“Lightyear” is directed by Angus MacLane, a Pixar insider who has helmed multiple animated shorts and made his feature-length debut with 2016’s “Finding Dory.” That feature, by the way, is frankly better than its Nemo-centric predecessor. There is no changing my mind. “Lightyear” stars Chris Evans as the titular space ranger, providing for a fresh take on the iconic role once helmed by Tim Allen (Last Man Standing, Home Improvement). Joining Evans is a cast including Keke Palmer (Scream Queens, Hustlers), Peter Sohn (Ratatouille, Monsters University), James Brolin (Westworld, The Amityville Horror), Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit), Dale Soules (Orange is the New Black, The Messenger), Mary McDonald-Lewis (G.I. Joe, Archer), Efren Ramirez (Crank, Napoleon Dynamite), and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Your Honor, The Wire) in a spinoff to the “Toy Story” universe… Sort of.
“Lightyear” is a film that Andy, a character known in “Toy Story” lore, loved as a child. It was his favorite movie, and therefore, we find out the reason why he has a Buzz Lightyear toy is because of this movie. Andy’s favorite movie, which is what we, the audience, are treated to, is about a young Buzz Lightyear trying to find a way to get his crew home after being stranded on a planet for an extended period. Turns out time is not the only enemy in Buzz’s path as he must survive against an army of robots commanded by Zurg.
Pixar is the pinnacle of animation today. I genuinely look forward to just about everything they do, even though most of their marketing campaigns do not sit well with me. But in the end, it is about the movie. Similar to the cliché saying that it is not about the outside, but the inside, Pixar proves that it is not all about the trailers for their films, which usually are unmemorable or do not prompt enough reason for me to watch them, but instead the films that were previously advertised, which are sometimes masterpieces. “Inside Out” to this day is one of the few movies that made my eyes water. “The Incredibles” is an action-packed, thrilling adventure that is secretly the best on-screen adaptation of “Fantastic Four.” “Cars” is fun, colorful, exciting, and has a wonderful soundtrack. The Pixar library is one of the best in film history, animated or not. This is why I was worried, years ago, when I found out we would be getting a “Toy Story 4.”
Despite my apprehension, “Toy Story 4” turned out to be an entertaining, joyful movie that not only presents itself as a surprisingly welcome addition to the franchise, but shows that Pixar can present some of the most realistic-looking animation ever put to screen. There is a scene with a cat from “Toy Story 4” that I continue to ponder over to this day…
Now we have “Lightyear,” which is not exactly a “Toy Story 5,” but a fictional universe within another fictional universe. I will admit, as desperate of an idea as it may sound, I like the concept. Because in our world, we have our beloved stories. In the science fiction genre, “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” and “Back to the Future” are some of the first examples that come to mind. This movie begs the question, supposing that a movie such as “Star Wars” does not exist in the “Toy Story” universe, “What is Andy’s ‘Star Wars’?”
Like the opening text suggests, this is that movie.
But just because Andy likes this movie, does not mean I will. So, what did I think of “Lightyear?”
You know how I mentioned that Pixar often flubs its trailers or makes them less appealing than others? Here is a crazy coincidence, I thought the trailers for “Lightyear” are easily the best Pixar has ever done. I thought their goal with the movie was clear, the footage we got with SOX was charming, and the space scenes looked gritty and eye-popping. Unfortunately, for Pixar standards, this is towards the lower tier.
Now, this is not as bad as “Luca,” but I thought Pixar’s previous outing, “Turning Red,” was a bit better. I think part of it has to do with the unique, dynamic nature of the film that I have not seen in any other Pixar story before. “Lightyear” feels like it blends the vibes of “Wall-E” with “Star Wars” and “Interstellar.” Some of you reading this likely know who I am, and think I am going crazy. I adore “Wall-E,” I love “Star Wars,” and if I could legally marry a movie, “Interstellar” would probably be getting the ring.
I will say the same thing about “Lightyear” that I said in regard to “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” a movie that heavily relies on inserting crossovers and references to the Warner Bros. library. One difference between “A New Legacy” and “Lightyear” is that “Lightyear” is a completely watchable, entertaining film. Imagine that! But one thing I will note about “Lightyear,” even though it is nowhere near as obvious, is that it seemingly pays tribute to other stories, most notably “Star Wars.” The relationship between Buzz Lightyear and Zurg in this film is almost reminiscent of Luke and Vader in “Star Wars” at times. Although that does make sense because if you watch “Toy Story 2,” there is a scene in that film with the toy versions of the characters that is almost done in the same style as a key scene from “The Empire Strikes Back.” With that in mind, I would rather watch Luke and Vader duke it out in “Empire” than watch any of the scenes between Buzz and Zurg in “Lightyear.”
Let’s talk about Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear. I have mad respect for Evans as an actor, because in one moment he can carry a blockbuster in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and in the other, he can come off as the most delightfully charming of morons in “Knives Out.” Evans has unbelievable range as an actor, so I was excited to see what he could do as the Buzz Lightyear character. Yes, I know that this technically means that Tim Allen is not voicing Buzz Lightyear, but let me remind you that this is not the Buzz Lightyear toy and instead, a man that inspired the toy. Evans’s raspy voice fits the character and is proper enough to make him come off as this universe’s Han Solo. Again, this is basically “Star Wars.” This movie pictures Buzz as a determined, manly, roguish individual who will not stop until he “finishes the mission.”
As suggested in the title, “Lightyear” is essentially a family friendlier take on Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar.” While not as complex, the science fiction angle tends to border between realistic and fantastical. It’s believable, but it also makes us wonder what undiscovered portions of our own universe could look like. Plus, the concept of “Interstellar” involves one man trying to find a new home for humanity. The reverse is happening in “Lightyear” where one man tries to get people back to where they personally call home. And much like “Interstellar,” this movie has a somewhat mixed cast of sidekicks, including robots.
Once we get into the meat of the film, we meet a set of sidekicks who may talk a good game but when it comes to action, that is lackluster in comparison. I like this concept, partially because it is relatable, but I also dislike it. I will start with the dislikes first, because they are not as in depth.
The sidekick characters of “Lightyear” are at times, some of the most annoying, disposable characters ever created in Pixar history. As much as I like Taika Waititi, the writing for his character of Mo Morrison (top left) ranges from stupid to cringeworthy. Sometimes both. I have nothing against Waititi himself, he took the words written on the page and portrayed them as accurately as he could, but his character was written in such a way that could have made him a lovable idiot, but given the context of certain things, I do not think “lovable” would be the right adjective to use here. The movie “Lightyear” convinced Andy in the “Toy Story” universe to own a Buzz Lightyear toy. I can see why he probably begged his mom to buy a Buzz Lightyear toy instead of Mo Morrison or one of the other supporting characters. I have heard worse dialogue in my life, but here, it either feels cheap or annoying. Sometimes it works, but the times it did not work stuck out to me like a sore thumb.
With the negatives out of the way, I do want to talk about this idea that the movie goes for. “Lightyear” is a fun film, like many Pixar movies. But also like some Pixar movies, it could occasionally tug the heartstrings. There is a well-executed montage in this film that some would compare to the famous few minutes in “Up” where we witness the life of Carl and Ellie. It is some of the best editing I have seen all year. That is this film’s earliest example of showcasing the inevitability of failure. Many of us, including myself, have been through a portion of our lives where we question whether what we are doing is worth it. Whether we are good enough. Sometimes we do not have access to an opportunity, and in others, we do not even know where to start. I have taken one or two classes during my college years where these thoughts have come up.
Despite their slightly offish writing at times, I like the concept behind the characters of Izzy Hawthrone (bottom left), Mo Morrison, and Darby Steel (top right). They are flawed, but that is also what makes them work. Hawthorne spends much of the movie worrying about her legacy. How is she going to live up to her grandmother’s expectations? Mo Morrison never spills the beans on this, but he almost felt like this movie’s representation of the phrase “fake it until you make it.” You may not know something, you may not be good at something, but you might as well do that something until you know you can call yourself a master. Darby Steel’s main goal of the movie is to shave some time off of her sentence, and to do so, she needs to go on the mission with the rest of the crew. I like the idea of having these significantly unconfident, arguably incompetent, characters play major roles like the ones they do in the film. I just wish they were written or portrayed in a slightly less annoying manner. Although there was one recurring gag involving Mo Morrison with a pen that had its moments.
If I had to be honest, the best sidekick in the entire film is SOX (right), a robotic feline whose goal is to assist Lightyear with his various needs. This assertion should not come as much of a surprise. My favorite Pixar supporting character that comes to mind is also a common household pet, specifically Dug, the comic relief dog from “Up.” While SOX is no Dug, he does have his moments to shine in the spotlight. His writing feels logical for a typical robot character, but in robot speak, he somewhat reminded me of TARS from, again, “Interstellar.” While SOX in this case does not come with “humor settings,” he has some occasional lines that are not necessarily jokes that got a laugh out of me. It is nice when robots know what makes humans tick. He is wonderfully voiced by Peter Sohn, a talented voiceover artist who previously lent his utterances to Emile in “Ratatouille.”
This almost seems unfair, because “Lightyear” from start to finish, between the concept, execution, and everything in between, is practically a different movie than any of the “Toy Story” installments we have gotten. While “Lightyear” is by no means a bad film, it is no “Toy Story.” If I had to be real, I think even “Toy Story 4,” a film that like this one, I probably never asked for, is a better movie. I think the adventures of Buzz Lightyear, the toy, are more entertaining and joy-filled than “Lightyear.” It pains me to say that because this film reminded me of a couple great science fiction stories here and there, it had a couple halfway decent characters, the animation is some of the most stunning I have EVER seen. I think the best thing about this movie is that if you have young children and you want to give them a proper gateway into science fiction, “Lightyear” is a solid option before showing them movies like “Interstellar” or “Gravity.” But much like what I said with “The Empire Strikes Back,” I think I would rather watch the “Toy Story” films again on a Friday night before “Lightyear.”
I did see the film twice in the theater, but it was partially because I wanted to see how they handled the supersized 1.43:1 IMAX aspect ratio, which I can confirm made the film pop like few others. I liked the film enough to see it a second time for that, but maybe not a third time.
In the end, “Lightyear” is a decent science fiction movie, but for the standards of Pixar, I would put this with “Onward,” which is not a bad film. But for the standards of a studio as incredible as Pixar, that is not the best comparison to make. To shoot for “Onward” is not enough for them. Pixar genuinely makes some of the best animated movies, but this is not enough to join the greats. Although I will remind you, there are many studios out there, many filmmakers out there, that would kill to make a movie as good as a lower tier Pixar film. I still have yet to see a flat out awful movie from the studio. Hopefully that day never comes. I have faith. “Lightyear” is definitely worth seeing in the theater, especially in IMAX. The spectacle is insane. There are some truly colorful, vivid, detailed scenes that will definitely drop jaws. Although I left the film thinking to myself that I should probably rewatch a couple other films instead of this one. I am going to give “Lightyear” a 7/10.
“Lightyear” is now playing in theatres everywhere, and do yourself a favor, if there is a true IMAX theater near you, buy a ticket for “Lightyear” and go watch it in that theater. Major shoutout to the Jordan’s Furniture in Reading, Massachusetts and their amazing laser projection system for providing me with an epic movie experience. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, check out some of my other ones! This month I did reviews for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Hustle.” If you want to stick with the “Lightyear” theme, check out my thoughts for “Toy Story 4.” My thoughts have admittedly changed on the film a little since my review, but if you want to check out my first impression, here you go! If you are interested in long-form content, check out a recent five-thousand word post I did on why I cannot stop watching “Belle,” the new anime directed by Mamoru Hosoda. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Lightyear?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite science fiction movie of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Jurassic World: Dominion” is directed by Colin Trevorrow, who also directed the 2015 “Jurassic World” film, which I thought was slightly flawed despite its neat visuals, booming score, and somewhat clever concept. This film stars Chris Pratt (The LEGO Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy), Bryce Dallas Howard (Spider-Man 3, The Help), Laura Dern (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Marriage Story), Jeff Goldblum (Thor: Ragnarok, The World According to Jeff Goldblum), Sam Neill (Peaky Blinders, Crusoe), DeWanda Wise (She’s Gotta Have It, Fatherhood), Mamoudou Athie (The Circle, The Front Runner), BD Wong (Kingdom Hearts II, Mr. Robot), Omar Sy (Transformers: The Last Knight, The Intouchables), and Campbell Scott (The Amazing Spider-Man, House of Cards). This film is set in a time where dinosaurs are roaming the earth, they’re unleashed, there is no stopping them.
Actually, no… That was the promise that was given in that one short film that was shown in IMAX and eventually put online… But no! We have to settle for a comparatively boring story where the same dull human characters we have seen waltz through two movies, fight against a genetics research giant whose main goal is to conduct research on dinosaurs.
You hear that? That stomping on the ground? That is not a dinosaur. That is me, walking out of the theater in ire.
If you want a hint on what I thought of “Jurassic World: Dominion,” here it goes… “Jurassic World: Dominion” can be summed up in one word. And if I were writing this review for an outlet like The New York Times or The Boston Globe, I would probably be fired. Want another hint? It is literally a word in the title. It is not “ur,” and it is definitely not “sic.” Why would it be?
It is in between those two words, even if they do not spell exactly what I am trying to say.
Summer blockbuster season is in full swing! This means I will be talking about films including “Lightyear,” which will be my next review, “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which comes out in July, and “Bullet Train,” due in August for instance. But before we get to those films, we have to talk about “Jurassic World: Dominion,” exhibit A for what is wrong with Hollywood. I know this sounds like an exaggeration, but it is kind of true. “Jurassic World: Dominion” is continuing the trend where we see elder actors return to play their roles another time, giving either prominent screentime, fan service, or possibly both.
Sony, who to be clear, is not in any way responsible for the “Jurassic Park” franchise and its distribution, is no stranger to this given the recent release of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” where we see the original cast, minus Harold Ramis (RIP) return to bust ghosts. “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the biggest movie of the past year, saw a ton of older characters return with their respective actors portraying them one more time. But I actually liked those films. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” was as charming as it was nostalgic. It was kind of like “The Force Awakens” but more intimate. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a concept that could have made for a fun YouTube video, but they some how managed to turn into a wildly entertaining two and a half hour movie that honestly felt shorter than it really was at times. It was perfectly paced, relatable, and surprisingly dramatic. Although I do have mixed thoughts on the ending.
Whereas “Spider-Man: No Way Home” could have been taken as a concept that presents itself as a boardroom idea from out of touch executives, Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal, and director Jon Watts managed to make a movie that I will watch again and again for years. “Jurassic World: Dominion” on the other hand deserves to be struck by an asteroid. This is the worst “Jurassic” movie yet. “Dominion” is worse than “Jurassic Park III,” which despite its awfulness, can almost be perceived as something watchable under the influence of alcohol. And at least it is the shortest film in the franchise.
“Jurassic World: Dominion” is the opposite. In addition to being the longest film in its series, it tries to pack in so many ideas, some of which could be cool, but does not understand what to do with them. When I went to see “F9: The Fast Saga,” another Universal tentpole that made me want to gouge my eyes out, I was treated to an exclusive short film set in the world of the “Jurassic” franchise where we see dinosaurs roaming the planet, invading life as we know it. There is a fun scene at a drive-in that is also featured in the marketing of this movie, including a Progressive Insurance ad. NOTHING in this movie was as entertaining or watchable as that short. In fact, the whole unleashing of the dinosaurs plotline takes a backseat during the film because the kiddies do not want to see dinosaurs eating people! No. No. No. They want to see what Tim Cook would do if he had dinosaurs in his sights. That is what the kids like!
If you are new to Scene Before, hi, my name is Jack, and I like “Star Wars!” Time for yet another of one of my “Star Wars” comparisons! If anything, “Jurassic World: Dominion” is “Jurassic Park’s” answer to “The Rise of Skywalker,” one of the most poorly received “Star Wars” films of all time. Both films attempt to bring back older characters, conclude several movies that came before it, and I would like to add another rung to this ladder. If anything, “Jurassic World: Dominion” also feels like “The Last Jedi” because in “Jurassic” speak, “Fallen Kingdom” ends a certain way, only to have its follow-up barely do anything noteworthy with that film’s ending. The first act of “Dominion” feels like a giant “no” to particular elements to the film that came before it. That “no” supposedly came from Colin Trevorrow, who, get this, was once attached to direct what would become “The Rise of Skywalker.” At least “The Rise of Skywalker” was fun despite its flaws. At least “The Last Jedi” came off as a bold attempt to do something fresh in a historic franchise. Sure, this movie introduces an Apple-esque, genetics-based company, which we have not seen in other installments, but “The Last Jedi” actually got genuine reactions out of me, whether it meant laughing or cringing. “The Last Jedi” was a movie that swung for the fences in such a dramatic fashion only to fail. You can say “Jurassic World: Dominion” did that with its stacked cast, including franchise veterans Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum. But that is all shrouded within a film that feels like it was crafted in a single corporate meeting.
I caught up on all of the “Jurassic Park” movies prior to seeing “Jurassic World: Dominion.” If you ever read my review for Marvel’s “Black Panther,” I claimed that the film has the most forced kiss in cinematic history. Given the film’s not so perfect chemistry between Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, 2015’s “Jurassic World” is an arguable competitor for such a throne. I have no idea how these two are still together. Their lines do not feel genuine, the only reason why they feel like they belong together is because the script has lines that indicate such a thing. Well that, and they are raising a child together at this point. Their relationship never feels earned, and I am not exactly fond of either of them. Sure, Chris Pratt has some occasional fun bits training and taming dinosaurs, and Bryce Dallas Howard has developed… Decency, I guess, since her 2015 debut. Compared to the 2015 “Jurassic World,” these two sequels have admittedly gone downhill in terms of story and character development in the same way that they have gone downhill with epic dinosaur action. While I was never a fan of Bryce Dallas Howard in the original “Jurassic World,” I at least thought her two nephews were well written for who they were. I barely remember anyone specific in this latest installment. Yes, I know of the characters in this movie, but I could barely tell you about any of their quirks or anything remotely positive about them. With each installment in the “Jurassic” saga, less and less soul is there. I am not as wowed or engaged as I once was with the ideas this franchise is known for.
That is not to say there is no tension or stakes in “Jurassic World” whatsoever. Speaking of Bryce Dallas Howard, there is one scene in the film that is exclusively between her and a dinosaur. It is one of the quietest moments of the entire picture. It goes on for a minute or two, but I thought it was easily the most engaging segment of the two and a half hours we got. In a film whose dinosaur action is comparatively lesser than its counterparts, this was a welcome highlight.
The original “Jurassic Park,” much like its sequels, was synonymous with epic dinosaur action, but it successfully interweaved a human story with excellence. The cast played their characters to the best of their abilities and the script did them favors. I often think of the 1993 film as a visual achievement before anything else, showcasing effects that continue to hold up to this day, but it does not mean the story is an afterthought. The idea is simple. People create dinosaurs, dinosaurs eat people, and the main characters try to survive to the very end. There is more to it, but the movie gives you enough reasons within a couple hours to make you invested in the story and characters. It makes you root for the characters running away from the dinosaurs. The characters in “Jurassic World: Dominion” lacked such charisma, and therefore, the movie suffers as a result.
Even when the film has an okay idea on how to give a proper motivation for its characters, such as Maisie Lockwood who spends the movie, wanting more, simply put, it does not result in a satisfying progression. Maisie’s respective performer, Isabella Sermon, does a fine job with the material given to her, but her lines and motivation seem surface level and do not add to the film’s entertainment value. That is if there even is any to begin with. This film had a couple okay concepts in addition to Maisie’s desires. There was a dinosaur black market. There was a chase scene between Chris Pratt and a dinosaur that had Tom Cruise “Mission: Impossible” vibes. Even bringing back the original cast could have worked! Although the script failed to bring these characters into a classy, compelling story. But you also have these comparatively boring concepts like a Tim Cook wannabe doing research on dinosaurs, not to mention locusts of all things antagonizing everyone it can find. Because when I think big, loud dinosaur movies… I think locusts… Come on.
“Jurassic Park” is one of the best major motion pictures of its time. What Steven Spielberg and crew were able to do with the aesthetical nature and effects in “Jurassic Park” influenced a multitude of content that came after. Sadly, the sequels, for the most part, fail to recapture the magic of the original, with “Dominion” being the latest example. If you want my two cents, if it is a Friday, you have nothing to do, “Jurassic Park” is a great option for your movie night. I also recommend “The Lost World” to a degree, and “Jurassic World,” despite its lackluster characterization, is pretty and thrilling enough to get you through two hours. It is not exactly insulting, but it is somewhat dumbed down compared to the 1993 original. “Jurassic World: Dominion” makes the original “Jurassic World” look like “The Shawshank Redemption” in comparison. Do not watch this movie, do not support this movie. If you want to watch a more entertaining summer popcorn movie, give your money to “Top Gun: Maverick.” As a legacy sequel, “Maverick” honors its original counterpart, while also effectively progressing the life of a core character that was introduced many years ago. “Jurassic World: Dominion” fails with its new characters, it fails with its old characters, and most of all, it fails with me, the one who paid $16, not including an online fee and a 3D surcharge, to see this unforgivable abomination.
In the end, “Jurassic World: Dominion” managed to do the impossible. It managed to make a feature-length, big budget story heavily revolving around dinosaurs, and have it come off as the most tiring concept ever realized. Even after watching “Fallen Kingdom” I did not feel as tired. Maybe it is because this is the sixth movie, but “Jurassic Park” does not feel special anymore. Its novelty has worn off. Sure, this is a huge moneymaker for Universal, and I would not be surprised if we saw more content with the “Jurassic” label attached in the coming years despite this movie being marketed as “the conclusion of the Jurassic era,” but my hope is that something is done to heavily revitalize this iconic brand. “Jurassic Park” is a literal innovation to cinema. Ever since, we have gotten uninteresting characters, cookie cutter dialogue, and despite some okay concepts, the execution ends up being a far cry from what such concepts can promise. I am going to give “Jurassic World: Dominion” a generous 3/10.
And I have a feeling that could change to a 2 at any point in time…
“Jurassic World: Dominion” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new Pixar film, “Lightyear.” I went to go see this film twice, which should be a hint as to what I thought about it. Stay tuned for more thoughts as they come along! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Jurassic World: Dominion?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a franchise you think has overstayed its welcome? I apologize to Universal, but unless “Fast X” delivers something fresh, “Fast & Furious” might be my answer… Either way, let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is directed by Daniels, the same team behind the 2016 film “Swiss Army Man” featuring Daniel Radcliffe as a dead body who communicates by farting. And if you think that is weird, you are not ready for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” possibly the greatest title in film history. That said, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” stars Michelle Yeoh (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Crazy Rich Asians), Stephanie Hsu (The Path, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Ke Hey Quan (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Goonies), Jenny Slate (The Secret Life of Pets, Gifted), Harry Shum Jr. (Glee, Shadowhunters), James Hong (Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, Blade Runner), and Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Knives Out). This film, or in a case like the one we are dealing with, this drug trip, centers around the character of Evelyn Quan Wang, a Chinese immigrant who owns a laundromat with her husband. When financial stability becomes an issue for Wang, she suddenly finds herself on a journey through the multiverse where she learns about the many lives she could have lived. She uses this newfound knowledge to hopefully save her own universe, along with several others, from a cataclysm.
I want to start off this review by reminding you that I waited a couple months to see this movie. I knew what it was. I knew the plot. I knew that a lot of people liked it. But due to other commitments, other movies, not to mention planning to see it once or twice only to have my plans scrapped, I had to wait on “Everything Everywhere All at Once” like I was in line at comic con. Fun fact, I am at a time of my life where I typically enjoy going to the movies by myself. I have nothing against going with friends, but there are many cases where I would prefer going to the cinema alone because as a reviewer, this allows me to concentrate harder on what’s on screen. But one reason why I waited so long to see “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is because if I wanted to go see this movie by myself, I could have. I would have probably had a good time. That said, this looked like a movie I had to see with someone else. So I invited my dad, told him I think he would like the film, and we were going to hopefully have a ball.
Without giving much detail, I think my previous sentiment is one to keep in mind, should you decide to watch “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” because it is a movie that is watchable on your own, but the more people you have around you, the better the experience will probably end up being. It is the same reason why comedy shows are better with sold out crowds. The laughter is that much more contagious.
Also I will remind you, this is a multiverse-spanning movie. The previous two Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have brought audiences into the multiverse in their own ways and have done ridiculous numbers in terms of the box office. Unlike those films, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is an original idea. Of those two previously indicated unoriginal ideas, one of them literally has the words “Multiverse of Madness” in the title. That said, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” is THE REAL MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Eat your heart out, Doctor Strange! I contend that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” could end up permanently owning the crown for the greatest multiverse-centric movie of all time. It is that good.
If you have been following me this year, I have talked about a specific idea within certain films. “CODA” and “Belle” are prime examples of this. That theme is a perfect bridging between extraordinary and ordinary. While those films showcase this idea to excellent degrees with a non-deaf, music-obsessed child living in a deaf family and a shy, rural-housed teenage girl entering a social media paradise where she becomes a star, these are not new ideas. Heroes always start off ordinary and then find ways to become extraordinary throughout their adventure. If they stayed ordinary, they would be one-dimensional or boring. But if you break down “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” it is not necessarily a film about saving the multiverse as much as it is about keeping a family together, keeping each other from going bizzerk. Because within the confines of alternate realities, mastering kung fu, superstardom, the main family of the film has to deal with the potential closure of their business, potential divorce, and as far as the parents are concerned, potential rebellion from the daughter.
Speaking of potential, I think “Everything Everywhere All at Once” had a ton of potential, and that potential was perfectly realized within this film’s small budget. For comparison, another recent multiverse-centric story, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” had a budget of $200 million. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” on the other hand… A non-sequel, original idea not based on any preexisting intellectual property, not set in a cinematic universe whatsoever, cost $25 million to make. That is nothing to sweat at by any means. $25 million is a lot of money. Plus, there are movies that came out this year that cost less to make. “Hustle,” the last movie I reviewed, was less expensive. But to be fair, it was more limited in its theatrical release. That said, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” supports the notion that smaller can be better. The more time you spend on crafting a compelling story and the less time you spend on the spectacle and paying Patrick Stewart to play Professor X again, the better the payoff.
Through her portrayal of Evelyn, Michelle Yeoh encapsulates what it is like to be a normal human being with financial issues. We see her trek through the film while her ordinary life continues to go down the crapper. Changes come in every which way and it is not only affecting her, but the people she knows. This movie plays around with the idea of one person seeing not only other versions of themselves, but their jealousy towards the lives the alternate selves tend to enjoy. Evelyn sees versions of herself that excel at kung fu or acting. If I saw myself in other universes living as say a successful singer or a baseball player, I would definitely consider rethinking my life choices or finding a way to embody my other selves.
Throughout the film’s runtime, we are heavily exposed to other members of the Wang family. Those who appear alongside Evelyn are her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), and her father, Gong Gong (James Hong). Each character has their own individualities and quirks that make the film worthwhile. There is an incredible element of the film where we see the supposed differences between Evelyn and Joy in terms of how they live their lives, how they view the world. It makes for some entertaining moments of the film while also effectively progressing each character arc.
I also have to give a major shoutout to Jamie Lee Curtis, who gives an incredible performance as Deirdre Beaubeirdre, an IRS inspector who takes no nonsense whatsoever. I admire Jamie Lee Curtis as an actress, so I hope this is not taken the wrong way, but her character does such a great job at appearing so boring and yet so fiendish. She looks like she could ruin someone’s life in a snap. Of the film’s supporting characters, she is arguably the highlight.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is an arguable contender to be the strangest and yet most ambitious film I have watched in my life. One of my biggest compliments I gave to “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is how they handled Benedict Cumberbatch’s variants from a looks perspective. When it comes to Evelyn in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” I would say a similar assessment applies. But the script and direction of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” gives Michelle Yeoh a greater excuse to provide a more solid, perhaps down to earth performance than the one Cumberbatch gave in his multiversal feature. There is so much that happens in this movie, not only in terms of the story, but the overall scope of… everything… At various points, the movie hinges to a precipice where things are almost completely out of control. There is a moment in this movie where I could see a lot of people thinking it is crazy enough, only to shock themselves in a matter of minutes with what comes up afterwards. If you are looking for a predictable movie, you have come to the wrong place. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is probably the most unpredictable movie I have seen since “Parasite.”
If you have not watched it yet, you need to check this movie out, and as much as I could go on about it, I am going to let you see for yourself, because if you are anything like my dad when he sat next to me in the theater, taking every single scene in… I think you should prepare to drop some unexpected f-bombs at the screen the moment you witness some of the wondrous sights this one of a kind feature seals within its doors.
In the end, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is one of the best movies I have ever seen. A24 is a crazy distributor. I either truly like a movie from them, which was the case with say “Eighth Grade” or “The Disaster Artist.” Or I attempt to make a case as to why some of their films are atrociously awful like “Midsommar” or “Zola.” There never feels like there is an between at times. And even if there is, I still have something supposedly notable or passionate to say about their films. Even “The Last Movie Star,” starring Burt Reynolds, which I thought was the definition of mediocre, elicited a passionate reaction out of me as to why I did not particularly think that film was the best. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which is certainly above mediocre, is no exception to letting me bring out the passion. Oddly enough, I have a feeling I could somehow end up appreciating it more with a second viewing. If the jump after a second viewing is anything like the one I had for “Belle” recently, it could potentially be in the conversation for my top 5 movies of all time. If there is one movie that you should see by the end of the year, it is this one. I am going to give “Everything Everywhere All at Once” a 10/10.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is now playing in theaters and is available to watch on VOD.
Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for my next reviews, which are for the brand new blockbusters, “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Lightyear!” I watched both movies this week and I am excited to share my thoughts! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Everything Everywhere All at Once?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie that you saw this year? New or old, doesn’t matter. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Hustle” is directed by Jeremiah Zigar (We the Animals, In a Dream) and stars Adam Sandler (Big Daddy, Uncut Gems), Queen Latifah (Ice Age: The Meltdown, The Equalizer), Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma, Hell or High Water), Juancho Hernangómez, and Robert Duvall (Apocalypse Now, The Godfather). This film centers around a down on his luck basketball scout, Stanley Sugerman. When trying to justify having a place in the NBA, Sugerman finds a young, skilled man from Spain and decides to give him a shot at entering the big leagues.
“Hustle” came out of nowhere for me, partially because Netflix, this film’s distributor, is not exactly the most prominent studio when it comes to marketing their new content. Obviously they have been busy promoting the new season of “Stranger Things,” but that’s all the new content I knew they had coming out recently. To be fair though, of all the streaming services out there, I am more likely to log onto Hulu or HBO Max before I open Netflix. However, much like another Netflix film, “The Adam Project,” which released earlier this year and became a delightful couple hours of entertainment, I watched “Hustle” through a free screener. I did not know what to expect with this film, because Adam Sandler is an enigma of an actor. He can crank out a terrible comedy like “Grown Ups” or give a tour de force performance like he did in “Uncut Gems,” which coincidentally, much like “Hustle,” are both movies that at least partially involve basketball. Now that we have completed the unofficial “Adam Sandler Basketball Trilogy,” can we please get a few more Adam Sandler projects involving golf? I would totally buy a Blu-ray boxset of the “Adam Sandler FORE Quadrilogy!”
Now I mentioned two completely different films that range in overall subject matters and quality. “Grown Ups” is a disposable, flat, dumb comedy that feels more like Adam Sandler wanted an excuse to gather with his friends to hang out for a number of weeks. Making the movie however was a pure afterthought. Then there was “Uncut Gems,” which is not a movie for everyone, but it was certainly one for me. It is a film that has a trademark zaniness to it that makes you feel like you are on drugs within the first ten minutes, only to have the high peak by the end of the runtime. It felt like there was a commitment to the craft. Even Kevin Garnett of all people could act! Who ever thought I would be saying that?
If I had to put “Uncut Gems” and “Grown Ups” on a seesaw, the two films feel rather out of balance. If I take one off and let “Hustle” take its place, the balance is somewhat restored, because I think “Hustle” has the pinch of lightheartedness, charm perhaps, of “Grown Ups,” while also feeling like we are seeing the same level of commitment Sandler and crew put into a movie like “Uncut Gems.” “Hustle” is a genuinely good film, and part of me is delightfully surprised because Adam Sandler movies are like a box of chocolates. You never know if you are going to smile, laugh, cringe, or have your heart beat straight out of your chest. I would say “Hustle” brings more smiles and laughs than anything else.
“Hustle” does not have quite the same laughs that you would get in say “Big Daddy” or “Happy Gilmore.” That said, the film occasionally has its moments of levity. And while Adam Sandler is known for being funny, I do not think that is the greatest strength in “Hustle.” The greatest strength in regard to “Hustle” is instead its captivation, its ability to inspire. I can say that after watching “Hustle,” it did not make me want to work out. It did not make me want to join the NBA. I am not much of an athlete and I am literally sitting on a bed right now with a party size pack of Lay’s Wavy chips as I type part of this review. But I think if I were a certain age, or in a certain mood, I would probably be inspired to partake in such activities if I had the proper motivation. Speaking of motivation, this is something that brings me to another strength of the film, how much it reminded me of my own life.
It is odd to think about, but as someone who is not exactly fit and eats fast food all the time, I somehow relate to the main baller of the film, Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez) (left). I will not dive into spoilers, but this film presents an issue on mental health, self esteem if you will. There is a key plot point in the film where we see Bo Cruz playing ball and someone in particular is “getting inside his head.” Obviously, the goto counter here would be to tough it out, not listen to a word this person says, which may say something about how men live with toxic masculinity but the film uses this issue to tell an effective story. It reminds me of why I sometimes fail to complete certain tasks or goals, it is either because I am not good enough at something, or someone on a variant of the receiving end decreases my motivation or makes me feel like I am not as skilled as I actually am. It is possibly why throughout my years in school I failed certain assignments. It is not because I am incapable of getting these things done. Sometimes I might be incapable (I am terrible with foreign languages), although that is not the point. But without dropping names, during my school years, there have been outside forces that brought me particular worries. This is also why I am not athletic material. It is not that I am incapable of handling being called silly names (What do you think I do here on Scene Before?), but this movie presents a case where being an athlete implies that you will only get better with what could perhaps be perceived as “tough love” and embracing each moment as if you were a statue.
One of my favorite movies of all time is the 2014 sensation “Whiplash,” where Miles Teller stars as a jazz student and the one thing standing in his way is an obnoxious teacher played by JK Simmons. Adam Sandler definitely plays a more encouraging coach compared to JK Simmons as the previously established teacher, but there are tiny glimmers of the relationship between Adam Sandler and Juancho Hernangómez’s characters that remind me of Teller and Simmons because Sandler occasionally relies on unusual tactics to teach Hernangómez how to be a better basketball player. Thankfully for Hernangómez’s noggin, Sandler never throws a chair at him. But sticking with the mental health theme, there is a point where Sandler calls the student’s mother a whore to mess with his head.
There are few problems I have with “Hustle,” although I would say that the movie does become a tad predictable at certain points. That is not to suggest I did not enjoy the ride, but as someone who has seen certain movies about athletes, I could tell where certain things may have been going. There are also certain trademarks of Bo Cruz’s character we see during the film that start off as a joke, become an important plot point, but by the end of the film, I am not necessarily thinking about it all that much, it almost feels like filler, but it barely qualifies as something that isn’t. That said, “Hustle” is worth a watch. I am not much of an athlete, but even I would say that this movie is not quite out of bounds.
In the end, “Hustle” is a fun, smile-inducing story about an aspiring athlete. It is a film where an American scout and a Spanish baller develop an unlikely bond filled with charisma, even if it is a business relationship. The film, to my surprise, starred some actual NBA athletes who had some genuine acting talent. I was delighted to know that Bo Cruz was portrayed by a forward with NBA experience. Anthony Edwards also makes an appearance in the film. No, not Goose from “Top Gun.” But I am talking about the Anthony Edwards who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Their acting talents are beyond what I would have expected for professional basketball players, especially after seeing two “Space Jam” movies where the lead NBA players give laughable performances. To be fair though, the direction and script may have to do with such performances in those cases. Having said that, check out “Hustle” whenever you can, and I am going to give the movie a 7/10.
“Hustle” is now playing in select theatres and is now available on Netflix.
Thanks for reading this review! If you want to read more of my recent content, feel free to check out a post I did on the endless reasons why I cannot stop watching “Belle,” an anime from last year that may have warranted more repeat viewings than a vast majority of the movies I have watched throughout my life. It is that good, and in this 5,000 word post, I will tell you why. Also, speaking of “that good,” my next review is going to be for the all new film from Daniels, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” I finally got a chance to see this film in the cinema, just in the nick of time before it became available for streaming, and without going into detail, I have things to say. Plenty of them in fact. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Hustle?” What did you think about it? Or, here is a creative question, what is your favorite Adam Sandler movie involving sports? For me, I have to go with “Happy Gilmore.” Any movie where an out of shape dude punches Bob Barker in the face is worth at least one watch. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Top Gun: Maverick” is directed by Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) and stars Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible, Risky Business), Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Hulk), Miles Teller (Whiplash, Fantastic Four), Jon Hamm (Keeping Up with the Joneses, Baby Driver), Glen Powell (Scream Queens, Hidden Figures), Lewis Pullman (The Strangers: Prey at Night, Bad Times at the El Royale), Ed Harris (Dumb and Dumber, Apollo 13), and Val Kilmer (Batman Forever, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). This film is a sequel over three and a half decades in the making, and follows Pete Mitchell once again as he finds himself in a situation where he teaches younger fighter pilots at Top Gun, including the son of someone he previously flew alongside, making matters personal.
“Top Gun” is a weird movie. I imagine that some people consider it to either be their favorite Tom Cruise movie or maybe even their favorite movie in general. To me, it’s neither. It’s a solid film, but in terms of Cruise’s filmography, it ranks down the middle for me. For all I know, part of why people like it so much could be for nostalgic reasons. I did not grow up in the 1980s, and if you want me to be real, looking back at “Top Gun,” despite the film’s evident advancements in capturing cinematic dogfighting, it feels like a product of its time. It has some cheesy dialogue here and there, the songs feel very much out of the 1980s time period, and the stakes for me did not feel as high as other movies. Then again, it is hard to have stakes when you have fighter pilots that are not actually going up against other fighter pilots, for the most part. But I will also give “Top Gun” credit because for a film where there is almost no threat to begin with, the film still has plenty of intrigue and gives us enough reasons to care for the characters, and not just because they are spiking volleyballs without shirts on.
The best thing about this sequel is that it successfully builds off of a key point of the original. Despite what I said about the stakes being low, there is a moment in the original movie where the main character of Pete Mitchell has to face an event with potentially dire consequences. Thankfully for him, the consequences are not as bad as they could have been. That is, until the events of “Top Gun: Maverick,” where they come back to haunt him, in addition to haunting one of his students.
I am glad that this movie has as good of a story as it does, because without those things, the movie would still be watchable for what it is, but I am satisfied to say that “Top Gun: Maverick” is not a movie that mainly relies on big, loud spectacle, and instead, blends such a thing perfectly into the material written for its respective pages.
On that note, however, my biggest positive for “Top Gun: Maverick” is the spectacle. Through my six years on Scene Before, I have always forwarded a singular thought. Movies are ALWAYS better in the theater. Even a movie as terrible as 2019’s “Cats” is better in a theater because of the weird spectacle. That said, if there is any movie that I recommend you go see in a theater right now, I not only recommend “Top Gun: Maverick,” but this movie commands your attention and it is one you need to see on the biggest screen you can. I had the privilege of going to see “Top Gun: Maverick” at a true IMAX cinema ten minutes from where I live. It was their first weekend open since the beginning of the pandemic, and walking out of the theater, I could barely even move because of how boisterous this movie was. And this movie was not boisterous because it looked like yet another cranked out Hollywood production with tons of digitzed effects, but because a lot of it was actually done for real.
Many of the film’s actors ended up using and flying real planes throughout the film. In an age where more and more movies are relying on green screen, or more recently, StageCraft, it is thrilling to see a film that pushes the boundaries of human limitations while also putting a pinch of reality in our fantasies. Tom Cruise, unsurprisingly, pilots a plane in this film. There are restrictions to his piloting, but knowing and seeing that only enhances the final product. I have had conversations with people where they said Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is perhaps the manliest person alive. Sure, he’s got the LOOKS of a man with his big strong arms and attractive bald head. But let me know when he pilots a real military jet for audiences around the world to witness, as they bite their nails thinking, “this is the part where he crashes, isn’t it?”. No, seriously. I have watched a lot of movies. Between the previous “Mission: Impossible” and this movie, Tom Cruise is on a trend where he continues to captivate me harder into a scene than most actors, including ones that are perhaps more likely to be nominated for Oscars. And it is not because of how he goes through a scene delivering his dialogue, managing his physicality, and keeping his fellow actors in check. It is because of how much of a daredevil he has become over the years. Even in movies that were not well received like “The Mummy,” you could still look at Tom Cruise’s stuntwork and recognize the effort put into it. I am not saying “Top Gun: Maverick” is my favorite movie of the year. But it is a contender for the movie I will thinking about this year the most in terms of how it has projected me into an environment where I may has well been so close to falling to my death. For that reason alone, you should see “Top Gun: Maverick” on the biggest screen you can find.
However, “Top Gun: Maverick” also faces a problem depending on how you look at things. The movie, even though I believe modern audiences will enjoy it, gets too caught up in the good old days. The opening scene, while an amazing welcoming back to the “Top Gun” universe, only works because of how much it rips off the original movie. The midpoint of the film features an incredible scene between two characters. I will not say much more, but let’s just say that I, an aspiring writer, could not have written a better, more engaging scene between these two characters. You will know it when you see it.
However, there is another moment where everyone starts singing a particular song that did not feel authentic. It felt like nostalgia bait for the sake of nostalgia bait. There are movies that tend to rely on fan service and nostalgia that do such things well. I think “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” did it well when that movie came out. “Top Gun: Maverick” on the other hand, was a little on the nose and it did not land as well as it could have. Some might enjoy it, some might not. Although I thought it was great to hear “Danger Zone” once again. But that also goes to show how one can be emotionally attached to something and therefore perceive something as good. I liked the original “Top Gun,” but I never thought it was my favorite movie. The original “Star Wars” trilogy was something I watched incessantly as a kid, enjoyed immensely, and therefore it is part of why I felt a spark of joy when certain things happened in “The Force Awakens.”
That’s a minor nitpick, but I want to point out a couple things in regard to this film’s depth. First off, I think at times, the relationship between the characters of Pete Mitchell and Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) felt a tad forced at times. They had chemistry, but it was overall very off and on. I personally think Cruise had better chemistry with Kelly McGillis’s character of Charlie back in the 1986 predecessor. In my review for the original “Top Gun,” I said that I learned of Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise, the actors, not getting along on set. Having searched more information on that as of recently, I would not know if that is actually true because the only source I have telling me that as of recently is the “Top Gun” IMDb page, which may not be the most reliable place to base one’s information. I will note that McGillis spoke out regarding this love interest shift not long ago, saying she is happy for Jennifer Connelly, so I am glad to see there are no hard feelings.
Speaking of depth, let’s talk about the enemy of “Top Gun: Maverick.” There are multiple references to “the enemy” in “Top Gun: Maverick.” We do not know who they are. Apparently this is also the case in the original movie where the Top Gun pilots have to go into actual combat against another force. In today’s age, I kind of get why they never specifically identify an “enemy” in “Top Gun: Maverick.” The film business is about money, and if Paramount makes a “Top Gun” movie where they identify Germany as the enemy, then chances are they are never going to release the film in Germany as it would tick some people off. If the movie identifies Japan as the enemy, then they can kiss a Japanese release goodbye as some viewers would probably dislike seeing their country as the antagonist. Maybe this is to suggest that the pilots could go up against multiple enemies at the same time, but nevertheless. At a certain point of the movie, there is one specific enemy force that comes into play, but again, we do not know who they are. This movie is fiction, it is not based on actual war. It is not like we are watching “Dunkirk” or “The Patriot” where the sides are specific of an actual time and place, even if they involve fictional characters to further the story along. That said, even though I prefer the story of “Top Gun: Maverick” to the original, it is not free from nitpicks. Even so, you should see this movie. I give it a thumbs up, and I think it is a film that almost anyone can have a good time watching.
In the end, “Top Gun: Maverick” is a blockbuster you should see this summer on the biggest screen possible. I do recommend watching the original first as it does help you appreciate the story of this sequel more, there are many ways to watch “Top Gun” from home, but I do not recommend skipping out on “Top Gun: Maverick” during its theatrical run. Do not wait for Paramount+, do not wait for VOD, do not wait for the Blu-ray. If you are going to watch this movie, find the biggest screen with the loudest sound you can. Buy some popcorn, grab a soda, have a good time. Take your friends, take your family, this is certainly a crowd-pleasing movie that delivers the thrills. As of writing this review, I have tickets to go see this movie a second time with someone close to me. I am going to give “Top Gun: Maverick,” despite my nitpicks, a really high 7/10.
“Top Gun: Maverick” is now playing in theaters everywhere, including large formats like IMAX and Dolby. Tickets are available now!
Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review for “Top Gun: Maverick” and want to see more of my thoughts on the franchise, check out my review that I did in 2020 for the original “Top Gun” as part of my special Tom Cruise Month! Fun fact, I did this special partially because “Top Gun: Maverick” was not able to come out in 2020! Also coming up on Scene Before, I have two reviews on deck. Pretty soon you will see my thoughts on the new Netflix film “Hustle,” starring Adam Sandler as a basketball scout. My next review after that will be for one my most anticipated movies of the year, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” I waited forever to see this film, I finally got to watch it with my dad last night, and I promise you I have plenty to say about it. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Top Gun: Maverick?” What did you think about it? Or, which is the better movie? “Top Gun” or “Top Gun: Maverick?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Throughout my time writing for Scene Before, I have done several reviews that I feel proud of. This even includes earlier years when I continued to develop a writing style and focused maybe more than I should have on immersing the viewer into the review like I am on a camera. Although there are certain movies that I watched for Scene Before, looking back, where I probably should have reconsidered at least a portion of my opinion after writing over a thousand words about them. Some of these include “Suicide Squad,” “Blade Runner 2049,” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” If I were to rewrite my reviews for all of these films, I would add in certain points, redo points that I feel have changed, and perhaps alter the final score. But I am not going to talk about any of these films today. Instead, I am going to be reflecting on a movie I reviewed over the winter that has sort of met the same fate. While my opinions for “Blade Runner 2049” have only changed slightly, this post is about a movie I would claim has gone through a seismic shift kind of like “Suicide Squad.”
That movie by the way, is “Belle” directed by Mamoru Hosoda.
To sum up what has been going on in my life recently, this movie has taken up over ten hours of my screen time alone. Why? Because since its official Blu-ray release, I watched it for five nights in a row. I did watch other movies in addition to this one during the week, specifically “The Graduate,” which was utterly fantastic. Highly recommended. “Rampage,” which is… Well, it is what it is. And I also watched “Friends with Benefits” for the first time, which I thought was humorous and delightful. I watched “Belle” every night for five nights since I bought it on Blu-ray on Tuesday, May 17th. Why did I not watch it for six nights in a row? Because I was going on a short getaway on what could have been the sixth night, and I did not pack the movie to watch in my hotel room. I was more focused on possibly giving my money to Connecticut casinos more than anything else. Since getting back, I watched it two more nights in a row. That said, I cannot recall the last time I have bought a film on Blu-ray and watched it at this constant of a level. Naturally, I have no choice but to talk about it.
I want to make something clear, to say I have a working knowledge of Japanese anime would be like saying that since I am from Boston, I therefore consider the New York Yankees to be my favorite baseball team. “Belle” is one of the couple movies within the Japanese anime medium that I have fully watched. The other one that comes to mind is “Ghost in the Shell.” I believe I also remember seeing “Howl’s Moving Castle” somewhere around a decade ago. That was before I knew what anime happened to be by definition. And I will be real with you, even though I did not mind “Ghost in the Shell,” which I first watched at the age of 17, it did not emit a spark inside me to explore more of what anime has to offer. “Belle” on the other hand, did so dramatically. Although after I watched “Belle” for the first time, I did start watching Adult Swim’s “Blade Runner: Black Lotus,” which technically is an anime series. So since I watched “Belle,” I have gone a tad deeper into the genre, but after many countless revisits to the film “Belle,” I want more anime in my life. With that said, I want to talk about why “Belle” means so much to me as someone who has spent over half of their life on the Internet, including a portion where social media has practically taken over my life in more ways than one. I will let you know, while this is not a full spoiler discussion, I am going to do my best to not ruin the whole the movie, there will be points where I do dive deep into key characters or plot points. So if that is a problem, leave this post now, go watch “Belle,” and come back when you are done. I will be waiting. That said, let’s dive into the many reasons why I cannot stop watching “Belle.”
A MATURE REINVENTION
When I originally reviewed “Belle” for this blog, I compared it to “Beauty and the Beast” because first off, the title character is literally named Belle, well, kind of. Also, much of the movie revolves around her connection to someone who is literally referred to as a Beast. If that is not enough, there is a scene in the film that is not a complete ripoff, but heavily pays homage to Disney’s 1991 “Beauty and the Beast,” which Hosoda himself claims to adore, as the two recently mentioned characters come together in a scene where they slow dance and embrace each other in a large castle. My other claim I made during my review is that this film could potentially become less of a timeless piece than others because of how reminiscent it is of the “Beauty and the Beast” tale. Knowing what I know about “Belle,” the story threads are not quite one in the same. There are some similarities, especially in the one scene where Belle and the Beast dance together, but “Belle” is its own thing. “Beauty and the Beast,” at its core, is more of a love tale than anything else. “Belle” is a mix of cyberpunk, drama, and adventure.
I often talk about the animation genre and how much I appreciate when it understands what I consider to be the assignment. Because a lot of animations are made for kids, and obviously there is content out there that you can tell is specifically made for children, not for adults at all. There is content that is obviously made with the intention of educating kids. This has been revealed with television content like “Dora the Explorer.” But at the same time, there have been multiple instances where we get movies that are meant to give families an excuse to entertain their kids, but not the adults bringing the kids. This is what Pixar has evidently understood with every one of their movies. They do not treat them as children’s fare. There’s a difference between a film that kids can enjoy, and a film that families can enjoy. Even with a more ridiculous script like “Cars 2” or an occasional fart joke from movies like “Incredibles 2,” those movies are ones I continue to watch as an adult because it understands that if the movie is purely made to entertain kids, then it does not have staying power. “Inside Out” is a movie that I think could entertain children if you sat them in front of the television, but as an adult, I am watching the movie and feeling an appreciation for how it handles emotions and growth during adolescence. These are themes and ideas that can connect to anyone from a variety of backgrounds, ages, and life stories.
“Belle,” much like the many Pixar movies I have watched over the years, refuses to treat its audience like they are idiots. In fact, I think in some cases, it tries even harder to avoid doing so. There’s no corny humor, you have incredibly humanized and relatable storylines, and there are also scenes that feel more like they are out of a live-action script than an animated script. There is one moment in a train station where a few characters meet and there are these long pauses between lines that give the audience a moment to breathe, while also letting the characters think for themselves. I occasionally watch Animation Domination cartoons like “Bob’s Burgers” and “Family Guy” and often notice that in their scripts, everything is mile a minute, which can work by keeping the audience on their toes, but it also destroys hints of realism. Granted, it is an animation, which by definition, should be less realistic than live-action, but I also think that sometimes even in animations, you should have some degree of verisimilitude to remind your audience that your world has rules. Not everything has to be within the confines of Murphy’s Law.
A HILARLIOUSLY ACCURATE LOOK AT THE INTERNET, CELEBRITY INFLUENCERS, AND FAN CULTURE
I honestly think “Belle” could not have come out at a better time when it did. The Internet and social media are still young, so who knows how things will turn out in a hundred years, but “Belle” seems to paint an attractive picture of what those two things could look like, while also inserting satire on our modern Internet behavior. Granted, this movie is on the family friendly side, therefore it never dives into concepts like pornography or the darker sides of dating sites like Tinder, although romance is prominent in the film, coincidentally. But I found much of “Belle’s” script unapologetically reflective of how the Internet tends to work. If anything, it is a bang on the money encapsulation of what could equate to cancel culture. Case and point, Peggie Sue.
The role Peggie Sue plays in “Belle” is minimal, but effective and important in every single way. We get our first glimpse of her when the main protagonist, Suzu, has a hesitancy to sing at a party, despite being pressured by her peers. The party space is accompanied with a flat screen television complete with Peggie Sue singing a pop song, perhaps in the form of an expensive music video or a concert. This happens before Suzu enters U and to her surprise, belts out a song with fluency and power. When Suzu, or in this case, her avatar, becomes increasingly noticed by U’s userbase, Peggie Sue herself acknowledges this and does not see anything special in the rising star. At one point, she lashes out against Belle’s popularity on a giant screen, which instantly receives tons of backlash and practically gets her cancelled. There are definitely more dangerous things she could have said. She could have mocked a disability. She could have announced she was giving money to a hate group. She could have said the n-word. But even so, this movie presents an example of the classic “think before you post” scenario, which I think many users, including myself, have probably run into at one point or another through our times on the Internet. Whether we did it ourselves, we observed such an action through someone we know, or some celebrity. But at the same time, this movie tells its audience that even if you say stupid things, it does not mean you cannot be redeemed. You can still be a decent person. There is a scene at the end of the film involving said character where we reveal more about her that brings her down to Earth where such a thing comes into play. It reminds us that we are human and we can take our mistakes and turn them around, learn from them essentially. And if you learn more about someone, sometimes it will get you to understand them, possibly admire them.
Peggie Sue is not the only prominent voice speaking out against Suzu as she rises, because when she starts singing and getting all these followers, we see that she makes a splash. It looks like Suzu, or her avatar, Bell, which is what Suzu means in English, has all the support and fans she could want. But as soon as we are done hearing all the positive feedback, Sue lets her negative thoughts out to the world, therefore spawning even more negative thoughts from ordinary people. They either do not like her voice, they think the songs are lackluster, or she is simply performing for the likes. In a case like this, it takes one higher power to build a following.
FORESEEABLE LOOK AT THE FUTURE, WHILE ALSO FOCUSING ON THE PRESENT
Speaking of Suzu, the main journey of “Belle” is Suzu’s dive into U, which I claim is a sexier version of what Meta is trying to achieve. If anything, it’s like the OASIS from “Ready Player One,” but without extreme emphasis on currency and less reliance on preexisting properties from “Batman” to “Halo.” The world of U is much different from our reality given how it is more colorful, physics are almost ignored altogether, and as the movie reveals, the platform’s trademark is that it reveals a hidden strength of each user. In the beginning of the film, we see that despite Suzu having a history with music, she sometimes struggles when it comes to singing. So of course, when we see Belle enter U, the first thing she does is, to her shock, utter the lyrics of “Gales of Song,” one of the film’s few enchanting originals. We will dive more into those in a second. Suzu’s U debut, as previously mentioned, is met with mixed reception upon first glance, half of the people passing by like her. Half do not. But this is also reflective of several music artists of today where their haters are just as prominent as their fans. You may notice this with artists like Justin Bieber or Kanye West. This also brings up a positive message when Suzu notices she has an influx of followers. When Suzu’s friend, Hiroka Betsuyaku, or Hiro for short, the one who suggested that she should join U in the first place, reminds Suzu that a good portion of the millions of people who have seen her through the platform admire her, she should not forget that. She should not let the hate, trolling, and doubt get to her.
What I love about this movie so much is that in today’s mixed Internet culture, “Belle” is a movie that reminds its audience that the Internet, despite its occasional thorns, can also be a rose of positivity. The Internet has helped me in various ways by letting me discover that I am not alone with some of my weird hobbies like riding elevators. Social media has spawned some of my best companionships. I even met a couple of friends I made on social media in real life, either through chance or by arrangement. I have gained valuable friendships through my time in high school, but I feel like my friendships through social media have helped me define who I am today more than almost any other friendship I have experienced.
Despite taking place in what I would assume happens to be present day, “Belle” also spawns a ton of questions about social media’s future, because it is revealed that in the world of U, you cannot have more than one avatar. You can alter your avatar as we notice Belle wears different outfits at various points of the story, but that avatar is the only one you have. I have gone on YouTube and noticed some people have more than one account, or sometimes on sites like Twitter, people will create different accounts for different aspects of their personality. Will we be seeing less of that if we get closer to U being a reality? That is a thought provoking question if you ask me. This film also reveals that there is still a culture of trolling on the Internet, with the Dragon and Peggie Sue being a couple of the film’s examples if you will. But one thing the film never dives into all that much is bots. The closest thing I can note that U has to bots is the Dragon’s AIs, but that’s about it. My question is, how “bot-proof” is U? Even when there are trolls in U, there is often a soul behind the one doing the trolling. Although there is probably a good reason why bots never appear in U, because the idea of U involves the user immersing themselves by activating a specific device that is meant to project themselves into U, and I am not just talking about their phone. Every U user attaches buds to their ears, bringing them into the digital landscape as their respective avatar. This is done through body-sharing technology, where the user’s biometric information is interlinked with their avatar. And while there are reflective physical traits that are represented in Suzu’s avatar, most specifically freckles, the U platform tends to provide an enhancement, a level up if you will, of one’s mentality, outlook, or experiences. In Suzu’s case, she lost her mom at a young age, which is a fraction of why she is a shadow amongst her peers. In addition, her singing skills are not up to the par she would prefer. This is why she has increased confidence and singing abilities upon entering U.
COMPELLING, POWERFUL ORIGINAL SONGS
And when you have a film like this that heavily revolves around music, chances are that the songs have to be good, otherwise the film would not be as convincing or effective. “Belle” has a few originals, all of which have their own style. The film’s main theme, U, has an incredibly poppy, upbeat, and sexy feel to it to the point where it belongs on a top 40 playlist, but feels different enough that it is not annoying. It is the kind of song you would want to hear when walking into a large nightclub. It is a perfect main theme for the film because it basically just says, “Come join U! We’re all happy here and everyone is having a good time!” It also shows how one platform can change your life in an instant. Much like how Suzu has gone from a nobody to a U diva, we have seen tons of unexpected personalities on platforms like YouTube or TikTok over the years.
“So, linе up, the party’s over here Come one, come all, jump into the fire Step up, we are whatever we wanna be We are free, that’s all we desire When you pass through the veil of fantasy There’s a world with a rhythm for you and me.”
At the same time though, it is a perfect metaphor for the Internet itself. There is a lyric in the song, specifically “I wanna know who you are, I wanna know it all,” which is not only reflective of the developed mystery behind Belle’s identity, but it reminds me of many of my relationships on the Internet. I feel like through the Internet I get to know a certain version of a person, but I would secretly love to meet them in real life to get to know the real them.
When Suzu enters U, she first sings a piece titled Gales of Song, which compared to the film’s previously mentioned main theme, perhaps relies significantly less on lyrics. Gales of Song is perfectly executed when first introduced because it is simple enough, and has enough pauses to allow Suzu to adapt to her avatar. It is like when you get inside a car for the first time and you are learning how to drive. It takes Suzu a second to understand all the mechanics, but when she starts getting the hang of things, that is when she gets increased attention from U’s userbase, both positive and negative. Lend Me Your Voice is a song that could have gone wrong because of how the scene it links to sort of pays homage to Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” but the orchestral power of the song hits hard, and the lyrics are occasionally on the verge of heart-wrenching. And speaking of heart-wrenching, don’t even get me started on the film’s longest and perhaps most important song, A Million Miles Away, which I previously awarded the Jackoff for Best Original Song during this year’s ceremony. To this day, it is one of the only songs I have heard to make me wipe tears from my face because when you watch the movie, it is THAT powerful.
That last song goes to show this film’s power of silence, because some of its best moments are simply when there is little to no dialogue, we are just watching people doing things. When we first see Suzu and her mother early on in the film, there is this wonderfully edited montage of the two doing things together, which shows Suzu developing a knack for music. There is no spoken dialogue, just a soft variant of A Million Miles Away. I even go back to the moments where characters have specific pauses while talking, allowing for some genuine lifelike reactions. The scene in the train station with a few core characters, Suzu included, comes to mind. But even within these lifelike reactions, we see some heightened emotions or cues that allow animation to shine. I will not go into much detail, but this movie is not short on blushed cheeks or visible tears.
And I am constantly talking about the film’s lyrical songs for good reason, but I should also note that the official score for “Belle” contains one of the best utilizations of stringed instruments I have EVER heard.
STUNNING CINEMATOGRAPHY, ANIMATION
Technically speaking, “Belle” is literally what the name means, beautiful. Many of the film’s wides are ingrained in my memory. The world of U is a place I could imagine myself diving into in the future. Belle’s outfits in U are astoundingly eye-popping. As depressing as the real world may be in comparison, this film has some gorgeously drawn locations. It kind of makes me want to travel to rural Japan to see what it is actually like. My favorite shot in the film however, if not one of my favorite shots, is probably set in U, when we see a closeup of Suzu singing A Million Miles Away, staring into the distance when her surroundings turn dark. It is the simplest shot of all time, but for some reason, Suzu’s concentration on what lies ahead is evident. My reason for liking this shot is potentially because of a certain context, but as much as I may be revealing about this film, there are some things I would rather keep hidden, such as moments of the scene where said shot takes place.
To me, one of the most visible reasons why I adore “Belle” so much is the same basis behind why I loved another recent film, “CODA,” from the moment I saw it. They are two completely different films by several means, and in various ways, their protagonists are significantly unalike. For example, Suzu doesn’t have any deaf family members or friends, as far as we know. And “CODA’s” protagonist, Ruby Rossi, still communicates with her parents on a regular basis. Her mother is still alive, and even though the movie shows some occasional resistance between her parental relationships, Ruby has a steady connection with her father. “Belle” is a movie that allows its main hero to show off what makes them ordinary, and therefore have that mundaneness make them extraordinary. This is especially true in the climax of the film when Suzu sings A Million Miles Away. We learn more about what this song is, and that added dose made the scene go from great to… not to continue the overuse of this word, cinema. Simultaneously, Suzu has millions of followers on U, she barely talks to her dad anymore, and she spends several scenes with a talking dragon. There are some definite differences between the two protagonists, but at the end of the day, Suzu’s normality, what makes her human, what makes Suzu, quite literally Suzu, allows her to persevere later in the film’s runtime. This also highlights a notable trait about the Internet. And this trait is especially true when it comes to the Beast, as many characters have questions about his identity. That trait being how not everyone really knows who you are on the Internet. We constantly build these images of people and what we think they are like. Maybe they are incredibly wealthy. Maybe they are a predator. Maybe they are younger than they advertise themselves to be. We do not know everything about everyone. This is why sometimes I may do research on certain people before talking to them, or if there is a public figure on social media, I make an effort to ensure that they are verified.
Some of my favorite movies in recent years have been animated, because despite their otherworldly nature, they have an attractive down to earth element that sometimes is not as effective in live-action. If we are not talking about “Belle,” the most effective example that comes to mind is “Over the Moon,” which is currently on Netflix. The reason why I found that movie down to earth despite mostly taking place in space is because it is a movie I think my 13, 14, 15-year-old self would have needed to watch at those specific ages. Because I was going through a tough time where my parents were no longer in love, and there were specific story elements or beats that reminded me of that time and felt completely relatable. In the same way, maybe not as much, but nevertheless, I think “Belle” is a movie I would have shown to my 15, 16-year-old self, because I was new to social media at the time. I had an idea of how it worked, but I did not realize how addicted I may have been to it. Sure, there were many positives to it like meeting new people, finding new friends, joining a community. But I also did not realize how much I cared about followers. I cared more than I should have. I thought I was cool when in reality I may have just been desperate for attention. And I am not saying that it is a bad thing to have tons of followers, but I feel like this movie could have been a reminder to myself that maybe I should not have tried as hard to worry about getting followers. It’s like the famous quote in “Field of Dreams,” “If you build it, they will come.” In the same way, Suzu started out as a nobody, and one unexpected turn of events turned her into a somebody, even if that somebody was an alternate version of her.
I think “Belle” is a film that paints a picture of the Internet and shows its strengths. Because by the end of the film, it allows people to come together in a way that delivers a positive impact. It shows how the Internet can change people’s lives and make them better despite some occasional toxicity on a number of sides.
POSSIBLE IMPERFECTIONS WITHIN A FLAWED MASTERPIECE
I think if there are any flaws with “Belle,” it would be three things, but they do not affect my overall enjoyment of the film. There are such things as flawed masterpieces. “Risky Business” is one of my favorite films of all time, but I will tell you that the last scene feels incredibly out of place. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is one of my favorite science fiction films of the past decade, but even I will admit that the film owes its success to the original installment it tends to copy. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is one of the most beautifully violent, outrageously balls to the wall movies I have ever watched, but you could quite literally remove Margot Robbie’s character from the script and have little to no effect on the overall plot. That said, let’s dive into my few issues with “Belle,” if you want to call them that. Because in some cases, I also claim they do not bother me that much.
The first issue I have is specifically with the English dub. I do not speak Japanese, but it sounded fine on the Japanese version. When I watched this film at home a few times in English, there was one key line from Justin, or Justian if you watched the Japanese version, it sounded incredibly important, but much of what he said was muffled over all of the music. It was GREAT music, but nevertheless. Who directed this scene? Christopher Nolan?! For all I know, it could be my television, but the sound on it has been pretty good by itself over the years without any external speakers or sound bars, so who knows? The second flaw, and this is perhaps a more important issue that could also be seen as a strength, I think the relationship between Suzu and her father was kind of surface level. Not much was shown to reveal their distance. I think it almost makes me forget sometimes that they are drift apart, mainly because it is such a small part of this two hour movie. But at the same time, you could make an argument that such a thing was kind of the point. The movie wants you to realize that these two individuals barely talk to each other despite living together. And in a way, the movie successfully did that. So that is a tossup. The other, flaw, if you will, is not something that bothered me specifically, but I could see it bothering other people. Not that I have seen anyone bringing it up. There is a character in the film by the name of Shinobu, and despite his best intentions, there are a couple scenes where his connection to Suzu could come off as maybe closer than it should. From his eyes, he kind of sees himself as someone who tries to protect Suzu. This is something he has done for her since her mom died. It’s a friendly gesture, but it could also be overprotective. In a way, since Suzu’s mom died, Shinobu filled said mother’s shoes from time to time. The movie does address this though, and it shows that Suzu realizes this and at one point refuses to let this get in her way. So I would not consider it a big deal, but having seen one or two moments in the film, I could see certain viewers having a particular perception of Shinobu’s character or his connection to Suzu that maybe I did not. The movie is bound to age well if you ask me despite its influence from “Beauty and the Beast,” but I will remind you, this film is not a ripoff of a classic tale, if anything it is a reinvention. It is not a love story, it is a cautionary human drama that warns its viewers to be careful in regard to what they see, do, and say on the Internet. Or in some cases, in real life.
I highly recommend “Belle” to almost anyone, and I kind of mean that because anime was never my genre. I have a history of enjoying animated content, but not much from Japan. Now that I have seen this movie, it has opened my eyes to more of what Japan has to offer, including Mamoru Hosoda’s library, which I hear is incredible. I want to go ahead and check out some of his other movies. This is one of the few animated movies I have seen that I feel like is specifically not made for children. I think kids should watch it if the chance comes around, I think it is an important movie that everyone should watch at least one point in their life, especially now with the Metaverse expanding more than ever. The songs are catchy, well-written, and obnoxiously powerful. I do not often cry during movies, but the scene with A Million Miles Away is a literal tearjerker, so if you cry during movies, prepare yourself. I said that this is not a redo of my review, but if it were, I would be giving the movie a 10/10, because each time I watch the film, the more I realize I like it. I have gotten completely attached to Suzu as a character even though we have our differences. She is a perfect protagonist for this world, and this movie took her in a direction that enhanced its lesson to the audience. Just because someone is popular, it does not mean that they are a narcissist. It does not mean that they are the kind of person some would make them out to be. Heck, I did not even talk about Ruka in this post and that is a whole other topic I could have gotten into. And instead of explaining everything about Ruka, I will let you see for yourself. Because “Belle” is now available on various home video formats including DVD and Blu-ray, if you have not gotten a chance to watch “Belle,” find a chance as soon as possible, because it is worth your time. It is one of my favorite animated movies, and with enough rewatches, it could potentially be in the conversation for one of my favorite movies period.
Thanks for reading this post! If you like this post, be sure to check out some of my other ones, including several of my reviews. One of my reviews is for the new Nicolas Cage film, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” or you could even read my most recent review, which is for “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” which is officially in theaters as of this weekend. If you want to see more non-review posts, please check out my response to movie theaters, and why I think they should play fewer trailers before the feature presentation. To find out my first impression of “Belle,” you can read my review that I posted in January! Hope you like it! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account, also check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, like I asked in my review, did you see “Belle?” What did you think about it? Also, I want to ask a question for the anime fans reading this, because I want to dive further into the genre. What anime products do you recommend? Let me know, because I am always looking for suggestions! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” is co-directed by Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman and stars H. Jon Benjamin (Family Guy, Archer), Dan Mintz (The Awesomes, Adventure Time), Eugene Merman (Archer, Delocated), Larry Murphy (Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Delocated), John Roberts (Watch What Happens: Live, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), Kristen Schaal (My Spy, Gravity Falls), Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, Missing Link), and Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda, Wild Wild West). This is the film debut for “Bob’s Burgers”, a show that currently airs half-hour episodes, Sundays on Fox. When the Belchers find themselves in a financial rut, specifically one that could potentially close their restaurant, things only get worse when a sinkhole forms right in front of their establishment, heavily affecting their potential traffic. Meanwhile, the Belcher children attempt to solve a mystery that could potentially save the restaurant.
“Bob’s Burgers” was never my goto show, but it was one of those shows that I would watch from time to time when nothing else is on and I want a quick, easy laugh. Because just about every time I put it on, I get that. The concept is simple, a dysfunctional family lives together and operates a burger joint. Within each episode, new shenanigans happen, and there are usually ridiculously fast-paced comedic attempts. The humor is the definition of mile a minute. That said, when I heard they were making a “Bob’s Burgers” movie, two thoughts came across my mind. First, why are we getting a “Bob’s Burgers” movie before “Family Guy?” On that note, if anyone at Fox would like to talk to me, I have an idea for a “Family Guy” movie. Actually, three of them, I’m still working on the third one, but bear with me. Second, I thought an idea like this can work. This is not the first time an adult Fox cartoon got the theatrical feature treatment as we have seen that with “The Simpsons Movie,” which I thought was particularly delightful. And in a show that has spawned as many iconic lines and memes as it has today, “The Simpsons Movie” doesn’t shy away from giving more. There is a joke in that movie where Homer literally gets caught between a rock and a hard place, and I arguably died watching that scene. My ghost is writing this review as we speak.
I have watched more of “The Simpsons” than “Bob’s Burgers” over the years, so I do not know as much about the latter. That said, when it comes to movies, I honestly think I liked “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” as much as “The Simpsons Movie” when I watched that from start to finish. And if you know the “Bob’s Burgers” show, chances are that the writing style and execution of various jokes and concepts in this film may be somewhat familiar to you. The movie is not short on quickly-timed, mile a minute humor. There was a laugh out of me almost every other minute or two. This movie felt good for the soul. Laughter truly is the best medicine. So if you are at home, you are sick, turn on this movie. You might feel better afterwards.
Now the movie, like the show, is titled “Bob’s Burgers,” therefore you would expect Bob, wonderfully voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, to be the shining star of the show. To me, he was not the beacon that illuminated the plot. That honor instead goes to Kristen Schaal’s character of Louise (right). Of all the characters in the film, she had my favorite arc. The film dives into some school drama where she is often referred to as a baby because of her potential avoidance of select scenarios. This comes into play throughout the film and by the end of it, I was perhaps rooting for her more than anyone else. I have no idea how much the film’s events are going to have an impact on the Fox series, but this film introduces some backstory to Louise’s character that I found rather touching. It gave depth to her and the Belcher family, it was well-executed.
At the same time, Tina, played by Dan Mintz, had some school drama that caught my attention. I say that lightly however because the film, as it is sort of advertised, takes place around the start of summer, so everyone is supposedly finishing school. Tina spends much of the film fantasizing about a boy, which provides for one, a perhaps relatable and look at teenagers fantasizing or fancying someone else they know, and two, a couple of my preferred comedy gags in the film. There is an entertaining scene where the two imaginative lovebirds are riding horses through the desert that had me chuckling quite a bit.
Bob and Linda are two hearts and souls of the show, and obviously, they make their presence visible in the film. The dynamic couple spend much of the film doing whatever they can to save their restaurant, either by convincing their banker, convincing their landlord, or convincing a bunch of people in an amusement park. The chemistry between these two is on point and I was not disappointed with how these two were written. That said, I think the film’s supporting characters had the more memorable journey to back them up.
Over the years, “Bob’s Burgers” has become somewhat known for crafting various original songs. And this leads me to my first big problem with the film. The film has a marvelous, catchy opening song, but the rest of the music did not quite live up to what that first song ended up bringing to the table. I do not hate musicals. Granted they are not my goto genre, but I do not hate them either. That said, one thing I recognize is somewhat hard to do in a musical is create a moment where someone can instantly jump into song and have it feel authentic enough either in that world or close enough to reality that the viewer can buy it. “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” has one of those moments, in addition to one or two songs that I may have already forgotten. As of writing this review, I somehow recalled one particular song, and immediately cringed upon remembering it, if you would like to further affirm my thoughts on the film’s music.
The other flaw of the film comes within the third act. I would be dropping massive spoilers if I went into it, so I would rather not talk about it. Especially considering how the movie has not released to the public yet. But I will just say that something happens in this third act that is incredibly crucial that was one, not executed in a fully satisfying way, and two, lacking in verisimilitude. “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” is a cartoon, therefore verisimilitude is not always the first thing that comes to mind. But I think even for a cartoon like this, there is something towards the end of the film that feels a little over the top. There’s a lot of imaginative concepts this movie was able to get away with for me because it felt real enough within the context of the “Bob’s Burgers” universe. But there was one thing that I think pushes it over the limit. I will not say what, but my complaint still stands.
In the end, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” is like a long, entertaining episode of the show. It is hilarious, fast-paced, and adventure-filled. I think if you are a fan of the show, this could be a longer, but familiar dose of entertainment. If you have never seen the show, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” could be a solid starting point. I do recommend it. I do have my problems with the film, and there are better movies that have come out this year, but for my two cents, I am going to give “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” a 7/10.
“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” is playing in theatres starting tonight, May 26th and will be released everywhere tomorrow, May 27th. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! This weekend, I am going to be seeing “Top Gun: Maverick,” so stay tuned for my thoughts on that film whenever they come about. Also, coming soon to Scene Before, I will be releasing an updated article, diving into heavy detail, on why Mamoru Hosoda’s new film, “Belle,” has jumped from being a great flick, to one of the best films I have seen in years. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Bob’s Burgers Movie?” What did you think about it? Or, which film based on a Fox animated show do you think is better? “The Bob’s Burgers Movie?” Or “The Simpsons Movie?” Personally, I would put them on the same level. I would have to think about it. But let me know your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is directed by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man) and stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Power of the Dog), Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla, Wind River), Chiwetel Ejiofor (The Lion King, 2012), Benedict Wong (Annihilation, Raya and the Last Dragon), Xochitl Gomez (The Baby-Sitters Club, Gentefied), Michael Stuhlbarg (The Shape of Water, Call Me by Your Name), and Rachel McAdams (Game Night, Mean Girls). This film is a sequel to the 2016 film “Doctor Strange,” it is the 28th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and follows the titular wizard as he joins forces with America Chavez on a reality-spanning journey to save the multiverse from impending doom, whilst also seeking the help from Wanda Maximoff and Wong.
The first “Doctor Strange” was a fun movie, and arguably the most visually stunning Marvel Cinematic Universe film at the time it came out. I went to see the film in IMAX 3D and had no regrets. Looking back, the climax was not that memorable, and neither was the film’s main antagonist. The latter is typical of these MCU films so why should I be surprised? I frankly feel the same way about “The Incredible Hulk,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Thor: The Dark World,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” among a few other movies in this universe. The villains do not always work, but at the same time, the movie is not about them. The movie is about the hero. And when it comes to establishing a great hero, the original “Doctor Strange” does that. The character has also been a highlight in other MCU titles where he is not the main focus, most recently “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Coincidentally, given that movie’s success and how much it have could have possibly teased what is to come in later MCU installments, including this one, I had high expectations for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” to the point where it may have been my most anticipated movie of the year, if not in my top 3.
Plus, get this, Sam Raimi has returned to direct comic book movies again! I ADORE Sam Raimi’s work on the “Spider-Man” movies, even the third one. Yes, I liked it. I don’t care. If you are not going to respect my opinion then I will put some dirt in your eye. How much do I like those “Spider-Man” movies? In addition to liking “Spider-Man 3,” totally digging the 2002 “Spider-Man” movie, and literally claiming “Spider-Man 2” to be my favorite comic book movie ever, I could think of few people more capable of helming a movie like this than Sam Raimi. In addition, the film from the start was said to have horror elements. Raimi has experience in the genre with movies like “Evil Dead” and “Drag Me to Hell,” so this added up to be a movie fit for Raimi’s chops. Danny Elfman is also here doing the score! He and Raimi have been partners for years! This is not Elfman’s first MCU rodeo, because he also scored “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” but I will say, having seen both films, his score for this movie is better than his 2015 counterpart.
What did I think of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?” I think the film definitely lives up to its name, that being madness. But I also think that when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is one of its more inferior installments. For the record, I was not one of those people looking for the most obscure cameos imaginable. That is not why I wanted to go see this movie. Yes, we have some cool moments from heroes like Captain Carter, which was shown in a couple television spots, but at the heart, this is a “Doctor Strange” movie and it does not distract itself from that. Just about every factor and decision that goes into the film’s script revolves around or is affected by Strange himself. The movie does not teeter away from that. In the same way, I would say from a directorial standpoint, this is very much a Sam Raimi film. From a directorial point of view, this is better than some of the other recent Marvel movies if you ask me. Even though I liked each installment in the Jon Watts “Spider-Man” trilogy, I feel like Watts did not have a distinct style by the end of the third film. His tendencies felt basic and there were some choices by the end that I would have changed. In the same way, I feel like “Black Widow” came off as a basic blockbuster shot on green screen. Cate Shortland, despite her best efforts, did not exactly reveal an individualistic touch I could grasp. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” even though it obviously has Kevin Feige’s showrunner-like ideas brought to the table, is very much a Sam Raimi film. Between the action and scares, it definitely has that Sam Raimi touch. Heck, Bruce Campbell’s even in the movie! I won’t say where or how, but he’s in it!
This sequel is as much of a visual feast as its predecessor. In fact, why wouldn’t it be? It is a multiverse-spanning movie, allowing for infinite visual possibilities. There is this one scene where we see America and Stephen jumping from one multiverse to another and it is a literal acid trip. Let me say, I am not one who chooses to partake in any heavy drug-related activities, but if there were a movie out right now that I would call a perfect choice for such activities, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a contender.
Speaking of activities I would mainly recommend for adults, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” presents a possible first in the MCU. If it is not a first, it is something that definitely has not happened in a long time. Every MCU movie so far has been PG-13. The TV shows have always been TV-14. So if you are a teenager, chances are you can probably handle what is on screen. But that does not mean that select younger viewers cannot watch this content either. I know some families have gone to see MCU movies in the theater. Kids often like these movies. Having seen “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” this is the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I would recommend parents consider leaving the kids at home for. I am not saying that kids cannot watch it. If they want to watch this movie, there is nothing wrong with that. But all I am saying is that parents should be prepared for what this movie has to offer, because this may be the least kid-friendly MCU movie yet. It is definitely more kid-friendly than the R rated DC action-adventure “The Suicide Squad,” which came out last year, but you have been warned.
What do I mean? There is tons of violence that rises above the levels of what the MCU has depicted thus far, including some gorey moments. Once again I go back to the notion that this is the first movie in this universe to truly have elements of horror. Sure, there are moments in the MCU that could be considered dark. We’ve seen Asgard fall in “Thor: Ragnarok.” We see Peter Parker fall to his lowest point in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” and it is emotionally charging. The ending of “Avengers: Infinity War” is a potential setup for heartbreak. But “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is the first truly scary MCU film. I am not saying it is the scariest movie ever, it is most certainly not. But there are elements in the movie that made me feel like I was watching something like “The Conjuring” instead of an action flick. This is not a bad thing, I really like the way this film went about it.
But I will say if you like massive, loud, and well-shot fantasy action, this film does not disappoint. The effects are amazing. There is not a lot of insane quick cutting. There are a variety of battles in this movie that give you a different flavor every time. These are probably some of the few action sequences I have watched in the MCU that had me feeling icky inside. Perhaps in a good way. But that ickiness did not take away from the excitement and joy I had in others.
I was surprised on how much I liked the chemistry between Doctor Strange and America Chavez. Their relationship is essentially the foundation on which this movie builds itself upon. Despite coming off as perhaps the most visionary of the Marvel superheroes, Strange is still humble, and it shows through his interactions with Chavez, whose knowledge of the multiverse is revealed to be greater than his. Because even though Strange has some knowledge, experience, and has made claims on how certain actions will be a benefit to the greater span of the multiverse, Chavez invites Strange along for a ride while also showcasing how multiversal jumping has practically become normal for her.
As for America Chavez herself, she is portrayed by Xochitl Gomez, who is only in her teens. I would like to see more from Chavez if possible, and I think Gomez did a good job portraying the character. I would like to discover what she does next in her career if she never comes back to Marvel.
But of course we need to talk about Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. Not only do I continue to buy Cumberbatch as this character, but I have to give major credit to everyone behind the makeup for Cumberbatch, because this movie unveils different looks for the character, and not just to sell toys (that too), but when you have a movie where you have more than one Doctor Strange from more than one universe, you are going to have to get clever with how you handle one actor, should you choose to handle one actor, which this movie did. His character partially hinges on some off screen events that come into play with this film, where we reveal Rachel McAdams’s character of Christine Palmer no longer in love with Strange. She is marrying someone else, and while Strange is able to live with himself, this plays a heavy role in the plot as we span through the multiverses.
Although, I will not go into much detail, and this brings me into one of my most prominent complaints of the movie. When I reviewed “Black Panther” four years ago, I claimed that it contains arguably the most forced kiss in cinematic history. Similarly, I think “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” contains one of the most poorly conceived lines I have heard in the MCU, because it frankly feels out of character for Doctor Strange, even though it matches up with events that happen in the movie. It sounds more like something out of a cheesy romance novel than what this movie and its characters have to offer. It is one line, but it nevertheless bothers me.
I want to talk about my core worry for the MCU, and how it is only growing. I am not one of these people who claims they have comic book movie fatigue, but if there is one thing that has been on my mind these past couple years, it is not only how much content we are getting, but also how said content potentially affects the greater span of the universe. If you read my review for “Black Widow,” I touch on this by saying the movie contains a particular moment that sets up or teases a television show for Disney+. The reason why that was a concern for me was because for over a decade, the films have been organized and told through one medium, and now that we have television into the mix, it is only going to make things more convoluted, and as a viewer, I feel like I am starting to watch Marvel content for homework. In fact, I went to see this movie with my dad, who I invited to my living room to watch “WandaVision,” which is great television by the way, prior to seeing this film. I knew going into the film that “WandaVision” would be somewhat connected to how everything unfolds. After all, Wanda is in the movie, and we see some references to the show as well. Having seen this movie, I think if you do not watch “WandaVision,” you may be fine. The movie does its best to catch you up. But I think your experience will be heavily enhanced if you tend to seek it out. This is why I am somewhat concerned about the MCU’s future, because let’s say they decide to make a “Moon Knight” movie. How much of the TV show would I have to remember by then to fully enjoy it? In fact, the marketing kind of reveals that this movie is connected to “What If…?” of all things. The cartoon MCU show. We live in crazy times. And no, you do not have to watch “What If…?” to understand or appreciate this movie despite there being connections to the show.
Although on the note of possibly having to watch “WandaVision” before seeing this movie, I do want to talk about Wanda herself. Previously, she has been in multiple MCU movie installments thus far as a heroic figure, and of course in “WandaVision” she finally became the center of attention, allowing actress Elizabeth Olsen to unleash her almighty chops. There are few characters in the MCU that I feel as bad for as Wanda. She watched her partner die twice, succumbed to the Blip, and felt so bad for herself and her former love interest to the point where she wanted to take control of an entire town and make life revolve entirely around her. That said, as this film’s main antagonist, the Scarlet Witch, she pulls no punches. While I did feel bad for Wanda some time ago, my emotional connection has lessened now that she continuously uses power for what she sees fit, but at the expense of someone who does not deserve a certain fate. I do not think Wanda is my favorite antagonist of the MCU, but she is definitely up there.
In the end, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is not the best MCU film, nor is it the worst. But if you want my thoughts on this film compared to the first “Doctor Strange,” I think I like the original better. I will definitely be going back to watch this film again when I have time. I think it could at times be a proper tech demo for a new television. This film also has one of the best uses of music in a Marvel film to date. And I am not just talking about the score itself, but there is a scene where music heavily comes into play, and it is hypnotizing. Danny Elfman for life! This feels weird to say, but this may be in contention for my least favorite Sam Raimi comic book movie. I know what everyone says about “Spider-Man 3,” but I frankly had fun with it. I have to think about whether I like this film more or less than “Spider-Man 3.” That is not to say “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a bad movie. I liked it. I am also not saying Raimi did not put enough effort into the directorial vision of this film. The on-screen story was well executed. But I am also noticing that Raimi’s worst comic book movies are the ones that are likely heavily influenced by higher powers. Sam Raimi did not want to put Venom in “Spider-Man 3” despite Avi Arad’s wishes. Similarly, the MCU has its own stories and threads from other content that have been interweaved into this film. Even though I mentioned that this movie feels like a Sam Raimi film, it also has the Kevin Feige effect where Raimi appears to have less creative freedom (to be fair though, he did not write the film, “Loki” writer Michael Waldron did) than he did in other works of his. I am still onboard with the MCU, but I am noticing more and more that as stories continue to come up and as threads constantly tie together, convolution and possible oversaturation feel inevitable. I cannot wait for “Thor: Love and Thunder,” but I also think as we get more content, it is starting to feel like too much is happening at once. That said, I enjoyed “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and I am going to give it a 7/10.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now!
Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see me talk about a movie perhaps way more incompetently than I do today, feel free to check out my review for the 2016 “Doctor Strange.” This was one of my earlier reviews and I made it when I was still developing a style, but if you want to read it, go ahead. Also, speaking of “Doctor Strange,” if you want to read a more competent review of a movie where he appears, feel free to check out my thoughts on “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” And it is spoiler-free for the ten people reading this who have neither seen or heard of the film. Next week, I am seeing “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” so stay tuned for my thoughts on that! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?” What did you think about it? Or, which “Doctor Strange” movie is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is directed by Tom Gormican (Ghosted, That Awkward Moment) and stars Nicolas Cage (Con Air, The Croods) as himself, kind of. Joining the Academy Award-winning thespian are stars including Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Wonder Woman 1984), Sharon Horgan (Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, Game Night) Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip, Uncle Drew), Ike Barinholtz (Snatched, Blockers), Alessandra Mastronardi (To Rome with Love, Master of None), Jacob Scipio (Bad Boys for Life, Without Remorse), and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, The Smurfs). This film follows Nicolas Cage, or Nick Cage if you want to be more technical, as he hits a bit of a rough patch career-wise. When a high-paying opportunity arrives to meet with a superfan, Nick Cage is in for the role of a lifetime, working for the CIA.
When it comes to actors, Nicolas Cage is the definition of an enigma. He won an Oscar for “Leaving Las Vegas” and received another nomination for his work in “Adaptation” years later, so he is not short on talent, nor is he short on resume-worthy credits. But he also has a history of being an Internet meme. For example, one of my favorite YouTube movie critics, Chris Stuckmann, does a series of reviews by the name of “Hilariocities,” and the intro to each episode is centered around Nicolas Cage because of his tendency to take certain roles that make him look over the top and zany, sometimes not in the right ways. Cage has a history of choosing movies that are not remembered, movies that have gone straight to DVD, movies that occasionally make me wonder if he even reads the script before he signs on. One of my first positives of “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is its tendency to be effectively tongue and chic regarding Nicolas Cage. Or in some cases, the way society, especially on the Internet, paints a picture of him.
I think putting Cage in the center of this film was a brilliant idea, because while I know Cage has done some prolific work in recent years like “Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse” and “The Croods 2,” he is an actor I would think of these days when it comes to, “X actor needs to pay bills, therefore X actor stars in Y movie without hesitation.” But even with that in mind, Cage commits every time, no matter how unrealistic the script. And for this movie, a lack of realism is perhaps no exception. If I invited Nicolas Cage to my birthday bash this year, he would likely tell me to screw off. At least this is what my head tells me, because actors are not always in the business of entertaining for parties or other related events. But the moments that arguably lack verisimilitude make “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” worth watching.
The bond between Cage and Pascal is a highlight of the film. I like both actors by themselves, but if you put them together, that is a recipe for greatness. Much of the movie involves Nicolas Cage being tasked by a couple people affiliated with the CIA to stay and keep an eye on Javi, who to his surprise, becomes his newfound companion. This takes a toll on Cage as he came into this situation with partial hesitancy and now that he is here, he now has a sense of trust with his new pal. The duo literally bonded over “Paddington 2!” I have never seen “Paddington 2,” mainly because I have not seen “Paddington 1” from the mid-2010s, but I will give this film credit where it is due, it has made me want to check out “Paddington 2.” But this movie is not just about Cage finding out he likes “Paddington 2,” or trying to get people he knows to watch “The Cabinet of Caligari,” this film can also qualify as a tribute to Cage’s career and legacy. Fans of his previous movies will probably rejoice as to how one particular aspect of this movie unfolds, as it is one gigantic callback to his cinematic library.
This film also knocks its portrayal of celebrity culture out of the park. Obviously, given how this is a Nicolas Cage film, it would be wise to realize how his fans see him on screen. But there is a great moment in the film that reminds me of how ballsy it is as a fan to stop a celebrity in the street. Because the reality is, celebrities have lives. They have places to be. That is a good reason you should not stop them in the street. But at the same time, getting to meet them presents itself as a once in a lifetime opportunity, making it that much more palatable to stop them and ask for a picture. This is why events like comic con exist. That way the celebrity guests are in one place and possibly there almost solely to make the fan’s day while also making a profit. But I will be real, if someone stopped me in the street to compliment that one review I did, I would be thankful and happy enough to take a second out of my day to talk to them. But the way this movie presents a case like that shows how unexpected such a moment can be. Nicolas Cage came off as the kind of guy who would not mind taking a selfie with a fan, but I also noticed how quick this scene was handled, showing that one person or the other had things to do. Entertainers are amongst an interesting profession because they are perhaps more likely than others to be stopped. Imagine if you were working in a landscaping company and someone came up to you and screamed, “Wow! I love what you did with my neighbor’s yard! All my friends are talking about it!” You don’t usually see that as much with people in such a profession.
This film, genre-wise, is part buddy comedy, part crime investigation, part action adventure. All in all, I have to say it is one of the most delightfully charming, exciting movies I have watched in the past few months. Cage and Pascal are ridiculously funny together, and I totally buy their out of nowhere friendship. I think their chemistry is more prominent to me at this point however compared to the CIA plot, which is not a bad entry to the script by any means. I enjoyed what I saw. But Cage and Pascal’s scenes together grabbed my attention so much that it made a good portion of the film feel rather forgettable, and I think that is its biggest weakness. Although at the same time, one thing I did not forget is how the film seemingly takes jabs at today’s somewhat cookie cutter approach to storytelling, where you have basic ideas regurgitated over and over and fewer adult-centric tales out there for people to consume. The way “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” handles such an idea is not only entertaining, but also increasingly relevant in a studio system that is often dominated by blockbusters and franchises of “things people remember.” And as much as I love movies like “Free Guy,” I can see why people find them uninteresting or out of line with what they find watchable.
In the end, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” will leave you laughing, it will leave you smiling, it will make you want to befriend Nicolas Cage yourself. Not to take away from Nicolas Cage, but the supporting cast is also likable and charismatic. You have some great actors like Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, and Neil Patrick Harris. All of them have an attractive screen presence. When it comes to movies about stars playing themselves, I prefer “The Big Sick,” starring the hilarious Kumail Nanjiani, but “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is still worth watching. I recommend it. I am going to give “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” a 7/10.
“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for one of the biggest movies of 2022, the latest entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness!” Expect that review sometime soon! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie where an actor plays themselves? Don’t you dare say “Space Jam…” Or the sequel, for that matter. Both are atrocities. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“The Northman” is directed by Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse, The Witch) and stars Alexander Skarsgård (The Legend of Tarzan, Big Little Lies), Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos, Bombshell), Claes Bang (The Burnt Orange Heresy, The Girl in the Spider’s Web), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma., The Queen’s Gambit), Ethan Hawke (Moon Knight, First Reformed), Björk, and Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, Platoon). This film is about Prince Amleth, who loses his father and sees his mother get captured at a young age. Holding an infinite desire to avenge his father and save his mother, Amleth joins a band of Vikings, who raise him as a berserker.
Robert Eggers is a filmmaker I do not traditionally think about all that much, but I have grown to respect him. If anything, I think my experience with Robert Eggers is equal to my experience with Ari Aster, who released “Hereditary” in 2018, and followed it up with “Midsommar” in 2019. Well, specifically, I mean this in reverse. Because the first movie I saw from Eggers was “The Witch,” which despite its quirky shots and angles, and non-traditional aspect ratio, left me feeling icky to the point where I hated myself for watching it. The next movie I saw from him, which if for some reason if you are still on the Robert Pattinson hate train, I recommend you watch, is “The Lighthouse.” That movie ended up being one of the most wonderfully weird films I have watched… Probably ever. Looking back, it kind of makes me want to invite a bro or two to my place, bring out some drinks, and dance to some old timey songs like maniacs.
Seriously, if “dope” had a current dictionary definition, they should literally implement this scene into it.
But with that said, I think it is important to note that my feelings regarding “The Northman” going into it were rather positive. I was gonna go see “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” but due to a conflict regarding someone I planned to see it with, it did not look like such a thing would work out. So I decided to use what free time I had and go see this movie instead.
It was… Interesting.
I feel like one of the best and worst things about films made by directors like Robert Eggers is that you probably don’t know all of what you’re going to get. But it doesn’t mean that Eggers’s quirkiness can always potentially sacrifice good storytelling. In fact, my first notable positive of the film is that the first act has pretty much everything I could want out of a movie like this. It properly sets up the world, solidly introduces some of the characters, including our main protagonist, has surprisingly halfway decent toilet humor, and even a menacingly intriguing presence from Willem Dafoe. The more I think about Willem Dafoe, the more I admire him as a performer. He practically commits to just about anything he chooses to do. I would love to see a role of his where he’s just sitting on the couch, watching television, and I am sure he’d still have the potential to be recognized during awards season. His role in the movie is not a big one, but it is one that I am sure if you saw it, you definitely won’t forget it. Unfortunately, I probably have forgotten about some of this movie. Partially because it has been a few weeks since I have seen it, but if you take out all of the weirdness of the film, some of the traits that are taken from other, perhaps better stories become more noticeable. And it would be fine if the rest of the movie kept my interest, but I will be real with you, I was checking the time to find out when the heck this thing was going to end.
I did not hate this film as much as “The Witch,” but I certainly did not adore it as much as “The Lighthouse.”
This is the biggest feature Eggers has done yet. Between a full-scale adventure that spans from land to water to the large cast, this movie ain’t small. Like, take the cast of “The Lighthouse” and multiply it by 25 or something. And I think the cast overall did a really good job. Alexander Skarsgård is incredibly convincing is a brooding, gritty main hero who wants nothing more than to avenge his father’s death. And I should not be surprised considering how he played Tarzan in the past in, coincidentally, another movie I maybe do not plan to watch again anytime soon despite liking when I saw it.
Nicole Kidman also gives one of the best performances in the film, delivering convincing line after convincing line, she is a true chameleon. I will also point out her look for this film. It blends in perfectly with the time period this movie is going for.
I would also like to give a mention to Anya Taylor-Joy because in addition to her well-executed performance as Olga of the Birch Forest, this movie seems to show that Eggers is bringing in his favorite co-workers from the past, either that, or actors really like working with him. Perhaps both ideas click here. We’ve seen Eggers bring back Willem Dafoe for a small role, Anya Taylor-Joy was also directed by Eggers in “The Witch.” When I think of actor/director relationships, my mind instantly goes to Michael Caine and Christopher Nolan, or Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, or Bill Murray and Wes Anderson. I will likely be watching more of Eggers’s work if he decides to make more movies, so I will be curious if either of these actors will become a mainstay for Eggers and continue to work together for every movie they do. It’s show business, not show friends, but sometimes business can allow you to make friends along the way.
This movie had a great start, and frankly an intriguing visual outlook to it. One of the best things about a movie or a TV show is that it make you forget where you are. I did not feel like I was watching this movie somewhere in Burlington, Massachusetts, I instead felt like I was transported to the high seas. I think this movie manages to capture a better sense of escapism compared to some others I have seen. As much as I liked “The Tender Bar,” the escapism does not feel as authentic when you remember that Long Island does not have candlepin bowling. That said, I did not hate this movie, I just wish the story and characters brought me in as much as the quirks and visuals did.
In the end, “The Northman” is a movie that is DEFINITELY not for everyone, and I honestly do not know if it was for me. And it feels odd saying that, because I like a stylistic movie. I like a movie that is different. But I also like the classic hero’s journey. But I have seen weird done better. I have seen the hero’s journey done better. I’ve seen an uncle killing their nephew’s father in front of their own eyes done better in “The Lion King!” Well, the 1994 one, the new one is a waste of time. I probably will watch this movie again at some point, I don’t know when specifically, because I think it could warrant a second viewing. Although for now, I don’t hate the movie, but I do not particularly love it either. Let’s meet near the middle in terms of the verdict and confirm that I am giving “The Northman” a 6/10. It’s a positive grade because a lot of the movie’s strengths are evident and prominent from start to finish, but it also bored me, left me slightly uninterested at times, and when it comes to the Robert Eggers library, I prefer “The Lighthouse” by a long shot. For those of you who have not watched “The Lighthouse,” it may not be your cup of tea, but much like “The Northman,” it is a movie that I think you HAVE to see at least once to find out if it really is your cup of tea.
“The Northman” is now playing in theaters and is available to buy or rent through a VOD provider of your choice.
Thanks for reading this review! If you liked this review, I have more coming soon! Be sure to stay tuned for my thoughts on “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness!” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Northman?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite film from Robert Eggers? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!