Movies Archive

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The Force Awakens Predictions: Part 2 – Redraw the Map

This week I’m diving head long into some hype for The Force Awakens. The first part of this post saw my longshot theory on how JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan are going to take us from The Rebel Alliance to the Resistance. Today’s theory is considerably more boring, but it’s probably a more likely narrative interregnum.

Theory 2 – The Alliance to Restore the Republic worked – to an extent

Return of the Jedi ends with everybody partying on Endor and (sigh) wipe cuts to all the good times people are having across the galaxy. Chuck Wendig takes the piss out of Lucas’ retconned big happy ending with Star Wars: Aftermath. On that note, let’s presume that Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar are able to hold the New Republic together against the machinations of Admiral Rae Sloane and the Supreme Commander.

Sloane and the Supreme Commander are faced with a triage situation. Star Wars: Aftermath shows us that there’s no way they can hold on to their traditional power. Reduced to an armada unified by ideology, the Imperial forces would have little choice but to retreat en masse to the Outer Rim. This strategic withdrawal would allow the Republic to establish its control over the core worlds and the Mid Rim. Essentially, we end up with a version of what we had in the old extended universe novels. The Galaxy Far Away is home to two competing supra nations: the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant First Order.

How does this get us to The Force Awakens? Two words: Cold War.

After transitioning from the Clone Wars to the Empire to the Galactic Civil War, it is safe bet that the Galaxy Far Away is living with some serious war weariness. The First Order, driven from its power base in the core, needs to establish supply lines to keep its armada alive. The Republic needs to establish a system of government that doesn’t depend on fear and intimidation. The emphasis on both sides of the line is stabilization, without playing at full-scale military operations.

Assuming neither side can afford to engage in total war, the New Republic might adopt a strategy of proxy warfare against the First Order. Admiral Ackbar could send specialists and support groups to aid local malcontents against their occupiers.  Over time, these individual cells could become more cohesive, ultimately leading to a formal Outer Rim Resistance movement. I expect their end game would be about denying the First Order its safe harbours and forcing them to over saturate men and material on certain planets. I mean, why the hell else would anybody want to occupy a shit hole looking planet like Jakku?

The line between the Republic and the Order needn’t be limited to territory, either. It would make sense for the First Order to rewrite history on their side of the line. They can’t have the shit hole planets of the Outer Rim knowing that their salvation is just a hyperspace jump away. It might also explain why Rey thinks the Jedi are just fairy tale and not recent history.

Odds of this being right?

I’m going to say 3:1.

I can’t see the Empire carrying on like it is business as usual in the wake of Endor, at least not considering the events seen in Star Wars: Aftermath.

The other thing that bothers me about the idea of the Republic falling and the Resistance growing out of its ashes is the new X-Wings we’ve seen in the trailers. Those look like improved models over the ones we saw in Jedi. If the First Order took over the entire galaxy, one might expect they would outlaw the production of the strike craft that have been responsible for the Empire’s most disastrous military failures. It’s not like they wouldn’t know who was making them for the New Republic/Resistance. Since one doesn’t make hyperspace capable starfighters in their basement like so many pipebombs, the Resistance would need to have a manufacturing base of some sort. And that tells me things can’t be that bad in the Galaxy Far Away.


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Adam’s The Force Awakens Predictions: Part 1 – A Knife From The Shadows

We’re less than two weeks away from the release of The Force Awakens, and it’s time for Adam to jump aboard the hype(rspace) train. That’s right, even a cynical bastard like yours truly is counting down the days to a new Star Wars movie. Sure, there’s a significant non-zero chance the movie will be dreadful. Good music and decent editing made The Phantom Menace’s trailers augur a good movie. This said, I have a hard time imagining Lawrence Kasdan writing a movie worse than Attack of the Clones.

So let’s pass a bit of time with a two-part speculation fest about what’s gone on between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

Based on what we’ve seen in the trailers, which do a fantastic job of channeling iconic images from A New Hope, it’s pretty safe to assume The Force Awakens wants to take things back to the drawing board. For example, young Luke is a “nobody” marked for greatness, and he lives on a desert planet. Rey calls herself “no one”, is marked for greatness, and lives on a different desert planet. The Empire had a super weapon in A New Hope, and now the First Order has its super weapon. Obi-Wan Kenobi trains and guides A New Hope’s archetypical hero; Han and Chewbacca, likewise old soldiers, fill the Chiron-esque role for Rey and Finn. A New Hope had a scrappy band of rebels taking on an evil empire, but this doesn’t make sense for The Force Awakens.

Chuck Wendig’s canonical novel (eat all the dicks, haters) Star Wars: Aftermath paints a picture of the Empire in complete disarray after Endor. Imperial starships and planets, alike, are defecting to the New Republic. Mon Mothma has established a new seat of government on Chandrillia. Admiral Ackbar’s military resources are so great that Mothma wants to begin scaling back the Republic’s navy. This tactical situation doesn’t really mesh with the notion of the The Force Awakens’ Resistance being poorly organized and out-matched by the First Order. The Republic, not the Resistance, should be meeting its opposition with squadrons of B-Wings, Mon Cal cruisers, and starbird-painted Star Destroyers. Various trailer scenes of X-Wings attacking absent capital ship support strike as odd.

Theory 1: The New Republic Collapsed/is Crippled

Suppose Mon Mothma’s idealism bit the Republic in its ass. I can imagine her and Admiral Ackbar getting into it over deployment levels and response rates as her idealism collides with his realpolitik. I can almost hear the cheers from within the New Republic’s senate as tax burdens are eased, military spending reduced – probably for the first time since the Clone Wars – and civil infrastructure projects, long neglected under Palpatine’s rule, finally get off the ground. And on the day Home One gets mothballed, BAM, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane shows up in orbit of Kuat, commanding an SSD strike force. Before the Republic can mobilize a response, she’s blown the hell out of the shipyards and beat a retreat. Days later, she pulls the same stunt at Corellia, then Fondor, and finally Mon Calamari, itself. There’s no need for the Empire to hold these systems when raiding them effectively cripples the Republic’s ability to build-up its forces. Absent their primary shipyards and maintenance facilities, the Republic navy would have to return to its roots as a rebel armada.

What would the Empire need to pull it off?

First and foremost, time. Even with some units defecting to the Republic, the Imperial navy is huge. If Rae Sloane and the mysterious Supreme Commander can secure a proper rear-operating base, complete with supply lines to feed and fuel the fleet, then they need only wait for Mon Mothma to make a tactical miscalculation.

Odds of this being right?

10:1 on this or a variation on the theme. Kasdan isn’t beyond going dark, and JJ is probably inclined to let him go there. More importantly, if The Force Awakens wants to get back to the roots of the franchise, then something very bad needs to happen to the ability of the Rebel Alliance to govern as the New Republic. Or more precisely, something needs to happen to the power that legitimizes the Republic’s ability to rule.

There’s also something else that stands out from Star Wars: Aftermath. At one point an Imperial character says, “The Sith thing to do is to wait until your enemy passes by and stab him from the shadows.”

The Sith from Knights of the Old Republic were opportunists and empire builders. Darth Revan’s greatest success came not from direct conflict with the Republic, but from attacking them from within. He took advantage of the Jedi’s arrogance, subverted their saviour, Bastila Shan, and carved out an empire for himself. What if the Supreme Commander, Rae Sloane, and Kylo Ren are that kind of Sith?

On Friday, I explore my more plausible, but infinitely more boring theory on The Force Awakens.


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Trailer Takedown: Captain America: Civil War

Last week the internet lost its collective mind over the trailer for Captain America: Civil War. Critics and media experts, alike, took to their mediums to see who could twitch out the most original (but still exceedingly derivative) explanation for what a big deal it is for the MCU to take on the Marvel Civil War.

As I watched the trailer, I thought about three things.

First, what drugs does a person have to be on to think this trailer heralds the best movie ever?

Second, where can I get some of those drugs?

Third, at what point in the movie will Cap take Bucky to a redneck bar for a little slow dancing.

There is no way I’m the only person looking at this trailer and seeing superheroes so far in the closet they are finding last year’s Christmas presents. So with all due deference to slash-fic enthusiasts, who are rightly torqued up by the trailer, I’m left to wonder what the hell the rest of you are so excited about?

For a movie styling itself as the MCU’s answer to the Marvel Civil War, I don’t think I could imagine a more incipit approach to telling its story. Cap wants to save Bucky, a character who sucked so hard he stayed dead for decades, from the evil forces of the Federal Government. Wow, that conveys so much of the nuance and depth found within the actual Civil War story arc.

Even if Bucky single-handedly manages to destroy Stamford (or commit some other act of domestic terror), thus creating a climate of unprecedented political fear, where the powers that be institute a systematic defrocking of costumed super-heroes and their subsequent regulation under SHIELD, none of that is coming through the trailer.

The Marvel Civil War is a discussion of the 9/11 terror attacks and America’s response in the years that followed. Through the safety of the comic book lens, the long arc of the Civil War asks fundamental questions that put the security of the state and the rights of the individual at odds with each other. These questions aren’t merely the source of some man-pain. The Civil War destroys families and lives. It creates strange bedfellows where Captain America, champion of the anti-registration movement, teams up with known murder and libertarian poster-boy Frank Castle. The Fantastic Four break-up because Reed Richards comes on side with Tony Stark and the pro-registration supporters. Peter Parker throws away his mask before going corporate.

Who looks at the Cap: Civil War trailer and sees anything nearly so sophisticated? And please understand, I’m not asking this to play the role of an angry comic book nerd, outraged about a movie diverging from the source material. The MCU need not adhere to the comic book canon. The issue here is the banal way Disney/Marvel insists on dumbing down the MCU on the big screen (because Big Bucks, Big Bucks, no Whammies). Surely to god there is room for some grown-up story telling in these movies. Daredevil makes gentrification exciting. Jessica Jones invites us to think long and hard about systemic bias against sexual assault survivors. Is it really too much to expect quality writers like Anthony and Joe Russo to raise the discourse in the movies beyond the level of a beef between bros?

Apparently, yes. In expecting the movie-arm of the MCU to give me something smart-ish, I might as well be asking for a Ken Burns documentary of the Superhero Registration Act. Actually, that doesn’t sound half bad. I would watch the hell out of that.

So I guess the takeaway for this takedown is two-fold.

One, this trailer boasts so much man-pouting and unrequited dude-love that I could probably layer over the dialogue from a Brokeback Mountain trailer and still make it work.

Two, my expectations of superhero movies are unrealistic. I’d probably be happier with them if I could enjoy what I’m given. In this regard, I’m likely not normal. Spare me any comments along those lines. I get it.


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Trailer Meltdown: Gods of Egypt

I am almost, almost, at a loss for words. The Gods of Egypt trailer is beyond contempt. I honestly took a moment to make sure I wasn’t watching some sort of parody. I mean, nothing real could be this banal, right? Surely it is all part of some weird social experiment. Perhaps it’s a cover for evacuating people stranded in a foreign country. Because in what strange world can King Leonidas and Jaime Lannister pass as, respectively, the Egyptian god of the underworld and god of the sky?

Yeah, I’m playing the whitewashing card. It’s not the damn 1960s anymore. The days of casting Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra should be behind us. I guess Hollywood didn’t get the memo. Butler is Scottish and Coster-Waldau is from Denmark. DENMARK: a country so white it produced Hamlet, the character who is the very definition of white people problems.

And do you know who I really blame for this? Not the writers. Not Alex Proyas (and I don’t care that he was born in Egypt. His parents are Greek and he grew up in Australia; in my books that makes him an honorary white person) Not even the studio…well I blame them a little bit. I put today’s outrage squarely on the shoulders of Butler and Coster-Waldau.

They are the frontmen for the movie, and this makes them part of the problem. Perhaps I could forgive them if they were newbie actors looking to make their mark, taking any job that comes their way. Yet both of these actors are high-profile performers, likely not hurting for money or stability in their career. What’s worse is that unless these two gentlemen are absolutely vapid, they must have known they were working on a dubious project. Something must have registered in their precious little actor heads saying, “this is wrong.” In spite of that, they pressed on, made the picture, and cashed their cheques.

Which brings me to my next point. If the North American audience is too gentile to cope with brown people in leading roles, then why the hell does Hollywood keep mining the non-English speaking world for its stories?

As for the movie, itself, this looks like the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen in ages. Everything about it looks awful. I won’t deign to mine the trailer for details. Diving into this marketing would be like putting my hand in dead pig’s ass. I don’t need to do it to know nothing good will come of it.

My bottom line, this movie is part of the problem. Anyone defending this movie is part of the problem. Paying money to watch this movie will make you part of the problem.

A pox on this movie, and a pox on Gerard Butler and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

 

Update:

Jesus fucking Christ, they have Geoffrey Rush playing Ra. A pox on Geoffrey Rush as well.


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Why The Martian is Better than Gravity

Since the title of this piece speaks for itself, I think I’ll skip the clever introduction and get right into it.

I really like Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. I think it was one of the best movies of 2013, and one of the best movies of recent memory. At the same time, Gravity is also a flawed movie. After watching The Martian, those flaws now seem all the more obvious. And no, this has nothing to do with how Gravity played it fast and loose with the laws of physics and momentum. Don’t pretend you knew anything about orbital mechanics before watching Neal DeGrasse Tyson’s Everything Wrong with Gravity video.

The reason Gravity shits the bed compared to The Martian is because Dr. Ryan Stone happens to be a woman. Wait, wait, don’t start throwing things at me; I’m going somewhere with this. The problem isn’t that Dr. Ryan Stone is a woman, per se, so much as Hollywood thinks its audience can’t deal with Dr. Ryan Stone as a woman. Instead of letting Ryan Stone be a smart, if somewhat dispassionate person (i.e. an astronaut) she’s gets humanized. The vehicles for this relatability are Stone’s mommy hang-ups and the non-threatening way she does nothing exceptional in the movie.

Stone’s ability to work in space, and the unique skill set that saw her tapped as a mission specialist, are largely irrelevant to anything that happens after the movie’s first ten minutes. None of those skills, whatever they are, help her survive her orbital ordeal. Stone simply blunders from one thing to the next. She is largely the beneficiary of chance and the sacrifice of others, rather than any closely-held competence.

When Matt Kowalski (George Clooney’s character) asks Stone what she loves most about being in space, Stone responds with, “the silence.” I ask you, what sort of person wants to be an astronaut because they are on the run from their life on Earth? What kind of space agency puts a seemingly manic depressive into space? Cue the loud farting noise.

Hollywood won’t let Stone be the equal of Kowaski to the point of almost breaking the movie. <sarcasm> Because clearly the audience can’t deal with a woman acting in such a traditionally male defined role </sacasm>. The humanization of Ryan Stone makes the through-line of her story one of luck and blunders. At the end of the day, she’s a terrible astronaut (though still better than Anne Hathaway, the worst astronaut ever). Her return to Earth is the closing of a circle that said she never had any business being in space to begin with.

Now compare Stone to Mark Watney. Watney is so competent that The Martian is essentially competence porn. Luck only exists within the negative confines of a man versus nature conflict during Watney’s two-year stay on Mars. Watney’s ability to survive each ordeal is the result of a MacGyver-like force of competence.

He comes up with a way to manufacture water from rocket fuel. He repurposes half of his habitat module into a greenhouse for growing potatoes in human shit and Martian regolith. He uses a crashed Martian lander to establish two-way communications with Earth. Does Ryan Stone do anything nearly that interesting during her attempt to escape low-Earth orbit? Let’s review:

Panics and blows through all her O2.

Gets rescued by Kowalski.

Complains.

Watches Kowalski die.

Attempts suicide.

Has a vision of Kowalski.

Makes it home because today was not a good day to die.

Again, my point here isn’t to say Gravity is a bad movie. Gravity is a beautiful movie. Gravity is also an emotionally affective movie. However, after watching The Martian, I want to know what Gravity could have been if Ryan Stone was even half as competent as Mark Watney.

What if Ryan Stone’s self-pity wasn’t her defining character trait? What if studio executives trusted the audience’s ability to handle a woman character in a very professional role without burdening her with mommy issues? We could have seen a version of Gravity where Ryan Stone survived through her own ingenuity, rather than on account of George Clooney and the grace of the gods.


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A Brief Thought on Star Wars and Star Wars: Aftermath

At the time of this post, I’m about halfway through reading Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: Aftermath. I feel quite confident in saying it is an excellent entry into the Star Wars universe. Despite Aftermath’s obvious strength as a space opera, a war story, and a piece of a greater whole, some segments of the internet have registered their discontent with the book.

I would like to speak to that discontent, if only to get the following words out of my system before sitting down to write a proper review of Aftermath. So gather ’round, ye monsters of cyberspace; Uncle Adam is going to lay a little truth on you.

In an odd way, I think I understand why some people are angry about this book. It has nothing to do with Mr. Wendig writing in the present tense or inserting lesbian characters into the novel. Nor is it about the lack of movie characters in Aftermath. I suspect the ugly anger comes from a sense of Star Wars being taken away. Lucas might have cocked it up, but now shit is getting real.

Remember back in the late 80s and early-to-mid 90s when Lucasfilm didn’t really care about Star Wars? You know who did care about Star Wars? LucasArts, Timothy Zahn, and a lot of us nerds. Genre defining games like X-Wing, Tie Fighter, and Dark Forces took us deeper into Star Wars than three movies ever could. We were the ones blowing up the Death Star, never mind some farm boy from the Outer Rim. Alternatively, we were the ones flying TIE Interceptors in an attempt to maintain peace in a galaxy plagued with bounty hunters, pirates, and left-wing terrorists. Names like Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, and Kyle Katarn were as real to us as Han Solo or Leia Organa.

And then a bunch of suits came along and said that everything we loved about that mythology didn’t count for Bantha poodoo. Now we live in a world where Jar Jar Binks is more Star Wars than Mara Jade. Let that sink in for a moment. A character as asinine as Jar Jar should not be more Star Wars than anything.

Here’s the thing, angry internet people, Disney deciding what is and is not canon doesn’t take away from the fundamental truth that Star Wars was and is a piece of contemporary mythology. There are literally dozens of fan films and countless fan fics that allow people to participate in the communal story telling of Star Wars. Everything in the extended universe is still part of that mythos, regardless of what a corporate entity decides to expunge as to bring a sense of “order” to things. However, understanding that a mythology is a shared story is only half of the equation relevant to this discussion.

Myths and legends, within the Western tradition, at least, are ways of understanding society and one’s place within it. This means that Mr. Wendig’s choice to do “controversial” things like including a diverse host of characters within his novel, is not part of some grand conspiracy to remove “manly men” from Star Wars. Nor is it really controversial. If you’re the sort of person who thinks it is, then you’re likely an asshole.

Mr. Wendig is representing this world, as he sees it, within Star Wars’ mythological system. He’s also mobilizing some of the more complicated geopolitical narratives of our world in parsing the boring and binary nature of the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. I’d speak more on that, but you will have to wait for my review.

Angry fans do have a right to feel hard done by when the things they bought into are deemed lesser by the stroke of a pen. However, directing this outrage at an author whose contribution to the mythology is more than acceptable is as unfair as it is brainless. Building new places, forging new characters, and telling new stories, all while weaving a reflection of our world into the mythology, is exactly what a good story teller should be doing. To suggest otherwise, is to miss the point of literary criticism and engage in the most banal sort of butthurt.

Thus I shall close with a recommendation to the angry, outraged masses. As the floodgates seem to be open on refilling Star Wars‘ literary canon, those fans who can’t get over themselves and enjoy the thing they purport to love should pick up a pen and start writing. Really, I mean it. There’s probably never going to be a better time to break into writing a Star Wars novel. If you think you can do better, then fucking do better. I’ll help you get started…something about some clone troopers who get frozen in carbonite by the Hutts just before Order-66. When they get defrosted in 2 BBY, they aren’t sure if they should be loyal to the Empire or the Rebel Alliance. I call it Star Wars: Sundered Loyalties. Whatever, shut up, I’m not good with titles.

I await your evisceration.


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Trailer Takedown: Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice

Anyone else think Bat Affleck looks like Clooney?

I think it’s safe to assume everyone interested in Batman versus Superman’s newest trailer has had a couple of days to get the worst of the fanboy love/butthurt out of their systems. So with SDCC behind us, I want to discuss Dawn of Justice’s marketing and why it makes me feel ill at ease for the eventual Justice League movie.

Let’s start with Bat Affleck. See what I did there? Bat Affleck. Can we make that a thing?

Believe it or not, I like seeing Affleck as Bruce Wayne. His introduction in the trailer is a great “show don’t tell” moment. While sane people are trying to escape from the madness of a Kryptonian royal rumble, Wayne is charging in. Though it’s now quite obvious Mr. Snyder is putting a giant bracket around the Batman Begins trilogy.

Witness Jeremy Irons giving a cut-rate Michael Caine speech. This and off-screen commentary on a “bat vigilante” seems to suggest we are dealing with a late-in-life transformation into Batman. I guess Officer Blake didn’t really make the cut as the next Batman. Oh and while we’re talking about The Dark Knight Rises, let’s take a moment to remember one of Selina Kyle’s lines to Bruce Wayne.

“You don’t owe these people anymore. You’ve given them everything.”

And now, a line from Ma Kent in the Dawn of Justice trailer.

“Be anything they need you to be, or be none of it. You don’t owe this world a thing. You never did.”

From my point of view, this is where things start to look bad. Very bad. I don’t want to live in a world where Selina Kyle and Martha Kent are cut from the same ideological block. It says something grim about the limits of our collective fantasies. Are we so cynical that we can’t have room for hope beyond the desperation for a saviour amid a disaster? Could there be a a greater rejection of the audience’s (perceived?) willingness to believe in something wonderful than seeing the icon of hope reduced to the old saying about atheists in foxholes?

This goes beyond Man of Steel taking a different approach to a familiar story. My friend Nick Montgomery is right to point out that sometimes it’s good for a long-standing intellectual property to explore a different tone. He and I might argue to no end on the execution, but his point is a sound one.

On this issue, however, I think we’ve gone beyond the realm of trying something new and fully into an alternate universe. Is this twisted up version of The Dark Knight Returns really what the audience hungers after? Can I ask who among you honestly thought to yourselves, “I could really dig a movie where A) Superman has his own Gestapo B) Clark Kent is a yellow journalist and C) Batman is basically Iron Man.”

Which brings me to snowballing Batman Versus Superman into a Justice League movie. Like most things from the Silver Age of comics, there can be an inherently goofy tone to the JLA. There’s also a generally clear moral agenda to the characters; the JLA is what the Legion of Doom is not. Putting a bracket around how the comics code made super heroes social programming for kids, they also made these heroes generally likable characters.

Enter Snyder. What happens when somebody approaches generally likable paragons with the intention to wreck-up the place? We know a “more honest” Superman equivocates, rationalizes, and ultimately acts in a way that runs counter to what many people expect from the character. Likewise, this new Batman seems proactive in his human-rights agenda, like Marvel’s Bolivar Trask or General Thaddeus “Thuderbolt” Ross. Will Aquaman become an environmental terrorist? Will the Flash get his powers through a Crystal Meth accident? Is Wonder Woman going to end up a sex kitten, or worse, such an aggressive Amazon that the MRAs see her as a symbol of misandry?

If impotent rage will turn middle-aged Bruce Wayne into Batman, then I don’t think I’m out of line for considering the potential narrative clumsiness – and Man of Steel was nothing if not clumsy in its execution – that could turn the Justice League into something where, the big bad – like General Zod – can be seen as the more rational alternative than the protagonists.

I don’t want to be the guy who objects to things changing because he simply hates change. However, I think audiences deserve something a little more sophisticated than, “Make it darker,” as a philosophy toward superhero stories.

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A Knight’s Tale – The After Years

After reflecting on my recent posts,  I realize I’ve been dealing with a lot of thoughtful issues of late on the Page of Reviews. As much as I like writing think pieces, they can be a bit exhausting for both author and reader. And in light of the way the world has been shaping up this week (i.e. one giant shit sandwich) I think we can all use a bit of a break from the heavy stuff.

To that end, I took it upon myself to dust off my screen writing chops – limited though they may be. Submitted for your entertainment, an epilogue to 2001′s A Knight’s Tale, titled, A Knight’s Tale – The After Years. That’s right, Square-Enix, I stole your nomenclature gimmick, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

My story offers a slightly more historically accurate ending to A Knight’s Tale. It also presumes the Black Prince bestowed some land on Sir William Thatcher along with his title. To head off the pedants, recall how Prince Edward said William was descendant of a long and noble pedigree. It’s one thing to knight William before an angry mob, but selling the lie in such a way as to prevent William from becoming a pariah among the gentry demands one additional trapping of noble birth: property.

So for the sake of this story, pretend Prince Edward seized Count Adamar’s lands or stripped property from some other low-life lord who didn’t pay his taxes, thus setting up William with a fief.

And now, without any further ado, I give you A Knight’s Tale – The After Years.


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On Joss Whedon, Ultron, and the Divine Aspect of Humanity

At the time of this post, Avengers: Age of Ultron has been in theatres for a week. While I haven’t seen the second coming of Earth’s mightiest heroes, I feel like an authority on a single piece of its dialogue.

There’s little point in debating if Tony Stark made a rape joke when he commented that he would reinstate Prima Nocta – the “right” of feudal lords to take a newly married woman to bed to check her virginity – were he to become king of Asgard. In short, it is.

Likewise, there’s probably little point in my saying that most people without a graduate degree in history wouldn’t know what Prima Nocta is were it not for Braveheart. To wit, I have little reason to believe the offending joke would have made it into Mr. Whedon’s screenplay had he not seen Braveheart. Be that as it may, the joke is there, and it makes light of a woman being taken against her will. This is not something worth joking about. I’ll leave measuring the dividing line between a joke in poor taste and systemic rape culture to those better suited to said discussion.

What I will comment on is all the rage surrounding this incident. Tony Stark’s shitty joke is a perfect example of how social media, and the internet at large, creates angry mobs the likes of which make the French Revolution seem like a spot of trouble for the nobility. So many people have so much indignation, righteous or otherwise, over a line in a stupid comic book movie. The rage on twitter alone borders on an Orwellian two-minutes of hate left unchecked for days.

Now here comes the part that is going to piss off some people.

Though Joss Whedon committed a sin of tactlessness (or possibly engaged in reinforcing rape culture – your call, not mine) in his writing – assuming he, himself, put it the prima nocta line in there and refused all calls to change it – his crimes are forgivable. He wrote something stupid; this is not in debate. He should he sanctioned for his transgression; this is not in debate. Assuming he apologies, what comes next? How does the internet stop trying to carve its pound of flesh? Recent history suggests the internet doesn’t forgive, it simply moves on to the next dog pile.

People fuck up, sometimes more publically and more spectacularly than others. Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook make it easy to call out the fuck-ups of others. They also make endless shaming and smearing all too easy. If only they had the same impact in cultivating aspects of humanity like charity, grace, and forgiveness. Would that apologies were met with the same enthusiasm as locking a person in the digital stocks and throwing cabbage at them.

So there’s my two cents on this particular session of, “the internet gets angry and fights among itself.” Like so many things in life, we would do well to remember the words of Bill S. Preston, Esq: be excellent to each other. More mutual excellence means less tone-deaf rape jokes. More excellence also means we’ll be faster to help each other when somebody drops the ball; whereas now we devolve into factions and yell about whose perceptions of gravity acting on the ball are most valid.

I’m Adam Shaftoe, and today I’m feeling a little more humanitarian than usual.


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Trailer Takedown: The Last Witch Hunter

You know what? I’m not even going to dignify The Last Witch Hunter’s trailer with my usual brand of frame by frame snark. It’s not worth it. Hell, most trailers for most movies aren’t worth any effort that goes beyond pointing, laughing, and making rude farting noises.

That said, it’s Friday and you’ve come here to be entertained. I shall not disappoint. Submitted for your consideration, my imagined dialogue between studio executives on the subject of greenlighting The Last Witch Hunter.

Have you seen this Witch Hunter script?

Meh, I’m not sure about it.

What do you mean?

Seems a little done.

That’s why it is so brilliant.

How do you figure?

Think about our demographic, who do we want to attract to this movie?

The same as any movie: males age 15 to 35.

Right, and what do they like right now?

Video games featuring scruffy, conflicted, white dudes.

Exactly. Do you have any idea how mental those idiots are going for these Geralt of Rivia Witcher games?

Yeah who knew post-Soviet Polish literature would be such a big seller.

Fuck that. They don’t care about ideas. They care about women with big tits and a white guy with a lot of inner turmoil.

And that’s what you see in this movie?

Lose the white hair, the Marxist bullshit, and throw in some modern warrior priest garbage and you’ve pretty much hit all the notes that make people hate on other people on Twitter over The Witcher.

What about some eye candy?

Well, duh. Of course we’re going to do some eye candy.

We’ll need a serious actor or two to legitimize the absurdity of the project.

Put in a call to Martin Sheen.

Nah, he’s too uppity.

Fine, call Michael Caine or Liam Neeson, They’ve pretty much given up being serious actors.

What about the lead?

Oh, Vin Diesel, easily.

Why?

Seriously, Karl, are you on coke again?

…no.

That muscle bound oaf is the perfect male power fantasy. More accessible than Hugh Jackman and everybody knows he’s a D&D pussy. The nerds think he’s own of their own, so between that and the eye candy we’ll get them out in droves.

What about the woman audience?

He tests great with the women. So great they won’t notice the inevitably rapey overtones in the script. It’s win-win for everybody.

Alright then, sounds like we’ve got a winner. I’ll call New York and get some money moving, but first I have to go to the bathroom

Karl…

What?

Are you going to coke up?

…yes.

You know you could at least share.

*fin*

Enjoy the trailer and have a fantastic weekend.