Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

I’m going to try something different and review this as I read it. So warning. Spoilers!

Why I Picked It Up

Basically because book snobs complained about it for being “over the top”. And because some people loved it because it was precisely that.

Ya, so I basically picked it up to annoy people who were annoyed by the book. I have issues.

Page 25

  • Some pretty hilarious opening pages.
  • It is no secret that Grandpa was a pirate. I have cast Jim Carey as Podo.

Page 50

  • The two brothers are so much like my oldest two boys it is ridiculous.
  • At one point Janner freaks out that Leeli isn’t there and has anxiety over how bad it would have been if they had been separated. I fear for Leeli’s safety.
  • The story continues to be told in a humorous tone, but the stakes are pretty grim.

Page 75

  • We learn how Leeli got in trouble with the Fangs, and it is awesome. She kicked him! That’s amazing.
  • Learn that the Ibigy’s are wealthy. Or rather they were until recently. Loved how it wealth was explained and the dynamics between those who are considered wealthy and those who are not. Wealthy live out of town and have these status symbols. Or rather they had them. And then the Nia had them in abundance.
  • I have now cast Elizabeth Banks as Nia.
  • Again the humorous tone doesn’t really fit with the stakes. We’ve learned that nighttime child abductions by the government are routine and everyone has accepted this as part of their existence. Now we see, that three children being arrested (or being escorted to jail) in front a public setting with everyone knowing they will either be abducted, tortured or both and no one does anyting. This is terrifying. When I was in about 5th grade I read The Figure in The Shadows, which was a sequel to A House With A Clock In It’s Walls, which is a tale about dark magic that borders on horror. But the thing that terrified me was that there was an adult constantly trying to attack a child. That same terror is present in this book, but its amplified because the violence is being perpetrated by authority. I’m not complaining that the tone and the stakes don’t match, but I am definitely noticing it.
  • I had assumed this would be a nautical adventure, but I’m beginning to doubt that.

Page 100

  • The last 25 pages have essentially been a recovery of the ordeal that took place between pages 50 & 75.
  • I have cast Jack Black as the book seller.

Page 125

  • A treasure hunt

Page 150 – to the end

  • Whoa

Goodreads

The book has a 4.26 rating on goodreads with 5,601 ratings. That is incredibly good considering that the target market isn’t old enough to use the site. There are also 722 written reviews.

BookTube (spoilers)

There is a surprising amount of content on youtube for this book. I am impressed!

This first one involves lego animation and a song that will probably be trapped in your head for at least one week or possibly all of eternity. Coincidentally the song is by the author.

An elementary school student does a better review than me. Even uses the word “perilous” which is by far the best description of the plot. It was also a word I did not use until I was in my mid 20’s.

This next one is an animation that was produced by the author. It is a 15 minute short that takes you roughly through the first 75 pages. The soundtrack to the short is also available on amazon music and includes the song I mentioned in the first video.

The last one is the author and animator talking about the animated short in this kickstarter video. It provides a little more insight into how the author approached the story. While a movie might sound fun, I don’t think the stakes can be as high or the plot as dark as the book.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think I’ve read a book quite like this, where the narrative is so contrary to the tone of the story. There are some heartbreaking consequences in this book and the narrator offers no consolation to the characters or the readers. Personally, I enjoyed it. But I know a lot of people wouldn’t. I will be reading the sequel: North! or Be Eaten.

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Die Hard on a Space Station, from the Director of Die Hard in Space The Fifth Element.

I’m going to be completely honest with you. This movie is a guilty pleasure of mine. It will not appeal to everyone and that’s okay.

Background

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on the French comic book series Valerian and Laureline. The sci-fi action adventure flick was released in July of 2017 and brought in $40 million at the Box Office [source: rotten tomatoes] with an estimated budget of $177 million [source: imbd]. I don’t know much about movie finances, but I think that is considered a flop. So did the Guardian in this post from August 2017. However, it’s cumulative worldwide gross at the end of 2017 was just under $226 million [imbd].

Besides the enormous amount spent on the film, the other notable fact that makes this film unique that it was an independent film. And therefore not necessarily confined to the strict narrative scope that a major movie studio would require.

Reception

Almost everything I’ve heard about this movie or read about it is that it is visually stunning. Not only is it the conclusion that everyone reaches, it is the first thing that is stated about the film. Followed shortly by the stating the amazing aesthetic of the movie provides little cover for a meandering and sometimes disappearing plot. And then followed up by a few less than kind comments on the performances delivered by the cast.

I agree with the praise for the visual and would elevate it some. There are multiple battle and chase scenes that are very impressive. I know all the rage in sci-fi movies now is to have spaceships battle it out in broad day light on a planet, but superb craftsmanship still gets acknowledged in my book even if it is following a trend that might be considered a little dated by some sci-fi movie snobs.

I’m somewhat forgiving on the plot, because… well I’ll get to the plot in a bit. And I think the performances were delivered well and are deserving of praise.

First Impressions

I liked the movie more than I thought I would. At a friend’s recommendation I watched it a second time within the same week and enjoyed it even more.

It had a feel to it like the Fifth Element did, which makes sense since both movies were directed by the same person. (He also directed the Taken Movies. This guy is a career professional).

Other people mentioned that their first impression was that some of the aliens looked like they were ripped off from Avatar. Having never seen Avatar, I watched that and admit there’s a similarity, but eh… I wasn’t bothered by it. And I thought the criticism that was leveled at Valerian and its cast would have been better directed toward Avatar.

The Plot

I think it is a mistake to consider this a three act plot. At its heart, is an interconnected series of stories. In other words, this sci-fi action adventure has as much in common with Love Actually (yes the 2003 romantic comedy) as it does with any space opera. The main difference is that Love Actually’s plots were at first independent of each other and then built some connectivity where Valerian is a sequence of stories which gives an expectation that it would be more orderly. Which is why I made the mistake myself of thinking this was a default three act plot.

What eventually gave it away for me was the size of the cast. Each medium has a general rule of thumb for how many characters it can have, before the audience starts getting confused. TV episodes have the lowest character count. Movies have slightly more. Books have more (usually 10 while Epic Fantasies can have more…  like 15). Comic Books (!) can have the most between 20 and 25. If you are wondering where my source for all this is, it was a Librarian who was leading a writers work shop.

So how many characters does Valerian have? After skimming the full Cast List on IMBD I counted 16 that I considered important. And that leaves out a couple.

So Let’s take a look at the component stories that make up Valerian. This is what I came up with.

  1. The Creation of Alpha
  2. The Last Day of Planet Mul
  3. The Mission to Big Market
  4. The Security Detail Mission on Alpha
  5. Laureline’s Aquatic Adventure (in space) to Rescue Valerian
  6. Acquiring a Disguise to Rescue Laureline
  7. The Rescue of Laureline
  8. After the Last Day of Mul
  9. The Battle for the Heart of Alpha

Interwoven are a few subplots:

  1. Romantic relationship between Valerian and Laureline
  2. A growing “Dead Zone” in Alpha
  3. The Mystery of Planet Mul

If you include the subplots that is a total of 12 stories! Love Actually had 10.

The part where it feels like the wheels begin to fall off are stories 5, 6  and 7. This part contributes very little to building urgency for the dilemma placed before them: Rescuing the Commander of Alpha Station who has been abducted on their watch.

Every time I look for a way to tie this part of the movie to that I come up short. It gives us a much broader picture of the scope of Alpha Station, but more importantly it puts a lot more weight into how both the romantic story and the action story resolve.

Similar to the Fifth Element the story resolves with a plea centered around love. In the Fifth Element Leelu has everything she needs to save the world, but she is reluctant because she is afraid that humans will always wage war. This leaves Bruce Willis to plead with her on behalf of love.

In Valerian, Laureline is in possession of a small creature (last of its kind), that can resolve the turmoil of the Pearls (the natives of Mul). Valerian is opposed to handing it over. He observes that the creature is the property of the government both he and Laureline serve. He wants to do everything procedurally. Laureline makes a plea for love to sway his decision. And he says something to the fact that “Of course I love you. I would die for you.”

And it falls amazingly flat. Not because of the actor’s delivery, but because of all the meandering side stories. After Laureline risked her life and revived him he shrugged it off with out a thank you, saying he would do the same for her. Which, he does. But the point is he established that dying for one another was part of their jobs as agents, not an expression of love.

I have to think that this truly trips Valerian up. Dying for someone is the ultimate macho expression of love (and Valerian is definitely a macho character), but it is also a career hazard in their case. He had also established that the two are mutually exclusive.

None of that emotional turmoil would have existed without those extra side stories.

An Ethical Dilemma at that End

I’m just going to spend a little time mentioning that I love a good ethical delimma in my science fiction. I did not expect it in Valerian and it was wonderfully presented.

The Macho Hero

I’m probably going to stumble through this next section, but I think it is worth bringing up.

As I mentioned before, Valerian is a macho hero. Granted he doesn’t physically resemble Arnold, Stallone or any of the other action hero staples. But he does have the attitude and careless bravado.

It’s hard to root for him, because well. He’s kind of a jerk. He establishes that early on.

So how does one make an action hero movie in today’s environment? First, he is not the moral compass or voice of reason of the film. That role clearly belongs to Laureline.

But there are a couple of other ways in which the manly machoism is offset. First, Valerian has a woman inside of him. But not in a weird way. Yes there is a joke or two, but even those are offset.

Second, a character who is treated as a sex object (Rhianna’s character) is humanized.

But also the directorial decision by having Emporer Limai acted by and voiced by women. Correct. Two women (Aymeline Valade and Elizabeth Debicki) are credited with playing a pivotal male character.

This doesn’t soften Valerian’s manliness, but it does diminish the influence of his macho manfoolness (new made up word!) on the film to the point where it is not central to plot(s).

 

Things I missed the First Time

  1. Seat Belts!
    1. A couple of times in the first half of the movie, the phrase”Seat Belts” is uttered and they automatically secure the passengers to their seats. Later in the movie, there is a questionably sound submarine and the captain says, “Seat Belt” and the character does nothing (assuming they are automatic) and that character gets thrown!
  2. I don’t speak French.
    1. A lot of the cast is French. As Valerian walks through Paradise alley he is approached by someone speaking French. He responds with (you guessed it) I don’t speak French.
  3. “How much time do we have left”?
    1. Valerian asks this in the last of many many action sequences. We think he is asking the General, but the way it resolves I think he was communicating with someone else.
  4. The Council was in on the cover up the whole time.
    1. This one blew my mind. Most of the entire movie, we are lead to believe that situation on Alpha was driven by one character… who later claims to have been acting on the approved directions of the council.
  5. The walk on air gun that Valerian uses is actually a shield.
    1. In one chase sequence Valerian runs through a wall (seriously) and he starts to fall. He pulls out a pistol and fires a shot and a laser platform which he steps on briefly before jumping off to another. Who has a laser platform pistol? Turns out, that is not its intended function. Thats just Valerian being creative. In the ending action sequence a character has to get to a computer panel to rearrange wires in order to stop a bomb. But he (not Valerian) is taking enemy fire. With minimal time, he runs to the panel firing a laser pistol towards the enemy. It’s not laser fire, that he shoots. It is shields. The pistol has a setting for laser shields! Which is what Valerian used as stepping stones for like a second and a half in the movie.
  6. The converter as a leverage in negotiation
    1. The Commander of Alpha station intends to use the creature as leverage. Presumably, we give this to you and you go away. But the more I think about it, the intent was to gain leverage by threatening the creature’s existence.

Conclusion

I spent a lot of time writing about this movie, and a reader could easily mistake this as my all time favorite. (It is not). I enjoyed it. I hope there will be more movies like it (there probably won’t) and I think at the moment it is underrated. Here’s to hoping this becomes a cult classic.

Review: Thrones And Bones

One size does not fit all in this nordic like adventure.

Why I Picked it Up

One of my sons has been really into books about Dragons. For over a year I suggested Frostborn (the first book in the series) and each time he said, “meh”. Then one day he comes home with it from the school book fair.

Not long after he began pushing me to read it. I did. And it was glorious! It had a slower start than I prefer but the last 100 pages were worth the wait.

Then I checked out the second book (Nightborn) from the Library and it was one of the most entertaining fantasy adventures I read. This won’t be true for everyone, but I definitely feel that a study could be made of how to write sequels using this book.

In particular, I enjoyed that we essentially join a story that is in progress. Its instant drama. Which is a sharp contrast to the prolonged opening to Frostborn. Additionally we are introduced to new characters that have stories of their own.

Shortly after reading Nightborn, I followed it up with the last book in the series: Skyborn, which was a solid conclusion to the series.  This is faster paced than Frostborn, but a little less urgent than Skyborn. Which can pretty much be said for the third installment of any trilogy.

My only critique for this series was really that in the third book the plot is centered around dragon eggs hatching… all on the same day… at the exact same time. Viewed on its own, it is as absurd as it sounds. However, in the context of the story it works. It doesn’t strengthen the fantasy, but it doesn’t weaken it either.

Although this series could be considered a trilogy because it has 3 books in the series, and it there are elements that are introduced in the first book that appear in the third. But it didn’t feel like a it told one story in 3 installments because all of the conflicts in the first book. For me it told two great stories over three books. I only mention because you don’t really need to read book 2 immediately after book 1, but I highly recommend reading book 3 right after book 2.

BookTube

There was only one review on youtube for Frostborn and I’m guessing none exist for the whole series.

Review: A Fire Upon the Deep

If Lassie was an episode of Game of Thrones in Space, but even better.

Why I Picked it Up

Mainly, I was looking for a long space opera and this kept popping up as recommendation.

My Impressions

It was not the space opera I was looking for, but that didn’t stop it from being all sorts of amazing.

My first impression was nightmarish. The book opens with a conversation between two sentient AI’s talking about a third sinister AI. I happened to be working on a project at work that involved machine learning which also contributed to my nightmare.

Nightmare’s aside, everything else went smoothly. There are times in the book that are physically stunning and other times it is emotional. Yes, I may have shed a tear over a book with a spaceship on its cover.

What really struck me was the amount of time spent on examining the effects of a propaganda campaign that was published on “The Net”. This topic is relevant for today and so you might be tempted to think this was published recently. But it wasn’t. It was published in 1992! A time when most people didn’t have access to the Internet.

There were a number of other things that amazed me.

  • The concept of a shared consciousness as an identity.
  • The number of times characters underestimate the threat.
  • The medieval political maneuvering.
  • The degree the level of distrust rises among the cast.

In short, the ideas and concepts in this book are big, beautiful and amazing. On top of that they are expertly delivered.

My One Draw Back (it doesn’t really matter)

The only thing that disappointed me was that in the first few chapters it appeared to be a family sci-fi adventure, and it turned out not to be. I’ve read so many stories and seen so many movies where the children the story is centered around are orphaned. And that was before Harry Potter. Since then, it has gotten to the point where I consider it unoriginal and get frustrated when I see pages and time dedicated to it.

It is now a joke in our family before we watch one of these movies for me to ask if the Mom and Dad make it out alive. They almost never do.

Why it doesn’t really matter

It doesn’t matter because there are multiple children in this book who are part of the main cast and this is not a children’s book! Most publishers would force an author to rewrite the story into either a mid-grade or YA format. But that didn’t happen and its amazing.

Goodreads and Booktube

As of this writing the book is rated 4.13 stars, with over 44,264 ratings!

 

TLJ: Rey vs Luke

I’ve heard a lot of criticism about the scene in TLJ where Rey beats Luke with his own lightsaber. Well, I didn’t hear it. I heard a lot of people defending against the claim, and I want to toss in my cents.

This purpose of this post isn’t to defend the scene. It is to question of the validity of the criticism.

Did Rey beat Luke?

The scene starts out with Rey relaying her dark side experience to Kylo Ren in her hut. The two touch hands and Luke shows up freaking out. He blows out the walls in super dramatic fashion and Kylo Ren disappears. I’m guessing here, that Luke breaks the force link and that is what blows up the walls of the hut. Not just that he’s upset.

Rey immediately confronts him about trying to kill Ben Solo. Luke responds by telling her to get off the island and walks away. She says “stop”. Twice. Luke keeps walking.

Rey initiates the duel by knocking him down from behind with her quarter staff. This isn’t the duel itself. It is a cheap shot, not a duel. Luke responds by standing up while Rey swings the quarterstaff at him again. Then he force grabs a lightening rod, to defend himself. And have a pretend lightsaber battle with her.

But he doesn’t really use his weapon right away. He blocks one strike from Rey. She finds that now that he’s facing her it’s a different dynamic. She swings wildly and Luke effortlessly dodges. Keep in mind, it is presumed that Rey is an expert or at least competent in using this particular weapon. But she keeps missing.

Luke strikes her in the back. In pretend lightsabers, Luke just won. But she keeps going. She forces Luke back who begins using his pretend lightsaber to more actively defend himself. She has clearly upped her game from the wild swings a split second earlier, but Luke is still better.

How much better is Luke. He freaking disarms her and throws her quarterstaff away. That is twice now that she has lost. Both times in a pretty humiliating and aggravating way.

It is this final phase of the duel that people are upset over. After being disarmed, Rey extends her arm in the direction of where Luke has tossed her quarterstaff and she summons… the lightsaber! (that was such an amazing shot). And she’s like I’m done playing pretend, this how we settle things back on Jakku!

It strikes me that she is upset that Luke drew a lightsaber on Ben Solo in a similar manner.

And then she charges Luke who falls over when he trips. She then turns it off and says “Tell me the truth”.

In some accounting of this you could say they split the duel. 2-2. Honestly, the only way she won her two was when Luke was defenseless. He can’t parry a real lightsaber with his pretend one. And do you remember what she did to that rock when he saw her practicing? Ya, you’d back up too.

No, Luke proved his mastery in the most amazing way possible. Without a lightsaber.

 

 

 

 

 

TLJ: There is no gravity in space

Or is there?

The complaint that baffles me the most in all the rumblings about TLJ is the bombing scene in the opening. The complaint is often phrased as “There is no gravity in space!”

Let’s put aside that there is gravity for large objects like planets and stars. The complaint is really that people didn’t believe the bombs would fall. And they are using their understanding of physics to explain why the didn’t believe it.

I’m surprised at how frequently this complaint is stated. In more moderate tones, it has been phrased as questions on quora and on stackexchange.

First, Star Wars is not a series I turn to when I want to enjoy a plausible hard sci-fi tale. It routinely breaks away from explanations of how the technology works. Or makes the explanations so simple they can be explained in a sentence. The one exception was when the midichlorians were introduced as an explanation of how some are stronger with the force than others. That explanation was not well received.

So what I’m getting at is really most of the people with this complaint were already going into the movie looking for things that they would not like. The people I’ve spoken with who have this opinion did not enjoy The Force Awakens and were still sour over it.

When I suggest that this may be the reason they were pulled out of the moment, they generally respond, “But… physics!”

Now I don’t know much about physics, but I know enough to know there is no sound in space. And guess what. There are plenty of spaceship sounds in all of the movies.

I think the official explanation as to why the bombs fell is because they had some sort of magnets in them. That’s possible, since similar looking bombs appeared in TFA and were infact magnetic. (They just didn’t fall from a spaceship, they were planted by Han and Chewbacca in the oscillator on Starkiller Base.)

I think a better explanation is that a force in motion stays in motion unless acted on by an outside force. The question is then, what puts them into motion? And here I would suggest the ship’s artificial gravity. Which is clearly on display as Paige Tico falls down. It is reinforced again when the manual controller falls (or whatever you call the thing with the big red button) and Paige catches it as it falls past her.

Note: this is similar to the explanation provided on stackexchange.

 

 

TLJ: Making Sense of DJ’s Betrayal

I’m taking a break from my posts about the characters in TLJ to talk a little bit about a conundrum in The Last Jedi. Specifically, the fact that DJ divulges a plan that Fin and Rose didn’t even know existed, in exchange for freedom and money.

After seeing the movie again and gradually becoming more aware of how amazing it is, I can’t accept this as a plot flaw at face value.

I mean even Fin is confused and he says so. Specifically Fin says, “Wait, cut a deal with what?”

And so I began speculating about possible explanations.

First up, did either Rose and Fin know the plan? Maybe they talked about it in the jail cell while DJ was trying to sleep. But how would they have known? Maybe Rose had an assignment that related to it some how that she abandoned. It didn’t sit right with me. It’s plausible, but I eventually came up with something that required less imagination and was more fitting with the movie.

It was a bad plan made out of haste and necessity and therefore almost entirely transparent.

So why didn’t the First Order figure it out? Well, I think they did. At least they probably figured out the planet was their destination. All DJ provided was how the rebels were getting there.

I’m going to expand on this idea/speculation a little more. First lets bring in some context. In the beginning of the movie the rebels/resistance are evacuating a base. There’s a battle but ultimately they hit hyperspace button and they escape. They are under the impression that they got away.

My hypothesis is that the abandoned rebel base on Crait (the salt planet) was the original destination of General Organa. They left hyperspace a safe distance from the planet, thinking they could stroll over to it at a comfortable pace. This plan was on a need to know basis, and our characters didn’t need to know. Which in hindsight, maybe they should have. But then again, this movie is all about decisions that carry some negative consequences.

This isn’t rock solid. After the rebels drop out of hyperspace and before the First Order shows up Finn asks Leia what the plan is. She responds, “We need to find a new base.” Then someone else adds “One with enough power to get a distress signal to our allies.”

Lets pick this apart a little. She’s basically stating that the problem isn’t finding a base. It is finding one with enough power. Basically, there are rebel bases all over the galaxy, but not all of them suit their needs right now. Later, when we are first introduced to Crait that same character says that it is both heavily armored and has enough power for a distress signal. So, it is believable (to me) that Crait was their plan all along, they just didn’t disclose it.

Is it possible this wasn’t the original plan? Absolutely. I didn’t make these connections the first time I watched the movie.  Even if the old base wasn’t in the original plan, the circumstances reinforce that it was the best plan they could come up with the time and resources they had. And therefore completely transparent to everyone.

In any case, Leia is injured and the chain of command falls to General Holdo, who sure as hell isn’t giving any info to Poe. Her objective is to reach the abandoned base, but under current circumstances that isn’t going to be possible. So she adapts the plan, but keeps the objective. They are using the smaller transports to shuttle rebels to the cruiser and generally the First Order ignores them. So they are perceived as safer and the best bet to reach Crait.

The relative safety is also reinforced in the opening scene when we are shown a solitary cruiser. When we zoom in we begin to see one transport, and then another and then a whole stinking caravan coming up from the planet that we couldn’t see before.

But, wait there is more. The rebels were cloaking the transports from the First Orders sensors.

During the reveal of DJ’s treachery the officer tells General Hux, “Sir, we checked on the information from the thief. We ran a decloaking scan, and sure enough, 30 resistant transports have just launched from the cruiser.”

The operative words here are “information” and “decloaking”. This implies that DJ knew the rebel ships were cloaked. Nothing more. In other words, he didn’t know the mission, or the objective. He knew one piece of information that he thought the First Order might find valuable.

So how did he know it? This takes one last speculative jump. I understand if you don’t want to join me any further because there are ways this could have been presented that made it obvious to the viewer.

DJ knew about the cloaked vessels because he ran a decloaking scan himself before they boarded the ship. Two things point me to this. First, DJ is constantly looking for people in desperate situations to exploit. Like, hanging out in a prison cell he could break out of at any moment but really waiting for someone who will pay him to do it. A fleet of ships making a run for a planet would be a mark for him. And again, their plan to reach the planet is rather obvious. It’s a matter of how they get there. Second, the first thing DJ says after Rose, Fin and him get out of hyperspace is, “Cloaking our approach. We should be off their scopes.” Cloaking was at least on his mind. I don’t know how cloaking works in the Star Wars universe, but I would easily accept that you need to run a decloaking scan before cloaking a ship of your own.

Honestly, this speculation is enough for me, but when I started writing this and viewing the scenes a little more carefully I noticed something else. To believe it at any level, you first need to believe that Rose is watching DJ. In my post about Rose, I suggested that she was watching DJ to learn from him but I would believe that she’s watching him because she doesn’t trust him.

In either case, it’s only important because Rose also knows about the 30 transport ships and Fin doesn’t. Remember Fin is confused. He doesn’t know what information DJ traded. Conceivably it could have been something unrelated to their current predicament. DJ probably knows a lot of things about a lot of people. Like, the identity of an arms dealer who is selling to the First Order and the resistance.

But Rose knows. She starts freaking out as soon as DJ turns his head to them. She calls him a lying snake and tries to break free of the storm troopers. It takes two of them to keep her down. It maybe the only time in the film that Rose acts impulsively. The important part here is that DJ has not confessed at this point and the officer has not announced an awareness of the cloaked vessels. And Rose clearly knows DJ traded information damaging to the resistance. Why else would she freak out? How would she know this? She watched him run the decloaking scan and noticed the readouts herself.

This is speculation, so the logic that holds it together isn’t unbreakable. For now it is what I’m going with.

TLJ: Hux

Continuing on my ramblings about characters from The Last Jedi comes a post about Hux. A character who was to be feared in TFA and to be laughed at in TLJ. What happened here? Did something go wrong? No, it did not. At least I hope not because I’m about to engage in some fan theory making that could ultimately bring me disappointment.

At the end of TFA and the beginning of TLJ, Hux is extremely confident. He oversaw a battle station that destroyed the republic. Even if that battle station was destroyed shortly afterward, it achieved it’s objective. After its destruction, the rebels are cornered as he cuts off their escape and is about to wipe them out.

And then, Hux experiences humiliation after humiliation. This includes, the loss of a dread naught and the rebel escape shortly after. But he comes back from that. He has them on a string. When he says it to Supreme Leader Snoke we get the impression that it’s bluster. But later we find out it was straight up truth. For most of the movie he has them cornered, all be it a little out of range of their laser cannons.

Hux’s war machine essentially dominated the first two movies of this trilogy, but he faces the ultimate humiliation: The rise of Kylo Ren to be the Supreme Leader, instead of himself. This was something Vader was never able to achieve. (Although I’m not sure if he wanted it… I have a faint memory of some political ambitions or notions in Attack of the Clones… I guess I’ll have to watch that movie).

Hux is extremely competent which is dangerous in a villain. And while it is relatively easy to laugh at what happens to him in TLJ, it doesn’t change him. Going into Episode IX he’s still as competent and every bit as dangerous… if not more so. I imagine he’ll be angrier and jealous of Kylo Ren.

The only reason Hux is not the Supreme Leader of the First Order is because he is not a force wielder. So, I won’t be surprised if he sets into motion some sort of plan to become one some how.

Continuing along these lines, it is conceivable that Hux could find someway to harness the force mechanically to weaponize it. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if the midichlorians are discussed in Episode IX. I recently learned that George Lusas’s plan for the third trilogy included some form of microscopic adventure [Indie Wire].  So this angle might fit in well.

Or he may find another way to attack or betray Kylo Ren, say taking a page out the extended universe and find a way to neutralize a force wielders ability. Making force wielders vulnerable. I feel like this will be inevitable, if not in Episode IX, then in some other movie.

I find this speculation interesting, but ultimately… speculative.  I don’t want to be too attached to these ideas because I’ve been burned before by one of my own creation that turned into a massive disappointment. And since it is Star Wars, it is possible that he could be abruptly killed in the first 30 minutes in the film.

I have hopes that Hux will become an even more terrifying threat. But make no mistake. I’m not rooting for him.

TLJ: Rose Tico

In my ramblings about the futility and potential harm of Star Wars fan theories (and how at one time they sustained the fandom) I stated that I wanted to write more about the characters that appear in TLJ. And what better place to start than Rose Tico, a character that brought out the absolute worst in some Star Wars fans. It is disturbing to know that I like something that these people also like.

Some of the complaints about Rose are… I don’t really know what they are, but this is what I imagine.

  • She’s a Mary Sue
  • She’s not a bad ass
  • She personifies what people didn’t like about TLJ
  • Something that is either racist or motivated by racism

She’s a Mary Sue

I disagree on this. Rose is flawed like rest of us and we meet her when she is grieving. And the way she is coping is by stopping people from stealing escape pods. I assume that she has been ordered to do this and she clings to this duty in her grief. It is an outlet for her, to the point that she zaps someone she was fangirling over 2 seconds ago. Like almost every scene in the movie, I could go on about the implied stakes in the that scene. But I won’t because this is about Rose.

Bad things happen to Rose that she can’t escape from, without the help of others. It may be easy to miss because she appears optimistic and virtuous at practically every turn.

She is smart and learns quickly, but not the way a Mary Sue does. She isn’t master of her environment… yet. She knows her stuff, but she doesn’t get to really show us because when it’s her turn to contribute to the plan… in walk the storm troopers.

I’m assuming she kept a careful eye on DJ and picked up some of his tricks.

She’s Not a Bad Ass

I’ll give you that, but not every interesting character has to be bad ass. What Rose does, like every other character in the movie, is make tough (and sometimes very wrong) decisions. What comes to mind is the scene after Canto Bite when DJ is demanding her necklace for a deposit. She doesn’t object. Fin does. She waits a moment, snaps it off her neck and hands it over. This was something that connected her to her sister, who just died a hero’s death only hours ago. (Maybe longer. Time is funny in Star Wars).

She thinks about her choices, makes a decision and then commits to it. I concede this is not a trait of a bad ass. This is a trait of a grown up. She’s adulting.

Also, in case you missed it, she strait up shoots Phasma. Phasma! It’s a split second and totally missable (I did… twice) because nothing happens. That’s right nothing happens, the blast literally bounces off Phasma’s chest. Think about that. The First Order is sitting on blaster bouncing armor. I mean, it doesn’t even force Phasma to step backwards. Be scared people. Be. Scared.

But not too scared because Fin does eventually expose a vulnerability in the armor, the visors. Remember he knocks part of one off and we see her eye as she tries to stare him down. Ah… this is about Rose. Dang it.

One of the decisions that Rose makes is to help Poe and Fin. She helped come up with the plan, but it becomes very clear that the mission to Canto Bight is unsanctioned and possibly treasonous. Like using the escape pods she was just guarding, but more purposeful.

This leads to people dying (not really any of the characters on screen). She made the wrong call, like so many of the characters in the movie. She doesn’t doubt her decision, but she does express some remorse for what has happened. I’m specifically talking about the her line, “Is this all thats left?” She doesn’t dwell on it, because well there just isn’t time for it.

Nobody really comes out of The Last Jedi a hero. Which is perfect for the middle installment of a trilogy. There is supposed to be a loss of hope. I was expecting a lot of the movie to be really dark, and Rian Johnson (he’s the writer/director, not a character despite the spelling of his first name.) pulled off a movie that wasn’t dark but where hope was lost. There was despair and grief.

Bringing it back. I don’t care if the character isn’t raw. She’s real. That’s hard to pull off in a space opera.

She Personifies What People Didn’t Like About TLJ

She does personify the movie quite well. She experiences loss. She makes decisions that carry very grave consequences to them. Even after she spends time weighing the options, her choices don’t always come up… roses. (ugh, sorry about that).

She belongs in the movie because she is the movie. And she belongs in Star Wars, because the movie belongs in Star Wars.

The Last One

I’m specifically talking about the people who harassed the actress online. I don’t have the words to convince them that their actions were terrible and they should be terrified of their motivations. I wish I had an amazing power of persuasion to make courtesy and generosity seem appealing, and to make them aware that hateful words stem from an indifference to see humanity in others. Again, I know I don’t have the words to perform this miracle, so I have written these imperfect ones instead.

Theories

I’m going to be clear, these are things I would be interested in seeing. I’m not expecting any of them.

  • Rose in the next movie (her fate is a little unclear, but it didn’t really seem like a Star Wars death).
  • Conflict between Rose and Rey. I’m not talking about a potential love triangle between Rose, Fin and Rey. I’m talking more about Rose’s optimism and more grounded Rey. Rey has experienced some monumental disappointment in these movies. How much despair? So much she goes to Kylo Ren because she believes and says that “…he is our last hope.”
  • Some crazy amazing technical show off skills she picked up from DJ, (like maybe breaking out of prison cell, or using her medallion to short something out because it is highly conductive).
  • Continued collaboration between Rey and Fin.

I’m keeping this grounded. The thing I liked best about TLJ is that it left Episode IX to be a wild card. No one knows what is going to happen.

 

 

TLJ: Fan Theories

Completely on accident I discovered a portion of the Internet (or world) that is still discussing Star Wars The Last Jedi. I was drawn in.

My original review was written last December, but only posted last month. This was not necessarily out of laziness or indifference but more along the lines that his blog is a tiny sliver of my life. Since writing that review I have seen the movie again, and I admit it is growing on me. Not because the things that I didn’t like (itemized in my review) suddenly became appealing, but because I started seeing more and different things I enjoyed. And since other people are talking about TLJ, and I enjoy some of the things they are saying, I want to join in too. Bandwagon!

I don’t like engaging in fan theories, because they rarely fulfill themselves. And honestly, I was burned by one of my own. Back when the Phantom Menace came out I was convinced that Obi-Wan was a jedi tainted (at least a little) by the dark side. This was based on a few frames from A New Hope in the cantina scene where he dismembers someone who draws a weapon. In those few frames when we see his face, I thought (and still think) he is smiling. He missed this type of stuff. And then a friend suggested he was maybe grimacing and not smiling. Which resulted in a very long and passionate argument that ultimately was pointless. And not because I was wrong (still say he’s smiling… and BTW he shows zero remorse for it… I mean Han Solo at least tips the bartender after blasting Gredo… and now that I think about it he could have just mind tricked his way out of it… sigh)…

As I was saying, my heated argument with a friend was ultimately pointless not because I was wrong but because there was no way either one of us could make the choices or even influence the choices that were being made during the production of episode I. I know, a lot of us wish we had more influence to control that movie in particular.

My point is, fan theories can be a dangerous indulgence for the fans that make them. Even the casual fans that can count the number of times they’ve seen the original trilogy.

Part of the danger is that they sometimes we find them more interesting or engaging than what we actually get. And since some fans (I’m including myself here) go to great lengths to defend those theories and become they are emotionally attached to it. The more a person defends something the more that attachment solidifies. Which leads to serious emotional disappointment when those theories aren’t fulfilled. I’ll say it again, this can cause serious emotional disappointment. I’ll even bold italicize it: serious emotional disappointment.

Roll your eyes all you want and say it’s just a movie… but we all know Star Wars is not just a movie for countless fans. There are real people feeling real emotions over make believe aliens with laser swords, and that’s why fan theories can bring harm to those who make them. They We don’t understand the emotional stakes of making them until we get that enormous dose of disappointment.

To complicate things, Star Wars has a rich history of fan theories and there was a time when they were safe to make. There was so much time between some of the movie releases that at one time fan theories served a more benign purpose of sustaining the franchise when the people actually in charge of it were trying to move on to other projects. That’s more my opinion than an actual fact.

So what does this have to do with The Last Jedi? Good question. There were a lot of fan theories about TLJ and I don’t think any of them were realized. To be fair, The Force Awaken (I will not explain to you that TFA is the movie that preceded TLJ) left plenty of room for fan speculation. But just because a door is open, you don’t need to walk through it (It’s a trap!). Plus large gaps is kinda Lucasfilm’s jam (I think that phrase is still culturally relevant).

Lucasfilms tells a story, parts of which are not completely understood. Then they tell a different story to shed light on the part of the previous story that we didn’t completely understand. BTW that new story will also have parts that are not completely understood.

Do they do this well? Sometimes. The Clone Wars cartoon in particular was great, but C3PO’s red arm was… I didn’t read the comic.

Pause a second and think about the mystery of who Snokes was. This feels very similar to what was done with Count Dooku. A character who kinda appeared out of nowhere, seems really important and then abruptly becomes insignificant to the story. But then we got the Clone Wars (which I haven’t seen in its entirety) and we have tons of development for that character. In otherwords. Don’t complain about not knowing who Snokes is, because there is plenty of room for a movie, live action series, novel, comic book, cartoon or broadway musical (owned by Disney… they do this with other properties) for us to learn all sorts of things about this character. Some of it, may even become the best part of Star Wars.

This is where we get to the hard part for me. I want to talk about some of the characters that appeared in The Last Jedi, but avoid making fan theories about them. That is going to be a tough balance to strike. I should tell you to expect a couple posts about TLJ characters in the future because it is definitely my intent to write posts about TLJ characters, but instead I am telling you that you should not have expectations for this blog (but I will love you forever if you follow/subscribe… ya I know. Out of place Goblins in the Castle Reference).

My final thought is maybe we should be treating our fan theories, more like hypotheses. Something that we know can be disproven and we are capable of accepting of it when that happens.

But don’t be the sheriff that goes around correcting people by telling them it’s a fan hypothesis and not a fan theory. Please don’t be that person.