Tag Archives: Yoda

The ‘Force Awakens’ Wait is Almost Over! Let’s Do This Thing

About a week ago, I realized that all this waiting for “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” has become almost second nature.

For a long time, I felt like we would just wait and wait and wait for this new chapter in the Star Wars saga. It’s been a pleasure unto itself, all this waiting, the anticipation. And then, I realized.

We are actually going to see it. The day we have waited for is going to happen.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Stormtroopers attend the World Premiere of ?Star Wars: The Force Awakens? at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Stormtroopers march at the world premiere of ‘The Force Awakens’ at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres Dec. 14 in Hollywood. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

For many of you, that day is tomorrow. You’ll be standing in line with your fellow fans to get your seats for evening or midnight shows. Soon you’ll know if all this waiting was worth it.

The rest of us will find out on Friday when “The Force Awakens” is officially released. (If you don’t see it in the first few days of release, well, that’s just a tragedy.)

“The Force Awakens” is about to become a reality, not just a hope. Our countdown is winding down.

I think even if I end up hating what J.J. Abrams has done with the franchise, I won’t regret this time we’ve spent obsessing together over Star Wars. There truly has been an awakening of the Force and it has been nerdy, silly, hysterical, joyful, more than a little insane, and magnificent.

My only regret is that I can’t travel back in time to grab my junior high self — the one who pretended to be an X-Wing pilot in the backseat on long car trips and pored over copies of Lucasfilm Magazine to see how it all worked — and bring her to 2015 so she can witness this moment. She’d never believe it otherwise.

But I know this would create a giant rift of some kind in the space-time continuum and maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe that junior high girl is still here, after all, loving all this crazy adoration of the thing she loved crazily so many years ago.

Early indications are that Abrams has  not failed to revitalize George Lucas’ beloved, slightly tarnished legacy. As I scrolled through Twitter last night, I saw a litany of early reviews. Judging by the headlines, all but one of them was positive. “The Force Awakens” currently has a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

I’m not going to read any of the reviews until I’ve seen “The Force Awakens” for myself, but I’m posting some links here, if you’re inclined to look at them.

Many of them claim to be spoiler-free, but proceed at your own risk:

New York Times review
L.A. Times
Variety
Hollywood Reporter
Chicago Tribune

Time will tell, as it did with the prequels, whether the critics are correct in their very early, mostly enthusiastic assessment of this new generation of Star Wars lore.

Now’s not the time to worry about that though. As you head to the theater to hang out with some of the most fascinating and fun fans you’ll ever meet, to finally see this thing we’ve all been waiting for, I hope it’s a night to remember.

This shared experience proves once again, as Yoda said:

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.

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P.S.

This is the best thing on the Internet right now.

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My 2-year-old daughter and I have watched the Jimmy Fallon video I don’t know how many times today. And we spent the rest of the day humming the John Williams theme around the house.

What a score that is! It never fails to evoke a powerful emotional response. It just stirs you.

Let’s hum it all the way to the theater and back.

Photos: moviepilot.com, http://www.starwars.com, http://www.youtube.com.

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She Still Believes in the Force

By EarthToShawna

Do you believe in the Force?

I was 2 years old when “Star Wars” was released in 1977. I was 5 when I saw “The Empire Strikes Back.” I remember the intense revelation that Darth Vader was Luke’s father, Yoda levitating Luke’s X-Wing, and that I wanted a pet tauntaun.

Seeing “Return of the Jedi” in the theater was a bit more memorable, as I was 8. The first thing I remember about “Return of the Jedi” was that everyone was calling it “Revenge of the Jedi,” but then they changed the title.

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“I used to live here, you know.” “You’re going to die here, you know.”

“Return of the Jedi” was nothing short of thrilling. The rescue of Han Solo from Jabba’s palace was like nothing else I had seen before. And I know everyone likes to hate on the Ewoks, but 8-year-old me was excited when my mom bought Wicket and Logray figures along with the Jabba the Hutt action figure, complete with dungeon and Salacious Crumb. Such cool toys. I think we got them at Sears.

My mom bought a bunch of the figures that year, which was unusual. My mom loved the movie, and even though she let us play with the toys, they were hers.

I wanted to be Princess Leia. My thin blond hair didn’t lend itself to Leia’s fabulous intergalactic hairstyles, but that didn’t stop me from insisting that my mom put my hair in Princess Leia buns anyway.

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Celebrating my seventh birthday in a Leia-inspired ‘do.

I know I’m not the only one who can say the Star Wars movies were the first sci-fi films I saw, and the first I loved. They kicked off a lifetime love of fantasy, science fiction, and adventure.

The early ’80s had so many movies I loved — “The Neverending Story,” “E.T.,” “The Dark Crystal,” “Splash.” I wanted to be a mermaid, to make friends with a botanist from outer space, to ride a luck dragon.

Like so many of us who grew up on the original trilogy, I groaned when Jar Jar Binks appeared on screen. But Jar Jar, like those nasty little teddy bears, was there for the kids. And while the franchise may not be FOR kids, the films spark the imaginations of kids, and bring out the kid in all of us.

My son is a Star Wars fan, but I don’t think the movies are as epic for him as they were for those of us who watched them in the theater, because they came at a time before the world was saturated with 24/7 entertainment in the form of computers, cable TV, DVDs, etc. We didn’t go see “The Empire Strikes Back” and then get back to our Minecraft game. We absorbed Star Wars, we thought about it, we dressed up like the characters and acted out scenes from the movie. Star Wars got under our skin and into our consciousness.

I didn’t love the prequels as much as I loved the original trilogy. They aren’t as good; that’s part of it. But also, the original stories are the ones I saw when I was little, when I believed in the Force, and in magic.

People who don’t care about Star Wars or sci fi probably think we are all crazy, those of us who are as giddy as little kids, waiting for the new movie to come out. But there is just something so … visceral? universal? What is it about these movies that speaks to us? Is it the triumph of good over evil? The combination of adventure, suspense, romance, and a dash of humor? Is it the story? The special effects?

I think one of the things I love most about Star Wars is that the universe George Lucas created seems so REAL. It’s so believable, and it’s so COOL.

I’m no longer the little girl who believed in fairies and unicorns and 900-year-old Jedi masters, but I still watch the old movies because those familiar characters are like old friends, and for a few hours, I believe in magic again.

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My grandparents saved this picture I made of Princess Leia, when I was 6.

Read more of Shawna’s sci-fi musings at earthtoshawna.com.

Photos courtesy of EarthtoShawna. 

Four Life Lessons from the Skywalker Twins (for My Children)

By DAVID RIVAS

“Walmart TV ads inspire and motivate,” said no one ever. When they feature fan-boy/girl parents and a fanboy grandpa mentoring their young listeners with Star Wars-related advice, however — as the retail behemoth does in a recent ad campaign promoting their new Star Wars merchandise in anticipation of the much-hyped “Episode VII” — we can make an exception. The commercials really capture the essence of my experience with the epic space opera.

My older brother and I, thirteen years and no other siblings between us, had very few common interests; sci fi was one of them. I vividly and fondly remember my brother, a responsible grown-up NASA engineer, and I, a typically apathetic teenager, bonding while making a three-movie theater sprint to catch the 1997 theatrical rerelease of the original trilogy in one day.

I also fondly remember introducing my then skeptical girlfriend to the saga as we watched the new trilogy in the early 2000s. Despite its flaws, Episodes I-III served as a gateway drug into the beloved galaxy far, far away, and as an inspiration for one of my favorite Halloween costumes. She has since become my wife of eleven years and a bigger nerd than I.

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Halloween circa 2003.

More recently, George Lucas worked his magic as I watched all six films consecutively with my children (an eight-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter) — Episodes IV, V, VI, I, II, and III, in that order, as God intended.

By the time Anakin turns to the darkside, a single tear rolled down my son’s cheek, and I knew he got it. Now, my family and I, along with the human race, eagerly anticipate the robe-clad, lightsaber-wielding bonding that will take place on December 18, 2015, when “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” opens.

Those Walmart commercials rightly suggest that this story has a propensity to bring people together, despite generational gaps. Anthropologists or sociologists can explain how it’s ingrained in our collective psyche and shape what we value as a human race much more eloquently, and more convincingly than I’ll attempt here.

I’ll simply share four life lessons that I hope my kids can learn from the Skywalker twins.

Solving Problems with Non-Violence

I know. Lightsaber duels, spacecraft dog fights, Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen’s charred remains: these hardly seem nonviolent. An entire planet gets blown up in the first film. Although it’s hard to imagine playing Star Wars without mouthing the obligatory electrified sound effects of lightsabers as they crackle together in an inherently violent, epic battle, ultimately, Luke saves the day through an incredible act of nonviolence in “Return of the Jedi.”

Luke surrenders himself to the Emperor and Darth Vader, hoping to buy his friends time to destroy the deflector shield generator protecting the second Death Star so the entire rebel armada can sneak up on the Empire and win! Or so he thinks. Really, this turn out to be an elaborate ruse to destroy the rebellion and capture Luke.

This act of sacrifice seems to be in vain. After Forcing his dad off the stairs in battle, Luke says, with a confidence fueled by a blind, Force-driven faith that Vader can still be redeemed, “I will not fight you, father.” Eventually, Luke’s pacifist stance results in finding himself at the business end of the Emperor’s Force-lightning. Unable to bear the sight, Vader suffers a fatal wound, saving Luke from the Emperor.

Luke’s sacrificial decision to abstain from violence inspires the remnant of Anakin Skywalker that was deep down inside of Darth Vader to commit one final act of self-sacrifice, and the universe is saved. Star Wars teaches us that nonviolent conflict resolution encourages others to do good.

Kids, in real life, if we were all merely decent to one another, conflicts can be avoided.

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My kids posing as Finn and Rey on Halloween featuring the Antelope Valley’s desert landscape as a background.

Subverting Unfair Societal Expectations

May I harken the Walmart commercial one last time, specifically the scene where a mother asks her daugher, “Why doesn’t Leia just let the boys rescue her?” The adorable little girl mumbles a character analysis that I hope my daughter will always come back to when she reflects as an adult why she thought Princess Leia was so cool: “Because she’s a modern, empowered woman unfettered by the antiquated gender roles of a bygone era.”

In a turn of fate that my daughter loves, Leia takes the blaster from one of her rescuers, and blasts a hole in the wall to rescue herself, Luke, Han, and Chewie. She’s an accomplished leader, who despite taking a beating, keeps going.

So much so, she impresses Darth Vader with her resilience to withstand interrogation in Episode IV. She plays an active role in leading the rebellion, particularly as she gives orders to the squadron circling around her like a team gathers around their coach in locker room listening to the battle plan before the Battle of Hoth in Episode V.

In Episode VI, Leia rescues Han Solo (again) from his carbonite captivity, and steps into to the frontlines in the climactic Battle of Endor, while nurturing and befriending the Ewoks. She finds that perfect balance between warrior and nurturer found in the greatest of leaders.

A well-rounded character and role model, Leia even speaks some of the most memorable lines in the series. Just to quote a few:

“Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.”

“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”

“Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder.”

“I know.”

Don’t let society’s gender roles limit who you are. Son, embrace artistic and emotional expression. Daughter, play with whatever toys from whatever color Target aisle you like. Defy expectations, especially to do what you know is right. Never resist a witty quip.

Seeking Instruction from Wise Teachers

The theme of looking for help from those more seasoned than yourself comes across prominently throughout the six films. Luke has to look to Yoda and Old Ben, even post-mortem Ben, for guidance in the Force. Even Leia, the embodiment of self-reliance (as discussed above) in the series, opens the story with a call for help to the venerable Obi Wan Kenobi, the galaxy’s “only hope,” exemplifying what a healthy balance of independence and dependence looks like.

I suspect that since Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Artoo, and Threepio, who have been around the galaxy a time or two, are in the forthcoming installment, this theme will continue. Now seasoned and thirty years wiser, the original cast will mentor Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB-8.

Just like age can erode chasms between generations, mentorship acts as a bridge, simultaneously connecting us to the past while influencing the future. Maybe it’s just because I’m a school teacher by trade that I’m placing such high esteem to the mentor relationship: I feel like I bring my positive learning experiences to my teaching practice, and I hope that in turn, I’m positively influencing the future, both with my students and my own children.

So, kids, learn what you can from the teachers (in and out of the classroom) in your life. Then go and do likewise; be the Obi Wan in someone’s life.

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That time I ran into Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself, at a USC football game. We spoke about film, life, and beating UCLA. USC lost that day.

Success Can be Achieved Amid Setbacks and Failures

Luke, with the help of his diverse band of friends, redeems his father, and restores order and hope to the galaxy. But the voyage, like a sloppily navigated hyperspace jump through an asteroid field, was bumpy … and it didn’t just take 12 parsecs either.

Luke loses his aunt and uncle, his home, and his right hand, finds out his dad’s been trying to kill him, and he kisses his sister. In fact, the first twenty minutes into “Return of the Jedi,” Luke has gotten himself and all of his friends captured by Jabba the Hutt. Just as all seems lost, Luke pulls a reverse diving board stunt, catching his brand new upgraded, green lightsaber in the battle over the Sarlacc pit.

What losses did Leia suffer? Oh yeah, she just lost her entire home world!

Each entry in the six-film series features a peripeteia, a reversal of fortune at a moment when all seems lost: When the proton torpedo shot needed to destroy the Death Star is an impossible shot; when in front of you Darth Vader stands pointing a lightsaber and behind you is the endless Bespin sky; when you’re locked out of the shield generator control room while surrounded by stormtroopers on the forest moon of Endor.

Whatever your metaphor of choice, you learn from setbacks and try again.

Kids, when life gives you the blues, make blue milk.

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David Rivas lives in Lancaster, California, with his wife and two kids. He teaches English and the ways of the Force at Highland High School.

Photos courtesy of David Rivas.

A Slight Disturbance in the Force: Thoughts on the Big ‘Star Wars’ Casting News

When I first heard the news that Disney had acquired Lucasfilm for $4 billion and planned to make another “Star Wars” film, I sank into a depression for two straight days. Silly, I know, but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around yet another installment spun out of the glorious sci-fi trilogy that informed much of my late childhood and, yes, I’ll admit to it, my adult life as well. “Star Wars” is sacred and every bit of — even George Lucas approved — meddling raises anew the possibility of irreversible desecration.

I like to think that since the announcement early last year, I have moved from denial and anger to acceptance, which is why I can calmly (I hope) offer some off-the-cuff thoughts about today’s big “Star Wars: Episode VII” casting news.

As anyone who lives and breathes and has access to the Internet is no doubt aware, official website starwars.com posted a statement revealing the cast of “Episode VII,” following a year of intense fan speculation. That announcement confirms once and for all that this new installment, part one of a planned trilogy and the first of many, many “Star Wars” spin-offs planned by Disney, will indeed feature returning stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill.

Many fans feel reassured by the presence of the original “Star Wars” trio, who have obviously given director J.J. Abrams their blessing. The prospect of wise, old versions of Jedi upstart turned master Luke Skywalker, rogue smuggler turned hero Han Solo and tough Jedi princess Leia initiating a young, new cast into the ways of the Force has some members of the Lucas faithful salivating.

I still can’t quite get on board this idea. As someone who thrilled at age 14 to the sight of the rosy-cheeked, shaggy-haired Hamill gazing at Tatooine’s setting twin suns, Ford brandishing a blaster in those pants and that vest and Fisher, with her stubborn, tomboy pout, I have no desire to be confronted with an aging Han, Luke and Leia. Though my husband assures me that Hamill is getting himself into tip-top shape for the resumption of his role, I prefer to remember him and the others as they were … you know, when the Force was strong with these ones. And Ford’s appearance in the next “Expendables” movie, Fisher’s reputation for kooky volatility and Hamill’s vigorous but unseen second-chapter career as a voiceover actor don’t exactly increase my confidence.

The real news here, of course, consists of the new additions to the “Star Wars” universe, featuring obscure names, such as John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, mingled with only slightly more familiar monikers, including Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver and Domhnall Gleeson.

Daisy Ridley

Nobody seems to know who Ridley (pictured above) is. Vanity Fair informs us she is a young British television actress who appeared in “Casualty,” “Youngers,” “Silent Witness” and “Mr. Selfridge.” As one of the lone female members of the cast, she’ll shoulder a heavy burden. Here’s hoping she’s up to to the task.

John Boyega

Boyega (above) is certainly an intriguing choice. I saw him in 2011’s hilariously enjoyable inner-city-teens vs. aliens comedy “Attack the Block.” It’s a small, independently produced British film but he made a big impression in it, playing a South London street thug who becomes an unlikely hero after an extraterrestrial invasion.

Adam Driver Domhnall Gleeson

Although Driver (above left) is probably the most recognizable name among the “Episode VII” cast, I’m perplexed by his presence here. I know his participation has long been rumored and this guy is a big deal in Hollywood right now, thanks to his breakout role on HBO’s “Girls.” I just can’t envision how he might fit into the world of “Star Wars.” He seems a little too contemporary and pip-squeaky to me. I hear rumors he might play a baddie, which could make sense, given how easily he evokes smugness. For now, though, I just don’t see it.

Gleeson (above right) has some major nerd cred already, having appeared in the Harry Potter movies as Bill Weasley, one of Ron’s many brothers. Last year, in the Richard Curtis dramedy “About Time,” he revealed a geeky sort of underdog charm, which might suit him to a Luke Skywalker-ish role. We’ll have to wait and see.

Oscar Isaac

I start to feel a lot better when I consider the presence of Isaac (above) on this list. The Juilliard educated actor made an inauspicious debut in 2006’s “Nativity Story” but has proved to be a major talent in such films as “Che,” “Robin Hood” and “The Bourne Legacy.” Last year, he was snubbed by the Academy for his riveting performance as a brilliant but tortured folk singer in the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Had he been nominated, he would have most definitely been my choice for best actor of 2013. He has a gift for delicately but fiercely conveying inner turmoil.

Von Sydow Gollum

Rounding out the more familiar names in the “Episode VII” cast are Max von Sydow and Andy Serkis.

Von Sydow is, of course, a veteran actor, Oscar-nominated star of such films as “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” and “Shutter Island.” He has a rich, smoky voice and the ability to portray sage warmth or profound menace. He could play a wizened, old Jedi or a sour Sith Lord with equal gusto.

Serkis is famous for portraying Gollum, the most convincing computer-generated motion capture creature ever to grace the screen, in the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” trilogies. His presence suggests we are going to be treated to yet another stunning piece of motion capture performance art and that a CG critter of awesome magnitude is about to be born — hopefully more Yoda than Jar Jar Binks.

 When I start to get nervous about all this, I remind myself that Abrams did an excellent job recasting “Star Trek” when he successfully rebooted his first famous sci-fi series. One must also remember that when Lucas debuted his original trilogy, no one knew who Ford, Hamill and Fisher were either and look how that turned out.

On the other hand, there is the lingering specter of a certain trilogy of prequels that shall not be named. Fans can argue all they like that it wasn’t really THAT bad, but let’s not kid ourselves. That cold, soulless, CGI-saturated, mitichlorian-ravaged slice of stinky cheese was a crushing disappointment and it scars me to this day.

It cannot happen again, J.J. My lightsaber-wielding heart can’t take it.

Do you hear me?