I don't often visit the Marvel Universe but I spent a day prepping for this one by watching recaps of all the precursors for this film. Turns out only "WandaVision" and an extremely brief knowledge of End Game was necessary to understand this film's plot. I even watched "Spider-Man: No Way Home" for the first time just so I wouldn't be burned at the stake if someone brought it up in conversation and realized I hadn't seen it yet. Watching that film was the best experience I had that Thursday. For a film universe that prizes itself on developing storylines over years of movie titles and epic adventures, I was remarkably disappointed by this film's accumulation of the Scarlet Witch's storyline. This is a character planted in the Marvel universe nearly a decade ago in the end credit scene of Winter Soldier. As someone who doesn't watch Marvel movies anymore, I was impressed with myself for remembering that. For a character who's been developed for that long, who recently had her own show, how did they manage to miss the emotional hits in this film? Every punch felt pulled. Sure, there were grand moments of action and mind bending CGI visuals that you've probably seen before. If this was only trying to be an action adventure it might have worked better. They could have spent more time exploring the Multiverse, which didn't feel utilized enough here. The films coolest idea took a back seat so that the Scarlett Witch could see her story through and they finished that without catharsis. However, it wouldn't be a Marvel movie without the crowd cheering on opening night and there were moments of fan service that were able to erupt the theater. Even as an outsider I couldn't help but smiling at the fun of it all. Though in truth those moments didn't really add much value to the films plot and probably won't develop into anything of note...
After experiencing this film I thought the title was more of a consideration of Pedro Pascal's talent than Cages, because this movie's entertainment rides on Pascal's shoulders. Without him I don't know if I'd have made it through. Nic Cage has been playing himself for years. I hoped there would be a deeper meta and higher understanding of the man's talent buried in this script somewhere but by the third act the screenplay writers seemed ready to end it. What starts out as an endearing buddy comedy between Nic Cage and cinephile gangster (Javi) slowly transgresses into a stupid spy film. Cage's delivery runs from dry to over the top but the comedic timing is just not there. On the other hand, with Pedro at his side this is a very watchable buddy comedy. The best moments were them just goofing off while on acid. The script pokes fun at itself for deep diving into a full on action-spy film but the punchline just isn't good enough to justify the descent in quality.
Alexander Skarsgard's transformation into a Viking prince is possibly the most astonishing part of this experience. The Marvel execs are probably shaking their heads at Hemsworth right now. Amleth (Skarsgard) and his fellow Viking pack are terrifying to experience. As they prepare to raid their way through Slavic villages, they consume psychoactive substances and howl at the moon becoming wolves themselves. During battle they even use their teeth as weapons. The first act sets up a revenge tale soaked in Viking mythology and Egger's love for mythos takes center stage in the plot's structure. Amleth is guided by the spirit of wolf Fenrir and aided by the ravens of Odin. Much like "The Lighthouse", viewers without knowledge of the period's history will still enjoy and catch on to the major themes, but might find themselves alarmed or confused by smaller details. The first act of this film is masterful and perhaps that's why it's transition to the second act felt as if it's sharp blade was dulled. A decade after Amleth's quest for revenge begins a lot has changed. His uncle Feng , who stole his father's crown, has pledged loyalty to a bigger king. The days of Viking lords are coming to an end, which is why our epic tale ends up on a slave farm in Iceland. I felt like this location shrunk the scope of this film's vision. Amleth cutting his hair and becoming a slave was not the tonal shift I was expecting. Perhaps I'll like it more on a 2nd viewing with proper expectations, but right now I can't help but feel underwhelmed by that development. Though the scale of the story does not grow, the mythos behind the story manages to be the backbone of the entertainment. Amleth fighting the skeleton of a fallen warrior in order to wield it's sword was epic. A blood soaked battle between two naked Vikings surrounded by lava at the base of a volcano was epic. There are moments of greatness that I look forward to re-experiencing, but as a whole I can't help but feel it missed the mark.
With the concept of multiverse being so heavily fleshed out in the MCU and Sony's Spiderman, it was only right that the indie market take a stab at it too. "Everything Everywhere" is as bizarre as it sounds. Explaining this synapsis is a struggle but let me try. Evelyn Wang is a struggling laundromat owner dealing with a tax audit. Her life is falling apart piece by piece. The story begins on a super stressful day, where she's trying to make a very important audit meeting as well as throw a party for her disapproving father who is visiting from overseas. It's on this crazy day that she finds out - she's not the only Evelyn. There's a countless amount of Evelyn's all living out different versions of her life based on past decisions. Each decision creates another universe. It turns out our Evelyn is living the worst possible life she could. This depressing fact is why she's the main character. Since she's never lived up to any of her potential she has the ability to transfer over skills that other Evelyn's have developed. She can become an action movie star, a chef, or an Evelyn with hotdogs as fingers. What? Exactly. The writers had a blast piecing together this wacky 3 act film, while silly at it's heart it manages to be emotionally overwhelming. It made me cry on several occasions, laugh uncontrollably at others, and all around entertained the hell out of me. Please go see this movie!
There's a meme circling around basically saying that by 2025 we'll have a Batman film so dark you won't even be able to see it... I giggled when I scrolled past it. At three hours long this isn't a Batman film you're just going to scroll by. I was also daunted by the runtime when I first heard it confirmed. I can't believe I'm saying this but my main complaint with the film is that it wasn't long enough. Let me explain. Reeve's Batman inhabits the same world as the popular video game series Arkham and feels heavily inspired by Fincher's Mindhunter. The Riddler is like this episode's subject while Batman and Gordon are like Holden Ford and Bill Tench. If you haven't seen Mindhunter, just understand that this is a huge compliment to Reeve's direction of this film. This isn't a superhero film - it's film noir. Batman is a detective haunted by his past and while the film focuses on the cynical motivations of Riddler, we start to see parallels between the killer and the hunter. I really loved the dynamic between Gordon and Batman in this film more than any other. They actually feel like partners. Gordon is Batman's access card to crime scenes and they meet afterwards to discuss. We witness Gordon's double life the same way we do Bruce Wayne and Batmans. However, this isn't an origin story and Bruce Wayne has very little presence in this film. The runtime is spent building the mystery behind The Riddler's intentions, which involves the corrupt politicians of Gotham and shady characters like The Penguin. There's a lot going on here and it easily could have been two films. The decision to do one 3 hour batman obviously resulted in some cut content and there's one scene in particular that comes out of nowhere. Otherwise, the film's production quality is top notch and while it is visually much darker then The Dark Knight (the irony) it's exactly what we all wanted.