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Snarcasm: Carl From ‘Up’ Is Insane And So Are You

up

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read

Word of warning: if you tag me in a tweet promoting a fan theory you “wrote,” then expect the Snarcasm treatment in the most lighthearted way possible .

So here’s the background. Two years ago, SuperCarlinBros did a fan theory video about Pixar’s Up that proposed Carl Fredricksen is “insane” for reasons that sound anything but. It’s an amusing video from a couple of good friends of mine, which is why it’s strange to see the theory popping up again…from someone else.

Jonathan Sim, a different writer, tagged me in his own write-up for a theory he didn’t write, but instead rewrote with credit to the SuperCarlinBros. Now that this is in written form and it’s coming out while this column is a thing, we get to dive into why the “Insane Carl Theory” is…well, to say it’s insane is giving it at least a little credit.

What if I told you that Carl Fredericksen was actually insane and this movie was a figment of his imagination?

I’d tell you that it’s spelled “Fredricksen.” Then I’d tell you that at least 20 million “fan theorists” have been speculating that any given piece of fiction is “in someone’s head” since Descarte.

So, we start off this theory with that scene in Up where Carl assaults a man with his cane.

It’s a walker with tennis balls, but alright.

This is assault and battery as the man is later seen with blood on his forehead. And we later see Carl in a courtroom. And they sentence him to…a nursing home?

We’re not about to have a discussion about legal precedent are we—

Doesn’t it seem strange that this old man has committed what can be considered third degree assault and battery and his sentence is a nursing home?

Well, no, if we use our thinking caps. As you state, this is third degree battery, which is a misdemeanor. As in, not a felony. Most states will either put you in jail for 30 days and/or make you pay a $500 fine. Depends on the judge, though.

Now, let’s look at the situation Carl is in. This is, by all reasonable accounts, his first offense ever. In addition, a huge corporation has a clear stake in getting him out of his house. So we can surmise from the wordless court scene that BnL’s lawyers have arranged to make a deal that forces Carl to stay at a retirement home so that they can bulldoze his house. We even hear from the police officer in the next scene say that Carl doesn’t seem like a “public menace,” likely referencing the arguments made to kick him out.

You could also consider that Carl doesn’t have the money to pay the fine (he’s a balloon salesman, after all), but the state would rather put him in a retirement home than jail because of his age and the fact that he lives alone. This seems like a pretty logical ruling from a judge who has to sentence an old man without a criminal record.

I mean, he should honestly just receive a jail sentence or something like that. But a nursing home is not legitimate.

Let’s not pretend nursing homes don’t exist as punishments.

So, Carl actually was sentenced to a prison.

Wait, what? No he wasn’t?

And when this happened, he had lost everything. He lost his wife, his freedom, and now, he loses his mental health.

Um…no? The police officer told him that the retirement folks would pick him up in the morning. Where exactly does his mental health collapse for you? And why are you convinced he’s gone insane in the first place, just because he’s sad? Is that your only criteria?

What Carl then does next is absolutely impossible: he lifts up his house with balloons.

At this point, that seems way more plausible than what you’re suggesting.

Well, first off, that would mean he was a really bad balloon salesman.

Oh, I get it. Jonathan is just joking with us. Right?

Right?

Second, according to production notes from the film,

No, no, no, hold up and don’t you dare switch the topic. Carl is a bad balloon salesman? How does that…what? Because…he has a bunch of balloons? That means he’s bad…at selling them..but he’s retired…

WHO ARE YOU?

So, in one night, we’re expected to believe Carl had the stamina and physical ability to fill that many balloons with helium?

No, we’re expected to believe he already had those balloons ready to inflate and finish tying up, secretly. Remember, he and Ellie were planning on taking the house to Paradise Falls, hence the drawing of the house…on Paradise Falls. But they never did because she got sick, and the point of this next scene is to show that Carl’s willing to embark on the adventure they always dreamed of, but he’s not really alone because Ellie is the house and—

Oh sorry, you were saying?

He can’t even walk down the stairs without his machine.

Right. That means all the other times he’s running around and attacking construction workers were all a hoax. Which part of the movie is “in his head” again?

And not only that, but lifting a house with 10,297 balloons is not possible.

Neither is having a head shaped like a perfect rectangle, but you don’t question that for some reason.

Up co-director Pete Docter recently told Ballooning magazine

Recently? You mean in 2009?

that technician Pixar estimated

Who is technician Pixar?

it would take 23.5 million party balloons to lift a 1,800-square-foot house like Carl’s.

The funny thing is that in this same article, they point out that if the house did have enough balloons to lift the house, it would shoot off like a rocket rather than leisurely float away. So Pete Docter’s idea here never would have worked in the real world, but they went with it anyway because they like to dream big. Which doesn’t mean Carl’s dreaming big, an argument that Jonathan (both of them) haven’t even gotten to defending yet.

And then, when he is on his way there, he finds a child on his doorstep.

Thank goodness for babiesovernight.com.

He and Ellie never got to have children in their lives, and this crazy dream sequence (or you can call it heaven if you want) is giving him everything that he didn’t have before.

Let’s break this down. First, Jonathan just sneaks in yet another fan theory about Up that suggests Carl is dead the whole time. Which has been debunked by almost everybody because it’s such an overused fan theory that no one cares anymore.

Second, why would Carl be dreaming of a kid he’s already met? And that he hates? And if the kid represents what he wants in life, why does he try to get rid of the kid throughout the entire movie?

Carl and Ellie grew up loving adventurers and exploring and this kid shows up at the door, who loves adventuring and exploring and would be an ideal, perfect child for Carl and Ellie. 

Thanks, IMDB.

But that’s not the main reason why I don’t buy this.

Don’t buy what? You don’t believe what you just said?

See, Russell said that he saw a snipe (a type of bird) and chased it under his porch. However, that was when Carl lifted up his house and he remained on the house.

You don’t see Russell either, but you know he’s still there. Also, you know, birds fly.

I don’t see how it would be possible to get under that porch, and when he noticed the house lifting up, why would his immediate response be to grab on? It doesn’t make sense, and therefore, Carl’s mind is simply creating this vision for him.

Russell didn’t “grab on,” he clearly was hiding in fright. We don’t see him because the filmmakers wanted to keep his presence a surprise. We would have been distracted if Russell had been shown. This is a plot hole in the movie, not a definitive piece of evidence that Carl is imagining the whole movie.

The only kid that gets into Carl’s house is the kid that somehow knows how to get from the United States to South America, navigating with a house he’s not familiar with steering.

He uses his GPS to navigate. And he’s steering a floating house, not a B52. Movie logic aside, the nonsensical premise of Up is deliberate. To suggest that it’s all a fabrication is pointless,  because the movie is already a fabrication.

There is a scene in which Carl tries to drop Russell into the street by suspending him with a rope while about six stories off the ground. Carl then drops Russell into the street by accident, but in the next scene, he shows up in Carl’s house again, completely unharmed without a single scratch.

Jonathan…did you watch the movie? Because…Jonathan, if you watched the movie you’d know that this happened IN AN ACTUAL DREAM SEQUENCE CARL WAS HAVING.

See, Carl was considering dropping off Russell, but he DREAMED the scenario and realized it would harm Russell.

And we also have the character of Kevin.

Oh, don’t you even dare bring Kevin into this.

when we first meet Ellie as a child, we can’t really tell whether or not she is a male or female.

Yes you can? True, she’s a tomboy and it might not be immediately clear to everyone, but it doesn’t take long.

Russell names the bird Kevin (a male name), but we find out at the end of the movie that she is a female, as she gives birth.

You’re not about to say Ellie is the bird, are you? She’s already the house, mate.

To add on, Kevin can have kids, but Ellie had a miscarriage.

(Voice of Buzz Lightyear) Themes! Themes everywhere!

And right when Carl lands in Paradise Falls, he meets his childhood hero: Charles Muntz.

…who is the inspiration for why Carl wants to go to Paradise Falls in the first place.

Muntz is 92 years old during the main events of the film and though there are people who live up to 92 years old, he cannot be this impressive.

Why not? We see him struggle in his fight with Carl later on, so it’s not like he’s the pinnacle of health. Wouldn’t a life of living off the land make him hardier?

Anyway, it doesn’t matter because a dropped plot point of the movie is that Muntz’s age was slowed down by Kevin’s eggs, explaining how he’s still alive at such an old age.

He is living in the jungle with no healthcare, no way to treat any possible diseases, and not a lot of food.

OK, this is actually offensive. You do realize that people in other countries who have no modern medicine are still able to live a long time, right? And he lives on a zeppelin with tons of food shown onscreen, because his dogs take care of him.

And there is also the fact that when Carl points out a skeleton of a giant Somalian leopard tortoise, Muntz says, “I found it on safari with Roosevelt.

Here we go.

There are two likely Roosevelts that he was talking about: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt.

To even suggest it was FDR is laughable, but go on.

Now, Theodore Roosevelt wouldn’t really make sense because Muntz was born in 1911 and Roosevelt died in 1919. That would mean that the oldest he could have been while hanging out with Roosevelt is eight years old and apparently, Roosevelt was going on safari and cheating at gin rummy games with eight year old kids.

Technically, Charles could have been a child on safari exaggerating his role. And kids are certainly capable of playing card games. But the more likely explanation is that Charles went on safari with Roosevelt’s son, Kermit Roosevelt, who was also an adventurer who actually went on African safaris.

OK, now hopefully Jonathan will reveal all of the evidence pertaining to Carl’s mental health by—

This means Carl was either insane, or, as other theories have said, he could have died and this may simply be his ascend to heaven. Russell, Kevin, and Dug are all just in his imagination.

That’s it? That’s the whole thing? This entire fan theory is just one argument over and over again: the movie is a bit silly, so that means it’s a dream.

This isn’t a fan theory, it’s a fan guess. And not a good one at that. There’s nothing about how Carl does actually have some clear psychological problems with thinking his wife is a house and how his attachments clearly blind him to reality over the course of the film. But rather than address anything like that, Jonathan just tells us it’s all a dream because movies aren’t real. Or something.

So in a way, doesn’t this mean we’re all insane for believing them?


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


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We’re Still Suffering From How Bad ‘High School Musical’ Was

high school musical

For many, High School Musical was the first real signal of a true shift in Disney Channel programming. By 2006, the once plucky, experimental network had found more success in streamlined sitcoms like That’s So Raven and Suite Life of Zack and Cody than they had ever found with previous shows. This, of course paved the way for a persistent, familiar formula seen in almost all subsequent Disney Channel features, even to this day.

You might find this formula to be a good thing. Perhaps you enjoy the shows currently broadcasted on that channel, or you might be neutral at best. I’m not going to try to change your mind, but suffice to say that the numerous people who have a distaste for what the channel has become are both wrong and right.

Disney Channel shows have always been great for their time. If you look back at some of their supposedly best projects, you’ll find that they haven’t aged well at all and are actually a lot worse than you remember. Time does that sort of thing. But what I’m arguing is that even in 2006, Disney’s first smash hit movie was a terribly harmful film, and for many reasons.

Put more simply, High School Musical was and probably still is the worst thing ever produced by the Disney Channel. Not in terms of quality and production value, but certainly when it comes to how the Disney Channel Original Movie impacted the countless people who’ve watched it over the last 10 years. How it shaped its fans, for example.

high school musical

This is hard to argue, for sure, because on its surface, High School Musical doesn’t seem all that bad, right? The names of the songs say it all: Start something new! Get your head in the game! We’re all in this together.

Yet the titles of each song send a different message in the subtext. And watching the movie as a whole, you’ll start to see that a specific, alarming set of beliefs are being pushed onto these characters. Let’s back up and recap the film.

The movie begins by introducing us to Troy Bolton (played by Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (played by Vanessa Hudgens) just as they’re getting introduced to each other during holiday break. They have a song number meet-cute before going their separate ways, only to meet again at the start of a new semester because it miraculously turns out that Gabriella is now attending the same high school as Troy…even though they met by coincidence somewhere else.

If this sounds at all familiar, that’s because High School Musical was originally meant to be a remake/sequel of Grease in the late 90s, featuring the children of the original movie’s characters. I’m not joking. They couldn’t get the rights figured out, so Disney Channel ultimately decided to turn the script into one of their original movies made for television, with “High School Musical” as the working title. Apparently, they couldn’t come up with something better to name the darn thing, and the rest is history.

high school musical

Anyway, Troy and Gabriella both realize that they belong to different cliques: Troy is the basketball jock and Gabriella is the math nerd. But their bond through music becomes a quasi-reimagining of Romeo and Juliet, where their respective social circles clash over the future of these star-crossed lovers. Well, not really. The romance between Troy and Gabriella is persistently muted, with them often changing the subject to music instead of their own “relationship.”

That’s not necessarily a bad thing — in fact, it’s probably for the best — because it allows for more interesting drama between Troy and Gabriella, who have a decent amount of chemistry together to make the “we’re friends but want to be more” thing work fine. What really poisons this film is the introduction of the titular musical.

Troy and Gabriella decide to try out for the school musical. More specifically, the lead roles. The problem is that the school already has built-in performers who’ve starred in every production. And naturally, they’re the villains of this movie. Sharpay (played by Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (played by Lucas Grabeel) are exceptionally talented, and for good reason. They’ve trained for years and actually want to turn their passion for theater into a career someday.

But it turns out that Troy and Gabriella, who barely even want to be in the musical and have no acting experience, are both selected for callbacks. Even though they were late to the audition in the first place, by the way. It’s a decision that rightfully upsets Sharpay and Ryan, who have no conceivable idea why outsiders have skipped them over for what is essentially their most critical time to stand out in the industry. All because they can sing about as well as Sharpay and Ryan. And even that is arguable.

high school musical

The real reason Troy and Gabriella are selected is because of their chemistry when no one is watching. They’re late for their audition, so the drama teacher exerts her one moment of clarity by telling them they don’t deserve a role when they can’t respect the rules. Later, she listens in on them practicing a song and decides that earns them a callback. You know, despite the fact that neither of them performed when the pressure was on, which is what they’ll actually have to prove they can handle when on stage for real.

Their casting has nothing to do with how technically proficient they are at singing and acting. The worst thing about this is that neither character purports to have any interest whatsoever in theater beyond the attention ascribed to it. Allegedly, it’s because they simply love to sing, but that’s nonsense within the context of the film. Instead of having to work for the roles and pay their dues, the barely proficient are rewarded with what they really want: popularity.

And that is why High School Musical is actually harmful. The movie positions Sharpay and Ryan as sore losers without any real sympathy. Sharpay in particular goes to cartoonishly evil lengths to prevent the protagonists from even getting to their callbacks, just to ensure that the audience doesn’t root for her by mistake. This is a character who is supposed to be good at acting, yet the only skill she seems to have is concocting evil plans to make the audience hate her.

high school musical

The movie tries to say something about how you can be more than your designated clique, which is a great message, but the execution misses the mark completely. Sharpay and Ryan claim to be more upset over the fact that someone has entered the “theater clique,” rather than the more obvious pandering that’s going on with the drama teacher. And the students obsess over kids hanging out with other kids who are different, which is hardly a problem in any school. Yes, there are cliques, but there’s no widespread panic when a jock tries out for a musical or dates a girl with good grades.

And when the film finally tries to resolve the conflict between Sharpay/Ryan and Troy/Gabrielle, it comes down to Sharpay having a rapid change of heart that is shoehorned into the final scene. Sharpay never apologizes. Gabriella never apologizes. The film never tries to lend credence to why she acted so harshly in the first place. It just ends. Is it no wonder Sharpay essentially “resets” her attitude toward them with each subsequent movie, even fawning over Troy during the first sequel?

The ending song says “we’re all in this together to make our dreams come true.” OK, but only Troy and Gabriella’s dreams, which have only been a thing for a few weeks. The movie tells its viewers that a select group of people can and should be the best at everything, even when they’re actually not. The protagonists win everything. A superior movie could explore actual consequences for when teenagers stretch themselves thin and create anxiety for themselves, but not High School Musical. You’re guaranteed a victory just for trying. Even though Troy and Gabriella barely deserved to be understudies, they get to be the stars, win their championships, and smugly dance it off in the very end.

high school musical

The actual dialogue between Troy and Gabriella in the ending scene:

Gabriella: “Congratulations, Wildcat!”

Troy: “What about your team?!”

Gabriella: “We won, too!” 

This is why High School Musical was successful. It wasn’t just the manufactured-to-be-catchy song numbers. It definitely wasn’t the real message of the movie. It was how the movie made its viewers feel, and wrongly at that. The movie convinced many young children who aren’t in high school that simply trying without working earns them the same rewards as the people who actually have legitimate dreams and work hard for them.

For Troy and Gabriella, singing is a hobby, maybe, but nothing they’re at all serious about. The movie positions their plight above the characters who actually have dreams to turn music into a lifestyle (the ones who truly need these roles to get into the right schools), and the script demands them to be manipulative and evil in order to trick viewers into rooting for the privileged brats. It also clamors that high school is a mystical place where a select group of kids are so good at everything, their only real problems are choosing which thing they’re going to be best at.

In this movie, they choose everything. And the whole school worships them for it.

high school musical

There is a way to turn these concepts into a good movie. There’s room for an honest exploration of how the quick ascent of the privileged few can create sharp enemies. And there’s even a good story behind the idea of popular kids getting more popular, paralleling nicely with the concept of the rich getting richer. Shame on us for ever expecting something so useful, I suppose.

I wish I could ignore High School Musical and simply let it be. People like it, and I never have. But there’s something truly exploitative and lasting about what it tries to tell its audience in a way that’s simply ugly and perverse. It’s also allowed Disney Channel to get away with similar storytelling in other shows over the years, resulting in a channel that is currently so embedded in watered-down celebrity-obsessed pop culture, the children who watch it stand little chance of getting by unscathed.


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


The Comments Section Is Dying

comments section dying

Go to any mainstream news or entertainment website, and you might notice that the comments section has either been removed outright, or it’s a wasteland.

This is probably why NPR, a platform known for its robust community of thoughtful commenters, recently announced that they’re doing away with their comments section in favor of social media interactions via Facebook and Twitter.

Because we all know how thoughtful and intelligent comments are on Facebook and Twitter.

NPR‘s reasoning for this move is along the same lines as most other mainstream sites who’ve already gone down this road. Their in-article engagement is a small fraction of how many people communicate when their social media profile is already logged in. On the surface, this makes a semblance of good business sense. Why not give the people what they want?

I’ll answer that.

Because you shouldn’t reward people for choosing not to read an article before throwing up their opinion on it, just so they can give their two cents on a headline that’s either taken out of context or is simple clickbait.

Because Facebook and Twitter comments are a proven cesspool of negativity, bickering, and intentional ignorance.

Because not everyone wants to have their name, picture, work history, and friends list displayed to thousands of strangers on a daily basis.

Because not everyone wants to create a Facebook or Twitter account.

Because a lot of us who do have accounts don’t want to hunt down the article on Facebook or Twitter (especially on Facebook, which is terrible about archiving these sorts of posts), just so we can gain whatever possible insight we can from the ongoing conversation.

Because abandoning your platform’s natural-born community of loyal readers in favor of junk food social statistics is in bad taste.

Because it’s a bad idea. Period.

At the top of this page, you’ll see an image that paints a picture of the “noise” from social media. The ironic thing is that NPR actually attached this image to their announcement to go exclusive with social media comments. I’m guessing this is a subtle hint that even the editors hate this decision just as much as we should.

Snarcasm: Ezra Miller from ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Is Obviously Voldemort’s Dad

ezra miller fantastic beasts

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

It’s been a while since I revisited this column, so why not kick it off by Snarcasming one of my good friends?

Most of you probably know Adonis Gonzalez, recurring cohost of our Now Conspiring movie podcast since early 2015. He’s also a writer, though, and despite him writing plenty of silly things over the years, this one deserves a Snarcastic response.

Fresh off the news that Ezra Miller will portray a character named Credence Barebone in the upcoming Harry Potter spinoff movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Adonis ignores the obvious question — does Ezra Miller have to be in every Warner Bros. film? — and instead asks a question too obvious to even think up:

Is Credence Barebone Actually An Important Harry Potter Character?

Well wow, Adonis, way to cut Miller down before the movie even comes out. Even if your fan theory ends up being true (because the universe demands that even .00000000001% chance odds are still, by definition, possible), how does that mean he wouldn’t have been “important” otherwise?

So for those of us who think Ezra Miller still gets roles where he’s an important character, this just comes off as a bit hostile. Now, let’s see if Adonis can lend credence to his fan theory about Credence.

Miller’s character, Credence Barebone, is shrouded in mystery.

Untrue. We actually know a lot about Credence already thanks to a comprehensive preview of the character offered by EW and even Slashfilm, which Adonis credits for the story.

Tell me if this is “shrouded in mystery:”

(From EW) Credence is the adopted middle child of Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton). We’re told that he “appears withdrawn, extremely shy and far more vulnerable than his two sisters. Credence is defenseless against the abuse that comes in response to the slightest infraction of Mary Lou’s strict rules. But his loneliness also makes him susceptible to the manipulation of Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), who has taken a personal interest in Credence.” Graves is a powerful guy, an auror and the Director of Magical Security in the American wizarding government.

Myyyyysssstteeeerrrryyyyyyy

I mean, sure, we know that he’s an adopted middle child, and we even know his “mother”‘s name, but do we know if he’s secretly another character entirely without any real evidence to back it up? The internet will see to that!

And believe it or not, Adonis actually points out that what he just said isn’t true.

But there’s nothing mysterious about that description, right?

Right!

No, what’s really mysterious is that reports are saying Credence will be a “notable” character in the Harry Potter universe. This seems to hint that we might have seen Credence somewhere before.

First of all, Adonis doesn’t cite a single source for these “reports.” What reports? Who reported this? The word “notable” doesn’t show up in the EW article, which broke the story, or the Slashfilm one, which reported it.

Show us your report certificate, Adonis!

Second of all, a character being “notable” does not mean the character is familiar to us viewers. A notable person within the Harry Potter universe simply has to be famous among the characters. It could also mean (because the word has disparate meanings) that Credence is simply an important character we should pay attention to.

Either way, there’s nothing here to plainly imply that Credence Barebone is somehow a character we’re directly aware of already.

For all we know, Credence could be anybody.

He could be in this VERY room!

Also, don’t forget that he could be…Credence Barebone.

Ezra Miller has been sworn to secrecy about his character, making the true identity and purpose of his character even more intriguing.

Wait, wait, wait. A movie studio doesn’t want an actor sharing too much information about the movie? How could this have happened under our watch?

Credence Barebone Is Tom Riddle!

And so it begins.

Specifically, Adonis is talking about the father of Lord Voldemort, not Voldemort himself. That would be Tom Riddle Sr. He goes on to remind tons of readers who Tom Riddle is, even though the only people who would deeply question this theory are book readers who are starting to get a crick in their neck from shaking their head so frequently.

Anyway, on to why I think that Tom Riddle, Sr. and Credence Barebone are one and the same. First off, it helps that we virtually know nothing about Credence Barebone. 

Yeah, that’s awfully convenient for your theory, isn’t it? “I can’t be wrong if you don’t know anything about what I’m talking about!”

We don’t know where he comes from, or what his purpose is in the film.

Right! We only know that he comes from America and is affiliated with Colin Farrell’s character! What are we supposed to even do with that information?

Fantastic Beasts is set in 1926 and, given the appearance of Barebone and the age of the actor portraying him, it’s safe to assume he’s in his early 20s at the start of the film. Tom Riddle, Sr. was born in 1905, meaning he’d be 21 years old in 1926, so the ages match up pretty accurately.

True, so now we’re just left wondering whether or not Ezra Miller can pull off a British accent.

Once again, Adonis goes on to disprove his own theory with a single sentence.

…age doesn’t explain how or why Tom Riddle, Sr. would be in North America with an entirely different name.

Are…are you reading my mind?

Poor Voldy could never catch a break, even in his younger years. His mother died giving birth to him, and his deadbeat father abandoned him before he was even born. But why did Tom Riddle, Sr. walk out on his family?

Because Merope wrote terrible fan theories?

Well, the only reason he married Merope Gaunt in the first place was because of the love potions she used on him. Tom Riddle, Sr. immediately ran off after seeing that he not only had a wife he didn’t love, but a son he didn’t want on the way.

To be fair, what would you do if a witch tricked you into impregnating her?

Tom retreated to his parents’ house in Little Hangleton, England. But what if that’s not exactly the case?

Then all logic and reasoning have ceased to exist.

In 1943, he and his parents were murdered by Tom Riddle, Jr., his son, in their Little Hangleton home. So we know that he definitely returned to Little Hangleton at some point.

Or…you know…he never left.

But if you think about it, between 1926 and 1943, that’s a whole 17 years of Tom Riddle, Sr.’s life unaccounted for.

Yeah! Let’s fill it with fan fiction!

Who’s to say he went straight to Little Hangleton and stayed there?

No one! Not even his family, legacy, property, money, friends, and power!

Let’s look at why Tom ran away from Merope. It wasn’t just because she tricked him into loving her, he was also disgusted and frightened at the fact that she was a witch.

Which he never told anyone, because he was too much of a muggle to let others think he was insane. According to the book, he told his family Merope “tricked” him. Also, it’s never implied that he was actually scared of her. In fact, he’s probably too aware of her devotion to him to believe that she’d want to cause him any harm.

Remember, Tom Riddle, Sr. was a Muggle, so the practice of witchcraft was likely taboo to him.

Likely…certainly…definitely…without a shred of doubt…obviously…I can’t believe this is even being questioned…

What if Tom traveled to America in an attempt to hide from Merope, afraid that she might one day use her powers to track him down.

Why? It’s never hinted that he feared her. The Gaunts were in Azkaban by the time this was happening, and they’d been tormenting the town for years and no one ever took them seriously. If anything, he’d probably welcome the chance to deal with her outright if she dared return to Little Hangleton. He has no idea that Merope is dangerous, and the pride of his name is likely too important for him to abandon it by leaving his home. This idea just doesn’t fit the character.

Also, if she can use her powers to track him down, like you say, then how does escaping to America fix that?

Going back to the town he met her in would be the easiest way to get caught, but a trip overseas and a quick name change would keep him hidden for a while!

Which would be the biggest tease of all, considering Merope’s untimely death months after this supposedly happened.

And as you probably didn’t want to expect, Adonis yet again asks a question that debunks his own theory, only so he can answer it in a way that doesn’t really fix the problems he’s pointing out himself.

If Credence has an adoptive mother, how could he possibly hail from the same pureblood family as Voldemort himself?

Gee, it’s almost like it isn’t possible.

Simple, Mary Lou isn’t his adoptive mother, she’s his REAL mother.

Oh, now we can just say things and they become true? OK! The sky isn’t made of gases…it’s made of STARBURSTS. See, I wrote it in all caps so you’d know how serious I am about wanting it to be true.

That’s right, Mary Lou Barebone is actually Mary Riddle!

What annoys me (the most) about this is that you don’t even position in an honest way. Mary Lou Barebone could actually be Mary Riddle (you know, if JK Rowling actually approved such a pointless and cheap plot twist). Just saying she is Mary Riddle and putting actually before the conclusion doesn’t make it so.

If you’ve already made up your mind, then this isn’t even a fan theory, really. It’s just a loud accusation.

Maybe he didn’t venture to America to escape Merope’s possible wrath alone. Maybe he was joined by his mother, Mary. Mary, whose son had apparently been enslaved by a witch and forced to love her, probably doesn’t have much love of her own for magic users.

See, the problem is that none of this makes sense. What indication from the text do we get that Mary Riddle isn’t keen on staying in Little Hangleton? What informs your guess that she’d want to follow her son to America and pretend to be his adopted mother? This just creates more questions upon questions, and I seriously doubt a movie that’s not even about Voldemort and his family would have the means to tackle such a left field twist.

Seriously, imagine if this “twist” actually happened in Fantastic Beasts. The movie would have to spend so much time positioning it in a way that makes sense that it would utterly distract from the plot we’re supposed to be involved in. It would have to explain all of these problems and inconsistencies, hoping that you don’t remember enough about Tom Riddle’s backstory to question it.

So what does she do when she and her son reach America? She becomes the leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, the organization that hates witches and wizards.

So let me get this straight. Within months (at best) of arriving in America, a female immigrant is going to show up in 1926 America with an adopted son and a bunch of random daughters, then become the leader of a secret society she shouldn’t even know about?

After all, it was a witch who took her son away from her, so now she’s got a bone to pick with the magical community.

In America?? If she was that bloodthirsty toward witches, she’d seek out Merope and the Gaunts herself, not run away to America and invoke witch trials unrelated to her own history. She had wealth and power in England, but she gave it all up to hang out with her 20-something kid who she now has to apparently say is adopted because whatever? Also, he has sisters with him for some reason and is now shy, even though that’s not his character?

She and her son live in the USA for years, until they believe it’s safe to go back home.

“Let’s wage war on witches, then go back home when it’s safe!”

So there you have it, my theory for who Credence Barebone really is! He could just be a normal guy, or he could be poor Muggle Tom Riddle, Sr., desperately trying to escape his unwanted family! What do you think?

I think you need a nap and a coloring book, Adonis.


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


Review: ‘Suicide Squad’ is a Guilty Pleasure Worth Admiring

suicide squad review

Note: This review is spoiler-free, but it does contain a major spoiler from the ending of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. You have been warned.

When it comes to comics that center around bad guys defeating even worse guys (and gals), Suicide Squad is one of the most lasting and recognizable of the lot.

It wasn’t the first book to be about villains, of course (though this movie is the first comic book film to have a main cast of villains as characters). But it was one of the first that was actually successful. And that’s probably because Suicide Squad essentially defined the idea of reluctant heroism found in the vilest of our society.

That’s tricky territory, because it presents a philosophical debate that modern society is mostly split on: Are people inherently bad, or are they tainted by an inherently bad world? 

suicide squad review

Fortunately, Suicide Squad doesn’t dwell on these questions for easy dramatic fodder (at least, not as much as it could have). Instead, it takes a note from some of Marvel’s recent films by emphasizing character over spectacle, at least with some of its titular bad guys.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the set up of Suicide Squad from the comics — of which the 80s run is still the best — the idea is simple. A shady black ops leader named Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis) wants to assemble her own team of metahumans, like Superman, and unhinged specialists, like Batman, in the wake of Superman’s death from the end of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

The team is codenamed “Task Force X,” but as one of their recruits points out early on in the film, they’re really a “suicide squad” in the sense that they’re not expected to live through the mission that takes up the majority of the film. And that’s because most members of Task Force X are dangerous villains, accompanied by a Colonel and “good” metahuman to reign them in.

As noted earlier, the structure of Suicide Squad is brazenly different from typical superhero and comic book films. It’s focused and constrained to one major location, a familiar technique if you’re caught up with director David Ayer’s other work.

suicide squad review

And the decision to limit Suicide Squad to one mission ends up being one of the film’s greatest strengths, because by the end credits, the viewer is left feeling as if they’ve gone through a significant ordeal with these characters, even if the movie doesn’t always stick the landing with some of its big moments.

There’s as much good as there is bad with Suicide Squad, in the sense that Ayer and his team succeeded at getting this movie right where it really counts — notably with  standout characters like Deadshot (played by Will Smith). The problem is that like previous entries in the DC comics cinematic universe, Suicide Squad just doesn’t sweat the details enough.

These details include basic plot mapping (the opening scenes, for example, are a glaring mess), action set pieces (especially toward the end), and the film’s worst offense: its script. Though Suicide Squad has its moments of surprising and smile-inducing dialogue, a great deal of it comes off as hastily tacked on in order to elicit a reaction, usually humor.

For that reason, Suicide Squad practically forces the viewer to accept it in a very specific way. That is, it’s painted and executed as a guilty pleasure movie, and you get the sense that the movie has no aspirations for self-importance or melodrama. Which makes it an easy film to get lost in and just enjoy, without having to “turn your brain off,” for the most part.

suicide squad review

One of the reasons the movie swings more toward guilty pleasure has a lot to do with the care Warner Bros. has put into better fleshing out its world of DC characters, and a good number of them are paraded beautifully. As revealed in the early trailers, Batman (reprised by Ben Affleck) has a small presence in this film, and it plays out about as well as his best moments from Batman v Superman, without any of the confusing quirks added to the character.

And it goes without saying that Suicide Squad is brimming with loving references to other DC stories, reminiscent of how shows like Arrow and The Flash insert subtle asides for eagle-eyed viewers. Put simply, this is the first DC comics movie that does a good job of establishing a coherent personality for this world of heroes and villains, while also integrating it in a more graceful way than we’ve seen in the past.

The only weak link worth mentioning is certainly the Joker (played by Jared Leto), who is balanced with the other characters in this film in a gratifying way so as not to steal the spotlight. This ends up being for the best, though, because this is easily one of the most uninteresting depictions of the Joker of all time, not just in the movies.

Granted, the movie works hard to dress Leto up as the Joker, and sparse dialogue certainly sounds like something Joker might say. But upon close inspection, this version of the Joker does virtually nothing reminiscent of what’s fundamental to the character. There’s nothing he truly does that sets him apart from a flamboyant crime boss/pimp who wants to find his girlfriend.

suicide squad review

Yes, he wears funny costumes. Yes, he looks weird and kills people. But there is far more to the Joker than “oh by the way” scenes of him laying on a floor surrounded by knives. And that’s because his only true motivation in this film is to get Harley Quinn back. There’s no chaos, comedic insanity, or diabolical planning to anything he does or wants to do in the film. He simply acts like he is crazy, rather than truly showing it, and it’s one of the film’s biggest disappointments.

Thankfully, Joker is not the crux of Suicide Squad. Far from it. So it’s easy to overlook the shortcomings of his character in lieu of this film as its own standalone story. It’s not easy, though, to overlook the fact that too many characters in Suicide Squad have poorly fleshed out character ideologies that make sense of their own payoffs toward the end. They do it in spades for Deadshot and Diablo, but that’s about it.

Lastly, the soundtrack does little to enhance or even complement the story, instead only reminding viewers that Guardians of the Galaxy did a much better job integrating a playlist with the rhythm of its plot (as proven by the film sharing one of the same songs from Guardians). In Suicide Squad, it really just feels like the music was added out of obligation, not because it was essential to the scene it was put in.

suicide squad review

And better thought (and edits) put into the scenes is all it would have really taken to make Suicide Squad a better movie than what we’ve gotten, which is a guilty pleasure that only looks good by comparison to the in-universe movies its attached to.

Grade: C+

Extra Credits:

  • There’s a mid-credits stinger and…well, it’s not that relevant or surprising, honestly.
  • I’m not a fan of most David Ayer movies, so Suicide Squad sort of defied the odds in my case. According to all the evidence, I should have hated this movie.
  • The chemistry of the cast is one of the film’s biggest strengths, as emblemed by the fact that a lot of them got “SKWAD” tattoos for the movie.
  • It’s not saying much, but this is my favorite live-action depiction of the Suicide Squad. That’s what full Will Smith can do for a film.
  • A standalone Harley Quinn movie featuring other DC femme fatales has been announced by Warner Bros., but it’s likely that the success of Suicide Squad will still determine whether or not that actually happens.
  • For once, Cara Delevingne wasn’t one of the worst characters in a movie.

    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

Marvel Has Been Successful Because It’s Better at Being Different

marvel better different

Until the end of the “superhero golden era” finally comes, we won’t be able to analyze the full impact that Marvel Studios has had with its cinematic universe of movies. But even though we don’t have the full picture at our disposal, everyone has their own reasonable guess for how and why Marvel been the dominant superhero movie franchise for nearly a decade, in terms of both critical and fan reception.

Some of the effects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are quite obvious, and I think that’s why vague observations about Marvel Studios are tossed around by its naysayers. When you think of shared universe movies — that is, movies that share the same characters and other sandbox elements without being direct sequels — you might feel the urge to groan a bit, especially if you watch and keep up with a lot of different movie franchises that all strive to replicate what Marvel did so well with Iron Man in 2008.

Sony tried to kickstart a Spider-Man shared universe of villains and ultimately failed. Universal has long been planning a shared universe of monster movies, citing they could have the “Avengers” of Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, the Wolfman, and more. Even a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe is reportedly in the works, planned to kick off with a new Scooby Doo movie. And this year’s Ghostbusters ends with a universe-setting teaser straight out of the ambiguously defined Marvel formula.

Marvel’s most direct rival, and for several obvious, yet key reasons, is DC Comics, which Warner Bros. owns the exclusive rights to. After a hugely successful trilogy of Batman movies, all helmed by Christopher Nolan and universally praised by fans and critics, Warner Bros. took the next logical step toward establishing a shared universe of their own that could do for Wonder Woman and the Flash what Marvel managed for Iron Man and Captain America, just to name a few.

marvel better different

Remember, just one year after Nolan’s Batman trilogy ended with The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros. released Man of Steel, the perfunctory beginning of what was meant to be something completely different compared to anything put out by Marvel Studios.

Except, well, Marvel has already  been “different” by its own standards for years, and it’s found great success doing so, while DC Comics hasn’t. At least not on the same scale.

To be fair, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were not financial failures, but they did fail to live up to their profitable potential, making less money domestically than Deadpool, which is based on a character far less popular and recognizable than Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. And even more recently, Suicide Squad has been panned by critics for sharing a lot of the same flaws of these movies, though it will still open to huge box office numbers, regardless.

What’s odd, then, is that the films have been criticized by many for being too different, using phrases like joyless and dark to color a picture of a movie that doesn’t deliver the same experience viewers got with most of the Marvel movies.

marvel better different

Supporters of these DC Comics movies have a right to call out this opinion for being intellectually dishonest. Of course a movie like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is different, they say. If it were the same formula as a movie like The Avengers, then critics would complain just as feverishly.

Both sides of this argument have it wrong, then. Because what they both forget is that while there is a bare-bones formula to the Marvel movies that makes them feel cohesive — that is, it’s easy to believe the movies exist in the same universe at all — none of them are all that similar to any of the others in just about every other way, unless the movie is a sequel, and even then, Marvel movies have a habit of changing entire subgenres in between their sequels.

One of the best and most famous examples of Marvel being “different” involves the entirety of what sets up the first Avengers movie, which serendipitously released the same year as The Dark Knight Rises. The very concept of setting up an ensemble superhero film after several standalone pictures that establish the characters was brand new at the time and, more importantly, untested.

Yet The Avengers is the highest-grossing superhero film of all time and was universally acclaimed by moviegoers, which holds up even today.

marvel better different

It’s fair to judge Marvel for being good at being different based on the fact that people loved The Avengers, despite how risky the structure of it was, and because it provided a sizable return on investment both financially and even culturally, hence we’re even having this debate about superhero movies being different.

What’s even more interesting, though, is the fact that Marvel movies have continued to be different and surprising, even though they have a proven formula they could repeat on end to minimize the risk of failure.

For example, the Marvel films that have truly defied expectations include Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, arnhich were both proven hits for the studio, despite being completely different from any other Marvel film in tone, structure, and many other crucial elements.

Guardians of the Galaxy is an action comedy set in space, and most of its characters aren’t even human. That’s a far cry from any other comic book film, period, let alone Marvel movies like Iron Man and even Thor. The premise of Ant-Man is absurd enough, despite the movie actually taking place on Earth. Yet it feels so different as a superhero movie because first and foremost, it’s really a heist film with bits of Edgar Wright’s unique editing style thrown in.

marvel better different

The upcoming Doctor Strange, set to release this November, is also a movie that — judging by the marketing and previous knowledge of the character — looks and feels different from previous Marvel offerings, because it seems to be tackling unchartered territory in terms of fantasy elements and dimensional science for the hero of that movie to experience.

These movies, excluding the as of yet unseen Doctor Strange, have been hits with both critics and casual audiences because yes, they’re different. So it’s strange, then, when both critics and naysayers of Marvel movies speak as if this cinematic universe has a firm license on vague storytelling elements, like humor and quipping. There’s a desire for DC to be the other side of the coin, different and more progressive than what might be called a mainstream superhero franchise with Marvel.

The problem with that desire, though, is that Marvel has already been the other side of that coin, and the other side of many coins that they, themselves, have inserted into the zeitgeist of superhero films. They don’t always get it right, of course, and some of their risks have been paid off better than others, but if DC should take notes on being “different” for the sake of surprising and delighting its fans, it should really be paying more attention to Marvel. Not less.

Because being different, while a good start, is not a merit on its own. Fantastic Four was different, which we can all agree on. But that definitely didn’t improve what was inherently flawed with that film. A non-Marvel movie that’s great at being different is Deadpool, made by Fox, proving that a superhero film doesn’t have to be made by Disney in order for it to be beloved by just about everyone old enough to see it.

marvel better different

I still have high hopes for DC Comics moving forward, though not nearly as high as I used to three years ago. But if you’re reading this and feeling a bit alienated because you want DC Comics and Warner Bros. to keep taking risks and producing films with these iconic characters that demand to be different from what we’ve seen before, then you can definitely take solace in one, major thing: The DC Comics movie universe under Geoff Johns — their new Chief Creative Officer and co-developer of The Flash on CW — kicks off next year with Wonder Woman.

And from what we’ve seen so far of that movie, the future could still be quite bright (not dark) for DC Comics.


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

Review: ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ Is Loud and Dumb, Just Like You Expected

review independence day resurgence

Despite what you may be led to believe from its title and the marketing for it, Independence Day: Resurgence is more “requel” than sequel, in the sense that while it does continue the storyline from the 1996 blockbuster, it’s still in the business of kicking off a new series of movies, rather than tying up any loose ends.

During parts of Resurgence, this works well and is paid off with some impressive world building that ties in logically with the events of the first film. Since the alien invaders of that movie were defeated 20 years ago, a more unified mankind has adapted their technology to prepare for their inevitable return.

Many players from the first film make a return for continuity’s sake, though Will Smith’s character was killed offscreen in between movies. If you aren’t caught up or haven’t seen Independence Day in a while, you might get a bit confused when some of these secondary characters show up without much explanation. But for the most part, Resurgence balances its focus with the next generation of heroes, most of them eerily being offsprings of the first film who all happen to know each other.

review independence day resurgence

Sadly, the new kids are probably the worst characters in Resurgence, and that’s amidst some trying competition.

Resurgence is the epitome of a film that tries so hard, yet fails so miserably at what it sets out to do in terms of plot, narrative, and even the basics of humor (rivaling some of the most painfully unfunny movies of 2016 so far). There’s some good spectacle to be had here, which is all most moviegoers are getting in the seats to see in the first place, but Resurgence makes a lot of the same mistakes as its predecessor during an era where they’re not quite as forgivable.

Independence Day was a silly, dumb disaster movie, but it resonated with audiences because its tone was of the moment. It spoke to the children of the Reagan era, who witnessed America bringing an end to the Cold War through their president’s own mouth.

Resurgence, by default, has to carry on this dated approach because it’s in an alternate timeline where “no armed conflict has taken place in 20 years,” as the audience is told early on. This sequel/requel would have been far more interesting if it displayed any sort of progression from the themes before it, especially throughout the entirety of the third act, which undoes almost everything worthwhile presented before it, finished with an ending that might as well have put dollar signs in each of the characters’ eyes to translate Fox’s plans for a franchise.

review independence day resurgence

And again, these problems are coupled with some incredibly weak storytelling, editing, and dialogue. Massive coincidences involving characters running into each other or happening to be connected occur on top of each other so much, it’s jarring when something unpredictable happens or the pacing feels right.

As expected, there’s a lot of death and devastation, but the camera moves so quickly to other characters, that none of the loss resonates, thanks in no small part to the seemingly dozens of key players all trying to contribute something valuable to this film. It worked somewhat in Independence Day because Smith and Goldblum had enough gravitas to lead attention to their stories above most of the rest, but Resurgence lacks that point of view that grounds the viewer and gets them invested. It tries, perhaps, with Liam Hemsworth, who essentially reprises Smith’s role for him, even though his son is right there.

That said, Independence Day: Resurgence isn’t as offensive or catastrophic as it could have been. At least a third of the movie has real potential in how it sets up a world that feels more evolved and interesting than it deserves to be. But by the end, you’re still waiting for someone to say, Welcome to Earf’, or I’m BACK.

Grade: C-

Extra Credits:

  • The writers of Honest Trailers are going to have a field day with this one.
  • I was excited to see Maika Monroe — who was in one of my favorite films of 2015, It Follows — playing one of the better characters. She deserves a better franchise than this.
  • Seriously, what was even going on with some of the “humor” in this film? I was in a packed screening with tons of people who seemed primed for some lighthearted jokes and quips. Yet there were maybe two or three soft chuckles over the course of two hours, even though someone made a joke every two minutes.
  • Some of the good things in this movie: the Warlord. The scientist bromance, I guess. The ship with the arms. Jeff Goldblum not sucking.
  • Some of the worst things in this movie: Characters and world governments behaving like the most insanely moronic minds ever put to film.

    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

 

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