Ben Affleck’s Future as Batman

By now I am sure many of you have read one article after another declaring that Ben Affleck will likely retire his role as Batman, and that Jake Gyllenhaal is in talks to replace him. Clickbait is nothing new when it comes to news, but the DCEU in particular is overwhelmed by articles that twist words and then create sensationalist headlines.

Another recent example was the recent announcement that DC’s future films will fall into two categories following Justice League, the interconnected films and unrelated ones such as the Joker origin film. This news either gets misunderstood completely or is just twisted into a headline that generates more attention, such as this one.

Ben Affleck has apparently said that committing to the Batman solo film is “something I’m contemplating”. Of course, there is uncertainty here, but from what I was hearing it sounded like Affleck confirmed he was done after Justice League. With how easy it is to share information online nowadays, some purveyors of this information forget to fact check or even read the articles they retweet before they share them. The YouTuber Akasan was one of many people to share the “end of DCEU” article, apparently without reading it.

Another problem is that there are plenty of people who want the DCEU to fail, and confirmation bias makes it far too easy to either focus on such articles or extrapolate far too much from simple headlines. No one made articles saying “Is this the end of the MCU?” when Thor: Ragnarok underwent a script rewrite and a director change. Marvel has had much better critical success with its films and a more impressive track record so people aren’t so quick to pray for its end.

Many fans hated Affleck’s casting when it was announced, and many of those haters likely changed their mind when they saw him on screen in BatmanvSuperman (BvS). However, it seems that there are people who either still hate Affleck in the role or simply don’t like him enough to like the DCEU as a whole. Or perhaps people realize that the polarizing nature of the DCEU makes it a much better subject for clickbait articles than the MCU and other entertainment properties. After all, a headline saying “Another Marvel film is coming” or “Infinity War Trailer Released” may not get as many eyeballs as “Affleck out as Batman! Jake Gyllenhaal in?”.

Justice League Review

Along with Netflix’s Punisher, November 17 also marked the release of Justice League. Anyone who watches my YouTube videos or has read my other articles knows that I hate the DC vs Marvel mentality that prevents people from trying to enjoy both properties. Due to my own openness to enjoy both, this weekend was an early Christmas.

After some disappointing results from BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad (don’t even get me started) I approached Justice League with cautious optimism. One of my biggest worries after seeing the trailers was that the studios would force more humour or “fun” into the film. Joss Whedon assisted with post-production but Ben Affleck has said that the tone was set prior to Whedon’s arrival. I have no problem with “fun” itself, but I hate the increasingly popular mentality that every comic book film has to be fun in order to be good. This mentality also leads to people targeting the tone as an issue if a film is poor. BvS had its share of issues, such as Eisenberg’s Luthor and the third act. The tone was the least of my worries but people flocked to that argument like moths to a flame. I was worried the filmmakers would now see adding more humour as the only key to success, as opposed to some better performances, character development etc.

I can say that most of the humour in the film works. There are some lines, particularly one from Batman, that felt out of place but the film didn’t end up being Thor: Ragnarok like I feared. Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) provides most of the comic relief and will probably emerge as a new fan favourite. His Flash is young and inexperienced, serving mostly as crowd control and ancillary support in the fights. While I liked the character himself, I still have to wonder why Barry was given Wally West’s personality. Any fans of the Justice League animated show will remember Wally West’s flash as the comic relief. Meanwhile, Barry Allen is a more serious character. Miller is weaker in the more dramatic scenes, which is a surprise given his performance in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Maybe my friend was onto something when he said Zack Snyder’s weakness is directing actors.

However, the majority of performances either gave us something new to like or built off what we’ve seen before. Ben Affleck’s Batman is more optimistic about his ability to impact the world with the league but still has traces of the world weary Batman that many fans are probably familiar with. He has “contingency plans” and he still knows how to push people’s buttons, as demonstrated in a scene where he confronts Wonder Woman.

Gal Gadot shines as the heart of the team, the warrior who also serves as a mother to the team’s new or reluctant members. Ray Fisher actually emerged as one of my favourite performances, but the writing and runtime doesn’t allow his character to flourish, especially in the second half. Jason Momoa is decent as Aquaman. Don’t get me wrong, he is an imposing figure on screen who has probably diminished the general public’s idea of Aquaman as a loser, but this film does lead me wondering how well he will carry a solo film.

Anyone who has seen all of the trailers or even saw BvS knows it was likely Superman would return. His return is actually tied into the plot from BvS, and is something that Batman is actively pursuing in the film. It doesn’t end up being a deus ex machina like I feared and Superman’s return actually leads to one of the film’s most memorable moments. Henry Cavill could be a wooden Superman at times but I actually enjoyed his performance here.

It is clear some scenes were cut from the film, either because we are missing parts from the trailer, or the fact that the film could have used some more time to flesh out the new Leaguers. To its credit, Justice League gives us a sense of character backstories without spending too much screen time to go in depth e.g. we learn Barry got struck by lightning and we know Cyborg was in an accident, but we don’t see it. This may be due to post-production cuts or it may have been the original cut. However, it begs the question of why ten or fifteen minutes couldn’t have been used to give Cyborg, The Flash or Aquaman some more devoted screen time. Stepping into the light is a theme of the film, not referring to tone, but referring to heroes who often work alone coming together to fight an enemy. At the beginning of the film Cyborg is still coming to terms with his new identity and takes some cues from Batman, keeping to himself while he tries to better understand his body and abilities. He makes it clear he can’t fully control his body yet and this leads to some interesting conflict, but this subplot is discarded in the film’s second half.

I hate to bring up a Marvel comparison but herein lies the advantage of doing solo films prior to the team-up. My previous paragraph could end up being null if each character got a solo film first. However, I will say that doing a team up film first can also generate more interest for a solo one. With their budgets, superhero films aren’t always guaranteed box office success. Maybe a Cyborg film done prior to Justice League would not have done as well as the studio hoped? Now, I hope the film comes to fruition due to Fisher’s performance.

Speaking of Marvel comparisons, Justice League does give us a pretty forgettable villain. I was excited to hear about Steppenwolf as the villain since it meant we could soon be getting Darkseid. The design we saw in the deleted scene of BvS is discarded here for a look that is more generic and looks poorly rendered for the majority of the film’s scenes.

Steppenwolf’s plot revolves around the Mother Boxes, three devices that can combine to turn any planet into the hellish environment of his homeworld (awesome getting a reference to Apokolips). The majority of Steppenwolf’s screen time is spent in search of the Mother Boxes, which leads to a memorable fight with the Amazons and some great fights with the League.

Wonder Woman shines as the battlefield MVP for most of the film. The Flash and Aquaman get their moments as well, while Cyborg serves his own purpose. It is an old joke that Batman would be useless against physically powerful villains but decades of comics show him fighting far more powerful foes with the use of gadgets and tactics. We get some of that here but there is also plenty of time when Batman is removed from his plane or bat mobile and ends up being the weakest link. Even when he is fighting one thug at the beginning of the film he is able to execute some stunning acrobatics (complete with slo-mo) but then still takes a lot of time to take down one person when compared to his speed in the warehouse fight in the first film. Now, this film makes it clear he is getting older and is more beaten up than ever, but his prowess ends up being inconsistent throughout the film.

While CGI provides us some great shots, such as Flash’s Sistine Chapel moment, it also gives us many other scenes where CGI simply seems unnecessary or poorly rendered. The fights fights are hampered by poor CGI in places, especially for the parademons. Like Steppenwolf himself, the parademons looked better in BvS (the Knightmare scene). Additionally, the fights are somewhat diminished by the fact that we aren’t as emotionally invested since the villain isn’t that interesting. He is physically powerful and imposing but so are his opponents, we need more than that to interest us. Ciaran Hinds’s voice acting sadly seems wasted. Steppenwolf has some good lines but overall he felt like another placeholder villain with a pretty generic motive that was provided simply so the league could have something to fight.

A film should not be judged simply for what it sets up, but I have to give the theatrical cut some credit for its ability to weave in other characters and worlds in its concise running time. We get a brief glimpse of Atlantis and glimpses of important characters from other worlds, such as the Greek Gods and Green Lanterns. There are two post-credits scenes and the second one leads well into the future DCEU movies, while also providing a glimpse of a character many fans have been waiting for.

Overall, Wonder Woman is still my favourite DCEU film, but there are some things that I liked about the Justice League movie. The final fight is more entertaining, which is probably unfair since the fight combines our favourite characters. Justice League is hampered by some of the same issues from its predecessors but still surpasses BvS Suicide Squad and after some thought I might have to say it beats Man of Steel. I might revisit this ranking in a week though.

For now:

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. Justice League
  3. Man of Steel
  4. Batman V Superman
  5. Suicide Squad

1922

It’s a good year for the King. The Dark Tower wasn’t an auspicious start but IT and Gerald’s Game have provided better follow ups. 1922, released on October 20th, also provides a strong follow up that also has a stronger ending than Gerald’s Game.

Based on Stephen King’s 2010 novella, published in “Full Dark, No Stars, 1922 follows Wilfred James (Thomas Jane) and his plot to kill his wife so that she will be unable to sell neighbouring farmland she has inherited. Arlette James (Molly Parker) wishes to sell her 100 inherited acres and move the family to Omaha. Since James wishes to stay in Hemingford Home he manipulates his son, Henry (Dylan Schmid) into helping him Arlette. The death happens pretty early on in the film, and the rest of the film focuses on James’s eventual retribution. We watch him lose the other people who are close to him, one way or another, and slowy descend into insanity.

Wilfred is played with a pretty thick accent, which took some getting used to. However, I was immersed in Jane’s performance quickly, watching him disappear into the role. Jane is also supported well by Parker and Schmid, which these characters have the vast majority of the screentime for the film’s first half hour. Most of the film takes place on the James’s farm, adding to the feeling of isolation and claustrophobia that Arlette feels living in Hemingford Home.

The conflict between James and Arlette is introduced quickly, and another element that comes somewhat quickly is James’s manipulation of Henry. Editing makes the manipulation appear faster, but we get to see James building to it slowly. By this point in the story it is already clear that Henry has a stronger bond with his father than his mother. Wilfred first tells Henry that his mom has to leave their home and return to hers in order for them to stay together. Arlette becomes the figure trying to tear the family apart and we slowly see Henry drifting further away from her, until James is able to convince him there is no other way.

The murder scene itself is simple, but also gruesome. The director holds back on music during the scene, letting us focus on the sound of Molly’s screams instead. One of my biggest gripes with horror movies is that they sometimes rely on music or lack thereof too much, with the music becoming a giveaway for a jump scare or some other scene that is meant to scare us. There are times when the music in the background comes across as outright distracting but the murder scene and most of them are handled well. 1922 is more of a thriller than a horror movie, but it does have some creepy imagery that lingers in my mind. Like Gerald’s Game or It Comes at Night, if you don’t expect a monster movie, you will likely enjoy it.

One Arlette is removed from the story, its focus shifts to Henry and Wilfred, who are now united by the sin they’ve taken part in. This section of the film is actually my favourite, since Schmid is deftly able to play a character whose inner conflict starts to drive him further away from his family. The film is a tale about retribution and Wilfred receives his in spades. Unlike Gerald’s Game, 1922 also has a strong ending that complements everything that came before it.

Gerald’s Game

I watched Gerald’s Game about two weeks and uploaded a small review to my Instagram account, @moviegrapevine. However, I feel like this film deserves a proper review.

Gerald’s Game is based on Stephen King’s 1992 novel of the same name, following Gerald and Jessie Burlingame, a couple who retreat to a cabin in the hopes of reinvigorating their sex life. Although Jessie is initially open to bondage, she becomes uncomfortable when Gerald begins enacting a rape fantasy. After an argument Gerald suffers a heart attack, leaving Jessie handcuffed to the bed.

I was intrigued when I heard about the film at work and Stephen King’s name made seeing this film a priority (Sorry Hemlock Grove). Stephen King adaptations can definitely go wrong but I was interested to see what King’s writing could bring to the concept.

Firstly, the director sets the stage well. Jessie’s thoughts are personified by a stronger, more assertive version of herself and the more cynical side represented by Gerald. The majority of the film takes place in the bedroom, with Jessie either alone or talking to the other versions of herself. From what I have read about the book, this film differs in the number of voices in Jessie’s head and the figures that she sees.

I have to give Gerald’s Game credit for being the first film in a while to force me to look away from the screen. One particularly gruesome is likely to stick with you, but Gerald’s Game has more to offer.

Gugino and Greenwood’s performances anchor the film, and truly help to breathe live into the script. As a side note, I hope I am as ripped as Bruce Greenwood when I’m 61.

Jessie’s voices also bring another element of intrigue and conflict, breaking down all the misogyny and unhappiness that Jessie tried to ignore in her marriage. These voices bring up repressed memories going all the way back to Jessie’s childhood, unearthing a traumatic event that led her to being handcuffed to a bed by a husband with rape fantasies. Although one character is the focus of the film, we learn a lot more about Gerald and Jessie as the film progresses.

I have heard some people complain that the film was boring but I honestly think this may be a case of different expectations, similar to It Comes At Night. If you expected a monster film instead of a survival one, It Comes at Night could definitely be considered boring. Gerald’s Game is not an action-packed horror film, it is a tense thriller about survival. If you expect anything different, then this film will be boring.

One of my biggest, and only criticisms comes from one element of the plot introduced later in the film. As Jessie becomes dehydrated her mind starts playing tricks on her, and we are introduced to a more supernatural element of the story. I didn’t have a problem with this element itself, since Gerald previously warned Jessie that she might see nightmarish visions before she died. It is the end of this arc that left me unsatisfied. The last ten minutes of the film as a whole are the weakest part, a small stain on an otherwise perfect canvas.

Regardless, Gerald’s Game is a Netflix gem and this review will likely be followed by a review of another King adaptation, 1922.

It Comes At Night Review

This was a film I heard a lot about going into this halloween season. When I asked my Instagram followers about it there was definitely a mixed response. A close friend said he loved it and that it as one of the best psychological horror films he has seen. Plenty of other people said the film was nothing but a waste of time. Since I normally agree with my friend, I still had to check this film out, while also trying to erase any biases or preconceptions from my mind.

It Comes at Night follows a family living in a post-apocalypic world where an unnamed infection has infected most of the population. Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Caremen Ejogo) and son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) live a secluded life in the woods that is soon interrupted by the presence of another family.

Firstly, I have to say that the film barely falls under the horror category in my opinion. Even if I consider a wide range of films, from Inside, Saw to Train To Busan and The Babadook, this film barely qualifies. There are some creepy scenes and some creepy imagery, but overall, It Comes at Night can fit squarely as a post-apocalyptic survival film, similar to The Road. Like The Road, there are disturbing scenes, but I don’t think that is enough to call it a psychological horror film.

I think this classification might be a part of the reason for all the hate for the film. The poster, the marketing, the title all hint at something coming at night. For those thinking of it as a horror film, and ignoring the “psychological” part, they probably imagined some sort of physical threat. Instead this film hints that the “IT” is fear and paranoia.

The actors are all great in their roles, especially Edgerton and Harrison Jr., who is the main character in many ways. The film focuses on his perspective for long stretches, revealing the nightmarish images that haunt him in this desolate world. It is these stretches of the film that fit most closely as psychological horror, especially Travis’s visions of his deceased grandfather, who fell victim to the illness.

I have always loved post-apocalyptic stories that focus on how humans react in dangerous situations, revealing how desperate and cruel we can be when we feel threatened. This is a big part of why I love(d) The Walking Dead. While the zombies in that show are an omnipresent threat, a lot of the conflict in the comic and the tv show comes from other humans in a society where people are more tribal than ever, killing each other for food and other resources.

It Comes at Night captures a similar dynamic, where Paul wishes to help another family out but must also remember that his family has to come first. The focus on this conflict within the home is probably what led some people to say “nothing happens” in this film. I have to disagree with that. The director succeeds in building tension throughout, and my biggest complaint is the ending.

The main conflict is revealed but there is another development that I, and plenty of other people are trying to pick apart. It is one that leaves you asking questions, but debate about theories falls somewhat flat since the foundation of information we get isn’t quite there. We get hints of some external threat in one of Travis’s visions. Could he be sleepwalking? Could something else truly be out in the woods? However, there isn’t truly enough info. It is not like other ambiguous endings that leave us interpreting a character’s motive for something, or wondering what actions a character will take after the credits roll. It Comes at Night leaves us with a simple question of what happened? The great build up falls somewhat flat at the end, bursting like a balloon and leaving nothing behind.

Black Panther Trailer

Another distraction from my horror fixation has come along, in the form of another trailer for Marvel’s Black Panther.

As I’ve said in my YouTube video I believe that Black Panther got a strong introduction in Civil War, even though his character was only brought into to replace Spider-Man (who Marvel didn’t have the rights to when they began writing the script).  Ignoring the copyright issues that birthed him, Chadwick Boseman breathed life into the first black superhero in mainstream comics. The suit, the dialogue, the fighting style, the accent, were all handled well and made Black Panther a standout. Black Panther was also a standout since he was one of the few characters who was allowed to remain serious for more than three minutes at a time.

Building off the last trailer, this one still does not reveal too much about the plot or the villain. We know that T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is still adjusting to his new role as King, following the death of his father. Additionally, we see more of Michael B. Jordan’s villain, Erik Killmonger.

Firstly, I will say that I don’t like the song choice for this trailer as much as the one in the first. Some viewers are voicing complaints about the lack of any African influences in the score, but it’s too early to complain about that. Let’s wait until we see the film and then judge the score. The trailers are only using music mean to appeal to audiences. Unlike “Legend Has It“, I don’t feel like this song meshed with the video as well.

With that gripe out of the way let’s move on to the positives.

The set and costume design for Wakanda looks amazing, a mesh of something futuristic and traditional. Wakanda is  an advanced nation untouched by colonialism and I am very happy to see that the filmmakers are not shying away from the world’s African roots. It may seem obvious that an African nation should have African influence in its clothing and architecture, but you never know with Hollywood. Fortunately, it looks like the director of Fruitvale Station hasn’t sold out just yet.

Continuing with the trend to embrace real African culture and rituals, Killmonger also sports scarification that is used as a form of body art by some ethnic groups. Online info about Killmonger shows that he is a foe who wishes to overthrow T’Challa. Jordan has compared Killmonger to this movie’s version of Magneto, a anti-hero who wants to do what he believes is best for his people, even if it means overwhelming death and loss along the way.

That seems interesting but we get some more generic lines from Killmonger in this trailer, and the line delivery wasn’t too impressive. Hopefully the lines sound better in context. Let’s also hope that we get a good villain (Marvel’s kryptonite) to go along with a unique world and a hero who has potential to become of Marvel’s biggest.

I hate to end with a negative, but I must say that some of the special effects also need work. There are a few cartoonish looking ones throughout the trailer, but there are also some more photorealistic ones. Since the film comes out February I am hoping that post-production will works its magic.

I give you CGI backgrounds, with real faces.

Although I have some reservations about the villain and the special effects, there is still plenty to look forward to. The cast and the world are both amazing. If my reservations prove to be unfounded,  I am sure that this could end up being one of Marvel’s best films.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Canadian Thanksgiving wrapped up over the weekend, hence my delayed reaction to this trailer and The Last Jedi.

Pacific Rim drew a lot of comparisons to properties like Transformers and Power Rangers, further demonstrating people’s narrow frames of reference. The mecha and kaiju (strange beast) genre is an old one, and director Guillermo Del Toro cited Tetsujin 28 (1956) as one of his greatest inspirations for Pacific Rim. Transformers and Power Rangers take inspiration from the mecha and kaiju genre, the same way Stranger Things was inspired by IT (and other Stephen King works) and not the other way around.

Even as someone who isn’t well versed in older entries in the mecha genre, the first Pacific Rim trailer reminded me more of Gundam Wing, a show I was obsessed with at one point. I didn’t think Pacific Rim was ripping off Gundam Wing, I recognized it as another entry in the genre. You wouldn’t say that Spider-Man is a rip off Superman simply because they are both superheroes right?

Moving on from the uninformed…

Pacific Rim didn’t sport many great performances or amazing writing, but I can’t deny that it was an entertaining film with great action and plenty of eye candy. It gave me live-action battles between giant robots and giant monsters, and the fanboy in me was willing to settle for that. Then again, I still avoided Power Rangers like the plague because the acting, writing and special effects all looked horrible, so I guess I still have some ability to judge a film critically, even if it triggers nostalgia.

There was talk of a sequel for a while and some of the first substantial news I heard about it was that John Boyega would be co-producing through his production company, Upperroom Entertainment Ltd. Say what you want about his role in the film, producing a big blockbuster this early on is a great step in his career. This development did bring up more concerns about the film’s potential box office success. Pacific Rim had a disappointing run domestically, but was able to recoup with its stronger international showing. International audiences offer a larger number of viewers but this can often be counteracted by the fact that studios get a smaller cut of international earnings.

Pacific Rim had decent word of mouth so I am hoping that can contribute to more success for the sequel. However, online comments are already swarmed with the aforementioned comments about this film ripping off Transformers or Power Rangers. That will likely hurt Uprising’s box office earnings, just like similar talk probably detracted from the first film’s earning. On the other hand, those who saw and liked the first will likely be interested in checking out the second. Hopefully their word of mouth can help to combat the uninformed hordes.

We knew going into the first trailer that we likely wouldn’t see any of the cast from the previous film. Boyega is playing Stacker Pentecost’s son, Jake, but that appears to be the only direct connection revealed so far. A plot summary reveals that Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) will be present as well, serving as Jake’s adoptive sister. The trailer looks like it may feature a slight redesign of Gypsy Danger, or perhaps a brand new Jaeger that is similar.

Along with Gypsy Danger we see three new Jaegers and new Kaiju. I am looking forward to seeing the Jaegers working together as a team since we didn’t get much of it in the first film. The only team fight scene ended with most of the Jaegers and their pilots being killed to make way for Gypsy Danger and Striker Eureka. This time we might truly get to see different weapons and fighting styles get their chance to shine. We also see Jaegers that are faster and more agile than the ones in the previous film, demonstrating either a disregard for the previous film or the evolution of the Jaeger technology.

 

At one point Jake and his co-pilot are battling another Jaeger and I’m curious to find out why. Perhaps there is some sort of safety measure the government enacts, such as a quarantine, which Jake contests. Or perhaps some other political battle pits the humans against each other. Ultimately, each Jaeger is associated with a specific country or region, and perhaps some countries have different ideas about the best way to protect their borders.

The special effects were amazing in the first film, but they look more cartoonish in a lot of the shots here. Below is one of the better ones.

Let’s hope post-production helps to clean up some of the effects. The next issue is that Guillermo Del Toro is only serving as a producer this time, which can mean a myriad of different things for his creative involvement. Let’s hope he was still actively involved in this film’s conception.

This first trailer doesn’t reveal too much about the characters or the plot, which is fine with me. The film doesn’t come out till March 2018 and there will likely be another trailer released before then. The plot summary says this film takes place ten years after the first film, and doesn’t tell us much aside from that. We know Kaijus are still around. As the first film implied, the Kaijus continue to evolve as they combat humans. This is most evident with the kaiju we see at the end of the film, that appears to have some of Wolverine’s DNA and healed from an attack almost instantly.

The music in the trailer appears to have some mixed reviews, but I personally liked it. It got me pumped up, despite seeing my two most hated characters on screen again. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman ‘s characters added a level of campiness that Pacific Rim didn’t need. Yes, the film is about giant monsters fighting giant robots, but do we need the overacting scientists to drive that point home? More than anything, Pacific Rim taught me that I can’t stand the sound of Charlie Day’s voice. I can only hope his role is smaller this time around, but I doubt that. If Kaijus are continuously evolving, then the scientists will be on deck to analyze it. Of all the characters returning, I was hoping these two wouldn’t be among them. We couldn’t get any other scientists?

Your thoughts on Uprising?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

With Halloween season upon us, I have been trying to see more horror films and dedicate most of my blog and @moviegrapevine Instagram account to horror related material. However, I have to make an exception for some of the new trailers we received recently. There was a false alarm concerning the Infinity War trailer but we still got new footage for Pacific Rim: Uprising and Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.

I will give Pacific Rim its due, but this blog post will be devoted to The Last Jedi. You can check out some of my other posts for my expanded thoughts on Episode VII. As a quick recap, I will say that I enjoyed the film but was bothered by the fact that it was a rehash of Episode IV. Finn was marketed as the next Jedi character and instead he ends up mostly being comic relief. I liked Rey and actually didn’t heed the complaints about her being a Mary Sue as much as most people did. If people actually compared this film to the original trilogy, they would realize that Luke had similar skills at the beginning of his arch. He was a pilot, mechanic and was also a protégé when it came to his use of the force. Then again, this is the age where the inclusion of minority and/or female characters is always criticized because it’s part of a liberal “agenda”, while the disproportionate dominance of white males on screen is perfectly natural.

Let’s start the discussion of this trailer with another one of the most divisive elements from Episode VII. Kylo Ren was a character that many people either loved or hated. To some he was a conflicted character with an inner battle between dark and light, to others he was just a lame, geeky-looking, emo, Darth Vader wannabe. I was one of the former, so I am excited to see how his character grows.

The previous trailer showed us a shattered Kylo Ren mask and this trailer shows Ren smashing it, seemingly leaving that persona behind. However, Ben isn’t done with the dark side yet. He started his quest to kill his past when he killed Han Solo and it looks like he decided to go full circle and take out Princess Leia as well. Like before, Ben appears conflicted, but we know that inner turmoil won’t be enough to stop him from doing what he deems necessary to join the dark side. In many ways, he is a wannabe. Someone who isn’t truly as menacing or evil as he wants to be, but I think it actually makes his character more interesting. Vader was a tragic character as well, someone whose emotional pain led him down a path of darkness, before he redeemed himself and rejoined the light.

After Carrie Fisher’s passing it was made clear that Leia would not be present in Episode IX. We know her character is coming to an end in this film but she may not die by Kylo Ren’s hands. Seeing Princess Leia on screen for the last time will be a bittersweet moment but let’s hope her end is just as momentous as her beginning.

Moving on from one of the franchise’s most famous characters, let’s talk about Finn. John Boyega has previously stated that Finn will have a more substantive role in the The Last Jedi, basically saying that a character who starts off as a consummate badass is a boring one. I guess Rey haters will agree. We’re definitely seeing more badass this time around, starting with the suit. Then there’s the fight with Phasma, the woman who controlled him when he was just FN-2187.

Apparently Boyega has stated that Finn isn’t 100% on the side of the resistance, which brings up some questions about his role in this film. In one shot of the trailer we see other people with his suit among the Stormtroopers, maybe he is undercover? In The Force Awakens Finn was close to abandoning the resistance, maybe he decides to do so again and something pulls him back.

Rey played a part in bringing Finn back last time, and maybe she’ll do so now. What I loved most about this trailer is that it brings up one of the biggest issues that many fans had with A Force Awakens. Rey’s raw power in the first film bothered plenty of people and here we see that her power links her to Kylo Ren. It’s implied Luke abandons her as a teacher due to his fear of her power, which was only mirrored by one other student, likely Kylo Ren.

People will still hate Rey for her power but I think this presents an interesting dynamic that gives a more logical reason for her to reach out to Ben. The revered figure who was supposed to guide her (apparently) abandoned her and one of her few friends appears to be separated from her. Will Rey bring Ben closer to the light or will he lead her closer to darkness? In the immediate aftermath of The Force Awakens fan theories were replete with dark side Rey and Jedi Kylo Ren, maybe the fans were actually onto something.

Although we get more of Luke in this trailer, his character is still hidden compared to the others. The two trailers make it clear he’s attacked at one point. He’s kneeling in front of a burning building in one shot in the first trailer, and climbing out of wreckage from a burning building in this trailer. Maybe this attack is what forces him out of isolation, since someone apparently finds out where he is. Could it be that Rey either betrays him or ends up leading someone else to him? Or these shots could be backstory showing the destruction of the Jedi Temple, which was alluded to in previous films.

In short, this was one of my favourite trailers of 2017 and I am hoping the film lives up to the hype. I am worried that the trailer possibly spoiled too much but that is my only gripe. We got more of the action, more of the characters and AT-M6s (different from the AT-AT’s in Empire). Or you can just call them Robot Camels.

It Sequel

Regardless of your opinion about It, it’s box office success undeniably makes it a box office success. More than that, its box office success makes it the highest grossing R-Rated horror film (unadjusted for inflation) and is on track to become the biggest September/October release ever.

The sequel, which fans of the book knew was coming, is now set for an official release date of September 2019. The Losers Club will return as adults, 27 years after their first encounter with Pennywise. Check out the video below to hear the cast give their own fan castings for the adult versions of their characters.

This sort of box office success is something that can’t always be predicted. Some people are saying that the success of Stranger Things might have made people more interested in a 80s themed horror film centered around children. Maybe they are right, but let’s get this straight: It is not influenced by Stranger Things.

Stephen King is a popular author so I think some credit has to go to him, but I don’t know if this level of success can be solely attributed to his name. After all, how well did The Dark Tower do? Either way, It is now the biggest King horror film ever, even adjusted for inflation.

It’s release date was one that was devoid of too many other big name entries, staying clear of the summer season and avoiding the Christmas period as well.

Good word of mouth gave It legs, avoiding some of the big drops from weekend to weekend that help to sustain its numbers.

The question that looms over my mind is if the sequel can replicate or even surpass this success. Like Kingsman a certain idea might manage to capture people’s attention a certain way, making the first time a special one that any successor can’t live up to. Of course, we know a second movie is needed to tell the story. Fans of the book will be there for the second. From what I have read online, people who have read the book are more accepting of the new It than the people who only know this property from the 1990 miniseries.

With that said, I hope that this sequel gets a bigger budget. Some subpar CGI tainted some of the better moments in this film and hopefully the studio has more faith in the project, and hopefully that increased faith is rewarded with more box office success.

Tomb Raider Trailer

I got my Xbox One earlier this year, and one of the free games I was able to download for it was Rise of the Tomb Raider. I remember the old video games, which I played with friends a lot as a child but this was the first Tomb Raider game I played in the post PS2 era. The story was somewhat generic but actually offered some interesting developments and the gameplay was great, making the game a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the gameplay experience was somewhat ruined by a known glitch trapping me in one stage of the game, leaving the options of quitting or starting over. I refused to start over. Although my memories of the game are somewhat tainted it still managed to make me more excited for this film.

If the general buzz proves anything, it is that Tomb Raider fans are just as attached to Angelina Jolie as Croft as horror fans are attached to Tim Curry as Pennywise. Yes, Vikander’s boobs are smaller and she has a slimmer figure. Why? Because this version of Croft is based on the recent video game, not the old games with plentiful polygon boobs.

Boobs do not define the character. I can’t believe I have to say that.

We know Croft’s father disappeared and that she has now found his clues that lead to an ancient city. Actually an ancient city is not specifically referenced in the trailer, but if the movie is following the game roughly then an ancient city might be the goal. An organization called Trinity seeks to beat Croft to her goal. Now, I definitely can’t say that any criticism of this trailer is unjustified.

A lot of the plot elements seem cliched so far, and I don’t remember them being AS generic in the video game. As I remember there was no location called the “Devil’s Sea”. Dialogue like “The fate of humanity is now in your hands” definitely doesn’t help. We have slo-mo shots and weak CGI in a lot of places. I always hope the CGI will look better by the time a film is released, but I have hoped in vain many times. Let’s not forget the slo-mo jump across a long gap, which no longer dazzles like it used to. Since this is just a trailer, I am hoping some of the more interesting plot elements from the game still make their way in, such as Croft’s allegiance with a Native community that Trinity invades.

I almost forgot about the stigma of video game films, which is why I avoided listening to other people’s thoughts before writing my own. I didn’t want to let the “Academy Award Winner Alicia Vikander” title impress me, since plenty of great actors end up taking roles in horrible films or even television shows. Remember Forest Whitaker’s short lived stint with Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour? However, I have to say that the rest of the cast does interest me. Walton Goggins is a stand out in just about any movie or tv show he touches, with roles ranging from Sheriff Chris Mannix in Hateful Eight to Venus Van Dam in Sons of Anarchy. We have Daniel Wu, who is a BAMF in Into the Badlands, along with his fellow co-star Nick Frost.

Pictured above: Daniel Wu being a BAMF.

The cast itself actually excited me more than any of the intended eye candy. As fans, we always hope that the cast is a sign of something: material that was too great to be rejected. However, we’re not that naive anymore. Actors will take big roles in bad movies for the paycheque or the exposure. I’m not sure if I will see this film in theatres but I will definitely see it for the cast it offers. We have yet to get a great video game movie, but I hope that this can be a decent one.

What are your thoughts on the new Tomb Raider adaptation?