Brother Bear 2 (2006) Review

Brother Bear 2 Poster

Disney’s DTV sequels really started to improve towards the end of their existence. Not enough to rehabilitate the bad reputation that they had quite rightly earned by that point, but enough that the last couple of ones were surprisingly enjoyable, on par with the “Aladdin” sequels (I wouldn’t have minded if the one planned for “Oliver And Company” had had the opportunity to be produced before the line was discontinued). “Cinderella III: A Twist In Time” has had had plenty of good word-of-mouth, and I’ve already talked about “Bambi II“, so today I’ll discuss the one for “Brother Bear“.

Here’s a quick observation about Disney: they like telling stories about magic and royalty and they really don’t like their protagonists to be single. In fact, if a Disney protagonist is not in a relationship by the end of their movie, the studio will probably make a sequel just to pair them off with someone (which definitely gives the “Frozen” shippers hope about the chances of Elsa being paired off with someone eventually). “Brother Bear 2” is one of the better examples of sequel shipping (“The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2” was one of the worst). Something I appreciate about this movie is how low the stakes are compared to the original film, especially since it would never have had a chance in matching them. In “Brother Bear”, Kenai and Koda had to deal with someone or something trying to kill them roughly every fifteen minutes. In this film, the danger and drama and near-death experiences are present but they don’t really start to ramp up until the last act. The bulk of the film is just five friends on the road, goofing off and bonding with each other. So it’s fluff but it’s really fun fluff, and it allows us the chance to explore these individual friendships and see how Kenai, Koda, Rutt and Tuke have grown as people since we met them in the original film. The heart that endeared me to the original “Brother Bear” is still present as well and it really shines through in the last act, as Kenai, Koda and Nita are faced with some difficult and permanent choices that they’re going to have to make.

Brother Bear 2 Kenai and Koda 4

I’m really satisfied with the way Kenai is characterized in this movie. It’s always a difficult line to walk in a sequel, showing that someone has become a better person without making them a different person entirely, but Kenai is still recognizably Kenai (even with a different voice actor). He can be brash and selfish at times, he still fancies himself as more of a manly man than he actually is, and he can still screw up (like the incident at the beaver time, or how he unwittingly makes Koda feel excluded). But whenever he makes mistakes, he always takes responsibility for them and does whatever he can to fix them without haste, which is a far cry from the last film, where he was quick to pass the buck and didn’t own up to his failings until the last act. By this point, Kenai has grown into his new life as a bear and has become more confident, laidback and fun-loving as a result, feeling as comfortable in the animal kingdom as he did back in his old village. Kenai has fully embraced his role as a responsible, older sibling to Koda with a warm heart: protecting him, providing for him and occasionally acting as a parental figure to him. He’s become more friendly with Rutt and Tuke, offering to help them out with their love problems. He tries to take other people’s feelings into account more often, like the gentle understanding he shows Nita when he realizes she has aquaphobia and tries to help her face it, or the way he consoles Koda about his fears. He’s fully committed to his decision to stick with Koda; as much as it makes him sad, he’s willing to pass up a chance to be with the girl he loves to honor it. And when he nearly gets himself killed saving Koda from hunters, it’s very clear that he considers it to have been worth it because he kept Koda safe.

Over the course of two movies, we’ve watched Kenai grow up from a bratty teenager to a loving and respectable young man and older brother, and its been a very satisfying and at times moving journey to watch. We get to see Nita bring out a different side of Kenai as well throughout the movie: lovesick, nostalgic Kenai. Nita is an old childhood friend that Kenai still has a crush on in the present, so she can frustrate and annoy him, but he also tries to impress her in his own blokish way. The pair of them tease each other and have fun with each other, making up for lost time. And eventually, he starts to have deeper feelings of care for her, helping her work through a deep-seated fear of water that she gained when she almost drowned as a girl. Even beyond the love aspect, it’s clearly good and healthy for the former-human-now-bear to reconnect with an old friend and have a strong bond with someone from his background, in addition to all the new friendships he has with forest critters like Koda and Rutt and Tuke. At the end of the film, Nita elects to become a bear as well, so they can officially become mates. Interestingly, we also see two brief flashes of Kenai’s ruthless side under duress. He straight up charges Nita to protect Koda before he recognizes her, and it’s implied his life or death struggle with Atka was heading towards a very dangerous place once Atka pushed him far enough, before Nita snapped him out of it. They’re easy-to-miss details, but they’re another good bit of character continuity; a reminder that Kenai is a nice guy now, but he’s also a former hunter and he does have it in him to kill.

Brother Bear 2 Kenai and Koda 3

While Koda served as Kenai’s plucky bear cub guide in the original film, he slots rather neatly into the role of kid sidekick in this film. Koda has grown a year older, but he’s still a nice, lovable kid. He’s easily excitable, friendly to others, chatty to a fault, and often mischievous. Endlessly curious, he loves to seek out adventure, have new experiences and make new friends, so he’s quick to strike up a rapport with Nita when she joins him and Kenai for the week. Kenai and Koda’s unlikely friendship that gradually morphed into a sibling bond was the heart and soul of the original film, and to my delight it’s still adorable here, arguably even more so since they’ve only grown closer over a year. Koda winds up putting the group in grave danger at least twice during the last act, and from a writing perspective, I really appreciate the way this shakes things up. In the previous film, Kenai was the source of nearly every problem that occurred and spent most of the film cleaning up his own mess. But Kenai’s redemption arc is complete now and he’s grown past all that, generally making better decisions these days. So “Brother Bear 2” shines some light on Koda’s personality flaws and fleshes out his character. The second half of the film emphasizes the fact that Koda is very young, the youngest of the five main characters. Koda’s youthful outlook on the world is generally endearing, and in some ways it made it easier for him to forgive Kenai for his part in his mom’s death in the last movie, but as you would expect, there are some downsides to it.

Koda struggles with complex and mature concepts, so he can be naive and short-sighted. He also tends to talk before he thinks, so he can be insensitive at times, like when he babbles on about how Nita is probably never gonna get her amulet back from the raccoons, or when he keeps teasing Nita about her fear of the water, not even noticing how much it bothers her, until Kenai snaps at him to stop. Despite making good friends with her at first, Koda eventually grows jealous of Nita when Kenai spends so much time bonding with her that Koda becomes a forgotten third wheel, and grows insecure about the possibility that Kenai might want to return to the human world with her. A younger kid feeling left out and jealous when their big sibling doesn’t have as much time for them anymore is hardly a new plot development, but it makes sense for Koda’s character. Being completely alone has always been a deep insecurity of his, it’s why he clung to Kenai as quickly as he did when they met, and now that his mother is dead with Kenai filling in for her, it seems like an uncomfortable possibility to him. Once their friendship is reaffirmed, Koda comes to regret his bitterness when he realizes how much Kenai really loves Nita. Kenai has made sacrifices so he can live a happy life, and now Koda would like to do the same. He’s willing to let Kenai go and strike out on his own so Kenai can be with Nita, even if Kenai would never accept that. Koda overcoming his largest flaw for his brother’s sake is another nice testament to their friendship and how much these two care about each other.

Brother Bear 2 Rutt and Tuke 3

The Canadian moose brothers, Rutt and Tuke, are given larger roles in this movie – where before they were minor characters, they’ve now been upgraded to supporting characters – and they more than earn the change. In this film, it feels like Rutt and Tuke are fully integrated into the “Brother Bear” universe in a way that they weren’t quite before. We get to learn more about them as individuals and how the pair sometimes clash. Namely, Tuke is the laddish, jockish brother who’s more easily outgoing, while Rutt is the sensitive, socially awkward brother who stumbles over himself more. We get to see more of their unconventional friendship with Kenai and Koda. The moose love to tease Kenai and have a soft spot for little Koda, but over the course of a year, the bear bros have become their closest friends. They keep Kenai and Koda’s secrets, and the bears are usually the ones they choose to confide in with their problems. In this case, its mating season and they’d like to impress a pair of moosettes, Anda and Kata, except for one problem – they’re losers. Rutt and Tuke continue to do a fine job serving as comedic foils to Kenai and Koda in their rather silly, hilarious subplot (they really are a pair of goofs). They finally manage to win the girls over and briefly have a bout of sibling rivalry, competing over their attention, before they finally snap out of it. Their character expansion is complete when, after staying on the sidelines for two movies, Rutt and Tuke finally get involved in the main action in the last act to repay the bears. Despite their usual characterization as lovable cowards, when Koda is in danger, Rutt and Tuke don’t waste any time following Kenai to the human village to fight off hunters and rescue him.

It’s a pretty common practice in a Disney sequel to insert a new character in a protagonist’s background where they obviously didn’t exist before, like Forte in “The Enchanted Christmas” or the Outlanders in “The Lion King 2”. Nita is a pretty minor example of a retcon – a girl Kenai knew as a kid who lived away from his village – so she works naturally and doesn’t cause any conflicts with the original film. It takes a while to get used to Nita, particularly since her introductory scenes are the weakest in the film with two very annoying bridesmaids (every minute of screentime they get is one minute too many) and dialogue recycled from “Pochaontas”, but she’s quickly grows on you as a likable character. Nita is a spunky, strong-willed and fun-loving tomboy of a young woman who’s about to be paired off in an arranged marriage, but the great spirits won’t bless her marriage yet because she still has unfinished business with Kenai, so she seeks out her old childhood friend for help. Nita is under a lot of stress currently and she’s the type to get really worked up over a problem, so she initially comes off as rather bossy, but she loosens up and lets herself have fun on the trip over time. Due to the unpredictable nature of forest life, Nita quickly finds herself having to adapt to disarray, disorder and things not going to plan.

Something that really helps the audience to gain sympathy for Nita is her fear of water. Nita almost drowned as a girl, an accident she never really got over, and when Kenai finds out he promises to help her face it and move past it. The scene when he does so is probably one of the sweetest moments in the movie. As she and Kenai learn more about each other’s adult selves and rebuild their friendship, sharing several zany adventures, they start to rekindle old feelings for each other, and Nita realizes the reason she can’t marry Atka is because Kenai is the man for her – who she has come to know and love so much more intimately than Atka. Kenai and Nita have a surprisingly good amount of chemistry. Like Robin Hood and Maid Marian, the fact that they have history gives the film something to build off of, and they manage to bring out the best and the worst in each other throughout the trip. In the second half of the film, both of them have a dilemma of whether they should act on their feelings or not (which are clearly reciprocated), and how they would even accommodate each other if they did, since Kenai is now a completely different species and has a commitment to Koda. It seems that no matter what they do, someone is going to be unhappy. Nita ultimately chooses to follow her heart and have the great spirits turn her into a bear so she can live with Kenai and Koda and the rest of her friends in the forest.

Brother Bear 2 Nita

“Brother Bear 2” is one of the better Disney sequels when it comes to the animation. It successfully nails the first film’s art style and provides some gorgeous scenery of the Alaskan wilderness, Kenai and Koda’s home in the mountains, which makes it a comforting and familiar world to return to. In addition to the backgrounds, the character movements are always spry and fluid, and there are a few times when the animators go humorously off-model for comedic effect, finding a nice balance between the photo-realism of nature and the exaggerated silliness of a cartoon. Where the animation usually falters is the integration of 3-D objects into a 2-D film, which is even more conspicuous than usual: like the pinecones the raccoons pelt the bears with, or the odd shot of a rushing waterfall. Keeping with Disney’s curious yet charismatic foray into the country music genre in the mid-to-late 2000’s, Melissa Etheridge and Josh Kelly perform the songs for this movie and they provide an enjoyable selection. Like what’s usually the case for me when it comes to country music, I prefer the upbeat songs in this movie, like the raucous main theme, “Welcome To This Day”, and the harmonic duet in “Feels Just Like Home”, which helps to pack an extra punch into Kenai and Nita’s bonding montage. By contrast, the short-lived “It Will Be Me” is probably the blandest song in the movie. Dave Metzger writes the score for the film and he does a fine if largely unremarkable job of elevating the emotions of the film. Easily the highlight of the score is Nita’s transformation, a beautiful instrumental variation of “Welcome To This Day” that contains an unexpected callback to Phil Collins’ “Transformation”.

While “Brother Bear” wrapped up its story in a very satisfying fashion and “Brother Bear 2” doesn’t actually need to exist, I’m glad that it does: to give these characters an extra bit of closure and develop them even further. For that reason, it’s one of the few Disney sequels that rests in my collection.

Rating: 8/10.

Side-Notes:

Brother Bear 2 Kenai and Koda 2

* Tug still doesn’t quite understand ‘personal space‘.

* Heh, remember when Kenai was first turned into a bear and he spent days sulking about that? Looking back on it, he got off easy. He had to part ways with his older brother and his former home, but he also gained a new younger brother, found many new friends in the forest, and eventually married a wonderful wife. It’s a pretty fair trade. By comparison, look what happened to other animated antagonists who committed similar offenses and never repented like Kenai did. Sharptooth was crushed to death under a huge boulder and drowned, Man got to burn alive in a forest fire of his own making, and Scar was torn apart and eaten alive by hyenas before his remains were burned up in a fire.

* “They say in all the villages, you are the wisest shaman” “It’s sha-woman. Wise and man don’t even belong in the same sentence!” Yikes.

* “So, the ice cracked out from right under you, huh? Are you sure you haven’t put on a pounds? C’mon, girl to girl?” “No, my weight’s been constant” “Hmmph, well lucky you, Ms. Constant Weight”

* “What? What are they saying?” “Don’t interrupt, it ain’t all about you!”

* “But right after that, buddy, we’ll race down to Crowberry Ridge, just the two of us” “Pinky swear?” “Pinky swear”

* “I told him ‘you better not do that, cause you don’t know what’s in there’, but he did – cause you can’t tell Kenai nothing” Where is the lie though? It’s his main character flaw, and the reason the entire first movie happened.

* “Ugh, this is stupid” I know, isn’t it great?

* “Touch not those fair moosettes!” “Yeah, you’re gonna have to go through us if you want them!” “You’ll just have to kill us, eh!” “What?! No, no that!” “Oh, right! Well, maybe not kill us, just… push us down or something?”

* Winnie the Pooh reference.

* “It’s gone! The amulet’s gone!” “That’s cause there ain’t a better thief than the masked bandit! You might as well abandon all hope of seeing that amulet again. The ice age will end before you get it back”

* Girl, you are so dead.

* “What, this is your plan?!Comforting, isn’t it?

* Stay classy, Disney.

* I really like the “Brother Bear” universe. It’s very weird: it’s a world where dead people can turn living people into bears, Canadian moose angst over their empty love lives, animals sometimes ride mammoths and human women can fall in love with half-human bears. But it never once feels ashamed of that weirdness, and I respect that.

* “Would you care to join us for a few twigs?” “No thanks, we just ate- OW!”

* “Makes sense to me” “That doesn’t make any sense. That’s way out of the way and there’s way too much ‘up’ and not enough ‘down'” Never change Koda.

* Bear pouting.

* Did Koda try to kill to Nita? Cause it looks like he tried to kill Nita. Why is everyone in the “Brother Bear” universe so murderous?

* “Now I realize there’s so much more to learn! I’m ready for the world, not scared of letting go! Now I realize there’s so much more to feel, and my heart knows it’s real! The part of me so long forgotten is calling and this feels like home, home, home, feels just like home!”

* “My own brother ditched me for a babe, eh. Well, actually two really, really hot babes” The fact that a moose said that line only makes it even funnier.

* Koda and Nita bring up the topic of Koda’s mom and the camera pans over to Kenai looking forlorn. It’s left ambiguous whether he’s sad about Nita or Koda’s mom or both at the same time, and I appreciate that.

* Koda decides to confide to his mom about how depressed Kenai feels over Nita, but why he think she would care about that though? Obviously, Koda and the audience would care, but aside from Kenai stepping up and taking care of her son, mama bear has absolutely zero reasons to care about Kenai’s state of mind. In fact, she has negative reasons.

* Never change, you two.

* “Daddy, I’m so confused” I should expect so, since you’re falling in love with a freaking bear. Speaking of which, Atka got dumped for a bear, ha. He’s never gonna live that down.

* I was not expecting to see blood in this movie, let alone Kenai’s blood from being shoved off a cliff. Ouch.

* Bear wedding!

* You can see all of Kenai and Nita’s close friends at their wedding, which warms the heart. You know who I don’t see though? Denahi, Kenai’s brother who is not dead. Kenai snubbed him for an invitation, and that’s just cold, bro.

* Daw, good for you two.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Brother Bear 2 Rutt and Tuke 4

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Alice In Wonderland (1951) Review

Alice In Wonderland Poster

“Alice In Wonderland” is another of Disney’s offerings from the silver era, an anthology film based on the works of Lewis Carroll. “Alice Of Wonderland” tells the surreal story of a London schoolgirl who follows a white mysterious rabbit down an impossibly deep rabbit hole, tumbling into a world of nonsense and madness, which she spends the rest of the film wandering around. I will admit I’m not as fond of this movie as some of the other releases from Disney’s silver era. I was pretty critical of “Bambi” for having a plot that was a tad too thin for a feature film and having very little significant conflict, feeling as though it was going through the motions for much of the film. “Alice In Wonderland” has a similar problem, though it’s noticeably worse here. A little girl wandering from place to place, following a walking macguffin and encountering quirky characters who confuse and confound her with purposely weird, circular logic sounds like a good idea for a thirty minute short film, but when you stretch that rather thin premise out to seventy-five minutes, at some point it starts to drag. My attention usually starts to wane during the tepid second act, especially around the time Alice attends the Mad-Hatter’s Un-Birthday party, though my interest always starts to pick up again when Alice gets lost in the Tulgey woods and has something of a breakdown.

Another thing I’d like to point out about the film is that it feels quite similar to “Peter Pan“. You’ve got a fanciful, inquisitive young girl who’s unhappy with her life and wants to escape into a world of imagination. She gets her wish and for a short while it feels like a paradise, but she’s quickly overwhelmed by how harsh and alien everything is, eventually craving her old life at home by the end, with the implication that she dreamed up the whole adventure. Alice and Wendy even share the same voice actress, Kathryn Beaumont. Comparing “Alice In Wonderland” to “Peter Pan” isn’t exactly fair, since “Alice” actually came first by two years, but between the two movies I’d say the latter film comes out ahead, by having a stronger three-act structure, more likable characters and a greater villainous presence. Still, something I enjoy about “Alice In Wonderland” is how psychedelic it is. Once you’re aware the whole movie is a figment of Alice’s imagination, in hindsight, the film does a great job of a simulating what the rambling flow of a dream is like when you’re experiencing it. There are bizarre and abstract concepts that are presented matter-of-factly, conversations that don’t make any sense, events and locations that segue into each other without purpose or logic (eventually blending together entirely), and a growing sense of fear, dread and unease as everything in Wonderland starts to pile up and turn on Alice, her dream slipping away from her and turning into a nightmare. Alice wanted to live in a world of non-linear nonsense, and a dream is probably the one place where you can experience that.

Alice In Wonderland Flowers 2

Alice is a wistful and unassuming little girl living in quiet old England. While lamenting the doldrums of her ordinary life, she decides the world would be a lot more fun and interesting if nothing made any sense (kind of like your average Dr. Seuss book) and that she would like to live in such a world, which of course sets off the premise for the movie. Alice is somewhat lazy, slacking off when it comes to her education, but she’s also a quirky and obtuse child. She’s always thoughtful and curious when it comes to experiencing something new and mysterious. She lives in her head and is often introspective, taking every obstacle she encounters in stride and usually taking the time to try to think her way through her problems. Unfortunately for Alice, applying logic and reason to her problems won’t help her much in a place like Wonderland, and as time goes on, she has to worry about keeping her temper and frustrations in check, lest they trip her up. Alice’s character arc is your classic ‘be careful what you wish for’ aesop. Initially she finds the random nonsense of Wonderland zany and endearing, but eventually it becomes frustrating and intimidating. Nobody listens to her, the locals are at best indifferent to her and at worst hostile, she’s far away from home, nobody knows where she went, and by the last act, she’s lost in a labyrinth of insanity that she will never find her way out of and completely overwhelmed. Alice finally starts to unravel during her song, “Very Good Advice”, and Katherine Beaumont, who had already turned in a very solid performance throughout the movie, really shows her chops as an actress during this scene.

It’s actually surprisingly difficult to talk about the side-characters in this movie, since there are so many of them and they all receive only a few minutes of screen-time at the most. Still, some of them prove to be more memorable than others. Bookending the adventure, you have Alice’s curt and comparatively more serious older sister, as well as her pet cat, Dinah, who ranks alongside Figaro as one of the cutest kittens I’ve seen in the Disney canon. Alice’s sister is purposely bland and strict to illustrate why Alice would have a desire to escape into a world of whimsy for a while (she’s not even given a name), but I still find myself growing curious about their relationship and what their life at home is like. The White Rabbit is probably one of the most quintessential examples of a walking macguffin in the world of literature. Alice’s decision to follow him down his rabbit hole is what sets off the movie’s wandering plot and she tries to stay on his tail for the rest of the film to satisfy her curiosity, but there’s nothing really extraordinary about him (at least no more so than the other citizens of Wonderland) and there doesn’t have to be. The White Rabbit is a neutral character. He’s high-strung and always seems to be on the go, since he has a poor sense of punctuality and he’s frequently delayed by Alice and her friends. Compared to some of the other inhabitants of Wonderland, the White Rabbit is fairly sensible and easily annoyed by the antics of Dodo and the Mad Hatter. The mystery of his enigmatic identity is finally solved during the film’s climax, when we learn he’s a member of the Red Queen’s court and the queen’s herald. The reason he was so stressed throughout the movie is because the queen looks for any excuse to chop her subjects’ heads off. No one would want to be late for an appointment with her.

Alice In Wonderland Mad Hatter And The March Hare

One of the first figures Alice encounters in Wonderland, and by far one of the nicest, is the sentient, talking doorknob that guards the entrance to the realm. At first glance, he seems a bit dry and stuffy, but he quickly reveals himself to be humorous and good-natured. He always tries to be gentle with Alice because of her age, and he offers her some advice that is actually helpful about how the world works – she wouldn’t be getting a lot of that in this movie. Dodo is easily my favorite of Wonderland’s inhabitants, which surprises me, since he’s only in this movie for about five minutes. I think it’s partially because his character wouldn’t feel out of place in a “Winnie The Pooh” movie. Dodo is a fairly chatty, easygoing and genial older sailor who lives by the beach in Wonderland. He always makes for good company and he likes to take charge of a situation with his not-so-helpful life experience. He’s so affable that it’s hard to hold it against him when his solution to dealing with a giant Alice is a to try to destroy the White Rabbit’s house (and since we never saw the outcome of that, something tells me the Rabbit managed to save neck but not his humble abode). Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are odd, even by Wonderland standards. They’re a pair of Scottish twins, as well as a set of balding manchildren, who hold Alice up to tell her a surprisingly dark story about a walrus, a carpenter and some oysters (spoiler alert: the oysters die). The twins seem quite sinister at times, but they’re mostly harmless and more annoying than anything. Regrettably, Alice didn’t seem to enjoy their oyster story as much as the audience did.

While wandering through the forest in Wonderland, shrunk down to tiny size, Alice encounters a field of singing flowers, something she had imagined earlier in the film. Since Alice is British, she envisions them all as a group of haughty, dignified, upper-class ladies, who seem friendly and welcoming at first, letting Alice sing in their chorus. But they turn hostile as soon as they realize she’s a commoner, evicting her and humiliating her on the way out. It figures even in a place like Wonderland you still have your basic class snobs. One of the most entertaining scenes in the film is the bizarre two-hander between Alice and a prickly, neon caterpillar. The caterpillar in question pretty much epitomizes the circular troll logic that most of the characters in Wonderland operate on, and he has a real attitude to him too. He leads Alice back and forth with mind games, apparently without the intention to do so, and he grows more and more flustered and frustrated with her as she fails to keep up. He’s always honest about what he thinks, and he’s also condescending, standoffish, and hypocritical, since he warns Alice to control her temper while failing to keep his own in check. But, like the Doorknob, he’s one of the only characters in this movie to give Alice some advice that’s even remotely helpful. He helps her to get back to regular normal size, and keeping her emotions in check is something that’s crucial for Alice to do when she faces the Queen of Hearts later on, so he wasn’t all bad. Unlike certain cats.

Alice In Wonderland The Queen

The Mad Hatter and the March Hare are considered to be stark-raving mad, even by Wonderland standards. They ramble on endlessly, they keep to themselves in their own stretch of the forest, they entertain themselves by celebrating every day that is not their birthday (all three-hundred and sixty-four days), and they’re endlessly destructive. They’re a pair of contrarians who you can always count on to do the opposite of what they’re asked, and the most unhelpful thing possible at the time. The Mad Hatter and the March Hare are probably considered the signature characters of this movie, being pure comic relief, and I also consider them to be two of the blandest characters, since there’s really not much to them other than being wacky or complete insane. The Cheshire Cat is the second largest antagonist in the film and is basically a colossal prick. There’s an unsettling quality to this character that he’s well aware of and delights in. Neither Alice nor the audience are ever really sure how much they should trust him or take his word at his face value, and it would be in one’s best interest not to trust him at all. The Cheshire Cat is a lazy trickster and troublemaker who can sometimes make himself invisible. He loves chaos and mischief, and he steers Alice in whatever direction he can send her that will get her into trouble. He’s apathetic to a fault, and occasionally cruel, caring only about his pranks and paying zero heed to the potential consequences. In that regard, he has a few sociopathic traits. The cat finally crosses into full-on antagonistic territory in the last act, when he keeps trying to get Alice in trouble with the Queen of Hearts, who he knows will kill her at any opportunity, because it amuses him.

The Queen of Hearts is the final boss in Wonderland and fittingly the most dangerous antagonist. While her subjects are all playing cards, the Queen of Hearts and her husband are both human, and she towers over them all. She’s bossy and boisterous, she demands absolute respect from the people around her, and she loves attention. Basically, she’s a royal tyrant on a power trip (who indulges in shamelessly rigged croquet). Almost everyone Alice has met up to this point has been condescending, demanding, unreasonable or unstable, but they haven’t proved to be anything more than a nuisance to her. What makes the Queen of Hearts extra volatile isn’t just the power she wields, but the fact that she turns Alice’s own character flaw against her. Alice is forced to try to keep her temper in check and walk on glass around her, or else she’ll be killed – because the queen does enjoy executing people and she looks for any excuse to do. Her tiny henpecked husband, the far more docile King of Hearts, does try to reign her in and keep her merciful but he can only do so much. Of course, Alice’s efforts prove for naught because of the Cheshire Cat, and after a trial in kangaroo court that was clearly just for the show, the final few minutes of the movie involve Alice having to run for her life from this crazy woman and her minions as her entire dream world unravels around her. Verna Felton is bombastically sublime as the over-the-top Queen of Hearts, and all of her scenes are somehow comedic and wrought with the tension, making them some of the best in the film.

Alice In Wonderland Cheshire Cat 2

When it comes to the animation, “Alice In Wonderland” is a very cozy and visually appealing film that plays things fairly safe. You won’t find many scenes that really go wild with the limits of the medium, but the film always brings its ideas and set-pieces to life with well-crafted aplomb, and there are some lovely, gentle eyesights like the scene early on where Alice frolics in the meadow. I find my favorite shots in the film are the various creative transitions, like a room full of Alice’s tears transforming into a choppy, open sea, or the various landscapes of the Tulgey Woods melting into each other. The most complex and impressive feat of animation in the movie is the march of the cards sequence, when the queen makes her entrance proceeded by hundreds of her card guards. The movie usually has a very stark and vivid color palette for Wonderland, with purple and red being the two most prominent color schemes in Alice’s land of imagination, which makes for a very effective and immediately noticeable contrast when the movie stifles and subdues its boisterous colors during the Cheshire Cat’s scenes, creating a queasy and uneasy mood for the troublemaker. “Alice In Wonderland” has a solid soundtrack of fun, jaunty songs that aren’t entirely memorable. The title song sets up the childlike, inquisitive tone for the movie; Kathryne Beaumont turns in a mesmerizing performance as always in her ‘I Want’ song, “A World Of My Own”; “The Walrus and the Carpenter” is a silly song by the twins that stretches on for quite a while and somehow never drags; “The Golden Afternoon” is pleasant to the ears; “Very Good Advice” stabs you in the heart with some unexpected feels; and “Painting The Roses Red” is more infectious than it ought to be.

In the pantheon of Disney canon films from the silver era, “Alice In Wonderland” lands more on the decent side, though that’s mainly because the middle act stretches on for too long until it drags. For the most part, I like this movie and while I wouldn’t want every Disney film to be like it, I think it was an interesting divergence from the norm for the studio to make a film that was mostly surreal, amiable silliness.

Rating: 7/10.

Side-Notes:

Alice In Wonderland Dodo

* The very best thing to come out of the Victorian era was easily the fashion. Twas classy.

* “There’d be new birds, lots of nice and friendly howdy-do birds! Everyone would have a dozen bluebirds, within that world of my own!”

* “Hmm, better look first. For if one drinks too much from a box marked ‘poison’ it’s almost certain to disagree with one sooner or later” “Beg pardon?” “I was just giving myself some good advice”.

* “Oh, I do wish I hadn’t cried so much” We’ve all been there, Alice.

* “Please help me! Um, pardon me, but would you mind helping me, please? Yoo-hoo. Yoo-hoo! Help me. Please! Won’t you… Help me!” Alice, dear, no one cares about you.

* “Well, it’s been nice meeting you. Goodbye” That’s cold, girl.

* Well, that was a surprisingly sinister look from two non-villainous characters.

* “The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of other things! Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings! And why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings! Calloo-Callay No work today! We’re cabbages and kings!”

* EVIL!!!

* * I bet you thought the oysters’ cuteness factor would protect them. Nope, they get straight up eaten.

* “That was a very sad story” Aye and there’s a moral to it” “Oh yes, a very good moral. If you happen to be an oyster” Heh, that’s a good bit of foreshadowing. The lesson of that fable, about how being too curious and blindly wandering into things can get you into some serious trouble, flew right over Alice’s head. She’s just going to have to learn the hard way during “Very Good Advice”.

* “Poor Bill” Poor dead Bill.

* Sassy Alice.

* “There are dog and caterpillars and the copper centipede, where the lazy daisies love the very peaceful life they lead. You can learn a lot of things from the flowers, for especially in the month of June, there’s a wealth of happiness and romance, all in the golden afternoon!”

* Alice does not sound like Alice during this song.

* No flower lady, that’s very inappropriate!

* It was at this point that Alice started to worry about getting lung cancer from second hand smoke.

* “By the way, I have a few more helpful hints. One side will make you grow taller!” The other side of what?!” “And the other side will make you grow shorter!” “The other side of what?!” “THE MUSHROOM Of COURSE!” TRIGGERED.

* Alice doesn’t find it weird or creepy that Cheshire Cat somehow knows she’s looking for the White Rabbit? Most people would immediately assume he’s been spying on her.

* “Thank you, I think I shall visit him” “Of course, he’s mad too” “Oh, but I don’t want to go among mad people!” Girl, it’s way too late for that.

* “Goodness, if the people here are all like that… I must try not to upset them!” Heh, more foreshadowing.

* Well, that watch has certainly been properly destroyed fixed!

* “That was the stupidest tea party I’ve ever been to in all my life!” The return of sassy Alice.

* EVIL!!!

* “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it. Will I ever learn to do the things I should? I went along my merry way and I never stopped to reason. I should have known there’d be a price to pay… someday… someday”

* I noticed Alice never thanked the Cheshire Cat for showing her the way out of the woods.

* “The Queen she likes ’em red, if she saw white instead, she’d raise a fuss and each of us would quickly lose his head! So we’re painting the roses red!” Alice, don’t get involved in this business!

* EVIL!!!

* “Never mind all that! Get to the part where I lose my temper”.

* “That’s very important. Jury, write that down!” “Um, unimportant, your majesty means of course” “SILENCE!!!

* We feel your pain Alice, we all do.

* “And as for you, your majesty! Your majesty indeed. Why, you’re no queen! You’re just a fat, pompous, bad-tempered old tyrant!”

* Alice’s dream really is turning on her. The mushrooms have never had an embarrassing and inconvenient time limit before.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Alice In Wonderland Walrus

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Cinderella (1950) Review

Cinderella Poster

Out of the three classic girls, Cinderella often serves as the face of the Disney princess franchise, which makes sense when you think about it. Cinderella isn’t the first Disney princess or the one who established the template (that would be Snow White), but she did codify it and her story feels even more ‘princessy’. Whether it was intended to be or not, “Cinderella” feels like a wish-fulfillment fantasy. You have this lonely, abused, downtrodden girl who gets to live out her dream of attending a classy royal ball, escape her awful, abusive family and happily elope with her handsome prince, with the help of her mice friends and a little magic. As a morality tale, “Cinderella” touts the virtue of kindness and compassion, since Cindy’s kindness and consideration to others ultimately comes back around to her a big way when her friends reciprocate it. The film also states to never give up hope in a bad situation, because there’s always a chance things can get better. While I’m not sure “Cinderella” is a stronger film than “Snow White“, I would say it has a broader appeal towards it’s target demographic – imaginative little girls. I can easily see why Cindy was picked as the leader of the princesses. If I do have one complaint about the film, it’s that I think the Fairy Godmother’s appearance in the eleventh hour, to help out Cinderella, could have been set up better. It happens forty-five minutes into the movie, and up until now there’s been no indication that magic even exists in this universe. Perhaps Cindy could have admitted to her friends, early in the film, that she believed in fairies even if the idea was a bit silly, and that belief would pay off later in the movie.

Cinderella Dolled Up 2

Cinderella is a kind, polite, and hard-working young lady. She’s sassy and witty, and at times sarcastic, but also a friend to all living things – as evidenced by her taking the time to protect the mice in her home from the family pet and knit them clothes to keep them warm. As a result, the mice love her and support her and Cinderella treats them as her confidants. She also possesses some of the most important traits in a Disney princess – earnestness, humility, dedication and determination. Since Cinderella is basically the unpaid help of her estate, and the lightning rod for her family’s nastiness, she’s soft-spoken, demure, and submissive whenever she’s around them – years of being emotionally beaten down by Lady Tremaine has taught her to know her place in the home – but she still tries to be independent and assert herself however far she can. Cinderella has a very positive outlook on life, though interestingly it’s not just because she’s pure of heart like Snow White. The film implies it’s a coping mechanism. Cinderella is well aware that her life is pretty awful, you can tell by the way she snaps at Lucifer and the passive-aggressive way she handles her relatives. She must also be very lonely, since she’s not allowed to have any friends, any life outside of the home, or any support system besides the animals. If Cindy didn’t try to stay optimistic about things, she would probably be terribly depressed. In fact, an arc Cinderella has over the course of the movie is realizing just how much her step-family actually hates her, and how there’s no limits to the depths they will sink to.

She finally reaches her breaking point of emotional stamina when her step-sisters tear apart a dress that belonged to her dead mother right in front of her and ruin her chances of getting to be a normal girl for the night, just to spite her. That bit of viciousness reduces her to tears. Another rare and distressing example of Cinderella losing her composure is when Lady Tremaine decides to lock her up in her tower, and quite rightly so, since the woman just went one step further from being an abusive mom and decided to basically kidnap her and hold her hostage for the rest of her (possibly very short) life. What Cinderella wants in this film – her heart’s desire – is her freedom and a better life for herself, but if she can’t have that, she would settle for a night of escape, a night to have fun, socialize and just be normal for a change. The royal ball is that opportunity for her, and she gets to live her dream with her friends’ help. Unlike a few of the other princesses, finding love and meeting a man was never actually one of Cindy’s life goals in this movie, that was just a sweet bonus that came with her night of fun and classiness. In fact, one of Cindy’s funnier moments is when she realizes she had been flirting with royalty all night, and she promptly tunes out everything around her in a lovesick daze. Despite her stepmother’s attempts to keep them apart, Cinderella reunites with her prince after the ball and for the first time in her life, she has somewhere else to go. Cinderella wisely gets the hell out of that house first chance she gets and doesn’t look back, moving in with Prince Charming at the palace.

Cinderella Jaq And Gus

Cinderella’s two best friends and most helpful allies are Jaq and Gus, a pair of tiny anthropomorphic mice with speech impediments. Jaq and Gus are your classic comedy duo who compliment each other well. Jaq is the clever, street-smart one, who’s usually very assertive and the leader of the mice. Gus is the chubby, naive newcomer who’s a bit slow and seems to be under the impression he’s tougher than he actually is, but makes up for it by having a large heart. I actually wondered a few times how old Gus is supposed to be compared to the other mice, since he seems to be the most naive about how the food chain works and he has the most trouble speaking English. Since Gus doesn’t have the most street smarts, Jaq quickly takes up a protector role. The mice have a good deal of sympathy for Cinderella’s problems and are very loyal to her; Jaq and Gus in particular often have to work around the family pet, Lucifer, and outsmart him to give her a helping hand. You know how cats are usually stereotyped in the media as evil, fat, lazy moochers? Lucifer embodies every single one of those stereotypes, even more than Garfield does, and I kind of love him for that. He’s a non-verbal character but that doesn’t stop him from having a ton of personality, and I think the cat gets the most wild, varied and expressive character animation in the movie. Lucifer is spoiled, sneaky, mischievous, calculating, spiteful and a troublemaker. Like the step-sisters, he knows he can mistreat Cindy and get away with it, and he often serves as a predator to the mice characters. The only thing Lucifer fears is the other family pet, Bruno the hound, who may or may not do him in in the climax.

I’ve suggested before that some of the most loathsome Disney villains are the underplayed, non-magical ones that can actually exist in the real world. Cinderella’s stepmother, Lady Tremaine, is a fairly accurate depiction of a narcissist, a manipulator and an emotional abuser. She pours on the sugary sweet, false charm and dignified politeness while she has company, but behind closed doors she shows her true colors as an icy, spiteful, superficial woman. Lady Tremaine is what you would call, in non-elegant terms, a gold-digger. She only married her late husband for his money, and she has no problem encouraging her daughters to do the same, exploiting them for more power and status. She hates Cinderella and is deeply jealous of her for her natural beauty (that exceeds that of her own biological children) and her inheritance, so she turned her into the family’s house slave; bullying her and manipulating her to keep Cindy in line, and attempting at every opportunity to break her spirit. This is what truly makes Lady Tremaine a frightening antagonist and a detestable one – the notion that someone could hate their own family member that much and try that hard to keep them under their heel (to the point of kidnapping them). The worst part is this bitch gets off scot free for everything. She receives no comeuppance for abusing her kids for over a decade, and the worst thing that happens to her by the end is that she doesn’t get to pimp her daughters out for money. It would take another two installments of this franchise for Lady Tremaine to get her due.

Anastasia and Drizella are Cinderella’s step-sisters and the ugly siblings of the fable. In contrast to Cinderella’s graceful, natural beauty reflecting her kind heart, Anastasia and Drizella love to doll themselves up and put on airs, but no matter what they do they remain incredibly unattractive, their outward appearance matching their unattractive personalities. The hotheaded duo are whiny, catty, abusive and cruel, not unlike their mother but without her cool head and calculated foresight. I mentioned that Lady Tremaine went out of her way to make her stepdaughter miserable and did a real number on Cinderella. She didn’t really do her own daughters any favors either, swinging hard to the other extreme with them and stunting their development. From what we see, Anastasia and Drizella have no talents, no prospects, no interests, no friends outside the family, and no future. They’re also still spoiled, bratty children inside, despite the fact they’re going to be grown women real soon, because they’re never had any reason to grow up and they’ve always been overly dependent on Cinderella for labor and their mother to give them what they want. Without Cinderella in their lives to take advantage of, the pair of them are nothing really and are pretty pathetic (something the sequels to this movie expand on). If they weren’t such awful people, they would almost be sympathetic, since again their mother taught them to definite themselves around their looks and their ability to snag themselves a man.

Cinderella The Tremaines

Regarding the king of the unnamed kingdom, Prince Charming’s father, this dude is crazy. The aging monarch is a rather bossy and hotheaded man who’s growing lonely in his old age and wants his boy to give him some grandkids. He doesn’t really care if Prince Charming wants a wife or children, he’s going to pressure him into it anyway. He also threatens his subordinate, the Grand Duke, quite often and tries to lop his head off with a sword when he accuses him of treason. I feel like in a different movie this character would probably be portrayed as an antagonist, but since he’s setting Cindy and Prince Charming up and he’s not as bad as Lady Tremaine, he counts as a good guy. In any case, Cinderella has certainly gained an eccentric and interesting in-law, and I curiously wonder if there were any more arguments to come for the prince and his papa about the king’s meddling. The king’s adviser and right hand man, the Grand Duke, fits the mold that other Disney characters like Sebastian, Cogsworth, and Zazu fill – the smug, stuffy servant who spends most of the movie being bossed around and is somewhat taken for granted. The Grand Duke doesn’t really believe in love at first sight and doesn’t approve of the king’s plan, but he goes along with it regardless, because otherwise he might lose his job and possibly his head. Needless to say, he’s quite stressed. In another cool example of an actor playing a double role, Luis Van Rooten voices both characters and you honestly won’t even notice.

Prince Charming (referred to only as ‘the Prince’ in the film) has two scenes and like several of the other classic princes, he’s a bit of an enigma. Strangely enough, the movie seems more interested in fleshing out his dad’s personality than his, so we can have a matchmaking dad subplot. From what we do learn, Prince Charming is a very courageous and accomplished individual, as well as somewhat rebellious, since he’s always resisted his dad’s meddling and given him trouble in the past. The Prince also doesn’t see the world through social divides. He may be the kingdom’s most eligible bachelor, but he won’t settle for marrying a rich but annoyingly superficial woman, and he has no problem marrying a scullery maid (who’s also technically rich?). Cinderella catches his eye precisely because she was uninterested in the pomp and circumstance of the ball, and when Prince Charming realizes she never even knew he was royalty and had no intention of wooing him for his wealth, he likes her even more. Thus, for the remainder of the movie, he’s determined to see his runaway love again. Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother is a one-scene wonder, and the biggest mystery in the film when it comes to the world of fairy godmothers and the rules of magic. From what we see of her, she’s kindhearted, doting, and a bit absent-minded; very much an elderly mother figure. It’s easy to wonder why she didn’t try to help improve Cinderella’s home life as well as give her that trip to the ball, but I’m pretty sure did. She let her keep her magical glass slippers. Cindy assumed they were just a memento of the best night of her life, but I bet she was real glad she kept one of those babies the following morning.

Cinderella So This Is Love

The animation in “Cinderella” is tasteful, exquisite and refined, as you would expect for a silver era Disney princess film. The fact that the film stars a number of small animal characters allows the studio to have fun with their sense of scale once more – following the action from a mouse’s point-of-view several times, as Jaq and Gus tumble down several stories between the walls of the manor, mount a rescue mission up hundreds of never-ending stairs, and try to fend off a massive Lucifer. Something I also find unique about the movie is the way animators constantly manipulate the shadows and the shading to set the mood: such as the Evil Stepmother’s introduction, when the animators put off revealing her face for as long as possible, or Cinderella’s night of dancing with the Prince at his castle, when the moonlight reflects off her sparkling white dress in the dark, or the death glare Lady Tremaine gives Cinderella while her back is turned. “Cinderella” doesn’t boast as many massive set-pieces as “Pinocchio” or “Bambi“, but it is a very visually stunning movie from start to finish. In fact, the sequence where the Fairy Godmother prepares Cinderella for the ball and transforms her torn pink dress into a massive, elegant white ballgown was one of Walt’s personal favorites in the canon. I already mentioned the zany character animation for Lucifer makes his scenes a delight, and the short-lived acid trip sequence in “Sing Sweet Nightingale”, as Cinderella gets lost in one of her songs, deserves a mention as well.

The soundtrack is very peaceful and understated, very much one you would expect to hear in a 1950’s film. Ilene Woods turns in a gentle, crooning, romantic performance in all of her songs, such as “Sing Sweet Nightingale”, “So This Is Love”, and “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes”, which quickly becomes the main theme of the film. It takes a while to grow accustomed to the squeaky chipmunk voice all the mice have (the same ones Chip and Dale sport), but you get used to it by their surprisingly fun work song and their group reprise of “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes”. “Bippi-Boppity-Boo” is a pleasant song from Verna Felton as the Fairy Godmother gets to work transforming Cinderella and her friends, but you probably won’t be able to recall too many lyrics afterwards, since they’re all intentionally written to be nonsensical (you’ll also get a nice chuckle out of the Fairy Godmother advising Cinderella to have fun and be gay. That would have been a very different movie). Oliver Wallace’s score is noticeably grander than usual, as well as more suspenseful and action-packed; inspired by Cinderella’s noble lineage, her depressing predicament, the mice’s war with Lucifer, and the stately manner of Prince Charming’s palace. There were several moments in the mice and Lucifer scenes where Oliver’s score made the punchlines much funnier than they would have been otherwise.

I had a lot more fun than I expected revisiting this film for this review, and I think I’ve gained a new respect for “Cinderella”. It’s a cool bit of fairy tale escapism, it shows off the power of friendship, and it tells a pretty nice story about a girl escaping an abusive household. “Cinderella” was another good notch under Disney’s belt when it came to their princess franchise.

Rating: 9/10.

Side-Notes:

Cinderella The Glass Slipper

* Don’t make the same mistakes Cinderella’s papa made, children. Don’t assume that just because someone is a woman, they’re automatically going to be a great or loving parent. If he had just left well enough alone, none of this movie would have happened.

* “A dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep. In dreams you lose your heartaches, whatever you wish for, you keep. Have faith in your dreams and someday your rainbow will come smiling through. No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true”.

* Here, have this lovely shot of Cinderella creeping.

* Somehow, I get the feeling that Walt Disney really liked mice.

* This is the look of instant regret. The distraction was your idea Jaq, it’s only fair.

* “Oh please, you don’t think-” “Hold your tongue! Now, it seems we have time on our hands” “But I was only trying to-” “Silence! Time for vicious practical jokes. Perhaps we can put it to better use?”

* As much as I hate Lady Tremaine, I do like seeing her domineering side out in full force during this ‘conversation’. She never comes right out and says it, but the intent of this scene is clear. When Lady Tremaine speaks, you shut your mouth.

* This is the look of instant karma.

* “Cinderelly Cinderelly! Night and day it’s Cinderelly! Make the fire! Fix the breakfast! Wash the dishes! Do the mopping!” “And the sweeping and the dusting! They always keep her hopping!” “She go around in circles till she very, very dizzy! Still they holler-” “Keep-a busy Cinderelly!” “Yeah, keep-a busy”

* “I’ll go do the sewing!” “Leave the sewing to the women, you go get the trimmings!” Wait, is she saying boys can’t sew? That’s sexist, mouse lady.

* “These beads, I’m sick of looking at them! Trash!

* It says something about Lady Tremaine that she named her cat after the devil, and it says something about Lucifer that he lived up to it.

* Jaq and Gus nearly cut that lady’s tail off and had no regrets. I’m starting to see why they were forbidden from sewing.

* These animals collaborated to sew a human dress ten times their size to help out Cinderella and got it finished. Now that’s friendship.

* Oh my god, those dresses…

* What she says: “Goodnight“. What she means: “Remember this, girlie, and never forget your place”.

* The Fairy Godmother picks the mice to pull Cinderella’s carriage, and I swear, the family horse looks betrayed. I think he wanted to go to a classy royal ball too.

* Heh, Prince Charming is a sassy prince.

* Cinderella has never felt more classy in her life.

* You know, for some reason Disney always presents Cinderella as being more of a classical blond than she actually was on her merchandise. In the film itself, she looks more like a strawberry blond.

* “So this is love, so this is love. So this is what makes life divine. I’m all aglow, and now I know. And now I know! The key to all heaven is mine! My heart has wings and I can fly! I’ll touch every star in the sky! So this is the miracle that I’ve been dreaming of! So this is love!”

* “Somebody stop her! Quick, close the gates!” Why is everybody in this movie so eager to kidnap people?

* I know someone, somewhere ships these two dorks.

* “Why you… you traitor! TREASON! SABOTAGE! You were in league with the prince all along! IT WAS ALL A PLOT!

* As the King and the Grand Duke fall off the chandelier, the Grand Duke actually screams like Goofy.

* It was at this point that Lady Tremaine decided Cinderella had had a good run, but it was time to take care of her stepdaughter the same way she took care of her late husband.

* Forget what I said before, scaling a couple hundred giant stairs when you’re the size of a mouse (and in Gus’s case, not in the best shape) and making it to the top anyway – now that’s friendship.

* That poor, poor footman.

* ‘So my dear, have you and the prince thought about when you might be giving me grandchildren?’ ‘Actually, sire, we have talked about that and we decided we didn’t want any kids – at least, not for another decade. I hope you don’t mind’ ‘TREASON!!!’

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Cinderella The Prince's Castle

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Peter Pan (1953) Review

Peter Pan Poster 2

“Peter Pan” is another of Disney’s classic fairy tales, and the property seems like such a good fit for the studio. Ever since “Snow White“, Disney had been all about bringing whimsical fairy tales and children’s stories to life with the untapped potential of animation as a medium, and to further that trend, who better to bring to the big screen than Peter Pan, the flying boy hero? The movie involves a living legend of childhood fantasies and his fairy sidekick whisking three kids off to a land of imagination and whimsy so they can have adventures, fight pirates, and never have to face the reality of growing up. Something I enjoyed about revisiting this film was discovering just how sharp its claws could get.

When you think of dark Disney movies, “Peter Pan” isn’t something that immediately jumps to mind like “Pinocchio“, but despite having such a lighthearted concept, this movie is dark as hell. Captain Hook casually kills one of his own crew members because he didn’t like his singing voice. Tinkerbell tries to straight-up murder Wendy as soon as they get to Neverland because she got jealous of her. The local native tribe accuses the kids of kidnapping the chief’s daughter and promises to burn them all alive (along with their stuffed bear) if they don’t return her. Sometime before this movie, Peter Pan chopped off Captain Hook’s hand and fed it to a crocodile, and that crocodile still follows Hook around everyday, tormenting him, so it can try to eat the rest of him. Captain Hook tries to drown Tiger Lily, blow Peter Pan to smithereens with a bomb, and force the Darling kids to walk the plank to their watery doom. No wonder Wendy was ready to pack it up and head home after only twenty-four hours. She might not like the idea of having her own room, but the chances of her and her brothers getting shanked by something are significantly lower back in London. And the funny thing is, despite all that messed-up stuff I just listed, this movie is still toned down a lot from the original novel, where Peter Pan was a full on sociopath.

There are primarily two flaws in this movie, the first of which is glaringly obvious. I’ve mentioned before that I like how every classic Disney film feels like a product of its time and nicely encapsulates the style and attitudes of that period (like how “Pinocchio” feels exactly like a 40’s movie, and “Lady And The Tramp” feels like a 50’s movie, and “The Jungle Book” feels like a 60’s movie). There is a downside to that though. “Peter Pan’s” portrayal of Native Americans, even childhood fantasy ones, has not aged well. Like, at all. When it comes to potentially racist Disney moments, I went easy on the crows from “Dumbo” because those guys had layers and they didn’t come off as being that offensive to me. These guys though are every 1950’s cliche about ‘injuns’ and ‘redskins’ rolled into one movie, with literal flaming redskin and a whole song devoted to how they’re walking stereotypes. The end results range from cringy to goofy. Thankfully, they’re only given three scenes. The second, and less noticeable, problem “Peter Pan” has is that the movie really doesn’t make it clear if Tinkerbell’s pixie dust wore off over time (which would be sensible), or if all the main characters forgot they had powers during the last act. Like I said, the climax involves Captain Hook trying to force the kids to walk the plank, and at no point do any of them suggest trying to fly out of there. I suppose you could chalk their oversight up to the stress.

Peter Pan You Can Fly 2

Peter Pan is the living legend of children’s fairy tales, a boy hero who never has to grow up, has no responsibilities, and gets to have endless adventures in the fantasy world of Neverland. Peter is the best at what he does and he knows it, many people admire him, so Peter can be quite conceited and aloof to a fault. He’s cocky and reckless, he loves to show-off for his friends and enjoys attention from his fans, as well as riffling up Captain Hook, sometimes to detriment of the task at hand. Peter can be careless and take his friends for granted until he’s reminded how much he depends on them and their companionship. Still, he’s leader of the Lost Boys for a reason. He’s courageous, daring and reliable in a pinch, doggedly loyal and always up for adventure and discovery. He’s an excellent sword-fighter and has an uncanny talent for mimicking people, which allows him to play mind games with Captain Hook’s pirates. Most importantly, Peter has his principles. You can always hold him to his word, to the point where he’ll sometimes put honor before reason and risk his life to remain an honorable boy. Wendy, who’s just old enough to start having romantic feelings, clearly has a crush on him, and Peter, who stopped growing up right on the cusp of adolescence, clearly reciprocates them (he’s immediately annoyed when Wendy’s brothers decide to tag along and cramp his style, and pretty petulant when she decides to head home). But unfortunately, Peter is not mature enough to reciprocate them the way Wendy would like, meaning they wouldn’t ever work out. Eventually, Peter does show signs of growing up a bit by realizing he can’t always have things his way and agreeing to take Wendy home, content with the fact that both of them will always have their memories of Neverland.

The title of the film is ‘Peter Pan’ but it’s Wendy who gets the lion’s share of character development, to the point where I’ve seen people argue Wendy is the true protagonist of this movie. Wendy is a kindly and pragmatic young girl who talks a lot and often speaks matter-of-factly. She’s the cool big sister of the Darling siblings, who looks after her brothers and often dotes on the baby sibling, Michael. She’s a daydreamer who loves to get lost in a good fairy tale, dreaming with the others of having adventures in Neverland, but she’s just as easily thoughtful, responsible and at times stern, which establishes early on that her personality is quite different from Peter’s. She can also be noble with a strong moral character, even in the face of death, as the climax demonstrates. Wendy’s childhood is coming to an end, as signaled by her having to spend less time with her brothers, and she’d like to delay that for a bit by escaping into a world of fantasy. At first, it’s a dream come true, getting to soar over London with her crush, but pretty soon she’s disillusioned. Tinkerbell tries to have her killed, some mermaids bully her, Peter ignores her, the Indians are sexist towards her, pirates try to kill her and her brothers. After a while, she comes to the conclusion that Neverland ain’t all that. She also starts to realize the downsides and potential dangers of never having to grow up. Without any family or responsibilities to ground them, the kids stagnate and become a bit callous, forgetting their parents and their homes and everything but their fun and games in Neverland. That might be the kind of life Peter wants, but it’s not for her. After one last near-death experience with Captain Hook, the pair part amicably with their memories as a keepsake. Wendy doesn’t immediately grow from a girl to a woman at the end of this movie, but she does accept that growing up is alright and its a natural part of life; she’s maturing in more ways than one.

Peter Pan Following The Leader

One of the greatest surprises in the movie is Tinkerbell. Overtime, Tinkerbell has become one of Disney’s mascots and a symbol of Disney magic, so it always catches you off guard how bratty and selfish Tink was in her movie. Tinkerbell is Peter Pan’s close friend and fairy sidekick who provides Peter and the Lost Boys will her pixie dust. She carries a torch for him, and as such sees Wendy as an unwanted rival for Peter’s affections. In general, Tink is sassy, stroppy, outspoken (in spite of being mute) and spiteful. Her loyalty ultimately remains true to Peter, but she often has her own agenda in the movie and doesn’t mind going behind everyone’s backs. She sets Wendy up to be ambushed and potentially killed by the Lost Boys as soon as they get to Neverland, and later sells her out to murderous pirates to be shanghaied and marooned somewhere. Needless to say, you won’t feel that bad for her when Captain Hooks betrays her, or when she gets blown up by a bomb in the climax. Tinkerbell noticeably calms herself down in the last act of the movie, so I guess she learned her lesson about being a better friend and not letting her jealousy get the better of her, much like Peter learned not to take her for granted. The appropriately named Lost Boys are other kids like Peter who chose never to grow up, deferring to his wisdom and experience and serving as his loyal ‘soldiers’. They’re a bunch of clueless, hyperactive, mischievous boys who live for Neverland’s infinite adventures, bizarrely dressed in animal pajamas, and often get into some roughhousing from petty bickering. Despite almost killing Wendy in their first scene, they’re fairly harmless. The movie doesn’t linger too long on the implications, but it’s also a bit to sad to think about what they, like Peter, have given up and probably long since lost in favor of endless whimsy – their parents.

John is the middle child of the Darling siblings, and the intellect of the trio. He’s stout, stuffy and stoic, as a proper Brit ought to be, and well-educated, but he’s by no means a killjoy; he loves having fun and adventures as much as the other children. While Wendy is interested in seeing some mermaids and Michael is all about the pirates, John hopes to see Neverland’s Indian tribe and make some discoveries. He gets his wish. Innocent little Michael is the baby of the group, so naturally, he’s the kid who gets the most enchanted by the magic and excitement of Neverland. Michael tends to catch things the other kids don’t, like realizing ahead of time that they’re about to be ambushed by the natives, or taking pity on the family pet, Nana, and trying to give her a chance to follow them to Neverland (imagine how different this movie would have been if the Darlings had brought the dog with them). Michael is just an infant, so he doesn’t understand too much, but he still tries to help out his friends regardless, and humorously enough, he spends much of the movie lugging his stuffed bear around like a security blanket. We only get a few scenes with Mr. and Mrs. Darling, but I quite like the kids’ blustery blowhard of a father, George. He’s surprisingly hilarious and his personality reminds me a lot of Fred Flintstone’s. Despite the possible implication that George is the antagonist of his daughter’s fantasies (more on that later), ironically Wendy is the one who’s the most like their dad in personality. Unlike her brothers, Wendy only has a certain tolerance level for rubbish before she checks out – like how she tells off the natives or how when the mermaids keep picking with her, Wendy picks up a conch shell and is about to start beating some mermaid ass with it before Peter stops her (and I really wish he hadn’t). George is stern but far from unloving, and the last scene humanizes him further by suggesting that he used to be one of Peter’s Lost Boys before he chose to grow up, like Wendy did, and had a family of his own.

Peter Pan Captain Hook 2

I like the kids, but I feel like Captain Hook and his first mate, Smee, are the real stars of this movie. Captain Hook is a pirate who hates Peter Pan for slicing off his hand, and is obsessed with killing the boy and taking his revenge on him. Hook’s own crew resents him for sticking around Neverland and wasting their time trying to take out a child, instead of looting and pillaging the seven seas and spreading chaos like pirates ought to. But still, they follow him out of fear (or in Smee’s case, devotion), and considering Captain Hook’s crew is a group of brawny, burly men that says a lot about Hook. Hook has an explosive temper that often leads to him mistreating or even killing the men under him, and more than earns him his reputation as a cutthroat brigand. He’s a ruthless and violent man with no principles, but he’s also pathetically cowardly at his core. Once he loses his advantage, or well and truly loses control of a situation, Hook’s confidence quickly abandons him and he’s not above begging for his life. When Peter sliced off his hand (and dear god, is that violent or what for a twelve year old?) he fed it to a crocodile, and that same crocodile still stalks Hook everyday, hoping for a chance to eat the rest of him. The crocodile tormenting Hook and playing mind games with him, reducing him to a nervous wreck, is a running gag in the film, and the movie derives a surprisingly large amount of dark humor out of it. It probably shouldn’t be as funny as it is watching the Captain claw for his life and be repeatedly eaten alive by a crocodile, but it totally is. Captain Hook usually has a double act with his first mate, Smee, because they are worlds apart in terms of personality.

Hook is campy, theatrical, boisterous and opportunistic, putting on an oily, false charm when he wants to manipulate someone and stabbing them in the back in an instant when they’ve outlived their purpose. Smee, by comparison, is more than a bit of an idiot. He’s breezy, gossipy, absent-minded, bumbling, and a bit simple-minded. He’s the most genial and outgoing of the pirates, which allows the movie to indulge in some more dark humor at how desensitized Smee is to the crew’s daily murder. One can’t help but wonder why Hook doesn’t get better help, since Smee doting on him and failing to do that properly drives him up the wall. But considering the rest of his crew not-so-secretly hates his guts, Smee’s unwavering loyalty is probably the reason he remains Hook’s second-in-command. Mind you, even Smee has his limits, seeing as how he tries to sneak off at the end to save his own ass when Hook’s last plan to kill Peter goes south. It’s worth noting that Captain Hook shares the exact same voice actor as Wendy’s father, George. It’s sort of a traditional casting choice in “Peter Pan” adaptions, like having a girl portray Peter (a trend this film bucks), and it can lead to some interesting alternate interpretations of this movie. Because there are two ways to view “Peter Pan’s” plot: either it all actually happened, which the ending strongly implies, or it was all a dream – a figment of Wendy’s imagination that she conjured up out of a desire to escape into fantasy and avoid growing up a bit longer. If that’s the case, considering the argument Wendy and George had before she went to sleep, it would make sense for her subconscious to give her father’s voice to Captain Hook, the pirate who wants her childhood hero to die. If it wasn’t a dream, then young George meeting Captain Hook as a Lost Boy must have been really weird.

Peter Pan Wendy Safe

I’m not quite as fond of the silver era as a whole like I am with the golden era – since I feel like a few of the movies coasted by too much on their looks – but I do think it’s the point when Disney had refined and perfected their animation process during Walt’s time, before the downgrade in the 60’s. Like all the films from this period, “Peter Pan” sports some sparkling, pristine, flawless animation that allows the magic of the fantasy to effortlessly come alive (like Peter and Tinkerbell’s believably light, breezy flights), and invites the audience to get lost in the world of Neverland. While Neverland has a lot of intriguing attractions, particularly Captain Hook’s ship, I’m just as impressed by the backgrounds painted for the first act: Wendy’s home in a stately, warm, romanticized London of old, lit up at night. Peter coaching the Darlings on how to fly and the kids taking to the skies to soar off to Neverland in “You Can Fly” is incredibly enchanting, and ranks up there with “Bella Notte” and “I Bring You A Song” as one of my favorite animated sequences from a Disney classic. To my pleasant surprise, the soundtrack for “Peter Pan” features a lot of group songs, which means we get simple elegant choruses like “Second Star To The Right”, bouncy, spirited numbers like “A Pirate’s Life” and “Following The Leader”, the occasional bombastic song like “What Makes The Red Man Red?”, and the signature theme “You Can Fly”, which starts out with the kids simply speaking in rhyme before it gradually builds into a sublime, streamlined chorus. The rare solo song is Wendy’s lullaby, “Your Mother And Mine”, which has a crooning performance from Kathryn Beaumont that’s so tender it reduces career pirates to tears. Oliver Wallace’s score is great as always, with light strings and a plucky, infectious main theme for Peter Pan that’s never far away throughout the movie.

Some of the characters in this movie feel far more dated now than others, but as a whole, “Peter Pan” rests alongside “Lady And The Tramp” and “Cinderella” as one of the highlights of the silver era. I would describe this film as pure, fun escapism with a simple but profound message. I like it a lot.

Rating: 9/10.

Side-Notes:

Peter Pan You Can Fly 3

* “All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again”.

* George, you drama queen.

* I mentioned that George’s personality reminds me of Fred Flintstone, and the opening scenes of this movie really do play out like a sitcom, before sitcoms were really a thing. Everyone’s living in their own little world, there’s a perfectionist dog nanny walking around, and when Nana and George take a nasty stumble everyone rushes to check on Nana and only Nana.

* I like the over-the-top reactions everyone has to the idea of Wendy having her own room, especially the mom.

* “Mother… buried treasure”.

* Wendy decides to creep her mom out by mentioning there had been a ‘he’ in her room and ‘he’ might come back. You can imagine the places Mrs. Darling’s mind went before Wendy specified she was talking about Peter Pan.

* “What, Peter Pan?! Well goodness gracious, whatever shall we do?!” George, stop being funny.

* Peter Pan creeping.

* “Girls talk too much” “Oh” “Well, get on with it girl” I feel like this is the point where a 21st century girl would tell Peter to sew his own shadow.

* John’s derp face.

* Lucky that bed was there, or this movie would be a fair bit shorter.

* “When there’s a smile in your heart, there’s no better time to start! Think of all the joy you’ll find when you leave the world behind and bid your fears good-bye! You can fly, you can fly, you can fly! You can fly, you can fly! You can fly, fly, fly!”

* “Good form, Mr. Smee? BLAST GOOD FORM! Did Pan show good form, when he did this to me?!” “Why Captain, cutting off your hand was only a childish prank, you might say” It was just a prank, bro.

* “Wait, slow down Tinkerbell, we can’t keep up! Please Tinkerbell!” Now Wendy, be sensible. How is Tinkerbell going to set you up to be ambushed if you won’t give her enough time to prepare?

* Seriously though, the natives were going to burn the stuffed bear along with the children. Those monsters.

* “Let him have it! Well, come on you idiot! Blast him! Wait! No! Hold it you fool! No, NO!!!

* Peter had tasted blood, and he was already hungry for more of the sport. In all seriousness though, Peter was way into that fight.

* Cringy caricatures they may be, but the Indian chief and his daughter, Tiger Lily, do have some sweet moves.

* “Squaw fetch ’em firewood!” “Squaw no get firewood, squaw go home!” Wendy out.

* Smee has zero investment in this Peter Pan business, so he figured he might as well get wasted until it all blew over.

* “Big Chief Flying Eagle greets his braves. How!” Peter, let that song go already.

* Peter Pan pouting.

* Sorry Wendy, Tinkerbell sold you out.

* All the other kids are looking at the pirates with curiosity and astonishment. Wendy looks like she hates every single one of these fools, and I can’t say I blame her.

* Despite the urgency in the climax, it’s worth noting that Tinkerbell actually fails in her task. She only gets the bomb about two feet away from Peter’s face before it goes off. I’ll accept that they both survived that, because we’ve long since established that they’re magic.

* “Captain Hook, we shall never join your crew” “Very well, ladies first my dear”.

* When you’re just waiting for the fight to wrap up already, because whoever loses you still win.

* Here we have a grown man fighting a twelve year old kid, and the twelve year old is winning.

* “You wouldn’t do old Hook in, would you?” And he immediately tries to stab him in the back, because of course he does. Villains are so predictable.

* Peter looks cool in that pirate coat. Let’s hope he kept that.

* Wendy decides to freak her parents out one more time by casually mentioning she and her brothers got kidnapped and almost died a few times while they were gone.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Peter Pan Pirate Ship

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Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937) Review

Snow White Poster

Out of the Disney canon, “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” is the big one in terms of cultural significance. Disney had been producing theatrical shorts for years before this film and was generally successful in that practice, but this was their first, ambitious attempt at a full-length animated film, and they threw all the money at it. If “Snow White” hadn’t been as successful as it was then the following fifty-five films would probably never have existed. But luckily, it was a smash hit and it bolstered Disney to continue to pursue the movie-making business for years to come, producing several fan favorites. Unfortunately for Disney, their next couple of passion projects wouldn’t prove to be as profitable as “Snow White” was (poor, poor “Pinocchio” and “Bambi“) and they wound up being really strapped for cash by the end of their short-lived but remarkably consistent golden era. As it stands, “Snow White” is one of the more enjoyable Disney Princess films and it holds up well despite it’s advanced age. There were a lot of likable things about this movie, and I think the only the major complaint I had about it is that the villain is kind of a non-entity for much of it.

“Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s about the misadventures of Snow White and her seven dwarf friends as they stumble around their little cottage and the surrounding forest. One of the greatest pros of the movie is that the bulk of it is focused on them and the large amount of chemistry they have as a group, particularly during a prolonged section of the movie devoted to Snow White’s first night at the cottage and the eight of them learning to co-exist. The consequence of this though is that the magical tyrant, the Evil Queen, and her dimensions never feel that fleshed out as an antagonist. In fact, she disappears from the plot for over thirty-five minutes around the middle of the film, and doesn’t really achieve that much in the third act as well when she reappears. In the fairy tale “Snow White” was adapted from, the Evil Queen tried to kill Snow White three times before she succeeded. The Disney version truncates this to her most famous and successful attempt – the poisoned apple – which probably contributes to her lack of screen-time. As it is, it’s not that big a deal and only takes away a few things in an otherwise impressive movie.

Snow White Birds

Since she was the first girl of the line-up and the one who started it all, Snow White embodies many of the classic Disney princess stereotypes. She’s pure of heart; animals love her because of how kind she is; guys feel compelled to talk about how beautiful she is when they’re around her; she speaks with a soft, fluttering, thrilling voice; she falls in love at first sight; and she always tries to see the best in everyone. If “Snow White” was produced today, people would probably quickly write its protagonist off as an overly sweet, purity sue, but the charm of the 1930’s and the sincerity of Snow White’s character allows Disney to pass off her portrayal. Besides, I like Snow White. Snow White is compassionate and understanding, but she can also be sarcastic and silly, and at times condescending. Despite her young age, Snow White has a sternness to her and a maternal streak that surfaces when she refuses to take guff from the dwarfs. She’s classy and she carries herself with dignity, yet she longs to be accepted, making it her quiet mission to win over the gruffest and most distrusting of the dwarfs, Grumpy. But the best side of Snow White is the rarely seen, savage Snow White. After Grumpy continues to give her the cold shoulder, he immediately walks right into a door and Snow White sarcastically asks him ‘Oh, did you hurt yourself?’. Good one, Snow. After moving in with the dwarfs, Snow White volunteers to earn her keep by doing the housework while they’re away. Because as it turns out, being turned into a servant in her own home for a decade by her awful mom did have some benefits. It left her with useful life skills she could use to bargain with, and Snow White is nothing if not adaptable.

Snow White gets a sequence early in the film that’s kind of frightening. After being sent into the wilderness by the Huntsman, Snow White runs screaming from everything she encounters, including some tree branches and logs. It’s intense and a bit amusing, but at the same time you understand why she’s freaking out. She just learned her stepmom wants her dead and actually sent a guy to do her in (she always knew the lady was a bitch, but this is a whole new level), she can’t go home again for obvious reasons, and despite running through the woods she has nowhere to go and no one to help her. It’s easy to feel sorry for her when she finally gives up and starts crying to herself. There are other times in the film where it’s very apparent that, despite the years of abuse, this young girl has lived a very sheltered life and her perspective is a bit off. When she first stumbles upon the dwarfs’ cottage, she decides to trespass there – which is at best rude, and at worst could actually get her into some serious trouble – and her first thought while doing so is that it could use some tidying up and redecorating. And when she’s done with that, she actually goes full Goldilocks and falls asleep in their beds (though she does have some survival instincts: when she wakes up and sees the dwarfs huddled around her bed, she quickly pulls up the sheets and assumes they’re perving). Luckily, the dwarfs don’t kill her when they find her and they become her friends instead, spending the next few days bonding. Like all good character flaws, Snow White’s youthful naivety and lack of worldly experience is eventually used against her by the Evil Queen when the old hag shows up to kill her in the last act, and manages to pressure her into taking a bite of her poisoned apple.

Snow White The Dwarves

The seven dwarfs are a raucous bunch. The seven, short, bearded miners are brash and boisterous, they’re hyperactive and prone to some rough-housing, they’re easily frightened, and in general, they tend to come off as quite boyish. It’s not uncommon for the dwarfs to think and act as a hivemind, but when we do delve into their individual personalities, the dwarfs are generally defined by the names they have. Doc is the odd man out, in that his name isn’t really a descriptor. He stutters a lot and is often flustered, but he is the de-facto leader of the dwarfs, and the boldest of the lot. Dopey is childish and absent-minded, he never speaks (though he’s notably not mute) and he sometimes seems more like an animal than a person. Sleepy is lazy, slothful and lethargic. Bashful is shy but sincere, often having trouble expressing himself. Sneezy has an uncontrollable sneezing problem. Happy is cheerful, straightforward and easygoing. Grumpy is stubborn, cynical, sullen, masculine and tough. He immediately dislikes Snow White because she’s a girl, though I imagine his pride also isn’t fond of being bossed around by the youngest person in the house (who only showed up half an hour ago). For much of the film, Grumpy is the most annoying dwarf, though he’s also the one who grows the most and has a character arc where he warms to Snow White over time. It’s actually surprisingly difficult to define the dwarfs’ relationship with Snow White beyond simple friendship. At times, they seem to see her as the mother hen of their merry band, and at other times, they seem to regard her as their new surrogate daughter (and then there’s Dopey). What is clear is that the dwarfs quickly grow fond of and protective of Snow White, to the point where they chase down the Evil Queen in the climax to avenge their fallen friend.

When talking about the Disney princess films, animation enthusiasts usually take note of how the princesses have become developed over time and how impressive and refreshing that is is. It’s easy to forget that the Disney princes have come a long way since “Snow White” as well. Prince Florian appears in two scenes and is kind of an enigma. We get some more background on Prince Charming, since we see his home life and get an idea of what it was like before Cinderella. Prince Phillip is the first prince to become involved in a climax, and the first one to be named in his movie. Prince Eric has the best elements of Charming and Phillip, and feels like a really well-rounded character. Beast received just as much character focus as Belle, and even more character development. The expansion trend finally comes to a head in “Aladdin“, where a Disney prince carries a whole movie by himself. Getting back to Florian though, the Prince is a roving nobleman on horseback who has an encounter with the humble Snow White one day. The prince has some pretty sweet pipes, and he charms her with a genuinely romantic love song. Throughout the film, Snow White hopes to be reunited with him and daydreams about eloping with her handsome prince. She eventually gets her wish, though not before one more near-death experience. Florian was originally intended to have a larger role in the film, but this was cut back since animating the character proved to be surprisingly difficult for Disney. As a result, he only has two scenes and feels like more of a plot device than a character. The ending will most likely move you, but it has more to do with Snow White saying good-bye to her friends than Snow White finally getting to ride off with her mystery prince.

Snow White The Old hag

The Evil Queen, Grimhilde, is a conventionally attractive and incredibly powerful yet incredibly insane woman. The queen is a powerful sorceress and she rules her kingdom with an iron fist. She’s cruel, petty, spiteful and vain. She kills any woman who proves to be more beautiful than she, and not even her own stepdaughter is safe from her wrath, since she married the girl’s father for her title but she has no love for Snow White. The film shows the Evil Queen has made Snow White’s life pretty terrible before now, but it would be a later Disney film called “Cinderella” that would really dive into the implications of how horrible it would be having your own stepmother hate you and try her best to emotionally destroy you (I wouldn’t be opposed to getting Snow White and Cinderella some therapy). When the queen sets out to kill Snow White, she tries to do so in incredibly vindictive ways – demanding the Huntsman cut out her heart and present it to her, and trying to trick the dwarfs into burying Snow alive. When the Huntsman betrays her, the Evil Queen disguises herself to torture Snow White further and do the job herself, and it’s here that she really shines as a villainess – hamming it up as the manipulative old hag. Her outward appearance also finally matches up with her complete lack of inner beauty. Queen Grimhilde has one of the most satisfying death scenes in the canon. Like Frollo’s, it can very easily be seen as an act of divine intervention right when she was about to succeed, and I roar with laughter every time her evil gloating is cut short and she drops to her death, with that boulder tumbling after her to crush her. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer witch.

Humbert the Huntsman is the kingdom’s hardy, loyal and dependable hunter who the Evil Queen calls upon to murder Snow White for her. The rugged and moral Huntsman is obviously not okay with murdering someone, let alone a teenage girl, but the Evil Queen delivers him an ultimatum. Either he kills Snow White or the Queen will kill him – her life for his. Despite the threat, and despite steeling himself to kill Snow White, the Huntsman still can’t bring himself to go through with the deed and sends Snow White into the forest to seek freedom and sanctuary instead. Even though he’s a minor character, I’ve always liked the conflicted Huntsman’s dilemma and I’ve always been a bit curious about what ever became of him after he sent Snow away. The queen apparently decided she would kill him for his betrayal later, after she was done with Snow White, and that obviously didn’t pan out for her, so his current status is up in the air (though he was probably relieved when Snow White returned to the throne at the end of the film). Snow White is tailed and accompanied for much of the film by her intrepid animal friends – including birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer, mice, and one incredibly persistent turtle – who help her adjust to living in the forest. The animals are the second greatest source of comic relief after the dwarfs, and I find each of them adds a lot in their own way to the movie’s charm. One of my favorite scenes in the film, “Whistle While You Work”, involves all the forest animals pitching in to help Snow White clean the dwarf’s cottage and getting into shenanigans.

Snow White Dance Party

For Disney’s first stab at a feature-length film, “Snow White” sports some gorgeous, skillfully crafted animation that’s admittedly a bit rough around the edges at times. Since this was the studio’s first attempt at animating humans with realistic proportions, Disney used human actors as references and translated their actions to the screen with the aid of rotoscoping. This is especially noticeable with Snow White and the Evil Queen. Snow White’s rotoscoping is done fairly seamlessly, and she’s the center of some of my favorite shots in the movie, like the woodland critters showing her the way to the dwarfs’ cottage or the dance party Snow and the dwarfs throw after dark (you have no idea how much I enjoy the visual quirk of a teenage girl dancing with a group of older men who are all like half her size). The animation for the Evil Queen and her crow seems a bit more unrefined however, particularly when she’s in her old hag disguise. It seems like the queen’s black cloak gave Disney some trouble. Something I always admire about the golden age films are their backgrounds – they look exactly like vibrant, scenic wax paintings. The world of “Snow White” especially comes to life during the sequence where Snow White is running through the forest, hopelessly lost, and encountering each and every one of her twisted hallucinations.

I really admire “Snow White’s” soundtrack. I love how consistently upbeat and operatic it is (with a few standout performances from Snow White, the Dwarfs and Prince Florian), and how it feels even more like a musical than your average Disney movie. The characters burst into a new song every five to ten minutes, which will either entice you or annoy you depending on your tolerance level for musicals. In my eyes, Frank Churchill is officially to the golden era what Alan Menken was to the renaissance era, the guy who contributed some of the best music from that period in the canon (he also worked on “Dumbo” and “Bambi”). The collaboration of Frank Churchill, Larry Morey, Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith provide the songs and score for the film, taking the audience on a harmonious journey through the romantic duet of sorts, “I’m Wishing / One Song”, the heartwarming “Smile And A Song”, the endlessly catchy double bill of “Whistle While You Work” and “Heigh-Ho”, the significantly weaker “Washing Song”, the incredibly infectious “Dwarf’s Yodel Song”, and the stirring main theme for the film, “Someday My Prince Will Come”, in which Snow White pines for her mystery lover. The instrumental versions of these songs laced throughout the score prove to be just as endearing as their vocal presentations, and the character of the Evil Queen is granted a pretty exciting, manic leitmotif that takes center stage during the climax.

After eighty years, “Snow White” is still an enjoyable masterpiece that appeals to one’s carefree, inner child, in spite of an undeveloped villain. As a result, it’s a must-see for Disney fans and it set a pretty high bar for future fairy tales and future Disney princess films.

Rating: 10/10.

Side-Notes:

Snow White Staircase

* “One song, I have but one song! One song only for you! One heart tenderly beating, ever entreating, constant and true! One love that has possessed me, one love thrilling me through! One song my heart keeps singing! Of one love, only for you!”

* Oh, hell no!

* “My, what a cute little chair!”

* The deer in this movie keep giving me “Bambi” vibes. It’s not just me, right?

* Snow White, understandably, determines that the dwarfs’ cottage is filthy so she enlists the animals’ help in cleaning it. Um, Snow, you do know a bunch of wild animals aren’t that clean either, right? (But hey, it worked).

* Poor, poor Bambi.

* Oh my gosh!

* “Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho! It’s home from work we go! Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho!”

* This is precisely how the dwarfs’ lost their fortune in jewels.

* “Jiminy Crickets!” No guys, he’s in the next movie.

* Throughout this whole review, I kept wanting to spell ‘dwarfs’ as ‘dwarves’. The former feels so grammatically wrong, though it’s apparently correct.

* The reason I said Dopey isn’t mute is because, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gag, Dopey actually screams when he sees Snow White’s ‘ghost’.

* Something tells me the dwarfs in “The Hobbit” and “Lord Of The Rings” wouldn’t approve of how bumbling these guys are – not that they could judge.

* “She’s a female! Everyone knows females is poison! They’re full of wicked wiles!” What are wicked wiles?” “I don’t know, but I’m against ’em”.

* Fresh.

* “So, what are you and who are you doing?” Still fresh.

* Maturity.

* “You’ll pay dearly for this!” They outnumber you six-to-one, Grumpy. I don’t think they’re that worried.

* The Evil Queen finally remembered she’s in this movie.

* I am loving the capes Snow White and the Evil Queen are sporting. They’re not very practical, but capes are just cool.

* “A breath of wind to fan my hate! A thunderbolt to mix it well! Now begin thy magic spell!”

* Sometimes, in movies, I think it’s good to have a few scenes that don’t really add anything to the plot, but are simply the main characters enjoying themselves. It really does help to endear the audience to them, and I would never cut out this bit of silliness.

* “Anyone could see that the prince was charming!” Nah Snow, that’s Cinderella’s prince.

“Some day my prince will come, some day we’ll meet again! And away to his castle we’ll go, to be happy forever, I know! Some day when spring is here, we’ll find a love anew! And the birds will sing, and wedding bells will ring! Someday when my dreams come true…”

* Dopey is a happy dwarf.

* “Bless the seven little men… oh, and please make Grumpy like me” “Ugh, women” Oh my gosh, he actually heard that.

* “Her breath will still, her blood congeal, soon I’ll be fairest in the land!”

* Is she talking to the audience?

* “Love’s first kiss?” Well, it’s lucky for Snow White that she never had a boyfriend before this movie, or she would have been so screwed.

* Even by cartoon standards, those vultures look extra evil.

* Aww.

* It’s murder time!

* “So beautiful, even in death, the dwarfs could not bring themselves to bury her”. Yeah, she’s not gonna look that beautiful when she starts decomposing.

* So, how long before Snow White gets bored of that one song?

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Snow White The Old Hag 2

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Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Review

Spider-Man Homecoming Poster

If “Spider-Man” was a modern update of your classic, campy comic book movie, and “The Amazing Spider-Man” was a brooding, angsty film aimed at the hipster demographic, then “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a light, breezy film aimed at Millennials and Gen-Zers, and delightfully that proves to be a very good thing. There are two main plot threads interwoven throughout the movie: Spider-Man’s investigation into the Vulture’s arms-dealing gang, and Peter Parker’s tumultuous school life – the latter of which feels like a cute, high school sitcom. There’s a whole subplot devoted to Peter’s friends and classmates, as well as the camaraderie they have with or without Peter’s presence, that’s always fun to return to, thanks in part to the sharpness of the screenplay. Easily one of the best things about “Homecoming” is the dialogue. It’s razor-sharp, it’s witty, and it’s always engaging. I especially love how often the characters tend to get distracted and wander off topic when they’re observing things or chastising each other – it’s classic comedy and the sort of thing someone would probably do when they’re dealing with something far out of the norm for them. It’s also a testament to how likable the supporting cast of this movie is that I’m just as invested in Peter’s bromance with Ned and his odd encounters with Michelle as I am in his vigilante sleuthing.

The overall screenplay is probably the most fresh and creative one we’ve seen in a Spider-Man film since the early days of Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire; it trades in many of the tropes and cliches that one had started to expect from a Spider-Man movie (like OsCorp shenanigans, schizophrenic mutants, and on-again, off-again romances) for excitingly uncharted territory and a straightforward superhero romp. The clean, sleek nature of the story is aided nicely by the smart decision to skip Spider-Man’s origin story for once and make him a pre-established character, trusting the audience would be familiar enough with Marvel’s flagship hero (from the comics, the previous films, or Tom Holland’s earlier appearance in “Captain America: Civil War”) that it wouldn’t be necessary to drop us straight into one of Spidey’s cases. The greatest positive about the film though is that it feels really good to see Spider-Man / Peter Parker regain his liveliness and his sense of adventure. Peter causes his fair share of damage in this movie, he gets himself into trouble and learns from the experience, but he’s also always proactive. He does some crime-fighting, he does some mystery-solving with his keen mind, and he goes out and has actual adventures, as opposed to sitting around and wangsting, non-stop, for two and a half hours like Peter did in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2“. This is a superhero film, and “Homecoming” knows a superhero film should have an adventurous spirit. The movie also knows when the time for fun and games has passed. The first two acts are mostly a lighthearted romp with some fun character building, but starting with the ferry scene, it’s the sharp writing and the non-stop emotional high of the third act that elevates “Homecoming” from an enjoyable movie to a great movie.

Spider-Man Homecoming Determination

Peter Parker, i.e. Spider-Man, is New York’s youngest resident superhero. He’s quirky, sassy, inquisitive, clever, plucky, enthusiastic, and in general a ball of energy. He keeps up a facade of being a normal teenager, but he suits up as Spider-Man at the end of every school day to fight crime and patrol the city, and he loves what he does. Unlike Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s respective Peters, who were about ready to graduate high school when they were bitten, Tom Holland’s Peter is the same age his comic book self was when he was bitten by the spider, age 15, and both he and the script excel at capturing the impulsiveness, naivety and impressionability of a younger teenager. Particularly, a superpowered teenager who’s a total nerd and a fanboy. He’s a joy to follow throughout the story. A sad, recurring thread that the film periodically returns to is Peter’s isolation and his non-existent social life when it comes to his classmates besides Ned, and even Ned as well sometimes. Peter lives apart from the other kids his age, saddling himself with the responsibility of a superhero’s life and a sense of duty that prevents him from being popular or getting to experience the regular rituals of a high-schooler. The film never obsesses over this or bludgeons you over the head with it, but it’s very much a part of Tom Holland’s character. Even in a pretty lighthearted Spider-Man movie, being Spidey means having to make some sacrifices. While his naivety usually serves to make him more endearing, the film also doesn’t shy away from the downsides of how young this Spider-Man is. Peter is itching for some crime-fighting adventures, he has a serious hero worship for the Avengers and Tony Stark, and like most teens, he can be bratty, petulant, stubborn and impatient at times.

As he grows restless and frustrated with how the other Avengers don’t take him seriously, Peter leaps at the chance to solve the Vulture mystery so he can prove himself to the older heroes. As Peter becomes more fixated on this, he becomes reckless and destructive, losing sight of his original goal, ignoring his friends’ warnings and blowing off his responsibilities. This eventually comes to a head when he unwittingly puts innocent people in danger of being killed and gets chewed out by Tony Stark, being verbally knocked down to Earth. Up until this point, I thought Peter was getting off too easy for his screw-ups. Almost sinking the ferry was one consequence, albeit one paid by other people, and losing his suit was another one, albeit still fairly light. The real consequence comes when Peter visits Liz’s house. All of Peter’s impulsiveness and bad decisions catch up to him in this scene, where they put him in the perfect position to be outed, blackmailed and eventually almost killed by the Vulture. In his reckless desire to live out a fantasy, Peter got too close to things and wound up paying the price, a mistake he won’t ever be making again. Buried in the Vulture’s trap, Peter has to tap into his true identity, strengthen his resolve, and rely on himself and only himself to get free, which is easily the most badass thing Spider-Man has done on film since he stopped a runaway train in 2004. With new determination and a clearer focus, Peter hunts the Vulture down and brings him in. Impressively, he saves Toomes’ life despite the man trying to kill him earlier, and even more impressively, he manages to take a few good things away from the Vulture’s mentality. Peter decides he should remain New York’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man instead of an Avenger, staying true to himself and helping out all the little guys of the world.

Spider-Man Homecoming Vulture

Adrian Toomes, i.e. the Vulture, is a welcome departure from your usual Spider-Man cinematic villains. Before now, Spidey’s villains have almost always been mutants created as a result of mad science gone wrong. This formula for antagonists worked well enough in the Raimi trilogy, but it started to feel pretty forced and worn out by the “Amazing” series (for example, Electro gained his powers by falling into a tank of electric eels). A guy in a Vulture suit might not be as physically imposing as Green Goblin, Doc Ock or Sandman, but it felt like it was time to take a break from mutants, and Michael Keaton more than makes up for his lack of powers with pure charisma, grit and menace. Toomes starts out as a gruff, streetwise construction worker and your usual working-class man, who’s driven out of business by the events of “The Avengers” and decides to start selling alien technology on the black market partly to get by and partly to spite the law of the land. Toomes is very cynical and jaded; he hates the rich and powerful like Tony Stark because he thinks they have an easy ride through life and they never have to be held accountable for their destructive actions. He’s done a very good job over the years of ignoring the cognitive dissonance of selling dangerous weapons to criminals that could level the city and kill lots of people, so he can provide for himself, his family and his crew. He doesn’t have to see the damage after all, and he most likely doesn’t care. At his most delusional, Vulture likes to consider himself a crusader for weak, down-trodded, hard-working, regular men, something Spider-Man actually is, though Peter’s been losing sight of his original goal lately.

The fact that Vulture isn’t afflicted in any way with sanity-affecting super powers actually helps to make his character more disturbing at times. Unlike Green Goblin, Doc Ock or the Lizard, Toomes is acting of sound mind and body when he’s pretending to be a normal, outgoing family man, while moonlighting behind everyone’s back as a gang leader and arms dealer. To say nothing of the times he tries to kill a teenage Peter. While he’s at work on his real business, treating it much the way he would a construction gig, Toomes is gritty, tough, ruthless, and pragmatic. The Vulture is thuggish, vicious and implacable, but Toomes is clever, methodical and crafty. What makes Toomes dangerous is the massive difference in experience between him and Peter, demonstrated several times throughout the movie. Toomes can take advantage of Peter’s rookie status to escape him, and even lay traps for him. He hates Spider-Man for getting in his way and threatening his way of life, but he also sort of respects him for being a credible threat and for saving his daughter’s life. Vulture’s mixed feelings on Peter stem from the fact that while he’s a selfish villain, he’s not fully evil or irredeemable. When he learns Spider-Man’s identity, he starts to view him as being an annoying, dumb kid. He tries to intimidate him into backing down and he tries to talk him over to his way of thinking, and when neither of those attempts work, he just tries to get rid of him. In the end, after everything Vulture did to him, Peter still chooses to save his life when Toomes’ greed nearly gets him killed. And since Peter has done him a solid twice now, Toomes chooses to protect his identity while he’s in prison – a move that could mean several different things, and leaves the future of this character and his rivalry with Spider-Man up in the air for the sequels.

Spider-Man Homecoming Bromance 2

Ned Leeds is Peter’s nerdy, ditzy best friend. “Homecoming’s” incarnation of Ned has a very different personality than he did in the comics and a much larger role, and I’m pretty satisfied with that. Despite how often I reference the comics in these reviews, I’m completely okay with comic book movies diverging wildly from their source material so long as it results in a good story. In this instance, I’m glad to see Peter has a best friend in this continuity who isn’t Harry Osborn, since the last two series have shown that things with Harry never work out (“I protected you in high school, now I’m gonna kick your little ass!” “AUGH! YOU’RE A FRAUD, SPIDER-MAN!”). Peter and Ned are both quirky, nerdy fanboys and the designated losers of the school, but Ned is the more excitable of the two. Hilariously, he can talk a mile a minute non-stop, to Peter’s annoyance sometimes, and once he learns Peter’s secret early in the film, he quickly gets swept up in the glamour of a superhero’s escapades. Ned is initially shown to quite superficial and it’s suggested that he might not be the best influence on Peter, though he does grow out of this. Ned hopes to be Peter’s mission control, his ‘guy in the chair’ as he puts it who gets to help him on missions and do cool stuff, and as the movie progresses he slots into the role of Peter’s sidekick. Ned’s character development stems from him gaining perspective over time that fighting crime is really not a game and becoming more level-headed and mature, while Peter ironically becomes more short-sighted and obsessive. Ned starts to notice Peter losing focus and acting out-of-character, and becomes increasingly worried about him. In the last act, Ned saves Peter’s life from the Vulture’s goons and gets to live out his dream of helping Spider-Man crack a case, which fully seals the deal on endearing me to his character and his bromance with Peter.

Michelle Jones is the school oddball. Michelle is basically an artsy, emo chick who draws sketch art, does what she likes and keeps mostly to herself. She’s snarky, bluntly honest and sardonic, but she also has her share of hidden layers. She’s clever and perceptive, and she helps her debate team to score a huge win in Peter’s absence. She seems to have a crush on Peter that she tries to play off as nothing, and it’s implied that while she enjoys being a non-conforming individualist she doesn’t enjoy being a loner and still craves having friends like everyone else. Michelle has a small but very satisfying arc in the background of the movie – she grows to enjoy the companionship of Peter, Ned and the debate team and feels a lot more fulfilled and accepted by the movie’s end than she was before. From the nickname she drops at the end, Michelle seems to be the MCU’s equivalent of Mary Jane Watson, and I am onboard with Peter x Michelle being endgame in this continuity. Michelle is a nice enough character, and she has more personality than the girl Peter was interested in for much of this movie. Flash Thompson is another character who feels quite different in this movie, but at his core very much the same. Flash isn’t a sports star this time around and is instead a smarmy, antagonistic member of Peter’s debate team, who hates Peter for a being a loser and for being smarter than him. However, he’s still athletic, quite dumb, a bully, a blowhard and a cowardly weasel. Flash’s mostly one-sided rivalry with Peter is a running gag throughout the film, and while he doesn’t display the intriguing redeeming qualities that his counterpart from “The Amazing Spider-Man” did, he is significantly funnier. There’s also a gloriously karmic pay-off to Flash vs Peter, where Peter commandeers Flash’s car for the climax and totally trashes it in the name of justice.

Spider-Man Homecoming Garage 2

In a movie filled with fun, interesting characters, one of them has to be the weakest link, and unfortunately that someone is Liz. Liz Allan is a popular and beautiful senior girl who Peter has a crush on, and one who he tries to work up the nerve to talk to throughout the movie. To be honest, Liz’s personality is pretty bland and dull. She has a few personality traits – such as she’s sociable, she’s overly forgiving when it comes to Peter, she sneaks out to pool parties, and she’s something of a daddy’s girl – but none of them make her that interesting or unique. She’s basically there so Peter can have a love interest, and to tie together the two main strands of the plot when it turns out the Vulture is her dad. Thankfully, the movie never devotes that much time to Peter crushing on her, and the film ends with her being a romantic false lead – breaking up with Peter and moving away to Oregon, leaving Peter single to date other girls in the sequels (you know, like Michelle). The Vulture has a few notable goons in his gang, including two men who take up the mantle of the Shocker. The first guy is a brash, unfettered slacker who often seems more like a bratty, whiny teenager than a grown man (which makes sense in a way. If he’s not going to put in the effort to be a law-abiding citizen, why even bother trying be a mature adult either?), which amusingly enough, gets him killed when he pushes his boss too far. The second guy, Toomes’ right hand man, is much colder, competent and significantly more menacing due to how efficient he is, and how apathetic he often is about anything other than survival.

Tony Stark is kind of irritating in this movie, though to be fair, this is Iron-Man we’re talking about here. ‘Tony Stark’ and ‘kind of irritating’ often go hand in hand. For most of his scenes in this film, Tony comes off as distant, dismissive, and somewhat classicist, recruiting Spider-Man and getting his hopes up about being a big leagues hero only to spend the next six months ignoring him (and belittling his rogues gallery). Tony is busy running his company and working with the Avengers, and it’s implied that he’s starting to regret recruiting someone as young as Peter into Avengers business, but he still wants Peter to be trained properly and he still listens to Happy’s reports about Peter’s progress. Tony tries to be Peter’s mentor, even if it’s from a distance, and one of the most satisfying scenes in the movie is when he rips Peter a new one for causing the ferry catastrophe. By the end of the film, Tony’s estimation of Peter has risen and he’s all set to welcome him into the Avengers, only for Peter to turn him down because he feels like he’s not ready for that yet. The rejection catches Tony off guard and is also cathartic to watch for a number of reasons. Aunt May continues to get younger in the Spider-Man movies, but I really like her portrayal in this film. May is, as always, such a mom in this film. She tries to get Peter to open up to her about his problems, she’s fiercely protective of him, and she encourages him to try to have a social life. We’ve seen these traits from May before, in other Spider-Man films, but they’re particularly down-to-earth and understated here, and I appreciate that.

Spider-Man Homecoming Vulture 5

The direction and cinematography by Jon Watts and Salvatore Totino is impressively on point and consistently engaging for the viewer, making it the best work we’ve seen in a Spider-Man film in a while. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” looks and feels like a comic book movie and a high school movie at the same time, with an overall bright, wide and colorful aesthetic, a thrillingly large sense of scale whenever Peter leaps into action as Spider-Man (especially during his save at the Washington monument), and just the right amount of soft, personal shots lended to the scenes where Peter has to deal with problems in his personal relationships. The CGI is handled well, especially for a Marvel film. “Homecoming” understands that CGI is a helpful tool, but it shouldn’t be the main attraction of a movie. It’s used sparingly, it’s usually integrated seamlessly into the film, and most of the scenes that call for a large amount of CGI are set at night, making any rendering problems the movie might have had a lot more difficult to notice. Michael Giacchino’s score for the film is great fun to listen to and a perfect fit for the film. Considering the sort of hero he is, Spider-Man should have a theme that convinces you that he’ll never give up and he can do the impossible, and Michael Giacchino pens just that – a diehard, triumphant and determined leitmotif that feels like a call to action in several scenes, and also a few peppy and minute variations scattered throughout the movie. Michael also composes a bombastic and intimidating villain theme for the Vulture that heightens several scenes, but isn’t quite as memorable as Spidey’s. The Ramones’ “Blitzkreig Bop” is picked as the signature song of this film, which is a pleasant surprise since I’d heard this song several times before and would never have associated it with Spider-Man before now (and now I probably always will).

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a great start to Spider-Man’s own series in the MCU, and an enjoyable romp from start to finish. Now that I’ve grown fond of Tom Holland’s Peter, I look forward to seeing where Peter, Ned and Michelle go next in the upcoming sequel.

Rating: 10/10.

Side-Notes:

Spider-Man Homecoming Washington

* “Maybe next time, don’t overextend yourself” Oh, snap!

* “We should probably stop staring before this gets creepy” “Too late. You guys are losers” “Then why do you sit with us?” “Because I don’t have any friends” Honesty.

* I get the impression that Happy is starting to get a bit tired of Peter’s constant messaging.

* Mr. Delmar, you hypocrite.

* “Why would I tell him about the churro?”

* Can we talk about how terrible Spider-Man is at keeping his secret identity an actual secret, especially in the movies? All six Spider-Man movies involve multiple people discovering Peter’s secret identity, including a whole subway train full of people in “Spider-Man 2“. By this point, “Homecoming” largely plays it for laughs.

* “Okay, okay, okay. I’m gonna level with you, Peter, I don’t think I can’t keep this a secret”.

* “Wow… do you lay eggs?”

* “So how far can you shoot your webs?” “It’s unknown” “Well, if I was you, I’d stand on the edge of a building and just shoot them as far as they would go-” It’s already been done, Ned. It didn’t end well.

* Well, that was a nice subversion of an evil villain cliche. Toomes only intended to beat Brice up with the anti-gravity gun but he winds up disintegrating him instead.

* “They stopped in Maryland. What’s there?” I don’t know, evil lair?” “They have a lair?” “A gang with aliens guns, run by a guy with wings? Yeah, dude, they have a lair” “Badass“.

* “There’s a ton of other sub-systems here, but they’re all disabled by the… ‘training wheels protocol‘.

* “Suit lady, what was that?!” “You jumped off the sign and landed on your face”.

* For Tom Holland’s Peter, literally everything is awesome (except being condescended to by Tony Stark).

* “Taking it all in, Michelle? “Oh, yeah, I just don’t want to celebrate something that was built by slaves” I’m sure the Washington Monument wasn’t built by-” *Guard does iffy, uncertain gesture” “Okay. Enjoy your book” “Thanks”.

* Of course, it would be Flash who almost got everyone killed.

* I swear, cops are 100% useless in superhero movies.

* “Are you really friends with Peter Parker?!” I love this movie.

* “As you know, we made it out alive, and that’s the important thing. I couldn’t bear to lose a student on a school trip. Not again“.

* Out of all the many comedic scenes in this movie, the interrogation scene is my favorite. Peter wanted to be cool so badly, but Batman he ain’t.

* “You know Delmar’s?” “Yeah, best sandwich in Queens” “Sub Haven’s pretty good” “It has too much bread” “I like bread”.

* “That’s gonna dissolve in two hours” “No, no, no. Come fix this” “Two hours. You deserve that!” “I got ice cream in here” “You deserve that. You’re a criminal. Bye, Mr. Criminal!”

* “Would you like me to activate Instant Kill?” “No, Karen, stop it with the Instant Kill already!” She’s so bloodthirsty.

* Toomes, the silver fox.

* “I tried to tell you about it… but you didn’t listen! None of this would’ve happened if you had just listened to me! If you even cared, you’d actually be here” *Tony Stark steps out of the armor to glare at Peter* It was then, Peter knew he was screwed.

* “I just wanted to be like you!” “And I wanted you to be better” Doesn’t that nicely sum up Steven Universe’s relationship with Rose Quartz?

* This loser is you.

* I always laugh at how Peter just can’t stop staring at Toomes when he realizes he’s Liz’s dad. Inwardly, he’s freaking out and he’s probably wondering if Liz is in on it all. I also always laugh at that glare Toomes shoots a terrified Peter in the rear-view mirror – his ‘I see you, boy‘ face.

* “Good old Spider-Man”.

* Imagine if Toomes’ hunch had been wrong and he outed himself as some criminal loony to a totally random teen (“I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you and everyone you love”).

* So Toomes just discovered Peter is Spider-Man, and two minutes later the Shocker is behind Peter’s school, all filled-in and waiting to kill Peter as a trap. What the hell? Did Shocker get teleporting powers at some point off-screen?

* “Guy in the chair!”

* Toomes disrespecting Tony’s mask is a nice reminder that these two characters never met in this movie, and that feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

* This is cute.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

Spider-Man Homecoming Churro

Posted in Marvel Comics, Reviews | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) Review

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Poster

“The Amazing Spider-Man” series took a surprisingly large drop in quality, surprisingly fast. “The Amazing Spider-Man” was a solid superhero origin story; it had a lame villain but it also had plenty of drive and heart. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” though is goofy and not in an intentional sort of way, in a ‘this movie is so bad, over-the-top and unsubtle that large portions of it are fucking hilarious’ sort of way.

In the list of dumb things in this movie, you’ve got Paul Giamatti overacting like crazy as the Rhino and later being reduced to a floating head inside a poorly-designed, CGI Rhino tank-suit; Electro gaining his powers by falling into a tank of electric eels; Peter imagining Captain Stacy’s ghost following him everywhere, glaring at him from out of his cop car, even during action scenes; Mr. and Mrs. Parker having this surreal espionage subplot that culminates in Peter finding their hidden spy train-carriage in the subway with all their research in it; Peter and Gwen breaking up and making up over and over again and Peter stalking Gwen; an evil, cliche Nazi scientist ripped straight out of World War II propaganda movies torturing Electro to classical music; Harry Osborn injecting himself with spider-venom that looks like it gives him Grinch hair and a nasty case of AIDs; and several instances of overly-simplistic, terribly-rendered CGI, including the climatic fight between Spider-Man and Electro, which looks exactly like two characters duking it out inside a video game with terrible graphics.

On top of all that, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is long and boring. This film has two antagonists (some would say three but let’s be honest here, Rhino is a glorified cameo), but they barely do anything antagonistic. Electro only gets two confrontations with Spider-Man, and Harry only really goes evil in the last twenty minutes. The rest of the movie’s plot is either devoted to Peter moping, angsting and feeling sorry for himself, or Peter and Gwen flip-flopping on how they feel about each other. So with very little meaningful conflict in this movie, it just drearily drags on and on through an ungodly runtime of two and a half hours. All of the other Spider-Man movies before now, including “Spider-Man 3“, have at least been fun to watch, this one just felt soulless.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Peter 3

Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is a lot less interesting in this movie than he was in the previous film. In “The Amazing Spider-Man”, Peter was spry, outspoken, snarky, determined, amiable, troubled, hubristic and haunted by his Uncle Ben’s death. In this film, Peter spends 90% of it angsting about how he wants to be with Gwen, but he can’t be with her because of her dad, but he still pursues her anyway; angsting about how he wants to know more about his missing parents but his investigation has unfortunately hit a dead end; angsting about how he wants to help Harry but he can’t know what will happen if he gives Harry his magic spider blood; and angsting about how people don’t like Spider-Man. In the span of one movie, Peter has been reduced from a well-rounded and engaging character to a one-dimensional sad-sack, which ironically makes it a lot less effective when Gwen actually dies in the last ten minutes and we’re meant to be moved by a montage of Peter grieving her. Peter also makes a number of weird decisions in this movie that don’t exactly endear the audience to him, like letting a high-speed chase spiral further out-of-control for several minutes so he can stop and tell bad jokes, or stalking Gwen around the city, spying on her, several times a day every day for a month, which the movie just casually throws out there and never brings up again (I guess I was on point when I made that “Twilight” comparison last time).

There are a few times I like Peter in this movie, like when he rescues some kid from being harassed by neighborhood bullies and walks him home, or during the Times Square sequence, when he tries his best to approach Electro and talk him down, and when that doesn’t work he runs damage control and tries to nip things in the bud as quickly as he can. That’s a well-written Spider-Man. Peter, ignoring what he learned in the last movie about being responsible, eventually decides to give up being New York’s superhero so he can follow Gwen to England, and is immediately punished for this by the narrative when Green Goblin shows up out of nowhere and kills Gwen. Peter gives up being Spider-Man out of grief and a few months later decides to come out of retirement, but this has no real emotional effect however, since it all literally occurs in the last ten minutes of the movie. Peter going up against the Rhino is supposed to be a satisfying return to form, but since the Rhino is really very lame it’s not a particularly inspiring place to close out this film or this franchise, and with Gwen’s death still extremely fresh in the audience’s minds, Peter still feels like a failure of a hero by the time the credits roll. I also find Peter’s overall character arc to be pretty iffy. I’m pretty sure he learned that there are times where no matter what you do, you still can’t win, and the two different endings for this film stress the importance of soldiering on through adversity. Trouble is, it feels like Peter barely grew at all in this film, and if anything he actually took several steps backwards from where he was at the end of the last movie.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Peter and Gwen

Like Peter, Gwen Stacy is noticeably less fun than she was in the last film, though she doesn’t feel as blandly written as he does and Emma Stone is still nice and perky. Graduating from her high school as a valedictorian, Gwen Stacy is all set to leave her old job at OsCorp behind and head off to Oxford university, if she can beat a younger teen prodigy to the scholarship. Gwen retains her fiery personality and continues to find ways to help Peter fight the good fight; she’s still incredibly stubborn and refuses to be strung along. Like I mentioned before, Peter and Gwen spend the majority of this movie flip-flopping on how they feel about each other and whether or not they should break up for good, and to be honest, I really don’t care that much about the outcome. The Spider-Man movies always devote more time than they probably should to Peter’s love life and Peter’s on-again, off-again relationships with his girlfriends, and at a certain point, you just get burnt out on it. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” was that point for me. The fact that the movie ends with Gwen dying only makes the preceding melodrama more tedious, and makes me wish all that screentime had been better used on other things, like letting Electro be an actual antagonist. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” naturally ends with Gwen being killed off, because love it or hate it, that’s the direction her character has been heading since the end of the last film, and Marc Webb handles it well.

For context, let’s talk about Gwen’s original death in the comics, several decades ago. One of the writers at the time, Gerry Conway, thought Gwen was a flat, boring character and that Peter had better chemistry with Mary Jane, so when it was decided that one of Peter’s loved ones would die to change the status quo, Gwen was killed off by the Green Goblin. It’s not uncommon in fanfics for characters to be killed off for a preferred ship, but Gwen was one of the first cases where that actually became canon. Amusingly enough, she literally died for shipping. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” chooses to follow the comics, but it also clearly tries to have Gwen’s death seem less like a textbook case of fridging by having it be the consequence of her own poor decisions, as well as Peter breaking Captain Stacy’s trust. Gwen’s fatal flaw has always been her stubbornness; she chose to ignore Peter’s warnings and put herself in harm’s way for the greater good and right before her death, she seemed to accept where her choices had led her. I don’t really think this improves it though. In this new outcome, the film punishes Gwen for exercising her own agency and not letting other people make her decisions for her (the exact opposite of what happened with MJ in the previous trilogy), and still kills off the hero’s girlfriend just to punish him and make him feel sad at the end, which is a particularly tiresome writing trope (though I suppose it does continue the spaghetti western theme established with Captain Stacy in the last movie). In Sony’s plans for “The Amazing Spider-Man 3”, Gwen was going to be resurrected as Spider-Gwen, but since they pulled the plug on that sequel Gwen’s whole character arc ends here, and it is both sudden and underwhelming.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Electro 4

At his worst, Jamie Foxx’s Electro is only slightly less cringy than the other villains in this duology, but I have to admit I do have a soft spot for him. Part of it is because I liked Jamie Foxx in the role, part of it is because Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams wrote a distinctive leitmotif for the character, and part of it is because Electro provided the Times Square sequence mid-movie, which is one of the few scenes in this film that feels like it actually had a great deal of effort of poured into it to make it adventurous. Max Dillon is a shy, awkward and repressed nerd. A hard-worker at Oscorp, Max is often overlooked, underappreciated and mistreated by his co-workers and superiors, and as such has really low self-esteem. He idolizes Spider-Man for his boldness and bravery, and puts him up on a pedestal of hero worship. Max is shown to be more than a bit unbalanced, having violent fantasies about his co-workers, devoting a shrine to Spider-Man and hearing whispery voices in his head. It’s interesting to consider this Electro as a foil to Spider-Man. Peter was a nerdy outcast who used his new powers for the good of the city, while Max is driven insane by mistreatment and tries to take his revenge on everyone who ostracized him. After a really goofy workplace accident turns him into an undead mutant, Electro is rejected and humiliated by all of New York City, and permanently made into a freak show. He wants someone to blame for his wreck of his life, some sort of scrapegoat, and Spidey had the misfortune of being the one who was present at the time.

When Electro turns on his former hero and starts shooting up Times Square, lashing out at everyone there, it’s one of my favorite visuals in the movie and the moment you realize “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” could have been a better movie than it was. This is a villain who can not only harness electricity but become electricity – in Manhattan. Peter should have spent a chunk of this movie trying to find a way to track him down, pin him down and contain him in a city as large as New York. Instead, he’s benched in an asylum for the next hour and most of his potential is wasted. In Ravencroft, Electro is examined and tortured by Dr. Kafka, a lab-coat clad, black-glove wearing, sadistic scientist with a taste for classical music who has an exaggerated German accent – in other words, a Nazi in all but name. I think we’re actually supposed to take these scenes seriously, but that ain’t happening – and that’s before I mention the atrocious dialogue these two are given. Ironically, Dr. Kafka in the comics is a woman, so Marvel gave her a sex change and a nationality change for this movie. Harry springs Electro so Harry can get into OsCorp and Electro can go after Spider-Man, which would be exciting were it not for the fact that Electro’s character and his motivations have been completely neglected and undeveloped before now, and the CGI during Spider-Man and Electro’s final battle (which is also only their second one) is completely, laughably terrible. It’s unfortunate, because out of all the villains in “The Amazing Spider-Man” series, Electro was the one who had the most potential in my opinion, but he’s completely wasted in this movie.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Harry Osborn

Since he was never once mentioned in the last movie, Dane Dehaan’s Harry Osborn is casually retconned into Peter’s backstory in this movie, as an old childhood friend. One common sentiment I often see expressed about “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is that it has an overabundance of subplots that have virtually nothing to do with each other, but I don’t think that’s entirely true – there is one thematic idea linking them. The main theme in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is the victims of Oscorp’s greed, ruthlessness, callousness and cruelty – the ones they tossed aside and stepped on to get what they wanted. People like Max, and Harry, and Peter’s parents. Dr. Connors from the last movie fits the bill as well. Whether or not this theme is handled well however, is a different story. Harry is the prodigal son of OsCorp, who returns to run the company after his father dies. Harry is cynical, sarcastic, and bitter, as a result of being abandoned by his neglectful father and his privileged background causing him to grow up friendless, but he does have a close and unlikely friendship with Peter Parker. Dane Dehaan is one of the few actors in this movie who goes full ham and does it well (as Harry anyway, not so much as the Green Goblin), and the scenes devoted to his friendship with Peter are nice enough to watch. Harry’s attempts to command Oscorp are undermined by his employees and Norman’s old board, who disrespect him and see as just a rich brat.

Despite wanting to be different from his father, it’s pretty clear Harry is going to become a villain, even if you’ve never seen the previous trilogy or read the comics. Harry can be very temperamental and he has an entitled and manipulative side to him; he’s not above trying to use Peter and Gwen to get ahead. When he learns the terminal disease his father died from is genetic and it’s going to begin killing him as well eventually, he becomes determined to do whatever he can to save himself. His attempts to use Oscorp’s sciences are thwarted by his traitorous peers, and when he approaches Spidey for some of his blood, because he hopes Spider-Man’s healing factor can help him, he turns him down. Desperate, obsessed and vengeful, Harry eventually teams up with Electro so they can both get what they want and get their revenge. It’s a short-lived team-up that again makes you wish more attention had been given to these villains. Harry eventually shoots himself up with some spider-venom that will only work on Peter and mutates into something unintentionally funny. Since it occurs in the last twenty minutes, Harry’s transformation into the Green Goblin is rushed, poorly-acted and embarrassingly cringy with a weird character design. He kills off Gwen to spite Spider-Man, and later we get some business about Harry arranging a super-villain team-up in prison. You see, for the last two movies Sony had been using the OsCorp arc to try to set up a Sinister Six movie, even if it came at the expense of the story currently being told, hence why the villains are so neglected and underdeveloped in “TASM” and “TASM2”. That Sinister Six movie never came to fruition however, since this one unperformed, so there are a lot of loose ends still hanging in the “Amazing” series, and it never received a proper ending.

Unlike the last film, we finally get some answers about what happened to Peter’s parents in this movie. Basically, Mr. Parker did some genetics research for Norman Osborn, found out Norman was a bad dude, destroyed his work and tried to go on the run with his wife, only to be killed (as an aside, this plot feels a lot like something you’d see in “Smallville”, particularly during the Lionel Luthor arc in that series’s third season. Just swap out Oscorp for LuthorCorp, and Dane Dehaan’s Harry Osborn for Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor). There was a storyline about Mr. and Mrs. Parker being spies in the comics, but for the most part they’ve never received as much attention as they do in these movies, because they’re honestly not that interesting and they have little to no relevance on the man Peter currently is as a result of his aunt and his uncle’s upbringing. Peter’s birth as Spider-Man being predestined by his parents, and his healing blood being strongly emphasized, also feels as though it takes something away from the unassuming, everyman aspect of his character. There was an alternate ending to the film (which is ironically much better than the one in the movie), where Peter finally reunited with his father, who survived his plane crash, a few months after Norman died and Gwen died. Mr. Parker helped convince Peter to return to being Spider-Man. Marc opted not to use it and save any further development for “The Amazing Spider-Man 3”, which was obviously a mistake, and as such the ‘Peter’s missing parents’ arc lacks a satisfying pay-off after two movies of build-up. One could argue that such a reunion would overshadow Aunt May and Uncle Ben, but that’s already happened since Aunt May is given nothing to do in this movie except argue with Peter, and Uncle Ben is afterthought, so Marc Webb and Sony might as well have gone all the way with that subplot.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Peter and Gwen 6

If Marc Webb’s direction for “The Amazing Spider-Man” felt bland at times, it’s often feels downright pedestrian in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”. It’s basic level stuff, devoid of any style or substance save for the Times Square sequence and Gwen Stacy’s slow-motion death scene, and a lot of shots are framed awkwardly. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” abandons the dark and edgy aesthetic that the first film benefited from in favor of a bright and open look (more “The Avengers” than “The Dark Knight”), which only highlights the genericness. The CGI in the film is occasionally good, like during Spider-Man’s web slinging scenes, but most of the time it feels clunky and intrusive, or it feels like we’ve been transported inside a video game. In general, the film relies on it way too much considering how conspicuous it is. The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams (in a collaboration by the artists) is easily the best part of the movie. Hans reworks Spider-Man’s main theme into a proud fanfare and incorporates it into many of the film’s cues, as well as pens some nice, techno pieces for the threads devoted to Oscorp and Peter’s parents. But the standout and centerpiece leitmotif is the ‘paranoia’ theme for Electro, performed by Pharrell – a combination of electronic dubstep elements, electric guitars and woodwind instruments that underscores most of Max Dillon’s scenes. “My Enemy” and “The Electro Suite” enhance whatever scenes they appear in.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is amazingly boring, and when it’s not boring it’s laughably cringy. This awful movie is easily the worst Spider-Man film produced so far; it killed the “Amazing” series and I suspect it’s a large part of the reason why people dislike Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man. You can easily give this one a pass.

Rating: 3/10.

Side-Notes:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Electro

* If you notice, unlike the previous four films, Sony placed their logo over Marvel’s and Columbia’s. Gotta get that self-promotion done right.

* This is a nice bit of symmetry. In the last film, we saw Peter’s parents leave from his perspective, but in this one we finally get their point-of-view.

* It bothered me that Mr. Parker’s laptop seemed far too modern for a flashback to the early 2000’s, so I did some digging and discovered laptops similar to contemporary ones have been around since the 90’s, so I suppose it’s feasible.

* “I know that we all think that we’re immortal. We’re supposed to feel that way, we’re graduating. But like our brief four years in high school, what makes life valuable is that it doesn’t last forever, what makes it precious is that it ends. I know that now more than ever. And I say it, today of all days, to remind us that time is luck. So don’t waste it living someone else’s life, make yours count for something. Fight for what matters to you, no matter what. Because even if you fall short, what better way is there to live?”

* “Sweetheart, I’m so proud of you. I know the first thing that your Uncle Ben would say” “Yeah, I know too. You better hurry up, the party’s over. You’ve gotta get a job”.

* “Wow, you have done this to me again and again. I can’t live like this. I break up with you, Peter. I break up with you“.

* “I don’t feel like my kids are safe with him out there. Get out of the way and let the police do their job!” This person is a moron. Cops are useless in superhero movies. And not only are the cops useless in “The Amazing Spider-Man” movies, they only ever seem to make things worse than they already were, as we’ll see later when we get to Times Square.

* “This is my laundry, my home, my machine! Back off! Eat your breakfast!” “Alright laundry sheriff, I’ll do it later”.

* Dat green-screen elevator.

* “From now on everybody at this table works for Felicia, because Felicia works for me” I like Harry and Felica.

* “Did you ever figure out why your parents bailed?” “My Dad left a briefcase. Thats all I got, a briefcase full of junk”.

* It’s a shame Electro lost the hoodie so soon. It’s a good look on him.

* That guy just called for back-up. How the hell did all those cops show up that fast?

* So, why is that one camera connected to all the screens in Times Square?

* Blue lives matter.

* “They lied to me, they shot at me, they hate on me, they’re using me, afraid of me, they’re dead to me! They lied to me, they shot at me, they hate on me, they’re dead to me, and now they’re all my enemy!

* “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillips Phillips is a good pop song, but it really doesn’t fit the mood of this scene.

* Heh, Peter’s ringtone.

* I really love Harry’s emo bangs. They look they were inspired by Emo Peter’s in “Spider-Man 3”.

* It’s horror movie jump scare time again, Gwen!

* “I don’t want you money” “Come on, everybody wants my money!

* “AUUGGH! YOU’RE A FRAUD, SPIDER-MAN!

* “The truth is your parents left you here, on our door-step. And you were this little boy whose whole world was turned upside down with no explanation. We did the best we could, your Uncle Ben and I. I mean, who else was gonna care for you and protect you and worry about you? Your father? No. I was the one who wiped your nose and made you brush your teeth and do your homework and washed your dirty underwear. Me! Your stupid, non-scientific aunt, who doesn’t know how to make ends meet, who has to take nursing classes with twenty-two year old kids so I can pay for you to go to college. And I don’t know how to do this without Ben! I don’t know how! And…and you’re dreaming about your perfect father, who was never here. No! No, I won’t tell you. You’re my boy. As far as I’m concerned, you’re my boy, and I won’t hurt you”.

* “Once you shut down the grid, Spider-Man will come to you, and I want you to make him bleed!” Harry is easily the most quotable character in this movie.

* It feels so good when Harry and Electro finally shut Menken up.

* Dat green-screen bridge.

* Seriously though, how can you not laugh at Ghost Stacy?

* I love Peter’s ‘bitch, what the fuck is that?‘ expression through his mask when Harry shows up. He looks as appalled by that character design as the audience.

* Choke that bitch, Peter! Somehow, Harry didn’t get a snapped neck from that move.

* I thought Peter’s webbing was supposed to be super strong? It’s pretty shoddy if a simple gear snapped it.

Further Reading:

Fanfiction:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Harry Osborn 3

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