4 reasons a Luke-Leia reunion is needed in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

4 reasons a Luke-Leia reunion is needed in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa are at the heart and soul of Star Wars. The Last Jedi promises to give us more Luke and Leia than The Force Awakens.

Seeing more of these characters isn’t enough, though. We deserve to witness a reunion between these two characters. Here are three reasons why this reunion needs to happen:

1. Last Carrie Fisher appearance, last time this can happen

The first reason is the most depressing and practical one. Due to Carrie Fisher’s tragic death and Lucasfilm’s decision moving forward this is the last Star Wars movie in which Carrie Fisher will appear. She will not appear in Episode IX. The incredible chemistry between Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill is one of the countless features that continue to make the original trilogy wonderful to watch. The Luke-Leia relationship is integral to everything Star Wars and in a story that so prominently revolves around these characters, we need to see them reunite, and we need to see that chemistry rekindled one last time.

2. Denied a Luke-Han reunion

The Leia-Han reunion in The Force Awakens due to the deep nostalgia and multi-faceted emotions developed over years of loving those characters nearly brought me to tears. Even during re-watches my heart still blooms with anticipation and love every time I watch the scene. Years had passed for both the characters and actors, but the chemistry and deep bonds still remains strong in all the scenes they share.

Thanks to Kylo Ren we were denied a Luke-Han reunion even though their relationship also features much nostalgia and emotion. There’s something comforting in the fact that the last onscreen meeting of Luke and Han is celebrating on Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi. But I still can’t help feeling a little bitter that these two characters didn’t get to meet. This new trilogy is about balancing the old with the new. The Force Awakens did a great job of this overall but it will be a major failure of the trilogy if we are denied not only a Luke-Han reunion, but a Luke-Leia reunion as well. That we never see Luke reunite with Leia or Han onscreen after Return of the Jedi is something I can’t accept.

3. The Force connection

Part of what makes the Luke-Leia relationship so special is their connection with the Force and how they’ve used it to communicate with each other. The scenes in Empire Strikes Back where Luke and Leia use the Force to communicate on Cloud City and Leia resuces and when Leia knows Luke didn’t die on the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi are iconic moments.

In a story that revolves so heavily around the Force, and the growing Force abilities of Rey and Kylo Ren, that connection should be further explored. Both Leia and Luke have changed in many ways but their Force abilities remain strong and that can have a significant impact on both Rey and Kylo Ren.

4. The Skywalker Saga

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the eighth chapter of the Skywalker Saga. Luke and Leia are a foundation of the Skywalker family and what makes the story of the Skywalker family so compelling. Quite simply, it makes no sense to continue this family’s story without the two characters reuniting. We need to see them grieving Han’s death, reconciling with the actions of the younger Skywalker (Kylo Ren), and use friends and allies both new and old in order to save the galaxy once more.

Help us experience a Luke-Leia reunion. Star Wars: The Last Jedi, you’re our only hope.

Why LOST Actually had a Perfect Ending

Why LOST Actually had a Perfect Ending

***Spoiler warning!

Lost delivered one of the most polarizing series finales in television history. Through the misconceptions and frustrations, many viewers failed to embrace the finale’s brilliance and that Lost managed to create a series finale that stayed true to the heart of all six seasons. In the end it was still about the characters and their incredible growth. Part of what made Lost such a unique show in the first place is that it always chose to be character-driven rather than plot-driven.

The finale could’ve easily scrambled to answer most if not all of the remaining mysteries, sacrificing its character-driven nature. Instead, Lost stayed focused and in terms of plot focused on the two remaining core conflicts, both of which were already well established and developed. In the present and on the Island it was the Man in Black’s endgame. In what fans dubbed the “flash sideways” it was Desmond’s endgame to help the core characters “remember” and “move on.” The finale allowed the core characters to reach the final stages of their gradual, rich development through their reactions to these endgames, focusing on their incredible journeys rather than just the answers to remaining mysteries. The beautiful, touching scenes where each character “remembered” in the flash sideways perfectly exemplified the intricate evolution of these characters and their relationships with each other.

Revealing the truth of the flash sideways occurred in a way that proved not only creative, but also made the previous events of the story gain further meaning. The misconception that the characters were dead the whole time would’ve devalued everything that happened. Understanding that everything that happened really happened and that the flash sideways is essentially a purgatory the characters created after they all died to reunite and move on together is brilliant. It allows all the events of the show to remain meaningful and illustrate the culmination of these characters’ journeys and the next momentous step they’ll take together.

The final showdown on the Island revolving around the Man in Black’s endgame yielded satisfying results for the characters still living (I could go through all the characters but will focus specifically on Jack, Hurley, and Ben). Of course Jack got to be heroic but more importantly we witnessed his complete development into a man of faith that had learned to trust others. Hurley remains compassionate and loyal, but also demonstrated the true leader he has become. Ben restored his faith in the Island and learned to use his unparalleled intelligence and experience to help the remaining survivors despite everything he’d done to them.

Everything came full-circle in the final moments as Jack died in the very same spot of the bamboo forest where he awoke after the Oceanic 815 crash at the very beginning. The story began with his eyes opening and ended with his eyes closing. Both times he was accompanied by the dog Vincent, most powerfully in the end depicting that the show’s oft-repeated phrase “Live together, die alone” didn’t have to be true. Jack not only found meaning through the Island and healed, living with and forging beautiful relationships with the likes of Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley. He also didn’t have to die alone as Vincent lay beside him.

At the end of the finale certain mysteries remained or were not explicitly answered, however, enough of the pieces are provided that one can find the answers if willing to engage in thoughtful synthesis of the various pieces.

Thus, the unceasing weirdness and deep investment in the show’s characters and their turbulent, yet rewarding journeys stayed strong to the very end.

Do you agree that the series finale was brilliant or could it have been better? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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Game of Thrones season 7 trailer: 5 Major Takeaways

Game of Thrones season 7 trailer: 5 Major Takeaways

Watch the official Game of Thrones season 7 trailer before reading my 5 major takeaways!

1. Littlefinger and Jon Snow clash: Defeating Ramsay Bolton and his allies at Winterfell would not have been possible without Littlefinger and the forces he brought from the Vale. But despite this and the alliance forged between the North and the Vale at the end of the season, Jon Snow has plenty of reason to hate Littlefinger. The problem is that Sansa has told Jon precious little about Littlefinger, most importantly the role he played in the torment she experienced because of Ramsay. Neither Sansa nor Jon know how integral Littlefinger was to the War of Five Kings and the extensive suffering and death it caused the Starks and their allies. It appears Jon will learn at least a piece of these matters as he slams Littlefinger against a wall in the crypts of Winterfell. Or is this the moment where Littlefinger reveals Jon’s parentage and the newly anointed King in the North lashes out at the truth? Above all, how can a ruthless manipulator and the archetypal hero (arguably the only honorable character left in the story) find a way to work together, particularly considering Littlefinger’s crimes against Jon’s family?

2. Unsullied vs. Lannister army: Queen Cersei and Queen Daenerys are two of the major players left in the game of thrones. Season 6 left them in positions of prime power but left audiences unsure of when they would face each other for the first time. The first meeting of Cersei and Daenerys is unclear, but the trailer features numerous shots of the Unsullied battling the Lannister army. This epic battle will likely determine the futures of Cersei and Daenerys and their attempts to maintain or seize control of the Iron Throne. We may even see our first glimpse of Casterly Rock through this battle.

3. Robert Baratheon’s fear has come true:

There’s been plenty of war since this scene, but more specifically we now see the hordes of Dothraki that Robert feared rampaging across Westeros. What Ned Stark claimed impossible has come to pass thanks to Daenerys, though neither Ned nor Robert foresaw the giant dragon flying above the Dothraki army.

4. Daenerys and her allies will not be at sea long: Season 7 appears to waste no time getting Daenerys and her allies to Westeros. In addition to the numerous shots of the Unsullied battling the Lannister army and the Dothraki, there are several shots of Daenerys at Dragonstone. I’m glad Daenerys, Tyrion, and the rest of these characters won’t be stuck at sea long, isolated from the core events. This will help the story keep a swift pace and I look forward to seeing how Daenerys handles the treacherous Euron Greyjoy. Among the allies of Daenerys it’s also worth noting that romance appears to be blooming between Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand and blooms further for Grey Worm and Missandei.

5. Where is Arya headed? We see a couple shots of Arya with a horse out in the bitterly cold woods. This makes it look like she’s headed North where she could reunite with Jon and Sansa, and perhaps even her direwolf Nymeria along the way. But since winter has come, it’s plausible that these bitterly cold woods are farther south and she’s headed to King’s Landing to kill Cersei and the Mountain, the final individuals on her list.

This trailer did an excellent job showcasing shots of the new season and briefly reacquainting us with many of our favorite characters without spoiling anything essential. Some key characters like Bran, Varys, Olenna Tyrell, and the Hound were conspicuously absent from the trailer but I’m confident all will play prominent roles when the season airs. The story moves ever closer to the final battle not only for the Iron Throne, but for human existence against the threat of the White Walkers. We are less than two months away from the premiere of season 7!

What other takeaways do you have from watching this trailer? What are you looking forward to most in season 7? Comment below!

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Why “The Final Battle” Should’ve Been Once Upon A Time’s Series Finale

Why “The Final Battle” Should’ve Been Once Upon A Time’s Series Finale

***Spoiler warning!

Once Upon A Time‘s season 6 finale “The Final Battle” reminded us more than ever of the show’s oft-repeated phrase “Magic always comes with a price.” While certainly not without its faults, the series has always proved to be delightful and make us believers in magic. But like anything of value, the magic needs an end deserving of its beginnings. The season 6 finale overall provides the ending we deserve for the whole series, not just this season.

Both parts of “The Final Battle” draw a number of parallels to the series premiere, helping to bring the story full-circle. The parallels vary in terms of creative strength. Testing Emma’s belief in a fresh way with world-shattering stakes yields a wonderful parallel. On the other hand, Snow or Charming saving one another with true love’s kiss for the millionth time (with dialogue of “I will always find you” and the latest obstacle “did give me pause”) already became stale long ago. Regardless, all the parallels usher the characters and the audience into the epic (and much different than expected) final battle prophesied from the beginning, ultimately leading the core characters to the happy beginnings most of them deserve and fought like hell for. There couldn’t have been a more perfect ending for the series and season 6.

As for the journey towards the finale, season 6 was not my favorite, largely because it lacked the narrative focus of earlier seasons. The focus of what it ultimately means to be the Savior and for Emma specifically received consistent focus. Many other narratives meandered and a few creative opportunities–particularly concerning a few villains–were squandered. How could the fascinating Jekyll and Hyde be killed so quickly and how could the Land of Untold Stories go so unexplored? Why incorporate a magnificent villain like Jafar if you’re barely going to use him? That being said, the season answered most of the questions heading in and as the episodes progressed (see the 5 burning questions I had for season 6: https://matthewrudoyblogfun.wordpress.com/2016/09/03/5-burning-questions-for-once-upon-a-time-season-6/). Longtime questions like who created the Dark Curse, why Malcolm resented his son Rumplestiltskin, the identity of Rumplestiltskin’s mother, and what the final battle would entail were all answered. The one question that went unanswered despite Adam and Eddy’s promises was the future of Lily and Maleficent and the identity of Lily’s father/Maleficent’s dragon lover. I thought the dragon guarding the beanstalk in the finale might finally provide some answers but alas it was not to be.

While not as focused and able to meet its potential as compared to earlier seasons, season 6 did provide answers and still found ways to be imaginative and engaging. Lana Parilla slayed as both Regina and the Evil Queen, investing the audience in the tension and unlikely resolution of their conflict. New concepts like the Wish Realm  and characters like Nemo enthralled us. The musical episode actually worked really well, Zelena’s “Wicked Always Win” being my favorite musical number thanks to the devious opportunism mixed with infectious optimism through the talented Rebecca Mader.

All these pieces building to the high-stakes, unique take on the final battle provided the opportunity to end on a creative high note, the core characters’ hard-won progress coming to fruition. Instead they end with a cliffhanger that recycles the original story.

I’d be lying if I said I’m not somewhat intrigued by how Henry has become the person seen in the episode’s flash forwards. But the intrigue does not negate the failure to capitalize on a satisfying ending. The magic of Once Upon A Time will continue at the price of losing many of our beloved characters and robbing audiences of a fitting, satisfying end to the series for the core characters we know and love.

Do you agree or disagree that “The Final Battle” should’ve been the series finale? Share your thoughts in the comments below and on social media!

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The Circle’s Transparent Approach to Exploring our Relationship with Technology

The Circle’s Transparent Approach to Exploring our Relationship with Technology

The Circle’s Transparent Approach to Exploring our Relationship with Technology

***Minor spoiler warning

Between promises to explore our dangerous relationship with technology and an impressive cast, I had high hopes for The Circle. While it proves to be an enjoyable film, The Circle fails to meet its potential through a lack of balanced or nuanced exploration of our relationship with technology. When Mae (Emma Watson) goes “fully transparent” under the direction of the Circle’s Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and his partner Stenton (Patton Oswalt), we get a complete view of Mae’s life through incredible technology. One of the best parts of the movie is seeing the comments pop up when Mae is “fully transparent” as these comments accurately reflect the comments section of almost any YouTube video or online article. Through this pursuit we see Mae fully embracing and even pushing the lengths at which technology should be used with Bailey and Stenton constantly bolstering these ideals. These characters and their actions are all pro-technology which makes sense for Bailey and Stenton but at a certain point just becomes confusing with Mae due to the negative consequences created by her use of all-consuming use of such technology.

On the other side, Mae’s friend Mercer is anti-technology from the start, and soon cuts off from technology completely. Mae’s parents go transparent along with their daughter but after a breach in their privacy also cut off from technology entirely. The movie struggles to tap into the potential of thoughtfully exploring our relationship with technology because the characters and their actions are too pro-technology or anti-technology with little middle ground in between. Ty (John Boyega) is a missed opportunity in this regard. As the creator of the TruYou software that is integral to the Circle, he works at the company but is morally conflicted about the Circle’s intrusive actions and exposes these intrusions to Mae. Through Ty we could’ve received a more nuanced exploration of the film’s overarching questions. Instead the film ultimately uses Ty as a plot device to impart necessary information and act as a resource to execute the film’s ending.

While disappointing in this sense, The Circle is still an enjoyable film. It kept me fully engaged as there is not a single moment where I felt my attention wander. The overall concept is intriguing and many facets of the story aren’t that far off from our current reality. Going “fully transparent” in many ways is Facebook live or any form of video live streaming taken to the extreme. The company culture of the Circle is rooted in companies like Google and Apple who provide their companies with more and more benefits in order to keep their employees at work, giving them everything they need at the company so they are incentivized to work as much as possible. The film even satirizes our society’s push to be extroverted and our relationship with social media and the meticulously crafted image many construct through their social media presence. The scene where two Circle employees approach Mae about her lack of presence on social media and lack of presence at the Circle’s social events is easily one of the film’s best scenes. As an extension of this, the ratings consumers give to employees of the Circle reminds one of ratings real-world consumers give to employees at companies like Lyft or Seamless, furthering the artificiality of a data-driven and data-defining society. The tension and stakes build swiftly, though the point to which they climax feels like a strange choice considering the events throughout the rest of the film. Ultimately, The Circle could’ve been stronger and more thought-provoking if it found more of a middle ground concerning our relationship with technology and imparting such balance and nuance to more of the characters and their actions. I am interested in reading the book and seeing how it compares to the film and if it perhaps provides a more balanced perspective.

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Why the Star Wars prequels are better than you realized

Why the Star Wars prequels are better than you realized

There is plenty to dislike about the Star Wars prequel trilogy, including but not limited to Jar Jar Binks, podracing, stilted dialogue, and the sort of creepy relationship between Anakin and Padme. However, on this May the Fourth I’d like to throw some love toward the oft-maligned Star Wars prequel trilogy. While these films are inferior to the original Star Wars trilogy and even the newer films, they do contain value and enjoyment that should not go unrecognized.

  1. Palpatine’s manipulations:
  • One of the best parts of the prequel trilogy is witnessing how Palpatine became the all-powerful Emperor we first met in Return of the Jedi. His transition from senator of Naboo to Supreme Chancellor of the Republic to Emperor of the Galactic Empire is impressive, but what’s most fascinating is how he manipulated the galaxy in order to make his ambitions a reality. For example, the Naboo-Trade Federation conflict which is basically the plot of The Phantom Menace is entirely engineered by Palpatine in order to become Supreme Chancellor. Many pan The Phantom Menace and there are valid reasons to do so. The narrative seems too tied down by specifics of trade routes and trade law. But that’s sort of the point. When sent to negotiate with the Trade Federation, Qui-Gon Jinn remarks that “I sense an unusual amount of fear for something as trivial as this trade dispute.” The conflict is supposed to be complicated in confusing and even tedious ways as that’s part of Palpatine’s plan, tricking the galaxy into focusing on these details and falling prey to his schemes while failing to see the bigger picture. Qui-Gon senses this idea but not the specifics.
  • If you re-watch The Phantom Menace seeking to understand every facet of Palpatine’s plan surrounding the Naboo-Trade Federation conflict and how it’ll allow him to become Supreme Chancellor, the movie becomes infinitely more intriguing and complex. Not only does Palpatine manipulate both sides of the conflict but he also has to readjust his plan several times due to unexpected resilience and success from Queen Padme Amidala, her allies, and their retaliation against the Trade Federation’s invasion of Naboo. This does not negate the less favorable aspects of the movie such as podracing and Jar Jar Binks. Yet, watching The Phantom Menace through the lens of understanding every step of Palpatine’s manipulations does make the movie better than you realized. The same holds true for Attack of the Clones. Engineering the Naboo-Trade Federation conflict catapulted Palpatine into the position of Supreme Chancellor. In Attack of the Clones he engineers the Clone Wars and manipulates the Jedi Order, Republic, and the Separatists. Such manipulations provide payoff and consequences for the major events in the prequel trilogy’s best film Revenge of the Sith such as Order 66, the emergence of the Galactic Empire ruled by Palpatine as an all-powerful Emperor, and the rise of Darth Vader.
  1. Fresh elements that enhance the rest of the Star Wars universe:
  • Despite the faults of the prequel trilogy, one can’t deny the imagination and freshness it brought to the Star Wars universe. These films showcase the Jedi Order at the height of their power, a critical piece of the Star Wars universe that no longer exists by the time of the original trilogy and the newer films. Seeing numerous Jedi running around with lightsabers and engaging in epic lightsaber battles is awesome to behold. Beyond lightsabers, calmer scenes like Yoda teaching the younglings in Attack of the Clones provide unique insight into the philosophies of the Jedi Order and how they were put into action. The same holds true for Jedi council meetings and conversations between individual Jedi. Scenes such as these help us better understand Obi-Wan and Yoda and their interactions with Luke in the original trilogy. 
  • In addition, the prequel trilogy introduces planets like Coruscant, Kamino, and Mustafar, all beautiful to behold and unlike any Star Wars planets we’ve seen before or since. All play a critical role not only in the prequel films but in other pieces of the Star Wars universe. For example, one of the most exciting connections in Rogue One is seeing Darth Vader’s castle on Mustafar, a thrilling connection only made possible by the events of the prequel trilogy. 
  • As creepy as the Anakin-Padme relationship is at times, it is a fresh and actually very literary approach to romance in the Star Wars universe and serves as a key foundation of Anakin becoming Darth Vader. Check out this blog post to better understand the thinking behind the Anakin-Padme relationship and why it actually works better than you thought: http://www.thegeekblock.com/455/
  • The lightsaber duel and final meeting between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope is already incredible but the prequel trilogy provides further insight and understanding that makes the scene even more powerful (largely thanks to Ewan McGregor’s incredible performance as a younger Obi-Wan). This is yet another disappointment of The Phantom Menace that it barely provides any development between Obi-Wan and Anakin. The development of their relationship only occurs in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
  • The prequel trilogy explains many of the original trilogy’s unanswered questions including but not limited to how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, how the Galactic Empire formed and Emperor Palpatine came to power, the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi before Anakin became Darth Vader, how the Jedi Order went from prominent galaxy-wide guardians of peace and justice to only Obi-Wan and Yoda in exile, the story behind the mother of Luke and Leia (Padme) and her relationship with Anakin. Part of the problem is that most of the answers don’t come until Revenge of the Sith, easily the most exciting and emotional of the prequel trilogy films. Fascinating as Palpatine’s manipulations are, it’s still a bit much of a slow-burn development in the prequel trilogy’s first two films. Yet you need the events of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones and every step of Palpatine’s manipulations in order for the consequences and answers in Revenge of the Sith to make sense.

Ultimately what prevents the prequel trilogy from standing alongside the original trilogy or even the newer Star Wars films is that they fail to capture the motif of the unordinary individual becoming extraordinary. The journey of unlikely heroes is critical to the heart of Star Wars. The original trilogy gave us a whiny farmboy who became a Jedi Knight integral to defeating the Empire and bringing balance to the Force, and a self-centered smuggler who became a general and hero of the Rebellion. The Force Awakens gave us a lonely scavenger and desperate ex-Stormtrooper who dared to stand against the First Order. Rogue One gave us a reprogrammed Imperial droid with a sarcastic sense of humor and a blind man clinging to belief in the Force despite the overwhelming oppression throughout the galaxy and near-extinction of the Jedi. Both individuals, along with several others, sacrificed themselves and everything they had to get the Death Star plans to the Rebellion. Such journeys from unordinary to extraordinary resonate with audiences, most of whom leave mostly unordinary lives.

In the prequel trilogy the main characters are already extraordinary when we meet them. Obi-Wan is already an accomplished, wise, and powerful Jedi. Padme already rules a planet through a nature both fierce and graceful. Even as a young boy Anakin is already extraordinary through his unparalleled connection with the Force, already making him a masterful pilot and mechanic.

The chemistry-fueled humor is also lacking in the prequel trilogy. Despite heavy drama, the original trilogy and newer films contain humor that feels very human and is driven by the incredible chemistry between the characters. The Phantom Menace doesn’t really have any of this as the humor revolves around the annoying Jar Jar Binks. Attack of the Clones just really doesn’t have any humor, the worst part being that watching Yoda duel Count Dooku is probably the most humorous part of the movie. Revenge of the Sith finally provides the chemistry-fueled humor with the dynamics between Anakin and Obi-Wan during the Battle of Coruscant, helping to start the best of the prequel trilogy on a high note.

I definitely like the original trilogy and the newer films more than the prequel trilogy. However, I truly believe that the prequel trilogy does contain a lot of value, enjoyment, and serves a critical role in Star Wars canon. 

May the fourth be with you. Always.

 

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