I'm on my knees in the handicap stall of the Paradiso men's room. I've just seen Independence Day: Resurgence, so I've decided to drown myself in the toilet. I'm sure there are other, more dignified ways to end it all in a movie theater, but this feels appropriate.
A blue glow suffuses the stall. I turn to see the Force ghost of Will Smith's character from the 1996 Independence Day standing there in his flight suit, helmet tucked under one translucent arm. "Hold on there, partner!" he says. "Crawl away from the toilet."
"Will Smith!" I exclaim. "What are you doing here?"
"Technically I'm Capt. Steven Hiller, fighter pilot, alien puncher, world savior. Right now, I'm here to save you from drowning yourself in this toilet. You know you're in the handicap stall, right? If you drown yourself here, some poor guy in a wheelchair is going to have to move your Brexit-ass out of the way to pee. And he's got enough problems. So I need you to get up off this floor and go write that review of Independence Day: Resurgence."
"Man, Roland Emmerich sure coulda used you in that movie," I say. "All he had was this guy, Jessie Usher, playing your son, who also happened to be a crack fighter pilot in the right place at the right time to fight alien invaders and save the world. But he was just a big slap of nothing. He didn't even look like you. But you were too smart to get involved in that debacle, weren't you?"
Force ghost Will Smith lights an ectoplasmic stogie. "Scheduling conflict with Suicide Squad," he says, chuckling. "So tell me, why are you getting ready to take the pee-pee plunge? Bad movie hurt your feelings?"
"Bad? I eat bad movies for breakfast. This ... this was not a movie. This is a symptom of a diseased system. This is a third-generation simulacrum of other, better movies repackaged for the export market. You can actually see the places where they're cutting in extra scenes for the Chinese, like when Rain Lao, the Chinese pilot played by an actress actually named Angelababy, is briefly seen giving the tail end of a speech in front of a giant Chinese flag. You bet that scene is a lot longer in Beijing. But it's not going to help. Can you believe they actually expect to sell a Fourth of July-themed movie in China? And waitaminute, why are you a Force ghost? That's a Star Wars thing."
"It doesn't matter," says Force ghost Will Smith. "It's just a trope you're familiar with so I don't have to spend time on exposition."
"Exactly! I kept envisioning Roland Emmerich saying 'It doesn't matter,' over and over again. How do we get Jeff Goldblum from Africa to the moon? Have the Hunger Games guy steal a space tug. It doesn't matter. Brent Spiner's been in a coma for 17 years, and now his previously unmentioned gay partner runs Area 51? Why not? It doesn't matter. No Will Smith? Show a painting of him in the White House. It doesn't matter. Nothing matters. Just steal some beats from Star Wars, Alien, Starship Troopers, whatever, hit the four quadrants with your $100 million ad spend, and watch the sheep bleat in. There were five writers listed on this thing, and when the Save the Cat outline says to save a cat, they literally saved a cat. Except it was a dog, escaped from a school bus full of kids that Judd Hirsch brought to the big showdown with the aliens in Nevada salt flats for no reason! Nothing matters!"
I lunge for the toilet, but am brought up short by a glowing blue hand on my shoulder. "That's why you've got to live! You have to write this review! Warn the world!"
"Oh yeah. Writing a bad review always works. Plus, I got a mortgage. Thanks, Force ghost Will Smith! You saved my life."
"All in a day's work," he says, turning to leave.
"Hey Will. Which headline to do like better: SHIT PARADE or POO-POO PLATTER?"
"It doesn't matter."