The Unpredictable Quality of 2021-22 Movies and TV

The 2021-2022 school year has seen many new movie and TV releases. Many of these releases has meant something more to the world than it seems on the outside; from the birth of a career to the changing of someone’s very personality to the hopefulness of the entire world. Many more of these movies and shows were extremely disappointing to audiences everywhere. Follow along as I review the rollercoaster that was this year’s movies and TV shows.

In a long run of remakes and sequels, it is shocking that this trope can be done well anymore. But the movie version of Jonathan Larson’s 2001 musical tick, tick… BOOM! has raised the bar for recreations everywhere. The semi-biographical movie musical has reached huge popularity with a widespread audience. Everyone from teen girls on tiktok to older musical theater lovers have fallen for Andrew Garfield’s Jonathan Larson and Lin Manuel Miranda’s directing.

Tick, tick… BOOM! is Lin Manuel Miranda’s break-out directorial role. Miranda has become known as the voice of modern musicals and this movie has only cemented that title. Although his version of the musical closely follows the plot of Larson’s original, Miranda artfully weaves in real-life events from Larson’s life that did not originally make the autobiographical musical. The main of these aspects would be Larson’s eventual death just before he was supposed to watch his future Pulitzer-winning musical, Rent.

Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson in 2021’s tick, tick… BOOM!

Larson’s original idea for tick, tick… BOOM! was that he felt he was running out of time. That he was already aging out of his prime—at a mere 30 years old—and was never going to be a success at the rate that he was moving. We know now that Larson was right and wrong about this in so many ways and Miranda wanted to explore this more with his version of the musical. Larson became a huge success in his field and is known today as one of the best musical theater writers of all time, but his time was limited and he died before he ever got to know the true reach of his fame.

The other important man in 2021’s tick, tick… BOOM! is Andrew Garfield. In the early 2010s, Garfield was probably at the height of his fame thus far with the release of his Spider-Man franchise. But now in the early 2020s, Garfield is having what some have dubbed an “Andrew Garfield Renaissance” with both the release of tick, tick… BOOM! and his appearance in the new Spider-Man franchise.

From tick, tick… BOOM! Garfield was nominated for the “Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role” and won the “Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.” Online, fans of all his films have come out in full force, creating video edits and posts praising Garfield for everything he has ever done from Spider-Man to “Angels in America.”

Tick, tick… BOOM! has rightfully gotten praise from critics and fans alike. It has earned awards like the “Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical” and an 87% rotten tomatoes critics score.

For all the fears that audiences had about tick, tick… BOOM! Andrew Garfield and Lin Manuel Miranda have shown just how unjust they were. The pair created a beloved masterpiece that has rocketed both of their already prolific careers into a brand new era of fame.

A few months after the esteemed release of Netflix’s tick, tick… BOOM! remake, movie-goers were smacked in the face with the extremely disappointing release of Kenneth Brangh’s newest Agatha Christie adaptation, Death on the Nile.

Armie Hammer (L) and Gal Gadot (R) as husband and wife, Simon Doyle and Linnet Ridgeway, in 2022’s Death on the Nile.

On February 11, 2022, Death on the Nile hit screens all over the United States, earning a 62% critics score with an 82% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. This release date was nearly 3 years after the original set time of December 20, 2019. It was pushed back due to complications with production, COVID-19, and controversy surrounding one of the leads, Armie Hammer, who was accused of abuse and attempted cannibalism in one of his relationships.

The original push back of this release date was of no surprise. Films often don’t meet their supposed release dates but once they’ve rescheduled (to October 9, 2020 for Death on the Nile), they get back on track fine enough. This did not work for the production of Death on the Nile.

The movie’s release was changed again to October 23, 2020 and then December 18, 2020 due to domestic box office underperformance of the movie Tenet: most people were not comfortable enough with the COVID-19 pandemic to go to in-person movies at this point. Presumably due to more production issues, the release date was moved to September 17, 2021 but was pushed back yet again when the Armie Hammer controversy dropped in January 2021. Finally, the movie was released in February 2022 to the high hopes of everyone involved. However, after all these issues, the movie just couldn’t seem to pull itself together.

Watching the film, one gets the distinct impression that the film is trying its hardest to cover all the issues behind the scene with pretty visuals and hot actors. Basically all that this movie has going for it is how nice it is to look at. However, gorgeous shots of the Nile River, ancient Egyptian ruins, and Emma Mackey dancing with Armie Hammer can’t distract from the too-long run time and boring dialogue.

Shortly after the disappointment that was Death on the Nile, audiences were blessed with a new masterpiece: Taika Waititi’s show, Our Flag Means Death.

Waititi has been churning out masterpieces like there’s no tomorrow since he was first widely recognized for his vampire mockumentary, What We Do In The Shadows, in 2014. Recently, mostly with the release of his Marvel directorial debut, Thor: Ragnarok, Waititi has become even more active. In the past 2 years alone, Waititi has created the show Reservation Dogs, the movie Free Guy, and will be releasing Thor: Love and Thunder later this year. None of those projects, however, has so cemented Waititi as the favorite director of so many people, quite the way the 2022 show Our Flag Means Death did.

Taika Waititi as Edward “Ed” Teach/Blackbeard in HBO Max’s Our Flag Means Death.

Our Flag Means Death is a dramedy following polite and bumbling main character, Stede as he tries to become a ruthless pirate while simultaneously collecting every queer pirate to ever exist on his ship. The show has been praised by viewers for its fresh and enlightened approach to representation, managing to have a nonbinary pirate, three queer romances, and a crew comprised mostly of people of color.. The representation goes beyond simple numbers though; Waititi has created a show that gives these pieces of identity that are so often ignored in media importance to the plot without taking over the story. His characters are distinctly minorities but they are not only minorities. They have hopes and dreams and goals beyond these defining traits even if these traits exist in every aspect of their lives, just as real people in real life do.

Beyond representation, Our Flag Means Death does what Waititi is so often recognized for: combining heart with comedy. Our Flag Means Death is a story of death, heartbreak and suffering that still manages to pack in jokes every other  line. Waititi is able to put so much emotion into a scene that it leaves the viewer crying, crack one joke that leaves the viewer rolling on the floor with laughter, and then create a moment so sweet right after that the viewer can’t help but smile from ear to ear.

With everything awful in the world, Our Flag Means Death is a beautiful break. One that allows its audience to escape into a fantasy of diversity that doesn’t feel like its lying about what the world is really like. One that elicits so much emotion, you may never feel again. One that everyone, everyone, could fall in love with.

Less than a week after Our Flag Means Death was released on HBO Max, Netflix retaliated with the brilliant, although sorely underappreciated, movie starring comedy-genius Ryan Reynolds and newcomer Walker Scobell, The Adam Project.

The world has been dealing with fears of an unknown future—due to things like climate change, political polarization, COVID-19, and, most recently, the Russian attacks on Ukraine—for years. Now, all people seem to want are stories that give them hope in the face of this hopelessness. The recent Netflix original Sci-Fi action comedy, The Adam Project, is an excellent example of this.

Young Adam (played by Walker Scobell) confronting Old Adam (played by Ryan Reynolds) in 2022’s The Adam Project.

This movie is, at its core, about second chances. Major spoilers ahead, but every character—both Adams, their father Louis, their mother Ellie, their wife Laura, and  even their enemy Maya Sorian—is looking for a second chance. The Adams want a second chance to say goodbye to their father and treat their mother better while grieving. Louis wants a second chance to create a future that isn’t a horrible  dystopia. Maya wants a second chance to take the power that she so desperately craves. And so on. Most of these characters are given the second chance that they need and in the end they take full advantage of it, which is what gives our story the perfectly tied up ending that it has. 

It is in this perfect ending that we get what this movie wants its audience to understand: there are always second chances if you look for them, therefore there is always hope. Even amid the destruction that surrounds our whole world, there are second chances and so there is hope. We have the chance to make the world better. To stop violence and destruction. To help our fellow man. If you use that chance, just like Adam did, the world will be improved.

Movies like The Adam Project have given us viewers so much hope for the future. Despite everything that has been going wrong, we can make a difference. Despite time travel destroying our future, we can band together with our younger/older self and our dead father to fix it.

A couple months after The Adam Project came out, Netflix tried yet again to attain the levels of their previous release. With this new movie, Senior Year, Rebel Wilson alongside Netflix was able to delve into deep and personal issues through a mediocre movie.

On May 13, Rebel Wilson’s newest comedy, Senior Year, was released on Netflix. It follows the story of Stephanie (played by Rebel Wilson), a ex-high school senior and popular girl, who wakes up from a 20 year coma and decides to go back to her high school to finish her senior year. This movie is Wilson’s breakout role since shedding her persona as the “funny fat girl.”

Rebel Wilson (center) posing with the actors who play her 2022 high school cheerleaders.

For years—ever since gaining fame from her performance as Fat Amy in the comedy musical Pitch Perfect—Wilson has played a variation of the same character: a fat girl who is funny either because she doesn’t care about her weight and is overly confident (Pitch Perfect) or is really insecure about her looks but overcomes it (Isn’t It Romantic). However, with her new philosophy and her “Year of Health,” Wilson has changed her appearance completely, dropping nearly 80 lbs, and so can no longer play this same character. Senior Year, seems to be Wilson—who stars in and produces the movie—coming to terms with her new identity. 

Main character Stephanie is vain and popularity obsessed before her coma. By the end of the movie, she has learned the error of her ways and taught everyone around her that “popularity is just a construct” and “everyone matters” and “let’s all be friends.” She learns to not be defined by what others think of her or the way she looks… just like Wilson had to learn.

Wilson is trying to tell the audience of Senior Year that she didn’t lose this weight for them or their acceptance, she lost it for herself and for her own health. Like Stephanie, Wilson has felt tied to an identity that doesn’t match who she really is simply because that is what made her popular. Now, the two women have shed these false personas in exchange for who they truly are.

This school year has seen many new movies and TV shows. From the good to the bad to the ugly, they are all interesting looks at what the world has been this year.

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