Another year gone, another year of film has passed. 2017 offered up a little bit of everything from the House of Mouse but what really got me excited were the new takes on old formulas that were offered up. A thunder God getting to smile, an old Jedi learning new lessons and a land of the dead being given life, here are my Top 3 Disney Films of 2017.
Number 3. COCO
PIXAR is a studio of renown but the last several years have been more of a mixed affair starting with CARS 2 back in 2011. Since then we have seem some cracks in the studios run. In the seven films put forth since and including CARS 2, only one really stands out in 2015's INSIDE OUT. While I found CARS 3 and FINDING DORY enjoyable, it's nothing impactful as PIXAR has come to be known for. Then along came COCO. The reveal to the art style for COCO definitely caught my attention but following that were uninspired trailer spots that then receded my excitement.
To my delight though as I sat in the theater and the film began, all of my concerns were set aside rather quickly and what followed was PIXAR's best film since TOY STORY 3. The tale of Miguel and his family is one for the ages presented in jaw dropping artwork depicting the Land of the Dead combined with beautiful music that makes COCO a semi-musical. It's not a musical by the popular definition but music sung by characters on screen is new for PIXAR and makes that part of the formula extremely vital to the film as a whole. If the music does not hit, the film falls apart as just another "family strong" storyline. The music and setting though do more than enough to offer up a different experience from the folks at PIXAR. I have minor issues with plot reveals in one specific spot but nothing to throw off the enjoyment and pleasure that was COCO. A much welcomed high entry to the PIXAR library.
Number 2. THOR : Ragnarok
THOR : Ragnarok was the most fun I had in a movie theater this year. It was my most anticipated film of 2017 and did not disappoint.
Director Taika Waititi took the featured Avenger who was having the most trouble finding a solo audience, flipped the whole thing upside-down and let us laugh at gods and monsters for a change. Chris Hemsworth has had the chance here and there in previous Marvel films to crack wise but never before has the Aussie actor seemed so comfortable in the role as the God of Thunder. Villains are a soft spot for Marvel films with rare exceptions but Cate Blanchett's Hela is just the right mix of dangerous, mart, snark and sexy. Expanded roles for Idris Elba's Heimdall is a welcome upgrade as well. Combine that all with The Hulk making this a near buddy cop film with Ruffalo tapping into the child like demeanor of the big green machine, Jeff Goldblum stealing every scene he is present for, Loki being Loki, capping it off with director Waititi voicing rock creature Korg and you have a rollicking space adventure with the sense of humor that Marvel needed. A silly sense of humor. That is not enough though so it's good that the action is sharp and entertaining.
For my money it's the best entry since CAPTAIN AMERICA : WINTER SOLDIER and the fact that the tone of these two films could not be further apart is what makes me happy to state so.
Number 1. STAR WARS THE LAST JEDI
What Rian Johnson has done to pave new roads in a 40 year old franchise is the ballsiest move that anyone could have done to help the future of a galaxy far, far away. In that, he crafted the best film in the series since EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and my favorite Disney release of 2017.
Deconstructing previous beliefs is incredibly difficult and more so when the history of such is so embedded. We were always told the Jedi were on the side of right. And they are but maybe the way those beliefs have been executed were not the best path. Through 7 previous films we have seen the way of the Jedi lead to some horrible outcomes of evil rising, conquering and then falling only to rise to higher power the next time. It's all there in the films, even a share of hypocrisy. Remember when Obi-Wan told Anakin that "only a Sith deals in absolutes". That is an absolute statement itself. Palpatine was right next to them the entire time he built an Empire while corrupting the most powerful young Jedi in the galaxy. Yoda abandoned the fight after being disarmed. They were all taken surprise by Order 66 and mostly died because of it. Something there is wrong and Rian Johnson takes steps to assess the errors of the past and carve a new Jedi Order with Luke Skywalker being the spark to reignite not only the Jedi itself but the Rebellion as a whole.
At the center of this conflict are two young, powerful individuals still trying to find their own way and putting too much dependence of outside figures of authority. Kylo Ren and Rey are starting to become their own people and in it find a connection between themselves. The scenes where they communicate through the force as the films best. It's really all quite fascinating in a film following THE FORCE AWAKENS that was criticized for being "too safe" and doing nothing new.
Beyond all of that we have Poe learning to be a leader and not just a hero, Finn no longer running and becoming a Rebel, and General Leia guiding a new generation of leadership into what appears to be a situation with no good outcome. Johnson takes beats from John Ford's STAGECOACH in the long chase, and visual cues from Kurosawa's THE HIDDEN FORTRESS while Rey is practicing with a light saber while making the most visually arresting entry since EMPIRE. There are some off moments of humor but a few seconds of unaffecting humor does not make a dent that matters. Honestly, I can go on for a while about this film but will spare you my rambling. Suffice to say that THE LAST JEDI came and changed the game when it comes to STAR WARS. It tells us we need to move forward to keep growing and shows us a new hope that now exists. It is my favorite Disney release of 2017.
Here is hoping 2018 is even better.