Ola: The Last Jedi is the second instalment in the new Star Wars trilogy, produced by Disney and without any direct involvement of George Lucas, the original creator of Star Wars universe. The Last Jedi starts right where Episode VII ended. My review for The Force Awakens, and my openly expressed criticism, can be found here. Episode VIII was supposed to open a new field of play, built on the flimsy foundations set in the derivative plot of Episode VII. Most of the fans had high hopes for The Last Jedi, both because of the immensely advanced technology allowing for more picturesque and dynamic scenes, and because it is the middle part of the trilogy – the analogies to The Empire Strikes Back were clear from the beginning, with Luke Skywalker doomed to reprise the role of Master Yoda.
The Last Jedi turned out to be a wholehearted reprisal of The Empire Strikes Back: with Dagobah set on a stony island, a reluctant hermit teaching the secrets of the Force to a young (but too old anyway!) and strong in the Force adept, a doom hanging on suddenly desperate Rebels… What happened to the New Republic? There are also some additional scenes taken out from The Return of the Jedi: our protagonist, trained in the ways of Force, tries to rescue the Big Bad Skywalker, in whom a conflict of darkness and light burns brightly… The protagonist is tortured by the evil Emperor with a badly distorted face and a penchant for terrible sneer (or Supreme Leader, whatever) only to be saved by the Big Bad Skywalker.
I hope everyone’s already seen Episode VIII. Because my first question is: WTF??? Why are you, Disney, so bent on killing all the beloved characters of old trilogy? Is this some kind of ritualistic patricide? I mean, I probably should be glad you didn’t use pretzels as a means of gruesome death, but that’s not enough for me, not by a long shot.
Piotrek: I, on the other hand, had fun watching the latest installment of Star Wars franchise. I’d say it was a very nice movie, but perhaps not a good addition to the SW universe.
There’s been a lot of talk about Wonder Woman, very favorable reviews (one of them, by Piotrek, on this blog), fan hype and critical acclaim. The movie’s heyday is already past, with Justice League on screen and other superhero movies crowding the benches. So why do I come back to it now?
Well, probably partly because I’ve been recently reading Moses Finley’s seminal work, The World of Odysseus – very highly recommended to anyone interested in ancient Greece. And partly because the movie sits like a thorn in my side, its popularity and acclaim, when confronted with its painfully stereotypical message, truly baffling.
Wonder Woman has been hailed as the first superhero movie with a woman as a lead. This is surely something laudable? After all, thanks to this movie we’ve read about subversive feminism and whatnots, discussed chainmail bikinis as a source of empowerment or subjugation, depending on one’s stance, and so on. Even Gloria Steinem took a stand, saying the film was very good, although noting at the same time that she “may be desperate – […] just happy that the Amazons had wild hair”. It’s been called the best of DCU movies so far, and while it in itself is not a big feat, it definitely forces comparison to other movies. It all seems highly beneficial to a summer flick which on its own is rather mediocre. We’ve all probably heard the voice of reason, saying, “it’s not perfect, but better this than nothing”, “it’s a step in right direction”, “I’ve seen worse”.
Critics Consensus: Exciting, funny, and above all fun, Thor: Ragnarok is a colorful cosmic adventure that sets a new standard for its franchise — and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Piotrek: This from Rotten Tomatoes, where the movie got 93% freshness rating from critics and 90% from the audience. Points are slightly lower, with 7,5/10 from critics and 4,3/5 from regular movie-goers. On imdb it’s 8,2/10. From sites and reviewers I follow, not a single one disappointed voice. See Angry Joe and his crew, their enthusiasm is contagious. Just as everybody, they describe T:R as non stop fun, great comedy, a new direction for both Thor and Hulk. Also as two hours of fan-service. And I agree, but I’m not as sure it’s good fan-service as they are. Or, to be more clear, it might be very good fan-service, but for me it’s not enough for a 10/10 rating. I’ve enjoyed the movie, I’ve laughed a lot, several scenes are superb – arena duel, some of the fight sequences (one using this!), Dr Strange’s cameo, Gatling-shooting Valkyrie… and more.
I couldn’t fully enjoy the movie though, and it’s Ola’s fault. I’m not talking about the scathing review I’ve heard before I had the chance to go to the cinema, but several collected comic book she made me read, with storylines that supposedly inspired T:R.
Ola: Thank you! To keep things simple, cinematic adaptations of their source material generally can be judged based on faithfulness/originality, which gives us three basic categories: 1) faithful to the original, keeping its spirit (if not the whole content) intact despite the difference in medium – Watchers are a good example of this case, 2) better than original, expanding the material in ways unique to the new medium and/or times it had been adapted in – I know my choice will be controversial, but Guardians seem a nice enough example here, or 3) worse – for whatever reason cannibalizing/trivializing/creating serious misconceptions about the original. Thor: Ragnarok falls firmly into this last category.
Today a review of not a book, but an event – a Star Wars exhibition I had seen in London. A heaven for any geek, but a particular paradise for Star Wars fans – where else could you see BB-8 or Han Solo in carbonite?
I believe this is a great year for superhero movies. Each of the great studio delivered. We got best X-Men movie ever in Logan, we got near-perfect Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and now there is the first good DC movie since Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
I’ve never been a fan of comic book Wonder Woman, but it wasn’t a strong dislike, I just couldn’t bring myself to treat someone in such a silly outfit seriously… and this simplified approach to Greek mythology was somehow more difficult to stomach than Marvel’s Asgard.
In the disastrous Batman vs Superman, Gal Gadot’s character was one of few good things. Seeing all the stellar reviews I decided to give it a chance. I was not disappointed.
Piotrek: Guardians of the Galaxy came out before we started this blog, so I will start with some praise for Volume 1. It is one of my favourite MCU movies, definitely one that made me laugh most (remember, Deadpool is part of the Fox’s side of Marvel). Guardians had superb soundtrack, great team of characters that really worked together, extremely entertaining plot and it took the MCU to the space, introducing characters and places that will be important for the culmination that Infinity War needs to be. It was all put together so well I had no problem with slight inconsequences and a weak villain. And it gave us Groot 😉
Volume 2 is even better. Not as fresh, but seamless, within the framework of its genre – kind of perfect. It’s very different from Logan, but both these movies prove to me that superhero genre matured to the point where it deserves to dominate cinemas. If it all goes downhill from here, I’ll be happy to re-watch what we already have.
Ola: Yes indeed, Guardians vol. 2 seem to be even better than their predecessor, and that is a feat in itself, as no. 1 was an awesome romp through the adventure and SF genres, with an added secret ingredient – family dramedy :). This time around there’s much more of family drama, and – surprisingly – of SF. A great, complicated not-entirely-villain with the rugged, trustworthy face of Kurt Russel makes for a compelling counterpart to the already established team of the Guardians, and the chemistry between the protagonists takes this movie far beyond what we usually expect from movies based on comic books – or at least MCU.
Piotrek: Times are good for comic book fans. Old stuff is easily available, new things are often good, and movies/tv… our genre is probably the strongest one today, with so much being done, everyone can find something nice. Solid stories, visual experiments (Dr Strange, Legion!), profane (Deadpool) and civil (Guardians) comedies… and now Logan.
Ola: The newest instalment in XXth Century Fox X-Men franchise is a story loosely based on the premise of Old Man Logan, one of the most famous graphic novels about Wolverine. It features a post-apocalyptic near future, where United States are in turmoil, symbolized by the absence of the Statue of Liberty, regular institutions such as police or National Guard or medical help no longer work, and the world once again becomes an arena of fight between the weak and the strong. The mutant gene has been suppressed; superheroes are no longer around; and those who stayed behind are not what they used to be.