Review of the Year 2017

I’ve always found compiling lists and rankings difficult when it comes to film. As soon as you start quantifying things you get into silly situations of potentially ranking comic book movies higher than “proper” Oscar films.

With that in mind I’m not going to do a ‘Top 10 Movies of 2017’. Instead here are my highlights (or lowlights) of the year in film.

Best comic book movie

This is definitely a tough category this year with a number of great releases of varying styles and studios.

For me, in joint position for the best comic book movies of 2017 are Logan and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

While these two seem at completely opposite ends of the spectrum they both achieve the same goal. Both Hugh Jackman’s swansong and Tom Holland’s debut solo outing were able to bring fresh perspectives to characters that have been with audiences since the beginning of the comic book age.

Logan was an R-rated, dark character study which pushed the boundaries of what a comic book movie could be with amazing performances by Jackman and Patrick Stewart.

Spider-Man: Homecoming managed to revitalise a character that was in danger of becoming overexposed after two separate film series. Not only did Marvel achieve this seemingly impossible task, they also captured the core of who Spider-Man is and why he is a hero to millions, and all without harming a single uncle Ben….(que slow golf clap).

And the Oscar goes to….

This category is for those “proper” films I mentioned earlier.

While we are just entering the Oscar season (at least in the UK) there was an early release that is sure to be in contention when the awards roll around.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk was a stunning depiction of an amazing real world event. The directors’ mastery of narrative filmmaking delivers a truly unique experience as the film is split across three intersecting timeframes during the 1940 evacuation of British army from the beaches of Belgium. The film manages to be rousing without being overly patriotic or ‘hollywoodised ’ as war films can tend to be. I could go on but I’ve reviewed it already.

Stunner of the year

This is for the film that was the most visually stunning and its not really much of a contest.

Blade Runner 2049 was amazing from a visual standpoint. The narrative of the film is complex and I definitely need to revisit it on home release to really dive into it.

Regardless of how you feel about the rest of the film it cannot be denied that almost every individual shot in the film is a perfectly composed poster from master cinematographer Roger Deakins. I was lucky enough to see the film in all it’s IMAX glory and it was easily one of the best cinema experiences I’ve ever had.

Take your pick — every shot in Blade Runner is stunning.

Personal Best

This is for my personal favourite of the year.

For the longest time Baby Driver was my favourite film of the year for 2017. I still love the film and find it relentlessly entertaining and fun from beginning to end. Unfortunately the film has been marred somewhat by the presence of a certain Kevin Spacey.

Since the film’s initial release accusations of sexual misconduct (often made by young men) have lost Spacey his reputation and career. In hindsight the accusations have added a new, uncomfortable element to Baby Driver, particularly as Spacey shares all his scenes with Ansel Elgort, abusing his power as a crime boss to manipulate the young getaway driver.

Looking past this new uncomfortable element (which is definitely difficult to do) Edgar Wright’s latest is a unique action/drama/musical which delivers a great time at the cinema with some of most innovative practical action scenes of the year.

Disappointment of the year

Unfortunately I have two recipients for this dishonour –

The Dark Tower was a massive let down. Having read most of Stephen King’s epic seven book saga I was excited to see it translated on screen, particularly with the likes of Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey starring. Unfortunately the cast was wasted in a convoluted, confusing and ultimately forgettable 90 minute slog.

My second disappointment of the year almost broke me. I’ve been holding out for the DC films ever since the Man of Steel trailer in 2013. I’ve been a Snyder apologist, a Batfleck fan and when Wonder Woman seemed to go down well earlier this year I thought the tables were finally starting to turn.

With the combined forces of Zack Synder and a touch of levity from co-writer/director Joss Whedon (the king of the ensemble superhero movie) I thought Justice League was finally going to be where the pieces fell into place and DC delivered a truly great superhero epic to rival The Avengers.

Sadly the final film seemed to have been completely overhauled in the reshoot process. Real locations were replaced with poor green screen, back stories were cut out entirely for failed attempts at humour and most unforgivably of all, a key character had his face digitally butchered.

Henry Cavill’s digital mustache removal; the worst use of CGI ever?

As the Justice League started I went in with hope and optimism, the very things the filmmakers had promised would be a central theme going forward. As the opening scene played out I got that awful sinking feeling that I was about to be let down. I was right to worry. The new characters were two dimensional and the existing ones were given complete personality transplants to try and appease the complaints of too much darkness in the previous DC films. Add to this the studio mandated 2 hour runtime leaving no time for coherence or character development and you have a huge mess that had the potential to be so much better than it was. Justice League is studio interference gone mad and I hope it is not a sign of things to come.

The ‘Holy Shit’ award

This is for the film that left me stunned as I walked out of the cinema.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It’s no secret I’m a huge Star Wars fan. Walking out of the midnight showing of The Last Jedi in December I once again felt like an excited six year old. For me the film respected the legacy of the series while moving forward.

I loved Episode VIII. I loved the character arcs. I loved how they treated Luke Skywalker. I loved the Snoke storyline. I loved the action.

For the first 48 hours after seeing the film in never occurred to me that my love for the film would be something that I would have to defend, much less that The Last Jedi would spark such negativity from a certain section of the fanbase.

I was lucky enough to watch Episode VIII with 6 friends of mine all of which were big Star Wars fans with varying levels of fandom. Every one of us loved it.

On reflection I can see the flaws in the film, it is by no means perfect. But for 2.5 hours I was back to being a child again. The scene of the Millennium Falcon being chased by tie fighters while John Williams original score blasts out fills me with joy in a way nothing else at the cinema can.

I can’t wait to see The Last Jedi again, however the ‘backlash’ has slightly ruined the experience for me. My greatest fear is that, like Justice League, the movie studio could let negative feedback from fans influence their output and we could end up with an Episode IX full of compromise and fan service.

I can only hope that Star Wars as a franchise is able to follow its own advice grow beyond the ‘sacred texts’ of its roots.

For some fans ‘Star Wars is dead’. I say long live Star Wars.

Star Wars: The Next Generation — John Boyega greeting fans at the Star Wars premiere.

So long 2017, you’ve been pretty good as it goes. Now, As we enter a new year of movies….

Spoilers…R.I.P. Admiral
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