A year of films in review

Zach Steensma—Staff Writer

I went to the theatre more times in 2017 than in any other single year (and not just because tickets in Sioux Center are so cheap with the student discount). All around, it was a spectacular year for movies. From action to superheroes to science fiction to horror, this year delivered plenty of titles worth celebrating:

The Lego Batman Movie: Although The Lego Batman Movie might receive criticism for essentially being a feature-length toy commercial, it nonetheless manages to live up to the brand name as a fun-filled follow up to The Lego Movie (2014), while serving up plenty of fan service for Batman nerds along the way.

Coco: Pixar Animation Studio takes the crown once again with Coco. After a few shaky years of unnecessary sequels (and prequels) to existing franchises, Pixar is back with an original story, complete with original songs. Coco features visually-stunning animation, a delightful soundtrack and a story which will no doubt bring even adults to tears (in typical Pixar fashion).

The Disaster Artist: A movie about a movie. Produced, directed by and starring James Franco, The Disaster Artist tells the mysterious story behind the infamously bad 2003 movie The Room that would go on to develop a cult following and achieve legendary status. Franco plays a younger version of The Room director Tommy Wiseau, a failed actor who decides to make his own movie after years of rejection. The Disaster Artist is a surprisingly heartfelt, funny and perfectly weird movie that tells the story of the worst movie ever made and the man behind it all.

Wonder Woman: amidst the jumbled mess of Warner Brothers’ DC Comics trying and failing to compete with Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wonder Woman manages to succeed where others have failed. Gal Gadot perfectly embodies the titular role, and although the film still falls victim to some of the same overdone clichés and mistakes of the other DC Extended Universe installments, the presence of a somewhat cohesive plot, an actual effort at character development and absolutely thrilling action sequences sets Wonder Woman leaping and bounding above the rest.

The Shape of Water: The Shape of Water is already dominating the upcoming Academy Awards this year, with more nominations than any other single film. Critically-acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro once again stuns audiences with a striking love story between an “amphibian man” water monster and the mute girl working at the government facility where he is being held. With a moving story and lively cast, it’s arguably one of del Toro’s best works.

Baby Driver: Baby Driver was by far the stand-out action film of the year. Written and directed by Edgar Wright, the movie follows the story of a young man named Baby (Ansel Elgort) who works as a music-obsessed getaway driver for a criminal organization. With it’s clean-cut action and near-perfect musical synchronization to a ridiculously fun soundtrack, Baby Driver delivers all of the excitement action movies are supposed to, while simultaneously providing a compelling and emotional story.

It: Film adaptations of Stephen King’s horror novels are rarely successful, which is why It serves as a remarkably fun, intense and terrifying triumph. The film, based on King’s novel of the same name, is largely faithful to the story of the original book, which is about a clown named Pennywise who terrorizes seven children in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. King fans, Stranger Things fans and horror fans in general will no doubt find It to be a frightfully entertaining and surprisingly humorous thrill.

Logan: In an era dominated by comic book movies, Logan sets itself apart as a more down-to-earth story, subverting audience expectations of the genre by focusing less on CGI doomsday villains, shooting lightning into the sky and more on individual characters and their flaws. Logan sees the return of X-Men series veterans Hugh Jackman, back in his iconic role as Logan/The Wolverine and Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier. The film also features a noteworthy performance by child actress Dafne Keen as Laura, a young mutant girl seeking the help of Logan and Professor X. The movie’s R rating allows it to address issues of age, depression and death in a way that no other superhero movie has ever done. Between its excellent cast, beautiful neo-western aesthetic, and boldly dark portrayal of beloved characters, Logan challenges the very notion of what it means to be a hero.

Dunkirk: Christopher Nolan’s mostly silent film is based on the events of the battle of Dunkirk during World War II. The story is centered on soldiers awaiting evacuation along the French coast. Dunkirk serves as the perfect example of a movie that shows more than it tells, immediately drawing audiences into the battle with a quiet intensity. With stunning cinematography and practical effects, Dunkirk gives audiences the same anxious feeling as the characters themselves and the result is undoubtedly one of the best war films to date.

Blade Runner 2049: Nobody ever asked for a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 neo-noir dystopian detective film Blade Runner (that long-winded genre blend should speak for itself), but fans got one anyway. And it’s a good thing, too, because Blade Runner 2049 is one of the most visually-spectacular cinematic experiences of the modern era. Instead of trying to top the impossibly-high standards set by the original, director Denis Villeneuve instead chooses to build on the established universe, without leaning too heavily on nostalgia (although Harrison Ford does return as detective Rick Deckard, Ryan Gosling’s character remains the star of this story). Full of gorgeous long shots, impressive CGI and an original yet faithful narrative, Blade Runner 2049 is an absolute must-see for fans.

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