Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Lorne Balfe

QuickView: Black Widow (2021)

Black Widow poster

“I’ve lived a lot of lives… but I’m done running from my past.”

Natasha Romanoff

The first two thirds of Black Widow is a taut globetrotting espionage action movie that explores the character’s secretive past and her childhood family as part of a Russian sleeper cell. Highlights include a tense escape sequence through city traffic with her sister, a Siberian jailbreak, and an incredibly awkward family reunion. Unfortunately the final act falls into formulaic Marvel action territory with a weak villain that all swiftly becomes tedious and leaves an underwhelming overall impression. Black Widow also suffers from being released many years too late. In 2019, I said it was a shame for Captain Marvel only to arrive once fatigue with the Marvel formula was setting in. In 2021, not only has Black Widow already been killed off in the mainline franchise, but — with key actors bowing out after Endgame — we don’t even see Scarlett Johansson’s easygoing chemistry with her Avengers co-stars, just repeated name dropping. Johansson is still the film’s greatest asset, deftly switching between strength and suppressed vulnerability. She is ably supported by the two new character introductions — Florence Pugh as Natasha’s assassin sister and David Harbour as the bombastic Red Guardian — but this attempt to flesh out Black Widow’s backstory now is too little and too late for a character that the MCU has never treated as well as she deserves.

6/10

MCU Phase 4: Black Widow | Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings | Eternals | Spider-man: No Way Home | Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness | Thor: Love and Thunder | Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

QuickView: The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

The Lego Batman Movie poster

“DC… the house that Batman built. Yeah, what, Superman? Come at me, bro.”

Batman

Arguing The Lego Batman Movie‘s ranking amongst DC movies is amusing, but more interesting is that applying The Lego Movie‘s tongue-in-cheek humour to Batman’s storied past has created DC’s closest big screen competitor to Deadpool. It takes swings equally at DC’s successes (Joker describing his plan as “better than the two boats”) and its failures (“What am I gonna do? Get a bunch of criminals together to fight the criminals? That’s a stupid idea.”), as well as highlighting the sociological flaws in supporting a billionaire vigilante. Will Arnett returns to voice Batman largely as a gruff and self-involved caricature. Though we see some loneliness and self-doubt beneath the cowl, it’s not written to be as nuanced as Arnett’s voice acting in the sublime Bojack Horseman. The Joker unsurprisingly takes a central role but the film takes full advantage of Batman’s extensive list of villains, as well as co-opting a few from other franchises with Lego deals. Director Chris McKay was the animation supervisor on The Lego Movie allowing for a seamless transition in visual identity with bright colours and showers of bricks as well as some impressively atmospheric lighting. The (constr)action, however, is far less creative which leads to a disappointingly forgettable third act that will cause fatigue as most adult viewers zone out.

7/10

QuickView: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

“You are more than just a weapon. You have a soul — a ghost. When we see our uniqueness as a virtue, only then will we find peace.”

Aramaki

Ghost in the Shell is a cultural phenomenon that has been adapted from the original manga into animated films and TV series, but its first live action feature comes from the USA rather than Japan. The result is undeniably visually stunning with extensive CGI bringing its future tech to life and illuminating it with colourful hues. Yet the franchise’s central question proves an apt analogy for the film: beneath the flawless exterior of this glossy shell there is no soul, no emotional weight. Accusations of Hollywood whitewashing are not resolved by the mere fact that Major’s mind is revealed to have come from an ethnically Japanese woman. If the film’s tacit suggestion is that the Western ideal of a “perfect” designer body would invariably look white, it fails to engage with this at all. The film’s most inspired casting is the legendary “Beat” Takeshi Kitano as Major’s boss, Aramaki.

5/10

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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