If John Wick hadn't properly explained why its main character shot 100 people in the head, Keanu Reeves would've come across like a sociopath. But we have an explanation: Bad guys killed a puppy. So we're completely on board with murdering a small city in response. But this works the other way. Some movies seem solid at a glance, yet spend so much time belaboring their point that they accidentally ruin whatever they were trying to say. For example ...
After destroying the planet for the 40th time since 2008, Marvel screenwriters realized that they needed to address the whole "Hulk's primary form of movement results in massive collateral damage, even if he's only going to Whole Foods" thing. So in Captain America: Civil War, the U.N. tells the Avengers that they can no longer be an independent entity. Thaddeus Ross explains that while the Avengers have done a good job protecting humanity, they're also dangerous. He asks, "What would you call a group of U.S.-based enhanced individuals who routinely ignore sovereign borders and inflict their will wherever they choose, and who frankly seem unconcerned with what they leave behind?" And while the obvious answer to studio executives is "billions of dollars in revenue," the Avengers are ultimately forced to grapple with the implications of their actions.
Tony Stark agrees to subject the Avengers to international oversight, but Captain America believes this could hinder their ability to act swiftly and effectively in response to threats. It's a serious and thought-provoking debate ...
... which the movie immediately chucks out the window so all the life-sized action figures can go beat the shit out of each other at an airport.
When Iron Man and Captain America let their fists do the talking, they're really just mad at each other over the fate of Cap's friend Bucky and the role he played in killing Stark's parents. Neither are truly worried about the effects of superheroes on the modern world. Then, after they're done pounding each other into PG-13 pulp, they go their separate ways. Stark is a company man, Cap is a sexy outlaw, and they're both apparently right in their own way.
Except the movie never answers Ross' question, though the heroes sure destroy a bunch of public property while pretending to debate it. Superheroes probably shouldn't be allowed to act with impunity, because all of their self-created problems are racking up civilian deaths and destruction around the globe. But that serious answer doesn't allow for more movies to be made, so Civil War pretends that both options are viable. Some superheroes will be regulated, while others will be free to do whatever they want, and we'll all cross our fingers that they won't accidentally blow up the planet. Great talk, team!
There have been roughly two Godzilla movies made for each of us alive today, but the 2014 American iteration sets out to decipher the portly lizard's intentions for the world. Sure, he may be a massive reptile who can breathe fire and accidentally topples skyscrapers whenever he so much as sneezes, but maybe he's also a sweetheart!
After about a week of watching monsters destroy cities from Honolulu to Las Vegas, Dr. Ichiro Serizawa looks at all the burning rubble and thinks, "Hey, this Godzilla fella seems like a good dude who's trying to help us out." Serizawa figures that the best course of action is to let Godzilla reach San Francisco so he can engage in fisticuffs with the two big-ass nuclear leviathans already nesting there. When Admiral Stenz wonders if it might be better to not let prehistoric monsters tear apart an entire city that already has an exceptionally high cost of living, Serizawa responds, "The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in our control, and not the other way around. Let them fight."
"I've got 3-1 odds on the lizard!"
Still skeptical about allowing three enormous beasts to destroy a city in the hopes that the winner is pro-America, Stentz suggests using nuclear force. Serizawa counters by pulling out a watch that his father was wearing during the Hiroshima bombing. It no longer works, because, you know, nukes. Now, that's all poignant stuff, but the idea that Godzilla should be allowed to destroy San Francisco since he "looks like a good dude" is a pretty big gamble. Even if Godzilla is trying to help out, he does so in the most destructive way possible. Here's Honolulu after Godzilla finishes "saving" it:
Warner Bros. Studios
Maybe nukes aren't the solution, but it's flat out irresponsible to take a wait-and-see approach with rampaging city-leveling beasts, all so the movie can conclude, "Hiroshima was bad, therefore skyscraper-sized lizards might be okay."
The Adjustment Bureau is a two-hour exploration of determinism, free will, and fedoras. The antagonists secretly control all of human history, and humanity has no true free will, because everything is planned by the mysterious Chairman. This doesn't sit well with Congressman David Norris, who discovers their secret plans and decides to defy the blueprint for his life. He doesn't have any profound moral or theological reasons for this; he just wants hook up with a random woman he made out with in a bathroom once. Finally, a character we can all relate to.
Norris manages to stay one step ahead of the Chairman's way-too-invested-in-our-sex-lives agents for a while, but they eventually catch him. He then dramatically asks, "Whatever happened to free will?"
The response: "We actually tried free will before."
Twice, in fact. The first attempt resulted in the Dark Ages, so the Chairman resumed control and gave humanity the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Scientific Revolution. Believing humans had learned their lesson, the Chairman took his hand off the wheel again. And what did we do? Steered right into two world wars and genocide. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the free will experiment was shut down, and making out with Emily Blunt was decreed to be against God's will.
But stop and think about every horrible event in human history that didn't occur during the first half of the 20th century or the Actually Not All That Dark Ages. The Chairman was in charge during colonialism, slavery, the Civil War, Vietnam, 9/11, and countless other atrocities. Humans weren't doing so hot with free will, but this God stand-in was OK with Jim Crow, for reasons that are never explained. How could, say, the Cambodian Killing Fields or the Bosnian genocide possibly fit into the plans of a secret society that is supposedly trying to lead humanity to enlightenment? This is one of the few stories that would have made more sense if the villains were being evil for the sake of it.
The hardest part of writing a heist film isn't constructing a cool plan; it's somehow making a group of burglars look like the good guys. Criminals who exclusively steal from cancer patients might not come across as sympathetic, so screenwriters go to often-insane lengths to find someone it's justifiable to rip off.
In Ocean's Eleven, the true motivation behind the gang's casino heist is getting Danny's ex back into his sensuous arms. Technically she left him because he went to jail for committing other heists, but true loves means never having to explain your criminal record. And besides, her new beau, Terry Benedict -- the guy they're robbing -- clearly cares more about money than his girlfriend, like a total jerkhole.
To prove this, Danny makes Benedict agree to dump her in exchange for information on what happened to the $160 million which was recently stolen from him. Money that he presumably needs to, among other things, pay his many employees. Unbeknownst to Benedict, his girlfriend is watching all this on camera, and immediately decides that Benedict is a jerk. See, wanting a shit-ton of money back means that he deserved to be robbed of it all in the first place.
"Eh, I get it." -- 99 percent of people
The heist elements of Inception also needed a sound reason for the ensuing dream-rape. How does Christopher Nolan justify what appears to be an unspeakably immoral act -- one that, before the events of the film, led to our hero's wife killing herself? By claiming that our heroes are using it to break up an energy conglomerate monopoly. Because if this guy doesn't decide to divide his company, they'll become a "new superpower," and what is consent in the face of the free market?
Maybe these movies should admit that while stealing is wrong, it's super fun to watch. We don't need more justification than that. If Inception really wanted to be morally pure, it would have been about Ken Watanabe rigorously applying antitrust laws.
Everyone jokes about how Pokemon is fanciful cockfighting. The franchise handwaves this away by claiming that all the creatures involved love it, but sometimes it gets incredibly hypocritical with that message. In Pokemon: The First Movie, the villainous Pokemon Mewtwo takes center stage. Since he was created by unusually cruel science experiments, Mewtwo hates mankind and wants to eradicate them.
When the heroes confront Mewtwo, he makes a clone of every Pokemon they have with them, which leads to a huge "Pokemon versus their own clones" battle, exactly like we all storyboarded in elementary school. But the battle is portrayed as sad and pointless. The wounded creatures fight to the brink of exhaustion, and for what?
For a sweet '90s rock love ballad, of course.
Meowth, the only other Pokemon who can talk, delivers an inspirational speech on tolerance, while the main character, Ash, gets himself petrified after trying to intervene in the fight. He can only be revived when all the Pokemon stop fighting and cry magical tears, thus uniting everyone under the banner of peace. The message to all children in the audience is clear: Fighting is bad, and our beloved pets certainly shouldn't be forced to do it.
Kidding! The movie ends with Mewtwo cancelling his doomsday plans and then erasing everyone's memories, in turn eradicating the message of pacifism from their minds. Everyone goes back to guilt-free Pokemon battles, and the moral is "Brutally punishing combat is still awesome in certain contexts." Although to be fair, Pokemon stole that whole strategy from the NFL.
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