Internet, you absolutely tire me out sometimes. And there’s no better example of that then the discussion surrounding the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Technically, the film has only been released in America for five days, but I’m already exhausted by the pure amount of conversation around it. The thousands of tweets, the hundreds of think pieces, the almost uncountable numbers of long, drawn out comments filling up all the message boards — it’s exhausting, even for a film that has so much to talk about (like The Last Jedi undebatably does.) And for someone like me, who both A) writes about movies online and B) likes to have things stew in my brain for a while before putting hypothetical pen to hypothetical paper, it creates this feeling that my thoughts on the film are coming out wildly late compared to the rest of the world, and that, at this point, absolutely nothing I write about the film has not already been expressed a hundreds of times by dozens of other more talented, more deadline driven writers than me.
Let me once again remind you that it has only been seven days. But in internet time, that might as well be a month.
But, hey, talk surrounding The Last Jedi has really yet to abate, once again proving just how divisive and loaded the finished product turned out to be. I already laid out my initial thoughts on the film in last week’s timely piece but, since then, I’ve had a lot of time to further reflect (and, to be quite honest, grapple with) my ultimate feelings on the film. I also got the chance to see the movie a second time, which really does refine my overall thought process, for both better and worse.
Because, seeing The Last Jedi again, I was certainly taken in more with the experience. I generally like the movie, and even did at the time I initially wrote about how disappointed I was in what it ultimately was. But, make no mistake: I still remain somewhat disappointed in what we got with The Last Jedi. Because, as much as I can now appreciate it is a good movie…it has failed to really convince me of its ultimate greatness.
And that dichotomy ultimately struck out a great deal watching the movie a second time. Finding so much more to enjoy, the things I didn’t like became all the more glaring. And the more and more I thought about it, the more I realized that my problems with the film stem from one essential truth: as good as the concepts were in The Last Jedi (and make no mistake, pretty much all of them were), I feel like Rian Johnson didn’t take things far enough to really push the film into the all-time great echelon…even just amongst Star Wars films. Unlike what the internet tries to tell me, my issues with The Last Jedi don’t stem from a place of being afraid of change — my favorite moments of the film, really, are based around the idea of “playing around” and doing something different with the concept of Star Wars. But, time and time again, I was left with the feeling like The Last Jedi was still pulling its punches, especially in regards to what everyone was telling me otherwise.
Which is an interesting point when it comes to this film: inevitably, there was going to be a lot of hype from others sitting in my head as I watched the movie. Which, for what it’s worth, is no fault of The Last Jedi itself — you can’t really blame a film for the hype around it. That being said, having all the pre-release buzz about how The Last Jedi changes Star Wars and does things that are unpredictable and controversial certainly peppered my initial reactions. In a perfect world I would be able to avoid all this pre-release conversation and hyperbole that Film Twitter unleashes upon my brain…but a perfect world this isn’t. So, going into The Last Jedi, I was really expecting a movie that would change everything I expected from this new trilogy of films.
Suffice to say, The Last Jedi did not, and I’m baffled by both the insistence that it A) it does and that B) the reason I didn’t love the movie is because I’m afraid of said change. It’s a narrative being toiled about all over (though, again, mostly through Twitter) from the people who unabashedly love the film, and it simply has to stop. In fact, all the assumptions made by either side about why or why not someone might love the film needs to be given the kibosh. But, since I already made that point clear on the social media network that thrived on such discourse, I’ll let the Twitter thread below speak for itself:
"Oh fans don't like to embrace change," or "The critics were bought out by going to the premiere," or "if you liked/disliked X Star Wars thing you will like/dislike The Last Jedi," etc. STOP IT. Reductionist reasoning to explain whole swaths of people is irritating.
— Matthew Legarreta (@mattlegarreta) December 18, 2017
It reminds me a lot of the post election deluge of "How did Hilary lost/how did Trump win?" And I get it: we are humans, and we like to rationalize things. But thinking you have definitively figured out the origins of someone's opinion is deeply, deeply silly.
— Matthew Legarreta (@mattlegarreta) December 18, 2017
But, being Twitter, I could of course not delve into the actual meat of this argument, and explore the fact that my disappointments with The Last Jedi stem from something no one else (except a few other detractors like myself) seem to see: hidden beneath the admittedly beautiful gloss and fast-paced, roller coaster ride atmosphere, The Last Jedi is a movie that wants to have its cake and eat it too. It’s a Star Wars film that wants people to know that it’s BOLD and DIFFERENT and doesn’t think ANYTHING IS SACRED…but then spends the entire denouement putting things back into place, rather than moving things forward. On the surface of the movie are bold decisions, ones that could leave all our characters in fascinating places before the final installment. But it doesn’t take long before The Last Jedi renegs on all its ballsiest developments, returning things to the status quo and abandoning potential plotlines that, frankly, would have been far more exciting than what we actually got.
I’m being vague, though, so let’s go ahead and dive into the nitty-gritty (with SPOILERS attached, obviously.) Probably the most keen example of the “change” that everyone keeps talking about is in regards to the light side vs. dark side debate, and how both Rey and Kylo go about it. Personally, though I liked the plotline, it didn’t feel particularly fresh for this universe: arguments over the light side and dark side are stock material for Star Wars at this point, and it’s just slightly starting to get old. I for one can only take so many conversations about how close someone is to going to the dark, or how someone can turn the other to their side, or what have you. So much of The Last Jedi delves into the light side/dark side issue in a way that I personally didn’t find very different to what we have seen before from this franchise but, to be fair, it didn’t have to be. The only reason I expected something more was because people were telling me TO expect something more and, once again, I can’t really blame the film for that.
But what I CAN blame the film for is flirting with something different, before rejecting it completely. In what might be the highlight of the entire movie, Kylo ends up killing Supreme Leader Snoke, in a clear nod to Vader killing the Emperor at the end of Return of the Jedi. We all expect it to go into a similar, predictable manner from here (with Kylo joining forces with Rey, him getting redemption, etc)…until it doesn’t. Instead, Kylo used Snoke’s death as a power grab of sorts, and tries to bring Rey onto his side by speaking of how harmful living in the past is, and how they both need to push the galaxy forward, and so and so on.
This is a really interesting beat for the film and, as much as it would hurt to see Rey join forces with Kylo, would make for a fascinating conclusion to the sequel. If Rey choose to actually join Ben, if they dismissed the forces of both The First Order AND the Resistance, and truly set out on their own path, that would have been interesting. That would have been new, and different. But, instead, Rey denies Kylo’s request (as all heroes must do,) manages to escape unscathed, and embraces her destiny as a true Jedi. Kylo, meanwhile, becomes the ultimate force of evil, leading The First Order (THE BAD GUYS) against The Resistance (THE GOOD GUYS.) So, basically, we are back to where we started from…we just now know that (hopefully) the issue of Kylo’s potential return to the light has been put to rest.
And, really, it’s the 100%, black-and-white view on morality that kind of irks me by the end of the film. Because there’s plenty within The Last Jedi that leads viewers to think it might go against such a firm grasp of good and evil. From Benecio del Toro’s whole speech about the arms dealers who sold to both the Resistance AND First Order (and his final line, which seems to echo a sense of pure exhaustion from the endless back-and-forth between the two groups, something I wish the film delved far heavier into) to the reveal that Luke pushed Ben to turn to the dark side due to his premptive actions, it seems the entire goal of The Last Jedi was to upend what we think about this universe, and present us with a Star Wars story we’ve never seen before. But the only problem is that the movie doesn’t do that — in fact, all it does by the end is reinforce what we all thought to be clear from the get-go: First Order BAD, Resistance GOOD. And, once again, there was so many opportunities presented in the film itself for that NOT to be the case.
Take, for instance, the entire subplot with Poe Dameron. I was digging the storyline throughout the first half, and thought the moment that Poe ended up committing mutiny on Vice Admiral Holdo was, once again, pushing things back into the whole subversive nature of the movie that I was promised. I mean, how ballsy would it have been if Holdo actually WAS evil? What a bold statement it would be if the hierarchy of the Resistance was just as crooked as The First Order, and a civil war of sorts broke out within the group, spurred on by the power vacuum of Leia’s (narratively more interesting) death? What if this film left us with a disillusioned look at the Resistance, and only our core group of main characters (Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, Leia, etc.) left to fight both sides? Wouldn’t that create not just the ultimate downer ending for the sequel, but also reinforce the film’s themes of throwing the past away? After all, the Resistance is just Rebellion 2.0, and to turn our understanding of “The Good Guys” completely on its face would truly be ballsy.
But, instead, Holdo turns out to totally be a hero, Poe was being an idiot, and should have totally trusted his superior officer despite giving him literally zero reasons to do so other than the fact that, currently, she was the one in charge. Even more frustrating, Poe’s mutiny was treated with little more than a slap on the wrist, with both Leia and Holdo immediately afterward complimenting the former Commander, as though his little bout of treason was just a funny little character quirk they all kind of like (“That’s our Poe!”)
It is here where the failure to truly embrace change also backfires on The Last Jedi. Next to the whole “forget the past” mantra at the center of the film, another major theme in The Last Jedi is the idea of embracing failure, learning from it, and finding ways to move forward despite the setbacks it presents. That’s an admirable theme, if it wasn’t for two main problems: 1) seeing our main characters continue to make stupid mistake after stupid mistake is frustrating to watch and 2) the characters never actually face any consequences for the mistakes that they make, which leaves me scratching my head about the reason to have the lesson in the first place.
When Rey stupidly turned herself into Kylo Ren and Snoke, based on a single force vision that she could turn him, did she suffer at all for being wrong? Not really, no. Sure, her lightsaber broke in half, but I imagine that will just give her the opportunity to turn into a double bladed one for the next movie (which, admittedly, will be pretty sweet to see.) And she gets a little cut, which kind of sucks. But, after the whole throne room scuffle, Rey literally just walks away, escaping off camera and disappearing for like 20 minutes of the film (this happens to a lot of characters in The Last Jedi, unfortunately.) When she returns, she is joviality shooting shit on the falcon, making wisecracks and overall enjoying her day.
Forget the fact that we have no idea how she ended up rendezvousing with Chewie and the Falcon again (was he just circling around in the back or something, just waiting for her? Where exactly did he go during the entirety of that throne room confrontation? How did she find him again using Snoke’s escape pod? The film knows this entire chain of events is messy so, like most things it deems messy, chooses to completely ignore it instead.) My bigger issue is the fact that Rey made a stupid decision, and she never once has to come to terms with her failure. Nor does Poe with his mutiny attempt, or even Finn with his attempted suicide run towards the end of the movie (sure, Rose gets injured, but it probably would have had far more impact if his actions actually killed her.)
This comes in stark contrast to The Empire Strikes Back (probably the closest analog to The Last Jedi), a movie which also had many of its main characters fail in what they were trying to do. But when Han’s trust in his friend ends up backfiring, he gets captured and frozen in carbonite, potentially never to be seen from again. When Luke makes his own stupid, arrogant choice and goes to fight Vadar, he ends up getting his entire arm chopped off. Empire is so brilliant because it perfectly ramps up the tension for all our main character, making the grasp of the Empire envelop them like a tightening noose. After such a heroic victory in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back is true to its title, which I would argue made for a very brave and, more importantly, very satisfying sequel. The Last Jedi, by comparison, only goes halfway on both of those things.
I’ve already gone long bagging on a film that I (once again, feel like I should reiterate) mostly liked, but one more final note before we conclude things. If you’ve read this article to this point (somehow), there might be one prime argument you will try and use to refute me: I keep judging the movie based on what I wanted to see, rather than what The Last Jedi actually is. This is another very common bit of fansplaining that I’ve heard people use to detract from the detractors (what a time for discussion that we live in, folks!), and it’s one I have thought about quite a bit. Are my issues with the film solely that it didn’t go the way I wanted?
It’s an interesting question, and I certainly feel there are people who hate the film (you know, the ones giving it like 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and the like) primarily for this reason. Clearly, I too have put a lot of thought into the future of this trilogy after Star Wars: The Force Awakens (a movie I still really love, by the way), and did indeed spend a lot of time dreaming about where the future of the series would go after such a strong reintroduction. There were plotlines that I created in my head, potential developments and twists in the story I was hoping to see happen. None of them were of the “DUH SNOKE IS DARTH PLAGUEIS” variety, but they were certainly still predictions, and could probably be pushed into the category of fan theories.
But here’s the thing: that was not a thing I do exclusively for Star Wars. I do that for damn near EVERYTHING I watch, because I’m a geek and a writer and I like to tell dumb stories in my head sometimes. And though I often create the plots of movie sequels wholesale just to entertain myself, that very rarely prevents me from enjoying the actual, final film on its own terms. Take another sequel to a blockbuster film I loved: War for the Planet of the Apes.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is probably my favorite blockbuster of the past decade and, after its big cliffhanger ending, I dreamed plenty about what would come in its follow-up. But not a single one of my predictions could prepare me for War for the Planet of the Apes, which ended up being a weird, atmospheric character study masquerading as a summer blockbuster, with only the bare minimum of action and adventure you would expect from something titled War for the Planet of the Apes. It was 100% not the movie I was hoping for, or the one I created in my head. But, taken on its own terms, it was FANTASTIC, and ultimately, I loved that it wasn’t the film I initially made thought it would be. It was, plain and simple, better.
I do not feel similar about The Last Jedi. To reiterate a point I’ve made countless times in this article, it’s not the fact that The Last Jedi went in directions I didn’t expect, or even necessarily want. It’s the fact the fact that the path there was filled to the brim with plot contrivances, missed character beats, and extremely rushed plotting. You can only get so far with a film based solely on the ideas that it’s tackling: like all things, execution is key. And, with a good amount of The Last Jedi, I found the execution to be lacking. Even worse, at the end of the day, I found myself in an odd place: I don’t care about what happens next. The only reason I (and millions of others) created the fan theories we did and “geeked out” about what the rest of the trilogy could contain was because the conclusion of The Force Awakens got us EXCITED. The possibilities were wide open after that film, and I was so eager to see how the story would build with its sequel. But this feels like less of a ramp-up for the conclusion of the trilogy, and more like a wrap-up to it. After this one, I have literally no idea what is to come in Star Wars: Episode IX. And, far worse? I have no desire to try and figure it out.
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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