//in defense of kylo ren (spoilers)

Mirriam Neal

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I actually sketched this before I saw the movie. LOL @ me.

 For at least a week now I’ve had friends telling me, “You’re going to be the worst Kylo Ren trash.” “Oh, man, Kylo is really gonna do you in.” “You need to see Kylo, okay.” “Seriously, it’s like Kylo was designed for you.” “Yes, you do need that Kylo Funko Pop.”

Needless to say, I was predisposed to feel something for Kylo – with people who know me this well telling me constantly how much he was going to wreck me, it would have been a bizarre anomaly if I felt nothing at all.

Kylo is intriguing right off the bat. Obviously powerful – he stops a blaster shot in mid-air and keeps it there – he’s made doubly mysterious by the fact we can’t see his face. He’s keenly observant, noticing Finn’s struggle on the battlefield –…

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Serenity ~ June 11, 2008

Alas, one brilliant and promising sci-fi series was dealt an unmerited death blow before the completion of its first season in 2003 and fans were left wondering what would have been. And lamenting the shocking short-sightedness and lack of vision evinced by The Powers That Be. That series was “Firefly.”

Two years later, in the fall of 2005, the film “Serenity” was released and fans were given some measure of closure, while newcomers were probably a bit perplexed. It features the original cast from “Firefly” and it does try to tie up all the major loose ends. It picks up where “Firefly” left off so abruptly, with a rogue group of outlaws who survive in a galaxy controlled by the totalitarian regime called The Alliance by living on the wrong side of law, scavenging in space and performing jobs of questionable legality in order to keep their ship “Serenity” flying. As long as they can roam through space, they cannot be as easily controlled by the Alliance. Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, a veteran Browncoat of the Unification War, a failed attempt by the outlying worlds to resist the Alliance’s assertion of control, is now the captain of a Firefly-class ship, “Serenity,” along with his first mate Zoe, who fought with him in the war. Their pilot is Wash, their mechanic is Kaylee, and Jayne is a mercenary that assists them in their heists and salvage jobs. Mal bought the spaceship Serenity in order to continue living beyond Alliance control and most of the crew’s work consists of cargo runs or smuggling.  Then one day, along comes Simon Tam and his little sister, River. Long story short, River was a child prodigy, whose brain was subjected to experiments by the Alliance/ Blue Sun group.  Simon gave up a highly successful career as a trauma surgeon to rescue her from the Alliance and as a result of this rescue they are both wanted fugitives. And this group of renegades and outlaws decides to risk everything to keep River away from the Alliance. That is what I found so fascinating. They do whatever they need to do to get by, but they choose to save this strange girl, who poses a danger to them, and to hide her and her brother from the government. They may be “criminals” to the government, but they are also heroes in their own way.

“Serenity” is set two months after the last episode of the series and Inara and Book have left the crew and gone their separate ways. Simon decides that he and River have to get off “Serenity” after Mal has River assist them on a job that goes bad. Simon and Mal fight over her safety, and Mal basically chooses to make them leave by antagonizing Simon. River continues to exhibit violent and dangerous behavior, despite Simon’s attempts to help her with medication. (This seemed incongruous with the last few episodes, especially given Mal’s prior treatment of River, but moving on…) Needless to say, that doesn’t exactly happen. By the film’s end, we finally know why the Alliance wanted River so desperately and a bit more of what they were trying to do with her initially. Although it was rushed and left out a lot, given that they were canceled and only had a brief film to finish the main plot, I shall not complain as vigorously as I am wont. I cannot believe that they killed off Wash! And Shepherd Book! There was so much backstory there that they never had a chance to delve into. Inara came off far better in this film than in the series as they do not delve into her occupation as they did in the show. Kaylee and Mal actually came across better in the series, overall, whereas Zoe, Jayne and Wash are about the same. Simon and River are still my favorite. River seems like she will finally be all right. Her fight scenes were amazing; such elegance and grace tempered with such power. (Summer Glau, the actress that plays River Tam, is actually a ballerina.)

The show felt rushed and lacked the humor I’d come to expect. I was looking for more depth and development for many of these characters, especially Mal, Jayne, and Kaylee. I would have loved to have some more background on River and Simon. I enjoyed the few flashbacks they had in the series of these two. The fact that the series has the relationship between two siblings as one of its focal points was another aspect that drew me in. Simon gives up everything for River and he loves her so much.

The ending was in fact the ending that Joss Whedon had in mind for the series, albeit it would have been with them uncovering it piece by piece, slowly, over the course of a few seasons, along the way finding out more about the “two by two, hands of blue” people and their creepy corporation, The Blue Sun group. Could have been fascinating, but there you go. I just love how Mal and his crew, by any definition outlaws and renegades, do the right thing – very Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest. They risk their lives for two complete strangers. So, I’d watch as a conclusion to the series, but not as a film in and of itself.

Also, the main villain, the Believer; his change was much less convincing than it might have been, particularly given how very committed he was in his belief that he had to serve the council without question to ensure a “world without sin,” even though he himself acknowledged that his actions were of such an evil nature that he could have no place in this “better” world.

Lastly, I thought it very interesting that the Alliance tried to “perfect” people but only ended up killing them or turning them into monsters, the Reavers. They tried to extinguish violence, anger, discontent, hatred, etc. One character says that it is our very flaws that make us human. He was close. It is our ability and the necessity of choosing to capitulate to these flaws or to fight them that characterizes our humanity. What value would there be in being kind, selfless or loving if you could not be anything else? It is because we have the potential for evil, even the inclination toward it, that our choice to deny it and fight against it has worth. So, in that respect, our flaws do make us human in that we must have the ability to choose to be flawed or to rise above our flaws. Without choice, there is no humanity. Only a machine, an animal, running on programmed instructions or instinct without the higher faculties that enable it to reason for itself what it will do.

An Inauspicious Beginning

So it starts. Rants, ruminations, ramblings and remembrances. That’s it.

Prince Caspian ~ May 16th, 2008 and May 17, 2008

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After two years of waiting, it is finally here. And well worth the wait as it turned out to be a fun and enjoyable journey back to Narnia. After all, I had prepared myself to utterly hate this film and be absolutely disappointed, so it wasn’t exactly difficult to be pleasantly surprised by it. As a film by itself, discounting its origins in a beloved book, it works fairly well. The writers were able to keep the plot intact and adapting this book was no easy task given the format of the story. But they kept up a steady pace, nothing ever lagged, though a few of the battle scenes seemed like they could have been trimmed just a tad. Excellent CGI sequences. Realistic all the way through and beautiful. Another gorgeous score from Harry Gregson-Williams, with two credit songs that hit all the right notes, for me at least: “This Is Home” by Switchfoot and “The Call” as performed by Regina Spektor. The costumes were wonderful. My only real complaint is the lack of notable character development evinced by the Pevensies. Even Caspian’s development seemed slightly sparse. He is supposed to be a young boy of roughly 13-14 years of age, unprepared for the destruction of the life he thought he knew, all in the space of a few brief moments, as his home, his position, and his future are taken from him and he is forced to flee into the unknown in search of allies from among the ranks of creatures that aren’t even supposed to exist, much less have any sympathy for his people and who becomes a confident and charismatic young man ready to rule and worthy of becoming a King of Narnia.  Hmmm. . . . They are supposed to have changed and grown, but it is not readily apparent. That is probably just me, though. Also, when the kids come back, within ten minutes they’ve realized that everyone they knew and loved is long dead and gone. No one seems to really care and wonder why so much time has passed. I mean, I would. Lucy tears up and we move on. I would think that they would have been slightly more upset, particularly Lucy, given the strength of her friendship with Mr. Tumnas, a focal point in the first film.

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Caspian, though he seemed quite old considering his age in the books (and, yes, I understand they used an older actor for valid reasons, which I can well appreciate), came over as a character that you can sympathize with and root for. Clever, quick-witted, noble and heroic. Hated the fake accent, but Ben Barnes actually made a pretty decent Caspian. I’m sure it will grow on me. And almost anyone is better than that kid BBC used. And let it be known that I did not appreciate the light flirtation/ romance between Susan and Caspian. Come on. Ick. I’m with Edmund on this one: “I am older and I don’t think I want to understand.” Plus, Caspian has a true romance in “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” so why not just wait for that, rather than take up valuable moments in this film for something that shouldn’t have been there? And the second time around, I liked him so much better, so by the time I’ve bought it, I’ll like him just fine. My favorite scenes with him were in the forest when he first meets Reepicheep, in Trumpkin’s cave (“If we’re taking a vote, I’m with him”), and the battle at Beruna.

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Susan certainly got a better role this time. Nice action sequences, especially the forest scene. Awesome. Though was she not “Queen Susan the Gentle” ? However, as one person pointed out, she did not seem eager to take a life, but rather knew that she had to and did it. And her dresses. The  blue/ green one at the end and the red one in the street procession and her battle raiment. But she whined through the first film and this time, well, she still seemed like she was…not really invested in what was happening. Given her lack of lines, it wasn’t all her fault. She just didn’t come across as a very interesting character. The romance coloured my view somewhat.

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Peter seems like an absolute git for half the film, but ultimately comes off far better in the end. He is out to prove that he is still High King and thus mustknow better than everyone else what to do. He leads, initially, by simply telling everyone what to do and refusing to listen to their suggestions or advice, totally ignoring Aslan and just doing what he wants, blinded by pride and vanity. And he spends so much time arguing with Caspian over who should be leading the army. Caspian did call them, Peter had years of experience and there should have been no contest. Silly screenwriters. Peter, the High King, is a leader and has to make decisions, even though some of them are definitely questionable. The latter of which was at least partially motivated, in my estimation, by pride and a refusal to try and follow Aslan. His decision to storm the castle, a decision that has the gravest consequences, seems like a risk worth taking, even if it was for the wrong reasons. (i.e. trying to prove he knew more and was in charge and not wanting to wait for Aslan as per Lucy’s suggestion) Peter’s character is becoming a bit more complex and you can see how his “life” as High King 1300 years ago has shaped him into a confident and brave young man, even though he is still struggling to find his place and balance. Also, Caspian and Peter spend way too much time the first half bickering over who should really be in charge. I wasn’t overly bothered by it, but some might have been.

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Edmund really redeemed himself in this film and was my favorite character. He had the best lines, cool fights and seemed to be the most intelligent one this time, barring only Lucy. I hated that they left out how he backed Lucy up in the book when she said she’d seen Aslan. Here he just says, “The last time I didn’t listen to Lucy, I ended up looking pretty stupid,” and when the others ignore Lucy, they just leave. He was just a steady, dependable person and you can really see “King Edmund the Just” in how he acts, especially when compared to LW&W. I loved that he got the White Witch! It was an interesting point that Caspian and Peter both were tempted to help her, knowing they needed help, but Edmund wasn’t. His own pivotal encounter with Jadis in LW&Whad changed him and he knew what her power was. He also knew that the only true power that could help them was Aslan, the one who had saved him from the White Witch. Anyway, I liked that. Edmund is totally awesome!

 

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Lucy. My sweet and valiant Lucy. She had a smaller role since they cut out so much with Aslan and the dryads, but she was wonderful. Sweet and cute, as always. Just not enough of her, or the other kids and even their own interactions together as a family while there. Just not enough time. She did have some very nice lines, usually the most thoughtful and incisive. And I did like their portrayal of Lucy and Aslan’s friendship. Very nicely done. This time, Aslan, as seen through Lucy’s eyes, is much more tangible and personal. Aslan is now presented as a dear friend, filled with warmth, caring and concern. I liked the little glances Lucy and Aslan give each other on the bridge. In the books, Lucy always had a uniquely close connection with Aslan, and I hope they don’t lose that.

I had a difficult time believing that Peter and Edmund would let Lucy go off by herself to find Aslan when she could so easily have been killed! I imagine that one of them would have insisted on accompanying her or something. It seems so careless and thoughtless of both of them. They should be protecting her and instead they are sending her through enemy territory alone. It just does not seem right.

Trumpkin. Well, he was different. Not quite what I was expecting, but I ended up really liking him. Peter Dinklage did a great job. Again, Lucy made another dear friend. As for Reepicheep, I felt that he was somewhat reduced to a caricature of the book’s brave and witty mouse. This one was much less…refined?

Now I turn to Steven D. Greydanus, film critic of www.decentfilms.com, for a little help in describing my issues with the sore lack of thematic content. Nice film, but where is the depth? A little deeper meaning? Given the source of this film, I had expected more. All quotations are taken from his review: http://www.decentfilms.com/sections/reviews/narnia2.html

Thematically, the book follows up the Narnian passion and redemption story with a vision of post-Enlightenment skepticism, in which the very existence of the omnipotent Lion Aslan and of High King Peter and his siblings has been largely forgotten, suppressed or dismissed as a fairy tale. Lewis thus leaps forward 1300 years into Narnia’s future.”  And, “The whole notion that stories of Old Narnia are anathema in modern Narnia is simply omitted. This fatally undercuts the theme of Enlightenment rationalism and skepticism which is basic to the whole point of the book.”

Most people probably won’t miss it and won’t care in the slightest, which is fine, so I won’t harp on it. But I wish that they could have tried to keep it in. Still, it might have been a bit much to try to get across in a film that, let’s face it, is marketed to a society that is probably not going to go home and ask whether or not the skepticism and persistant materialism of this age is mirrored in the culture of the Telmarines and the loss of belief in the Narnians, who have forgotten the most important part of their culture.

Almost as seriously diminished is the theme of faith and sight, with faith opening one’s eyes to the extent that one believes. We do get the scene in which Lucy sees Aslan when no one else does — but not the rest of the plotline, in which Aslan is at first invisible to the children until one by one they begin to see him in proportion to their openness and willingness to see him. The whole drama of the scene in which Lucy disputes with the others about which way to go is passed over almost incidentally, with none of the momentousness that it has in Lewis.”

 That was the one part from the book that I immediately missed: Each of the children seeing Aslan in turn, in the order of which they were most open to him and willing to follow him. Lucy first, ever the most faithful and loyal. Edmund next, already having been ready to trust Lucy. Then Peter and finally, Susan, which always seemed to me a foreshadowing of her eventual repudiation of Narnia and all for which it stands. I really missed those scenes. I kept waiting and then, sadly, realized that they were not coming. That was the one section of the book I always remembered, whereas the battle was pretty vague in my memory. It was always my clearest memory of Caspian, along with the dryads, so it was indeed sorely missed and mourned.

Hidden as Aslan might be in the book, he’s hardly in the film at all. In the book, he’s invisibly present, leading the children; here he doesn’t seem to be around at all.” Emphasis my own.

Why? I still don’t understand why they made Lucy meeting Aslan a dream. And considering that it is very similar to her later, real meeting, was it supposed to be somewhat real? And why make it appear as if Aslan has indeed abandoned the children? While I appreciated the insightful questions posed by the children as to why they haven’t seen Aslan (Lucy suggests that perhaps this time theyneed to prove themselves to Aslan), I wonder why they chose to portray it in that manner. Their next omission though is far more important to the series and the film. The fact that they keep messing it up is frustrating. . .

As in the first film, whether deliberately or cluelessly, Aslan’s dialogue has been altered in ways that subtly un-divinize him. Consider the following exchange from the book:

Lucy: “You’re bigger, Aslan.”
Aslan: “That’s because you are older, little one.”
Lucy: “Not because you are?”
Aslan: “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

In the film, when Lucy comments on Aslan’s size, he merely replies, “Every year you grow, so shall I.” This revision subverts the idea behind the exchange in Lewis, that the infinite mystery of God does not itself change, but is always revealed to be greater than we previously supposed as we grow and our capacity to appreciate it increases.” (Italicized in the original)

And

Likewise, when the film’s Aslan tells Lucy that “We can never know” what wouldhave happened, Lewis aficionados will wince at the slur to Aslan’s omniscience. In the book, the line is “No one is ever told” what would have happened, with no implication that Aslan himself doesn’t know — only that he’s not telling. (A similar line from LW&W had Aslan explaining how the Deep Magic “governs all our destinies — yours and mine.” Lewis never would have written that.)” (Italicized in the original)

I noticed both of these the first viewing and was a little ticked off. Is it that hard to get those lines right? Then again, it might be intentional. Whatever the reason, they are failing to portray Aslan as well as they could be and that is a major failure on their part.

I still liked the film. Really. I just wished that they could have done more with it. It still retains the basic themes of good versus evil, oppression and resistance, and faith, albeit greatly watered down. (Likely so as to not antagonize the less spiritually inclined among the prospective viwers.) On that note, just forget the book and enjoy the ride. Because it’s a fun journey.