Courtney’s Top 3 Disney Films of 2017
It seems like just yesterday I was listening to the 2017 Disney Movie Preview episode and choosing my own most anticipated films of the year. If you had asked me then, my top three would have been Thor: Ragnarok, Beauty and the Beast, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2. Well, 2017 has flown by and I can honestly say that I was surprised and delighted by the majority of Disney’s offerings this year, but my final list turned out to be quite different. Without further ado, here are my top 3 Disney films of 2017.
3. Spiderman: Homecoming
To be blunt, I had just about zero interest in this film coming into 2017. I am 30 years old and I have lived through Tobey Maguire (worst), Andrew Garfield (better), and now Tom Holland (best). I wasn’t sure that I could stomach another origin story and I had no desire whatsoever to see yet another failed attempt at bringing Spider-Man to life. I was so averse to this reboot that I avoided seeing this in the theater altogether only seeing it last week in preparation for this week’s episode. I am so glad that I was wrong about this one. To my great satisfaction, NO ORIGIN STORY! The only mention of a spider bite occurs in a cute exchange between Peter and his best friend, Ned. It is the briefest of exchanges that leaves you feeling warmth for their friendship as Ned gets excited at the possibility of also being bitten, but absolutely no worry that we might launch into a full explanation of radioactivity. I was also quite grateful to avoid the whole Uncle Ben thing. This was a movie made for the fans and Disney wisely chose not to pander to us by hashing out both of these issues again. There were two performances in this film that really made it all work for me; Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture. Tom Holland was an utter breath of fresh air. He played the role/s with a naiveté and playfulness that has been sorely lacking in previous interpretations. You truly feel that he is just a kid trying to figure it all out. Michael Keaton, as always, is the model of spectacular acting. Adrian Toomes would do anything for his family and we feel that in his ruthless portrayal of the character. I am glad that Vulture was not a one-and-done villain; the MCU could use more strong villains like him to balance our strong heroes. Finally, while I enjoy a film that challenges me on some level, sometimes I just need to sit down and watch something fun. Spider-Man: Homecoming fits the bill and set us up beautifully for a potentially great series of films in the future.
2. Thor: Ragnarok
Like Melyssa and Peter, this was also my most anticipated film of the year. I have always been a massive fan of Thor and of all things Chris Hemsworth, to be perfectly honest. In addition, I am a great admirer of Ragnarok director Taika Waititi. I have enjoyed his work for years and was anxious to see how his quirky directing style would influence my favorite of the Marvel superheroes. This combination took something I already loved and elevated it to a whole new level creating one of the most fun films of the year. I have always felt comedy to be one of Chris Hemsworth’s greatest strengths as an actor and Taika Waititi took that strength and gave it a real voice in Thor: Ragnarok. From the opening scene, I knew that the tone of this film was going to fit with much of what I’d seen from Taika previously. Quirky, dry humor pervaded much of the film and is seen mostly in the relationship between Thor and Hulk. It also carried through with the introduction of Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster. This comedic style was balanced by the introduction of my new favorite villain, Cate Blanchett’s Hela. The presence of a truly sinister female villain could not have been more welcome. Cate was nothing if not strong and sexy, but her character did not rely on feminine wiles to get stuff done. Do I believe Hela is gone? Not for one second. And I am 100% here for that. I need more Hela in my life. For all the positive that this film brought, there were a couple characters that fell flat for me; Valkyrie and Skurge. It seems a real shame that they chose the name Valkyrie, the generic Norse name for a female warrior and chooser of fate, rather than giving her a real name of her own. This resulted in a lack of identity which subsequently resulted in a lack of investment in the character. In addition, she should have come to heads with Hela in battle. Knowing that Hela murdered all her friends, she absolutely should have. I also felt that Skurge was, simply put, a very boring character. He had no real character arc of any kind – good guy turns bad, realizes the error of his ways, turns good again. This just seemed like a real waste of Karl Urban and a misstep on the part of the writers. That being said, Ragnarok was a step in the right direction after The Dark World and I am greatly looking forward to more from Thor, and hopefully Hela, in the future.
I went into Coco with fairly low expectations. To me, this film seemed like it would simply be a retelling of the popular Disney/PIXAR theme of the importance of family. That paired with the fact that its release coincided with Thanksgiving was, in my mind, a recipe for a schmaltzy story meant only to induce tears. This film certainly did induce tears, but what it did aside from this was remarkable. At face value, Coco is visually stunning. The vivid colors and detail seen throughout, from the flower bridges to the alebrijes, are the greatest visual accomplishment we’ve seen from PIXAR to date. While I loved every second of this, I wasn’t at all surprised by it; PIXAR has always set the bar for detailed, colorful, and immersive visual worlds. Though this is expected from PIXAR, it deserves recognition nonetheless. One unexpected star of this film, a star we haven’t seen showcased by PIXAR in the past, is the music. I am not sure that they could have done justice to this story and to this culture without incorporating music. The theme of this film, Dia de los Muertos, focuses on the importance of family and honoring and remembering those who have come before you. The song “Remember Me” is used in this film to drive this point home and it does so beautifully. In addition, “Proud Corazón” is a practically perfect song that does exactly what it intended; it makes your heart want to burst with joy. If PIXAR is capable of using music in this way, I am eager to see what a proper PIXAR musical might look like. The final point I want to touch on is the biggest reason why I chose this as my favorite Disney film of the year. So often on the screen we see the “traditional”, white American family. When we do see “non-traditional” families, they are often stereotyped or grossly misrepresented to the point of being offensive. Simply choosing to have your subjects be non-white is not impressive to me. What is impressive is the manner in which Coco represented a culture that is often ignored or poorly handled in the mainstream media. Unlike many offerings before it, the feedback I have heard regarding Coco from people of Mexican descent is overwhelmingly positive. While I personally cannot attest to its authenticity, I am so pleased to hear such positive feedback from those who can. It warms my heart to know that there are children seeing a positive representation of someone who looks like them and beyond that, someone who is proud to be a part of the culture they come from. I fully expected some backlash on this film as we have seen with films like Moana, but I am so pleased this wasn’t the case. I hope this is a trend we will continue to see with Disney/PIXAR films in the future. For this reason, and the others listed above, Coco is my pick for Disney’s best film of the year.