Tag Archives: Star Wars

Film Review- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Warning: Spoilers

I’ve hesitated in talking about ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’ve been a bit withdrawn from the geeky world of the internet of late. I talked about this in my essay ‘My Many Selves as a Geeky Fan’. I’ve been talking about the MCU since January, but because I’m a bit ‘meh’ about Marvel at the minute it hasn’t been as badly affected because of who I have become as a fan in recent months.

Star Wars, however has been, because I am a massive fan, and withdrawing quite a bit from social media pushed ‘Rogue One’ off my radar in-between seeing it at the cinema and waiting for the DVD release. I had originally delayed my review of the film, for the same reason I did The Force Awakens last year; I didn’t want to spoil it for anyone. I’ve come to terms with this personal change in my approach to being a fan, but there was another reason for the delay.

I had a rather strange reaction to Rogue One that I didn’t think would make it difficult to talk about. In truth it should make it easier, but I wasn’t sure how to approach this admission. Let’s just go with head on, shall we?

Rogue One is my favourite Star Wars film.

I’m not going to duck for cover. At first, I was feeling a bit ashamed that the amazing seven episodes of the Star Wars saga so far have been upstaged by a one-off anthology film, whose intent was to tell a story where we already knew the ending in order to make Disney a bit of money. I can remember thinking that when it was announced the film was about stealing the plans for the original Death Star. It was a money making venture; like Titanic, we knew the ship would sink and we knew they would get the plans.

Except it is bloody brilliant. I mean it is a film that cannot work without the existence of the rest of the Star Wars franchise; it wouldn’t make any sense what so ever. I never thought it was a story that needed to be told.

Until I saw it that is, and in truth of all the Star Wars stories (by which I mean the films) that have been told, it is the most important. It is the one that anyone can relate to and for the most shocking reason of all (at least for me to internally process); it is the story most grounded in reality.

I am a fantasy writer and I write about magic. It is one of my favourite fantasy themes, and one of the reasons I love Star Wars so much is because The Force, which is essentially magic, is found within a science fiction setting. Yes, The Force still exists in Rogue One, and having faith in it is certainly one of the most important and prominent themes in the film, but that is all it really is; it is faith in its existence. Proof of it is only seen in the film twice, and never in relation to the main characters. Like Darth Vader, The Force only makes a cameo appearance.

Everything that happens in the main plot can in theory be explained by human ability. And what they are doing is using that ability to fight an oppressive empire bend on destroying freedom in the galaxy. There are so many examples in history of humans having done this for real, which are still inspiring us. Rogue One is a fictional version of fights real humans have made. It is a story of characters sacrificing themselves for the greater good. For hope.

It is the characters that make it the best film. Don’t get me wrong, the Star Wars Universe has many great characters. Very few of them have left me feeling that perhaps the writers and creators could have done a better job. My review of Force Awakens is really just a long talk about how great the new characters are, and when I talked about The Phantom Menace, I even defended Jar Jar Binks.

Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, Chirrut Imwe, Baze Malbus, Bodhi Rook and K-2SO are just in a different league. They are some of the most conflicted and complex characters that have ever been created in the Star Wars films. They aren’t black or white; good or evil. They are grey, they have made questionable choices and they are fighting to make those choices mean something when threatened by defeat and destruction.

From the moment I first saw Cassian shoot his informant in the back in order to spare him from falling into the hands of the Empire I fell in love with the film. Strange moment I know, but it is the first indication the film isn’t just going to be a simple fight of good versus evil.

This isn’t just the story where we know the ending and know they succeeded. This is the story where all of their complexities, their choices, and their faith in the universe is laid out and bared to the audience. It is the story of how they did it, why they did it and what price they paid in order to do it.

It is a human story, grounded in the reality of what it is to be a human facing a seemingly unstoppable oppressive force. It isn’t about the Jedi versus the Sith; it is about everyone else who lives in that universe.

It is about a father sacrificing his life and risking everything to seek revenge for the destruction of his family.

It is about the daughter coming to terms with that and all the pain she has suffered in her life. Facing it again is one of the best character developments I’ve seen, because being brave about what’s going on inside rather than outside is something that needs to be seen more often.

It is about a rebel spy, a man with ethics, giving his life to fight for his beliefs, a fight that costs him the chance to live his life in line with his ethics. A man who carries his prison within wherever he goes.

It is about a pilot, who seeks to redeem himself after being a clog in the oppressive machine.

It is about a blind man maintaining his faith in the Force, despite his life being destroyed and having been every reason to think it has abandoned him.

It is about an enraged warrior, who finds faith again, after the world broke it, when his friend dies and faith is the only way he can find him again.

It is about a reprogrammed droid facing the reality that he has to overpower other droids and even kill living people (seriously with K-2SO the fact Asimov’s Laws of Robotics don’t apply is what makes him intriguing), while he also tells the truth. The sarcasm he does it with is a happy bi-product.

And they all die.

This film is about hope, and for the audience the hope isn’t that they will succeed, but who will survive the attempt. That is one of the most heart-wrenching truths; heroes don’t always survive. They don’t get to see their success; in fact they only have faith in their success. They don’t have proof in it.

Faith in hope carries on right to the last moment; faith in the fight even when Darth Vader brings the one of the few moments of ‘magic’ into the film in that corridor scene, where again everyone dies, and not even everyone who wasn’t trapped behind the door gets onto the escaping ship alive. They all had every reason to think it wasn’t worth it, but they fought on even when they knew it was hopeless for them as individuals. The greater good was what made it worthwhile for them.

No wonder this is my favourite Star Wars film.

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Essay: My Many Selves as a Geeky Fan

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I’ve been thinking a great deal in recent months about what it means to be a fan; bear with me, I think a lot, I write it all down, and I’m not averse to an unhappy ending. This essay is the story of who I have been all my life; I am a geek. I’m not just a geek, but that aspect of who I am has evolved over the years and is a large part of my life.

For the first time ever though I’ve evolved because of other fans and I’ve been hurt by that change. For you to understand my heartbreak you need to know the context that came before.

The Early Years

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I can remember being an obsessive person from a very young age. As a geek, it started with the Ewok cartoons, before I even knew about the Star Wars films. I was also into ‘Back to the Future’, something I have since identified as being one of my first real obsessions a one, unlike the Ewok cartoons, I am still captivated by.

I’ve always been relatively secure in my interests; if I had periods of trying to conform to ‘normal’ because of peer pressure then they were short lived. I know they did happen, and generally speaking they stopped because I was bored.

I was the kid that got called a geek, a nerd and a swot. When I was younger that hurt. Then, when I was about twelve and I turned around to someone shouting it at me with a simple reply; ‘And?”. They were confused; ‘So what if I’m a swot?”. It didn’t stop them from shouting it at me for a while, until they realised it didn’t bother me. They started shouting other things instead, but that’s different. I was sure of myself and my interests, and it stopped hurting.

This was before the internet and social media were all the rage; I spent my teen years having hushed conversations with friends about whether Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or Voyager was the best Star Trek Series (for which the answer is Deep Space Nine), or whether the Klingons, The Dominion or the Borg were the best villains (despite previous answer, The Borg, hands down). That was about as much interaction as I had with other people about geeky things; I talked with like-minded folks, who also had things like ‘swot’ shouted at them down the corridors.

And I never considered myself lonely; I had friends for other reasons. Being a geeky fan was an entirely different part of my life. It had more to do with my parents than with my peers.

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The first time I saw the Star Wars films was when they re-released the films in the cinema in 1997, branded as the Special Editions of the Original Trilogy. Like the generation when Star Wars was first released, I got to see it for the very first time in the cinema.

My parents introduced me to Star Trek. I can even remember being excited about the last few series of Deep Space Nine and Voyager broadcasting for the first time. It’s the same with Stargate SG-1, which I think we watched because of me and my love for the fact they combined science fiction with Ancient Egyptian mythology.

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And then there is J.R.R. Tolkien. I was never taken with ‘The Hobbit’, which I read as a child, so Tolkien was a bit of a mystery to me overall. All I knew was that ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was one of the few books my dad would read again and again. I can remember seeing the trailer for The Fellowship of the Ring, and being intrigued by the fact my dad was excited by it. And then I saw the film for the first time. Wham! In the space of 178 minutes, I became a fully-fledged fantasy fan as well as a sci-fi geek.

It was my first evolution; it changed everything. I still didn’t like ‘The Hobbit’, but I devoured ‘The Lord of the Rings’, its appendices, and swiftly moved onto ‘The Silmarillion’ and ‘The Unfinished Tales’. It made me take interest in Harry Potter. I discovered Trudi Canavan. The Chronicles of Narnia, which I had already loved as a kid, became even more important. As a writer now I write about magic, and it is all because of Tolkien and Peter Jackson.

It was also the beginning of my passion for special features; how it was made, how they did it, how the actors felt being part of the production. I read the movie guides and re-read the books again and again. It wasn’t just with ‘The Lord of the Rings’ I did this. It spread to other passions. I practically memorised the Star Trek Encyclopaedia by Michael and Denise Okuda as well.

Being a geek was something I did with trusted friends, my parents and in the privacy of my room where I could devour my interest, safe in the knowledge that no-one could stop me from enjoying myself. I didn’t know what it meant to be an introvert at the time, but knowing that now, explains a great deal about why I was a private geek. This continued on for many years.

Discovering Fan Fiction

Up until I was about sixteen the internet had nothing to do with my life as a geek. The geekiest thing I did on the computer was read the Encarta Encyclopaedia. Despite the internet becoming more popular, it was something the cool kids did.

Given they called me names in person and my books didn’t, I didn’t really gravitate towards using emails, MSN messenger or MySpace, because books were better. The first email I sent was when I started university in September 2006. I didn’t join Facebook until 2007 because my boyfriend (now my husband) persuaded me, and also set me up a personal email account at the same time.

Before then I hadn’t shown much interest; I can even remember the first time I accessed a website. It was at school, and one of the German teachers looked at me as if I was completely thick when she told us we needed to access a website and I said didn’t know how; conversation went like this.

“Miss it doesn’t seem to be working.”

“Type in the correct web address.”

“Yeah Miss, I’ve done that, but it isn’t coming up.” So I closed it down and started it up again because she thought it must have been the connection. She watched me type in the address again. I waited. “See Miss it isn’t working.” Then the look came.

“You need to press enter,” she said in an incredibly condescending tone.

“Oh, I didn’t know that,” I said. I pressed enter; it worked.

“How did you not know that?”

“Never used the internet before Miss,” I answered. The look again; I got it from quite a few classmates as well.

Admittedly, I must have been about fifteen, this was 2003 and the internet wasn’t exactly in the flush of youth anymore. I think using the internet was expected to be a basic skill. Needless to say I try and watch my tone when people admit they can’t do basic things; if you’ve never been shown then, HOW are you supposed to know?

And now I had been shown, I still wasn’t interested.

It’s rather miraculous really that I ever discovered online Fan Fiction. I’m not even entirely sure why I found it. I think it was because I’d been writing Harry Potter fan fiction (from the Marauder Era, but my protagonist was a character I created, and J.K. Rowling’s characters were just there for me to practice with). When I discovered other people did this too, it never occurred to me to join them and publish my writing online.

I was taught that sharing online was a dangerous thing to do because there were nasty people on the internet. There still is and I’m still careful, and I think the re-definition of ‘troll’ is one of the best examples of how language can be re-purposed.

It was also because I had no desire to share my stories online. If I was going to be a writer, then I wanted my work to be in a book and printed on actual paper with ink. I still want that now. I dread to think what people would have thought of my writing, because reading it back it is terrible. But it was practice. I did however have a very short phase of reading other people’s fan fiction with great interest, but I was only ever interested in Harry Potter. I knew Lord of the Rings stuff existed, but I had no interest in it.

It was I guess my first introduction to what we now call shipping. As a fan of the Harry Potter books I always thought Harry and Hermione would end up together. I still think that, but I’ve always been of the opinion that J.K. Rowling as the writer had the right to do what she wanted with her story, and I accepted that. In Fan Fiction though I was drawn to Hermione and Severus Snape ending up together.

It is weird thinking about it now, but all I can assume attracted me to it was the fact that I related a great deal to Hermione as a teenager, in the same way I did to Matilda when I was even younger. They were both girls that loved books and were rather clever, and they were accepted as such; I say the shouting of ‘swot’ down the corridor stopped hurting. It would however have been nicer to not have to hear it at all.

And Snape was for me the perfect complex character. I didn’t quite know what he was really thinking or who he was really working for; he was a mystery and I loved him as an anti-hero. At this point Alan Rickman had also been cast, and I have a soft spot for him, because I loved him as the Sheriff of Nottingham.

I cried, several times, when I learnt he had died; I do that very rarely for celebrities, Natasha Richardson having been the previous instance. All I can assume is that I liked the combination of Hermione and Snape, because as a hormonal teen, it was a weird way of having a crush on an actor.  This phase lasted probably about three weeks as a deep obsession, before I got bored and it petered away, and I went back to how I had been before; private.

There is however a reason why I have mentioned it; it was my first foray into the idea that people explore stories outside of canon. I’ll come back to that.

The University Years

I consider being a student at University as my formative years. Because in university, I met more geeks, and being into geeky stuff at university isn’t uncool. I didn’t have to talk in a hushed voice about my opinions. People in university are a lot more grown up than school kids.

I also theorise that alcohol, partying, and the freedom to do whatever you wanted outside of parental constraints but within the law, changed most people that thought being a geek was a bad thing by teaching them a lesson. The lesson being that people are allowed to be whoever they want to be. All the geeks, nerds and swots actually had a head-start on the cool kids with that freedom, because we had been free being ourselves for a lot longer.

I went out in Newcastle on my first night as a student; I was out until 3am with a girl I didn’t know but who I had to now share a bathroom with. I was also utterly naïve to partying, and I hated every minute of it. I stayed sober, and somehow managed to get myself to my 9am introductory lecture in the morning. I was bleary eyed, but I paid attention enough to discover I could be a student representative, and thus started my interest in politics, but that’s another story.

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That night, rather than go out again I stayed in reading a new book I’d treated myself to with my student loan ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger. It is the only time I have read the book, because the context I read it in is too important for me to consider going back to it just yet (this is how I still feel ten years later). I lost myself in its pages, rather than go out to ‘have fun’ just because I could. I already knew who I was as a person, and it was the sort of person who curls up with a good book rather than light up the ‘Toon’.

I did meet people at university though, including the man that is now my husband. I did it my way though, via social interaction that didn’t involve being hungover the next day. I was bruised, but that happens in Karate. I made friends on my history course, and through my hobby, and discovered commons interests with them. With my partner, we shared our interests by binge watching box sets, and talking about geeky stuff we loved as we got to know each other.

I was no longer a private geek; I had my partner and I had friends at university that were a lot more open to accepting me as being a geek. I was also becoming a great deal more certain about the fact that I want to be a writer. This lead me to the internet.

Social Media

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I have this blog, and it is the foundation stone for my platform as a writer. It links to Facebook and to Twitter. It linked to Google+ and being a good little social networker, I set myself up on Pinterest and Tumblr too; I was connected.

Google+ was the first to fall away due to it being mysterious. Pinterest never really worked for me and my blog. Tumblr just became somewhere else where I copied my WordPress posts to without much readership. It is only really on Facebook and Twitter that I’ve maintained my author platform.

Pinterest and Tumblr though become something else to me; they became the places I went to follow my geeky interests. I find crossovers amusing; there are some really great examples of fan art out there, and while I don’t participate myself I have been stunned by the creativity and dedication some people put into their passion.

I evolved again; I was no longer a private geek, I was a social media geek. I laughed alongside everyone else at the joke about the ‘basic’ girl being a bit frightened by fandoms.

I began to identify as being part of fandoms. I connected with other like-minded people. It became something that I would share with my partner; I’d even share content on Facebook with my non-geek friends as a demonstration of who I am as a person. I would laugh at, like, re-blog, pin, and tweet about things geeky that I loved. While my platform was still there for writing, it also became the online extension of the geeky part of my personality.

I was no longer a private geek, and when on this very blog I started to write reviews, I deliberately developed sections dedicated to certain fandoms. I doubt that I am alone in having done this, and I would very much correlate this rise in geeks creating content for the internet with the rise in franchises. Because why not? Fan content is free marketing. Why create something new, when what you can do instead is simply add to an existing franchise with a fandom that will go on to passionately share their fan-art and memes. Many will even go on to write fan-fiction.

This is who I became. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t admired everything that I’ve seen over the years with wide-eyed naivety. There are things that don’t amuse me, there are fandoms that I’m not a part of, and I don’t always agree with everything shared on the internet.

I am also just not that into shipping; the foray into Harry Potter fan fiction was brief. I also very briefly developed in interest in Reylo because of one sketch by a fan. I read one fan fiction dedicated to Kylux. Then people started shipping Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver, and alarm bells went off in my head. I stopped paying attention to shipping and went back a step to crossovers, memes and great art work.

To be honest, I ashamed that I didn’t see what happened next coming from a mile off.

‘The Final Problem’

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Needless to say I no longer laugh at the joke about the ‘basic’ girl being a bit frightened by fandoms. Whether she was ever real or not, the joke was real and that girl saw something I didn’t. She saw the obsession of some fans and was frightened by how intensely protective they are their interest.

I’m not frightened; I am really disappointed.

As you can see from my essay, I have evolved as a fan over the years. I was the little girl pouring over books, and watching the television with my parents. I dipped my toe here or there into the internet, before becoming a confident half of a partnership not scared to be geeky together. And then I became the social media geek.

Over the years, what I have liked has changed. I mentioned ‘Matilda’ before; I was a massive Roald Dahl fan. That faded for years until I recently read ‘Love from Boy’.

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I am still a massive fan of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘The Silmarillion’, and I also like ‘The Hobbit’ films, despite the fact I dislike the book.

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I have had a love/hate relationship with the MCU for years; I hate Tony Stark, but ‘The Winter Soldier’ made me fall into love with the rest of the MCU. Now though I’m a bit ‘meh’ about it because I’ve got bored.

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I’ve also figured out why I’ve struggled to connect to Doctor Who in recent years because of the cancellation of Doctor Who Confidential which satisfied my love of knowing how it was made.

And there are many more; I am a Browncoat; I find joy in Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus books. There are standalone books like ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ that have wormed their way into my heart. I’ve never blogged about Harry Potter, but Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them re-sparked inspiration for my own writing.

I blog reviews and I talk about my passions a lot. However, except from having the odd discussion on WordPress with other bloggers, all of which have been pleasant even if we haven’t always agreed, I was only ever really an observer of internet fandoms.

I’m really struggling to be that anymore. Every time I go on Tumblr now I leave it feeling low. I’ve pretty much stopped because instead of cheering me up and being a place of refuge it has become a place where I only find hatred. If it was not for the fact I go on Tumblr to also read about Feminism, LBGTQIA and INTJ, I might have already followed through with my deleting my account entirely.  I’ve retreated on Pinterest; I haven’t deleted my ‘Geek!’ board but it is now a private place just for me and my husband.

I want to be a private geek again; someone who talks with like-minded people in person. The appeal of being part of a fandom died a sudden death and it utterly broke my heart. There have been actual tears because I loved going on the internet and seeing that I was not alone as a geek. I even tweeted this not long ago before I’d come to fully realise and process all of my recent feelings.

 

Like I said I wasn’t lonely as a geeky child, but there were fewer of us. Before the internet I hadn’t really been able to discover the true richness of being able to share your passions with other people. I was able to become that person over time and through the development of technology that put other people in the palm of my hand wherever I was, provided I had enough battery and a decent 4G signal. Pulling back from what I had become hurts.

It hurts all the more, because it isn’t what I love that’s changed and changed me like it had been before. Other fans crossing the line has forced this transformation.

I have been disappointed over the years by things I love. I don’t like ‘The Half-Blood Prince’ all that much, either the book or the film. I don’t hate J.K. Rowling because of it though. I was deeply disappointed by ‘Civil War’; I don’t hate the creators of the MCU though. I don’t dislike Tolkien just because I’ve never liked ‘The Hobbit’. I might never forgive the BBC for cancelling Doctor Who Confidential, or Fox for cancelling Firefly; I don’t hate the people who made that decision though.

And I might not have been thrilled with ‘The Final Problem’ the last episode in the fourth series of Sherlock, but I mostly certainly don’t hate Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss because of it. I certainly don’t send threating tweets or blog on Tumblr about how the creators are now not allowed to identify themselves as being who they are because people disliked what they didn’t do in Sherlock. I don’t lash out angrily at other fans because they are fans of Sherlock in a different way, and didn’t have the same hate-fuelled reaction to the episode. I don’t believe my opinion is the only one that matters and anyone else is wrong, which therefore justifies bullying.

I have never hated a writer because they did something I disliked. I’ve been disappointed, and fine yes the first time I watched ‘The Final Problem’ I was a bit bored. I wasn’t the second time though and while it will never be one of my favourite episodes it is still better than most television I’ve ever watched. In fact I would credit Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss with sparking off a bit of a television revolution. I doubt clever shows that don’t dumb it down for their audience such as ‘The Man in the High Castle’ or ‘Westworld’ would exist if the foundation of modern clever television that started with Sherlock hadn’t been laid.

I will never agree with the reasons people are justifying those actions ; the creators are human beings and that in itself is enough for me to be respectful. I reserve hatred for rare examples of human beings who are actively making the very real lives of human beings miserable. I’d never hate someone because of something fictional.

The fact people are acting like this has actually made me ashamed of being a geek, something I have never felt in my life.

I shed tears when I first saw Gandalf fall in Moria; I still cry when Dumbledore dies; I struggle to watch John Watson talking to Sherlock’s grave; and the ending to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress chokes me up just thinking about it. I’ve been moved to tears many times over the years because of the books, films and televisions shows that I have let into my heart.

I never thought I’d ever cry because another fan had hurt me, but I have, and those tears have been the most painful, because they came from the very last sort of people I ever thought; the sort of people who like me probably got called a ‘swot’ or a ‘geek’ or a ‘nerd’ when it was meant as an insult rather than as a way of identifying ourselves.

Moving forward…

I detest the word fandom now; I’m seriously contemplating editing my entire blog to remove the word. If it does disappear then you know I did.

I’m in two minds about keeping my Tumblr account, and I doubt my ‘Geek!’ board will ever re-emerge as a public board on Pinterest. I’ve stopped reading the comment threads on twitter, especially on anything Mark Gatiss tweets. I’ve followed him for years, for various reasons and loved reading the commentary because many of his fans are witty and respectful. Now, I always find one that isn’t.

I don’t want to be associated with that backlash. I don’t want to be thought of as a member of any fandom, because for me the word has come to be associated with being part of the ownership of what has been created. Rather than the writer being the owner, the audience is instead, which is a very postmodernism viewpoint and I dislike postmodernism for many reasons.

Fan Fiction in the days when I developed an interest in Snape/Hermione was a bit of fun. I should have known when people started shipping Daisy and Adam, rather than Rey and Kylo that the lines between reality and fiction, canon and fan fiction have become blurred. For some people I don’t even think they exist at all.

And I think it is going to take me a long time to come to terms with the disappointment I felt when fans of Sherlock lashed out in hatred.

For now I’m just pottering along; I’m still going to blog, because I’m not going to silence my voice because I’ve been disappointed by what others have said with theirs. I’m using twitter to tweet some geeky stuff, because I’m not going to deny part of myself because other fans have made me feel ashamed.

But the most recent evolution of myself as a geek has shaken me to the very core and I’m not going to get over that easily. I also don’t see this evolution of myself as a geek being able to move forward with the sort of positive progress I have made over the years; I can’t ever go backwards, but I don’t see forwards as being an option either.

I’m stuck as a geek who can no longer entirely trust other geeks to have my back even if we have a different opinion. We didn’t all hush our voices because we were ashamed of being who we are, some of us just weren’t as confident about being a geek as others. We whispered to save those that were a bit embarrassed from being overheard by our bullies.

I never thought the geeks would become like the bullies. Maybe I am just a bit more wide-eyed and naïve than I had thought.

Book Review: The Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover

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I really love the Revenge of the Sith film, with the exception that I don’t think Padme’s character was particularly well utilised. I didn’t think that the novelisation of the film could be better than the film. I was so wrong.

Stover gets into the heads of the characters at key moments in the plot to explain their thought processes and their actions. It interrupts the plot a little bit, but it brings a depth to Star Wars characters that I’ve never come across before. It isn’t just the plot being played out, it is a character profile that explains why things happen and why characters end up taking the actions that they do.

Also the frustrations that Anakin feels in this story are a lot more prominent. It just doesn’t come across on the screen the feelings of betrayal, confusion and panic he feels. His fall into the Dark Side in the book is played out better than in the film, and it makes a lot more sense.

The other thing I really love as well, is the explanation found in the novelisation as to why the Jedi were so easily defeated, because unlike the Sith they didn’t evolve. This revelation comes from Yodi, who feels regret for keeping the Jedi static and leaving them unprepared for the Sith who have changed over the centuries into something different.

I highly recommend this book; it wraps up the prequel trilogy of novelisations brilliantly. The style of the writing could irritate some people, but this one shows how someone can fall into the Dark Side so easily and why the Jedi lost.

The trilogy of novelisations are so much better than the films; they convey the story that got lost in the green screen better than the films.

 

Book Review: Attack of the Clones by R.A. Salvatore

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Sometimes I have a debate about whether I prefer the Star Wars films or the books. However, when it comes to The Attack of the Clones, the novelisation wins hands down. Salvatore manged to do in the book what they completely failed to do in the film: he managed to make Padme into more than just a love interest there to fulfil the requirements of the prequels.

The book begins about four or so chapters before the film does, and the majority of that extra story is Padme’s. She is a busy professional woman, who sees her family when she can, and is being pressured by her family to consider herself and her needs. Admittedly, I’m not keen on that pressure stating that the only way she could possibly be fulfilled in life is to have a family, rather than perhaps a less demanding but equally fulfilling professional career, but that is beside the point.

By the time Padme see Anakin again, she is already thinking that she needs to think about herself and her life beyond her job. Many of my problems with the film, which I go into detail about in my review, stems from a strong female character having to be compromised in order to fulfil a key plot point. Padme seemingly falls in love with Anakin purely because she had to for the plot (or to avoid a much darker plot having to be shown if she didn’t love him and then have children with him anyway.)

The novelisation brings depth to a brilliant character in the way the film failed to do on so many levels. It also makes the plots of Darth Sidious and Count Dooku even better than in the film; there is a lot more mystery behind the revelations that Obi-Wan reveals, and the suspense will keep you turning the page.

This novelisation is highly recommended as it is so much better than the film, purely because it has a great deal more respect for all the characters.

 

Book Review – The Phantom Menace by Terry Brooks

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phatom meancae book cover

I am a massive Star Wars fan, and in many cases it is often difficult for me to decide whether I enjoy the films or books more. Admittedly most of my love for the books comes from the Jude Watson’s middle grade books set before the events of the Phantom Menace, The Jedi Apprentice series, but when it comes to the novelisation of the films I am completely hooked.

I first read the Terry Brooks novelisation after I had read Brooks’ autobiography, and after the chaos he went through writing the novelisation for Hook, I am so grateful that he took the risk of writing The Phantom Menace, because the book is honestly brilliant. I know a lot of people don’t like the film, but as I state in my own review of the film, I do like the film, Jar Jar Binks doesn’t annoy me and Anakin’s character as a precocious child does make sense to me.

I’m quite willing to be alone in my opinions on the film, but I will say to detractors ‘have you read the novelisation?’. The reason I ask is because Terry Brooks did an absolutely fantastic job. You understand all of the characters better, there are scenes included that aren’t in the films and the tone of the book overall is a more serious ‘Star Wars’ story.

There are lots of people who hate watching films being adapted into films because you have to miss so much out, well let me tell you this, reading the novelisation of a film has the opposite effect, because the author has the free reign to add more in, to go deeper into the psyche of the characters than a screen can show you and there can be clearer explanation of plot points.

If you are a detractor of the film then I highly recommend the book by Terry Brooks, because you might be pleasantly surprised by how good a story the Phantom Menace is, and how great a starting point it is for Anakin’s story. If you’re like me and you don’t mind the film, then the novelisation with give you even more depth to explore.

Film Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Warning: Spoilers

I wanted to wait over a month before I posted about the new Star Wars film for two reasons: I didn’t want to spoil it for anyone, and I wanted to have seen it a few times myself so I could reflect on it as much as possible before I voice my opinion. Apart from waiting so as to not spoil it for anyone, I could have posted long ago about it because my opinion hasn’t changed from my initial reaction: the film is awesome!

I think my reaction hasn’t changed because of one thing, and it is isn’t in the film but it is a reaction I heard from a little girl who had been in the cinema with me when I went to see it the first time: “You never see girls with lightsabers, that’s so cool!”. It is very much the character of Rey that makes the film for me. She is a strong female lead, to complement the history of strong female leads like Leia and Padme (from episode 1 and 2), but she is also more than either of them ever were. She isn’t someone’s future wife, is isn’t someone’s potential other half, she isn’t there to be a mother of characters we know will exist in the future. Rey is just someone!

I know that there has been a lot of speculation by fans on the internet wondering whose daughter she is, but can I point out that it is fan speculation only that is trying to make this female character belong to someone. At no point in the film is she seen as anyone but her own person. She saves BB-8; she defends herself when BB-8 is being taken from her; she is a pilot and a mechanic; she holds her own against Kylo Ren when he’s interrogating her; she escapes from the prison cell on her own; and while Kylo Ren must have been seriously injured during the lightsaber fight (after Chewbacca shot him with his crossbow that sent everyone else hit with it flying ten foot back and likely as not they were dead before they hit the ground) she managed to hold him back long enough and dig deep enough to even get a few swipes at him.

There has also been a lot of talk on the web that none of the characters are particularly deep and are a bit two dimensional, to which I would like to ask, have you watched the film, and by watched I mean not just the special effects and the super cool sequence where the Millennium Falcon flies again and through a crashed Star Destroyer no less?

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Rey has been accused by some of being a bit of a ‘Mary-Sue’, a character that is too good at everything too quickly. Well watching the film what she is good at is defending herself – judging on what we see of Jakku it isn’t the nicest place in the galaxy and a young woman would either have to learn to defend herself or risk goodness knows what happening to her. She repeatedly tells Finn to not touch her. Its only when Chewbacca tells her that the rescue plan was Finn’s idea that she willingly hugs him because she has learnt that she can trust him and that he has her back.

The other time is Leia, a woman she doesn’t know, but a ‘woman’; generally women trust other women instinctively, and Rey would be able to feel Leia’s connection to the force. But she doesn’t know Leia like she did Finn, and the fact she was willing to hug a perfect stranger (a woman) screams a hell of a lot about why she is more than capable of fighting, because she has been fighting to protect herself ever since she was left on Jakku.

Rey being left on Jakku is mysterious, and it obviously has something to do with her being force sensitive and the massacre of Luke’s students. Whether she was a student or not, or what her past was doesn’t really matter at the moment (well it does because I’m intensely curious but rather than speculate I’d just rather be surprised), what is interesting about her ability to use the force is Kylo Ren’s reaction to her.

He, the only trained user of the force that you see in the entire film until the end, is wary of her developing her skills too quickly without his guidance. What it implies is something the audience can’t feel but that Kylo as a character can; just how powerful she is capable of being as a Jedi. He wants to be her teacher and guide her so that she doesn’t end up as his enemy, which she proves moments later when she leaves him sprawled on the ground after having properly focused. And anyone who can use a Jedi mind trick on James Bond is definitely not to be messed with.

And then there is her skills with machinery as well. I’ve seen a lot of rubbish on the internet questioning how this girl can be so good at mechanics and figure out how to fix things so quickly, which is where a lot of the ‘Mary-Sue’ accusations really come from. And this is properly why I’ve ended up writing several paragraphs deconstructing just how brilliant Rey is as a character because sexism about a female character being unbelievably good with mechanics has annoyed me.

The reason she is good with mechanics is because if she hadn’t of been, she would have starved to death long before BB-8 rolled into her life. She would have grown up learning about various different components and what they did, and which were the most valuable to exchange for FOOD! You know that thing we all need; Jedi’s are not an exception to this rule. Yoda might not have been a great cook in Luke’s opinion, but he ate. Rey spent years climbing around the inside of crashed Star Destroyers scavenging for parts, and learning everything that she needed to know to fix machines. DUH!

Also, combined with the fact she can use the force, while the majority of the film echoes back to the original trilogy, her skills with machines reflect Anakin’s skills with fixing machinery. A lot of his skill comes from growing up and working in a junkyard (Han describes Jakku as a junkyard as well and I doubt it’s a coincidence) and I suspect a lot of his skill came from his intuition and skill with the force.

Rey had this upbringing as well, and it’s not clear in the film what her relationship is with Unkar Plutt, but he doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as nice to her as Watto was to Anakin which is why she is so self-sufficient; she had to prove herself to survive. Also, what else annoys me is that I don’t really remember anyone questioning Anakin’s ability with mechanics, I assume because he’s a boy and people think girls should only play with dolls. Judging on the brief glimpse of a rebel pilot fighter doll you see in Rey’s AT-AT, she did both, but she played with what would be traditionally seen as a boy’s doll (oh sorry action figure).

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I love Finn’s character, because while his intention with helping Poe escape is to do with his own desire to escape and he needs a pilot, this very selfish action is actually incredibly human. He is desperate to run away from the First Order, which considering he was raised and brain-washed by them shows a very strong minded character. He broke free from the First Order and is desperate to escape them. As Maz Kanata says as she looks into his eyes, he is a man who wants to run. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, because as Finn says she doesn’t know a thing about him and what he has seen. The same can be said about the audience as well, but the horror in his face as he defends himself says it all; he has seen the First Order do many terrible things and quite naturally he wants nothing to do with them.

He’s also ashamed that he was ever part of that, even though it wasn’t by choice, to the point that he latches onto the lie that he’s a member of the Resistance when he’s not. He’s willing to lie to Rey, and Han (who admittedly doesn’t believe him) just because he doesn’t want to be judged for having once been a Stormtrooper. He doesn’t have enough confidence in other people being good hearted to believe that they would still want to be associated with him. He feels he is tarnished by the reputation of the First Order and isn’t a person they would judge in his own right. This shows the complexity of his character, because that’s exactly what the First Order would have raised him to be; a faceless Stormtrooper, a cog in the great machinery of the Order.

He wasn’t raised to be an individual, and his character arc in the film is him learning to be one. At first he is running with his own instincts to run as far away as possible, because his own intuition is all he’s attuned to at the moment. As he develops friendships with people, in particular Rey, Finn begins to learn that helping others can be a part of his life as well. His moment is when he sees that the First Order has used Starkiller Base to destroy the senate of the new Republic. It’s the kick that he needs to stop running. I think a lot of that motivation comes from him wanting to protect his friend Rey, not because I think he’s in love with her, but because he’s still insecure and wants to protect the one person he knows who looks at him as if he is a person, and not just another Stormtrooper.

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I have less to say about Poe than I do about Rey and Finn, but that is mostly because he gets less screen time. The time you get with him though shows that he is charismatic, tough, a very talented pilot and dedicated not just to his friends but also to the resistance. Poe is a combination of the three of the original characters, Luke, Han and Leia. He has Han’s charm, Luke’s protective qualities (which extends to BB-8, like Luke does with C3PO and R2-D2) and Leia’s grit and determination to win against an opposing force.

I really like his character, and I can’t wait to see more of him in the upcoming films, and the reason I like him is because even in the short time you see him, he has a great rapport with Finn and he’s great fun to watch in action. There is a less serious side to him but when it truly matters he’s there for Finn, who he barely knows, in helping to convince Leia to let them go and rescue Rey.

Speaking of Rey, they are never introduced and only share the screen for a brief moment as Chewbacca carries an injured Finn from the Millennium Falcon. I didn’t actually realise this until I sat and thought about how his character and hers got on with each other. The only link between them is Finn, their skills as pilots and the fact Kylo Ren interrogates them both. They have similar plots, but the only thing they have in common is that they hug Finn on seeing him again.

I can’t wait to see how Poe and Rey work together; I suspect her seriousness and his charisma would clash in the same way Han and Leia clash, but again I can’t see Rey ending up as anything other than a friend with Poe, like with Finn. In fact I’d be disappointed if she does.

Hux

Hands down to Dominic Gleeson, because his performance as General Hux, is absolutely flawless. From the moment you see him on the screen you know he is a strong and imposing leader. When he is rallying the troops just before they use the weapon, you can just tell that he is someone who strikes fear into the hearts of his troops. He’s even willing to confront Kylo Ren, which I think is brave considering he’s got a tendency to get angry and hit things with his lightsaber.

However, when you’ve watched the film a few times, you realise that Hux is a puppet. His speech is classic rhetoric, and he does nothing of any significance without consulting Commander Snoke first. His is conditioned to be the general, but kept on a tight lease by Snoke to the point that he doesn’t leave Starkiller Base as it is breaking apart without consulting Snoke first and getting permission to save himself (as long as he takes Kylo Ren with him though).

Commander Snoke is  the true villain of the trilogy, and he has trained his puppets well to do only what he tells them. It’s a stark contrast to General Tarkin in A New Hope, who makes the decision to destroy Alderaan without seemingly consulting the Emperor first and it would be interesting to see just how far Snoke can push Hux in the future films. After all Finn broke his conditioning, which seems to be a massive concern for Hux; what if others including himself can as well?

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After Rey, Kylo Ren is easily my favourite character, purely because he’s conflicted and I have a soft spot for conflicted characters. What I really love about him is that he is a very odd combination of someone falling into the Dark Side and someone falling into the Light Side. The effects on him are clear. He is moody when he doesn’t get his way, showing an uncontrollable rage over very little, that you never really saw either when Anakin fights Obi-wan, or when Luke is taunted by Darth Vader about his sister.

Anakin and Luke had really good solid reasons to be angry, whereas Kylo’s destruction seems to be so normal that the officer reporting to him has reason to look very scared and the Stormtroopers know not to get in the way of his anger. Their reactions show its normal, but it is interesting to see that in the film the only time you see this reaction is when Rey is concerned. “What girl?”, is the answer that I am most looking forward to having answered by the future films, because she really gets under Kylo’s skin and not just when she hits him with a lightsaber.

His intrigue about her, and his interrogation of her is the best scene in the film because you learn his weakness. You learn to question why he wears a mask when he really doesn’t need to, and you learn his deepest fear; that he will never live up to his grandfather’s reputation. Where does that come from? Han and Leia think it is because he has too much Vader in him and in his monologue seemingly to his grandfather, shows he’s conflicted about being able to live up to his name. And therein lies the question, the audience knows that Vader destroyed the Emperor in the end in order to save his son – who else knows that? Is Kylo trying to be Darth Vader or Anakin Skywalker? I’m hoping that what he’s trying to be is a better version of either of them. Whether he is to be redeemed or his character is descended for tragedy it genuinely doesn’t matter to me.

The good and decent character of Anakin Skywalker was a bit of a disappointment in the prequels and his descent into darkness, while it made sense because he fears loss, just suddenly happened. He defies Mace Windu one moment and then suddenly turns on younglings in the next. Where does the idea that the Jedi are evil even come from? Quite frankly because it’s a prequel and you know it was supposed to happen, I very much just got the impression that Anakin’s descent into darkness and how they could make it good was over looked. “Oh he just does”, has always been the impression I got of the discussion that went into it.

Admittedly Darth Vader is much better in comparison to Anakin, but the extent of his conflict is only ever found in words and the occasion downwards glance that looks like he’s pondering. The rest of the time he just walks around large and imposing, with his only weakness being his loud breathing which made sneaking up on people hard. Then again in the prequels Anakin isn’t sublte then either, so maybe that was just a character flaw. With Kylo they’ve solved this, because he just appears in the forest, leaving Rey, Finn and the audience wonder just how he managed to get there.

What I’m hoping with Kylo is that his character is going to wrench out our hearts. Most would argue that killing his father has already done that, but what I’m hoping is that Han did that to him. The last thing he ever did was show his son compassion, even after he skewered him with a lightsaber, by tenderly cupping his cheek. I wonder whether that would end up haunting Kylo, and it would be great if it does, because remorse is very damaging for a character, and Darth Vader never seemed very remorseful.

han and leia

I loved seeing these Han and Leia come back to the films. Harrison Ford, while he’s always been a great actor, has grown in strength and made Han Solo more than just a loveable rogue. The character might still be conning people, but he’s got a world of woes on his shoulders. You see from the moment Finn mentions Luke; all of his torment comes back to him, and the bounce he had in his step on seeing the Falcon again after years of it being gone, melts away, and he carries it with him for the rest of the film.

I also like that the filmmakers weren’t frightened of showing that Han and Leia’s relationship isn’t perfect. A lot of their relationship I think has been romanticised over the years into something that is perfect. They love each other, and that is still apparent, but couples do have problems, and sometimes love is not enough. They had the trauma of Ben (Kylo Ren) betraying them. No wonder they escaped into what they are good at; conning people and smuggling, or being a prominent leader in the fight against a fascist force.

I loved Leia in this film. She might not get same amount of screen time, but she also has the weight of the galaxy on her shoulders, and while she’s still strong and fighting, she has cares now she didn’t have in youth. It’s a beautiful portrayal of a character who has seen too much and have far too much to lose; bearing in mind she has already lost her home planet, the loss of her son has taken its toll on her. It will be great to see how her character fairs in the future films; I suspect Leia will just take it all in her stride and it would be fantastic if she does. If she just turns into a weepy woman, at any point other than on her deathbed or for more a few moments in a corner on her own before striding back into the room as General Organa I will seriously hate it.

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And then there was Luke: my first reaction was “really is that it, not even a word?”, and then about five seconds later I thought “OMG that is amazing.” Seriously his cameo is perfect. In a few seconds you see a damaged character and you start asking more questions about what happens next then you do with anything in the rest of the film. Ten seconds of utter brilliance, and then the credits start and you immediately want episode eight. Cliff-hanger perfection.

In summary, in absolutely love the film and I have a whole load of reasons why, two of them are called Rey and Kylo Ren. They certainly aren’t alone, but they are definitely the reasons why I will wait with baited breathe for the next film.

Film Review – Star Wars Episode 6 – The Return of the Jedi

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When it comes to the Return of the Jedi, I have to admit that until very recently, it was my favourite of the Star Wars films. I’ve been swayed into considering The Empire Strikes Back as my favourite, but for the longest time, The Return of the Jedi had that honour for me. The reason being, I love R2-D2 and C-3PO in this film. The human characters, place a great deal of faith and trust in their two robotic companions, to help them defeat their enemies and overcome the obstacles in their path.

The relationship of R2-D2 and C-3PO in all of the films is something very special. They are barely companions in the prequels, and their roles are lesser in the prequels, at least C-3PO’s is not as developed. The explanation of his paranoia in the original trilogy, his fears of being taken apart and becoming useless to his masters are well founded when you learn that he has his memory wiped. He must know that it has happened, and it is hinted at in A New Hope that he vaguely remembers working on moisture farm before. Also there is no mention of what R2-D2 remembers from the prequels, and being described as eccentric by C-3PO probably stems from him mentioning what happened in the past that his friend can’t remember.

And that is what they are: they are friends. C-3PO frets over R2’s safety in battle, and offers parts to fix him when he’s damaged. His despair when he proclaims ‘Why do you have to be so brave?” on the forest moon of Endor can only be interpreted as an attachment to his companion; he is worried about his friend who charges into battle. It’s beautiful, and in the film the attachment that Luke has to them is equally as lovely to watch.

I don’t doubt that Luke is as concerned about the droids as he is about his living companions when they enter Jabba’s Palace. Leia trusts R2 to comply with her orders in A New Hope with completing a mission and protecting the Death Star plans, though she probably doesn’t expect the level of devotion R2-D2 give to his mission. It hints very strongly that he remembers exactly what his former master did and even recognises that it was wrong, and that with the addition of the prequels that determination is not simply his compliance with orders from a human. In Return of the Jedi Luke trusts R2 to be there in the crucial moments of the fight against Jabba. He also knows C-3PO well enough to know exactly how he would react to being given as a gift to Jabba, which makes the plot to get Han out all the more convincing.

The pair of droids are my far, some of my favourite characters in the entire series, and I love how their story and their rise to ‘god-like’ status culminates in the last film. I can’t wait to see how they are developed for the new films, because it wouldn’t be Star Wars without them.

Something else, though that has changed my opinion on the film, is the impact that prequels have on the character of the Emperor. The plotting and scheming to set up the rebellion in the trap, makes a hell of a lot more sense since the prequels. Of course he’s confident it’s going to work, he masterminded a civil war in the Republic in order to build armies and the mechanisms of his planned Empire, and destroyed the one threat in his way: the Jedi.

Of course he thinks that luring the rebellion into a simple trap is going to solve his problems. And Luke is right; his over-confidence is his weakness. The Emperor doesn’t see that having faith in his friends and the Ewoks is not weakness, but it Luke’s strength. He stays long enough to see that C-3PO had swayed the Ewoks into being their allies. He trusts that the Ewoks will help now, because of the importance they place on C-3PO and his position as a god. Given the Ewoks overpowered the rebels he knows they aren’t just a bunch of ‘teddy bears’ there to make the film appealing to children. They are fierce warriors in their natural environment who have accepted his friends as part of their tribe. He probably also knows that the Emperor, if he even knows about them existing, wouldn’t have anticipated their mark on his plans.

Having faith in the good man who was his father is Luke’s mission, even if he knows the redemption might cost him his life. It is a sacrifice he is willing to make in order to stand up for what he believes in and facing the Emperor is something no other Jedi can do.

The prequels also means that you know what it is that Darth Vader truly does in killing the Emperor at the end. He overthrows his Sith master, the one who tricked him down the path to the dark side. I don’t like the addition of Hayden Christenson’s Anakin at the end of the new editions of the film. I will admit it does make sense, because it was the father that saved his son, not the Sith Lord who killed his master. It’s nice to think, that he turned back into Anakin when he is glancing between his master and his son who is being tortured on the floor, by considering what Padme would have said and done in the same situation, and then he did it.