First of all, yes, I know: it’s almost the end of February 2017. We’re already two months into 2017, so it’s pretty damn late to do an “end-of-the-year wrap-up” list. And, to that, I say…you are completely right, reader. But look, I’ll be entirely honest: I don’t do these lists for you. I do them for myself, so that years from now, I have a “record” of sorts about what the year in pop culture really was. So yeah, maybe this isn’t exactly timely. But I feel obliged to do it anyway and, if you’re reading this, I hope you get some type of value out of this very untimely list. And, c’mon, cut me some slack here — I still beat the Oscars to the punch, so doesn’t that count for something?
And it wasn’t like I spent the last few months just twiddling my thumbs — the reason I didn’t write out my Top 10’s of the year sooner was because I had so much stuff I had to catch up on first. The way I do Top 10’s isn’t “the best things I saw in the last 365 days” — if it was, most of the best things in 2016 would make my 2017 list. Every year I spend my January going through the quality things I missed out on in the year, all in an effort to make as through a list as I can.
Which of course is still an impossibility: I’m sure I’ll end up seeing something months from now that I think was good enough to retroactively make my list. But hey, two months into the new year is already late enough: I couldn’t wait until June now, could I? In any case, here it finally is: my Top 10’s of 2016. Today I’ll be closing things out with my favorite movies of 2016. Kicking off the list at number 10 is…
10. Hardcore Henry
Yes sir, I am indeed starting this list out with class, aren’t I? But, look: as I said around the time the film was first released, you will know pretty much right off the bat if Hardcore Henry is the type of movie you will love. I certainly did, as the film’s unique action style and off-the-wall craziness is present within minutes of the film’s start. This is the kind of movie that has a telepathic Russian baddie for like no reason, and has an exciting action shootout in a seedy strip club for like no reason. But the reasons for why Hardcore Henry did pretty much everything it did was pretty simple in my mind: cause it’s REALLY freaking cool.
At the time of its release, Hardcore Henry was very much compared to a video game, and I do think the comparison is pretty apt. Like a video game, you kind of have to accept some puzzling plot progression, and a lot of things that don’t really add up. But once you do that in a video game, the sense of utter fun and joy that can be had with the thing knows no bounds.
Hardcore Henry operates much in the same way, with its crazy unique first person style creating some of the most striking, energetic action sequences released in years. And though the story might be silly, there are little strokes of cleverness to be had within the broad strokes. First and foremost is the character played by Sharlto Copley, who is not only the best use of the actor’s talents since District 9, but also an incredibly fun and rather interesting plot device. To say anything more is probably a spoiler, but just know this: as weird as it is to say on a list like this, I truly believe there’s a strong likelihood you will not love this movie. But you know what? I sure as hell did.
9. Hacksaw Ridge
Upon creating this list, I decided that I could only include one “Andrew Garfield suffers for his faith at the hands of the Japanese” movie, and boy was it a hard choice between Hacksaw Ridge and Silence. But at the end of the day, I have to give the edge to Hacksaw Ridge, for primarily one reason: I’m a war movie junkie, and I don’t think I’ve seen a war movie as brilliantly realized as this one since Saving Private Ryan. The latter film is one of my Top 10 movies of all time, so, you know…I was a prime audience for this one.
And though at lot has been said about its somewhat preachy opening act, I think it was necessary to spell out Desmond Doss’ beliefs, and just how much it has impacted his life and time in the army. I am personally always interested in well-told stories about belief, even as a pretty un-religious person. And once again, when the film gets to the nitty-gritty of the massacre that occurred on Hacksaw Ridge, having the first half to back it up really does make it land all the better.
And, honestly, I loved Hacksaw Ridge just because it was so god damn refreshing. Well much has been said about the innate brutality of the film, one thing that I feel hasn’t been mentioned enough about the movie is how it idolizes a legitimately good person, a hero with very little flaws to put aside. War movies are often about heroes to some extent, but never have I felt it so profoundly than with Hacksaw Ridge. Because this is a movie about the heroism that comes from saving others through healing, not through harm. And regardless of the politics of it all, I would argue we need more films like this right now.
8. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Look, I already wrote about the joys of Popstar back in my “Best Movies of Summer 2016” list, so I’m just going to re-quote what I said about the film there right here, since it still all completely applies today.
Not a day went by this summer when my heart didn’t hurt just a little bit for how hard Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping bombed at the box office. I was lucky enough to see Popstar at an early screening a month or so before it came out, and fell in love with the comedy almost instantly. It has humor, it has heart, it has like a dozen catchy songs — what more could I possibly want from it?
The best thing I could say about Popstar is that it reminds me of the very best Will Ferrell comedies, from Anchorman to Step Brothers, and that Andy Samburg does an exquisite job of playing the Ferrell-esque fool at the center of the film. But when the film isn’t being outrageously funny, it also does a stellar job of telling its central story in a surprisingly sweet way. Popstar is the type of film that SHOULD have been an early summer break-out, and the fact it didn’t catch on has me supremely bummed. At the very least, I hope Popstar is set to become a buzzed about cult comedy classic like a decade down the line. Considering the quality of the final project, it at least deserves that much.
Popstar was the funniest comedy of 2016, without a doubt.
7. Kubo and the Two Strings
Oh hey, I also wrote about Kubo on that list too so, y’know, might as well re-quote it! Even in a competitive year for the form, Kubo is the best animated motion picture of 2016. I just wish it saw nearly as much success as all the others…
I have been a fan of Laika since the very beginning, and have championed the studio as doing things with animation that very few others (including Pixar!) would dare to do. Laika truly takes chances with their storytelling and animation, and is not afraid to delve into the uncomfortable, gross, spooky, or what have you. Those have been aspects of all three of their previous efforts (Coraline, Paranorman, and The Boxtrolls) to various degrees, and they are quickly getting to the point as a studio that I completely believe whatever films they make will be worthy of my time. Not only did this summer’s Kubo and the Two Strings cement that trust, but it also raised my expectations for the company to even grander heights.
To say that Kubo and the Two Strings is Laika’s grandest accomplishment is no small thing: like I said, this is a studio that has up until this point ONLY made great movies. But Kubo somehow manages to top all of them, combining jaw dropping effects, a delightful sense of adventure, and a fascinating story into probably the best animated film of the year. Unfortunately this is another one that isn’t getting its proper due (even with Laika’s low standards, the film is a bit of a disappointment at the box office with a gross so far of just $40 million), but in time I desperately hope that a big fandom will surround Kubo — if any film from this summer deserves such a thing, it would be this one.
Ah, Moonlight. What more can be said about this movie that hasn’t already been said before? It truly is a gem of a movie, one that does an astounding job at making you empathize with its main character. It’s also excruciating beautiful, brilliantly acted by a lot of great talent, and put together with such fine procession by writer/director Barry Jenkins.
I really wish I had more to say about Moonlight, but really the lack of things I have to say about it speaks volumes on its own — the film is just undeniably great, with the type of craft that only the best films can speak to. I don’t know what the film’s Oscar chances are come Sunday night, but even with the competition that “ranks” better in my list, I couldn’t possibly begrudge any praise that this film gets. Because it more than earns it.
5. Manchester by the Sea
From one heart-breaking drama to another, I guess it’s time to talk about the most notoriously depressing film of 2016: Kennether Lonnergan’s Manchester by the Sea. At this point, it’s almost become a gag: the film is pure misery, and everyone who tries to describe it comes away echoing the same basic thought.
And look, I’m not going to argue that Manchester by the Sea isn’t emotionally draining: it definitely is, and at no point does the film seem intent on “apologizing” to the audience for making them feel the way they are. But that in and of itself is why I loved Manchester — it’s incredibly true to life, and almost procedural in its portrayal of depression and crippling grief. Despite Lonnergan’s background, there’s never a point in Manchester by the Sea that feels overly theatrical, or emotionally manipulating. It’s just so matter-of-fact, and Lonnergan is such a brilliant writer that he can still devastate the audience with such relative simplicity. Add in some astounding performances from everybody involved (Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams especially), and you have the recipe for perhaps the best pure drama film of the entire year.
4. Sing Street
And now for something completely different! While Manchester by the Sea might be the most depressing film of 2016, John Carney’s Sing Street might just be the happiest.
I’m not sure there was a single moment where I wasn’t beaming in this glorious little musical comedy, and it truly was a perfect antidote for a year that was, well, not very fun to behold. And Carney’s talent for music really shines through here, with a litany of 80’s-inspired songs that are still getting a lot of play on my Spotify playlist (try not to get “Riddle of the Model” stuck in your head. Come on, I dare you.)
But more than anything, Sing Street is a movie about the joy of creativity, and the wonder and fun that comes with creating something artistic. It’s upbeat and happy, and truly fits that whole cliche of “you’ll want to start dancing in the aisle with it!” Not literally of course (I was at home on my recliner, so there was no aisle to speak of anyways, but you get my point.) As I put on Twitter the night I saw it, Sing Street is just delightful, and no other film this year earns that adjective nearly as much.
Plus, it made Mr. Statutory Rape from Transformers: Age of Extinction one of the coolest and most likable screen presence’s of the entire year. That’s practically a miracle!
3. Captain America: Civil War
Though I technically also wrote about Captain America: Civil War in my Best of Summer 2015 list, I’ll go ahead and write something different here, since I just recently re-watched the movie, and all the great things I felt watching it the first time very much came back.
Captain America: Civil War is going down as my favorite movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and in the Top 3 of my favorite superhero movies of all time. The fact I can still say that about the MCU a dozen films in speaks to how spectacularly Marvel is at what they do, and how their trust in strong filmmakers continues to benefit them. Civil War has all of the whizzbang action excellence that has made superhero films so fun in the past, but also doesn’t back away from exploring a more dramatic, thought provoking side of the universe. It’s huge in scale but deliciously intimate, to the point that you really do feel intense pain when you see the heroes of the brand go at it.
Civil War is the kind of film you can only get after 10 odd films of build-up, and is a fantastic culmination of what Marvel has been doing with their universe building so far. But even just in terms of big blockbuster entertainment, I can’t remember the last time I’ve had so much fun watching a film like this, with Civil War besting everything else in the past half decade at least. Civil War is indeed the new benchmark for how great comic book movies can be, and the fact that the same people behind it (and the also great Captain America: Winter Soldier) are currently in production on Avengers: Infinity War couldn’t have me happier. They pulled off one hell of a hat trick here, and I’m beyond curious to see if they can pull it off again.
2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Above I called Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping the funniest comedy of 2016, but you might notice that I didn’t call it the best. No, that honor confidently goes to Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the comedic gem that premiered at Sundance back in January 2016, and opened in limited release during the summer.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is one of the most charming movies I’ve seen in years, enlivened by two great performances by its two main stars (breakout Julian Dennison and Alan Grant himself, Sam Neill) and one heck of a funny script. But what put Hunt for the Wilderpeople over the edge is truly its direction from Waititi, who helms the film with the kind of self-assuredness you would never expect from a man on his sophomore feature. The film is energetic and stylish, with a sort of Wes Anderson vibe that bounces well off of the beautiful New Zealand vistas.
Though a comedy first and foremost, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a really enjoyable adventure romp, with its fair share of exciting moments and small scale action scenes. It’s also incredibly sweet, with an ending that makes you feel the kind of euphoria that only a great film with wonderful characters can truly manage. Watching Hunt for the Wilderpeople was one of the most delightful moments for me in 2016, and its one of the few films on this list I would recommend whole-heartedly to pretty much every person I know.
1. La La Land
Yes, yes, I know — you don’t “get” La Land Land. You don’t see why the film is getting all the acclaim it is getting, and you just see it as another “overrated” piece of Oscar bait. And as I’m going to elaborate on in a latter article, that’s totally okay. But here’s the thing: I loved La La Land. With every fiber of my being, I love this goddamn movie.
I listen to the soundtrack everyday, with it being the rare musical in which EVERY song is great. I loved the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and honestly could give two shits about whether the two can actually sing or dance or whatever. I loved Damien Chazelle’s direction, who after this and Whiplash, has proven himself to be perhaps the most talented young filmmaker in Hollywood. And I love the ending, which is a breathtaking experience to behold, and a fascinating place to end its characters on.
But, more than anything, I love what La La Land IS, by the pure nature of what it’s exploring. It’s a film about two artists growing off of each other, a subgenre that I am admittedly a sucker for. It’s a beautiful theme that I always love to see shown in art, even if it can get a little bit self-important sometimes. But once again, I don’t care — as a fellow dreamer, it’s uplifting and beautiful to see such a perfectly realized take on how two people can so profoundly impact each other. As an artist, as a romantic, and as just a lover of damn good cinema, I’m going to paraphrase the words of famed poet Sir Mix-A-Lot here when I say that I LOVED La La Land — and I cannot lie about that fact. So, umm, deal with it, I guess? Yeah, that sounds right.
And there you have it — my extremely late choices for the 10 Best Films of 2016. Check out my similar list of the best TV shows of 2016 below:
Also published on Medium.
James Gunn Fired From Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Over Offensive Tweets…And Fuck If I Know How To Feel About It
Is it the right thing? Is it the wrong thing? Does it even matter? Who the fuck knows.
Ever since Weinstein (or longer, really, with the Film Twitter outing of people like Devin Faraci and Harry Knowles feeling like the true kick-off in my mind,) I’ve become accustomed to seeing people I admire be suddenly and without much warning outed as bad people, and dropped like a hot potato from Hollywood at large. For a while there, it almost became something of a daily ritual: wake up, take a shit, find out someone I love is shit, put out a shitty response on a shitty certain network (you know the one), and continue with my day. It might hurt for a while, but ultimately I’ve viewed this entire #MeToo thing as a necessary pain for both the industry and our culture: bad people being outed and shamed for doing bad things, from Louis C.K. to Roseanne, was a necessary step in the betterment of our society. Even if things debatably went “too far,” (which I would argue was rarer than the alternative), I was pretty resolute in my opinion that everything going on was “right.”
I still feel this way, in regards to #MeToo. But today’s piece of Hollywood shaming is not about #MeToo, at least not directly. This isn’t an example of a person mentally or physically abusing someone, and getting away with it for years. Nor is it an example of a person saying something offensive or reprehensible, and facing swift punishment for it. No, James Gunn getting fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 comes in the form of tweets….really bad tweets…from over a decade ago.
The background, just in case you need it: James Gunn has been the writer/director of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise thus far, a task he has handled with aplomb. They are critical hits, audience hits, and box office hits. And perhaps more than any other current MCU series (give or take a Thor: Ragnarok), Gunn’s unique voice is clear throughout both films, in the musical choices (all his) to the jokes and gags (mostly his.) He puts one hell of a unique stamp on the MCU, and even if the Guardians movies aren’t my absolute favorite of the franchise overall (hint: you can see where they both rank here), they are dependably great in large part because of him. So regardless of the reasons for his firing, this would be a damn shame, and a massive blow to the future of the MCU post Avengers 4.
But the circumstances of his firing turn things into, frankly, a clusterfuck of political and ethical and moral quandaries that I’m far figuring out my exact position on. I will make one thing completely clear though: the tweets in question that lead to Gunn’s firing are UNACCEPTABLE. They are in incredibly poor taste, stink of someone trying way too hard to be “edgy” (one of my least favorite character traits in a person, really), and are not even the slightest bit funny. Even just putting the morality of the tweets aside, everything about the ethos behind the tweets represents someone I would never want to encounter, nor want to support. Not just because the subject matter is bad, but because the sentiment behind it (SHOCKING and IN YOUR FACE and NOT AFRAID TO GO THERE humor) is so unbearable.
All that being said…this is a lot more complicated than simply being about bad tweets. The timetable for one is important, as pretty much all the tweets are from nearly a decade ago, and Gunn hasn’t exhibited the same penchant for that type of “humor” in the years since joining Disney and Marvel. Gunn also seems to be expressing remorse about the jokes, lauching a Twitter thread owning the horrid nature of the jokes, while still trying to explain how he has moved forward as a person and changed in the years since making them:
2. It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018
4. For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018
5. Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 20, 2018
He was equally as remorseful in a written statement he released following Disney’s official decision to cut ties with him:
My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative. I have regretted them for many years since — not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time.”
“Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all.”
So yeah: the tweets were bad then, are bad now, and everybody involved is aware of this. But is Gunn’s stupid jokes from a decade ago enough to take everything away from him? Furthermore, the tweets were a matter of pubic record for years: did Disney really not search Gunn’s history to see examples of his past public behavior? Did Gunn really not consider, in his years of reflection, that these tweets were terrible and should be purged before they got him in trouble? Apparently not, although I’m sure both parties will consider that a high priority moving forward. We’ve seen people get in trouble for bad tweets, even ones that were many years old (I remember Trevor Noah’s sexist “controversy,” do you?), but this is the first time I can remember that a studio actually had to respond to it in such a strong manner. Like with Roseanne before him, Disney has shown they are willing to cut ties with people they deem to be even a little bit controversial…for better or worse, really.
Of course, I can’t ignore the political angle of this, which adds just another shit nugget to the entirety of the proceedings. The main reason these tweets came to light in the first place was due to a concentrated effort of right-wing trolls (led by human diarrhea bag Mike Cernovich) to basically knock Gunn down a peg, and show that the outspoken director was guilty of his own bad behavior in the past. I want to make it clear: nothing that Cernovich or his ilk do, in my mind, is “right.” But the unfortunate, ugly truth of the matter is that this outcry had the desired effect — Gunn lost his job, and has been Publically Shamed on the Internet™. This counts as a gross win for them, but should we just pretend this is better than it is, because it benefits a bunch of people who are awful?
While there’s certainly a part of me that wants to rally against the forces that conspired to take down Gunn, it’s a lot harder to do that when actually looking at some of the tweets that he made. Would it not be hypocritical of me to cheer on the collapse of Roseanne Barr, while at the same time trying to defend Gunn and his actions? One of my least favorite things in the whole goddamn world is hypocrisy, and there’s plenty of that all-over today. Case in point: the alt-right cheering on the public shaming of an “enemy” over the “jokes” he made, when the same fuckers probably would be bemoaning about policial correctness and “social justice warriors” if it was someone they viewed to be on their side. Equally as hypocritical is some of the response I’ve seen from more left-leaning people: now they are the ones using the tactics of “it was a long time ago!” and “they were just jokes!” and a myriad of other ways of rationalizing Gunn’s behavior. That shit hasn’t excused past people celebrities who were Publically Shamed on the Internet™, and I don’t think it’s right to give Gunn the benefit of the doubt just because we like him.
On the same token…they were tweets. From a decade ago. And I’m not comfortably completely crucifying the man over them. But if it was someone I disliked…would I be? Would we all be? This matter is complicated as hell, and I’m not sure who is right or wrong here, or even if there is a true right or wrong. This kind of situation requires more nuance than I, or probably anyone sounding off on Twitter and the rest of the internet, can probably muster. All I know is that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is going to suffer big time for this, and that Marvel is going to have to work hard on restoring the damage to the brand. I return to the business and fanboy matters because, honestly, that’s all I can rationalize without feeling like I am wrong in some way. Because when it comes to the mortality and ethics of what happened here today, I’ll reiterate:
Fuck if I know.
Also published on Medium.
10 Other Members of The Americans Cast Who Should Be Put In A Star War (And The Roles That They Could Play)
Keri Russell should just be the start of alum from FX’s hit spy drama joining the Star Wars universe.
The talk of the fanboy town this weekend was Keri Russell, a frequent J.J. Abrams cohort, joining the cast of Star Wars: Episode IX (or whatever it might end up being titled.) The think pieces came fast and furious from nearly the moment the casting was first announced, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise: when any new detail drops about one of these Star Wars films, people will inevitably spend way too much time theorizing about what is to come, for better or (mostly) worse. But when it comes to my initial reaction to the casting, I only had two thoughts: 1) oh my god what is J.J. Abrams going to do to Keri Russell’s hair this time and 2) it’s so damn great to see The Americans cast get work.
Coming off of five years of being perhaps the best dramatic ensemble on television, I truly would be happy to see all of the cast members of The Americans land roles in huge films following the conclusion of the show. And not just huge films, mind you — I’m talking Star Wars huge films. Truly The Americans cast is versatile enough to land any role they could want in the galaxy far, far away, and with Russell’s casting, all I could think about (aside from how amazing she’s going to end up being in the movie, of course) was what her fellow cast members could also bring to the extended franchise.
And I’m a silly person who happens to have a blog so, sorry, you have to be present for my ramblings on such niche, unasked subjects! So here are 10 other members of The Americans cast who deserve a shot at a Star Wars gig and, for the hell of it, the character archetypes they would be great for in the universe. Thank me later, Kathleen Kennedy!
Matthew Rhys (Philip Jennings):
I’ll let my first post-Keri Russell casting tweet speak for itself here:
Since we've gotten this far, can we go the whole nine yards and have Matthew Rhys cast as a roguish "Han Solo" type in one of these? Welsh accent included, of course.
— Matthew Legarreta (@mattlegarreta) July 6, 2018
Holly Taylor (Paige Jennings):
Rey’s previously unmentioned bestie/roommate back home on Jakku. They stay up all night chowing down on dehydrated bread and talking about desert problems, as you do.
Noah Emmerich (Stan Beeman):
Maybe it’s recency bias, but I can’t help but imagine Emmerich playing a tough bounty hunter character. That being said, it will be pretty tragic when he realizes his co-pilot and best friend was his target the whole time. What a dramatic scene they will end up having in the Star Wars equivalent of a parking garage, though.
Brandon J. Dirden (Dennis Aderholt):
Brandon J. Dirden holds himself up with such calm and levelheaded prestige as an actor…making him a perfect choice to play a hapless senator trying to do the right thing, but missing the fact that OOPS an electric wizard is in control now. Bummer!
Costa Ronin (Oleg Burov):
I can definitely see Costa Ronin playing the cool, confident gangster type. He’ll also have a robot arm, for some reason. And he should keep his Season 6 beard, because DAMN does he rock the hell out of it.
Alison Wright (Martha):
Padme in a set of prequel remakes. Because if anyone could sell the anguish of being betrayed by someone they deeply loved for years, only for them to end up being a completely different person than who they thought they were, it would be her. Poor Martha…
Margo Martindale (Claudia):
It’s Character Actress Margot Martindale! Let her be whatever she wants! A Jedi master, a Sith Lord, a crime boss, a droid, a wookie, a gungan — she can do it all, dang it!
Frank Langella (Gabriel):
Let him be the kindest Jedi master ever. OR the most evil Sith Lord to ever exist. Frank Langella is somehow capable of channeling both.
Mail Robot (Mail Robot):
The new official droid mascot of Star Wars, duh! NEXT.
Keidrich Sellati (Henry Jennings):
…He can also be present.
Also published on Medium.
Avengers: Infinity War Crushed My Dreams in the Dumbest Way, and I’m Okay with it
We might never see Secret Wars properly adapted to the big screen, and I am at peace with that now.
Spoilers ahead, so be forewarned. Although at this point it’s impossible for this article to spoil what could possibly be the biggest blockbuster of all time, on a website nobody reads, but consider yourself warned. And a loser, let’s be real here.
So first and foremost: I very much liked this movie, and so did most of you, from what the box office tells us. I very much look forward to seeing it again to crystallize my real thoughts on it, because time ends up being the best critic of them all. It’s too soon for the test of time to enlighten us on where this thing ranks amongst the pantheon, but most of what has been said and written about is true; it’s a landmark, a milestone, impressively crafted and a miracle to watch. The ending has emotional stakes (though not real ones), and it really leaves an imprint. And yet…
The link above is a terrific examination about what I’m talking about, but I’m only really here to somewhat facetiously let you into my head beat by beat as the characters we love turned to ash and floated away. Mouth agape, I thought “they can’t be seriously doing this”. And most of you did the exact same thing! But I was referring to something else entirely, and as the screen cut to black, and Thanos’ big dumb expression still lingering fresh in our minds, my fellow audience members and space travelers all collectively gasped. Everyone did it for reasons that seem normal, “oh no our favorite heroes are dead and we have to wait a whole year to find out what happens!”. Except me, because I have a one track mind and was somewhere else entirely (and I’m not going to get suckered into believing anything that happened in that film actually has any consequence whatsoever, in terms of plot or story or the ability for Disney to make money and sign actors to long-term contracts).
No, I gasped because I actually thought Kevin Feige had the balls to go where I didn’t think they would ever go, and I yelled out in the crowded theater, in the pitch black surrounded by strangers, at the screen with credits rolling slowly:
IF THIS END STINGER DOESN’T TEASE SECRET WARS THEN THERE IS NO POINT IN HAVING A SEQUEL, BECAUSE IT WILL RENDER OUR MOURNING OBSOLETE AND MEANINGLESS.
I didn’t actually yell that, I said it quietly to the brunette in the college sweater next to me who I was trying to hit on before the movie started. There was a seven foot tall teenager in a business suit sitting in front of me, blocking the lower left quarter of the screen, and he turned around at the same time as his mother, who loved him very much and was proud of her son in that suit I tell ya, and they asked “what is Secret Wars? Is that the title of the next Avengers movie after this?” And I replied:
IF THEY DON’T SHOW BATTLEWORLD AFTER THESE CREDITS THEN ALL OF THESE CHARACTERS DEATHS ARE FOR NOTHING BUT THE SHEER AND BLATANT ATTEMPT TO SEEM EDGY AND BOLD AND DARING, BUT IN REALITY WE WILL ALL GET OVER IT IN TWO WEEKS WHEN THEY ANNOUNCE THE NEXT SLATE OF FILMS IN PHASE FOUR.
I didn’t actually say that either, but in the final moments of Infinity War I kept expecting the disintegrating bodies to reveal the truth: they weren’t dead, just going somewhere else, potentially the mirror dimension, or another parallel universe, or a representation of hell inside the Soul Stone. And then I realized that the only other gigantic crossover storyline not used so far in these movies is Secret Wars, which would have been the most amazing and ideal way to segue into next year’s Avengers 4: Secret Wars. Imagine, the most famous comic book story for Marvel (also seen on the 90’s Spider-Man cartoon) redone on the big screen: the possibilities endless, the potential for blowing minds unfathomable for fans.
But alas, no, they did not go there, and instead left the cliffhanger to just sit with us. In the dark, no answers, like a gut punch from the screen to our seats. I’m not going to explain why Secret Wars is worth doing, or what it’s about — the cover below says everything you need to know, really. Just look it up online after this, or read the original run, or the newer ones. It’s unreal they didn’t go for this, they had the chance and they blew it!
I like the ending in a vacuum, on paper, but we don’t live in a vacuum anymore. We live on the internet, where every production has leaked set photos and breakdowns, every project in development has casting choices ruined and surprises sold off to the highest bidder. The next five years are set in stone, the signatures already in ink, and it only lasted five minutes before I realized the head fake ending would have been better off being done without the obvious sign that A) the original team of old heroes and actors who should have died and said they’re about done all lived B) all the new characters and actors that are the backbone of Marvel’s future all died C) they already shot the untitled sequel so it’s not like they did that whole movie / marketing without Spider-Man and Black Panther and D) I’m going to end this run-on sentence being mad they didn’t finish the FOX merger fast enough to do Secret Wars.
Secret Wars, the only way to naturally introduce a space alien getting stuck to Peter Parker’s suit so the symbiote travels back to earth to battle Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock. Secret Wars, the only way to seamlessly transition the X-Men and Fantastic Four into the MCU, by forcing them to battle on Battleworld for the enjoyment of the masses. But no, they didn’t show those characters on a new planet. They didn’t bring in Ant-Man and the Wasp and the original Wasp (Michelle Pheiffer) through the subatomic quantum realm. They didn’t hint at the Beyonder, or She-Hulk, or Spider-Woman, or Titania, or Absorbing Man, or Kang the Conqueror, or Molecule Man, or Silver Surfer, or Volcana, or the Wrecking Crew, or Galactus! They didn’t bring back older villains sans Red Skull (good job on that one, actually) to fight and die again against different heroes (how hard is it to just show Ultron fighting without him talking?).
Oh well. I’m not actually that upset, and the odds of that were low enough I’m not shocked. I just really thought they were going in that direction, and now they are not, and that makes me sad. A man can dream, though. Infinity War was pretty good all things considered, even if the stakes they focused on are really just not doable anymore, in this culture of capitalism and engineering fandom into capitalist milk udders. Just milking us nerds dry, with no regard for anything but the almighty dollar. What can you do about it, honestly? At least my favorite characters aren’t being handled by Warner Bros.
Tune in next time when I write an article about how Thanos was just stealing all of his ideas and motivations off of Bill Maher, thanks for reading true believers. Excelsior!
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