Director Ryan Coogler had a thin line to walk for his sequel to Black Panther.
Following up 2018’s mega-hit that was unlike any Marvel superhero we’d seen before, reaching out to audiences and cultures that previously felt underserved by blockbuster entertainment, would have been difficult enough. Coogler had an opportunity to direct a sequel to 2015’s Creed, but passed on it to jump into the Marvel sandbox and bring comic books’ first Black superhero to the big screen.
Topping himself and continuing the story of Wakanda’s King T’Challa was going to be much more difficult — logistically and emotionally — after the death of star Chadwick Boseman two years ago. How could Marvel and Coogler, along with the amazing cast and crew that brought the fictional African nation to vivid life, keep the story going without the Black Panther himself?
Out of respect to Boseman, Marvel decided that T’Challa wouldn’t be recast. That was probably the correct decision, especially so soon after the actor’s death. Asking fans — and those who worked with Boseman — to accept a new face in the role would have been difficult. (Though during the past two years, sentiment — online, anyway — has turned toward recasting and advancing a character that was so iconic, so important to audiences.)
So Coogler and writer Joe Robert Cole (who collaborated on the first film’s screenplay) embraced the real world’s intrusion on Marvel mythology and acknowledged Boseman’s death in the story by giving T’Challa much the same traffic fate. As a result, Wakanda Forever serves as a tribute to the actor, allowing fans and colleagues to mourn and perhaps find closure with the loss.
Dwayne Johnson is a damn good salesman, which you likely knew. Black Adam is a testament to his star power. This movie almost certainly doesn’t get made, nor does the character headline his own film, without Johnson making it happen.
And without Johnson, this movie probably wouldn’t be that compelling — except to comic book diehards thrilled to see secondary DC Comics characters like Hawkman and Doctor Fate brought to life on the big screen. But they’re a big part of the story and look great. So does Johnson and his real-life superhero physique in a role that seems to have been made for him.
Set in the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Kahndaq, Black Adam immediately sets itself apart from other superhero stories taking place in New York, San Francisco, or fictional cities like Metropolis or Gotham City. (Maybe it’s not a coincidence that the best DC films are set in locations including Atlantis and the Amazon island of Themyscira.)
The movie also benefits from director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Commuter, The Shallows) having plenty of experience with action movies that keeps what story there is moving with little time given to exposition and character moments. Black Adam pretty much goes from one action sequence to another with momentary chances to give the audience a breath. But even “quiet” scenes have action like Johnson busting through walls rather than using doors.
“Your ancestors called it magic, but you call it science,” Thor said to Jane Foster in Marvel’s first Thor movie (2011). “I come from a land where they are one and the same.”
Whatever it’s called, the magic is gone. At least for the God of Thunder’s run under director Taika Waititi.
Thor: Love and Thunder has some beautiful visuals, creative set pieces, and compelling character arcs, especially for Natalie Portman’s Foster. But the story trying to hold them all together is too weak to build a satisfying film that ranks among the best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What makes this so disappointing is that Waititi’s previous Thor film, 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, was such a refreshing change of direction from the other Marvel movies with its fast pace, outlandish color palette, and bold designs influenced by legendary artists like Jack Kirby, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Moebius. (The new wave soundtrack by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh added to the alien atmosphere.)
Had Space Jam: A New Legacy not been available to watch at home on HBO Max, I don’t know if I would’ve seen it. Maybe I would have, however, because it’s arguably a “sports movie” starring LeBron James and I could justify reviewing it for Awful Announcing.
“Sure, perhaps the original Space Jam is viewed affectionately through a nostalgia lens and a sequel couldn’t compete with those memories. But the first movie was fun in a way the new version isn’t. Jordan knew what kind of movie he was in and went along with it. He allowed himself to be goofy and for wacky things to happen to him. To put it in Bugs Bunny’s words, Jordan was “looney.”
LeBron never lets himself go to embrace the spirit of the movie, even when he becomes a cartoon alongside Bugs. He looks like this is an obligation for him, as if he should be in a new Space Jam as this generation’s biggest basketball star.“
I’m not certain why HBO scheduled the premiere of Tiger, its two-part documentary on Tiger Woods for Jan. 10, at the end of a big NFL playoff weekend (and up against the last of six Wild Card games, Browns-Steelers). Not to mention it’s on the night before the College Football Playoff national championship game.
Perhaps the network figures it can be alternative programming for viewers who weren’t plugged into football all weekend. And a non-sports audience might be more interested in the ugly details of his many affairs and his 2017 DUI arrest when he had several opioids and sleep aids in his system.
But Tiger is definitely worth watching and warrants being split into two parts. I reviewed the documentary for Awful Announcing:
Yet watching one and not the other avoids the full story. His childhood, relationship with his father, training to achieve at the highest level, and struggles with fame are prevalent themes that inform the entire film. They — along with insights from family friends, rivals, and media — create a deeper portrayal of a fascinating figure in sports history and make Tiger worth watching.