Look, to rage against cinematic multiverses is to fistfight the ocean. The waves keep coming, you get tired, and eventually, a string ray stabs you in the junk. But while Hollywood seems to be hellbent on turning every pitch into a franchise idea, that doesn't mean every idea is a good idea. "Yes, we've been told," every screenwriter is yelling right now, but I'm not talking about ideas that get shot down by coke-addled studio execs who don't know Black people are people; I'm talking about screenwriting faux pas that are mildly irritating. 

This is about times when entire movies were devoted to setups. Times when payoffs and sequels were never delivered. Times when promised characters were left to languish forever in the audience's imaginations. *Broken Michael Caine voice* dark, dark times, very dark times indeed ...

Troy Casts A Star For Its Presumed Sequel, Never Makes Sequel

The Movie: 

If you stayed awake for even 10 minutes of high school literature classes, you know The Iliad is a Very Important old poem that has an Equally Important sequel, The Odyssey. 2004's Troy more or less depicts the events of The Iliad, and its last scene strongly hints that Odysseus is about to get his story told, too.

sean bean as Odysseus is Troy
Then they'd move on to more obscure characters, like Telegonus and Starlord.

The Fakeout: 

They cast Sean Bean as Odysseus, not necessarily an A-lister, but still a well-known star, and heavily feature him at the end of the movie. I remember leaving the theatre thinking, "Oh, hell yeah, dude from GoldenEye is gonna be Odysseus," because I have comic book fandom for ancient epics, apparently. Then Troy was met with a cultural "meh" and they just ... didn't try again. It's an understandable decision by the studio, but goddamnit, why can't I have Sean Bean as Odysseus? Imagine Sean Bean sailing around the bluest waters in the world, fighting monsters, sexing up goddesses, taking a trip to Hell -- no one wanted that movie? Really? That super bums me out

Odysseus, seated between Eurylochos and Perimedes, consulting the shade of Tiresias
Odysseus doesn't even die, but they'd still have a way to send Sean Bean into the afterlife. 

The story is so expansive and full of interesting characters it probably could've been Game of Thrones before Game of Thrones. The first four books don't even involve Odysseus, but instead his angry son and grieving wife, who presume him to be dead and spend their days fighting off thirsty d-bags trying to marry into royalty. There are magical singing ladies, multiple goddesses kidnapping Ody for boning purposes, giant monsters, and it ends with a massive climactic battle interrupted by a goddess. And it takes place in Greece, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Google image search Greece real quick. Sweet, Jumping Jesus! Zapping Zeus; it's gorgeous!

Kong Vs. Godzilla Should Be A Good Enough Premise

The Movie: 

King Kong and Godzilla fight each other, but also there's MechaGodzilla, a robot monster developed by an evil group of eco-terrorists after they purchased the skull of a dead monster from the previous film who *spoilers* was revealed to be an alien. So Kong and Godzilla have to team up to defeat the robot monster with an alien brain.

MechaGodzilla from Godzilla vs. Kong
It's like Pacific Rim, but we root against the robot, because aliens. 

The Fakeout: 

There's a whole movie to be made about Kong and Godzilla fighting. They are enough on their own. And there has been a ton of world-building already going on in Universal's Monsterverse. There are numerous climate change allegories, which makes sense given how the original Godzilla films were nuclear alarmist allegories. There's the "monster as ancient protector" aspect of Kong: Skull Island. And there are big hints in Godzilla: King of the Monsters about the two's ancient rivalry. What I'm complaining about is redundancy. To call the movie Godzilla Vs. Kong and then introduce MechaGodzilla midway through — it just seems like Godzilla and Kong were enough, you know? 

Almost all of the human characters — whose names are forgettable and I refuse to look up — have real, significant arcs set up in the previous movies. Yeah, I know that's a paradoxical sentence. As the humans' stories collide in Godzilla Vs. Kong, with all their competing monster allegiances, they end up feeling half-assed as characters. Cut out MechaGodzilla, and you suddenly have more space for all the 1) humanity and 2) mythology you've been trying to establish. Character arcs can start to matter. The weird Hollow Earth world can get more firmly fleshed out

kong in hollow earth in godzilla v kong
Kong: Hollow Earth would make $300 mil by itself. 

Isn't that better than building a huge movie with so many characters that Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights got sidelined at the expense of the kid from Deadpool 2 while Eleven from Stranger Things tracked down a QAnon-type podcaster to infiltrate a massive corporation? Is my brain broken, or should we not have to think about these things while watching the Giant Ape and the Giant Dinosaur punch each other? I don't know, I'm a relative newcomer to kaiju movies (bingeing all the 21st-century ones in the week leading up to the release of Godzilla Vs. Kong), but I was getting pretty stoked about the world they were building. And now it kinda feels like there's nowhere for it to go. I'd rather have had one Godzilla Vs. Kong, and then one "Holy shit, here comes MechaGodzilla .. oh, no" movie.

Batman v Superman Introduces Wonder Woman And Doomsday Instead Of Just Being Batman v Superman

The Movie: 

Batman and Superman are mad at each other, which escalates to fighting. That should be enough for a movie. Give me 90-120 minutes of that. Instead, Wonder Woman shows up, Lex "Jessie Eisenberg understandably refuses to cut his hair" Luthor shows up, and eventually they have to kill Doomsday. 

doomsday from batman v superman
The ultimate ideological battle: heroes versus cave troll. 

The Fakeout: 

Why is this movie three hours with a billion characters? It is the second movie of the DCEU, the first to introduce Batman, and Batman and Superman are two of the most popular (and highest-grossing) characters of all time. A movie about their interpersonal conflict and differing concepts of justice is a 1) catnip to comics fans and 2) a guaranteed start to a franchise. Why tack on a massive supervillain in the third (fifth? sixth? seventh?) act and distract from the main conflict? Also, doesn't Wonder Woman merit a bit more of an introduction than "mysterious friend of Bruce Wayne whom he later denies knowing?

Part of the reason the MCU has been so much more successful and beloved than the DCEU is that they've given their characters space to grow. We got two Iron Mans (Irons Man?), a Hulk, and a Captain America film before The Avengers. By the time the big team-up rolled around, it was pretty easy to know where every character was coming from. Sure, Iron Man 2 introduced Black Widow, and that was probably the first time a lot of audience members ever knew who she was. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, is a flagship character for DC. Shoehorning her into BvS: DoJ bloats the movie

wonder woman in the 2017 film
And she gets her own movie pre-Justice League! She needs no introduction here!

As far as Doomsday is concerned, sure, it's not the worst decision to have Batman and Superman settle their differences and battle a common enemy, but why isn't that enemy just Lex Luthor? I'm definitely picking nits here, but my pitch would've been for the two underwear-on-the-outside guys to fight, realize they're on the same side, and then have the menacing specter of Luthor developing Doomsday as a setup for the next movie. You tell your Batman/Superman story, then get everyone anticipating the Justice League fighting a big ol' alien monster. 

The Rise Of Skywalker Is Just The Silliest Title Ever, You Guys

The Movie: 

We find out that Emperor Palpatine, with his more wrinkled-than-a-prune-in-desert dick and balls, has sex. Sex with consequences. Consequences that come from his wrinkly old balls. Consequences that result in our hero, Rey (last name heretofore unknown), having to seriously confront the fact that Emperor Palpatine has sex. Like with his dick. Into a vagina. I can't emphasize enough that Emperor Palpatine has sex. Christ, what a horrifying end to the Skywalker saga. I'm gonna go take a shower, then I'll finish the article. Oh God, why'd I type "finish?"

Palpatine from star wars rise of skywalker
"Actually, I conceived using the Force. And then had sex anyway, just for fun!"

The Fakeout: 

Palpatine, despite all his sex-having, is not a Skywalker. His apprentice, Kylo Ren, aka Ben Solo, is sort of a Skywalker, being the grandson of Anakin Skywalker. Rey, the un-last-named hero of the new series, is nobody. In The Force Awakens, we're told her ancestry is a story for another time. In The Last Jedi, we're told her parents were drunkards who sold her into slavery for booze. This opens the door for a Star Wars movie to disengage itself from Hasberg family-style connections. Finally, a hero who is not a Skywalker. Someone to lead us in a bold new direction. Someone who lets us know that not everything that happens in this vast galaxy is the fault of like 1-2 families. We were free of the Skywalkers, especially since Luke almost certainly died a virgin. 

luke skywalker milking animal in the last jedi
Second base doesn't count.

Instead, Rise of Skywalker does three significant acts of shitty world connecting: 1) connects Rey directly to Palpatine, 2) has Rey make out with Kylo, Anakin Skywalker's grandson via Leia who almost got killed by Luke Skywalker and then was mentored by Palpatine, and 3) has Rey travel to Tattooine, a planet she's never been to, and bury Luke and Leia's lightsabers next to the ruins of the Skywalker's massacred aunt and uncle's homestead and then just ... assume the name of Skywalker because someone asked. That's not a rise; that's Space Dick Whitman crossed with an amount of weird sex that would make George R.R. Martin throw his hands up and say "too far, too far." 

It's the galaxy-wide nature of the saga that makes this movie so frustrating. Rey's story was so much more interesting, so much more inspiring if she had simply stayed anonymous. If she was some random dumpster diver who was given the opportunity to lead an anti-fascist movement and rose to the occasion. Plus, that weird connection being built between Rey and Kylo, which seemed to be gesturing toward a middle ground between the Light and Dark Sides of The Force and redemption for Kylo? Hand-waved away, as Rey and Kylo, in the most childishly explicit terms, reject Palpatine and embrace the Skywalker family. Ugh. I need to take another shower. 

Captain America: Civil War Is Ultimately An Excuse To Introduce New Characters

The Movie: 

The Avengers are fighting! Everyone! Come look! The Avengers are fighting! Like against each other (except for Thor and Hulk)! But there's Spider-Man and Black Panther and Ant-Man!

Fight scene in Captain America: Civil War
Ultimately, Hawkeye's side wins, as always. 

The Fakeout: 

By titling Captain America: Civil War with the "Captain America" prefix, you're explicitly making it the culmination of the Captain America trilogy. And sure, "why don't the Avengers ever call the other Avengers in their solo movies" is an interesting question, but turns out, in practice, it means we kinda forget it's a Captain America movie. You know what? I'm not even going to hedge that much: it's not a Captain America movie.

Yes, it re-ups the story from Winter Soldier, and Cap and Bucky are best friends. That's important. Yes, it digs way into Cap and Tony's very layered pasts (we find out how much Tony has grown up resenting Cap, for instance). But consider it in contrast to Winter Soldier. That movie is widely regarded as Marvel's most successful effort to insert superheroes into pre-existing genres ('70s spy thriller in this case). Instead of doing that again -- say, Cap and his new friend Falcon do buddy cop stuff while fighting Crossbones -- Marvel just stuck Cap's name on a movie that really feels like an Avengers movie

Fight scene in Captain America: Civil War
It was actually released in Wakanda as Avengers 3: The Rise of T'Chaka

The inciting incident is King T'Chaka -- a character we hadn't seen before -- being blown up. We then spend a ton of time on Prince T'Challa's development. Tony takes a lengthy detour to recruit Spider-Man and hit on Hot New Aunt May. Wanda and Vision start developing their romance and laying the groundwork for WandaVision. It's so much more an Avengers movie than a Captain America movie, and given how much fun The Falcon and The Winter Solider is, it feels like there was a missed opportunity for a third Captain America movie that didn't get made. It's not like the world needs more Marvel movies, but the biggest things I remember from Civil War is how stoked I was about Black Panther and how promising the new Spider-Man looked. All I learned about Cap is that he's libertarian.

Spider-Man 2 Casts An Excellent Curt Connors, Never Delivers

The Movie: 

In the second installment of Sam Raimi's Bruce Campbell Presents: Spider-Man, Peter Parker battles Doctor Octopus while James Franco hints he might be villainous. Dr. Curt Connors appears briefly as Peter's concerned college professor.

curt connors in spider-man 2
"Ock is a scientist, but they also gave us this science professor. He must matter!"

The Fakeout: 

It's unfortunate, but narrative structure means a second movie kinda demands a third. And we got a third! Except it didn't include the heavily hinted-at villain in the second movie, Dr. Connors, aka Lizard. Which is weird because Dr. Connors, missing arm and all, is totally ready to become a replacement father figure after Uncle Ben's death. Raimi apparently wanted to have Lizard in Spider-Man 4, but conflicts with the studio led to Raimi leaving the franchise, Spider-Man being rebooted, and Dylan Baker getting an excuse to avoid Comic-Con for the rest of his life.

Instead, Spider-Man 3 featured an underdeveloped Venom, an underrated Sandman, and a half-assed New Goblin. It's become a little tired to hate on Spider-Man 3, and the movie has at least gotten to the point where we can get some good GIFs out of it. But I'd rather live in a universe where we got a decent Lizard movie, plus like 2-3 Tobey Maguire vs. Topher Grace Venom movies

Symbiote in vial in Spider-man 3
Or Curt Connors Venom movies. I'm flexible.

Chris Corlew is probably ordering chicken wings and watching a Marvel or Star Wars movie right now. You can find more half-baked ramblings from him on Twitter, listen to him play guitar here, or even worse, listen to him talk about poetry here. He wants to remind you again that Emperor Palpatine has sex.

Top Image: Lucasfilm

 

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