So, in recent months, I definitely have not been watching many new releases or even paying much attention to the hot movies or shows; mostly because I saw or heard just enough, thanks to those few unskippable ads on YouTube, to convince me there wasn’t a lot out there that matched my tastes right now. But lately, a few pieces stood out to me, and although my access to streaming services is extremely limited, I do have the ability to use the regional library catalog, and that means I don’t have to wait until I can afford to buy the DVDs. This definitely worked to my favor because I got to see Violent Night and House of the Dragon without spending a penny. Oh, and I caved to Muffin’s encouragement, and watched Wednesday, too.
Violent Night was so much fun! I’m aware there are very split views on whether violent Christmas movies are actually “okay” or not, but this is certainly not a film meant to be sentimental or romantic or sweet. The entire premise is that bad things happen to good people, and that the power of optimism and maintaining faith in something bigger than yourself, even in the face of terrible circumstances, can pay off. Maybe it was the mood I was in that night, but watching Santa Claus tan some bad guy hide really hit the right note. Between the very deserved R-rating and the concept, I know this definitely won’t be on everyone’s list, but if it is on yours, it’ll be a blast!
Bullet Train and The Lost City were also library DVD grabs. Having watched both of them within a week, I absolutely stand behind Sandra Bullock and Brad Pitt having cameos in each other’s movies for the next 10 years, and giving us tons more of those adorable platonic BFF vibes in these brief but totally awesome scenes. On their own, each of these films were definitely campy, but again, a lot of fun, and there were still some good points in Bullet Train about family and friendship loyalty, and in The Lost City about not judging a book by its cover, literally, and regarding people.
I’ve never been a huge fan of The Addams Family, but I do remember the movies from the 90s (no one think too hard about how old I am, pleeeeease), so I know the main characters and some of their major traits. This meant I didn’t dive into the deep end of Wednesday without a clue. And, when it comes to keeping up what people expect from these beloved characters, yes, I think the show did a pretty good job, especially for the title character, Uncle Fester, and Thing. (THING! More on him in a bit.)
BUT. As with any updating of a classic story, there might be problems, and when it comes to the plot, Wednesday has about a MILLION of them.
For one, taking such an established canon world as The Addams Family, which turned the tropes of monsters-in-the-human-world on its head, and making the premise of this show about as cliche as possible — there’s a boarding school! with vampires! and werewolves! and just generic weirdos who need a place to fit in! — makes me shake my head more than a little. Also, of course both of Wednesday’s parents attended Nevermore — of course that was where they met — and of course the current Headmistress has a questionable past with Gomez and Morticia. Sigh.
Not a single grumble about the casting for Wednesday and Morticia; both Jenna Ortega and Catherine Zeta-Jones were fantastic. And the complicated mother-daughter relationship portrayed works because it comes across as authentic here, not just for drama. But it also isn’t, well, necessary. Particularly when the episode where the families come to visit the school give the impression that all the kids have “complicated parental relationship” issues, and then it feels even worse than cliche — it’s repetitive. If Wednesday was the only one who didn’t get along with her family, and Enid’s mother wasn’t a jerk, and the siren community wasn’t manipulative, and Xavier’s parents didn’t have high standing to worry about, and… It was literally the same old, same old for every secondary character, and it meant I barely paid attention to the subplots (evidenced by the fact I can’t even remember some of their names or what their particular concern was, since it all just blended together, and promptly faded away).
The whole plot of the Hyde, and who the monster really is, is so convoluted that it makes very little sense by the time we get to the big reveal in the season finale. It’s one of those times where, if you think about it too hard, the whole thing just falls apart. People’s motivations don’t make sense, the connections to the school and past students and families don’t really work, and the concept behind the ghost that appears to Wednesday was simply ridiculous. The idea of an Addams ancestor being part of the Puritan witch hysteria in colonial New England does not measure up at all — especially because somebody states Gomez’s ancestors were from Mexico, something that I don’t ever remember hearing before, and there were no Mexicans in colonial New England. It isn’t bigoted, it’s factual to state this. Such a mistake by the scriptwriters, the directors, and the editors is just sloppy, or arrogant, and really ticked me off.
I did keep watching to the end, partly because Muffin had already watched the whole season and raved about it (he’s only 8 and more forgiving of tropes and errors, after all), and he wanted me to do the same. The number of times I rolled my eyes went up more and more with each episode, but I do have to say, the flashback in episode 6 with the young Gomez and Morticia was great. Those actors, for all of their 10-minute screen time, had excellent connection and a grasp of the characterization and the meaning of the moment they were showing the audience. Honestly, I’d watch a spinoff season about Wednesday’s parents’ time at Nevermore starring those two. That’d be fun.
The other super-bright spot for me in this really tangled web of Addams Family spinoff was Thing. Thing being so protective of Wednesday, guiding her, helping her learn to trust her new friends, all without saying a word (naturally, as he’s just a hand) was so good. Enid’s bond with Thing, Uncle Fester’s history with him, Thing arranging Wednesday’s date to the dance with the boy he knew she really liked… Just, THING! It’s fair to say he was my favorite character.
And now, just a bit about House of the Dragon (since I’ll probably write a whole post about this pretty soon).
House of the Dragon is even better than Game of Thrones. The storytelling is deeper, more straightforward, a lot less symbolic and rambling on about side tangents designed to make us realize how terrible 95% of the people in this world are. Since it’s a prequel, there are plenty of familiar families and places, but going back about 5 generations helps us to find out who was truly seen as good and bad, and we finally get all the divisions spelled out, and why. The audience at last — without having to Google it — gets to see where the Targaryen family tree split, and how sides were picked among the houses of the nobility. Although it was harder to follow some of the minor characters, and I missed the grander worldbuilding among the various cultures that we saw in the early seasons of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon makes sense, and when I was so lost for much of the previous 8 seasons in this universe, that was such a refreshing change. And even the characters who are meant to be bad, or morally grey at best, I could understand their motivations and watched with great interest to see what became of their plans. There’s also a LOT less graphic sex in the prequel, though the violence was even upgraded a bit — which is saying something! — and these shows absolutely remain TV-MA. Also, there were distinctly less dragon scenes, which feels a bit ironic for a program titled House of the Dragon. Oh, well. There’s no way there won’t be a season 2, and here’s to hoping and praying these writers learn from the sins of their colleagues, and keep the storyline concise and rational.
And that’s all for today! Have a great week, everyone!