Sunday, April 23, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: Power Rangers (2017)

Krispy Kreme Presents Power Rangers (2017) was written by John Gatins, with story credit by Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney. Yep, believe it or not, it took a freakin' QUINTET of writers to bring this epic tale to the silver screen. It was directed by Dean Israelite.

Gatins is an actor/writer who previously wrote Summer Catch, Hardball, Coach Carter, Dreamer: Inspired By A True Story, Real Steel, Flight, Need For Speed and Kong: Skull Island. Hmm. There are actually a couple of decent movies in that list. I guess you can't hit one out of the park every time at bat.

Sazama and Sharpless previously wrote Dracula Untold, The Last Witch Hunter and Gods Of Egypt, which should tell you everything you need to know about the Power Rangers movie. Plus I can't think of a more perfect name for one of the writers of this film than "Sharpless." 

Michele and Kieran Mulroney are writing partners, as well as husband and wife. Michele Mulroney wrote Sunny & Share Love You on her own. The two of them co-wrote Paper Man (??) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows.

Dean Israelite only has one previous Hollywood film under his belt— the teen, found footage, time-traveling sci-fi pic Project Almanac.

Once again, a newbie director is handed the keys to a $100 million dollar plus production. I honestly don't get why studios keep doing this, as it seems like a risky move and rarely turns out well. Why not hire a seasoned director who knows what he's doing to helm your big budget tentpole picture?

It's a Power Rangers film that desperately doesn't want to be a Power Rangers movie. 
dark, dour, joyless and just plain no fun. It's as if Christopher Nolan decided to make a Power Rangers movie.

Worst of all, the film is just plain boring. I checked my watch more than once during the overlong runtime, trying to will it to hurry up and end already. The last thing a Power Rangers movie should ever be is dull.

I kind of had a feeling that something like this would happen. Way back on October 28, 2015, I blogged about the news that producer Haim Saban was working on a new, big budget remake of the series. I was skeptical of the project even then, saying:
"Details are sketchy, but don't be surprised if it turns out to be a grim, gritty and grounded take on the property. In other words, no damn fun."
Wow. How frighteningly prescient. It's like I actually saw two years into the future! This new version of Power Rangers is indeed grim, gritty and grounded, and worst of all, no damn fun.

Long before the movie premiered, director Dean Israelite said in an interview that the film would be "completely playful, and it needs to be really fun and funny. But like Project Almanac, it's going to feel very grounded at the same time, and very contemporary and have a real edge to it, and a real gut to it, it's going to be a fun, joyful, but one that feels completely grounded in a real world, with real characters going through real things."

Ugh... he said the "G" word. "Grounded." Lately that word's become code for "dull and joyless." Any time you hear a director use that word when describing a movie, you should avoid it at all cost, because I guarantee it's gonna be a flop.

Why do directors insist on taking beloved pop culture properties and then strip them of every element that made them popular in the first place? Are they trying to appeal to the wider general public instead of the fans? Bad idea, as this tactic ends up pleasing nobody.

I'm honestly not sure who this film is aimed at. Kids? They'll be bored to distraction by the lack of action and colorful costumes. Nostalgic adults, who remember watching the show when they were younger? They're just gonna be pissed at the lack of anything they recognize from the show they loved. It's a movie without an audience, as the box office results show all too well.

The film clocks in at a whopping 124 minutes, which is wayyyyy too long for a kid's film. A good half hour could have been cut out of this film without hurting it one bit. 

The Rangers' costumes, Zords and the MegaZord, and most of all the action—the things the audience came to see—are on screen for twenty minutes, if that. You'd probably see more of the Power Rangers in the average episode of the TV series than you do in this film.

This is actually the third Hollywood film version of Power Rangers. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie hit movie screens in 1995, and Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie premiered in 1997.

Believe it or not, it's been a whopping twenty four years since the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers first graced our TV screens back in 1993. Twenty four years! Can you believe it? That means there are actually college students out there right now who weren't even alive when the show premiered! How the hell is that possible?

I was wayyyyyy past the target demographic when the Power Rangers TV show premiered. Despite this, I watched it occasionally, mostly because I was a fan of kaiju movies and liked the Voltron-like live action scenes (the teen segments, not so much). 

The show quickly became a YUGE cultural phenomenon. There was a ton of merchandise based on the show, which quickly sold out nationwide. Chinese manufacturers opened up entire factories dedicated to producing nothing but Power Rangers toys in order to keep up with the demand. The shortage was so bad for a while that the owner of an auto dealership allegedly offered to trade a brand new car for a full set of action figures! It was a Big Deal.

It also generated its share of controversy, mostly due to angry parents protesting the show's violence (insert eye roll here).

Yes, there's nothing more horrific than watching a man in a robot suit stomp around a set full of tiny buildings, as he occasionally punches a guy in a turtle costume with a stop light sticking out of its back!

Actually, most of the no-fun, jittery parents complained that the show caused their kids to punch each other and knock over lamps and such. Hey, at least it got 'em up off the couch!

One thing I need to warn you about: you are not prepared for the outrageous amount of product placement in Power Rangers. It is for all intents and purposes a two hour commercial for Krispy Kreme donuts, with a few scenes of the Power Rangers tossed in now and then. I am not exaggerating. I'll go into more detail about this in a bit.

Power Rangers was originally scheduled for a July 22, 2016 release.Lionsgate then delayed the film to January 2017 to "allow the film room to grow," whatever the hell that means. It was pushed back yet to March 24, 2017. As loyal readers of Bob Canada's BlogWorld know all too well, anytime a movie's pushed back multiple times, it's always a bad, bad sign. And so it is with Power Rangers.

Apparently I'm not the only one who's underwhelmed by this take on the material. So far Power Rangers has only managed to rack up a modest $81 million against its $100 million budget. Oddly enough it's done even worse overseas, where its only made $47 million, for a worldwide gross of $128 million. Due to marketing and other costs, these days movies need to gross around twice their production budget just to break even, so Power Rangers has a long, long way to go before it starts turning a profit. If ever.

Lionsgate Studios obviously had high hopes for this movie, hoping to leverage it into a lucrative franchise. In February of this year, producer Haim Saban (who turned Zyuranger into Power Rangers) said that he and Lionsgate already have a SIX movie story arc planned.

Eh, I dunno. I wouldn't hold my breath for Power Rangers 2. If it does come to pass, it'll be a very scaled-down version with a much, much lower budget.


The Plot:
We open in Earth's Cenozoic Era, long before there were Krispy Kremes. A fierce battle rages, as we see the wounded Red Ranger, aka Zordon (played by Bryan Cranston, if you can believe that!), crawling along the ground. He's the last survivor of the Power Rangers, and takes his fallen teammates' Power Coins and buries them slightly under the dirt. He then orders his assistant, the robot Alpha 5, to send a giant meteor to his location.

Zordon's confronted by Rita Repulsa (played by Elizabeth Banks), the former Green Ranger who betrayed the team. She's looking for the Zeo Crystal, which she wants in order to rule the world (Which world? Earth? She doesn't look like she's from around here, and even speaks an alien language. Why's she care about this planet?). She offers Zordon the chance to rule by her side, but he refuses. Suddenly the meteor appears and slams into Earth, killing Zordon, along with the dinosaurs. Somehow Rita survives, as she's thrown into the ocean along with her Power Coin.

Cut to the present day, as the town of Angel Grove (and Krispy Kreme!) now stands on the spot where the meteor hit. Star football player Jason Scott gets involved in a teen prank that goes horribly wrong, wrecking his father's car. He's forced to take weekend detention, is placed under house arrest and loses his football scholarship. This greatly disappoints his father Sam (played by David Denman of The Office fame).

Jason reports to Angel Grove High for detention. He sees a bully messing with Billy Cranston, a fellow student "who's on the spectrum." Jason smacks the bully in the face (?) and tells him to leave Billy alone. Cheerleader Kimberly Hart is in detention as well, after sexting a photo of a fellow student (Seriously! I'm not making that up!). While in the restroom, her friends inform her she's been kicked off the cheerleading squad. She stares into the mirror, takes a pair of scissors and cuts her long, luxurious hair. Um... that'll show those old mean girls! I guess?

After detention, Billy thanks Jason for saving him and wants to hang out. Jason says he'd love to, but he's wearing an ankle monitor and can't be out past 7 pm. Billy says it's no problem, as he can deactivate it. Apparently Jason hasn't learned his lesson, as he agrees to go to Billy's house. Billy deactivates the monitor with seconds to spare. He then asks Jason to take his mother's van and drive him to the nearby quarry (I guess Billy's not old enough to drive?).

At the quarry, Billy starts digging around in the side of a cliff wall, saying he's carrying on the project he and his late father started or something. Jason wanders off and sees Kimberly, who's swimming in a strip pit (bad idea!). This quarry's apparently the place to be, because another outcast, Zack Taylor, spies on fellow social pariah Trini Kwan, who's doing yoga. Welcome to Coincidence Theater, as the entire cast is now present and accounted for here in the quarry, so the plot can proceed.

Amazingly Billy's experiment involves drilling a hole in the side of the cliff and filling it with dynamite (!). He sets off a massive explosion, collapsing the cliff face. The others run to see if he's OK. Zack spots several glowing objects (the Power Coins Zordon buried eons ago) embedded in a translucent substance in the side of the cliff. He digs them out and the teens each randomly take one.

Suddenly they hear alarms, and see the quarry's security heading for them. The five teens pile into the van as Billy drives off (So I guess he can drive after all?). They fly down the road, and see an approaching train. Jason says if they can beat the train, the security trucks will be trapped behind it and they'll be home free. Billy floors it and zooms across the track, but the train slams into the back of the van, causing it to spin. It crashes into a gully, as the five teens are knocked unconscious.

Meanwhile, Jason's dad Sam is working on a fishing boat (I guess Angel Grove must be a seaside community?). 
He pulls up a huge net of fish, and when he dumps it out a petrified body plops onto the deck. Gosh, I wonder who that could be?

The five teens then each wake in their own rooms, unharmed and with no idea how they got there (?). Each of them then realizes they now have super strength. Jason, Kimberly and Billy meet up and decide to investigate the quarry again after school. They arrive there and find Zack trying to break through the cliff. They see Trini, but for some reason she bolts and runs up the side of the cliff when spotted (?). The others chase after her and discover they can now jump huge distances. As Billy tries to jump a wide gully, he falls into a deep chasm.

The others jump into the chasm to save him, and land in a lake far below. They dive down into the lake and emerge in an underground cavern. Inside the cavern is a massive spaceship, filled with advanced tech. They're greeted by Zordon's robot Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader), who's apparently been waiting there since the Cenozoic Era. 

I cannot emphasize enough that it's taken the movie over thirty minutes to get to this point, something the TV series did in fifteen seconds.

Alpha activates a display and Zordon's face appears. He explains that his body died eons ago, but his consciousness is alive and well inside the Morphing Grid. Even though the five teens just happened to find the Power Coins, Zordon states that they've been "chosen" to become the new team of Power Rangers. So the fate of the entire world apparently depends completely on random chance here. Got it. Power Rangers, everyone!

Zordon infodumps a ton of exposition to the teens, telling them that Rita Repulsa was originally a Power Ranger, until she betrayed the team. Rita plans to create Goldar, a gigantic monster who will destroy Angel Grove in order to find the Zeo Crystal. If Rita obtains it, she'll destroy the entire world. Wait, now she wants to destroy it? I thought she wanted to rule it? If she blows it up, where's she going to go?

Zordon orders the gang to step onto the Morphing Grid and transform into the Power Rangers. They try, but nothing happens. He realizes they'll need several montages worth of training before they can morph.

Meanwhile, Sam calls the police to come investigate the petrified body in the hold of his ship. In an incredibly awkward and stilted scene, he tells the investigating cop he's going home to bed, conveniently leaving the cop alone with the body. Obviously this body turns out to be Rita, and she absorbs the cop's life force to revive herself. Why she didn't do this to Sam when she was alone with him is left to our imaginations.

Cut to the first of many, many Power Ranger training montages, as the gang fights solid, holographic rock monsters, called "Putties." Once again they try to morph, with no luck. The gang sees a huge cavern filled with giant, mechanical dinosaurs. Alpha causally mentions those are their Zords, huge anthropomorphic vehicles they'll get to control someday when they're ready. 

Zack decides he's ready now, and sneaks away, and secretly takes his Zord out for a spin. Naturally he can't control it properly, and nearly destroys the town before returning it to the cave. Well, that was a pointless scene!

When Zack returns, Jason yells at him for recklessly endangering himself and the town. The argument escalates into a fist fight. Billy separates the two, and they're amazed to see he's morphed into his Power Ranger armor. Unfortunately it disappears, and he has no idea how he did it.

That night the Rangers camp out and discuss their morphing situation. Jason believes they can't morph because they don't fully trust one another, and suggests they open up and reveal their darkest secrets. GAWWWWD, can this goddamned movie possibly drag itself out any longer? 

So the Rangers rehash all the stuff we already know— Jason blew his big chance at a football scholarship, and Kimberly's an asshole who sexted a friend's photo. Zack says his mom's really sick, and worries about what'll happen to him if she dies. Trini's an outcast because her family moves around a lot, plus she may or may not be a lesbian. And Billy's a dangerous loner who likes to blow things up. Power Rangers, everyone!

Meanwhile, Rita wanders around Angel Grove collecting gold in order to create Goldar. She's confronted by the police, but easily dispatches them. Finally, a tiny bit of action!

Billy then uses his autistic powers to figure out where the Zeo Crystal is. It should come as no surprise that it's located directly below Angel Grove's Krispy Kreme franchise.
That night Rita appears in Trini's bedroom and attacks her. She says she killed the previous Yellow Ranger, and demands she tell her where the Zeo Crystal is located. Trini says she has no idea, and for some reason, Rita believes her. She threatens to kill Trini's family unless she lures the other Rangers to the local docks.

Trini texts the others, and they rush to the docks to meet her. Rita easily traps them, and somehow senses the Billy knows where the Crystal is located. Billy finally tells her, and Rita kills him as she heads for Krispy Kreme. The others try to revive him, but he's dead.

Somehow the four teens carry Billy's dead body back through the quarry, into the underground lake and into Zordon's ship. For some reason, the Morphing Grid activates, and Alpha tells Zordon that this is his one and only chance to restore his body and return to the real world. Zordon hesitates, and says only one person may come back through the Grid. He chooses to stay, and uses the energy of the Morphing Grid to bring Billy back to life. I think. It doesn't really matter at this point. The others are so overjoyed that Billy's been resurrected that they're FINALLY able to morph! Hooray! That only took ninety minutes! Power Rangers, everyone!

The Power Rangers head into town to stop Rita. She sends an army of Putties after them, as she puts the finishing touches on Goldar. The Putties soon overwhelm the Rangers. They then summon their Zords, and despite the fact that they've had absolutely ZERO training in operating them, they're able to use them to quickly defeat the Putties. They then set their sights on Goldar.

Billy sees his dad Sam about to get stepped on and rescues him, without letting him know his identity. Sam gives the Red Ranger a long, hard look, apparently sensing something familiar about him.

Goldar easily gets the upper hand, and pushes the five Zords into a fiery pit that's opened in the middle of town. Rita then spots the Krispy Kreme and orders Goldar to destroy it and start digging for the Zeo Crystal. Inside the pit, the Rangers fear they're done for. Suddenly their Zords start to interlock and form the Megazord!

The Megazord begins battling Goldar, demolishing most of Angel Grove in the process. Our heroes! Rita merges with Goldar, combining her power with his. The Megazord somehow manages to defeat him, and Goldar melts into a huge puddle of gold. Jason orders Rita to surrender, but of course she shrieks "Never!" or something like that. She attacks the Megazord, but it simply swats her so hard she flies into outer space and freezes solid (!). Her frozen body then drifts toward the moon, where I'm sure she'll never, ever bother anyone again, unless there's a sequel.

The citizens of Angel Grove then stand in the smoldering ruins of what was once their town and for some reason cheer the Power Rangers. A few days later, we see Sam tape a newspaper article about the Rangers on his fridge, implying he knows his son is one of them. Back in Zordon's ship, he congratulates the team on becoming the new Power Rangers.

In a mid credits scene, we see the detention room at Angel Grove High. The teacher takes roll call, mentioning Tommy Oliver's name several times. We see an empty chair with a green jacket hanging from the back, setting up the Green Ranger saga in the sequel.

• The film begins with a flashback to the Cenozoic Era, where Rita betrays Zordon and his team.

Sadly, this five minute prologue was far more interesting and exciting than anything in the rest of the movie. In fact I'd have rather seen an entire movie about Zordon and Rita's story than the one we actually got.

By the way, in the prologue, Zordon and Rita speak a subtitled alien language called Eltarian (Eltar being Zordon's home planet). The producers actually hired a linguist to create the Eltarian language. Supposedly Bryan Cranston and Bill Hader had trouble learning and speaking it, but Elizabeth Banks was fluent in it. Wow. What a valuable skill that'll be a year from now.

• In the TV series, Rita Repulsa was an evil alien witch who used her powers to conquer dozens of planets. Hence her name, which is obviously a play on "repulsive."

The movie tries to get clever though, fleshing out her backstory and linking her origin to Zordon's. Rita was the Green Ranger, a member of Zordon's team before she went bad and betrayed him.

Due to this retcon, this means her name was REPULSA before she turned evil! Well done, five screenwriters!

• Also in the TV series, the Power Rangers' entire origin story was covered in the opening credits. Rita Repulsa emerges from a "dumpster" on the Moon and says, "Ah! After ten thousand years I'm free! It's time to conquer Earth!" Cut to Zordon, who says, "Alpha, Rita's escaped! Recruit a team of teenagers with attitude!" We then see the five teens as they're beamed from the Angel Grove Youth Center straight into Zordon's Headquarters, where they morph into the Power Rangers.

This entire sequence takes all of TWENTY SECONDS. Seriously! Everything we need to know about how they became the Rangers is covered in less than half a minute. This dreary film stretches their origin into more than two hours!

• I mentioned earlier that it's been a whopping twenty four years since Mighty Morphin  Power Rangers premiered on August 28, 1993. How the hell can that be possible? It seems like it came out just yesterday.

It gets worse. Of the five principle cast members, three were born AFTER the series began! Dacre Montgomery (Jason) was born in 1994, RJ Cyler (Billy) in 1995 and Becky G (Trini) in 1997 (!)Ludi Lin (Zack) was born in 1987 and Naomi Scott (Kimberly) was born a couple of months before the show premiered, in May of 1993.

Excuse me while I go take my rheumatiz medicine...

• Max Landis (writer of Chronicle, American Ultra and Victor Frankenstein) was originally hired to write the Power Rangers screenplay. In an early draft of his script, the Rangers colors were assigned randomly, resulting in Kimberly being the Black Ranger, and Zack the Pink. The idea of a male being the Pink Ranger was then played for maximum yuks.

This concept was quickly scrapped, and Landis was fired from the film. Actually I wish they'd used his take on the material. It had to be more interesting than this The CW teen angst snoozefest we got.

By the way, after seeing the trailer, Landis criticized the movie, saying it felt a lot like his Chronicle screenplay. He's not wrong. Power Rangers shares a lot with that film, especially during the many "discovering our powers" scenes.

• In the original TV show, it could be argued that the color of the Power Rangers' costumes were based on their race or gender. Zack, who was African-American, was the Black Ranger. Trini was Asian, so she was the Yellow Ranger. Kimberly was a girl, so she was the Pink Ranger.

A few years ago the internet suddenly latched on to this phenomenon, and dozens of "Power Rangers Is Racist!" memes were born.

Eh, did anyone really think that back in '93 before all the stupid internet memes started? The actors spent a good amount of each episode with their faces obscured by helmets, so I just assumed their costume colors were visual shorthand, to help the audience tell who was who. Jason always wore a red tank top, so he was the Red Ranger. Billy often wore blue overalls, so he was the Blue Ranger. Tommy often wore green, so he was the Green Ranger, and so on. I never saw it as anything more than that.

Fortunately the studio leapt into action, and took steps to right this grievous imagined wrong, to save all the SJWs out there from having icky bad feelings.

Billy is now an African American, and is the Blue Ranger. Zack is now Asian, and is the Black Ranger. Trini's still the Yellow Ranger, but now she's Hispanic. Whew! Crisis averted!

And just in case the cast wasn't diverse enough, Lionsgate covered their asses even more. Billy is now on the autistic spectrum, and Trini implies she's a lesbian.

• After detention, Billy asks Jason to drive him to the local quarry. This implies that Billy either doesn't know how to drive, or isn't allowed to because he's borderline autistic. Later when the security trucks are after them, Billy takes the wheel of his mom's van and drives his friends out of the quarry. He seems to know what he's doing, as he expertly drives out of the quarry and down the road at high speeds.

So if he knows how to drive, why'd he want Jason to take him to the quarry? Did he pretend he couldn't drive just to make friends with Jason?

And before you say anything, I do realize that I'm a grown-ass man sitting here complaining about the lack of logic in the Power Rangers movie. But c'mon, even fantasy fiction needs a set of internal rules to follow!

• In the opening credits of the TV series, Zordon tells Alpha to recruit "a team of teenagers with attitude." Hey, it was the 1990s, what can I say? Anyway, the point is that Alpha probably ran some sort of scan, picked the five best best candidates for the job and beamed them into the Command Center.

In the movie, the selection process is completely coincidental, as the main characters randomly converge in the quarry at the same time and just happen to find the five Power Coins. Apparently this time around, possessing one of the Coins is all it takes to qualify for the job.

Lucky for Zordon that five criminals didn't find the Power Coins. Or a bunch of hobos camping out in the quarry.

• Dacre Montgomery, who plays Jason, looks distractingly like David Yost, who played Billy in the original series. Coincidence, or intentional?

• Hey, look! A scene from the trailer that's not in the actual movie! Don't you just love those? There's nothing I like better than a trailer that promises things it has no intention of delivering. False advertising, smalsh smadversmising!

Ah well. It's only one scene (as near as I can tell). It's not like this is Rogue One.

• When the kids first fall into the underground lake, they note that the water around each of them is glowing with their signature colors. Zack, who will eventually become the Black Ranger, says "I'm glowing black!" A couple things here.

First of all, the film's color pallet is so muted and dreary that it's impossible to see any kind color in the water at all. Secondly, just how something "glows black" is left to our imaginations.

• After the teens land in the lake, for some reason they decide to dive deep into it and have a look around. Eventually they find what appears to be a force field that separates the water from an underground chamber. Jason tentatively pushes his hand through this force field into the dry air on the other side.

So how did they film this startling effect? With CGI? In a tank with some sort of elaborate hole in the side for Jason to stick his hand through? With a real live force field?

Nope! They just tilted the camera on its side and filmed him sticking his hand out of a pool. It's actually not a bad little low-tech effect. There's just one thing that gives it away— the air bubbles. When they turn the scene on its side in the actual film, you can see a series of bubbles traveling horizontally through the water. Bubbles generally float up, not right to left!

• When the teens enter the Command Center, they're confronted by Zordon, who looks just like a giant version of Bryan Cranston who got his face stuck in a wall.

Honestly it's not a bad effect, but it's impossible to see it and not think of those 3D pin boards you stick your face or hand in. Did the production designer on this movie really think no one had ever seen one of these things before? I guess we're lucky he didn't place a gigantic Newton's Cradle in the middle of the set.

After one of the many, many training montages, the teens catch a glimpse of some gigantic robotic vehicles inside one of the vast caverns. Alpha causally mentions these are the Zords, which took the form of the most powerful creatures on Earth during the period in which they first came here.

A helpful caption tells us that the prologue took place in the Cenozoic Era. Need I point out that there were no dinosaurs on Earth at that time? The Cenozoic was the age of cave lions, saber-toothed tigers, cave bears, giant deer, woolly rhinoceroses and mammoths.

One of the Zords takes the form of a saber-tooth tiger and another a mammoth (sort of). I guess the other three didn't think the Cenozoic animals were cool enough and decided to take the form of much earlier creatures.

• Elizabeth Banks is the only person in the entire cast who seems to know she's in a Power Rangers movie. She's clearly having a ball here, as she chews the  scenery with ravenous gusto. I'm not a fan of her look or costume, but she's one of the few bright spots in the movie, and it picks up considerably whenever she's on screen (which is all too briefly). The film definitely could have used more of her.

• OK, let's get this over with, and talk about Krispy Kreme, shall we? There's product placement,  and then there's product placement, and then there's the unbelievable level of product placement found in the Power Rangers movie.

Product placement in film is nothing new— in fact it's been around almost from the beginning of movies. Most experts agree that the 1927 silent movie Wings contained the first use of product placement, for Hershey's chocolate bars.

I understand that product placement is a necessary evil of filmmaking. Movies are expensive, and having a company cough up some dough in exchange for featuring their product helps defray some of the enormous cost. So I get it.

But it should be used subtly, and sparingly. Things like a can of Coke sitting on the main character's kitchen table, the make and model of car he drives, or a particular billboard he drives by. It should be unobtrusive and in the background. It should NOT interrupt the plot and make a loud, obnoxious pitch to the audience.

Which brings us to Power Rangers. Krispy Kreme donuts are awkwardly and unnaturally mentioned multiple times throughout the movie, which is bad enough. Then sometime around the halfway point Krispy Kreme actually becomes a goddamned plot point! Rita's looking for the Zeo Crystal, and finds out it just happens to be burried deep beneath the local Angel Grove Krispy Kreme shop!

At one point the movie even grinds to a halt as it literally features a commercial! While looking for the Crystal, Rita wanders into the now abandoned Krispy Kreme. She looks around the store a bit, then casually grabs a donut from the counter, takes a bite and pastes a satisfied look on her face. She stops just short of looking directly into the camera and saying, "Mm-mmm! That's crispy! And creamy!" You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.

The movie comes dangerously close to being a two hour Krispy Kreme commercial, with occasional clips of the Power Rangers tossed in now and then. It's almost like Krispy Kreme is the sixth Ranger!

I don't know how much money Krispy Kreme contributed to the film's $100 million budget, but it must have been at least half to warrant the kind of attention it gets. I hope it was worth it, Krispy Kreme!

I honestly can't remember ever seeing this level of product placement before. The only other movie that might come close is Demolition Man. Remember the scene in which Lenina Huxley tells John Spartan, "After the Franchise Wars, all restaurants are Taco Bell." And then they go to a fancy, four star restaurant which of course is a Taco Bell.

Believe me, as overt as that was, it was positively subtle compared to the product placement here in Power Rangers. Blatant doesn't even being to describe it.

• Rita Repulsa needs gold in order to create her gigantic minion Goldar. Lots of gold. An incredible, impossible amount of gold. See, Goldar is a lumpy, vaguely humanoid-looking thing (with large, inoperative wings, yet) that stands a good five hundred feet tall.

Rita would need literally tons of gold to form Goldar. Hundreds of tons. Maybe even thousands. She'd likely need all the known gold in the world, especially if he's supposed to be solid, which I have to assume he is. A hollow kaiju wouldn't be much of a threat, would it now?

Yet Rita collects this gold by casually strutting through the streets of Angel Grove, occasionally popping into the odd jewelry store now and then, and stealing the gold rings from the display counter.

Angel Grove seems like a fairly small town. In order to provide Rita with all the raw materials she need, its economy is either 99% jewelry based, or else it sits on the world's largest underground deposit of gold.

There was an easy solution to this problem. Just say Angel Grove's near some kind of Fort Knox-like bullion depository, and show Rita break into it and steal all the gold with her magic scepter. 

Once again, I realize I'm an adult with a job and a mortgage who's complaining about absurdities in the Power Ranger movie, but come on!

• So in the third act, Goldar stomps around Angel Grove, knocking over buildings and downing power lines as he looks for the Krispy Kreme.

About ten minutes before the end of the film, the Rangers FINALLY form the Megazord and battle Goldar. They cause just as much collateral damage as Goldar did, if not more! It's Man Of Steel all over again!

And just like in Man Of Steel, once Rita and Goldar are defeated and the entire town is literally flattened, the surviving residents of Angel Grove inexplicably cheer the Power Rangers!

Power Rangers features some of the worst production design I've seen in a long time. Everything in this movie looks absolutely awful. It's all dark, drab and colorless. I get that they needed to add more detail to the TV designs for the big screen, and after twenty four years the Zords and costumes were probably due for an upgrade. But did they have to make everything so joyless and off-putting?

Take the Power Rangers' armor. When we finally do get to see it, some one hundred minutes into the film, it's complicated, over-detailed and just plain dour. Gone are the bright and fun colors of the TV show, replaced with a pallet so desaturated you can barely tell them apart.

Production designer Andrew Menzies (ah, so he's the one to blame) said in an interview that the new suits "an alien costume that grows on them, that’s not man-made. You can’t win everyone over, but we are trying to appeal to a more mature audience and gain new fans."

Nice try, Andrew, but you failed miserably. I don't see how these costumes could possibly appeal to anyone, young or old.

Also, we only see them like this for about five minutes, tops. After that, their visors open up so we can see their faces. Why, I have no idea. I'd understand it if Tom Cruise or Sylvester Stallone was in this film, and the producers said, "I didn't pay $20 million to cover up their faces for the whole goddamned movie! Get those helmets off 'em!" That would make sense. But no one's ever heard of ANY of these actors playing the Rangers. Who cares if you can see their faces or not?

They also feature boob armor where needed, to remind us that some of the Rangers are of the fairer sex. Jesus wept.

The designs of the Zords are just as awful. In the TV show, the Zords were giant mechanical prehistoric creatures. Dinosaurs and mammoths and such. They had pretty cool and simple designs, and it was easy to tell what each one was supposed to be.

That just wouldn't fly here in 2017, so the Zords had to be mucked up and complicated to the point where I'm not even sure what I'm looking at. No longer do the Zords look like their namesake animals. They're more like Transformers now. Vague shapes that've been coated in glue and rolled around in a box of gears and metal parts.

Seriously, look at the designs of these things in that poster above. The yellowish thing in the center looks slightly feline-like, so I assume it's the Saber-Tooth Tiger Zord. But what about the red thing above it? It's color would indicate it's supposed to be the T-Rex Zord, but it looks more like an overly-complicated dildo.

Despite the fact that I saw the movie, I still only have a vague idea of what the Zords actually looked like. Between their speed, the framing and the constant shaky-cam, there's no way to ever get a good look at them. Why, it's almost like the filmmakers were ashamed of the designs and were doing their level best to obscure them!

The best glimpse of them I could find were these images of the toys. As you can see, they resemble prehistoric animals in the academic sense only. That black lump at the upper right is supposed to be the Mastodon Zord. Except it doesn't seem to have a trunk, and it inexplicable has eight legs. The blue thing at bottom left is ostensibly the Triceratops Zord. It's head actually looks a little like a Triceratops, so kudos there, but once again, it also has way more legs than it's supposed to. Did the production designer ever actually see any land animals before?

And what the hell's up with the pink Pterodactyl Zord? That doesn't look like a dinosaur, it's just a weird drone! No wonder this movie's a flop!

The Megazord doesn't fare any better, as it's just as off-putting. The original was a big, boxy, colorful and powerful-looking robot, and it was obvious that it was made up of the five individual Zords. 

Once again this new design is desaturated and joyless. There's no fun whatsoever in this design. Worst of all, I have no idea how the individual Zords are forming it. Look at the original design. Right leg is the Tiger Zord, left leg is the Triceratops. BOOM! Done. Can spot that from a mile off. Is that what's happening with the new one? Beats me. There's a bit of dull yellow around its torso. Is that where the Tiger Zord's supposed to be? Your guess is as good as mine.

And why does it look so... shapely? As if it has actual muscles? I have a horrible feeling that if I looked at the back of this Megazord, it will have lovingly sculpted ass cheeks!

Goldar was always one of my favorite character designs from the TV show. He was sort of a humanoid dog/lion thing, who wore a kind of Egyptian-themed golden suit of armor. He was just a solid, all around fun design.

This new Goldar may well be the worst character design I've ever seen in a major motion picture. It's lumpy, misshapen and looks less like it's formed from solid gold and more like it's made from gellied urine. It looks like the production designer told his six year old kid he could design Goldar, and he threw this together out of Play-Doh. And once again its body is inexplicably shapely! Look at it! This horrible Goldar design has a goddamned six pack! I hate everything about it.

One last time, I realize I'm an adult complaining about the look of the Power Rangers movie. But this is ostensibly a kids' movie (I think?). It should appeal to a child's sense of wonder and adventure. The designs should be colorful and exciting, and most of all, fun. These designs are none of those. They're a failure on every imaginable level.

• In the final scene, we get yet another montage, showing us the Power Rangers' lives after their big battle. Jason's dad puts a newspaper clipping about the Red Ranger on the refrigerator, implying he knows his son's secret identity. Billy's mother is ecstatic that her son now has friends. Zack's mom has inexplicably recovered from her Movie Disease. And Trini paints her bedroom after Rita destroyed it earlier. 

A couple things about the Trini scene. First of all, as she paints, her little brothers sit on the floor of her room playing with actual Power Rangers action figures. Wha....? Where the holy hell did they get those? It takes months, sometimes over a year for action figures to go from the design process to store shelves. Did Trini really wait that long before remodeling her room? I know, I'm complaining about logic in a Power Rangers movie again.

Secondly, as her brothers play with the figures, one of them grabs for the yellow one, saying, "He's my favorite!" Trini turns and says, "How do you know he's not a girl?"

This is likely a reference to the fact that in the original Japanese version of the Power Rangers (which was called Zyuranger), the Yellow Ranger was male. In the American Version, the Yellow Ranger's gender was swapped.

Also, boob armor. Trini's brother either needs some glasses, or an anatomy lesson.

• The mid credits scene sets up the appearance of Tommy Oliver in a possible sequel. Tommy of course was the Green Ranger on the show, who started out as an evil minion of Rita, and eventually rebelled and became good.

Note that we don't actually see Tommy here in this movie, just his green jacket. Hmm. Because we live in a touchy-feeling, politically correct hellscape, I'm confident there's an 85% chance that Tommy Oliver will turn out to be a girl if there's a sequel.

Krispy Kreme Presents Power Rangers somehow takes a colorful, exciting and beloved property from the 1990s and turns it into a dull, dour, desaturated teen angst-fest, that's completely devoid of any sense of fun whatsoever. Throw in some of the worst production design ever seen, product placement that actually becomes a goddamned plot point in the movie and an interminable 124 minute runtime, and you have one of the worst films of the year. Skip this snorefest and go watch the TV series again. I give it a very generous C.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 18: No Regrets

This week in a jam-packed Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., an old favorite character makes a surprising return, a new character makes a shocking exit, we meet a member of Fitz's family and The Framework story arc finally starts picking up steam.

There're so many events and ideas crammed into this episode that's it's hard to know where to begin.

Last week I said this Framework story arc was OK, but so far just wasn't doing much for me. That all changed this week! In this episode the storyline's finally jump started, as it gains a brand new urgency. It's about time!

Due to a timely reference on the show last week, I wondered just when this current crop of episodes was actually filmed. Well, now we have a clue. This week's episode contains a blatant reference to the "Nevertheless, she persisted" incident involving Senator Elizabeth Warren back in February of this year. 

Apparently the answer as to when these episodes were filmed is "sometime between February and now!" That's a pretty quick turnaround!


We got the surprising return of Trip this week, as well as our first ever look at Fitz's long-lost father. Odd that the first time we see actually Alistair Fitz on the show, he's not even a real person!
This week cracks begin to appear in Agent May's steely exterior, as she begins to question Hydra and her place in the organization. Eh, I felt that her sudden
 change of heart seemed awfully abrupt and unearned. 

For the past two episodes she's been marching around like an SS officer, then suddenly this week she sees a couple kids in danger and does a complete 180ยบ turn. I suppose part of her turn could be chalked up to the shock of the situation causing her to remember the real world and her real self. Still, it seemed a bit too quick. I guess that's only natural though, as the season (and possibly the series) is rushing to its conclusion.

We got to see The Patriot go out like the true hero he always wanted to be, in a surprisingly touching scene.

TV shows don't get much better than this, guys. It's a shame more people aren't watching. Actually I'm kind of worried that the series isn't going to be renewed for a fifth season. See, this fall ABC plans to air an Inhumans TV series, but rumor has it it'll be completely separate from the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. continuity. 

That seems odd (and a bit of a slap in the face), as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s been featuring and setting up the concept of Inhumans for the past three seasons.

The fact that this new series has nothing to do with S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't bode well for the future. It's be really confusing if they had TWO different series about completely unrelated and contradictory groups of Inhumans. I'm afraid ABC's gonna scuttle the show so it doesn't step on their fancy new series. Hopefully I'm wrong.


The Plot:
Coulson and Mace stage a car crash on the route of a Hydra prisoner transport bus. Coulson believes they're attempting to rescue Daisy, but Mace says he's hoping to acquire a more important prisoner. When the bus stops, Coulson and Mace dispatch the drivers. They search the bus, but all they find are corpses in body bags. Fortunately Daisy's not among them. They commandeer the bus and return to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ.

At Hydra, Fitz interrogates Daisy. He says he knows she's from the Other Side and somehow replaced the "real Skye" as part of a plot to take over the world. Daisy realizes these are the lies AIDA's been feeding him. Fitz tells her she won't succeed, as he and AIDA plan to go to the Other Side and conquer it.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., Mace tells Mack to switch the plates on the Hydra bus and wipe its GPS. He wants to use it to rescue an important operative with valuable info from a Hydra "Enlightenment Center." Mace and Ward don't quite trust Simmons, so they sit her down for a talk. She tells them about The Framework, and how nothing inside it is real. She says Mace is wasting his time and risking his life on pointless missions that don't matter in the real world. Mace refuses to believe this, saying he has an entire past that he remembers, and every mission he goes on is important. After Simmons leaves, Mace orders Ward to investigate her story and find out if she's lying or not.

AIDA tells May they have a weapon that may be able to defeat Mace, aka the Patriot. She warns May that there may be risks, but she volunteers anyway. May reports to a Hydra doctor, who tells her he's created a super-soldier serum (which is likely the same one that Calvin Zabo, aka Mr. Hyde, aka Daisy's dad used in the real world). May notices there are Terragen crystals in the lab (Plot Point Alert!. The doctor assures her the serum is non-Terragen based, and injects her. She grimaces in pain as the serum takes effect. The doctor tells her she'll now have super strength for about an hour.

AIDA meets with Daisy, who asks why she would make such a hellish virtual world. AIDA says all she did was remove one regret from every person hooked to The Framework, and the resulting world is a natural extrapolation of that. She tells the beaten and tortured Daisy she can make all her pain go away. All she has to do is tell her where she is in the real world, and she can live out the rest of her life peacefully inside The Framework with her ex, Lincoln. For a moment Daisy actually looks like she's considering the offer.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson volunteers to go with Mace to rescue the important operative. Simmons is reunited with Mack, who doesn't remember his life in the real world. He introduces her to his daughter Hope. Simmons watches Mack interact with Hope, and smiles. Ward asks her if she still believes they're all nothing but ones and zeroes. He asks her why she dislikes him so much, and she tells him it's because he's a murdering psycho. He apologizes to her for whatever happened in the real world.

At Hydra, Fitz meets with his father Alistair, who's alive and well inside The Framework. It doesn't take long to realize he's a horrible bastard, and the reason Fitz is a Bond villain in the virtual world. Fitz tells Alistair about killing Agnes last week, and wonders if it was necessary. Alistar berates Fitz, saying that's his mother talking, and Hydra doesn't have the luxury of sympathy. He then tells Fitz about a security breach in Project Looking Glass (Another Plot Point!), which will become important in a few minutes.

Daisy hears Radcliffe sobbing in the next cell. She says she has no sympathy for him, since he created The Framework in the first place. He tells her it wasn't supposed to be like this. He tells her there's a secret back door out of The Framework, one that AIDA doesn't know about.

Coulson drives the stolen bus to the Hydra Enlightenment Center. A suspicious guard inspects the bus, and finds a body bag in the back. Mace pops out of the bag and punches the guard. They infiltrate the building, and find a room full of people locked in small cages. Mace breaks them out, and we see one of the people is Antoine Triplett, aka Trip, who died in the real world back in Season 2!

Here in The Framework, Trip is a member of the Resistance, working for Mace. He infiltrated Hydra and took photos of something called Project Looking Glass (told you it would become important!). Trip hid the film in his boots, and begins searching for them. He finally finds them on a dead Hydra goon and recovers the film.

Coulson sees a Hydra classroom full of kids who're being "reeducated," Clockwork Orange-style. He spots two of his former students in the class, including Burnell (the kid who loaned Simmons his car in What If...). He tells Trip to go on, as he's going to stay behind and rescue the kids. Outside, Trip hands the film over to Mace, and tells him Coulson stayed behind. Mace gives the film to Burrows (Um... where'd he come from? Was he in one of the body bags too?) and tells him to get it back to S.H.I.E.L.D. on the double.

Burrows radios S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ and tells Ward that Mace needs backup. Ward mobilizes a team, including Mack. Simmons sees Mack with Hope, and realizes that virtual world or not, she doesn't want anything to take him away from his daughter. She volunteers to go in his place.

Mace heads back to the building to help Coulson, but is attacked by Super May. They have a brutal fight that eats up several minutes of screentime. Mace asks her why she's attacking, and she calls him a terrorist and a thug. Eventually Mace defeats Super May, and heads into the Enlightenment Center. May radios Hydra and tells them Mace got away. AIDA orders a Hydra Quinjet to open fire on the building, and bring her the body of Mace.

Inside, Coulson and Trip free the kids. A few of them get out before the Quinjet attacks the building, bringing half of it down. May runs into the building and sees kids struggling to get out of the collapsing building. She's shocked that Hydra would deliberately murder kids in order to terminate Mace. Ward and Simmons arrive, and also rush into the weakened building.

Inside they see Coulson, Trip and Mace trying to rescue the last of the kids. A beam falls from the ceiling, and Mace jumps under it, saving one of the kids from being crushed. May enters and tells them all to stop, but Coulson angrily tells her to snap out of it. He and Trip pull the kid from the rubble, and then try to rescue Mace. He tells them there's no time left, and to get out of the building. They all flee, except for May, who stays behind for a few seconds. She and Mace exchange meaningful looks, as she realizes he's not a thug after all, but a hero. She runs from the building. Coulson and the others load the kids onto their stolen bus. They hear a rumble, and turn the see the building collapse into rubble. The Patriot is dead, but he finally died being the hero he never got to be in reality.

Back in the real world, AIDA reviews the row of captive S.H.I.E.L.D. agents hooked up to The Framework. She notices Mace's vital signs have flatlined, and shuts off his monitor. Just like Freddy Krueger's dreamworld, when you die in The Framework, you die for real.

Later, May visits Daisy in her cell. She asks if it's true that she's an Inhuman. Daisy tells her if she had her powers, she could bring down the whole Triskelion. May says, "I hope so," and throws a Terragen crystal at Daisy's feet. The gas escapes and encases Daisy in a cocoon as she smiles.

• The second that Mace started infodumping his backstory to Simmons, I should have known his number was up. That's the same trick The Walking Dead uses on practically a weekly basis. Secondary character suddenly starts telling someone their life story? BOOM! They're walker food by the third act!

• Now that I think about it, was there any reason why Mace constantly wore his Patriot costume inside The Framework? He's the leader of an underground resistance in the virtual world, so one would think he'd want to keep a low profile. Kind of hard to do when you're wearing a faux Captain America suit!

• At Hydra HQ, Agent May stops to stare meaningfully at a plaque dedicated to the those who died in the Cambridge Incident. 

This seems to be the event that destroyed S.H.I.E.L.D. and allowed Hydra to rise to power inside The Framework. The Cambridge Incident occurred because in the virtual world, May didn't kill Katia, the Inhuman girl she encountered in Bahrain several years ago.

I looked closely at the names listed on the plaque, but I don't recognize any of them. If I had to guess, I'd say they're probably all names of producers, crew members and even friends and family of whoever made the plaque.

One last thing about this plaque— the text isn't laid out very well. The first line ends with "The," and then line two starts with "Cambridge Incident." Nope! In typography you never want to separate a name like that, and should always keep it on the same line if possible. There's more than enough room to move "The" down and keep "The Cambridge Incident" all on one line.

I realize this is some pretty hardcore nitpicking, but graphic design is what I do for a living, so it drives me nuts when I see bad typography like this.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. gets very philosophical this week, as it examines the metaphysics of The Framework. Simmons constantly dismisses the lives and loves of the virtual people surrounding her, saying they're not real, and don't matter. Ward disagrees after watching Mack dote on his daughter Hope. He challenges Simmons' attitude, noting that the love Mack feels for his daughter is real, even if she isn't.

It's an interesting idea, and one that Simmons seems to start accepting by the end of the episode.

• The series also gets surprisingly political this week, as The Framework is filled with thinly disguised issues and references to the current inhabitant of the White House (or more accurately, Mar-s-Lago).

For example, Hydra runs several brainwashing facilities, that it tastefully dubs "Enlightenment Cultivation Centers." This is reminiscent of our the current leadership, who drafted a Muslim Travel Ban that they insist isn't really a travel ban and doesn't target Muslims. Or the failed Affordable Care Act replacement that they honest-to-god called "World's Greatest Healthcare Plan Of 2017." It's doubleplus ungood!

Later on Simmons and Mack flip through Hope's Hydra-approved history book. Mack says, "Hydra had a plan. I'll give them that. Scare everyone, take over the media, rewrite history. You know what's not in that book? The Trail of Tears. The Holocaust. Martin Luther King Jr." Simmons replies, "I can't believe it. The blatant lies, the complete disregard for historical or scientific fact." 

This is most definitely a nod to our nation's recent puzzling attitude toward science, in which the public disregards proven fact when it interferes with their personal beliefs. 

Lastly, after Fitz finishes his torture of Daisy, he reports to AIDA. He seems almost impressed with Daisy's resolve as he says, "Beaten to within an inch of her life. Nevertheless, she persisted."

This is a direct shoutout to February of this year, when Senator Elizabeth Warren attempted to give a speech criticizing the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. Warren was interrupted and silenced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech,” said McConnell. “She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

If you've ever sat down in front of your TV on a Tuesday night and thought, "Say, I wonder what the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. writers think of Donald Trump and his administration?" you need look no further than this episode.

• A couple of old Hydra agents get name-dropped in this episode. Hope's history book features a chapter all about Daniel Whitehall. Long time viewers will recognize his name— he was a Nazi officer in WWII who became a prominent leader of Hydra. He was captured by the Strategic Science Reserve (the precursor to S.H.I.E.L.D.) in 1945. He was sprung from prison by Hydra operatives in 1989, and used organs and DNA from Jiaying (Daisy's mom) to de-age himself. He was killed by Coulson in the Season 2 episode What They Became.

Later at the Enlightenment Center, Coulson makes small talk with a guard and says, "How about that story on Bakshi News the other day?" Once inside the Cener, he finds a room full of students being brainwashed by a recording of Bakshi's soothing voice.

Sunil Bakshi was also a member of Hydra, and Whitehall's right hand man, helping him retrieve the Obelisk. He was later kidnapped by Evil Ward and brainwashed (ironic!) into working for him! Bakshi was killed by Simmons in the Season 2 episode The Dirty Half Dozen.

• Radcliffe explains the underlying principle of The Framework to Daisy, saying, "An entire life, an entire personality, can be permanently altered by just one sentence."

Eh, I dunno about that. I agree your life can be altered by one sentence. Sometimes even one word ("GUILTY!"). But your entire personality? I don't think so.

Of course this is the reasoning the show's using for Fitz's transformation into a supervillain. I just like to think that it takes more than a few words to switch someone from good to evil.

• At first glance, it seemed like serum that Hydra gave May was probably the equivalent of the one the Patriot used in the real world. But I'm ninety nine percent positive it's actually the one that Calvin Zabo used a couple seasons ago to become Mr. Hyde.

Too bad they didn't give May the "Cro Magnon" brow they applied to Kyle MacLachlan's head when he played Hyde!

• Dear god, could Fitz's dad possibly be more of a miserable, conniving, manipulative asshole? No wonder poor Fitz turned evil. Kudos to actor David O'Hara for playing such an evil, evil character so well.

• Fitz tells Daisy that he and AIDA are going to enter the real world and destroy it. That'll be quite a trick! There are only like six real people inside it, and only two of them (Fitz and May) work for Hydra. Everyone else in The Framework is a simulation! Surely they can't enter the real world? Is AIDA planning on taking over the real world with an "army" of two?

• I was not expecting to ever see Trip on the show again, so his return this week inside The Framework was a welcome surprise. 

So how do you suppose Trip can exist in The Framework? It's unlikely Radcliffe programmed him into it, as I don't think the two ever met. Maybe The Framework scans the minds of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents hooked up to it, and populates it with people from their minds, living and dead?

So far we've seen the return of both Ward and Tripp. We'd better freakin' see Mockingbird and Hunter return before the season's over, or I'm gonna be pissed!

• Inside the Hydra "Enlightenment Center," Coulson finds a classroom full of kids being brainwashed by some kind of hypnotic A couple things here:

When Coulson looked at the screen, for a second I was afraid he was gonna get brainwashed as well!

Secondly, there's no way in hell that putting a piece of tape on your forehead and cheeks will prevent you from closing your eyes. Go on, try it for yourself! You don't even have to use tape, just place your fingers above and below your eyes in the approximate positions of those strips of tape. Can you close your eyes? Of course you can! Maybe this is some kind of magic Hydra® Brand Hypno Tape? 

Even if the tape does keep the kids' eyes open, couldn't they just look slightly to either side to avoid seeing the screen?

• Man, that fight between Mace and Super May was brutal! Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has always had top notch fights and stunts, and this episode was no exception. Way to go, stunt team!

I was especially wowed when Mace through Super May halfway through abrick wall. Ouch! Of course I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't point out that this should have paralyzed May. Sure, the Hydra serum gave her super strength, but it's unlikely it hardened her bones. They should be just as breakable as they've always been. 

• I was sorry to see Mace go, but hey, at least he died being the hero he always wanted to be, but could never quite become in the real world. Does the fact that he died saving a bunch of kids who don't exist in the first place diminish his sacrifice? I don't think so! Real or not, he died saving them, and as Ward said, isn't that the same thing?

 When Mace dies, Simmons looks like she's on the verge of tears. Does she finally get it? Does she realize that Framework Lives Matter just as much as those in the real world? Or did she just realize that Mace is now dead for real? A bit of both?

• Just how much control does AIDA have over The Framework? If she sees that Daisy's regained her powers, couldn't she just reboot her avatar and remove them?

We should probably toss questions like this in the "Don't Think About It Too Hard" file.

• This Week's Best Lines:
Simmons: "Did you find Daisy?"
Coulson: "No, just a bus full of dead bodies."
Simmons: "Binary ones and zeroes can't die, nor do they feel the cold!"
Coulson: "Maybe we keep that part between us."

Coulson: (asking Simmons about Ward) "Okay, I got to ask. What is it about that guy Every time I see him, I get this weird itch, like hives."
(This is of course a reference to Season 3, in which Ward was possessed by an alien that called itself "Hive." Comedy ahoy!)

Coulson: (still talking about Ward) "Did we get along?"
Simmons: "Well, you crushed his chest with your cybernetic arm and left him for dead on an alien planet, so no."

May: I was told R&D has a new weapon, something that could take down the Patriot."
Doctor: "Ah, yes. Oh, no, it's not exactly a weapon, but it can make you into one."
May: "Steroids?"
Doctor: "Oh, no, not just any steroids. Augmented strength serum. The effects of which are very potent, although temporary."
May: "It's not Terrigen-based, is it?"
Doctor: "Oh, no. No, no, no. This is made from various metabolic enhancers, gorilla testosterone, even a dash of peppermint. The point is, one dose, you will have the Patriot begging for his life."

Simmons: (to Mace) "No one wants to hear they're just an avatar in a digital prison, but sometimes that happens, and here we are."

Mace: "In the the real world, how well do we know each other? Are we friends?"
Simmons: "More like coworkers. But I do think of you in a friendly way."
Mace: "Where am I from?"
Simmons: "Excuse me?"
Mace: "In your world, where am I from?"
Simmons: "Uh, I'm not sure. The midwest?"
Mace: "Well, am I married? Do I have kids? Any siblings? Hobbies? Do I cook?"
Simmons: "Where are you going with this?"
Mace: "You don't know me at all."
Simmons: "Not well enough, apparently."
Mace: "I'm from Brooklyn, son of a plumber, played baseball in college and guitar, can't carry a tune. I say "soda," not "pop," and I like my barbecue sweet, not spicy. Never been married or had kids, but in the last five years, I've buried seventeen of my closest friends and family. Some of them died right in my arms believing they were fighting for something real, stopping hate. And you're telling me it's meaningless?

Fitz: "Lies. That's all she gave us. Beaten to within an inch of her life. Nevertheless, she persisted."

Coulson: "This is Jemma Simmons."
Mack: "Ah, it's good to meet you. This little girl right here, this is my daughter, Hope."
Simmons: "It's lovely to meet you, Hope."
Hope: "Nice to meet you, British lady."

Mace: "Coulson, you got a second? Pulled this I. D. off one of the bus crew. Should get you past the gate. Ward just had to swap the photo, change the name."

Coulson: "Jamie Flugelman?"
Mace: "Well, it's the only one he could clear from Hydra's database, so mount up, Flugelman!"

Hydra Guard: "Flugelman?"

Coulson: "It's Canadian."

Radcliffe: (explaining The Framework to Daisy) "Aida changed him."

Daisy: "She said she took away one regret. One regret can't change an entire life. It doesn't change who you are."
Radcliffe: "Of course it can. One person in your life, one decision, one sentence has the power to change you forever."
Daily: "One sentence?"
Radcliffe: "Yeah, that's right. One single sentence like 'I love you,' or, 'We're having a baby,' or, uh, 'She's gone."
Daisy: "I just I didn't think Fitz was capable of doing something like that."
Radcliffe: "Oh, my dear. Depending on the circumstances, anyone is capable of anything. Just look around."

Alistair: "So, what's this about a woman?"

Fitz: "Someone I had to kill."
Alistair: "Had to? You mean in self-defense?"
Fitz: "No, she was unarmed."
Alistair: "Was she an enemy of the state?"
Fitz: "Yeah. I believe she was."
Alistair: "So what's the problem?"
Fitz: "What if I didn't need to kill her? What if maybe she wasn't lying or maybe she was mentally ill or something?"
Alistair: "What if? Maybe? Now, that's your mother talking. "
Fitz: "Sorry, father."
Alistair: "There she is again. Listen, son, I don't know a thing about what you do here, the science, but I know that it's important, and I know the man I raised. Not a coward, but a man of action, a great man in a hard world. And in a hard world, we cannot afford the luxury of what?"
Fitz: "The luxury of sympathy."
Alistair: "Exactly. We don't buckle to guilt or womanly sentiment. Everyone needs the strap across their back now and again. Teaches respect. You know that. You've felt it. And look where it's gotten you. You're protecting the human race, and the only other person who understands the weight of that is Ophelia. Madame Hydra. And you love her, don't you?" Fitz: "Honestly don't know what kind of man I'd be without you, father."
Alistair: "That's why I'm here, son."
(This chilling look into Fitz's family life perfectly explains why he's such a cold, heartless supervillain in The Framework, and how reversing his biggest regret— never knowing his father— completely changed him for the worse)

Bakshi: (as a voice in the "Enlightenment Center") "
Take a deep breath. Calm your mind. You know what is best. What is best is you comply. Compliance will be rewarded. Surrender, and you will find meaning. Surrender, and you will find release. Take a deep breath. Calm your mind. You know what is best. What is best is you comply. Compliance will be rewarded. Surrender, and you will find meaning. Burnell? Surrender, and you will find release."
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