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.

 

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Haiku Me Friday! The soulful eyes

Here we go again
Will you love me or hate me?
Big eyes draw you in

Hi all! It’s me! I swear I’m around but we’ve been packing up and moving our house which is…no small feat. Most of my energy has been centered on that which has left whatever remaining energy I have directed to my business and family. This blog has taken the back seat, but you know – once everything settles down, I’ll be writing again.

I did, of course, watch the new TLJ behind-the-scenes trailer and have been keeping up with any D23 news that came out and am now waiting to see if anything comes out at SDCC (word is we won’t get much, but the costume info was a small bit).

I enjoy behind-the-scenes trailers more than real trailers. I remember when the TFA bts trailer came out at SDCC and I went through frame by frame to glean any information that I could. I didn’t do this with TLJ, but I did watch it a few times through and…

Those porgs.

First of all, they are so adorable and cute! I’m not going to deny it. Kinda furry, looks like they waddle and they have big, soulful eyes. I can see why the internet is calling the Furby’s.

But…Star Wars has a funny history with cute elements as I discussed only a few months ago when I rehashed the Ewok hate again. Fans get so worked up and there are such polarizing views on them.

I love the Ewoks. I think they send a good message: small beings you think may be beneath your notice have more strength and courage than you think.

I am neutral but sometimes dislike Jar Jar Binks. I can’t figure out Jar Jar. The Ewoks were definitely cute. I think Jar Jar was an attempt to be cute but it did not come off as intended.

The information we know about Porgs is that they live on Ahch-To, they build nests, and they can fly. Oh, and their babies are called Porglets (so fascinating (sarcasm)).

This is where it gets tricky. My hope is that the Porgs stay almost as a background creature where you think – aw they’re kinda cute but they don’t have too much of a role in saving the universe. I’m not sure why I feel like this, since I love the Ewoks. I believe some of the reason is that I consider BB-8 enough of a cute factor in this new Sequel Trilogy that if we push the cuteness TOO far, it’ll be an annoyance more than anything. (Imagine if a Porg ends up traveling with Rey when she leaves Ahch-To? It’ll be like every single Disney princess movie out there with the main female character and her trusty animal friend sidekick.)

Honestly, I don’t believe they’ll play a big role. Disney has a pattern with TFA and RO where they show these cool creatures and aliens in previews and then they’re on screen for about a millisecond – and that’s what I think they’re doing with the Porgs.

Yet, at the end of this, I totally am welcoming of these Porgs. But mostly because I want a stuffed animal one for ARM’s room. 🙂

 

Anyone got any other thoughts about the TLJ behind-the-scenes trailer? I’m looking forward to the casino scene!

 

 

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! Wicket’s Musings & Rehashing the Ewok Hate

What’s this strange being?
Not one of us. Friend or foe?
Should I approach it?

Ewoks.  Love them or hate them.  I wrote a post about this three years ago and got some interesting comments that helped demystify it for me, but I still like them.

The hardest part for me to understand on this argument is that I think one reason a lot of people hate them is because they’re cute.  Does being cute really make a difference?  Shouldn’t we focus more on the fact that the smallest beings helped defeat the largest governmental organization out there?

Look at Yoda.  He is small, but would not fall under the definition of “cute”.  And because he’s a Jedi who says wise statements, no one seems to hate him.  But he talks backwards, for Pete’s sake!  Yet, no one seems to mind.

The Ewoks are small and play a large role in defeating the Empire.  If they were not cute and fuzzy and look like teddy bears – would people hate them as much?  What if they were Gollum-looking creatures?

Do you see my point?  I feel like people would root more for Ewoks if they were not cute because they would be the underdog, like the Rebellion.  Scruffy-looking underdogs.  Instead, they get a lot of backlash because of how they look which I believe is undeserved.

 

Okay, I really didn’t even want to get into it that much but that’s kind of why I like my Haiku Me Fridays. 🙂  They are blank slates where I start off with a haiku and let my mind wander wherever it will.

Fan Art Friday! Wicket’s Cuteness Overload

I am really happy with the way this Fan Art Friday turned out.  If you read my other ones, especially the ones with characters, there was always some problem I had with the way I colored them.  This time – I am pleased with almost everything.  I love the colors I chose, I’m happy that Wicket turned out slightly similar to how he looks in ROTJ, and when I combined colors they came out the way I envisioned in my head.

Usually I have a lot more to say about my colorings but because I’m so happy with this, there’s very little to go into.  Be sure to check out Mei-Mei‘s picture as well!  For those of you who are new to my blog, Mei-Mei and I have the same coloring book and color the same page monthly and compare/contrast.

Overall, a success!

wicket-2

I know there are fans that hate the Ewoks but I don’t get it.  I’ve written about this before, but stop with the Ewok hate!  Or, at least learn to accept them.  All the complaining in the world won’t get rid of Jar Jar or change the fact that the Empire was brought down by little teddy bears.  I still think that’s one of the coolest takeaways from ROTJ – you can be small, but change the fate of an entire galaxy.  What a great message for so many people!  And further, look what happens when you keep an open mind.

Han Solo wanted to shoot the Ewoks.  His first reaction was to shoot and ask questions later.  Very Han.  Leia and Luke decided to pause and assess the situation.  Maybe they had a good feeling through the Force, knowing with some inkling that the Ewoks could be a great “asset”.  Both did not shoot and possibly create a bad encounter right away.  Sure, they almost got eaten but they still didn’t resort to blowing up the village (I don’t know, if I was tied up to stakes with a fire getting ready to roast me, I would probably not be as calm as Luke) once they were free.  Because of Leia and Luke’s open mind, they befriended the Ewoks.

That friendship with a species they couldn’t understand helped them bring down a government the Rebellion only had a 1% chance of defeating (this fact was in the last Rebels episode so is now canon booya).  Life lessons from Ewoks y’all, life lessons.

 

Stay tuned for next month’s Fan Art Friday!  We’re doing the most feared bounty hunter….(Mei-Mei, it’s the Boba Fett drawing that’s on the left of Grand Moff Tarkin. Closer to the end of the book.)