“22 Jump Street” – A Sequel about Sequels

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Comedy sequels never work. With few exceptions most comedy film sequels tend to play out as mere shadows failing to capture the success of the previous film or end up repeating the same jokes until the audience has simply gotten fatigued. 21 Jump Street, the 2012 reboot of the 80s/90s undercover police procedural sidestepped the stigma of most Hollywood remakes/reboots by opting to execute the series’ core concept, cops undercover as students in a school setting, as a comedy rather than the original’s soapy procedural format. Woven in the execution was a witty commentary on generational nostalgia and a meta-commentary on the film’s production itself being a result of said nostalgia. The result was a rousing critical & commercial success and helped to cement directors Phil Lord & Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie) as in-demand filmmakers. Now Lord & Miller have the unenviable task of following up such a breakout hit without falling into the pitfalls most comedy sequels are destined for. What ensues is perhaps the ultimate comedy sequel for our times and possibly the most brutal and honest piece of meta-fictional commentary on the nature of sequels in general.

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“X-Men: Days of Future Past” – Evolution of a Mythology

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The film franchise based on Marvel Comics’ ‘X-Men’ comic mythology (which follows the exploits of “mutants” – people born with superpowers) are the last connections to the time when superhero movies were still a novelty and when lines like ‘What did you expect, yellow spandex?’ were eaten up by fans who were simply happy to see their favorite characters taken seriously by Hollywood. The aesthetic of early superhero films were clearly lifted mostly from The Matrix and Blade. The one thing nobody ever really talks about when revisiting the original X-trilogy is that none of the films are particularly good in purely cinematic terms and they are poor interpretations of the X-Men mythos. They do get a character or concept right on occasion (Hugh Jackman IS Wolverine), but in terms of interpreting the X-Men, they never seize the opportunity to tackle what has been a most interesting and pleasantly soap operatic serial storytelling (the comics being 50+ years ongoing). Four movies into the film franchise, with the critical & commercial flop, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, almost putting the series to whimper of a close, something remarkable happened: X-Men: First Class. The film was conceived as a soft reboot while also serving as a prequel to the previous films and it established a whole new tone and mission statement for the films going forward. First Class director Matthew Vaughn (L4yer Cake) embraced the freestyle camp and soap opera fun of the comics while allowing the mythology’s sense of social commentary to breathe and really come alive.After another fun brief one-off film focusing on the character of Wolverine (who has been the central character for every X-film prior to First Class), fan-favorite Bryan Singer, who directed the first 2 entries in the franchise and produced the rest is back at the helm. Singer has slowly gotten notoriety for not being reverent or respectful of the X-characters and mythology save for Wolverine but it seems many lessons were learned from the success of First Class as this film, X-Men: Days of Future Past is not only a good movie, it’s Singer’s best X-Men movie, and the best X film to date.

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Mankind is Dwarfed by “Godzilla”

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Godzilla, director Gareth Edwards’ (Monsters) 2014 American re-imagining of the Japanese series of monster films, may be built in the mold of other big-budget blockbuster films and even the Godzilla franchise itself but like the titular beast it turns out to be  a whole different type of animal.  Much criticism has been aimed at the underdeveloped human characters and story but in the case of this film, those claims are irrelevant. The humans don’t matter, for Godzilla is a post-human blockbuster. It isn’t rare for a multi-million dollar studio tent-pole to have a perspective of spectacle stomping all over the plot & characters, but this is a film in which characters are defined by their insignificance instead of their actions. The filmmakers have crafted a confidently paced monster movie that flies in the face of the typical “multiple action set pieces strung together by exposition” template/formula of contemporary action-blockbuster films. The film devotes its first hour to the deep tragedy of a single family, before building outwards to an awe-inspiring climax that’s less dependent on what we’re seeing than on how we’re seeing it. The majority of the film, like most previous Godzilla features sees the “plot (and all the action)” shown primarily from a human point of view. Viewers are privy only to what father/son duo Joe and Lt. Ford Brody (Bryan Cranston and Aaron-Taylor Johnson, respectively) suspect, discover, and experience for themselves. As the film progresses, however, the perspective through which this story unfolds undergoes a slow shift towards an omniscient one.

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