I know it’s only halfway through the year, but as far as years go for movie releases, I think this year has been outstanding! To harken back, in my post talking about what I was excited for this year, most of it was movies. And, most of those movies were the first part of this year.
Therefore, I thought I would spend a bit of time to look at a few of the movies from the first part of this year, and look at just why they were so good. In thinking back on them, I’ve had some new thoughts, so I hope you’ll indulge me.
I think I especially want to talk about Mr. Peabody and Sherman, The Lego Movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Ones that I had said I was excited for, and which all lived up to or exceeded my expectations. I thought about Edge of Tomorrow, as well, but let me just say this real quick: it was a great action movie, and is one that is kind of hurting for money – so you going to see it would not be a bad thing!
Mr. Peabody and Sherman – Time Travel Matters
We had fun with this movie. It was a time travel movie that kids could watch, one that made sense and had good jokes for everybody. If you missed this one, it should be available soon to check out at home.
Science-fiction-minded person that I am, I got to thinking also about the idea of presenting time travel stories to kids. After all, a major part of my childhood was the Back to the Future series, which was accessible to kids, but growing up, I kept getting more out of it.
I think some of the advantage of having kids watch a good time travel story is that it teaches an important, and hard to convey, message. The sort of thing that, when you phrase it as advice, isn’t really going to be followed. The lesson is that the decisions we make and the actions we take – the things we say and do – matter, and have an impact and consequences. This is true from an early age all the way to the end, and beyond, in life.
And time travel, as a story idea, shows that better than just about any other type of story. Maybe the only thing better is the what-if sort of story of which It’s A Wonderful Life is the epitome. And in my book, this is an important lesson for kids (and people of all ages, really) to learn, to re-learn and re-examine.
The Lego Movie – In Which Some Things Were Awesome
While I was excited for and expecting this movie to be good, not quite everyone else was. Not that people were expecting it to be bad or something, just that maybe it wasn’t on everyone’s radar, or that it just looked amusing.
No no, it was awesome.
So for as much as I was excited for it, I would say more that it met my expectations. The ending sequence and resolution were beyond what I could have expected, and made it such a touching and human experience, after so much Lego awesome.
However, I was disappointed with the fact that almost every single Batman scene made its way into a trailer. Not that they were at all bad scenes – they were hilarious – but having seen them all there was nothing new to laugh about with him, and that was sad.
So between these two things, yeah, met expectations. When it just came out, we have of course snatched it up. Haven’t watched it again yet, but we will. And we’ll be singing along to “Everything is Awesome!”
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – The Hero, the Villain, and the Girl
I mentioned being excited for this one, but really, only in terms of “OMG Marvel has 4 movies coming out this year!” I was most excited for Days of Future Past, and then probably Guardians of the Galaxy after that. This probably came in third, just because while I have enjoyed them, the Amazing Spider Man movies have failed to get me very interested.
This was the sleeper hit of the year, however. For one thing, they answered the question I had for a long time: why open in early April? Two reasons. One, so that you don’t have any competition for a month! Second, so that you can do insane tie-ins with Agents of SHIELD.
However, that’s all just opportunity. Why did we like this movie so much? I have two main points.
One, I think, has been made for me already by many through the Internet. I see it come up pretty regularly on Tumblr. An amazing thing happened in Hollywood – the male and female leads didn’t end up in a relationship together. Amazing, I know. And even better, the opportunity was there. They kissed. They changed clothes. Scenes that regularly, and without preamble, would have turned into a makeout scene in other movies. But no – Black Widow and Captain America are just friends. And that’s okay. It’s so rare, though, and was so well done, that I think it took audiences by storm and still has people talking about it!
Second, however, is a thought I’ve had, and I’d love to know your thoughts about it in the comments below. We’ve seen a lot of movies in recent years where the villain is the best part – where the villain is complex, well acted, and just plain more interesting. Think of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Think of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Think of Javier Bordem in No Country for Old Men (which I haven’t seen) or in Skyfall (which I have – oh my goodness). Or movies last year that hoped to bank on this concept – Star Trek: Into Darkness with Khan and Iron Man 3 with the Mandarin.
In all of this… how many good heroes can we name? Especially, ones who aren’t snarky anti-heroes. Ones who are really and truly good. I am writing about movies in the same era when Superman killed his villain brutally at the end of his movie… And more than good heroes, heroes who are good and better and more interesting than their villain?
I think the answer is that, finally, with Captain America, we can say that we have one. His villains are many, are legion, but are also just men. Robert Redford gets to be their voice in the film, but he is really just one of many. There are a bunch who are grunts and bruisers, with The Winter Soldier himself as the greatest, and most conflicted, of these. They are interesting and fleshed out villains, ones who leave us talking and thinking about them, sure. But Cap takes the cake in this one – holding the line, questioning and doubting in the face of government surveillance, fighting authority, fighting evil, fighting friends, fighting for what is good and just and right.
And they’ve got us all cheering along. They pulled off someone genuinely decent that we can still like and understand, and who is a stronger character than the villains around him. He filled a gap, and I just can’t wait to see him again in Age of Ultron!
X-Men: Days of Future Past
I did a whole week of posts about X-Men: Days of Future Past after we saw it. However, I realized I failed to go back and address the question I had before it came out: did it live up to its own hype machine?
There was so much advertising for this film, in all sort of new and different ways, in all the ways they could probably think of. And I think I know why, after seeing the film. At the end of the credits, they flash a screen telling you how many thousands of jobs were supplied by the movie. And I realized, a lot of the pushed advertising, a lot of the threat they were up against, was failure. It was big news that this was an expensive film – over 200 million dollars to make. Which, yes, provided a lot of jobs. But, when you can make a movie like The Fault in our Stars for a little over ten million, well, the profit-margin calculations get rough. (I get my movie budget/profits news over on We Minored in Film).
Anyway, they had to make sure people showed up to see this movie. And for the most part, people have. And then, it’s gotten us talking about it.
So is it a perfect movie? Well, no, but then, what is? I mean, other than The Lego Movie. Is it a perfect adaptation of its comic source material? No, but then, what is? But it was good enough, and solid enough and told its own story to such an extent that you have people talking about it. Fans enjoying it, but then wishing that their favorite characters had had more scenes, more to do, generally wanting more – engaging us in this sort of way means, I think, that they succeeded at living up to their hype. This movie was not a disappointment.
Would I, or any other fan, have done it differently? Sure, but then, would any of these different ways have been the same as each other? As the intellectual successor to six movies and 50 years of comics, I think the answer is no. All that said, they made a solid movie that I am going to buy, and watch and enjoy in marathons of some of the other X-Men films!
How to Train Your Dragon 2
This one I don’t think we’ve actually blogged about yet since we saw it. I think I may have to fall back on what SourceFed Nerd had to say – it was good. But, when it comes out in the same year as The Lego Movie, when you start having to make comparisons, it just doesn’t quite live up to that.
Those are the same folks who were saying that The Lego Movie might be the best movie of the year – a tough claim to be making in February, but one that has stood the test of the rest of the year. And really, for a lot of people, Frozen was another animated movie this year – Frozen was still making decent money well into 2014, and Holly and I, at least, didn’t see it until it was out to rent/buy. We did both.
So when you have both of those movies to compare to – and the first How to Train Your Dragon – how much of a chance did this movie ever have of living up in comparison? It was, decidedly, good. It made us feel, and did things I did not expect with the story. The action was great. Toothless is still amazing.
But really, it amounts to being a good sequel, and one of the better animated movies of the year. But not the best. It didn’t blow us away like the first one did – we missed How to Train Your Dragon in theaters because it hadn’t looked interesting, but oh man, were we wrong! We didn’t have that sort of experience with the sequel, but then, I would anticipate to be saying the same thing about a Lego Movie 2 someday: the charm and novelty with a good new series and idea is exciting, and the later ones have a harder time of being better.