Did Guardians of the Galaxy 2 jump the shark?

GOTG2**A MOSTLY SPOILER FREE REVIEW**

I sat at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, watching the credits scroll by and waiting for the bonus scenes. I glanced at my friend and he had the same puzzled expression that I did. He asked, “What did you think?” I replied, “I’m going to have to process this.”

And process it I have. My friend and I discussed our mixed feelings about the movie all the way to our homes. I realized that something was really bothering me about the movie and I made two crucial thoughts on that ride.

First, I had the distinct impression that the producers/writers/director had surveyed all of the most popular Marvel movies to date, cataloged all the most successful scenes, and developed a formula for what they thought would be the perfect Marvel movie. Then they proceeded to make GotGv2 using that formula.

Second, with the issue of escalation an all too real problem in Hollywood, especially with on-going franchises, I had a sneaking suspicion that I just watched Marvel “jump the shark.”

If you’re not familiar with that term, let me explain. It comes from a 1977 episode of Happy Days, where Fonzie proves his bravery by water skiing and ramps over a shark…all while wearing his trademark leather jacket. The term has come to refer to an instance in any TV show or recurring franchise when the show presents something utterly absurd for the sake of novelty and ratings. It’s what ultimately happens through escalation, where there’s constant pressure to “raise the stakes” in story telling. And the writers are beginning to run out of ideas.

Speaking of pressure to raise the stakes, that’s also typical of any sequel. Producers feel pressured to top the first one, bring back all of the audience’s favorite gags, but also try to force in a better sense of artistry than they did before. Often sequels crash and burn because of it. This movie could have just been a typical sequel.

So did Guardians of the Galaxy 2 jump the shark? Let me give you some of my observations:

  1. Too many layers. Every character has some kind of emotional conflict/back story and subtext that they are trying to resolve. EVERY. CHARACTER. It was just too much to keep up with. Which leads into the next point…
  2. None of those layers were executed well. Sure, if they’d stuck to one or two there would have been screen time enough for proper development. But this movie has seven or eight. Let that sink in a moment. The audience is expected to emotionally connect on the subtext of seven or eight character journeys.
  3. The formula. Remember I mentioned it felt formulaic? That’s because it did. Go cherry pick the best bits of your favorite Marvel movies and there’s probably an equivalent somewhere in this one.
  4. While we’re at it, let me repeat my other previously mentioned thoughts: pressure to raise the stakes and typical sequel problems.
  5. Weak overall plot. The whole adventure felt very forced. From the absurd opening antagonists that wouldn’t go away for the whole movie, to the primary antagonist that felt like he just showed up and said, “Hey! Let me be the bad guy!” All the different character layers, escalated stakes, forced antagonists, and horrid excuse for an inciting incident, made the plot disjointed and confusing.
  6. babygrootBaby Groot. I think the producers knew about everything I’ve already said. They knew the script had major problems. So they tried to disguise it with Baby Groot. Because who could hate a movie with Baby Groot? Don’t fall for it. It’s a sleight-of-hand gag.
  7. But Baby Groot wasn’t the only funny thing. Everything was funny. It was almost like watching a Saturday Night Live sketch. Every shtick and cliche they could find to play for a laugh, they did. Thirty seconds of screen time could hardly pass without some attempt at a joke.

But the moment that made me think they “jumped the shark” can be summed up in one word. Pacman. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. That moment was just one absurdity too much.

Bottom line, this movie felt like a money-making scam. Throw some special effects and a cute Baby Groot at the audience, play up every possible joke you can, and they’ll pay to come by the score…so why waste money on good writing?

I really wanted to like this movie. Instead, I feel like I just witnessed the beginning of the end for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I say that, because I have a horrible feeling that Thor: Ragnarok is going to be exactly the same as this.

I’m still hoping that SpidermanHomecoming will redeem Marvel for me this summer. Fingers-crossed…

-k

(Now you may commence bashing me.)

We Are One – Release

It’s been nearly three years since I first began the journey of writing this book. It started as a simple discipleship study to help my church understand the personalities of each generation and how they interact with each other in a church context. The response was overwhelming. Not only did my church members respond enthusiastically, but I soon received an invitation to teach the material at an associational event.

That’s when I was encouraged to organize my material into something that could be published. It’s taken a while. It’s gone through several drafts. It’s even grown to include new information about generational and historical cycles. Then end result is something I think everyone can enjoy and something that I believe can help lots of churches unify on a basic generational level.

The book will officially be available on May 3, 2017. Look for links on social media or visit the landing page for the book here on my website – https://kevennewsome.com/published-works/we-are-one/

Also, make sure to sign up for my newsletter so that you don’t miss any updates! http://eepurl.com/caweBT

Hope you enjoy the book!

-kn

Review: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

gavin-stoneLast night I had the opportunity to pre-screen The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. Actually, I had the opportunity last week, but due to some technical issues I didn’t get to until last night.

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is Walden Media’s and Vertical Church’s latest offering in the ever growing faith-movie industry. It’s about washed-up child star, Gavin Stone, who has become a media badboy as an adult. After a particularly wild party, Gavin is sentenced to 200 hours of community service. He serves these out at a church in his hometown, where he has no choice but to reconnect with his estranged dad. Gavin also charms himself into the church’s stage production to get out of mopping floors, and takes the role of Jesus. It stars Brett Dalton (Gavin), Anjelah Johnson-Reyes (Kelly), Neil Flynn (Waylon), D.B. Sweeney (Pastor Allen), and Shawn Michaels (Doug).

When I was asked if I’d review a movie in which Grant Ward (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) plays Jesus and the Janitor (Scrubs) is his dad? I said, “Yes, please.”

The movie opens this Friday (Jan 20, 2017) in theaters. As a matter of full disclosure, I was provided an advanced screening from Inspire Buzz marketing. However, as I always do, I will give you a completely honest review. Continue reading Review: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

Story Building Mastery 1 – Progressive Complexity

THIS ARTICLE SERVES AS THE MAIN MENU FOR THE SERIES. CLICK EACH TITLE TO ACCESS THE FULL INDIVIDUAL ARTICLES.

What you’ll get from these articles is not a “how to” on plot development or character development, but rather a wider view on the construction and development of the story as a whole. Having no formal education in creative writing, no doubt some of my terminology may be foreign to creative writing students. Keep in mind, though, I have been a self-student of creative writing for twenty years or more. Maybe my way of approaching things will be refreshing encouragement to the rigorous tenants of traditional writing study. So here comes lesson one. Step into my mind and see how I analyze a story…

Continue reading Story Building Mastery 1 – Progressive Complexity

Now Recruiting!

**UPDATE** The team has been assembled!

I think it was about seven years ago that I began the process of recruiting the first team that became the New Authors Fellowship. Around the time my second book published I went into full-time pastoring. That’s the moment I stepped away from NAF.

Back up a couple years before I left NAF and I was talking to my publisher about the options of releasing my first book. Some ideas were tossed around that were tabled because the timing wasn’t right.

What do those two things have in common? Well, the timing is right for one those early ideas and I’m now recruiting a team to make it happen. This could very well be more exciting than NAF! I’m not ready to fully reveal the goings-on, but as any of the original NAF team can tell you, you’ll want to be a part of this ride.

However…this new team will start out much smaller. Only three. Me and two others. The two others have specific responsibilities that I’ll tell you about here.

First, some general qualifications for both of these team members. I’m an out-of-the-box, reinvent-the-wheel, kind of person. You should be too. I’m also pretty tech and artistic media savvy. That kind of thing is going to be very important. Next, I have a definite sensibility when it comes to crafting well-designed stories. I believe a good story is far more than meticulously plotted or full of rich characters. Stories should have something to say and should change a person…and that’s not easy to identify, but it’s something I value. You should feel like you have a similar sensibility. Please peruse my website, look at some of my writing blogs and reviews, and you’ll begin to understand how I think. Finally, I don’t want to take anyone away from other commitments they have to other things. Ideally, I’m looking for excellent (preferably published spec-fic) Christian writers, who are not currently involved with other big writer-world things, and who are ready to do something a little more.

As for the specific roles: I need someone who is a strong editor, and I need someone who is well-versed in social media/marketing.

The success of this venture completely depends on having the right team. I’m willing to wait as long as it takes to find the right people.

Those of you who know me already know exactly where I’m going with this. Don’t give it away too quickly! But yeah…I know just by me posting this recruitment call the cat is out of the bag.

Interested in joining whatever hair-brained idea I might be having? Do not reply to this blog. Send me a direct email. Not going to post it here either. Let this be your first test.

-k