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#ourblackpanther

Friends,

I just walked out of Joker and I am sitting in a Tim Hortons well after midnight compelled to write about all my feels. This will be a somewhat scattershot post but at the very least it will be organized by headings. Also, it is less of a review than a description of all the ways the film mapped onto my life and spoke to me. Thank-you in advance for your indulgence.

Prologue

I worked all day in the Sadlon building at Georgian College. I have been working on my computer from there a lot but today was Friday and by 5pm it was empty and I was feeling like I needed to do somewthing. The idea of watching a film came to mind. I have long wanted to go see Once Upon a Time in Ho9llywood, but I wasn’t sure if it was still playing so I didn’t bank on it it. At about 6pm I decided it was time to make some moves. I hadn’t eaten all day and so had to go to the plaza where both grocery store and and cinema are located. I stopped at home first to drop off gym clothes and extra gear, expecting to walk to said plaza for groceries and see what developed from there.
At the grocery store I ate meatballs (keto af) then proceeded to work on my computer at my editing job. My boss…he used to be my friend, then we got to know each other better. I don’t think he wants me to work for him anymore, but he is scared to have me terminated because he knows that his whole existence is a house of cards that will come crumbling down at the slightest disturbance, and putting my livelihood at risk will cause said slightest disturbance. He knows this even if it is unspoken. After living with him for two months in Berlin this past summer I have a better idea of just how precariously he is holding onto his job and how scared he is of having his true nature exposed to scrutiny. I am going through the motions, keeping him appeased, but ultimately being less responsive to his passive aggressive attempts to pass his own insecuritiues on to me through professional channels. His words are meaningless, and I no longer make the mistake of responding to them beyond the minimal requirement.

************************

I wokred until about 9:30 in the grocery store’s cafe debating whether I would buy some alcohol to enjoy during the movie, slated to start at 10:15 pm. I really struggled with the decision of whether to buy booze because I am trying to drink less. It’s not like I drink a lot now, but I know how slippery a slope it is.
Work got boring to me and I decided to leave and head to the liquor store to pick up a small bottle of gin.
Since I had my backpack with me and I expected the theatre staff to want to check it, I purchased a small bottle of beefeater which I could fit in the back pocket of my jeans. The cashier carded me. I’m 35. Felt good I guess.

Prologue Part 2

I went into the theatre and purchased my ticket but when I went to have my ticket validated, the ticket checker said that I couldn’t bring my backpack in with me. I said I could and he disagreed. I channeled my Karen and asked to speak with a manager. The manager strolled up and we argued. My position was that I didn’t trust them to be stewards of my Macbook and bag, and also that they wouldn’t take a woman’s purse, so why should they take my backpack?. Their position was that no backpacks was company (Cineplex) policy. We argued for a moment and then I said that I was going to go in and watch the film, and unless he was going top use violence to stop me, he had better call the cops.

“Fine, I’ll call the cops!” was his response.

Reinforce the point I was making

Well yeah….I just said that…

I sat in the theatre in a state of some anxiety. I was expecting popo to roll up any minute and escort me out. I didn’t dare crack the gin I had smuggled into the cinema in my back pocket (expecting a bag search) because an unopened bottle of booze doesn’t count as contraband in the Soviet Republic of Canuckistan. I figured this was a sign that I wasn’t meant to drink tonight; after all, if the cops approached me in the theatre I could state truthfully that:
-no refund had been offered
-noone had asked me to leave
-no official door policy had been put forward ensuring the safety of my property up to a certain dollar amount
As long as I stayed sober with an unopened bottle of booze in my back pocket, I had the legal high ground.

I breathed deeply and tried to relax even though I felt the dragnet encraoching upon me. Out the corner of my eye I saw the ticket-taker eventually enter the theatre during the pre-trailer commericals. He came up to my row. I kept my eyes to the screen. He paused for a moment and then walked up to me.

“Hey man, we were wondering if you would compromise by letting us have a look in your bag.”

Years ago, I would have taken the checking of my bag as an affront, but I guess the security state has become the norm even in my own psyche and so I enthusiastically agreed figuring it was preferable to an encounter with the cops and also wanting to smoothe things over. I showed him the interior of all the multitudinous pockets of my military-style backpack (the gin was in my back pants pocket) and, satisfied, he sat down next to me for a moment and admitted he thought that the bag rule was stupid but that they had had someone come in to see the movie with a weapon already. I sympathized with him, and kind of felt bad for being an obstinate dick. I sincerely wonder how Sister Rosa Parks felt after refusing to give up her seat on the bus. Even if we are in the moral right, it is a taxing ordeal standing up to other people, and we are wont to question the justness of our actions when we see the strain it puts on our fellows who are “just following the rules.”

And so it was, after the initial elation of getting away with standing up to the crooked Cineplex PTB, I felt a sense of foreboding that I was making wrong choices. Self-destructive choices which I would regret. I felt bad and I felt low and I felt dread about my choice to drink gin.

But then I smiled and thought that this was a perfect frame of mind with which to watch this film.

I cracked the gin as the light dimmed and the movie began.

The broken, Oedipal man

Arthur Fleck aka Joker is a pathetic man who lives with his mentally unwell mother. He loves his mother and she is not shown to be cruel to him (although cruelty is alluded to later in the film), but the sickenss of their relationship can be summarized in a scene where he is giving her a sponge-bath; she is naked in a tub and he is bathing her as if it were the most natural thing in the world. This is a sad state of affairs, and I would guess that it is the common state of affairs for incel men (living in their mother’s basement/mother is their best friend) taken to a visceral extreme.
Personally, I have worn many hats, and incel, Oedipal son has certainly been one. My relationship with my mother was violent and abusive most of my life, and then I was completely estranged from her from 17 onwards thanks to the efforts of a step-father who wanted out of his marriage as much as he wanted the best for the children he was raising. My mother was a tyrant and violently abusive, and my step-father, step-brother and I got her arrested and put up on multiple charges and removed from the household. Yet in spite of all the violence and intimidation I remember so well, she would balance it out with something even worse; a tendency to stunt my growth by crutching on me as a male ally in the household when she fought with step-father and smothering me with Oedipal, maternal affection. It’s complicated to explain because she was as critical as she was was encouraging, but throughout my childhood I was kept in an insular box and made to be useless and weak; and all the while I was criticized for my uselessness and weakness.
There is one story that sums up the sick nature of my mother’s affections aptly: About 5 years ago, things were going well between me and my mother. We were making inroads toward reconciliation and things were becoming normalized. I was spending many weekends at her house and it was all normal and fine. Like how it should be I suppose.
But then one night as she was going up to bed she gently suggested that if I wanted to I could come up to her room and into bed with her and snuggle.
Even thinking about it makes really uncomfortable. My mother never sexually abused me, but I realized at that moment the extent of the emotional abuse I had received, because at 30 years old with 15 yeasrs of estrangement between us, I had the perspective to see how wrong her smothering behaviour was.
I didn’t take her up on he offer.
In Joker, Arthur ends up smothering his bed-ridden mother to death with a pillow while she lays in a hospital bed.
Fitting? Perhaps.
Poetic? Possibly.
Relatable? Definitely.

Fixation on Black Women

There are four black women whom Arthur interacts with: a social worker, a therapist, a love interest and a stranger who reprimands him for “bothering” her son. Why the emphasis on black femininity? Well I can’t say for sure, but it resonated with me and so I’ll at least comment to that extent. I like black women. I am attracted to them. I don’t know why exactly but I suspect there are two reasons:
1) Assertion of white masculinity
2) Respect and reverence for primordial, divine femininity
I am trying to be more honest in my writing than I ever have been before but I’m not ready to talk about these things in greater depth right now. They need more thought. Hopefully the bluntness of how I stated these two ideas gives enough imagination fodder.

Searching for a Father 

A big theme throughout both the film and my life is the protagonist’s search for his father. He is led to believe that he is the illegitimate offspring of Thomas Wayne, but when he confronts Thomas Wayne he is rebuked and punched for his troubles. While my father never rejected me there are broad parallels between Arthur’s estrangement and my own.
There is a great scene where Arthur visits Wayne Manor and meets a young Bruce Wayne -his ostensible younger and legitimate brother. There is no malice here and he interacts jovially with the young boy until a butler (Alfred Pennyworth presumably) intercedes and tells Arthur to leave. Alfred, as the impediment between Arthur and his father; as the impediment betweeen Arthur and his little brother, was very reminiscent to me of my step-mother, Anita. It seems my whole life she has been keeping me from my father and I have long resented her for it.
Of course she wasn’t the only one keeping me from my father; before her it was my mother who chose to be unfaithful, then divorced, and then moved far away from my father so that I missed him my whole life.
My father, for his part is not perfect, having made, like Thomas Wayne, some stupid mistakes. There were times where when I was a teenager, living , much to my step-mother’s chagrin, at his house, and he would have to bend the truth to placate both me and Anita. I could loosely relate then when Arthur, being spurned by a pternity-denying Thomas Wayne, laughs, saying, “Why are you saying these lies?”
Ultimately there are further developments in the film which, rather than definitively answering the question of Arthur’s parentage, only obfuscate matters further, giving an unsettling Fight Club uncetainty vibe to the whole thing. Thomas Wayne’s eventual death then, at the hands of a clown-masked rioter encouraged by Arthur’s actions, pivotal though it is to young Bruce, sees Arthur simultaneously celebrating on the hood of a cop car in his brief moment of glory while crowds laud him after freeing him from police custody for the murder of Murray Franklin. The death of his possible biological father is shown to be meaningless as well as indirectly a result of his actions.

What of Murray Franklin?

Murray Franklin, a Gotham late-night talk show host, is significant because he represents an idealized surrogate father to Arthur and object of his delusions. Before Arthur even learns of of Thomas Wayne possibly being his father, he has reservations about the man. He has no such reservations about Murray Franklin, whom he fatasizes about meeting and being accepted as a son by.
Murray Franklin is portrayed by Robert DeNiro, and this is significant because the film draws inspiration from two of DeNiro’s earlier films, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. These earlier portrayals of DeNiro give a sort of meta-believability to his status as surrogate father figure to Arthur. However, the idealized version of Murray Franklin which Arthur fantasizes about is a far cry from trhe real version who lampoons Arthur’s secretly recorded initial overtures toward stand-up stardom and only has him on his show due to fan outcry.
Franklin, like Thomas Wayne, has been an absentee father to Arthur. Perhaps even neglectful. Nonetheless, when Arthur exacts his vengenace on Murray, who at the time is scolding him on live television after Arthur’s revelation that he klilled three men on the subway, I felt it was simultaneously appropriate and overkill.
Murray Franklin and Thomas Wayne both die the same night by the hand of men in clown masks/paint. Chaos ensues/continues. Even though these men were both neglectful, mean and spiteful, there is still something tragic about their deaths. Their passing represents things becopming undone and unraveling. When the father dies, all is chaos.

The Three Men on the Subway

Arthur’s arc gets interesting when he shoots three drunk men on the subway. The men are harassing a young Asian women (significant?) and Arthur’s condition (uncontrollable laughter) flares up. The Asian girl makes her escape and the men (employees of Wayne Enterprises) frustratedly approach Arthur seeming almost amused, but ultimately they beat him down in a scene echoing his beat-down at the hands of (multi-racial) kids during the opening of the film. This time however, Arthur is both armed and being attacked by three white men in suits, so when he lets off with his .38, it is less Bernie Goetz and more OWS. In fact, this scene really made me wonder why the film was so controversially received; from a racial and economic perspective at least, Arthur kills all the right people.

Post-Kill Blues

My favourite scene in the film occurs after Arthur kills the three subway harassers. He runs to a park bathroom, locks himself inside and then….dances? This dance scene actually made it to one of the film’s posters:

I know what it looked like to me because I have done this same kind of dance after moments of accomplishment, during moments of excellence and even when I am really enjoying some food -it is the movement of someone experiencing a rush of serotinin and channeling -nay, savouring-it’s movement through his central nervous system. Arthur is allowing the divine energies to course through his body/kundalini and heal his sick self. We see him here in a moment of becoming, and if our vision could go beyond the visible spectrum, into the subtler, higher vibrational realms and observe his spiritual body, we would see Arthur spreading his wings for the first time. His movements, vaguely reminiscent of tai-chi, are the same movements I have made on many dance floors when my spine/kundalini/chakras are properly aligned and I am basking in the heavenly and earthly energies moving up and down through me.

 

Honk Honk!!

And Pepe brings me to perhaps my most cynical thought of all: Sometime in in 2019 I became aware of the #clownworld/#honkpill/#honkler meme; a derivative of Pepe with a more acute dedication to pointing out the hypocrisy and absurdity of the world and laughing at it. I was immediately enamoured of this meme and by the time I sat down to watch Joker, I was well primed to appreciate Arthur even more than I otherwise might have. And this made me think: “Oh no, have I simply been manipulated? Were honkler and clownworld simply dreamed up by marketing execs to obliquely promote the film months in advance of its release?”
I don’t know, but it is entirely within the realm of possibility that I have been duped. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that my own susceptibilities as a somewhat disgruntled man in his 30s, with problematic relations with his father and even worse relations with his mother, have been exploited. This bothered me somewhat, but in truth, not as much as I would like to think it would have. It was actually reassuring on some level to know that someone (or some marketing firm) could know me and speak so deeply to my condition. Like Winston getting interrogated and tortured at the end of 1984, I just want to be understood I suppose, even if it is in a clinical and dispassionate way. And I don’t think I am alone.

The Rock & Roll Easter Egg

At the begining of the film’s final act, Arthur gets dolled up in his final Joker ensemble for the first time, preparing to step out for the evening and be a guest Murray Franklin’s show. As he leaves his house, we see him dancing down a set of stairs, and while this scene was shown in the trailer, the music was different. In the film, Rock & Roll Part 2  by Gary Glitter plays. The young college kids I was in the theatre with probably missed the reference, but Gary Glitter was busted for among other things, child pronography. While Rock & Roll used to be played at every sporting event when I was growing up,and in every Mighty Ducks film, since the late 90s it has been effectively blackballed. To me then, including the song was a nice touch; a perfectly oblique and tasteful nod to the fact that marginalized men can be wont to take out their sexual frustration on children, and it was an acknowledgement made without directly demonizing Arthur in an unforgivable way by making him a pedophile.

And the scene was fucking awesome; I had a big grin on my face as he got suited up for a night of mayhem and danced his ass down the stairs.

Swag!

The Final Analysis

The backlash against the film that I have read seems mostly like posturing and so unworthy of calling out by name, but as someone who unashamedly relates to Arthur Fleck I will tell you what the film was to me –a cautionary tale. It gave me and others like me a glimpse of what happens when we allow ourselves to be made weaker by our mothers; what happens when we allow oursleves to be too invested in the opinions and acceptance of our fathers; what happens when we fetishize women; amd what happens when we allow our worst impulses and delusions run our lives. Sure, there may be a brief moment on top of a cop car, cheered on by rioters , where we are immortal, but that too will pass. The path of Arthur Fleck is not one to emulate, but it hits home nonetheless because there but for the grace of God goes me.
When I think of a hero in film, I think of someone who, in the most abstract sense, shows me the righteous path forward. A hero is someone to emulate.
What then of an anti-hero? Well, irrespective of whatever the accepted definition of an anti-hero is, it seems to me that it has been perverted into referring to, essentially, a grittier version of a hero, who is yetr still ultimately worthy of emulation.
I find this to be a shallow reading of what an anti-hero should be. For me, I rather take the literal approach: If a hero is a role model, an anti-hero is just the opposite; the aforementioned cautionary tale. We can understand and relate to him just as much as we can relate to his more traditionally heroic counterpart, but his behaviour is self-evidently degenerative and not to be emulated.

Some consider the Joker to be the greatest villain, but he’s not, because villains can’t be understood or related to. Heroes and anti-heroes can. That doesn’t make PunisherVenomSpawn, et al. anti-heroes though, because excessive violence notwithstanding, they still do the right thing.

Thanos? He’s a villain because we can’t understand him. It’s like, “Bitch! Just snap your fingers and double the resources!

Juggernaut? Great villain because its hard to empathize with someone who just wants to destroy everything.

But Joker? Someone that relatable, and who can furthermore incite a whole demographic, in real life and in the film, to rioting? That’s more than a villain; that a hero, even if an antithetical one.

Best,
-Dre

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Toy Story 4 and my Resultant  Feels

Friends,

I am currently in the air over the Atlantic, heading back to Canada from Brussels, and I just watched Toy Story 4 for the first time. Overall, it was good and I found myself tearing up a few times toward the end.

When Did I Cry?

Tier/Tear 1

The first time I teared up a little was around when Gabby surgically removed Woody’s voice-box and instead of complaining or being indignant, he sat with her indulgently as she expressed her gratitude for what he had not freely given. He was patient with her, and while they (Pixar) could have approached the aftermath with him feeling emasculated, or at least eviscerated, Woody seems to take his removed voice-box in stride throughout the rest of the film. And, looking back, I think this is because as a character he is getting ready, before he even realizes it, to abandon the life of being a child’s toy.

Maybe that’s why I cried; putting away childish things like the shiny, brand-new ideal and settling for life as it is. One can relate, but more on that later.

Also, it should be said that there was an initial reading of this scene which came to mind immediately as I watched it; it occurred to me that as Gabby talking cordially to the freshly sewn-up Woody, flossing her new voice,  was in as poor taste as a rapist telling his victim how much he enjoyed the sex. That reading gets dark/weird real quick though and I’m only looking to get weird/weird here.

Tear/Tier 2

Another place I teared up a little were the scenes where Gabby, with Woody’s voice-box, gets rejected by Harmony and then later gets accepted by the lost girl at the carnival: In the former case, it is difficult to see someone work so hard for something, stepping on others and breaking rules all along the way only to fail. It’s like, “Fuck! All that suffering you caused; what was it all for?”
The latter case at the carnival was just kinda sweet though, and It made me think that the relationship between the toys and the kids is analogous to the relationship between men and women, and the lost toys might be like the MGTOW camp, whereas the toys owned by kids are the analogous to men who have been chosen by a woman. I like this reading because I think there is a pureness with which the toys love children that finds correspondence in the way men love women; it has been said that men love idealistically and women love pragmatically. Well, substitute toys for men and kids for women and you wouldn’t be far off the mark.

Tier/Tear 3

The third scene that made me cry a little was at the end where Woody chooses life with Bo Peep over idealistically pursuing a life of servitude to Bonnie’s happiness. As mentioned earlier, this is foreshadowed by his relatively chilled attitude toward getting his voice-box removed.

So what’s going on here? If we already established that toy is to child as man is to woman, what does it mean when Woody chooses Bo Peep over Bonnie? Well, if we see that many toys find happiness without belonging to a child, perhaps we have license to say that, according to our little analogy, the child doesn’t represent the female precisely, but rather the feminine ideal. If Bonnie represents the feminine ideal in contrast to Bo Peep (who is at face value much more feminine than the toddler that is Bonnie), what then does Bo Peep represent?

I think devotion to something/someone tangible than the abstract ideal – a real relationship to a flesh and blood (or plastic and scotch tape) woman perhaps? Giving up the porn and the chasing of a wild sex life, which is ultimately unfulfilling? I don’t know, but that is what comes to mind.

This hits me hard; I am an idealist, and particularly in the realm of romance, there have been a couple of Bo Peeps who I turned away from because they weren’t Bonnies. But alas, the Bonnie’s are fickle and elusive, and while they (Bonnies/feminine ideals/any ideals) serve a valuable purpose as a north star and guide, they are precisely so useful because they are untouchable.

Annie was a Bo Peep. She gave me several chances to commit, but she wasn’t as ‘Bonnie’ to me as say Marijo was at the time -and Marijo was much less Bo Peep in my eyes. In fact, all I saw in the latter was the Divine Feminine personified and I didn’t treat her as something/someone real. It got ugly. This is getting into a quite personal and involved metaphor so I am going to digress on this point.

How Does the Fourth Film Fit into the ‘Trilogy’?

I’ve seen the original Toy Story a million times. I saw the second one almost once completely, but I forget how it ended. The third one I saw once and really enjoyed, thinking it was a great final instalment which really captured the essence of ‘putting away childish things’, such as when Andy goes away to college and passes on all his toys to Bonnie. As far as what the toys themselves learned in the third one, I think it was teamwork, but I don’t really remember. This is a problem then if its called Toy Story, because I remember what Andy learned and how Andy grew more than the toys. So while at first I was a little bit skeptical of this fourth instalment, thinking that things had ended well enough with the third instalment, I think the fourth gives a greater picture of the cycle of life as experienced by toys as represented by Woody.

We, the viewer are much more intimately acquainted with Woody than Andy or Bonnie, and in the fourth we see him clinging to his ideal purpose like an athlete past his prime. How long does he have to go down that road before he sees where it leads? Well, four films evidently, because right up until the moment he decides to remain with Bo Peep at the end (and even afterward when he bestows his Sheriff’s star to Jessie) he is helping his fellow toys become the best they can be in pursuing the goal of Bonnie’s happiness which he is preparing to let go of. It is a passing of the torch, essentially, and when Buzz tells him at the end, “she’ll be ok’ (referring to Bonnie when Woody is considering staying with Bo), we can see that it is about Woody learning to trust others. Even to trust the next generation. To trust ‘Forkie’?

Parallels in Society on the Macro Scale

How does Woody’s arc map onto Western Society’s arc? Can we say he represents the post-WW2 generation being put out to pasture and displaced by the younger, less traditional toys? I think it’s worth exploring. Woody’s first rivalry was with Buzz in the first film, and you can’t get much more of a contrast than cowboy and spaceman. Generationally and technologically, Buzz represented newness relative to Woody. Woody’s subsequent feelings of uncertainty upon Buzz’ arrival could even be viewed as representative of the American national feeling post-1960s, post-moonwalk, post-Kennedy assassinations, during the energy crisis, and in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam. Was the space race the direct cause of this loss of innocence and … miasma (?)? No, but it certainly seems as if a confusing and turbulent decade was heralded by a great success; by the arrival of ‘Buzz’ you might say (and Neil). 

From what I remember about the arc of the second film, Woody finds his tribe (Jessie and Silver) after stolen at a yard sale. This speaks to another aspect of American life which I think is important -the ability to get lost in the blurry fringes and find your people. Sure, Woody doesn’t make the choice to leave Andy in the film, but he nonetheless finds himself in the margins of society, and while there he finds himself. Very poetic.

Another telling scene which always stuck with me from the one time I watched the second film was when Buzz sees all the other Buzz Lightyear toys and has to deal with their youthful impetuousness and lack of understanding about who they really are.

Who they really are. In a broad general sense, this is the job of an elder, to remind the youner generation of who they really are. One of Woody’s most famous lines in the first film was screamed at Buzz Lightyear:

“YOU! ARE! A! TOY!!” -even in the fourth film he has to repeatedly tell Forkie (convinced he is trash) the same thing. But in the second film we see a more recently awakened Buzz taking his first furtive steps into the role of shamanic rememberer to a younger generation. I like this reading because it redeems the mass-produced Buzz Lightyear toys in the second film in a manner echoed in the fourth: “You are not (mass-produced) trash; you are a toy.” If we are continuing our allegory from the first film about the older generation being disrupted by the newer one and the confusion that causes, I think it is safe to say broadly that the resolution is a two-fold regaining of lost childhood on the part of the elder (like we see when Woody reconnects with his Round-Up pals), and a simultaneous taking up of the mantle of responsibility by the younger generation.

Empathy and understanding are a natural result.

I don’t feel competent to remark on the third film’s social commentary at the moment, but I briefly want to address how the fourth film might fit: At the outset we see Woody being left in the closet and not being played with. Bonnie routinely takes his star off and pins it on Jessie, and while  he occupies a position of some status within the hierarchy of Bonnie’s toys, he is no longer the head-honcho like he was in Andy’s room. Interestingly, Potato Head and Hamm, easily representative of an older generation than Woody himself, are still played with by Bonnie. This might allude to some tendency to ignore our grandparents but mythologize and lionize earlier ancestors, but that seems pretty thin so I don’t know. Nonetheless, as much as Potato Head and Hamm are played with, they barely speak throughout the film, and this is telling.

So Woody has been put out to pasture, Bonnie Is largely indifferent to Buzz, and the rising stars within the hierarchy are Jessie (which might be ham-fisted nod to feminism’s ascendance), and Forkie, essentially a bastardization of what a toy is. As a mish-mash of unmatched parts, Forkie could be an allegorical for the most physically extreme elements of the LGBT movement; them Ts as Dave Chappelle put it. As well, we could view Forkie’s initial insistence on his being trash as an echo of the nihilism attendant upon the current younger generations. And it matters not that he seems content and happy to be trash; this current generation seems to think that nihilism is pretty nifty, and they comepete in their memes to be seem the most idsaffected.

So if this assignment of roles within Toy Story 4 is accurate, what can we glean from the conclusion of the film, where Woody ends up with Bo Peep after passing the torch to the younger generation? Here’s what I think:

We gotta trust the younger generation.

We gotta mentor the younger generation.

We gotta know when to be idealistic and when to be pragmatic.

If you find the right woman, let her go if your calling means more to you.

If the right woman comes back and your work is done, go out and be happy with her.

That’s what I got at least.

Best,
-Dre

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Movie Review: Super Mario Bros. – A Flop Revisited

Friends,

Sometimes the passage of time can ferment the initially overlooked positive and redeeming qualities of art, and make something that was scorned upon its unveiling worthy of a second look.

Image

Super Mario Bros. may be just such a movie so I am going to watch it.  Please feel free to join me.  I’m gonna start by watching the movie and sharing my thoughts with you at regular intervals.  Then we’ll move on to more discussion.

Part 1: Watch-Through

0:21:24

So Daisy just disappeared into a rock wall and Mario and Luigi are standing dumbfounded looking at it trying to figure out if they should jump in to follow.

ImageThey of course do.  Up to this point the movie has been good.  I care about the characters, there is a belieivable doting older brother relationship between Mario and Luigi, and a cute, innocent romantic one between Luigi and Daisy.  Spike and Iggy, though not yet named are really filling the role of bumbling henchmen well with some good dialogue, and while Koopa was introduced briefly at the beginning, the biggest villain thus far is Scapelli.  On top of sabotaging Daisy’s archaeology site he also seems to be a bit of a perv which makes him easier to hate.  So far this movie is good.

0:25:12

   Mario and Luigi are starting to realize that they’re “not in Brooklyn anymore.”  This realization comes after falling off a walkway into a pile of fungus and seeing two baby dinosaurs fighting.  Now before setting out to do this review I had thought a lot about the fungus as it appears in this movie.  My interest stems largely from having listened to some Terence McKenna lectures recently, and its only fair to mention that I am viewing this film with an observant eye turned toward how the fungus figures into the story and from there I will make what interpretations I think can be made.

   It bears mention that the Koopa world seems to be a little bit wackier and slapstick than our world (Koopa just sent out a “plumber alert,” which then aired over a loudspeaker into the city).  These zany antics are, so far, tolerable because they fit with the tone which has been established in that world.  Let’s hope they keep it consistent.

Note: Koopa sent out a “plumber alert” after hearing the revelation that the plumber’s had taken the macguffin meteor rock.  He didn’t actually know that they had come to the Mushroom Kingdom, so even in the context of this bizarro world the alert was a little premature.

0:37:30

    I feel like some problems have developed; Koopa just responded “Tyrannosaurus Rex, the lizard king” when Mario asked what single-celled organism he evolved from.  Let the record show that Tyrannosaurus Rex was not a single-celled organism.

   And why the hell did the movie producers turn Toad, an anthropomorphic mushroom, into a dinosaur?  I get that as a citizen of the Mushroom Kingdom he evolved from a dinosaur, so within the context of the movie it makes sense, but it just seems like such a bizarre departure.  Plus, by turning all dissidents into these Goombas, Koopa is knowingly creating a loyal army of lobotomized retards.  And he wonders why the meteor slipped through his fingers.

   As well, at some earlier point Koopa established that he needed the meteor to bridge the Mushroom Kingdom to our world to take it over or something.  Yet at the movie’s beginning he stalks Daisy’s mother here with no apparent problem.  As well, Spike and Iggy seem to travel between the two worlds with some ease and regularity, kidnapping a woman (the wrong woman) each time they do.

   Which brings up another problem: why would Koopa wait twenty or so years to send Iggy and Spike on missions to kidnap women and recover the rock?  He was there the night Daisy’s mom escaped and so probably had some idea of how long she was gone.  Why didn’t he think to himself, “Hey, in the half hour she was on the New York streets she could have only gotten so far.  Perhaps I can check every church in the immediate area.”

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Churches being really the only place to leave an egg which will hatch into a baby soon.  

If he had, he might have resolved the whole missing meteor piece relatively quickly.  But instead koopa waits for twenty years while the kingdom he has apparently usurped from the Mushroom King faces a water shortage and gets choked by fungus.

   ***NOTE: I’m watching a later part of this movie and Mario and Luigi are interrogating Iggy and Spike in the desert and Mario asks why Koopa didn’t just come through earlier and get the rock like Iggy and Spike had been doing.

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Iggy (or Spike) says that the pathway was obstructed until (Scapelli’s) excavation dynamite cleared the way.  True, the opening sequence does show the path getting obstructed, but why can Iggy and Spike pass through and not Koopa?  Why would Koopa not just blow the obstruction up himself?  And furthermore, why obtain the rock to merge the two dimensions?  Why not just lead an invasion army into Brooklyn through the portal once he clears up the debris?  So many questions.

   You know that feeling where you start to think something has gone wrong but you can’t quite blame it on one thing?  I think that’s where I’m at now.  I thought it was when they introduced the de-evolve chamber but that doesn’t bear all the blame.  The movie is not ruined (yet) but its freewheeling and noone seems to be at the wheel.  Let’s see what happens.

0:46:54

   Ok, so now they are sending Iggy or Spike (as if it matters) into the de-evolving chamber BUT with the specific instructions to evolve him to an advanced level of existence.

Picture 18

So I have to ask: Why, if Koopa could evolve his minions and have them be something beyond retards, would he not do so?  Furthermore, why would he de-evolve so many of them only to keep them in his employ?  Even Furthermore (sic.), why would he not evolve himself to the furthest extent possible as that would conceivably give him some edge in his mission of conquest?  Thinking about these seemingly obvious yet unemployed tactics makes me think that Koopa is perhaps the biggest retard of all and I wonder how he maintains control, let alone how he got control in the first place.

   With regard to the use of fungus in the movie, it figured into Mario and Luigi’s escape from the de-evolving chamber.  First, it tried to give them a Bob-omb,

 Picture 14

and then it caught their stolen police car as it fell out of a tunnel into the desert.

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Now it is still early in the film and the fungus has more of a role to play, but it strikes me as fairly obvious that the fungus is helping the mammals survive and become ascendant in a world which has thus far been ruled by dinosaurs.  This smacks of McKenna’s “Stoned Ape Theory,” which posits that psychadelics like amanita muscaria and psilocybin cubensis mushrooms, eaten by apes could have served as evolutionary catalysts much like the monoliths in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  If the notion that the filmmakers were influenced by this theory seems far-fetched, please note how prominently the theme of evolution figures into the plot.

0:52:35

   Koopa forcing himself on Daisy is creepy as fuck.  I’m not sure if this works for his character or not.  The wagging serpent tongue might be a little too racy for a kids movie but the rest of the movie is a little too goofy for an adult movie.

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WHAT THE FUCK!?

1:03:35

   Okay I just watched a puzzling bit of cinema where Mario and Luigi escape from the desert by working with Iggy and Spike to get back in the city.  Their plan is to accost innocent garbage workers who work in the outskirts of the city and conveniently wear masks which they can then put on to fool security and get back into the city driving garbage trucks.  I’m just not sure why the masks and outfits of the workers looked like BDSM outfits.

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This film was released before Pulp Fiction so in fairness they couldn’t have known about the gimp, but from now on anyone who watches this will think of BDSM whenever they see the Mario Bros. attack one of these unfortunates with a plunger.

   Now during the aforementioned interrogation of Iggy & Spike (who, though now evolved to talk smarter, still behave stupidly) in the desert, Mario and Luigi discover that the large, black woman who stole their piece of the meteorite is actually a bouncer at a night-club, so now we have a pointless night-club scene.  It’s interesting to point out that in this club scene, Mario is wearing a yellow suit and (ugh) turtleneck, while Luigi is wearing a red one.  Furthermore, earlier in the film Mario was wearing a green jacket while Luigi wore a red sweater.

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I only point out these wardrobe selections because Luigi is known for wearing green and Mario is known for wearing red.  I’m not saying that they have to dress in those colours all the time…

power-rangers1

…a la Power Rangers…

…but if they are going to wear conspicuous colours why confuse the palette?

   After Mario dances with Big Bertha and manages to get the rock off of her neck, Goombas led by Lena bust in to apprehend them.  Luigi then needlessly huddles with Mario to quarterback how they are going to lose the rock.  It just seemed so dumb to me that they would stand in the club throwing the rock back and forth when they could have just ran away and escaped, like they did as soon as they lost the rock.

1:08:00

   FUUUUCK.  From a plot-making-sense perspective, this is starting to get dumb.  Mario and Luigi make an assumption about which tower Daisy is in and decide they have to make it to the top of that one.  But since there are only like two towers in the city…

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…I suppose its not a super unreasonable guess.  In true plumber fashion they decide to sabotage said tower right in its under-serviced plumbing pipes.  Here we get a weird joke about how the shitty maintenance of the pipes “must have been a non-union job.”  This doesn’t make sense; wouldn’t a union job, where noone could conceivably get fired, be more likely to show poor results? (This isn’t me stating my opinion but just examining some common criticisms)  And since the Marios are in business for themselves, why would they make fun of fellow non-unioners?

   Whatever.  They find their properly-coloured maintenance coveralls, suit up and get to that whole rescuing business.

1

Oh yeah and at some point in there we are treated to a 30 second scene of Koopa ordering a pizza where he hysterically requests they,

Picture 3

Hold the Mammal!

My….sides…..

….ahhhh…

…splitting!….

…pain.

   Soooo, after Mario and Luigi get on the elevator, we again cut to Koopa who dismisses Lena before she can reveal she has the rock.  Fine she decides, she’ll merge the world by herself if not with him.  Really?  Is that all?  She is going to carry out his ultimate wish to get back at him?  Like does she think if it is she who merges the worlds he somehow won’t be able to rule?  He’ll see them merging and probably be like, “Hey, these shits are merging,” then he’ll get to ruling them.  And she’ll be left having to explain why she didn’t tell him she had the rock.  Not too bright, but then again none of the henchpeople are.

1:13:13

   So when Mario and Luigi’s elevator filled with goombas they started rocking them back and forth and made them dance which allowed Mario and Luigi to escape through the roof.

   But, hold on… wouldn’t rocking henchmen make the plumbers more likely to run into them?  I get that it was a comic relief scene, but even Luigi, endearing goofball that he is, must have realized that no good could come of making contact with the enemy.  And I’m not really sure how making the goombas rock back and forth aided their escape through the roof unless rocking mesmerized them somehow…

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That’s it, they were mesmerized.

   Fast forward to Daisy aaaaaaaannnnnd Lena is trying to kill her in a fit of jealousy on account of Koopa likes that fresh young, Earth-raised straaaaynge.

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You stay classy, Koopa!

The whole sequence struck me as a tad overkill (Lena already had the rock after all, and even though her plan was misguided to the point of retardation, all she had to do was head to the meteor),  but then I’ve never had to vie with a younger, prettier girl for the attentions of an older, lecherous man-lizard, so who knows?

   While we’re on the topic of believability, somewhere in the mad dash to escape Lena’s homicidal rage, Daisy runs into Iggy and Fuckface, being escorted to the execution area for execution (sic.).  There is a problem here: We know Daisy is on the top floor of the tower from an earlier establishing shot, so why would the goombas be taking the retards to a penthouse execution chamber?  Aren’t executions more of a ground-floor or sub-basement affair?  It seems like a small point, and it is, but it struck me as odd that they happened to be being escorted to their death in the same time and place where Daisy was making her daring escape.

   Speaking of Daisy’s daring escape, we know it was daring because a) she is running, b) the homicidal Lena has just stabbed Yoshi in the neck (GANGSTA!) and is in pursuit, and c) Iggy and Spike’s captors are now shooting fireballs at her.  Even though the situation is tense and there is a definite urgency to escape, Daisy grabs a fire extinguisher to put out the fire on Toad which the other goombas created.  This heroic move showcases her compassion and actually adds some depth to the character so its fine, though it does leave her with less time to escape.  Yet with this intensified time-constraint, two flamethrower-wielding lizards aware of her presence, and a known homicidal maniac on the loose, she somehow convinces the retards to take her to her father, who has been de-evolved to fungus.  Weirdly, they seem more than obliging when they should really be more concerned about escaping from the tower of death whose top floor they are trapped on.

   Daisy’s meeting with her father raises some more interesting questions.  For starters, if he has been de-evolved to the point of fungus, how is he smarter than every other character in this movie?  Seriously, in spite of not saying a single word (or perhaps because of not saying a word) he proves himself capable of working toward a consistent and clear goal, something the other characters are a little goofy about.  From when they first arrive in the Mushroom Kingdom the king tries to assist Mario and Luigi who, not yet done fucking around until later in the movie, don’t recognize the potential value of the high-explosives he keeps sending their way.  And lets not forget his save in the desert.  I appreciate the clarity of purpose.

   Another question I have about the king is a little less tactful; namely, why does he look like a penis?  Superficially of course, but still, it’s there.

Picture 4Penises are even slangily called “mushroom-heads” and he is a head literally made of fungus, so they pretty much spell it out for us.  It doesn’t help either that the head slides in and out of a kind of fungal sheath/foreskin apparatus.  As a kid I always thought I was weird for thinking this, but as I get older I see that perhaps I’m not the weird one.  Add to the mix the constant clear fluid dripping from the head and you have a penis with not only jock-itch (penis fungus) but the clap as well.  Great Job!

Movie’s End

   I set a goal after the last couple paragraphs to watch the rest of the movie without making any comments.  For the most part I was successful although I did have to pause it once and write down one line of dialogue which struck me as bizarre and completely misplaced.  But more on that later.

   So after the Mario Bros. locate Daisy in her father’s throne room, Daisy explains that the rest of the girls, including Mario’s girlfriend are being held elsewhere in the tower.  There is an amusing exchange here where Luigi begins addressing the fungus king respectfully and explaining why he is the right guy to date Daisy.  And I’m pretty sure that was the last chuckle I genuinely had.  What follows from that point of last amusement is a bizarre rescue where Mario races down a frozen pipe on a mattress with the missing Brooklyn girls.  I get that scenes like this are “fun” and “exciting,” but what killed me here was the music.

Picture 1

Check it Out Here

It just seemed so cheesy and unrelated to the movie.

   They end up crashing in the street below which is where the final showdown takes place, but I have to backtrack a little bit here, to fully explain how off the rails this movie got.  Remember Lena?

images

Well after trying to kill Daisy and then stabbing Yoshi in the neck she makes an executive decision to head directly for the meteor and merge the dimensions.  However she is apprehended and we cut to a scene of one of Koopa’s security team bringing the rock to him.  Koopa, re-invigorated by finally getting what he has been questing after for the whole movie, starts barking out orders, last of which is “RELEASE LENA.”

   WAIT, WHAT!?  You know this chick tried to betray you!  Earlier, when you felt that Spike and Iggy were trying to betray you ordered them to be executed even though they were mostly harmless.  This chick seems to have half a brain in her head and she actively tried to double-cross you and you want to release her?  Well, I guess we need her to be released so we can facilitate the later ridiculousness of the final battle.

ON TO THE FINAL BATTLE

   Koopa has taken to the streets with Daisy and Luigi in tow (they got captured conveniently after Mario had already left to go ride a mattress down a frozen pipe) and as he makes his way toward the meteor Mario’s mattress busts out of the frozen pipe and lands in front of him.  Of course, Koopa is so flabbergasted by this new development that he allows the re-united Mario brothers to over-power him in a ridiculous sequence that involves rocket boots.

Picture 7

   Now its important to mention here: Luigi shouldn’t even be alive.  Remember earlier when the goombas were trying to kill them with flame-throwers during the prison break?  Koopa obviously had no problem with them being dead even though he didn’t have the rock.  Now equipped with the rock, he has Luigi and Daisy in custody and they are still alive??  At least you can make an argument for Daisy’s continued survival; there is some unexplained plot aspect which makes her the only one who can merge the worlds without dying (this doesn’t make sense either though, because Koopa could have just ordered a minion to sacrifice his life to merge the worlds, and therefore not had to  tote Daisy around.  But he did seem to want to fuck her, so we’ll assume he had ulterior motives), but Luigi should have been shot in the back of the head as soon as Koopa had both him and the rock.  Or at least put in a jail cell.  But no, he is brought on the excursion through the city (on foot mind you) where any number of opportunities could arise for him to throw the proverbial wrench (lol, cause he’s a plumber) into Koopa’s plans  Opportunities like…

Picture 3

…MARIO OUT OF FUCKING NOWHERE!

So here we see Luigi’s continued survival, Mario’s mattress ride, and Koopa’s nonsensical order to release Lena all converge to facilitate Koopa losing the rock…and Lena getting it again.   And as she makes her way unmolested to the meteor she says perhaps the dumbest thing ever:

Picture 8

“MY TIME HAS COME; THE UNIVERSE IS MINE!!” -Lena

What the actual fuck is this woman talking about?  Since when does merging two worlds give one unarmed, middle-aged woman who looks like a cat lady dominion over the universe?  I understand she just got electrocuted and all,

Picture 5but is her brain actually that fried?  I guess even the filmmakers were like “screw it!”

   So Lena then dies from merging the worlds,

Super Mario Bros 40because apparently the universe didn’t want to be ruled by her.  At the same time, Daisy & Luigi are leading the Brooklyn girls through the portal to Brooklyn and Mario is battling Koopa who still thinks that he has the rock.  Koopa keeps thinking Mario has the rock until everything…

Super Mario Bros 41

…including himself…

…starts disappearing and he realizes that someone put the rock in the meteor.  Rather than be distraught, he seems positively overjoyed, and we realize he need not have concerned himself with recovering the rock if anyone could insert it into the meteor and allow him to begin his worldly conquest.  This just illustrates my earlier point about how unnecessary the rock was as a plot vehicle.

   Yet Koopa, for all his talk of conquering shit, seems unequipped to even conquer a small excavation site, as the only havoc he manages to wreak during his brief tenure in the merged worlds is to de-evolve Scapelli into a chimpanzee.

Picture 4

Its important to note here that he faces nothing in the way of resistance although he is transported into the center of what appears to be a protest against Scapelli wanting to do construction on an excavation site.

 cops

This means that there are cops there whose job is literally to keep control of situation like this and noone even takes a shot at Koopa or the 8-foot targets he has for bodyguards even though they witness him discharge an energy weapon.  The police officer that the camera pans to looks more bemused about the adorable little Scapelli chimp

coplookingatchimp

than he looks concerned about the disintegrated World Trade Center towers,

Picture 26

or eager to regain control of the situation.

   Thankfully, that loveable scamp Luigi has been working with Daisy to remove the rock from the meteor and un-merge the two worlds.

Picture 6

This sends Mario and Koopa back to the Mushroom Kingdom

Picture 1

where the Bob-omb Mario wound up earlier has walked its way closer to where Koopa is standing.  It is interesting to note here that even though Mario and Koopa were moving around in our world (Mario even dove through the air to evade getting de-evolved) they end up right back where they were standing before the worlds merged.  Again, most people have stopped caring at this point, I only bring it up because to let it slide would be a disservice to this review and to the movie itself.  I criticize ’cause I love, or at least because I want to love.

   Since this is getting lengthy I’ll give you the last plot points in brief, with criticisms as required:

-Koopa orders the goombas to fire on Mario

Picture 2

-they hesitate because Toad plays his harmonica to get them to dance

-Koopa knocks the dancing goombas out with one punch in a manner reminiscent of The Three Stooges

-Luigi jumps to the walkway wearing the boots handed to him inexplicably by Big Bertha and hands Mario one of the two de-evolve guns handed to him by Toad prior to his harmonica solo

-Mario and Luigi begin shooting and Koopa starts de-evolving into a T-Rex only for the Bob-omb which was wound earlier to explode and knock him into this weird hanging bucket thing

-Koopa then emerges in full beast-mode for one final scare  and the Mario Bros de-evolve him into primordial ooze

-Koopa’s de-evolution and defeat somehow magically re-evolve the king, and he comically says “Love those plumbers.”

king

I cringed, hard.

-Daisy decides she can’t go back to Earth because she belongs in the Mushroom Kingdom

-Since the portal for some reason closed, Daisy uses the meteor rock to open it with a laser beam.

Picture 14

   Even with the already written-off tone and plot of the movie, I had some problems here because not only did they never explain why she was the only one who could withstand the force of merging the dimensions, they now gave her a new power to shoot lasers.  But again, does it matter at this point?  Personally, I think if they wanted to blow some leftover money, they shouldn’t have used it on the visual effects here, but on getting something besides the open-source generic rock-music they used in the frozen tunnel scene.

   The movie ends with Luigi being a third wheel on Mario’s dinner-date with his girlfriend when there is a knock at the door and Daisy bursts in wearing tattered clothes and holding a flame-thrower (which she must have just walked through Brooklyn with to get to their apartment), asking for help and  telling the Marios,

Picture 34

You’re never gonna believe this!

I guess this was them setting up for a sequel which mercifully never happened.  That about concludes the watch-through and we’re only 4200 words deep.  Let’s go for broke as we begin…

Part 2: What Went Wrong?

   There were so many things here that contributed to this movie’s downfall.  Off the top of my head, one glaring problem was,

The half-baked video game references which were extraneous to the plot.

   I think the king turning back into a human being after Koopa’s defeat was a reference to the various kings in SMB3 for NES who had been transformed into animals and were transformed back to men as soon as Mario retrieved their wands from Bowser/Koopa’s various children.  In that game it made sense because it was consistent.  In this film, it seemed shoe-horned in as a shout-out to fans.  The only problem is that that particular reference is not even that obvious and it only occurred to me while writing this review.  If you’re going to make an extraneous reference, it can’t also be obscure.  Its like telling a five-minute joke with a shitty punch-line.

   The second such reference was the pipe chase scene I have been very critical of.  We get it, Mario goes through pipes to get around.  My uncle is a plumber so I know thats just kinda how they roll.  But a frozen ventilation pipe on a mattress?  If they really wanted to incorporate pipes into the story they should have had an enchanted water main which led to the Mushroom Kingdom from Brooklyn.  True, its completely ridiculous, but then so is the plot as it exists now.  As long as they commit to the ridiculousness I don’t care how cock-a-mamie (???) things get.  Another problem was,

Too much stupid shit was introduced to keep a handle on.

   This is a movie based on Super Mario Bros., so why does it feature evolution, meteors, archaeology, the Mafia, fascism, infrastructure based on bumper cars, scantily clad women in night-clubs, and sado-masochism?  Even if all of these elements were somehow worked into the film artfully, they are still too disparate to appeal to a specific audience.  Furthermore, some of the references are too mature to be understood by kids while the movie as a whole is too goofy to be enjoyed by adults.  So really who does that leave?  Tweens?

The Writing is Horrible.

Here is sampling of the dialogue:

“I’m Luigi Mario; you got a problem with that?” – Luigi

You know what they say about little girls, don’t you?  They say they never forget the first time they were kissed by a lizard.” -Koopa

Monkey.  HEE-HEE, Monkey.” – Koopa

Treat your tools like a friend; keep them by you; never let ’em down, and they’re always at your side.” – Mario

And of course, my favourite:

MY TIME HAS COME; THE UNIVERSE IS MINE!!” -Lena

   What is an actor to do when they are being directed to spout off such drivel?  In defense of the actors in this movie, its wasn’t the acting that was the downfall.  The writing, though engaging in some parts, kinda just tapered off at others.  This indicates that it might have been written by a committee, and one person in that group might have been a better writer than the others.  Or there might have been one good writer who didn’t quite have creative control.  Either way, some genuine talent breaches through the cracks like a rose growing from concrete…

Then a garbage truck driven by S&M “bottoms” runs over it.

And then a lobotomized dinosaur-man takes a shit on it.

Then it gets grown over by sentient fungus.

Then and only then does it seem that the material is ready for the dramatis personae to recite in front of a camera.  Lots of credit goes out to Dennis Hopper; for someone who was given the shittiest of the shitty dialogue he committed 93.7% to it which must have been no easy feat.

   Finally,

Where the fuck are the turtles?

  If you’ve played any Mario game, you’ve probably stepped on a turtle or a beetle (or a spikey-shelled thing and died) and then used their shell as a projectile.  In fact, a fixture of Mario games is the ability to use the enemy’s carcass to kill more enemies (It’s done adorably though, so kids can play).  But instead of that we get dinosaurs sans shells.  I suspect this was done partly to capitalize on the “dino-mania” (sic.) that summer which existed in anticipation of a little film released a month later.  Perhaps you’re familiar with it:

 jurassic-park1_481597

Suddenly turtles must not have been cool anymore.

TMNT_III_film

This was released a few months earlier, so maybe everyone was just a little “turtled-out.”

I suspect that somewhere along the lines someone wanted to make this movie real-er and grittier (because we go to movies for realism) and to them that meant anthropomorphic dinosaurs as opposed to anthropomorphic turtles.  In the end it came off as more bizarre than any of the games.

   I could probably go one but we’re just shy of 5000 words so let’s get moving.

3. What Went Right?

   This movie had some redeeming qualities.  You’ll remember when I was only about half an hour in, I was enjoying it immensely.  First and foremost,

Luigi is Charming as Fuck

   Maybe it’s ’cause he spends part of the movie with his shirt off, maybe its because I know what he looks like in drag, but whatever it is, I have a bit of a man-crush on John Leguizamo.  He doesn’t typically make great movies, but I find he always puts forward solid performances.  This is another case of that.  Luigi is very endearing and Leguizamo manages to find a certain alluring bewilderedness which I typically only see in Brad Pitt and Matthew McConaughey interviews.  I don’t necessarily like how his character develops into a kind of mystic who always gets “feelings,” but overall he’s likeable.

Bob Hoskins is a Believable Mario

   I thought Bob Hoskins nailed the role perfectly.  He added a loving gruffness that isn’t there in the games  but it makes sense for an older brother (age difference between Mario and Luigi isn’t really explored in the games).  The accent was good, as was the body type, and he did the best with what he was given.  Alas, it was not enough.

The Mushroom Kingdom

   There was a cool aesthetic achieved in the main thoroughfare of Koopa’s city.  Even without all of the fungus, you could tell it wasn’t New York.  The fashions were pronounced and involved lots of spikes and studs but on the whole it wasn’t too S&M-y.  I thought that making the goomba outfits reminiscent of totalitarian secret police was an interesting route to go, and the fact that they were dumb was perhaps a critical statement about fascists, Nazis, etc.  Again, sometimes they went overboard, like with the gimps in the garbage dump, but overall it was a cool theme which I think could have been explored a little more.

Somehow I Care

   You would think that I wanted to slit my wrists while watching this, but that wasn’t the case.  With the exception of the relative lull in the desert, the action is pretty constant and it doesn’t really give you too much opportunity to mull over the shortcomings (until afterwards).  And while it would be a stretch to say I felt any suspense in the action sequences (The flame bursts from goomba weapons literally travel at the speed of gently-served tennis balls, so the well-being of the protagonists is never seriously threatened.  In fact Im fairly certain the special effect for them was a tennis ball doused in gasoline and set on fire) I did want the good guys to win.  Let’s call it the pacing of the movie; even though the plot is full of holes, and the dialogue can be bizarre, and the characters make ridiculous choices, and there are scenes that don’t make sense, the pacing of things keeps it engaging, even if minimally so.

4. Stoned-Apes?

   I haven’t alluded to my observations about parallels between this movie’s fungus & evolution combo and McKenna’s stoned-ape theory in a few thousand words, so let’s wrap up there.  After viewing this movie and mulling it over, my findings are:
(drumroll please)

Not conclusive one way or the other.   Its hard to say with any certainty if the filmmakers were psychonauts, but there is enough overlap, especially if plot points are abstracted to broad strokes, to make a connection.  Lines like “Trust the Fungus,” which became a tagline in the movie’s marketing campaign, could be a wink/nudge nod to any tripper having a bout of paranoia or uncertainty, but then it could just be shitty writing too.  I already explained too the abstract notion of mushrooms helping mammals in the movie mirrors McKenna’s theory of mushrooms helping mammals in the wild, but that could just be coincidence.
You know what?  Fuck it, I’ll say with 51% certainty that the filmmakers knew about the Stoned-Ape and now that I think about it McKenna was particularly active in the early 90s.  Mind you, his book Food of the Gods only came out earlier the year this was released, but let’s assume that the writers knew about his theories from earlier lectures.  And besides, Mario had already been around for years and so it could even have been Shigeru Miyamoto (Mario’s creator) who was the McKenna fan.  Maybe we’ll never know.

5. Overall Thoughts and Recommendations

   I am going to give this movie a (generous) 4/10.  Its the kind of movie I would never pay money for, but in a world of streaming and downloading, there are much worse things you could be watching.  If you’re a fan of any of the actors in this movie that is a good enough reason to check it out because each of them acts their hearts out.  Best case scenario you might even have a laugh or two at some of the cheesiness.

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   If you managed to get through all that, congratulations;  you need a new hobby.  Just the same I appreciate your readership and hope you have gleaned some new perspective on more or less properly understood classic.  I want to give a quick shout-out to Red Letter Media; their Half in the Bag and “Plinkett” series of reviews have really opened up my eyes to what it is I was liking and not liking about movies that I was liking and/or not liking (sic.)  Please go check out their site and their reviews for more thorough deconstructions like this.

Except theirs are in video format.

And they’re funnier.
Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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