Like the original film, Blade Runner 2049 is intently focused on the question of what makes us human, inviting us to empathize with beings that were artificially created, but still feel. But where the original film zeroed in on the concepts of mortality and memory, 2049 expands its scope to include the concepts of subservience, purpose, physicality, and individuality. It does this by introducing new characters and subplots as thematic reference points, asking the audience to tackle them by degrees. It’s true that Blade Runner 2049 could have been pared down significantly from its 2-hour-45-minute runtime without losing anything central to the plot, but doing so would rob the film of the complexity that makes it so special.
I’m being vague here, because another element that helps make Blade Runner 2049 such a joy is its marketing, which doesn’t dictate even the most crucial plot and character details. There’s a reveal in the very first scene which had not been spoiled for me ahead of time, and it’s essentially the linchpin of the whole story. These moments come frequently throughout the film, the world becoming larger and more complicated as the story draws the viewer deeper and deeper. I would hate to spoil that experience with a block of text.
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(this review is spoiler free up to a certain point, in which I will give a prominent spoiler warning)
Discussing Darren Aronofsky’s mother! without spoiling the experience entirely is quite the challenge. Before seeing it, a single word in a “spoiler-free” review colored my expectations and made certain elements far more apparent than they should have been at that point in the film. This drastically altered my experience with the film, and not necessarily for the better.
I’ll try not to ruin anybody’s experience here, but it’s probably good to have some idea of what you’re getting into with mother! The Rosemary’s Baby-inspired trailers suggest a tense, psychological horror movie. It’s very much NOT that. It’s ostensibly a story about a woman dealing with her husband, a creatively constipated poet. They inhabit a large house in the middle of a field and begin receiving unexpected visitors, who he embraces and she grows tired of. Things continue to escalate until the movie begins to show its hand, and you either roll with it or you reject it entirely.
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It’s helpful to know going in that Alien: Covenant is more of a Prometheus sequel than it is an Alien film. Despite an ad campaign that emphasizes the infamous xenomorph alien and a return to the franchise’s roots, director Ridley Scott is far more interested in the questions he raised in 2012’s controversial Alien prequel. This should come as no surprise for anybody who’s been keeping up with Ridley, who declared the original alien creature “done. Cooked” in 2014. He’s been envisioning a sequel to Prometheus for some time, and didn’t come around to re-introducing the xenomorph until fairly recently.
Given Scott’s hesitancy to fall back on the iconic beast, Alien: Covenant is noteworthy for how well it bridges the gap between Prometheus and Alien. The film takes some bold creative risks in merging the two stories, but ultimately does so in a way that the xenomorph is not only compatible, but integral to the story being told. It’s the last line in an increasingly long line of creations and creators, all with complex relationships to those that made them and those that they will create.
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(This review contains some spoilers for Suicide Squad. I wouldn’t worry about it.)
It’s rare to make a decision that you can stand behind with complete, unwavering confidence. In the last year, I can only think of a few. Marrying my wife is one. Not voting for Donald Trump is another. Now, I can comfortably add “not paying to see Suicide Squad in theaters” to the list.
When you consume as much entertainment as I do, it becomes increasingly easy to pinpoint where, exactly, a film fell apart. But Suicide Squad is special, in that nearly every creative decision made is the wrong one. It is such a thorough, spectacular mess of a movie that no one area, be it the script, the direction, or the editing, can be seen as a weak link. This movie is the product of a creative team that never figured out what movie they wanted to make, and the rot starts at the very top.
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While being positioned as a departure from the mainline Star Wars movies, Rogue One has a lot in common with its cinematic siblings. It’s got the force, charming rogues, a sweeping musical score, and very strong divisions between good and evil. New protagonist Jyn Erso’s headstrong attitude and estrangement from her parents feel lifted directly from last year’s The Force Awakens, and nearly all of the secondary characters feel like mash-ups of characters or archetypes previously used in the Star Wars saga.
This reliance on what has worked in the past is simultaneously one of Rogue One’s major strengths and one of it’s biggest weaknesses. The Star Wars universe continues to be incredibly satisfying on a level of pure spectacle. Iconic designs like the AT-ST, or the X-Wing, or the TIE Fighter, are just as exciting to watch onscreen in 2016 as they were 20, and presumably 39, years ago. This new film also gets what made the original trilogy exciting, with action scenes staying with the characters, maintaining a sense of scale and intensity. This makes the stakes feel more real and matches effectively with the more “lived-in” aesthetic of the original movies.
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