Mega Movie Catch-Up #14

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Haven’t done one of these in a while…

Brightburn (2019)
What if, instead of Clark Kent, Johnathan and Martha raised Damian?

Conceptually, it’s a fascinating if obvious reversal and deconstruction of the famous Superman origin story (and I think may have been done by DC Comics in a “what if?” type of one-off issue). And while all the ideas are very cool and compelling I’m not completely certain it stuck the landing.

I think it was a good choice to imbue the story with horror tropes more so than comic book ones as it makes sense for it to be a much darker and gorier flip of the well-trodden tale (this is despite my usual aversion to horror) but I think some of the execution was a tad off thanks in part to the low budget.

Overall, I enjoyed it but I was left a tiny bit unsatisfied.

Currently streaming on Netflix

The Princess (2022)
A bit clumsy and uneven, this medieval version of The Raid is quite brutal and overall a good time.

I had a lot of fun with this violent action romp that is more style than it is substance and I think it knows that about itself too. It really does lean into the fight choreography trying to outdo the previous set piece, attempting a few surprises but also relying on old tropes. The action is really exciting and graphic just to make sure audiences don’t get too complacent about a princess movie. Characters are chewing the scenery like they’re in a Guy Ritchie movie but it fits in here.

A few things did let down the film including the poor visual effects, the editing needed to be tighter, whenever there was an attempt to be earnest it felt a little flat along with some of the humour and the script didn’t seem to know how to build to each sequence. There was also a potentially minor bit of “orientalism” as a way to explain why our titular character knew martial arts but other than these things it’s an enjoyable yet mentally un-taxing time to be had.

Currently streaming on Disney+

Warcraft (2016)
I wanted to like this more than I did but then again I don’t have a connection to World of Warcraft and it would be lazy to assume that only fans of the games can enjoy this.

This is another film where all the good ideas are let down by the execution and a great deal of that has to do with the attempt to cram in so much lore at the expense of telling a coherent story. Or at least it feels that way because things just happen with no flow or proper set up from one moment to the next. And in doing so, the emphasis is mostly on “things happening” instead of fleshing out characters (mostly, and I’ll get to that) to the point where nobody matters, there’s no one to latch onto as a focal point, and no reason for me to care about anything that happens to these people. I’m just watching stuff happen.

However, if I had to choose, the Orc side of the story is more compelling than the human side and there are genuine attempts to create emotion for both but they fall rather flat (the forced non-romance between Lothar and Garona is all sorts of awkward). It feels like it’s attempting character depth the same way you would build a diving board on the edge of an inflatable kiddie pool. I also have this odd feeling that a lot of my lack of caring may be to do with how miss-cast everyone seemed (or at least the human characters) but I can’t back that up because I have no point-of-reference for these characters, which may make it worse?

The visual effects are an oddity to me because for the most part the CG is both spectacular and somehow lacking. Most of it is serviceable and I think there is some sort of stylisation going on with the digital sets that are appropriate to the history of WoW, and the CG Orcs are really quite good (or at least good enough for me to prefer their story over the humans, like I said) but this is the first time I’ve ever felt empty looking at VFX. I’ve often had to defend that sort of criticism in so many other major CG-laden movies but those other films at least told a good story with characters I cared about and could follow. Warcraft lacked either of those elements.

Currently streaming on Netflix

Supa Modo (2018)
This is a charming and touching film from Kenya about a little girl with a terminal illness and her village that bands together to help make superhero dreams come true.

This not-quite-feature-length film grew out of a project from a workshop that helps aspiring African film makers learn from mentors and industry experts on how to make movies and get them out to an international audience.

Being from 2018, it’s definitely riding the wave of popularity of superhero movies but it also offers a somewhat insightful non-Western perspective even if it does muddle up comic book heroes with martial arts action stars. It’s not a particularly fancy movie being shot in mostly straightforward manner and its main plot takes a little extra time to get to the point but it does spend most of the story building up the more emotional core of the movie and I think it works rather well. This was a very sweet film… and of course there’s a post-credit scene!

Currently streaming on Netflix

The Matrix Resurrections (2021)
As much as I wanted to like it more, it fell a little short of the mark.

Back in the day, I wasn’t as blown away with the original The Matrix as so many others were even though I did enjoy it well enough and understood the “basic” messaging at the time. In later years I became more appreciative of the metaphor and messaging. The sequels… meh.

So I came into Resurrections with some conflicting trepidations… on the one hand I’ve been underwhelmed by all things “The Matrix” overall anyway, and on the other I desperately wanted this to be great because I was cognisant of what it was trying to attempt in light of all the douchebaggery that was born out of certain folks who misunderstood and misappropriated the original story. Unfortunately, instead of clarifying things it feels a touch too self-indulgent?

Which is a very odd criticism to have in an era where films are being self-referential and milking the nostalgia for every drop. For my money, some do that better than others (Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Spider-Man: No Way Home are good examples) but Resurrections (understandably) browbeats its allegory and meta-narrative like it’s meant to be a cheat sheet for what you were supposed to get from the original movie. Every bit is a reference, every moment is a metaphor, some things are done better than others, and there’s moments where it’s trying to be “philosophical” like before but just ends up hurting the pacing. That’s not to say that this film is bad, there’s actually a lot to like about this (Jessica Henwick is an absolute highlight), and I enjoyed myself well enough but I just wish it stuck the landing.

Currently streaming on Netflix.

The Bob’s Burgers Movie (2022)
Like The Simpsons Movie, this is slightly bigger and slightly better looking than the show, however, it doesn’t lose what makes the show so funny and enjoyable.

I love Bob’s Burgers but I must confess that I’m a few seasons behind because I’ve just been burnt out on trying to keep up with so many different shows. However, The Bob’s Burgers Movie may have just gotten me back on track again.

With these sorts of movie-continuations-of-shows, there’s always an improvement in the animation quality, the basic plot is a little more elaborate, and obviously it’s a lot longer, most importantly the humour is pretty much intact. Despite the elevated elements it’s not trying to be something else, which so often happens for films of its ilk and maybe because of that it does feel like an extended version of an episode rather than a cinema experience (amplified by watching it on streaming).

It’s great, it’s funny, it doesn’t lose its beats or pacing and it actually makes for a handy entry point for those new to the show. This is a really fun one!

Currently streaming on Disney+

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