Real Women: Jyn Erso (Rogue One)

I imagine most of you have seen Rogue One by now. If not, do not read further as there will be spoilers included. And if you have, then welcome, Fellow Star Wars Fan. We are forever changed after seeing that film.

There is so much to say on the subject of Rogue One, I have several articles waiting in the wings, but for now, I would like to focus on the titular character of the movie:

Jyn Erso.

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) joined the annals of Star Wars history as yet another deserving Star Wars leading lady. She owned her role beautifully and brought a level of human authenticity to the Star Wars world that was unlike anything I have yet seen. Not to say that the other Star Wars leading ladies have failed, quite the contrary, but their stories and roles are drastically different from Jyn’s.

Rogue One was such a raw and personal movie that it was only going to succeed if it’s characters were equally raw and personal. Jyn had a brief, but fiercely important role to play in the timeline of Star Wars. And because she played that role so well, she will never be forgotten.

I want to share a few specific things I found deeply attractive about this character, and why I am adding her to my list of real women in cinema.

1. She was scared.

Based upon earlier trailers for Rogue One, I was not at all looking forward to Jyn’s character. To me, she came across as untouchable and sarcastic. In fact, before the re-shoots, I have a feeling that may be closer to Jyn’s original portrayal. But more on that another day.

When the final trailer came out I was delighted to see that she actually appeared to be far more human than I had first believed.

My secondary impression was correct. We first meet Jyn as an innocent child, yet another victim of the Empire’s cruelty that robs her of both her mother and father. She’s a sweet little girl with braids and a stuffed doll that she drops when fleeing the Storm troopers.

little-jyn

As a young woman, you can still see that haunted and frightened look of a child in her huge eyes. She doesn’t walk around with a chip on her shoulder and an exaggerated swagger (she’s no Solo after all). Instead she goes through life with her head down and keeps running. Even when she is “rescued” by the rebels she attempts to flee. Her fighting reactions are that of a cornered animal rather than a fierce warrior.

frightened-jyn

To me, this is far more accurate than if they had made Jyn some fierce and untouchable warrior. She has quite obviously gone through terrifying things, and she just wants to feel safe. She just wants her daddy back. Is there anything more human than that?

2. She was compassionate

One of my absolute favorite moments in this entire movie was when Jyn saves the little girl during the raid in Jedha. She looked at that child and saw herself, and despite the fact that she has a huge survivor’s instinct, her instinct to protect that baby was stronger. Cassian tries to call her back, but she ignores him and runs into the crossfire. She scoops up the terrified little lady and returns her safely to her mama.  As much as that moment frustrated Cassian, he was also deeply attracted to it. Compassion is a rare quality, but it’s also one of the most alluring.

Jyn’s compassion extended further when she learned the truth about the Death Star and was given the information about how to destroy it. Her earlier instinct to get in, get out, and survive is once more overridden by her desire to protect others. Jyn’s heart for others is even bigger than her beautiful eyes. These moments were a beautiful illumination of her true heart, and made her an unforgettable character.

3. She was hopeful

Hope, like compassion, is a rare quality. Jyn has a lot of reasons to stop hoping. She has been haunted and hunted by the Empire since childhood. They have taken everything from her and millions of others in the galaxy. She could just throw her hands up in despair, but instead, she chooses to grab onto hope and charge into battle with it.

Cassian was raised his entire life in this Rebellion. He’s used to sleepless nights, long odds, and big regrets. He doesn’t give up, and yet, even he seems to be awakened in a new way by Jyn’s hope and determination. Jyn’s sweet little quotation during the Rebel council,

“Rebellions are built on hope,”

was actually his original statement. And yet, Cassian’s reaction to her hopeful initiative is like someone coming alive again. It’s as if he is hearing that concept in a completely new, and reachable way. He is going into battle with a fresh countenance and renewed sense of purpose that only Jyn was able to awaken.

jyns-rallying-hope

Hopeful people heal and rally those around them. Hope is like an infectious disease, it cannot help but spread. Jyn’s hope was beautiful and rejuvenating. She rallied an entire organization, a group of incredible and effective individuals around her because of her hope and determination. I have a hard time believing a jaded and sarcastic character would have been nearly as effective.

4. She was beautiful and ladylike

Despite the fact that Jyn was in one, practical outfit, went through multiple battles, killed storm troopers, climbed towers, and did a million other “dirty” things, she was such a lady. Being termed a lady has nothing to do with keeping your clothes clean or staying out of harm’s way, it is an overall bearing and way of carrying yourself in any situation.

Jyn felt so feminine to me. She wasn’t seductive once, she didn’t try to gain attention for herself, she didn’t constantly have to advertise how smart and capable she was. And yet, by the end of the movie during that dreadful and wonderful beach scene, you could see in Cassian’s eyes how much he loved her.

She was not unnecessarily crass and she wasn’t hardened and bitter. She was strong and tender.

Jyn was so, so beautiful. Her beautiful heart and wonderful character came out and clothed her as brilliantly as if she had been a member of Princess Leia’s court. Her daddy’s sweet nick-name Stardust was perfect for this lovely girl, for she sparkled and cast light like a beautiful star.

jyns-face

*****

I loved the character work done with many of the characters in this beautiful and heartbreaking film, and Jyn was one of the finest. Gareth Edwards and Felicity Jones can be proud of what they accomplished with her, she was a wonderful character to grace the screen and I hope we have the privilege of seeing many more women like her in the future.

As I said above, I have more Rogue One articles waiting in the wings. I would love to hear from you all as well. What did you love about the movie? Did you love Jyn Erso as much as I did? What is one thing you thought they incredibly well?

Like Star Wars? Here are a few more articles you might find interesting.

5 Reasons Why Finn Is Still Going to Be a Jedi

6 Ways that StarWars: Rebels Differs From StarWars: The Clone Wars

Why Ezra Bridger Will Ultimately Choose the Light Side

Advertisements

The Flawed Film That Succeeded: My All American

Every film has flaws. Some are flawed to the point where you are wondering just how low-blood sugar the makers were during the process of creating and producing that particular film.

Other films are largely wonderful, with just enough flaws to keep them human.

My All American was a film with some very obvious flaws.

It started out with the let me tell you a story form of narration that rarely works. That type of narration is often a very weak way to begin and end a film. It removes you emotionally from the primary characters in the story.

Also, My All American decided to put their weakest actors at the very beginning, a big no-no in my opinion. The first scene taking place in Coach Royal’s office was awkward and a weak way to launch the movie.

The timeline went to work telling the story of one of Coach Royal’s former players, Freddie Steinmark, from his childhood to college days. We saw glimpses of his childhood, high school years, his sweetheart Linda, and his hard-worked-for football scholarship to college. We were then shown the first few years of his college football career.

All of these events felt rushed. Passage of time was not clearly marked, it all blurred together. I kept thinking it was just me, that somehow my brain was blocking important details with the what, where, when, why, and how of Freddie’s life. But then the  others watching the film with me confirmed that they were also lost.

A few details and reactions to personal events in the lives of characters surrounding Freddie were also unexplained. They just happened.

The film did not gain traction until the last 3rd, when it finally grounded itself in specific times, dates, and events happening chronologically. The focus of the film zeroed in more on Freddie’s personal struggles, how they affected him and those around him. The film wrapped up with an end to Freddie’s story, capped by another weak scene in Coach Royal’s office.

And yet, when the credits started rolling, I was swallowing the lump in my throat. Despite everything that had been done “wrong” in this film, it was successful in the most important way. And why is that? Because….

….by the time the credits rolled on My All American, knew who Freddie Steinmark was.

A weak beginning, poor time passage, and loose details? In the end, none of that mattered. From his first appearance on the screen until his last, we were given a clear picture of who Freddie Steinmark was, even if the other details surrounding his story were foggy.

Freddie Steinmark was a brave little man. He worked hard, complained little, loved deeply, and never gave up. He was a man of faith and a faithful man. He inspired those around him with his fierce spirit and sincerity. He was confident and humble. His very existence pushed those who came in contact with him to strive to better themselves.

My All American was a film made to honor and respect Freddie Steinmark. It was a film made to introduce you to this extraordinary human being. And while they “technically” failed on many counts, they succeeded in their most important goal. We now know who Freddie Steinmark is, and we are better for it.

My All American, a flawed film that succeeded where it really mattered.

*****

I was inspired both by Freddie Steinmark, and by this film itself. It is encouraging to me to think about the concept of something imperfect still coming through where it really matters. This happened, I believe, because the makers of My All American kept their eyes on their priority and stuck to it. They knew what mattered the most to them and didn’t allow other things to get in the way of that priority.

This is not to say there isn’t room for improvement, perhaps if the makers of My All American had to do this film again they would change some things. But that’s life, isn’t it? You do the best you can with where you are at, and you try your hardest to succeed. Some things you fail, and in other things you do well.

Freddie Steinmark inspired and encouraged me. And this movie itself inspires me to stay focused on the things that truly matter to me, even as I do my best to succeed in everything. I want people to be able to look at my life and know who I am, and I want them to see that while I failed regularly, I succeeded in the things that mattered the most.

May I encourage you to think about the people and things that matter the most? May I encourage you to keep going even after you fail, or are faced with difficulty? May I encourage you to choose to focus on what will have a positive, lasting impact on your life?

Bless you all this Christmas season. The celebration this time of the year is a gift, one that I pray you may find and engage. Merry Christmas!

 

The Need for a Sparring Partner- Part 1

In ancient times when  warriors wanted to increase their skill in combat, they would spar with other skilled warriors. These duels were intense and pushed both combatants to their limits. Warriors spent hours every day engaged in these duels, and their skill and strength increased because of it.

A warrior who did not spar was a man whose days were numbered. It didn’t matter if he was incredibly skilled, failure to practice regularly with others of skill meant it was only a matter of time before he met his match or superior in a real fight and was killed.

This concept of a good “sparring partner” is hugely important when creating a main character. It can be the difference between a relate-able character that is continually growing, or, a character that is always superior and stagnant because they are never pushed. Lasting characters often last because they never stop getting better.

Wise people in real life know that they need to grow. So, they surround themselves with people who engage their minds, push their limits in knowledge, and test their virtues and social skills. Iron sharpening iron, so to speak.

Characters are based off of real life experiences. I think this is why characters that are sixteen levels above anyone else in the movie feel so boring. They are never stimulated, they are always the smartest person in the room, and they are never thrown off their game or forced to become better.

A great example of this is Aurora Teagarden (Candace Cameron Bure) in the original movie series Aurora Teagarden  on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries.

Ro

Aurora is a smart librarian with a knack for solving murders. She is always mentally one step ahead of everyone around her. In her first two movies Aurora may face a bit of resistance in solving the murders, but it’s often due to police red tape or other people’s failures.

Aurora also can’t seem to find a significant other to stick around. Sure, the pastor from the Aurora Teagarden: A Bone to Pick and the author from Real Murders were nice guys. Both men adored her and yet they did nothing to add to her character or grow her. They were “yes” men who told her how smart and gorgeous she was, but they never challenged her.

I love these mystery series, I really do, but I always felt that this particular series was missing something. It didn’t hold water as well and there was clearly a strong flavor that the story lacked.

Lucky for everybody, the writers figured out what flavor they needed to add in, and it came in the form of Martin (Yannick Bisson) in the third installment: Three Bedrooms, One Corpse.

Martin

Martin as a character totally threw Aurora for a loop. He could say one thing and catch her off guard. While he deeply admired her brilliance and her beauty, he was not intimidated by her. He remained mysterious and didn’t hand over information to her just because she batted her eyelashes.

Aurora T

Aurora was forced to operate at a whole new level in order to learn about Martin and prove whether or not he was the murder suspect. In the sparring of both wits and words, Martin proved to be her equal and occasionally her better; a fact that only caused her to step up her game.

Providing Aurora with an excellent sparring partner evened her character out, made her more realistic (she’s not a goddess, she’s human), and added great interest to her story. The third installment of the Aurora Teagarden movies was by far the best and moved this series up in my favorites list, previously it had been my least favorite original mystery movie series on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries.

We were even treated to a preview of the next Aurora Teagarden installment, and lo and behold, guess who the writers decided to hang onto? That’s right, Martin.

Finally! Aurora has met her match and everyone knows it. The missing flavor has been added, and our heroine has found a sparring partner.

Sparring partners can come in many different shapes and forms. Sometimes they are allies, and sometimes they are enemies. There are even cases when setting or circumstances can fill provide the role of the sparring partner.

Still, I always enjoy a human touch to the role of a sparring partner. Particularly when it is an ally who challenges the hero to become better.

It is always encouraging to me see examples of two characters pushing each other to greater heights. I love these character pairings because I strive for this kind of great interaction in my own life.

Join me Friday for Part 2, when I will point out and discuss some iconic film/TV pairings that are examples of excellent sparring partners.

 

The “On-Off” Switch That Kills Romance

Jamie is pretty, spunky, and has a thing for drinking lemonade on bridges under a sky full of stars. Tom is hunky, smart, and thinks pug-nosed pups are cute.

These two characters just so happen to work in the same crime-fighting division. Their chemistry is instantaneous and obvious, something that both the audience and the coworkers all notice. They click right into place like puzzle pieces.

Jamie and Tom make a great team. They are dynamite on the dance floor. They both love cheese pizza. When Jamie was devastated about her mother’s cancer diagnosis, Tom was there to be her shoulder to cry on. When Tom got hurt and was laid up for a while, Jamie came over to cook him homemade meals every night. They stayed up until 3 in the morning talking about their favorite childhood memories.

Jamie and Tom belong together, it’s as plain as day. The writers told us in every way in possible. They have practically spelled it out in bright neon letters JAMIE AND TOM BELONG TOGETHER.

Our emotions are now invested. We are now printing up #Tamie t-shirts and talking on message boards about the latest developments. We’ve picked out names for Jamie and Tom’s first 3 kids and have mentally written up plots for 4+ season’s worth of episodes. We hold our breath every time one of them gets close to saying those 3 words we know that they feel.

“I love you.”

First date. Yes, finally! We’ve had enough of the longing looks from across the water cooler.

Tom changes his blazer 3 times to make sure it’s just right. Jamie goes out and buys a new red dress. They go to an Italian restaurant and have a great time dipping bread sticks in marinara and then walking the waterfront. Oh boy! We even get a first kiss!

All is happy in Tamie-town. And then it happens!

Jamie and Tom go into work the next morning, the happiness of their date lingering in their smiles.  The coworkers notice, some ribbing takes place. Uh oh! A crisis happens and it’s all hands on deck. For some reason, Jamie and Tom are having trouble getting their heads in the game. Their teamwork is off. Someone almost dies, and the most natural assumption is that the near miss is somehow their fault.

“I can’t do this. I’m sorry.”

Tamie fans get off of the couch and walk out of the living room, leaving little pieces of their heart and emotions in a trail behind them.

And so it begins. Jamie and Tom still love each other, but continue to deny it.

They lie to themselves and others.

“We’re just friends.” 

They date other people

“I’m so happy for you, she/he seems nice.”

More longing looks over the water cooler. More sweet and endearing talks during a stakeout. A tear-jerking hospital vigil after a dangerous run-in with the bad guys.

“Maybe….we could give this another try?”

Up and down, up and down. On and off, on and off again. There is an engagement ring for a while….and then it’s handed back with some trite line.

“This just isn’t going to work for me.”

After a few seasons of this garbage, we are done. Our emotions are strung out all over the place and we are tired. We get our hopes up only to have the writers dash them once more! The passion and fire die, and now it’s just getting laughable.

We stare numbly at the screen. Literally the only reason we are still watching is because of Tom’s dog, Mr. Puggles.

 

Why do writers do this? What is wrong with them?

When writers create lovable characters and put them onscreen, they are asking us to invest a little piece of our hearts in those characters. They are asking us to entrust our emotions to their care.

So why do they take that precious trust and just trample all over it?

Writers also ask us to suspend our belief in reality as we know it. They are asking us to believe in things like superheroes, zombies, guys walking around after major head trauma, and that the female lead’s makeup still looks good. We know that all of those things aren’t real, so we need a bit of real life authenticity to ground this fictional story and make us believe.

I know that a lot of real people struggle to maintain relationships. I know a lot of real people don’t know what the heck to do with their love life. But there are far more people, who, if they found someone to love, would move forward and not keep jumping back. This is particularly true for well-rounded people with a measure of maturity. (You know, like characters that are supposedly mature enough to save the world but can’t get up the courage to date and marry their soulmate???)

Somewhere along the way, TV writers believed the lie that commitment and allowing their characters to stick together would kill any chance for romance. The only way they know how to write romance is in the pursuit stage, or, the lack thereof. They also know that the ups and downs are a cheap way to string along an audience for a time.

Guess what?

I’m done. I’m sick of the fruitless ups and downs that lead no where. I’m sick of the idea that having characters commit instantly kills the romance. Seriously, just watch the first few minutes of UP. Or great shows like Hart to Hartor Dr. Quinn Medicine WomanI assure you, the romance doesn’t die once there is a ring involved. If anything, the potential for new plot ideas grow.

If TV shows want to keep an audience along for the ride, they are going to have to take us on different routes, and not just keep reversing the plot vehicle. We’ve been there, done that, seen that, ENOUGH!

Be bold, be brave, let your characters move forward with their lives. Enough of this infinite loop, this up and down, this road that leads nowhere!

Enough of the on-off switch! You are killing the romance and turning off the interest of your audience!

What Pacific Rim Got Right About Lead Characters

I didn’t see this movie until just yesterday. The news surrounding casting choices for Pacific Rim 2 brought the film back to my attention. I had read feedback saying that the movie was all visuals with poor acting and storyline. I had my expectations set for moderate, but when I actually saw the movie I was blown away.

The visuals were unbelievable. This movie had to be incredible in 3D. Watching the battles between the massive Jaegers and Kaiju gave me a giddy feeling that only the greatest action movie battles can offer. I found the concept of connecting two people through “the drift” to be creative and fascinating.

The music was fantastic. I will listen to that soundtrack again and again.

But the aspect of this film that stood out to me the most was the characters. Yes, the characters. The ones that were said to be “poorly acted”.

Characters are in my opinion, the most crucial part of any film. Why? Because characters are the closest point of connection between a film and its audience. We have thoughts, characters have thoughts. We have struggles, characters have struggles. We have emotions, characters have emotions. A character doesn’t have to be a human in order to connect with us, it could be a little cowboy doll, a dog, or a talking tree.

I have noticed that many action films tend to rely on large explosions and intense gunfire exchanges rather than on good characters. Many action film characters are one-dimensional robots. For the men, they are filthy mouthed robots with muscles and stubble. For the the women, they are also filthy mouthed robots with muscles and chests. There is very little that I find approachable about these robot characters, and I most certainly do not end the movie feeling connected to them.

Pacific Rim could have limped along with action movie cliches for characters. They had visuals, battles, and explosions that were more impressive than most. I anticipated action movie cliches upon going into this movie, but what I found instead was a lovely cast of lead characters who had depth and personality. By the end of the film I felt very connected to them and wished to see more of their stories. Now, on to these surprising characters.

Raleigh Beckett

Raleigh Beckett, a former Jaeger pilot who lost his brother to a Kaiju. At first glance, I had anticipated Raleigh to be yet another muscle-bound fighter with a chip on his shoulder. I was so wrong. Raleigh, while bearing sorrow and scars, was actually about the nicest guy you could meet. He was brave, smart, and the most capable pilot available. But he never flaunted this fact, not once. Even when enduring taunts and slights from young Hansen, he kept a straight face and held onto his dignity.

You got the greatest view of Raleigh’s character when you watched his interaction with Mako. He instantly picked up on her skills and potential, and he wasn’t afraid to speak up for her. He valued her as an equal in their job, but at the same time he treated her like a lady. He is proof that chivalry can exist without chauvinism.

As an equal he believed in her skill, never gave her a hard time when she failed during the first drift, and was delighted to have her on board with him.

As a gentleman, he told her that she looked good in the uniform (which she rocked). When young Hansen was badgering Raleigh and Mako in the hallway following their near-destructive mind drift, Raleigh said nothing about the slights to himself. But the moment Hansen started calling Mako obscene names, Raleigh stepped forward in her defense and gave Hansen a good whooping. I’ll admit, I found that scene incredibly satisfying. And then, as the Gispy Danger was drifting down to destroy the breach, Raleigh made sure Mako got out in her pod first before he worried about himself.

Raleigh and Mako

Raleigh was relate-able in that he readily admitted to his emotions. He was deeply saddened over his brother’s death, and traumatized by the shared feelings he had experienced.

He was brave, stepping up to do a job that was likely a suicide mission. He treated those around him with respect. He knew his skills and was confident in them, but didn’t feel the need to flaunt those skills or prove himself. He was kind and encouraging to Mako.

I would love to see more male heroes like this in action films. Raleigh Beckett was a breath of fresh air. His humanness in no way compromised the strong, effectiveness of his character; but rather, it enhanced it by allowing me to connect with him. I want to see more of Raleigh Beckett.

Mako Mori

Mako Mori, one of the programs “brightest and best”. Mako was everything that I could have dreamed up for a female heroine. She was strong, intelligent, and capable. But the thing that delighted me the most about her character were the softer aspects. She was very feminine, and she carried herself with a sweet humility that was refreshing. She was gentle and vulnerable, her character showed real emotions regularly.

Somewhere along the way, Hollywood decided that strong women characters needed to sterilize their emotions. Perhaps this was an over-reaction and poor attempt to compensate for the over-dramatized emotions women displayed in older decades of film. I don’t care for either extreme, since real women in the real world are a mix of both strength and emotion. I don’t know about you all, but I am ready for some real women characters that make me feel.

I felt when I watched Mako. I connected with her. She wants a chance to fight against the evil monsters who haunt her dreams and destroyed her family. She has worked very hard to get where she is. At the same time, she respects Marshall Stacker Penecost and knows that his negativity towards her involvement stems from love.

Mako wanted an opportunity to fight, but she didn’t insert herself to the point of becoming obnoxious. That’s fine, because her eager willingness is all that she needed to catch the attention of Raleigh Beckett, who went to war for her right to become his co-pilot. This created a fantastic point between the two characters where their separate character threads became woven together.

She didn’t fight it when Raleigh stood up for her, nor did she throw his efforts back in his face like many female characters would. Instead, she accepted it gratefully which gave her character all the more dignity and legitimacy.

Mako was adorable, strong, and endearing. I loved everything about her, from the soft way she spoke, to her blue hair, and her non-air-permitting hug of Raleigh during the end scene. Mako Mori was exactly what a strong female character should be. She was a real woman who I connected with and would love to see more of.

Marshall Pentecost

Marshall Stacker Penecost. He actually fit into a very typical action movie role of the veteran leader with a soft side. I don’t really mind those roles though, as this type of character lends a gravity to the story and creates a reference point for the other characters to revolve around. Plus, these types of characters are usual played by legends such as Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, and in this case, Idris Elba.

I greatly enjoyed seeing (and listening to) Idris Elba in this role. He has a rich and handsome quality to him that is riveting. He wasn’t unnecessarily harsh, had clear motivations for his actions, and the thought of him raising a tiny little Mako was simply adorable. His death at the end of the movie was a fitting and majestic end to his character.

I really have no idea why this movie didn’t do well in the US. There were many moments that just thrilled me in my movie-fan soul. Seriously, watching the Gipsy Danger drag a cruise ship into battle to use as a weapon was so exciting. My life-long movie dream was fulfilled when Raleigh said, “Let’s check for a pulse.” on the dead Kaiju, and proceeded to blast it to death beyond a shadow of a doubt. No one ever makes sure the enemy is good and dead, and it often comes back to bite them in the rear. Future action heroes could use some pointers from Raleigh Beckett in just about everything. The music made me feel energized and excited. The characters were awesome. Oh, and a shout-out to the little girl who played mini Mako Mori, she SOLD that role amazingly. How many kids do you see who can pull off intense emotions like that little lady did?

I am so excited to know that there is a sequel in the works, Pacific Rim 2: Maelstrom. There is very little known about the movie as of yet, beyond the fact that it was just announced John Boyega will be playing the lead. His character will be the son of Idris Elba’s character. John Boyega brought new life to the screen in The Force Awakens back in December, and it is rare that I have connected with a character as quickly as I did with Finn. I look forward to seeing what both he, and this sequel have to offer.

What did you think of Pacific Rim? What aspects of it blew you away? Were there any aspects of the film that disappointed you? What was your favorite moment? Did you also connect with the characters?

*****

If you enjoyed this post, then you will likely enjoy my other posts. Want to connect with me and talk all things movies? You can find me on Facebook and Twitter, and please follow my site for more great articles.