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Still watching Hollywood blockbusters structured in three acts? How perfectly vanilla! It’s 2021, folks — let’s branch out, shall we? Parasite won Best Picture at the Oscars last year with its exquisite four-act kishotenketsu. Now, if you’re not familiar with this term, kishotenketsu is a classic plot structure in Japanese, Chinese and Korean narratives, composed of four parts:
- Ki: Introduction
- Sho: Development
- Ten: Twist
- Ketsu: Reconciliation
The third-act “twist” of kishotenketsu radically shifts the audience’s perception of the preceding acts, and typically thrives in thriller and horror films. The twist of kishotenketsu bestows an unpredictable and unforgettable experience.
Meanwhile, the Marvel movies are stale and stagnating. What they need is a kishotenketsu remix. Here’s how I’d reboot the MCS:
Ant-Man: Space Oddity
Ki: Hank Pym misses his wife, Janet van Dyne, who never returned from the quantum realm.
Sho: Scott Lang disappears into the quantum realm and returns. Hank wonders if Janet is not really dead.
Ten: Hank attends a product announcement from his former apprentice, Elon Musk. Elon announces the next iteration of Tesla’s new invention, the Prestige Particles™ suit. He puts it on and says, “It’s gonna put me to sleep, scan my molecular makeup, and create a scaled-down copy of me in the blink of an eye.” He strikes a pose and disappears. A camera zooms in on an ordinary, red apple on the floor, projecting the image to a large screen for all to see. The crowd gasps as the Prestige Particles™ suit materializes and, with it, a tiny, reappearing Elon Musk, leaning nonchalantly against the apple stem. Armchair philosophers are divided on Twitter: Was the full-size Elon the same as the wee Elon standing atop the apple? Or did the CEO of Tesla just die on stage?
Ketsu: Meanwhile, Janet returns from the quantum realm. Months later, a whistleblower leaks that Prestige Particles™ bugs out in the quantum realm — originals don’t get deleted but are left behind as “space junk”.
Captain America: Bucky the Buckaroo
Ki: Bucky (recast as Doja Cat) rides the Darjeeling Express with her childhood sweetheart, Stephen Rogers.
Sho: While Stephen sleeps, Bucky serenades him with her ballad So High. A man in a crimson cloak and emerald-eyed pendant offers Bucky a record deal. Bucky accepts and the pair disappear into a sparkly portal.
Ten: 173 years and a shot of super soldier serum later, Stephen — now Captain America — tours The Raj theme park. A sitarist’s rendition of the 2021 classic MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) by Lil Nas X plays in the colonialist courtyard. Captain America splutters into his cup of Earl Grey. “Bucky? Is that you?” Bucky looks coyly over her shoulder. “I’m Bhuja. Who are you?”
Ketsu: Captain America and Bucky discover a bunker in the park. There are technical drawings — damning evidence of Hydra, the park proprietors, replacing Bucky’s musculoskeletal system with vibranium and phlebotinum. “It doesn’t look like anything to me,” says Bucky, before she mounts and squeezes Captain America’s skull between her juicy thighs.
Guardians of the Galaxy: American Horror Story
Ki: Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Gamora, and Drax the Destroyer are committed to Kyln interstellar asylum.
Sho: Gamora’s sister Nebula shows up.
Ten: Star-Lord attempts to seduce all the sexy, non-humanoid inmates but Rocket rejects him. Rocket meets his demise in a medical misadventure at the hands of the asylum’s naughty nurse who fails to account for the raccoon’s fun size during defibrillator foreplay. Drax takes so many FDA-approved steroids his pectorals explode. Gamora and Nebula play doubles tennis in the Kyln courtyard, but are defeated when they turn their rackets on each other and die of blunt-force trauma. Groot plays the board game Spirit Island on a Macassar ebony table, which betrays him by shapeshifting into a guillotine and decapitating him. (But his head grows back, so it’s more embarrassing than anything.) Thanos appears as a ghost to titansplain that they are unwitting participants in an elaborate ritual of slasher film tropes: Star-Lord, the virgin; Groot, the scholar; Gamora, the jock; Drax, the fool; and of course, Rocket Raccoon, the slut.
Ketsu: With fine fingersmithery, Star-Lord filches Thanos’ reality ring — it’s ghostly, but it still works! Reality is rewritten, and this time, Rocket gets to be the Final Girl.
Avenger: 11 Cloverfield Lane
Ki: En route to the Avengers HQ, Hawkeye’s car veers off the road.
Sho: Hawkeye wakes up shackled and manacled in bed, in the home of Annie, a nurse who claims to be his “Number One Fan.” To prove it, she quotes his famous line, “And you have my bow.”
Ten: Annie asks Hawkeye to write her a short story with “bows and arrows and clockwork space whales.” Hawkeye points out he’s a professional archer, not an author. Enraged, Annie lops off the archer’s right pectoral and drags him into the basement. There is a TV in the basement. Hawkeye sobs, watching the other Avengers lay waste to New York without him. He sobs harder when clockwork space whales appear on screen.
Ketsu: Believing that Annie has laced his dinner with hallucinogens, Hawkeye channels his inner Hunter S. Thompson. He stitches together his (working) knowledge of Disney’s Brave, steampunk, and gormaganders, and submits the abomination to Asimov’s Science Fiction for publication. Being derivative, the story’s rejected by Asimov’s, but at least Annie is appeased.
Avengers: Fifty Shades of Green
Ki: Hulk and Loki do battle.
Sho: Hulk tosses Loki like a rag doll. Next, Hulk abducts Loki, bridal carrying him to his Quinjet as a mash-up of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” and John Williams’ “The Imperial March” plays at a heart-thumping volume.
Ten: Hulk impresses Loki with the delicacy of his big green fists in the tight quarters. As the aircraft drifts into space where the Earthly sun don’t shine, Loki learns that what brings him pleasure is no longer conquest — but surrender to his every desire. Hulk is surprisingly tender and they make love 5,000 times.
Ketsu: Hulk masters his fine motor skills as pilot of their flying boudoir. He also keeps Loki’s bratty attitude in check. It’s a match made in Stockholm Syndrome, and they make love 2,000 more times.
TV: Watchmen (HBO), I May Destroy You (BBC One + HBO)
Film: Parasite, The Shape of Water