The Morning After: Mar. 7, 2016

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Zootopia


Ever since John Lasseter took over Disney Animation, the quality of product they have produced has increased exponentially. While I think Frozen may be the weakest of their most recent offerings, Zootopia may well be the best.

Evolution has brought animals form strictly defined roles of predators and prey into a communal society where the two former enemies now live together in peace and harmony. Disney’s Utopian ideal is experienced through the eyes of a young bunny (Ginnifer Goodwin) whose idealistic belief that any creature can be anything sets her on a path to become the first rabbit on the Zootpia police force. After being assigned as a meter maid, she pairs up with a duplicitous fox as they investigate the mysterious disappearance of 14 citizens whose fate sets off a chain of events that put their Utopian society on the brink of extinction.

An astute exploration of stereotypes and identity politics in modern civilization, Zootopia is an insightful commentary about not accepting the label you’re assigned and doing what you want to do rather than what society expects you to do. Roles are assigned and understand implicitly in everything and it takes Judy Hops and Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) to discover just how far you can stretch acceptance and tolerance before it risks breaking and what point beyond that things can begin to rectify and repair themselves.

The Martian


Coming to this film very late in the season, on the very last day it was at the discount movie theater locally, I’m chagrined that I couldn’t catch up with it sooner. Matt Damon stars as a botanist trapped on Mars after an accident forces his crew to abandon him for dead where he must use his limited knowledge of science to help keep him alive as he waits for the next mission to arrive on Mars.

Set in the not-so-distant future, this science-heavy drama with comedic accents gives Damon his most engaging and charming vehicle yet. Mark Watney isn’t perfect, as no scientist is, and experimentation is every bit as important as knowledge, but his myriad successes and failures give insight into the scientific method while engaging and entertaining the audience in vastly interesting ways.

Some periphery performances bear some scrutiny, but the cast is largely superb as an array of thoughtful, intelligent men and women break barriers, explore solutions and showcase why many of us got so interested in science, especially space sciences, as children. Ridley Scott infuses excitement and intrigue into a premise that’s stretched to two-and-a-half hours, but feels like it’s much breezier. This is the Scott many of us have been longing to rediscover since he disappeared shortly after one of his best features Thelma & Louise. He has been churning out films of dubious and intermittent quality since, but this is a return to form that I hope continues beyond this endeavor.

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