A Believable Mcguffin
A New Era
A Few Familiar Faces
A Dip Into The Extended Universe
A Fitting Conclusion
What would you like to see in Indiana Jones 5? Let me know in the comments section below!
Grab your fedora and dust off that bullwhip, it’ll soon be time to rejoin everyone’s favorite archaeologist Indiana Jones in another adventure. Well, sort of. We may have to wait a bit longer than anticipated to see Harrison Ford ride back onto our screens (Part 5’s debut recently shuffled from July 2020 to July 2021) but with both star and Director Steven Spielberg committed to the character, one thing’s for sure: Indiana Jones 5 is definitely on its way. Whether or not Dr Henry Jones Jr will still be in search of fortune and glory remains to be seen but in the meantime, here’s a handful of things we’d love to see in Indy’s new outing...
A Believable Mcguffin
As with all Indiana Jones stories, securing a believable Mcguffin (a plot-triggering item, person or device that all characters want) is the first port of call for Spielberg and his screenwriters. That said, information on just what mythical artefact Indy will be in search of this time around is currently unknown. Before the delay, long-time Spielberg-scribe David Koepp was on writing duty but unable to return for a redraft (he’s busy writing/directing You Should Have Left for Blumhouse), Solo screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan has stepped in to rework the story. With everything from Atlantis to The Bermuda Triangle rumoured, it’s probably too early to tell what the crux of Indy’s new adventure might be. Our hopes? Something not too out-there with minimal sci-fi-ties would be nice. We all remember what happened with those crystal skulls...
A New Era
In a recent interview, Spielberg revealed that Indiana Jones 5 will take place in the sixties, inviting speculation for a potential space-race backdrop. However this was before Koepp’s departure and with Kasdan on rewrite duty, Indy’s whereabouts could be open game. While chronologically continuing his adventures is the obvious choice, it’s worth remembering the franchise has been known to tamper with timelines before. 1984’s Temple of Doom was set two years prior to the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark and with The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull featuring a very finate closing sequence, perhaps setting Indy 5 before the events of part 4 could be worth exploring. Rewind the clock by just a handful of years and Dr Jones would be free from a son, marriage and any number of character ties, leaving him open to any kind of adventure. Want to ditch Mutt Williams? Here’s your chance.
A Few Familiar Faces
Speaking of Indiana Jones Jr - while there are some characters we could do without seeing any more of there are others who we’d love to see in 2021’s instalment. It’s no secret that Spielberg tried in vain to lure screen veteran Sean Connery out of retirement to reprise his Last Crusade role of Henry Jones Sr for The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. While it’s probably even less likely Connery will return for this new one (especially having been killed off in Part 4), this could be a great opportunity to reintroduce John Rhys Davies’ larger-than-life Sallah into the fold. Better yet - perhaps Indy’s adventures in the sixties or seventies could see him cross paths with his Temple of Doom co-stars Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) or have another charged run-in with Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw)? Either way, the opportunities are there. Your move, Spielberg.
A Dip Into The Extended Universe
Over the years, fans-turned-industry-professionals have tried their hand at continuing the life and exploits of Indiana Jones in a wealth of graphic novels and literature. While Disney did-away with all extended universe Star Wars stories after their Lucasfilm merger a few years back, as of yet the same can’t be said for Dr Jones’ off-screen travels. So far, a total of thirteen original Indiana Jones novels have been published, chronicling adventures as varied as Indiana Jones and The Sky Pirates to Indiana Jones and the Dinosaur Eggs. While some of these stories may prove too ‘out-there’ for a suitable big-screen adaptation (Indiana Jones and the Unicorn’s Legacy, we’re looking at you), it’d be a nice nod to long-term fans for Spielberg, Lucas and Kashdan to include a little inside lore into their new story. Fingers crossed.
A Fitting Conclusion
Right now, Harrison Ford is 76 years old. That means when Indiana Jones 5 finally hits screens in 2021, the star will be the grand old age of 79 - so it’s more than likely that this last quest will be Ford’s final stint as the fedora-donned explorer. We can hardly blame him, though. Sneaking through crypts can hardly be easy when you’re pushing 80. That said, if this is Ford’s last crack at Jones’s whip, then it better be a fitting send off. It’s a tricky task, especially considering both Last Crusade and Crystal Skull had chapter-closing climaxes. So far, Spielberg has assured us Indy won’t be killed off however the Director hasn’t ruled out a passing of the torch. Chris Pratt would likely be the Bookies’ choice for a suitable protege but wouldn’t it be fun to see a female Jones (or ‘Joan’ as Spielberg has previously suggested) lead the franchise forward? As long as Ford gets a suitable swan-song, anything goes.
What would you like to see in Indiana Jones 5? Let me know in the comments section below!
Oh, what’s become of us? Just a few years back all we needed for entertainment were a few chirpy sitcoms and campy comedies but now, everything’s different. Only a fortnight ago we were wondering whether terrible times are making us more sympathetic to terrible movies and while the jury’s still out on that, one thing we know for sure is that these days it takes a full-on bloodbath to keep us truly hooked. It’s true. At the time of writing, five of the top 20 most popular podcasts in the US feature murder or crime, while This American Life’s 2017 viral hit S-Town shattered records by earning 10 million downloads in its first four days of release. Clearly, our hunger for the macabre is strong.
There’s a clear market for it too. Whether it’s before-it-was cool mainstays Sword and Scale, Criminal or Generation Why or relative newcomers My Favourite Murder, the aptly titled Serial Killer or UK’s own All Killa No Filla, audiences don’t have to look far to satisfy their feverish need for gore. Meanwhile Netflix has carved out its own share of the killing frenzy, starting with 2015’s watercooler megahit Making A Murderer and culminating (so far) with a rehash of Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s The Staircase earlier this year. Realising our need for another murder fix, the network tried its best to find more bloody hits in the meantime but ultimately shows like The Keepers or Evil Genius never quite managed to achieve the same success. Poor Netflix, it must be desperate for someone to get brutally-yet-mysteriously murdered right about now.
So what happened? Workspaces once dissected the exploits of fictional baddies like Walter White or Tony Soprano, now they’re debating the innocence or guilt of real life would-be killers. Who knew we had so many armchair defence attorneys amongst us, eh? Meanwhile, the shows' unjustly murdered (and usually female) victims are reduced to nothing more than TV show MacGuffins, here to help us kill a lazy afternoon in front of the telly. When you put our current content trends on trial (because courtrooms seem to be all the rage at the moment), it paints a pretty bleak state of affairs and one that undoubtedly says a lot about how we like to spend our downtime in 2018.
Maybe it comes back to the age in which we live and the constant barrage of shocking events we're faced with every day, every time we open our phones. The world is a pretty chaotic place and finding a way to rationalise or compartmentalise the craziness can be overwhelming and all-but impossible but neatly contained podcasts or nicely rounded episode arcs on Netflix don't have that problem. By investing our spare time in them could we in fact be finding a way to take control of the uncontrollable and get some much needed solace from the outside world? The fact that the vast majority of these cases are unsolved even gives us an opportunity to force our opinions and unique takes down everyone's necks which - as Twitter has proven - is something we just can't get enough of. Maybe when the world calms down a bit we'll return to Friends, Scrubs and reruns of tame comedies from times gone by. In the meantime though, we need the harder stuff to survive.
Why do you think we're obsessed with murder? Sound off in the comments section below!
This blog was written for the print brochure of The Dark Page, HOME Manchester's film season celebrating Noir adaptations from a variety of authors. Find out more here.
On the surface, Jackie Brown sure looks like a Blaxploitation movie. It features Pam Grier for starters, the subgenre-icon who famously embodied the entire movement in films like Coffy, Bucktown and of course, Foxy Brown. Expletive-spitting arms dealer Ordell Robbie (played by Director Quentin Tarantino’s good luck charm Samuel L. Jackson) provides the lowlife crime element that featured heavily in similar films of the 70s. Even the sound of it screams Blaxploitation with its street-smart mixtape of transportational funk, R&B and soul pulsing throughout. However despite all this Tarantino has assured us that Jackie Brown doesn’t belong in this genre - and on closer inspection it’s clear that he’s right.
Hot off the success of his first two movies, 1997’s Pulp Fiction follow-up saw Tarantino remain in the world of pulp to helm his first - and so far, only - adaptation. Taking Elmore Leonard’s crime novel Rum Punch as his inspiration, the Director quickly injected his own personality into the story of a drug smuggling airline stewardess drawn back into business for one last job. His translation process turned the film’s titular heroine from white to black and her surname from Burke to Brown - however almost all other aspects of Leonard’s crime thriller remained intact.
The most notable of which is surely Max Cherry (Robert Forster), the LA bail bondsman with a heart of gold who’s seen it all. Through Cherry, Tarantino is gifted the opportunity to subtly indulge in some classic noir tropes and mash together two cinematic worlds which rarely - if ever - collide. Cherry feels out of step with the movie he’s in, sat in a shabby, run down office that screams 1940’s gumshoe far more than his contemporary LA surroundings. He’s a nice guy in a bad line of work and it’s during a key conversation with Jackie (who’s fast becoming his femme fatale) where he comes to a key realisation. “Why am I doing this?” he asks, “19 years of this shit?”
Max is tired, world weary and surprised by nothing, like many noir PI’s that have came before him. The way he sees it, his future involves either dying LA’s last remaining good guy or living long enough to break bad himself and it’s here where Jackie tests his will with an alluring proposition. “If you could walk away with half a million dollars,” she asks, “would you take it?” It’s an offer that would drastically change his world, removing him from his pokey office and LA’s petty crime scene and introducing this nice guy to a potentially nice future - if he’s ready to grab it.
As the jangly chords of Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” starts to play, signifying both Cherry’s decision and the film’s climax, we come to the stark realisation that his world hasn’t changed at all. Tarantino’s return to the same track that opened Jackie Brown is a harsh reminder of things coming full circle, with that noir motif stepping fully into the spotlight. Here, the good aren’t always rewarded and sometimes, crime does pay. Max Cherry may not belong in Jackie Brown’s empowered Blaxploitation world but make no mistake: he’s right at home in The Dark Page.
The Dark Page runs at HOME Manchester from Sun 5 Aug - Wed 5 Sep. Find out more here.
We live in troubling times. These days, a quick glance at the news or that spiraling argument void of social media is all you need to send you plummeting into a pit of existential despair and yet on the big screen, things seem different. While the usual realist fare is still present (all too ready to bring us face to face with our dodgy problems), a new and potentially more troubling trend is emerging. One that sees us heaping critical praise on films that perhaps only a decade ago would have been written off as lazy, twee or well, just a bit shit.
Take the events of this week for example. We saw the release of irritatingly chirpy Abba-shaped sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, a film that manages to raise the bar for cliche subtitles whilst simultaneously following-up a story no one really seemed that bothered about in the first place. A decade ago, critics and fans alike frowned upon Pierce Brosnan’s flat, weird speak-singing so much they awarded it just 54% on Rotten Tomatoes. Cut to 2018 and at the time of writing Here We Go Again somehow finds itself certified 79% fresh, with audiences and unlikely critics singing its praises despite themselves.
So what happened? Well, the fact that the world today is going to shit almost certainly plays a part. The first Mamma Mia arrived nestled in a year where Barack Obama had won an liberated election and one of the biggest media scandals involved Jonathan Ross, Russell Brand and Manuel from Fawlty Towers. 2018 on the other hand is a much darker place, a bit like an episode of Black Mirror minus all the humour, smarts or twist endings. Each day that passes reveals another revelation shocking enough to make you question what’s fiction and what’s reality. In short: Maybe audiences are in need of a bit of escapism.
The signs started to reveal themselves a few years ago. Remember when news broke about the Paddington movie and it seemed like the worst idea ever? Colin Firth’s exit did little to reassure audiences that this was something worth their time and money and yet the film - and most notably its 2017 follow-up - emerged as two of the most fondly reviewed family films of recent years. The trend continued with 2017’s saccharine singalong The Greatest Showman which polarised audiences on Rotten Tomatoes with a 54% critic rating Vs a 87% audience score. Clearly, levity is in great demand at the moment. It’s no wonder there’s currently six (yes, six) features currently in the works surrounding the uplifting real-life rescue of the school kids from the caves of Thailand. No word yet on who might play Elon Musk.
It’s a stark change in a relatively short space of time. Back in 2008, our collective favourite film seemed to be Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight - a gritty terrorist tale disguised as a superhero epic. Who’d have thought that a decade later it’d be Cher, bad singing and Abba that’d be topping our critics list and pleasing audiences worldwide? Mamma Mia, indeed.
Do you think we need more levity in our movies? Let me know in the comments section below!
Audiences had to wait six years for Director Joe Dante to follow up 1984’s Christmas critter classic Gremlins and what they got wasn’t exactly what they were expecting. This manic metropolitan movie ditched the traditional sequel formula in favor of a buck-trending, anti-movie that relished in sticking two slimy green fingers up at not just movie fans and pop culture trends - but the people that make those movies and trends too. Spielbergian family frightener, this was not. Dante and co left the quaintness of part one in Kingston Falls - this was New York and 1990’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch was a different beast entirely, bolder and better than its predecessor.
Where to start? The bigger, crazier and more chaotic philosophy of sequels is sent into overdrive with Dante and writer Charles S. Haas throwing anything and everything at the wall to see what sticks. However it’s likely the film’s ‘self aware’ qualities are what first signified that this was something perhaps a little too ahead of its time for the audience that received it. Meta references may be ten-a-penny in 2018 but 28 years ago they were hardly common place. The Gremlins’ mid-movie multiplex takeover - complete with Hulk Hogan cameo (or a John Wayne re-edit if you’re watching at home) - is an early warning sign but by the time Dante gets to shutting down Kate’s (Phoebe Cates) stock sob story before the film’s shocking climax, the writing’s on the wall. This is far from business as usual.
The Last Word
Let’s be honest, Gremlins 2: The New Batch is hardly going to get the mainstream recognition it deserves - ‘schlocky, monster movie sequel’ doesn’t exactly scream critical acclaim. Yet stick the movie on 28 years later and it’s hard not to get sucked right in. Lots of great movies were released in 1990 so the fact that we’re still talking about this film at all is in itself a triumph. This could be down to a lot of things: a nostalgia factor, for sure but the film’s dry humour, eye-popping practical effects and complete smirking disregard for everything that lured fans in in the first place makes it less of a straight follow-up and more of a mutated relative. The ambition of Dante and his crew was high, perhaps higher than it even needed to be for a film like this (Key and Peele’s brilliant Gremlins 2 sketch sums this up perfectly) but it’s because of this that the film has endured and proven itself as a truly superior sequel.
Can you think of any other superior sequels? Let me know in the comments section below!
In just a few weeks time we’ll be returning to Jurassic World where in all likelihood, all hell will break loose. We know this because we’ve seen the chaos teased in trailers - alongside the reveal that at least half of this planned calamity will take place off Isla Nublar in a new, previously-unseen mainland environment. Spoilers? Well, sort of - but apparently not spoilerific enough to make Universal Studios decide not to use this info as part of their pre-release marketing campaign. All those waiting for the lights to dim before discovering all of Fallen Kingdom’s secrets... well they might want to give social media, cinema trailers, telly - hell, even web adverts - a miss for the time being, as tricky as that may seem.
And yet revealing (or heavily alluding to) major plot points in movie trailers appears to be becoming more and more commonplace, especially when major tentpole releases are concerned. It’s kind of ironic, especially when you consider these big-budget, CGI-heavy films are often the ones the majority of audiences will mindlessly flock to regardless. Usually sequels, prequels, series installments or spin offs; these franchises with built-in viewers are surely among the easiest sells in any film PR team’s release slate?
Adding to the problem is the fact that these same movies happen to be the ones that come with the highest risk of spoilers. If you’re a fan of this specific brand of spectacle cinema, you’ll likely want to go in blind to ensure maximum enjoyment. Sure, Infinity War requested viewers’ remain tight lipped about its key plot punches but not before dishing out a healthy chunk of marketing material beforehand. Anything eyebrow raising in the Avengers’ recent outing may have technically been new to viewers but it was hardly surprising. With this in mind, maybe it’s time to do away with trailers altogether? After all, it’ll hardly stop the likes of die-hard Star Wars fans from handing over their cash and it could even boost Box Office returns. Not feeling Fallen Kingdom’s military-bred dinos? No trailers leaves you none the wiser until your money’s left your account!
It almost makes you nostalgic for a time before YouTube, smart phones and 24 hour content accessibility. Back when movie news was a lot harder to come by. Imagine the thrill and excitement of seeing that mystery cliffhanger ending in Back To The Future Part II, fresh and for the first time - or unexpectedly experiencing the uncanny worlds of Blade Runner without a heads up. Sadly, these experiences could be a thing of the past - or in the words of Ian Malcome: ‘Don’t you mean extinct?’
Do you think we still need movie trailers? Let me know in the comments section below!
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, the sixth studio album from Sheffield quartet Arctic Monkeys hit listeners' ears and immediately split them down the middle. Some were left grinning and chin stroking, admiring yet another deft surprise from the band’s smirking frontman Alex Turner. Others meanwhile were left wondering when the stadium-sized indie anthems the band have become known for were going to kick in. That latter group had a long and ultimately fruitless wait. Whatever you thought Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino was going to to be, this certainly wasn’t that.
Although surely that’s to be expected, right? Look at Arctic Monkeys today and they’re almost unrecognisable compared to the scruffy indie-lads that burst onto the scene in 2006 with an endless supply of earworm hooks and mile-a-minute lyrics delivered in an overtly Northern twang. That record alone got so much airplay at the time that it quickly cemented itself as a definitive new wave Brit-rock classic, paving the way for similar acts whilst simultaneously birthing a brand new music scene. Fans ate it up and came to expect more of the same from these four lads from Sheffield. The band? They had other ideas.
Each album release has been a gamble for Arctic Monkey fans - and with each the band has tried their hardest to change identity. From Turner’s greaser look for the 2013 unveiling of AM; complete with shades, leather jacket and slicked back quiff, to the mod-look of Suck It And See and their new long-haired European film star guise donned for this recent release - each collection of new tracks has come from, arguably, a completely new band. However isn’t that what all bands who withstand the test of time do? The Beatles, Radiohead, Blur - All three have transcended to legendary status and all three have universally dividing back catalogues of work and starkly changing personas.
Those original indie fans stuck around for the ride though, patiently awaiting the return of the band that gave them ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ while selectively filtering out the records that might not have provided the same rush (Humbug, we’re looking at you). Meanwhile other indie acts filled the gap, crafting a hit-formula with songs that can often be distilled into easily yelled sounds or football-adopted chants. The Sheffield lot returned to reclaim their crown five years ago with AM and its radio-friendly feel but now they seem to be at it again, itchy to throw their fans off the scent. Imagine the scene: crowds of eager Arctic Monkey fans at midnight Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino listening parties, patiently waiting for the band’s next indie ‘banger’ to drop. Hopefully, someone brought a pillow.
That said, it’s hard not to enjoy the whole thing. With wild new track titles like “The Ultracheese” and “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip”, you can almost hear the grin on Turner’s face. Clearly, they’re in on the joke - and we should be too. After all, it’s no coincidence that the record that defined Arctic Monkeys with fans was literally titled Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Good bands don't have time to get comfortable and the clues have been there all along.
Did you enjoy Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino? Let me know in the comments section below!
Watch Out: This post contains *SPOILERS* regarding Avengers: Infinity War - If you haven't seen it, stop reading now… or don’t. I’m not the eye-police.
Having looked at the superhero movies that slipped through the cracks en-route to Avengers: Infinity War last week, perhaps it’s time to focus our attention on the main event and a slight issue that threatens to render all its years of planning and mystique a little flat. If you’re one of the few who’s yet to see it, here’s a quick catch up: spoiler alert - Thanos wins. After gathering all five Infinity Stones (a collection of non-edible, incredibly powerful jelly tots), the purple headed monster heads to Earth and with the combined power of the universe on his fist, clicks his fingers and instantly deletes half the population of the universe. Bad times.
While us normies made up the majority of Thanos’s body count, a handful of Supers were also reduced to dust. Black Panther, Doctor Strange, the Guardians - even new recruit Peter Parker - are all lost to the ether as Infinity War closes on a particularly precarious note, forcing audiences to speculate on the fate of the Marvel Universe from now until the still-untitled part two arrives next May. What a cliffhanger, right? Well sort off. With fans’ feverish appetite for movie news - and with Studios overly keen to plan our their franchises years in advance - it’s sort of hard to get too caught up with the potential finality of Infinity War’s deadly closing twist.
Let’s not forget - Marvel’s already fleshed out its slate until at least 2020, with Guardians of the Galaxy confirmed for a third volume and Tom Holland’s recently deceased Peter Parker confirmed to return as early as July 2019. Combined this with the raw popularity of these heroes and rogues amongst fans and it’s hard to imagine Marvel following through with their threat of killing off half of the cast they’ve worked so tirelessly to assemble. It’s not just release dates that squash any sense of peril either. Sometimes, a quick look on IMDB can often confirm or deny the inclusion of potentially spoilerific cameos and plot-curves, erasing the surprise element that audiences often say they want yet seemingly love denying themselves of.
That said, a handful of directors still seem intent on keeping the unpredictability of pre-Internet cinema alive. JJ Abrams’ had the Ewok chops to off Han Solo in The Force Awakens - and more importantly keep him dead - and his Star Wars successor Rian Johnson did a fine job of keeping Yoda’s return underwraps in The Last Jedi. With this in mind it’s worth remembering that Marvel has displayed similar gusto in the past, with Joss Whedon stopping Quicksilver in his path with a death scene in Age of Ultron.
Throw in the fact that a handful of Marvel’s heroes are nearing the end of their contracts and perhaps Disney’s caped-cash cow is avoiding the curse of franchise TMI by pulling a fast one on us. Interestingly, its the Avengers’ most seasoned heroes like Tony Stark and Steve Rogers and not its cinematically deceased stars of tomorrow that seem destined for pastures new. Should we be more concerned for those who survived Thanos’ wrath than those who actually died? That’d certainly be one way to keep audiences on their toes.
Like me, would you watch a TV show called The Eye Police? Let me know in the comments section below!
Infinity War has finally arrived, marking the culmination of ten years of planning (and 18 cinematic releases) from Marvel Studios. It’s an undeniably impressive feat and one that’s not been achieved by any other studio to date, no matter how many Dark Knights or Kryptonians they have helping them. While the superhero genre currently reigns supreme, it’s not entirely been smooth sailing with some titles slipping through the cracks, doomed to an eternity in a HMV bargain bin. They may not have set the Box Office alight - and they’re certainly not without their flaws - but each has its own strengths that perhaps proved too divisive for mainstream audiences.
Take Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk, a movie that by today’s standards seems miles away from the light-hearted-yet-epic tone perfected by Marvel Studios. Instead, Lee made a movie that was pensive, dark and took its own time to tell its story. Undoubtedly it was the type of Bruce Banner tale Lee wanted to tell, even if audiences disagreed - and yet choosing Directors with differing and distinct styles seems to be the Studio’s winning recipe. Louis Leterrier’s 2008 reboot The Incredible Hulk upped the ante as Marvel’s second feature; ultimately a monster movie with considerably more action than Lee’s take but one that failed to match the financial return set by Iron Man. Throw in a fumbled relationship with its lead star and the future of this Hulk iteration was smashed in no time.
Rival DC Studios has had worse luck. Their attempts to fast-track their own super group with 2011’s The Green Lantern fell flat thanks to an inconsistent script and some dodgy CGI but their ambition was clearly there. However, the silver lining of their attempt at lighting the Lantern was some impressive dedication to world building and the injection of some much needed humour to a comic universe that has a tendency to be bleaker than Batman's Pinterest boards. Sadly it wasn’t enough - proof that even though these franchises have unrivalled audiences on paper, they’re no guaranteed hit when it comes to bringing them to the screen.
Then there’s the curse of forward planning. Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man double-hitter showed what a loved-up Peter Parker might look like while still at high school - a lighter touch that was counterbalanced with some nifty bad guys with vicious streaks. Unfortunately Andrew Garfield’s take on Spidey was cut short due to circumstance but the strain of an over-packed story lacking a clear direction was already starting to show at Sony. The race the compete with Marvel’s slow-and-steady trail of success has spelt doom for many who have attempted to go up against them. While these titles all fell through the cracks, it’s interesting to see what worked, what didn’t and to remember what stand-alone superhero movies looked like before interconnected universes were the go-to. Love them or hate them, it’s unlikely we’ll see their type again.
Do you miss stand-alone superhero movies? Let me know in the comments section below!
Remember when Bruce Wayne was debating packing in the whole Batman thing in The Dark Knight and Harvey Dent suggested he might actually be on to something? “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain,” he said, shortly before becoming a villain himself. While it’s usually not advised to take the advice of supervillains, The Simpsons might be able to learn something from this Rogue Gallery baddie. Especially following their recent fumbled response to accusations of cultural appropriation regarding Springfield regular and Kwik-E-Mart clerk Apu.
Miss this? Here’s a quick recap: In late 2017 TruTV aired stand-up comic Hari Kondabolu’s documentary The Problem With Apu, a film that explored exactly what its title might suggest by inviting a handful of recognized names to discuss the subliminal negative impact Springfield’s solo Indian American character has had on modern popular culture. Reaction online was swift and soon enough the question was raised as to how The Simpsons’ creative team might counter these accusations. It was a tricky situation made trickier when you consider that Apu has been around for the long haul and that he’s voiced by caucasian actor and voice artist Hank Azaria. If this was an episode of the show, they’d probably throw an awkward collar tug in right about now.
As America’s longest running sitcom - one that’s deftly handled its fair share of hot topics with a combination of comedy and wit in the past - expectation was high. However instead of serving up a smart, considered response, sensitive to the social expectations of the day, the show’s eyebrow-raising retort fell spectacularly flat, not only shying away from addressing the issue head on but sweeping the whole conversation under the rug altogether. To borrow a phrase of another Springfield resident, it was probably the worst handling of a topical issue, ever.
Maybe the show’s writers were banking on using the speed at which social issues like these come and go, hoping to offer a brief note, wait out the storm and carry on as usual. However instead of just being a rubbish response, this comes across more like the final nail in the coffin for a show that’s been in a steady decline for almost as long as its Golden Age lasted. When The Simpsons arrived in 1989, it had the gift of being fresh and undoubtedly paved new ground. If it wasn’t for Matt Groening and The Simpson family, it’s unlikely that we’d now have South Park or Family Guy - shows that have arguably taken Springfield’s format and improved upon it for a new generation.
With this in mind - and with new shows, for new demographics, tackling new, topical issues in new ways - it makes you wonder whether we really need to see the slow demise of a once-pioneering show that’s now old and struggling to keep up. The legacy of The Simpsons at its peak is too sharp and revered to be handled this carelessly by a revolving door troupe of new writers. Suddenly, Harvey Dent’s advice sounds all too apt. Maybe The Simpsons has survived long enough to see itself do more harm than good. Maybe audiences need a little vacation from Springfield.
Do you think we've seen enough of The Simpsons? Let me know in the comments section below!
Author: Simon Bland