The Supervillain Soap Opera That Could Have Been

My nerdy interests include superhero TV and movies but not comics. I’m more interested in the ideas behind the characters than the specific stories that have been told about them. Movies and TV shows are free to tell their own stories.
This brings me to Marvel’s Runaways. It’s about some kids who find out their philanthropist parents are supervillains. When they witness their parents being evil, they also discover their “inheritances”: super powers, sci-fi gizmos, a magic wand, and a velociraptor. The kids run away from home but stick together to keep each other safe. They have to deal with people who assume they’re just as bad as their parents as well as the drama of being teenage superheroes.
The TV version, which recently finished its first season, changed a couple things from the comics. They made Molly, super-strong mutant, a little older, and they were scared to call her a mutant because Disney hadn’t bought Fox when the show was being written. Also, the Runaways don’t run away nearly as quickly. They “act normal” until they can get some answers and proof to give to the authorities.
I’m fine with the show not staying consistent with the comics because it stays pretty consistent with real life. The teenagers act like teenagers. I always find it fun to see people in TV shows acting like normal people, especially when they act very much not normal at other times.
Something I liked in particular: while the kids are acting normal, some of them get a little closer to their own parents, and each one wants to believe that their own parents aren’t so bad, but they still hate everyone else’s parents. At the same time, they all want the group to stay together because they all share this secret burden, but teenager drama sometimes gets in the way. It makes for very interesting character dynamics.
Some things I didn’t like: the great teenager plots make the parts about the adults kind of boring. It’s basically a soap opera about supervillains, which would be great if there wasn’t also a teenage superhero show going on.
Also, Gregg Sulkin’s acting is pretty good, but his natural accent poked through far too often. It’s ridiculous; they couldn’t say “one more take with an American accent this time”?
Oh, and there’s some gay too. Because of course there is. Throw another on the pile.

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Star Wars Episodes Ranked Worst to Best (Isaac’s List)

What sayeth I, Noah? (Actually a lot. I could easily write an essay on each Star Wars movie, but that would be too long, so here’s the short version.)

Attack of the Clones: this spot is typically reserved on lists like these for Phantom Menace, except I think AotC did a lot worse. While TPM proved that George Lucas can’t write dialogue, AotC proved that he can’t write romance to save his life either. I could fill this post with why I don’t like romance in movies, and most of my examples would come from AotC. To be perfectly honest, though, AotC would be much higher on the list if it wasn’t for Annoyakin Skystalker and Padme taking up so much screentime.

Return of the Jedi: main gripe: slave Leia. Star Wars does not need that level of fanservice. Moving on.

The Phantom Menace: …I actually enjoyed it. Everyone remembers it for what it did wrong, but I remember it for what it did right. The Podrace and Duel of the Fates—heck, the entire Battle of Naboo—were very well orchestrated. Speaking of orchestration, John Williams really outdid himself for this movie. In hindsight, though, this movie wasn’t great. AotC was just worse.

[Cue the hate mail.] A New Hope: if I were to write out a comprehensive list of my favorite movies worst to best, the Star Wars movies would be clustered very closely together. Except AotC, but I’ve beat that metaphoric dead horse enough already. That said, I like some Star Wars more than others marginally. While I like ANH’s story, it’s probably the slowest of the eight movies, even topping TPM’s drawn out political dialogues.

The Last Jedi: it took the problems of RotJ and fixed them, but it hybridized its story with—you know, I did a post on this movie. Why repeat what I’ve already said?

Revenge of the Sith: I said I didn’t like ANH because it was slow, and I guess I RotS is the inverse of that. Despite its flaws—and it has them, don’t get me wrong—I would re-watch it. Also, as a point in its favor, we finally get Anakin Skywalker (instead of Annoyakin Skystalker from the previous two movies), ace pilot and Jedi knight. Also, Grievous. Also, John Williams flexing his music muscles for what could have been his last time. My thing is that people look at the prequels and see a lot of bad; I look at the prequels and see the good that came from them.

The Force Awakens: again, I didn’t like ANH when it’s put next to the other Star Wars movies. So when everyone complained about how TFA had the same plot as ANH, which made it predictable, I was glad that it took the problems of ANH and fixed them. Star Wars, as it stands, is over forty years old now. My parents saw the first one when it was in theaters. The sequel trilogy is a Star Wars made for my generation, and I am grateful.

The Empire Strikes Back: but that doesn’t mean I hate the classics. TESB not only has the best pacing, acting, story, and special effects of the Star Wars movies, it also has the least flaws. When I’m ranking Star Wars, that’s probably the most key. I do love the series. I really do. But that doesn’t mean I can ignore its flaws.

 

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Why Did Anakin Turn Evil?

I just saw a YouTube video called “The Case Against the Jedi,” which ranted that emotional detachment – apparently the core tenet of the Jedi Order – is the path to the Dark Side. Anakin is denied emotional support, so he is unprepared for one tragedy (his mom’s death) and goes down a very dark path in an attempt to prevent the emotional trauma of a second tragedy (his wife’s death).

I guess I agree that the Star Wars movies needlessly preach macho emotional detachment. But I can’t accept that burying emotions is the reason Anakin becomes Darth Vader. For one thing, Yoda’s teachings about emotions leading to bad things aren’t entirely wrong.
Yoda says, “Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.” That first step is specifically fear of loss, which suggests you have emotional attachments to people that you’re afraid to lose. To avoid that, the Jedi preach celibacy and detachment from family members. Yes, that part isn’t great here in the real world. But everything else in that “emotional domino effect” is kind of accurate. Fear, anger, and hatred are selfish. Evil is selfish. The connections aren’t hard to make.
Anakin tries to suppress his fear of losing his wife, as the Jedi teach. Then what happens? Does bottling up his emotions lead directly to murdering children and becoming a Sith Lord? No. The video is forgetting one important piece of Anakin’s story: the Evil Emperor’s temptation.
Darth Sidious represents the Dark Side. He goes to Anakin and tells him that the Jedi are wrong, and that there is a way to save the people he’s afraid to lose. All he has to do is murder some children and serve a new tyrannical government. Does this sound familiar to anyone? It should. The original Dark Side has been using pretty much the same temptation tactics since Genesis Chapter 3.
Consider how Christians would suggest dealing with fear of loss. We wouldn’t say “stop caring so much.” But we wouldn’t suggest looking to the Dark Side for power, either. We would say, “Have faith that God will take care of your loved ones, and don’t be afraid anymore. Fear and anger are signs of pride, thinking we know better than God, thinking we can protect our loved ones better than He can.”

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Star Wars Episodes Ranked, Worst to Best (Noah’s List)

The Phantom Menace: I agree with the general consensus. Think about it this way: midichlorians replace faith in a higher power with a “natural explanation,” Darwin-style.

Attack of the Clones: Before watching this movie, I always assumed I’d get to see Yoda fighting an evil Yoda clone. Nope.  But hey, it also had shapeshifters. Maybe that’ll come up… Nope. It also had Anakin and Padme’s love story. If it wasn’t so cool-looking, this movie would be worse than Episode 1. But it does look really cool.

Revenge of the Sith: This is commonly considered the one “good” prequel movie, and I’m inclined to agree. It has General Grievous and Senator Palpatine and Darth Vader all being cool villains.

Return of the Jedi: The cast spends the first two thirds of this movie running around clearing up the muddled nonsense that padded the runtime of the last movie, all so they can go blow up the Death Star again. The Ewoks are this one’s only saving grace, and that’s up to debate. But to be fair, this one gets better if you pause after Episode 5 to watch Episodes 2 and 3.

The Last Jedi: This one’s like Return of the Jedi except in that one the characters and the plot make progress. As I’ve said before, Finn fails at everything he tries to do, but no one does much better. The only thing that makes this one better than the prequels is the cast of consistently good characters.

The Empire Strikes Back: This one’s commonly considered the best Star Wars movie. As Jubilee said in X-Men Apocalypse, “it’s the most complex, the most sophisticated, wasn’t afraid to have a dark ending.” The downside is if you already know the twists like Darth Vader’s secret and what Lando is up to, the “complexity” comes across as overly muddled nonsense padding the runtime. It lacks re-watch-ability.

A New Hope: The first Star Wars movie is probably the most iconic movie of all time. It’s not even “the movie of a generation” or whatever. It was the culmination of centuries of storytelling tropes embedded in our culture and it became the face of those tropes for decades to come. And it’s awesome.

The Force Awakens:  This one took the most iconic movie of all time and did it again, but differently. And JJ Abrams did it really well.

Isaac, what sayeth you?

The Last Jedi: a Star Wars Summary?

[Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. If you haven’t seen it…more power to you! I’m legitimately impressed that you haven’t caved to a culture that demands you be up-to-date with movie releases!]

So, I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi in its opening weekend. Since then, I’ve been planning what I would write about it here. I thought about doing a “What I liked” post and a “What I didn’t like” post, but it seems like everything that had been said about The Last Jedi has already been said. “The pacing was off!” “Planet Vegas!” “Kylo Ren can’t make up his gosh-darned mind!”

In a single sentence, The Last Jedi is a well-made but poorly-written movie. This was my takeaway from seeing it in theaters, and I’ve stuck to it.

I mean, it makes sense. The movie is a spectacular sight. The special effects are on point. And the scale of the battles, spanning fighter-to-fighter or soldier-to-soldier to Star Destroyer vs. Rebel flagship, was top-notch.

But this was at the expense of a lot of stuff that demonstrates poor writing. It’s been two movies and I still can’t get a read on Kylo Ren as a character. Planet Vegas felt like it tried to shoe-horn social commentary into a movie that didn’t need it. And even though a lot of characters did die, they were afraid to kill certain characters, even though their deaths would have made sense. [Glares at Finn.] And the characters who did die did so very unceremoniously and unnecessarily. [Glares at Admiral Holdo.]

A lot of people thought it had ties to Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in terms of its story movement, but really, I tie it back to the prequels.

In closing: I could complain about the  flaws, but it would be the same complaints given by others. And doing so would require me to complain about the entire Star Wars franchise. Which, if I’m not mistaken, Noah and I will be doing sometime in the future. I’ll still go and see the Han Solo movie and Episode IX when they come out. And even though Last Jedi had its flaws, I still count it as a Star Wars movie.

(Oh, and the whole thing with Rey’s parents, I called it.)

 

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Is Finn Secretly Terrible in Star Wars?

Let’s talk about that new Star Wars movie. Specifically, let’s talk about Finn.

Finn’s story is he was the dude who turned on the bad guys to join the good guys, right? Then you watch the Last Jedi and see the heroic male lead fail at everything he tries to do. He only remains relevant to the plot through dumb luck. You start to wonder if you were wrong about him.
Yeah, Finn’s story is actually about him being a coward. He didn’t fire on the village at the beginning of Episode VII, but not because he developed a conscience. It was because his comrade died in his arms and he was freaking out. He didn’t help Poe escape because it was the right thing to do. He did it because he needed a pilot who wouldn’t kill him for being a cowardly traitor. He originally wanted to get Poe’s soccer ball to its destination, but when he thought it was taken care of, he tried to cut and run. He really went to Starkiller Base because he had a crush on Daisy Ridley, and who doesn’t?
At the beginning of the Last Jedi, Finn is running away again. He says it’s to make sure Rey doesn’t track the wrist-beacon back to a space battle, but he only had that wrist-beacon because he happened to be standing nearby when *spoilers redacted.* When Rose Tico catches him, the only way to keep her from turning him in for traitorous cowardice is teaming up with her. He doesn’t do anything particularly heroic on that mission apart from getting into a fight with Captain Somehow Not Dead, which he barely survives.
John Boyega does a fantastic job. And it’s not like this is bad writing, because as I just demonstrated, Finn is a coward consistently. The only time he isn’t a coward is when he tries to fight Kylo Ren at the end of Episode VII. That could have been his heroic turning point, but when he got his rear end handed to him, he clearly decided not to be heroic anymore.
In Episode IX, either Finn will finally rise above his cowardice and do something heroic or he’ll actually succeed in running away. The theme of Episode VIII was showing how the Dark side and the Light side might not be much different, so we can’t be sure what he’ll choose.

Re-evaluating Battlefront II

Happy 2018! Before I launch into a year of reviews, I need to eat my own words.

So a few weeks back, I did a couple of posts on microtransactions, both of which pointed fairly accusational fingers towards EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront II. In my defense, I based my opinions on the opinions of others, without actually playing the game.

The PS4 I got for Christmas/Birthday/Graduation came packaged with Battlefront II, and being the only game for the console I owned (until recently) I’ve clocked several hours into it.

And…it really isn’t that bad of a game.

To be fair, I’ve also spent years playing Hearthstone. I’m desensitized to lootbox mechanics. And I didn’t pay for Battlefront II–it came with the console.

Sure, the challenge of unlocking everything through random chance is a bit annoying, but I can also chock that up to joining a multiplayer game two months too late. And what about not having all the heroes unlocked? Pfft. By the time I get enough points to play the hero, they’ve all been snatched up. It only makes a difference in the “Heroes Vs. Villains” mode, and the already-unlocked heroes are pretty decent.

(I mean, except Yoda. Playing as Yoda in video games has always been difficult.)

Does the game have its flaws? Absolutely. No game is perfect. Battlefront II has its flaws. It’s by no means the best Star Wars video game on the planet, but it’s still playable.

I guess if I learned anything from Battlefront II, it’s my recurring lesson of being content. I could spend an entire blog post complaining about the problems of this game, or I could commend EA for making a fun, playable experience that I can still enjoy despite its flaws. And I think I know which one is better.

5/10 ~ I doubt this game will go anywhere, and it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, but it’s still enjoyable. I docked a couple points to compensate for the fact that I got it as a Christmas/Birthday/Graduation gift.

 

[This post was not sponsored by EA. If anything, it’s sponsored by my sister.]

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