The 2020 Adventure Movies

An Overview of this year’s Oscar-nominated movies in the Adventure genre.

Avengers: Endgame (4 Stars)

Ad Astra (3.5 Stars)

Frozen II (2.5 Stars)

How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden Valley (2.5 Stars) 

Klaus (3.5 Stars)

Lion King (2 Stars)

Maleficent: Princess of Evil (1.5 Stars)

Missing Link (2.5 Stars)

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker (3.5 Stars)

Toy Story 4 (5 Stars)

Adventure movies are those where characters display or explore exotic locations.  They got their start in the 30s and 40s with swashbuckling and pirate movies, but today, with CGI to assist, characters travel through imaginary places like Middle Earth (The Lord of the Rings movies) or ‘Galaxies Far, Far Away’ (Star Wars).  Perhaps the best way to judge the success of an adventure movie, then, is to look at the world visited and determine how interesting or exciting it is for the viewer.

There are ten movies in this year’s Adventure genre lis, six of them animated features.  Obviously, in these movies, the worlds are entirely fictional.  In Toy Story 4 and Missing Link the adventures are through an animated world, but they are made to look pretty much like our own.  The magic in these two movies, is not the adventure, per se, but rather the characters and the story.   Toy Story 4 was a terrific movie (I gave it 5 Stars), I’m just not sure it is a go-to movie if you are looking for an ‘Adventure’.    Missing Link had beautiful scenery, but it was pretty much the world as we know it.  The adventures in Klaus and Lion King were fun and integral parts of the story, but, again, I’m not sure you’d pick them to illustrate an Adventure movie.  The worlds in Frozen II and How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden Valley were  much different and probably fit the genre definition better.  Unfortunately neither one of them were exceptional movies.  If you are interested in seeing what kinds of worlds CGI can create these days, however, these last two are worth a view.

All four of the ‘live-action’ movies receive special boosts from CGI technology, so the worlds created are mostly imaginary.  The Avengers and Star Wars movies take place largely in completely other worlds (although the Avengers do come back to earth for part of the movie).  While the Star Wars movie is the last of the trilogy of trilogies, it seems that the creativity in the story has been drained.  The Avengers: Endgame is a comic book movie, but it is an excellent one and fits the Adventure genre perfectly.  Don’t expect a lot of depth of meaning, but there is a whole lot of fun.

The remaining two movies fall in two very different wings of ‘adventure’. The Maleficent sequel is one of the worst movies of the year and even the fairy-tale adventure story can’t make up for the devastating lack of moral sensibility, so I wouldn’t even bother with this one.  And that leaves Ad Astra as the one pure science-fiction adventure movie of the year.  There is a pleasing mix of realistic CGI worlds and some terrific acting from Brad Pitt.

Bottom-line, I’d pick Ad Astra and Avengers: Endgame as the two best Adventure movies, with maybe a look at the How to Train Your Dragon Movie, if you’re into animated worlds.

There were 11 entries in this genre from last year and I won’t go through all of them.  But I can highlight a few that are especially worthy.  Ralph Breaks the Internet is animated, but the imagined world of the Internet is wonderfully fun and a really good adventure.  Similarly, the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse is well worth watching if only to see how several different animation styles can be woven into one feature.  Ready Player One is an adventure into the world of gaming and was thoroughly enjoyable.  And Black Panther was my favorite ‘comic book’ movie of last year’s list with terrific musical and visual worlds.  Finally, if you want an adventure/documentary try Free Solo about the climb up Yosemite’s shear cliff.

There are enough picks in this genre to keep you traveling through multiple adventures.  Happy Trails!

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