Democratic Presidential Candidates as Marvel Villains

The Hollywood & Washington Collaboration That No One Asked For

WARNING: MCU SPOILERS AND “POLITICAL” PIECE BELOW. How stupid is it that I apparently have to warn people about that last part though? Well anyway every view expressed is my own despite me, as always, being as objective as possible.

Ah, American politicians. There are a lot of them, their personalities vary, most of them seem underdeveloped and generic, and they tend to have good intentions that are paired with their more-than-questionable actions. The interesting thing is that all of those qualities I listed seem to also apply to comic book movie villains. Isn’t it strange that elected officials and people in power seem to often become synonymous with “bad guys” (as The Notorious AOC herself has mentioned)? It’s almost as if the system designed to keep us free actually oppresses us by directly encouraging those with privilege to act unethically in their own self-interest an-

Okay, sorry, I’m getting off topic. I should probably mention that I’ve been banned from talking politics at family events because I need to “stop trying to brainwash the kids into being dirty socialists”. Well that will not stop me from writing about it here and focusing on the three rounds of Democratic Party debates that we have had so far. Real-life villains aside (like the current American idiot in office), in comic-book-movies the antagonists can be fun, idealistic, and sometimes you even want to root for them! So to distract myself from how existentially stressed out I am about 2020, and to attempt to fill the “no Marvel” void I will also feel until 2020, this piece was born.

If you’re looking for some actual serious debate discussion, check out The Overrated Podcast and our ongoing Election 2020 coverage. Today, here and now, I will be going over a select number of the Democratic candidates by comparing them to the villains we have seen so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)! To still be “political” (Lord knows I can’t resist), I’ll also be categorizing them by how much you should care about them at this point…and probably more.

HAVEN’T QUALIFIED FOR THE NEXT DEBATE

1. Governor Jay Inslee – Ava Starr aka “Ghost”

To ease you into this piece, let’s start off with a candidate/villain I actually really liked and am bummed I seemingly won’t hear from again. Inslee burst onto the debate stage with (for the most part) a single issue: Climate Change. For whatever reason, the average voter decided that isn’t a sexy enough single issue, and similarly Ghost doesn’t get much universal love from the more casual viewers of the MCU.

Inslee’s solid record and environmental policy didn’t even get a chance past the second debate, and Ghost wasn’t even included in most of the websites I used for research on the best MCU villains. Both deserved better, both disappeared too soon, and I wish the best for both of them.

2. Marianne Williamson – Kaecilius

Okay enough wholesomeness, let’s get to the shit show. Both Marianne and Kaecilius are anti-science, huge advocates of magic, and are constantly trying to channel the dark dimension. All while ignoring the very real effects their actions have on people and the material world.

They’re disillusioned with the current leadership, which makes them interesting…right up until the point where they start to tell people that their problems (like curing HIV and cancer) can be solved with fanaticism, that they’re the only one who really cares about you, and that the world can be saved by some weird sort of enlightenment they’re preaching. 

I have no factual confirmation if Marianne believes in an inter-dimensional dark entity like Dormammu…but would any of us really be surprised if we found out that was true? It’d be just about as surprising as the time she said that fat people need to pray harder, and that people on antidepressants are weak. These two are glorified “self-help gurus”, they’re not particularly mean-spirited, yet that doesn’t change the fact that they’re full of shit.

3. Governor John Hickenlooper aka “The Loop” – Trevor Slattery aka “The Mandarin”

Why? Because fuck this guy and fuck Iron Man 3, that’s why! (This is definitely more of a hot take on the MCU side than the political one, as the Loop got booed on stage at the California Democratic Convention.)

Both the Loop (and those who resemble him politically) and the Mandarin were an absolute waste of my damn time and I’m glad we’re not talking about them anymore. Speaking of which, time for the new category of candidates. 

WHY ARE WE STILL HUMORING THIS?

1. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard – Secretary Thaddeus Ross aka “Thunderbolt”

Remember how Ross was in The Incredible Hulk a long time ago, then showed up again in Captain America: Civil War seemingly a different person by being anti-war and changing his policy? (Ross wanted to emulate the super-soldier serum, lied to Banner which created the Hulk and ruined his life, and then suddenly gets tasked with regulation of the Avengers? That’s like throwing minorities in jail for smoking weed and then talking about how you used to smoke weed in college!…or am I just thinking of Kamala Harris now? Oh well.) Then when we REALLY didn’t need to hear from him again because we’re already pressed for time, he shows up? This whole thing is pretty accurate for Tulsi too.

Both Ross and Tulsi are ex-US Military and fought in big wars (Vietnam and Iraq, respectively). Tulsi went from being pro-life and campaigning for an anti-gay rights group…to outright supporting federal funding for abortion and having a 100% pro-LGBTQIA+ voting record in Congress. Outside of a few great points, including her attack on Kamala in the second debate, it seemed pretty obvious that we didn’t need to hear from Tulsi again past the second debate, maybe the third. Yet here we are with her not qualifying for the 3rd and getting another chance in the fourth. Wonderful. 

Just like Ross’ scene in Avengers: Infinity War, I’m probably going to watch the fourth debate and wish the time was spent on something a little more productive.

2. Senator Amy Klobuchar aka “Klobes” – Ronan the Accuser

Klobes and Ronan’s biggest “fault” is honestly how generic and boring they are. You get the feeling that there has to be something more there, then they show up again in a different debate/movie and do more of the same thing and you’re left confused and unsatisfied. 

Similar to Ronan, Klobes’ biggest “moments” come from shouting a bland “criticism” at someone else in the scene which, upon the slightest analysis, makes no sense even though it sounds flashy in the moment. I am of course referring to when Klobes told Bernie in the third debate that (paraphrased): “You might have written the damn bill, but I read the damn bill!”

What does that even mean? I mean I would hope you actually read the bill if you’re going to debate about it. Why did anyone applaud that? Similarly, what was Ronan thinking when he stole an Infinity Stone from fucking Thanos? Did you think this guy got the nickname “The Mad Titan” by letting Kree punks walk all over him?

I once again have no factual confirmation of this, but given what I know about Klobes, I would definitely believe it if someone told me that she would be insanely confused by the sight of a dude dancing and subsequently lose all of her focus.

3. Andrew Yang – Quentin Beck aka “Mysterio”

Unpopular take, but I could dedicate an entire piece to Yang and his dumb ass alone, and if you’re really curious then check this piece out by a longtime friend of soggz-blogs, Uday Mehta. I’ll try to summarize my rage and stay productive and on-topic…or I could just offer everyone a chance at a thousand dollars just to humor me instead, right? (Insert Pete Buttigieg’s eye-roll here)

Beck and Yang are scorned tech workers that lost their jobs. Beck had one good idea that Tony Stark refashioned into an actually useful invention (B.A.R.F), Yang had one good idea that I’m sure a much better candidate could build upon and turn into actual policy. Both say off-putting things, have an unhealthy need for attention, and you better believe that both have taken their “one good idea” way out of hand to the point of idiocy with support from their cult-like-following that, frankly, need to open their eyes and see that there’s much more to this whole “President thing” than the lazy discourse being proposed.

Okay screw this I can’t resist, YANG CRITICISM TIME: You seriously mean to tell me that your solution to campaign-finance-reform is DEMOCRACY DOLLARS? Really? MORE free money? Oh sure, that’ll out-spend lobbyists like the NRA for sure! For fuck’s sake this was also AFTER he implied that gender discrimination in the workplace can be solved by his fucking “Freedom Dividend”…because women who are tired of toxic-masculinity in corporate culture can just “leave and invest in themselves”. Which is great and all but it literally still leaves THE ACTUAL PROBLEM UNSOLVED. Oh and when Yang did his whole “We should be telling the immigrant success stories instead” bullshit? Buddy, I’m pretty sure there’s an ENTIRE GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT DIDN’T HAVE A CHOICE IN IMMIGRATING HERE that would have some shit to say about you pushing the antiquated and fucked up “model-minority” agenda. How is this FUCKING CLOWN polling higher th-

Look I said I’d TRY to stay on-topic, and clearly I failed. Moving on.

4. Tom Steyer – Malekith

You are going to have to google both of these two to know who they are, but you most likely won’t, and frankly shouldn’t, because they’re not interesting enough to even warrant minimal effort from you.

I WANT TO LIKE YOU…I THINK

1. Secretary Julian Castro – Darren Cross aka “Yellowjacket”

Julian Castro has tons of political experience as the former Mayor of San Antonio and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Obama administration. He was even on the shortlist for being Hillary’s running mate in 2016 (which would’ve been a much better choice than the slice of untoasted, lukewarm wonderbread with low-fat margarine that was Tim Kaine).

So far in his 2020 run, his debate tactics have consisted of: Emulating Barack-like mannerisms and speech patterns, saying he’d do better than Barack on immigration, and going after Uncle Joe saying (paraphrased): “I’m living up to Obama’s legacy, you’re not”.

Clearly he’s got some kind of a “mentor complex” that’s simultaneously hurting and helping his campaign. Very much like Darren Cross and his complicated relationship with his mentor, Hank Pym.

2. Mayor Pete Buttigieg aka “Mayor Pete” – Helmut Zemo

Mayor Pete’s meteoric rise to being one of the most widely discussed nominees is nothing short of impressive, going from being the Mayor of a town in Indiana to going point-for-point with Senators who have been in Washington for years. This reminded me of how Zemo, with no powers, was able to somehow handle twelve different heroes, four of whom were on the original Avengers roster. The similarities don’t stop there: both are ex-military, young, wholesome family men, very politically savvy, and have a knack for taking “option C” on big political issues. 

This is honestly my biggest issue with Mayor Pete, much like Zemo for most of the movie, I have no idea where he actually stands on things and what he’s pushing. While “Leftist vs Liberal” seem to be the two “teams” on the debate stage and in the party itself, Mayor Pete seems to live in this perplexing new form of centrism where he’s chosen the “center” of the two teams. He half-asses his support for universal healthcare by giving it the new name of “Medicare for all who want it,” he very wrongly and pompously accused Bernie and Warren of not “caring about the American people” in discussion of universal healthcare (really dude? Bernie’s been caring about the American people since you were in diapers. I’m sure it was a fun and sassy moment for you, but come on bro. You know better), and it seems like half the time he’s trying to make both leftists and liberals sound bad while chalking himself up to be a better option than all of them. 

In an already divided Democratic Party, Mayor Pete’s tactics could end up hurting more people than it does help. Much like breaking apart the Avengers on your own terms instead of just supporting or opposing the Sokovia accords. 

3. Congressman Robert O’Rourke aka “Beto” – Ultron

Ultron was built by Tony Stark to be the perfect defense mechanism against extraterrestrial armies that could threaten mankind. Similarly, in the 2018 midterm elections, Beto burst into the hearts of Democrats everywhere as the man who was the perfectly built politician, enough to make Texas go blue. The hype behind both Beto and Ultron was real…but when all was said and done, both seemed rather disappointing (probably due to over-enthusiastic nerds on the internet in both cases).

Beto came across as rather robotic on the debate stage, especially in the first two. He also unfortunately accepted almost half a million dollars from the oil and gas industry, many of which came from big oil executives. As we know from Ultron’s vibranium-stealing shenanigans, it appears both of these guys are fans of drilling into the earth for a natural resource that will result in greater harm later (to be fair, Beto has since changed his position on this).

Perhaps the biggest reason I chose this comparison is that I’ll still defend both to an extent. Not only do I think Beto and Ultron are better in their respective fields than a vast majority of the other candidates/MCU villains we’ve seen, I just have to give credit where it is due for unique things that both have done. I’ve said it before (as early as last month’s piece) but Ultron is one of the only MCU characters period to call out the Captain himself on his biggest flaw (more so than Tony, who always made things personal whenever he called out Cap).

As for Beto, my personal stance on guns in America has gone from “Maybe this is my ONE thing I’m conservative on” to “Okay maybe we should limit some stuff” to “I don’t even know anymore” to “Just ban the damn things, I’m sick of this shit”. That being said, it was very refreshing to see a Democrat on the debate stage cut straight to the point instead of pussyfooting around with the typical “I support the second amendment, I just think ____” nonsense. In the third debate, Beto spoke for every frustrated American who is sick and tired of innocent children being shot in class.

The point is, I think that the moderators/writers just didn’t give Beto/Ultron a chance to explain themselves more.

4. Senator Corey Booker aka “Book” – Johann Schmidt aka “Red Skull”

Red Skull is one of the most iconic Captain America villains and many thought he’d be a long-term MCU villain. Book was one of the most hyped up potential nominees amongst Democrats if we were talking about this in 2017.

Then they went for the Tesseract/Big Pharma money, got cast out and forgotten by fans, then confused everyone by showing up again in crucial moments. Yet now it just seems like their entire purpose is to guide others to a treasure they can not possess: The Soul Stone/the Nomination. Speaking of which…

ACTUALLY HAVE A CHANCE AT THE NOMINATION

1. Vice-President Joe Biden aka “Uncle Joe” – Ego

Uncle Joe is an older man who’s been around forever, comes off extremely out-of-touch, is constantly touching women, and is trying so hard to get elected on the clout of his title and the idea that he’ll be America’s new dad. Ego is a centuries-old entity, lives on his own planet that he can’t leave for too long (or else he’ll die?), is constantly touching women (and then subsequently stealing the babies), and thought that he could get what he wanted on the clout of being a Celestial and the idea that Star Lord needed his estranged father back. 

Much like the Guardians’ first interactions with Ego, in every group of five average American voters: one will be completely mesmerized by him, one got too cautious too late, one will ask about his penis, one is too busy insulting everyone else in the group, and one is Groot. 

Look, I get the nostalgia and “simpler times” associated with the Obama administration. Hell, the ACA was the most impactful thing that any politician has done for my family…but can we stop acting like Uncle Joe had that much to do with that? As a wise man once said: “He may have been your father boy, but he wasn’t your daddy”. 

2. Senator Kamala Harris – Secretary Alexander Pierce

“Hard on crime” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot among politicians, and both Kamala and Pierce are about that life. Kamala was a former prosecutor in California, and Pierce was the former Director of SHIELD before one got elected Senator and the other got promoted to Secretary. Both are so outwardly dedicated to the idea of justice, Pierce even declined a Nobel Peace Prize saying that “peace wasn’t an achievement, but a responsibility”.

They seemed great, they came off as tough and ready to get things done, they had trust on their side. Right until you find out that Kamala is responsible for subjecting so many non-violent offenders to the hellish landscape known as the “American for-profit prison system”, and that Pierce is trying to use SHIELD Helicarriers to have absolute control over people, and then you’re just disappointed (to say the least). 

What’s also interesting is Kamala’s unwillingness to acknowledge and apologize for her choices. I’m sure many people would actually look past her history if she, like Tulsi or Beto, actually mentioned her murky history. Despite being called out for this same thing twice now on the debate stage, she always finds a way to circumvent the topic and continue her “I’m too tough for Donald Trump” facade. 

You can definitely apply what Nick Fury said about Pierce to how I feel about Kamala at this point: “See, its stuff like this that gives me trust issues”.

3. Senator Bernie Sanders – Adrian Toomes aka “The Vulture”

This is the rare case where the comparison has already been made long before I got to this piece, because Vulture and Bernie are both grassroots leaders of working class citizens and are the most concerned with ensuring the safety of everyday people. Both are incredibly intense old men who are still extremely sharp, tough, and passionate for their age, both are huge advocates for science and research, and both are always incredibly quick to antagonize billionaires.

While in comic-book-land, billionaires are epic heroes, in real life the very idea of their existence is immoral and a huge testament to the economic corruption in the country. In real life the only good billionaire is one that has HAD ALL OF THEIR FUCKING MONEY LIQUIDATED AND GIVEN BACK TO THE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE THAT SUFFER DAY TO DAY WHILE THEY SIT AROUND NOT BEING PRODUCTIVE AT ALL AND AFTER THAT THEY’LL BERN VIA VOLCANIC SACRIF-(removed by my editor)

4. Senator Elizabeth Warren – Thanos (Infinity War)

They’re incredibly intelligent, they’re fed up of everyone else’s shit, they’re environmentalists, and they’re finally ready to execute their plans after a few years of seemingly sitting around and preparing for it. 

Much like Thanos has the right Infinity Stone for every situation, Warren has a detailed plan for every political talking point and she’s ready to fight about it. They’re focused on the goal and nothing else, as Warren is one of the only candidates who hasn’t antagonized someone else on the debate stage and has made a name for herself by simply promoting her policy and doing her best to stay on track. She’s been one of the most productive in the debates, and I’m excited to see her hopefully climb in the polls. I guess what I’m trying to say is: Dread it, run from it, progressive politics will still arrive…

…and that’s a really good thing, just to be absolutely clear, before someone misunderstands my views (I thought I made it pretty obvious) or before someone reads too much into me comparing Democrats to comic antagonists. Honestly, I just didn’t feel like writing about Joker this month.

 

A Character Study of the Captain and his Hammer

Just a Kid from Brooklyn

Avengers: Endgame was undoubtedly the pop culture event of the entire decade. After Game of Thrones ended with a lot of controversy (is George even finishing the books?) and JK Rowling has taken to twitter to continually embarrass Harry Potter fans, the conclusion of the Infinity Saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will be hailed as the bar for nerd franchises for a very long time. 

Perhaps one of the most captivating scenes that audiences everywhere went crazy for was when Steve Rogers/Captain America wielded Mjolnir, the hammer that was only meant to be lifted by those deemed worthy by Asgardian King Odin himself. When paired with the scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron, where multiple Avengers try to lift the hammer and Steve moves it ever-so-slightly, the internet immediately started asking the question I will be addressing in this piece:

“Could Steve always lift Mjolnir? Or did he become more worthy overtime?”

Kevin Feige, my personal idol in the industry, responded to this question in a reddit AMA with this answer:

2019-09-06 16_14_05-Window

Anthony and Joe Russo, whom I have been big fans of for a long time now (#sixseasonsandamovie), responded in basically the same manner:

2019-09-06 16_14_33-WindowApparently those working on the movie seem to interpret all of this as Steve always being able to lift the hammer, but he didn’t want to (quite literally) steal Thor’s thunder.

As a day-one MCU fan, and as a person who has come to value Captain America as their absolute favorite Superhero (sorry Batsy, Cap won in the end after all)…I gotta say, I fundamentally disagree with this take on every level. 

Now at least let me justify myself before the nerd rage begins:

  1. I can have great admiration & love for these creators and still disagree with them. 
  2. Notice that their language in answering this question emphasizes “our interpretation” and “we like to think”, meaning that there is room for fans to have their own headcanon, which can be done with many other moments/themes in the MCU.
  3. It’s so boring to simply accept Steve as consistently perfect. He has the greatest heart in the universe and its always in the right place…but having those qualities doesn’t mean that a person can’t be misguided, lost, or even wrong sometimes. 

It is much more interesting for Steve’s character arc if Mjolnir was something he couldn’t quite do until he went through some catharsis. This piece will provide my interpretation of this iconic moment in movie history, and even provide some insight into what I take away from Captain America’s journey.

Before we go into movies specifically, I want to point out how Steve deals with conflict. Despite all their differences, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark both want the same thing: to defend the earth and all of its people from those who would harm it. When things happen to Tony, we see it very visibly (mostly through his anxiety attacks). When things happen to Steve, he…doesn’t exactly address them properly. The conflict in Captain America: Civil War was never about politics because, (let’s be real here) if this was an actual real-life scenario we would all want some answers from heroes for the collateral damage. The conflict is moreso about Tony projecting his guilt from Ultron and his previous arms dealings, and Steve trying desperately to hold onto the only things that give him a purpose. Hold this thought. Now, we can go into the movies.

THE FIRST AVENGER

We are introduced to a sick, physically weak, and timid Steve Rogers trying to enlist in the army. Its admirable enough to keep trying after being rejected, but you truly see Steve’s passion and heart in an interaction he has with his best friend

Steve: “Bucky, come on! There are men laying down their lives. I got no right to do any less than them. That’s what you don’t understand. This isn’t about me.”

Bucky: “Right, because you’ve got nothing to prove?”

This isn’t exactly selfish behavior, but we see that Steve himself is tired of being passed off as weak, especially when stronger men than him seem to be failing (he got beat up by some jock disrespecting the army in a theater, if you recall). After continuing to show his heart in conversations with Dr. Abraham Erskine and Peggy Carter, he is eventually chosen to receive the super-soldier serum. Before he does, there is an incredible moment that defines Steve’s entire character arc that often gets overlooked.

Similar to when Ho Yensin told Tony Stark (in a cave, with a box of scraps) not to “waste his life”, Dr. Erskine gave Steve similar advice as a mentor. Re-read and remember this, as it’s the basis for my entire point:

“Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. You will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”

Bucky also reminds Steve of this later in the movie, by telling Steve that he isn’t following “Captain America”, rather he is following the stupid kid from Brooklyn who would always lose fights because he wouldn’t run from them. For the rest of the movie, Steve is who he is and lives up to what he promised Erskine…and then he wakes up 70 years later.

THE AVENGERS

Viewers often forget that Steve absolutely doesn’t belong in the 2010s, and that loss of time is what he’s mostly dealing with internally. We saw that in the previous movie he was looking for purpose, and after being gone for 70 years it makes sense that he would be trying to look for some semblance of that again. “Luckily” for Steve, he is immediately thrown back onto the front lines against Loki’s invasion of New York. With the urgent need of a soldier, and the fact that everyone in 2012 only knows him as a war hero, he falls into this role with ease. After this is where things start to get more complicated.

THE WINTER SOLDIER

We’re introduced to a Steve that’s trying to adjust to the time, but is moreso looking for things that remind him of the past for him to hold on to. Not only do we see him advance significantly as a martial artist and SHIELD operative, we see him reminiscing in his own museum exhibit and even see that he’s found Peggy again. 

What stings for Steve is that this whole thing is getting harder. He’s trying to find new things to be excited about (his friendship with Sam Wilson and his crush on then-undercover Sharon Carter) but it’s not working. SHIELD has ideas for dangerous plans to essentially control society, Peggy has Alzheimer’s in her old age, Bucky is back and is being mind-controlled, and then he finds out that he’s been living a huge lie: HYDRA has been growing inside SHIELD for decades. 

A great scene that gets us inside Steve’s head is when he is seemingly less stressed out talking to Natasha when HYDRA is revealed. He has an enemy, he has a purpose again. This gets further amplified when he decides that he’s going to look for Bucky and get his best friend back. 

However, all of this is leading to Steve getting used to a life of constant conflict, rarely taking any time for himself to address his own issues. At this point, being a soldier is a necessary coping mechanism for Steve.

AGE OF ULTRON

This movie is an interesting one, because if you get into the details then you notice that a lot of Steve’s flaws are starting to show (obviously we need some hindsight after knowing the events that take place after…but that’s a lot of this movie in a nutshell as, upon rewatch, it’s basically “Phase 3: The Set-Up Chapter”).

For one thing, many fans speculate/assume that this is where he begins to lie to Tony about the deaths of Howard and Maria Stark at the hands of Bucky. Even with that detail aside, we really get more when we get to the first real encounter with Ultron (where Wanda Maximoff is present as well after Ultron stole Vibranium from Ulysses Klaue. Wanda is super important here). 

Ultron hits Steve with an incredibly personal attack here: “Ah, Captain America. God’s righteous man, pretending you could live without a war. I can’t physically throw up in my mouth, but…”

Ultron wasn’t a very well developed villain, but he hits the nail on the head here. At this point, Steve has based his entire identity off of a few things that give him something to fight for. It’s almost as if he’s becoming somewhat desensitized after living in the 2010s (and who can blame him?). We see this emphasized more in the nightmare-sequence induced by Wanda’s powers, where Peggy is trying to tell him “the war is over…we can go home” and then immediately disappears, leaving Steve alone in a dance hall. The realization that, as much as he might want to, Steve can’t go home? That’s haunting, and that would do a number on someone mentally. 

The movie ends with him insisting to Tony that being an Avenger and training the newcomers is “home” for him, so we know he’s trying. For the most part, he does seem to find some semblance of peace with the Avengers…and then…well…

CIVIL WAR

This is where it can get fairly obvious that Steve is lowkey losing it. The Avengers’ very existence is threatened by the Sokovia Accords, Peggy passes away, Bucky is in the public eye, and he’s disagreeing with his own friends (Tony and Natasha). 

As mentioned, a lot of Steve’s determination and drive seems to be stemming from him wanting to hold on to what makes him comfortable. What makes this worse this time around is that he has to pick and choose between Bucky, Tony, the Avengers, etc. The situation with Zemo happens to work out so that he has to apprehend Zemo regardless, but after Steve and Tony both played right into his hands…Steve has to finally tell Tony the truth. 

From here, take where we had Steve in the 40’s vs now. The world he’s been trying to adjust to has finally beat him down into the loss of Peggy, Bucky (under containment in Wakanda), Tony, the Avengers, SHIELD, his public identity as a hero, and his own shield. There is nothing else left for Steve but the only thing that has given him peace in the entire time he un-froze: becoming a perfect soldier.

INFINITY WAR

Steve didn’t get much screen time in this movie, but I like to think of that a good director’s choice that is indicative of what he’s going through at the moment. I personally don’t mind the cliche of “character goes through physical change to signify emotional change” because I’m just dramatic like that too, so obviously we can start with Steve clearly looking edgy in appearance (Spider-Man 3, anyone?). However there are some other tell-tale signs of Steve being less-than-himself here

If we start with his persona, he’s less talkative and outwardly expressive. Most of his lines are, in some way, giving out orders or only related to the conflict at hand. Piggybacking off of how he was in Civil War, he makes this grand gambit with the mind-stone to save Vision because of how much he cares about the Avengers, and because he doesn’t want Wanda to go through the same thing Peggy did all those years ago. After all, the Avengers always win…right? 

Because I’m an MMA nerd, I can also make the case of Steve being much more of an aggressive fighter than we’ve ever seen him before. I guess that’s what happens when T’Challa gives you two shields that work better as punching mechanisms than defensive weapons, but I do think Steve’s fighting prowess went up even more here. Even Thanos was impressed!…right up until the point where he knocked Steve out cold. 

At this point you’re probably wondering “well majority of his arc is this ‘perfect soldier’ thing, then when does he ever become ‘worthy’ of Mjolnir?”. I’m getting there, but the most important detail of Infinity War/the start of Endgame is that after losing previous parts of his life, he’s now simply just lost. All he had left was defending the Earth, and he couldn’t even do that. Worse, half of the entire universe suffered because he couldn’t live up to what he always told himself his purpose was, and that stings. Especially when Tony calls him out and airs out all of their dirty laundry from Ultron/Civil War. So what now?

ENDGAME

Five years in the future, and the first thing we see is Steve isn’t defending, but uplifting others instead. Being close friends with Sam must have taught him something, because he took a page out of Sam’s book and is providing grief-counseling for victims. After that, we see him specifically visit a friend to console her as well. I personally don’t think Steve is holding it together very well and is internalizing again, but he’s doing certain things differently and we see him less eager to “punch his way out of a situation”. Also, he shaved.

There’s more! Steve is rarely ever a part of the “science-scenes” in these movies but he is there the first time the team attempts time-travel. He’s smarter about avoiding fights when he doesn’t need to have them (“Hail Hydra”). He’s capable of laughing at himself with his own doppelganger saying “I could do this all day”. Finally, he trusts Tony to retrieve the Tesseract. 

The absence of a war taught Steve there was more to being himself. Slowly the idea started to plant in his mind that maybe he could just “go home” when the fighting is done and be something more than a soldier. In every scene in the five-year-time-skip, you can see the subtle differences in Steve’s behavior. He’s starting to be himself again, he’s starting to once again become a simple and good man. I don’t think this should be the story of a guy that was always right, nor do I think it’s the story of an okay-ish guy that got better. I think it’s the story of someone lost, who had to go through a lot regarding his identity so that he could find his way again. I think that a lot of this clicked for Steve himself when he got to see Peggy again while Tony was trying to grab the Tesseract, and I also think this is where he made the decision that he would return the Infinity Stones and return to Peggy. Upon their return, the only thing standing in his way was Thanos, and suddenly the possibility of losing all that he found again was present. Not this time, however. This time Steve remembered his greatest strength, and who he really was. When the time came, and he called on Mjolnir, it was all his personal growth that unlocked his true potential. He was always worthy, he just had to be reminded of what made him worthy in Erskine’s eyes in the first place. 

That, I think, is a pretty cool interpretation of the Captain and his hammer. One I think everyone can learn from and be inspired by. After all, Steve is a hero, and shouldn’t inspiring others to believe in the good in themselves be a big part of heroism?

The Tragedy of the Lion King

Is THIS Your King???

The oversimplified definition of a “tragedy” in entertainment refers to any work that does not have a happy ending for a majority of the characters, including the hero. Back in the day, the master of telling these stories was none other than William “Mothafuckin” Shakespeare (experts say that was indeed his middle name). Shakespeare’s work is so influential that I don’t really need to give you a history lesson, odds are that anyone reading this is familiar with at least one or two of his tragedies from high school english classes. 

It is also a tragedy in entertainment when a classic story that was already told gets told again almost verbatim, invoking nostalgia and breaking the box office, and taking away attention from new stories that are the product of rigorous original work. So why do I bring this up?

My high school english teacher ruined The Lion King for me. Don’t get me wrong, he was amazing and is still one of the best teachers I’ve had in my lifetime, but man did he make The Lion King weird. When we were studying Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he guided my imagination to a world where the “Circle of Life” was instead a ring of sex, existentialism, madness, and death.

It is pretty common knowledge that The Lion King is based off of Hamlet. A dead king, a conflicted prince, a murderous uncle, exile, and revenge? Disney is remaking The Lion King!…by which I mean, quite literally just remaking it. Many reviews are criticizing the CGI update of the classic tale as essentially a copied & pasted version, in terms of both the story and major beats. Obviously I’m still going to see it for the same reason I saw Solo: A Star Wars Story despite bad reviews (the reason being Donald Glover), and because it’s still The Lion King, but it is somewhat of a bummer that there isn’t anything different about this updated version…right? I’m glad you agree.

Now I could sit here and write about my ideas to flesh out Scar’s backstory, or emphasize what Simba/Nala were doing between childhood and adulthood, or even go into the politics of Pride Rock and why Mufasa had a grip on the situation whereas Scar didn’t…but then I thought: “Why don’t I just repackage a classic story and market it as something different too?”

As my english teacher did in 2012, I have taken it upon myself as the people’s champion (as long as “the people” means a few strangers on the internet that have nothing better to read than soggzblogs…for which I adore you all very much) to provide an idea for an updated and different version of The Lion King. Since Disney has acquired all of Fox’s film assets, including the rated-R Deadpool franchise, and since they seem hellbent on running the entire film industry…let’s work in the space of a hypothetical reality where Disney’s The Lion King (2019) actually is the tragedy of Hamlet beat-for-beat. Not this lazy “oh well it’s based off of Hamlet” thing. No folks, today we shall pretend that instead of literally remaking their own version, Disney instead copied & pasted Shakespeare’s Hamlet itself into a CGI version of an African jungle with the characters we all know and love from 1994 (and some added soggzblogs garnish). We will do this in three steps: Emphasizing the elements of a Shakespearean tragedy, Matching every Hamlet character to a Lion King counterpart, and finally summarizing the story (leaving the reader’s wild imagination to burn the imagery of things like lion-incest in their head). Let us begin:

THE ELEMENTS OF A SHAKESPEAREAN TRAGEDY

  1. Tragic Hero – Pretty self-explanatory, Hamlet is pretty flawed and it almost feels like he’s cursed. He’s never happy and is also not going to be alive at the end.
  2. Struggle Between Good and Evil – This one is also obvious. Even if the character’s actions are morally grey, you’re still pretty aware of where Hamlet and Claudius are coming from.
  3. Hamartia – This refers to the fatal character flaw of the hero. For Hamlet, it was his indecisiveness that left him too paralyzed to act. Even if literally no one said literally anything, Hamlet was still out there pressing “X” to doubt.
  4. Tragic Waste – Good, neutral, and evil characters alike all die. A lot of them.
  5. External Conflict – There is all of the craziness with Claudius, and there is still some other external conflict that Hamlet has to deal with. At one point when I was reading this in high school, I think I said “Denmark be fucked, yo” to my friends out loud in class.
  6. Internal Conflict – Hamlet just can’t figure out how to overcome his hamartia, but he tries and there comes the internal conflict. You feel bad for him for sure, but hey it makes for some beautiful soliloquies that you get to perform for your theater class final.
  7. Catharsis – Audiences should have an emotional connection to the story via empathizing with the characters. 
  8. Supernatural Elements – There needs to be some form of magic, usually portrayed via witches or ghosts. 
  9. Lack of Poetic Justice – Shakespearean tragedies aren’t as simple as “good guy wins”. Again, things end badly for everyone.
  10. Comic Relief – While you’re over here immersed in all of the juicy drama and the constant crisis and conflict…you get to enjoy a few laughs! 

THE CHARACTERS

  1. Hamlet = Simba: This one is obvious, our main protagonist and Crown Prince of Denmark Pride Rock. What’s changing here is that we’re not getting goofy, lovable, and adorkable Simba anymore. This is a tragedy, Simba will be pulling a Hamlet and basically overthinking himself to death.
  2. Ophelia = Nala: The female lead, easy. Although it should be noted that Ophelia is more timid and less of a “get your shit together” presence for the hero, so I have to apologize to Nala fans in this hypothetical.
  3. Claudius = Scar: Another easy one, our main antagonist who has taken the throne of Pride Rock due to his alleged murder of King Mufasa. Scar himself was a total dick, but Claudius genuinely did show some semblance of compassion & potential guilt. Granted, he was also known for being a huge horn-dog…horn…cat? I’ll figure it out.
  4. Gertrude = Sarabi: The Queen of Pride Rock formerly married to King Mufasa, now married to Scar. Sarabi didn’t really get much to do in the Disney story except basic “mom things”, but Gertrude is an interesting character herself. We’re gonna have fun with this one! Well not too much fun, because #tragedy
  5. Polonius = Zira: Okay so here is where I have to start getting a bit weird. Polonius is Ophelia’s father and a pompous old douche who is the Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’ Court. In nature itself a pride of lions tends to have only one male, and if there is another then that means competition. Scar killed Mufasa for that “alpha-male” title, and Simba is younger and is still on the come-up, so it really doesn’t make sense for another old male Lion to be in the picture because he would’ve either been king or been killed (infanticide itself is pretty common among male lions). THEN I remembered in The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, the antagonist Zira was this crazy lady that worshiped the ground Scar walked on and tried to take back Pride Rock in Scar’s name…so that makes the most sense? This does, however, mean that we have to retcon Nala into being Zira’s daughter.***

    ***Biologically speaking, male lions usually tend to mate with multiple females in the pride. So Zira’s kids have to come from somewhere, right? We’re assuming Mufasa was a right proper lad (faithful to Sarabi) and it is established that Scar has quite the sexual appetite. While not outwardly mentioned, in THIS version it will be implied that Nala might be Scar’s daughter (through subtlety in interactions between Scar and Zira)…making Nala and Simba cousins. If Disney is so obsessed with live action realism that these CGI lions can’t show emotion when they sing or talk, then I feel like they have to respect the actual behavior of lions in nature! Plus, we’ve all seen blood-related-lions bang in live action anyway, they just had the last name “Lannister” (I’ll be here all week).
  6. Horatio = Zazu: A loyal friend and political ally to the Prince that follows him around giving him advice that he won’t listen to? Yeah, Zazu’s got big Horatio energy.
  7. Laertes = Kovu: Remember this guy, again from the sequel that people apparently forgot? Well he’s the only character in the canon that fits the bill of a younger male rival for Simba to have a fight with at the end. Plus, he actually is Zira’s son (and looks enough like Scar to be his son too) so that makes sense, which also retcons him into being Nala’s brother. Look, no one gives enough of a shit about the sequel to care anyway (I mean I personally liked it, but you know how it goes).
  8. Fortinbras = Shere Khan: I can explain. Fortinbras is basically the leader of another Kingdom (Norway) that’s making his way over to Denmark to conquer it. If we have to keep it within Disney and go with the fact that “king of the jungle” goes to an animal of the feline variety…we can substitute Norway with the Indian Jungle that The Jungle Book took place in, and install this scary ass tiger as the leader there. If you’re wondering how a tiger is going to make his way from India to Africa…I am too and I have no answer for it, so just insert some Disney magic here (for the record, The Jungle Book is still my favorite Disney live-action remake).
  9. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern = Timon & Pumba: Two dingbats that follow the hero around? Duh. It is implied that they are old friends with Hamlet, but they’re tasked by Claudius to spy on Hamlet so we’re rolling with that here as well.
  10. The Ghost = Mufasa: Dead father of the hero that appears in a supernatural fashion.

THE STORY (AKA DOING MY BEST TO SUMMARIZE A COMPLICATED WORK OF ART)

We open on a dark night in an African jungle, with a scene of two elephants keeping watch as guardsmen for the king. They’re having a small conversation about the threat of an attack on Pride Rock by the vicious Shere Khan, before they are alerted to the presence of an intruder. They discover this trespasser to be none other than a ghost that strongly resembles their late King Mufasa. Zazu arrives on the scene, who then goes off to find the Prince Simba (a grown lion, no cute cubs in this one). The ghost speaks to Simba and confirms that he is indeed Mufasa, and that he was murdered by Simba’s uncle Scar who now sits on the throne and is married to Simba’s mother Sarabi. After a heavy conversation, Mufasa orders Simba to take the throne back from the usurper and then disappears. 

Simba agrees to do this, but because he’s naturally contemplative and the whole deal is a bit overwhelming, he instead starts saying and doing some really weird shit. This should feel like Simba is pondering if he should quickly accept what the ghost said and act decisively against Scar out of duty, or if he has free will to do this his own way, or if he shouldn’t do it at all. He takes this idea even further when he starts to question if anything that anyone ever does even has any meaning. This puts our hero in the position of him being unhappy, his family in shambles, and also Shere Khan is on his way to fuck shit up. Zazu voices concern as Simba decides he’s going to delay his revenge, but Simba’s going to do it anyway and wants to screw with everyone in the process.

Rumors start to spread across Pride Rock that the Prince has gone mad. Worried about her son, Sarabi brings these concerns to her new husband. This leads Scar to send Timon and Pumba to hang out with Simba more often and keep an eye on him (making for some comedic moments). Zira arrogantly starts to claim that Simba’s madness stems from him being madly in love with her daughter Nala, but we also see that Simba’s been making subtle jokes at Zira’s expense when he talks to her. At this point, Simba’s craziness is incorrigible. Scar himself is concerned and decides that he himself would pay extra attention to Simba and Nala’s conversations in the future. When we get there, Simba seemingly definitely seems out of his mind, but gives Scar some concrete evidence that he isn’t in love with Nala, going as far as to being a misogynistic jerk to her in conversation. Nala is heartbroken, Scar is kind of scared, and Zazu is worried about Simba as he decides on some rather dramatic steps to get evidence of Scar’s crime.

Simba employs a group of monkeys (led by Rafiki, because Rafiki is awesome and I have to put him somewhere fun) that are famous for putting on grand performances throughout the jungle, and he essentially stages a play in front of all of Pride Rock that somewhat resembles how he imagines Scar’s murder of Mufasa. He does this to test if Scar feels any sort of remorse and has any reaction to what is being played out in front of him. When the actual murder scene happens, Scar leaves the scene, giving Simba and Zazu some sort of confirmation that Scar is guilty. Zazu advises this is the time to attack Scar, but Simba instead goes to confront his mother because he’s overthinking it again. After Simba confronts Sarabi about this and starts going crazy in the conversation, accusing Sarabi of co-conspiring with Scar to kill Mufasa, he hears something moving behind him. He believes this to be Scar and immediately attacks to kill…which makes it awkward when it turns out to be Zira. It is now incredibly confusing if Simba is still screwing with people, or if he’s actually insane. It’s also confusing if Scar/Sarabi are trying to calm Simba down because they’re guilty of what he’s accusing them of, or because they’re concerned about his insanity and the danger that comes with it.

For his “accidental” murder of Zira, Scar exiles Simba with Timon and Pumba (also giving those two secret orders to kill Simba). In the aftermath of Zira’s death, Nala is overwhelmed with grief and her brother Kovu returns to Pride Rock (pissed off as all hell). Word eventually reaches Scar that Simba has returned, claiming that hyenas attacked his party and that Timon and Pumba are dead (which is also unclear because there’s a possibility Simba knew of their secret and killed them himself). In an attempt to get rid of Simba, Scar prompts Kovu to kill Simba when he has the chance. These feelings are amplified when Simba arrives at Nala’s funeral (its implied that she took her own life, because #tragedy) and Kovu accuses him of being the cause of Nala’s death in front of everyone. Simba attacks Kovu in a rage claiming that he always loved Nala, and that Scar is responsible for everything wrong as of late.

The fighting breaks out and it is an absolute riot between animals loyal to Simba (moreso Mufasa, really) versus those loyal to Scar. Kovu is more of a fighter and fatally wounds Simba, but in the madness Sarabi is killed, making Simba angry enough to overwhelm and kill Kovu. Simba goes straight at Scar and finally murders him, and before we can actually get some closure on the ambiguity of all of Simba’s words and actions…he dies, tasking Zazu to tell his story. Shere Khan shows up to a horrifying bloodbath of a scene, and we fade out slowly after we see that  Zazu has started telling Shere Khan the story of Simba.

It all makes sense now, doesn’t it? THIS is the version Disney doesn’t have the balls to release! Why change or do anything else when your movie already sells, right? They can repackage their stories and keep giving us movies that we don’t need but will pay for anyway, and they most likely will!

In the process, however, let it be known…THAT SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THE STATE OF HOLLYWOOD.

The Worst Spider-Man Movie Of All Time

Just a Friendly Neighborhood Reminder

WARNING: Mild spoilers for all Spider-Man movies from 2000-2019 (excluding Spider-Man: Far From Home), MCU movies with the character (including Avengers: Endgame), and a LOT of language due to unyielding rage. This is definitely a more “negative” post meant to be angry-funny, so I apologize to readers that aren’t fans of that. I DO want to thank you all for the immense support on my last two posts about The Battle of Winterfell and the X-Men. I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d write again during my hiatus, but since I started doing “once a month” in April I’ve been met with more views and positive feedback, so thanks for reading. Look forward to more nuanced and/or entertaining pieces every month!

Spider-Man is an extremely personal character for almost every nerd in the world. Saying that “my favorite superhero is Spider-Man” is the geek version of saying “my interests include traveling, dogs, and The Office” in the sense that no shit, everyone likes those things. However, there’s way more nuance and emotion behind fans’ love of the character of Spider-Man. Who knew that the superhero whose relatability spanned generations would be an awkward underprivileged nerd who chooses responsibility and tries his best, but is constantly hit with reality and uses humor to cope?

A certain charm of Spider-Man is that regardless of his numerous and seemingly incessant struggles, Peter Parker tends to just be “the best of us”. In the MCU alone, this is seen through many moments across the movies including telling Tony Stark that he couldn’t go to Germany because “he has homework”, blasting off into space to fight Thanos because “he can’t be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man if there’s no neighborhood”, and carrying the Infinity Gauntlet across a chaotic battlefield. This shows us that the young Peter has a heart of pure heroism that rivals even Captain Steve Rogers’, which is arguably why Tony (and audiences everywhere) is so fond of Peter. Even Tobey McGuire’s portrayal of Peter Parker ( in Sam Raimi’s trilogy) had its own campy charm, and Spider-Man 2 (2004) itself is hailed as one of the most successful and acclaimed comic book films of the 2000s. 

In the midst of these versions of a Silver-Screen-Spider-Man, unfortunately we had to deal with The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). Two years ago I did a series called “Hype for Homecoming” (this was a very different blog back then) and I wrote this absolute mess of a piece breaking down just how much The Amazing Spider-Man pissed me off. I basically went off on how Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker was an unlikable creep, they promised us Spidey would be funny but only gave us one real scene (which was in the trailer), it was incredibly inconsistent with tone, and that there was no heart to the movie because its purpose was to set-up another one. 

Today I will do what I have been wanting to do for a long time now, and set in stone that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a dumpster fire, and the worst Spidey movie ever conceived. It is 2019 and this is somehow still not accepted as universal fact, when it 100% should be. It triggers me when I see a power-ranking of Spider-Man movies and this one is not at the bottom. This is not only a bad Spider-Man movie, it is also just a bad movie, period. 

To be honest, my hatred of this movie didn’t start right away. I remember seeing it in theaters and thinking it was “okay”. It was only years later, when I re-watched every Spidey movie to prepare myself for Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), when I realized that this was so bad because I genuinely could not even finish it. This script has absolutely no fucking idea what it wants to accomplish. It gives off the impression that Sony wanted to do cool stuff with the Sinister Six but were compelled to make two set-up movies and treated them like an inconvenience. They tried to make them different from Sam Raimi’s in minuscule ways, portray that in trailers, and then they didn’t care what the hell else was going on as long as they got to throw everything in there that said “be sure to come back when we do Sinister Six and Venom”. This results in an incredibly unfocused narrative and zero semblance of a cohesive plot. 

“Well ackshually, Spider-Man 3 (2007) is the worst Spidey movie because that’s just so obviously the worst, right? Remember the Peter Parker jazz hands?!” 

Okay, sure, but you know what? At least the jazz hands make me smile in hindsight. At least I know what Peter’s whole deal is and all the stupidity at least falls into a structured story. At least the villains have some fucking realistic motivations. At least there’s some tension as to what’s going to happen. At least the final fight with the Goblin + Spidey team-up is cool. I don’t give a flying fuck about your web shooters, or your precious quips, or how handsome Andrew Garfield is, I don’t see any value in a Spidey movie which leaves me confused on the story and the characters! I can sit here and rant for hours about how there’s nothing to take away from this nonsensical clusterfuck, so let’s get to some specifics before this post becomes as disorganized as the movie itself.

PETER PARKER’S PARENTS

If you look at the marketing for the first movie, there was an empty promise about “The Untold Story”, bringing Peter Parker’s actual parents into the mix and using them as plot devices to connect the dots. That marketing made much more sense in this movie instead because it barely came into play in the first. Even in this one, the subplot was “resolved” in the most unsatisfying way possible. We OPEN this movie with some kind of knockoff Dark Knight Rises “Bane on a plane” sequence where Richard Parker is trying to upload some video explaining his disappearance, only to be attacked by an assassin of sorts. One can assume that this is probably going to come into play and be a huge plot point going forward. Especially because Peter does some Charlie Day shit and makes a stereotypical “conspiracy theory” wall, only to tear it down later, throw a graphing calculator at the wall, breaking it to reveal subway tokens…which then leads him to a secret underground train where he finds the super secret video that his father uploaded in the opening sequence…yeah, I know. Wow. 

Anyway, the BIG REVEAL is that Richard made the genetically altered spiders and that Norman wanted to weaponize them and there were ethical differences between the two. Except WE ALREADY FUCKING KNEW THAT FROM THE LAST ONE THROUGH SUBTEXT AND HEAVY IMPLICATION. If you wrote this entire story-line out of both movies, literally nothing else would change! 

GWEN STACEY AND HER RELATIONSHIP WITH PETER

Gwen Stacy is a phenomenal character in the Spider-Man mythos, and Emma Stone is a great actress, which is why this portrayal of Gwen is just tragic. She has no real purpose other than to be this intense reminder of guilt for Peter that he constantly ignores (because again, Peter is barely even a hero in this series). She had like ONE throwaway thing in the last movie about how “she’s lived the life of a cop’s daughter so she worries about Peter”. It was a sweet moment that continues to not matter as all the intelligence and independence we know and love Gwen for just goes right out the window. 

The relationship between Peter and Gwen is so on & off that it feels like they’ve gotten together/broken up somewhere in the double digits. Regardless of how nauseating this somehow “shittier than Twilight” romance is, this really SHOULDN’T BE an on and off thing, right? If your girlfriend’s dad’s last wish was to leave his daughter out of your vigilante shenanigans, you REALLY shouldn’t be constantly trying to make the relationship work and outright stalking her. I understand the need for romance in this, but couldn’t the main “subplot” have been that they’re trying to be friends? Couldn’t Peter have been distant, leaving  Gwen to make her own decision as to who she wants to spend time with? I don’t get why plot is constantly pushed through Gwen, as she has interactions with BOTH villains before they become villains, and shows up at nearly every dangerous situation Spidey finds himself in. 

Aside from that, her death just felt super cheap, like it became REALLY apparent how dirty they did her character. I get that they were trying not to make a “damsel-in-distress”, but that means giving Gwen her own thing and taking charge of her life, not just literally saying the words “ITS MY CHOICE TO BE HERE PETER”. If you had two villains, you could’ve easily had Gwen at Oscorp figuring shit out/dealing with one of them the entire time. I feel like all the time they spent on these tween-love scenes between Gwen and Peter is time they could’ve spent actually developing Gwen.

HARRY OSBORN

Oh great, another of my favorite characters done in the shittiest way possible. What’s worse is this is the script’s fault AND the actor’s fault. Even considering how we know now that James Franco is a creepy dude, I’d still defend him as “my Harry Osborn” because Dane Dehaan is just awful in this role, and the character itself here is even worse. Oh, by the way, Norman Osborn is just totally a non-issue because he’s dead…because of some retro-viral-something-or-the-other that’s taken years to kill him, slowly deforming him into what appears to be a goblin (love the subtlety here). Anyway, because this stupid disease makes no sense, Harry apparently has no time and it seems like he’s going to die in a matter of months? Also if Peter and Harry were friends beforehand, how was Peter so confused about everything Oscorp related in the last movie?? You don’t know your way around the facility at all, but you’re best friends with the heir of the corporate empire?

Perhaps the biggest bullshit regarding Harry is this BEYOND STUPID spider blood plot line. Apparently as Harry starts to research what could possibly cure him, he comes across information that leads him to believe that the radioactive spider’s blood is the cure to his goblin illness (which at this point looks like an infected hickey). So he asks Peter to “ask Spider-Man” and Peter visits him as Spider-Man just to say “nah sorry bro”. I can not emphasize how many times I legitimately thought this movie was written by two college screenwriting majors shroomed out of their minds. 

They also choose to resolve this by having Harry’s assistant basically tell him “hey there’s some weird stuff in the basement” and Harry gets a vial of the spider blood he craves (is this an appropriate time to mention that Sony’s doing a Morbius movie starring Jared Leto? Look up Morbius if you don’t know and just imagine that shit-show hitting theaters soon). Just as Peter predicted, this injection accelerates his disease and makes him look like a Goblin too…but he’s suddenly fine because he HOPS INTO THIS MAGICAL GREEN GOBLIN SUIT THAT STABILIZES HIM. If you had the technology all this time to keep this disease at bay…??? Oh my GOD this shit makes no sense whatsoever! 

So of course, naturally, he’s suddenly super good at being the Green Goblin right away, mastering the glider and everything. Then he goes to find Spider-Man for..reasons..and immediately deduces that its Peter and then shit happens and he’s gone. To top it all off as one final middle finger to the audience, Harry’s last scene shows someone inquiring about his life expectancy. He responds by saying “it comes and goes”. REALLY? REALLY??? God this is almost as bad as Peter’s last line about promises in the last movie!

ELECTRO

I think I’ve mentioned creepiness in this post more than any other I’ve written. That being said, even Max Dillon is a weird creepy dude obsessed with Spider-Man after one brief interaction. I always advocate for a good depiction of mental health issues in film, and for the life of me I can not figure out what they were going for here with Max’s psyche (thanks, psychology minor). As its been pointed out on the internet before, if anything, they were going for a modern version of Jim Carrey’s Riddler from Batman Forever (1995). Another shining example of comic book movie incompetence, wonderful.

As for Electro himself, the writers were clearly making up his powers as they went along. From the electric blasts you would expect, to fizzling out, to fast-traveling via electrical outlets…to…creating his own leather suit? I definitely had a “shockingly bad” pun that I was going to use somewhere here, but I don’t even want to take the effort to set it up anymore. It’s not like this movie made any effort to give us a decent antagonist. Also, of course, his motivation is ridiculously unclear. He’s obsessed with Spider-Man one minute, Spidey tries to calm him down in his first attack, then suddenly he has an inexplicable hate boner for Spidey. Speaking of which…

SPIDER-MAN HIMSELF

There’s this scene in a montage where Spidey’s just doing his thing, and he saves a dorky kid from some bullies. The kid’s science project is broken in the process, and Peter picks it up and repairs it. He then walks the kid back home, talking to him about the science project the way there. It is a damn shame that they showed that they clearly understood something about the character with such a gorgeous moment, only to demonstrate a total lack of understanding the character for the remaining duration of the movie. For the most part, my complaints are the same from the last one: Garfield’s portrayal of Peter is just not likable, and they made him into this faux-edge-lord whose own incompetence is half the reason things are bad around him. Oh, but so handsome, right? That’s all that matters, right? At least he told some jokes like Spider-Man always does, right? Yeah well while he’s telling jokes in this opening scene with Rhino, MORE PEOPLE ARE DYING. Peter doesn’t stop what he’s doing to be sarcastic while shit is going down just to get his two cents in, did you think he was Deadpool? Peter actually wants to save people first, his humor doesn’t get in the way of that…it’s more so meant to frustrate and mentally disarm opponents in a fight. Even if they timed it better, the humor just felt incredibly forced. I don’t think I laughed ONCE this movie upon re-watch. The suit looks way better this time though, so good job there I guess.

AS IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH ON THE UNCLEAR PLOTS & SUBPLOTS, HERE ARE MORE

  • Aunt May – So apparently she’s trying to be a Nurse? I don’t know but that’s in there a few times and…I mean sure, but also why? 
  • The Sinister Six – Boy it is really hard to rewatch this movie and all the S6 setup when you know that it’s not going to happen because it all got cancelled. Speaking of which…
  • Rhino – Paul Giamatti, what the fuck are you doing? I know Rhino is supposed to be dumb as bricks, but he’s such a cartoon in a movie where apparently I’m supposed to be focused on struggles and dead parents and stuff? Oh also that super cool shot of the Spidey v Rhino fight in the trailer? Yeah, it’s just that. That’s where the movie cuts off. Fuck you, movie.
  • Felicia Hardy – Harry Osborn’s assistant, Felicia (played by Felicity Jones!), is listed in credits as “Felicia Hardy”…aka another character from the lore that many know as “Black Cat”. Why do I get the feeling that Black Cat was supposed to be here and just wasn’t in the final cut because someone in the writer’s room finally said something about how bloated this movie is. On that note…
  • SHAILENE WOODLEY?? – Many don’t realize this, but Woodley was meant to play Mary Jane Watson in this movie until all her scenes and any mention of the character got deleted. Which just further begs the question of how much shit were they trying to put into this one movie? The final cut was 142 MINUTES LONG, AND YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE WERE ORIGINALLY EVEN MORE CHARACTERS AND SUBPLOTS??

If there’s any takeaway from this post other than “movie bad”, it’s that cinematic universes need to be carefully orchestrated. You can’t just throw everything at the wall at once and give no sense of delayed gratification, and you certainly can’t waste time on a plot-line that doesn’t matter. Instead of trying to accomplish a billion different things for the sake of a franchise, maybe try to accomplish one thing first and just make a good/fun movie. There’s no point in creating an overarching story for a pay-off if everything else leading up to it makes no fucking sense. Things have been very good for Spider-Man fans lately, and one can only hope that the character isn’t used as a soulless cash-cow ever again like it was in this series.

I Wish X-Men Was More Popular

I Hope They Remember You

WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS FOR ALL MOVIES IN THE FOX X-MEN FRANCHISE, most recently including DARK PHOENIX. If you prefer not to read, turn away now.

Remember when comic book movies were God awful? Shall I remind us of Daredevil (2003), Catwoman (2004), or Fantastic Four (2005)? Shall I take it a step further and remind us of Elektra (2005), Ghostrider (2007), and my personal pick for the undisputed worst one I have ever witnessed in my lifetime…Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003)? Despite the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in the 2010’s, we can’t deny that the medium as a whole has suffered its “dark ages”. However, even in that range, there were gems that critics, fans, and audiences paid good money to see multiple times. I’m talking about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005), and when we have the conversation of early-mid 2000s comic book movies that paved the road, we absolutely have to include Fox’s X-Men Franchise.

It began in the year 2000. Y2K was proven wrong, America dealt with a controversial General Election which was eventually ruled in favor of the GOP (some things never change, huh?), Tiger Woods was still a relevant athlete, Eminem released “The Marshall Mathers LP” (which many listened to via Napster), Friends was still on the air…and Bryan Singer (big oof in 2019, I know) just directed X-Men.

The X-Men are known for being an ensemble, but they are typically led by Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto), portrayed by Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen respectively. Audiences were also introduced to Halle Berry’s Storm, Anna Paquin’s Rogue, and Hugh Jackman’s iconic Wolverine. The first movie received generally positive reviews, was followed by the critically acclaimed X2 (2003), and the infamously bad X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Seeing as how the movies were indeed making money, and since Fox had the rights to the characters (a simpler time), going beyond the trilogy seemed to make the most sense. Unfortunately, this led to X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), a “laughably bad movie” river that critics on the internet ran dry within weeks of its release. I actually also got a chance to review the movie and pitch my idea for it on The Doctor Script Podcast, which you can find here.

I would definitely not be surprised if you read that last paragraph and forgot about the existence of half of those movies. This is mostly because the “modern” X-Men franchise took off after the original trilogy and Wolverine spin-off, when Matthew Vaughn directed the phenomenal X-Men: First Class (2011). The younger versions of Professor X and Magneto, masterfully portrayed by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectively, kicked off more movies that eventually brought us to where we are today, the end of an era with Dark Phoenix absolutely bombing at the box office. As a fan of the franchise I saw the movie myself, and while I can’t say it was good, I don’t think it was unwatchable or terrible. I honestly just think the general audience forgot about or got bored of the X-Men. It’s pretty plain to see that the franchise wasn’t meticulously planned out like an MCU situation, and while there’s some semblance of a canon, audiences often find themselves having to overlook things and watch some of the later movies in a vacuum especially after the wildly successful branching-off of Logan and Deadpool.

Despite all of this, there was one part of Dark Phoenix that I noticed and actually wanted to explore, and that is what inspired this post. In a world where humanity was originally frightened and hostile towards mutants, Professor X has created a team that has become popular with the general public through acts of service, he even has a direct line to the White House that the President uses for emergencies. Raven, however, comments that a lot of this relationship for the mutants is giving and not getting anything in return, except for Xavier’s countless awards and accolades. Xavier retorts that this is the only way mutants will be accepted into society, and that messing with this relationship even once will result in mutants becoming public enemy number one again. Meanwhile, Magneto is far away in a government-approved shelter providing a home for lost mutants who would rather live isolationist lives.

In 2019’s political climate, where the treatment of minorities seems to be a constant talking point for elected officials, this aspect of the X-Men is absolutely perfect to explore. In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, Marvel Comics architect Stan Lee used his medium of comic books to try and make a difference. He created the world of Wakanda, which almost everyone is familiar with today. “Those stories have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or color of their skin,” Lee said in this video published by Marvel in 2017. “The only things we don’t have room for are hatred, intolerance, and bigotry.” It is entirely true that the world of the X-Men was created to serve as a subtle nod to the struggles of minorities and to explain those struggles in the comic book medium (subtle in the sense that they replaced “minorities” with “mutants”).

We are unfortunately living in somewhat of a resurgence for outwardly bigoted behavior towards minorities. This includes unfair over-incarceration, outright murder by law enforcement, family separation laws, and attempts at banning entire countries from entering a nation that was built by immigrants (many of whom didn’t even come here by choice)…so literally everything Prince N’Jobu and Erik Killmonger were furious with in Black Panther. Make no mistake, my personal favorite and arguably most interesting part of any X-Men story is exploring this dynamic: The Government’s fear-mongering of mutants for political agendas, the mutant community’s inner-conflict on how to deal with their oppression, and the different methodology on how to achieve the same goal demonstrated by Professor X and Magneto.

Rumors are constantly spread about how Professor X was based on Martin Luther King Jr, making Magneto based on Malcolm X. While this has never been outright confirmed, the basic concept rings true. Professor X wants to work with humans and show that mutants have a lot to contribute to society. Magneto views this as being a glorified janitor for humanity’s screw-ups, and he doesn’t share the same hope that his counterpart does. This dynamic has a lot to say about the minority experience, and it is also a look into how modern day activists go about enacting social justice. Essentially, this single theme would enable a creator to bring audiences a movie that not only portrays the nuance of how minorities of various backgrounds feel (Professor X grew up quite privileged, whereas Magneto was a Holocaust survivor), but can also serve as an analysis of our modern protest culture and the political correctness movement itself.

Many are already aware that Fox no longer has the rights to these characters, as they have been bought by Disney to now fall under the MCU umbrella. While Marvel Studios has stated that fans will have to wait a while to see the X-Men on the big screen again, and while the purchase of Fox’s assets by Disney have caused a lot of unrest in the industry, I have high hopes that the same studio that brought us Black Panther and Captain Marvel can focus on this powerful dynamic between Charles and Erik. I will always fondly remember Stewart/McAvoy and McKellen/Fassbender as these characters, and I implore anyone reading this to take some time and do the same.

Of course, Marvel/Disney could always just choose to give us more of the Phoenix Force, more of Wolverine’s personal conflict, and more dick jokes with Deadpool. Or they could choose to use these characters to give us something real, thought provoking, and culturally relevant. One can only hope they give us the latter.

Recommended Viewing:

  1. X-Men: The Animated Series*
  2. X-Men: First Class
  3. X2
  4. X-Men: Evolution*
  5. X-Men: Days of Future Past

*Television series, available for purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

Endgame & Game of Thrones: Using One to Explain Where the Other Went Wrong

Perfectly Balanced in the Worst Way Possible

WARNING – THIS POST CONTAINS HUGE SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME & THE THIRD EPISODE OF THE EIGHTH SEASON OF GAME OF THRONES. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED, PLEASE DO NOT CONTINUE READING WITHOUT HAVING SEEN THE ONE(S) YOU CARE ABOUT.

This weekend was always meant to be an anticipated and emotional one for nerds and fans of pop culture in general. On the silver screen, an unprecedented narrative across 22 films and 11 years was coming to an end. On television, viewers (including those who have waited since 2011) were finally going to see a built-up threat shrouded in mystery and mysticism become a tangible adversary for humanity. No one could deny the hype behind both Avengers: Endgame and The Long Night.

Despite being wildly different fictional universes that require different suspensions of disbelief, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Game of Thrones (GoT) have more common ground than one would think. The obvious one being that both are based on source material from books. While Marvel Comics was founded in 1961, A Song of Ice and Fire’s first book, A Game of Thrones, was published in 1996.

The constant retcons in comics and the nature of comic writing as opposed to fantasy novel writing allowed the MCU some freedom to bring the story into a modern and more streamlined setting. They didn’t have to follow the source material page-for-page. They simply had to do the characters right and pay homage where it is due. As long as you’re doing that and still telling a good story and sticking to your theme, it’s completely okay to put a scene where an overweight Thor yells at some gen-Z degenerate who is bullying Korg on Fortnite. It makes more sense than what happened in The Long Night, at least.

Fantasy novels are different, especially when you’re trying to finish an uncompleted book series on television. You don’t have to include every single minute detail that an author will take the time to do, but you still have to commit to the main beats of the story and the theme. That’s where the issue with The Long Night lies.

A Song of Ice and Fire is fundamentally a story about how war, petty political squabbles amongst noble houses, and monarchs who put their needs above the realm ultimately plunge said realm into an endless cycle of chaos and innocent lives being taken. The final test is a supernatural threat that gives humanity a choice between unity and death. If you recall the first few pages/episodes of the story in a specific chapter/scene from Daenerys Targaryen’s point of view:

“‘The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends,’ Ser Jorah told her. ‘It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.’ He gave a shrug. ‘They never are.’”
– George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones (1996), Daenerys (III)

For my Parks & Recreation fans out there, also recall when Ser Ben Lighstorm Ben Wyatt was being the lovable nerd he is, and responded to being teased about his love of GoT by saying “It’s about telling real life stories in a fantasy setting”. As funny as that moment was, he was spot on.

GRRM’s story has often been proclaimed as an allegory for our real-life socio-political environment. While ours has gotten insane as of late, which allows people to often force metaphors that were not originally intended (i.e. Trump = Joffrey), GRRM absolutely meant the threat of the White Walkers to be an allegory for climate change and has confirmed this. Surprise, environmental issues aren’t a new concern, we’re just dealing with it very poorly. Hell, President Jimmy Carter was haunted by the energy crisis much like Prince Rhaegar Targaryen was haunted by the Long Night, both trying to lay some groundwork so that future leaders can lead the fight (History and ASOIAF buffs can nitpick that, but I hope that made sense as a very general metaphor).

The point being, there is a supernatural threat that can’t be beaten by humanity being divided and by conventional means. On top of that, you better believe that the threat does not discriminate the way we do…it’s coming for all of us.

So what’s the point then? Look, when I digest fiction I look for three main things: storytelling, themes, and characters. Despite my nitpicks in Avengers: Endgame, after this weekend it became clear to me that the minds behind the MCU cared about those things and meticulously planned out everything they could. The minds behind GoT absolutely did not care.

The MCU also chose to go this route of storytelling due to what they did with Thanos. Tony Stark developed a severe anxiety disorder and PTSD after the Battle of New York. The main reason? He saw what was coming. He went into the wormhole to stop a nuke from hitting NY, he defeated the Chitauri and realized immediately that this wasn’t the end. Due to his fears of “we’re too late” and “what are we supposed to do about that?”, he created Ultron which ended up being an issue for the Avengers in and of itself. We see our heroes make mistakes all throughout the saga (there are so many characters, so let’s just focus on the two pivotal ones): Steve Rogers and Tony Stark broke apart the Avengers and they were spread too thin when Thanos himself arrived. The Russo brothers themselves have confirmed that the main reason the Avengers lost in Infinity War was because they were divided after Civil War. We saw a petty political squabble break apart our chances. We saw Tony jumping the gun without properly explaining himself. We saw Steve not thinking big enough to foresee the threat. Most importantly? We saw the Avengers lose.

In Endgame, they got a second chance (friendly reminder that in real life, we don’t get quantum realm shenanigans to go back in time and fix our mistakes). Not only did our heroes use this second chance, but they all overcame what was bigger than themselves. Tony Stark, a man who was criticized as only fighting for himself, truly thought about all of humanity and sacrificed his life to save billions. Steve Rogers, a man who was criticized as a self-righteous prick who forces fights because he can’t live without war, let go of his “soldier” persona and embraced simply being a good man. They let go of their personal baggage, stopped fighting each other, and succeeded against a world-ending threat in Thanos.

So why the long face when talking about The Long Night? To reiterate, A Song of Ice and Fire is fundamentally a story about how war, petty political squabbles amongst noble houses, and monarchs who put their needs above the realm ultimately plunge said realm into an endless cycle of chaos and innocent lives being taken. The final test is a supernatural threat that gives humanity a choice between unity and death…

…Except that supernatural threat now feels like a minor inconvenience, the people who put their needs above the realm are now in the right, and we’re back to war and petty political squabbles that are going to take more innocent lives. It’s an objectively terrible way to end the story.

With the Night King defeated in one episode, now we are left with Cersei Lannister and Euron Greyjoy being the biggest threats to the realm. Cersei’s incredibly selfish and stupid plan of denying the long night, waiting until the rest of the world dealt with it, and then plunging the realm into war again seems all but certain. Where is the breaking of the wheel? Where is the great supernatural threat of the White Walkers? What was the point of Jon Snow and Bran Stark’s arcs? What was the point of the Children of the Forest? So Old Nan really WAS just full of it, huh?

It’s almost insulting from a narrative standpoint. In the world the show-runners have created, the Long Night will go down in history as another “fairy tale the Northerners made up”, grumpkins and snarks as it was once said by Tyrion Lannister. This feels like the only people who won were the ones denying the threat. It serves as validation for people that put their inane drama over a united and cooperative human race. Not only is that not what GRRM presumably intended, but that also isn’t a world that I—and many people who are much better human beings than I—want to live in.

I’m no film student, and I’m no writer, but I don’t like to complain without providing solutions. A part of me genuinely thinks that this season would have been better if this episode was an incredibly tough battle where the living came out on top by being better tacticians (i.e. flanking with the Dothraki, Jon Snow using Ghost to scope the landscape just like Robb Stark used to do with Grey Wind, actually making use of a famously tough castle to breach, etc). You can still have fan-service moments like Arya Stark solo killing a Walker, Jon Snow running at a horde of wights with Ghost beside him and Rhaegal above him, Theon Greyjoy going out in a blaze of glory, and Lyanna Mormont defeating a giant. The end would be Bran Stark, who has warged into his ravens, realizing that the Night King totally skipped over Winterfell and went straight for King’s Landing. The ones who denied the threat are now suffering it, and the army of the living has to make one last stand despite their numbers being heavily depleted. That finale is where you would have your prophecies pay off, aka Valonqar and Azor Ahai, because this is still a fantasy story and the books deserve that homage.

One can only hope that the books handle everything a lot better (or, you know, ever even finish). As for the show’s message? Suffer more, common folk. The lords and ladies will continue to play the game of thrones and get us all killed, even after being threatened by an eternal winter.

I suppose Jon Snow isn’t the only one who knows nothing.

Guest Post: Formulaically Entertaining-The Purge vs Hotel Transylvania

Piece written and contributed once again by Uday Mehta, who you can support by clicking here.
_____________________________________________________________________________

It’s a tired but only partially true cliché that Hollywood doesn’t have any original ideas. Of the top-25 grossing movies of 2018 (domestically through July), nine (Ready Player One, A Quiet Place, Rampage, I Can Only Imagine, Game Night, Book Club, Blockers, Tomb Raider, and Tag) weren’t part of a series, franchise, or cinematic universe (although Tomb Raider was a video game and Ready Player one was a book). There were only seven (Coco, Dunkirk, Get Out, Boss Baby, Greatest Showman, Split, and Wonder) in 2017, none of them in the top 10. You’d have to go back to 2006 – before Twilight, Divergent, Hunger Games, Planet of the Apes, Maze Runner, Hangover, Transformers, The Hobbit, and the entire MCU – when the only real franchises were Harry Potter, X-Men, and Pirates. That year, a whopping fifteen of the top 25 were originals, among them The Departed, Cars, Borat, The Da Vinci Code, The Pursuit of Happyness, and Click for some reason. We keep watching the same characters in the same movies; just in the last few weeks, we got Mission Impossible 6, Mamma Mia 2, Equalizer 2, Ant Man 2, Incredibles 2, Jurassic World 2, Incredibles 2, and the fourth Ocean’s movie. Even things like Goosebumps and Bad Moms are getting sequels. At least half of these movies don’t need sequels, another quarter of them are just bad. There are, fortunately, a select few which successfully make the same movie, but in a good way.

Both Hotel Transylvania and the Purge are several movies into their run, and will undoubtedly each return for at least one more. While you’d be hard-pressed to find movies that are more dissimilar, they are alike in one very important way – their sustained run of success despite mixed critical response, a lack of star power, a generally predictable plot, and an apparently limited demographic. Transylvania is an animated franchise that features an actor that everyone is tired of (Adam Sandler) voicing the lead, and is primarily intended as a family movie. Purge shuffles its cast every film (the biggest names being Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, and Michael K. Williams) and is rated R for disturbing violence. So why do they still exist?

The holy grail of sequels is 22 Jump Street (honorable mention to Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight), a meta self-referential comedy which openly joked about how they were making the exact same movie a second time, including an extended credits sequence that showed all the potential sequels they could do. That movie came out four years ago, and Channing Tatum has yet to sign on to a potential third project because he isn’t sure whether the joke will work a third time. And he’s probably right – barring an Incredibles-like decade-plus hiatus, a third Jump Street movie would probably be stale and uninspiring because there’s not a lot of places you can really go with the premise of ‘undercover cops’.

Conversely, both of these franchises rely on the strength of their premise to drive their longevity. Transylvania starts with a human vs. monsters conflict, leading to the establishment of a monsters-only five-star hotel where a collection of adorable monsters convene. Purge centers around a day where all crime including murder is legal, something which apparently brings down the crime rate during the rest of the year and allows the economy to flourish. Those premises – while not always executed to their full potential – are deserving of multiple movies just so the concept can be explored to its limits. It’s like the opposite of something like Step Up (by the way, did you know that the original Step Up movie with Channing Tatum had the worst-critical reception of all five movies?), where the movie centers around the idea of a dance battle, something that might be entertaining as a YouTube video but less so as an actual movie.

Due to the leeway each premise provides, both are fueled by the in-movie creativity, a creativity which doesn’t necessarily manifest in good plot, but the type that makes them an engaging watch throughout. Averaging out to be 90 and 100 minutes respectively, there are few moments which seem unearned or unimportant. Transylvania flexes its animation ability, using it to transform things like volleyballs and wedding rings into one-off monsters that can eat up scenes. The style is evocative of a Sunday morning cartoon, corny DJ battles and all (you can get away with that in a cartoon, less so in a live action movie like say, Guardians of the Galaxy). Purge makes good use of its jump scares, glowing green eyes, and pointed iconography, jumping between points-of-view to create a feeling of disorientation. Their evolution between movies, however, is where their true appeal lies. While the first Transylvania is pushed by the classic story of a forbidden love, the second switches to a generational family dispute. By the third film, Transylvania actually leaves the titular location, spending all but ten minutes of the movie on a cruise ship headed for annihilation. While all three maintain the human-monster divide, the way in which it is presented continues to be fresh. Purge starts with an affluent white family trying to make it through the night, then moving to a working-class bunch, and in 2016 to a politician trying to campaign for the presidency. The latest film, a cleverly placed prequel, tells the story of how Purge night came to be with a ton of social commentary (financial incentive for people to participate, minority population in Staten Island, government affiliation with gun organizations, people in hoods marching in the streets).

Of the seven combined movies, I’ve seen all of them. Sure, they have a finite ceiling, but a pretty high floor as well. They’re satisfying in their predictability, a known quantity that makes room for appreciation of the finer points of each.