Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Spider-Man No Way Home (2021)

Spider-Man No Way Home is the final film in the (presumably first) MCU Spider-Man trilogy. As I've said before, I'm not a fan of MCU Spider-Man. And there's a lot to dislike. To be honest, I kind of expected to hate this movie, especially since every one else loved it and I'm a hopeless contrarian. But then something happened.

A strange warmth filled my heart.


(SPOILERS AHEAD EVERYBODY)

So turns out I'm a fucking rube. I can't help it! You put multiple Spider-Mans on a screen and I giggle and clap like a baby. Andrew and Tobey together on screen, in a lab, swinging around, it was great. It was mostly just fanservice, but goddamn if I wasn't serviced.

But, you know, that wasn't the whole movie.

Let's be real with ourselves, the rest of the movie was still MCU Spider-Man. You know, the one that didn't even seem like he wanted to be Spider-Man for most of this trilogy. The one with the extended cast that did little but annoy me. With Blondie Brant and Flashcard Thompson. The first part of the movie took a long time without a lot of meat on the bones. It's weird that legal troubles came up and very quickly got swept under the rug. Like, Mysterio's whole case seemed pretty tight, but Matt Murdock shows up and everything is fine.

Remember Back In Black? It was the comic story where Aunt May is shot after Peter revealed his identity in Civil War. And then he goes on to commit a bunch of crimes to track down the man responsible and try to keep his aunt alive. It's why Spider-Man's identity becoming public was such a big deal, why you knew some bad shit would go down once it did. But MCU Spider-Man just has to crash at Happy Hogan's place and gets sad about college. Instead Alex Jones-- Er, Jameson (who only now exists) gets people mad enough to throw rocks through Peters window. Even though Spider-Man only did one thing after five years and it was the Mysterio thing which didn't even matter legally. It's just weird that there's no real bite to this.

I mean, think about how that three movies in, MCU Spider-Man doesn't have any villains that would come after him. Not even like, a mob boss or some shit. What the hell did he even do? Did Spider-Man fight any crime that wasn't the Vulture? For the first two movies he had Iron Man villains and in this one he has to borrow villains from the Spider-Man movies that were actually good. Not to say that situation actually makes sense.

So the magic spell is supposed to summon people who knew Peter Parker is Spider-Man. But like, why is Electro there? He don't know who Spider-Man is. Venom had more reason to be there. But then you wouldn't have a villain from every movie, and that's what's more important.

I did like that, in a departure from the other two films, Peter actively went against the adult in this situation. In Homecoming he just wanted recognition from Iron Dad, and in Far From Home it was all under the direction of Nick Fury, but he actually fought Dr. Strange so he could try to save lives. And I like the idea that three Spider-Mans worked together to cure the villains. (like andrew did in TASM but sure let them die for the rest I guess it don't matter) And Tobey being able to whip up a Goblin Fixing Serum makes sense, since his best friend died because of it, more or less.

Of course, the Lizard and Sandman seemed like they didn't work very well as part of this ensemble. What point in time was Sandman taken from? Why was he so pissed off so often? At some point Spider-Man caught aggro and couldn't shake it. And with Lizard, what was his plan? He stayed in the van while Peter and Osborn had their little science class, and you think he has some master plan when he says, "It begins." But all he does is sort of run away once Green Goblin is wrecking shit up. He didn't even turn anyone into a lizard. C'mon, he just wants the whole world to be lizards. Let him have one. And I guess they couldn't get their actors, so they were just CGI the whole time, til their cures came up and then they got Bully Maguire'd in. Though honestly that was a separate concern from how they were written, but it didn't help.

Electro really came out on top here. He wasn't blue! Plus a design I like more, though if I had my way he would've had the lightning bolts around his head the whole time. Plus he talked with Andrew and that made me happy. Green Goblin was pretty great too. Dafoe's still got it baby! It's weird that they just fixed him at the end. Especially after May stuck him with some kinda green fluid earlier in the film. What did that do? It was like a Chekhov's gun that fell behind a couch and everyone forgot about.

Fixing the villains doesn't really make sense if you try to place them back in the movies. Because, like, the same shit still happens, right? Did Osborn just pop back in right before the glider stabbed him? Am I supposed to assume this is why he said that deadpan, "Oh." Was that a sane Osborn getting stabbed? How would the Lizard getting cured before it happens in TASM fit anywhere? Just don't think about it I guess.

I am glad they didn't make any Aunt May Is Hot jokes this time. Though she did die. And they shoehorned in stuff from the video game, like FEAST and her gravestone quote, which she never actually said in this film series. Why was it May who gave Peter the Great Responsibility speech? I remember when Homecoming came out, all the fans of that movie said Peter's "If bad happen and I not help, then bad my fault" line was supposed to be that line, as if he already learned that lesson. But apparently not, and he had to learn it now.

This movie kinda disassembles a lot of defenses people had towards MCU Spider-Man, which is odd to see. People said we didn't need to see Holland's origin, because we had seen it before in other incarnations, but now this whole trilogy was his origin. People said he didn't need an Uncle Ben, because Stark was his Uncle Ben, but no, turns out it's Aunt May now. Fans disagreed with the criticism that Peter was too reliant on Stark technology, but now he's completely disconnected with it and they praise that. "Peter is poor!" they said, despite much evidence to the contrary, but now we see what it looks like when he doesn't have any money and it ain't what we've seen before in this trilogy.

How about that ending. Peter Parker erases himself from... memory? The world? The bounds are confusing and unclear. So if it were just memory, yeah his friends wouldn't remember him, but anyone could look up the Daily Bugle archive on youtube and see the hours of coverage about Peter Parker, so we have to assume its more than that. Was it all physical media? So there would be no Daily Bugle coverage or that shrine in the high school, but then Peter does not legally exist. He would have no birth certificate, no job history. How did he get an apartment? Could he get deported? No wait, he's white. He's fine. I guess he has to get his GED, but he's a fucking ghost. How does this work? Don't think about it.

You run into these logistical nightmares with any large-scale retcon like this. And it's worth noting that this is the first such event in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I predicted such a thing in my 2015 article, Making Movies Into Comics though really it wasn't that hard to surmise. This has officially been branded as a three-film origin story for MCU Spider-Man, but I think that's a misleading assumption. They've relaunched the series with a new numbering, the next film will be a #1 again. And in comics this can lead to an initial increase in sales, but eventually they always go back to the old numbering. Is this merely the beginning? Time travel and magic are viable possibilities for further retcons, which are gonna be pretty necessary as public interest wanes and actors get sick of playing the same character forever. We have reached another step in movies becoming as alienating as comics.

I think its worth noting just how derivative this film is from other recent Spider-Man media. Aunt May, with her job and epitaph and the ending shot with Peter swinging out after looking at the police scanner on his phone are straight from Insomniac Spider-Man. I wouldn't be surprised if they copy that incarnation real closely in the future. Then the whole plot of this film, which is cribbed straight from Into the Spider-Verse, an origin for Miles Morales, and this is touted as an origin for Peter Parker. And the borrowed villains from the Spider-Man films I genuinely enjoy. I worry future films might a similar hodgepodge of adaptations of adaptations. I doubt the people involved have real original ideas here.

So I enjoyed myself, but almost entirely because Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire were together in Spider-Man suits and they webswung and I have a simple mind. Normally I would be angry that they got rid of the entirety of Spider-Man's extended cast, easily the best of any comic character, but with these versions I'm actually pretty okay with that. Please, anything to keep me from ever seeing Flashcard Thompson again. I've seen a lot of takes that this movie invalidates any of the Iron Boy Jr. criticism by fixing all of that. But that remains to be seen. Peter alone, poor, in a shitty apartment and a better suit all point to the possibility of a better future film, but does not guarantee it. It's like The Force Awakens, where how good this film could be hinges entirely on the next one. And they could very easily fuck it up. It's the easiest thing in the world, two whole franchises before this one failed. It's more than likely Peter will make MJ and Ned remember who he is in the next movie, and who knows what else would be undone?

I'll watch the next one, which means nothing because I have to watch every Spider-Man film because I have a dangerous obsession. It could actually be better, even though all of reality got fucky. Really gotta tiptoe around how little this makes sense for the next movie to be pure Spider-Man and not just exposition around the nature of Strange's magic spell. Maybe he'll actually fight a crime!

But we all know there's only one thing that could redeem all of this, make me sing the praises of this studio from the tallest hill.


DO IT YOU COWARDS

Monday, December 6, 2021

Moments with Miles (New Teaser and Game Thoughts)

WOOOOOOOO

SPIDER-VERRSE TWOOOOOOOOO!!

I'm fuckin' jazzed, folks. Yeah, we knew it was gonna happen but seeing actual footage makes it more real, more than even just believing in it really hard would do. Wait, what am I talking about? The new Spider-Verse trailer, you nimrod. Geez, it's almost like you don't obsessively follow every Spider-Man related development with a desperate sad passion unfit for a human being of your age.

Well anyway this is that.


Not a whole lot there, but there's some! The designs for Miles and Gwen have changed somewhat, in-costume and out. They definitely look older, both with longer hair, and Gwen still has the undercut she had in most of Spider-Verse 1. I like the hair! Then there's costume design, where Gwen hasn't seen much of an overhaul, the most noticeable difference being her gloves now have the webbing pattern whereas before they were pure white. Miles has a pretty substantial change, with the red shoulders gone in lieu of a red band going down each his sides, going up the interior of his arms and outside his legs, each connecting the with little red patches on his hands and feet. The spider insignia looks a little cleaned up, but still appears to be spraypainted on, which I like.

One big hope for this movie is that they add Mayday Parker, Spider-Girl from the MC2 Universe that was running for a while. It would fit with Peter B's whole kids dilemma leading to his estrangement from Mary Jane, but seeing as how he figured out he wanted kids and ostensibly got back together with MJ in the end, he could very likely have had a daughter who inherited spider powers. It's either her or Spiderling from Renew Your Vows, the miniseries about what if MJ and Peter had a different kid and they all fought crime, which I now realize I haven't read for some reason.

And, before I forget, SPIDER-MAN 2099!! MIGUEL O'HARA IS IN THE HOOOUUUUSE!

I'm real happy they kept him in after the little cameo in the stinger of Spider-Verse 1, I love 2099 Nueva York, I love the costume, and I love the way the swear word of the future is the word "shock". I love Into the Spider-Verse with every ounce of my empty withered heart, and this being a definite two-part sequel, I have enough reason not to lose my mind eating pizza for a while.

Coincidentally, I just finished Miles Morales for the PS4 (I am biding my time for the Spider-Man PS5 to come out I know it will I just have to be patient) and, listen, sometimes I just gotta quarantine my Spider-Man thoughts into one post so the rest of them can be taken up with existential crises involving pizza.

Anyway, good game! Short, but that was pretty much the deal going in. I platinum'd it in a fraction of the time Spider-Man 1 took me, but more Spider-Man content is all I need to keep going. I'm glad I didn't purchase a PS5 to play this, considering how much effort it would take to get one and that I only really want Demon's Souls otherwise. I don't need no ray-tracing! I'll take my huffing, chugging PS4 that forgets to load textures on a cat.


Playing through really made me think about what I want from Spider-Man 2, and I can't bring myself to make a whole article for a stupid list and I want it out of my head.

1. Suit loadouts

I want to be able to assign a suite of mods to a suit, ideally 2 or 3 loadouts. I figure most people already switch out all their suit mods when they switch from stealth to combat, or if they're fighting street thugs vs. tech enemies. All this would just make it quicker and easier. I'm surprised they didn't add this in Miles Morales, but they have another chance with the next game.

2. Co-op

I don't care if it's local or network co-op, I just want to play with a friend who is also Spider-Man and we both swing and fight crime and have a dang ol' time.

3. Less Tokens

In Spider-Man 1, there was like 6 different tokens you could collect by doing stuff around the city, and remembering what upgrade needed what token and where to get them became a chore. Miles Morales had 2, which maybe was too few. I think 3 or 4 would be a good amount so you're not overburdened with either a single type of token or scrambling trying to find the one type you're missing to make webs better.

4. Less Cops

In Miles Morales, all your crime data came from the Friendly Neighborhood app, so users reported a crime which you would then fight. I like this a lot more than Spider-Man 1 where Spider-Man fixed police surveillance towers, and also sorta hacked them, and that's where you got crime reports. Spider-Man is best if he has an at-best ambivalent relationship with the police, where they pretty much think he's a criminal as well. They shouldn't be too cozy.

5. Big Wheel

I love this stupid villain. He's no frills, he rides around in a giant wheel with arms and calls himself "Big Wheel". I want a big setpiece chase through Manhattan trying to stop a ferris wheel from blowing up a bank or something. Either him or The Spot.

6. Bring back the old face

Worth a try.

7. Spider-Signal

You know the drill. Please, do it for me. You guys know it exists! I saw it! LET ME SHINE A STUPID LIGHT ON PEOPLE FROM A ROOFTOP! PLEASE I AM AT YOUR MERCY!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Little Caesar's Crazy Calzony Pepperoni Pizza

I am hanging from a thread. At the very precipice of sanity, my mind and body on the verge of breakdown. I am numb to the extreme pain I am in. I know, somehow, that one more push will send me careening over the brink. And yet, I crave it. What would it be like, to be freed from the shackles of consciousness? I feel l'appel du vide.

Or is it

L'appel du pizza?

Little Caesar's Crazy Calzony Pepperoni Pizza

Like a gambler who bets their last dollar, I navigate to the Little Caesar's website. There is no future for me now. Only the unraveling agony of the present. This will not make me happy. Far from it. This is a tool of destruction wrought from the minds of the spiritually diseased. But I proceed.

The squat prison-like structure that houses my next mistake looms unassumingly on a dark highway. The sign out front flickers. I feel a deep kinship with it. At its characteristic Pizza Drive-Thru Window, I am handed my square box of regret. I am not mad. I chose this.

I arrive home. It is dark and cold, but the box's warmth is not reassuring. It is the heat of infection. Though I can feel it spread, I hold it close. Inside, I hesitate opening the box. It comes with a cup of marinara. That means something to me now. I could turn back. I imagine a better world, one that does not exist. I look to the bag of breadsticks. It has a message for me.


As you wish, Tiny Czar. I let go and gaze upon the error I have made.


The gossamer thread that ties me to reason loosens. Something has gone horribly wrong. My entire life, for one. I find a perverse satisfaction in the parallel. With an iron grip on my gradually decaying resolve, I reach forward to pry off a slice. I encounter a problem. I cannot tell if this had ever been, or had meant to be, sliced. Madness pulling at the edges of my awareness, I grasp an oozing fold and find no purchase.


I lose it. The weight of the absurd strains me to my limit. I cannot figure out how to eat this ridiculous pizza I bought at 10PM after working for twelve goddamn hours. The latest punchline in the interminable joke my life has become. With animalistic fervor I rip a piece from the profane oblong. I hesitate a moment. The poor, atrophied part of my brain concerned with self-preservation delivers a desperate entreaty. I ignore it and take a bite.


It tastes like nothing. Everything. Very salty. I hate it. I need it. In a frenzy all is devoured, the pizza, the sticks, an unhealthy amount of marinara. I distantly note the fervent protests of my digestive tract. The bread is crazy, the pizza is crazy, and I, too, am waving goodbye to bittersweet sanity.

In the condemned house that is my mind, I feel the last support beam give way. But do not worry.

I am the only one inside.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Madea Goes to Jail and the Transience of Identity

Picture this: It's late on a Saturday night, you are bored and want to watch a movie. But not a good movie, because there is something wrong with your brain. So you head over to [STREAMING SERVICE] and you see a film you've heard of, and one you're pretty certain you have a good hold of despite that. Madea Goes to Jail. What follows is a harrowing experience that can hardly be represented in words. But I guess I'll give it an shot.


Initially, the film presents itself as what one might expect. Madea, played by Tyler Perry, is an ornery old lady who apparently fucked up one too many times, and now is going to jail to meet a wacky cast of characters and learn a lesson or something. But then Madea leaves the courtroom. We stay and watch some completely separate characters. The actual main characters. Candy is a sex worker brought in on prostitution charges, and the prosecutor, Joshua, recuses himself as he knew her at some point in the past. What follows is a crash course in human misery, as every bad thing that could happen to a person happens to Candy. After one night back working on the streets, she is abducted and raped by a pimp, who plans to hold her captive until she escapes and seeks shelter with Joshua. When a local minister sets Candy up for a job interview, the man interviewing her sexually assaults her.

I could go over the laundry list of calamity that befalls Candy, but I think you get the point. What makes this film so bewildering to watch is that each of these scenes of tragedy is interspersed with scenes of Madea and her family being zany. You settle into the tone being dark and emotionally wracking, then Madea shows up for a sassy back-and-forth with Dr. Phil. It is impossible to get your footing with this movie. The listing says "Comedy." The description mentions nothing of tragedy.

What is the deal with this? I must mention I had never seen a Tyler Perry film before. Everyone I spoke to who has seen one of his films sat back like a jaded old schoolmaster and said, "Oh yes, they're all like that." One person's only comment was that it was a "funny movie." How could someone see every heart-wrenching event that takes place and come away with a bunch of yuks? It's simple. It's all in the name.

This film is billed as a comedy, and so that is what people see of it. Once they see Tyler Perry's name, they gloss over the details. Madea is a (supposedly) funny character, and her name is in the title, ergo the movie is a funny film. The content is almost irrelevant when we have nice little titles and genres to tell us what it is.

When does description cross the line into prescription? Is the film a comedy simply because it is labeled as such? Is it a comedy because it has some funny parts? Can it be a comedy even though most of the runtime would be better described as drama? Too often we take things by appearance, by how we think they should be sorted on first glance.

Most of the time with media, that works. If a movie is billed as a comedy and stars a comedic actor, we get what we expect. Sure, one or two sad things might happen in the film, but its primary purpose is to make you laugh. You pick what you want and that's the end of it. Life is rarely that simple.

The worst experience of your life can follow a moment of rare gaity.You can find yourself laughing at a funeral, mere minutes after crying the hardest you have ever cried. People can call you one thing your entire life and one day you realize you never fit in that mold at all. Films are made with intent. Indie or mainstream, somebody wrote a script and a bunch of people took their time to pick what parts they wanted in it until it appeared on your screen. Life has no intent. Things just happen. People just are.

The moral of Madea Goes to Jail arrives late in the film. While Madea and Candy are both incarcerated, Madea tells the group that you cannot be a victim, that you have to take responsibility for the things that happen to you. Shortly afterwards, both Candy and Madea are released from prison when it is revealed that the prosecutor has been padding charges, making all the cases she litigated invalid. Not a single thing about their escape from that situation was in their control. The film expects you to believe this moral it espouses while directly contradicting it with events portrayed in the film itself. It bills itself as a comedy, while bombarding me with more unfortunate events than those billed as dramas.

The labels we use are so inadequate at capturing life. So few things can be boiled down to a couple easily comprehensible terms. But we need them. You can't just think about everything all the time. We have hobbies, jobs, people to meet and things to do. You have to boil things down to handle everything being thrown at you day-to-day.

But there are times when you can't. When the words you used to describe yourself turn into a prison, a list of dos and don'ts. When the things people have said to you don't match up with what you can plainly see. When you've been submerged in an ocean of easily classified Comedies and Dramas, there falls into your lap that which defies these conventions. And though every signpost and label says it's one thing, you know it's not. It is not so easily categorized. The only question is:

Where do we go from there?