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The Student News Site of University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

The Trend

The Student News Site of University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

The Trend

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“Challengers” (Movie Review)

Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) Pictures
Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor are portrayed as tennis players and a coach in the recent “Challengers” movie.

I’ll cut right to the chase: if you know what Zendaya looks like and you’ve seen a sports advertisement before, there is truly nothing new for you in the Zendaya-produced “Challengers.”

I’ll give the movie this: it is aptly named, because clawing my way to the end of this truly unwatchable film was nothing if not a nearly insurmountable challenge. It really did do the impossible: it took Zendaya, two hunky tennis boys, and a classily erotic premise, and somehow, it combined them into a deeply boring movie.

Trying very hard throughout its run to be sleek and sexy, instead it’s shockingly bland. I can’t dress it up any more than that. I was violently bored for every second of this mercilessly lengthy film.

The acting performances are fine, but the script is awful. The plot is nearly nonexistent, and the last third of the movie is perhaps the most passionately I’ve ever wanted to leave a theater in my life. I remember thinking to myself “if that repetitive 80’s synth crap comes on over a dramatic slow-motion action shot of a tennis player one more time, I am going to lose my mind.” Sure enough, here I find myself, mind lost, with the AI-generative-sounding soundtrack of “Challengers” still throbbing in my skull.

If I could give this movie less than zero stars, I would.

You know what? It’s my review. I make the rules: I give this movie negative three stars.

Hopping back and forth between different years with such a frenzied and disjointed timeline made the whole thing confusing and, frankly, exhausting to watch. The audience was hurled from “ten years ago” to “two days ago” to “the night before” to “twelve years ago” and back again over and over and over. I swear it happened almost as often as the tennis balls at the center of this god-awful plot flew from one side of the net to the other.

The trailer presented the movie as a sports film, but also as something of an unconventional love story, a romance with some sexy twists and lurid turns. Unfortunately for the viewers dragged into the theater on this premise, the trailer contained almost every second of actual romantic content in the movie which, by and large, is just a series of slow motion sweat drip shots set to the worst (and loudest) soundtrack of all time.

“Challengers” attempts to tell the story of three young athletes and the interplay of their successes, failures, and follies. Instead, all we really get is a drawn out “story” about amoral tennis players whacking balls around. And heavy-handed Adidas product placement.

It felt needless: needless nudity, needless slow motion, needless shots of the brunette one smirking. Seriously, the only thing that brunette tennis boy does the whole movie is smirk and have abs. At least the blonde one made a pass at acting with his entire face.

By the end of the movie, I didn’t care who won, who lost, who got the girl, who took home the trophy; I just wanted it to wrap up in some form or fashion so I could go home. I didn’t care about any of the characters. I didn’t root for anyone to be victorious or for anything in particular to happen. In fact, if you told me “Challengers” was just an overwrought documentary about a dysfunctional throuple, I wouldn’t even question it given how abysmal the pacing and plotting were.

What could’ve been a thoughtful film on the nature of friendship, love, ambition, and their interlacing consequences instead decided to become a flat, lifeless, and oh, so very long diatribe on how great of a sport tennis is. It told no real story, only managing to put forth the sentiments of “tennis is the world’s only good sport,” and “everything that isn’t tennis is a waste of time,” and “gosh, aren’t tennis players the true gods among men?”

To sum it up, “Challengers” is nothing more than a two-hour long Adidas commercial with Zendaya cameos and male genital jump-scares that occur with alarming frequency. You’d be better off watching actual tennis. At least then, there’s less pretension, and you have a chance, however slim, of actually being entertained.


Gabi Merchen is a fifth-year communication major at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

Ray Thomas-Lapham
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About the Contributor
Gabi Merchen
Gabi Merchen, Senior Writer
Gabi is a fifth-year transfer student from the University of Oklahoma (OU), now Gabi is looking to obtain her bachelor's degree in communication at USAO. She is from Yukon. She loves writing and has been contributing to local and scholastic publications since 2015. Gabi also participates in two choral groups on campus. When she isn't in class, Gabi likes to spend her time crafting, crocheting, and rewatching the same three sitcoms over and over again.   Experience with The Trend: Senior Writer: May 2023 - present Contributing Writer: Jan. 2023 - Apr. 2023