‘The Dark Tower’ Review

Stephen King’s epic series of novels has finally come to the big screen after a long period of stop and go. Idris Elba stars as Roland Deschain aka The Gunslinger, the last in a line of “knights” from Midworld. Matthew McConaughey is his main antagonist: The Man in Black aka Walter Padick, a sorcerer who wishes to destroy The Dark Tower to seemingly unleash Hell upon the universe. The two have been going at one another for years but are finally brought together again by an 11 year old boy, Jake Chambers, whose ability to “shine” is crucial to The Man in Black’s plan.

I’ve only read about three and a half of the books that consist of the eight Dark Tower books. I’m also aware that almost all of Stephen King’s stories (books, novellas, short stories) are all linked and through The Dark Tower itself. I did not expect this movie to go into any of that due to licensing issues. But what did I get? Well it was not bad but it really wasn’t good either. The best way to describe the movie was thin. At a little over 90 minutes, the movie felt like it should have been at least 15 minutes longer.

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First and foremost, the performances are good. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are top notch actors and do the best with what they were given. The only problem is that their characters are two dimensional with hints at something more. Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers is a little hard to gauge but that is always kind of the problem with child actors. He certainly did not give a bad performance and he was never annoying but it always felt like something was off. The rest of the supporting cast with Claudia Kim, Jackie Earle Haley, Dennis Haysbert and others are fine but they are given even less depth than the main characters.

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The biggest problem with the movie seems to be editing. You can tell that the movie has been cut in many different ways. Sometimes characters finish conversations that never even started on screen. The editing is also off when characters just seemingly show up at places with no set up. Even with the editing issues, the movie is not the mess that you might expect when you hear someone say that. It is a fairly linear story that moves at a good pace but as stated previously there should have been more to the movie.

The thinness of the movie hinders it in as much as we do really know who the characters are, why they are doing what they are doing, how they are able to do what they do and so on and so on. There are many opportunities for character developing moments and they probably were there but the film simply breezes over them. I was never expecting this movie to get as lofty and trippy as the source materials do. But I did want something more to get a sense of how this universe or multiverse works.

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Nikolaj Arcel is the director and this is is his big budget film. The film actually has a modest budget for the type of film that it is. But as per usual when these types of movies, you get the sense that either the director did not get a real good grasp or the studio might have interfered. Honestly, I think it was a perfect storm of events. There have been talks about making the series a television series and this movie kind of proves that to be true. It seems really big and unwieldy for a feature film or even a series of feature films.

Ultimately it seems that the film struggled to find its own identity. On one hand, it had to please hardcore fans and before obvious reshoots, it was supposed to be a sequel of sorts to the books. On the other hand, it is supposed to introduce a new audience to the rich mythology. It ultimately succeeds in doing none of those things. But it is not a failure of a movie. Just a mess of one.

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SCORE: 6.5/10

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Fifteen years ago, we were introduced to Spider-Man on the big screens with the Sam Raimi iteration. Three movies in that franchise was followed up with a reboot in 2012 with the Marc Webb iteration. After a somewhat failed sequel, Sony Pictures did the unthinkable and teamed with Marvel Studios to integrate Spider-Man with the ongoing and vastly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. After a introduction in Captain America: Civil War, we are getting the third Spider-Man franchise and one intertwined with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. What are the results when Spider-Man has finally come back home?

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Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker/Spider-Man is feeling himself a little too much. Tony Stark/Iron Man dragged him into this big mission but effectively kicks him to the curb when he no longer has a use for him. So being restless and aching for some action, Peter is also trying to juggle being Spider-Man with his personal life. The life of a teenager is not easy so add being a superhero onto that is another stress factor. Then there is Adrian Toomes whose life was ruined by inadvertently ruined by Tony Stark. A blue collar worker who has a grudge against the rich and powerful and thus turning to crime and becoming The Vulture to just put food onto the table. Spider-Man is the friendly neighborhood hero with aspirations to be bigger while the Vulture is someone who is comfortable with his slice of the pie and doesn’t want to really rock the boat.

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Tom Holland is great as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. You really understand his teenage angst as wanting to be treated like an adult but not fully grasping the gravity of the situation. Trying to juggle his teenage life with his superhero life is clearly affecting him as sacrifices need to be made. Since he is fifteen, Peter Parker brings a youthful energy to the MCU that is a nice change of pace from what has come before. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is not in the movie all that much. He does have a presence and serve a purpose but despite what advertisements made it seem, he does not overshadow the movie. Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/The Vulture is great in the role. The biggest downside is that he is not in the movie as you might want him. There are a couple of scenes later on between he and Holland that are great. Marisa Tomei as May Parker is definitely a different kind of Aunt May. In fact, Peter rarely refers to her as his Aunt but simply “May”. She is good but I would have liked to see one or two scenes more with her in it. Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan returns and has more screen time than his boss. I always enjoyed Favreau as an actor so it was nice to see. The rest of the supporting cast is filled with Peter’s classmates. Zendaya is that presence that’s always in scenes but a lot of the time not doing much. It will be interesting to see where they take the character in the future. Jacob Batalon as Ned, Peter’s best friend, is great and they even get to poke fun at the whole superhero has a sidekick who just sits at a computer.

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This film does not rock the Spider-Man boat. Playing it pretty straight in an effect to align this Spider-Man with the rest of the MCU. So while the film takes no real risks, it does a good job of setting up the character and his corner of the universe. There were a lot of screenwriters for this movie including the director, Jon Watts. For someone who has only directed low budget movies beforehand, he did a good job with this major franchise movie. Of course most Marvel movies are effectively cranked out on a machine but still, the movie could have floundered but it doesn’t. At about two hours and fourteen minutes, the movie moves at a good pace. I was never bored or wanted to look at my watch. The only major knock is that while the film was relatively grounded, the ending set piece had to be something in the air and a big explosion. They did reign it in but seemed a little extraneous but that may have been the point. One good job they did was establish The Vulture as a threat. I never really liked The Vulture in the comics but this movie does make him a genuine great villain who could probably make Iron Man struggle if they went toe to toe.

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There are easter eggs galore in this film. Much of The Vulture’s tech is derived from previous battles caused by previous MCU films. In fact the film opens in the immediate aftermath of The Avengers (2012). Not only does it help the film feel natural within the Marvel Cinematic Universe as why wouldn’t criminals start using tech from the super villains? Now that super heroes and villains are the norm, a lot of people aren’t even rattled by the appearance of Spider-Man in their neighborhood. It also helps set up future Spider-Man films as there are tons of Spider-Man villains in this film but it never feels forced. I think almost every character with a speaking line is a character from Spider-Man comics, whether big or small.

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Out of all the six Spider-Man movies, this is probably my favorite. It finds the right balance between the Peter Parker and Spider-Man of it all. It doesn’t go the route of the Sam Raimi movies where the bad guys all had to have some sort of accident or something to be a bad guys. The Vulture is a bad guy. He may be wanting to do right by his family but he is a bad guy. Definitely one of the more memorable bad guys in the MCU lately. Spider-Man: Homecoming achieves what it needed to do. Establish this Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while also serving as a good first film in the individual franchise. The future for the web slinger is bright and can’t wait to see where they take the character in his new surroundings.

SCORE: 9/10

 

Why I’m Lukewarm on Spider-Man: Homecoming

I love Spider-Man. Absolutely love him. If it wasn’t for Batman, the character would be my favorite superhero. But since 2002, they have been making Spider-Man films. There the original Spider-Man trilogy that had a fourth film planned but ultimately fell through. Then there was a rebooted series in 2012 that produced one sequel with ambitions of starting a cinematic universe but also fell through. Then the whole rights things happened with Marvel Studios happened and Spider-Man became part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Making his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War, I enjoyed the character for the little he was in the movie. So why am I not excited?

It’s The Sixth Spider-Man Film

There have already been five Spider-Man films before this. So while it is part of the MCU and thus giving a unique spin on Spider-Man that we have not seen before. But it is still the sixth Spider-Man film in 15 years. The novelty is gone and it is another reboot. There is a tinge of “been there, done that” to the film.

There Looks To Be A Lot of Iron Man

Spider-Man’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War all hinged upon Tony Stark/Iron Man. The superhero “recruited” Spider-Man to his cause. The movie implied that Stark intentionally left details out when recruiting Spider-Man. But the two had good chemistry and there looks to be some sort of odd mix of big brother/little brother and father/son dynamic to their relationship. Stark is also the reason for Spider-Man’s high tech suit. So his presence was expected but previews seem to show that he plays a large role in the film and the plot starts because someone is mad at Stark…again.

I am not a big fan of Tony Stark in the MCU. Charismatic he is but he is a total prick and has little redeeming qualities to me. The villain also looks to have a grudge against him which was the plot of all the Iron Man movies and Avengers: Age of Ultron. We also know from toys that he will be receiving a new armor in this movie. These are all benchmarks of a new Iron Man movie.

I understand the need to explore the relationship between Spider-Man and Iron Man. That’s fine. But Captain America: Civil War was pretty much Iron Man 4 and this looks to be Iron Man 5.

The Trailers Gave Away The Plot

The latest trailer for the film more or less gave away the three act structure of the film. Spider-Man and the villain, The Vulture, will tussle in Washington D.C. Spider-Man will confront Vulture again on a ferry and need Iron Man to help out with the situation and thus lose his fancy new suit. Spider-Man will don his old suit to fight The Vulture on some sort of jet. When watching the trailer, it might not be obvious at first but if you’ve studied film you can get the major beats.

Sure there are character stuff missing. Still don’t really know who Donald Glover is playing. There is something mysterious about Zendaya’s character. So yes there is still a lot to explore character wise but the major action set pieces have been soured a bit. So when going into the film, I can pretty much know what to expect. Also there is a quick shot as Chris Evans appearing as Captain America in some sort of gym video. Something tells me that they just didn’t get Chris Evans just in for that bit. I wish that little nugget was left out of the trailer.

I am still going to see Spider-Man: Homecoming the first night. I still do love Spider-Man and see how he plays in the MCU. But just not as excited as you may have expected. But as long as it’s good, I will support it.

Spider-Man: Homecoming Is Getting Me Excited for Spider-Man Again

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Spider-Man was one of the best parts in Captain America: Civil War. Despite his character having a relatively small but pivotal role in the movie, he did manage to be a bright star whenever he appeared. During the post credits of that scene, the tagline “SPIDER-MAN WILL RETURN” one couldn’t help but say, “Duh” as that was pretty much a given. Since Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures are now sharing the cinematic rights to the character, you knew they were not going to waste any time getting a movie made about Spider-Man in the billion dollar franchise that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Castings were announced and the film soon began filming. Though the movie was filming, no one knew exactly what the movie was about. The only thing known is that this would be about Peter Parker/Spider-Man as a high school sophomore and balancing his personal life and his newfound superhero life. Only one other movie out of the previous five Spider-Man movies really featured the superhero in high school but it seemed more of an afterthought. You probably could have made him a rocket scientists and nothing really would have changed. This film seems to want to return Spider-Man to his roots.

The plot of the film is still under wraps. When the film was brought out at San Diego Comic Con 2016, it was finally confirmed that The Vulture would be the villain of the movie. It is rumored that there might be more than one villain but The Vulture is definitely one of them. Michael Keaton, the former Batman, is in the cast and is rumored to be playing The Vulture but that is still unconfirmed. If the rumors are true, it is a good choice as Keaton is on a career resurgence and nothing wrong with adding talent to the movie.

Another important element is Peter’s high school life. Peter Parker lives in Queens, one of the more diverse parts of probably the most diverse city in the world. The comics were created in the 1960’s and thus reflected the times. Now Queens is a much different place. There are no longer just white Americans but people of a variety of ethnicities. This is reflected in Peter’s classmates. Probably the biggest divergence is Flash Thompson who has traditionally been a blonde haired, blue eyed football player. Now he is played by Tony Revolori, an Indian actor.

Last there is the connection to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. What was revealed during SDCC, Spider-Man is now a more household name due to his actions in Civil War. Robert Downey Jr. will reprise his role as Tony Stark and the relationship between he and Parker will continue. Who knows how it will develop after the events of that movie. There wasn’t much attention paid to it but the filmmakers even admitted that Stark manipulated the young boy to carry out his agenda. Will it sour? Also look close close to the wings of The Vulture. Those wings look very similar to the wings of the Helicarriers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
I had soured on Spider-Man in movies for a while now. That spark that had me excited or his movies had been missing since Spider-Man 3. What the creators did in his limited role in Civil War, has reinvigorated my excitement for the character. Now that Spider-Man is firmly integrated in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he will no doubt be a major player going forward. He is Marvel’s most popular character and since Robert Downey Jr. is on his way out as Tony Stark/Iron Man, the franchise needs a new marquee character.