Okay, big year coming up as far as nerd stuff is involved. I’d like to go over some of the things I am greatly anticipating… and some things I am a little concerned for.
Thrilled: Avengers: End Game
Thrilled: Captain Marvel
I wasn’t huge on the idea. Carol Danvers is a bit of a flat character in the comics who’s gone through half a dozen ‘soft retcons’ since her introduction. Brie Larson’s version seems to be one with a bit more pathos behind it. Roping in her history with amnesia, trauma, and the military in a way that makes her less of a victim. The problem in the comics was that because she was a bit of a flat character, all of the events around her were things that were ‘done to her’, rather than things she did. The movie seems to be giving her origin a whole lot more agency.
And who isn’t a little giddy that Kevin Fieigie is doing a little retconning of his own, turning the MCU on it’s head and making Carol Danvers, not Tony Stark, the sparking catalyst behind the Avengers Initiative. It makes me wonder if that was in the pipeline from the beginning, or if they wanted to sneak this in. Still — I’m all about that buddy-cop vibe that I get from Larson and Jackson.
Tentative: LEGO Movie 2
I feel LEGO Movie is one of the best animated movies of all time. Even though the trailers made it seem like a shallow cash-grab for LEGO, we should have known better. Of course the family-run, international toy-producing powerhouse would treat its brand with a bit more integrity. Even LEGO Batman was precious.
But Sequels make me nervous. Are they just going to try to keep re-hashing the message of the first one? Are they going to forgo any kind of thematic impact and just go for cheap thrills? Or are they going to make a whole new story to suit today’s world? It’s not like the first movie isn’t still relevant, with President Business being more of a reality than ever before.
Not to mention, the director is the guy who directed Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, so we’ll see.
Concerned: Starwars, Episode IX
Episode VIII will likely be remembered as the crowning thematic masterpiece of the franchise, with Rogue One being remembered as the movie that validates the franchise as being true cinema. Empire Strikes Back was just as divisive, if not more, than The Last Jedi, with fans livid that Lucas would be romancing Han Solo and Leia Organa, and were convinced that Darth Vader was just lying to Luke about being his father.
We don’t remember that now. Rose colored glasses, and all.
However, one thing Lucas didn’t do was freak out, and start cow-towing to Fans. Instead, he doubled down and used Luke’s connection to Vader to redeem him, and smashed the love triangle with a hammer by making Luke and Leia twins separated at birth.
Not the direction Episode IX seems to be going, however. The first news we heard when it was announced that J.J. Abrams was returning to direct the conclusion was that there was a casting call for a red-haired actress to play a character named ‘Mara’ (a nod to the now-derelict extended universe of Lucas’ lax tenure), and that Rey’s parentage could be ret-conned. As well as Snoke.
Not to mention Abrams doesn’t have the visual flair of Ryan Johnson, whose Star Wars was wrought with symbols, allegory, and strong thematic over and undertones. Was Episode VIII a perfect movie? No, and the weakness it suffered was from having to be a ‘Star Wars Movie’ — a format Rogue One did not need to follow.
The driving forces (ha!) behind Star Wars movies are:
Expectations will be challenged.
Luke was no Flash Gordon, or rugged, masculine Hercules figure.
The Hero’s origin held a dark past.
The most competent, results-driven character was the ‘damsel in distress’.
Dependance on the ‘Chosen One’ prophecy lead to the Jedi’s downfall.
And that Heroes were victorious when they defied typical masculine archetypes.
Luke failed against Darth Vader when he tried to gallantly rush in to save the day.
Luke’s fateful battle against Darth Vader and Palpatine was completely ineffective for the battle to destroy the Death Star.
He defeated the Emperor by choosing pacifism.
Anakin fell to the dark side out of a compulsive need for revenge and to protect those he cared about with violence.
Yoda failed because he insisted on a direct battle with Palpatine.
The way that Johnson displayed his awareness of Lucas’ original vision of the Jedi and the franchise was sublime. And yes, the way Luke dies is WAY more badass than having ‘just another lightsaber fight’. Part of the big hate for this movie is built around the fan-fiction echo-chamber of the old extended universe, where Jedi use the force with impunity, in flashy, descriptive, and visually intense ways. Whereas Lucas’ comments about the force (in interviews, and commentary) is that it is most powerful as an awareness.
The psychological and discrete ways the force can be used are far more powerful than ‘lifting rocks’. The Death Star could destroy a planet, but the force allowed a single individual to conquer the galaxy through diplomacy, manipulation, and subtlety. And my only critique of Johnson was how heavy-handed he was in hitting that message… though I guess, given the year of backlash, it may have been needed.
But with the Franchise returning to Abrams… can we expect a thematic continuation of Johnson’s messaging? The Force Awakens, while structurally sound and very entertaining, didn’t offer much in the way of commentary or theme. Aside from reminding everyone that, yes, The Empire were Nazis. Both visually and thematically, I’m afraid that this new trilogy will be bookended by two slightly above par films, sandwiching one that is brilliant, by my qualifications.
One thing is sure, even if you disagree with me about The Last Jedi, you probably aren’t thrilled about Abram’s return…
Tentative: Spiderman, Far From Home
I’ve never been much of a Spider-Man fan. A Spider-Fan? At least not Peter Parker. Now, Miles Morales I’m 110% behind, and although I loathe spin-off universes and ‘what ifs’, I’m totally on board for Spider-Gwen.
I just feel that Marvel hasn’t known what to do with Peter Parker since the 1980s… And he hasn’t exactly transferred well into the movies. With Sam Rami’s Spider-Man basically being a 1960s Peter Parker lifted into the 2000s. Which, I would have totally been all in for a Spider-Man Movie set in 1962 — like X-Men. Even Marvel Comics has had a very difficult time trying to figure out how to set Parker in a 2020 atmosphere, while still being true to the seed planted by Stan Lee.
But that’s the problem with Peter Parker, he was a very specific cultural relic from the 1960s. He represented an attitude about masculinity that was relevant in the 60s, but that attitude has, and continues to change and evolve. So there’s a lot of problems in adapting the character, personality, and cultural significance of Spider-Man into a modern context. The Andrew Garfield versions were a very shallow attempt to ‘modernize’ Pater Parker as an ADD too-smart-to-pay-attention archetype.
Which, for the smartest kids in the class, those who I’ve encountered anyway, do have a lot of trouble keeping on top of schoolwork. Tom Holland’s high-energy ‘happy-to-be-here’ fanboy, I think, is a much more plausible and charming adaptation. Especially because he’s the only one of the three actors who has actually portrayed how intelligent Peter Parker is. But fans of the Rami versions, and the Silver-Age comics, have a hard time with Holland.
But the thing that’s always bothered me about Spider-man has been how… everyone writes and reads a different Spider-Man. I’ve read the Avengers comics from the 1963 run, to the present. And numerous times, when Spider Man is offered a spot on the team he rejects it. Why? Because in the Marvel Comic Universe (unfortunately, also abbreviated to the MCU), writers make a routine of pointing out how he’s a small-fry up against Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor.
Spider-Man’s strength ranges being able to break some bones with one punch, to being able to throw a helicopter over a rooftop. His spider-senses range from ‘quick thinking’ to ‘infallible reflexes’ to ‘Jedi senses’. Sometimes he can beat the Hulk or Wolverine in a fist-fight. Other times, Captain America’s got his number. Other-times, he can web up half the avengers without breaking a sweat.
As a character, he’s a lovely relic, like I said, and he’s a very good character. But as a super-hero, he is very vaguely defined and largely without any direction. And I’m enjoying that the films are taking him in more of a ‘heroic, but fallible’ direction — at least in a more consistent way than he’s been treated, largely, in the past. And while I hope that continues, I still need to see more.
It seems that when Taron Egerton left the closet, it was just the tip. I’m completely assuming him to boldly exit when the press tour for Rocketman begins ramping up. But I’m only really concerned with that business insofar as I’m curious about how he plans to navigate that little blunder coming up.
…Sorry, I get my kicks on public relations.
See, the trailer for Rocketman is a lot more of what I was hoping for from Bohemian Rhapsody. But the surviving members of Queen have a history of going with the lowest-common denominator — as least as far as art and performance are concerned. Queens Jukebox Broadway show (We Will Rock You), as I understand, was essentially West Side Story but with Queen classics as numbers. Yawn.
Rocketman though, seems to be the kind of Moulin Rouge acid trip that should be the way we depict glam rockers. Please-oh-please let this movie do well! I want an inter-connected Glam-Rock cinematic universe.
David Bowie movie staring Tilda Swinton, GET!
I love me some BioWare games…
Only no I don’t. I used to. But now they do this thing where they pad down their games with characters who are only there to show off how many cultures they appropriate, and peddle shockingly shallow philosophy. I like isolated instances in Dragon Age, but the franchise games are just so hard to get through, and gameplay is ‘meh’. Mass Effect games are either awful or chopped into dozens of pieces. Or both.
Actually, forget video games for the rest of the list, I’m so over new video games. I’ve just gotten into a comfortable habit of re-playing old video games.
And Bio-Ware especially. They’re so long, and time-consuming. I’ve got shit to do! Novels to plan… and to find other ways to procrastinate. And even the highest-reviewed games are abundant in just how shallow they are. You just don’t get that much stimulation out of what you put into in a game anymore. I’ll just plug away at Splatoon or Overwatch, or I’ll play narrative-driven Last Of Us or Hellblade titles.
But I’m beginning to have a serious problem with decision-making branching-story, choose-your-own-mediocrity games. First, I want to experience the whole game. I’ll set save anchors and re-load three or four times to go through all the branching options, because I’ve got shit to do and I don’t want to go through the trouble of re-playing the labyrinth of conversation choices. And by having too many branching options, narrative structure is usually lost. With the many different branches lacking the narrative ‘punch’ of a properly-paced single-narrative story.
Furthermore, it makes no sense for role-playing. Because you can establish Shepard as the bringer of truth and justice, and then the option to do things like punch reporters is still an option. That’s not how healthy-people psychology works! So on top of sacrificing narrative structure, you’re sacrificing any kind of protagonist structure. Which means that Bio-Ware has to load up the game with companions and side-characters that end up being WAY more interesting than Shepard, the Inquisitor, or whoever. The exception to both of these rules was Dragon Age 2 — but everyone but me hated that game.
Tentative: Bayonetta 3
While it’s only rumored to come out this year, YAAAS, QWEEN.
Tentative: Rumors of more DLC for Breath of the Wild
I literally just said that I love replaying video games I’ve already dumped hundreds of hours into. So technically it’s not hypocritical after my rant about Bio-Ware and the current state of forcing games not only to be open-world, but also to have forced decision-making components.
Well, I’d never pass down an opportunity to replay this one. I’ll pay whatever it takes to get more of everyone’s favorite elf-twink. Though let’s be honest, I play games for the Fashion Simulator, and BOTW did a fine job wit that.
But… once again, this is only conjecture.
For two weeks I’ve been working on an essay that will hopefully articulate the concerns I have with the post-colonial orientalism I’m already sniffing out of the live-action adaptation of Aladdin. That, and I really dislike Will Smith. I don’t want a rapping genie dressed up like he walked out of a 1960s television special. I don’t want Guy Richie to shoehorn in a supporting female character for Jasmine to talk to about boys. What’s the point of adding a female character if you don’t intend on using her to pass a Bechdel Test?
Ugh. I wanted better from this.
Concerned: Toy Story 4
It doesn’t matter how good the movie actually is. With Toy Story 3, Pixar stumbled into something rare and magical: a perfect ending.
And now it’s not a perfect ending because it isn’t an ending anymore.
Tentative: The Lion King
Three’s the charm with Disney here. You know, there was a whole tony-winning broadway cast. You didn’t need to chase after Beyonce for stunt casting.
Thrilled: Detective Pikachu
Who would have thought they’d be so excited for a Detective Pikachu movie???
No seriously. Nobody should be excited for this movie. But it turns out that Detective Pikachu isn’t a live-action CGI Pikachu going around and ‘Pika-Pika’-ing his way through silly little mysteries with his Pokemon friends. I think the most bizarre, unexpected thing from these trailers is that the movie actually has a plot.
… I know, right?
And not just that, but even the trailers go a long way to build the Pokemon world, and establish elements of this world that run very parallel to the games. The Pokemon look great, Deadpool-chu sounds great, and kudos to the Pokemon Company and Warner Brothers for going through some unexpected, but very fitting casting decisions. Right now, my ticket is basically bought.
Thrilled: Avalon Knight 2, The Honest Broker (Working Title)
The up-and-coming sequel to the sleeper-hit novel, Avalon Knight 2 is a work of procrastination by yours truly, who really ought to be working on it instead of writing this. From those who have popped over to the ‘books’ section of my website, you’ll notice that this title is not the same as I have listed there. Well, that’s because I’ve been too lazy to update it. And the short synopsis I have there is also wrong.
It turns out I wrote myself into a breakdown where I realized that the plot I had made no sense. And the one thing I’m best at in writing is killing my darlings. I lull them into a calm lazy nap and then snuff them out with a pillow. Kill them to protect them from ridicule because I’m still just pretending to know what I’m doing.
Buy my book:
Of course there are other things coming out this year that I’m excited, worried, and others that I would really like to be excited about. But this has already gone on too long, and I need to end my winning streak at the procrastination game.