Why I Didn't Like The Wonder Woman "No Man's Land" Scene

Firstly, I will admit that I thought Wonder Woman was okay (which for me is an endorsement!). I thought it was very good for the first hour – I thought both Gal Gadot and Chris Pine were excellent, I thought the setting was good, I though the acting and treatment were great, I saw sunlight for the first time in a DC movie and that was amazing…. And when it was dull and grey in Jolly Old London and they made a joke about it (“it’s not for everyone”) I liked that too.

But for me the first cracks in the Wonder Woman story happened with the “No Man’s Land” scene, which I’m sad to say quite took me out of the movie I had been enjoying prior to that moment.

Firstly, I was confused by it : for a character who had been going on and on and on about “Must get to the front! Must fight Aries! Must find Aries! I’m the only one who can kill Aries! Why are we in London when Aries isn’t in London! I have to fight Arieeeeees!”

 

"Are we there yet? ARE WE THERE YET? I just want to know..... are we at least getting closer?"

"Are we there yet? ARE WE THERE YET? I just want to know..... are we at least getting closer?"

“Oh, wait? There’s a village over there in danger? I should totally go and help them!!”

Seriously? It’s almost like some screenwriter realised there hadn’t been a fight scene for half an hour and wouldn’t be one for another half hour, so in an act of random desperation they put in a fight scene right there and then. Which I can understand, even if it's fairly clunky screenwriting.

My problem is with the notion of what “Courage” is... and ironically they used this very notion FOR THIS VERY SCENE in the poster campaign:

Note to Kids : this is not courage.

Note to Kids : this is not courage.

When Wonder Woman charges across No Man’s Land, there are two alternative possibilities:

  1. She is invulnerable to bullets
  2. She is *NOT* invulnerable to bullets

1. If Wonder Woman is invulnerable to bullets, then charging across a World War 1 minefield between two trenches against a row of guns aimed against her presents no danger to her, and is no more risky than crossing a quiet road after having looked both ways first. And I happen to believe there can be no courage ifsomebody is taking no risks. It’s an impressive scene, and well executed, and the soundtrack is great… but there’s nothing heroic in this (that comes later, in the village fight scene).

2. If Wonder Woman is NOT invulnerable to bullets, the scene is much more strange and unsatisfying. When a character in a movie runs towards people who are shooting at them from multiple angles, some with machine guns, there can be no strategy beyond hoping that EVERY SINGLE SHOT MISSES (or that you can block an unknown number of bullets from an unknown number of guns at multiple angles using just your arms and shield and that no two bullets, even from opposite angles, ever get to you at the same time) (which is imposible to assume). And if that's your strategy, that's not a strategy. Wonder Woman’s plan for survival (ie. Saving That Village) literally depends on EVERY other characters’ incompetence, or blind luck.

That's not courage either.

"I have a plan. It is a complicated, multifaceted, and highly intricate plan that I have no control over the outcome of. Or alternatively I'm immortal in which case this will not be even remotely challenging. Cue the slow-motion and inspirational music!"

"I have a plan. It is a complicated, multifaceted, and highly intricate plan that I have no control over the outcome of. Or alternatively I'm immortal in which case this will not be even remotely challenging. Cue the slow-motion and inspirational music!"

 

What I’m saying is : it is not heroic when you're doing the equivalent of walking into a casino and putting it all on Black.  That’s not a plan, that’s wishful thinking. And all this from a character who is pursuing a course of action that has NOTHING to do with the ONE THING she’s been incessantly stating as her singular goal this whole movie to date : get to Aries. Fight Aries. KILL Aries.

It’s poor screenwriting no matter how visually impressive the scene is.

And yes, that is literally what I thought when I saw her charge across No-Man’s-Land. Either she’s invulnerable in which case this isn’t heroic, or she ISN’T invulnerable and her new strategy is “I hope they all miss”. The fight in the village after that was considerably better – her comrades-in-arms were in that fight, and you at least know THEY’RE vulnerable, so there’s confirmed unambiguous risk and danger there.

Am I the only person who thought this?

The move overall was okay. The end fight/vaillain was pretty disappointing since I strongly believe that all of (a) revealing your villain wasn't who you thought they were; and (b) their plan wasn't what you thought it was; and (c) their desired outcome wasn't what you thought it was; and (d) the logic of that outcome for what that character is; and (e) whether you had any reason to believe that character; and (f) how dumb their HAT looked in that fight; and (g) after changing villain and plan and outcome STILL having it be settled by punching them in the face regardless.....?

.... that's a rant for another day.

I give it 3 stars. 6.5 out or 10.

Gal Gadot is awesome. Chris Pine is great. Their relationship is fantastically done. The soundtrack by Rupert Gregson-Williams is very good. And it's a competent movie with much to like.

I don't have to watch the new Ghostbusters Movie

I don't have to watch the new Ghostbusters Movie.

If Pepsi were to release a new Grape-flavoured cola tomorrow, the secret of being a consumer is: I wouldn't have to buy it if I didn't want to. It doesn't mean I hate Pepsi, it doesn't mean I'm anti-grape or a misogynist. I might just literally not be thirsty, or prefer any other alternative I'm presented with at that moment, or just not want to.

As a fan of movies, it behooves us to have an opinion on movies; and it also seems to suggest we should watch every movie that is released so that we can have an opinion on it. But that's a moronic notion: none of us are obligated to watch a movie just because some company releases one, regardless of how much they want us to, or to be part of a group, or contribute to a discussion.

At its purest this is a purely financial transaction. Sony has had multiple trailers, posters, featurettes, a song release, interviews and a promotional circus to make me want to watch this movie. That's their 'invitation to treat'. After that, I can read the reviews if I'm still not sure, talk to the people who've seen it, and then decide whether this is the kind of thing I'm into. And the answer is I think not.

And I don't have to say why, because it's literally my money, and I can literally decide to do what I want to with it.

Okay. Fine. If you literally threaten me with violence if I don't watch this movie, I will watch this movie. And afterwards check to see if what you're doing is legal.

Okay. Fine. If you literally threaten me with violence if I don't watch this movie, I will watch this movie. And afterwards check to see if what you're doing is legal.

The thing is, for $1 probably WOULD buy a grape-flavoured Pepsi, because I could take a single sip, and then throw it away if it ends up tasting as disgusting as it sounds, and not feel too bad about the wasted money. But for (say) $20 for a movie ticket, add parking add popcorn add whatever else, Sony has not yet convinced me. Is that important? Probably not - I'm still not entirely sure who this movie is made for, and under those circumstances I usually conclude that it's not made for me. Which is totally fine : Jem and the Holograms wasn't made for me either, and I missed that too.

Technically still air guitars. Disqualification overturned. You're through to the next round!

Technically still air guitars. Disqualification overturned. You're through to the next round!

I certainly have no big fear of Ghostbusters (2016) destroying my childhood memories of the original (Ghostbusters II already did that if I'm honest), and I like Paul Feig and I like Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig. I don't wish them any more malice than I wish any other franchise-aspiring cash grab whose supporters (?) and marketing (?) and even in-movie references (?)  subtly suggests I'm a woman-hating asshole if I don't see it.

Which is funny since so few softdrinks are sold with the slogan "you're a f**king woman-hating a55hole if you don't drink this", but if they were, and the can looked realy cool and didn't cost $20.....

But I've watched the trailers, I've read the reviews, and I've concluded my money could be better spent elsewhere. On trivial crap that Sony probably wouldn't aprove of, but I don't care.

Why write this article? To remind people (including me) that the contents of their wallets are theirs to do with as they (I) want. You don't have to watch a movie just so you can have an opinion on it. Watch a movie you think you'll enjoy, or learn something from. If that's Ghostbusters (2016), certainly let it be that. If I start reading really good reviews, or if Charlize Theron selects it as the movie for our date night, or I can watch it over the shoulder of somebody on the train in a couple of months ago... then sure. I'll change my mind!

But otherwise, don't tell me what to watch.

Also : mostly I just take photos at premieres, ya know?

Jon Snow shoulda stayed Dead

Jon Snow dying was the capstone of a long and consistent theme in Game of Thrones : those who play the game poorly suffer the consequences.

"I probably should have implemented a Suggestion Box mechanism for feedback on whether any of my decisions were unpopular..."

"I probably should have implemented a Suggestion Box mechanism for feedback on whether any of my decisions were unpopular..."

Jon Snow was a nice enough guy, but he knew very little about how power worked. After a long period of meandering around the fringes of influence, he was elected head of the Night's Watch, and immediately stopped thinking about the short term, thought only of the long-term, turned his back on the people he relied upon, and suffered the consequences fairly quickly. That's entirely fair and true to the ethos of a series called Game. Of. Thrones. Play the game badly, you die. You can be brave, you can be loved, you can be noble : but it's a game of thrones and stakes are death if you don't play the game well. So along with the producers deciding that death no longer means a final end, to me it's even worse because it now suggests there are no consequences for playing the game poorly.

Look at the Lannisters : hated, sure. But still in power. Making decisions - being brutal, being expedient, keeping an eye on the long-term AND short-term risks, balancing both, making alliances and enemies and doing it in full view. That Cersei Lannister is still alive is incredible, and is testament to how utterly committed she is, and how hard-working she is, and the schemes and protections she's placed around her. Meanwhile, other players suffer incredible ups and downs (Danaerys), or bide their time (Littlefinger), or are constantly underestimiated (Ramsay), or suffer the consequences (Joffrey, Theon).... always knowing that the penalty for failure is or could be death. The point is : actions have consequences

"But... but... I'm too good looking to die!"

"But... but... I'm too good looking to die!"

And now suddenly they don't.

See, if it's about learning from your mistakes, it's kind of even worse, because Jon Snow is the THIRD Stark in a row to make a variation of the same damn mistake, showing clearly that a failure to learn from history sees you doomed to repeat it. Except not anymore.

Ned was a good man who followed his conscience, failed to watch his back, and failed to make proper alliances - DEAD. Robb Stark was a good man who failed to stay true to his alliances, and failed watch his back - DEAD. And now Jon Snow, a third Stark, with two family members having outlined the consequences of a failure to watch ones back..... died because he made long-term plans without getting the support of his backers.... and failing to watch his back - DEAD. And then NOT DEAD. Why?

What are we meant to make of the story's baffling decision to NOT kill him for this mistake? That he's too popular to die? That the rules of politics don't apply when your hair is awesome enough?

"You're lucky. You saved your game progress and can now resume playing at the last save point".

"You're lucky. You saved your game progress and can now resume playing at the last save point".

I don't get where the show is going. I loved it becauase it showed politics and game theory and strategy and planning and adaptability in action. Now... matters are worse. Now it's turned arbitrary.

Jon Snow shoulda stayed dead.

Why I Walked Out of Captain America Civil War

Why I walked out of Captain America Civil War

Summary : it's Cowardly, Ungenuine  and too Long.
Warning : Contains Spoilers and some coarse language

Secondly : I also want to apologise to the Russo brothers : I honestly think they didn't make a bad movie, but it was very much not the movie I wanted to see, or to an extent the movie I felt was promised. I'm happy to apologise to anyone I offend, but I honestly feel this to be true even if I'm in the massive minority.

 

I realise I should have walked out during the Big Fight in the airfield, because as Scarlet Witch says to Hawkeye "you're pulling your punches". And that's also what I believe this movie did. It pulled its punches.

For a movie called "Captain America Civil War" for the war to feel this flippant seems to be to miss the point. This wasn't about people fighting about what they believed in, it was people NOT REALLY fighting for something they mostly DIDN'T believe in.

You were pulling your punches
— Scarlett Witch

And I was bored. This movie was so self-indulgent and long that it was only mildly interesting at best for much of the runtime (yes, that's an opinion, but it's mine) - the pretext of the film is particularly weak because the underlying mystery is "what's going on?". Daniel Bruhls Zemo has a motivation that's hidden, which means we don't know why he's doing what he's doing, and since he can't play his hand explicitly, it's just build-up after build-up after build-up climaxing with (I guess) "Oh, I already killed those guys earlier. Here, have a fight scene among yourselves". Okay... thanks? Although that's not enough to get me to walk out of a movie, either.

I can be honest: I liked the notion of the underlying disagreement in principle, the notion of whether great power needs oversight or not. The pretext for the movie was rubbish, but the argument itself is interesting. I don't think people are on the right side of the argument they'd naturall be on (why would Iron Man want oversight? Why would a soldier want freedom? Why do two separate deux ex machinas give a crap either way?)

"I'm a school student without a passport and Iron Man paid for my ticket to be here. And I don't know how this shield works or what you're all fighting about. But Sony feels really strongly that I need to be here, and that's good enough for me"

"I'm a school student without a passport and Iron Man paid for my ticket to be here. And I don't know how this shield works or what you're all fighting about. But Sony feels really strongly that I need to be here, and that's good enough for me"

But the seeds of the problem are already there too: it's a moral question, and you can't punch your way out of it any more than Superman v Batman failed to also resolve the question of vigilantism vs oversight by people punching each other. The person who wins in a fist-fight isn't the person who wins the moral argument about violence, ya know? (unless you believe Otto von Bismarck, who said "Might Makes Right").

The issue is : this movie spent the first hour talking about how bad fighting is, and how bad deaths are, and how this is bad even in a world where aliens are invading and robots are dropping extinction-level events onto the planet. That's a fucking dumb view to hold within this univerise and NOBODY says that. Nobody in the Avengers says "Fine. we'll just let Crossbones get away with the killer virus or whatever because stopping him risks lives. And we can't afford to risk lives stopping a killer who is going to kill people even though we know doing so will kill people.". Which is demonstrably moronic.

Also, in a meta sense : fuck you movie - I go to a cinema to watch these sorts of movies, and you're spending an hour telling me I'm wrong to enjoy watching those sorts of movies.... and you're charging me for that?

Next you'll be telling me I shouldn't have loved Deadpool. But I did.

"Deadpool is a potty mouth"

"Deadpool is a potty mouth"

But let me ask the question again : did the creators of the movie really intend to make us feel bad about liking cartoony violence enough to spend a fucking hour talking about the bad consequences of cartoony violence…. before subsenquently giving us an hour of precisely that kind of cartoony violence?

Because if the answer is "yes" then I'm actually sorry that I didn't walk out sooner. At least Batman v Superman attempted (poorly) to apologise for mean-spirited violence. Marvel's violence has always been much more contextually acceptable within the world it inhabits.

But that's not why I walked out. I also didn't walk out because Peter Parker called out Cap's shield for not following the laws of physics, even though I'm a fairly firm believer in the idea that internally calling out a movie for its bullshit WITHIN the movie doesn't make the bullshit any more palatable. And how long was the Mutual Admiration Society scene between Tony Stark and Peter Parker? I thought Wonder Woman watching youtube clips on a plane to seed the Justice League was bad... this character introduction was way more egregious. And it was in a Captain America movie!

"Stop the Captain America movie. And make it about me instead"

"Stop the Captain America movie. And make it about me instead"

On which subject, a side-note : Can we decide whether vibranium absorbs and nullifies all impacts? Because an explosion to Cap's shield at the start of the movie propelled him backwards when previously even Thor bashing down it with a hammer didn't move it downwards. Between everything Vision, Scarlett Witch, and Vibranium can or can't do depending on the requirements of the plot, there's really no point to any fight scene is there?

Also, thanks to the movies' newfound puritanical streak, you're not even allowed to
damage buildings anymore - gotta find an airfield to have a fight.
Hey, why not hold it in a vat of ikea balls next time?

"We're going to need to wait for the environmental impact summary to come in : there's some endangered birds nesting near here..... we might have to move this fight to a mattress-and-pillow factory"

"We're going to need to wait for the environmental impact summary to come in : there's some endangered birds nesting near here..... we might have to move this fight to a mattress-and-pillow factory"

This movie feels like a comic book and physics is broken : bodies don't fall or move like they should anymore, kicks to cars don't feel right, even car crashes look fake. Which is a pity because I loved the pretty decent attempts at realism in Winter Soldier - it's much easier to feel the realism in something when it LOOKS and FEELS real. But it doesn't - it now looks fake as f**k but the morality underpinning it is really, really serious.

But that's not why I walked out.

I also really disliked the comedy of the big fight in the airfield. It's so hard to "enjoy" a fight when nobody is taking it seriously, or caring about the stakes. It's just loud noise and quips. I'll admit I did think about walking out then.

But I knew what was coming : no matter how they sliced it, the Russos had played their hand in the trailer : I knew Warmachine was going to get shot down. The fight, no matter how cutesy and amusing (and f**king long), was going to get REAL. At least somewhere there'd be life and death consequences, no matter how many laughs Spiderman and Antman were throwing out.

….. but it didn't - the Russos turned cowards, because in the words of Agent Coulson in Avengers they "lack conviction". Nobody in Civil War felt strongly enough to shoot anyone. That's why War Machine is felled by accidental stray friendly fire from Vision.

"Oh, no! In a world where I can hand-build an arc reactor in a cave out of scraps, my friend has fallen to the ground at mach 10 and survived....."

"Oh, no! In a world where I can hand-build an arc reactor in a cave out of scraps, my friend has fallen to the ground at mach 10 and survived....."

With all due respect : you COWARDS!!

Instead, the accidentally-shot War Machine falls to earth and impacts it at mach 10 or whatever, and he dies due to accident. Oh wait… he doesn't die???

YOU FUCKING COWARDS.

That's such a cop-out. Hey, even Superman died for ten minutes before the end credits! THAT'S consequences (sort of!).

Another quick side-question : did Iron Man really not give a shit about how many people died in Sokovia until he learned an AMERICAN died? Did I cognate that correctly? WOW. Just thought I'd ask.

But no, that's not why I walked out either.

"Wait... you're trying to kill me? In a MARVEL MOVIE?? Oh, right.. you only pulled the trigger once, shot my glasses, and now giving me time for the reaction shot for the trailer. Thanks, bro"

"Wait... you're trying to kill me? In a MARVEL MOVIE?? Oh, right.. you only pulled the trigger once, shot my glasses, and now giving me time for the reaction shot for the trailer. Thanks, bro"

I walked out when the Russos retcon the death of Tony Stark's parents to be caused by The Winter Soldier. Actually, that's not true : I could have handled that (my eye sockets were straining due to all the rolling my eyes were doing, though). No.... I walked out when Tony turns to Cap and asks if he knew. And of course he didn't know. We'd KNOW if he knew.

But he says he knew.

And that's when I walked out. Because that's bullshit. Firstly, 1991 security cam footage? Really? But forget that, it's bullshit even if he's lying - because this whole movie KNOWS it can't stand on a moral issue, it has to make it personal. In a movie premised upon a difference of opinion, it needs a serious fight-scene. And even if Cap was lying in order to protect Bucky from Stark's wrath (?) it's still bullshit. This movie has nowhere to go except yet another fight where nobody dies and there are no consequences because Infinity War 1 and 2 are still to come.

I walked out because didn't need to see that fight, just like I didn't need to see the reconciliation, I didn't need to see the hugs and the promises and the post-credits stinger. I should have walked out sooner, but I gave this movie multiple chances.

I'm sure I'm in the minority on this. It's great if you liked the movie - if anything, I'm jealous, because honestly and genuinely I wanted to as well. I wanted to like this movie but I couldn't because it was cowardly with its premise, clumsy in its execution and it felt like nothing mattered. In the Age of Ultron the Age lasted about a week. In Civil War it's too many jokes for it to be called Civil, and not enough people taking the fight serious for it to be a War.

"You worried about Thanos?" "No... you?" "Kinda. I think my contract is up for renewal and I'm really, really expensive"

"You worried about Thanos?"
"No... you?"
"Kinda. I think my contract is up for renewal and I'm really, really expensive"

I'm kind of done with Marvel.
They might lack conviction, but I don’t think I do.

I'll keep attending the premieres, though. They're fun.

Why I Didn't Like Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice

March 26th, 2016.

Summary : a two-and-a-half-hour transition from narrative incoherence to narrative incompetence.
 

This movie was terrible. Not just a terrible story, but also a story terribly told, and while the first part is almost to be expacted, the second bit is actually unusual.

"I'm so sorry, Chris Nolan"

"I'm so sorry, Chris Nolan"

I don’t even know where to start except it’s pretty much all wrong. From the bloated runtime where, honestly and genuinely, NOTHING happens to justify the length, to not one but THREE f**king dream sequences, to an entirely contrived storyline which optimistically additionally shoe-horns in future storylines on the off-chance that we wish to be further insulted by the moronic stupidity that DC/Warners appear to be earmarking as the thematic and stylistic basis for the DCU, to the pointless political subplot that is ended when the movie decides to end it, to the weirdly unexplained nature of Batman, to the fact that Clark Kent appears to have a f**king job even though he doesn't bother to do any work, to the fact that Lex Luthor has limitless powers and intellect but decides to go through legal channels to import Kryptonite into the USA because the plot(s) demand it, to the entire government's (?) belief that a whole bunch of shooting deaths (SHOOTING DEATHS?) in African (AFRICA) are Superman's fault, to the INSANITY of basically pausing the movie at the 2/3 mark so that additional characters (The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg) can be introduced via a grind-the-movie-to-a-halt-while-we-watch-a-person-watching-a-screen mechanism.

Zack Snyder has the subtlety of a brick, but his ability to tell a story is that of thebrick's less talented cousin.

Honestly, though, I’m not even that angry. Because this, quite honestly was the natural inevitable conclusion of giving even MORE money to the same people who also failed to make a decent Man of Steel movie (although that movie did have some merit).

"I had this in my carry-on luggage. Don't ask how it wasn't picked up by the airport scanners"

"I had this in my carry-on luggage. Don't ask how it wasn't picked up by the airport scanners"

But to me, they doubled down on The Stupid and maths happened. Did anyone honestly think that more money would somehow encourage restraint in the dream team of director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David Goyer (now joined by Chris Terio, surprisingly of 'Argo' fame), or that things would go any differently than they did, generally speaking? This cinematic abomination was always on the cards : maybe not inevitably, but within the realms of likelihood. So why did we all watch this damn film?

It was us – you, me, we – who somehow believed that the same people doing the same thing with more money would via some kind of magic (?) create something better than they'd previously failed to do.

We believed it because we wanted to believe it, we believed it because the people paid to promote it told us to believe it, and we believed it because we’re stupid fools. What greater indication of future performance than past performance is there, especially when seemingly no lessons were learned?

I don't so much feel betrayed as much as I feel ashamed.

Stared at the script too long.

Stared at the script too long.

But back to the movie.

This movie is a mess, and pretty much everyone is jointly and severally to blame. Director Zack Snyder seems to be the creative equivalent of a redbull-hyped hamster, and he should reduce the dose of whatever he drinks onset by about 2/3, and his editor should reduce their dose by about 4/5. Meanwhile, writer David S Goyer needs to find a remote mountaintop somewhere and write nothing more than a haiku a day for a thousand days, because when I see script insanity I tend to blame him on principle and not the new guy he just met. Did anyone at any time actually think about why they were telling this story that DIDN'T amout to "so we can set up more stories"? This may sound childish and naive, but you could argue that in order to tell a story you have to HAVE a story, not just a huge novelty-sized cheque and an instruction from a movie studio to go out and GET a story.

I heard on a podcast that every episode of the TV show 'The Flash' (ironically a DC property) must contain "heart, humour and spectacle". Holy f**k - and that's in an episode less than 1hr long. This movie has 2.5hrs of runtime and I can't say for sure that it has ANY of those three.

This movie's plot as near as I can summarise is as follows : Lex hates Superman. Finds something in the Pacific Ocean (and in Metropolis rubble) that kills Kryptonian cells, decides to inject them into the corpse of General Zod, which turns him into a monster, that Superman has to fight.

But wait.... Lex ALSO wants to frame Superman for a shooting massacre in Africa, Lex ALSO wants Batman to kill Superman (or vice versa), Lex ALSO blows up the Capitol, Lex ALSO menaces a US Senator, Lex ALSO supports a child prostitution ring in Gotham, Lex ALSO sends private military contractors into an African nation with experimental weaponry, Lex ALSO hosts private parties, Lex ALSO has no security on his harddrives/server-farms which anyone can walk up to at a dinner party and raise no questions doing, Lex ALSO has access to the entirety of the Kryptonian data archive, Lex ALSO kidnaps both Lois Lane and Superman's Mom......

Wow. Did you delete the parts where Lex also has a celebrity chef program he hosts, a kids soccer team he coaches and the consulting work he does for S.P.E.C.T.R.E... because I'm sure you could make this more convoluted and stupid if you tried. I still don't know what the quid-pro-quo was on Lex's deal with the US Army : he got unlimited access to the ship, the tech and the alien body... what did the Army get in return for THAT? Bullets? Not that I care... but neither did the writer(s).

"I have a plan. It's a very complicated, very intricate, multifaceted plan. Of setting a monster loose and seeing what happens. Also blowing up shit, kidnapping people, threatening politicians, and hosting parties"

"I have a plan. It's a very complicated, very intricate, multifaceted plan. Of setting a monster loose and seeing what happens. Also blowing up shit, kidnapping people, threatening politicians, and hosting parties"

And the biggest awfulness about this movie isn't merely that the story was nonsensical, it was that it was additional affront to the potential of these characters and the stories that could be told with them.

For instance, this movie had a chance to show us that Batman’s smarts and intelligence could exceed the powers of Superman and WonderWoman, showing that humanity could have a place in its own destiny – but no, that's not on the cards. So (spoilers) instead of having Batman instinctively realise that Superman would weaken if he used the kryptonite spear, grab it and kill Doomsday, the movie wanted Superman to do it so he could die (OMG : Superman's dead... we'll never see his like again), which means since you’ve killed Superman once, you can never EVER kill him again for plot reasons. And instead of giving us a Lex Luthor who thinks so many steps ahead that he was even prepared for the possibility of things going against him, the movie throws him in jail. This story isn’t just bad, but through its carelessness, it destroys the possibility of better stories with these same characters - a smarter Lex, a better Batman, .... or after two movies perhaps even a likeable Superman?

"This dream sequence makes me look like a weak and weirdly obsessive weirdo.... but I'm contractually obliged to be in more of these films"

"This dream sequence makes me look like a weak and weirdly obsessive weirdo.... but I'm contractually obliged to be in more of these films"

 

This movie's decisions feel like they are made by people for whom the only applicable metaphor is "premature ejaculation".

The people involved in this don't know restraint, they don't know planning, they don't know pacing - they just shove as much out as quickly as possible to satisfy their own particular impulses and have no care for a second date, let alone a relationship, even as it's proposing the next date while ruining the current one! And this is meant to make me excited for the rest of the Justice League this movie wants to shove at me?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

No, please. Try. Because two movies in, I think Batman is a depressed obsessive maniac, Superman is an alien who doesn't give a shit for anyone except Lois Lane (except arbitrarily), and the pretty Wonder Woman is accompanied by a shrieking cello that hurts my ears every time she's fighting onscreen. But please, tell me why I give a crap about the other mutants... uh... out there.

And can I just add one thing to my disbelief with this plot? Forget the pretext of why Batman and Superman are even fighting. Whether it's out of fear for Superman's powers, or Xenophobia over him being an alien, or whether Superman hates vigilantes, or whether it's because Lex is having a family member held hostage. Forget about WHY they fight, but think about HOW they STOP. Imagine a room filled with screenwriters brainstorming... or think about David S Goyer and whatsisname drunk in a bar, whichever, struggling to answer not the question of WHY they fight or WHO would win... but how they stop. And the answer is:.

"Martha"
"Martha??"
"Martha"

And the universe holds its breath. And it holds it just a little bit too long, because just before the universe can say what we're all thinking, which is "That's Fucking Moronic", because it IS moronic and a cop-out and solves none of the inherent issues that this movie has FUCKING rammed down our throats - ie. power, ie. responsibility, ie. jurisdiction, ie. by whose rights is power exercised and judgement rendered, Goyer and Whatsisface are high-fiving and downing shots because they've figured it out. They don't have to fight... because their Moms have the same first name.

"If your mother's name had been Gladys, you'd be dead right now. Remember that."

"If your mother's name had been Gladys, you'd be dead right now. Remember that."

Drop the mike. Go home, bar. You're drunk.

Holy. FUCK.

I'm going to lie down a bit before I continue

 

.... all right I'm back.

But hey, imagine you didn't mind the story. What about the movie, technically speaking? Yes, the story is awful, but unlike Man of Steel this movie is actually badly made.

For one thing, the editing and sense of time and space and location was literally absent at times. The sequencing of events in the movie is disjointed - it never builds to anything because the next scene takes to you somewhere else entirely. Conversations go on far too long while tension is meant to build, the movie sacrifices broad-scale simplicity for needless detail (the Wayne Enterprises employee and the wheelchair) and, what... Batman stands in the rain checking facebook while waiting for Superman to show up? People stand in a building while an alien attack takes place, not being evacuated because they need Bruce Wayne to call some dude to tell everyone to leave the building because in case you haven't looked out the window there's a F**KING ALIEN WAR ON!!??

Well-made movies tend to follow a structure of "this happens, and because of that THIS happens, and because of that THIS happens...." while shitty kids movies tend to be more like "This happens and then this happens and then this happens and then this happens". This movie isn't merely a kids movie in that regard, it interleaves multiple strands of plot almost deliberately in such a way as to be nonsensical, and the 'because'es are part of a plot so convoluted that the word "because" has a considerably different aspect to it.

And after all this, with the "Dawn of Justice" monniker and the unsubtle-as-a-brick revelation of more charactrs, this movie is effectively an invite to watch more movies, and the invite is badly written, badly edited, contrived, messy and (need it even be said) inelegant.

"Your hair looks amazing. Didn't you just break the sound barrier getting here?"

"Your hair looks amazing. Didn't you just break the sound barrier getting here?"

And did I mention the movie was UGLY? The colour palette was ugly to the point of distraction. It's dull, it's dark, it's green and blue and nighttime except when it's brown. Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Superman get his energy from the sun? When is it daytime in this world? But hey, no problem, he's been BURIED at the end of it. No problem.

And the sound design? Although the dialogue was certainly up to the *cough* usual standard of David S Goyer, this time much of it was literally illegible due to a horrendous sound mix in use. I caught maybe one out of every four things Alfred growled at Batman, and caught maybe one of every two things Batman growled in reply. I don't now what Lex was saying half the time. Is that incompetence in the editing booth, bad sound equipment by the cinema, or was it a last heroic effort by an editor trying to spare us horrific exposure to awful dialogue by making it illegible instead? Point is - garbled dialogue. Not even technically capable of being understood.

 

"Master Wayne, I've taken the liberty of turning the speakers on to the maximum settings so you can be deafened while you fight...."

"Master Wayne, I've taken the liberty of turning the speakers on to the maximum settings so you can be deafened while you fight...."

It already doesn’t help that the score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL has all the nuance of a sledgehammer to drive away even the smallest possibility of something being intelligent. I'll actually concede that the score in isolation is actually good, but what hurts here is that Zimmer/Holkenborg seem to have either been infected or ADDED to the infection of insanity of this whole production. Instead of seeing the cinematic bludgeoning audiences might be subjected to and providing a score that might offset or contextualise the mayhem, Zimmer and XL seem to have surveyed everything at 11, and upped their contribution to raise it to 12. That puts insanity on top of insanity.

Is there anything I liked in this movie? Although it's not entirely true, I'm going to say no. When somebody dumps entree, main, dessert, and late night drunken kebab into a blender, and finds some brown gooey stuff on the kitchen floor, shrugs, and throws that in as well, don't expect me to compliment the choice of ice-cream from the dessert.

In summary, it’s awful. The plot is awful, the acting is awful, the pacing is awful, and the end fight takes everything that was excessive in its relentlessly inane length, and takes away human stakesand adds more fakeness, and I just didn't care any more. Not about this film, and certainly not about whatever these guys have planned next.

Everyone involved should be ashamed of this.
And that includes you and me.

Why I Didn't Like Star Wars The Force Awakens.

Dear JJ Abrams. When you babysit somebody's child, you understand that your number one responsibility is their safety. Your job is not to impose your parenting ideas, your job is not to enhance that child's life or teach them anything. Perhaps as a guideline you'll try to imitate the general morality of the parents as a rough yardstick - copy what they did. So....

Congratulations. You did that with Star Wars. But that's all you did.

This movie made me respect what David S Goyer and Zack Snyder did with Man of Steel. At least that took actual courage. What JJ Abrams did was make a movie so safe I couldn't really applaud it.

This movie played things so safely but with such seriousness that it made for a jarring experience at the best of times. And yet it started with something so specific and small-scale and UN-epic as "oh, there's this dude. he's missing. and apparently it's really important we find him because the audience knows his name". Which is actually massively alienating : it's been THIRTY years since as Star Wars film and all you can do is tell me nobody in the universe is more important than Son Of Space Jesus?

And/but that’s before all the plagiarism from the prior movies is factored in on top. Conflicted villain? Shadowy superior? Super Death Star? Cantina scene? Droids? Millennium Falcon? X-Wings? How about having something new to show for a thirty year gap? The movie further nosedived for me once Han Solo showed up, cracking wise after a fairly brutal opening, dealing with caricatured adversaries and a CG menagerie. The lack of originality is a real problem for me in getting me excited. And the attempts at humour didn’t work for me. The vagueness (who are the resistance? what are they fighting for? who is the republic? who is motivated specifically why what?) is a problem. De-masking your bad guy this early is a problem. Making your heroine an electronic genius AND a force user is a self-starring fan-fic written by a boy pretending to be a girl. The back-referencing is irritating. The idea of there being both a republic and a first order AND a resistance shows about the same vagueness as Lucas did when he made “Queen Amidala”s an elected position. And yes, I was fucking betting that they’d mirror the Ben death once Han went across the bridge to Kylo Ren. Why? Because that would be copying, and that’s what this movie was all about. Copy the best, add very little new, fly this thing safely, hope for the applause for the thing you've created.

Why do I care? What am I passionate about? Kylo Ren is a pathetic bitch whose too-early-reveal-of-patheticness undid any early cool factor. Lord Snow or Snoke or Snope or Smoke... I don't give a shit about this character, I could barely get a handle on his name let alone care about his Bad-CG appearance. Corporal / Colonel / Constable Hux sounded like a whiny Tarkin, completely unclassy with a stupid name to boot. And Captain Phasma was typical action-figure bait with no relevance to the plot : it's like General Grievous but more shiny with close to half a dozen less lightsabers and no hacking cough.

Weirdly, I actually didn't hate this film. But clearly I have little good to say about it.

As for the final battle? I found the final battle was simply confused, like they were wondering if anybody wanted to see X-Wings, decided to throw some in just in case it made a difference, and left it at that, thus robbing the movie of pacing at the expense of… what… fan service? Random noise in the form of pew-pew laser blasts from that one guy we saw earlier? But remember : you go to all the stupidity of creating a copied death star whose only redeeming feature is that it's exponentially bigger than the last one and make its destruction barely even tangential to the story of our heroes?!? What the fuck is the point of that? But hey, watching two kids swish lightsabers around was dramatic because... oh I don't know, plus to me it was interesting only insofar as near as I can tell Rey did nothing but wield it in anger the whole time.. so huzzah for the dark side in our heroine I guess.

As for the very end? Yeah…. Thanks Disney.  Mark Hamill sure did earn that second-in-the-credits position. And I don't even know how (or who) drew the two-pieces map to find him, and went to all the trouble to hide it or why. Was this Luke's idea? On what basis? What for? Oh... wait. I forgot

I don't f**king care, because the movie gave me no reason to care.

At the end of the day this movie's goals (which I'll summarise as : spawn more movies, and sell merchandise) didn’t coincide with my own, and it's not my kind of movie, because I can't figure out how it could ever have been my kind of movie. For one thing, it was too busy setting up the next movie(s) to give me a proper THIS movie.

This movie was .... a mess in many ways. In spite of all I've written didn't hate it, but I struggle to talk about what I like. It felt like a bad fanfic where somebody draws a list of everything that was cool in one or two movies and shoves them, or linear/geometric enhancements into a new one, whether it be as references, callbacks, or outright duplication, and garnishes the rest with stuff made up to connect the dots on any flimsy pretext. It's not good enough... except based on global box office receipts it's clearly good enough. So I'm wrong on every factor that counts.

But I just hope that I personally can now stop giving a fuck about future star wars movies. I gave this one a chance.... I tried to give it as open a mind as I could. Or rather, I tried to, but given I had three f**king months of the trailers, the teasers and the damn merchandise shoved in my face, demanding that I have an opinion on the awesomeness of a movie I haven't seen yet... I didn't. Sorry.

I give it 6.5/10 which is flat-average. Nothing more.

One final comment, by way of analogy : If I were to pay a lot of money for the rights to create and release new paintings under the ‘Picasso’ brand, how would that be received? Would it be fair to say that I had no right to do this, even if I was brandishing a contract and a receipt for payment that confirmed I had every right? To me, that’s what’s happening here – somebody has paid money for the right to a name, and in doing so what they’ve done can be evaluated one of several ways, which is : to continue the analogy is it (a) a shitty painting, (b) a shitty Picasso, or (c) something that's a Picasso only because they paid money for the right to call it a Picasso, or (d) two thirds of a Picasso with a remainer comprised mainly of a plea to 'Stay tuned for More Future Picassos!!!!!!!' ending.... and is it really valid to like whatever is created on the basis of "it's just nice to see a new Picasso" or "it' might not be an original Picasso, but it's better than some of the worse ones"

To me, the answer is : it's a shitty Picasso by the standards of Picasso. But yes, congratulations, it's better than his worst.

And that's where I'm at.

 

ps : sorry for the rant. I'll try to edit for brevity and clarity later. Maybe. Quite frankly : I'm sick of thinking about Star Wars - have been for about ten years.

Thoughts on James Bond's 'Spectre'

Given that I liked Casino Royale, felt Quantum of Solace was weak but kind of worked as a bolt-on to Casino Royale, and entirely failed to be overwhelmed by Skyfall due to its weak final third act, it would seem my frame of mind was appropriately measured in relation to the fourth Daniel Craig Bond film, with regard to hype and over-hype.

I felt that Skyfall was stylish, decently acted and had a great score… so if Spectre with the same cast, crew, composer AND director could at least provide that much, and not bore me with its longer 150min runtime (and dull-as-toast main theme)… I might come out feeling that £13.95 fullprice to see it was worthwhile. Either that, or I’d find out whether the filmmakers who made ‘Skyfall’ had no idea why that film made a record billion dollars worldwide, and consequently had no clue how to follow it up either.

(3hrs later)

Now that I’ve watched it, I’m actually rather positive about it. I think tonally it was spot on, and having been ‘warned’ about the ‘back to the past’ nature of the movie allowed me to anticipate the plot twists I might otherwise have objected to had I been taken by surprise by them. What I was left with after that was actually a very satisfying movie that took advantage of its lengthy duration to tell a very complete, very entertaining and predictable IN A GOOD way movie. Rather than being an action movie, it felt like an Adventure movie, and doing that allowed for a real enjoyment of the characters, the interactions, and a more measured unveiling of ‘plot twists’ rather than abrupt ‘bet you weren’t expecting that!!’ shocks.

I liked the direction, I liked the acting, I liked the story… I disliked the Sam Smith theme but did enjoy the credits. It had a real ‘adventure’ feel to it, and if this is the end of the Daniel Craig series of films it would seem that all four now create a rather self-contained whole in a satisfying way... albeit the death of Judi Dench’s ‘M’ is still a bit of a weak point, and the Khan-esque ‘reveal’ of Blofeld doesn’t really work without the audience knowing more than the character at why that name matters when it shouldn't.

And yes it is a bit of a pity that this movie in wrapping up that era really represents a retconned selective strip-mining of the character’s own past. But all that aside, and to my surprise, I enjoyed this film.

(the next morning)

That said, I probably shouldn’t have. This movie basically ‘breaks’ an unspoken Bond continuity that says James Bond is played by a different interchangeable character taking up the mantle of the prior 007, with some similarities but their own uniqueness. This way, every Bond film is emblematic of its time in technology, concept and theme, but still progresses chronologically, and is accurate to the world we live in (sort of). That’s why you have the same ‘Q’ across three Bonds, different ‘M’s across several, and little bits of back-referencing here and there as well. Bond is an instrument, and we will always have that instrument, and calling him the same thing is a way of reusing pre-existing tools that were useful.

But in this movie, Daniel-Craig-asBond meets Blofeld, even thoughConnery-as-Bond already met him. Or is it a different him? Is there always a Blofeld in Bond, in the same way as there is always a Joker for Batman?

And more then point, should there be and should I care? Should the screenwriters have such an easy time with a pantheon of villains to resurrect at whim?

The existence of Blofeld in the Here and Now collapses the Bond universes, meaning each new Bond is basically a reboot (or a complex some-are-some-aren't scenario) every time. Which means we can now stripmine the past because the past is a different universe. And if I cared about Bond Universes, this would naturally be something I disliked. But I’m increasingly inured to it because firstly I don't care about Bond that much... and also the notion of stealing from the past to pay the present, of tapping nostalgia by cheaply repackaging it... that’s what the 21st Century is about. It’s what the appropriately-placed Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer they played before the movie is all about too.

By making films like this, as viewers we are quietly told that there is nothing wrong in graverobbing. I suppose it's fine, after all the dead don’t mind, the old don’t matter, and the young don’t care because they’ll live forever. In principle, I should have hated this movie because by making this movie better, they only had to make prior movies worth slightly less by stealing from them, and theft is theft and a dearth of original ideas is bad.

But you know what? I don’t care. It wasn’t my grave that was robbed, it wasn’t my childhood that was raped, and I thought this movie was good.

I'll leave it to Star Wars to attempt to milk me for all the nostalgia I have in the most obvious, cynical and coldly manufactured way possible. Good luck with that, Disney.

Letting the Audience Know What The Characters Don't

I'm consuming more Easter eggs than popcorn whenever I'm watching a Marvel movie these days.

When I first watched Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorceror's) Stone, I was aggravated. I hadn't read the books, but seemingly everyone else in the cinema had. That meant every time they unveiled a new character (Dumbledore! Draco! Neville! The Sorting Hat!) there were these titters of delight rippling through the audience.

And I hated it. Here I was, just some person trying to enjoy a movie, and every time something new happened I could immediately tell It Was Important just because the audience of more knowledgeable viewers were telling me by their responses that it was.

I'd felt that way before - not deliberately, but rather I'd been made to feel that way before, and it was during the Star Wars prequels. Young Anakin Skywalker gets introduced to Obiwan Kenobi and OMFG that's the little kid that would go on to kill his mentor three movies later (uh... spoilers, I guess?).... or R2D2 meets C3P0 on Tattooine and OMFG, they're finally meeting.

There is no intrinsic reason why a young kid shaking the hands of the Jedi Who Stayed On The Ship is such a big deal at the time it happens. But please, movie... linger on it longer.

There is no intrinsic reason why a young kid shaking the hands of the Jedi Who Stayed On The Ship is such a big deal at the time it happens. But please, movie... linger on it longer.

These are fake 'Moments' - an easy trick, to pretend to be profound. Some kid meets some guy on a starship. Two toasters say hello to each other. Those moments have no importance in the moments they occur, but the music swells and the knowledgeable part of the audience shivers and.... aren't prequels and reboots magical when you, in the audience, knows how important what just happened is but the characters don't?

The music swells and the audience shivers and.... aren't prequels and reboots magical when you, in the audience, knows how important what just happened is but the characters don't?

No. It absolutely is not, in my view.

It's this kind of snobbish elitism that's inherent in every adaptation, prequel and reboot, especially when attention is drawn to it. The audience gets to act superior. In Game of Thrones' first four seasons, readers of the books could lord their supposed superiority over non-readers. And that's fine, because I was one of them. But when the audience gets to basically lord their superiority over the characters themselves, like we're the Gods overseeing the predestined behaviour of mere lesser beings like Batman and Superman and Anakin Skywalker and Robb Stark..... aren't we great?

I'm trying to figure out whether this is some kind of reaction to something. Is the real world so complex and difficult that story tellers and movie makers are tapping into a gap in our psychology that makes us gain joy by knowing more about the upcoming fates of fictional universes than the inhabitants of that fictional universe? Is that the kind of joy we're packaging into our movies? Not the joy of adventure or discovery, but rather the joy of confirmation of already having known something?

Are story tellers and movie makers tapping into a gap in our psychology that makes us gain joy by knowing more about the upcoming fates of fictional universes than the inhabitants of that fictional universe?

Do I desire that power? Well... no. I'd prefer to not know. Or rather, I'd prefer to learn something, than merely get a pat on he back for having known something already. I'd prefer for storytelling to be about telling stories, not the intellectually interesting but less entertaining idea of knowing what's important to future stories in the middle of stories I'm being told right now.

Side-note : I don't read comics. And OMFG watching a comic book movie has become an excercise in restraining myself from frustration, of not wanting to know about the deeper story beyond the one I'm seeing. When I'm trying to watch a movie about a Rogue AI intent on destroying the world, it takes me out of the movie when all around me people are orgasming over mentions of "Wakanda" and Vibranium Mines and Sokovia and Vision saving Scarlett Witch, and f***ing Thanos finally doing what he should have done three or four years ago and getting his ass out of his chair, grabbing a shiny duelling gauntlet and getting on with things. I swear I'm consuming more Easter eggs than popcorn whenever I watch a Marvel movie these days.

I swear I'm consuming more Easter eggs than popcorn whenever I watch a Marvel movie these days.

But OMG can you feel the foreshadowing? Can you feel it?

Yes, I can feel it. And I don't want to. I don't want to watch Daredevil and know what happens any more than I want to watch Spider-Man yet again knowing that Peter Parker's Uncle dies, Batman knowing his parents die, Superman knowing who Lex Luthor is, or Age of Ultron knowing what the Infinity Stones are.

All of these movies are anathema to an enjoyable viewing experience to me because not only do I know too much already, but the only way movie makers can subvert expectations is to play on what I/you (or think I/you) know and make changes to THAT. Maybe in this one Black Widow falls in love with somebody else, maybe Iron Man creates Ultron, maybe Hulk doesn't change colours, maybe Coulson DID survive.

Isn't it exciting when you don't know? I say yes : but it's even more exciting when you don't even know the parameters. Whether Coulson is alive, whether the Red Wedding takes place, whether Dark Vader is alive... these are binary questions : the answer is either Yes or No. But I'd rather ask questions that don't have simple Yes/No confirmations of previously suspected facts.

Knowing more than the characters in a movie do - not due to scenes they're not in but because I know what happens next in the grander arc, doesn't make me feel superior. It makes me bored. And being surprised at having my expectations subverted doesn't make me any happier, because the framework by which I've had my  preconceived expectations set has already been set and agreed upon.

So rather than pandering to what I already know, and rather than playing mind games with me and setting expectations so they can be subverted, I wish stories showed more interest in telling stories.

The joy of discovering something is greater than they joy of having something I suspected confirmed, or something I was told to expect subverted.

Why I'm more excited about Man of Steel 2 than Captain America 3

It's got a lot to do with appetite for risk. If you've got nothing to lose, you can do all kinds of crazy wonderful stuff, but if you've got a LOT at stake, that's when you start making predictable, safe movies. By including everyone from 'The Avengers' in 'Captain America : Civil War', and by using the same directors as the one before that, and making sure it continues into 'Infinity War', Marvel is basically outlining the movie(s) they want to make, which is the movies they made last time, and which are being propelled along a path that is unstoppable and inevitable. And why wouldn't you do that, if just by not doing anything stupid you can make an easy billion dollars?

That, in a roundabout way ,that replaces a shorterm risk of failure with a longterm risk of boredom and stale-ness and predictability. Then again, every studio would rather have a billion dollars today than take a risk and get 2billion in three or four years. To be fair, if I was running a business, I'd be doing that too.

But I'm not a business. I am a movie-goer. And I don't really want to watch the kind of movies that Marvel is suggesting they're going to make with cold, calculated precision.

That's why part of me actually is looking forward to Man of Steel 2. That movie could be genuinely, gloriously mad. Because DC is desperate. And desperate people take risks. Avengers 2.5 : Civil War might end up being many things, but gloriously mad will almost certainly not be one of them.

Why I'm (still) not sold on the new Star Wars movie

One Trailer and one Teaser in, and I can't begin to articulate why I'm still not sold, and I'm still not excited.

But now I think I can.

Back in the time of the Star Wars original trilogy, I was experiencing a story I enjoyed being told by somebody who was telling me a really good story, and it was a story that they really wanted to tell.

Then the prequel trilogy came along, and the story was being told to me by the same person but they'd changed and so had I, and it wasn't the story I wanted told, AND I didn't enjoy it, and the story kept referencing the original trilogy in ways I didn't like.

But here's the problem with the new Star Wars movie(s):

The person who's telling the story is giving every indication that their primary interest is in telling me the story THEY THINK I WANT TOLD, and they're also trying to ensure I'll stick around to hear them tell more stories in the future.

Neither of those things have anything to do with what I liked about the original Star Wars trilogy, and purely coincidentally they're also different to the things I didn't like about the prequels.

I think when an artist creates art explicitly for an audience, it diminishes the artistry because it's like they're doing something for Facebook likes and Retweets (or... you know... Box Office) rather than doing something because they truly want to. With a burning passion. There's a distinct difference between artistic drive and commercial drive, and it's noticeable.

I have no idea why the new movie gets to call itself "Star Wars", given the storyteller, owner, and objective in telling the story have all radically changed. Except in a legal sense, obviously. I mean, Pepsi could replace its product with UHT Long Life Milk tomorrow and claim that as the owner of the Pepsi Brand, they can bestow the Pepsi name to anything they want.

The thing is : if I do end up liking the new film(s), it will probably have less to do with it being a Star Wars film and more about it being a good film. If happen to like the taste of UHT Long Life Milk, that is.

Why I Didn't Like 'Avengers : Age of Ultron'

There are many  movies I like. But I'm not writing about those here.
Contains Spoilers.

When I left the cinema after watching Avengers : Age of Ultron, the world outside looked brighter and more vibrant than the dark, dour movie I’d been watching for some two and a half hours. This is not a criticism in and of itself, but it wasn't something I'd have anticipated.

BACKGROUND

Firstly, a bit of background. I am male, but I have never been  a fan of comic books. It's not a format I find enjoyble, and this informs my opinion of comic movies and why I'm a little bit skeptical about adapting them effectively into movies. TV Series perhaps more so, but movies not so much. This is also why I do not have any 'baggage' when it comes to loving (or in my case not giving a f**k about) characters like 'Vision' or 'Ultron'. To me, the no-doubt rich comic history of these characters is irrelevant. What matters is the movie, and to me nothing exists outside that sphere.

Should this form of judgement be allowed? I argue that it should. A quick bit of research online suggests that Marvel Comics' monthly sales of comic books is something like $15million (?), and if that's approximately true, what that means is that in all likelihood annual US Comic Book sales will be less than 1/5 of what Avengers Age of Ultron will make at the global box office. Which is to say : Comic Book Nerds? You are not in the majority. You are the most loyal, and most vocal group, with perhaps the biggest vested interest. Are comic book fans more valuable to Disney/Marvel than the averge person? Perhaps. But for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to thrive, I'd argue that it can not rely on hardcore fans alone.

So now you know where I'm coming from when I say that I think Avengers : Age of Ultron was good. I’d give it a 7/10. It was well-made and nobody took an easy paycheck. There was care taken, and skill involved. But it's probably NOT in my top five Marvel films (Avengers 1, Cap2, Cap1, IronMan1 and probably IronMan3 all edge it out). And the problem is,  if I had to justify why I didn’t like it more, the reasons would make me reduce it to a barely ‘average’ 6.5/10. Because it consistently failed to engage me, and part of the reason is fundamentally due to the format of comic book movies, which is becoming more apparent.

1. WHEN WE LAST LEFT OUR HEROES....

Who gives a 5hit, right? I mean, Tony Stark had lost all of his Iron Man suits in Iron Man 3; and Captain America was off to find Bucky, Black Widows was out doing something and Nick Fury was wearing a fetching hoodie and vanishing into the night while his tombstone stood sentry after Winter Solder, and.... wait. Did you care about any of that? Doesn't matter, completely unimportant, stop living in the past because ALL of that is in the past, and never referred to. If this movie feels like I missed a whole bunch of episodes, episodes during which the characters went and had adventures that altered their characters because they don’t feel the same.... then that's because they absolutely did, and we're not told how, why, or what happened. And they don't think the same, their motivations have shifted, and it's very jarring. Their growth as characters appears more convenient than natural or organic because it happened off-screen. In addition, I could phrase it as : at times this felt like a movie that was 3hrs 10mins long until it had half an hour worth of content gouged out of it for runtime reasons.

2. ULTRON : BAD OR JUST WRONG? (OR "JUST COPIED FROM 'I, ROBOT' "?)

But the biggest problem is the villain, whose existance effectively arises from two Drunks at a party meddling with alien technology. And those drunks are two of our heroes - and two of my favourite characters. More on that later, but Ultron's ill-thought-out motivation, vaguely 'saving the world by killing all humans' isn’t just a boring AI trope, but it’s also only a slightly enhanced version of the plot of Captain America : Winter Soldier (kill all threats to protect the rest). But that aside, given his plan changes anyway, realistically, asking a robot to 'keep the world safe' is a misnomer. It either means keeping the world safe FOR HUMANS (in which case Ultron's plan is wrong due to convenient semantics), or it means keep the world safe for LIFE (in which case Ultron's plan is ALSO wrong because he's going to destroy everything), or it just means literally keeping this orbiting body safe.... in which case Ultron isn't even necessary.

Or realistically, Ultron is just following a warped agenda based on an improper understanding of a vague AI impulse given to him by his creator, plus weird alien influence you / I / we will never understand, but something to do with quoting Pincchio. And while amusing (?) it's not really cool.

3. AGAIN, NOT SO MUCH "EPIC" VILLAIN AS "CREATED WHILE DRUNK" VILLAIN

And don't forget : Tony Stark creates this nemesis because of a rushed three-day hack job to resolve a personal problem ('let's all retire', I think?), which prior to this movie hadn’t been identified as something he really cared about, with a very convenient time limit (three days) thrown in to ensure maximum chance of making a mistake on something Important. So the result of that hack-job is this movie's villain (and not, say, the two idiots who created him?) Chillingly both the people responsible survive, neither are punished, and one even gets to drive away in yet another brand new Audi R8. If you want to delve deeper, then I'm sorry but we don't have much time since we need to introduce three or four new heroes/villaicncs, some additional support characters, some new set-pieces, and flashbacks.

To me, though, Ultron isn’t a villain so much as just… really, really WRONG. And he won’t listen to reason. Which is fine in the world of the movie, because nobody is talking to him and trying to understand. Nobody is negotiating, nobody is even attempting to… and that is that. This movie wants its action scenes, and the plot has to move to that aim, so talking to the villain is out because the villain is evil (sort of) and he has a plan (of sorts) and must be stopped.

4. FORGET PLOT - GIVE ME ACTION

The movie is able to overcome these problems to an extent  by basically having nonstop action set-pieces that overload senses you might otherwise use to query the plot, interspersed with the revelation of characters’ internal weaknesses, which meant I now had more fragile heroes I thought I knew but didn't, that I now have to reconcile with.... and they're fighting against a less conceivable villain than I might have hoped. All that, in a movie that’s over two and a half hours long but was hardly ever engaging because it's neither the movie I wanted to watch, nor the movie it's convinced me I want to. Because I saw the trailer, and much as I wanted to not be spoiled by the trailer, I at least would have expected the tone to be somewhat accurate.

The first Avengers film avoided this by being  much more vague about the danger - Loki was a 'bag of cats' and whether he wanted to rule for ever or would get bored was just a pretext to get people working together... and THAT was the victory, and the threat was the pretext, which meant that the humorous tone worked. Here, we're meant to care because the villain is genuinely menacing (albeit mistaken), and our characters are worried and scared... but are given little reason to do so and the wry humour and wisecracks this movie often throws out there seem really ill-placed.

5. FORGET ACTION - GIVE ME HUMOUR AND ACTION

I've said this before to friends : it is possible to achieve a balance between humour and action, but even where a ratio of 1:1 might work, doubling both numbers DOESN'T - the two might balance each other out, but they don't CANCEL each other out. This movie couldn't make me care AND it couldn't make me laugh because it was trying too hard to do both at the same time, especially in the first half of the movie where it sets a tone that's really inconsistent and unrealistic given the stakes it's trying to create.

What’s so jarring is that the first Avengers movie used characters AND a villain that we’d seen before in separate movies, and the movie was about putting them all together on the same playing field and seeing what happened. That was Awesome. And The Winter Soldier did something similar : using familiar characters and themes and reimagining them in a different construct.

Here, the pieces are different, and differently assembled, and plot is subservient to action, and most of what happens takes place due to a mistake. And when it didn't have that, it had flashbacks, it had visions, and it had farmstay vacations.

6. BUT PLEASE..... GIVE ME THE BACKSTORY OF THE LEAST INTERESTING AVENGER

Let's talk about the farmstay interlude. Of ALL the Avengers, could we please agree that the one we care about least is Hawkeye? The fact that he has a family is at best useful as a throwaway bit of humour, but surely not meant to be some kind of 'reality' that we're meant to anchor 'human stakes' to. Why didn't they make that NICK FURY'S Family at the Farm? That whole section could become pretty awesome because you'd have contrast between Nick Fury and Family. Instead we get the dull reality of a dull character. Which is... inconceivably boring. And it coincides with our team-at-an-all-time-low-soul-searching undermined by people leaving to go on convenient vision-quests elsewhere (Thor), people being introduced (wife and kids), and the revelation that at least one character knew about Hawkeye's family (Black Widow) while two guys chop wood until one goes to fix a tractor. I forget where Hulk was during this. Probably moping.

7. FUCK IT, THEN. CREATE A NEW HERO

So rather than solve the problem by mending these now-broken pieces, and having them rebuild and work together, something the movie not only should have done but kind of tried to do, the movie then decides that the most effective solution to the problem of the bad guy that's been created is to use space magic to create an all-powerful NEW hero at the movie's 2/3 mark. This will mean that we have that new hero fight the new villain alongside the other two new heroes they’ve introduced who used to be villains, and then kill one of them because it’s easy to kill a new characer that felt like he was introduced as part of a duo SPECIFICALLY so that you could kill one of them.

As for Vison? Um... I have no attachment to this character. Why would I? Once he's in corporeal form he becomes Jarvis, except without humour. As a friend noted, he's basically the Silver Sufer : impassive, and kind of omnipotent. The worst kind of character. He means nothing to me at all. I'm not sure if I'm meant to care about what is basically a placid new powerful Deus Ex Machina whose powers far outweigh that of all the other Avengers.

9. I'D LIKE TO ORDER A SECOND HERO WITH SIMILARLY UNDEFINED POWERS, PLEASE

The two new characters who aren't Vision are Very Convenient. Making them brother and sister gives them a pre-existing relationship which makes them a duo, okay fine. But giving them wildly different powers is the kind of comic book conceit that's meant to be interesting but honestly simply isn't. And yes, I'm aware who their father is, and why He Will Not Be Mentioned. But even aside from the fact that Quicksilver is the same, power-wise, as The Flash in That Other Franchise.... Scarlett Witch seems like she's comprised of a fan-boy's grab-bag of tricks and talents thrown in to  character to create a one-person force that could take on a number of enemies. She can implant memories AND throw out power beams AND move shit around telepathically. Does she also make great lattes? Because I could use a coffee.

10. AND BECAUSE WE NEED MORE FACELESS MINIONS...

All the bad guy's minions are more robots, none with personality so you can kill them with no emotion. Didn't we do that in the last Avengers film? Well done.

But hey... you had action. And the action in the movie is cool insofar as it's frantic and audacious. But the flipside is that  there are few stakes prior to the final battle because you need all your heroes for the final battle, and as noted, the final battle is undermined by who you're fighting against.

11. THREATEN THE INHABITANTS OF A COUNTRY YOU JUST MADE UP

It was almost a relief when we got to the final FINAL battle, whose means of 'threat to all life on earth' is faintly moronic on the one hand… but also kind of smaller in scope than the nine realms in danger in the Thor sequel (that starred only Thor), and simultaneously less immediate than the three million at risk in The Winter Soldier because at least those seemed like ‘real’ people in the real world rather than the inhabitants of a country whose name you just made up.

In addition, let's be honest, (a) it's fairly obvious you won’t destroy the world since you’ve already announced Avengers 3a, 3b, Ant Man, Black Panther, Civil War and renewed Agents of S.H.I.E.D..... and (b) we’ve barely seen even a single civillian death in this film, so I doubt you have the balls to destroy even the inhabitants of 'Not-A-Real-Country-Istan', Eastern Europe.

12. THE FINAL BATTLE

The final battle is a dour battle filled with no one-liners, no desperation, too many characters in too many different places at once, in a place we don't care about, fighting a villain we've been told is angry but kind of comes off as confused and outnumbered and fighting for his life against a newly arrived hero who is more powerful. And then our heroes start spending more time saving civilians which is (yawn). Noble, sure, but these are people (refer above) from a country we know nothing about, to whom we have no attachment. But please, insert some mothers with children and some pets so I get the (yawn) stakes.

And since the main villain is basically just kind of wrong in the end (except at the VERY end he’s agreed to have been in part RIGHT, and that's just before he’s killed, but thankfully only Vision is there to hear that) we have both a confused villain, and a confused plot, and personality-less minions, facing off against our heroes. That's actually considerably INFERIOR to the villain of the first Avengers film, Loki. And Avengers didn't end with three new heroes ready to join in the (yawn) fight against the Next Big Threat.

Ultron is the product of alien technology aeons old embedded in a stone that's one of six with the power to lay waste to whole planets.... and yet he's defeated by an AI Tony Stark had previously been using mostly to provide pithily phrased updates on his suit's power integrity. How powerful was the bad guy, then, and how big was the threat?

12. PEOPLE ARE GETTING BORED. QUICK! KILL SOMEBODY

In accordance with the rule of putting faceless civilians at risk, please also highlight the threat by killing one of our heroes. But please... make it one of the new ones so I don't care that much.

Done.

13. THE END IS THE BEGINNING IS... YET ANOTHER BEGINNING

… and then it ended with a new HQ and the four new Avengers in some kind of large school training hall. What actually irritates me is why are they there? Presumably to get training to join the Big Leagues? What are they all going to do ... lift weights? We've got Thor and Hulk for that. Study ethics? Recall Tony Stark because clearly he didn't study that.

And it's a big hall. Which you know they’re going to want to fill with more new Avengers in the belief that even more heroes makes things better. But they don’t. Because the main problem with more Avengers is that you need to create new/more/bigger villains for them to fight. And more Avengers also means those villains need to be specifically contrived to not be immediately defeatable... but eventually defeatable, either through the introduction of even MORE new heroes, or NEW space magic that's required to be made up.

Which was kind of the movie I just watched, and I don't want to watch more of those movies.

14. WHY HASN'T TONY STARK BEEN ARRESTED, OR STOPPED?

I come out of this movie concluding that the one person who needs to be stopped from destroying the world is Tony Stark. I saw a movie where my favourite Avenger is effectively the villain and pretty much only Thor calls him on it, and it ends with him not arrested. That's not the movie I wanted to watch, and it's barely the story I believe it intended to tell. It actually moves me into the "Man of Steel" universe where I'm forced to conclude that because I am a non-superpowered non-billionaire human on this planet, the biggest threat to me will come from drunken scientists with too many resources and no constraints. No amount of humour will increase my enjoyment factor at that.

15. THANOS

Good news, though. Apparently after three years and two movies of sitting on a throne, Thanos has finally gotten out of his chair. I assume it'll take him another two years to shower and get dressed. I've also forgotten why I care about Thanos. In Guardians of the Galaxy, I saw one of this Lieutenants back-talking at him, steal an infinity stone from him and get away with it, and neither of his two daughters particularly respected him. The guy is not coming across as particularly evil or formidable. Or smart. Or mysterious. Or funny. But please... make sure you split that movie into TWO movies.

 

SO LET'S SUMMARISE EVERYTHING:

"Drunken Tony Stark unleashes Alien AI on a pretext we'd never been exposed to til now; and then sober Tony Stark weaponises the AI he's already had and easily it beats the shit out of the Alien AI, which ends up being more confused than evil.... all while Earth's Mightiest Heroes become a civilian evacuation team and fight mindless personality-less minions for the second Avengers film in a row. Btw, I think the Age of Ultron lasts about three days from his birth to his destruction. To Be Continued."

Some More General Observations:

16. TOO MANY IMPOSSIBLE THINGS

 

The strongest movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been the ones that built on concepts previously introduced, and didn't ask you to believe in too many new implausible things at once without giving you a lot of time (or even an entire 'Thor' movie) to get used to them. It's easier to believe that the crazed villain of the first Avengers movie was a petulant man-child because we saw him in one of the previous movies. It's easier to believe that World War II's Hydra infiltrated Shield because its existance was known and its plan was long-term and clever, just as it's easy to believe that a good organisation can be infiltrated or that good intentions taken too far can lead to great evil.

 

For me Thor The Dark World failed because absolutely everything (except the Thor/Loki dynamic) felt contrived and made up. Iron Man 2 failed because it threw in too many plots as if it desperately had no idea what the audience wanted, plus it had no clue whether to be a comedy or a drama. Guardians of the Galaxy was a ton of fun, but the logic of the last half hour took a holiday sipping margaritas on a beach somewhere while the movie concluded.

As for Age of Ultron? Overall, I felt this movie expected me to believe and accept far too many things at once, used frantic pace to accomplish that, and gave me too little in the way of enjoyment in return.

17. TOO BUSY TELLING THE NEXT STORY

I don't know if every comic book fan thrills at the merest mention of yet another part of the Marvel Universe with the possibility of spawning more stories, but to me it's a constant distraction. Marvel needs to stop setting up new stories, and start telling me the stories it's telling. Setting up Civil War, setting up Infinity War - this is not what The Avengers should be about. Why can't I leave the cinema feeling like something good just happened, rather than me getting an ad for two more things, both of which will separately give me yet two more things....just more chapters in an unending series of chapters.

18. FUTURE STAKES

 

The only thing Marvel wants to protect is the eternal continuance of further Marvel movies but it thinks it can only do that by raising the stakes each and every time. But once you've put Earth at risk, and once you’ve put nine realms or the galaxy at risk, what’s left? Seriously, what’s left? I think deep down, Marvel doesn't care about cities, countries, worlds or universes because these things can always be recreated. And once you include alternative universes and multiverses, there'll be an inbuilt 'reboot' button and no pretense of consequence for any decision because then you can kill and revive or create and destroy and reincarnate anyone at any time.

 

And I'm care factor zero when all rules of reality are off the table, so no thanks.

19. COMIC BOOKS ARE NOT THE SAME AS MOVIES

There's a reason why I never got into comics, and multiverses and pantheons of superheroes and trying to make me care when anything can be reset, rebooted, retconned or just shown to have happened to a clone/ alternate/ doppelganger. It's nowhere near as compelling to me as... to the kind of people who find that compelling.

Comics are ONE way of telling a story - an episodic, week-on-week, month-on-month, decades-spanning evolving story. Turning that form of entertainment into a movie is not as simple as grabbing the an issue of Marvel Comics and taking its story, changing a few characters and lines of dialogue, and turning it into the new Avengers movie. You don't do that, any more than you could take a 40 hour gaming experience in Mass Effect 2 and turn that into a coherent 2.5hr movie, because the pacing and character issues are completely different across media.

There's a reason they give out Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, you know. It's because it's not easy AT ALL. Comic Books get to use Space Magic and build up characters and worlds over decades, but a movie is not a comic book. And there are still more movie fans than comic book fans, and perhaps Marvel/Disney ought to consider that.

20. CIVIL WAR?

Honestly, if Captain America : Civil War is just a way to introduce more heroes to fill that hall of Avengers in prepartion for Infinity War, then I'm out. If Avengers 3a and 3b involves a half a dozen villains fighting FIFTY Avengers AND the galaxy is at risk AND people are cracking jokes AND they've presumably already announced Avengers 4 and 5 beforehand to follow?

No thanks.