Black Panther


Black Panther is an immaculately produced Marvel film and a valiant attempt to delve deeper into themes of colonial oppression and race relations.

Black Panther is a film replete in many of the signature Marvel qualities – fast paced, full of visual interest, injected with humor, and bursting with action. In these departments, Black Panther does as well if not better than most Marvel films.

Its vision of Wakanda is visually breathtaking and conceptually fascinating – a high-tech society steeped in old political structures and traditions. Some of its characters, especially the irreverent girl genius and Wakandan chief scientist Shuri, are breakouts who provide much of the humor to an otherwise straight-laced film. And its action scenes are among the finest in Marvel – especially the entire car chase sequence through Busan.

The fact that such a film has seen the light of day is also a bit of a triumph for diversity and thematic complexity in Hollywood storytelling. Black Panther is a vision of a superhero that people of African descent can look up to and adopt as their own larger-than-life figure. That this superhero is also the sovereign of an fictional African country that was not only never colonised, but more advanced than any other on Earth is an added, albeit bittersweet, bonus.

It’s a tale of a king that comes into his own and forges a new path for his country, as the realities of the world encroach upon its once-splendid isolation. Not only does this work as a standalone concept, it also manages to set the stage for some Wakandan action during Infinity War, as we’ve seen in the trailers.

What I like about Black Panther is its attempt to put the idea of Wakanda in a kind of interrogative context in terms of how it sits with the systemic racial oppressions that take place all over the world. A sort of theodicy if you will – if Wakanda, the Afrofuturistic, technological utopia, exists, why does it keep itself isolated, and let suffering exist elsewhere?

The film pits three different ideas of how Wakanda should react to that question. The traditional view would be to maintain their isolation to preserve Wakanda’s self-interest. The tit-for-tat view, espoused by Michael Jordan’s antagonist Erik Killmonger, is for Wakanda to use its technology to topple the old oppressors and establish a new ordre. And finally, the heroic view, that Lupita N’yongo’s Nakia and later T’Challa later adopt, is for Wakanda to open up and build bridges with the outside world.

There are, of course, many parallels – to American isolationism during the World Wars, the difference between the philosophies of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and how various new post-colonial nations chose to engage with the rest of the world after their independence. But I imagine the film must act as a kind of catharsis for African Americans, acutely aware of the historical injustices visited upon them and the structural inequalities that plague America today – that if such a nation existed, the right option is still one of conciliation rather than revenge.

It’s a little shallower than I’d like, especially since I didn’t actually think Michael Jordan’s performance was all that great – he sounded more petulant than anything most times he was talking about his grand plans for anti-colonial revenge and conquest. And his whole grafting beads on his body to mark his kills thing is a little narmy. But it is par for the course for Marvel to have villains that are defined by their single-minded ambitions, and Killmonger, I think, is more interesting and relatable than most in that space.

In the end, Black Panther is a little bit of a bittersweet movie, because although it ends on a hopeful note, the basis for that hope is the utopian fantasy of Wakanda and its technology, which has no parallel today. We don’t have the luxury of having a Wakanda to end oppression. All Black Panther can offer is a vision of a more perfectible world.

I give this film: 4 out of 5 all-purpose communication beads




With Coco, Pixar scores again with yet another thoughtfully-crafted, culturally sensitive, and thematically rich film for all ages to appreciate.

Like Marvel, Pixar has its craft down to a science. There is something about that studio that enables them to “get” that truly art is only truly great when it has something meaningful to say about the human condition. Everything else is just an accoutrement to that core of thematic significance.

In Coco, Pixar weaves in so many different themes – the importance of family,  and of following your dreams, and remembrance as a form of love that transcends death – and synthesises them with grace and an almost casual aplomb. From that core of significance is layered on the immense visual and cultural interest from the film’s setting and basic premise.

Set in a vaguely contemporary Mexico, Coco imagines a world where the spirits of the deceased reside in a Land of the Dead (with equivalent technologies and social institutions), and return to visit their families on Dia de Muertos. Our protagonist Miguel is a boy who is born into a family of music-hating shoemakers, but aspires to be a musician himself, his idol being Ernesto de la Cruz, regarded as Mexico’s greatest musician and performer. When Miguel, desperate to live free of his family’s shadow, steals a guitar from de la Cruz’s tomb, he is inadvertently thrust into the land of the dead, where he resolves to find a way to return back to his world before sunrise, and fulfill his dream of being a musician in the way.

In true Pixar fashion, the premise is creative and different, yet authentic in a way that derives from the actual cultural experience of an entire people (rather than the vague fantasy bona fides of, say, a Shrek). The Land of the Dead is a marvellous wonderland of brightly-lit buildings rising into the skies, populated by the skeletal forms of the dead amongst various spirit animals, both domesticated and wild. It reminds me of Grim Fandango for obvious reasons, in terms of aesthetic and the general notion that even in the afterlife, when you have large agglomerations of people, you are going to get the banalities of bureaucracy and the need for control structures. Somewhat comfortingly, the dead live just like we do.

The film does start out a little exposition heavy, as we are introduced to Miguel and his somewhat contrived music-hating family history, before moving on with the plot. It is just after Miguel enters the land of the dead where the film picks up steam and becomes a dazzling visual spectacle. Miguel is a great protagonist, played with a healthy dose of youthful charm and energy by Anthony Gonzalez, who really shows off his impressive singing voice in the film.  The film soars on the strength of his characterisation and narrative journey.

While Coco does rely on some well-worn narrative tropes, it does so in a way that doesn’t feel stale, but is suffused with sincere significance. The audience knows what’s coming, but when the plot does head in that direction, its predictability does not detract from its emotional resonance. It has a lot to do with Pixar’s mastery of what makes characters tick and the authenticity of their actions as they follow the tracks of the plot that the writers lay out.

Using this tried and tested formula – of being guided by having something meaningful to say, of letting your characters act in an authentic manner based on universal and deep-seated elements of human relations, and of situating the setting in a creative but sensitive interpolation of an actual lived culture with the elements of its folklore – that allows Coco to reach the rarified heights of Pixar’s best work.

But, in the end, all such analysis pales in the face of one’s affective reaction to the work – and for me, Coco worked its magic on me on an affective level, even as I knew to some extent how Pixar was deliberately using old tricks and recycling plot developments to tug at my heartstrings. It’s hard to describe or define, but it’s that sincerity, that care, that Pixar puts into making its work human that shines through and makes it one of the greats in its oeuvre.

And the music is great, too.

I give this film: 4.5/5 guitars




Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters


What it’s about: Thousands of years after Godzilla forces humans off the planet to a desperate, wandering existence in space, humanity finally returns to a vastly altered Earth in a last-ditch effort to kill the monster and retake the Earth.


  • This is a bombastic, frenetic, exposition-laced film that dispenses with subtlety and nuance to tell a no-holds-barred, adrenaline-pumped tale of humanity fighting Godzilla and its minions amidst an alien landscape.
  • Seriously, in a bid to just accelerate to the action, the film just pays lip service to a score of anime tropes and space opera plot contrivances in a flurry of development for its own sake. The angry young protagonist bent on revenge, his relationship with his budding and competent female companion, the humanoid alien allies that are pretty much elves and dwarves in space armor, the “return-to-earth plot device” that sparks the whole thing. It assumes an audience familiar with these tropes, and therefore speeds past all the setup as if to say, “ah, you already know all this”, and descends into the action.
  • But to its credit, the action sequences, of the puny human military forces facing off against the enormous bulk of Godzilla, are worth the watch. The CGI animation is fluid and the choreography is gripping. I was literally gripping the edge of my seat. The desperate circumstances of humanity lent the action true existential tension.
  • The production values, on the other hand, falter when it comes to art direction. The aliens, as I have said, are just differently-skinned humans and pretty much elf and dwarf analogues. The characters are all alike and at times indistinguishable, and the vehicles and military hardware have a sort of homogeneity to them, as if the textures were all just recycled. Also, there isn’t much in the way of verisimilitude when it comes to human computer interactions. Characters manipulate holographic displays to impressive precision with only a wave of their hands. The plot and premise comprise hand-wavium and technobabble.
  • The film does not end on an optimistic note, which is sad, but I suppose opens up the movie for its inevitable sequel hook – complete with an interesting post-credits scene that hints that humanity may not be as decimated as was previously imagined. But we’ll have to wait for that second movie.
  • Ultimately, it reminds me a little bit of Attack on Titan – a story of the last vestiges of humanity dying in droves to take down giants far larger and stronger than them, except that in Godzilla, the exposition is even thinner on the ground and the characters even less fully formed, which is saying something.

Verdict: Bombastic and shallow but nonetheless an exciting, tense watch that is best appreciated as a operatic tale of humanity’s relentless, desperate battle with forces of nature that threaten to overwhelm it – the bread and butter of any Godzilla movie worth its salt.

I give this film: 3 out of 5 EMP drills

The Post


Steven Spielberg is a filmmaker whose prolific oeuvre spans a multitude of genres, tones and styles, but whose films, in the eyes of the public, fall into a spectrum with tentpole summer blockbuster at one extreme and American-as-apple-pie melodrama on the other. In the middle are the films that may be his best – serious-minded dramas that meld political or social themes with Spielberg’s signature eye for dramatic tension.

The Post is just about right in the middle – a fantastic blend of the classic Spielbergian moral clarity with gripping-the-edge-of-your seat thrill, lent contemporary relevance by the subject matters’ eerie similarity to the current circus show of the Trump administration.

A densely-plotted historical drama swimming in the thick ashen cigarette fumes of the seventies, The Post tells the surprisingly harrowing story of how a team of newspaper editors and reporters from The Washington Post find and publish the contents of a classified government report – the Pentagon Papers – detailing the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson regimes’ systematic disavowal of the brutal realities of the Vietnam War. The effort is led by the brash editor of the newspaper, Ben Bradlee (a portly and cigarette-chomping Tom Hanks), and his team of hard-nosed reporters; his determination to run the story at all costs at first creates friction with the paper’s owner, newspaper heiress and socialite Katherine Graham (played with layered magnificence by Meryl Streep). While Ben at first pursues the story as an opportunity to make a splash in the newspaper scene, his ambitions subtly transmute into a desire to put out the truth to the American people about the unwinnability of the war; a desire that starts to incur possible recrimination and reprisal from the thuggish Nixon administration.

The film’s core ethos is about the need for a free press as a check on the excesses of government, a higher duty that surpasses the bounds even of friendship and self-interest. The story is interspersed with Graham’s own character journey from put-upon figurehead, endlessly patronised by her board members due to her gender, into someone who grows into her position by making and standing by her executive decisions, even at great personal risk. Streep’s nuanced portrayal captures the querulousness of her character contrasted against her shrewdly feminine social wiles, and her slow discovery of a fount of moral strength that enables her to establish her newfound authority over her company, and earn the admiring looks of countless women as she descends the steps of the Supreme Court, a female Jesus atop her very own Sea of Galilee. The film is equally about sticking it up to the Man as it is about standing up as a Woman.

Hank’s Bradlee doesn’t quite go through a similar transmutation – his doggish determination isn’t as replete with a clean moral arc – because, as his wife points out, he doesn’t quite have the skin in the game that Graham does – but at the end of the film he does learn a shade of compassion and regard for those put at risk by his free-press crusade.

But the film’s intellectual and emotional resonance is also in part extrinsic. It is made in quick response and in silent condemnation to a parallel set of circumstances that threaten to undermine First Amendment rights in America. The Post draws obvious parallels to the Trump administrations’ assault on free speech – but rather than via judicial injunctions, via a barrage of inflammatory tweets, a media infrastructure utterly captured by corporate and political interests, and an army of alt-right shitposters spreading their flames of ignorance and hatred on the digital plain. The ominous shots in The Post of a Nixon gesticulating while on the phone with his pet thugs are the analog facsimile of a redolent Trump thumbing out tweets from atop his gold-plated toilet – frantically trying to undermine the press, sow discord, and distract from the depredations of his kakistocratic administration.

The straits look even more dire now, as they must have in pre-Watergate times, amidst an unending foreign war, civil unrest, and the existential tensions of Cold War. But films such as these are surely what must be one of the higher aspirations of art – an indictment of dark times, and a lighthouse to point us to better shores.

I give this film: 4.5 boxes full of Pentagon Papers

Star Wars: The Last Jedi



Let’s first get something out of the way. In my opinion, Disney ruined Star Wars. They ruined it when they threw away the EU of books and games and replaced it with a new continuity with none of the old EU’s accreted  texture and socio-political verisimilitude. They ruined it when they let J.J. Abrams make a movie that was basically just a carbon copy of A New Hope, except with little of its charm and packed to the brim with absurd plotholes.

As it stands, the post-ROTJ continuity of Star Wars is fundamentally broken, because Abrams locked in a storyline that basically involved a galaxy’s worth of individuals making idiotically absurd decisions that allowed the First Order to rise and history to repeat itself.

For these reasons, I consider the post-ROTJ Disney continuity to be a kind of high-budget fan fiction, the kind that seems predicated on the sort of hubris that leads one to confuse imitation with mastery. In doing so, I refused it a place in my personal Star Wars headcanon, which, chronologically speaking, starts from the dim pre-hyperspace days of Xim the Despot and ends right around the conclusion of Timothy Zahn’s Vision of the Future. 

I watched The Last Jedi with the sort of detachment that came from my having denied it true headcanon status. Through that, less subjectively biased lens, I actually found TLJ to be fairly good, but massively flawed, attempt to transmute the themes of the original into something new. But like TFA before it, it is hobbled by its place in this new and malformed Star Wars continuity, perpetuating plotholes that were created by the absurdities introduced by the post-ROTJ timeline’s lack of political realism.

So, with that frame in mind, I will, without further ado, discuss about what was good, bad and sad (because, despite everything, the film was pretty emotionally wrought for me) about TLJ.

There will, of course, be spoilers.

The Good

TLJ is thematically and structurally quite brilliant. In terms of the quality of its story beats, TLJ is probably up there with ESB in its ability to confound with its many shocking plot twists and narrative developments – Snoke’s death, Luke’s heart-wrenching final act of sacrifice, the truth behind Rey’s parentage, the catastrophic failure of Finn and Rose’s admittedly ridiculous quest to save the Resistance.

These story beats were so effective not just because they were unexpected in a Star Wars film, but also because they played important parts in developing the key themes of this movie, which is about transcending the usual themes of Star Wars and alchemising them into something new. Ren’s killing of Snoke subverted expectations that he could be redeemed. Luke’s story arc made him out to be a flawed hero whose last act redeemed him and turned him into a timeless legend, a beacon of hope for the galaxy; an emotionally-charged act of passing the torch to a new generation of heroes.

The revelation that Rey was a nobody subverted the longstanding notion that the mantle of the chosen one could be passed down through lineage. Kylo Ren, of the Skywalker lineage, failed the test of redemption, while Rey, a nobody, could become a hero in her own right.

And finally, the whole Poe Dameron sub-plot demonstrated that plucky heroic antics, long a mainstay of the films, could actually go wrong, upending the well-worn trope of heroes going against the palsied hand of authority to save the day. The film led us to think that Admiral Holdo as a cowardly villain and Poe as the hero (complete with Poe smugly trying to mansplain the tactical situation to Holdo), only to suddenly subvert that trope by showing up Poe’s actions as ill-conceived and ultimately disastrous, and Holdo’s actions as prudent and well-thought out.

Even the Canto Bight adventure by itself, seen by some as a superfluous accessory to the plot (since it didn’t Save the Day), did allow for Johnson to make mention of the notion that there are a superclass of individuals who profit off the endless cycle of war in the galaxy, and bring our attention to the systematic structures of oppression that undergird society – a timely commentary of the neoliberal takeover of the world, adding dimensionality to an otherwise simple parable of good versus evil.

That the film subverts these Star Wars tropes is not a bad thing – and is in fact good, because it means that the film is trying to be its own thing, to be both entertaining and thematically  resonant at the same time, to critically examine the tropes that make up the franchise and do something different, while still staying somewhat true to the spirit of Star Wars‘ elemental nature.

In a way, the film also tries to address some of the elements of the previous films. Luke sees the Force as bigger than the Jedi or the Sith, and thinks that it is hubris to view the Jedi as exclusive guardians of the Force. He critiques the Jedi of the prequel eras as hypocrites, ineffectual monks in ivory towers that abetted the conditions that allowed Sidious to rise, custodians of a reductionist view of the Force that assesses one’s potential for training through one’s midi-chlorian count (kind of like how kids are streamed to secondary schools via their PSLE score). The Last Jedi makes the bold thesis that the Jedi as a concept are unnecessary and even inimical to an understanding of the living Force. And while it doesn’t technically conclude with the Jedi dying out (since Rey is the new last Jedi), it opens up the question in our minds on what it means to be a Jedi and whether or not we’ve been unduly deifying them.

The big trio (Rey, Finn, Poe) are much better written and developed than in TFA. There are also a few genuinely great new characters (Rose Tico among them – I hope she survived the crash). Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher were resplendent in their roles. Luke was an exquisitely tragic character study; Leia the very definition of dignity and inner strength.

Rian Johnson also mercifully downplayed some of Abram’s less inspired additions to the universe, the ineffectual Captain Phasma being one of them, and the whole awful macguffin plot of searching for Luke Skywalker – finding out where he was wasn’t really of importance to the plot of TLJ, in the end.

The Bad

As I said, TLJ is massively flawed, and mostly because of the many ridiculous plotholes that pepper it, both as a result of Abram’s lack of coherence and Johnson’s own carelessly loose script. Much of it arises from treating the galaxy, a collection of a hundred billion or more stars, like it just consists of a few random planets in space.

Let’s just rattle them off:

  • How come the First Order dreadnought didn’t have deflector shields? How could a lone starfighter just have blown up the laser batteries and allowed bombers to get through?
  • This is one of the central mysteries of the entire chronology – sure, a portion of the New Republic fleet was pulverized by Starkiller base – but surely there are other fleets elsewhere? Who keeps their entire arsenal only at the capital? There’s a galaxy to defend! Where are the rest of the good guys?
  • Surely the Resistance is not the only conceivable hope out there, or even that important of a symbol – it’s a big galaxy, surely other people want to be free. And doesn’t the defense of individual systems fall to individual fleets? Why should the First Order, with its limited resources (and yet crazy enough to send its most powerful ships chasing after a hundreds-strong splinter group) be able to conquer the galaxy, and its teeming multitudes? Why did the New Republic demilitarise to such an extent, flying in the face of realist geopolitical logic amidst a sea of potential threats and revanchist factions floating around?
  • Why couldn’t the First Order just end things quickly by sending a few ships through hyperspace to intercept the fleeing Resistance fleet to blow them to smithereens? (This is, by far, my biggest pet peeve).
  • Also, a planet’s pretty big – why didn’t anybody know the Resistance was heading straight to Crait, and by virtue of that, figure out that maybe they had something up their sleeves? Sure, the movie tells us Holdo’s plan was an inspired one, but it just doesn’t hold up upon closer inspection.
  • Just how long does it take to travel across the galaxy, anyway? The film seems to suggest that jumping to any given random planet in a galaxy, bringing back a codebreaker, breaking into a ship, disabling its hyperspace tracker, and escaping doesn’t take more than eighteen hours. This is a continuation of the Abramesque tendency to “compress” the vastness of the galaxy into something that will fit in his tiny imagination.
  • The whole Canto Bight thing is just a ridiculous macguffinesque plot – scour an entire planet for one guy who happens to be the only person in the galaxy who can help. Admittedly, the movie does acknowledge that it was a dumb idea – but apparently not too dumb for people to actually act on.
  • Speaking of which, why didn’t Holdo just tell people what was going on and avoided the entire debacle?
  • How come people can talk to each other through hyperspace on commlinks, but you need to go to a planet to send out a distress signal? And why just the Outer Rim?
  • How did Rey get so good at a lightsaber so fast (continuing the Abramesque fallacy). By my reckoning they only spent a few days at Ahch-To. Months-long training at Dagobah, this was not.
  • Raddus destroying the First Order fleet, while satisfying (and beautiful), was a total deus ex machina.

Essentially, the premise of the new films derives from a conception of the galaxy as small, simplistic, and strangely homogeneous – a place where a single star system’s destruction can change the fates of thousands of planets, where the conceit is that the survival of a ragtag band that’s lost everything is the only thing that can save the galaxy, where geopolitical realities, rules of logic and reasonable conduct have been warped in order to give rise to a specific set of circumstances to contrive yet another war between an evil empire and a rebellion – to pander to the imagined desires of a fanbase that is seen just as an enormous source of profits to be milked, just like Luke does to that alien.

The Last Jedi doesn’t, and can’t, escape those starting conditions, and has a few real stinkers of plotholes entirely of its own doing. And because of that, it makes what could have been a creditable and thematically strong work of “fan fiction” lose a few brownie points with me.

The Sad

Luke meets Leia for a last, bittersweet farewell, recaptures some element of his younger days, fights Kylo Ren to a standstill, and disappears, before dying. By far the single most emotively jarring part of the film is the scene where, old and grey and exhausted, he stares into the twin suns and disappears, his cloak floating off into the breeze.

Admiral Ackbar dies. WUT.

The Resistance is whittled down to a bare skeleton in this film, methodically, with clinical savagery, as hope dies, is reborn, dies again – with only the barest thread of it surviving – an emotional rollercoaster of a movie (one that, to be sure, is still fan fiction and the darkest timeline of the SW multiverse, but still, disbelief is sufficiently suspended). This is the most sobering Star Wars film ever made. (But again, it really hangs on this notion that the Resistance is the only resistance left that has the ability to organise – that is decidedly not true, and should not be true. Otherwise, we accept that the galaxy is essentially a hopeless place, without non-movie characters able to rise to the challenge and lead).

Seeing Carrie Fisher in the film was also emotionally ravaging. There is an irony in how she survives the movie – we know we will never see her again, and we don’t know how Episode 9 can do without her, given the big role she played. But now, two of the big three have passed in the film, and the only survivor in the film has passed in real life. People conflate actors and the people they play, until they are one and the same. While the deaths of Han and Luke were devastating in the context of the plot, Carrie Fisher’s death was the thing that really signaled that the old guard, and the era of the original films, is really fading into the background, to make way for new characters that don’t have half of the OT heroes’ charm and chemistry. It is a sad reminder of the inexorable end of a period of my life, and of the lives of millions of Star Wars fans. RIP, Carrie Fisher.

Lastly, seeing the reactions to TLJ just underscores how stressful it is to be a SW fan – many hate it, for different reasons than what is stated above, many love it – especially professional critics. But whenever a critic crows about how the movie subverts tired SW tropes, I want to grab them and say that the EU did all that stuff – explored the nature of the Force (and the existence of many different Force-using traditions, including the Dathomiri witches), introduced new non-lineage heroes with humble origins that rose to prominence (Corran Horn), imbued SW with political realism and intrigue – way before the sequel trilogy was a twinkle in Disney’s eye.

Yes, SW fans are impossible to please.

P.S. Rian Johnson: I noticed your unsubtle homage to Wings – the dolly shot through a sea of tables to reveal the suave gambler at the end.

P.P.S Porgs are…okay. I didn’t hate them, but I wouldn’t buy merch of it.

I give this (fan fiction SW film): 3.5 out of 5 phantom dice

Spiderman: Homecoming


What it’s about: A young and naive Spiderman must learn to wield his powers responsibly.


  • I’m liking how Spiderman: Homecoming is being integrated with the rest of the MCU as an accessory superhero without another tired rehash of an origin story, but instead, a story that explores him coming into his own abilities through trial and tribulation. Thematically, it works well as an “intro” movie to MCU-continuity Spiderman because it captures the defining conceit of Spiderman – the power/responsibility struggle – without needing to hearken back to Uncle Ben again. I like how Tony Stark’s the mentor, now, too – and how he fits into the whole Avengers shtick.
  • I really like how grounded the movie is too – as MCU movies go, at least. Spiderman isn’t dealing with some existential crisis or god-tier supervillain – just a good old-fashioned criminal lucky enough to get his hands on some Chitauri technology for fun and profit, whose only motivation is to make money to support his family – even if he’s willing to go to psychopathic lengths to do so. Also, casting Michael Keaton as the Vulture is so apropos – after his Oscar-nominated turn in Birdman, which in turn was an ironically appropriate reference to his tenure as Batman. A bat superhero turned bird superhero turned bird villain. The Vulture is probably the villain with the most grounded and realistic motives since Iron Man’s Obadiah Stane.
  • Of course, being a teen film, the movie is filled to the brim with cringeworthy teenybopper antics – proms, house parties, and teenagers awkwardly trying to find out what it means to be an adult. Oh, and Peter Parker’s absolute inability to act normal when trying to hide his true nature in a crisis situation. Not my favorite part of the movie by any stretch, but since such things are almost par for the course in any American film about high school kids, I suppose it is a standard offering.
  • Sexy Aunt May is super disturbing. Marvel, why???

Verdict: While not the most groundbreaking MCU film, Spiderman: Homecoming is a creditable entry into the MCU, and miles, miles better than the Spidey films that preceded it.

I give this film: 3.5 out of 5 energy weapons

Thor: Ragnarok


What it’s about: Thor goes on a galaxy-spanning quest to stop the evil goddess Hela from remaking Asgard into her own image.


  • I have to say, after watching director Taika Watiti’s hilarious Thor and Daryl shorts, I had high expectations for this film in the laughs department. And I was not disappointed. Thor: Ragnarok is a great comedy, almost to the extent that it kind of strikes a discordant note with the tone of the rest of the MCU. Seriously, there’s so much screwball humor going on here that it actually seems strangely out of place with the previous two films (although The Dark World had its fair share of funnies). The Watiti-voiced Korg, in particular, with his strong Kiwi accent and almost fourth wall-breaking genre savviness, is one such example of humor encroaching upon, for lack of a better term, tonal verisimilitude (although he is a great comic character). The Odin-play and Thor calling the Hulk a “friend from work” are some other jokes that don’t quite square with what you’d expect from the usually-seriou superhero. That said, Watiti’s lack of concern for tonal consistency gives the film the artistic freedom to be one of the freshest and most entertaining MCU films yet.
  • The plot is admittedly based on a string of unlikely coincidences and contrivances though. Thor, getting thrown onto the very planet that Valkyrie and Hulk are on; Thor conveniently storing the Surtur helmet and eternal flame in the same vault, even though the Asgardians took such special care to separate the Infinity Stones from each other. There’s also the fact that apparently the entire population of Asgard can fit within a medium sized spaceship? Where the heck is everyone? These plot contrivances do add up, but the film is so hilariously irreverent about so many other aspects that somehow, their presence doesn’t matter so much.
  • I do hope  that Thor: Ragnarok’s character development actually takes in future Marvel films, though – I’d hate to see Loki, for example, fall back to his fundamentally manipulative ways in Infinity War, when the movie went to all the trouble to give his character a kind of redemptive arc. He did steal the Tesseract at the end of the film, though, and it remains to be seen if he’ll proffer it in some way back to Thanos.
  • I’m glad Watiti chose to go with the flow and not weasel out of the premise of the movie, i.e. Ragnarok and the destruction of Asgard. It feels like things are moving into place for an intense climax in the form of Infinity War, especially with the movies now including more and more crossovers, and Watiti found a pretty decent way to make a good twist ending around the annihilation of Asgard.

Verdict: Intensely watchable and funny, if a little out of place tonally, Thor: Ragnarok is Marvel’s most successful attempt yet at integrating effective comedy with into its storytelling, and a sure crowd-pleaser.

I give this movie: 4 out of 5 Surtur helmets