Chief Copy Editor
The current state of filmmaking can look desolate when you find what’s playing at your local theater; endless sequels, prequels and wannabe franchises always seem to occupy the screens at theaters and on streaming platforms. The past few weeks have broken this cycle with several great, original stories. Here are two that I particularly enjoyed and would like to highlight.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” was directed by filmmaking duo, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, and follows Evelyn, an unsuspecting small business owner trying to finish her taxes, who discovers that she may be the key to saving the universe from an interdimensional threat. By far, the thing I loved most about this wild, sensory overload of a movie were the performances of Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan. Both actors showed that you don’t necessarily need to fit a certain mold to be an action star, displaying their versatility in some insanely well-choreographed hand-to-hand fight sequences. It was wonderful to see the screen-presence of Quan, who appears in his first big role since Short Round in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and Data in “The Goonies.”
The film’s premise revolves around the ability of characters to inhibit the bodies of themselves in an alternate reality where they made different choices and developed different skills. Daniels’ abstract sense of humor is on full display as characters are tasked with doing outlandish things in order to connect with the alternate versions of themselves and gain these unique skills. There’s no way a movie like this should work, but it somehow manages to make a grounded, emotional landing, despite the absurdity. With multiverse stories being all the rage in Marvel and DC’s slates of movies, it’s cool to see a movie made with a fraction of the budget that does it better than all of them. I’ve never had a better time watching a movie that’s core message surrounds the optimism in nihilism.
“The Northman” is a Viking revenge-thriller directed by Robert Eggers which stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy and Ethan Hawke. Skarsgård plays a warrior prince who vows to avenge his father after he is murdered by his own brother. Eggers is one of the most uncompromising directors working today when it comes to his dedication to the period in which his films take place. The dialogue in his films, “The Northman” included, is, at times, incomprehensible as they adhere to centuries-old vocabulary. I honestly don’t remember a single character’s name, but I do remember every 100% committed performance (and strong Scandinavian accent) from the cast, in particular Nicole Kidman and Willem Dafoe.
Where Eggers’ “The Lighthouse” was a dark, trippy retelling of the myth of Prometheus, “The Northman” is more akin to a dark, trippy retelling of Hamlet, filled with absurd, animalistic displays of masculinity, weird family dynamics and other things that could have been solved if therapy was around in the 10th century. With an expanded budget, Eggers brings a much grander scale to battle scenes, which feature several, marvelous tracking shots that last a few minutes each. I wasn’t fully on-board with everything, but the last 30 minutes are what make this movie great. The director has said that the final version of the film suffered from studio interference, so I’d like to see just how weird the original cut was. While this definitely won’t be for everyone and is on track to lose money, I admire the bold choices made in the process.
It’s rare that movies like these (and others out now) are given the spotlight, and even rarer for it to happen all at the same time. In the short time before summer blockbuster season, it’s nice to get a break and see the focus shift to unique stories.