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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Advent of Alita: Battle Angel, and the Culture War

This is so huge, I don't even know where to begin.

In many ways the main protagonist of the film is the personification of the movie itself.

Alita: Battle Angel is based on a manga, or Japanese comic book known as the "Gunnm" series. The series started in the 90s and had a very small, but dedicated fan base.

But before I talk about the actual movie, I'm going to talk about what an underdog of a film this movie was.

It came out on Valentine's Day, and there wasn't a whole lot of good movies playing so no one was really going to the theaters in mid February. Not to mention, a few good titles came out in the winter, so Alita came in basically as an afterthought to those movies. It gets even worse when you consider that everyone was waiting for Captain Marvel, so this other obscure movie was destined to not get a whole lot of attention.

This is where the Solo Effect comes into place.

The Solo Effect™, coined by yours truly, states that movies from established cinematic universes that are of low quality will have a massive opening weekend followed by extremely low numbers for the rest of its lifespan, while obscure movies or movies from un-established cinematic universes that are of the highest quality will have very small box office numbers initially but will quickly grow like wildfire once word of mouth gets out that the movie is good.

Let's compare Solo to Wonder Woman.

While the DC universe is well-known and established, Wonder Woman came out after the disaster that was Batman v. Superman, so no one thought this movie would be good. Also Wonder Woman was considered one of the more minor characters in the DC universe, so hardly anyone saw the movie when it first came out.*

*I know that Wonder Woman isn't a minor character in the DCU, but for a while Batman and Superman stole the show so she was kind of living in their shadow until they finally made a good movie about her.

Wonder Woman only made $103 million its opening weekend (which is a ton to most movies, but very disappointing numbers for a big DC movie which is expected to make almost double that in most circumstances) yet in the end this film made a whopping $800 million! That's insane.

Most people don't grasp how big of a comeback that is.

Most of these big DC and Marvel movies make around $300 million on the low end to $750 million on the high end. The most profitable Marvel movie thus far is Infinity War which made a whopping $2 billion, and a lot of these movies easily made between $100-200 million- sometimes more- in their first opening weekend.

Solo: A Star Wars Story and Wonder Woman both made an almost identical $103 million their opening weekend, which was a bit low for both movies but nothing to scoff at, yet Wonder Woman ended up making $800 million while Solo only made $400 million. They started off with the same low box office numbers but somehow Wonder Woman made 2x as much gross in its lifespan.

This is the Solo Effect™.

Worldwide Solo made $103 million its first weekend, but domestically it made $85 million.

Captain Marvel made $154 million its opening weekend, which is pretty massive, though they did lose $20 million after Brie Larson started saying politically divisive things on Twitter and in her interviews, because the projection was originally $180 million but dropped to $160 after she made those comments, and lo and behold, the movie made 154 instead of 180 million.

Allow me to clarify something real quick, if it please ya, thankee sai.

For anyone who doubts that the political commentary of both movies had anything to do with their poor box office numbers, keep in mind that $103 million is insultingly low for a Star Wars movie to make opening weekend, and $180 million for Captain Marvel was really low-balling it. Compare the 159 mil CM made to the 241 mil Black Panther made its first opening weekend.

And of course it's not just political commentary- while I admittedly haven't seen either CM or Solo, both movies are regarded as somewhere between ok and terrible by the fans, as their reviews, YouTube videos and tweets would suggest. (Edit: I watched CM now on a torrent, I'll address it briefly in the next Alita post.) But for the most powerful character ever to be unveiled in the Marvel universe, the legendary hero that's supposed to defeat Thanos? Yeah, you can bet your ass 159 mil is really low. We should be seeing much stronger numbers. If it was a good movie with no politics involved, it wouldn't surprise me if it was almost as successful as Infinity War. Especially considering that it had the biggest movie launch of all time, but more on that in a second.

Several people have tried to tell me that Solo didn't make poor money because it was politically divisive or because it was a bad movie, no, it didn't make any money because of burnout! According to these folks, being so late in the Star Wars franchise is why this movie didn't do well.

Pardon my language, but that's malarkey.

Have you ever met a Star Wars fan? I have, half the people I'm friends with are utterly obsessed (kind of like how I am with Alita) with Star Wars. They were pumped for Solo, except for the ones that were so pissed from The Last Jedi that they never wanted to see a new Star Wars movie again. The Last Jedi made 1.3 billion, and was by far the most hated Star Wars film. And then Solo comes out, and only a fraction of the fans came out to see it. They saw how it was being marketed and knew it was going to be like The Last Jedi all over again (and according to some of my Star -Wars- fanatic-friends, it pretty much was).

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure the series had its run with some of the fans, but I highly doubt burnout is why Solo only made a third of what The Last Jedi made. You mean to tell me burnout is why half the fans didn't turn up for that movie? Please.

But domestically, Captain Marvel only made $65 million, which is less than the $85 mil that Solo made its opening weekend. So while it did make tons of money internationally its first weekend, it's entirely possible that it will stop making money soon and be another Solo. Although it's most likely going to make around $750-850 million, since that's what most projections are putting it at. It might make more, who knows.

(Edit: It managed to pass the 1B mark, and there is some speculation that Disney bought tickets to their own movie to pad their own numbers, which I won't say is impossible, but it's just as likely that millions of normies actually went to see that dumpster-fire. Honestly I don't care whether Disney staged the box office numbers or if they're real, because they're both equally alarming).

But here's what's interesting.

Alita: Battle Angel launched to only $28 million, and because it came out just a few weeks before Captain Marvel, it was pushed out of theaters to make room for Captain Marvel. It's still playing at the time of writing in many theaters, but it was pushed out of 700 theaters in the US to make room for Captain Marvel, the most played movie of all time.

For those who weren't following, Captain Marvel is currently being played in more theaters, and with more showtimes, than any other movie in history. It plays every 30 minutes in almost every theater in the world. Not to mention, it launched worldwide all in one day. Usually a Hollywood movie launches in the US, and then after two weeks or so, it will open in other countries. But Captain Marvel launched in every open theater in the world, with more showtimes than any movie in history, in one day- and pushed Alita out of 700 theaters- and somehow Alita survived.

Some might be wondering where this comparison is coming from.

Why can't these two movies coexist?

Simply put, they can. When James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez and Jon Landau started making Alita, they weren't trying to compete with Captain Marvel or anything. James Cameron has been wanting to make this movie for 30 years. And it wasn't the sexist white men who started comparing the movies.

It came from the media.

The media started attacking this movie out of the blue for no reason, while simultaneously promoting Captain Marvel. It became painfully obvious that they felt threatened by the existence of another strong female character in a movie that wasn't theirs.

Alita: Battle Angel is one of my favorite movies and is objectively excellent in every way; it's not just a part of the culture war. It just happened to be dragged into it.

Everywhere I look I see critics and journalists working for Disney doing everything in their power to tear this movie apart.

I can't log onto the Internet without seeing some prick in a sweatervest saying things like:

The long-awaited ‘Alita’ isn’t a good movie. It’s more like four lousy ones,

Alita: Battle Angel challenge fails to top Captain Marvel,


Alita Has A Design Problem (But It’s Not The Big Eyes)

(Spoiler alert: they're bitching that Alita is too skinny. They're seriously getting butt-hurt that a fictional cyborg isn't fat.)

Yeah, totally no insecurities being projected here...
For fuck's sake... these people.

Disney and the critics who want to stay in their good graces instantly leaped on every opportunity they could to undermine this movie. The critics all gave it scathingly low scores (while the audience gave it a sublime 94% rating) and every douche with a degree went out of their way to bash this movie for no reason- often for doing some of the same stuff Captain Marvel did! For example, in the article about Alita's "problematic design," they complain that she's "sexualized." Nevermind the fact that she wears jeans and a baggy shirt for most of the film, and Captain Marvel literally has a butt-double (apparently Brie Larson has a flat bottom, so they had a blonde woman with a big butt act as the "butt-double" whenever she's shown from behind), but yeah. And she's a flipping cyborg, so everything except her brain is metal, but it's skinny metal, not fat metal, therefore it's problematic. The ScreenRant article goes to great lengths to body-shame Alita for being too skinny and "ideal," because that totally sends a positive message to girls. Just remember, ladies: if you're thin or have a generally fit physique, you're not good enough because your ideal body is over-sexualized and it makes overweight people feel uncomfortable, so you should change yourself to be less ideal and more "realistic." If you don't, you're just conforming to the outdated standard of beauty that the misogynist patriarchy has forced down your throat.
Shield your eyes, she's too ideal!

A lot of these types of articles are treading into puritan territory. Next thing you know they're going to tell girls not to wear shorts or anything that shows their legs or shoulders, or maybe they'll just go the Islamic route and have girls completely cover themselves from head-to-toe lest they be seen as publicly indecent.

At least, that's the message this BS article is sending. These journalists are the puritans of the 21st (and 26th) century.

They also tried spewing some bullshit about Alita whitewashing, since the characters aren't Japanese, but the original manga takes place in the US so that shows you how little research they did before concocting these lies. It also makes them look like asses for assuming that all anime and manga characters are Japanese.

One of the most blatant attacks on this movie was from the New York Post, where they wrote:

At the start of “Alita: Battle Angel,” a scientist fishes a robot head out of a trash heap, slaps on a body and treats it like a daughter. By the end of this derivative, heartless mess, you’ll conclude that a garbage dump is exactly where writer-producer James Cameron’s new project belongs.

I know that they're just saying provocative stuff to clickbait and cling to relevancy, but what the actual fuck did I just read.

That one line was probably the one that pissed me off the most: "-a scientist fishes a robot head out of a trash heap, slaps on a body and treats it like a daughter."

Fuck. You.

The doctor Ido finds Alita in the junkyard and rebuilds her with the body he previously built for his lost daughter, and it's a pretty endearing moment seeing her wake up for the first time with no friends or family, except Ido who invests heavily in taking care of her and protecting her. And this uncultured swine has the audacity to say he just "slapped a head on a body and treated it like a daughter." No wonder the website begs you to subscribe to their newsletter and share it with your friends every time you click on something, I don't imagine the average person finding their attitude charming in any way.

"Fuck your mercy!"
Leading up to March 8th we saw the #AlitaChallenge, where people said that instead of watching Captain Marvel, they'd go see Alita instead. To some extent it worked, because despite being played in only a handful of theaters, when Captain Marvel was playing everywhere, and with almost no showtimes available, Alita still managed to make $3 million that weekend, which isn't bad for a film this small.

I decided to do some math, and the price of the average movie ticket in the US is $8.12. With that in mind, the movie making ~$3 mil, at ~$8.12 a ticket, means that about 370,000 people went to see Alita. Obviously the numbers are actually quite a lot higher when you consider that the theater itself keeps a percentage of the ticket sales; when we take into account that American studios keep 60% of ticket sale revenue, and the remaining 40% goes to the theater, approximately $5 million worth of Alita tickets were sold, and at ~$8.12 a ticket, that means the actual number of people who went to see Alita on March 8th through March 10th was closer to 615,000, which is pretty admirable in my opinion. So as far as I'm concerned, the #AlitaChallenge was a success. And if nothing else, it brought us $3 mil closer to a sequel.

Sorry guys, math time is over now  /:

Alita was a fantastic movie with one of the best characters I've ever seen in a fictional setting, and it just happened to be a female one, while Captain Marvel kept beating people over the head with how much it empowers wahmen* because it has a female lead. Then articles came out saying shit like "Captain Marvel beats Wonder Woman its opening weekend!"

*Wahmen: Click here to respec wahmen

Seriously? They think there can only be one strong female lead? They preach a chorus of women-empowerment then instantly shut down every other movie that features a strong female lead. They went out of their way to attack Alita and boast that Captain Mary-Sue did better than Wonder Woman.

Disney could have easily supported this movie. They could have been like "Yeah, it's great that lots of movies are coming out with strong female characters," and while it wouldn't have made Captain Marvel any better, that positive attitude would have made everyone happy. And even if they didn't want to support Alita, they didn't have to say anything. They could have just not acknowledged it in the first place and done their own thing, but instead they went after it with all sorts of nasty feminist articles.

For those wondering if Disney and the SJWs are connected, they are in some ways. For the most part, SJWs hate this movie for their own reasons ('cause feminism), but there are a few exceptions. For example, Peter Travers from The Rolling Stone, a magazine and online news source with over 60 million subscribers, trashed Alita and happens to work for ABC. Wouldn't you know it, ABC is owned by Disney. I took a look at his reviews and oddly enough, he praises every Disney and Marvel movie but is much more critical of every other movie. What an odd coinkydink, right? But of course lots of other critics who don't work for Disney still came after this movie for their own reasons, whether it be because it wasn't woke enough for them or they just don't know a damn thing about anime and manga. One example of a non-Disney critic going after Alita for feminist reasons is Manohla Dargis from The New York Times, who not only body-shamed Alita, but attacked the actress herself. She went on to insult Rosa Salazar's appearance, referring to her by name, dragging both the movie and Rosa's name in the mud.

Not to mention, how the actresses carried themselves outside the movie spoke volumes about the characters they were portraying.

Brie Larson for example wants everyone to know how powerful she is and has been described as having a "big, healthy ego," by her peers.

There's no such thing as a healthy ego. She acts like she's the greatest thing since sliced bread and people call it healthy? I'm sorry but that's just too funny for me. She described in an interview that she wanted to be in the movie to promote feminism. She didn't sound malicious or anything, but she basically said she wanted to be Captain Marvel to show little girls what a HERo looks like or something (the term HERo is a strong, female character, hence why they capitalize the HER in hero).

For a funny video of a chick in a Star Wars shirt ripping Brie Larson's interview with Jimmy Kimmel, click here

But Rosa Salazar, an obscure actress you may not have heard about, wasn't some super famous person, she was just a nerd who was a hardcore fan of the original Alita graphic novels and was honored to get the part after playing a few minor roles in some other movies.*

*I could be wrong on that, she definitely read the manga and gushed about how much she loves it but it's hard to tell whether or not she read them before or after getting the part as Alita, but either way she's a dork and definitely a humble person.

**Edit: I did some digging, and she read the whole manga series after finding out that James Cameron was making a movie on it, so she did read it before getting the part but only because she heard it was being made into a movie, but my point still stands. 

And so was the director, Robert Rodriguez.

When Robert first saw Rosa's audition, he cried.

Brie Larson doesn't care about Marvel. She isn't a comic book nerd or a fan of the MCU, she doesn't care about the source material. This movie was just another chance to be on a big screen and make lots of  money while pushing her agenda.

It wasn't about the movie or the story.

It was about pushing feminism.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Captain Marvel is a God-awful movie. From what I've heard, it wasn't atrocious but it wasn't any good either. From what the audience seems to think, it was aggressively mediocre.

But Alita was a passion project from the start.

It turns out, this was James Cameron's dream. When he first read Battle Angel Alita in the 90s, he was dying to make it into a movie, but he knew that the tech they had at the time wouldn't work. Alita would look laughably bad and none of the scenery would look good either.

He admitted that, in a way, Avatar was a tech-demo for the motion-capture technology he'd use to create Alita. This doesn't mean he doesn't love Avatar, but Avatar was the movie he made to test the new CGI that he wanted to use for Alita: Battle Angel.

I went to see Alita three times in theaters, and each time I came out loving it for a completely different reason.

(Don't worry, there won't be any major spoilers here.)
When I first saw the movie, I knew literally nothing about it. I didn't even see the trailer. I only went to spite Captain Marvel after Brie Larson said a bunch of political crap and everyone I trusted said to see Alita instead.

I didn't even know it was based off a manga until I did some research after leaving the theater. I went to my tiny, local mountain theater in Blue Jay. Tickets were 8 bucks.

When I went in I had pretty low expectations, I didn't think I'd leave a fan. Although I loved the movie, I was still pretty critical about it. I thought that the romantic subplot was cheesy and at one point Alita gives a super corny speech that was a little bit cringey (cringy? Now I gotta find out how it's spelt).

But for some reason I couldn't stop thinking about the movie so I went to see it again, and then all was forgiven once it hit me.

I remember thinking, This is exactly what she would do.

Alita is such a naive and innocent character, of course she'd immediately adore the first guy she met, and give a corny speech thinking people would want to join her. As Shadiversity eloquently put it, "She's the type of corny person that actually thinks if she gives a speech, people will join her."

It's also important to note that this is perhaps the most anime movie ever created. It feels so much more like anime than any other film before it. And admittedly, anime generally features really bouncy and optimistic protagonists and corny love stories, but that's just the stylistic choice that makes anime different from most western story-telling. But it's also refreshing seeing this movie because Alita is so much more optimistic, energetic and enthusiastic than most protagonists who sometimes take themselves too seriously, while Alita as a protagonist feels uniquely youthful and benevolent.

The first time I watched the movie I loved the characters but thought that the plot was cheesy as hell, and the second time I came out appreciating the sequence of events much more, including the romantic subplot. The romantic subplot is totally corny and a little bit cringey at times, kind of like first relationships in real life. As far as I'm concerned, everyone's first relationship is cheesy and awkward, so I'm not going to hold it against the movie for making Alita's first relationship cheesy and awkward. And if I'm being honest here, I was too wrapped up in everything to realize how anime the movie was. Since I went in without watching the trailers, I didn't know it was based off a manga and expected a western-style Hollywood movie, so I was caught off guard by her large anime eyes, optimistic attitude and the cheesy romance. But then on the drive home I had a sudden "Oh!" moment where it suddenly occurred to me that it was an anime adaptation and I somehow failed to notice that at any point during the actual movie.

But the third time was by far my favorite viewing.

I went to see it in IMAX 3D, and not that crappy 3D with the cardboard red-and-blue glasses. It was the nice stuff. The tickets were $20 instead of $8 and the popcorn was insultingly expensive, but I was so happy. One thing I loved was that the seats were recliners that vibrated whenever something big shook on the screen. It was so immersive.

I generally don't like going to 3D movies because usually the 3D isn't very good and it undermines the visual quality of the movie, but that wasn't the case here.

For those who dislike 3D movies, I think now is the time to give it another chance. Probably the last time I saw a movie in 3D before Alita was in like 2012, and for some reason it hadn't occurred to me that the tech had improved since then. So yeah, 3D movies. Go see them. It's awesome now. Turns out a lot of development happens between 2012 and 2019, you know?

Anyway, on the third viewing it suddenly hit me why Alita was such a lovable character.

She's one of the most emotionally vulnerable characters ever to play the badass-female-lead role.

What I mean to say is, that for the most part when there is a strong female character in a movie, they're usually emotionless. They're so wrapped up in being stoic that they aren't allowed to show any vulnerabilities, and usually they're Mary-Sues because they can't rely on anyone for anything lest that be seen as a weakness. They especially can't ever need the help of a male character because they're a strong, independent wahmon.

Yet Alita is completely forward and emotionally vulnerable all the time and never fails to be a badass. In fact one could argue that she's strong because of her vulnerabilities, not in spite of them.

At the start of the movie (this is in the trailer, it's not a spoiler) when she's found in a junkyard and has her cyborg body repaired (or replaced, if you want to be technical about it), she has a conversation with Ido, the doctor that found her. When he asks her who she is, she gets a little frustrated with herself for not being able to remember, and once she realizes that she doesn't even remember her own name she starts to cry. It's almost a little heart-breaking- you don't even know this character and you already care about them.

There are a few scenes where she or someone else cries but at no point does it feel phony or forced, because each situation is one that warrants an emotional reaction.

And I don't think the irony of that is beyond the average person- the irony of course being that Alita, a CGI character comprised entirely out of special effects, has more human emotion than a real person- that person being Brie Larson's portrayal of Captain Marvel, naturally.

Unlike Captain Mary-Sue who is so overpowered she can defeat anyone with ease, Alita actually struggles, and sometimes she loses.

**Major Spoiler Here!!** 

Despite being an amazing fighter and a total badass at times, she isn't perfect or indestructible. At one point in the movie, she throws everything she has at the cyborg she's fighting and gets utterly destroyed. After first seeing her in action, me and everyone else in the theater assumed she was too strong to be beaten, but then there was a gasp in the entire theater when her cyborg body was completely ripped apart in a single, visceral instant, and she was so devastated that she started screaming and crying as she struggled to keep fighting with nothing but a head and an arm.

And ultimately, she had to be rescued. She wasn't above defeat after all.


Spoiler-free version: she doesn't always win fights and she's truly devastated when she loses.

Very rarely do we see a character who wears their heart on their sleeve and is also good at fighting.
When your surrogate father makes you a new pair of skates so you can compete in Motorball and go to Zalem
As others like Shadiversity have pointed out, they did something close to that with Wonder Woman, but they executed it differently. Wonder Woman is a very loving and compassionate character in a motherly, maternal sort of way. She just really wanted to protect people, and you could tell she was in genuine distress when things went wrong for the people she cared about.

And that's how it feels with Alita. She loves her boyfriend, she loves her father, and has no affinity for violence or cruelty. The thing is, that while she does enjoy fighting because of her programming, she isn't drawn to violent confrontations. She's the kind of person that would be more than happy to live a quiet life working at her father's cyborg clinic, but she does violent things because she's put in a position where she has to, so she rises to the occasion. And the thing is that she could totally abuse her power. If she wanted to, she could easily become a ruthless killing machine that everyone would have to bow down to, but she doesn't. She just wants to protect the people she cares about. The main thing about the movie is that you rarely see a character who is incredibly powerful yet as gentle and pure-hearted as Alita, those are usually things that don't mesh together, yet Cameron, Landau and Rodriguez did a fantastic job with it here.

The other thing is the complete lack of a Hero's Journey. While I admit that not all movies or stories have to follow the Hero's Journey table down to a T, Captain Marvel undergoes no development whatsoever. Even if they have their own spin on how a character should develop and grow, at least do something. With Alita we see a massive change between who she is at the start of the movie and who she is at the end, and the difference is tangible.

The agenda that feminist movies like Captain Marvel are trying to push is that men are the enemy. For example in Captain Marvel, she doesn't join the military because she's patriotic or wants to defend her beloved country; no, she joins to prove that she's better than all those dirty-rotten-men. And early in the movie there's a scene where she's told that baseball isn't for girls or something and that's her backstory I guess? For the most part, every character in the MCU has an interesting and unique backstory. Take Captain America for example.

While I was never a huge fan of Captain America, I do like his backstory.

He wasn't some power-hungry maniac or anything, he had no idea what the serum did. He had no way of knowing how powerful he'd become. He didn't even want to be a hero per-se, rather he wanted to help in the cause. He saw all the men he respected and admired risk their lives, often losing them, to defend against enemy invasion in foreign countries, and he felt guilty that he was doing nothing while others died. So he joined the military and when asked to participate in the experiment he agreed, opting to do whatever he could to be useful.

And that's how he became Captain America. It wasn't out of spite or because he had something to prove, or for fame or glory, he just wanted to help.

But Captain Marvel doesn't need to have thoughts or feelings! She's a stoic, emotionless being who can instantly obliterate anyone because she's a strong, female character.

And I think one of the reasons they hate Alita: Battle Angel so much is that it features a strong female character who doesn't hate men. She's susceptible to puppy love and has a fatherly figure that she's very fond of, and despite being the strongest character in her little family, she relies on them for both physical and emotional support.

Look at how stoic I am. Also, fuck men.
Now here is an interesting observation- the way both movies were marketed.

Captain Marvel, for example, started a "charity" (read with as much eye-roll as possible) to help little girls go see Captain Marvel.

Okay, that's not the worst thing, right? Lots of movies give out tickets to promote themselves.

But that's not what they were doing.

They raised money to give to little girls that could only be spent on Captain Marvel tickets.

In other words, they gave money (that we donated) to little girls and forced them to give the money back to Disney by buying tickets to see Captain Marvel.

I thought it was a joke at first, but of course this is 2019 and the line between satire and reality is always thinning, so here we are.

Brie Larson is a millionaire. Disney is a massive, 98-billion dollar company. If they wanted they could easily give out tickets to underprivileged or poor kids as an act of charity. I mean, it's not food or clothes, but giving out tickets for free is still a charitable thing in my opinion. But they weren't giving out free tickets. They were asking the public to donate money to the kids so that the kids could pay for tickets that would go to Disney.

That's kind of fucked up. The casual reader might scan right over these headlines and be like "Oh yeah Captain Marvel is doing charity, that's kinda cool" and not realize that Disney is basically asking us to donate money to themselves.

On the other hand, the Alita team did something pretty amazing.

They started a partnership with OpenBionics to fund prosthetic limbs for amputees, and for the premier of the movie they developed a replica of Alita's cyborg arms in real life for a little girl named Tilly Lockey, and they made her the star of the night. After equipping her with awesome robotic arms they treated her like a celebrity. No doubt she was driven to the theater in a limo and got to stay in a fancy hotel, and in the video you can see how happy she was to be brought to the front of the velvet carpet and given the spotlight for the evening.

Like, how can that not make you smile?

And I've just got to talk about Rosa for a second.

Rosa Salazar, a huge nerd, is such a humble person to be playing the role of Alita. What stood out to me was how she would give interviews to just about anyone and would treat them with the utmost respect, even if it was just some random guy with a small YouTube channel she's never heard about.

My favorite by far is this one, where she was interviewed by an adorable German guy with a small YouTube channel and she basically spills everything.

She's only been in a handful of movies where she played small roles, except in Maze Runner where she got to be a main character but those movies didn't do very good. Although she was in Bird Box which was pretty cool, but she was the chick everyone hated in the story so that was not her big actress moment IMO.

Do I have a crush on Alita or Rosa Salazar? Is there a difference?

Anyway, moving on.

Now compare Rosa's interview with Brie Larson's.

It won't let me put the video clip in so here's the link, and just pay attention to how different they are.

Brie Larson obsessively talking about race and gender for 3 minutes straight:

Good grief... she's making Thanos look like the good guy.

When Wonder Woman came out, the lead actress Gal Gadot didn't rant about the race and gender of everyone involved in the cinema process or the demographics of her audience, she just talked about the movie and how much she loved the story. And when Alita: Battle Angel came out, you didn't see anyone from the set or production going around talking about the demographic of the audience or whatever. They just talked about how much they wanted to make this movie and what it meant to them.

This goes for other leftists as well- Chris Evans, who plays as Captain America, is even more far-left than Brie Larson. In fact Chris Evans is one of the most outrageously far-left people I've ever seen, but even he has the grace and respect to keep politics out of the movie. When he meets fans, does interviews and talks about the movies on the campaign trail, he sticks to talking about the movie, the story and the fans. This also goes for Gal Gadot, who is very far-left but, like Chris Evans, doesn't taint the film with politics. And the thing is that I don't care what a celebrity's political views are. They can be the most far-left person in the world but if they're kind and respectful, and they don't try to hijack the movie franchise to push an agenda, then I'm cool with them. Despite our political differences, I have tremendous respect for Chris Evans and Gal Gadot on-screen and off-screen when they meet the fans and show a genuine love and respect for the franchise and its supporters. They're true comic book heroes. When Wonder Woman came out, Gal Gadot went to hospitals to visit sick children in costume, so that those kids got to meet Wonder Woman in person. When Avengers and the Captain America movie came out, Chris Evans would surprise fans at the premiere, take pictures with them and sign all of their merch, and would happily join them in discussion regardless of whether they were a news outlet reporter or just a random fan in a T-shirt. After Pirates of the Caribbean came out, Johnny Depp would randomly surprise people at Disney Land dressed like Jack Sparrow, and would put kids on his shoulder and pose for them and do all sorts of fun and cool stuff with them to make their day. And when Alita came out, obviously since she's CGI Rosa couldn't show up as Alita, but they gave Tilly Lockey awesome robot-arms and made her the star of the premiere.

But Brie Larson not only didn't do any of that stuff, but she refused to even wear the costume to her own premiere. When Jimmy Kimmel asked why she wasn't going to the premiere as Captain Marvel, she snarkily replied, "Maybe you should dress as Captain Marvel."

The thing is that I don't even like Jimmy Kimmel but I have to admit that in that entire interview he was nothing but kind and respectful to her and she just looked down her nose at him and acted like a pompous douche the entire time. She obviously gives 0 fucks about the movie or the fans, let alone the Marvel franchise as a whole. Let's also not forget that time when she uploaded a selfie showing off her expensive clothes and purse and captioned it "RIP Stan Lee."

And you know what else?

If there was no identity politics involved in Captain Marvel, it still wouldn't be a good movie. Most of the low audience reviews point out actual, objective flaws with the movie, like how CM is overpowered, how she's snarky and rude, which makes her dislikable, and the entire movie is a giant plot hole in the MCU. There was one scene where she's wrestling or brawling with some guy in her group (her superior, Jude Law), and she tries to win without using her powers, and when she loses she gets mad and attacks him anyway.

She's portrayed as as a sore loser with the personality of a wet sock, and there's nothing to endear the audience to her character. Contrast that with Wonder Woman or Alita, where both are shown to be genuine characters with more emotionality than Captain Marvel will ever have.

Now I'd like to make a quick caveat before I continue.

One movie being bad is not evidence of another movie being good, nor does the likability of the actors and actresses involved dictate the quality of the movie overall.

I'm not showing you this as evidence that Alita is the best and Captain Marvel is the worst.

This post is about the culture war, after all.

I'm trying to show that when genuine passion projects are made just for the sake of making them, and everyone involved has an authentic and genuine love for the story and characters, it gets shut down while political movies like Captain Marvel are shoved down our throat, but if you don't like it then you must be a misogynist white male, and if you're a woman then something must be wrong with you.

That's why this movie is so important to me.

It's not only one of my favorite movies of all time, but it's an underdog that's being attacked by all sides from Hollywood, Rotten Tomatoes, Disney, SJWs, and the mainstream media.

That's what's so important here and it's why I'll fight for Alita for as long as it's playing. I want this movie to succeed despite all the naysayers. Like the protagonist of the movie, the movie itself is an underdog that needs love and support lest it be crushed under the weight of all this unwarranted opposition.

It's why I went to see this movie three times.*  It's why I don't want to see Captain Marvel or give Disney a single penny. It's why I'll continue to root for this film and do whatever I can to support it.

*After writing this post I may or may not have proceeded to watch the film 4 more times, so I may or may not have watched it 7 times in theaters now...

**After the first edit on this post, I went to see it another 4 times, so I have seen it 11 times in total. I wanted to see it one last time just so i could say "I saw it a dozen times," but 11 theatrical viewings is more than enough. My favorite viewings were the 3rd viewing, when I saw it in IMAX 3D, my 6th viewing, because I met up with another Alita fan on Reddit and hung out for the day, and my 8th viewing because is was a slow Tuesday afternoon and school was out, and the theater had discount tickets for seniors, so the entire theater was full of old people, and they loved it. A bunch of cryptic, old people loudly cheering on an anime movie is the best thing ever. 

For those who haven't seen the movie, this isn't intended to be a stand-alone film. It was set up to be the first of a trilogy, and the ending reflects that. James Cameron said in an interview that he really wanted to make a sequel, but was unsure if they'd have the funding.

The movie cost Fox about $170 million, and no doubt was over $350 million when you take marketing into account. There's no clear-cut number, but most estimates put Alita at needing $400 million in order to be considered profitable and possibly secure a sequel.

But James Cameron made sure that the ending would be alright if a sequel couldn't be made.

And, in my humble opinion, this movie not getting a sequel would be a tragedy. A movie this good with this much opposition and such a strong cult following deserves to see this thing through. If this movie didn't get a sequel, then that sends the message that all the rabid journalists at Vox and the snobby critics at Rotten Tomatoes won.

And you want to know the funny thing?

Disney is buying Fox.

It's not completely done yet, as the ownership of Fox is still being transferred over, but this basically means Dinsey and its political coterie was willing to smear a movie it would soon be partially acquiring.* You'd think Disney would be promoting this movie, since they'd reap the rewards of a sequel if it was successful now that they'd have Fox. But they're not, they desperately want Captain Mary-Sue to be the only successful movie with a female character so they'll do whatever they can to shut down this movie and prevent people from seeing it.

*While Disney is buying Fox, James Cameron owns the rights to Alita (thank God) so they can't mess with the movie itself or its sequels, but they still get most of the money that it makes in box office so that's why you'd think they'd want to promote it.

Captain Marvel was always guaranteed to make a lot of money. Every Marvel movie is guaranteed to make hundreds of millions. Even if the movie is aggressively mediocre, the fact that it's a Marvel film secures it's initial success, and since it launched worldwide in every single theater in the world with more showtimes than any movie in history, even if word got out that the movie wasn't good it'd be too late, because they'd make so much money so quickly that they'd at least break even and turn some level of a profit. Everyone would have already payed to see this movie long before word got out not to see it.

And of course with Alita: Battle Angel it was the exact opposite. They only made $28 million the first weekend and it wasn't until word-of-mouth got out that any attention was given to this movie whatsoever.

According to Rosa Salazar (Alita), when she asked Jon Landau when a sequel would be made, he said something quite brilliant.

Landau only replied, "We'll let the audience decide."

I paraphrased it a little because I can't find the interview where she said that, but the basic point is the same. He said that if he wanted to, even if the movie was a flop, he and Cameron could take the story to a different studio and have it made there, since almost every studio would bend over backwards to produce a Cameron-Landau movie.

But he said that he didn't want to make a sequel if it wasn't wanted. If they poured their heart and soul into this movie and no one liked it, a sequel would never be made. But if it was released and the viewers wanted a sequel, he would make sure that it'd happen. As I mentioned earlier, the movie likely needs around $400 million for a sequel to be made (unless James Cameron goes rogue and pressures another studio into funding it instead of Fox), and so far it's sitting at  $380 million, so the cult following of this movie is going crazy trying to get it to $400 million so we can all relax knowing a sequel can be made. YouTube creators have been following this movie's box office numbers and the SJW commentary surrounding it for the last 3 weeks, and the comment sections are full of people saying that they saw the movie 3, 4, 5+ times in theaters, and on the subreddit there's people posting with pictures that they went to the theater alone but bought multiple tickets just to give more money to Fox. I've seen a few guys who have gone to see the movie literally 12 times, and they're proud to show the picture of all 12 movie tickets they kept. There's one YouTuber who went 33 times, seeing the movie once a day every day, and I think he might still be doing it. So in many ways, the audience has already spoken.

If you have any doubts that the audience has spoken, well...

Original tweet

Edit: The movie has officially passed $400 million, which is a massive triumph. That means that it's actually passed Solo: A Star Wars story, which I mentioned earlier making around 400 mil but was 392 mil to be exact. And of course, Solo had a much higher production and marketing cost. The production alone was $275 million, which is 61% higher than the $170 million spent on Alita.
"Looks like the fans have themselves an Underdog-Darling!"

This is huge, because 10 years ago if you said that an anime movie would make more than a Star Wars movie, you would have been laughed out of the room, but that's the reality we live in now and it's kind of crazy to see it happening.

The small but dedicated fan base for this movie (and the original Japanese graphic novels) is on a level I haven't seen in years. There's one YouTuber I follow who is a massive Star Wars fan, and saw the original movie a bunch of times when it first came out in 1977. According to him, this is the first time he's seen a movie with this strong of a cult following since Star Wars episode IV first came out 40 years ago. He commentated that he's seen this happen once before in 1977 and that he was confident this movie would become a massively successful movie series that will one day be considered a cinema darling, a beloved franchise that everyone will come to know and love.

While that sounds pretty optimistic, he does bring up some good points and draws a lot of comparisons, one of which being how the movie resonates with kids.

When he first watched Star Wars episode IV as a kid, he left wanting to be Han Solo, and when he took his 11-year-old daughter to see Alita: Battle Angel, she left wanting to be Alita. And this wasn't just him, it was every kid that saw Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977 and every kid that saw Alita this year.

The last point I want to make is that this movie bridges the gap between normal people and weebs.

This is the first good movie adaption of a Japanese manga or anime. Despite being an anime fan myself, I hate to say it but movie adaptions of manga and anime are garbage, and I can't blame the average person for not being interested in seeing them because even I don't want to see them. After the dumpster fire that was the Death Note movie adaption, and then Full Metal Alchemist and several others, all the weird weeaboos and anime nerds thought for sure that trying to make a movie out of this stuff was completely unrealistic. One movie came out from a mainstream Hollywood studio called Ghost in the Shell, and the visuals and acting were surprisingly impressive, but the story was kinda mediocre and the film had no marketing so it didn't do well. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't that good. When fans of the original Alita graphic novels heard a movie was being made, they were pretty pessimistic about it. They thought it was going to be another garbage movie that no one would like.

So when they went to the theaters and were blown away by how amazing this movie was, it was incredibly rewarding. For the first time in history, weebs got to see a good manga turned into a good movie- and not just a good movie, but a spectacular one at that. It was good enough for average people to love it. When word of mouth got out, the majority of the people going to this movie weren't anime nerds, they were just regular movie-goers, and despite being based on a manga from the 90's, the audience gave Alita a 94% approval rating.

And while the movie is more than good enough for the average person, I can only imagine how happy the fans of the original manga were. Imagine being a huge fan of some obscure comic book or something that no one's heard about or read, and then it's turned into an amazing movie that everyone loves. It would be like if James Cameron's Avatar was originally based on an obscure comic book and you were one of only a few thousand people that was a fan of it. (Avatar was not based on anything.)

So the one thing that makes this movie so interesting is that, if it succeeds, it will be the first weeby movie that the majority of normal people like, and could vastly expand the average person's understanding of how a story should be told. Slowly but surely, geek culture is wiggling its way into normal discussion. I mean for crying out loud, you used to be a nerd if you liked comic books but now Marvel movies are the most successful! And Alita is drastically expanding on that by introducing weeb-specific nerd culture to the West in a way that everyone can approve of. You can take your 40-year-old uncle or 11-year-old daughter to this film and odds are that they'll both enjoy it. To some extent, this movie is already very successful, seeing how Ghost in the Shell was a similar genre, was also a live-action manga adaptation, and starred Scarlett Johansson- but only made $170 million while Alita will likely break $400 million.

At any rate, I don't know what the future holds for this movie but I'll support it with every fiber of my being. It's not perfect and has some flaws, but this movie was so lovable and had so much unwarranted opposition that I'm dying to see it succeed, and I'd encourage anyone who hasn't seen this movie to watch it while it's still in theaters or rent it if you're reading this after it's already gone to DVD. I plan on reading the first two volumes of the manga to see what the source material is like, but of course I won't want to read the entire graphic novel series lest I spoil the sequel for myself, so that's why I'm only reading the first two because that's what the movie covers.

Anyway, this post is already super long and my brain is fried from the dozens of SJW articles I had to read to research this, so I think I'm going to call it here. For those that read this post and wanted more, I'll link a podcast below that covered a lot of stuff that I didn't have room to squeeze in.

As always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.


Okay so I was planning on doing this big, long post that would dive into some story tropes that are rarely talked about, but then something massive happened in the culture war* that is way too important to ignore, so I'm going to write about that instead. It's gonna be slightly political but mostly just talking about cultural stuff (and by "cultural" I mean cult fanbases and such, of which I am a part of). Normal programming will resume shortly after, but I think some of you who weren't aware of this are going to find this super interesting.


*The culture war is the ongoing conflict of interest that involves various elements of different ages, upbringings and is reflected first on the Internet before reaching mainstream media and, eventually, regular real-world events. Many believe the first battle of the culture war was GamerGate (2014), which the gamers won, but continued in universities where SJWs had an overwhelming victory. It's not always easy to define what is and isn't a part of the culture war, but it's easily on a "know it when you see it" basis. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Big Post Coming

I'm not dead, but I spent some time working on a post that I ultimately didn't like, so I'm scrapping it and starting over. This next post is a bit long so it's gonna be a few more days before it's out.

Thanks for humoring me thus far.

- D

Monday, March 4, 2019

Villains (or the lack thereof)

We tend to hold a pretty simplistic view of how a story is supposed to go.

There's a bad guy that becomes, or already is, the antagonist of the world, and the hero from humble beginnings must rise up and defeat them (or die trying, if it's a tragedy).

There's a lot that can be said as to what makes a good villain; and believe me when I say that creating a convincing and well-thought-out villain is extremely difficult. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that creating a good villain could often be more difficult than creating the protagonist. Luckily for us, there is no shortage of advice on how to create a good villain. Lots of experienced writers have come forward and shared their methods of craft with us.
Vicious by V.E. Schwab. Best. Villains. Ever.

Some common things I've heard are:

1. Avoid making them cheesy; i.e., no one is bad just for the sake of being bad. No one just sits around twisting their devilish mustache while laughing robustly. Like the rest of your characters, the villain needs to be a completely fleshed out and complicated person.

2. Give them a rationale. It doesn't have to actually justify their misdeeds, but there has to be some motivation for their actions. A lot of villains have a tragic backstory, but it doesn't always have to be tragic. It could simply be a resentment to prior circumstances or to a cultural trend.

3. Don't undermine them. This isn't the advice you might usually hear when thinking about creating the villain of a story, but I can't stress this enough. If your villain is genuinely terrifying, you can't have your protagonist making snide and snarky remarks at them and getting away with it. Likewise, you can't just have all the characters of your story fear the villain for no clear reason. Give them a reason. Make your villain truly terrifying if that's the kind of villain you're going for. When someone or something gets in their way, your villain needs to utterly crush them and be a true force to be reckoned with. That makes the prospect of your protagonist beating them that much more daunting. If there's no real threat for the protagonist, then there's no tension whatsoever.

"See, I'm going to lure him here, then I'm going to kill everybody, then I'm going to dig up Scarn's dead wife and I'm going to hump her real good! Hahahaha!"

(More on the incredibly complex character of Goldenface here)

In my current story, the villain isn't even revealed until the end of the book. Rather, the protagonist Cerres only sees the aftermath of what the main villain- Haamon- has done. And he spends the entire book trying to track him down. Another good example of this is in the first book of the Dark Tower series, Gunslinger. The book also features the greatest opening line I've ever seen:

"The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed."

Holy crap, what a line. Basically summarizes the entire book.

For the whole duration of the book, we don't actually see or meet the villain, but we catch wisps of him as the Gunslinger closes in. We get to see what the Gunslinger recalls of the man, and the trail of destruction he leaves behind him for the Gunslinger to follow.

That's the route I took.

However, as per the caption above, Vicious is a great example of a story that has villains present throughout the entirety of the story, and boy did V.E. Schwab do a fantastic job.

But we aren't here to talk about villains, nosireee. We're here to talk about ignoring them completely.

You see, I would never deny that stories like Vicious and The Gunslinger are awesome, but recently I've noticed something.

Most of my favorite stories don't even have villains.

One excellent example of a lovable story with no villains whatsoever is the 2008 animated movie Wall-E.

I know I don't have a villain, but please love me.
I watched a couple of different videos on the topic and found a really interesting article on it, but for the most part very few people have realized this, or talked about the idea of a story not having a villain at all.

For lack of a better term, Wall-E is a sociological movie.

Now there's something I need to clarify first before I proceed any further.

I know a lot of people will disagree but Auto is not a villain. He's an obstacle for the protagonists, but not a villain. AUTO is but a program that keeps the space ship on course, that's it. He's just a steering module whose sole purpose is to keep the ship from going the wrong direction. The difference between an obstacle and villain is important to note here. An obstacle is something that prevents the protagonist from reaching their goal, while a villain is malicious and deliberate in their intent. Auto is neither good nor bad. He's lawful neutral, and Wall-E is chaotic good.

Now back to the super serious discussion about why Wall-E is a perfect reflection of sociological norms.

There exists several different types of conflict within a story-telling milieu.

The first is inner conflict. Example: You're trimming your nails and accidentally peel a little too far, and now a little bit of skin is ripping off and you have to make a critical decision. Do you try to sever off the rest of the nail, leaving you with a little piece of jagged nail on your appendage, or do you proceed to keep pulling, knowing you're going to rip a little bit of skin off and inflict unbearable pain on yourself? It's the classic hard decision.

Insert "thumbnail" joke here.
Okay fine, you caught me. I'm describing myself from 5 minutes ago. I chose pain.

The next type is environmental conflict. Example: You're on Naked and Afraid, and everything is trying to eat you.

The most commonly discussed conflict is outer or "struggle" conflict, i.e., one person or group wants to do one thing, and another person or group wants to do another. This is the type that villains are mostly responsible for. Example: You want to go outside and go for a stroll, but you live in Poland and it's September 1st, 1939.

Example two:

You want a candy bar, but the dystopian government has made being fat illegal and you're already toeing the line on chubby.

Now that's a YA Dystopian I'd like to read!

But the one conflict that Wall-E is focusing on is sociological or "societal" conflict. Example: Wall-E.

Wait... what's that noise in the distance??

Now this is usually my problem with most Dystopian YA novels (besides the fact that most of the popular ones are just Hunger Games rip-offs or were written by Cassandra Clare). I'm sure there good ones out there, but the reason why a lot of readers are turned off by this category is the simple fact that a lot of writers don't know how to write a good societal conflict. Just like how you can't make your villain two-dimensional and phony, or evil just for the sake of evil, you can't make a society or social structure that is bad just because it is.

Although Wall-E did a fantastic job capturing a society that generates conflict with the main characters.

This is simply because there's nothing malicious about it whatsoever.

In fact, I don't think there's a single bad character in Wall-E.*

*Bad as in malicious, evil, etc., not the quality of how they're written, but that would also apply.

What the writers of Wall-E accomplished is they made it so that everyone on the ship was simply a passive consumer, following the path of least resistance. They aren't bad people, they just grew up in an environment where consumerism and mediocrity was shoved down their throat all the time. And as soon as Wall-E comes in contact with them they almost immediately see things from his point of view.

Can we take a moment to appreciate how adorable this is?
And of course, as others have pointed out, Auto is sort of like the robotic personification of the ship's sociological environment. He isn't literally the ship in every way, but he comes pretty damned close. Just as the ship has been floating aimlessly for 700 years, Auto has been at the meridian of the operation from the very start, faithfully abiding by each captain [even though none of them actually did a bloody thing since the ship was just on Auto-pilot (pun intended)].

But the thing is that there isn't some guy with a devilish mustache coming up with an evil plot to keep everyone lazy and fat as he rubs his hands together and laughs maniacally. It's just the way the surroundings evolved over time as each generation became more and more detached from the point of the original mission started by the earthlings who fled the planet. 
When someone kills your Minecraft dog so you kill their dog irl

The idea of a story without a villain isn't limited to any one medium either.

For example, shows like The Office are beloved and remarkably popular despite a lack of villainy, and books like Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames use the lack of a villain to drive the plot forward. In other stories where the conflict between the hero / heroine and the villain or antagonist is the main driving force for the plot, the conflict in these shows, movies and books is purely internal or social. In fact I'd go so far as to say The Office is a master of social conflicts while Wake Up, Sir! is the master of internal conflict, i.e., the main character overthinking in the extreme with hilarious results.

When the waiter says "Enjoy your food" and you say "You too!" and keep replaying the encounter in your head for hours:
If we're being honest here, we can probably rattle off a long list of amazing and renowned works that have no villain whatsoever. Don Quixote doesn't have a villain, and next to Wake Up, Sir! that's one of my favorite books of all time.

I'm not saying villains are bad (well, a good one should be. But then he wouldn't be good- I meant to say well-written, not good as in morally- okay I'll shut up now). But your story doesn't have to have them, and I think the choice to purposefully exclude one can be very beneficial to some stories.

For example in my recent post about charm it hadn't even occurred to me that the most whimsical stories often don't have a villain, rather they explore slice-of-life or conflicts that stem from social and internal problems. This goes double for anime, for some reason. I don't actually know why, but the funniest anime shows are always the ones about random day-to-day stuff, like Shirobako and Love is War.
I lost my shit at Diesel's "research."
Come to think of it, that's almost the defining quality of a comedy.

That's not to say that a comedy can't have a villain, but they usually don't. The only big, popular comedy I can think of that has a villain would be Spaceballs, which doesn't even really count because it's Rick Moranis.

This ties into what I said earlier about undermining your villain. A lot of villains are done poorly because they're undermined either by the other characters or by their own circumstances, or sometimes both. But of course in spoofs like Spaceballs they're going to use the Bad Guy™ for shits and giggles at his own expense.
What? You went over my helmet?

Okay, I maybe need to chill with the pictures and gifs. I may or may not have included so many to make this post seem longer.

Well, at any rate I'm getting sleepy and wouldn't want to risk falling asleep at my keyboard and having the rest of the post just say  


endlessly, so this is probably a good place to stop. I hope some of my messy ramblings made sense to you.

As always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.