Train to Busan: Using the Action of a Zombie Horror Movie to Drive the Protagonist’s Character Journey

I saw Train to Busan trending on Twitter, because apparently there’s going to be an American remake. The praise for the original Korean version prompted me to check it out. And it is really, really good. Uncommonly good.

A lot of horror stories don’t work for me. The ones that do usually have powerful character work or social commentary. And Train to Busan has both.

The action of the movie facilitates the protagonist’s transformation. He starts as a man used to looking out for himself, as an absent father who loves his daughter from an emotional distance. His journey takes him from encouraging his daughter to be selfish, to taking risks for people that’ve taken risks for him, to a final reckoning that leads him to the result of everything he’s been. There are scenes where he ends up seeing his past behavior in a different light or facing a mirror of his past actions.

Where his character’s journey ends up feels very right to me. It’s the culmination of what he’s done that he can’t take back and the growth he’s exhibited over the course of the movie. Even though it’s not spoken, we can feel him tangling with all of his regrets once that moment comes for him.

As for the social commentary, some of it translates–the treatment of certain people as expendable is pretty universal–but this is a Korean film, so I’m sure there’s plenty that’s going over my head. It still feels cohesive from my Western perspective, but I don’t want to talk too much about it without the appropriate context.

Overall, Train to Busan is definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.

Colette: The Trailer is Better than the Movie

One of the rare times I watch a non fantasy/sci-fi movie, I was really excited for Colette.

Based on the life of a French novelist in the 20th century, Colette follows an independent-minded woman who marries an author–or at least, the man who puts his name on the books. Her husband is more of an editor/manager, with the actual labor done by ghostwriters. Writing a story for him that turns into a huge hit, Colette evolves into someone who wants control of her creativity and credit for her work.

The movie is decent, but kind of a letdown after the absolutely fantastic trailer. Continue reading “Colette: The Trailer is Better than the Movie”

Mythica: A Disabled Female Protagonist in a Classical Sword and Sorcery Setting

I enjoyed this story. It hits that lighthearted sword and sorcery B-movie spot.

This is a not-too-serious adventure with a classical fantasy feel—orcs, adventurers taking jobs in a tavern, a wizard-rogue-warrior-healer party makeup. It plays to those kinds of tropes pretty faithfully, with one major exception that makes the story pretty refreshing: the main protagonist is a woman with a disability.

I was plenty surprised to find that the main character was female, let alone disabled. (I mean, yes, it was made in 2014 and funded by Kickstarter rather than a studio, which probably explains it. And maybe there have been others like this that I’ve missed. But still. I’ve watched a lot of B fantasy movies back when Syfy was Sci-Fi, and seeing one that isn’t the standard man-goes-from-no-one-to-great-warrior-and-gets-the-girl story feels really new.)

Continue reading “Mythica: A Disabled Female Protagonist in a Classical Sword and Sorcery Setting”

Beauty and the Beast: This is the Wrong Story for Belle and the Beast

Belle and the Beast stand in front of a winter landscape, Belle holding a rose. The text reads "Disney, Beauty and the Beast."
Image: Disney

Genre: Fairy Tale Retelling

Synopsis: A prince is cursed to become a beast for an act of unkindness. He can only be redeemed if someone falls in love with him. Enter Belle, an educated young woman unsatisfied with her life, and willing to do anything to save her father–from the beast who’s imprisoned him.

Verdict: This adaptation is genuinely charming in its execution, but it’s quite faithful to the Disney version, and fixes none of the major flaws of its predecessor. If you liked Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, you’ll probably like this one—it’s not that different. Continue reading “Beauty and the Beast: This is the Wrong Story for Belle and the Beast”

Black Panther: A Futuristic Wakanda Inspired by African Cultures, Tackling Responsibility

This was a great movie that paired Marvel’s style of adventure and humor with a fresh feeling. The setting and costumes were absolutely gorgeous, blending a futuristic/sci-fi feel and inspiration from numerous African cultures for its aesthetic–from the Maasai people in East Africa, to the Zulu people in Southern Africa, to the Akan people of West Africa. (Waris @diasporicblues details several in a Twitter thread; Lynsey Chutel and Yomi Kazeem wrote Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ is a broad mix of African cultures—here are some of them for Quartz Africa, which I was super excited to see mention Dahomey’s historical female warriors.) Black Panther is quite feminist as well, including black women as both major characters and a substantial chunk of the background characters. Continue reading “Black Panther: A Futuristic Wakanda Inspired by African Cultures, Tackling Responsibility”

Passengers: Shouldn’t be Marketed as a Sci-Fi/Romance if It’s Gonna Be This Creepy

Two people's faces, above an image of a ship in space. The words read "Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Passengers."
Image: Sony Pictures

Genre: Sci-fi/Romance

Synopsis: Jim and Aurora are passengers on a starship, kept in stasis inside hibernation pods during the journey. When they arrive at their destination, a good century would have passed, and they’d have reached a distant world. Except they wake up too early. 90 years too early. Without the ability to put themselves back to sleep, they’re looking at the rest of their lives spent alone, aboard the ship… Continue reading “Passengers: Shouldn’t be Marketed as a Sci-Fi/Romance if It’s Gonna Be This Creepy”

Wonder Woman: Refreshing and Emotionally Powerful

Wonder Woman stands on a battlefield, deflecting a bullet with her gauntlet.
Image: Warner Bros via Wikipedia

Genre: Superhero

Synopsis: Diana has grown up in a land of Amazons, isolated from the rest of the world. They are the keepers of a weapon that can defeat Ares, the god of War, waiting for the time when he returns to wreck chaos and slaughter. Then World War I intrudes onto her island, and Diana takes this as a sign that Ares had arrived. She sets off on a mission to kill him, believing that without him, the war would end and the world would know peace. Continue reading “Wonder Woman: Refreshing and Emotionally Powerful”

Terminator: Genisys Reboots the Franchise for the 21st Century

A picture of a man with parts of his skin wounded enough to reveal metal underneath, holding a smoking shotgun, in front of a black font with some fog. The words "Terminator Genisys" are written over him.
Image: Skydance via Den of Geek

Genre: Action/Sci-fi

Synopsis: John Connor is the leader of the resistance in a world where humanity is being obliterated by Skynet, a self-aware artificial intelligence. Without him, humanity stands no chance. In the original Terminator movie from 1984, Skynet sends a Terminator back in time to kill John’s mother Sarah before he can be born. John sends back a trusted colleague, Kyle Reese, to protect his mother. However, in Terminator: Genisys, this has already happened. Continue reading “Terminator: Genisys Reboots the Franchise for the 21st Century”