The O.D. on Movies: Bad Times at El Royale

ROW and Highbrowl have seen the latest Drew Goddard movie, Bad Times at El Royale and after sitting on it for a couple of days, are ready to discuss the movie and what they thought of it. Bad Times at El Royale was written and directed by Drew Goddard, and stars Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, and Jon Hamm amongst others.

  • ROW: It’s been a couple of days since we saw the latest Drew Goddard movie; how have you “digested” his latest offering?
  • HO: Is he at a point where we reference stuff he worked on as the “Drew Goddard thing”?
  • ROW: For me he is; he’s written on some excellent TV shows like Buffy, Angel, and Daredevil, as well as the original Cloverfield, The Martian, and World War Z, and he also wrote and directed The Cabin in the Woods. Seeing his name attached to something has gotten me excited for it, so I’m refereeing to stuff he’s involved in as “Drew Goddard stuff”.
  • HO: I guess I still remember the days where nobody really had him on their radar, so it still feels kind of weird to give him that treatment. Anyways, I’ve “digested” his latest offering…weirdly; I’m not sour on it, I think it’s a good movie, but I’m wondering whether a second viewing will help appease my feelings of “too much wasted potential”.
  • ROW: I’m at a similar place; overall, I think Bad Times at El Royale is Great Times at the Owl Kingdom (ROW is a terrible person and demands we leave this stupid line in, but I had to let you all know, we are not all terrible people), but I can’t shake off the feeling that I should have left the theater in a more excited state than I actually left it with.
  • HO: Well, let’s see if we can figure out why together; let’s go over what we liked about the movie first. I’ll go first: I like this movie’s style. It captures the late 60s so vibrantly, not only with its visuals/set design/clothing, but also in the way the actors talk and what they are saying; I appreciate that the style was given the more old-fashioned “period-play” treatment, rather than the modern “nostalgic wish-fulfillment”.
  • ROW: Yeah, it didn’t feel like the movie was nostalgic for the 60s; instead it felt like the story was written for—and works in—the 60s. To add to that, I like Drew Goddard’s directing: Some shots look amazing, there’s a great sense of place created, all the actors seem to be on the same page—in terms of tone and within the story—and the story flows extremely well, considering it is a very Tarantino/Cohen-Brothers-esque drama.
  • HO: Speaking of which, the acting is really good: Jeff Bridges does another great “Jeff Bridges character” (which is not a diss, by the way, I hope he keeps doing that as long as possible), Jon Hamm is extremely charismatic and versatile, Cynthia Erivo continues the trend of “music stars in movies being very good”. My only real issue is that both Dakota Johnson and Chris Hemsworth seem wrongly cast; they’re both good in this movie, it just felt to me that they did not evolve as well as the other actors did, as the movie kept ramping up the drama.
  • ROW: Yeah, Hemsworth especially did not sell the menacing aspects of his character as well as I would have liked, but he definitely fits the look of the character. Now, let’s talk about the story: I enjoyed most of it. Goddard does a fantastic job at using the setting, characters, and main story beats, to deliver some truly outstanding scenes–the one with Cynthia Erivo and Jeff Bridges in a room springs to mind—and some satisfying character development, that also works as a foreshadowing of what’s to come and as a logic to the madness. Furthermore, the stables of this sub-genre (such as sudden outbursts of violence) are here and done very well; however, there are some threads that go nowhere and a pretty convenient revelation—which is foreshadowed and alluded to, thus it was done right—at the end, which soured me a bit, but other than that…
  • HO: Sure, the ending could’ve been better, but that’s not what gives me this feeling of underused potential; the music is great, the sets are great, the direction, acting, writing, production values…everything I can point to is great. Maybe that’s why it feels a bit lackluster?
  • ROW: Maybe; in this modern day of franchises and movies always aiming for all audiences and trying to do several things better than anyone else, this movie just wants to do one thing and does it reasonably well, which does not feel like enough. That could be it; I was leaning into the idea that Drew Goddard has not directed something since 2012 (discounting a few director’s credits for the excellent The Good Place) and for that wait to result in something that is simply great, is kind of disappointing.
  • HO: Could be a mix of both! All I know is I’m glad this movie exists and hopefully it does well enough to get another Goddard thing, and another similar experience from other people; I just wished it got me more excited!
  • ROW: Same here; I left the theater satisfied, and another viewing may lead me to get excited and regret ever saying this, but for now I’m glad I saw this movie and I wished I was satisfied AND excited!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: