Why I Cannot Stop Watching BELLE (2021): An Article by an Anime-Know-It-Nothing

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Throughout my time writing for Scene Before, I have done several reviews that I feel proud of. This even includes earlier years when I continued to develop a writing style and focused maybe more than I should have on immersing the viewer into the review like I am on a camera. Although there are certain movies that I watched for Scene Before, looking back, where I probably should have reconsidered at least a portion of my opinion after writing over a thousand words about them. Some of these include “Suicide Squad,” “Blade Runner 2049,” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” If I were to rewrite my reviews for all of these films, I would add in certain points, redo points that I feel have changed, and perhaps alter the final score. But I am not going to talk about any of these films today. Instead, I am going to be reflecting on a movie I reviewed over the winter that has sort of met the same fate. While my opinions for “Blade Runner 2049” have only changed slightly, this post is about a movie I would claim has gone through a seismic shift kind of like “Suicide Squad.”

That movie by the way, is “Belle” directed by Mamoru Hosoda.

To sum up what has been going on in my life recently, this movie has taken up over ten hours of my screen time alone. Why? Because since its official Blu-ray release, I watched it for five nights in a row. I did watch other movies in addition to this one during the week, specifically “The Graduate,” which was utterly fantastic. Highly recommended. “Rampage,” which is… Well, it is what it is. And I also watched “Friends with Benefits” for the first time, which I thought was humorous and delightful. I watched “Belle” every night for five nights since I bought it on Blu-ray on Tuesday, May 17th. Why did I not watch it for six nights in a row? Because I was going on a short getaway on what could have been the sixth night, and I did not pack the movie to watch in my hotel room. I was more focused on possibly giving my money to Connecticut casinos more than anything else. Since getting back, I watched it two more nights in a row. That said, I cannot recall the last time I have bought a film on Blu-ray and watched it at this constant of a level. Naturally, I have no choice but to talk about it.

I want to make something clear, to say I have a working knowledge of Japanese anime would be like saying that since I am from Boston, I therefore consider the New York Yankees to be my favorite baseball team. “Belle” is one of the couple movies within the Japanese anime medium that I have fully watched. The other one that comes to mind is “Ghost in the Shell.” I believe I also remember seeing “Howl’s Moving Castle” somewhere around a decade ago. That was before I knew what anime happened to be by definition. And I will be real with you, even though I did not mind “Ghost in the Shell,” which I first watched at the age of 17, it did not emit a spark inside me to explore more of what anime has to offer. “Belle” on the other hand, did so dramatically. Although after I watched “Belle” for the first time, I did start watching Adult Swim’s “Blade Runner: Black Lotus,” which technically is an anime series. So since I watched “Belle,” I have gone a tad deeper into the genre, but after many countless revisits to the film “Belle,” I want more anime in my life. With that said, I want to talk about why “Belle” means so much to me as someone who has spent over half of their life on the Internet, including a portion where social media has practically taken over my life in more ways than one. I will let you know, while this is not a full spoiler discussion, I am going to do my best to not ruin the whole the movie, there will be points where I do dive deep into key characters or plot points. So if that is a problem, leave this post now, go watch “Belle,” and come back when you are done. I will be waiting. That said, let’s dive into the many reasons why I cannot stop watching “Belle.”

A MATURE REINVENTION

When I originally reviewed “Belle” for this blog, I compared it to “Beauty and the Beast” because first off, the title character is literally named Belle, well, kind of. Also, much of the movie revolves around her connection to someone who is literally referred to as a Beast. If that is not enough, there is a scene in the film that is not a complete ripoff, but heavily pays homage to Disney’s 1991 “Beauty and the Beast,” which Hosoda himself claims to adore, as the two recently mentioned characters come together in a scene where they slow dance and embrace each other in a large castle. My other claim I made during my review is that this film could potentially become less of a timeless piece than others because of how reminiscent it is of the “Beauty and the Beast” tale. Knowing what I know about “Belle,” the story threads are not quite one in the same. There are some similarities, especially in the one scene where Belle and the Beast dance together, but “Belle” is its own thing. “Beauty and the Beast,” at its core, is more of a love tale than anything else. “Belle” is a mix of cyberpunk, drama, and adventure.

I often talk about the animation genre and how much I appreciate when it understands what I consider to be the assignment. Because a lot of animations are made for kids, and obviously there is content out there that you can tell is specifically made for children, not for adults at all. There is content that is obviously made with the intention of educating kids. This has been revealed with television content like “Dora the Explorer.” But at the same time, there have been multiple instances where we get movies that are meant to give families an excuse to entertain their kids, but not the adults bringing the kids. This is what Pixar has evidently understood with every one of their movies. They do not treat them as children’s fare. There’s a difference between a film that kids can enjoy, and a film that families can enjoy. Even with a more ridiculous script like “Cars 2” or an occasional fart joke from movies like “Incredibles 2,” those movies are ones I continue to watch as an adult because it understands that if the movie is purely made to entertain kids, then it does not have staying power. “Inside Out” is a movie that I think could entertain children if you sat them in front of the television, but as an adult, I am watching the movie and feeling an appreciation for how it handles emotions and growth during adolescence. These are themes and ideas that can connect to anyone from a variety of backgrounds, ages, and life stories.

“Belle,” much like the many Pixar movies I have watched over the years, refuses to treat its audience like they are idiots. In fact, I think in some cases, it tries even harder to avoid doing so. There’s no corny humor, you have incredibly humanized and relatable storylines, and there are also scenes that feel more like they are out of a live-action script than an animated script. There is one moment in a train station where a few characters meet and there are these long pauses between lines that give the audience a moment to breathe, while also letting the characters think for themselves. I occasionally watch Animation Domination cartoons like “Bob’s Burgers” and “Family Guy” and often notice that in their scripts, everything is mile a minute, which can work by keeping the audience on their toes, but it also destroys hints of realism. Granted, it is an animation, which by definition, should be less realistic than live-action, but I also think that sometimes even in animations, you should have some degree of verisimilitude to remind your audience that your world has rules. Not everything has to be within the confines of Murphy’s Law.

A HILARLIOUSLY ACCURATE LOOK AT THE INTERNET, CELEBRITY INFLUENCERS, AND FAN CULTURE

I honestly think “Belle” could not have come out at a better time when it did. The Internet and social media are still young, so who knows how things will turn out in a hundred years, but “Belle” seems to paint an attractive picture of what those two things could look like, while also inserting satire on our modern Internet behavior. Granted, this movie is on the family friendly side, therefore it never dives into concepts like pornography or the darker sides of dating sites like Tinder, although romance is prominent in the film, coincidentally. But I found much of “Belle’s” script unapologetically reflective of how the Internet tends to work. If anything, it is a bang on the money encapsulation of what could equate to cancel culture. Case and point, Peggie Sue.

The role Peggie Sue plays in “Belle” is minimal, but effective and important in every single way. We get our first glimpse of her when the main protagonist, Suzu, has a hesitancy to sing at a party, despite being pressured by her peers. The party space is accompanied with a flat screen television complete with Peggie Sue singing a pop song, perhaps in the form of an expensive music video or a concert. This happens before Suzu enters U and to her surprise, belts out a song with fluency and power. When Suzu, or in this case, her avatar, becomes increasingly noticed by U’s userbase, Peggie Sue herself acknowledges this and does not see anything special in the rising star. At one point, she lashes out against Belle’s popularity on a giant screen, which instantly receives tons of backlash and practically gets her cancelled. There are definitely more dangerous things she could have said. She could have mocked a disability. She could have announced she was giving money to a hate group. She could have said the n-word. But even so, this movie presents an example of the classic “think before you post” scenario, which I think many users, including myself, have probably run into at one point or another through our times on the Internet. Whether we did it ourselves, we observed such an action through someone we know, or some celebrity. But at the same time, this movie tells its audience that even if you say stupid things, it does not mean you cannot be redeemed. You can still be a decent person. There is a scene at the end of the film involving said character where we reveal more about her that brings her down to Earth where such a thing comes into play. It reminds us that we are human and we can take our mistakes and turn them around, learn from them essentially. And if you learn more about someone, sometimes it will get you to understand them, possibly admire them.

Peggie Sue is not the only prominent voice speaking out against Suzu as she rises, because when she starts singing and getting all these followers, we see that she makes a splash. It looks like Suzu, or her avatar, Bell, which is what Suzu means in English, has all the support and fans she could want. But as soon as we are done hearing all the positive feedback, Sue lets her negative thoughts out to the world, therefore spawning even more negative thoughts from ordinary people. They either do not like her voice, they think the songs are lackluster, or she is simply performing for the likes. In a case like this, it takes one higher power to build a following.

FORESEEABLE LOOK AT THE FUTURE, WHILE ALSO FOCUSING ON THE PRESENT

Speaking of Suzu, the main journey of “Belle” is Suzu’s dive into U, which I claim is a sexier version of what Meta is trying to achieve. If anything, it’s like the OASIS from “Ready Player One,” but without extreme emphasis on currency and less reliance on preexisting properties from “Batman” to “Halo.” The world of U is much different from our reality given how it is more colorful, physics are almost ignored altogether, and as the movie reveals, the platform’s trademark is that it reveals a hidden strength of each user. In the beginning of the film, we see that despite Suzu having a history with music, she sometimes struggles when it comes to singing. So of course, when we see Belle enter U, the first thing she does is, to her shock, utter the lyrics of “Gales of Song,” one of the film’s few enchanting originals. We will dive more into those in a second. Suzu’s U debut, as previously mentioned, is met with mixed reception upon first glance, half of the people passing by like her. Half do not. But this is also reflective of several music artists of today where their haters are just as prominent as their fans. You may notice this with artists like Justin Bieber or Kanye West. This also brings up a positive message when Suzu notices she has an influx of followers. When Suzu’s friend, Hiroka Betsuyaku, or Hiro for short, the one who suggested that she should join U in the first place, reminds Suzu that a good portion of the millions of people who have seen her through the platform admire her, she should not forget that. She should not let the hate, trolling, and doubt get to her.

What I love about this movie so much is that in today’s mixed Internet culture, “Belle” is a movie that reminds its audience that the Internet, despite its occasional thorns, can also be a rose of positivity. The Internet has helped me in various ways by letting me discover that I am not alone with some of my weird hobbies like riding elevators. Social media has spawned some of my best companionships. I even met a couple of friends I made on social media in real life, either through chance or by arrangement. I have gained valuable friendships through my time in high school, but I feel like my friendships through social media have helped me define who I am today more than almost any other friendship I have experienced.

Despite taking place in what I would assume happens to be present day, “Belle” also spawns a ton of questions about social media’s future, because it is revealed that in the world of U, you cannot have more than one avatar. You can alter your avatar as we notice Belle wears different outfits at various points of the story, but that avatar is the only one you have. I have gone on YouTube and noticed some people have more than one account, or sometimes on sites like Twitter, people will create different accounts for different aspects of their personality. Will we be seeing less of that if we get closer to U being a reality? That is a thought provoking question if you ask me. This film also reveals that there is still a culture of trolling on the Internet, with the Dragon and Peggie Sue being a couple of the film’s examples if you will. But one thing the film never dives into all that much is bots. The closest thing I can note that U has to bots is the Dragon’s AIs, but that’s about it. My question is, how “bot-proof” is U? Even when there are trolls in U, there is often a soul behind the one doing the trolling. Although there is probably a good reason why bots never appear in U, because the idea of U involves the user immersing themselves by activating a specific device that is meant to project themselves into U, and I am not just talking about their phone. Every U user attaches buds to their ears, bringing them into the digital landscape as their respective avatar. This is done through body-sharing technology, where the user’s biometric information is interlinked with their avatar. And while there are reflective physical traits that are represented in Suzu’s avatar, most specifically freckles, the U platform tends to provide an enhancement, a level up if you will, of one’s mentality, outlook, or experiences. In Suzu’s case, she lost her mom at a young age, which is a fraction of why she is a shadow amongst her peers. In addition, her singing skills are not up to the par she would prefer. This is why she has increased confidence and singing abilities upon entering U.

COMPELLING, POWERFUL ORIGINAL SONGS

And when you have a film like this that heavily revolves around music, chances are that the songs have to be good, otherwise the film would not be as convincing or effective. “Belle” has a few originals, all of which have their own style. The film’s main theme, U, has an incredibly poppy, upbeat, and sexy feel to it to the point where it belongs on a top 40 playlist, but feels different enough that it is not annoying. It is the kind of song you would want to hear when walking into a large nightclub. It is a perfect main theme for the film because it basically just says, “Come join U! We’re all happy here and everyone is having a good time!” It also shows how one platform can change your life in an instant. Much like how Suzu has gone from a nobody to a U diva, we have seen tons of unexpected personalities on platforms like YouTube or TikTok over the years.

“So, linе up, the party’s over here
Come one, come all, jump into the fire
Step up, we are whatever we wanna be
We are free, that’s all we desire
When you pass through the veil of fantasy
There’s a world with a rhythm for you and me.”

At the same time though, it is a perfect metaphor for the Internet itself. There is a lyric in the song, specifically “I wanna know who you are, I wanna know it all,” which is not only reflective of the developed mystery behind Belle’s identity, but it reminds me of many of my relationships on the Internet. I feel like through the Internet I get to know a certain version of a person, but I would secretly love to meet them in real life to get to know the real them.

When Suzu enters U, she first sings a piece titled Gales of Song, which compared to the film’s previously mentioned main theme, perhaps relies significantly less on lyrics. Gales of Song is perfectly executed when first introduced because it is simple enough, and has enough pauses to allow Suzu to adapt to her avatar. It is like when you get inside a car for the first time and you are learning how to drive. It takes Suzu a second to understand all the mechanics, but when she starts getting the hang of things, that is when she gets increased attention from U’s userbase, both positive and negative. Lend Me Your Voice is a song that could have gone wrong because of how the scene it links to sort of pays homage to Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” but the orchestral power of the song hits hard, and the lyrics are occasionally on the verge of heart-wrenching. And speaking of heart-wrenching, don’t even get me started on the film’s longest and perhaps most important song, A Million Miles Away, which I previously awarded the Jackoff for Best Original Song during this year’s ceremony. To this day, it is one of the only songs I have heard to make me wipe tears from my face because when you watch the movie, it is THAT powerful.

That last song goes to show this film’s power of silence, because some of its best moments are simply when there is little to no dialogue, we are just watching people doing things. When we first see Suzu and her mother early on in the film, there is this wonderfully edited montage of the two doing things together, which shows Suzu developing a knack for music. There is no spoken dialogue, just a soft variant of A Million Miles Away. I even go back to the moments where characters have specific pauses while talking, allowing for some genuine lifelike reactions. The scene in the train station with a few core characters, Suzu included, comes to mind. But even within these lifelike reactions, we see some heightened emotions or cues that allow animation to shine. I will not go into much detail, but this movie is not short on blushed cheeks or visible tears.

And I am constantly talking about the film’s lyrical songs for good reason, but I should also note that the official score for “Belle” contains one of the best utilizations of stringed instruments I have EVER heard.

STUNNING CINEMATOGRAPHY, ANIMATION

Technically speaking, “Belle” is literally what the name means, beautiful. Many of the film’s wides are ingrained in my memory. The world of U is a place I could imagine myself diving into in the future. Belle’s outfits in U are astoundingly eye-popping. As depressing as the real world may be in comparison, this film has some gorgeously drawn locations. It kind of makes me want to travel to rural Japan to see what it is actually like. My favorite shot in the film however, if not one of my favorite shots, is probably set in U, when we see a closeup of Suzu singing A Million Miles Away, staring into the distance when her surroundings turn dark. It is the simplest shot of all time, but for some reason, Suzu’s concentration on what lies ahead is evident. My reason for liking this shot is potentially because of a certain context, but as much as I may be revealing about this film, there are some things I would rather keep hidden, such as moments of the scene where said shot takes place.

RELATABLE PROTAGONIST

To me, one of the most visible reasons why I adore “Belle” so much is the same basis behind why I loved another recent film, “CODA,” from the moment I saw it. They are two completely different films by several means, and in various ways, their protagonists are significantly unalike. For example, Suzu doesn’t have any deaf family members or friends, as far as we know. And “CODA’s” protagonist, Ruby Rossi, still communicates with her parents on a regular basis. Her mother is still alive, and even though the movie shows some occasional resistance between her parental relationships, Ruby has a steady connection with her father. “Belle” is a movie that allows its main hero to show off what makes them ordinary, and therefore have that mundaneness make them extraordinary. This is especially true in the climax of the film when Suzu sings A Million Miles Away. We learn more about what this song is, and that added dose made the scene go from great to… not to continue the overuse of this word, cinema. Simultaneously, Suzu has millions of followers on U, she barely talks to her dad anymore, and she spends several scenes with a talking dragon. There are some definite differences between the two protagonists, but at the end of the day, Suzu’s normality, what makes her human, what makes Suzu, quite literally Suzu, allows her to persevere later in the film’s runtime. This also highlights a notable trait about the Internet. And this trait is especially true when it comes to the Beast, as many characters have questions about his identity. That trait being how not everyone really knows who you are on the Internet. We constantly build these images of people and what we think they are like. Maybe they are incredibly wealthy. Maybe they are a predator. Maybe they are younger than they advertise themselves to be. We do not know everything about everyone. This is why sometimes I may do research on certain people before talking to them, or if there is a public figure on social media, I make an effort to ensure that they are verified.

Some of my favorite movies in recent years have been animated, because despite their otherworldly nature, they have an attractive down to earth element that sometimes is not as effective in live-action. If we are not talking about “Belle,” the most effective example that comes to mind is “Over the Moon,” which is currently on Netflix. The reason why I found that movie down to earth despite mostly taking place in space is because it is a movie I think my 13, 14, 15-year-old self would have needed to watch at those specific ages. Because I was going through a tough time where my parents were no longer in love, and there were specific story elements or beats that reminded me of that time and felt completely relatable. In the same way, maybe not as much, but nevertheless, I think “Belle” is a movie I would have shown to my 15, 16-year-old self, because I was new to social media at the time. I had an idea of how it worked, but I did not realize how addicted I may have been to it. Sure, there were many positives to it like meeting new people, finding new friends, joining a community. But I also did not realize how much I cared about followers. I cared more than I should have. I thought I was cool when in reality I may have just been desperate for attention. And I am not saying that it is a bad thing to have tons of followers, but I feel like this movie could have been a reminder to myself that maybe I should not have tried as hard to worry about getting followers. It’s like the famous quote in “Field of Dreams,” “If you build it, they will come.” In the same way, Suzu started out as a nobody, and one unexpected turn of events turned her into a somebody, even if that somebody was an alternate version of her.

I think “Belle” is a film that paints a picture of the Internet and shows its strengths. Because by the end of the film, it allows people to come together in a way that delivers a positive impact. It shows how the Internet can change people’s lives and make them better despite some occasional toxicity on a number of sides.

POSSIBLE IMPERFECTIONS WITHIN A FLAWED MASTERPIECE

I think if there are any flaws with “Belle,” it would be three things, but they do not affect my overall enjoyment of the film. There are such things as flawed masterpieces. “Risky Business” is one of my favorite films of all time, but I will tell you that the last scene feels incredibly out of place. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is one of my favorite science fiction films of the past decade, but even I will admit that the film owes its success to the original installment it tends to copy. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is one of the most beautifully violent, outrageously balls to the wall movies I have ever watched, but you could quite literally remove Margot Robbie’s character from the script and have little to no affect on the overall plot. That said, let’s dive into my few issues with “Belle,” if you want to call them that. Because in some cases, I also claim they do not bother me that much.

The first issue I have is specifically with the English dub. I do not speak Japanese, but it sounded fine on the Japanese version. When I watched this film at home a few times in English, there was one key line from Justin, or Justian if you watched the Japanese version, it sounded incredibly important, but much of what he said was muffled over all of the music. It was GREAT music, but nevertheless. Who directed this scene? Christopher Nolan?! For all I know, it could be my television, but the sound on it has been pretty good by itself over the years without any external speakers or sound bars, so who knows? The second flaw, and this is perhaps a more important issue that could also be seen as a strength, I think the relationship between Suzu and her father was kind of surface level. Not much was shown to reveal their distance. I think it almost makes me forget sometimes that they are drift apart, mainly because it is such a small part of this two hour movie. But at the same time, you could make an argument that such a thing was kind of the point. The movie wants you to realize that these two individuals barely talk to each other despite living together. And in a way, the movie successfully did that. So that is a tossup. The other, flaw, if you will, is not something that bothered me specifically, but I could see it bothering other people. Not that I have seen anyone bringing it up. There is a character in the film by the name of Shinobu, and despite his best intentions, there are a couple scenes where his connection to Suzu could come off as maybe closer than it should. From his eyes, he kind of sees himself as someone who tries to protect Suzu. This is something he has done for her since her mom died. It’s a friendly gesture, but it could also be overprotective. In a way, since Suzu’s mom died, Shinobu filled said mother’s shoes from time to time. The movie does address this though, and it shows that Suzu realizes this and at one point refuses to let this get in her way. So I would not consider it a big deal, but having seen one or two moments in the film, I could see certain viewers having a particular perception of Shinobu’s character or his connection to Suzu that maybe I did not. The movie is bound to age well if you ask me despite its influence from “Beauty and the Beast,” but I will remind you, this film is not a ripoff of a classic tale, if anything it is a reinvention. It is not a love story, it is a cautionary human drama that warns its viewers to be careful in regard to what they see, do, and say on the Internet. Or in some cases, in real life.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I highly recommend “Belle” to almost anyone, and I kind of mean that because anime was never my genre. I have a history of enjoying animated content, but not much from Japan. Now that I have seen this movie, it has opened my eyes to more of what Japan has to offer, including Mamoru Hosoda’s library, which I hear is incredible. I want to go ahead and check out some of his other movies. This is one of the few animated movies I have seen that I feel like is specifically not made for children. I think kids should watch it if the chance comes around, I think it is an important movie that everyone should watch at least one point in their life, especially now with the Metaverse expanding more than ever. The songs are catchy, well-written, and obnoxiously powerful. I do not often cry during movies, but the scene with A Million Miles Away is a literal tearjerker, so if you cry during movies, prepare yourself. I said that this is not a redo of my review, but if it were, I would be giving the movie a 10/10, because each time I watch the film, the more I realize I like it. I have gotten completely attached to Suzu as a character even though we have our differences. She is a perfect protagonist for this world, and this movie took her in a direction that enhanced its lesson to the audience. Just because someone is popular, it does not mean that they are a narcissist. It does not mean that they are the kind of person some would make them out to be. Heck, I did not even talk about Ruka in this post and that is a whole other topic I could have gotten into. And instead of explaining everything about Ruka, I will let you see for yourself. Because “Belle” is now available on various home video formats including DVD and Blu-ray, if you have not gotten a chance to watch “Belle,” find a chance as soon as possible, because it is worth your time. It is one of my favorite animated movies, and with enough rewatches, it could potentially be in the conversation for one of my favorite movies period.

Thanks for reading this post! If you like this post, be sure to check out some of my other ones, including several of my reviews. One of my reviews is for the new Nicolas Cage film, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” or you could even read my most recent review, which is for “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” which is officially in theaters as of this weekend. If you want to see more non-review posts, please check out my response to movie theaters, and why I think they should play fewer trailers before the feature presentation. To find out my first impression of “Belle,” you can read my review that I posted in January! Hope you like it! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account, also check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, like I asked in my review, did you see “Belle?” What did you think about it? Also, I want to ask a question for the anime fans reading this, because I want to dive further into the genre. What anime products do you recommend? Let me know, because I am always looking for suggestions! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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 Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022): A National Treasure of Comedy and Action

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is directed by Tom Gormican (Ghosted, That Awkward Moment) and stars Nicolas Cage (Con Air, The Croods) as himself, kind of. Joining the Academy Award-winning thespian are stars including Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Wonder Woman 1984), Sharon Horgan (Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, Game Night) Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip, Uncle Drew), Ike Barinholtz (Snatched, Blockers), Alessandra Mastronardi (To Rome with Love, Master of None), Jacob Scipio (Bad Boys for Life, Without Remorse), and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, The Smurfs). This film follows Nicolas Cage, or Nick Cage if you want to be more technical, as he hits a bit of a rough patch career-wise. When a high-paying opportunity arrives to meet with a superfan, Nick Cage is in for the role of a lifetime, working for the CIA.

When it comes to actors, Nicolas Cage is the definition of an enigma. He won an Oscar for “Leaving Las Vegas” and received another nomination for his work in “Adaptation” years later, so he is not short on talent, nor is he short on resume-worthy credits. But he also has a history of being an Internet meme. For example, one of my favorite YouTube movie critics, Chris Stuckmann, does a series of reviews by the name of “Hilariocities,” and the intro to each episode is centered around Nicolas Cage because of his tendency to take certain roles that make him look over the top and zany, sometimes not in the right ways. Cage has a history of choosing movies that are not remembered, movies that have gone straight to DVD, movies that occasionally make me wonder if he even reads the script before he signs on. One of my first positives of “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is its tendency to be effectively tongue and chic regarding Nicolas Cage. Or in some cases, the way society, especially on the Internet, paints a picture of him.

I think putting Cage in the center of this film was a brilliant idea, because while I know Cage has done some prolific work in recent years like “Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse” and “The Croods 2,” he is an actor I would think of these days when it comes to, “X actor needs to pay bills, therefore X actor stars in Y movie without hesitation.” But even with that in mind, Cage commits every time, no matter how unrealistic the script. And for this movie, a lack of realism is perhaps no exception. If I invited Nicolas Cage to my birthday bash this year, he would likely tell me to screw off. At least this is what my head tells me, because actors are not always in the business of entertaining for parties or other related events. But the moments that arguably lack verisimilitude make “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” worth watching.

The bond between Cage and Pascal is a highlight of the film. I like both actors by themselves, but if you put them together, that is a recipe for greatness. Much of the movie involves Nicolas Cage being tasked by a couple people affiliated with the CIA to stay and keep an eye on Javi, who to his surprise, becomes his newfound companion. This takes a toll on Cage as he came into this situation with partial hesitancy and now that he is here, he now has a sense of trust with his new pal. The duo literally bonded over “Paddington 2!” I have never seen “Paddington 2,” mainly because I have not seen “Paddington 1” from the mid-2010s, but I will give this film credit where it is due, it has made me want to check out “Paddington 2.” But this movie is not just about Cage finding out he likes “Paddington 2,” or trying to get people he knows to watch “The Cabinet of Caligari,” this film can also qualify as a tribute to Cage’s career and legacy. Fans of his previous movies will probably rejoice as to how one particular aspect of this movie unfolds, as it is one gigantic callback to his cinematic library.

This film also knocks its portrayal of celebrity culture out of the park. Obviously, given how this is a Nicolas Cage film, it would be wise to realize how his fans see him on screen. But there is a great moment in the film that reminds me of how ballsy it is as a fan to stop a celebrity in the street. Because the reality is, celebrities have lives. They have places to be. That is a good reason you should not stop them in the street. But at the same time, getting to meet them presents itself as a once in a lifetime opportunity, making it that much more palatable to stop them and ask for a picture. This is why events like comic con exist. That way the celebrity guests are in one place and possibly there almost solely to make the fan’s day while also making a profit. But I will be real, if someone stopped me in the street to compliment that one review I did, I would be thankful and happy enough to take a second out of my day to talk to them. But the way this movie presents a case like that shows how unexpected such a moment can be. Nicolas Cage came off as the kind of guy who would not mind taking a selfie with a fan, but I also noticed how quick this scene was handled, showing that one person or the other had things to do. Entertainers are amongst an interesting profession because they are perhaps more likely than others to be stopped. Imagine if you were working a in landscaping company and someone came up to you and screamed, “Wow! I love what you did with my neighbor’s yard! All my friends are talking about it!” You don’t usually see that as much with people in such a profession.

This film, genre-wise, is part buddy comedy, part crime investigation, part action adventure. All in all, I have to say it is one of the most delightfully charming, exciting movies I have watched in the past few months. Cage and Pascal are ridiculously funny together, and I totally buy their out of nowhere friendship. I think their chemistry is more prominent to me at this point however compared to the CIA plot, which is not a bad entry to the script by any means. I enjoyed what I saw. But Cage and Pascal’s scenes together grabbed my attention so much that it made a good portion of the film feel rather forgettable, and I think that is its biggest weakness. Although at the same time, one thing I did not forget is how the film seemingly takes jabs at today’s somewhat cookie cutter approach to storytelling, where you have basic ideas regurgitated over and over and fewer adult-centric tales out there for people to consume. The way “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” handles such an idea is not only entertaining, but also increasingly relevant in a studio system that is often dominated by blockbusters and franchises of “things people remember.” And as much as I love movies like “Free Guy,” I can see why people find them uninteresting or out of line with what they find watchable.

In the end, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” will leave you laughing, it will leave you smiling, it will make you want to befriend Nicolas Cage yourself. Not to take away from Nicolas Cage, but the supporting cast is also likable and charismatic. You have some great actors like Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, and Neil Patrick Harris. All of them have an attractive screen presence. When it comes to movies about stars playing themselves, I prefer “The Big Sick,” starring the hilarious Kumail Nanjiani, but “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is still worth watching. I recommend it. I am going to give “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” a 7/10.

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for one of the biggest movies of 2022, the latest entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness!” Expect that review sometime soon! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie where an actor plays themselves? Don’t you dare say “Space Jam…” Or the sequel, for that matter. Both are atrocities. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Northman (2022): A Hero’s Journey Collides with Robert Eggers’s Insane Personality

“The Northman” is directed by Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse, The Witch) and stars Alexander Skarsgård (The Legend of Tarzan, Big Little Lies), Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos, Bombshell), Claes Bang (The Burnt Orange Heresy, The Girl in the Spider’s Web), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma., The Queen’s Gambit), Ethan Hawke (Moon Knight, First Reformed), Björk, and Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, Platoon). This film is about Prince Amleth, who loses his father and sees his mother get captured at a young age. Holding an infinite desire to avenge his father and save his mother, Amleth joins a band of Vikings, who raise him as a berserker.

PARK CITY, UT – JANUARY 26: Director/writer Robert Eggers of “The Witch” poses for a portrait at the Village at the Lift Presented by McDonald’s McCafe during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Robert Eggers is a filmmaker I do not traditionally think about all that much, but I have grown to respect him. If anything, I think my experience with Robert Eggers is equal to my experience with Ari Aster, who released “Hereditary” in 2018, and followed it up with “Midsommar” in 2019. Well, specifically, I mean this in reverse. Because the first movie I saw from Eggers was “The Witch,” which despite its quirky shots and angles, and non-traditional aspect ratio, left me feeling icky to the point where I hated myself for watching it. The next movie I saw from him, which if for some reason if you are still on the Robert Pattinson hate train, I recommend you watch, is “The Lighthouse.” That movie ended up being one of the most wonderfully weird films I have watched… Probably ever. Looking back, it kind of makes me want to invite a bro or two to my place, bring out some drinks, and dance to some old timey songs like maniacs.

Seriously, if “dope” had a current dictionary definition, they should literally implement this scene into it.

But with that said, I think it is important to note that my feelings regarding “The Northman” going into it were rather positive. I was gonna go see “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” but due to a conflict regarding someone I planned to see it with, it did not look like such a thing would work out. So I decided to use what free time I had and go see this movie instead.

It was… Interesting.

I feel like one of the best and worst things about films made by directors like Robert Eggers is that you probably don’t know all of what you’re going to get. But it doesn’t mean that Eggers’s quirkiness can always potentially sacrifice good storytelling. In fact, my first notable positive of the film is that the first act has pretty much everything I could want out of a movie like this. It properly sets up the world, solidly introduces some of the characters, including our main protagonist, has surprisingly halfway decent toilet humor, and even a menacingly intriguing presence from Willem Dafoe. The more I think about Willem Dafoe, the more I admire him as a performer. He practically commits to just about anything he chooses to do. I would love to see a role of his where he’s just sitting on the couch, watching television, and I am sure he’d still have the potential to be recognized during awards season. His role in the movie is not a big one, but it is one that I am sure if you saw it, you definitely won’t forget it. Unfortunately, I probably have forgotten about some of this movie. Partially because it has been a few weeks since I have seen it, but if you take out all of the weirdness of the film, some of the traits that are taken from other, perhaps better stories become more noticeable. And it would be fine if the rest of the movie kept my interest, but I will be real with you, I was checking the time to find out when the heck this thing was going to end.

I did not hate this film as much as “The Witch,” but I certainly did not adore it as much as “The Lighthouse.”

This is the biggest feature Eggers has done yet. Between a full-scale adventure that spans from land to water to the large cast, this movie ain’t small. Like, take the cast of “The Lighthouse” and multiply it by 25 or something. And I think the cast overall did a really good job. Alexander Skarsgård is incredibly convincing is a brooding, gritty main hero who wants nothing more than to avenge his father’s death. And I should not be surprised considering how he played Tarzan in the past in, coincidentally, another movie I maybe do not plan to watch again anytime soon despite liking when I saw it.

Nicole Kidman also gives one of the best performances in the film, delivering convincing line after convincing line, she is a true chameleon. I will also point out her look for this film. It blends in perfectly with the time period this movie is going for.

I would also like to give a mention to Anya Taylor-Joy because in addition to her well-executed performance as Olga of the Birch Forest, this movie seems to show that Eggers is bringing in his favorite co-workers from the past, either that, or actors really like working with him. Perhaps both ideas click here. We’ve seen Eggers bring back Willem Dafoe for a small role, Anya Taylor-Joy was also directed by Eggers in “The Witch.” When I think of actor/director relationships, my mind instantly goes to Michael Caine and Christopher Nolan, or Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, or Bill Murray and Wes Anderson. I will likely be watching more of Eggers’s work if he decides to make more movies, so I will be curious if either of these actors will become a mainstay for Eggers and continue to work together for every movie they do. It’s show business, not show friends, but sometimes business can allow you to make friends along the way.

This movie had a great start, and frankly an intriguing visual outlook to it. One of the best things about a movie or a TV show is that it make you forget where you are. I did not feel like I was watching this movie somewhere in Burlington, Massachusetts, I instead felt like I was transported to the high seas. I think this movie manages to capture a better sense of escapism compared to some others I have seen. As much as I liked “The Tender Bar,” the escapism does not feel as authentic when you remember that Long Island does not have candlepin bowling. That said, I did not hate this movie, I just wish the story and characters brought me in as much as the quirks and visuals did.

In the end, “The Northman” is a movie that is DEFINITELY not for everyone, and I honestly do not know if it was for me. And it feels odd saying that, because I like a stylistic movie. I like a movie that is different. But I also like the classic hero’s journey. But I have seen weird done better. I have seen the hero’s journey done better. I’ve seen an uncle killing their nephew’s father in front of their own eyes done better in “The Lion King!” Well, the 1994 one, the new one is a waste of time. I probably will watch this movie again at some point, I don’t know when specifically, because I think it could warrant a second viewing. Although for now, I don’t hate the movie, but I do not particularly love it either. Let’s meet near the middle in terms of the verdict and confirm that I am giving “The Northman” a 6/10. It’s a positive grade because a lot of the movie’s strengths are evident and prominent from start to finish, but it also bored me, left me slightly uninterested at times, and when it comes to the Robert Eggers library, I prefer “The Lighthouse” by a long shot. For those of you who have not watched “The Lighthouse,” it may not be your cup of tea, but much like “The Northman,” it is a movie that I think you HAVE to see at least once to find out if it really is your cup of tea.

“The Northman” is now playing in theaters and is available to buy or rent through a VOD provider of your choice.

Thanks for reading this review! If you liked this review, I have more coming soon! Be sure to stay tuned for my thoughts on “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness!” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Northman?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite film from Robert Eggers? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Movie Theaters, Stop Overplaying Movie Trailers… Sincerely, A Lover of Movie Theatres and Trailers

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Compared to say 2017, when I did not have as much access to a cinema in my freetime, I am not doing as many of these “non-review” posts nowadays. Sure, I’ve done stuff like the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards, but Scene Before has primarily been review-centric as of late. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for a nearly impromptu piece based on my recent experience at the movies. I just saw “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and I have done so in a cinema I should probably refer to as “the multiplex of madness.”

I love the movies. The cinema experience made me want to make movies of my own one day, and I am taking whatever steps I can to achieve that dream. In fact, one thing I often look forward to when I am at the movies is when I sit down, I’m on time. Maybe I finish up watching some of the advertising from a source like Front & Center or Noovie or something. After all the ads, we start the preshow, and we see some trailers. In fact, in today’s Internet culture where everything is at your fingertips, we live in a time where sometimes I watch a trailer online, and get excited to potentially see it on the big screen.

My cinema of choice is AMC Theatres, which I went to last Thursday, specifically their Assembly Row 12 location in Somerville, Massachusetts, to go see “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” I shelled out some extra money for the IMAX 3D experience. Not for me, my ticket was free (Thanks, A-List!), but my dad’s ended up costing $21.69. This is a premium experience that offers the biggest screen in the venue, arguably the loudest sound in the venue, and of course, 3D, which is not as much of a craze as it was a few years ago.

So, the trailers start… We get a ton of titles. These are not in any specific order by the way, “Nope,” “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” “Lightyear,” “Bullet Train,” “Jurassic World: Dominion,” “Thor: Love and Thunder,” an extended look at “Top Gun: Maverick,” and the teaser for “Avatar: The Way of Water.” That’s right! THE “AVATAR” SEQUELS DO EXIST! That’s eight movies. And I’ll remind you… Not all of them are going to be in IMAX. “Bob’s Burgers” has no evident deal with the IMAX brand at this point to release the film in said format.

It takes a lot for me to lose my patience. Part of me snapped once I realized how long I’ve sitting in my seat just watching ADVERTISEMENTS, not even including all the Noovie stuff! I didn’t snap, because I was frankly excited to finally get to the film. Plus, the last trailer was for “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which I was happy to see. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is two hours and six minutes long. The preshow, which included the trailers, the AMC advertising, the IMAX countdown, was probably around half an hour. I’d say so because when I checked my phone at the end of the movie (including credits), whose preshow started at 9:30, it was 12:07, so those ads must have run for around half an hour.

I will also add this… Something happened that night that I have never witnessed before. The trailer for “Bullet Train…” PLAYED TWICE IN THE SAME REEL. It’s a great trailer, but what happened?

This is getting ridiculous. We’re here to watch THE MOVIE.

I mentioned that AMC Theatres is my movie theater of choice, but that’s mainly because it is the biggest bang for my buck. Why? Because I have A-List, which allows me to see three free movies a week in any format. I have gone to experiences where they played six, seven, and eight trailers, and not once have they been as long or tedious as what I just went through.

Sometimes having a lot of trailers is not the worst thing in the world. It gives more time for you to show up to your movie if you are late, if you want to go out and quickly grab food, go to the bathroom, and come back, you can do that and not miss much depending on where and when you see the movie. But when I’m paying a premium price, probably the most I have paid for an individual movie ticket in my life, I am not paying for the trailers! In fact, you could make an argument that for the price I paid, I should be paying for NO TRAILERS! Have you seen streaming models lately? Look at Hulu! You can pay $5.99 per month and get ads, or you can pay $11.99 per month and get no ads. It’s a premium price for a premium experience. I am paying monthly for YouTube Premium right now so I am not getting ads on the site! I never thought I’d say this! And even if it were not a premium price like $21, 9 trailers, including an extended preview and one that plays a second time, is obscene, especially when you consider how much of your time that it takes up. In fact, I would argue that there are theatres that try to take advantage of less trailers, but justify the price for it.

Some of you may remember the ArcLight chain, which primarily had cinemas around southern California. They opened a theater in Boston shortly before all their locations closed. A standard 2D show at the ArcLight in Boston right near the TD Garden was $15. Not the lowest price, but when you consider what you are getting, including a maximum of three trailers, a selling point of the ArcLight, it makes the price reasonable.

I get it. Movie trailers are supposed to sell movies. In addition to popcorn, movie theatres are in the business of selling movies, so I get why trailers exist. They are a decent business model for the venue and the studio. I am not saying that movie theatres need to get rid of trailers, but they need to make me feel like I paid to watch a MOVIE, not a barrage of marketing.

If anything, I think six trailers or more is where you start to push things, because trailers are often 2 to 3 minutes each unless it is a teaser. This gives an approximate 10 to 20 minute preshow, and that may or may not include whatever else the theatre tries to sell you. I am not telling theatres to get rid of their ads that partner with Coca-Cola, because if they did, I think that would lessen the chance of Coca-Cola being sold at that theater in the future. But if they made the trailers a reasonable length that did not make me feel like I watched a quarter of the film already, then I would feel like my purchase was justified. We live in a culture where we could look up any trailer we want on YouTube. I do not need AMC reciprocating my search history.

And you know what? It looks like studios are starting to catch on, at least to an extent. Because last week, CinemaCon was held in Las Vegas. During the Paramount presentation where they showed the entirety of “Top Gun: Maverick” to the audience, the domestic distribution chief, Chris Aronson got onstage and suggested that movie theaters should play fewer trailers before the film starts, as stated in this article from Box Office Pro.

“We’re not completely back yet and now is not the time for complacency, It’s not the time for ‘If we just have movies, everything is going to be okay,’ exhibition has to ensure that every facet of the guest experience is the absolute best that it can be. And [studios] have to ensure that we’re delivering content that moviegoers want to see in your theaters. We must work together in every way possible, the way partnerships are supposed to work—sharing data, not selling it—to help us market our movies to your patrons. Playing the right number of trailers and not numbing the audience to the point that the recall rate drops to nil. Ensuring that the price-value ratio is fair and proper. We need to look at our business from different perspectives and experiment in finding ways to increase attendance and revenue.” -Chris Aronson

When a higher-up from a major studio is chiming in on an issue like this suggesting that LESS marketing, potentially from their own movies, needs to be played, that is a sign that the cinemas need to fix this.

But at the same time, Paramount is also the studio behind “Top Gun: Maverick,” and they literally played a 5 or so minute preview of the film on top of all the other trailers I witnessed that same night!

I was talking to someone recently as part of a school project and they said during an interview that one thing they miss because of the pandemic is the movies. Should they ever go back, I can only imagine how’d they react to sit through as many trailers as I did. Not missing it so much now, right?

I’m writing this post as an American, likely for an American audience. Here’s an analogy my American friends can understand. Movie preshows are like baseball games. You can watch a number of innings, experience a thrilling game, perhaps feel satisfied in the end. Trailers, like baseball, can be fun. But if trailers go on for too long, they become the most insufferable, brain-melting, tiring thing on the face of the planet!

So AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Showcase, all the other venues that are probably playing trailer upon trailer right now, please take into consideration that the audience wants to watch the movie they paid to see. And if you are concerned that they are not going to know about “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” of all things, then that’s why standees and posters exist to be displayed around the theater! I should not be watching eight or nine trailers when you need extra time to play the IMAX countdown and a pointless, counterproductive ad where Nicole Kidman reminds everyone that heartbreak feels good in AMC Theatres. No, seriously. That ad makes no sense. Why is an ad reminding you to go to AMC Theatres attached to the end of the preshow when I already entered the theatre?

As they say in the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” “if they don’t win, it’s a shame.” Nobody wins with eight or nine trailers. They’re cluttered, long, and for all I know, the audience probably won’t remember all of them. I remember every one I saw because I was angered by all this in the end, but all it did is lessen my chances of returning to AMC. They’re lucky I am not cancelling my A-List because I go to watch and review movies. But if I were not doing Scene Before, I would probably cancel my A-List, maybe choose another theater to commit to. Movie theatres, this is simply put, a shame. Therefore I beg, stop self-indulging, stop overselling, and start playing what I came to see!

I want to ask everyone a couple questions. First off, do you like movie trailers? Second, do you think the movies are playing enough trailers? Too little? If you had to put a number on it, how many trailers would you PREFER to see before a movie? Do you even watch trailers at the theater? Also, how long would you say is the longest preshow you witnessed before going to see a movie? Let me know down below!

Thanks for reading this post! If you are new around here, feel free to check out some of my reviews for movies like “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” “CODA,” and “Morbius.” I have more reviews coming soon. And speaking of Nicole Kidman, I will be reviewing “The Northman” this week! Be sure to check that out when it drops! Evidently, given all that I have talked about, expect a review of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” sometime in the near future. 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! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022): Full of Exciting Video Game-Like Action, and Minimal Video Game-Like Story

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is directed by Jeff Fowler, who also directed the 2020 “Sonic the Hedgehog” film. This film stars Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation, BoJack Horseman), James Marsden (Westworld, Hop), Tika Sumpter (Ride Along, The Old Man and the Gun), Natasha Rothwell (The White Lotus, Insecure), Adam Pally (Dirty Grandpa, Iron Man 3), Shemar Moore (S.W.A.T., Criminal Minds), Colleen O’Shaughnessey (Danny Phantom, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes), Lee Majdoub (The 100, Supernatural), Idris Elba (The Suicide Squad, Pacific Rim), and Jim Carrey (Batman Forever, The Mask). This film follows Sonic, who as of the last movie has trapped Doctor Robotnik in a world filled with nothing except mushrooms. However, Robotnik escapes from “The Mushroom Planet” and attempts to possess the Master Emerald, which would allow him to control the world at his will. Now, it is up to Sonic, and his new sidekick Tails to defend civilization and stop Robotnik, who has joined forces with Knuckles the Echidna, from changing reality for the worse.

There was a saying not too long ago that “video game movies suck,” and I can attest to that. A couple of my least favorite films ever, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” and “Super Mario Bros.” are based on video games. They are poorly written, poorly acted, and poorly executed. But I must say that the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” maintains the throne for the best video game movie ever made, not that this is a high mountain to climb, but still, I liked the movie. When I wrote my review a couple of years ago, one of my immediate thoughts was, “I want a sequel,” because the movie ends in such a way that is satisfying, but also leaves enough open to make you want more. I frankly did not expect that with the first “Sonic,” but if that first movie were not good, I probably would not have been as excited for this movie as I was before I went in.

Part of me wonders if we would even have this movie if it were not for people on the Internet, perhaps justifiably, expressing their rage over the design of Sonic, because before the first movie came out, and before Paramount went back and spent money on redesigning the character, he did look butt ugly for an adaptation, but I also was conflicted as to whether they were going for a grittier, grounded story. Turns out they were not, the movie almost felt like a Saturday morning cartoon, but that is also why in the end, I am glad they went back to redesigning it. And as a result, I think we found a look that not just matches the first movie, but also its sequel, which also maintains this Saturday morning cartoon vibe from start to finish.

The heart of the first movie for me was the unexpected bond between Sonic and Tom Wachowski, which given cinematic history with movies like 2011’s “The Smurfs,” could have gone completely sideways. By the end of the movie, the two felt like genuine pals, and that is hard to do with a human and CGI hedgehog, so credit where it is due. In this movie, that is kind of replaced, because Tails ends up being Sonic’s sidekick for most of the picture. In fact, the formula the two seem to have together feels almost reminiscent of the first movie, even to the point where the film excuses itself to blast a once popular top 40 song that may have been slightly overplayed. Not Crush 40, no no no. Top 40. “Live and Learn” is not in the movie, sorry for spoiling in advance for those who really did not want to know.

While Tails serves his part in the movie, the movie also finds a reason to implement Tom Wachowski into the mix, but this allows for a completely separate subplot to commence… (sigh) …The goddamn wedding.

I think “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” can easily be watched at any age. I think if you are five, you’re fine. And if you’re ninety, you’re nifty. But let’s be real, some could argue that “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is made for children to enjoy. This is not a bad thing, I do not mind children’s content, but I also prefer that children receive content that does not insult their intelligence. The first movie, while not quite as mature as what we have gotten from Pixar over the years, has a certain flair to it that makes you feel like a kid again. This sequel is consistent in that way. But one consistency that does not exist from one film to the next is the pacing. The first film is extremely tight in its 99 minute story, but this film is 23 minutes longer, and therefore, it suffers from an obnoxious and almost unnecessary subplot at a wedding. Granted, one story is means to an end where it lines up with another, but the journey to get from one place to another in the wedding was probably the most boring segment of the film. And I will add, the one moment where everything lines up makes absolutely no sense. Going back to what I said, I do not mind children’s content, but I want it to treat its audience as if they were smart. This does not. You know your “moment” is bad when you have the characters spinning their heads and then one person realizes that “the Olive Garden guy” from the first movie is here to spew out another advertisement for the company.

By the way, Olive Garden kinda sucks. I said it.

The first movie, while definitely not my favorite of the year, was fairly palatable because of a narrative that is as quick as its titular hedgehog. This movie relies way too much on over the top gags that feel tired by the end. That is not to say the movie does not have its occasional laugh, but let’s just say that the writing for Dr. Robotnik, who is marvelously portrayed by Jim Carrey, is not as much of a highlight as it was in the predecessor.

Now I do want to be clear, I liked Dr. Robotnik in this film, but the first film gave us a perfect blend of Jim Carrey’s zaniness mashed together with some of the best screenwriting I have witnessed for a villain in a children’s film. Robotnik is written similarly to how he is presented in the original film, but the original film takes the cake for perhaps a larger collection of memorable lines and moments. NOTHING beats the scene where Sonic sneaks up to Tom and Robotnik, exclaims to Robotnik not to hurt Tom, and Robotnik emits the most obnoxious, cartoon-like scream I have heard in a long time. I cannot remember a single line in this sequel that was “awful,” but I also cannot recall one line in the film that was on the level of the original. Not offensive, but also not as good.

In fact, I would like to go back to the compliment I gave this film about it making you feel like a kid again. I think that is a compliment I can give to certain comic book movies that have come out in recent years. Those films, while definitely mature, make me feel young, and I always love to maintain a youthful spirit. And there were moments during my theater experience where instead of a bunch of manchildren, including myself, admired everything on screen and uttered sounds of excitement, actual children got to be similarly wowed during key moments that trigger such immediate reactions. This is why THE CINEMA is the way to watch a movie. It’s a community.

Let me just remind you, the week before I saw “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” I saw “Morbius” in a theater that wasn’t quite full, but had a decent crowd. No one uttered a sound for the entire runtime. There were points during “Sonic 2” where people gasped, they cheered, they clapped. This is one reason why I love going to the movies. I stand by the rule where no one should be talking during the movie, but I also think some experiences can qualify for a rock concert vibe. If you are excited, why not embrace it? The movie is certainly one that could get you excited by the end of it.

Now much like Robotnik, I would have to say that Sonic is once again, fabulously portrayed by Ben Schwartz, but the problem I have with this film when it comes to Sonic is that despite his personality being on point, especially when lining things up with the first movie, Sonic’s jokes, kind of like in the first film, come off as fairly cheap pop cultural references or forced quips. Those jokes could work, but they kind of fall flat here. Now, I will 100% contend with Sonic’s sentiments from the first movie about Keanu Reeves being a national treasure, but I think when it comes to referencing the pop cultural mojo, I think he needs to calm down just a tad. Although Ben Schwartz is a perfect interpretation for Sonic and his over the top pitch sells the character for me. I think the lesson this character has to face in this film is one of its saving graces, because even though this movie has quite a few notable flaws from the wedding scene to the disposable humor, I think if you are going to watch this movie at a certain age, I think it would be a positive influence. In a world where we have tons of movies with violence and explosions, it is nice to see one that occasionally gives slight objections to those ideas despite them being in it.

This film introduces a couple new CGI characters into the mix, Miles “Tails” Power and Knuckles. One of my big complaints about movies that have voiceover characters nowadays like the upcoming “Super Mario Bros.” movie for example is that they tend to rely on big names to get people in the theater. Granted, I like Chris Pratt, I dig Charlie Day, and I adore Anya Taylor-Joy, so we’ll see what happens there. But I am glad that this movie tended to give an opportunity to not just an actual pro voice actor to voice Tails, but give that opportunity to a voice actor who has literally voiced the character in other creations. Colleen O’Shaughnessy is a delight in this film. But at the same time, this film is the best of both worlds, because they also allowed Idris Elba to voice Knuckles the Echidna, which I thought was a great choice. He’s a terrific actor, his voice is iconic, and it matches the grit such a character can promise. Elba’s interpretation of Knuckles allowed him to arguably become the most hysterical character of the entire film. Basically he has the personality of a fantasy narrator and a fantasy protagonist rolled into one person. It’s perfect. Unlike Sonic, Knuckles appears to have less of a hang of things when it comes to knowing about the rituals of mankind. Each joke related to his developing knowledge or lack of knowledge on the subject matter hits hard every time. I won’t spoil anything, but the moment you hear “Dot, dot, dot…” You’re in for a treat.

But if I had to be honest, this movie is not as solid as the original. Sure, it has fan service that lovers of the games will appreciate, the effects and sound are utterly amazing, and it is definitely one of the less offensive video game movies to exist compared to some others. But the first movie had a foundation that felt properly structured and put into place. It was a building that was functional and served its purpose. This movie took that same building and added way too many more floors to it. The wedding gag was utterly atrocious and ultimately sullies what could have been a fantastic movie. And if I were a kid watching “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” I probably would be saying the same thing. I liked the action, I liked the dynamic between Eggman and Knuckles, but the wedding scene made me want to break up with this film. I will also say that some of the supporting characters from the first film like Wade and Rachel make an appearance here, and they feel wasted by the end. They don’t do much to make their appearances feel worthwhile.

Also, can we talk about something? I want to remind you of the fact that Sonic, a hedgehog, not a human, but a HEDGEHOG. I know it speaks English, but still. This HEDGEHOG has technically been adopted as the Wachowski family’s son? I mean, literally, the movie makes references to Sonic calling Tom “dad.” It’s really weird! Look, I know they developed a relationship, but… That’s kinda freaky. I KNOW it’s a movie… But it is somewhat unsettling! It’s an odd taste in the mouth!

In the end, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” was fun when I saw it, and the positives do outweigh the negatives, but the more I think about the film, the less I like it. The first “Sonic the Hedgehog” felt like that next step for video game movies, maybe we’ll be getting some great ones soon. Unfortunately, this sequel cannot acquire the same luster as that first one. The voice-work is great, the effects are top-notch, and the sound is unbelievable. But if I learned something about video games it is that not everyone cares about the story, they care more about how the game looks, how it plays. The movie looks incredible, and had they gone with that original Sonic introduced in spring 2019, I do not think that would have been the case. But the story in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” feels like it is not as important as it was in its predecessor, and that is despite having a great lesson intertwined. I feel like children can learn something from this movie. But as an adult, I don’t know when I will be watching this movie again. I’ll probably go back to the original at some point, but this will probably have to wait. I’m going to give “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” a 6/10.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new DreamWorks Animation flick, “The Bad Guys!” Also coming soon, stay tuned for my review of “The Northman!” In addition, I am seeing “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” next week, so I will have a review coming for that movie too! 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 “Sonic the Hedgehog 2?” What did you think about it? Or, which movie did you like better? “Sonic the Hedgehog” or “Sonic the Hedgehog 2?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

CODA (2021): An Audibly Triumphant Story With Every Emotion Ever Conceived

“CODA” is directed by Sian Heder (Orange is the New Black, Little America) and stars Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Daniel Durant, and Marlee Matlin in a film about a young girl who is born into a deaf family. She is the only one in the family who has hearing, and finds herself struggling to balance school, her family fishing business, college admissions, and an interest in music.

Despite the notability of this film’s recent Best Picture win at the Academy Awards, not to mention seeing this film in the theater recently, the latter of which almost causes a case for an automatic film review every time, I nearly decided to not review this film at all. But that is until I saw it. And we’ll get to my thoughts in a sec, but I want to note that “CODA” was a film I have looked forward to ever since I first saw the advertising. The reviews looked insane, and it came off as a wonderfully intimate tale about someone who is special and I would not know personally. But for various reasons, I missed the film when it first came to theaters, and I never got around to watching it on Apple TV+. But due to the film’s recent success at the Academy Awards, Apple decided to release the film again with open captions. Given this film’s subject matter, that is a great idea. They released it in several theaters around me, so I decided instead of suffering through “Morbius” a second time, I would take my dad to go see something that won’t make you rip your hair out.

We agreed on “CODA.” Hopefully our choice would be wise.

But of course, there are several movies that exist that have a hype train, only to have said train lose a little steam once it comes out. This happened to me last year with “Soul,” which Peter Travers of ABC News called “the year’s peak achievement in animation,” Josh Wilding of ComicBookMovie.com referred to as “one of Pixar’s most beautiful, poignant films,” and Bob Chipman of Moviebob Central claimed was “among the year’s loveliest, most poignant and moving pieces of work animated or otherwise.” Those are ridiculously positive, star-shooting thoughts.

I mean, I LIKED “Soul,” but at the time it also became my least favorite Pixar movie, so there is that.

Now with “CODA,” we have another insanely praised movie revolving around music. Adam Graham of Detroit News says “CODA” is “a big hug of a movie.” Pete Hammond of Deadline Hollywood suggests “CODA is more than “a moving story of what it means to be in a family, but also one about becoming your own person and following a dream.” For the record, despite this film’s wider release in August, it originally played at Sundance, so I think this notion from Esther Zuckerman at Thrillist should not be ignored.

“‘CODA’ is the kind of movie that you can imagine getting a standing ovation at Sundance, if this were a year where people were allowed to gather in a stuffy Park City auditorium.”

It’s been over a year since this film’s Sundance premiere. It’s been only a little time since this film’s recent collecting of Academy Awards. Is this movie the greatest thing since sliced bread or the next “Soul?”

Neither. There’s sliced bread, there’s better than sliced bread, and then there’s sliced bread with mounds of butter!

If there is any reason that you should spend a few bucks for Apple TV+, “CODA” makes an absolutely compelling argument. My dad walked out of the auditorium saying that this was one of the best movies he has seen in years, and I could definitely see why. I have gathered that he is fairly easy to impress as a moviegoer, but when he REALLY likes a film, I have found it to be obvious. And it is not just him who is yelling out a car window to everyone on the streets to go see this movie, because I for one think that this is one of the best coming of age stories of our time. Does it have some familiar elements or clichés? Perhaps. But it doesn’t always matter if a movie has clichés as long as they are utilized well.

At the end of the day, this is a genius narrative about a girl whose normality makes her abnormal. I have taken a screenwriting class in my sophomore year of college, and one of the things I have taken from that class is that when I write a character who is “ordinary,” that I understand that there still should be specific qualities about such an ordinary character that stand out. When it comes to this film’s character of Ruby Rossi, perfectly played by Emilia Jones, this is exactly what my professor would want me to shoot for. She is in a deaf family, but she is the only one who has hearing. Brilliant. And it is not just a great concept, it has stellar execution. Because this film is completely relatable to someone like me, who was at an age range she previously experienced. Now, unlike Ruby, I knew what I wanted to do the moment I got out of high school, but the problem for me was taking that next step and actually moving on with my life, and I am sort of experiencing the same thing with my soon to be post-undergrad years. That by itself made me connect to Ruby, but when Ruby finds something she is passionate about, it is, almost perhaps understandably, the biggest shock and disappointment she can give to her parents who are having trouble hearing. That passion being music, which you have to HEAR to fully understand. Not only is she passionate about it, she wants to study it, which in addition, requires money… Oh boy.

I grew up in a family of two adults who had their own occupations and ran their own company at some point in their lives. Despite this, I consider myself lucky to have never felt the pressure to attach myself to a family business had I failed to express any interest. I have been given the opportunity to attach myself if I choose, but my main priority right now is film, it’s media, it’s communications, it’s entertainment. I felt for the protagonist because they have to choose between family and herself, and this is really the time of her life when she should be thinking about herself, what she wants to do, and the parents should allow her to do such a thing. They may not like the choice, and again, understandably so, but this is not their life, it is Ruby’s. But we also get a look at the lives the parents have, and there comes a point where Ruby leaving could mean that they have to rethink how they live their lives, and as this movie shows, conduct their own business. Not to mention, when you have to look at your current financial status, that also brings up a question as to what life you can provide for yourself and those you care about. On that note, the main family is perfectly cast. They have phenomenal chemistry. The deaf characters are actually played by deaf actors. Sian Heder brings us a wonderfully conceived screenplay and brings her artistry to the table while telling a story about an aspiring artist. Heder has not done a ton of notable work yet in her career, but I think “CODA” is going to put her on the map as a filmmaker around this time, like “Lady Bird” put Greta Gerwig on the map when she directed that film.

I know a lot of people, and I’m close with quite a few of them. None of them are deaf. So I cannot speak to the accuracy or authenticity of certain aspects of this film, but as for the entertainment value with everyone on screen, regardless of their ability to hear or speak in sign language, that was not short whatsoever. Although on that note, if I think if there were any way to improve “CODA,” there are honestly few things I can think of to begin with. But if I had to come up with something, there is one story element in the movie that admittedly becomes a bit predictable. My dad and I were watching, and we both knew, “Okay, this is where the movie’s going.” Usually I am not a fan of predictable storytelling, partially because when you watch a lot of media, the more repetitive it is, the more likely I am to tune out, but I also think when it comes to how “CODA” handles such a predictable moment, it achieves its goal of making you relate to or feel bad for the protagonist.

“CODA” has such a way of playing with your heartstrings that feels larger than life despite it being one of the most intimate stories I have ever seen, and part of it is because it relies on a lack of sound and written words to carry everything through. It really is film as it was meant to be. Visual storytelling. It does not tell, it only shows. There is a sequence at the end of this film that almost made me cry, and that is not only because the subject matter is incredibly compelling and ties everything together in a nice little bow, but as an editor, I was watching this and admired its ability to tell everything in a fast-paced, eye-popping montage that gave a sweet moment for every second on screen. Very few movies nowadays connect me in such an emotional way, and “CODA” is one of the lucky gems that just happened to knock on my door.

And don’t just take all the sappy comments I stated and put them in a box with this film set next to it, because this film has just about every emotion I could think of. I was figuratively biting my nails. I was jumping for joy. I was getting tears in my eyes. I was occasionally even laughing crazily. The film is surprisingly comedic, and there are a few moments where my dad and I were audibly laughing. One reason why I recommend going to see this in the theater if it is near you is because depending on your level of hearing, even when you hear nothing on the screen, you can still bask in the laughter of an audience, which is one of the most uniquely satisfying feelings I have gathered in my recent film experiences.

In the end, “CODA” is one of the best movies I have seen in recent memory. It won a couple of the big Best Picture awards, including the one that matters the most, the Academy Award for Best Picture, and obviously that warranted Apple to put the film out in as many theaters as it can the next weekend to get some money. I went to go see it the Tuesday after, but I have had my occasional ounce of disappointment here and there when it comes to certain projects. I did not see “Moonlight” until the weekend following its kinda sorta Best Picture win at the Oscars, and I was underwhelmed. Although the following year, “The Shape of Water” won Best Picture. It took me awhile to watch that film, and it turned out to be a stunning and enchanting film with a great cast of characters, so anything can happen. “CODA” truly felt like it was made with the goal to win Best Picture, and it absolutely deserved it. I can barely think of any real problems in this film. Maybe if you don’t like tearjerkers, this may not be my first recommendation for you, but that is a claim leaning along the lines of subjectivity. Plus, even if you don’t like crying during movies I still recommend it, because I left the film feeling whole. I felt happy. It reminded me of my journey as an artist, but also immersed me into a world with people and situations that I do not come across in everyday life. Once again, Ruby Rossi is an ordinary protagonist, but this movie excels by reminding the audience of the extraordinary life she finds herself living every day. And this extraordinary life, made an extraordinary movie. I am going to give “CODA” a 10/10! If I had the chance to redo my top 10 list for 2021, this would easily belong in the top 3 or 4. I would not call it my favorite movie of the year, that honor still goes to “The Suicide Squad,” but it certainly comes close.

“CODA” is now playing in theatres and is available to watch on Apple TV+.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2!” I saw the film a couple weeks ago, and I have plenty to say about it. I liked the first film, so who knows how the sequel will pan out… Following that review, I will be sharing my thoughts on the new DreamWorks animated film, “The Bad Guys,” which is in theaters as of this weekend. Also, coming soon, I will have my review for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the all new A24 film starring Michelle Yeoh and directed by Daniels, the same minds who brought us “Swiss Army Man.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “CODA?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite film that has won Best Picture at the Academy Awards? Not just nominated, but they also have to be the winner. This film is definitely a contender, I’ll say that much. Let me know your pick down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

But I certainly felt empty after watching this movie.

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

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

I did facepalm once. That was something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turning Red (2022): Pixar’s Latest, and Best, Direct to Disney+ Feature

“Turning Red” is directed by Domee Shi, who also directed “Bao,” one of the more memorable Pixar shorts. This film stars Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, and James Hong in a film about a young girl named Meilin Lee whose life and connection with those around her begins to turn upside down as soon as she transforms into a giant red panda.

Pixar is one of the best studios ever created, and I am honestly saddened to see what is becoming of them. And it is not the studio’s fault, it is instead the faults of Disney themselves, who happen to be putting their movies straight to Disney+. I could kind of understand it for “Soul,” because it was a good way to boost subscribers, it was free, unlike “Mulan,” and COVID-19 was incredibly rampant. “Luca” suffered the same fate months later for similar reasons, although I honestly think it would have done semi-decently in theaters if marketed well enough. After all, Pixar movies usually end up being some of the bigger hits of the summer. So I was disappointed to see that one go straight to streaming as well, even if it ended up being my least favorite movie from the studio. I was optimistic that Disney would not do the same for “Turning Red,” whose trailers I saw in theaters, and have enjoyed. …In theaters. Turns out, that’s not the case.

So I went to California to go see this film in a theater. That was not the main intention of why I went there, but that was something I happened to do while I was visiting. I look back on “Soul,” which to me, is an inferior Pixar title, and think it would have been cool to see it in theaters because the music would have sounded graceful through high-quality surround sound. Now that I HAVE seen “Turning Red” in a theater, part of me almost questions how this did not get a wider release. Because there are select parts that had my attention, especially at the end, that would have been nowhere near as enhanced had I watched this movie at home.

But as for the movie itself, I want to point out that the last two Pixar films, “Soul” and “Luca” are currently my least favorites they have done. Thankfully, “Turning Red” does not join those ranks. I would put it in the same caliber as maybe “Ratatouille,” a movie a really enjoyed, but also acknowledge is not maybe my favorite or least favorite. Again, Pixar is a great studio, and even with what I said about “Luca,” the film is still in the positive range for me. Their batting average is one of the best in regards to studios working today. It reminds me of Marvel Studios, except that they have a few movies that disappointed me and I would consider to be in the negative. When it comes to entertaining a massive amount of people, and not just giving the bare minimum when it comes to that, Pixar knows exactly what they’re doing. And getting Domee Shi to tell her story is a part of that.

One of my favorite Pixar movies is “Inside Out,” partially because of how emotionally satisfying it is by the end of it, but also partially because of how perfect of a metaphor it is for entering adolescence. Similar to “Inside Out,” “Turning Red” almost comes off as a metaphor for puberty, and I am kind of amazed that Pixar even decided to execute a movie like this because I think some adults will look at this and wonder if kids should even be watching it. Disney movies have sometimes been known for their dark turns in the story, especially when a member of the family dies. I will keep spoilers of “Turning Red” to a minimum, because I do recommend it, but the parts that may be the least kid-friendly are the moments that reflect the coming of age or growing up of our main character. If anything, I would say that this movie is almost a secret sequel to “Inside Out,” because if you remember that movie’s ending, it’s like we took one fraction from that film’s ending and made a feature-length story on what happens next.

This movie has a reference to “stripper music!” A kids movie!

The main characters of “Turning Red” make every other character in a Pixar film from Lightning McQueen to Mike Wazowski look completely silent and innocent. And by the main characters, I mean the teenage girls. Mei, Abby, Miriam, and Priya. I feel like watching them with their emphasized expressions and emotions not only highlight the chemistry they have with each other, but I felt like there were select scenes that highlight emotions from them that either would only reflect them at their current age or would highlight maybe the stereotyped awkwardness, perhaps even grossness, that comes with puberty. There are select facial expressions in this film that are off the wall cartoony to the point where there’s almost no real life replica for them.

In fact, not only does this film feature some of traditions of Pixar when it comes to their animation style with highly detailed, computerized 3D, which looks as impressive as usual. But there is also a bit of a Japanese anime style to this film as well, and it is fully embraced with FLASHY moments sprinkled every bit in between, poppy, bright colors, and I would even say the climax and its inner-workings feel like something out of an anime at times. But despite this film’s animated look, there is one moment, I will not say when, that something came onto the screen, and my jaw literally dropped at the sight of it because of how real it looked. Pixar is easily my favorite studio for animated movies, and part of it is not only because of their fun stories that bring joy and occasional tears, but also the effort that has been put into the film’s design. 2019’s “Toy Story 4” has one of the most surprisingly realistic looking shots I have seen of a cat in animation history. I think I just saw something equal to, if not greater than that.

“Turning Red” is Pixar doing what Pixar does best, because I often look at films from studios like Illumination and Dreamworks Animation and think to myself that despite their occasional enjoyability here and there, they almost dumb themselves down too much for the children who are inevitably going to be watching it because there are things happening on screen. Pixar does not do that. They feel like the wisest studio of them all. I almost feel like Pixar, when it comes to animation in the United States at least, is the thinking man’s animation studio. Disney Animation has a childlike spirit despite its darker themes. DreamWorks has its moments of maturity, but also resorts to immature jokes here and there. Illumination… My god. “Turning Red” seems to have a childlike spirit, but that is a compliment on the movie’s part because I feel like animation is, bar none, the perfect medium for something like this. I have seen images on the Internet of the film before it came out or just around release time regarding certain individuals refusing to watch this film because of the way it looked.

Okay. Now, film is subjective, not every movie is for everyone, but I will say if they did this film in live action, I think that they would have to change A LOT. Maybe some of the hyperactive writing could stay, but the expressions of the characters would not pop as much as it does here. I would love to see more of what Domee Shi does with her character and potentially what she can do with another directorial effort at Pixar. I think she and maybe Pete Docter (and Brad Bird should they make “Incredibles 3”) are the names I will await with eager anticipation in terms of when their next project arrives.

At the end of the day, this film is not just about someone who turns into a panda and lets all sorts of shenanigans unfold, it is about the struggles of growing up, the struggles of friendship, the struggles of family. At some point in these aspects, it is tough to maintain trust between one side and another. Sometimes you cannot please your parents because you want to please your friends. Sometimes you may not agree with everything your parents say, because maybe from their view, maybe they want the best for you. Their response could be somewhat justified, but in a case like this, the child may be significantly let down because they have wanted something so bad that it is all they think about. This took me back to a time when I was younger and I would ask my parents if I could play a slate of M rated video games. By the way, I played a ton of “Team Fortress 2” as a young teen. TURNED OUT FINE. The movie presents a similar case with 4 Town, a boy band who happens to be performing in Toronto. The girls want to go to the concert together, and the parents obviously want to interfere. From their point of view, they think the music is kind of ridiculous and think an event like this could be potentially harmful. But for the girls, this is practically their whole life. From the girls’ point of view, they almost see this as a part of growing up, which is part of what the movie’s about.

This film maintains a great lesson for children and adults. When I watch family movies or movies that are in the animated medium, I often note the lesson that they tend to provide for the children watching, it’s mainly intended for them. But I feel like a parent could watch this movie and take something from it too. It’s that good. It’s that effective. I highly recommend this movie to anyone and I wish it had a theatrical release.

The film also has a post-credits scene. For those who want to watch the movie, do not pause when the credits roll, there is more.

In the end, “Turning Red” is wonderful movie. It is not my favorite Pixar film, but it is funny, charming, and fast-paced. While there definitely are some moments in this film that try to go for the emotions, this may be a somewhat easier watch for some people than some of Pixar’s other fare in recent years like “Inside Out” or “Coco,” because films like those often seemingly attempt to make people cry. “Turning Red” starts off as cheerful fun and ends that way. If you want a joyful, happy go lucky film with some conflict, I highly recommend this picture. The main character of Mei is wonderful and brilliantly voiced by Rosalie Chiang. I would love to see more from the “Turning Red” property, and I am going to give it an 8/10.

Also, big shoutout to Sandra Oh. Her resume from an animation perspective has been fire lately. She was in “Over the Moon,” “Raya and the Last Dragon,” and now this. She is making some great choices lately.

“Turning Red” is now available on Disney+ for free as long as you are a subscriber.

Thanks for reading this review! Speaking of reading, if you like reading things for a very very long time, you will LOVE the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards! The awards were held on March 27th, but if you want to read the show now, here is an opportunity! Find out which 2021 films win’s Jacks awards! Should we do a fifth awards show, my next movie I am reviewing will probably not make it. Ladies and gentlemen, my next review… Is… Morbius.

Let’s get this overwith.

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