5 Movies That Could Be Solved If Everyone Just Chilled For A Bit
Movies are all about tension, and set pieces, and cramming a whole lot of exploding gas tanks into just a couple precious hours. Sure, sometimes you get a movie about two people talking over dinner, or some dude just hanging out over a weekend, then crying, then walking down a road. But mostly, Hollywood is terrified of letting things settle down for even a second, lest you immediately get bored and switch over to 30-second puppy dance videos.
That means characters are always going to be scrambling and rushing to do stuff that, when you think about it, they could totally have stretched out over days, or weeks, or years. Leaving us wondering ...
What The Heck Is Everyone Doing During The Endgame Fight?
The fun thing about time travel is you can wait as long as you want before going on your trip. You'll arrive at a fixed time regardless. This makes a lot of the supposed urgency in time travel movies really suspect. Like in Avengers: Endgame, when they kind of rush the planning of their big heist. Why not wait a little longer till, I dunno, their omnipotent pal Captain Marvel is free to join them? If nothing else, she could probably hold all the stones and snap even better than Hulk could.
What's the hurry? They wouldn't even have to wait that long—it turns out Captain Marvel is able to come to Earth later that same afternoon. Consider how, with Carol helping them out, their quest to infiltrate Stark Tower in 2012 would ... uh ... okay, she wouldn't have really fit into that stealth mission. But if she accompanied them to Asgard, she would have ... hmmm ... no, that bit went off without a hitch, no assistance required. But how about the soul stone, maybe with her there, they could have ... no, she couldn't have sacrificed there, because she loves no one and nothing.
What do you know, this movie constructed a second act tailoring every scene to individual characters, and where raw power meant nothing. However, then comes act three, where raw power means everything, and that's what I really want to talk about.
During the big battle, a bunch of characters skip fighting so they can do their own little side mission to take the infinity stones to the time machine. That's because, even though Steve suggests they take the stones as far away as possible, Hulk says, "We need to get them back where they came from." And he's right, they must take those stones back to their own timelines. But they don't have to take them back right now.
They could wait a couple days and take them back then. We know that because that's exactly what Steve ends up doing, and it turns out great. The only possible reason to rush and take the stones back now is to avoid Thanos getting them in the meantime, but taking them toward the time machine, right next to Thanos, is the worst way to keep them from him. Instead, go jet the stones to Afghanistan, or summon the bifrost with Stormbreaker and take them to another realm.
So, that’s a big mistake on the characters' part. But you know what? It makes sense to the confused characters at the time, and we end up seeing the consequences—Thanos does get the stones and so almost destroys the universe—which means that's not the screenwriters' mistake. Really, there's no reason to criticize this.
Except, when we look closer, their actions actually make even LESS sense. Black Panther, Spider-Man, and Captain Marvel each try to take the stones to the machine. But none of them were around during the time heist pajama party. None have the faintest clue where the stones must go. Though it's gonna be pretty crazy once Steve eventually takes these stones back, having to visit like four different planets, he can do that because he knows what he has to do. What would Peter Parker do if he reaches the time machine? What does he think he's going to do? He doesn't even have one of those wrist thingies that lets him choose a destination.
Actually, what would any character do if they reach the time machine? Every trip through time needs one of those red vials of Pym particles. Hank Pym will cook some more up if you give him a few days, but for now, nobody's got the four or so more vials they need. This isn't some obscure piece of nerd knowledge I'm pulling out for you—this is a major plot point in the movie, it was why they had to take that giant detour to 1970 an hour ago.
Are they just gonna chuck the stones into the time tunnel then and stay outside? They'd probably lose them forever that way, and the only guy who can retrieve them will be the one who's suddenly mastered time travel, Thanos.
So, just now, I said this was a decision that made sense to the characters but backfired. Actually, it was a decision that made no sense in the characters' heads but still actually worked. I guess it's like Doctor Strange said: There's only one future where we win. It's one where we all do something stupid, and then everything just somehow turns out fine.
And speaking of Strange saying dumb stuff ...
Is There No Other Way For Wanda To Get Kids?
In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Wanda really wants some kids. So she decides to kill herself in an alternate universe, kill a girl to get the power to go to that universe, and kill a whole bunch of people in both universes so that she can kill that girl. Wow. That's a lot of murder to get kids. Instead of that, has Wanda ever considered just ... getting pregnant? It takes a bit longer than multiverse kidnapping and mass murder, but some people consider it a rewarding experience.
I mentioned this briefly in another article, and it might have sounded callous. Maybe you thought, "If I lost my kids, I'd want THEM back; having new kids as replacements wouldn't fix this"—even if, in real life, replacements would be the only solution. Okay, I get that. But Wanda is seeking replacements. A copy from another universe isn't the same person. It has a different soul, different memories. Even a different personality (the freakishly angelic kids in the alternate universe are a touch different from the mischievous young superheroes we saw in WandaVision).
And Wanda is trying to replace something she never had in the first place. Because she actually never had kids, right? She had a boyfriend, and he was murdered (I guess we're over that plot, which is why she isn't trying to find HIM in the multiverse), but she just imagined kids into life, as part of an unstable fantasy, for just two days.
Granted, Doctor Strange argues poorly for why her sons weren't real. "You created them using magic," he says, but then she and he both returned from the void through magic, and Vision came from a magic stone, and yet they were all still real. Still, it sure seems like chaos magic children aren't real. If they were, Wanda could get the replacements she wants using that same magic, since she no longer cares about morality or risks.
So these other boys she wants to grab now, they're not her kids, and they're not even alternate universe versions of children she really had. They're just kids she's been dreaming about, and she must have used those dreams as inspiration when she imagined up those Westview sons, since they look identical. Well, a lot of us dream of kids, but if we want to make those dreams reality, we have the option of getting ourselves some kids using fun non-murderous means.
She's not even 30 yet—she has plenty of time to start a family if she wants. Or maybe she doesn't want to get pregnant, she just wants children? No problem, she can adopt. Some people don't want to adopt, because they want their child to come from them, and they want to raise it from birth, but it seems Wanda cares about neither of those things. Plus, the world is having a bit of a refugee crisis post-blip, so plenty of desnapped kids need parents right now.
So, that's an option. But it looks like she'd rather get pregnant, considering how in her Westview fantasy, she did imagine herself pregnant ... and then imagined herself having babies, and then toddlers, before the kids suddenly aged up. So why, in real life, does she want to deny herself those stages of parenthood? Any kids she has now, their father wouldn't be Vision, true, but those alternate universe kids aren't Vision's either—that's a universe where Vision never existed.
I've been assuming she can get pregnant, meaning physically. If not, that doesn't change much (again, adoption is a thing), but it's funny how the movie leaves us with the impression that this is the story of a woman who can never have kids, and yet it never actually makes that case. They could have made that case, if any character had a longer conversation with Wanda. She could have said the Tyke Variance Authority banned her from adopting because of her crimes. And they could have written in a whole plot about her alternate self only having kids because she has no powers, about how the very experiments that made Wanda a superbeing also left her infertile ...
Oh, wait. That was the plot they gave Black Widow in Age of Ultron, and everyone hated it. Uh, never mind then, bad idea.
The Old Beach Makes For A Lousy Lab
In the movie Old, there's this beach, which makes you old. One hour on the beach ages you around two years. And ... you know what? I'm not even going to try picking that apart. It's a magic beach. Wondering how much food these swiftly aging kids have to eat to get taller? Don't worry about it, it's a magic beach. Getting out your graph paper to try to figure out beard growth or periods? Never mind that, it's a magic beach. Attacking the mechanics of what's going on means you're clearly missing the point of this story.
I'm actually disappointed critics rejected this film. Yes, the dialogue may not sound "human," and very little of what happens makes "literal sense," but sometimes, that doesn't matter, and no, I'm not being sarcastic. If critics saw this exact same film except done by unknown actors speaking Japanese or Farsi, I bet they'd have praised it as genius.
Right until the end of the movie, that is. Because at the end, M. Night Shyamalan adds in a twist, one that's absent from the source material. It grounds what's happening in science and tortuously explains the plot, so guess what, nitpicking's back on the menu after all.
It turns out a pharmaceutical company is the one sending people to the beach, as unwitting test subjects. Each beachgoer is sick. Someone watches them from across the water, using a zoom lens, to see how long they manage to keep frolicking with experimental drugs keeping them alive.
I get it, if you receive a lifetime of test data in just one day, you think that's totally worth killing a few families by aging them superfast. But this setup doesn't really give the doctors any data at all when we think about it, to the point that sitting back and letting a trial drag out for years actually seems like the more productive route.
During the reveal, the doctor describes their one success story from this batch of test subjects: "She didn't have a seizure for 8 hours 17 minutes. Sixteen and a half years. We cured her of her epilepsy." Wow, that sounds great. But then, a bunch of these test subjects also didn't sleep for 8 hours 17 minutes. Does that mean these docs also cured sleepiness? Or does it just mean that, sometimes, brain stuff works differently because it's a magic beach?
And that's actually the best example they have for us. Check out the other diseases they're studying using the speedy powers of quick sand. They're checking one guy for schizophrenia. Symptoms of that include delusions, auditory hallucinations, disrupted speech, and flattened emotions. To detect those, you have to talk to the patient, you can't just stare at them from hundreds of yards away. Are you waiting for him to go nuts and stab everyone? A schizophrenic is probably never going to do that, and even if they do, they could go through years of severe symptoms first, so the number of stab-free hours won't tell you anything.
They're also testing a woman with a disease that leaches calcium from her bones. How are you going to measure bone density through binoculars? Are you just hoping she'll trip and break all her arms and legs? Here too, someone could suffer for years without the big dramatic event happening, and when this woman actually does go all bendy limbed, guess what, she's deep in a cave, and the spy can't even see her.
One patient has hemophilia. That's the disease where blood doesn't clot well, so every cut's dangerous. I guess you're just waiting for this guy to nick himself against a rock and bleed out? Well, bad news, he's on a magic beach where skin heals instantly, so blood doesn't even need to clot.
He does die, but only because someone stabs him so hard that he'd die no matter what kind of clotting or skin healing he has. The stabber is the schizophrenic, who goes nuts and stabs people after all ... but if you docs were anticipating him doing that, maybe you should have kept him away from the other test subjects, because he just cut a whole lot of trials short.
The Tomorrow War Engineered The Least Urgent Threat Ever
Chris Pratt (and millions of other people, but mostly Chris Pratt) is recruited to travel into the future, when mankind is losing a war against aliens. Then he returns to the present and tracks down a frozen ship that contains these aliens, who will wake in 30 years and ravage the planet. If the aliens die now, that averts the Tomorrow War and saves the future. So, Chris and a few close pals head into the ship. They succeed at killing the aliens, but they very nearly mess up and set the aliens free early, which would kill billions.
The smarter choice, of course, would be to have the military destroy the spaceship—destroy it remotely, definitively, and without risk. Many films ignore military solutions, but this one can't because the plot's been all about the military up to this point. So the script addresses this: The military doesn't believe Chris when he says he knows the aliens' origin. Later, once his friends actually see this ship, they discuss the possibility of calling in the big guns again, and this is how the conversation goes:
Chris: "Okay, well … at least we have proof. We go in there, there’s a chance we don’t come out. We can leave right now. Go back with photographs, show everybody the world has a common enemy to fight."
J.K. Simmons: "Absolutely. Go tell the UN, and they can talk about it till we're all dead."
Sam Richardson: "Yeah. I mean, I hate to agree with Conspiracy Santa, but, you know, we get the world governments involved, it could turn into a nightmare."
Chris: "Yeah. I don't have that kind of time. Neither does Muri."
This is an all-time great example of a story trying to tackle a plot hole and just digging itself deeper. If they left it vague, maybe we'd forget the governments of the world could solve this, maybe we'd conclude the governments would refuse, maybe we'd think these guys are going at it themselves because they're arrogant or bloodthirsty or just the best ones for the job. Instead, they say the governments would get around to handling it after some debate, but the characters "don't have that kind of time"?
Yes, they do have that kind of time. They have 30 years before these aliens wake. The governments won't take nearly that long—earlier in the movie, they united in much less time for a much bigger operation upon seeing much less evidence—but it'd be fine if they do, because that's how much time we all have. Perhaps all these characters will be dead by then, but that's fine too. These characters care about what happens after they die; that's the whole reason they're here preventing a war that won't start till then.
As for Muri, that's Chris' daughter, and she won't be dead in 30 years, so if anything, she has even more time than he does. For a while, people were being drafted and killed in the Tomorrow War, so every day counted, but all contact with the future has now ended, so even that's no longer an issue.
Now, I admit the movie can't really close with a card saying, "Later, the UN authorized a strike." It has to end with Chris Pratt fighting the aliens himself, in accordance with blockbuster rules. He just needs a good reason to. I've suggested one solution before (changing much of the movie's premise, so the military and the government opposed action all along), but that doesn't actually solve the absence of urgency here, and we can solve that problem more easily than that.
Let's say normal weapons can't kill the aliens. The aliens beat the world's militaries in the original timeline, so it should follow that, somehow, bombs and guns don't hurt them. What if only a special superweapon can kill them, and Chris gets the first of its kind from the future. This weapon is chemical or biological, so it will break down in a matter of days. The nations of the world are willing to attack the ship, but Chris knows this will only wake the aliens early—the one way to kill the aliens is this vial he has, and the government just laughs at it.
If you remember the movie, you'll know that it very nearly takes this exact route. The plot in the future is about making a special toxin that can kill the aliens. Chris returns to the past with the toxin. And yet, when they take it to the icy ship, they also set up a "secondary perimeter" with guns and bombs, because guess what, those kill aliens too, rendering the toxin redundant. This perimeter fails, since it's just two guys. Then, when his gun jams, Sam Richardson kills one alien with a saw, but he can't hold them all off.
If bombs kill aliens, a military strike's the way to go, not hand-to-hand fighting. I said it when watching this movie, I said it when watching superhero movies. But of course, no movie focusing on a hero will end with the distant military just bombing the place.
Now let's talk about No Time To Die, which ends with the distant military just bombing the place.
No Time To Die Has Plenty Of Time, Actually
At the end of this movie, the gang order the British Navy to bomb the villain's island, to keep him from unleashing a pandemic that could push back the film's release date. The only catch for MI6 is this island has anti-missile walls, so James Bond has to open those up. He actually has to open them a second time after they suddenly close, once the missiles are already en route, because if the first missiles fail, well, they're all screwed, right, no way they can just try later. Clearly, this is a tense situation, tense enough to justify Bond sweating while Batman music blares.
But what specifically is the ticking time bomb scenario here? Does the villain have a giant doomsday machine with a timer counting down, one he'll use to disperse the virus worldwide, through the power of evilscience? If he did, we'd be cool with that. This guy is a Bond villain. But no, here's what's actually about to happen.
His crew are about to ... load crates of this virus onto boats. Which, you'll note, isn't really the apocalypse unleashed but just one step of many in this genocidal plan. Soon, boats will have crates? Then MI6 needn't rush to bomb the island that's protected by missile shields—they can deal with the lab later. Bond can leave the island, having rescued the people he came to rescue and having not yet got infected, and for now, they just have to bomb the loaded boats.
Would that destroy the viruses, without risking the stuff getting out and killing all of humanity? In real life, probably. In the movie, definitely, because this isn't a normal virus at all. It's a special nanotech virus that can't transmit through air, water, droplets, or bodily fluids, but only by direct human-to-human contact. They could have written it to be an unstoppable virus, or even just a regular virus, but no, these are the rules they picked.
So bomb the ships. What if more ships come? Well, bomb those too. Just keep on bombing, at leisure, anything this enters or leaves. You've got the British military, you can keep this up forever. Mr. Robot doesn't have any hostages you care about anymore, he doesn't even have enough food to keep up a siege, you've got this.
See, every time I watch a blockbuster and say "they could just call in the military and be done with this," I'm not actually saying the movie should do that. I'm just mocking the fantasy they wrote, where they build up some threat and act like the combined might of the whole world can't beat it but our hero can. The movie can't really give the heroes access to the military or we wind up with a situation like this, which lacks all tension.
Unless this military faces a bigger military, of course. Which is why No Time To Die throws in another twist. The gang on the radio mutter something about not having clearance for missile strikes, and then they're soon hearing "questions" from countries in the area. Oh no, other countries are asking questions. Well, you have to wrap this up in the next few minutes then, you can't possibly reveal to other countries what you’re doing.
Or ... how about you DO reveal to other countries what you’re doing? Not that the virus was originally created by MI6 but that you've got an imminent terrorist threat and are addressing it. No nation is backing the villain here, and no country owns this part of the ocean, you're not infringing on anyone's sovereignty. And let's see, which are these countries anyway, which are asking questions? "The Russians, the Japanese, and even the Americans," says M.
The Americans? The Americans already know all about this villain, the Americans were the ones who lured Bond out of retirement.
Honestly, I don't know with certainty the geopolitical implications of the British Navy circling and striking a foreign poison island. I also don't think knowing those should be necessary for a Bond climax to have stakes. Just make Bond destroy the lair totally from the inside, using the inevitable self-destruct button. Write it so he must act now and there's no time to await her majesty's backup. Dozens of Bond films managed this.
As it is, three Daniel Craig Bond movies gave us emotional tragic endings. In Casino Royale, Bond and Vesper are alone on vacation, almost defenseless. In Skyfall, Bond and M are alone in a Scottish manor, almost defenseless. In this one, Bond is in full contact with MI6, supported by an 8,000-ton Royal Navy guided missile destroyer. The other two movies also ended nonsensically, but they were much better than this one, weren't they?
Top image: Walt Disney Pictures