Vietnam – A Television History (1985) review and comparison to the 2017 PBS documentary

Rated: 3.5 / 5

Introduction

So this documentary series was recommended by a reviewer or two after watching the Ken Burns and Lynn Novack PBS documentary from 2017 (which left me wanting, and feeling cheated, by the end). When I found out that this documentary series was censored via its 2004 DVD release (compared to it’s 1987 VHS release), that sealed the deal. I would watch this, but not before tracking down the original VHS set, which I acquired on eBay for about as much as I payed for the Blu-Ray Ken Burns documentary. Watched it in its original VHS glory, then burned them onto my computer, and later compared and contrasted the VHS versions with the DVD version (the latter of which are currently available on youtube; only a couple of the VHS episode versions are on youtube as of this writing). And unfortunate to say, I’m seeing a pattern here with documentaries of old compared to documentaries of new, and revised versions of documentaries of old. But either way, I can definitively say this, Vietnam – A Television History is a far better documentary on Vietnam than the 2017 PBS version is. While the PBS version spent a respectable 18 hours on the subject spanning over 10 episodes, the VHS version spends 13 hours over a span of 13 episodes (while the DVD version only has 11 episodes, thus only 11 hours), and still manages to provide a better understanding of it all.

I’ll be referencing the uncut VHS edition from here on (at least up until the end). If you want to see how badly the DVD version fucked things up, I uploaded several youtube videos (and 1 bitchute video, because fuck youtube and its censorship bullshit) highlighting the differences between the VHS and DVD versions, mainly showing what was left out (not in any stylish way, I decided to keep it simple and therebye subtly encourage those who are interested to track down the VHS editions to get the full experience if they’re interested). You can see them here (though the last episode is missing simply because the DVD version left out the last episode entirely):

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Naoki Urasawa’s Monster (2004) review

Rated: 3 / 5 (might improve sometime in the future when I decide to rewatch this show)

And slowly, you come to realize, it’s all as it should be.
You can only do so much.
If you’re game enough, you can place your trust in me.
For the love of life, there’s a trade-off.
We could lose it all, but we’ll go down fighting.

So I’ve been aware of this anime’s reputation for a while now.  Some say it’s “the best anime no one has ever seen,” and by no one they mean Americans.  Not sure how true that is (personally, I think that reputation should fall upon Legend of the Galactic Heroes, something I have completely downloaded, but have only seen a few episodes so far; didn’t stop because it sucked, just have the mindset, “Let me finish this, and this, and this first, before getting sucked into this.”), as I believe it has gotten the attention it’s deserved since its release, but viewers have to jump through a few hoops to get the whole thing.  From what I understand, this only aired on the Sci-Fi channel (was it that far back, or was it SyFy at this point?) for a duration, and the last 15 or so episodes never aired, so most didn’t get to see how the anime would wrap up.  Well, I’ve seen the whole damn thing.  I won’t say how, but you could probably think of a few ways.

So, how was it?  Not too shabby, despite a couple minor caveats here and there; up until the last 5-6 episodes or so when it does this stupid bullshit that a lot of animes do that irritate me to no end.  I’ll get to what those are later, but for now I’ll just say they don’t fuck up the show to the point where I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.  Despite its faults, it’s one of the better anime series out there, and it doesn’t run so long to the point where it overstays it’s welcome (I mean, Inuyasha, Bleach, One Piece, holy fuck do those go on forever).

Oh, and there will be spoilers.  Just sayin’.

So the show starts out with this master surgeon, Dr. Tenma, who is considered to be the best doctor in the country (the show primarily takes place in Germany, but the lead doctor protagonist is Japanese), conflicted with his choices of whether he should continue to do what his bosses want, healing the patients they demand and thus prioritizing the more wealthy/famous/political over the commoners, or not.  The guilt of continuing this trend weighs heavy on him until he decides to disobey orders and do surgery on a young boy named Johan who was shot in the head, choosing to help him over the other more “important” individual.  Because of his actions he becomes de-promoted, and his twat fiance (who is the daughter of the hospital president) shows her true colors in that she was only in the relationship for the finances and high position, so she ditches him for another.  But the act has unforeseeable repercussions that extend beyond this.  Soon after healing the boy, several of the hospital higher ups are killed via poison, leaving nothing in the way of Tenma moving back up in the ranks.  And the boy patient Johan, along with his sister (who was admitted due to trauma/shock) disappear.

Years later, Tenma is successful, and glad to be rid of his fiance, who tried to come back to him (bitch, please).  However, a patient of his raves and rants about a monster coming for him, and he runs out of the hospital with Tenma in pursuit, only for both of them to become confronted by the monster.  The monster, as it turns out predictably, is Johan, the boy patient from nearly a decade ago.  Johan kills the patient, spares Tenma, and leaves.  Tenma also finds out that Johan is a serial killer, who has been killing many people over the years, which makes Tenma second-guess his philosophy that every life is sacred, and equal, and worth saving.  Are there some lives that shouldn’t be held as high as others?  Are there some lives that must be ended for the good of others?  Well, Tenma decides to change his life, leave his job, and begin tracking down Johan across the country, trying to find him and eventually kill him.

That’s more or less how the opening 10 episodes go.  And this is a series comprised of 74 episodes.  I began to wonder, “The premise is interesting, but how in the hell can they keep this show engaging for that long of a duration?  I’m seeing the setup for intrigue and deeper layers indicating that there’s more going on than what we’re currently seeing, but for another 60+ episodes?”

And the next several episodes began to worry me in this regard.  Because despite how the first few episodes seem, this isn’t one of those shows that tells its story in a straightforward manner where we continually follow the lead protagonist most of the time.  No.  For several episode stretches and different intervals, we are introduced to other characters, and follow their stories, like Tenma’s arc during the first act was just one story amidst a bunch of other stories that encompass a giant conspiracy.  In hindsight, this technique worked, but it demands patience from the viewer.  There were times where I went, “Ok, this is nice and all, but what the hell is happening with Tenma!?”  There are times when we leave him and then get introduced to some girl attending a college for a few episodes; or later on are introduced to some child of a rich man trying to become re-aquainted with his father; or follow a cop who’s a recovering drunk.  But after a certain point, they all start to link together.

By the time the series was halfway over, I was down with this style of pacing.  It accomplishes something that I desire in a lot of television shows.  That the main protagonist is not the center of the universe.  There are other pieces in the game that move independent of his actions/activities, who accomplish things that the protagonist is incapable of accomplishing, whether it’s because he’s not in the right place at the right time, or he doesn’t have the skill-set to do this sort of thing (ex: Tenma can’t really fight, and he’s just so-so with a gun, and most importantly he doesn’t know everyone anymore than he has all the answers).  Plus virtually all of these other characters are interesting in their own way, thus I didn’t mind so much that I was spending time with them.

By favorite of these side-characters is easily the detective Heinrich Lunge, who pretty much chooses to have no life outside of his detective work, and can become obsessive with solving cases.  And he has a technique for doing so.  He is able to recall conversations and details with eerie accuracy, like he’s a computer who can record information at will.  Yet his method does have a fault.  Despite being able to recall conversations word-for-word, another character (who is a criminal psychiatrist) points out that Lunge utilizes this technique in a biased manner.  If he has already predetermined a potential outcome, he will emphasize a tone/aura around his recall-ability, such as believing an individual said a line in a certain way (serious, lighthearted, grim, casual, a lie, a truth) when said-individual actually said the line in a different way.  Because as objectively-minded as some people try to be, there will always be an amount of subjectivity to how they perceive things.  Plus he does all his work at the expense of alienating his family; and there were times where I began to sympathize with this guy and begged for him to go to his daughter, a sign of good writing.

And speaking of multi-dimensional characters, to my surprise, Tenma’s bitch-tits fiance ends up showing a sympathetic side to her, though you do have to get pretty far in the show to see it.  And, of course, even the main villain Johan is shown to be multidimensional.  There are no perfect characters in this show, no heroes that aren’t infallible, no villains that are pure evil (even if they do their best to convince themselves and others that’s how they are).

Getting into the character of Johan here, he does become a fascinating character.  First one begins to wonder just how it is he’s able to brainwash/manipulate others into doing his deeds.  Because as we soon find out, he usually prefers not to get his own hands bloody (though he certainly has no qualms about doing so), but rather getting other people to do things for him.  Why?  What is his end goal?  Why is he doing this?  Well, honestly, despite the hopes others have for him (there are organizations who have an interest in Johan, partly because they’ve put some investment into him in the past), he seems more interested in causing destruction simply because he likes manipulating others to see how they will all interact with each other, like interfering with the paths a line of ants would take, forcing them to follow different trails and seeing how they will adapt to new obstacles.  And he is determined to show that no one really deserves to live, that there isn’t really any value in life.  Which is why he became a bit fascinated with Tenma, intentionally bringing him into the game, wanting to see Tenma’s early philosophy on life proven wrong by having Tenma turn that very belief 180 degrees.

He also has an obsession with identity, or more accurately, lack of identity.  Because he feels he himself has none.  Because he is a monster; because his beliefs were built on the foundation of an obscure kid’s book titled, “The Monster With No Name,” something he was read to during his younger years.  On top of that, he was also the subject to multiple experiments done on children, experiments designed to create a new Hitler, ala The Boys From Brazil, but more extreme.  The experiments were designed to make the children intelligent, incredibly disciplined, and very acute.  The main thing they were taught was on observing their surroundings, and learning how to read people, to anticipate how an individual with a certain type of personality would react to various general situations.  Thus the children could grow up to become master manipulators.  And lastly, and this is something implied more than anything else (though there are enough heavy hints dropped to convince me), that Johan wasn’t always a male.  As a very young child, before he was separated from his sister, he used to be a boy, but due to surgery from the organization, he was turned into a boy (and thus to my shock, this series somehow pulled off an LGBT twist that didn’t come off as forced at all, and it was rather brilliant).  It’s at this point that a lot of his questioning of identity and his madness begins to make a lot of sense, ultimately making him one of the more intriguing villains in anime history, with a very tragic backstory.  His innocence was lost early on, thus he believed early on that innocence doesn’t exist.

Though to be fair, it is quite easy for children to lose their innocence.

And since he was trained to be a manipulator (though some in the organization admit that he was a prodigy compared to the other children, which is something that was bound to happen), he finds ways to easily manipulate others.  Because if you observe one for long enough, you find faults in their character, regrets over sins of the past, or having no regrets and thus being prime candidates for doing evil deeds simply because they enjoy it.  There are many faults to be exploited in humanity, and exploit them he does, not for riches, not for fame, but to send a message.

Fascinating stuff, and there are other complexities I haven’t covered yet, but I’ll leave those for readers who wish to seek out the show.  And this would be as good a time as any before reading the rest of this, because now I’m going to spoil the ending (moving from spoilers to uber-spoilers).  Because the ending is why I currently don’t rate the show higher than 3/5.

It’s not that the final outcome in of itself was bad, it’s just some of the bullshit that was done to get there, bullshit that was easily avoidable.  So first off, about halfway through the show, there’s this big muscleman who gets shot and flies down the story of a building and into the smoke below where a fire had broken out.  The way they framed this, the way it was shown, an alarm bell rang in the back of my mind, “He’s going to show up again.  We didn’t see the life go out of his eyes, so he’s coming back.”  That’s anime 101 logic (and most film logic for that matter, but animes pull this shit all the time, and it annoys the fuck out of me because it comes off as insulting my intelligence, what little I have).  So I was (not) shocked to see him show up about a dozen or so episodes later.

“That’s right motherfuckers, you can’t kill me!”

But that’s just the warmup.  During the finale, this bodyguard and Lunge get in a scuffle, and Lunge continues to do this stupid shit that keeps getting bodybuilder to regain the upper hand.  One of these actions was so fucking stupid, the anime didn’t want to shame itself by showing it, so it happens off-screen and is mentioned later (you know what, fuck you, seriously).  “Oh, I let him live and didn’t bother to handcuff him or anything, which allowed him to tackle me while I was walking down this stairs with my back turned to him.  Yeah, it makes me sound like a fucking idiot doesn’t it?  Good thing you didn’t see me being a fucking idiot, considering I’m supposed to be the intelligent one.”

And then, of course, there’s the tip of the finale.  Where the main protagonist and others are face-to-face with Johan, guns pointed, people wounded, emotions running high.  Johan is asking Tenma to end his life, by shooting him in the head.  A part of Tenma doesn’t want to do this, because it’s not in self-defense, and he knows that he will be forever changed if he takes a life as opposed to saving one.  And no one else really wants him to do this other than Johan himself, though many do want Johan to die because of all the lives he has taken.  Long story short, some other semi-random schmuck ends up shooting Johan in the head, which was a lucky shot not only because he had never fired a gun before, but also because he was in a bit of a drunken state.  It’s a pure lazy fucking cop-out, and it results in the show trying to give the happiest ending possible, despite everything that happened prior to this, from episode 1 and onward.  It would’ve been interesting to see how Tenma would’ve handled himself after doing that, but nope, we’re not going to have any of that.

Plus the whole thing just seems naive to me.  And I get what they were going for.  Once you kill, you lose an element of innocence that you will never get back.  I get it.  But the fact remains that if someone had killed this psychopath far earlier on, a shitload of lives would’ve been spared his wrath, and many more would’ve lived.  You can talk about losing innocence all you want, but that is why people exist who are willing to lose that innocence to protect others so that way others won’t lose their own innocence, much less their own lives from others who have no innocence left.  But fuck that, the anime wants you to feel sympathy for this guy and demands that the viewer hopes for a redemption arc for Mr. kills-a-lot.

Seriously, this line is fucking said.  Fuck you lady, what about all the other people he’s killed, you wanna see if they forgive this cocksucker?

So yeah, all that stuff irritated me, and marred what had been a fairly excellent show, making it go from having minor annoyances to major annoyances.  But despite that, the show it still good, has some fascinated scenarios and some thought-provoking concepts and philosophies (up until it fucking simplifies them in the last 2 episodes).  And it is worth a watch.  The things that cause me major irritations may only be minor or insignificant to you.  So, there it is.

Cinema Paradiso (1988) review

 

Rated: 3.5 / 5

“Life isn’t like in movies.  It’s much harder.”

It’s films like these that make me glad to be an avid film-watcher.  Films that show how powerful film can be, the emotions they carry, the memories they hold, and how they cause one to reflect upon life.  That doesn’t mean I consider this to be a perfect film, or even one of my favorites, but it is never-the-less a solid film that evoked an emotional response within me.

The film is a coming of age story, and how film has affected the coming of age process not just for the main protagonist, but for just about everyone he has known as a child.  The important role watching films at his local cinema played for him in his life, the lessons that can be gained from film and from outside of film.  And also trying to live life away from the hobby he had cherished for most of his youth.

It takes place in this little Italian town where Toto (that’s more of a nickname, but that’s what I’ll go with) spends most of his time in a theater, watching this Catholic priest (who pretty much runs the town on a cultural level) forcing the edits of various films, cutting out footage that shows people kissing on screen (that fucking asshole).  Toto not only sees this (and therebye gets to see the uncut footage before it is cut), but also learns how projectors work thanks to hanging out in the projection booth with the projectionist Alfredo.  Alfredo often quotes words of wisdom that he gained from the films he’s watched, some words that Toto takes to heart (or at least tries).

It’s not all fun and games though.  While Toto and most of the village do show up to the movies to watch them and enjoy themselves (making it more of an experience, an opportunity for practically the entire town to get together and have a romp in the theater, not just to see the film itself), there are times where the dangers and fears of making film-watching possible are shown.  The fear of the lion where the projected film comes out of, the easily flammable film reels which must not be taken lightly, and how one mustn’t let film cause them to become irresponsible with life’s other duties and experiences.

As Toto gets older and more mature, so do the films.  While he was a youth the Catholic priest’s concern for kissing scenes and anything that becomes too tantalizing for viewers causes him to prevent such footage from being shown to protect the youth, so is the case for many adults who don’t want their children to become exposed to such stuff.  But when they get older, when they become young adults, the youth have a desire to seek out those they want a relationship with, to find love.  And so eventually the Catholics lose their ability to control what shouldn’t be seen in a movie, and those scenes are left intact for everyone to see (much to everyone’s delight, as many complained about the edited versions in the past, and rightly so).  So the viewers are able to see the actors/actresses kiss on screen, so does Tito finally find his first love and get his first kiss.

Where the film becomes somewhat off-putting is when Tito joins the military.  It’s brief, and granted I guess it’s meant to show that he has to spend time away from movies, away from his hometown more than anything else.  It just threw the pacing off a bit for me.  And to be honest, it’s the only real issue I had with the entire film.  And on that note, eventually Alfredo convinces Tito that he must leave the town, leave this place, forget about everything and live his own life, create his own memories outside of this town, outside of this film.  Basically, Alfredo wants Tito to have the life he never could.  So that’s what Tito eventually does.

It isn’t until much later in life that Tito returns, after learning that Alfredo had died.  Yet Alfredo never wanted Tito to return, and expressed this wish to his mother, yet Tito’s mother calls Tito back regardless.  So at the end, I was wondering if it would end up being a good thing or a bad thing for Tito to come back to the town.  But seeing everyone else from his childhood gather for Alfredo’s funeral, and for the demolishing of the Cinema Paradiso (things have changed, theaters have become less significant with the VHS technology; a bit foreboding for today I must say), and coming across a film reel Aldredo left behind for Tito, just in case.  And Tito watches the film reel through a projector, and sees that it’s all the cut footage from all those films of the past, of all these actors and actresses giving each other passionate kisses.  Tito becomes emotionally floored.

It’s these romantic moments that become important for Tito in the past.  Because he also shares a love for cinema just as these characters in film share a love for each other.  And how could he not have a love for cinema?  Cinema provided a way for him to learn many of life’s valuable lessons.  How to find love, making friends with others, working projectors to put these sounds and images on a screen to make everyone else laugh and cry; and ultimately a way for everyone to find moments of happiness.  How can one forget the past when it has brought them so much?  How can one turn their back on film when it holds so many moments, so many memories, so many emotions?

Highly recommended film.

 

PS: Well, apparently there’s a couple other versions of the movie.  There’s the version when it was first released in Italy, clocking in at roughly 155 minutes, then the International cut which runs about 124 minutes (the version I saw), and then there’s the more recent “Director’s Cut” (which is a bit misleading from what I understand, it’s more of an extended cut, the initial Italy version is more to the Director’s vision I think) which clocks in at a whopping 170 minutes.  Strangely enough, there’s some debate as to which version many would consider superior.  Despite the cuts, many believe the 124 International Version is the superior film because of how it ends up portraying the relationship between Tito, Alfredo, and Elena (Tito’s first love) by the end.  See here for more:

http://www.edmundyeo.com/2007/05/cinema-paradiso-original-vs-new-version.html

Fahrenheit 451 (2018) review and comparison to the novel

Rated: 2 / 5
So they did it, they made a modern adaptation of the novel (itself I have reviewed). How is it compared to the novel? As in most novel-to-film adaptations, not as good. And it suffers from some of the problems that I geared it would. Yet does have some balls with some of the subject matter contained, which is something that is much needed today. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go as far with it as it should have, which is something the book did.

Oh, by the way, I will be spoiling both the book and the movie here.  But I’ll be doing this review under the assumption that you’ve read the novel.  Because if you haven’t, you should.  Plus it’s a short book anyway.

Anyway, so the film is in a more modern, somewhat futuristic (by our present day standards) setting, with the only real technological advances being that video is shown along the entire outside of a building.  So sort of like modern day New York, but more extreme than that.  And it just doesn’t seem practical.  You know how fucking difficult it is to keep something like that cleaned?  What if it breaks?  What if there are pixels that need to be repaired?  Plus the film doesn’t do the one thing I was expecting it to do from a technological standpoint, and that’s having a living room with all the walls made out as television screens.  Considering that was something not only in the main protagonist’s home in the novel, but also that it was considered common, and considering the film has entire skyscrapers that act as one big-ass tv screen, you would think the movie would’ve had that in it.

But I digress, it does have some nice modern touches to it, such as having an Alexa-like unit in most places, responding to questions, offering advice, and spying on you (even when you think you’ve shut it off).  And it does have the whole “brainwashing kids in school” thing, though the film is being a bit devious about this by having law enforcement figures be shown doing the brainwashing (thus metaphorically saying, “Cops are bad, m’kay?”).  And it does a bit of satire on social media, by having all the news stuff showing little facebook-like icons floating all around live feed bits, sshowing people’s reactions to them (in a far too simplistic manner in my opinion; The Orville did that better in one of its episodes, and I thought that show was mediocre).

But other than that, the film is just a typical by-the-numbers movie, rather boring at times, and not all that interesting.  It doesn’t get across the important bits of wisdom as effectively as the novel did.  Probably because it dumbs it down, which is rather ironic considering what the novel’s message is.  The acting is decent, but none of the actors seem to have any real chemistry, and the relationships all come off as forced.

It also doesn’t help that our protagonist Montag, played by Michael B. Jordan (who’s casting has been met with some reservation by die-hard fans of the book, for reasons I’ll get into later), doesn’t have a wife in this adaptation, like he did in the novel.  Instead, it opts to let him have a more close relationship with the captain of the fire team, a sort of father-son relationship (even though they’re not actually father and son), or sort of bromance, a comradery thing.  This causes the film to suffer in a great way compared to the novel.  For starters, the relationship in the novel demonstrates how isolated the husband and wife are from one another, how they don’t really love each other, how the wife is more into television shows and chatting with her friends about said-shows.  The media creating a kind of isolation, something I pointed out as a danger to society in that film Suicide Club.  And it shows just how far gone she really is, how much the way society is, the instant gratification mindset, the materialistic mindset, has led her to not care about Montag at all.  It’s a symptom most in this society have (at least in the novel version), which showcases the overall problem on a smaller scale.  We don’t get that in this film.  Rather, it just does the typical totalitarian society ala 1984.  Look, if you wanted to do a modern adaptation of 1984, then just do a modern fucking adaptation of 1984.  Fahrenheit 451 isn’t supposed to be like that.  It’s about how society has become its own worst enemy, rather than those in charge being the ones as the primary cause of the harm.

The other issue with the film is that these firemen (and I assume many in the society) take drugs via eyedrops, which I guess is supposed to suppress emotions and/or emotional memories.  You know, like the drugs in the film Equilibrium.  And none of that shit was in the novel either.  So why did they do it?  As I indicated in the last paragraph, it dumbs down the ideas in the novel.  In the movie, they take drugs to make their job easier, to function in society with less emotion and less remorse.  In the film, members of society drifted into this direction without drugs because of the instant gratification mindset, because of the simplistic tv shows (doubtful they have full-length movies, considering the attention span).  Sure, people took drugs in the book, but not for the same reason they do in the movie.  It was mainly anti-depressants, a side-effect of becoming so isolated via technology and the lifestyle.  Montag (in the novel) also has this mindset; he smiles and acts happy even though he isn’t.  And he has been doing this for so long he has forgotten what true happiness is, and just assumes he really is happy even though he isn’t.  This is not something the film contains within it, for anyone.  Makes the film shallow and more uninteresting.

Yeah, this is a more entertaining movie, as ridiculous as it gets.

In fact, the manner in which Montag gets an awakening from this mindset is also far different than in the novel.  In the novel, he meets, by random chance, some little girl who acts carefree and different from everyone else.  This is to highlight what the children are actually like, what they’re expected to be, and highlighting an important quality that all humans should have, lest they lose semblance of meaning and happiness.  Now, this little girl isn’t in the movie per-se, but there is an older substitute (otherwise I guess some would mistakenly assume Montag is a pedophile or something, because we can’t have adults having and innocent conversation with a child, in the middle of the night, alone on the street, with no one else around; guess I’m not helping my case out very much when detailing the context; the 50s were a more innocent time period).  An older substitute that he eventually makes out with (well now that would just make the novel version awkward).  The thing is though, she doesn’t awaken Montag to this way of thinking so much as she brings him in to the revolution.  Yep, it all comes back to challenging the totalitarian pricks in power, as opposed to pointing out how society is flawed because of its own self-inflicted wounds.  Again, why the fuck do this and call it Fahrenheit 451 as opposed to 1984?

This ain’t a loli hentai sweetie, so stop pretending these are teenage boobs under this non-teenage bra under this non-teenage see-through clothing!

Oh, and also, there’s no killer robot dog in this.  Ah, whatever.

Missed opportunity!

There’s also this interesting yet strange plot development halfway through the film.  How the revolutionists, somehow someway, have utilized digitized versions of old novels and created an artificial DNA molecule that can be implanted into DNA.  It’s not explained too well, but I guess the implication is that, once this spreads into more humans, it will eventually infect everyone with this DNA strand, and they will naturally know about all these books on an instinctual level.  The more I think about it, the more dumb it seems compared to the ending plan in the novel, which was also far-fetched but at least seemed more achievable compared to this.  Besides, this plan never made it to the human stage, it only got into a single bird species.  How the fuck is it supposed to spread to humans?  DNA spreading doesn’t cross species like that!  And even if it did, it would take so fucking long it wouldn’t even matter by the time it kicked in!  The bird species might have died off by that point!  Honestly, this would be one of those contexts where that speech Yoda makes in The Last Jedi would actually work (sure as shit didn’t work in that movie).  Plus it all ignores the other plot element in the novel about the other danger to society being the way it is.  Lack of compassion leads to not caring about impending doom to the point where no action is taken when a fucking missile blows up an entire city!  I don’t know, maybe it was a budget thing.

Lastly, the main actor himself.  He’s black.  Some have an issue with this, and they’re not KKK members or neo-nazis.  They take issue with this the same way they take issue with having the human torch from Fantastic Four being black in that one incarnation no one liked.  Not accurate to the novel/comic.  Now, personally, in this film’s case, I didn’t have a problem with it in terms of being faithful to the novel.  But it is worth bringing up an element of the novel that I just knew this film wasn’t going to have the balls to do.  The novel mentions that minorities are one of the potential faults in society.  Not necessarily because minorities in of themselves are bad people so much as it’s easy to put the blame on them for when something goes wrong, like the stock market crash of 2008 or some shit like that (indicated in the film The Big Short).  However, while they can be used as scapegoats for something they didn’t do, there are some bad things they are responsible for, and it’s addressed in a very brief manner that gives something for the reader to think about.  And when this book was written, blacks were considered minorities.  Today, many would still attribute that label to them.  And considering the manner in which the captain has a conversation at certain points with Montag (in the novel), he addresses him as a white man, telling him how black men are (grouping them with other minorities).  It’s not done bluntly, it’s on the more subtle side, but it’s there.

With that being said, I didn’t really give much of a shit about them changing the main protagonists race, he could be played by anyone (don’t push it with the sex change though, we’re already getting enough of that shit with Ghostbusters: Answer the Call and Ocean’s 8).  But I do take issue with the intention behind it, and this is a thinking outside the box sort of thing that is inconsequential to the events that happen within the movie itself.  It’s the same reason why all the villains are white, and why the leader of the revolution is a black lady.  The whole subliminal thing of making blacks out to be the good guys, and whites out to be the bad guys (excluding Black Panther, where Michael B. Jordan played the villain, but that film is an exception).  Another one of those films which we’re going to see much more of that take little jabs at the white guilt complex.  It’s really petty stuff honestly.  Did find it a bit strange that Montag was pretty much the only black guy on the fireteam though.

But anyway, at the end of the day, the film is dull, a poor adaptation of the novel, and dumbs down if not altogether eliminates the important points made in the original source material.  Plus I don’t think they had the budget to pull it off.  It’s just not that interesting of a film, which is frustrating when it has such interesting subject matter.  The potential is there, which makes it all the more tragic and infuriating that it has been wasted.  The irony.

The Youth of the Nation: Suicide Club

Introduction

Over the past couple weeks, my drive has slowed to a crawl.  I have no one but myself to blame, for the most part.  I have a bad habit of taking on too many projects at once, from television series (attempting to make a review for Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Babylon 5, Vietnam – A Television History, and perhaps a couple others), movie trilogies (mainly the Star Wars prequel trilogy so that I can re-address the newer Star Wars films), other various movies (thought about reviewing Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, Made in America, and Redline), developing a fan-made expansion for a board game, creating my own original (somewhat) board game, and of course revisiting my Nostalgia for the 90s post by making the February 1990 sequel, which I’m having a hard time doing because I find it difficult to gain the willpower to track down and watch all the films/shows/games/songs from that month of that year (but I am down to a single film at least).  I try to keep myself focused on one thing, but rarely succeed.  Guess that’s the downside to having a bit of Attention Deficit Disorder.  So I usually try to finish these things in spurts.

But then comes situations that I know I’m going to want to address at some point, but try to avoid.  But then I just say, “Fuck it, I’m at my best when I spontaneously combust and go on spontaneous rants on something topical.”  So what set me off this time?  The recent school shooting (at this point it doesn’t really matter which one I’m referring to, consider it any of the shootings that involve school kids blowing away other school kids, and not in the sexual way [I don’t care how insensitive that joke is at this point]).

This isn’t going to be a single post.  This is going to be a series, where I not only review a film, but address how it’s themes address this ongoing “crisis” (if it can even be called that).  Because the problem with youth isn’t so simple that it can be condensed into just one topic.  And there isn’t any single film that can adequately address all those topics (though that one movie Higher Learning sort of tried; it failed, but it tried).  When it comes to something like this, people tend to try to make it as simple as possible, believing that the problem is something so simple that only 1, maybe 2 things need to be changed and then everything will be all better.  They couldn’t be more wrong.

 

Suicide Club review

Rated: 3 / 5

Let me get this out of the way, I’m not against suicide.  I used to be, in the past, mainly because all we would here is how suicide is bad, people shouldn’t kill themselves, we have more to live for, blah blah blah.  That’s all true, and one must also consider how selfish of an act it is and what consequences it would entail to those close to them, mainly family members and friends (assuming they have any).  However, what if one doesn’t have more to live for?  What if there is no one close to them who would be all that emotionally affected by their death?  What if they have no friends (or more importantly, what if they feel like they have no friends)?  Much of the downsides to suicide go away, and the only thing they would have to worry about is, “I really hope I don’t fuck this up,” or, “I really hope this is going to be quick and mostly painless.”  Basically whatever it takes to make the pain go away, whether it’s a physical pain from some disease or a physical injury; or mental pain from being bullied, from guilt over an action of the past, from thinking the future is too bleak, or from being alone and feeling isolated for too long.  All of those can start to look like very good reasons to off yourself regardless of what anyone else tells you.  Sure there are those who try to re-assure you that if you tough it out things will be alright in the end.  But what do they know?  They don’t know the future.  They don’t know everything.  They don’t know if your life will improve or continue to go into the shitter.

On the other hand, much of it could be applied to groundless paranoia, subliminal messaging, peer pressure, and the people you hang around with.  While there are good reasons worth killing yourself over, sometimes people are coaxed into it by people who don’t really give a shit about you.  Either way, good idea or bad idea, don’t take it lightly.  There’s no going back from something like that.  It’s a one and done thing, unless you fuck it up somehow and then you may end up a vegetable or a more miserable person than ever before who becomes less independent and less capable of killing yourself, living your life in an endless hell.  So either way you need to do things proper and with some amount of responsibility.  You know, like with living life.

Which brings me to this movie, known in the U.S. as Suicide Club, known in Japan as Suicide Circle.  It begins with a bunch of school kids jumping onto the tracks of a subway and they all get run over by the train.  A very gruesome scene of mass suicide.  Boy do those janitors have their work cut out for them.

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Jumanji animated series (1996-1999) review

So you remember a while back when I did a review for both Jumanji movies, and briefly mentioned that there was an animated show back in the 90s?  Well, I finally got around to purchasing a copy, and watched the whole thing.  It was mainly nostalgia that drove me to revisit it more than curiosity.  And how was it?  It was a bit of a struggle.

Rated: 2 / 5

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Star Wars: Original Trilogy (1977-1983) review

Alright, I think I’ve held off long enough on reviewing these films, so let’s get to it.  But it should be mentioned that I am not a major die-hard fan of the Star Wars franchise.  I’ve only really watched the movies, I haven’t ever gotten into the spin-off comics, novels, or tv shows.  So I don’t know hardly anything about the extended universe.  I’m just going to be looking at these as one who has only watched the films, and hasn’t dug all that deeply into the lore beyond that, and that’s it.  Also, the original trilogy is great, the special edition versions can lick my butt and suck on my balls.

 

Oh, and there will be spoilers.

Rated: 3 / 5

Contrary to what current versions say about the first Star Wars film being titled Episode IV: A New Hope, that is not how it started out.  It started out with just the title Star Wars, no episode number, no sub-name, that was it.  And it blew audiences away back in the day, more so than Jaws.

But past, mash.  What are my thoughts on it today?  It’s a decent film.  I don’t hold this particular film as one of the greatest of all time, but I do admire its reputation and historical significance on film history, and the entire original trilogy is worth watching just for that reason alone.  It has enough to it to keep me interested, but it comes off as an entertaining popcorn flick, just a B movie.  The main portion of the film where it shined for me was during the finale, the Death Star battle.  That entire last act is intense, and still holds up rather well to this day, despite a couple special effects that show their age (especially this brief moment where the size perspective of an X-Wing seems way off).  This is a film that definitely saves the best part for last.

It’s also the film that has the worst lightsaber fight in the history of Star Wars films.  The Kenobi vs. Vader fight, good God, is it bad.  I mean, I know Kenobi is old and all, but I wish they put more effort into the choreography.  Considering the whole lightsaber thing, and much of the jedi lore, is heavily inspired by the way of the samurai (because the Japanese are awesome), and also considering they can use the force, you would think that they could put up a better effort than this.

This one take is about as good as it gets, it’s all downhill from there.

This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times… before the Empire.

Quick!  To the cinema!

Everything else I thought was entertaining enough, albeit nothing too spectacular (again, I’m speaking regarding my views of today, not how many would’ve viewed it back then).  The acting is so-so (except for Alec Guinness who played Obi-Wan Kenobi, who shined brightly in that role), special effects are good enough, the music is iconic (so much so that it would be utilized in virtually every other Star Wars film that follows), and the story is basic (but with a few brilliant subtle tidbits sprinkled in here and there that are easily missed). And seriously, George Lucas was heavily inspired not just by Buck Rogers stuff, but also by Akira Kurasawa films, particularly The Hidden Fortress.  Sure there’s also the whole critique on totalitarian governments and stuff, which is very simplified but given a small amount of depth in a brief scene where Vader gets in a brief squabble with some individual in a high-command position.  So while the whole film is simple, the simplicity is a tad bit deceptive.  It’s no Dark Crystal by any stretch, but there’s enough to indicate hidden potential.

A princess, a seasoned outcast warrior, and 2 individuals injecting humor.

Regarding that tapped potential, Obi-Wan says this line: “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”  This line will be repeated in an altered form in the next film, but with a more personal note to it, and dare I say with better delivery by a puppet.

Try using that excuse on Yoda.

There’s also a message of martyrdom: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”  And of course, the message of rebelling against a corrupt/totalitarian empire, which I suppose could be reflective of either the United States or Vietnam or China or Russia during the time period (the Cold War and some of the stuff all nations were doing at the time made something as simple as this relevant, though this message has been done to death in the present age of film):

“Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”

“Well, the Empire doesn’t consider a small one-man fighter to be any threat, or they’d have a tighter defense. An analysis of the plans provided by Princess Leia has demonstrated a weakness in the battle station. But the approach will not be easy.”

The message can be used in virtually any of the above Cold War conflicts, as anti-U.S. (in the case of Vietnam), pro-U.S. (against totalitarian regimes of Russia and China), and perhaps in similar situations of today.  Funnily enough, even the prequel trilogy takes on this concept in the more present-day light (more on that in a future post).

The hidden potential would be ripped out of its hiding place and thrust into the spotlight in the next film, which would blast this soon-to-be franchise from entertaining popcorn/blockbuster status into legendary “biggest fan-base next to Star Trek of all time” status.

 

 

 

Rated: 5 / 5

As you can tell from the rating, this is one of my favorite films of all time.  And this is the movie that made Star Wars the franchise it is today.  Let me rephrase that, it made Star Wars the franchise it was until Disney got a hold of it (more on that later, in a future blog post).  Everything that was in the previous film has been expanded in incredible ways, from the characters themselves to the lore with the force and the way of the jedi.  This is the film that evolved the force and the jedi from a basic B-movie idea/concept into a religion (and by religion, I mean people in real-life follow it).  And on top of that, the film and acting quality improved from the last film.  It’s also the first film, despite what George Lucas rewriting history may want you to believe, to use episodic numbers.  And rather than do an episode II, it went straight to episode V.  I guess George Lucas did have some high ambition for these films.  And from what I’ve gathered with behind the scenes stuff, though I can’t swear as to how solid of an idea this was at the time, Lucas did want to do a prequel trilogy and a sequel trilogy on top of this trilogy.  More on those later (in a future post).

Anyway, so the high point of the last film was the assault on the Death Star.  In my opinion, it was the best scene of the entire film, and the only other things that even approach that level of being memorable and noteworthy, the concept of lightsabers and the force aside, was the millennium falcon and going to lightspeed.  This film starts out with it’s own high memorable moments pretty damn fast.  First the abominable snowman shows up (I know that’s not what it’s actually called, for all you die hard Star Wars geeks who are super into this and can’t take a joke).  But topping that, then comes the Battle of Hoth.  The asteroid chase.  The training on Dagoba.  Being frozen in carbonite.  Han and Leia’s developing relationship.  The epic lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader.  This whole film is filled to the brim with awesomeness.

What I would do if I was strong with the force.

Regarding the development of the jedi and the force, this is hinted at with Luke demonstrating that telekinesis is possible when he strains to reach his lightsaber.  This develops from his ability to reflexively react to something just before it happens, and to listen to a jedi ghost (though it’s also implied that this is possible with Vader force-choking a guy in the last film, but even that is developed even more indicating he doesn’t even need to be in the same room as the guy he wants to force-choke, just within a vicinity of a couple miles).  We begin to see more of the full potential of the force.  This is developed much further in Dagobah, where Yoda teaches Luke the ways of the force, not only enhancing the telekinetic ability, but showcasing how the Force can enhance one’s strength and endurance, and can even enhance one’s ability to see into the future, going beyond enhanced reflexes (though Yoda is quick to mention that the future is always in-flux, always uncertain, that what one sees is only one possibility, something also utilized in Frank Herbert’s Dune).  And the ways of the Force are about much more than just power, like how martial arts are more than just about self-defense.

Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.

Vader… Is the dark side stronger?

No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.

But how am I to know the good side from the bad?

You will know… when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack.

A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph! Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless!

All of this also building on the theme of the last film about how even the smallest powers, the most ancient of forces, a small rebellion, can make the biggest of differences against a giant empire, against a great foe, against the most notorious and darkest of forces.  And despite the war against the Empire, despite the violence needed on the part of the rebellion, the film carefully and brilliantly inserts an anti-war message into it, not necessarily indicating that war is always unnecessary, but that that one must only enter into it with great care (which also subtly takes a jab at the U.S. for the Vietnam War):

Wars not make one great.

A lesson that you could say Luke doesn’t take to heart, as he rushes into battle against Darth Vader, despite the warnings given by Yoda and ghost Obi-Wan, with consequences that leave him permanently scarred.  And yet, things also don’t turn out as disastrous as Yoda and Obi-Wan believed they would for Luke.  He still manages to come back out alive (though not in one piece), he is still the best hope for taking down Vader and the Empire, and you could argue he has become humbled from the experience.  Well, maybe not the latter, as we see with his character during most of the next film (more on that later).  The point being, even a master can be wrong, though their words of wisdom and advice should still not be ignored, as they have lived longer and have more experience and have learned more than the pupil could.

Back to Luke and Vader.  So in the first film, Luke is a simple boy who is ambitious, courageous, and seeks adventure.  Vader was just a simple 2-dimensional villain.  This film changed all that, in a good way.  Aside from showcasing Luke’s flaws, how his ambition can also lead him to be over-ambitious, it also shows how Luke and Vader are more than they appear.  Hints of this are given at various points in the film, including the very beginning, during the text crawl.  It states that Vader is obsessed with finding Luke.  So at first one would think, “Just how 2-dimensional is this villain?  Is he that pissed about Luke blowing up the Death Star?  Not exactly that interesting of a motivation.”  But then the twist comes, and it’s revealed Vader was chasing Luke for different reasons entirely.  Because he has come to learn that Luke is his long-lost son.  This revelation blew people away back in the day, and it’s also a very effective moment that develops both of these characters dramatically.  It raises the stakes, and raises a number of questions and theories, including the ulterior motives for Obi-Wan and Yoda with why they trained Luke, why they choose him as the one to bring balance to the force.  It also brings insight into the backstory as to how the Empire came to be, how Vader came to be, and so on.  There is a lot to take in from this twist, both on the surface and below the surface, which is ultimately what makes it one of the greatest twists/reveals of all time in film history.  It gave an even greater amount of depth to the franchise.

Which brings me to the duel between Vader and Luke.  This isn’t just a lightsaber fight that is happening here.  Vader isn’t setting out just to beat Luke, he is also trying to train him in his own way, in a far different way than Yoda was training Luke.  While Yoda utilized no violence on Luke, and discouraged violence and anger, and promoted the message of being at peace and being calm in all things, Vader is getting Luke to act out aggressively and letting his emotions rule him.  Telling Luke to use his anger and hatred to his advantage to win his battles.  The battle is fought in stages, with Luke clearly not as skilled as Vader, yet he is also tapping into his power and potential (not to mention his youth and not being hindered by scars of the past like Vader is) to continue going head-to-head with him.  But he is ultimately not strong or experienced enough, and Vader utilizes both skill and strength to best Luke.  The first stage of the fight shows that Luke, while not as good as Vader, is still capable of fighting him off, even if Vader is holding back on him; it ends with Luke knocking Vader off a platform.  The second stage showcases Vader’s power, and makes it clear Luke is not on Vader’s level, and ends with Luke getting bashed by flying objects and blown out the window (thus a much more violent knockdown off a platform compared to what Luke did to Vader).  The last stage of the fight has Vader continually backing Luke up more and more until he’s cornered with no place to go.  A corner that Vader has backed Luke up into just as much as Luke’s decisions have put him into.  And it ends with Luke’s literal fall.

This film has more layers in it than the first film.  It is also the film that made Star Wars the iconic franchise with the large fan-base it has had for decades afterwords.  So many iconic moments, complimented with continued iconic music (that matches the strength of the music scores used in the previous film), it would bee very difficult to go through them all in detail in a single review; which is why I’m not even going to try.  If you haven’t seen any of the Star Wars films, you owe it to yourself to at least watch the first two.  If you don’t enjoy them by then, you’ll likely not enjoy the franchise in general.  Because The Empire Strikes Back is easily the high-point of the franchise.  Unfortunately, it’s a point that the franchise wouldn’t be able to reach again to this day.  But in all fairness, this is a very high bar that not many films have reached.  And that doesn’t mean there isn’t entertainment to be had with the other films.  Speaking of which…

 

 

 

 

Rated: 3 / 5

This is one of those films I’m conflicted with.  A part of me wants to like it more than I do (currently, I do like it more than the first Star Wars film), but the critical part of me gets too irritated by the flaws and missed opportunities to ever allow me to enjoy it that much.  But I’ve come to appreciate the film regardless of its flaws.  Besides, it’s not as if it doesn’t have strengths.

See what I mean?

The first act, for instance.  Some people take issue with it for some reason because it doesn’t move the overall plot forward and is just one overlong rescue sequence.  I say those people can take their opinions and shove them up their ass.  The whole first act is probably the best part of the movie.  No one cares about the middle act except for furries.  And the last act, well, I’ll get to that in a minute, that deserves special attention.

My opinion about the 2nd act would change completely if these were the Ewoks.

Anyway, the first act.  There’s a second reason for this existing besides getting Harrison Ford back into the franchise (and besides putting Leia in that famous slave costume).  It’s also to highlight Luke Skywalker’s trained jedi abilities, and to showcase what a jedi is capable of.  His mind control tricks, his telekinesis, his skills with a lightsaber, using the force to jump further than normal, etc.  It highlights what the jedi were like before the dark times.  At the same time, it also showcases that he’s not invincible, still capable of making mistakes, and still has the flaw of being overly ambitious.  Him and his friends all planned for this rescue, but what would’ve happened if the whole thing backfired and they all got killed?  Pretty sure the whole rebellion would be screwed at that point, because Luke, Leia, and Lando are all valuable members to the rebel alliance.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the only reason they were able to do this rescue mission was because they were in high ranking positions within the alliance.  Or maybe I’m reading too much into that.  Either way, the whole rescue turned out to be a gamble, considering the few things that went wrong.

Oh yeah, and Jabba is in this too.

What’s more, it’s also a very dark atmosphere, and Luke himself is darkly clothed and acts rather deviously and over-confidently, indicating that he is falling to the dark side a bit despite Yoda’s teachings (one could guess that this is his father’s influence rubbing off on him).  It gives the feel of our protagonists being deep within a dark seedy atmosphere, foreshadowing that they will be taking on the dark side, both Luke against Vader and the Emperor, and the others against the Empire (which I guess can be considered one and the same).  And all that aside, the whole Jabba’s Palace and Rancor and Sarlac Pit thing is friggin’ awesome.  I’m a sucker for that shit.

So with the first act out of the way, there is something I’ve noticed about this film compared to the first two.  There’s a severe lack of great philosophical dialogue.  The first film had some great lines that offered food for thought, such as, “Who’s the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?”  The second film was filled to the brim with more of that, especially by Yoda.  But in this film, Yoda only repeats stuff said in the last film, and no one else really says anything all that enlightening.  George Lucas wrote the first film and this one (he stayed out of Empire Strikes Back for a bit), so either his quality dropped or he listened too much to someone else.  Lawrence Kashdan also helped with the screenplay, but he’s done some good stuff too during that time period.  So I’m not sure what the hell happened.  I guess they just slacked off or got too depressed from getting divorced or something.  The best the film has to offer in this regard is this line ghost Obi-Wan says to Luke:

So, what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.

A certain point of view?

Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

Like learning the perspective of believing it’s possible that robots can be tortured.

So at least it offers the message of taking into account that one must learn to see things from multiple perspectives in order to gain a higher understanding of the universe.  That being said, this message isn’t utilized well-enough in this film.  That, and Obi-Wan comes off as a bit of an asshole with this line of reasoning.  One of the several missed opportunities.

But then there’s a whole new level of cheesiness that none of the Star Wars films have reached until this moment.  When the Emperor shows up.  Holy Mother of Christ, this guy’s dialogue.  Seriously, when’s the last time you’ve seen this movie and took a good listen to the Emperor?  This is the type of dialogue that everyone and their mother associates with mustache-twirling villains of animated films of the 80s and earlier, and from the 50s and older, and all the old-school trashy sci-fi and fantasy films.  I mean, just listen to this guy and the lines he spouts and the way he delivers these lines:

I was trying desperately not to laugh my ass off at this guy.  This actor and the character he plays is pure gold.  He is the most pure form of evil cartoony villainy in existence.  But I’m positive that this was all intentional.  Everyone knew what they were doing with this guy.  I believe this goes back to the whole Buck Rogers influence, Lucas wanted a villain who acted this cheesy and this full of himself.  Many will have very mixed opinions about this guy, as to whether he is great or terrible, and I could sympathize with either point of view.  Either way, I found this character to be entertaining as hell; I’m just not sure if it’s for all the right reasons or all the wrong reasons.

Anyway, the other good stuff.  The forest speed-chase, despite the outdated green-screen effects, still works to this day for one reason only.  The lack of music and the focus on the sound effects.  Those sound effects MAKE that scene.  The echo of the speeder as it passes by the camera, the sounds it makes.  It creates the tension a sequences like that needs.  The sound effect crew needed a medal for that.

And then there’s the final fight between Luke and Vader.  It’s so-so at first, not on the same level as the one from the previous film, but it still does a good job at telling a story, mainly that Luke has now surpassed Vader, but is conflicted with how to deal with him, struggling to find the best way to resolve all this.  He knows he shouldn’t strike him down in hatred, but he doesn’t want to strike him down at all.  And yet the hatred the Emperor instills in Luke is the only thing that makes him want to fight.  Because the Emperor knows how to use his own emotions against him.  Eventually, Vader figures out how to do that as well, but more effectively.  And how could he not?  He’s more personally involved with Luke after all.  So Luke finally snaps and unleashes his hatred upon Vader, resulting in a more memorable lightsaber duel.  The haunting music makes this sequence more powerful, further highlighting that Luke is on the wrong path, and may not be able to turn back from it.  And as a result Luke bests Vader in combat, unleashing his anger and using his hatred to try and destroy him, as Vader indicated he should in the previous film.  The one thing that stops Luke from going so far as to kill him and become more ruled by emotion and a slave to the Emperor as a result was seeing how his actions are a repeat of similar actions his father did in the past.  Seeing that his father has a robotic arm, just like he does now, and being ruled by emotion will, ironically, make him more machine than man, losing more and more sense of humanity.  Seeing this is ultimately what stops him.  This also gives insight as to how Vader had turned down this path, ruled by his emotions, betrayed by his emotions, and having the dark side use his emotions against him, putting him down a path he believed there was no turning away from because of what he had done in his anger.  And because, as Yoda indicated in Empire Strikes Back, he was focused more on the future than on the present.

The emotions are high in that fight sequence, but they reach an even higher point in the aftermath as Luke is trying to take Vader off the ship after Vader turns on the Emperor, and suffering fatal damage as a result (either to his body, or to the electronic breathing suit that helps keep him alive; same result).  Seeing the emotion on Luke’s face when he sees his father’s true face for the first time (as does the audience), and what Vader says to him afterwards.

I’ll not leave you here. I’ve got to save you.

You already have, Luke.

Have to admit, I get a bit choked up each time I see this scene.

So that’s the final conflict with Luke and Vader getting resolved rather nicely.  Then there’s the final way the trilogy shows the potential of the force.  With Luke, we see mastery over telekinesis, using the lightsaber reflexively against lasers, and enhanced strength with jumping and kicking.  But then there’s the Emperor himself, with the big reveal of the full power of the dark side being force-lightning.  Now, as awesome as it looks, its impact is weakened considering how long it takes for him to try killing Luke with this power.  The force-choke seems more effective than this.  Another element in the film that could’ve been utilized more effectively, but wasn’t.

But anyway, all that aside, the downsides to the finale of this trilogy.  First, the Ewoks.  Yes, they’re cute and adorable and perfect for merchandising (which is why they went with them in the first place), but fuck these fucking furballs.  They should’ve gone with the Wookies like they originally were going to do.  At least those are menacing enough to take on stormtroopers more convincingly than furry midgets.  You can’t convince me that these furry fucks can help take down an empire army, I don’t care how in-line that is with the theme of David taking down Goliath.  I would like to see how they setup these log traps by themselves.  I refuse to believe that an entire army of these things is capable of stacking a bunch of tree logs together, or lifting several of them up into a tree.

And like I said earlier, aside from the Emperor where this sort of thing works, the dialogue has gotten a downgrade.  Hell, I think it’s worse than the first Star Wars movie.  Though it does have one of the most memorable lines ever that is used as a meme and a comedy clip in every-other youtube video.

And then there’s the twist of Leia being Luke’s sister.  Granted, they did put this to decent use by having Vader use this revelation as a weapon against Luke, but it comes off as shoehorned in.  Like they were trying to keep up with the similar revelation in Empire Strikes Back.  It just feels weak in hindsight.  Nothing much really comes of this, and the new Star Wars trilogy doesn’t really build off of this in any significant way.  They mine as well as have kept her unrelated to the family line in my opinion.  But it does make one wonder, “If not Leia, then who is the other that Yoda spoke of in Empire Strikes Back?”  I wouldn’t know.  Maybe this twist could’ve worked if they did more with it.  Maybe some spin-off books do more with it.  As-is, it really doesn’t seem like anything special.

Ok, so I lied a bit about one of the spin-offs.

And lastly, there’s the ending itself.  Now don’t get me wrong, the finale is fine for the most part, with an entertaining space battle, a decent action sequence in the forest (despite my gripes about the ewoks), and a good enough final confrontation between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor.  But the last moments of the film is just everyone dancing and celebrating with the ewoks in the forest (now I’m going to gripe about them again, fuck’em).  Nothing is shown to establish just how big of a victory this was for the rebellion to show the fall of the empire, at least not in the original theatrical edition.  Now granted, the special editions do show this sort of impact by having a crowd of people topple over a statue of the emperor, but you would think the last moment of the film would end on a more epic note.  And no, the ghosts of the past making an appearance isn’t good enough for a final screen moment before the credits roll, as effective as that may be as a stand-alone scene (and the special editions manage to fuck that up, negating the praise I had for the broader scope).  It’s unfortunate that the trilogy closes in that way, considering how strong of a note the previous two films closed out on.

The last of the Ewok jokes, I promise.

So The Last Jedi is a mixed bag, with as much awesome stuff as it has bad stuff.  The awesome stuff is enough to make me enjoy it more than the first film, but the bad stuff threatens to change my mind, depending on my mood.  But hey, at least it’s not Godfather III or Alien 3 or Spiderman 3, or whatever other end to a trilogy there is that sucks.  While not ending on as strong of a note as some fans wanted, it’s still decent enough.  The pros outweigh the cons.  But it’s the most frustrating of all Star Wars movies simply because of lost potential.

 

Anyway, until the next Star Wars trilogy review…

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