Haiku Me Friday! Who is the better pilot?

Buzz droids don’t faze me
I’m the best pilot out here
Don’t worry, Master

Who is a better pilot: Han Solo or Anakin Skywalker?

We are supposed to think Anakin Skywalker. We are told by Obi-Wan that he was the “best star-pilot in the galaxy”. We see Anakin’s amazing skill on display not only in the podracing scene in TPM, but also at the end when he destroys the Trade Federation’s battleship. I think the ending of TPM is one of the most impressive displays of Anakin’s skill as he was so young and not completely attuned to the Force at that time.

Here’s where we hit the tricky part.

Anakin has the Force. As Anakin matures with the Force, he becomes a better and better pilot (though we don’t see much of it in AOTC, we do see more of it in ROTS). Anakin can fly any ship, similar to Luke. That is probably a combination of both skill and the Force.

Han Solo does not have the Force. He has made special modifications to one ship, the Millennium Falcon and flies that for the entire time we know him (though that may soon change…what did Han fly before the Falcon? Does. Not. Compute. Brain. Collapse.). But to say Han Solo is not a good pilot would be like saying people on Tatooine don’t drink blue milk. Solo is an excellent pilot. He flew in an ASTEROID FIELD WITHOUT THE FORCE. Oh, and it wasn’t just an asteroid field…there were TIE Fighters and a Star Destroyer on his tail with the hyperdrive broken. Talk about a stressful situation! If I remember correctly, his odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field were 3720:1. I don’t think Goldenrod calculated the chances with TIE Fighters in hot pursuit, so the odds were probably direr. Oh, and lots not forget this famed Kessel Run which we may or may not see in the Han Solo movie.

But Han Solo has Chewie, who helps him. Does that detract points? Or does it make up for the fact that he doesn’t have the Force, as Anakin does?

 

So, let’s discuss.

Who is the better pilot: Han Solo or Anakin Skywalker?

 

 

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Another Happy Landing: The Endings of Star Wars Films

One of my favorite things about Star Wars, ever since I first saw it when I was a child, was the endings of the movies.

As I got older, I saw the endings as slightly corny, but they still satisfied me. Why? Because while George Lucas created endings that were corny or too-nicely-tied-up-in-a-bow, there was a sense of hope and happiness…sometimes more weighted on one than the other – but still there, nevertheless.

With ANH, Lucas did not know if he would be able to continue Star Wars or if it would be a big flop. He opted to make a story that had a clear and decisive beginning, middle, and end. Sure, he left some ties open (we don’t know the fate of Darth Vader) but overall, the Rebellion won. It had hope and happiness handed to us on a silver platter. It was an ultimate feel-good ending.

I believe that ESB is the only film under Lucas’ hands that has the most question marks. We have no idea if Luke and Leia will be able to get Han back. We don’t even know if Han is alive. In a more subtle way, we don’t know if we can still trust Lando. What about Luke’s training on Dagobah? Will he go back? Is Darth Vader really Luke’s father? How did Leia sense where Luke was? Does she also have the Force?

Yet, despite all these questions, we watch Luke get a new hand and exchange smiles with Leia. They move to look out the window to an infinite galaxy. Threepio and Artoo stand on one side. It is one of my favorite shots of all time. Instead of looking at the camera, everyone is facing away, and it gives more credence to the loose ends of the movie. But it’s beautiful. And it’s an ending. When they look out into the galaxy, I have a feeling of hope and inspiration.

ROTJ is the corniest, in my opinion. Lucas thought this would be his last (or at least for a while – he did continue to have thoughts about telling Anakin’s entire story) Star Wars film and everything is nicely tied together in a bow. The Rebellion won (again)! Darth Vader was redeemed! Leia and Han are together! The Emperor was destroyed! We see almost the entire cast surrounded by dancing Ewoks and smiling benevolently into the camera. Happiness! Hope!

When Lucas filmed the Prequels, he continued his trend of concise endings, using the themes of hope and happiness.

With TPM, the ending is almost as exuberant as ROTJ or ANH. There are some lingering questions in the background presented by the Jedi at Qui-Gon’s funeral, but overall, the celebration of Naboo is nothing short of glorious. Everyone is looking at the camera and the corny level is quite high.

AOTC is the only film out of every Star Wars film under Lucas that strays furthest from the theme of hope. I think it’s happy, yes, but in a bittersweet way. You are happy for Anakin and Padmé but the hindsight you have as an audience member, pangs you with bitterness. I do not think hope is lost entirely however. It may not be the first emotion you feel, but you know this union is necessary because “a new hope” is what arises from this wedding. Without this marriage – there would be no Luke and Leia who end up saving the galaxy further on down the line. In some ways, I think the Jedi were headed towards combustion, Anakin was the catalyst, and I believe the wiping out of the Jedi had to happen. It was doomed. So knowing that Luke and Leia are coming out of this ill-fated love match is one of those strange things where hope is present in this scene, though it may not be dominant.

As an ending, ROTS leaves us complete only because we know the entire story already. The sunset gaze by Beru and Lars evokes hope and the weight of responsibility as well. Lucas deftly wraps it up with that Tatooine sunset and closes the film and saga with a sense of satisfaction. We see baby Luke and know that the new hope has arrived.

And where does this leave TFA and Rogue One?

TFA breaks the tradition. It’s such a small thing, the ending of a movie. Yet, if you think about it, you expect a satisfying ending to probably 95% of the movies you watch. There has to be a conclusion of some sort.

Disney leaves me a little jaded with TFA. Their over-confidence (…is their weakness) in knowing that they don’t have to really give us an ending frustrates me. Unlike the other films in the saga that were under Lucas’ direction, TFA does not leave me with hope or happiness. I’m not sure what feelings I take away from it now. It’s neither negative nor positive. I am apathetic for this ending that is not an ending but more like you are putting a bookmark in a book. I know Finn will survive because it’s too early in the Sequel Trilogy to kill him off. Rey is standing there with a strange look on her face and an outstretched arm to an older, grizzled Luke Skywalker who has an even stranger look on his face. Then we have this strange moment where the camera spins around them on the island where Rey is standing there with the arm outstretched trying to hand Luke his lightsaber. Too much movement compared to the other endings!

I didn’t notice the lack of an ending at first. In fact, the first time I watched it, I remember thinking as the shot spun around Luke Skywalker and Rey, “This had better not be the end because we just saw Luke for the first time.” But it was. I was discombobulated but I chucked it up to seeing the new Star Wars film and having a lot to think about.

Yet every time I watch it again, I get more annoyed and I blame Disney and Kathleen Kennedy for most of this. I did not realize how entrenched the Star Wars endings are in my psyche and how much I yearn for them until I compare the Lucas films to the new Disney films.

Rogue One has an ending, but I find it contrived and forced. A CGI Leia says, “Hope,” and it’s a good whack on the head of forcing us into what we should feel. Their effort on the ending of the film should have been less focused on a CGI Leia and more emphasis placed on a beautiful shot with a decent ending that evokes feelings instead of shoves it down our throat. You could argue that the hyperspace jump right after Leia says that is the shot but…it’s action. It’s not a still moment where we appreciate the end of a Star Wars movies.

When I compare the endings, I almost see George Lucas as a more humble director who wraps up each film nicely…just in case. Just in case no one wants to see another Star Wars movie or he never gets to do one again. He gave us a small moment at the end of each film to reflect on what we had just seen. There was no crazy spinning shot, no ships jumping to hyperspace – only his way of saying, “Did you enjoy my movie? I give you time to digest your thoughts and what you saw.”

We have now broken that with TFA and RO and I miss my feeling of hope and happiness at the end of a Star Wars film. I miss the ending being clear cut. I miss the beautiful, panoramic shots that were breathtaking. I miss that still, quiet moment of reflection.

Will we never have that again? Since Disney is planning on creating Star Wars films until I’m old and grey and no longer blogging, is their overconfidence going to extend to the point that we’ll never have that corny Star Wars ending again?

If so, RIP endings to Star Wars films that brought me hope and happiness. You will be missed.

 

Haiku Me Friday! A pivotal scene and the need to control

The hatred flows through
They took her away from us
My anguish blinds me

As much as I have trouble enjoying Attack of the Clones and finding moments to like about it, I do enjoy the part when Anakin goes in search of her mother, kills the Sand People and cries about it to Padmé.

It’s this tense chase we are on with him and I think Lucas does a great job of NOT showing us Anakin killing the sandpeople. As an audience, we are put in suspense until he reveals to Padmé that he did, in fact, kill them all. To make matters hit home, the fact that Anakin killed both the women and children as well was deftly played by Lucas.

I think it was hard to feel sorry for the Sand People and hard to connect with them as a species. We never see them doing anything interesting; much less have feelings towards them one way or another. For the most part, the Sand People were annoying to me. They always showed up at an inconvenient moment as a plot point to spur the movie along. In fact, they are kind of like savage animals.

Yet, by having Anakin kill the entire village of sandpeople, and confess to doing the unthinkable by killing the women and children, we now feel pity.

Who kills women and children?

Even in war, it’s deplorable, almost everyone can agree to that. It’s part of what makes the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki so heart wrenching. There were thousands of innocent people living in those cities. On top of being innocent people, there were women and children – the future.

By killing the Sand People’s women and children, Anakin is preventing further life, preventing the future. And with that, George Lucas spins how we feel about the Sand People. Anakin says “They are like animals. And I slaughtered them like animals. I hate them!” Yet, now we feel pity and sadness, which brings the Sand People to a human status.

We also feel foreboding towards Anakin’s actions. This anger and rage comes from his feeling of powerlessness. He wants to control everything around him, including death. How can you control death? It is the one certainty in life – that everyone dies. Yet Anakin does not want to accept that.

If you watch Padmé’s face during this scene, you can see that she has fear. What has happened to Anakin? Who kills women and children? Why can’t he understand that it was out of his control and that Shmi’s death was not his fault?

Shmi’s death is a turning point in Anakin. He always feared loss, even in TPM when Yoda points it out to him. When Shmi dies, and then he has dreams about Padmé’s death in ROTS, it spurs him to use his hate and anger to try and channel it into what he thinks is something good.

Shmi’s death and this scene is so important to the entire saga. I often overlook it due to my frustration with AOTC but it shapes Anakin as a character and is a pivotal step for the Skywalker story.

I, too, can be a control freak. I like everything to be just right and when something disrupts my schedule or plans, I don’t deal with it well. I think most of the arguments I have with my husband come from when I have something in my mind of how it should go, and he has something different, and I have a hard time being flexible.

In some ways, it’s a good thing. My control helps me be extremely organized which helps me run my business, keep my daughter at home most of the time, and be a wife.

Yet the need for constant control seeps into a lot of our daily lives. I believe the need for control does stem from fear. Fear of losing control, but a deeper level, fear of not looking like I have it “all together” or that I’m easily handling everything. It’s a fear of loss, though different from Anakin’s. It’s a fear of losing face, in some ways. I think having a child has made it better (they really are unpredictable!) but now I have new aspects to try and control which raises stress levels.

 

Do you or do you know anyone who are controlling? Who has fears that drives them to dangerous points like Anakin? Or, honestly, do you have any advice for me or others similar to myself?

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?

Fan Art Friday! Anakin’s Fire

Let’s just get it out there and talk about the elephant in the room: Anakin’s skin color.  Yup.  Total fail/mess up.  BUT I HAVE AN EXCUSE.  My colored pencils are one of those big “50 different shades!” boxes of colored pencils.  As such, sometimes the colors look a little similar on the outside but when you actually draw on the paper – they come out way different.

I had two such pencils lying near each other.  One I was going to blend into Anakin’s clothing and the other was for his skin.  I used the wrong color (clearly).  Then I tried to rectify the situation and as I am possibly one of the worst people with art and therefore do not know what happens when you blend two colors – I came out with green.  So then I tried to rectify it again and I think he kind of came out looking like some versions of Toad from X-Men.

Ah, well.  You win some, you lose some, right?

Barring Anakin’s skin color, I’m actually quite pleased with what I did.  I thought the circles behind him reminded me of water and since we definitely had fire, I wanted to create a feeling of conflicting emotions within Anakin since this is a “transitional Anakin”…i.e. Anakin from AOTC where he’s not quite good, but not quite bad either.

Below him, I did some foreshadowing and made the red veins look like Mustafar, the planet that seals his fate as Darth Vader.  I used different oranges and reds throughout the picture.  I think I’m most pleased with the flame.  That’s an example of blending colors gone right.

Overall – a cool picture and I had fun doing it and playing with different themes from Anakin’s life.

Be sure to check out Mei-Mei’s picture once she has it up!

Unfortunately, Mei-Mei, we are moving houses so I won’t be able to participate in the next few.  Can I start back up in September?  Let me know!