Bv.S or Go Watch Fury Road Again, Friends

Bv.S or Go Watch Fury Road Again, Friends

Editors Note:

This was the first review I wrote long form.  I wanted to put it up today for two reasons, I’m proud of it, and I didn’t write anything over the last week or so.  So here we go!

So, today I went to see Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

I’ll probably get into spoilers for this, but I think that this is the last Zach Snyder thing that I can possibly see myself watching. It sucks that I was so right in my predictions of how joyless and depressing this movie was, and how easily it could have been avoided. So, if you don’t want spoilers, they end here. It’s not “the worst thing ever” and it’s not “good” in any sense. It’s mediocre, and wears it’s mediocrity as if it is the greatest thing ever, and as Immortan Joe has shown us, mediocrity is worth nothing. So, spoiler country lies ahead.

I wanted to talk about this because I think that Superman vs. Batman could be a great thing. It could be a fun, enjoyable, interesting look at a superhero movie, that shows what happens when the Dark Knight of Gotham meets the Boy Scout of Metropolis. It’s not going too far to say that the meeting of these two individuals is essentially the rock upon which comics church is based.

But I don’t think Zach Snyder has ever actually watched a movie that makes sense, or read a great comic that wasn’t also a best seller. Yes, Mr. Snyder, we get it. You read the last 25 pages of the Dark Knight Returns and think that you got it. And you read the Wikipedia article about the Death of Superman. I have also read those things. If we both have read them, they must be good, right!?

No. That’s not right. The Dark Knight Returns fight between Batman and Superman is established by several comics worth of set up. Batman doesn’t just hate Superman because he could potentially be a threat to the world, as shown through dream sequences of all things. Batman and Superman square off because they have differing approaches and different upbringings. Superman literally bows down to the government in the comics, which sends Batman into retirement. The entire storyline is Batman coming out of retirement, older, slower, and more willing to hurt people (and yet, he still attempts to follow his golden rule, of do not kill, something that the brief skimming of the comic wouldn’t make apparent).

The Death of Superman sold like crazy because it was a shocking event that DC sold as the killing off of one of their most important properties. This was in the early 90s, when comic book collections were starting to sell for a great deal of money, and people were into collecting them. The briefest glimpse at the hype surrounding it would show you that the story line was interesting, but not because watching Superman die was such a fun time, but because it shook up the world. Superman was always seen as the ultimate deterrent in the DC universe. If he was intervening, things had gotten truly bad, but dying wasn’t ever what you expected from him. Shock value is not that character.

But, hey, that comic stuff is for nerds, right? That kind of analysis doesn’t do film justice. I mean, Tony Stark wasn’t in a cave in Afghanistan in the comics. Film franchises are based on the idea that you steal whatever surface level ideas you could get from the comics and then build on top of it whatever movies you want to, right Marvel? Marvel? Are you going to give Zack a high five or what? Don’t leave him hanging! (This is not what makes Marvel Movies work. Marvel movies use iconic characters in no win situations overcoming things, and yet giving a shit about the people around them, and not in the “Well, this part of the city is deserted, so it’s okay to blow up entire swaths of a manufacturing district” way.)

The Good

Affleck is the bomb. Seriously. Affleck might be my favorite portrayal of Batman on film. He’s probably only second to Kevin Conroy from the Animated Series. Affleck does everything he needs to with actual movie star charisma, puts every single acting choice on the screen, and conveys more in his voice than any other Batman on film. I genuinely loved his performance, and would have been excited if this was a film only about him.

I liked Affleck witnessing the street level destruction of Man of Steel. I felt like it gave it the weight that the former movie needed, with the ludicrous amount of civilian death that had to happen for that fight scene to make sense. He looks older and tired, and pissed. It’s great!

Alfred was decent, and they didn’t even have to take him out of the Batcave set.

Eisenberg does his level best to fucking lighten up these proceedings. My God, he has the most brutal time of it, but he gives a unique take on Lex Luthor, and given the direction and material, I quite enjoyed what he did with it. He turns the quirk up to 11, which could get annoying if he wasn’t the only person on the screen that seemed to have a plan. It’s a dumb plan, for dumb people, that will essentially result in the complete and utter destruction of whatever cinders he wants to rule at the end of it, but whatever, it’s a Luthor plan. Luthor plans involve Otisville usually, and that’s fine with me. Nowhere near as good as Affleck, but I get where he is coming from.

Also, Wonder Woman is surprisingly effective in a fight, and holds her own among the boys, actually (in my opinion) contributing more to the final fight than Batman. Which is great! Wonder Woman should be that bad ass.

The Bad

The Plot, or what would be called the plot if the movie had one. Inner eight year old, what is the plot of this movie?

Batman’s family dies in an alleyway again. (Jesus Christ, more on this later.) So we know he is serious about fighting crime. Then, Batman in his Bruce Wayne flesh mask goes to Metropolis during the end of Man of Steel and watches as his building is cut the fuck up by the Snyderian symphony of destruction that was the end of Man of Steel. (Wow, eight year old me is quite eloquent.) He concludes that Superman is a dick hole for blowing a city the fuck up, after saving a guy who got his legs trapped under a steel beam. Then he saves a girl and watches superman fuck up another building. A year and a half later. Batman is angry at superman, and has determined that the best way to figure it out is to figure out who is importing a “dirty bomb” that is actually kryptonite. Lex Luthor wants the us government to give him Zod’s body and access to the ship that crashed in the middle of metropolis. Also, metropolis is right next door to gotham. Lex manipulates them into fighting, and blows up congress around Superman right before he testifies, which makes him go on a spirit quest to a mountain to talk to his dad. Lex kidnaps his mom and Lois, pushes Lois off a heliport, gets his attention and tells Supes to fight Batman and bring him his head in an hour. Batman beats the everloving shit out of Superman, and is about to kill him with a kryptonite spear, when he says their safe word, “Martha”, and Batman is forced to reboot after BSODing. Then Lex births Doomsday, who Superman kills with the spear, killing himself in the process. Then superman isn’t dead because they Inception top his grave, showing dirt rising off of his casket. The end…?

That’s the shortest version I can do. What I didn’t mention is Wonder Woman, who is in the movie to not wear a bra and seem like she is going to skip the battle, but doesn’t. The Flash, who appears in a “dream” telling Bruce that he was right about him all along and that he came too soon, and then beats the shit out of a guy without dropping a bottle of milk on a security camera, and Jason Momoa, confirming what we already knew, which is that Aquaman is lame and looks hilariously stupid menacing the shit out of robots. We also find out that Cyborg was a third of a torso, a head and a arm kept alive by the black guy from Eureka (you’re a great actor, Joe Morton. Why did they drag you into this?), and was reanimated by what can only be described as the fucking All Spark from the other Dicks to Sense, Let’s Make Splosions director of our day.

I didn’t mention that you can make Kryptonite scalpels to peel off the fingerprints to activate Kryptonian machinery, which is a thing that happens. I didn’t mention that our main antagonist, recruits the guy who got his legs cut off and is justifiably pissed about Superman screwing his life up to be a suicide bomber in the Capitol building. I didn’t mention that this suicide bomber is revealed when a sitting junior Democratic senator from Kentucky smells pee in a mason jar that was put in front of her, which is labeled with an idiom that she said to Lex Luthor scenes ago. I didn’t mention Batman’s sexy ass crossfit WOD in the middle of the movie, or Superman irresponsibly overflowing a tub to protect Amy Adams’ modesty, or that Superman apparently stood by while a CIA mole was executed in front of Amy Adams, but intervened when she was in danger. I didn’t mention the two dream sequences that Batman has, where Batman sees a fucking demon from hell come out of his mother’s bleeding casket, or where Batman turns into bad ass Malcolm Reynolds with a cowl, and executes like 15 people before being inundated with mantis creatures who stop him, before Superman executes two prisoners who have been chained up in cold blood, and then the Flash might or might not tell him some stuff. I am still not done listing things I didn’t mention. This “plot” is fucking insane.

Hey, I didn’t even mention that the entire movie hinges around the fact that “They are going to kill Martha” is said out loud at a critical point. Cool line, right? Except it’s Superman’s mom, who he has called mom, and hasn’t really called Martha as far as I remember in the movies so far, but fuck it, it BSODs Batman and that is what the plot needs.

Or that to prevent Batman ever killing Superman, Amy Adams throws away the weapon that will stop him, and then psychically goes to get it, then almost drowns, then is saved by Superman, who then almost drowns because of Kryptonite, and is saved by Amy Adams throwing the weapon away.

Or that Pa Kent tells his son in a “dream sequence/spirit quest/message from beyond the grave” about the time he saved his own farm to only drown a shitload of horses on another farm, which inspires him to… come back and be a hero again?

Or that, the one true moment of hilarious levity comes when Ma Kent says that she knows Batman is friends with her son because he is wearing a cape. Which makes you hopeful that they know what they are doing after sad sad sad for two hours, and then the only other intentional laugh comes along and it is upstaged by music, and was revealed in the trailer (I thought she was with you [HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH AREN’T WE CLEVER!]).

Or, hey, how about the fact that Batman kills like 50 people. And when I say kills, I mean kills. No dream sequence. No rubber bullets. Kills. He opens up with a Gatling gun from his airplane to shoot people. He blows up vehicles. He dive bombs his car through a truck, after his car (no joke) just went through a brick wall like butter. There is a person standing on that side of the truck. That person is dead because of Batman’s direct actions. And, best of all, Batman shoots a man’s flamethrower backpack with a fucking gun, and dives to save Martha Kent from the fire, killing two people. Straight up. Killing them, with the barest Rube Goldberg explanation that, well actually, it was the explosion that killed them.

Or, man, what about whatever genius screenwriter who figured out that as long as you say that parts of the city are deserted, obviously it’s okay to destroy huge swaths of it.

Or that over the express advice of the military, the president nukes doomsday and Supes in orbit, with nary a mention of the potential consequences of such an action. No fucking janitors ever work nights in Metropolis, as far as Anderson Cooper knows!

Or shit, Charlie fucking Rose, of interrupting people to ask his fucking self important questions on PBS fame, and Andy Coop, and Soledad O’Brien and Nancy ‘Screaming Opinions [Remember When Ben Affleck Was In That Movie That Made Fun Of My Journalism]’ Grace lend their talents to this. Neal DeGrasse Tyson is in this movie.

Or hey, that Thomas Wayne takes a swing at the guy who is currently pointing a gun at his family. He takes a swing at him, directly resulting in the guy shooting him. Instead of it being a tragedy, where he tried to comply and the incompetent robber destroyed Bruce’s world, no, we need him to fucking show that he’s a man and fuck that guy up.

Oh, and how did the pearl necklace that is a part of the Batman mythos end up on the ground? It got caught , on the gun, between the hammer and the pin. Seriously. It was inside of the hammer, so Martha Wayne was shot at point blank range. Luckily she was shot with one of those bullets that doesn’t do a ton of damage, so we could still see her face when Thomas ‘Fighting Jack Murphy’ Wayne calls her name for the last moment of his life.

I can keep going, but I think you get it. Oh wait, one more, Laurence Fishbourne, a newspaper editor, isn’t interested in a story about a man who dresses up like a bat and is terrorizing criminals in a city that is adjacent to his. What? That’s newspaper gold. Wait, this guy has been doing it for 20 years and no one figured it out? What? Oh, and he calls him Smallville, which is hilarious until you remember that that town was flattened 18 months ago by monsters from outer space. And then, you start agreeing with Lex Luthor that both of these heroes sort of deserve to get what is coming to them.

It’s so hard to stop. Because every choice makes no sense. Everything serves the purpose of the camera. Everything is for the coolest shot possible, not the necessary shot.

Everything is based on getting to the next action set piece, but not in a fun Avengers sort of way, but in a depressing Man of Steel sort of way.


Fury Road was great. It was fun to watch, it had action and adventure. Go watch that.


You want me to talk about what I have written?


This movie is mediocre. Affleck gives a great performance, and in the right hands, a Batman movie with him would be fun as fuck to watch. He moves brutally, and conveys a world weariness that really sells the character. Cavil looks like he just realized that being a hero is boring and he wants to go fuck supermodels, and every heroic action looks like he is genuinely constipated. I think this is a directors choice. Lois Lane is pointless. The Kents make a contractual appearance. Eisenberg twitches up the screen, but at least gives a performance.

The movie is so concerned with looking cool, it forgets that Superman is cool because he is ultimately powerful AND GOOD. He’s a GOOD GUY. He acts to save everyone, to the point of everyone thinking he is too good! When you have him standing at the center of a suicide bomb, at the US Capitol Building, and then going on a vision quest, it seems a lot like he doesn’t give a shit about anything. Remember Truth, Justice and the American way? Well, I hope you like watching Captain America, because that is the only place that you are going to get it. And if you think that GOOD GUY doesn’t work anymore, Cap is actually doing it. He has attempted to save peoples lives. He keeps the collateral as low as he can. And he gives a shit about people, and tries to save all of them. And he can’t. He can’t save all of them, and it looks like it hurts him that he can’t. Superman is supposed to try to save everyone. Remember? He got cats out of trees between burning buildings. He is the pinnacle of good.

Batman doesn’t kill people. It’s not his place to be the executioner. I know you saw Batman Begins, because Nolan sat you down to see it, Mr. Snyder. He doesn’t kill people because he witnessed his family getting killed on a street. I know you saw that, because you had to do it again. And also make it more violent, and way more ambiguous.

So, I’m done with Snyder. 300 was a fun myth thing that worked. Watchmen was visually accurate and missed the point entirely. Sucker Punch (loses consciousness, drifts in a haze for days, finds corporeal self and consumes it, like an oroboros). Man of Steel was the 6 year old power fantasy with zero consequences that Superman didn’t deserve. And now Batman v. Superman (it’s so fucking pretentious to me that it is v. I don’t know why that bugs me so much, but Jesus it does) is the grey brown nightmare that concludes my watching of the DC universe. Have a great time making the Flash brood quickly, guys. I’ll catch it on HBO.

Who is excited for Civil War, am I right? I’m excited to see colors on screen!


The Campy Space Opera That We Deserve, Not The One We Need

The Campy Space Opera That We Deserve, Not The One We Need

Talk Franchise To Me, Baby

My history with the chronicles of Richard B. Riddick is a long and loving one.  I love these movies.  All of them.  It’s okay that you don’t love all of them, and it’s okay that you’re not into how weird the middle one got, and how the last one was the same movie that the first one was (in a lot of respects, even though I disagree).  The Riddick movies are a great example of what a cool, personal, and ever evolving franchise should be, and I think, over time, they will be reevaluated as better movies than you remembered.  These are not art films.  They are not filmed to be particularly moving.  They are great for a totally different reason.

I have been a Vin Diesel fan for a long time, which is something that lots of people find odd about me.  I appreciate his dedication to working hard, hustling for movies, and making movies that bring him joy.  As an actor, he has played some interesting roles, and Torreto from the Fast and Furious movies.  Now, for a controversial statement, the FF franchise is one of the best in the world at what it does.  It is shallow, stupid, has dumb as bricks plots, and will vicerally excite you if you buy into it’s stupid premises.  Every frame is designed to be as testosterone driven and insane as possible, and I love that about them.

Weirdly, I hear of the Riddick films as testosterone driven murder porn, in the same vein as FF.  This, I believe, is false.  The Riddick films have some of the best world building, interesting premises, and weirdest ideas that you will ever see in a mainstream movie.  They are a space opera, set in a dirty future world, where the entire universe is a frontier, and we are focused on the small stories of a brutal survivor in a harsh and terrible future.

Yeah, you didn’t think I was going to make it sounds like that, did you?  It’s a movie about Vin being awesome right?  Sure, there is some Vin being awesome stuff in there, but for a wider view, let’s look at the history of the space opera.

What is a space opera?

I am glad you asked, heading me.  A space opera is defined as a story that is set in space (duh), having the qualities of an opera (also, duh).  The world of space is given weight, with people and creatures interacting on multiple worlds, creating a gigantic backdrop for the stories that are going to be told.  Each world is defined by it’s differing characteristics, and this allows the universe to constantly be expanded, confronting new challenges and ideas.

The opera part of space opera refers to the kinds of stories that are told.  The stories are those of great people in terrible situations, overcoming, changing, and defying the odds to triumph.  The stories are huge, fighting gigantic battles and moving from planet to planet, creating worlds that matter, but they also are focused on characters who are dedicated to their own goals and ideas.

(And now, for my favorite sentence I will ever write) Let’s talk about Star Wars. I love Star Wars. I love the extended universe, I love the original trilogy, and I love The Force Awakens.  I love the ideas that Star Wars cultivates, and I love the worlds that it is on.  Let’s write about Star Wars without all of the space stuff.

A young man discovers that he is the inheritor to a great power, is called to fight a greater fight, he meets interesting people, learns to control his power, and with the help of his friends, overcomes huge odds, using his power, to destroy a huge threat to his world.  He joins a small power, helps that revolution through his action, learns more about his power, and confronts his opposite, and fails.  After he fails, he learns more about himself, confronts the evil, and through his will, guile, smarts and power, defeats it.

That’s a story.  It’s not a new story. It’s just a good solid base for a story.  What makes Star Wars great, in my opinion, is that that is just one story that is going on at the same time.  There is also the ambivalent rogue, who discovers that running at the first sight of trouble isn’t the path to getting what he wants, and his growth and change to become a better person through love and compassion.  There is the terrible villain who decides to change his ways from hate and fear in his final moments.  There is the love interest who is more than just a love interest, who is clear-headed and driven for a goal that she wants.  There are two observers who are more important than they realize.  There is the ultimate evil, tempting and sewing dissent at every turn.

Each part of Star Wars is designed to get you thinking about who you want to be.  These characters persist in culture because they create impressions of who they are, make choices that are defined by those character traits, and eventually overcome weakness to be greater than they are.  Star Wars is the kind of movie that makes people feel things.

Additionally, the Star Wars universe is designed to be intriguing.  Every one of the bounty hunters that Vader hires on the Devestator (his Star Destroyer) is an interesting design and looks like they have a story from before that moment in time.  When someone sees the Mos Eisley cantina scene for the first time, you get a glimpse of a couple of different stories that you could follow through, that Luke and Obi-wan are just one story in this universe.  We see ancillary stories end, like Greedo’s, on camera.  We hear about other things that you could do in the universe (Kessel run, “I have death sentences on twelve systems”, the band, “We don’t serve their kind in here”). We hear about the Jedi, the Clone Wars, and we think to ourselves of stories that could be told about them.

This is the power of the space opera.  Let’s move on before I write another 6000 words about Star Wars.

Why is Riddick like that for me?

Well, first off, we’re talking about three movies.  Let’s deal with them in order.


Pitch Black is an odd little horror film set in a space opera enviroment.  If you’ve never seen the film, what’s wrong with you, but I’ll do a quick story recap.  A group of people are travelling on a ship together, and the ship breaks up over a charted, but out of the way planet.  When it crashes, the survivors realize that the planet was once colonized, has breathable air, and set about trying to figure out a way to signal for a rescue.  The planet is odd, seemingly peaceful, but after a couple of people are killed and it is discovered that there are creatures who are hurt by light, the planet moves into alignment with the three suns of the system, creating a feeding frenzy from the creatures who live below the surface.  There is a workable ship, but the survivors must band together to get home.  They are picked off one by one, until there are only a few remaining, and eventually, they reach the ship, and some of them escape.

Not a complex story.  Well, as usual, it’s in the details.  These people are moving from one place to another for odd reasons.  We have a miner, looking for work.  We have a man and his two sons on the hajj.  We have the co-pilor, who was going to jettison the passengers before the crash.  We have a young boy.  We have a cop. We have an antiquities dealer. And we have Riddick.

Pitch Black lives and dies on Riddick’s presence.  Riddick is the center of the movie, because it seems like he is the threat at the beginning.  Everything we hear about him suggests that he is going to be the horror movie villain, taking the people one by one.  And yet, he ends up being much more of an anti-hero than a villain in the film.  His decisions and ideas are important to survival, and over time, it’s revealed that he actually has a moral code.  He kills the cop, but the cop wants to kill a girl to provide bait for the creatures.  He mourns the loss of the actual hero of the movie.  He is the character with the biggest arc in the movie.

The movie is also visually stunning.  The creature designs are unique, in that the creatures have no eyes, sense through heat, and are damaged by light.  This gives the director David Twohy, the ability to play with colors as markers of distance and time.  We start with ever present light, and slowly lose it to up the tension.  The bottleneck scene is incredibly tense from start to finish, and the light enhances that. The use of color is also glorious, and the film uses its smaller budget to create amazing terror in darkness.  You never know where an attack might come from, because outside of the light is all dangerous.

Additionally, there are suggestions of a larger world.  Old Earth is still a thing, as well as France.  The Hajj is a space faring trip.  Mercenaries and miners have jobs.  People who pilot ships are prized.  There are police, prisons, and more.  The world feels lived in.  People strike out to find new worlds.  If you kill people, get sent to a prison where the sun never shines, you can get a surgical shine job that lets you see in the dark.  Not only is this awesome, this is the start of a space opera.

Building a Bigger World

Chronicles of Riddick is much more in line with a traditional space opera. Riddick is brought back into the action because someone put a price on his head.  He has been out of the universe for some time, but he is tracked down by mercenaries.  He finds the imam from the first movie, runs into Judy Dench as an elemental (sort of an oracle and air being, having statistical based calculation powers) and fights the Necromonger army.  The necromongers are an inspired villian, bringing people into eternal half life, creating a zombie army with a hierarchical structure that is based on “keeping what you kill.”

The worlds span interesting ideas.  There is an ice world, a world so close to the sun that the surface is scorched every time it faces it, a prosperous world being devoured by the necromonger fleet. The beings are well designed, creating interesting characters, and memorable people to run into.  We see more of the universe.

Riddick starts as an anti-hero and suffers a great tragedy in losing his protege and friend from the first film, who he distanced himself from to keep her safe, only to find her in the same position as him.  He ends this movie on the throne, ruling the necromongers as a living person.  The world expands.  We wonder what his next moves are.

Karl Urban (who is a solid actor and does good work in almost every movie I have seen him in [DREDD]) does a lot of heavy lifting in this movie, acting as our character inside the necromongers.  He is ambitious, doubtful, and trying to achieve his own goals.  He has risen through the ranks.  His wife, played by the glorious Thandie Newton, has her own turn as his Lady Macbeth.  She is ambitious, sees the way to move up in the society, and chews scenery.

The Lord Marshal of the necromongers, played by Colm Feore, is revealed to be a genocidal maniac, fearful of prophecy and deeply committed to his stated goal, which is bringing about a necromonger empire.  They have their own beliefs and thoughts, and Riddick becomes a thorn in his side.

Riddick is also given greater depth.  He is revealed to be the last of the Furyans, a race that was wiped out by the necromongers.  He was to be strangled with his own umbilical cord, but he survived.  The elemental said that a Furyan was going to take down the Lord Marshal, and he was the fulfillment of that prophecy, but in that moment, he lost the one person he thought he cared about.

It works, for me, because Riddick is an evolving character after this.  He is still a murder machine, but he did a lot of the things in this movie in the interest of others.  He stopped the planet of his friend from being destroyed.  He tried to save Jack and the others from being abandoned in the prison.  He killed a guy with a cup.  He was attempting to join the good guy side, and for that, he was pushed into a role that gives him power, but loses him everything else.  I think that is a just end to this movie, and a good way to make the character lose and win at the same time.

What about Riddick?

The third film in the series, Riddick in many ways seems to suffer from sequelitis.  He’s trapped on a foreign planet again, with an unstoppable, unthinking alien force.  We introduce a bunch of non characters, who are after the bounty on his head, who slowly get picked off one by one.  This time, when the rains come, everything goes to shit, and the monsters come out.

However, that’s only on a cursory viewing.  There are two mercenary leaders, one, a man who is only there after wealth, and one who is seeking closure for his son’s death from the first movie.  Riddick is attempting to get everyone off safely, but because of who he is, they doubt and people die.  He raises something to be his ally.  He loses that thing.  He shows that he has a code of honor.  He works with people to get them all safe, and his investment in trust is rewarded by being saved by them.

I like this movie, because I think that it is another continuation of his arc.  It’s not as glorious as the first two, but it creates a nice book end to the full space opera Chronicles is. It works because I want to see this character in different situations.  I want to see him succeed in harsh environments.  I want to have characters who are interesting, fascinating and worry about different things.  I find the turns and twists to be satisfying, and create a huge desire for the next film.  I like that the first half of the movie has one character.

Is this movie as good as the first two?  Probably not.  But I think that it is aiming to be a turning point movie.  We’re finally seeing what humanity has to offer in a world that is plagued by terrible things.  We get action and adventure.

Where do we go from here?

Furyia, which is a movie that exists and is going to happen, is coming out in the next couple of years, hopefully, it seems. I hope that this one is more in line with Chronicles and not Riddick.  I think it would be interesting to see what has become of Riddick’s world since the entire population was killed, and I want to see where he came from.  I hope that there are really interesting character designs, and I hope that we get to see Riddick do awesome stuff.  In the long run, though, I hope that it embraces it’s space opera with an anti-hero destiny, and creates something that expands and creates new worlds for my imagination to play in.

But, I’ll see it either way.  Because of my love for these movies.

Don’t Ever Blink

What is the first thing you notice about a character?

I mean, the first thing.  Where do you look at a character?  Or where does the director direct you to look at them?  How do you establish a person’s identity with one shot?

This is one of those basic filmmaking things that has always baffled me, because it is one of those divides that could be art, could be science, or could be a mix of both.  Each time you are introduced to a character, you are given visual clues to who they are and what they care about.  What does it say about the audience that they can be swayed with such little information?

Nightcrawler as a study in character

Let’s break down the introduction to Jake Gyllenhall’s character in Nightcrawler.  We open on his back.  He’s facing a chain link fence.  He looks uncomfortably out of place, with slightly off (?) clothes.  He is positioned in an awkward pose, which we can see is associated with whatever he is doing.  He’s too still to be comfortable, but doing something repetitive.

Before we get to the reverse shot, just think about how much of the character has been revealed with just this one shot.  You see so much with so little.  You can get a sense of character with such little information, so it is important to not waste these first moments.

When we cut to the reverse, instead of the face or the eyes of the character, we end up looking at the beaks of a cable cutter.  We see him methodically cutting each link on a chain link fence.  Each moment he cuts a different link.  This tells us that he is not just doing this, he’s practiced.  He’s done this before.  He’s doing it with some purpose.

When another car shows up, a great deal is shown just by the way he turns.  He is practiced at making this speech.  He knows that his ability to talk his way out of it isn’t great, but he knows that he can buy time.  He talks about wanting his job, comes closer and closer, and he ends up inside the man’s guard.

We get a shot of him noticing the guy’s watch.  He sees the watch and we see him seeing it.  As he pulls out his ID, he ends up taking the guy down.

What is an actor’s role? What is the directors?

I would love to sit down with both of them for this movie, because there are a lot of conscious choices that are going on here.  There is something odd about Gyllenhall’s responses to what is going on, but his ability to play these tics with subtlety is pretty amazing.  The most noticeable feature of the character is that he does not blink in this movie.

I know that sounds odd, but it’s weirdly compelling with this character.  There is some mixture of tic and movie star charisma that makes you jump right into his story.  He’s obviously a really strange dude, but you start to like his forward nature, and his ability to get these shots that no one else would.  However invested you get in his story, though, the more likely it is that you can see the darkness coming.

The direction and the actors working together is what makes this movie so compelling.  I think that a lot of the good stuff is based in this collision.  Obviously, both were completely on the same page.  They must have worked together incredibly well.

And this movie does get dark.

FADE UP: Campfire blazes at a party

FADE UP: Campfire blazes at a party

Life kinda got real the week that I wrote this.

Well, life is always real, but things got very heavy with a lot of news around the country having an insane vibe.  It’s hard to think about frivolous things like movies when it’s like this, and yet, it’s one of those retreats that lets me deal with the hard parts of life.  That is when I have to find something that gives me genuine pleasure.

Wet Hot American Summer is one of those movies. And yet, it might not be for you.

Why is Wet Hot American Summer not for everyone?

Well, first, a little background on me.  I’m a junkie for vaguely weird comedy.  I say that I was raised on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Adult Swim shows, specifically Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.  What do these things have in common?

Absurdity. They completely trade on the idea of the absurd and the trappings of normality.  Every time you see something normal, you have to be completely ready for the next turn to come around.  WHAS is deeply invested in the idea of the absurdity and strangeness.  This is movie that has a meet cute that ends with one of the characters saying “I want you inside of me”, another meet cute with a character screaming at another “I SAID I DON’T WANT TO”, a chef that was in Vietnam who has a deeply inappropriate relationship with a fridge, a sound effect whenever something is dropped.

Let’s just let Eric Andre explain it.

The idea of playing on a formula is difficult for some people to get behind.  Each part of the formula is going to be subverted while hewing close enough to the actual ideas to keep having an eerie resonance.

Every single image in this movie is designed to create the “last day of camp” feel.  It seems like it is going to be the average last day of camp movie, but then the characters are actually complete dickheads.  The counselors don’t give a fuck, look like they’re way too old.  The camp is incredibly obviously a jewish day camp.  Everyone is swearing a ton.  Molly Shannon ends up having a meltdown over her divorce and crying about everything, and falling in love with a young time traveling Tim Matheson, who might be my favorite idea in the whole thing.

Literally All Your Favorite People Are In This Movie

Hey, did you like Ant-man or 40 Year Old Virgin?  Paul Rudd is in this movie.  Do you like Children’s Hospital‘s Glenn Richie?  Ken Marino is in the movie. Michael Showalter, Amy Pohler, Michael Ian Black, Bradley Cooper, and Janeane Garofalo.  H. Jon Benjamin. Joe Lo Truglio.  Molly Shannon.  Elizabeth Banks.  David Hyde Peirce.

If you want to break it down, a lot of people you love are in this movie.  From this movie, people have been all over these different things.  There are so many different weird people inside this movie, you will be seeing people at the start of their big careers.

Everything is a Bit

Every scenario in this movie is designed to make jokes.  The jokes fire as fast as possible, creating weird overlaps in the laughing.  It rewards re-watching, where you can catch huge changes and differences.  Literally every intstant in this movie has a gag or visual idea going on.  It also has the best montage in movie history.  (I will probably say this about another montage.  Rocky comes to mind.)

And here is the problem.  If you don’t find that kind of insanity funny, you won’t find this movie funny.  I’ve been talking with people since I have seen this movie who think it is dumb and has absolutely no redeeming qualities.  One of these is my sister, who I love, and I have attempted to figure out how to open people up to this movie.  It rewards investing in it just enough.  Instead of trying to figure out what is going on, or accepting traditional logic, it’s a movie that begs that you buy into it’s insane logic.

So, don’t watch it like it is a movie that makes sense.  Buy in.  It’s way better if you do.

Dear How Did This Get Made, Red Letter Media, and Anyone Else Who Likes … enh movies,

Dear How Did This Get Made, Red Letter Media, and Anyone Else Who Likes … enh movies,

This Movie Is Bonkers.

I feel like I should be drinking more when I am writing this.  This is the kind of movie that black russians were made to accompany.  This is, hands down, one of the strangest and most insane movie watching experiences of my life, and I have watched The Room several times, Enter The Void several times, the entire Lynch filmography, and almost every one of the MST3K episodes ever made.  I am experienced in watching insane films.  This film may top that.

It’s The Rage is the name of the movie.  It stars (really, for real) Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, David Schwimmer, Anna Paquin, Andre Braugher, Giovanni Ribisi, Gary Sinise, Josh Brolin, Bokeem Woodbine and Robert Forster.  It’s truly a who’s who of who is that guy, and where do I know him from.  The cast has some genuinely amazing actors, people who deeply commit to roles, and have had some amazing performances, and Ross from friends, who, I don’t know, acts?

It was apparently based on a play, and was directed by a director of a play, so maybe that is somewhere that I should cut them some slack.  And yet, I watched this movie stone cold sober, and felt like my brain was melting within my head and trying to escape trying to understand it.  Seriously.

Start at the Very Beginning

So, we open on opening credits.  Home video footage of people getting guns, and receiving guns, and then as the titles roll on, the film introduces newspaper clippings referring to guns being used in situations.  A man blacking out as he pulls the trigger.  Another man shooting his business partner.  Have you figured out what we’re looking for?

It’s the Rage is a movie with a message.  It thinks that it’s message is that guns are bad, but as we go further, I think that I can change your mind on that being the actual message and the real message being, please work with film directors.  Play adaptations are hard enough, but message movies with play adaptations are going to be tough.  Message movies require a commitment to telling a story so well that we are fully on board from minute one.  Movies like Traffic. Why am I not writing about Traffic?

As the message of the movie is pounded into your brain, we cut to a suburban house.  Joan Allen reaches over to check if her husband is there, hears a shot, and then two shots.  She goes downstairs and finds Jeff Daniels playing Warren Harding (no relation) standing over a body on the floor.  She does some quick detective work and sees that it is 1. his business partner, and 2. that Jeff Daniels seems pretty damn suspicious, and 3. Jeff Daniels definitely got up in the middle of the night to kill that guy.

Jeff Daniels and his lawyer, Andre Braugher are brought to the police station for questioning.  On the other side are Robert Forster who is the too old for this just about to retire cop and Bookeem Woodbine, the young hothead cop.  Robert Forster attempts to intimidate him into confessing.  Mr. Braugher, who is an amazing actor and I am deeply sad to see in this movie, does a great job selling his role as the bisexual son of a civil rights leader who was shot to death, but that’s for later.  Jeff Daniels is released because he was trying to protect his house, accuses his wife of cheating on him, and then goes home.

Andre Braugher goes to a grocery store where he runs into Anna Paquin, who is a poor street urchin who is dancing and stealing things.  She “flirts” with Braugher, who when she is caught stealing (once when I was five [Jesus, Jane’s Addiction, Matt? {You know what, screw you voice in my head, that’s a great song.}]), he vouches for her and pays for her stuff.  Anna Paquin is a decent actor, but she is ACTING in this MOVIE, and I have zero grasp of who she is supposed to be.  Is she underage?  Maybe?  Is she an addict?  Maybe?  Is she claiming that her brother has a gun and that he is police man? Yes.  Does he and is he? Yes and no?

Cut to Joan Allen and Jeff Daniels having dinner. Jeff Daniels talks about how he could have made money if he hadn’t murdered his business partner that day, but he was down at the police station answering questions because he is a psychopath.  Joan Allen gets him riled up by telling him that she fucked another man while getting him dinner, and tells him that she is going to leave him.  He threatens her by saying that she couldn’t leave if she wanted to, and if she did, he’d find her.

We then cut to David Schwimmer, silently waiting and crying as Andre Braugher gets home late.  You see, it turns out that the guy following the underage girl home is gay, which is supposed to be risque but does nothing for me.  David Schwimmer is pissed, and pulls a gun on Braugher, telling him that if he is late again, he is going to shoot him.  Pop quiz, hot shot, guess who shoots Braugher eventually. Ross also informs Braugher that he has gone off his meds, he’s bought him a gun, and that he’s stopped seeing his therapist.  Braugher picks up the pistol and they lovingly point it together and talk about how it makes them feel powerful.

To Review, Before This Gets Confusing

Jeff Daniels is Married to Joan Allen and Shot His Buisness Partner.

Andre Braugher is Dating David Schwimmer and into Anna Paquin.

Robert Forster is an almost retired cop, whose partner is Bookeem Woodbine and is investigating Jeff Daniels.

These are enough for a movie by themselves, right?  Well, guess who we haven’t gotten to yet.

Gary Sinise and Josh Brolin in, wait, what am I watching?

Gary Sinise is an “eccentric” “multi-millionaire” who owns a “compound” that looks like a legends of the hidden temple set re-purposed to be someone’s office with gigantic computer monitors everywhere.  He is in full on Lt. Dan meltdown mode in this movie, feeling like there is too much information coming in, and Josh Brolin is his hapless and put upon secretary who wants to make movies. I’ll say that again, Josh “No Country For Old Men” Brolin plays a weird secretary who wants to be a film director and is going to leave the service of the eccentric millionaire Sinise to direct films.

Since Brolin is leaving, Sinise directs him to find a replacement, which is convenient because Joan Allen wants to get out of her situation and Andre Braugher is also the lawyer of Sinise, so Joan Allen goes to join him on the compound and get herself either the worst haircut or worst wig I have ever seen.  I love Joan Allen, she’s great, and whatever the hell was going on with her in this was atrocious.

I don’t really know how to describe Gary Sinise in this movie.  He’s essentially the most insane of all possible people, and if you’ve read this far, you know that insanity is not uncommon in this universe. He creates an animated dog to play with on the copious screens that litter his office and are apparently linked to his voice and his thoughts somehow.  He is somehow connected to the internet, both in reality, and in that he was somehow responsible for some essential part of it.  He is rich, but out of touch, telling Joan Allen that all emails and voicemail are to be deleted.  I cannot tell if his character is supposed to be comic, or tragic, or both, or just impossible to tell.  The movie is off the rails at this point.

We also find out that Schwimmer goes shopping with Joan Allen, that Robert Forster is going to follow Jeff Daniels around, and that Josh Brolin’s character is changing his name from Tennel to Fennel.  No, I’m not making this up.

You Thought We Were Done, Didn’t You

Taking a little jaunt down “Two Weeks Later” we find all of our characters in new situations.  Andre and Anna have sex once, but not because she is a whore, but because she loves money. Brolin is working at a movie store, where he falls in love with Anna at first sight, mainly because her character name is Annabelle Lee.  Brolin recites the poem to her, and if you don’t remember the poem, it’s not a bright and happy poem, because Edgar Allen Poe wrote it.  She reciprocates by stealing stuff and flirting back?-ish.

And then we get to Sydney Lee.  Sindey Lee is played by Giovanni Ribisi as the incestuous, insanely overprotective, mentally ill, armed brother to Anna Paquin’s Annabelle Lee.  Another actor who you know, I am blown away by his presence in this movie.  He was in Saving Private Ryan.  In this movie, he is dressed like Michael Jackson and Sid Vicious had a child.  He comes into the movie at like the halfway point, far too late to introduce new central characters.  His introduction is being told that the video store clerk (Brolin) was hitting on his sister and that makes him very upset.  He threatens to use his piece on him if he doesn’t back off of her. Guess what eventually happens.

So, the stage is set, the players in their relationships, and now…

The movie goes off the rails.  It never really was on the rails, but at this point it loses rail cohesion entirely.

Joan Allen is settling into her new situation, reading a bunch and deleting emails, but Braugher shows up and tells Sinise that he’s being sued for cutting off all communication and that he needs to manage his empire.  Braugher ends up coming home late several times, telling Schwimmer that he is working on a case.  Daniels sits at home and thinks about redecorating his room.  Brolin works at his video store, meets Schwimmer and Daniels, as they watch Annabelle Lee, who is described as 15 going on 45.  Daniels slams Pulp Fiction (never a good way to get on my side, movie), and Schwimmer tells Brolin that he thinks that Braugher is cheating on him. Sinise and Allen grow closer, working together while his company falls apart, but he becomes unhinged when information starts leaking back in.  They have a dinner where he uses chopsticks to eat pasta, in parallel structure with the dinner with her husband.  It’s indicated that he is falling for her.

Braugher shoots Paquin in a struggle for Chechov’s… what is that thing called?  You introduce it at the beginning of the story and everyone knows that it has to go off, or the prop doesn’t make sense.  What is that thing called.  I forgot.  Well, anyway, Paquin dies.  Braugher calls Daniels to help clean it up. Daniels is followed by Forster and Woodbine to a bar, where they run into Ribisi, who threatens to shoot the two cops, walks over, and everyone looks like they are going to draw.  Ribisi leaves the bar.

Paquin’s body is discovered.  Braugher goes home, Chris shoots him, and then calls his therapist.  Ribisi goes to the video store and executes Brolin because he thinks he killed his sister. Sinise grabs a gun from inside his desk and shoots his monitors with it. Forster is handed a phone call by Schwimmer, at the active crime scene where Braugher has just been killed, from Daniels in which he confesses to shooting his partner.  Woodbine kills Sydney for killing Ribisi. Schwimmer moves to Nevada after his jail time so he can buy a gun. Daniels goes to jail and is visited by Allen, who is selling the house, which makes Daniels mad.

I am good at tracking what happens in movies.  I took no notes, and I wrote all of that by memory.  This movie had me confused, completely at odds with knowing anything, and deeply uncomfortable with what was going on. I am making none of that up.  NONE OF IT. I LIKE MOVIES, AND THIS MOVIE BROKE ME.

What’s the Lesson?

First off, message movies are hard, so if you’re going to do it, please, do it right.

Secondably, if you’re going to do an ensemble cast of hard hitting stars, make sure you get the tone right from frame one.  You cannot do five different tones.  Some of it is darkly comic, some of it is just comic, some of it is drama, some of it is thriller, and some of it is message movie.  You know how in The Thing you don’t have an opening musical number? That makes sense right?  If you opened with a big musical number, you expect a musical.  If you’re good enough to make a musical number work in the middle of your film (500 Days of Summer, sort of), don’t have it in the middle of the dramatic part, have it in the comedy fun parts.

Third of all, I need other people to see this movie.  I need it, because it has offically taken me 2037 words as of this point to deal with just the bare bones plot and character.  I haven’t talked about the crane shot in and crane shot out, to bookend the film, the fact that Sinise was discovered living under a viaduct and put into a mental institution by Allen, a person who is not his relative or has any relationship, and Allen literally discovered him living under a viaduct, which is a movie I want to see now.  I need people to see it because it’s The Room levels of insane.  It doesn’t make sense.  I cannot tell what it was trying to be.  I need your help.  Please, it’s cold and alone in this madness and only others joining me can free me.

Fourth, at the Milan International Film Festival, this movie got the Audience Award, Best Acting for Gary Sinise, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Film, Best Music and Best Screenwriting.  Really.  Like, really really. In the year 2000, in Milan, there was a gigantic mass delusion that this movie was good in some way.  I cannot cope with this.  I think that we might need to remove Milan from our maps, because there is something wrong there.  Something deeply unsettling lives in that city, somewhere deep down, and in 2000, they dug too deep.

Fifth, this movie is fucking bananas.  I am still blown away.  It’s been days.  It will never leave me.  What. On. Earth. Was. That?  I’m going to go watch Crank until my eyes bleed.

Editors Note:

This movie is still plaguing my brain.  I spend a good fifteen minutes a day trying to come to terms with this movie.  If you value my sanity, please, reach out to @HDTGM and @RedLetterMedia, and get someone else to see this movie.  If you can get me in touch with the producers and directors, or actors, please, tell me how.  If I can somehow find closure with this movie, I would appreciate it.

Is This The Best Movie Speech In History?

Is This The Best Movie Speech In History?

Short Answer: No.

Longer Answer:

We’re a week out from July 4th, Independence Day in America, and the annual viewing party of Independence Day on HBO.  It’s a deeply spiritual part of any celebration, watching young Will Smith, young Bill Pullman, and youngish Randy Quaid fight aliens in the most overblown blockbuster in history.

With Independence Day: Resurgence in theaters now, there has been a recent reevaluation of whether this movie is any good.  Here’s a hint, it’s a fine movie, as long as you don’t pay attention at all, and love ‘splosions.  And damn, are those ‘splosions awesome.

This is the movie that made Roland Emmerich able to make all those other movies where things go kablooie, like the one with John Cusack as the divorced writer, and the one with The Rock, and the one with the sentient ice that chases people down hallways and freezes wolves.  I’d say this is the best one of all of them, but that’s not really praise.

As a perpetual fourteen year old (old enough to like boobs, but dumb enough to love ‘splosions), I have always enjoyed these kinds of disaster movies, but ID4 may have actually been the turning point where they became awful.  If you watch it now, you can tell that the models were lovingly blown up in the best way, creating beautiful tension and wonderful destruction.  After this, name one thing that has blown up as good as the things in this movie.  I’ll wait.

On With The Speech

But the real reason any of us remember this movie is because of the speech.  And, it is quite the speech.

We’ve been conditioned to think of this as the do nothing right president, but he gets out there and rips away on the flats of Area 51, creating a moment that will be remembered as the greatest moment in Bill Pullman’s career, other than the entirety of Spaceballs.  This is a hard scene to get tonally right, because it is seriously tacky.  It has all the earmarks of a speech that would be over the top, and yet, it plays.  Man, does it play.

At this point, I can just type quotes from it, and you’ll hear them in his voice.

“We will not go quietly into the night!

We will not vanish without a fight!

We’re going to live on!

We’re going to survive!”

Pop Quiz: How many of you finished the speech after just reading it?

That’s what I thought.

But Why Does It Work?

First off, we’ve got this group ready to go, we start with him actually screwing up, messing up the loudspeaker before it starts working.  We’re on his side, because everyone in this airfield is going to be dead if their plan doesn’t work.  The set sets him up in the middle of the hangar, with every line pointed at him.  We pan across the ethnically diverse cast, who are now all on the same side.

The camera movement, a slow dolly in that goes between shots, brings us closer and closer to him, creating an intimacy that changes the tenor.  Since we start wide, we are communicating to the large group, with all of us on the same side, but as the music swells and the speech continues, the camera moves closer and closer, creating the illusion that the president is speaking just to us.

The music during ID4 was always insanely overblown.  So, this moment is accompanied by the most overblown part of the score. We’re already hearing it, but we know that the swell is coming, and when the climax hits, the whole group starts cheering.  The entire audience is included in the fight against the aliens, and it works amazingly well.

There is a definition of a great movie as three good scenes and no bad ones.  This is not a great movie, but this scene is one of the most effective ones I’ve ever seen.

What’s your favorite movie speech?

Bonus Video Game Speech:

I Can’t Refuse The End Of Pulp Fiction

I Can’t Refuse The End Of Pulp Fiction

At this point, what hasn’t been said about Pulp Fiction?

Yeah, I know, I know.  Pulp Fiction is one of those movies that people who really like film either love or hate.  I am in the love camp, but I can see why it would be annoying.  Maybe that is a good place to start.

See, first off, it’s not really a film as much as it is a series of interconnected short films.  For some people, this was their first experience with this as a storytelling device.  The story of Mia and Vincent, Butch and Zed, Ringo and Yolanda is pretty much that separated.  You don’t really have a narrative through line.  A narrative argument could be made that actually, there is no grander theme to the movie.  Every moment in it is designed to be as entertaining as possible, but what, really, is the message of the movie?

Well, I just caught the end of the movie on Showtime again, and I I have some thoughts on that.

If you haven’t seen Pulp Fiction this is the time to get off the ride.  Seriously, go watch it.  It’ll be the coolest movie you’ve ever seen.

I don’t want to focus on the entire movie.  I think that there are too many disparate elements, to make a coherent conclusion.  So, let’s focus on the first Jules and Vincent scene and the closing scene.

For those of you who don’t have the movie memorized, the opening scene (or vignette, or story, or part, or whatever) is the famous car ride with Jules, played by The Spirit all star Samuel L. Jackson, and Vincent Vega, played by John Travolta.  We start with a conversation, where Jules describes his recent trip to Europe to Vincent.  The dialogue is snappy, the kind of back and forth that you rarely see in movies.  These two are dressed like gangsters, end up at an apartment complex, walk upstairs while talking about foot massages, and then enter an apartment.

Weirdly, their completely blase attitude about everything that is happening ratchets up the tension.  By the time that they enter the apartment, they’ve had a minor disagreement, they’re friendly but don’t completely agree, and then, they go into the apartment, and the greatest intimidation by fast food scene that ever could happen happens.

Then, we get the parallel structure set up. Jules quotes a bible verse and shoots someone.  Another character comes out of the bathroom and shoots six shots that miss Jules and Vincent entirely, and they leave.

Parallel Structure, what’s that?

Frequently, in a good story, there will be repeated elements that reward the audience for paying attention.  A parallel structure is one of these where two scenes work are composed in similar ways, to create tension between them.  As you are watching, you have expectations from the first scene, and any change in the structure rings as very important.  For a great example, think of any scene where you have seen the exact scene before in the movie, but the result for the hero is different.  Your hero makes a decision based on the experience of the earlier scene, or some information is revealed that wasn’t known, and the scene’s meaning completely changes because of it.

So, for example, in Serenity, the first scene in the movie sets up that The Operative uses a nerve cluster punch that paralyzes people to monologue before they die.  When, at the end of the movie, we see him use it on Malcolm Reynolds, the punch doesn’t work, because Mal is a veteran and was injured in that area.  Expectations were set up for how the fight would go, and new information creates a different scene entirely.

So, what is the Parallel to the Vince and Jules scene?

The end of the movie takes place in a diner, a confined space, a lot like the apartment.  Inside the space, there are four guns.  Ringo and Yolanda each have revolvers and Jules and Vincent have their semi-autos.  Immediately proceeding this scene, Jules has been talking about how he wants to leave his life of crime, thinking that it’s not worth anything, based on events earlier in the movie.  Vince gets up and goes to the restroom and Ringo and Yolanda decide to rob the place.

As they are moving around, the case draws Ringo’s attention, and we think that once again, the briefcase is going to change hands.  Jules shows him what is in the case, and Ringo is taken off guard.  Jules holds him at gunpoint, Yolanda points her gun at him, and Samuel L. Jackson gives a master class in holding a scene together.

He explains where he is coming from and what he believes.  He shows himself to be changed by the events of the movie.  He gives himself a purpose for the future.  In that moment, the movie’s theme comes through clearly.  Change is the only thing that is respected in Pulp Fiction.  If you remain in your station, bad things happen.  But if, like Butch or Jules, you try to get out, try to move up, you might be wily enough to actually do it.  Jules is as close to a hero as the movie has, because he recognizes where he is, but wants to be something else.

I think that is what people connect to when they watch this movie.  This is that moment that brings it together.  The framing, the power dynamics, the shifting of control are all in service of the scene, and it hangs together so well that it blows me away to this day.

And, after such an explosion of violence that finished off the first scene, everyone walks away.  Nobody is shot.  There is no gigantic orgy of violence.  It’s just four people in a diner who exchange words,  pass each other, and walk away changed.  What a great movie.