The X-Files: I Do Believe…Kind Of

My only experience prior to today regarding the X-Files, was watching the movie that came out in 2008 starring Billy Connelly. Considering how little I remember about it, I can’t claim it to be incredible. Yesterday, a new mini-series of The X-Files premiered on Fox. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of alien-related TV shows but boredom kicked in and I needed something to watch. I can now say with some certainty that I’ll be watching the rest of this series as it airs. If you haven’t watched the first episode and plan to, be warned that this post will be ridden with spoilers. It may be worth mentioning straight off that I do not believe in aliens. That is to say, I don’t believe that intelligent life has travelled to Earth in order to vandalise crop circles and anally examine unintelligent rednecks. I think it is completely possible that there may be life out there somewhere, I mean it would be crazy if there wasn’t given the sheer size of the observable universe. Anyway, now that that is out the way, it’s time to grab your tinfoil hat! We’re going for a ride!

As I already mentioned, I haven’t really watched The X-Files before but this new series essentially opens with the idea that the entire X-Files division of the FBI (where the two main characters: Mulder and Scully used to work) was its own conspiracy. As the episode unfolds, characters begin to explain that supposed alien abductions where actually orchestrated by the government in an attempt to keep tests and plans a secret. This is a rough summary of Mulder’s explanation of the grand conspiracy:

After Germany had been defeated, the hydrogen bomb posed a new threat to human life on Earth. This threat of extinction caused advanced alien species’ to become concerned for our survival and as a result, the skies of the US became home to regular UFO sightings. In an attempt to save our lives (while risking their own), crashes such as that at Roswell led to secret government divisions being created to allow both technological and biochemical studies to be carried out on the crashed ships/aliens. Classified studies were carried out at secret government bases which involved extracting alien tissue and experimenting with it on unwilling test subjects in an attempt to create alien-human hybrids. This was done by staging elaborate alien abductions on innocent civilians using the remnants of the crashed spaceships or in some cases they would use ships built on Earth based on the designs of crashed ships. Some experiments involved the forced implanting of alien embryos into women. When asked why their own government would do such a thing, Mulder replies “our own government lies as a matter of course, a matter of policy”, before giving some examples such as the Tuskegee experiments and Henrietta Lacks.

This is where Joel McHale’s character Tad O’Malley steps in, explaining that the overall goal is to conquer America before setting their sights on the whole world, by any means necessary. No matter how violent or cruel or efficient. He then gives an example of them using droughts as a tool, brought on by using secret, aerial contaminants and “high altitude electromagnetic waves”. He then goes on to explain that wars have been fuelled to keep them continuously going. He mentions that this is done to create problem, reaction, solution scenarios in an attempt to distract, enrage and overall enslave American citizens by using tools such as the Patriot Act and the National Defence Authorization Act. These acts allows areas of the constitution to be overlooked all in the name of “national security” such as the militarization of police forces in cities all across the US and the building of prison camps by the Federal Emergency Management Agency without any stated purpose. The manipulation of the food and pharmaceutical industries in an attempt to fatten, dull and control a populous already consumed by consumerism (they then throw in Bush saying “I encourage you all to go shopping more”). O’Malley then goes on to mention some of the more recent developments, mentioning the government tapping phones and collecting data/information, monitoring our whereabouts; a government ready to use this data against you. Of course this whole conspiracy would not be complete without mentioning the “well-oiled and well-armed, multinational group of elites” who are behind the whole thing.

This is where my interest in this show pretty much peaked: aliens are one thing but dodgy government cover-ups of human activities? That I can believe. When the episode first begins, we see O’Malley hosting his show, mentioning that 9/11 was a false flag operation. I’ll avoid getting into the whole “truther” debate right now because that just becomes exhausting. I will however point out that for those who think that the US government wouldn’t do that to its own people, guess again. Ever heard of Operation Northwood? Well without going into too much detail, Operation Northwood was a proposed false flag operation that would have involved areas such as the CIA committing acts of terrorism against the people of the US. Ultimately the proposal was shot down (much like the planes would have been had the proposal been accepted) by the Kennedy administration: Kennedy, who was assassinated the year after this proposal was put forward. The purpose of Operation Northwood was to create a public hatred towards Cuba, enough to justify going to war with Cuba without going against the wishes of the public. One proposed method was sending US soldiers dressed as Cuban soldiers to Guantanamo Bay and have them attack other US soldiers who were defending the area. Moving on…

Of course other areas within the X-Files conspiracy shine through as being unfortunately accurate: If the war in Vietnam didn’t highlight how warfare has become never-ending, then the war in Iraq certainly has. On the lead up to the Vietnam War, a major escalator known as The Gulf of Tonkin incident took place. This involved two separate engagements of North Vietnam ships and those belonging to the US. These events took place on the 2nd and 4th of August 1964. Since then, it has come to light that the “incident” that took place on the 4th was falsified. The outcome was the passage of the ‘Gulf of Tonkin Resolution’ by Congress, which allowed President Johnson to assist any Southeast Asian country who appeared to be under threat from communists. An NSA historian has since been quoted as saying “The parallels between the faulty intelligence on Tonkin Gulf and the manipulated intelligence used to justify the Iraq War make it all the more worthwhile to re-examine the events of August 1964.” When you look at Vietnam, soldiers couldn’t attack certain targets without express permission from higher ups which has often been used as an example of how the war was dragged out. I mean anyone with common sense knows that as long as war is profitable, there are going to be people happy they take place. I mean the people selling these weapons aren’t fighting with them; even their families won’t be involved. Instead they’ll be living off the interest that their billions or trillions of banked money creates for them. The Bush family sells weapons and we all know how the infamous George W turned up late for the war. Fun Fact (or not so fun): The US (or at least citizens within the US) copying a system developed by the Rothschild’s, bypassed the terms of Versailles Convention in order to build an oil refinery that would ultimately supply Goring’s division of the Luftwaff.

Another horrific example, this one mentioned by Mulder, is the Tuskegee experiments. Here, a large study spanning 40 years saw 600 African-American men being monitored in exchange for free health care and meals for participating in the study. Of the original 600, 399 had previously contracted syphilis. Despite the lure of free health care, none of the men were treated for syphilis. Of the original 399 men, 28 died from the illness, 100 died from syphilis-related complications. Not to mention that 40 of their wives had been infected with it, this led to at least 19 children being born with congenital syphilis. While this is a true example of something mentioned during the X-Files conspiracy rant, it was implied to have alien objectives which is of course fictitious (or is it?)(It is). It doesn’t for a second remove how unethical and disturbing this experiment was. Sometimes doing thing in the name of science requires leaving your humanity and morality at the door with your coat and shoes.

I’m sure I don’t need to delve into discussing the manipulation of the food and pharmaceutical industries in the US. As someone viewing it from the outside, I can’t help but compare the prescription system in the US to a giant cage full of mice in a science lab with the white-coated experimenters simply dropping assortments of pills into the food bowls and recording the results that follow. Of course this problem is slowly developing in other Western countries as well. GlaxoSmithKline would be one of my biggest examples: they were taken to court fairly recently for bribing GPs to prescribe their drug. To whom, you may be wondering. Well, not only was it wrongly prescribed to adults (it was an anti-depressant I believe) but it was also prescribed to children under the age of 18. Apparently the GPs were offered fishing trips and holidays in exchange for this hugely immoral act. It seems that any and every slightly abnormal behaviour requires some sort of mind-numbing combination of drugs in order to treat it. Where being easily distracted or too energetic was once brushed off as kids being kids, you will now see the ADHD diagnosis being flung around like…well…prescription drugs in America. Of course only the boring drugs get used as any of the remotely fun ones would be wildly unpredictable, regardless of their potential uses within our society *cough* weed has many medical uses *cough* MDMA can help treat PTSD *cough* studies suggest that LSD can treat other addictions while not poisoning the body whatsoever *cough*. You’re right, how dare I imply that illegal drugs can actually be beneficial in some way and actually cause more positive outcomes than being homeless on a corner somewhere with 12 aids-ridden needles sticking out of various veins while you suck cock for drugs.

Of course how could I even mention government conspiracies without bringing up the NSA and other forms of spying that the US and UK governments have been responsible for over the last few years; not just on enemies or even other countries, but actually on its own citizens. Of course many rationalise this criminal act as being “for our safety” or the famous “I have nothing to hide so I don’t mind”. Well people of the US, let me quote one of your own “They that give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”. The whole “nothing to hide” comment is a different matter entirely A) Everyone has something to hide. You might not be selling drugs or searching for bomb schematics but there will be things on your phone, laptop, camera that you do not want the world to see and B) Saying such a moronic thing in response to being spied on, is like saying you don’t need the right to free speech because you have nothing to say (I read that comparison somewhere and take no responsibility for it). It’s even more irritating when you find the US acting all hurt and betrayed when it comes to light that the Chinese were doing the same thing to them but just at a lesser extent. Keep in mind that while this is all sold as being “for your own protection” the collecting of data hasn’t prevented any terrorist attacks or anything similar. I mean the NSA has been operating since before 9/11; it’s just that they became a lot more popular after such a massive attack due to the shift in public opinion. It seems much more likely that this data is being used to profile and study citizens. I mean the government’s reaction to the Snowden leaks was like a man catching his wife cheating by walking in during the post-sex cigarette. I mean talk about getting caught with your pants round your ankles. Yet this revelation caused very little response. Nobody is going to voice outrage against the US, it just won’t happen, especially when countries such as the UK are run by pig-molesting ass-kissers such as Cameron.

One thing to remember is that just because something is a conspiracy, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Are there elites planning on taking over the world with alien technology? I won’t hold my breath. If you want to see the real slimy, inhuman monsters that are taking over the world, you need only follow the money to the richest families in the world. Power is their goal but money is their weapon of choice. Does that make me a paranoid conspiracy theorist? Perhaps…but I’d argue that I’m still a whole level below creationists or people who believe politicians are actually interested in the opinions of their country’s people.

 

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UK Politics: The Petition Delusion

I recently fell victim to the latest scam put forward by the UK government; I believe they are copying a system already set up across the pond in the US: A petition system. Here in the UK, this new system claims that by collecting signatures, you can cause great positive change within parliament. What should be a forward-thinking idea to help our democracy is more like one of those games that are common now in pubs where you have to earn a certain number of points to win a prize.

However, once you get those points it is revealed that you have to do a second task (one which has the same difficulty level as finding the Holy Grail) to actually win your money. The simplicity of starting your own petition only adds to its appeal as a wondrous new toy for wannabe revolutionaries to play with. If you collect 10,000 signatures, the government will respond to your petition with a statement. 100,000 signatures and your petition will be discussed in parliament. Sound good? Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

 

You see, when I say I fell victim to this petition system, I mean it. As an avid supporter of weed legalisation, I was ecstatic at how many signatures a petition for that very topic received. I even had the page constantly open on Google on my phone and I checked that page more regularly than anything else in my life. By the time I signed it, there were already over 100,000 signatures and it didn’t take long for than number to double.

Each time I checked, I would look first at how many signatures we were up to, then down at whether the government had A) Responded and B) Set a debate date. I can’t remember exactly how much time passed before the government issued a response, I do remember that I had already sent the petition link to everyone who knew I smoked weed (you can’t really send a link such as that while still acting as if weed is worse the meth) and most of them were as excited as I was.

We discussed how easy it would be to get weed, all the different strains we could try, how nights out would change so dramatically to accommodate this marvellous drug…sadly, this was all very short lived and as the government issued their response, my heart sank at how doomed this petition already was. Take a read:

 

“The latest evidence from the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is that the use of cannabis is a significant public health issue (‘Cannabis Classification and Public Health’, 2008).

 

Cannabis can unquestionably cause harm to individuals and society. Legalisation of cannabis would not eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade, nor would it address the harms associated with drug dependence and the misery that this can cause to families.

 

Legalisation would also send the wrong message to the vast majority of people who do not take drugs, especially young and vulnerable people, with the potential grave risk of increased misuse of drugs. 

 

Despite the potential opportunity offered by legalisation to raise revenue through taxation, there would be costs in relation to administrative, compliance and law enforcement activities, as well as the wider costs of drug prevention and health services.

 

The UK’s approach on drugs remains clear: we must prevent drug use in our communities; help dependent individuals through treatment and wider recovery support; while ensuring law enforcement protects society by stopping the supply and tackling the organised crime that is associated with the drugs trade. The Government will build on the Drugs Strategy by continuing to take a balanced and coherent approach to address the evolving challenges posed.

 

There are positive signs that the Government’s approach is working: there has been a long term downward trend in drug use over the last decade, and more people are recovering from their dependency now than in 2009/10. The number of adults aged 16-59 using cannabis in the last year in England and Wales has declined over the last decade from 9.6% to 6.7%, with cannabis use amongst young adults aged 16-24 and young people aged 11-15 following a similar pattern.”

-Home Office

 

I discuss this topic in more depth in one of my other blog posts so I won’t poke holes in this response (although I would like to point out that the fact they think the drug war is working, shows just how misguided they really are).

The next stage in this petition process is the debate. On the run up to the debate, I began to become hopeful again. Maybe, just maybe we can create a compelling enough argument for something to change. Polls from various newspapers and websites showed a clear winner. I mean even the Daily Mail (which I don’t read for oh so many reasons) showed a poll results of 80% of people being in favour of legalising it. Reading through comments on different news sites, I realised that the biggest reason people were against weed, was due to the government.

One comment I saw stated “I don’t think people should smoke weed because it’s illegal for a reason.” As my anticipation of a positive result grew, I e-mailed the MP for my local area (who will remain nameless despite the fact he replied with a generic e-mail that a) referenced outdated studies and b) didn’t actually acknowledge any of the points I raised) asking him to attend the debate, because here is yet another issue with this system: MP’s have no obligation to turn up.

That’s right! This means that issues that don’t appeal to MPs can just be ignored if they feel like not going shows their lack of interest in the topic.

Finally, the debate date arrived and I sat eagerly waiting the Parliament website to begin streaming the video. The majority of those discussing the topic appeared to be in favour of revising the current drugs laws in relation to weed…this was largely due to the fact that only 5 or so people actually turned up (not including the small audience…and funnily enough my MP was not one of them) and while they did put forward great arguments in relation to weed, these were ultimately meaningless as the fear mongering by one of the opposing MPs (who also used outdated studies and mentioned statistics that have already been shown to be inaccurate representations of damage caused by weed) was enough for the debate to end with no plans for revision.

Now you are likely imagining that I’m viewing this from a bias point of view because obviously if I’m supporting weed legalisation, I’d be annoyed with such an outcome. So let me sum up the debate with one single moment. The guy who was arguing against weed legalisation was asked one simple question “why should cannabis be legal when alcohol, a drug considered more dangerous, is perfectly legal?” (this is unlikely to be exactly how it was worded but it was the same general question) and the man responded with possibly the most naïve statement I’ve ever heard on the topic “Well I don’t believe there is actually any evidence to suggest that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis”. I wasn’t the only one who found this response ridiculous, the entire room burst into laughter at his reply. I believe this was largely due to a study released just last year that suggested that alcohol is 114x more dangerous than weed (if you’re interested in reading it, there is a link on my other weed post).

 

So you may be wondering what all this has to do with this petition system being a clever tactic thought up by the government. Well, that leads me to today. A petition had been started not too long ago to discuss the idea of banning Donald Trump from the UK based on a comment he made about Muslims. Now, I’m sure none of us actually believed that Donal Trump would get banned. I mean if we banned everyone who made a controversial comment; the UK would lose half its population. I mean keep in mind that England is home to the EDL (English Defence League) which is essentially just a group of bald, racist thugs. We have the right to free speech and that right still stands, even when people make comments that we may not agree with. Anyway, I decided to take a quick skim through the transcript from the “Ban Donald Trump” debate, just out of curiosity. Reading the final paragraph caused the lightbulb above my head to explode. Two parts of this final paragraph are what led to me typing this rant:

Firstly: “The triumph of today is that we have had a debate, that has been seen by many people outside, including in the United States, and they have seen Parliament at its very best. We have had a diverse debate from a diverse Parliament.”

Secondly: “I believe that all that has been said today will enhance the standing of this Parliament and reinforce our relationship with our great ally, the United States”

So let us take a quick look at that first point: “we have had a debate.” This is where I realised the cleverness of this petition idea. I’d maybe go as far as to actually congratulate them on just how clever it actually is. I mean it’s bordering on genius and I’ll explain why: You see this is a great way of getting people involved in politics. You see a petition you like or you start one of your own and slowly you gather signatures. Obviously by signing a petition, you are trying to show your support for the idea it discusses and you hope that by signing it, you are pushing your government one step closer to changing their minds on the topic.

After all, the government is there to serve the people, right? The thing is you can tell after 10,000 signatures whether Parliament will change anything or not. Their response will reflect the overall opinion of Parliament and express their reasons as to why they don’t think the petition is in the best interests of the people, because it appears that it is not the people who decide what they want, but Parliament. So even if you then get 500,000 signatures or more, going into the debate is almost a pointless act.

Sure there will be people there to support both sides, but at the end of the day it is nothing more than a discussion and once the debate is over, regardless of how great the arguments were in favour of change, they have now debated that topic and can claim to have done so. You see once a topic has been debated, that is it. Parliament have fulfilled their obligation to debate the topic (even if they go into it with a completely closed mind) and now your topic won’t need to be discussed again in the near future.

 

Looking at the second point, I realised that regardless of how many people sign a petition, Parliament aren’t going to change anything that might affect them in the future. The level of ass-kissing displayed in the debate as a whole was enough to make my stomach churn but the blatantly obvious nod to potential US listeners/watchers (probably Trump out of all people) shows that while this topic was being discussed, it was not being discussed openly. Rather it was being discussed as if all the people in the room were standing on thin ice that could break at any moment.

I mean we wouldn’t want to offend the potential future president, would we? Another thing was made very clear by the overuse of the word “diverse”. Those discussing the topic wanted to make sure that they appeared just that, diverse. I mean if there was the slight hint that they were supporting a white, Christian male over Muslims, there could be reasons for people to act outraged. So in case you were worried that the debate wasn’t diverse enough, they decided to tell you over and over again just so you were aware of just how diverse it really is.

 

I’m not implying that there is any sort of race or religious bias within parliament, not at all. I wouldn’t hesitate to point out the obvious class bias though. Just listen to them argue in parliamentary debates. They are like a bunch of private schooled children who are arguing in the playground over who owns the rarest breed of fucking parrot or who has the oldest butler!

 

I mean the conflict of interest that takes place within the UK government is actually phenomenal. Recent statistics have shown that on average, something like 50% of each party are land lords (it was something like 70% within the Conservative party). I’m not one to restrict anybody’s rights…but if it were up to me, working within Parliament would be your only job. No renting out houses on the side, no advising oil companies on how to spend their money. No…do your job and if you want to skip into the sunset to become a landlord, that’s fine. Just give up your seat in Parliament first!

Star Wars: Attack of the Film Industry

 

 

Warning: This post will without a doubt contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I advise you to jump to lightspeed and get the hell out of here.

 

Some of us have been waiting for a new Star Wars film for a long time. If we ignore the prequels, there will be some who have been waiting since 1983. It’s hard not to get excited when you see the familiar faces of Han, Chewy or Princess (now General) Leia, not to mention the old, worn face of Luke (even if only for 20 seconds) but many left their cinema with broken hearts and a feeling of utter disappointment. I didn’t hate the film (far from it) but I did see it as the perfect example of what is currently wrong with the film industry.

One thing that seems to be a trend within the film industry today is unnecessary sequels that are almost always worse than their predecessors. The main objective of these films isn’t to provide fans with a much needed second dose of their favourite characters; no…the main objective is to make more money. The film industry is an area of business like any other and I’m not complaining that people are trying to make money. Instead, I am complaining that people are trying to make money while ignoring the fan base and the love and emotion that these fans attach to these fictional universes. Lazy writing has led to some horrendous sequels over the last couple of years: Ted 2, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Horrible Bosses 2, Sinister 2, Anchorman 2, Bad Neighbors 2, Grown Ups 2 are all examples of films where the sequel is almost exactly the same as the original. All of the comedies in this list use the exact same jokes; some of them literally the same (Ted 2!). I’m not claiming by any stretch of the imagination that the first films were strokes of creative genius but most of them were entertaining at least a little bit and isn’t that all we need really in comedies? I mean look at Hot Tub Time Machine. Even though I enjoy the film, I know it’s far from great. It falls into a certain category of comedy that strongly resembles the recycling bin located on your desktop. Of course this is just my opinion, I know many people who actually enjoyed these sequels…for me however, they caused my brain to numb. The initial films were a success so the people behind them clearly thought “If it ain’t broke…” and proceeded to copy and paste the script along with what was usually an awful storyline that puts the term “grasping at straws” onto the big screen. In relation to the comedies mentioned, it became a case of doing the exact same thing again but with more famous people, more celebrities appearing for minor roles in order for the advertising campaign to include their name on the side of buses or in the trailer (if you aren’t thinking Mark Hamill in the Force Awakens, you should be).That’s not to say that this idea doesn’t sometimes work and add to the comedic value of the film, for example, seeing Harrison Ford in Anchorman 2 was certainly entertaining. This does become an issue when the cast is the only positive part of the film. We need to leave this idea that celebrity cameos are needed to make films funny or entertaining. Just look at The Force Awakens as an example, Daisy Ridley was completely new to us, yet she delivered an incredible performance creating a new Star Wars character who we can rejoice at existing. Of course there are things worse than bringing out one awful or at least disappointing sequel…bringing out three, four or seven of them.

There are films that should have just stopped after (or in some cases before) the first film: Paranormal Activity, Jaws, Fast and Furious, Taken, Transformers, The Hangover Trilogy, The Expendables, Meet the Parents. I mean what about the Rocky films? How many times can you watch someone train for a boxing match? Long enough for them to bring one out where Rocky trains one of his opponent’s kids? Seems like it. There are times when a trilogy has ended and it seems like the story has been told…but sometimes, that just isn’t enough and we need more films (or so we are told).  Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Terminator Salvation and Terminator Genisys, Bourne Legacy. The more worrying aspect of these films is that more films are planned. That’s right; expect to see more increasingly less exciting adventures from Jack Sparrow that won’t live up to the first three. Want to see a 5th instalment to the Indiana Jones films? Well you’re getting one anyway and even worse, we won’t see Harrison Ford playing the role. Just to prove my point, if Terminator Salvation and Genisys weren’t enough to make you hate the franchise, more are on the way. Are they being made for the fans? No. Are they being made because some original story ideas came to mind and everyone will love them? No. The reason these next few films (including Genisys) are being rapidly thrown out over the next few years is because the rights for the films return to James Cameron in 2019, meaning that Megan Ellison, Paramount  and Skydance have a termination date.

I am of course not suggesting that there shouldn’t be times when films go past the point of doing one film or one trilogy. I mean Star Wars might not be the best example given the hate felt towards the prequels but the universe overall is still loved by many. There are however times where decisions were made that perhaps…well…shouldn’t have been. Films like The Hobbit trilogy, for example, where two films would have done the job but instead we were shown a 2 and a half hour long battle scene in the final film (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies) or the new trend that shows us the final film in a series being split into two parts. I won’t deny that this makes sense with some films: Harry Potter for example, where the Deathly Hallows as one film just wouldn’t have worked. Unfortunately this isn’t true for all cases: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay did not need to be split into two parts. Part 1 was the most boring of the series and was blatantly dragged out for financial gain rather than improving the story. Fans of the Twilight saga were unfortunate enough to have their final part separated into two films. The Divergent Series is also suffering the same fate, from what I’ve seen so far this is another money-making move. Finally, the third instalment of The Avengers (Infinity War) will also be broken up into two films along with the Justice League films. Luckily for me, the Justice League is not something I ever plan on rushing to the cinema to see. You could argue that this is a great way of providing more content for fans before their favourite fictional worlds come to a close but if it was really the fans that were the driving thought behind this idea, I’d imagine many would vote against it. I recently watched The Maze Runner along with its sequel The Scorch Trials and came to the horrible realisation that I’d no doubt have to wait for two more films before I got to enjoy the conclusion. I was relieved to discover that this hopefully won’t be the case as Wes Ball, the director of the films commented on the matter in a way I wish all directors thought, saying:

“I think three is the number; beginning, middle, end, that’s it. Four? I think there’s something off about four. For me, if I have any say in it, there’s three movies basically… We’re not going to [split a book in two], no way. I think three movies is the right number. Star Wars!”

Why is it that the film industry seems to be becoming more and more like what we see on the television? It’s like we are getting 2 hour long episodes of films years apart from each other. I mentioned The Avengers briefly there and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the perfect example of this. I love the Marvel films! Watching as the heroes progress both in their individual storylines as well as the larger one has kept me entertained for years. When I first saw the trailer for Age of Ultron, I couldn’t wait. My anticipation for it was even higher than it was with Star Wars. This anticipation and expectation ended up being cut short when I finally got to see Age of Ultron at the cinema. Rather than blowing my mind with the interesting character and story that was suggested to us in the trailer, fans were given a film very similar to the first Avengers (Avengers Assemble). Sure there were some massive differences and I did still enjoy it as a film, just not as much as I had hoped. Watching the Avengers once again swat away opponents who were more difficult to fight earlier on in the film, as well as Captain America and Iron Man having their all too common falling out (despite the Civil War trailer painting them as best friends). I remember on the run up to the release of Age of Ultron, hearing interviews with the cast and crew where we were continuously being told about how it was the end for an Avenger. While I didn’t want any of my favourite characters to die, I did think it was about time that they didn’t win so easily. Who would it be? I wondered: The Hulk? Black Widow? Hawkeye? Due to the release of future film plans, we knew that Captain America, Ironman and Thor were all safe. Sadly, the term “Avenger” was being used by people who knew the plot of the film and the person we lost was none other than Quicksilver, who had been an Avenger for all of two minutes of film time. As I mentioned already I enjoy the Marvel films and I know plenty of people who enjoy never ending film worlds like Fast and Furious…but does this mean that we have to witness the same story unfold each time? I was going to ask how long it would be before Harry Potter made a comeback but then I remembered that they are releasing that ridiculous film classed as “not a prequel” that “invites you back to the wizarding world” yet this story has no real impact, no real storyline and is only happening because they know you’ll go to see it. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed Harry Potter books and films, even the games as well but wasn’t one of the big lesson we learn from the series that eventually, everything has to die? Much like Voldermort’s soul, it seems J.K Rowling is dividing her world up into different parts in order to make it live longer than it should.

It’s no surprise that the film industry is slowly turning into the McDonalds of entertainment. We pay closer and closer to £10 a ticket in order to sit through 30 minutes of adverts (exactly 30 minutes) before getting one, sometimes two trailers. Back in the day, it used to be £3, maybe £4 to sit through 20 minutes of enjoyable trailers. Why is it that the pre-film adverts are getting longer as the cinema ticket prices get higher? Shouldn’t it be one or the other?

So before I turn this into one long rant, let me get back onto topic: Star Wars. How does Star Wars show us how bad the film industry has become? Well Star Wars is one of the few films series that spans decades, appealing to multiple generations, most of whom have grown up seeing at least one film, if not an entire trilogy in the cinema. The films involve a mix of more practical effects (original trilogy) and special effects using CGI (prequel trilogy) as well as having one of the biggest fan bases in the entire world. There has been such a huge, diverse range of inputs from so many different people that these films should reflect that…sadly, they don’t. Ask almost any Star Wars fan whether they prefer the original trilogy or the prequels, chances are the originals will be picked 9 times out of 10. My answer would be the same, I enjoyed aspects of the prequel trilogy but I certainly found them less enjoyable to watch and I don’t feel they added much to the Star Wars universe. I mean if the Eewoks had been left out of the story, I would have enjoyed Return of the Jedi a great deal more but at least we didn’t have to put up with a stroppy, tantrum-throwing Anakin Skywalker.

I often wonder how people felt when the prequels were first announced and released. Did people queue up at their cinema to see the start of the path that leads to Darth Vader? Knowing that one day he would turn to the dark side but also destroy the Emperor? How gutting must it have been watching as one film after another, your favourite villain manages to go from a child, to a stroppy, baby-like adult before suddenly becoming the infamous Darth Vader? I grew up with the prequels being in cinema and I actually saw episode 1 and 2 before even realising that previous Star Wars films already existed. “They’re old so they’re probably boring” I remember replying when informed of their existence. Perhaps that is one of the biggest flaws of the prequels: being aimed at a younger audience. While the content of them may seem more violent, we live in a society where violent films are normal and many children grow up completely desensitised to it. Yet the themes in the original trilogy seem more mature. Once again, I am managing to wander completely off-topic. Long story short, the prequels just didn’t live up to the expectations that the original trilogy put into motion. Now I wouldn’t argue that the sole purpose of the prequels was to make money, I mean they had the potential to tell an incredibly interesting story. I mean you have the clone wars, the eradication of the Jedi, the rise of the Empire and the re-birth of Darth Vader which just on its own sounds pretty impressive. The issue with the prequels was the decision to make it more visually appealing rather than focussing on the story elements and the development of characters. I means sure we got the whole “love interest” (cue vomiting) which aided the conversion of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader but other than that, the film lacked depth. Personally, I think this reflects what George Lucas believed that audiences wanted: crazy special effects and visuals, a soppy love story and a horrible, horrible explanation as to why some people can use the force (damn you, midichlorians). I guess once the prequel trilogy was finished, any film that came after it had a new expected level to reach: better than the prequels but still not as good as the original trilogy.

Which brings us at last to The Force Awakens, the film that looked like the light at the end of the tunnel, the chosen one prophesised to bring balance to the Star Wars universe and eradicate the memory of the prequels from our minds (the bad parts anyway).  For many this new Star Wars film might have lived up to their every expectation. I however, will have to wait until I have seen the other two before I judge how successful or unsuccessful this trilogy will be in comparison to the previous ones. So far, it’s exactly where I expected it to be (between the original and prequel trilogies in terms of awesomeness). The Force Awakens however, fell into the same horrible pit that I’ve mentioned already. If you think the story is original, let us briefly run through it. The story begins with a droid being given sensitive information before fleeing from a masked villain wearing all black with a red lightsabre who proceeds to torture the last person known to have the information. The droid is forced to travel across a desert planet in search of its owner. Instead, it finds a young adult who lives on the planet. When Stormtroopers arrive and start killing people in search of the droid, the young adult and their new companion are forced to flee the planet in the Millennium Falcon, only just managing to escape.  While in the Millennium Falcon, the oldest male of the group explains the nature of the force in an attempt to convince the rest of the group of its existence. We then see the masked villain discussing plans with a projection of his master, who is an old and deformed male, who proceeds to advise the masked villain on how to proceed. We also see a rivalry of sorts between the masked villain and a high ranking military official who seems to be at a similar level in the hierarchy despite the masked villain’s force capabilities. A superweapon is used to destroy a planet loyal to the group opposing the military regime. One of the members of the team loses faith but later has a change of conscience and returns to help save the day. A plan is put into place to destroy the superweapon which involves blowing the device up from the inside with an x-wing. BOOM! The Force Awakens or A New Hope? There are more similarities but I chose the ones that relate to the same structure as Episode 4.

Of course this is a vague comparison; I mean I’m sure it’s possible to do this with many films. The point is that if the next two films follow The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, then Star Wars fans are probably going to be pretty disappointed: Especially if we have to witness the destruction of yet another version of the Death Star. We were promised a new film, not a remake. What I fail to understand is that there were an infinite number of story possibilities so why follow such a similar structure? Did we really need a third version of the Death Star? Did we have to have a follow-on from the Galactic Empire? Films could be about anything, they could have the most insane characters and locations and storylines and it doesn’t matter because they are films. So why are we limited to seeing remakes and sequels and prequels and the such? Could this Star Wars film not have started an entirely new story? Sure use some of the old characters but could we not have delved deeper into the force? I mean I liked the idea of having Kylo Ren as a Vader fan-boy, it was an interesting concept but we barely saw anything about it. I mean how did they end up with the helmet? Does Ren know he is the grandson of Vader? Hopefully these will be brought up in the next two films and hopefully he becomes a bit more powerful before his next encounter with Rey.

Another issue is how pathetic the villains have become: In the original trilogy we had Darth Vader who seemed menacing and dark. I mean sure he ends up turning back away from the dark side but for the first two ¾ films, he was a pretty bad-ass villain. The emperor while seeming pretty intelligent and manipulative is a different sort of villain. We see him working his way up to being The Emperor and yet he only uses his dark side abilities twice I think? At least that you see on screen. Then the prequels show up and we meet Darth Maul: He looks insane and evil, has an awesome lightsabre, kills one of the heroes…and then gets cut in half after having about 6 words to say in the entire film. In Attack of the Clones, we are first introduced to Count Dooku who was once a jedi. Not just any jedi either, he was Qui Gon Jinn’s master. Dooku plays a more meaningful role in this film than Darth Maul did in the previous one and actually, he is one of the better users of the dark side that we encounter. Sadly, he gets beheaded in the opening scene of Revenge of the Sith which leads to us being introduced to General Grievous, a cyborg with many, many lightsabres and many arms to use them with. Also an interesting character who again, gets killed pretty quickly without us seeing a great deal. I think the issue is that in most cases, these villains just sort of appear, die and then another one replaces them on screen before also being killed and likewise replaced. We don’t get a huge amount of depth with these villains which would have been an interesting focus of The Force Awakens. Instead, we are shown the same set of circumstances: A master who has recruited a new villain. To be fair to the film, Kylo Ren has more backstory than the rest of the villains (I’m excluding Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader from this as the entire universe essentially follows his life) and while the similarities to the Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader changeover are quite noticeable, there is one fact that changes that: Where Darth Vader turned to the Dark Side but still had good in him (which we see when he defends Luke from the Emperor) Kylo Ren seems to have turned the other way (which we see in him killing his father, Han Solo) so perhaps there are bright things in young Mr Ren’s future (dark things would perhaps be a more accurate description) as there might be a chance that he is now beyond help.

I’m going to finish this rant off by saying one last thing: Perhaps it’s time we stopped viewing films as films as they have now transcended into the world of franchises which means that we can expect a lot of our favourite stories to be buried by disappointing sequels, remakes, prequels and god-awful spin-offs. Sometimes, you won’t even know the difference. “Look at this sequel” they’ll tell you as they lure you into a remake of the original (I’m looking at you Jurassic World, your genetically modified dinosaur isn’t fooling anyone). I won’t call it a bad film until I see it but if Rogue One isn’t a pile of unentertaining drivel that adds nothing to the overall story, I will be very surprised. Perhaps they’ll use it to add some background to Snoke? Who knows. I often hear people criticise “film pirates” by pointing out how they’re not supporting the film industry by doing that. Personally, I fail to see why that is a bad thing? I mean look where that money goes: we pay actors/actresses tons of money, like unbelievably high amounts for them to work like everybody else. Yet the rest of the people involved don’t earn millions. Is having worldwide fame really a reason to pay someone seven figures for one film? Of course some actors/actresses just love acting and love bringing people happiness and enjoyment from their films and while they don’t do it for free, it doesn’t seem like money is their biggest motivator e.g. Bill Murray. I don’t see why we should continue to support an industry that takes our enjoyment for films as an excuse to rip us off and treat us like idiots. “But if they stop making money, they’ll stop making films?” Is that such a bad thing? If the film industry really needs an incentive to stop spewing out garbage, then I’m happy to give them one.

Perhaps we need a new way of deciding the fate of films: Rather than money being the driving force: we should have a panel made up of fans from every genre, from all over the world who approve or deny film ideas based on the impact it would have to the already existing world. You want to make a 16th Fast and Furious move where they race modified cars on water which leads to a pirate incident? Well it has to get past our panel of fans. It wouldn’t be as simple as a yes or no, much like an editor, this panel would raise queries regarding the film that had to be addressed before release: “So there’s going to be a third death star and you’re going to use an x-wing to blow it up from the inside?” would be a good question to raise at such a panel. Instead of money being poured into films, money would be invested into ‘film choosers’ (more professional title pending) who decide where investor/producer money goes based on their passion for films rather than a passion to make money. How long is it before we have adverts during the film? Will we soon have gift shops set up in the cinema that allow you to buy film-themed junk before and after the film? Maybe films will start having different endings, where you go to see one ending and then when it stops being shown in cinema, the same film with a slightly different ending is shown. Will “VIP” seats soon take up the entire back half of the cinema? Forcing us to pay even more money for half-decent seats? I dread to see where the film industry leads us to next. Perhaps Back to the Future 2 wasn’t far off with its Jaws 19 advertisement.

 

 

Side note: It’s probably worth mentioning that this post may give the impression that I didn’t enjoy the new Star Wars or the prequels. Just to clarify, I did enjoy The Force Awakens, I just think that it could have been significantly better if it hadn’t been so similar to previous Star Wars films. There were scenes within this one that were my favourite from the whole Saga so my criticism is just based on my expectations. Similarly, there were many aspects that I thoroughly enjoyed about the prequels. Obi-Wan is without a doubt my favourite character, for example (although Rey could take over depending on the next two films). Not to mention that Dual of Fates from The Phantom Menace is one of my favourite pieces of music. My purpose in writing this post was merely to rant about how Star Wars and the film industry in general seem to have fallen into a rut where creative juices just don’t seem to flow. We need some original ideas otherwise what’s the point? As I mentioned previously, this is almost entirely opinion based so i’m not saying everyone should hate everything that the film industry is doing. I’m merely expressing my annoyance on the matter.