So Love Has Blinded You?

Over the past week I have come to the realization that if I connect with a character in a deep and meaningful way in a Star Wars movie, I become blind to almost all the other flaws within the movie.

I came to this realization primarily with two movies of the Saga:

  1. The Phantom Menace
  2. The Force Awakens

 

The Phantom Menace

 

With the Phantom Menace, my obsession is with Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui-Gon opened up a world to me that didn’t exist prior to the Prequels, and more specifically, the world of the Jedi as a functioning unit/organization.

I loved it. But it was peculiar because I loved Qui-Gon and didn’t care about any of the other Jedi on the Council or within the movie. Obi-Wan generated a shrug and “whatever” attitude from me, but I was obsessed with Qui-Gon.

I think the reason is two-fold: 1) Qui-Gon is a Jedi so therefore he follows some kind of moral compass , but 2) he is not on the council because he does not completely follow the Code and that is deliberate because he marches to the beat of his own drum.

I adored everything Qui-Gon said and did in The Phantom Menace…and I still do. I don’t understand why people dislike TPM because I’m blinded by the fact that Qui-Gon is in the movie and takes the movie to the next level.

There are flaws in TPM though, just like any other movie but there are glaring issues. I never realized this until this weekend when I saw that I have the same predicament with The Force Awakens.

Here are what I believe are the main issues with TPM. Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m only just coming to these realizations this weekend when I tried to take an objective look at the movie.

  1. The characters. If you’re a fan who grew up with the OT, the characters of TPM seem stale, lacking in warmth and connection, and they are not relatable. Whereas with the OT, we can kind of see ourselves in each of the three heroes shoes, with the PT, unless perhaps you followed a political career path, the characters seem less at ease and more distant. And don’t get people started on Jar Jar Binks (though I don’t really mind him but can understand why some people do).
  2. The politics. I have noticed this one before and have written about it. The movie is bogged down in politics to the point that it may become suffocating for some people. There is no simple (or even really linear) plot as everything is shrouded under Trade Federations, senate issues, etc.
  3. Droids. The droids were not as menacing as they should have been. The Destroyers did the job well but the Battle Droids came off comical. Where’s the fear that people had of the Empire? It’s not there in TPM, in fact, other than Darth Maul, there’s no real fear of the Trade Federation.
  4. No greater cause. With the OT, it felt like they Rebels were fighting for something real and a greater cause for the galaxy. In TPM, that essence is missing. There’s no overarching big bad guy to fight.

 

I’m only trying to play devil’s advocate here as many of you know how much I love TPM. It was the first Star Wars movie I saw in theaters and I thought it was amazing. I love that the main character is a child and there are numerous GOOD things about the movie.

But, I also came to realize that when digging deep on why I like TPM it all comes back to Qui-Gon. I blabber on about the Old Republic and the Jedi, but at my core, it’s all about Qui-Gon. He has blinded me to faults within TPM.

 

The Force Awakens

 

I had a very interesting Twitter discussion this weekend with other Star Wars fans. I learned that most hardcore fans are NOT looking forward to the Han Solo movie (this was also slightly confirmed in blog comments from last Friday). On top of that, what I thought was a minority of fans dissatisfied with Disney and the new movies, it’s actually a lot larger and the frustration runs a lot deeper than I had originally assumed.

I know there are people who did not enjoy The Force Awakens and as I was (am) a lot older when I saw TFA vs. TPM, I’m more aware of the issues in present time, instead of finding out years later.

However, I have a similar issue with TFA that I did with TPM: I love Rey. I love her more than I love Qui-Gon. She’s a female character who is relatable, but she can also fight and use the Force. She is strong without falling into a stereotype of a bland, physically strong female protagonist who has no emotion. I loved the character so much that I named my daughter with Rey as her middle name.

People bring to my attention all kinds of flaws with TFA and I have been able to argue or rationalize all the problems. I try to convince people that the movie is actually quite good and they are being bullheaded. But is the movie good? Or is my love for Rey blinding my love for the movie?

Tweeting this weekend with other fans made me take a step back and realize that TFA has some pretty major flaws.

  1. Too similar to A New Hope. This is obvious and even I couldn’t deny this one. The movie practically copies ANH in every way possible, to the point that even my beloved main character comes from a desert planet. Really? Starkiller Base is a bigger, badder Death Star…that gets blown up by the Resistance. Resistance sounds too similar to Rebellion. At least the Empire got a makeover in their name.
  2. Our 3 main heroes never get screen time. If you are going to go to such lengths to copy ANH and pay homage to the movie, why didn’t you give our 3 heroes some screen time together? If everyone survived, we could have maybe hoped for a reunion further down but that has been revoked with Solo’s death and the real death of Carrie Fisher.
  3. Politics…or lack thereof. Whereas TPM delved into politics TOO much, TFA goes in the extreme opposite direction where we have no understanding of the current political climate. At least within ANH we had some mumbles about the Imperial Senate and we understood Empire vs. Rebellion. In TFA there was Republic, a Resistance, and a First Order…but the First Order sounds kind of small? Or is it large? And is the First Order now the opposition group, like the Rebellion was?
  4. Too much convenience. Rey learns to use the Force very quickly. Artoo wakes up at the most convenient time. Luke/Anakin’s lightsaber magically appears at the right moment with no explanation of where it came from. There’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that you can accept when you see a movie, especially one in the sci-fi category, but TFA leaped and jumped over that line. Perhaps we will get all the explanations later, but if not, this is a glaring problem.

 

I have stood up to people’s complaints about TFA just as I did with TPM, but this weekend, I had to admit and accept that both movies have a lot of flaws. Would I love TPM or TFA as much if Qui-Gon and Rey were not in them? That’s where I bite my lip and think…no, probably not.

Qui-Gon was not in Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith and I do not enjoy the movies as much as I enjoy TPM. I actually reallllly don’t like AOTC and I enjoy ROTS but it’s not something I usually pull out to watch at odd times like I do with TPM.

With the future Sequel Movies, I get nervous that they won’t capture Rey’s essence as well as they did in TFA. I worry that there will be no character development or that she will become the Hollywood stereotype of a “strong female character” instead of, well, just, Rey. At least there is hope for The Last Jedi and Episode IX, whereas the Prequels are over and done with.

 

Tell me – have you ever loved a character (any movie, doesn’t have to be Star Wars) so much that it’s blinded you to shortcomings in the movie?

Ranking the Soundtracks

I’ve been sitting on writing this post for a while.  I thought it would be fun, in follow up to the post I wrote years ago on the best compositions in Star Wars (here and here), to instead write my rankings of the soundtracks.  Instead of individual pieces, I wanted to look at the soundtracks as a whole.  Which do I think are the top and which do I think make it to the bottom?

The only reason I’ve been sitting on it for so long is because IT’S SO HARD.  It changes often but I wanted to imagine someone asking me to give my final answer, as if I were playing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and something was on the line.

After much thinking (like two months, seriously), here is my own personal Best of Star Wars Soundtracks list:

8.  Rogue One.

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I didn’t really like Rogue One as a movie or it’s the fact that John Williams did not write the soundtrack that caused this movie to be on the bottom, but there you go.  The second time I watched it, I did come away feeling slightly more kind towards the music, but I think both having a different composer and not enjoying the movie was a double whammy that landed this at the bottom of the list.  Plus, it never had the wonderful themes that we love so much played enough throughout it.  I am planning on listening to it more, but for now, it ends up on the bottom.

7.  Attack of the Clones

One of my favorite pieces is Across the Stars.  It wows me and moves me every time I listen to it.  But as a whole, AOTC is slightly underwhelming.  There are probably about 2-3 tracks that I would want to listen to that on the soundtrack and if I were being perfectly honest, none of them stand out like Across the Stars.

6.  A New Hope

Agh, I hate even ranking this soundtrack so low because A New Hope introduced the world to Star Wars music.  Some of my favorite tracks of all time are in ANH.  But if I was looking at it as a whole, ANH involves too much brass in it’s soundtracks to make me rank it any higher.  The staccato, brass music is not my style and I don’t like listening to it too much and often skip most of the tracks.

5.  The Force Awakens

Number 5 and 4 are in close competition.  I love Rey’s theme and it was my top listened to track of 2016 (according to Spotify).  Currently, my most listened to track is The Jedi Steps.  Clearly, I love some of the pieces.  March of the Resistance and Kylo Ren’s theme (okay not really called that but it’s played whenever he comes on screen) are also really well done.  I originally did not like the soundtrack that much but as time has gone on, I have listened to certain tracks at least once a week.  I love it, but the reason it’s still ranked lower than most is that I believe I love it because I’m a Star Wars fan.  When leaving the theater, there were not many pieces that made me want to run home and figure out which music was playing when.   My love affair with the TFA soundtrack grew over time as a fan, but I don’t think there is anything in the soundtrack that stood out to the casual viewer.

4.  The Phantom Menace

I love TPM’s soundtrack.  It was a fresh new sound to the Star Wars music and set the Prequels off on the right foot.  The Naboo Palace was one of my favorites, and I loved the battle droid music.  Anakin’s theme was softer than expected but had hints of darkness at the end.  Duel of the Fates is unbeatable and is still one of my favorite tracks of all time.  I probably also rank it higher because it was the first Star Wars soundtrack I ever owned (on cassette!) so nostalgia plays a big part in this decision.

3.  The Empire Strikes Back

There are some great pieces in ESB, namely of course, The Imperial March.  That track is SO GOOD.  I love the Imperial March and could listen to it over and over again.  I also love Yoda’s theme and the music played throughout Cloud City at the end of the soundtrack.  The Asteroid Field and Han and Leia are excellent tracks that round out this soundtrack and brings it to the next level.  I feel like this soundtrack is balanced well, but again, not something I could probably listen to over and over again.  The key pieces are amazing but there are some others in there that bore me.

2.  Revenge of the Sith

I think ROTS is one of the most underrated soundtracks out of all the Star Wars movies.  The expanse of what the soundtrack covers is breathtaking.  Some of the most moving pieces in the Saga come from ROTS.  Battle of the Heroes is the most prominent track, but Padmé’s Ruminations still stands up there as one of my favorite compositions of John Williams.  Every time I listen to it, I actually DON’T want to listen to it because of the breadth of emotions it pulls from me.  I think General Grievous’ theme is brass done well.  The soundtrack flows in a way that even without seeing the movie, you can follow along with the music and feel your soul move.  It starts out fast, clipped, and semi-dangerous.  By the end, your heart is broken and full of foreboding.  If I had never seen the movie, I would still be able to feel the emotions I am supposed to.

1.  Return of the Jedi

I place ROTJ first because it’s a soundtrack where I like almost every single one of the compositions created by John Williams.  Not only does it flow well, but it mixes some of my favorite music throughout the entire soundtrack.  We have the Force theme, the main theme, Luke and Leia, the Emperor’s theme, some of the Imperial March, the second Death Star battle, the Ewok’s forest battle music, and the celebration at the end.  It’s bittersweet in some places, we find resolution in other pieces, there is fear, hope and tension woven throughout the soundtrack.  If I had to listen to one soundtrack from the Star Wars universe for the rest of my life – it would be this one.

 

I’m surprised that I picked ROTJ as my favorite of all time (for now).  I didn’t expect it when I first started out with this project.  Yet out of all the movies, it’s soundtrack has most of the compositions that I enjoy.

 

If you had to – how would you rank your favorite Star Wars soundtracks?

Haiku Me Friday! An Open Letter to George Lucas

It’s been 40 years
Since George Lucas took the helm
And transported us

 

Dear George,

I’ve wanted to say thank you for years.  Star Wars effects my life every day in small, and sometimes large, ways.  Without you, I would not be who I am today.  I’ve written about it a lot, but sometimes I think people tend to forget the man behind it all.  Well, not really forget, we could never forget.

It’s just that we get so wrapped up in the mythology, the worlds and stories that Star Wars has created.  We are constantly blown away by this amazing sandbox you allow us to play in.  We get so deep in the trenches that Star Wars becomes real to us.  I think we know deep down that it’s only a movie but we forget because Star Wars transverse many different levels of our lives.

Forty years ago, you probably did not yet realize what a sensation Star Wars would become.  Even after it broke box office records, did you think it was a fad?  Did you think the obsession of the public would eventually wane?  Or did you know you had struck gold?  I wish, so badly, I could interview you and dig your mind on what the summer was like 40 years ago.

Before this gets long winded, I wanted you to know that I haven’t forgotten that you are the man behind it all.  That you are the one who gave us this sandbox, filled it with sand, and then let us have fun within your creation.  Thank you for being flexible about that.

I know you tried your best when you gave Star Wars over to Disney, and for that – I’ll follow your lead and trust you as much as possible.  They’re doing an okay job (okay, a pretty good job), but they’re not you.  They could never be you.  There’s only one you – the person whom we love for giving so many of us a reason to be better people.

May the Force be with you.  Always.

xoxo,

Kiri

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Haiku Me Friday! Whine, mope, and anger…

Brooding Kylo Ren An uncle and grandfather Runs in the family

Brooding Kylo Ren
An uncle and grandfather
Runs in the family

I’m so mopey today.  I’m mopey and angry and annoyed at my health.  I finally saw a specialist yesterday for my ongoing issues and I have chronic sinusitis.  It’s basically a cold that has a bacterial (as opposed to viral) component which is why it’s not going away.  I was excited to find out that I could get treatment in the form of super intense antibiotics…and then he told me he can’t give me anything because I’m breastfeeding and they would affect the baby.  So he said I would have to make a decision to either quit breastfeeding or continue breastfeeding and then either hope it resolves itself or get the antibiotics when I’m done.

On top of that, I’ve had two weeks of pain from mastitis and other breastfeeding issues.  I’m on my second round of antibiotics in 1.5 months (first was for strep throat last month) and I’m coming to this weird decision on if I even want to continue breastfeeding.  My goal was one year but things change.

Anyway, this honestly got me thinking about the whiners and mopers in the Star Wars trilogies.  We have some fabulous ones, so here they come:

 

In third place we get…

KYLO REN!

kylo-ren-darth-vaders-helmet

(said in an announcer’s voice…think Price is Right)

Kylo Ren is a brooding, dark wannabe Sith who likes to spend long hours pondering why he feels a pull to the light side.  He mopes about his draw to the light side and when he gets angry, he takes his lightsaber out to destroy crucial equipment!  When in doubt, slash it out!  Give a hand to our runner up – Kylo Ren!

billy-dee-clapping

 

The second place award goes to…

LUKE SKYWALKER!

luke-skywalker-tosche-station

A fine young man who doesn’t mope as much, but really likes to whine when things get down.  He’s not satisfied with having to do an honest day’s work like most normal people – instead he wants to go to Tosche Station to pick up power converters!  The cherry on top is when he wistfully stares out into the sunset and you can internally hear his moping and whining that he’s stuck on Tatooine.  Though he improves over 3 films, he gets second place for his wonderful, beautifully delivered Tosche Station whine.  Give it up for Luke Skywalker!

britney-spears-clapping

 

And you must know who the final winner is now!  Our coveted first place award goes to…

ANAKIN SKYWALKER!

anakin-skywalker-crying

It must run in the family, folks.  Anakin Skywalker whines, mopes, gets annoyed, and angry in every movie of the Prequel Trilogy!  You can’t beat that.  He starts off as a young boy annoyed at the Jedi Council with a little bit of cheek; he then moves up to a sulking teenager who whines that everyone is holding him back; and finally becomes a man that is so angry he turns into Darth Vader.  Nothing beats his whining and moping in AOTC though!  Almost all his dialogue is some form of a whine which makes him most deserving of first place!

minions-clapping

 

Okay, that made me feel better.  You can go about your business…

Going “Rogue” with Star Wars’ Tone

noto rogue one

Have you been following the news about the Rogue One reshoots? The latest article I’ve read can be found here. The gist of it is this: Disney is not happy with the tone of Rogue One and has ordered that a rumored 40% of the movie be reshot.

I’m personally remaining optimistic about this. That’s a lot of reshooting, but some degree of going back behind cameras is common to big budget films. And certainly Disney has a lot riding on the first official live action venture outside the Saga films. The rumors swirling here are mostly regarding the films tone, and bringing the final act more inline with the tone of A New Hope. Apparently, the events of Rogue One are supposed to take us up to within 10 minutes of the opening of the original trilogy.

My biggest concern here is that Disney wasn’t certain of what they wanted at the beginning. I enjoyed Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, at least on a purely visual level. It was a big spectacle film that still managed to keep the danger of giant Kaiju brawls felt at a human level. From the beginning, he has been saying this will feel like a war film set in the Star Wars Universe. So setting it so close chronologically to A New Hope does seem jarring. Could you imagine binging Star Wars films and you finish a stark war film only to jump into Threepio’s opening banter?

I don’t blame Disney for trying to align the films a little more closely. I don’t blame Edwards for trying to pursue a vision of something we haven’t really seen from Star Wars. I’m still hoping we get an awesome adventure set in the Galaxy far, far away. What do you think? Do you want to see Star Wars films with a wide range of themes and tones? Or do you want a strong tonal cohesion between all the films regardless if they are Saga or Anthology?