I once again managed to not see all that many films. I think the excellent weather this summer is a very good excuse for that.
The overall quality of the films seemed to be higher this year. Unlike the last few years, there isn’t a single film that made me want to throw things at one of the creators because of how bad it was.
In keeping with tradition, I’d also like to highlight one film that was new to me but not new. “Ethel and Ernest” which is an old-fashioned cartoon, but it hits you straight in the heart. It’s absolutely wonderful.
I continue to use these 4 criteria:
1 – did the film do what it set out to do?
2 – did it use its resources to its best ability? Or, a £250,000 film is not going to have as good explosions as a £25,000,000 film, or it shouldn’t, and if it does, there’s something wrong with the £25,000,000 film. Basically, it’s a technical merit score.
3 – Intellectual satisfaction – does the film’s plot pull some really stupid move at the last moment? Does the plot rely on characters being stupid than they are?
4 – Does this work as a whole? Did it work for me? I am aware that this is the most subjective of subjective criteria!
In a slight change to the usual, I will be speaking about some of the films in groups, because I have things to say where either the comments for both films are similar comments, or because I am going to use the two films as contrasts to each other.
My top 7 was
1 – Black Panther
2 – Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse
3 – Avengers: Infinity War
4 – Mission Impossible 6
5 – Isle of Dogs
6 – Venom
7 – Antman 2
Let’s begin with the top two.
While I’ve put Black Panther above Into the Spiderverse, it is pretty much a toss-up. Like the year The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road came out, I’ve given top spot to the one I liked better. Noticeably, I said “liked better” not “enjoyed more” because Into the Spiderverse is the good guys doing the right thing and it is more enjoyable than what happens in Black Panther. But Black Panther has some lovely shades of grey, and people who are undoubtedly good people doing bad things, and the bad guy being allowed to be right about something things (if not in his methodology) and … okay so I am giving Black Panther the top spot just for Sterling K. Brown. Because he’s amazing as N’Jobu. With some serious assistance from Michael B. Jordan. And even months later I am all flail! on the topic.
Both films tell very traditional superhero stories but they tell them in an interesting way. Black Panther lets you sympathise with the villain a lot more than most do, while Into the Spiderverse plays with the medium in a glorious, vivid, colourful, fun way. The way Into the Spiderverse tells its story obviously looks more radical, but that’s in part because there hasn’t been another comic book film that’s been a cartoon and used that medium to its fullest. Very few cartoon films have used being a cartoon to their fullest. Because, OMG what Into the Spiderverse does is so cool. One of the things I really love is how it weaves the soundtrack and the music that Miles listens to into the way he moves. It’s just so kinetic that you can almost feel what’s on the screen. It’s magnificent.
I love both films a lot.
Avengers: Infinity Wars is less good than those two films. However, it does tell a subtly different superhero story to the usual. The difference is that the villain is defeated, but only after he’s won and the bad things happen after our heroes defeat him. I mean, the bad things that haven’t already happened. Many bad things happen in that film. I applauded Infinity Wars at the time and still do for allowing Thanos to actually love Gamorra (and, despite everything, vice versa) and still do the thing, and regret it but still think it’s for the greater good. He’s a villain with depth without sentimentalising him. It’s not perfect, but it is definitely good.
It’s after that where the ordering gets a bit haphazard and perfunctory. I’d be willing to listen to arguments for any of films 4 to 7 being in any position from 4 to 7.
I am giving Mission Impossible: Fallout position 4 because of how good the fight scenes are. Seriously, I would like to find out who choreographed the “John Lark” fight and thank them. It was excellent. It also gets points for Solomon Lane. I have railed, and will rail again, about how not every bad guy has to be the Joker from The Dark Knight, and they don’t all need to want to watch the world burn but Solomon Lane is my exception to that rule, because it works for the character and the story and they give the formula a twist. Sean Harris gives such a good blank, all-consuming evil. I also love what they do with John Lark (and that is the least spoilery way to phrase that).
On the other hand, the plot is over-convoluted to some ridiculously baroque extent.
Isle of Dogs is very Wes Anderson. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on how you feel about Wes Anderson. One friend who really likes him loved it. One friend who hates him refuses to see it. That these two friends share a first name just makes it more amusing.
I am 50/50 on Wes Anderson, so I enjoyed bits of it, while finding it a bit too Wes Anderson in other parts. It is the one I was tempted to put in 7th, but I decided to give it points for not being based on something else.
Antman 2 (or Antman and the Wasp) and Venom are both stupid good fun. Venom was probably the better film, because Antman 2 had the air of being a Marvelverse filler film. They’re actually very similar in terms of lead character; charming, likeable screw ups forced to face the consequences of their actions. I loved the way they handled Spoiler and Spoiler in Antman (and all of Team Minor Criminal who I love beyond all reason). Meanwhile I adored Anne and Dr. Dan in Venom for similar reasons, and Tom Hardy appeared to be having all the fun as Venom (and Eddie in a weird way). Neither is a great film, but they are pleasing and enjoyable. So they’re coming bottom of this list, but as I said at the start, all 7 films were good and I’d recommend seeing any of them.