Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022): An In Your Face, All Over the Place, Alternate Reality Craze with America Chavez and Doctor Strange *SPOILER-FREE*

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is directed by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man) and stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Power of the Dog), Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla, Wind River), Chiwetel Ejiofor (The Lion King, 2012), Benedict Wong (Annihilation, Raya and the Last Dragon), Xochitl Gomez (The Baby-Sitters Club, Gentefied), Michael Stuhlbarg (The Shape of Water, Call Me by Your Name), and Rachel McAdams (Game Night, Mean Girls). This film is a sequel to the 2016 film “Doctor Strange,” it is the 28th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and follows the titular wizard as he joins forces with America Chavez on a reality-spanning journey to save the multiverse from impending doom, whilst also seeking the help from Wanda Maximoff and Wong.

The first “Doctor Strange” was a fun movie, and arguably the most visually stunning Marvel Cinematic Universe film at the time it came out. I went to see the film in IMAX 3D and had no regrets. Looking back, the climax was not that memorable, and neither was the film’s main antagonist. The latter is typical of these MCU films so why should I be surprised? I frankly feel the same way about “The Incredible Hulk,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Thor: The Dark World,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” among a few other movies in this universe. The villains do not always work, but at the same time, the movie is not about them. The movie is about the hero. And when it comes to establishing a great hero, the original “Doctor Strange” does that. The character has also been a highlight in other MCU titles where he is not the main focus, most recently “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Coincidentally, given that movie’s success and how much it have could have possibly teased what is to come in later MCU installments, including this one, I had high expectations for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” to the point where it may have been my most anticipated movie of the year, if not in my top 3.

SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 12: Director Sam Raimi speaks at the “Oz: The Great and Powerful” panel during Comic-Con International 2012 at San Diego Convention Center on July 12, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage)

Plus, get this, Sam Raimi has returned to direct comic book movies again! I ADORE Sam Raimi’s work on the “Spider-Man” movies, even the third one. Yes, I liked it. I don’t care. If you are not going to respect my opinion then I will put some dirt in your eye. How much do I like those “Spider-Man” movies? In addition to liking “Spider-Man 3,” totally digging the 2002 “Spider-Man” movie, and literally claiming “Spider-Man 2” to be my favorite comic book movie ever, I could think of few people more capable of helming a movie like this than Sam Raimi. In addition, the film from the start was said to have horror elements. Raimi has experience in the genre with movies like “Evil Dead” and “Drag Me to Hell,” so this added up to be a movie fit for Raimi’s chops. Danny Elfman is also here doing the score! He and Raimi have been partners for years! This is not Elfman’s first MCU rodeo, because he also scored “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” but I will say, having seen both films, his score for this movie is better than his 2015 counterpart.

What did I think of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?” I think the film definitely lives up to its name, that being madness. But I also think that when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is one of its more inferior installments. For the record, I was not one of those people looking for the most obscure cameos imaginable. That is not why I wanted to go see this movie. Yes, we have some cool moments from heroes like Captain Carter, which was shown in a couple television spots, but at the heart, this is a “Doctor Strange” movie and it does not distract itself from that. Just about every factor and decision that goes into the film’s script revolves around or is affected by Strange himself. The movie does not teeter away from that. In the same way, I would say from a directorial standpoint, this is very much a Sam Raimi film. From a directorial point of view, this is better than some of the other recent Marvel movies if you ask me. Even though I liked each installment in the Jon Watts “Spider-Man” trilogy, I feel like Watts did not have a distinct style by the end of the third film. His tendencies felt basic and there were some choices by the end that I would have changed. In the same way, I feel like “Black Widow” came off as a basic blockbuster shot on green screen. Cate Shortland, despite her best efforts, did not exactly reveal an individualistic touch I could grasp. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” even though it obviously has Kevin Feige’s showrunner-like ideas brought to the table, is very much a Sam Raimi film. Between the action and scares, it definitely has that Sam Raimi touch. Heck, Bruce Campbell’s even in the movie! I won’t say where or how, but he’s in it!

This sequel is as much of a visual feast as its predecessor. In fact, why wouldn’t it be? It is a multiverse-spanning movie, allowing for infinite visual possibilities. There is this one scene where we see America and Stephen jumping from one multiverse to another and it is a literal acid trip. Let me say, I am not one who chooses to partake in any heavy drug-related activities, but if there were a movie out right now that I would call a perfect choice for such activities, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a contender.

Speaking of activities I would mainly recommend for adults, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” presents a possible first in the MCU. If it is not a first, it is something that definitely has not happened in a long time. Every MCU movie so far has been PG-13. The TV shows have always been TV-14. So if you are a teenager, chances are you can probably handle what is on screen. But that does not mean that select younger viewers cannot watch this content either. I know some families have gone to see MCU movies in the theater. Kids often like these movies. Having seen “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” this is the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I would recommend parents consider leaving the kids at home for. I am not saying that kids cannot watch it. If they want to watch this movie, there is nothing wrong with that. But all I am saying is that parents should be prepared for what this movie has to offer, because this may be the least kid-friendly MCU movie yet. It is definitely more kid-friendly than the R rated DC action-adventure “The Suicide Squad,” which came out last year, but you have been warned.

What do I mean? There is tons of violence that rises above the levels of what the MCU has depicted thus far, including some gorey moments. Once again I go back to the notion that this is the first movie in this universe to truly have elements of horror. Sure, there are moments in the MCU that could be considered dark. We’ve seen Asgard fall in “Thor: Ragnarok.” We see Peter Parker fall to his lowest point in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” and it is emotionally charging. The ending of “Avengers: Infinity War” is a potential setup for heartbreak. But “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is the first truly scary MCU film. I am not saying it is the scariest movie ever, it is most certainly not. But there are elements in the movie that made me feel like I was watching something like “The Conjuring” instead of an action flick. This is not a bad thing, I really like the way this film went about it.

But I will say if you like massive, loud, and well-shot fantasy action, this film does not disappoint. The effects are amazing. There is not a lot of insane quick cutting. There are a variety of battles in this movie that give you a different flavor every time. These are probably some of the few action sequences I have watched in the MCU that had me feeling icky inside. Perhaps in a good way. But that ickiness did not take away from the excitement and joy I had in others.

I was surprised on how much I liked the chemistry between Doctor Strange and America Chavez. Their relationship is essentially the foundation on which this movie builds itself upon. Despite coming off as perhaps the most visionary of the Marvel superheroes, Strange is still humble, and it shows through his interactions with Chavez, whose knowledge of the multiverse is revealed to be greater than his. Because even though Strange has some knowledge, experience, and has made claims on how certain actions will be a benefit to the greater span of the multiverse, Chavez invites Strange along for a ride while also showcasing how multiversal jumping has practically become normal for her.

As for America Chavez herself, she is portrayed by Xochitl Gomez, who is only in her teens. I would like to see more from Chavez if possible, and I think Gomez did a good job portraying the character. I would like to discover what she does next in her career if she never comes back to Marvel.

But of course we need to talk about Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. Not only do I continue to buy Cumberbatch as this character, but I have to give major credit to everyone behind the makeup for Cumberbatch, because this movie unveils different looks for the character, and not just to sell toys (that too), but when you have a movie where you have more than one Doctor Strange from more than one universe, you are going to have to get clever with how you handle one actor, should you choose to handle one actor, which this movie did. His character partially hinges on some off screen events that come into play with this film, where we reveal Rachel McAdams’s character of Christine Palmer no longer in love with Strange. She is marrying someone else, and while Strange is able to live with himself, this plays a heavy role in the plot as we span through the multiverses.

Although, I will not go into much detail, and this brings me into one of my most prominent complaints of the movie. When I reviewed “Black Panther” four years ago, I claimed that it contains arguably the most forced kiss in cinematic history. Similarly, I think “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” contains one of the most poorly conceived lines I have heard in the MCU, because it frankly feels out of character for Doctor Strange, even though it matches up with events that happen in the movie. It sounds more like something out of a cheesy romance novel than what this movie and its characters have to offer. It is one line, but it nevertheless bothers me.

I want to talk about my core worry for the MCU, and how it is only growing. I am not one of these people who claims they have comic book movie fatigue, but if there is one thing that has been on my mind these past couple years, it is not only how much content we are getting, but also how said content potentially affects the greater span of the universe. If you read my review for “Black Widow,” I touch on this by saying the movie contains a particular moment that sets up or teases a television show for Disney+. The reason why that was a concern for me was because for over a decade, the films have been organized and told through one medium, and now that we have television into the mix, it is only going to make things more convoluted, and as a viewer, I feel like I am starting to watch Marvel content for homework. In fact, I went to see this movie with my dad, who I invited to my living room to watch “WandaVision,” which is great television by the way, prior to seeing this film. I knew going into the film that “WandaVision” would be somewhat connected to how everything unfolds. After all, Wanda is in the movie, and we see some references to the show as well. Having seen this movie, I think if you do not watch “WandaVision,” you may be fine. The movie does its best to catch you up. But I think your experience will be heavily enhanced if you tend to seek it out. This is why I am somewhat concerned about the MCU’s future, because let’s say they decide to make a “Moon Knight” movie. How much of the TV show would I have to remember by then to fully enjoy it? In fact, the marketing kind of reveals that this movie is connected to “What If…?” of all things. The cartoon MCU show. We live in crazy times. And no, you do not have to watch “What If…?” to understand or appreciate this movie despite there being connections to the show.

Although on the note of possibly having to watch “WandaVision” before seeing this movie, I do want to talk about Wanda herself. Previously, she has been in multiple MCU movie installments thus far as a heroic figure, and of course in “WandaVision” she finally became the center of attention, allowing actress Elizabeth Olsen to unleash her almighty chops. There are few characters in the MCU that I feel as bad for as Wanda. She watched her partner die twice, succumbed to the Blip, and felt so bad for herself and her former love interest to the point where she wanted to take control of an entire town and make life revolve entirely around her. That said, as this film’s main antagonist, the Scarlet Witch, she pulls no punches. While I did feel bad for Wanda some time ago, my emotional connection has lessened now that she continuously uses power for what she sees fit, but at the expense of someone who does not deserve a certain fate. I do not think Wanda is my favorite antagonist of the MCU, but she is definitely up there.

In the end, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is not the best MCU film, nor is it the worst. But if you want my thoughts on this film compared to the first “Doctor Strange,” I think I like the original better. I will definitely be going back to watch this film again when I have time. I think it could at times be a proper tech demo for a new television. This film also has one of the best uses of music in a Marvel film to date. And I am not just talking about the score itself, but there is a scene where music heavily comes into play, and it is hypnotizing. Danny Elfman for life! This feels weird to say, but this may be in contention for my least favorite Sam Raimi comic book movie. I know what everyone says about “Spider-Man 3,” but I frankly had fun with it. I have to think about whether I like this film more or less than “Spider-Man 3.” That is not to say “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a bad movie. I liked it. I am also not saying Raimi did not put enough effort into the directorial vision of this film. The on-screen story was well executed. But I am also noticing that Raimi’s worst comic book movies are the ones that are likely heavily influenced by higher powers. Sam Raimi did not want to put Venom in “Spider-Man 3” despite Avi Arad’s wishes. Similarly, the MCU has its own stories and threads from other content that have been interweaved into this film. Even though I mentioned that this movie feels like a Sam Raimi film, it also has the Kevin Feige effect where Raimi appears to have less creative freedom (to be fair though, he did not write the film, “Loki” writer Michael Waldron did) than he did in other works of his. I am still onboard with the MCU, but I am noticing more and more that as stories continue to come up and as threads constantly tie together, convolution and possible oversaturation feel inevitable. I cannot wait for “Thor: Love and Thunder,” but I also think as we get more content, it is starting to feel like too much is happening at once. That said, I enjoyed “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and I am going to give it a 7/10.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now!

Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see me talk about a movie perhaps way more incompetently than I do today, feel free to check out my review for the 2016 “Doctor Strange.” This was one of my earlier reviews and I made it when I was still developing a style, but if you want to read it, go ahead. Also, speaking of “Doctor Strange,” if you want to read a more competent review of a movie where he appears, feel free to check out my thoughts on “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” And it is spoiler-free for the ten people reading this who have neither seen or heard of the film. Next week, I am seeing “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” so stay tuned for my thoughts on that! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?” What did you think about it? Or, which “Doctor Strange” movie is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Adam Project (2022): Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy Team Up with Netflix to Deliver Another Excellent Collaboration

“The Adam Project” is directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Real Steel) and stars Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Hitman’s Bodyguard), Walker Scobell, Mark Ruffalo (Dark Waters, The Avengers), Jennifer Garner (Love, Simon, Peppermint), Catherine Keener (The Croods, Incredibles 2), and Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy, Avatar) in a film where a man named Adam travels back in time and comes in contact with his 12-year-old self. Together, they join forces as they fight to protect time as they know it.

One of my favorite movies of the last year is “Free Guy,” directed by Shawn Levy. The director defined my childhood with the first two “Night at the Museum” movies so I owe him a debt of gratitude. And to know that Levy and Reynolds would be getting together for another teamup after their last totally epic, bonkers outing, was nothing short of exciting. I thought it was somewhat unfortunate that this outing would not be as big of a theatrical release given how this is a Netflix film, but I was still convinced to watch it. After all, I ended up earning a free link to watch “The Adam Project” over a week and a half before the film actually came out. So I watched it, gathered my thoughts, and now I am ready to share them with you all.

Let me just start off with this, “Free Guy” ended up being one of the most gutbusting and smile-inducing movies I watched in the past year. But I also recognize that it is probably not for everyone, even though it ended up being one of the rare action films my mom actually somehow ended up watching from start to finish. But even though these are two different movies, I think if you enjoyed some of the choices and styles represented in “Free Guy,” I think you are going to enjoy some of the choices and styles represented in “The Adam Project.” I do not think “The Adam Project” is going to win Best Picture, but it is a movie that for me, accomplished all of its goals it set out to acquire. It was action-packed, pretty, funny, and ended up having a little bit of heart. Basically, if you combined some of the bigger movies of the 1980s like “Back to the Future” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” with “Free Guy,” you basically get “The Adam Project.”

Think about it. All these properties have time travel, the protagonists have to save the timeline in addition to civilization and themselves, and the combo between young and older Adam kind of gives the same vibe I get when looking at the T-800 and young John Connor in “Terminator 2.” Basically, this is “Free Guy” without all the licensed crap attached, which may be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. I was extremely satisfied to see Ryan Reynolds holding a Captain America shield in “Free Guy,” but let’s just say I am glad that not every movie in existence is like that.

Ryan Reynolds does wield a lightsaber in this movie. …Kind of. So there’s that.

“The Adam Project” takes its time and sticks to its main characters, there are no humungous cameos, although there are plenty of notable actors in the film. For a film like this, I prefer that. In fact, there are one or two lines in here that I almost feel like are a dig on movie watchers in general, but also a select few that specifically target the stereotypical moviegoer who usually shells out a few bucks for the latest comic book movie, waits two months, shells out another few bucks for an even newer comic book movie, and so on. It’s all part of the lovable chemistry between these two Adams, and speaking of which, we are going to talk about one of them.

This movie is the acting debut of Walker Scobell, and for a first role, Scobell is given a lot to do. And he does all of it well. All of his lines feel authentic, he’s got the right level of hyperactivity for a role like this, I think as far as a young Ryan Reynolds interpretation goes, the hair’s an interesting choice, but we’ve all made altering choices in life. Scobell is an actor I want to keep my eye on, and “The Adam Project” is hopefully the start of a lively career. Ryan Reynolds is also a terrific addition to this dynamic duo. There is a really compelling scene when they first meet, I totally buy into their relationship from the getgo. I believe everything they’re saying. I believe they’re the same person. All I want is for them to stand together a bit longer.

One of the best and worst parts of “The Adam Project” is the visual effects. Like many modern science fiction movies, there are a ton of polished, crisp ships flying around everywhere. There’s a lot of computer generated detail that goes into a movie like this. So when there’s a battle in the air, that provides for an entertaining experience, and one that makes me envious of those who ultimately end up watching this film theatrically. On the other hand, there is a fair share of visuals that look like they belong in a video game. Now, I like video games. Video games are fun. But there is a clear difference between how things should look in a movie and how things should look in a video game. Some of the weaponry in this film looks like stereotypical sci-fi nonsense, and some of it works, but there’s also some that look like they would never exist in real life. They have colors that are almost invisible to the naked eye.

I think the big problem I have with “The Adam Project,” as nitpicky as it may sound, happens to be the scenes where the color palette is as bright as it can be. While this bright color grade matches the lighthearted fun the film has, it also makes the film look too clean and dream-like. It’s like every other scene has too much blue or too much green. Or the lens is permanently soaked in water. It kind of reminds me of what some people say about the “Star Wars” prequels compared to the originals, noting that the prequels are much cleaner than their original counterparts. I wonder if maybe the film changed the color grading a little, or maybe if they shot it in a different format, perhaps on film, that we would have a look that felt more believable. At times, the film reaches for the stars and goes for something that almost resembles a fantasy vibe, but I also want a tad of realism.

Although let’s end this review on a happy note. I am also delighted and surprised to confirm how emotionally charging this film is. I’ve talked about about the two Adams and their connection to each other. But the one thing that I should note to the parents or families reading this, I think the characters will resonate with you in one way or another because of their family dynamic. I’m not just talking about Walker Scobell and Ryan Reynolds, but Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Garner play roles that feel occasionally nostalgic and charming to take in, especially when you have one or two of the Adams by their side. The end of the movie really got to me, especially as someone who may relate to the young Adam, but not in the way that he experiences life. Let’s just say that I did not go through a family tragedy in the way he did, but I empathize with him at his age for what happened AFTER said family tragedy. This movie is wonderful, watch it if you can.

In the end, “The Adam Project” is a film that feels like it was made in the 1980s, but with a 2022 flair. And I mean that in a good way, because the 1980s have brought some pretty kick-ass movies. I love the connection between young and old Adam, the supporting cast for the most part brought plenty of fun and charisma to the final product, and I had my eyes glued to the screen the whole time. Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds are supposedly making “Deadpool 3” together if all goes according to plan. You know what? If it is bound to be as good as the last two movies they made, sign me up! Because “Free Guy” was awesome and now, months after that movie came out, I’m going to give “The Adam Project” an 8/10!

“The Adam Project” is now available to watch anytime on Netflix for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, be sure to stay tuned for my reviews of “The Batman” and “Turning Red,” coming soon! But before that, ON SUNDAY, MARCH 27TH! PREPARE FOR THE FOURTH EDITION OF THE LEAST MOST IMPORTANT AWARDS CEREMONY OF ALL TIME! THE 4TH ANNUAL JACKOFF AWARDS! Again, that’s SUNDAY, MARCH 27TH! It’s the same day as that other ceremony that refuses to present the entire Film Editing category. If you want to vote for Best Picture, vote here! That said, if you enjoyed this post, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Adam Project?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on “Free Guy?” Which of these two films do you like better? 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 have 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!

Ghostbusters II (1989): Something Weird Alright

Hey everyone, Jack Drees! It is time for part 2 of 2 in the “Ghostbusters: Before Afterlife” review series. Yes, that’s the name we’re going with. After all, the series literally happens before “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” comes out and I’ll note that I thought of the title in March, published it, and have not had time to change it. But whatever, we’re sticking with it! No one ever said I was a god! But, Gozer, if you are reading this, I assure you, I am a god. TRUST ME. Either way, last week we reviewed the original “Ghostbusters,” the 1984 comedy featuring four guys who join forces to take down the paranormal in New York City. If you read my review, you’d know that I enjoyed the film and I would put it up there with some of the films you should see before you become a ghost yourself. Some tiny increments are slightly questionable by today’s standards, but regardless, I really like the movie. Today we are going to be talking about the 1989 sequel, “Ghostbusters II,” which until prepping for this review, I have never seen. What did I think? Read on to find out for yourself!

“Ghostbusters II” is directed by Ivan Reitman, who also directed the original “Ghostbusters,” and stars Bill Murray (Stripes, Scrooged), Dan Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack), Sigourney Weaver (Alien, The Year of Living Dangerously), Harold Ramis (Stripes, Second City Television), Rick Moranis (Second City Television, Sterling Brew), Ernie Hudson (Spacehunter: Adventures in the Hidden Zone, Two of a Kind), and Annie Potts (Pretty in Pink, Corvette Summer). This film is the sequel to “Ghostbusters” and follows the four busters for hire as they are able to revive their unique business when ectoplasm is present in a river and ghosts resurge around New York City.

The “Ghostbusters” property has become one of the most iconic in all of history. So much so to the point that it has a few movies, an animated series, a sequelish video game, and a ton of quotable lines. Frankly, I have not dived all that much into the expanded material. However, it does not take away my appreciation for the original film. I ended up watching the 2016 remake before “Ghostbusters II.” Granted, that 2016 film was not exactly connected to the original series in continuity so it did not require me to watch those films, although watching that first film in advance, which I had on Blu-ray for some time, certainly helped. It not only helped me understand some of what to expect going into the remake, but after seeing the remake, it reminded me of how much better the original is in terms of characterization, humor, and action. Although it feels weird to say that I’ve not seen “Ghostbusters II.” I was not born on or before 1989 so in a way it kind of makes sense, but one would figure as someone who has enjoyed the original that I would come around to the sequel at one point or another. Nope! I ghosted the sequel far too long, and now it is time for me to give it the attention it deserves.

The saying is as cliché as ordering fries at a McDonalds, sequels are typically inferior to the original. Do I think that is the case with “Ghostbusters II?” Definitely. The sequel has a slightly campier feel compared to its counterpart, and honestly it feels more like it is trying to cater to families (after all it primarily features a baby) than the original. I wonder if the creation of PG-13 in 1984 had anything to do with it, but I could be spitballing here. After all, I’ve noticed less swearing and less lewd content. After all, you’ve got to entertain the kiddies who probably also saw a horny Sigourney Weaver seduce Bill Murray like it was their last days on earth. I will say though, this is sort of my first problem, albeit a personal one, with the film. The original “Ghostbusters,” even though it could definitely entertain younger audiences, felt grittier. It felt more adult and raw. “Ghostbusters” felt like a movie that put imaginary, spooky ghosts in a realistic environment with real people searching after true purpose in life. While “Ghostbusters II” definitely has elements of realism, and some continuations of previous storylines from the original film, the film starts off with this vibe that feels more supernatural, which is weird to say because the purpose of both movies is literally about guys trying to exterminate the supernatural.

While Sigourney Weaver’s character of Dana having a kid adds a bit to her character and makes sense chronologically, I much prefer the more adult aspects of the original film. Much of what happens between her, the kid, and everyone else that comes into her life, feels more like a kids movie more than a movie that could cater to almost anyone like the original did.

I will say though, one thing that has not changed is the chemistry between the four ghostbusters. Each respective actor portrays these individuals like glitter. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. I will say though, despite their impressive chemistry, there are not as many quotable lines in this film compared to the original. I mean, there are a few funny ones, but if you asked me to name the first “Ghostbusters” quote that comes to mind, I’m probably gonna think of “We came, we saw, we kicked it’s ass,” long before “You’re short, your bellybutton sticks out too far, and you’re a terrible burden on your poor mother.”

I will point out my favorite part of the movie though, it is the chemistry between Rick Moranis and Annie Potts. The two actors are back as their respective characters, Louis Tully and Janine Melnitz. But this time around, instead of seeing them on their own charades, they’re together, and they find themselves in a situation where they’re kind of in love. I am not the kind of person that “ships” people, it just does not seem like a guy thing. But I will tell you, I think when it comes to two people who I legit think make a cute couple, Louis and Janine was a pair I did not ask for, but it’s also a pair I never knew I would have wanted. Janine and Louis hang out during a time when the former was hired to babysit for Dana’s kid, and some of the lines between these two feel absolutely perfect for the moment, and I could honestly watch a getaway style romantic comedy between these two. I’m not a romcom guy, but if these two were in it as their respective characters or different personalities, I would watch it instantly. Unfortunately, such a thing will probably never happen as we rarely see Moranis in anything nowadays. I mean, he’s only done a Mint Mobile commercial and an episode of “The Goldbergs” in recent years so the chances of this coming to light are as low as Tiger Woods’s scoring average.

The other highlight of the film is the ending. HOLY S*IT is it the perfect blend of stupid, awesome, and flat out insanity. If you take the bonkers nature of the original film by the end of it, and multiply it to gargantuan levels, you get the ending of “Ghostbusters II.” No, seriously! This is THE definition of a sequel. It doesn’t make the movie good, but in my book, it’s a proper definition. It’s that common saying, bigger is better! But that’s just advertising! “Ghostbusters II” presents a less heightened reality in this case! Without giving everything away, let’s just say, for those of you who have not seen this movie, I will guarantee that the “statue of liberty” scene and everything else involved with that is worth every single f*cking penny.

I will also say that the antagonists of this film got a bit of a downgrade compared to the original. In this film’s defense, I knew about Vigo the Carpathian going in, thanks to the internet and maybe comic con. Vigo was okay. He was not as memorable as say Slimer, who wasn’t even the main antagonist of the original, but still. And by the way, I will note that Slimer does make an appearance in this sequel too, but again, that’s not the point! It’s hard to be compelled by a villain when all he does is stay in one spot during the movie. Well, The Emperor in “Return of the Jedi” being an obvious exception here. Although he did move a bit when we were first introduced to him so I don’t know if my example is quite on point. As for the other villain, we have Dr. Janosz Poha, played by Peter MacNicol. Now, his character may look like a dick, but looks aren’t everything. Going back to what I said about this film being more kiddy than the original. I feel like MacNicol’s portrayal of this character is part of it. Personally, if he were around today and I were a casting director, I’d put him in as an Internet troll in a Disney Channel original movie. The execution of MacNicol’s dialogue in many scenes for some reason feels stiff and cartoon-like. Again, it takes some grit away from the franchise.

I think “Ghostbusters II” suffers from escaping reality and entering this vibe that represents a cartoon at times. Now this franchise did eventually develop a cartoon, but that’s not the point. The original film had this feel to it that put me in the room with these guys that were experiencing problems of their own and we see how they try to develop their solutions in ways that feel practical despite taking place in a world of ghosts. The sequel seems to become overly hyperactive and tries too hard. Some of the acting feels overdone and the story bridges into an unpleasingly unrealistic territory. I have seen films that are much more infuriating than “Ghostbusters II,” but this is not one I would be putting on again in the next month.

Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in GHOSTBUSTERS.

In the end, “Ghostbusters II,” as much flack as I’m giving it, is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Heck, it’s not even my least favorite “Ghostbusters” film! But this film feels weirdly cleaner than its 1984 counterpart, and not in a good way. Again, I would imagine the MPAA had something to do with it since the concept of PG-13 was invented. With that idea, you could get away with more, but possibly risk losing box office money from younger audiences. You want little Timmy wearing that Ghostbuster Halloween costume, right? Let’s get some kids in the theater! Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but this reminds me of when “Revenge of the Nerds II” came out. The first film, simply titled “Revenge of the Nerds,” was rated R. It was raunchy, dirty, and by today’s standards, somewhat questionable. I continue to find it ridiculously entertaining, but there are one or two scenes that if they came out today, they might end up on the cutting room floor to avoid controversy. Then “Nerds in Paradise” came out, got a PG-13 rating. Yes, there’s still some naughty material in the movie, but it is a significant downgrade if you will compared to the first movie. Both “Ghostbusters” and “Ghostbusters II” ended up with PG ratings, but time shows the evolution of movie ratings and I would say that it has altered a bit through the 1980s. Maybe it is not the best idea to be comparing “Ghostbusters II” to its original counterpart, but when the original counterpart is as iconic and quotable as it is, it makes such an avoidance nearly impossible. With that being said, I’d rather watch the original “Ghostbusters” before its sequel, and I’m going to give “Ghostbusters II” a 5/10.

“Ghostbusters II” is available on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. The film is also available wherever you buy or rent movies digitally.

Thanks for reading this review! Thanks for reading this two part mini-series I like to call “Ghostbusters: Before Afterlife!” Be sure to check out my review for “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” which will be posted some time after the movie comes out. Also, next month, is my final movie review series for 2020, and it is one based on an iconic sci-fi franchise. No, not “Star Wars,” we already did that one. It’s “The Matrix!” That’s right! This December, I’ll be talking about the “Matrix” trilogy, directed by the Wachowskis, in preparation for the upcoming film “The Matrix: Resurrections,” starring Keanu Reeves who will be returning as Neo. All will be discussed in my upcoming series, “The Matrix: Reviewed!” Look forward to it! I’ll be reviewing “The Matrix” on December 5th, “The Matrix: Reloaded” on December 12th, and “The Matrix: Revolutions” on December 19th. That last date may change as the new “Spider-Man” film may be prioritized, but we’ll see. Either way, look forward to the upcoming series! I can’t wait to get into it! 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 “Ghostbusters II?” What did you think about it? Or, do you believe in ghosts? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Ghostbusters (1984): A Comedy That Proton Packs in a Ton of Fun (Spoilers)

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Just a reminder that this November, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” hits theaters after being delayed multiple times due to COVID-19. But we are not going to talk about that today, because today we’re going to be talking about the 1984 comedy “Ghostbusters.” This is the film that started it all. Enjoyed by critics and general audiences alike, “Ghostbusters” ended up being the second-highest grossing film of 1984, right below “Beverly Hills Cop.” It is one of the most recognized Sony properties as of today. The film recently celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2019 and just a few years prior, it was remade with women as the stars… Which really did not work out. If anything, it only made me appreciate the original a bit more. Speaking of which, let’s dive into my review for “Ghostbusters,” the first of two installments in my mini review series, “Ghostbusters: Before Afterlife.” No, seriously. That’s how creative the title is…

“Ghostbusters” is directed by Ivan Reitman (Heavy Metal, Stripes) and stars Bill Murray (Stripes, Caddyshack), Dan Aykroyd (Trading Places, Blues Brothers), Harold Ramis (Heavy Metal, Stripes), Sigourney Weaver (Alien, The Year of Living Dangerously), and Rick Moranis (SCTV, Streets of Fire) in a film where a group of men are kicked out of their respective university. This trio of parapsychologists and a man who just wants a job join forces to exterminate ghosts wreaking havoc in New York City.

In 2016 I reviewed the woman-centered “Ghostbusters” remake. Every time I talk about that film since I saw it, I feel uneasy. Not just because I did not like it. And BOY I did not like it. But I also feel like I have to go above and beyond to justify my dislike for that film, because part of me assumes that people will think I just hate women. That film ended up being a 1/10, which was my first on this blog, not to mention my least favorite film of the 2010s. Before that, I watched the original with my dad for the first time (not counting one time where I fell asleep because it was super late). Prior to going in, I already knew about the film and some of the things in it. There was the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the iconic Ray Parker Jr. song, and Slimer. I already knew some core elements of the film through the Internet, seeing merchandise, and weirdly enough, playing “LEGO Rock Band” on my Nintendo DS as a ten year old. Of all the songs they could put on that game, the “Ghostbusters” theme song was one of them.

Over the years and after multiple rewatches, including my recent one that I did for this review, I have grown quite fond of the original “Ghostbusters.” To put it short, it’s fun, action-packed, and has a style of comedy that is about as raw as it could get in this film’s environment. I see a lot of comedies nowadays and they often go for these over the top, extravagant attempts at humor, and some work, some don’t, but with “Ghostbusters,” every other moment in the film, despite having a fantastical vibe because there’s ghosts and demons, feel like they could happen in real life. There’s this subtlety between select characters that kept my attention. Characters like Peter and Egon. The two on the surface are not exactly over the top 100% of the time, but they also have their quirks.

Now don’t take that statement too seriously, because this film was made in 1984, and over my past couple rewatches, there are a couple effects-heavy scenes, such as the one where Rick Moranis is running away from Zuul, that occasionally look hilarious. Zuul is menacing. No doubt. His design is perhaps perfect for this world. He has this dirty, rugged feel to him. But there is this moment where Louis’s party goes a bit haywire, Louis flees, Zuul crashes through the wall of his apartment into the hallway and his head busts into the wall. I love a lot of things about this movie, including the scene where Zuul chases after Louis in the middle of the city, but this instance of effects being… so eighties, is hilarious. If I saw that today as a visual effects artist, I would consider it unfinished. Granted, this is a 1984 film we are talking about, so visual effects have come a long way since then, but it’s still kind of hilarious. It does not take away from the moments were we see Zuul in minimal motion, because that’s where he looks the most terrifying.

Let’s talk about the three parapsychologists: Peter (Bill Murray), Ray (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon (Harold Ramis). The best part about these people is that despite having such prestigious degrees, they feel like regular guys. Guys you can talk to, hang out with, have a beer with. Although I will say, part of me kind of relates to Egon the most… Even though on the surface, he may seem somewhat outgoing, I feel that on the inside, he’s a bit shy. He kind of reminds me of myself, and similar to me, I would not be surprised if one would put him on the autism spectrum. Just look at this conversation between him and Janine, the secretary in the film wonderfully portrayed by Annie Potts.

Janine Melnitz: You’re very handy, I can tell. I bet you like to read a lot, too.

Dr. Egon Spengler: Print is dead.

Janine Melnitz: Oh, that’s very fascinating to me. I read a lot myself. Some people think I’m too intellectual but I think it’s a fabulous way to spend your spare time. I also play raquetball. Do you have any hobbies?

Dr. Egon Spengler: I collect spores, molds, and fungus.

If you watch the movie and see this moment play out in real time, Egon’s mannerisms show a supposed indifference to the situation at hand. He’s brutally honest about the subject of reading, although at the same time, he’s making an effort to listen to what Janine has to say, and he exposes his unique hobbies. If I were at a certain age or state of mind, I would be telling people that in my spare time that I like to go outside and ride elevators. No, seriously. That’s one of my real hobbies. And one can wonder why I don’t have much of a social life.

As for Ray, I think he’s definitely the most hyperactive of the bunch. Every other line out of him has an upbeat tone to it, especially during the scene where he and the other busters try to catch Slimer. I think Dan Aykroyd has the most relatable personality out of everyone on the team. He’s not just there for the scientific research, not just for the money, but for the thrill of everything else that comes along. I could genuinely tell that in each moment of the film, there was at least one thing that he thought about, saw, or heard that sparked joy. This is especially true in the scene where the guys are looking at their potential living space, while Egon is blubbering about how he thinks the place should be condemned, Ray enthusiastically slides down a pole. While the other two parapsychologists clearly don’t give a crap, Ray’s running around like a little child, excited about this place. He has this child-like personality to him that puts a fun feel in a film with scary monsters.

Now I like Bill Murray in this film. His performance here is fantastic. He’s kind of got a con artist vibe, but the character of Peter Venkman is still admirable. Some of the lines his character has is great too. The scene between him and Dana where she’s possessed is nothing short of hilarious between Murray’s one-liners and Sigourney Weaver’s sensual yet disturbing presence. Although on that subject, I will say that there is one scene where I thought Murray was becoming a borderline creep, almost in the same the sense that I may describe Lewis from “Revenge of the Nerds,” but in defense of Peter Venkman, this movie is PG, allowing him to be less creepy. I bring this complaint up because I like both characters, but there are times where I feel like they are going after girls like clingy dogs. When Peter and Dana first meet, there are a couple lines out of Peter’s mouth that had me a little uneasy. Part of me thinks Venkman is a somewhat classy dude and of all the “Ghostbusters,” I would consider him to be the driest, allowing for some of the funniest lines of the film to appear.

Dr. Raymond Stantz Everything was fine with our system until the power grid was shut off by dickless here.

Walter Peck They caused an explosion!

Mayor Is this true?

Dr. Peter Venkman Yes it’s true. [pause] This man has no dick.

Walter Peck Jeez! [Charges at Venkman]

Mayor Break it up! Hey, break this up! Break it up!

Walter Peck All right, all right, all right!

Dr. Peter Venkman Well, that’s what I heard!

As much as I despise the 2016 “Ghostbusters” remake, part of me could see why one would want to reimagine it because the film is very much from the perspective where guys think sex cures everything and makes everything else seem unimportant. Aside from the moment where Peter has to avoid the seductive nature of Dana in order to bust Zuul, there is a moment where Ray’s in bed, and a ghost is undoing his pants for him. The reason, I’ll leave it up to interpretation.

I also love the big climactic battle where all four Ghostbusters, including Ernie Hudson’s character of Winston, have to go up against Zuul and find out how exactly this beast could be conquered. There was not much of a quick pace to this fight that you might get in a modern blockbuster. Heck, the climax of “Ghostbusters” 2016 was as fast as a speeding bullet. But I think this movie did a great job at not only developing each character’s arc, both individually and collectively, but while building them, it showed the lack of experience these characters have with their craft, as they should. I mean, who else has ever used a ghost trap? The writing here is also stupendous between Zuul asking Ray if he’s a god, and the “chosen destructor” moment, which as Ray determines, is the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. FLAT. OUT. GENIUS! If I were in this situation, I probably would have done something similar! Who would I want to destroy the world? Dark Lords of the Sith from “Star Wars?” Nah! BRING ON EVIL SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!

In the end, “Ghostbusters” makes me feel good. There are some flaws with the film. Some parts of it aged better than others, but by the standards of when it came out, the film was great. The characters are top notch from Venkman to Dana to Louis. Everybody is likable and quirky in their own way. The humor in this film feels rather dry, and I will admit, there are a few attempts that did not exactly hit me the way the filmmakers may have been going for, but there are also numerous times where I was laughing my ass off. If you like comedies, do yourself a favor and check this one out at least once. The film is definitely rewatchable. It’s not nightmarishly scary, but I don’t think that at the end of the day, that’s what everyone behind the film was going for. One last thing, the music in this film is great. And I’m not necessarily talking about the Ray Parker Jr. song, as iconic as it is, I’m talking about Elmer Bernstein’s score. It’s spooky, catchy, and weird. It matches the vibe this movie is going for. I’m going to give “Ghostbusters” a 7/10.

“Ghostbusters” is available on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Blu-ray, and is available to stream wherever you buy or rent digital movies.

Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in GHOSTBUSTERS.

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for my next review, because we are going to be tackling the second and final installment of the Ghostbusters: Before Afterlife review series, “Ghostbusters II.” The film, like many sequels, is often considered to be inferior to the original, but I cannot say at this point, as I have not watched it once. But I will watch it this week and my review will be up next Sunday, November 7th! Stay tuned! 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 “Ghostbusters?” What did you think about it? Or, who is your favorite Ghostbuster? 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!

Snake Eyes (2021): A G.I. Joe Spinoff with Dice, But No Spice

“Snake Eyes” is directed by Robert Schwentke (RED, R.I.P.D.) and stars Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, Last Christmas), Andrew Koji (Warrior, Fast & Furious 6), Úrsula Corberó (The Secret Life of Pets, The Emoji Movie), Samara Weaving (Ready or Not, Bill & Ted Face the Music), and Iwa Uwais (The Raid, Stuber). This film is a spinoff set in the “G.I. Joe” franchise and follows the origin story of Snake Eyes, whose father was murdered during his youth. Since that tragic day, the character seeks to avenge his father as he grows into a full-blown martial arts fighter.

G.I. Joe: The Revenge of Cobra (TV Mini Series 1984) - IMDb

No lie here, I have never watched anything related to “G.I. Joe,” nor have I grown up with the franchise. I have never played with the toys, never bought any of the merch. This was my first “G.I. Joe” anything… Ever. I saw the marketing for this film and quite frankly it was never my in my top block of movies to see this summer. If anything, it may have been closer to somewhere in the middle. The trailers never looked awful, but I cannot say they looked great either. If anything I felt rather indifferent while watching them. That may be partially due to my lack of commitment to the “G.I. Joe” franchise in addition to just simply looking forward to other movies like “The Suicide Squad” more. The trailer that I usually saw over the past few weeks at the theater just felt like it lacked a flavor that could individualize this film from others. It felt kind of cookie cutter and surface level. But if a movie like “Ralph Breaks the Internet” has taught me anything, it is that even movies with not so great trailers can turn out to be watchable.

Unfortunately, this is not the case with “Snake Eyes” as I walked out of the film thinking it was one of the biggest bores of the year.

One of the movies I had the most fun with this year is the new edition of “Mortal Kombat.” It was definitely worth the theater experience and was a fun blend of fantasy, action, and gore. But the real draw for the movie was not that it was constructed perfectly, it was that the film was a product of entertainment before anything else. That film was, unsurprisingly, done by a writing/directing combo who had little experience. The action scenes, while fun, were also cut very quickly. It was just too much going on at once, therefore everything was not presented in maybe the most effective manner. For the case of “Snake Eyes,” the directing/writing team of this film unfortunately have been working for a long time. In fact, the director of “Snake Eyes,” Robert Schwentke, does not have the best track record according to critics in recent years. “R.I.P.D.,” which released in the summer of 2013, has a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes critically, and the audience score is not great either with a 37% total. He also directed the last two “Divergent” movies. I will admit, of the movies that came out in that franchise, I would have to say the first one he did, “Insurgent” is probably my favorite and one of the more visually stunning films of 2015. But I cannot say the same for its sequel, “Allegiant,” which was one of the most horribly paced action films of the last six years. The visuals in that film at times looked like something out of a Wii game!

While “Snake Eyes,” thankfully, is no “Allegiant,” it is also not good. In fact, I am having trouble remembering certain parts of it. But one thing that I do remember is that the main character, gosh the writers did try to make him likable, but it felt weird trying to root for him as he was technically working for the bad guys. Plus, by the end of the movie, there is another character who I think is more of a “hero” than he is.

I will say one thing about the character of Snake Eyes, I do think the guy who plays him is charming. Snake Eyes in this film is played by Henry Golding, who I have not seen a lot of on screen, but I have seen him in a couple things. I do think that after seeing him in “Snake Eyes,” he would be a great leading man in an original Bond-like spy film. By that I mean a spy film where Golding is the one who is front and center on the poster, he carries the movie. I think Golding has that potential. I just wish “Snake Eyes” as a film did the actor, along with others involved, a tad more justice.

This film, at times, just looks plain atrocious. No, seriously, if you want to talk about terribly crafted shots in cinema, look no further. Just watch a scene in the middle featuring Samara Weaving as Scarlet, and no, I’m not exactly talking about the picture above. To call that scene an eyesore would be an understatement. I mean, sorry for the digression, Samara Weaving being an eyesore would be a lie. First off, she is good-looking, on top of being an incredibly talented actress. Just watch “Ready or Not.” Although I do think her performance in this film was not one she’d want on her resume. I don’t think Weaving truly had a chance to showcase the best of her acting abilities.

One of the complaints I have about the action in “Snake Eyes” is that it dives into that trend that was made popular by films like those in the “Bourne” franchise, shaky cam to be specific. You know that thing where they move the camera so rapidly it’s almost like the camera is simulating the beginning of the end of the world? That happens in “Snake Eyes,” and at the worst possible times. Seriously! Sticking with what I said about shaky cam, there is literally a scene in the movie where Scarlet walks down a hall and the camera is moving all over the place! It’s so incomprehensible and deranged! Why does someone walking down a hall have to appear as action packed as Snake Eyes trying to slash people to death? Tell me!

This movie, obviously like all others, are made for the purpose of profit. With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, the idea of profit is questionable. Either way, profit for a film like “Snake Eyes” could have meant more than just a success or a sequel. For me, it could have gotten me more into the “G.I. Joe” franchise. I’m not saying I will never watch another “G.I. Joe” movie, but “Snake Eyes” did not make me want a sequel, and I was just too uninterested to say that I will go back and dive deeper into this franchise’s source material or other spinoffs. I think “Snake Eyes” obviously would have done better without a pandemic, but I think even without one, the movie would still struggle to justify franchise expansion. My first thought when I saw the trailer for “Snake Eyes,” regardless of how well put together the trailer was, happened to be “Okay, whatever.” My first thought after seeing the movie “Snake Eyes” was, “Ehhh….” Yep, I don’t think I want to see a sequel at this point.

In the end, “Snake Eyes” is not an eye-roller, but it’s also not a high roller. Again, this is my first dive into the “G.I. Joe” franchise, so as a newbie, maybe I chose a poor place to start. At the same time though, first impressions matter. It’s like trying to get someone into “The Simpsons.” Because that series has evolved so much and has continued to remain a part of our popular culture that as newer pieces of it releases, the differences between the new and old content begin to become noticeable. Do we go with glitchy animation and classic humor? Do we go with hi-def episodes and the mocking of modern trends? Do we go with “The Simpsons Movie?” There’s a lot to pick from! But all things considered, “Snake Eyes” was not my cup of joe. I’m going to give “Snake Eyes” a 4/10.

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

Thanks for reading this review! I also want to let everyone know that my next review is going to be for the all new Disney theme park ride-based film, “Jungle Cruise.” I just watched the movie last Thursday and I will have my thoughts hopefully shared by the end of the week. Speaking of the end of the week, I want to let everyone know that I will be seeing “The Suicide Squad” this Saturday and I will have my review for it up sometime next week!

Staying on the topic of next week, stay tuned for Monday, August 9th, because I will be starting the all new review series, “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review.” This is a series that I personally felt has been long overdue given my attachment to these movies, or more notably the first one, in addition to “King of the Nerds,” the reality competition series inspired by the film franchise given how it is hosted by two of the actors who appear in the movies, Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong. I cannot wait to share this series with you as we continue celebrating 5 years of Scene Before!

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 “Snake Eyes?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite spinoff? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017): Jack Sparrow’s Least Memorable Quest Yet

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for the fifth and final installment in the ongoing review series “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!” So far, each film I have talked about has impressed me in one way or another. I cannot say any of them were totally perfect, but I do recommend them for various reasons. If you want to find out more about why I recommend these movies, read my reviews for “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” “At World’s End,” and “On Stranger Tides.” Now with that out of the way, it is time to talk about “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, two directors known for their work on 2012’s “Kon Tiki.” This film stars Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow), Javier Bardem (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, No Country For Old Men) Geoffrey Rush (Ned Kelly, Finding Nemo) Brenton Thwaites (The Giver, Gods of Egypt), Kaya Scodelario (Skins, The Maze Runner), and Kevin McNally (The Phantom of the Opera, Conspiracy). “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is the fifth installment to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and follows Jack Sparrow as he is pursued by a notable, ongoing threat, Captain Salazar, who was killed some time ago by Sparrow but now he returns to end Jack Sparrow’s life.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES”..The villainous Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) pursues Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he searches for the trident used by Poseidon..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

So far, the “Pirates” films have all been at the very least… “competent.” Even “Dead Man’s Chest,” which I ended up giving a 6/10, still had its moments of joy and fun. I think Gore Verbinski did a wonderful job at finding a fascinating balance between goofiness and seriousness with the first three films, even though as the trilogy progressed, the darkness kept creeping up. Although given my personal tastes, I would not call that a huge negative. As mentioned in my review for “On Stranger Tides,” Rob Marshall took on directing duties for that particular installment, which ended up providing mixed results. I enjoyed the movie. It’s a serviceable “Pirates” adventure, but I feel like Marshall, the writers, and Disney spent more time trying to think about how the film could look good in 3D as opposed to crafting a story, which is kind of unfortunate because I was rather interested in the Fountain of Youth concept.

On that note, I will address that my first positive regarding “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” despite it ultimately being released in 3D, the directors of the film did a better job at not going over the top in terms of making the film feel more like a gimmick. At the same time though I will jump to my first negative, this film is arguably my least favorite film in the “Pirates” franchise in terms of story.

On paper, I feel like this fifth film was made more or less to get people paid rather than provide an entertaining experience. I mean, come on! Was everyone so desperate for a fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” film? But as I have learned with “The LEGO Movie,” any movie can work if you execute it properly. Did they properly execute “Dead Men Tell No Tales?”

Well, kinda. Like all the other “Pirates” films, this is an enjoyable watch. But it may also arguably be the one of the bunch that has the least potential in terms of replay value. Or at least replay value mixed with excitement. I do like how they go down the Turner lineage in this film. In the original movies we obviously see Orlando Bloom play Will Turner, a character who I have grown to admire throughout the franchise. Unfortunately, he did not have a presence in the fourth movie. In this fifth installment, we mainly focus on his son, Henry Turner. We see him early on, he’s ordered by Captain Salazar to deliver a message to Sparrow. Then we eventually see him alongside Sparrow throughout the film. I think Thwaites is one of those actors who definitely has the physique, or lack thereof in this case mixed in with some hints of charisma, to play the type of character a script like this one needs. I did not like “Gods of Egypt.” I think it is one of the worst films to have come out in 2016. But the main problem was not Brenton Thwaites as a performer. I think of the direction given to him and some of the other cast members is a hindrance on the film itself, but Thwaites is not the problem. In the same way, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is probably my least favorite of the “Pirates” films. But there are also things to like about it, Brenton Thwaites’s performance is in fact one of those things. Although when it comes to Turners, Henry is no Will. I feel like Orlando Bloom was born to play Will Turner. As much of a match Thwaites is as his son, Will’s just a slightly more likable character. I bought Orlando Bloom as a brave apprentice in “The Curse of the Black Pearl” and ever since he has grown on me. If they make a “Pirates 6,” which seems less likely by the day given what’s going on with Johnny Depp, who does a good job in the movie, I would be curious to see Henry Turner again, I just don’t know if he’ll maintain the charisma that his father had.

If you want to get a simple perspective of my thoughts on “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” I will just sum it up like this. Even though “Dead Man’s Chest” earned a lower grade than the other four films I reviewed before this one, I at least remember a good portion of that film. I am increasingly forgetting “Dead Men Tell No Tales” by the second. It’s not that I want to forget it. It’s just not as great of a film as maybe I would have hoped to have gotten. In fact one of my complaints regarding “Dead Man’s Chest” that is also one of my complaints regarding “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is that Jack Sparrow goes through this event where he almost arguably should die. Now, it’s probably not as absurd as the one in “Dead Man’s Chest,” where we see Jack falling from such an enormous height and being completely okay. But if I put myself in another mindset, it also kind of is more absurd. It’s hard to compare these two unrealistic events in terms of which one ticks me off more. I’m not gonna say exactly what happens, but if you’ve seen “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” you probably know what I am referring to as soon as I say the word “guillotine.”

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES”..The villainous Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) pursues Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he searches for the trident used by Poseidon..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I think if there’s one thing that I like about “Dead Men Tell No Tales” it’s that there is a sense of maintained consistency between this film and all the other ones that have been done so far. A lot of the familiar music returns in this installment. Some characters like Jack Sparrow, Barbossa, and Gibbs return as their charismatic selves. Per usual, the movie does make me want to immerse myself in a high-seas adventure. Although I feel like the fun that I had in this film is a far cry from the fun I had with say “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” The supporting characters in this film, and I will also admit that the first movie had this problem to a degree, were not as fascinating as the script was trying to make them out to be. Although I do think Kaya Scodelario and once again, Brenton Thwaites, gave competent performances.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES”..The villainous Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) pursues Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he searches for the trident used by Poseidon..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In the end, I have already forgotten a good portion of “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and I did not want to say that. This is easily my least favorite of the “Pirates” films. I do want to watch it again at some point. Maybe it’s better the second time, but based on the collective consensus, I think most people would agree with my statement. The film looks good, sounds good, is performed decently, but they just couldn’t stick the landing. It seems as if the directors did everything they could to recapture the magic of the original movie, but as they tried to do it, they just ended up making something that would make me tune out every now and then. The vibe is okay, I just wish that it were in a better movie. Do I want to see a “Pirates 6?” I wouldn’t say no. But if we do get one, I just hope it’s better than this. I’m going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” a 5/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is available wherever you buy movies including DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. You can also subscribe to Disney+ and watch the movie there at your convenience.

Thanks for reading this review! Also, thanks for tuning in to my “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews” series. I hope you enjoyed reading these reviews! Speaking of Disney theme park rides, be sure to stay tuned for my eventual review of “Jungle Cruise.” It won’t be my next post, I still have to review “Snake Eyes.” But it is coming!

Also, stay tuned for August because I will be diving into a cult classic series that I often look back on, “Revenge of the Nerds.” That’s right! On August 9th, we will be doing a brand new review series titled “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review!” This means on Monday, August 9th, I will be talking about the first “Revenge of the Nerds” installment, which has become one of my more rewatched comedies in recent years. On August 16th, I’ll be discussing “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise.” AND YES, I’ll even discuss the TV films. Look forward to my reviews of “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation” on August 23rd and “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love” on August 30th. I’m doing this review series, in addition to a bunch of others in honor Scene Before’s fifth anniversary. I have always wanted to do a “Revenge of the Nerds” themed month, so I cannot wait to share my thoughts on this long-awaited series. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account, and like the Facebook page, so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales?” What did you think about it? Or, give me your ranking of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films from best to worst. Which swashbuckling adventure is following its compass into the right direction? Which high-seas escape sinks into the ocean? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011): A Time of Battle, Piracy, and Three Dimensions

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today we continue sailing the high seas and venturing forth on our quest to complete the Scene Before exclusive review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” Just want to remind you, if you have not already, check out my reviews for the “Pirates” films I have covered so far including “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” and “At World’s End.” Just a reminder for the “At World’s End” review, it does contain spoilers. This week, we will be discussing “On Stranger Tides,” the fourth installment in the franchise and the first one without Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, or Gore Verbinski, otherwise known as the director of the past three films. Can director Rob Marshall craft a fine “Pirates” adventure? Find out in my review!

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is directed by Rob Marshall (Nine, Chicago) and stars Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland), Penélope Cruz (Volver, Vanilla Sky), Ian McShane (Kung Fu Panda, Deadwood), Kevin R. McNally (The Phantom of the Opera, Conspiracy), and Geoffrey Rush (Ned Kelly, Finding Nemo). This film is the fourth installment in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and follows Jack Sparrow and Barbossa as they go on a quest to find the fountain of youth. Meanwhile, franchise newcomers Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter Angelica (Penélope Cruz) are after the fountain too. The film was also interestingly enough inspired by the book, “On Stranger Tides.”

After watching three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films that are not only done by one man with a singular vision, but crafted almost as if there was a whole story that could have arguably been told in three movies of buildup. Now as we get into this fourth film, it feels like we are in a clean slate. We’re starting fresh with a new director and a ton of money. No, seriously. This film is the most expensive ever made at a grand total of $379 million (before gross). Part of it has to do with Johnny Depp, but still, if you watch the film, you’ll know that it ain’t cheap. In fact, this is also the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film released in 3D in addition to IMAX 3D. We’ll get into that aspect of the film for sure.

One of the reasons why I was somewhat nervous going into “On Stranger Tides” is that Gore Verbinski’s name was not attached. After all, his touch was complete, at least from what I would expect. However, the writers of the original films, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio returned to do this project. To know that these two returned pleased me to say the least. In a world of unneeded sequels, was “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” worth watching?

I’d say it was.

While I won’t say this film is as rewatchable as “The Curse of the Black Pearl” or “At World’s End,” the film is nevertheless a fun addition to a franchise that has become perhaps the definition of a modern pirate movie. Seriously, what else comes to mind nowadays? It was fun to see the franchise utilize one of the most famous pirates in history, Blackbeard, played wonderfully by Ian McShane. One of the things that I often note that “Pirates” does spectacularly is a balance between seriousness and goofiness. There are multiple scenes where we see Sparrow and Blackbeard together and I often note that Sparrow has the goofier traits at hand and Blackbeard is more grounded. I like that this franchise is keeping the balance together and not letting this see-saw collapse.

The best parts of this movie are not necessarily the story or anything of extended concept. The reality is that this film’s best parts come from concepts that resemble obstacles. There’s a scene where we some pirates on a boat facing a ton of mermaids, which was spooky and somewhat action-packed. There was a clip of the film where Jack and Barbossa are on a boat and they could barely move a muscle and the boat would nearly fall in such a dramatic fashion. The film also started off with a really entertaining sequence in Britain. We see Jack trying to rescue Joshamee Gibbs, he’s interacting with King George II while still maintaining his goofy stride. There’s a chaotic yet decently choreographed action sequence towards the end, it’s a fun welcoming back to the “Pirates” franchise. Meanwhile, not long afterwards, we are introduced Penélope Cruz as Angelica. I think she brought the same swift, swashbuckling swagger that say Orlando Bloom did in the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. This also brings me to my next compliment. I am pleased to know that this film manages to craft an interesting story despite not having Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly, who play two of my favorite characters in the franchise. Do I prefer those two over Penélope Cruz? Absolutely. They are incredible actors who play characters who I have grown to appreciate. But to know that this film, not to mention franchise, can work without them, goes to show that maybe even the most unnecessary movies can work. Did we need a fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” film? Not really. Then again, what movie is necessary to begin with? But the point is, this movie managed to entertain me without relying on everything that made “Pirates” great to begin with. It goes to show that the franchise is capable of evolving.

Once again, I cannot go on without noting Johnny Depp, that expensive son of a gun. For the record, Depp was paid $55 million. Was his performance truly worth $55 million? As far as big fantasy style movies go, it is arguable. I am not going to address anything regarding the current controversy regarding him and Amber Heard, but I will address that Depp has practically aced his Jack Sparrow character every single time. While I think his performance in “At World’s End” may honestly be my favorite from him, his dive into the character “On Stranger Tides” does not disappoint. I’d also say that this may be, and it feels weird to say this, the most relatable that Jack Sparrow has been in the franchise. Yes, he continues revealing unusual quirks that only he could possess, but still.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES” Blackbeard (Ian McShane) Photo: Peter Mountain ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Although I do want to address something. I missed this movie in the theater, and part of me regrets not going. Because this film came out during a time where 3D basically dominated the big screen. Every other movie that came out at this point in time was either shot in 3D like “Avatar” or converted to 3D like “Clash of the Titans.” In the case of “Pirates 4,” this film was shot with the Fusion Camera System, so it was filmed in 3D off the bat and did not need any conversion in post-production. First off, I wish in a world where 3D still has slight relevancy that we get more films that are actually shot for the 3D experience instead of being post-converted. Second, I feel like the 3D in “On Stranger Tides,” while somewhat pleasing to the eye, occasionally felt forced. There are a few scenes in the film where there’s swords pointing at the lens and it’s basically an invitation for viewers to take their hand out and touch it. Once again, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is the most expensive film of all time. If they spent all this money on making the film 3D for nothing more than a cheap gimmick, then what’s the point? I want to watch the film in 3D at some point. I do have the 3D Blu-ray disc, but I do not have a 3D TV. Part of me is curious as to how much the 3D could enhance the movie for me. However, the gimmick does not take much away from the fun I had watching the movie, and believe when I say that the film itself is a lot of fun. The action’s great, it’s clever, Johnny Depp is really good in it, and the cinematography is eye-popping. In fact, Dariusz Wolski, who did the cinematography for all the other “Pirates” films returned to do this one, so to say that this film looks nice is not a surprise.

In the end, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is a fun, expensive thrill ride. Some of the original cast has returned and gave it their best. Penélope Cruz is a welcome addition to the franchise. Rob Marshall did an okay job helming the film between balancing the light and dark vibes together, crafting magnificent sequences, and delivering another great performance out of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. Is it as memorable as some of the other films? I would not say so, but in its own way, it is a fun time, and I personally think it is better than “Dead Man’s Chest.” Was the 3D necessary? I don’t think so. But it did not take away from the enjoyment I had watching this film. I will also add, unsurprisingly, Hans Zimmer delivered a great score and I love his theme for Blackbeard. I think it is one of the best tunes in this entire franchise. I am going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” a 7/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is now available wherever you buy movies including DVD, Blu-ray, and 3D Blu-ray. The film is also available on Disney+ and as of writing this, it is also available on Starz.

Thanks for reading this review! This concludes week 4 of 5 in the “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews” series. Next Thursday, July 29th, I will be reviewing “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” the most recent installment in the franchise. This is the last “Pirates” movie I will be discussing in preparation for another film inspired by a Disney theme park ride, “Jungle Cruise,” which will be in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on July 30th. Expect a review for that movie soon. I might plan on seeing it opening Thursday depending on how my schedule unfolds. 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 “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you thought was made better by seeing it in 3D? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!