I keep doing this, apparently. I’d thought I hadn’t watched much this year, but apparently I saw quite a few movies despite all the other shenanigans I got up to, and I am going to inflict my meagre opinions on you.

Firstly: yes, (and spoiler-free) I have seen The Last Jedi. I am of the camp that liked it (and divisive films has been a thing this year) – quite a lot, in fact. Not perfect, but perfect is vanishingly rare and I liked what it did and what it set out to do. I am not going to say any more about it just yet (1).

Secondly: there was something of a gap in the ranks this year. There wasn’t quite a successor to 2016’s Arrival (which won the crap out of the SF award scene) or 2015’s Ex Machina. So, no hands down intellectual SF winner for me. However…

poster thorMarvel studios had three, count them, three movies out this year. Unless I missed one. Of these, I am very much in the minority in not loving Guardians of the Galaxy 2 as much as everyone else seemed to. It wasn’t a bad film by any means, but (and spoilers ahead) the first one was damn near perfect, and 2 hit some wrong notes for me. There were some really nice bits – I loved the golden civilization with their virtual warfare, and a lot of the comedy set pieces were good. I feel mean-spirited about ragging on it at all, tbh, because most of it was great. I am going to hide my gripes in a footnote (2). I am also going to take a moment to shove out a plug for Al Ewing and Adam Gorham comic Rocket which is goddamn fantastic.

Spiderman: Homecoming worked better for me. It’s nice to see a small-scale superhero flick from the Marvel stable – arguably even smaller than Marvel’s Netflix TV offerings. Thank God we’re spared another Spiderman origin story, as the film just gets right to work with the webslinger. Michael Keaton, always worth the price of admission, is a surprise show-stealer and maybe one of Marvel’s best cinema villains along with Hiddleston’s Loki (because really catch villains are something of a flat note in the otherwise phenomenal canon they’ve put together).

Finally, Thor: Ragnarok. My oh my, what can I say. This, I think, is my film of the year for sheer joy value. This felt more the spiritual successor to the first Guardians film – a movie filled to the brim with character-driven comedy gold that still ran a serious plot from start to finish, had some interesting messages about the unthinking and unexamined veneration of the past and was just unabashedly fun from start to finish. The entire cast was note-perfect (Korg and Miek especially), and the result was the best Thor film and a strong contender (imho) for the best Marvel movie full stop.

poster wonderMost of the other films I’ve seen this year also seem to have been about superheroes, specifically a very strong couple of offerings from Marvel/Disney’s chief competitors. I’ve not much liked the X-Men films since the 2nd one (which was, to be fair, very good), but Logan was astonishingly emotive and powerful. Jackman and Stewart give incredibly personal, touching performances, supported by a very able cast (I particularly liked Stephen Merchant’s Caliban). This didn’t feel like a superhero movie at all (save perhaps for the relatively brief last act), but a study in loss and grief crossed with a David Gemmell novel. Speaking of which, Hugh Jackman would knock Druss out of the park if they ever made a movie of that.

Wonder Woman also hit the right spot for me. I know some people who feel the last act (again with the last act!) degenerated into punching CGI things, but it all worked for me. Moreover, I liked the thought that Patti Jenkins, director, put into the details of the film – giving us a Great War that felt real whilst not being just the bland billboard history that it could so easily have been – see all the Asian troops waiting for deployment in London, for example.

poster bladeFinally, we have Blade Runner 2049, a particularly divisive piece. Again, I find myself coming down strongly in the “for” camp. This came closest to that elusive hi-brow SF slot, with a lot of interesting things to say about artificial people and artificial relationships. It was also beautiful, visually and audibly, which I think is probably a Villeneuve thing given what a fantastic job he did with Arrival. There were things I wanted to see more of (like the Replicant resistance) but it was a strong and elegant movie, a real work of art.

So: my tiny award goes to Thor: Ragnarok for combining sheer fun value with some solid plot, and here’s to next year.

(1) Emma Newman has a thoughtful audio-log on Last Jedi, absolutely crammed with spoilers. It’s here if you want it, and I generally agree with everything she has to say.

(2) Mantis seemed extraneous, Ego outed himself as a bad guy rather clumsily (“Oh yeah, I killed your mum”) and the extended eulogy sequence for Yondo suggested I was very out of step in how key I felt that character was.

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