3 Christmas Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen But Totally Should

I’m about to admit something that may shock people to the core of their Christmas-movie-tradition centers.

Ahem!

I have not seen Home Alone beyond the first five minutes. No, I’m not talking about the sequels, I mean the first one. The famous one. The “Merry Christmas, you filthy animals!” one.

Also…

It’s A Wonderful Life gets really, really, really long for me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the message, I absolutely do. I’m rather fond of Jimmy Stewart as well. I watched more black and white movies as a kid than movies with color, so that’s not stopping me. There’s nothing “wrong” with It’s A Wonderful Life, it just doesn’t move me that way it does for other people. I have watched it twice, and I’m done for another decade or two.

And another thing…

I didn’t fall in love with White Christmas. To be honest, most of the time I was staring in horror at how unhealthily thin the younger sister was. My sadness was deepened when I learned the actress starved herself in order to maintain her reputation as being ridiculously small. She ended up dying too young of cancer that was connected to malnutrition. I have much to say on the subject of Hollywood’s trail of bodies, but that’s for another time.

And just when you thought I was done…

My family and I got 15 minutes into the Jim Carrey version of The Grinch That Stole Christmas before we couldn’t do it anymore. We turned it off and didn’t care. My version of the Grinch is the recent animated one starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the voice role of Mr. Grinch. It’s beautiful, deep, light, and just really beautiful visually. It’s the perfect bite of a Christmas movie, and that is the version my future children will know of as “the Grinch movie”.

Aha! But there’s more!

I saw Miracle On 34th Street once. It was okay. Just okay.

See the source image
Y’all doing okay with these shocking revelations?

I didn’t set out to be different from the rest of American society in this particular way. That’s not how I roll, I don’t “have to be different” just to feel special. Things just happen.

I do, however, have some favorite Christmas movies. Many favorites, but I’m going to feature 3 that are likely not as well known and definitely underappreciated. It’s time to refresh that Christmas watchlist, my friends. Branch out, try something new.

This movie is a hoot!

It Happened On 5th Avenue (1947)

Honestly, I don’t know why this one isn’t more acclaimed than Miracle On 34th Street. This gem of a movie absolutely fits the bill for a perfect Christmas watch. It has heart, humor, and a happy ending.

Taking place right after WWII, a group of homeless people finds shelter by squatting in a rich, unhappy millionaire’s home while he is away for the winter season. They are joined by the millionaire’s daughter, who pretends to be one of them in order to enjoy the fun and camaraderie of the situation. Before long, she drags her father into it, and he is forced to play another “poor man” who is squatting in his own home.

This movie is utterly hilarious. I mean, hilarious! The number of misunderstandings, the amount of times the millionaire is utterly flabbergasted, and the changes that result from his time with these people is a delightful journey, all taking place leading up to the Christmas season.

Another neat feature of this movie is showing the housing crisis faced by some of the GI’s and their families post-WWII.

This movie is one I can rewatch more often and not get bored. It’s a nice story with appeal to multiple ages and personalities. It makes use of verbal, situational, and physical humor. And the ending is tied with such a nice, neat bow, you genuinely feel like something beautiful was accomplished. It’s delightful!

It Happened On 5th Avenue

Don’t let the cheaper cover fool you, this movie is fantastic!

The Man Who Saved Christmas (2002)

A made-for-TV movie about a whimsical toymaker during the WWI era. A.C. Gilbert and his brother Frank go out on a financial limb and start a toy company. They are wildly successful. A. C.’s inventive spirit and his brother’s practical mind create one of the foremost toy companies in the United States. It’s a wonderful place to create, to play, and to work.

Until the shadow of WWI comes looming…Frank enlists, and A.C. is approached by representatives from Woodrow Wilson who request him to turn his beautiful toy factory into a weapon and munitions factory.

I’ll sum up the whole movie with the movie’s own tagline – He couldn’t stop the war, but he wouldn’t let the war stop Christmas.

The historical setting is deeply intriguing as many more movies often focus on WWII. But WWI came first, and it shaped the world that birthed WWII. The characters are very engaging, particularly A.C. and his beautiful wife, Mary (who is a whole head taller than him which is adorable). I love watching the way this family faces sadness, loss, uncertainty. They go through a lot (everyone did back then) and yet, they continue to fight for the light, hope, and the oxygen that a whole country needs!

Christmas is necessary. Christmas brings healing. Christmas brings hope. Celebrating Christmas is warfare against the darkness of this fallen world. That’s the message of this movie, and it’s beautiful.

The power of this story comes with raw human emotion, whimsical invention, and a rich historical setting.

The Man Who Saved Christmas

This movie has my utmost respect and admiration. I will learn something every time I watch it.

The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

I saved the best for last. If there was a team of people assigned to the promotion and recommendation of this movie, I would already be a senior member of said team.

This is the story behind the story of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. I’m already deeply in love with Dicken’s work, particularly A Christmas Carol. That story captured my heart during a very difficult Christmas season, and the Lord really used that story to breathe hope, wonder, and joy into my heart.

Charles Dickens is one of the authors I admire the most. He used the power of story to change the world. He saw his occupation as a sacred calling, and considered every story an opportunity to teach someone a truth.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is based upon the true story of the shockingly short deadline Charles Dickens had when he wrote, A Christmas Carol. It isn’t just about Charles writing a new book, or teaching the world something, it is also about facing his own past trauma and personal demons that are robbing him of the joy of his own life. In this movie we see it’s not just the Oliver Twists who need saving, but also the Ebenezer Scrooges.

The magic of this movie is meeting Charles (Dan Stevens knocks it out of the ball park), but also seeing his writing process. As a writer myself, I connect so much with how Charles draws inspiration from the world around him. A stray name that catches his fancy, the sounds of a busy market street, a ghost story he hears his children’s nanny telling them. The characters of A Christmas Carol come alive and speak to Charles as real characters in the story. We also see how personal Charles’ writing is, how much of himself he puts into his stories. The griefs he feels, the hopes he carries, the brokenness he is trying to heal. Good writers do this, we bare our souls and the souls of others in our stories in order to make something beautiful out of them. This movie is such a beautiful blending of fantasy mixed with raw human reality.

The ending is my favorite. For Ebenezer Scrooge is saved, and we learn why he is allowed to be redeemed. But the very best part is the information shared at the beginning of the ending credits. We learn about the real life impact that A Christmas Carol had on the world. My friends, this story truly change the world and changed the way people saw Christmas and each other. God used Charles Dickens’ writing to bring more of His heart to humankind.

This movie shows the power of story and what it can do in full force. And I loved it, absolutely loved it. It’s a deeper watch than It Happened On Fifth Avenue, and definitely more British than The Man Who Saved Christmas, but this one is my favorite.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

I highly recommend all of these movies to those who are looking to change up their Christmas watchlist and enjoy the layered beauty and meaning of this holiday. Obviously Jesus is the reason for this whole season, and He is my favorite part of it. Though none of these stories focus on Jesus specifically, they echo pieces of life, beauty, hope, and redemption born from the truth of Jesus. These stories are produced organically from a world that has Jesus in it, He is the source and stories like these show us His heart in multiple ways.

If you’ve seen any of these movies, or choose to watch them after reading my article, what did you think? Merry Christmas!

Oh, just one more thing…

I have never seen Elf.

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Review of Disney+ Marvel 2021

2021 is almost over (holy cow!) and it’s been a busy year for Disney+ and the Marvel franchise. In order to try and be really relevant, I’m going to give my drive-by review and score of each show.

WandaVision (7/10)

I always felt that Wanda Maximoff was a character who was horrendously underused. She had been through so much and yet still had such a tender heart. Tenderhearted characters often get pushed to the background, especially if they are women, for fear that we might view these characters as “weak”. That’s a broken philosophy and the film industry/culture is suffering for it. Wanda is incredibly tender and incredibly strong. Tenderhearted women are often stronger than everyone else around them.

Vision as a character is one I’ve never focused on but always enjoyed. Back in the Civil War days of the Marvel, I wrote how Vision’s failure in Civil War when he accidentally shot War Machine was the doorway to him discovering what it means to be human. He’s only continued that trend since then, and grown more likable every time we see him.

The beauty and humanity of Wanda and Vision were shown quite briefly in Infinity War, but it made an impact. It made me hungry for more. On that note, WandaVision absolutely delivered. I had no idea that Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen were so funny, I was constantly surprised by their incredible comedic delivery. However, their comedy wasn’t even paralleled by the depth of emotion and heart both leads brought to the table. They poured their guts out into the show and I felt it. Tears ran down my face multiple times as I watched them process love, fear, grief, curiosity, and hope. It was layers and layers of humanity unfolding and it was beautiful.

WandaVision was revolutionary in terms of TV-style. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I grew up watching sitcoms of much older decades, so I am right at home in a world influenced by The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Brady Bunch, and more. The architecture, clothing styles (Elizabeth Olsen was MADE for the 70s look), and pop culture references of WandaVision were like a love letter to American television and culture through the years. I enjoyed watching these larger-than-life, otherworldly characters interact with a world that I already felt at home in.

That being said, WandaVision got weird. Like, weird weird. Do y’all remember back in Spider-Man: Far From Home when Mr. Dell was asked his opinion on the strange happenings around them? His response

As a man of science? I think it’s witches.

was incredibly prophetic. The MCU has just gotten weird, and I’m not a fan of all of it. In full disclosure, I didn’t watch part of the second-to-last, and the final episode of WandaVision. Once we got into the territory of deeper witchery and dark magic, I was out for personal reasons (which I may share someday). I liked it better when we thought Wanda’s powers came from the Mind Stone. The show took her character to places I was not interested in going to.

*I do appreciate the fact that her new costume has more body coverage though. It’s about time!

I would be remiss in speaking on this show if I didn’t mention my favorite part. Or rather, my favorite character. Am I the only girl who walked away with a bit of a crush on Jimmy Woo? For real, he is the biggest surprise I have had in the MCU yet! How they took Jimmy Woo from being the funny but oblivious FBI agent in Ant-Man And The Wasp, to a dogged, smart, still hilarious character in WandaVision is close-up magic at its finest! I couldn’t wait for him to show up on screen and I want to see him so much more! And the pairing of Jimmy Woo with Darcy Lewis was yet another surprise. It’s like putting together two foods you think have nothing in common, and discovering that they were actually made for each other.

I’m 100% voting for a Jimmy Woo + Darcy show and I totally ship them. They were such a surprise and a delight. I enjoyed Monica Rambo’s character as well, though she didn’t hit me in a deep place. I admired the fact that she let her compassion and intuition drive her interaction with Wanda, even when Wanda pushed her away. That’s an important side of being a hero and Monica was worthy of that title.

All in all, I give WandaVision a 7/10. But I have no interest in delving deeper into the witch side, and I will not be a viewer of the newly announced show featuring Agatha. She played her role well, but no thank you! WandaVision was something incredibly unique, but not something I will watch again. It was a once and done for me.

This much handsomeness in one place is almost dangerous.

The Falcon And The Winter Solder (6/10)

I loved this show because Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite Marvel movie. In fact, it’s not just my favorite Marvel movie, it’s one of my top 10 movies of all time. I think it’s one of the most perfect movies ever written and carried out. Steve Rogers was the character who carried my heart into this new world of Marvel that I first entered into as a teenager. Steve, Sam, and Nat were my favorite Avengers. Sam’s introduction into the MCU is my favorite character introduction.

All of that to say, I love this window into the Marvel world and this side of the story matters to me a lot. I was pleased that Steve chose Sam to carry the shield, even as I was grieving the loss of my Avenger. I was also angry at the huge lack of answered questions in Endgame regarding the details of Steve’s…I don’t know, return? Disappearance? Is he living on the moon? I’m happy for Peggy and Steve, but sad for me.

As I said above, the MCU has just gotten weird, and I don’t like all of it. Captain America stories were always very down to earth, very human. The trend continued in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, and my heart just really needed it.

Here’s the funny thing, in terms of overall plot and story execution, I think large parts of TFATWS were actually terribly weak. The show struggled to gain traction for the first episodes. There were a few places that didn’t fit well with Sam and Bucky. It didn’t deliver well or clearly on the villain front. Neither Karli Morganthau or John Walker fully occupied that space. And once we broke Baron Zemo out all we cared about was that fabulous dance scene, so nevermind on him. I just kept waiting for the reveal, the hand holding the puppet strings behind the smaller characters. I thought that person was going to be The Power Broker, who would be revealed as a Big Bad from the comics. But no…

My biggest beef with the entire show was the very lazy (in my opinion) choice to make Sharon Carter The Power Broker. We got a big fakeout build-up “oh guys it’s probably Sharon but we’re gonna make you think that’s the red herring” and then it actually turned out to be Sharon! But the execution of her character wasn’t even done well. It was too harsh, jarring, and obvious. So obvious it seemed like the lie they wanted us to believe, and then just decided it would be so. As a Sharon Carter fan, I felt gypped. It’s not my fault that the entire MCU creator group forgot about her existence since Civil War, and it’s certainly not Emily Van Camps’ fault. In fact, I read that they intended to make The Power Broker the Big Bad for Captain America 4 (yay!), but after the poor fan reaction they may be reducing that role (internet rumor). Well, if that’s the case, then that’s on you, Marvel creators. The way you treated her character stinks and I didn’t even believe it while I was watching it unfold.

While I felt the overall plot elements were shaky and messy (potentially due to changes made after COVID hit), I think the nuances of this show were done really well. Like, really well. I was noticing everything and there was a lot to notice.

I need to address the Bucky elephant in the room. I’ve always liked Bucky, always rooted for him. But I wouldn’t say I ever loved him. And now? OH MY SEBASTIAN STAN, SWEET GLORY WOULD YOU LIKE TO STAY FOREVER? We’ve never gotten to see Bucky like we got to see him in this show. The layers and levels of emotion, humanity, and joy that this man displayed left me breathless every time! I just wanted to keep staring at his face when he smiled, or laughed, or made a breakthrough. I couldn’t get enough of Bucky and I want SOO much more of him!

The nuances of this show where character developmental storytelling happened was excellent. They made use of everything: body stance and choreography, the script, costuming, soundtrack, location, everything! Every layer and detail told you what a character was currently bringing, feeling, or needing. Even the props were used to tell a story behind the story. I don’t have time to jump into the details in this post, but in this regard The Falcon And The Winter Soldier excelled.

I found the ending (aside from the Sharon thing) very satisfying. It was nice to end a show where two characters are actually happier and at peace with long-standing issues. It’s not that every problem has been solved, every war won. But the personal war Bucky and Sam had going on inside of them / with each other is over. They’ve taken their places as brothers of the shield and have become family. I could watch the barbecue on the pier scene over and over and over again. That was something special and it needs to be protected. Despite the fact that I think that in many ways WandaVision was better executed, I don’t want to revisit that show. But I will be rewatching The Flacon And The Winter Soldier in days to come. Love can be forgiving like that. I wrote in-depth articles on each episode for my personal social media back when they were released. Some day I may clean those up and take you on a deep dive into this series, but for now I will end with this.

Ahem. #releasethebuckysarahcut

Loki 9/10

I was nervous about this series. I’ve been so disappointed by Loki in the movies over and over again. Every time it seemed like we took a step forward with Loki, something stupid made him slide two steps back and we started all over again. If Tom Hiddleston wasn’t so incredibly adorable I would have given up sooner.

I hated his ending in Infinity War. The movie just went downhill from that moment on. It felt incredibly meaningless and worthless. What a waste of talent and potential! Once we found out about Loki after Endgame, I waited with skepticism. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me a bazillion more times with one of Britian’s finest, shame on me for thinking you had changed.

I didn’t watch Loki as it came out, I waited until I had more information. The reports I received plus the research I did gave me enough of a reason to give it a chance.

Wow, just wow.

Again, I have never, ever seen anything like this show. It was like the weirdest scifi/fantasy trip mixed with some sort of 70s show featuring a beaurocratic government agency, all while bringing game-changing plot elements to an entire franchise! It wrestled with questions involving the value of every life and free will. And above all, this show actually changed Loki for the good.

Storytelling-wise, I think this show did a bold thing by having so many “just talking” scenes. In book storytelling, a long conversation doesn’t raise as many eyebrows as it does in visual storytelling. Writers and directors can love these scenes, cinematographers can hate them. Many viewers can complain about them as well.

I’m a writer so I love talking scenes. But even more than that, a good conversation is something that will attract me more than anything else. I have talked with people for 5-8 hours before and not gotten bored. Conversation is a foundational layer of relationship and growth (with God or with people), and one reason we all are struggling so much is we don’t know how to converse well.

Loki embraced conversation wholeheartedly. And when someone as talented as Tom Hiddleston is the speaker, that conversation becomes like an action scene to me. The way he and Owen Wilson (Agent Mobius), or he and Sylvie tossed words back and forth felt like active, stirring story.

To cap it off, one of the scariest scenes I have ever witnessed in the entire MCU took place during a seemingly normal conversation. He Who Remains gave the worst download of information. It was like Gandalf telling Frodo how all of Middle Earth is about to go to hell in a handbasket if he doesn’t destroy that oh-so-normal looking ring his uncle left him. He Who Remains was so casual about life and death and the fate of the universes, it was awful.

Loki’s transformation throughout his show set the stage for some of the best storytelling to come. The introduction of characters like Sylvie and Agent Mobius (and He Who Remains) all gave such unique viewpoints. I cannot wait to see what happens next and I am still in awe of how well this show was made.

I think what we are discovering with both the Marvel and Star Wars Disney+ shows is that some stories are told better in a episodic format, where more time and attention can be given to details and subtle development. Loki was absolutely proof of this as it accomplished for the character of Loki in 6 episodes what 5 movies could not.

Despite my dislike for the show, I acknowledge the animation is quite beautiful.

What If 3/10

Whew! Harsh rating eh? Well, it’s my blog, I can do what I want to. Full disclosure here, I only made it through a few episodes. 4 to be exact and I didn’t even finish the zombie episode because it was terrible. I cannot believe that episode is the inspiration for a whole new series on Disney+.

I am likely not the target audience for this particular show, I’ll give them that much. This show is for deeper Marvel fans than I am, and for people who don’t mind the rearranging of their characters. I have a friend who absolutely loved this show and we have still remained friends despite our differing views.

The stars I do give here are in honor of T’Challa’s Starlord episode. That one I truly did enjoy, probably because it was actually an episode that had a happier outlook than the main MCU timeline. The other episodes I tried I just felt more depressed and found them dark. Also, it felt like the characters had no real emotions. They were cardboard cutouts of the characters we’ve come to know and love. I felt that things were done just for a cheap joke that were actually disrespectful to the characters. I also felt that some of the voices didn’t adapt well. Sebastian Stan’s voice acting left something to be desired. Hayley Atwell, on the other hand, fit it like a glove.

But T’Challa’s episode was beautiful (visually), happy, genuinely funny, and it made me feel really glad to know that Chadwick Boseman’s family gets to enjoy that episode in memorial of him.

Beyond that, I really have nothing to say. I may try a few more episodes and if I change my mind I’m not above updating a post with new info. I think this show was for a niche audience and that’s who enjoyed it.

The colors of this series already look amazing!

Hawkeye (Prediction) 11/10

I know, Hawkeye hasn’t even come out yet, but I have a feeling. I have pretty good instincts on these things, plus, I can read the room. Everything is aligned to make Hawkeye the most successful and beloved Marvel show yet.

Clint Barton has never gotten his day in the sun that he deserves. He’s been around in the MCU almost longer than anyone (who’s still alive that is), and he’s still been waiting for that spotlight. In fact, Jeremy Renner said that in the first 2 weeks of filming Hawkeye he had more lines than all of his previous movie appearances.

Clint Barton is our last original Avenger who hasn’t gone through radical physical changes, been killed, or travelled back in time to marry his sweetheart. Clint is also radically normal compared to every other superhero. He’s a family man (cheers for the family men!). He’s got a farm. He just oozes dad feels everywhere he goes, often taking in the strays and giving them a chance to succeed.

Clint Barton is a hero for the deaf community. He’s a hero to the normal people (which we all are). He’s a hero to those who have suffered grief and loss as well as regrets. He’s a member of the “cool movie dads” Hall of Fame. He’s also hilarious. Oh yeah, and this show has a DOG and IT HAPPENS AT CHRISTMAS TIME IN NEW YORK CITY!

The world is ready for this. We want some normal. We want a dad. We want a good guy who doesn’t have it figured out but is doing his best. We want a dog (okay, I want a dog). We NEED a little Christmas, right this very minute!

We. Need. Hawkeye.

And finally, we are being given Hawkeye.

This show is going to be incredible.

What are your thoughts? How would you rate the Marvel Disney+ shows so far?

A Summary Of Star Wars : Rise Of The Resistance And The First Order Era

Star Wars Resistance : Everyone’s Battle

Resistance is a bit of a tough story to place on the timeline as it begins in the six months leading up to the events of The Force Awakens, and wraps up around the events of The Rise Of Skywalker.

This show has a lighter touch in some ways than the very-heavy Clone Wars series or Star Wars Rebels. Still, it’s provides an hugely important perspective to the story line as a whole, especially for the new territory covered in The Sequel Trilogy.

A thought that was begun in Rebels, given a spotlight in Rogue One, and then extended into a primary theme in the Sequel Trilogy is this:

This fight belongs to everyone, and we all have something to contribute.

Resistance plugs directly into that theme with the main character of Kazuda Xiono. He’s a skilled pilot from the New Republic Navy and the son of a wealthy senator. He’s a nice kid but horribly naive and inexperienced.

Still, he’s got potential, potential that is recognized by everyone’s favorite hotshot, Poe Dameron, who recruits Kaz to become a spy for the Resistance. He is assigned to The Colossus, a large oil platform on a water-covered planet. Intrigue and shenanigans ensue, but the shadow of The First Order and the grievous events that are about to take place slowly move into the show’s plot.

The beauty of this series is that we get some new perspectives on a story where we, the audience, have far more information than the characters themselves. We know how all of the dots connect. We know what we believe about the Empire, the Jedi, The First Order, the Resistance, etc. Not all of our characters know where they stand on these issues. Most of them only have half of the story.

Watching the oh-so-normal character of Kaz progress from a raw recruit to someone who is suddenly thrust into a place of leadership under heartbreaking circumstances is actually rather encouraging. It’s a reminder of what each of us is capable of given the chance. We also see other characters that could easily be underestimated using whatever gifts, talents, and experiences they have to pool together into a common goal.

The key to defeating the Empire, and then The First Order was always one thing above everything else. This HAD to become everyone’s battle, the Rebels/Resistance could only keep this evil at bay for so long. Eventually, all kinds of people across the galaxy were going to have to rise up and do their part.

Star Wars Resistance does an excellent job of showing us how that kind of a movement begins, and how it feeds into a New Age of Resistance in Star Wars.

Everyone’s Battle.

The Force Awakens : Awakening, Old And New

I think this is my favorite Star Wars movie.

It was the first one I saw in theaters, it was an unforgettable experience and the wealth of emotions I walked away with were intense.

It’s an aptly named movie. The job that this movie had to fulfill was to blend into an already established story line but cover new territory. It had to give us a sense of nostalgia while also laying a path for new plots and characters. J.J. Abrams had to awaken a whole lot of stuff.

He was successful. This movie reminded me of the best parts of what I loved from the Original Trilogy, especially in how he brought back the physical elements of the settings, props, and alien characters.

Story-wise, we experience an awakening on multiple levels.

Finn discovers that the life of a Stormtrooper sucks and he isn’t okay with the job requirements. While we now know that he is Force-sensitive, so that makes him stronger in his will and choice to change, this was a big decision for Star Wars.

The Stormtroopers had been faceless minions for so long, I have wondered since I was a kid if they had any feelings or thoughts of their own. Finn proved the stereotype otherwise.

Finn instantly became a delight to me as I saw him not only fly in the face of brainwashing and discipline, but he also opens himself up to caring about another person (Rey) and facing his biggest fears to protect her.

Poe Dameron is a vital plot-mover in this chapter but he doesn’t experience his biggest challenges and growth until the following two movies.

Han Solo, Leia, Chewbacca, and Luke Skywalker. This movie is described as “Han’s” movie as he is the Original trio-member most featured here.

Clearly some poop has hit the fan in the past 30 years and Han hasn’t been at his best in a long time. Grief can do a lot of things to a person. But while we are saddened to discover how many things have gone wrong, we also see Han again decide to be the man we know and love. The guy who runs into a mess because he’s just crazy enough to think he can make a difference. He still loves deeply, and his actions still change lives around him. Even in death, Han’s presence still lingers in the air.

Chewie is Chewie forever and we love him to pieces.

General Leia is probably the OT character doing best right now, but even she has her regrets. I found the conversations she and Han share about their son and the choices they made honest and humble. They both made mistakes, they’ve both been hurting, but their love is still strong, and they want to fix it.

Luke Skywalker. He’s kind of a disaster. But at least we found him.

Clearly the strongest awakening that happens in this story is for Rey and Kylo Ren.

Rey was just minding her own business, scavenging in the highly-sought after resort location of the deserts of Jakku. She had a thriving community of fellow scavengers and people getting more than enough to eat, and her boss was in the running for Galactic Boss of The Year. Or…not.

The whirlwind of events that catch Rey up out of her lonely life and pull her into a world of myth-turned-reality, new friends, old emotions, and the awakening of her Force abilities is incredible. I love how Rey works her way through this movie, she responds well (mostly) to each thing; but it’s not like she planned for any of this. Everything is a surprise! She’s flying by the seat of her pants this whole movie. It’s kind of nice, she has no expectations and very little pride, so her reactions are genuine. It makes her victories sweeter.

In contrast, Kylo Ren’s awakening is a bit ruder and definitely more uncomfortable for him. He is reprimanded multiple times by his mentor, Snoke, he fails many of the tasks given him, and his family issues are all up in his throat. He discovers someone new who he is both drawn to and afraid of, because he can sense her power.

He kills his dad (not his finest moment) and then gets his butt kicked by a little lady who grew up in a junkyard.

It’s not exactly a fun few days for him, but the truth is something had to be stirred in order for him to advance as a character. We walk into his life and immediately see the amount of daily turmoil he exists in. Kylo Ren is not exactly a likable character in this installment, but we had to start somewhere.

Loss and victory, new friendships, old problems, and a whole bunch of X-wing fire make this movie both a familiar song and a new dance. It awakened the Star Wars fandom and reinvigorated the big screen story that had been silent for well over a decade.

Awakening, Old And New.

The Last Jedi : Challenging The Status Quo

The Last Jedi was controversial if nothing else.

Some people loved it. Some people hated it.

I have parts I love, and parts I’m not overly impressed with. But I think the real purpose of this movie and the strongest theme was this :

Challenge the status quo.

This plot of this movie has some very definable holes. Admiral Holdo’s BIG SECRET PLAN and Finn and Rose’s sideline mission are among the very worst.

Although, Holdo’s brilliant purple hair is definitely something to write home about.

Still, I think this movie did accomplish something important for the Star Wars universe.

Poe and Leia’s relationship. We have seen the mentor/trainee role played out with Jedi and their padawans multiple times, but rarely have we gotten to experience this relationship in a different context.

Leia’s disgust with Poe’s reckless behavior almost seems contradictory in the face of how many sacrifices we’ve seen her and other Rebels make. But perhaps that’s a part of the bigger picture, she’s matured enough to know what missions are worth giving your all, and when it’s time to live to fight another day. An idea that Rose Tico echoes. Perhaps it’s hitting close to home for her since we saw her sister Paige die in Poe’s reckless mission.

Obviously sacrifice and commitment is a part of any endeavor like this, but it’s wise to challenge the idea that we always must go as far as we can, especially when talking about how many casualties you incur. This new approach saves the Resistance’ bacon at the end of the movie where Poe proves he’s been listening by readjusting his mentality, and leading the Resistance out the back door to freedom.

The Force

Sometimes people over-complicate the problem. I’ve been one of those people before so I get it, but still. The Jedi are notorious for over-complicating the problem, and unfortunately Luke himself fell into that trap.

Did anyone else notice in the Sequel Trilogy that as soon as Han Solo contradicts Finn’s adorably naive “misconceptions” about the Force, suddenly everything about the Force changed?

That’s not how the Force works.

Uh, wait, maybe it does.

From Leia’s amazing space flight, Rey and Kylo’s strange “Force Time” calls, to Luke’s Force-projection of himself across the galaxy, some pretty wacky stuff happened with the Force.

I guess that sometimes the Force is more mysterious and bizarre than we think. And then again, sometimes you just use it to pick up rocks.

I know this offended some people, but I don’t see why it should. Just because something has been known about for thousands of years doesn’t mean it’s always understood, or used properly. We’ve seen that time and again throughout real human history, it actually adds realism to incorporate it into this fictional universe.

Sometimes mentors are wrong.

The status quo of wise older mentor training the overeager trainee was upheld with Leia and Poe, but it was contradicted with Luke and Rey. Rey earnestly seeks guidance and aid from Luke, but he has little to offer her. By the end of her stay on Ahch-to, Rey is the one schooling Luke. Her wisdom comes from her heart, much like he lived in his younger years. He’s been spending too much time in his head, and he’s tasted the bitter results.

Luke has the maturity and humility to admit his mistakes at the end of this movie and actually help Rey from making the same ones later on. But it was her example that helps to inspire him to action.

No, the good girl can’t always change the bad boy.

Rey and Kylo’s interaction throughout this whole movie gives you a hope that she might be getting through to them. They are tender and vulnerable with each other, Kylo’s betrayal of Snoke and their teamwork to defeat Snoke’s Praetorian Guards makes you believe he will change. It would seem the old belief that “good girls can save the bad boys” is real.

It’s not, Kylo isn’t ready to change yet, Rey can’t get him there. It’s a broken concept that is exposed here for its dangerous flaws. She does her best, it doesn’t work, so she leaves. #timetowipeyourownnosebuster

Even in the next movie when Kylo does change, he makes that choice on his own. Rey was definitely a positive influence on him, but she does not change him. He chooses to change.

You can lose everything and still win.

Failure is not an option. Does that thought ever echo in your mind?

Do or do not, there is no try. What the heck does that mean and does it even make sense? I’m not sure it does.

The Resistance is a disaster at the end of this movie. It’s the lowest point our hero characters have been at since Order 66 and Revenge of The Sith. Sometimes you think you’ve gone as low as you can go, and then you find out there is a sub-basement under the regular one.

That’s where the Resistance is at. Broken, but not beaten. This is a challenge to the status quo that we as humans carry as a great burden on our shoulders.

I can’t lose my house. I’ll die without this relationship. I’ve put everything into this business, it can’t end. I need my car to be okay. Etc.

We have people holding onto things for dear life with the belief that failure is not an option. And a lot of them are missing the bigger picture, holding the wrong priorities, and burning themselves up.

Losing things, relationships, jobs, etc, it’s not fun. But it’s not the end of the world, and you can come back from something like this. You are still alive and that is a gift. We would do well to recognize how many things do not actually define our success or our ability to go on. We would do well to be carriers of hope instead of fear.

The Last Jedi challenged many status quos for Star Wars and wrongful culture in general. Like it, hate it, you have to admit it accomplished that much.

Challenging The Status Quo.

The Rise Of Skywalker : Endings And Beginnings

The Rise of Skywalker was many, many things. Seriously, so much happened in that movie. Some of it was well done and some of it was half-baked. I neither love it to death nor do I hate its guts. I’m not going to try to unpack every detail of the movie, I’m gonna stick to a few specific things.

Endings

Leia’s Legacy Is Complete

This was “Leia’s movie”. The devastating death of Carrie Fisher a few years ago caused some major difficulties in giving Leia the ending she richly deserved. But with the miracle of modern technology and people who would not quit, Leia was honored properly.

Leia held on to hope when others lost it. She stayed in the fight when others ran. Leia forgave herself for her mistakes even while she felt the grief of them. Leia worked hard to instill good values and wise judgment into another generation.

Leia absolutely succeeded. She poured herself into people who were willing to receive what she had to offer. Poe was practically a second son to her. His love for Leia and respect for her leadership made him the right person to become her successor.

Rey had raised herself up to this point and did a decent job. But she was so, so hungry for some parenting! Both Han and Luke contributed to her growth, but Leia gave an entire year of her life to training Rey. She was the mother Rey had never gotten to experience.

Both for the Rebels and the Jedi, Leia kept the fire lit and passed on the torch to the next generation.

And even with her dying breath, she called out to her wayward son, and his mother’s voice brought him home.

Princess General Leia Organa Skywalker Solo is a legend, and the legend was honored well. Her legacy lives on in the hearts of those she loved and nurtured.

Chewbacca got a medal. It’s about time.

Palpatine was destroyed by his own flesh and blood, and she was saved from death by the very family line he’d spent decades controlling. #poeticjustice

Kylo Ren is dead, Ben Solo is alive. Ben’s final choice to change and become the person he was made to be was triumphant and honest. He made selfless choices to do the right thing, he gave his own life to save another, and he helped repair much of the damage he had caused. He was forgiven, and he forgave himself. The son of Leia Skywalker and Han Solo was restored and put to rest.

The Voices of the Jedi Returned

It was a stunning moment when beloved voices from Jedi friends of the past were heard in Rey’s head. This nod to all the heroes who had come before her and done their best was a great way to bring this saga to a close. They’d done their part, now it was her turn, and they had her back. It was a nice fan moment that tied in all previous Eras of Star Wars.

Ships from every era of Star Wars could be seen when the mismatched fleet from across the galaxy arrived. I’m sure the super nerds have already torn that scene apart and you can find multiple YouTube videos on the subject. It was a great place to celebrate the larger universe.

Beginnings

Finn and Jannah both represented a group of people that have largely been viewed in one way – unchangeable, evil minions. But their transformations from Stormtrooper to Rebel warriors has proven that change is possible. Just like The Clone Wars series dove into the lives, ideas, and destinies of the clones as individuals, it’s possible that this move could open up new stories about redeemed Stormtroopers.

Finn is Force-sensitive. I’m kind of a Finn fangirl, I’m gonna talk about this a lot. Finn represents a character we’ve seen little of, someone who is Force-sensitive but does not have Jedi training. His growth from a scared deserter to a calm military leader was epic, and honestly, it feels somewhat unfinished. The potential that this character alone represents for future stories and Star Wars storytelling is immense.

The Galaxy is owning this battle for freedom for the first time. It’s no longer just a fight between Rebels vs Baddies, it’s everyone’s fight. I don’t even have to go into detail on this one, the potential speaks for itself.

Poe is a general. As we have learned the hard way from the Galactic Civil War and New Republic Aftermath, victory over an enemy doesn’t always mean life is easy. You have to have strong leaders in place to help with the messy rebuilding process. It would be neat to explore how someone rebuilds a galaxy and does it right.

Rey Skywalker. I’ve seen some complaints about this moment. One person who replied to my positive comment about this character choice said,

Right, because we can now just say a name and its ours. #sarcasm

Uh, yeah, buddy, that’s kind of how adoption works.

Part of the point of Rey’s entire character arc is that her family line and heritage should not define her, for good or bad. When she was an unknown she feared her own worthlessness. When she discovered she was a Palpatine, she feared her own power and importance.

Everyone kept telling her who and what she was and what that had to mean for her.

But Rey made a choice, and that choice was opposite of her blood, and in line with the people she had chosen to call her own: the Skywalkers and their Rebel family.

Rey taking the name Skywalker was her way of adopting herself into her chosen family, her chosen path, and her identity. It’s not like Luke and Leia were available to sign adoption papers, but an adoption it was.

This isn’t stupid, it’s beautiful. It was redemptive to the Skywalker line because their legacy will live on with this beautiful woman who took their name. The future of the Jedi will be directed by someone who has seen and tasted both the Dark and the Light, and she still chose the Light.

Rey carries herself with a humility and wisdom that is just what the doctor ordered. Her identity can not be blown away in the next sandstorm, she’s rooted in something bigger than herself.

The potential for what Rey could create, should anyone choose to continue her story, is something very fresh and inviting. She could create a whole new generation of Jedi who are far less trapped by useless tradition, and more involved with relationship and choice. She could help others who feel lost find a home and a family.

The Rise of Skywalker ended a saga that has stretched over 5 decades. It worked to try and bring a satisfying ending to many of those story lines, but also left us with a few tantalizing threads to discover in the future.

Endings and Beginnings.

For my full summary of Star Wars, check out,

The Prequel Era

Height of The Empire, Early Rebellion Era

Galactic Civil War, New Republic Aftermath Era

A Summary Of Star Wars : Galactic Civil War, New Republic Aftermath Era

A New Hope : The Seeds Bloom

When introducing someone to Star Wars, this is it.

If I wanted to show someone the entire story line with all of the details and timeline, I would go chronologically. I always like chronological when it comes to stories.

However, this movie WAS Star Wars! This movie changed history. If you only have time for one film to wet someone’s appetite, A New Hope is it. It can stand alone. The story is comfortingly cliche-filled about a small town farm boy who’s actually special and a band of mismatched beings who take on the evil local government, and win. A classic underdog story.

Star Wars proves that we don’t really fear cliches themselves, we fear them being done poorly. Star Wars plays with cliches regularly but it uses them well. The excitement of this movie is something special. Running up and down corridors shooting blasters! Han’s unexpected lines and bits of humor! The garbage compactor! Obi-Wan’s grand sacrifice! And that delicious space battle with the horrifying countdown is unforgettable! Timeless. This movie gets my heart pumping every time.

This is what the world fell in love with, and its magic continues to bring new viewers under its spell. Whether we had more than the Original Trilogy or not, this movie would not lose a single inch of its ground. It’s special.

But now we do have more than the Originals, so we can now view this story as a chapter in a larger timeline. What A New Hope represents in the framework of the larger story-line is the movie where the seeds planted in earlier, more tragic years begin to bloom.

Luke’s sheltered existence on Tatooine, as much as he hated it, accomplished Obi-Wan’s intended purpose. He grew up safe and strong, undisturbed by the Emperor or Darth Vader. His enthusiasm and big dreams for the future are a welcome open door for Obi-Wan to step into his life at the right moment and beginning training him. He learns fast and puts what he’s learned into practice almost immediately.

Leia, though a bit less safe, is already a backbone member of the Rebel Alliance. Her mother’s courage and ferocity for truth lives on in her daughter’s spirit. She is reunited with her brother and meets the future love-of-her-life and they form the trio that is required for every Star Wars trilogy. But they are the trio.

Han’s big heart is dug out of the drawer where he tries to stuff it and is dusted off. The boy we met in Solo is still in there somewhere, and his skills and, uh, really bad ideas that sometimes work are exactly what the Skywalker twins need to succeed. He completes them.

The Death Star plans that our Rogue One crew worked so hard to send to the Alliance have been recovered and will be put to use. The horrible sacrifice was not in vain. Can we also take a moment to recognize how incredible it is that this “overlooked plot hole” such as a small ventilation shaft was fixed with an entire, glorious movie nearly 38 years later? That’s cool!

Obi-Wan’s years of walking the galaxy in the flesh are gone, he sacrifices himself to join the Force and get to be a voice in people’s heads for years. This really stirs up things in Darth Vader that have remained dormant for a long time.

Add to that the defeat of The Death Star and this young pilot who is strong in the force, Vader’s sense of equilibrium is rattled. It’s the beginning of the end for Vader, and the beginning of the return of the Jedi, Anakin.

When seeds bloom you begin to see the tender green shoots sticking up out of the soil. It’s exciting after you’ve been staring at little heaps of dirt forever. For all you know that seed you buried died down there in the darkness and you’re looking at its grave. Maybe nothing will grow. But the baby plants, the little shoots of hope, they are the proof that life remains, and it is growing stronger.

A New Hope is aptly named, life remains, and it is growing stronger.

The Seeds Bloom.

The Empire Strikes Back : Success Born Out Of Defeat

This was one of my most favorite movies in the world. It’s one of the best sequels in film history.

At first glance this movie looks like, “The one where the Rebels get their butts kicked by the Empire.” And to some extent, that is true. However, most of the battles lost in this movie actually lead to the eventual overthrow and defeat of the Empire, so in truth, the Rebels win the war.

This plays out in a few specific ways.

Han Solo is clearly very attached to Luke and Leia and The Rebellion, but he has a divided attention. Understandably so! If I had a price on my head I’d be concerned about it too. They also really need him, Luke would have ended up as a popsicle without him. Still, there are questions hanging in the air about how long he’ll stick around and it causes some tension. Tension, and the cutest hallway argument + accidentally kissing your twin brother moments! #scruffylookingnerfherder #idratherkissawookiee #youcoulduseagoodkiss

But the events of The Battle of Hoth, the following chase across space, and the climactic loss at Bespin push Han to a conclusion.

I love you.

I know.

Even though both Han and Leia have no idea what happens next, Han has made a choice. These are his people, and if he gets the chance, he’s sticking with them. He’s resolved, and when Han is resolved good things happen. Now its his turn to be a popsicle.

Princess Leia is struggling with feeling that she can trust in the relationships she has built with Luke and Han, especially Han. She knows that she will be committed to the Rebel cause until she wins or dies, so that’s not a question on her mind.

Her adventures with Han and friends give her the courage to commit, “I love you.” As warmhearted as Leia clearly is, those words came hard. She’s probably scared to love deeply after all she’s lost, but she does. It’s a big moment for her character.

Her connection with Luke is established when Luke calls out for rescue through the Force and Leia hears him. While she doesn’t understand the full weight of this experience at the time, she will eventually. Progress has been made to fuller “twinhood” and their rightful inheritance as Skywalkers.

Lando Calrissian Joins Something Bigger Than Himself

Lando has a pretty scummy showing in his first introduction to this movie. No amount of cape swishing and pretty smiles can cover his betrayal. The double-crossing card shark we met in Solo seems alive and well.

But through the loss of an old comrade, Han, His oil platform being overwhelmed by the Empire, and a good punch/choking or two, Lando makes a new choice. No more going alone, no more pretending not to care, it’s time to be a part of something bigger than his own selfish desires. Another scoundrel (though not the scoundrel) has been brought on board.

Luke Discovers His Father

One of the biggest reveals in movie history, it’s a powerful scene. As shocking as this scene is to Luke’s character, it’s hugely important to his growth. The truth will set you free. As much as Obi-Wan and Yoda feared Luke knowing the truth, he really did need to know where he stood. The decisions Luke will make from this point on are entirely different because he now knows Vader is his father. And they are good ones, ones that will make a difference.

Still, at the exact moment that he is told the startling truth, Luke is bleeding, weak, and hanging off of a pole. Emotionally he’s a train wreck, Vader senses his vulnerability and tries to take advantage of it. It’s Luke’s lowest moment thus far, so what does the kid do?

He lets go and free falls into a shaft. It’s one of my absolute favorite Luke Skywalker moments. Funny, I know, he’s not exactly a pretty picture at this moment. But this choice to just let go and get-the-heck-out-of-Dodge is one of the smartest, humblest choices Luke ever makes. It takes wisdom and maturity to know when you are not strong enough for a certain situation and you just need to get some space and perspective.

Luke charged into Bespin all cocky and ready to take on Vader. He did fairly well, but he got his butt kicked, lost a hand, and he just got a punch right in the daddy-issues.

The choice to just get out of there is so wise. If only Luke had used this same humble wisdom years down the road when he faced problems with his nephew, Ben Solo. Rather than panicking and reacting as “the great Luke Skywalker should”, he could have gotten some space and requested some backup support. He didn’t, and so many suffered because of his arrogance.

Han’s frozen, Leia’s brokenhearted, and Luke has been put through the wringer. They’re all separated and unsure of what comes next. It feels like a crushing defeat, but the lessons they learn in this chapter and the wounds they are given become some of their greatest strengths. They are more united than ever and more determined to see this thing through. The days of the Empire are numbered.

Success Born Out Of Defeat.

Return Of The Jedi : Redemption

The very title speaks of such triumph. It’s one thing to win by just destroying your enemies, it’s another thing to actually be able to save one of them and restore balance to the Force.

The rise and fall of the pacing and victories in the Original Trilogy are well done. A New Hope contains some heavy losses and tragic moments, but it ends on a high note with the destruction of The Death Star and that iconic medal ceremony. The Empire Strikes Back picks up on that high note and delivers an action-packed sequel, but it ends on a low note where we are nervous for the outcome.

Return Of The Jedi does not start the strongest beginning. The whole sideline tour on Tatooine was rather slow. And don’t get me started on Leia’s disgusting outfit, that was a shameful choice on the part of Lucas! Carrie Fisher hated that outfit for the rest of her life and who can blame her.

We are shown a new Luke Skywalker though, one who is calm, collected, and peaceful. He’s confident in his capabilities as well as his compassion. This is the Luke that can face Darth Vader.

Once we get back to the Rebellion things start to pick up, and fun adventure leading to an epic battle of the mind and galaxy ensues.

The Force is strong in my family. I have it, my father has it. My sister has it.

The moment when Luke and Leia discuss their twin-hood and legacy in the Force is one of my favorite scenes. It’s tender, gentle, and raw. Luke loves Leia as he loves no one else in the world. He also comments on the fact that should he fail, Leia is the future for the Rebel Alliance. And she is strong. Down the road in the Sequel Trilogy we see just how accurate his predictions are about her.

Luke’s confrontation with his father is a bit of a gamble, and it’s not easy. The Emperor never makes anything easy; his arrogance, his manipulation, and his touching every tender and dear thing in Luke’s heart is its own form of torture.

This part is made even more angering by Vader’s submission to his sick master. It’s like there is no will in him, he’s never looked weaker. In contrast, Luke has never been stronger.

My favorite moment is when Luke chooses to throw his lightsaber away, refusing the temptation to end his broken father.

I’ll never turn to the Dark Side. You’ve failed, Your Highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.

One of the best lines in film history. He’s not struggling, he’s resolved. He affirms his faith in his father and his love for him even though Vader is a pitiful mess on the floor. It’s beautiful, it’s redemptive, it’s loving. And Palpatine doesn’t know what to do with it.

It’s truly delightful that love conquers hate. Luke’s love for his father and Anakin’s love for his son brings him back to the Light. The satisfaction of seeing Palpatine throw into a chasm while screaming is fantastic.

I could see how some people would want to throw this whole movie out after the events of the recent Sequel Trilogy. What good did it do? Palpatine survived! The First Order emerged, Luke became Oscar the Grouch!

They’re missing the point. This moment was about conquering the evil before them, and about Anakin’s redemption. None of us knows exactly what comes down the road, we aren’t supposed to! All we can do is do our best with the times we’ve given. #lordoftheringscrossoverline

And our friends do their best and they do well.

They destroy the Empire. Anakin Skywalker dies in his son’s forgiving arms. Han and Leia succeed in their mission on Endor (not bad for a popsicle and a princess), the Millennium Falcon emerges unharmed, and Leia gets to have a moment of peace with the people she loves. Anakin rejoins his friends in the Force and all is well for the time being.

You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Palpatine spent years trying to drag himself out of this pit he was thrown into, he wasn’t a threat for a long, long time. The Empire was overthrown, the Rebel Alliance gained ground, and new potential emerged. It was a victory.

Redemption is often a messy road, but it is always a road paved with love. There is no other way to get there. Return of The Jedi is a triumph for the individual characters we love and the galaxy as a whole.

Victory isn’t defined by never having to struggle again, it’s defined by ground that is gained. Ground was gained, redemption happened, and love paved the way.

Redemption.

The Mandalorian : Meaning In The Midst Of Chaos

A stark truth is focused on in this brilliant Disney+ series that reveals a whole new side of Star Wars.

Just because something good happened doesn’t mean that the hardship is over. The Empire has been defeated, the Rebel Alliance won, and the New Republic has been formed. And the galaxy is a hot mess.

It’s a discouraging thought, but I have experienced this reality in my own life in some painful ways. Just because you conquer one hard, long-lasting thing doesn’t mean that life is immediately all sunshine and roses. There’s cleanup, there’s rebuilding, and there’s trauma to work through. The whole galaxy is in that place, everyone is trying to survive or one-up each other. It’s madness.

The Mandalorian himself is a character who carries and represents trauma in multiple areas. To some extent, he’s still the brokenhearted little boy who’s parents were murdered in The Clone Wars.

Still, he’s tried to make the best of it. He’s an A+ bounty hunter who strikes fear in the hearts of all of his quarries and those who oppose him. He’s holds to the Mandalorian creed, but his profession doesn’t make him the most popular person. There is a sense of emptiness to his life that no amount of cool moves or successful bounty missions can fill. He’s a lost soul wandering.

Enter, Baby Yoda.

I wrote an article on fatherhood and how Mando steps up to the plate to care for a child who is entirely dependent upon him. He exhibits sacrificial love when he puts his own needs/wants and sense of freedom aside to care for someone else.

In this drastic choice, Mando finds a whole new level of peace and purpose. You can live your whole live just trying to survive, but you may not like the person you become or the decisions you make. Mando is surrounded by people who make all kinds of horrible, selfish decisions in the interest of survival. He once was that person.

But at the same time, Mando as a character seems to find the characters in the galaxy who are living for more. Kuill, Cara Dune, Omera, even the other Mandalorians who hold fast to the creed. These individuals have all suffered in one way or another, they are all faced with hard circumstances, but they are making different choices. They stand up for the little guys, and they don’t back down from a fight if it’s for a good cause. Sometimes they do the right thing just because its the right thing.

In Episode 6: The Prisoner, we see the kind of life Mando used to lead. And it was naaasty! The kindhearted, measured person he is now shows just how far he has come. More than any other episode to me, this episode shows how Mando has chosen to live for more than money or bloodlust.

They could have a made a show about this incredibly cool character and his adventures as a bounty hunter, and people would have watched it. But it wouldn’t have had the impact it did.

By adding in a sense of responsibility and the glorious and hard journey of fatherhood, The Mandalorian struck home to our hearts in a special way. The chaos of the galaxy we love is brought into balance with a reminder of what really matters.

We are all looking for meaning in life, and true meaning is found in being loved and loving.

It’s a testimony to the strength of the storytelling that we can learn such a precious and tender message from a man who’s face we’ve barely seen, but who’s heart we’ve already fallen in love with.

Meaning In The Midst Of Chaos.

Next up, Rise Of The Resistance And The First Order Era.

Check out, Height Of The Empire, Early Rebellion Era

Check out, Prequel Era

A Summary Of Star Wars : Height Of The Empire, Early Rebellion Era

Solo : Hope Is The Key

Han Solo stands in the Hall of Fame as one of the most beloved characters in cinematic history. And he deserves every bit of that love.

I absolutely loved this movie, it was a love letter to Han Solo fans, Star Wars fans, and to the heart of Star Wars in general. Alden Ehrenreich was Han, a bit more wet behind the ears, but every bit the joking, self-assured, awkward risk taker that we come to know and love in the OT. He took many cues from the one and only Harrison Ford and it absolutely shows.

Han grew up trapped in childhood gang slavery, but he never let that mentality become his identity. The boy was born to fly, and fly he will.

Han interacts with multiple characters who are all suffering under oppression and despair in one way or another. Everyone is trying to survive. Han is in the same boat, but somehow, he emerges differently than the others.

The difference between Han and all of the other characters is one key thing : Han has hope.

Tobias Beckett admires this kid and his enthusiasm, but grief, fear, and greed have broken Beckett down to the place where he will always take the backstabber’s way out. Hope is for suckers.

Qi’ra lost hope so badly that even when she was offered a way out, a chance to be with someone who she loved and who truly loved her, she didn’t take it. She remained a prisoner to a life she truly hates because again, hope is for suckers.

Lando Calrissian knows everyone and is fully known by no one. He charms, seduces, tricks, and one-ups everyone around him. The person he seems most attached to was his droid, and she bought it. He’s not a terrible person by and large, but he’s a loner. It’s safer that way.

What I felt when the end credits rolled at the end of Solo was that Han’s supposedly crazy “idealism” enabled him to look at life above the smog and get a clear vision of where he wanted to go. He never gave up, he was willing to dream big when people told him to settle for less, and he valued life in a way others didn’t. Hope pushed him to be better than the evil he faced, and it got him farther than those who despaired.

If that isn’t quintessential Star Wars, I don’t know what is.

What Han walks away with is the world’s best friend, Chewbacca, the sweetest hunk of junk in the galaxy, and the reputation for the guy who made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Not only does Han accomplish all of this, but he actually makes other people’s lives better in the process. #whatascoundrel

It’s 10 years before the Rebellion begins to gain ground, while we get a taste of what is to come, the galaxy is still in a choke-hold from the Empire. It’s a rotten time to be alive. And yet, Han thrives.

Another 10 years will go by and during that time Han is going to pick up some more mileage. He’s going to grow more jaded and cynical, a bit more selfish and definitely more arrogant.

But Solo absolutely explains how and why Han was “converted” to the Rebel cause so quickly, it’s because in his heart he was a Rebel all along. And hope tastes familiar to him.

Hope Is The Key.

Star Wars Rebels : Foundations And Family

The number of words I could expend upon this series alone are in the tens of thousands. It’s my favorite of the animated series, contains some of my favorite characters of all time (not just Star Wars), and is some of the finest storytelling I’ve ever seen.

Star Wars Rebels was a new chapter in Star Wars history. It opened up a new mentality for Star Wars in general and rewrote a lot of old rules. It laid the groundwork for future stories and characters that didn’t have a place before.

To me, Rebels was about creating a foundation out of the rubble and death that followed Revenge Of The Sith. For the Star Wars universe in general, Rebels was a crossroads for every era, idea, and character presented on the big and small screen, and yes, even from some of the books. All stories connect in this one series.

And the foundation that supported that huge weight was this, family.

Kanan Jarrus, a former Jedi padawan was forced to flee for his life after Order 66 and the death of his master. He is a beautiful person, kindhearted, intelligent, and highly skilled. But he feels like there is a question mark hanging over his life. When he is called upon to embrace his Force abilities and actually train someone else Kanan is regularly faced with is own insecurities and sense of inadequacy.

Paired with Kanan is Ezra Bridger, a young and scrappy Force-sensitive kid who, like Ahsoka, creates a fresh perspective for us to engage this story. He’s beautiful in his rawness and vulnerability. He often fails with less grace than Ahsoka ever did, but there is more flawed humanity to his character that is relatable.

Together these two create a master/padawan duo that really becomes more of a father/son connection, and it’s beautiful. Through the development of these characters we see what the Jedi COULD have been if they had embraced their humanity, loved deeply, had the grace to fail, and the humility to say, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Both Ezra and Kanan find themselves in this place repeatedly throughout their complex and rich character arcs, but it is never a liability. They always grow, and they take you on that journey of growth with them. By Season 4 you cannot even believe what they are capable of.

Hera Syndulla is yet another example of the foundations created in this chapter of the story. She grew up during the Clone War years and has been involved in conflict her whole life. She challenges the status quo and expectations of so many who’ve come before her, even her own father. But she does it because she knows something else is better. Her reach extends beyond just the series, she’s referenced in Rogue One, The Battle of Endor, and The Rise Of Skywalker. She stands on equal footing in honor with Kanan, and together they create this family environment that births the strongest Rebel cell in the movement.

Sabine Wren is a character who reveals more about the mysterious Mandalorians who can be viewed through so many lenses, but she gives us a directly personal perspective. Her clear appreciation for belonging to a family who accepts her regardless of her past mistakes shows that this is a more forgiving group of characters and a new culture. The old rules and ways of doing things died with the Republic.

Star Wars Rebels covers some redemption arcs that will never have the acclaim of big name characters like Darth Vader or Ben Solo, but they are every bit as important. The kind of Rebellion that our characters create is one where everyone is welcome, regardless of what you have done or what you once were, you can change. You are given a place at the table and an opportunity to contribute to building something special.

Forgiveness and rising to the occasion are common themes for this series.

This time of Star Wars is not about rebuilding what once was, it’s about creating something new out of the ashes. A foundation strong enough to hold up all that is to come, and that means something has to be different. The old corruptions of the too-stiff Republic and the narrow-mindedness cruelty of the Empire do not get to hold back what is being built.

People come first, love makes us stronger, and hope cements characters of various backgrounds into one united front. They are a family of Rebels and they are the foundation of something new.

Foundations And Family.

Rogue One : Sacrifice

This movie is like a punch in the gut.

And yet, it’s probably one of the best movies I have ever seen in my life. Not only is it an absolutely beautiful movie to watch, but the message and purpose are brought across with such crystal clarity you cannot misunderstand it.

This movie was made with the intention of hearkening back to classic war movies. They were spot on. When you’ve seen classic titles like:

The Longest Day, The Sands of Iwo Jima, The Guns of Navarone, The Bridge On The River Kwai, Gung-Ho, Flying Tigers, The Battle of Britain, Mrs. Miniver, The Great Escape, you can absolutely see the resemblance. Long odds, heavy casualties, and sacrifice are common themes.

What Rogue One really wanted to communicate to audiences was the sacrifices that were made by hundreds of “little people” enabled our more famous heroes to succeed. This war was not won by Luke Skywalker alone, it was accomplished through the selfless actions of thousands. This movie honors all of those people in a stark and sobering way.

We watch them die for what they believe in.

Sacrifice, it’s a hard topic to cover and an even harder one to watch. But we wouldn’t be seeing the full picture without it.

The other topic that is introduced in this story was a theme begun in Star Wars Rebels that has been expanded upon in the recent movies and series. The Force is for everyone, and everyone has something to contribute. This new way of thinking does not lessen the contributions of some of our favorite Force-wielding characters, but it does remove some of their all-importance, and that’s a good thing.

The thoughts that I had spinning around in my head after this movie were unlike anything I have ever felt following a Star Wars movie. I sat there in the theater, stunned…and overwhelmed with gratitude.

This movie felt so real, because in essence, it was. How many times throughout history, how many times daily do brave people make choices to do what is right and end up sacrificing themselves for others? How many countless of lives have been laid down to build something better for future generations? Thousands, millions! I will never know all of their names, and I won’t get to thank all of them in person.

They knew that, but they did it anyway.

The sequence that captures this most dramatically for me takes place after Scarif has just ended and our entire Rogue One crew is dead. The Death Star plans that Jyn projected up to the fleet have been transferred to a disk and are now being passed from one Rebel to another.

And then…*a red lightsaber ignites*.

I saw A New Hope when I was 13 years old, Vader was not someone who caused me fear. But during this sequence for the first time I felt the fear of Vader, because I felt what those poor Rebels felt.

That whole, horrifying sequence is so intense. These Rebels are helpless before the silent might and power that is Darth Vader. They know that, he knows that, the audience knows that. So what do they do?

They don’t give up, they keep fighting even though it’s scary. And what that means is they die, each person taking up as much of Vader’s time as possible so that they buy time for the disk to get passed further down the line.

These men may or may not know what they are carrying. They for sure know they will never get to see the outcome of their efforts. It could be all vain, they still could lose.

But they sacrifice anyway. Each one of them.

Each person down on Scarif. Each member of the Rogue One crew. Each brave little ship in that Rebel fleet. And each tiny Rebel crew member who is nothing more than a blade of grass chewed up in the lawnmower that is Darth Vader.

It’s stark. It’s harsh. And it’s humbling, because we know it’s real. Sacrifice is a part of any war, any cause. Some of the greatest causes in human history have involved horrific sacrifices, but people made them willingly because they believed in what they were doing.

Rogue One is a fictional movie that captures these stark truths in a way that gives such honor to the reality.

Sacrifice.

Next, The Galactic Civil War and New Republic Aftermath.

#anewhope #theempirestrikesback #returnofthejedi #themandalorian

Read yesterday’s post, The Prequel Era here.

A Summary Of Star Wars : Prequel Era

The Phantom Menace : Origins

It’s not the greatest-made movie in existence. We will now pause awkwardly for a moment of silence over Padme’s stiff everything. “I’ll try spinning, that’s a good trick.” And Jar Jar’s near attempt to get everyone he supposedly likes killed.

Despite all of it’s flaws, The Phantom Menace still shines out as an important chapter in the Star Wars story because of the origins it creates for multiple story points, characters, expectations, and future possibilities.

Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor’s performances are the shining stars of this movie, along with the un-tapped (at the time) potential for Darth Maul.

Duel Of The Fates is one of the most iconic and exciting moments in Star Wars, and its one of the most gorgeous bits of soundtrack. It’s in my top 3 favorite lightsaber battles, probably because I am an Obi-Wan Kenobi fangirl through and through.

The gift that was The Phantom Menace to me is 3 things in particular. And no, Darth Vader’s origins don’t even make the list.

The birth of the character Obi-Wan Kenobi and all that he represents – The High Ground.

The birth of the now well-traveled villain Darth Maul and all that he represents – Despair And Chaos.

The Phantom Menace himself, Sheev Palpatine – Patient Deception and Longstanding Evil.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is such a pivotal character in the Star Wars storyline. It can be argued that he is responsible for some if not THE best of the entire Prequel Era, and his hand in raising the next generation of Jedi Skywalkers even after his devastating losses with the first are incredible. He crosses paths with and influences some of the finest characters in the Prequel and Rebel Era (even the Sequel Era).

We are given a complete set-up and expectation of that beautiful depth of character in the scene where we see him overcome the pit he has fallen into after the death of his beloved master, Qui-Gon Jinn. Obi-Wan is the young and untried warrior in this scenario. He proves his deeper wisdom and life mentality in just a few moments.

He uses his losses such as supposedly vulnerable low ground, dead master = extra lightsaber, and his grief to his advantage. He literally slices his enemy in half when he retakes the high ground. It’s a position he will maintain for the rest of his life and beyond his death, Obi-Wan NEVER gives up the high ground, even when those around him fall. And because he makes those choices, he creates a foundation for the future generations to succeed.

Obi-Wan is represents the best of Star Wars and its heroes, aka The High Ground.

Darth Maul was not much more than a pretty face when he was introduced. I can remember being a tiny child and seeing him plastered all over posters at Walmart. To me, HIS face was what represented Star Wars, not Darth Vader’s well known figure. #90skid

For a long time Maul was a well of untapped potential, but in more recent years Star Wars creators such as Dave Filoni have made use of this character to show a very complex side of this galaxy caught in conflict.

Without releasing to many spoilers, I will say Maul has risen to the level of my favorite Star Wars villain. He’s utterly despicable in every way, and you feel a hatred for him, but somehow that is balanced out with an acknowledgement that he is yet another broken person who has been misused, abused, and thrown into the blender that is Sheev Palpatine’s thirst for power.

The consistent interaction between him and his oldest foe, Obi-Wan creates a parallel and a contrast all at once. They are two characters who have both been lied to and caught up in a war they did not create.

But with those circumstances they made their own choices of their own free will. One chose the high ground and compassion, and one descended into madness and desperate chaos that caused even more pain. It’s a brilliant bit of character work.

Sheev Palpatine has had his dirty fingers in this mess from the beginning, and here we see that beginning. It’s even more startling now that we know he is responsible for using the Force to impregnate Shmi Skywalker and create Anakin Skywalker, his future apprentice. I appreciate the role we see Palpatine in during this film, he’s all flattery, benevolence, and supposed humility. Often evil takes the appearance of good in order to work its deception, Palpatine is a warning to us all. And shadowy threats are often scarier than known ones. He wears the shadows well.

Also, he deserves this much, R2D2 is given his proper introduction in that we are shown his first insertion into this story when he! Surprise surprise! Saves everyone. This darling droid will not get a moment’s rest until almost 3 generations later because he will be saving people and literally keeping this galaxy running for multiple movies and series.

Origins.

Attack Of The Clones : Escalation

This is my favorite “bad” movie, bad as in the writing is often cheesy, some characters make questionable choices, and we all find ourselves wondering just how Padme fell for this so-unstable Anakin in the first place. And yet, it’s a good time. #obiwanmakeseverythingbetter

The purpose of this movie shows us the escalation that takes place for multiple plot points and characters. Some of this is done knowingly, some just happens.

The Clone Army is revealed. And a host of questions, stories, triumphs and tragedies is begun.

The Jedi become entangled in a war that contributes to their eventual destruction.

Palpatine maneuvers himself into an even more integral place of power and influence. Yeah, we can really see how much it hurts you to have to accept these emergency powers, bub. #tinyviolins

The First Battle of Geonosis kicks off the Trade Federation conflict into a full-scale war and launches the complex and intriguing era of The Clone Wars.

Anakin gives into his passions in two ways, his love for Padme, and his anger towards the Sand People who murdered his mother. #sandpeoplearetheworst

I’m really not someone who thinks his mistake was loving Padme, this whole Jedi emotion denial thing was a stupid idea in the first place. Plus, other Jedi characters are shown as stronger and wiser because they have engaged their emotions.

No, Anakin’s problems arose from issues that were deeper than him breaking the rules to marry Padme. He was born as a slave, and separated from his mother because stupid Jedi rules. You want to talk about grounds for fear, separation anxiety, and control issues? They practically asked for this kid to have problems! He was manipulated by someone cunning who affirmed him at just the right moments. And he also just made some really stupid choices in his low moments, personal responsibility is still a factor here.

We see the escalation of all of this mess and his emotions in this movie.

Escalation.

The Clone Wars : How Did We Get Here

The Clone Wars is some of the best storytelling the small screen has to offer.

The Prequels have a much-deserved reputation for sloppy character work and massive loopholes in the plot.

The Clone Wars fixes all of that. It retroactively corrects some of the greatest problems the first three movies present and answers so many of the screaming questions.

How did we end up here?

How does such a valiant warrior with so much potential turn on his dearest friends and destroy the very things/people he’s fought so hard to protect?

Do clones have rights? What do they believe?

How do you win a war you were always meant to lose?

What’s right and what’s wrong?

How in the heck did Palpatine get this far with no one noticing?

Were the Jedi right? Where did they go wrong?

The amount of time put into the relationships of characters alone makes this series a golden gift to the Star Wars storyline. Anakin and Obi-Wan are truly shown to be the brothers that you thought they were. Anakin as a character is one you come to love and admire as you see him at his best.

Padme Amidala is given a chance to shine forth as a hero who used her gifts beyond just wearing the largest headdress in the room. You see the strengths that Leia inherited as well as the energy and idealism Luke carries.

We meet the Jedi, for better or worse.

Obi-Wan is again very British and it’s beautiful.

We meet the characters and planets caught in the conflict, torn apart by other’s greedy ambitions. Sometimes those journeys bring joy, sometimes grief. But we almost always learn something.

We see the crafty hand of Palpatine weave this inescapable web that drives everyone towards this horrible climax. We watch him prey upon Anakin and feed into his insecurities like a lamb being fattened for the slaughter.

The Clones are no longer faceless beings, but real, living men. We get to know them by name. We fall in love with them, we feel their pain, their anger, their courage, and their questions.

And of course, Ahsoka Tano. One of the brightest, boldest, and most dear characters in the Star Wars universe. The creation of a young and impressionable character who would be growing into womanhood during this turbulent period was a stroke of genius. Ahsoka is allowed to be outside of the events in Revenge Of The Sith, therefore her story is able to be approached with fresh eyes.

Ahsoka is a grounding character in this time when friends will become foe, joy turns into tears, and many things that were once counted on (The Republic/Jedi) will fall into ruin. Ahsoka is an anchor who will never change being who she is, regardless of what happens.

How Did We Get Here?

Revenge Of The Sith : Death And Rebirth

“You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you!”

We got people sobbing over Jack in Titanic who wasn’t even smart enough to climb up on the end of the lifeboat, time to get over that, folks!

THIS! THIS IS A REAL TRAGEDY!

Revenge Of The Sith is a movie where Darkness wins the day. It’s awful, absolutely awful, and it’s supposed to be. Betrayal is a bitter pill to swallow. Lies and deception lead to death, and we taste it full “force” in this movie.

Watching someone we have come to love such as Anakin (if you have seen The Clone Wars, you love him) try to kill the people dearest to him is such a raw picture of just how far fear and lies can take you. It’s a dire warning and harsh consequence.

The Republic is gone.

Freedom is gone.

Trust is gone.

The Jedi as they were are gone.

Padme, bless her loving heart, is gone.

Obi-Wan’s dearest friend has betrayed him.

And yet, a glimmer of hope emerges. Two tiny children are born into the world that represent the future of the galaxy, Luke and Leia Skywalker.

Often out of great tragedy and death there is some amount of rebirth. It’s too early to see what it will become, it’s too soon to feel the joy over the grief, but it’s present. A tiny, flickering little flame of hope.

We can never go back to what once was, that much is gone forever, a permanent death has happened. But even in the ashes of that death, there is rebirth.

Death And Rebirth.

Next up, the height of The Empire and the beginning of the Rebellion.

#solo #starwarsrebels #rogueone

Height of The Empire, Early Rebellion Era read here.

The Rise of Skywalker : My Thoughts In No Particular Order

I know, its been months and I am just now am writing about The Rise of Skywalker.

I actually missed it in theaters due to what we will call “a series of unfortunate events”. I did not see the movie until a week and a half ago.

I was frankly terrified.

I really do like The Last Jedi movie, but some decisions were made in that film that I found disappointing.

Add to that the fact that Disney has severely let me down in some areas recently *coughs* ENDGAME! Stories and characters that meant the world to me were not given their proper dues. It’s hard when you invest in something so deeply and then find yourself disappointed.

However, I am happy to report that I did enjoy The Rise of Skywalker and many of the choices made for the movie. It’s not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a good movie. Here’s what I liked about it.

Finn is a Force User.

Years ago I wrote an article where I stated that I believed Finn would also become a Jedi in the future. That did not happen, but I was correct on my belief that he was a Force user. To me, the way that the character of Finn was handled in The Rise of Skywalker is one of the most satisfying aspects of the whole movie.

Finn was an exciting and great catalyst character in The Force Awakens. I fell in love with him in about 2 minutes of him being on screen. His energy was contagious, his commentary hilarious, and the chemistry created between him and Rey made me a hard and fast FinnRey shipper.

I felt that Finn was severely underused in The Last Jedi. His sideline arc with Rose felt unnecessary, and while it did help his character reach a more confident decision about being aligned with the Resistance, it was still disappointing.

The Finn of TROS was the Finn that I wanted. He still had his boisterous spirit and deep, abiding loyalty, especially to Rey. And yet, he was more confident. I was actually surprised and delighted to see him being the grounded, more moderating character that bound the trio of Poe, Rey, and himself together. Even the way the three hugged at the end of the movie, he wrapped his arms around both of them.

Finn is a character with a powerful love for those around him. And that love continually draws them in and grounds them. Finn is a character who will forever draw people in, give them a place to call home and a person that they can always count on. Those people are a rare and precious breed.

Yes, the elephant in the room, FinnRey. I’ve been a very verbal FinnRey shipper since Day 1.

I still am. Here’s my current take on that duo following The Rise of Skywalker.

I think FinnRey is still very much alive and well. You are welcome to see that as a legendary friendship or as a potential couple somewhere down the road. I feel that both have legitimacy.

Finn did a fantastic job being there for Rey in this movie, having her back, and showing compassion for where she was at emotionally. The fact that he is also a Force User and could sense what was happening with her just cemented the bond that they already have. He’s going to be able to understand things about her that others cannot.

Finn was the person Rey could talk to and trust he would listen and care. He didn’t hold things against her, he had her back 100%. He cried for her. He verbally affirmed her. They spoke in a raw and honest way with each other that was beautiful.

I loved the moment when he sensed her death. The confirmation of his Force-sensitive instincts was so satisfying. And then his joy when he saw her alive was completely consistent with everything Finn has done with Rey since the moment they first met.

I fully acknowledge the beauty of the connection between Rey and Ben Solo. It was powerful and redemptive, more on that later. But I do feel that Finn and Rey have a lasting love for each other that can remain as is or grow.

In terms of the character that connected best with the other people of this movie, I think Finn gets the MVP award. Well done!

Humor

The dialogue between our primary trio was adorable. I didn’t expect that feisty static between Rey and Poe with Finn being the more mellow member. But it was darling and brought a great human element to a very intense, larger than life story.

The banter is what really reminded me of the original trio of Han, Leia, and Luke. But the Sequel 3 definitely had their own flavor.

Droids

We love our two-legged Star Wars heroes, but we all know the truth.

The droids have kept the galaxy running for years and it’s only because the villains overlook them that we’ve survived this long.

Reylo Vs Ren

About a year ago I wrote an article taking to task the idea that something as abusive and inappropriate as the Reylo ship could be romantic. It’s been one of my most-read articles and also received the most controversial responses.

I still stand by that article. I wrote it for the Kylo Ren that we had seen on display in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. The choices the character was making and the way he approached Rey were very perverted and wrong. Therefore the value of that article for the context that it is written is still standing.

True love involves sacrifice. It’s not about control, it’s about loving another person for who they are. It’s not all about what you can get out of them. Ben did not understand this previously. He had tried to control and manipulate Rey multiple times, and would often rage when she refused him. He wanted her to join his agenda. The above image shows who Ben was, and that was YUCKY!

Ben Solo thoroughly redeemed himself in The Rise Of Skywalker. And he proved his love for Rey to be true by pulling a move worthy of Eugene Fitzherbert himself…he sacrificed himself for the woman he loved and for the galaxy he had previously tried to rule over.

This Ben is a night and day difference from the person he once was.

Ben didn’t run from this mess he’d helped create. He didn’t cower uselessly in the shame of his past. He didn’t cave in yet again to the lies and Darkness that had haunted him for so long. No, he ran straight into the Light and gave everything he had to do the right thing.

The beauty that was Ben Solo’s redemption was very simple and straightforward in the writing. The transformation was shown in his costuming and outward actions. And the heart of it was conveyed through Adam Driver’s stunning and emotional performance. He had never looked so glorious, and while I have had so many mixed feelings about this character since the beginning, I have never loved him so much as I did at the end of this movie.

I really love that it was his mother’s voice that called him. He thought he’d gone too far, he could never come home. A prodigal who was unsure of their welcome often stays a prodigal. His mother’s voice opened a door, Rey’s compassion to heal him after she had mortally wounded him softened him even further. And the final gift came with his father’s memory (HELLO, HARRISON FORD) that gave him the courage to make the switch.

It was gentle, humble, and beautiful.

Oh, my lands, the Ben Solo that emerged! His face was soft and beautiful, he wasn’t swaggering or trying to look bigger than he was. His presence itself became enormous and filled the room. Light has a way of doing that. He was wearing all-black but the man was practically beaming!

Just look at his beautiful smile. It’s so gentle and sweet.

A Nod To Han AND Leia In Ben’s Redemption Story

3 people brought Ben back. The 3 people who loved him the most.

His mother, Princess General Leia Organa Skywalker Solo.

Rey.

And his father, Han Solo.

While I understood the symbolism in Ben throwing away the Kylo Ren lightsaber, my practical side panicked. “What are you doing? You have to go into a warzone, you need that, babe!’

But then I found it a wonderful tribute to the Solo blood running through his veins that Ben entered into the Emperor’s lair in a fashion exactly like his late father would have. Sneaking in boldly with a good blaster at his side.

The body language was so similar, he even pulled off that signature, super macho Han Solo move of picking off an enemy with a stray blaster shot over his shoulder. No looking necessary, it’s in the genetic code. Yes, he’s Han’s boy alright.

Rey passed him the lightsaber, Leia’s beautiful saber (such a pretty weapon) through their special Force connection that freaked me out until that exact moment. The sarcastic little nod to the coolness of what he just did to the Knights of Ren confirmed it yet again. THIS IS HAN AND LEIA’S SON!

Han and Leia were honored in Ben’s redemption in such a special way, it was appropriate and brought a lot of restoring grace to a previously tragic family story. Their gifts, the examples that they were, it was not all lost on their son, it did make a difference.

It Was A Palpatine AND A Skywalker Who Ended Him

It only seems fair that after all of the pain these two families have either purposely or inadvertently caused the galaxy that a representative from both should defeat the biggest foe, Palpatine.

I like poetic justice. Palpatine started the Force-sensitive Skywalker line when he used the Force to impregnate Shmi Skywalker with Anakin. And apparently (ahem, severe lack of backstory here) Palpatine actually had a son himself! How and why that happened wasn’t apparently considered necessary information. Either way, Rey was his actual biological granddaughter.

Clearly, her pretty genetics came from Mom’s side of the family. #yograndpasouglyhelostto70scarpetinabeautypageant 

Palpatine has always been an arrogant poop. His sense of superiority and control over everyone and everything has been almost as consistent as his success rate. Luke/Anakin Skywalker really threw a wrench in his plans in one of the most glorious upsets in cinematic history, but this guy is a cockroach who won’t go away.

It was time for him to be finished. How lovely that his own flesh and blood is the one who finished him.

The Voices Of The Jedi

My inner nerd was so pleased with this. Well-beloved Jedi characters from every era of Star Wars we’ve seen on screen, both in movies and shows, was given a moment of honor when Rey drew strength in the Force from them.

I rejoiced to hear Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan, Ashley Eckstein’s Ahsoka Tano, Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker (he deserved this honor), Freddie Prinze Jr.’s Kanan Jarrus (still a bit emotional over that one), and notably, Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn. And of course, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill as the Skywalker twins.

Old and dear friends uniting in spirit and voice for Rey, a character I have loved and admired since I first met her. It was a kind gift to the Star Wars fandom.

A Proper Ending To Reylo And Ben’s Death

True love is unselfish, and it involves sacrifice.

Ben Solo was not capable of this level of love when he was still wholeheartedly choosing to remain in the Dark Side. What he believed was love for Rey was tainted and perverted by his selfishness and control issues. It was pretty disgusting to me, but I gave them room to redeem him.

When Ben Solo goes charging into the Emporer’s lair, he’s not there for himself. He’s there for her, and to do the right thing. He’s running full force #punintended into the Light he has been running from so long.

I don’t know that Ben even believed he was going to make it out alive. I don’t know that he really cared. His actions had nothing to do with what he could get, and all about what he could give.

And he gave it all, he gives his very life Force to bring Rey back from the dead. The way he cradled her in his arms and looked at her with such gentleness and compassion won me over. Yes, dear boy, yes, this is what love is.

One sweet kiss, and then he was gone.

I’m not going to say whether or not that was a wise choice on the filmmakers part. I can live with it, I can also feel the grief of it.

If Ben Solo were a real person, I think it’s possible he may have been reconciled to the concept of death. In his reality, he wasn’t really ending, he was just going to go on into the Force…afterlife? He would be redeemed in the eyes of those who loved him, and he would be reunited with his family. It’s not that he committed suicide (nor would I ever advocate for that), but I think he was at peace with himself either way.

Rey is really the only person he had a connection with in the land of the living. I feel it may have been very hard for him to integrate into a friendship with the people he had tortured, killed, and hurt for so long. The troubled boy was finally at peace.

Rey grieved over him, there is no doubt of that. But I think their connection as special as it was will not be a burden or a regret to her, rather a sweet memory that gives her courage and strength in the future. I think she would be open to loving in that way again.

He finished well.

Kiss Poe Already

I feel that there may have been too much thrown into the basket for this movie. It didn’t wreck it at all, but it did mean that several new characters were created that were not given proper follow-through. We got a hasty introduction and not much more, it was a bit sloppy.

Zori Bliss is one such character. Keri Russel still shone through her brief moments on screen, and I loved the scene where she removed the visor so we could see her drop-dead gorgeous eyes.

But really? Really, girl?

Strange Planets, Space Battles, Bizarre Creatures, And Battles In Lit Corridors

Setting-wise, The Rise of Skywalker did extremely well in capturing the texture and landscape of Star Wars in a very vivid way. My mom even remarked when Finn and Poe were racing along the corridors on the flagship cruiser,

This! This running and fighting in corridors, THIS is Star Wars!

And given that her little five-year-old self was there in the theater at the beginning of all things, I believed her.

Rey Skywalker

I think it was a gift that Rey chose to become a Skywalker. And I loved it that her two masters, Luke and Leia were beaming at her as she took that name. In a way, I feel that she was raised by all 3 of our originals. Han, Luke, and especially Leia all had a hand in teaching and guiding her.

We are not supposed to hate the Skywalkers, for better or worse, we have seen this struggle through their eyes for 5 decades and multiple generations. They are a part of us. We are supposed to see them with honesty, grief, compassion, and resolve.

Rey has chosen to take the best pieces of all who came before her and will carry those things faithfully through her life.

Leia

I feel that Chewie’s inconsolable reaction to Leia’s death captured what we all felt at Carrie Fisher’s passing.

Leia, beautiful, strong, intelligent, compassionate, ever-faithful Leia. She’s the best the Skywalkers had to offer in my opinion, and she was and still is the Star Wars sweetheart of the world.

It’s only right that she is the one who completed the training for the last Skywalker and the ultimate Jedi, Rey. She brought her son back from the Darkness and left behind a Rebel legacy strong enough for others to pick it up and carry it.

The Rise of Skywalker

My sister pointed out the meaning of this title.

Rey was rising to become a Skywalker.

Ben Solo rose from the Darkness into the Light to reclaim his place of honor in the Skywalker line.

It’s very satisfying.

For 9+ Movies and Multiple Series Our Heroes Have Been Trying to Save The Galaxy…It Was About Time The Galaxy Saved Them

Star Wars has one consistent theme, a common thread that runs throughout every chapter and story.

Hope.

No matter how dark, no matter how heavy the grief, no matter how much larger the enemy being faced, hope lives eternally in the Star Wars story.

And despite the fact that among the Star Wars “fanbase” you can find some pretty nasty specimens of humanity, I believe that the franchise as a whole has been uniting people since 1978.

People from all corners of our world’s “galaxy” love Star Wars. People with different skin colors, backstories, occupations, and beliefs. A shared love of Star Wars can instantly close a generational gap or create a common ground for different people.

I felt that both of these special parts of Star Wars were honored in this beautiful, beautiful scene where the galaxy came to save the Resistance and defeat The Last Order.

And yes, I will find out all of these Easter Egg ships hidden in this moment. I was geeking out about Star Wars: Rebels ship The Ghost and that’s about as far as I got.

It was about time the galaxy quit cowering before the bullies while letting someone else take all of the hits for them. It was time that they stood up and fought back.

They did, and it was glorious.

……….

I’m sure there is more to be said, but I’m going to end it here. It was not a perfect movie, it felt like it needed another 30-45 minutes to fill out properly. But apparently, there are some people who won’t sit through a 3+ hour movie. Clearly, they are not Lord Of The Rings fans.

I can watch this movie and all of the movies proceeding it and not feel disappointed or feel that something I love has been tainted.

I know some people were thrilled with this movie, some were devastated. I fall somewhere more in the middle, but I can live with that.

And the best part is, it’s not over yet. The Skywalker Saga may be finished, but Star Wars storytelling is alive and well. I would love to see some more movies featuring my favorite Sequel characters, but I am also deeply enjoying the storytelling featuring non-main Saga characters. #bringbackezrabridger #themandalorian

So, what were your favorite parts? Did you agree with the choices they made? Can we all at least celebrate the fact that Chewbacca finally got the medal he so richly deserves? Would you like to see future movies featuring Sequel characters?

Bless you, friends.

Miracle At Midnight – Awesome Things You Didn’t Know Were On Disney+

It’s kind of a crazy time in the world right now. Almost no one alive today can remember the last time the word “pandemic” was applicable to our everyday lives.

With so many people at home right now, I know everyone is looking for something fresh to do with their time. And many parents are looking for ways to educate their children and keep them engaged.

Let me tell you about a lesser-known gem available on Disney+.

Miracle At Midnight

miracle at midnight

A made-for-TV movie from the 90s that tells the incredibly inspiring story of how the Danes saved over 90% of their Jewish population from the Holocaust during WWII.

Yes, you read that correctly. Over 90% of the Danish Jewish population was saved during WWII thanks to the incredible efforts of the Danish people.

This happened over 80 years ago and it still feels like good news.

And it happened in the course of just a few weeks.

germans plotting

The year is 1943, and the German occupying government is planning to crack down hard upon the Jews. They will round up over 7,000+ Jews on the night of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). They will stamp out the Jews in Denmark as they have so many other countries in Europe.

It is a brilliant plan…a plan destined to fail.

Word reaches the Danish people, and an act of God takes place over the next several days.

It’s an incredible story, the central characters created to tell this story are Dr. Karl Koster and his wife Doris (Mia Farrow), teenage son Henrik, and daughter Else.

Through the eyes of Dr. Koster we understand the incredible efforts and coordination that took place among every member of the Danish population to save their Jewish friends and neighbors. People of all walks of life came together and provided hiding places, money, transportation, and information to protect the lives of Danish Jews.

Through the eyes of Henrik we experience the young Danish Resistance and their fearlessness in facing down the evil the Nazis presented.

Through the eyes of Doris we feel the fear and strength of a woman who has to walk the line of caring for her neighbors while carrying the weight of protecting her family as well.

Through the eyes of Else we understand what it must be to be a child growing up in a terrifying time.

It’s inspiring. It’s beautiful. It’s encouraging.

The same historical event is the setting for the classic book by Lois Lowry Number The Stars where a young Danish girl and her family save their Jewish neighbors. I highly recommend the book as well.

number the stars

So many countries failed to protect the Jews. We find stand-out heroes in every nation who stood up and said “No” when everyone else said nothing. But to see an entire country of people who not only worked together but were so completely successful is something else entirely. What might have happened if other nations had done the same thing?

Thousands upon thousands of people exist in the world today because those 7000+ Danish Jews were saved. They are a living testimony to the righteous courage of the Danes and their efforts to protect their fellow human beings. Not only were most of the Jews saved, but only 500 Jews were caught by the Nazis and taken to a ghetto. Out of those only 51 died.

When the Jews returned to Denmark after the war had ended the Jews found that their friends and neighbors had also protected their homes and businesses for them so they would have something to return to.

To quote a line from the history article I have included in the links, historian Leni Yahil said the Danish Jews were protected by

 “a living wall raised by the Danish people in the course of one night.”

This is life as it should be. This is brotherhood. This is God’s heart. And it is something we can all learn from today, whatever our circumstances or difficulties are.

War is plague just as coronavirus is a plague. Hatred is a plague, and hatred and evil killed millions of people during WWII. It’s important to recognize the heroes and find stories where good men and women decided that doing nothing was not an option.

We are not fighting Nazis today. That word gets thrown around a lot in the media and by ignorant people who have no idea what Nazis actually were. This movie tells the true story of Nazis, and the people who opposed them. And it does it well.

To sum up, I’ll quote a beautiful speech from the movie that is delivered by Georg Duckwitz. He truly was an ally in this situation and shared information with Danish people that allowed them to outwit the Germans and save the Jews.

werner best

At the end of the movie when asked why he, a German, did what he did, Duckwitz replies with this beautiful speech that we can all learn from.

I came to this country (Denmark) as a young man, ambitious, a little homesick as young men are, and the Danes welcomed me. And some of them were Jews. It’s easy to persecute the nameless and the faceless, but these people are not faceless to me. I could have walked away…but…you know, a man must live with himself a long time. And if he can do something to ease a little of the terrible ache in this world…he must. I love Denmark. It’s my home now, and when your home is on fire you want to save it. That’s all it was. My home was on fire. Miracle At Midnight

In these days where we feel like the world is upside down and we do not know what to expect, we can learn so much from the beautiful Danish people and how they responded to their time of crisis.

*Parental warning, this movie contains shooting, at few on-screen deaths, implied suicides (a shadow of a hanging man’s legs is shown on the wall), and blood from injuries. Characters are shown being terrified and in danger. A young man and woman lie down in the woods (fully clothed) and pretend to be making out to distract German soldiers. Some characters are separated. 

This movie can spur on so many lessons. If you are looking for a neat way to educate and engage your children, I highly recommend this movie. I will include a few links to get you started.

This movie is a gem about a story that I hope none of us ever forget.

Check it out on Disney+ today!

And here are few resources to get you started!

Number The Stars on Amazon by Lois Lowry!

A Rescuer in Copenhagen Georg Duckwitz

Miracle At Midnight on Disney+

The Young Underground Series by Robert Elmer

Why 90% of Danish Jews Survived the Holocaust on history.com

Rosh Hashanah at museumofthebible.org

 

 

 

The Chosen

The Chosen. A TV series that shows the life of Jesus, told through the stories of those who knew Him best. The largest crowdfunded media project of all time.  A show about Jesus paid for by people who love Jesus. I’m not going to share all of the technical details, instead, I’m going to tell […]

The Chosen.

A TV series that shows the life of Jesus, told through the stories of those who knew Him best.

The largest crowdfunded media project of all time. 

A show about Jesus paid for by people who love Jesus.

I’m not going to share all of the technical details, instead, I’m going to tell you a piece of my story and share my heart.

This article is for anyone who will read it, regardless of your religious background or your beliefs about God. I’m just a person, like you, and this a conversation from my heart to yours.

I have known God is real my entire life. My parents are believers, and I was raised in a home where Jesus was a regular part of the conversation.

My mama read me Bible stories and I watched Bible stories onscreen.

But it goes deeper than that. God called me to Himself. He chose me. 

Many children who are now adults have many of the same ingredients to their origin story that I do, and yet they have never met God for themselves. Nor do they realize the value of who they were created to be.

To them, Jesus was just another topic around the dinner table, or maybe He is merely their parent’s “thing”. Here’s a common one, “He was a good man and teacher with good ideas but nothing more“. Calling Him something as wild as the Son of God on earth is like something out of a fantasy story, right?

I beg to differ. My life is not built on a fantasy, in fact, it has been quite the opposite. My life has been just as grounded and down-to-earth as anyone else’s.

I’m mature enough now to honestly tell you this, “I have a lot to learn.”

But there is one thing I am confident of in this crazy world of unknowns.

God is real Person, He is GOOD, and He called me.

How did God call me and how do I know it was Him?

God is the Creator of the Universe, He knows all things, He knows all people because He created all people.

He speaks your language before you do. Each person has a unique collection of interests and dreams that set them apart from others. Where do those things come from? From a Creator, Someone Who lovingly made you an individual.

He has a reason for you being here, a special purpose that only you can fulfill.He would choose us all if we would take Him up on His offer. We all have the opportunity to become one of the chosen.Some of us sa

Because I am a storyteller, God called me to Himself with the stories of the Bible. God touched my artistic soul with my love for the beauty of the world that I felt came from somewhere deeper. He used my strong memory and intuition to communicate things to me that some would say I was too young to understand, but I did.

At five years old I asked Jesus into my heart. And the joy I experienced on that day is something unearthly, my friends. It was like a shot of liquid excitement to the soul, so bubbling and fierce it almost hur

I have never experienced anything like that anywhere else. It was more real, more wonderful, and more powerful than anything we humans can create on our own.

Life in a fallen world happens, we grow and we are faced with pain, suffering, and broken people. Doubt enters the picture and creates room for lies that hide the truth of God’s love.

And tragically, a loving and kind Father becomes Falsely labeled as an angry and harsh judge Who barely tolerates our existence.

During my walk with the Lord for the past 19 years, I have fallen prey to many of the lies that made me doubt His love.

God as a “Loving Father” seemed more like a phrase used to sell Christian calendars rather than what God actually was.

I felt that He was far away, harsh, and constantly disappointed with me. I was really good at failing as a Christian/human, I must be a shame to Him. I didn’t believe I was going to hell, but I didn’t really think God liked me that much. Nor did I feel that I could trust Him with the deep needs and desires of my heart and life.

It's hard to live with joy and gusto when that's how you view your Heavenly Father. We live out of what we believe, so if you believe yourself to be unloved and a source of shame, guess how you live_ (1)

You live frightened, confused, angry, sad, judgmental, and empty. That’s how I felt so much of the time. And so have so many others.

This is not the entire summary of my walk with Him during those darker years, He still reached me where I would dare to open up to Him. But it was a slow, sometimes really painful process.

My heart was longing for more.

The things I had experienced as a child, the things God had used to call me to His heart were still in there, but they were buried. I had a deep heart cry, a question that I carried with me.

Is there more? God, are you more???

The Chosen series Season 1 gently inserts us into the lives of normal, broken people living in first-century Judea.

A rascally fisherman who has a wonderful wife and a good brother...who's up to his neck in debts and life or death troubles.

God feels distant and unreachable, while his problems are threatening to tear his life away from him. Does God really care about his needs, or has he already failed so badly that God will never acknowledge him again?

A broken and battered woman who has been mistreated, abused, and is thrown around by the demons who possess her...the darkness is suffocating her and she has lost her hope.

She once was loved, she once believed, but she has fallen so far, had so much taken from her. The words of prophecy regarding a Savior her father taught her seem like useless garbage in the face of her constant torment.

An autistic tax collector who is brilliant in his work...but a despised outcast from his fellow Jews.

He’s alone in his own little world where no one understands him, nor do they care. He’s considered a traitor to his own people, so why would God acknowledge him?

A highly respected and noble Pharisee who has spent his life learning and teaching God's law...and yet he continues to carry the question, _God, are you more__

Everyone around him seems content to carry on with the traditions they have been taught for generations, he desires to respect what he knows but he keeps hoping against hope that God is more.

As if life isn’t hard enough, Rome’s conquering presence is all around them, fear is a regular part of every character’s daily reality.

Quietly, a stranger named enters their world. He looks like them. He is from their country. He is a craftsman. He is a son. He is a brother. He is a friend. His name is Jesus.

And their lives are suddenly turned upside down.

You’d think that people who lived 2,000 years ago would have nothing in common with those of us living in this futuristic world of the 21st century. While the show creators do an excellent job of painting the first-century world with great detail and richness, the core elements of the story and characters confirm this: these people are just like you and me, and they are asking the same questions we ask today.

“Am I going to be okay?”

“How do I get through tomorrow?”

“How do I take care of myself and my family?”

“Does God actually care about me and my needs?”

“Am I worthless? Should I just end it and be done?”

“Is this truly all there is? I feel like there should be more.”

Israel was the nation of God’s chosen people. They had known God for literally thousands of years. Their story was God’s story, His miracles and words are a part of their very DNA and culture. You would think out of everyone on planet earth THESE people would have it figured out! Much like the Church today, you would think these people would understand God!

One glance at these characters in their various walks of life testifies for the opposite.

Simon (the fisherman) fears God’s judgment and believes in His disinterest.

Mary (the broken woman) feels forgotten and unloved by God. She’s too unworthy to be saved.

Matthew (the tax collector) struggles with anything he cannot explain, but this Jesus keeps doing the inexplicable. Matthew is fascinated, but he expects to be rejected by Jesus as he is by all Jews.

Nicodemus (the Pharisee) wonders if he is just an old fool for wanting God to be more. He also fears what his peers will say about him for seeking beyond what they already know.

Does any of this sound familiar? Whether you are a Christian or not, this is familiar to the human struggle with questions about God and our relation to Him.

I myself have asked many of these same questions, even though I have known God is real my whole life. Even though I met Him and His true heart at age 5, I still had/have questions.

And the older I got the more I became desperate for answers, much like The Chosen characters are at various levels of desperation when we step into their lives onscreen. 

Enter Jesus.

Let me show you something really special from Episode 4, The Rock On Which It Is Built. 

Andrew, brother of Simon the fisherman, comes to him in a flurry of excitement. He’s seen Jesus. “It’s Him, it’s the Messiah. The Lamb of God.”

“I don’t need a Lamb, I need fish.” is Simon’s reply. (The Chosen, Episode 4 – The Rock On Which It Is Built)

Simon is out of options, he’s so in debt to the tax collectors that if he cannot pay an exorbitant amount by the next day he will be taken to prison, or be killed. His family will likely fall into ruin without him. It’s an awful, awful circumstance to be trapped in. He’s desperate, and God seems to be ignoring him, and he believes he deserves it.

His brother and fellow fishermen help him cast nets all night. Nothing.

Jesus arrives on the shore of the lake in the morning following an entire night of desperate, useless fishing. See what happens.

At Jesus’ word, he lets his nets down one more time.

And his boat almost sinks for how many fish are in his nets.

Jesus watches in pure delight as 5 grown fishermen splash and scream for joy because their desperate need has been met by the Lamb of God.

This God whom Simon has been avoiding out of shame and fear came to him in his moment of need and loved him like no one else has, unconditionally and overabundantly.

He didn’t expect it. He didn’t think he deserved it. He as much as said he didn’t need a Lamb. He’s broken so many rules of the religion and done much that he knows is wrong.

If God is who Simon had expected Him to be, angry and judgmental and only rewarding of those who always “do” good, Jesus would have walked right past him without a second glance.

He doesn’t.

Jesus loves Simon so much, and that love is captured in this scene in such a raw and beautiful way.

smiling jesus

This kind, beautiful, compassionate, humorous Jesus is taking people by surprise. It’s both beautiful and sad all at once.

Our world and our perspective are so broken that we are truly taken by surprise when the Man who literally came to earth to die an excruciating death that we might be saved actually loves us

To see this truth of a loving, real-life Jesus played out on screen the way it is portrayed in The Chosen is shocking people, many of them Christians.

As for non-Christians, this is probably a new version of Jesus to you too.

What happened to that really solemn, super “holy” guy? Where’s the Jesus who is constantly put out by the disciples’ failings? What happened to that angry God who hates you because you are sinful? Whatever happened to earning your rewards, your favor, your place in the world? Whatever happened to someone wanting something from you before they help out?

You know, like how our world works. Whatever happened to the Jesus who barely tolerates us?

What is it with this guy who just shows up on people’s worst days and completely changes everything with a heart so kind it almost frightens our abused, broken hearts?

I know, it's the most bizarre, most insane, most upside-down thing in the world.

Romans 5: 6-8

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (ESV)

I can hear potential accusations from some very confused people in the Church.

That’s not really Who Jesus is, this is Dallas Jenkin’s (creator of The Chosen) version of Jesus, a watered-down mushy version aimed at getting people in the door without actually convicting them of their sin! 

ragnarok is it though

I can hear the doubts of people who are suspicious of all things Christian.

He can’t be that good, you all are just making up a really shiny story so that we get sucked in by a lie! And then we’ll end up as miserable as you all are because your God is mean! 

its a trap gif

To the first group, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I reply to your doubts and criticisms with my testimony.

In 2016 I was less than a year out of being graduated from high school, and I was searching for the next thing in my life. Little did I know that my world was also about to fall apart dramatically and everything I thought I could count on would be turned upside down.

It was at this time that my need to know if God was more began to burn to a point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I couldn’t bury it for fear that I would be disappointed.

That’s what had held me back all of these years, fear that God would be just as miserable as I thought He might be. Fear that the loving God I hoped for would just be another instance of my unrealistic idealism. And if that was the case, would I give up?

Perhaps it was because I was already asking a lot of new questions as a green adult that there was a new space for God to move in my life.

I believe He knew it was time, and I was ready.

One day I saw a documentary called Finger of God. It was about God and His heart for us, His Created Ones.

I saw things that blew my mind. I saw people being touched by a love so radical, so pure, so joyful, so unearthly that it changed the entire course of their future in a moment. I saw people being healed, inside and out. I saw people tasting what I had tasted the moment I had asked Jesus into my heart.

Radical, unearthly joy and a love so powerful that you can literally feel the warmth of on your skin.

As I write this it is a shiny new year, 2020. In the four years that I have lived in between that day in 2016 and now, I have walked the hardest, darkest, most shattering days of my life. 

And God has never been so real, so good, or so full of love. 

Logic says that if someone is going to fall away from God, it would be when the worst of life and people smack us in the gut and leave us bleeding out. We see this happen all the time. And we know the questions that get asked,

God, if You really are good then where are You? What happened? Why did You let me down?

But we are talking about human logic here, human logic based upon broken perspective and limited experience. God logic works differently, He goes beyond what we expect and loves us more than we know what to do with. He comes bursting into our worst moments in surprising ways. He doesn’t base His decisions upon a small window of experiences or choices, but rather upon His never-changing Heart for us.

I got desperate and curious enough to reach, and this is what happened.

I reached for the more of God, and He was RIGHT THERE! He always has been and He will never leave. Each day has just been another step into a relationship with Someone so sweet, so kind, so generous, so uncondi

Jesus was God on Earth, and He only did what He saw His Father (God) doing. He didn’t walk in His own agenda, He walked in His Father’s will. (John 5)

So to those who fear the Jesus portrayed in The Chosen, this is what I have to say to you.

The Chosen does not scare me because I already recognize the Jesus I see portrayed here.

I know this guy! I see the Heart of God that I have been getting to know apart from this show for the past 4 years!

In 2016 The Chosen was just a twinkle in God’s eye and Dallas Jenkins hadn’t even crossed paths with the idea yet. I cannot blame the Jesus I know on Dallas or anyone else involved with the show, because I have already met Him in my own life.

Let me clarify, The Chosen is not meant to be a replacement for Scripture. The creators of the show have said this repeatedly. The stories told in The Chosen, the miracles shown are 100% true. The characters were real people that even secular authorities will confirm existed.

Some of the arrangement of these stories and the fleshing out of these characters has been worked with and adjusted by a team of people to create a watchable show.

But I recognize the fingerprints.

There are more than just men and women working on this show, I believe that God’s Hand and Heart are woven into it as well. I think God is tired of seeing His children fear Him. I think He’s tired of seeing the lost people in the world only view Him through lies. His heart is bursting with love for us and by its very nature Love needs somewhere to go and someone to touch.

It's time to fall in love with the truth of Jesus. It's time.

Now, to the second group, my brothers and sisters of the human race who are not Christians.

I get it, there are a ton of really mean and really unhappy Christians out there. There have been so many instances of cruelty, harshness, and hurt in the Church. I get it, I have been touched by it myself. But to you, this is what I want to say.

So many Christians do not understand their own Father's love and heart, and that makes them miserable because they live out lies instead of truth.

Having worked with children in professional settings before, I can attest to the truth of this statement.

The children who are more confident in their parents’ love and their own identity in their family are far calmer, more secure, and less easily given to offence. They are far easier to get along with and they have a greater trust for authority. Often they take direction better and are teachable. They are more likely to treat those around them with kindness even if the person is different from them. While not perfect, they stand apart as someone enjoyable to be around.

The children who feel less confident in their parents’ love and their place are either very shy and insecure or very loud and insecure. Their feelings can be easily hurt, they are often harder to manage, and they expend a lot of energy trying to be admired or at the very least noticed. It’s harder for them to trust and harder to get them to respond to instruction or discipline. They can be mean very quickly and form fast grudges. These children, while every bit as precious as the first type of child, require a lot more energy and patience to be around.

There have been thousands of people throughout the history of the Church who have never understood their own Father’s love for them.

Therefore, they are miserable, and they often spread that misery to others.

That’s why. And on top of that, just know this, Christians aren’t perfect.

I, a Christian, make mistakes. I make choices that are wrong, sometimes consciously, just like anyone else. The difference is that because of Jesus inside of me, I am counted as righteous in God’s eyes and He looks on Jesus’ sacrifice of blood on my behalf, not on my shortcomings.

There is a whole array of characters shown in The Chosen that represent each one of us where we are at right now, Christian or not. We have only begun to meet them, and over more seasons (8 Seasons are planned) even more beautiful characters and more incredible stories will be shown.

As a summary for Season 1, this is the message I hope to convey to those reading this review.

If God isn't for us than what hope is there_ If you can't trust the God Who made you to love, I mean REALLY love you, who can you trust_ If God is only confined to what we tiny humans can explain, is He rea (1)

Each one of the characters represented by the above questions finds their answer.

And it’s the same answer I myself have found.

The answer is, and always has been, a Person. His name is Jesus, Son of God and Savior of the World.

Yeah, I know, it’s crazy different. Different from what we have known, what we have heard, and often what we have experienced. But to quote an awesome line in Episode 7: Invitations.

Get used to different.

Friend, whether you are already a Christian, or at least brave enough to read this whole article #youareawesome, this is what I want you to walk away with.

You do not have to be afraid of God.

You do not have to be afraid of His Son Jesus.

Love has come, and His name is Jesus.

The Chosen has created a beautiful open door for people all over the world to step into an introduction to get to know the beautiful, radically loving heart of Jesus our Savior and of our Father God.

God is already using The Chosen powerfully to reach people in some of the darkest places and in every country in the world.

People in Iran who have lived a life without hope are watching it. People in China living through the coronavirus are watching it. People living in the US who have everything and yet nothing are having their hearts broken open by Love.

God is the one on the move, but I believe that The Chosen is a beautiful vessel that He is using to bring forth His plans in the earth. I recommend it to anyone, regardless of your background.

If you want to give the first episode a watch it is completely free on The Chosen‘s YouTube channel.

You can follow The Chosen on:

Facebook

Instagram

YouTube

And you can download TheChosenApp for FREE to watch all 8 episodes of Season 1.

TheChosenApp on GooglePlay! 

TheChosenApp on The App Store!

Also, check out the gorgeous soundtrack on Spotify! This soundtrack has already made my “you’re obsessed with it what is your problem” list made for me by Spotify. I hope you enjoy it too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World

*Major Spoilers ahead*

Fellow Dragon Riders…that was utterly magnificent.

What a beautiful, beautiful story. The animation was breathtaking, the music reached my soul, and the characters. Our precious, beautiful, real characters.

I was shocked by how deep this beautiful story was.

The Hidden World somehow managed to teach us about the 2 sides of love. Letting go…and committing. 

Commitment…

Hiccup has chosen to commit to holding on to Toothless over and over again. He’s fought against his natural instincts, his culture, and even the death of his own father in order to stay true to his best friend. He changed his culture to make room for Toothless. And Toothless has returned the favor every time. He’s saved Hiccup from death and even reordered the entire dragon social structure (his culture) by challenging the alpha in order to protect his best friend.

hiccup and toothless challenge the alpha.gif

Letting Go…

When Toothless discovered the new love of his life, the Light Fury, Hiccup let him go for the evening to be with her, a first for them. The truth is, he did not know the full meaning of this choice. If he could see into the future he may not have been brave enough to let Toothless go. How true to life that is, sometimes we open the door for these massive and often upsetting life changes without even realizing what we are getting into. Hiccup was opening the door to let his best friend and ally go, but he did it because he loves him.

The Hidden World showed the need that arises sometimes to let those we love go in order to reach their full potential and thrive. But at the same time, with Hiccup and Astrid’s love story, it showed us the value and need to commit.

hiccstrid

Hiccup and Astrid have been an incredible pairing since their first flight together. Their strengths and weaknesses complement each other beautifully. It’s clear that they make a mighty leadership team.

Up to this point, they have remained merely a boyfriend and girlfriend. And that was enough for the context of that time. But today is a new day.

Hiccup has been a chief for a year, and it’s clear that he’s still very green in this position. He’s doing his absolute best, but he’s literally flying by the seat of his pantsYet another new threat emerges, and Hiccup reacts. He must protect his own people, but he is also torn because he feels the need to protect the dragons as well.

Astrid is still operating as an encouraging and playful girlfriend. She’ll tease him, give him a good kiss, and then fly off into the sunset again. She supports him in public sometimes, but she does so sitting down. I am speaking literally, watch the movie again.

We aren’t ready for marriage.

astrid and hiccup, the hidden world

I love the role of the mentors in this movie. Gober is not always to be taken seriously, but his comments to Hiccup and Astrid about the need for them to commit to each other so that they may lead their people with strength are words of wisdom.

hiccup and his mother

Valka’s words of wisdom blew me away.

He thinks he has to lead alone just because his father did.

Valka looks to Astrid, who is still hanging back while she watches Hiccup in emotional agony, struggling with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Go, he’ll listen to you.

In the darling flashbacks with tiny Hiccup and his father, we see that there was more to Hiccup and Stoick’s relationship than just the dysfunction we were introduced into in the first film. Stoick was a kind and tender father who was doing his utmost to lead his people and make the world safe for his beloved son.

stoick and little hiccup

And Stoick bore it alone. The scene of Hiccup walking down the stairs at night to find his mighty and strong father crying by the fire was so important.

Stoick did not have his queen. He did not have his better half, his light, his partner. He needed Valka. What might have happened if Valka had stayed? It’s possible she could have changed the culture before Hiccup ever had to. It’s possible Stoick and Hiccup may have never fallen out of understanding with each other. Stoick would likely even still be alive.

Valka knows all of this now. She now knows the weight and value of the position and place she gave up at Stoick’s side. She has the humility to accept her failure in that regard, but rather than sinking into the shame of that failure, she instead uses it to teach Astrid (the new generation) how to live better.

hiccstrid hidden world

Valka shows Astrid the value and honor of her position at Hiccup’s side. She makes Astrid aware that the need to commit fully to Hiccup isn’t just a future joy, it’s a necessity for Hiccup, for Astrid, and for the future of their people.

Hiccup cannot do this alone. And so Astrid takes up the challenge. She soothes his hurting heart, gives him encouragement, fights at his side, and puts everything that is overwhelming him into perspective. She shows him how to fly on his own two feet…thus replacing Toothless as the most important person in Hiccup’s world. 

toothless and light fury

There were so many mirrored moments from the first HTTYD movie in Hidden World. When Toothless has his first meeting of romance with the Light Fury, I was heavily reminded of the first scene where Toothless and Hiccup bonded.

Taming Toothless

This concept of discovering each other. Toothless regurgitates the fish that Hiccup brought him as a peace offering to share with his strange, two-legged friend. Toothless coaches Hiccup in what he wants him to do. Hiccup barely gets the fish down and then gives a large smile…that Toothless then attempts to copy.

smiling toothless

And my favorite, Hiccup draws his new friend. And Toothless copies.

In this scene, Hiccup teaches Toothless to be a personToothless is already deeply curious, intelligent, and noble. But the more time he spends as a part of Hiccup’s world the more person-like he is.

Enter, the Light Fury. She is beauty and grace itself, and she is all dragon.

Toothless has spent so much time with Hiccup that he is a bit lost on the traditional dance of the Furies and what he must do to impress his new lady love. He continues to look to his human friend for guidance, for just like Hiccup, Toothless has yet to learn to fly on his own.

Every scene with the Light Fury was so, instinctive. It was quiet, and yet it spoke volumes. This beautiful girl taught Toothless how to be a dragon again…and like Astrid for Hiccup, she replaces Hiccup as the most important person in Toothless’s life.

toothless and his queen

When Hiccup goes looking for his friend in the hidden world he finds Toothless seated as king of the dragons. He is comfortable, regal, at home. The look on Hiccup’s face is utter devastation. But it’s not just the crushing realization that he is going to have to lose his best friend, he is also overwhelmed with inadequacy.

He does not know how to be what his people need without Toothless. They have always relied on each other to fly. Toothless changed everything for him. Now he is beset on every front with enemies, questions, and problems, and his friend has found his place in the world apart from Hiccup.

Hiccup feels so small.

Whew. Did anyone else take that moment in the gut? This entire movie I was nodding my head. YES! Oh yes, I have felt this in my soul. I know what he feels.

The true conflict in this movie did not revolve around the villain, he merely put a face to a much bigger problem that brought the true struggle into the light. Hiccup and Toothless can no longer thrive together in the way they have up to this point. In order to truly grow, they must go their separate ways.

grimmel

Grimmel represented the problem that was going to continue to plague Hiccup and Toothless. Evil people coming after the dragons, and by extension, the Berkians. As chief of his people, Hiccup could not in good conscience keep endangering them. As alpha of the dragons, Toothless had to protect his people.

True leadership is not about control, it is more often about sacrifice and servanthood. Both Hiccup and Toothless had to give up being together as friends in order to do what was best for their own people, and for each other.

It hurt. It hurt a lot. The five-year-old child sitting 3 seats away from me in the theater was sobbing and I started tearing up on her behalf. I know, Baby. I KNOW! This hurts! This growing, changing, letting go, it hurts.

And yet…

Hiccup came into his own. His new partner, his lifelong partner, Astrid, stepped in beside him and gave him the courage to fly on his own. And he did. And he won.

hiccup flying on his own

Toothless and he fought together to save each other and their people. And then they said goodbye.

Another beautiful mirrored scene. When Hiccup awoke from the victory of his first battle where he and Toothless fought The Green Death, he was walking wounded. He was missing a leg. This represents his need for support. He almost falls to the ground when Toothless jumps in and holds him up. They have held each other up for years.

hiccup holding onto toothless

This time Hiccup is down a leg his new support steps in to hold him up, Astrid. She is his future.

astrid ive got you

Oh the symbolism. I love it!

hiccup saying goodbye

It hurts, but it is also so beautiful. It is so real. This is what love does. Love commits, love lets go. Love commits to doing what is best for the other one, and sometimes that means letting go.

Hiccup let go. His people were safe. He marries the love of his life and you know they will lead their people into a glorious future. He becomes a father, a tender, loving father by the looks of it. And he never stops being Toothless’ friend. I so deeply enjoyed the intimate scene at the end where Hiccup and Astrid take their children to go meet the dragons. We end on all of our favorite people (and dragons) flying together in the future they all fought to win.

I ended this movie with hope and joy. Yes, there is sadness, but there is also joy. So much joy. What a gift. What a gift.

I hope you enjoyed this movie as much as I did. Even if it hurt, I hope your heart was ministered to as well. There is so much truth and life to be gleaned here. I feel very blessed.

And yes…there are dragons.

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