Daredevil Season 2 Review

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Ok so I know it’s been a while, I’ve kind of fallen off writing these. I sort of was thinking for a while about trying to put some effort into doing something more professional with these, but then I never got around to it, so I kind of just thought fuck the whole thing. I think the conclusion that I’ve reached is that I’m just going to write one every once in a while, when I actually have a lot to say about something. And let me tell you I definitely have a lot of shit to say about this new season of Disney’s Marvel’s Netflix’s Daredevil. If you read my review of Season 1 you already know that I absolutely fucking loved it. I think it’s an absolutely outstanding piece of television and a perfect adaptation of one of the coolest comicbook characters of all time. Upon rewatching it a couple of times, I would say that it’s not perfect. The plot sort of starts to drag a little around the last few episodes. Not that there’s anything specific I would cut out, it just seems like in general things could have wrapped up a little quicker. I think it could have been tighter as maybe 10 episodes instead of 13. I actually think that’s true for all of these Marvel Netflix seasons, I kind of felt that way about Jessica Jones as well. I also think the Kingpin, though incredibly interesting, is maybe not the coolest version of that character we’ve seen. All in all though, great stuff, I didn’t have a bad thing to say about it at the time. And now that Season 2 is out, I’ve heard a lot of people giving it that same praise as Season 1. But for me there were just a few more things about it that kind of bugged me, and now I’m gonna rant them at the internet. SPOILERS AHEAD.

 

Ok right off the bat let me say there’s a lot to like in this season still. It’s still well made, well shot, well acted, there’s amazing fight choreography, all the characters are done unbelievable justice, and it’s so, so cool to see a violent r-rated adaptation of these properties. I almost feel like a huge asshole for complaining at all, the fact that this even exists blows my mind. I mean, I grew up on the Ben Affleck version (Who remembers Colin Ferrel as Bullseye? Anyone? Anyone?). But it’s no Daredevil Season 1. And I’ve just talked to too many people who don’t seem to notice any difference.

First off, I didn’t find the action quite as captivating, and at first I wasn’t sure why. It’s all the same close range, gritty, painful looking combat that I loved in the first season. And the violence was better than ever. But I think maybe that’s why I cared less. They went a little overboard with it I think. One of the reasons the violence in the first season was so shocking was because it was used pretty sparingly. For the most part it would be just a regular comicbook thing with guys punching, but then every now and then someone would get fishhooked in the guts with a big sharp ninja weapon and it would really make you wince. This season it feels like they’re trying a little too hard to get that same reaction. Like in the last or second last episode, when the Hand has Stick tied down, and they’re doing the whole bamboo fingernail torture in graphic detail, and I’m just like, ya know, I don’t know if we need to see that in a Daredevil show. Don’t get me wrong, I love graphic over the top violence in almost every other context, but I just felt like the level that was set in season 1 was perfect. It didn’t need to be any more violent than it was. Season 1 it felt like the violence was necessary to tell the story, and here there are a few moments where it feels like the story was more necessary to tell the violence. And the fight scenes got more over the top too. Back in season 1, there were so many more memorable moments. Like remember when he fights that assassin in the alley, and the dude impales his own face on the sharp fence thing so that the Kingpin won’t find him? Or when Matt’s in the police station and he hears the crooked cops shoot his witness but he can’t do anything about it? Or what about that awesome fight with the ninja dude Nobu, where he ends up getting lit on fire at the end? Or the hallway fight in episode 2 that’s all one long shot? I can’t think of any moments like that from this new season. Almost every fight scene is just a bunch of ninjas show up and they all punch until Daredevil’s the last one standing. And it starts to happen so often towards the end that all the scenes just sort of blend together. And so even though the actual fights and choreography are as good if not better than last season, none of it ends up nearly as memorable.

Secondly, the whole season feels much less focused than the first one. The first season, it’s all about Kingpin, and everything that happens revolves around that one central plot. In this season there’s more going on, and I don’t feel they handle the juggling of multiple plot lines that well. I mean, ok, the first few episodes are all about Daredevil vs. Punisher. And truth be told, that’s the best stuff in the whole season. That scene where Punisher chains DD up on the roof with the gun was so perfect, and ripped straight off the comicbook page. It’s so great to see these two character actually just sit down and spend 20 minutes discussing their opposing moral viewpoints re: killing vs. not killing. Hey, DC, you know why you’re not making Marvel money? Because this is how they handled the question of “should Batman kill people?” whereas you guys were just like “fuck it, Batman kills people.” No one will respect your characters if you don’t. You can make a good Superman movie, just stop shying away from the character. Marvel committed to Iron Man and Captain America and look how that turned out. But I digress. After Daredevil puts Punisher away, that’s it. The story completely shifts. Suddenly Stick and Elektra show up and the whole focus completely changes. There’s no hint of them at all during the Punisher stuff. You can literally draw a line down the middle of the season, Daredevil/Punisher half and Elektra/Hand/Ninja half. And yeah, Punisher’s still in it, but he doesn’t have another confrontation with Daredevil, and his story arc never intersects with the main ninja plot in any significant way. He’s mainly just there to give Foggy and Karen something to do.

Ugh, yeah can we talk about Foggy and Karen for a sec? Ok cause I actually really liked both of them in season 1. Foggy was the perfect goofy best friend character and Karen Page was likeable as hell and the perfect vessel for all the Kingpin investigation stuff with Ben Urich. But now that Foggy knows Matt is Daredevil all he does is bitch and moan, and he becomes really annoying. And then there’s the whole Punisher trial, and it’s like a real chance to see sort of how it effects Foggy, what it’s like for him to defend this murderer, and actually develop the character a little if you’re gonna give him so much goddamn screentime, but instead his entire arc, for 13 episodes is just “I’m pissed at Matt Murdock because he’s too busy being superhero to be my friend, whaaaaa”. And then Karen Page is doing the exact same thing as last season, except this time teaming up with the boss dude at the newspaper because they killed Ben Urich. And then she just gets a reporter job even though she has no writing experience whatsoever. It just seems like they’re trying to give them shit to do, and it got to the point where every time they cut back to either of them I would tune out and look at my phone.

But all that aside there’s still one thing we haven’t talked really talked about yet; the Punisher. Now look, there are some truly great Punisher moments in this show. Like I said, the episode with him and Daredevil on the rooftop is amazing. And there’s a part where they fight side by side, classic Marvel Team-Up style, and the Punisher’s about to kill a guy, and then Daredevil stops him and is like “we do this my way”. SOO COOL!! Having said that, I was a little disappointed. Personally, when it comes to the Punisher, I’m of the school of thought that you can’t ever really make him a relatable protagonist. The Punisher is, at his core, just a force of nature. He is made to kill and that’s all he does. He just sweeps through a place and cleans it the fuck out. And you know, it’s maybe sort of interesting to get in his head a little bit, see what kind of fucked up shit he thinks about while he murders or whatever, maybe get a sense of his motivations. But you can’t really have him develop at all. You can’t have him grow or change like other traditional protagonists. He just kills. That’s all he does. And if you want to see a really bad attempt at making the Punisher a normal relatable protagonist, watch the Thomas Jane movie from the 2000s. Actually, watch it just for Travolta as the bad guy, he’s hilarious. Anyway, so that’s really what I was looking for from this Punisher; I wanted Daredevil to be doing his thing, fighting ninjas, protecting the kitchen, whatever, and then suddenly Punisher rolls in and it just becomes a bloodbath of mob guys, and it’s like this unpredictable third party who just shows up and fucks everything up, and we see how all the characters, good and bad, now have to deal with him. That would have been really awesome. Instead he’s handled more like a straight up Daredevil villain, and other than when he murders that one meeting of mob guys in like the first episode, we never really get a sense of him being on this huge killing spree. It’s a much more sort of reserved Punisher, it feels very much like his “Year One”.

And you know, that maybe could have been interesting, but then they couldn’t even do that without making it super convoluted and confusing. Like all the stuff with his origin. The Punisher’s origin should not be a super complex one; guy gets back from Nam (or Iraq in this case), his family gets caught in mafia crossfire and are murdered, he swears revenge on all criminals. End of story. Now it’s like there were these undercover cops and this crooked army general and the whole thing may or may not have been a set up specifically to kill Frank Castle and his family? Like we don’t even know, that’s the thing. They spend half the season spinning their wheels in this bullshit only to never give us any clear answers and just go “uh, cliffhanger ending, wait till next season or whenever, don’t worry, it will all make sense at some point.” And the biggest insult of all; at the very end of the season, the Punisher’s just loaded up on a whole shit ton of guns, he’s spray painted a skull on his shirt, and he’s got a goddamn MINIGUN. He is finally the full comicbook Punisher, armed to the fucking teeth, and you know whoever he’s going after is in for a world of hurt. And then he doesn’t do anything. We never see him again. There’s even a scene where Daredevil and Elektra are fighting an impossible number of ninjas, on a rooftop, and it would be the perfect moment for Punisher to show up in the final hour and blow them all away. And he just fucking doesn’t. Elektra dies and Daredevil’s sad about it and that’s the end of the season. I mean they even showed the Punisher with that minigun on the posters. Did anyone happen to pass through Yonge and Dundas like a week or two before this came out? They had a giant 20 foot billboard of The Punisher with his minigun, and then he fails to use it a single time in 13 hours of show. That is some grade A bullshit. If you show me a minigun, someone better blow apart a bunch of ninjas with that minigun. It’s like a rule of screenwriting man, Chekov’s minigun. But I guess we’re “setting it up for later”.

And that’s the whole problem I have with this season, it just feels like its dragging its heels. I mean they do the exact same thing with the Hand and Elektra and all this vague resurrection stuff. They set up all this stuff and then never actually explain any of it. And that would be fine if it was only a small part of the story, but the entire goddamn plot of the show, at least in the last half of the season centres entirely on the Hand coming after Elektra because she’s some sort of vague mystical doomsday mcguffin. And we never find out what or how or by who or fucking anything. I guess we’ll have to wait for Daredevil Season 3, or Iron Fist, which ties in with Madam Goa and the mystical city of K’un L’un which they hinted at last season, or until the Defenders, when Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones all come together like the Avengers, or maybe before any of that we need to wait for Doctor Strange to come out and burst the bubble for using magic in the Marvel universe. Woah, when did this cinematic universe become almost as confusing as the comicbook one? Anyway, it’s like in Terminator: Genisys, when they’re like “hey, who sent old Arnold back in time?” and he’s like “Idk, it’s classified” and then they just hope you forget about it by the end of the movie. Or like in the new Star Wars, how we keep being told that who Rey’s parents are is super important but we never actually find out who they are. It’s one thing to withhold certain bits of information for future instalments in your franchise, but when so much of the basic setup isn’t given to us it kind of just starts to feel lazy, like they haven’t written it yet. You ask me, I bet they don’t even know who Rey’s fucking parents are yet, they’re just gonna wait and see which internet fan theory works best. I think that’s becoming a problem with a lot of this shared universe movies, where they have trouble sewing enough seeds for future movies while still having each movie be satisfying in it’s own right. And for me that’s exactly where Daredevil season 2 stumbles. It’s the Iron Man 2 of these Marvel Netflix shows, just feels like a big trailer for the Defenders. Which makes sense because Daredevil Season 1 was like the Iron Man of them. Woah, and then Jessica Jones is just like The Incredible Hulk, because I really loved it but nobody else has seen it or knows that it’s set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Overall Rating: I really want to see this Daredevil team up with the new Spider-Man but one is part owned by Sony and the other is part owned by Netflix so it probably won’t happen anytime soon/10

An Incoherent Rant Involving America, The Missteps of Organized Religion, and Superman

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Superman is one of the purest symbols of American culture. There’s no disputing it. There’s no other character who so perfectly and iconicly fits the hero archetype. And he’s a character who has echoed down throughout the entire last seventy years of pop culture. He’s every other hero who came after him. He’s every 80s action movie tough guy. He’s Luke Skywalker, he’s Indiana Jones, he’s Peter Parker, he’s Kevin Bacon. Debuting in Action Comics #1 in 1938, he was created at an interesting time in America’s history, just coming out of the great depression and now on the verge of a second World War. America was a country that needed something to hope for. And out of that need for hope was born the Superman. So yes, the S on his chest really is a symbol for hope, but maybe you try to be a little more subtle about it that that, Zac Snyder, you idiot. But I digress.

You see, I sort of have this theory that superheroes are the new gods. Just look at the Justice League; Supes is an obvious parallel for Jesus, and then the rest of the members all line up perfectly with the Greek Pantheon. Wonder Woman is Athena, Batman is Hades, Aquaman is Poseidon, Green Lantern is Apollo, Flash is Hermes, and Cyborg is Robocop. But aside from that I think they fill the same role in our society. I mean yeah, we obviously still have actual religion, but those have all pretty much become archaic bureaucracies over the last couple thousand years. Personally, growing up, I never had any religious presence in my life at all. My hippy stoner jazz musician father always instilled in me a jaded mistrust of any major organized religion, and my mother never had the heart to try to fight him on passing on any of her Christian beliefs. And I would hazard a guess I’m not the only person in my generation, or the several before it, who grew up with that rough perspective. But without religion, I think we still need something to fill that space. Something to hope for, something to ascend to; a set of morals and a good reason to follow them. Personally, I always filled that hole with comicbook characters.

Instead of the lesson being “follow these ten commandments or you’ll go to hell”, I learned to try to act selflessly because the one time Peter Parker chose the selfish path it came back to hurt the ones he loved. And in times of moral crisis I legitimately do try to ask myself “What would Spider-Man do?” And ok, I know what you’re thinking, that sounds stupid, and I’m probably the only one who does that, and shut up, nerd. But you know what, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that these characters who were created during World War II specifically for the purpose instilling hope in the American people have skyrocketed in popularity in the last fifteen years. The superhero boom kind of died out for a while after the war. America was celebrating in their glorious victory, having earned them control of the entire world, essentially. That’s what the next fifty year of pop culture were all about. Every movie and comicbook that you loved growing up, it was all born off this post-war high.

And then 9/11 happened. America was reminded that they weren’t untouchable. And suddenly movies changed. Everything became dark, and gritty, and serious. Suddenly you couldn’t just have a big tough guy run in and snap a bunch of Russian necks, now you had to deal with the consequences of that violence. Hell, even Superman himself has to be dark and brooding in this new millennium. Then on top of that you stack the collapse of the economy, the corruption on wall street, the rich poor divide, black people being beaten and killed by police, young people losing more and more faith in their government and their country day by day. And what suddenly became the most popular movies? Ones about superheroes. Because we’re at a time when we need to hope again, and these characters, our own pantheon of gods, will help us do so just like they did in WWII, and just like every other religion has done for every other society. Every culture since the beginning of time has had their own myths and legends, maybe the only difference is that we’re now evolved enough to recognize them as the fiction that they are and not take them so seriously. Maybe we don’t need to believe every word of an old story and fight to the death with those who don’t in order to still get something out of the story, to still be able to recognize the consequences and morals taught by it and instill them into your own life.

So wait, what’s my point? Superman is hope? And also Jesus? And comics are better than church? Well, yes, to all of those, but also other stuff. Let’s talk about Lex Luthor for a second. He’s the antithesis to Superman in every single way. A human being, one who clawed his way to the top through sheer cunning, instead of being gifted with amazing power. But really what Lex Luthor is above all else is someone who saw through the bullshit. Because you see, the truth is that Superman is fiction. This character, this hero archetype, this ideal that we had been instilling in the minds of our children since the 40s, it doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as heroes, and the only people who actually get ahead in life are the ones who are just smart enough and just willing enough to do what has to be done to bend the system and get to the top. And that’s what Luthor did. And the scary thing is, lots of real people did it too. While everyone was busy talking about how great America was, there were greedy, corrupt, power hungry people making backdoor deals and bribing their way to the top. And by the time everyone realized what had happened, that we weren’t being lead by the people who had earned it by being virtuous, but by the greedy who had figured out how to exploit the system, it was too late. That’s Lex Luthor. He’s a corrupt politician. He’s a sleazy wall street banker. He’s a fucking Martin Scorcese character, and he’s the kind of person who rules America in real life.

And then all of a sudden, this god descends from the heavens. Superman. Not only everything that Lex isn’t, but everything he believed never existed. This hero, this false symbol of hope that everyone had been chasing, is now real. One man who encapsulated every virtue, perfect in every way. And that’s why Luthor hates Superman, because his existence makes Luthor wrong. If Superman exists, than this American ideal isn’t bullshit. It means it is possibly to lead and do good for the world without dirtying one’s hands, without doing the things Luthor’s had to do to get to the top. Without Superman, Luthor is a clever guy who saw through bullshit. With Superman, he’s a greedy villain who’s comeuppance is coming. And that’s why it pisses me off when people say that Superman is lame, or that it’s impossible to make a good movie with him. And if you try to make a personal story about Clark Kent dealing with being an alien or whatever, that’s probably true. But what’s interesting is not how he reacts to being on Earth, it’s how Earth reacts to him. And nowhere is that point better illustrated that in his dichotomy with Luthor; it’s the pure ideal that America spent fifty years striving towards, coming face to face with the dark reality of what America actually had to become to be on top. And maybe in thousands of years, when aliens discover our ancient ruins, these two characters with be enough to tell everything they need to know about the rise, corruption and fall of America. Also, now that I’ve said it I really want to see Martin Scorcese direct an entire movie about Lex Luthor’s rise to power.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

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Ok so I want to get a couple of things out of the way right up top. First of all, spoilers. Spoilery spoilery spoilers. There are gonna be hella spoilers. Stop reading if you don’t want spoilers. The movie’s been out for like a week now if you haven’t seen it don’t read this review. Spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers. Ok, second of all, I’ve only seen this movie once. Normally I wouldn’t mention that while writing one of these, but Star Wars is Star Wars, and it’s a movie that I’m sure will warrant further dissection. I’m sure over the years I’ll watch this movie thousands more times and develop completely different opinions on things in it, but for now these are just my first impressions. Things I liked, things I didn’t, thing that stuck out, and how I felt when I left the theatre. Ok, let’s dive in.

I’ll start with the stuff I liked. There was a lot. I can definitely say I enjoyed myself the entire way through. I was both thoroughly entertained and emotionally engaged throughout the entire movie. I like most of the new characters, my favourite of which was probably Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Issacs. He’s not an overly complex character, but he’s a smug quick talking badass. He brings a little bit of what Han Solo brought to the original Star Wars. One of the movie’s biggest crimes is not keeping around long enough. I mean I don’t even think he meets our protagonist, Rey.

Yeah, let’s talk about Rey. I’ve heard some very differing opinions on Rey. People are saying she’s an amazing female protagonist in a world where we don’t see nearly enough. I’ve also heard lots of complaints about her character and backstory being too vague. In a way, those are both accurate. She’s very much the Luke Skywalker of the story, and if you go back and watch Star Wars, Luke’s a pretty thin character too. But he’s not supposed to be too complex. What he is is a vessel for the viewer. Someone who’s bored with their lives, and wants to go out into the galaxy seeking adventure and glory. We’re supposed to imagine ourselves taking the journey in his place, and feel great when he gets what he wants. And it’s not like his character didn’t become more complex later on. One of my favourite things about Return of the Jedi is seeing how this naive young boy has changed after all he’s been through, seeing the horrors of war, and gaining a sombre wisdom in the process. In this new movie, Rey essentially serves the same purpose as Luke did in the original. That’s why I guess I’m ok with her motivations being a little vague, and I’m looking forward to seeing where she goes over the course of the trilogy. Rey is a simple character, but an effective one. I liked her and related to her and rooted for her and all the stuff you’re supposed to. And yeah, if we’re gonna have the generic protagonist character, it’s great to see it be a kickass independent female, because movies like this have kind of been total sausage fests for the last like forty years. And then we end the movie with her going to Jedi school while also captaining the Millenium Falcon with Chewy as her co-pilot and R2-D2 as her droid? Badass. Incidentally, Daisy Ridley is a totally great actress and also so goddamn beautiful, my god.

Anyway, Kylo Ren was a great bad guy too. I mean they obviously knew they couldn’t top Vader in terms of sheer badass intimidation, so they decided to instead make him an interesting and vulnerable character. I like that he’s young and naive just like our protagonist, that he doesn’t have the best handle of the force at all times, that he lets his emotions get the better of him, and it’s an interesting twist to see someone trying to resist the light side instead of the dark. He’s not a guy with a red face and devil horns who’s evil for no reason, or an old guy who looks like Dracula who’s evil for no reason, or a weird coughing robot in a cape who’s evil for no reason. He’s a character with flaws and emotions and doubts and things that drive him, and Adam Driver’s performance is great. I also like that him being Han Solo’s son is just kind of told to you partway through, as apposed to being a big reveal.

Among other things I liked, the whole movie looked great. It’s one of those movies where almost every shot would make a good poster. From the crashed Star Destroyer in the dunes of Jaccu, to the new Death Star’s laser beam slowly streaking through space to blow up those planets (one of which I’m pretty sure and also really hope was Coruscant), to the barrage of X-Wings sweeping down over the lake on whatever planet that was with the chick with the big magnifying glass eyes, there’s a lot of beautiful cinematography. Probably my favourite action sequence of the whole movie was when Rey and Finn are fighting those tie fighters in the Millenium Falcon right after they first meet. It’s a fun, fast paced exciting scene full of lots of nice character moments. There were a lot of great practical effects, even if a few of them were a clearly tweaked with CGI, but it was a nice middle ground. CGI is never going away but if filmmakers can learn to use it only when necessary and incorporate it naturally it could lead to movies looking better than they ever did with CG or practical effects alone. Hopefully this and Mad Max: Fury Road are the start of that trend. I also thought the humour worked well, even though a lot of people are saying the Whedon-esque quipping was out of place. I mean, you’re right, nobody talks like that in the orig trig, but that’s because those are all like campy 70’s dialogue. It’s not like they could do that again now, so they had people talk like people talk now, and those moments of levity are totally in place with Star Wars. I actually think possibly my favourite moment was when Poe Dameron is being held in front of Kylo Ren and he just goes “so who talks first, I talk first, you talk first?” Either way it’s much better than all the robotic political dialogue from the trilogy that shall not be named.

I also thought BB-8 worked well as comic relief. He wasn’t silly and obnoxious like Jar Jar, and they don’t overuse him at all. He’s like a smaller cuter R2. He has some great little moments, but he’s never around when they don’t need him. C-3P0 was used perfectly, too. They realized that by the time we got to Return of the Jedi he was getting a little annoying, and so they just give him enough time to pay fan service without actually involving him too much as a main character. And that first line he says where he interrupts Han and Leia’s reunion to make sure Han recognizes him with the new red arm was actually really funny. Speaking of Leia she was well handled too. I mean that’s about as good as you can get Carrie Fisher to look and act these days, but she was used very appropriately, and actually her reaction shot after Han’s death was the only part of that moment that worked for me. But let’s talk about the best thing in this entire movie; Harrison Ford. There’s no other way to put it. The man is back. I don’t think I’ve seen Harrison Ford give a shit about a movie in like ten years. I forgot how good it is too see him try. This is not just a grumpy old man throwing on a leather and jacket and pretending to play Indiana Jones again, this feels like Han Solo. And not only that, it feels like a Han Solo who’s grown since we last saw him. He’s older and wiser, but he’s still every bit the scruffy looking nerf herder we know and love. 

But now let’s dive into the stuff I didn’t like. My biggest overall gripe with this movie is that it feels wholly unoriginal. Not even unoriginal, as much as predictable. I was really happy with the trailers for the movie, because I thought it was amazing how little they were showing us. I was like “oh wow, for once I’m going to go into a movie and not know what the entire plot is”. But nope. Not only could I predict every plotline a mile away from having seen the trailers, I probably could have done it just having seen the original Star Wars before. Or really any movie. There are zero unexpected twists in this movie. Everything that you think is going to happen happens. There were even a couple of times where I was like “they’re not going to do that, it’s way too obvious” and then they totally did. I mean it’s basically the exact same plot as the original. With how secretive they were being with everything, I thought it would be more like, we think it’s going to end the exact same as episode 4, but then right before the third act there would be some huge left turn that nobody saw coming. I was waiting for it, actually, and then it was just like “oh, they’re just going to have a lightsaber fight and then blow up a Death Star. That’s something I haven’t seen before.” You know, I was watching something online where Max Landis was talking about this movie, and I thought he made an interesting point. He said, look, the prequels are bad movies, but they have tons of visuals, and locations, and character designs, and set pieces that are totally new and original. Whereas everything in this movie is something we’ve already seen in a Star Wars movie. It’s almost like a “best of” montage of famous moments we already know.

In terms of more specifics, I thought Han Solo’s death was really lame. First of all, I saw it coming a mile away. And when I say that, I literally mean as soon as it was announced that Harrison Ford was going to be in the movie. I mean, he infamously didn’t want to do Return of the Jedi. In fact, the whole reason they froze Han Solo in carbonite at the end of Empire was because they didn’t know if he would come back, so they wanted an out in case he didn’t. If Ford didn’t come back, you could say Han died while in carbonite, and we already got our emotional final goodbye seen when he’s getting frozen. And then when he did come back for Jedi, he wanted Han to be killed partway through. He liked the idea that Han was a nobody in the grand scheme of things, and that his death would drive home a point about the costs of the war. It probably would have been better than just having him dick around in the forest like a pussy with nothing to do for the whole second half of that movie, but George Lucas said, and I quote, “there’s no money in dead Han Solo toys”. Then Harrison Ford has spent the last ten years being a grumpy old man and generally refusing to do stuff, especially Star Wars related stuff. And so when he was announced to be coming back, and especially when he was so lively in the press tour, I knew the only explanation could be that he finally got them to kill Han Solo. Now, I’m willing to agree that that’s my fault for being a huge Star Wars nerd and that the average movie goer wouldn’t know any of that, but I feel like it was still pretty obvious. I mean he clearly fills somewhat of an Ben Kenobi role as the wise old mentor, and when has any Star Wars character ever walked out onto a long thin walkway over a chasm to confront the villain and had it end well? Taking into account how obvious it was for so long beforehand, I thought they dragged it out to the point where it lost all impact. I watched Han Solo die and felt nothing. I can’t help but think it might have worked better if he had just been blasted by some offscreen stormtrooper, or been cut off mid sentence by an explosion in mid-battle, or something unexpected like that. Instead it felt like they really tried to make it this big epic moment instead of just letting us react to it ourselves. I hate when movies are super manipulative like that. I care about Han Solo. If you just show me his death from an objective point of view I will feel something from it. Stop telling me where to go emotionally with all the music and the slo mo. Gawd.

And both of the secondary villains were ridiculous goofy cartoon characters who almost made me laugh out loud. First we got the angriest most over the top scenery chewing Imperial officer dude ever to make a speech at what looks exactly like a nazi rally. Then, we got a giant CGI video game boss with a melty face. LAME!!!!! The climax was really disappointing too. I liked that we had Fin jump in to fight Kylo Ren and get quickly bested before Rey picks up the lightsaber, even though again it was something I predicted going in. But for some reason the fight between her and Ren just didn’t do it for me. It’s hard to put my finger on it exactly. I did like that the choreography was much more simple than the prequels, but I feel like Kylo Ren was way too easy to beat. I mean I get that he’s injured, and that also he’s somewhat inexperienced, but while I was watching the fight I kept seeing moments where he could probably have killed her pretty easily but didn’t for some reason. Like there are several times when he strikes her blade and it knocks her off balance and leaves her totally open and he just doesn’t make a move. It reminds me of the fight in Empire, where you can tell that Vader is just toying with Luke and could kill him at any minute if he wanted to. But the characters in this fight have completely different motivations. Kylo Ren is super angry and definitely trying to kill Rey. And then she just wins at the end cause of the force? I mean it was one thing when Luke took a moment of silent meditation to help his chances with firing the photon torpedoes down the Death Star’s exhaust port at the end of ANH, but now it can just make you amazing at sword fighting in seconds? It felt a little convenient. That, combined with them blowing up a death star for literally the third goddamn time and it was all a little underwhelming. And don’t be the asshole who tells me that’s not technically a death star. I don’t care what you call it or how big you make it, I know a death star when I see one.

Fin was pretty disappointing too. I mean he was fine, I just wish they had developed him more. It’s ok to have one blank slate protagonist, but you can’t have two. If you’re gonna make it a two-hander one of them’s got to have an interesting character, and he didn’t. Which is a shame, because I really wanted to like him. It’s a super interesting idea for a character, a stormtrooper who realizes what he’s been trained to do is wrong and defects to fight the Empire. Or, I’m sorry, “First Order”, whatever. Stormtroopers have always just been the stock bad guy cannon fodder who you’re not supposed to feel bad about our heroes murdering by the dozens, and  I thought it would be really fresh and exciting to see things from their perspective. Admittedly there’s a tiny bit of that at the beginning, but it’s before we’re even properly introduced to the character. Maybe we could see some arguments as to why the stormtroopers think what they’re doing was right, but instead they’re just evil. Maybe we could see Fin struggle with the decision to abandon his life, and we would have some really compelling reasons for him to eventually switch sides, but instead they just gloss right over it. Maybe he would be conflicted about fighting and killing stormtroopers after having been one himself, but instead he just blows a bunch of them away while escaping from the hanger in the tie fighter and doesn’t even react to it. Maybe he would have an aggressively different perspective on the whole war than our other main characters after having been a part of both sides, but instead his whole arc is just that he kind of has a crush on Rey. I mean don’t get me wrong, John Boyega is great and he’s a lot of fun to watch and he banters well with the other characters, it just feels to me like a missed opportunity to do something really interesting that we hadn’t seen before.

And you know what, that’s a pretty apt metaphor for this entire movie. They took everything you like about Star Wars and reduced it to an equation. It’s all very nice and pretty and well packaged but there’s something kind of empty about it. Even when Star Wars was bad, it was always interesting. It was always exciting. It was always something you hadn’t seen before. Now it’s just a Marvel movie. Now it’s just this product, this thing that they’ve carefully crafted to appeal to as many people as possible. And you know what, they did a great job. A lot of the things I’ve complained about are nerdy nitpicky things, and you can do that to any movie, but in all honesty this movie is really good for what it is. It’s well acted, well shot, has interesting characters, some good laughs, and is all around entertaining. It just doesn’t feel special anymore.

The Marvel movies are a great comparison. When I was a kid, those movie where always a big deal for me. They would only make like one every year or two, and there was only a good one like once every three years. But it was exciting. There were always different. You never quite knew what you were gonna get, and you had plenty of time to try to guess. And then they started making these MCU movies, and at first it was great. They were finally taking these movies seriously, and trying to build a larger continuity with over-arcing plots, and they were even pumping them out more frequently. But along the way something was lost. Along the way someone figured out a formula for this. And now every Marvel movie feels the exact same. And as a comicbook nerd it’s still cool to see these characters up on screen, but the magic is lost. They’re all just so homogenous now. And this Star Wars felt the same way. They figured out the formula and they’re just going to keep pumping these out and they’re all going to be fine but they’re never going to interesting ever again. It’s like the difference between going to a restaurant you’ve never been to before and trying something you’ve never had, vs. getting the usual from your favourite spot. Yes, with the latter you have a consistent guarantee of quality, but it just gets boring after a while. I don’t know, maybe I’m the asshole, it just feels like everything unique and exciting from my childhood has just been turned into corporate cookie cutter bullshit. I won’t be so harsh as to say that this movie has no creative spark whatsoever, J.J. clearly has a passion for the source material, it just feels so smoothed down, like a board room full of execs came around to sand down all the edges and consistently make sure no one was talking any risks at any point.

So at the end of the day, this is a solid movie. I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a good fun modern day action movie. But as a Star Wars fan, as a huge Star Wars fan, as a literally-I-own-eight-different-versions of-the-original-trilogy-on-various-formats Star Wars fan, it just left me feeling kind of empty. Maybe it’s my fault for building it up, or expecting it to feel like the originals, but I just left the theatre like, “Oh. Ok. I guess Star Wars is just a movie now.” And that makes me a little bit sad.

Overall Rating: Also the Luke reveal at the end was total weak sauce/10

 

Spectre Review

#24

2015

Daniel Craig

So we’re finally at the end of this marathon, with the one that’s still in theatres right now. Fair warning, there’s probably going to be some spoilers in this review, so if you want to go in fresh, which I recommend, stop reading about now.

So after Skyfall served as sort of an interesting, paired down character piece, this one feels more like a traditional Bond movie. It’s less about his personal journey and more about the plot, the villains and the action. Which is not to say there is no emotional core to this movie, there still are a lot of good character moments, but it’s back to more what we’re used to. The plot is pretty simple, and is basically just to do with Bond stumbling upon this organization Spectre and then spending the whole movie going after them. This version of Spectre is less like a terrorist group and more like an Illumanati type thing, with a bunch of shadowy board members deciding the fate of the world. They have a man inside MI6, a new guy called C, who’s merging all the world intelligence programs and trying to cancel the 00 program. We’re supposed to not know that he’s working with Spectre, but it’s pretty obvious the whole time. It eventually turns out that Spectre were also behind the scenes manipulating events and controlling villains in the last three movies. Basically every bad thing that we’ve seen happen to the Daniel Craig Bond was their doing. This makes sense for the first two, because all those guys were working together and they explain that Quantum was an arm of Spectre, but are you telling me Javier Bardem in Skyfall was answering to these guys? I mean, if you watch that movie he seems to be working independently. He’s got his own island, he even has that speech about getting to pick his own intelligence missions and being his own boss. And he didn’t really want money or power or to reshape the world the way Spectre does, he was just out for revenge on M for personal reasons. It seems like a bit of a stretch to say that he was manipulated by this board of evil rich people into doing what he did, yet Blofeld takes full responsibility for M’s death. Ah yeah, ok, let’s talk about Blofeld. Bond’s greatest villain is back, and better than ever. He’s played by the always awesome Christoph Waltz, who you may know from Tarantino’s last two movies and also his upcoming one. What’s annoying is that they did the whole “oh yeah, Christoph Waltz isn’t playing Blofeld” thing, and then everyone was like “ok, but he obviously is though” and then they’re like “nope, he’s not” and then you go see the movie and he says his name is Blofeld and it’s supposed to be this huge epic reveal. It’s like, if you know anything about Bond you already know he’s Blofeld, because duh, and if you don’t, then the name Blofeld has no meaning for you. So either way the reveal is pointless. It’s the exact same thing they did with Cumberbatch in that shitty Wrath of Khan remake. But yeah, Waltz is great. Obviously. He’s so much fun to watch and he’s a great rival for Bond. What’s weird is that they’ve actually tied their origins together this time. In this new version, Bond went to live with Blofeld and his dad after his parents were killed. Blofeld became super jelly of Bonds relationship with his father, and so he killed his dad and faked his own death, setting him on the path the megalomaniacal villainy. So Blofeld’s like Bonds former step brother now, I guess. Weird. Anyway, it’s great to see this character back, and I hope he’ll have a bigger part in the next one, because honestly probably this movies biggest flaw was his lack of screentime. I also like that they actually committed to the face scar and white cat, because you’d think after Dr. Evil they’d want to steer away from that. There’s some great action in this movie too, from a helicopter chase in Mexico City, to a plane chasing cars around a snowy mountain in Austria, and a climax in the old blown out MI6 headquarters in London, which this time gets even more blown up. My favourite part was probably the fist fight between Bond and Dave Bautista on the train. Yeah, Dave Bautista, he was Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy, he’s like this big henchman dude who had metal thumbnails for gouging people’s eyes out. He’s pretty cool, and the train fight is super brutal and awesome. They also give the supporting cast more to do, which is nice. M, Q, Moneypenny, even that dude Tanner who’s been hanging around for like the last 24 movies but didn’t get any actual significant amount of lines or screentime until the last one, they’re all actually involved in the goings on throughout the movie. I like the new Q, we didn’t really talk about him in the last one, but he’s good and it was nice to see him a little more this time. Oh, and they also made a whole big deal during the marketing about how Monica Bellucci was playing a Bond girl, and how she was the first one to like actually be his age, and how progressive that was. But then she’s in like ten minutes of the movie and he spends the rest of it banging a hot french model half his age. What’s weird is how bad he seems to fall for her. I mean, they really emphasis the connection between these two, and he even runs off with her at the end to (leave MI6? is the 00 program still debunked? it’s sort of vague). I don’t know, I’m not saying he should have just been like “fuck this chick” or whatever, I guess it’s nice that he’s actually emotionally invested in a relationship for once, I just don’t see what sets her apart from any other Bond girl. Overall, I don’t think this movie will stick with me quite the way Skyfall did, but it was a great fun well shot action movie that I can’t wait to see again.

Overall Rating: Weird face needle chair that doesn’t actually fuck up any of the things the dude says it’s gonna fuck up/10

Skyfall Review

#23

2012

Daniel Craig

Now this is a great friggin flick. After the mediocre last movie, we finally get a worthy follow up to Casino Royale. But the Bond in this movie is very different than he was back then. They put a lot of emphasis on the fact that he’s an older Bond, at the end of his rope a little bit. Which is weird, because back when Craig was first introduced the whole emphasis of the character was a younger Bond just starting out. It’s like we skipped the entire bulk of his career and went right from Year One to The Dark Knight Returns. I guess it makes sense, if Quantum is set right after Casino, and Casino takes place when it was made, that means he’s been at this six years by the time we get to Skyfall, which realistically is a long time in the world of a 00 agent. I know it doesn’t seem like that long because these movies have been going for half a century, but each mission only takes, what a few weeks, maybe a month, so in six years you would see a lot of shit. But this movie also delves deeper into Bond ever before. His character was very stripped down in Casino Royale, but this is by far the most bare we’ve ever seen him. He’s getting old, and he’s not sure he’s up to the task of doing this any more. There’s a line in Casino Royale about “if you do this for long enough, how much of your soul can you salvage?”. Well, now Bond has been at this pretty long, and he’s forced to question how much of himself is really left. We’ve now stripped away every layer of class and sophistication and are left with only the absolute purest bare bones version of the character. It’s the first time it ever feels like we’re meeting the real Bond, and that’s pretty impressive from the 23rd film in a franchise. And the whole movie sort of centres around this central them of Bond getting older and questioning his place in the world, from the subplot of M being forced into retirement, to all the questions of how much we even need MI6, and even the way the villain is a former agent who was betrayed and left for dead, making Bond question what the future holds for him if he stays in this line of work. And all this doubt is causing him to lose his nerve and is hurting his performance in the field, making the action more high stakes because he’s not at his best. It’s kind of like Spider-Man 2. 

Anyway, all that stuff alone would probably be enough to make this a great standout film in the franchise, but there’s so many other great things too. First of all, Judy Dench finally gets a shit ton of screentime, which is great, because she’s so awesome. Her relationship with Bond is really interesting, and it’s cool to finally see it explored, and it’s a great way for her to go out, instead of just being replaced between movies. We also get a really great villain, in Javier Bardem. As I mentioned, he’s a former 00 agent. M sold him out years ago and now he’s back for revenge. He’s got a fucked up half dissolved face due to a hydrogen cyanide capsule that failed to kill him. He’s a villain who loves to monologue, and he’s a lot of fun to watch, while also managing to be very intimidating, and also somewhat sympathetic. And for the first gay Bond villain, I have to say, very tastefully done. The action is great too, from the chase on the train at the beginning to the whole thing in the subway tunnels in London, to the finale, which everyone makes fun of for being like Home Alone, but I think is pretty cool. Yes, it’s a much smaller more personal finale, but it fits with the movie. The rustic location mirrors the way the class and sophistication have been stripped away from Bond, and it’s fitting that he should have to go back to the place where he became what he was in order to become that again. The other big thing that everyone points out about this movie is how the bad guy’s plan makes no sense. It’s a fair criticism. He has to get Bond to come after him, get captured, explode MI6 headquarters to force them to move underground, build his virus, know that Q would decrypt it while he was in the building so that he could escape into the subway tunnels, all times perfectly to the second so he can throw the train at Bond, and what it all boils down to is that he runs into a building in a police uniform and shoots at M. And misses. I mean, you could have just flown to London and gotten a police uniform, was that whole middle part really necessary? Yeah, it’s kind of dumb. I never said this movie was without flaws. It’s also pretty reminiscent of the Joker’s plan from The Dark Knight, or Loki’s plan from The Avengers, but I would again argue that that’s simply to do with the franchise resembling action movie trends of the time. In 2006, Bourne was huge, so they did it like that. In 2012, the new thing is superhero movies, so there’s a little bit of that in there. No, this movie may not be perfect, and Casino Royale is definitely a tighter story, but it’s got exciting action, intelligent and emotional themes relevant to the franchise, a great cast of both actors and characters, and it’s beautifully shot. I mean, if you can’t appreciate this movie’s cinematography in an era where every other movie you see is just fucking blue and orange all the time, then you’re an asshole. Oh, and on top of all that they finally actually made Moneypenny a strong and interesting character who’s relevant to what’s happening in the movie. This is my favourite of the Daniel Craig movies, and might even be the best overall. It has it’s flaws but it’s a more interesting creative piece of art than most other action movie, and for me that will always make it more fun to watch.

Overall Rating: Like, fucking dope, yo/10

Quantum of Solace Review

#22

2008

Daniel Craig

So, of course, after a great movie like Casino Royale, they have no idea how to follow it up. Instead of just taking this newly established Bond out for some other mission and coming up with a bunch of new unrelated stuff for him to do, they decided to have it take place directly following the last movie, and be all about Bond going after the people responsible for Vesper’s death. As a result, the whole thing just feels like a long epilogue to Casino Royale rather than it’s own movie. It opens with a car chase through Italy, where Bond has Mr. White in his trunk after shooting him and delivering that awesome line at the very end of the last one. Then after the credit sequence we get a scene that’s obviously trying to be the parkour scene from Casino Royale and fails miserably because of tons of shaky cam, quick cutting and CGI. Yeah, let’s talk about the action in this movie. It’s not good. There’s so much goddamn handheld shaky cam. I hate it when movies do that. It’s like they couldn’t actually replicate the close up quick gritty action from the last one so they just figured if they moved the camera around so much that you couldn’t tell what was going on, you’d maybe be tricked into thinking they pulled it off. It doesn’t work, and as a result every single action sequence is a confusing boring mess. The plot basically involves Bond tracking down this one specific guy associated with Quantum, the criminal organization that Le Chiffre was working for, I guess because they still didn’t have the rights to Spectre back yet. He’s got some scheme involving oil and the desert and buying up land or maybe it has something to do with water or whatever who cares. As a character, he’s kind of just a generic slimy European man, pretty lackluster and uninteresting. He sort of reminds me of Le Chiffre but without the eye thing and played by a more forgettable actor. There girl this time is a Bolivian secret agent with a big nasty burn scar on her back, who’s also trying to get the villain for personal reasons. There’s a lot of dicking around in exotic locations, a fight in a fancy opera house, a girl who gets killed by being covered in oil in a visual reference to Goldfinger, and a plane crash where they jump out with a parachute and pull the chord legit like 15 feet from the ground and are totally fine. There’s also a subplot where the Americans are after him, but it doesn’t really go anywhere and is really just a chance to give the new Felix Leiter some screentime. The big climax takes place in the bad guy’s desert hotel, in which he put giant explosive gas canisters in every room and was like “eh, there’ll probably never be a gun fight here”. He’s wrong, and the final fight takes place while the whole thing is blowing up. There’s a fight between him and Bond involving an axe which I would probably call the best piece of action in the movie, though it’s brief. Then they just leave him to wander the desert till he dies of thirst, which is pretty brutal and awesome. The final tacked on end scene is where Bond finally goes and finds Vesper’s boyfriend, who in the last movie she thought was kidnapped by the bad guys, so she did favours for them in exchange for his life, or something like that. It turns out he’s actually working for Quantum and that’s a thing he pulls on a lot of agents. Bond decides not to kill him, instead bringing him to MI6 for questioning, proving to M that she can trust him, and completing his arc of no longer wanting revenge. Even though they ended the last one with him moving on from Vesper’s death by sealing himself off more and focusing on his work, and a whole movie of him out for revenge kind of undermines that entire arc. Overall, this movie isn’t the worst thing ever. Daniel Craig’s Bond is still a total badass and there’s a couple of fun moments, but it was just such a disappointing and forgettable follow up to such a great first movie.

Overall Rating: Filler Bullcrap/10

Casino Royale Review

#21

2006

Daniel Craig

So after twenty movies and almost fifty years they finally decided to throw out all the bullshit and reboot the franchise fresh. Casino Royale was actually the first book in the series, and they actually adapted it on TV in the mid 50s, with the main character being an American secret agent called Jimmy Bond. Because of that, when they started making the actual movies in the 60s, they didn’t have the rights to it, so they just skipped it. Since then, they had run out of Ian Flemming novels and just started making up their own names, but now they finally had the rights back, and how fitting that the launch of this new series would be based on the original book. But let’s talk about this movie. We’re finally up to the final and current Bond, Daniel Craig, and he’s fucking awesome. He’s so much more intense and brutal than anything we’ve seen before. It’s much more true to the original Connery version of the character, where you can tell that all the class and style is just an outer layer to hide the cold killing machine that lies beneath, except this version they delve into it a little more. We see a lot more human moments, and it’s like we’re stripping away these layers from the original version of the character. A lot of this development comes from his relationship with the girl, Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green. She’s working with him on his mission, and she refuses to be seduced by any of his bullcrap. There’s a great scene when they first meet and start dissecting each other. She’s a great mental foil for Bond, and it’s fun watching them banter with each other. But yeah, back to Daniel Craig. A lot of people think he’s the best Bond of all of them. I think I still prefer Connery, but they’re hard to compare. Either way, Connery’s performance in the past, it’s not going away, but Daniel Craig is a great new Bond reinvented for the modern era. He’s exactly what the franchise needed and the only other Bond I would call on par with Connery.

He’s helped, too, by the fact that this movie is dope as hell on it’s own. It’s dark, it’s serious, it’s exciting, it’s well written, and I would probably call it one of the best straight up action movies of the decade. The opening scene in black and white where we see Bond complete his two kills required to gain 00 status is brutal and fucked up and badass and sets a great tone for the entire movie. From there we get so many great and memorable action moments. There’s the whole airport chase sequence, an awesome car flip, and a part set in one of those Body Worlds exhibits for some reason. The parkour part at the beginning is the one everyone talks about, though, and it’s pretty easy to see why. It’s really cool, but what’s great about it is how differently they both move. The guy Bond’s chasing is doing all these insane flips and stuff, but Bond is just using brute strength and speed to keep up the best he can. Me favourite part is when the dude jumps over a wall and Bond just busts through it after him. One of my personal favourite moments is the fight in the stairwell. It’s just so gritty and bloody, it’s one of those fights where you feel every punch. A lot of people have accused these Daniel Craig Bonds of aping the style of the Bourne movies. It’s a fair point. There’s a lot of the sort of close up brutal intense fighting that was made popular in those movie, and MI6 in this one do remind me a lot of the CIA in the Bourne movies, with all their laptops and cell phones and cool lighting whenever they cut back to them, but I would say it has enough uniquely Bond elements to stand on it’s own. And besides, Bond movies have always been a reflection of action movie trends of their eras. It’s part of what makes the series interesting, how much of a time capsule each one is. The plot, which I guess I should talk about, revolves around this big high stakes worldwide poker game. There’s this guy called Le Chiffre, played by Mads Mikkleson from Hannibal, which everyone tells me I should watch but I haven’t yet. He’s a banker for some high priority criminal organization. He’s lost a bunch of their money, and is trying to win enough at this poker game to pay them off before they come after and kill him. Bond is in the game to make him lose so that he’ll go to MI6 for protection and give them info on his bosses. The whole middle act is this poker game, which makes the whole thing feel very Bond. There’s also a really tense scene where he’s been poisoned and has to restart his heart with a defibrillator in his car. Eventually he wins the game, and then Le Chiffre kidnaps him and Vepser and tortures Bond by whipping him in the balls with a big ass rope. It’s a pretty hard scene to watch, and it ends with the bad guys’s bosses showing up and putting a bullet in his head. Then Bond actually resigns from MI6 to go off and live with Vesper somewhere, when it turns out she betrayed him and was working for the bad guys. There’s a huge final fight in Venice where Bond fights a bunch of guys in a building that’s collapsing into the canal, and Vesper ends up drowning in the elevator. There’s a great moment where he’s talking to M on the phone about coming back to MI6 at the end, and she’s like “if you need anymore time…” and he’s like “why would I need more time? Mission’s over. The bitch is dead.” It’s like the origin of Bond’s whole cold uncaring attitude towards women. He’s learned a harsh lesson; in this line of work, you don’t trust anyone. Then we end on probably the best single moment of the whole movie. The bad guy, this dude who Le Chiffre was working for called Mr White, gets a phone call and we don’t hear who’s on the other end but he’s all “who is this?”, and then suddenly he gets shot in the legs. He starts to pull himself up and Bond comes up holding a gun and putting away his cell phone, and he goes “Bond. James Bond.” And then we cut to credits with the classic 007 theme playing, first time we’ve heard it so far. This whole movie is sort of like a Bond origin story, and now he’s finally fully established. It’s a totally badass and satisfying moment that let the whole world know: Bond’s back. After three and a half decades, these movie were finally good and relevant again.

Overall Rating: We’re back, baby/10