The Force Looks at Its Alarm Clock

Generally speaking I would say I loved the new Star Wars movie. I watched it twice so far and will watch it again. But while my heart is still buzzing with happiness over a Star Wars movie that captures what Star Wars is, let’s dig into some of the particulars about the movie and then the direction of the Star Wars universe in general.

P.S. there will be spoilers.

1. The general absence of green screen production made my heart soar. I don’t care how good digital animation gets, it doesn’t compare to the physicality of … the physical. Having a body in a suit is much better than a stand in sporting a green leotard while you say your lines to a face on a stick. Even a puppet can at least be seen and touched. This movie largely brought things back to the Jim Henson way of doing things. For that I am very grateful. However, there were at least two digital characters which stood out to me as being unnecessarily cartoonified. The little woman with glasses can almost be forgiven because she was made so well. But if you’re going to make a digital creature, don’t make one that could just as easily been played by a small woman. The other is Big Pappa Leader Man, which is just about as ridiculous a name as he was actually given, aka, Supreme Leader Snoke. Hold a moment while I gag. This character also did not need to be digitally animated. It could have very easily been played by an actual person, though I personally would have done away with the character altogether. The third digitally animated character is one I’m giving a pass because surprisingly I didn’t mind BB-8 all that much and I didn’t think of him as computer animated, though I understand why he had to be so.

2. The basic story line is, well, basic. The characters and their back stories are interesting. The acting was great. But the formulaic structure of the script left a lot to be desired. I will even give a pass for the light side dark side conflict because that is just largely what the star wars universe is about. But a third death star? And no, making it look different and calling it something different doesn’t count. It’s a death star and it is destroyed the same way the others were, which is dumb. And while I’m talking about the death star thingy, which this time actually destroys stars, how do you have enough stars to drain? Does the death star planet move from star to star? The movie could have spent more time on something different. Something new. A twist. A focus on the people a bit more and large moon-sized weapons less.

3. Deviation from the previous cannon is disappointing. I can understand the desire to start fresh, especially considering the hundreds of star wars books previously approved by the hand of Lucas. At least in the original “aftermath” of episode 6 there were no death planets. And those books came out like fan fiction, well written, to fill in the gaps after the movies had run their course. Now we have books and comics written so you will buy them in anticipation of the next movie and help you fill in the gaps and make sense of the movies. The same tactic seems to be employed with the Marvel universe … to the point that a friend of mine has simply stopped trying to keep up. Disney understands the money that can be had from the Star Wars universe. But I implore them not to make it into something built for cash flow instead of build for imagination flow. Because the cash flow will run dry as the heart of the mission deadens. Keep the energy of J.J. Abrams and trash the books like Star Wars: Aftermath which read like they were by a 16-year-old on summer break.

In conclusion, I want a true Star Wars universe, sure. But I also want something that continues the saga, not that just rehashes it. And I want a world built on delving into the fantasy not just one that takes in the cash with forced (no pun intended), formulaic storylines and comic books you have to read if you want the story to make sense, and then find out that it really makes no sense anyway and they just teased you into buying worthless stories.

So has the force awakened? Maybe. But right now it’s checking the time and trying to decide if it wants to sleep through the next movie or come alive.

Interstellar, a review

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I was pleasantly surprised by this gem from Nolan in the vein of 2001 Space Odyssey and The Fountain, delving into the outer limits of our celestial knowledge. It might not be Nolan’s most polished work from a scripting standpoint, but it moved along at a regular pace and kept me interested. I was particularly drawn to the exploration of various new planets, particularly thrilled by the visual display of each. I felt as though there were intriguing discoveries to be found if only the movie had been a miniseries and had time to find them. The cast was superb, with almost every supporting role filled by top notch big names performing their best. In fact, I think it is the cast who propel this movie forward the most, advancing the plot more than the actual plot does. I tend to think this to be as a movie should be. The robots were brilliantly designed in that they were built into the story’s grain without fanfare, playing as much a comic relief role as can be expected in a Nolan film. The tie-ins were intriguing if not quite as well processed as, say, Inception. The heartfelt moments were genuine and touching without allowing for any sap. The visuals were rapturous. Most of all the ending left me wanting more in a good way, as though I could easily see the story continue down further pioneering routes. On the other hand, I had no problem with the ending and felt satisfied.

There were a couple of one liner tag lines built into the dialog that seemed a bit contrived, as though they were present for the sole purpose of being in the trailer. I don’t really like the line about how we were born on earth but never meant to die here. The reason I don’t like it is that it doesn’t seem to fit the ethos of the movie. Why were we not meant to die here? What was the preordained goal to move on from Earth? If that was the theme, it wasnt captured by the actual film. A better one might have been “The human race has always been instilled with an explorer spirit. It is the only thing that can save us.” This brings me to my last caveat to totally enjoying the story.

The one thing that was disheartening, though admittedly subtle, was the idea that we are our own guiding force. In essence, we are literally our own gods. I will not explain further lest i spoil the movie, but as a Christian I would love to see a space movie from a Christian perspective, exploring this great universe from a Biblical worldview. But again, this underlying theme that we guide ourselves as gods is so subtle it might not even be intentional. From a humanist perspective it makes brilliant, though far fetched, sense and helps to explain etherial guidiance from an athiest understanding.

Nolan is not a preacher of his personal beliefs by any means, and I appreciate that he is not one to blatantly lecture us on any topic. I also appreciate that he did not succumb to a story of the future perils of global warming. He took his own route for the end of the world and it works much better than climate change alarmism.

Overall I give it 4 wormholes to great storytelling.

Cinderella as a surprising example of the Christian life

  

First of all, this movie is Kenneth Branagh doing what he was meant to do. It is antique and sophisticated, drawing on depth of character for propulsion of each scene. He lets you look at what people are going through in their eyes between lines. I love it. My only qualm is that it wasn’t all in as an adult story. The fairy godmother scene and the almost talking mice were obviously not a comfort zone for Branagh, but included as a part of Disney’s obsession with retail options for our youth. The real story is not friendly mice or fairy godmothers but humble kindness and the power of unadulterated meekness.

I hadn’t thought of this fairy tale as a study in humility before this movie came out, but that’s exactly what it is. Strength with kindness, Cinderella’s mantra, is an adequate description of long suffering as spoken of in the Bible. Cinderella, as she states in one of the final scenes, did not deserve any of the tribulation brought upon her by step mother and sisters, yet endured it willingly and was, in the end, rewarded beyond measure.

The stepmother’s explanation to Cinderella as to why she treated her as she did is also telling. Paraphrasing, she says “I’ve treated you like this because you are always so good and I’m …” She can’t bring herself to speak out loud her own character of sinfulness, but the idea is clear. The expression of kindness in the face of indignity angers those with more self centered attitudes because it reveals what they could be but at the same time can’t seem to be.

The comparison with the Christian walk is not perfect because I beleive it is unintentional. There are times when the secular world gets it right even if they don’t completely understand why. They just barely tap into a truth but are unable to bring it to its logical conclusion. I say this because the movie ultimately does not explain what gives Cinderella the power to behave the way she does. Though clearly stating that her behavior is not motivated by fear, it leaves the viewer to suppose by default that this strength of character must come from inside. But if this is true by new age teaching standards, then the stepmother should have been able to reach within herself to rise above as well. The depiction, however, is that there is at least some internal stepmother struggle to do so and she is not able to succeed.

My advice as a Christian is to rely on the miraculous grace of God in order to endure for His glory. Continue in meekness as He did, and perhaps you will experience a little magic along the way. But whether you have a pumpkin transforming experience or not, you can be sure that “the sufferings of this present world are nothing compared to the glory that will follow.”