This year was filled with many Disney films- some I highly anticipated and others that were just ones to be reviewed. However, three of these need to be chosen as my top, so I have chosen. Here are my top 3 films released by Disney this year.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
This film was anticipated because the first one was so much fun. I was nervous that they wouldn’t keep the same level of excitement and entertainment up with the second film. And, to an extent, they did dive into a deeper emotional aspect to these characters. But it’s those emotional aspects that helped bring this film higher on my list. I never would have guessed that I would tear up when it was time to say goodbye to Yondu. That final scene was so impactful and gives you a look into Rocket as well- allowing his character to grow more too and come to terms with the fact that being connected to other people is not a sign of weakness. The battle and reconnection between Gamora and Nebula are touching, especially from a person who also has a sister. We all know that sisters have complex relationships and I loved how they were able to demonstrate the complexity without making the relationship seem fake or contrived. There was so much there but when Nebula said all she wanted was a sister was a punch that could be felt reverberating through my own relationship with my sister. The only relationship that I didn’t feel hit was between the main character and the father he seemed to be searching for since the first film. Ego, and I’m sure this was by design, never gave me a sense of safety so seeing Peter fall for his lies was disappointing- as it is any time we know that the main character is making a bad choice but they make it anyway. Overall, the humor was still in the film- especially Baby Groot and, surprisingly, Drax. The other component of this film that wasn’t up to the level of the first movie is the music- it didn’t quite hit me the same as the first one- though I’m not sure if it’s just due to my enjoyment of the 70s versus 80s. So, because some of the film didn’t hit me quite as much as the first one, I’m placing this at number 3. I loved the look of the film- a vibrant, saturated color palette- with great characters and good humor. This did make me interested in seeing how these characters fit into Infinity War.
2. Thor Ragnarok
This was my most anticipated film of the year- and it did not disappoint! I absolutely loved the return of a fun, humorous Thor that was here to kick butt and take names. While the best moment of the film was perhaps spoiled by trailers, I enjoyed the buddy film portion of Thor and Hulk. The fact that you get more of Hulk’s character beyond “Hulk smash!” is an added plus that makes you sort of disappointed that Banner appeared again. However, Ruffalo’s portrayal of Banner is absolutely brilliant. Again, we get a bright, saturated color palette, even while set in a space junk planet. I enjoyed Hela and how much of a threat she was as Marvel tends to flop on the villains in their films, besides Loki. So to get another destructive villain from a Thor film was another plus- and she was female! The only big miss for me was Valkyrie’s character. She was too uncaring for too long and I didn’t understand her turn to decide to help Thor. I also felt they missed the chance to: A- give her her own name and, B- give her a scene with Hela where Hela remembers she was the one to get away. I would have also loved to have seen Hela and Valkyrie have their own one on one battle on the rainbow bridge- and then have Thor come in to save Valkyrie as clearly she wouldn’t be powerful enough to stop Hela since the whole hoard of Valkyries couldn’t, but it would have been a great tension filled fight to let Valkyrie go at Hela, even for a moment. The humor brought back to this franchise helps me see where GotG fits and it makes me excited to see their entrance into The Avengers. My only other disappointment was that Loki again betrayed his brother, but since that is his nature, it can’t be that much of a detraction from the film. Overall, this was the most fun I’ve had in the theater this year. I look forward to Thor’s place in Infinity War and see where he brings Asgard.
Pixar highly delivered here and created a film that hit me in a way no other film has. Typically I don’t want to do things like break down themes of a film or dive into the music of a score. However, this all changed with Coco. I was astounded by the look of the world they created- the colors, the textures, the layers of beauty both in the “real world” and the land of the dead were another level up for Pixar- as tends to happen each year. What made this film stand out for me was the use of songs throughout the film- something Pixar isn’t typically known for. While they have hits with Jessie’s song from Toy Story 2 and Married Life from UP, there was no other film where the characters sang a song that reverberated to my core. Beyond Remember Me, the impact of Mi Proud Corazon gets me every time I play that soundtrack. The nuisance of La Llorona was a deep dive that I sought out and was floored by both the simplicity of including this song and how it was included. I haven’t played a soundtrack on repeat like this since Moana (which is Disney who is known for their musical films). Beyond the music and the look of the film was the character development. The simple theme of family was brought to audiences in such a new way- and via a completely different culture than we are used to. And the fact that Pixar decided to take on this monster undertaking- portraying a different culture- and to have done it so well is amazing. Disney has a history of either white-washing characters of color or missing some points when taking on different cultures that credit needs to be afforded to the Pixar team for their success in this endeavor. And, while the theme of family is one of Pixar’s popular themes, to have it show that family can sometimes be wrong or misunderstand in their good intentions, was such a modern take that really hit with me. It thread the line of who is right and who is wrong and how neither are either. I cannot say enough good things about Coco- and this is why it is my number 1 if the year. Congrats Pixar- you’ve done it again.
Honorable Mention- Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Many people would probably be shocked that this wasn’t on a top whatever list and others would feel justified in their hatred of the movie that it is absent from the list. However, this film is more than just love it or hate it for me. It’s a complex thing that isn’t shaded by a history with Star Wars and its cannon of characters. Unfortunately I’ve only seen it once and it is something that probably needs to be seen more than that. But, I’ve also only seen Thor and GotG once and they stuck with me more than Star Wars. Even so, I want to dive a little bit into why this movie wasn’t in my top 3.
Star Wars wasn’t a part of my childhood and I actually saw the prequels long before I watched the original trilogy. I’ve seen each movie once each with maybe some repeats for parts of the prequels. But, since I had seen these movies “in order”, they don’t feel like prequels, though I had known Anakin was going to turn eventually, they felt just like the first movies in a series. I also didn’t retain information from the movie- I only know names like Naboo because I’ve been on Star Tours often with Star Wars nerds. I barely understood what was going on with the Senate and the Emperor. I don’t understand fully why the Jedis are mainly gone or why they were gone (before viewing TLJ and having some deeper discussions and reading a lot of write ups). I didn’t get how the Jedi and the Sith were so divided and how strict the Jedi had become in their ideology about love and feelings- maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention, maybe it never really sank in, maybe this is how someone who just watches the movies and doesn’t absorb the literature around the topic can still enjoy the product without having a huge emotional investment in the results.
With all that being said- I didn’t get the reaction to TLJ from the fans. I didn’t realize it “turned the franchise on its head” because that history wasn’t there for me. I thought the characters were great- many of them underwent big development since TFA and I enjoyed where they were going. I thought the introduction of the new characters was great- and I’m loving the diversity we are getting with the cast. Some of the visuals were beyond breathtaking and the comedy was fun. I thought the movie fell perfectly in line with what I’m used to in many sci-fi/fantasy books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen. I’m happy that Rey wasn’t revealed to be particularly special, though I would have liked some type of connection- as is typical in many fantasy series. I thought there were parts that were a little lengthy and I thought other parts were unexplained or too short. Overall, I look forward to watching it again, but it didn’t strike me the way the other films in my top list had. I do think that the lack of a “history” with the franchise and characters does take away some of the hard emotional response from me and I was able to view this as just another movie. While I don’t mind this, I find many fans rely on this change in cannon to fuel their arguments and this can be frustrating. Tell me more about the character development-for both the new and old characters; talk to me about the visual style; and speak to the pace of the film. And understand that, while I don’t see this movie the same as you, doesn’t invalidate my feelings toward the film.