Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why Luke Skywalker Is NOT The New Sith Lord in Episode VII

Unless you live on Hoth, you have likely seen the new Star Wars : The Force Awakens trailer by now.

And seen this amazing poster.

You've probably heard the rumors circulating about Luke Skywalker. Why isn't he on the poster? Why isn't he in the trailer? The conclusion that many have reached: Luke Skywalker is the new Sith Lord.

Whoa folks! Shut down your hyperdrives for a moment and think. Does it actually make sense for Luke Skywalker to become the new and highly improved Dark Side baddie?

I had thought I could simply hide in an asteroid and let all of the speculation fly right by me; but after reading one particular article I decided, no more! It is time to put this theory to the test.

Let's probe the galaxy just a bit to examine what we know.

The Number One Word for Movie Trailers is "Misdirection"

The fact that so many fans have come up with the exact same theory that Luke will be a Sith Lord leads me to believe one thing.

"It's a trap!"

Movie trailers are made to get us hooked, and to freak us out about potential plot twists. This leads to a frenzy of activity and hubbub that only creates better movie sales. It's not sneaky, it's good business. And we fall for it every time.

Will there be a plot twist in this movie? Of course there will, but likely it will something that none of us saw coming.

Luke Skywalker is the hero for the original trilogy.

Don't freak out Han Solo fanatics, I love that scruffy-looking nerfherder as much as the rest of you. But it is obvious, Luke is the starring character for Episodes IV-VI. Star Wars is a story about a struggle for freedom told through the eyes of a young kid who discovers he has a much larger role to play than a simple farm boy from Tatooine could have ever imagined.

A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi is the story of Luke's journey with his friends from farm boy to Jedi and leader. Luke is the knight-with-shining-lightsaber that everyone roots for.

Luke Skywalker has become a cultural icon who began a movement that represents the hearts of GENERATIONS of fans! Star Wars has accomplished the incredible feat of connecting with each new generation since it first appeared on the screen in 1977.

To suddenly knock that pillar known as Luke Skywalker out from underneath the millions of fans would be a very dangerous step. Like, more dangerous than assuming that your battle station is impregnable even with an open vent large enough to fire into.

A good reminder as well to those whose theories are based on the novels or comics of the expanded Star Wars universe; none of those works are going to be considered to be a part of the Star Wars film canon. This was announced not long after the announcement that a new Star Wars film was in the works.

Luke Recognizes His Own Weakness

Luke's story arc in the Originals is brilliantly done. A New Hope begins with Luke as a raw youth, full of eager enthusiasm and a bit of natural talent, but little else. He has the ignorance of inexperience, "I'm ready for anything!" This line basically sums up his entire attitude during this movie.

By The Empire Strikes Back Luke has calmed down a bit. The responsibility of leading a rebellion has tempered his actions somewhat, but he still has a fair amount of confidence. This confidence is shaken during his training with Yoda at Dagobah. And it is here that an incredibly pivotal scene takes place.

The Cave.

Luke is given Force vision/test when he enters a cave and encounters "Darth Vader". Upon defeating Vader, Luke is horrified to see that Vader's decapitated head is really his own head, with his own face staring back at him.

Some people believed this was foreshadowing the reveal that Vader is Luke's father. The Star Wars fan who wrote this article believes this is foreshadowing the idea that Luke will become just like his father Vader.

I always took this scene at face value (my apologies for this pun). This was a warning for Luke- Beware, this is what you are fully capable of becoming. It's a shocking and scary reminder of how truly vulnerable and human Luke is.

Luke doesn't really have time to fully digest this idea because he is soon faced with another bit of news: his friends are in danger!

Luke's two biggest motivations in his life are (1) to become a Jedi like his father and fight against evil (2) protect his friends. While his objective to become a Jedi came first on the timeline, it's pretty obvious that his priorities have shifted, since he puts his Jedi training on hold in order to help his friends.

Yes, yes, Yoda and Mr. Obi-Wan Force Ghost are very concerned. This kid is in over his head and he doesn't realize it. Those of us who have now seen the Prequels know the potential danger of acting out of fear of losing someone you love. What the heck! We wouldn't be in this mess if Anakin hadn't freaked out and made horrible choices in the past.

But, a fact that is rarely ever focused on in Star Wars is this: Love is the most powerful "force" in the world. The Jedi of old rather skipped over this idea, preferring to keep themselves unattached and emotionless. After all, emotions are messy and could get confusing, better to steer clear altogether. It might sound noble, it might even sound practical, but really, I think it became a major factor in their downfall. 

Luke travels to Bespin where he confronts his arch nemesis Darth Vader. This would have been an excellent time for a good old Han Solo warning, "Don't get cocky kid." Luke thinks he's all that and a bag of lightsaber crystals. Guess what kid, you are about to get your rear-end kicked!

A confrontation with Vader ends with Luke clinging to a platform, down one hand and a lightsaber. 

And now! The Big Reveal!

Jumping Jawas! Now Luke's entire world has been shattered, as if bleeding out and clinging to a platform isn't enough. The guy whom he thought he was safe to hate has just announced that Luke is his own offspring. And here it comes, "We can rule the galaxy as father and son." Well played Vader, you missed the play-catch-in-the-backyard stage of fatherhood, why not skip on ahead to the galaxy domination stage?

It sounds tempting. Reunite with Daddy, take down the Big Bad Emperor, and rule the galaxy!

It's here that Luke shows he was paying attention on Dagobah. He was just clearly shown how weak he is. And right now he is as vulnerable, both physically and emotionally, as he has ever been! 

What does he do? The most intelligent thing a human can do under these circumstances.

He lets go of his hold on the platform and allows his body to free fall into open air. Oh. My. Wookie.

In that single moment, in making that single decision, Luke shows some of his greatest strength: he knows his own weakness and vulnerability.

Anakin Skywalker feared being weak and powerless. He sold his soul to the Dark Side in order to gain power in order to control his circumstances. He gave in trying to run from his own weakness, which as you and I both know, is impossible. 

The Jedi Order fell largely because of their foolish pride in believing themselves to be invincible and above the rest of the galaxy. They were so blinded by their vanity that they missed a Sith Lord taking up residence right beneath their nose.

In this moment, Luke shows more maturity and understanding than Anakin and the whole Jedi Order put together. His choice to get the heck out of there enables Leia and Lando to rescue him and get away before Vader can mess with his brain anymore.

The Empire Strikes Back ends with a beautiful picture of Luke, now with a mechanical hand, wrapping his arm around his friend (twin sister) Leia. They both feel broken and they both have suffered a loss. But there is an incredible bond and a shared strength that each of them possess. This scene sets the stage beautifully with lots of foreshadowing for The Return of the Jedi.

Luke Knows His Strength

The Return of the Jedi happens many months after The Empire Strikes Back. During that intermediate time, Luke has come full circle. He has dealt with his anger and grief about the past. Now, he is peaceful and thinking about the future. That doesn't sound like future Sith Lord material to me, now does it?

Luke shows his focus and purpose in the calm and confident way he rescues his friends from Jabba the Hutt. The author of the Sith theory article I read brought up the fact that Luke killed a lot of Jabba's friends (it was actually Leia who killed Jabba). Luke's actions at Jabba's palace and barge were compared to Anakin's enraged massacre of the Sand People village in Attack of the Clones.

How is that even a comparison? Luke negotiated and gave Jabba chance for a peaceful resolution. Jabba refused and tried to feed Luke to a Rancor. When that didn't work, Luke and Co were going to be fed to a Sarlacc. And Luke had the audacity to fight back against the people trying to kill him and his friends? Luke dared to take out a few evil minions with his lightsaber, the minions who were shooting at him? Yeah, that's totally like Anakin's crazed and out-of-control murder spree of both innocent and guilty Sand People. Luke's actions weren't born out of revenge, if he had wanted revenge he would have killed everyone in Jabba's palace upon his arrival. 

But where does the truth of Luke's allegiance really reach a climactic point? When he is brought face to face with the Emperor, Mr. Big Boss himself.

It is here that Luke is put to his biggest test, inthe scene when we get the full 3D view of Luke's strength and character.

And it is here that I am most convinced that Luke Skywalker remains a Jedi.

It is here that the author of the other article went wrong in his interpretation of Luke's realizations of his power. 

All of the scenes in the new Death Star are a battle both physical and internal for Luke and Vader. For Luke it is hate for the Emperor/Dark Side, and love for Vader his father. For Vader, it is hate for the Emperor/Dark Side and what he himself as become, jumbled up with admiration and longing for this boy, his son, who is exactly what Vader wishes he could have been.

Luke does wrestle with the Dark Side, we all watch it happen. He does react out of anger, who wouldn't when the people you love most are threatened? It's a commonly known fact that you should never bring a fella's sister into a heated confrontation if you want to come out alive.

But it all comes down to that moment when Luke has defeated Vader and the Emperor is convinced his plan has worked. Luke looks down at his father's severed mechanical hand, and then looks at his own. Right here, in this moment, Luke sees just how powerful he has become, and just how powerful he could be if he embraced the Dark Side. It's all right here before him, ready and waiting for him to make the choice.

But looking at his father, Luke sees the truth that Anakin missed. 

Darth Vader may have been technically more powerful than Anakin Skywalker, but Darth Vader is more machine than man. His desire for power and control stole his ability to have control over anything, and it cost him everything and everyone he loved. In the end, Vader's choice defeated its purpose.

Luke knows what he is capable of becoming, but he sees the cost and knows his choice will only lead to misery and the loss of everything he loves.

The Emperor steps forward, delighted that he has ensnared a new apprentice.

"Good. Your hate has made you powerful. Now fulfill your destiny and take your father's place at my side."

Luke throws away his lightsaber and practically smiles at the Emperor.

"Never. I'll never turn to the Dark Side. You've failed your Highness, I am a Jedi, like my father before me."
Oh crud! What have I created?
I suppose we should really thank the Emperor, without him, Luke might not have been forced to get so tough. But thanks to himself, the Emperor is now looking at the most frightening thing he has ever witnessed. 

A Jedi who is driven and strengthened by love, the one force stronger than hate.

Oh boy! Better kill that thing FAST!

"Young fool, only now, at the end, do you understand....your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side!"

Father! Please!

"You have paid the price for your lack of young Skywalker, you will die."

The Return of The Jedi (Anakin Skywalker)

And here you have it: Luke's ultimate victory. His purpose, his vision, and his love is what redeemed Darth Vader and overthrew the Emperor. This is not the work of a Sith Lord. This is the work of a knock-out Jedi who is wise beyond his years.

You were right about me. Tell your were right.

'Nuff said. May the Force be with you, see you all in December.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Review- Implant

Welcome to the world of a universal cure. Gordon Harding didn’t ask for the life he has. He didn’t ask to be orphaned. He didn’t ask to go through life with cancer. And he certainly didn’t ask to be pulled into a future world without warning–a world where every human being is controlled by means of a medical implant. And when he learns that he’s the only one who can destroy the base of operations, he’s faced with an impossibly painful choice: either hide and let the world decay under this mysterious futuristic force, or rescue humanity from oppression, knowing that there’s someone out there who is willing to use any means necessary to stop him.

Pennington has done it again folks! Implant is my first venture into the genre known as dystopian, and it was a lovely first step. I feel a bit sentimental here, as Pennington's Firmament series was my first venture into the genre of scifi. She is an amazing author whom I respect and support greatly.

In truth, for the first two-thirds of the book, I expected to be posting a very different review on here. The story was rather slow, and I felt that there were some loopholes in the plot which did not make sense. I held on, however, because I loved the characters.

Pennington did a magnificent job of creating three unique and well-rounded characters to take the spotlight. None of the characters read like a typical "hero", or "knight in shining armor". They were fallible, annoying, and even physically fell short of what most would consider to be hero material. I loved all three for those very reasons. With these characters, Pennington captured what being a hero actually means in a very real sense. She appealed to my human side, as opposed to my superhuman desires. 

Gordon was not what you would call endearing, attractive, or even fun. And yet, you found yourself identifying and rooting for this scrawny kid who can't run for more than a few seconds without feeling like he's going to die. He whined, he was angry, he made poor choices, and he was incredibly insecure. But when the chips were down, Gordon Harding came out a hero.

Doc. I had a very distinct "Han Solo" flavor come to mind whenever Doc was around. Gruff and cynical, his persona was that of someone untouchable. But in brief flashes of vulnerability, you saw the heart of gold beneath Doc's dingy shirt and jacket. In the end, Doc came out a hero.

Neil Crater. I'm not intentionally keeping up with the Star Wars theme here, but Dr. Neil Crater was about as "Luke Skywalker" as they come. Passionate and eager, he felt things deeply and was angered when others didn't appear to care as much as he did. He was the fuel to the fire that kept the Rebels alive. He could be annoying and act like a know-it-all, but when it was all said and done, Dr. Neil Crater was a hero.

As I said, the characters kept me going. And when I reached about the two-thirds mark of the book, my faith paid off. Pennington did not disappoint me at all. Plot twists! A sudden change of pace, and a beautiful binding of all loose threads and plot holes. A show-down with a wonderfully creepy villain fulfilled my reader's desires entirely.

I was privileged to help Pennington out with some of the marketing for Implant. I am so thrilled to have had even a little part to play in this project, and I am so proud of Pennington for her skill as a writer.

Check Implant and Pennington's other works out on Amazon. Also, you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and her blog.