The Mummy Forgot the Monster

Why is it that we love monster movies so much? Back when most of them were introduced, it was that they were genuinely frightening – these creatures were something fantastical and horrifying to us, creatures so unlike us that we had to be in awe of them and fear them at the same time. As the years have gone on, characters were put into their movies for us as an audience to relate to, like Brendan Fraser’s Rick O’Connell in the 1999 Mummy film. It is not enough for us to connect to the human protagonists anymore, apparently, since it seems to be the aim of the new Dark Universe of Universal Studios to create monsters that are relatable and the saviors of the human race, rather than just being the enemy of humanity. In 2017’s The Mummy, sure there is a mummy (and honestly it’s the best mummy we’ve had), but we’re supposed to root for Tom Cruise and his band of humans until the moment they find the dark monster to defeat the other dark monster, turning these fearful creatures into the Avengers because everyone loves a connected universe.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: End of the Line

*Warning: Potential Spoilers*

This is it, people. This is the end of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, after three good films and (now) two mediocre ones, it is time for the ship to dock permanently. We have been asked to swallow a lot for this series – including the six-year wait between the fourth film and this one – but I think it’s time we all agreed that the quality of these movies has been dropping since the first one, and maybe it’s time to just throw in the towel. Actually, not even maybe. It’s time. It’s long-past time. We all know and love Jack Sparrow (sorry, CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow), but even he seems to be leaving the series, whether or not Johnny Depp shows up on set, and the longer the series goes on the less it feels magical and fun but rather ridiculous and worthy of all the face-palms you can give. While the trailers announced Dead Men Tell No Tales as the final film in the franchise by saying “the final adventure”, it has already been announced that one more film will follow to create a second trilogy. The only condition is that Depp returns to the cast, and I am begging him, please, say no. Captain Jack’s time really is up.

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Wonder Woman : The First Step

*Warning: Potential Spoilers*

Wonder Woman is not the perfect film, let’s just get that out there first. There are so many great things about it, it is one of the best superhero films ever made, but it is not perfect. The thing is, though, it doesn’t have to be. There was so much pressure on the film as time wore on to be perfect for so many reasons – it was going to be the ultimate film in feminism, it was the last chance for the DCEU to prove themselves, it was the first female-driven superhero film and would therefore change the way superhero films were made forever – but it didn’t NEED to be, because no other superhero film has been asked to be perfect. So when you judge Wonder Woman by the stands of any other superhero film, no, it is not perfect. There are continuity errors, misuses of characters, and a trip and fall of a villain. But all of these issues do not mean that Wonder Woman is any less than the male-driven leads who have gone before her – she may still be greater than all of them, even if she is not perfect.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: The Most Worthy Marvel Sequel

*Warning: Potential Spoilers*

Marvel now thrives on sequel after sequel, putting out each movie to connect to the others in the hopes that this wide universe that they’ve created is enough to keep us coming back, no matter how annoyed we get at the tantalizing hints and wink-wink-nudge-nudge in-jokes that only the nerds will know. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the MCU, but sometimes it just gets exhausting. It gets even worse when they put out a film like Guardians of the Galaxy, because it just reminds us that they can make something this good and they don’t let their other movies take notes on how the Guardians amuse and delight us. Just as Vol. 1 was, GotG Vol. 2 is a cool refresher in the convoluted sea of Marvel, and it amuses just like its predecessor. Sure, some bits and pieces that are better, and some are worse, but overall it is the break in the universe that both geeks and regular moviegoers will appreciate.

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King Arthur…I Think?

*Warning: Potential Spoilers*

When a studio signs on for six movies before the original is even available to the public, you should probably be wary, especially when it seems that Guy Ritchie is still living in his Sherlock Holmes (2009) glory days. Seriously, he even cast Jude Law again. In other words, not only am I not entirely sure this isn’t somehow the start of Ritchie’s third Sherlock Holmes movie, I’m not even entirely sure this is King Arthur, even though the title of the film is King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. If you don’t know the legends of King Arthur (especially before he came king), you can really only assume this is the same King Arthur because of his name, a couple of names thrown around in the legend like Merlin and Percival, and the fact that he pulls his sword out of a rock. Does that mean Legend of the Sword is not worth seeing? Not necessarily. This just might not be the story of King Arthur you expect – in fact it was pitched to studios as a cross between Lord of the Rings and Ritchie’s Snatch (2000) – and you should go in with that in mind as you watch this new version of Camelot.

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Lolita’s Transition to the Screen

In any book-to-film adaption, there are certain elements that are flawlessly translated onto the big screen, and there are other elements that just aren’t visual enough to make an impact on viewers in the same way that they would as written words. Implications get overlooked, certain themes may lose their precedence, entire characters may actually change because of how different things must be onscreen. One such example of this dramatic shift is in Vladimir Nabokov’s extremely poetic novel Lolita. So much of Lolita relies on the power of narrator Humbert Humbert’s words, his elaborate and fantastical way of speaking, and his perspective on every single event that occurs throughout the story, whether or not we can rely on him as a narrator. In the film, not only do we have less of a narrator of the story as a whole, but there is very little to do with voiceover or even Humbert’s journal, and so Kubrick needed to rely on other elements to tell the story of Humbert and Dolores Haze (aka Lolita). So what can you do to tell a story that is mainly inside an unreliable character’s head when you’re using the medium of
film? For Kubrick, the answer was to enhance the body language of his actors and to enlarge the parts of characters besides Humbert. Admittedly, Kubrick went on record saying that if he had known how difficult a project Lolita would be to adapt, he may not have taken it, but it is an interesting case into how books and films differ, even with the same material and story being told.

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Spielberg Spectacle vs. Trevorrow Spectacle: Perceptual Realism

Audiences have a funny sort of standards for their films. They want them to be realistic, even when they obviously are aware that what is being filmed is impossible, like a T-Rex coming to life on screen. Directors like Steven Spielberg and Colin Trevorrow play into this need for a spectacle, creating films that both look as if they could really be happening and yet are fantastical enough that their audiences still feel satisfied that what they are seeing is larger than life and worth being lost in as an alternative to their real lives. The real interesting part is in how time shapes the audience’s expectation for the spectacle they pay for in the theater, as well as how the perceptual realism that creates the relationship between a film and spectator. Because of the realism created by Spielberg, the relationship between the audience and the films that both Spielberg and Trevorrow created are intensified and the idea of what dinosaurs should be has been solidified in the minds of the viewer. In the case of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) and its sequel, Trevorrow’s Jurassic World (2015), 22 years along with a combination of photorealism and a paradox of perspective have not only shaped how an audience views dinosaurs, but how that audience understands realism and spectacle as well.

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