What I’ve Been Watching – February 2018 Part Two

Hello, readers!

It’s another blog about what I’ve been watching! What can I say? I’ve seen a lot of stuff lately 🙂

Black Panther

(Spoilers for Black Panther and Captain America: Civil War)

Black Panther first appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe back in Civil War, which is my favourite superhero film ever. In a film where Captain America and Iron Man took centre stage, I was pleasantly surprised that it was Black Panther’s story arc that showed the most growth. He also rounded off the film with a great message.

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The Black Panther film picks up shortly after these events, seeing T’Challa take up the throne after his father was killed at the signing of the Sokovia Accords. What ensues is a story of family, royal responsibility, and how tribes and nations of the world should treat each other. It’s an impressively dense film with multiple layers to peel away.

Like Dr Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy, the film’s visuals and music feel unique and unlike anything else in the MCU. I really feel that these three films are Marvel’s response to criticisms that most of the phase 2 films looked and felt the same. Another issue from phase 2 was the lack of interesting villains other than Loki. We’ve had the quietly calculating Zemo in Civil War, the blue collared family man of Vulture in Spiderman, the self-absorbed Ego in Guardians Volume 2, and now Killmonger… who is bristling with threatening energy.

The story includes a whole mix of elements. There’s a slick-as-hell casino sequence that feels like it came straight out of Skyfall and then dialled things up to 11. There’s a Q-esque scene involving cool gadgets that also feels inspired by James Bond. There’s a plot thread of family betrayal that is oddly reminiscent of The Lion King. And there’s a car chase in South Korea that feels very much like a Marvel film with it’s seamless blend of action and comedy.

I really loved what the writers did with vibranium, showing it to be far more useful than we’ve seen so far. Captain America has always found cool and inventive ways of using his shield, but after seeing what else vibranium is capable of in this movie, it’s hard not to agree with Ultron’s jab in Age of Ultron.

The casting is great with lots of recognisable faces – including a couple of Black Mirror actors. It’s also worth pointing out that women’s representation here is stronger than any Marvel film we’ve seen to date. While I do love the MCU, there is no denying it needs stronger female characters. This film rectifies that problem with a vengeance. Something else I love is the humour, which is timed to Marvel’s usual standards. “Just kidding. We’re vegetarians.”

The mid-credits sequence sees a speech that made me want to stand and applaud. It’s about how countries and cultures should build bridges between each other, not retreat into our own borders and throw up barriers. It’s a timely speech that put a smile on my face. Yet another Marvel film lets Black Panther bring it home with a message of morality and compassion.

One issue I had with the film was the level of violence. Marvel films have always contained a lot of fighting, but Cap Winter Soldier and Black Panther take it just a little too far for my personal tastes. I wouldn’t take my son to see this before he’s 12 years old (please don’t judge me… the point of the 12a certificate is to let the adult decide).

Overall, Black Panther is a great success on many levels. Marvel is off to a great start this year 🙂 I am so ready for Infinity War!

The Cloverfield Paradox

(Spoilers for all three Cloverfield films)

I really wanted to like this. I liked Cloverfield and loved the incredibly tense 10 Cloverfield Lane (until the ending anyway). Alas, despite answering questions from the previous two films, The Cloverfield Paradox just didn’t work for me.

Firstly, the film solves it’s own mystery in about 15 minutes with a news interview that explains what bad stuff is going to happen. This pretty much renders the rest of the film pointless, because we know from the previous two films that monsters are unleashed and cause havoc across the planet. Whatever happens, the crew are not going to be able to undo the damage they’ve done. The only mystery is how everything started in the first place.

I also feel like the tension and claustrophobia that could have been gained from setting this on a displaced space station was killed by the story constantly zipping back and forth between Earth (which was supposed to feel far away so the crew felt stranded and alone). The crew are intended to be some of the world’s brightest individuals and humanity’s greatest hope, yet they’re not particularly smart. Something is screeching from behind this bulkhead… Let’s all stand in front of it while we open it up!

None of the strange events are explained either.

How can this weird stuff be happening? Well you know… we fired the dimension-breaking engine so obviously monsters showed up and obviously a severed arm can act independently. Luckily Chris O’Dowd throws out a few comedic lines to make us laugh along the way “What are you trying to tell us, arm?” He definitely had some fun with his role and it’s greatly to the film’s credit.

Even when things are explained, they are done so clumsily. I know this is a common gripe for me and it’s only a minor one, but it’s still hard for me to accept when I hear characters plainly spelling things out for the audience. It just doesn’t sound like natural conversation and this something that affects a lot of sci-fi. It almost makes me long for the pretentious ambiguity of The Architect’s dialogue from The Matrix Reloaded.

Almost…

One thing the film does get right is casting. There is an excellent array of talent here and they all deliver their lines convincingly. This film really could have been something quite special… a tense space survival story mixed with paranormal horror. Instead it’s a rather unexciting combination of tropes seen before and executed better.

Bottom line… if you like the first two Cloverfield films and want some answers, check this out for a bit of closure. If you’ve never seen a Cloverfield film, there’s little reason to start with this one.

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters

This is a new anime that’s streamable and downloadable on Netflix.

I’m not a Godzilla fan or anything, but I’ve seen a few Godzilla films in the past just for the hell of it. The last one I saw was the 2014 version directed by Gareth Edwards, which I thought was competently done. Before that, I saw the 1998 version directed by Roland Emmerich, which I really don’t like.

After only 10 minutes, this new Godzilla became my favourite one of the lot.

The premise is this. In the past, huge savage creatures awoke from the depths of the Earth to terrorise humanity. In response, Godzilla awoke to destroy them but unfortunately didn’t discriminate between humans and monsters, destroying everyone and everything it saw. After humanity waged a long brutal ‘war’ of pointless nuclear strikes, the Earth was left devastated and uninhabitable. Humans accepted they couldn’t win this fight and escaped the planet on an ‘arc’ designed to sail the vastness of space in search of a new home. However, two decades crammed in a spaceship with other humans proved to be a different kind of hell… A cold, quiet, bleak hell with no future and no way out except suicide.

The beginning of the movie is dark and brilliantly realised. The animation is great and the direction is excellent. There are certain set pieces that are executed with real flair. The sound design is also really good, giving the deadly monsters a weighty ‘heft’ that makes them resilient to the lightweight gunfire the humans pepper them with.

On top of that is a strong subtitle translation and believable characters. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I got sucked into this 90-minute tale of survival, hopelessness and revenge. It’s part one of a three-part series, but unfortunately part two doesn’t seem likely to appear on Netflix until much later this year. I’ll definitely be tuning in though 🙂

Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale

I already wrote about this last year. I just want to point out that it’s now on Netflix to stream and download. I loved this film and whole-heartedly recommend checking this one out 🙂

So that’s what I’ve been watching. Feel free to share any thoughts in the comments – thanks for reading, folks 🙂

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