My Top 5 Marvel Movies

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This isn’t just my top Marvel movie, this is one of my top 5 movie movies. It makes my very short list of “perfect” movies that I have seen. I’ll write about those another day. This is the one movie poster that I own, and I’m proud of that fact.

Everything about this movie is perfect. The character introductions and reveals. Seriously, Steve giving Sam Wilson “on your left” is the best character introduction ever. The pacing. The horror of realizing what is actually happening. The road trip Steve and Nat take. The combat sequences (oooh, so perfectly choreographed and executed). The jaw-dropping moments (Fury’s car chase, elevator scene, fighting the Winter Solider on the highway!!!). This movie just makes you tingle from head to toe!

This movie features my favorite 3 Avengers: Steve, Nat, and Sam, and has the political thriller genre running strongly in its veins. The build-up and payoff are satisfying on every level possible. The quiet moments of reflection and resolve perfectly complement the big moments of sudden horror and “eat your failure” moments that get shoved in the villains’ faces.

But the best part is how this movie enables even the little guys to be the hero. That’s a big part of who Steve Rogers is, he believes in the little guy. He never sees himself as above someone else, and he’s all about using his gifts and strengths to lift others up. That’s true leadership, and his leadership brings Hydra to its knees. I love the throwing off of false morality and heroism, call crap what crap is and truth what truth is.

This movie is brilliant, unapologetic, heroic, and full of normal people doing amazing things because they believe in doing what’s right no matter the cost. It’s a movie of revelation, friendship, humor, glorious action sequences, and an extremely strong character heartbeat that keeps everything grounded.

2. Avengers

I never get tired of this one. The feeling I have when I watch it is something I haven’t felt so much with the more recent superhero movies. Things were simpler at this time, clearer, more fun.

And dang, if this movie isn’t just the most fun. Unlike DC (really? Justice League before the origin stories?) Marvel took the time required to properly develop a superhero team-up worth our while. We knew everyone, already loved them and wanted to see what would happen when we threw our favorite characters into the blender together.

Half of this movie is spent with everyone showing their worst side. They clash, misunderstand each other, or have their most vulnerable spots rubbed. It’s a hot mess. A beautiful hot mess. A hilarious hot mess. A delightful hot mess. I love this hot mess, and so does Agent Coulson.

Coulson. Y’all, Phil Coulson is enough of a reason to fall in love with this movie all on his own.

The hot mess almost completely falls apart (except Nat, she’s surprisingly put together minus that slight Hulk panic attack, but that’s Nat.). And then they come together with such a great show of humility, respect, and teamwork. It’s inspiring.

The pure glory and unabashed superhero swagger of this movie are unparalleled. From the soundtrack to the superhero poses and power moves, it’s just delicious. Absolutely delicious. And The Battle of New York is something I never tire of. Never ever. Never.

Even though it’s one giant glamor scene to the next, this movie still never sacrifices character development and interpersonal growth. Some of the best friendships, pairings, character clashes, and important Marvel moments are birthed in this movie.

And shawarma. Have you ever wondered how much shawarma sales spiked after this movie came out?

3. Ant-Man and the Wasp

If you just did a double-take, I ask that you rewatch this movie. See if you don’t finish your day feeling happier, fuller, and inspired to be a little bit more “out there”.

How can anyone spend time in the company of Paul Rudd for a few hours without coming out feeling happier? I’m also quite fond of Evangeline Lily and would like to see a LOT more of her. There’s not a single actor in this movie that I do not enjoy.

This movie arrived at a time in my life when I didn’t have as much to laugh about. It was a heavy time. This movie came right into the middle of my heavy, pulled me out of it, and gave me the gift of laughter that was grounded with heart. I literally felt like I’d gone through some healing for the 2+ hours I sat in the theater and laughed.

Scott Lang is one of my favorite characters. He’s an everyman. He’s us. He’s cool, but not so cool that he’s not also totally in awe of anything cool that comes his way. He wants to brag about knowing “Cap”. He’s going to learn online close-up magic sing karaoke and play a fake drumset.

Ahem, this is where I pause and I point out that Scott Lang lives in San Francisco and sings karaoke and is a cool dude. And Shang-Chi ALSO lives in San Francisco sings karaoke and is a cool dude. If these two don’t meet and team up I’m going to riot. I don’t care if people are worried that the combination of Luis and Katy might create a nuclear explosion, it’s worth it.

Infinity War (one of the 3 Marvel offerings in 2018) was a miserable watch. It had nice moments but mostly it was just echoing the heaviness and grief I was already dealing with in my own life. And while Black Panther was an absolute masterpiece, it was an extremely intense movie to watch. I wanted a break. I wanted to feel grounded again. Ant-Man movies are always more grounded (literally) and single-minded than other Marvel movies. Scott isn’t always trying to solve a whole world problem, sometimes he’s just trying to save one person. Hope and Hank just wanted to save their Janet. Bill Foster just wants to save Ava. Scott just wants to get his life together and to stop letting his loved ones down. Luis just wants their business to succeed and is willing to buy oatmeal packets to make it happen. Jimmy Woo just wants to be as cool as Scott (just wait a few years, Jimmy, then you’ll be cool all on your own).

Ant-Man and The Wasp takes a group of very sincere people who are flawed, sometimes dysfunctional, and throws them into a scenario that is both lighthearted, serious, and beautiful. It’s just about people loving people. There isn’t even a truly big “human” villain in this movie, the biggest battle is against Time. I love that even Ghost is redeemed.

This movie literally healed places inside of me and was salve on a very sad soul. I love it. I can watch it without feeling dragged down by larger Marvel events, it’s just perfect. The weight and enormity of the MCU has become a heavy burden at times, but Ant-Man and The Wasp never feels that way.

And who doesn’t need to see a hot wheels-sized car chase through the streets of San Francisco that also includes a larger-than-life Pez dispenser being hurled at the bad guy’s car? We all do, that’s who.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

I am not someone who likes or supports crass humor. I do not personally support every statement/joke/or attitude expressed in these movies. And I don’t recommend them for children. Morally gray characters are a line I think you have to walk very carefully and can easily take too far. But when they are done well they end up teaching you a lot.

The Guardians are definitely a mixed bag, but I learn a lot from watching them. Yondu is not someone I would hold up as a role model, neither would I hold Peter Quill up as a role model (Chris Pratt is another matter. Love him.) These people are desperately flawed, often annoying, and they know how to push each other’s buttons. They are not the crew you would invite to an elegant gathering or your child’s preschool show-and-tell.

Here’s the thing about the Guardians though, for how little sense they make, for how awkward and messy they are, I just love them. I saw Volume 1 and I was like…What. Is. Happening…oh crabapples! Suddenly I’m crying and have a huge lump in my throat. And that dang, that raccoon on screen worming his way past my emotional guard is in reality just a puppet. A PUPPET!

I kid you not, the characters most guaranteed to make me cry are the Guardians. I could see that special moment that was coming, the hand-holding that reminded Peter of his mom that was going to contain the Power Stone that followed the dance-off that was going to save Xandar! The fact that the previous sentence is the actual plot is really a thing of beauty.

But Vol. 2. Volume 2. Wow.

For the first 2/3s of the movie, I was like, “What are we doing here? Nothing means anything. Everyone is losing their mind, being a jerk, or all over the place. Sylvester Stallone is definitely still a knockout, but beyond that, why am I here?”

And then I hit the last 45 minutes, and it all came together and I saw it and was mindblown. Oh, wait! This whole movie has been all about meaning! It’s been about love, forgiveness, and healing. It’s been about friendship, sisterhood, fatherhood, giving yourself permission to love and be loved. Letting go of the things that keep people from getting close to you. It’s about loving people with their flaws and through their painful, vulnerable times. It’s about understanding what truly matters in life! It’s ordinary people loving each other, and that love creates an extraordinary strength that defeats the inflated, twisted agendas of those who think real meaning is about power and self.

Ego with his sick, twisted expansion missed the true meaning of everything that was right in front of his eyes. He could have stayed with Peter’s mom. They could have loved each other. He could have enjoyed being a dad. But he was blind to the meaning of anything, and he went so far as to destroy the beauty that did exist. He killed his children. He killed Peter’s mom. So Peter is gonna smash that perverted creep in the face with a giant Pac Man and doggone! I’m going to enjoy watching it!

I think the clincher moment for me in this movie was watching Peter mourn Yondu. I do not like Yondu. I still don’t “like” him. Yondu is unpleasant to me, but there are a lot of Yondu’s out there, and they are worth something and they need to be told so. They need to be seen and loved too. When Peter was grieving Yondu, I heard something in his voice. “I had a pretty cool dad.” I don’t think Chris Pratt was just being Peter Quill at that moment, I think he was being Chris Pratt. Chris lost his father far too soon, and I think at this moment he was being given the gift of feeling his own loss and love on screen. That was a very intimate moment that I felt lent gravity to the movie, and I felt honored that he was willing to share that with us.

I love the Guardians because on paper they make no sense, they are so messy, and yet they love so hard and they don’t quit. I can respect that. I learn so much from them that I don’t from other characters. I know the love they are learning to have comes less easy for them than it does for other characters. I was highly displeased with the Guardians’ portrayal in both Infinity War and a lot in (only Nebula and Rocket were handled well) Endgame. I felt they were not treated with the respect and growth their characters had earned. I’m hoping Vol 3 can fix some of these problems.

But yeah, I like my Guardians. I like them a lot.

5. Shang-Chi

It does not hurt that this was the first movie I’d seen in theaters since Far From Home in the summer of 2019. You know, a thousand years ago before the Dark Ages of Covid and everything else that has happened since. I didn’t mean to stay away from the theater so long, it just happened that way.

Shang-Chi was a treat that I got to go see with my mom as a celebration for my 25th birthday. I’d had a really good feeling about it going in, but wow. Wow, was I ever right!

This movie is amazing. I mean, AMAZING! It’s been a while since we’ve seen a completely new character with no prior introduction in the MCU make their debut. Shang-Chi did it and did it so well I’m still amazed. Nothing about this story was wasted. Every aspect of the movie, from the script to the humor to the costuming to the martial arts was all working in harmony to tell a very fantastical, very human story.

I loved the fantasy elements. I loved the bright colors. I loved how Chinese legends and otherworldly elements were seamlessly blended with some very American-tasting characters/conversations. I LOVED the characters. Shaun and Katy are what got me out of movie blog retirement.

This movie was powerful in its messaging, handled flashbacks with fine dexterity, and never lost the momentum. It used visual symbolism as well as honest dialogue extremely well. You could see the character growth portrayed in multiple ways. The story had deep moments of trauma and darkness, but they were well-integrated alongside moments of hope and humor.

Also, I just think Shaun is really cute. Like, REALLY cute.

I also like where he landed at the ending. His choice to stay true to the beauty and light inside of him, while also acknowledging the skills and history from both sides of his family was a more sustainable, mature approach to life. A lot of people think in terms of black and white and they don’t take the time to pick through the pieces of what’s worth keeping vs what you throw away. Living with extremes is usually an exhausting and dead-end way to live. It’s certainly NOT how you successfully woo the magical rings away from your father in a one-on-one battle.

It was nice to see a new origin story that felt like a Marvel movie, but more like the old ones used to feel. Exciting, fresh, making you hungry for more.

I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this yet or not, but I have some MCU fatigue. Endgame was a big movie, no one can deny that, but I was disappointed in many regards. The need for the story to keep getting bigger and bigger than the last thing has caused a lot of complications and overwhelm. Some things have been done that can’t be undone and I’m not happy about it. Often when a story grows to this point, it can get out of control. I am not enjoying the MCU the way I used to when things were simpler and more defined. Perhaps it’s naive or silly to expect/want it to feel the same way it did when I first started. I’m not the same person I was in my teenage years any more than the MCU is the same “world” it once was. I would say where I am now is I try to focus on individual chapters/characters more than just the world as a whole.

And that’s why I loved Shang-Chi, it was a fresh start with someone new that I have no baggage with. He was a character I was 100% happy to root for, and even his introduction to other big characters like Wong, Captain Marvel, and Bruce Banner was far more honest. They told him what he was in for right up front. “Your life has just changed and it’s never going back.” “Welcome to the roller coaster.” That’s exactly how I feel about life in multiple areas, so I could relate with those statements a lot. I have 0 martial arts skills and a very normal human origin story, but on an emotional level, I connected deeply with large parts of Shaun’s story.

Honorable Mentions: Spider-Man Homecoming and Far From Home

I haven’t seen No Way Home yet. I’m honestly very sad at some (not all) of the choices made for the movie, I don’t see how leaving Peter friendless and family-less is beneficial. One of those things I could swallow even if it tastes bad, especially the death part because it was an unexpected thing for Peter. But to leave his friends in the dark? To lose them not just as Spider-man, but also as Peter Parker? To do both? Why??? How does that make sense? Why is that “necessary”? Why should he have to lose Happy after he lost his mother and father, his uncle, Tony Stark, and now Aunt May????

What are we learning here? It’s “safer” or “nobler” to be on your own? What people don’t know can’t hurt them and it’s better that way? That’s crap and we know it. Marvel has proven it time and again, together is better. Family is better. Stick together, make it out the other side or die protecting each other. It’s worth it. #avengersassemble

The only reasonable thing I can think of that would justify causing Peter separation from everyone is Sony is hoping for another trilogy. Otherwise, I think it’s inexcusable.

But yeah, I love Peter Parker. I love his humility and his kindness. His stories are so easy to learn from and he’s so endearing. That’s why the Spider-Man movies get an honorable mention from me.

These are my top 5 Marvel movies. I chose them because they are movies I still want to watch more frequently. They are ones that still echo in my mind and I know I will enjoy them. I watched them and had a uniquely warm experience, or, they came at a very pivotal moment in my life and touched me more deeply than other chapters of the MCU.

These movies are not necessarily my most nostalgic Marvel movies (Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor have that honor). I like many installments in this series (Age of Ultron is a highly underrated Avengers film). And Captain America: Civil War has some of the best footage in the MCU. And the Marvel Disney+ series is a whole other ball of wax. But when I sat down and I thought about it, these were the 5 that rose to the top. I found my answers both expected and unexpected.

So, what are your top 5 Marvel movies? Why are they your top 5?

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?

Loki Odinson and Claire Dearing: How to Advance Plot Without Compromising Character Growth (Part 1 of 2)

As writers, we often face a challenge when trying to figure out how to usher in Big Bad plot elements, but do so in a way that does not also compromise character growth. Typically these game-changing plot elements take place in a larger narrative like a series or franchise where a story has been building up to this climactic point. Both Marvel and Jurassic Park/World are excellent examples of a continuing storyline where the single-story installments fit into a larger picture that is always building upon itself.

In recent years, some big changes needed to happen in both franchises. We’re talking huge, world-changing plot elements.

For the Jurassic series, we needed dinosaurs to be set loose on the mainland and to begin mixing with people on a global scale.

Ian Malcolm Welcome to Jurassic World… #fallenkingdom #jeffgoldblumforever

For the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we needed a bigger problem and evil than Thanos wiping out half of all life in the universe. 10 years had built up to Endgame. We needed something bigger. Enter…the multiverse!

Coincidence is not a strong plot mover, every good writer knows this. Neither is it good or honest storytelling to only have the villain characters be involved with dramatic and damaging events. We’re all flawed, broken people. Sometimes those with the best of intentions can create terrible scenarios *coughs* Tony Stark. The triumph of these deeply-human stories comes when a character grows and is able to face the new challenges with a fresh perspective that leads to victory.

Two protagonists for recent installments in the Jurassic and Marvel franchises are a perfect example of how to not compromise character growth for the sake of plot advancement.

Claire Dearing is the primary protagonist for Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Claire Dearing is all business, even at the expense of her own humanity. She’s not mean, she’s not visibly evil or a “villain”, but she has a broken perspective on life that blinds her to the dire consequences of her choices.

The protagonist is the character that changes the most throughout a story. While many characters have life-changing revelations throughout the two Jurassic World movies, Claire Dearing is without question the character that undergoes the most change.

The running theme of the entire Jurassic franchise is this question: how do we value life? We see characters and animals interact with this theme in both positive and negative ways in every movie. Even the short film Battle at Big Rock faithfully follows this theme. One day I will discuss this franchise and its message in depth.

When we first meet Claire Dearing she is the director of the larger-than-life theme park, Jurassic World. Finally! John Hammons’s original dream for Jurassic Park has been realized and it is magnificent!

Claire is a cold and removed person when it comes to human relationships, and she has zero connection to any of the animals under her care. In short, Claire does not have value for life. She fails to see its beauty, purpose, or hope. Her nephews come to visit and she cannot even spend more than five minutes with them. She’s got a disdain for the very human character of Owen Grady and disregards his good advice about understanding her own animals. Without thought, she is a party to the creation of the Indominus Rex, the chief animal antagonist of this story.

Throughout the beginning of the movie, we see Claire make choice after choice that is irresponsible and emotionally removed. The worst decision she makes in conjunction with the park’s owner, Mr. Masrani, is to send a containment team after the Indominus with non-lethal weapons. They ignore the warnings of Owen Grady – the character with the most accurate worldview – and send the team in any way. Claire’s hard shell begins to crumble as she watches one person after another get violently killed by the dinosaur.

Throughout the rest of Jurassic World we watch Claire change. Her attention turns from the park’s reputation to just saving lives. She goes running off into the dangerous forest (IN HEELS) with Owen in pursuit of her nephews. She lets herself feel the grief and pain of a dying brachiosaurus that is mauled for sport by the Rex. She does insane things to protect what matters – life! By the end of the movie, Claire is functioning as a fully engaged human being.

Claire throws everything she has into protecting her nephews and Owen from the Indominus Rex. She lets herself be touched by the pain, the beauty, and the wonder of life. Claire is fully awake by the end of Jurassic World.

Has she learned her lesson? Has she grown?

When we see Claire in the next installment, Fallen Kingdom, she is employing the same drive we saw in the first movie, only this time it’s about protecting the dinosaurs that are left. Isla Nublar is about to be destroyed by a volcano, and all of the dinosaurs will die, becoming extinct once more. Claire’s life mission is to try and ensure that doesn’t happen. It’s a noble goal, and it’s a joy to see Claire giving her energy towards preserving life instead of exploiting it (and this time she does it in boots like a sensible human).

But Claire still exhibits some of the same recklessness we saw her use at the beginning of Jurassic World. Her panic to make up for her past mistakes and guilt has caused her to pendulum to another extreme – a very common reaction among humans. She’s overcorrected too far, and this leaves her in a broken relationship with Owen Grady, and vulnerable to being manipulated and used by Eli Mills, the primary human antagonist.

Claire has thrown herself fully into the mission of saving the dinosaurs, but it’s gotten beyond her reach at this point.

Crazy things happen, and at the end of the movie a large collection of dinosaurs has ended up on the mainland in California. Multiple species have already been sold via an illegal auction and shipped around to world to be used for nefarious purposes. The dinosaurs that remain are trapped in a large facility that is filling up with toxic fumes. It’s a horrifying scene, dinosaurs wailing and trying desperately to get out as they are dying at the expense of greed.

Claire discovers she can free them with the push of a button, but to do so means they are set loose on the general population.

Owen Grady Claire, you press that button there is no going back.

A beat…Claire We can’t let them die.

Her hand hovers over the button…but then she steps away in tears. Finally! Claire Dearing has learned her lesson at a horrific cost. It’s a terrible decision to have to make, but her lack of restraint (along with others) has helped create this mess, pushing that button will only further it. It’s awful, but it’s solid proof – Claire Dearing has grown, her character arc is intact.

The agony of having to say no to pushing the button…

Aha! But for the overall story plot we still need the dinosaurs to get out…so what do we do now?

Loki is the primary protagonist for the show Loki. Obviously.

This character is only beloved because Tom Hiddleston IS SO CRAZY ADORABLE!

To say Loki is a stinker would be putting it mildly. He’s wild, unpredictable, violent, cunning, and constantly keeping you guessing as to whether he will help you, or betray you. Unlike Claire Dearing, Loki definitely fits into the villain category. If Tom Hiddleston wasn’t so everlastingly adorable, Loki would not have been the fan favorite he is. His character was brought to a tragic and emotional end at the very beginning of Infinity War. It was unsatisfactory and Loki fans were devastated. Then in Endgame, a freshly butt-kicked Loki managed to escape through time right after the first Avengers movie. This Loki is raw, unedited, and still the jerk that killed 80 people in just a few days + invaded New York because he’s Loki.

The running theme for the show Loki is this question: are we trapped by destiny or do we also have free will?

It’s a hard question to answer in a pretend universe that doesn’t have the true, gloriously good God in it. I don’t have time to dive into that topic today.

Loki finds himself quickly taken into custody by the TVA – Time Variance Authority – and taken to a place outside of time. He is shown the story of his whole life beginning to end, told that his entire life purpose is for his worst to bring out others’ best. He’s also told that as a Loki, he is “destined to fail”. Loki learns that he is just one of the thousands of other Loki’s from thousands of other universes. The TVA is the organization assigned to protect the “Sacred Timeline” and ensure that all events go according to the instructions of the Time Keepers, who somehow know more about everything than everyone else. It’s rather vague and full of bureaucratic red tape.

Also, now that Loki has stepped outside of the “Sacred Timeline” by escaping from his story, he has created a timeline branch and as a rogue variant, he could quickly be scheduled for pruning. A nice word for – execution. Loki, doing what he does best, negotiates for a chance to help Agent Mobius track down another Loki variant that’s been kidnapping TVA agents and wreaking havoc.

The best of Britain paired with the best of America on one screen. It was SOOO GOOD!

Loki’s initial desire and character goals are pretty standard for him. He wants to conquer the TVA and rule the timeline/worlds/everything/everyone.

The funny thing is how small Loki appears in the eyes of all he comes across. The only character who shows any interest in Loki as a person is Agent Mobius, the kindest person we run across at the TVA. And even Mobius isn’t overawed or impressed by Loki’s grand statements or drastic threats. A Loki is a Loki, they always lose, right?

Loki crosses paths with the other rogue Loki and discovers she’s actually a woman named Sylvie who, unlike other Loki’s, has zero desire for ruling anything. She wants to kill the Time Keepers and end the TVA once and for all as payback for them kidnapping her as a child. Apparently, she was a variant who didn’t “belong” on the Sacred Timeline and therefore was scheduled for pruning. It’s horrific but shows something true that happens in our real world. More on that another day.

A very sad little girl is now a very angry grown woman.

Loki has not previously been known for quick character growth, but in the course of just 6 episodes, he is confronted with the ugliest, darkest, most vulnerable parts of himself. He’s drunk on his own selfish ambition. He hurts other people in order to appear powerful. He’s self-obsessed, angry, scared, and doesn’t know how to create healthy relationships. And the worst part is this, according to everyone he comes in contact with besides Sylvie, this is just his destiny. He’s destined to never be happy, to never succeed at anything, to always be this terrible person.

Throughout one of the craziest and most brilliant shows I’ve ever seen, Loki finds himself pushing back against this empty version of himself, which is actually his own antagonist. Loki, as he’s always been, IS Loki’s own worst enemy! What if he can be more? Who says he has to be the villain in everyone else’s story? As the show progresses, Loki begins to care more about the needs and well-being of characters like Mobius and Sylvie even more than he thinks about his own selfish needs.

Watching layer after layer of Loki unfold as he spends more time with Sylvie was a joy. THIS is the Loki we have been hoping for! Not the petty, selfish, angry Loki. No! The Loki who uses his brilliant mind, witty humor, and genuine strength to protect, uplift, and do good. It was always possible, but now we see him fighting for this better version of himself.

Loki and Sylvie reach the End of All Time and discover He Who Remains. In a quiet discussion held in an office, we hear the most frightening story yet revealed in the MCU. This man is from the future. He is a scientist who discovers the multiverse and connects with other variants of himself. Things are great for a while and the multiverse enjoys travel and communication among the universes. Until, of course, a variant of He Who Remains decides he wants to rule all, and multiverse wars ensue. It’s apparently so awful that He Who Remains decided the best way to solve the problem was to create the Sacred Timeline and control everyone’s lives. He created the TVA to protect this timeline and quickly prune and reset any timeline where something gets out of line. He has been doing this for millenniums. But now he’s tired. He gives Loki and Sylvie two options (1) kill him and unleash the timeline and the multiverse (2) take over his job and rule.

Sylvie still wants to kill He Who Remains as he is responsible for her kidnapping and erasing her life. She believes he is lying just to save his own skin. She is about to kill him when Loki stops her. A back and forth of passionately emotional dialogue, magic, and fighting ensues where Silvie is trying to reach He Who Remains, and Loki is trying to intervene.

Sylvie Ah, you want the throne.

Loki No, that’s not it, no. Sylvie, the universe is in the balance, everything we know to be true. Everything. I know that the TVA has hurt us both, but what if by taking him out, we risk unleashing something even worse? I promise you from my heart, this isn’t about a throne.

More fighting.

Loki Sylvie, the cost of getting this wrong is too great.

Sylvie Fine, then kill me and take your throne.

Loki Stop. I’ve been where you are. I’ve felt what you feel. *crying* Don’t ask me how I know. All I know, is I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want a throne. I just…I just want you to be okay.

NO ONE IS SOBBING HERE! NEVER MIND, WE ARE FINE! IT’S TOTALLY OKAY THAT LOKI IS LOOKING AT HER SO SOFTLY WITH SO MUCH COMPASSION AND TENDERNESS! WE ARE FINEEEE!!!

They kiss, it’s gorgeous and no one is sobbing on the floor. We’re fine!!! And then Sylvie shoves him through a portal back to the TVA, removing him from the situation entirely. Determined and dreading what is coming, Loki runs to find Mobius to fill him in on the drastic changes that are about to take place.

Loki He’s terrifying. He planned everything. He’s seen everything. He knows everything. It’s complicated, okay. But someone is coming. Countless different versions of a very dangerous person. And they’re all set on war. We need to prepare.

These two were just the greatest.

Loki went from rampaging around the universe, causing wreck and ruin all because he was burdened with glorious purpose, to suddenly only caring about others’ needs and future. He now only says “I” in reference to his selfless feelings for someone else. He uses the term “we” when speaking of himself and Sylvie, or himself and his allies/friends at the TVA. Loki is no longer alone and no longer seeking a throne. His life actually is burdened with glorious purpose now. He’s free, Loki won over Loki.

The ironclad proof of Loki’s character growth was his attempt to restrain Silvie from destroying He Who Remains. Whether that was the right choice for the future of the universe or not, it was the right choice for Loki’s character arc. He said no to the throne, and yes to what he believed someone else needed. Loki has grown.

I love that turned-up collar, it’s so him.

Aha, but we still need the timeline to be unleashed…so what do we do?

The answer is simple, we bring in the “innocents”. We solve our plot problems with the innocents. I’ll explain in Part 2.

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.

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

 

 

 

Tron : Uprising

The original Tron made a splash in the film world in 1982 for a good reason. It was a pretty revolutionary concept and introduced a new type of “world-building” that the population was still wrapping their minds around.

tron original

In terms of a great story and character depth itself? Ehh…Bruce Boxleitner’s Alan Bradley/Tron performance stole the show from Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn/Clu. Kevin Flynn was not as solid of a character as I had expected, but then again he was only the protagonist while Tron was clearly the hero.

This classic was given a sequel in 2010 with Tron: LegacyA decent movie in terms of motivation and storytelling. The most compelling aspect to me was the idea of Sam Flynn being able to bring Quorra (a program from The Grid) back into the real world with him where she became as human as he was.

tron legacy

Tron and the Tron: Legacy sequel fully deserve their place in the sci-fi hall of fame. But the strongest member of the Tron family and storyline is not as well known, nor has it gotten the amount of credit it deserves. It was only given one season, but the world needs to know that this story exists.

*slight spoiler warning ahead

beck

Meet Tron: Uprising

Unlike the movies that start in the real world and insert real-world characters into The Grid, this story takes place entirely in The Grid and is told from the perspective of a program named Beck (voiced by Elijah Wood). He works as a mechanic and does not plan on becoming a vigilante or freedom fighter…until one of his best friends is derezzed unfairly by someone representing Clu’s evil establishment.

And a hero is born.

Tron is a legend, but no one has heard from him in years. They think he’s likely dead and gone due to the level of suffocating tyranny and control they live under. No Users have been seen or heard of in ages either.

Beck is on his own…or is he?

Over the course of just 18 episodes, we experience a deeply engaging and complex story where we watch Beck go from just another program to a symbol of hope and change on The Grid.

And he is mentored by none other than Tron himself, voiced by the one and only Bruce Boxleitner.

tron uprising

The voice pairing alone would have been a treat. Elijah Wood brings such a fresh vulnerability and openheartedness to the character of Beck, and Boxleitner gives great gravity and generousness to the mentor role Tron plays in this story. The development of Beck from raw recruit to a skilled warrior, as well as his and Tron’s rapport is stunning character work.

Other characters add spice and layers of complication. Fellow mechanics such as Mara (voiced by Mandy Moore) or Beck’s boss Able (Reginald VelJohnson) create interesting sounding boards for the character who struggles to balance his day job with his night work.

The good characters are balanced out with some strong villains, and a few…undecided characters.

The questions raised in this series are entirely relatable and applicable. Right and wrong, control vs freedom, why do we believe what we believe, do you fight for what you believe? Etc.

beck 2

The stakes are high, you feel the struggle of these characters so deeply and are rooting for their triumph. The villains are threatening and there are permanent consequences to many of the choices made by characters in this series. The finale was something special.

I had not seen either of the Tron movies when I saw this series for the first time. I was just on Netflix and looking for something interesting to watch. Normally I would be turned off by this type of animation, it’s not my favorite. The color palette, soundtrack, and look the whole show is so outside of my comfort zone.

But I gave it a shot, and then I couldn’t stop watching it. The fact that this show didn’t look like something I would love and I found out that totally loved it should be even higher praise for this beautiful piece of storytelling.

*Parental warning – this is an intense series. Characters are derezzed (killed), tortured, imprisoned, put through gladiator type games, betrayed, and lose people close to them. it is not a light-hearted series, but it is one of purpose and depth.

I felt more watching these 18 episodes than I do in many TV shows, and definitely, more than I felt watching the Tron movies. It is a crying shame that this series did not get a second season. So many worthless shows go on forever and then gems like this one are stopped at just one season.

My hope would be that more people discover it on Disney+ and ask for a new season. After all, that’s the gift of only using actors’ voices, it doesn’t matter if they have aged.  This show deserves to have more of the story told, and the story could easily be picked up where it was left in the season finale.

the grid

Check out Tron: Uprising today on Disney+ and please! If you love it, make some noise about it, it deserves a second chance!

Pixar Spark Shorts – “Smash and Grab” Awesome Things You Didn’t Know Were on Disney+

Fatherhood Feature: The Mandalorian

 

Pixar Spark Shorts – “Smash and Grab” Awesome Things You Didn’t Know Were on Disney+

Everyone had their own reasons for getting excited about the arrival of Disney+.

The old favorites released from the mysterious “vault” such as classic Princess movies like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.

Fan-favorite Disney Channel shows That’s So Raven, Lizzie McGuire, and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Can I admit that I watched all of the seasons of The Suite Life On Deck without seeing The Suite Life first?

New favorites such as the over-the-top successful AladdinI can confirm that the movie is at least as good the 6-7th time you see it as it the first time.

And then the pièce de ré·sis·tance, the first original live-action Star Wars series The MandalorianA show that has exceeded our expectations and is worth every bit of hype it was given.

There are a few gems on Disney+ that I wanted to spotlight for those looking for something that they may not have heard of before, but would definitely enjoy.

Spark Shorts: Smash and Grab

spark shorts

If you have not checked out Pixar’s section of Spark Shorts, you must do so immediately. Pixar more than any other studio has taught us that compelling stories with deep messages can be told in less than 10 minutes but remain in our memories forever.

Smash and Grab : After years of toiling away inside the engine room of a towering locomotive, two antiquated robots will risk everything for freedom and for each other.

smash and grab

This short is one of the best shorts I have ever seen in my life.

In less than 10 minutes we are introduced to a beautiful and complex dystopian robot society where some robots live in freedom and luxury while others are enslaved.

A deep connection of love and brotherhood is made apparent between our two main characters. They have been enslaved together, and they will be free together, or they will die trying.

big robot s and g

The personalities of these robots are communicated through simple eye-shape changes, robot sounds, gestures, and movement. You understand who these characters are, what motivates them, and what they mean to each other without a single word being spoken.

little robot s and g

You fall in love so fast with these characters that you immediately feel the fear when they are put into peril by their decision to reach for freedom. The fear they feel for each other is worse than the fear they have for themselves.

Y’all, there have been dozens of movies that cost millions of dollars who couldn’t accomplish in 2+ hours what this one short is able to accomplish in 7 minutes.

weapon robots s and g

An entire world/society is clearly communicated, injustice is seen for what it is and a decision is made to do something about it. Two distinct personalities are established as well as their connection and meaning to each other. These characters step out of their comfort zone and all that they have known to reach for something better, no matter the cost. They have a complete and full character arc in 7 minutes time.

And all of this is communicated without a single word being spoken. The world, a problem, main characters, decisions, a battle, sacrifice, love, endurance, and the ending?

I’ll let you watch the short to find out what happens. It’s glorious.

Plus, just check out how gorgeous this world is. The colors, the textures, the lighting! The artistry is purely stunning and takes its place on the stage of excellence right alongside the storytelling and music.

s and g concept

s & g concept art

train sm and gr

Everyone involved in creating this short should be dang proud of themselves.

Check it out today on Disney+, Smash and Grab! 

 

Fatherhood Feature: The Mandalorian

Fatherhood is such an important topic in today’s culture.

It always has been. Thousands of children grow up every year without fathers, absent or neglectful fathers, and even abusive ones. Every single one of us has a need for a dad literally built into the way we develop and function.

When someone is faced with a lack of a good father it definitely creates many extra layers of struggle.

There are thousands of incredible single moms out there who are doing both the job of dad and mom, they deserve all the praise and recognition they can get, and I look forward to writing a series celebrating mothers as well.

We are also blessed with some pretty amazing kick-butt dads who remind us those good men do exist and we should be celebrating the guys who are giving it their all to be good dads.

Whenever I see an example of a great dad on screen I sit up straighter and take notice. I want to highlight a few of the best I have seen on the big and small screen.

The Mandalorian

the mando single dad

Disney+’s The Mandalorian was already on track to become a success before the world ever knew that Baby Yoda existed.

Jon Favreau made a brilliant move when he chose to add a baby and an adoptive relationship to this series.

At first glance, it merely looked like a shiny shoot-em-up about a Mandalorian warrior. Cool, but not exactly deep.

What began as really cool became unbelievable overnight!

Baby Yoda has become the heart of the series, and his introduction turned the Mandalorian into a character with a full range of emotions and deeply personal motivations that we can all connect with.

baby yoda

What Makes the Mando a Great Dad?

The biggest thing of all…sacrifice.

the mandalorian chapter 3.png

 

He lost his complete freedom to go wherever he wanted and do whatever he wished.

He lost his career and Guild membership.

He became enemies with multiple dangerous groups of people.

He has committed to an entire life on the run. As was evidenced by Chapter 4, stopping and settling down with a family doesn’t appear to be in the cards for Mando or his new son.

He has no idea what the lifespan of this child is or how long Baby will need him. 50 years old…still a baby who toddles and cannot yet speak. That’s some serious commitment.

He takes on a responsibility to care for someone that could well cost him his life.

Parents sacrifice for their children in countless ways every single day.

To be a parent is to lay your life down daily for someone else who is smaller and more vulnerable, who may not ever be able to repay you.

It’s a selfless, sacrificial kind of love.

It’s a 24/7 job that never lets up, especially if you are a single parent and, oh yeah, people are trying to kill you AND your kid!

The Mando has shown this kind of selfless love for a child who isn’t even his own blood. Not even his own species!

The Mandalorian is giving a beautiful place of honor to adoptive/foster relationships, fatherhood, and single parenting. And it’s stinkin’ awesome.

mando holding baby yoda cool

Mando on his own is really just another warrior with a bag of skills and shiny armor.

Mando as a father putting himself on the line for a tiny little Person?

That’s about as macho and cool as it gets!

Fatherhood is one of the most masculine and awesome things in this world, and I could not be more pleased that Mr. Favreau chose to make the theme of fatherhood the beating heart of a show that is one of the most breathtaking things I have ever seen on screen.

For all of the horror, violence, and evil that is created and consumed by millions of people, it’s really nice to enjoy a show that gives honor to that which is truly honorable.

Here’s a shout-out to all of the awesome dads, step-dads, foster dads, adoptive dads, single-dads, grandpas, surrogate dads, teachers, mentors, coaches, pastors, big brothers, uncles, friends, and guys who are stepping up to the plate and raising the precious people that are our future. You guys are MVPs and we love you.

And I’d say you are in good company…

mando and yoda

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