In 2019, Netflix released the first season of The Umbrella Academy, a 10-episode series based on the 2008 Dark Horse comics of the same name written by aging emo heartthrob and My Chemical Romance frontman, Gerard Way. The platform described the series as "Watchmen Meets the Royal Tenenbaums," which happens to be my favorite graphic novel of all time and one of my favorite directors. Naturally, I was excited to brush up on these before binging season 1 and newly-released season 2. As it turns out, the Netflix series is not at all reminiscent of either of these movies.
An Oldie but a Goodie: Watchmen (2009) (film based on the graphic novel)
Worthy of the legendary graphic novel, Watchmen is easily the best superhero or antihero movie of the last decade+ and quite possibly the best comic book movie adaptation ever made, from DC or Marvel, with a star-studded soundtrack to match. A uniquely dark, cerebral, and positively disturbing take on the genre, it uncompromisingly follows the source material almost to the letter, which can make it a bit confusing to those not familiar with it. The movie stays fiercely loyal to the cult favorite, but conjures up something both outrageous and Shakespearean in its execution. It is somehow serious yet ridiculous enough to keep fans fighting (hate it all you want, but I love the sex scene). In my opinion, Zac Sydner’s controversial style is this controversial story’s biggest asset; scenes range from bombastic to brooding, claustrophobic to window-shattering freefalls from a high rise. Comprised of half bitter realism and half science fiction, it does seem to give a nod to films like Apocalypse Now, Kill Bill Vol. 1, and The Green Mile, and few directors could tackle a story so structurally, morally, and tonally complex and do this well. A film even Terry Gilliam quit after describing it as “unfilmable” became a hard-bitten, magnificent $185 million dollar box office smash. 10/10
(I'm not saying I agree with Scorsese, but I think it's high time to end the Marvel franchise to make room for some fringe comic adaptations. Nationalist-propaganda-disguised-as-superhero-movies is so 2012. Do not even get me started on the Batman/Joker/Harley Quinn fuckery. Black Panther can hang though.)
“And I Don’t Even Like Animated Movies!” Said Everyone: Isle of Dogs (2018) (film)
Listen, you insufferable dorks, you’re not hip for hating on Wes Anderson. Some of us actually do want the same coming-of-age story in every flavor. Some of us have shit to work out. And clearly, it's not just me - auteur Anderson has cranked out four wildly successful feature-length films in the last ten years alone: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), and Isle of Dogs (2018); and maintains the recognizable style throughout both kid and adult films. Modern directors can only hope to make the artistic mark on cinema the way that Anderson has, passing down the good genes of pithy and apathetic dialogue and immaculate, stylized settings. (Sure, he's eccentric, but you make excuses for Tarantino.) Instead of revisiting Rushmore/Royal Tenenbaums-era Wes Anderson, I decided to analyze his second most recent film.
Created by the same collaborative efforts of producers Jeremy Dawson and Scott Rubin that created Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs is a fresh, wide-eyed tale of a boy in search of his dog in a futuristic near-dystopian Japan where all dogs have been banished to a remote island due to a curable sickness and left to die alone. Shot in bright, rococo stop-motion and complete with Anderson’s signature fast-paced dialogue from his familiar ensemble of actors, jet black irony, and impeccable symmetry, Isle of Dogs takes a meaningful bite out of weighty themes like corruption, industrialization, and abandonment through the innocent eyes of a child and the disguise of a children’s movie. Technologically impressive, morally relevant yet incredibly accessible, and other high notes include a powerfully percussive Japanese score, a haiku that evokes empathy from an entire nation, and a very cute pug named Oracle. 9/10