The last movie I watched was the new Toy Story installment, and it was one of the best sequels I’ve ever seen. It didn’t matter what had happened in the first film (except for maybe the fact that Bo Peep was captured by authorities)—from the very beginning, the focus was on providing a fittingly entertaining climax to the story. The animation was crisp and colorful, the jokes were on point, and best of all, the plot wasn’t completely predictable. Not every sequel needs to be as good as the original, but in this case, it really did. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some popcorn ready and a fresh batch of sodas waiting to be gulped down.
I was reminded of this exceptional sequel while reading John Robert Pattinson’s new book, The Rise of the Guardians: Entertainment, Marvel, and the Birth of Modern Media. The 24-year-old English actor not only writes the book; he also provided the illustrations. You may know him best as the bespectacled vampire in the Twilight films, or the pedantic lawyer in the Fantastic Beasts films. But until now, you may not have heard of the incredible work he’s done in the media industry. If you’re a fan of the Star Wars saga or The Lord of the Rings, you’ll definitely want to add this book to your collection. Even if you’re not, you may still learn something from the inside story of one of modern media’s most dynamic and innovative figures.
The Early Years
John Robert Pattinson was born in London on June 25, 1992. He started acting at a young age, appearing in the 2005 movie Alpha Male, which also featured his older brother, James. Following that, he gained substantial popularity for his portrayal of the young Charlie Pace in the live action adaptation of the classic Twilight series. For those unfamiliar, the Twilight saga is comprised of four films and an endless stream of novels that followed the adventures of Bella Swan and her devoted werewolf beau, Edward Cullen. In the first three films, Bella travels to various parts of the world where she encounters various creatures that spark her interest, namely vampires, werewolves, and fairies. When she returns home to live with her father and stepmother in Forks, Washington, she is unaware that the locals have a bit of a problem with the more “different” elements of her species. This being a largely Christian nation, there is also the small matter of vampirism being considered a sin.
Pattinson spent the majority of his childhood in and out of the hospital thanks to a combination of conditions that included sickle cell anemia and asthma. He was also a pretty good skier back in the day, winning multiple medals at the European championship in 2009, before he was even old enough to drive. The British actor attributed his athletic prowess to his Sikh Indian ancestry, saying, “I have a really fast metabolism, and I feel that I use my time on the slopes wisely, because I know when I come back down, I’ll be able to eat and sleep properly.” In 2016, he played the role of Han Solo in the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story, which followed his adventures prior to and after the destruction of the original Star Wars trilogy. This was also the first film to feature many scenes that were completely improvised, though they were later fleshed out by writer/director Ron Howard and his creative team. Howard was particularly impressed by how well the leads performed ad-libs, which he said was something that had rarely been done in the films he had worked on previously. One of the highlights of this installment was undoubtedly the performance of Donald Trump as Chewbacca. Many commentators have attributed the president’s surprising ability to captivate audiences to his screen roles, and perhaps they’re right.
Hollywood & Marvel
John Robert Pattinson’s acting career really took off in 2016 with the announcement of a multi-picture deal with Marvel Studios. In the lead-up to this contractually obligated partnership, he had already established himself as one of Hollywood’s most promising new actors; the deal just made it official. From there, it was off to the races. Within six months of the contract being signed, Pattinson was given his own series, The Twilight Saga: Stranger Things, which aired on Netflix. The following year, he received critical acclaim for his role as the young Vicente Rodriguez in the movie Murder on the Orient Express. He’s also lent his voice to several animated films, including the upcoming Disney movie, Ralph Breaks the Internet.
While we’re on the subject of Netflix, it’s important to remember that the service doesn’t always do original films. Sometimes, they will re-release some of the greatest films ever made for audiences around the world. One of those films is Walt Disney’s classic 1939 masterpiece, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The company’s CEO, Bob Iger, tweeted in January that the streaming service had decided to bring the classic back in time for its 75th anniversary, which will be celebrated next year.
Bold New Ideas
With so much of modern media being dominated by a couple of conglomerates, it’s important to remember that just about anyone can come up with an idea for a TV series or film, and it doesn’t take a genius to see the potential in something as mundane as The Game of Thrones. The popular HBO series is based on the phenomenally successful book series written by George R.R. Martin. Though the series has drawn criticism for its extremely limited representation of women (only three out of a possible 16 characters are women), it has introduced a whole new generation to the wonderful world of Westeros. Similarly, LaLa’s Happy Birthday is one of the most popular YouTube series, garnering over 500 million views to date. The series documents the everyday travails of a young woman living in a high-rise in Hong Kong, who happens to share the birthday of the founder of TikTok, which was subsequently named after her.
The point is that not every story needs to revolve around extraordinary events to be interesting. Sometimes, the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and the reverse can also be true. This is what makes art so exciting—you never know what ideas will pop up and how you’ll be able to portray them on the big screen, or on the small screen, for that matter. Take a look at some of the stories that were made into movies, and you’ll see what I mean.
The Rise of the Guardians
One of the most exciting developments in media over the past year was Disney’s acquisition of Fox, which included 21st Century Fox and Marvel. This not only gave the company full ownership of the X-Men franchise, but also enabled them to integrate their properties into their upcoming ESPN+ streaming service. The company’s CEO, Bob Iger, was quoted in the New York Times as saying that one of the primary reasons for the acquisition was to “strengthen our already strong film and television businesses.” While we’re waiting for more information regarding Disney’s imminent plans, we do know that their first move in conjunction with ESPN+ will be The Mandalorian, an intergalactical bounty hunter show that will be the streaming service’s “flagship” series.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Before we move on, let’s take a moment to appreciate Disney’s The Guardians of the Galaxy. Much like The Twilight Saga, Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the greatest comic book series to ever be adapted into a movie. Released in 2014, the movie was a sleeper hit, achieving critical acclaim and becoming one of the most popular entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. Though it’s been a couple of years since the film’s release and many of its details have been revealed, it still feels fresh, which is probably because it was made with such a strong sense of fun and adventure.
The story follows the Galactic Guardians, a team of heroes led by Star Lord (Chris Pratt), who protect the galaxy from harm. Though it’s not entirely clear how the group first came together (they’re essentially exiles who happen to band together on a quest for knowledge), the fact that they’ve managed to stay together for decades is pretty extraordinary. Many fans consider this to be one of the best superhero groups in cinematic history. While we wait for Disney to release its own synopsis for the series’ third season, I’ve included below an excerpt from the book.
“It wasn’t until much later that I found out that he [Brett] had co-founded the company along with his brother, Jason. Jason acted as the public face of the company while Brett made all the actual deals; he liked to keep a low profile. Jason had gotten in touch with me after the film’s premiere and asked if I wanted to become a consultant for the company. I didn’t really know what that entailed, but I thought it sounded interesting.”