The Luke Skywalker vs. Ben Solo lightsaber duel. You know the one. We all know the one. Gosh, we all know the one.
A cowboy duel (or more accurately, a samurai duel), where a single blow ends the match, where all the emotions are thrown into getting that single winning shot. Decades of history between two characters swirled up into one moment.
And the best part isn’t the fact that it’s gorgeous; it’s that the entire duel is a subversion of our fanboy desire to see Luke Skywalker, ultimate badass, instead giving us Luke Skywalker, ultimate pacifist, a savior who will throw his own life away to save the family he loves, including his own nephew.
It’s an anti-fight scene that packs more of an emotional punch than almost any duel in the Star Wars Saga.
I think America is really messed up in a lot of ways, but one way is in our collective short-term memory being a single news cycle long, and that’s on a good day.
Remember when, five years ago today, North Korea launched a state-sponsored terror attack against Sony Pictures, leaking thousands of e-mails, scripts, and other sensitive files, then threatening a repeat of 9/11 if The Interview was shown in theaters?
This actually friggin’ happened, and yet it’s barely a footnote in the 2010s somehow. What is wrong with us?
Darren Aronofksy’s Noah was a really good movie. It isn’t really talked about much anymore, though. It was a huge box office success, had great reviews, and generated tons and tons of controversy for presenting a decidedly non-Evangelical interpretation of the Book of Genesis.
But what I want to talk about with Noah is its Creation Scene, one of the most visually stunning sequences in any film in the 2010s. If you liked Aronofsky’s other heavily symbolic and religious The Fountain, this scene will be perfect for you; it works amazingly in-context as part of the moral drama of Noah and his family, but it also works completely separately as a standalone scene:
I’ll defend Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets to the end of my days, which isn’t hard because nobody actually saw the movie to be able to criticize it.
The movie has some of the most inventive and visually interesting action sequences this side of Mad Max Fury Road, and the art direction is something else. Also, while everyone thinks Dane Dehaan was a poor choice for a leading man, that’s just because they wanted Valerian to be some generic Han Solo ripoff instead of accepting him for the skeevy scummy horndog he was meant to be. The second half is a lot quieter and maybe less interesting than the first half, but it’s got a fantastic not-actually-action-packed climax and a resolution that’s shockingly heartfelt as much as its political undertones are bitingly cynical.
But I’m not here to talk about the movie as a whole, except that oops I already did. I’m here to talk about the opening.
The Nice Guys is one of my all-time favorite movies. As of this writing, I’ve seen the movie ten times, and it’s #9 in my Favorite Movies ranking. Shane Black’s absolutely superb screenplay that matches a convoluted detective conspiracy with meditations on masculinity and loneliness is a thing of wonders, inspiring me enough with my web novel ATL: Stories from the Retrofuture that I just had to insert a couple of sly homages here and there.
But my secret dishonor in all of this is that I did not see the movie in theaters in its original release.
Today is my birthday, so I wanted to reflect on a movie that is so dear to me that I watch it almost every year on my birthday to celebrate.
My seventh-favorite movie, as of this writing, is none other than 2013’s Pacific Rim. I first learned about it when making this article for my high school blog, only knowing that it was some strange new movie by the director of Pan’s Labyrinth about mechas fighting kaijus. I was instantly sold by that alone, and set my calendar to watch.
Then, seven months later I saw it in IMAX and it became an instant classic. Save for the fact that I have loved Star Wars since before I could form complete sentences, Pacific Rim in every way is “my” Star Wars, the movie that captured my heart and imagination in a way almost no movie before or sense has managed to do. I saw this four times in theaters, which is more than any other recent movie in an age where ticket prices are so high.
It’s a pretty lofty claim to say that any movie is so good that it’s on the same inspiration level as Star Wars. Why the heck did this move me so much?
I’ve been listening to the Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith audiobook lately, and by golly is it well-written. I read it when I was like fourteen or something, and remembered that there was a Count Dooku POV chapter that was good, but otherwise I didn’t recall anything about it.
Which meant that when I listened to the opening minute-long prologue, I got to experience this for the first time all over again. What a way to start a space opera tragedy. I friggin’ love it.
While I absolutely adore the film–probably my #1 favorite movie ever–there is something to be said by a novelization that takes the same plot, the same material, and imbues it with such freshness that it becomes even MORE of an epic.
That’s right. We’re all super old now because Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is now twenty.
Pop culture’s favorite movie to make fun of is now old enough to drink in most countries, and we’re supposed to be okay with that? No, we should never be. We must fight against the passing of time and destroy the temporal oppression.
Until that, though, I guess it’s time for us to reflect back on the movie that consumed the world for a couple months back in 1999.
I have had this past three weeks “off” work, in that I have to go to City Hall every day and sit there doing nothing but use my computer rather than teach any classes. So in all of my free time, I guess I’ll be uploading a few more random blog posts than usual. Here’s one right now:
One thing I love to do in my spare time, probably my nerdiest and least-redeeming hobby, is to analyze the movie box office and see what movies are doing well, what movies are doing poorly, and how well the movies I love are performing. Even though I’m obviously most invested in what I care about most, I wish for the best for (almost) every movie, even though sometimes you just get pretty big failures out of nowhere.
In the case of the hypothetical scenario I’m about to write about, the first three months of 2019 were considered pretty terrible for the movie box office. There were a few hits– Captain Marvel, obviously, and then How to Train Your Dragon 3, but a few more big movies had major underperformances (Glass, Lego Movie 2, Alita, and now Dumbo) that have dragged the entire calendar down.
So I began to wonder one thing… what if the release dates of three of the biggest movies were swapped around?