When you love a movie, game, or TV series as much as most hardcore fans do, it’s easy to excuse the little things that may not actually hold up under scrutiny. But there’s another show we love, Adam Ruins Everything, which pulls no punches in this regard. So, let’s take a look at these five fandoms with that in mind…
Marvel Cinematic Universe: Avengers Assemble…Well, Whenever They Want
We all love the massive and multi-layered Marvel Cinematic Universe that’s unfolded in movie theaters ever since Iron Man came out in 2008. The careful, methodical way the powers that be introduced the mainstream public to a growing pantheon of superheroes, then brought them together in that first team-up in 2012’s The Avengers, was a masterstroke of storytelling and marketing.
But ever since, there’s been a problem, especially as the MCU has grown to include TV shows on two networks. Basically…where are the rest of the Avengers whenever any one of them has a problem? Why aren’t they assembling constantly to take care of threats quickly and efficiently? Why would Captain America have to take down a global threat to millions in Captain America: The Winter Soldier with just a few teammates when Iron Man and Thor could have wrapped it up in a minute or two?
And speaking of Thor, why would the arrival of an enormous alien ship above London in Thor: The Dark World not draw the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D., Tony Stark, and a number of other MCU denizens (yes, they supposedly mopped up afterward, but that’s a little late, don’t you think?).
We know that sometimes these heroes are off on their own adventures concurrently with whatever is unfolding in a given movie. But as the number of super-powered characters in the universe grows, and the “it’s all connected” mantra resonates even louder (despite the fact that there’s a definite creative divide between the film and television branches of the MCU), it’s getting harder to justify any one of them having to tackle an antagonist on their own. In fact, it seems downright irresponsible.
Then again, Tony did create Ultron – a world-threatening AI – then shrug it off in Captain America: Civil War like he had just accidentally left milk out of the refrigerator. Whether it’s creating your own adversaries or leaving your fellow Avengers in the lurch, it seems the lesson of the MCU is that with great power comes great irresponsibility.
Star Wars: R2-D2 Had the Map to Luke Skywalker the Whole Time?!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens did a great job of reintroducing moviegoers and welcoming new fans to the universe created by George Lucas back in 1977. In many ways, TFA is a clever remake/soft reboot of the original Star Wars, but when you’re dealing with cyclical mythological storytelling and the hero’s journey, history repeating itself in patterns makes sense. So we’re not here to bash the movie for that. We are, however, going to take a certain little Astromech to task for his self-absorbed selfishness and his deliberate withholding of vital plot information that could have short-circuited a lot of the story in TFA and possibly saved some lives, including that of our old friend Han Solo.
R2 is again hiding schematics in his innards (it’s a droid thing; BB-8 does the same throughout), but in this case, it’s not plans for the Death Star but the missing piece of a map to where long-lost Luke Skywalker is living in exile. R2 doesn’t share this information with the characters initially, but that’s because he’s been sleeping/mourning ever since Luke left. When BB-8 tries to rouse him, it doesn’t seem to work…until the movie is nearly over, at which point R2 springs into action. According to JJ Abrams, BB-8’s attempt to revive R2 had a delayed reaction.
Convenient, isn’t it, that the delay lasts the length of the film? That R2 only deigns to wake up and provide the crucial final piece of the map when the movie needs to wrap things up? Not only is this a manipulative way to delay the Luke reveal, not only does this potentially cost lives because R2 is too mopey to bleep and bloop and project something in the air when he should, but it’s also a gambit based at least partly on one of the least liked plot points in the prequels. After all, R2’s “sad nap” isn’t too far off from Padmé dying of a “broken heart.” It’s silly sappiness employed by the series to justify moving the plot in a particular direction, and it’s indefensible. Wake up R2, and do your damn job!
X-Men: It’s Not Really a Series Anymore, Just A Bunch of Alternate Universes
Lately, we’ve been inundated with sequels and remakes and soft reboots and shared universes, all doing their best to try to maintain at least a tenuous if not ironclad link to a multi-movie saga that takes years to unfold. And while we’re all so steeped in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s worth noting that Fox managed to help get things going earlier through their success with the X-Men series of films.
Telling the tale of a group of outcast mutants with marvelous powers as they battle fellow mutants as well as suspicion and occasional interference from normal humans, the X-Men movies have largely been successful since the first installment in 2000, through several sequels, prequels, and Wolverine spin-offs, up to the latest release, X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016. There’s just one problem: None of it makes any sense.
Thanks to some of the mind-bending time travel that’s taken place in recent films, everything that happened in the earlier movies has been entirely reshaped, rewritten, or utterly replaced, to say nothing of the fact that a couple prequels had already contradicted vital character backstory and plot from the previous movies. Even the original trilogy was already making mistakes, so it wasn’t like they were getting anything right then either.
This means that emotionally investing in a given character and their fate is virtually a waste of time. Why care what happens to Cyclops or Professor X or Wolverine? Just wait five minutes and their entire lifetime will be rewritten. Wait, didn’t Professor X die? Oh, not anymore? Oh wait, didn’t Xavier have hair then? Where was Wolverine when…WHAT IS GOING ON?
This isn’t a series of adventures with the astonishing X-Men, it’s a collection of riffs on a theme, with similar characters playing out quantum alternatives in an endless array of parallel dimensions. And as long as you think about the movies that way, you’ll sleep better, bub.
Batman: Why Didn’t Bruce Wayne Just Buy Arkham Asylum and Fix It Up Properly?
So we’ve got this maniacal madman millionaire with a penchant for encasing himself in rubber and plastic, strapping on a variety of bewildering gadgets, and going out at night in an armored and occasionally rocket-powered car to beat criminals to a bloody pulp. Given his unique approach to law and order, Batman has tended to attract some insane adversaries looking to take down the Guardian of Gotham City, but no matter how crazy they get and no matter how many times they murder and pillage and otherwise cause mayhem, our Dark Knight hero always manages to capture them alive and bring them to justice. This process usually ends with the most malevolent of his foes finding themselves locked up in Arkham Asylum, a hospital that caters to the criminally insane and tries to help or at least hinder them.
Then they escape. Every damn time.
So why is it that this dedicated enemy of crime and evil, with tons of financial and other resources at his disposal, has never just taken control of the principal place of containment for Gotham’s most troublesome lunatics and tricked it out with as many Bat-gizmos as are necessary to ensure that for once, the Joker doesn’t just waltz right back out to kill someone else?
If you want to argue about legal issues associated with having a wealthy playboy masquerading as a night-time vigilante and meddling in the treatment and incarceration of criminals that he participates in capturing, then can we just say: “Who cares?” This is Batman! He already dwells in ethical shadows as it is, so how about using that wealth to build a better mousetrap instead of just another amazing-looking Batmobile?
OK, there was, in fact, Batman Eternal, a series in which Wayne Manor was repurposed as a new Arkham facility, but that’s not quite the same thing. There was even a story where we learn Batman has a hidden underground base at Arkham (one of them anyway). So he’ll set up shop beneath Arkham but not do everything he can to make sure the place actually functions?
Holy Crime-Fighting Fail, Batman.
Pac-Man: It’s Impossible to Get More Than 3,333,360 Points
Surely you’ve played Pac-Man at some point — maybe in the retro section of an arcade, or hunched over the tabletop version in the back of a dingy pub. If you’re lucky, you lasted about five minutes before your pellet-muncher succumbed to seemingly inevitable death at the hands of a ghost.
Point is, Pac-Man is hard. And even for the best amateur players, it feels endless — that with the perfect session, you could play on into infinity.
But Pac-Man does have an “ending,” brought on not by designed intent but by the hard limits of 1980s technology. Upon reaching level 256, the game glitches out into a disjointed “kill screen,” making additional play impossible. (This bug is actually the basis for the recent mobile game Pac-Man 256, where a wave of garbled code chases Pac-Man down an infinitely expanding board.)
What that “kill screen” means for the very best players is that a theoretical max score is possible if you manage to eat every fruit, ghost, pellet, and energizer on every level — without dying — until level 256. And with some back-of-the-envelope maths, that score comes out to…3,333,360 points.
The first person to hit this mythical mark was the infamous retro pro-Billy Mitchell in 1999. Since then, more than 20 players have managed the feat.
So the next time you slam a Pac-Man arcade cabinet in frustration and claim it’s “impossible” to beat, take comfort in knowing that — technically — you’re right.
Adam Ruins Everything is all new Tuesdays at 10/9C on truTV.