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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
Are we reviewing a new Pokemon Movie with new dinosaurs and we “Gotta Catch ‘em All?”
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.
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.
Greg, we just reviewed a very watery film called Adrift — is Ocean’s Eight a sequel?
No, it’s proof that eight woman can do the work of eleven men. Let’s recap.
We learn that Danny Ocean’s younger sister, Debbie (Sandra Bullock), has been granted parole. She has big plans to steal a $150 million Cartier necklace, but she needs to assemble a team. Debbie recruits her former partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett), and the two convince big-time celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) to wear the necklace at a fancy gala dinner. Debbie then manipulates the man who sent her to jail, Claude Decker (Richard Armitage), into being Daphne’s date.
Debbie and Lou recruit a rag-tag fugitive team of women including a street-wise pickpocket, an aging down-on-her-luck fashion designer and a computer whiz-kid. They make their plan to drug Daphne who must go into the lady’s room where the pickpocket will remove the necklace and stash it on a platter destined for the kitchen. Hilarity ensues when things don’t go as planned.
Greg, Ocean’s Eight is a serviceable heist story with the much-needed and long overdue involvement of a team of women doing the heisting. Clearly, these ladies are a team of anti-heroes, and I’m going to shamelessly plug our 2015 book, Reel Heroes & Villains, in which we discuss ensemble teams serving as either heroes or anti-heroes in the movies.
Sandra Bullock’s character is the clear leader of the team and star of this film. Her character is satisfying in some ways and not so satisfying in others. We like her because she has at least five of the “great eight” traits of heroes – she’s smart, strong, resilient, charismatic, and inspiring. She’s been wronged in the past and is out for revenge, and if revenge means becoming a multi-millionaire in the process, so much the better. What is unsatisfying from a hero’s journey perspective is that she doesn’t change at all; she’s essentially the same clever, devious person at the end of this story as she was at the beginning. And maybe that’s by design. Still, a point we’ve hammered home for years is that good hero or anti-hero stories involve character transformation.
I have to say that I enjoyed this movie in part because it wasn’t all about girl-power. It was about a cadre of people who worked together for a common goal. The fact that they were all women was only incidental to the plot. So, it wasn’t as much as a cause film as it was a heist. And, as it was written by the same guy who brought us the other Ocean’s movies, it held up pretty well.
Having said that, there was a distinctly feminine slant to this story. Our heroes are after jewels, they have to dress up for a gala, and there’s a revenge subplot for Debbie’s old lover. There are also a dozen or so cameos from the world of fashion. These are all themes that appeal to a female audience. Still, it was a very entertaining heist movie regardless of your gender persuasion.
Ocean’s Eight has pretty much everything you’d want to see in a large-scale heist movie, and while the film is well-made, the fact that we’ve seen all this before in previous oceanic movies works against it. I did enjoy witnessing the dark side of Sandra Bullock — seeing her evil nature at work is equivalent to seeing Tom Hanks in a diabolical role. She’s very good at deceiving the parole board and pretty much everyone else in the movie. In all, this film deserves a rating of 3 Reels out of 5.
Our hero ensemble team is good, but to be honest, other than Sandra Bullock’s character, most of the team is pretty forgettable — with the exception of Helena Bonham Carter as the eccentric Rose Weil who bamboozles Daphne. These heroes don’t change in any meaningful way as a result of their journeys; they merely do their jobs and walk away with millions. We end up admiring their craftiness but little else. I award them 2 Hero points out of 5.
There are a few notable archetypes, such as the irredeemable villain/anti-hero, and a tech nerd kid who magically solves the problem of the necklace’s magnet fastener. Bullock plays a great mastermind anti-hero, and the insurance detective does his best Columbo archetype impression. All told, the archetypes are fairly meager, earning them just 2 Arcs out of 5.
I’m pretty much in agreement on all counts, Scott. This was a fun movie, but things went a little too well for my tastes. There was never really a time when the plan seemed in jeopardy. Nobody ever seemed in danger of getting caught. And the twist ending, while a surprise, didn’t really satisfy. I award Ocean’s Eight just 2 out of 5 Reels.
This is a classic anti-hero pattern where our heroes are not on the right side of the law, but we are pulling for them to win. The introduction of the ‘villain’ or ‘opposition’ character of insurance investigator John Frazier (James Corden) was a little odd. He didn’t come in until nearly the end and claimed not to be interested in arresting anyone, only in getting the jewels back. Otherwise, there wasn’t a true oppositional character which made the film a little flat. I give these characters just 2 out of 5 Heroes.
As for archetypes, I think you’ve covered it pretty well. I give them just 2 Arcs out of 5.
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.
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.
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, Grace Palmer
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Screenplay: Tami Ashcraft, Aaron Kandell
Action/Adventure/Drama, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 96 minutes
Release Date: June 1, 2018
Scott, will you cast me adrift if I write a bad review?
Greg, your reviews are always bad. Bad-ass, that is. Let’s recap.
We’re introduced to young Tami (Shailene Woodley) who is a drifter – finding rides on whose-ever boat will take her. She’s landed on Tahiti where she meets Richard (Sam Claflin) – a sailor with his own boat. They quickly fall in love with plans to sail around the world. But first, old friends of Richard’s offer his a sweet deal. The old friends have to fly back to the states to a funeral, so they need Richard and Tami to sail their boat, the Namaste back to California in exchange for first class tickets home.
Naturally, they encounter a storm. It is a humongous storm that nearly tears their boat apart and appears to leave Tami alone and slightly injured. She’s devastated that Richard is not on board and looks longingly for him with her binoculars. But there is nothing but the cruel ocean surrounding her. Finally, she sees Richard clinging to a dinghy and brings him on board. Or does she?
Adrift is a great vehicle for Shailene Woodley who very much looks like a drifter/sailor. The story unfolds in a series of flashbacks which start with Tami on the open seas trying to lash down her sails. Then we flash back to where she first comes to the island and meets Richard. The film then flips back and forth between the events leading up to the terrible storm, and the events after the storm. It’s a great construct for this movie as it puts both the worst part of the storm and Tami’s rescue at the climax of the film. This makes for a very satisfying resolution.
This is in two parts the story of Tami and Richard falling in love, and the heroic efforts of Tami to save herself and her critically wounded lover Richard. It shows Tami as a resourceful, competent, and strong woman fighting the tides of nature. She has to make decisions that could mean life or death for them both. I was engaged from beginning to end.
Greg, Adrift is Gravity set in the ocean rather than in space. Moviegoers may recall that in Gravity, Sandra Bullock is set adrift in space and conjures up the illusion of George Clooney to help her through her ordeal. Adrift shows us basically the same idea, with Tami inspired by the ghostly presences of Richard to buoy her spirits. What makes Adrift more special than Gravity is that Adrift is a true story.
The movie works on the strength of the illusion that Richard has survived, albeit barely, the accident at sea. I suppose we could be cynical about another film portraying a woman in “need” of a man to survive, but I don’t think that would be the correct take-home message of this story. The right interpretation is that Tami is a fiercely strong woman who survives for 41 days alone on a boat and acquires enough food, water, tenacity, and resourcefulness to make it to Hawaii on her own. This is true survival-heroism at its finest. Like Gravity, we are denied seeing how our hero delivers her gift or “boon” to society after her survival story, but it’s not unusual for Hollywood to cut corners by not giving us the full hero’s journey.
I think you’ve summed it up pretty nicely, Scott. Except, especially in this based-on-a-true-story movie, the “boon” is the story of survival itself. We’re treated to an uplifting and empowering story of a woman surviving against all odds. And, unlike Gravity, the fact that Tami lives to tell the tale is exposed in the story itself. It may be both “meta” and self-referential, but this odyssey is it’s own reward. I give Adrift 3 out of 5 Reels.
Tami is the ultimate heroic figure. She’s competent, strong, resourceful, virtuous, and loyal. As any good hero would do, she has to find a way to save herself and Richard. She even gives up on her vegetarianism to eat fish to survive. I give Tami 5 out of 5 Heroes.
Richard as MENTOR is an interesting character too. We aren’t aware of it as the movie unfolds, but he was actually lost at sea. His character is there to offer support and consolation. But, wounded as he is, he never lifts a finger to help and he never tells Tami what she must do to survive. This is all Tami’s story from beginning to end. There aren’t that many other archetypes in this story since it’s mostly about Tami and Richard. I give them 3 out of 5 Arcs.
I’d say we’re on the same page here, Gregger. Adrift is worth watching on the strength of Shailene Woodley, who shows off her acting chops with a great range of emotion in this film. This film is at once a love story, a love tragedy, and a clinical study of survival in a situation where no one has any business surviving. That this is a true story is inspiring and illuminating about the human spirit. I also award this movie 3 Reels out of 5.
The hero’s journey is monumentally difficult for Tami at both a physical and psychological level. This is one tough woman who does whatever it takes to do the next right thing for herself and in response to her dire situation. Was Richard really needed for her to survive her ordeal? I’d say we all rely on memories of loved ones from our past who gave us strength and instilled us with self-confidence. In this sense, yes, Richard’s mentorship works. I give Tami’s heroism a rating of 4 Heroes out of 5. With regard to archetypes, there isn’t a whole lot going on here, but then again showing off archetypes was not the point of this movie. I award it 2 Arcs out of 5.
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke
Director: Ron Howard
Screenplay: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Action/Adventure/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 135 minutes
Release Date: May 25, 2018
Greg, would you like to review this movie together or go solo?
Let’s see if this ‘millennial’ falcon stands up to the rest of the franchise. Time to recap.
The galaxy is in turmoil with gangsters and warlords fighting to gain economic and political control. Looking to escape a chaotic planet, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and his lover Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) bribe a local official to gain passage on a transport ship, but only Han is able to escape. Three years later, he is an infantryman for the Empire and encounters a gang of criminals led by Beckett (Woody Harrelson).
Having befriended the Wookie Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), the two join forces with Becket and his friends to rob the Empire of the powerful fuel “coaxium” for the evil Crimson Dawn lead by Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). But things go awry when the radical group Enfys Nest interfere and the shipment is destroyed. Now, Becket, Han, and Chewbacca must face Vos and find a way to replace the shipment of fuel.
Greg, I’m not a Star Wars fan and yet I found Solo: A Star Wars Story to be thoroughly enjoyable. Alden Ehrenreich is no Harrison Ford, and yet he does a serviceable job creating a character who somewhat resembles a young Han Solo. His motive throughout the film is to “get the girl”, and even when he finds Qi’ra his goal centers re-winning her heart after a three year separation. Woody Harrelson’s complex character of Beckett is one of the true highlights of this movie. Beckett is one of those complicated people we admire one minute and hate the next – and all for plausible reasons.
This movie does a nice job of explaining the origins of Solo’s last name, as well as depicting how Solo meets and befriends Chewbacca. Solo isn’t so much a mercenary (as we might have expected) as he is a love-struck young man who will do anything to find Qi’ra and then (re-)win her heart. His superb piloting skills save his butt several times, and we’re not terribly surprised to see him go toe-to-toe with Beckett and come out on top. In all, the story works and director Ron Howard deserves credit for crafting an entertaining story out of the various elements of Solo’s character.
After the last three Star Wars films, I was afraid Solo would devolve into a child-appropriate story with lots of cute creatures suitable for sale as plush toys. But Solo turned out to be a pretty gritty story of a young man’s desire to be free and then falling into a life of moral ambiguity. While the film very much bent over backwards to fill in the blanks of Solo’s mythology (like the infamous ‘Kessel run in 12 Parsecs’ comment – and proves that when necessary, Han shoots first), it also found some deep and complex characters. And there weren’t any cute creatures to turn into cartoonesque toys.
Because Star Wars is derived directly from Joseph Campbell’s archetype-filled analysis of the hero’s journey, there are no shortage of archetypes to chew(bacca) on here. Han Solo is your classic rogue soldier, an independent agent who pretends to have no moral compass while his actions prove otherwise. There is also the mastermind villain, the baddest of bad guys who outsources his evil with an army of henchmen. We discuss the different layers of villainy in our last book, Reel Heroes & Villains. Qi’ra, I’m happy to say, defies female convention in the movies by showing a savvy and strength that ultimately saves the day in the end. She is much more than a sidekick and occupies a dual archetype of love interest to the hero as well as co-hero to Han.
Solo: A Star Wars Story does a great job of filling in the blanks of Han’s story – including his ‘frenemy’ status with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). There’s plenty of action, as well as a well-thought-out heist story. Ehrenreich channels his inner Harrison Ford to portray a devil-may-care Han Solo that we both recognize and come to know as a young man. I give Solo 4 out of 5 Reels.
Han is an interesting hero. He is devious and cunning, and he seems to apply his skills not just to what benefits himself, but to the underdog as well. His motivation for the majority of the film is to return to Qi’ra and save her. He takes on a mentor in Beckett and quickly learns the lessons of the mercenary lifestyle. We come to learn that Han started out as a compassionate character and only through his difficult choices becomes the cynical scoundrel we meet in Episode IV. I give Han Solo 4 out of 5 Heroes.
There are a multitude of archetypes here. Han as the URCHIN becomes the MERCENARY. Beckett is a DARK MENTOR. Qi’ra is both the DAMSEL IN DISTRESS and the FEMME FATALE. Lando, plays the role of the FAT MAN (the owner of a cantina and con man), though he is obviously fit for fashion. Dryden Vos is the HENCHMAN reporting to a higher MASTERMIND. I give these archetypes 4 out of 5 Arcs.
Solo: A Star Wars Story gives us a wonderful backstory about the early adult life of Han Solo, one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars universe. The filmmakers here decided wisely to make Han’s motives less mercenary and more romance-based; doing so endows him with more noble, heroic qualities of selflessness and self-sacrifice. Woody Harrelson and Emelia Clarke deserve kudos for endowing this film with heart, soul, and grit. Letting go of the idea that Alden Ehrenreich could “become” Harrison Ford allowed me to enjoy Ehrenreich on his own merits. This film is a winner, earning a rating of 4 Reels out of 5.
Han’s hero’s journey is an exciting adventure wrapped in intrigue, as his goal is to win the girl whose heart he once won but whose character may have changed during their three-year separation. Like all good heroes, Han enlists the aid of several allies who help him defeat the bad guys, not to mention the traitorous Beckett. Most important, his helpers help him win back Qi’ra’s heart. Our hero has all of the ‘great eight’ traits of heroes – he’s smart, strong, charismatic, reliable, caring, resilient, selfless, and inspiring. I give Han Solo a rating of 4 Hero points out of 5.
We’ve already shared our views of the archetypes, so I’ll just give my score of 4 Arcs out of 5.
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
Scott, Ryan Reynolds is back in the gene pool with Deadpool 2.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o
Director: Ryan Coogler
Screenplay: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 134 minutes
Release Date: February 16, 2018
It looks like Marvel is putting out a Pink Panther sequel.
Shirley you jest, Greg. This panther is fiercer and greater in every way. Let’s recap.
It’s 1992 in Oakland and the king of the hidden futuristic city of Wakanda is hunting the thief who stole vials of vibranium – a powerful metal from outer space. The thief is the king’s brother who is summarily executed leaving behind a young son. In the present-day Wakanda, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), son of the king, is challenged for the throne and must defend his right by hand-to-hand combat. Once T’Challa succeeds, he goes to South Korea in search of Klaue (Andy Serkis) – an arms trader who has stolen Wakandan artifacts and must be brought to justice.
Meanwhile N’Jobu’s (Sterling K. Brown) son, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), has plans to use Wakanda’s riches, including vibranium, to liberate Africans worldwide from their oppressors. After Klaue attempts to sell the artifacts to CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), Killmonger arrives to kill Klaue. He then brings Klaue’s body to Wakanda where Killmonger announces his true claim to the throne. T’Challa accepts the challenge and the two men engage in hand-to-hand combat, with a surprising final outcome.
Scott, origin stories can be boring. Usually, we get a movie where the first half of the film is taken up with the hero getting their new powers (“hey, I just got bitten by a spider”), learns to use them (“I’m going to need a suit and web slingers”), and by the midpoint has become the hero they were meant to be. The second half is the chasing down and vanquishing of the villain. So, you often get two weak half-movies for the price of one. Not much fun.
Black Panther is different. Our hero starts out as a fully formed hero. But his father dies, leaving a vacuum in the land of Wakanda that can only be filled by ritual battle. Our hero steps up to the challenge and becomes king. But there’s a catch, one of T’Challa’s detractors forces his hand and now the search is on for the notorious Klaue.
Another difference with this film is the wealth of characters. This can be a problem in a 2-hour flick because often there is no time for the secondary characters to develop any depth. But Black Panther skillfully manages this by creating scenes that allow all the characters to participate. As much as this is T’Challa’s story, it is also the story of his family and faithful followers.
You’re right about Black Panther deviating from the origin story norm. From the opening credits, this film is a story about home — finding it, discovering its hidden powers, using those powers to better the world, and seeing home at ever more deeper levels. There are so many great elements of storytelling here. We are treated to reflections on the importance of family, the important linkage to one’s ancestors, the tragedy of colonialism, and the searing legacy of enslavement. It’s a rich narrative about fathers, masculinity, and the sins of the father that the son tries to correct.
I urge readers to check out my colleague Patrice Rankine’s erudite analysis of Black Panther in which he connects the film’s thematic highlights to biblical imagery and classic mythology. Both the hero and the villain of the story have a royal past, and each holds claim to the throne. While the hero is worthy of the status of hero, the villain is morally complex and leaves us pondering the worthiness of his agenda. The best villains in cinema have some redeeming qualities that leave us questioning their villainy and pondering whether they are redeemable. Regarding our hero, Rankine points out that near the film’s end T’Challa addresses the United Nations with a new accent reflecting his transformation into Africa’s international icon. As a result of his journey, T’Challa is forever changed and ready to lead his people toward collective enlightenment.
Black Panther is an artistic marvel (if you will pardon the pun). Everything about it exudes quality – the acting, the costumes, the dialog, world building, backstories, characterizations. This was not a haphazard affair as so many superhero movies have been (see my recent opinion of Thor: Ragnarok). I rarely rate a film above 4 Reels, reserving the highest rating for films that could not have been better made. Surely Black Panther is as good as it gets. I give it 5 Reels out of 5.
As a hero, T’Challa has it all. He starts out feeling entitled, learns that his father was not perfect, falls from grace, and must rise up (with the help of family and friends) to become the hero he is meant to be. It takes the entirety of the film for this transformation to occur. And it is well worth the wait. I give T’Challa 5 out of 5 Heroes.
Black Panther has a wealth of archetypes to choose from. There’s the KING FATHER in T’Challa’s father, the QUEEN MOTHER, the BRATTY SISTER. This is a very strong family hierarchy as laid out by Moxnes. Meanwhile, the RETURNING SON wants to take back the throne. The MENTOR advisor lays down his life for T’Challa. As I said before, it is a credit to the writers that everyone gets plenty of screen time and are well-developed, strong characters. I give them all 5 Arcs out of 5.
You’ve summed it up well, Gregger. Black Panther takes superhero storytelling to a bold, new level of complexity and wonder. Every great hero story is about home. Here we see a hero transforming himself and his people as a result of finding his home and discovering the full potential of himself and his home. There is so much of substance in this film regarding family, ancestry, women, masculinity, and redemption, that we can only scratch the surface here. Suffice to say this movie earns the full 5 Reels out of 5.
T’Challa’s journey is fascinating as it unfolds in ways he never could anticipate. This is the hallmark of good heroic storytelling, as heroes can only transform themselves by encountering unexpected and unsought turbulence, villains, allies, and mentors. Black Panther gifts us with a unique origin story of a superhero from whom we will hear plenty in the coming years. I award him 4 Hero points out of 5.
You’ve mentioned the depth of the archetypal images invoked in this film. There are kings with hidden identities, entire kingdoms themselves with hidden identities, Moxnes’ “deep family roles” involving fathers, uncles, sons, and lovers. There’s even a villain who is not entirely bad and whose intentions leave us pondering the nature of leadership and how to bring about social justice. This film is a treasure trove of archetypes that easily deserve 5 Arcs out of 5.