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The Force Frustrations: Working Through The Disappointments of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Matt and Jared, both Star Wars fans very much excited for The Last Jedi, reckon with their overall mixed response to the film.

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I’m going to keep this brief, because so much of what will eventually come from our coverage on The Last Jedi won’t be. But to just quickly give an introduction to what you will (at the very least) start reading — last night I got the chance to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It was one of my most anticipated entertainment milestones of 2017, and I went into the movie with extreme excitement for what I was going to watch. I was a big fan of The Force Awakens, and couldn’t wait to see what would become of the characters I so quickly fell in love with, and the story that, while far from perfect, had me very much interested in the future of this saga.

Some two-and-a-half-hours later, I walked out of the theater just feeling sad — I was not a fan of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And, if we’re being completely honest here, that kind of broke my heart. Hoping to work out why my reaction to the film was so negative, I turned to the internet, and fellow Freshly Popped Culture contributor Jared Russo. Jared and I are both big Star Wars fans and, as I quickly realized through our conversation, he too had his fair share of problems with the movie. So we did the only thing we could do: we talked it the fuck out.

Below is a chat between Jared and I, built off of a Twitter DM feed we bounced around in for about a dozen hours. The opinions we shared were still very much raw and fresh (we both had only seen the film mere hours before), and more refined thoughts will hopefully hit the website in the coming days. But, for now, here’s our initial reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Beware, this is a COMPLETELY SPOILER FILLED conversation, so really don’t read it until after you see the film. Also, all tweets and links embedded in the article were also inserted into the chat itself, just for clarity’s sake. In any case, enjoy. Or, at the very least, bask in our bafflement that was so much of The Last Jedi.


Matthew: 🙁

Jared: I’m more positive, but I’m also conflicted. Like Kylo Ren.

Matthew: Was Kylo Ren conflicted? I couldn’t tell the 50 times it was told to me. I still enjoyed a good amount of the movie, but the things I didn’t enjoy I REALLY didn’t enjoy. But we’ve gone over my weird distaste for Rian Johnson, so maybe this was inevitable. I really hoped this would be the one to turn it around though…

Jared: I think this is the worst thing he’s done, but you’re nuts for not liking his other work.

Matthew: I liked (though didn’t love) Brick! And “Ozymandias” is perfection, I’ll give him that. But The Brothers Bloom and Looper left me super cold, with Looper especially reminding me so much of this one (in that it had so much potential, but squanders it the more it goes along.) Ultimately, did you like this one than The Force Awakens? Or are you still trying to think through it? Both film’s had lots of issues, but I don’t think there was anything nearly as disappointing in The Force Awaken than in The Last Jedi.

Jared: I have to see The Last Jedi again to tell you, it’s tone and structure is so weird that it left me more conflicted than anything.

Matthew: Being someone who just ranted with friends for four hours about all the disappointing things that happened in it, my choice is pretty clear. But there is a lot to parse through, that’s true.

Jared: Wait, you have friends? ZING.

Matthew: Ouch, you got me there.

Jared: I will say this: I am still confounded by it and, definitely need to see it again, I can’t get the movie out of my head, which are words I never thought I would say about a Star Wars movie, to be fair.

Matthew: I’ll agree with that. I’ve been thinking and writing and talking about it for hours.

Jared: The movie ends up just feeling like a big fever dream, really.

Matthew: It’s just so…much. And the fact that both film’s take place in, like, two weeks MAX is nuts. It’s weird they don’t give any time for the action of this movie to breath. It leaves you overwhelmed, in ways both good and bad.

Jared: Maybe on the second viewing I’ll have a better grip on it and get over some stuff I was wondering about. Like how did everyone find out her parents were nobodies? How would Kylo Ren possibly know that information.

Matthew: …The Force?

Jared: This movie kind of broke every rule of the Force, and just made up all sorts of things about it which often just made my theater laugh.

Matthew: Although that was one decision I loved! If you read through my previous article, you would know I was rooting for that. Makes her character arc better, even if other things in this film made it worse in certain ways or, at the very least, didn’t give it the time of day it deserved. And speaking of things that made people laugh…OMG, THE FLOATING LEIA SCENE.

Jared: Yeah, that and everyone kept yelling “KISS!” at the Kylo and Rey scenes.

Matthew: Boy, the sexualization that people feel for those two is..something. The internet especially is adding a weird romantic current to this movie that I for one just want to roll my eyes at. Anywho, my theater mostly just clapped. AT EVERYTHING.

Jared: Mine too.

Matthew: But then they clapped at Luke revealing himself as a Force Projection (a little bit silly development, I might add), and immediately let out frustrated groans when he died 30 seconds later. I laughed so hard.

And speaking of kissing from earlier, that last Rose/Finn scene sucked, right? So much unearned with that character/relationship.

Jared: Everything that Rose said before she died was hokey, and simply did not work.

http://freshlypoppedculture.com/e1yx

The more I read about this movie, the more I dislike it, and I hate both myself and the internet for making me feel that way.

https://t.co/2CtsarqWzE

Matthew: That was me just thinking about it, really. And I am STUNNED at people calling it the best one, or whatever. For whatever it does right, it’s such a flawed movie, even just fundamentally. Ton of things that just don’t add up, or for whatever reason just doesn’t work.

Jared: Regardless, nothing touches those first two and nothing ever will. Return of the Jedi is the third best — don’t @ me.

Matthew: Revenge of the Sith is the third best. And DO @ me, cause I’ll defend that film and it’s stuffy ass self any day.

Jared: You’re insane.

Matthew: Also, working on a list about film’s problems. this what I got so far:

  • The Finn Rose Romance Is Awful
  • What was even the point of their story
  • Everyone fails, which gets kind of annoying
  • Snoke Meant Nothing, So Cool I Guess
  • Poe’s plot fizzles
  • Leia force flight, yuck
  • Luke’s death is unnecessary
  • Phasma death is a goddamn waste
  • Benicio del Toro is useless
  • That casino scene entirely is useless
  • Yoda scene is weird
  • It rushed as fuck, with the entire film being like two days max
  • The backstory still makes no sense, and no effort is made to illuminate ANYTHING at all about The Force Order, Knights of Ren, etc.
  • Snoke powers are hella inconsistent

Anything else you think I missed?

Jared: I don’t know, I don’t think Luke’s death wasn’t unnecessary, and BB-8 got shit done.

Matthew: BB8 was, no joke, the highlight of the film for me. He was great the whole way through.

Jared: Yeah, so he wasn’t a failure at least.

Matthew: Obvious hyperbole on notes I’ve merely jotted down. And, if you want to be technical, he was on the Finn/Rose mission, which failed horribly. But he definitely was the only one trying his best there!

Jared: He is really on pace to out-do R2 at this point, which is nuts to me. Also, more Poe, please. Everyone, just make him the leader of the rebels.

Matthew: To be fair, R2 has been given shit to do in these last two movies. His scene with Luke in this one was a high point, though. That “Binary Sunset/The Hologram” just works, man.

Jared: What was Luke’s third lesson? We only get to see two of them. Why was that a thing that dropped off? His second lesson was basically one big long rant anyways.

Matthew: I really wish they did more with Luke and Rey. It also sucks that Luke dies without ever reconciling with her. Their last scene they share is their big fight.

Jared: They could have done more with Rey in general, like I thought she would be trained to lift his x-wing out of the water ala Empire Strikes Back, but she just goes and lifts the rocks with no problem at all. There was no struggle in her training with the force. And Kylo Ren killed both Han fucking Solo and his master, like I have a lot of problems with him as a character…but Jesus, Adam Driver is the best actor in all these movies so far.

Matthew: They are all really good actors, and deserved more here IMHO. Mark Hamill especially really brought it big time.

Jared: A lot of the humor was very modern internet jokey stuff that like doesn’t fit with the other movies too, which bothered me.

Matthew: I was okay with the humor. I thought the first scene with Poe and Hux was really funny, and fit Poe’s character to that point.

Jared: And as much as Rian Johnson pushed his direction forward for the franchise, it’s lack of traditional feeling makes the whole thing so off for me, like I’m still wrapping my head around his blending of styles. I really need a second viewing.

Matthew: Yeah, I’ll be seeing it again, even if I disliked it the first time. But my problem is not only that it is a weird Star Wars movie, but it also is just a really shitty sequel to The Force Awakens. To people who didn’t like that movie, I’m sure that’s a pro. But everything Johnson did seemed to be spitting in the Face of what Abrams was setting up. Part of me wonders if Abrams agreed to come back NOT because Johnson made him excited about the trilogy, but because he was hoping to right the ship again on the story he set up. Then again, I feel like Abrams maybe didn’t have plans for the overarching story to begin with, which might speak more to the failures of the trilogy itself rather than just The Last Jedi.

Jared: I read in interviews J.J was so jealous of his script and was like “Damn, I gotta get back in there.” But listening to the score alone, this movie is aces compared to Force Awakens. John Williams, please be immortal for all of us.

This is the best summation of things so far, I think.

Matthew: On a completely nitpicky level, where the fuck did The First Order get the AT-AT’s they were using on the salt planet? Their fleet was decimated, and their main ship destroyed. Where did all the additional firepower come from? The vagueness surrounding everything to do with The First Order and the Knights of Ren was tough in TFA, but this was Johnson’s chance to provide some actual context for the group. instead, just left me even more confused about how powerful they are. The vagueness surrounding everything to do with The First Order and the Knights of Ren was tough in The Force Awakens, but this was Johnson’s chance to provide some actual context for the group. Instead, just left me even more confused about how powerful they are. It’s two movies in, and I still don’t know WTF even are The Knights of Ren. Are there others out there? Is it just Kylo now? What about the other lightsaber dude’s we saw with Kylo during the flashback in TFA? UGH, TOO MANY QUESTIONS FOR A TRILOGY WRAPPING UP IN ONE MORE INSTALLMENT.

Jared: I think I might be over Star Wars for a while. This should have been a home run for us, and it wasn’t and now I’m disappointed and underwhelmed by this entire thing. Things like Luke’s whole shoulder brush thing? It was just too much for me, man. You know what?

You should re-type this whole thing up and post it on the website.

Matthew: I’m using a lot of this to work out my thoughts for a bigger article. It’s been helpful — if there’s anything you can say about The Last Jedi, it’s that it lefts a lot to be talked about.

Jared: Just post this entire conversation cleaned up. #content.

Matthew: I might, I’ll go and think about it. Maybe post it as two Star Wars fans making the horrible realization they were disappointed by a movie they really expected to love?

Jared: Do it.

Matthew: And I will.

Porgs are still great. I will not disperage the porgs.

And I did. Stay tuned for more of our thoughts on The Last Jedi in the days ahead. Like I said, there is a lot to break down here, and this was very much just the start of it.


Also published on Medium.

Matthew Legarreta is the Editor and Owner of Freshly Popped Culture. A big ol' ball of movie, TV, and video game loving flesh, Matthew has been writing about pop culture for nearly a decade. Matthew also loves writing about himself in the third person, because it makes him feel important (or something.)

Movies

Feel Free To Take The Rest of The Day Off, The John Wick: Chapter 3 Trailer Is Here

The national holiday known as John Wick Trailer Day begins…now.

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I love movie trailers. I know for some they find the mere act of watching a movie trailer a “spoiler” for what is to come in the final film, and look, I get it. Sometimes, there are moments and things I see in a trailer that, when I watch the full movie, I wish I could have taken back seeing. But, for me, there’s something so magical about the trailer watching experience that I can’t throw away the art form entirely. And though you might bristle at my definition of trailer making as an “art form”…eh, you’re wrong. There is a beauty to a well produced, well edited trailer, and the best ones are examples of the power that come with the form. Yes, they’re marketing, and yes, they’re sometimes scattershot, thrown together bores. But the good ones? Watching those come hand in hand with watching movies, at least from my perspective.

All of which is a long preamble to me saying that, on Youtube, I have a private little playlist of trailers for movies, TV, and video games that I absolutely LOVE. Trailers that I return to again and again and again, just because the craft that went into them is so staggering. One of those trailers is this first one for John Wick: Chapter 2, which was my first indication that “Woah, this one is going to be something special.” And it very much was! But even outside the general kickassery of that sequel, the trailer was and is absolutely delightful. So coming into today’s big release of the John Wick: Chapter 3 trailer, I had some very high hopes. Would — and could — this trailer manage to match the quantified hype levels that the Chapter 2 teaser put out?

Honestly, no, not quite. But the first trailer for Chapter 2 didn’t show us a FREAKING KATANA MOTORCYCLE CHASE/FIGHT, so it rather evens out, don’t you think?

And not being as masterful as the first Chapter 2 trailer ≠ being bad. In fact, from a purely technical and academic level, this trailer would probably best be described as something that, fundamentally, “fucks to the max.” You got the aforementioned motorcycle chase, which indeed fucks hard. You got the much teased “Keanu on a horse” action, which indubitably fucks. You got John Wick murdering people with a book, which of course fucks, how could you even question such at thing. And you got Halle Berry and her attack dogs joining in on all the fun, which in this franchise of course, is murdering people. Sounds like Trailer Fucks Bingo, if you ask me.

And what the trailer does so well (and what I hope the film will do well too) is amp up the tension, to an insane degree. Ending the second film on that huge cliffhanger was a brilliant move, as seeing Wick prepare in the “one hour head start” he has to get the hell out of New York before literally every hitman around comes to assassinate him makes for a heck of a sequel pitch. And the trailer plays around with that deliciously, racketing up the tension in the first half to deliver the true fireworks in the second. Set to a remixed version of the crooner tune “The Impossible Dream” by Andy Williams, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the operatic, pulse pounding remix of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” used in the Chapter 2 trailer, but it still makes for an interesting, exciting contrast.

John Wick: Chapter 3 Trailer

And everything else about this trailer is classic John Wick greatness, from the many, MANY creative kills (seriously, that book thing) to the surprisingly crisp, exciting photography brought to life by cinematographer Dan Laustsen. Lausten took an already pretty presentation from the original John Wick and made it flat our gorgeous, and that sense of visual beauty is all over this trailer. I love action movies that take the time to actually look good, and John Wick is one of the few franchises committed to having that kind of aesthetic. In addition to the mayhem, carnage, and wacky-ass world building, of course.

Anywho, this is a great trailer, but it does little to change my overall excitement for the film — after all, it’s hard to go much farther than “PUMP THIS SHIT IN MY VEINS NOW,” right?

John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum (yes, this one has a subtitle, to the annoyance of SEO managers everywhere) hits theaters on May 19. And even if the first trailer is a smidge below the one for John Wick: Chapter 2, the astounding first two posters released for the film more than make up for it. BRB, clearing wall space.

“John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is on the run for two reasons… he’s being hunted for a global $14 million dollar open contract on his life, and for breaking a central rule: taking a life on Continental Hotel grounds. The victim was a member of the High Table who ordered the open contract. John should have already been executed, except the Continental’s manager, Winston, has given him a one-hour grace period before he’s “Excommunicado” – membership revoked, banned from all services and cut off from other members. John uses the service industry to stay alive as he fights and kills his way out of New York City.”


Also published on Medium.

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God Damn It, Sony is Back On That Ghostbusters 3 Shit Again

“I am so freaking tired writing about Ghostbusters sequels.” – Me, in the year like Two-Thousand-God-Damn-Twelve

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I thought we were passed this, you guys. I really, truly did.

After nearly a decade of writing stuff about Ghostbusters 3, I thought the release of Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot (maybe subtitled Answer the Call? I don’t fucking know) signified the end of an era. All the in-fighting, fanboy hyperbole, acute sexism, accusations of sexism, controversies, cameo wrangling, and nostalgia baiting all led up to 2016’s Ghostbusters — and it all fizzled like a recently used Muon Trap. The reboot got mixed-positive reception from critics, but absolutely bombed at the box office, grossing a paltry $229 million worldwide off a budget of $144 million. After literally decades of build-up, I thought this was how the saga ended: a middling-to-bad reboot that would end up being forgotten to time, in a franchise that likely wouldn’t see the light of day for decades to come.

Oh, but don’t underestimate the folks at Sony Pictures! Apparently it only took them two years to turnaround from the failure of 2016’s Ghostbusters, wipe their hands on their jeans, and get back to work on revitalizing the series. So in a move that I can’t imagine anyone in the year of our lord 2019 asked for, we’re getting another Ghostbusters movie, completely divorced from everything set up from the last one. So another reboot, essentially!

But, no, that would be inaccurate. Because this project will be a sequel of sorts…a sequel to the original two Ghostbusters, that is. In what should have been clear from the start, but inexplicably wasn’t for the team behind 2016’s reboot, these “thirty years later” revitalizations are incredibly popular nowadays. From The Force Awakens to Creed, every series that was once popular decades ago is now being revitalized, with a younger cast indeed “rebooting” the series, but the old guard sticking around to serve as a continuation, rather than a rehash, of what came before. It’s like having your cake and eating it too: the studio gets their “new” franchise off the back of an old one, but you respect and excite fans by showing more of what they loved the first time. It’s a win-win and, quite honestly, I think the quality of these legacyquels (as Matt Singer so brilliantly coined) has been better than the standard reboot/remakes we were getting for a while there.

By going this route, franchise films can at least make a statement about their own impact, or their place in the pop culture cannon, which is a lot more than standards reboots usually do. Those end up just saying the same exact story over again, trying to tap into the magic of seeing it for the first time, but absolutely failing to do so. You know, like how the 2016 Ghostbusters did. As much as one group might like to bitch and moan about how casting women ruined everything, it wasn’t the genitals of the cast that took down Ghostbusters, and it’s absolutely insane I have to write something like that in the first place. It was the uninspired, meandering, and ultimately forgettable way Ghostbusters tried to cash in on its predecessor’s clout that ultimately did it in.

But let’s make like Sony, and forget that whole movie ever even happened: a new Ghostbusters is coming, whether you like it or not. And if you think this is just in the planning stages, or something Sony rattled off as a potential project during an investor’s meeting, think again. Because, slightly burying the lede here (that you probably read everywhere else, so forgive me for assuming you already know) is the fact this project is coming from none other than Jason Reitman, the filmmaker behind Tully, Juno, and the like. He’s also the son of franchise director Ivan Reitman which, y’know, I’m sure is totally unrelated.

Anywho, he has been working on it in secret for a while now alongside Monster House writer Gil Kenan, and the project is already set to begin shooting by the end of the year for a Summer 2020 release. Still don’t believe me? Just take a look at the already released teaser for the film, reportedly done by Reitman himself, and brandishing the “Summer 2020” release in plain sight. This one’s coming folks, and coming fast.

Now just in case you needed reminding, this one DEFINITELY takes place in the original continuity — you hear that Elmer Bernstein score? Oh yeah, buddy, that’s OG shit right there. And on the surface, yeah, it’s pretty cool to ape that aesthetic. And Jason Reitman is a strong director, even if this one seems like a very strange fit for him (his films are funny, sure, but not out-and-out comedies: his sensibilities are more Sofia Coppola than Judd Apatow). But I just can’t get excited about this thing, not in a way I might have back in 2012 or whatever. After years and years of talk about further Ghostbuster films, only to get the subpar 2016 reboot, I’ve rather soured on this franchise. Unless the pitch is really strong, and the actors involved (all teenagers, from what’s been reported) are interesting, I just can’t get enthused about the prospects of Ghostbusters 3: Here We Fuckin’ Go Again.

Even worse will be the discourse around it, and the shit that stained the last one floating back up to the surface. Another round of talking about whether or not the original movie is good (it is.) Another round talking about whether Ghostbusters 2 is bad (it is, very.) Another round of needless appreciation for Paul Feig’s tepid reboot. Another round of MRA asshats whipping their dicks out and complaining about how only men can shoot imaginary beams out of imaginary packs while capturing imaginary beings in an imaginary story. Another round of well-meaning but overbearing people, in kind, giving more credit than necessary to a movie that frankly doesn’t deserve it. And another round of me whining about the discourse, whilst doing absolutely nothing to divorce myself from it.

It’s all just…so…tiring.

Ghostbusters 3

Like Bill Murray in another, non-Ghostbusters movie (that actually is a lot better than Ghostbusters if you think about it), I can’t help but feel I am stuck in an endless loop writing about this thing. Ten years from now? I’ll be writing about Ghostbusters 3. Twenty years from now? Ghostbusters 3. Thirty years from now? I won’t be writing about anything, what with the collapse of all life on the planet and what not. But the last thing I write before I fight in the water wars, or engage in vehicular combat for gasoline, or — most likely — drown in the rising sea levels?

Fucking Ghostbusters 3, man.


Also published on Medium.

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The Crushing, Existential Sadness of The Disappointing Glass Reviews

R.I.P. Shyamalanassaince: September 2015 – January 2019.

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I am eternally fascinated by the career of M. Night Shyamalan. After bursting on the scene with The Sixth Sense nearly 20 years ago, the man went on to gain an incredibly rare status amongst his directing brethren: actual name recognition! He’s one of the few directors who many people outside Film Twitter can name — up there with Spielberg, Scorsese, and Tarantino. But unlike those other directors, Shyamalan’s brand can probably be described more as “infamous” than famous, especially in recent years. The man went from the New Spielberg to a laughing stock…literally.

And well his fall from grace is, in some accord, deserved (his movies post Signs are all dire to varying degrees), I still can’t help but feel pretty bad for the guy. He went from being a huge up-and-coming talent, the next big thing in the world of Hollywood, to an absolute joke amongst critics, audiences, and his peers. It’s the classic Hollywood rise-and-fall, played out in slow motion over a twenty year period. But right when all things seemed over for Shyamalan, and he delivered for the first time something Hollywood would not allow (a legitimate box office bomb in the form of After Earth), Shyamalan attempted what few failed artists can surmount: an honest-to-goodness comeback.

And it wasn’t a sudden comeback either: Shyamalan spent years revitalizing his public image, first doing so with the surprisingly solid The Visit back in 2015. It was a return to low-budget roots for the director, and its nature as a sort of pallet cleanser for the director was very much apparent. It was a movie he seemed obliged to make to get even an ounce of his creative juices flowing again, and it turned out to be a pretty fun little comedy/horror movie to boot.

After some decent television work developing and directing Wayward Pines, Shyamalan came roaring back to life with another low budget delight, 2017’s Split. It was a film that was thrilling, funny, well crafted, and genuinely exciting. Basically, it was something we hadn’t seen from the man in damn near 15 years, and audiences took notice. On the backing of a bravado post credit scene, linking the film to his previous cult classic Unbreakable, response to the movie was incredibly promising. And remember that whole thing about Shyamalan’s Hollywood clout running out because he made a bomb? Well, Split, off a $9 million budget, made $238 million — making it a massive, massive hit. A good movie AND a hugely successful one? Yup, Shyamalan was back, and as a huge fan of his first three features, I couldn’t have been happier for him.

Now we stand a mere five days away from the release of Glass, Shyamalan’s newest feature. As a sequel to his current hit Split, and one of his past hits, Unbreakable, it serves as pretty much a crescendo for the entire man’s career. One of those “everything has been leading up to this” moments those voiceover guys are always talking about in the commercial. Glass was — had to be — the thing that solidified the Shyamalanassaince.

…And he whiffed it. Goddamn it, he fucking whiffed it.

Glass Reviews

That’s at least according to the first reviews for the film, which were released Wednesday following the lift of the film’s press embargo. To say they were incredibly mixed is an understatement. Here’s just a sampling of some of the notable ones:

‘Glass’ Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s Grounded Superhero Movie Is the Biggest Disappointment of His Career

Glass’ tries and fails to shatter the comic book movie formula

M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass is half-empty and deeply unsatisfying

M. Night Shyamalan’s Long-Awaited ‘Glass’ Is A Bewildering Misfire

‘GLASS’ REVIEW: M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN BREAKS HIS CLEVEREST FRANCHISE

I don’t say this often because I’m not a character in an early 90’s sitcom, but…ouch-a-rooney. Those are not pretty reviews, and are a direct return back to the critical dragging that was unleashed upon films like Lady in the Water, The Happening, and The Last Airbender. And though it would be easy to cry “Well, the critics are wrong!” here (as people on the internet often do, bafflingly)…they weren’t wrong with those last three. They were all terrible. And with Shyamalan’s track record, I’m unfortunately going to have to take the critic’s side here: by all accounts, Glass is an excruciating disappointment. And, man…what a fucking bummer.

Of course, I have yet to see film myself (I’m not special like all those other film journalists), and I remain somewhat hopeful I’ll come out on the positive side of things. But, at this point, it’s undeniable that this whole thing has put a massive dent in the pent up anticipation for the film. Since Split, it’s been a solid two years of anticipation from Shyamalan apologists like myself: we finally got the sequel we spent a decade asking for and, even better, it came in a way that seemed unique, fresh, and necessary. It wasn’t just a last ditch effort for Shyamalan to gain some clout back from his former fans. He did the work, guys! But like a drug addict who was on the op-and-up, only to suffer an insurmountable relapse, Shyamalan has fallen once more. He was supposed to be our Timothee Chalamat — our Beautiful Boy. And now we’re all very, very sad Steve Carrell.

Because, on a personal note? This has massively curbed my enthusiasm for Glass which, up until this point, was pretty sky high. I really had faith in the movie — naively, I admit — and my hype was frankly off the charts for it. I’m currently in the process of writing up my list of most anticipated films of 2019 (yeah, yeah, I’m late, whatever), and let’s just say Glass had a very high ranking amongst that list. Emphasis on the had — as much as I want to see the film still, I just can’t get excited for it like I was before the negative reviews. And I doubt I’m the only one either; this really puts a damper on the pre-release hype, as you would expect.

On my planned path to MAXIMUM HYPE, I just got done re-watching Unbreakable in the lead up of Glass‘s release. And guess what? That movie still fucking rocks. It’s slow and contemplative and weird, but it manages to engross me with every single frame. And just seeing it again made me slightly more optimistic for Glass, if anything to see these characters again. But in the back of my mind, that voice was still being cautious: “it’s going to be a disappointment. It’s very bad, apparently. DON’T. GET. EXCITED.” That voice is probably right…but also a fucking buzzkill.

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And the saddest thing of all, to me, is that it seemed no one really saw it coming. Usually when a film is going to be poorly received by critics, press releases are held very close to the film’s opening weekend. You don’t want bad word-of-mouth to sour the launch, so you cut off as many people from seeing it as you possibly can. And yet, Glass screened almost two weeks earlier for critics: usually, a sign that the people involved imagined that it would be, at the very least, tolerated. Hell, when I first saw Film Twitter commenting about the press screenings, I got exciting, thinking that Universal and Shyamalan probably imagined the film was going to get great reception, and wanted to ride that buzz into the film’s launch. I mean, you wouldn’t set up a series marathon across the country a week before the film’s domestic release if you didn’t have faith people would respond well to it…right?

That’s my thinking at least, which leads to a pretty depressing conclusion: the poor response is blindsiding everyone involved. They screened the movie early because, generally, they thought that people were going to end up liking it. The fact that a majority didn’t (and, even worse, some outright despised it) probably came as something of a sneak attack. And for a director whose probably experienced that experience MANY times in his career (for better or worse, Shyamalan seemed to buy into his own hype there pretty bad for a while), for it to happen to him again right on the cusp of his grand return is probably the harshest sting of all. Or in Simpson meme:

There’s a reason why so many movies are about underdogs: everybody loves them. To see a character rise up from the bottom and make it to the top is one of the most common — yet satisfying — forms of storytelling. Even more satisfying is the “comeback kid,” someone who manages to rise from the bottom, fall from the top, and rise up yet again. It’s inspiring to know that, despite our failures, we can still succeed — and we love to see that narrative play out. But this is no movie: this is real life, and things don’t always turn out as we want them to in real life. Rocky gets knocked out in the first round. The Slumdog Millionaire beefs it on Question #1. Daniel-San gets his ass handed to him instantly. And M. Night Shyamalan makes yet another bad movie. For as much as the characters in his movies might be Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan sure as hell isn’t.


Also published on Medium.

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