By: Hawk Ripjaw –
Before we begin, this is a poster for Alita: Battle Angel.
It’s directed by Robert Rodriguez and it was originally going to come out this month. It got moved to next year because 20th Century Fox thought about it and realized that a Robert Rodriguez movie with an alarming uncanny valley coming out the same month as Aquaman, Bumblebee, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Mary Poppins Returns was going to get absolutely curb-stomped at the box office. Universal did not have the same foresight, and sure enough Mortal Engines was obliterated last weekend and was cemented as the biggest bomb of 2018: $7.5 million on a $100 million budget. Somebody got fired, no doubt. Even that Robin Hood movie that literally no one was excited for made more money than Mortal Engines. This Christmas weekend is going to be like that part in The Dark Knight where Joker snaps a pool cue in half and gets three dudes to fight to the death with them. And those dudes are Aquaman, Bumblebee, and Mary Poppins. Jennifer Lopez is the pool cue, or something.
Aquaman feels like the last gasp of the Justice League franchise that WB blew their load on last year because they were trying to copy the Marvel formula in a quarter of the effort. This was supposed to be the must-see next chapter of the character we fell in love with in Justice League last year. It isn’t, and we didn’t. That said, this looks weirdly fun. Jason Momoa always seemed to play Aquaman like he knew we knew that character is kind of silly, and juxtaposed that with a weird, over-compensating badass edge that still felt kind of self-aware. The Aquaman movie looks like it’s going whole hog with that mentality, because there is literally nothing about this trailer that doesn’t look like it’s poking fun at that dudebro masculinity from early-2000s movies, and I kind of love it. If the DC cinematic universe sticks to these standalone movies that each have their specific flavor instead of trying to copy Marvel’s formula, they have hope indeed.
And if I’m being honest, this final trailer looks like more fun than a boat full of tridents.
My biggest fear is that I’ll be distracted by Amber Heard’s horrendously fake redhead look.
Imagine how Michael Bay must feel right now. He’s earned the ire of a generation of Transformers fans with a series that got progressively worse as they went on, including one of the most insultingly bad blockbusters ever made. Then Travis Knight, who is making his live-action directorial debut after giving us Kubo and the Two Strings, comes in, sets down his beer and slam dunks a new, soft reboot of the series. This movie is currently 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s 135 critics who said this is a good movie. And you can see why just from the trailer. The main character is interesting. The designs of the Transformers, hearkening back to the original series, feel like an exercise in real love for the fans. The action has purpose. I have never enjoyed a Transformers movie. Even the first one is just okay as far as I’m concerned. They’re all spectacle without any interesting characterization. There’s no reason to care about any of these characters, or the movie at all. The only interesting thing about these movies is to see how creative Michael Bay can get with how he blows shit up.
I know I’m complaining about a franchise involving talking robots that can turn into vehicles in a state of unending war with each other not having interesting characters. But is it too much to ask to have human characters that don’t fucking suck? Can the action actually have some sort of purpose instead of “nothing has happened for a little while and people are getting bored” or “Let’s go get that thing we need to get?” At the very least, can a whole god damned writer’s room have some fucking plot continuity between movies?
Really, all I want is an ending that doesn’t feature Optimus Prime jerking himself off while he monologues about nothing.
Also, Michael Bay is, at the very least, blowing his nose on a million dollar bill, so he probably doesn’t give a shit how good this movie is.
Mary Poppins Returns
I’m pretty sure I haven’t thought about Mary Poppins for about 20 years, but seeing the trailer for Mary Poppins Returns brought about a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings. I have kind of a soft spot for that era of Disney live-action musicals that had a bit of magic, especially the tiny handful that involved blending animation with live action. Bedknobs and Broomsticks was my fucking jam when I was in daycare back in the day. And Mary Poppins Returns brings that shit back! And Emily Blunt is playing Mary Poppins?? For a minute watching this trailer, I felt like I had suddenly popped my head back into the normal, awesome world instead of this horrifying parallel reality we somehow fell into two years ago.
Like most sequels to treasured classics your mom initially made you watch, Returns is about kids, but it’s really about the adults. Those adults were you and me, and when our mom made us watch one of those original movies, we were reluctant but we ended up loving them. But now that adulthood has set in, we hate everything. Magic and talking animals are great, but it’s getting harder to find people who have LSD and there are still those pesky drug tests at work. There’s just no time for fun anymore, no time to be a kid again and just let go of the scary stuff.
Let’s get real, though: there’s a reason why movies like Paddington and Into the Spider-Verse are such good movies, and why Woody Woodpecker and Smurfs: The Lost Village suck. The latter movies are nothing more than transparent attempts to leech off of nostalgia and get some quick money from an established property. The former films are genuinely affectionate tributes to beloved childhood properties. They’re also reminders that taking a breather from the stress of adulthood once in a while and being kind and selfless to one another are what might save us from ourselves.
I’m going to be totally honest and admit I probably won’t have time to see this in theaters.
Damn it, are midlife crisis movies going to be the next trend of comedies? Is Life of the Party considered a midlife crisis comedy? Is this? Those are the only ones I can think of and it already seems tired. It’s not even really J-Lo’s fault, either. I haven’t seen very many of her movies, but The Cell was weird enough to make her performance work, and The Boy Next Door is, hands-down, one of the best bad movies ever made. I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but she did everything right in the latter movie and I’m still pretty sure Rob Cohen was making something really trashy absolutely intentionally. Second Act is not that kind of movie, but in a weekend filled with movies for dudes and another Zemeckis CGI sacrificial lamb (seriously, what is this dude trying to get made that he keeps making stuff he’s clearly above), I’m going to step back and let the moms have this one.
You can see it for $5 off if you buy $15 worth of Pine-Sol!
Why the fuck did they choose a kitchen cleaning substance for cross-marketing with a girl-power comedy?
It’s the new Christian Bale body transformation movie everyone!
IT’S THE NEW CHRISTIAN BALE BODY TRANSFORMATION MOVIE!!
I’m honestly excited for this. I’m pretty sure it won’t be as good as The Big Short, but Adam McKay really seems to know what he’s doing and I think he’s still going to stick a solid landing again.
Welcome to Marwen
I love Steve Carell. He’s a gifted actor and his journey from comedy to drama has been a great one. He almost never turns in a performance that is less than obviously committed. He really cares about his work. His performance in this as someone wracked by PTSD looks emotional and impactful. Likewise, Robert Zemeckis has made some amazing movies in his time, including the trend-setting Back to the Future series, Cast Away, Back to the Future, and way more. He’s also made some bad movies, but even some of the bad ones had a sense of “ehhh, he definitely had a vision, it just wasn’t a very good one.” I saw “some” because there’s really no explanation for The Polar Express. I did have kind of a soft spot for Beowulf in high school, because I was in high school. Zemeckis generally makes good movies, regardless.
But what the fuck, man? There’s a good chunk of this trailer that is downright creepy. And I don’t mean Alita creepy like “holy SHIT that little girl’s eyes are uncomfortably large,” it’s more “how many of these real-life women Steve Carell hangs out with know that he’s made sexy dolls of them” creepy. He just has a bunch of female friends and he makes them into hot Barbie versions of themselves that drink with him and make out with him and help him fight Nazis. And he shows them off to those women. Is that not really weird? Based on the trailer, they appear to find it charming and cute that he’s doing this. That’s almost more fucked up than him actually doing it. This is going to be a disaster, isn’t it?
I’m totally going to see this, of course. If there’s any chance that it’s the sort of awful misery porn that Winter’s Tale or Life Itself was, I just have to.