Seth McFarlane has made a mint dumbing down animated TV to the point of preposterous. Just sit through an evening of Family Guy/American Dad/ Cleveland Show reruns and argue said fact. On the other hand, his first attempt at a big screen laugher was, and is, a smart, savvy hit. Using the notion of a child’s juvenile wish and extrapolating it out to adult proportions, he concocted a coming of age comedy for the over-40 set. Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis deliver excellent performances, but it’s the CG bear that steals the show. He’s vulgar, crude, and oh so lovable.
Imagine a super hero movie where the action histrionics or comic code tropes weren’t the main focus. Instead, this new version of Peter Parker is a boy with a mysterious past, a geek speak present, and a wholly unknown future. Then add a terrific love story with a balanced female companion, a memorable (and melancholy) villain, and a lot of interpersonal panache. In fact, (500) Days of Summer‘s Marc Webb clearly wanted to pull the genre out of its standard storytelling stereotypes. He fashioned a fascinating character study into which all of Spidey’s splash could rest in - quite comfortably, it turns out.
Joss Whedon had the hardest job this Popcorn Season. Sure, Christopher Nolan was bringing Batman back for his final installment stand-off and Ridley Scott made the bold move of trying to address the Alien mythos. But Mr. Buffy the Vampire Slayer to-do list tops them both, and earned billions in the process. Imagine having to put together several separate superhero entities, give them all specific narrative moments and beats, and then deliver the kind of franchise set up that allows for multiple sequels. The wonder of what Whedon accomplished comes from the giddy joy one feels while watching it. Even those not invested in the characters walked away convinced.
God bless Ridley Scott. After decades of doing little except mining the mainstream movie landscape, he decided to return to the property that more or less made his name, and he delivered a devastating introduction to a whole Alien side world. From the enigmatic beginning to the last act “space jockey” joy ride, we get so much depth to the origins of life, both on Earth and on LV-223 that it’s like watching a revamp of 2001 meshed with an atypical monster movie. The cast is terrific, the special effects literally out of this world. Better still, it makes one hungry for more. Hopefully, Scott signs on.
The most intense, dark, emotional, and satisfying end to an epic super hero series… EVER! Nolan, who by now has established his brilliance as both a visionary and a filmmaker, takes us back to the origins of everything, to why Batman continues to play Caped Crusader to why certain criminals target him. Drawing on all the previous installments, as well as introducing the defiant villain Bane, this amazing cinematic experience is both current and timeless, taking into consideration the needs of the characters as well as the feelings of fans. The result redefines the genre, and stands as perhaps the greatest example of the always tricky comic book conceit. Luckily, Nolan nailed it.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.