Art by Tsuneo Sanda. Visit his website here.

Bonjour, my bonny mailboxes. Thanks to your abundance of excellent letters, I have an extra big mailbag for you today! So let’s get right to it: What’s the best Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack? Who could save the Transformers movie franchise? Why did WB decide to make the DCEU’s Batman so damn old? And more of your excellent and/or nerdy questions answered!


Machete Kills

Arnold C.:

Mr Postman, how do “Rogue One” and “The Force Awakens” affect the “Machete Order”? Start with “Rogue One”, and then move into “A New Hope”? Or, not even worry about R1? TFA after RoTJ for sure, right? What do we do about Episodes VII, VIII, and IX?

What if this does keep going on? If it extends forever, is there a point where you just watch all of SW numerically?

Let me start by informing anyone who might be unaware that the Star Wars “Machete Order” posits that people should watch A New Hope and Empire, then the prequels, and then Return of the Jedi, which is all essentially just to preserve the Vader-is-Luke’s father reveal. Some people even drop The Phantom Menace entirely. How to include The Force Awakens and Rogue One in this order is obviously causing some people some consternation. But I, as always, have the answer.

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Arnold, over my many, many years as a nerd, I have discovered a truth, and it’s that only you know the best way to introduce someone to the Star Wars movies. Trust your feelings. Retract your targeting computer. Listen to the voice of the deceitful old man in your head.

I’m only partially kidding. We can say there’s a “perfect” order to watch the ever-increasing pile of Star Wars movies, but there really isn’t. I could almost argue that having the sequel trilogy makes the Machete Order better, in that Return of the Jedi wouldn’t just be hanging out there alone, only watched after the prequels, but Rogue One in particular has messed everything up.

Does anyone really think that Rogue One is the best entry into the Star Wars universe? Sure, it’s a hilariously direct prequel to A New Hope, but without seeing New Hope first, much of Rogue One would be weird if not outright off-putting. Seeing Star Wars first gives Rogue One the dramatic weight it needs to be truly exciting. And what the hell happens when the Han Solo side story shows up? It’ll almost certainly be set before Rogue One, but a Star Wars viewing order that starts Han Solo, Rogue One, then A New Hope does not sounds good to me—and certainly no way to potentially create a fan. And what about all the cartoons? Now that everything is canon, don’t they belong to be somewhere in here too?

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But here’s the truth: There is no perfect order to watch these films, at least for everybody. But there can be a perfect order for you, or whoever you want to show it to. I will always want to start with A New Hope, because that’s my first, and my lynchpin to the Star Wars universe. But kids who grew up with the prequels are likely perfectly fine watching Episodes 1-3 and then the original trilogy. Meanwhile, some people will be fine—maybe even significantly happier—if Episode 1 is omitted completely from the viewing order. And maybe the best way for you to watch Rogue One is by watching the original trilogy, then the prequels, then Rogue One, and then A New Hope again. My point is there isn’t a universally correct answer here.

Let me tell you guys something: I have two adorable nieces who love Star Wars. They’re much too young to watch the movies, but they devour the licensed children’s books constantly. I cannot wait to show them the movies, but how? Obviously, my instinct is to start with the original trilogy—but given how kid-friendly The Phantom Menace is, I find it most likely their parents would let them see that first. (And I bet they’ll love it. We adults can complain as much as we want, but all little kids love The Phantom Menace.)

But if they watch TPM, it’s not like they’ll necessarily be ready to check out the original trilogy the next day. It may take a few months, maybe even a year, but eventually they’ll be able to handle Luke getting his hand cut off in Empire, at which point I imagine they’ll be able to handle Anakin’s similar hand problems in Attack of the Clones. Maybe that’ll be a good point to have them watch Clone Wars, but I think Rebels is a bit more kid-friendly and we’d probably do that first. Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One are going to have to wait years later, because they’re so damn violent. But I bet they could watch The Force Awakens right after Return of the Jedi.

So here’s my potential order for them: The Phantom Menace, the original trilogy, Rebels, Attack of the Clones, Clone Wars, The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and then Revenge of the Sith. And likely a ton of repeat viewings of the movies they’ve gotten to in-between the new ones.

Basically, it’s going to be a mess, and it’s going to be fine, because they’re kids and they’re going to love it all, and one day we’ll have a little marathon so they can see them all together. I’ll ask them which movies they want to start with, and I’ll bet you anything they say the sequel trilogy. They are going to grow up with these sequels, and it’s more than likely the adventures of Rey, Finn, and Poe are gonna be their Star Wars movies.

Trust your instincts. Keep your audience’s needs and desires in mind. And remember, the goal here is to give the viewers, even if it’s just you, the best Star Wars experience possible. It’s not about order. It’s about enjoying these movies.


Mixing It Up

Katie K.:

Greetings, Postman. I hope you have found something more nutritious than mail since your last dispatch.

Which soundtrack is better: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 or Awesome Mix Vol. 2? Please show your work.

Vol. 2. This is a tough call for me, because Vol. 1 has Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, my favorite album of all time, and adding the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” makes for a strong combo.

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Vol. 2 doesn’t have Bowie, but it has “Surrender” by Cheap Trick, an all-time great. It has George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” his best work outside of the Beatles. It includes “Mr. Blue Sky,” which isn’t my favorite E.L.O. song, but I very much appreciate ELO being included. Plus, Parliament! Also plus, that wonderfully ridiculous David Hasselhoff disco song (above)! And Looking Glass’ “Brandy” is about 900 times better than Rupert Holmes’ “Pina Colada Song,” included in the Vol. 1 soundtrack.

But the biggest reason I prefer Vol. 2 is because it introduced me to “Father and Son” by Yusuf, formerly Cat Stevens, which is simply amazing. One of my favorite things about a soundtrack is when introduces me to a song I’ve never heard before, and I discover I completely love it (a Tarantino soundtrack is usually good for this). All in all, I gotta give it to Vol. 2.



Some indeterminable Transformers. Image: Paramount.

Bay Watch

Neil S.:

If Michael Bay gets hit by a bus or more likely killed by one of his own explosions tomorrow, is there anyone that can take the current profitable but otherwise totally fucked Transformers cinematic universe and basically un-fuck it?

Like could a Justin Lin or James Gunn - someone who knows a thing or two about good movies that also make yacht-loads of cash - come in and turn things around? Soft-reboot and a Unicron story or something? Or is this franchise lost forever to gaping plot holes and seizure-inducing action scenes?

Nothing is irreparable, at least until the apocalypse arrives. However, there is no need for Hasbro and Paramount to make any changes until these movies stop making money, which almost certainly won’t happen until after Michael Bay finally leaves, which he’s not going to do until Paramount stops sending dumptrucks full of cash and precious jewels to his mansion, which they won’t do as long as Bay stays on board. Something’s going to have to give, whether Bay finally really quits, or Bay finally puts something on-screen so offensive and/or horrible Paramount can’t hire him again. He survived the Racist Twins of Revenge of the Fallen; I’m having a hard time envisioning what he might do in the future that’s more inappropriate than they were.

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If/when Bay leaves, the poor director who tries to emulate his footsteps will fail, because he/she will not have made the same pact with the devil that ensures Bay’s continues success. Sooner or later, it will be time for Transformers to be rebooted, and since this incarnation has been all about explosions and gibberish, it makes as much sense as anything that Hasbro might try to focus on the Transformers as characters.

I may have said this before, but in my profession as a professional nerd I’ve had occasion to rewatch all the ‘80s cartoons of my youth, and the best one by far is Transformers. The Autobots and Decepticons all have more depth and personality than G.I.Joe, my beloved He-Man, the Thundercats, all of ‘em. A movie where the Transformers are real characters, with real personalities and motivations instead of being the simplest of clichés? I’m down.

Honestly, Justin Lin or James Wan would be great—anyone who directed a Fast and Furious movie should absolutely be considered to direct a movie about vehicles that also turn into robots. Also, after somehow making a live-action movie about the infamously difficult-to-interpret Wonder Woman, which is genuinely good despite whatever nightmare interference WB surely attempted, I think Patty Jenkins would be an amazing choice. I trust her implicitly to direct just about anything right now.

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Pipe dream, Kathryn Bigelow. Seriously, she’s one of the finest directors out there, period, and she’s done enough (incredible) action movies and genre work that I think she could truly make Transformers into something special—something great—instead of a mere spectacle. Honestly, though, a Transformers movie would be a bit beneath her.



A Mash of Kings

Matthew B.:

Here’s an idea. Create an entire TV or movie universe based off Stephen King’s novels. He’s already laid most of the groundwork through the Dark Tower series. It could revolve around a Randall Flagg being thwarted again and again. Maybe take a little license with some of the characters. Who wouldn’t watch that?

Each season could be a different book. I know there are probably some rights issues with all the new King movies coming out but I have zero faith that any of them will be franchises. Curious for your thoughts on a King-iverse.

Well, this will likely come as good news: Hulu is making a show that’s mashing up many of Stephen King’s works into one world—well, one town, really—called Castle Rock. The trailer is above, it’s being produced by J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot, and right now the word is that it’ll debut in August.

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However, a mash-up isn’t exactly a shared universe; having Danny from The Shining, Dolores Claiborne, and Pennywise all living in the same suburb is a fun idea, but if you’re looking for something that stays truer to King’s novels, I have an idea you’ll probably like better, although Castle Rock means it isn’t going to happen anytime soon, if ever,

If we want a real Kingiverse, we need to be able to tell King’s stories and tease those light connections they share, but not go overboard with them, since his books primarily stand by themselves. There is already a model for this, exactly, and it’s American Horror Story. It’s an anthology seies, and each season tells its own tale, but there are enough hints at them sharing one world that it thrills fan while not making it impenetrable for people who merely enjoy each season on its own merits.

Each season of a King anthology series could tackle a new novel, which is honestly the best way to present them anyway (they need space). Throw in a few Easter Eggs—maybe have The Dark Tower’s Gunslinger and Man in Black pop up briefly once per season (certainly recasting them with much less expensive actors)—and you’ve got King gold, my friends.

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If this ever happens, I fully expect you guys to sign my petition demanding I get recognized and paid for my genius.

Now, if you haven’t seen The Flash finale, you might want to skip to the next letter.


Wells Established

No Oddjob:

Ahoy, Postmaestro. I’m a life-long fan of the Flash (superhero, not indecent exposure), to the degree that I even own the 1990’s series starring John Wesley Shipp in the title role, and I still like it.

That said, I’m also a huge fan of Tom Cavanagh, to the point where I *would* own the old NBC series ‘Ed’ where he was in the title role if anyone ever released it on any medium anywhere.

But instead I settle for the second best of both worlds in DC’s ‘The Flash’ on the CW, a show that rests comfortably on the shoulders of a diverse cast. But what’s up with Tom Cavanagh on that show? He’s played Dr. Wells/Thawne, Harry Wells, and H.R. Wells, not to mention all the little micro-Wellses when they were multiverse-fishing for the Wells to beat all Wells.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Cavanagh’s natural frantic energy plays well into the latest, neurotic “H.R.” version of the character, but now I’m worried we’re just going to get a new Wells every season, and that this whole show will have just been a contractually-obligated range exercise for Cavanagh.

Well, your worry is reasonable and 100 percent justified by the finale. Without going into detail, it looks as if we may get a new Wells next season, as played by Tom Cavanaugh. That will be the fourth Wells, introduced in the fourth season, and that’s enough evidence that this is going to be the TV series regularly thing. So I believe your fear is entirely justified.

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My counter-argument is: Would that be so bad? I think we’re all in agreement that the best Wells would season one Wells, when he was secretly Eobard Thawne. Season two Wells was smart and cold, but that made him an interesting new mentor to the SuperSTARs, especially when season one’s Wells seemed to be so kind. Season three Wells was comic relief virtually all of the time, but that certainly made the finale twist something I didn’t expect.

Whatever the case, The Flash would lose something special if it lost Tom Cavanaugh, and I would be shocked if the showrunners didn’t realize that. That almost certainly means yet another Wells for season four (or maybe Earth-2 Wells will stick around?) but I’m confident Tom Cavanaugh is up to the challenge of making Wells v4 interesting, funny, ominous, or something else entirely.


Freddie Stroma as the perpetually baffled H.G. Wells in the late Time After Time TV series. (Image: ABC)


The Time After That Other Time

Mike:

Hey Rob! In scifi scenarios involving time travel to the past, oftentimes the time traveler is transported to the EXACT location of where the current-day machine is located. A time machine at 100 Park Ave, New York City would transport the subject to that exact location in the past.

Shouldn’t this NOT happen, like ever? If time travel involves time AND space, wouldn’t the subject end up choking in the middle of space (where the earth and subject ACTUALLY were during that time in the past)?

The earth is constantly spinning, rotating, and revolving around the sun. Wouldn’t the earth’s coordinates during that specific time factor in?

Yes, it shouldn’t happen.

I’m sorry, you wanted more? Only a time machine that can move in space—like the TARDIS—should be able to stay in one location while traveling through time. You can’t even pretend that a time machine could travel to the same day each year, on our rotation around the sun, because our entire solar system is moving because the galaxy and the universe is expanding. Even if we ignored that, we orbit the sun at 67,000 mph, or 1116.6 miles per minute. Time traveling for a minute, and staying in the same space, would have you floating in the least level of Earth’s atmosphere, the exosphere.

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The problem is this makes for terrible time travel stories, because it’s painfully complicated and uninteresting, and trying to explain it away requires way too much time.

So yes, you’re right, gold star for you. Now live with the knowledge that this will never, ever be corrected.



I don’t know why this photo cracks me up, (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

I’m Too Old for This Murder

Cheryl J.:

Dear Postman,

Will you please explain to me why WB/DC chose to go with “Old Man” BatFleck? I (kinda) understand all the love for Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, but choosing an old version of Bats, as opposed to a younger, less murderer-y version doesn’t make sense to me. I thought they wanted to form a true franchise universe with plenty of JLA action, but I find it stupid to pick Batman (the most mortal of the group) to be the grandfather of the pack. He’s already retired once and has years of poundings under his belt. How many movies can the old man really do that doesn’t have him rolling around on a Bat-Rascal?

Also, do you have to answer to a Postal Apocalypse Postmaster General?

Two reasons: 1) The DCEU crew thought about their favorite Batman moments, which were mostly his most well-known moments, and came up with the Batman/Superman fight from The Dark Knight Returns. They decided they had to put that in a movie and reverse-engineered the film around this fight.

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2) Batman is old in TDKR, but I don’t think WB execs were actually determined to have an older Batman... until they scored Ben Affleck for the role. Affleck is a huge box office draw, has mass appeal, and (at the time) was potentially willing into write and direct a solo Batman film! A beloved Oscar-winning director making a Batman film? Oh, the Warner Bros execs must have done plenty of the happy cocaine that day. I’m sure fans like Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer also didn’t mind putting an older, wiser Bruce on-screen to further the TDKR homage, but honestly I think Affleck could have demanded to wear Groucho glasses during the entirety of Batman v Superman and the WB would have let him, happily.

Making sure they put a Dark Knight Returns-esque Bat vs. Supes fight was job #1, followed closely by getting Affleck in the cowl. Planning ahead for the rest of the DC Expanded Universe was probably a distant #8 on the list.

As for the post-apocalyptic Postmaster General, remember, I am a fake mailman… which means there is absolutely a fake Postmaster General running around, trying to steal my shtick. If I find him I will kill him… unless he’s really polite. Or offers me a snack.


You guys sent a ton of great letters this week, hence the extra long “Postal” this week. Care to keep it up? Then please send your questions, concerns, arguments that need settling, pleas for advice, whatever the heck you want to postman@io9.com!

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