Who is subjecting us to these things, and why do they hate popcorn?

Remember at the end of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, when the clone army is headed off to battle and Yoda gravely intones, “The shroud of the Dark Side has fallen. Begun, the Clone War has”? That was the first thing that went through my head when I saw Regal Cinemas’ official post on X (née Twitter), revealing the official popcorn bucket for The Garfield Movie.

We’ve entered the era of the ridiculous promotional popcorn bucket, the escalation zone where each major new movie is going to need a more elaborate, more unlikely, more impractical popcorn container than the last. These aren’t meant to meet the public’s slavering demand for popcorn — just for collectable novelty. It’s only going to get sillier from here.

Okay, wait, that’s an exaggeration. The first thing that went through my head wasn’t the Yoda quote. It was the same question raised by most of these collectible popcorn buckets: “But where does the popcorn go?”

Look, we all know that nobody designing current movie-theater collectible merch is actually concerned with popcorn positioning. These putative snack-dispensers are all various degrees of dysfunctional for their stated purpose, whether that’s because they’re covered with spiky teeth in the general operational area or because they’re mimicking existing objects that were not designed primarily as popcorn holders. It really says something that, of the recent wave of promo popcorn buckets, the closest any of them has come to functionality was the one that involves eating popcorn directly out of Miles Morales’ skull.

We also know that the reflexive bafflement here is a feature, not a bug. The Garfield Movie popcorn bucket’s obvious unsuitability for popcorn-serving got Polygon staffers talking as we tried to figure out where the popcorn is even supposed to go. Is the whole thing hollow? Does it flip over and turn into a kind of oddly shaped, badly balanced bowl? Does Garfield pop off the top of the chair to reveal a hollow beneath? Do his eyes pop out to reveal a hole that individual pieces of popcorn can be dispensed through? Is the gag here that obviously Garfield, a character known for voracious food-bogarting, has already eaten all your popcorn?

So yes, we know that we’re falling into Regal’s trap. We’re helping perpetuate the hype cycle, the no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity cycle, even by raising this question and putting this thing in front of your eyeholes. We’re sending the clones off to war. The shroud of the Dark Side truly has fallen.

But seriously. Why call this thing a popcorn bucket? Where does the popcorn go? And how much more absurd is the next promotional popcorn bucket going to get in order to keep the trend rolling?