So Love Has Blinded You?

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

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

  1. The Phantom Menace
  2. The Force Awakens

 

The Phantom Menace

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

The Force Awakens

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Ranking the Soundtracks

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

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

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

8.  Rogue One.

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

7.  Attack of the Clones

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

6.  A New Hope

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

5.  The Force Awakens

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

4.  The Phantom Menace

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

3.  The Empire Strikes Back

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

2.  Revenge of the Sith

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

1.  Return of the Jedi

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

 

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

 

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

Haiku Me Friday! Yoda’s Escape

The end, this will be
Into exile, I must go
And now wait, not long

Though Yoda visited Dagobah during TCW (some of my least favorite episodes, actually), I have always wondered how he felt when he landed there after escaping Order 66 on Kashyyyk.  With this haiku, I chose to use the point of view that Yoda knew he would end his life on Dagobah.  He knew he was waiting for the twins to grow up, but knew that with their training, also came the end of his life.

I’m not sure why I chose this point of view, but Yoda is wise for the most part and understands a great deal more than anyone else, so I have a hunch he knew that his life might end on Dagobah.

What did Yoda do for ~20 years while he was in exile?  Wouldn’t even communing with Qui-Gon Jinn get old?  I hope he had some good books.

We see such a small sliver of Yoda’s life and know so little about him, which I love.  I hope Disney doesn’t go ruin that for us and give us too much information.  There’s a little bit about his past out there on Yoda’s Wookieepedia page, but it’s not much at all.  I want Yoda to never have a species assigned to him and I never want to know the 800 years prior to The Phantom Menace.  For the most part, I don’t mind Disney giving us new material and explaining loved characters (not a huge fan of the new Han Solo movie, but it is what it is), but please Disney – keep Yoda mysterious.

 

Tell me – would you want to learn more about Yoda’s life?  How much is too much?  Or do you want to know it all?

Haiku Me Friday! Padmé’s Death

I cannot wake up
The despair overwhelms me
My husband, my babe

Yes, it’s confirmed – I’m on a Prequel kick.  And thank you Mei-Mei for suggesting that for 2017, I do my haiku’s in first person form.  This has provided a new, fresh, and interesting challenge for me.

I’ve never given much thought to Padmé during that time period where she is strangled by Anakin, falls unconscious, and then gives birth.  She seems like she is struggling between two worlds during this time…as her body gives out and succumbs to death, her brain is struggling to come back to the world.  It seemed like a battle to me; she is restless, yet wants to stay in oblivion.

I used this haiku to perhaps show the few things that might be going through her limited brain power.  She can’t wake up, even if she tries, but all she probably feels is a crushing sense of despair, with instinct hanging on to her husband and baby.

Because of her sense of despair, she slowly begins to lose the will to wake up permanently.  It’s always been hard for me to accept that Padmé gave up on life…there have been great articles written that have since swayed my opinion somewhat so I tried to relate to her more with this haiku.

Imagine having stress and an inkling of something not right for months, gnawing at you and eating away at your inside.  She probably knew that something was changing within Anakin, even if she didn’t want to acknowledge it.  In the deleted scenes within ROTS, we see that she was forming the beginning of the Rebellion without telling Anakin.  Secrets and dishonesty have formed between them.

On top of that, she has kept her pregnancy secret for the most part with shapeless dresses.  This constant hiding wears someone down.

Then it all blows up in her face.  Her fears are confirmed: Anakin has changed, but her fears could not have prepared her for what actually happened.  Anakin didn’t have political leanings that were so drastically different from her own – Anakin had turned to the dark side and had annihilated multiple Jedi, including ones younger than 10 years old.  He had committed murder and did not seem to regret it.  When she tries to rescue him and run away, he chokes her and causes her to lose consciousness…but keeps her alive.  Barely.

I wouldn’t want to wake up and face reality either.

I believe that the twins were born prematurely.  Maybe not months prematurely, but a few weeks before they were supposed to be born.  The choking and distress caused Padmé’s body to shut down, but instinct forced her body to bear the children.  Once that act was complete, Padmé had enough consciousness to tell Obi-Wan the names of her children (canon dictates she did not know she was bearing twins.  Slightly unbelievable, I know) and to let him know that there was still some good in Anakin.

And then she did not want to face the world where she had born children to a monster.  Despite that she knew in her heart that he still had good in him, she also knew she was not the one who would bring it forth.  So instead, she succumbed to letting go of her life to let someone else fight that battle.

It’s still hard for me to accept, especially as a mother, but when I think through it very hard, a part of me gets it.  Just a small part, but I’m slightly more sympathetic.

 

Does anyone else have alternative theories on why Padmé gave up?

Fan Art Friday! Best Friends Clash

I had so much fun doing this picture.  I didn’t do my normal, random let-the-book-fall-open-where-it-will-and-pick-a-piece but instead I found this while working on last month’s Leia portrait and fell in love because there are lightsabers!  We all know how much I love lightsabers (so much that I think that could have been another reason I didn’t like Rogue One as much as the Saga movies).

I also figured out the best lighting for taking these photos is at 6am.

I also figured out the best lighting for taking these photos is at 6am.

Originally, I didn’t look at the lightsabers too closely so I was going to do green (my favorite color lightsaber) and red.  But when I actually began to work on it, I realized that they were two distinct character lightsabers: Obi-Wan and Anakin.

Well, there was no question to what I would do after that.  When I did not realize whose lightsabers these were, I was going to make the mandala/background very industrial with greys and blacks.  But no way – I had to make this Mustafar themed!

I believe that’s why I had so much fun: it’s rare in these pictures that I have been able to use a lot of orange, reds, and yellows.  Because of that, I didn’t let myself go choose anything but shades in that range.  I used as many different fiery hues as possible and they ranged from brown-red to golden yellow.

I kept the end half-circles on the mandala for my industrial look and I’m happy with that choice.

I have to say – this picture was up there for me in my favorites because 1) lightsabers, and 2) all the colors I got to use that I don’t normally pick.

Don’t forget to check out Mei-Mei’s interpretation of this picture!