2018:THE YEAR THAT POP CULTURE DIED
By Adam M. Wilcox
As the year winds down to a close, you will begin to see the usual online articles. The top ten lists about what we loved, what we hated, what we want to see, what we would like to see less of…etc. I am not going to do that, because this website is kind of dedicated to the guilty pleasure of watching movies so bad that they are sometimes magical, or maybe movies that are magical, but got buried under a sea of something else, and were forgotten in time. Since this is our first year of being online, I kind of wanted to take this opportunity to explain why I got into this in the first place. It is fun to trash on a movie that people hate. We do it for laughs, of course. It is also fun to tell other people about movies that maybe people forgot about because you want other people to like them and feel the same magic that you do. I more or less embraced this because I feel like either I outgrew the standard cinema model, or that maybe some of my most favorite franchises turned into something that was no longer designed to entertain me. I am talking about escapism, or the ability to embrace something fictional to escape the grind, and pain of everyday life. To either boldly go where no one has gone before, or escape to a galaxy far, far away.
I have been a somewhat religious Star Wars fan since my parents took me to see the first movie in 1977. I was only 4 years old, and my parents thought that I might be too bored to sit still. What happened is that for the first time ever, I never asked for a snack, never asked to go to the bathroom, and my eyes were glued to the screen for the entire running time. It changed my life. I had seen something that was so magical, that I could never stop thinking about it. For years before we had our first VCR, or DVD player, I would re-create the scenes with my action figures, and on occasion when it was shown on national television, not cable, my family would actually make home made pizza, and we would watch the movie in front of the TV on actual TV trays. It was a really, really big deal. From that point, my parents took me to see the next two movies in the chapter, and I began to love each one even more, every time. At the end of Return of the Jedi, I wept, because I knew it was the last movie, and many of my favorite characters had perished, but it all seemed to be worth it. And for years after that, I always had those memories. Eventually I got older, and started getting into other toys, and eventually some of my Star Wars toys wound up in garage sales, because my parents knew I was no longer playing with them. Eventually I began to miss them.
In 1995, Hasbro started making Star Wars figures again, and it was something strange and wonderful to me. As an adult, I was buying my own Star Wars figures, with my own money, made from my own paychecks. What was even more humorous is how I would often find myself in the same isle with other people my age, and the different ways in which we would try to look at the figures, without looking like nerds in front of one another, as if we were pretending to buy them for someone else. After a couple of years, it was mostly people my age fawning over that stuff, while younger kids were perfectly entertained by The Power Rangers, and Pokemon cards. At this point, I decided to join “The Official Fan Club”, which gave me special internet access, even though I didn’t own a computer, and a little magazine called Star Wars Insider.
In 1997, the Special Editions hit the theaters, and Star Wars was back! People lined up to see these brand new prints of the movie that cleaned up the negatives, enhanced the sound, and added some new computer special effects. While some of them seem silly now, and a lot of people actually hate them, at the time, we fans were SUPER excited to see new scenes other than the ones we had seen thousands of time on VHS. It was around this time that the “prequels” had been announced. Now I remember back in the mid to late 80’s how Lucas explained there would be 9 films, and then I think he decided after Return of the Jedi that he has worked himself to death, and just wanted to focus on other things, yet here he was announcing the “prequels”, and this was the first time I had ever even HEARD of this term prequel. From the movies, comics, and novels, I was well aware that Obi-Wan, and Darth Vader, had once been Jedi Knights, and good friends, before they battled each other, and Vader was left disfigured and had to remain in a life preserving suit of armor. I was actually going to see young Anakin and Kenobi in their prime.
Now we all know that The Phantom Menace was a polarizing film. At first it was met with love and praise, and then not even weeks after release, people started to see the cracks in the surface, too much CG, silly characters, bad acting…abysmal pacing. I won’t dispute these things. To me, it’s not a great movie, but it DOES have some points of greatness, and for a while, it felt REALLY damn good to be excited about a new Star Wars movie I had never seen. Also, my expectations for the next two movies were somewhat tapered to say the least. I actually hated most of Attack of the Clones, and I enjoyed most of Revenge of the Sith, but both of those movies repeated a lot of the same mistakes. Regardless, I like the prequels for what they are.
On October 30th of 2012, George Lucas sold the rights of his beloved franchise to Disney for 4 billion dollars. I was livid. This man had very publicly built his own dynasty out of wanting to not be controlled by a studio, solely so that he could have absolute creative freedom at his disposal without having a studio tell him what to do. In order to beat the empire, he had to become the empire himself. And even though he was the target of massive insults, and hatred, both online and in the media, he had done what he wanted to do, and nobody challenged him. Yeah people didn’t always like the end result, but his products were still making a profit. I had assumed that the he was just sick of the negativity around the prequels, and had enough. He just wanted to retire. It seemed like not even days after the deal was final we had found word, that a script was already in place, and that J. J. Abrams had been tapped to write and direct the next chapter. I had mixed feelings. I DID like what J.J. Abrams had done with the Star Trek reboot, he basically made it into a Star Wars film, so he seemed like the exact person for the job, however I was shocked at just how quickly this was all coming together. It usually took years of planning and post production in between films, even when the prequels were being made. I wasn’t worried about the cast. And early conception art, got me extremely interested it what they would do with it, now that different people were running the machine. The Force Awakens came out, and made an absolute KILLING at the box office. My family actually could not even get a seat to see the movie for months, and the tickets were sold out for quite some time. That movie had an unusually long run at the box office. The movie was fun. I liked the new characters, and it was great to see some of the older ones return, and even though the plot was pretty much a retread of the first one, it did what it had to do. It reminded people of why we like these movies. It also set up a really neat cliffhanger, that actually takes place on the side of a cliff, which I thought was a really nice touch.
Then the following year, we got another movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story which I was not quite as excited about at first, but the trailers gave me stunning visuals of similar vehicles from my childhood from different angles. Even though the cast of that movie was somewhat forgettable, I actually enjoyed that movie, and I still do. In fact, it’s pretty much my favorite of what Disney has done up to this point.
I was super excited about The Last Jedi. I didn’t want to take any chances of spoilers, or having to wait for months to get a seat, so I bought advance tickets and my parents insisted on going, because it’s kind of a sentimental thing now to share those Star Wars experiences with me. And from the time I got into the theater, to the time I came home, I experienced things, that I have never experienced from a Star Wars movie ever before.
For one, I have NEVER been bored in a Star Wars movie ever, none of them. There were huge chunks of this movie where I was staring at my watch, and completely checked out. There were scenes that….made me cringe, like Princess Leia flying through space without a suit, or any mask after being blasted out of her ship not even a few minutes ago. And that is just one of many scenes that you have all heard about. Friends of mine actually hated it. My mom had a headache. My initial reaction was that it was just alright and…maybe not the best...
For months, I did not even comment on the movie, because I had seen so much online about it already, it was massive, and not necessarily in a good way. But another thing that seemed weird was that the toys were piled to the ceiling, and that is when I knew something was wrong. The last time I had seen this was during The Phantom Menace.
I stayed mostly silent about this movie for months after that because I am a guy that really does not like online conflicts, or any conflicts for that matter. I am mostly not a political guy. When the Ghostbusters 2016 controversy was going down, I eventually saw that movie on demand, and found it to be mostly a somewhat unfunny comedy, hiding under a license, and felt that most of the crap existed within the politics surrounding the film, rather than the actual film itself. Around February, or March, I finally decided to announce on Facebook that I was pretty much done with the Star Wars Franchise. I felt like the main story had nothing to offer me, that the new characters had no development to make me interested in them, and that the characters that I had once cared about had pretty much unceremoniously been killed off for no good reason. Unlike the previous film, The Last Jedi didn’t leave on any kind of a cliffhanger at all, and had undone any of the previous set up, and left the franchise with no place to go forward. Even now, I cannot fathom what will happen next, nor can I possibly be made to care. When I posted that, I was instantly met with people who wanted to know exactly why I didn’t like it. They demanded specific examples. When I outlined plot holes, the explanations came from theories, or things that were NOT explained in the movie we saw. This argument went on for weeks, to the point to where I decided to just delete the thread and move on with my life. To be honest, I wasn’t so much that I disliked the movie, as much as it was turning long term fans against each other. There are many people who are my age, that like The Last Jedi, and that is fine, as long as you respect, that I don’t like it. Some people are adult enough to deal with that, others would rather bicker. At this point, people I had known for years were blocking me over not liking a movie.
The next movie that had been announced was a Han Solo movie, which was strange, since that character was killed off two years and two movies ago. This was to be an origin story from a guy that was interesting enough without any back round. It would be played by an actor I had never heard of, and it would be directed by the guys who made The Lego Movie. Well, early on, the guys from The Lego Movie had been fired, and the ship did not have a captain, until a few weeks later when it wound up being Ron Howard. The trailer dropped during the Super Bowl, and was announced it would be coming out in early summer. It was only months away from the release date. The trailer did not look good. It didn’t even look like a Star Wars movie. It looked dark, muddy, and like something that probably belonged on Netflix. I still had no interest, and after arguing for months online about The Last Jedi, I was even more put off. I was also put off that the movie was going to come out on, or near the 40th Anniversary of when the franchise got started, and the best product that Disney had come up with, is to sell us on a knock off version of a beloved character that they had killed off two years ago. Even more upsetting is the nonsense that was going on behind the scenes. The screenwriter, who happens to be the son of the original screen writer, with credits on his belt like a couple of episodes of Dawson’s Creek, had been duped in an interview with Huffington Post as to whether or not the character Lando Calrissean was a “pan-sexual”, a term I had never heard of, and even had to look it up online. Now you are going back and taking something that had been written over 30 years ago, and introducing sexual orientation which is only hinted at it the movie at best. It really irritated me, and my only way of coping with it, was to deal with it through humor. I decided to make a series of posts how you could take pretty much any two popular characters from the Star Wars franchise, and make something sexual out of it, since that is clearly what was going on here. I admit, those posts were definitely not my finest hour, but they came from a place of frustration. After years, of buying books, games, cosplaying as Darth Maul, and Darth Vader, seeing the movies, buying various editions of the movies, buying hundreds of toys, hosting a Star Wars Pod cast, acting as an admin for Lucas Arts forums, the now defunct video game publisher, it was hard to just watch something you love so much just turn into crap before your very eyes. It was at this point, that my politics were called into question and I was accused of participating in things I had no prior affiliation with. I was called a Trump supporter, even though I hate the guy, I was called a misogynist, a homophobic person, alt-right, something about 4-chan, which I still don’t know what the hell THAT is. Also people that saw this conversation taking place, jumped into the same conversations, and started getting into fights with each other. Some of them WERE very mean, so now I got people fighting on my behalf, when all I wanted to say was, that none of these things were ever an issue in Star Wars, until you started calling attention to it. Star Wars has always been a large collection of diverse male and female characters, humans, aliens, and robots fighting for one common goal, good vs. evil.
So in 2018, if you hire a diverse cast, and we complain about the acting, or story not being good, it’s because we are racially motivated? We are sexists? We were told that if we didn’t like the new movies, to not go see them. So when Solo: A Star Wars Story came out this year, nobody went to go see it. Not even the ones that were telling us to stay home. However, when we took the advice and stayed home, they blamed us again. Now because we don’t like the new product, it is because we are evil toxic fans that are motivated only by hatred. Diversity and inclusion has replaced the need for any kind of escapist entertainment. We are supposed to support these films because of the diverse cast alone, the script, plot, and story no longer need to make any kind of cohesive sense. The other argument that is hurled at me constantly is that if you complain about it, there will be no more. So now, I am expected to settle for what is being fed to me, or go hungry. I absolutely love the first two Terminator films. Everything after that was terrible. It had nothing to do with the sex or race of the cast; they were just bad films. It doesn’t make me appreciate the original material any less. It just makes me stop looking forward to the new stuff. Most sequels are made just to make money. Sometimes they are part of one overall story. When the overall story stops being good, there is no reason to continue. The Last Jedi ended that story in a way that made the previous entry seem meaningless, and left us nothing to look forward to come back and see. When people comment on this, they are met with revolt. There are a fair amount of nasty people on the internet for sure, but it is also extremely unfair to be lumped in with a group of vocal minorities that make all fans look bad. In fact, it’s kind of exactly the same things that fans are accused of in the first place.
In 2018, I have had to be rather selective, because politics have become synonymous with social media, so much so that it is spilling over into escapist entertainment. Sometimes you just want to turn off the Twitter, or Facebook drama and just escape into another galaxy someplace, and then you find that the exact same crap that this being thrown at you 24/7 is part of the heavy handed plot of your favorite movies AND TV shows. Anything with any kind of a following is being re-written for no reason other than for people to stand on a platform and tell all and announce to the world, that “I am a good person, because I did a thing!” It’s called “virtue signaling” another term I had to learn this year.
Around 2013-2014, my sister had convinced me to watch Doctor Who. I started from the 2005 reboot, and after about 3 or 4 episodes I got hooked. I watched it all the way up until this year. The Doctor had “regenerated” which is the show’s way of changing a cast member, and for the first time in 54 years The Doctor character regenerated as a female. Now to avoid the same mistakes I did with Solo, I decided to drown out all the background internet noise, and just watch the show and see where it goes. I loved the first couple of episodes. I liked the new Doctor, she seemed fun! I liked the way the show looked, and I enjoyed the cast members. I started to drift around the third episode where The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) starts to tell us about the importance of the civil rights by placing the Doctor at the scene were Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in 1950s segregated Alabama. It wasn’t the worst episode, but the generic white supremacist villain seemed off putting. The next episode is where I fell off. The show was supposed to be a spooky story about being trapped in a skyscraper full of giant spiders, which could have been good fun, but instead it focused on Chris Noth playing a very obvious caricature of Donald Trump. I cannot emphasize this enough. Escapism entertainment is where we go to GET AWAY from this stuff. A lot of people dislike Trump, why do we need a British TV Show to remind us that he is bad? I thought The Doctor was above petty politics, but again I must be wrong. Apparently this show had no other focus other than to once again emphasize having a diverse cast, over any kind of entertaining storytelling. Instead, like most entertainment now, it has become a platform to lecture people about what is now supposed to be socially acceptable. The problem is, when we vocalize our displeasure with product in question, it is assumed that it is the ideology itself we are attacking, rather than us just wanting a better story. Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation wrote politics for years, but they were designed to allow the viewer to possibly see things from a different perspective and decide if they agree, rather than just spell out what is considered to be good or bad in the eyes of the show runners. Today’s writing is never designed to be thought provoking, or make you question your own beliefs, it beats you over the head, and says you WILL believe these things or else! And speaking of Star Trek, I refuse to watch the new series, because for one, I have to pay extra for it, and the star is Sonequa Martin-Green who was the most boring actress ever on a show called The Walking Dead. Also, not a fan of any of the design of the new show, and wasn’t a fan of Enterprise either.
It is getting harder to avoid politics these days when they are shoved into your face for no other reason than to impress your friends and peers, or to actually start another political debate because you live for the next argument. Hollywood is not happy enough to reboot everything, they have to reboot it, and replace every Male cast member, with a Female cast member, because somehow shifting something from one sex to the other is considered to be progressive. How is there any “equality” when you just switch something from one thing to the other? And why is this even a thing in pop culture? Two of my favorite movies, Terminator where Sarah Conner kills two murderous robots from the future, and Ellen Ripley, blew an alien, and an alien queen out of the airlock of a spaceship. The difference is these things were not the focus of a good story, or movie. They not discussed so frequently, because it didn’t matter, it wasn’t important.
I didn’t think I would reach that point in my life so early where I would just stop caring about new movies and shows, because they are all so full of social preaching. There comes a point, when you are just so beyond tired of being told that everything you do or say is bad, and everything you care about no longer belongs to you, and if you don’t celebrate the change of your favorite brand, you are some kind of internet troll. So here I am watching all these movies and shows from a more fun time, when all of these things were not thrown at me on a daily basis. This ideology is pure lunacy. Let’s say you like Hamburgers, and you go to McDonald’s. Suppose one day McDonalds is sold to a company that specializes in vegan food, and now the hamburgers are going to be replaced with kale because the president of that company has decided that it is better for you. Now if you complain online about the kale burgers, you are a troll, and a hater, and they tell you that if you don’t like it, you are told not to eat it. So then when you take the advice, and go to Burger King, or start making your own burgers, you are blamed again for ruining McDonalds. Because, if you don’t eat the kale burgers, there would be no McDonalds at all, and it will be your fault for ruining it.
And that is really what it comes down too. Everything is some kind of a protest, or symbol of progress, or even worse, a company’s blatant attempt at getting praise from critics who prioritize ideology over substance. I read a lot of glowing reviews of the new Doctor Who series that decided it was the best, only because the Doctor is a female, and it’s about damn time? Is that it? Is that all it has to be? Is it wrong to want more? 2018, is the year where businesses prioritized inclusion and diversity over the quality of product. When the fans rejected, the businesses insulted their own customers, when stocks fell, the customers were the blame. The customer is no longer always right; they are sexist, racist, trolls for not liking our products.
It was at this point that I founded Raiders of the Lost Flicks.com. I wanted to have fun, go back in time, find what was bad, or abandoned, and have some fun and laughs. I am not going to make any lofty plans for 2019, and I will not be sad to see 2018 go. I watched a lot of the things that I loved be destroyed by people who look for things to be outraged about, and challenge every single piece of pop culture to be an echo chamber for what is considered by society to be good or bad. Like the movie Equilibrium I reviewed recently where society removed anything to provoke emotion as a means to exist without war…we are heading in that direction, and it frightens me. Everything that does not have X amount of Y color actors, or LGBTQ representation does not make a movie racist, or whatever nasty label you want to throw at the film, or the fans. Stop obsessing, and start enjoying, because eventually all of the things that you love will become meaningless, lifeless products that nobody will enjoy. Who wants to pay $10 to go see a twitter fight, when you can watch something like Troll 2, and have some mad laughs with your friends. I’d like to be optimistic about 2019, or at the very least, get you to THINK about being a little nicer to one another, without calling each other bad for not thinking the same way that you do. The one reason why all online arguments fail is that people simply lack the human ability to agree to disagree. I don’t care if you love the new Star Wars, or Doctor Who, or whatever, but please respect that if I don’t like something, it doesn’t necessarily mean I am some kind of politically motivated villain. I just want the ability to escape, and enjoy things, without having to be constantly reminded of all of the bad things going on in the world. Raiders of the Lost flicks.com doesn’t care what color you are, who you voted for, or who or what you sleep with, we just want you to have some fun and escape all the crap of your ordinary life. Have a happy holiday, and try to have a better new year. Thanks for hanging out with us! We love all of you.