Monday, January 24, 2011

Some Star Wars in it? Screw That! We Need More Star Wars in it! And Lightsabers!

I had a response back from one of my friends in regards to my last post where I referenced Star Wars. Although Star Wars was mentioned and was included in the title of the post, the post was not about Star Wars. I mentioned that I did not think that the new movies were good and hurt the series in general. However, my friend suggested that I looked at what those movies did right. Another friend commented that he would like to hear why I didn't like the new movies. So, for the sake of that along with the fact that the bulk of my posts for the last while are very whiny, angsty and generally emo, I figured one that I lay out a little bit of the other side of me which is the whiny, nerdy, and generally emo media commentator. Originally, the bulk of this post came from my response to the first friend on a Facebook message. He was stating some of the good things he saw in the films and my response to them. I will also expand upon my thoughts to include a wider scope of my thought on the films.

I am trying to be even handed in this response, admitting what was cool about it (which is minute in the face of the craptasticness of it all) and giving my reasons for why those cool aspects do not help and in fact, may just be one of the distractions that are hurting the films. I know I've harped on my other friends for what I felt was an unfair evaluation of Avatar, so I would hate to be hypocritical and simply ignore the aspects I did like. And here we go...

The diamonds you have mentioned are more in the design realm which unfortunately you can't prop up a series with. Were there cool things about the prequels, sure, but it was like George sat there and said "You know what would be awesome? A fight over lava! Yeah! How about a Sith with a double lightsaber! No, a guy that wields four lightsabers!" And in the process forgot what the point of having fleshed out characters was. Sure, maybe the writing in the old movies weren't super fantastic, but they had so much more quotable lines that came out of character's personality instead of mere conveying plot points.

It just seems like George was throwing together this whole thing haphazard in all the wrong ways. For instance, in the old movies, he had a thought out story that was consistent and logical and the problems that came up were because of the difficulty of the shooting with the technology. In a lot of regards, Lucas and Spielberg are better when they have to be creative with their film production and it forces them to truly think about the story they are telling. Unfortunately, Lucas now just has the ability of putting the first idea down into CGI without considering the potential flaws in the story. So when R2 gets stuck on one side of the factory and George has no idea how to get him over to the other side, he just goes "Oh, jet boosters! Bam!" even though there is no previous use of them (and there was time that would have totally helped to have jet boosters). In the old movies, technical problems forced Lucas to really buckle down and create a fantastic movie, but he didn't have to worry about those problems and so it was like he put out the first draft of his story and glammed it up with special effects.

It just seemed like for every good idea, it is surrounded by bad ideas.

For instance, I admit, the pod racing was awesome and was definitely one of the highlights of Episode 1, but the reason for the race was mired in a bizarro bet that made little sense for a part of a spaceship that could only be found at this tiny dealer that happened to be the first one they go to. In addition the apparently moral, wise Jedi is going around with a strange sense of morality that involves lying and cheating at which point, why doesn't he just steal the part if he's willing to go through this ridiculous plan. Yes, pod racing: awesome, but story-telling: butchered for the sake of some flashy CGI.

Slave I in action: awesome and fantastic, introduction of Boba Fett: painful.

Seeing wookiees: sweet. Seeing Death Star: alright? But I don't watch Star Wars to see references to old movies, I want to see those characters and things in action telling a story. It would be cooler to see the Death Star blow up something or threaten to instead of Darth Vader just sort of looking at it.

All this aside, to me, the biggest flaw of all is the characters. By far. Try to describe to me the characters of the prequels without mentioning what their job is and more than half of them would hold the quality "stoic". Think about it. Qui-Gon, Padme, Mace Windu, Chancellor Valorum, etc. The personality (and not the neat powers they have) of a character should be the primary distinction and that's what leads to interesting interactions with other characters.

The interactions aren't interesting. They are there simply to move the plot along. For instance, the interactions of Padme and Anakin in the second movie are pushed along awkwardly and seemed to be there simply because they have to eventually have Luke and Leia, so we need to go through the motions of boy meets girl ten years ago, boy for some reason still has an obsession with girl that he only interacted with for a total of two days (maybe?), boy says dark, creepy things to girl, girl is totally not listening to anything he says, girl falls for the least romantic lines talking about deserts and water and a floating pear, boy slays a whole tribe single-handedly with no reaction from girl, boy and girl marry, girl gets pregnant, *phew* we got this far, now it's ok that girl realizes boy is clearly evil, dies during childbirth.

By the way, has anyone noticed that you probably could have done away with the Phantom Menace and you are not missing any part of the story? You could've easily started the prequels with Anakin already the apprentice of Obi-Wan and have given the first movie to showing his good qualities and develop the love between him and Padme and then use the last two movies to show the fall of his character. But no, we have to have him as a little kid, doing little to advance his character and then realize that oh, crap we have to cram a terrible, romantic storyline and his complete transformation from being a good guy to embrace the dark side all in the same movie and then make that there is more space for a few more lightsabers.

I want to like the new movies. I like the idea of Star Wars being a story about Anakin fall and redemption, but it's not. It is two separate series. One was about the mythical hero's journey and the other is about how many lightsabers can we put on the screen. Three of them? Shut up, this is Star Wars, make the bad guy alone have four and maybe his tail can hold a fifth. What? He has no tail? You're fired! 

However, you look at the old movies and they had characters that you learned about and were distinct and interesting. The great moments of the movies come from those events where the characters connected despite their differences. Leia pecking Luke on the cheek and wishing him luck. Luke confronting Han about sticking around to help the Alliance in their impossible fight on the Death Star. Han showing his courage and true compassion for his friend by heading out onto the snowy plain to find Luke despite the fact he was trying to save his own hide from those who hunted him. Luke impatience with Yoda on Dagobah and Yoda sensing that the boy isn't fit for the role of Jedi. Vader clearly holding back in his attempt to bring Luke to his side and revealing he is Luke's father and you can see it in the way the fight plays out. Leia finally realizing that she loves Han just before he is frozen. Vader's struggle with seeing his son being tortured by his master and realizing the error of his ways.

These character moments are not executed nearly as well in the new movies, because all the polish went to the design, the effects and as much crazy crap that can be cluttered onto the screen instead of the point of the films which is it's humanity.

I'm sorry, but I cannot concede the good points of the film without being reminded that those good points came at the expense of what made the old movies fantastic. Sure the old movies had problems and they show their age now, but they are still better movies than all the lightsabers in the world. It pains me to see these new ones are so majorly flawed and have hurt what used to be my favorite series of films. *Single tear*.

Friday, January 21, 2011

There's Entirely Too Much Star Wars in this Post

Tonight, I am restless. I couldn't fall asleep. I didn't even have that tired feeling. It feels like I could stay up for another three hours before feeling sleepy. This whole day has been kind of a wash. I told myself that I would write a script for a video for the weekend and I couldn't bring myself to focus enough. I am scrapping one idea I had for another one that will be easier to execute. At the moment, I feel like I am having trouble keeping up with the work I need to finish. Ever since I came back, the writing has seemed to be much more difficult. That's not good news when I am needing to produce more than I have for the sake of the show I am putting together. I am feeling stressed about the matter.

The strange thing is, I don't know if I have been as spiritually disciplined as I have been in the last couple of weeks. I have been reading the Bible fairly frequently. And it's not that strained 1 chapter a day type of thing. I finished the last quarter of Ezekiel, the letters of John, James (a couple of times to get it prepped for my small group), and just today twelves chapters of Job. Prayer has become more apart of my life as I am trying to keep my motives and understanding in check. I have been trying to teach myself to pray when I have an issue that bothers me.

This is of particular importance right now because I know what I am like. I tend to be obsessive when I have something that fascinates me or interested. For instance, when I was younger, my friend Erik would watch the Star Wars movies and I never joined him because I figured I wouldn't enjoy them. However, at one point I gave in and watched them. I forget why. Perhaps it was after I was introduced to the card game based on it and I wanted to understand the game better. Hmm. Interesting. Anyways, I wound up liking the movies and my brain immediately began downloading any information about the Star Wars universe that I could. I even relented on my no-reading policy and read a three book series that followed Boba Fett (probably the most overrated character in Star Wars). I could name the pilots and their call signs for the entire X-wing squadron that attacked the Death Star. Etcetera, etcetera. Arguably, I knew more about the movies than Erik (although he may argue otherwise however I now realize that there is no winner in that argument).

I don't know how I feel about that last paragraph. I mean, clearly it's a great example of what I want to communicate, but my Star Wars phase is definitely something I am self-conscious about. Especially since the prequel movies marred what was once a fantastic series. I could explain why, but that is off-topic and would be merely a source of regret for me to write and for you to read.

Anyway, right now, I have that thing that I want to go and immerse my time and knowledge in, but I am trying to give myself some self-control. I am specifically trying to hold myself back so that way I don't wind up with priorities out of whack. I am here to serve the church and the people. I am trying to keep God as the priority, especially since I feel like the church has been missing the point for a long time and I want to call them back.

Prayer has been good at keeping my priorities straight and why I have tried to be more conscious of doing it.

I have come to really appreciate the values and the conversations I have had with Arden and Chris. I am finding that I am not alone in my desire to see extremism to be taken out of the church but rather put the focus back on the core of what is important.

In most ways, things are good. But I see now, after writing this exactly why I can't sleep. I am distracted. And because I am distracted, I have a hard time focusing. That's why I can't write. That's why I feel stressed. The struggle with the desires of the heart continue.

Lord have mercy.

"Drove downtown in the rain
9:30 on a Tuesday night
Just to check out the late night record shop.
Call it impulsive,
Call it compulsive,
Call it insane.
When I'm surrounded, I just can't stop.
It's a matter of instinct,
It's a matter of conditioning,
A matter of fact."
- "Brian Wilson" from the Barenaked Ladies' album "Gordon"

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Born to Run

Last night was Aaron Hildebrandt's New Year's/Birthday Extravaganza. It was the major event that inspired this trip home in many regards. Although this year, I don't think extravaganza really is the right descriptor. It was more like a 'get-together'. We still played a few games, still had snacks, but it was quieter. Many of the regulars from years past were not there because circumstances were changed. People were with new friends or their spouses or meeting the family and friends of their significant others. Aaron's plan was also oriented to have a smaller crowd because of the place where many were. It was still fun and it was still great to see everyone who was there but when I left, it hit me that this may be one of the last times we do this. I can't expect for the Hildebrandts to come all the way back to Manitoba from Vancouver every year. It was interesting to notice the change in their attitude and feeling of Vancouver. The phrase "We're looking forward to going back home" in relation to Vancouver as opposed to last year's, "It's good to be home."

Brad followed-up with the comment to the effect, "Yeah, it's nice to come back to the country for a few days but that's about it. There's not that same connection."

The lives of these friends of mine (along with myself) have been changing, but this is the first time it seems to have sunken in for people and it reflects in their approach.

Since returning to Winnipeg, there were certain ideas that many were talking about. Buying houses and having kids and getting married. Most of my peers are looking at one of those three currently with a few exceptions who are like me in the sense that they living life more according to what I have previously called the Adventure life path. People who looking to explore and do something different. (If you want to read about these life paths, you will find it here, and also another here). I think for me, as I have recently attached myself heavily to this path, I am reminded that it is probably the most foreign to people. Most people want families and careers and homes. And although I am in the middle of the tension between that and being free to go off and doing what I am really good at, I have realized that many people see the Adventurer as more of a reckless gambler. It may be admirable to go and do what you want, but at the same time it is viewed as just messing around.

One conversation that I found to be a blessing was a chance meeting with Sarah Pascoe. I would not say we were ever friends, but when I see a fellow Providence alum, I go and say 'hello'. It was in a random Starbucks and we had one of those pleasant conversations of what we were doing and after the fifteen minutes, it was the most I had ever talked to her previously and was the first time I even knew anything about her aside from who she hung out with. Anyways, I found out that she is getting ready to go with her husband down to Haiti to run an orphanage and I found a sort of kinship as we talked about the pressure of the culture to settle down and the perceived daftness to go and put yourself on the line.

I think the difference in coming back was how my friends' lives are diverging and that my familiar life that I had is now past. Winnipeg, although a home of sorts by the nature of history, is quickly moving towards a memory. It's funny how quick that came about.

This trip has also highlighted my pull towards to keep moving. I am already starting to feel a fidgetiness in Nelson. I am busy. Things are good. People are great. But I don't want to get too attached. I want to impact lives, but I just want to keep moving. I don't know when I will get to the whole settle down part. I always thought I was going to be one who did, but I'm not so sure anymore.

"Together we could break this trap
We'll run 'til we drop, baby, we'll never go back
Will you walk with me out on the wire
'Cause baby, I'm just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta find out how it feels
I want to know if love is wild, girl, I want to know if love is real."
- Title track from Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run"