Movie Review: The Incredibles 2

Incredibles 2

Yet another animated sequel that fails to live up to the original.


Let me tell you a little secret: I’m really not a huge fan of sequels, especially for animated kids movies. Even Pixar sequels let me down. In my opinion, the only ones to get it completely right were the Toy Story sequels, which are even better than the original movie. But from the train wreck that was Cars 2 to the off-the-wall prequel Monster’s University to the honestly-kinda-boring-and-annoying Finding Dory, the best I’ve really been able to say about Pixar’s other sequels is that they’re not terrible. Maybe I’m nostalgic, or maybe I’m thinking to hard about films that are made and marketed for kids, but it really doesn’t seem like Pixar’s sequels have been living up to the quality of the original films.

I love The Incredibles. Even though it is now fourteen years old, it still holds up as a beautiful piece of animation, writing, and entertainment. It really didn’t need a sequel (and neither did Finding Nemo, for that matter. Or Cars. Or Monsters Inc.) It stood perfectly well on its own. It never felt forced to be funny or forced to be dramatic and intense. Even though it dealt with some dark ideas (there’s one particular scene where Elasta Girl tells her kids that these villains they’re dealing with aren’t like the ones on Saturday morning cartoons: they will shoot to kill) it’s still a kid’s movie, and a good kid’s movie. It never becomes goofy or dumbed down because ‘maybe the kids won’t get it’.

Unfortunately, a lot of the things the original Incredibles did right are done totally wrong by the sequel. I expected it to be set at least several years after the events of the first film, but it’s actually an immediate sequel that starts off about five minutes after the end of the first movie. This doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad, but it seemed like a very odd choice. There are so many stories that could be told with these awesome characters. Honestly, we didn’t need to see the outcome of the battle with the Underminer. While it wasn’t stated explicitly at the end of the first movie, it was definitely implied that the Incredibles were up to the task of defeating him, and it was a kind of boring way to start off a kind of boring movie.

While there are definitely laugh out loud moments in The Incredibles 2, that’s pretty much all there is. There was none of the seriousness or heart of the first film, just joke after joke after joke, to the point that it felt more like a Dreamworks sequel than a Pixar film. A lot of the conflict between characters was formulaic, to the point that I could predict which characters were going to have some kind of falling out with each other. The big reveal of the main villain is also very heavily foreshadowed and easy to predict. Figuring out who the villain is isn’t always a bad thing, but in this case the fact that I’d figured it out seemed more due to lazy writing than to any intelligence on my part. The whole thing felt disjointed, and character growth, while present, was stunted and choppy at best, and lazily written at worst.

The Incredibles 2 definitely failed to live up to its predecessor. While it’s not a bad movie, and all of the animation, voice work, and music is extremely well done, it lacks heart and fails to deliver any kind of emotional punch; just a few empty laughs with our old favorite characters, and a whole lot of formulaic, unnecessary conflict.


Final Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

“I’m kinda over sequels at this point.”


Thanks for reading my review of The Incredibles 2! Have you seen the film yet? Did you like it, or did you think it was another unnecessary Pixar sequel? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon.

🙂

Unpopular Opinions: Automation Is Not the Brave New Future We’ve Hoped For

Driverless cars. Cashier-less supermarkets. An automated world. This is the brave new future we’ve been promised. But is it as bright and beautiful as it claims to be?


Automation


Amazon (you know, that big website where you buy everything from your books to your clothes?) recently opened a brick-and-mortar store in Seattle. Sounds a little counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Amazon is perhaps the top online retailer, selling hundreds of thousands of products that are delivered to your home without you ever having to lift a finger. But now, they’ve opened a store.

There’s a catch, though, and you probably know it already. This is a store without cashiers. People can walk into the store, swipe in their phones, grab whatever items they desire, and walk out without ever interacting with another human being. Cameras track items and deduct the cost from the person’s bank account. No social skills required.

Sounds amazing, right? It’s so futuristic! The computers do everything. You can pop in, grab lunch, and be on your way in minutes. This is the way of the future.

And… what if it is? What if this is the future? What if, in not too many years, all stores are this way? No more cashiers. No more retail jobs. No more human faces you have to pretend to smile at and deal with just so that you can get home and eat your food in peace.

For years, we have dreamed of a fully automated future; self-driving hover cars, robots to pander to our every whim, whatever we want delivered right to us, no human interaction required. We have, dare I say it, been dreaming of a future where we don’t even have to interact with other people, where we are the most important thing in our own little worlds, where we can forget everything else and just satisfy our own wants in the most efficient and effortless way possible.

And if that’s the future, what happens to everyone else? 

You probably remember the first job you ever had. And, most likely, it was working behind a check out counter or somewhere in retail. This article says that the most common jobs are in retail or as a cashier. It also predicts that while everyone keeps saying human cashiers are on their way out, that probably won’t happen. ‘They won’t be getting replaced by robots anytime soon’, the writer says. But what if people’s jobs aren’t getting replaced by robots, just eliminated altogether?

The same thing is set to happen in the transportation industry, as more and more companies are working hard on self-driving cars that could leave taxi drivers, and even truckers, out of a job. And that’s the thing. With enough technology, we could eliminate entire sectors of jobs. That’s already happening. Computers are getting smarter and smarter every day. Office jobs can be done from home, without ever needing to see another person. How long until they’re completely eliminated?

Maybe the elimination of these repetitive jobs will drive humanity upward; encourage more people to create art or study philosophy, to get bigger, better paying jobs. But I don’t think so. And there is a huge problem with the concept of automation itself. It assumes that human contact is a bother, a nuisance, a hassle, something that should be done away with, something that causes error and discomfort and annoyance, something that nobody needs. We used to know the names and faces of the people who grew the food we ate. Then, we didn’t. We knew the people who sold or made our food. Until we didn’t. How long until all we know is the inside of our own homes, or our self driving cars, and the pleasant voices of our AI companions? How long until this human ‘nuisance’ is eliminated entirely?

Maybe you’re thinking, “Hey, I’m an introvert! That doesn’t sound too bad.” But it does. Oh, it does. Imagine drifting through an automated world that exists only to please you, to supply you with your favorite items automatically, without hassle. Imagine a world where you don’t speak to anybody outside of your own home, not even for thirty seconds while you check out your groceries, or for a couple of minutes on the bus or in the taxi or Uber. Imagine being cut off from everybody else, isolated from everything except the cheerful, fake voice inside your phone. Does that sound like good future? We’re already half way there. We can already glimpse it.

Do I think that this will be the future? I don’t know. I certainly hope not. We humans were made to have relationships with other humans. No man is an island, no matter how much it may seem like that nowadays. Let’s not take away what little interaction with the outside world we already have. Let’s not insulate ourselves from humanity. Let’s love our neighbors and not hide away from them. Let’s not dream of a future made only to serve ourselves.


Thank you so much for reading this very depressing post! I was just thinking a lot about automation, as it’s been in the news so much, and me and my family were discussing it a bit at dinner. What do you think? Will a fully automated future be good for society, or for people in general? Would you ride in a self-driving car? Would you shop at a cashier-less convenience store? Let’s chat in the comments! ^_^

See you again soon!


 

Movie Review: Star Wars The Last Jedi

Star_Wars_The_Last_Jedi

A dramatic, tragic, exciting film taking all of Star Wars in a new direction.


If you’ve been anywhere on the internet during the past few days, you’ve probably realized that a lot of people really liked The Last Jedi, the most recent installment of the new Star Wars films, and some people really, really hated it. I went to see the film on Tuesday, expecting to be at least mildly entertained, and to probably not have any of the nostalgia-induced anger issues that a lot of older fans have been experiencing due to this movie. The Star Wars films were never a huge part of my childhood. In fact, Star Wars itself was only involved in my life through the Lego Star Wars video game that we had on our Wii. I never even saw any of the films until I was over the age of ten. I’m not super attached to the franchise, even now. Some of you may want to kill me when I say this, but I am honestly not a huge fan of the original trilogy. I went to see The Force Awakens simply because the rest of my family was going to see it, and I ended up actually really liking it, way more than I liked any of the previous films. It seemed more serious to me, more believable, deeper, more thought out, better made.

So maybe when I say that I really loved The Last Jedi, and its subversion of tropes and expected twists, the risky moves taken by the filmmakers and the new direction it seems to be taking the Star Wars franchise as a whole, its because I’m not looking at the film the same way as all the angry people.

I never grew up with Luke and Leia and Han. I don’t have any kind of nostalgia for the original films, or even for the unmentionable prequels (shudder). It doesn’t hurt me to see new filmmakers giving us new takes on old characters, or even destroying old characters to make way for the new. I loved having my expectations subverted, loved every twist and turn the film took. It didn’t make me long for the ‘good old days’ of Star Wars. It made me excited for what is to come.

If you’re upset about the film, I can understand where you’re coming from. I’ve had a few childhood favorites ruined for me as well by newer takes. But maybe we could just stop judging one another for how we feel about the film? It is a movie, after all.

But enough of that. This is supposed to be a review, so I should probably be talking about the actual movie.

If there’s one criticism I have about The Last Jedi, it’s that it feels very long. It is, in fact, just over two and a half hours, and at several points in the final act, I actually thought that the film was about to end on a cliffhanger or something. But it does a good job of telling a complete, if quite long story. Often, I find that long movies aren’t necessarily better; in fact they’re often not edited well and need to be cut down. The Last Jedi didn’t strike me that way, though. I didn’t think that there was any way it could have been cut down, unless you had moved the entire third act into the next movie and left the film on a terrible cliffhanger. The pacing feels slightly off, with the first two acts feeling like a complete film, and the final act also feeling like a complete, if much shorter, film, or even the beginning of a new movie. But the pacing within each act is very well done, especially considering the amount of characters who each have to have their screen time and story. At no point did I feel like getting up and walking out because I was bored. I wanted to find out what happened. It just sort of felt like I’d walked into one film and had an extra half of another movie tacked on to the end. Not in a bad way, if that makes sense, but it was still a bit of an odd feeling.

Another thing that felt a bit tacked on was the little political messages about weapons and war. In part of the story we encounter a bunch of rich weapons dealers, who have been selling to both sides in the war and getting wealthy off of the conflict. I don’t have a problem with the message or the issue that this seemed to be trying to expose, it was just presented in a kind of bizarre way in the film, and felt a little off for some reason. Maybe a little too political?

The story of the film, however, was quite well written and enjoyable, while also being slightly darker than most Star Wars films and material I’ve seen. The entire tone of the film seems to have shifted down a few notches, with dark or drab color palates, war worn clothing and environments, and a lot of heavy moments which honestly reminded me of the more recent Marvel films. There was, however, a fair amount of humor to lighten the mood, and while some of the jokes fell flat, it was a nice break from the seriousness of the rest of the movie. The acting was also phenomenal, especially that of John Boyega (who plays Finn) and Adam Driver (who plays Kylo Ren). Rose, a new character played by Kelly Marie Tran, was also very well played and written, and I loved her bright, chipper attitude. She seemed to be having fun in every scene she was in.

A lot of the angry fans seem to be mad about the fact that the film subverts a lot of the tropes we expect in a Star Wars film. While a large part of nostalgia is wanting new things to be mostly the same as the old, so that we can relive that old excitement and experience with a few attention holding changes, viewing the film as I do without that nostalgia, I was very excited about the subversion of tropes and unexpected twists. This film made me excited about Star Wars, something I haven’t really been, well, ever… It’s a new take for a new generation of fans and, personally, I really loved it.


Final rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“I have never been a Star Wars fan. But I think I just became a Star Wars fan!”


Thank you for reading my review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi! I hope you enjoyed it. Have you seen the film? What do you think? Are you excited to see what happens next in the Star Wars universe? Let’s chat in the comments!

🙂

Unpopular Opinions: The Thirteenth Doctor

On Sunday, the 16th of July, 2017, the BBC announced their pick for the new Doctor on Doctor Who. One of the longest running sci-fi shows in history, Doctor Who has been broadcasted for over 50 years. In all those years the main character of the series, the Doctor — a time-traveling, double-hearted, slightly mad alien Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, who can regenerate into a new body whenever he is about to die— has always been portrayed as male. Whether sporting a bow tie or a trench-coat, a multicolored scarf or a fez, whether carrying a celery stalk or a supply of jelly babies, the Doctor has always, always regenerated into a man.

Not so now.

Actress Jodie Whittaker was just announced as the new star of Doctor Who. She will be taking over the role from Peter Capaldi, the Twelth Doctor. “I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender,” she says, “Because this is a really exciting time and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. This is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.”


I was honestly not quite sure what to think when I heard that a woman would be taking over as the Doctor. On the one hand, according to show canon, a Time Lord can technically regenerate into a person of the opposite gender. At the moment, the world is charged with massive conversations about diversity and equality and feminism and equal representation in the media. This would appear to be the perfect answer to that conversation: the introduction of a woman into a role that has always been played by men. At least, many people would say so.

I have nothing against diversity, as far as it goes (i.e. not making every character in your story white and male). But there is something about this contemporary thrust for ‘diversity’ in the media that feels extraordinarily off. As a writer myself, a creator of characters, I have come to understand that if you force a character to be something that they are not, it can wreck the entire story. Trying to force two characters into a romantic relationship; trying to force a character to feel happy in a situation where they would, in fact, be resentful; trying to force a male character to be female, and vise versa… these things will never work as well as leaving the character alone to be who they are in the first place.

Characters are funny creatures. The best of them are like people, fully formed personalities that you uncover bit by bit, like getting to know somebody in real life. When you force them to be something they are not, you destroy that illusion of reality. You have hijacked a character, a story even, for your own purposes. Stories evolve and grow and change naturally as you write and discover what exactly they are about. They are not meant to be manipulated into saying something else.

The BBC’s decision to cast a woman as the Doctor feels, to me anyway, like forced diversity, the manipulation of a story into conveying a message. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against women having leading roles in television or movies. I don’t think women should be disrespected, or paid less than men for doing the same amount of work, or forced to prove themselves to be just as good as men, because somehow that is a measuring stick for this sort of thing. But there is no one size fits all technique when it comes to diversity. Doctor Who may play by a very esoteric set of rules, but the show’s own lore is fairly contradictory on the point of sex-changing regeneration, and there are a few other objections I can raise to the casting of a female Doctor.

But lets take a step back for a second and really look at this show. It’s not as if Doctor Who isn’t diverse or doesn’t portray strong female characters. Some people seem to forget that the Doctor’s female companions, at least in the reboot, aren’t poor, damsel-in-distress types. Martha and Donna are probably some of the strongest characters in the show. Rose, even though she gets a lot of flack for some reason or other, is creative and brilliant and so, so strong in times of hopelessness. Some people also seem to forget that the female companions of the Doctor are not always there to be love interests. Some people forget that the Doctor had rich platonic relationships with not only Martha, but Donna, Amy, and Clara as well; four out of the five female companions in the reboot (I can’t yet count Bill, as I haven’t seen any of her episodes, but I gather that she isn’t a love interest either.)

Are we out to destroy all shows and books and films with male leads? Have men suddenly become evil, or alien; nonhuman? Look me in the face and tell me that this outlook, rampant in our culture even if not expressed in so many words, is not sexist. Sexism can go both ways, and right now many people are extremely angry at men for being men. Isn’t that exactly what they accuse men of being; angry at women for being women? Aren’t we being slightly hypocritical here?

The dynamic of the Doctor — the mad man in the blue box— and his companions, both male and female, platonic and romantic, his friends and his family, his wife (don’t you forget River), his relationships with the people he meets on his journeys… you could say that it is these dynamics that make the show itself. And this is where I say something that many of you will not like: men and women are different. They are treated differently, because in some situations they have different roles. They act differently. We like to plaster over these differences in the name of ‘equality’, but all it does is cause confusion. But gender, whether we like it or not, is intrinsically tied to personality, to who we are as people, to what we do and how we act. Women will always act in certain ways, see the world in certain ways, be different people than men.

And by changing the Doctor into a woman, the BBC will have changed him into a different person entirely.

Character relationships will break down. Certain dynamics will no longer be possible. The Doctor will be a completely different character. No writer can change that. Or they might try to force it, and run the risk of ruining things entirely. The show will change, and probably not for the better. Change is often good. Variety is the spice of life. But you cannot change the way the world works, no matter how much you try, and I would hazard a small speculation that this change will not do the world longest running sci-fi show any good. In fact, it may doom Doctor Who in the end. The writers will end up trying to push a message so prominent in our culture today: that no one is bound by truth, that you can be absolutely anyone, literally, regardless of gender. And, unfortunately, this message is just not true.


Philosophical arguments aside (for the most part), the show’s own lore seems to contradict itself on several points when it comes to sex-changing regeneration. Please note that there will be some spoilers ahead for River Song’s story arc, so if you haven’t watched this part of the show yet, please proceed with caution!

Spoilers

When a Time Lord is about to die, they instead regenerate into an entirely new body. This is why there are currently thirteen different ‘versions’ of the Doctor (not counting the War Doctor from the 50th anniversary special), each played by a different actor. Although the Doctor says several times that Time Lords can regenerate into people of the opposite gender, there are also very clear differences between male and female Time Lords. One major difference is that female Time Lords (or is that Time Ladies?) can actually control aspects of how they look when they regenerate. Male Time Lords cannot. This is established both by the Doctor (who complains after various regenerations about the size of his ears, his ‘new teeth’, and, most often, that he’s not a redhead) and the female Time Lord River Song, who can concentrate on a dress size or other feature during regeneration and achieve it in her next form.

For there to be specific differences between male and female Time Lords, there would first have to be such a thing as male and female Time Lords. If you were born male, you would not be able to predict or control the physical characteristics of your regeneration. If you were born female, you could. You might still regenerate into someone of a different height or weight or ethnicity, but these are all physical characteristics. And although the current culture would have us believe otherwise, gender is much, much more than physical characteristics.

So, these two things are not logically consistent. If male and female Time Lords have different traits that set them apart, how can a male Time Lord regenerate into a female one? Has he suddenly crossed over that boundary? Can he suddenly control his regeneration? And the reverse is just as confusing. If a female Time Lord regenerates into a male, does she suddenly lose her ability to control her regeneration? Can she concentrate on becoming male in the first place, or is that just random like it seems to be for a male Time Lord?

I would love to see a black or Asian Doctor, or a Doctor of any ethnicity. In fact, it would be an amazing opportunity for actors of different cultural background to bring something new to the show. But a female Doctor, especially at this particular moment, just feels far too much like a blatantly political decision, not a decision which retains the integrity of the show itself. It might even contradict show canon. And any piece of art, be it a novel or a show or a film, should never be made to force a political opinion. That defeats the purpose.

All of this goes to say that I am not thrilled about the new Doctor. But I think I’ll give her a chance. Who knows? Maybe something amazing will happen. I have only one request: that instead of turning this into an opportunity to rant and hate on men or women, we instead judge the character not by their gender or ethnicity, but by their portrayal. Women should not be inserted into the media just because they are women. They should be portrayed because they are people, and a legitimate part of humanity. If the writers of Doctor Who can do that with a female Doctor, and not lose sight of the original message of the show itself, then they will have won.



Thanks for reading this unpopular opinion! What are your thoughts about the new Doctor? Are you excited, or nervous? Do you think that Jodie Whittaker is a good choice for a female Doctor? Let’s talk in the comments below.

See you again next time!

🙂


The Thirteenth Doctor Edited