The Trauma Continues in Ant-Man and the Wasp

SPOILERS! If you haven’t seen Ant-Man and the Wasp, BEWARE! There is going to be a massive spoiler ahead.

Just another quick reminder: I’m not a professional reviewer of anything. I get carried away by my feelings and do not really cite much evidence for why a movie makes me feel the way I do that is not tied to personal experience. Keep that in mind.

Ant-Man and the Wasp came out yesterday (as of me writing this, not necessarily as of this getting published), and it was all right. I had a good time watching it, but honestly, it’s nothing new in terms of the Marvel formula. It wasn’t horrendously bad, but it wasn’t surprisingly phenomenal. I’d rate it a watch-it-once-because-it’s-a-Marvel-movie-and-you-know-you’ll-have-fun.

It’s set after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Scott has been released from that super-max super-hero prison we last saw him in, and instead, he’s on house arrest. He can’t leave his house for anything, not even to be Ant-Man (especially not for that). He also is not allowed to be in contact with Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne, both of whom are on the run after Scott used their technology to help Cap.

Of course, it’s right around when Scott’s arrest is about to end when Hank and Hope need his help to find Janet van Dyne, Hope’s mom and Hank’s wife. She’s been lost in the Quantum Realm all these years.

There are some baddies who try to get in the way of Scott, Hank, and Hope, but no one can stand against the mini-might of Ant-Man and Wasp.

A couple gripes I had with the movie:

  1. Bill Foster is simultaneously portrayed as both a good guy and a bad guy. Bill Foster is a former co-worker of Hank’s, who they go to for help. He eventually reveals himself to be the one helping the super-powered villain, Ghost. Despite aiding Ghost, you find out Bill has good intentions. I like misdirection as much as the next moviegoer, but it felt like messy misdirection to me. Like they were only making you think he was bad while it was convenient for him to be an antagonist.
  2. The rules for the Quantum Realm keep changing on me. When the Quantum Realm was first mentioned in the first movie, they made it seem like a place no one could survive in and remain sane. But in this movie, I guess you can?

All that aside, the movie is a fun adventure, full of action and laughs, but come on, it’s nothing we weren’t expecting.

What I really want to talk about is that mid-credits scene.

AGAIN…SPOILERS.

Hank, Jan, Hope, and Scott are all on the rooftop of a building by some complex machinery. They’ve built a quantum tunnel that will be able to transport someone to the Quantum Realm and then pull them back out. Hank, Jan, and Hope all want Scott to turn super tiny, like quantum tiny, with a little tube so that he can bring back some “healing energy” from the Quantum Realm. (The healing energy is presumably for Ghost, who needs it to remain stable.)

(I thought we were all agreed that the Quantum Realm is a bad, bad place. Oh well.)

So, basically, Hank and his family will press a button in the regular world, Scott will shrink to Quantum sizes, then, once he collects enough energy, they’ll press the button again and Scott will be pulled back to regular size.

I could tell that everyone in the theater was waiting for the other shoe to drop as soon as the credits started rolling. We were all (relatively) fresh from the trauma of Infinity War. We knew that there was no way Marvel was just going to ignore what happened with Thanos in this end credits scene.

We were not wrong.

Scott, teeny-tiny in the Quantum Realm, calls to be pulled back to the regular world, but there’s no answer. We cut back to the rooftop where Hank, Hope, and Jan were, and all we see are three clouds of drifting ash. There was an audible gasp from the audience.

Goddamn you, Thanos.

I hadn’t realized how much Infinity War had emotionally scarred me. Seeing those ash effects again made my stomach drop to the Earth’s core, and my heart started pounding a crazy beat of dismay for poor Scott Lang, WHO IS CURRENTLY STUCK IN THE QUANTUM REALM.

So all I can say is WHY MUST WE WAIT SO LONG FOR THE NEXT MARVEL MOVIE?

I think they’re doing this on purpose.

The Incredible Incredibles

Pixar movies have never let me down. There may be Marvel movie flops, DC movie flops, or Star Wars movie flops, but it is rare indeed (i.e. never) when Pixar gives me a movie I don’t enjoy.

A couple of days ago (or actually more by the time this post gets published), I went to go see Incredibles 2. In case you were doubting whether Pixar could keep up their winning streak, rest assured, this sequel to The Incredibles lives up to the first.

Of course, SPOILER WARNING.

I’m not a movie critic, so don’t think of this as a well thought-out review. It’s more of an ode to how incredibly awesome Incredibles 2 was.

Basic plot is that some hero enthusiast who is super rich approaches Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Frozone about helping a movement to make supers legal again. This dude wants to focus on Elastigirl as the head of their movement, their poster vigilante, since she has a better track record of not leaving total destruction in the wake of her path. Bothered by his dismissal but still willing to support his wife, Mr. Incredible stays at home to look after their three kids, Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack.

It was uber cool to see Elastigirl hero-ing on her own. She gets a motorcycle that can split into two halves, the front and the back, and she goes on a high-speed chase on roads and over rooftops, and she uses her elasticity to Slinky her way over any and all obstacles. Remember when Elastigirl sneaked into Syndrome’s complex in the first movie? Yeah, this bike chase was a more action-packed equivalent of that.

I just wish more of this kind of exposure could have happened with her daughter, Violet. I’ve always thought that Violet’s powers are some of the most powerful (aside from the smorgasbord of  powers that is Jack-Jack). Think of all you can do with force fields and invisibility combined. It would have been neat to see her use them to their fullest strength.

But don’t be alarmed. This sequel is brimming with action, with every one of our favorite heroes getting a chance to show off what they can do. Plus, new heroes arrive on the scene and demonstrate how expertly Pixar can make an awesome superhero movie. Of the new heroes, I thought Void was really cool. Her power was to make portals appear wherever she wanted them to, just like in the video game, Portal. 

And Jack-Jack! He was a riot! Even though he’s a baby, he gave us one of the best action sequences in the entire movie when he got into an epic scrap with a raccoon. If you haven’t seen the movie, you might think I’m joking about that being the most epic fight. But seriously, Jack-Jack brought down the hammer on that unlucky raccoon.

The big villain ends up being the sister of the rich dude who is trying to get heroes legal again. Her big end goal is to discredit supers in the eyes of the average citizens. She wants to accomplish this by hypnotizing the soon-to-be legalized heroes and then having them commit horrendous atrocities on television.

She comes scary close to accomplishing her goal. But thanks to the Incredible super kids, the day is saved.

Did I forget to mention that Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack have to take on all these adult super heroes, including their parents? Yeah, awesome right?

Not only is Incredibles 2 a great kids movie, it’s a great super hero movie. In fact, there are several DC and Marvel movies that it beats by a long shot.

If you haven’t seen it, you definitely have a treat in store for you when you do.

Solo and the Star Wars Fandom

Saying that you were a fan of Star Wars used to mean that you were part of an exclusive club that everyone was in. (That kind of makes no sense, but if you think about it, it kind of does too.) I feel like Star Wars was the beginning of nerd culture becoming popular with the mainstream. It was a cultural phenomenon that eventually spread beyond the niche it catered to.

But lately, is it just me, or is admitting you are a Star Wars fan starting to have negative connotations? Being a part of the fandom is beginning to mean you are one of the most difficult persons to please when it comes to your entertainment.

Personally, I thought The Last Jedi was a…flawed movie. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the friendly discussions I can now have about its merits and detriments. I loved the fight with Kylo Ren and Rey versus the Praetorian Guards. I wasn’t too keen on the Canto Bight escapades. I’m willing to have hour-long conversations devoted to these things. I feel the exact same enthusiasm for the prequels and the originals as well.

I suppose people are entitled to their own opinion, but since when did our sci-fi/fantasy movies have to be perfect cinema?

Take Solo, for instance. Aside from the fact that Disney is clearly trying to milk Star Wars for all it’s worth, Solo was not a bad movie. It was fun! (Am I going to get ridiculed for thinking so?) It was a lighthearted romp through space, which is what I want my Star Wars to be.

If you were feeling hesitant about watching it because people have been bombing it down from the get-go, don’t let that stop you. Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, and Chewbacca are back, and we get to see some new characters as well. There might be things you hate about the movie. But there also might be things you like about it. Don’t let supposed “hard-core” Star Wars fans stop you from enjoying a movie.

Don’t get me started on the people who spend exorbitant amounts of time attacking Star Wars actors either.

People (these anonymous people who we never meet face-to-face) have been hurling insults at the people who make the Star Wars movie in a completely disagreeable fashion. These insults aren’t critiques. They are cruel words that serve no purpose except to be hurtful.

Because of the actions of these haters (and there really is no other word for such volatile and spite-filled people), the Star Wars fandom is now being called toxic.

Like it or lump it, I’m a part of this fandom, this toxic fandom, and, in a way, that makes me culpable for the actions of the others in this group. (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, anyone?)

As such, I want to do my part in making the fandom a better place for us to disagree with each other. Disagreeing, by itself, is not a bad thing. If respectfully done, it’s a wonderful thing. Disagree away! I want to call out the people who are just blindly shouting abuse. I want to invite anyone and everyone to share their opinions about the movies.

Hell, I’ll even let people make cases for how Jar Jar Binks is the best character in the Star Wars universe.

Ushi and Me as an X-Wing Pilot

 

Avengers: Infinity War (aka Why My Heart Hurts So Much)

I had no idea what to expect when the theater lights dimmed and the large crowd of people (Marvel fans, no doubt) who had hustled into the first showing of Avengers: Infinity War that was available in my small town shushed each other. I had avoided spoilers like the plague. Aside from what was in the first couple of trailers, not a hint of what would happen had entered my brain.

I went into this thing pure.

I came out in a total state of shock.

I’m publishing this post way after Infinity War was released. Nevertheless, here is the obligatory SPOILER WARNING. (There you go, Danny. All caps. Now, when you’re lightly skimming over what I’m writing, you can actually figure out that I’m about to spoil a movie.)

Avengers: Infinity War picks up right after Thor: Ragnarok. Thor, Loki, and the rest of the refugees from Asgard are on a spaceship set for Earth, where they can hopefully build a new life for themselves.

Not gonna happen. As the end credits to Ragnarok showed us, a larger ship than theirs pops up right in front of them, and it turns out that it is Thanos’ ship.

Wonder of wonders.

It’s all downhill from there.

Thanos starts kicking ass and taking names, starting with Loki and Heimdall. Thor has to watch as both a friend and a brother are brutally murdered in front of him. Thanos takes the Space Stone from Loki (who had snuck it out of Asgard) and so his quest begins.

The heroes from Earth (plus the Guardians of the Galaxy) have to contend with this pink-faced monster man and his underlings for the rest of the movie. Infinity War is practically nothing but battles. I’m not complaining. The movie is a culmination of everything that has come before it in the MCU. It’s the ultimate pay-off. As such, the tension almost never lets up.

Thanks to the wonderful senses of humor that some of our heroes sport, we’re able to get a few laughs in what would otherwise be a harrowing and stressful experience. But the ending still wrecks me.

I already issued a spoiler warning, right?

Everyone dies.

Kidding.

Half of everyone dies.

Not kidding.

Thanos’ grand plan is to bring balance to a universe that is beset with the problem of overpopulation. His own planet of Titan was brought to ruin because there were just too many beings on it. Now, it’s a dusty wasteland. Since Thanos is trying to save the universe by killing off half of its inhabitants, he comes across like he’s a burdened hero, a reluctant savior. That coupled with the fact that he’s so powerful makes him one of the best villains Marvel has come up with.

(Not that that’s saying much. I mean, Loki’s their only really good villain. And they killed him off in Infinity War. Yowch.)

In the end, Thanos succeeds. Despite three separate plans to stop him from the three sets of heroes we see grouped together in various locations, Thanos manages to get all of the Infinity Stones and snap his fingers. With that single snap, half of the people in the universe crumble away into nothingness, including a lot of our heroes.

As it currently stands, here’s every hero who is dead:

  • Black Panther
  • Falcon
  • Groot
  • Winter Soldier
  • Vision
  • Scarlet Witch
  • Star-Lord
  • Drax
  • Mantis
  • Doctor Strange
  • Spider-Man

(Loki and Gamora died before the snap, but yeah, they’re dead too.)

When the movie ended, everyone was horrified and thrilled at the same time. It was the weirdest sense of contradiction I’ve ever felt battling inside of me.

There were a few things in the movie I took issue with. And by took issue with, I don’t in any way mean that they ruined the movie for me. Fuck that. I loved the movie.

  1. The sense of unreality: With a lot of our heroes dying, it didn’t feel like their deaths would last. I mean, no way is Black Panther just gone. No way is Star-Lord gone. The deaths were kind of cheapened in that regard. It’s no longer a discussion of “I can’t believe they died.” My friends and I are all saying, “Okay, how is Marvel going to bring them back?”
  2. Thanos’ love for Gamora: In order to acquire the Soul Stone, a sacrifice is required. Whoever is seeking it must sacrifice something they love more than life. Gamora, who had led Thanos to the Stone under duress, begins to laugh because she thinks that there is nothing that Thanos loves. When Thanos turns to look at her with a tear in his eye, we’re supposed to believe that he truly loves her as a daughter. Ugh. No way can the sick bastard who murdered Gamora’s family claim that he loves her.
  3. Star-Lord ruins his own plan: Star-Lord, Drax, Mantis, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange end up on Titan together, and Star-Lord comes up with a plan to remove the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos’ hand. It almost works, but right when Peter Quill (Star-Lord) is about to help remove the Gauntlet as the other heroes hold Thanos down, he finds out that Thanos killed Gamora. Peter gets angry enough that he lets his emotions get the better of him and he accidentally gives Thanos enough time to shrug everyone off of him. For some reason, this moment didn’t fly with me. I understand his emotions. But his outburst felt like a convenient reason for Thanos to get himself free.
  4. Peter Parker’s slow death: Of all the deaths in the movie, Peter Parker’s death hurt me the worst. His death also lasted the longest. Everyone else crumbled to dust suddenly, you couldn’t feel grief in time, just jaw-dropping shock. Yet Peter Parker, had time to mutter that he doesn’t feel good, stumble over to Iron Man, fall in his arms while whimpering that he doesn’t want to go, and then give one last, frightened look into Tony Stark’s eyes. Damn you, Marvel, for making me feel things.

I have to see this movie again. I need to see this movie again. I need to review every plot point, re-hear every quip, and rethink my chances of surviving until the next movie comes out.

Ready Player Two

If you haven’t seen Ready Player One, be forewarned, this post is kind of for people who have already seen it. Go ahead and continue on if you’ve witnessed its splendor or if you don’t mind getting spoiled on said splendor.

Me holding a Ready Player One Poster

Ready Player One was made for people who find solace in being someone other than themselves. (Well, technically, it was made for a general audience, but you’ll see what I mean here in a second.) Underneath the awesome veneer of ’80s pop culture references, the movie tells a tale that should be familiar to any soul who knows D&D stats better than dance moves.

The inside jokes and hidden cameos of Ready Player One made all the geeks in the theater (including me) exclaim and laugh in delight. The movie was a veritable smorgasbord of gaming culture icons. The entire audience during the premiere I attended burst into applause and shrieks of joy when a Gundam began to take on Mechagodzilla.

But the underlying truth that struck all of us in our hearts was the idea that even the best games (and the best movies) ultimately mean nothing if you don’t have someone to share it with.

Now, I’m not solely referring to having a romantic partner with whom you can gush about games with. A complete stranger you meet on a forum or during a multiplayer match can just as easily create a connection between the two of you over a devotion to a game.

There’s no better love for a game than a shared love for a game.

Seriously, put two Halo fans in a room, and they could happily spend hours discussing (arguing) the merits of each installment of the Halo franchise.

In Ready Player One, a man named James Halliday created a virtual world called the Oasis. You could make anything, play anything, be anything in the Oasis.

As someone who built the pinnacle of gaming worlds, Halliday used games as a barrier between him and the rest of reality. He loved games to the extreme, but he loved them alone. It’s only at the end of his life (when it’s kind of too late) that he comes to regret not engaging with his only real-world friend and co-creator of the Oasis, Ogden Morrow.

That was the part that got me. Halliday created this amazing world that exceeded the bounds of the imagination, but it meant nothing without his best friend beside him.

If you haven’t seen it and you just so happen to like games, be sure to check out Ready Player One. 

Raiders of the Lost Tomb: Tomb Raider (2018)

Let me say this right off the bat:

I’m not a discriminating moviegoer. I will watch anything, good or bad, and most likely enjoy it.

I enjoy good movies because, obviously, they’re good and that’s quality entertainment. I enjoy bad movies because I dearly love to laugh, and nothing gets me laughing like a real corny line or a nonsensical bit of plot. It’s rare when a movie utterly pisses me off, and when it does, it’s for subjective reasons (such as, the book was better).

So I’m letting you (meaning whoever happens to read this) know that if you ever read a “review” of mine, it’s mostly going to be about things I liked about it.

Enter the new Tomb Raider movie.

If you’re a fan of the 2013 game, you should know that this latest movie is kind of based off of it. Gone is the busty Lara Croft with the gravity-defying boobs and twin guns, and instead, we have a younger, slimmer Lara who is struggling to hold her own against much tougher opponents, and yet, still manages to come out on top.

Here is a short (not-so-short) summary of the movie, so if you want to avoid spoilers, I suggest you stop reading now.

Lara Croft’s father has been missing for several years. His disappearance and supposed death have put Lara’s life on hold. She refuses to believe he is gone. His business partner approaches her about finally signing off on his death so that his company can move on with things and the Croft mansion won’t be sold off. Lara reluctantly agrees to this.

Upon signing, Lara is given a puzzle which leads her to a secret room her father kept on the mansion grounds. There, she discovers her father traveled to an island called Yamatai in search of the tomb of Queen Himiko. Himiko is rumored to have powers over death. More than anything, Lara’s father wishes to keep Himiko’s tomb and her mystical powers out of the hands of this secret, sinister group called Trinity. In a video recording/will, he begs Lara to burn all of his research so that Trinity can’t find the tomb.

She doesn’t burn the stuff.

Instead, Lara hires herself a boat and makes her way to Yamatai in search of her father. She doesn’t believe that this Himiko has supernatural powers that could threaten the world. She is driven by the slight chance that she can find out what happened to her father.

The boat crashes. Lara makes it ashore. She meets the villain, this dude named Vogel. He works for Trinity and has been stuck on the island for seven (I think) years because they won’t let him come home until he recovers Himiko’s body. As such, he’s volatile and pissy and willing to do anything to find the tomb.

Since Lara did not burn the research and instead brought it with her, Vogel is able to use it to find the tomb. He has problems opening it because of a complex locking mechanism on the door. Lara runs away from the group, gets into a lot of trouble, and eventually (surprisingly) runs into her father. He had faked his own death at Vogel’s hands and had been living in secret on the island, making sure Trinity did not get their hands on Himiko.

Despite a supremely touching reunion, he’s none too pleased that Lara did the exact opposite of what he wanted in regards to his research.

In order to get both her and her father off of Yamatai, Lara needs to go back to the bad guys’ camp in order to get Vogel’s satellite phone so she can call for help. Her father does not want to risk it, so Lara decides to do it alone.

Since her dad is not a complete asshole, he follows after her. However, since he’s not a veritable bad ass like Lara, he gets himself caught by Vogel. Vogel tries to get him to open the tomb for them, but Lara’s dad won’t. Lara has no compunctions about doing it (magic isn’t real, dad), so she opens the tomb and leads everyone inside.

We find out that Himiko does not have supernatural powers. Instead, she has this disease that turns you into a 28-Days-Later kind of creature if you touch someone who has it. Lara’s dad gets touched, it’s sad, boo hoo, so then Lara has to stop Vogel from taking any samples of Himiko that he collected to the surface because clearly, it could be used to dangerous effect. She beats Vogel in a kick-ass way, she escapes, she goes home, and she silently vows to chase after Trinity and stop them, therefore completing her father’s life’s work and beginning her own.

That was a tad too long…wasn’t it? Anyways…

I loved Alicia Vikander’s performance. She’s great. No matter how bad the lines she was given or how awkward the story beats were, she did the best she could and made it work. She perfectly embodied the Lara we met in the 2013 game.

Part of the game’s appeal came from the fact that we were meeting a new Lara. This was not the experienced raider of tombs we had met in previous games. This was an uncertain explorer who was just beginning to find her place in the world, and we got to go on that journey with her.

The movie tries to do the same thing, and in terms of physical exertion, yeah, I think Lara achieved whole new states of being an athletic tomb raider. You really get the sense that Lara is going on this adventure alone. She has a couple of she-should-not-have-survived-that moments, but I appreciated that it didn’t look entirely effortless.

However, I don’t really feel that Lara gained that desire to explore after all was said and done. She was motivated to find her father, but I never truly felt she was driven by the actual draw of exploration.

But the father-daughter moments were real. I mean, it was ludicrous that her father was alive in the first place, but I still felt touched by their reunion. When he sees Lara on the island, he doesn’t believe she’s real because he’s imagined her being there so many times. Lara, on the other hand, has been hoping he’s been alive this whole time, so she looks at him with such joy, it’s heart-breaking when she has to convince him that’s it’s actually her.

Their reunion only lasts about a day, since he’s killed off by that disease that Himiko has. What kind of disease is only communicable by touch, unfolds instantaneously, and is ultimately fatal? I’ll tell you what kind. The magic kind.

His death hits you in the feels, but it’s followed by some fan service, so it smooths over any remaining sadness you might have had lingering. If you played the game, expect the following fan service:

  • The slow-mo jump from a wrecked boat, just like we saw at the beginning of the game.
  • Climbing monkey-bar style over an old, rusted airplane.
  • A potentially deadly ride along a raging river’s currents. (I seriously half expected Lara to get impaled by river debris a million times).
  • Bow and arrow moments.
  • The climbing axe thingamabob that is stronger than adamantium.
  • And, of course, a very small scene with twin handguns.

Despite ragging on this movie, I really enjoyed it. It was fun. I would classify it as a see-it-once-in-a-movie-theater-and-then-only-catch-it-on-cable-forever-after movie or as a rent-it-at-a-Redbox-for-a laid-back-night movie.

If you’ve seen it, feel free to let me know what you thought of it. If you haven’t, I’m sorry if I spoiled it for you. I’m posting this waaaaaaay after Tomb Raider comes out in theaters, so hopefully if you were going to see it, you already did.

But the Book Is Totally Better

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard myself say that after stepping out of a theater.

But come on, it’s totally true 99.99% of the time.

The majority of movie adaptations based on books would have been better off left as words on a page. For a number of reasons, these attempts to capture the complexity and goshdarned wonderful-ness of the original books simply fail to captivate me.

My number one example of this phenomenon is the Harry Potter series.

No collection of books is so beloved as J.K. Rowling’s magical masterpiece. The world she crafted was impeccably alluring, and her characters were relatable (well, as relatable as teenage wizards could be). And while it was nice to see Harry’s world brought to life through the prowess of different filmmakers, the films still left much to be desired.

I’m okay with the first three films. I was practically a child when I saw The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets. I went to go see the movies on a class field trip. (Isn’t that neat? We saw a movie for our class field trip.) I had read the books, and the movies were more or less as enjoyable as the books were.

By the time the fourth Harry Potter movie came along, I was spotting flaws right and left. The vast and detailed plot of The Goblet of Fire did not fit well into two hours and thirty-seven minutes. Contradictions began to run rampant with no explanation offered for them, and the lack of development for some secondary characters (and even some primary ones) physically hurt me.

That is what happens when books are made into movies. It’s like playing Russian Roulette. Occasionally you’re lucky, and the movie ends up being everything you hoped for. Other times…

There are three movies I love (technically five, but I’ll get to that later) that equaled or exceeded the books they were based on.

  • The Lord of the Rings (made up of three movies)
  • Cloud Atlas
  • Jurassic Park

I was very young when I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I think I was about six years old (I liked to read, sue me). However, my parents did not think it was appropriate for me to see a PG-13 fantasy movie at such a young age. So they waited until The Fellowship of the Ring came out on DVD, and then my father watched it alongside my sister and me, supervising us to make sure we were not unduly influenced by fantasy violence. (We had so much fun; we pretended to be Ringwraiths for the next couple of days. We’d grab the pillows from our living room couch and imagine they were our horses. Then we would shriek the highest note we could reach and run around the house. Just like the Nazgûl, get it?)

J.R.R. Tolkien’s incredible work of fantasy was a deeply written collection of lore. As such, the descriptions of places and events were extremely wordy. Entire chapters could have been devoted to describing the city of Minas Tirith. Tolkien gave every race a history, and those histories went back generations. I believe that the movie captured that fantastical history and made it engrossing as hell. Instead of reading paragraphs about, say, the customs of the Rohirrim, we got to observe them in action and learn their customs through their wardrobe and behavior. Not every person could pick up the books and get into them. But the movie delivered the same content, while making it easy to understand and enjoy.

The story of how I got into Cloud Atlas is hilarious. Well, to me, at least. I was in my college computer lab working on a paper. I was listening to music through Youtube, and the trailer for Cloud Atlas came on before one of the videos . Intrigued, I paused my essay-writing to watch it. And just the initial concept of the trailer floored me. It was so cool! It’s almost indescribable. Don’t believe me? Check it out here.

Upon finding out that it was also a novel, I went to Barnes & Noble first thing that weekend and got myself a copy of the book. It was fantastic. I then only had a couple of months to wait before I could see if the movie lived up to its progenitor’s greatness.

And it did.

Some people may not agree with me. I know that a lot of film critics did not look too kindly on the movie. But I’m no film critic. I loved the book, and I loved the movie.

The interesting thing about the book version and movie version of Cloud Atlas is that they feel like different animals. The book is a ziggurat. You climbed up the first half of the story, with each timeline representing a step forward. Then you climbed down the ziggurat, each story-line getting resolved into a graceful denouement. The movie version was more like a tapestry. We got to visit each timeline one after the other, like threads interwoven together to make an intricate weave. The story feels kind of spiritual without being overly preachy. It stimulated my heart and my mind at the same time.

So, while the book and the movie feel dissimilar, they’re both equally enjoyable and, more importantly, equally meaningful. I would highly recommend both to anybody.

I was a total dinosaur kid (and am now a dinosaur adult), so it’s no wonder that Jurassic Park made it onto my list of favorite books turned into movies as well. I have nothing against the Michael Crichton novel. I think he’s a great sci-fi writer with the ability to ramp up tension like nobody’s business. But Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park had what Crichton’s book didn’t: heart.

That movie was made for people who loved dinosaurs. While the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the raptors may have been the antagonists of the movie, they were what made me sit straight in my seat with my eyes glued to the screen. Hell, anytime a dinosaur appeared, my heart skipped a beat. Alan Grant’s face when he rests his body on the triceratops is mine every time I decide to re-watch Jurassic Park. 

And that theme music! My soul sings that melody every time I go to a dinosaur museum. (Or whenever I’m doing something super majestic, which is, sadly, not often.)

So, it is possible to make a great movie based on a book. It’s just not something you see every day. If you have any recommendations for movies based on books that you like, let me know! I’m always on the look-out for fresh attempts.

What can I say? I’m a closet optimist.

Black Panther: “Wakanda Forever” For Real

I recently saw Black Panther in theaters, so I thought to myself, ‘Why not make a blog-post-thing about it, Amanda?’ There’s no reason for me not to, right? (Right?)

I saw the movie waaaaaay later than I normally would. When a super hero movie comes out, I usually try to see the premiere. A premiere in my small town is basically just a seven o’clock showing in the evening with a longer line. However, when Black Panther came out, I was pet-sitting for my sister, so I could not abandon her gorgeous menagerie to see the first showing. And then further postponements occurred, and I saw it about two weeks after it originally came out.

Oh, well.

Anyways, I’m a huge comic book fan. I loved comic books before the movies made them successful. Even so, I have to admit that I’m suffering from slight Superhero Fatigue. There is no shortage of superhero content to dunk yourself into; a year can’t go by without a superhero getting their own movie. I love superheroes more than the average person, but there’s no denying that our summer movie selection is being dominated by them.

All I’m saying is that if you’re going to give me two superhero films a year, you should at least make them stand out from each other. I mean, Doctor Strange was basically Iron Man with magic. Come on, movie dudes. You’re not even trying.

Black Panther has answered my prayers. It was good. I’m officially jumping on the band wagon.

It felt so different from other Marvel superhero movies. Instead of watching a hapless man-child stumble his way to hero-dom by haltingly learning to use his powers for good, we got to see a man (a man man) settle the mantle of responsibility onto his shoulders in an ethical and reasonable manner. (Shout-out to all Halo fans who may be reading this.)

Prince T’Challa may have been following the same story path as Thor did in Thor, but T’Challa handled his rise to power with much more aplomb and grace than Thor. (For one thing, he wasn’t a whiny Norse god with an inflated ego.)

Every actor in that movie played their roles to perfection. My favorite characters were Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, and Erik Killmonger, the villain of the story. Shuri was a delight every time she was on the screen. I nearly split the seams of my stomach trying to hold in my laughter when she called Black Panther’s shoes his “sneakers.” (I have an obnoxiously loud laugh; I wanted to be kind to other moviegoers.)

And Killmonger was great! For having not that much screen time, he made his presence felt for even the shortest of moments. Michael B. Jordan played the abandoned prodigal son so well, I felt like I’d received a kick to my emotional lady balls. Hit me right in the feels, I’m telling you.

Let’s not forget the music! It’s been far too long since a movie’s soundtrack has caught my ear and it wasn’t made by John Williams, Hans Zimmer, or Michael Giacchino. Killmonger’s theme was really identifiable, but in my opinion, the best piece comes out during T’Challa’s visit to the ancestral plane, when he sees his father again. Whatever that track is called (I actually think it might be called “Ancestral Plane”), it’s a superb bit of music. Strings play a melody that is fit for the king T’Challa is.

SPOILER ALERT.

The movie ends happily, with T’Challa deciding to reverse Wakanda’s foriegn policy decisions of the past. Instead of remaining isolated in all of their glorious self-suffiiciency, Wakanda will now walk the path of gracious aid and attempt to help those who cannot help themselves.

It’s an extremely positive message of hope to the world. I left the theater felling buoyant as hell. A friend of mine was quick to point out, however, that if you really think about it, the ending to the movie is incredibly tragic.

“Why? I just saw an incredibly happy ending.”

“But it’s not real,” he told me. “There is no hidden technologically-advanced country in Africa that will rise up and help people.”

And he’s right. There is no Wakanda that is going to assist the beleaguered, downtrodden, and mistreated African-Americans of this, or any other, nation to rise above whatever horrible situations they find themselves in. Black Panther paints a beautiful picture of a hopeful future, but it’s based on the past creation of an imaginary place.

I think it’s important to remember that effort needs to go into making that future a reality. We shouldn’t just congratulate ourselves that a movie like this got made; we should focus on actually following the Golden Rule of treating other people how we would like to be treated ourselves, not just in words, but in thoughts and actions as well.

If you haven’t seen Black Panther yet, I highly recommend it.