OB-EWAN’S KESHOWBI (2022)

Nice to look at, fundamentally pointless. The embodiment of all the the things wrong with modern Star Wars.

Rather than take this opportunity to tell smaller, self-contained stories within the broader universe (ala the first season of The Mandalorian), we’re instead given the same tired runaround of connecting every arbitrary object and event to something that already existed in the other films. It’s fan-service at its flattest and most uninspired.

VFX are excellent, but performances are mixed, some of the action sequences have absolutely horrible geographic logic and choreography, the plot meanders and then goes nowhere important.

How can it?

Given that this takes place between Episodes III & IV, nothing of the conflicts it chooses to explore can have any consequence, and therefore there are zero stakes. Why have Vader and Obi-Wan meet and fight now, since we all know that both will survive? Why have Obi-Wan and Leia go on adventures when they’re barely acquaintances years later?

If anything, forcing all these characters to meet up now undermines any of the impact of the later films, and in many ways directly contradicts pre-established story beats. They actively make the good parts of Star Wars worse by this incessant need to only ever revisit the same handful characters and locations.

For a franchise with this much (very much strained) goodwill and financial backing, it’s a shame that it’s so utterly allergic to doing anything interesting with itself.

Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with it, and would be highly skeptical of anything Star Wars yet to come.

A waste.

CHIP ‘N’ DALE: RESCUE RANGERS (2022)

Well this was a fun surprise.

Basically, it’s modern-day Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, all the way from blended animation/live action through to the Noir mystery detective story.

Cameos are an absolutely hilarious mix of unexpected cuts, absurd jokes and examples of just how deep Disney’s bench of IPs actually is these days.

Mulaney and Samberg are perfect casting, the animation is great, the concept and execution are excellent.

Solid comedy, well recommended.

MOON KNIGHT // s01

More of an archeological adventure with superhero elements than a straight superhero show.

Definitely draws some influence from the 90s version of The Mummy, and the globe-trotting adventures of National Treasure and Indiana Jones. As such, it feels very disconnected from the rest of the MCU, but this only works to its own benefit.

Oscar Isaac is really giving everything to his performance, split between two distinct personalities at odds with one another while in the service of the Egyptian god of vengeance.

It’s this focus on character, while using the capes and magic stuff as set dressing, that puts this a cut above the rest. It’s short too, coming in at just six episodes, so it packs everything in without overstaying its welcome.

No prior knowledge of any other Marvel stuff required, just a fun standalone little adventure. Hopefully more of the Disney+ shows work to this kind of structure.

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022)

Messy and weird, with Sam Raimi’s fingerprints all over it.

Yep, Marvel finally actually let a director push out against the edges of its age rating. It’s got weird camera angles, honest-to-goodness horror, and actual gore! This is absolutey the least kid-friendly of any MCU—at times genuinely disturbing and frightening.

At its best when it’s at its most Raimi. Some really fun and creative sequences, mostly packed into the back half. Suffers from some pretty blunt exposition and clunky dialogue, but it’s aiming right for that sweet spot of hammy and cheesy, and mostly lands. It’s kinda schlocky!

As a multiverse film it’s… surprisingly underwhelming? But coming off the back of the absolutely exceptional masterpiece that is Everything Everywhere All At Once, any multiverse film is going to feel lacking. There’s the usual rollout of Marvel cameos and teases, but here it doesn’t feel so much like an obligatory setup for the next set of films as it does an excuse for some ridiculously violent action sequences spiced up with fan service. Honestly, I wasn’t blown away by the four or five big cameo appearances (beware spoilers online!), but it also didn’t feel like it was trying to drop them as gotchas so I kind of appreciated that. Ends up meaning far less for the MCU going forward than I was expecting, but that’s actually good?

Overall, a big fun carnival ride. It’s different enough from standard superhero fare, while also feeling like a distinctly superhero film. Danny Elfman’s score really elevates it into this too, and there’s a few sequences with really fun use of music in the action.

Deviation from MCU norms mean that it won’t be for everyone, but those out-there moments are when it really shines. I’m curious to know how successful it’ll be, given the focus on horror elements, and I’m glad they actually took a chance in this direction for once.

Recommended.

TURNING RED (2022)

It’s great!

An absolute celebration of women, mothers, sisters and friendship — all wrapped in kinetic, vibrant style.

The animation is fun, the story’s emotionally resonant, the soundtrack is a brilliantly pastiche of early 00’s boy bands by Finneas/Billie Eilish.

Bursting with personality, passion, and charm. Well worth your time.

Pixar have been killing it lately. Highly recommended.

THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT (2021)

It’s fine?

Weirdly drops its title character entirely in the back half to become The Mandalorian s2.5, and then pulls back to the main plotline in the finale.

Star Wars is kind of its own worst enemy — the best parts of it are the things that aren’t really connected to the original trilogy, yet it constantly finds itself afraid to stand on its own without somehow tying back into the same handful of characters.

TBoBF unfortunately succumbs to these bad instincts, going for recogniseable and familiar places, tropes and characters instead of really doing something all its own.

It’s a mixed bag of great and terrible design choices, excellent VFX and horribly shot/staged action.

Finishes up not really doing much more than setting up the next Mando season, which is itself straying away from the self-contained vignette style that made it so appealing.

Maybe Obi Wan will be better, but I don’t have high hopes.

Watch it or don’t.

ENCANTO (2021)

Simple and charming little story about a family who are granted magical boons on their coming of age day.

Music is unmistakably Lin Manuel Miranda, animation is colourful and lush, characters are fun.

Not quite as intensely charsmatic as this year’s Luca, but is still an easy and incredibly endearing watch, and a wonderful sort of magical fantasy for kids.

Recommended.

SPIDER-MAN: No Way Home (2021)

A brilliant conclusion to the Tom Holland/Jon Watts “Home” trilogy, that is almost impossible to discuss without severe spoilers for the back half of the film.

Best appreciated knowing as little as possible beforehand, but I’ll still keep from spoiler discussion until after the click-through below.

The shortest spoiler-free review is: it’s bloody great, go and see it.

Fundamentally, this is taking MCU Spidey and directly addressing the criticisms levelled at this incarnation (Iron Boy Jr, a lack of Uncle Ben, too many advantages compared to the traditional depiction) and playing hardball with them to set up what may well prove to be the most wonderully accurate cinematic Spider-Man we’ve ever seen. Personally, I’ve always loved this Spider-Man, but to see how they’ve maneuvered the franchise into what it will be going forward is an absurdly impressive feat. Everyone gets their cake.

Some CG is a little wonky, but it’s balanced out by some fantastic Dr Strange sequences (Multiverse of Madness hype!) and wonderful character work. I genuinely believe Tom Holland will win over a lot of his haters with this one.

Look, spoilers are all over the internet, try and get out to see it as soon as you can. Otherwise, I’ve barricaded spoilers behind the jump.

Highly recommended.

SPOILERS BELOW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Continue reading “SPIDER-MAN: No Way Home (2021)”

CRUELLA (2021)

Actually pretty fun!

Wasn’t expecting this to have a huge heist film element to it, but it was a welcome surprise.

Not sure how far it goes to justifying the outright monster she becomes, but it doesn’t seem too interested in trying to do that. So, credit to it.

Drops a few eye-rolly explanations for things that didn’t need an explanation, same as any of these prequels tries to do, but they come so late in the game that they’re fairly inconsequential to enjoying the ride.

One of the better live-action Disney tie-ins, your mileage will vary based on your taste for those.

Does it need to exist? No.

Was it entertaining? Sure!

MARVEL’S ETERNALS (2021)

So different to the usual Marvel fare that it’s understandable the audience reaction is so mixed.

I really enjoyed it though! Don’t believe the haters, there is really something distinct here.

A cosmic epic spanning millennia, centering on a group of immortal beings sent as caretakers for humanity to gently guide their development.

Yes, it’s very slow and often dense with exposition. I would argue it might have been better served as a prestige series to allow it more time to breathe, but it does a lot with the time its given even if the pacing is uneven. Even at two and a half hours it feels like some decent sized chunks were lost in the edit.

The characters are great and their “family” dynamic is full of well executed moments and humour. Their powers are all distinct and visually striking, some of the most interesting in the MCU. The visual design is on a whole other level, there’s a kind of scope and scale here that’s wonderful to behold. The lore, while heavyhanded, is fascinating and rich.

Not without its problems, but I’m willing to forgive a lot for the sake of ambition on display. Doesn’t require any pre-existing knowledge of Marvel stuff to get into it, this is actually impressively standalone for the most part. It’s taking chances I want to see more blockbusters take.

Not for everyone, but certainly not the disaster some are hyperbolically painting is as.

Recommended.