But the Female Lead Theme Music…

I have a little bone to pick with John Williams.  I love him, you know I do and I’ve written posts about the PT music vs. OT music.  I think he is THE greatest composer of this day and age.  While I love Lord of the Rings and its soundtrack, I really don’t think it should have been voted by the BBC as the best soundtrack.  Though it has great themes and music, it’s a little repetitive, whereas Williams’ tracks are always original.

My bone to pick with Mr. Williams started small, but it has lately been gnawing at me a little more: the female themes in Star Wars are lacking, or worse, get forgotten.

There are so few female leads in the saga, but because of that I feel like the main three should get some stellar treatment from Williams.

  • Prequel Trilogy – Padmé Amidala Naberrie
  • Original Trilogy – Princess Leia Organa
  • Sequel Trilogy – Rey (as it stands now)

padme-amidala-coruscantWhen looking at the themes for the PT, I have to ask – what about Padmé?  Why does she not have her own theme?  Padmé is just as an important character as Anakin.  In fact, without Padmé, we would not have Darth Vader – the reason for the saga and why we’ve been following the Skywalker family.  I think John Williams could have done an amazing theme for her and I believe some of her theme, if she had one, shows up in Across the Stars.  The theme is tragic, beautiful, and dark all at the same time.

But unfortunately, and this is where my annoyance also gets stronger in the OT, Across the Stars is a blend of Anakin and Padmé, not Padmé by herself.  It pulls in hints of Anakin’s downfall, a doomed love, and Padmé’s beauty with indications of foreshadowing.

Princess Leia does have her own theme in ANH, which is a step up from Padmé and her lack thereof.  It’s a beautiful theme and really pretty – but we rarely hear it.  There is a snippet of it before she is stunned right in the beginning, but other than that, most of ANH is dominated by brass and some of the Force theme.

I look at the Force theme as Luke’s theme because, obviously, it shows up whenever he is present.  It is similar to the Imperial March being construed as Vader’s theme because it starts playing whenever he looms into the camera.  You’d think that Princess Leia’s theme would also show up when she’s on screen and into the next two films as well.

Unfortunately, Leia’s theme dissolves while the Force theme still rears its head whenever Luke is around for ESB and ROTJ.   What bothersluke-leia-han-gif me more is not the fact that her theme is no longer present – but the fact that Leia’s theme gets pulled into other themes.

Within ESB, there is “Han Solo and the Princess” and in ROTJ there is the beautiful “Luke and Leia”.  Don’t get me wrong – I love “Luke and Leia”.  It’s one of my favorite pieces of ROTJ, but that’s not the point of this post.  It’s like Leia can no longer stand on her own and she becomes interlocked with the two men in her life.  I find it a little jarring because that’s not how I view her character (thankfully) but in terms of the music, the fault lies with Williams.

I do believe that musical themes should evolve – but they should not lose their core identity.  Just like we, as people, evolve through our lives, we still have a core of ourselves that is the same.  Luke’s Force theme shows up interwoven in different pieces throughout the OT and I wish I could see the same with Leia’s.

Water under the bridge at this point.

…Or is it?  Can this pattern be changed with Episode VIII and Rey?

I may like Rey’s theme even more than Leia’s.  Of course I’m biased because my daughter’s middle name is Rey, but the spunky, light-hearted, slightly wistful theme has become part of the weekly repertoire of music I listen to.  It touches my core and brings out something inrey-star-wars me where I almost feel like her at times; an understanding for Rey even though I have no idea what her life is like.  Williams’ music has the power to do that.

Williams said that one of his main reasons for coming back to compose music for Episode VIII was because he didn’t want any other composer writing music for Rey.  I love hearing that and it gives me hope that he keeps the essence of her in the upcoming movie within the score.

My main question and fear is: as Rey evolves as a character, will Williams keep her theme at the core?  Or will he forget it entirely?  Worse, will he blend it with other men?

I never thought I’d have an issue with Williams and his music, but here it is.  I’m also curious to see if Jyn Erso has a theme and if so, what it will sound like.  Or perhaps Michael Giacchino will not have any themes since it’s a standalone film and he’ll break the cycle.

Has anyone else noticed what I wrote about? 

 

In Which I Defend General Hux and Speculate on Supreme Leader Snoke

General Hux

I think I’m in the minority out there…but I really like General Hux.  I’ve been reading many reviews that label him as a superfluous character in The Force Awakens but I would like to argue that people who are writing about that are missing the point of who he is.

General Hux is a bad guy, sure.  He’s not the main antagonist like Kylo Ren and, possibly in the future, SL Snoke, but he falls more in the realm of a secondary antagonist.  Maybe J.J. was trying to create him to be the new Grand Moff Tarkin but he fell short.  Not in a bad way necessarily, but just because General Hux is different from Tarkin.

General HuxHux represents a new generation of the Empire.  He is the ideal First Order candidate.  Similar to Finn, he was raised with Imperial propaganda as his breakfast, lunch and dinner.  General Hux sincerely believed that the Empire saved the Republic from the Clone Wars and the current New Republic is weak.  He grew up as a beast frothing at his mouth, trapped by the New Republic.  He’s what I would label a First Order Fanatic (FOF…nice ring, right?).

This is where he is different from Grand Moff Tarkin.  Tarkin worked strategically to get the Empire where it was.  Hux believed it was his God given right to rule the galaxy as one of the best Generals in charge of the biggest, baddest base.   Tarkin was someone who firmly believed the Empire should rule the galaxy.  Hux believes the First Order is there to wipe out anyone who doesn’t agree with them and he should be leading it.

He’s a maniac. I love it.

All his thoughts and actions are surrounding the First Order in a way that reminds you of a deranged serial killer.  He’s obsessed with bringing the First Order to the height that the Empire once was.  He steals kids from birth to brainwash them into being perfect stormtroopers for the First Order!  Wow.

Everything he says and does is purely for the First Order. Starkiller base and it’s troops are his tools that he works into perfection.  Even Kylo Ren does not live up to his expectations, possibly because he knows that he has not completed his training or maybe it’s because of his heritage that involves people who so vehemently opposed the Empire, and now, the First Order.  Though Hux makes mistakes, you can see that he genuinely believes he still has the best army in the galaxy, unlike Kylo Ren who shows a moment of weakness when Hux accuses him of purposefully letting BB-8 escape in favor of taking the girl instead.  General Hux hates weakness and hates mistakes, especially large blunders like the one Kylo Ren made.

All this leads me to talk about why I loved his speech.  There were a lot of complaints out there about how it was badly written, but I didn’t even pay attention to what was said.  I was enraptured with Hux’s face because in that moment, he is in his glory.  Everything he has worked so hard for over 30 years is coming to a the epic climax.  His eyes fill with tears and you can see he means every single word of what he is saying to the core of his being.  This is his moment to show the galaxy that General Hux and the First Order are not ones to be trifled with.

He’s crazy.  I love it.

 

Supreme Leader Snoke

There are rumors going around that Snoke is Darth Plagueis.  He looks like someone once dead and most importantly, people are arguing that Snoke’s theme is eerily similar to the music played during ROTS when Palpatine and Anakin discuss Plagueis at the opera.

I sincerely hope that Snoke is not Plagueis.

Why?

Oh, I’m so glad you asked!

Because the more I’ve written in this blog about Palpatine, the more I love his character.  Lucas did an excellent job intertwining Palpatine’s story between both trilogies to see that he was an absolute genius and mastermind in creating the Empire bringing the Sith back into power.  He was, in supreme leader snokeshort, a genius the galaxy had never seen.

Palpatine, as we know, also learned everything he could from his master Darth Plagueis, and then killed him.  He stole everything he learned.

Do you really think that Palpatine would let there be a chance that Plagueis could return?  By doing so, it shows a weakness in Palpatine’s planning and takes away from how amazing and intelligent 60+ years of his life was.

The music being similar is a good argument, but LFL and Disney has a bunch of tricks up their sleeve.  Remember that the previews led us to believe that Finn was the Force user, as opposed to Rey.

Or perhaps Williams is getting up there in years and forgot he already did a very similar piece.

I just don’t like the idea of Snoke being Plagueis because it takes away from Palpatine’s greatness.  I much prefer Snoke being Palpatine resurrected but, for some reason, I just don’t think that’s the case.  I could be wrong, but I think that would be yawn-worthy and hope they don’t do it.  I like Palpatine’s story just the way it is and I don’t think he should be brought back.

It would also be somewhat out-of-character for Disney to bring in a character that was only mentioned in the PT when they are focusing so much on pulling similarities from the OT.  I will argue that the opera scene is one of the most interesting and best acted scenes in the PT and I don’t think anyone could argue with that so perhaps if they take anything from the PT, they go with the Plagueis storyline since it is canon.

If you’re interested in reading all the theories out there on who Snoke is, combined into one place, click here.

But please don’t.  Leave Plagueis to history and leave Palpatine with his body in fragments across the galaxy after the second Death Star was destroyed.

 

Begun, A New Era Has: My review on The Force Awakens

I predicted I would love the movie yesterday and not be able to say anything but great things about it. While I did love and like it a lot, it took a while for me to get into it.  Longer than I thought and I did find some parts that did not sit well with me.

The Force Awakens reminded me of a new pair of shoes.  It was a little uncomfortable at first, something different that I needed to get used to.  But once I had worn it for a significant amount of time, the shoes melded to my feet and I love them.  It tooke a while for me to accept that this movie was the beginning of a new era in Star Wars: new characters, ships, and storylines to get used to.

I felt like the first 2/3 of the movies was story building – a lot of it.  To the point that sometimes I felt that it was a little slow and it was uncomfortable.  Though we were in the universe of Star Wars, it was different.  The galaxy had aged 30 years, the Empire is resurrected in a new form as the First Order, and we aren’t sure what has happened to the Rebellion.  The war that we thought was over is far from over and the Resistance, surprisingly I thought, is still a small faction (albeit more organized) trying to overthrow a large government.

General Notes – Spoiler Territory Ahead

The strengths of this movie pulled from the Original Trilogy with its humorous quips  and little touches that devout Star Wars fans would notice (there were definitely some EU shout outs as well).  The humor mostly came when Han was on screen, so I’d like to see how they are going bb-8to keep the humor going now that he’s dead.  I’m guessing Poe since he had that bad boy funny streak.  The format was like A New Hope in that we followed BB-8 on this journey, similar to how we followed R2-D2 and C-3PO previously.  I loved BB-8 and I understand why everyone fell in love with Artoo when Star Wars first came out.  I want my own BB-8 droid.

The Falcon appeared early in the movie and was the main mode of transportation, but man oh man, does it get beat up.  I cringed every time it hit the sand, but it kind of brought a realness to the situation that I appreciated.

I did not notice the soundtrack as much as I thought I would.  I feel like all the other Star Wars movies had distinct themes that you could go return to and love.  Duel of the Fates, Imperial March, Luke and Leia, Battle of the Heroes, etc.  I didn’t notice anything in The Force Awakens that had me rooting for a new tune.

Once everything was established, and we knew and understood the new characters Finn and Rey, the story began to take off.  The last 1/3 of the movie was Star Wars fun, with a big space complex to destroy (round per usual, but this time in the form of a Death Star converted to a large planet), a lightsaber fight, and some loss of beloved heroes.

In typical Star Wars fashion, there were some plot points that were nicely glossed over that left me scratching my head.  Such as:

  • Where did they get Luke/Anakin’s lightsaber?  Maz Kanata smoothed that over and basically said it was “a story for another time.”
  • Why was the lightsaber “crying” and Rey heard it?  Is this part of the maz kanata lightsaberForce?  Why did it give her all those images?
  • I would have liked to know more about the Republic that was destroyed by Starkiller Base.  It sounds like it was established at the end of ROTJ, but was it an actual governing force in the galaxy?  Is the First Order still the reigning government, or was it similar to a civil war or the Prequel Trilogy with the Separatists and the Republic?  But this time the Republic is the smaller group and the First Order is the larger?
  • R2-D2 basically shutting down didn’t make sense.  It was a neatly thrown in plot point and then he conveniently “woke up” at the end to help the Resistance find Luke…huh?

Characters

I loved Rey.  Rey was my favorite character, no question about it.  They didn’t try to make her a forced “strong female protagonist” as most of Hollywood seems to be trying to do right now.  They made her relatable, a real human being where you understood her actions and the consequences.  She could be male or female, which is what I loved.  There was no push on the romance and even now, I can’t figure out if her and Finn are going to become an “item” or if they are just friends who’ve been through a lot.  I want to know more about her history.  I’m guessing her parents were taken from her?  But who was dragging her away?  Is she somehow related to the Skywalkers?

Mr. Reticent noted that he thought her being captured by Kylo Ren was a Rey Kylo Ren gif“damsel in distress” situation, but I highly disagree.  It made sense with her character.  It allowed her to battle Kylo in the Force, come out victorious, and feel the Force awaken within her.  If they captured Han, it would be a little pointless.  If they captured Finn, there would be so much hullabaloo with him being a previous stormtrooper that there would be too much First Order protocol involved.

I thought Han was still Han, though I did feel like the movie was staged for his death a little too much (who called that?).  I liked his quips, his camaraderie with Chewie was still the same, and I thought it made sense that he was separated from Leia due to their son going to the dark side.  We couldn’t have Han and Leia madly in love because his death would be that much harder.  Abrams and the writers wanted to separate the audience from Han, to not make it *that* hard on us when he died.  Though I didn’t cry when he died, totally expecting it, I did get teary eyed when Rey came off the Falcon and had that moment with Leia.

Though the driving force of the movie was Luke Skywalker, it was frustrating how little they spent on where he had been in the past 30 years.  I know he disappeared due to the failure of his training and starting a New Jedi Order, but it was rushed.  It seems a little out of character for the Luke we know…wouldn’t he have at least stayed in touch with his sister and Han?  I hope we find out much, much more of his backstory in the upcoming films.  When I saw the last shot, I honestly thought, “Oh darn, the movie was just starting to get good.”

Finally, Kylo Ren.  Or, Ben Solo (interesting EU nod).  I went back and forth throughout the movie on whether or not I liked him.  On the one hand, he was not nearly as imposing or intimidating as I’d expect Kylo vs. Finnsomeone on the dark side of the Force to be.  On the other hand, I loved the character struggles he seemed to go through.  It added more layers to a dark side character that we’ve only really seen in Return of the Jedi.  Knowing Kylo was once good and even admits that he’s struggling when it came to his father was an interesting twist for Star Wars.  Vader never admitted he struggled with the light side.  I’m confused as to why he wore the mask, other than to emulate Darth Vader and his obsession with him.  Funnily, and I’m not sure if Abrams meant this, but the tantrums Kylo Ren threw were so much like Anakin that I wanted to pat him on the back and tell him he’s more like Anakin than he knows. I loved Adam Driver’s acting when it came to that moment when he killed his father.  I felt there was a real struggle within him, but when he made his decision, you could see this slight change in his face and oh, it was so perfect.  By the end of the movie, I wish we had more of Kylo and I’m interested to see where he will go in his training with Snoke.

Supreme Leader Snoke.  Where do I begin?  This was my one major gripe with the movie.  I thought he was a horrible addition.  It looks like he jumped straight out of a Tolkien novel/movie, with some zombie thrown in.  I can’t figure out if it was because he was so large or because of his species (whatever he is), but I thought he wasn’t believable.  Every time he came on the screen, the movie felt disjointed and took a step back, instead of forward.  I am curious as to whether it’s because he was so large, which made me think he just looked stupid.  When we see him in future movies, I hope that he is a normal height and not a hologram.  I wanted to see more of Kylo Ren and less of Snoke throughout the movie.

General Hux was like he came straight out of an EU novel: a typical Imperial General.  What I liked most about him was that he seemed to be an equal to Kylo and had no problems calling him out, another difference from the Empire in the Original Trilogy, where everyone was terrified of Vader (shhh…don’t tell Kylo that).  Captain Phasma didn’t have as large of a role as I was hoping, but I appreciate the shout out to female stormtroopers and the fact, again, that Phasma could have been male or female.  Maz Kanata was a nice replacement for Yoda/wise mage, but I’d like to see more of her.  I hope she continues to pop up throughout the new sequels, but is a true guiding force.  General Leia was not given as much screen time as I would have hoped.  She was the same, yet different, but they didn’t explore it much.  She had more of a cameo role than an actual part.  Poe Dameron was interesting and I hope we see more of him in the future.  I think he will be a really strong character, but more please.  More of Poe in the next movie.

star-wars-7-force-awakens-kylo-ren-captain-phasma-general-hux

I believe it took a while for the movie to establish itself, but once the foundation was built, it took my breath away.  Abrams did a great job clearly defining that the baton was being passed onto a new generation, which was one of my highest hopes.  I did not want a movie that only focused on Han, Leia, and Luke again – and this did not disappoint.

The only parts where it fell short for me was the lack of the mystical in the Force and Snoke.  I felt that the Force has always been such an important factor for Star Wars and guides all the movies, so to say, but it wasn’t strong within this movie.  I think we’ll see more of it coming up in the sequels and I certainly hope so.

Overall, I give The Force Awakens a solid B+/A-.  I’m seeing it again tonight so will hopefully have a better understanding and opinion of it once done.

 

Okay, phew, done.  LET’S DISCUSS.

 

10 Reasons I Like Attack of the Clones

attack of the clones

I had only one New Year’s resolution when it came to this blog.  In 2015, I was going to watch AOTC and find 10 things I liked about it.  I never watched it on my own, but I did watch it a few weeks ago with the friends when I worked through the saga with prior to TFA (another post on that soon!).

To find 10 things I liked about AOTC was great up until number 8.  Then I really struggled with the last two items.  I eventually came up with them, but I had to rack my brain.

Here is my top 10 list for AOTC, therefore fulfilling my New Year’s resolution a month from the end of 2015.

10. Kamino. Out of all the new planets introduced in the Prequel Trilogy, Kamino is one of my favorites.  The weirdest thing is, I’m not a big fan of rain, but I love the visual element of it.  Plus, we’ve all had Kamino days before where you kind of feel bad for Kaminoans and the constant battering of rain…though with their skin, I’m not sure they’d last long in the sun.  Regardless, Kamino is one of the coolest planets in AOTC with the city on stilts, their transportation on the Aiwha’s, and their impressive cloning facility.  Super modern for a place that must experience a lot of power outages.

9. Puns. No Star Wars film is as rife with puns as Episode II is.  Part of me groans and hates how corny they are, but the pun-loving side of me rejoices in seeing so many in one movie.

2 Examples:

-Threepio’s head being dragged by Artoo to be put on his proper body: “Oh, this is such a drag!”

-Anakin worrying about Padmé and Obi-Wan says: “She seems to be on top of things,” as she climbs up the pole.

8. “This party’s over.” This is an example of a corny line in Star Wars this party's overthat is done so, so well.  Every time Windu utters that line I just want to woop.  Then all the Jedi start igniting their lightsabers across the Geonosian arena and it looks amazing.  It’s classic good versus evil.  The Jedi show up to save the day and you can’t help but think, “This is how it should be.”

7. The Geonosian language. I had some big debates on this when I was reading my list out loud after watching the movie but I have always loved the language of these critters.  All the weird sounds they make with clucks, clicks, whirring noises, and slightly human sounds in it is super interesting.  It’s my favorite language of species out of the entire Star Wars saga.  In case you ever want to listen to 10 hours of it, someone has granted your wish:

6. Seismic charge. The asteroid chase scene, while an homage to ESB, did not come close to matching the magnificence of the Empire chasing the Falcon.  What it did do was give us two well-equipped adversaries battling it out with lots of obstacles.  So in a sense, it was very different from the chase in ESB as this was not so much of a “chase” but a seek-and-find.  Out of this, resulted the seismic charge, a cool new addition to the Star Wars universe.  My favorite part is the silence when it’s released, followed by the explosive electric sound and the flat horizontal destruction it creates.  According to the Wookiepedia page, the reason I love this so much is actually because it defies science:

The sound from an explosion of this weapon is an interesting take on the Star Wars “ignorance” of the fact that there is no sound in a vacuum. There is no sound at the start of a blast, but there is still the impossible phenomenon of sound in space afterward. The idea during the production of Episode II was that the charge would suck in and absorb all the sound around it (such as the sounds of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jango Fett’s ships during their fight in the Geonosis asteroid belt), and then release them in a sonic explosion, resulting in the shockwave effect heard in the explosion sound.

Maybe that’s why I love Star Wars so much…it’s always defying science and reality.

5. The 2nd to last scene. When the Imperial March starts playing and you all the ships are starting to look like Imperial Star Destroyers…I get chills.  Then you see some of the senate members staring out and Palpatine is looking out at everything and you know he’s just maniacally laughing in his head.  Then you see Organa’s head bow down with one hand in a fist.  His misgiving is clear.  And those rows upon rows of clone troopers – amazing.  Begun the Clone Wars has.

AOTC 2nd to last scene

4. Imaginative planets. There’s no denying that the locations and scenery on Naboo are stunning.  Geonosis had the interesting hive of swarming bugs as a planet, and most of the scenes took place within the hive of the Geonosians, with the exception of final battle.    I felt like we really got to dive into Coruscant with the Zam Wesell chase scene that culminated in the underground nightclub.  We got to see the life of an average civilian with the Dexter Jettster diner scene.  As a whole, the film brought us to new planets that were multi-layered and showed us more depth than we had seen before.

3. Sound effects. This plays into my #6 reason, but at a larger level.  You could argue that the sound effects in every Star Wars movie are amazing, and they are, but I’m not a big sound gal.  Yet every time I watch AOTC, I notice the details of sounds and the minute way the play into the scene at a brilliant level.  Some of my favorites include when Padmé’s ship first flies into the scene (I feel like it sounds different than the other ships), the seismic charge, the sounds of Coruscant in the Zam Wesell chase scene, the Obi-wan/Jango fight, and the final battle.  In this movie, I think the sounds play as an important a role as the visual element. 

2. Padmé’s costumes. Beautiful, so beautiful. I would like to put in a caveat that I am not referring to her stupid white costume during the latter part of the movie that was strategically ripped right at her abs.  The rest of them are stunning though.  Not just the lakeside dress, but her sexy leather dress, her picnic dress, even the ones she wears on Coruscant when Anakin is pouting.  I love her nightgown and scoured the internet until I found one somewhat similar and bought it (note: it’s not very comfortable to sleep in, but I don’t care).  I even like the one on Tatooine that we see so little of that also strategically shows her abs…it has a nice feminine flow to it.  Trisha Beggar should have gotten an Oscar instead of Colleen Atwood for Chicago.  Unfortunately, she didn’t even get nominated for this film which I see as a real shame because it wasn’t just Padmé who had beautiful costumes, the others had a lot of detail in them as well.

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1. Across the Stars. Oh man, oh man, this was really close with #2 but I just couldn’t deny putting it at number one. This is one of the greatest tracks John Williams has ever created and it kills me that it’s not more recognized.  It’s beautiful but tragic all at once – which sums up Padmé and Anakin’s relationship.  Even though logically, if you don’t know the story of Star Wars, the ending of AOTC should be happy (a wedding! True love! Yay!)…from the music you can tell it’s doomed.  There are notes of triumph but it’s so overshadowed by the lower notes of heartbreak.  The harp at the end is just a cherry on top.  The music is poignant, it’s crucial, and it evokes so much emotion from me even when I listen to it 13 years later.  Sometimes I feel like this track makes the whole movie worth it. Bravo, John Williams, bravo.

 

What are your top moments from Attack of the Clones?

Music Makes the Moment

A fun watch for a Monday morning:

It comes from this documentary that I’m working my way through if you want to join me!  I had not heard of this until recently.  Most likely because it was made before I was born. 😉