DUCKTALES (2017) – An Okay (Re)Start

MV5BNTA2NTc5MzQwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTY2ODI2MjI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,666,1000_AL_“Life is like a hurricane here in Duckburg. Race cars, lasers, airplanes – it’s a duck-blur. Might solve a mystery or rewrite history…DuckTales – woo-oo!”

30 years ago, Disney’s DuckTales was one of the most popular kid shows on television. That first line of the theme song was a rallying cry to millions of children who flocked home after school to watch the latest adventure of Scrooge McDuck and his family. It was a very clever show with great writing, funny gags and a heaping helping of heart.

I was a big fan of DuckTales from the beginning. I still have that ear-worm of a song memorized three decades later. And I know that many people my age still carry fond memories of the show to this day. So it comes as no surprise that Disney decided to reboot DuckTales for the kids of those first fans. The nostalgia train has been brining back many pop-culture staples lately, and grown millennials have been lapping them up.

Last weekend, Disney XD debuted the first two episodes of the refreshed DuckTales (though both episodes serve one continuous story). For the most part, this new version keeps the adventurous spirit of the original, and even adds some new ideas from both the show’s rich past as well as today’s culture. It’s just as fun and funny, with a dash of sophistication for today’s kids.

DuckTales has always been about the interactions of a family, albeit an unconventional one. And the start of this version is based around a concept that many families learn over time: forgiveness of grudges.

SPOILIERS AHEAD – Woo-oo!

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The Legacy of TRON

tron_xlgGreetings, Programs!

In today’s world, it’s difficult for young people to imagine a world without a computer. They are integrated in almost every aspect of our lives – from communication to entertainment to shopping. It’s so ubiquitous that the computer has become a bit of a hindrance for some people.

In 1982, the computer was a mystery to most people. Very few knew how they worked, or how these machines were going to impact their lives. The closest most people got to a computer was playing a video game in an arcade.

That year, a film was released that attempted to give this new frontier a fantastical dimension.

I liked TRON before it was cool. The film was not as financially successful as it should have been, thanks to a certain extra-terrestrial who dominated the box office in the summer of 1982. My friends often made fun of me for liking TRON, as the movie was the butt of many pop culture jokes in the 35 years since its release. It now has a healthy cult following – so much so that a sequel, TRON: Legacy, was released in 2010 (which was good, but not great).

TRON 03

Though I knew it was fantasy, TRON fired my imagination to think that inside every computer was a civilization. Like the ancient scholars who dreamed up what lay beyond the edge of the world, TRON sought to make sense of the mystery of computers in the context of a world filled with motorcycles made of light, expansive vistas of data, and anthropomorphized programs living out their functions.

I loved the movie and everything about it. And as I have grown up and become more mature spiritually, I value TRON even more.

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SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING – Bringing Up Peter

Spider_Man_Homecoming_One_Sheet_1Spider-Man has been one of the most interesting cinematic properties in the 21st century’s crop of superhero films. He’s been rebooted twice in the span of only 15 years, courtesy of his studio caretaker, Sony. Through bungling both the Sam Raimi series (which started out strong) and the Marc Webb reboot series (which had potential), Sony proved that they didn’t really know what they had.

In response to the obvious creative quagmire, Spidey fans seemed to clamor for Sony to return the web-head to his rightful place: Marvel Studios.

Sony smartly brokered a deal with Marvel, giving the blockbuster-producing studio a shot and Spidey. And when Spider-Man appeared in Captain America: Civil War, it was an absolute triumph. This Spider-Man was indeed amazing. Marvel and Sony had done what was best for both the character and the fans, and included him with his fellow Marvel heroes.

The solo follow-up effort, Spider-Man: Homecoming, is a wonderful continuation of the groundwork laid in Civil War. The creativity of the Marvel Studios team has injected this character with new life, and made him a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Homecoming is funny, lighthearted, and has a youthful exuberance that matches the personality of the character in the comics. It has its share of questionable story and character choices, but it’s an overall enjoyable experience

Established in Civil War, the relationship between Peter Parker and Tony Stark is the highlight of the film. As with all great master-student relationships, each one comes out wiser. It is a reflection of a piece of our Creator’s personality, and what He tries to teach us in the rearing of youth.

SPIDER-SPOILERS AHEAD!

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TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT – A Messy Ride

TF PosterOut of all of my fellow Reel World Theology contributors, I can probably say with a degree of certainty that I’m alone in my admiration of director Michael Bay, or at least in a substantial minority. In fact, when Transformers: The Last Knight was up for grabs to be reviewed for RWT, there wasn’t that much of a race to claim it. I don’t blame them; he’s definitely an acquired taste.

The Transformers series, in particular, is quite a lot for people to swallow. The first film is a fun popcorn movie with sincerely beautiful moments of awe and wonder (the whole sequence of the Autobots arriving on earth is one of the greatest movie moments of the 21st Century!). The lead human characters are funny and, at times, endearing. And the action sequences are among Bay’s most intense and fun.

The sequels are another story.

I must admit that, as flawed as the films are, I do have a mild appreciation for the Transformers sequels. I compare them to a roller coaster. Unlike the more elaborate theme park attractions that are at the Disney or Universal parks (which take the rider on a journey within some kind of thin narrative), roller coasters are built to simply thrill, wow, and take people for a ride. I’m genuinely entertained by the sequels for the visual thrill and spectacle. But with each film, the thrills become lessened.

Which brings us to The Last Knight. As much as I admire Bay and his style, this is probably one of his worst films. Still entertaining in some places, but overall not a very thrilling experience. I should probably blame the screenwriters more than Bay himself because, as he demonstrated with the superb 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, when given a good script to match his visuals, he’s a modern action auteur. There’s just very little joy and heart in The Last Knight, and that is its most fatal flaw.

As fun as roller coasters are, it might be time to get off this ride.

Though it’s a disappointment, The Last Knight does have some interesting thematic insights. Specifically, the film reminds us about the importance of stories, and how all tales and legends have a bit of truth to them. This idea is, frankly, the whole reason why I do what I do, and why sites like Reel World Theology exist.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

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WONDER WOMAN – Power in Grace

wonder_woman_ver6_xlgBoth critics and audiences have been lauding Wonder Woman, the newest film in the DC Extended Universe, as a revelation and a transcendental piece of filmmaking poised to usher in a new era in cinema.

I think these reactions are a bit overhyped and inflated, because it is supposedly the first female-centric superhero movie (even though it isn’t), and the first of the genre to be directed by a woman (which, again, it isn’t). That is not to say the film isn’t without merit or worthy of praise.

Is the movie good? Yes. Is it worth seeing? Definitely. Is it the transcendental, glass-ceiling-shattering piece of art that many critics and moviegoers are lauding it as? No.

Wonder Woman is a good movie with great moments. It’s fun, charming and full of exciting action. It reminded me of a DC era gone by – the Christopher Reeve / Michael Keaton days. There are times I think it’s the best DCEU film. But then there are times when I still think Man of Steel was better.

Man of Steel was interesting but in a completely different way. It was a contemplative, realistic look at a character that had a certain perception in the public consciousness, and I liked where it was going (where it ended up is a whole other story). Wonder Woman had a lot of heart, which is what Man of Steel and its follow-up lacked, and that’s what made it good.

I have never really found Wonder Woman the character particularly interesting, even as a comic reader. Her powers and weapons always seemed kind of hokey to me (an invisible jet – really?). However, she was the true highlight of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And if Zack Snyder succeeded doing anything in that movie, it was making Wonder Woman actually cool.

But what made this new film exceptionally good were its thematic elements. Wonder Woman was about more than just an Amazonian princess, but about the nature of humanity, actual female strength, and the power of grace.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

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