Guns, Guns, and Guns

This “very special” episode of Dinner Table Politics was actually recorded after the Parkland school shooting and never released, but the Texas school shooting has made it all too relevant again.

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Abby and Jim share their thoughts and prayers about thoughts and prayers and discuss what kind of concrete actions are possible to stop gun violence. If the Second Amendment allows militias to be well-regulated, then what regulations are appropriate?

Also, is the NRA buying politicians? If so, why doesn’t it start buying Democrats instead of Republicans?

Jerusalem, the Salt Lake Tribune, and Religious Bigotry

In Episode 4 of Dinner Table Politics, Abby and Jim discuss the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem, the end of the Iranian nuclear deal, and the massive layoffs at the Salt Lake Tribune. And was a religious bigot like Robert Jeffress really the best choice to give a prayer at the embassy dedication?

Plus both Abby and Jim give armchair reviews of the long-running Book of Mormon musical, despite the fact that neither one of them have seen it.

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Korea, Melania, and Presidential Morality

The third episode of Dinner Table Politics is online!

You can listen to it here.

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Abby returns to the dinner table to talk with Jim about the historic summit between North and South Korea, the Stormy Daniels mess, whether Melania and Donald Trump have a functional marriage, and whether or not the personal morality of a president matters. Also, could the Korean Peninsula someday be home to a real-life Jurassic Park?

Eliza joins the Dinner Table

Episode 2 of Dinner Table politics is online!

My daughter Eliza joins the conversation  – this is the only time she’s going to be able to participate all summer, because she’s heading to Africa on Saturday.

We talk about Kanye West and Donald Trump and whether Chance the Rapper is right about African-American loyalty to the Democratic Party. I also defend the honor of my alma mater, Calabasas High School, from possible Kardashian encroachment.

We then discuss the differences between Groundskeeper Willie and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on The Simpsons – why is one ethnic stereotype acceptably funny and the other is not?

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Dinner Table Politics

So I’ve launched a new podcast over at It’s called “Dinner Table Politics.”

Here’s the official description:

The Bennett family has been at the heart of Utah politics for over half a century. So what happens when they talk about the issues of the day around the dinner table? Join Jim, the dad, and Abby, the daughter, for a free-wheeling political discussion with an intergenerational perspective.

In the first episode, father and daughter discuss the need for a third party, how they both felt when Trump was elected, and that time when Jim voted for Maxine Waters. (There’s also a shout-out to Tobias Fünke.)

Click here for the first episode!

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The Proclamation on the Family: A Closer Look

I recently had a conversation with someone who had missed an LDS Woman’s Conference back in 1995, but she ended up at a reception later that evening with Marjorie Hinckley, wife of then-LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley.

“Did I miss anything at conference today?” she asked.

“Oh, no – same old, same old,” Sister Hinckley replied.

Yet that was the conference in which the Church presented the Proclamation on the Family, which has become near-canonized scripture and the bedrock of much of the opposition to greater acceptance of LGBT+ individuals in the Church. To hear many speak of it now, it’s the equivalent of the tablets Moses brought down from Sinai, but at the time, it wasn’t enough to merit a shrug of the shoulders from the prophet’s wife on the very day it was announced.

There is much consternation about whether or not the Proclamation should be treated as a revelation, and whether or not that distinction matters. In practical terms, the Proclamation was the product of lengthy discussion and committee processes, unlike the vast majority of the revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, which Joseph dictated as the came, often in front of others. He would occasionally edit them after the fact, but they were generally received in toto, which is quite different from how the Proclamation came to be.

That’s not to preclude the possibility of inspiration and spiritual guidance in the creation of the Proclamation, but rather to say that if you’re thinking it was delivered out of whole cloth from heaven in the same way that most of the canonized revelations were received, you’re incorrect. In his recent talk on the Proclamation, Elder Oaks – now President Oaks – described how he “went to work” to craft a document that would effectively state the Church’s position, and that it required lengthy revision and considerable effort.

“Subjects were identified and discussed by members of the Quorum of the Twelve for nearly a year,” he said. “Language was proposed, reviewed, and revised. Prayerfully we continually pleaded with the Lord for His inspiration on what we should say and how we should say it.”

That’s not the case, with, say, Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which is considerably longer, more intricate, and substantive than the Proclamation, yet it was written in a single sitting with no major revision afterward.

The issue of whether or not the Proclamation constitutes a revelation was the source of considerable controversy back in 2010, when President Boyd K. Packer gave a controversial talk where he insisted, contrary to the Church’s position, that nobody was born gay.

From Peggy Fletcher Stack at the Salt Lake Tribune:

Perhaps the most controversial paragraph in Packer’s text that he read Sunday said, “Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father.”

Now the word “temptations” has replaced “tendencies” and the question about God’s motives has been removed entirely.

But there was another revision to his talk, too. Again from the Tribune:

In his original talk, Packer said the church’s 1995 statement, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” “qualifies according to scriptural definition as a revelation.” That descriptive phrase has now been omitted, leaving the proclamation simply described as “a guide that members of the church would do well to read and to follow.”

Make of that what you will, but it’s pretty significant that the Church felt it important enough to correct the President of the Quorum of the Twelve on this subject. I think this incident suggests that it’s probably a mistake to say that the Proclamation is, indeed, a revelation on par with scripture.

But okay, fine. Whatever it is, it matters enough for Elder Oaks to say that it “has been the basis of Church teaching and practice for the last 22 years and will continue so for the future.” And as such, the Proclamation is constantly held up as an insurmountable obstacle against greater inclusion of LGBT+ individuals in the Church.

But is it?

In reality, much of the opposition to LGBT+ issues attributed to the Proclamation comes largely by way of inference and is not actually present in the text of the document itself. Homosexuality, for instance, is not mentioned at all, nor is same-sex marriage. The Proclamation begins by announcing “that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God,” which is a statement that ought to be unobjectionable to everyone. At no point does it say marriage between two men or two women is condemned of God. Most people, including those who wrote the document, draw that conclusion, but the explicit condemnation is simply not there.

Gender identity does get a mention, as gender itself is described as “an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose,” which is something gay individuals seldom dispute. A gay man, for instance, is still a man, and his gender is not in question. True, this phrase may pose problems for transgender people, although they could argue that they’re attempting to align with an eternal gender that is inconsistent with their biological one. In any case, a gay married couple is not likely to be confused about their gender, and the Proclamation’s reference to same presents no obstacle to acceptance of their union.

Perhaps the strongest language in the Proclamation that would condemn LGBT+ sexual expression is the sentence that declares that “God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” Except the euphemism employed here – “powers of procreation” – provides an interpretation that would not necessarily bar intimate relations between gay married couples.

Spencer W. Kimball once wrote that “[w]e know of no directive from the Lord that proper sexual experience between husbands and wives need be limited totally to the procreation of children.” In a gay marriage, procreation is biologically impossible. One could then credibly argue that gay or lesbian individuals who are intimate with their spouses are therefore not exercising “powers of procreation,” and that this phrase in the Proclamation simply warns against conceiving children out of wedlock.

There are several other phrases consistent with the ones above, such as: “Marriage between man and woman is essential to [God’s] eternal plan.” Yes, absolutely it is. Were same-sex marriage to replace or cancel out marriage between a man and a woman, that would be a serious problem. But that isn’t happening, nor is it going to happen. Surely celebrating and sustaining traditional marriage does not require condemnation of nontraditional marriages.

“Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” Yes. This, as I’ve written many times before, is the one compelling secular argument against same-sex marriage – that, all things being equal, the best environment for raising children is with a married mother and a father. But all things are never equal, and the Proclamation allows for that reality when, after outlining the ideal, it then concedes that “[d]isability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”

What qualifies as “other circumstances?” Why can’t the non-hetero sexual orientation of the parents fit into that category?

Speaking of individual adaptation, I’ve spent the weekend on my Facebook newsfeed discussing the latest post from Josh Weed, who was the subject of one of my previous blog posts when, five years ago, he announced that he was a gay man happily married to a woman in what he described as “Club Unicorn,” a fantasy world where gay people can pretend to be straight and live happily ever after.

In a heartbreaking post, Josh Weed announces that he and his wife are divorcing, and that he has come to the conclusion that “unicorns don’t actually exist. The idea of our marriage as successful and healthy, we have finally realized, is just that: mythical. Impossible. Not real.”

I really think every Mormon ought to read his post. He was held up for so many years as the ideal of how to reconcile homosexuality with Mormonism that the reality of his struggle and the ultimate collapse of the “mixed orientation marriage” model needs to get as much attention as his initial announcement did.

He discusses the fact that he and his wife are trying to figure out an individual adaptation that would allow them both to participate in the raising of their children – they want to purchase a “homestead” that would allow them to live near each other on a large property that would also allow them each to find new partners. (Personally, I think that’s a very problematic solution, but that’s another discussion.) They both want to stay active in the Church and be present in their children’s lives, so more power to them as they try to adapt to imperfect, non-ideal circumstances.

The bottom line is that our fellowship with our LGBT+ members is woefully inadequate at present, and we ought to be looking for ways to be more inclusive. How we do that is another lengthy discussion, but we should stop hiding behind the Family Proclamation or using it as an excuse to ignore and cast aside our brothers and sisters in need.

Some more “Last Jedi” thoughts

Enough time has passed that I’ve allowed my “Last Jedi” experience to simmer and given me some added perspective on the whole thing.

Spoilers ahead, obviously.

I’ve mentioned My Esteemed Colleague many times on this site, and given that he’s probably the biggest Star Wars geek I know, I texted him not long after I had seen the movie.

“Have you seen the Last Jedi yet?” I asked.

“I won’t be seeing it,” he texted back.

His reasoning was that Star Wars is the chronicle of Anakin Skywalker, and he didn’t want to ruin that story by polluting it with these new movies that essentially undo everything that happened up until “Return of the Jedi” by pulling a new Empire out of the ether and just hitting the reset button.

At the time, I thought his reaction was rather extreme, but as I’ve thought about it, I realized that I have absolutely no desire to Episode IX, and for similar reasons. What more is there to see? What mysteries await? None to speak of. Last Jedi has not only wiped away all progress made in the Original Trilogy; it has also wiped away any characters I care about. Han and Luke are dead, and Leia is going to die offscreen between movies, so all that’s left are these ciphers who have already demonstrated what their ultimate fate is going to be.

Is there any question as to who is going to prevail in the final confrontation between Rey and Kylo Ren? Is there anyone who gives a rip about what will happen to Poe or Finn? Are we really supposed to be invested in some weak love triangle between Rey, Finn, and Rose? Honestly, who cares?

Ironically, the final shot of “Last Jedi” is the appropriate way to end this particular story. A lonely kid in a horse stable wields the power of the Force as he looks to the stars in support of the Resistance. It’s a promise that Empire 2.0 won’t last, and that the grass roots efforts of billions will eventually triumph. Do we really need to see a “1-2-3-Kick” movie where that happens in entirely predictable ways?

But it’s not just that. It’s that what we actually did learn in Last Jedi didn’t defy expectations so much as spit on them.

What, you expected Rey’s parentage to be significant, mainly because of the multiple cues in “The Force Awakens” suggesting that it was? Well, ha ha on you – it isn’t. You thought it was necessary to explain how an ancient, heretofore unseen Sith Lord could have built a bigger, better Empire out of nowhere when he wasn’t even mentioned in the Original Trilogy, and when his existence was explicitly ruled out by the “Rule of Two” established in the prequels? Well, guess what, stupid – you’ll never know who Snoke was. Just shut up and watch our endless casino planet subplot that goes absolutely nowhere.

It’s not that it’s a bad movie so much as that it’s a contemptuous one.

You get this sense right away the minute you see Luke toss the lightsaber over his shoulder. I laughed right along with everybody else, but it’s an almost spiteful gesture. Think of how much emphasis “The Force Awakens” put on that lightsaber. It fell into Maz’s hands and then called to Rey, triggering a vision that included Obi-Wan Kenobi saying “Rey, these are your first steps.” So the saber is kind of significant, no?

“Where did you get that?” Han asks.

“A story for another time,” Maz answers.

Except no. Ha ha! It’s a story that will never be told, and you’re a chump for thinking it matters. It goes over the shoulder along with everything else.

Rian Johnson and his defenders act as if the dismissal of these story threads is some kind of act of genius, which piles insult on injury. It’s cruel to yank an audience around like that, and it’s not surprising that so many audience members weren’t willing to applaud their own abuse.

Including me. I’m not going to vow not to see Episode IX, but I’m not making any real effort to see it. At the very least, don’t expect me to be first in line on opening weekend.

The Road Not Taken: Poetry’s Greatest Prank

This post is inspired by a Facebook flame war – one in which I did not participate, so the object of this discussion won’t know I’m talking about him. The subject of the war is unimportant. What matters is that it concluded when a particularly sanctimonious dude tried to salvage his decimated argument by quoting Robert Frost. In an attempt to justify reliance on his own facts, he insisted that his unconventional position was a result of his being brave enough to carve out a unique path.

“Two roads diverged in a wood,” he quoted, “and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

So there.

I can understand the appeal, certainly. It’s short, pithy, and eminently meme-able.

He is not the first to employ Frost to virtue signal his bold, rugged individualism, nor will he be the last. It’s always ironic to see rugged individualists rigidly conforming to the same poetic justification for their uniqueness, but that’s not the point. The point is that just about everyone who reads this poem gets it hopelessly, miserably wrong, and those lines are quoted to mean precisely the opposite of what Frost intended them to mean.

People often refer to this poem as “The Road Less Traveled,” but that is not the poem’s title, because there isn’t a road less traveled in the verse. It’s actually called “The Road Not Taken,” and, when the narrator arrives at the place where two roads diverge, he observes that both roads were essentially indistinguishable.

The first two stanzas:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

So which one is the road less traveled? One was “just as fair” as the other. He says that “perhaps” one had the better claim because it was grassier, but, really, both were “really about the same” in terms of how much they had been worn down by travelers. In the first line of the next stanza, he says that “both that morning equally lay,” again emphasizing that there was nothing significant to differentiate one from the other.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

The focus here is not on which road is better, but rather on the fact that the narrator will never know, because it’s unlikely they will ever come back to travel the other path.

Then there’s the final stanza that has the money quote. Most people only quote the final three lines to illustrate their indomitable spirit. But it’s the first two lines that frame the verse in its proper setting.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I think it’s the sigh that’s most telling here. Why would he sigh if choosing “the road less traveled” made him a hero? The narrator is not announcing his triumph; he’s rather lamenting the self-delusion he knows he’s going to be peddling in “ages and ages hence.”

In the time and place where he has to make a decision, he doesn’t know if the road he picks is better or worse. He doesn’t even know which one is truly less traveled – both roads “equally lay” and had been “worn… about the same.” But when called upon to justify his choice, he knows he will reframe the memory to make one of the equal roads a road “less traveled by” and insist that his choice “made all the difference,” even though he actually has no idea whether or not that’s true.

This isn’t a paean to individuality; it’s a verse of sardonic mockery aimed at those who misread it. Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to pull this out as your social media signature.

“Last Jedi” grumblings

First off, yes, there will be oodles of spoilers. Do not read this until after you see the film, or if you don’t care if you see the film. Or if you don’t mind spoilers, which I don’t, under most circumstances. With this movie, for the first time in a very long time, I actually went in spoiler free. Had I know what happened in advance, however, I probably wouldn’t be as disappointed as I was leaving when I left the theatre.

I didn’t hate it. I actually enjoyed it while I was watching it, although it was too long, and the casino subplot could have been completely excised without doing any damage to the narrative. The problem is that I really wanted to love “The Last Jedi.” Probably too much, as I think about it now. Expectations can make or break a movie, and it never occurred to me to tamp them down for this one. All the reviews were stellar; writer/director Rian Johnson has a reputation as something of a wunderkind, and everything I had seen in the previews had led me to believe this was going to be something special. Mark Hamill has said in interviews that his line about how “this is not going to go the way you think” is indicative of the movie, which supposedly pushes these characters in new, exciting, unexplored directions.

But that’s the problem. It doesn’t.

Sure, there are beats in this movie where you think it could take an unexpected turn. Could Kylo Ren actually be redeemed? Could Rey, perhaps, be lured to turn to the dark side? Could Luke himself be a villain? There are short teases that each of these things is a possibility, but in the end, each of these scenarios predictably resolves in entirely conventional ways.

No, Kylo is essentially just a weak Vader retread who may get his moment of deathbed repentance in the next film just like his grandpa did. No, Rey is the pure, unspotted Mary Sue who will never demonstrate a hint of complexity going forward. And good ol’ Luke is just good ol’ Luke, although that’s not to diminish Mark Hamill’s outstanding performance in the film, or the genuinely intriguing final act rescue he performs by remote control.

I didn’t quite understand that, though. Why was this interstellar projection solid and then not solid at different times? I understand why the plot required it to be that way, but that didn’t make it any less inconsistent. Was Yoda’s Force ghost solid, too? He seems to be when he hits Luke in the head with a cane. If a Force ghost can be solid, then what’s to stop Yoda from coming in and saving the day? Why doesn’t he hit Kylo Ren in the head with a cane? Anyway, these are quibbles. Luke’s final sacrifice was the only truly interesting thing about this movie. Everything else was just sort of by-the-numbers.

What’s even more frustrating is that this didn’t answer any of the questions from “The Force Awakens.” Are we really supposed to believe Rey’s parents are nobodies? If so, then why did she hear Obi-Wan’s voice telling her “these are your first steps” in Episode VII? And who or what is Snoke? Now that he’s dead – in a moment that’s clumsily telegraphed so that it loses its impact when it finally happens – there’s no real reason for the narrative to return to tell his story. He’s just a cookie-cutter bad guy who’s job was to look scary for a movie and a half and then get out of the way.

There are so many opportunities to be interesting that go wasted here. Rey is drawn to a very dark place on the island, so dark that it frightens Luke. And she goes there and – what? Sees herself in a weird mirror? It’s visually intriguing, surely, but neither she nor the audience learn anything. It’s just cool for the sake of being cool.

Maybe this will all be revisited in Episode IX, but I doubt it. This franchise no longer wants to get bogged down in complications; it just wants to have a credible backdrop on which to stage increasingly generic action set pieces. The underlying mythology behind it is only interesting to us geeks, and Star Wars has outgrown the geeks.

One final note. The elephant in the room going forward is what to do about Leia now that Carrie Fisher is no longer with us. It was heartbreaking to watch her in this film, if only because she looked sick and frail throughout, which made her Super Leia moment painfully ridiculous, and not in a good way.

There was an obvious way to shift the “Last Jedi” plot to give the character a heroic and meaningful exit – they could have had Leia be the one to do the kamikaze run on Snoke’s ship instead of Laura Dern’s purple-haired cipher. That would have required a minimum of digital trickery to paste her into Dern’s place, but it would mostly involve finding shots of Carrie Fisher standing still and looking wistfully out a window, which wouldn’t have been that hard to do. Then they reshoot the scenes in the bunker and have Dern be the one to follow Rey to safety.

Of course, that would have deprived us of Luke and Leia’s reunion, which was one of the most touching moments of the film. And also the most confusing. Why would he give her fake dice, and why wouldn’t she take them with her? He was solid here and not solid outside? But the stuff he brought was solid? What are the rules?

Anyway, there’s really no choice the producers have left but to recast Leia. Carrie Fisher is gone, yes, but Leia is not, and the character’s story is not yet finished. There’s clearly an arc that requires her to confront her son and give him one last shot at redemption. Just wiping her out of the narrative offscreen would be far more disrespectful than letting someone else pick up the role. When Richard Harris died, they recast Dumbledore, because the story required a Dumbledore. Episode IX requires a Leia in a meaty and substantive role, and the technology does not exist to credibly create that performance with the late Carrie Fisher’s image. Recasting is the best of a number of bad options.

That’s sort of how I feel about “The Last Jedi.” It’s no prequel-level disaster, certainly, but it’s not really very good. Or maybe it’s not that Star Wars has outgrown the geeks, but that I’ve outgrown Star Wars. Which makes me very sad indeed. 

No excuse for “Justice League”

See these?

These are old school Mego-brand toys that pre-date “action figures” by quite a few years. Young boys couldn’t hide behind euphemisms to pretend they weren’t playing with dolls. I had all of these, as well as a few more. I played with them until their costumes were frayed and various body parts were lost in action.

I wasn’t alone. Thousands, if not millions, of kids have spent countless hours with various plastic-and-felt versions of these characters, and they’ve made up countless stories about them that have never appeared in any medium. And you know what? Just about every story those kids made up would have been better than what was on the screen in the latest “Justice League” movie.

Honestly, how dense do you have to be to screw this one up?

Yes, it could have been worse. (And, yes, “Batman vs. Superman” actually was.) “Justice League” was watchable; it was mildly diverting, and, at just under two hours, it was short enough that you didn’t have enough time to truly hate it. But seldom has so much effort and talent been wasted on such a paltry and generic product.

“Generic” is probably the best term to describe this film. There have been so many iterations of each of these characters, and this movie just cobbled together the greatest hits from each of them. As I listened to Danny Elfman reprise his Batman theme from the far-superior 1989 movie, I found it depressing to hear it used in the service of a Batman with no sharp edges, unlike the menacing Keaton/Burton Dark Knight it originally accompanied.

There were even a few notes of the John Williams Superman theme played during the segment where Superman comes back to life for some reason and then starts arbitrarily beating up the other heroes to kill time. And all it did was remind me that Christopher Reeve played an iconic character, while Henry Cavill is just caretaking the brand. It also made me wonder whatever happened to Hans Zimmer’s “Man of Steel” theme, which was really quite good – probably too good for a franchise that plods on joylessly into complete irrelevance.

Which brings us to the whole Snyder/Whedon disparity, given that Joss Whedon had to finish the film after Zack Snyder had to tend to his family. This probably made the film more pleasant, as Snyder’s preceding DC movies were unrelentingly grim. But what it also did was abandon any sense of continuity in this cinematic universe.

Remember Flash’s inexplicable appearance in Batman v. Superman, when he travels back in time to tell Batfleck that “Lois Lane is the key?” I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, but it was so strange and out of place that you would assume it was a setup for something significant down the road. And, sure enough, Lois was the key to calming Superman down after an unmotivated tantrum, although the Flash didn’t travel back in time to tell anyone that. It was just a thing that happened.

At least the Flash looked like he might have been able to do something interesting, although he never did. Cyborg was a nonentity; Aquaman was Poochie. (He’s edgy, he’s in your face. You’ve heard the expression, “let’s get busy?” Well, this is an Aquaman who gets “biz-zay!” Consistently and thoroughly.) People are saying nice things about Wonder Woman in this, but I think most of that is leftover good will from her far-superior solo film. Gal Gadot is always a welcome presence, but the material doesn’t give her any opportunities to shine.

Rumor is that Ben Affleck wants out, and it shows. He shlumps through the picture like a guy who is dreading having to do the dishes and walk the dog when he gets home.

And don’t get me started on the villain. Because, really, this film didn’t have a villain.

Steppenwolf, the ostensible antagonist of this piece, is never actually in it. Yes, there’s a poor CGI rendition of some horned dude that looks like he was pasted into the frame from a 2002 video game, but his complete lack of physical presence makes him about as threatening as an Internet pop-up ad. You don’t buy that any of the flesh-and-blood actors are in the same room with him, because he’s not an actual thing, so never for a moment does he offer any peril to the proceedings. A fat guy in a Godzilla suit would have been more menacing.

This is now 15 years since Peter Jackson and Andy Serkis proved you can create a computer-generated character that can be taken seriously. Yet Steppenwolf wasn’t even as convincing as the LOTR cave troll. How did this happen?

It doesn’t help, either, that Steppenwolf’s objective is as much of a cipher as his physicality is. What is it he wants, exactly? Apparently, he’s been waiting thousands of years to get three boxes in order to turn Earth into a post-Burning Man Nevada. Why? Because, well, evil and stuff. Also he’s afraid that the Xbox he lives in might come unplugged.

Did you watch Amy Adams, a genuinely talented and charismatic actress, show up and just, you know, cry a lot? Or JK Simmons, one of the best working character actors in film, play Commissioner Gordon and do… absolutely nothing of interest? Or Willem Dafoe. a genuinely powerful and frightening screen presence, as some sort of Atlantean guy? (Oh, that’s right, his scene was cut. Never mind.)

So much talent; so much waste. And it’s going to lose a crapload of money.

So here’s an idea, DC. Go buy a bunch of old-school Mego dolls; give them to a room full of seven-year-olds, and film what they do for two hours. That’ll only cost you a few hundred bucks, and I guarantee that what those kids come up with will be more fun to watch than “Justice League” was.