10 Best Movies of 2017
I’ve given you my worst of the year list so I’ll end the year on a positive note with the best. 2017 was another year of change for Kneel Before Blog. The biggest change was that we switched to a star rating system for film around halfway through the year. TV will continue to be rated out of 10 but films will be rated on a scale of 1-5 stars as is the accepted standard for films.
As with previous years my opinions change over time so a higher score at the time doesn’t necessarily mean it’s higher on this list. The scores are only relative to my enjoyment at the time of writing so that often changes as time goes on. My original reviews can be found hyperlinked in the headings. Now that the qualifiers are out of the way let’s dig into my best films of 2017.
If there’s an objective quality of “good” as far as 2017 films are concerned then this film probably wouldn’t make the grade but on this list it deserves a spot for a very simple reason; I liked it and I liked it a lot. Power Rangers was a huge part of my childhood -as I talked at length about on a podcast– so to see the original team that I grew up watching brought to the big screen with quite a bit of effort put in was very exciting to me. Many people didn’t like the design of the suits or Zords but I was fine with it and I thought the characters were very well done.
This should be looked at as a superhero origin movie and it has pretty much all of those trappings which means there’s an underwhelming villain and a McGuffin that needs to be found/defended but the execution of the story was good enough to make the formulaic nature somewhat forgivable. Director Dean Israelite found the right tone for these heroes, the characters had strong arcs for the most part and the action was pretty well executed. It’ll be a shame if there’s no sequel as a mid-credit scene definitely whetted my appetite to see more from this version of the multi-coloured heroes. I doubt this will adorn many “best of” lists but I’d highly recommend checking it out and giving it a chance to impress you. For more ramblings on this film there was an entire podcast devoted to it.
Luc Besson explores a fascinating and well built science fiction universe through the eyes of a pair of space cops. The main story isn’t all that original but the opportunity it presents to explore the universe it takes place in makes it worthwhile. Visually the film is a feast with great design work on the locations, aliens and technology and sequences featuring concepts that would be enough to build an entire film around. An early sequence involving the use of personal wormholes to move people and objects to another plane of existence. The opening montage set to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is really memorable as well. What makes it better is the lack of exposition explaining how the universe came together; it’s refreshing to have the viewer trusted to be able to follow the story and understand the workings of the universe without everything being explained. It’s a film that shows rather than tells and that’s worthy of not.
Admittedly the casting is a mixed bag with Dane DeHaan feeling particularly miscast. Cara Delevingne steals the show and has excellent presence but DeHaan is no match for her and the pre-existing relationship the dialogue establishes doesn’t really come across. Dane DeHaan isn’t bad by any stretch but his performance does pale in comparison which does distract from the overall experience a little but considering how much fun the whole thing is it’s not something I minded too much.
A watchable female led superhero film is remarkable on its own considering how terrible previous attempts have been. Having this cinematic first as part of the ever controversial DC Expanded Universe is even more remarkable as it marks the first of their films to be considered “good” by a wider audience. I’m not as critical of the DC Expanded Universe as some other people but I also think that Wonder Woman is a notable increase in quality for them and an impressive film in its own right. At its core its a character study featuring Gal Gadot’s Diana aka Wonder Woman. She is kind, compassionate and principled while also being a badass warrior so there’s a good balance to her personality that makes her feel like a fully realised character. Gal Gadot brings her to life with a wonderful performance showcasing her intelligence as well as her curiosity mixed with naivety.
The World War I setting is somewhat unique even if it does follow similar beats to Captain America: The First Avenger. What differs is showcasing the horrors of War and learning about the conflict from Diana’s perspective in a way that lets her character grow as she learns about the brutality of the World of Man. The film doesn’t bog itself down with too many supporting characters and many of those featured don’t do an awful lot but standouts include Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor and Lucy Davis’ Etta Candy who support Diana and the story in different ways. Chris Pine does have a tendency to be somewhat flat in certain scenes but on the whole he does a capable job. The film lacks a decent villain and the last act descends into a CGI laden bout of invincible people hitting each other but it doesn’t take away from all the greatness that came before it; the No Man’s Land sequence alone makes Wonder Woman worthy of this list. A podcast was done about this film too.
The first film I saw in 2017 remains one of the best. A Monster Calls is a captivatingly emotional experience that delivers a powerful exploration of the complex feelings associated with loss. Conor is a really endearing character who is sympathetic throughout and he is wonderfully performed by Lewis MacDougal who successfully conveys the sense of fear and helplessness associated with the situation. The story uses his youth to great effect as being young brings a lot of limitations especially when a loved one is dying of Cancer. He is unable to do anything to help his mother and is swept up in whatever the adults want to do. It’s painfully realistic and adds to the overall tragedy.
His youth also enables the Monster plot as his imagination is what conjures the hulking tree creature that fights his battles and helps him contextualise his grief through the three stories that it tells. The purpose of the stories isn’t immediately obvious but their meaning slowly becomes apparent. The transition from fairy tale parable to practical advice is fascinating and natural. Liam Neeson’s vocal talents are perfectly suited to the wise and enigmatic monster and the visual effects work is stunning. Felicity Jones does a great job as Conor’s mother with the strong connection between mother and son coming through wonderfully. Sigourney Weaver does great work creating a layered character who has a realistic arc relative to her relationship with Conor. The only element that doesn’t quite blend in as seamlessly as it could is Conor’s father played by Toby Kebbell but aside from that this film deserves to be seen and appreciated for the emotionally resonant character story that it is.
I love high concept ideas like this and when it’s well done it’s assured a place on this list. The best monster movies are when the monster acts as a metaphor for something else. Godzilla in its earliest iteration was a metaphor for the dangers associated with the atomic bomb and King Kong is a metaphor for greed motivating exploitation. The monster in this film acts as a metaphor for self destructive behaviour having an impact on those around you. Anne Hathaway’s Gloria is a screw-up unable to keep her life from spiralling out of control. She drinks too much, takes her frustrations out on others and generally alienates everyone in her life that is trying to help her. That could be interesting enough on its own but add a giant monster to the mix and you have something that really pique’s my interest. When Gloria stands in a specific place at a specific time of day she summons a giant monster that mimics her movements and causes unintended damage to Seoul.
The exploration of Gloria as a character is excellent. We see her struggle with her inner demons, hit rock bottom and try to deal with her friend Oscar (Jason Sudekis) threatening her when she tries to escape his abusive clutches. It’s really compelling stuff and the actors sell it wonderfully. Jason Sudekis does an excellent job switching between friendly and casually threatening at a moment’s notice and Anne Hathaway believably plays the unwitting victim of circumstance. The CGI in the Seoul sequences is excellent with just enough being shown to allow the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks when showing the actions that will be mimicked and everything comes together really effectively making the monster story feel inseparably connected to Gloria’s character. The film also does a great job establishing the rules of the appearance of the monster and uses this to deliver an exciting crowd pleasing ending that closes off Gloria’s arc in a really satisfying way. I can’t recommend this film enough; it just deserves to be seen.
The first Paddington was an excellent movie worthy of a place on the “best of” list in 2014 and I’m pleased to say that its sequel deserves a place on this year’s list. Every bit as charming and entertaining as its predecessor with a great villain in the form of Hugh Grant’s Phoenix Buchanan. Ben Whishaw continues to be note perfect in the title role and the story compliments the character perfectly with his positivity and good manners affecting the other characters in different ways. There are a lot of different elements that make up this film but they all blend together really well and expand the colourful world created in the first film.
Comedy is used really well too with a near perfect mix of jokes for both kids and adults to keep all parts of the audience entertained. A collection of really creative set pieces continue to impress and the film continues the unique visual aesthetic of the first outing including -but not limited to- astounding CGI for Paddington himself. There are a couple of characters who perhaps didn’t need to be there and the villain could have shared more screen time with Paddington himself but these are minor niggles in what makes for an excellent watch. Outside of all that it’s just great to see a film that promotes respect, good manners and a general positive outlook to inspire the younger generation. I hope more of these are made and this is definitely something you should check out.
This might just be the best Batman film ever made. I don’t say that in an attempt to be controversial; I say that because I firmly believe in the quality of this film. The script is lovingly reverent to pretty much every version of the Caped Crusader you can think of and presents the varied history in really creative as well as hilarious ways. Batman as a character has a really heartfelt and relatable character arc that causes him to develop over the course of the film and the story itself is about the perception of Batman in pop culture as well as the relationship he has with his most iconic villain.
The vocal talent on display is excellent. Will Arnett brings a lot of humour and a lot of heart to his portrayal of the blocky Dark Knight, Zach Galifianakis plays a very different yet equally valid Joker, Rosario Dawson’s Barbara Gordon makes for a great addition and Ralph Fiennes nails his performance as Alfred. All of the elements come together wonderfully and the film never ceases to be hilarious. It sometimes feels that the jokes are coming far too quickly to actually be processed but repeat viewings where individual moments can be digested should solve that problem. Movies based on LEGO properties may be a gimmick that will eventually outstay its welcome but when this much effort is put in to bring this kind of result then they may be relevant for a long time yet.
A late contender for sure but undeniably one of the best films I saw this year. I was somewhat lukewarm on The Force Awakens for various reasons but this film brought me the Star Wars I wanted to see. It moves the franchise forward while paying respect to what came before, takes expectations and turns them on their head while delivering excellent visuals and creative action set pieces throughout.
The viability of the new characters as leaders of the franchise is brilliantly explored in a story that very much focuses on their place in the universe. Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker is very much given the respect the character deserves while exploring the character in a way that hasn’t been done before and the late Carrie Fisher’s Leia is used to great effect. Parts of the film do feel a little bloated though those elements do pay off in the context of the story. If this is what Disney can deliver with the Star Wars franchise then their expensive purchase was definitely a good thing. Listen to not one but two podcasts talking about this particular entry into the Star Wars franchise.
Hugh Jackman closes the book on his iconic portrayal of the fan favourite X-Men character Wolverine. Having played the character off and on for 17 years in 9 films -including cameos- he decided it was time to hang up the claws and move on. His swansong is an excellent deconstruction of the superhero genre with the perception of superheroes being part of the story along with the desire to move on. Continuity buffs might be confused as to the place of this film within the already convoluted X-Men film canon but it’s best looked at as an alternate reality one shot story that shares some of the same elements. The bleak future featuring a weary Logan painfully struggling his way through life makes for a compelling setup and sets the tragic tone very early on. Jackman’s performance is excellent and the narrative carries considerable emotional weight as it explores the mindset of an immortal tired of life.
Patrick Stewart in his -apparently- final appearance as Professor Charles Xavier makes for a perfect addition playing against type as a once great man losing his grip on reality and becoming a burden on those around him. Stephen Merchant’s Caliban further compliments the bleakness of the narrative while also playing against type. Dafne Keen’s introduction as Laura aka X-23 works really well and the young actress emotes wonderfully with very little dialogue. She plays the unhinged ferocity commonly associated with Wolverine perfectly and the rapport she develops with Jackman’s Logan is very much the heart of the film even if the relationship isn’t as well developed as it could be. The film also delivers a lot of exposition that slows it down slightly but these minor niggles barely distract from a compelling and emotionally charged character study that gives Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine the send off he deserves after giving so much to the character. The film also delivers on the violence that people have wanted to see from this character since the first X-Men. I was part of a podcast that talked in more detail about this film.
This was a big year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with three different film releases. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 brought fans of the first film more of what they wanted, Spider-Man: Homecoming brought the webhead into the fold in a big way after his appearance in Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok proves that trial and error finally produces a result that feels right. The first two Thor films were very different from each other suggesting that Marvel didn’t quite know what direction to take the character but the third outing finds him a place that just works. Director Taiki Waititi delivers a superhero blockbuster experience that is hilarious, exciting, visually impressive and unique to some degree.
Chris Hemsworth is great in the role of Thor bringing a lot more charm, humour and personality than he has before, Tom Hiddlestone’s Loki is the same as ever which is great, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk is finally allowed to say more than a few words and Tessa Thompson astonishes as newcomer Valkryrie who definitely deserves more focus. Cate Blanchett has plenty of presence as the villainous Hela though isn’t as well written as her performance would suggest. The character is good enough for the purposes of this story and represents a threat to Thor like nothing he has ever faced. The design work on the battle planet Sakaar is excellent with vibrant colours and a distinctive visual aesthetic wonderfully complimented by a typically off the wall performance from the always excellent Jeff Goldblum. The film balances comedy with drama really well while never descending into farce as would have been so easy to do. Any comedy comes from the characters reacting to situations rather than forced in for a cheap laugh and a more comedic tone suits Thor in this way. It’s a shame it took this long to get the Thor solo outings right when this could be the last one depending on how contracts shape up. I participated in a podcast about this film as well as podcasts about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Here endeth my list of the best films released in 2017. Feel free to comment with your favourites/least favourites. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up.
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