How to Watch Star Wars Episode IX

Recently they announced a lot of details about the upcoming Star Wars Episode IX. We know it will be released December 2019. We know that Luke, Lando, Chewbacca, and through the magic of editing, Leia, will all be returning in this “final” installment of the Skywalker epic. We know the new players will all be returning including Rey, Finn, Kylo, Poe, and Rose. On some level I think we can be thankful that it’s being written and directed by J.J. Abrams instead of Rian Johnson. We can be almost certain that this will not be the last Star Wars film, because Disney gonna Disney. But it may possibly be the last “Episode” in the current timeline. Most predictably, we know a lot of people are going to be unhappy with the movie, no matter what happens.

I don’t believe the movie will tank like Solo did. What do I mean by that? Solo tanked in the fact that it didn’t make as much money as was expected. That’s what tanking a Star Wars film is for Disney. Review scores don’t matter. The Rotten Tomatoes score doesn’t matter. Awards don’t matter. Even the general opinion of the public on social media doesn’t really matter to Disney in reference to this specific franchise anymore. All that matters is ticket sales. At this point, it’s an almost unsalvageable franchise critically because of all the bad blood. But that doesn’t mean it can’t still be a profitable franchise. And that’s why they’ll keep making Star Wars movies. Solo did badly because people boycotted it because of Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Solo actually wasn’t terrible. I enjoyed it. It wasn’t A New Hope, but I left the theater entertained and didn’t regret having spent the money to see it. And I truly believe that most people who actually watched the movie felt that way. The low scores and ticket sales were in response to The Last Jedi and not a legitimate indicator of Solo or what people actually thought of it. So the question is will this same responsive smear campaign and boycott happen to Star Wars Episode IX? I say yes and no.

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Yes, there will be a smear campaign against Star Wars Episode IX. That will happen. It will get fabricated review scores that lower its IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes scores. People will complain about Disney and feminism, mistreating the Skywalkers, and everything else the internet likes to complain about in reference to the latest saga. But no I do not believe there will be a legitimate boycott the way things went for Solo. Solo was an easy movie to boycott because you could get away with not watching it. It’s the same thing with Rogue One. These side films, whether they’re good or terrible, don’t really matter. They don’t tell you any information that you absolutely needed to know to follow the general plot of Star Wars. When you walked out of Rogue One and Solo, literally nothing had changed. You aren’t in any way surprised or moved by the things you saw. And that’s the intention of those movies. To get people to pay Disney more money without impacting the main timeline of the Star Wars franchise. And technically it works. Rogue One did very well and most people said good things about it. But they’re both still inconsequential films to the franchise. This will not be the case with Episode IX.

Whether you hated Episodes VII and VIII or you loved them, if you’re a real Star Wars fan you paid to go see them. That’s the entire con of making a continuous franchise. Once you’re committed, you’re committed. I think Suicide Squad was terrible. I think Batman vs. Superman was terrible. I think Justice League was average at best. I think the Shazam trailer looks like trash. I’m still gonna pay to go see it. And that’s the game. Star Wars Episode IX matters. Not only is it the last film in the current saga, but it’s also supposedly the last Skywalker focused film, and it’s the very last film Carrie Fischer/Princess Leia will ever be in. And Billy Dee Williams, arguably the coolest (as in smooth and memorable as opposed to awesome) actor/character in the original trilogy, if not the entire Star Wars universe, is finally returning. All Star Wars people are going to go see it. Even the ones who absolutely hate the current saga, hate Disney for “ruining” Star Wars, hate feminism, hate minorities, and hate J.J. Abrams for The Force Awakens are still going to go see this movie. At the very least, everyone wants closure. People might completely stop supporting Star Wars and never sit through another film in the franchise again after they watch Episode IX, but they are certainly going to go watch it none the less, because people need an ending. The Matrix Reloaded (2003) sucked. We still went to see The Matrix Revolutions (2003). It’s for that reason that I don’t think Star Wars Episode IX will tank. It will almost assuredly get bad reception from the public. It will most likely get low scores on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. But unlike Solo, it will make lots of money.

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So if we can all accept that we’re going to see the movie, let’s instead talk about how we should see the movie. We have more than a year to prepare ourselves for this last installment of the Skywalker family tree. Let’s get to it now so it doesn’t have to be a bloodbath during Christmas season 2019. Here are my thoughts on the current saga. I didn’t like The Force Awakens. I had tons of problems with it and how it ignored longstanding Star Wars canon. I felt like it was a lazy almost beat for beat remake of A New Hope, with a diverse cast and a female protagonist. I didn’t have a problem with the diverse cast. I didn’t have a problem with the female protagonist. But I had a lot of issues with the blatant disregard for the established rules of the Star Wars universe. But I was able to leave the film assuming that Rey was a Skywalker so at least I could justify a lot of her bullshit by saying well she’s a Skywalker so at least we know why she’s unjustifiably great at everything she does. But Rian Johnson took that justification away in The Last Jedi. I did not like The Last Jedi, but it was admittedly the best looking Star Wars film ever made. But the rules were pretty much all disregarded and thrown aside for some agenda that I still can’t really grasp or justify in my head. And Luke dies in the laziest way possible. It was a bad Star Wars movie. Though I actually do rank it higher than VII, and that’s what I really want to focus on.

I don’t want to talk about any of these movies in terms of general film making. That’s a pointless argument in this case. I only want to talk about them in terms of Star Wars film making. The Last Jedi is a better Star Wars movie than The Force Awakens for one simple reason; it follows the trajectory of its predecessor film. What do I mean by that? The main flaw of The Phantom Menace is that it’s attempting to build a foundation for a set of already existing films without rehashing the same ideas you’ve already seen in three extant movies. It’s this desire to link to the past films, that are actually set in the timeline’s future, without playing the same beats over again that led to some bad decisions. Like with midichlorians. Most people agree that midichlorians were a stupid idea that should never have been introduced. They justified some future bullshit which is pretty much all encompassed in Rey, but technically they were never mentioned again after Episode I. The reason The Phantom Menace struggled so much was that it didn’t have a trajectory to follow because it was prequel. It had to start from pretty much scratch and somehow set off a series of events that would eventually lead to A New Hope. Easier said than done.

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In a lot of ways, The Force Awakens was in a similar boat but it does have a foundation of six other films preceding it. It’s tasked with starting a new arc of three films but it doesn’t have a pre-established endpoint, nor does it have to start from scratch the way The Phantom Menace did. Yet The Force Awakens does something inherently wrong that The Phantom Menace doesn’t; it breaks the rules of the universe. I have used the word “breaks” here because “changes” is a lazy way of saying retconned or ignored canon, neither of which are considered good things in most fandoms, SJW or not.

World building matters and the best franchises are the best franchises because they have well established worlds/universes with established rulesets. A good writer doesn’t throw out the rules. A good writer writes new ideas and creates new concepts while adhering to the rules. Let’s take the example of Rey in The Force Awakens. If we completely disregard the anti-feminist, alt-right crowd and accept the totally canon supported argument that a woman can be a powerful Jedi/Force user (Ahsoka Tano & Asajj Ventress), which we should, the film still presents a staggering number of issues with Rey.

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It’s not the fact that she’s a woman that’s problematic. Nor is it the fact that she’s powerful in the ways of the Force. It’s the fact that a character with no training or even a basic knowledge of the Force is able to use high level Force abilities that Luke, one of the strongest Force users in the established film canon, wasn’t able to do without years of training even after being trained by Yoda, arguably the greatest Force user that ever lived. It’s the fact that she could go from no knowledge of the Force to using Jedi mind tricks and outclassing a trained Sith “lord” (Kylo Ren) in a matter of days that presented the real justifications for complaint. The rules of the universe were broken. Not just ignored but flat out broken. And the sad part was that this was all easily avoided with just a few extra scenes or a bit of altered dialog.

Rey could have already known about the Force, since lots of people do/did in the Star Wars universe outside of Jedi and Sith. She also could have had at the very least some light training while spending most of her life on a desert planet with nothing to do except salvage scrap and eat magical expansion cakes. Literally three lines of dialog inserted into any conversation with Finn, Han, or Maz Kanata could have fixed everything. “When I was a kid, I met a wizard of sorts. He taught me magic and said if I kept practicing I could be a great wizard one day too. I’ve practiced every day since then.” Problem solved. With just these three vague lines from off the top of my head added, everything else that happens in The Force Awakens could have still happened and there would be little justification to argue that canon was broken. That wouldn’t have made the movie great by any means. But it would have removed the main reason people, who aren’t blatant sexists, were unhappy with Rey. The Phantom Menace has a number of issues, but in no way does it break established canon. Even the midichlorians don’t actually break canon. They simply add to it in a stupid way. And that is why I rate Episode I higher than Episode VII.

Rey vs Kylo

So when looking at The Last Jedi in comparison to The Force Awakens, I think The Last Jedi is the better Star Wars movie for the simple fact that it follows the path set out by its direct predecessor film. Note that I’m not saying that it’s a good movie or even a particularly good Star Wars movie. I’m saying that it’s a better Star Wars movie than The Force Awakens. Episode VII gives canon the finger. That’s what makes it a bad Star Wars movie. Episode VIII doesn’t do that. Instead, The Last Jedi just accepts the fact that its direct predecessor film has already given canon the finger and just roles with it.

In a world where an untrained teenage girl can out Force a trained Sith lord directly descended from Darth Vader himself, why can’t the daughter of Darth Vader survive the vacuum of space by wrapping herself in a Force bubble and flying through an explosion of debris? In a world where a low ranking Storm Trooper, excuse me First Order Trooper, who has possibly never even seen a light saber before can pick one up and rival the combat ability of by now I’ve proven probably the worst Sith lord ever ordained, why can’t an entire fleet of repurposed imperial ships be destroyed by a single ship with almost no fuel in a hail Mary light speed maneuver?

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The Last Jedi didn’t break the rules because the film takes place in a universe where the rules no longer apply. But you can’t technically blame The Last Jedi for establishing this lawless universe because that was done by The Force Awakens. The Last Jedi simply takes it to a new level and decides that if the most important rules are no longer rules then there’s really no reason to have any rules at all. Which is a sensible conclusion to make. It’s like how if someone proved beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no God then the world would sink into chaos like at the end of Preacher Season 1 or Sausage Party. If there are no rules then you would live like there are no rules. You wouldn’t continue the pain in the ass lifestyle of following rules that don’t matter just because it’s a nice thing to do. What’s the point when you can have a lot more freedom and fun doing whatever the hell you want? That’s what Rian Johnson did with The Last Jedi. Order disappeared from the Star Wars universe and he went all in on taking advantage of that.

Taking all that into account, the question now becomes how should we watch Star Wars Episode IX? Now we can choose to watch it like we’ve watched all other Star Wars movies if we want to. Hold it to the old guard rules of canon, compare it directly to Episodes IV – VI, and almost assuredly hate it for completely justifiable reasons, again ignoring the anti-feminist and anti-minority, alt-right crowd. But is it worth it? Should we hold a movie to the gold standard that takes place as the final act that’s already established itself as not even bronze quality Star Wars film making? I say no. Why should we put ourselves through that for the second time in a row? That’s just setting ourselves up for disappointment. Instead I’ve come up with an alternative way to watch this next and any future Star Wars movies in the main timeline.

Star Wars Main Eps

Rather than compare Episode IX to Episodes I – VIII and hold it to the highest standard, we should only compare it to Episodes VII and VIII. If we accept that the old canonical rules pretty much died with The Force Awakens, as I have argued here, then what reason do we have to hold Episode IX to a pre-Episode VII standard? If you think about it logically, there really isn’t one. By that standard it will be bad and it will make true classic Star Wars fans angry. But I don’t believe it has to be bad if we base it solely on current saga standards, especially considering how low they already are.

If we watch Episode IX in the context of VII and VIII only then I believe it could be a fairly tolerable movie. We would go in knowing there aren’t any hard rules about how the Force works. We’d have an established context to why random characters with no background can be/are ultimately super important. Instead of going in expecting Avengers: Infinity War, we should go in expecting The Matrix Revolutions. In this way we wouldn’t have to leave the theater angry. We could just leave unimpressed but content with what we saw within the context of the current saga.

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I know this type of viewing sounds hard to a lot of diehard fans, myself included. But is the possibility of seeing a move and finding it tolerable truly worse than the alternative? I’m not saying you should support the current direction Disney is taking with Star Wars. But if you are going to see the movie, and you know you will, then maybe it doesn’t have to be the terrible experience that you’re already expecting it to be. You have more than a year to prepare yourself so maybe take advantage of that and consider a new way of thinking. It took me a long time to do that, but I finally have myself so I know you can too.

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Ant-Man & the Wasp Review – 7/10

I really liked the first Ant-Man (2015). It’s a very small, pun not intended, very personal story about a man just trying to do right by his kid while also trying to do the right thing and be the hero his kid wants him to be. And I think the story is made even stronger by the fact that he, Scott Lang, is ultimately recruited by Hank Pym, because he’s literally in the exact same situation. In a lot of ways it’s a story about fathers trying to give their daughters the lives they deserve. It’s not a huge plot with a super villain that’s threatening the whole world. The antagonist is just a scientist trying to make a name for himself with a technology that if put in the wrong hands could have terrible consequences. And yes it could end up changing the world, but the narrative keeps the story very enclosed within San Francisco to a small number of people. But that’s not what I wanted from the sequel.

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Ant-Man & the Wasp is set about two years after Captain America 3: Civil War and at the same time as Avengers: Infinity War, which Ant-Man does not appear in. In fact, it’s not until the very end of Ant-Man & the Wasp that they even make reference to Thanos and it’s very clear that’s it’s already too late for Ant-Man to even consider getting involved with that problem. Ant-Man & the Wasp is also a small scale plot with a limited number of players that again centers on the idea of fathers trying to protect and please their daughters. The difference is that in this film, romance, for both fathers from the first film, plays a larger role in the narrative. In many ways I would say this plot is even smaller than the first film. It’s not about trying to protect the world from a certain technology. There’s no evil scientist. Really there’s not even a proper villain. The film plays a lot more like Snatch (2000) where you have a number of different groups all seeking the same object for their own purposes, but none of them are out to do anything particularly good or bad with said object.

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One character, and his cronies, is out to sell the object for profit, but he’s not a super villain or particularly threatening. He doesn’t even really hurt anyone. He just wants the money. And at the beginning of the film he sincerely offers Team Ant-Man the chance to work together with him for profit, but they say no. The second group, which was sold as the villain in the marketing, is by no means a villain. She has a legitimate problem that is life threatening and she believes that it can only be solved by robbing Team Ant-Man so she’s trying to do that. But she doesn’t have some nefarious end goal and she doesn’t actually want to hurt people. She’s just in a bad situation. Finally, you have Team Ant-Man and they’re just as selfish as everyone else. They have a goal that won’t help anyone outside of Hank and Hope. It’s not going to hurt anyone, but by no means is it heroic or particularly noble. It’s just a self-serving goal that will enrich their personal lives. And it won’t even help Scott. In fact, the entire film is about how Hank and Hope are forcing Scott to help them even though he’s on house arrest with a few days left in his sentence and if he gets caught using the Ant-Man suit or leaving his house he’ll have to go back to prison and lose his daughter. So really the movie isn’t even about Ant-Man being a hero. It’s about Hank and Hope making Ant-Man help them get something they really want.

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The problem with this small, in many ways pointless narrative, is that it takes place after having already seen Captain America 3: Civil War, which is mentioned a number of times, and Avengers: Infinity War. In terms of Ant-Man, I wanted more. This is no longer the ex-convict just trying to get his life back together. This is a man who fought alongside the Avengers, against other Avengers, and lived. This is a man who we believed had escaped with Captain America at the end of Civil War. Not to mention, we’ve already seen Avengers: Infinity War. Who cares about this little vignette about the lives of the Pym family? I expect Ant-Man to be playing at Avengers level now. That doesn’t mean every Ant-Man movie needs to have other Avengers in it, but it does mean that the stories have to really matter. In Thor: Ragnarok, Asgard was destroyed. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the entire universe was saved from a mad celestial trying to replace all life with himself. In Doctor Strange, an infinity stone was revealed and the world was almost plunged into darkness by an evil being from a magical dimension. Ant-Man & the Wasp, which is not a debut film for the main title character, is about the same scale as Spider-Man: Homecoming as far as importance. Except Scott Lang isn’t a high school kid. And even in that Iron Man shows up. This film just under does it in a time where the MCU and the character are way past the kid gloves.

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I don’t want it to seem like the film was badly written, because it wasn’t. It was much funnier than the first one. The acting was great, including that of Michael Peña reprising his role as the over talkative friend. And most importantly, they really leaned into technology in this one. In the first movie, shrinking is used sparingly. It’s an origin film where Scott is just learning how to use it and really it’s under-utilized outside of a few fight sequences and sneaking around. In Ant-Man & the Wasp they use shrinking and growing a ton and it’s great. It was used realistically, as in they actually use it for pretty much all the things you would use it for if you had that technology at your fingertips. My only real complaint about the technology aspect was that way too many malfunctions occurred. It’s fair for a malfunction to happen once, especially at a really crucial moment. But there were multiple scenes where Scott’s suit, and only Scott’s suit, was malfunctioning. This was used for comic relief multiple times. But this is the second movie. By now the bugs should have been ironed out. Especially when they’re doing stuff like shrinking entire buildings and growing ants to the size of people. It just felt very lazy to keep playing the suit not working card over and over.

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As per all MCU films, the movie looked great. The shrinking and growing effects were very clean. The cinematography was solid. The costumes looked good. The sound was fine. I was happy with the soundtrack. It’s by every measureable standard a modern day Marvel film. But it was by no means in the top five or probably even top 10 MCU films. In a lot of ways it felt pointless. It introduced the Wasp and possibly a couple other important reoccurring characters, but the film itself didn’t accomplish much. Like they very well could have sent the Wasp with Ant-Man in Civil War, which is brought up in this film, and it would have accomplished exactly the same thing. Unless they really leverage the two other possibly important characters introduced in future films, this was pretty much the same thing we got in Ant-Man except now he has a partner. Ant-Man & the Wasp is not a bad film, but I could literally tell you everything you need to know about it in one sentence. In a lot of ways it’s one of the only films in the MCU where I could say you could really just skip it and it probably won’t affect the rest of the MCU, or your experience of it, that much.

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Deadpool 2 Review – 6.7/10

It’s truly a great achievement that Deadpool 2 was made. Let us not forget that the first film only exists because of the combined efforts of a very dedicated starring actor, Ryan Reynolds, a passionate director, Tim Miller, and an almost animalistic public that went above and beyond the call to get the film made. By all rights such a film shouldn’t exist. It was the first modern comic book film to get an R rating, featured a fairly obscure character for the general public, and is placed within a universe that already had several films with tons of continuity problems. It was a monumental achievement not because it was a great film but because it came with so much risk. And yet it did extremely well and lived up to the expectations of comic book fans young and old. Because of this, we were lucky enough to get a sequel.

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Deadpool 2 is not as good of a film as its predecessor. The main reason for this comes from the arrogance that clearly affected the writing process. While the first film was unsure of itself and had to be at least somewhat cautious and subtle with its jokes and digs at various things, this film has no inhibitions. They didn’t show any restraint or caution with how they wrote this film and that actually hurts the dialog a lot. Too many of the jokes were current pop culture references and overly obvious. The best example being that Deadpool actually calls Cable (Josh Brolin) Thanos in one scene. This is lazy writing. It’s an obvious joke that required no effort. It’s not particularly funny and it’s not a timeless joke anyone will appreciate years down the road. Many of the jokes in this movie are like that. They didn’t feel the need to be subtle or try particularly hard. They just went for the easy laughs. And I will admit that I laughed quite a bit, but I don’t believe I would laugh at many of the jokes during a second viewing. I have watched the first film multiple times and I still laugh every time. In my opinion, this is the biggest problem with the film and it comes from the fact that they knew they could get away with pretty much anything this time around. That being said, the credit scenes were some of the funniest jokes in the whole movie, but were also very on the nose.

Deadpool 2 Xmen

The general narrative of the film isn’t as strong as the first movie either. The characters are more plentiful and better in multiple cases, but the story isn’t as cohesive or powerful. While the first film is a focused narrative about Wade Wilson and his transition into Deadpool, this movie lacks a well-defined character focus and arc. The first half of the movie is about Deadpool and his dealing with a tragedy. It’s a strong plot that follows the first film well. But about halfway through the movie it shifts into being a story about other characters that just happens to have Deadpool in it. Making a film not focused on Deadpool isn’t a problem if it had been sold that way and wasn’t called Deadpool 2. But that wasn’t what happened here.

Though it did unfocus the narrative, the addition of several new characters with a decent amount of screen time was not a bad thing. Some of them were extremely well done. Domino, as the best example, was an absolute joy to watch. I genuinely didn’t think that character would work on screen with her powers being done in a sensible, believable, and entertaining way, but they did an excellent job with her. So much so that I left the theater hoping for a Domino solo film. There were other good additions as well, plus a few great cameo appearances.

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Visually speaking, I would actually say this was better than the first film. The violence is upped considerably from the very start. Even just the number of severed limbs is increased exponentially and they did not hide or censor the actions leading up to them at all. The CGI was also very good with great mutant battles, some very well-choreographed fight scenes, and multiple brutal Deadpool injuries. This is a gruesome movie and that’s exactly how it should be. I was also happy with the music. I think they handled it similarly to the first one where they did a mixture of serious seemingly out of place romance tracks with hilarious joke songs that were written specifically for the movie.

Cable

Ultimately I very much enjoyed Deadpool 2 but must state that the first one was a better overall movie, comic book or otherwise. This installment in the Wade Wilson franchise took too many liberties in a way that was lazy and lacking in authenticity. I think it works best when they write a serious film with over the top comedy elements rather than an over the top comedy with serious elements, which is what happened here. I will need to watch it again once it’s out of theaters, but I wouldn’t pay to see it a second time on the big screen. Definitely hope to see more Domino in future films though.

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Avengers: Infinity War Spoiler Free Review – Unscoreable/10

Writing a review for Avengers: Infinity War is probably the most difficult film review I’ve ever set out to do. First and foremost, what’s the point? The purpose of a review is to let people know if they should watch a move or not. But in this case that’s a pointless endeavor. If you’ve already taken the time to watch every MCU film going all the way back to Iron Man (2008), then there’s absolutely no way you aren’t already going to see this movie. Writing a review for this is essentially preaching to the choir. Conversely, if you haven’t taken the time to watch literally every single Marvel film going all the way back to the first Iron Man, with the possible exception of Ant-Man, then I would actually recommend you not seeing this film. And even though he doesn’t appear in Avengers: Infinity War, even Ant-Man is mentioned. So pretty much I have to write a review for an audience that is already going to see the movie no matter what I write while still saying something useful to that audience so as not to completely waste their/your time. That’s the first challenge of writing this review.

The second, and even more difficult, challenge of writing this review is saying anything worth saying without spoiling the movie. Avengers: Infinity War is perfectly crafted to reward you for watching every single MCU film to date. There’s a payoff for literally every movie in one way or another. I need to watch it again at home so I can pause and rewind things just to make sure I caught every reference. Pro-tip: You won’t catch them all on a first viewing. It’s genuinely not possible. There are payoffs all over the place. My favorite one goes all the way back to Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). So it’s very difficult to not ruin the movie in one way or another while actually talking about it. The cameos, call backs, payoffs, and general plot are all intentional down to the smallest detail. I can’t even use screenshots outside of what was shown in the trailer, which lies about certain events in the film by the way, for fear of spoiling the movie, and I won’t. So here’s my attempt to review this movie adequately, usefully, and spoiler free. If I failed at any of these stated goals then I apologize in advance, but I did the absolute best I could.

MCU Map

The first thing that needs to be said about Avengers: Infinity War is that it goes hard. I don’t just mean at the end you get a very dramatic conclusion, which you do. I mean from the start of the film this movie goes where Marvel films have never really gone before. They said in the marketing and press releases up to the film’s release that key characters would end up dying. That starts in literally the first scene. You’ve barely opened your Junior Mints and started eating your popcorn and already characters you’ve grown fond of since phase one are dying. Not just B characters either. A class characters start getting their asses handed to them in the opening minutes of the film. And not in some powerful, ultra-dramatic Erik Killmonger death sequence full of catharsis and grandeur. Like run of the mill stabbed through the chest and moving on deaths happen to main characters in this movie. The number of main characters that ultimately die in this is almost unconscionable. When the movie ended, my girlfriend was genuinely angry about it because she felt her heart had been ripped out and stomped on by Marvel.

ThanosAs was stated by multiple sources before the movie released, Thanos is the main character in this. It is his story and it is done well, but I wanted more. This is one of if not the best villain in the MCU because he is the most pragmatic. He isn’t motivated by greed, vengeance, arrogance, prejudice, or any of the other motivations we’ve seen from the likes of villains like Loki, Red Skull, Whiplash, Ronin, and even Killmonger. He is a truly dispassionate villain who doesn’t see himself as doing anything wrong. Quite the opposite actually. From start to finish, Thanos is acting with what he believes is the best interests of the universe and has true conviction. It’s beautiful to see some of the emotional moments he goes through because of how his actions affect others but must be carried out. And they took the time to develop his motivations, which was very important. I just wish they would have taken more time to develop him as a person. We are told all about what he’s doing and why. We even get what experiences led to his decision. But the movie doesn’t take time to tell you about Thanos the citizen of Titan or the fact that he’s actually a mutant of sorts for his race. We don’t learn about his biological family or his upbringing. Most disappointing of all, the plot in no way references his love for Death, the physical embodiment of the concept of dying. This made me the most unhappy because Death is mentioned in the after credits scene in Avengers I so I expected it to finally get that payoff here. But I will say that Thanos’ motivations in this movie are actually stronger narratively than how the courting Death plot would have played out in a limited time live action film. So while I wasn’t happy about it, kudos to Marvel for making the right decision here.

 

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This is one of the biggest ensemble casts I’ve ever seen. They bring back just about everyone. The only heroes missing, other than of course Quicksilver, are Ant-Man and Hawkeye. That’s a ton of characters to address in one movie. And remember, this is a standalone movie. There’s no Avengers: Infinity War Part II. You get a full plot here. There are questions left unanswered of course, but you won’t leave the theater wondering what happens with the Infinity Stones and Thanos’ plot. But somehow in a less than three hour movie they adequately addressed pretty much every important hero in the MCU. Some are more important than others, but they all get a fair amount of time. The pacing is a bit off because the characters aren’t all together at the same time at any point in the movie so there’s a lot of jumping around. But everyone gets their screen time. Even a lot of B characters make appearances. I do wish they would have explained why Black Widow is blonde now, but it’s not a plot relevant issue so meh.

Visually, the movie is of course stunning. You get new Iron Man tech, plenty of time spent in outer space and on other worlds, graphic battles, new facial hair for multiple characters, of course Infinity Stone powers. Marvel never disappoints in this area and they didn’t here so there’s really no need to draw that topic out. Same goes for sound effects.

Blonde Black WidowMusic on the other hand, I wasn’t impressed by. It’s not that the music was bad, but that it wasn’t new. The only songs listed in the credits were already used theme songs for past MCU films and a single Star-Lord classic track to introduce the Guardians of the Galaxy, because of course there was. You didn’t get some epic Thanos theme or some new Avengers fight song. They pretty much just rehashed pieces of the MCU soundtrack, which isn’t that impressive to begin with, to play on your nostalgia. Which works fine for a movie that’s built on interconnected references and plotlines. But it’s not impressive as far as scoring films goes.

Overall, I have to say that this is in many ways the most fulfilling MCU film ever made. It has something for everyone; features all your favorite characters, has real consequences, completely changes the perceived future of the MCU, teases at least one new hero, is emotionally devastating, and stands alone plot wise. It’s the most impressive culmination of an interconnected film universe ever done. You leave the movie feeling like the last 10 years of devotion was worth it. This movie earned you taking the time to watch 18 (17 if you don’t count Ant-Man) other related films. At the same time though, it’s a terrible standalone movie. What I mean by that is this was made exclusively for MCU fans. You can’t be new to the franchise and go watch this movie expecting to understand anything important that takes place. You can get the gist of what happens. But you won’t be able to follow why specific characters do what they do. Why certain characters dying and others not is important. Who these characters are and why they interact with each other in the ways that they do. The movie is lost on new viewers. Which is why again I will say make sure you take the time to watch every MCU film before seeing this movie. And if you don’t remember watching them all, take a refresher.

 

avengers-infinity-war-coverThere’s really no way to prepare you for what goes down in this movie without spoiling it. I’ve done my best here, but I can’t even say for sure that I’ve done a good enough job. Just strap in and have no expectations because you won’t know what hit you. This is like no other MCU film in any way, shape, or form. It makes Avengers I and II look like Justice League. Just go see it, which you were going to do anyway. All I can really say, for the third time because it’s that important, is if you haven’t taken the time to watch any of the films in the MCU, definitely take the time before going to see Avengers: Infinity War and watch all the after credits scenes.

 

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Ready Player One Review – 7.3/10

Let me start off this review by clarifying that I never read the book Ready Player One and I have no contextual understanding of how the movie compares to the book. So I’m going to write this review as if the book doesn’t exist or is not relevant to the discussion.

I went into Ready Player One very reluctantly. As I said, I haven’t read the book so I didn’t know what to expect. There was also a ton of hype, which for me is usually a turn off for IPs that I’m not already familiar with. I then read a review of the film from either Kotaku or IGN. I can’t remember but whichever site it was painted the film in a bad light. Or at least that’s how I read it. So I wasn’t very interested or that excited but I agreed to go see it at the behest of a friend. Before we get into the meat and potatoes, let me state very clearly that it was an enjoyable film that I’m glad I watched, but that’s only because of who I am or more specifically the things I’m interested in.

lead_960_540If I was to describe Ready Player One in a soft pitch, I would say it’s the 80’s pastiche of films like Back to the Future and the cultural outlook that spawned them, the modern cynicism of the current gaming community induced by greedy corporate interests in the gaming industry, and our hopes and dreams for futuristic technology a la Tron, or more appropriately Tron: Legacy, all mixed together into one dystopian landscape. Yes that’s a lot to unpack, so let’s get to it.

Ready Player One is a simple film. Plot wise it’s just any other good vs evil kid’s story with a dash of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The basic idea is that there’s a kid who comes from humble/poor beginnings and he wants to not be poor anymore. And by kid I mean young person who doesn’t have a real job or any actual responsibilities. The age of the main character, Wade Watts (Parzival) is actually 18, or soon to be, and since he doesn’t seem to be in school, legally speaking that makes him an adult. There’s a contest that can only have one winner, who will be made rich and put in charge of everything the kid cares about. There’s an evil entity (corporation in this case) trying to win the contest and take the prize for themselves. The kid teams up with other kids and they stop the evil corporation and win the contest. It’s Stranger Things. It’s It. It’s Star Wars. You’ve seen it all before. The plot isn’t really why you’re here. Yes this is a Spielberg film, but no it’s not a SPIELBERG film. Outside of effects and costume design, this movie will not be winning any Oscars. And that’s fine. But to be clear, this is no high minded plot about the future of technology. It’s just a kid’s fantasy story set to the backdrop of VR gaming in a world that actually looks like it’s on the horizon with the way things are going politically in the United States currently.

 

READY PLAYER ONE

The film was clearly written by a team of nerds who play video games today, but also played them yesterday. This is apparent because the film makes tons of references to games and pop culture going all the way back to the Atari 2600 and all the way to today with references like Overwatch. What I liked a lot about the movie was that it discusses and criticizes the direction the gaming industry has taken/is taking today. There are covert digs at companies like EA, Activision, and Microsoft for their predatory pricing and distribution practices. The movie mentions and complains about practices like in game ads, microtransactions, predatory pricing practices that turn people into gaming addicts and plunge them into debt, pay to play subscription schemes with cost based player rankings, paywalls, and other such modern industry bullshit. In many ways the movie is about an old schooler who created a video game that he thought was perfect, complaining about all the modern practices that turned his video game and gaming culture as a whole into the trashy money pit that it is today. This is very apparent in the fact that the villains aren’t actually evil in the traditional sense. They’re just a corporation trying to maximize profits at the expense of the public’s wellbeing and enjoyment. And while yes they are doing things that are extremely unethical, in most cases, just about everything they do is entirely legal by the standards of the world of the universe they’re located in. And sadly legal by our real life standards as well, for the most part. It’s not until way late into the movie when the stakes get super high that the “bad” CEO finally approves something blatantly evil and illegal. But even that was very believable by today’s standards.

As previously stated, there are tons of references to gaming culture of all types, but there are also tons of references to 80’s culture. This for me was kind of problematic. Now as a person who was born in 89, I enjoyed and appreciated literally every reference. I can say confidently that I probably got at least 90% of all references in the movie. And not just the gaming ones. There’s all kinds of stuff mentioned or shown in this film. Batman, Mortal Kombat, The Shining, Back to the Future, King Kong, Gundam, Godzilla, and the list goes on and on and on. But here’s the weird part. The gaming references span basically all of gaming history from the Atari 2600 all the way to today. You see tons of gaming stuff and you will know at least some of it. They even mention Twitch. But all the pop culture references outside of gaming seem to only span from about 1979 – 1999, with the latest overt reference being The Iron Giant (1999).

scoreboard

Understand that this is a world set in 2045 where there’s a fully functioning VR world where you can literally create anything you want and be anything you want. As you can imagine, most people would not be original. They would just be copying things they know from their favorite IPs. The movie actually goes out of its way to pretend that this wouldn’t be the case. There are lots of avatars that are pulled right out of other stuff like people walking around looking like Arkham Harley Quinn, Tracer, Master Chief, and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, admittedly the newer versions. But for the most part people are pretty original. The bulk of the Avatars you see aren’t from other stuff. We all know that’s not how things would actually be because most people lack originality. I assume part of this was licensing issues and part of it was just that it would be boring if everything was something you’d already seen even if that’s how it would actually end up being. But my point is the scope of history referenced outside of gaming is extremely limited. It’s 2018. The main character was born in 2027. The movie starts in 2045. Why doesn’t the film reference anything past 1999? It’s odd. It’s made even more odd by the fact that the kid was born in 2027 because he knows way too much about the 80’s while also being an active member of his current society at only 18 years old.

Now the movie tries to justify this by saying that in his research to win the contest he had to study the 80’s intimately because the creator of the contest loved 80’s stuff. But the creator of the contest lived into the 2020’s or later. So the idea that he didn’t like or care about anything after 1999 is odd. It’s as if pop culture history stopped existing outside of video games for 30 straight years. Since we’re in 2018 now, we know this not to be true. Where are the Marvel references? Where are the 30 years of film history references? Where are all the anime references past the original Mobile Suit Gundam (1979)? Where’s Harry Potter? It’s weird that these kids seem to only like 80’s stuff as if literally nothing past the year 2000 outside of video games was interesting to a group of kids born after the year 2020. Even most kids today don’t know what an Atari 2600 is. Yet this kid somehow had time to learn intimate knowledge of all 470 (including homebrews) Atari 2600 games while keeping up with his own contemporary pop culture, but literally nothing else? That seems unrealistic.

The Race

Now of course part of this comes from the fact that the book was written in 2011 by an author who was born in 1972. But we’re talking about a movie released in 2018. I would expect producers to have taken the time to fill in some history for the purposes of film making and reaching a larger audience. You know, to make money. For me, this closed bubble of history was fun because again, I was born in 89 and I like 80’s stuff. So I got and appreciated all the references. But a kid born in say 2002, who today would be about 16, won’t get most of it. Sadly they might not even recognize the car, which is the DeLorean. But that’s not their fault. They were born 12 years after the last time the DeLorean mattered (Back to the Future III) and 19 years after the original DeLorean went out of production. Of course they wouldn’t know what a DeLorean is. My point, which I’ve gone on for too long to make, is that the writing in this movie overall is just ok, that is to say at the caliber of 80’s mainstream film making. Things are done lazily when it comes to plot. There are inconsistencies in how history works. The main character falls in love way too fast, which I was glad the film took the time to address in the dialog. It’s just not a movie you should go see for plot. Unless of course you enjoy campy 80’s style plots. Then by all means.

Visually speaking, Ready Player One was phenomenal. That is the only word that can be used to describe The Oasis, the VR world that the bulk of the film takes place in. The idea is that the real world is so shitty that everyone, and I mean everyone, spends the bulk of their time in The Oasis. Again, very realistic based on the current trajectory of the United States. The whole of the movie takes place in a dystopian Columbus, Ohio. Even by today’s standards most people wouldn’t want to watch a move that takes place in Columbus, Ohio. People from Columbus, Ohio don’t even want to watch a movie that takes place in Columbus, Ohio. So it made all the sense in the world to set the movie there because then you wouldn’t think to yourself “Why don’t they spend more time showing me the real world?” Not once do you think that while watching this movie. In fact, the 20 or so real world minutes of this 2 hour and 19 minute film was probably too much time spent in real world Columbus, Ohio. But The Oasis was the most amazing thing ever, visually speaking.

RP1-ColumbusI almost went to see this movie in IMAX and I’m glad I didn’t because I think my head would have exploded. The race scene, which was probably my favorite scene in the whole movie, was insane. It was the way racing games will hopefully work one day. I would say the same thing for the FPS world scene. I hate online PVP games. I would absolutely play them if they looked and played like they do in this movie. When you watch this movie as a gamer, it almost brings tears to your eyes because you realize what we don’t have yet and that you might not live long enough to see it happen but know full well that one day it will. I was so overcome with disappointment when I got home from the theater and turned on my PS4. Because it just doesn’t compare. Our VR today is crap. I’ve said that so many times before I ever even heard about Ready Player One. And they actually do make an HTC VIVE reference in the movie, which I thought was cute. But once you watch the movie you start to really think about just how crappy current VR is . . . and make no mistake, it is crappy. It is a gorgeous movie. There’s tons of stuff happening on screen at the same time and it’s hard to keep track of it all, but it’s beautiful. And the war scene towards the end will break a gamer’s heart. Not because it looks cool, even though it does. But because as a gamer, you know that the community today is too greedy, toxic, and narcissistic to actually pull off something like what happens in that scene. The movie basically shows you the fantasy of every true gamer, but you know it would never happen that way in real life. I’m speaking vaguely here because I don’t want to spoil it.

The sound was also really good. I actually could see this movie winning an Oscar for sound editing. My girlfriend said the movie was too loud for her because of all the explosions and crazy stuff happening on screen at the same time. I thought it was awesome.

 

War

Overall I really enjoyed the movie. I didn’t think I would going in, but it was just a really fun time. My girlfriend said she didn’t get more than a third of the references but she really enjoyed it too. It’s not a movie to go watch for expert film making and award winning acting. It’s just a playful homage to gaming culture and history written for actual gamers who grew up playing proper games and are now having to deal with the fact that things have gotten rather disappointing and expensive in exchange for considerably better graphics, but actually not that great by comparison to future VR prospects. If you’re a gamer and you started before the XBOX, you’ll love the movie. If you’re not a gamer and you didn’t grow up in the 80’s or 90’s, you probably won’t like it or even totally understand why anything happening is important.

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Star Lores: A Canon Based Justification For SW Battlefront 2 on Gaming Rebellion

This week I published an article defending DICE‘s choice to feature a female Stormtrooper as the main character in the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront 2. I have literally never defended DICE before and I have nothing but disdain for Star Wars Battlefront, but I cannot stand badly made arguments and that’s exactly what all the sexist bullshit since the trailer dropped is. I published this article on Gaming Rebellion but here’s the introduction:

SWBF 2 Cover

Recently the Star Wars Battlefront 2 trailer was released and the most surprising news of all was not only does this game actually have a single player campaign, but apparently it stars a female Stormtrooper. If you haven’t watched it, I’ve embedded it here so you can now. It’s certainly worth the two minutes. Did people complain about the fact that the trailer kind of ignores the chronology of Star Wars? No, not really. Did people complain that the game campaign appears to place you as a member of the Empire instead of the Rebellion? Not from any comments I’ve seen as of yet. Did people complain about the fact that the game makes it seem like the Imperial troops were genuinely unhappy about the end of their tyrannical dictatorship? Not in the slightest. Did people complain that the campaign appears to star a female protagonist? This is the internet. Of course they did.

You can read the rest right here. Please check out my Author’s Archive for other articles by me on Gaming Rebellion.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Assassin’s Seed on Gaming Rebellion

This week I published an article about my experience watching the Assassin’s Creed movie and the various continuity issues it has when compared with the world of the games. This is not really a review, but there are some review aspects to the piece.  I published this article on Gaming Rebellion but here’s the introduction:

acm

Recently I saw Assassin’s Creed the movie. It should come as no surprise to anyone, but it was a bad movie. To be clear, I’m not just saying it was a bad experience in comparison to playing the games. I’m saying that it was a badly made film whether connected to a video game or not. But what I thought was interesting was that it was bad for many of the same reasons I complain about the games. Because of how Ubisoft has talked about the movie, I feel that it’s completely acceptable to compare the movie directly to the games. To be fair though, there are a number of possible key differences that make it plausible to place the movie in its own separate universe from the games. I am choosing not to do that here, because for the most part it’s not necessary to do.

You can read the rest right here. Please check out my Author’s Archive for other articles by me on Gaming Rebellion.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.