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About Literature / Hobbyist Dan OlesMale/United States Recent Activity
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The Blackwell Legacy
Rosangela Blackwell and Joey Mallone from the Blackwell adventure games.
Added to my collection of obscure video game characters.
It's a very cute adventure series! The idea of a standoffish medium in New York accompanied by a ghostly private investigator only she can see whose tie can rescue trapped spirits would probably make a great TV show in addition to making a nifty collection of games.

I know. I have requests, I have things I should be doing, but making and coloring these silly things are very calming and nowadays I like the escape. I'll write something or make a request soon.
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"Your father's lightsaber. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age."
- Star Wars: A New Hope

---

I thought for a change I'd watch some good movies. These were the HBO miniseries House of Saddam, the Dirty Harry sequel Sudden Impact, and Star Wars: A New Hope. There was an interesting similarity in all of these disparate examples of genres, formats, stories, and characters.

They had ZERO time for exposition.

In a context where half the films made nowadays devote a majority of their runtime to lengthy descriptions of the plots or discussion of plot elements, these films might seem to be cutting off the possibility of extending their runtime with padding. Just think: instead of A New Hope being two hours and five minutes, you could extend the runtime to thirty two minutes like The Last Jedi by just drawing things out.
And that's the last time I'll complain about modern Star Wars (scout's honor).

A New Hope, especially compared any number of newer films both independent and from giant studios, moves at a BREATHLESS pace. I'll admit to genuine shock in the sequence where Obi Wan describes his backstory and Anakin's backstory and describes the Jedi order and the old republic...in about half a dozen sentences.

Obi Wan says 'I was once a Jedi knight the same as your father.'
Luke's reply is 'I wish I'd known him better.'

In ANY more up-to-date film this would not have been Luke's answer to this statement. He would ask 'What are the Jedi?' He would ask 'What was my father like?' He would ask ANYTHING.
But, oddly, Luke is not interested in exposition at all. He doesn't delve into the subject so it's barely broached.
Here's the first description of The Force. It's three sentences long.

"Well, The Force is what gives the Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together." 

For a majority of the film, practically the entire film, this is the sum total of everything Luke knows about The Force and he doesn't raise any further questions about it. Likewise the Jedi order is sketched, not exhaustively defined. Pretty much every exposition potential of the film A New Hope feels like someone went into the script with a highlighter, blanket-selected massive paragraphs of descriptions, and only kept in the bare minimum of needed dialogue, description, or allusion. 

And the same is true for House of Saddam. Yes, it's based on real events, but it's still amazing to me how little the show got away with extended sequences that would exist only to provide exposition. In fact like Star Wars there's one or two instances throughout the miniseries where major events are summed up in a few lines of text. Otherwise the story focuses on the people involved in the events, the effect those events have on the people concerned. Factions, wars, massive historical occurrences...none of them are as important as the group of characters the audience gets to know intimately and understand so that those large events can be put into the context of their thoughts, their feelings. It's one thing to show us a large crowd sequence of people cheering, it's another to see one character we got to explore experiencing similar optimism. Larger scale does not mean 'better'. Details sell the impact of events we might otherwise overlook. When Saddam orders the massacre of a village in vengeance the true horror comes home not in the 'action' of the event so much as the officer responsible having a breakdown in his apartment, surrounded by mirrors that seem to stare at him in judgement. When Saddam orders the execution of a row of political opponents the harshest sense of death is made clear not by the length of the line but when one by one he hands a gun to each of his cabinet officers and orders them to 'fire' without feeling in his voice.

Sudden Impact too could have a 'previously on' introduction to the Dirty Harry universe given this film came out after several other adventures, each of which effected Harry Callahan is some way. But Clint Eastwood (who directed Sudden Impact) chooses to introduce Harry without any exposition...while at the same time describing him perfectly. He arrives late to a hearing, wears enormous somewhat outdated sunglasses, and Clint does nothing to diminish his obvious aging. Harry's hair is getting whiter, his skin stretching and his veins stand out against his scalp. He's not loosing his toughness but he is losing his touch to the rest of the world which seems to be advancing past him. The chief describes him as a 'dinosaur' and he seems aware on some level that's what he is, but the world hasn't changed for the better so he sticks to his...cough...guns.
Again, sequences which in a film like The Departed seem to never end with characters blathering on and on in board rooms are reduced to a few pointed sentences in Sudden Impact. Harry barely speaks and mostly communicates his come-backs to statements he doesn't like, which are practically any statement he hears.
Scenes of exposition almost occur but Harry himself doesn't seem to take a lot of interest. While his superiors try to describe the complexity of the situation, Harry just grumbles and tries to leave because he has work to do, damn it. He can't spend his precious time he could be spending saving people and killing bad guys listening to some suit rattle off history lessons. 

And this is an interesting distinction connecting these films as well: nobody in them wants to listen to exposition. Luke is kind of an impatient guy. Han Solo starts upping the transportation fee and he's prepared to leave the table in a huff. When Luke is describing The Princess, Han is confused and kind of annoyed that Luke knows more than he does but he doesn't go very deep into the situation beyond the danger is recovering her (which he doesn't like) and the possibility she will reward him (which he does).

Saddam is the information broker for an entire country so he is almost always the one who knows the most out of anyone. He doesn't like listening to other people telling him what to do even if they're right so he very rarely gets into situations where he asks for someone to sit down and outline the situation to him. The story of the series is instead Saddam DOING things. He makes decisions, he initiates discussions with other people, he schemes, he runs away. When his subordinates are doing something and not Saddam the series switches to them instead. House of Saddam, for a show about a guy who in the course of his career was more of a politician than a soldier, focuses pretty tightly on the most 'action' that occurred in the course of his life and the life of his sons. Action doesn't always mean gunfire. Saddam is always in the midst of some kind of activity. Conceivably the guy probably had a lot of downtime, but the series doesn't bother looking at him while he's sleeping or eating or just having a party. Even when the series shows him swimming it's because he's about to make an important demand of his captain of the guard. The first scene of the series where he's at a party is due to that party being a cover up for intimidation of the current president. 

The series has little fluff to trim. It does take creative license, but it doesn't feel like it's spinning its wheels.
And Sudden Impact has a similar internal concept of pace. If Harry has gone more than a couple of scenes without his life being put in danger or getting into a fight the film will give him something to do, and something that matters. His first 'action scene' with a bunch of hoodlums in a restaurant plays directly into the gang they represented sending more goons to kill Harry on his vacation in revenge. There's never any real instances of things just 'happening'. It's a pretty tight script.
And those action scenes are deliberately diverse. When Harry gets into a gun battle it's never quite just Harry standing around shooting people with his magnum. In one instance a car pulls up, gunfire is exchanged, Harry runs away and the bad guys go looking for him, Harry gets the drop on them. In another a car chase leads to molotov cocktails being thrown. Anyone could stage an endless series of gunfights, but Sudden Impact gives you a selection of fine action scenes with differences so you don't feel the experience is stale. Of course Harry isn't going to die, but if he's always doing something new it's a reason to watch his story, and Sudden Impact even throws into the mix the story of a young rape victim looking for revenge told in parallel to Harry's own experiences, and eventually the stories intersect. 
It's exposition via action.

Going back to a New Hope, another impressive situation I could see playing out I loved even as a kid was how naturally and efficiently characters came to have relationships with each other. Luke and Ben Kenobi don't have a great deal of time together before Ben is killed but in that time Luke clearly reveres the guy as his mentor and friend. When Han starts denigrating Obi Wan as 'that old fossil' Luke rejoins with 'Ben is a great man' and the statement feels earned. When Luke and Leia start falling for each other (in this version it was clear she wasn't originally supposed to be his sister) Leia does little things to indicate her affection for Luke like kissing him on the cheek before they swing over a chasm, declaring 'For luck.' It is FAR subtler a detail than a contemporary film especially which would only indicate a character liked another by having them accidentally catch the other one without their clothes on or falling prone on top of their love interest.
But Star Wars was content to have hints of the love triangle rather than outright declarations about it. Han winks at Leia in the ending ceremony but Leia either doesn't notice or is just ignoring him. Luke and Han have ONE conversation about the subject which ends extremely quickly.

Han: 'Still...she's got spirit. What do you think. You think a princess and a guy like me...?
Luke: (Abruptly) No.

Luke is pretty territorial about Leia and Han recognizes this, even indulging in a little smile. 
Compare this with Guardians of the Galaxy which takes an entire scene to establish a comparatively tepid romance.

Starlord: It's a negotiation tactic. It's my specialty. Yours is more stab...stab...'those are my terms'.
Gamora: My father didn't stress diplomacy.
Starlord: Thanos?
Gamora: He is not my father. When Thanos took my homeworld he killed my parents in front of my. He tortured me. Turned me into a weapon. When he said he was going to destroy an entire planet for Ronan I couldn't stand by. Why would you risk your life for this? (holds up tape recorder)
Starlord: My mother gave me this. Mom liked to share with me all the pop songs growing up. I happened to have it on me when I was...the day that she...when I...left Earth.
Gamora: What do you do with it?
Starlord: Do? Nothing. You listen to it. And you can dance. 
Gamora: I'm a warrior and an assassin I do not dance.
Starlord: Really? Well on my planet, there's a legend about people like you... 
(exhaustively describes Footloose)
*the two randomly begin to kiss after discussing whether or not someone with a stick up their butt is a metaphor*
Gamora: No! (draws weapon) I know who you are Peter Quill! And I am not some starry-eyed waif here to succumb to your...your...PELVIC SORCERY!
*random bar fight occurs to cover up the awkwardness of this forced comedic exchange*

Count the amount of actual human-sounding dialogue compared with raw exposition, not to mention a completely superfluous discussion about Footloose and whether or not having a stick-up-the-butt is an expression (I figured getting expressions wrong was Drax's thing, not Gamora's).
Here's when Han and Leia finally hook up in The Empire Strikes Back.

Han: Hey, your worship! I'm only trying to help!
Leia: Would you please stop calling me that?
Han: Sure Leia.
Leia: You make it so difficult sometimes.
Han: I do. I really do. You could be a little nicer though. Come on, admit it. Sometimes you think I'm all right.
Leia: Occasionally. Maybe. When you aren't acting like a scoundrel.
Han: Scoundrel? Scoundrel? I like the sound of that.
Leia: Stop that.
Han: Stop what?
Leia: My hands are dirty.
Han: My hands are dirty too. What are you afraid of?
Leia: Afraid? 
Han: You're trembling.
Leia: I'm not trembling.
Han: You like me because I'm a scoundrel. There aren't enough scoundrels in your life. 
Leia: I happen to like nice men.
Han: Nice men.
Leia: Very nice...
*Kiss*
And of course C3PO interrupts the whole thing. 

Notice though the differences between these similar sequences which are meant to do the same thing, but in Guardians the sequence is also pulling double duty. We learn TWICE that Gamora is an assassin (which we couldn't tell apparently from just her killing people) we hear all about her backstory, get a bit of Starlord's backstory, both of them flat out tell each other what kind of person they are...and STILL the romance seems to come out of nowhere.
In Empire Strikes Back the dialogue seems more like two people talking to each other than just people taking AT each other delivering necessary (and unnecessary) plot information. The closest we get to exposition is that Han considers himself a scoundrel and considers that a decent thing, but it's practically just a form of banter more than his describing his character. The focus is solidly on CHARACTER over the plot. Nothing is really moving in terms of the film's overarching story in this sequence, but then again it is because although some of the show is space battles the rest are the people involved in those conflicts and their associations with each other. 

Consider if the scene between Starlord and Gamora played out more like people talking to each other in a similar fashion.

Gamora: No luck with negotiations?
Starlord: Story of my life. 
Gamora: I've been meaning to ask you what that device is.
Starlord: This old thing? Tapedeck. 
Gamora: Not familiar.
Starlord: It's a machine to play music. There's other devices that do that. This is one from Earth.
Gamora: Why keep such a primitive device on your person at all times?
Starlord: Sentimental reasons. You probably have something like that. Something important to you because of what it reminds you of. 
Gamora: (Thinks. Holds up her sword.)
Starlord: There you go. Like that. I guess I should have seen that coming... 
Gamora: So, this device is an otherwise meaningless keepsake you maintain. There are many other devices to play music available, more advanced and far more portable, some on this station. Why not upgrade? I have upgraded my own arsenal on many occasions. 
Starlord: But you kept the sword for the memories, right? This baby here has some tunes you won't find anywhere else. Earth tunes. Classics. Want to try 'em out?
Gamora: I suppose.
(Listens to music)
Gamora: Not very much like the music I remember. More percussion. More...cheerful. 
Starlord: But do you like it?
Gamora: Much...I think.
Starlord: You don't have to keep second-guessing yourself like that! You spend so much time overthinking things. Do you really need to all the time?
Gamora: I really think I do. Maybe you should try it some time.
Starlord: Sometimes...you can just turn yourself off and listen. Sometimes...all you need is to feel.
(Touches Gamora's hand gently. She thinks about the gesture.)
Gamora: Did you just...attempt to woo me?
(Let's go immediately)
Starlord: Me? No. What made you think I'd do a thing like that?
Gamora: Unsolicited advances towards me are are ill-advised. Not to mention the gesture was extremely prosaic if you had any deliberate intentions by it. I'm not sure whether to be affronted or insulted.   
Starlord: I didn't mean anything by it. Just consider it an accident. I hope you enjoyed the music anyways.
(Gamora walks away...pauses)
Gamora: Of course...not all advances would be seen as entirely unwelcome. In the proper context. 
Starlord: The proper context, huh?
(Gamora nods her head curtly and leaves. Starlord smiles to himself and leans against the railing.)

I'm not William Faulkner, me, but I think an exchange like this gives us all the information we need about the relationship brewing between these characters and something about them, but delivers the exposition in the form of actions instead of words. Starlord doesn't randomly ask about Gamora's parentage, she doesn't refer to herself as an assassin, and they don't decide the most interesting and attractive aspect of themselves is their sob stories. Sure we lose the 'pelvic sorcery' meme, but even Gamora's actress seems embraced to make such a goofy declaration which even her character wouldn't say given everything we know about her. 

But wait! You point out the scrolling script at the beginning of A New Hope especially as BLATANT exposition!
I've probably mentioned this in earlier entries but the infamous text crawl is an homage to the serials that Star Wars is based on and is practically superfluous. All of the crawl from A New Hope especially is explained at some point in the course of the film. You miss the crawl, it doesn't change a thing.

All subsequent crawls in other films bizarrely did not take this concept to heart. Without the crawl in something like Blade Runner (an otherwise fine film) the film doesn't make a lot of sense because there is necessary information in the text crawl. Same with Johnny Mnemonic. I realize that in a fictive context characters can know more about their surroundings, the systems of their world, and the way their society functions than an audience might and them describing those niceties seems too ponderous for an realistic sensibility. If The Matrix was set onboard The Nebuchadnezzar and the main character was Morpheus the whole movie would be almost sans exposition because Morpheus knows everything and lives day to day in the midst of a weird world the audience does not comprehend from their own experiences. 
To counteract this issue The Wachowskis included Neo as the everyman who gets everything explained to him in the guise of lessons for his benefit, also bringing the audience up to speed.

But as much as The Matrix is enjoyable, the exposition is pretty thick on the ground and only piles on as the series continued. I keep recalling the sequence in Reloaded devoted to describing how angles, werewolves, and aliens are programs...and this having NOTHING to do with the plot. In one instance a character kills another using a silver bullet, but this program does nothing else to act like a werewolf. If we hadn't had the scene devoted to exposition nothing would have changed. 

Sometimes things can be short and sweet. The movie Dredd is an hour and thirty five minutes long.
Less than two hours! That's ridiculously short for a modern movie. 
Yes it wasn't a financial success (mostly because people thought it was a rip-off of The Raid) but it did go to show just because your film is in theaters doesn't make it have to be upwards of THREE hours in length. 
And even Dredd is packed to the gills with exposition rather needlessly, even if it's more rapid than a lot of other films with its dispensary. Flashbacks bleed into recordings bleed into exposition via the character's thoughts being spoken out loud. Some characters spend their time on screen describing things or 'talking' about their histories. 

See, history is an odd thing. People generally do NOT like talking about it. I've had extended conversations about histories and stories about histories but usually they're with relatives or 'guy friends' I have who are just trying to make conversation. Ironically my experiences with more intimate discussions with girlfriends have been pretty innocuous. We don't talk about deep feelings or the tragedies in our past, we talk about movies and music and the weather and what we had for lunch and silly things like that because the act of talking about pleasant concepts is part of the joyful experience of being around the other person. We can get deeper into discussions about emotions if we run out of ordinary things to discuss or if we feel more comfortable but my first topic of conversation is NOT going to be 'By the way, my grandfather died in the hospital.' 

It's all very well to learn through dialogue and use it as exposition, but if the exposition is obvious then you might as well have title cards and those echoing sounds that accompany characters omnisciently describing events directly to the audience. 

Imagine if when our characters are in an exposition-heavy context they actually seem to behaving like real people during the situation. In A New Hope there's the famous scene where the old guy describes the Death Star plans in detail (although again surprisingly briefly) and what does Luke do?
He starts talking about 'bulls-eyeing wamprats' back on his home planet. 
In House of Saddam there are boardroom sequences in which Saddam meets with his officers, receives the arbitrary details of the ongoing situation, and then makes some kind of declaration himself. How to keep this from being boring?
The series answer is to make everyone in the room so terrified of Saddam they're barely listening to what he's saying. The board members have saucer eyes, speak very plainly and quickly, and begin to have nervous tics. This isn't just your ordinary meeting. These are men who need to placate a murderous tyrant and avoid catching attention because as soon as you're his target for any reason you don't live long. Saddam's declarations are fairly typical 'We will win over the Western devils' kind of speeches but again what's made fascinating by a situation which could have been dull is that Saddam really seems to believe what he's saying. He swings his arms, he paces, he stands tall haloed in the lights above him like some kind of deity of war. 
Something is always going on because exposition is an opportunity for character development, not the other way round.
In Sudden Impact there are moments where exposition has probably just happened or will happen later and Dirty Harry either leaves or arrives late. It's kind of fascinating to watch the main character catch wind of what will surely be long and drawn out iteration about the plot...and just turns around to get back to the action. The trial sequence is shown splintered between beats of Harry just walking down a hallway. We the audience don't need or get all of the descriptions of the trial, people talking about the case, and when Harry arrives his apathy about the situation translates to the judge lecturing him for a very short time period because she realizes he is barely listening. 
This is why a movie like Die Hard 5 doesn't feel like a Die Hard film. John McClain, like Harry, doesn't like exposition. When he met the terrorist in the first film he had maybe five words to say to the guy. As far as John was concerned the situation was extremely simple so that's how it became from his perspective.
Having someone mumble on and on about politics just isn't the style of either McClain or his films. 

In the future, and I know it wouldn't work for every film, it would be great to see some attention paid to whittling down exposition rather than piling it on top of movies like rancid whipped cream. In Harry Potter the exposition is delivered in a few seconds over a conversation at a bar table. In Lord of the Rings after an admittedly pretty but kind of needless introductory flashback sequence (which actually was at least extremely edited down from its original form) the 'exposition' is delivered in a naturalistic conversation between two friends on a wagon, and later over a cup of tea. 
People TALK to each other, they do not exposit AT each other at the best of times.

And even more interesting is what is not said.

In Naked Lunch the film our lead hero encounters a talking cockroach after being busted for drugs and the cockroach tells him to rub bug poison on him and then kill his wife. At NO time does the main character ask why there's a giant bug, where it came from, or why it wants anything done. He's basically in a state of shock throughout the sequence and the bug is so matter-a-fact about what it says it is almost simply a given. He comes from Interzone, he is against centipedes, and he likes bug poison. That's just what's going on.
Now, granted, Naked Lunch is very clearly the hallucinations of an addict and addicts can accept things like this as a waking dream, but its still interesting to come away from an exposition sequence and actually WANT to know more about what's going on. It's a bit like an exposition scene which explains the plot but glosses over everything else in almost a metaphorical sense. How much do you really learn if someone only tells you the plot? Do you know anything about the people who are talking? Do you get to know anything about the people involved in the story? 
Naked Lunch is like a plot which forgot to tell you the context or the characters and it embraces rather than dismisses the mystery of a universe in which everything makes sense to itself but nothing makes sense to the lead character or the audience. 

You don't need that kind of ambiguity to still have a mysterious absence of information. Obi Wan describes 'The Clone Wars' and Luke recognizes what they are. End of exposition. We don't get to know anything about this event because it's enough to just have Obi Wan have been a warrior at one point, presumably for the Old Republic. There's a board room meeting in The Death Star to discuss politics for about five minutes at most. One officer describes 'regional leaders' but that's as close as we get to the design of the Republic as it was. The Emperor himself is never even mentioned, and as far as A New Hope is concerned there isn't even a Dark Side of The Force: Darth Vader is just a Jedi who uses his power for evil. 
In Sudden Impact what is the nature of the state of race relations in the city? How about the exact crime families involved in the on going crimewave? How about the name of the assassins attacking Harry? None are necessary. Harry COULD you get the feeling ask, and the script clearly did think about these questions (we see impoverished African Americans resorting to crime and Harry even lets one of them go, we see names of his victims on police reports...) but the film doesn't feel it important to stop everything to point out details that are not of immediate thematic or character-important use. 
And in Saddam there's whole story beats dependent upon things that are not explained specifically but are fleshed out in their implications. Saddam notes that one his cabinet members is not 'Al'Majid' but doesn't go into the specifics of what this means. It is clear though the way he makes this statement and the decisions he makes based on this fact that this is some kind of clan affiliation, and several episodes later he uses the term again and this is confirmed by a throwaway line of dialogue. 
If this had been a Marvel film Saddam would probably have said 'He is not of the clan Al'Majid, unlike my closest and most loyal friends, and therefore it is necessary to regard him with more suspicion'. This does make it clear like a baseball bat to the side of the head to the audience what this term means and why it is important, but it also sounds extremely stilted and it is not imperative to have the film grind to a halt just so the characters can speak to the audience in this way.
It might help in some contexts, but if you're a good writer you don't need this kind of exposition dump. It can even make audience members feel like they're being coddled and treated like children which seldom makes people very pleased.

So if you want me to distinguish a good film from a bad film my answer is usually the same as it has been throughout my life. Interesting, compelling characters. A cohesive plot. Logical reasoning of same. A consistent and comprehensive theme or series of congruent themes. 
And wherever exposition must be present it is delivered dynamically and sparingly. 

Given these directives the very worst films I've seen recently could basically be saved, but in order for this kind of pervasive quality to filter in a film needs to be considered from the first as a lean and mean story and character study rather than excuses for special effects or a loosely composed series of potentially interesting but barely broached ideas.

When it comes to exposition, just say maybe.
“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”
― George Orwell, 1984

---

I heard great things about the Netflix 'Castlevania' anime and since it showed up on my favored watching site I figured I'd dip in and enjoy. 
Almost immediately I was turned off, stuck on like clinging to the side of a sinking ship for as long as I could, then abandoned it in disgust. 
Now most of you probably know why I was annoyed off the bat given what you know of my politics and religion, but frankly at this point ghoulish representations of everything I represent is just to be expected in all forms of media. Evil Christians is a redundant statement at this juncture and even though history would have it a majority of burning at the stake were either capital punishment or actually ironically pagan peasants disposing of witches compared to the relatively lenient treatment by The Church comparatively, of course it's to be expected that the conniving, sneering robed abbot is looking to exterminate scientists (and women scientists at that!) to secure his power and prestige. I could even bring myself to forgive the literally goblin-like Bishop, spouting clearly disingenuous passages from The Bible about 'love' while decked out in hypocritical golden trinkets, his fingers actually having claws like some kind of hateful caricature.

The reverse Crucifixion sequence in which the scientist/feminist tried to get the demonic Dracula to forgive the ignorant Christians in a parody of Christ's sacrifice was galling in the extreme (she doesn't even believe the Christians deserve redemption but is afraid DRACULA might be tainted by becoming as evil as 'them'! Those lousy Christians are so evil that DRACULA is at risk of smudging his reputation by killing them, even though they richly deserve to die to a man), but again I figured it was par for the course and if the series could get it's hatred of Christianity out of its system then maybe we could get on with the story. 

Was the anime pretty? Sure. I WANTED to like the experience. 
I WANTED to enjoy a nifty, gothic, action packed Castlevania tale.

What I eventually could not stand was not only the demonization of my faith.
It was the absolute destruction of Dracula himself as a character.

Dracula in every iteration, especially in Castlevania, is the sion of darkness: a man who sacrificed his soul for power or the doom of his humanity for love which ultimately made him into a monster because of his Faustian bargain. In fact in the original games his love dies from an illness (not Christian witch-burners) and his hatred for God's injustice is what drives him to overturn his education and civility into madness and demonism. 
Dracula was a tragic villain but he was a villain: THE villain of the series.

So...how to introduce him to a new generation...
I know. How about we show him as a nearly impotent fuddy-duddy hanging out in his castle doing NOTHING, cowed by an annoying woman because she loves THE SCIENCE and driven eventually to destroy humanity because Christians are evil. That's the whole reason. Without Christianity EVERYONE, including Dracula, would be decent people. Drac's ball-and-chain actually comments on how the castle yard is filled by skeletons impaled on stakes.
His response is a muttered "I don't do that anymore."

See, he MIGHT have previously been a blood-sucking tyrant who impaled his victims by the literal hundreds (according to the amount we see) on stakes to watch them die in agony, but really he's a groovy guy now since he loves THE SCIENCE like any other smart person in the otherwise dismal and superstitious middle ages. Superstition you see is an understandable problem in a universe where literal monsters are basically in such profusion there's an entire profession designed around killing them.
That and Dracula can summon his face in fire, cause a rain of blood, and summon flying beasts, but I'm sure this is all due to THE SCIENCE...I guess.
Can't be The Devil like in the games. That would indicate those horrible Christians got something right.

The rub occurs that Castlevania is trying to make a popular statement (science good, Christianity bad) but is doing so in a setting, in a context, even in a story where none of this sticks. Eschewing the universal concepts the game embraced and the legend of Dracula embraced before then of good vs evil we now have a story ironically trying to be edgy and modern but has reduced the entirety of itself to meaningless factionalism. There is no 'good or evil' (that wouldn't be modern) so instead we just have incredibly powerful people fighting each other using similar methods for reasons that don't make much sense. Dracula's kid doesn't mind Dracula killing those no good bible-thumpers, but does he have to also lash out at the rest of mankind?
I mean, granted, EVERY human in the series is a scumbag, but again this is a very modern concept: you can't be interesting and a decent person at the same time so everyone is either an a**hole (no matter what faction they represent) or so decent and pure that they come across as not being human at all.
Lisa and Dracula are so decent and goody-goody that you realize right away anybody they horribly slaughter deserves it because they have an innate sense of who is deserving and who is not, and this sense is ALWAYS true. Dracula's enemies in a modern but self defeating sense either fight him out of necessity or because they want to defend humanity from him...and according to the series humanity itself is not worth saving.

So again instead of addressing themes anyone can understand the series adopts pet-peeve baddies, tries to slap in some arbitrary 'heroes' who are either lazy jerks sucked into events by accident, misguided champions of the undeserving rabble, or glowing saintly scientists who know better than to put morality ahead of the advancement of THE SCIENCE itself. I keep capitalizing THE SCIENCE because again (in a modern scene) SCIENCE is a sacred ideal without any definable definition. It's enough to have bubbling tubes and mechanical stuff to call it THE SCIENCE and anything can be accomplished with THE SCIENCE even if it makes no logical sense. Even humanity itself is not as important as THE SCIENCE which is the one true good in all existence.
And it's so good we can't even tell you what it is. It also encompasses and embraces every 'good' thing in contemporary concepts: progressive attitudes towards women, acceptance of pagan religions (odd that Christianity is wrong but wizardry is alright...) and all around 'modern' ideals of nihilism, personal interest, and personal fulfillment.
Remember kids, you can be a drunken, brutish, self-absorbed murderer but as long as you aren't carrying a crucifix you're probably a hero.

If the villains were Muslim or Buddhist or even of a social class this kind of bizarre segregation of morality would seem just as phony and irritating to me. In the anime called Gate the Japanese Self-Defense Force spend the entire series haplessly slaughtering fantasy people for being fantasy people and they never ever lose. Yes they have modern weapons but they are so overpowered and their enemies portrayed as so cowardly and worthless it's not an action story, it's propaganda.  
I bring up God is Not Dead a lot as an example of a Christian film (often sited by others as well) as pretty much what you would get if any contemporary anti-Christian narrative was flipped on its head, and it's just as irritating to me as anything in Castlevania. Instead of hateful Christians and saintly atheists you get atheists who are universally unthinking and Christians who are continually decent without any real challenge to their faiths getting in the way. 

The solution to all of this to me is the Universal Theme which apparently a majority of contemporary people feel to be completely beneath them...for no other reason I can imagine other than either pandering to one side or the other of an argument, because of cultural brainwashing, or because of deep-seated insecurities about the beliefs the creator themselves holds.

I was listening to an audio version of Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. If Castlevania has the political/religion range of Family Guy ('Gee Louis, we sure hate those lousy right-wing Christians don't we?') then Naked Lunch is closer to South Park: a scattergun attack on EVERYONE simultaneously.
It can get exhausting to wade through the frankly disgusting details of a man recalling the depredations of his addiction coupled with his drug-induced paranoid delusions but there's a fairness to the assault on the senses. In one instance a group of insane people are set loose in a city. From a helicopter a group of religious fanatics rain down stone tablets inscribed with 'meaningless scribbles' sure, but in the same sequence an 'intellectual' injects a victim with a lethal dose and mutters about pretentious opinions on artwork and pseudo-philosophy on the nature of self while his victim succumbs. Cops and soldiers are described as apes while civilians are described as sheep. Black, white, yellow or anything in-between is fair game for what today would seem like unforgivably intimate descriptions of physical and mental comparisons between races, classes, and nationalities. If you're a drug addict you're practically inhuman. If you're a human you're capable of becoming worse than either human or monster by virtue of the same old vices shared by every living being. 
It's oddly refreshing how William seemed to have contempt towards any extreme. 

I realize my politics, my faith are not shared by all. I realize there are examples (one I sited) in which my politics, my faith are used as a similar benchmark and weapon in a paper-thin narrative used as propaganda. 
I don't WANT propaganda. I want to hear a story.

Castlevania killed its story deader than a stake through the heart. Our 'heroes' are so contemporary they care about NOTHING and only act if they are given no other choice. Our 'villains' are so irrationally vile that they are literally crinkled into subhuman monstrosities before the actual monsters arrives on the scene so it's impossible to find any profundity in them unless you seriously do have a seething hatred for anyone wearing a cross. But how is this any better than if the villains in question were of another persuasion? Imagine if the enemies of Dracula were effeminate, hedonistic, slurring homosexual parodies who only talked in cliches and seemed to harbor villainy only because the author hated homosexuals?
UNFORGIVABLE!
Or what if they were brutish, low fore-headed, jive-talking African subtypes with thick lips? 
UNFORGIVABLE!
How about bearded, turbaned, dark-skinned, sneering Imams with suicide vests? 
UNFORGIVABLE!
But nebbish, ignorant, greedy, hypocritical Christians who hate women and THE SCIENCE?
That's just the truth, yo. Every form of media can't be wrong.
And leaving my obvious personal feelings aside...how are ANY of these tired, boring, obviously hateful caricatures compelling? What new is being said here?

And if your enemy is shallow and your heroes shallow your story basically becomes a series of barely associated events. The enemy cannot plan much of interest because the author has already decided they don't have any mental facilities, things to say, or motivations beyond base desires that barely make any sense. The villains are so villainous they have no depth thanks to mimicking a bugbear of the author. 
Likewise the heroes can do anything and as long as they don't resemble the hated 'other' their actions will be forgiven. The best kind of hero presumably resembles a contemporary person who is assumed to be weary, bored, unmotivated, angsty, obsessed only with person interests. Being a hero isn't cool compared to being forced into kicking ass which you totally could do the WHOLE TIME...if you could be bothered dealing with those ungrateful masses who will never truly acknowledge how cool you really are and give you the free stuff you deserve. 
F**king squares with their nine-to-fives...

A story that sticks with people is one that captures at least somewise a concept everyone can understand. Who can commiserate entirely with the centuries old genius magical alchemist whose motivation is 'those bad people killed my wife'? The answer is literally nobody. 
In comparison, let's consider Frodo Baggins. He's not particularly strong, not particularly studied or brilliant. He's short. He prefers to read books than to go on adventures although he likes to imagine himself on them from the safety of his mind. Yes he obtains a magic ring, but how does his quest to dispose of it go?
He takes a long hike through a very English landscape.
Is it any wonder than Tolkien based both Bilbo and Frodo on himself? Not as he wanted to be perhaps but how he was: a dreamer who preferred comfort to excitement and didn't feel exactly like a heroic type.

The brooding badass of Trevor doesn't come across as a developed guy because like so many 'characters' in Castlevania he's a template, not a person. Maybe he's a power fantasy of a super dude who has that popular angst onboard of no one understanding him but besides being grumpy he's also the bestest guy ever morally deep inside. He's not an anti-hero at all even if he kills people because they're always bad. He'll go out of his way to save people who don't deserve it because that's just how cool I am...
Sorry, HE is!

To see this concept done right read The Waylander series by David Gemmel. Waylander is a SUPREME badass who can kill anything with a triple-wing crossbow, who has magic immortality and is super strong even for a guy in his sixties....but he's also supremely BORED. He doesn't like killing things even for a living because there's zero challenge in it and none of it will bring back his family. He doesn't like being immortal because although he remains a fighting force to be reckoned with he does seem to suffer the same slings and arrows of aging (he notes at one point he'd prefer to be sitting on a porch drinking tea than fighting). He's the rarest of Mary Sues/Gary Stus who hates being a Mary Sue and oddly this made him extremely likable. Most of the time he's pretty decent but not because he's a badass and that's part of his credentials: he's just naturally a good person who uses his gift when he can to serve the common good. Unlike Trevor who seems annoyed at the prospect of doing ANYTHING, Waylander is only annoyed because of how artless his gift of combat is in the grander scheme. He's actually pushed beyond that initial childlike sensibility of marveling at his own super powers and is onto a mature concept that yes he's great at killing stuff...but what else can he really do?
And what legacy will that leave when he does eventually die? He killed a bunch of stuff. Who will care?

How many people can relate to an immortal assassin? None.
How many can relate to a person considering their advancing age, second guessing their life, and trying to make a lasting difference? NEARLY EVERYONE. 

Not every story needs to be this kind of existential minefield, but to me having a guy with more complex thoughts than a list of character traits is a darn sight better than generic motivations and clearly defined 'good' and 'bad' factions at conflict, with the good guys infuriatingly so overpowering the bad guys the conflict seems completely pointless. 

Universalism creates opportunities for wiggle room which more compact and 'relevant' themes cannot. If I make yet another anything in which a thinly veiled Trump is the villain, who could possibly care about my story later on? In the animated film Igor the villain is a conniving Texan accented 'president' who makes weapons, and conceals the truth to his people while oppressing a minority.
If you didn't understand this is meant to be Bush. Specifically Bush. No one else by Bush.
Looking back, who can see anything but another 'gee, Bush sucked' message portrayed?

Again, there's examples of just as tired and pointless political attacks on Clinton. The entire short-lived series The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer was a massive excuse to chuckle comparatively at Clinton's infidelities and poor decisions. This show was so timeless in that decision to pinpoint a particular president that its popularity in a parallel universe was a running gag in Clerks: The Animated Series.   
Does anyone go back to watching episodes of That's My Bush? Lil'Bush? Will anyone care to go back to SNL's most recent 'skits' in which Alec Baldwin spits racial slurs while wearing a blonde wig cuz you know Trump is a racist because, like, CNN said so? 

This is not meant as a political/religious issue but more of a quiet plea for an end to this nonsense. Not a balancing out of it: a flat out conclusion to the useless and empty warfare in entertainment to hammer home politics with the lifespans in this day and age of fruit flies. If we can't even decide day to day what the definition of gender is we sure as heck can't decide that our current president is totally going to be a Nazi because Hitler also had two scoops of ice-cream. 

Universalism used to be the means of conveying ideas of a more specific variety: secreting political/religious/ideological ideas into stories that otherwise had universal appeal. The haunting story The Lottery condemns mob-rule but not in any specific way: a stark portrayal of the dangers of accepting any extreme ideology beyond question. Animal Farm is clearly a specific political allegory but with the medium of animals it's also a stand alone story warning in general about abandoning principles in the heat of revolution. 
Farenheit 451 is not tied to any time or any ideology. By burning books it voices a warning about censorship, conformity, even extreme equality of any sort in a grander scene. The film and book shows very clearly the destruction of EVERY book, no matter what the subject matter.

Consider this little rant the HBO show will surely not feature...

"Surely you remember the boy in your own school class who was exceptionally ‘bright,’ did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many leaden idols, hating him. And wasn't it this bright boy you selected for beatings and tortures after hours? Of course it was. We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man's mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won't stomach them for a minute."

The universal fear is extremism itself, not any one strand. To pin-point and assail any one group, race, religion, or otherwise in a fictive sense is to limit the appeal, the message, the concept, and the opportunities to explore. 

Long John Silver is simultaneously a well-spoken, friendly, selfless companion...and a violent, bestial, murderous and greedy pirate. One is a cover for the other but both bleed into themselves when he refuses to kill Jim Hawkins for reasons he has to justify to himself but may hold possibilities of redemption for his otherwise dark nature. How much is an act? The answer is COMPLEX and partially due to how others perceive him as well as how he perceives what he MUST do in any given situation to survive and thrive.
That used to be a villainous thing, not a 'heroic' thing as modern fiction seems to have it.

The 'hero' of War of the Worlds knocks a half-crazed priest unconscious with a shovel, just so he can live. The reason being that the requirements of the protagonist to be a hero was not required to tell the story of War of the Worlds because there was no requirements by the author to have his 'hero' be heroic. The main figure was supposed to be an everyman, driven in extreme circumstances by the baser reactions of humans who are compelling to sacrifice to stay alive. Actually the 'hero' doesn't do very much heroic throughout the story beyond observe and run away. Protagonist does not mean saint, especially if the story is not focused on any one character truly beyond what they witness. 

Dystopian tales like Logan's Run, like 1984, like Brazil and Brave New World all conclude (SPOILERS) with the dehumanizing and oppressive society WINNING. The last line of Logan's Run is tracing the missile streaking towards the outpost of the last resistance, 1984 and Brazil ends with the lead character brainwashed, and Brave New World concludes with suicide. Again, there was no intensive personal stakes for the author to feel that their nightmare could be dispelled by some kind of self-insertion hero. Evil wins. Sometimes evil wins in reality so in a world that had become so corrupt human dignity was dispelled and ignored it only seemed logical for that society to crush all resistance. Not always does a Hunger Games style 'happy ending' occur with the bad guys all reformed or dead and the good guys in charge.
Because there was a time we weren't so terrified our politics might not rule and the universe by saved by their graces we could actually have fiction not directly related to current events AND which did not conclude with our enlightened ideals winning the day as they MUST.

Once upon a time we wrote fiction to explore, not just confirm what we already believed. 

I've mentioned in it other journals, but dignity used to be afforded 'the enemy' if the authors were trying to be just in their portrayal of people. Patton was written by people who didn't like Patton, but couldn't help but make him at least a semi-dignified anti-hero. Likewise Killing Kennedy was written by a man who is pretty much opposed to everything Kennedy ever did, but the film and book portrays the man as a flawed but generally decently inclined person whose death as a tragedy. 

Revenge should not be your motivation to create: that's just another form of destruction. An art cannot help but include their deepest feelings commingled into their work, but it shouldn't begin and end in blindness. Hatred and love are powerful emotions and they tend to make us believe these are all sufficient in their experience. To feel hate is to KNOW, to feel love is to KNOW. Feeling is to be WISE.
But this is simply not the case. 
You can experience puppy love even if you believe you are experiencing emotions that will never die and are the most important you have ever felt. You can be experiencing bias and bigotry even while believing you are fighting against important and dire forces. 

I'm as guilty of this as any human who ever lived, but I like to think I try to analyze these feelings and explain at the least to myself where these feelings come from, what they mean, how they can be of use.
Feeling at all is nothing. Any living being feels SOMETHING. 
To understand, or to attempt to, makes us human. And that means looking at things we'd rather not look at.
Especially if said things include mirrors. 

And that's one thing everyone can understand but no one seems to want to explore: the world within.
We are terrified by insanity, evil, irrational emotions, baseless opinion, racism, classism, sexism, any other ism we can name because by rights this indicates acting and thinking and speaking without a basis in logic.
But the real reason we are terrified of all of this is because we experience these things OURSELVES.
And we'd like to distance them from us.
It is intellectual dishonesty to apply to any one group emotions, decisions, experiences, reactions that cannot be applied to another, especially if we're trying to foist our fears onto any one group so that they're FAR away from who we are. We are pure. We are righteous. We are incapable of such horrible things.
If only THEY knew. If only THEY took the time to think the way WE do.
Ultimately it always comes down to the same unfortunately universal concept however...
If only THEY were all locked away. If only THEY could be made to think better.

If only THEY were all dead.

And no aspects, no concept, no facet of humanity it free of this fearful dichotomy if we lose sight of human dignity. If we accept people not as individuals but as groups we can so easily become convinced all our problems would go away if they were silenced, reeducated, or just flat out exterminated. 
Extremism is in every human capacity.

I didn't say universalism was always pleasant. 

But on the flip side, the human experience encompasses the opposite. We see a person injured, in pain, in trouble and we're prompted to their aide. Factors of society, distance, culture and so forth can dissuade our reactions but generally we feel empathy to the sufferer, we feel guilt when we cannot help. We can be driven to tears by pictures of suffering past or present or just words alluding to the same. We feel camaraderie with our friends. We feel love and affection for people we are close to. We feel curiosity and the desire to explore. 
We feel the desire to believe what we cannot see because accepting things as bad as they seem as irreparable seems impossible while maintaining our sanity. Why would it be that our bodies and minds programmed to do what we can to survive would seem incapable of believing that nothing matters or that evil will always prevail if such a thing was true?
We want to believe in fairness, truth, selflessness, hope, love.
They're as much a part of us, all of us, as the other stuff.

So if you must design an evil empire, take a moment to stand in their shoes. Ask yourself how they came to this mindset, why they cannot see their own hypocrisy. Don't compare them to a hated figure in contemporary politics you cannot bring yourself to empathize with, compare them to yourself.
How would you have to grow up, experience, feel to become this way? In the quiet moments of your villains do they second-guess themselves? Do they have bouts of irrational emotions they cannot even justify to themselves and struggle between knowing and ignorance and faith or doubt of the unknowable? 

Imagination, fiction...both are too big to negate exploration. 

There's a universe within out there. Dive in.
"Perfection is shallow, unreal, and fatally uninteresting."
- Anne Lamott

--

So I watched the new trailer for Solo: A Star Wars story because apparently I'm a masachist.

I consider Star Wars now the same way someone might consider a High School fling who cheated on them with every member of the faculty, let themselves go out of spite, and finally returned with way too much makeup asking for a return the way things used to be. Those days are long gone when I could call anything but the original trilogy even decent films, and Solo is only one more indication the modern iteration is a shadow of its former self drunk on nostalgia.

But the most interesting aspect at least to me wasn't the bad acting, the fact that Han seems like a co-star in a movie named after him, or the incredibly cringe-inducing call-backs that completely miss the point of everything. ("I've got a really good feeling about this!") 

What really came home to me was how utterly uninteresting Han has become, and how this is endemic of yet another destructive trend I want to shine a light on and hope that it will burn vampire-like in direct illumination.

Once upon a time Han was a crude, callous, greedy, grumpy comic relief. He wasn't a good shot, not even a particularly good pilot (he just had a decent ship). I remember even as a kid thinking he was kind of an abrasive klutz when he first showed up. He won by cheating. He didn't treat his Wookie companion that well at all, constantly calling him names and belittling him (even if in an offhand and in-retrospect affectionate way). He only developed a conscience over the course of a film, and his initial attempts at romance were deliberately staged as a fumbling un-subtle display of a guy whose only previous relationships probably only occurred after he'd used sufficient credits to pay the surcharge or maybe holo-vids he saw between smuggler runs.
Han was 'cool' essentially by accident. Mostly he was funny. Eventually he became a hero but only through witnessing selfless actions on the part of people he grew to respect. Initially he describes The Rebellion as a bunch of idiots dying for no reason for a doomed cause and he considers The Force to be complete bunk.
For the longest time Luke didn't like him, Leia didn't like him, and only the godlike patience of Kenobi allowed him to put up with Han's nickel-and-diming him for passage, sneering at his faith, and even insulting his age.

Han was an ANTI-HERO, and not just because he was morally suspect. He also wasn't traditionally 'heroic' in any immediately discernible way: not particularly skillful, not particularly brave, not particularly smart.
Only by degrees did he show his hidden depths of unrealized potential.
Like Jack Sparrow, Han was initially even somewhat likable because he was a potent classical combination of two traits which by themselves are not likable entirely but together create audience sympathy and eventually empath. He was funny and he wasn't always entirely competent. Han is a bit of a buffoon: full of himself but prone to accidents, bad luck, and just poor decisions. Jack Sparrow likewise seems (at least in his first incarnation) to waffle between states of ridiculous fortune: good luck and bad. He's NOT a good person for much of his debut but what makes him harmless is that he isn't always completely in control and is usually on the wrong side of the balance of power. Han, if he had his druthers, would probably collect his money, screw-over his passengers, clear his bounty, and keep doing his illegal work for a quick buck. There is NO reason to believe he's a person motivated by anything but personal interests so if it wasn't for his pratfalls and amusing lack of command of his situations he would almost be an antagonist or just another character the heroes ignored or avoided. Same with Jack. He's a pirate first, a hero by accident. Anything good these people develop are because of something you might not be familiar with because it's been awhile since people cared about it...

A CHARACTER ARC.

Han Solo CHANGES. Jack Sparrow CHANGES. They better themselves whether deliberately or not. Han for instance doesn't have to risk his life and the film is specific that he chooses to fly in at the last minute to save our heroes. He risks everything for his friends because he learns from their example and afterwards ponders what this means to who he was. Jack likewise sees a decent person like an alien might an earthling: someone he cannot at first understand. Will Turner is a law abiding, woman-respecting, piracy hating individual he wants to pity, bilk, or at one point even kill. He even rejoices in the corruption of Will, but at a certain juncture he comes to appreciate that Will has something he doesn't from the beginning. A moral stance. Jack and Han are very cynical people who live by their wits and allow nothing so flighty as friendship to put the most important things they have in danger: their lives, their freedom, and their fortunes.
But they develop by deciding there are some things worth risking what they believed were ultimately imperative to their livelihoods for something insubstantial. Justice. Camaraderie. Even faith and love.
And because they had the capacity in themselves to change, to improve, and advance their lives people came to appreciate them as more than just cast members but fully-fledged CHARACTERS.
 
The development of a character can be in a negative direction as well. In The Walking Dead the character Hershel developed when his belief that zombies can somehow be rescued is severely disputed by events.
He has an introspective moment in a bar where he confronts his convictions, weighs them against what he's witnesses...and he decides to side with what he has witnessed. It's one of the few instances of that show where a character changes. Granted, it's a change for the worse (he basically abandons hope) but it IS a change. 
Consider how Hamlet changes from a well-to-do aristo to a devious and murderous manipulator over the course of a play, how Macbeth transformers from a loyal soldier to a traitorous dictator.
The character CHANGED because of an ARC and that is why I believe these characters remain in public consciousness.  

But where did the arcs go? Young Han has no arc I can see. I realize the film COULD explore some kind of complex lack in his life and character which his adventure will reform....but how likely is this really?
Young Solo is the greatest driver, pilot, fighter ever. He's already a civic-minded guy who is kind to everyone (including the Wookie he largely treats like furniture or a weapon in later films), obeys the orders of everyone he meets, and in all instances seems to be observing either some kind of Robin Hood goal of fighting The Empire (years before he decided this was pointless) or he's interested in 'revenge' which seems like too complicated a motivation for even older Han to observe.
Come to think of it, what is the arc of the kid in Ready Player One? He's a guy who knows everything right off the bat and the rest of the world basically has to catch up with how wise and righteous he is while he changes very little.
What is the arc of Katniss Everdeen? This is probably an issue with adapting the source, but whereas the first Hunger Games film seemed to indicate a lot of possibilities for how Katniss might develop, the rest of the film (I haven't read the books) don't offer her any wiggle room. She reacts rather than acts. Everything happens TO her rather than her making any choices that effect events with an exception of the first film (which is also my favorite particularly for this reason). 
What is the arc of Spiderman in Spiderman Homecoming? In the beginning he a kid who fights crime and has super powers...and at the end he does all this only he has more gadgets to do it with.

Contemporary characters seem to eschew arcs of change because they begin unassailable. Even when they cause problems those problems weren't really their fault or lead to good enough events to justify them later on. Characters can't seek redemption because that would indicate they had something to improve, and THAT would indicate that a hero (which in contemporary terms is almost always intended as an audience surrogate) had something about them that wasn't already perfect.

When people call Rey a 'Mary Sue' it's not just evil nasty misogynists who hate strong independent woman...it's people who don't like being bored. If Rey was a guy and nothing else changed about her she would still be the most boring main character this side of Jake Sully from Avatar. She's absolutely perfect. No foibles, not meaningful person issues, no lacking in strength or capacity, flawless execution in all aspects. She doesn't need to 'learn' anything because she's constantly teaching everyone around her to be nearly as awesome as she is.
This is because people are supposed to project themselves onto Rey as a surrogate...and we wouldn't want the audience to imagine themselves as imperfect, would we?

Again I have to wonder why the example of Harry Potter hasn't been taken more to heart. Harry is, and this cannot be overstated, an INCREDIBLY flawed person. He's famous for no real reason and everything magical seems to come to him naturally, but unlike Rey who accomplishes all the Force things perfectly because she does EVERYTHING perfectly...Harry is a completely different and more interesting story. We're introduced to him being damaged and a bit vindictive. He's described of being deliberately cruel to his nephew who, by rights, is cruel to him but he doesn't exactly take the high ground. Later on in both the film and books he is depicted as...

* Lazy
* Flippant of things others find important
* Blunt in his manners and speech
* Kind of dim 
* Very irrationally emotional at many times
* Selfish (he even admits this to himself)
* Prone to lashing out at people physically for verbal assaults
* Extremely impatient 
* A near habitual liar, even to his friends and authority figures he otherwise trusts

And these flaws in his character (not all explainable by magical means) are eventually responsible for several otherwise avoidable deaths. Harry's desire to kill his family's killer according to unsubstantiated rumor ends up nearly getting all his friends simultaneously murdered and Dumbledore in many instances could have saved time and great hardship if Harry had just told him the truth and fessed up to his own mistakes.
Harry is a KID and as such, even if it isn't totally mitigated, has been drawn realistically as one in a way a lot of other productions will not in the interests of keeping the hero spotless. As a kid I remember I was vindictive, a liar, a violent person, moody, a manipulator, and very very cruel to the point looking back I feel a little sick.
But unless you're an actual saint you had these opportunities and made these mistakes. You can relate to someone who screws up because WE'VE screwed up.

The bizarre assumption nowadays is that the only people they can imagine themselves as are godlike immaculate beings who always do and say the correct things in every circumstance, especially if those characters are famous heroes.

Consider how in remakes the traits of characters expand to a ridiculous degree. In the original Robocop, Robocop himself was basically a big dumb suit of armor with a big gun. He wasn't stealthy or sleek or acrobatic, he just marched into gunfire and shot everyone by basically peppering a scene with very large bullets. 
Then the remake decides that Robocop suddenly should be some kind of ninja who doesn't miss. 
Which will stand the test of time?
In the original iteration of Death Wish, Charles Bronson was not particularly creative or skillful in his murders: he just shot people with a big gun. In the conclusion he is hospitalized after LOSING a gunfight and told to stop his vigilante ways.
In the Bruce Willis version not only is Bruce portrayed as some kind Punisher style combat specialist but (spoilers) he kills all the bad guys and retires by choice.

Do we really need this kind of sugar-coated utterly alienating squeaky clean nonsense? Even the so-called 'edgy' ideas I've seen in modern cinema and television are sanitized to a bizarre degree. In Game of Thrones which so daringly show blood and sex...in the same way every show does nowadays...all the heroes and villains are so completely polarized it's laughable. Even when the 'heroes' kill, torture, betray people EXACTLY in the manner of villains the SHOW forgives them because of their high minded ideals or because of a tragic past.
Shows like Walking Dead make a pretense of dramatic contention and controversy, but again all the heroes boil down to well-intentioned people forgiven for all their sins and all the bad guys are usually just crazy racists I.E people who exist to be bad irrationally because no rational person surely would be bad given the choice.
Westworld has murderous robots, but it's okay because they only kill bad people and robots are better than people anyway... which basically circumvents entirely the original point of Westworld which was the potential dangers of arrogance and technology.
 
The classical and memorable hero was a man or woman who had some very real problems, at least if the writer wanted to infuse their work with a smidge of realism.

I like the Gormenghast stories because there's such an almost unheard of combination of completely immoral people who aren't even aware they're immoral. NOBODY strives to be better because they've either decided that this is impossible, they've philosophized themselves out of believing in either good or evil, or they're too cowardly to attempt this. The extremes of morality none-the-less are shown and make themselves starker when one man decides to champion evil in a very deliberate way. Titus Groan, who is so innocuous he almost melts into the background, is forced to champion goodness basically as a last resort. 
It's like Games of Thrones if it was more honest. Nobody has high-minded ideals except for self-serving interests but the story doesn't take any sides as far as success or failure. In Game of Thrones the smartest and the strongest and the most moral win out. In Gormenghast evil very nearly wins if it wasn't for someone trying out goodness just to see if it would work since all else had already failed.
Good and evil did not determine the outcome. It was cunning, it was conviction, and ultimately it was luck.

But modern 'stories' would have you believe to be a hero is to be unstoppable, unshakable, and incorruptible. The hero/heroine is devoid of base instincts and if they harbor these they're excused like bad habits compared to the other 'good' things they do. Heroes are rather counterintuitively portrayed as the best: the strongest, the smartest, the most skillful, the richest, the most powerful. A classical hero might have been moral but this did not equate to their physical or mental agility, and 'heroes' in a VERY classical sense were known exclusively for their fitness and not their morals. Achilles and Hercules are 'heroes' but only because they're really strong and tough. Achilles is an arrogant jerk and Herclues is a murderous lout, and neither of these faults are entirely excused in their legends, but what made them 'heroic' in tales of yore was only their physical exceptionalism.

Contemporary heroes want their cake and to eat it too. The hero/heroine is not only the most pure in morals but also the best shot ever, the best pilot ever, the strongest fighter ever and usually from a young age.  
Heroes don't have time for things like 'training' anymore, they just start out as geniuses and savants out of the box. They get their iconic equipment in a lot of remakes for arbitrary reason, but they know how to use it immediately. There's no indication in either origin stories or immediate narratives about many many heroes that they were ever NOT the best people ever who ever lived.
Also they ignore contradictions. They love peace, but they will kill bad people without a second thought. They want equality, but they can't entirely provide it because they're better than everyone else. They believe in hard work, but they don't need to ever do any. They complain about people doing things for personal gain only, but their only real motivations are personal fulfillment or personal goals.

Time was heroes were some of the most flawed people in a story. Jim Hawkins is no savant but his quick decisions to survive an adventure WAY over his head are what make him heroic. Frodo is a pampered socialite who gets into the middle of an apocalyptic war but manages to win through by sheer dogged perseverance in the face of inevitable destruction. Sherlock Holmes is a genius but he's also a drug-addled recluse. Until the squeaky-clean reboot Roland Deschain could only be charitably called a 'hero' because he occasionally fought people who were worse than he was.  

And the reason for the beginning of 'hero' as a callow, weak, flawed person was because the STORY was supposed to establish the journey, the arc of that hero to a more heroic state. Even in history this occurs with great figures not beginning great. Even villains began as nobodies, easily ignored by their peers, and thrust by luck or displays of their burgeoning skill into the spotlight of history. George Washington was a surveyor before he became a general and a president. Hitler started out hanging wallpaper.

But in the modern mode we're expected to believe that George Washington was always secretly a military genius and a good man and Hitler was always a crazed murderous dictator. There can be no transition between states of mind and states of being because that would call into question if ANYONE could become either a hero or a villain given circumstances or choices. That would also indicate that heroes are not always good people and villains aren't always pondering evil deeds and laughing maniacally. 
We can't have any of this clearly. It's too complicated!
Likewise the transition theory of experience has the even more dire possibility that the only way to get better at something in real life is to WORK at it. Harry Houdini began as an unsuccessful sideshow performer who worked for eight years to improve his craft in obscurity and before then he was already a practiced trapeze artist. 
Leonard Di Vinci was a prodigy but only because he spent nearly his entire life studying.
There's SOME instances of people who become geniuses, adroit, masters without study, without exhaustive education, without training but even these tend to practice a great deal or came to the craft through their own hard efforts and they can only improve by challenging themselves.

Nobody gets better by resting on their laurels or accepting every action they do will be mystically made perfect by a gratified universe for the compensation of 'believing in themselves'.

Not only are flawed heroes more interesting, more realistic, but they're also less of a ethical minefield. So we're supposed to believe only exceptional persons can be heroes? Ordinary people with ordinary strength, ordinary intelligence, and ordinary scruples need not apply? So despite these modern heroes almost always fighting against racists, capitalists, or the religious (the only enemies people in entertainment seem to believe in) and the reason for fighting is always indignation that someone can believe some people are less fit than others to live...they themselves are a living, breathing example of supremacy of some over others. Our heroes standing against the evils of callous attitudes about elite individuals deciding who lives and who dies heroically slaughter less strong, less fast, less powerful people sometimes in the hundreds to impose their extraordinarily upstanding beliefs on others.
And no one seems to have yet discovered how hypocritical this is, but more importantly, how obvious and dull.

Young Han, compared to old Han, should be ever more callow than he became after a world-weary career. He should be weaker, in a worse place financially, less of a decent pilot, less of a decent shot, less of a legend (why does everyone in the trailer seem to know him if this is his origin story?) less friendly with Chewie. All of this should DEVELOP instead of indicating that Han apparently became WORSE as he grew older for no real reason.

Even better, maybe DON'T make a pointless Young Han movie. What story can really be told that will matter or be as interesting as the stories people made up in their minds? As far as I'm concerned Han's life was just one long slog until Luke and Kenobi showed up. He was on the run from bounty hunters but because of this he wasn't working so he was probably just planet hopping looking for a fare to get his butt out of danger. Maybe you could do an exciting adventure featuring his narrow escapes from the hunters, but by rights a lot of Han's life was likely spent on board his ship hiding or waiting with his only companion an alien he barely treated like another person.
You don't need to tell a 'story' like that unless you have a story to tell. The reason A New Hope introduced Han when it did was because this film would chronicle the most exciting and important events in his life.
Anything else was supplemental.
But Solo: A Star Wars Cash-in seems to believe the 'story' its telling is some kind of grand important narrative. It's not because all of Han's development happened LATER, and it's that development which made him interesting.

Without those arcs, without flaws, all you're left with is the same old problem modern films keep glibly complaining about.
'Why do all old movies have to have the white hat and the black hat? Why all the goody-two-shoes heroes and shallow villains? Why can't we have some shades of grey?'
They they proceed to show us 'heroes' whose faults are all explained away or ignored who are good at everything and always have good intentions or good results to their actions, and villains who are almost either greedy or crazy.

BORING.

I say as much as the themes should be complex, the characters should be to. Show us people who are people, not just super heroes pretending to be 'just like us'. Power fantasies have their place but they cannot be the whole show or everything just comes across as pandering nonsense.

To show us people we can relate to, show us people who change.
Show us heroes who become heroes, not just because they get all the marketable gear, but because of their choices: the people they can be shining through.
Give us something to witness in transition and by this give us a reason to care.
Postal Dude
"The gene pool is stagnant...and I'm administering chlorine."

Postal 2 is like the ultimate cathartic video game, and given some of the nonsense I've had to put up with I appreciate the ablution. 
I just felt like portraying the Dude himself for fun.
He's sort of done in a cross between Jhonen Vasquez and Clerks The Animated Series. 
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"Your father's lightsaber. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age."
- Star Wars: A New Hope

---

I thought for a change I'd watch some good movies. These were the HBO miniseries House of Saddam, the Dirty Harry sequel Sudden Impact, and Star Wars: A New Hope. There was an interesting similarity in all of these disparate examples of genres, formats, stories, and characters.

They had ZERO time for exposition.

In a context where half the films made nowadays devote a majority of their runtime to lengthy descriptions of the plots or discussion of plot elements, these films might seem to be cutting off the possibility of extending their runtime with padding. Just think: instead of A New Hope being two hours and five minutes, you could extend the runtime to thirty two minutes like The Last Jedi by just drawing things out.
And that's the last time I'll complain about modern Star Wars (scout's honor).

A New Hope, especially compared any number of newer films both independent and from giant studios, moves at a BREATHLESS pace. I'll admit to genuine shock in the sequence where Obi Wan describes his backstory and Anakin's backstory and describes the Jedi order and the old republic...in about half a dozen sentences.

Obi Wan says 'I was once a Jedi knight the same as your father.'
Luke's reply is 'I wish I'd known him better.'

In ANY more up-to-date film this would not have been Luke's answer to this statement. He would ask 'What are the Jedi?' He would ask 'What was my father like?' He would ask ANYTHING.
But, oddly, Luke is not interested in exposition at all. He doesn't delve into the subject so it's barely broached.
Here's the first description of The Force. It's three sentences long.

"Well, The Force is what gives the Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together." 

For a majority of the film, practically the entire film, this is the sum total of everything Luke knows about The Force and he doesn't raise any further questions about it. Likewise the Jedi order is sketched, not exhaustively defined. Pretty much every exposition potential of the film A New Hope feels like someone went into the script with a highlighter, blanket-selected massive paragraphs of descriptions, and only kept in the bare minimum of needed dialogue, description, or allusion. 

And the same is true for House of Saddam. Yes, it's based on real events, but it's still amazing to me how little the show got away with extended sequences that would exist only to provide exposition. In fact like Star Wars there's one or two instances throughout the miniseries where major events are summed up in a few lines of text. Otherwise the story focuses on the people involved in the events, the effect those events have on the people concerned. Factions, wars, massive historical occurrences...none of them are as important as the group of characters the audience gets to know intimately and understand so that those large events can be put into the context of their thoughts, their feelings. It's one thing to show us a large crowd sequence of people cheering, it's another to see one character we got to explore experiencing similar optimism. Larger scale does not mean 'better'. Details sell the impact of events we might otherwise overlook. When Saddam orders the massacre of a village in vengeance the true horror comes home not in the 'action' of the event so much as the officer responsible having a breakdown in his apartment, surrounded by mirrors that seem to stare at him in judgement. When Saddam orders the execution of a row of political opponents the harshest sense of death is made clear not by the length of the line but when one by one he hands a gun to each of his cabinet officers and orders them to 'fire' without feeling in his voice.

Sudden Impact too could have a 'previously on' introduction to the Dirty Harry universe given this film came out after several other adventures, each of which effected Harry Callahan is some way. But Clint Eastwood (who directed Sudden Impact) chooses to introduce Harry without any exposition...while at the same time describing him perfectly. He arrives late to a hearing, wears enormous somewhat outdated sunglasses, and Clint does nothing to diminish his obvious aging. Harry's hair is getting whiter, his skin stretching and his veins stand out against his scalp. He's not loosing his toughness but he is losing his touch to the rest of the world which seems to be advancing past him. The chief describes him as a 'dinosaur' and he seems aware on some level that's what he is, but the world hasn't changed for the better so he sticks to his...cough...guns.
Again, sequences which in a film like The Departed seem to never end with characters blathering on and on in board rooms are reduced to a few pointed sentences in Sudden Impact. Harry barely speaks and mostly communicates his come-backs to statements he doesn't like, which are practically any statement he hears.
Scenes of exposition almost occur but Harry himself doesn't seem to take a lot of interest. While his superiors try to describe the complexity of the situation, Harry just grumbles and tries to leave because he has work to do, damn it. He can't spend his precious time he could be spending saving people and killing bad guys listening to some suit rattle off history lessons. 

And this is an interesting distinction connecting these films as well: nobody in them wants to listen to exposition. Luke is kind of an impatient guy. Han Solo starts upping the transportation fee and he's prepared to leave the table in a huff. When Luke is describing The Princess, Han is confused and kind of annoyed that Luke knows more than he does but he doesn't go very deep into the situation beyond the danger is recovering her (which he doesn't like) and the possibility she will reward him (which he does).

Saddam is the information broker for an entire country so he is almost always the one who knows the most out of anyone. He doesn't like listening to other people telling him what to do even if they're right so he very rarely gets into situations where he asks for someone to sit down and outline the situation to him. The story of the series is instead Saddam DOING things. He makes decisions, he initiates discussions with other people, he schemes, he runs away. When his subordinates are doing something and not Saddam the series switches to them instead. House of Saddam, for a show about a guy who in the course of his career was more of a politician than a soldier, focuses pretty tightly on the most 'action' that occurred in the course of his life and the life of his sons. Action doesn't always mean gunfire. Saddam is always in the midst of some kind of activity. Conceivably the guy probably had a lot of downtime, but the series doesn't bother looking at him while he's sleeping or eating or just having a party. Even when the series shows him swimming it's because he's about to make an important demand of his captain of the guard. The first scene of the series where he's at a party is due to that party being a cover up for intimidation of the current president. 

The series has little fluff to trim. It does take creative license, but it doesn't feel like it's spinning its wheels.
And Sudden Impact has a similar internal concept of pace. If Harry has gone more than a couple of scenes without his life being put in danger or getting into a fight the film will give him something to do, and something that matters. His first 'action scene' with a bunch of hoodlums in a restaurant plays directly into the gang they represented sending more goons to kill Harry on his vacation in revenge. There's never any real instances of things just 'happening'. It's a pretty tight script.
And those action scenes are deliberately diverse. When Harry gets into a gun battle it's never quite just Harry standing around shooting people with his magnum. In one instance a car pulls up, gunfire is exchanged, Harry runs away and the bad guys go looking for him, Harry gets the drop on them. In another a car chase leads to molotov cocktails being thrown. Anyone could stage an endless series of gunfights, but Sudden Impact gives you a selection of fine action scenes with differences so you don't feel the experience is stale. Of course Harry isn't going to die, but if he's always doing something new it's a reason to watch his story, and Sudden Impact even throws into the mix the story of a young rape victim looking for revenge told in parallel to Harry's own experiences, and eventually the stories intersect. 
It's exposition via action.

Going back to a New Hope, another impressive situation I could see playing out I loved even as a kid was how naturally and efficiently characters came to have relationships with each other. Luke and Ben Kenobi don't have a great deal of time together before Ben is killed but in that time Luke clearly reveres the guy as his mentor and friend. When Han starts denigrating Obi Wan as 'that old fossil' Luke rejoins with 'Ben is a great man' and the statement feels earned. When Luke and Leia start falling for each other (in this version it was clear she wasn't originally supposed to be his sister) Leia does little things to indicate her affection for Luke like kissing him on the cheek before they swing over a chasm, declaring 'For luck.' It is FAR subtler a detail than a contemporary film especially which would only indicate a character liked another by having them accidentally catch the other one without their clothes on or falling prone on top of their love interest.
But Star Wars was content to have hints of the love triangle rather than outright declarations about it. Han winks at Leia in the ending ceremony but Leia either doesn't notice or is just ignoring him. Luke and Han have ONE conversation about the subject which ends extremely quickly.

Han: 'Still...she's got spirit. What do you think. You think a princess and a guy like me...?
Luke: (Abruptly) No.

Luke is pretty territorial about Leia and Han recognizes this, even indulging in a little smile. 
Compare this with Guardians of the Galaxy which takes an entire scene to establish a comparatively tepid romance.

Starlord: It's a negotiation tactic. It's my specialty. Yours is more stab...stab...'those are my terms'.
Gamora: My father didn't stress diplomacy.
Starlord: Thanos?
Gamora: He is not my father. When Thanos took my homeworld he killed my parents in front of my. He tortured me. Turned me into a weapon. When he said he was going to destroy an entire planet for Ronan I couldn't stand by. Why would you risk your life for this? (holds up tape recorder)
Starlord: My mother gave me this. Mom liked to share with me all the pop songs growing up. I happened to have it on me when I was...the day that she...when I...left Earth.
Gamora: What do you do with it?
Starlord: Do? Nothing. You listen to it. And you can dance. 
Gamora: I'm a warrior and an assassin I do not dance.
Starlord: Really? Well on my planet, there's a legend about people like you... 
(exhaustively describes Footloose)
*the two randomly begin to kiss after discussing whether or not someone with a stick up their butt is a metaphor*
Gamora: No! (draws weapon) I know who you are Peter Quill! And I am not some starry-eyed waif here to succumb to your...your...PELVIC SORCERY!
*random bar fight occurs to cover up the awkwardness of this forced comedic exchange*

Count the amount of actual human-sounding dialogue compared with raw exposition, not to mention a completely superfluous discussion about Footloose and whether or not having a stick-up-the-butt is an expression (I figured getting expressions wrong was Drax's thing, not Gamora's).
Here's when Han and Leia finally hook up in The Empire Strikes Back.

Han: Hey, your worship! I'm only trying to help!
Leia: Would you please stop calling me that?
Han: Sure Leia.
Leia: You make it so difficult sometimes.
Han: I do. I really do. You could be a little nicer though. Come on, admit it. Sometimes you think I'm all right.
Leia: Occasionally. Maybe. When you aren't acting like a scoundrel.
Han: Scoundrel? Scoundrel? I like the sound of that.
Leia: Stop that.
Han: Stop what?
Leia: My hands are dirty.
Han: My hands are dirty too. What are you afraid of?
Leia: Afraid? 
Han: You're trembling.
Leia: I'm not trembling.
Han: You like me because I'm a scoundrel. There aren't enough scoundrels in your life. 
Leia: I happen to like nice men.
Han: Nice men.
Leia: Very nice...
*Kiss*
And of course C3PO interrupts the whole thing. 

Notice though the differences between these similar sequences which are meant to do the same thing, but in Guardians the sequence is also pulling double duty. We learn TWICE that Gamora is an assassin (which we couldn't tell apparently from just her killing people) we hear all about her backstory, get a bit of Starlord's backstory, both of them flat out tell each other what kind of person they are...and STILL the romance seems to come out of nowhere.
In Empire Strikes Back the dialogue seems more like two people talking to each other than just people taking AT each other delivering necessary (and unnecessary) plot information. The closest we get to exposition is that Han considers himself a scoundrel and considers that a decent thing, but it's practically just a form of banter more than his describing his character. The focus is solidly on CHARACTER over the plot. Nothing is really moving in terms of the film's overarching story in this sequence, but then again it is because although some of the show is space battles the rest are the people involved in those conflicts and their associations with each other. 

Consider if the scene between Starlord and Gamora played out more like people talking to each other in a similar fashion.

Gamora: No luck with negotiations?
Starlord: Story of my life. 
Gamora: I've been meaning to ask you what that device is.
Starlord: This old thing? Tapedeck. 
Gamora: Not familiar.
Starlord: It's a machine to play music. There's other devices that do that. This is one from Earth.
Gamora: Why keep such a primitive device on your person at all times?
Starlord: Sentimental reasons. You probably have something like that. Something important to you because of what it reminds you of. 
Gamora: (Thinks. Holds up her sword.)
Starlord: There you go. Like that. I guess I should have seen that coming... 
Gamora: So, this device is an otherwise meaningless keepsake you maintain. There are many other devices to play music available, more advanced and far more portable, some on this station. Why not upgrade? I have upgraded my own arsenal on many occasions. 
Starlord: But you kept the sword for the memories, right? This baby here has some tunes you won't find anywhere else. Earth tunes. Classics. Want to try 'em out?
Gamora: I suppose.
(Listens to music)
Gamora: Not very much like the music I remember. More percussion. More...cheerful. 
Starlord: But do you like it?
Gamora: Much...I think.
Starlord: You don't have to keep second-guessing yourself like that! You spend so much time overthinking things. Do you really need to all the time?
Gamora: I really think I do. Maybe you should try it some time.
Starlord: Sometimes...you can just turn yourself off and listen. Sometimes...all you need is to feel.
(Touches Gamora's hand gently. She thinks about the gesture.)
Gamora: Did you just...attempt to woo me?
(Let's go immediately)
Starlord: Me? No. What made you think I'd do a thing like that?
Gamora: Unsolicited advances towards me are are ill-advised. Not to mention the gesture was extremely prosaic if you had any deliberate intentions by it. I'm not sure whether to be affronted or insulted.   
Starlord: I didn't mean anything by it. Just consider it an accident. I hope you enjoyed the music anyways.
(Gamora walks away...pauses)
Gamora: Of course...not all advances would be seen as entirely unwelcome. In the proper context. 
Starlord: The proper context, huh?
(Gamora nods her head curtly and leaves. Starlord smiles to himself and leans against the railing.)

I'm not William Faulkner, me, but I think an exchange like this gives us all the information we need about the relationship brewing between these characters and something about them, but delivers the exposition in the form of actions instead of words. Starlord doesn't randomly ask about Gamora's parentage, she doesn't refer to herself as an assassin, and they don't decide the most interesting and attractive aspect of themselves is their sob stories. Sure we lose the 'pelvic sorcery' meme, but even Gamora's actress seems embraced to make such a goofy declaration which even her character wouldn't say given everything we know about her. 

But wait! You point out the scrolling script at the beginning of A New Hope especially as BLATANT exposition!
I've probably mentioned this in earlier entries but the infamous text crawl is an homage to the serials that Star Wars is based on and is practically superfluous. All of the crawl from A New Hope especially is explained at some point in the course of the film. You miss the crawl, it doesn't change a thing.

All subsequent crawls in other films bizarrely did not take this concept to heart. Without the crawl in something like Blade Runner (an otherwise fine film) the film doesn't make a lot of sense because there is necessary information in the text crawl. Same with Johnny Mnemonic. I realize that in a fictive context characters can know more about their surroundings, the systems of their world, and the way their society functions than an audience might and them describing those niceties seems too ponderous for an realistic sensibility. If The Matrix was set onboard The Nebuchadnezzar and the main character was Morpheus the whole movie would be almost sans exposition because Morpheus knows everything and lives day to day in the midst of a weird world the audience does not comprehend from their own experiences. 
To counteract this issue The Wachowskis included Neo as the everyman who gets everything explained to him in the guise of lessons for his benefit, also bringing the audience up to speed.

But as much as The Matrix is enjoyable, the exposition is pretty thick on the ground and only piles on as the series continued. I keep recalling the sequence in Reloaded devoted to describing how angles, werewolves, and aliens are programs...and this having NOTHING to do with the plot. In one instance a character kills another using a silver bullet, but this program does nothing else to act like a werewolf. If we hadn't had the scene devoted to exposition nothing would have changed. 

Sometimes things can be short and sweet. The movie Dredd is an hour and thirty five minutes long.
Less than two hours! That's ridiculously short for a modern movie. 
Yes it wasn't a financial success (mostly because people thought it was a rip-off of The Raid) but it did go to show just because your film is in theaters doesn't make it have to be upwards of THREE hours in length. 
And even Dredd is packed to the gills with exposition rather needlessly, even if it's more rapid than a lot of other films with its dispensary. Flashbacks bleed into recordings bleed into exposition via the character's thoughts being spoken out loud. Some characters spend their time on screen describing things or 'talking' about their histories. 

See, history is an odd thing. People generally do NOT like talking about it. I've had extended conversations about histories and stories about histories but usually they're with relatives or 'guy friends' I have who are just trying to make conversation. Ironically my experiences with more intimate discussions with girlfriends have been pretty innocuous. We don't talk about deep feelings or the tragedies in our past, we talk about movies and music and the weather and what we had for lunch and silly things like that because the act of talking about pleasant concepts is part of the joyful experience of being around the other person. We can get deeper into discussions about emotions if we run out of ordinary things to discuss or if we feel more comfortable but my first topic of conversation is NOT going to be 'By the way, my grandfather died in the hospital.' 

It's all very well to learn through dialogue and use it as exposition, but if the exposition is obvious then you might as well have title cards and those echoing sounds that accompany characters omnisciently describing events directly to the audience. 

Imagine if when our characters are in an exposition-heavy context they actually seem to behaving like real people during the situation. In A New Hope there's the famous scene where the old guy describes the Death Star plans in detail (although again surprisingly briefly) and what does Luke do?
He starts talking about 'bulls-eyeing wamprats' back on his home planet. 
In House of Saddam there are boardroom sequences in which Saddam meets with his officers, receives the arbitrary details of the ongoing situation, and then makes some kind of declaration himself. How to keep this from being boring?
The series answer is to make everyone in the room so terrified of Saddam they're barely listening to what he's saying. The board members have saucer eyes, speak very plainly and quickly, and begin to have nervous tics. This isn't just your ordinary meeting. These are men who need to placate a murderous tyrant and avoid catching attention because as soon as you're his target for any reason you don't live long. Saddam's declarations are fairly typical 'We will win over the Western devils' kind of speeches but again what's made fascinating by a situation which could have been dull is that Saddam really seems to believe what he's saying. He swings his arms, he paces, he stands tall haloed in the lights above him like some kind of deity of war. 
Something is always going on because exposition is an opportunity for character development, not the other way round.
In Sudden Impact there are moments where exposition has probably just happened or will happen later and Dirty Harry either leaves or arrives late. It's kind of fascinating to watch the main character catch wind of what will surely be long and drawn out iteration about the plot...and just turns around to get back to the action. The trial sequence is shown splintered between beats of Harry just walking down a hallway. We the audience don't need or get all of the descriptions of the trial, people talking about the case, and when Harry arrives his apathy about the situation translates to the judge lecturing him for a very short time period because she realizes he is barely listening. 
This is why a movie like Die Hard 5 doesn't feel like a Die Hard film. John McClain, like Harry, doesn't like exposition. When he met the terrorist in the first film he had maybe five words to say to the guy. As far as John was concerned the situation was extremely simple so that's how it became from his perspective.
Having someone mumble on and on about politics just isn't the style of either McClain or his films. 

In the future, and I know it wouldn't work for every film, it would be great to see some attention paid to whittling down exposition rather than piling it on top of movies like rancid whipped cream. In Harry Potter the exposition is delivered in a few seconds over a conversation at a bar table. In Lord of the Rings after an admittedly pretty but kind of needless introductory flashback sequence (which actually was at least extremely edited down from its original form) the 'exposition' is delivered in a naturalistic conversation between two friends on a wagon, and later over a cup of tea. 
People TALK to each other, they do not exposit AT each other at the best of times.

And even more interesting is what is not said.

In Naked Lunch the film our lead hero encounters a talking cockroach after being busted for drugs and the cockroach tells him to rub bug poison on him and then kill his wife. At NO time does the main character ask why there's a giant bug, where it came from, or why it wants anything done. He's basically in a state of shock throughout the sequence and the bug is so matter-a-fact about what it says it is almost simply a given. He comes from Interzone, he is against centipedes, and he likes bug poison. That's just what's going on.
Now, granted, Naked Lunch is very clearly the hallucinations of an addict and addicts can accept things like this as a waking dream, but its still interesting to come away from an exposition sequence and actually WANT to know more about what's going on. It's a bit like an exposition scene which explains the plot but glosses over everything else in almost a metaphorical sense. How much do you really learn if someone only tells you the plot? Do you know anything about the people who are talking? Do you get to know anything about the people involved in the story? 
Naked Lunch is like a plot which forgot to tell you the context or the characters and it embraces rather than dismisses the mystery of a universe in which everything makes sense to itself but nothing makes sense to the lead character or the audience. 

You don't need that kind of ambiguity to still have a mysterious absence of information. Obi Wan describes 'The Clone Wars' and Luke recognizes what they are. End of exposition. We don't get to know anything about this event because it's enough to just have Obi Wan have been a warrior at one point, presumably for the Old Republic. There's a board room meeting in The Death Star to discuss politics for about five minutes at most. One officer describes 'regional leaders' but that's as close as we get to the design of the Republic as it was. The Emperor himself is never even mentioned, and as far as A New Hope is concerned there isn't even a Dark Side of The Force: Darth Vader is just a Jedi who uses his power for evil. 
In Sudden Impact what is the nature of the state of race relations in the city? How about the exact crime families involved in the on going crimewave? How about the name of the assassins attacking Harry? None are necessary. Harry COULD you get the feeling ask, and the script clearly did think about these questions (we see impoverished African Americans resorting to crime and Harry even lets one of them go, we see names of his victims on police reports...) but the film doesn't feel it important to stop everything to point out details that are not of immediate thematic or character-important use. 
And in Saddam there's whole story beats dependent upon things that are not explained specifically but are fleshed out in their implications. Saddam notes that one his cabinet members is not 'Al'Majid' but doesn't go into the specifics of what this means. It is clear though the way he makes this statement and the decisions he makes based on this fact that this is some kind of clan affiliation, and several episodes later he uses the term again and this is confirmed by a throwaway line of dialogue. 
If this had been a Marvel film Saddam would probably have said 'He is not of the clan Al'Majid, unlike my closest and most loyal friends, and therefore it is necessary to regard him with more suspicion'. This does make it clear like a baseball bat to the side of the head to the audience what this term means and why it is important, but it also sounds extremely stilted and it is not imperative to have the film grind to a halt just so the characters can speak to the audience in this way.
It might help in some contexts, but if you're a good writer you don't need this kind of exposition dump. It can even make audience members feel like they're being coddled and treated like children which seldom makes people very pleased.

So if you want me to distinguish a good film from a bad film my answer is usually the same as it has been throughout my life. Interesting, compelling characters. A cohesive plot. Logical reasoning of same. A consistent and comprehensive theme or series of congruent themes. 
And wherever exposition must be present it is delivered dynamically and sparingly. 

Given these directives the very worst films I've seen recently could basically be saved, but in order for this kind of pervasive quality to filter in a film needs to be considered from the first as a lean and mean story and character study rather than excuses for special effects or a loosely composed series of potentially interesting but barely broached ideas.

When it comes to exposition, just say maybe.

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Generalorder4
Dan Oles
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Movie trailer editor, Re-imaginer, enthusiast of the obscure
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:iconthatnerdwithglasses:
Thatnerdwithglasses Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Student
youtu.be/ZtAsRr0bCLo
I love this meme
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:iconsonicrocks57:
sonicrocks57 Featured By Owner 2 days ago
What are your thoughts on A Quiet Place?
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:iconthatnerdwithglasses:
Thatnerdwithglasses Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Student
Are you familiar with the life of JR tolken?
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:iconthatnerdwithglasses:
Thatnerdwithglasses Featured By Owner 3 days ago  Student
Mind doing this quiz real quick?
www.quotev.com/quiz/10603478/K…
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:icongeneralorder4:
Generalorder4 Featured By Owner 3 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 12.31.52 PM by Generalorder4  Bet you didn't see that coming XD
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:iconthatnerdwithglasses:
Thatnerdwithglasses Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Student
Would you say it was bias?
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:icongeneralorder4:
Generalorder4 Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
Sure. I was treated like dirt by a largely liberal school system so i probably kicked back XD
I actually used to be quite liberal. I wrote an entire article about how Bush was the worst president ever and got a good grade on it.
Then I looked back at what I'd written and I realized I hadn't done any research: I'd just parroted the news I'd heard on the television. I went back, researched, and rewrote the article to reflect my research...and got a bad grade and a personal talking to about how I was enabling an evil evil man.
It got me to thinking and I never stopped thinking. 
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(3 Replies)
:iconthatnerdwithglasses:
Thatnerdwithglasses Featured By Owner 3 days ago  Student
Well i was expecting that, market liberal, or national populist

As for me
orig00.deviantart.net/e0c6/f/2…
Sorry comrade
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:iconthatnerdwithglasses:
Thatnerdwithglasses Featured By Owner 4 days ago  Student
progress?
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:icongeneralorder4:
Generalorder4 Featured By Owner 4 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
I don't quite know how to begin, but I'm doing my best ^^;
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