HULK VS. PLOT-HOLES AND MOVIE LOGIC!

October 31, 2012


HEY EVERYBODY!

THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT PLOT-HOLES LATELY SO HULK THOUGHT HULK WOULD THROW HULK’S HAT INTO THE RING ON THE WHOLE THING! CHECK IT OUT HERE:

http://badassdigest.com/2012/10/30/film-crit-hulk-smash-hulk-vs.-plot-holes-and-movie-logic/

<3 HULK!

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16 Responses to “HULK VS. PLOT-HOLES AND MOVIE LOGIC!”

  1. Scallat said

    Great as usual Hulk!

    I always say that the reason I couldn’t get on board with Prometheus is that I noticed the logic errors DURING the movie instead of on my way home. If I’m thinking about that stuff then that means I haven’t really been captivated by the scene and it’s indicative of a bigger problem with the film.

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      REMEMBER, IT’S NOT JUST CAPTIVATION, BUT PURPOSE. IF ONE OF THE CHARACTERS HAD SOME DRIVING INTEREST OR MOTIVATION THAT MADE SENSE TO YOU DURING THE PLOT HOLE YOU WOULD BE FOLLOWING THAT EMOTIONAL ANCHOR, AND INSTEAD, YOU WERE LEFT TO FLAP ABOUT IN THE WIND OF NONSENSE!

  2. hulk is the on of may favourite comic hero i always like this big green guy

  3. [...] as filmCriticHULK says – film is a magic trick. it doesn’t matter what you think later on, if it totally [...]

  4. drayfish said

    I know you don’t mean it, Film Crit Hulk – I know it’s probably just a weird overcompensation for the (I now believe totally self-defeating) quirk you have of writing in the all-caps – but at this point I worry that your means of talking to your audience is becoming rather demeaning.

    In this article you seem to be talking to your readers as though they have suffered a head injury, tiptoeing around in case they freak out and think that you’re yelling at them again. For me, at least, the tone of this article comes across as: ‘Don’t worry, you poor fools, I’m not mad – it’s just that you don’t realise that everything you are saying and feeling is wrong…’

    I mean, spending an entire article talking about the need to disillusion oneself of slavishly seeking for cause and effect in every narrative’s plot points, only to wheel back around to complaints about Mass Effect 3, where you again dismiss basic narrative structure as immaterial to meaning? …It seems, at best, a rather petulant stretch, at worst, evidence that your entire methodology of analysis might be based solely upon head canon.

    Indeed, there is so much wrong with this position (despite it being dressed up in a plea to meet a text on its own terms) that it is difficult to know where to start. And although I am keeping firmly in mind that not everyone reads the end of ME3 in the way that I do (clearly I know that you do not), I will nonetheless start there…

    Firstly: drawing an analogy between Biff returning in the Delorean to Marty McFly in a sci-fi comedy, with Mass Effect 3′s fundamental textual advocation of war crimes in a narrative designed to be a recursive reflection of the player’s own moral outlook, is ludicrous. Just absurd.

    That you still believe the issues with Mass Effect rest solely in the realms of logistical complaints like ‘Well-how-did-the-Normandy-reach-the-drop-zone-so-quickly-when-it-was-just-with-the-other-fleet?’, unjustly boils down the opinions of anyone who fails to see the ‘majesty’ you gleaned in your uber-metaphorical reading of the ending to one grey paste of reactionary criticism. You have simply, patronisingly, dismissed all criticisms as tarted up nitpicking.

    And I get what you are trying to say. Indeed, in many ways I agree with what you are positing. You are attempting to say: ‘Film narrative is an emotive as well as a logical panoply of experience that feeds into and excites one another in myriad, inexplicable ways…’

    But what you are actually offering is a rather loquacious means of declaring: ‘Narratives are for real viewers, and you dissatisfied audience members are not viewing properly. So rather than bitching about tedious plot inaccuracies that only an obsessive would care about, try experiencing the film correctly, like I do.’

    All of which is a ridiculous reduction of the issues you claim to be addressing anyway.

    Secondly: you are fundamentally talking about consistency – consistency in character, theme, and circumstance. That’s what your article ultimately settles on: plot can be massaged, twisted, even fractured, as long as we the audience can go with the journey, and they are able to follow the path that this narrative wants us to experience.

    …You doesn’t use their names, but what you are talking about here is the critical theories of Aristotle and Horace. This is the birthplace of all literary criticism, and has remained true, and carried through the craft and analysis of all narrative in western literature, for over two millennia. Consistency – taking the audience on a cohesive journey because they are willing to follow the (sometimes illogical) emotional journey of a work of art, even if extraneous elements must be jimmied to serve the greater purpose…

    …But what were the absolute no-nos that both Aristotle and Horace shouted were complete textual ruptures that superseded all such craft, and that should never be forgiven? A deus ex machina, for one; and arbitrarily choking the audience with rote emotional manipulation (with no narrative justification) just to elicit a response, for another. Over two thousand years ago, and Aristotle and Horace handed in the thumpiest of metacritic slams for Mass Effect 3.

    And that’s what I, ultimately, cannot understand about you anymore, Hulk. You claim to want videogames to be elevated to their rightful place as a legitimate artistic medium, and yet you let Mass Effect 3 (a game you believe is now the exemplar of its kind) slide thematically (the horrific moral implications of that ending – that war can only be won by betraying basic human rights – are truly ghastly), logistically (hey, you’re meant to feel it, not think it – even though the premise requires that you buy into a magical machine from nowhere and an intolerant, nonsensical belief that races are destined to destroy each other without outside intervention), and structurally (…nah, completely jettisoning all established character and plot development in order to serve some random endpoint ‘fix’ is cool).

    If you were to consider objectively what your are advocating right now, you would have to acknowledge that no film – ever – would be forgiven for the sloppy, unjustified, irrational storytelling Mass Effect pulls in its final ten minutes. Yet somehow – because you are predisposed to like it, it not only gets a pass – it gets lorded as the greatest text of its medium, a misunderstood work of genius that the silly plebs – who want to be pandered to – cannot divest themselves of ego enough to comprehend.

    Ironically though, it is your ego that might be standing in the way here. It seems like this whole expansive (rather condescending) diatribe was ultimately evidence that your only point of reference is the pure subjective: what worked solely for you in the moment of your experience.

    And that is fine. Truly.

    But if that’s the case then you need to shed the pretention that your viewpoint can stand above others by virtue of your studies into ‘media theory’ and ‘cinema criticism’. In such a circumstance, your personal head canon is pure opinion, and is of no more value than the YouTube vlogger your once told to screw off because that guy didn’t see the resonance you imagined was there.

    Honestly, I can see where you are coming from, and at its core your point has merit. When people get caught up on the minutia of plot logistics it can be at the expense of the emotional and character momentum of the narrative that is being conveyed. However, I don’t buy the position you have offered here at all – neither your condescending tone, nor the rather nebulous line of audience expectation that you draw in the sand.

    To me (and this is wild speculation time) it seems like you have taken to heart some of your readers’ criticisms about the apparent contradictions in your recent positions on texts (Looper = fabulous; Mass Effect = groundbreaking; TDKR = discordant mess) – indeed, this is even evidenced in the fact that you went so far as to build your argument toward, to quote, and directly respond to, a reader’s critique of your celebrating ME3′s illogic…

    Perhaps you felt your integrity was being directly challenged, or something – but I think you rather overcorrected. While nothing that you are saying is overtly wrong, you are seemingly confusing your own subjective appreciation with genuine dramatic cohesion, and are dismissing anyone who believes differently as failing a standard. And that (to put it mildly) is not cool – and rather hypocritical for someone who has made that very accusation (aggressively) about the disgruntled fans of the Mass Effect universe.

    …And the best evidence of this contradiction comes from your article itself: your final example (the discussion of the Transformers franchise that went from fully-fleshed, logical, reasoned fictional universe to Michael Bay adolescently-sexualised smash-a-thon) actually proves the complete opposite point to the one you were trying to make. Indeed, if audiences stop expecting logical narratives, if we start believing that scratching at the surface of any story will always naturally lead to a nonsensical breakdown, then Bay-inspired mush really will be all that we have to look forward to.

  5. FILMCRITHULK said

    HEY THERE DRAYFISH.

    SO HULK’S BEEN THINKING ABOUT THIS FOR A FEW HOURS NOW RESPONDING TO THIS KIND OF COMMENT IS TOUGH. THERE’S JUST SO MUCH TO SAY IN TERMS OF HOW HULK SEES A LOT OF THE THINGS YOU ARE SAYING AND IMAGINES WE COULD COULD GO BACK AND FORTH FOR QUITE A LONG WHILE ON IT. AND IF HULK RESPONDED TO EVERY WELL-THOUGHT OUT, VALID COUNTERPOINT TO HULK’S MASS EFFECT ARTICLES THEN HULK WOULD BE STILL WRITING RESPONSES AND HAVE NO NEW COLUMNS :( BESIDES, THIS SORT OF CONVERSATION IS BEST HAD OVER A BEER.

    THE SHORT VERSION OF THIS RESPONSE IS TWO FOLD.

    ONE, THE BASIC VERSION IS THAT HULK LOOKS AT A LOT OF WHAT YOU HAVE SAID AND FEELS LIKE EACH ESTIMATION OF WHAT HULK SAID (OR SOMETIMES WAS TRYING TO SAY, INEPTLY) IS JUST A TAD OFF FROM WHAT WAS THERE. LIKE THAT HULK’S ARGUMENT IN ME WAS LARGELY ABOUT DISMISSING PLOT AND NARRATIVE, WHEN REALLY IT WAS ABOUT INDULGENCE VS. EMOTIONAL WITHHOLDING. AND SPEAKING TO HULK’S INCLUSION OF ME3 IN THIS PLOT HOLE ARTICLE, PART OF WHAT MAKES IT REMARKABLE IS THAT IT’S EMOTIONAL WITHOLDING ACTIONS ARE WHAT LEAD TO THE IMMEDIATE CEREBRAL ARTISTIC DEDUCTIONS ON THE NATURE OF DEATH. HAVING READ YOUR COMMENT A GOOD THREE TIMES IT JUST FEELS SO FAR OFF FROM WHAT HULK WAS TRYING TO SAY. THE REASON HULK ASSOCIATES ME3′S GENOCIDE WITH A HICCUP PLOT-POINT FROM MARTY MCFLY IS BECAUSE HULK WAS TRYING TO TALK ABOUT ALL KINDS OF PLOT-POINTS BIG AND SMALL AND GET TO THE CRUX OF FUNCTION. AND PLUS HULK DOESN’T ACTUALLY SEE IT AS GENOCIDE, NOR DEUS EX MACHINA TO BOOT. AND HULK WENT BACK AND READ YOUR ME3 PIECES WHICH WOULD JUST SEND US FURTHER DOWN THE LOGIC-HOLE OF INDULGENCE VS. WITHHOLDING…

    BUT THIS IS NEITHER HERE NOR THERE. IT REALLY ISN’T. IT’S ABOUT HOW HULK SAID IT. AND HULK FEELS THAT HULK WILL PRETTY MUCH NEVER RECOVER FROM THOSE WILD SWINGS OF ANGER WITH THE FIRST COLUMN. WHICH LEADS US TO…

    TWO, HULK WANTS YOU TO KNOW THAT HULK WANTS TO BE BETTER. TO COMMUNICATE HONESTLY AND FAIRLY. AND NEVER TO COME ACROSS LIKE HULK IS TRYING TO TAKE ON THE VOICE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. AND THAT JUST TAKES WORK. IT REALLY DOES. IT TAKES A CONSTANT REMINDER. A SENSE OF PERSONAL VIGILANCE WITH OUR OWN HUMAN INCLINATIONS. NOT WANT THE READER TO FAIL A STANDARD. AND HULK DOESN’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY, BUT HULK HONESTLY DIDN’T MEAN TO COME OFF THAT WAY IN THE PIECE. AGAIN, HULK FEARS THE ME3 STUFF HAS DAMAGED IRREVOCABLY. AND THIS COLUMN WASN’T ABOUT RIGHT AND WRONG WAYS TO TELL STORIES PERSAY, MORE JUST WHEN LOOKING AT THE LANDSCAPE HULK SEES A CERTAIN THING WORKING, MORE THAN THE OTHER. HULK’S TRYING TO BE DIAGNOSTICIAN IN SOME WAYS IT’S JUST THE LANDSCAPE OF THIS BODY IS EPHEMERAL.

    IF HULK HAD COME OUT OF THE GATE AND TITLED THE COLUMN “THE SECRET BRILLIANCE OF MASS EFFECT 3′S ENDING” CHANCES ARE WE WOULD BE IN A DIFFERENT PLACE. INSTEAD HULK STARTED THROWING PUNCHES AND THAT’S GOOD FOR NO ONE.

    AND INSTEAD OF ARGUING ON AND ON, JUST ALWAYS KNOW THAT HULK IS ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS WILLING TO LISTEN.

    THANKS AND CHEERS,
    HULK

  6. drayfish said

    That, Mr Hulk, was a very fine reply.

    I suspect that you and I will never see eye to eye on the ending of Mass Effect (and nor need we – I have friends who un-ironically like Two and a Half Men and Twilight, facts that chill me to my very soul, but it is every person’s right to embrace what they will). The sentiments that you just expressed here, however, are very welcome, and go to great lengths to assuage my fears about this latest column of yours.

    Again, I hope that I have gleaned the spirit of what you were saying, even if I disagree with the examples that you chose to illustrate it with, and many of the equivalencies that you drew, and I respect your willingness to from now on foster an open respectful dialogue.

    Indeed, I believe that it is only in such a spirit that texts are worth discussing in the first place. Narrative art is, after all, a window into the human soul and experience – and if a text requires berating others in order to be appreciated, then the communion and self-reflection it was intended to engender has already been irreparably damaged.

    I am glad for you that you found enlightenment in the ending of Mass Effect 3 – try as I might I cannot, even viewing it from an abstracted metaphoric state such as you suggest. But as long as we both appreciate that each has the right to our interpretations, then a healthy, critical discourse can arise.

    But you are right. That discussion is more suited for a location that serves alcohol.

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      WELL SAID YET AGAIN. AND JUST TO LET YOU KNOW HULK ENJOYED YOUR “JUMP, JUMP, LEFT, RIGHT…” PIECE AND HULK IS ALSO NOW PLAYING DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION AND WILL CHECK IN TO READ ONCE FINISHED!

      EVERYTHING GOOD COMES MUTUAL RESPECT. AND EVEN WHEN HULK MEANS, IT IS ALWAYS IMPORTANT TO SHOW IT IN TURN.

      THANKS AGAIN, AND HAVE A PLEASANT EVENING!
      HULK

      • Panache said

        I just want you both to know that I love you both passionately and illicitly. If comment threads were names of Bond girls, your two threads would be Goodhead and Onatopp.

        Strongly held, largely respectful opinions held in opposition.

        Hulk, don’t you have just one more missive to fire off at detractors of “ME3”? Because I’ve already got some corn popped, and that’s one outcome that I, on bloated tummy, would like to watch to its grisly conclusion.

  7. kevm said

    So just playing devil’s advocate here, can you think of any movies that have tried to present you with “magic tricks” that were just too hard for you to swallow, and just can’t help but dwell on it?

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      OF COURSE! BUT HULK’S POINT IS THAT THE MAGIC TRICK’S SUCCESS RATE IS BUILT OFF THEIR ABILITY TO DO THE TRICK DRAMATICALLY AND NOT THE PALATABILITY OF LOGIC IF THAT MAKES SENSE. SURE, THE MORE OUTLANDISH THE LOGIC, THE MORE DIFFICULT IT BECOMES, BUT IT’S FUNCTIONALITY IS ALWAYS BASED ON DRAMA.

      DOES THAT MAKE SENSE? LOGIC IS A PART OF IT, BUT IT’S NOT WHAT’S DICTATING THE EXPERIENCE.

      • kevm said

        That makes sense. If I’m that bored with a movie that I’m picking apart how a character got from one place to another so quickly, or why it turned from day to night so fast, then the movie is probably pretty weak to begin with!

  8. Panache said

    So here is some…stuff. No nice way around it so let’s just rip this bandage right off.

    Before any argument, I gotta throw in lot with drayfish, particularly on patronization and misrepresentation. He said it better (though a tad meaner) than I did so I trimmed my comments. The incidences of “you misunderstand” are prevalent among any group of commenters, but it hurts to see original articles fall back on it.

    I’ll back Hulk to the bitter end on many issues or attempt to back Hulk against a wall on others (The Great one, maybe; it’ll have to be one hell of a wall), but in all things, Hulk usually leaves prescriptive diagnoses aside for descriptive thoroughness. Prolepsis, yes; refutation, of course; but counterarguments built on amorphous, implicit assumptions–et tu, Hulke?

    Unlike drayfish, I don’t give the first watery shit about “Mass Effect 3”. Go on with your bad self, Hulk. Give ‘em hell and high water.

    Unfortunately, several recent arguments, including “ME3”, do appear at cross-purposes. It’d be a shame to attempt to standardize or codify Hulk’s critiques, but every other article of late seems to drastically shift the goal posts. Drayfish and I differ on whether or not that’s a result of Hulk’s self-interest, but in any case, the vacillation proves difficult to reconcile.

    Pressing on, I happen to give many watery shits about movies so enough with this gooey stuff: plot holes!

    The logical precision of a story is fundamental to its success. Kids tell terrible stories until they hear enough to intuit how they work. A prevalent stumbling block in storytelling for any kid and most adults is, in fact, a logical one: the suspension of disbelief.

    During a setup, we may think, “That cannot be,” but our narrative subconscious allows it. When the doubts overcome our investment in the narrative, it is a problem. Our logical musings summon our disbelief.

    In contrast, when a story fires on all cylinders, its roar drowns out any gaps in logic. When our logical brains intercede, it is not to confirm bias. It’s an unpleasant interference. It’s a damned party foul, and there are usually a few people to blame (just one holding the line can pull us through).

    Early in “Looper,” few viewers doubt the conceit, but the time travel mechanism does appear quite limited. It seems limited in space because the voiceover explains and reiterates that Kansas City is a small pond and that loopers are, at best, pilot fish in it. The device seems similarly limited in time. A lot of loops start closing in a condensed amount of time, so many so that a fairly dim bulb brightens to the trend. He is unsurprised to learn that a future tyrant is closing loops in a hurry. These expository, presented facts intimate that the device is limited, perhaps with a fixed time interval and likely with limited range or some physical mobility to get to the different kill sites.

    Then we’re in China, and Joe zaps himself back to Kansas City. This moment is when objectors turn on the conceit, as we wonder what the fuck just happened. Now the conceit seems off kilter.

    If this device can remotely traverse vast expanses of space, why not ditch the body in the middle of the ocean? Or my initial thought: why not the ionosphere? No one cares about kill confirmation when an asphyxiated fucking ice cube hits the ground/water at terminal velocity after a 400 mile fall, assuming it didn’t burn to smithereens on reentry. Alternately, turn that sucker inward and give your enemies their very own personal journey to the molten center of the earth.

    If the device is not limited in space, is it similarly unconstrained in time? Because if a crime lord wants to tie off all loose ends then he may have seen “The Godfather” and straight-up Corleone this sucker, taking out all his enemies at once. Particularly if his handy time machine could pick a single day on which to drop them all at once, and maybe even in a single location, you know, for kill confirmation after their long descents through the upper atmosphere. Alternately, since the big kahuna now owns a TARDIS, take a page out of the Weeping Angels’ playbook and send them back to live out their lives in another era.

    I just wrote two paragraphs that address the least useful aspect of criticism (“They shoulda!”), but the point is that I stopped dead and did not give the slightest shit what transpired on the silver screen for at least a minute after that scene. I actually worried about the damned conceit, the thing that should be out of sight, out of mind.

    This isn’t me poking holes. This is me, sitting in my seat, befuddled by my very first viewing. Not later, right then; first time, real time. It pulled me unwillingly out of the movie.

    Hulk argues that this is generally not the case, that viewers object and pick nits well after the fact. In that instance, the only reasonable counter has to be… …and? That is what we do in life, in art, in everything that’s worth a damn. We reflect, we reconsider, and we work over the assumptions, events, and outcomes in a feeble attempt to explain the narratives of our fiction and our fact.

    The realizations afterward typically hold much greater value and resonance than the feelings of the moment. “The somethinged life is not worth somethinging.” Or something to that effect. The initial response to a piece is important, but on balance with later reflection, the scale should tip heavily toward the latter. If we overemphasize the initial experience, then “Paranormal Activity” becomes a friggin’ masterpiece.

    In all this back and forth, Hulk repeatedly argues the importance of kill confirmation. Except Hulk argues against logical objections/justifications so there is no need to resort to the contested method of argumentation. One bullshit argument in favor does not negate a bullshit argument opposed–they are both dung. An argument cannot both be bullshit and merit a refutation on its terms. (“30 Rock” had fun with this a few weeks ago when everyone struggled not to name off funny women as a counterargument.) When the premise of an argument is unsound, no proffered counterevidence is going to sway its proponent.

    Even assuming this particular premise is valid, Hulk usually favors cinematic alchemy over logical execution. Genre cinema in particular holds a much stronger, richer tradition of cement shoes than kill confirmation. Greater movie magic lies in the overly elaborate than the quotidian.

    More befuddling is the claim that we ought not consider these logical hiccups and their distractions upon the viewer. Should we not puzzle over the audience to CFK’s dying words? His isolation is essential thematically but a non-starter narratively.

    It does not cheapen nor demean the arc of the character, but a consideration of the conundrum is entirely within the realm of constructive criticism. It may not achieve much to confront someone about the relative unimportance of who heard “Rosebud”, but it achieves much less to denigrate the objector, regardless the triviality of his complaint.

    The issue itself is undeniable. It is something we consider, admit fully and openly, then move on to the rest of the film being utterly fantastic, and we leave that one lonely dude who can’t get past the snow globe to play by himself. How sadly appropriate.

    Returning to broader Hulk assertions, people fucking up by doing the wrong thing is far from the basis of conflict. It’s a damned lazy way to establish conflict. “That thar’ man crossed me!” or “If only I hadn’t a–”

    The most heartbreaking stories are the ones containing nothing but good intentions and a scarcity of resources. That truly reflects the human condition. Neither Rick nor Ilsa nor Lazlo fucks up. They are all victims of circumstance forced into harsh, necessary choices, but none of their problems arise from foolhardy decisions.

    As a general audience, we claim to want a happy ending, but actually we want people to fail despite doing the right thing or trying their level best. Many an audience member only wants to see the good guys “win”, and these members deserve a pat on the head and maybe a nice ice cream cone afterward. Viewers more attuned to nuance know that audiences love nothing more than to watch our side lose, even better if we lose for winning. Everyone does everything right, but we just can’t clear the hump.

    Our most romantic movies separate the lovers early and often for the duration. Rick gives up Ilsa. (Despite the fun, queer reading of Renault and Rick, Ilsa’s the explicit love interest of the narrative.) Rhett does not give a damn. Ennis has only his memories.

    The best war pictures focus on the worst of times: “All Quiet on the Western Front”, “Paths of Glory”, “Saving Private Ryan”, etc. The latter movie’s entire plot begins with anonymous slaughter then thins the unit until the final culling at the end. We barely know the survivor Ryan, but the group met its goal albeit at impossible cost. We’re left to ponder the mission’s utility despite Old Man Ryan’s gratitude. (No scene for Hanks’ widowed wife and orphaned kids.)

    For that matter, every movie on the Civil War, Great War, World War II, Vietnam, and contemporary war, every one worth mentioning focuses heavily on the losses to illuminate what few triumphs can be had. And that all goes double for P.O.W. pictures (“The Bridge Over the River Kwai”, “The Great Escape”, etc.)

    The genre that is most forgiving of people fucking up and doing the wrong thing is comedy. The fool is an expectation. “Look at that idiot! *under breath* who in no way resembles my daily foibles and shortcomings–”

    Comedy excepted, mistakes and bad choices do not form the basis of good storytelling. They form the basis of Ebert’s “Idiot Plot”. Good conflict has no possible, peaceable resolution. The antagonists are at odds whether they veer left or right. Conflict is ineluctable.

    Alright, it’s been too long since I paid a compliment to Hulk’s article, and it’s frankly adorable when the green guy blushes (you guessed it: bright green) so I’ll throw out that section 4, subsection B is fucking perfection. Anytime, Hulk goes all Pym on us, it ain’t without reason. Subsections C through F ain’t no slouches neither.

    And we’re back.

    A movie’s essence being fundamentally unquantifiable is hardly the same as being more complicated than string theory. String theory hopes to introduce ever-more formal structure to seemingly random, unrelated events in the hopes of establishing that unifying thingy of some things. However, qualification does not exceed quantification, nor vice versa. They’re just different, and different minds demonstrate varying aptitudes.

    Furthermore, let’s set aside Asimov’s Three Laws because the movies abiding them fall to shit by the time they explain “whodunit?” (though frequently long before that). Also, “The Dark Knight” is going on the shelf because, much like “Looper”, my initial and continued reaction to that film is more measured than my compatriot movie junkies’.

    As for “No Country For Old Men”, I am going to take that off the shelf and go bury it in the yard because in that direction lies a whole lot of, “HOW IN THE HELL ARE YOU PEOPLE DEFINING AMBIGUITY?!” Followed closely by, “JESUS CHRIST! HOW MUCH RESOLUTION DO YOU PEOPLE NEED?! I CAN’T TAKE ANY MORE GODDAMNED RESOLUTION IN THIS MOVIE! LET ME STARE AT WALL FOR A FEW HOURS TO PONDER ALL THE RATHER DEFINITIVE RESOLUTION THAT HAS PILED UP LIKE SO MANY CORPSES!” And of course in summation, “THEY’RE DEAD! THEY’RE ALL FUCKING DEAD OR WAITING TO DIE! EXCEPT EVIL INCARNATE! HE’S JUST BANGED UP AND IN WAITING! PLEASE, ALLOW JUST ONE OBVIOUSLY HUMAN BEING TO SURVIVE AND POSSIBLY THRIVE! GODDAMN, THE COENS HATE PEOPLE MORE THAN I DO!”

    As for “Looper”, I append the arguments below because by all appearances this is the spoiler thread, and the following issues aggrieve me much more than the ocean solution.

    It’s surprising that Hulk likes the movie at all, and one of Hulk’s peeviest pets encapsulates the film’s biggest liability: assumed empathy. “Looper” is a fun movie with a cool ending…except I really, really wished Joe had just done that at the beginning. I hate young Joe, I hate old Joe, Diamond Joe, Jojo–hell, I laid out my good friend Joseph as I left the theater.

    Our protagonist, our supposedly sympathetic protagonist, kills faceless, nameless victims from the future. It is the second shot after the stopwatch. (I may be off by a shot or two. It’s been a few weeks, but it’s certainly the first scene, leading into the opening montage.) A protagonist who is a murderer by rote starts out by digging himself out of an unsympathetic hole.

    This issue does not equivocate sympathy and likeability. A protagonist does not bear the onus of being likeable. (See “Citizen Kane” references above.) The cinema has a venerated history of the antihero, but what we see of him, he follows rules. The rules are not handed to him, but rather they reflect the character’s need to maintain his own sanity and sense of righteousness. His code deludes himself and the audience into believing that the protagonist is any less barbaric than his enemies.

    For example, the movies’ romantic vision of gangs and the mafia overlook the effect that such tribal affiliations have on said enemies, i.e. any non-dues-paying non-members of the gang. The first scene of “Goodfellas” openly acknowledges the gulf between perception of the antihero and reality of his nature. “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” From scene one, Henry does not belong, but he wants inclusion, and Scorsese takes pains to show what that inclusion pushes out.

    Henry is an impressionable boy who, like most rebellious sons, feels that he does not belong in his nuclear unit. His family is not absent, but his pop works hard, stresses a lot, and beats him. His mother has no reward beyond undying love which she gives no matter what. The gang is his first group identity which empowers his personal identity as he is entrusted with increasingly palpable responsibility and reward.

    Scorsese shows the betrayal that the long-suffering parents feel when Henry shows up in his suit. Throughout the movie, all of the victims–starting with the parents and even the victim-perpetrators (e.g. wiseguy in the trunk)–have names and faces and personalities, and for half the runtime, our antihero does not initiate violence unless in retribution or against provocation. There’s an initial investment then accelerating decay of sympathy toward Henry.

    Joe aims just below the bag, immediately after the victim appears.

    Some might argue that in war and its movies, soldiers kill nameless, faceless enemies. However, war films that are sympathetic to the protagonists show the targets firing back. In point of fact, almost every skirmish unfolds with the protagonists returning enemy fire.

    When the protagonist initiates the conflict or learns an enemy’s name or sees his own fear reflected back, the film underlines the battle’s futility. The standard rule of most films, war in particular, is prejudgment of the aggressor (the same reason Henry only engages retaliatory violence until after the narrative catches up to the first scene; it’s his final hesitation, his point of no return into the ugly, all-victim side of the gang).

    Joe unloads on people who are bound and tied.

    I hate this fucker, from moment one. Luckily, hatred does not preclude a rooting interest. There are many ways to hook a disapproving audience. The movie can make him suffer, pay penance. Alternately, it can play up his lousy nature and get the audience to root for his betterment. “Looper” attempts the second alternative, but its efforts are listless and half-hearted.

    Joe may be a bit dim generally, but the movie wants him to be clever in his own right. The mild self-deprecation in the voiceover evinces a certain realization of self (never mind that he keeps acting out his knowingly foolish lifestyle). Joe first acts sharper than the average truncheon when he interacts with a fellow druggie but only buys half as many drugs and pockets the remaining silver.

    In a less futuristic context, the read on this behavior is a bit muddy. “Aww…I like this rascally protagonist. He only buys two balloons instead of four! This way, he’ll have plenty of money for heroin later!”

    Or suppose Joe woos a young lady and meets the disapproving folks, “No, no, mother! Joe’s good at things! He’s planning ahead for his addiction! For every balloon he buys now, he assumes a balloon will have the same price point thirty years from now! He doesn’t just keep his life’s liquid assets under the mattress, he keeps it under the floor!”

    Addicts in movies have an unfortunate tendency to make the audience feel superior. Teetotalers believe themselves better than the addict, and fellow addicts consider themselves better, functional addicts.

    Joe’s other great aspiration is commendable. He’s learning a second language. The desire demonstrates curiosity and foresight. Abe immediately identifies his reasoning, and it’s the tried-and-true gangster motive, “I’m getting out of this here town, you see? And away from this no good racket, you see?”

    Unfortunately, the movie presents Joe with no barrier to entry (exit?). Who doesn’t want to go to France or chat up improbably attractive, francophone waitresses working at diners? As with all long-term travel plans, the question remains: what’s with the delay?

    Why not stop killing random persons today and get thee to France tout suite? Joe has a pile of silver in his floor that he saved by not doing all those eye drops. At any time, he can take it and ditch, even bringing along the Frenchy waitress.

    If the drugs invite condescension, the vague travel plans just aggravate. An audience identifies with dreams unrealized, but we need a tangible obstacle. Responsibilities take precedence, or money never suffices, or something, anything keeps us from realizing the dream. Nobody questions the postponed ambitions in the opening montage of “Up”. Money is tight and only gets tighter until time runs out.

    Joe has no excuse. He has the money. He has the agency. He has distaste for his work as loops start to close too frequently. He knows it, the audience knows it, but he changes nothing. When things start to go wrong for him, it feels sweet, not sour.

    Joe’s aspirations may leave one cold, but surely the explanation for his current situation explains his hesitance. Abe relays the story of Joe’s childhood, which is sad and pitiable, and it establishes Abe as seemingly invested in his pawn.

    Except Joe isn’t a child anymore, and Abe obviously uses him to his own ends. Joe knows and allows it. He’s an adult in a lousy world, making it lousier by the moment and certainly making it lousier still in the future by offing enemies of the mob.

    Undoubtedly, scumbags rank among Joe’s many victims, but the mob has as many if not more enemies who are legitimate members of society. How many prosecutors is Joe taking out? Any child witnesses? Does he care? Joe never seems to care. Even in his penultimate moment, Joe’s past crimes do not weigh on him, only unrealized future ones.

    Luckily, Joe is mostly talk: all the aspiration in the world, none of the perspiration. Unluckily on the rare event that he bothers to act, he rescinds his every positive action almost immediately. Joe is wishy-washy and weak willed. He crumples under every outside influence, be it pitiful friend, father figure, well-compensated sex worker, just about everyone until he meets his older self and a spunky, irresponsible farm girl.

    A prediction regarding the best drinking game that will come out of “Looper”: a shot each time Joe mentions “silver” and drain your drink each time he promises half his stash to somebody. No one leaves sober; no one goes thirsty. If I follow it all correctly, he promises half to the stripper, Kid Blue, Sarah, and Jesse so unless my count is way off then that’s many more halves than the mean average of two. With each offer, it becomes less ingenuous and stands to reaffirm how spineless and irresolute our protagonist is.

    Joe’s first action that that may pique our sympathies occurs when, at his peril, he ensconces his buddy. It demonstrates the first real stakes, real payoff of the movie. Of course, the next fucking scene Joe gives Seth up, knowing full well the consequence and evaporating any goodwill for the half-assed effort.

    In his very next scene, Joes acts like he isn’t quite sure of his buddy’s fate, “I think I may have just killed my best friend.” He thinks? Bullshit, he knows.

    When Joe carves “BEATRIX”, he starts with a little arrow to the message (the one that covers his entire forearm; thank Christ for that wrist arrow though). This affectation is hardly a common one (->right?), but it’s clear why he does it: Joe has seen the Doctor at work. He knows about the Doctor, and he knows how the Doctor summons escapees. He pretends ignorance when he has specific knowledge.

    By the by, Joe’s knowledge of the Doctor’s methods and his reaction to Seth’s story show that these are far from the first couple times this has happened. This is hardly an uncommon occurrence. The enterprise may be successful, but Abe keeps the Doctor on call. The loopers that find themselves in this position do not quake in their boots without cause.

    After young Joe offs himself to disapparate old Joe, my mind jumped again to the Doctor. It is not remotely possible that he and the gangsters do not realize that they can do exactly that to young Seth. Abe explains that the future versions make things “messy” in the present though it is beguiling to imagine how blinking out of existence is anyone’s idea of any kind of any mess, ever.

    On the other hand, racing through downtown, causing unknown traffic incidents while phasing, piece by piece, out of existence and feebly crawling toward the unmarked door behind which lie all your younger, bleeding body parts but being met by a heartless executioner…that might grab a few eyeballs, cause a few unintended consequences.

    It definitely means they have an extra body to dispose of. Pretty much anyone would choose to dispose of one rather than two.

    In contrast, now-you-are-both-gone-and-one-never-was…where’s the mess? Of course, it’s obvious why the mob doesn’t realize it: there’d be no chase scene, no demonstration of “the rules” of time travel. This still does not motivate the chase. It is unhelpful when the in-universe experts understand it less than we do after a couple hours.

    My ardent desire for Joe’s early termination indicates a greater structural issue: if Joe dies early in the film, then the only change in universe is that way more people live. Like way, way more people. Even when young Joe finally turns the gun on himself, consider how many people, most of them more pitiful or more principled (thus immediately better than) Joe, lay dead.

    The conflict of the movie is not systemic or rooted in larger archetypes. It all springs from this one shitheel who can’t get out of his own head until a whole fuck-ton of people lie dead, completely unnecessarily. Then he adds to the top what should have been at the bottom of a nonexistent dog pile.

    The entire tumble down the rabbit hole occurs because Joe is a murderous asshole who travels abroad, becomes a worse asshole, finds a measure of peace, then, without missing a beat or child killing, immediately reverts to being the biggest sack of shit in recent cinematic history. All because he misses his wifey and wants to do right by her…and her…insatiable lust for the blood of children?

    Joe is not breaker of the cycle of violence; he is its guarantor. Every onscreen death in the film lies squarely at the feet of the Joes. Every last one. Take Joe out of the picture and maybe Seth dies, assuming that young Seth fails to wise up and ship out. All others keep on trucking.

    Joe resolves to end the cycle of violence by removing himself from it. Let’s be sure to award him his posthumous “Non-Participant” ribbon, but there simply must be a greater truth to explore in the story. “Well, damned if I do, damned if I *kablooey*” The statement holds no value. Applied to everyday life, it just creates a whole lot more orphans.

    Stopping the cycle by extricating the participant gives us nowhere to go, no higher ideal to which to aspire nor greater hope to which to cling. “Gosh, I hope the perpetrators of awfulness realize it and self-deport this mortal plane.” What a horrible moral to the story. The moment Joe shoots himself is simply empty. If suicide is all he’s got, then by God, do that way, way earlier and save the shallow revelation.

    Outside of hara-kiri, the closest Joe gets to any personal redemption is when old Joe eliminates a chunk of the organization. This carnage hinges entirely on coincidence and incompetence, and old Joe in no way seeks or plans for it. “Oh, these guys have me. I guess I’ll kill them all in their wood-soled shoes.”

    Aside from a purge and a suicide, the only positive action that Joes does not appear to revoke is allowing the unwanted sentry to drink his coffee. (Not entirely convinced he didn’t welsh on that off-screen.) Aside from these instances, Joe’s best trait is that Gordon-Leavitt smirks like Willis but with dimples, which is great and all, but it accomplishes little.

    It feels weird making this argument because I friggin’ love noir, gangster films, and antiheroes in particular. However, it’s a rare one that works when the story centers on the actual worst character. Even the basest antihero has one worse weasel out there or a strong yet immoral through line to pull us along.

    In “Looper”, one might argue that of all the gangsters–Abe, Seth, Blue–Joe displays the most charact–

    –oh, wait: Jesse. This man is possibly the only competent, decent character in the film. He comports himself with dignity and respect while politely carrying out his unpleasant duty after a long, dry day of the same. Though he intuits Joe’s presence, he does not press his advantage until he’s certain of Joe’s location. Even then he does not exhibit hostility or anger over the deception. He holds Sarah to keep things calm and avoid violence so that he can finish his job and get out of Dodge.

    What happens to Jesse? He gets ‘sploded for not only not tripping that one kid but for not doing anything more than draw down on a surprise presence. The kid is only a surprise because Joe doesn’t say, “Jesse, you’re a good guy. Don’t hurt her son up there.” Jesse immediately lowers the barrel, but good God, kid go mad at him anyway–because fall down, go boom–just like kid did to his Aunt Mommy.

    It is a nice touch that an antagonist displays more decency than most any other character, but it does not help this narrative that I’d much rather see Jesse’s story. This is not Romeo and Mercutio. Mercutio is not an antagonist to Romeo in any way other than overwhelming him. Mercutio dies to establish real stakes for Romeo; Jesse dies as fodder for a reveal and plot twist. What a friggin’ waste.

    Thankfully, Jesse is not the only character with a shred of decency, and Sarah would be pretty great if she wasn’t such an irresponsible guardian. Wildly; make that wildly irresponsible guardian.

    Sarah would do well to think of the chopping stump as her ego and hopefully chip away at her ‘Murican individualism. She has a duty to inform at least one trustworthy authority to keep on a wary eye out for Cid. Somewhere in this dystopia, a person can keep the lid on Cid’s secret until the appropriate moment for action arrives. Just on the off chance that, say, Sarah catches a bullet, Cid’s jaw rots off, and he turns super villain. If someone, anyone else knows the gravity of Cid’s abilities, she can sweep in to cover for Sarah.

    Sarah clearly knows an extended support system is necessary because she is the freaking B-team here. A-team gone; A-team disintegrated. Sarah knows this, rectifies nothing.

    It is nothing short of parental negligence to assume that we will always be there for our child, particularly in an environment as violent as future Kansas. Good parents keep living wills to settle matters of estate; bad ones just assume they’ll always provide for their kid.

    Sarah exhibits many wonderful traits. She nurtures good vibes and love, but she exhibits as much future planning as a coke fiend on the expressway.

    When Joe confronts her, Sarah contests, “If I’m here, he’ll learn to control it!” How can she possibly know that? She floats lighters. Cid’s TK may well be some form of reverse leukemia where he keeps growing stronger, his power forever just beyond his control. She cannot know what to expect from a situation that has never happened to anyone else, anywhere, ever.

    Although maybe it has happened, perhaps many times, and none of the families survived to tell the tale. The possibilities bugger the mind at the lack of foresight and wisdom that the lovely Sarah demonstrates toward her terrible, demigod child.

    She may not want the kid subjected to endless scientific observation, but she came to care for him after the presumably gruesome and unjust death of the responsible sister who worked and raised an unwanted child. Right up until he sublimated her.

    Even after this narrative pivot, the stakes of the film less escalate than they remain hopelessly single-minded. Each character’s intention at the initial complication remains his intention until just before young Joe offs himself.

    For example, when old Joe cases the second kid, he despairs that the boy has the stripper-mommy that he used to pay to fuck. The thought of violating the emotional bond–the one that did not form decades previous during their business transactions–tears old Joe’s shit up and, presumably, the audience’s.

    This complication flies in the face of the fact that knowing the mother does not change a single goddamned thing about his scheme of child killing. Joe murders a kid with all intents of murdering two more. “Oh, the first one hurt, but the second one was proceeding apace until I saw the turner of my youthful trick.” Are we to think the first didn’t have a mother?

    Whether a child is a stranger, an acquaintance, a family member, or an inevitable psychopath, there’s only one reaction to an assassin of kids: revulsion. The fact that he knows mommy weighs no more heavily for the imminent child murder. “Well, I wouldn’t murder your kid, sweetie. Or at least I’d feel really bad about it.” This in no way turns the knife.

    Even these complaints would fall to the wayside if the central argument of the picture wasn’t so…well, if it just was less…goddamn it, if it was any less of a crock of shit, the journey would merit the payoff. Who buys this insultingly simplistic nature vs. nurture argument, and exactly how few bad men have they known?

    Most of the flatly sociopathic people that I’ve ever met come from perfectly normal, loving families. The perpetrator’s actions legitimately blindside most friends and neighbors who stare blankly into news cameras. The serial rapist at my high school–he targeted virgins exclusively–grew up upper-middle class with mom, dad, one and a half siblings, and the family dog. The murderer in my family isn’t up for parole for another decade, but his sister makes damn sure that the extended family stays in contact and fully plans to receive her brother into her home should he make parole.

    In contrast, a lot of the happiest, best-adjusted people on this planet are the ones that have survived the worst atrocities visited on themselves and the ones they love. A simple attendance of a survivors’ group of ______–where the blank are our most deeply held fears–bears this out. The situations are worse than we imagine, but at the same time the survivors cope with trauma much better than we thought possible.

    Even leaving real life out of it, Henry Hill’s parents were very much present and loving. He did not lack for maternal attention, but he grows into a horrible man. Likewise Tommy who visits his mother for a late dinner while a man bleeds in the trunk.

    Movies that excuse terrors on account of earlier traumas, or worse, imply that early trauma leads to later terror contravenes the most human insights that we have. It’s freshman-dorm, cause-effect thinking, and it holds little weight or nuance.

    It isn’t the harsh fact of one’s solitude or the mere presence of nurture that predicts one’s future. A mother’s intention for her child holds little bearing on the end result. We can only hope to influence our kids through the quality and consequence that we demonstrate for them.

    Now consider Cid and how Sarah has no way of effecting discipline. At times, it’s right to soothe and coo a child. In “Looper” after people hurt or nearly kill Cid, Mommy might kiss the boo-boo bye-bye. But after a temper tantrum results in a cubist installment of viscera or after the boy wrecks the car by assuming its control… …well, a different approach may be necessary.

    Sarah cannot properly hold Cid to account for fear of ‘splodin. Contact parenting is just flat out in the event he should scrape a knee. She holds no recourse. Hiding in a vault hardly suffices.

    Prodigies frequently have fraught relationships with their parents, not because their parents perform poorly (though often that), but because there is a fundamental inversion of power. The kid holds more than the adult, and in “Looper”, this inequality is manifest physically.

    With a prodigy like Cid, his talents already guarantee him plenty of isolation regardless the amount of mothering he receives. He will never belong fully to any group because in the back of his head he always knows, “I can ‘splode you.” There may not be one right answer, but by sequestering the two of them on the farm, Sarah’s hitting a bull’s eye of a wrong approach.

    This argument–nurture as the greatest good–loops back to Joe’s revelatory vision. The movie comes all this way for a pedestrian plea: “Think of the children.” In real life and in movies, decisions do not become more or less moral because of distant possibilities. Most decisions that will benefit the next generation will immediately benefit the contemporary one. Especially of the decisions contained within “Looper”.

    Putting the distant future first actually represents a shift of responsibility and thus passing of the buck. It’s the same excuse drug dealers and death dealers and used car dealers and every parent in between gives: “Everything I did I did for you.” Horseshit–most of what we do, we do for ourselves and ourselves alone, and the average “sacrifice” is a personal shortcoming that we chalk up to the dead weight of a family/situation/lot in life, unfairly holding us back.

    Nearly every decision that we can make to benefit our children’s future will benefit everyone else right now. However, we see how shitty everyone around us (and right in the center) is so we pretend that our children will be any less the miserable cocksuckers than we. Just as our parents hoped about us and their parents hoped about them and on and on.

    Make the right decision now, today, based on experience and a modicum of empathy for the rest of humanity. Golden Rule or its equivalent.

    None of Joe’s reflections involve his own crimes against his fellow man. It’s a craven attempt to make selfless that which is karmic. Joe deserves to die. Instead of the shot of a Cid that never was on a train, a shot of the child Joe on the day Abe put a gun in his hand would close the problematic loop. Or the moment unseen after Joe gets out of the room after giving up Seth. Joe is Destruction on two feet, and the other characters–to a one–deserve the better fates that Joe’s death would open up.

    Retroactively, I really wished Silva had been in this movie so he could urge young Joe to think on his sins…and close the loop.

    Miscellanea:
    * Horrifying anti-Willis freaks my shit, and I never settled into it. We knew Willis when he had a hairline. We don’t need a makeup man to tell us he wadn’t Gordon-Leavitt.

    * “Time travel has not yet been invented, but in thirty years, it will have been.” Doesn’t cracking the seal on that one guarantee that time travel exists everywhen? First thing to do with a time-machine: “Dear Dad, I haven’t been born yet, but here’s how you build a time machine. This shit is nuts, right? P.S. Be sure to lay the pipe on mom sometime in the fall of–”

    * Why China? After much reading, I have to conclude that Joe’s sojourn has stronger roots in financing than storytelling. It’s a completely understandable compromise, but the movie’s proponents ought to own it and show pride in this successful compromise. China opened the movie to more box office than its country of origin. Thank God for China.

    * Is everyone for real with this Kid Blue/Abe shit? Evidence against: Abe don’t limp; no southern(?) accent; no affection for gun; hates suffering fools. Evidence supporting: Umm…”Neato!”? “Whoa!”? “Mind. Blown.”? None? No evidence whatsoever? More importantly, what would be gained by Abe being Kid Blue? Johnson would disappoint me more than Sir Ridley if he ever weighs in on the affirmative on this one.

    * The film barely hints at the brilliant fact that even in America’s dystopic future the absolute worst thing one can be is poor and itinerant. My grandmother tells many stories of the Depression and the kind, respectful peripatetics who would trundle miles from farm to farm in the dead of winter, hoping for a meal and roof for the night in exchange for a day’s labor or some tradecraft. “Looper” uses them for window dressing and panic-threat but otherwise goes right on ignoring them. It reaffirms the distaste without examining the system or drawing contemporary parallels. Wasted opportunity.

    * After Joe realizes that the child at the farm may become The Rainmaker, we meet Sarah chopping the stump then setting the crop duster to launch. In this moment, I hoped that she would turn out to be The Rainmaker. In retrospect, it works better in a lot of ways. For one, it better explains the thirty year gap. If Cid’s already this powerful, what’s he doing for three decades? Jesus Christ took eighteen, but then he came back more peaceable. Sarah has demonstrably strong TK, but if old Joe succeeds, it might take another lifetime for her to up her game. Again that has nothing to do with existing themes, but I thought it at her introduction, and it’d be the kind of noir twist to appeal to Mr. Johnson.

    * “Looper”’s unofficial subtitle: “Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Dropped In Yet Another Goddamned Montage”

    Postscript:
    Unfortunately, every layperson (i.e. non-movie-, non-pop-culture-junkie) who has shared their opinion with me (which is admittedly a small group but arguably a more representative sample than the posters on Rotten Tomatoes) has rated “Looper” somewhere between “alright” and “pretty good”. I reluctantly share their estimation.

    “Looper” is a lot of fun. I like the movie and consider it a bounce back from a minor sophomore slump. I anxiously await Mr. Johnson’s next film. However ”Looper” isn’t even the best Bruce Willis movie inspired by “La Jetée”, and that’s a pretty specific subgenre. There’s not a lot of competition to best. “Looper” even hews much closer in tone and intent to the source than the reigning champ, but it just doesn’t quite…

    Anyway, as always, great work, Hulk! Abiding disagreements, I love your stuff! Keep hope alive!

    • Dude… I got about a third of the way through your comment/novel and had to give up. I’ll take my ice cream cone and head pat, but a little self-editing probably wouldn’t hurtcha.

      • Panache said

        Mr. Acevedo, you fool no one. We’ve all read enough of your excellent comments to know that you seek the nuance. Luckily that doesn’t preclude ice cream.

        And, dude, if you only knew…this is the edited version. Edited for length and broken into disjointed paragraphs for the sake of some sanity in comment formatting.

        I actually took a few passes at this sucker. I need to stop trying to cram it all into a single comment. Though in that case I’d feel bad flooding the comments.

        Anyway, thanks for trying! I’m surprised anyone made it as far as you did.

  9. I was completely with you until you said I-III had “outright terrible” storytelling and characterization. That’s simply not true, and it’s a shame you’d say something like that because you obviously know your stuff more than I ever could.

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