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VALDEZ: "El Camino" is no cash grab

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After a night out partying, it was time for the real fun to start. I got home at approximately 1 a.m., and immediately started searching the pantry for late-night snacks. 

Much to my delight, I found my trusty TERRA Chips. As I devoured the bag like a ravenous dog, I walked to my bedroom and loaded up Netflix. On-screen, I saw one of the most beautiful sights of my life, the title “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.”

Anyone who watched the television series “Breaking Bad” knows how big of a deal this movie is. Chances are, you have heard about it even if you have never watched the show. 

You might be thinking: Why would they need to make a movie based on a television show with five seasons? Why is that necessary? 

Over the summer, I showed my mother the trailer for the movie at the dinner table. She seemed intrigued, but also worried. “The show was so perfect, and I don’t want them to ruin it with a mediocre movie," she said. While I was confident in Vince Gilligan, director and creator of the series, I could also relate to her concerns. 

There have been many “cash grab” movies and shows throughout history. This is when the creators do not prioritize quality, and simply do it for financial gain. Plenty of unnecessary sequels and extensions of series fall under this category. 

For example, did we really need nine “The Fast and the Furious” movies? Is “The Hangover Part III” anywhere near as good as the first one? Even worse, “The Simpsons” is currently airing its 31st season. 

Yes, you read that right. Even a classic show should never last that long. Enough is enough.

Despite being the creator of one of the most critically acclaimed television dramas of all time, there was a chance that Gilligan would follow the cash grab model. Why not make some quick and easy money off of the name of his prized creation? It was a scary, yet plausible possibility.

I am here to tell you that “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” is the furthest thing from a cash grab ever created. The movie serves as closure for Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) story, following the events of the series finale that aired back in 2013. 

Spoiler alert if you have never seen it: Walter White (Bryan Cranston) had just died after gunning down the neo-Nazis that had enslaved Jesse for weeks. Jesse was escaping in a getaway car, and that was the last we saw of him for six years. There was no neat and complete 360-degree character arc that Walter had. What was next for Jesse? All we knew was that he drove away.

Outside of the older physical appearance of the actors, this film feels exactly the same as the show. It has the same suspense, intensity and realism. Paul once again excels in Jesse's role, almost as if he had not taken a break. 

From his sad facial expressions to the pain in his voice, he makes you feel the agony of a man going through Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His performance, along with Gilligan balancing Jesse’s flashbacks with the present events, both help provide the epilogue that “Breaking Bad” fans always deserved.

My only critique is that I wish it were longer. The way it ended was satisfactory, and made sense. But, the story would have still been interesting if it had continued for another hour. That is what happens when a director and writer make a perfect team with their actors. I cannot get enough of their storytelling.

Hopefully, Gilligan will keep expanding his cinematic universe. Thankfully, “Better Call Saul,” the prequel to “Breaking Bad,” got renewed for a fifth season. Outside of that, it is unknown what Gilligan has in store. 

Watching his content is quite the trade-off. On one hand, you get to see a complex mixture of drama and crime, but on the other hand, his stories always leave you wanting more.

When you hear about a film being made that may seem like an unnecessary extension of a story, try to give it a chance. If you like the story it is based on, and it is being made by the same creators, then they deserve the benefit of the doubt. 

Movies based on shows do not always have the best reputation, but “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” is an exception. Thankfully, Gilligan seems to be above making a cash grab.


Joshua Valdez is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and double-minoring in creative writing and cinema studies. His column, “The Power of an Open Mind,” runs on alternate Fridays. 

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