A short look at this summer’s films

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I’m glad this movie was a commercial success. For the most part, I enjoyed it, and I enjoy this group enough that I’d be willing to see them in future films. This movie pales in comparison to its predecessor, however.
Where the original film had varied environments, an organic connection of interesting characters and an emotionally investing final fight, its sequel has a rather static setting, confusing character motivations and a finale that I kept hoping would just end already.
I enjoyed the film, but it wasn’t about the Guardians of the Galaxy. Sure, the stakes in this film are higher, but they don’t feel that way, not in the slightest. The film’s main focus was in the many different character arcs it was wrangling all at once, and that left our main storyline, the one between Star Lord and his father, feeling rather left out to dry.

Wonder Woman

DC Comics has had a sort of film renaissance in the last few years. In an obvious attempt to compete with Marvel’s cinematic universe, they’ve reintroduced characters like Batman, Superman and now Wonder Woman with their own, respective films (though the solo-Batman film hasn’t yet been released).
Their efforts have been mostly poor, with films like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad” garnering mostly negative reviews, but “Wonder Woman” has proven to be DC’s greatest critical success since their new cycle of movies began. Critics raved about “Wonder Woman” all summer, and while I enjoyed the film for the most part, I’m a little confused about all the high reviews.
The film is pretty, and Gal Gadot and Chris Pine give excellent performances with great chemistry, but every other aspect of the film falls flat. From the shoehorned side characters (one with a downright embarrassing depiction of PTSD), to the ridiculous antagonist with a bushy mustache, to the overbaked message of the film. The soundtrack was mostly forgettable, save for Wonder Woman’s admittedly kickass theme. The German characters all speaking English was odd, but forgivable for the most part.
The depiction of WWI was just pitiful, and while I can see how that may not bother a great majority of the film’s viewers, it really grated on me. All the pieces were present in “Wonder Woman,” but they didn’t come together in a satisfying way.
Perhaps if the movie had another hour or half hour of screen time and a bit more of Diana kicking ass, we could have had a great superhero movie that perfectly balances the goofy with the gritty. The film we got focuses far more on the former, though, and I think it detracts considerably from the grave message that the movie stumbled to get across.

The Big Sick

Rom-coms have fallen out of grace with the film community over the past decade, and for good reason. They’re usually phoned-in, joke-recycling, predictable pieces of trash.
That being said, “The Big Sick” may be one of the best romantic comedies I’ve ever seen, and its genuineness is as much due to the actors’ amazing performances as it is to the fact that the story told is true, more or less. Kumail Nanjiani’s performance is deadpan but brilliant at times, and Ray Romano, Holly Hunter and Zoe Kazan bring their acting chops to the stage too, making for a film that you can’t help but smile to.
Nanjiani’s depiction of his attempt to break away from his native Palestinian culture is heartbreaking and insightful and the sacrifices that he makes for Emily as she lay in a coma are believable and impactful. The movie is just all-around good; it’s a watch you won’t regret, though perhaps not a film you’ll find yourself returning to time and time again.

Baby Driver

Edgar Wright has never let us down, and “Baby Driver” is just another jam-packed, detail-oriented triumph that I’ll find myself watching as many times as I can in the future.
Everything in this movie clicks, every part of it is on-tempo and it provides such a hair-raising, seat-gripping experience to coincide with the film’s technical mastery.
There are certain parts of the plot that feel a little contrived, and a few certain details of the film (mostly firearm-related) that made me wince a little, but this movie’s absolute solidity helps hold it above semantic criticism.
It’s definitely my favorite film of the summer, and is shaping up to be my favorite film of the year.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Is this the best Spider-Man film? No, 2004’s “Spider-Man 2” still holds that title. Is this the best Spider-Man film since then? Oh yes. After this film, if I try hard enough, I can pretend the two Andrew Garfield movies were just a fever dream.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” being the character’s second film reboot, spends remarkably little time on any real origin story, and instead just explores Peter Parker’s character development as he struggles through a world marked by heroes and valiant deeds, knowing he’s capable of such feats but just left without the opportunity.
I found myself feeling for Peter, getting impatient with him, getting angry at him, getting scared for him and, finally, at the end, agreeing with him. One of the more mature superhero films I’ve seen, ironically about a high school student.


Hard to say much about this film. It’s chaos, it’s despair, it’s urgency, it’s tense, it’s masterful.
One of the best parts of this movie was the sound design and the soundtrack, which was composed by Hans Zimmer specifically to induce anxiety.
Unlike most of Zimmer’s other notable scores, no specific tracks from “Dunkirk” stand out in memory. The genius of the soundtrack was mostly in its subtlety, its understated design that reminded the viewer each and every second that time was running out. A ticking clock is heard in almost every scene from the movie, right up until the protagonists finally sit down on a train that will take them home. The sudden cessation of the ticking that’s been going all movie — so present to the point that the viewer practically tuned it out — that the viewer is jarred and caught off guard. This adds a greater effect to what would otherwise be an innocuous scene of a boy falling asleep on a train.
It’s been, of course, receiving extremely favorable reviews, but a lot of people still yell into the void that there’s not enough character development (or memorable characters at all, for that matter).
Given what I just said about the Spider-Man film, you’d think I might agree with the importance placed on characters but I don’t, not this time. Not because I’m a Christopher Nolan fanboy, but because this movie is clearly depicting something that’s greater than the characters themselves.
Spider-Man is about Spider-Man. Dunkirk is about a military operation. The only character that seems to go through profound change is Peter, and that makes sense because he’s the only (surviving) character that the crowd can assume has not seen any combat or warfare at all. He is clearly shown to have learned a lesson and to have changed due to his father’s taking him directly to a combat zone.
The rest of the characters have no necessary change to make: they’ve been here, they’ve seen it all, they just want to get out. A lot of armchair film critics said they couldn’t feel attached to the characters, they couldn’t feel themselves really wanting the characters to make it out alive.
I don’t see how. It’s a war film with hardly any dialogue, the attachment doesn’t come through intricately woven speech but rather the stark depiction of how terrified all these men are and we, the audience, should sympethise and pity with their struggle. It only seems human.

Post Author: Ethan Veenker

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