It’s a watchably low-key family adventure, but that’s a low bar to clear for Nancy Drew, so well-suited to function as a gateway text—to Sherlock Holmes, Veronica Mars, Philip Marlowe, Brick, House, Encyclopedia Brown fanfic... almost anything involving advanced noticing.
Like so many expensive fantasies, Alita: Battle Angel feels burdened by dreams of a franchise that may never materialize. But if a series does come to pass, Rodriguez should stick around. However briefly, big-budget filmmaking has synced up with his playground aesthetic.
It’s both a calculated attempt to recapture some of the emotional magic of his successes, and a clinical analysis of how exactly humanistic but effects-driven filmmaking is supposed to work. These qualities make it fascinating, but ineffectual as a narrative — or even as a demo reel. Zemeckis seems to think he’s showing heart. Instead, he’s messily dissecting it.
Thematic muddles would matter less if Bumblebee delivered more as an action movie, but despite some neat car-chase complications, this series remains stubbornly averse to shaping its action barrages into satisfying set pieces.
The heroes are noble but believable, the villains appropriately loathsome, and the violent clashes, particularly a turning-point castle infiltration, are exciting without indulging in a Gibson-style wallow in torture and gore. But the moments of offbeat personality that animate Mackenzie’s best work are fewer and farther between.
Ultimately, Creed II feels a little muffled by its workmanlike touches, especially when it gets in the ring. Just as Rocky was too low-key and charming to spawn a fully worthy successor for several decades, Creed so elevates its franchise roots that even a pretty good sequel can’t land with the same impact. Then again, a 2018 movie called Creed II expanding on Rocky IV to become one of the better Rocky movies may be another minor miracle on its own.
When his zany cast of characters (many but not all played by Perry himself) takes leave of his material, as in Nobody’s Fool, his movie’s faults start to look more congruent with less auteur-driven studio comedies.
In the best scenes, the filmmakers make the case that Queen’s musical decisions grew out of the musicians’ restless inability to fit in with either pop conventional wisdom or, sometimes, each other. The rest of the movie fits in all too well.