There is a moment early on that sets the tone for the rest of the film. Two men are locked in a fight to the death, one of them has a knife, to prevent himself from being stabbed the other man grasps the blade, screaming as it slices into his fingers but it keeps him alive a few more seconds.
Survival can be a bloody business.
There a several brutal deaths throughout the film that really push the PG-13 rating to it's limit till even Kong gets beaten and bloodied by the film.
The plot is standard for any visit to a lost world: expedition attempts to explore an uncharted island, monsters show up, the survivors have to reach safety or be trapped on the island for the rest of their short lives. From John C. Reilly's slightly kooky survivor, to the natives and even Kong's slightly friendly monster there's really nothing new here.
For casuals that won't matter but for genre fans it's either the films most forgivable or most frustrating weakness. Ostensibly the period setting of the Vietnam war era is supposed to make it all seem fresh and new but without any engaging characters or plot twists, it's only a new skin on a game we've played beat for beat a dozen times before.
With the setting many are also claiming an anti-war theme rests under it's surface, which is false, what's really hidden underneath is a blatant hypocrisy. The film pays lip-service to the idea through Brie Larson's anti-war photographer and Samuel L. Jackson's increasingly irrational Colonel Packard, while Reilly brags about how there's no crime in the native village. All of this posturing overlooking the giant irony that all of that peace is bought through a giant wall studded with tree-sized stakes and the giant guard dog....
What about the big question on every fan's mind: Which is better, Godzilla(2014) or Kong: Skull Island?
Well, that's the biggest problem, because neither is really better than the other. You would expect that after Godzilla the filmmakers behind Skull Island would have worked to overcome the weaknesses from that film and they didn't. Both films suffer from this simple problem: they both have a plot, neither of them has a story. Look back four paragraphs, read my synopsis again. That's the plot in it's simplest form, what's the story?
Story is the Experience. It's what the plot looks like through the character's eyes. You can use the same plot ten different times but if you use a different character each time, with a different perspective and a different character arc, you will inevitably create a completely new story each time.
The problem with Skull Island is that it doesn't know who it's protagonist is. Unlike Godzilla the film does at least have a cast of interesting characters, with quirks, frailties and goals but it never builds beyond that. The only character with any kind of journey is John C. Reilly's Hank Marlow, the audience sympathizing with his plight of being lost for twenty-eight years away from his wife and a son he's never met. Is it any wonder he's the only character ANYONE who's watched the film remembers?
Tom Hiddleston's James Conrad is almost a complete cipher. Early in the film, John Goodman observes about Conrad, “Men go to war to find something. You're still here because you haven't found it yet.” The film does absolutely nothing with that. We never find out what he was looking for and we aren't given any moment of him finding a satisfying resolution to his journey. Which is frustrating because it's a problem fixed with relatively little effort, as Conrad explains that his own father, an RAF pilot, never came home from the war, which could be his motivation to see that no one here in his charge becomes lost forever like his father was, thus redeeming himself for what he lost. Maybe an extra scene and one or two beats is all you need to make that work.
Either that or a complete rewrite to flesh out a story somewhere from this script but... that's not the world we live in.
Well, that's enough running the film down, let's turn to the positives.
I've already mentioned the characters are okay, all of the actors are solid and reliable despite having so little to work with. Where the film really shines though is in worldbuilding. Skull Island has always been this vivid and imaginative place from the nineteen-thirty-three original's deep jungles to Peter Jackson's gigantic ruins and deep canyons, it has always been Kong's best co-star besides the Empire State building. While less grandiose than Jackson's version, this island feels more tactile and less computer generated, thanks to a lot of painstaking location shooting.
It's megafauna are more subtle but very believable, almost every creature feeling like another layer to it's ecosystem rather than just yet another one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater. They also look gorgeous, the standouts being the terrifying Skullcrawlers, from their unique design to their voracious personalities, they are a welcome addition to Kong's rather thin rogue's gallery (a certain giant sauropod* from Toho would have been welcome though).
In Godzilla the writer's reached all the way back to nineteen-fifty-five's Godzilla Raids Again to explain it's giant creatures. That they are lifeforms from “a world much hotter than the one we know today,” when the planet was more radioactive and these creatures were able to sustain their massive bodies by actually feeding on radioactive material. There is a line mentioning that as the earth cooled, the creatures retreated underground to survive, sustained by the heat and radiation of the earth's core. While one could easily assume that all they meant by that was that the creatures borrowed down and settled into a state of hibernation, Skull Island adds an entirely new layer with The Hollow Earth Theory, which is the idea from Jules Verne's novel Journey to the Center of the Earth (and others) that there exist massive underground caverns deep within the earth, with their own water, light and plant life, thus able to sustain an ecosystem of often prehistoric creatures. Which is a brilliant way of explaining where these kaiju are coming from and how they have survived unseen by the world until now. Hopefully in one of the following Monsterverse films we will see this Hollow Earth explored, it's just too easy a film and would be yet another opportunity to reveal some giant monsters. We already know it's where the Skullcrawlers originate from, so what could be down there driving them to the surface?
Makes me wish we could have a sequel before we get to Kong Vs. Godzilla in 2020.
So all of this worldbuilding works in the film and for the context of the larger universe it exists but what about Kong himself?
I've noticed some negativity toward this version of Kong which frankly baffles me. I do think we need to acknowledge that as a “character,” I don't think Andy Serkis and Peter Jackson's version will probably be topped. Whatever else one wants to hold against that film, it remains in many ways a masterpiece of the genre because Kong is so well developed as a character, who does actually go on an impressive emotional journey through the story.
However, that is an exception not a rule. Most giant monsters, whether they're destroying the Earth or saving it, don't have great emotional arcs, they have function to serve within the plot and that's it. So no, this Kong does not surpass the previous one in that regard, does that mean all the negativity is deserved? No.
First of all, Kong looks spectacular!
I wasn't sure about the design at first but it really works. The upright stance, the round head, the thick bristly fur, Kong looks not only as real as CG can get but he looks beautiful. Which is important because I can count at least two times in the film when everything just stops and all the camera does is stare at this beautiful monster. It is very rare for a modern monster film to be willing to spend the millions of dollars for a scene where it's CG character is doing nothing, not killing anything or breaking anything just pausing for a moment to contemplate.
Scenes like that are what allows Kong to straddle that important line of sympathetic character and monster. Our introduction to Kong is him slaughtering the humans trespassing into his domain yet we're still rooting for him by the end of film. Quiet little character moments are what create that.
Then when it is time for stuff to get wrecked, Kong proves why he is king!
Without question, these are some of the best fight scenes we've ever seen involving Kong. Again, all props to the epic three versus one fight in '05 but that Kong was older, past his prime but hardened by experience. This is a young Kong, full of vigor and aggression, throwing himself into battle heedless of risk. Kong's final fight with the large Skullcrawler is everything a kaiju battle should be, intense, well paced and creative.
Honestly, I think it's better than Godzilla's battle with the Muto's.
The fight also gives us a taste of what we can expect in their big showdown. Godzilla is in essence a living weapon, besides the fire breath he also has his claws, his jaws, his tail, armored hide and the rows of spikes protecting his back. There are very few weaknesses for Kong to exploit and is far more vulnerable to Godzilla's attacks, so the question has always been, “How is Kong supposed to match Godzilla's power set?” The answer: Tools. Improvising weapons and using the environment against his opponent is how this Kong will even his odds against Godzilla.
I'm ready to see that.
In conclusion, yet again we have a rather flawed but incredibly entertaining monster movie. It's beautiful, it's exciting, it's funny and a good time. I'm happy with that.
*(I confused Sauropod with Theropod. I apologize about that.)
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(For the record, I'm still not over the loss of Carrie Fisher and now Bill Paxton's recent passing as well. For that, among other reasons, my viewing of this film may be tinted with more melancholy than most of you.)
Seventeen years ago, I took a seat in my local theater to check out one of the big summer releases of that year. It was in a somewhat rare genre, a superhero film and though I was not a huge comic book fan I had enjoyed the animated series when I was younger, so I was happy to see a big budget Hollywood adaptation of a series from my Saturday morning lineup. The film starts and it's nothing like the series I remember, it's dreary, emphasized by it's muted color palette, the theme song isn't present in any way and certain characters are VERY different from the versions I knew. Also back country cage fighting is apparently a thing in Canada, even back then I think I was a little suspicious of that but anyway, at least the story of the movie began to become clear as a young girl, alone in the world and on the run, found some help from a man haunted by the weight of both his past and his present. I'd never seen this actor before, he was reminiscent of a young Clint Eastwood, which is exactly who you cast in this part but this man was a little warmer and certainly not as taciturn as Clint was at that age. At the time, I don't think I would have said I was blown away by this actor but he did a pretty good job and it would be just fine if he came back for sequel.
Seventeen years later, pretty much every superhero and animated series I either did or didn't grow up with has been turned into a movie. When it began to tire the entire genre rebooted itself into the biggest phenomenon in the industry right now. In that time three actors have been Spider-Man, three have been the Hulk, two have been Batman, two have been Superman and the X-Men lineup has been completely switched out but one actor in one role, through good and bad, has remained consistent through all of it.
Now I'm coming back from another film about a little girl alone in the world and on the run, finding help from a man haunted by the weight of his past and his present and this time, I'm finding it really difficult to say goodbye....
If all you're wondering about this film is if it's worth seeing, my answer is: Yes.
However the weirdest thing, about my screening anyway, is that a lot of people brought their kids, which isn't normal for an R-rated film and this is very much an R-rated film, with about twenty F-bombs dropped within the first ten or so minutes, a literal flash of female nudity and more blood than all of the other X-Men films combined, I would expect a little more caution from people. Other than that I say go ahead take the kids, though most of them probably won't be able to fully appreciate the tone this movie strikes, which is more like Unforgiven than anything else, at least not until they are older.
(Spoilers lie ahead, along with nitpicks at what is a truly Great Film)
Director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma) takes great pains to identify this film with the Western. There is none of the usual computer generated spectacle or architectural carnage, while the action is still elevated, it remains a comparatively grounded film. Instead of industrialized environments, we're passing through the dusty southwest to the green corn crops of middle America and finally the rocky canyons and forests of the Dakotas. Everything feels like a real environment, even the glimpses of the latest incarnation of the Weapon X program look like a real medical facility instead of a mad scientist's lab. They stop at gas stations and make friends with actual ordinary mortals instead of stock comic book characters.
Logan himself is not the invincible CG character he was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. His body cannot maintain that level of damage control anymore, even the adamantium in his bones is beginning to poison him. This makes all of the action scenes not only more visceral but more suspenseful, as we realize Wolverine is no longer the sharpest weapon anymore. Without question, this is Hugh Jackman's best performance as Logan. There is not a hint of weariness, no “phoning it in,” nor any separation between actor and character. Jackman is in his role one-hundred-percent and everything he feels, you feel. It is an Oscar worthy performance that will never even be mentioned around awards time. Which is fine as far an I'm concerned, the contest doesn't deserve the legitimacy.
Patrick Stewart is equally as fine, with a much more difficult role. The sad truth about Mr. Stewart's Charles Xavier, is that as wonderful as he's been, he has always been a side character. In the first film, he was sidelined for the entire third act and again in the third film, he's killed halfway through the story. Here, he's at least finally important to the story, fighting his own dementia and frailty to reach some part of Logan's humanity, yet despite all his efforts, his fate is to be buried to the side of some backroad, his school gone, his X-Men gone, his dream of reconciliation between human and mutant a complete failure? As the grace note to Patrick Stewart's run as Professor X, I wish we parted with a little more hope.
Which is the weird thing about this film, despite a story which naturally lends itself to a redemptive arc, there's actually very little payoff to that end.
There are, I think, Two factors to this problem:
1) First is Laura aka X-23. Now credit where credit is due, there is nothing wrong with the character or the actress portraying her. Newcomer Dafne Keene is perfect as the eleven-year-old death machine, absolutely convincing, her eyes conveying more than pages of dialogue ever could.
(In fact, I cannot help but feel the comics truly missed something wonderful not introducing this character into the storyline at this age, instead of as the standard mature teenager. All of Wolverine's other surrogate “daughters” have always been teenagers, seeing him have to deal with a pre-teen X-23 is something fresh and different.)
The problem arises when you try to think of how Laura has been changed by her time with Logan. The story's vagueness is part of the problem, since the arbitrary goal is for it's group of mutant children to make it to some kind of unspecified haven across a meaningless border somehow guaranteeing their safety against all of dark forces that will HUNT THEM ALL OF THEIR LIVES. And with no one left to teach and guide them, why should we assume they will become anything but the monsters humanity feared they would? With that kind of an uncertain future, how can Laura be anything except what they made her to be... a weapon?
I feel like the movie spent too much time with Logan as the broken old man and failed to really let him show Laura the kindness within him.
It's natural to desire that Logan not die at the end of the film, even though we all knew this is what it was building towards. With the X-men franchise eyeing a possible complete reboot on the horizon, this was the time and place to write the last chapter of this version of Wolverine and the X-universe. The problem is if you stumble to deliver a satisfying finale, it only seems to prove you had no right to end it in the first place. It just feels like this ending is not the one the movie was building towards, regardless of the franchise's concerns. It feels like a proper conclusion to this story would have been Logan assuming Xavier's mantle and watching over these kids, teaching them to channel their gifts for good and not evil. That would have been a much more affirming finale in the spirit of Xavier's legacy than what we seemed to get.
Maybe that's emotion creeping over my logic and maybe after some time has passed I will change my mind.
2) However, there is one other incongruous point to me here. To drive home it's connection to the Western, James Mangold references the genre classic Shane, especially Shane's final words to Joey, the boy he's bonded with. It's a little difficult however, to tie the films together on a common conclusion. Shane's whole point to Joey, is that a violent job had to be done and once finished, Shane had to fade away and that he did that job so that a boy like Joey wouldn't have to take up the gun, that he could live a life of peace, instead of the life of violence Shane had to live.
But how does one toss away the “gun” when it literally pops out of your knuckles? How can Laura ever live any other kind of life except the life of violence she was bred for?
When Shane leaves, Joey still has a mother and a father to give him love and guidance. Laura doesn't get that. None of the kids do.
I think the “super power” element of the story, the fact that at the end of the day it's still a comic book universe, actually works against the sense of renewal the Western always strives for.
Maybe that's just me. Maybe I'm feeling too much grief to let myself feel hope.
Or... maybe I'm just sick and tired of seeing men find a reason to live in their last seconds before they die....
All of these personal little quibbles aside, this is a truly Great Film (I don't care what the rest of you say), it easily ranks as one of the best superhero films of all time, right up there with The Dark Knight, Captain America: Civil War, Superman: The Movie or any other one you can name.
Simply put: Logan is the best there is at what it does.
Thank You Hugh Jackman, for giving us this wonderful good bye and despite all of it's pains, Thank You for being our Wolverine. Just...Thank You....
So the final entry in the superhero arms race for the summer (but not the year, we still have Dr. Strange) is finally out. Most critics seemed to hate it, no surprise, many hardcore DC fans seem to hate it, no surprise but many people also seem to like it so the reaction is definitely mixed. It is making money though which is all that really affects anything at the end of the day.
Some of the negative reactions have also been hilariously extreme. A few are already proclaiming Jared Leto as the worst Joker ever. This is all amusing... but little else.
Before we proceed, let me make one thing clear: I liked Suicide Squad.
Now to all the haters out there, one question: “What did you expect?”
That's my general question to any movie anyone dislikes, “In your mind, what movie were you expecting to see?”
I could tell from the comic-con trailer what the movie was going to be: a nineties action movie featuring a handful of C and D-list comic book characters. Surprise surprise that's what the movie turned out to be.
My favorite complaint might be that the film lacked “story” or lacked “plot.” Yes it does, just like ninety-nine percent of the other films released every year. Maybe I should add that my expectations for movies these last few years have lowered considerably, if I want to watch an interesting, well-crafted film, I usually have to go back to the fifties and sixties. Modern movies seem to be plagued by a host of flaws but that's a subject for another day.
Does the movie have problems? Yes and as more information has surfaced, the reason has become more and more apparent, as Suicide Squad seems to been edited to near death with second guesses and reversed decisions. It is disheartening but this is the film we have going forward, like it or not, so what is it we have to work with?
Well... Alfre Woodard was excellent as Amanda Waller.
Margot Robbie KILLED IT as Harley Quinn. Despite the terrible costuming and the reduxed origin, she was the same Harley Quinn we all remember from the animated series (albeit an R-rated version).
Will Smith played Will Smith pretending to be a cold callous hitman. Pretty much what you would expect. The best Deadshot remains the version seen on Arrow but Will Smith at least proves he can still win an audience over.
But in this case, I think the rest of the cast managed to put themselves over with the audience. I expect fans have been made for these nobody's and as usual DC won't know how to capitalize on it.
Diablo is the perfect example of how a good actor and a good director can take a nothing DC character and turn them into a fan favorite. What movies and animated series often seem to do is tap into the potential of characters their source medium often ignore.
Katana was also excellent.
Killer Croc turned out better than anyone could have expected.
Joel Kinnaman. . . well, he won me over but they could have definitely made Flagg a much cooler character.
Enchantress, some cool moments, an intriguing concept but ultimately a weak villain with a weak villain scheme. All true but I still haven't forgiven Marvel for Malekith in Thor: The Dark World so I don't see the big difference.
Slipknot, I don't care about the character but Adam Beach deserves so much better than this.
We finally have an answer to the question: How do we get a good performance out of Jai Courtney? Let him use his accent! What an idea! There was a definite lack in boomerang action which considering that's the character's shtick, is disappointing. Oddly though, he may have been the funniest character in this film.
Scott Eastwood was good.
Now... was Jared Leto a failure as the Joker?
Let's preface this a little, Joker is a character with a seventy-year history and a lot of different variations depending on the tone and objective of each story. From the moment the first pictures were leaked out, I knew this was not going to be my ideal version of Joker or even an ideal Joker, PERIOD. So my expectations lowered, all I really demanded was a version that didn't contradict the core values of the character, which in this case spans all the way from Cesar Romero's trickster to Scott Snyder's vicious maniac. That's a very broad canvass.
So where does this version fit?
Well it is a little soon to judge, because unlike all of the other cinematic versions, Joker is NOT the central villain of the story and never shares the screen with Batman so this version is already operating at a disadvantage. Even so, calling this the least of all the movie interpretations of the Joker is still a pretty high mark to reach and with a another movie or two, Jared Leto may yet surprise all of us.
Even so, if people don't have issues with the performance, they do have issues with how the Joker is utilized by the script, namely his obsessive, single-minded pursuit of Harley Quinn, which to put it mildly, is quite different from what we're used to seeing.
Frankly this doesn't bother me at all. For a first movie, an introduction to these two before we see them in a Batman film, why not?
If it were any other villain would it bother anyone? If they were to give Loki a girlfriend he seemed obsessed with would anyone care? No, the audience wouldn't and you all know that, because Loki is a sympathetic villain (at least in the MCU), while Joker is a monster.
I do agree that as a villain, even an embodiment of evil, Joker should not be humanized by a relationship or anything that contradicts the fact that Joker is a selfish, soulless monster. That's why Harley Quinn's existence has always been problematic for Joker. To maintain his persona, they've tried to emphasize that Joker is always about manipulating and abusing Harley never loving her. The problem is, comics are a neverending story, characters can never really change, resolutions can never be reached and consequences are none existent. Harley Quinn is also a popular character, so the implications of her co-dependent personality cannot be expressed, everyone assumes she's never beyond redemption no matter how many mass homicides she's an accessory to or how much she sacrifices for the clown she's chosen.
There's another factor I have yet to see anyone articulate, which is the consequences of Harley Quinn's New 52 origin. DC was, as usual, so eager to change things they never asked themselves what the far reaching implications of those change would be, Harley Quinn being the perfect case in point. While her origin remained essentially the same, there was one critical addition, featured in this movie: Harley's bath in the same chemical mix as Joker. This is not insignificant.
Joker, from his origin to his quirks, has always been unique within the DC universe, a one-of-a-kind happenstance in even this bizarre reality. One could argue that what truly drives Joker is not simply psychopathology but a very real alienation: there is no one else on earth like him. Recreating the exact circumstances of his creation, making it apparent that anyone can be made into the Joker breaks that mold. Think about it, if Joker is some kind twisted psychopathic Adam and he created his own twisted version of Eve, why wouldn't he be loyal to the only other one of his own kind?
This also means that all of DC's attempts to spinoff Harley into a character completely independent of Joker is not only counter-intuitive but simply doomed to fail.
Even disputing this point, there is another one to consider, centered on the film itself. This is only the third film in the DC cinematic universe, the first one to feature the Joker and the first film to introduce Harley Quinn to the mainstream audience. You want to introduce the Joker/Harley dynamic and break them up all in the same film? A non-Batman film at that?
That's bad long-term strategy.
Whatever mistakes DC continues to make, I think keeping Joker and Harley together for now was not one of them.
As for the complaint that Joker should have been the main villain... didn't you want the Suicide Squad to survive?
So what flaws does the film Suicide Squad have?
Well it's obviously patched together in a way that doesn't allow for the smoothest pacing.
It overdoes it a little with it's barrage of songs.
The action suffers from being only good, without any real sequences that exceed that.
I would hate to be a city in the DC universe, every film destroys a new one. In that respect, suddenly a real estate scheming Lex Luthor makes sense.
The stakes of the story are repetitive of other superhero films, too grand and too vague to really impact the audience.
Is it a bad film? In terms of filmcraft, yes. Yet it's still entertaining, could have been much worse and I'm actually a little bit excited to see a sequel, if they can work the bugs out this time.
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Distraction and discouragement are the anti-work ethic. Sadly they are my only true actions of consistency, which is why I have allowed the entire summer to pass with hardly a word.
Not all is dark however, as I have managed to actually write and publish on the Amazon Kindle a short, simple story that no one wants to read let alone hate.
Such accomplishments befuddle the mind.
So to make up for my failures in fiction writing and Journal writing, I've been gathering my thoughts to write a little about Suicide Squad and the final results of the summer season, unfortunately that shall have to be for the next entry, because after last weekend my mind can't seem to focus, food has lost it's taste, walking down the street I'm startled by the wind and remain wary, my mind is full of Stranger Things than normal. . . .
Okay that's not true my mind has always been strange but I haven't felt this amped in almost two years. As I'm sure you have all figured out by now, I'm all abuzz like everyone else over the latest binge watch phenomenon: Stranger Things.
If you haven't seen the series because you don't have NetFlix, you have my sympathy, if you simply haven't gotten around to it yet just save us all a lot of time and watch it right now, leave this page and come back after you have viewed the entire series, go on I'll wait.
Still here? Need more? Fine, all you need to know about this series is that it is dripping with the spirit of the Eighties, not just in spectacular attention to detail with the sets, props and costuming but also in the very Tropes given new life and strength in this story. If you're a film buff, you will recognize beats and callbacks to many of the best loved films from this decade: E.T., The Thing, The Goonies, Poltergeist, Alien and pretty much everything else. Yet, though none of it could be called original (a useless term anyway) the writing is so good, all of it feels fresh and if not “new” than Renewed.
All you really need to know is a boy riding his bike home on a dark road past a government installation goes missing. What happened to him? His mother, desperate to find him seems to be slipping ever closer to insanity. The Sheriff, burned out and anxious to forget the world, begins discovering darker things in the shadows than he ever imagined. Does the mysterious girl who stumbles into the lives of the boy's three friends have something to do with this or is it the shadowy figure stalking their horny teenage siblings?
Honestly I've already given away too much now, if any of this appeals to you GO WATCH THIS SHOW.
Now that we've got that out of the way
This show is such an amazingly welcome breath of fresh air to our current environment it's staggering. Which seems strange considering how steeped the series is in nostalgia but that's part of the genius of having the story set in the early eighties. Despite the attitude of cynicism, the eighties were very much an optimistic time when the qualities of friendship and courage had regained some of their previous value. All of this of course existed under the shadow of the Cold War, economic recession and spiraling random violence. Despite all of this darkness, people persevered and the decade ended with far more stability, prosperity and hope than anyone could have thought possible.
In today's anxious times such hope is difficult to rekindle. Perhaps nostalgic reminders are a necessary jumpstart.
People forget that the Eighties themselves were very nostalgic, though mostly confining their nostalgia to television with revivals of favorite television series like Perry Mason, The Man from Uncle, The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke etc. As well as the various remakes of old classics including The Thing, Invaders from Mars, The Blob etc.
Even one the most Iconic film series of the decade was a nostalgic return to the roots of old time adventure films: Indiana Jones.
None of this would matter of course if the actors, the cinematographers, the editors, the grips, the electrical engineers and everyone else weren't good and they're not, they are superb.
A shout out has to be given to showrunners The Duffer Brothers and the various directors for their direction of the child actors. Child actors are of course notoriously held as the worst part of many films but unless you're a fanatic hater of all child actors, that criticism can't be leveled here. They manage to avoid the most common mistake and let the kids act and talk like kids or at least the way we remember kids from films like The Monster Squad etc. Even better, the kids are allowed to be human, to even be unlikable at times, rendering them as three-dimensional characters rather than just simple archetypes. This also extends to the actress of the mysterious girl, who has to do a lot of heavy lifting with some very intense, even heartbreaking scenes. If this had been shortened down to a film, they could easily have carried the entire storyline themselves but unfortunately there still have to be adults dragging the pace down....
While David Harbour (who seems to be in everything these days) as Sheriff Hopper is excellent and Matthew Modine is creepy, the real stunner is Winona Ryder. After a few years where it seemed like she'd vanished, she latched onto our hearts as Spock's mom in the rebooted Star Trek, since then reappearing in films here and there but nothing particularly indelible. . . until now. She absolutely kills it as Joyce Byers, the frantic mother who has to find her boy. Who would've thought that Lydia Deetz would turn out to be the ultimate movie mom?
As for the “Teens” well there is really only one thing to say:
If I had to identify serious flaws in this story, no I couldn't do it, the most I can do is nitpick a couple of little things.
1: Matthew Modine's Dr. Brenner could have used some more dialogue. He didn't need any monologues or anything but just a little bit more to make him a real character as opposed to this vague shadow.
2: Slight Spoiler Warning but I wish the ending could've been a little more integrated together. I wish our three sets of heroes were united into one ending rather than the separate ones we get. I don't know how you would do it but if you could, it would arguably be more elegant.
3: Again a little Spoiler-ish but as much as I loved the kids, at the end they were totally useless to the deadly situation. What was the point of the quest, if the whole party couldn't measure up and slay the Demagorgon together?
Those minor quibbles are really non-factors of course because Stranger Things is the most enjoyable show I've seen since Gurren Lagann and far less likely to send you into a hallucinatory seizure. It will be perfect fodder for Halloween as well as fit right into an Eighties movie marathon, which will have to do until Season Two arrives.
I can't wait!
(Hold on... was that hope in those words? Naw....)
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