Avatar 2 Review – Jake Sully’s Kids Need a Babysitter

(Image Source)

The Avatar sequel, The Way of Water, was overall an enjoyable movie experience. If you want three hours of breathtaking CGI along with action packed scenes, you will definitely be entertained.

However, I will say that a majority of the movie’s plot is moved forward by kids not listening to their parents.

[This review is for people who have already seen the movie. So…yes, there will be spoilers.]

Kids not listening to their parents is a common enough trope in television and movies used to move the plot forward or create tension. And if it happened once or twice in The Way of Water, I wouldn’t mind. But it happened at least 9 times!!! Let me walk you through it below. And some plot holes are detailed as well. Don’t take this as me hating on the film. I liked the film. I’m just having a bit of fun riffing on a recurrent plot problem.

  • In the beginning of the movie, we’re told that humans now want to colonize Pandora to live there. (Whatever happened to the treaty the humans made in the first movie with the Na’vi to leave the planet? Clearly the humans have violated the treaty, but…this seems to just not get addressed??? At the end of the first movie, did the humans go into cryo, go all the way back to Earth, which probably consumed immense amounts of resources and time, and then just be like…”Wait a minute!”). Anyways, Jake is valiantly leading a guerilla warfare type resistance against the humans. We see him and his people destroying a train and fighting human baddies, who have lots of cool mech armor. However, Jake’s kids are supposed to stay back and function as spotters. Instead, they Leroy Jenkins their way into battle and almost get killed. (My first thought is, if they function as spotters on a regular basis, why did they randomly do that in this battle? Is it because the plot called for it?) Regardless, Jake Sully is now pissed and tells his brood they are grounded from combat for a month.
  • After being grounded, Jake’s kids decide that this is a perfect opportunity to go wander off without adult supervision. Off in the woods all by themselves, they happen to spy the resuscitated bad guy from the first movie, Stephen Lang’s character Miles Quaritch, along with his squad. (Is there no one else in the Olo’eyktan Clan patrolling the woods?) Instead of running to safety, the kids stick around for a better look (and of course) get captured.
  • After Jake Sully and Neytiri rescue their wayward children, Jake realizes the threat to his family and abandons his post as leader of the Olo’eyktan clan (sorry not sorry Olo’eyktan clan). He decides to go into hiding . He seeks refuge with the Metkayina clan (a Maori like tribe of Na’vi who live in the water). The NUMBER ONE rule Jake tells his kids is to not get into trouble. But of course, when some of the boys in the Metkayina clan bully Kiri (Jake’s adopted daughter), her brothers step in and get into a fist fight.
  • After Jake yells at his sons once again for causing trouble, his second eldest son, Lo’ak, decides to smooth things over with the Metkayina boys by going on a excursion with them to…yes…you guessed it…a place they are not allowed to go because it’s dangerous. Lo’ak soon realizes the boys tricked him by leading him to the lair of a giant sea monster (you know, typical harmless teenage pranks, trying to get someone murdered). Lo’ak evades death by being incredibly lucky. He’s rescued by Payakan, a tulkun (a whale-shark looking species revered by the Metkayina).
  • Lo’ak’s new friendship with Payakan apparently causes tension with the Metkayina clan, because the other tulkun exiled Payakan. But of course Lo’ak doesn’t listen.
  • Meanwhile, Miles Quaritch is tasked with hunting down Jake Sully and killing him. He discovers that Jake is hiding with one of the water tribes. Miles Quaritch decides to draw Jake out by killing tulkun to anger the Metkayina. Jake Sully recognizes that this is a trap, and thus doesn’t take the bait. But of course of course of course his children don’t listen and take matters into their own devious blue hands, and once again they get captured. (I’m starting to feel like this movie should be called The Way of Not Listening To Your Parents).
  • When Jake Sully’s kids get captured, he offers to turn himself in. But as he’s making his way to the boat that contains Miles Quaritch, Lo’ak’s tulkun friend, Payakan, attacks the boat. As the humans start fighting against a tulkun, this causes the Metkayina to get angry. They loudly proclaim they are now going to battle the humans and then…valiantly disappear from the movie for the next 45 minutes, leaving Jake and his family to fight against Miles Quaritch’s forces all by themselves. The only reason I can think this happened is that the writers simply forgot that the Metkayina were in the battle.
  • Once Jake’s kids get liberated from capture, Jake tells them to go to safety, but of course, of course, OF COURSE, they don’t listen, and then get kidnapped AGAIN for a third freaking time! Is this getting repetitive yet?
  • At the end of the movie, the kids end up helping to rescue their parents by ignoring their orders to flee to safety. And then Spider (the feral human child of Miles Quaritch, rescues him in secret, and doesn’t tell anyone). Which of course opens the possibility to a third movie. I included this example with Spider because he’s like a pseudo adopted child for Jake Sully and Neytiri. It’s not so much him not listening to them, but him going against what they were trying to achieve, which is close enough.

If Jake Sully and Neytiri locked up their kids, or at least found a decent babysitter, the movie would have been about ten minutes long.

Now, despite these silly plot issues, I did legitimately enjoy the movie. I loved the environmental message. And I do think the world building was very cool. I definitely encourage people to go out and see the movie so that James Cameron can make his sequels. The Way of Water was neat because it explored a new biome in the Pandora world we didn’t see in the first movie. I would hope in the sequels we see even more diverse Na’vi and biomes. Perhaps a tundra Na’vi, or a desert Na’vi, or even Na’vi that live in caves with biolumenescent fungus. There’s many fun future possibilities to be explored. I would just recommend that Jake Sully and Neytiri get themselves a reliable babysitter before they go on any future adventures.

“The Spider and the Stars” – Science Fiction, Insect Farming, [Review]

(Image generated with Playground AI)

A new, controversial idea for saving the climate has been getting press lately. Insect farming.

Well…when I say “new,” I mean new for the western world. Eating insects has been a traditional cuisine in some African, Asian and Latin American cultures. In Ghana, for example, there are people who collect winged termites during the spring rains, fry them, roast them, and make them into bread. See more examples at National Geographic.

Even in Western cultures, the idea of insect farming isn’t completely revolutionary. After all, we eat a delicious, sweet, sticky substance farmed from insects called “honey,” which is basically bee vomit. We wear a comfortable fabric called silk, farmed from worms.

Of course there is that Fear Factor image of people putting writhing spiders or meal worms in their mouths. But realistically, if industries did start selling insect meat on a commercial basis, they’d probably find a way to make it look less disgusting and be more edible. After all, we do love crabs and lobsters, which are basically large sea insects. At one point lobsters were considered disgusting enough to be prison food. Now it’s a luxury cuisine. I imagine with insects, they’d probably be crushed into some kind of protein powder and then blended into things. The less they can look like insects as food, the better.

Despite the controversy, there are environmental benefits to insect farming. Our current animal agricultural systems are destructive for the environment.

“This sector relies heavily on water and carbon-intensive farming of grains at a time when the cost of agrochemical inputs are climbing and freshwater resources are becoming increasingly unreliable. Globally, animal farms consume more than a third of the world’s total grain production. In the U.S. the share is closer to half. Insect-based animal feeds could be this industry’s best shot at building climate resilience, while also helping to manage a food waste crisis.” (Bloomberg)

Meanwhile, insect farming has potential to utilize less land and leave less of a carbon footprint on the planet. “Black soldier fly larvae, in particular, hold promise: Known in the industry by the acronym BSFL, these infant bugs serve as high-quality chicken and fish feed and require 1,000 times less land per unit of protein produced compared to soy production, between 50 and 100 times less water, and zero agrochemical inputs.” (Bloomberg)

The EU has even approved three insects for human consumption: crickets, mealworms and grasshoppers.

Now enter DK Mok‘s wonderful short solarpunk story, “The Spider and the Stars,” published in Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers.

True to the solarpunk genre, the story is focused on themes of ecology and sustainability. DK Mok is truly a talented hard sci-fi writer who immerses the reader into the bright and optimistic world of cyberpunk with much vibrant detail. She brings us such interesting details: tree planting drones, glowing festive solar fairy lights, biogas produced by cheese, cabins built of photovoltaic glass and reclaimed timber, snappily dressed proxy droids, and most revolutionary of all–spiders in space!

She goes into depth about how insect farming would work. And yes, she does tackle the issue of peoples’ inherent disgust and how such a thing could be made palatable.

Like all great science fiction, this story brings up a current world problem and paints a picture of how futuristic solutions would pan out.

I will add that the story also carried my attention with its good sense of humor and a likeable main character, who clearly has affection for her small, multiple legged friends.

Links

DK Mok

Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers

Ten Wild Predictions for 1899 Season 2 [Spoilers!]

For those who love the mind trip of a show, 1899, it’s going to be hard to wait the potential two years for season 2 to come out. And that’s if season 2 gets renewed (fingers crossed).

To tide you over, I have put together a list of ten predictions for what’s going to happen next in Netflix’s 1899.

SPOILERS

BELOW

WATCH OUT

#1. Elliot is dead or dying and Maura trapped the crew in an endless time loop so she could be with him.

This is one of the most common predictions for the show I have seen across the internet. The idea is that Maura’s son, Elliot, is either already dead or on the cusp of death in real life. She can’t accept this, so she has created an endless loop in the simulation in order to stay with her son forever (and unfortunately has trapped the rest of the crew). As we know from the show, the simulation restarts every 8 days. It’s possible that Maura’s son may have died by day 8 in real life on the Prometheus‘s voyage in 2099, so she programmed an endless loop into the simulation for it to restart every time before it gets to that point.

Clues to this theory come from the fact that Elliot’s room is beneath a grave. And the key that ultimately gets Maura out of the simulation is one of her son’s toys, meaning that her son is the key to understanding why everyone is trapped. The YouTuber, Heavy Spoilers, made an interesting point about how Maura told Elliot it’s cruel to keep a beetle trapped in a cage–a lesson she has clearly ignored for herself by keeping her dying son trapped in a virtual loop. Maura’s father even talks about people refusing to let go of the attachments they have.

Also, the simulation has a unique mechanic that when Elliot dies (such as when he was so rudely thrown overboard), he comes back to life appearing in a cabinet. Perhaps Maura hacked the simulation to give her son some sort of invincibility cheat and made the cabinet a respawn point.

Maura may have also deliberately altered her own memory, along with the memories of the rest of the crew, to forget the incredibly painful reality of her son’s death. She potentially went as far as to make herself believe that she was incapable of having children.

In episode 1, she says that she’s a doctor who studies the human mind. So it is definitely possible she would know how to manipulate the mind and memories of herself along with others.

#2. Ciaran launched a coup and took over the ship in 2099.

Before escaping the simulation, Maura learned that her brother Ciaran took over the program. Her father, Henry, is apparently no longer in charge. When Maura awakens onto a spaceship in the year 2099, she finds a note on a computer monitor that reads, “May your coffee kick in before reality does.” (This is a message we have seen before on the steamship in 1899.) The message is from Ciaran, who appears to be welcoming his sister back to reality.

Some fans have noticed that one of the pods on the spaceship is empty. There are theories that this was the pod that contained Ciaran, who potentially woke up from the simulation, and then launched his coup.

There are also theories that Henry may have been using the simulation to conduct experiments on the crew of the Prometheus, running them through different situations over and over again. Perhaps Ciaran launched a coup to stop this from happening, and then left clues in the simulation to help Maura wake up so she could in turn help him rescue the rest of the passengers.

However, the message, “May your coffee kick in before your reality does,” gives me pause. Does Ciaran really want Maura to wake up? We have already watched the scene where Maura is injected with a black liquid before appearing back in her room on the steamship, the Kerberos. Perhaps this black mind altering liquid is the “coffee,” which is intended to protect her from reality by her brother. It was also mentioned that Ciaran was potentially jealous of Henry loving Maura more. Perhaps in Ciaran’s jealousy, he’s seeking to keep both Maura and her father trapped in an endless simulation so he can control and torment them. Or perhaps he’s determined to finish his father’s work and win his love.

#3. The book The Awakening is a clue about Maura’s circumstances.

We see the book The Awakening in Maura’s room on the Kerberos steamship. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, was first published in 1899. The plot centers around a strong, independent woman named Edna Pontellier. Edna struggles to be her own person against the prevailing social norms of her time. Her male family members try to control her against her will. The novel is seen as a landmark of early feminism.

Perhaps the novel is a clue that Maura left herself to suggest that her male family members (father and brother) are conspiring to keep her trapped so they can control her.

Here’s more on this theory on reddit.

#4. Daniel is an NPC

There are some interesting theories that Daniel (Maura’s husband) is an NPC because we don’t see him in the pods when she wakes up on the spaceship (but then again, we don’t see her other family members either). The theory is that Daniel was an NPC programmed (potentially by Ciaran) to help Maura break free from the simulation. For instance, when Daniel shows Maura photos of them together, she says she doesn’t feel like they are real.

#5. The characters in the love triangles have been matched with someone who is not their partner in real life.

Up until now, most of these theories I have listed have centered around the main character Maura. But of course, this is a show full of other dynamic, interesting, international characters. So their stories will (hopefully) matter to the plot as well.

Triangles are a frequent symbol on the show. And there are many characters who are in a love triangle. There is the Angel-Ramiro-Krester triangle. The French Lucien-Clemence-Jerome triangle. And much more subtle, but definitely interesting, the Maura-Daniel-Eyk triangle. So we literally have a triangle of love triangles (gotta love the creators of 1899 for all the complexity!)

It is possible that the people in the simulation who are in love triangles are actually intentionally paired with the wrong partner. And the person they feel drawn toward is the person they are actually in a relationship with in real life. In other words, Angel is actually with Krester in real life. Clemence is actually with Jerome. And Maura is actually with Eyk. While the show doesn’t outright state that Maura and Eyk are an item, we definitely see chemistry between them. Whereas Maura shows no interest for Daniel, and even shows a physical aversion for him when he touches her.

Why would people be intentionally put with the wrong partner?

This could be part of the greater experiment on human memory. If people have their memories erased, will they still be drawn to the person they love by some subconscious longing? Henry talked about how his wife lost her memories. Perhaps this is all part of his larger experiment to understand how to revive the memories of a loved one (and how to revive the memories of his wife).

Some redditors on the 1899 subreddit have even cleverly suggested that Eyk’s name is an anagram for “key,” and that he is the true key to Maura getting out of the simulation because she loves him.

Of course, not all the lovers are in love triangles. Olek and Ling Yi clearly have a mutual love for each other. But perhaps the obstacle keeping Ling Yi away from Olek is her madam, Virginia, who wants to sell her to the highest paying John she can find.

Another interesting thought that occurred to me as I wrote this is that the multi-lingual nature of the cast may also be part of Henry’s experiment. Perhaps he was testing the ability of love and latent subconscious memory to triumph, even amidst the challenge of navigating different languages and cultures.

#6. The Earth is dying in 2099 and the simulation is preparation for a new world.

So far, I have covered theories that the simulation is some sort of twisted mind experiment originally launched by Henry in order to understand his wife’s failing memory.

But another more noble theory posited by internet fans is that the simulation was originally a test preparing the crew of the Prometheus for their trip to a new world. It has been noted that the creators of 1899 like to handle larger themes, like they did in the show Dark. One large theme is that of human beings destroying the environment. Another theme is international conflict. Indeed, when I watched The Making of 1899 on Netflix, the show creators said they were inspired by the refugee crisis which took place in Europe. Perhaps the characters of the Prometheus were put into a simulation to learn how to work together across cultural differences. But then the simulation went awry when it was hacked by Henry for his own selfish ends.

#7. The spaceship Prometheus is actually a prison colony.

Now for a less noble theory. The ship itself is actually a prison colony. The crew has been sentenced to a simulation that will punish them with mind torture for their crimes. This theory makes sense, because multiple passengers on the Kerberos have committed murder, including Ramiro, Tove, and Ling Yi. Virginia could be in prison for being a madam. Henry, Ciaran and Maura could be in prison for conducting mental experiments. Lucien could be in prison for defecting from the military and perhaps Jerome is in because Lucien threw him under the bus.

The name of the ship in the simulation, Kerberos, is a clue to this theory. Kerberos in Greek mythology was the three-headed dog that guards the underworld. The symbolism of the triangle could be a reference to these three heads. The triangle in the show is also a symbol for the element Earth, and beneath the Earth, you have the underworld.

This Reddit post goes into this theory.

#8. The spaceship in 2099 is a simulation in a larger simulation.

Okay. Time to twist your mind even further. Does it feel like a pretzel yet?

For those who watched the series Dark, we know that the show creators love complexity. Therefore, it is entirely possible that the spaceship in 2099 is not in fact real life, but actually another simulation inside a simulation. Season 2 could revolve around Maura wrestling control of the spaceship away from her brother Ciaran, and then waking up in the even greater reality nesting 2099.

#9. Season 3 will be an LSD experiment in the 1970s

You might want to take a breath for a second, because this is about to get a whole lot weirder.

In season 3, the crew is not actually in the future anymore, but they are all part of some drug experiment that is taking place circa the 1970s.

One of the clues to me that the show was potentially in the 1970s was the music. A frequent song we hear is “White Rabbit”, by Jefferson Airplane, which came out in 1967. But there are also several other songs by bands which were prominent in the late 60s and 70s. Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevans and David Bowie.

One thing we know about the creators of 1899 is their amazing attention to detail. I doubt these songs were picked arbitrarily. And all songs from the same time period? That would be an awfully big coincidence.

The 1970s was a time well known for rampant drug experimentation. The whole show could be an LSD trial being conducted by Henry.

Indeed, even the “futuristic” technology has a retro 1970s vibe. The tech looks more analog than digital. It’s almost as if the depiction of the future is how people in the 1970s would imagine the future.

Even the final scene in the spaceship has an artistic style that is very iconic of H.R. Giger, the mastermind behind the set of the movie Alien, which came out in 1979 by the way. The tube television that Henry is watching to monitor the crew also looks like it came from the 70s. Even the computer terminal on the spaceship doesn’t have a GUI (graphic user interface) like modern computers, but is just showing bare minimum text reminiscent of the classic era of VDU (visual display units) that began in the 1970s. So if this show is only from the future, why the retro tech?

I was pleasantly surprised to see this theory on Reddit as well. So I guess I’m not the only one who thinks this.

# 10. The show is actually taking place in infinite realities.

Here’s one final theory to completely blow your mind into tiny grey pieces all over your wall. Perhaps there is no “real reality.” Perhaps the crew is trapped in an infinite level of different realities. This would be similar to the theme explored in the movie Inception, that if you have dreams within dreams within dreams, who is to say what is real and what is not?

This proposes a similar idea brought up by Simulation Theory, which is that if we are all in one simulation, then we could also be in an infinite number of simulations.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave was brought up in the show. If you have people only living in a cave, they can’t possibly know the real world outside of the cave, but only what is inside of it.

If I learned anything from Dark, it’s that the creators of this show love to explore spiritual and philosophical themes.

I hope you enjoyed this! Check out the links below. And don’t forget to clean your grey matter off the wall behind you.

Links:

The Revolutionary Filming Technology Behind Netflix’s 1899 (Stories From Tomorrow)

1899 Ending: Season 2 Theories, Predictions And [SPOILER] Explained (Heavy Spoilers | YouTube)

1899 Ending: Season 2 Theories & Biggest Questions Explained (Cortex Videos | YouTube)

The Revolutionary Filming Technology Behind Netflix’s 1899

The creators of Netflix’s Dark, Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, describe themselves as “old school filmmakers.” They intended to film their next show, 1899, across multiple locations in Europe, including Spain, Poland and Scotland. Yet they ran into a major obstacle right off the bat: Covid-19.

The timing of the global pandemic and ensuing travel bans meant their original vision was off the table.

So did they green screen the whole thing?

Nope.

Because of the constraints of Covid, these old school filmmakers had to use cutting edge technology. Neflix helped fund the building of a new virtual production studio from scratch. This virtual production stage, The DARK BAY, is now the largest and most advanced European virtual production studio. It is unique in the world of filming technology.

The production studio uses a technology known as “volume.” It’s a giant LED sound stage. Rather than using green screens or blue screens, on which the images are added later, the volume displays photo realistic images rendered in real time using a video game engine (Unreal Engine). It’s similar to the technology used in The Mandalorian. But even The Mandalorian shot half its scenes outside the volume — something that was more or less impossible for 1899 during the pandemic.

Apparently, the images on the LED screens were so realistic that the actors of 1899 were getting seasick from looking at the moving horizon.

The stage also includes rain and water atmospherics designed so that it wouldn’t damage the set.

Were there limitations? Philipp Klausing, the show’s producer and managing director of Dark Bay, emphasized that the capabilities of this technology come with some major limits that aren’t immediately apparent. “However you build a volume,” he said, “you try to achieve a full cylinder or circle around you so you can place your camera wherever you like. You soon realize you have all kinds of limitations on all sides, and you have issues with how to access the stage.”

Still, it was a very clever way for a show with a plot in multiple countries to overcome the limits of Covid-19. I think this technology also contributed much to the trippy, and dreamlike style of the show itself. And I think it will help influence the filming styles of many other shows to come.

Related Links

Ten Wild Predictions for 1899 Season 2 [Spoilers!] (Stories From Tomorrow)

Watch the Making of 1899 (Netflix)

What is Volume, the virtual production stage used for making 1899? (Opoyi)

Behind the Scenes: 1899 (IBC)

Inside Dark Bay, the spinning LED volume at the heart of Netflix’s upcoming ‘1899’ (Techcrunch)

This is the incredible technology behind the Netflix series ‘1899’ (Gearrice)

Behind the Scenes (and Screens) of Netflix’s “1899” (Amplify)

‘1899’ First Interviews: Netflix & The Creators Of ‘Dark’ Talk Building Europe’s Largest Virtual Production Stage To Shoot Ambitious Multilingual Series (Deadline, 1899)

The Creation of the Dark Bay Virtual Production Stage (ARRI)

Dark Bay Website

An Alternative Ending for Loki Season 1

Disclaimer: Spoilers included. Also, much of what is included here is my own personal opinion on the ending. I don’t claim that this opinion is authoritative or the best. Please let me know if you have a different opinion.

Overall, season 1 of Marvel’s Loki television show was enjoyable.

The Loki series takes place after the events of the film Avengers: Endgame, in which an alternate version of Loki creates a new timeline, diverging from the events of The Avengers (2012). The season sets up the events of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023).

What I Liked:

The show centers around Loki, Marvel’s most entertaining villain. And indeed the show is a lot of fun as we see the God of Mischief butt heads with a fitting foil: the TVA (Time Variance Authority), the most powerful bureaucracy in existence. The TVA is so powerful that their employees treat the infinity stones as if they are mere objects to store in a desk along with paperclips and pencil erasers.

Owen Wilson is one of the TVA’s bureaucrats. He’s cool and collected in contrast to Loki’s brash and hot headed manner. Owen takes Loki under his wing and explains the TVA’s purpose: to protect the one true sacred timeline from the threat of multiversal war. This is accomplished by pruning people called ‘variants’ from the timeline.

The employees at the TVA are all told that three lizard-like beings (called Time Keepers) created the TVA with the purpose of protecting and guiding the sacred timeline.

The show is an interesting mix of sci-fi, fantasy, police procedural, and 1970s retro style.

I ended up binge watching the whole season in one night because each episode kept me intrigued about what was going to happen next.

Where the Show Lost Me:

Unfortunately, much of the build up that kept me intrigued ultimately left me confused with the reveal at the end of the season’s final episode, episode 6.

By episode 3 we get our “aha!” moment when one of the time variants, a female version of Loki named, “Sylvie,” reveals that the agents of the TVA are actually brainwashed variants from Earth who got their memories wiped by the TVA.

Once it was revealed that the employees of the TVA were deceived, the audience was left to wonder about the real motives of the powerful time agency. By episode 4, Sylvie beheads one of the Time Keepers, only to find out it was just a lifeless machine. It is revealed that there is a true mastermind behind the TVA pulling the strings of the organization in secrecy.

Classic Loki and Sylvie end up at the Void at the End of Time, figuring that the clandestine mastermind of the TVA would be hiding at the end of the known timeline. There they find a world of Loki variants. Instead of cooperating with each other to escape the Void, this motley collection of Lokis fight with one another endlessly and stab each other in the back—as Lokis are known to do. However, a small band of Lokis cooperate with Classic Loki and Sylvie to help our two protagonists escape the Void and arrive at the Citadel at the End of Time. There they finally find the mastermind behind the TVA, He Who Remains, a person who is revealed to be…

*Drum roll.*

JONATHAN MAJORS, who was officially cast as KANG THE CONQUEROR in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Devout comic book fans and Marvel movie fans may enjoy this easter egg. It’s a cool set up for Ant Man. But for people who are not as familiar with all the comics or every movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this could definitely be unclear. Kang the Conqueror only gave his background story in this episode, but not his name.

Maybe Kang the Conqueror will play a bigger role in season 2, but it would have been nice to see him more involved throughout season 1, so there would be more payoff when he was revealed as the big bad in the end.

Not only that, but He Who Remains says he actually wants to protect the timeline from multiversal war, just as the TVA originally explains. So…why all the cloak and dagger? Why the need for the animatronic space lizards? In fact, when the memories of the TVA employees get wiped and reset, they have a new statue of He Who Remains. At the end, it seems to me there wasn’t much reason to hide that Kang was pulling the strings. But maybe something will be revealed in season 2 that may explain this?

Alternative Ending

For me, I would have preferred it if the big bad was a Loki variant. There’s literally a whole world full of them. There’s a kid Loki. There’s even a freaking alligator Loki who gets a lot of screen time. The antagonist at the end could have considered him or herself, “The Ultimate Loki.”

This Loki could have bragged that they were a variant who found a way to do what our Classic Loki originally wanted to do, but failed to do: control reality. This would have created a legitimate reason to hide the original mastermind behind the TVA. A Loki variant would want to trick the other Lokis and destroy them so he or she could rise above them all and become the ultimate Loki. And this is indeed a theme the show even alluded to when they showed Classic Loki being insecure about the existence of other more powerful Lokis.

Caveat

I know that this is just the first season, and perhaps its purpose is to set up something more interesting in season 2, along with other Marvel movies. I am definitely open to watching season 2 because most of season 1 was pretty good.

I will also admit that keeping all the various Marvel plot lines tied together is probably a very difficult feat. Writers for the Marvel Cinematic Universe have to constantly balance satisfying their more active fans who keep up with every comic and movie, along with viewers who are less active, and are simply dipping in for the occasional show or movie.

If you have a different view on the ending, feel free to comment.

Links

WHO IS THE VILLAIN IN THE LOKI FINALE? EPISODE 6, EXPLAINED [SPOILERS!] (Inverse, 7-14-21)

The Rings of Power is Enjoyable as Amazon Fan-fiction

There’s been a lot of hate for Amazon’s new Tolkien inspired fantasy series, The Rings of Power. ‘Rings Of Power’ Is Getting Review Bombed So Hard Amazon Suspended Reviews Entirely. On Rotten Tomatoes, while its critics score is 84%, it has a 36% audience score. This means that the Rotten Tomatoes Audience reviewers actually hated The Rings of Power more than Troll 2 (one of the most hilariously bad movies ever made).

While The Rings of Power is not the best show ever, I was honestly surprised by all the hate. I didn’t think it was Troll 2 bad.

Deciding to investigate, I scanned through about four pages of Rotten Tomatoes reviews. The reviewers said they were angry about bad writing, slow pacing and the drastic change in Galadriel’s character from wise sorceress to elf Rambo. But the biggest complaint of all was that people felt that the show was unfaithful to Tolkien’s source material.

The show itself is based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s appendices. It is produced by Amazon Studios in cooperation with Harper Collins and New Line Cinema, in consultation with the Tolkien Estate.

If you think about it, The Ring’s of Power is basically fan fiction. The show writers are using the world building Tolkien provided in his appendices, and populating it with their own plot lines and dialogue. Why? Because they are doing their work based off an appendices, not a written novel with its own dialogue and plot. So it’s just not going to be the same quality as Tolkien. We can’t expect it to be unless they can somehow bring Tolkien back from the dead and make him write it. Maybe if Amazon called the show, Amazon’s $465 Million Tolkien Fan-fiction, people would have been less upset?

If one approaches the show as fan fiction, rather than expecting it to be on the level of Tolkien, one can enjoy the show more.

While I was not blown away by the show, I was entertained enough to keep watching. I think Tolkien’s original theme of good versus evil, and corruption versus nature were intact. The New Zealand landscape was visually stunning, along with the depiction of Númenor. There’s likeable characters. I’m genuinely enjoying the friendship between Nori Brandyfoot and The Stranger (who may be Gandalf). Perhaps what the show writers are setting up is an explanation for Gandalf’s love of little people. I’m also enjoying the humorous exchange between young Elrond and the dwarf, Prince Durin. And I’m genuinely excited to see what the orcs, and their leader, Adar, are going to do next (I find them pretty interesting).

Compared to other fantasy series out there on TV, I think The Rings of Power is not bad. And given that a record breaking 25 MILLION other viewers are watching season 1 along with me, how bad could it really be? I am looking forward to watching more.

I also do think it’s getting better. Even the audience reviews (which are currently almost below freezing) seem to be thawing ever so slightly.

If I had to give The Rings of Power a rating between Valinor and the Southlands, I’d give it a rock solid Khazad-dûm.

Moon Knight’s Weakness – Astronomy Apps (Plot Hole in Episode 3)

Twitter is abuzz today with the news that a second season of Moon Knight is in the making.

Moon Knight director Mohamed Diab and Oscar Isaac are currently in Cairo. When asked by a fan if season 2 was happening, Oscar Isaac replied, “Why else would we be here? (Source)”

SEASON 1 SPOILERS BELOW.

Overall the first season was a major success. Oscar Isaac was able to show off his remarkable acting talent by portraying two very different personalities: Tough guy American mercenary Marc Spector, and the meek, mild mannered, British gift shop cashier, Steven Grant.

The Disney+ action filled super hero story of Egyptian mythos and gods was very fun. I was definitely entertained.

However, my only hang up about the show was what happened in episode three of season one. Something so silly and ridiculous I wanted to throw a gold plated scarab at my TV.

Marc Spector is in Egypt trying to locate Ammit’s tomb, all while vying for control over his and Steven’s shared body. It’s critical for them to find Ammit’s tomb quickly, or else Arthur (the bad guy) will get there first, and resurrect a very dangerous goddess into the world.

However, in order to find Ammit’s tomb, the good guys need to know how the night sky looked one millennia earlier.

So what do they do?

Does Marc Spector or Layla download an astronomy app like SkySafari to see what the sky would’ve looked like a thousand years ago? The app costs $5.

NOPE! TOO EASY.

Instead, Khonshu, Egyptian lord of the moon and vengeance, changes the ENTIRE freaking night sky! This is a move so controversial it gets him imprisoned in stone by the other gods.

And all he had to do was pay $5 for an app.

Oh well. Their version was more dramatic than mine. Script called for it I guess.

Links

Moon Knight Season 1 Episode 3 Recap (The Ringer)

Moon Knight Is Returning for Season 2, Oscar Isaac Suggests in TikTok (CNET)

Predictions for Stranger Things Season 5

Stranger Things season 4 has broken several Netflix records. It was the biggest premiere weekend ever for an English-language TV show on Netflix with 286.79 million hours viewed. It was the first season to reach #1 in 83 countries on the Netflix Top 10.

Season 4 (in my humble opinion) was the best Stranger Things season, and perhaps even one of the best shows currently on television. Each episode (which was over one hour long) was like it’s own movie. And the final episode, being 2.5 hours, was really a feature length film.

And now, of course, there is much excitement about what’s coming next.

See some predictions below.

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VECNA IS INJURED BUT NOT DEAD

A concrete law of any death on television is that if the body is missing, the person is not really dead.

In the “final” showdown between Vecna and the Steve/Nancy/Robin teenage trio, Nancy takes a shot at Vecna with her sawed off shotgun and blasts him through the attic window of the Creel house to the ground below. However, when the kids all run outside, Vecna’s body is missing.

It was also established in season 4 that Vecna was ultimately the puppet master in control of the Upside Down (so Eddie playing Metallica’s Master of Puppets on guitar was a nice tie in). Once Will realizes that One/Henry/Vecna is in control of the Upside Down, he says that he can feel Vecna’s presence. He feels this presence toward the end of the season 4 finale, when they discover rotting flowers and a strange dust filling the air.

It is most likely that Vecna is injured, but not dead. He’s biding his time in recovery before he sends his armies through the cracks he created between the Upside Down and the regular world.

EDDIE COMES BACK AS A VAMPIRE

A community manager for Wizards of the Coast made a very well written post on Reddit about the striking parallels between the plot of Stranger Things and the story canon of the D&D universe. Henry/One/Vecna of Stranger Things follows much of the storyline about Vecna from D&D, including the fact that he knows peoples’ darkest secrets.

Thus by following D&D lore, one may be able to predict the plot of what is to come in Stranger Things season 5.

There is a popular theory proliferating on the internet that Eddie is going to come back as a vampire.

In the D&D universe, Vecna has a resurrected vampire lieutenant named “Kas” who ultimately betrays him in the end.

At the end of season 4, Eddie gets bitten by demo-bats and dies. However, a vampire is technically dead themselves. They die before being resurrected back to life. So, there may be a chance that Vecna resurrects Eddie to serve in his army. And given the popularity of the character Eddie, the creators of the show may potentially resurrect him as fan service.

WILL HAS POWERS

While season 4 is arguably one of the strongest Stranger Things seasons yet, one complaint I saw among many fans was that Will was effectively side-lined this season.

However, I will say with all the different characters and plotlines going on, I think it would have been difficult to give Will more air time.

The show did heavily hint that Will had feelings for his friend Mike. This was very obviously suggested when he painted a picture of Mike, seemed embarrassed, and then said Eleven “basically commissioned it.” Yet, in the first episode of season 4, Eleven says that Will is painting something and she doesn’t know what he’s painting. There was also his speech he gave about what “Eleven” feels about Mike, which people are saying is what Will actually feels about Mike.

So there is much discussion over that plot element. However, something else that is interesting, but lesser discussed, is the theory that Will has powers. This theory is potentially supported by the fact that Will was stuck in the Upside Down for a week and survived without Vecna draining him and stealing his mind like he did to his other victims in season 4. There is also the fact that Will has a mental connection to Vecna.

There is also the interesting fact that the Upside Down resembles Hawkins from the day Will entered into it. One will notice in Henry/One/Vecna’s flashbacks about first entering the Upside Down, that it looks like a completely alien landscape with no resemblance to Hawkins. So there is a suggestion that Will actually changed the reality of the Upside Down and that he has the power to change reality. Some people say this is why Vecna didn’t treat Will like his other victims, he may have been scared of Will’s power.

VECNA WILL RE-ENTER THE WORLD THROUGH MAX

In the final episode of season 4, we see Max comatose in the hospital. Eleven tries to make mental contact with her, but when she enters Max’s mind, Max doesn’t seem present. Thus, there is a theory that Max will exist as an empty vessel for Vecna to enter into in season 5.

For more theories check out the link below:

Stranger Things: 10 Fan Theories About Season 5, According to Reddit (Screen Rant)

Twilight Batman Mostly Works – Review

You’ve seen goofy Batman (Adam West), sophisticated Batman (Michael Keaton), campy Batman (George Clooney), gritty Batman (Christian Bale), and grumpy Batman (Ben Affleck).

Now in 2022, director Matt Reeves brings us emo Batman!

When I first heard that Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame was going to play the Batman, I struggled with the announcement.

Apparently I wasn’t alone. The 2019 announcement of Robert Pattinson’s casting was met with a wave of criticism by franchise fans. Over 6,800 people went so far as to sign a petition urging Warner Brothers to reconsider. Others, including Jimmy Kimmel, jumped to his defense.

For me, it was difficult imagining Robert Pattinson in a role that wasn’t a tortured emo goth. And after watching 2022’s iteration of Batman, I came away saying, “Yup! He’s still a tortured emo goth! But you know what? Oddly enough, it kinda works.”

In the three hour slog of dimly lit darkness that was the darkest darkness that ever darked, I got strong Twilight vibes from Pattinson’s portrayal of a reclusive, brooding Bruce Wayne who shunned the limelight to skulk in the shadows—a Bruce Wayne with a guyliner heavy aesthetic the likes of Brandon Lee’s The Crow meets My Chemical Romance. But hey, Batman didn’t sparkle! So that’s something.

As someone who grew up watching the 1990s animated series, with a gothic, dark, somber, serious, tough and joyless Batman, Robert Pattinson’s portrayal more or less worked for me. Sure, this Batman was ’emo,’ but he was also menacing. He didn’t hold back his punches as Gotham’s ‘Vengeance.’ And the people he rescued seemed just as scared of him as the criminals he thwarted.

SPOILERS BELOW THIS LINE!

WATCH OUT!

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Paul Dano’s Incel Riddler:

Paul Dano’s portrayal of an internet troll Riddler with his own horde of online followers ready to commit violence was something fresh, creepy and yet relatable for our time. Far different from Jim Carrey prancing around in a lime green onesie in Batman Forever, Paul Dano wears thick glasses, a home made mask, and terrorizes the citizens of Gotham with his Tik Tok esque videos. His boyish face and genuine mental illness (the likes of 2019’s the Joker) adds a creepy realism to him that made my skin crawl.

Zoe Kravitz Nails it as Catwoman

Zoe Kravitz was originally denied the role of Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises for being “too urban” — in other words, for having dark skin. That was definitely their loss!

Zoe Kravitz did a great job of bringing the dangerous, simmering sexuality of Selina Kyle to the screen. While she gets saved by the Batman once or twice, she’s definitely still capable of holding her own in a fight. And yes, she has lots of cats.

Some critics say there wasn’t much sexual chemistry between Catwoman and Batman. I didn’t mind. Batman doesn’t have to be sexy. He just has to be a somber, frowning, vengeance machine in a cape and cowl. He’s lowkey attracted to Catwoman. But it’s clear that crime fighting is his first love, so he doesn’t have much room in his life for sex or romance.

Thinly Veiled Allusions to Today’s Political Reality

In the Batman universe, you have a billionaire saving the day while the people who want to overthrow the corrupt elites are the extremist bad guys. Seems like quite the plutocratic message, no?

This was why The Joker made in 2019 was revolutionary. The Waynes are actually the antagonists, while Joaquin Phoenix’s emaciated and poverty riddled Joker is shown in a sympathetic light, even if he does end up going off the deep end.

Matt Reeves’ The Batman doesn’t go nearly as far as The Joker in showing Gotham’s wealthy elite in a critical light. But it does it more so than other Batman movies in the past. Catwoman states that Batman “must be rich,” because he moralizes to her from up high on his pedestal.

One thing that was interesting about this movie is that it takes a look at the corrupt actions of Bruce Wayne’s father, while past movies have largely shown the Wayne family in a positive light.

In the end of The Batman, the protagonists are people who are trying earnestly to do their best in a corrupt system, despite the fact that reform seems like it will never come. You see this with the Batman himself, along with police commissioner James Gordon, and Bella Reál, who is running for mayor with the slogan, “Change for Gotham.” I definitely got Obama vibes from her slogan. And I suppose that allusion to the Obamas was no accident, because the actress who plays Bella Reál, Jayme Lawson, was a young Michelle Obama in The First Lady.

Bella Reál is running her campaign in a stadium that gets flooded by water (along with the rest of Gotham). The stadium becomes overtaken by the Riddlers’ army of masked internet dorks. They have given up on trying to attempt reform within the system. They just want to destroy Gotham and its elites overall, thinking it is too corrupt to be saved.

As Bella Reál’s campaign gets overtaken, you get the vibe that all hopes for reform are lost. But Batman of course triumphs. And then at the end of the movie, Batman stays in the city to help people recover from the damage. He says that he can no longer just be vengeance, but he must represent hope as well.

My Overall Rating of The Batman: B, 84%

(No, I’m not rating it ‘B’ for ‘Batman.’)

This movie did not have the stellar acting the likes of Heath Ledger or Joaquin Phoenix. So I can’t say that it was my favorite Batman. But not every movie has to be ground breaking. Overall, I did come away from it feeling entertained.

I enjoyed Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Batman more than I expected.

I guess vampires can turn into bats after all.

Fan Opinions on New Star Trek (Reddit Edition)

As a fan of the older Star Trek shows, I was curious to hear what fans thought about the newest stuff. I’m talking about Discovery (2017), Picard (2020), and Lower Decks (2020). So I went to r/scifi to investigate.

See the Reddit thread here!

I’m not saying Reddit is representative of what all people everywhere think. People on the internet tend to be more critical than people in person (as I know being a fan in random communities). But Reddit offers a good way to get the opinions of a sample size of random fans of a particular subject, especially when I’m stuck in quarantine and can’t exactly go interview a hundred random people in person and hope that they watch Star Trek. With Reddit’s system of upvoting, you get to see which comments resonated with people more than others. So I find it a more valuable medium for opinion gathering than Facebook (where I’m limited to people who are my friends) and Twitter (for the same reason).


So let’s get down to it! What did the hundred+ random Star Trek fans I interviewed on Reddit think about the new Star Trek? 

The top-voted comments on the Reddit thread disliked both Picard and Discovery overall. And the most downvoted comments were the ones that voiced approval.

I decided to take a tally of the comments and break it down into like, dislike and neutral (for people who had mixed reviews). This is my count as of now (8/11/20 11:03am), it doesn’t account for new comments added after this. I also only counted the parent comments. This does not follow the nested comments of those parent comments (because those are discussions that involve the OG commenter elaborating on their point).


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A general theme I noted is that people in r/scifi felt that the new Star Treks lacked continuity with the older Star Treks. They felt that the science in Discovery was not as robust as it was in previous generations (with the questionable Spore Drive). Some people said Discovery and Picard would have been good if they were a completely separate scifi series that wasn’t connected to the Star Trek universe (because of the consistency issues and departure from canon). Other people had issues with the writing and felt that these series focused on explosions and action while missing out on the deeper philosophical questions that originally made Star Trek great (so basically becoming Transformers?). A lot of people felt that the mood of Discovery didn’t match the optimism of Star Trek in general, that it was cynical and filled with betrayal.

There weren’t many comments on the animated series Lower Decks (2020), mainly because people either hadn’t watched it or were focused on discussing Discovery and Picard.


Here are some of the top comments on the thread: 

“They are very disappointing as a long term mega-fan since childhood. Seems the essence and spirit of the trek series is basically gone…I’ve lost complete interest in the franchise.”

“The problem with Picard, and all of nuTrek, is that it doesn’t seem to feel like it has to respect any of the rules that the existing canon created, and then on top of that it doesn’t even seem interesting in respecting the new rules they have created even within a season. That is just top to bottom bad writing.”

“They completely lack what made ST unique. Picard might as well be a gritty FX drama and Discovery some generic sci-fi show with Marvel elements thrown in. There’s no imagination, no wonder, no optimism for the future. Teamwork, bonding, shared experiences and friendships are almost non-existent. We’re left with betrayal, backstabbing, and general mean-spiritedness. The futuristic setting has been abandoned. The characters all wear what looks like 20th century clothing and have 20th century problems and use 20th century slang. Everyone’s bitter, depressed, addicted, cynical. I find it hard to watch just based on this.”


How about the people who liked it…or at least liked some of it?

“Just to be a contrarian against the one other post, I loved Picard and am very lukewarm on Discovery. Picard certainly deviated from canon and had a few story beats I didn’t agree with (I really dislike bitter, cynical starfleet), but the core of Picard’s optimism, his ability to inspire and get people to follow him loyally, and his core belief in the goodness of people is there. I enjoyed it a lot. Plus the fully HD re-render of the Galaxy-class was worth the price of admission. Discovery does not feel like Star Trek at all to me. It’s not optimistic. It’s bitter and combative, full of betrayal, horrible outcomes, fighting, insults. It’s also heavily serialized which makes one-off episode watching feel pretty pointless. That’s also true of Picard, to be fair.”

“They were enjoyable. Could have used more Star Trek flavor, but still good enough to watch.”

“I like them. I was actually growing tired of episodic format and prefer short seasons with one big story arc. Some of the best Trek episodes are two/three part episodes, so I’d rather see more of this. Sure, Discovery and Picard have flaws, but the production is so different, writers are squeezing so many easter eggs into every episode, I honestly don’t care if they make another movie based on Jar Jar Abrams universe, Simon Pegg can’t fuck right off.”


So some people liked it and some people didn’t. But a majority of the comments seemed to dislike the newer Star Treks, while those who did like them were downvoted into the basement.

On Rotten Tomatoes for Picard, critics gave it an 87% while the audience gave it a 57%.  If you add the Picard likes to the Picard neutral comments of the scifi reddit thread, you get a similar percentage, that 51% of the people who commented didn’t hate it.

On Rotten Tomatoes for Discovery, critics gave it an 81% while the audience gave it a 42%. If you add the Discovery likes to the Discovery neutral comments on the scifi reddit, you get a similar percentage, that 48% of the people who commented didn’t hate it.

On Rotten Tomatoes for Lower Decks, critics gave it a 63% while the audience gave it a 31%.

Now what’s interesting, is if you look up Orville (Seth MacFarlane’s parody of Star Trek) on Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll see that critics gave it a 65% while the audience gave it a whopping 94%!

One reddit comment stated: “The spirit of Star Trek is alive and well in The Orville.”

What’s interesting to me is that critic scores are completely different from audience scores. Are they right? Are they wrong? Art is subjective. So that’s not for me to decide. I simply set out to find out what a sample size of people on r/scifi thought about the newer Star Trek, and it seemed that their opinions were fairly consistent with the audience’s views on Rotten Tomatoes.

But of course, if you want to find out what you really think about the newer Star Trek, watch it yourself on CBS All Access.