Dracula is Secretly About Syphilis

A few weeks back I accused the hero of Gotham of having rabies. And by accused, I mean I straight up uncovered it like Woodward and Bernstein broke Watergate. Which would make Bruce Wayne’s infection…Batgate? Rabies-Gate?

Anyway, point is, after finding out that my favorite vigilante is harboring a lethal contagion, I decided to start poking around for other fictional icons who are bearing the burden of terminal illness. And wouldn’t you know…

BramStoker01

Irishman, moody goth, and author of Dracula (the vampires that don’t sparkle) wrote his masterpiece in a time when syphilis wasn’t just a horrifying mystery– but it was at its freaky-deaky rampaging peak.

Syphilis was so common, in fact, that the word “pox” was coined to describe syphilis symptoms. So when a gentleman slapped the monocle from your face and declare a pox on your house, he was telling you he hoped your wife, kids, and granny died from having their nose fall off, their genitals melt, and their brains eaten away by infection.

Harsh.

Harsh.

Not only was syphilis the cause of widespread death in the streets of Europe from 1500 to 1950, it also turned the flesh and faces of its victims into monstrous shells of humanity over an excruciatingly long period of time, with infections that can lie dormant for more than 25 years (sorry to any syphilitic readers out there.)

So what are the physical signs of syphilis, aside from “being a floozy?”

There are all sorts of nodes, nodules, sores, and wounds that mark a syphilis outbreak, none of which is pleasant to look at. But the infection we’re focusing on, and the type Bram Stoker likely suffered from, is tertiary syphilis. AKA Neurosyphilis.

Neurosyphilis manifests as growths (gummas) which can pop up anywhere on the body, and can deform and enlarge the cranium. Dementia can also be a late symptom. As well as pupils that don’t shrink when exposed to light. Hutchinson’s Teeth, or sharp, irregular teeth that look remarkably like fangs, can be a sign of congenital syphilis. And lastly, sufferers at any stage of syphilis can experience weight loss, fatigue, poor balance, fever, and hair loss.

So let’s review. Large, bald head with irregular lumps. Dementia. Black, beady eyes…hunched back…shuffling gait…emaciated body…sharp teeth…wait a second…

"Yes, go on."

“Yes, go on.”

Pictured: Nosferatu, the first film based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

It’s possible Bram Stoker never intended his story to be a parable about his own battle with syphilis (swapping fluids with strangers at night leads to misery).  But I have no doubt that the character of Dracula was inspired by the the most horrifying disease of Stoker’s age.

And maybe, just maybe, if Dracula wasn’t intended to be an anti-STD ad for the 19th century, then certainly the message about avoiding the allure of men with hungry eyes was an unconscious warning to maidens far and wide. After all, something that’s remained consistent with every iteration of the vampire lore is the wrongness that comes with becoming a creature of the night. The damnation inherent in being bitten, and turned, still draws a boatload of parallels to how we treat people with infectious diseases today.

edward01

— Google Images

Quarantine! The answer is quarantine!

5 Things Gladiator Got Wrong About Emperor Commodus

Note: This article was originally posted on Masksofmonsters a few years back, before the docu-drama Reign of Blood came out on Netflix. I’ve reposted here for your enjoyment. Actually…more for my enjoyment.


While watching Gladiator last week I got curious about Joaquin Phoenix’s sneering portrayal of Emperor Lucius Aurelius Commodus (161 – 192 AD). Was he playing up the insanity for villainy’s sake? Was the stark narcissism and condescension a put-on? My only knowledge of the real Commodus came from a short Cracked article about how the son of Marcus Aurelius was a fairly successful statesman for a brief period of time. Maybe this means he wasn’t as mad or violent as Phoenix’s portrayal, right?

Nope!

Upon further investigation I learned that Lucius Aurelius Commodus was so insane, arrogant, and paranoid that it would take several movies to capture all the unbridled crazy. In fact, the screenwriters left out years of egomania and bugnuts violence so Maximus would get the majority of screen time.

How crazy was he?

For your pleasure (and very much for mine) here are 5 historical accuracy-adjustments that would have made Emperor Commodus look crazier than Joaquin Phoenix could possibly portray.

Everyone Saw The Madness Coming…From Age 5

-- Google Images

— Google Images

In AD 166, Commodus was given the title of Caesar. AKA; Emperor Junior. Which is kind of adorable until you realize this wasn’t a joke title. You see, for the past 8 decades Rome had enjoyed a string of leaders who gained the throne by victory, political prowess, or wealth. Little Lucius Commodus was the son of Marcus Aurelius, the most successful emperor Rome had ever known. And when big papa says his son will be emperor, his son becomes emperor.

From day one it seems historians and politicians recognized Lucius’ flaws. He was cruel, excessive, and he had a weak will. He was also obsessed with gladiatorial games and violence. Kind of like a pretty boy with a bad temper. Juxtapose this with his philosopher father, author of Meditations, and you can see why Romans compared lil’ Lucius “Caesar” to Nero, an emperor known for orgies and deranged behavior.

Commodus Was More Decadent Than The Movie Portrayed

bacco_-_mantegna_andrea_-_baccanale_col_tino_-1470_ca

– Wiki

Oh Romans you so craz– wait, are those babies passed out drunk?

Skipping the 17-ish years where Commodus made treaties with the Marcomanni “barbarians” and gave away lands annexed by his father (saving Rome the cost of governing foreign soil) Commodus began his true decadence when he appointed prefect Tigidius Perennis to govern Rome in his stead.

Before Perennis, another prefect had been Commodus’s right-hand man, until an assassination attempt (more on that later) made Perennis the sole prefect. By this time in his life Commodus felt governing the pinnacle of human society and the height of the empire’s glory was kind of blah. So he made prefect Perennis a deal that went something like this;

Commodus; “You keep everything running and I’ll sex my way across the empire.”

Perennis; “Word.”

Tigidius Perennis, a man given the keys to Rome out of laziness, became incredibly corrupt…until he was killed. This started a trend, and a string of prefects conga-lined their way to the throne, got themselves slain and their families disposed of, and were swiftly replaced.

Meanwhile, Commodus was living an unending party/orgy that included a harem of 600 women, girls, and boys, some of whom he kidnapped. All this, according to an admittedly grudge-holding senate.

Comparing the real Commodus to Gladiator’s version may be a case of apples-to-oranges, but at least Phoenix’s Commodus was mostly just fixated on his sister.

Commodus Was Way More Violent Than The Movie Portrayed

Gladiators01

— Wiki

Y-M-C-A!

Sometime during Commodus’ semi-retirement he took a fancy to gladiatorial combat. Not just watching it, mind you. He actually started engaging in battles on the sands. Remember, gladiators were mostly slaves and servants. They were popular with the public, but their low station was not to be desired by politicians.

Commodus thumbed his nose at the public’s opinion of gladiators’ low social class and built himself an arena in the palace, inviting friends to witness the spectacle of him stabbing man and animal alike. That would be like finding out Obama is hardcore into backyard wrestling, and loves pile-driving dudes into the mat behind the White House while celebrities and members of his cabinet watch.

-- Wiki

— Wiki

Editor’s Note; This article was written in 2015. We are now living in a world where Trump is president. A man who has actually appeared on WWE on several occasions. All bets are off.

Eventually Commodus upped his game and moved his murder-sprees to the Roman Colosseum. During these gladiatorial fights Commodus would dress in a bear skin or lion fur and carry a club. He called himself “Rome’s Hercules” and would later charge the arena a fee to see him beat the piss out of other gladiators—to the tune of 12,000 men, or so he claimed.

To be treated like an arena rock star, one would think the emperor-turned-gladiator must have been amazing with a sword, right? Certainly Joaquin Phoenix’s character was pretty good with a blade.

Not so much! In the movie, Commodus takes to the sand to face off with Maximus, but not before stabbing him in the back to weaken him. Historically that would have been pretty generous for Commodus. The Great Swaggerer was known to fight hobbled slaves, cripples, and wounded gladiators. He also fought men who were given wooden weapons while the Emperor wielded steel. Once, he was said to have slaughtered one hundred bears in a single night, likely trapped so they could be cut down without danger to Commodus. He was also insanely jealous of other gladiators, and had a fighter named Julius Alexander executed. Not for besting the Emperor in combat, but for killing a lion from horseback with a javelin and getting too much adoration for it.

Reportedly politicians were forced to cheer at these performances, and the general public had to stifle their laughter at the clumsy Emperor’s wanton slaughter.

His Ego Didn’t Stop At Being The Father Of Rome

-- Wiki

— Wiki

Are those…yep, those are definitely his victim’s testicles in his hand.

In Gladiator Lucius Commodus proclaims his desire to hold the Roman citizens to his bosom like a father. This was an actual title one could achieve (Pater Patriae, or Father of the Fatherland) which Commodus was awarded in AD 177. But being Rome’s daddy wasn’t enough for Commodus.

When a freak fire torched half of Rome’s downtown area in 191, Commodus did what any emperor was expected to do. He rebuilt the center of town by dipping into Rome’s coffers. But like everything else in his life, Commodus tainted this good act (read; an act that was completely expected of him) by demanding his name be stamped onto his new city.

He renamed Rome to Colonia Commodiana, City of Commodus, and renamed the legion to the Commodian Army.

So why didn’t we grow up reading about “Ancient Commodiana” instead of Ancient Rome? Because the moment Commodus died, the senate set about destroying anything related to the man who renamed their glorious city.

Of course, his death in the movie was a bit of a stretch too, because…

Maximus Would Need To Get In Line To Kill Commodus.

-- Google Images

— Google Images

Not Pictured: A Black Friday line between them.

Except for the ancient hipsters who loved watching his gladiatorial fights ironically, Commodus wasn’t too popular with the crowd. So it came to almost no one’s shock when the people closest to him tried to end his life.

Three times. That we know of.

The first was his sister Lucilla and her cousin Quintianus. For complex political reasons the two schemed together to kill the bear-punching emperor. This attempt in AD 182 failed for one simple reason. Monologue.

While leaping out from behind Commodus at the arena (where else?) Quintianus shouted “This is what the senate has sent for you!” And there he posed, dagger-in-hand, while the music peaked to a dramatic crescendo and the screen cut to black for a cliff-hanger commercial break. Quintianus was, of course, tackled by the Praetorian guard and executed. Lucilla–you might remember her as the privileged lady Maximus refused to mambo with–was also sent away and later killed.

Lucilla01

— Gladiator Wikia

Not exactly the fan-fic ending.

Years later Commodus’ mistress would also be coerced into assassinating the emperor. Earlier he had threatened to send her to the great arena in the sky if she crossed him. Feeling that a man who had just killed his own wife a year earlier might not be joking, she sided with the conspirators, and in 192 she poisoned his wine.

Proving that it takes more than mere poison to kill crazy, Commodus vomited up the wine.

Once the conspirators saw that the emperor might make a recovery, his wrestling coach and sparring partner, Narcissus, stepped in. The very night he was poisoned by his mistress, Commodus got the life choked out of him, on his own bed, while waiting to bathe. This is arguably more fitting than having Russell Crowe give him an honorable send-off in the arena–a death that would have tickled the real Commodus to no end.

-- Youtube

— Youtube

Yep. Definitely more dignified than being strangled pre-bath by a naked wrestler.


You can catch the series Roman Empire: Reign of Blood on Netflix. While the truth of the events surrounding Emperor Commodus will forever be shrouded by time, this rendition seems far more accurate than the historical documentary we know as Gladiator.

In recent years I’ve also come to appreciate how much of Roman history was re-written by the Roman Senate to slander emperors they didn’t particularly like. So while I’ve taken the points above directly from historical sources, the real story of Commodus is probably somewhere between “Batshit” and “Old Men Slandering A Ruler They Didn’t Like”

Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves is Secretly About Impostors

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves came out during a very influential time in my life. I was young enough for the neighbors to laugh when I built my first yarn-and-stick bow, yet old enough to get into trouble for threatening to cut their hearts out with spoons.

Less intimidating when it’s a 7-year-old.

So it’s no surprise that, at 7, I was a bit too immature to grasp the deeper story behind a movie like this. As a child I was so wrapped up in the sword fighting, the bow shooting, and the Morgan Freeman-ing, that I missed the important lessons. Lessons like how to choose your allies. Why safety nets for the lower classes are important. And why constructing an Ewok village is never a solution.

No matter how long you stare, tiny dancing bears will never appear.

Re-watch this movie as an adult, however, and another story emerges. The classic “Steal from the rich and give to the poor.” goes out the window. You start to realize that Prince of Thieves is more of a “Run a political battle that legitimizes your nobility by using the suffering poor.” kind of jam.

Don’t believe me? Here are a few reasons why the Sheriff and Robin Hood are both impostors, and they’re both trying to fill a power vacuum by exploiting the peasantry.

The Sheriff Of Nottingham Is An Upstart Peasant, According To Deleted Scenes

King Richard is away on business–business being the polite term for slaughtering foreigners in another crusade. In his absence the scheming Sheriff has begun to usurp his throne, having grown so influential in the lands around Nottinghamshire that he believes himself a candidate to wear the Pointy Gold Hat.

But here’s the thing about the Sheriff; he’s not even nobility. The Sheriff is secretly of common birth, which places him and his descendants squarely outside the line of succession. In a deleted scene it’s revealed that the old witch and royal adviser, Mortianna, is actually the Sheriff’s mother. She switched some noblewoman’s baby with her own, thus placing her peasant son in a position of power.

This may seem like a little twist the writers threw in for fun, but I believe it was intended to serve as a greater contrast between our antagonist Sheriff George, and Robin of Locksley. Because…

Robin Hood Is Also An Upstart Peasant

How dare I accuse Robin of Locksley of being a peasant in noble’s clothing?

Firstly, let’s consider Robin’s weapon of choice; the English Longbow. While the nobility sometimes trained with bows, it was largely left to the middle and lower classes to take up archery and hunting for sport and recreation. This practice gave the king a body of conscripts to call upon in times of war. The poor needed bow skills to keep themselves fed (as seen in the movie) while the middle classes were encouraged to keep the art of archery alive for cultural reasons, which can be seen in a decree by Edward III.

Every noble in this movie, from the elder Lord Locksley, to Marian, to the Sheriff himself, grab for the sword when they’re in danger. Whereas Robin loves him some bow. And only Robin carries the bow (at first). Even when it’s common soldiers on-screen doing the shooting, they wield crossbows. Not longbows. Not even the displaced peasants of Sherwood carry bows. They carry sticks…sticks that don’t even shoot other sticks. That is, until Robin comes along.

Secondly, do we actually encounter anyone who recognizes Robin of Locksley without him declaring his identity first? We have Duncan, an old blind caretaker who’s wandering around the ruins of the dead Lord Locksley’s manor. But I have to ask; could Duncan really recognize the voice of his master’s son, who is now a middle-aged man?

And if Duncan suspects it isn’t really Robin, back from the crusades, why wouldn’t he go along with this impostor’s ruse? I believe Duncan knew it wasn’t Robin, and Duncan also knew he would benefit more by following a good-natured pretender, rather than sticking around waiting for the real (likely dead) Robin to come home.

And then we have Maid Marian, who admits to having no memory of Robin aside from the spoiled child who burned her hair for fun. She doesn’t recognize him. At all. But she is eventually charmed by the pretender. Because that’s what pretenders are good at: charm.

We also hear the Bishop claim “I see the boy I once knew.” But this comes after word has already spread that Robin of Locksley is back in town and raising a fuss.

This is not the happy face of recognition. This is the tell-the-hobo-what-he-wants-to-hear face of terror.

For all Robin’s claims of having fond memories and love for his people, everyone else seems to remember Robin as a bit of a jerk. Robin waves this away by saying that prison changes a man. I would argue instead that serving time in prison with Marian’s brother, Peter, gave peasant-Robin the tools he needed to craft a backstory that elevated him. Robin and Peter would have nothing but time to chat about family while they were chained to a wall together. Hell, for all we know Peter was Robin’s first dupe. Or he was in on the plan.

There’s also the fact that Robin, if he were a real noble, should have petitioned the other royal houses for assistance when he returned to find his manor in shambles and his family dead. But Impostor Robin crafts a weirder, more public plan after initially striking out with Marian. This is because…

Robin Hood And The Sheriff Are Hatching The Exact Same Plan

Once the Sheriff learns of Mortianna’s (his mother’s) baby-swapping, he becomes hell-bent on getting the Maid Marian pregnant with his child. This would at least place his direct descendants into the line of succession, even if his unlikely secret was revealed. You know who else seems pretty keen on this plan? I mean, to the letter? Robin of the Hood.

Let’s break this down step-by-step. Both the Sheriff and Robin plan to…

In movies there’s an old trope. When the plucky hero squares off with the cruel villain, the villain will often use the phrase “We’re not so different, you and I.” Which is a way of saying that if their positions were reversed, the hero would have made all the same choices.

Had the sheriff repeated this trope, it would have been the only accurate usage in the history of cinema.

Time may prove me wrong in my theory. But for now I choose to believe that Robin is an impostor, and both he and the Sheriff are playing the same game of fake-it-til-you-make-it in the absence of the nobles. Because a game of impostor-vs-impostor makes this movie so much more interesting through adult eyes.

Oh, and Azeem’s life debt? That’s not a real thing in Moorish culture. So here’s a bonus fan theory for you: Azeem made it up so Robin would give him an “in” once they reached England. Everyone is an impostor.

Happy watching everyone.

Three Great Movies Hidden In Pacific Rim 2

Pacific Rim 2 is a bad movie. There’s a hollow love triangle, which is only really addressed during a lengthy ice-cream eating scene. And there’s a brief waft of tension as the teenage genius tries to integrate with a squad of adult Jaeger cadets, which feels pretty high-school. But otherwise the writing, dialogue, and story are all matchsticks holding up the giant robot and monster fights. Robots and monsters who seem to revel more in property damage than actual fisticuffs.

In the opening narration Boyega, playing a character who lives off the scraps of dead Jaegers, tells us that the smaller Pacific nations have suffered complete financial collapse–unable to survive the crippling debt caused by excessive infrastructure damage from prior battles. Then in the very first fight scene we see Gypsy Danger *ahem* Gypsy Avenger, piloted by Boyega, using a tractor whip to pull skyscrapers down on a monster. Skyscrapers which prove to be about as dangerous to the enemy as a falling stack of popcorn buckets. It seems our protagonist forgot his own narration about financial damage…But I digress.

No, the real gold to be mined from this movie happens in the background. The most interesting plot points are creeping behind the action, like a plot-tease. Quietly. Subtly. Sometimes in a single throw-away line of dialogue. And those are the little glimpses into the lore we’ll be focusing on. Those tiny glimmers of actual story; those are the hidden movies we’ll be discussing, and how three little details would have made for amazing Pacific Rim sequels.

Flowers for Algernon, Except A Brain

Wiki Commons / Google Images

In less time than it took to read the entry title, a strange detail is revealed about the cadets and how they train to operate the Jaegerbots. They have, at their disposal, a brain in a jar. And we’re given to understand that this brain has some level of consciousness, it lives in the academy, and it pops out of the ceiling anytime someone needs a co-pilot to mentally train with.

Wait, what?

To really grasp this brain-training-companion-weirdness, we’ll need to lay some groundwork about how the giant robots operate. Two pilots are required to keep a Jaeger in motion. One pilot acts as the robot’s left brain, and the other pilot operates the right brain. The Jaeger cannot function without both pilots…except when this rule is broken for dramatic plot convenience, but we’re ignoring that for now. Two pilots. At all times. Or the robot doesn’t move. Got it?

These pilots are also required to mind-link with each other. They call it “drifting” because calling it a “mind-link” out loud by a human mouth would reveal how idiotic this process is. It’s much better to conjure images of this…

Google Images / Tokyo Drift

It’s also important to note that two pilots must be “drift compatible” which means they can sync their minds. They must be able to handle delving into each others’ memories and feelings. Mostly so the director can conveniently show us scenes of their childhoods getting wrecked by Kaiju. This trauma frequently makes them incompatible with each other as drift partners. Until they try really, really hard in Act II, since drift incompatibility hasn’t permanently benched any pilots in either movie.

This is where the brain in a jar comes in. Sarah (as she is named by Boyega) is used, by the cadets, to practice their drift skills. In a sneeze-and-you’ll-miss-it scene we’re told that Sarah is compatible with all pilots, which makes her a go-to tool for Jaeger drift training. And then they tell us…nothing else. Her pod is whisked back up into the ceiling. Sarah is forgotten by the characters. And the two protagonists go back to pretending there’s a plot somewhere in this movie.

I have so many questions. And the only source of information I could find came from a SciFi Stackexchange forum that provided a lot of “This seems logical to me…” answers from fans with no solid support.

Who the hell is Sarah? Is she a clone? Tissue cloning is established in this movie universe, so is Sarah a blank brain in a vault they use like X-Box? Was Sarah a person? Is Sarah so emotionally passive that she can drift with anyone? Did Sarah die in combat? Was she crushed in her Jaeger? Would a tragic death-by-robots make her more, or less drift-compatible? When pilots link with her mind, do they see a yawning chasm of nothingness where her memories should be? What stimuli does her brain get when she’s not drifting with real people? How do they keep the brain from atrophying when it’s up in its dark ceiling hole? Why isn’t anyone offering ice-cream to Sarahbrain?

I would watch a movie about a brain in a jar being used like Flight Simulator any day. Especially if it involved a bright cadet who learns to love a stranger’s brain–a brain which awakens after it interacts with the memories of said bright young cadet.

Speaking of movies about a bright young cadet…

Batman, Except Amara’s Upbringing

Google Images / Youtube

Amara, played by Cailee Spaeny, is a genius. After watching her parents get Monty Python’d under the foot of a Kaiju at age 5(ish) she starts building her own Jaeger from scrap metal, like a tiny Astronaut Farmer. Let’s all take a moment to process that.

From her tragic Batman origin story, to when we first see her in the movie, she has passed from toddler to teenager. In that time gap, at a transitional age when most children can’t be trusted around the stove, Amara has accomplished several behind-the-scenes feats. She has;

  • Kept herself fed and clothed seemingly without support.
  • Thrived in a violent and treacherous slum.
  • Stolen from several rival gangs and scrappers.
  • Stayed off the radar of the local government.
  • Educated herself beyond basic literacy, to to the point of writing complex computer code.
  • Built a giant robot durable enough to save the protagonists at the end of the movie.

And I ask; why aren’t we watching a movie about Amara? Because clearly she’s the hero we deserve.

When making her character the screenwriter could have scribbled “Batman+Ironman, but poverty” on the back page. If we eliminated Boyega or Eastwood from the movie, removed the ridiculous love triangle, and centered the movie around Amara being discovered in the slums with chunkier Big Hero 6, we’d have an epic movie.

Wait a moment. An Eastwood mentoring a scrappy young woman from the slums…

“In the unlikely event that you’re crippled for life we’ll get you some fancy robo-legs.”

— Hugh Jackman, Real Steel

American Psycho/Shape of Water, Except A Hallucination Fueled By Alien Thoughts

Google Images / Pacific Rim Wiki

If one brain in one jar is a fun plot device, why not use it three or four more times? As the movie reaches its middle we discover that mad scientist Dr. Newton Geiszler has a secret. After the conclusion of the last movie, Newton managed to steal the Kaiju brain from the government lab and secret it away in his downtown apartment. There he’s been mind-linking with the brain every night, letting the strange alien thoughts mesh with his own. Also, he named the brain Alice. We know this because he wrote it on the jar. In blood. Probably Newton’s.

Later, in a twist of villainy that was inspired by ripped off from Neon Genesis Evangelion, the same alien brain is cloned into several drone Jaegers, creating the coolest moment of the movie. Kaiju-Jaeger hybrids with drone brains.

Google Images / Pacific Rim Uprising

Wait. Hold on. Why wasn’t the landing pad cleared? Sure, the drones turning hostile was a surprise. But what military fills a landing strip with people before dozens of heavy machines are dropped off by helicopter?

Why wasn’t Newton’s heist and descent into madness the entire plot of the movie? Act 1: a daring government theft by a trusted scientist to whisk the alien mind to safety. Act 2: the slow realization by Newton that the brain he’s in love with doesn’t love him back, and might be manipulating him, while he struggles to appear normal during a tense investigation. Act 3: Newton accepts that he has become the villain, and sets his mad Jaeger-Kaiju drone strike into play.

Game. Set. Match.

Final Plot Boss: All Three Previous Entries Combined

Google Images

Let’s go one step further. Because I believe we could have the best of all worlds. We really can. Imagine the following movie, involving all of our hidden plots:

  1. The heist of the kaiju brain by lovesick hero-turned-villain Dr. Newton.
  2. A security footage tape of the pier where Amara’s family was killed, being reviewed by investigators.
  3. The investigators interview Amara, who has been evading custody for years.
  4. We discover that Amara was finally caught because her giant robot saved her from a violent gang.
  5. Eastwood intervenes, saving her from a prison sentence.
  6. Realizing that revenge on the Kaiju (who are actually gone in this movie) is impossible, she agrees to join the military.
  7. While investigating Amara, Eastwood finds her scrapper robot, and begrudgingly agrees to bring it along.
  8. Newton gets his brain scrambled by the alien mind, and barely avoids getting caught up in the search for the kaiju brain.
  9. Amara, unable to drift, discovers Sarah the Brain. They strike up a friendship.
  10. Plotlines progress. Eastwood mentors Amara. Newton ‘rides the snake.’ Amara has a journey of self discovery with Sarah.
  11. Newton sends the hybrid drones to attack. The old Jaegers, in mothballs, are torn apart. Things look bleak.
  12. Amara, knowing that the brain-in-a-jar Sarah has accumulated thousands of hours of combat experience through simulations with the cadets, installs Sarahbrain into her scrapper robot.
  13. Badass fight scene where Sarah-in-Scrapper goes sickhouse on the larger drone hybrids.
  14. Meanwhile, Amara and Eastwood track down and defeat Newton before he can play the same trick–installing the original, stolen Kaiju brain into his illegally built Obsidian Fury Jaeger.
  15. Newton is stopped, but not soon enough. Obsidian Fury goes online with Alice the Kaiju brain inside.
  16. Sarah-in-Scrapper vs Alice-in-Obsidian Fury. Fight!
  17. Fin

Heroic story arc? Check. Zero convoluted love triangles? Check. Empowerment? Check. A hero and villain who experience parallel trauma and come to terms with it in opposing ways? Double-check!

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom Is A Kid’s Movie

I want to try something with you. A sort of meditation, if you’re willing. I want you to breathe deep. Loosen your shoulders. Calm your mind. Exhale. And pretend with me, for just a moment, that you’ve never heard of Jurassic Park.

Have you done it? Is your head clear? Has the franchise as a whole been erased from your brain? Ok, good.

We’re calm, we’re cool, and we’re collected. We’re pretending that Jurassic Park/World doesn’t exist in our reality. Now, I’m going to try to sell you an action film, and you have to pretend it was written for adults and their families. NOT exclusively for elementary school children.

Are you ready? Okay, here’s the Adult movie I’d like to sell you…

The movie starts with two attractive adults of child-bearing age who are arguing about why they split up. The answer: they don’t know, and neither do we. Owen says Claire told him to leave, so he left. And Claire claims she was mad because he wouldn’t let her drive. For whatever reason they just sort of stayed separated, like driving off without having a fight or talking is a real thing adult people do. So Claire went off to the big city to become a non-profit dinosaur advocate (a real job that pays big-people money in this movie universe) while Owen built cabin in a field with a hammer alone.

Please keep in mind, this is an adult movie.

So Owen is asked by Claire to come help her rescue the dinosaurs from a volcanic island. Which is about to explode. But they can predict exactly when the dangerous lava will come spilling out, so Owen agrees. They get an expedition together with the help of a kindly old British grandfather who lives in a mansion/dinosaur museum. Later, we discover that the kindly British man’s granddaughter is actually the clone of his deceased daughter, and the nanny who takes care of her has known the entire time.

This is an adult movie.

So Claire, with the kindly grand-dad’s money, plans her field-trip to fireball island.

Google Images / Milton Bradley

Owen, knowing that his pet velociraptor Blue is still on the island, comes along for the expedition. And Claire gets to go because she finally bought some boots, and letting a dinosaur lobbyist without weapons or training venture to an exploding island full of carnivores is a normal decision made by rational adults. Or by two children hiding in a trench coat.

Then Mom and Dad *ahem* Claire and Owen are joined by a group of elite para-military hunters led by a man who pulls teeth out of lizards.

Once on the island Owen, Claire, and her other friends from work; I.T. Man and Public Relations Woman, get busy hacking the old park systems. Mostly so they have a reason to be trapped in a concrete box that will fill with lava.

Meanwhile, the scary hunters get busy with immediately betraying Owen. First they shoot his pet dinosaur with real bullets, and then they shoot Owen with sleepy-time fake bullets, that way he doesn’t get an owchie… Then they leave him to be consumed by lava. While he’s paralyzed and awake. So he can feel his body slowly being scorched. Which is much more humane than a bullet.

Back at the mansion the real hero of the story, Orphan Girl, is doing some sleuthing of her own. Orphan Girl discovers that the man working for her grandpapa is really an evil con artist, and he’s planning to sell the dinosaurs to foreign-looking rich people during a shockingly conspicuous auction where everyone parks on the front lawn. Instead of trafficking their illegal goods online through proxies like people have been doing for the past decade. Oh, Orphan Girl also finds out that the conman is growing monsters in the hidden laboratory under their mansion/museum.

This is an adult movie.

Google Images / Nickelodeon

Back on the island Mom and Dad sneak onto the hunters’ ship before it can sail away. Then half of their group gets captured. Then two of them get free again. Then they get captured in a cage with a T-Rex. Then they go free again. Then they get stuck in a truck. Then they go free again. Then they’re discovered in the truck and imprisoned in the mansion. Then they go free again.

Anyway, Mom’s friend from work, Public Relations Woman, knows how to give blood infusions to dinosaurs, so they give Dad’s pet velociraptor some T-Rex blood, and he gets all better. Then Mom and Dad arrive at the mansion, break up the auction by releasing the dinosaurs on the entire human race, and they adopt Orphan Girl so they can all go live in the cabin that Dad built in a field with a hammer and no help whatsoever. And I’m sure Mom and Dad will take great care of us…until one of them drives away and forgets where they live.

This is an adult movie.

Honestly, and I say this without any real malice or investment; this movie is pants-on-head, aggressively dumbed down. If you don’t believe me go watch it. It’s actually kind of fun in a Saturday Morning Cartoons sort-of way. Those aren’t punchlines you scrolled past, those are legit plot points this movie hits on.

While trying to explain Fallen Kingdom I found myself comparing it to cheap Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels from the early 90’s. There are just too many plot points that overlap into this film; finding a secret lab in the mansion, having the protagonist get a pet dinosaur, a clandestine auction being held by a greedy con-man, a plucky young orphan getting adopted… It’s almost as if the screenwriters weren’t using Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel for source material, and instead were basing it on something written for children that came directly after Crichton’s book.

Okay, I’ll admit it. This last one is just wishful thinking.

Retired Obi-Wan Was A Killing Machine

This Is Not The Gaze Of Sanity

If we assume the prequels are canon (even Jar Jar) then Obi-Wan’s mental journey makes a sharp left turn into psychopathsville once he enters retirement on Tatooine. Specifically, when we consider how he spent the 20 years after cutting Anakin’s legs off, but before Anakin cut him into a force-ghost.

BensHut_interior

Pictured: Obi Wan’s hut. Not Pictured: 1,000-Piece Puzzles

I mean, aside from stalking young Luke and waiting for the empire to get bored and disintegrate Aunty and Unky Lars, what keeps Obi-Wan sane? Those walls above look pretty bare, and the furniture is sparse at best. So what was that old crank up to? Tetris? Sudoku?

Or, was he waging a one-man war against the planet’s native Tuskens, slowly reducing them to a shadow population of their former glory? Does that last one sound like a stretch? Let me explain. But first, a warning.

spoilers_01

SPOILERS!

Imagine the emotional fallout Obi Wan was facing at the end of the prequels. Imagine the broken spirit of a Jedi Knight whose entire order has been crushed, whose best friend and pupil was left legless in a volcano, who has just retired from a life of rich political intrigue,  high-stakes negotiating, and PTSD-inducing battles. Now drop that man into isolation on a planet of dunes. Endless, boring dunes.

What would you do to keep your Jedi skills sharp?

During the prequels we see evidence of a large Tusken Raider population, bold enough and aggressive enough to take pot-shots at pod racers during the Boonta Eve event. That takes some big sandy balls right there. The Tuskens (named so because they raid-murdered the settlement of Tusken) are willing to shoot at–on live television–the planet’s most popular sports figures. That would be akin to a group of casual snipers take shots at Formula 1 racers in front of millions of spectators…if Formula 1 was the most popular sport on the planet.

The raiders are also known for kidnapping moisture farmers. That sentence alone should tell you everything you need to know about how pervasive the Tusken Menace was on Tatooine. They were known for kidnapping and torturing, to death, the people whose job it is to provide water to the planet’s population. Those farms should be better guarded than oil wells in war. But the raiders get away with it until Anakin shows up to ruin their day.

A_Good_Find

Now consider how the Tuskens are portrayed in Star Wars: A New Hope. Twenty years later, after the Anakin incident, Obi-Wan practically has to explain every nuance about Sandpeople to Luke. This isn’t lazy exposition for the audience. This is because Luke, having grown up on those very same farms that were getting raided by Tuskens, has to be told about their tactics and habits. Obi Wan has to explain that they travel in single-file, that they scare easy, and they have crappy aim. Stuff Luke would know if the Tuskens were as pernicious a threat as they were 20 years ago.

If you grow up near forests you’re warned about bears and wolves. Live near the ocean, you’re warned about riptides and tsunamis. And if you grow up in Australia you’re warned about the many venomous creatures god has sent to punish you. The only way Luke wouldn’t know absolutely everything about Tuskens by age five would be if they were a non-issue. It’s almost as if a hermit with supernatural fighting abilities has been living between the Tuskens and the farmers for a generation or so, reducing their population steadily, until they were no longer a threat to civilization.

Maybe, just maybe, the Tuskens who flee from Obi-Wan in A New Hope aren’t running scared because he disguised himself as a moaning hobo. For a species that passes on their history orally, how would they remember the few Jedi they’d come into contact with?

slaughter_01

Oh, right…

Obi-Wan doesn’t spook the Tusken Raiders with his wacky getup. He scares the sand out of them because he has hunted them for two decades. And they know, culturally, to fear the Jedi. The bard-like lessons they’ve been sharing for the past 20 years are of Jedi slaughtering whole villages because of a kidnapped dame. And it’s happened not once, but twice. Those are Pablo Escobar levels of retribution.

Lastly, I’d like to point out that young prequel Obi-Wan was flowery in his swordsmanship during his battle with Darth Maul. But by the time he’s hacking dudes apart in Mos Eisly, we’re given to understand that Old Ben doesn’t mess around anymore when it comes to fighting. In Bushido, the art of drawing the sword to open an attack is called Iaijutsu. When Luke is shoved during the bar scuffle, Obi-Wan doesn’t draw the saber and hold it high like a Knight getting ready for a fair contest. He draws and strikes, making two precise cuts– one of which chops the loud-mouth assailant in half, according to the original script, and the other takes his friend’s arm along with the blaster he was wielding.

This is a man who has learned from experience that the most effective way to stop an opponent is to slice them into tidy pieces.

Images and Tusken facts from Wookieepedia.

“Sand people are easily startled.” Obi-Wan tells Luke in A New Hope. Well, sure. But you’d be easily startled too, if a literal boogeyman with wizard powers and a laser sword moved into your neighborhood. And then he just stayed there. For twenty years. Only venturing out to visit a young farm boy.

That’s not a hero of the galaxy. That’s Freddy Krueger with a beard.