Narrowing down the best movies of the year didn’t pose much of a challenge. I didn’t grow up on comic books and seeing as Hollywood is still in the middle of an intense love affair with the genre, it’s largely kept me out of the theaters for the past decade or so. My main problem with comic book movies stems from a lack of danger to the characters, sapping most of these movies of any tension from the moment the opening credits begin. For the most part you can boil all comic book movies down the same way: Big Bad is introduced (or re-introduced), a group of heroes band together despite their differences, stuff crumbles and explodes, more stuff crumbles and explodes, and then one of the heroes shines bright when it counts the most to defeat the Big Bad until the next sequel releases when the weather gets warm again. Now, there are very few exceptions to this rule (one of which makes my list) and that’s where these movies truly get a chance to explore the more mature themes they most certainly deserve.
But enough of that — here are my top 3 movies of 2017.
#1 – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi is destined to go down in history as the most over analyzed, misunderstood beautiful piece of cinema in recent memory. And I admit I fell victim to my own expectations and imagination as well. It colored my first viewing in a negative light. I wanted certain things to happen, or not happen, to my favorite characters and I had grand visions for the shape of things to come. All these things coalesced in my imagination beautifully, and so it was to my initial disappointment to discover that Rian Johnson had other ideas that did not align with my own. I walked out of the first viewing a bit confused and saddened as well as excited and entertained, like a kid who was accidentally punched in the face while watching two other people fight in the playground.
Then I watched it again with a different mindset — more open to adventure and the pure joy of Star Wars. And while I still have some issues with the movie, I have no shame in proclaiming it my favorite Star Wars movie since perhaps Empire. It is at once visually arresting and gorgeous — a veritable feast for the senses — as well as a darker take on themes the universe has yet to explore on screen. This is a film about looking ahead rather than being shackled by the weight of the past, and using failure as a tool to do just that.
Filled with exciting space battles and heart-pumping lightsaber fights, it boasts perhaps two of the best action scenes in the entire series. Johnson uses the color red to stunning effect and paints of a picture you won’t soon forget. But the scenes between the action are just as important here. The viewer is treated to some fine character development, especially when Kylo Ren and Rey share the screen, across the board. A certain subplot could have used a little bit more time in the oven and possibly some cuts and refinement but it doesn’t detract from the overall experience and adventure and sense of wonder the film ultimately delivers in droves.
#2 – Logan
Now this is what a comic book movie should be! Dark, mature and gritty, Logan unfolds like a modern slice of noir filled with solid character development, good dialogue and unabashed violence. From the very first scene, I realized that this wasn’t going to be your average movie spawned from a comic. It’s sad and brooding and stuffed with scenes that will evoke a wide array of emotions, even if this isn’t usually your bag of chips.
Logan’s journey is a rough one but, man, it’s exhilarating. I hope the boys and gals of Hollywood take note that there is indeed a market for R-rated movies like this one. It would be enough to get my ass in the seats for more comic book stuff, that’s for sure.
I recommend this movie to everyone, but especially people like myself who avoid comic book movies like the plague.
#3 – It Comes At Night
I fully expect to get a chorus of disagreement out of this choice but I embrace it. I’m a horror movie fan and it’s hard enough to find a decent movie in that genre without going a little crazy for want of something slightly above below average quality.
Let me start by saying I thoroughly enjoy ambiguity in my entertainment. I don’t want all the answers. I don’t need to see everything on screen to enjoy the story. I want to read between the lines and let my imagination do some heavy lifting every so often.
And so it is with It Comes At Night. If you look at the marketing and read the back of the box, you get the impression that you are about to watch a movie dealing with yet another zombie apocalypse, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This movie is quieter, softer. Punctuated by scenes of shocking violence that will likely get under your skin as surely as the airborne disease floating around within its hopeless, destitute world.
The end left me absolutely terrified. This is the song that your parents didn’t let you listen to as a pre-teen because it was deemed to be Satanic and evil. It’s a glimpse into the darkest corners of the human heart and mind, too real and relevant in today’s violent world. And that’s why it’s the perfect horror movie for 2017. No zombies, no magic and no ghosts. Just humans being all too human in the worst of situations.