Guten tag, my... uh... gang, I guess? Please enjoy a bit of “Postal Apocalypse” calm before the storm of San Diego Comic-Con! This week: Disney’s Star Wars problem, whether Secret Empire will come to the MCU, and how to show someone you love something that’s become problematic over time. Also, I, uh, write a Transformers movie.
A Solo Low
I have a bad feeling about this... thing being Ron Howard directing the Han Solo movie. It’s been a long time since he made Willow.
Your question is actually a two-parter: 1) Will Ron Howard direct a crappy Han Solo movie? And 2) is Disney’s switch from Lord and Miller to a much less… distinct filmmaker emblematic of future issues with the Star Wars films?
Look, whether Han Solo is good or not, it won’t be because of Ron Howard. He wasn’t hired for his brilliant, distinctive style, but rather because Disney thought Lord and Miller had too much style, and their goals for the movie were what Disney considered “off-brand” for their vision of the Star Wars movie franchise. Meanwhile, Howard doesn’t really have a distinctive style of filmmaking, not even in his Apollo 13 glory days.
So Ron Howard’s direction of Han Solo will be fine, which I mean more as “acceptable” than “actively good.” He’s not going to do anything crazy or shocking with it, which is just what Disney wants. So the film will live and die by Alden Ehrenreich’s performance (which, hoo boy) and the script, which was written by The Empire Strikes Back’s Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jake, so that should be good. Plus, they’re on set supervising the production; if you were worried that Howard wouldn’t necessarily have the mindset for putting the fantasy of the Star Wars universe on screen, they’ll be there to help.
I think Han Solo will be good but not great, but again, that’s essentially what Disney wants. They don’t particularly want to take risks with the franchise, they don’t want to try something new (which is why both standalone movies, and probably the third as well, are prequels to the original trilogy set long after the prequel trilogy).
And there’s your answer to the second question, that Disney is so focused on making “safe” Star Wars films that the chances of them making a great one are incredibly low. A slew of good but not great films may sound good to you, but the more homogenized the movies get, the less good they’ll become, as they grow staler and more boring. Eventually, that will lead to less people seeing the films, which will lead to less profits, which means Disney will have to make some decisions.
So it’s a small problem now, but it’s eventually going to become a big problem. Honestly, at the moment, I’m way more worried about Mark Hamill’s problems with Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi than anything else.
Aging and Enlightenment
Greetings! Long time reader, first time time-bending-writer!
So, some beloved and generally great movies have really bizarre, horrible moments hidden in them - many of which usually involve some outdated misogyny / racism / homophobia / etc., especially if it’s an older film. My question is:
Assuming the movie isn’t completely ruined by these glaring problems, what do I do when I want to share it with friends / romantic interests / the peoples I love and care about, most of whom are socially aware and damned vocal about it.
Like, do I try to sell them with a “Hey, so one of my favorite movies when I was a youngun was Once Bitten, starring super young Jim Carrey in a stupid but charming ‘80s vampire comedy! But... it’s kind of got a bunch of homophobic parts in it, which is obviously bad, so... you’ve been warned, but I swear you should watch it because reasons!”
Or do I wait until the offense(s) occur(s), and then cringe and hope they wait until the end to mention it / they aren’t too offended immediately? Or let the movie get paused so we can discuss the problem in it, derailing the movie night forever?
What say ye, wise one?
Before, always before. It’s not like being surprised by a bad scene makes it any more palatable, and you run the risk of your companion accidentally believing you don’t see the problems (or worse, that you endorse the horribleness onscreen).
If you find yourself having to give someone a large pile of warnings about a certain elder work of art, well, that’s a very clear sign that it’s almost certainly too problematic to show somebody. You may love it dearly, but if the chances of the other person are going to dislike it are that great, why risk it? If they’re invariably going to hate it, what’s the point of showing it to them? Why make them endure it when the end result is you being extremely disappointed that they don’t share your affection?
Even beyond media that has become problematic through years of social awareness and basic decency, I’ve shown plenty of loved ones movies, shows, and books because of how much I personally love them, without worrying about whether my loved one will like them. IT’S NOT WORTH IT. AT BEST ONE OR BOTH OF YOU WILL BE IRRITATED, UPSET, OR EXTREMELY BORED. FROM ONE WHO KNOWS.
In Which I Write a Transformers Movie
Dear Mr. Postman,
Nobody doubts that Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies make a ton of money at the box office. But let’s say Bay himself has Donald Trump-levels of the skin. Specifically, he has a hissy fit any time a certain post-Apocalyptic postman makes fun of his newest Autobot clash.
So let’s say Bay uses some of his millions of “Transformers” payday money to shoot a time-message into your post-Apocalyptic future. Leaving out all the curse words (io9 is a family-friendly site), Bay challenges you to put up or shut up. Basically, the “Transformers” director challenges you to come up with a “Transformers” idea that you could declare “Hell yeah, I’d watch that!” How would you respond?
I appreciate your thinking that if my FAQs somehow finally appeared on his radar, Michael Bay would challenge me to come up with a better story and not just tie me to pile of explosives and film the detonation in slow-motion.
I’ll be fully honest and admit I’m no fiction writer. It’s hard for me to think up characters and dialogue and plot beats, although that doesn’t mean it isn’t easy for me to say when they’re terrible. But saying “I would write a Transformers film where the story makes A LICK OF SENSE” feels like cheating.
So I’d begin just like the ‘80s series—not out of pure nostalgia, but because it was so damn efficient. The Decepticons have all but won the war on Cybertron, and some of the last remaining Autobots make a desperate attempt to escape into space. Megatron and his minions follow them and attack, wrecking both their ships, and they all crash land on Earth. Eons pass, and the ship is eventually obscured by dirt, rock, and time.
Eventually a young but not immensely annoying Spike Witwicky stumbles upon a cave that ends up leading to the ship’s interior. An accidental button press turns the ship back on, and it revives the Autobots. With Spike there to explain some Earth basics, Optimus quickly realizes humans would be freaked out to see large alien robots among them, and orders the Autobots to use their natural ability to transform to disguise themselves as Earth vehicles as they explore the planet and hopefully discover where the Decepticons landed.
Except! The Decepticons have been awake and hiding themselves already! (It’s later revealed that Decepticon emissary Soundwave, after searching for them for eons, discovered the ship and revived them.) They’ve been waiting to see if the Autobots would show up. They follow their foes outside of the city and launch a surprise assault. There’s a big awesome battle involving robots who are visually unique and have actual personalities, and there are no humans involved other than perhaps a few astounded bystanders. After Optimus and Megatron inevitably wound each other, both sides leave to fight another day.
Ah, but an Autobot scientist—maybe Perceptor? But he doesn’t turn into a tiny microscope?—figures out how to monitor the Decepticons’ transmissions to Cybertron, where they learn Earth’s natural energy—solar power, wind power, water power, etc.—is especially potent for Transformers, and thus Cybertron. If the Decepticons can figure a way to harness it and get it home, the Autobots will absolutely be annihilated
Of course the Decepticons do figure out a way (Energon cubes!) which of course causes a great deal of destruction to create and process. So the Autobots have to stop the Decepticons, but are faced with the dilemma of whether they should take the Energon themselves, endangering an alien planet and its inhabitants, to fight their own war.
Shocker! The Autobots decide to protect Earth and then hopefully find another way. They track the Decepticons to Hoover Dam and attack. Yes, I know Hoover Dam was briefly featured in the first live-action movie, but that was a meaningless setting to reintroduce Megatron and then immediately move the big fight to a city; I mean this more like the Sherman Dam scene in the very first animated Transformers miniseries (that’s it above), where the Autobots and Decepticons had a pitched battle and Optimus and Megatron dueled on top of the dam. Honestly, I’m not trying to just pour love on the original cartoon, so I don’t actually care about the setting. What I love about the scene is that the duel really showed how personal the stakes were for the two leaders, and how closely their identities were tied to each other.
Essentially, I want a movie that actually makes the Transformers the stars, gives them a reason for fighting that isn’t just a random doohickey every single time, and yes, has a plot that is at least coherent. Perchance to dream, my friends.
Plan of Steel
Dear Postal Survivor of the Apocalypse, after seeing Wonder Woman, and re-watching the upcoming Justice League trailer, I’m wondering: were the Snyder Superman movies deliberately bad? As in, maybe Man of Steel set us up with an unsympathetic, mass-killer Superman deliberately, so that no one would care that he was killed off in Batman v Superman.
Now that he’s gone, Justice League movies can be more interesting. Let’s face it, it’s always hard to find a challenge that’s the right level of difficulty for Superman without resorting to options that nerf him, and it’d be harder to find a right-sized challenge for the entire Justice League if Superman’s with them. Also, Wonder Woman can take his place.
What do you think? Was Supes killed off as part of a long-term plan to let Wonder Woman finally take her rightful place as the most bad-ass of the JL bad-asses?
Oh, wouldn’t that be delightful? I mean, it’s so untrue I’m actually in pain writing this response, but it would certainly be delightful.
Warner Bros. had no idea the Wonder Woman movie would be a success until it was released and made an invisible jet-full of money. After all, it starred a female woman who was a superhero yet bizarrely not a man, a concept so bewildering that it took until 2017 for a studio to try it. Given the worries WB seems to have about its DC films generally—the constant announcing and shelving of films, all that mucking about with Suicide Squad, the many Justice League reshoots—there’s just no way anyone there could have been counting on Wonder Woman being a smash hit.
Even if WB had been all-in on WW from the beginning, Superman was ignoring civilian casualties way back in 2011, when Zack Snyder started filming it. It’s unknown when Allan Heinberg turned in his script for the film, but come on: Do you really think anyone at the studio had the foresight to actually plan Wonder Woman’s ascendancy six full years ago? Me neither.
As for your point about Superman’s absence making Justice League more interesting, it’s really just the latest example of a decades-long problem with Superman, which is that too many writers can’t figure out a way to use him in a Justice League story. He’s so powerful he should be able to defeat any problem the writer can come up, so the writer’s solution is to somehow incapacitate Superman until the final scene, at which point he shows up and saves the day.
This is by all accounts what’s happening in Justice League, by the way, which makes sense in as much Superman starts the movie dead, and is rumored to be staying dead—or, rather, unavailable—until the final act. But this has nothing to do with giving Wonder Woman the spotlight as much as it does giving everyone who isn’t Superman a bit of the spotlight.
Some Secrets Should Never Be Told
Hey Postman, gonna keep this one short and sweet: Do you think they’d ever do Secret Empire in the MCU?
No, thank god. Between the comics’ extremely controversial plot, the outcry it caused, and its general grossness, there’s no way Marvel Studios would chance the PR shitstorm it would create by choosing to adapt it. Kevin Feige is not a dumb guy, and there are dozens of great, non-toxic Cap stories for the movies to adapt before taking an enormous risk on Secret Empire. And even if Feige had some kind of horrible brain lesion that made him think it was a good idea, I am fully confident his bosses at Disney proper would say, “You want to make who a Nazi? Hahaha wait you aren’t joking okay you’re fired.”
There’s also my sneaking suspicion that Chris Evans will leave the role sooner rather than later, which means Bucky or Falcon would take over the mantle. Turning either one of them into pure evil doesn’t have anything close to the narrative impact of Steve Rogers’ heel turn, which is about the only non-awful thing you can say about the storyline.
James the Librarian:
Howdy and greetings Postman! With the announcement this week that the long-rumored FLCL sequels are finally coming to pass next year, I’m at odds with myself.
I’m really excited for there to be MORE within the universe, but at the same time the original story is about Naota growing up and so much of the symbolism and subtext is directly related to his coming-of-age.
It appears that now Naota is grown up and Haruko is back for... some undisclosed reason. But you can’t just take the characters and add in some Pillows tracks and capture the same feeling and emotion the OVA had.
So what’s your over\under on this being good? I’m extremely skeptical (and not just because the FLCL t-shirts I bought back in 2004 and 2005 are fitting less well than they did a decade ago), but at the same time... I’m excited because it’s MORE FLCL!
I’ll give it a five percent chance as being as great as the original, a 10 percent chance of being pretty good, a wildly optimistic 35 percent chance of being merely okay, and a full 50 percent chance of being bad to soul-crushingly awful.
FLCL was lightning in a bottle. It was an intensely personal project from a single director who is now only producing, made by an idiosyncratic studio at the top of their game, made without the expectation or burden of being a major success. It also had a story—Naota’s coming-of-age—that pretty much precludes a sequel. About the only story I can think of that would be thematically match the original would be if Haruko returns to similarly guide Naota into true adulthood, but that is absolutely not a story most FLCL fans are going to want to see, and that’s assuming the studio managed to recapture the artistry of the original.
I’d love to be proven wrong, but I don’t expect to be. At least the soundtrack by the Pillows will still be great, though.
Disagree to Agree
Dear postman, I’m going to say up front that I really enjoyed Spider-man: Homecoming. It was a fun summer movie, though not genre shaking, and I loved seeing a Spider-man who was terrible at being a superhero. I also, however, wasn’t that impressed with Vulture, nor was I surprised by the shocking reveal of who he actually is. To me, I felt like having a villain who has making money as his main motivation is a bit boring. I ultimately felt like Michael Keaton was wasted, other than the scene in the car where he seemed like a genuine threat.
Now this didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the movie. However, I expressed these views in the comments section here at io9 on a spider-post, and immediately got a bunch of spider-hate back. Essentially, I was told that my opinion was flat out wrong (despite it being an opinion) as though there was only one right response. This is a long winded way of getting to my question: why is it so hard for people to accept opinions other than their own about movies, books, etc? Why can’t they be like “I disagree with you and here’s why, but your opinion is also legitimate?”
It’s the same reason people do it in real life. When you present an opinion that differs from theirs, many—too many—people feel attacked, as if you’re somehow saying, “I’m right and you’re dumb.” So they attack your opinion, either to strike first or because they’ve mistakenly assumed you were insulting them. The fact that many people, when announcing their opinion, are actually preemptively insulting anyone who disagrees with them only exacerbates people’s sensitivity to any and all aggression, real or perceived. I wish I had a solution, but I don’t; you can’t convince someone to be confident enough in their own opinions to not feel the need to attack yours.
And for the record, the fact that the Vulture is Liz the Love Interest’s father did not impress me, given that both of the inaugural Spider-Man movies have hinged on the bad guy being suddenly revealed to have an immensely close relationship to someone Peter cares about. To me, it’s the Norman Osborn/Harry Osborn/Green Goblin reveal again. However, I do welcome dissenting opinions in the comments below.
Avoid the Droid
Given the countless number of times he’s saved the day, is R2-D2 a Jedi? Can droids even be Jedis?
I know that General Grievous trained in the Jedi arts but he clearly wasn’t one. And I think he was technically a cyborg...
The Force is in all living things, but a droid has nothing living inside it. It may have a personality and incredible individuality and what seems to be for all intents and purposes a soul, but it’s the fleshy bits that have access to the Force. R2-D2 is just very good at what he does, and what he does is everything, with a specialty in murdering droids he doesn’t like.
Like Vader, Grevious was a cyborg, meaning he had a bunch of fleshy bits augmented by mechanical and robot parts. This is what allowed Vader to keep channeling the Force after having been toasted on Mustafar. The same deal would apply to Grevious—he would technically be able to use the Force if he had the ability, but he didn’t have the ability to use it (there are no scenes in Revenge of the Sith or Clone Wars that show him using any Force powers). He was just really good at lightsaber combat, which doesn’t require using the Force, although it certainly helps. But it turns out having four cyborg arms that can all hold lightsabers and attack simultaneously is arguably even more of an advantage.
There’s almost no chance in hell that a “Postal Apocalypse” will arrive next week during San Diego Comic-Con, so your emotionally withdrawn post-apocalyptic fake mailman will see you on July 27. In the interim! Send me those burning questions, nagging mysteries, desperate pleas for advice, and everything else to email@example.com. See you soon!