfunkel’s film version of ‘Sounds of Silence’.


i just hope to find a Quiet Place to review this film. Let’s recap:


The year is 2020, and most of the earth’s population has been decimated by vicious creatures called the Death Angels. With hyper-sensitive hearing, these creatures attack and kill anything that emits the slightest sound. The Abbott family has managed to survive, thanks to their mastery of ASL (American Sign Language). There is Lee Abbott (John Krasinski), his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), and their three children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Noah (Noah Jupe), and Beau (Cade Woodward).


While Lee and son Beau are on an excursion, Evelyn goes into labor and steps on a nail and emits a noise that attracts the beasts. Now it’s a game of cat and mouse as the Abbotts must evade the death angels while keeping silent.


Greg, it’s hard to imagine crafting a decent movie that is 90% silence, but that’s what A Quiet Place manages to accomplish. We’ve seen this villain before in the movies, a pure-evil animal-like villain in the same vein as Jaws and Alien. Only the most empathetic of us will show compassion for a creature than indiscriminately kills and eats anyone who makes a sound. And only the most foolish characters in a movie would choose to have a baby in a world with creatures that will devour a crying baby in mere seconds.

Despite a rather boring pure evil villain and the foolhardiness of the baby, this movie works rather well as a horror story. The creature is bloodthirsty and relentless, and as in every scary movie, there are plenty of false scares and predictable moments of suspense. Our main hero, Lee, is compelled to invent a device that will destroy the creatures, and our secondary family member heroes all manage to overcome their fears and transform into courageous, resourceful threats to the creatures.


I was favorably impressed with A Quiet Place. Unlike typical horror stories, this is not a tale strictly of fright, but a tale of survival and family. Young Regan blames herself for her youngest brother’s demise and imagines her father also blames her. The tension between father and daughter is exacerbated by the typical angst of a teen trying to become independent.

At first the fact that Regan was hearing impaired seemed like an ironic twist. Later we discover that her disability becomes the key to defeating the Death Angels. While the actress who plays Regan happens to be deaf, this is not what separates her from other young actresses. Millicent Simmonds virtually carries this film with her emotive face. She has only one other acting credit before A Quiet Place, but she delivers in a film that requires a strong emotive presence. Truly, she is the breakout star of this film – standing toe-to-toe with the likes of Emily Blunt and John Krasinski.


This movie heightened the suspense by having Evelyn deliver her baby on her own, within “earshot” of a Death Angel lurking in her house. Somehow she does it noiselessly and without any pain medication, which has to be the most remarkable feat in human history. The birthing scene had me on the edge of my seat, as did the film’s climax requiring Lee to sacrifice his life to save his children. It’s good to see good old fashioned ingenuity win the day in defeating these “eerie” beasts (pun intended).

By the way, the FX crew did a fabulous job creating a brand new villain with elaborate ears that were (fortunately) no way reminiscent of the Ferengi in Star Trek. These beasts were indeed terrifying and Krasinski deserves kudos for steering this cinematic ship with sharpness and alacrity. In terms of archetypes, we’ve certainly got the pure evil villain here, along with the scientist hero, the damsel in distress, the budding teen girl with attitude, and a small child who you know is going to do something foolish to attract trouble.


A Quiet Place delivers on both suspense and emotional levels. The actors do an amazing job of performing without much dialog – keeping us interested by their actions rather than their words. I give it 4 out of 5 Reels.

This is very much an ensemble cast with the father as the leader. In our book Reel Heroes and Villains we discuss the family ensemble and how important it is. We are also guided by the Moxnes model which uses the family as a paradigm. I give them 4 out of 5 Heroes.

Again, as an archetype, the FAMILY saves that day. Otherwise, we only see THE PURE EVIL monsters. Usually, this is a boring trope, but it works well here as it forces the family to work together. And what family would be complete without the ANGST-RIDDEN TEEN. I give these archetypes 3 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


A Quiet Place is one of the best films in the horror genre that I’ve seen in a few years. This innovative new villainous menace brings a taut, quiet urgency to virtually every scene in the movie. The production, direction, and casting of A Quiet Place is just about perfect, although it’s pretty clear that the only reason the Abbotts decided to have a baby was for me to lose 10 years of my life in fright during the baby’s delivery. I give this movie 3 Reels out of 5.

The hero’s journey appears in bold relief here as the family is compelled to transform the way the think, move, and survive in this new dystopian world. Most importantly, Lee’s ability to construct a device capable of defeating these ear-monsters is the culmination of the journey for his family and his gift to humanity. I award these heroes 4 Hero points out of 5.

We’ve reviewed the many archetypes in the film, and I agree with you Greg that a rating of 3 archetype Arc points out of 5 seems about right.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

Ready Player One ••• 1/2

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn
Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Zak Penn, Ernest Cline
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 140 minutes
Release Date: March 29, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!

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

Greg, I’m READY to be the ONE who reviews this next movie with you.


It appears the ‘80s are cool again. Let’s recap.


It’s the year 2045 and much of the world lives in poverty and squalor. As an escape from this grim reality, everyone spends most of their time in OASIS, a virtual world in which players assume various virtual identities. The creator of OASIS, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), has recently died and has left the ultimate game for users to play. Whoever finds the Easter egg that he has hidden in OASIS wins the game and will inherit ownership of OASIS. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), an 18-year-old living in Ohio, is intent on winning the game, but he is up against a vast army of IOI “sixers” led by the evil Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn).


In the OASIS, Wade is known as “Parzival” and he befriends “Artimis” (Olivia Cooke) who in real life is “Samantha.” Together, with his best friend “Aech” (Lena Waithe) and other friends “Sho” (Philip Zhao) and “Daito” (Win Morisaki) they form a team intent on discovering the secrets of the OASIS and keeping it from the hands of evil Sorrento.


Greg, Ready Player One is both an adventure story and a “cause” film with a not-so-subtle biting critique of current social issues. First, there is the message about the dangers of online addiction and over-dependency on computer gaming. Second, there is the dystopian future theme of the younger generation showing greater wisdom than their corrupt elders, wrapped also in a critique of the older generation’s single-minded craving for wealth, greed, and power.

There are many nice touches here with regard to good storytelling. The whole idea of living beneath the veil of avatars underscores the heroic theme of secret identities that we see in so many classic stories ranging from Superman to the fable of the Ugly Duckling. The secret identity theme also touches on the dreams we have to become something bigger and better than ourselves. Ready Player One is all about journeying away from fantasy into a deeper, truer reality, which in storytelling is always a journey toward knowledge of one’s deeper, truer self.


Scott, I was a bit disappointed in RPO. As is true of many popular films of the day, Stephen Spielberg has opted to create a visual spectacle rather than tell a compelling story. None of the characters get a very strong treatment because there are so many of them and because we’re constantly assaulted by computer graphics and gaming imagery. When you remove all the smoke and mirrors, you’re left with a very simple story and a rather trite message – “the real world is better than the virtual world.”

But the movie doesn’t deliver on that message. The real world Wade belongs to is bleak. And his becoming the master of the OASIS does nothing to change that. Sure, he closes the OASIS two days a week – but that doesn’t change the fact that people are suffering. It only means that they have to suffer in the real world 28% of the week.

If this movie is in fact a cautionary tale, then we should see the real world ramifications of living in the virtual word. We should see the causes of people preferring the virtual world. None of this is present in RPO – it is just another roller coaster ride. So buckle up.


We have another strong female hero in this film, Samantha, who cautions Wade about her avatar misrepresenting her so-called true self, which features a facial birthmark. Wade loves her for her inner qualities, an act of pure love and acceptance that redeems and transforms her. We know that she becomes transformed when she revises her avatar to include the same birthmark that she once despised. This film wisely doesn’t take the extreme step of advocating the abandonment of technology; rather, it encourages a “balanced” approach with online fun being part of life but certainly not all of life.

You’re right, Greg, that true heroes would transform the bleak “real” world in addition to winning the game of OASIS in the virtual world. Perhaps that’s the ideal plot of a follow-up movie.


I’d be more impressed if Sam were not beautiful in a classic sense. It’s easy to love someone’s soul when she looks like Olivia Cook. How might this story have turned if she looked like Steve Buscemi?

Ready Player One is a great visual romp through 1980s video game culture. As a child of the 80s I found it very entertaining and nostalgic. The computer imagery was amazing, well beyond anything we’ve seen up to now. The recreation of the hotel from The Shining was absolutely incredible and well worth the price of admission. The story was a little formulaic and lacked any sophistication. I give RPO 3 out of 5 Reels.

The heroes here are pretty simple. Wade is the classic boy warrior and Sam the female sidekick. We don’t really admire Wade for anything he’s done except be clever in the ways of finding clues. He seems to have a sense of morality, but we don’t see much that endears us to him (where’s his “save the cat” moment?). I give Wade 3 out of 5 Heroes.

There are plenty of archetypal characters. Halliday is the WIZARD, there’s a MENTOR in the Curator. Sorento represents the EVIL OLIGARCHY. We also have the QUEST TEAM that Wade leads and they support him in finding the final Easter Egg. Overall, I give them 3 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


Ready Player One represents another triumph of sorts for director Steven Speilberg, as it is an ambitious film with plenty of heart, solid sentimental storytelling, and terrific action sequences. The film falls short of achieving epic status because no truly new ground is broken here in terms of originality and impact. We do have plenty of endearing characters and a classic good versus evil set-up which won my heart. I give this film 4 Reels out of 5.

The hero’s journey for Wade and his friends is everything you’d want to see in classic storytelling. Every element of Joseph Campbell’s hero monomyth is present, from trials to allies to villainy and mentoring. This film is a rock solid hero adventure tale, with Wade displaying most of the “great eight” traits of heroes – intelligence, strength, inspiration, heart, selflessness, and resilience. I award Wade and company 4 Hero points out of 5.

Not surprisingly, the archetypes in this film are bold and moving. There is the underdog, Wade, doing battle with a far superior enemy force; there is the eccentric scientist in Halliday; there are wise children, a wise old man (Halliday’s partner); wizard-like characters in the virtual world; a curator serving as a guide, and of course a great love interest in Sam. Overall these archetypal element merit a score of 4 Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

Unsane ••••

Starring: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay: Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer
Horror/Thriller, Rated: R
Running Time: 98 minutes
Release Date: March 23, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!


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

Greg, if 7-up is the un-cola, could Dr. Pepper be the un-sanity?


Um… Ok. Let’s take a look at a veiled take-down of the mental health profession as we review Unsane.


We meet young Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy), a woman who has recently moved 500 miles away from her hometown and is trying to establish a new life. She is depressed and seeks help from a psychiatrist, who commits Sawyer against her will to a mental institution. Sawyer’s efforts to escape only serve to convince the staff that she requires even more institutionalization. Her only friend in this hospital is a man named Nate (Jay Pharoah), who is spending four weeks there to recover from his opioid addiction.


Sawyer has given in to the fact that she will have to spend a week held against her will, when she meets an orderly, George, who she claims is her stalker, David Strine (Walton Goggins). Nobody believes her, least of all the audience. Sawyer is paranoid and explosively violent. But soon, String drugs Sawyer and we’re all in on it – Strine has followed Sawyer from Boston and is stalking her even in captivity. Now, Sawyer has to find a way out of her mental prison and escape this dangerous man.


Greg, Unsane gives us a suspenseful depiction of a young woman’s involuntary incarceration in a mental hospital. This movie is packed with villains. There is the deranged stalker who makes life miserable for our hero. There are the evil hospital administrators who knowingly imprison Sawyer for profit. There is also the American healthcare system that incentivizes hospitals to ensnare captive victims such as our hero. This film is disturbing yet effective, and giant kudos go to Claire Foy who does a terrific job playing a tormented hero.

This is as dark a hero’s journey as we’ve ever seen, Greg. At the outset of the story we see that our hero is struggling emotionally and socially. Attempting to get help from a psychiatrist totally backfires on her, and then we learn that her crazed stalker is in charge of dispensing her medications. She gets help from her mother and from Nate, both of whom are soon eliminated by the stalker. This is one of those films where the hero is left completely on her own and must summon inner reserves necessary to vanquish the villain. Sawyer musters the courage and grit to outwit her nemesis. Is she transformed by her harrowing experience?

The film’s final scene suggests that she is not transformed, that she remains a slave to her inner demons. This lack of transformation represents a deviation from the normal hero story pattern, and I think it was done intentionally to underscore the deep scarring of sexual violence in our society. Sawyer should most certainly not simply go on with her life as if nothing had happened. To do so would diminish the trauma and seriousness of this deep societal problem.


Scott, this movie gave me flashbacks to Misery. We have an unwelcome admirer who uses a medical condition to trap our hero. There’s even a scene where the villain, Strine, hobbles our hero by smashing her ankles with a hammer.

Otherwise, I thought this a skillfully played ‘cause’ film – a film that wants to promote a cause through storytelling. Unlike other cause films (such as 2016 The Promise which did a terrible job of exposing Armenian genocide), Unsane focuses on delivering a psychological thriller while at the same time exposing corruption in the mental health system. Unsane shines a light on mental health at a time when there is much lip-service paid to it in the United States.


Unsane is a first-rate thriller that had me on the edge of my seat and had my heart pounding. It is predictable in spots – do we ever doubt that Nate will bite the dust? But despite a few lapses, Unsane soars on the strength of its star, Claire Foy. She shines in the role and gives us a searingly convincing victim of stalking and harassment. Unsane deserves a rating of 4 Reels out of 5.

As I’ve noted, Sawyer’s hero’s journey is among the darkest and grimmest we’ve seen in quite a while. We just reviewed Tomb Raider and commended the physicality of its star Alicia Vikander. In Unsane, similar commendations go to Claire Foy, who exudes a remarkable physical presence in combating her fellow patients, hospital staff, and stalker. Sawyer also has many of the Great Eight traits of heroes — she is smart, strong, resilient, reliable, and inspiring. Is she caring and selfless, too? Yes, as she shows compassion for her mother and for Nate. I give her 4 Hero points out of 5.

Several archetypes do stand out in this film: the innocent victim, the evil corporation, the deranged stalker, the guilt-mongering mother, and the slain ally to the hero. I award them 3 archetype Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


Unsane is an interesting movie for a couple of reasons. First, it has long uncut scenes of mostly dialog. Second, it was filmed completely on an iPhone 7 by writer/director Steven Soderbergh. Soderbergh is known for creating minimalistic and experimental works. See his project Mosaic – a choose-your-own adventure for mobile viewers. I was impressed with the accomplishment of creating a good psychological thriller with a minimum of overhead. I give Unsane 4 out of 5 Reels.

Sawyer is the epitome of the unreliable narrator. She is psychologically damaged. And she very well should have been committed for observation. But when she sees her stalker nobody, not even we, believe her. Even though we know she is damaged, we are pulling for her because we see she is strong and resilient – two qualities we look for in a hero. I give her 4 out of 5 Heroes.

For archetypes, I’ll see your INNOCENT VICTIM and raise you a WITLESS DOCTOR who is a COG IN THE MACHINE along with the EVIL ADMINISTRATOR. I give them 3 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

Tomb Raider •••

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins
Director: Roar Uthaug
Screenplay: Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons
Action/Adventure, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 118 minutes
Release Date: March 16, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!


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

Greg, right now I feel like raiding the refrigerator.


Resist the urge, Scott, because Lara Croft is about to do her best Indiana Jones impression. Let’s recap:


We meet Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), a young woman who lost her father (Dominic West) seven years earlier. She’s never quite accepted that he’s dead and refuses to sign legal papers entitling her to her inheritance. One day she is about to sign the papers but is given a clue left by her father which leads her to his secret office. There she discovers that her father had been researching the island of Himiko, where the evil Queen of Yamatai is said to have been entombed.


She travels to China and enlists the aid of boat captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), who sails her to Himiko where they crash land. They encounter Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) who enslaves them and puts them to work mining for Yamatai’s tomb. She escapes and finds her father who has been thwarting Vogel’s plan for the last seven years. And now she determines to steal Vogel’s satellite phone and get her father, Ren, and herself off the island.


Greg, it’s hard to believe that 37 years have passed since Raiders of the Lost Ark appeared on the scene, and yet here we are still watching movies that are derivative of this classic film. Tomb Raider isn’t a bad movie, it’s just a movie that we’ve seen before in many variations. On the bright side, we’re treated to a great performance from Alicia Vikander whose athleticism and charisma are on full display in her portrayal of Lara Croft. On the not-so-bright side, the story is formulaic and predictable, reminding us that the recycling of old ideas can only take a movie so far.

There certainly is a vivid hero’s journey awaiting our hero Lara Croft. Her father’s disappearance hurls her onto her journey, which first consists of angry reckless rebellion. Lara becomes empowered when her father leaves her clues to his whereabouts, and her journey to Himiko tests her mentally, physically, and emotionally. She displays epic amounts of resourcefulness and transforms herself into someone greater than her father, which is exactly the pathway to enlightenment that what we want to see in any good hero story.


This Lara Croft is not the same hero we met in Angelina Jolie’s 2001 incarnation of Tomb Raider. In 2001, Lara is a fully-formed hero – in more ways than one. She is already an adventurer who has a large fortune and wields all kinds of weapons. And she was played by a woman who resembles the video game character with long legs and large breasts.

To the director’s credit, Vikander’s Croft is a leaner, more athletic, younger woman. She has eschewed her father’s fortunes and is still in fight training. In the opening scenes we see her defeated by another woman fighter – so this Lara Croft has a ways to go before she’s a complete hero. In fact, Tomb Raider is an origin story for Lara Croft. It isn’t until she realizes that her father may be alive that she goes on the journey that turns her into the adventurer she must be.

However, this is as far as the movie goes. The vast majority of this film plays out like a video game. There is a succession of puzzles and clues that must be solved to get to the next stage of the movie. This makes for a rather plot-less presentation and made me feel as if Tomb Raider is a mere advertisement for an upcoming video game release.


Croft’s journey is full of peril at every turn, requiring her to summon the courage, grit, and resourcefulness that every hero needs to complete her mission. Her father is her mentor and she realizes that she must outgrow him in almost every way to bring them both home safely. Because I’m not a fan of the video game, I had trouble appreciating all the different stages of the journey that correspond to game-challenges. I also had trouble maintaining any interest in all the hazards and secret buttons and gimmicks in the cave. We’ve seen this far too many times in the movies.

There are plenty of rich archetypes in this film. Once again we have the missing father and the orphan child who strives to overcome her family deficit. Lara is a misfit, an underdog who nobody expects to succeed. There is also plenty of magic in the story, and with it is what I will call the myth of pure evil. This is one aspect of the movie that I applaud, namely, the evil demon woman of Himiko turns out not to be evil but infected with a hideous disease. It’s a nice surprising turn of events in a movie that is otherwise predictable.


Tomb Raider was an enjoyable, if predictable film. While it doesn’t offer all the glitz of contemporary action-adventure films, I enjoyed the return to Indiana Jones-type storytelling. I agree with you, Scott, that this film had a few too many flashbacks to Raiders of the Lost Ark. But for a modern, younger audience who haven’t seen those films, it might be novel. I give Tomb Raider 3 out of 5 Reels.

Lara Croft is a hero cut from the same mold as Katniss from Hunger Games and Tris from Divergent. While I’m a little tired of women being limited to bows and arrows (Katniss, Merida from Brave, Neytiri from Avatar, Mulan, to name just a few), I was happy to find she was independent and strong. I give Lara Croft 4 out of 5 Heroes.

Yet again, we’re presented with the ABSENT FATHER archetype that we see in a lot of female-centric films (see Molly’s Game, A Wrinkle in Time). I’d like to see a different device in the future. Surely young women have more obstacles to overcome than neglectful men. You’ve already named the ORPHAN CHILD (which is a staple in Disney Princess films) and the PURE EVIL VILLAIN. Happily, there was also the FALLEN FRIEND in Vogel and the SIDEKICK FRIEND in Lu Ren. I give these archetypes 3 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


You’re right, Greg, about Tomb Raider being fun for a younger audience that has never seen any of the Indiana Jones movies. There is a fresh adventurous spirit to this film, and Alicia Vikander won me over with her bold, brash physicality and determination. This movie will win no awards but it is two hours of good mindless fun. Like you, I give it 3 Reels out of 5.

Lara Croft’s journey is packed full of snares and tribulations that require her to adapt and grow in the ways that every good hero should. She has all eight traits of the “great eight” traits of heroes: She is strong, smart, resilient, reliable, charismatic, selfless, caring, and inspiring. I award her 4 Hero points out of 5. With regard to archetypes, Tomb Raider has more than its share of rich archetypal images. We’ve already reviewed them, and so I’ll give my rating of 3 archetype Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes: