BEST: IP MAN 4: THE FINALE
Many people of the world have not been introduced to Donnie Yen and associates in the Ip Man franchise. This is one of the best kung fu franchises of all time, and its finale (with a review posted here) was a stirring and satisfying conclusion. The action sequences are brutal yet loads of fun and the themes kept throughout cement it as a film worthy of one’s time.
The short montage at the very end of the finale reminds us of the 12-year journey Yen, director Wilson Yip and company took us on with insight at Ip Man’s Wing Chun practices, family and the legacy he left behind for his protégé Bruce Lee and others to look up to. It may not be entirely historically accurate, but it yields an awareness that we must learn about in regards to the Chinese history that took place decades ago. The memory of Ip Man and Wing Chun will live on through the spectrum of martial arts thanks to Donnie Yen, Wilson Yip, and most importantly, Mr. Bruce Lee.
WORST: X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX
There will be many that suggest that Logan or the Deadpool films are the best of the X-Men series (and could serve as better cappers), but Dark Phoenix was a horrendously damaging film not only to Fox but to the Marvel brand as well. The marketing for this film was terrible and predicted the entire storyline, and upon watching, it felt like somebody had toyed with Simon Kinberg’s direction. The story was clumsy, the actors were not interested and the third act became an over bogged CGI mess. Sure, there’s potential in this film, but it was not done well at all. Nothing about it was memorable, and this will become a forgotten piece of art by the time Disney inevitably reboots it in the Marvel Studios canon.
Perhaps some may think this writer is too harsh, and that is fine. But if one already watched Days of Future Past, Logan or Deadpool, this finale is just awful in comparison. It will serve to remind us that Fox became weary after failing to properly compete with Disney and Warner Brothers with their own superhero franchise.
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD: TERMINATOR: DARK FATE
This franchise was at once the best then became one of the most mediocre. The 1984 and 1991 films are incredible sci-fi phenomena that brought in innovative thinking thanks to interactions with cyborgs and the unknown future. Then three more sequels occurred and we were officially wondering when Arnold Schwarzenegger would hang up his boots. The sixth film (aka finale), Dark Fate, pushes to completely ignore all those unnecessary sequels and jumps straight in as a 27-year sequel to the classic Judgement Day.
While it does have the crazy amount of action and performances of the original two, it just falls short in the storyboard section as many of the scenes are derivative (and somewhat predictable). The creative decision made in the very first three minutes of the finale devalues the work in Judgement Day. Add in a lifeless killer cyborg, and this capper is merely passable. It is fun, but it isn’t exemplary.
This film, after being crowned as a box-office bomb, conveyed two important things. One, Schwarzenegger is not a box-office star like he was three decades ago. And two, nobody really wanted another Terminator film after the franchise started deteriorating and there being a plethora of action films that would serve to steal the box-office each year.
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD: SAM RAIMI’S SPIDER-MAN 3
The last finale to touch on this noteworthy list is one many share polarizing opinions on and this writer feels that there should be a significant discussion about it.
Sam Raimi started this trilogy back in 2002 with the first being lauded for bringing a freshness to the superhero genre and the sequel bringing a more focused direction with Spider-Man’s emotional arc and Alfred Molina’s excellent villain persona. The third film of the Raimi trilogy feels like an oddity in trying to balance too many subplots and too many villains.
Yes, Raimi, Avi Arad, and Sony had creative differences over what to incorporate in this film. Arad and Sony wanted Venom in the film, and producers suggested adding Gwen Stacy and Eddie Brock in as bigger roles. Combine that with Raimi wanting to conclude the storyline with Harry Osborn and introduce Sandman, and this film was already too populated from the development stage. The execution reflected this sentiment and led to a mixed reception amongst critics and fans.
Nonetheless, the action and visuals are awesome especially with Spidey and Harry teaming up in the third act. The performances are noteworthy with Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco doing an admirable job. It’s just unfortunate that this film sacrificed wit and warmth for ambition and large-scale ideas with the former values being what made the first two pictures so great.
Sony should have never incorporated Venom in this film, and instead, let the narrative wrap up properly with Franco’s character. Some story-lines should have been scrapped or reduced to a minor role. Sam Raimi and the rest of the cast deserved more. The film has a fair share of moments that make it enjoyable yet cumbersome. Spider-Man 3 will serve to exist and remind filmmakers that overabundance of the plot doesn’t bode well for performance. There must be a way to incorporate a suitable amount to allow audiences to digest and understand much more easily.
Finales will continue to come and go, but those that manage to strike a chord with consideration (and patience) will be remembered for ages to come.