Thursday, May 31, 2018

Intellectual Property Homesick Blues, Part 1: Rocky and Bullwinkle

In a quiet moment of intersectionality, I watched the re-imagining of the legendary Rocky and Bullwinkle series on Amazon Prime just prior to the opening of Solo. And I realized something about not just the venerable Star Wars franchise, but also the even more venerable Rocky and Bullwinkle franchise; in a world where intellectual property is, essentially, immortal, it’s completely unrealistic to expect that these properties would remain timeless (as opposed to timely). By extension, there are a lot of people complaining about the movie (or the TV show) that they didn’t get and wondering implicitly (and explicitly) why things can’t be like they always have been.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Children of Generation X, Part 5: Avengers: Infinity War Does Not Owe You a Hug

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.
Part 4 is here.

With a full week of cash, insane press junkets, and stunned golf claps under its belt, Avengers: Infinity War has shattered box office records and fan's expectations alike. Most people, including the critics, have correctly focused on the sheer logistics of pulling off a movie that runs two-and-a-half hours and feels like half that time. From a technical standpoint, as well as the deep level of satisfaction (and a lot of other emotions) that this movie generated, it deserves everything it gets.

Along with that came the click bait stories, the bottom feeding websites, and the cascade of fan theories. Oh, God, give me strength. The obligatory Easter Eggs lists have swollen like poisonous mushrooms in slime, and proliferate in much the same way. Some of these digital remoras have a really loose definition of what constitutes an Easter Egg. Many of these guys are just listing things in the hopes that you notice how much they know about comic books. It's embarrassing.

The fan theories on how this is all going to be resolved are worse, much worse. By my estimate, there are at least six possible loopholes and handholds that COULD be used, if one were so inclined, in the next movie. But let me be clear about this: no one is under any obligation to use anything I noticed as an audience member. In fact, there is a really good chance that the plot points on which the next movie rests will have little or nothing to do with how the gang gets out of this mess.

This is a real problem in our New Digital Age; we are all so interested in "calling it," to prove how media-savvy we are, and since we're all just one screenplay away from immortality anyway, why not be continually auditioning for the job with every word we write or speak? Here's why not.

1. It's annoying as hell. We get it. You're very clever. Now shut up. No one likes the person that guesses the mystery before anyone else. Even professional writers like to turn their brain off whenever they can. Be like them.

2. Why are you spending so much time trying to figure this out? It's a movie. You're not Jack Bauer. There is no life or death struggle going on, here. Not everything has to be a battle of wits. Especially this.

3. When you're wrong, you tend to get a little...what's the word? Unhinged. Don't look at me like that. You know what I'm talking about. *Cough*StarWars*Cough*LastJedi*Cough* Lots of people have lost their mind lately because some movies didn't meet their expectations, and by that I mean, they didn't conform to any extant fan-theories about who so-and-so was or what so-and-so would do. As a result of all the pissing and moaning, you poisoned the experience for a lot of people. And it comes off as being extremely entitled.

In short, don't be that person, okay? I know you care. We all care. We care deeply. But this is entertainment, and it's supposed to be fun. Idle speculation is great, but when you lock in your answers and start trying to prove your thesis with video clips and badly formed leaps in logic, then let me suggest that you've gone too far.

I can hear some of you starting in with, "But Mark, you don't get to tell me how to interact with media! That's my fandom!" Pfft, whatever. I disagree that being a public nuisance constitutes "fan activity," but okay, let me offer you a compromise, one that you can still put on YouTube or your personal platform, that will get you just as many clicks, and seem even more impressive when you pull it off. If you're committed to pre-ruining the movie for yourself and others by hammering down whatever whackadoo theories you might have that will wind up as plot points in Untitled Avengers Movie 4, then do it this way: start your camera rolling and talk briefly about your intention to Kreskin the movie. Write your predictions down on a piece of paper, fold it and seal it in an envelope. Then mail that envelope to yourself so that there is a legible day and date in the cancellation. Leave the envelope sealed until next May. Then you can open the letter up on camera and read or show your predictions to an amazed audience, who will praise you for your clearly brilliant thinking, and then someone in the audience will offer you a scriptwriting job at Marvel Studios. Because everyone knows, that's how it works.

Mind you, I'm not saying to be uncritical of a movie just because it's got super heroes in it. After 19 great Marvel films and, well, a handful of pretty good DC movies, and with all of that baggage in the rear view mirror, the bar has certainly been raised. These resolutions have to make sense within their created worlds. If the resolution to the massive cliffhanger isn't sufficiently satisfying, by all means, have a go at it. But if any of your sentences are some variation of, "Well, I didn't like it because X solution would have been better," then that's not valid criticism.

It's time for everyone to take a deep breath and a step back and realize that these movies, designed to entertain, aren't created for one person. They are created for a wide audience, and sometimes, your personal pet peeves may be triggered because the Russo Brothers don't know what bothers you, and I suspect, don't care, either. Their yardstick for success is not your yardstick of quality. Your only obligation to any media presented is whether or not to watch it and evaluate it fairly. Pro-tip: comparing it to the movie in your head is not a fair comparison.

So if you're going to be unfair and biased, say that right up front. Don't presume to speak for anyone other than yourself. And if you intend to say something more interesting about the movie than, "I liked the special effects," then you have to leave statements like "What they SHOULD have done" out of the discussion. If you're really so media-savvy, prove it by not having a nuclear meltdown next year because "they got something wrong."