First up: Arrvial. This film has Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, it's about languages and science, it's about the importance of and the difficulties inherent in communication, it's about first contact with aliens, I was predisposed to like this film, okay? Except then it was smart, educational, funny, and had a rare (at least in Western media, to my experience) type of ending where instead of it being BOOM BIG ENDING there were events and information that put into context everything in the film that you'd already watched, that brought everything into focus. And what reveals! If you're looking for an explosive alien movie with blowing things up and landmarks going up in smoke, this is not the film you're looking for. It's more like Contact, it's thoughtful scifi, and it's bloody brilliant.
[SPOILERS - things I loved]The alien language was beautiful. I loved the constant idea throughout that we progress by helping each other, by working together, culminating in the reason for the aliens' visit being that we're to be able to help them in the future. The idea of langauge and understanding as a gift! Time travel, the fourth dimension, as a lived experience! "I just found out why my husband left me," oh my heart, right in the feels. You think in the language you learn. Just. THIS FILM. I REALLY, REALLY LIKED IT.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Possibly unpopular opinion time: I thought the Harry Potter films were pretty, and creative, and some of those actors and actresses will forever be the face of their characters for me, but. They cut so much of the books in the earlier films that it damaged the plot and they could just never touch the books. My hope for Fantastic Beasts that as a film not based on a pre-existing story it would be forced to have a stronger plot in order to stand on its own merit. It did have stronger plot, and the creatures and magic were as magical as expected. It's not one I'm going to rave about, but it was enjoyable, I'd watch it again, some good funny moments and nice little details, I'd love to adopt a niffler and a bowtruckle, and the inside of Newt's suitcase was very well done.
[SPOILERS - some thoughts]I did fall into the trap of thinking that the little girl was the Obscurus host and I liked that it was Credence instead. And it had some lovely details and jumping off points - if I still wrote Harry Potter fanfic I would be enjoying the hell out of playing with those *grins*.
On the downside, I'm not sure how I feel about the Grindlewald reveal, mostly because to me Fantastic Beasts wasn't the introduction to a war story, but a war recovery story, with Newt and Jacob, but also other characters, finding their feet and discovering - literally in Jacob's case - magic, in discovering wonder and joy again. If this is just a nod to the wider world, well okay then. But if this is going to be a war franchise... we'll see. Also, um, what happened to diversity? There's a shot at the end of the female, character of colour head of MACUSA surrounded by a pack of all white, male auorors that slammed it in my face that despite two women as well as two men heading the cast (although the focus is on the guys; i'd be interested to see the screentime) there's a distinct lack of racial diversity that, especially considering there's no story source material and they could have done anything they wanted, is damn sad.
Well then. Rogue One. I'm not a fan of Star Wars as such; I consider myself to be more an enjoyer of Star Wars as someone who likes Things Set In Space. But even I appreicated how this prequel to A New Hope adds wonderful details to the existing 'verse and casts A New Hope in a new light. It's a good space-heist movie, there's some fun and humour very reminiscent of the original films which I enjoyed, and I appreicate the many shades of grey the film explored. And then that ending. I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THAT ENDING. As such, I think this is a good film but I'm going to need some time before I do any rewatching. To recover.
[SPOILERS - oh you want to hear about the ending - NO, REALLY, HUGE SPOILERS]The ending? Everyone dies. We're talking major major character death. But it works so well. When they first started going I jumped to the thought that characters dying would be a good explaination for why none of them then show up in the three films that follow it, but I was still holding onto a silm hope that maybe some of them would be allowed to survive. Because this film had managed to make me care about them. And then there was the moment where the Death Star plans are being passed from hand to hand by rebel soldiers as they're persued by Darth Vader, these nameless background characters dying to pass these plans on, a human chain, and that, THAT MOMENT, was for me the context of the whole film.
Rogue One is the story of nameless background characters, who have their own story and thing going on, who contribute to the big plot lines but we never see it. And I am a sucker for stories about background characters being brought into the foreground. I didn't expect to see that in a big franchise film. Bravo! And, as is the way with Redshirts (sorry, I know, wrong Stars :P ), they did. Tragically. Sadly. But this time we know their names, we know their stories, and it gave me all the feelings, but the moment that my eyes leaked? Those nameless characters persued by Darth Vader, their exit door closing, passing the plans through the slim remaining gap onto their fellow rebels, dying for it. Because I didn't know their names, or their stories, or anything about them, but the characters of Rogue One had given me direct empathy and for the first time I can remember I had leaky eyes at the death of background characters. Damn you Star Wars, you and your feelings.
On a side note, dear parents who take small children to see 12A films - meaning kids under 12 can watch with an accompanying adult: 12A is a guidance that means the film certificate board suggests your child be 12 to watch this film. Please check the film certificate board website to see why a film is rated the way it is. And then consider that maybe you shouldn't take toddlers and 5 year olds and small children into films that are seriously unsuitable for them before the unsuitable thing happens and both you and your children have to deal with the fallout. Not questioning your parenting skills; you know your child best. My sister with Down's Syndrome? Perfectly okay with a rom-com rated 15 for swearing, sex, and stupidity. Would not be okay watching A Monster Calls even though it's only rated a PG, because of the sad and the reason for the sad. You know your child. Please also know your rating reasons. Thank you.
With the trend to making things like superhero films 'darker' to draw in the older audience whilst trying to keep the younger audience, there seem to be more 12A films with little kids in the audience. Maybe I notice it more because I go to early film showings with my sister. But the kids in some of these 12A films, especially Star Wars are nowhere near 12, and I want to say to their parents: look, I know you think superheros and space are childish, but they're not. Or I know you want to watch these films because they're geeky and you want to share with your kid, but you've got time yet when they're older. I know the original Star Wars trilogy was rated PG, but Rogue One really, really isn't. *sigh*. I'll shut up now, but I had feelings about that as much as the film's ending.
So, that was 2016. Up in 2017: I really, really want to watch Hidden Figures! And I am, of course, looking forward to Spiderman Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Thor Ragnorok. Not sure what else is coming out yet. What films are you looking forward to in 2017?