Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Ambiguous Ending of The Force Awakens

Before you read any more of this, I want you to know that if you have not seen The Force Awakens.  I would also be remiss if I did not say that while the following post represents my own personal thoughts on the subject matter, some of them might be true and therefore spoilers.

The underlying plot of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is that everyone is trying to find where Luke Skywalker fled to after the death of his Jedi students at the hands of the Knights of Ren, led by, of course, Kylo Ren.  This was an especially devastating blow to Luke as Kylo Ren was once known as Ben Solo- the son of Han Solo and General Princess Leia Organa (Skywalker) Solo, his nephew.  
In a flashback, we see what looks like that event from the perspective of Rey, whose parentage is a source of vigorous debate among fans, but the consensus seems to be that she is a Skywalker and most likely the daughter of Luke and some unrevealed woman.  This theory had gained a lot of traction based on the skills Rey has not only as a hand-to-hand combatant but as a pilot (something both Luke and his father Anakin had in common, most likely due to their affinity with the Force) as well as her rapid development in the use of the Force which had been seen only twice before int he films, and only once with someone of similar age - Anakin and Luke, respectively.
At the end of the film, once the main conflict has been solved and the map leading to Luke is now complete, Rey and Chewbacca travel to the planet on which Luke has been living and he turns to her as she reaches out to him with the lightsaber he lost in the duel with his father.  He has a very peculiar look on his face as he turns from what certainly looks like a headstone for an unknown grave.  
Speculation on this has been rampant.  First off, is this actually a grave?  There are a lot of folks on both sides of this argument; some are sure it's a grave and others are of the mind that it's just a random outcropping of rock.
For this, we are going to assume that it is a grave.  And not just any grave, but the grave of someone who is close to Luke, part of his family.  Maybe not literal family, but perhaps part of the Jedi family at the very least.  And I don't mean a long-lost Jedi because there are some people who are of the opinion that Luke is on a world that is home to some long-lost Jedi Temple, maybe even the first Jedi Temple.  I disagree.
There are several people that those who believe the Luke is standing before a grave believe that grave is for.  I will list them with a brief reason.
1.Luke's Wife - For those who believe that Luke and an unknown woman (Jyn Erso?) are Rey's parents this is the evidence they point to.  They believe that Luke had to bury his wife here after Kylo Ren's betrayal at Luke's reformed Jedi Academy after Snoke corrupted Ben Solo's mind and made him turn towards the Dark Side and betray his family.
2. Darth Vader's Remains- As we saw in The Force Awakens Kylo Ren has the melted remains of his grandfather, Darth Vader's helmet.  Perhaps Luke had taken the cybernetic parts that survived the funeral pyre and buried them here on this planet, the site of the first Jedi Temple but left the helmet behind as a way of representing Vader's turn away from the Dark Side and return to the Light.
3. It's One Of Many Graves of His Students Killed by Kylo Ren - Perhaps this isn't the site of the very first Jedi Temple, perhaps this is where Luke's Academy was located?  You'd think that it might not make sense for him to hide there, but remember how he was hidden from Vader in the first place- on Vader's home planet.  It's the old Purloined Letter trick- the best way to hide something is right out in the open where people aren't likely to look for it.  Of course that would require you to disregard the fact that EVERYONE was trying to find Luke for one reason or another, and it took a two-part map to find him.
Those are some interesting thoughts, and any of them could turn out to be true, but based on how he looks at Rey at the end of the film, I believe that it's actually...wait for it...REY'S GRAVE!
Yes, it's Rey's grave.  I know it sounds insane, but hear me out.  Luke wasn't around for the slaughter of his students at the Academy, because had he been there, he doubtless would have dispatched Kylo and the Knights of Ren.  What do we see in Rey's lightsaber flashback?  We see her in a field full of bodies, and someone moving to strike her down, but they're stopped when Kylo drives his lightsaber through that individual's back much the way he did to Han Solo.  The very next memory we see is her being left with Unkar Plutt on Jakku.  Add this to the reaction Kylo has at being told that a girl helped the BB unit escape with the map to Luke and it becomes clear; Luke thought she was dead and went into hiding because of his perceived failures as a teacher.  
Because Luke didn't have her body, the grave is symbolic- like a sailor lost at sea.  He has been on this planet meditating on the Force and trying to figure out what to do when he senses her land close by.  He still doesn't believe it, not until he turns around and looks at her for the first time in at least a decade.  His expression changes from incredulity to understanding; Kylo Ren is the one who hid Rey on Jakku.  He made sure no one could find her because he didn't want anything bad to happen to her, because they are related somehow.  How?  Well that's a theory for another day.    
So that's my thought; Luke was mourning Rey (who may or may not be his daughter but was certainly a powerful Force user with incredible potential, like Luke and Anakin before him) and that's whose grave we see in the closing shot of The Force Awakens.  Do you agree?  Disagree?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

An Angry Nerd Movie Review: Eyes of the Roshi

As some of you out there might be aware, the website for whom I was doing my Angry Nerd Movie Reviews is no longer active.  I had a really fun time doing them, and I am going to use this forum as a means to continue doing so.  You don't have to agree with my reviews, but feel free to comment on them and share your thoughts.  I know this isn't something we usually do on the podcast, but like I said, I really enjoy doing them so that's what I'm going to do.
     For my first review, I am going to be covering the film Eyes of the Roshi, directed by Jon Mark Nail and written by Joseph Baum, Dan Cava, Mari Mann and Jon Mark Nail.  I'm sure it's a title with which you are unfamiliar because it's a film that hasn't seen a wide release.  The film stars Grandmaster Adam Nguyen as the titular Roshi, a man who found dead a woman with whom he was very familiar when he was young.  At the same time, he stumbles upon her killer, covered in blood and wielding a knife.  the killer proceeds to chase Roshi towards their village but is rescued by some of the other men who live there.  They apprehend the killer, a man named Ho and in their rage, they exact vigilante justice upon him by shooting him in the face.

     Fast forward many years and we see a scarred, deformed Ho entering a very nasty-looking prison that one imagines must house only the most hardened of hard criminals.  As one character remarks later "Most guys don't last fifteen minutes in there!".  Ho approaches a cell and we get our first look at Carey, ably portrayed by Ethan Marten.  After an initial refusal, Ho strikes a deal with Carey and uses his now-vast influence to have him released and sent out into the world, to seek vengeance on Ho's behalf against Roshi.

     Now there are a lot of tropes in this film that get turned on their head; Roshi ends up confronting a stereotypical redneck jerk who was hassling a  couple of local gentlemen, and after easily defeating him, his friends come running over to help him.  In most cases, the group of friends would attach Roshi, but instead, they take him to get his broken arm taken care of at a hospital.  The older gentlemen offer Roshi a job, and he accepts.

     Of course, we are introduced to other characters throughout the film that simultaneously conform to and defy the traditional tropes of action movies.  There's Amanda Dunn's Blanche who shows up at her ex-boyfriend's house (driven on a motorcycle by her latest romantic interest).  She eventually tells Eric (played by Michael Carey) that she thought she was pregnant, but was unsure if it was his.  You expect them to end up together in a feel-good moment, especially after Eric assaults Blanche's most recent beau in a bar for the way he talked about her and treated her.  Blanche realizes that she still has a hold on him and that coming back to him was a bad idea, and she tells him that she is leaving again.  Eric loses his temper and begins hitting her (a timely save by Roshi keeps her from further harm).  This is not usually what happens in these situations with these types of characters; I was actually expecting Eric to aid Roshi in the final confrontation.

     Another great performance is that of Jonathan Marten as Marty and his interplay with Eric Roberts' Booker.  They work extremely well with each other and their dialogue is excellent both between the two of them and between the each of them with Carey.  Roberts brings his usual charm and casual arrogance to the character of Booker, giving some great comedic lines as well, including my favorite regarding the strip club where Booker and Marty were having a meeting with Eric, who ends up betraying Roshi's location to the two of them, which they then relay to Carey in order to allow him to fulfill his contract.

     There are some great things about this film; the fight scenes, the dialogue and the interplay of the character on screen.  In my opinion, the very best part of this film is the performance of Ethan Marten as Carey the Hitman.  The first comparison I made in my mind was to Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men.  He was phenomenal.  Grandmaster Nguyen was also excellent, not just as Roshi, but also his contributions behind the scenes, such as composing music, most notably Roshi's Theme.

     I give this film a B, because of all the things I enjoyed about this film.  There were a couple of things I didn't like all that much, but they were minor.  One thing I did not like (but some folks might enjoy) was the open ending regarding the main villain (I won't spoil who it was, but it's another trope that gets turned on its head).  You never find out what happened to him.  I personally want to know, but other folks might like to use their imagination.

     So if you get the chance to see Eyes of the Roshi, do it!  This is a fun, well-paced film that is thoroughly enjoyable on so many levels, and the acting skill of Ethan Marten is easily the highlight of this film.

     That's my first review on this blog, I'll touch on it again in episode 22 of the podcast just to let some folks know what's going on with this film and to help bring more awareness to it.