On Shazam’s Under-Performance (Essay)

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This past weekend, DC’s new superhero film Shazam! premiered at the box office with overwhelmingly positive reviews. As of this moment, this movie holds a 7.8/10 on IMDb, a 72/100 on MetaCritic, a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 3.7/5 on Letterboxd. That being said, it opened to $56.8 Million which was much lower than people expected. So, either the expectations we placed on the box office were too high in comparison to other superhero movies, or our expectations of how well this movie was marketed to the average audience was too high. I’ll analyze why both may be true and what this means for the future of the comicbook movie industry.

First things first, DCEU box office openings have been all over the place. The reason why we thought Shazam! would open bigger is due to the restructuring of the Warner Bros management. Of course, this is not real news to the average moviegoing audience, so the only thing that changed to them was that Aquaman was actually pretty decent…

Year Title Opening Complete
2013 Man of Steel 116.6M 668M
2016 Batman v Superman 166M 873.6M
2016 Suicide Squad 133.7M 746.8M
2017 Wonder Woman 103.3M 821.8M
2017 Justice League 93.8M 657.9M
2018 Aquaman 67.8M 1.15B
2019 Shazam 56.8M tbd

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In 2013, the DCEU started off on a strong foot with Man of Steel‘s $116M opening weekend but 2016’s Batman v Superman would mark the highest opening weekend for the franchise, and where trust was lost. Since then, the opening weekend of every single DCEU movie has been lower than the previous one. However, the worldwide box office tells a different story. Sure, opening weekends have dwindled with each successive film but for the films that did better (Wonder Woman, Aquaman) most likely succeeded because of strong word-of-mouth promotion. People saw those movies and loved them, which is why they prove to be exceptions to the trend. It’s too early to tell if Shazam! will follow the same path as Wonder Woman and Aquaman, but it would make sense if it were to do so.

However, I don’t think it will.

There are three reasons why: general audience assumptions on the individual film, it’s relation to other superhero films, and Endgame. Working our way backwards: Endgame comes out in less than three weeks. Tickets for the film went online the week Shazam! opened which meant that the online community was buzzing about Marvel whilst forgetting about DC. It’s nobody’s fault, of course, seeing as how Marvel released the ticket-hold at a normal time and DC/WB don’t really have any other time to release their movie without being eclipsed by some other Disney production. If DC were to have released their film in another month (given that they were sandwhiched between Captain Marvel and Endgame where they currently stand), then these would be the options…keep in mind that a movie would probably want the weekend before and the weekend after it relatively slow so that no competition could eat up potential box office…

  • 4/12 Hellboy, After, Little, Missing Link
  • 4/19 The Curse of La Llorana
  • 4/26 Avengers: Endgame
  • 5/3 The Intruder, Long Shot, Ugly Dolls
  • 5/10 Detective Pikachu, The Hustle
  • 5/17 John Wick Chapter 3, A Dog’s Journey
  • 5/24 Aladdin, Booksmart, Brightburn, Ad Astra
  • 5/31 Godzilla, Ma, Rocketman
  • 6/7 X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Secret Life of Pets 2
  • 6/14 Men in Black 4, Shaft
  • 6/21 Toy Story 4, Child’s Play
  • 6/28 Annabelle 3,  Yesterday
  • 7/5 Spider-Man: Far From Home
  • 7/12 21 Bridges, Crawl, Stuber
  • 7/19 The Lion King

As you can see, unless they were to wait until September, there really isn’t any other place to put their movie. Of course, moving a film away from competition doesn’t look too good for the quality of the film or the pride of the studio but Shazam! would be in a tough place no matter what. Let’s ignore competition, then. How could this movie have made so little with such great reception?

Audience assumptions.

For a moment, forget everything you know about Comic-Book movies. Maybe you start to believe reports you hear about Justice League and Avengers teaming up. Maybe you think that Thanos is also the bad guy in Green Lantern. Maybe you don’t know to which universe anybody belongs. Maybe you watch the trailer for Shazam! and think it looks fun because it’s a superhero spoof…

I believe that to the vast majority of the comic-ignorant audience, Shazam! probably didn’t look like it was part of the Justice League universe. It probably looked like a PG Deadpool with how it poked fun at the genre. Maybe it looked like a superhero movie the way Zombieland was a zombie-flick. My point is: this doesn’t look like the follow-up to Aquaman, and how could people have expected it to be? While the trailer mentions Batman, the movie doesn’t seem to be in the same universe on first glance. Even after watching the movie, it feels extremely self-contained. Sure, there are references to Batman, Superman, and Aquaman but the story itself doesn’t relate to any other DCEU films directly. From an average movie-goer’s perspective, this movie might not have even looked like a DC film at all.

If the audience perception of DC changed with Aquaman, then we would assume the trajectory to stay consistent for the following film yet Shazam! doesn’t follow that. Whether it’s because the audience didn’t think this was a DCEU movie, or thought it was more of a spoof than a real hero, or because they’re just too damn excited for April 26th to think about anything else, I don’t think this means as much as people think. Yes, it made less than it could have but what movie doesn’t? We shouldn’t call it an under-performer until the final Worldwide box office is unveiled to see where it ranks amongst the other DCEU films. Aquaman was the lowest opening weekend for the DCEU but ended up grossing more than all of the other films including Justice League. Shazam! has a lot of work to do since nobody is familiar with the character but it’s a good enough movie that it should make a lot at the box office.

The last note I’d like to make is that Shazam! actually did better than the estimates of $40-45M, which is great. Granted, a 25% improvement on estimates being that low for a new superhero movie doesn’t exactly scream “Yahtzee!” but it does say a few things. Box office tracking predictors took into account the unknown character, audience’s ignorance on DCEU-connections, and being surrounded by Captain Marvel, Hellboy, and Endgame, and it looking like a superhero film cut from a different cloth to land at around a $45M prediction but a prediction that was less than 33% of what Captain Marvel made (another unknown hero) raises my eyebrows. How does this film under-perform whilst Captain Marvel‘s over-performs so highly? The argument instantly comes back to Marvel vs DC and I suppose that DC has more trust to gain back than they did with Aquaman. We’ll have to see how this plays out over the next few months to come to any real conclusions, though.

Finally, studios are trusting directors to being their visions to life with movies like Shazam! but they need more money for studios to keep having the guts to trust visionaries. You owe it to yourself to see this movie in theaters as I really enjoyed it and I think you will to. Still be excited for April 26th but entertain yourself in the meantime with a good flick like Shazam!

As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!

-Blake

Shazam! (Movie Review)

Shazam.jpgIn my review of Aquaman, I mentioned that if Shazam! is as good, then for the first time in at least a decade, a Marvel movie is sandwiched by two better DC movies. Consider history to have been made! Shazam! is wonderful in every way. DC has truly succeeded in letting its directors take full control over their movies. What I love most about this example is that I’ve followed David F. Sandberg’s career since before he even started making feature-length films. In high school editing class, my teacher showed us Lights Out, his award-winning short film. A few years later, he got the chance to make it into a full-length studio project which then awarded him the opportunity to direct Annabelle: Creation and now, Shazam! which makes me so happy; you can see his fingerprints on this film even though DC has not been the company to do so over the last five years. Times have changed, and this film hints at a brighter future than even Aquaman could have foreseen.

James Wan and David F. Sandberg both come from horror backgrounds which is a genre that not only relies on but necessitates audience inclusion; if the audience doesn’t feel connected to the character, story, or scene, then the thrills are instantly extinguished. Taking that talent of quality horror film direction and applying it to action films has paid off tremendously well not only in this movie and Aquaman but also with Scott Derrikson’s Doctor Strange, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and the upcoming Godzilla: King of Monsters this summer. Shazam! is he latest example of how well the Horrorssance is improving the modern movie-going experience but it also exemplifies how the superhero movie genre is evolving to fight fatigue. Yes, this movie is a comicbook superhero movie and it’s one of 6-7 other ones this year but it feels very unique by poking fun at the tropes, reinventing the atmosphere, and not worrying about films that come before or after this story. It’s entirely self-contained and it’s made stronger because of it. This was a point that I made in my Aquaman review as well but to keep this from becoming a “Hoorah, DC!” post, I’m going to keep my Aquaman references to a minimum.

I was supervising a theater last night and after we locked the doors, 10 minutes went by until a young couple starting banging on the windows for us to let them in. I stroll over and hold the door open for them, asking if they needed help looking for something they forgot. They declined, admitting that they’re here to see Shazam! but they’re late. I had two options: get a box office cash drawer from out of the safe and run the transaction, or tell them we’re closed. Option A would mean they’d get to see the movie, but by the time they’d actually get into the theater, they would have missed the first 20 minutes of movie (not including trailers). Option B would mean they wouldn’t get to see the movie. Being the cinephile I am, I went with Option B for two reasons; B1) you can’t miss the first 20 minutes of any movie and B2) you definitely can’t miss the first 20 minutes of this movie. All of this to say: this movie builds it’s villain’s origin story as the prologue to the film and to miss that would be to misunderstand the entirety of the villain. Since this film has a strong antagonist, I couldn’t subject them to a sub-par experience of a really good story. ‘Tis my job, after all.

While so many superhero movies have flaunted the trope of One Superpower that both the Hero and Villain have, this one does it differently because the bad guy isn’t just hellbent on taking over the world, he’s trying to prove his worth in spite of his family and childhood. What makes him so fierce, though, is the power he contains: the seven sins embodied as grotesque demons. The villain on his own would be rather forgettable but team him up with the Seven Deadly Sins and you’ve got a recipe for originality. After all, this movie is technically the 7th film in this series and perhaps the 40th superhero movie to come out since the Marvel Cinematic Universe began, so to be unique in any way is nothing short of a triumph.

Almost all of that success is due to the cast of kids in the film; they play a huge role in the story but also emphasize the pathos and raise the stakes. They are the reason scenes of this movie are so heart-warming and awe-inspiring as without them, the movie would fail. I’m not saying that this film is to the superhero genre as Logan, Black Panther, Thor: Rangarok, or Deadpool are, or even that it does comedy as well as a few of those films, but what I’m saying is that in the face of DC Doubt and Superhero Fatigue, Shazam! manages to feel fresh, fun, heartwarming, and worthwhile in every way. As of today, this is my favorite superhero movie of the year (which might not last a few weeks) because it drops all pretense and severity and just seeks to be a fun superhero film. It exceeds on all levels and becomes a guarantee that DC is on the right path.

Shazam! is most certainly a worthy time at the movie theater.

As always, if you enjoyed this review feel free to check out my other articles. Thank you for reading and I’ll see you soon!

-Blake

Best Superhero Movies 2015-2018 (Top 5 Friday)

Shazam! his theaters this weekend and my review for it is currently available for you to check out. In this edition of Top 5 Friday, in honor of the aforementioned Shazam, we’ll be taking a look at the best superhero movies of the latter half of this decade. For argument’s sake, I’m going to keep this list to 2015-2018 because Hellboy comes out next week and Endgame comes out in 3 weeks so to avoid quickly dating this post, I’m excluding this year altogether. Without further ado, Wham Pow Woosh!

Honorable Mentions:

Yeah, there are just too many great superhero movies nowadays so to avoid thoughts of “But wait, why didn’t you put…?” So, here are four superhero films that I absolutely love but couldn’t find room for on the final Top 5.

  • Aquaman is a wonderful superhero fantasy that not only balanced humor and action but told a beautiful story with incredible stakes. Unmatched joy from DC.
  • Avengers: Infinity War is everything that I hoped it would be. Although it seemed to have trouble balancing tones at times, it managed to squeeze so much into 145 minutes that it became just about the most super that a movie could get.
  • Thor: Ragnarok is a movie that did more for a single comic book character than any Marvel movie ever has done. Changing a fairly one-note action hero into a wonderfully deep individual with desires and regrets. Oh, and it’s simply a blast.
  • Deadpool 2 proved that what Ryan Reynolds wanted to achieve with this character works on every level. Taking the blissful formula of the previous film and injecting a high level of emotional stakes truly makes this one great ride.

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Number 5…Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is at number five because it’s still very recent and although I’ve seen is more than three times, I can’t put it any further so soon. Either way, this movie is simply superb in every way. It is The Princess Bride of superhero films as it has everything you could hope to see in a single story. Some people disregard it for being an animated film but I think that’s a grave mistake as this has more to love than almost every other film released in 2018.

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Number 4…Captain America: Civil War is the sequel to my favorite superhero film of all time (2014’s The Winter Soldier) and easily one of the best Marvel movies ever made. Even though this movie is Civil War, pitting together more than a dozen heroes, what makes this movie so special is the intimate story of friendship between Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, and how far one will go to protect who they love. Sprinkle some other heroes in there and you’ve got one of the best action movies of the century.

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Number 3…Wonder Woman is a film I really enjoyed in theaters but took me more than 18 months to watch for a second time. Having watched it last night, I feel as though its place in my Top 5 is more than well-deserved. It’s social commentary on the disparity amongst the military hierarchy from grunt to general resonated with me, and what it had to say about the role of Ares possibly falling to humans to perpetuate resonated greatly. On top of that, the action is amazing and the humor works on all levels…aside from Dr. Poison who is best just to ignore. Highly recommend this one. 

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Number 2…Logan is on here because, well, it’s Logan. Not only was this one of the best movies of 2017, but it was the first superhero movie that got a serious Oscar nod via the Adapted Screenplay category. The way it puts a nice bow on Hugh Jackman’s career as the titular Wolverine and how it feels like a very self-contained story even though it’s in a series with a dozen other films makes the environment even more desolate and depressing. It’s a beautiful film with a perfect conclusion.

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Number 1…Black Pantheis a film that I’ve seen three times now, with the most recent viewing being within the last week. With one of the greatest villain-hero relationships in cinematic history, with Killmonger blaming Black Panther for the entirety of slavery, this movie is awe-inspiring on all fronts and becomes so much more than a superhero movie after the very first scene. It’s Oscar nomination for Best Picture seemed patronizing at first but after letting it settle, I think it’s great that people are finally taking these movies seriously. I mean, it’s only taken more than a decade but here we are.

endgame-poster.jpg (1800×2612)Good job, superhero films! Next stop: Endgame…

If you liked this, feel free to check out my other content! If you didn’t like it, then maybe you’ll enjoy my other content instead? It’s worth a shot 🙂

As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!

-Blake

 

Dreaming Up: A Great 007 Game

In this edition of Dreaming Up, the new series I just created when I typed it into the title, we’re going to look at 007 video games and how a great Bond game would look today. GoldenEye 007 is largely considered not only the best first person shooter of the

Image result for goldeneye 007
GoldenEye 007 (1997)

Nintendo 64 era, but also one of the best games of all time. I don’t agree with this, but it is a lot of fun. Rather, I’d say that I had more fun with Quantum of Solace which gave me an incredible FPS experience through campaign and extensive multiplayer competitions. Either way, fans of any James Bond game will tell you: the franchise has long been extinct.

 

Image result for the world is not enough game
The World Is Not Enough (2000)

When and where this downfall began, though, is hard to tell. Some would say that the publishers are largely to blame since EA and Activision are the two most recent publishing companies but their game plan seems to be (almost) strictly “games as a service” instead of as a good. Because of this, fans seem doubtful that either company will put forth another game and the only other company that has made noise about wanting to take part in a James Bond game was Telltale in 2014 but they’ve recently shut down, and Curve Digital in 2016 but they don’t seem to have made any moves since.

 

I created a bar graph detailing the critical reception of each main-entry console 007 game in the last 20 years, which makes one aspect very clear: this series was dead long before the final nail (Legends) entered the coffin…

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MetaCritic Score Bar Graph (Scale of 0-100)

It sure is no secret that James Bond has faded from audience, developer, and production studio interest over the last few years mostly because better options have become available; whether you like Mission: Impossible movies, Hitman games, or anything else remotely like those, you can find superior spy choices in any given medium. 007 needs a return, and it sure as hell won’t happen in movies anytime soon. So, let’s Dream Up what a great 007 game would be like if it were released today.

Since this has to be a game to not only regain trust of longtime fans but also usher in a new era of gamers into James Bond lore, this game has to be designed as if it were going to be the only one in it’s series. It has to have everything, and I mean everything. This is going to be a game that showcases Bond’s entire career without doing what Legends did, and without attempting to bookend anything. This needs to be the Arkham Knight of Bond games, that ties everything together nicely but also leaves room for follow-up titles in the universe. Actually, Arkham Knight is a great example of what to do…

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Batman: Arkham Knight (2015) Quest Selection Screen

From the hub, the player can access missions, follow leads, acquire gadgets, rank up, check up on statistics, and see progress thus far. Above is a screenshot from Batman: Arkham Knight that showcases the questlines the player needs to finish. Each side quest has multiple mission segments that revolve around the player’s progress within the main campaign. If the player hasn’t progressed enough in the story, then some side missions will be labeled as something like “No New Leads Found,” just to keep the player focused and moving forward. Of all games and side-quests I’ve done, I think they’re organized best in Arkham Knight and would work perfectly in a 007 game.

The hub is really the most important part of my 007 Dream Up with characters such a M to give you missions, Q to give you gadgets/weapons/upgrades, and fast-travel being most proficient from MI6 HQ. Even though I mention “fast travel,” I most certainly would not want this game to be an open-world because a game to kick off this franchise needs to be tightly knit and perfected. I doubt it would have the budget it deserves so a more linear story with explorative capabilities (or at least the façade of exploration) a la Bioshock Infinite if it’s how I currently imagine it. Alternatively, LA Noire in which the player has the freedom to walk or drive around the city but for the most part, exploration is just to make the transition from Mission A to Mission B less of a cutscene-heavy slog.

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Splinter Cell Blacklist (2013)

Imagine this: an opening sequence that’s similar to Skyfall‘s that acts as a tutorial stage but doesn’t attempt to tell too much or assume the player knows everything. We chase after one of the lesser-known villains like, say, Emilio Largo from Thunderball. When he slips through our fingers and shoots us, the game begins. Honestly, Skyfall is written like an amazing video game because once injured, Bond would be taken to the MI6 HQ to train and get back into shape. From here, the aforementioned M, Q, and other characters would be able to get the game going in the right direction. That’s what happens in the movie, and to take that idea for a game would be looked at as an homage instead of a ripoff.

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Hitman: Season One (2016)

As far as style goes, I’d say that it would play mechanically like Splinter Cell/Hitman with the world of Batman: Arkham Asylum but in-game structure of Arkham Knight with the side-quests that will balance the many enemies the game will have for you to kill (note: also Wolfenstein II‘s or Metro hubs). One element that I appreciated from Far Cry New Dawn was the ability to travel to other areas in little extra missions that would work well in this game. However, these mission locations wouldn’t be one-off but rather more like 2018’s God of War in which these locations will be utilized for missions, but also able to be returned to at any time for any reason, like collectibles or extended exploration.

Upgrades will be something that has great attention to detail, such as: basic upgrades should not be needed. I hate when games (especially sequels) that follow experienced characters still ask you to upgrade basic abilities as if the character is completely inexperienced. So, these upgrades will all be 00 upgrades and not things like “reload time” or whatever; Bond is already the best. Now, he just gets to have more fun and kick more ass. Maybe he goes from being like Agent 47 in Hitman to Desmond Miles (Animus projections) in Assassin’s Creed so that he can just do what he does with more creativity and swiftness. One example from a game that I consider to have the best skill-tree is Horizon Zero Dawn, allowing the player to get better at certain things but not really allow base-level abilities to be unlocked.

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Horizon Zero Dawn (2017) Skill-Tree Map

So, to summarize what we have so far:

  • A Third-Person 007 Shooter
  • that Utilizes Stealth Mechanics a la Hitman or Splinter Cell
  • in a Semi-Open World that Allows for Exploration between Guided Linearity a la later Uncharted games but with Returnable Areas a la God of War
  • with a Rich History of Villains to pit against the player a la Batman: Arkham Knight via main missions and side quests
  • a hub like the Batcave in Arkham Asylum in which players can upgrade weapons, check statistics, acquire new missions, and explore a la Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus‘ ship
  • with characters such as M, Q, and Moneypenny to give the player meaningful tasks that tie back to the aforementioned history of Bond adventures, cars, guns, and characters
  • and an upgrade system similar to Horizon Zero Dawn or Marvel’s Spider-Man that allows the player to get better at what 007 does without asking one to unlock basic skills…like the ability to do a silent takedown.

So, that’s how my dream 007 would look if it were released today. Bond is at it’s best when it just tries to be a fun Bond game; if it tries to rely too heavily on the movies (007 Legends) or is made without being taken seriously (GoldenEye 007 Reloaded) then the fanbase will stop caring entirely. But, if serious effort, attention, passion, and pride is placed into this game, then it will become a franchise with unlimited potential.

We’ve played Bond games, give us something for the modern gamer.

If you like this idea, then help me get into contact with somebody who could help us make one hell of a stealth-action-adventure game starring the world’s most famous spy.

As always, thanks for reading; check out my other posts if you’d like to see more! I’ll see you soon

-Blake

Aquaman (Movie Review)

AquamanReviewWith a worldwide box office of over 1 Billion dollars, the purpose of a “review” today may seem lost. However, I think it’s important to still look at Aquaman because it means something for DC: a bright future. Following the extremely divisive Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League, this movie had every reason to be a disappointment and a box-office flop. Yet, we instead have a bloody fantastic film that  puts DC back on the map, but also that proves not only Marvel can make all-around kick-ass movies. Furthermore, if Shazam! is as good as this movie, then for the first time in history (or at least a decade), a Marvel movie (Captain Marvel) will be sandwiched by two better DC movies (Aquaman and Shazam!). So, here is my review for 2018’s box-office phenomenon, Aquaman. 

A visionary storyteller: that is the sole secret to cinema success. With James Wan, Warner Bros tapped into something that has been sorely missed from the large majority of their slate. Directors and writers are artists, and to keep them on either a strict schedule or repress their creative freedom has been the downfall of DC in every movie aside from Wonder Woman thus far. While some may argue that Zack Snyder had this freedom with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, the point is not simply to allow a visionary to be free, but to hire a storyteller. Snyder is historically a filmmaker that looks to string beautiful shots together and not to tell a beautiful story. His movies look great, no doubt, but they’d be more meaningful without dialogue. James Wan is a visionary and a storyteller, and that truth leaks through every frame and note of this fantastic superhero romp.

While the surface-level story has been told a million times, the way this movie feels fresh is that it balances what makes both Marvel and DC great. Yes, it has the light-hearted tone of a Marvel movie with the hero that enjoys doing what he does, but it has the stakes of a DC movie which is really what makes me feel optimistic about the future of the franchise. If Aquaman were to fail, then chaos would befall Earth as the people of the sea would wage war on the surface-dwellers, forever altering the fate of humanity. Furthermore, the people of the sea feel attacked because of the pollution that the surface-dwellers throw into the ocean. The Antlantians and other under-water humans don’t just want to “wipe out everything”

or “take over the world,” but they believe that they’re doing what’s best for the preservation of their race. Those are stakes. That’s good writing by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall.

The stakes go well beyond there, however, as Aquaman himself, Arthur Curry, was conceived by an Atlantian queen and a quiet light-house keeper. When Atlantis found out about her debauchery, they sent her to her death via the Trench (monsters), and all of Atlantis reviles Arthur for his existence. However, Arthur’s brother, Orm, is leading

Atlantis 30 years later and will stop at nothing to defend his place on the throne and prove his might by saving the people of the sea and destroying the people of the land. Arthur, disregarded by people of the land and of the sea, must do his best to save the world before either of his races are wiped out. Thus, we have captivating characters to follow through this epic fantasy. The stakes are high, the characters are deep, and the action is incredible.

Tapping into a director like James Wan is great for a few things: cinematic ingenuity, and fluid action sequences. Luckily, Wan’s ingenuity feeds into these action sequences as, coming from a background of horror, he knows what to do to make the audience feel as though they’re in the scene. As he made Furious 7, he stated

That’s the one thing I could really put my stamp on. The action stuff. When I came on board, the whole concept of dropping cars out of the back of a plane was already conceived but then it was up to me to execute it and make it as thrilling as I could. To give you an example, the very first action beat I designed was the armored bus teetering on the edge of the cliff and Paul has to jump over and climb onto the roof as the whole thing is falling off the edge. That is what I brought to this film. That kind of stuff was what I really wanted to do. Some of that horror/thriller suspense to an action movie.

(https://wegotthiscovered.com/movies/james-wan-treated-furious-7-horror-movie-director-touches-plans-conjuring-2/)

This quote tells us half of the story, as you can visually see his efforts when watching the movies as well. The first fist-fight in Furious 7 and a few of them in Aquaman both showcase one of his techniques to increase audience engagement: the camera roll. If a character is standing vertically on the ground, but then gets knocked back to a horizontal position, the camera will roll 90 degrees so that the audience feels the impact of the flip. In horror, you can get the audience to feel thrills with many things such as lighting/shadows, intense music, total silence, and other technical tricks but in an action movie, it’s hard to get the audience to feel as if they’re present instead of watching somebody else do things. Wan’s ability to get the audience to feel engaged is really a highlight of not only his technical prowess but also his creative ingenuity. He can film action in a way that few others can in this day and age, and it shows especially well in Aquaman. 

All of that being said, the one thing that I was worried about with this new superhero movie is how well it stands alone. Some movies lean too heavily on what’s been set up in previous films that they can’t tell their own story, and some lean too heavily on the idea of sequels that they don’t even bother creative a narrative. Aquaman does neither, and I love it. This film stands on it’s own in every way and while it references Justice League and teases Aquaman 2, it doesn’t bog itself down in either direction which allows the plot to focus on what’s present, and it achieves it beautifully. I found myself completely engrossed in this specific film without caring about it’s connection to other DC movies. I mean, this is a Universe with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, etc and I didn’t care about anything other than Arthur Curry the Aquaman. If somebody had said those words 10 years ago, people would have laughed. Now, DC has done a better job with Aquaman than any other character in their pantheon…save for Wonder Woman, debatably.

So, here we are. DC has made a truly excellent film now that they’ve started to take their storytellers seriously. Giving David Ayer six measly weeks to create Suicide Squad or firing Zack Snyder as he filmed Justice League were incredible mistakes, but now that they’ve seen what success they can have when they allow artists to craft good movies like a Wonder Woman, Aquaman, or the upcoming Shazam!, I don’t see them making the same mistakes. From here on out, I consider myself a huge DCEU fan and I simply cannot wait to see what they do next. I’m going to give Aquaman a “Woohoo!” out of 10.

As always, thank you for reading this! If you liked it (or didn’t), check out my other posts, and I’ll see you soon

-Blake

Top 5 Horror Movies of 2015-2018 (Top 5 Friday)

In honor of Jordan Peele’s Us being released in theaters this week, I thought it would be a swell idea to go back and look at some of the other great scary movies of the latter half of this decade. To make this more difficult for me, I decided to rank them from least-amazing to most-amazing…and pick no two films that are alike. Without further ado: Horror movies.

5) Annabelle: CreationAnnabelle-Creation-1260x700.jpg (1260×700)

If you were to tell me that the sequel to Annabelle would be better than the sequel to The Conjuring, I would have laughed in your face. James Wan’s now iconic film had a terrible prequel, and that prequel had a prequel of its own. This is that movie, and it’s far better than it has the right to be in any way. There’s a rule in horror and comedy: if you make a sequel, it’s going to suck…but if you make a prequel, it’s going straight to DVD. Annabelle Creation breaks the mold and delivers on everything you’d want in a top-tier horror film. Best of all, it’s terrifying.

4) Hereditary

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My experience with Hereditary is tainted by obnoxious moviegoers that think their lack of patience needs to be compensated by an overabundance of vocal disappointment. “Ahmagahd this movie boringg afaaack” was the score to this film. Either way, I tried really hard to pay attention to the movie and gather as much enjoyment as possible. Although they ruined the climax of the movie, every moment leading up to that was dripping intense anxiety and there are moments that I cannot get out of my head even nearly a year later. It’s unforgettable, to say the least, and I really need to see it again.

3) Itmaxresdefault.jpg (1280×720)

I think the only way to go about defining my experience with this movie is that when I saw it in theaters, I loved it. When I tried watching it at home, I made it about 5 minutes in. This movie is a no-holds-barred horror masterpiece that does its absolute best to startle, thrill, terrify, shock, and shake you to your breaking point. However, it’s also one of the best coming-of-age school dramas as well full of great comedic moments, strong character relationships, and story arcs that will make you forget all about the horror that awaits you. If this movie could have been better, I can’t imagine how.

2) A Quiet Placejohn-krasinski-a-quiet-place-1200x675.jpg (1200×675)

Never before have I seen a movie command an audience as well as John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place. Where Hereditary failed to capture the audience’s attention, A Quiet Place demanded it, and successfully, I might add. The last time I was in a theater so quiet it was when I saw Zoolander 2, but even when you compare A Quiet Place to Avengers: Infinity War; both movies completely captivate the audience but there’s a level of participation that AQP ropes you into sharing. It’s an amazing movie and it offers an experience unlike almost all others.

1) Green RoomCoDS1VPWYAAVF-h.jpg (1000×1000)

Without doubt, hesitation, question, or insecurity, Green Room is the best horror movie of the latter half of this decade. Instead of picking a still from the movie to put to the right of this text block, I decided to rob you of that image and have you watch the entire movie without knowing a single thing about it. Aside from this: it’s gruesome, badass, thrilling, unpredictable, and purely entertaining in every way. I’ve yet to see a non-supernatural thriller that makes me feel so uneasy as this film did (seriously, only ghosts scare me, people don’t) but this film kept my eyes glued open for the entire runtime. I can’t recommend it enough, especially if you’re going to be in a horror mood after watching Us. 

So, yeah. Get Out is left out, Hush is left out, It Comes at Night, Don’t Breathe, The Witch, etc but I thought that of each of the films I chose, each one is different enough to stand out amongst the rest as unique in at least some way. Since everybody’s horror tastes are slightly different, I hope that anybody who reads this will find at least one movie that they’ll love. As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!

The Umbrella Academy (Adaptation Comparison) [Ongoing Review]

In this Adaptation Comparison revival, I’m going to be taking a look at the new Netflix show The Umbrella Academy, and the Dark Horse comic book series that inspired it. Specifically, I’m going to be reading The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite and The Umbrella Academy: Dallas before diving into the Netflix series and comparing the source material to the new adaptation. The main aspects I’ll be comparing are style, story, and character but I’ll be reviewing each medium individually as I normally would. Without further ado: The Umbrella Academy.

Continue reading “The Umbrella Academy (Adaptation Comparison) [Ongoing Review]”

You Were Never Really Here (Movie Review)

If I had watched this movie in 2018, it would have been my favorite film of the year. There’s something about this Taken meets The Professional in the style of Drive revenge thriller that made it impossible for me to look away. Was it Lynne Ramsay’s incredible vision? Joaquin Phoenix’s relentless devotion? The charming lens in which we view this depressing tale; a lens that wants more than anything for Phoenix’s character, Joe, to just be happy? Whatever the reason, this movie is a no-holds-barred beautifully brutal, brutally beautiful story of a man on a mission. You Were Never Really Here. Continue reading “You Were Never Really Here (Movie Review)”

Our Official Discord

Here’s the link: https://discordapp.com/invite/EXBYG5s

So, my thought process was…

  • I’m going to watch You Were Never Really Here on Amazon Prime Video
  • That’s directed by Lynne Ramsey
  • She directed We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • I haven’t seen that in a while
  • The last time I watched that was when I was watching every horror movie under the sun to make my friend a horror movie watchlist for October 2016
  • That was a lot of fun to do, I’d like to do that again
  • I need to ask if anybody wants me to do that for them
  • I’ll post in on my blog, but I don’t get comment notifications for some reason
  • Maybe I’ll make a discord
  • Yeah, I’ll make a discord
  • *makes discord*

So, if you’d like to join the discord and participate in things like the aforementioned “make me a watchlist challenge,” then join away! This is about all of the marketing I’ll do for it directly aside from plugging it in my posts so if you like talking entertainment, click on the link and become part of the Entertainment Elite!