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Rey Not Only Isn’t A Mary Sue — She Has One of the Best Character Arcs In All of Star Wars

Rey is the perfect example of how internal conflict, NOT external conflict, is the real key to strong character building.

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Note: I know it is a very frightful time right now for finding The Last Jedi spoilers sprinkled throughout the internet, but don’t worry: though this article will delve into full spoilers for The Force Awakens and the rest of the previously released Star Wars films, no plot details or other potentially spoiler-y bits of information from The Last Jedi will be revealed. Any assumptions or predictions made about Rey’s potential character development in the next few movies are simply that: predictions. Like Jon Snow, I know nothing about how this particular story will actually pan out. With that long but necessary disclaimer out of the way, let’s get right into it.


When I think back to middle school and the time in which I was taught the basic fundamentals of storytelling in a substantial way, I am left with one rather distinct memory, one that I return to time and time again as both a consumer of storytelling and a creator of it.

It was a run-of-the-mill English class right at the start of the school day — that dreaded time of consciousness where you were technically awake, but your brain had yet to get the memo. The class featured both the students eager to learn what the teacher was trying to teach, and those who would prefer to simply stare at the clock in hopes that they could somehow move time backwards and return to their nice, warm beds. Judging by the fact that I am spending my free time writing a long, meandering piece about character development, you can probably guess which category I belonged to.

In any case, my teacher was valiantly trying to teach a crowd of New Mexican public school attending seventh graders (49th in the nation, woohoo!) the tenets of characterization in literature and, seeing the glazed over eyes of many in the crowd, pulled out an age old tactic: the pop culture stand-in. Rather than explaining the contrast between the static and dynamic characters of the short story from the literature book that none of us (not even the indoor kids like myself) read, my teacher decided to illustrate his point by breaking down the characters of a hit blockbuster film that he assumed we all saw. Off the top of his head, he chose Pixar’s Cars, which was the style at the time.

Opening the floor to the class, he asked them to explain what made main car-guy Lightning McQueen a dynamic character, one who changed and developed throughout his story. Most of the students explained that Lightning was dynamic because he started off the movie as the best racer, and ended it by no longer being the best racer. Our teacher listened to their comments, but pushed them to explore deeper. According to him, all those developments were just plot points, merely skin-deep readings of what happened through the course of the film.

To explore characterization further, he wanted us to examine how the Lightning McQueen character behaved, how his attitude towards others and himself was, and how he changed throughout the course of the film. He explained to us that Lightning began the film as arrogant and self-centered and, through his experiences interacting with the people (err…cars) of Radiator Springs, he grew into a more kind and thoughtful person. Lightning McQueen was a dynamic character not because his status changed in the film, but because his world view did. Because he grew as a person not through an external conflict, but an internal one. As my teacher continued to explain, Lighting’s story fell into the first category of conflicts in literature: man vs. self.

Just in case you need a refresher, here’s the complete list. Personally I always found the four types rather reductive, but if you’re teaching a horde of dumb seventh grade monsters, probably best to keep it simple.

Now, obviously, Cars is not a paragon of complex character development, nor should it be — it’s a kid’s movie, and not even one of Pixar’s more thoughtful ones at that (for the record, I hadn’t even seen Cars yet at the time of this lesson, and was mostly wondering throughout the demonstration why we weren’t talking about Monster House instead. I really liked Monster House.)

And if you’re reading this, I imagine you were taught the same principles of characterization that I was back in school, and probably understand them quite well. I am certainly the last person in the world who should feel obligated to teach the fundamentals of storytelling to the public at large, because I’m far from an expert at them. But I like to think I know a good character when I see one, and can adequately explain why to boot.

So when I see people bashing Rey of Star Wars: The Force Awakens for being a poor character and, most pointedly, a “Mary Sue,” sometimes I wonder if we could all use another trip to middle school English class, to learn a thing or two about what really makes a well-developed character.

Because characters in fiction are more than just their base collection of skills, a simple list of the things they can and can’t do assembled on some spreadsheet of power rankings. In my mind, what makes a well developed, “good” character is that they have character flaws (be it emotional or physical or mental or pretty much any other combination of “-als), and they fought to overcome it throughout the course of a story (or many stories, as the case may be.) And, when it comes to Rey, she ABSOLUTELY fits that bill. In fact, her emotional arc and character development is stronger than pretty much any other Star Wars character I can think of.

Which, admittedly, isn’t a tall order. It’s true that most Star Wars characters don’t have the strongest arcs, and those that do have them are rather simplistic (character does A, regrets A, decides to do B.) There’s nothing wrong with simplistic, especially within crowdpleasing blockbuster movies, but it wouldn’t be unfair to say that Star Wars puts spectacle and fun ahead of in-depth character retrospection. But in all the defenses I’ve read or heard about how Rey isn’t a Mary Sue character, almost all of them resort to a straw man fallacy of sorts — they jump to explaining the character of Luke Skywalker, and how amazing his abilities were, and how no one seemed to particularly mind back then.

And, hey: that’s a fair point, and does seem to reinforce the underlying strain of sexism that can seem to be a factor in critiques about Rey’s character. While not all of the Mary Sue complains are borne from this inherent misogyny, it seems a large faction of them stem from the same thought process I’ve seen banded about a whole lot now: that writers and directors only chose to make a character a certain gender or race for “virtue points,” and purposely made them vanilla and perfect to further impress all their fellow SJW’s (or whatever the new silly parlance is.)

Not only do I think the thinking behind that is misguided and flush with bias, but that it makes many people warp their view on any character who might not be a straight white male. They chose to focus on the fact that she is super strong in the force, and defeated Kylo Ren, and a good pilot, and a whole bunch of other admittedly positive traits. Just looking at those surface abilities, sure, she does seem like an all-powerful, wish fulfillment character. But, to quote my sixth grade English teacher…explore deeper. Because Rey ISN’T a perfect character. In fact, the girl is actually pretty messed up. But that’s what also makes her so damn great: seeing her overcome her mental and psychological issues works as the backbone for a satisfying — and still very much developing — character arc.

Rey throughout all of The Force Awakens has one primary goal: to return to Jakku, and reunite with her parents. At the beginning of the story, from the moment she rescues BB-8 and becomes enveloped in an adventure she had absolutely nothing to do with, all she could express was how, after the next stop, she was taking off. A little like her brief mentor Han Solo (who, at the time, probably had the best Star Wars character arc by almost default), Rey didn’t want to be involved in any of this. Sure, she got excited by the possibility of being in a dog-fight, and meeting her heroes, and helping the Resistance…but the entire time, there was a very vocal part of her that also couldn’t wait to get out of there, and return to her life of scavenging through derelicts and eating disgusting insta-bread (if you can really even call it bread.) Luke Skywalker, she wasn’t: while that kid dreamed about overcoming his farmboy heritage and becoming a hot shot Rebellion pilot, Rey was hesitant to do anything outside of the immediate radius of her derelict home on Jakku.

And when the call to adventure literally shouted out to here through the lightsaber at Maz Kanata’s castle, she didn’t heed it instantly and become the badass hero who saves everyone, defeats Kylo Ren, creates all porgs, and saves the day: instead, she got the hell out of dodge, overcome by her emotions and feelings that, even with all these things happening around her and all the signs that she could be meant for something more, she was not supposed to get involved. Unlike Han Solo’s departure in A New Hope, her decision to leave wasn’t based on selfishness or self-preservation or not wanting to be blown up by a giant, planet destroying beam — it was born out of self-doubt, and the fear that she simply wasn’t good enough to take on the mantle so swiftly thrust upon her. This conflict created a standard, but still effective, reluctant hero archetype.

But, like all good characters, it’s the cause of her mental setbacks that makes her an interesting character, not the setbacks themselves. And in the scene just before Rey flees from the rest of the group, we get her character motivation clear as day: crippling, very much unhealthy, abandonment issues. You know, the kind of abandonment issues that only perfect, wish-fulfillment based Mary Sue characters get. After all, don’t we all dream of being a character in our favorite properties who suffers from low self-esteem and a crippling lack of self-worth?

Ugh, look how perfect her emotional anguish is! What a Mary Sue!

Anyways, let’s return to the point. In the scene where Rey touches Anakin’s lightsaber and goes through a whole montage of events, we see our first and only glimpse into Rey’s childhood — the moment she is dropped off on Jakku as a child, left in the (assumingly not great) care of Unkar Plutt, screaming into the sky in a vain attempt to get the attention of those that abandoned her. And while we can only guess how her life unfolded after that based on how we are introduced to her in The Force Awakens, it wouldn’t be a jump to think that her time on Jakku wasn’t pleasant.

Rey spends her days digging through trash looking for anything of value and, most depressing of all, returns home to a life of loneliness, eating that once again awful-looking bread and dreaming that her parents will return and whisk her back to a life full of love and fulfillment. And since she can’t find it within herself to abandon said dream, (the only one she’s ever had since she was a young child) she refuses to move on with her life. She has to believe that her parents will return and save her, because that’s the only thing that she allows herself to believe. After all, she was left there for a reason — surely they will return in time, right? The alternative is a life knowing that she was simply discarded, thrown away, to never be found again. And no one wants to live life thinking that.

But the theme of being thrown away is a powerful one for Rey, and the point in which I get completely college-level essay all over this assignment. Because Rey’s choice of occupation (if you want to call it that) isn’t simply a coincidence — it’s a pretty simple metaphor for her character arc in The Force Awakens. She is a scavenger, literally scouring thorough garbage in order to find the things of value it might contain. The things that were thrown away or left behind by people, but that can ultimately still can serve a purpose somehow.

You see where I am going with this, right?

Rey believes herself to be a discarded thing of little worth, but as The Force Awakens shows, the opposite is true. She’s one of the valuable objects — a diamond in the rough. She’s powerful in the force and has a variety of skills, yes, but more importantly, she’s a kind and compassionate person who can be a force (ugh, really, no pun intended) for good in the universe…if she only can gain the willpower to push forward with her life and take control of her own destiny. In fact, that part of Rey’s characterization is one of the reasons I am desperately hoping that her parents turn out to be of little importance in the grander scale of things, and that her abandonment doesn’t have some big complex conspiracy at the center. For me, the “mystery” of why Rey was abandoned on Jakku is pretty much an afterthought — in fact, I would be totally fine with us never finding out the root cause. Rey being a character of no real importance, who determined her own path and forged her own destiny outside of her lower status, is an infinitely more satisfying story and character arc than her turning out to be Ponda Baba’s grandaughter or whatever.

But even with that unlikely to happen, I still feel we are left with a pretty compelling picture of who Rey is as a character, and what internal struggles she had to go through to end up where she was by the end of The Force Awakens. And, look, I’ll even meet you Mary Sue truthers halfway — maybe you’re not wrong. Maybe Rey is super powerful, and maybe all her abilities do make her something of a wish-fulfillment character. But A) there’s nothing wrong with having a character others wish they could be and B) if that’s the case, then maybe deciding whether or not a character is a Mary Sue is just a stupid way of judging a character’s worth.

Because, if Rey IS a Mary Sue in terms of skills and powers, that’s still ignoring the second half of the equation here. In fact, maybe Rey being a Mary Sue is part of the plan after all — maybe she IS the most powerful Jedi ever, who will beat Snoke with two hands tied behind her back, restart the Jedi, convince Captain Phasma to take her damn helmet off, and push Finn and Poe into finally becoming the couple we all want them to be. Sure, Rey might be capable of all that. But Rey’s internal struggles cripple her in a way that no Wookie bowcaster or lightsaber swing can: until she can overcome her self-doubt, it doesn’t matter how powerful she is on paper — she still has a lot of development to do until she becomes an all-and-out hero.

And while you might roll your eyes about the conclusions I’m making in this piece and how stereotypical and boring Rey’s internal struggle might be…you do realize this is LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE HERO’S JOURNEY EVER, right? Batman isn’t interesting because he trained and became a ninja — he’s interesting because he suffered a trauma when he was young, and copes with it by doing something that may or may not be healthy for him. Spider-Man is a character I love to watch not because he’s fighting a bunch of powerful foes, but because he’s doing it as a young kid juggling the troubles of teenage life, and what responsibilities he owes to the world he occupies.

Or, to go to one of my favorite versions of the heroes journey in recent years, Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender wasn’t a dynamic character because he only knew air-bending at the beginning of the series but, by the end, he knew all the elements. He was dynamic because he doubted his ability to be a hero at the beginning of the story but, through episode upon episode of character growth, embraced his destiny in time to (spoiler alert) save the world. Sounds familiar, huh?

And Avatar: The Last Airbender is an interesting comparison here because, in my mind, judging Rey on if she’s a successful character based on The Force Awakens alone is like evaluating the entire character arc of Aang based on the end of the pilot episode. By the conclusion of The Force Awakens, Rey’s journey has literally just begun. She was able to overcome her arrested development in the first film, but her self-doubt still seems to very much be at the forefront of The Last Jedi, if the trailers are any indication.

Which might make my proclamation in the headline a bit contradictory: I can’t say that Rey has the best character arc overall in the Star Wars franchise, because we have yet to see it completely take shape. But is it one hell of an introduction to her, one that does an excellent job of explaining her motives and exploring her psychological struggles, perfectly setting up what I hope will be a powerful emotional journey for our main character?

I just wrote like three thousand words about it, so what do you think? At the very least, I know one thing for sure: I can’t wait to see what happens with the character next. And shouldn’t that be the entire point?


Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in theaters this Friday. But I doubt you needed me to tell you that, nerd.


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

Freshly Popped Culture Presents: The 2018 Summer Box Office Game of Death

A.K.A. How badly can we judge the purchasing decisions of mainstream audiences this time?

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The concept of a Summer Movie Wager is simple: assemble a bunch of people, have them create a list of what they predict will be the 10 highest grossing films of 2018, and bask in how wrong everybody was so far down the line when nobody can remember what the fuck we said to begin with. Shamelessly cribbed from the concept popularized by the /Film crew, we here at Freshly Popped Culture very much wanted to get in on the fun of looking foolish in hindsight, so our fab four (Matthew, Jared, Justin, and Jeremy) are doing just that, and seek to defeat them. May the odds be in our favor.

At the end of the summer movie season (a.k.a. Labor Day), we will return to tabulate the scores, and determine who reigned supreme. That is the brilliance of the Summer Movie Wager: you’re either wrong, super wrong, or least wrong. There is no right. There is only the person who screwed up the fewest times, and is therefore the victor.

Without much further ado, here’s how our internal point keeping system works. We run things a little bit differently than some of the other Summer Movie Wagers out there, so pay close attention. It might seem completely arbitrary but, trust me, it totally is.

The scoring system is thus:

  • 10 points for hitting a movie dead-on on the list
  • 7 points if your pick was only one spot away from where it ended up
  • 5 points if it was two spots away
  • 1 point if your pick is anywhere in the Top 10
  • 3 points for each dark horse that makes it into the Top 10
  • 5 points if your prediction on total domestic box office is within $10 million dollars

The winner gets to force the rest of us to play truth or dare on Twitter, and you don’t want to be caught revealing your darkest secrets online (at least not intentionally). I heard Matt committed arson once, he’s a firebug!


MATTHEW’S PICKS: 

Dark Horses:

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies — Teen Titans Go! is insanely popular for Cartoon Network, but will that translate to huge box office success? Ask The Simpsons Movie or The Lego Ninjago Movie, and you’ll get widely different responses. It’s a coin toss, really.

SkyscraperIf recent years have taught me anything, it’s that betting on Dwayne Johnson is rarely a bad thing. The man is a star, and throwing him into his very own Die Hard could end up being insanely lucrative….or just do okay. Hard to tell, really, making it a perfect Dark Horse.

Christopher RobinCall me crazy, but I think this movie is going to do huge, simply because the trailer alone nearly brought me to tears. This might end up playing really well come August, but considering the timeframe of the wager, it would have to make that money VERY fast in order to crack the Top 10.

10. Ocean’s 8

Predicted Gross: $110 million

Ocean’s 8 is a bit of a mystery to me, if I’m being honest, just because I think it has the potential to breakout in a way that is pretty much unpredictable. That being said, anticipation seems soft for this one so far, and the film could easily get lost in the summer shuffle. Granted, 15 years ago this was EXACTLY the type of movie that would do well in the summer months (see: Ocean’s Eleven, 12, 13, etc.), but the time’s have changed. Then again, don’t count out Sandy Bullock. She’s still America’s Sweetheart somewhere!


9. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Predicted Gross: $125 million

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is not for me. But, for the crowd it is aiming for, it’s pretty much the Incredibles 2 of Summer 2018. The first film made nearly $150 million back in July of 2008 (up against The Dark Knight, no less!), and I expect this one to do about as well. Like My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, I don’t expect it to do quite as well, but I think the gap won’t be all that wide between the two. Meryl Streep is singing ABBA songs, and our parents are still totally into it.


8. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Predicted Gross: $150 million

Hotel Transylvania is actually a decently performing franchise for Sony Pictures, and I don’t expect that to change with the third installment of the series. The summer is light when it comes to animated family fare, and with a story tailor-made to the season (AND a prime July release date to utilize as well), expect families to show up for this one just as much as they did the last few. Which, eh, whatever. I’m just happy Genndy Tartakovsky has a well-paying gig, and will use the remainder of this blurb to remind people that we got a conclusion to Samurai Jack last year, and it kicked ALL THE ASS. Hopefully Tartakovsky can make some money here, and return to that kind of stuff in due time.


7. Mission: Impossible — Fallout

Predicted Gross: $180 million

Mission: Impossible is one of the few non-comic book franchises left in Hollywood that dependably makes money, and six installments in, I’m not expecting a huge drop-off or anything. Tom Cruise is still dangling from buildings n’ shit, and audiences (including yours truly) will still show up to see it. Plus, Henry Cavill back in spy mode should entice some of that big, lucrative Man from U.N.C.L.E. fans into the theater as well. There’s dozens of us. DOZENS!

6. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Predicted Gross: $200 million

Ant-Man ranks as one of Marvel’s lowest performers, only managing to scrape up $180 million back in July 2015. That was still apparently enough to warrant a sequel, however, a decision that was primarily influenced by its relatively low budget ($130 million) and decent performance overseas. That being said, I think Ant-Man and the Wasp has a good chance of being one of the few blockbusters to outperform its predecessor. The original turned out to be a decent crowd-pleaser, and the character’s appearance in Civil War probably did a lot to boost his popularity. And between you and me, blog reader, I have a sinking suspicion that Ant-Man and the Wasp is stealthily going to be more important to the MCU than it may appear, and that Avengers: Infinity War might even tease things for the character that will leave people VERY curious to see his follow-up film. But groundless speculation aside, Ant-Man and the Wasp should play well come July.

5. Deadpool 2

Predicted Gross: $255 million

I get Fox needed SOME kind of big release for their Summer 2018 calendar, but I can’t help but feel releasing Deadpool 2 smack dab in the middle of May isn’t going to end up being the most fruitful of decisions. Deadpool did so well back in February 2016 because it had a lot of room to breathe, and was truly the only blockbuster of its kinds for weeks on end (also see: Black Panther.) But the competition from Infinity War and Solo is going to cannibalize Deadpool – not enough to make it bomb or anything, but enough to make the possibility of it even approaching the original’s huge $363 million haul a shifty prospect.

4. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Predicted Gross: $320 million

Solo: A Star Wars Story is riding little buzz, soft marketing, and overwhelming reports of behind the scenes turmoil, which is enough to make me believe it will be the worst performing live-action Star Wars movie in a while, maybe even of all time (once adjusted for inflation, of course.) But as much as I want to go truly crazy here and peg it with a haul of like $200 million or something…at the end of the day, it’s still Star Wars. The ceiling of this franchise is still rather high at this point, but Disney better watch themselves. If the film A) turns out to not be very good and B) exhausts audiences ultimate interest in the brand, than that ceiling might start shrinking rather fast. For now, don’t expect anything less than $300 million.

3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Predicted Gross: $375 million

Jurassic World ended up screwing over my list back in 2015, taking away the expected crown from Avengers: Age of Ultron and grossing an absolutely insane $652 million at the domestic box office. But I very much believe that Jurassic World was an aberration, and that its sequel will suffer quite the heavy drop off once the “wow” factor of a new Jurassic Park movie dissipates. After all, that’s what happened to its forbearer’s first sequel (The Lost World made half of what Jurassic Park made – still GREAT at the time, but not the sensation that was the first.)  The film will obviously still be a huge success, but more squarely in the “well-performing sequel” category than the WHAT THE FUCK LOOK AT ALL THAT MONEY one.

2. Incredibles 2

Predicted Gross: $400 million

Does The Incredibles 2 have a shot at being the highest grossing film of the summer? The answer is very much yes, and I was honestly 50% of the way there to predicting that very eventuality. After all, if it can happen to Finding Dory, it can happen with something as eagerly anticipated as the long awaited Incredibles 2…right?

Well, it’s complicated. The first film was a big hit in 2004, but it still topped out in the high $200 million range at the time of its release. To do as well as I’m predicting, the film would have to perform Toy Story 3 numbers, which could very much be out of range for it. But time is on Incredibles 2’s side here, with the first film becoming a classic in the decade and a half since its release. Incredibles 2 also has the luxury of virtually NO animated competition until more than a month after its initial release and, in fact, is facing little competition overall in the month of June. I don’t know, I’m going to bet high on this one. Never count a long-awaited Pixar sequel out. Even A Bug’s Life 2 would probably make like $700 million domestic.

1. Avengers: Infinity War

Predicted Gross: $670 million

Every year, I predict the big Marvel movie that opens the season is going to end up ruling the summer, and every year I am proven absolutely wrong. All that being said…c’mon, I gotta go with Infinity War here. Disney is doing an absolutely slam-bang job of marketing this one as the event film to end all event films, and the anticipation in the air for the film’s release is palpable. Combined with residual Black Panther fever and my pretty high faith the film will deliver big time (The Russo Brothers haven’t let me down yet), and I just can’t reason myself away from choosing any other film as the de facto box office champ of Summer 2018. But check back a few months from now when I’m proven wrong again, though.


JARED’S PICKS:

Dark Horses:

Christopher Robin — This is the only movie of note coming out in August, and honestly, I just threw it in here for the morbid curiosity of seeing that bear come to life in such a creepy way.

Uncle Drew — This is the pick that I had at number 10 for a while, then switched out, then back in. I have no idea of what to make of this one honestly, and I want it to do really well because it just looks like the sort of fun to take us all away from the fact that a second rate reality TV star has the nuclear codes, and is being enabled by a collection of conspiracy theorists, hack Fox News personalities, con artists, crooks, criminals, liars, frauds, phonies, cronies, and the scum of the earth known as the republican party.

Basketball is very good, and I hope this is too.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! — Well, Mamma Mia, here we go again indeed. This could make just as much money as the original, or close to nothing, and I wouldn’t be surprised either way. There is always a random dark horse that makes it into the top ten, and screws up some lists, and last year it was Girl’s Trip and before that was Central Intelligence and before that was Straight Outta Compton and I think you get my point here, people.

10. Skyscraper

Predicted Gross: $110 million

The Rock is such a magnet for money, it’s not even funny. It’s just a fact, written in stone (or rock) and considering San Andreas did like $150 million domestic, this was the toss up for that ten spot that I wrestled with (get it) before going with Skyscraper and its Super Bowl ad instead of Uncle Drew. They don’t play those commercials anymore, and the Rock is in everything. Sorry Kyrie, the world revolves around Dwyane Johnson because the EARTH IS FUCKING ROUND YOU STUPID TROLL, YOU ARE A ROLE MODEL AND IDOL TO CHILDREN, DO NOT MAKE THEM ANTI-SCIENCE YOU DIRT BAG.


9. Hotel Transylvania 3

Predicted Gross: $125 million

No one has actually seen any of these movies. They are a myth, they do not exist, and any reports to the contrary are fabrications. Somehow, a global conspiracy has laundered money through ticket sales at abandoned movie theaters to generate massive amounts of cash using these “films”, and therefore I expect another 100+ million dollar run. Robert Mueller should investigate this, after he’s done.


8. Ocean’s 8

Predicted Gross: $150 million

I so wanted to put this higher, and I really want this to not only be amazing but a smash hit so I can inject more Ocean’s movies into my veins. Heists where you root for criminals to pull a Robin Hood on some evil rich people are my heroin, and I’m addicted to feel good action comedy team ups. But this summer has stiff competition, all packed into May and June, and everything I predict to make more is a direct sequel and not a reboot. As much as I want this to surpass expectations, $150 million is nothing to sneeze at, and would be a welcome success.


7. Mission Impossible 6: Fallout

Predicted Gross: $175 million

I hate the use of fallout in the title. That bothers me so much. Anyways, all of these MI movies are fantastic and they do better in the box office every single time, but at some point there is fatigue, a ceiling on how much old man Tom Cruise and who-gives-a-shit Superman Henry Cavill alongside the same director and cast as the last one. Not that the masses and general audiences notice these things, but the remaining heavy hitters are going to put a damper on what would be otherwise $200+ runs.


6. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Predicted Gross: $200 million

I cannot believe how little the previous Ant-Man made, and that it has to be ranked so low on this list (not that this is set in stone, in fact this will all be wrong come September). But around the middle of the top ten it’s going to be a slugfest, and every single factor goes into who comes out on top; release date, word of mouth, marketing budgets, if anyone still cares about Marvel movies post Infinity War or if the hunger still exists, etc. This could be way less or way more and I have no clue where it will end up landing, but all hail Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas.

5. Deadpool 2

Predicted Gross: $275 million

For some reason, Disney’s new Salacious B. Crumb FOX is releasing this sequel at the worst time imaginable, sandwiched between two of the biggest entities on the planet: the Avengers and Star Wars / Han and Chewie. What a stupid move, this is going to hamstring what would have otherwise been a runaway success. Black Panther stole the February release date that proved to make Deadpool 1 a smash hit, and now it’s going to suffer for it. No wonder why FOX is being sold to Disney, morons work there. Nothing is in August! Just take that whole month! What are you people doing?


4. The Incredibles 2

Predicted Gross: $325 million

So far, all of these picks are really tough calls, not just because we know what the main 8 movies will be in the top ten, but this entire game will come down to a matter of splitting hairs; Avengers and Jurassic Park seemed locked at one and two respectively, and three – four – five are also somewhat locked, but in what order and how much they make will likely decide this contest. Pixar films make money, the original didn’t in comparison, although that was fourteen years ago, but inflation……..yeah I have no clue with this one, and it could do double the predictions and I wouldn’t be shocked.


3. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Predicted Gross: $375 million

I cannot fathom a Star Wars film coming out in May again. I cannot believe it is a Han Solo prequel story. I do not expect any of the bad press or rumors to affect its box office because nobody actually gives a shit, and word of mouth will barely impact its gross. I am mystified at the aggressive release date after the reshoots, and I am thoroughly pessimistic about everything this film stands for and represents. Yet I cannot deny it’s cultural imprint, and while I am completely Star Wars fatigued, and it’s only months after Last Jedi over-saturation / outrage, I ended up placing this one behind the remaining juggernauts below, and Rogue One’s domestic total is not indicative of how this will perform; Donald Glover will be. Not the dude who doesn’t look or sound like Harrison Ford / Han Solo, who should have been cast like 10 years younger so it wouldn’t be a huge deal. Donald motherfucking Glover.


2. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Predicted Gross: $400 million

Fuck this movie, fuck the previous one, fuck the other two that were made after 1993, fuck everyone who made Colin Trevorrow rich and famous, and fuck the absolutely preposterous $1.6 billion that this movie made which could have gone to ending world hunger instead of masturbating our nostalgia of dinosaurs. I so want this to do worse, and really wanted to be bold about its placement, but I cannot deny the simple fact that Jurassic World is a top ten all time blockbuster in terms of global box office, and I wish I was dead.


1. Avengers: Infinity War

Predicted Gross: $650 million

This is going to be among the biggest movies of all time and is such a no-brainer. Therefore, it reigns supreme over the course of the entire summer plus the giant weekend coming up IN FUCKING APRIL. If this isn’t the #1 on everyone’s list, then they are idiots who I will enjoy beating. This movie had the balls to move up to late April and start the summer whenever the fuck it wanted to. Disney owns the world and you will pay any amount to see this movie, and you probably have already bought your tickets (you read this website and if I know who our core audience of readers truly are, then I am right). The question becomes how much exactly domestically Infinity War ends up with, and you could go lower than Black Panther ($675 ish), or higher to around $700 million, but I’ll put it at a moderate $650 million. Just think about that for a moment, the sentence I just wrote. Moderate…followed by that much. Moderate amount. Bananas.


JEREMY’S PICKS:

Dark Horses:
BlacKkKlansman — What a title! It’s more awkward than the original one, Black Klansman, but it still demands attention. Given that it’s coming from Spike Lee and Jordan Peele, it should have plenty.
The Equalizer 2 — They made another one. Call your dad.
The First Purge — Each new installment in this series has made more than the last. Will the upward trend continue? Probably not!

10. Uncle Drew

Predicted Gross: $100 million
Every time I’ve watched the trailer with an audience, it’s killed. That enthusiasm might not span
the country, but considering Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa pulled in $100 million five years
ago, I think a similar idea, applied to a sports film that stars Kyrie Irving and Shaq, could be a
home run.

9. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Predicted Gross: $120 million
This is a light summer for animation, as both Warner Bros. Animation and Illumination Entertainment
are holding their big releases until the fall (though Warner Bros. also has Teen Titans Go! To the
Movies in July). I’m totally ignorant to what interests kids these days, but the computer tells me
that the previous Hotel Transylvania films each made around $150 million. Animated series
usually see a drop off around this point, but the dearth of options could work in Hotel
Transylvania 3’s favor.

8. Ocean’s 8

Predicted Gross: $130 million
I was tempted to put this at $147.65 million (80.5% of what Ocean’s Eleven made), but wasn’t
confident enough to risk a win on a joke. The cast is strong and the trailers are sleek, and there
hasn’t been any #NotMyOceans talk that could affect the stride in this movie’s step. This could
actually perform better than I’m predicting, but looking at the descending grosses of Ocean’s
Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen has me feeling pretty good about where this is at.

7. Mission Impossible 6: Fallout

Predicted Gross: $190 million
Tom Cruise spent a few years on the skids, and then he started punishing himself for our
entertainment like Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club. Now, we’re obligated to buy a ticket
to each new Mission: Impossible film, because otherwise, he’s punching himself in the face in
an empty parking lot. Cruise seems to have continued doing riskier and stupider things with this
summer’s installment, so it should fall in the same $190-$210 million range as the last two.

6. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Predicted Gross: $200 million
This really should have come out in the fall, as Avengers: Infinity War is hitting theaters before
Black Panther is even available to rent. However, Ant-Man did well following Avengers: Age of
Ultron, so maybe there’s nothing to worry about. Fatigue or no fatigue, Marvel seems incapable
of making below $200 million domestic on each film. But given my uncertainty, I’m placing this
one right on the line. If Ant-Man really shines in Infinity War, though, the sequel could be giant,
man.

5. Deadpool 2

Predicted Gross: $250 million
This may be too low, but I can’t see this being as big a sensation as the first, especially since it’s
coming out in a packed summer and not February. But I said something similar about Guardians
of the Galaxy Vol. 2 last year, so what do I know?

4. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Predicted Gross: $350 million
I can’t get a read on the public’s interest in this. Will people make the effort to see this in
theaters, or will they wait? With Star Wars in the title, does it even matter that nobody asked for
this? I’m betting on the brand and going with this performing well, but the high placement could
be a Wookie mistake.

3. Incredibles 2

Predicted Gross: $375 million
Someone who saw The Incredibles theatrically while in kindergarten can now see the sequel
during the break between college semesters. Fun, right? The delayed approach to sequels has
consistently worked well for Pixar, as it doesn’t just appeal to people who saw the original – it
also appeals to the kids they’ve had since then. The Incredibles was the Pixar film best suited
for a sequel, but it’s one of the last to receive one. Instead of coming after audiences have
moved on, though, Incredibles 2 seems right on time. People seem excited to revisit the world
and the characters, especially after the changes in superhero films since 2004.

2. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Predicted Gross: $400 million
It seems like every comment section for every Jurassic Park related story posted on every
website includes at least one person saying that regardless of the series’s quality, they’ll show
for every sequel, because dinosaurs. And look – I get it. Dinosaurs are rad. I don’t have the
same blind, eternal love for this series as most of the population, but I get that they like seeing
dinosaurs eat people and destroy stuff, and as long as each Jurassic movie offers that, most will
be satisfied. I expect nothing different from Fallen Kingdom, so I expect nothing different from
moviegoers.

1. Avengers: Infinity War

Predicted Gross: $525 million
 ‘nuff said.

JUSTIN’S PICKS:

Dark Horses:

For my Dark Horses choices, I went with three films that from one of the most unpredictable categories, adult leaning comedies. Some times the flop, some times they’re a hit, and occasion, sometimes they become a phenomenon.All the films I have chance to be something because they have built in demographics.

Tag
Action Point
Crazy Rich Asians

10. The Meg

Predicted Gross: $125 million

It’s a really big ass shark attacking things and Jason Statham says stuff like “Oh My God, It’s A Megalodon”. If doesn’t at least $100 Million+, what we even doing here?

9. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Predicted Gross: $150 Million

Small human beings like these films and are taken to them by large human beings.


8. Ocean’s 8

Predicted Gross: $165 Million

I’m fascinated to see how this turns out. It looks slick, has a great cast, and it’s got popular franchise name. But it’s been a while. My thinking is this Girl’s Trip type numbers but you add some because its going to be PG-13 and then you add a little more because people kind of know what they’re getting here.


7. Mission Impossible 6: Fallout

Predicted Gross: $215 Million

You have Tom Cruise fight a Mummy, meh. You have Tom Cruise smuggling cocaine for CIA, okay? You have Tom Cruise playing Ethan Hunt, let’s go! Despite the fact this sixth film in this franchise, the series is thriving under J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot. Action packed, great locals, and the maybe the last movie star left, these film generally have domestic ceiling around $200 Million and I don’t imagine much change.


6. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Predicted Gross: $225 Million

Marvel fever will be at epidemic levels after Avengers: Infinity War. Destruction, death, and wondering what next’s will give this franchise a bump from it’s first go around. I don’t know if the comedic tone of this franchise is really the best move after political nature of Black Panther and board shuffling that will occur in Avengers 3 but I’m not really going to argue with The Mouse on how they’re handling Marvel Cinematic Universe.


5. Incredibles 2

Predicted Gross: $255 Million

I have absolutely no idea what to make of this film. First, I thought first The Incredibles was an awful film with a terrible message, and secondly, Pixar’s name doesn’t ring bells anymore. Pixar’s most heralded film in nearly a decade, Coco, barely made $200 Million. I know this is supposed one of Pixar’s most storied properties but the keyword there is “storied”, The Incredibles came out November 5, 2004. I know they’ve seen success despite long layover’s, Toy Story 2 was released in November 1999 and Toy Story 3 was released in June 2010 but A. Toy Story 3 is a masterpiece and one of the greatest animated film ever made and B. Toy Story 3 was the tail end of the Golden Age of Pixar where it was one of the best movie studios in the world at the time. Last year, Cars 3 topped out at $152.9 Million, I’ll add 100 Million to that because people have fond memories of these characters.

4. Deadpool 2

Predicted Gross: $300 Million

Oh, I get it, he uses profanity and tells meta jokes. Sign me up! Deadpool was an awful film but it made $360 Million , so what were getting is probably more of the same. So I’m imaging much of the same box office except that the following weekend, a Star Wars film comes out, so this film is not getting that 360 Million again. Or maybe I’m wrong and this ends up being best superhero film of the year “Looks at Camera & Winks”. There, that was my attempt at one of those third wall breaking jokes.


3. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Predicted Gross: $500 Million

There’s a lot going on here. On one hand, we’re getting a story centered around one of the most iconic characters of the 20th Century and someone who is adored by an entire generation. But the rumors around the re-shooting and rewrites are something to consider, yes the production problems are something known to “Film Twitter” and not largely known to the general public but the question still remains, what is this film going to be? A dramatic shift in tone, as it was reported, could lead this film to be “whispers in soft tones” bad. Or maybe it doesn’t matter because everything Star Wars is “critic proof” at this point. But, one thing is assured, this film is going to take a little hit because, this is the first modern Star Wars film to be released in the summer so it has more competition then the previous three film who all saw a December release and whose only competition was the holidays and award films. Lastly, I know this supposed to be a star making performance for Alden Ehrenreich but whatever charisma he’s showing in these trailers is getting dunked on by the swagger Donald Glover is giving us as Lando.


2. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Predicted Gross: $525 Million

Two things: 1. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a real dope title, I just wanted to take a moment to say that. 2. I have no idea how Jurassic World ended up as one of the ten highest grossing films of all time. That being said, there’s going to be a serious regression for Fallen Kingdom, this rebooted series lacks the hype for Fallen Kingdom to do numbers near Jurassic World.

1. Avengers: Infinity War

Predicted Gross: $575 Million

There really isn’t an argument about this film not being #1 Film of Summer. The question is does it get Black Panther levels, I say no. I don’t think this film has cultural resonance to get there but I think because of a post Black Panther wave of enthusiasm for Marvel this film surpasses Age of Ultron $459 Million Dollar box office but falls short of first Avengers film by a wide margin.


And there you have it, our picks for the biggest films of Summer 2018. Check back in a few months to see just how massively we all missed the mark.

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Marvel Is Playing The Hype Game Beautifully With The #ThanosDemandsYourSilence Infinity War Letter

Is #ThanosDemandsYourSilence a sincere request, or just a cog in the marketing strategy for the biggest film of the summer? It’s both, and that’s part of the fun.

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You wouldn’t think there would be much that Marvel had to do in order to get butts in seats for Avengers: Infinity War. It’s the culmination of everything that Marvel has been building up to in the last decade and, with the brand standing as the unarguable king of all modern franchises, convincing general audiences to give a damn about that is far from a challenging task. Infinity War would make a billion with ZERO marketing…but the Hollywood machine does what the Hollywood machine does, which means that we are going to be inundated with trailers, TV spots, posters, product tie-ins, interviews, clever social media posts that go “viral,” and literally dozens of other forms of publicity as the film prepares for its grand debut at the end of the month.

But as my Introduction to Public Relations course I took in college taught me, journalism is dying and the only way to possibly make a living with the degree is by selling out to the corporations around you and taking in that sweet, sweet public relations coin however way you can. No, wait, the other thing, sorry. What I meant to write was that any public relations plan needs a simple mission statement, and the marketing for a film is no different. So when the marketing powers that be began brainstorming just what they wanted to accomplish with the advertising blitz for the film, what exactly was their approach? Well, the last few months of PR makes that pretty damn clear, at least from my perspective.

With Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel isn’t just trying to sell a blockbuster superhero movie — they are trying to sell THE blockbuster superhero movie. Through every trailer, every new piece of information revealed, and, yes, even every post to social media, Marvel and Disney are setting up Infinity War to be the mother of all event movies. You know that whole “culmination of everything” spiel I wrote about in the first paragraph? The only reason I’m seeing Infinity War like that is because Marvel WANTS me to see Infinity War like that, and have built up a pretty effective public relations campaign to do just that.

Which makes the latest bit of big publicity for the film rather inspiring, at least compared to the deluge of behind the scenes interview quotes from the producers, actors talking the film up on Access Hollywood, and the like. Posted on Twitter earlier today by The Russo Brothers (a.k.a the directors of this massive beast) was an open letter to all Marvel fans about spoiler content when it comes to the launch of the film. If you haven’t yet, check it out for yourself below:

Essentially, the brunt of the letter is this: don’t spoil the film if you happen to see it early (looking at you, fellow bloggers), because that’s not a cool thing to do. But the subtext of the letter in my mind (and what makes it such clever publicity overall) is that Infinity War is a movie that shouldn’t be spoiled to begin with. That the events of the picture are so huge and groundbreaking and game-changing for the MCU that the directors have to write a letter about it, making sure people know the release of the film is huge and groundbreaking and game-changing (it’s a marketer’s job to be repetitious. Their job! Their job is to be repetitious!) And even adding a little fun to the proceedings (a Marvel trademark!) is the hashtag “#ThanosDemandsYourSilence,” which of course has been trending all day, since Marvel/Disney know exactly what they are doing here. Hell, they even got Tom Holland involved in the mix, who as Marvel’s Resident Young Person™ has a big social media presence, and is quick to poke fun at himself in a way that delights all, causes retweets, increases brand awareness, etc.

Now, let me make things clear: while I believe this to 100% be publicity for the film, I don’t necessarily think it’s not a sincere gesture from The Russo Brothers. Of course they don’t want their movie spoiled before most get to see it, and I’m sure there is a lot of big events in the film they would rather people keep their lips shut on for the foreseeable future. But the #ThanosDemandsYourSilence thing is, more importantly, another way for Marvel to build up the grand event nature of the film, not just to get people to see the film, but to feel like they have to see the film as soon as humanly possible. Pushing the film up and making it a near simultaneous global release was one big aspect of that strategy (“Now everyone in the world can feel like they are the first ones to see it, and can experience the film free of spoilers!”), and this letter is just the icing on that publicity cake.

But I want to stress that I’m not railing against this letter — it’s a fun way to build up hype for the opening weekend, and it only does more to increase my personal anticipation for the film’s release. Which, once again, was the entire point. So purely on that level…game gotta respect game here. Bravo Marvel.

…Now give me Inifinity War, plz.


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Disney Celebrates International Women’s Day By Giving Its Favorite Man, Jon Favreau, A Live-Action Star Wars TV Show

Deserved or not…THE OPTICS, DISNEY. THE OPTICS!!

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It’s no big secret that Disney is going in gung-ho on bringing new people into the Star Wars franchise. In the last year, we have seen over half a dozen people be given new movies and projects set within the series, as Lucasfilm slowly starts to build up what the future of this franchise will be following next year’s Star Wars: Episode IX. But while I say “people”, I probably should be more clear — white men. Disney has given the keys to the franchise solely to a bunch of middle-aged, white men.

Is this in and of itself some type of hiring sin? Eh, no, not really. And I don’t even blame Disney/Lucasfilm entirely for the situation — it’s clear that Kennedy and her cohorts are running scared a bit here, with a string of high profile, low experience collaborators causing headaches behind the scenes (Josh Trank, Gareth Edwards, and Lord & Miller.) For that reason, they have been turning to experienced “sure things” to take the reigns of Star Wars, namely in the form of J.J. Abrams (who already did it in The Force Awakens!) Rian Johnson (who already did it in The Last Jedi!), Stephen Daldry (a prestige journeyman with twenty years of experience!), and Weiss/Benioff (they show-ran the most complicated series ever made, THEY ARE PROS!) And you know what the paradox is here? All the filmmakers with decades of experience and a reputation of being professionals are almost entirely — you guessed it! — white dudes.

Enter Jon Favreau. Disney is clearly a fan of the man ever since he gave them the first Iron Man (which in and of itself was a bit of a risky decision to give to him at the time…but I digress), and has worked with him again on massive hits like The Jungle Book and future GARGANTUAN hit The Lion King. They appear to like him, he appears to like them, and there are billions of dollars that prove the relationship works. So now Favreau is being given a pretty big role in Disney’s current crown jewel franchise — Star Wars.

Not the Star Wars project you might think, though. Rather than diving head first into the crowded realm of future Star Wars movies (occupied by at least one more saga film, two competing trilogies, and a whole bunch of individual “story” films), Favreau will apparently be helming the previously announced live-action TV series on Disney’s forthcoming streaming service. This was announced just earlier today on StarWars.com, alongside the expected statement from Kathleen Kennedy:

“I couldn’t be more excited about Jon coming on board to produce and write for the new direct-to-consumer platform. Jon brings the perfect mix of producing and writing talent, combined with a fluency in the Star Wars universe. This series will allow Jon the chance to work with a diverse group of writers and directors and give Lucasfilm the opportunity to build a robust talent base.”

And the expected outburst of excitement from Favreau:

“If you told me at 11 years old that I would be getting to tell stories in the Star Wars universe, I wouldn’t have believed you. I can’t wait to embark upon this exciting adventure.”

Putting aside the pure exhaustion I have to new Star Wars projects right now (TOO MANY), who the fucks idea was it to announce this news today of all days? It’s no big secret that the critical community at large (or Film Twitter, at the very least) has been giving Lucasfilm crap for their seeming dismissal of having more diverse voices behind the scenes. Warranted or not, the complaints about the lack of anyone but straight men being a creative force of the series is extremely prevalent. And if you’re facing backlash over not hiring women to do things…adding yet another man to your company on the damn day of appreciatiating woman just reads as a back slap at worse, and tone deaf at best. READ THE FUCKING ROOM, LUCASFILM.

Ignoring the exact date of the hiring, though, Favreau being announced for this is…fine, I guess. I am not nearly as enthusiastic on the guy’s filmography as some (or Disney, especially) seem to be, but his films are usually pretty good at least (unless they are Iron Man 2.) So this certainly isn’t the worst pick for a Star Wars project. That being said, choosing a guy with zero experience writing a TV series to write a TV series of this scale is a bit disappointing. There are plenty of fine, experienced showrunners out there — why give Jon Favreau, who has already cultivated success in his career a dozen times, yet another big project? Hiring Jon Favreau to do this Star Wars series is ignoring TV showrunners who are perhaps more suitable for the part, which puts his hiring as a “double whammy” of ignoring potentially better candidates, if you ask me.

Anyways, whatever — I’m just hoping that the next announcement of someone getting a Star Wars project is a little more unique, a little more interesting, and a little more diverse. Or, second option…don’t announce another Star Wars project for a while. I think we have plenty to mull around already, Lucasfilm.


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