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The Student News Site of Cape Coral High School

The Seahawk's Eye

The Student News Site of Cape Coral High School

The Seahawk's Eye

Challengers brings media literacy back to films

Challengers+brings+media+literacy+back+to+films

From Netflix’s disastrous adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender to Marvel’s recent Phase Five failure, The Marvels, stories recently have lacked the essence of media literacy. Often, they assume that the viewer can’t read between the lines, giving them writing quality that could pass as a toddler’s work. 

Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers is far from that. The film is one that expresses the innate complexities of being human by creating a story filled with characters that make mistakes frequently but with intention. What may appear as nothing more than a simple romance about tennis players is in fact a criticism about internal pressures, the fear of failure, and how far a person will go to see their ambitions come to fruition. 

The scene opens with Tashi Duncan, played by Zendaya, and her husband Art Donaldson, played by Mike Faist, on prepping for Art’s latest tennis match. Art, a professional tennis player, is coached and managed by Tashi following a college injury that leaves the former tennis star unable to pursue her dream of ruling the tennis world. Guadagnino uses explicit and intentional flashbacks in order to build up the turbulent and unruly relationship between Tashi, Art, and Art’s former tennis partner Patrick Zweig, played by Josh O’Connor. 

At first glance, it may appear that the film is about their love triangle, however, looking deeper, it’s obvious that Challengers expresses beautifully the complications of human nature. Blatantly put, the interactions between the trio leaves viewers understanding that Patrick loves Art, Art loves Tashi, and Tashi loves tennis. 

The writing behind these three characters is perfect in that they each have obvious flaws that are captured by their actors. Tashi’s saving grace and obscene flaw is her love for tennis. Repeatedly in the film, viewers hear her describe tennis as a relationship, explaining that, “you have to be in love with tennis in order to be great.” Tashi’s entire personality is built upon her ability to hit a ball with a racket, and Zendaya does an excellent job at conveying how her life’s passion is her greatest crutch. 

From her knee injury scene to Tashi’s secret meetup with Patrick before his match with Art, Zendaya perfectly captured the raw and sometimes cruel intentions her character possesses. While she may be known for her performance as Rue in the HBO series Euphoria, Zendaya’s acting is unlike any other in her generation. Her ability to capture the essence of every character she takes on by just using her facial expressions is unparalleled. 

Likewise, Zendaya’s chemistry with Faist as her on-screen husband was near perfection. From the infamous Applebees scene to the night before Faist’s match, the two’s connections only emphasized their complicated feelings for each other. It takes immense skill to be able to properly convey the messiness of humanity. 

Acting is easy when characters are written poorly, but well-developed characters have flaws and issues. Screenwriter Justin Kuritzkes did not drop the ball when crafting his main trios. The plot of Challengers was complex and provided perfect opportunities for Tashi, Patrick, and Art to shine. 

Challengers does the opposite of what films of the last five years have fallen into the trap of. Instead of falling back on comedic relief that often isn’t funny or ignoring obvious plot holes for a few average scenes was something this film did not fall back on. 

The relationships were complex, the plot made sense, and most of all, the film was intelligent. It left viewers on the edge of their seats, and the ending was as non-concrete as the beginning. Every aspect of the film was intentional, and the ending was no exception. Kuritzkes was intentional in his decision to reunite Patrick and Art, and the final scene was both powerful and unnerving. The tension on and off the court was moving, and the emotion running through the main trio was something that most films can’t even grasp the idea of. 

Challengers is revolutionary. It defines the start of a new age in filmmaking, and breaks ground on how to properly write a drama with emphasis. One of the best films of 2024 thus far, Challengers is a masterpiece.

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AJ Cudnik
AJ Cudnik, Editor-in-Chief

Sarcasm connoisseur

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