24 June 2015

Sequels Begetting Sequels: How Billion-Dollar Advertisements Make Me Less Pumped

I couldn't quite encapsulate how I felt about Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) until I saw Jurassic World (2015), for one pretty simple reason. At the end of Jurassic World I was bursting with excitement and pumped to see what more could come out of this world. By the end of Age of Ultron I was exhausted. I sort of acknowledged to myself that that might be the last Marvel movie I see in theaters, unless of course, something really catches my eye.
Pucker up, toots

I realize that I'm also one of the only people on the Internet who enjoyed Jurassic World. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it's because I don't get caught up in overblown nitpicking disguised as feminist-bending criticism. Maybe I can kind of tell exactly what Jurassic World was going for in its hypocritical takedown of big blockbusters while acknowledging its own inevitable failure to live up to Jurassic Park (1993), while ironically also striving to be the blockbuster whose mentality it decries.

And let's just get the feminist bit out of the way right now. I don't know how this happened, but I feel like I'll be decried if it goes on unaddressed. A lot of the argument for Jurassic World's rampant "70s-Era Sexism" (thanks for that nomenclature, by the way, Joss Whedon, who hasn't done anything better with his run on two Avengers films) boils down to either Bryce Dallas Howard running in heels or her conversion from independent businesswoman to someone whose life is incomplete without children. Both of these assertions are moronic.

Nitpicking movie things isn't creating a feminist argument. It's not important that BDH runs in heels. What matters is that she's running to save the damn day. Chris Pratt, who I admitted was a pretty one-note character, for all his dripping machismo, doesn't really have any great ideas on how to save the day. BDH is a damn hero. Now, I don't wear heels and I can't pretend to know what that's like at all, but I wouldn't really want my feel to get dirty walking around outside there. And I'm not a stuffy businesswoman! It's totally in character and in service of her character doing something more important than many women do in four-quadrant action movies.

I also literally never got the impression that her life needs to be complete with children. That's not how her arc ends at all. Her arc ends with her loosening up and becoming a more well-rounded character than the stereotypical shrew she begins the film as. She's super competent at her job, by the way, and I'm not sure why that's also a complaint. And besides, all my stupid married friends are always telling me to have kids. That's what people with kids do, they just want to spread the misery around. It's not really a weird thing for her sister, Judy Greer to get all upset that she's devoted to business instead. That's actually the moral of just about every movie ever. What, should your job win? Is that really what we want to do here? Listen, Jurassic World isn't going to be the first movie to say "Hey, you know, work really IS more important than family!"

So, whatever, I'm grotesquely off-topic, but those are some things I really needed to address after loving a movie and then seeing it get trashed all week for reasons that seem to more indicate what people wanted to read in to and gripe about than actual unbiased criticism. And maybe I'm way off, too, but that's what makes movies awesome. We can debate what we got out of it, and Jurassic World is inspiring a lot more discussion than Age of Ultron.

Let's get into that. It's been about six weeks since Age of Ultron, which was easily positioning itself to be one of the biggest, craziest, greatest movies of all time. And I really liked it as I watched it. I even pointed out how I really dug The Avengers (2012) when I first saw it, but on repeat viewings all I could see were more and more cracks. But that took years. I'm totally over Ultron already. How did that happen?

I suppose I've just had enough. The honest prospect of Infinity War (2018) right now sounds EXHAUSTING. I don't know if the problem is lack of stakes, or repetitive plots, or just the unmemorableness of any action sequence. It's tough to name an action sequence in Ultron that really made you step back and say wow. Even reaching to Furious 7 (2015) I can think of like, three, even though they all involving cars falling off shit. Jurassic World is much more recent in memory, but I remember a few times being pretty gripped with fear and tension. Did Ultron make anyone FEEL anything?

That might be because nothing matters in Ultron. Let's look at some of the significant sources of conflict. The Hulk on the warpath is a good one, but that's really got to end two ways - Hulk winning, destroying Tony Stark and continuing to rampage until he wanders off, or him losing and being re-incorporated into the team. You'd think dealing with the fallout from the latter would be interesting, but he doesn't really change the outcome of the battle when he comes back, so he might as well have jetted off a lot earlier.
You had such a solid metaphor going with the
puppet thing. Don't you know audiences like
smart movies?

We can also look at the tension between the Avengers and Stark for him creating Ultron, but there's again no real repercussions for that. Maybe there will be in Civil War (2016), but who cares about that? The point of movies shouldn't be to continue plot points into other movies. I don't want to sit through a whole other film because at this point it's clear that it'll never be completed. That movie is going to lead to another and another and whatever. There is more hope than it seems in the future because there's actually more "original" films than not on the horizon, introducing plenty more characters to the Universe. As I've said, though, that well is going to dry up fast.

It's inevitable that Jurassic World will get a sequel, and the film points in several obvious directions. It's unclear what form that movie would take, and if it could develop any other significant themes than the "man shouldn't fuck with nature" riff that this franchise has done to death, and it's also doubtful that the next film is able to be so self-referential, and if it is, that in itself would be a failure to innovate. To be honest, out of the big films this year I'm probably most excited for the prospect of Furious 8, because even though that series is ridiculous and insane, they tend to be really damn fun. And they're actually experts at creating characters we care about, even if it's just from laughing at how ridiculous grumbling Diesel is. And each film has the freedom to subtly shift genres, doesn't have to pretend to cater to lofty expectations or nostalgia. You know, the Fast franchise really is awesome, isn't it? Its completely improbable success continues.

At this point I'm not sure I'm pumped for any sequel any more. I like seeing creative things on screen, and I like participating in solid nerddom, but why bother? It's chasing a dragon you'll never catch. Big blockbusters are like fucking heroin. Fun to write about, though. They trade in culture more than any small film can, which makes them worth discussing, so see which properties can throw the most cultural weight around. That's still really interesting to me.

So, what do you think? Did this have a point? Are you still in the big blockbuster game?

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