Us: Analysis, Themes, and Theories

Us is a pretty great sci-fi/horror film that’s worthy of the recent buzz.

Us is directed and written by Jordan Peele who wrote and directed 2017’s Get Out and stars Lupita N’yongo, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker. It tells the story of a family that goes on vacation to Santa Cruz, only to have their vacation cut short when they find a strange doppelganger family in their backyard, attempting to terrorize them and murder them. The film then turns into a story of survival as the family must escape Santa Cruz alive, while also stopping the doppelganger family from following them. I chose not to do a regular review for this one. My short recommendation for this movie is that you should at least see it at some point if you are interested. I think this film is super weird, fun, and suspenseful and it’s a great time at the movies. I will say, however, that I after I had the chance to view this film again, there were many issues I found throughout this film that seemed to negatively affect my experience the second time watching it. It wasn’t any issues with the film making really, I just found some plot holes and other inconsistencies with the film that didn’t make sense for me. In order to really discuss this film in full detail, I need to do an analysis instead. Not only because I wanted to talk about the themes of what this film has to offer, which does intrigue me, but also because I want to talk about the elements of this film that frustrated me and caused me to not enjoy it nearly as much the second time around.

SPOILERS AHEAD! DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT IF YOU DO NOT WANT THE FILM SPOILED FOR YOU!

The film starts off as we see Lupita N’yongo’s character, Adelaide, as a young child at a fair at Santa Cruz in 1986. She is with her mother and father, and the father seems to be drunk and playing many carnival games. This clearly frustrates the mother as he is paying little to no attention to the daughter. But when the mother leaves to go to the bathroom and the father plays another carnival game, neglecting to keep an eye on his daughter, she wanders off to the beach below where she finds a hall of mirrors in which she comes across a version of herself who seemingly “traumatizes” her leaving her unable to speak. Years later, she’s grown up, had a family, and they suggest that they take a vacation to Santa Cruz every summer. In the film, we see she is nervous the entire time while there because she seems to remember an incident that scarred her for life at the beach. The film then cuts as the family is outside trying to get in so they can murder them. The version of Adelaide, Red, that seemed to traumatize her is now in front of her face again as she had predicted would happen.

Luckily, the family is able to escape their home, but when they try to go to their friends’ house for help, a family with a father played by Tim Heidecker and a mother played by Elizabeth Moss, they find that the doppelganger of their family has already murdered them, which leads them to more danger. They are able to escape but are stopped when Red captures Jason, their son, and takes him into the underground where they all reside. It is at this moment that we find out that Red explains that there is a whole society of people like her down below who mimic their actions from up above, but never get to go up there. In retaliation, she plans on killing everyone and starting their own society above ground. They also re-create the Hands Across America protest from the 1980’s to symbolize their new dominance over the country. If you don’t know, the Hands Across America event was one in which people all across the country joined hands with each other to make one big line across the entire country from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to support the end of hunger in Africa. After Adelaide and Red fight each other, with Adelaide stabbing Red winning the fight, she leaves the underground with her son. We then see a flashback in which it turns out at the beach the day young Adelaide came across her young look a like self at the hall of mirrors, the doppelganger chokes Adelaide, damaging her vocal chords and forcing her underground. In other words, the Adelaide we have been following the whole time is actually the former doppelganger from below all along.

I love this film as it’s a fun, suspenseful horror flick with some great themes and satire.

This is a film that has so much strange elements to it that I cannot help but love and further recommend you check out. I’m really happy that we are able to get original ideas like this still out in theaters, and I’m glad that many people are actually coming out to support these flicks. I love the creativity that this film has to offer and I love that this film can create a concept and a universe that feels like it would be potentially terrifying to inhabit. I would personally be horrified if I found a doppelganger version of myself was trying to murder me. Since it is assumed they are a version of me, they think like me. Because of this, they know what traps I’ll fall for, what scares me, and what especially hurts me. A doppelganger of myself would truly f— me up! It’s a very strange yet brilliant concept that I’m surprised no other filmmaker has ever been able to put up on screen until this point, but I’m glad that this exists now. If you were to analyze its themes that is is clearly going for, it seems to be an allegory for class society and the way we treat and see others because of it. It can also be seen as an allegory for guilt and regret as Adelaide regrets having done what she did to her other self. If you need another interpretation, this could also be seen as an allegory for race relations in the US. Perhaps the people above are the elite race and the ones below are the minorities. This would make sense as Jordan Peele’s last film Get Out dealt with race relations and mocked individuals who would claim to fight for social justice rights for African Americans and Black Americans, but actually end up exploiting them for their victim-hood instead. Jordan Peele does a really great job with creating these horror stories with really great satire implemented into it.

I do have to admit that upon a second viewing, I found many inconsistencies within this movie, which is unfortunate.

There’s a ton of plot holes that come up when you decide to watch this movie again. It’s unfortunate to me to see these because there are instances that I know I shouldn’t be thinking about or acknowledging, but I just can’t help but ask these questions when I see these moments. There’s only going to be a few highlight ones that I acknowledged when watching this movie, but I know for a fact there’s plenty more if you want to examine the film even further. The first question I have with this movie comes at the beginning when Adelaide is nervous about being in Santa Cruz and going to the beach. This is apparently a vacation that they go on every year, as hinted several times throughout the film, so my question is did Adelaide ever get this way in previous years going on this trip? If that’s the case why do they keep coming back. They never acknowledge that she might have gotten this way in year’s past, it’s just a new thing that they realized now. And okay, even if she doesn’t get nervous while at Santa Cruz, do any of them know that she had a traumatic experience at Santa Cruz when she was younger? She doesn’t have to explain it in full detail, but did she ever suggest that she went through a troubling event growing up? And I know a potential defense for that is “she just gets that way when she hears they’re going to the beach” which is fine, but what else do they do there then? I know this seems really nitpicky, but I can’t help but think that they would stop taking this trip by now if it made her as upset as it clearly seems to in this instance. I don’t know, I feel like she would have eventually brought it up at some point that she went through such an experience.

My next questions involve the underground itself. What they suggest is that for every action that takes place above ground, there is a duplicate action taking place underground. Now there’s many actions that the characters below are seen doing that are identical to the ones up above. For example, some will be riding a roller coaster, others will be playing a carnival game, and others will be walking around the carnival. The people riding the roller coaster aren’t moving locations, they are only moving in their seats like it’s a simulator ride at Universal Studios (roasted). This would perhaps make sense because they end up in the same location as before. But what if someone up above is driving a car. They don’t end up in the same location like a roller coaster would. What about if someone up above goes in a direction and the person below is blocked by a wall? Do they go around the wall and catch up with the people above later? Now what about if someone decides to go swimming in an ocean, lake, or river? Are there tunnels below for at least a potential several miles away from the shores of these bodies of water? What about travelling internationally? They suggested that the tunnels are only in the United States, but if someone travels to Europe or Asia, do the doppelgangers still follow them across the seas? How would they get there at the same amount of time as the people above? If the people above take a 12 hour flight to China, perhaps, would the doppelganger follow the person all the way to China. A person cannot physically travel over 600 miles/hour across oceans without vehicular assistance such as an airplane. And if they did find a way to travel 600 miles/hour across oceans underground, those tunnels that lead to areas beyond the United States must be really deep below the ocean. That could almost be potentially tens of thousands of feet below water. This given that the tunnels themselves are already likely around 100-250 ft. below the surface already. Explorers haven’t even been to the lowest depths of many of these oceans. The truth is we have no idea what’s going on down there. Did someone build those tunnels then that are over 35,000-40,000 feet below the ocean? And finally, when Adelaide goes to confront Red and Red explains to her the world that exists underground, it makes sense from a narrative stand point as we as the audience do not understand what is going on, but given the end of the film, Adelaide already knows how this universe works. She’s lived there for much of her childhood, she probably remembers it pretty well.

Honestly I could go on all day listing off the various things that don’t make sense about this universe. I will defend Peele, however, in that he probably did not have much time to explain this universe or set up the rules of it properly. If they ever choose to do a follow up to this movie (which seems unlikely) they would certainly answer these questions. This could potentially lead to really fun discussions and debates to have with your friends. Even though these plot holes slightly take me out of the movie, I do look forward to showing this movie to friends maybe who haven’t seen it or to watching it again with friends who are already fans of it like I am. And I think that is what makes this movie special. For all its plot holes, this movie seems to understand how to keep the audience engaged and entertained. It’s weird and different and definitely a very different film from Get Out. I wouldn’t say it’s so much scary as it is suspenseful. It is creepy, from the perspective of the children, to see your dad being dragged out of your house by a man that looks exactly like him, and it’s also creepy thinking about coming across your own killer doppelganger. Again, they know how you think, and they know how to instill the most painful and horrific death upon you. Overall, this is a really fun movie to converse with your friends about. I think it now makes sense why I wanted to get into spoilers with this one. I don’t know. I will probably keep doing more of these spoiler filled reviews as I tend to find they are much more fun then the traditional non spoiler review. I did a very similar thing with the film Climax and that was a ton of fun, so we’ll see. Expect that with Avengers: Endgame I’ll do the same style of review so I can just get into every little nook and cranny with that one.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

Is Dumbo Worth Your Time?

Dumbo is an Unnecessary Disney Remake that has No Purpose for Existing.

So awhile ago, I went and watched the new version of Dumbo, and it was not good. The truth about Dumbo is that this is more of a product than anything else. Disney is a company that I’ve recently had less and less respect for, especially given the growing monopoly that they are beginning to have on the entertainment industry. They release movies to trick the audience into believing that they care about your childhood and the things you loved growing up, but they are actually cashing in on the nostalgia you have of these iconic films and franchises from your past. They’re forcing Pixar to constantly spam of sequels, and they’re pushing out Star Wars movies to the point where “Star Wars Fatigues” now reigns after the (arguably) disastrous releases of The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Somehow, DC has been making better movies than Marvel, and most egregiously, they’re also spamming out live action remakes of classic 2D animated Disney films. I know I keep using the word “spamming” when describing the release of these films, but that’s what it feels like to me. In 2019 alone, we’re getting FOUR other live action remakes. FOUR! Tell me that’s not spamming. After this, we’re getting Aladdin, The Lion King, Maleficent 2, and Lady and the Tramp, which the latter will be exclusively for Disney+.

With all the complaining about Disney’s evil and conniving business methods out of the way, what makes this movie as flawed as it is?

It’s been probably more than ten years since I’ve seen the original film, but what I remember from it, it told the story of a little baby elephant at a circus who was bullied by his peers for having big ears, but learns to use them to his advantage as he discovers he can actually fly with these ears. He also tries to get his mother back after she goes crazy and puts another circus goer in danger. The remake tells a similar story but adds human characters to it and their struggle to keep a financial living in this little traveling circus they work for. Colin Farrell is the father of two children that he must take care of at the travelling circus but finds it difficult to do so after he discovers upon coming back from war that his wife has past away. Also,Danny Devito is the owner of the circus that agrees to make a partnership with a powerful entrepreneur, played by Michael Keaton.

So if I knew this Movie was Gonna be so Bad, why did I see it?

The reason I went and saw this movie was because I knew it would be directed by Tim Burton. Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors, and he’s the man who personally inspired me to make movies. He has so many classic and wonderful films, and I have nothing but respect for the creativity and imagination he has running through his crazy little brain. Although I acknowledge that his film Alice in Wonderland was the reason this whole trend of live action remakes started, at least that movie had a creative and unique voice to it. I had hoped that even if this movie wasn’t good, it would at least be a special and weird experience brought to you by the great Tim Burton.

And I have to say, this is not the worst of the Disney live action remakes. This film does has a voice of some kind. The choice to cast Eva Green, Danny Devito, and Michael Keaton who are all previous collaborators with Burton (see Miss Peregrine’s and Batman Returns), as well as the general aesthetic this movie presents throughout its production design (that isn’t a green screen) gives this movie a certain vibe that only Burton is capable of. The cinematography was neat, although the color palate was sometimes foggy, but not terribly distracting, and there was admittedly a very fun sense of adventure throughout this movie. And even though I knew exactly where this movie was gonna go, I wanted to see that adventure still play out.

Despite admiring Burton’s aesthetic, there are unfortunately some serious issues within the film making here.

When Dumbo isn’t allowing you to enjoy the magic and wonder that comes with seeing an elephant fly at a circus, it gives you a very awkward and otherwise poorly made film with no real personality within its script. If Tim Burton hadn’t directed this script, this would have easily could have been one of the soulless movies I had ever seen. The visual effects are terrible and look very fake given the standards of today’s movies. The acting from the kids is so bad it would take me out of the movie entirely, and the script is stupid, boring, and has no pay off or important themes to spread.

Oftentimes, characters will touch or look at Dumbo and they’ll be totally off from where he actually is. They’ll brush his little body and be missing him by about a few inches. The young girl in this movie also has a scene where she looks at Dumbo and she is not even staring at Dumbo directly, but instead off in the distance somewhere. Did they not use markers or anything to guide the actors and help them to give a better performance. Speaking of which, the girl in this movie is absolutely horrible. I feel bad because she is a little kid and I know it’s hard to act, but she just was unable to attempt to display any emotions whatsoever. She would literally stare at Dumbo flying through the circus tent with a straight face. I could tell she’s supposed to act amazed or something when this happens, because the little boy who’s even younger than her acting with her is much better than she is. It doesn’t help either that her character is just “female STEM major” and that’s it. Not saying there’s anything wrong with females entering the major; in fact I encourage it. It’s just that they make her trait of being a female scientist her only personality trait. It’s a problem that even feminists are having an issue with in current films that feature young girls. It’s a poor representation of a group of people who inspire others and make a difference in other people’s lives.

Overall, Dumbo was thankfully not a complete waste of time due to Burton’s good direction and production design, but is otherwise a film you should have no problem skipping.

It was a boring movie with bad effects, bad acting, and a bad script. I recommend you skip this movie and see Us, Shazam!, or even Pet Semetary instead. These are all films that are much better and made by people who care, at least a little bit, of the films they are putting out there. And you can’t even shift the blame onto Burton. The issues come from the studio for making this the way they did. I know I seem angry talking about this movie, but I think it’s more because I know it’s behind a company that only cares about spamming out products as quickly as possible and generating online buzz and coverage about their movies in the process. The movie alone really just made me want to fall asleep, which is never a good thing to experience with a movie. If you’re also sick of Disney making these pointless remakes that are only designed to be second place to the original anyways, then speak with your wallets and skip this one. I used my AMC A-List for this one, so hopefully theirs not as much blood on my hands.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

A Review of Disney’s Cinderella (Yes, the 2015 One)

This week I was fortunate enough to score some tickets to an advanced screening of Disney’s newest live-action retelling of the classic, Cinderella. Though Cinderella is not my favorite OG Disney princess (shout out to Princess Jasmine), this rendition of the beloved film was spectacular. Cinderella is truly amazing: it’s family-friendly, features more details about the characters, and has a very handsome Prince (whoever casted him seriously deserves an award). My only criticism is that I wish they had incorporated some of the Grimm brothers’ version, Aschenputtel. In their action-packed version, the evil stepsisters chop off their toes and heels to fit the glass slipper, and have their eyes pecked out by doves at the end. Oh, the drama.

Now, for the review. *SPOILER ALERT*

Cinderella starts out with beautiful little Ella happily frolicking about in the countryside with her family, which is of course torn apart in the first fifteen minutes because her mom gets sick and dies. I don’t understand why Disney feels the need to have their protagonists either lose their parents or their only living relative; maybe they figure the orphan-ness makes you want to cry just enough to reel you in.

The storyline essentially parallels the original version. What you see in the 2015 version is more of Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella being extra rude to Ella. It’s mildly uncomfortable to watch because Cate Blanchett’s laugh and demeanor is so evil, but at the same time, you can’t help but appreciate how striking and fierce she is. It’s ironic because you’d think her daughters would try to emulate that, but they’re pretty much the female equivalents to Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

Despite Ella’s efforts to live by her mother’s last words, “have courage and be kind,” she cracks and apparently copes with her feelings of despair by venturing to the woods on horseback. There, she meets the Prince, who is on a quest to hunt a majestic stag with his army of trusty knights. Right when we see his perfectly coiffed hair, we are also shown more of the Prince’s character. After all, he’s more than just a pretty face. Upon their accidental yet destined meeting, he introduces himself as a royal apprentice named “Kit,” in hopes that he’ll be able to interact with her as a normal guy. Their horses literally prance in a circle for about five minutes before she finally runs off, without even saying her name.

It’s love at first sight for both of those hopeless romantics. But there’s just one problem: the King will only let him marry an eligible Princess, meaning someone who can add treasure and land to the Kingdom. Oh yeah, and the King is also dying (what is with this movie and death?). Kit’s solution was to agree to this, but only if he’s allowed to open the traditionally elite ball to the public. His secret goal is to have his father meet the charming girl he met in the woods, which would force him to have a change of heart because she’s so great.

Word reaches Lady Tremaine, who of course forbids Ella from attending the ball. Ella is heartbroken because she has no interest in the Prince; she only wanted to see the apprentice from the woods again. Ella’s tears are the queue for her fairy godmother to show up for once, and she grants Ella’s wish to be able to go to the ball—but in style. Equipped with a special spell to protect her from being noticed by her jealous stepmother, Ella also gets a golden pumpkin carriage with mousy horses, lizardy henchman, and a goosey coachman. The dress was magnificent, and the effects made it feel like it was going to pop off the screen and whip you in the face with fairy dust, butterflies, and yards of tool.

She arrives fashionably late to the ball, and enchants the whole ballroom with her grace, beauty, and fabulous dress. She reunites with Kit, now revealed as the Prince, and has a jolly old time on a swing in his secret royal garden until the clock tragically strikes midnight. She dashes off, and he fails once again to get her name. Classic Kit.

A search for this mysterious beauty begins, but not before Lady Tremaine gets to the Grand Duke and blackmails him into only letting her daughters try on the glass slipper. He agrees because he’s a horrible person, and almost succeeds in hiding her from his team. Kit tagged along because he didn’t trust him (his instinct was right– the Duke was #fake), and he hears Ella upstairs despite Lady Tremaine’s attempts to disguise her angelic song. Ella tries on her own glass slipper which obviously fits her, and she and Kit live happily ever after while the Duke, Lady Tremaine, Drizella, and Anastasia are banned from the Kingdom.

I would give Cinderella five out of five stars. This movie was amazing. I don’t know how I was planning to wait to see it until the release date.

*Princely gasp*

Prince-in-Cinderella-2015