RāViewz: Film & TV | April 2022
With a focus on addiction, superheroes and stories of colour, here's what Rāwiri is watching this month...
Moon Knight, Season 1, 2022 (Disney+)
Marvel's Phase Four is a foundation-building step and so far its introductory characters have all had cinematic adventures. Moon Knight, a story of an American mercenary with dissociative identity disorder (DID) is the first MCU hero introduction we've had on the small screen.
Writer/Producer Jeremy Slater brings the story of Marc Spector/Moon Knight to life, imbuing the show's heavily stylised episodes with levity and pathos. The exploration of mental illness and multiple personalities is well-handled by the writing team and the lead director, Mohamed Diab. As the title character (plus Mark and Steven) Oscar Isaac delivers a committed and conscientious performance, nimbly balancing the stunt-heavy set pieces against the quieter scenes of emotional torment.
The show also offers something unique to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, both in its central character and in its storytelling. It's uncertain at this stage whether we'll get a second season (and we're yet to find out how they resolve this series) but there is incredible potential here to amalgamate Moon Knight into the stories of other Marvel heroes - something we haven't been able to say with all of these new introductions.
Morbius, 2022 (Sony Pictures)
After almost two years of Covid delays, Sony Pictures finally gets around to releasing the third film in the Spider-Man Universe - and even Venom 2 jumped ahead in the schedule. All of this, plus the fact the movie wasn't screened for critics ahead of release, suggests a lack of confidence in director Daniel Espinoza's Morbius. Still, with a bankable leading man, and the momentum of superhero properties, surely it can't be that bad, can it?
It's clear that Sony isn't trying to recreate the gravitas of Marvel's greatest entries, either in scope or in storytelling, but the Venom films proved that with an interesting director at the helm, a tremendous amount of campy fun could be had. In Morbius, despite the best efforts of its cast to bring the characters to life, nobody, ever, at any point, looks like they're having fun.
Centred on Jared Leto's Doctor Michael Morbius, the story posits an interesting enough question - what happens to a good guy when an incurable disease makes them thirst for blood? - but then moves from dimly-lit scene to dimly-lit scene, expositing clumsily and without heart or humour. If you're a superhero fan, leave this one for a rainy Sunday afternoon in between MCU series releases.
Bel-Air, Season 1 (Peacock/TVNZ On Demand)
Will Smith's long-adored sitcom gets the 2022 treatment and a whole new generation get to watch the comedic adventures of a West Philly street kid who lives it large in the gated community of California's plush Bel-Air suburb.
Jabari Banks takes on the lead role and demonstrates charisma, charm and an innate sense of comedic and dramatic timing (that latter especially needed, we're far away from the sitcom laugh track of the 90s) and has a largely unknown cast of great talent to support. Adrian Holmes as Uncle Phil and Jimmy Akingbola's Geoffrey are standouts.
Its 10 episodes are helmed by nine different directors and while the the show has Morgan Cooper, Malcolm Spellman and Rasheed Newson underpinning the writing, they're also supported (often supplanted) by a large team, which makes the continuity of each show a little inconsistent from those before and after.
The final episode of the season features Marlon Wayans as Will's absent father Lou and it's here that Bel-Air truly reveals its potential as a standalone series with more stories to tell.
Everything Everywhere All At Once, 2022 (A24 Films)
Evelyn Wang is a hardworking, older Chinese immigrant who runs afoul of the IRS. While reflecting on her life with husband Waymond, Evelyn is sucked into a confrontation by the multiversal alternate lives that she could have lived instead. In the multiverse, Jobu Tupaki threatens to destroy all of life itself with a particularly nihilistic bagel.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is absolutely nuts, in the best way possible.
Writer/directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Schienert are no strangers to the absurd, having helmed the bizarrely effective Swiss Army Man in 2016. Like that film though, the weird of Everything is a moving commentary on the internal struggle of its protagonist and her reconciliation of her life choices. Michelle Yeoh has one of the finest filmographies of the past 20 years and as Evelyn Wang, she once again provides evidence of her gravitas. Expertly, she handles every odd situation the script throws at her, and the humanity of her performance will have you awed and inspired.
If you make the effort to see one strange film in 2022, do yourself the biggest of favours and make it this one. It really is Everything.