Quick Takes: Finding Dory, X-Men: Apocalypse

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Finding Dory

There’s a moment in Finding Nemo when Dory explains her short-term memory loss: “I forget things almost instantly. It runs in my family. Well, at least I think it does. Hmm. Where are they?” A long pause follows, allowing us to wonder.

If a sequel had to happen, this was the right story to tell. Through Dory, Stanton and co. are able to touch on what it means to live with a disability, and what it’s like to care for someone who struggles with one. The effort is noble and the results are entertaining, but the story itself isn’t as perfect as its predecessor.

Somewhat strangely, we come back to our characters very shortly after the events of  Finding Nemo. Nemo isn’t any bigger and still goes to school with Mr. Ray, and Dory forgets that the sea anemone will sting her every few seconds. Following a blow to the head, Dory’s origin story unfolds through flashbacks as she remembers bits and pieces of her childhood, including her parents’ anxious efforts to guide her through life with a memory disorder. These scenes are gut-wrenching: despite their best efforts, we know they’re going to lose her. The more Dory remembers, the more she realizes how much of herself she’s lost.

While the emotional moments work, the story lacks the scale and sweeping arc that made the original so memorable. Finding Nemo was at its core a road movie — it spanned a great distance both spatially and narratively as Dory and Marlin traversed the ocean to rescue Nemo. Perhaps in an effort to avoid repeating the formula of the original, Dory truncates the travel and spends most of its time around one place. Unfortunately, this often makes the film feel like it’s spinning its wheels. I found myself wanting to get back out into the unknown depths.

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X-Men: Apocalypse

Following up an impressive outing in the 70’s with Days of Future Past,  Apocalypse is the latest installment of Fox’s hit-or-miss X-men series, set a decade later. The verdict: it’s a miss, but it’s a fun miss.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around the re-appearance of ancient über-mutant Apocalypse. The good guys have to stop him. That’s about it.

Oscar Issac is completely wasted in the title role: he’s goofy, oddly unthreatening for being the most powerful mutant ever, and the victim of a really bad makeup job. It’s bad, but also a little hilarious. Other new additions to the cast are more welcome. Tye Sheridan does a respectable job emoting as Cyclops, a guy who wears sunglasses one hundred percent of the time. I enjoyed Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, but that may just be because I like her so much on Game of Thrones. 

The real reason to go to this movie is Evan Peters’ Quicksilver. His rescue sequence is pure 80’s soundtracked joy, despite some questionable visual effects work that make it look like he’s saving cardboard cutouts as opposed to real human beings. That’s only one example of the VFX problems that riddle the film, which is baffling because Days of Future Past had no such issues.

Apocalypse’s shortcomings don’t ruin the experience — they’re endearing and funny. The campy nonsense and laughable effects are actually a nice tonal break from the airtight, relentlessly well-produced Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sometimes you just want to turn your brain off.

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