MARCH 13 ― The last film I saw in the cinema was Wonder Woman 1984, and that was way back in the middle of December, 2020.
As cautious as some people may be about going back to the cinemas when we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, I’m sure there are a lot of us hardcore movie fans, not to mention the cinema operators, film distributors and production companies, that are simply itching for local cinemas to be allowed to open again.
After three long months, with MCO 2.0 finally over last week, the cinemas are also back in action, albeit with not that many choices available when it comes to new movies.
In fact, the big titles coinciding with the reopening of local cinemas post-MCO 2.0 are all animated films, with Japanese anime blockbuster Demon Slayer absolutely slaying it at the local box-office with plenty of sold-out screenings nationwide.
This week sees a few new live action films opening here like Paul W.S. Anderson’s latest film Monster Hunter and Thai studio GDH’s latest rom-com The Con-Heartist vying for your wallets, but work commitments meant that I haven’t managed to see them yet, so let’s save those for another occasion and just concentrate on the movies I did manage to see last week, shall we?
Raya and the Last Dragon
Also available to watch on Disney+ for an extra fee (just like the live action Mulan remake a few months back), reviews and box-office takings for Disney’s latest animated movie Raya and the Last Dragon have been quite underwhelming.
Earning only US$8.6 million (RM35.4 million) at the US box-office over its debut weekend (and US$26 million worldwide), observers have viewed the film’s box-office performance as a disappointment especially considering Tom and Jerry earned US$14 million the weekend prior to that.
Of course, there are mitigating factors for that because it played on around 400 fewer screens than Tom and Jerry because Disney didn’t reach licensing deals with a number of cinema chains.
But still, reviews have in general been quite mixed, with a lot of negative reviews complaining about the predictability of its story and plotting contrasted with positive reviews praising the visual beauty of its 3D animation.
For me, Raya and the Last Dragon feels more like a top tier Dreamworks animated film (it hits the same sweet spots as the How To Train Your Dragon films), which means that it’s better than a lot of Disney’s recent animated films, but still falls short of top tier Pixar greatness like Up, Toy Story 3 and 4, The Incredibles and Wall-E.
The animation is wonderfully detailed and gorgeous, with plenty of irresistible character design (especially the Con Baby), but what really got me was how co-directors Don Hall and Paul Briggs (of Big Hero 6 fame) and Carlos Lopez Estrada (of Blindspotting fame) and co-writers Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim (of Crazy Rich Asians fame) delivered the film’s big message about the importance of trust and hope, working with negative elements like fear and distrust to make their point, without the need to over-explain everything to the audience.
It’s a message delivered very tastefully and quite subtly to its young audience, who’ll find a lot to chew on afterwards, which is not something you can say about a lot of animated movies out there nowadays.
Stand By Me Doraemon 2
Doraemon has been such a staple for Malaysian kids who grew up in the 80s and 90s, thanks to the regular appearance of the animated series on free local TV, that some people still find it strange that I, a full-grown adult, can get so excited when news broke that local cinemas are reopening and that Stand By Me Doraemon 2 will be one of the films shown.
Even more were shocked when I told them that I cried watching the first Stand By Me Doraemon movie a few years back, which was why I’m so excited about this sequel in the first place.
Okay, that second part where I cried surprised even myself, because I don’t think anyone expected a Doraemon movie would go all Pixar on us, and by Pixar I meant Up and Toy Story 3, not Cars.
But one of the advantages of being such a mainstay in people’s lives since 1969 is that people grew up having emotional attachments to their favourite characters, and the first Stand By Me movie took full advantage of that.
The sequel, with full knowledge of how successful the tear-jerking tactics worked in the first movie, takes even more advantage with the audience’s heartstrings and toys with them like Ronaldinho bullying amateur futsal players in a 5-a-side tournament.
This time around we’re treated to Nobita and Shizuka’s wedding day as the film’s opener and centrepiece, which the film will return to time and again because, like the first movie, this one also involves time travel.
There are some nifty time travel twists in there, so I won’t spoil the plot for you, but if you’re a fan of the first film, you’ll love this one as well, and probably cry even more. So yes, come prepared and bring some tissues!
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.
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