Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022): Marvel’s Phase 4 Ends with a Fine, But Not Perfect, Sequel

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is directed by Ryan Coogler, who also directed the previous “Black Panther” installment. This film stars Letitia Wright (Sing 2, Black Mirror), Lupita Nyong’o (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 12 Years a Slave), Danai Gurira (Treme, The Walking Dead), Winston Duke (Us, Person of Interest), Florence Kasumba (Wonder Woman, The Lion King) Dominique Thorne (If Beale Street Could Talk, Judas and the Black Messiah), Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You, Chewing Gum), Tenoch Huerta (Mozart in the Jungle, Narcos: Mexico), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Sherlock), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, Onward), and Angela Basset (Akeelah and the Bee, Soul). This film is the sequel to “Black Panther” and follows Wakanda as its people attempt to defend their home from the king of Talokan, Namor.

I have always wondered what a “Black Panther” sequel could look like, especially given how successful the first film was. If you are Disney and/or Marvel Studios, there is no way you would just sit pretty after earning a billion dollars at the box office. Sure, you might pop a few bottles. But once you are done drinkin’, you must soon be back to grindin’. Although my wonder supposedly peaked towards the end of 2020. For one thing, the predecessor’s lead, Chadwick Boseman, passed away. This brought a gigantic question. What is going to happen to T’Challa?

On December 10, 2020, the world got its answer. During a Walt Disney Company Investor Day event, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced that the character of T’Challa would not be recast and the sequel would explore other characters in Wakanda. While I am under the philosophy that actors can be replaced to a degree, I understand the tough decision that had to be made here. Boseman’s character was more than a guy who looked cool on screen, he was a symbol for the black community.

While there have been other black protagonists and superheroes on-screen, very few had the impact that Boseman’s T’Challa/Black Panther did over recent years. If you ask me, I liked the first “Black Panther,” but I did not love it. That said, I recognize there are plenty of people who do and I nevertheless celebrate how the film remains a symbol for a specific audience. I still remember where I was when Chadwick Boseman died, sitting in my room, browsing on my phone. While this may not be my first idea for a “Black Panther” installment, I like that the film went for an angle where art somewhat imitates life.

This movie dives into how the Wakandans live after the death of T’Challa. The execution of this is brilliantly realized and delivers certain segments of the movie that I consider to be phase 4 highlights. If I were to judge this movie simply as a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, I would give it two thumbs up. Unfortunately, there is also the rest of the movie. Some of which is solid, some of which is not.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is by no means a bad movie, but I think it comes down to the classic saying in regard to sequels. It goes bigger, but it does not make it better. It goes to new places, introduces new characters, but the execution is not as stellar as it could be. The first movie succeeded partially because of how it handled the character of T’Challa as a protagonist. As mentioned, he is not here for obvious reasons. Sadly, while the tribute to Chadwick Boseman delivered the feels, something was missing because T’Challa’s character was not replaced with another actor. What may have been missing is an escape. Because the first film at its core, even in its more dramatic moments, is fun. Kind of like the recent “Thor: Love and Thunder,” there are clashing tones that do not mix together all the time. This tries to be a traditional MCU movie with some of the flair of the original “Black Panther,” but falters because it unsuccessfully mixes this with a grieving process for T’Challa, and the actor who played him. This is not to say all of it did not work. Some happier moments worked. Some sadder moments worked. But I did not feel as happy or sad as this movie maybe wanted me to feel by the end of it.

It is time to talk about the villain, which in regards to MCU movies, are often considered a weakness. Thankfully, for the case of “Wakanda Forever,” Namor is serviceable. Although not perfect. While Namor had his moments, I think if you were to compare “Black Panther” and “Wakanda Forever” side by side, the first film clearly has the superior villain with Killmonger. His fleshing out was better, Michael B. Jordan gives a compelling performance, and I had a bit of an emotional attachment to him by the end of the film. Namor is threatening and there are some highlights with him on screen, but his motivation did not feel as prominent as it could have been. The best thing about Namor is how our heroes deal with him. There is a particular scene past the halfway mark into the film where from the heroes’ perspective, I got a sense of what they must have been thinking, what they were feeling. While 2018’s “Black Panther” did a good job at handling both the perspectives from the protagonist and antagonist, I think the former’s perspective was done better here than the latter’s.

A lot of Marvel movies, including good ones, often fail to deliver on the villain. I was not a huge fan of Ronan in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but the movie nevertheless worked for me. But almost every time the film slips on the villain, I am still onboard when it comes to understanding and rooting for the hero. I feel like I am given enough justification to continue liking them, to keep cheering them on. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” while its villain is not a dumpster fire, is no exception to this rule. That said, when I say that I am siding with the protagonist in this case, the movie comes to a decision as to who “the protagonist” is, but much of it does not resemble a centered story. There are so many things going on in this movie that until the end, it almost feels like there is no main character. There is ultimately a main character, but at times, it feels like there is not. The movie feels overstuffed, which I hate to say, because I liked some of the concepts in it.

For me, the highlight of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is Angela Basset. I liked Angela Basset in the original “Black Panther,” but her portrayal of Ramonda in this sequel is an improvement over the original in every way. Part of it is because the script gives the character a reason to perhaps have a more prominent presence on screen, and when it comes to the Wakandan society grieving over the loss of their king, I often connected with her based on her position in said society, in addition to knowing that her child is gone. Going back to what I said about art imitating life, Basset’s performance, alongside others in this film, came off as more than the characters going through their own reality. At times, Basset seemed to channel herself in regard to her connection to Chadwick Boseman. I bought into Basset’s performance, and as sad as Boseman’s death is, it may have enhanced Basset’s ability to deliver an excellent screen presence, one that could potentially be a talking point this awards season.

This movie is 161 minutes. Just over two and a half hours. At moments, I felt the runtime. Some of the exposition, specifically in regards to Namor, went on for way too long and I almost tuned out. In addition to being a “Black Panther” film, “Wakanda Forever” also somewhat doubles as an ad for Disney+ with the addition of Riri Williams, also known as Ironheart. Other than that, another notable flaw, and maybe this is just the case of my theater, maybe not, the sound mix was not perfect. There were select lines of dialogue that were hard to make out. It is not “Tenet” bad, but as far as the MCU goes, this is probably the first time I can recall having a problem like this during one of the movies in this series. Then again, I just turned 23 a little more than a week ago, therefore this is a possibly a sign that my hearing could be slightly deteriorating. Do not grow up, it is a trap.

If I had to compare “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” to anything else right now, it would have to be, of all things, the television series “Impractical Jokers.” …Hear me out.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” much like the most recent iteration of “Impractical Jokers,” loses one of its core cast members, tries to reinvent itself while also keeping certain elements audiences are familiar with, and fails to recapture some of the magic of what made its previous material great, but through a situation that it cannot fault itself for. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a film that I would have been terrified to be a part of if I were a higher-up at Marvel. I know “Black Panther” is a popular IP and there is no question as to whether or not a sequel should be made. But my question from the beginning was how the heck the story could go on without the title character.

If you look back at films like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” you would notice in the posters and marketing that the subtitle is a tad bigger than the title itself. The same is true for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” One could argue this is coincidental, but I would contend there is a reason why “Black Panther” is tiny and “Wakanda Forever” is enormous. This film, while it is ultimately a “Black Panther” story, is ultimately about the Wakanda community. How they come together. How they deal with grief. How they engage in politics. There is no way this film would not have had “Black Panther” in its title. Because if it did not, it would probably lose money. Although at the end of the day, this is part of what I mean when I say the film is overstuffed. Again, there is almost barely a center character. If anything, Wakanda itself is debatably the central character.

Now that I have seen all of phase 4, one of the commonalities during some of phase 4’s stories is the concept of grief. If you ask me, despite being an example of art imitating life, I think “WandaVision” and weirdly enough, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” had better execution when it comes to grief. Maybe it is because of my connection to one specific character either during the story itself or in previous installments and how they end up dealing with it. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” dealing with grief was perhaps unavoidable because of a real life event. There are moments, especially towards the film’s end, where grief comes into play that continue to stick with me. But part of what made “WandaVision” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” more fulfilling is that I knew who to root for. Wanda and Peter Parker. Of course, “Wakanda Forever,” a movie where, again, Wakanda itself may as well be considered the central character, presents a scenario where an entire society is mourning. But because the movie had an overabundance of characters and things going on at times, it becomes less powerful for me.

Although if there is one thing “Wakanda Forever” does well despite its flaws, it would be consistency. “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the previous MCU film, was like a seesaw in terms of tone. At certain points, it is as goofy as can be. At others, it is wildly dramatic. There is almost no in between. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” again, like “Thor: Love and Thunder,” clashes in terms of tone, but it is probably the most somber MCU film to date while also having pinches of much needed fun in between. Much like many other Marvel movies, there are moments of levity, but the film itself is a consistent downer. From scene one, the movie does everything it can to remind its audience that not everything is happy go lucky in Wakanda. Much like “Wakanda Forever,” “Love and Thunder” made grief a paramount topic. The film however goes too extreme on both ends to the point where it fizzles the goldilocks zone. While “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is more depressing than the average MCU film, including other movies that have their downer moments like “Eternals” or “Avengers: Infinity War,” it is at least both steadily, not to mention believably, sad.

Although because this movie is sad, does not mean there are no ounces of joy to be had. In addition to the recently mentioned levity, which is noticeably not as prominent as say “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” I liked the chemistry between Shuri and Okoye. The action, during this film’s collection of sequences, is well-done and kept my attention throughout. There is even a segment where someone catapults into the air via fish. I do not remember if it was a dolphin or a whale. I would have to watch the movie again, but that caught me off guard. This has to be arguably the craziest cool sight I have witnessed in a comic book movie since that one scene in “Aquaman” where an octopus plays the drums.

With all this sadness though, some of you might ask, can you bring your family and children to this movie? After all, Marvel movies, in addition to being box office hits, are also traditionally fine options for large groups like families. Even for children despite the usual PG-13 rating. To answer the question, I would say yes. This may not be as fun as “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Although there is nothing absolutely offensive, nothing overly gory, and despite the film’s serious nature, there is nothing in it that I would think would instantly turn off younger viewers or the parents trying to entertain said younger viewers.

Before we move on, without giving a ton of detail, there is a fantastic joke in the movie about MIT. You will know it when you hear it. It got a good laugh out of me, and I think many people reading this will react similarly.

In the end, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” while still a decent movie, is a step down from the original. It is the neither the best or worst film of phase 4. It is somewhere close to the middle. The film is ambitious, but cannot quite fill the massive void that Chadwick Boseman left. I admire that “Wakanda Forever” took the risk of killing off one of its core characters and making that a backbone as to where things go in the film. Unfortunately, it led to a movie of both hits and misses. Is the film worth watching? The answer would be yes. It has its flaws, but in a thumbs up/thumbs down world, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a thumbs up, not to mention a 7/10.

Well, that is the end of phase 4! If I have to be honest, while this is not my favorite phase in the MCU, I will give it credit. Unlike phases 1, 2, and 3, every movie that came out in phase 4, had some semblance of decency at minimum. In phase 1, I was not a fan of “Captain America: The First Avenger.” In phase 2, I did not like “Thor: The Dark World.” In phase 3, I disliked “Captain Marvel.” Phase 4’s movies, from “Black Widow” to “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” were all entertaining, fun, and worth watching. They all had flaws, but they were also worth watching. I have no idea what phase 5 is going to be like, but I hope that like phase 4, the movies continue to be solid.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is now playing in theatres everywhere including premium formats like IMAX and Dolby Cinema. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new Searchlight Pictures film “The Banshees of Inisherin.” I just watched the film this weekend, and while I look forward to reviewing just about every movie I see, I mean it with this one. I cannot wait to review “The Banshees of Inisherin,” I hope to drop it soon.

If you want to see more of my thoughts on phase 4 of the MCU, check out my reviews for “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Eternals,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and “Thor: Love and Thunder.” 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 “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on Marvel’s phase 4? What is your favorite movie or television show from the timeline? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Black Adam (2022): The Hierarchy of Power in the DC Universe Does Not Change All That Much

“Black Adam” is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, The Commuter) and stars Dwayne Johnson (Red Notice, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton, Hidden Figures), Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Fosters), Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest, The L Word), Marwan Kenzari (Aladdin, The Old Guard), Quintessa Swindell (Euphoria, Trinkets), Bodhi Sabongui (A Million Little Things, The Baby-Sitters Club), and Pierce Brosnan (Mamma Mia!, The November Man). This film is the latest installment to the Detective Comics Extended Universe, well before the recent transition under James Gunn and Peter Safran. Nevertheless, the film follows an individual who is freed from a tomb after 5,000 years. Being a fish out of water, said individual must adapt to a new world with new friends and foes.

2022 has been an okay year for comic book movies. I liked most of the comic book movies that have come out this year. There have been some duds like “DC League of Super-Pets” and especially “Morbius.” However, the genre has had more wins than losses so far. I will say, regardless of their quality, this year has given me a reason to look forward to various comic book movies like “The Batman” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” The expectations I had for those movies were at the very least, notable. As for how they turned out, both were good, but not great. Although “Black Adam” is an interesting case in regards to hype unlike those two movies. While “Black Adam” may not be as popular as say Wonder Woman, this project had a lot of time put into it, so I was curious to see how it would turn out after all these years. The development of “Black Adam” had been known since the late 2000s. Since then, Johnson has been a busy professional, but I am glad to see him come back to work on this property. At the same time, was the wait too long? It is possible, because every other year, the idea of a “Black Adam” movie became an idea where I would “believe it when I see it.” Well, it is 2022, and now I have seen it. What did I think of it?

Ehh… I guess it is okay…

If you want me to be real, my expectations for “Black Adam,” despite the amount of time that has been put into it, were not high. I was not expecting to be disappointed. Although the marketing was fine at best. When it comes to Dwayne Johnson, I have respect for him as a personality, but he does not always make the best movies. Sure, there are some standouts like “Central Intelligence,” some of the “Fast & Furious” installments, and the “Jumanji” movies. Although he has also made quite a few stinkers like “Rampage,” “Skyscraper,” and “Red Notice.” Despite being arguably the biggest and strongest movie star in the world, he has had quite a few punches he had to roll with. Even so, I find Johnson charming and I look forward to some of the things he does, even if it ends up sucking.

From a general audience perspective, this is the kind of movie that should sell. It is based on comics, which has been a hot trend in recent years. It stars The Rock, who has also been on trend based on his leading and supporting roles. Not surprisingly, the film already made over $250 million worldwide. It may not be making as much money as certain previous DC films, but the film is on track to become one of the biggest of Johnson’s career. Just because the box office is big, at least until “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” slaughters the movie next weekend, does not mean the movie has the strength of Johnson himself. Although I can see why this movie is doing so well with audiences. The action is bombastic, the scope is enormous, and there are some genuinely fun moments to be had here.

This movie is fun, but it is the kind of fun that would I also use to describe certain fast food restaurants. It is great for getting together with your friends to experience something that is it not going to revolutionize the world, but instead something you will mostly enjoy the moment it is in front of you. The dialogue is some of the cheesiest of its genre but the visual effects are pretty enough to have an attractive flair.

Dwayne Johnson, after many years of advertising this movie, saying it will happen, and finally delivering it to the masses, dons the suit of Black Adam, an anti-hero whose main trait is changing his mood either between brooding or stoic. While this may sound like a jab at the performance, I will give Dwayne Johnson some credit for his performance. Every time I watch a performance from Johnson, it comes off like he is playing the same person. Specifically, himself, or some alternate version of such an individual. It is just like Kevin Hart. It is just like Melissa McCarthy. It is just like Tiffany Haddish. Johnson has a tendency to play characters from one movie to the next who would come off as interchangeable if they stood next to each other. While Black Adam may not be my favorite of his characters he has played, Johnson seems to emit a different vibe or deliver another tone when portraying the anti-hero. Maybe it is because Johnson is often seen playing characters whose motivations for good happen to be clear. He is trying to help friends, his family. This time around, he plays a character who is comparatively psychotic compared to say Bob Stone in “Central Intelligence.” Though it is slightly different from some of other roles, I admire Johnson for attempting to play a character with this angle in mind.

When it comes to this film’s characters, that is the element of the film, as disposable as it is, that I am probably going to remember the most. But it is probably for reasons that would work more when it comes to marketing than the film itself. There is nothing wrong with star power, but I am likely going to remember this film because of that more than what happens in the film. I have a strong feeling that the only reason I will remember who the Justice Society is a year from now is the fact that renowned actor Pierce Brosnan plays Dr. Fate. No offense to Hawkman, Atom-Smasher, and Cyclone along with their discount Xaiver Institute where they reside. If Pierce Brosnan was not in the Justice Society, this movie would be just a tad more forgettable than it really is.

“Black Adam” feels like a comic book movie that tries to belong in the 2020s, especially with its attempts to expand a tonally inconsistent cinematic universe. But at the same time, it cannot help but stretch itself back to previous decades. Select scenes reminded me of a wild 90s movie with goofy edits or some notorious 80s film from Cannon Productions like the Sylvester Stallone-starring “Over the Top.” The latter is actually a pretty good example here because of the unlikely bond between the protagonist and a young boy. Although when it comes to this similarity, “Over the Top,” which is not a great movie to begin with, somehow delivers a more appealing edition of such a bond.

Despite my digs at the film, which it earns, I had a halfway decent time with “Black Adam.” But if you had to ask me what my favorite part of “Black Adam” was, I would have a troubling time coming up with a definitive answer. This is not to say the movie is awful. It is to say that maybe that when it comes to DC fare, this is an addition that delivers. but maybe not to its full potential. Even though I did not think the movie was perfect, I had a “favorite part” in “The Batman,” specifically the chase between Batman and the Penguin at the movie’s midway point. I had a favorite part in “Joker.” I had a favorite part in “Wonder Woman.” Despite its flaws, I had a favorite part in “Batman v. Superman.” To me, “Black Adam” is going to be remembered for its wins. But when I use the word “remembered” in this case, I might be a bit generous with that, because there are better comic book movies this year. As far as movies with Dwayne Johnson go, this is not the worst he has done, but it is certainly not his strongest effort either.

If anything, this movie comes off as a visual experience. When I watch movies, I refuse to turn off my brain because as someone who reviews movies, I need to stay focused on what it is in front of me. That said, “Black Adam” feels like a turn off your brain kind of movie. Not to mention a noisy one at that. If you watch this in a premium cinema, I would not be surprised if your auditorium shakes, or at least comes close to doing so. “Black Adam” is basically this year’s “Venom: Let There be Carnage.” I liked both movies, but not for reasons that would make want to watch them in the next month or two. They’re noisy, but they’re also noisy in a way that appeals to the senses. The dialogue is not the greatest, but it has its moments. Although “Venom: Let There be Carnage” in this case would be a better movie because as a turn off your brain movie, it feels simpler. Possibly because of its tightly knit runtime and pacing.

In short, did the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe change? The answer, not so much.

In the end, there is not much to say about “Black Adam” other than it is a movie that easily entertains, but also hardly gives a reason to have staying power. “Black Adam” is not the worst DC movie in the ongoing cinematic universe. That dishonor belongs to “Wonder Woman 1984.” Although it comes off as a massive step down to the previous DCEU film, “The Suicide Squad.” I was not expecting this film to be as killer as “The Suicide Squad,” but I was hoping that it would be good. To say it is good would not be a lie, depending on what your definition of good is. But to say it is memorable is another thing. If I need background noise, “Black Adam” is an okay choice. But if I want to watch a DC movie, I will stick with “The Dark Knight.” Although I would still give this a watch in the theater if you really want something to see, but maybe for a matinee price. I am going to give “Black Adam” a 6/10.

“Black Adam” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new movie “Call Jane.” I went to go see the film in theaters last weekend. It is not getting a lot of publicity, but it is a movie that had my curiosity with Elizabeth Banks in the lead role. Whether it had my attention, is another story. 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 “Black Adam?” What did you think about it? Or, who is your favorite movie star working today? For me, the rule is simple. Give me Tom Cruise or give me death. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

DC League of Super-Pets (2022): This Movie’s Biggest Kryptonite? Predictability and Familiar Faces.

“DC League of Super-Pets” is directed by Jared Stern and Sam Levine, and stars Dwayne Johnson (Doom, Skyscraper), Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Night School), Kate McKinnon (Yesterday, Saturday Night Live), John Krasinski (A Quiet Place, The Office), Vanessa Bayer (Saturday Night Live, Office Christmas Party), Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black, Big Mouth), Diego Luna (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Narcos: Mexico), Marc Maron (Maron, GLOW), Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, John Wick), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation, Sonic the Hedgehog), and Thomas Middleditch (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Silicon Valley). This film follows Krypto the Super-Dog, as he must figure out how to rescue his owner, Superman.

I love comic book movies. And I know I am not alone. If the box office for most of the films within this classification have shown anything, it is that films of this type are hotter than they have ever been. Marvel Studios is on fire right now with the release of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” in addition to the massively successful “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” both of which ended up in my top 10 best of last year. DC is also doing well for themselves. I enjoyed “The Batman” despite some pacing issues I had with the film, and I thought last year’s “The Suicide Squad” might just be the best movie to ever have the DC logo attached. And in the midst of all of these movies that I either looked forward to or saw and really enjoyed, I never thought “DC League of Super-Pets” would live up to the quality standards that we have seen in other comic book-based works. If anything, I thought it would probably be on the same level as “Morbius,” only slightly more comedic and family-friendly.

I will be real. I cannot remember the last time I asked for a movie about Superman’s dog, but here we are. Why did I see it? Because I have reviews to get done and AMC A-List is a dynamite investment. I love not paying for movies that I feel the need to see to stay in the loop. Although at the same time, if you have names as big as Kevin Hart or Keanu Reeves, that should bring something promising to the table. And this brings me to my first positive, which I will dive more into later, Keanu Reeves was the highlight of the film.

What did I think of “DC League of “Super-Pets?” It’s predictable, mediocre, and I do not think the comedy landed that much. I have heard some differing opinions, but if you ask me, even some of the more clever jokes in this movie did not garner much of a reaction out of me. Some of the comedy attempts either felt tired, forced, or obvious. There is a “Paw Patrol”-related joke that probably would have been funnier if I did not make a “Paw Patrol” comparison before the film came out. Speaking of “Paw Patrol,” one thing about that show is that it is specifically made for kids. That’s the vibes I got from “DC League of Super-Pets’s” marketing campaign. All kiddy, no maturity. Turns out there is some adult humor in this film, but even that did not land. I can only hear the censor bar so many times before the gag becomes tiresome. This is honestly unfortunate considering the film is written by Jared Stern and John Whittington, who previously wrote another animated DC flick, “The LEGO Batman Movie.” Regardless of its comic-based origins and spinoff placement, it is one of the funniest animation scripts done in recent years. That movie had five writers! I hope for the sake of Stern and Whittington that they came up with at least one of the clever jokes that script contained, because “DC League of Super-Pets” feels like a far cry to the 2017 “LEGO Batman” spinoff.

The story of “DC League of Super-Pets” does not reinvent the wheel. I never asked for this movie to begin with, and therefore I never asked it to reinvent the wheel, therefore I did not know what to expect. But the movie itself sort of reminded me of a longer episode of a Saturday morning cartoon, but not necessarily a great one. I also think the script of “DC League of Super-Pets” is probably going to land better with those who are dog or cat people. People who have pets and consider them part of their family. I live in a space where there are pets, but they are not necessarily my pets, so this script did not connect with me maybe in the way the writers hoped it would.

I want to talk about the biggest problem in this movie, and this is the problem that the movie has built up ever since its first teaser. Going back to the big names. Having big names like Dwayne Johnson in your movie always builds intrigue and promise. It’s like when a printer gets endorsed by Shaquille O’Neal, or Mark Cuban becomes a quasi-mascot of a new, innovative product, or when Howie Mandel fist bumps everything in your store for some reason. When this film’s first teaser released, the primary focus was on the stacked cast this movie managed to acquire from Dwayne Johnson to Kevin Hart to Kate McKinnon to John Krasinski and so on. I want to talk about those first two names. Dwayne Johnson is arguably the biggest movie star in the world, and Kevin Hart, in addition to being a relevant comedian, has worked with The Rock in the past on “Central Intelligence” and the “Jumanji” movies. This is their third property together, and I do not mind actors or crew joining forces more than once. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have worked together numerous times in “Crazy Stupid Love,” “Gangster Squad,” and “La La Land.” Their chemistry is undeniable.

I have no idea if this is coincidental or not, but the Gosling/Stone pairing is a match every time. The difference between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone compared to Johnson and Hart is the ability of the former pair to show range. Ryan Gosling can be the sexy boy toy, he can sing, he can be stoic. Emma Stone can be a quirky young woman, she can be an aspiring actress, she can be someone from a couple centuries ago. The two are “actors,” not stars. Johnson and Hart, despite having personality, are not the greatest thespians, and it shows in “DC League of Super-Pets.” When I look at Krypto, I see The Rock. When I look at Ace, I see Kevin Hart. In my imagination, they are just playing versions of themselves in animated dog form. This is why part of me is often worried when I think about the upcoming “Super Mario Bros.” movie because like “DC League of Super-Pets,” I am just worried that Chris Pratt is going to do another version of Emmet from “The LEGO Movie” or something. Chris Pratt, like The Rock, while he is definitely a better actor, is not the greatest of the performers working today. Pratt’s voice is recognizable, and that is part of why it felt weird hearing said voice in Pixar’s “Onward.” I am not saying live-action movie stars should not voice animated characters. Some have as much talent as those who primarily do voice-acting. But these roles show Johnson and Hart’s lack of range as actors. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart always do the same schtick or some variation of it in their movies. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Not having a live-action environment hinders that and makes this film the weakest of their collaborations. And the fact that I am looking at these dogs’ faces and seeing nothing but Johnson and Hart makes their performances creepier than they should be.

I said I will get back to Keanu Reeves. A promise is a promise. Reeves is easily this film’s best part. Not just because of his voice, but the character he plays, that being Batman. Much like “The LEGO Batman Movie,” this interpretation of Batman or Bruce Wayne is on the more parodic side, and rightfully so. I said earlier that I was slightly concerned that Jared Stern and John Whittington possibly never came up with any solid jokes in “The LEGO Batman Movie.” Although after reminiscing on Batman in this film, part of me has second thoughts. I was not a huge fan of the film’s comedy, but the parts where I was almost rolling on the floor were the scenes where Batman shows up. His screen time in this film is minimal. Think of it as a funny Stan Lee cameo where he plays himself except it happens ten times. Despite this movie’s lighthearted tone, it also pokes fun at the darkness of the Caped Crusader. Everything from his lone wolf mentality to his lack of parents. It’s hilarious, and I might every once in a while look on YouTube for the scenes in this movie containing Batman just to get a laugh.

In the end, “DC League of Super-Pets” is, to my surprise, not the worst comic book movie of the year. Again, “Morbius” exists. You’re welcome, Warner Brothers! You are going to have to settle for the dishonorable mention. Some of the voice acting is hit or miss. When I watch an animated movie, part of me wants to forget that I am watching something that has The Rock in it. I think as far as voice performances go, Johnson’s performance in “Moana,” while not my favorite in history, is slightly better than the one he gives to Krypto. But I also do not know if I can blame it on his ability, because his voice is recognizable. When it comes to Kevin Hart playing a house pet, I’d rather listen to his performance as Snowball the terrier in “The Secret Life of Pets.” I often watch films for an escape. If I want an escape with The Rock and Kevin Hart, I would rather watch “Central Intelligence.” This is not a film that is going to stand the test of time. As far as DC goes, it is surprisingly better than “Wonder Woman 1984,” but unlike “DC League of Super-Pets,” I had higher expectations for that film. I am going to give “DC League of Super-Pets” a 5/10.

“DC League of Super-Pets” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the film “Vengeance,” directed by B.J. Novak. Also be on the lookout for my review for “Bullet Train,” the new action flick starring Brad Pitt as he and assassins crowd up a speeding train in Japan. 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 “DC League of Super-Pets?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with a stacked cast that disappointed you? For me, that big disappointment was 2017’s “The Circle,” starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt, John Boyega, among others. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022): Taika Waititi’s Second, and Slightly Less Worthy, Thor Outing

“Thor: Love and Thunder” is directed by Taika Waititi, who also directed the franchise’s previous installment, “Thor: Ragnarok.” This film stars Chris Hemsworth (Men in Black: International, Rush), Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari, Batman Begins), Tessa Thompson (Men in Black: International, Annihilation), Jaimie Alexander (Nurse Jackie, Blindspot), Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe (Gladiator, Cinderella Man), and Natalie Portman (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, V For Vendetta). This is the fourth installment to the “Thor” franchise, the 29th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first instance where a character in said universe gets a fourth standalone movie. In this… THORth installment, Thor reunites with Jane Foster, who is now worthy. The two join forces with Valkyrie and Korg to defeat Gorr the God Butcher, a white being whose aspiration is literally in his namesake, the widespread elimination of all gods.

MCU phase 4 is like having a demanding girlfriend. You love her, but you also want to get away from her. Although when you think you are about to leave, you just keep coming back because you cannot see yourself attached to something else. I am not saying I hate the MCU right now. I thoroughly enjoy the MCU, but as I’ve said in my reviews for “Black Widow” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the whole universe, while still entertaining, is almost homework in disguise. When I was watching “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” I had fun, but I felt like I was being tested on how much I remembered “WandaVision.” You could almost make an argument that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” tests your memory on seven different “Spider-Man” movies at once across three different universes. To be fair though, I am not of this demographic, but I would imagine the general audience would not need to watch all of those other shows and movies in order to understand what comes after. However, their experience would only be enhanced if they did.

There is a notable audience that tends to enjoy “Thor: Ragnarok.” I consider myself a fan of the film after a couple watches. It is not up there with the original “Thor,” but anything is better than “Thor: The Dark World.” If you liked “Thor: Ragnarok,” there is a solid chance you might find joy in “Thor: Love and Thunder.” This should not come as a surprise, as Taika Waititi helmed both pictures.

Waititi may be most responsible for Thor’s current success. If we did not have “Ragnarok,” his arc in followup “Avengers” titles “Infinity War” and “Endgame” may have slightly less meaning. But the best thing about his storytelling abilities is his tendency to perfectly balance light and darkness. I saw “Thor: Love and Thunder” with my dad. When we walked out of the theater, he affirmed, grinningly, that the movie had “something for everyone.” He may be right. After all, this film has comedy, action, drama, and even horror. Without going into specifics, Christian Bale is, on occasion, utterly terrifying as Gorr the God Butcher. The MCU is often criticized for its lackluster antagonists, and phase 4 is no exception to the rule with Taskmaster from “Black Widow” being a prime example of how movies are only as good as their villains. Gorr the God Butcher is not quite Thanos, and if we are judging “Thor” villains, I even think I have a softer spot for Hela in “Ragnarok.” But when you take a character like Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher and place him in a story where Zeus strips gods in public and threatens others by not allowing them to come to an orgy, it is an odd combination. But somehow they make it work.

Speaking of things that work, let’s talk about Chris Hemsworth as Thor. While it took awhile for me to warm up to Thor kind of being the butt of a joke sometimes, I have come to learn that Chris Hemsworth has tremendous comedic chops. Even when the script does him no favors like in “Ghostbusters” (2016), he still manages to give the performance his all. He will practically do anything to make the character of Thor come off as fun. It’s almost like what they are trying to do with Aquaman in the DCEU where he has a somewhat godly presence, but at the end of the day, you might want to flock to the bar with him. It is why I consider Party Thor to be one of the standout characters in the Disney+ series “What If…?”. At the same time though, this movie can be used as an example in regard to jokes going too far. And I do not mean offensive, I mean the joke tries too hard or it goes on longer than it should.

This movie has some weird, but also simultaneously hypnotizing comedy gags. Thor literally talks to his weapons. There’s even a love triangle between them. Not what I would have written but… Okay. Jane Foster spends a portion of the film trying to come up with an epic one-liner that was somewhat hit or miss. There are these goats in the film that feel less like an attempt at comedy and more so a homage to outdated Internet memes. Sure, when they were first introduced, I laughed. But as the movie went along, they became progressively less funny.

One of the biggest surprises in “Thor: Love and Thunder” prior to its release was the return of the recently mentioned Jane Foster. Natalie Portman is a great actress between her work in movies like “Black Swan” and “Annihilation.” Despite the shortcomings of the dialogue, she also did her best in the “Star Wars” prequels. Speaking of shortcomings, one of the flaws of the first two “Thor” films is that her character did not have a ton to do. I liked her better than Kat Dennings’s character, most specifically in “Thor: The Dark World,” but nevertheless. Mostly, she was almost just there to be the love interest, and that was the character’s biggest service to the story. This time, she is an equal to Thor, or Mighty Thor, as she calls herself. That is, if Thor really is the Thor he once was in say “Thor: Ragnarok” or “Avengers: Infinity War,” because he has evolved, slowly but surely, into one of the MCU’s goto gags in recent years. When he was not fighting in “Avengers: Endgame,” the movie focuses on him in a dad bod, playing “Fortnite,” and drinking heavily. That movie’s humor adds substance to its story, much like some of the jokes in “Thor: Love and Thunder.” It is weird to think how much this character has tonally evolved since 2011.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” has some good humor here and there, but I think of all the Marvel Studios films so far, this is the one I think feels the most kiddy out of them all. It is weird to say because the film has a butt shot of Chris Hemsworth and an ongoing orgy-related threat, but this was one of the first times I can remember watching an MCU film and having it feel this much like a Saturday morning cartoon. I am not saying I did not experience Saturday morning cartoon vibes in the MCU before. “Thor: Ragnarok,” the “Spider-Man” movies, and “Guardians of the Galaxy” are all great examples of this vibe. But in the case of those films, the Saturday morning cartoon vibe, minus say “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” was presented more effectively, perhaps more maturely.

While this fourth “Thor” movie flashes back to its predecessors and revisits multiple characters across various stories, I can say that a notable positive I can give to “Thor: Love and Thunder” is that it does not require any prerequisites. You can go into this movie not having seen a single “Thor,” “Avengers,” or MCU installment and have a good time. Yes, the Guardians of the Galaxy show up, but it is not like they are going to test you on the complexities of Groot’s language or something. This is a contained story from start to finish and while it may be referenced later in the MCU, it does not come off as a tale told by gatekeepers. Ultimately, “Thor: Love and Thunder” may be the most stupid fun movie the MCU has given us so far.

If have to be real though, despite this movie being stupid fun, it kind of comes with a caveat. Before “Thor: Ragnarok” came out, the “Thor” movies were comparatively serious. They had their jokey moments. The first film is a fish out of water story that lends itself to tons of humor, and it worked. The second movie had many comedy attempts, but I can only recall one or two that stuck the landing. With “Ragnarok” and now “Love and Thunder,” we have Taika Waititi’s zany touch. I was not particularly fond of the humor in “Ragnarok” when I first saw it, but after rewatching the film, I warmed up to it. Therefore, during this movie, I was looking forward to seeing what the attempts at humor could be. Compared to “Ragnarok,” they’re a bit flat. Once again, some work, but the ones that do not happen to stand out. The goats were funny the first time, but maybe not the fifth or sixth time.

When I think of “Ragnarok,” certain hysterical moments come to mind. “Get help” is one of the funniest gags in recent action movies. The chemistry between Thor and Banner, Hulked up or not, is worthy of my attention. Stan Lee’s cameo where he cuts Thor’s hair is not only crucial to the plot, but gutbusting. So, what does Taika have in mind for this movie? A rock n’ roll-infused opening action sequence where Thor, almost egomaniacally, saves the day. There’s literally a moment where he stops two vehicles from running into him by doing a split. The image is still in my mind. In the moment, I thought that split was hilarious. But it also makes me realize how dramatic of a shift these movies have taken over the years. The first two movies are mature, with the original almost successfully capturing Shakespearean drama vibes. “Thor: Ragnarok,” while still having maturity in it, contains many comedy gags that nearly conflict with some of the movie’s darker moments. The same can be said for “Love and Thunder,” but the comedy is a bigger star than before.

Note how I said bigger, not better. There’s a difference.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” reminds me of “The Fate of the Furious.” I say so because like “Love and Thunder,” I had fun with “The Fate of the Furious,” but there is a certain amount of absurdity in that film that feels more leveled up than say “Fast Five” which jumped the shark, but was comparatively believable. “Thor: Ragnarok” was a ridiculous fun time with great humor and some logic-defying, but still entertaining moments. As the saying in Hollywood goes, bigger is better. Or is it? Because if you liked “Thor: Ragnarok,” chances are that this movie has twice the silliness. While laughter is the best medicine, this movie shows that comedic overdoses may be possible.

Before we dive into the final verdict, I want to talk about the visual effects of “Thor: Love and Thunder.” I am not going to dive into the recent news regarding visual effects employees struggling to work for Marvel. That is another issue, perhaps for another time. But on the surface, most of the visual effects in this film matches the recently mentioned Saturday morning cartoon vibe. Everything is bright, colorful, vivid, and sometimes gargantuan. I do want to note though that there have been some concerns about Marvel’s visual effects as of late in movies like “Black Widow.” I think if you are in the general audience, you might not care. I will admit, it has been awhile since I have seen “Black Widow” to give a detailed comment. However, I remember some of the effects in that film are surprisingly inferior to say “Captain America: Civil War,” which came out five years before. “Thor: Love and Thunder,” for the most part, looks great. But as far as “Thor” movies go, it might be the worst looking one yet if you pinpoint select shots.

While I said I will not dive too deep into the struggles of working in visual effects, I think we are seeing a sign that the MCU is becoming too crowded and overstuffed with content. I am enjoying phase 4 of the MCU. I have yet to see a completely terrible film. One or two series were hit or miss, but others were good. “WandaVision” was a fantastic debut for the MCU on Disney+, and “Ms. Marvel” was also really charming. The MCU has so many shows and movies now that it also has so many deadlines to consider. This year we have already seen two shows that ran for six-episodes and a couple movies. That is a lot of work, and it is not over yet because “She-Hulk” quickly approaching to Disney+ and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is scheduled to hit theaters this fall. I had fun with “Thor: Love and Thunder,” but by the standards of the MCU, this is not as good as I would hope for. Although the MCU has its occasional off day with movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” or “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” I just hope this is a slight bump in the road. But the MCU also did not have this much content going on at once at those times. I know some would disagree, but I would happily sacrifice all the upcoming Disney+ shows if it meant we were going to get a few consistently great MCU movies. I am sure Marvel has a plan, but is it too big of a plan? I hope not. But my worry is that the further along we go down the MCU timeline, the more signs we will get that this whole conveyer belt will unveil itself. Let’s hope that this does not happen.

In the end, “Thor: Love and Thunder” was good, but it is also my least favorite film of MCU’s phase 4. While not the worst of the “Thor” films, “Love and Thunder” nevertheless fails on arguably the same mission in which “Ragnarok” succeeded. Sure, there were a couple laughs here and there, and as far as “summer blockbusters” go, you could do far worse. Just look at “Jurassic World: Dominion.” Although “Love and Thunder” has quite a few negatives that stand out significantly. Natalie Portman was badass enough that I might want to buy a Mighty Thor Hot Toy. But I just wish I could see more of her. I wish I could have seen more of Gorr the God Butcher. This is one of the shortest Marvel movies yet, which could be beneficial to your bladder, but that’s were the benefits stop. Overall, the film feels rushed. I heard they shot some extra footage that never made it into the film, and Taika Waititi does not want to make an alternate cut with said footage, but for all I know, that could give some much needed fleshing out to certain aspects of the story. I would never want to put pressure on a filmmaker into making something they do not want to make, but as a viewer, I would be intrigued to see some of what I originally couldn’t see in some fashion. Maybe as a Blu-ray bonus feature. I am going to give “Thor: Love and Thunder” a 6/10.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” is now playing in theaters including large formats like IMAX and Dolby Cinema. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my review for “Thor: Love and Thunder,” then be on the lookout because I have more reviews coming soon! Stay tuned for my thoughts on “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” and “The Gray Man.” 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 “Thor: Love and Thunder?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite of the “Thor” movies? I’m a purist, I would have to go with the 2011 “Thor” directed by Kenneth Branagh. Leave your opinions down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Bad Guys (2022): A Nonsensical, But Surprisingly Entertaining Heist Animation

“The Bad Guys” is directed by Pierre Perifel, who has helped animate several DreamWorks films including “Monsters vs. Aliens,” “Shrek Forever After,” and “Rise of the Guardians.” This film stars Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Moon), Marc Maron (GLOW, Joker), Awkwafina (Raya and the Last Dragon, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens), Craig Robinson (The Cleveland Show, The Office), Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born, In the Heights), Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd, The Watch), Zazie Beatz (Atlanta, Deadpool 2), Alex Borstein (Family Guy, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), and Lilly Singh (A Little Late with Lilly Singh, Bad Moms). This film is based on a children’s graphic novel series by Aaron Blabey and follows a group of varying creatures who all commit crimes together. In an attempt to successfully continue their criminal activities and complete their mission, they attempt to become “good,” which given their long status of being hated or feared, is a bit of challenge on a number of ends.

I first saw a trailer for “The Bad Guys” back towards the tail end of 2021, and I thought it looked like another example of why people often stereotype animated movies as “kid movies,” because this movie did not look like it was made for me. Maybe if I were eight, I would have been sold. Not today. That said, I did go see this film given how there was a free screening for it over Easter weekend. So I did have time to watch it. But I cannot say I had the motivation.

Now, I want to make something clear, one of my least favorite critiques regarding family films is that the movie at hand is dumb, there are moments that do not add up, but “the kids will like it.” While that MAY be true, I also want to note that as I look back on my childhood, there are select movies that I STILL watch to this day that were intended for the family demographic because of how they have treated me like I was intelligent back then and continue to do so today. Pixar is honestly the king of this classification with films like “The Incredibles” and “Up.” I will add that “Lightyear” looks like it is going to continue that tradition when it releases in June. There are a few DreamWorks films from my childhood like “Kung Fu Panda” or “How to Train Your Dragon” that manage to maintain a childlike spirit but I also would not mind popping in again as an adult if I get the chance. Although I will say I have probably watched “Bee Movie” more than some would like to admit as a kid and have not done so since I was 13. Even for the memes. “The Bad Guys” came off as a disposable family film with cheap comedy gags. I did not think I would particularly like it.

Now that I have seen the film, it is kind of that… Except that I did walk out thinking that I saw something that technically qualified as… Well, good!

In addition to some cheap comedy attempts that the trailer seems to promise, there are some hints of cleverness in between. This movie has one of the funniest lines I have heard from a children’s film in recent memory. I won’t quote it verbatim, but one of the best moments of the film is when we see the Big Bad Wolf and Mr. Snake talking to each other, when all of sudden, Snake spits out a clock, and reminds Wolf of the time, saying that it is “the moment our friendship died.” I imagine this was written as a throwaway line, but for some reason it just hit me the right way.

The voice cast is actually rather impressive from Sam Rockwell as Wolf, Marc Maron as Snake, Awkwafina as Tarantula… Yeah, some of these names are QUITE generic… But ya know. It is not entirely the movie’s fault. It is based on a book. If anything, blame the book. I dunno… But still, generic names! Either way, each actor finds a way to swimmingly match their voice to each role. I almost cannot see anyone else voicing Wolf at this point. The only other voice I could see is maybe Matthew McConaughey, but given how he’s already got a major role in “Sing” and a bit of an accent, I think that Rockwell is a better choice. Awkwafina has a swagger to her voice that is perfectly sprinkled into her role of Tarantula, and to my surprise, Craig Robinson had an over the top attitude to the character of Shark that was finely executed. Anthony Ramos mixed okay with his character of Piranha, but I think he is an element of the film that relies on tired gags maybe a little too much.

My favorite voices of the film come from characters who are not quite in the forefront. First off, we have an over the top police chief who goes by the name Misty Luggins. Her aspirations are to capture the Bad Guys for good. As the movie progresses she becomes funnier and funnier, her one-dimensionality is honestly her strength. If anything, she kind of reminded me of the old lady from the “Madagascar” movies who refers to Alex the Lion as a “bad kitty,” only in this case, Luggins seems a tad more civilized. She just seems so passionate about reaching her goals, and even though she technically was on what this movie refers to as its antagonistic side, part of me could not help but root for her. I was also delighted to find out that she was voiced by Alex Borstein of “Family Guy” fame.

Also joining the cast is British comedian Richard Ayoade, who in this film plays a character by the name of Professor Marmalade. I love this character. Professor Marmalade is pretty much everything that the Bad Guys are not. While the Bad Guys are busy hacking, robbing, taking from innocent people, Marmalade on the other hand is quite benevolent, rather charitable. He has a history of guinea pig philanthropy and every moment of his presence is one to savor. Ayoade is perfect casting for this role because of the pure distinctness of his voice that has the right amount of innocence, kindness, possibly even geekiness. At first I thought this was Daniel Radcliffe, because when I first heard Professor Marmalade talk I was getting Harry Potter vibes. But I heard his voice more and more, and one, recognized it, and two, adored it. If Sam Rockwell was solid casting for Wolf, then Richard Ayoade is gargantuanly perfect casting for Professor Marmalade. Two thumbs up.

“The Bad Guys” is a well-voiced, not to mention well-animated little film. This film has a distinct, quick, almost comic book-like style that works for it. That said, here is my big problem. Humans.

Humans are a problem. War, global warming, lust, capitalism. Humans are a disaster and I have no problem in saying that. Humans are not perfect, and speaking of imperfections, there are so many humans in this film that it makes me, the Movie Reviewing Moron, wonder… HOW ARE THESE BAD GUYS GETTING AWAY WITH ALL THIS STUFF?!

Genuine question. How many sharks are there in this universe? Also, how many of them speak English?! This movie establishes that Mr. Shark is a master of disguise. How on earth do more people not catch him committing crimes or pulling off heists? I don’t buy any of this! This universe almost establishes that these talking animals are almost one of a kind. I would like to know how they continue to blend in a world that is implied to be dominated by humans, kind of like ours. Yeah, there are other creatures too, but they supposedly are few and far between unless maybe you’re a guinea pig. I think if you want a more practical universe, I would not say to take the humans out entirely. But maybe replace some of the ordinary citizens with other animal types. Maybe apes or tigers or cheetahs. If this movie looked something more like “Zootopia” or “Sing,” I’d buy it more. But it’s less believable because it sort of traces back to our reality despite some slight changes here and there.

This goes back to what I said about kids movies treating its audience like they’re intelligent. Now, I am in my 20s, so therefore I do not have the brain of a child, even though I do admittedly sometimes act like one. But the movie still entertained me despite its noticeable flaws, therefore even though I think this is something that should have been fixed before release, it does not exactly take away from the fun I had watching this movie. I get why they made the main characters different creatures. It helps by highlighting their distinctiveness, and may make the movie more attractive and marketable for younger viewers. But if you are gonna go this way, you might as well go all the way. Keep all of the main creatures as they are, but add a few other altering creatures into the background for a change. Just a suggestion. It’s a pretty big suggestion, not afraid to admit it, but nevertheless. Say what you want about all these superhero movies from Marvel and DC having characters with impractical abilities. Here’s the thing about Spider-Man. Let’s use Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man as an example. Sure, maybe in reality there is no one out there that can shoot webs out of their wrists. But the movie’s environment, vibe, characters, actions, everything within that first “Spider-Man” movie from 2002 felt like it was carefully constructed to make me believe that a teenager could live a life swinging around New York City. “The Bad Guys” fails on that goal because of the characters and environment that surround the ones in the title. Am I nitpicking? You could make the argument that I am. But I only say this because I have to be honest in my thoughts and remind those who I am sharing my thoughts with that I am trying to help. I am making suggestions based on my experience. That said, I liked the movie. I’d still give it a watch.

In the end, “The Bad Guys” is a good time even though I have a tendency to rip it apart somewhat. Would I want a sequel to this movie? I don’t think so, but I think this a fine hour and a half to turn off your brain, or if you are me, almost turn off your brain. This is not going to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, in fact I think if you want a better family movie to watch with the kids, “Turning Red” would be better for certain audiences. I think if you have younger kids “The Bad Guys” might be better, but it’s not a better movie. But as an adult, I DID laugh quite a bit, and I clapped at the end. There’s also some cool action, look forward to it if that’s your thing. I’m going to give “The Bad Guys” a somewhat generous 6/10.

“The Bad Guys” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! I’ve got a few reviews coming soon between “The Northman,” “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Look forward to those! If you want to see 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 Bad Guys?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you enjoyed as a kid that does not hold up as an adult? For me, that would have to be the live-action “Alvin and the Chipmunks” films. What about you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Morbius (2022): The Worst Comic Book Movie in a Long Time

“Morbius” is directed by Daniel Espinosa (Life, Safe House) and stars Jared Leto (Blade Runner 2049, Suicide Squad), Matt Smith (Last Night in Soho, Doctor Who), Adria Arjona (Good Omens, Emerald City), Jared Harris (The Crown, Mad Men), Al Madrigal (Night School, The Way Back), and Tyrese Gibson (Transformers, 2 Fast 2 Furious). This film follows Dr. Michael Morbius, a biochemist who happens to have a rare blood disease. When trying to find a cure for said disease, he instead becomes infected to the point where he is part man, part vampire.

I love comic book movies. To me, they have delivered dumptrucks of entertainment for years and have brought out some of my favorite moviegoing experiences. And for the past few MCU films, I usually make an attempt to go see them opening Thursday night just to feel the energy of the crowd. Well that, and to get the review out quicker. Although when it comes to “Morbius,” that was not on my list of movies to get excited about. Sure, I kind of like Jared Leto. He was insanely good in “The Little Things” that came out last year, and I think he has a dedication to the craft of acting that I think some people should attempt to match these days. But the reality is that Sony has been very mixed in its comic book movie craft in recent years. “Venom” was by far one of the worst comic book films of the 2010s, and I still have not seen it since going to the cinema. Although I will admit I had fun with its sequel, “Let There be Carnage,” despite its campy and obnoxious nature. Plus, the marketing for “Morbius” did promise some interesting teases. I was intrigued enough to go see the film with an open mind.

And much like the recent MCU fare from Disney (and technically Sony for the most recent example), I went to go see “Morbius” on opening Thursday. The theater was definitely not as crowded as the one for “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” although comparing the films almost feels unfair given how one has been hyped up since the dawn of time, and the other is about a character significantly fewer people recognize. But the theater was moderately filled. My Dolby Cinema experience certainly was not an empty one.

But I certainly felt empty after watching this movie.

This is not true for every single Marvel movie, but for a majority of them that I’ve seen in theaters, they can trigger all kinds of emotions from happiness to laughter to even heartbreak. Just ask Nicole Kidman from that stupid freaking ad that airs before every single movie telling me to go to an AMC, EVEN THOUGH I’M ALREADY THERE.

If you guys remember my review for “Damned!,” the movie that James S. Murray directed before he was one of the stars for “Impractical Jokers,” one thing I said in that review was unlike several other bad movies I have watched, “Damned!” made me feel nothing. I had no rage-induced outbursts, no humungous laughs for the wrong reason, no significant sigh of relief when it was over (although to be fair the movie was under an hour). As for “Morbius,” I kind of experienced the same thing, except that I was in a somewhat crowded theater with a bunch of other people who also did not utter a sound throughout the entire film.

I did facepalm once. That was something.

Let me put it this way, and this may also be unfair because it is technically a comedy, I chuckled once during the 2016 “Ghostbusters” movie. Can’t say the same for “Morbius.”

I know comic book movies are hot right now. I know “Spider-Man” is hot right now. But I almost don’t give a crap if they decided to make a movie for Morbius the Living Vampire. I never asked for it. Then again I never asked for “Joker” and yet that was one of my favorite comic book films of 2019.

When it comes to bad movies, “Morbius” is almost the worst kind of bad. Because if the movie has terrible acting, there is a chance that there is enough cheese to make me invested enough. “Batman & Robin” is a good example. “Morbius” came off more like the 2015 “Fantastic Four” film, where you have a bunch of actors, including some notable names like Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan, and they all appear to have a hang of things. They’re committed to their craft, but the script does not match their acting talents.

I’ll admit, when this movie started, it wasn’t perfect, but the buildup was not that bad. It set up a relationship between a couple kids who have something in common. The two end up separating, and their relationship is kind of the bond that holds everything together even though they drift apart for most of the film. I liked that aspect. It felt rather down to earth while showing off specific traits for the characters. It was an okay mix of exposition and character building. AND HERE IS WHERE THE POSITIVES STOP.

This movie has a fair amount of action, and comic books, not to mention their movies, are often known for having rather stylized action scenes, but just because big explosions and magic spells look pretty in “Avengers: Infinity War,” doesn’t mean every movie is going to be just like it. “Morbius” is more along the lines of “Venom,” which should not be surprising, considering how both are from Sony, where it has the darkness of the “Batman” films we have gotten over the years, but with way less competence than we usually get out of those. I get that these are technically origin stories for villains, but this kind of brings up a major concern for these characters. When I saw “Venom” I could barely tell what was going on in certain action scenes because everything is so dark, including the characters in terms of their appearance.

“Morbius” basically has a similar vibe throughout to the first “Venom” movie, with subtle differences, except that whatever fun that I had in “Venom” did not even exist in “Morbius.” “Venom” is arguably my least favorite Marvel film of any kind that has been put out in the 2010s. The fact that I am using it as the positive here baffles me to no end. THEY HAD TWO YEARS TO FIX THIS MOVIE! Paramount did it with “Sonic the Hedgehog” in less than that time after releasing their first trailer even without a worldwide pandemic! What prevented them from rewriting certain scenes and just improving them in any way they could? I get it’s a lot of money, but I guarantee you the only reasons why this movie is doing as well as it is is because of “Spider-Man.” But I don’t think it’ll help the film’s legs. This film would have legs if it had better word of mouth, and the reviews don’t reflect a collectively positive reaction. I know some people don’t like how Marvel Studios films often try to go for a laugh, but I much prefer that compared to whatever the hell this is because I felt cold, I felt sleepy, I felt emotionless throughout the picture. There was literally nothing on screen that I watched that made me smile. There were times where I dilated my eyes, but not because I was excited. It’s because I was questioning the motives of the filmmakers and possibly the studio.

I want to talk about trailers, and I do not often talk about trailers when I’m reviewing their respective movies because they’re clearly two different things. In fact, in recent years, certain films, like those from Marvel Studios, even threw in moments that never ended up appearing in the final product. Those moments were seemingly always intended to be a misdirect unless for some reason they came from a deleted scene or something of that nature (“Yesterday” is a commonly brought up example today). I am not going to get into much detail, because this may dive into spoiler territory depending on what your definition of a spoiler is, but there are certain key moments that I think brought more hype and attention to this movie than anything else that added up to nothing. It was all one big lie. Now, what’s not a lie is that Michael Keaton is in the movie. I won’t give any more details than that. In fact, you know how I said they had two years to fix this movie because of the pandemic? Well, I guess maybe they did try to fix it. Kinda… Because part of me wants to guess the studio is trying to follow a particular trend. I won’t say more, but when it comes to pandering, this is about as obvious as a Donald Trump rally. I went political, I know. How edgy! That being said, it’s time for Sony to make comic book movies great again!

Wait, they made “Spider-Verse?” Okay, they get a free pass on that one, that was the bomb.

And I come up with this conspiracy theory because if you watched “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” over the past number of months, Michael Keaton sat down for an interview where he was just finished talking, and decided to reveal he had to shoot footage for his character of Vulture, who he played five years ago, the day after said interview. He did not say it was for “Morbius” specifically, but I had a feeling that could have been what it was for given the timing between the interview and when the film was supposed to come out. I was not on set, so I have no proof, but I feel like this is Sony trying to pander to an audience who wants to look at shiny things.

Now, I want to blame Sony for the making of this film. This film is the literal definition of what someone who hates the trend of comic book movies thinks of when the words “modern comic book movie” comes into their head. Jared Leto is not to blame, because he aces the character. And surprisingly, it is one of his tamer characters he has played in his career. He’s not as near emotionless as he was in “Blade Runner 2049,” nor is he as obnoxious as he was in “Suicide Squad.” He’s kind of in between. I think if this movie were better, I would want to see more from Jared Leto as the character, but unfortunately the movie is not as compelling as Leto’s acting talents.

Going over to the antagonist, Milo, played by Matt Smith, I am actually impressed with him in this film, but also slightly disappointed because Smith’s best work in this film comes toward the end. He kind of had a Jim Carrey playboy vibe to him. I start seeing his supposed passion put into the role with his physicality mixed with dialogue, then in the next moment, I feel like said passion is hidden because I’m only hearing his voice. Much of this movie would not have happened if it were not for stylistic editing with crappy special effects.

The ending of this film is by far one of the most anticlimactic I have seen in years. It’s like the writers just gave up and did not know how to put a bow on everything. It’s like they said, “Well, it’s 90 minutes, so…”

And I should not be surprised, the movie is written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless. These two are the same geniuses of disaster behind “Gods of Egypt.” A blockbuster so bad that there is barely anyone in the movie who would actually resemble an Egyptian! The whole movie felt like a pyramid scheme. Now these two are back to make something that is… Frankly worse. Because at least “Gods of Egypt” had pretty CGI at times. Some of it looked over the top, but it was still pretty. And the music was not that bad either if you ask me. But just like “Gods of Egypt,” I barely felt engaged with anything that was going on in “Morbius.” The movie just jolted, stopped to an uncomfortable halt, and bored me for the remainder of the runtime.

Want to know how bad “Morbius” is? Because the movie is bad enough, but somehow, the end credit scenes made it worse. These are the WORST end credit scenes EVER. Like trailers, I try to keep the credits almost as a separate entity, because in many cases, the movie could suck, but the credits could have a good scene. I’ll admit, I was kind of underwhelmed by “Captain Marvel,” but there was a pretty juicy credits scene if you asked me. But because it barely had anything to do with the film for the most part, I almost disregarded it when it came to my final verdict. The post-credits scenes here are utterly ridiculous to the point where they make the trailers and movie look worse than they already are. After seeing “Venom,” I was nervous to see what Sony would end up doing with all these Spider-Man characters. Now, I’m terrified. “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” was a step in the right direction, but going to back to what I said in my original “Venom” comparison, “Morbius” almost has a similar feel to “Venom,” but somehow packs in way less joy and fun than that movie did. And it barely had those things to begin with.

I honestly hope that these two writers, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless improve their craft immediately. Because if they make another movie like this and “Gods of Egypt,” we are in for a long and bumpy ride. I liked what they did with “Power Rangers,” which feels weird to say because I do not recall that movie having the best reception. But honestly, if Sony continues to use these Marvel characters, I think they will have to scour for someone better, because I don’t believe these two writers are the key to their eventual succe-WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY’RE DOING “MADAM WEB?!”

F************!

In the end, “Morbius” fails on every task it attempts to achieve and makes me beg to Sony that they give this Spider-Man villain trend a rest. “Morbius” is without a doubt, one of the worst comic book movies I have seen in my life. Probably in the top 5 for sure. I’d rather watch any film that was previously made for both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Detective Comics Extended Universe! Even “Wonder Woman 1984!” Remember that?! That first hour could not have been more dull! This is the first time in awhile that I recall leaving the theater and not having a smile, at least in my head, after watching a comic book movie. I am not one of those people who claims they have comic book movie fatigue. I enjoy the MCU, I already have my tickets for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” I think James Gunn is doing a lot of great stuff for both Marvel and DC! I just want Sony, and the two writers behind this movie, to do better. If I have learned anything from “The LEGO Movie,” it is that you can tell a good story out of anything. You just have to get the audience to care. And “Morbius” failed on every level. There are very few modern comic book movies that I don’t own on Blu-ray or some form of physical media. I think “Morbius” has just joined the rejects. I’d rather watch “Batman & Robin” three times in one day than this movie twice in my life! I’m going to give “Morbius” a 1/10.

“Morbius” is now playing in theaters. Tickets are available now, and I guarantee that you will find a seat.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for a movie that came out last year, and it is one that I glad I got to see in the cinema when it played, “CODA.” I almost did not review this film because it is technically from last year and I figured it would be irrelevant. But in addition to the recent Best Picture win at the Academy Awards, I feel such a need to talk about it. Especially after talking about this piece of crap. Also coming up, I will be reviewing “Sonic the Hedgehog 2!” Stay tuned for that, and 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 “Morbius?” What did you think about it? Also, what is the worst comic book movie you have ever seen? I’ll admit, I’ve missed a few bad ones in my lifetime. I still haven’t seen “Catwoman,” I still haven’t seen “Supergirl,” nor have I seen “Elektra.” Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Batman (2022): The Longest Sight of the Darkest Knight

“The Batman” is directed by Matt Reeves (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Cloverfield) and stars Robert Pattinson (Twilight, The Lighthouse), ZoĆ« Kravitz (Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men: First Class), Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood), Jeffrey Wright (The French Dispatch, Westworld), John Turturro (Transformers, The Big Lebowski), Peter Sarsgaard (Dopesick, Green Lantern), Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and Colin Farrell (Total Recall, The Lobster). This film is the umpteenth reboot/remake/cash cow on a platter of the Caped Crusader. And I assume Warner Brothers already happens to have three more in development. This time around, Robert Pattinson plays Batman, or Vengeance, it can go either way at this point, who is forced to chase down the Riddler (Paul Dano) and follow himself down the rabbit hole to determine his family’s involvement in Gotham’s ongoing crime.

My excitement for “The Batman” was always something I kept in my head. And unlike other superhero stories in recent months like “The Suicide Squad” or “Eternals,” I had those expectations at a moderate level, but not at one that made me feel somewhat pessimistic. If you want a fair comparison, I would say it is almost equal to the excitement I had for “Shang-Chi” before all the reviews came out. I was immersed into the trailers we were given, and looking forward to seeing how Matt Reeves could potentially pull off a “Batman” movie that speaks to a 2022 audience.

While I will admit I think there are days where “The Dark Knight” may get a tad too much hype, I have always admired the film. I thought it was the definitive comic book film that delivered a little bit of fun, a little bit of dark, and a whole lot of epic. Christopher Nolan’s direction and Hans Zimmer’s score definitely add to the scope and vibe of the film. I would have been happy if “The Batman” were half as good as the “The Dark Knight” because even in that case, it would be a good movie.

Now “The Batman,” per my opinion, is no “The Dark Knight,” but it is a watchable film. And like “The Dark Knight,” the tone is incredibly set by the music, perhaps more effectively than the 2008 counterpart. Michael Giacchino’s score, even in its more subtle moments, feels prominent and difficult to ignore. Now unlike “The Dark Knight,” which I think has a really good opening scene, I think the opening scene of “The Batman” does a much better job at measuring the tone and stakes of everything at hand. This film’s introduction to the Riddler is chill-inducing, and almost horror-like. Granted, this movie does take place on Halloween, hence the Long Halloween inspiration.

Now, Batman and Spider-Man are often seen as two of the most popular heroes of all time. So much so that their characters reboot almost on the frequency of Tom Brady winning Super Bowls. Similar to seeing a couple movies where Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man, loses his uncle, we also have seen a couple movies where Bruce Wayne, AKA Batman, loses his parents. “The Batman” takes the MCU or “Spider-Man: Homecoming” route and skips the deaths of Wayne’s parents. For a movie like this, I like this approach. Partially because it allows us to get straight into the character of Batman, whose first main scene in this movie provides one of the grittiest action sequences the character has gone through, and also because THIS MOVIE IS SO FREAKING LONG!

Maybe I should not have said that. This is not the longest Halloween–err I mean, longest comic book movie I have sat through. “Avengers: Endgame” was over three hours. But the reason why “Avengers: Endgame,” to me, gets away with its three hour runtime is because I have realized more and more over the years that it is not necessarily a matter of how long a movie is, but how long it feels when it comes to keeping me entertained. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched “Blade Runner 2049” from start to finish. That movie is two hours and forty-four minutes, which by today’s standards, is rather long. It flies by every single time I watch it. However, there were one or two moments when I watched “The Batman” and thought, “When’s the credits? Why aren’t they popping up yet?” I feel like this movie could have been better paced if they shaved off 5, 10, even 20 minutes. I do think the slow burn feel fits the narrative and characters at hand, but it also almost made me want to fall asleep.

But I’ll tell you what didn’t make me fall asleep…

ONE OF THE BEST CAR CHASES IN YEARS!

It’s been a few years since I have seen a truly exciting, immersive, compelling car chase. The last one that comes to mind is from 2018 during “Ready Player One,” where we keep transitioning from the real world to the virtual world where the people are driving and Wade is trying to get the key in the hole. The chase between Batman and the Penguin sent chills down my spine from frame one. For starters, the sound in this chase is some of the most heart-pumping I heard in a recent movie. I knew how amazing this chase would be ever since I saw the trailers, and I was not wrong. That moment where Colin Farrell, who looks almost unrecognizable as Penguin, shouts to himself, followed by the Batmobile’s reveal behind him, provides for pure satisfaction. Speaking of which, as soon as the Batmobile flicks on, I knew I was in for one of the boldest, almost self-transition into slow motion moments in recent film history. You know that feeling when you are out on the street and see someone so attractive that you’ve never seen before, it’s like time almost stops when you are taking every moment in.

And I think a lot of these slow, bold, yet exciting moments would not happen, or would be less likely to happen if this were not the first story we saw with Robert Pattinson’s interpretation of Batman. There’s a first time for everything, and we might as well let this first time last as long as possible. Speaking of Robert Pattinson, let’s talk about him.

Let me be clear on something. I have NEVER seen “Twlight” or its sequels. I also have never read the books. Some might say I am a better person for not partaking in these stories. I know Robert Pattinson, prior to suiting up for Batman, was perhaps a teenage heartthrob in those films, which gives him a bit of an image that some may think will hinder the film. Similar to One Direction’s Harry Styles in “Dunkirk,” put those thoughts aside because “The Batman” supports the notion that Pattinson is committed to what he does and that he is a genuinely great thespian. And if you do not believe me. Watch “Good Time,” where his performance partially adds up to a good time. Watch “Tenet,” he’s practically my favorite character in the film in terms of line delivery. And PLEASE. PLEASE. Watch “The Lighthouse.” SOOO GOOD. I was not one of these people, but I had maybe a friend or two who despite Robert Pattinson’s continuous career buildup, still felt skeptical of this film’s quality partially because of Pattinson’s past in the “Twilight” series. Either that or Bruce’s emo look, which admittedly works for me. Don’t worry. Pattinson IS Batman. Both literally and figuratively.

Unlike say Ben Affleck or Christian Bale where the difference between Bruce Wayne and Batman is often very clear, I feel like this interpretation of Batman leaves the character of Bruce Wayne, who technically still exists, almost in the background entirely. I don’t mean this in a bad way, because this shows how much Wayne himself has been consumed by the Bat. You know that theory that people have about children? The one where they apparently see something in a video game and decide it is okay to do in real life? While this is not exactly a complete replica of that, Pattinson’s interpretation reminds me of that because of how much Bruce and the Bat have basically become one with each other.

So please? Can we stop already? Can we stop making fun of Robert Pattinson? He’s a genuinely good actor, and he can show that. Matt Reeves accentuates that with his eye-popping and marvelous direction. So let’s get back to talking about the more important things…

Like THE SLAP AT THE OSCAR–Ooohh wait, wait, wait, never mind.

I will also add that Robert Pattinson is not the only standout here performance-wise, Zoe Kravitz makes a fine addition to the movie as Catwoman, and her presence is as commanding as can be. Her chemistry with Pattinson is spot on. Speaking of spot on, aside from maybe Pattinson, I’d say the best performance in the movie probably goes to none other than Paul Dano. I never thought much about Dano as an actor much before “The Batman” came out, but he’s been one of the few things I could not stop thinking about once this movie ended. And this goes back to what I said about the film’s opening scene where we first see the Riddler. They say a movie is only as good as its villain, and they also say that first impressions matter. The Riddler killed it in this film, and had my attention throughout because of that first scene. Every other moment, he kept that same maniacal vibe up. This interpretation of the Riddler is not my favorite Batman on-screen translation ever, but it is up there. And that is part of why this movie is worth watching. Not just for Batman himself, but the people he runs into along the way.

In the end, “The Batman” is the best comic book movie of the year! Why is that? Well, partially because “Morbius” exists. And that’s another story for another time. But I’ll be real with you. There are plenty of “Batman” movies out there, ranging from standalones to crossovers. Out of the many Batman stories that exist on screen, this is not the first one I would pick to watch on a Friday night. Replay value-wise, this movie is not high on my list. But I also think it is beautifully made. It encapsulates a dark vibe that feels modern, but also brings us a masked hero who maybe had much of his personality altered because of his transition. I like that idea brought to the table, and I would not mind seeing a sequel at some point. I am going to give “The Batman” a 7/10.

“The Batman” is now playing in theaters. Tickets are available now. The film will be available to stream on HBO Max starting April 19th.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for Pixar’s “Turning Red,” the brand new animated film that is now streaming on Disney+ for free as long as you are subscribed! Also, stay tuned for my thoughts on “Morbius!” I gave a little tease, but we shall dive deeper at some point! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, be sure to like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Batman?” What did you think about it? Or, who plays the best on-screen Batman? Is it Keaton? Bale? Kevin Conroy? Someone else? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021): Sony and Marvel’s Thrilling, Emotional Love Letter to Three Generations of the Webhead *SPOILER-FREE*

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) - IMDb

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is directed by Jon Watts, who also directed the previous two MCU-set “Spider-Man” installments, which also have home in the title. I’m assuming if they make a fourth movie, it’s gonna be called “Grand Slam?” You know, instead of home run? Four?

Anybody?

Who cares?

Anyway, this film stars Tom Holland (Cherry, Onward), Zendaya (Space Jam: A New Legacy, Dune), Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek: Into Darkness, Sherlock), Jacob Batalon (Blood Fest, Let it Snow) Jon Favreau (Chef, Solo: A Star Wars Story), Jamie Foxx (Soul, Ray), Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse, Aquaman), Alfred Molina (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time), Benedict Wong (Annihilation, Raya and the Last Dragon), Tony Revolori (Dope, The Grand Budapest Hotel), and Marisa Tomei (Parental Guidance, Anger Management). This film revolves around Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man, who has to deal with the newfound dangers that lie ahead now that his identity has been revealed, in addition to being connected to the recent event of Mysterio’s drone swarm in London, which has been interpreted differently by the general public. When Peter seeks Dr. Strange’s help to make everyone forget he was Spider-Man, the spell to make such a thing happen goes wrong, villains from other universes arrive, and it is up to Peter to do the right thing before the dangers of one universe then become the dangers of another.

Alright guys, it is that time again. A big movie in December. Although this time around, it’s not in the “Star Wars” franchise. Still huge. That being said, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the biggest movie of the year. I should note the box office suggests that this film is enormous, but there are still people who have not seen the film. I know at least a couple. With that being said, I will note that this review is spoiler-free. I am going to talk about certain points in the film that stand out, but I’m not going to go into deeper plot points. If you have not seen this movie and plan to see it, I can tell you that this review is safe to read.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a follow-up to “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Spider-Man: Far from Home.” I have to say that when it comes to the first film, it is slightly more enjoyable than I remember it being. But given Spider-Man’s excellent writing in “Captain America: Civil War,” the writing for that film felt like a step down. I really liked Vulture. Peter’s chemistry with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) was charming. I even liked Liz in that film. I still think the film has logic issues when it comes to how Peter’s suit works and how Tony Stark would want it to work, but the film is still decent enough to pass the time. When it comes to “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” that film felt like a step up. Jake Gyllenhaal did a great job as Mysterio. I liked Ned a bit better this time around compared to the original. Plus it was nice to see Spider-Man somewhere other than New York for a change. Plus, the end of the film promised a fantastic setup for what would ultimately become “No Way Home.”

When it comes to “No Way Home,” is it a thumbs up or a thumbs down?

I think neither. I’d say TWO thumbs up.

Now, like almost everyone else, I should note that my anticipation and my excitement for “No Way Home” was high. Not as much as “Dune,” but still high. But I was also nervous. Because the film promised massive multiversal shenanigans, which sounds great. I should note… It SOUNDS great. During the fall as we built up to this film’s release, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in my mind sounded like it could be one of two things. It’s either going to be the best movie ever, or the worst movie ever, and nowhere in between. In crossover-speak, is it going to be the next “Infinity War?” Or is it going to be the next “Space Jam: A New Legacy?” God that movie was awful. Thankfully, upon leaving the theater, I can confirm that I felt excited to go see the movie again in less than 24 hours, and my mind literally melted on the way home from how exciting this movie was to watch.

This film has a ton of villains ranging from Doc Ock to Electro, but it’s not like they’re just there for nostalgia purposes. Granted, at the end of the day, this film is sort of a tribute to the Spider-Man character and all the stories that came before this one. Anyone can put in a ton of cool characters and have them fight against Spider-Man. Heck, this movie could be Spider-Man vs. Godzilla vs. Agent Smith vs. Ron Burgundy, but it does not guarantee a good movie. It’s a basic case of concept vs. reality. The concept is great, but the reality could suck. But here’s the truth about all these villains…

Jamie Foxx’s Electro was written ten times better than he was written in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Now, I will admit, they did kind of highlight a specific aspect about him from that film, specifically how Max was a nobody, which I thought had some okay setup before he was affected by a bunch of eels. But as we see him enter this universe, I could really tell that he was confused, he was concerned, and had no idea what was going on. They’ve even given him a new costume, which may be for story purposes, sure, but of course, who doesn’t want to sell more toys? Why do you think they gave 3PO a red arm in “The Force Awakens?”

My favorite villain of Raimi’s “Spider-Man” films was always Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. I feel like even though his character was truly at the end of the day, an evil mastermind, he also had a heart. He went through tragedy the same way Peter did in those movies when he lost Uncle Ben. Only in the case of Doc Ock, he used his tragedy for evil, partially for a reason beyond his control. Even though he terrorized New York City, I feel bad for him, looking back. Plus, his arms are among some of the best practical effects ever. As for how he’s handled in this movie, I like the way they went about exploring his character’s newfound questions. After all, when you enter another universe, everything feels completely strange. Although when they first introduced him, they had a potential plot hole that could have affected how I viewed the entire movie that was corrected about ten to twenty minutes later. Glad they touched up on that. In this film, instead of his arms being practical, they were CGI, and I honestly could barely tell the difference. They did a really good job at making Doc Ock fit into a universe like this, even though it’s really the same character as another one.

But if you’re going to ask me who I think gives the single greatest performance out of all the film’s villains, I think that would have to be Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Now I always sensed that Dafoe enjoyed playing the character of Norman Osborn and being a part of the “Spider-Man” franchise. Even after his character died in “Spider-Man” (2002) he came back for the sequels, and there’s also a bonus feature where Alfred Molina is pranked by Dafoe, wearing the Doc Ock tentacles, trying to motivate Molina to give the greatest performance possible. Part of this movie centers around Osborn struggling with his inner self, which is not new for him, and I feel like we get so many layers to his character. We see his bewilderment of the world around him. We see him conflict over power and normalcy, and I think his dark side is more evident than ever. Whenever he does something truly horrific in this film, not only is it well written, I think it may deliver the best performance I have seen out of a Spider-Man villain in a long. Long. Long. Long time. I really liked the Green Goblin in the 2002 “Spider-Man” movie. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” arguably made him even better.

Now I will say that there are a couple other villains in this film, including Sandman and Lizard. Of the film’s villains, those two were the weakest, but they were still better than a lot of the villains we get in the MCU nowadays. I say that because a lot of the films in the MCU sometimes fail to heighten the villain and instead we get a cliche bad guy who just stands in the hero’s way. These are two are better than Ronan in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” And they’re especially better than Malekith in “Thor: The Dark World.” These two have some occasional funny lines, and I like Lizard’s reference to his master plan which Electro ended up making fun of. It’s not like they did not need to be in the movie, the movie is definitely cool with them and they do not end up doing anything offensive. But of all the villains in the film, Sandman and Lizard are the weakest links because they have the least depth. We get more time with Doc Ock and Goblin, therefore we have more opportunities to see depth for them, but for Sandman and Lizard, not so much.

But of course, this film belongs to the heroes. Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Ned, and MJ.

All of these actors who play the heroes are great and I think when it comes to Ned (center) in this movie, he’s kind of a bundle of joy. When I saw Ned for the first time in “Homecoming,” I thought he was annoying. I kind of grown to like him in that movie a little bit, because I kind of get the enthusiasm behind finding out your best friend is Spider-Man, but I think of these three movies, he had the worst writing because his questions can get excessive. To me, the writing in this film made the most sense of the three, although his storyline in “Far from Home” was hilarious. It’s one way to write teen love I guess. Although if I have one thing to say, it’s not a huge complaint, but it is something worth pointing out, something happens with Ned in this movie that is out of random chance. It was never something that was established that he could do, or something he learned. It just happened. I mean, if you watched the movie, they “teased” it a little, but kind of as a joke, nothing more. I guess foreshadowing is foreshadowing, even if it’s a throwaway joke.

Zendaya’s MJ is another character that to me evolved with time. In the first film, she felt overly snarky. In the second film, I got to know her a little better and I began to appreciate her as a character just a bit more. In this third film, we see her with Spider-Man from the start, and I think their chemistry has blossomed into something special. It is worth noting that all three live-action Spider-Men from Tobey Maguire to Andrew Garfield to Tom Holland all dated their character-based love interests at one point in real life. Maybe that’s why their chemistry all feels natural. There was a scene on a school rooftop, it’s in the trailer, that stood out to me as to why Holland and Zendaya work together. Although I was a bit surprised to see MJ reading a physical newspaper as opposed to some article on her phone. I dunno, just a stereotypical generational thing.

Doctor Strange is in this film as well, and judging by the trailers, his performance at first felt a little different from his previous outings in the MCU. Having seen the movie, and having remembered some of the other movies he’s been in, it actually feels somewhat consistent. Maybe it feels different because he’s communicating with teenagers, which may not be his forte. I may be making excuses, but I think if you’re an adult, you may have a way of communicating with teenagers in a slightly different tone than you would with your spouse or your boss. You know, unless your employer works at “LitDonald’s!” Keep it 100 with our Big Lit! Sauce me some of those yeet fries! Enjoy the LitRib for a limited time! Although when it comes to consistency, there is a one-liner out of Strange about birthday parties that feels wonderfully similar in tone to this exchange in “Infinity War.”

Dr. Stephen Strange: If we don’t do our jobs…

Tony Stark: What is your job, exactly, besides making balloon animals?

Dr. Stephen Strange: Protecting your reality, douchebag.

But of course, we need to talk about Tom Holland. Spider-Man stories have shown a balance between a hero struggling to maintain his friendships, his identity, while also trying to save the world. In the case of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” this balance is handled brilliantly. The film starts off right where the last one ended, and right off the bat we already see Spider-Man protecting what he has left of his identity, his love interest, and the people he knows. We already start off the movie with one of the worst possible things that could have happened to Peter Parker, and that’s just the beginning. We see him deal with controversy in school. Parker’s trying to find a lawyer. The people he loves are being hurt for reasons beyond their control. As we go through Spider-Man’s journey, the tragedy only builds up. And this is what makes Spider-Man a hero. When he goes to Doctor Strange to make everyone forget he’s Spider-Man, he’s not just looking out for himself, he’s looking out for the people around him. His friends, family, colleagues. There’s a subplot in the film where the trio are trying to get into college and that is only made harder through their connections to the battle in London.

I expected this film to be exciting. I expected this film to be fun. But part of me was not ready for how much emotion this movie packs. Now I figured there would be at least one emotional moment because it is the third film of a trilogy and that’s where certain ends are tied up for good and that sort of thing. This film has multiple powerful scenes and happenings that bring a balance between the expected excitement and the emotional weight. Tom Holland in this film honestly delivers one of the best performances of his career because of this. I don’t think he’ll be nominated for an Oscar, but by the end of the film, there’s a particular arc that is perfectly assembled and you don’t even need words for it. Just the expressions on his face alone make the scene perfect. You may know what I’m talking about when it comes around.

Although I do want to talk about one thing when it comes to the emotion. This is a spoiler-free review, so I will not go into detail. But the ending of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” despite its instant feeling of satisfaction, induction of a smile, and solid conclusiveness to certain characters, probably would have been made better if Peter did one thing to possibly prevent another thing from happening. If I did a spoiler review, I would expand on it. But again, I cannot. The point of me making this review is not to discuss every single plot point and detail. It is to convince my viewers as to whether they could make a formal decision on whether “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is worth seeing. I recommend you do, I think this is easily one of best “Spider-Man” films ever made. But I want my viewers to go into this film knowing as little as possible, but with enough details as to what I like, didn’t like, and maybe that will help them know whether or not this movie is for them. I would not instantly recommend this movie to my mom (although I would recommend Shang-Chi), but I do recommend a lot of you reading this should go check out “No Way Home” on the biggest screen you can.

I will also point out that this is Jon Watts’s third film in this trilogy, making him the first director to direct a complete trilogy in the MCU. Jon Favreau directed two installments for “Iron Man,” but Shane Black did the third. Joss Whedon did the first two “Avengers” films, but the next two ended up going to the Russo Brothers. When it comes to all three movies, they are solid. But the directing in these films do not really give him much of a chance to individualize himself. And as for this movie, I think Willem Dafoe’s face reveal, as exciting as it was, could have been handled slightly better. It was still exciting, but it was very quick. Although I think if you take into account the end of the film and the performances from just about everyone, this may be the best-directed film in the franchise. Everyone felt true to their characters and when came to Peter’s emotions, Watts likely knew exactly how to touch base with Tom Holland. I think after seeing this film, I am curious to see if there are any specific quirks Watts develops, but I nevertheless think he will do a good job with “Fantastic 4,” whenever that comes out.

One last thing before we move on, J.K. Simmons is back as J. Jonah Jameson. You saw the little snippet of him in the previous film, but now we have him here and the way they utilize him is perfect. For this modern era, his placement in the universe makes sense. He’s basically Alex Jones if he was trying to find a cure for his balding. After seeing this film, I am convinced that nobody else aside from J.K. Simmons can play J. Jonah Jameson. Debate over.

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

In the end, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the best film in the Jon Watts trilogy. It’s a triumph for Tom Holland. It’s at the end of the day, a love letter to the character. My favorite “Spider-Man” movie is “Spider-Man 2,” and right below that would have to be this one. It’s that good. The movie has its flaws, but no movie’s perfect. I think the best part about “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is that it doesn’t just use all these previous characters and actors just for the sake of marketing. Granted, it definitely helps. But each villain had at minimum, the slightest of reason to be there. Even Sandman and Lizard. The first two “Spider-Man” films in the MCU happen to be about teenage Spider-Man dealing with teenage situations from crushes to school dances. This film, in my imagination, is literally Spider-Man attempting to push back a giant boulder of inconveniences and tragedies. And by the end of the film, I felt enough of its weight to make me care for everyone. If you like “Spider-Man,” you will love this movie. I don’t know if you will like it more depending on whether you have seen the other villains before, but that’s another debate for another time. Please check this film out, take your friends, take your family, take everyone. It’s best experienced with an audience, and there are some are some epic potential applause break moments depending on when and where you see this film. I’m going to give “Spider-Man: No Way Home” a 9/10.

To me, this kind of reminds me of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…” because despite the glaring issues that such a movie has, I ended up giving it a 9/10. The reason for that is because those issues barely get in the way of all the other crazy sequences and crowd-pleasers of this film. The fan part of me wants to give a perfect score, but again, there’s some issues that keep that from happening. There’s the fan side of me and the critic side of me. Today, I have to be the critic. The film is an experience that I want erased from my memory in order to go back and witness again. For those reasons alone, I highly recommend you go watch this film in a theater. But reserve your tickets in advance, you’re gonna want the best seats.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! I want to let you guys know that I have more reviews coming up including one for “King Richard.” Stay tuned for that! If you want to see 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 “Spider-Man: No Way Home?” What did you think about it? Or, which Jon Watts-directed “Spider-Man” movie is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Eternals (2021): Chloe Zhao’s First Post-Best Picture Effort

“Eternals” is directed by Chloe Zhao, who is the writer, director, and editor of the current champion of the Academy Awards, “Nomadland.” For those who don’t know, the film was nominated for several awards, took home a few, including Best Picture, so naturally my anticipation for this film, at the time, was honestly HIGHER than “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which seems to be the movie all comic book film fans have been building themselves up to this year. Sounds crazy, but I’m not lying. This film stars Gemma Chan (Transformers: The Last Knight, Raya and the Last Dragon), Richard Madden (Cinderella, Game of Thrones), Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley, The Big Sick), Lia McHugh (The Lodge, American Woman), Brian Tyree Henry (Vice Principals, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Lauren Ridloff (Sound of Metal, The Walking Dead), Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk, American Animals), Don Lee (Train to Busan, The Neighbors), Harish Patel (Run Fatboy Run, Today’s Special), Kit Harington (Game of Thrones, Pompeii), Salma Hayek (The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Grown Ups), and Angelina Jolie (Salt, Wanted).

This film is about a group of everlasting beings who have lived on earth for 7,000 years. They take the form of human, although they are not exactly human per se. Throughout their time on earth, they take it upon themselves to protect life from the Deviants, a set of invasive creatures who the Eternals finished off by 1521. Or, at least that was they were told originally was their mission. But now, somehow the Deviants made a return, allowing for the Eternals to reassemble after years apart to protect humanity and prevent the Emergence, or an essential rebirth of earth, which had been delayed due to the Blip that eliminated half of the universe’s population, from happening.

This is a lot to take in. And that is going to be a theme throughout this review. This is the first year we have had MCU-specific spinoff shows and FOUR MCU movies released in theaters. Granted, part of this is due to COVID-19 pushing some projects like “Black Widow” and this one back, but still. A few years back we were getting three MCU movies, and I already thought that was getting slightly overwhelming. We’re literally getting FOUR MCU MOVIES IN A HALF A YEAR! We have “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Eternals,” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” As far as Marvel shows go, we have “WandaVision,” “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” “Loki,” and “Hawkeye.” To be completely honest, the Marvel shows have mostly had some effect of leaving me underwhelmed. I liked the beginning and end of “WandaVision,” “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” had a strong start, but I pretty much forgot certain portions by the end. “Loki” had a GREAT concept, with some okay execution. Didn’t like the finale though. As for “Hawkeye,” it’s a bit early to judge, but I would not be surprised if I forgot it by a year from now.

Of those eight projects, I mean, holy crap! “Eternals” was honestly my most anticipated of them all! I started off 2020 anticipating “Spider-Man: No Way Home” the most, but when I saw “Nomadland” and all its awards honors, that changed significantly. Chloe Zhao is a director I do not know everything about, but I know a couple things about her. First off, she is a brilliant storyteller. I gave her specifically two awards last year during the Jackoffs, one for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director. The reason why I thought Zhao was a perfect fit for a movie like this is because she has shown that she knows how to balance serious and lighthearted tones, which has been a backbone for some of my favorite Marvel movies. “Captain America: Civil War” takes a serious matter like the aftermath of millions of people dying because the heroes saw something as the greater good, and yet you have Spider-Man throwing jokes every other minute. “Avengers: Infinty War” deals with the potential downfall of half the universe’s population, and yet we have time for Star Lord mocking his newfound companions. “Iron Man 3” deals with Tony Stark having anxiety attacks and insomnia, but he also finds away to throw a witty one-liner at someone in every other scene. It’s serious, yet hilarious, and it never feels like these two tones clash to create something stupid.

As for “Eternals,” this is definitely the most serious film they have done in the MCU to date. Honestly, this film has the lore building that I experienced in “Dune” just this year. This is not to say there is no humor. I think when it comes to that, Kumail Nanjiani’s character of Kingo is a major standout, not to mention his camera guy, Karun, played by Harish Patel. Kingo, at least in his modern outlook, is a Bollywood actor who enjoys the craft of cinema and the arts. I find it quite fascinating to see an Eternal like him blend into the 21st century world as we know it, but I also find his presence interesting as it raises a couple questions. As a movie star, will he ever be cast as an old man due to his long lifespan? As much range as this guy may have, I cannot see him as Gandalf. But in all seriousness, I was quite excited to see Nanjiani in this film as on the surface he was one of my favorite performers of the bunch, and I was not disappointed.

Nanjiani, however, is not the heart and soul of “Eternals,” because the film starts and ends with Gemma Chan’s character of Sersi. As far as Gemma Chan’s performance in this film goes, it has an interesting history, because this is not Chan’s first time playing an MCU character. She did after all have a role in “Captain Marvel” as Minn-Erva. I cannot tell you what I thought of her in that film because I pretty much forgot about most of it by now. Again, there were three MCU projects in 2019, one has to be the forgotten child. It could not compete with “Avengers: Endgame” and “Spider-Man: Far from Home.” But I think this character brings a sense of both maturity and grace to the MCU, maybe in a way that has not been done until now. We’ve seen space aliens, wacky beings, and so on, but I will give everyone credit for coming up with a way to bring someone like Sersi down to earth. Each and every scene she felt like someone who knew the planet for such a long time, but also someone who maybe has seen too much, but despite that, she can’t wait to experience whatever else lies ahead. That sounds like a ton of bull, but I hope it makes at least a nick of sense. I am somewhat fascinated by her fascination, the fact that she spent a lifetime observing the lives of others and being enamored by it all. It’s kind of neat to see someone so invested in something that is not their own. It’s almost like she’s a lifelong nature photographer.

What makes this even more fascinating is that not all the Eternals agree on everything. The dynamic of the Eternals when it comes to this reminds me of one scene from the 2007 “Transformers” movie because Optimus Prime is clearly pro-human, he wants to protect them as he sees goodness in every one of them. He says this despite those same people capturing Bumblebee, while a couple of the other Autobots found them to be violent and destructive. This is where Druig comes in, because even though at the end of the day, he has to follow what is supposedly the greater good for him and others, he does not always see great achievements out of mankind, and part of it is because of factors that he was initially told not to control.

One of the big questions of this film, both before going into it and in the script, is “Why did these Eternal beings never interfere in any human activity?” Why did they not stop Thanos? A being that literally erased half of all living creatures? The movie explains that they cannot interfere in any happenings unless Deviants are involved, which as mentioned, all of those creatures were eliminated, or so they thought. Is it odd that they never fought Thanos? Admittedly, yes. At the same time though, if “Avengers: Infinity War” took its current script and spent time introducing all these new characters, the movie would be bloated as hell. This movie has ten Eternals, and it is probably the densest story in the MCU yet. While “Guardians of the Galaxy” was a team-up movie, it was never as jam-packed as this. Basically, this film goes over the creation of life, while also talking about the potential end of it.

When I think of superheroes, two opposite ideas come to mind. Turning men into gods, like Shazam, Spider-Man, and Captain America. Then there’s the idea of turning gods into men, like Thor, Superman, and Wonder Woman. I say that because those last three heroes come from elsewhere and try to blend in with our kind, which the Eternals have done to a T. You have all these people who have seen things happen through the ages and are in fact the most accurate representation of walking history books in MCU history, and at a certain point, you have not only these people showing an appreciation for mankind, but also a desire to live amongst their kind. We see this with the character of Sprite, because one of her struggles throughout the film is that she is living amongst the humans and she’s in this permanent state. Humans change and evolve, but she cannot.

Much like “Nomadland,” this film looks BEAUTIFUL. This film is shot on multiple gorgeous locations, in addtion to some nice sets. Honestly, this is the best-looking MCU film, and I say that in a way that may sound like a detractor to all the other work that came before it (but it isn’t). “Eternals” really doesn’t look like an MCU film. It’s something that’s kind of dirtier. It’s more rugged, but also pristine in spots. It’s like a nice used car you instantaneously buy off the lot and end up taking for a number of joyrides. I saw this film in IMAX, which shows 26% more footage than traditional movie screens for a film like this, and I honestly felt like I was on the beach with these superpowered beings. I wanted more. In fact, after seeing this film, I kind of do want more, I want a break, there is a lot to take in, so I need rest. But I also want more, and this also allows me to state my one problem with the film.

I love the MCU. I know there is a whole debate on whether or not it is actually “cinema,” which I never understood. Yes, I will partially agree with Martin Scorsese that these films work as theme park rides, but that kind of adds to the, well, cinematic experience. But like a lot of cinema, I end up caring about the characters in this film. And when I say characters, I mean CHARACTERS. There is lot to unpack in “Eternals.” I saw this film with a friend, and by the end of it, I talked about how much I liked it, how fun it was, and the things I liked about it, but the film is unbelievably dense. I’m terrible with names in general, but holy crap, I had trouble remembering some of these heroes’ names! There are times in “Eternals” where I’m watching it and it feels like I’m reading chapters of a textbook. Okay, okay! Slow down just a little! It’s a different take on the MCU than I’ve seen in movies past. I welcome it, in fact I love having a different take. But it also played with my mind a bit.

But I also want to say that when it comes to this year’s MCU projects, despite being my most anticipated of the bunch, it did not end up being my favorite. My favorite, at least thus far, is “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” By the end of that film, it basically becomes the typical MCU fare with magnificent creatures flying in the air, CGI galore, and so on, but it starts in such a way that felt at least kind of different, similar to how “Eternals” was trying to be. The reason why I would rather flock back to that film compared to “Eternals” is because at the end of the day, “Shang-Chi” is about a couple best friends having fun as they discover a whole world bigger than themselves. It’s hilarious, action-packed, and has some of the MCU’s best choreography. Much like “Eternals,” I had a couple scenes where my jaw dropped to the floor. But when it comes to my taste in films, replay value is a massive factor in how much I like a movie. I’ll definitely watch “Eternals” again, but I may have to be in a certain mood to watch it on a Friday night. “Shang-Chi” feels more like a movie you can watch either by yourself with your friends. It’s a perfect movie for just about anyone. I would even recommend it to my mom, and she never watches these types of films. “Eternals” is a movie I can see having a more limited audience. It knows its audience and knows it well, but nevertheless.

If I had to give one more positive to “Eternals,” it would be this. One of the big things about the earlier MCU films is that they were all practically building up to Thanos, the idea that half the universe could literally fade. Thanos was seen as the pinnacle of the fate should be avoided. “Eternals” eased my worries in terms of the MCU’s future because Thanos was such an enormous threat, that my big question was how they could top it. “Eternals” seems to promise something potentially bigger, while also introducing big concepts for the early MCU timeline. I will not go into full detail, but this movie is not only huge in its own scale, but the scale of what may be to come.

In the end, “Eternals” is a film that I want to go back to watch another time, and it honestly, the more I think about it, feels a like a motion picture that ages like a fine wine. I have a feeling that if I go back and watch it again, I will have a greater appreciation for the characters. This is a film that introduces a lot of new characters and concepts to the MCU, a lot of which I like. I think Chloe Zhao has brought and may continue to bring some sparks of glamour and fun to this ongoing universe and I would love to see more of her work in it. Do I think “Eternals” is going to get a Best Picture nomination like “Nomadland?” I don’t think so. There’s still a few movies still coming out this year like “Don’t Look Up” that seem to have potential, and the Rotten Tomatoes scores are not fantastic by MCU standards. But if you want an entertaining, beautiful, lore-stacked story, I highly recommend “Eternals” and I’m going to give it an 8/10.

“Eternals” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks fore reading this review! I have plenty of material coming including reviews for “Red Notice,” that’ll be my next new release to talk about, but also stay tuned for my thoughts on “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” “King Richard,” “Tick Tick… Boom,” and a few other films that I am getting set to talk about! Lots of big stuff coming!

Also, on Sunday, December 5th, my final scheduled review series of 2021 is here! In honor of “The Matrix Resurrections” hitting theaters on December 22nd, I will be reviewing all three main “Matrix” installments. On December 5th, I’ll be reviewing “The Matrix,” followed by “The Matrix Reloaded” on December 12th, and “The Matrix Revolutions” on December 19th. These dates could change, I have not decided yet, but we shall see. I cannot wait to talk about these films, the first one is very significant to me, if you need any hints on what I might say during my review that I’m going to be posting on Sunday. 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 “Eternals?” What did you think about it? Also, did you see “Nomadland?” What are your thoughts on that? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021): This Ring-Filled Story Had Me Engaged Until the End

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy, The Glass Castle) and stars Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience, Taken), Awkwafina (Raya and the Last Dragon, Crazy Rich Asians), Meng’er Zhang (Oliver Twist, Finding Destiny), Fala Chen (The Undoing, No Regrets), Florian Munteanu (Creed II, Bogat), Benedict Wong (Raya and the Last Dragon, Annihilation), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Crazy Rich Asians), Ben Kingsley (The Jungle Book, Gandhi), and Tony Leung (Infernal Affairs, In the Mood For Love). This film is the 25th feature-length project in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is about a guy named Shaun, also known as Shang-Chi, who reunites with his family and faces his past as he encounters the ten rings organization.

The Marvel train can’t stop, the Marvel train won’t stop. And honestly, despite a couple duds over the years like “Thor: The Dark World,” I am glad this train has yet to grind itself to a halt. Even though they were not perfect, I enjoyed the few Marvel shows we’ve gotten over the past number of months. I will also say that I enjoyed “Black Widow.” But additionally, as I watched some of this content, part of me became a tad worried, because I had a feeling regarding Marvel that I last felt in 2017 when “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” came out. While both movies had their moments, I think both “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” brought some level of disappointment to the table. And honestly, this feels weird to say, I may have had mixed feelings on “Thor: Ragnarok” too, even though I did find joy in it. Much like 2017, the 2021 Marvel slate has given viewers a fair share of “good” but it has yet to deliver that one gem that is comparable to say “Thor” or “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Let me tell you something, I’m going to confirm straight out of the gate, “Shang-Chi” is not my favorite comic book movie of 2021. It’s got some tough competition with James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad,” which received my first perfect score of the year when I reviewed it, but I think that Marvel greatness is coming back with “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” I would say that as a Marvel fan, I was excited for “Black Widow” when they first announced it, and they executed it in a way that could please a Marvel fan like myself. But with “Shang-Chi,” I think it is going to do a better job at getting a wider audience to appreciate it over time. This is not just your standard Marvel movie with all your heroics, big booms, and such. This is a story that I feel could appeal to almost anyone. I would be SHOCKED if anyone comes out of this movie giving it a 1/10. Why? Because at the end of the day, this movie has one fun scene after the next with dozens of cool ideas and likable characters along the way. While I would not call this movie the next “Back to the Future,” I would put it aside that film in terms of accessibility to all audiences. Because that film is sci-fi, romance, comedy, adventure, and action all in one. It has a little something for everyone and each “something” is done to perfection. “Shang-Chi” I would say is a fine mix of action, mythology, comedy, family drama, and adventure.

I have never said this about any Marvel movie. Maybe with the exception of “Guardians of the Galaxy…” I would show this to my mother someday. For the record, she is *not* in the target audience for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know the MCU can appeal to a wide number of people (Look at “Endgame’s” box office!), but these movies were not ever something that would appeal to my mother specifically. Maybe if I was 8, dad was busy, I could not go to the movies by myself, or if we had some sort of family outing, she would have gone to see one of these Marvel films with me, but I would be surprised if she went to one of these films because she wanted to or if she had any excitement to check one out. I would not be surprised if I had to maybe bribe my mother to watch this film on one occasion or another, but if my mother asked me, “Would I like ‘Shang-Chi?'” My answer would be a “Yes.” And part of that is because of the heart of the film. The heart being, Simu Liu and Awkwafina as Shaun and Katy. These are two people who have been best friends for years and to me they are arguably the most fun pair in recent cinematic history. While I will say that “The Suicide Squad” is still my favorite comic book movie, not to mention favorite movie in general of 2021, I think “Shang-Chi” is going to arguably end up being this year’s biggest crowd-pleaser.

Speaking of, shoutout to Simu Liu for giving a great performance as the character of Shaun. I have not seen much of Liu’s work. I know he is one of the starring roles in “Kim’s Convenience,” which I hear is a really good show, but I have not seen much of it. Frankly, Liu’s performance as Shang-Chi, which to me, evoked a vibe between fun and brooding, made me excited to see what else he could do in the MCU. As for “Kim’s Convenience,” who knows? Maybe I’ll get around to it. But I have way too many things on my plate when it comes to content and life, so we shall see. Also, the man is quite the action star! In the first half of the film, there’s some choreography that comes off as butter smooth. It feels natural, exciting, and fast. I love it! There’s not much evidence in the film that Liu ever needed a double while doing the action scenes, which if anything, pleases me to no end. One of my favorite action stars today is Tom Cruise because he will take any opportunity, practically to meme-worthy points, to do his own stunts. I’m glad that Simu Liu is taking an opportunity to do the same.

You want action? This movie’s got it! This movie does what Marvel does best and delivers one of its finest examples of quality. “Shang-Chi” does a great job at mixing epic action with gutbusting humor, and this is heavily exemplified in the bus scene. The scene is simple. Shaun and Katy are on a bus together, a guy comes up to Shaun, wants his pendant, and he just starts busting everybody in this magnificently fast series of punches and kicks. I won’t go into what makes the scene funny, as I had no idea what was going to happen going in so I’ll let everyone else do the same. However, what makes this scene so awesome is that it sort of grounds the movie despite being in something as fantastical as the MCU. There’s not really any superhuman crap going on here. Well, kind of… There’s some suspension of disbelief that could be brought to the table. It’s just martial arts and trying to survive. Not only is this a breathtaking scene from the heavy duty stunts and eye-popping camerawork, but it also does a good job at progressing the story of the film and establishing a key point of Shaun and Katy’s relationship. Katy’s reactions to this incident could not have been written any better.

Now, you may have seen in the trailer that Wong of “Doctor Strange” fame was going to make an appearance in “Shang-Chi.” If you wanted to know, Wong is in the movie for a number of minutes, but he does not have too much of an impact on the plot from start to finish. He’s in the fight club, he’s in the movie a little later, won’t say when, but if you are a fan of Wong, which I am, I’m sure that his appearance in this film won’t disappoint. Honestly, this movie made me like Wong more, because it did a good job at making him show off a fun personality. Here it is shown that Wong seems to be the kind of guy that you would not mind going out and a having a few drinks with.

As far as origin stories go, “Shang-Chi” excels. In fact, it is up there with “Thor” as one of my favorite origin stories of the MCU. When it comes to the story of this film, much like “Thor,” one of the core aspects of the film is the family drama a good number of the characters experience for themselves. Much of “Thor” was a battle between two brothers trying to impress their father, and in “Shang-Chi,” it’s a situation where the main protagonist is doing whatever he can to disassociate himself with his father. The family drama in “Shang-Chi” had my attention all the way through because I cared about the characters and there comes a point where Shang-Chi’s past catches up to him and he seems to regret everything that happened in his childhood. This is what makes him a broken hero, not so squeaky clean, and much of the backstory and flashbacks regarding what made Shang-Chi who he is happened to be incredibly compelling.

Oh yeah, Awkwafina is a goldmine in this movie. I already mentioned that the relationship between Simu Liu and Awkwafina in “Shang-Chi” is one of my favorite relationships in recent cinema, but part of what makes that relationship blossom is Awkwafina’s performance in the film as Katy. She feels so hyperactive, fun, and the real life version of caffeine! I already admire Awkwafina as a performer, just look at what she did in “The Farewell,” one of my favorite movies of 2019. But “Shang-Chi” proves that one of her strengths is comedy. And honestly, she’s having one heck of a year as far as her resume is concerned, because I already loved her in “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which turned out to be at one point, what I would consider to be the year’s best film. While I will say I like “Raya and the Last Dragon” a bit better than “Shang-Chi,” I think “Shang-Chi” will be a better reference to Awkwafina’s talent as a performer as it gives her a space to be dynamic and all over the place. I went through this entire movie wanting her to be my best friend, I think that is the best thing I can say about her. Honestly, if there is one thing I want after seeing “Shang-Chi,” it’s not just more of Katy, it’s more of Awkwafina in general. After seeing her in this film, I went from liking her, to legit wanting to treat her to lunch.

The flaws present in “Shang-Chi” are minimal. Again, I go back to my “Back to the Future” comparison, this is a film that I think just about anyone could enjoy, but it does not mean it is perfect. Before posting this review, I saw this film twice, and both times, I walked out saying the same thing, which is weird to say as a Marvel fan. This film becomes way too extravagant towards the end. You know how a lot of Marvel movies by the end like “The Avengers” or “Iron Man 3” will end in this big climactic battle? Everything is balls to the wall and flying in your face! CGI is everywhere! You can feel the production budget right in between your eyes! “Shang-Chi,” much like those movies, has that. But in the case of “Shang-Chi,” even though the film is by no means small, it feels weird seeing this big climactic sequence when the first half of the film feels natural and clean in terms of its action scenes. I will not do a deep dive into the second half of the film, but a lot happens and sometimes it can be overwhelming. It’s good stuff. Sometimes it’s great stuff, But when you take the fight choreography in the beginning of the film and compare it with everything towards the end, I find it to be a weird change of pace, even though it does at times match the opening scene, which by the way is an incredible opening scene, one of the best in the MCU. My question to myself is, if the story and characters were unlikable, how much would my opinion differ? It’s just something I want to keep on the backburner.

If you read my review for “Black Widow,” one of my complaints about that film, even though I liked it, is that at times, it felt like it was trying too hard to set up other MCU content. And this also brings in a growing complaint, or concern depending on how you look at it, that I have with the Marvel Disney+ shows like “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” My worry for the future of the MCU is that I will either have to watch a movie to understand what goes on in a television show, or the other way around. I am accustomed to seeing all of the MCU’s content on one specific medium, specifically feature films. As much as I like some things about the MCU shows, watching the MCU is starting to feel like homework. That’s not the case with “Shang-Chi,” and I say that for a couple reasons. First, the movie in general kicks ass. Second, the film feels like a contained story. Sure, it has Abomination in it. Sure, it has Wong in it. But “Shang-Chi” focuses best on being a great movie first as opposed to being a commercial for other MCU content. If you are not an MCU fan and want a place to start, I would not stop you from watching this first. It’s fun, action-packed, hilarious, and it has a little something for every viewer.

Also, I want to just say two words… Hotel. California.

In the end, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is one of the best movies of the year, and also one of the easiest to recommend to people. Going back to what I said about “The Suicide Squad,” which to be clear, is currently my favorite movie of the year, perhaps by a long shot. That is a film that I immensely enjoyed, arguably because it was made for someone like me. When it comes to “Shang-Chi,” there’s obviously a target audience, but I would not mind showing this movie to someone outside of that target audience and seeing what they think of it because I think they would get a kick out of it. The action is big, the pacing is fast, and I am looking forward to seeing more of Shang-Chi in the MCU. As for his pal Katy, I would like to call her my new best friend. I’m going to give “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” an 8/10.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is now playing in theaters everywhere and it is also available in 3D and IMAX.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Malignant” which has been out for over a week. Take this statement however you want, but I’ve had a lot of thoughts on this movie. Let’s just leave it at that. Also, just recently I went to a local theater to check out “Copshop,” so I will have a review on that coming your way as well. If you want to see 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 “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings?” What did you think about it? Or, what upcoming Marvel project, I’ll even include television shows, are you looking forward to the most? For me, it’s “Eternals.” The concept sounds engaging, the cast is incredible, a lot of it is done on location, and Academy Award-winning director Chloe Zhao is the director. THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!