“Postal Apocalypse” is back, folks! Sorry for the delay. I could tell you an interesting lie about mutant raccoons scouring the post-apocalyptic landscape, but in all honesty I was just moving, and it took all my meager resources just to edit io9 and write Game of Thrones recaps that infuriated you. But I’m back now, so let’s begin!


Death Becomes Us

Sally J.:

I’m really confused why (seemingly) so many people are disappointed no one died in Civil War (exuding the old age/natural causes death), or why they feel the movie was pointless because it didn’t “raise the stakes.” It seems really unsustainable to constantly have to raise the stakes, and besides, its already a fantasy, do we really need characters we love and care about to die in order for us to believe they might? We don’t really want them to die, right?

Sally, the people you are referring to are what I like to call “silly-billies.” But let’s first start off by pointing out that killing off characters is not intrinsically a bad thing. Sometimes it’s the natural end to a character’s story, like Darth Vader. Sometimes it’s used to generate a story for another character—like Luke Skywalker setting off after his aunt and uncle have been murdered (but which has also beget the horrible “Women in Refrigerators” and “Bury Your Gays” tropes). Sometimes a character death can be used to raise the stakes on the story—to prove the bad guy is willing to be that evil, to make the risks seem greater, and/or to galvanize the heroes. I’d say Agent Coulson’s death in the first Avengers movie fulfilled that reasonably well.

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But killing a character doesn’t automatically raise the stakes. What these nitwits often think is “raising the stakes” is actually just “collateral damage,” where there’s some kind of big fight and a lesser character dies out of some misguided attempt giving the story some pathos. This is what they apparently wanted from Civil War, was for one of the lesser Marvel heroes to get killed, because let’s not pretend Cap or Iron Man were ever seriously in danger.

Say War Machine had actually died after he was accidentally shot by the Vision and fell to the ground. How would that have made the story any better? What would it really have achieved other than killing a character? Sure, it made Tony Stark upset, but it his teammate that fired the shot, so he has no reason to be any angrier at Team Cap than he was originally. (Actually, it should have made him more aware that people with superpowers should try to resolve their disputes without fighting each other, but oh well.) Even if Captain America had killed War Machine himself, it might have increased Iron Man’s desire to stop Cap, but would it have increased the quality of the film’s finale act if Iron Man just wanted to stop Cap harder? No.

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What makes this desire for a character to die in Civil War even more absurd is that it’s a movie where heroes fight heroes. Do these people really want a hero who is willing to kill another hero over what is essentially an ideological difference? Think of the cost! If Cap killed War Machine, or if any Avenger killed another, how would they ever trust each other again, let alone reform as a team? When Infinity War comes out, which would you rather watch: superheroes Iron Man and Cap constantly ignoring Thanos to punch other, or for the Avengers to hug it out in the beginning of the film while everyone pretends certain murders didn’t happen? I’ll take neither.

As for whether people actually want these characters to die: It depends. Minor characters can be offed with regrets and nothing more, but main characters almost always get resurrected one way or another; they have to be. Every major comic book hero has. DC Murder-verse Superman will. Those guys on Supernatural die and come back constantly. But every time this happens it lessens the stakes-raising ability of future deaths.

So it’s unsustainable on just about every level. If you kill a character, then you have to keep killing characters to keep “the stakes” at the same level. If you want to raise “the stakes” further, you have to kill more and more characters. Eventually you run out of characters. Then you have to add new characters but since they’re new and people know they’re going to die anyway, they don’t care about them.

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Sure, maybe Marvel chose to lower “the stakes” in Civil War, but 1) this will allow them to raise “the stakes” again in Infinity War, and 2) this prevented Marvel heroes from murdering one of their friends and co-workers, and thus transforming from a hero to a superpowered asshole. Hell, even Murderverse Batman and Superman had the decency to not murder any characters we cared about.


Uptown Supergirl

JH:

Postman! So, Supergirl is moving to CW, where, to be honest, it’s probably a better fit. However, the wife is concerned that the shift (and possibly bringing Supergirl into the same universe as the other shows) will make SG go “dark.” We like all the DC shows for their own tones, and yeah, making Supergirl follow the Arrow path would hurt it. Hooray for crossovers, amirite? But we hope Supergirl stays light and hopeful.

Do you think they’ll stay the path?

I do. Supergirl was a modest hit for CBS, but it was very well-liked, and the CW would be thrilled if it had the same ratings for them—there’s really no benefit in changing its tone. Plus, both the CW and the DC TV crew have always tried to give their many, many superhero shows their own feel, anyways: Arrow’s the dark and gritty one, The Flash is the more scifi, comic book-y one, and Supergirl is the lighter, family-friendly one. (And Legends of Tomorrow is the weird-ass one that veers wildly between all three.) Moving to the CW shouldn’t change their desire to keep their shows feeling unique in the slightest.

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The one change that will matter is possibly losing Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant, either partially or permanently. That would be a huge shame, as Cat Grant is the scene-stealer of the show, and absolutely the most important character after Kara (although I can’t blame Flockhart for not suddenly wanting to leave her home in L.A. to move to Vancouver, where Supergirl will now be shot to save money). But even if that happens, it’ll change some of the dynamics of the show, but I still don’t see it getting darker.


Sittin’ by the Schlock of the Bay

Dan S.:

With so many Transformers movies coming in the near future are the executives in charge ever going to fix some of the worst problems of the series? Biggest for me are Bay’s misogyny and racism.

Nope.

There’s no real impetus for Michael Bay to do anything differently as long as his movies make a jillion dollars. I don’t know why millions of people keep watching movies about robots that are based on children’s toys that feature Megan Fox needlessly bending over motorcycles or lengthy discussions of what circumstances in which it’s legal to fuck 17-year-old girls, but they do.

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Really, the only reason Bay stopped giving the robots horribly racist voices was after so many people complained about Skids and Mudflap in Revenge of the Fallen that Hasbro feared it would lessen the jillion dollars the future movies would make. And even then Bay still gave a samurai robot a cartoonishly thick Japanese accent in Age of Extinction, which apparently was fine because it was a racial stereotype that wasn’t technically negative.

Bay will likely have to quit Transformers to get him off the franchise, and, although he says he’s done every time he makes a new one, he’ll probably continue making them forever because he gets paid to blow shit up and leer at young women all day. And Hasbro/Paramount will feel a little bad about this, at least until the dumptrucks full of money start rolling up.


In Deep Ship

Scott S.:

Dear Postman,

Why do they think it’s OK to keep blowing up the Enterprise? I’m referring partly to the upcoming (Apparent) destruction of the Enterprise in Star Trek Beyond but they’ve been doing it for years. The Enterprise-D was the home and setting of The Next Generation crew for 178 episodes and then it got a piss-poor death at the end of Generations. Now it appears they’ll be blowing it up again in the new movie. Before that they blew up the original Enterprise in Search for Spock, and while I wasn’t thrilled about that either, at least it had some gravitas behind it.

I’ve always seen the Enterprise (Or most long-running ships, for that matter) as another character - as much of one as Kirk or Spock or Picard or Worf. Why is it seemingly OK to keep blowing it up? Am I wrong in thinking people would have an aneurysm if the Millennium Falcon met the same fate?

To harken back to Sally’s letter above, it’s the exact same problem. Director/writer/studio exec wants to “raise the stakes” on a Star Trek film. The characters are pretty much untouchable—what, you’re going to have a Trek movie without Scotty, Sulu, or Chekhov? Of course not—which leaves the Enterprise. It’s so iconic! As you said, it’s like a character! (Yes, classic Spock and Nu-Kirk died, but their resurrection only proves my point about how their deaths are utterly meaningless.)

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Seeing as TOS, Next Generation, and the new movie continuity will have only destroyed an Enterprise once each, this isn’t the series trying to continually increase the stakes, but it’s still being used to raise the stakes for their individual sagas. The Enterprise is gone! What a horrible threat the crew is facing! At least the ship can be resurrected without resorting to Bones inexplicably shooting Tribbles with Benedict Cumberbatch’s blood. Easy peasy.


Guided by Voice Acting

Frustrated FanGirl with Disposal Income:

Dear Mr. Postman, Amazon’s Echo looks amazing. I haven’t bought one.

Google’s Chirp sounds like it could be even better. I won’t buy it, either.

It seems that neither device (or their OS) will allow a user to change to the virtual assistant’s name. And frankly, it’s just not worth my money unless I can say, “Jarvis, play the Drive By Truckers,” or “Jarvis, tell me the weather in Mesa, Arizona, today.” I cannot believe with the amount of amazing cross promotion Marvel Studios does for its movies that no one has paid Paul Bettany an obscene amount of money to make this happen. I mean, if the marketplace has room for Avenger’s cologne, Civil War breakfast cereal, and a Rocket Raccoon backpack, surely there are more people than just me who want a Marvel-themed personal digital assistant just like Tony Stark has?!?!?!

There is an astonishing amount of recording needed to voice a Siri-level virtual assistant. According to Susan Bennett, the voice of Siri, she “did the initial recordings for what became the voice of Siri in July 2005 for a text-to-speech company—four hours a day, five days a week.“ There were 21 business days in July of 2005 (research!) but let’s say it was just 20 for simplicity’s sake. That’s 80 hours of recording.

Now that may not seem like a ton, but get this: It took Jim Dale 21 hours to record both parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which together took up 17 CDs. So Bennett essentially recorded 68 CDs worth of material during her 20 days of work. That’s a lot!

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Comparatively, it only takes a few hours to record a GPS voice. This is because GPSes only use a comparatively small amount of phrases (“Your destination will be on the right”), numbers (which are easily combined into larger numbers), and syllables to take care of all the street names (this is why GPSes say so many street names so stilted and bizarrely). But an AI like Siri needs to sound natural, so the voice actor needs to record hundreds, maybe thousands of syllable combinations in order to allow it to talk like a normal person.

My broader point is that although Paul Bettany may not be a Robert Downey Jr.-level star, he’s a big enough star that he has no desire or need to spend a month of his life talking into a microphone. (Although yes, it would sell like hot cakes.)


Four Loco

Wesley S.:

Postman, I finally got around to seeing Fan4stic over the weekend on HBO, and while it was by and large definitely not a Fantastic 4 movie, I enjoyed it more than BVS: Dawn of Crap. Maybe it was the total murder of the characterization of Batman and Superman that make me despise it so, but I didn’t find the acting of Fan4stic overly hammy and I thought it invoked character emotions in a far more realistic pace and legitimacy than the evolution of Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, but all comparisons aside, I didn’t hate Fan4stic.

I keep thinking that maybe my bar was already so incredibly low that there was no way I could be disappointment, but like I said, I bought into the character emotions and the story wasn’t the worst thing ever put on screen. Admittedly so, I know it was a cheap money grab from Fox and I am by no means ever endorsing a sequel of this movie, I cannot believe I actually enjoyed it. Are my movie taste buds becoming sour from BVS filth? Am I insane for actually enjoying a movie on its own but admitting that it was absolutely not the Fantastic Four movie it was advertised to be?

You’re not the only who tolerates-to-enjoys ol’ F4nt4stic Four. Nathan Rabin, a movie critic I quite look up to, had many nice things to say about it. And to be fair, in many ways it is a better movie than Batman v Superman. It’s got better characterization (except for Sue), it’s got an actual storyarc instead of being a series of setpieces, and it’s not worried about jamming 900 references to an upcoming DC cinematic universe. It can just tell its story (which is by no means a good story, but at least it’s coherent).

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While I agree that the characters of F4nt4st44 4ou4 and the performances are much, much better than BvS, I’d probably be more likely to watch BvS over 444444444 44u4. As… problematic as I found BvS, a lot of its action scenes were still highly entertaining. Batman rescuing Superman’s mom? Wonder Woman versus Doomsday? Yes, please. Ol’ 4444,444,444,444 may have had better, more realistic performances, but if I want to watch a movie with good, realistic performances I have several thousand other options. If I want to see a live-action movie where DC heroes kick ass together, my options are somewhat more limited.


Precedent Carter

Lily K.:

Hi Mr. Future Postman,

Longtime lurker, first-time emailer. My heart is broken over the loss of Agent Carter. Is there any way that Peggy Carter will show up in other things? Or are there any comics featuring her that you could recommend?

It’s definitely possible that Marvel would give Peggy her own comic—more likely a miniseries to start out with, rather than an ongoing—seeing as they’ve been bringing in elements of Agents of SHIELD into the comics fast and furious. Also, Marvel’s been doing pretty good at bringing out comics starring female heroes recently, and they’ve even hired Agent Carter showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas to write Captain Marvel! It’s not even close to a certainty, but I’d be shocked if the idea of an Agent Carter comic hadn’t at least been floated around Marvel HQ recently.

As for your current Peggy fix, there’s not that much available, unfortunately. The MCU Peggy Carter makes an appearance in the Ant-Man Prelude #1, a comic prequel to the movie. Peggy also plays a major role in the Operation SIN miniseries, where she fights HYDRA with Howard Stark, but this is Marvel Comics’ Peggy—American and significantly less lighthearted. But the American Peggy also stars in the recent Agent Carter: SHIELD: 50th Anniversary one-shot, but is noticeably more like her TV counterpart. (Much thanks to my minion/pal James Whitbrook for the comic specifics.)


Can’t Complain?

Call me Rodimus:

Dear Mr. Postman,

Is there a Statute of Limitations on how long someone can complain about a piece of pop culture. I’m specifically speaking about the Star Wars Special Editions. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear someone bitch about the Special Editions. They’ll be 20 years old next year. They’ve essentially been Star Wars for half the life of Star Wars. Not to mention that Star Wars(Episode IV) itself had been changed several times between it’s day of release and 1997. Isn’t it time that people get over it? My son is 3 and he is never going to know the non-special editions. I have no problem with that. He’s not going to care that Han shot first, or that Hayden Christensen replaced Sebastian Shaw at the end of Return of the Jedi. All he’s going to know is that these are some damn cool movies.

There is never a statute of limitations on complaining. I could add “unfortunately” to that, but again, as a significant portion of my professional career seems to be based on complaining, I feel that would by hypocritical. The good news is that eventually my generation will die off and shut the hell up. Only 30-50 or so years to go!

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In my generation’s defense, though, the “NOOOOOOOO” added to Return of the Jedi‘s climatic, final battle is really sort of the worst thing ever.


Hey, when “Postal Apocalypse”was MIA these past two weeks, you guys did a great job of flooding me with letters. Please keep it up! Send your questions, concerns, arguments that need settling, pleas for advice, whatever the heck you want to postman@io9.com!