Despite Thor, The God of Thunder being one of Marvel’s most iconic characters and virtual co-founder of The Avengers, making him a compelling action hero has been a tough task. Even with some great directors and sleek scripting, “Thor” hasn’t quite been as exciting as Iron Man or Captain America. He’s barely risen to the Hulk who, so far, has only had one movie and a hand full of appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With “Thor: Ragnarok,” Marvel has reached the point where audiences are familiar enough with the character that they can begin to change his identity a bit. In the end, he’s still Thor, the God of Thunder, but he also comes in touch with his god like abilities when he allows himself to embrace humility once and for all.
At best I’d say that “A Witches’ Ball” is a serviceable movie. It’s exactly the kind of movie you’d find at Walmart one day that you’d probably buy for your daughter in hopes of distracting her with a fantasy while you’re preparing for dinner or something. It’s mediocre and hits about all the right beats for a movie heavily aimed toward small girls. Director Justin G. Dyck is a man whose entire filmography revolves around filming cheaply made, holiday oriented, family films and “A Witches’ Ball” s right up his alley.
It’s a shame that Disney treats “The Black Cauldron” kind of like the black sheep of the family they don’t mention at family reunions. It’s such a riveting and creepy film that evokes a lot of what makes the fantasy genre so appealing. There’s even the Horned King, one of Disney’s most frightening, if not their most frightening villain ever created, he’s a skull faced, horned monster with one goal to grab the magical black cauldron and use it to take over the world. In galleries and retrospectives, he’s almost never mentioned, which says a lot considering Disney is fond of including the Chernabog, who is only on screen for eleven minutes in “Fantasia.”
The first time I ever saw “Mortal Kombat” was in 1992 when I stopped by a grocery store on the way to school and saw a pair of guys battling one another on the arcade cabinet. Though “Street Fighter 2” was huge, “Mortal Kombat” made its own waves by realistic character models and some of the most vicious video game violence ever conceived in its era. So came the 1995 movie where not even then was there this much babbling about supernatural forces, and tournaments. “The Journey Begins” works overtime to build a mythology from this simple video game, and fails big time. It feels like someone at Threshold Studios were alerted about the upcoming movie and only had about two weeks to build a respectable animated tie-in.
Setting aside that DC pretty much slaps Batman in to their newest film, “Justice League Dark” is actually a fun celebration of the supernatural element from DC Comics. Taking a much needed peek in to the darker universe from DC, “Justice League Dark” is an adaptation of the acclaimed graphic novel, involving supernatural characters from DC who team up to take on a threat beyond the capabilities of Superman and Wonder Woman. “Justice League Dark” is a fairly well realized horror take on the DC universe that suffers, sadly, from a short run time. With a group of characters filled with such immense, and complex back stories and amazing powers, it’s sad “Justice League Dark” is only allotted a scant eighty minute run time. John Constantine alone deserves a thirty minute introduction.
I’m still not sure why DC commits to creating new branches of their animated universe with only a little under eighty minutes to spare. I think it wouldn’t hurt if something like “Justice League Dark” was given two hours to tell its story. Instead it rushes through just about everything possible, from prologue, set up, character introductions, villain introduction, villain back story, and the final showdown. And there’s no guarantee we’ll see a sequel any time soon, since DC and Warner are planning a live action version. So unless you’re a hardcore DC fan, you won’t get to learn a lot about folks like the Demon Etrigan or Zatanna, since we speed right through their characterizations.
It just serves to prove my theory that bad animated movies can be excused since they’re “for kids” is a cheap cop out meant to let crap pass by us. Animation studios are providing amazing kids fare, including Laika who seemingly snuck out of nowhere to deliver yet another stop motion children’s masterpiece. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is probably their great animated stop motion achievement to date. It’s an immense, epic, and heartfelt ode to the art of storytelling and the power of memories. It’s teeming with fantastic Asian folklore offering a very respectful view of its characters, and creates a wonderful hero who is capable of defeating evil not with his fists or guns, but with magic and his ability to think outside the box.
I freely admit that I was skeptical until the very end that comic book fans would ever get a good or respectable movie about “Doctor Strange.” Some comics just don’t translate at all to the cinematic medium. Thankfully, director Scott Derrickson proves me wrong, providing a cinematic adaptation of “Doctor Strange” that’s very much its own superhero tale while also embedding itself as a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Marvel spirit is in full force here, but the movie does take the source material seriously while subtly injecting a sense of whimsy here and there. “Doctor Strange” comes during a good time where movie audiences like some magic with their adventures, and Doctor Strange is that kind of fantasy movie for comic book fans that they’ve always wanted.