Everything You Could Possibly Want to Know About The Marvel Cinematic Universe

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Hello readers!

In honor of Dr. Strange coming out this week, I’m here to lay out for you what you should expect in 13 of my reviews in the next 4 years. That’s right, I’m talking about The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), that, whether you love it or hate it, is defining this movie-going generation and changing Hollywood forever.

Marvel has 13 movies planned through 2020 for Phase 3 of the MCU. I’m going to go through each one of them and discuss what we know, should expect, and hope for. As a full disclaimer, while I have done my research for these movies, I’m not a comic book reader. If you want to know more of those origins, along with other information about these movies, check out this website: http://www.denofgeek.com/us/movies/marvel/237462/full-marvel-movie-release-calendar

Dr. Strange- November 4th, 2016

Dr. Strange will star Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character, along with Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Mads Mikkelsen. The film is about Stephen Strange, a brilliant surgeon who, after a car accident, can no longer use his hands. When he meets The Ancient One, he learns about the world of magic.

Marvel has been setting up this movie since Dr. Strange’s first name-drop in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The cosmic world was set up in Guardians of the Galaxy, and inter-dimensional space was shown in Ant-Man. The idea of magic in the MCU has often been explained with mumbo-jumbo science. In fact, in Thor, Thor explains that “magic is just science we don’t understand yet.” Scarlet Witch, though, has some kind of telekinesis powers that resembles magic. We’ll see how they use magic in a more realistic comic-book world.

The film is also already inciting controversy. In the comics, The Ancient One is a Tibetan man. In the film he will be played by Tilda Swinton, who is neither Tibetan nor a man. Marvel has blamed this on the fact that they need China as a box-office source, and China has a rough relationship with Tibet. I think it’s interesting, though, that audiences call for diversity, yet even though this film race-bends and gender-bends a character, audiences only want progression on their own terms.

A lot of people are worried that since this film is so out-of-the-box, it could be a big misstep. But if Marvel is able to make a movie like Ant-Man work, I’m sure a movie about a white man with superpowers, a fellow co-worker as his girlfriend, a black friend, and a face-painted villain is not going to be much of a problem. In fact, it sounds pretty familiar, don’t you think?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2- May 5th, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the sequel to the 2014 mega-hit. The film is said to go more in depth on Peter Quill’s relationship with his father. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel return, along with the addition of Kurt Russell to the cast.

I feel like I’m one of only about four people on the planet who didn’t love the first movie. But this movie is important, because supposedly it will feature even more Thanos (the big, ultimate bad guy of the MCU) and explore more of the space aspect of the MCU, where the Avengers: Infinity War movies will take place. The first one was a mega-hit, so I’m sure this one won’t be a disappointment in that regard.

Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7th, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming is also going to be an important movie. Sure, it sounds like a John Hughes prom movie, even more so considering it’s a surprisingly young cast, that it takes place in high-school, and is a part of the family-friendly Disney/Marvel family. But this new reincarnation of Spider-Man is important from a business perspective. It is the first joint-movie production of Sony and Marvel. Spider-Man was originally a Marvel property, and a comic book property, but after they went bankrupt in the early 2000’s, they sold the rights to Sony. That’s why we have the original Spider-Man trilogy with Tobey Maguire and the reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield as the title character. But Sony is going downhill, and needs to make the character great again. They now are sharing the character with Marvel. So now Spider-Man is in the MCU, but the character/movie is still Sony, and Marvel is mostly just in charge of the character creatively. This partnership is one of the first of its kind, and it will be interesting to see how it will turn out. One thing that will be important to note is how much the film will be affected by the end of Captain America: Civil War. Will Tony Stark be tortured? Will the gang still be separated? Does Peter Parker have PTSD or a conflict of conscience about his choices? What does it mean for a minor to be a vigilante?

Spider-Man: Homecoming’s cast includes Tom Holland (reprising the role after his cameo debut in Captain America: Civil War), Robert Downey Jr returning as Iron Man, Michael Keaton (as probably villain Vulture, but still unconfirmed), former Disney star Zendaya as a new character named Michelle (although there is still some mystery as to whether that is true), and Marisa Tomei returning as Aunt May.

We don’t have a lot of information on the film yet, but I’d like to point out some things about the cast. First is that everyone is playing almost the correct age, which is nice for a change. There is a strong possibility that Zendaya is playing Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy, which is cool. Having a black actress, along with some more diverse casting choices, will hopefully be more reflective of New York today. Having Michael Keaton go back to superhero movies, especially after Birdman, a movie that had a disdainful message towards comic-book movies, seems like an interesting (and slightly desperate) choice. Then we have RDJ, who showed a mentor/father figure side of Tony Stark in Civil War in his interactions with Spider-Man. I assume this will continue in this film.

Hopefully this film will use the positive reception of Holland’s portrayal of the character to its advantage and be a different film for the MCU. Guardians of the Galaxy was a space opera, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a political thriller, maybe Spider-Man: Homecoming can be a mature coming of age story. Being a smart movie could also solve Michael Keaton’s life-long problem of artistry vs. getting work.

Thor: Ragnarok- November 3rd, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok (Ragnarok basically means apocalypse) is the third and last movie in the Thor trilogy. This movie will bring back Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif, along with Idris Elba as Heimdall and Anthony Hopkins as Odin. New to the cast is Mark Ruffalo as fellow Avenger Bruce Banner/Hulk, Cate Blanchett as villainess Hela, Karl Urban as Skruge, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, and Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster. The film has been described as “a cosmic buddy road trip.”

I’m not gonna lie, this is my most anticipated movie of 2017. Why a Thor movie? Because Hulk, that’s why. Hulk, and Cate Blanchett as a supervillainess. And a cosmic buddy road trip. And Jeff Goldblum. That sounds like the perfect pitch to me. This movie will probably set up Infinity War the most, with it being in space and also being about the apocalypse. Yet Mark Ruffalo has said it will be basically a comedy, particularly with director Taika Waiti (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople). So with the Shakespearean language, space, buddy-comedy, and the end of the world, this might be the greatest Marvel movie yet. If not, at least it will be the best Thor movie.

Black Panther- February 16th, 2018

Black Panther is going to be one of the biggest movies of 2018. Not just one of the biggest, but one of the most important. Directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station and Creed) the film is set to star Chadwick Boseman returning as Black Panther/King T’Challa, along with Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, and Andy Serkis. The movie is said to have a 90% black cast, with promise of plenty more prestigious actors to join.

Black Panther will be about King T’Challa, who after his introduction in Captain America: Civil War, is taking over as King of Wakanda for his late father, T’Chaka. Wakanda is a fictional African Country. It is technologically advanced. T’Challa is a genius, higher I.Q than Tony Stark and far richer. His country is rich in vibranium, the metal to make Captain America’s shield. Black Panther has been described as “African Batman”; his intellect and abilities make him a deadly foe, and his neutrality makes him a powerful political player.

This will be the first movie out of all the MCU movies to have a person of color in the lead title (the first movie not starring a white man, after 17 movies). To prove this point even further, Marvel is making sure to release the movie during Black History month, so you won’t forget it’s for black audiences.

This poses a problem to me personally. If Marvel regularly released movies in February, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But they never do. And February isn’t a great movie-releasing season. This, and the fact it’s going to be released during Black History month, makes me feel like Marvel doesn’t have a lot of faith in the movie. That’s ridiculous. It has a critically acclaimed director and cast, and an amazing concept with a great superhero. I just hope they won’t focus too much on making it for black audiences only. It should be a movie for everyone. Marvel should not use this as a way to say, “Here’s your diversity movie. Stop complaining.” Think about it. If this movie is a huge success, this could be a big game-changer for Hollywood at large.

Avengers: Infinity War – May 4th, 2018

Originally, the two Avengers films on this list were supposed to be a two-parter called Avengers: Infinity War. However, after Comic Con 2016 the news broke they were going to be separate (but still very interconnected) films. I personally am glad they are splitting the films up. Movies like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 & 2 and Twilight: Breaking Dawn part 1 & 2 make a lot of money, but end up with a whole slew of issues from a fan and critic perspective. It also makes it even harder for casual fans to keep up, and with a franchise like the MCU, you want to make it as easy as possible for viewers.

I think this movie, despite not being the same movie as the next Avengers film, will be very much a precursor to the bigger conflict in Avengers: Untitled. This movie will be about assembling the gang, and collecting things. Thanos, the big bad guys of the MCU, is trying to collect the six Infinity Stones (the ones that fit onto his gauntlet, introduced at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron). So far we have three, and three more are left to find. Thanos will be trying to find those, and the Avengers will be assembling the whole team to fight him. I expect some kind of scene between Captain America and Iron Man that reunites them, and then they will go and find the rest of the team. They’ll get Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Black Widow, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Falcon, Thor, Hulk, Ant Man, Wasp, The Guardians of the Galaxy, and possibly Captain Marvel. I’m expecting big reunions if they haven’t already happened in the other movies, and a convoluted plot about finding the stones, ending with a big fight that will probably end poorly for the original Avengers. Why? I’ll explain later.

What’s interesting about this is that by the time this film comes out, Justice League Part 1 will have already come out. That’s a 2-part superhero crossover film, like this one was supposed to be. Is Marvel feeling the DC heat? DC has a lot less fan alliance after Batman v. Superman than Marvel does (Let’s see how Wonder Woman turns out), and so it may be unfair to judge how the two will be received. But it will be important to see how the Justice League two-parter will be structured in comparison to the two closely-related Avengers movies.

Ant-Man and The Wasp- July 6th, 2018

It’s about damn time.

After Hope van Dyne whispered those words in the after-credit scene of 2015’s Ant-Man, a legion of comic-book fans and moviegoers cried out for the time The Wasp would finally be able to don the suit and be the superheroine we deserve. Because Captain Marvel has been pushed back to 2019, Ant-Man and The Wasp will be the first movie with a leading lady from Marvel. They are also the first super-couple, as shown by the end of Ant-Man. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly will return in the title roles, along with Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. It will be directed once again by Peyton Reed, the replacement for Edgar Wright after the infamous fall-out between Wright and the studio.

Not much else is known about the film, but let’s hope it looks less like Iron Man this time and more like its own original story. Or it could continue in the Iron Man footsteps and be about Ant-Man having a midlife crisis and Louis (brilliant Michael Pena) taking up the suit, which I would actually be okay with.

Captain Marvel- March 8th, 2019

Protip- don’t go on the internet for all of March 2019 and a few months afterward looking for Captain Marvel stuff, unless you want to walk into a proverbial warzone. Yes, the internet has a terrible relationship with lady superheroes. Everything they do is under impossible scrutiny, with loose definitions of feminism thrown everywhere, mixed with anger, bitterness, and of course, bad grammar.

But besides that issue, this movie will determine a lot about Marvel and their ability to please a prickly fan base, and also make their first lady-led movie, this movie also has some acute similarities to the Black Panther movie. Captain Marvel is being released on International Women’s day, and if that doesn’t scream “Shut up female fans, here’s your movie, leave us alone but still give us money,” I don’t know what does.

Meanwhile, while we don’t know much about the film, we do know our casting. 2016 Best Actress winner Brie Larson will be playing Carol Danvers, a military pilot who gets cosmic powers. She’s more powerful than Wonder Woman, and in the comics has been a member of the Avengers lineup for years.

Basically, this movie might be a ticking bomb, but if done well, could change lots of things for the better. I hope it is a great movie for everyone, a new flavor for the MCU, and Captain Marvel will be an amazing, unique superhero for people to look up to.

Avengers: (Untitled)- May 3rd, 2019

Or: Everyone You Love Will Probably Die: The Movie.

Now that the gang is back together, and have had their butts kicked, I think the old Avengers team will retire and pass the reins to the newer members of the team, and defeat Thanos once and for all. If everyone is not assembled in the first movie, expect some more in this movie. It is rumored that up to 67 characters could appear in this movie. This could either be a bloated disaster, or handled well. I’m not sure yet how it will turn out, but I do have faith in the Russos, who helmed Captain America: Civil War, which also had a huge cast. But 67? This movie really should be called Glorified Cameos: Because Even Critically Acclaimed Actors Need Money.

The only other thing we know about this film is that it will be shot completely on an Imax camera.

Once this film is over, I’m worried about what kind of state the MCU will be in for Phase 3. Thanos is the MCU version of a god. What bigger villain is there to fight than a god? What villains are left after something so big? Haven’t we seen it all by then?

Inhumans- July 12th, 2019

I feel like I’m in the minority here, but I feel like the Marvel Netflix (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage) and ABC shows (Agents of Shield) should not mix with the movies. They are drastically different in tone, not as many people have seen the shows as the movies, and it would mess with the timeline and continuity like crazy. Plus, it is hard to get big talent to go to TV. An Inhumans movie will basically be like the show Agents of Shield, the lowest-ranking MCU TV show, who are already doing Inhumans. There’s a very small chance this movie will actually come to fruition, though, considering the behind-the-scenes drama at Marvel.

Here’s the short version. Before Captain America: Civil War came out, so late 2015, Kevin Feige, the head honcho of the Marvel movie division, decided he wanted to stop reporting to Isaac Perlmutter, the CEO of Marvel. Fiege wanted to instead report straight to Disney CEO Alan Horn, giving Fiege more power. So the company split. Now Perlmutter is in charge of the comic books and TV shows, while Fiege is in charge of the movies, and Horn is still owner of both. Making an Inhumans movie is directly tied to the comic books and tv shows, which means Perlmutter and Fiege would have to work together. People don’t generally split up just so that they can work together more. Besides, an Inhumans movie would be very X-Men-y, and while we might see what a Marvel-made X-Men movie might look like, it could also just be a huge retread.

TBA:

May 1st, 2020

Kevin Feige, head of Marvel movie studios, has said he and the company are “emotionally and creatively committed to a Black Widow movie.” Now I’m not holding my breath, because he has said these kind of things before, but there is still always hope.

It would be interesting where they would take a Black Widow movie. To do her origin story, as interesting as it is, would only be a backtrack for the Cinematic Universe. Her doing her own solo mission might be interesting as well, but this is after Infinity War, where everyone might die or retire.

I personally think it is a little too late for this character. While Scarlett Johansson has done a phenomenal job with the character, and has shown in films like Lucy she can hold an action film by herself, I just don’t think it is the best move. Just keep having her be a co-lead in various movies. Let this go to someone else, and let the ghost of Black Widow be a cautionary tale.

July 10th, 2020

(Quiet chanting) She-Hulk, She-Hulk, She-Hulk, She-Hulk

November 6th, 2020

I can imagine a Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Dr. Strange 2, Ant-Man 3, or Captain Marvel 2. Or Iron Man 4-ever.

So there you have it. 13 movies in 4 years (14 if you count Civil War). Can this even be done? Are you tired of the superhero genre? And remember, this is from only one studio. Don’t forget about Fox with X-Men, Warner Bros with DC, and Sony, along with all sorts of indies, animation, and spoofs that will follow. Can the genre change at all? With these movies in the forefront of the genre, I think how they progress will say a lot about superhero movies and Hollywood at large. No matter your opinion on them, they are important for any serious movie-goer and pop culture guru to know about.

-Madeleine D

Meh: The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven: the movie you kinda sorta knew was coming out, but really only went when you saw it had your favorite actors in it. In honor of its name, here are the seven things you need to know about this newest Western.

the-magnificent-seven-2016
(l to r) Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio and Martin Sensmeier in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Columbia Pictures’ THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.
  1. Story

This is a remake of the 1960 The Magnificent Seven, which in turn is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s epic The Seven Samurai. I have not seen the original Magnificent Seven (I know, I know, sorry). However, the movie doesn’t stray far from that story.

The film starts with Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), a baddy capitalist who burns down a church and kills a handful of men in the opening scene. Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), the wife of a man who is killed, enlists Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUVqTzvyudQ) and Josh Faraway (Chris Pratt) to gather a team of heroes who can stop Bogue.

  1. Talent

Denzel Washington can do no wrong. The trailer for the upcoming film Fences (based on the play of the same title that Washington will be directing and starring in) played before this film, and reminded me of that fact. His Sam Chisolm is not necessarily a new type of hero, but is still a stoic one we can appreciate.

Chris Pratt plays Chris Pratt. I was hoping when he became a superstar, he would reveal a talent for playing interesting characters. Instead, he revealed that he has more abs than he does diverse roles. He still has time to show his acting chops, but right now he seems more than content to keep his blockbuster leading man image. If only that leading man was a little more interesting.

Ethan Hawke rivals Denzel Washington on the likeability factor here. He plays Goodnight Robicheaux (how can you lose with a name like that?) with finesse and passion. He makes the PTSD and guilt Goodnight feels real and adds some interest to an overdone story.

I wish I could say much about the rest of the cast. Haley Bennett does her best, but her job is mostly to be the 7th member of the party stand-in until the boys can all get there. Her role is similar to Hailee Steinfeld’s from 2010’s True Grit, and it isn’t near as interesting. And the other guys? Well, try to remember their names after you’ve left the theater.

  1. Diversity

This film caught a lot of people’s eye by showing off its diversity. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), starring Denzel Washington, with three other men of color in the leading roles. And I applaud that diversity. That said, the film tries to have its cake and eat it, too. It could be said that the story takes place in an alternative universe where all these types of men could get along in the Wild West (which, historically, they were all definitely present in). But then it doesn’t make sense when characters say racist things to each other. But if it had taken place in the real Wild West, these men almost definitely wouldn’t have gotten along so easily.

As for the characters themselves, it’s cool that the lesser-known actors of color get a time to shine in complex, original roles. As long as you forget about the stereotypes, like the Indian who eats the raw hearts of animals, or the Asian guy who is basically a quiet but deadly ninja, or the Mexican who… Well, he doesn’t really do anything. Or the fact that the confederate soldier and the black man get along just dandy.  Or that the only woman is practically prostituted by the men around her and her role is nudged out of the film quickly to make way for the heroes. But yeah progress! Now earn that title, movie.

  1. Style

A big part of Westerns is the distinct style. You need a bar scene, a horse scene, a sitting around the campfire scene. All of these elements are here. If those scenes are your jam, especially when they are stripped of soul and heart, then you’ll be happy.

The whole film is obsessed with style. I didn’t keep count, but I feel like fifty would be a modest number for the number of times the camera panned from Denzel Washington’s hand to gun to face to a slow motion walk. The violence might be gory, but these men are still stars, dang it! They’re the western Avengers, and everyone knows you can’t fight outlaws without looking hot.

But with the over-stylization comes some positives.  The score and cinematography are gorgeous. The soundtrack livens up formulaic scenes and adds intensity to scenes where you wouldn’t otherwise feel the emotion. The cinematography has the same effect.

  1. Making a Western

It’s difficult to change the Western formula, save for location change (Star Wars is an example- a Western in space). It is admittedly not one of my favorite genres for this reason. The Magnificent Seven doesn’t do a whole lot for changing the modern Western, save for its casting. However, there is no shame in making a solid genre film. The thing that struck me throughout the movie was the lack of a message. There is some religious talk. People muse over revenge and righteousness. But in the end, if the villain is just a mean capitalist (because heaven forbid we have villains that aren’t aliens, nazis, or rich people) and the only way to get rid of him is to brutally murder his army of men and destroy a town, so what? The movie doesn’t have much of a message. That’s the biggest crime of them all.

  1.  Locations

While the town the film is set in is your generic Western town, the fact that the film was shot on location makes a big difference. The setting feels real and lived in. The gorgeous natural beauty of New Mexico, Louisiana, and Arizona, the main places they shot, add to the aesthetic of the film. After seeing a lot of films that were shot on sound stages or with CGI, the authenticity of The Magnificent Seven is appreciated.

  1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Sorry, I got nothing. See how hard it is to have 7 focal points? That’s what the movie suffers from.

The Magnificent Seven comes down to this: If this isn’t your type of film, it won’t be very appealing. If it’s your kind of film, you will probably enjoy it, though I doubt it will be high on your list of favorites. A remake that doesn’t have a new message, or even a solid one at all, doesn’t seem like a remake worthy of anyone’s time. There is only so much enjoyment you can get out of actors running around in nice locations to a cool score before the emptiness of it appears

-Madeleine D

The Fine Line Between Imaginative and Ridiculous: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

Warning: Light spoilers ahead.

miss-peregrine

Man, movie grandpas are amazing.

You know if you have a movie grandpa, you’re going on an adventure. He’ll read you a book when you’re sick. He might take you to a dinosaur playground. Maybe he’ll help you get a golden ticket. Or, in this case, he’ll send you on a journey to go defend a home run by a bird lady that houses children with odd and often useless powers who live in a time loop during World War II on a deserted island off the coast of Wales.

What, your grandpa hasn’t done that?

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, directed by Tim Burton, is based on a book of the same name by Ransom Riggs. The film starts just as said above. Teenager Jake (Asa Butterfield) suffers a tragedy related to his grandpa that sends him with his clueless dad to find an old orphanage that his grandpa claims to have lived in when he was younger. Jake finds it, meeting Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and her charges. There’s Emma who controls air, Olive who controls fire, the twins with immeasurable strength, an invisible boy, a girl who can grow things, and the boy who has… bees in him? But this paradise for these peculiars is threatened when Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) hatches a plot for capturing Miss Peregrine. Luckily, only Jake can stop him.

The film starts off rocky, getting through the exposition and the setup simultaneously as quickly and as drudgingly boring as possible. When Jake actually gets to the home, things start to become steadier. Jake starts to explore the world of Miss Peregrine, and the audience does too. We’re right along with Jake. What’s behind this door? What just darted around the corner? How did that happen? It’s magical, and it is how the movie should have continued.

But then the plot kicks in. The movie lost me about 3/5th’s of the way through, during a “climactic” battle between (and I swear this is true) the skeleton ghosts from The Lord of the Rings, some invisible monsters covered in cotton candy, and some World War II X-men children- on a carnival boardwalk, with some DJ Khaled beats in the background. At this point, it’s not weird. It’s not peculiar. It’s not even likably bizarre. It’s ridiculous, in an unprofessional, uninspired sense. How many movies have we seen in recent years that include faceless, vague, monster enemies? Oh I can name a few. (Deep breath) Suicide Squad, Ghostbusters, Batman V. Superman… and those are just the ones in the past year that I’ve reviewed on this site.

____________________________________________

Dear Hollywood,

I am so sick of these endings. I want compelling villains with motivations. I want villains who, if they create an army, they create an army where I know the weaknesses and strengths of these creatures. Stop making faceless things to destroy. Give me people to root for on both sides. Give me an understanding of the hero’s plan so I’m not just watching them fumble around, trying to accomplish something I don’t get. No more CGI murderfest to simply garner a PG-13 rating. We’re so desensitized to violence, it doesn’t even register. Make an ending count, not just something that has to be checked off the list. I can’t take this anymore!

Sincerely, Madeleine

PS: If you need someone to direct your upcoming live action Mulan, I am available.

____________________________________________

Before you despair about Miss Peregrine, there are things to like. There are original notes in this movie. The special effects are well done and the atmospheric cinematography is gorgeous (see photo above). Asa Butterfield has also grown up well. While he doesn’t have quite the charisma his contemporaries (like Dylan O’Brien or Ansel Elgort for example) have for a leading man, Asa still has a distinguished quality that made me wish he had more to do in this film. Same with Eva Green. Her Miss Peregrine is so interesting and makes such a strong impression, it was a shame that her role also was very limited.

Now, big casts are hard. I don’t expect each character to have strong development. But even in giving each character one short scene (which the film does) you can still portray personality. None of the characters, save for Miss Peregrine and maybe Jake, get any. In the beginning of the film, Jake and Emma meet each other, and three minutes later every character is expecting them to get together. Because they have little to no personality or endearing qualities, I have no idea why they are attracted to each other. Watching them kiss is as interesting as smushing two pieces of blank copy paper together.

If there is a positive for this large, boring cast, it is that there are a ton of female characters! Choose any boring person you’d like to relate to. You’ll probably find one! Unless you’re a person of color, then you only have Samuel L. Jackson’s eye-eating villain. Take that as you will.

Speaking of Samuel L. Jackson… I don’t know if Sam Jackson took a bet, or was auditioning to replace Jared Leto as the Joker, but he is absolutely terrible in his role. I don’t understand (like with so much in this film) what Burton was going for. Whimsical? Scary? Edgy? Bizarre? Stupid? A puke-colored mixture of all of that?  If that was his goal, I guess Samuel L. was perfect.

I saw this film with a friend who had read the books, and her perspective was a conflicted one. She overall liked the film, but was puzzled at some of the changes. She assured me that the techno-monster-skeleton-carnival fight did not happen in the book. Another friend who had read the book but didn’t see the movie with me said that the book is written in a very film-friendly way. It doesn’t need a bunch of changes. Which makes me wonder, if you have a perfectly good book, that already hits the right tone between eerie and whimsical, and you put it with a director known for the same thing, how does this mess occur?

I have a few ideas. Lately, it has become clear that Tim Burton is becoming more of a parody of himself than the filmmaker he once was. While I liked his last film, Big Eyes, it was a significant departure from his style and the type of movie this is. The last movie that he did that was in this genre was Alice in Wonderland (2010). That movie was bland, this movie is silly. Maybe he was just uninspired and thought doing what he always does would work this time. It didn’t.

It could be that the source material really was challenging. If nothing else, Burton could have made it more of an “inspired by” the book than an adaptation. Take the elements you like, disregard the ones you don’t. Or, maybe it’s just a matter of not having a clear vision for the film. The mood goes from frighteningly dark, to hilariously campy, to whimsically silly, to outright incomprehensible.

In the end, when the opening credits are the best part of the movie, you might want to rethink your vision.