Rated R because the first one touched on some brutal motifs, so the second one had to at least allude to them. While the first movie is more of a hard R, this one definitely deserves to be R. It is a brutal horror movie, but much of this comes down to violence. Sure, there's a heavy drug theme and there's a kid in danger in this one. But if you took the violence of the first movie and removed the attempted rape, that's this movie. They still discuss the fact that the blind man is a killer and a rapist, but not much is seen on screen. R.
DIRECTOR: Rodo Sayagues
Oh man, writing when you are in a bad mood. I already put this off for two days because I was in a bad mood and now I'm realizing how distanced I am from the original viewing of this film. Also, my daughter is screaming at me to push up her frozen yogurt tube about every minute and a half, so I'm sure the momentum on this blog is going to be fantastic. I rarely watch the special features to movies anymore. I would rather start another movie than watch something that is borderline marketing for the film. But it was late at night / early in the morning when I was watching this and I was having my anxiety about the next day, so I decided to watch some stuff. And the thing is...when I was watching the movie, I knew what direction my blog was going to go. But it seems like the major criticism I have about this movie is something that was actually deliberate. So let's see how that affects my writing.
It's weird how I'll invest in horror movie sequels, even of films that I only thought were okay. When I watched the first Don't Breathe, I had issues with it. I can't say that I disliked it, but I also knew that the movie had major problems that could have been addressed. So why watch the second one? The easiest answer that I can live with: It's very easy to say "Add to Queue" on my Netflix DVD account. Yup. It doesn't take a lot for me to sit down for a movie, especially if I have the mildest form of investment in the franchise. But I was going to rail on this movie for not actually having a protagonist. That was the crux of my blog. And then I found out that the writers and director of this movie knew that and did it anyway? That was supposed to make me look really smart. It was going to be this deep dive analysis about how this is a movie that doesn't know what story it is telling and then I found out that it was the point of the movie. That really clips my wings. (Insert political joke about the far right and their aversion to facts.)
But I can come at this from a perspective of an audience member. After all, that's what I am and a fancy logo gracing my blog doesn't really change that. Early in the film, we realize that we have one character to root for: Phoenix. I would love to say that Phoenix is the protagonist, but she's more of a Macguffin than an actual character. I'm going to go off on a tangent because that's what I do (and I don't know where else to fit this point in the blog). The movie starts off with Phoenix running away from a burning house in Detroit. The film apparently is this unravelling of what was happening in this moment. The problem is...this is a sequel to a movie that was fairly forgettable when it came to plot. I won't ever disparage the first film in terms of scares and suspense. It was fabulous for that. But to start a sequel with the scene of a girl running away from a burning house and then saying "Eight Years Later"...well, that's just confusing. I kept asking, "Was there a girl in the first movie? Did the house burn down?" Neither of those things happened. I kept pausing the film to explore Wikipedia and sure enough, neither of those things happened.
Anyway, Phoenix. Phoenix seems like she is going to be a character with agency in this movie. Following the eight year time jump, we're given the ol' training montage fake-out. (You know, where it looks like a character is in real danger, only to find out that the whole thing was a simulation.) The movie starts off by implying that Phoenix is going to be X-23 (no X-Men attachment intended). It's setting up for the fact that Phoenix is going to bust some heads later. But no, that doesn't happen. Instead, the movie sets up Norman to be the hero of the film. And that's where I'm confused about what the movie is supposed to be. To a certain extent, the movie is setting up Norman to be a sympathetic character. He's redeeming himself because he's gotten his goal of being a father again. But this should be noted: Norman is completely a rapist. He's one of the grossest rapists imaginable. He was going to rape a girl with a turkey baster in the first film and we're supposed to forget that? He kept women in his basement. I wrote this whole thing about how gutsy the first movie was for making a blind man completely despicable. Norman, towards the end of the film, confesses that he's a rapist and a murderer. That's good. But it goes from being an abstract concept with words to a very on-screen reminder of how gross Norman is.
So how does the movie make Norman the hero of the story? They have to make Phoenix's real parents so over-the-top evil that we have to start rooting for Norman. The movie, in its short form, should be "Parents search for kidnapped daughter only to be hunted down by blind rapist/murderer." Technically, nothing I said there was inaccurate. But the movie wants Norman to come out of this movie as the tank that he's always been, so to do that, we needed them so over-the-top that there's no prayer that this movie feels like reality. It would be bad enough that the parents cooked meth. That's pretty bad. That's why the house was on fire at the beginning. Okay, that makes them pretty unlikable. But then the movie adds this extra element that they want to kill Phoenix to save mom? That's a bit much, right? I mean, why even have Phoenix talk to Mom and Dad if they're only going to cut her heart moments later?
Okay, that's all stuff that the filmmakers intended. Again, I should never watch special features. But let's say something that doesn't make a lick of sense. The movie hides what the true motivation of Raylan is. We know he's gross from moment one because he kills one of the few likable characters in the film (who apparently knows that Norman is a bad dude, but is cool with it anyway?) But the first half of the film is implying that the crew is trying to kill Phoenix. At one point, Phoenix barricades herself in what is meant to be a Panic-Room-styled box. The bad guy chasing her starts flooding the compartment when she won't open the door. When Norman accosts the attacker, he threatens to electrocute her. Now, you could write it off as the bad guy being afraid for his life, but there are two issues with that. This is early in the film. Norman is just a blind guy and this is a guy who is overconfident. Also, the entire purpose of being here is that everyone is obsessed with Momma, the meth cook. So frying Phoenix doesn't fit with the story.
Sequels tend to have these problems. Usually, the first film is a pretty simple concept. In certain regards, Don't Breathe tried complicating its own plot. But the meat and potatoes of the movie is that the first film is simply an inversion of the heroes and villains where the prey becomes the predator. Sequels always want to tell a different story while still finding the core of what made the first one watchable. But this means a forced story that honestly doesn't work. It just seems like there are all these "Gotcha" moments that don't really work. Rather, we just want to see Stephen Lang take apart dudes Rambo-style, but now he's not the scary one. When he's the hero of the story, he can't really be the scary one. It goes a lot more into "Oh cool" and "Gore" than it does into anything that would be honestly scary.
While not a terrible film, there's nothing that attaches me to this one. It's really weird that Stephen Lang is the protagonist in this film both because Norman doesn't deserve redemption and that it is Stephen Lang playing the part. I wonder what draws someone like Lang to a movie like this, but I also know so little about Lang that it probably wouldn't make much sense to speculate.
PG, but a hilariously inappropriate PG. The entire movie is about a lush who just keeps boozing and doing inappropriate behavior. The film often makes light of sex work and the vows of matrimony. The movie glorifies theft and crime. Also, some of the clothing in the movie is a little more than suggestive. It's not like this is a completely risque comedy, but it also would be way more than PG in today's culture. Still, it's Arthur, so whatever.
DIRECTOR: Steve Gordon
Okay, I don't think I've ever wanted to quit a movie quicker than Arthur. Arthur is one of those movies that I know more from The Critic than I do any actual litmus of film standard. If someone put this on a Modern Classics list, I would say that it is one of those movies that is quickly going to be forgotten to history. (Note: I have this theory that a lot of the movies that we considered to be untouchable will be lost to ebb and flow of history. It's surprising how few people have seen The Godfather.) But I was on a flight and I stuck with it. I mean, the first ten minutes are some of the most excruciating moments in cinema I've had to deal with. And, for the most part, I'm glad I stuck with it. By the end of the movie, I had a better time than I thought I would. It's not a great movie, but there is something there that makes this movie worth watching.
The big takeaway that I had is that Arthur honestly works better as a drama than a comedy. I wondered why I wasn't laughing at the humor of Arthur for a lot of the movie. After all, on the page, Arthur's dialogue reads a lot like Groucho Marx or Woody Allen. There's a setup and Arthur, in all of his boozehound glory, responds with a witticism or a retort. I should absolutely love it. But between context and delivery, there's something really sad about the character of Arthur when he's being his full-blown alcoholic self. I mean, it's the alcoholism that people remember about this movie, isn't it? It isn't the rich guy problems that I actually kind of found charming. It was him showing up to places drunk, telling jokes, and then laughing at those jokes. But, like I stated, I wondered why I didn't care for a lot of Arthur's bits. And then it hit me. It was two specific things.
1) It was the fact that he laughed at his own bits. It's the same button that makes me loathe The Big Bang Theory. Instead of letting me react to the joke in my own way, Dudley Moore would chortle out this moment to let me know that the punchline had been delivered. I don't know if this is on Moore or Gordon, but I do know that it was annoying. The laughing became so big that, often, I wouldn't hear the punchline because the laugh would act as punctuation. 2) Arthur's in the wrong in all of the situations where he is drunk. That opening sequence, scored by the mellow tones of Burt Bacharach, has these good people simply enjoying their meal and Arthur comes in there like a braying donkey, laughing at forced jokes that are punching completely innocent people. I'm going to use a very odd point of juxtaposition, but I think it is apt. Borat will mess with the public all the time. But we don't see the majority of those moments, right? It's because someone's reaction that exposes their true personality is what makes it funny. The footage we get in the Borat movies is when someone exposes something toxic about their own personalities. With Arthur, he's just spraying an audience with comments, even if they've done nothing wrong. The insane thing is, it's a work of fiction. Gordon could have come up with things to make Arthur's targets worthy of his commentary.
But I'm also part of the equation. I never really found intoxication humor funny. I've kind of shied away from the works of W.C. Fields or Cheech and Chong. I find that often the people who find intoxication humor funny are people who embrace intoxication. That's not an absolute rule. After all, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is one of the most brilliant stoner comedies imaginable. But it relies on actual humor and amazing scripting to deliver those jokes. So when I watch a movie where the protagonist stumbles over his own two feet, I just feel sad. The thing is, the film begs that I root for the protagonist. There are elements where the movie teases that Arthur is supposed to grow up and that the theme of the film is the abandonment of childish alcoholism. But then the movie goes right back into it.
Because there is a moment where I think that the movie gets its act together. When the movie introduces Hobson's illness, Arthur sobers up. He becomes the adult that Hobson always wanted him to be and what his real personality is. There's a deep soul under there who understands that growing up doesn't mean abandoning the fun of life. When he gifts Hobson with cowboy hats, as silly as it is, it's a reminder of a joyful relationship that he had with his servant. It's about a kid who is learning to mourn a father who never existed and it's a touching moment. The alcoholism makes sense because people forgive Arthur for behavior appropriate for a child. He holds onto that dependence that childhood provides because it is the only thing that has given him joy. But in Hobson's death, Arthur realizes that he can still embrace the stuff of youth while being an adult...
...which is why the end of the movie is a travesty. Arthur, upon Hobson's death, goes on another bender. Coincidentally, Hobson's death is in line with his own wedding, which seems in poor taste. They're rich. They can afford to move the venue. But for the sake of storytelling, Arthur is drunk. And the movie commits this crime that I really can't forgive. Instead of having alcoholism be this toxic thing in Arthur's life that is holding him back from actually being vulnerable, it bookends the film with goofy alcoholic rants. When Susan's dad is beating him, I kind of relate. He ruined so much for his family and he's tired of Arthur always taking the easy path. If he broke off the wedding while sober, that fight would still be appropriate, but Arthur would come across as a bit more sympathetic than he does. Like, I don't feel bad for Arthur at all in that moment because he's goofy Arthur. Heck, I would feel bad for him if he was sad, introspective drunk Arthur. But no, he's stumble over himself and look like a goon Arthur and there's nothing fun about that.
And then there's the really weird relationship between Arthur and Linda. I mean, I never thought that Liza Minelli would make this amazing leading lady, but she really nails it in this movie. But I don't see what either Linda or Susan see in Arthur. Arthur is nice to Linda once. He gives her a perfect day, which I completely applaud. But Arthur just becomes a mess after that. He continually reminds Linda that she is less important than money and she still pursues him. His casual comments that she could be a sidepiece should be a deal-breaker, but she is still in this constant holding pattern for him. The funny thing is that Linda is both an avatar for the audience and a representation of real world capitalism. She works really hard for a living. For a day, she sees how the other half lives and she's swept off her feet. She doesn't have to keep on living for tips at a diner that abuses her. So for her to be this character who waits for Arthur? It doesn't ring true. What Arthur finds attractive about her is the fact that she is self-actualized and independent, the traits that Arthur completely lacks. I would like to state: I think that Linda would accept a marriage proposal from Arthur. But to be clear, I don't think that she would accept it from him when he was drunk. She's too good for that.
Every time that this movie got just a little vulnerable, it retreated back into this absolutely juvenile characterization of drunk Arthur and that was the thing that I needed scrapped from the film. There's nothing funny about it. It's just pathetic and the fact that it isn't central to the film as a problem sucks. It's such a bad step. And the fact that he still gets the money at the end removes any emotional stakes that the movie determined. The only prediction that I can have after this moment is that Arthur will continue being a drunk. Maybe he'll temper it a bit, but that sense of independence would never really happen. I'm also mad because the movie teases that he might have learned something. As much as the movie screams "Comedy happy ending", I read it more as absolutely tragic.
Rated R for a lot of language and a sex scene that, while it has no nudity, is pretty intense. It's really weird watching it on a plane. I'll do you one better. It's really awkward watching it on a plane with your kids nearby. There was me, covering up the screen and hoping that whatever weird French cartoon that my little one was watching was going to keep her attention. There's also some violence, culminating in a suicide attempt. It goes into some pretty heavy content. R.
DIRECTOR: Matt Spicer
Welcome to Movie Two of the Tim-on-an-Airplane trilogy. One of my students from my film class (which I have official confirmation will not be happening due to the fact that everyone wants to take honors classes) watched this for his blog and it sounded really intriguing. I mean, I'm not alone in the celebration of Aubrey Plaza. I got on the Plaza train with Parks & Recreation, but I found out that she had some mean acting chops when it came to her time on Legion. Unlike Hobbs & Shaw, I didn't think that I would ever really get around to it someday. But despite having a million movies to choose from, it was somehow still slim pickings. It's not like I regretted watching Ingrid Goes West. Quite the opposite. I just want everyone to understand the headspace that I was in when choosing a movie that I could probably watch anytime.
I don't know what it is about the films like The King of Comedy that appeal to me. I'm going to get vulnerable because I encourage that in others, but there's something very real about the celebrity appeal. I don't have posters of celebrities in my home. I don't follow up on personal lives. But I have had real conversations with celebrities. During the good ol' podcast days, there were times that agents set up interviews with celebrities. (Yeah, I don't know how that worked out. But I can tell you right now, I didn't hate it.) I've had real, in-depth conversations with people that I only know through their work. I've kept in touch with one of my favorite authors. I had a friend from high school become a mega-star. Do you understand how unnerving it is feeling awkward about sending a friend a message just saying "hi" knowing that a million other people are doing that as well? But even beyond the notion of celebrity, I think that everybody --to a certain extent --struggles with the notion of mutual respect and love. I have friends that I feel like I'm bothering every time that I reach out. That's wired into me. I'm torn between the notion between being a celebrity in certain circles and a pest in other circles. I don't know. My ego is at war with itself all day.
All this leads into Ingrid. The eponymous Ingrid is clearly in the wrong for the things that she is doing. The movie establishes early and clearly that Ingrid has real problems with respecting boundaries and developing meaningful friendships. Her moral compass is completely skewed by her obsession with celebrity and Matt Spicer sets that up beautifully. But if Spicer left the film in this ballpark, it would just be another The King of Comedy or Misery. When the fan becomes a fanatic, they become a villain quickly. But Spicer refuses to let us off the hook with this idea and I applaud him for it so hard. Instead, Spicer wants to talk about the hypocrisy of celebrity. Everything about celebrity, especially in this social media age (I write, despite realizing that I am aware that there are strangers who read my blog and I continually beg for them to do so), is about fostering devotion. In the case of Ingrid, it is an influencer who has both a warm personality and a toxic personality simultaneously. On one hand, the dynamic between Ingrid and Taylor is one of celebrity to fan. But in a much more universal way, it is the story of friendship when one friend is really the alpha.
It means that every element of Ingrid Goes West is pathetic in the best way. As much as we can criticize Ingrid for her obsession with this false world, Ingrid Goes West criticizes Taylor just as much. As earnest and fun as Taylor claims to be, she uses Ingrid to feed her own selfish ego, even though she believes that Ingrid is outside of her celebrity / fan dynamic. The fact that Taylor tires of Ingrid all because of the arrival of Nicky spells out her true nature. When Ezra confesses his misgivings of Taylor by the pool, it all scans with the notion that no one really deserves to be a celebrity. The notion of a tiered system is inherently artificial and unsustainable. I do believe that Taylor really liked Ingrid. But the way that she lives her life means that she really can't afford to maintain friendships. Instead, it is about constantly forging new friendships. Nicky, her brother, is oddly new to her. He isn't necessarily enamored with her and there's something appealing about the thing that doesn't really care. It's why Ezra is frustrated. He committed to her. He's the first fan, before she was famous. That's great, but if you aren't growing, you are dying.
Contrast all of this to Dan. It's funny because Dan is oddly the most over-the-top character to ever serve as the avatar to the audience. While we probably relate to Ingrid in the most depressing part of our personalities slightly, Dan's the level-headed guy. His celebrity dynamic can't ever really be fulfilled because he has channeled that need to be special through a fictional character: Batman. Sure, he's a film fan when he drops the Joel Schumacher conversation on Ingrid, but that's really a celebration of pop culture. As goofy and kind of nerdy as it is, Dan's obsession is the most healthy because it will forever be in the abstract. It's probably why the whole Catwoman thing is so darned sexy to him, because it makes it --for a split second --tangible. He's aware that Catwoman is Ingrid, but he's willing to lie to himself in the same way that Ingrid is lying to herself about who she is.
I'm jumping right now to all of the movies that I have watched about the obsession with celebrities. I tend to love them, with the exception of Joker. But they were made by celebrities venting about their frustrations with their fans. I know that Woody Allen claims that Stardust Memories is a work of fiction, but I can't see that kind of commitment to the story without harboring some real resentment about what it means to be a celebrity. But it is so fascinating seeing Ingrid Goes West point the focus on the storyteller as well as the audience. It would be simple to say that Spicer is attacking influencers, but nothing about that story is unique to the influencer. The choice of the influencer is perhaps more timely. As that line between actor and personality quickly fades into obscurity, I can see how perhaps "influencer" just hits a bit harder. We don't really have as many George Clooneys anymore. We simply have multimedia personalities.
So it works. It really works as a film. To a certain extent, it's a movie that I've seen before. But this one just hits a little harder. It's also a movie that we need to see every so often in some form to remind us that friendship is hard and that people kind of don't mean to suck, but do. Before I close up, I should talk about the ending. The suicide thing really bugged me for a bit because there was this almost dangerous message about the cry-for-help element drawing undeserved sympathy. Because some people who read this may never see the movie, Ingrid, at her lowest, attempts suicide. Dan saves her and social-media-suicide-note has brought so much attention to her life that she gets the one thing that she really wanted: celebrity. That seems pretty dangerous to put into a film because the message kind of comes across as "Kill yourself. People will love you." But really, it's the fact that, in her suicide attempt, she realizes the stupidity of celebrity culture. When she survives the suicide attempt and people love her, she quickly resets and becomes the very thing she was rallying against. It's a dangerous ending, but I kind of dig it as well.
PG-13 because I'm pretty sure that I remember an F-bomb. There's also some murder at the beginning of the movie and the whole thing is pretty violent throughout. It's a little more than your average superhero movie, but the same rules kind of apply. Heck, the movie even calls out that this one is more like a standard superhero movie by referring to the villain as "Black Superman" multiple times. I suppose crime is glorified a bit in this, but I'm not going to consider that a heavy theme. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: David Leitch
When I was in college, I loved Smallville. Yup, that Smallville. That corny CW (or was it WB?) show about a teenage Superman was my jam. I was obsessed. But then Michael Rosenbaum, the guy who played Lex Luthor, left the show and the quality of the program quickly diminished. I know some of you reading were questioning if the show was ever quality. All I have to say to you is "Shut up" and "Let me enjoy myself." Anyway, as bad as the show got, I kept watching. I had invested oh-so-much time into this show that I wasn't going to give it up when I got that far into the franchise. This is a really roundabout way of saying that I have watched so many Fast and Furious movies that it seems silly to quit now that the end is in sight. (Please note: It takes a lot for me to give up on a show, no matter how bad it gets.)
This is the beginning of a trilogy of blog entries called, "My flight home from Italy". On the way to Italy, I was stressed out. I had screaming kids that I tried to get to sleep so they wouldn't be the most jetlagged human beings alive. I was also sitting near a four-year-old, so I didn't want to watch anything that would be too offensive. So I just watched nothing. I kept looking over at my four-year-old and kept telling her to go to sleep. I'd close my eyes and find out that she turned the screen back on. She fell asleep as the plane landed. But on the way home, the rules were different. I had to keep them awake so they could get used to the old schedule. I could watch whatever I wanted because they were hypnotized by the glowing screen. And when I saw that I could catch up on my Fast and Furiousing, I decided to let my brain shut down for two hours and change.
And maybe it was because I was on a plane and hyper-aware of how long the flight was going to be, but my goodness this movie felt long. It's not like it was awful. For the most part, much like the latter Fast and Furious movies, I had a pretty good time. I mean, it's an incredibly dumb time, but it was a good time nonetheless. And if you decide to stop reading here, that's the big takeaway. I mean, I got your click anyway. My numbers are one higher than they were before you got here. It doesn't give me points if you read the whole thing. Just know, through whatever analysis I've vomit up this late at night, it all comes down to the fact that this is a dumb, enjoyable movie and you shouldn't be at all surprised by that. It just felt super long. Like, I kept thinking that every scene was the final act. Like I said, I could blame the plane for that. But my other two movies didn't feel that long so maybe there is something really screwy with the movie.
I'm going to let my negative rumblings out first. It's not like I can gush over the movie or find some really great allegory woven into a movie about two meatheads beating up a handsome meathead. Who knows? Maybe I will. But since I'm stalling for time as my brain sifts through two-hours-and-change of dumbness, I do want to get to the thing that is concrete about this film: Dwayne Johnson has too much influence over this franchise. I don't know why I know so much about the beef between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. I think that most people know that those two do not care about each other. They're both bald muscle men who seem very successful in the entertainment business. But because those two dudes hate each other, I get the feeling that the producers of this franchise really will do anything to make sure that Dwayne Johnson is happy enough to have some kind of tangential relationship with the series. I know that he's quashed the notion that he'll appear in the last entry in the franchise. (Note: I honestly don't believe that it will be the last entry, but I'll let it slide.)
I'm really talking about the third act of this movie: Samoa. I get that Johnson has Somoan pride. He absolutely should. But a pretty shameless movie basically decided to contact the board of tourism for Western Samoa and state that they were going to make a commercial instead of a movie. The Lord of the Rings infamously was filmed in New Zealand. It brought tons of tourism for New Zealand. But there wasn't a point in the movie where Gandalf decided to pull Gimli aside and talk about how great New Zealand was. Hobbs and Shaw does not require a lot of brain cells to get through the film. But it's saying something when the entire Samoa scene pulls you out of what little verisimilitude the movie has to offer to begin with. I mean, honestly. The Rock decides to lead a Haka...again. He loves it. The movie found an excuse for a bunch of Samoan warriors to do a Haka in the face of armed terrorists.
But maybe the joke is on me. The one thing that has made the latter Fast movies kind of fun is how incredibly dumb they are. They push limits on the notion of plausibility and that's part of the whole thing. I hear that they go to space in the ninth movie, so who am I to complain about a tourism video in the last third of the movie? If I had paid to see this movie (which I kind of did with the most expensive way to see it: a plane ticket), I should have known what I was getting into. And those scenes were in the trailer. That was a selling point for a lot of people, the scene where The Rock stops pretending to be Hobbs and just reminding people that he is Samoan. So that leaves me with the rest of the movie.
Listen, I was really paying attention to the movie. The video screen was a foot from my face. My headphones were really loud (so I wouldn't have to hear my two-year-old howling with my wife two rows ahead. I swear I'm a good father and a good husband, but I knew that I couldn't really help shy of carrying that baby to another part of the plane to cry. Side note in the side note: That's what I did on the way to Italy and I got a lot of stink-eye.) This movie tried to give some mythology points to a very goofy franchise and that stuff does not make a lick of sense. Apparently, there's a blood vengeance thing between Brixton and Shaw and I only picked up on that during the final fight. I mean, I knew that Shaw shot him in the head, but I didn't know it was because he framed Shaw? There's a lot of things that you just have to take at surface level when a character says them because the entire Fast series is full of retcons upon retcons, making none of the villains actual bad guys.
But what is it about mismatched buddy cop stories? We took the formula for The Odd Couple and applied it to action movies and people lose their minds. I just wrote about Bad Boys for Life, but this is something that we've embraced since Lethal Weapon. I can't fight it. It's super fun when two guys who absolutely hate each other have to get along for the greater good. I bet that real cops get people who mesh with them very well. But then there's no comedy and there's no drama in those scenarios. After all, a good external conflict needs a good internal conflict. But what also happens is that everything is telegraphed. The frenemy action story is almost the meatloaf of storytelling. It's remarkably safe and predictable. We know that these two guys will bicker the entire movie, setting aside their personal differences when the world is at stake. They'll side-eye each other and they'll make comments. But we'll quickly realize that the two share a mutual respect that will go from straight up antagonist to harmless ribbing coupled with a smirk here and there.
Before I close up --because I've squeezed enough water out of this stone --can I talk about how The Fast and the Furious franchise decided to finally embrace the insanity that it always teased it wasn't going to do? On the now very defunct podcast, Henson always brought up that this is a series that started with guys stealing VCRs and ended with this group of drivers saving the world. But as goofy as the franchise got, it always stayed in the "action" genre exclusively. As much as the physics was a joke and that some of the technology in the film couldn't really exist, we could lie to ourselves and say that Dominic Torreto and his crew existed in our world. Hobbs & Shaw? Straight up sci-fi superhero action movie. That's insane. The other guys were superheroes, but we weren't allowed to call themselves superheroes. The bad guy in this one? He straight up has powers. He's a cyborg fighting these two guys who drive cars well. Heck, as cool as the car stuff is here, it's mostly about two guys who are really good at punching and looking suave. Who needs cars when two guys can punch a cyborg?
So it's dumb. I should just learn to say that movies can be dumb sometimes and that's not the worst thing in the world. And like I mentioned, I kind of had a good time with it. Sure, the Samoa stuff really pulls you out of the movie, but that's okay because I shouldn't feel the need to be invested in everything. Movies --and this is me growing as a person --are allowed to be a little dumb sometimes. As long as you are chasing these dumb movies with something smarter, go ahead. Watch these movies. I had a good time and you will too. Maybe. I don't know you.
PG-13 for butt nudity, some swearing, violence, and a really scary villain. Yeah, that scene in the trailer where Thor's butt is blurred out? Not blurred out in the movie. But we saw Hulk's butt in the last Thor movie, so I don't know what you expected. While overall being a silly movie, there's some heavy themes throughout the story. Also, kids are endangered, which made my kids feel a bit nervous. But all said and done, this is another MCU picture. It has a lot of the same content that made Thor: Ragnarok so great. PG-13
DIRECTOR: Taika Waititi
You don't want to guess how low my readership is right now. I take two weeks off to go to Italy and then everything goes to pot. I would like to put a disclaimer here. I saw Thor: Love and Thunder on opening night over a week ago. We found an English speaking movie theater in Florence and caught this in almost the best format ever. Sure, the audio could have been better and there were Italian subtitles distracting me throughout the film. But it was this rad old theater that screamed the '70s and I didn't care. It was amazing. But there is one thing that time has given me when it comes to writing and that's fan backlash.
Listen, I loved this movie. I loved this movie despite one serious flaw and even that I can take in stride. (It's Jane Foster and I'll be talking a lot about her in this blog.) But people are really ragging on Love and Thunder and that confuses me more than anything else. The funny thing is, as much as people say that they hate it, they are still giving it okay reviews. I don't agree that this is a 7/10 film. I'd go as far as to say it is a 9/10 film (although there is me trying to be a bit of a rebel in that rating, so keep that in mind.) But the big complaint that I'm hearing about this movie is that it is too much of a comedy and doesn't take the source material seriously. Now, I can't throw stones at this. From moment one in this film, the movie sets the tone as an aggressive comedy. If you thought that Ragnarok was a departure from the tones established by the MCU, Love and Thunder puts that to shame. Love and Thunder is straight up silly for a lot of the movie, despite the fact that it has one of the most upsetting villains in the MCU. (Remind me to talk about Christian Bale a whole lot later.) But now I have to confront something very real: I fought the fight that people are talking about with The Lego Batman Movie.
I often turn to Lego Batman as one of those movies that I love, but is really afraid to be vulnerable for even a second. There are so many jokes in the movie that it almost gets in the way of storytelling. Love and Thunder almost commits the same crime. Taika Waititi is a silly dude and I'm always going to give him creative control over things. (Because I have that power.) Waititi's wheelhouse is making grandiose things seem hilariously mundane. Now, if you were to fly though his ouvre, you could accuse him of being a one-trick pony. I mean, you could. I couldn't. I think that the man is an absolute genius and I probably hate you for thinking that he's not. But then you have stuff like Jojo Rabbit and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He's got the chops to mix comedy and tragedy. So what you are seeing in Love and Thunder is a choice. It should also be noted that I read that Love and Thunder's first cut was over four hours long, so maybe it is an editing thing. But at the root of Love and Thunder are some heavy themes that are treated with silliness because --and here's my thesis statement --Thor needs to be goofy.
Can we be honest for a second? I think that every MCU movie works. Some work better than others. For example, I wouldn't really want to sit down and watch The Incredible Hulk right now, but I don't dislike the movie either. But even with every MCU movie working, Thor and Thor: The Dark World aren't exactly perfect films. Many people look at The Dark World as an actively bad movie, which I consider hyperbole. Even Thor itself, while watchable, doesn't really carve its own niche in the MCU. But do you know what really fixed Thor? When it stopped treating it so seriously. Stan Lee was a goofy dude. The guy turned imposter syndrome into potentially the most lucrative careers in pop culture history. It's not like Lee was this great lover of Norse Mythology. He wasn't Neil Gaiman. He knew stories of the Norse myths and he knew that he could make a buck. So he imitated his best Shakespeare and put dialogue in hard-to-read fonts and that was The Mighty Thor. To try and do it seriously almost misses the point to a certain extent. As much as I like Thor as a concept, those early books are hard to read at this point. Even Jason Aaron, who has more respect for the original tone than Waititi does, still has a very heavy metal slant on his comics involving Thor. (Note: Much of Love and Thunder uses Jason Aaron's source material.)
But Thor works really well as a goofball. Thor is naturally a fish out of water alongside Captain America. But to make Thor different, Waititi made the fish-out-of-water confident as heck. And you know what? It worked. It still works. I would actually say that it needs to stay that way because anything else would be a step backwards. And to step it up, Chris Hemsworth is really good at comedy. I wouldn't have thought so from the first film, but that dude is hilarious. Why not keep letting him do what he's doing? So yeah, maybe the movie isn't vulnerable enough, considering that it deals with cancer, mortality, and religion. (I mean, his name is Gorr, the God Butcher. It isn't exactly hidden.)
But there is one complaint that people have that I also have difficulty with: Jane Foster. Now, I adore Jane Foster as Thor. When Jason Aaron introduced Jane as the Mighty Thor, I could not be more happy. It was at this time when Marvel was shaking up its line a little bit and stopped making all of its top tier hero white dudes. Again, a lot of White Knighting here, but I loved it. The OG Thor was still around, but going by the moniker "Odinson" or "The Unworthy Thor" and Jane was swinging Mjolnir from a dual perspective of being both human and a god. It was great. And while I always questioned that Jane got a second chance at life, her story was fantastic. The Mighty Thor was this powerhouse of a character. She had the insecurities of being a human and trying to live up to this mantle that she absolutely deserved, even if she didn't always understand that. She took down really weird villains and had this epic storyline as the Odinson faced Gorr the God Butcher. And for years, she fed her cancer. She went through this awesome character arc and stepped into her own. So when a movie gives her the mantle and kills her in the time of two hours, I don't know if that character was ever properly conveyed. It almost seemed like a hiccup in the story versus something that should be at the crux of the mythology. When I saw Natalie Portman receive the hammer years ago at Comic Con, I thought that Marvel was taking this great risk. That's not what really happens in this movie. It almost felt like Natalie Portman just wanted to end her time in the franchise on a high note.
But with those complaints, I want to talk about the greatness of this movie. If Ragnarok made Thor relatable, Love and Thunder makes him real somehow. A lot of this movie is about what it means to be in a relationship. While it uses superherodom as its foundation, the message applies for people who are defined by their careers. Thor genuinely mourns the greatest thing in his very long life. He grows as a person, realizing that he has defined Jane in what he thought was convenient to him. It's this absolutely fabulous story about how love needs to evolve beyond the feelings stage into something that is real and honest. I'm talking about the end (and how that might be the gutsiest thing in this film.) Listen, I know that I talk about spoilers a lot, so please forgive me, but I have to talk about the end of the movie. I love that Endgame gave Tony Stark a kid. But we never were offered the long-term effects of what it would mean to have a kid and still be a superhero. I love that Thor is a single dad at the end of the movie. It's perfect. Just perfect. As much as I would love to see the further adventure of Jane Foster, the Mighty Thor, I do love that the Odinson gets to raise a kid on his own.
I'm going to close on Christian Bale. Sure, I would have loved to see more Gorr. My kids probably wouldn't agree considering that he's absolutely terrifying. But I wanted to see more Gorr. But Thor: Love and Thunder almost is Exhibit A for the prosecution when it comes to the following phrase: "It's way more fun to play the villain than it is to play the hero." I've always found Bale's Batman boring. I love the movies. I love his Bruce Wayne. But Batman himself? One note. He can't be anything else. If there was a moment in those movies where Bruce dropped the Batman voice because he was vulnerable, there might have been something. But look at Gorr? God, it looks like Bale is having a blast with that. He's so dynamic and scary. We all know that Christian Bale is a fantastic actor and those Batman movies might not be the best exhibit of his talents. But Gorr, the God Butcher? He's all over the place with that character and it all works. When Waititi says that Gorr might be the creepiest villain, I think that he's right. There's something haunting about him. And don't tell me that the end doesn't work. We know that this is a traumatized and broken man who is corrupted by that blade. When the blade is removed, he's given a choice. Sure, it's a far more optimistic choice than I was prepped for, but I loved it.
This movie is great. It's not perfect, but it is great. Like Ragnarok, I can see myself laughing and watching it over and over again. It's what Thor movies should be and I can't wait to watch it again.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.