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.

 

Diary Posts From A Long, Long Time Ago

I was inspired a few months ago by Megan’s blog posts that included diary entries from 1999 and when The Phantom Menace premiered. It reminded me of when my own obsession began with Star Wars – also in 1999 and due to TPM.

I was 12 years old and though I had seen Star Wars previously, it had never spoken to me in quite the way it did with TPM. I’ve been through this before, so I won’t bore anyone with even more details.

When reading Megan’s posts, I couldn’t go back and dig out my diary because they were packed away for the move. I kind of forgot about doing a post on my past diary entries.

Then I was chatting with Imperial Talker two days ago and mentioned I had once written a Star Wars Anthem to the tune of our (US) national anthem. He encouraged me to dig it out and find it.

Since my diaries have been unpacked, I have finally received the motivation needed to sift through all the entries (I used to write A LOT when I was young!) and find some interesting Star Wars related ones to share.

I discovered that:

  1. I was seriously in love with Luke Skywalker,
  2. I loved to record dreams – and apparently I had a lot related to Star Wars,
  3. I could not spell Darth Vader correctly (I wrote it Vadar…novice mistake!),
  4. I did, indeed, make a song to our national anthem but it’s nowhere near as good as I remember it being in my head.

 

I know I was in love with Luke Skywalker but I don’t think I remember it the way I felt it in 1999. I always say that Luke Skywalker was one of

Yup, sums me up at age 12.

my “first crushes” but I’m trying to figure out what attracted me to him at a young age. I honestly don’t think it was inappropriate, but more like – I thought he was handsome, he could use magic (the Force), and he was down-to-the-soul good. He resisted evil and did what he thought was right. At that point in my life, I needed that a lot more than the bad boy Solo, whom I would end up understanding the appeal of when I got older. I didn’t include any photos of those diary entries because a) they’re weird, and b) they mostly consist of me saying “I love Luke Skywalker!!!!!!!!”

As for the dreams – funnily, I was talking about this with my sister the other day. So many people can’t remember their dreams. But I had gone on an interpretive dream kick when I was younger (now I know exactly how young! 12 and in 1999!) and made an effort to record all my dreams and try to decipher the meanings of them. Due to this obsessive habit that I had for months, I still remember almost all my dreams to this day. I could tell you exactly what I dreamed last night. It’s such a weird experiment I did that shows that when you do something persistently when you’re younger – it stays with you as you get older.

 

So without much further ado, here are a few good ones from 1999.

 

Dream Diary Entry #1 (I cut this one off in the middle because it had irrelevant stuff about school friends):

July 10, 1999

 

What I loved about reading this specific entry was that it brought back the feeling of the podracer to me. I don’t remember any other part of the dream – but I remember the feeling of driving in a podracer at age 30. And I remember waking up and wanting to dream it all over again. It was so real. Even 21 years later, I remember that podracing dream.

Oh and I love how I had to take a little dig at Jake Lloyd. Like “not even Jake Lloyd felt how I felt”…haha.

 

Dream Diary Entry #2:

September 6, 1999

 

Apparently I had to explain my actions on why Luke was holding my hand (we were married). Haha, I must have thought that was inappropriate to do otherwise!

In case anyone was wondering, Coober Pedy is an opal mining town in Australia. I had visited it the summer before (1998) and had fallen in love with the underground houses they had in the area. I thought it was so cool…and apparently my subconscious was still obsessed with it a year later.

 

Dream Diary Entry #3:

September 7, 1999

 

Not as interesting, but hey, Leia made an appearance! Sounds like she got shafted quite often.

 

Diary Entry #4, The Important Things in Life:

September 11, 1999

 

Is it all true? I still wonder. Did this all happen? Is Star Wars real? BURNING QUESTIONS I STILL ASK MYSELF TODAY.

But otherwise, this is clearly a momentous event. It sounds like I had been looking for his address for a while. For all the new people following my blog, I did end up writing to George Lucas and questioned some direction of his on TPM and hoping he would resolve the flow between the OT and the PT because thus far, there was not a lot of similarity. (Also, I used to name my diaries. This one was named Ariana Skywalker and I liked to write to the diary like it was a friend)

I never received a response from him, BUT his staff wrote back with a copy of Star Wars Insider and I’ve subscribed to the magazine for almost 20 years (other than the brief break in college when I had no money).

 

Diary Entry #5, the Star Wars Anthem:

September 8, 1999

I’ve held this song in my head as, like, the pinnacle of greatness. It’s kind of disappointing to look back and see, oh wait, it’s really not that good. Ah well. Looks like I had a lot of notes attached to one syllable. Guess I’ll never be a songwriter any time soon.

There you have it – a glimpse into my life when I became obsessed with Star Wars. I love that I was blogging about Star Wars before I knew what blogging was. What’s somewhat amusing about all this is that I thought I would have more entries related to TPM. But it seems like most focus is on the OT, with the exception of the podracer dream.

 

Are there any distinct childhood memories about Star Wars that you remember?

 

Haiku Me Friday! The shield doors must be closed

Dread fills my inside
But I have no choice; door shuts
Was the right thing done?

When I went to Celebration/SWCA in 2015, there was a very interesting panel done on the music of the Empire Strikes Back.  They took all the music John Williams had written that was left on the cutting room floor per Lucas’ decision and played the original music where Williams intended them to go.  Some of it was silly – there was music with Luka and Yoda’s training that made you think it was a fun jaunt as opposed to serious preparation for facing a Sith Lord.

A lot of the music that was cut out of the final movie involved scenes at Hoth.  I remember vividly this scene: when the shield doors have to be shut for the night and Leia makes the hard, but right, decision to close the doors despite her two best friends being out in the freezing temperatures.  By closing the doors, she was signing a death sentence (and that’s not an easy thing to live with).

The music Williams had composed for this scene was full of trepidation, it was robust and deadly.  The music fit quite well and I think if it was in the movie, I would never have thought twice about it.

Yet George Lucas decided to leave it on the cutting floor.  This immediately turns the scene into an awkward, this-doesn’t-sit-well-with-me, uncomfortable feeling.  When there was music, the scene turned into a subconscious distraction for your feelings.  It’s almost like a glass of wine to handle the pain better.

But when the music is removed your feelings are left bare and you connect with Princess Leia in a raw, emotional way.  You feel what she feels: the indecision, the doubt, the regret, the fear – all happening as the loud shield doors pull to a close.  When they finally shut and you hear Chewie’s despairing howl, you get goosebumps.

Without the music, this scene turns authentic and harsh.  You are in the moment with Leia, Chewie, Artoo and Threepio.  Threepio’s assessment of the situation rings in your ears while they doors shut.

The odds of survival for Han and Luke are 775 to 1…and that is not very reassuring at all.

 

In case you were wondering what the scene sounds like with the original Williams music, I found it on YouTube.  Enjoy.

 

 

Book Review: Bloodline

If you are going to read Bloodline by Claudia Gray, read it to understand the politics of The Force Awakens.  Actually, make sure you even like politics, because this book has a lot of it.  It fools you with some action, but the action scenes are more like side plots and a cover up to give you a greater understanding of where the political scene is leading up to TFA.

The entire novel centers around Leia Organa who is not yet a General, but a Senator of the New Republic.  We rarely get any moments with Han, unfortunately.  Luke and Ben are off doing their own thing (Ben has not yet turned to the dark side) so we don’t hear from them at all.  The only other returning characters that we know are Threepio who is now Leia’s protocol droid and a brief appearance on the last page of Nien Nunb and Ackbar.

bloodline cover

***Spoilers Ahead***

 

We start off the novel with Leia being completely disenfranchised with the New Republic, being a senator, and the senate itself, which is divided into two camps: the Populists (which Leia is) and the Centrists.  She intends to quit and go travel around the galaxy with Han, whom she still seems to have a pseudo marriage with, though they live apart.

As a one last hurrah, Leia takes on a mission to investigate a cartel and is paired with a Centrist senator: Ransolm Casterfo.  In the beginning, we see him as a pompous young senator who is obsessed with the Empire.  Leia first meets him in his office where he has mementos from the Empire and he claims that he believes the Empire could have been a good thing, but the way Palpatine and Vader ran it was not smart.  Of course, this puts Leia and Casterfo’s relationship on the wrong foot right away.

Yet as Bloodline and their investigation continues, they manage to break past their opposing viewpoints and come to a mutual understanding that eventually leads to friendship.  Together, they discover the beginnings of the First Order and realize that the senate and government is in graver danger than they believed.

The senate decides to nominate a First Senator to create more order and the Populists naturally choose Princess Leia.  She has the name and the long standing goodwill of the people since many of her deeds helped in bringing down the Empire.  Leia, through her friendship with Ransolm, could unite the two opposing forces in the senate and bring it back to what it once was.  Though she realizes she can’t travel the galaxy with Han and can no longer quit, she feels that she must accept the nomination.

But (dun dun dun) then a conniving senator finds out that she is Darth Vader’s daughter and tells her new friend Casterfo, who then releases that news into the senate.  All hell breaks loose.  Leia loses her nomination, Ransolm turns against her, and she can’t continue her mission.  We find out that Ben did not know about this and Leia tells him via a recording (since apparently she can’t reach Luke and Ben because they are on some mission…that’s all very vague).

Being Princess Leia, she continues her investigation into the cartel without approval of the senate or her partner Ransolm and finds all the evidence she needs.  She is able to present the findings to the senate who seem to believe her, despite her tarnished reputation.  Ransolm backs her up, surprisingly, and she is able to hash out differences with him after the senate convenes.  They seem to come back to a neutral relationship of respect and understanding though Leia is still hurt by him outing her relationship to Vader in front of the entire senate without warning her first.

Unfortunately, that sneaky senator who found out that she was Vader’s daughter also doctors some of the footage from when Ransolm and Leia were investigating the cartel to make it look like Ransolm was behind an attack on the senate earlier in the novel – therefore committing treason.  At the end of the novel Ransolm is led off to be executed and Leia is heartbroken.  We have no idea what happens to him.  Leia, in the last pages of Bloodline, star-wars-bloodline-posterforms the very beginning of the Resistance without the knowledge of other senators.  She knows that it is only a matter of time until that glimpse they saw of the First Order threatens the New Republic on a larger scale and she wants to be ready.

 

Pros:

  • I finally understand the Resistance vs. New Republic vs. First Order.   Basically, the New Republic is the ruling government but has fallen to pieces with a lot of internal squabbling.  Amidst this, the First Order is forming on outer worlds and is filled with Empire loyalists and fanatics.  Leia created the Resistance to be ready for when the First Order decides to take on the Republic.  In the opening crawl of TFA, it says that Leia leads the Resistance with support of the Republic.  I’m not sure when that comes about since this is still in the early stages but at least I’m understanding this a bit better.
  • The galaxy finds out that Leia, and by default Luke, are Darth Vader’s children. I always assumed that no one knew about the familial relationship between Vader and his children, but I wondered when they let Ben/Kylo Ren know.  Even though we don’t see that happen here, we do see the beginning of how he found out.  By the time of The Force Awakens, everyone knows Luke and Leia are the children of Vader which puts an interesting new twist on viewing it.  That means Ben had only been on the dark side of the Force for a maximum of six years by TFA.  No wonder he still had some hesitations.
  • For a book that is almost entirely compromised of politics, Ms. Gray does a great job making the book engaging.
  • After the book got through introductions and settled into a good pace, it got a lot less predictable. Every time I thought it was getting predictable, I was thrown off course and what I thought would happen, didn’t.  I love that!
  • I thought she did a great job with Threepio. He still plays a minor role but she writes him so perfectly.
  • There were no real “bad guys” and I liked that. I’m so used to reading Star Wars novels where there is a clear delineation between good and bad that having this murky area was refreshing.  The leader of the cartel was obviously bad, but he wasn’t the main driving force behind this.  Then there was the terrorist in charge of the burgeoning First Order, but she wasn’t really the main bad guy either.  The main antagonist, if there was one, was the sneaky senator who goes around causing trouble.  But even then, it was almost a Professor Umbridge kind of bad.  She wasn’t Voldemort/Vader, just a normal person doing bad things.

General Leia

Cons:

  • I thought the first ¼-1/3 of the book was yawn worthy and played out like any Star Wars novel. It was a little predictable and I felt like skipping through many of the pages.
  • Where were Leia’s feelings for Han and Ben? She occasionally seemed to feel sad that Han wasn’t around but that was it. If I was separated from my husband almost permanently, I would not be as distracted as she was and I would definitely make more of an effort to see him.  She seemed way too resigned to rarely being physically together.  And I think Ben was mentioned only two to three times in the entire novel.  I’m only a new mom, but I can tell you that I’d be thinking of my child more than three times a day.
  • On that subject, I didn’t feel like Han was Han. He was in the novel sporadically but I’m not sure he was captured very well.  I also think Han Solo is one of the hardest characters to capture on paper so I understand the challenges but I thought he was lacking a bit when he did show up.  He was almost too goofy-like, even though his scenes were serious…it’s hard to explain but there was something missing.
  • The action scenes were not well written. I felt like Ms. Gray’s strength lies in writing character’s emotions and relationships – not action. You could figure out what was going to happen in the actions scenes and it felt like they were thrown in just so the book would feel like “Star Wars”.  Instead of trying to interweave action in it, the book should have been entirely about politics and stuck to that.
  • Leia was a little mopey. At some points it was believable…other times not so much. Leia is not a sit on her butt kind of person.  There were times when Ms. Gray remembered that and Leia seemed like the person we remember from the OT, but there are pages where she kind of falls off and I was left thinking she really took after her father in the sulking category.  I know she was trying to make Leia seem jaded, but instead I thought she was moping about.

 

I’d give Bloodline 3.8/5 stars.  It was better than A New Dawn, but it still isn’t Zahn worthy.  (The new Thrawn book coming out by Zahn is definitely going on my list!)  Many people had great reviews for this book and I wasn’t feeling it as much as everyone else, I guess.  I am happy to understand more of the politics of this time in Star Wars, but thought that a few things were too disjointed to make me appreciate this fully.