Unanswered Questions

Warner Bros./Legendary

Gareth Edwards‘ Godzilla is this summer’s second wannabe blockbuster chronologically, but on a more qualitative scale it’s a hell of a lot better (and on its way to being more successful) than The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s a solid piece of summer entertainment that satisfies the senses with breathtaking visuals, tremendous sound design and a true sense of scale and power. It’s also dumb as Godzooky. (Well, almost.) Awesome parts aside, the film features several moments and scenes that left us bewildered and scratching our heads. Of course it’s a summer movie, a monster movie to boot, but the argument that a movie can’t be both fun and smart is a non-starter. This one leaves a lot of unanswered questions behind — admittedly far fewer than the hilarious Pacific Rim did — so we’re here to ask them. To be clear, this isn’t where I ask why the film repeatedly cut away from the massive monster destruction happening in Honolulu and Las Vegas just to follow the lame human stories. Or why the Brody family was conveniently located at the center of each and every monster attack. Or how Godzilla, a 300 foot-tall monster, manages to sneak up on anyone. Or why a certain character billed as a lead– well, let’s get to the actual unanswered questions about Godzilla. Spoilers below obviously.

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Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson in Captain America The Winter Soldier

The latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, is a pretty solid comic book movie. But it is still a comic book movie, complete with a lot of ridiculous plot points that we should know to just let slide. Well, I can suspend disbelief for the sake of entertainment while I’m watching and enjoying the thing, but later I also enjoy pondering its logic and gaps regarding certain important details. I don’t necessarily like the movie any less for these faults (this movie’s true flaws are in the direction anyway), and in fact sometimes the more I ask these sorts of questions, the more I like greater discussions they take me to. Given that this is just a single puzzle piece in a large scheme of intertwining and forward-moving blockbusters, maybe all the questions I have left over are yet to be answered. Maybe the information I seek is in the pages of the comics — though this shouldn’t be since the MCU is separate from the universe found in Marvel’s pages, past and present, and has a ton of differences. Obviously, the following inquiry is full of spoilers, so beware if you haven’t seen the Captain America sequel and care to. 

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3 days to kill 21

One of the first things answered in 3 Days to Kill is that this isn’t in fact a Taken retread. Maybe it’s a parody of the Liam Neeson-starring action movie — self-parody given that both movies are written and produced by Luc Besson — but the tone is surprisingly closer to the delectably cartoonish hitman movie Shoot ‘Em Up mixed with the frustratingly dumb fourth and fifth Die Hard installments. With bits of The Visitor thrown in for pretty much no reason at all. It is a bizarrely stylish yet broadly comic pulp thriller more interested in the familiar trope of an absent father trying to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter than the spy plot it’s primarily sold on. In playing with genre and narrative expectations the movie becomes extremely silly, maybe intentionally so, but also filled with plot holes and unanswered questions — also maybe intentionally without concern. If Besson does mean to make fun of what he’s been doing with the Taken franchise (and maybe some of his early success with action heroines) the result is quite cheeky but still rather unmemorable considering we’ll still always favor Neeson and his very particular set of skills to Kevin Costner and his overly non-particular talent as the best worst (or worst best) cleaner for the CIA. This may be the kind of movie that doesn’t warrant going over unanswered questions, especially if the filmmakers meant for little thinking on their or our part at all, but below I’ve highlighted […]

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Jack_Ryan_Shadow_Recruit_Trust

The thing that separates Jack Ryan movies from the James Bonds and the Mission: Impossibles and the Bournes, etc., is that Ryan is an analyst for the CIA. That means they should be smarter than your average spy thriller. Sometimes they’re at least as smart. However, the latest, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, is one of the dumbest, more cliched entries of the genre. It’s an embarrassment of plotting and exposition, with so many instances of presumed circumstances that fortuitously turn out to happen that it may as well be called “Jack Ryan: Lucky Duck.” To put it in modern context, it’s like a bad episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. yet has a lot less interest in characters and the logical choices they’d make. Questions I had leftover at the end of Shadow Recruit may be explained in Tom Clancy’s Ryan novels, but that shouldn’t matter. This isn’t even an adaptation so much as an “original” story inspired by those books and featuring a character with the same name. I wouldn’t be surprised if fans of Clancy find it no more a true Ryan installment than Die Hard fans found A Good Day to Die Hard recognizable as a movie fitting into that series. Feel free to give me clarification or suggestion of an answer to any of these, and remember that, though it should be obvious, this post is full of SPOILERS if you haven’t yet seen the movie.

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smaug questions

Plot holes aren’t the biggest issue with the Hobbit movies. Like An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug is plagued more by heavy narrative bloat and a dragging pace. But there are details that niggle in the mind once the movie is over. I’m sure that Tolkien fans will be able to answer for every single one of them with a thorough explanation that comes straight from the text. For someone who last read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings many years ago, however, these questions are cause for puzzlement. And some may indeed be unexplainable, at least definitively. Maybe some or even all of these will be answered in the last installment of the trilogy. I somewhat doubt it, but given that it will likely approach three hours in length, it will certainly have the time to do so. We’ll have to wait for There and Back Again to find out. It should be obvious, but because we discuss the entire plot of The Desolation of Smaug, you’re hereby warned that SPOILERS are abound after the jump.

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elysium02

Not everyone can have Isaac Asimov collaborate on their film’s screenplay, but if you’re going to go for an original work of science fiction it has to be solid. Otherwise, there are plenty of smartly written novels out there to be adapted. There’s something very appealing about not having any source material, though, at least in theory. And at least if you’ve previously shown a knack for being a fresh visionary, like Neill Blomkamp has. Yet Blomkamp’s strong suit is in his visuals, particularly his juxtapositions of effects-driven alien and tech stuff over Third World backdrops. Also, weapons that make people graphically explode into pieces. Maybe that all will get old eventually, but it doesn’t in Elysium. What does get old fast is the suspension of disbelief we try to hold onto during the movie’s many convoluted plot points and its overcooked political themes. As Rob wrote in his review, there’s some good world-building in the look of the film, but sadly the script tears it all down by failing to properly explain how and why that world works exactly. And the movie as  a whole leaves us with other big questions we just can’t shake or fill in ourselves. Find these below and add any you’re asking in the comments. (WARNING: SPOILERS ENSUE)

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wwz07

Spoilers Ahead: This article contains advanced talking points for Marc Forster‘s World War Z. We recommend reading it after you see the film. I know. It’s pretty futile starting up a list of unanswered questions regarding a popcorn flick about vaguely defined zombies co-written by Damon Lindelof. But just because something is futile doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. I haven’t read the original book by Max Brooks, which apparently doesn’t matter given how little the movie resembles the text. I also haven’t followed every little piece of the production, but that shouldn’t matter either since the movie on screen should stand alone. However, where there is some relevance to explaining something on screen by the issues of the rewrites and reshoots and such, so I do try to mention it if I’m aware of it. Speaking of the infamous production problems, they do tend to factor into narrative flaws and holes and confusion like those I raise below. Additionally the expectation that the story of World War Z will continue in sequels means the filmmakers might be choosing to flesh out some stuff later on. And of course, as usual, some of the questions are not answerable at all because they’re more criticisms in the form of a hypothetical query or simply disagreements with how the movie was plotted or how the characters thought or acted. All in all, let these talking points first and foremost serve as a means to discuss the movie in full without concern for spoilers.

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Man of Steel

Spoilers Ahead: This article contains advanced talking points for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. We recommend reading it after you see the film. Anyone who called Iron Man 3 or any other blockbuster in the past few years an “epic” will be eating their words once they see Zack Snyder‘s giant toy set called Man of Steel. It’s as if Shane Black and J.J. Abrams were playing with plastic action figures and then, all the sudden, Snyder showed up with real heroes. His Superman reboot is exciting, a visual marvel, and gives fans the movie they wanted to see from Bryan Singer. Finally, we have a 21st century Superman who punches somebody, but is there more here than a few wicked brawls? For the most part, yes. There’s some heart present, especially with Russell Crowe taking part in the film’s emotional peak within the first twenty minutes. After that, the movie loses some of that patient drama with certain structural and character choices. This isn’t, let’s say, a Star Trek Into Darkness situation where the experience falls flat by Abrams & Co. consistently choosing spectacle over logic. For every confounding choice made in Man of Steel, there’s plenty of right choices made. Some of those puzzling choices raise questions, though. There’s no plot holes to drive buses through here, but they feel like issues that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

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transformers-2-optimus-prime

Does it matter that Transformers 2 is probably this summer’s worst movie? Sadly, no. It’s little more than crassly commercialized cinematic excess, but still some viewers and reviewers have latched blindly on to Bay’s teats as if they expect awesome-flavored milk to start splashing against their tongue. And yes, I am talking about all of FSR’s head honchos…

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Eagle Eye

Speaking of long stories people shouldn’t subjected to, Eagle Eye came out in theaters on Friday. Let’s just say, the Logic Nazi on this project really screwed the pooch.

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While we sort-of, luke warmly enjoyed Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we have some Unanswered Questions.

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