Generally speaking, the artists who garner the praise of the cinematic establishment are those who stare into the barren soul of modern man and render its depravity in painstaking detail while hopefully, but not necessarily, offering a small glimmer of redemption in end. This is especially true of the films of Ingmar Bergman. This is a difficult tightrope to walk because the joke is that there is no real redemption in secular modernity. There is, at best, a competition of wills over some presumed “greater good”.
The praise that is accorded to Bergman is warranted for a few important reasons. First and foremost, his passion for the storytelling potential of cinema is genuine and awe inspiring. He appreciates the importance of crafting intimate and emotionally honest character portraits. The Serpent’s Egg meanders a bit, but for these reasons alone, Bergman commands your attention.
The Serpent’s Egg is a story of an American Jew living in Berlin in the twilight of the Weimar Republic. Most people will read this film as another spin on #NazisBad. Don’t believe them. Bergman has bigger fish to fry.
The fundamental delusion of the scientific materialist paradigm is the underlying belief that man’s moral defects can be quantified and stripped out through Pavlovian conditioning. The Serpent’s Egg may not be Bergman’s greatest film, but it is worth watching because it is the one film I’ve seen thus far which casts a bright light on the clinical and pathological architecture of this mindset.
Nowadays, we hear a constant drumbeat of feigned outrage and manufactured moral panic from the progressive establishment over the existential threat of a resurgent “fascist” sentiment in Europe and America. The shills who promulgate these concerns focus on bumper sticker moral transgressions like “racism” and “nationalism”, but anyone who has dedicated five minutes of genuine introspection over the real aims of the post-Enlightenment liberal project can easily see that Bergman is revealing something that is not limited to the national socialist mindset of pre-WWII Germany. When the behavior scientist Hans Vergerus confesses that the privately funded research in which he was engaged is destined to become global, it is among the most blood curdling lines ever uttered in cinema.
I was not surprised to see that Star Trek: The Motion Picture was the lowest rated film on Letterboxd featuring the original cast, but that doesn’t mean I’m less certain that the consensus is wrong. Whether you’re a fan of Wrath of Khan, the TNG series, or the Abrams reboots, y’all can suck on it because this movie is fucking Star Trek. Period. No, I don’t care that it’s similar to “The Changeling”. This is the quintessential Star Trek film.
Yes, it’s basically 2001 rewritten for the Star Trek universe, and that’s exactly as it should be. It’s about a giant ass AI ship that’s headed for Earth, and the crew must use their wits to subvert the AI’s logic protocols and save humanity from being snuffed out. What is more Star Trek than that?
Robert Wise was the perfect man to helm the director’s chair. People grouse about the pacing, but I feel he finally lent this franchise the gravitas for which it always strived in the first place. He takes his time introducing each character and you feel like you’re getting to know them for the first time while reveling in the special chemistry these actors shared in this setting. Of course, Scotty is stressed about the new design. Bones is a lovable crotchety grump about the new sick bay, but Kirk lays down the law and tells everyone to buckle up because humanity is at stake. Spock’s arrival aboard the Enterprise is easily one of best entrances ever. He’s bringing so much Vulcan stoicism that it approaches Eastwood levels of badass.
Thematically, this is just a remix of 2001, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The V’Ger AI had amassed tremendous quantities of information, but it had no human consciousness. It was an AI facing a Nietzschean existential crisis. Subsequently, it saw humans as pathogens to be eliminated. It wanted to evolve by merging with an actual human. If 2001 went over your head, Roddenberry repackaged the same idea for a younger generation. Now, folks like Ben Goertzel and Elon Musk are discussing these ideas openly.
The irony is that Roddenberry was a secular liberal globalist who had largely skeptical view of religion. While the show always presented the combination of Kirk’s human intuition and Spock’s ruthlessly rigorous scientific mind as a harmonious and heroic dynamic, the worldview itself leads to the barren ennui of V’Ger.
This is a minor gripe in what I consider the crown jewel of the Star Trek films featuring the original cast. Besides, you’re never going to see six full minutes of Kirk and Scotty just cruising through space dock taking in the glory of the USS Enterprise quite like this ever again.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Besides being one of the best sequels in modern cinematic history, it’s also a clever reimagining of Moby Dick and Paradise Lost. Even if you aren’t familiar with the literary references, the entire film can be seen as an extended exploration of one the RAND Corporation’s biggest exports: game theory. Specifically, the no-win situation.
The film opens with Kirstie Alley’s Lieutenant Saavik taking the now famous training simulation, the Kobayashi Maru. Rescue the Maru, and you violate the Neutral Zone treaty and precipitate hostilities with the Klingons. Ignore the signal and the crew dies. What’s a Starfleet cadet to do?
This conundrum is emblematic of the paradigm of enlightened scientific rationalism that has always been Star Trek’s calling card. We see the world through the eyes of a military starship captain. The welfare of the collective is always measured in terms of maximizing some Benthamite calculus. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.
This is also an early and explicit example of geoengineering in film. Where Star Trek Into Darkness completely bypassed the moral implications of geoengineering by justifying it under the aegis of the Prime Directive, much of the drama of The Wrath of Khan comes from the fulfillment of David Marcus’s fear that the Genesis Project could be weaponized. Just as we saw in Avatar, we see an unholy alliance between the world of scientific innovation and the military-industrial complex. The movies always trick you by making you think there’s a bright line between the motivations of scientists and the military hierarchy overseeing them.
David Marcus’s reconciliation with Kirk is very heartwarming, but his skepticism towards Starfleet and militarized science is not unfounded. Khan is himself the byproduct of genetic engineering gone awry.
What’s truly remarkable is just how restrained the overall tempo and volume of The Wrath of Khan is. It’s a film that allows the tension to build organically. Especially in comparison to the Abrams reboots. Maybe attention spans have been permanently diminished, but one gets the impression that Abrams doesn’t grasp what made Star Trek tick in the first place.
The ending still gets to me. My love for these original films is eternal. Absolutely classic.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Star Trek has always glorified scientific utopianism, but anyone who doubts that it is deeply spiritual at its core needs to give this one a spin. Not only is it loaded with Biblical symbolism, but the Vulcan ritual at the end is as pagan as it gets.
Despite Star Trek’s overt sympathies for globalism and scientism, this film levels a scathing critique at scientific hubris. The Genesis project may have raised Spock from the dead, but besides being a failure, it was sought by the Klingons to be utilized as a superweapon.
I feel sorry for anyone who really thinks that the Abrams reboots truly represent Star Trek. If you want to understand the difference between then and now, just marvel at the way Nimoy managed to make the Enterprise’s escape from space dock dramatic. It’s the kind of patient filmmaking you’ll never get from a JJ Abrams.
Aside from the very obvious Genesis/Lazarus symbolism, this film reveals that Star Trek is ultimately very concerned with spiritual questions but is packaging them in a veneer of scientific rationalism. Kirk undertook the mission because his soul was at stake.
I suspect that James Cameron borrowed from the katra ritual to some extent for the conclusion of Avatar.
Vulcan mysticism is very overtly pagan. I’d argue that it’s fundamentally Platonic.
Star Trek glorifies the achievements of Starfleet and the Federation, but almost every one of Kirk’s great achievements requires him to buck the bureaucracy and disobey orders.
Despite the radical scientific advancement that the Genesis project represented, it was a failure and it was sought by the Klingons so it could be exploited as a superweapon. Once again, you have the veneration of scientific advancement (e.g. warp capabilities, transporter tech, terraforming, etc) while simultaneously showing how these technologies can be weaponized.
Deep state assassin plays surrogate father for his deep fake GMO clone who’s trying to ruin his retirement.
I always feel a little bit dirty for being taken in by a film like this because you know that’s when its psychological toxins are taking root. Like Doctor Sleep, Gemini Man exceeded my minimal expectations. It is another piece of deep state chic about a super soldier assassin who is being targeted by his genetically engineered clone. The main gimmick here being the seamless integration of CGI effects on the Will Smith double.
When Henry and Junior finally meet, there is some genuinely compelling psychodrama as Henry tries to appeal to his conscience and his capacity for free will. It’s subject matter that has plenty of precedent in sci-fi, but it’s capably handled here. I was almost encouraged when Henry tries to dissuade Junior from pursuing the deep state assassin life and raise a family. But alas, I was let down in the final confrontation with Clay Verris, the bad surrogate father who raised Junior from the time he was just a test tube specimen.
Verris wanted to create an even better version of Henry. A soldier with all of his killer acumen and none of his defects, vulnerabilities, fears or doubts. This required filling the deficits of Henry’s single mother upbringing and being the father he never had. That means showing him…get this….love and affection. Scandalous. I think you can imagine what happens to Verris. I suppose it’s a form of cosmic justice since it wasn’t true, unconditional paternal love, but from a symbolism perspective, it’s another swing of the wrecking ball against the edifice of fatherhood.
Ramona Flowers turns in a likeable performance as another nu school archetype of feminine Wokegnosis. Academic smarts, combat capabilities, yet desexualized and semi-maternal all at once. All the checkboxes are filled out, but there’s just enough real humanity and vulnerability to make her engaging. Together, she and Henry form the kind of quasi-alchemical, artificial parenthood that the establishment hopes to normalize.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Every Hollywood film is a clever mixture of art and propaganda. Gemini Man is noteworthy because it is further proof that Hollywood is specifically propaganda for military black operations, espionage, mass surveillance and media, eugenics, artificial intelligence, and all manners of superweapons. It’s a big deal because the MSM narrative insists that the idea of a “deep state” is just a conservatard talking point. From a Hollywood perspective, it is normative to see portraits of espionage and black operations as heroic. Yet, they’re also telling you that these forces are the very first boots on the ground in any unstable region of the world deposing leaders, fomenting dissent and training death squads.
Not only does Gemini Man want you to believe that the black ops assassin is a great guy who is just doing his patriotic duty, it wants you to believe that he’s the guy who’s going to thwart the plans of people like Verris who take things a little too far. When Henry and his pals raise a glass, they toast to “the next war which is no war.” Don’t you want to believe it?
The film was shot at 60 fps as opposed to 24. While this was probably sold as a cutting edge effect, it is also probably includes the latest piece of hypnosis tech. This is also probably the test film for a new generation of deep fake technology. May God have mercy on our souls.
Back in the day, all the cool kids were unanimous in their opposition to puritanical scolds of the time, the PMRC. For those who didn’t live through it or simply don’t recall, the Parents Music Resource Center was a committee comprised predominantly of the wives of Washington elites who were Deeply Troubled by the lack of content warnings on major recordings. In short, they wanted a warning label on pop and rock records which contained racy lyrical content so they could theoretically police their kids’ purchases. Needless to say, the PMRC created a shitstorm of controversy, and the ensuing schism predictably arrayed public sentiment into two camps. The forces of secular liberal rock n’ roll freedom were set against the forces of stodgy, repressive secular conservatism. The PMRC’s crowning achievement was a televised Senate hearing in 1985 which ultimately ushered in the era of the Parental Advisory sticker warning on albums.
Despite the industry concession, the hearing produced three of the most memorable and pugilistic anti-censorship speeches ever delivered by modern musicians. Not the least of which was Frank Zappa’s combative diatribe. Who didn’t relish hearing Frank Zappa dish out such well deserved scorn and contempt on this self-appointed group of busybodies?
The PMRC got their warning sticker, but the entire crusade seemed like a pyrrhic victory. All it did was incentivize rockers to make records that would earn them the sticker. The Parental Advisory became a new badge of honor for the edgy rocker or rapper. What kid didn’t want to buy the album with the Parental Advisory warning? Musicians boasted about its instant appeal. At the end of the day, the PMRC seemed like an orchestrated stunt which ultimately emboldened and sanctified the rebellious rocker who gleefully held his middle finger aloft in permanent defiance of all would-be establishment moral authority. “Fuck off, prudes” was rock n’ roll’s permanent answer to any pleas for restraint from morality cops.
However, I believe the PMRC was a harbinger of a far more pernicious trend that has achieved its ultimate and inevitable conclusion in what has now been deemed Cancel Culture. The abiding lesson that the social engineer class likely recognized (planned?) from this exercise is that top down enforcement of morality doesn’t work. Subsequently, the various gatekeepers of cultural consensus who inhabit the academic, media and entertainment spheres have cleverly smuggled a tightly knit package of woke pieties into the public consciousness through a multigenerational indoctrination campaign that is now reaping its harvest. If you can succeed at encapsulating vast social evils into omnipresent yet infinitely subjective terms like “patriarchy”, “toxic masculinity” or “rape culture”, people won’t just accept censorship. They’ll actively police content for signs of transgression and demand it. It’s the type of Pavlovian style psychological conditioning that Aldous Huxley portrayed in vivid detail in Brave New World.
All of which brings me to John Legend and Kelly Clarkson’s abominable turd of a remake of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. To anyone who’s attuned to methods of the Missionaries of Wokegnosis, this is a sad inevitability. Any time you see a steady drip of woke thinkpieces in the media or gender studies papers bitching about something being “problematic” on one or more grounds of woke sin, you can predict with absolute and ironclad certainty that this particular piece of pop culture has been slated for demolition.
The ways that this remake is a pointless, hypocritical and destructive affront to a wonderful song are manifold, but the most egregious of which is the sanctimonious aura of moral authority that is implied by its very existence. The entire realm of rock and pop has maintained a posture of unrepentant hedonism and decadence since Elvis gyrated his hips on Ed Sullivan. “Fuck off, prudes” and “Don’t be rapey, you misogynistic bigot” are mutually exclusive positions. You can’t have it both ways, assholes.
Are they taking aim at Cardi b’s “Stripper Hoe” or Ariana Grande’s “Side to Side”? Of course not. Instead, they create a shitty revision of a beloved song just to virtue signal and score a few cheap #MeToo points from blue checkmarks on Twitter. Why? Because it’s easy. They can point the finger at The Past and tear down the achievements of others for failing to pass the fake moral purity test of the hashtag warriors.
The worldview which gave rise to this posture of pious censoriousness is straight out of the Herbert Marcuse School of Repressive Intolerance. It thrives on a presumption of an irreconcilable Left/Right dialectic in which all forms of convention or tradition which can be even loosely attributed to the Judeo-Christian worldview are forms of false consciousness which must be summarily torn down and remade in a progressive mold. Sadly, this is why the Missionaries of Wokegnosis cannot actually create anything of lasting value let alone anything people really want to consume. All they can do is infiltrate the legacy of works created by others and tear them down by imposing their idiotic and misguided ideology. These people simply cannot create original works that stand on their own merits. They can only desecrate the works of minds far superior to their own.
In retrospect, the PMRC seemed far more honorable than the woke revisionists of today because at least they were reasonably consistent about which songs they believed contained morally questionable or reprehensible content.
The same cannot be said about the phony #WOKE posturing of John Legend and Kelly Clarkson in their pointless and wretched revision of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. In an utterly shameless grab for virtue points from their online echo chamber, the song is nothing but a cavalcade of the same dumb clichés and platitudes that already permeate the culture. It’s bad enough that a company which manufactures shaving products for men has to push this toxic gruel into the public square, but it’s even worse that the simple pleasures that everyone could once enjoy during Christmas have to get a woke makeover.
Emma Watson has said she prefers to call herself "self-partnered" rather than single as she approaches her 30th birthday. https://t.co/5UVDVzahvS
This is ultimately what makes John Legend and Kelly Clarkson’s transformation into the Donnie and Marie of Cancel Culture just another contemptible manifestation of America’s descent into Clown World. The most decadent and compromised people on earth are dispensing moral lectures by ruining Christmas songs. Men and women can’t be flirtatious and fall in love anymore. Courtship and chivalry don’t exist. Subsequently, the ultimate virtue is for the man to treat women like radioactive material while encouraging her to #shoutyourabortion and be a “self-partnered” wine aunt. The sheer cynicism and hubris is what makes this truly detestable. It is designed to be the turd in the Christmas punchbowl. They knew it would spark a backlash and they’ll respond with some other predictably idiotic cliche about how they’re “just trying to start a conversation” or “raise awareness”. We’re not buying it, assholes. Do us all a favor and cancel your shitty and unnecessary remake.
When Apocalypse Now was released, it was heralded as a scathing indictment of the amorality of the Vietnam War. The war that divided America and defined an entire generation of alleged revolutionaries had finally been seen through the unflinching gaze of one of cinema’s greatest artists. In the wake of the release of Apocalypse Now: The Final Cut, the cinematic auteur himself has come clean and said that he doesn’t see it as an antiwar film. This is precisely the feeling with which I was left upon reviewing the film. It reveals the hot war in Vietnam as the merely the overt flipside to the domestic psychological degradation and debasement of the American soul being perpetrated through the media and the culture. If anything, Apocalypse Now reveals the savagery, futility and moral vacuum of modern warfare as its own form of psychological propaganda. The decadence and hedonism that had been unleashed in the counterculture were the exact same tools that were used to keep the ground forces numb to their own pain, loneliness and guilt. Sex, drugs and rock and roll weren’t the signifiers of rebellion that gatekeepers of culture would lead us to believe. The narcotic nihilism of The Doors’ “The End” playing against the symphony of destruction in the film’s opening isn’t really a lament. It’s a psychedelic sedative that’s meant to inoculate you to the juggernaut of inhumanity to which you are about to be subjected. These were the new chains of enslavement deployed by social engineers who had built their careers perfecting the means by which to erode the foundations of a healthy society. The combat was simply the laboratory in which the ideas were tested and the means by which the process was hastened.
Apocalypse Now makes this abundantly clear throughout the film in several different ways. The most obvious of which is the scene that Coppola himself concedes is a glorification of aerial combat. Lt. Colonel Kilgore revels in the fact that the Vietnamese are terrified by the sound of Wagner blaring over the helicopter squadron’s loudspeakers as they mercilessly slaughter the terrified civilians. The combination of aural psyops and aerial bombardment feels less like a rebuke and more like a celebration of American military dominance. Hell, you can even find articles discussing the possibility of video game adaptations. The practice of musical psyops has been extended into the era of Middle Eastern warfare with the only significant difference being the switch to heavy metal instead of 19th century operatic pagan mysticism. Same idea, different expressions.
The role of the media in advancing the domestic propaganda effort receives emphasis as well. When Willard arrives at the beachhead where Kilgore’s division is stationed, he is immediately met by a television crew directed by Coppola himself. In a meta moment, he instructs Willard to look like he’s engaged in combat. It’s a brief but highly effective scene because Coppola is revealing that the footage that would eventually be culled by Ken Burns and repackaged as hard hitting documentary was arguably just as stage managed as the fictitious effort you are viewing.
Despite the prevalence of Domino Effect narratives promulgated by the political class and official histories, Coppola goes one better by suggesting that the Viet Cong were yet another enemy created by the US government in a century that would be defined by wars fought for the express purpose of taking down manufactured boogeymen in service of the expansion of the Pax Americana. When Willard visits with the French colonists, he is given a lecture on American proxy warfare by Gaston de Marais.
Gaston de Marais: You Americans. In 1945, yeah, after the Japanese war, your president Roosevelt didn’t want the French people to stay in Indochina. So, you Americans implant the Vietnam.
Willard: [to Hubert] What’s he mean?
Hubert: Yeah, that’s true. The Vietcong were invented by the Americans, sir.
Willard: The Americans?
Gaston de Marais: And now you take the French place. And the Vietnam fight you. And what can you do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Later in the film, Kurtz’s sardonic reading of a Time magazine article suggests the naked and sanitized deception and the media were routinely peddling. The mention of Sir Robert Thompson’s affiliation with the neocons of the RAND Corporation simultaneously hints at the technocratic administration of the war effort while foreshadowing the eventual controlled release of the Pentagon Papers. As films like Wag the Dog and Network have so brilliantly illustrated, Hollywood has been completely forthright about the media’s rank mendacity and captured allegiance on numerous occasions. You need people as skillful as Steven Spielberg who can churn out agitprop like The Post to make the shills in the media seem heroic. This is ultimately what I believe Coppola was saying with Dennis Hopper’s drug addled photojournalist. Despite Kurtz’s murderous megalomania, Hopper remained enthralled by his poetic mystique. Hardly the behavior of an allegedly objective chronicler of America’s long term commitment in Vietnam.
Apocalypse Now offers what can now be seen as a fleeting moment in the ongoing politicization of sex. Once upon a time, liberals were actually promoting sexual liberation. They still do, but it’s been overshadowed by a lot of #MeToo moral grandstanding. Libidinous displays of female sexuality were simultaneously hailed as evidence of the liberated modern woman as well as a way to stick it to the conservative prudes. Coppola brings this to the forefront by portraying what amounts to a DOD sponsored strip show featuring Playboy playmates. Not only does it show how liberalism actively promotes sexual degeneracy, but it reveals Playboy as one of many forms of legal prostitution embedded within the entertainment complex.
If this seems like it’s a world away from the current cultural moment, it’s because liberals are a clever bunch. They carefully tend to the maintenance of both sides of the dialectic by deploying assets who can push the opposing perspective. They’ll happily peddle a former stripper like Cardi b in the mainstream while the entire feminist media complex will breathlessly extol the bravery of the #MeToo “movement”. Don’t believe me? Just ask feminist extraordinaire Gloria Steinem about her stint as a CIA asset and Playboy bunny.
Much like The Godfather, Apocalypse Now is a study in the real dynamics of American power. In one of many of Willard’s voice overs, he puzzles over the seemingly arbitrary decision to take Kurtz out. Kurtz was being groomed to take his place in the highest echelons of the American power structure. Because he had made the decision to step out of line and build his own cult of personality, he became a liability. His decorated status also made it necessary to make Kurtz’s retirement a black operation. It couldn’t be conducted through official channels because it would have been bad PR. It’s not about upholding any sacred honor or fixed morality. It’s about the preservation of the power structure at any cost.
Coppola also strongly suggests the link between the occult and the deep state. Kurtz had taken his considerable military training and transformed himself into a cult leader. I also believe that the appearances of Sir James George Frazer’s Golden Bough and Willard’s discovery of a newspaper article about Charles Manson were not accidents. Kurtz ended up being sacrificed at the altar of the death cult that bred him. His only transgression was carrying out his training without the sanction of his superiors.
In the paganistic final scene, Willard is immediately recognized as the new cult leader simply by virtue of slaughtering Kurtz. Three years after the release of Apocalypse Now, screenwriter John Milius directed a little sword and sorcery film called Conan the Barbarian starring a bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the film, he seeks vengeance against a cult leader who murdered his family. The final scene of Conan is deeply reminiscent of the conclusion of Apocalypse Now. The exact same premise of the gritty Vietnam War drama is effortlessly transferred over to the pulp fantasy epic. Hollywood doesn’t have a lot of tricks up its sleeve. If they’re recycling the same idea in two major motion pictures, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s a message they’re deeply invested in promoting.
I suppose I have to give Jim Jarmusch some credit. I watched another one of his films, and I was so disarmed by its laconic detachment and deadpan humor, I almost forgot that it masked his utter hatred for middle America. Almost. Admittedly, it’s a skill every Hollywood filmmaker needs to master, but like Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson, Jarmusch’s skill is above average. Not perfect mind you, but certainly above average. Almost no one knows how to write real characters or craft real drama in a screenplay anymore. Subsequently, any director who can imitate the gestures of actual filmmakers gets considered an auteur and attracts a loyal following amongst Hollywood’s A-listers. His films have a distinct directorial POV, but he’s also one of those guys who has made the terms “indie” and “quirky” into pejoratives. That’s Jarmusch in a nutshell.
The Dead Don’t Die is a quintessentially postmodern zombie film. Similar to Tarantino, the whole thing is simply layers of meta-references to other films and pieces of pop culture which ultimately reveal a hollow core of contempt. Adam Driver’s Officer Ronnie Peterson foreshadows the ending by repeating the refrain “This is definitely going to end badly”. With this wink and nod, Jarmusch is signaling that there are no dramatic stakes whatsoever. He even wrangles a cheap laugh by using it as a device for breaking the fourth wall and making some self-congratulatory inside jokes. It’s the Waiting for Godot of zombie films. Whatever pleasure you derive from the film rests on your enjoyment of the deadpan banter between the characters.
The film is essentially a giant pisstake on small town Middle America. With the Cohen brothers, you at least get a kernel of residual affection. No such luck with Jarmusch. To him, these people are just contemptible hicks and hayseeds who deserve the zombie apocalypse that’s coming. Naturally, he engages in some standard Hollywood virtue signaling. The minority characters are all plucky, intelligent, and interesting. The white characters are slow witted, unsophisticated, and charmless. Steve Buscemi is bestowed with the dubious honor of perpetuating Hollywood’s deathless strawman of the provincial, racist MAGA dirtbag. He stoops to a Sarah Silverman-esque depth of hatred by giving him a hat which reads “Make America White Again” and naming his dog Rumsfeld. OMG! IT’S A REFERENCE TO DONALD RUMSFELD. AND IT’S HIS DOG! ISN’T THAT FUCKING HILARIOUS YOU GUYS! Fuck you, Jarmusch. It’s bad enough that no one in Hollywood knows or cares about anyone in middle America, but the fact that this lazy, royalist condescension is so commonplace is just beyond the pale.
On the positive side, the film can be read as subtle nod to the role of geoengineering’s effect on climate change. The zombie apocalypse is triggered by something called “polar fracking”. In the film, it messes with earth’s rotation. What it probably refers to is some kind of tech that manipulates the electromagnetic spectrum since it messes with everyone’s devices. Jarmusch undoubtedly wants it to be seen as comeuppance for middle America’s indifference to or skepticism of The Climate Crisis. Like the globalist elites they represent, if you just get past the smoke and mirrors, Hollywood is always tipping its hand.
I believe the title of the film reveals the establishment’s exasperation with middle America. After years and years of global trade polcy which has decimated rural America, a flood of opoids into the communities, agribusiness consolidation and a neverending onslaught of propaganda which consistently casts flyover country in the most negative light possible, the global elites cannot stand that middle America will not just roll over and capitulate to their progressive overlords. To them, they’re already dead. And yet, they won’t die. So let’s pile on one more insult by just portraying them as zombies that need to be culled by some righteous Malthusians who are just being responsible stewards of Mother Earth.
Bonus points for Chloe Sevigny giving one of the most honest portraits of a female cop since Tyne Daly in The Enforcer. But that’s all you get, Jarmusch.
When he’s at his best, Steven Spielberg’s filmmaking gifts are so impressive that you almost overlook the propaganda he smuggles into his movies. Even a blatant piece of agitprop like The Post still managed to sustain my interest. Ready Player One is not quite up to the level as his 80’s classics, but it’s a welcome return to his blockbuster sensibilities. Spielberg is calling upon a considerable reservoir of technical and cultural resources for Ready Player One because he’s trafficking a pretty dubious message in very appealing cinematic wrapper. Besides being positively overstuffed with pop culture meta references, the film is a glimpse into the digital slave state currently under construction. Spielberg needs to call on every dark power at his disposal because he is asking the viewer to sympathize with yet another multicultural collection of youthful rabble rousers who also happen to be brave revolutionaries fighting for the right live in a digital fantasyland. That’s right, folks. It’s not about smashing the oppressive control grid and restoring order and virtue. It’s about saving it so we can chill with our online homies in between cockroach burgers, DMT vape hits and energy drinks made from recycled sewage water.
The film contains so many different references to other films and properties, but I would argue that one of the primary templates is one of Spielberg’s own creations: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Instead of a quest for a literal Holy Grail, Tye Sheridan uses his virtual avatar, Parzival, to acquire a digital Grail in the form of three keys. The winner of the contest would gain control of the global virtual playground known as the Oasis. As the Hiram Abiff/Steve Jobs virtual temple builder, Mark Rylance’s James Halliday is the object of Wade Watts’ obsession. You see, folks. Halliday was just another misunderstood science nerd who had a hard time being in the real world. We should view his contribution to a society full of braindead, antisocial dopamine addled tech junkies as an admirable achievement.
In contrast to the corporate fascists at IOI Corporation, Wade’s obsession with Halliday is earnest! The goons at IOI don’t really give a shit about what made Atari’s Adventure so great. Ben Mendelsohn’s Nolan Sorrento doesn’t really play Robotron while chilling to Duran Duran. Wade gets it, man. Wade is the Charlie Bucket to Halliday’s Willy Wonka. The good hearted kid who rose above his broken upbringing and found real connections by playing the vidya.
The pop culture overload of Ready Player One is designed to be part of the appeal, but when Wade tries to bond with Artemis all he can do is regurgitate pop culture references. It shows you how pernicious it is because it feels both sad and contemptible. I enjoy pop culture just as much as anyone, but Ready Player One is essentially showing you that the synthetic reality of pop culture is the material of the cyberprison system that’s being constructed all around us. When Samantha/Artemis is captured, she is forced into a containment cube and electronically sealed into a VR helmet. Spielberg is telling you point blank that VR is the limitless utopia, but it’s also the means by which mental and neural enslavement is achieved. The thirst for being able have virtual sex in the Pandoran jungle will ultimately supersede any impulse to live in the real world. Because the real world just sucks, man!
Spielberg tries to have it both ways though. Thankfully, he does give you a rare and sweet romance between Wade and Samantha (heterosexuality?! GASP!), and you are led to believe he’s affirming life in the real world. But it’s a trick. Wade only shuts down the Oasis for two days out of the week.
Just as we witnessed in his seminal blockbusters, there is fairly overt Masonic and occult symbolism in Ready Player One. Isaac Weishaupt has identified the most prominent symbolism in the film, but I think there are two that warrant emphasis. The demonic image on Aech’s van can be read another signifier of the film’s Luciferian subtext. In this case, I propose that the meta reference is the key. The Face of the Great Green Devil contains a sphere of annihilation in Dungeons and Dragons lore. In other words, your character will be destroyed if you fall or climb in. I suggest that the entire Oasis is itself a giant sphere of annihilation. A digital Tomb of Horrors.
The real kicker is the entire reference to The Shining. In order to obtain one of the keys, the heroes enter a simulation of Kubrick’s Shining. The normies will read it as an homage, but I suggest that Jay Dyer’s analysis of the film is relevant here. In the original, we see the appearance of Jack Torrance’s image in a vintage photo at a party attended by elites. In Ready Player One, Torrance’s image is replaced with Halliday’s. Why is this significant? Assuming that Kubrick was revealing the occultist practices of the global elites, the inclusion of a tech mogul in Torrance’s place seems pretty consequential. Given that a connection between Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein has just been revealed in mainstream media outlets, it seems like confirmation.
The ending is meant to have the same triumphant feeling as Charlie Bucket’s acquisition of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but Halliday’s final line feels more cynical than sweet. We’re meant to see Wade as the clever and principled extension of Halliday, but Wade is really a lab experiment. He’s not congratulating him for his ingenuity. He’s thanking him for willingly submitting to his global social engineering experiment. Spielberg is counting on the same thing from you.
If one peruses the various lists of top works of dystopian sci-fi bouncing around the internet, a handful of titles appears pretty consistently. It should come as little surprise that Aldous Huxley’s seminal novel from 1932, Brave New World, appears at or near the top of many of these lists. Its vaunted position in the culture is well deserved for both its chilling prescience and its taut but vivid prose. However, there’s a gigantic irony that is lost in most of these lists. It’s really a peek into the utopia that progressives have been working toward. Yes, I said UTOPIA. Most progressives would lead you to believe that they and they alone are uniquely attuned to the dangers of an encroaching totalitarianism. It’s really a cartoonish “fascism” that’s been ingrained into the cultural dialogue thanks in large part to Frankfurt School works such as The Authoritarian Personality. Progressives will get far more outraged over a film that has insufficient ratio of gender and racial diversity then they will over a multi-trillion dollar half-baked outline of a wholesale reconstruction of the US economy. They’ll take the latter as an article of faith, but will decry the former as a crime against humanity. What Huxley is doing in this novel is telling you exactly the future progressives intend to implement. For anyone not blinkered by Trump Derangement Syndrome or Progressivism in general, Brave New World does read as a dystopia. Like his fellow Fabian socialist, George Orwell, Huxley isn’t attempting to warn the world of the dangers of a technocratic global world order. He’s simply attempting to prepare you for what he and his fellow plutocrats and oligarchs are planning.
The future Brave New World envisioned is already upon us in many ways. The book simply takes it to its fullest conclusion. All manners of genetic engineering, including eugenics and ectogenetic procreation, are the norm for all the “civilized” portions of society. Pavlovian conditioning, which includes hours of hypnopaedic sleep conditioning, has been perfected to produce a rigidly stratified class system. An elite caste of high IQ Alphas and Betas are tasked with management of the world state power centers while Deltas and Epsilons do the unpleasant drudgery. Obedience to the system is reinforced through mandatory consumption of a mood enhancing drug called soma. The manipulation of emotions is scientifically managed by propaganda engineers through immersive entertainment called “feelies”. High art and the very notion of objective beauty has been obliterated. In other words, it’s an extrapolation of what the Silicon Valley, Hollywood and deep state technocratic elite are currently doing. All vestiges of the nuclear family have been abolished. Children are forced to learn “erotic play” from an early age and are taught to treat sex as pure recreation. Women practice birth control by wearing Malthusian belts, and are expected to have many partners as a matter of course. As a result of the advances in gene therapy, no one ages. People are simply sent to death preparation centers where they receive a steady drip of television until they finally expire and are sent to the crematoriums.
The plot centers around an Alpha named Bernard Marx who has ventured out of the cities in order to experience life among the “savages”. He finds a woman who left the World State and bore a child as nature intended. She taught her son, John, to read through two books – a scientific manual and the complete works of Shakespeare. Despite this seemingly scant education, he is able to access and express worlds of emotion and meaning that have stamped out of existence amongst the “civilized” population of the World State.
1984 tends to be credited as the quintessential dystopian novel, but I’d argue that Brave New World is the template for all contemporary sci-fi and by extension, the New World Order itself. From the mass death rituals of Logan’s Run to the enforced eugenics of Gattaca to the technocratic pharmacological nightmare of THX 1138, the seeds are all found in Brave New World. Even the cheeseball hyper-PC future of Demolition Man is straight out of the Huxley template.
The only thing that’s really missing from Huxley’s vision is artificial intelligence. Simply add in the digital panopticon to help enforce ideological conformity and the progressive utopian template is more or less complete. There’s even a Burning Man-like unification ritual complete with drugs and electronic music. It’s everything progressives promote in one novel.
(aka Establishment Gen X Aristocrat Canonizes the Boomer Would-be Revolutionaries For Other Aging Boomers)
There’s one scene in Andrew Slater’s love letter to the seminal Laurel Canyon musicians that sums up the entire film. In one of many interview segments led by Jakob Dylan, Graham Nash gets all misty eyed as he looks back on those heady days of creative ferment and unbridled hedonism. “I still believe music can change the world,” he says just barely holding back the tears. Just then, it cuts to Jakob Dylan as he let’s Nash’s words hang in the air. He stares off into the distance, but to his credit, his expression reveals nothing. Maybe he’s taking in the full weight of Nash’s sentiment and genuinely feels a sense of humility. Or maybe he’s silently scoffing at Nash’s audacity for uttering such a pitifully idiotic and painfully maudlin platitude that no one really buys. Maybe he knows that Nash is just regurgitating a mythology that needs to be perpetually reinforced through books, awards shows and rockumentaries. Maybe it’s something in between.
Much like its recent companion, Rolling Thunder Revue, Echoin the Canyon has the distinct whiff of the establishment patting itself on the back. These were musicians who presented themselves as rule breaking revolutionaries, yet the film wants you see them as the torchbearers of the rock “tradition”. Herein lies the great conundrum that the Flower Power Generation cannot reconcile. As anyone who’s read David McGowan’s excellent and far superior survey of the Canyon scene knows, these people were already children of the establishment. They made great music, but they were also trafficking a lot of social degeneracy. The film only scratches the surface of the extent of the hedonism these people were importing into the culture.
I’m sure it felt really transgressive to be for tuning in, turning on and dropping out back then. But this was the generation that turned out a generation of latchkey kids. This is the generation that ushered in higher divorce and suicide rates and enshrined abortion as an article of faith. This is the generation that got hooked on cocaine in the 80s and gave rise to innumerable cults and self-help gurus. This is the generation that colonized Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the Democratic Party. Can music change the world? Of course it can. But what kind of “change” are we talking about exactly?
As expected, there is no mention of the dark underbelly of the Canyon scene. They completely sidestep the body count and the mysterious deaths that amassed around these people. They completely ignore Charles Manson’s proximity to the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas. There’s no discussion of the various mob, military and CIA connections behind the clubs and the record industry. This may explain why the scene in which Beck, Regina Spektor and Dylan attempt to philosophize over the broader cultural impact of these bands feels forced, artificial and utterly laughable.
They talk about the drugs and the sex, but you know they’ve completely sanitized it. Hearing Michelle Phillips talk about her affair with Denny Doherty isn’t titillating or cute. It’s pathetic and contemptible because it radiated out into the culture and wrought tragic results. Where were the uncensored interviews with Carnie and Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips to give their unfiltered perspective on what it was like to grow up with these paragons of parental excellence? These people knew exactly what they were doing, yet we’re expected to treat them like royalty.
This is it, folks. After 22 films in 11 years, this phase of the MCU has come to an end. As far as big budget superhero franchises go, Endgame gives the audience the most satisfying conclusion for which a fan could hope in 2019. In contrast to the haphazard agenda heavy abortions of the Star Wars universe under Kathleen Kennedy’s stewardship, the MCU was conceived to hang together as a cohesive whole from its inception. At minimum, Kevin Feige and company deserve credit for shepherding a 22 film series through one continuous storyline which resolves with a real sense of closure. Endgame wraps up several character arcs for many of the key Avengers while setting the stage for the next generation of MCU heroes. As one would expect, it’s not without flaws nor is it devoid of progressive messaging we’ve come to expect from every big ticket franchise. The main difference between the MCU and its Disney companion franchise is that you at least get the impression that Kevin Feige’s crew still likes the characters and the fans. For now. With the introduction of the thoroughly detestable Brie Larson as the ostensible leader of the Avengers going forward, I am certainly not optimistic that this trend will continue. If the blatant pandering of Black Panther and Captain Marvel are any indication of the future of Marvel, then it is indeed bleak. Given the early signals from Feige, I’m expecting the MCU to crater just as spectacularly as the vile garbage heap known as The Last Jedi.
Endgame picks up where Infinity War leaves off. Thanos succeeded in depopulating half the universe. The remaining Avengers are left to face their defeat and find a way to be normal now that their comrades and loved ones have been vaporized. Tony and Pepper finally settled down and had a kid. Clint Barton was also enjoying being a family man before Thanos zapped his family out of existence and forced him to turn to vigilantism. Black Widow has basically become a shift supervisor at the Avengers help desk. The Cap tries to make a career transition to grief counselor. In a futile attempt to score points with the SJWs, he offers comfort to a gay dude at a session. Being the ungrateful, miserable shitbags they are, the Cap gets no credit for being an empathetic ally.
Scott Lang comes back from the quantum realm with a wild idea. He thinks they can hack time travel, get the Infinity Stones before Thanos, and bring back everyone who was wasted by the snap. Cap and Black Widow are sold, but they just don’t have the scientific chops. Bruce Banner tries, but he’s out of his depth. They’re forced to make an appeal to the best scientific mind in the erstwhile Avengers organization: Tony Stark. Tony has an adorable daughter, and is enjoying the simple life that was unavailable to him as a full time Iron Man. Not only does he see major problems in hacking time, he doesn’t want to give up his hard won domestic happiness. But Tony being Tony, he simply can’t let it go. So the Avengers plot one final gambit for all the marbles. Get the band back together one last time, hack time, get the Infinity Stones before Thanos, and bring back everyone else. No problem, man! These are the mothafuckin’ Avengers after all!
As expected, we say farewell to many of our beloved Avengers. Some farewells are more satisfying than others. I’ll discuss the resolutions of the three central Avengers from worst to best.
Frigga: Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be, Thor. The measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.
The closure of Thor’s story is by far the most undignified and insulting to this former God of Thunder. Thor was the most regal, masculine and distinctly Nordic character in the franchise. Subsequently, we see the pathological anti-white, anti-male, anti-tradition agenda on full display. When Rocket and Banner seek out Thor to enlist him for the time heist, they discover he’s become a reclusive, overweight drunk in New Asgard. Besides being racked with guilt over his inability to vanquish Thanos the first time, he’s also struggling with grief and PTSD over the loss of his entire family and homeland. In contrast to the arbitrary decision to turn Luke Skywalker into an emotionally defeated hermit, Thor’s situation actually makes sense given all that has happened. Thor has been through some serious shit. However, this doesn’t justify the absolutely wretched resolution of his story.
During the time heist, Thor is briefly reunited with his doomed mother. She correctly surmises that he’s the future Thor and that he’s crushed by sorrow and a misplaced sense of failure and guilt. She offers the kind of consolation only a mother could give, but instead of encouraging him to shake it off and get his ass in gear, she absolves him of any responsibility to his familial legacy. Just chillax with Peter Quill and Rocket, son. It’s all good.
So what does he do? He hands over the throne of New Asgard to fucking Valkyrie! That’s right. The son of Odin, the dude who was once in love with Jane Foster, decides to forego any responsibility to the survivors of Asgard or his heritage and just go kick it with the Guardians of the Galaxy. He doesn’t want to have kids or preserve the cultural legacy of Asgard for posterity. Come on, Marvel! Adding to the blatantly anti-European sentiment of Thor: Ragnarok, Civil War and Age of Ultron, the conclusion to Thor’s story in Endgame is the MCU’s final insult to European traditionalism. Never mind that Valkyrie was canonically portrayed as a rather voluptuous Norse goddess who was romantically involved with Thor. Nope. New Asgard is woke and multicultural now. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is going to “make some changes around here”. #TheFutureIsFemale, you white supremacist, Asgardian misogynists!
Steve Rogers: Avengers! Assemble.
With all due respect to pre-Gadot Wonder Woman and pre-Snyder Superman, Captain America is arguably the biggest patriot of all superheroes. He is Captain America, after all. Despite the MCU’s post-national, globalist agenda, they managed to treat the Cap fairly respectfully and give him a decent resolution. They were able to cheat along the way, but Chris Evans and the Marvel team made me believe in the MCU Captain America. Of course, they were able to pull this off pretty effortlessly in The First Avenger because it was set in WW2. HYDRA was the secret military-intelligence wing of the Nazi Party, and Red Skull was even more diabolical than Adolf Hitler. Since everyone already hates Nazis, Steve Rogers’ yearning to join the Army and fight for America and SHIELD made sense even in Obama’s America in 2011.
Fast forward to 2014’s Winter Soldier, the Cap has been unfrozen after 74 years and is still trying to get his bearings in the modern world. He didn’t have to take sides over Vietnam, Watergate, the JFK assassination or the Civil Rights movement. He didn’t have the opportunity to formulate an opinion on Roe v. Wade, The Great Society, The Pentagon Papers, the Church Committee hearings, the Kosovo War, the 2008 market crash, the Iraq War or the PATRIOT Act. Nor was he aware that SHIELD had absconded with the Tesseract or that they secretly conscripted HYDRA scientists. He just tries to get back into action by doing what he does best. Serve. The problem is that SHIELD is a multinational operation now. The threats are not nation states. They’re intergalactic. Even worse, they’re coming from HYDRA double agents who’ve infiltrated SHIELD. Despite the multinational nature of SHIELD, he still believes that it can be restored to its proper status. The only moral imperative was rooting out the HYDRA subversives. Cap’s instincts were correct and he gives a great speech, but no direct appeals to American patriotism are necessary.
In Civil War, the Cap is forced to reckon with the fact that the Avengers can’t be lawless vigilantes who are accountable to no one. They must subordinate themselves to oversight. Marvel was once again able to completely sidestep the Cap’s loyalty to America as defined place with specific customs, traditions and laws. They simply portrayed him as a generic individualist dissident who was justifiably skeptical of World Security Council bureaucracy. Cap becomes an outlaw to the organization who commissioned the super soldier program that made him in the first place. It’s appropriate that the Cap would do what he did in Civil War, but they jettisoned his patriotism again in the process.
By the time we get to Infinity War, the Cap is sporting a Ted Kaczynski beard and his formerly red, white and blue uniform is more befitting of someone in Antifa. Because of his falling out with Tony, he no longer possesses his iconic shield. In Endgame, Tony and Steve enjoy a hard won restoration of their friendship and alliance as Avengers. When Tony pulls the shield out of his trunk, and gives it to Steve Rogers, it at least feels like Captain America has been made symbolically whole again.
In the final act, Steve Rogers time travels backwards to return Thor’s hammer and the Infinity Stones to their original timelines. Upon his return to the present, we discover that he has pulled a Dave Bowman and comes back an old man. We learn that he chose to live his life in the past with his true love, Peggy Carter. All by itself, it’s a sweet resolution for Steve Rogers. But Marvel being the postmodern relativists and social engineers that they are couldn’t leave it there. Steve bestows his iconic shield to Sam Wilson and thus presumably passing the mantle of Captain America along with it.
On the surface, it seems appropriate and earned given that Sam has been steadfast in his loyalty to the Cap. But the whole reason fans bond with fantasy characters is their uniqueness and specificity. A great character is someone you feel like you know. Steve Rogers went through a unique journey to become Captain America. The super soldier serum simply allowed him to exhibit strength that was a match for the strength of his patriotism and sense of duty. If an iconic character like Captain America is just a software app that can be run on any meatsack operating system, why put any effort into crafting any character? Steve Rogers was Captain America. Sam Wilson is Falcon. But none of that matters now. We’re in the Age of the Final Revolution and the very notions of nationhood, manhood and gender are on trial in the public square. Certainly, the idea of a superhero with a fixed identity is as much an interchangeable part as the protective case for your smartphone. Does this mean Sam will undergo the same super soldier treatment that gave Rogers his heightened abilities? Or is he just going to continue to be Falcon but with Captain America’s vibranium shield?
On an even deeper level, what will Captain America even mean going forward? Unfortunately, Sam Wilson tipped the MCU’s hand.
Sam Wilson: Only thing bumming me out is the fact that I have to live in a world without Captain America.
Despite Anthony Mackie’s considerable appeal, this move is clearly more calculated pandering. If this is a passing of the torch, expect Captain America to be a cinematic leader of the #RESISTANCE from this point forward. Marvel has attempted numerous character reboots in the comics, and fans have always reacted negatively. You can’t just take a character like Captain America, Thor or Iron Man and make him a black dude or a woman just so you can score points with the SJWs. None of these failures stops them though. They are more invested in the cultural engineering than great storytelling at this point. And that’s too bad. It puts a slightly bitter aftertaste to what felt like a well earned happy ending.
Tony Stark: It’s not about how much we lost. It’s about how much we have left. We’re the Avengers. We gotta finish this. You trust me?
Steve Rogers: I do.
I complain so bitterly about the MCU’s missteps because I genuinely believe that what they get right almost negates everything they bungle. Almost. The premise with which you are presented in the Avengers franchise is yet another set of archetypal misfits, outcasts, and alphas who have to learn to rise above their own limitations and petty grievances in order to work together as a team. Of all the Avengers, the person most hobbled by narcissism and grievance is also its most brilliant scientific mind.
When we see Tony finally fulfill the dream of fatherhood he shared with Pepper in Infinity War, it already feels like a happy ending. He traversed a long personal distance from the self-involved playboy we met in the first Iron Man to the devoted father we see in Endgame, and it feels like a truly heroic growth arc. The scenes with Tony and his daughter are among the sweetest moments ever captured in the MCU. Despite all the destruction porn and CGI whizbang, this is the stuff that gives the MCU a human soul. Being a leader of the earth’s mightiest heroes still doesn’t compare to the simple pleasures of being a dad.
Tony gets an even bigger emotional payoff in Endgame. Aside from his newfound fatherhood and his reconciliation with the Cap, he has a reunion with his own father during his detour into a 1970 SHIELD facility to acquire Pym Particles and the Tesseract. As he leaves the facility, he encounters Howard Stark who is anticipating his own birth. They share a brief but awkwardly touching scene in which Tony is able to express the gratitude he was never able to give while he was alive. Again, this is the stuff that gives the MCU real emotional weight, and dare I say it, a smidgen of dramatic maturity.
When Tony joins the Avengers in pulling off the time heist, the stakes are even higher because he has something to lose he never had before. We’re rooting for him like never before. The cruel joke is of course that our tech savvy savior is a proxy for the military-industrial complex. This is the guy who unwittingly unleashed Ultron on the world. This is the guy who builds military hardware, bombs, and AI powered armored suits. How can you make that character palatable? By casting the most charismatic working actor who goes through an unprecedented eight film arc and delivers all the most smartass lines, that’s how.
Tony Stark: I saw this coming a few years back, I had a vision, but I didn’t want to believe it. Now it’s true. What we needed was a suit of armor around the world! Remember that? Whether it impacted our precious freedoms or not, that’s what we needed!
Tony is a sort of military-industrial transhuman Jesus. He seeks the same thing Thanos did: ultimate power. A device which can snuff out half of the universe with a finger snap. We don’t know how the Infinity Gauntlet can filter out its targets, but we just accept that Tony will succeed in vaporizing only Thanos and his minions. His final sacrifice ends up making the resurrection of the previously fallen Avengers a triumphant denouement. It’s quite a feat that Marvel succeeded in placing your sympathies with a weapons manufacturer who acquires the ultimate weapon, but that’s essentially what Robert Downey Jr. and Marvel have achieved here. When he’s drawing his last breath, Pepper informs him the she and their daughter will be okay. That’s great, Marvel. Hooray for Pepper. Not only can she wear the Iron Man suit and run Stark Industries, but she can raise her daughter without a father, too. Yay, feminism.
Tony Stark: Quantum fluctuation messes with the Planck’s scale, which then triggers the Doidge proposition. Can we agree on that? In layman’s terms, it means, you are not coming home.
As I’ve written previously, I don’t go into any sci-fi film expecting pure scientific realism. That’s especially true of the MCU. I’m fine with Infinity Stones, magical hammers, and talking raccoons who pilot spaceships. However, when a film spends 5 or more seconds trying to explain its wildest speculations like the way they did in Interstellar, The Martian or Endgame, you can bet your bottom dollar they’re attempting drop some metaphysics or reach for the furthest limits of established scientific thought. In other words, they’re trying to directly influence your perception of reality itself. Time travel is nothing new in science fiction. Endgame even makes some clever meta references to other time travel films. But what are the metaphysical presumptions behind all this?
The deepest mysteries of the universe are physical. In order to access the quantum realm, they need Pym Particles. Essentially, matter will allow our heroes to access immaterial dimensions of time and move backwards and forwards. Similar to Interstellar and 2001, Endgame posits that metaphysical concepts like time, love and intelligence are locked inside the material substance of the observed universe. It’s a twist on the alchemist’s quest for the philosopher’s stone.
Time is merely an algorithm to be hacked. The Avengers didn’t really have to face defeat or failure. They didn’t really have to own the consequences of their decisions. Some timelines can be rewritten, but most are to be left alone. It symbolizes a scientistic resurrection myth. Subsequently, concepts that were once the exclusive province of religious faith can be substituted with a belief in #SCIENCE.
But it’s just a Marvel movie, dude! Yes. That’s precisely the point. It’s a Marvel movie that happens to be the second largest grossing film of all time. These things are never made without an underlying cultural programming agenda. There are aspects of the MCU that are already a reality. AI, robotics, drones, mass surveillance and all manners of smart tech are already a reality. Even the idea of a mind controlled super soldier is closer to reality than you might think. The MCU combines the outrageously fantastical with the real world in ways that most sci-fi films only attempt. When Tony Stark injects subcutaneous nanotechnology for the purpose of summoning his suit more easily, it’s because they want the idea of tech implants to seem sexy and cool. After all, if TONY STARK uses nanotech implants, don’t you? I mean, come on! Captain America was using facial recognition technology to search for Thanos! Why are you getting so spooked by airline kiosks that use it, bro? Stop being so PARANOID! You must listen to Alex Jones or something.
Steve Rogers: We’ve been hunting Thanos for three weeks now – through face scans and satellites, so far we’ve got nothing. Tony, you fought him…
Tony Stark: What are you talking about? I didn’t fight him. No, he wiped my face with a planet while the wizard gave away the store. That’s what happened, there’s no fight…
I also have a hunch that Hollywood is trying to manufacture a resolution between quantum mechanics and relativity through movies. In Interstellar, Cooper time travels by passing through a black hole. In Endgame, they’re using Pym Particles in a device built by the Avengers. In one film, you’re seeing a hypothetical object with zero volume and infinite gravity. In another, you’re seeing an imaginary substance being used to power a machine that can do something that only exists in sci-fi films. But Tony sure sounded like he knew what he was talking about, didn’t he?
Globalism Über Alles
Thanos: I thought by eliminating half of life, the other half would thrive, but you have shown me… that’s impossible. As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those, that are unable to accept what can be. They will resist. I will shred this universe down to it’s last atom and then, with the stones you’ve collected for me, create a new one. It is not what is lost but only what it is been given… a grateful universe.
This quote represents the underlying sentiment animating Endgame and the entire MCU. It shouldn’t be a mystery that the MCU is one giant hymn to globalism. Mass destruction and depopulation has been recurring theme. We saw it in WinterSoldier, Age of Ultron, Ragnarok and Infinity War.
Closely resembling Erik Killmonger’s monologue in BlackPanther, this quote will be another interesting litmus test. How many fans are going to find this sentiment repellent? He sounds like a full fledged member of the #RESISTANCE to me.
Besides, how would Tony’s plan be an improvement? He said he wanted a suit of armor around the planet. Freedoms be damned. Don’t think he’s the only one in SHIELD who feels that way. Pick your globalist poison, proles. Mass depopulation or technocratic superstate panopticon. How about both? Heads, we win. Tails, you lose.
Captain Marvel, the WTF and Other Cringe
Bruce Banner: If we do this, how do we know it’s going to end any differently than it did before?
Carol Danvers: Because before, you didn’t have me.
James Rhodes: Hey, new girl? Everybody in this room is about that superhero life. And, if you don’t mind my asking, where the hell have you been all this time?
Carol Danvers: There are a lot of other planets in the universe, and, unfortunately, they didn’t have you guys.
Kevin Feige, thank you very much. I hope you’re enjoying this moment because your decision to bring fucking Brie Larson into the next phase of the MCU is your first major Rian Johnson moment. I’m confident it won’t be your last either.
Like many others, I saw the 11th hour inclusion of Captain Marvel (aka Captain RBF) after the cliffhanger of Infinity War as an ill omen. No one really wants or gives a shit about a jerry rigged sop to the SJWs whose undergone a gender swap and at least nine comic book reboots. This is Marvel desperately grasping for a competitor to Wonder Woman that they simply don’t have. Even worse, they cast SJW supreme, Brie Larson, to play her. The good news is that she doesn’t fuck anything up. The bad news is that even for the short time she’s there, the cringe is palpable. She even sports the Hillary Clintonesque haircut in one scene.
Naturally, Endgame genuflects to the Church of Feminism in numerous ways throughout the film. At this point, it has become its own cliché despite the pretense of “smashing stereotypes”. It’s merely matters of degree. Even Black Widow’s sacrifice for Clint Barton has a slightly unpleasant SJW aftertaste. Aside from the abominable decision to hand New Asgard over to Valkyrie, there is one major, utterly cringeworthy sop to the SJWs in the final battle. Look, I got a kick out of Eowyn dispatching the Nazgûl in Return of the King, too. Not only is this a retread of an almost identical scene in Infinity War, you just know the Russo brothers are pandering directly to the writers of TheMary Sue and Teen Vogue when they do this stuff. Writers who are simply going to bitch about how it wasn’t intersectional enough anyway.
While we’re on the subject, Captain Marvel can bring down Thanos’ ship single handedly, but she needs the Avengers sisterhood to cross the battlefield? And they all happened to be congregated there at that moment? This is Admiral Holdo grade shit, dudes. She’s been doing the work of the entire Avengers crew on other planets, but she’s incapable of defeating Thanos on her own? Captain Marvel added nothing to the film, and her presence in the final battle carried no dramatic weight because she simply hasn’t gone through the same journey the rest of the Avengers have. This is storytelling 101. It’s something Kevin Feige and company only selectively grasp, but they have an agenda that trumps common sense.
The decision to turn Hulk into a CGI-enhanced analogue of Mark Ruffalo’s real world soy latte beta persona was also a bit of a disappointment. This is a superhero whose superpower is going on Gamma radiation roid rampages. He got his ass handed to him by Thanos and his moment of redemption is putting on the Infinity Gauntlet and snapping everyone back? Whatever.
And why the fuck was Captain America able to wield Thor’s hammer?! It’s cool, but come on, dudes. Did I miss something? I know this is Endgame and everything, but this is like Rey kicking Kylo Ren’s ass with the lightsaber in the first encounter. I can buy Pepper wearing the Iron Man suit because they at least made the effort of setting the precedent in Iron Man 3. In Age of Ultron, it seemed pretty clear that no one could wield the mjolnir except Thor and Vision.
Where do Feige and company go from here? Nowhere good from my vantage point. I expect everything that’s wrong with this phase of the MCU will be amplified. Every mistake they’ve made with comics will be transferred over to the films with no lessons learned and no meaningful concessions to fans.
Brie Larson has already signed on for seven fucking films! If that alone doesn’t chill your blood, then perhaps preachy, forced identity politics are your cup of tea. Kevin Feige and the Disney Corporation will enjoy taking your money.
Endgame was as satisfying a conclusion to this phase of the MCU as I could have hoped. The actors and the writers succeeded in making me believe that they actually cared about these characters and fans slightly more than political correctness. Sadly, that’s the benchmark for success in this Aeon of #SocialJustice. Given the weight of the mandates imposed by the woke intelligentsia at Disney, it’s as as good as it can be. What could it have been if the writers weren’t hobbled by PC orthodoxy and actually were hired for their passion for the material and characters? Ironically, those speculations are now the province of real fantasy. Such is life in clown world in 2019.