Monthly Archives: November 2017

The 1956 classic Forbidden Planet tells of a scientist studying the long-dead alien homeworld of a race he calls the Krell. Millennia more advanced than humans, the Krell had created a massive machine which could quite literally turn their very thoughts and desires into reality. The day they activated the machine, their civilization died because they had failed to account for the subconscious desires that still lurked in the back of their fantastically advanced minds.

The internet is our version of the Krell machine. Thousands of years from now, when the next dominant species, or some group of alien explorers, comes to exhume the remains of our crumbled stab at civilization, they will find a species that imploded because they gave themselves the power of easy knowledge and instantaneous communication.

As with some many things, Douglas Adams understood the dangers. His description of the Babel fish (a small creature which allows perfect communication irrespective of language) from Hitchhiker’s Guide concludes with this paragraph:

“Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.”

We don’t have the Id to blame. The internet has revealed once and for all that we are all, at our core, monsters.

As A quick follow-up to yesterday’s blog, I wanted to examine the limp-dicked response coming from “an executive” at Warner Bros. Basically, they’re saying that Thanksgiving week will be their saving grace, because it gives people more time to see the movie.

Because, y’know, no one spends the days after Rape The Indians day doing things at the mall other than watching JL.

This movie is so screwed.

Over a year ago, I predicted that Justice League would under-perform, leading to a soft reboot of DC Entertainment, and the entire DCEU. I was wrong. JL is bombingCurrent tracking has the film making less than $100m this weekend, far below the barely acceptable estimates of $120m. With Warner’s DCEU drop-off being historically well over 60% for successive frames, this means JL is gonna clear somewhere around $400-$450m worldwide.

That might sound like a lot of money, but for this movie, it’s nothing. A huge loss. The movie itself cost $300m. With global P&A (release materials and marketing) costing a bare minimum of $150m, Justice League needs to make something like $700m-$750m just to break even. Apparently, even fanboys will eventually stop eating what you serve if 4/5 of what you feed them is dogfood marketed as steak.

It’s safe to say that heads are gonna roll. Warner’s has needed a kick in the ass for some time. Diane Nelson (president of DC Entertainment) is no Kevin Feige (her opposite number at Marvel), and her obsessive support for Zack Snyder, despite each successive disappointment and disaster costing more — and failing bigger — than the last, has been mystifying.

Even if Tangerine Caligula bullies the DOJ into killing the AT&T purchase of Time/Warner in his lust to kill CNN, you’re still going to see a complete restructuring of DCE. If the sale does happen, you’re likely to see something a bit more slash and burn. You might even see DC sold off (to Viacom? Verizon? Facebook, even?) to a brand-hungry interloper who wants to start fresh, leaving Warner Bros. to flog the Harry Potter franchise into oblivion.

Let me tell you what isn’t going to happen: That solo Flash film that has no script or director. Or The Batman, which doesn’t have a script or a star. Or Suicide Squad 2 (because that was a good idea), or Shazam or the Harley Quinn movie.

James Wan’s Sawquaman is in the can, so that will get a dramatically scaled-back release and die quietly after a week in theaters. Wonder Woman 2 will probably move forward, since WW was the ONLY bright spot in the entire, dismal DCEU firmament. It think it’s more likely, though, that it will turn into the DCEU reboot film that Justice League was supposed to be (rebooting the DCEU after Man of Steel booked them into a shitty hotel, Batman v Superman got drunk and trashed the place, and Suicide Squad broke in and shit all over the beds).

The problem is Warner wanted that billion dollar payday, and they wanted it quick. They thought they could simply mimic Marvel’s model, let Zack cherry-pick his favorite moments from various comics he didn’t really understand, and that had nothing to do with each other, and slap it all together in a grim, mass-murdering package.

So, Warner… It’s time to clear the Etch-a-Sketch on the DC Extended Universe. Shake that fucker up, keep Snyder away from the lot, hire some people who have EVER read a comic, and stop trying to be Marvel. You’re bad at it.

The geek community has a preternatural ability to delude itself. To suspend not only disbelief, but actual awareness, effectively enough to cut anything even remotely genre-related all the slack it could ever possibly want. There are people out there who still explain the greatness of Lucas’ Star Wars prequels. Who defend Zack Snyder stealing virtually every shot in BvS from another, better film as homage rather than a total lack of imagination. Who tell me, when I criticize Next Generation, “Oh, that was just the first two seasons. It takes a while for a series to find it’s feet.” (THAT’S TWO GODDAMNED YEARS, PEOPLE!?!)

For a while, I was one of them. I tried hard to tell myself that Return of the Jedi was awesome (it wasn’t). That Temple of Doom was a worth sequel to Raiders (it isn’t). That Logan’s Run isn’t covered in cheese (it is; it’s still an awesome movie, but best when grilled, and served hot with tomato soup).

Unfortunately, as I was becoming a film-addled teen, I was also watching movies like The GodfatherLawrence of ArabiaFrench Connection. Films from the height of epic cinema and the depths of the anti-hero 70s that are powerful and visceral and unapologetically brilliant, and I realized we geeks were getting the short end of the stick.

We were gifted with occasional moments of true filmmaking brilliance – Raiders, which is a perfect film, or Empire Strikes Back – but mostly, we were ranting and raving about mediocrity. Movies that, viewed objectively, would get a 5 or 6 at best on a scale of 10. I kept thinking back to something William Windom said in his Starlog interview about his turn as Matt Decker in the TOS episode, Doomsday Machine. Windom reflected his own version of what’s known elsewhere in the geek world as “Sturgeon’s Law.”

That Star Trek episode was a piece of crap,” he said.

“whether it’s bagels you eat, clothes you wear, adults you meet when you’re little, plays you go to or are in, 90 percent is horsecrap. Five percent is just godawful and you wish you could forget it, five percent is memorable, so you better en­joy the horsecrap, because nine out of 10 hours in your life are gonna be spent in horsecrap. So fine, but don’t go around giv­ing it first prizes! The first prizes are too valuable — they’re really only for that five percent — of people, food, clothing, time, weather, age, whatever you want to name in your life.”

He was right. It took a while to sink in, but I slowly realized that not calling out the films, shows, books, comics, in the 90th percentile for being what they are — fine — is actually a disservice to the films, shows, books & comics that truly are excellent. It fucks up the bell curve.

Because I haven’t ceded my critical faculty, I often get called a hater. This drives me crazy for two reasons; 1 – it’s not a fucking word. 2 – it isn’t true in any respect. I simply refuse to love everything. I had a guy tell me, “I just choose to like things, and I think I’m happier.” My response was that I chose what I like, and therefore, I enjoy the things I enjoy much more passionately.

I have a friend I frequently tell that he needs a superlative filter. Whenever a piece of expensive marketing hits for the Next Big Thing, he is on social media exclaiming that this is THE GREATEST THING EVER! since the last GREATEST THING EVER! and I try to tell him that, no, it is mathematically unlikely that it is. Since this man prides himself as a film lover, I once explained that claiming Fast & Furious 4 is the GREATEST MOVIE HE’S EVER SEEN is pretty fucking insulting to, say, The Godfather, Part II. Right?

“Why can’t you just enjoy stuff?”

Because that “stuff” is the result of hundreds of millions of dollars, tens of thousands of hours of work, and is sold under the pretense of art, and I have too much respect for the labor, the money, the medium and myself to not hold that shit up to the highest possible standards. There’s no crying in baseball.

Also, there’s the obvious point that, by supporting the shit with our dollars, we tell the horse dropping it that we would please like more of it, and as soon as possible. This same friend loathes JJTrek as vehemently as I do, and yet he has seen every single film in the theater (some more than once), and owns all of them on blu-ray. It absolutely mystifies me.

I’m not a hater. I just care more than you do. Very few films will ever rise to the level of No Country For Old Men or fall to the depths of Watchmen. Most of them hover in between; like Derek Smalls, they are lukewarm water. Let them be.

We define the good by defining the bad. You cannot have one without the other. Shadows are only visible in the light; absent one, the other disappears. You might choose to swim in a flat artistic sea rendered in smooth shades of grey. I like my art with more swells, currents, riptides, eddies and vibrance. Suck it up.

When Batman v Superman made far less than expected, there was a chorus of breast-beating from Warners execs that the 27% Rotten Tomatoes score was responsible (because the answer can never be, “Well, we released and utter pile of dogshit, so…”) When Suicide Squad did even less, the same complaints were heard. Other studios who also floated massive turds into theaters chimed in.

With Justice League, it’s plain that Warner Bros reached some kind of… accommodation… with Rotten Tomatoes. The site hid JL‘s score (currently at 40%) behind it’s own new, unwatchable film review show streaming on Facebook until this morning. Even more telling, despite the fact that reviews range from “Well, it sucks less that BvS,” on the good end to the Vanity Fair and Telegraph reviews on the bad end, the Rotten Tomatoes “capsule review” that was posted until the score became visible seemed to only be drawing from the better reviews.

Is it possible the people at RT don’t understand that continuing to do this will likely damage their (perhaps undeserved) brand beyond recognition? Guess we’ll find out.

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