“We Have To Stop Her Here And Now, And Prevent Ragnarok, The End Of Everything…”
With arguably two of the weakest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, the return of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor marks the seventeenth entry in the gargantuan comic franchise, and whilst the character is awash with charisma and undeniable charm, it seems Hemsworth’s God of thunder has been the recipient of being better served when mixed in with the collective Marvel characters rather than being free to fight battles on his lonesome. Inevitably therefore, Ragnarok, directed by New Zealand’s Taika Waititi, manages to follow in the footsteps of Captain America: Civil War by for all intents and purposes being an Avengers movie, just without the titular phrasing slapped across it, with Hemsworth’s character this time being surrounded by the likes of Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner and the return of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in his battle against Cate Blanchett’s evil goddess of death, Hela. With Waititi’s previous works including the likes of What We Do In The Shadows and last year’s critically acclaimed independent groundbreaker, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the Kiwi’s ascent into Hollywood stardom continues the MCU’s usage of interesting, promising directors after Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 and Jon Watt’s take on Spiderman: Homecoming earlier this year, and what Waititi has managed to achieve with Ragnarok is undeniably create the best of the Thor standalone releases so far, but with a aching sense of inconsequentiality running through it, the latest MCU release is supercharged in style but lacking wholly in any sense of prolonging substance.
Faced with the passing of father Odin, Thor heeds the warning of the coming of Cate Blanchett’s Hela, the Goddess of Death, whose desire to overthrow the Asgardian kingdom could potentially lead to the coming of Ragnarok, a prophetic armageddon which eradicates the existence of Asgard from the face of the universe, but with the God of Thunder’s preoccupied exile onto the planet of Sakaar, Thor must first overcome the greatest gladiator battle of all time before returning to save his home planet from certain destruction. With the chugging riffs of Led Zeppelin and a colourful, sparkly tone which made Guardians of the Galaxy so joyous throughout, Ragnarok is a movie which soaks up the fundamental ridiculousness of Thor’s character and simply hands the audience an undeniably entertaining comic adventure on a multi-coloured plate, and whilst the rib tickling comedy and likeable characters, both old and new, keep the audience chuckling and the lengthy running time manageable, the latest Marvel adventure does suffer at times from having almost too much to say without any of it having any real consequence. With a emo-inflicted villain who is too camp to take seriously, strangely jarring cameos from particular Hollywood stars and a limited screen presence from the likes of Jeff Goldblum and Idris Elba, Ragnarok suffers where the likes of Civil War prevailed, with the latter working with each pieces of the chess board onto something of consequence, and considering the future which lies ahead for the fate of the MCU, Ragnarok is indeed a highly enjoyable addition to the Marvel universe but ultimately doesn’t seem exactly necessary.
Overall Score: 7/10
“The Imminent Destruction Of All We Know And Love, Begins Now…”
Whilst overly long blockbuster movies are indeed not exactly anything original, it does take the patience of a saint to be able to sit through and enjoy most of Michael Bay’s most recent cinematic exploits, and whilst The Rock and Bad Boys prove that sometimes Bay does manage to create something which although is undeniably stupid, is too a whole bunch of fun, his annoyingly pompous stamp on the Transformers series proves without a doubt that fame and fortune is the only thing on the mind of its’ creators, particularly when the series just doesn’t seem to be slowing down in terms of worldwide and domestic gross. Clocking in at a staggering 149 minutes however, a runtime which is actually generously measured when put up against previous Transformers entries, The Last Knight is stated by both Bay and leading star Mark Wahlberg to be the final entry into the CGI-fuelled, overlong, action franchise and with that in mind, there is a sense of joy heading into the cinema knowing that this may indeed be the last time to witness Bay’s live action interpretation of Hasbro’s famous plastic toy range. Unfortunately, yet rather inevitably, The Last Knight is not exactly a movie which can classed as anything remotely joyful, with Bay successfully managing to create the most insipid, boring and woeful excuse for a blockbuster in years. Wait a second while I just clear my tinnitus.
Although narrative and plot are never usually at the forefront of most Transformers movies, The Last Knight actually revels in the fact that there simply isn’t a story to be told. Whilst something about King Arthur, Merlin and some ancient, historic sword attempts to linchpin the movie together, Bay’s latest makes Batman v. Superman look like a picture-book example of coherent A to B storytelling, with the movie too often more interested in endless explosions and placid CGI to really offer anything for the audience to really sink their emotional teeth into. Aside from a woeful narrative, epileptic editing and a cash-hungry supporting cast including the likes of Sir Anthony Hopkins, The Last Knight suffers from two inexcusable elements which simply make the film a painful exercise of patience. Firstly, the length. Not many films earn the right to be 150 minutes plus and whilst The Last Knight may be one of the shorter Transformers offerings, my sweet lord do you feel every single second of its’ sheer awfulness, with each passing minute ripping your soul apart as you slowly lose hope in the future of cinema as we know it. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the 12A rating slapped onto the movie encourages kids to go and see it, albeit with their parents, and whilst the action and spectacle may keep many wildly entertained, the constant use of unnecessary expletives and ripe sexual references make this supposed “kids” movie a poison chalice of misjudgement, and a movie which although may succeed in taking shed loads of money, will surely not satisfy even the most hardcore of Transformers fans. An explosive mess of a movie, The Last Knight is worthy of complete avoidance. Don’t take the risk.
Overall Score: 2/10
“It Begins With The Birth Of A New People, The Choices They’ll Have To Make And The People They Will Decide To Become…”
Wow. What an incredible ending to an absurdly addictive series, a series which although left many shell-shocked at how wildly barmy the many entwining narratives became week after week, was undoubtedly a solid thumbs up from those masters of TV up at HBO headquarters. Whilst the success has brought up a wholly inevitable chance to continue into a second series, Westworld needs to follow the continued quality of previous shows including the likes of Game of Thrones, The Wire, The Sopranos etc., in order to become a true exquisite piece of serialised television. What does the future hold for Westworld? Well let’s start with THAT final scene, a concluding set piece which not only allowed the show-runners to show their hands regarding underlying plot threads but a scene which everyone had been wanted for since the start of the show. A host uprising. These violent delights have violent ends indeed.
Where to begin? Obviously the headline resolutions of the final episode was the real nature of Ford’s new host narrative, one which confirmed his true intentions all along, a guilt-inflicted belief that ultimately allowed the hosts to become free from the control of their masters, concluding in the massacre of the top-end controllers of the park including Ford who died at the hands of Delores in a manner which could only be regarded as the final piece in the puzzle for the elderly and guilt-stricken genius. With Ford gone, we unfortunately have to say farewell to the supreme acting talents of Anthony Hopkins whose portrayal of Dr. Ford was one of the best things of the show, a mysteriously and intentionally ambiguous figure who although seemed cold and calculated for one of the humans on park, became a figure of sadness and regret come the concluding realisation of Arnold, a death in which Ford felt partially responsible.
Of the many other endpoints for the many narratives in the show, The Man in Black was finally confirmed to be the elderly figure of William, a theory which was coined by many weeks ago, and thus complimented the finalising of the Delores arc, one which showed her as the murderous figure of Wyatt as well as the true nature of the maze, a effective macguffin which was revealed simply as the final stage of true consciousness for Delores. The symbolic nature of Ford handing the toy maze to Bernard just before his death was timely in acknowledging Ford’s true ideals as it was lost on The Man in Black/William who simply could not understand its’ meaning after his long search for answers. As for TMIB, a bullet to the arm and a smile on his face was the concluding shot of such a character with the realisation that the game had well and truly been turned up to eleven, fulfilling the wishes of a man who believed Westworld was meant for something more. Westworld has been a riveting success, a confusing, addictive, violent and thought-provoking drama which was as annoying as it was delightful with its’ rafter of intertwining narratives, a normality in the hands of Johnathan Nolan, who has made Westworld his own little baby. Although the wait until more Westworld is excruciating, with 2018 being the set date for the second series premiere, Nolan’s series is one of the rare cases in which you could watch all ten episodes again and take a million different things from it, a blueprint for success if ever there was one.
Episode Score: 10/10
Series Score: 8.45/10
“Never Place Your Trust In Us. We’re Only Human. Inevitably, We’ll Only Disappoint…”
And that’s what you get for asking questions. Sorry Elsie, my constant need to know every loose end has obviously resulted in your demise, a demise orchestrated by the megalomaniacal Dr. Ford yet carried out by the unknowing Bernard, who this week was confirmed as a reincarnation of the infamous unknown entity that is Arnold, a theory which was coined by many early into the series. Although this didn’t come as much of a surprise, what this revelation did ensure was a mind-bending segment in which we witness parallel time structures in which Delores was ever present in her attempt to access the ambiguous maze. Although the Delores scenes this week seemed rather flashy and important, her particular plot line is unashamedly baffling, and in a world where baffling plot lines are more than ripe, it’s hardly surprising. The revelation of the Bernard=Arnold equation ultimately led to the self-inflicted murder of such, a resolution which was either there to save Bernard’s mind from the info dump he had just experienced or to save Dr. Ford’s behind, yet with the murderous rampage our beloved creator is on, it’s hard to sway away from the latter.
As for the real Arnold, the realisation that Delores was responsible for his untimely demise only adds to the series’ confusion. Why and what does this mean? What is the show’s endgame? These are questions that are constantly asked when I sit down and watch the newest entry of Westworld and with only one episode to go, I’m not really any closer to finding out. Like the maze our heroes and villains are attempting to seek out, Westworld is a endless, baffling mystery. But boy is it addictive. Add into the mix some more background regarding The Man in Black, with it being highlighted his influence in the running of the park, as well as Teddy’s storyline slowly falling into its’ inevitable place and next week’s episode has a barrel load to squeeze in. Where Game of Thrones threw spanners in the works primarily in its’ penultimate episode, Westworld is leaving it to the very end to show its’ hand, and whilst the latter is nowhere near the heights of the former, it still is tasty entertainment.
Overall Score: 8/10
“You Speak Like You Own This World…”
So we finally have some sort of answers regarding The Main in Black this week with Ed Harris deciding to blast us with an unexpected exposition dump regarding his rather unfortunate past which included a dead wife, a hateful daughter and the willingness to vent his anger upon the hosts of Westworld. Does this add up to the now anticipated reveal of the Man in Black=William equation? Who freakin’ knows and like many have stated, Westworld is in danger of having more plot lines than Lost and although last week’s twist had repercussions seeping into this week, with Bernard distraught with his violent actions, “Trace Decay” resorted to leading the big reveals until its’ final two episodes. Smart move? Yes and no, with Westworld’s continual baffling nature indeed not for everyone and for those who have stuck by it like some love-struck stalker of an ex-partner, we can only hope the mysteries do eventually pay off.
Scene of the week was handed to Maeve who with her newly found powers in the land of Westworld pretty much reenacted that scene from Bruce Almighty when Jim Carey walks around and flashes his newly acquired god-like abilities. Instead of blowing up water mains and putting the wind up skirts however, Maeve completely changed the design of her commune by that of language alone, altering the programming of the hosts around her to do whatever she desired. Uprising? You said it and with hosts going seemingly against protocol across the park (Teddy’s capture of TMIB, Delores’s extreme visions and of course, Maeve herself) the beginning of the end is nigh for those unfortunate to be at the wrong end of the hosts’ anger. After two episodes of no info whatsoever also, what on earth has happened to Elsie? At the end of episode six we saw her being attacked by an unknown assailant which in the time of Westworld must be a week or so at least which enhances the notion of a hole in the overarching plot. Will she reappear? One would hope so. Solid this week once again with more questions that answers; that’s right guys, it’s Westworld.
Overall Score: 8/10
“We Need To Demonstrate Just How Dangerous Ford’s Creations Can Be…”
And boy did we get a demonstration. Alas, this week’s episode of Westworld was undoubtedly the best of the bunch so far with a twist ending that not only confirmed many’s suspicions regarding the presence of Bernard but also highlighted that Dr. Ford himself adheres to the belief that the world in which he has created has violent delights which ultimately lead to violent ends, with Theresa being the subject of the “blood sacrifice” that, ironically, herself and Charlotte attempted to create in order to overthrow Ford yet this was indeed not the sacrifice she had in mind. As soon as Bernard stated the unwary words of “what door?” we knew something big was set to occur and although the big reveal had been coming for a while now, not many would have predicted these exact events. Not only does this seemingly seem like the beginning of something rather nihilistic, Ford’s decision to murder his competition as well as revealing his control over Bernard begs a wide range of new questions regarding events that we have witnessed so far.
With Bernard being under the control of Ford from the offset, this not only settles the whole Bernard-child loss plot but also the mysterious presence behind Delores’ secret talks with Bernard. Surely Bernard’s questioning of Delores was orchestrated by Ford in order to reveal certain things regarding Arnold but it doesn’t exactly clear up the real burning questions at the centre of the show that have been there since the start. What the twist at the end of this week’s episode does cement is the murderous and power hungry mind of Dr. Ford, who may even have been behind the disappearance of the infamous Arnold in an attempt to take full control, and whilst we have only three episodes left, all these indecisive plot strands and loose ends surely can’t be solved in just under three hours? Alas, with the news that Westworld has been renewed for a second season this week, I highly doubt it will be. Still, for now, revel in the show’s best episode to date with the immortal words of “what door?” set to haunt the minds of fans for weeks to come.
Overall Score: 9/10
“If You Could Only See Your Son Again, Bernard, Would You Want To…?
Plunging the perils of that thing called the internet this week, I came to an agreement with the most plausible fan theory regarding Westworld, in that there seems to more than just one time structure occurring throughout the series with its’ main focus on that of Delores and the path laid out for her so far. Ironically, this weeks’ episode was the first which decided to not include her character at all, a decision which may have been regarded as wrong at the start of the episode yet come the end, allowed the more mediocre plot lines of Westworld to expand and deliver perhaps the meatiest movement of the series so far. Whilst Teddy and The Man in Black continued their journey into the mysterious maze, all the while taking the time to destroy half a settlement with a Gatling gun, the key areas of the episode all took place back at Westworld HQ where our beloved theme park controllers began to experience a changing level of artificial intelligence.
Unbeknown to Bernard, his search into Section 17 prompted him to find more than a couple of rogue hosts with him instead finding an entire family, a family designed by the mysterious Arnold for Dr. Ford who has continued to keep them in pristine condition in secret away from the rest of the park in order to preserve their, and presumably his own, memories. Discovering such can only resort in Bernard attempting to do something similar regarding the loss of his child, yet with Dr. Ford discovering the murderous and treacherous desires of Arnold’s hosts, such an outcome can only lead to an unexpected sticky end. Perhaps the most interesting development of the episode came with Thandie Newton’s Maeve, who upon realising the outcome of death leads back to the control room, decided to have a peek around her constructed life, resulting in forcing her creators to improve her capped level of intelligence. Revolution away? One would have thought and after a couple of weeks of slacking in terms of plot development, this week’s episode of Westworld was a much needed return to the top form the series began with.
Overall Score: 9/10
“Your Humanity Is Cost Effective, So Is Your Suffering…”
If one issue bears similarities between both Westworld and Game of Thrones, it’s the notion that during the halfway mark, both shows tend to rely more on filler than that of actual substance. With last week’s episode this was inherently obvious yet this week, Westworld gave us some much needed plot development resulting in answers to at least some of the questions that have been brought up since the shows’ inception. Most interestingly this week, with Delores now indeed becoming more and more aware of her artificial existence in the park, alongside William and Logan, the trio ventured into the town of Pariah, perhaps the most Game of Thrones influenced setting yet with mass orgy’s and enough on-screen genital flashing to fill HBO’s quota for at least another year or two. Within the town however, Logan paid the price for delving deep into character whilst William helped unleash the freedom within Delores who stated she no longer wanted to play the “damsel in distress”. Interestingly, in an alternate time structure, Delores delved deep into the secrets of Arnold, the mysterious co-creator of Westworld, who tells Ford of Arnold’s wishes regarding the entire destruction of the park before his untimely death.
With Delores obviously set to be the host front and centre in the inevitable AI uprising, the middling plot-lines of the Man in Black’s search for the maze as well as the discovery of a satellite within the broken body of the stray from a couple of episodes back all seem rather strange and stuffy. Of course, one does hope these plot lines all come together come the end of the series yet with five episodes left, the need for more answers becomes stronger by the week. One question hanging over the entirety of Westworld is “how long can this show actually last?”. Will it be just a one-off Game of Thrones filler or a long-lasting serial? Who knows, yet the endgame still isn’t comfortably in sight and although constantly hitting the audiences with AI-inflicted visions is one way of attempting to say, “hey, something is going to happen here,” after a while, they do become rather tedious. Take Delores’ shooting skills at the end of the episode for example; we all know her capability to kill even though it is against her coding yet why was it shown as if it was such a huge surprise? No idea. The fact that one can delve as deep as this into just one episode of a show does in some way show the annoyingly addictive nature of Westworld, a show which continues to ask questions without giving away too many answers in return.
Overall Score: 8/10
“I Think I Want To Be Free…”
As with Westworld so far, the beginning of this week’s episode focused once again on the conflicted existence of Delores, who under the watchful eye of Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard has become somewhat the show’s biggest mystery and one of the larger examples of the park’s hosts going slowly wrong. Although we see Delores in the company of Bernard within the confines of the control building, we also see her as the last episode ended with her off-script nature wandering into the arms of William who straight away takes a mutual liking to her sweet and innocent nature. The setup of two Delores’ themed plot-lines brings with it a wide range of questions; what is Bernard’s endgame when it comes to speaking with Delores? We know the loss of his son has effected him in ways that resorting away from humanity may be the only option but is there something else in mind? Who knows, yet from what we know of his relationship with Delores so far, his willingness to let her become “free” only adds to the assumption that her already conflicted programming will be the catalyst for violent revolution in the land of Westworld, swiftly followed by the rest of the unknowing hosts.
As for perhaps the most interesting character on the show, The Man in Black continued his search for the maze and the end point of Arnold’s story regarding the creation of Westworld. After being led on to another clue regarding such a search, the episode’s action sequence took place during the rescue of prison-bound Hector when exploding cigars was the centre of the show’s sub-exploitation means of exploring violence. Questions, questions and more questions still remain within the opening weeks of Westworld, yet for those who know the endgame of the show, the endless streams of continuous ambiguity is beginning to feel baffling, to the point that the multi-layered families in Game of Thrones is easier to work out. Perhaps one of the main failings I have noticed, particularly this week, is down to the 21st century ways and means of television distribution, with Westworld perhaps suffering from being part of the old-fashioned design of weekly airings rather than adhering to the Netflix belief of “binge-watching”. Westworld is a tough show to crack four episodes in; sure it’s well acted and looks beautiful but the endless stream of questions may have served the show better if watched as a continuous stride rather than a stunted jog. Still, it’s better than most things on TV at the moment.
Overall Score: 7.5/10
“Let’s See Where This Path Leads…”
Westworld continued in its’ irritatingly addicting form this week by piling on a wider array of questions regarding the various strands of where HBO’s newest flagship show is actually intending on going in a narrative sense, where although the ultimate end game of the show is still in sight. (we had more malfunctioning hosts again this week) Westworld seemingly has much bigger plans than simply succumbing to the conclusion of its’ cinematic predecessor. Of those plans, one of the more interesting developments was the revelation of Arnold, one of the founding creators of Westworld who believed the hosts deserved the right to have consciousness, a notion of which Dr. Robert Ford was wholeheartedly against who simply regarded the death of his former colleague to Bernard as an “accident”. With Bernard confiding in the conflicted nature of Delores’s host body, there may be another endgame in sight for Bernard, particularly when we are made aware of the loss of his son.
Adding to the gore factor, “The Stray” decided to go full-on Bone Tomahawk this week with a scene in which James Marsden’s Teddy encountered a blood-seeking cult in the midst of the mountainous terrain, whilst our encounter with the titular stray led to our first sighting of a host going violently wrong, accumulating in a gory act of malfunctioning on that particular hosts behalf which saw him unashamedly beat his own head to a pulp. Perhaps more than before, “The Stray” effectively showcased the beginning of a wide range of host malfunctions, with perhaps the most startling being Delores’s ability to use a weapon even though her programming apparently is meant to stop her from doing so, resulting in her particular host going violently off-script and into the arms of William, the reluctant first-time guest of Westworld. If HBO’s newest hit is effective in anything, it’s the way in which it still hasn’t really shown its’ hand three episodes in, bringing with it an air of mystery which continues to be unmissable.