Power Rangers (2017) Review

I enjoyed the new Power Rangers movie. So sue me. Obviously, you don’t go into a movie called Power Rangers expecting anything resembling a deep story, you go in expecting to have a fun (if maybe a bit insane) time. And I ultimately felt Power Rangers delivered on that, even if it takes an excruciatingly long time to get there.

Back in the 90s, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was the biggest thing on children’s television. The show was a unique specimen in that it took stock footage from the long-running Japanese series Super Sentai – a super hero show in which a multi-colored team of heroes battled monsters with giant, dinosaur robots – and not only dubbed it, but also filled in the non-super hero-y parts with a teenage sitcom with American actors.

In retrospect, it sounds like the most insane concept ever, and in many ways it was. But it worked. Spinoffs of both Super Sentai and Power Rangers continue to this day in their respective countries. And during the 90s, it was the centerpiece of children’s popular culture much like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before it, or Pokemon after it.

I should know, I was about four-years old when Power Rangers came into existence, and like so many children, I was hooked. Again, this is a series that had super heroes, dinosaurs, robots and monsters, and then threw in the stories of a group of teenagers that actually aimed to be relatable (if campy) around it all. What kid wouldn’t like this?

Now, like so many other 90s franchises, Power Rangers has received the nostalgia-fueled Hollywood blockbuster treatment. And while I will certainly say it’s a greatly flawed film, by the end of it I was having a good time. While many such reboots just don’t work, Power Rangers does manage to tap into the nature of its ridiculous source material and give you what you came for.

Suffice to say the story is the best kind of nonsense. As the film’s mythology goes, every planet that houses life has a “Zeo Crystal” hidden somewhere within it, which can grant ultimate power. 65 million years ago, the Power Rangers were a band of aliens trying to protect the Earth, after one of their own, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) went rogue and tried to steal Earth’s Zeo Crystal. The dying leader of the Rangers, Zordon (Bryan Cranston), then called down a meteorite to stop Rita from gaining the crystal, and to ensure life would be allowed to continue on Earth.

“They may not be the Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad, but they’ll do.”

Fast-forward to the present day, and the Zeo Crystal’s location is now buried deep under the city of Angel Grove, where five teenagers, Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott), Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler), Trini Kwan (Becky G) and Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin), inadvertently uncover five mystical tokens during one of Billy’s exploits to an abandoned mine, which he does to continue in his deceased archeologist father’s footsteps.

“I don’t know, a simple poster might be a better wall decoration…”

Upon finding the tokens, the teenagers are given newfound strength and superhuman abilities, and eventually uncover a hidden spaceship in the location they found the coins. The spaceship is tended to by Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader), an ancient robot who “uploaded Zordon’s essence into the ship’s matrix.” Zordon then informs the teens that by finding the tokens, they are destined to become the new Power Rangers, with Jason becoming the leading Red Ranger, Kimberly the Pink Ranger, Billy the Blue Ranger, Trini the Yellow Ranger and Zack the Black Ranger. With their new roles as Power Rangers, they must prepare for the return of Rita Repulsa, who plans on constructing a golden goliath named Goldar in order to find the Zeo Crystal (which just so happens to be buried deep beneath a Krispy Kreme).

Yeah, it’s insane.

Honestly, once we actually get to the Power Ranger-y bits, it’s a lot of fun. The grave problem with the film, however, is that it just takes way too long to get there.

The build-up to the teenagers becoming the Power Rangers takes up the majority of the film. This might not be so big of a problem, if this extra time were spent on things like character development. Instead, it all just seems like build-up for the sake of build-up, and a good deal of awkward dialogue doesn’t help things, either.

Now, in its defense, the film does try to give a little bit of attention to its characters’ backstories: Zack has an ailing mother, for example, and Billy is probably the most interesting character, having a form of high-functioning autism that gives him an incredible memory at the expense of basic socializing skills. The problem is that these character moments are very short-lived (especially for Zack and Trini, whose introductions in the film feel incredibly sporadic).

You could compare the situation to the 2014 Godzilla film, in which the whole reason audiences came to see the movie (in that case, Godzilla) doesn’t get nearly the amount of screen time you’d hope for. Though Power Rangers is probably more guilty. At least in Godzilla’s case, its titular monster had origins in a serious drama (let’s not forget Godzilla was originally an allegory for the atom bomb). But Power Rangers was always so ridiculous, that there’s really no reason to try to take things so seriously and hold off on the Rangers, Zords, and giant monster battles.

With all that said, once it all picks up, and the Rangers (finally) don their costumes, ride in their dinosaur-shaped Zords, and have the inevitably ridiculous showdown with Rita Repulsa, it’s a whole lot of fun.

“65 million years never looked so good.”

Speaking of Rita Repulsa, Elizabeth Banks has to be the film’s best singular asset. She seems to be having an exceptionally fun time hamming it up as the evil witch, and just brings a whole lot of energy and humor to the film.

In the end, Power Rangers was never going to be a cinematic classic, nor is it as ridiculously fun as it could have been, since it staves off the good stuff for far too long. But thankfully, the payoff at the end, coupled with Elizabeth Banks’ over-the-top performance, makes it all worth it in the end. And in a time when entertainment is becoming insanely preachy and self-righteous, it’s kind of nice to see a movie that’s okay with just being insane.

 

6

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Kong: Skull Island Review

Though the giant monster genre may not exactly be a critical darling, there are at least two giant monsters in cinema with legacies so strong that even the more prudish film-lovers show them a degree of respect. One of them is Godzilla, who has seen a recent return to form in both his native Japan with the acclaimed Shin Godzilla, as well as making a splash with western audiences with his 2014 American reboot. The other iconic giant monster is King Kong.

While the original 1933 King Kong may not wow today’s audiences with its special effects, it remains heralded for how much it pushed filmmaking techniques forward, as well as its genuine storytelling prowess. It’s still entertaining, and is held in such high regard that its remakes in the 1970s and 2000s were seen as big deals, with the filmmakers behind those remakes (particularly Peter Jackson and his enjoyable-but-overly-long 2005 film) showing a great deal of respect to the source material.

Now we have another reboot of the King Kong franchise in the form of Kong: Skull Island. Though unlike the previous films, this is not a remake of the 1933 movie. Instead, it’s a reimagining of the Kong mythology that serves as a means to not only reintroduce Kong, but also to combine his world with that of the 2014 Godzilla, to create a shared cinematic universe between the behemoths.

Of course, this isn’t the first time cinema’s two most famous giants coexisted. Toho once made their own King Kong Versus Godzilla in the 1960s, which delighted the Hell out of me when I was very young. Of course, today, King Kong Versus Godzilla can only be enjoyed in an ironic sense, as the film’s special effects were laughably bad even in their day, and it’s not exactly a movie that had a strong narrative to fall back on.

Still, King Kong Versus Godzilla established my love of giant monsters from an early age, and now I’m ecstatic that the two legendary monsters have the chance to have an epic encounter worthy of their names.

The good news is that Kong: Skull Island doesn’t just serve as a means to prep Kong up for his inevitable encounter with Godzilla (though it does that, too), but also makes for a highly entertaining film in its own right.

“The film features numerous awesome creatures besides Kong.”

What struck me as kind of funny is how different the tone is in Skull Island than it was in the 2014 Godzilla film. In the 2014 movie, the film really tried to treat Godzilla with nothing but reverence (sometimes to its detriment, as Godzilla only had a handful of minutes of screen time). It was a serious, dramatic film, and a mostly good one (albeit with some great flaws). But here, Kong is only treated with reverence in select moments. For the most part, Skull Island just wants us to have fun and to show how badass King Kong is. The plot has serious elements, but the tone of the movie is a lot more focused on action, comedy, and fun than Godzilla was.

Personally, I don’t mind that. So many blockbusters these days try to be so dark and edgy, that a genuine good time seems increasingly rare. Though I respect Godzilla’s efforts for trying to present things as serious as possible to respect its titular lizard, Kong: Skull Island serves as a nice counterbalance to it. This is a movie all about having a fun time, and it succeeds.

“Tom Hiddleston seems to be cosplaying as Nathan Drake for the majority of the film.”

Kong: Skull Island takes place shortly after the Vietnam War (making it a prequel to Godzilla). Bill Randa (John Goodman) is a leading member of the government organization Monarch, and is leading an exhibition to the mysterious Skull Island, under the pretense of mapping out the island. He recruits a tracker in James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), a photographer in Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and Lieutenant Colonal Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) along with his with entire squadron, who are to escort the mission.

Naturally, it’s anything but an easy ride, as Skull Island is surrounded by perpetual storms, and shortly after arriving, many of their helicopters are downed by the giant ape known as Kong. The surviving members of the group (namely the main characters) then meet up with Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a cooky and eccentric US soldier who’s been stranded on Skull Island since World War II.  The group then plans a way to escape from the island, all while surviving the many dangers it entails, the most prominent of which being vicious, reptilian monsters dubbed “Skullcrawlers.”

It’s silly and simple, yes. But it’s also a lot of fun. The special effects are great, the action scenes are exciting, and the film is a lot more generous with its giant monster fights than the 2014 Godzilla film. Not to mention John C. Reilly gets some terrific comedic moments and one-liners.

“Confirmed: John Goodman makes any movie better.”

Admittedly, the film has its flaws. Namely, the characters are all pretty stock, and pretty much fit into their generic adventure movie roles. It’s a shame, because the film features some great actors, but they only have so much to work with in regards to their characters. John Goodman especially seems underutilized, much like Bryan Cranston was in Godzilla (though admittedly Goodman has a better showing than that).

It’s as if both the 2014 Godzilla and this film showcase the good and bad of both of their approaches to the material. While Godzilla focused too much of its time on the humans at the expense of the giant monsters we all wanted to see, Kong: Skull Island spends so much time on its action that its characters are never allowed to become anything more than archetypes. Hopefully future films in this crossover franchise will learn to find a good balance between entertainment and depth.

Still, Kong: Skull Island is tremendous fun. It delivers solid blockbuster entertainment, and serves as a fitting introduction for King Kong’s placement in this new shared Monsterverse (King Kong is much larger than he’s ever been, with the film making a point to mention that he’s “still growing,” as to make him a worthy opponent to Godzilla). The wait for future giant monster showdowns is looking promising, and hopefully the inevitable encounter between King Kong and Godzilla will be one for the ages.

 

6

The Appearances of Animated Characters are NOT Offensive

*Warning! The following blog will “trigger” SJWs. But that’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.*

Tracer

 

Something that has recently become one of my great pet peeves is the idea of forced “social representation” and political correctness that is imposing its way into creative media. I know, I just made myself the enemy of the internet, since in this day and age everyone loves to brag up how “open-minded” they are, and yet have an entirely black and white view of people who agree and disagree with them (with the slightest disagreement resulting in utter vilification, of course). But here we are.

Anyway, the two main areas of this forced political correctness that really annoy me are the idea that any and all possible groups of people must be represented in any given work (because why care about the actual depth of a character when you can merely create a token?), and the idea that the physical appearances of animated characters are somehow “offensive” and “represent stereotypes” and “give people unrealistic body images” (it’s almost like they’re fictional characters or something).

I’ve already written a bit about the former in my blog explaining why Disney making Frozen’s Elsa a lesbian would be a poor decision from both a creative and social standpoint, so I’ll be focusing more on the second idea of appearances this time around. But before anyone gets the wrong idea (lord knows this politically correct age loves to twist people’s intentions just to give them something to hate), I have nothing against seeing diverse characters in fiction. In fact I welcome it. But the problem arrises when it becomes forced, and people start caring more about throwing in characters for the sole purpose of representing a particular demographic. I’m all for a character of any race, culture, sexual orientation, or whatever other category, provided they weren’t merely an afterthought that was tossed in for the sake of having a character of whatever category they fall under. It only turns movies, shows, games, or whatever else into simple political pandering, not to mention suppresses creativity for the sake of filling quotas. An actual character being created who happens to fall under a specific demographic is infinitely more meaningful than a character who’s just whipped up for the sole purpose of representing that demographic.

Now with that out of the way, let’s get to my main point. And that’s the appearances of animated characters. You’ll often hear people bemoan Disney princesses, for example, for being “too skinny” or that their appearances “reinforce stereotypes.” This is, of course, complete and utter BS.

Yes, Disney princesses are often slender, but why is that a problem, exactly? You’ll often hear people claim it gives girls “unrealistic body standards” and other such nonsense, as if these animated films are telling people to look like these characters, as opposed to the characters simply looking a certain way.

People seem to forget that caricature has always played a prevalent role in animation. If you want a character to appear goofy, you might give them an elongated torso and lanky limbs, so that their movements reflect the character’s goofy nature. Just the same, if a female character is supposed to be pretty and on the thin side, you exaggerate those features as you would any other. It no way, shape or form are they telling people to look a certain way.

"They're smart, independent, and teach valuable lessons to young girls. But oh no! They're pretty! Someone call the thought police!"
“They’re smart, independent, and teach valuable lessons to young girls. But oh no! They’re pretty! Someone call the thought police!”

Some people complain that Disney never has any variety in their characters’ appearances, which isn’t exactly an accurate claim, considering some of their characters, such as those in Lilo and Stitch, present less slender character designs. Of course, those characters also receive flack for being “offensive.” So artists like those at Disney are really just in a damned if they do, damned if they don’t situation when it comes to the politically correct.

I also have to wonder what is considered so offensive when female characters look feminine? Look, I get it, not every girl and woman is into traditionally feminine things, and that’s great. But why is it considered such a bad thing for female characters to be feminine? Femininity is, for obvious reasons, a predominantly female thing, so why is the idea of a female character exhibiting feminine qualities considered such a taboo in this day and age? Has our idea of gender roles really become so mind-numbingly simplistic that our idea of progress is simply “do the opposite because reasons?”

This of course doesn’t just apply to animated films and Disney princesses, but video game characters as well. A recent example would be, of all games, Overwatch. Despite the fact that Overwatch actually manages to achieve a genuine sense of diversity and representations in its cast of characters, the game received some pre-release flak due to the game’s mascot character – a spunky British girl named Tracer – having a victory pose that was deemed as being “too sexual.” The pose in question  (seen above) was simply Tracer facing her back to the screen, and since she’s wearing a skin-tight bodysuit, it emphasized her *gasp* butt.

One of my main beefs with this non-issue is how the pose really isn’t that sexual. Is it sexy? Sure. Sexual? Not really. I mean, human beings do indeed have butts. I would assume that a video game character would also have a butt. That is of course unless developers are expected to give all of their female characters an anatomy reminiscent of Rayman, as a means to not “trigger” anyone.

"Rayman has no butt. All is right in the world."
“Rayman has no butt. All is right in the world.”

What makes this whole thing worse is that Blizzard, the developers of Overwatch, actually caved in to the pressure and replaced that harmless pose with a less “triggering” one. Naturally, internet hipsters hailed this as a victory for feminism, when in reality it was nothing but a loss for free speech and artistic integrity.

Another example of a false “correctness” in video games occurred with Lara Croft’s redesign with the rebooted Tomb Raider series. Now, I fully understand that Lara Croft’s character design was becoming a little ridiculous, but when the developers stated they reduced Lara Croft’s breast size so that she “could be taken seriously,” I though that was a bit eyebrow-raising. So just because a woman has a larger chest, that means she can’t be taken seriously? I find that statement to be infinitely more sexist than any character design.

So long as the emphasis is placed on the character themselves, does it really matter what they look like? Aren’t these same critics always preaching that “it’s what’s inside that counts” (genuinely sound advice) and that “all body types are beautiful?” If that’s the case, why are they so offended by the appearances of fictional characters?

I can’t exactly say I’m one who rallies towards overly-sexualized characters (the primary reason it took me longer than most to get into Bayonetta was because of its emphasis on sexualization), but it is the creators’ rights to do whatever they want with their characters. If you don’t like something, you don’t like it. That shouldn’t mean that the artists and creators of the world should pander to your feelings and change their creations.

You’ll often hear people give the “argument” (I use that word very loosely here) of “it’s 2016,” as if the current year has anything to do with anything. You might as well counter argue with “the sky is blue” or some other blunt non sequitur.

Yeah, I understand that these people are supposedly arguing that times change, and modernization is in order. But it seems to me that telling people what they can and can not make is the exact opposite of modernization. Just because you don’t like something, doesn’t mean someone else can’t make it.

I know, saying all this would label me as a “misogynist pig” to the Social Justice Warriors of the internet (despite that I greatly value women and am all for female empowerment in media), but I believe the artistic integrity of creators is too valuable of a thing to just throw away just so some SWJs can get a false sense of self-righteousness.

"Jessica Rabbit is one of the most prominent animated characters with sex appeal. But she's also probably the most complex character in Who Framed Roger Rabbit."
“Jessica Rabbit is one of the most prominent animated characters with sex appeal. But she’s also probably the most complex character in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

The simple point is that creators should be allowed to make their characters look however they want. It’s their right as creators. They shouldn’t be shackled by political correctness. No one’s forcing them to like what creators make. Why should creators be forced to cater to people who whine?

Look, if a character is designed to be nothing but sex appeal, and has nothing else to them, you have every right to complain (but you also shouldn’t demand the creators change things just to appease you). But so long as the character has something to them, shouldn’t that be far more important than what the character looks like? It is possible for a character to be feminine and sexy and still be a deep character. This doesn’t even just apply to women either. But even though male characters receive similar caricaturization to female ones (would you argue that Disney princes aren’t also exaggeratedly attractive?), people are more conveniently hush hush on that subject.

No animator or game developer is telling anyone they need to look a certain way because of the way they make their characters look. That’s just how they make their characters look. So long as there is something to the character on the inside, why are people so focused on what they look like outside? Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge a animated character by her curves.

Ghostbusters (2016) Review

*Some minor, vague spoilers included*

Ghostbusters

The original 1984 Ghostbusters is an icon of 80s culture. With its smart sense of humor, innovative concept, and visual effects that, somehow, still hold up, it’s no wonder that Ghostbusters became the highest-grossing comedy of the 1980s. There was one sequel which lacked much of the humor found in the original, leaving many fans dissatisfied. Though a third film in the series was often planned, it was a project that was ultimately not to be, as it fell through one time after another after another after another.

Now we finally have a third Ghostbusters film, though not a third in the same series. Like many franchises that have laid dormant for an extended period of time, this 2016 film is a reboot, with an all-new cast of characters starting from scratch. This has, of course, lead to many fans of the original films feeling disheartened that they never got the third film they waited so long for. And sadly, this newer version doesn’t give a whole lot of reason to win fans over. Ultimately, the ghosts of its past are just too prominent, and the new material not strong enough to bust them.

The new film reimagines the Ghostbusters as a team of female paranormal patrol officers. The two at the center of the story are Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), while the two other members of the quartet are Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones).

Yates and Gilbert were once best friends and colleagues. Both of them believed in the supernatural and became scientists on the subject. Somewhere along the line, Gilbert left paranormal research behind her. Though that didn’t stop Yates from releasing the book they both wrote on the subject some time later. Gilbert is immediately discredited upon the book’s release, and confronts Yates about her actions. This leads Gilbert to becoming an inadvertent tagalong with Yates and her new colleague Holtzmann, as they investigate a supernatural happening. They successfully document the presence of an apparition, reaffirming Gilbert’s belief in the supernatural, which leads to her being fired as a university professor. So she decides to join Yates and Holtzmann on their new ghostbusting endeavors.

The group is later joined by Tolan, the everywoman of the team, and hire a handsome but impossibly buffoonish receptionist in Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth). The four women have fluctuating success at capturing ghosts as they develop new equipment for the job, but a much larger threat looms over the city of New York as a madman is developing a means to intensify paranormal activity across the city, in hopes of opening a portal and unleashing an army of ghosts on New York.

Ghostbusters

The plot is a bit basic, but it has some fun with its nature as a reboot and focuses a little more on the Ghostbusters getting to know their craft than the original film did. Perhaps the best addition to the reboot are McCarthy and Wiig, who have great chemistry together, and do what they can to bring out the best in what they have to work with.

On the downside of things, the writing is largely inconsistent. Though some jokes are mildly funny, many don’t hit the mark, leaving the film to feel more awkward than humorous. The film as a whole just has a mediocre feeling to it, and this is only magnified by the film’s rocky pacing.

Too many unimportant scenes feel dragged out, while a number of key plot and character moments go by all too quickly. The central relationship of the film is the friendship between Yates and Gilbert, and it’s good when it’s present, but it often feels like that central element is lost in favor of the aforementioned inconsistent jokes.

One aspect of the film that’s full of highs and lows are the callbacks to the original 1984 Ghostbusters film. There are some moments in the film that purposefully mimic the events of the first film, and that’s understandable for the most part, but the film’s third act maybe feels a little too familiar to anyone who’s seen the original film. So we have a reboot trying to reinvent its franchise that’s simultaneously afraid to reinvent.

These callbacks also take the form of cameos by most of the cast of the 1984 film, who play new roles in bit parts. While the cameos of Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts are small enough as to be fun and not distracting, Bill Murray’s small-but-relatively-larger role comes off as a disappointment. Murray’s character’s first scene works well enough, but the film later brings him back for a second go, almost hyping him to be an important character in the story, before unceremoniously writing him off. It may have actually been interesting to see Murray in an important role in this reboot that’s wildly different from his main character of the original, so the fact that nothing comes of it makes the character’s return appearance feel misleading and entirely pointless. It just deviates from the plot when his first appearance would have sufficed for a cameo.

Another disappointing aspect of the film are the visual effects. Much of the CG looks a little bit behind the times. The final, big bad ghost works well enough. But many of the standard ghosts the titular busters face don’t exactly look like what you would expect from a big budget movie like this in 2016. There is a brief visual created with traditional, hand drawn animation in one instance, which is probably the effect that stands out the most.

As a whole, the 2016 Ghostbuster reboot just fails to deliver. The writing and pacing aren’t never seem to click, the visual effects leave a lot to be desired, and the ghost of the original is constantly looming overhead, and not always for the better.

Who ya gonna call? Someone else.

3

Disliking the New Ghostbusters Movie is NOT Sexism…At All!

It has come to my attention that popular internet personality James Rolfe (known for his “Angry Video Game Nerd” series) recently released a video explaining why he has no desire to see the upcoming Ghostbusters film. This has lead to severe backlash towards Rolfe, who has been accused of sexism and misogyny, due to the new Ghostbusters’ all-female cast.

This is complete and utter crap. Especially considering many of Rolfe’s recent critics openly claim to not actually watching the video, and basing their claims on the title of the video alone, assuming the context within is about how the new Ghostbusters must be terrible because it stars women. Because surely there’s no other reason why someone might not be interested in the movie.

Again. Crap.

For those actually willing to give the few short minutes required to watch Mr. Rolfe’s video, here it is, and all of its not-sexism.

 

The only mention of the upcoming film’s female cast comes at around the 3:10 mark, in which Rolfe makes no negative claims about the female cast, but rather is making a remark of how people have been referring to it as “the female Ghostbusters” as a means to differentiate it from the 1984 original film, due to the 2016 film having an identical title. His complaint is not about the female cast itself. That should be obvious to anyone who actually takes the time to watch the video.

Notably, that whole spiel takes up a very short portion of the video. The majority of Rolfe’s complaints are about how he’s disheartened about the nature of the upcoming film being a reboot, with no direct connections to the iconic series’ existing installments. Rolfe simply argues that the film, in his opinion, should have been a continuation, with the remaining classic Ghostbusters passing the torch to the newcomers, similar to how The Force Awakens did when it established its new stars while continuing the legacies of their predecessors.

If anything, James Rolfe’s only “crime” in his critiques may be that he’s basing his feelings too strongly on nostalgia. His complaints are that the new film has little, if anything, to do with the original Ghostbusters films other than the identical title. It is still possible the film could have some merits of its own, so perhaps his stance of not seeing the film at all, as a means to remember Ghostbusters as it was, is a misguided nostalgia thing. But it most certainly isn’t a sexist thing.

Should we expect any critic who ends up giving the new Ghostbusters a bad review to be labelled as a sexist as well? Are we all just expected to blindly love the new Ghostbusters solely because it stars women? And anyone who doesn’t like it clearly feels that way because they’re some he-man women-hater?

This is all just a sad reminder of the overly politically correct culture we live in today. People simply want to make an issue out of everything these days. I’m not sure if it’s because it makes them feel important, or they simply want to find reasons to belittle others (probably both), but either way we are living in a time where our insistence on being politically correct is reaching dangerous levels. People seem unable to have opinions on anything these days, lest one tiny thing they say be purposefully contorted and misconstrued into something hateful and prejudice so mobs of social justice warriors can give them what for.

Political correctness is getting to the point where it’s actually affecting free speech. If someone can’t dislike a movie that happens to have a female cast without being dubbed a sexist, we have more than a little bit of a problem here.

I’ve seen some people say that Rolfe’s opinion on the movie is “part of a bigger issue dealing with prejudices against women.” Like Hell it is! The man just has an opinion on a movie, and nothing about said opinion even remotely suggests sexism of any degree. What if the new Ghostbusters ends up having terrible dialogue and writing (judging from the trailers, that may very well be the case)? What if it ends up being poorly edited, or more stupid than funny? Are we all just supposed to lavish it with praise anyway just because of the female cast? That’s not female empowerment, that’s just forcing people to think a specific way, or else they’ll face consequences. Last I checked, that’s the kind of mindset practiced by fascism and communism, and one of the big reasons why such things are (rightfully) frowned upon.

The more people continue to force “social issues” onto everything, the more they’re just devaluing the issues they claim to be standing up for. If someone doesn’t like the new Ghostbusters, it’s not part of some “bigger picture.” People are allowed to not like the new Ghostbusters, the female cast is entirely irrelevant.

Not liking a movie is not liking a movie. Trying to force that into something bigger doesn’t make people bigshots standing up for social justice, it just trivializes the social issues themselves. If you really want people to be treated equally, then people should be allowed to judge a movie with a female cast just as they would a movie with a male cast. They shouldn’t be forced to like it just because. That’s just another problem entirely.

Not liking the new Ghostbusters movie does not make you sexist. It just means you don’t like the new Ghostbusters movie. I’ll probably go see it myself to see if it’s any good, though I can’t exactly say I’m expecting much. It could end up being great for all I know. But if I end up hating it, would that make me a horrible, sexist, misogynist pig? No, it wouldn’t. It would just mean I don’t like the new Ghostbusters movie. And that’s okay.

Don’t Let Classics Become a Thing of the Past

Don’t be confused by the title of this post. I understand that the majority of works labelled as “classics” earn the title in retrospect and, as such, tend to be works from years gone by. The title and point of this post is more about my concerns of how many of todays works will be “allowed” to be considered classics in the future, due to the increasingly cynical nature today’s generation has towards the creative works of others, which seems dead-set on not wanting to enjoy anything.

Now, before I sound too defeatist, I would like to point out that there are a number of movies, video games, and other art works of today that will achieve classic status, as this cynical attitude isn’t an absolute. But I think the works that are to be judged by the Millennial generation will have an increasingly difficult time in attaining that “classic” status, even if they fully deserve it.

"People liked this movie. Time to make sure we do everything in our power to make people hate it."
“People liked this movie. Time to make sure we do everything in our power to make people hate it.”

For example, films like Inception, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Disney’s Frozen will no doubt go down in the history books. Yet we live in a time in which such things will almost certainly be written off as “overrated” and labelled with even worse monickers by a number of people, simply because their initial reception was highly positive. The internet generation seems to have a dismissive attitude towards positivity, and if anything is greeted warmly upon arrival, they’ll be sure to do their damnedest to shoot them down.

"Frozen isn't as good as the Disney movies I grew up with because I didn't grow up with it."
“Frozen isn’t as good as the Disney movies I grew up with because I didn’t grow up with it.”

Part of the problem of today stems from nostalgia (lord knows Millennials love their nostalgia). Now, nostalgia can be a beautiful thing, but not when it’s at the expense of giving anything new a chance. It’s quite disheartening how frequently I see people on the internet defend literally anything that came from their childhood, and deride anything new as being inferior simply, well, because. It’s a mindset that automatically prevents anything new from joining the ranks of our favorites of yesteryear.

Nostalgia is only the secondary problem in this equation, however, as I feel cynicism itself is public enemy number one in regards to artistic timelessness.

We now live in a generation where review aggregates are readily available for us to peruse on the internet, and in which people will readily deride anything that has a positive reception on the sole grounds that it has a positive reception. Now, I’m not saying people can’t disagree with the general consensus, I myself have my fair share of disagreements with popular opinion, but there’s a difference between differing opinions and simply belittling something because how dare people enjoy things. And it seems that, all too often these days, the latter is the case.

"Uh oh, The Force Awakens made too much money. Guess I need to hate it now."
“Uh oh, The Force Awakens made too much money. Guess I need to hate it now.”

It certainly doesn’t help that we live in a time that frowns upon success. So you can bet if a movie happens to make a lot of money through box office revenue and merchandise, or a video game sells millions of copies, there will be a vocal lot of people who will hate them on those grounds alone. Whether or not these people even watched these movies or played these games is irrelevant. Because how dare success! 

Yet another problem stems from the self-indulgence that has emerged in this age of Twitter and Facebook. Now, I’m not saying these social media sites are innately bad, but they haven’t exactly helped fix the lack of humility found in Millennial culture. People want to feel important, and this day and age, feeling important means belittling the works of people with talent.

"Both the people behind Honest Trailers, and its audience."
“Both the people behind Honest Trailers, and its audience.”

Look no further then the likes of Honest Trailers and CinemaSins (actually, don’t look there, they’re rather insipid). These types of internet videos are wildly popular largely because they eviscerate popular and beloved movies in a snarky, self-important attitude. I get that such videos are aiming for “humor,” but again, there’s a difference between simply making jokes about movies (or anything else creative) and arrogantly bullying a work with no constructive criticisms to speak of, which is the trap Honest Trailers, CinemaSins and their equally vapid contemporaries indulge in. And people today eat it up, because it feeds their cynicism and self-importance, and punishes the movies, filmmakers and the people who enjoy their creations simply for existing.

"Sire, the possibility of a millennial actually enjoying something are approximately 3,720 to 1!"
“Sir, the possibility of a millennial actually enjoying something is approximately 3,720 to 1!”

This relishing in pessimism is making it difficult for things to be fondly remembered in the way they were in the past. Can you imagine if the original 1977 Star Wars had to be subjugated to to the same kinds of audiences who simply don’t want to like things? Such works may not have the status they have today if that were the case, and I think fewer and fewer works of today will share that kind of status because of it.

Again, I’m not saying there can’t be the usual contrarian to bring up a differing perspective, but I again point out that today there’s more of an attitude that frowns upon the very idea of liking things. We’ve grown to hate honesty and only allow the sarcastic and the obnoxious to thrive. People just don’t want to like things these days.

"It's not Super Mario 64. 0/10."
“It’s not Super Mario 64. 0/10.”

As far as video games are concerned, you can look at classics from years past such as Chrono Trigger or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as examples of games that are held on a pedestal. But it would be much harder to find newer games that are held in a similar light, simply because we aren’t allowing them to be. Every time a new big game comes out, it will almost immediately be declared “overrated” or people might go on and on about how much it “sucks” simply because there’s one mechanic they don’t like (as if the camera in Ocarina of Time was perfect). Sequels to big games, even ones with obvious improvements, are declared inferior to their predecessors simply because they aren’t their predecessors. We don’t even give things a chance, simply because we don’t want to. I guess hating stuff is supposed to make us feel special or something.

"brb brah, I need to go write a negative review of the new Zelda before it's released."
“brb brah, I need to go write a negative review of the new Zelda before I’ve played it.”

There was a time, not all that long ago, where video games, much like movies, had some exceptional works where it was clear they were going to be revered as classics. These days, it’s not so obvious. It’s not that video games or movies have gotten any worse (I’d argue movies are doing much better now than they were in the 90s), it’s that we don’t want to like things. We wish to indulge in our cynicisms, and it’s making some truly great creative works suffer because of it.

"E3 is just around the corner! I can't wait to hate every game!"
“E3 is just around the corner! I can’t wait to hate every game!”

If people continue to go down this path of self-importance, where creativity is shot down at every opportunity just so we can give ourselves a pat on the back, I fear we may end up with less and less artists who actually care about their creations. I mean, it’s not like we’re giving them much incentive to create things, since whatever they make will be belittled in obnoxious internet videos and any shred of success they may find will be turned against them.

I can’t help but feel a heavy sadness sweep over me every time I think about it. If everyone keeps up this destructive cynicism towards creativity, we can sure as hell expect the future of movies, video games, and other art forms to be riddled in nothing but sarcasm and self-deprecation. People often claim to want “smarter” stories, and yet we’re the ones who are ultimately making stories dumber with our utter distaste for honesty and genuine storytelling.

I can only hope more and more people can start appreciating creativity again, and remember how enjoyable it can be when viewing creative works with a sense of optimism and being able to form actual opinions. If we continue down this destructive road, classics will indeed be a thing of the past.

Ratchet and Clank (Movie) Review

Ratchet and Clank

Video game to movie adaptations have a rocky track record, to put it lightly. Some of the earlier film adaptations of games – such as Super Mario Bros. or Street Fighter – at least had something of an excuse for their less-than stellar quality, seeing as the idea of bringing the worlds of video games to life on the big screen was new territory back then. And it’s not like most games at the time were built around compelling narratives that could translate easily into the world of cinema. But as the years went by and video game-based movies continued to be… not good, even as games became more movie-like themselves, the sub-genre of video game movies grew to become something of a joke. It’s as if some curse simply prevents video game movies from being good.

The curse is alive and well, evidently. Because, despite some charm and humor, the Ratchet and Clank animated film isn’t that good. And this is a series that’s been begging for an animated film since its inception.

That’s not to say that Ratchet and Clank is as bad as many other video game movies that came before it, but taking into account the colorful worlds, characters and humor of the series, the end result of the movie is a shallow letdown.

Ratchet and Clank tells the story of, well, Ratchet and Clank. The former is a cat-like alien called a Lombox, who works at a vehicle repair shop on a desert planet, while the latter is a small and charming robot who serves as the brains of the duo.

An evil organization known as the Drek Corporation has been destroying uninhabited planets, under the leadership of its chairman and CEO, Drek. Drek is working with a mad  scientist, Dr. Nefarious, and a musclebound robot named Victor. Together, they make up the film’s triumvirate of villains.

With the aforementioned planets getting destroyed, the galaxy is in a panic, worrying that an inhabited planet could be next. So the galaxy-protecting Galactic Rangers (lead by the hammy and dimwitted Captain Qwark) are looking for a new recruit to help them take on this new threat. Ratchet, being a big fan of the Rangers, seeks to be their new recruit, but is quickly rejected. This of course leads to the predictable “follow your dreams amid disappointment” bit that – while certainly a good message for young audiences – seems to be the go-to message in animated flicks when the filmmakers can’t think of anything else.

Ratchet and ClankEventually, Ratchet meets up with Clank, who has escaped Dr. Nefarious’ robot factory. The two become fast friends, and prove to be a good enough heroic duo that they end up getting recruited by the Galactic Rangers. That’s when the adventure to stop Drek gets going.

It’s not that the story is inherently bad, but it lacks any shred of surprise and innovation. The plot basically follows all the same, predictable beats you could imagine from both animated movies and the sci-fi genre. What’s worse is that the film basically only captures the most simplistic and on-the-surface qualities of its characters.

While Clank is charming with his intellectual quips, and Captain Qwark is humorously cheesy, Ratchet, the film’s main character, can basically be summed up as “the main character.” The rest of the Galactic Rangers are so forgettable you may forget that they’re there, and the villains, while not without their funny moments, basically just fill the roles of villains.

Worse still is that, despite this being the Ratchet and Clank movie, it feels more like the Ratchet and Captain Qwark movie, since Ratchet and Clank don’t share a whole lot of screen time together, which makes the titular relationship feel squandered. Meanwhile, Qwark seems to hog the screen at the expense of Clank.

The movie’s sense of humor also feels a bit dumbed-down, with perhaps too many jokes built around texting and Twitter. There are a few jokes that land (including a few references to other Playstation franchises like Jak & Daxter and Sly Cooper, as well as some fun subtitles that go with the traditional on-screen names of locations during scene transitions), but most of the humor feels like it’s trying to be hip with the Twitter generation.

In terms of animation, the film looks capable, though not exactly impressive. It’s pleasing enough to look at the cartoony character designs and colorful environments, but it also doesn’t exactly look up-to-date when compared to a lot of other animated features of today.

Ratchet and ClankThankfully, the film has some great voice work, with many of the voice actors from the games reprising their roles, as well as a few celebrities thrown into the mix. Paul Giamatti voices Chairman Drek, while Slyvester Stallone fits as the lumbering Victor. Best of all, John Goodman has a small part as Ratchet’s boss and mentor at the repair shop, and John Goodman vocals are only ever a good thing.

Ratchet and Clank is ultimately an uneven movie that’s hard to recommend. Young children will probably have fun with it, and perhaps some diehard fans might simply enjoy the titular duo finally making it into a movie (though one can also imagine fan disappointment as well). But for everyone else, the story is too predictable, the humor too inconsistent, the characters too shallow, and the overall execution too uneventful to be anything more than another disappointing video game movie.

4