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Retronalysis: ‘Dazed and Confused’ Ruined Teen Comedies in the Best Way Possible

dazed and confused

Before there was boyhood, Richard Linklater was dazed and confused, transplanting his own experiences as an angsty teenager growing up in 1976 onto the big screen.

So what works in Dazed in Confused has a lot more to do with Linklater himself than the admirable cast, as it was the 90s comedy that undermined all of the others that came after it (peaking at Can’t Hardly Wait and perhaps Not Another Teen Movie). Dazed dashed the plot heavy drama-fests of the 80s and replaced them with a heart even Breakfast Club would fist bump, cementing itself as one of the first true cult classics of its decade.

That’s not to say people were ready for this movie in 1993. Though it captures many of the typical aesthetics that accompanied teen comedies at the time, Dazed approached both the spiritual highs and lows of being a kid during that era, or any era if you grew up with a good taste in music and loved to wander around without a GPS.

The film centers around a group of seniors on their last day of high school; going to parties, pool halls, and overall just getting into trouble. The movie addresses the fact that while these many teenagers we see engage in obvious behavior (sex, drugs, and rock and roll), not much of what they say or do actually means anything.

dazed and confused

And most of them seem to honestly get that. It’s one of the most honest coming of age films of all time, if only for addressing just how empty adolescence can feel when you’re trying to reflect back on it, putting your hopes and wishes onto the relationships that were either forced by proximity or brought on by a mixture of hormones and chemical substances.

…if I ever say these were the best years of my life, remind me to kill myself.

– Pink

Rather than place the weight of its characterization on massive set pieces, such as a sudden tragedy, failed romance, or name your trope, Dazed hedged its emotion on small moments of dialogue between relatable characters. Is it any wonder that a 90s stoner movie centered around 70s in-jokes strikes a chord with everyone else?

Amidst all of its disheartening observations on life is some fun, though. The humor of Dazed is competent enough to lend weight to its softer touches. Wooderson (played by a young Matthew McConaughey), is probably the film’s most humorous character, while also the most pathetic — being a guy in his 20s who still hangs out with high schoolers.

He’s also one of the few characters who doesn’t go through his own rite of passage (and for good reason). Throughout the film, we observe how each character either wins or loses based on some arbitrary contests that range from freshmen hazing to full-on brawls. Wooderson is the only character who sees through their prideful bragging. As a surrogate for Linklater himself, Wooderson understands how always wanting what’s next (more girls, leaving high school, etc.) is almost as unsatisfying as actually getting it.

Grade: A-

Everybody Wants Some, Richard Linklater’s spiritual successor to Dazed and Confused, opens in limited release this weekend. It’s set in Austin, Texas like Dazed, but this time focusing on college students in the early 80s. It will hit wide release on April 15th.


Thanks for reading this! You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

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Retronalysis: Sacha Baron Cohen is the Only Great Thing About ‘Borat’

sacha baron cohen borat

At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan as an important movie because of its popularity (as well as the length of that subtitle). Not that anything is wrong with being popular, it’s just tempting in hindsight to attribute the movie’s success more to controversy, rather than the movie being as funny as it is.

What originated as an afterthought to Cohen’s more popular character at the time, Ali G, “Borat” as a character found huge success on the big screen as an eccentric reporter who acts in character around real people. Most of what makes Borat funny is the give and take between Cohen and his real-time American costars, who think he really is an offensive man from Kazakhstan (much to that country’s disdain).

In 2006, it was still unpopular to satire perceived greatness of America (Newsroom wouldn’t upend this accepted belief for several years). Yet Borat struck a chord with audiences on both sides of the political spectrum for how accessible its jokes were without polarizing one side. Then again, you don’t have to be either conservative or liberal to think stuffing Pamela Anderson in a wedding sack is funny.

And that’s perhaps because the embarrassment of Americans on the street aspect of the film is joined by some more neutral observations of blue-collar folk. The fact that these people are sometimes polite to a fault when dealing with foreigners says just as much about America as what they get offended by.

sacha baron cohen borat

Cohen himself does some of his best work here, and just off the success of his character in one of Will Farrell’s best films, Talladega Nights. His performance and commitment to his persona is obviously impressive, but that’s not even mentioning the rapid-fire wit he brings to the movie, even during some of the staged scenes.

Because of this, I find it nearly impossible to peg the movie’s genius on any one thing. The jokes are hilarious, but in the least impressive way. Cohen is a smarter actor here than I think he gets credit for, but that might only be a result of how dumb everything is around him.

Without much of a plot to bring into the discussion, that just leaves the concept itself to decide whether or not Borat truly is one of the most essential comedies of the new millennium. Based on that criteria, I hesitate to make that assumption, especially considering how lackluster Cohen’s followups have been since. While it’s unfair to judge Borat on any of his other films, it’s still helpful to hold them up as proof that Borat isn’t quite the masterpiece we thought it would be ten years ago.

Grade: B

I won’t be catching Brothers Grimsby (or just Grimsby) this weekend, but we’ll no doubt cover the movie in this week’s podcast. Since The Dictator, I’ve all but given up on Cohen’s comedy, despite the fact that the man is one of the smartest comedians out there if you’re not judging this by his work alone.


Thanks for reading this! You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

Retronalysis: Ryan Reynolds Was the Least of ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s Problems

deadpool ryan reynolds x-men origins wolverine

In 2009, the X-Men film franchise took a step backward in more ways than one. It stepped backward in time, literally, to explore the origins of Wolverine, played a fourth time by Hugh Jackman.

The problem? We had already experienced a Wolverine-centric trilogy. Seriously, those movies were all about Wolverine. Many people, myself included, had no idea why we needed an origin film for a character we already knew so much about .

But we were still excited going into Origins because it featured our favorite mutant, and perhaps, we thought, there was still a great story to be told. And even more new X-Men characters for Fox to show us, including Gambit, a fully realized Sabertooth, and yes, Deadpool.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine has its fans, to be sure, as it serves up at least a passable romp of an action movie (as well as a far superior video game made by Activision). But what made the origin movie unforgivable for legions of X-Men fans had a lot to do with that character I mentioned earlier: Deadpool.

deadpool ryan reynolds x-men origins wolverine

The “Merc with a Mouth” made his debut on the big screen with Origins, and he was actually played by Ryan Reynolds (a hint that the casting was one of the character’s few bright spots).

What’s odd about Origins‘ take on Deadpool has a lot more to do with the Deadpool we got in the final act of the film, not his initial introduction. Early on, he was still Wade Wilson, before getting the Weapon X treatment that would transform him into the fully fleshed (depending on how you look at it) Deadpool.

The movie portrayed him as the mercenary for hire with enhanced reflexes. This, of course, was before he would undergo the nightmarish operations granting him Wolverine’s healing factor.

And this version of Deadpool was one of the highlights of what was mostly a dreary retread of the first X-Men with more montages. Just take a look at how they nailed Wilson’s ninjaesthetic in just one scene:

Reynolds’ quick wit was a welcome addition to the exposition-heavy origin story, and it set up for an even more interesting story we were getting with the character who would become Deadpool.

Then he became Deadpool. And all hell broke loose.

Spoilers for X-Men Origins: Wolverine going forward. 

As I stated earlier, the final act of Origins is where the bastardization of Deadpool came into effect. Stryker unleashes “Deadpool” on Wolverine, whose mouth is sewn shut to somehow resemble the comic book character in a grittier manner. Deep sigh.

Not only that, but Stryker dumped several mutant powers upon Deadpool, rather than just the healing factor. For whatever reason, they even decided to give him Cyclops’ optic beams. The result was a pale shadow of what makes Deadpool a compelling character, complete with blades coming out of his arms to mimic Wolverine.

The message was clear. Fox was so convinced that Wolverine was their only draw for these movies, they had to manufacture more characters to emulate him. Tinkering with source material is one thing, but assuming fans only care about one character in such an expansive mythology is just idiotic.

Which is why I hesitate to lay any blame on Reynolds. True, “Deadpool” contributed heavily to why Origins was a failure, but that’s removing a decent take on the character that we can place on Reynolds. He fit the part, just not the script.

deadpool ryan reynolds x-men origins wolverine

And when it comes to Origins as a whole, the problems begin long before the final act. For one thing, the movie removes a key trait of Wolverine that makes him interesting: the mystery of his origins (who’d have thought?) Taylor Kitsch as Gambit is given nothing to do, along with many of the other characters you saw in the video above. Adamantium bullets. CGI Patrick Stewart. It all adds up to something bizarrely awful.

The side characters are hard to place fault on, even Will.I.Am (yes, this was his debut on the big screen). Origins spends the majority of its time trying to get two hours out of a somewhat substantial rivalry between Wolverine and Sabertooth, played expertly by Liev Schrieber.

Granted, it’s a better set up than their conflict in the first of these movies, but it wasn’t interesting enough to sweep the film’s other side plots aside, a decision I suspect the writers were either forced to make late in production, or chose to in order to save the movie. The result ended up being all the same.

deadpool ryan reynolds x-men origins wolverine

While I don’t expect the upcoming Deadpool to be a revolution in superhero cinema, there’s little doubt that Fox has learned its lesson in spades these last few years, with nary a truly terrible X-Men film to be found. Some still find all of these later entries, even First Class, mostly generic, but there’s a certain level of effort being shown every time.

And for better or worse, that hasn’t changed with Reynolds’ next foray into the X-Men universe.

My Retronalysis grade for X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a D. 

Thanks for reading this! You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

Retronalysis: ‘Meet the Parents’ Features De Niro at His Most Humorous

meet the parents retronalysis

The success and talent of Robert De Niro will never be understated, thanks to his legendary performances in Raging BullThe Godfather: Part 2, and many more (notice these are curiously dramatic roles).

But we’ve seen a curious trend arising in De Niro’s latest movie choices (aside from his David O. Russell projects), such as Grudge MatchLast Vegas, and now, Dirty Grandpa. In some of these movies, De Niro is paired with a younger, but talented actor, such as Anne Hathaway in Nancy Meyers’ The Intern.

And now, for better or (probably) worse, Dirty Grandpa sees him acting alongside Zac Efron.

This shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, Efron can be compared just as easily to Ben Stiller, who starred with De Niro in one of his best comedies, Meet the Parents, which is actually a remake of a 1992 film of the same name. Like Stiller, Efron has proven his comedic chops with films like Neighbors and…oh.

Unlike the dark comedies of De Niro’s early career (BrazilThe King of Comedy, etc.), Meet the Parents gave us a more lighthearted and absurd performance from the actor, in no small part thanks to his co-star credit, Ben Stiller.

When the film came out in 2000, it was an instant hit with both critics and audiences. But does it stand the test of time and two atrocious sequels?

meet the parents retronalysis

Directed by Jay Roach (Austin Powers and recently Sisters and Trumbo), Meet the Parents is about an unlucky guy named Greg (Stiller) who meets his girlfriend’s extended family during her sister’s wedding. He gets caught up in a web of small, social lies that put him in the crosshairs of his girlfriend’s disquieting father, Jack (De Niro), who puts the pressure on him as an increasing amount of unfortunate events get blamed on Greg’s hapless antics.

Aside from De Niro, Stiller is one of the best things about Meet the Parents, as it should be. For whatever reason, Stiller is able to make slapstick comedy seem genuine and earned, which is a trait he also pulled off in the equally funny movie, There’s Something About Mary.

Stiller’s character straddles the line of “everyman” and “deviant,” which is no easy task. His subtle, occasional slip into deviancy is mostly relatable, as you can understand why he’s so prone to telling Pam’s family a bunch of nonsense to make himself seem better in their eyes. He’s a nurse, but with no real prospects, especially compared to De Niro’s sordid, later-revealed past in the CIA (which serves as another great intimidation tactic that elevates the comedy).

As you can expect, De Niro also nails his performance, a trick not many other actors could match. He’s obviously the antagonist, but he has to be somewhat likable for us to root for Greg getting his approval. We end up loving Jack for all of his tender moments with Jinx and the family, the clear sign that retirement has made him feel less relevant in his kids’ lives, and all matter of other characterization that makes Jack sympathetic and believable.

meet the parents retronalysis

And the strangest thing about Meet the Parents is how much scope it lends to some extremely uncomfortable subject material, notably with the mixing of religions and class during the iconic dinner scene. Sitting at their table, Greg (a non-devout Jew) is socially compelled into praying for the food, a moment that adds unspeakable tension to an already unsettling scene. Of course, this only escalates further with some cat-milking anecdotes and the destruction of Jack’s mother, but the laughs don’t diminish the harsh realities gleaned from moments like that prayer.

This could have easily been a terrible movie, trying too hard to channel what made the Farrelly Brothers’ There’s Something About Mary work so well. But Meet the Parents never lets up with its unique brand of social and familial humor, even if it somewhat loses its creative stride by the ending.

Speaking of which, the only notable flaws in Meet the Parents are mostly forgettable. After a while, it’s easy to grow tired of the constant structure of Greg and Jack’s back and forth, which loses its variation by the third act. Audiences did get to the point where they just wanted Greg to dump Pam and just cut his losses.

Some of the jokes don’t work as well as the others, and some of the gags are too obvious for people not to see coming well in advance, including the vase scene mentioned earlier. But what does work in Meet the Parents works tremendously, and it has a fair share of memorable quotes and lines that people still love to quote 16 years later.

meet the parents retronalysis

For that reason, Meet the Parents will be remembered as one of De Niro’s best comedies, and I consider it his best modern comedy by far.

I’m going to give Meet the Parents a B+

Next week, I’ll be exploring the Kung Fu Panda movies as they lead up to the new installment, Kung Fu Panda 3. Until then, be sure to subscribe for other editorial content, podcast episodes, and more.

Thanks for reading this! You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

Retronalysis: Rewatching A New Hope

star wars new hope

Later this week, a new Star Wars trilogy will be kicked off by The Force Awakens. In preparation for this event, I’ll be rewatching the original trilogy (from A New Hope to Return of the Jedi) each day this week. My goal is to reevaluate these films’ merits, decades after their release.

This is also a discussion post, so if you have any lingering thoughts about the original trilogy after reanalyzing them yourself, be sure to sound off in the comments.

Let’s begin.

George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, claims to have always intended A New Hope to be the fourth entry in a series of “episodes.” When Star Wars (1977) premiered, the studio allegedly forced him to omit this chapter heading from the opening credits, because they believed it would confuse audiences.

Since then, A New Hope has become the de facto title, and for good reason. Much like the first act of a movie, A New Hope serves more as an introduction of characters, rather than a full story. And the creators of this film did a fantastic job of making it feel like it could be more than just one movie without delivering something that felt incomplete (a mistake studios have been making pretty frequently these days with their non-starter franchises).

The story is simple, yet set against a vast and complicated setting. The characters are easy to understand and relate to, but their circumstances and backstories feel rich and unexplored. Part of the fun that comes with Star Wars is letting your imagination fill in the blanks when new story elements are brought in, including the reveal of the Force, the Clone Wars, and the history between Darth Vader and Obi Wan.

Simply put, the characters exist in a world that feels different, but familiar. The sounds aren’t synthesized and foreign. The materials are imperfect and rusty. This is a fantasy that is more down to earth (so to speak), making it feel more “lived in” than many other epics we’re used to seeing.

star wars new hope

A New Hope begins with a swift explanation of who the Empire is and what they’re capable of accomplishing. Their massive ship descends upon a remarkably smaller one on the run. The stormtroopers easily break through the rebel soldiers on the ship and quickly take over.

This entire sequence is well-done because it manages to convince you of how powerful the threat of the Empire is without having to really say it. And your understanding of this conflict between the rebellion and an all-powerful military keeps building from there.

A lot of people tend to dislike what happens next, when the movie shifts perspective to the two droids who escape this ship and wander the desert planet of Tatooine. True, this entire sequence drags a bit, but consider how peculiar it was for the movie to spend so much time on the story of these two droids, who are arguably the crux of this entire movie. The plot moves forward because of them, and they’re essentially the glue that brings all of our main characters together. I don’t think A New Hope would have worked quite as well if the movie hadn’t given them this chance to establish their legitimacy in the story.

Because the movie builds from each of these moments, the ending will feel huge when you consider that it all started with these two droids. It was a novel idea that truly paid off.

star wars new hope

I’ve always appreciated the handling of Luke Skywalker’s introduction. It’s very modest and believable, so it takes you a few minutes to grasp that this is the story’s main protagonist (and John Williams is there to help you figure it out in one of the movie’s best scenes).

Granted, he’s a bit whiny, and his worst lines of the franchise occur in the first half hour. But it’s clear that making him a little unlikable at first was Lucas’s intention. It made his story arc much more interesting and expansive, making it a treat to rewatch his journey in later viewings.

The movie’s only major bout of exposition comes during Luke’s first extended conversation with Obi Wan. Here, Obi Wan tells Luke about his father, the Force, the Clone Wars, and all sorts of other plot points that we’re hearing about for the first time.

But because Alec Guinness delivers this long scene with such grace and gravitas, it actually works. Most sci-fi movies that are this high-concept typically fall flat on their face by the time the characters erupt with exposition, but they casted the perfect actor to help us get invested.

Mos Eisley serves as an excellent set of scenes that help establish more of our characters, along with some new ones. Interestingly, Luke gets very little development here, which is for the best. Instead, Obi Wan gets a chance to prove to the audience that he really is a powerful Jedi Knight. The mind trick — which is gracefully explained in just a short sentence — and Obi Wan’s quick lightsaber demonstration get the point across that the Force is a dynamic, mysterious tool our hero can one day use.

At this point in the movie, we just want to learn more about the Force and see all of this Jedi lore in action. But the movie instead branches off into the story of our next main protagonist, Han Solo. We’re quickly introduced to the more grounded aspect of this universe, which is another saving grace for this franchise. And like Luke, Han doesn’t arrive with fanfare. We don’t truly understand his importance to the story until his fateful confrontation with Greedo, which tells us more about his character in less than a minute than some movies can do in two hours.

star wars new hope

The next act of the movie is arguably its best, as we watch these characters go on their first real adventure. And it’s right in the heart of the Death Star, a massive space station that’s been shown to have destructive powers beyond even our heroes’ imaginations. At this point, I was still reeling from the quick elimination of Luke’s entire family, an event that truly sets the stakes as we see just how hopeless it is to resist the Empire. Now, once we have a few allies and (dare I say it) hope, our heroes are plunged into a pretty hopeless situation.

To be fair, we know that this has to happen in order for Luke to meet Leia. But the fate of Obi Wan and other somewhat extraneous allies seems murky. Throughout the entire sequence on the Death Star, our heroes are faced with increasingly dangerous threats that keep us entertained and wanting more.

But the true grab of the Death Star scenes is watching these characters interact and play off of each other. It’s great because this is the result of all the character development achieved in the first act, so watching them together onscreen is both fun and engaging.

To be fair, some of what happens on the Death Star is pretty silly and oddly convenient. Han rushes into a hallway full of stormtroopers, and they run away from him for no reason. Our heroes don’t get shot once by these apparently “precise” soldiers. Luke makes a weird lasso to get away from stormtroopers who have the high ground on him, and it actually works without him or Leia getting injured, despite having no cover. And there’s very little Obi Wan action, to the point where I actually forgot about him.

star wars new hope

Of course, Obi Wan and Darth Vader battle, which is a pivotal scene. It establishes Vader’s lightsaber skills, and it validates their history only alluded to earlier. Honestly, I found this scene pretty underwhelming the very first time I ever watched it, but it’s grown on me over the years. Yes, they’re tapping their lightsabers slowly, but the thing to remember is that Lucas originally intended the lightsabers to be extremely heavy, which was changed for later movies.

Once you forego the belief that the lightsaber fights should be quick and pretty, this scene becomes a lot more interesting. You focus more on what’s going on between the characters, which is really what the point of this scene is. It’s not the best lightsaber fight, to be sure, but it’s definitely not the worst.

The final stretch of the movie is also its most critical. By the time our heroes escape the Death Star, there’s little chance for rest and mourning as Luke is summoned to fight off more of the Empire with Han. This is the part of the movie I like the least, not because it’s a bad scene, but because at this point, I’m exhausted. Danger upon danger has been thrusted upon these characters, and though the reality of the story demands it (they can’t just get away that easily), I was ready for Luke and the gang to take a breath.

Thankfully, we do get respite in the third act, though only for a moment. Lesser movies would have extended the Death Star scenes in order to borrow its weight for a climax, but A New Hope opts to show us the heart of the rebellion. On Yavin, we see what the alliance is truly like, and we get a chance to see Han Solo weigh his choices that have been building up since Tatooine. Will he stay and help, or will he take off with the reward? Both choices are believable, which makes his confrontation with Luke all the more heartbreaking when his “May the Force be with you” is met with silence.

star wars new hope

The symbolism in the movie’s climax isn’t subtle, which is probably why it’s so effective. Almost all of Rogue Squadron is eliminated, including Luke’s childhood friend. Up to this point, Luke has relied on wit and creativity to make it out of each predicament he’s been in, but for the first time, he has to rely on the Force to save the lives of his friends. All while dealing with the fact that Darth Vader’s ship has picked off all of his allies, with the exception of Wedge.

Two things save the day: Han’s rescue and Luke’s reliance on the Force. These are two somewhat disparate elements, as one displays the loyalty of a friend, while the other is otherworldly and focused on the promise of someone departed. In fact, it’s these two strengths that Luke will have to weigh as the next two movies progress, making for a brilliant first entry in the trilogy.

We do see that Darth Vader survives this battle, opening up the film for sequels. But aside from that, this is a massive blow to the Empire that symbolically shows that the rebels do have a fighting chance. In that way, the film could have easily stood alone, hinting that Luke’s transformation into a Jedi Knight was well underway. And with Han, Leia, Chewie, and the droids at his side, who could stop him, right?

A New Hope is definitely one of my favorite films of the franchise, by far. I only touched on some of what I love about the film here, but I don’t doubt that many of you reading this can relate. Let me know what you think about A New Hope below, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow to talk about The Empire Strikes Back.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Retronalysis: What You Missed About Ultron In ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

OK, I’m sure not all of you missed this. If you caught it and feel offended, then…I don’t know, that’s something you need to work out on your own.

I’ve already reviewed the film in length, so if you haven’t seen Age of Ultron yet and want to avoid even mild spoilers, you can check out my spoiler-free review and come back here when you see the film for yourself. Long story short: it’s a good movie worthy of its place as an Avengers sequel.

While I enjoyed the film, I had a few complaints in regards to some of the character and narrative development. Specifically, I disliked how “rushed” the first act was in terms of establishing Ultron as a villain. When you watch the movie, you’ll notice that we sort of jump into this plot (which isn’t heavily related to the opening scenes) with Tony Stark suddenly revealing to Bruce Banner that they can create an artificial intelligence.

avengers age of ultron

After a brief montage (seriously, a montage), they succeed in using the gem inside Loki’s scepter to create an A.I., though they leave before realizing Ultron has been created. I’ll spare you the details on what happens next in case you haven’t seen the movie yet, but the short version is that Ultron as a villain is born over the course of about ten minutes.

I didn’t like this because I felt like such a crucial part of what makes Ultron, well, Ultron was glossed over for the sake of getting right to the action. A noble goal, but for a movie that’s 2.5 hours long, I would have preferred just a few more scenes to familiarize us with Ultron’s motivations. Honestly, though, this is all nitpicking, especially since the 3-hour long director’s cut will likely fill in the blanks in a more satisfying way.

Now on to what you may have missed. See, I’ve been thinking a lot about Ultron’s personality over the last few days. As a villain, he has a compelling spark to his tone and delivery that makes him seem more like a misguided anti-hero instead of an instrument of pure evil.

avengers age of ultron

I realized that this is explained in a very subtle way near the beginning of the movie. Ultron was essentially created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. They’re like his parents, and in an amazing way, Ultron inherited the best and worst traits of these parents.

Ultron is sarcastic, impatient, and brilliant. Much like Tony Stark. He’s also prone to violent outbursts, like Bruce Banner. Most of all, Ultron has a specific vision for the world (like his fathers) and has the strength and will to carry it out. The only problem seems to be something that is later fulfilled by a character I won’t spoil.

Obviously, this is intentional on the part of Joss Whedon and his team of writers. When crafting Ultron as a character, it must have seemed perfectly natural for them to borrow from established characters, so we would familiarize ourselves with Ultron quickly and immediately feel threatened by his claim on the world. The father-son dynamic is reflected several times in the movie later on, of course, as Tony banters with Ultron over the fact that he’s his maker.

avengers age of ultron

This film would have been so much better, in my opinion, if they had just given Ultron a little more room to breathe in this way, so more audience members could catch that he’s a product of this world created by the Avengers (not just the literal Avengers themselves). After all, facing themselves is a sizable threat that the Avengers would (and did) have to face, even though the movie sort of sidetracked in that regard.

Now, in case you were hoping for some easter eggs, I can at least give you a few morsels to chew on. I didn’t notice as much as some other Marvel fans, but I did catch something related to Tony Stark and J.A.R.V.I.S.

When Tony has to find another program to help him fight Ultron, we see him settle on “FRIDAY.” In the comics, Tony uses FRIDAY as his virtual personal assistant, and she is very similar to Ultron in that she’s like his child. Remember that Ultron wasn’t actually invented by Tony in the comics, so Marvel was clearly introducing FRIDAY as a subtle nod to the origin story they gave to Ultron.

avengers age of ultron

I’ll have to watch the movie again, but I’ve also heard that Jocasta’s name can be seen around the same time Tony grabs the FRIDAY program. I can’t confirm this yet, but that would be an interesting easter egg considering Jocasta was created by Ultron to serve as his robot girlfriend (though she later becomes an Avenger).

That’s all I have for you guys. Hope you enjoy (or enjoyed) Avengers: Age of Ultron. Again, if you want my full review on the movie or just want to know my thoughts on it, you can check that out here.  

The Humans of ‘WALL-E’ Were Probably Better Off Without Him

Have you ever seen Pixar’s WALL-E? No? Then go watch that, come back, and let’s discuss something somewhat troubling about this film.

There are a lot of movies that you can point to and say that the protagonists (i.e. heroes of the film) actually do more harm than good. There are some movies with tragic endings that would have been just fine if the protagonist had done nothing at all.

And I think WALL-E accidentally does the same thing, and not for the reason you may be thinking.

wall-e theory

Let’s recap the story. WALL-E is set 800 years in the future. In this universe, Earth becomes incredibly overpopulated by the year 2105, with 200 billion humans contributing to an environmental disaster for obvious reasons.

In response, a world-dominating organization called Buy n Large (BnL) pledges to clean up the mess, though it’s heavily implied it’s mostly their fault, and they send all humans to space on executive cruise ships called “starliners.” But after only five years, BnL decides to abandon the planet completely because the air has become toxic.

Side note: Soon, my book on The Pixar Theory will be coming out, and it’s packed with theories that concern this movie and BnL in general. What you’re about to read is something that didn’t make it into the final draft, so BONUS!

wall-e theory

Anyway, humans remain in space unbothered for 700 years, which is when the movie’s plot begins with WALL-E. When a probe named EVE arrives to find hospitable life, WALL-E falls in adorable robot love with her, and when she returns to deliver the plant-life she found, WALL-E frantically follows her.

WALL-E ends up on Axiom, one of many starliners running in a lifestyle “loop.” The humans there have been raised from birth to support and trust BnL and it’s routines for their entire lives. The robots satisfy all of their needs, and life is pretty much perfect in their minds, even though they do nothing for themselves.

It’s a strange setup because you’d think the people on Axiom would grow bored and feel stifled, but in contrast, they seem completely intent, until WALL-E arrives and causes a chain of events that leads to their return to Earth.

wall-e theory

 

This brings me to the main point: The people of Axiom are incredibly nice, well-functioning people.

Not once do you see a human on Axiom acting spoiled or rude. Instead, they’re incredibly polite, especially when they meet WALL-E for the first time. John and Mary are two great examples. They’re not used to robots having a personality, and when they meet WALL-E, they are very positive and nice to him. You’d think they’d treat him terribly, but instead they befriend him and get eerily excited when they see him again.

The humans we see have friends, romantic relationships, and excellent living accommodations. The screens they view everything through are translucent, so they have no shame in letting other people see what they’re working on.

wall-e theory

Even life expectancy isn’t a problem. When we see the panel of past Axiom captains, you can see that all of them live well over 100 years.

When the current captain of the ship becomes enamored with Earth, he appears to have the joy of a child. He’s incredibly optimistic, and in many ways, one of the central heroes of the film when it comes down to it.

In some of the final scenes, we see the humans showing a lot of empathy for WALL-E and EVE, even though most have them have no idea what’s going on. They cheer for the captain when he’s fighting Auto, and John and Mary don’t hesitate to risk their lives for the babies falling down the platform.

wall-e theory

What caused humans to be this nice?

Well, BnL apparently did. The society created by this “loop” of never-ending pleasure created a culture of interestingly polite humans, contrary to the spoiled rich kid syndrome you’d expect to see.

So was what WALL-E did for them…for the best?

If he had never followed EVE, the humans would sill be on the Axiom, but when the movie closes, the humans have returned to Earth. It’s depressing, but history repeats itself. Though we see shots of life rebuilding itself peacefully, won’t humans just make the same mistakes again and damage Earth completely this time?

wall-e theory

It’s tricky because the movie is clever about how it makes you hate BnL, despite it being the invention of the very humans we sympathize with. Pixar overtly makes the conditions of the Axiom both horrific and enticing at the same time, but few people walk away from it thinking the humans made a mistake.

From a storytelling perspective, it’s genius on Pixar’s part. They present the humans in a way that makes us want the best for them. If they had made the humans spoiled and insufferable, we wouldn’t care about them as much as we do by the end.

But the weird side-effect of this characterization is that Pixar is unintentionally saying that BnL’s methods created a better society than the one we already have. We know it’s better because Pixar is intentionally saying the society we have is what caused the problems emphasized in the film.

wall-e theory

So, here’s the question: Were the humans better off living in a society that made them the best they could be personally and socially? Or is living on Earth too important to ignore? I’m not convinced either way, to be honest.

Sure, the effects of gravity make you a blob dependent on a chair, but then again, it’s an awesome chair.

In Axiom’s society, there’s no crime from what we see. Everyone has their needs met. There’s likely no poverty, racial injustice, or food shortages. It’s utopia, but we think it sucks because the people aren’t skinny. Isn’t that a little messed up when you think about it?

wall-e theory

Still, the captain makes a good point when he says, “I don’t want to survive, I want to live!”

But does everyone on Axiom want that, or is it just the result of one man who wants to impulse buy something he read about on the Internet? It’s hard to say.

Of course, I’m not saying Axiom would be the best for me or you. We’re accustomed to bike rides, trampolines, and Taylor Swift concerts. But if you told me there was a way to solve all of Earth’s problems in exchange for a few extra pounds, I’d have a hard time saying no.


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