By Benjamin Himes:
To be clear, this does not mean I hated the films; rather, I went in knowing that on some level, I would enjoy these films. Instead, what I discovered was that when I walked out, I felt a bit let down, something was missing, or what could have been added to the overall film experience.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron/Jurassic World – On the other side of the Mad Max narrative, Jurassic World and Age of Ultron each gave us a follow up that is all too familiar; when the first movie is incredibly successful, why mess with that formula? I understand that this is the safest route in regards to increasing the profits of the previous films, audiences will no doubt understand and be able to follow the film narrative-wise. And yet, is this homogenization worth it in the long run? Is the promise of instant profits worth it when in the future, critics and audiences alike are more or less on the same page when it comes to the notion of “Oh we can skip this, it’s not worth the time and effort.” Call-backs are fine and all when used sparingly and at precise moments in pause of the narrative and plot, but when the entire film is filled with these set-ups, it begs the question on whether or not this means future films will be a homogenized call-back to a formula that was held in high regard when it was introduced. The luster fades, the excitement and the suspense wanes as we count beat for beat precisely what will happen next. Granted, these films did incredibly well, Jurassic World on nostalgia and the notion that it appeals to the broad spectrum of audiences, and Age of Ultron on the Marvel tag. Both also fall trap to the recurring element of forgettable villains, who, in all aspects of the flow of both films, should be on-par, or exceeding the heroes in memorability. The real complaint at the heart of this section, is the growing concern of complacency when it comes to the making of sequels, the notion of not trusting audiences to see a different story in relation to the success of the first film, that they will not reciprocate the passion and the drive to make the time to see something they believe is different and will not yield the same feelings that the first film worked so hard to set up.
- Crimson Peak – Let me start this by saying that this film looked good, insanely detailed in the set pieces and the overall aesthetic director Guillermo Del Toro was going for; this is a trait that he has excelled at for his entire career. Blade 2, while still a part of the Blade franchise, branched out from what the original film accomplished, and was improved upon greatly with Del Toro at the helm. Crimson Peak has that spooky aesthetic, the undertones of something greater at play that is implicit within the environment, the look of the ghosts haunting the main character, and the end twist that unfortunately was telegraphed throughout the entirety of the film. Crimson Peak suffers from being an example of all flash and little substance that is indicative with the narrative beats within the film.
- Spectre – Daniel Craig has, for better or worse, been one of the definitive polarizing actors who has played James Bond for the past decade. Initially dismissed due to his blonde hair and blue eyes and cold tone not matching up to what we have come to expect when visualizing the character archetype of Bond. Casino Royale and Skyfall were quick to shut down most skepticism and disregard for what Craig could bring to the table. Quantum of Solace, an exhale when compared to the chops shown by the two films sandwiched between it, can be likened to ‘the sophomore slump’. Spectre however, when the trailers dropped, walked in with an insane amount of swagger off the coattails of Skyfall and tease of Christoph Waltz being cast as Ernesto Blofeld, the foil and the classic villain archetype to the suave debonair of Bond. The film felt boring, there was never a point where the action had a supreme climax, where it felt as though Bond would not make it out alive. The sense of urgency was entirely lost upon myself and several others’ who have seen the film.
- Focus – Oh what could have been; a star-clad frontcourt of Will Smith and Margot Robbie appeared on paper to be the perfect combo of style and sass. Unfortunately, what is on paper and what actually takes place to recreate what is on paper often do not add up to what the overall hype is about regarding the end product. Focus is one of those films where the first half came out swinging, playing as an Ocean’s Eleven inspired stylistic crime film, only Smith and Robbie are the main focus of the film’s premise with background characters going with the ebb and flow of their relationship. But when the second half of the film occurs after the first big heist, Will Smith drops Margot Robbie like a bad habit and takes time to ‘find himself’, to reevaluate his position in life and wonder whether or not he made the right decision bringing her along for the ride. The end plays out in its own form of a deus ex machina to let us know that despite the narrative flow the first half of the film had built, that ultimately it does not matter, because Smith and Robbie through sheer will and testament must end up together all packaged up and wrapped with a shiny bow.