5 Controversial Movie Decisions (That Actually Make Sense)
Sequels can be fun and dumb in equal measure. On one hand, they can continue beloved cinematic journeys, and on the other hand, Zoolander 2. But some of the stupid turns taken in famous sequels have explanations. And these explanations aren't hidden in the crypts of optimism, but plainly stamped into the movies that came before them. Here are five controversial sequel decisions that make total sense if you actually pay attention to the series that they're in.
Batman Leaving In The Dark Knight Rises
As someone with an internet connection in 2008, I believe that it's safe to say that the end of The Dark Knight excited some people. Before, Batman movies had ended on obvious notes, usually involving Batman running straight into the freaking camera. But The Dark Knight's ending was slightly murkier. Yeah, dude's a hero, but he's wanted by the police for murders that he didn't commit. What will that give us in the sequel? A movie where Batman is on the run? Two and a half hours of Batman just clotheslining SWAT teams? Forums were ablaze with all the ways that it could go, and 90 percent of those ways shoved a Johnny Depp Riddler into the plot.
2008 was a different time. A very different time.
And then we finally got The Dark Knight Rises, and it was a lot of moping. Bruce Wayne mopes around his house, and then when he has his back broken, he mopes around at the bottom of a pit for a while. And when he finally returns to Gotham, he mopes around the city while people shout the story's themes at each other. And then he quits being Batman totally, and let's Robin-But-Not-Quite-Robin-Because-Robin's-Totally-Lame take over. People responded to this as if Batman himself had come to their house and sold crack to their sons. "BATMAN WOULDN'T DO THAT! BATMAN WOULDN'T QUIT. BATMAN WOULDN'T MOPE. BATMAN FIGHTS FOREVER, BECAUSE, UMM, BATMAN."
And I would totally agree with you. The only problem is that I watched the two movies that came before it, and they kind of tell a different story.
Heath Ledger's Joker is hypnotic. The best time to rob me is when I'm watching The Dark Knight. "Mind if I steal your laptop?" "Yeah, sure, whatever. Scar story is coming. Shhh." But in between Ledger zig-zagging through that movie like a clown-faced pinball, there's a lot of stuff about Batman not really wanting to be Batman anymore. And you don't just infer this from all of his frowny reactions to crimefighting. He outright tells Rachel, who is with another guy, "I feel like this Batman thing is going well enough that I can maybe quit it pretty soon. And then we can hook up." So we already establish Bruce Wayne as a guy who will throw his costume in a dumpster at the slightest whiff of a lady telling him that maybe they should go out after this superhero stint expires.
Him being a little iffy about this whole Batman thing and then appearing at the end of Rises at a café with kindred spirit Catwoman isn't a sudden reversal of character. He and the side characters of Gotham city can go on and on about "enduring" or something, but even Batman said, "IT'S WHAT I DO THAT DEFINES ME." And what the Dark Knight does is fight crime until he feels sad or a lady gives him an option to make out some more.
Peter Parker Dancing In Spider-Man 3
In Spider-Man 3, Peter Parker gets the alien suit. And while it makes him stronger, faster, and less visible for night photography, it also accentuates all of his negative traits. He becomes more jealous, more angry, and more callous in his relationships. And lastly and most importantly, it makes him get down.
I previously wrote that Spider-Man 3 isn't bad as much as it's just not good in the slightest. And reminding myself of the two impromptu dance sequences in the movie (a number that almost ties with Jack Nicholson's record in Batman) didn't change my opinion. This is for two reasons: 1) As much as it pains me to say it, I get it, and 2) It fits the character.
I get it because, as a dumb nerd, I understand doing things that were way cooler in my head. It happened with every date and every dance and every nervous conversation that I ever had in middle school, high school, and college. Hell, it happens now. It's not on the scale of how it used to be, when I dreamed of impressing everyone at the pool party by knowing every word to Will Smith's "Switch." But whenever I go somewhere that involves dancing, before I resign myself to the fact that I will shimmy side to side for the evening, I think, "Man, when I get out on that floor, I am gonna surely know some moves."
And when I say it fits the character, don't take that to mean that it fits the movie. Director Sam Raimi is a certainly gifted, but if you want to tell the story of a man giving into his darkest urges and then battling back against them to emerge mentally and morally stronger, it's not a great idea to illustrate that with multiple minutes of the Maguire Two-Step. Maybe some misguided finger guns and some littering, along with the standard "URGH. I can kick the bad guys EVEN HARDER." But adding in that much dancing only tells the audience "I am sorry, but this movie is rapidly spinning out of my control."
Peter Parker's first big action in this trilogy was trying to buy a car to win over a girl, and he never really improved beyond that level of emotional maturity. At the end of Spider-Man, he tells Mary Jane that they can only be friends, and by the beginning of the next fucking movie, he's super sad that she won't date him. Finally, at the end of Spider-Man 2, Mary Jane runs away from her own goddamn wedding to be with him, and he responds by staring at her for a while.
The idea that he's some wish fulfillment character who would be above idiotic dance moves at all times is flawed, because it's an evil suit that draws out his darkest impulses. And deep down in his nerdy little heart, he still wants to be the biggest hit at prom.
Godzilla's Onscreen Time In Godzilla
The 2014 American Godzilla is the closest thing I have to a weird ex-wife. When that movie came out, I was done. Godzilla and I were over. They killed off Bryan Cranston by having him fall in the background of a scene, and I just didn't think that it was something that I could get over. But whenever I rewatch it and Godzilla vomits atomic fire into a fellow giant monster's mouth, all I can think is, "She's so beautiful. What was I thinking? No. NO. You know what she did to you."
What I'm trying to say is that the movie has a ton of flaws, and that it counters those flaws in the coolest, most radioactive ways possible. It might have the blandest cast of any blockbuster in recent memory, and it's certainly the most unenjoyable attempt at grouping people together in Godzilla history. Also, the plot is mostly people following shit around. People follow monsters. People follow their families. People follow the military. People follow scientists. There is no sense of setting or place in Godzilla, because three minutes into every scene, a TV or computer broadcasts the next destination. It's the Mega Man level selection screen of movies.
The number-one complaint for a lot of people, though, and even me when I first saw the movie, was that Godzilla didn't seem too enthusiastic about being in a movie named after him. He's there for about nine minutes, which I viewed as blasphemy until I remembered every other Godzilla movie. I think we tend to misremember the Godzilla films we watched as children. We can easily recall all the parts wherein he knocked over buildings or did dropkicks, and we're less likely to recall all the scenes of scientists arguing with newspapermen and tiny twin fairies. We think, "Well, these old movies didn't have that high of a budget, but it's a dude in a lizard outfit. Obviously, he'd be in every frame of the film."
But he's not. In the two best Japanese Godzilla films (Invasion Of The Astro Monsters and Mothra Vs. Godzilla,) he shows up for around six minutes and 10 minutes, respectively. He shows up for less time in the original 1954 Gojira than he does in the 2014 film, which honestly surprised me, because as great as that black-and-white classic is, it feels about seven hours long. In my child mind, I aged from first to third grade during the span of one viewing of Gojira.
Director Gareth Edwards wasn't going out of his way to make a Godzilla-less Godzilla film. He was simply following a six-decade tradition. You gotta earn your monsters.
Mad Max As A Side Character In Mad Max: Fury Road
Let me get this out of the way fast: If you're angry about Furiosa having a bigger role in Mad Max: Fury Road than Max himself, I don't think you've ever seen a Mad Max movie before that one. Or paid attention to one in any dedicated way. I think you have your own idea of what a Mad Max movie is supposed to be. It has an adjective in the title, followed by a dude's name. It's set in an apocalyptic death earth, and it features a bunch of guys driving precariously around each other. You know all of these things. Hell, you may have texted your way through an airing of The Road Warrior on TNT. I'll even give you that. But actually watched a Mad Max movie, and then got pissed when he was "upstaged" in some way by a woman?
No. I'm sorry, but no.
There are a lot of complaints about Fury Road that I understand but disagree with. You could say that it was plotless, and I'd go on and on about visual storytelling, and we'd both leave the conversation feeling the way we felt at the beginning of it. You could say that Tom Hardy is unfit for the role, or isn't as good as Mel Gibson, and I'd say that they both bring their own strengths. Tom Hardy is more empathetic, but lacks the cool rogue-like quality of Gibson. You could say that the series had gotten tired by the fourth installment, and I'd do an acapella rendition of the Fury Road soundtrack until you had me kicked out of the Chili's.
But when there was an outcry of "What is this? Mad MAXINE?" after the debut of one of the best action films of the 2000s? Did they watch Mad Max, or The Road Warrior, or Beyond Thunderdome? If they did, they'd know that, in the ranking of interesting characters in that series, Max ranks just above one of the nameless child extras, and just below sand.
Don't get me wrong, Max is cool. He does a lot of neat stuff. But after Mad Max (which seems to be more of an origin story for Max's blond friend than Max himself), Max crosses over from being a character to being like an unlockable weapon. When you've suffered in the desert for long enough, and have managed to not be a total piece of shit, Max rolls through. That's the fun of him. Since he's on an everlasting, aimless quest to survive, he becomes a helpful tool for all the people who aren't so great at surviving or need a little help in remaining un-slaughtered by flamboyant dust truckers.
His quest isn't one of revenge. It might've been at one point. But he never made a Batman-like oath to rid the world of dirtbike perverts. Nor is it one of redemption. That dude will live with his demons forever. Instead, Mad Max is the wasteland version of the guy who shows up at your party, is awesome, and then leaves, never to be seen again. "Remember when that dude came in, bought everyone shots, saved us from being brutally murdered by the thong-wearing warlord, and then disappeared? That guy was AWESOME."
Darth Vader's "Nooooo" In Revenge Of The Sith
At the end of Revenge Of The Sith, the mint-condition Darth Vader learns that his wife has died. He's sad and in a movie, so he exclaims "NOOOOOOO." For many people, it was the nail in the coffin for ever hoping to like the Star Wars prequels. They had been a fascinating venture that had unsuccessfully combined George Lucas' interest in politics with his interest in making them sweet, sweet action figure tie-in dollars, and now they could shift their position from "The first two were bad, but this last one is okay" to "Welp. They happened."
I'm not arguing for a reevaluation of the prequels, but the "Nooo" thing? Eh, it's not that bad.
Especially when you consider that, from the time he was a young child, Anakin Skywalker is basically told by everyone, "Yo, chill."
If he'd said "Noooo" around Obi-Wan, Obi would've given him one of his glib-sounding "I think you need to chill, Anakin" speeches. For a majority of his life, because it's the Jedi way, he'd had all of his emotions tamped down by a bunch of old dudes at the top of a tower. And for better or for worse, Hayden Christensen certainly acted like a guy who'd never gotten to experience feelings in any instinctive way.
So that "Noooo" isn't something that's coming naturally to Vader. It's his "I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO FEELINGS" moment. It sounds silly and it doesn't completely work, but it is 20 years of "Yo, chill" coming to a head. Also, if you watch The Empire Strikes Back, you might notice that Jedi-trained Skywalker boys don't exactly handle their "Nooooo's" so well.
Maybe it's hereditary. But it certainly makes Vader's death a little sadder. They could've bonded over that. A father and a son, dumbly Noooo-ing together. The true, canon Episode VII.
Daniel has a blog.
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