Monthly Archives: April 2016

One Minute for Life – An Argument by Doritos

The advertisement below was played during the American Superbowl earlier this year. I thought it was a rather cute ad, though others found it to be a little bit improper, for various reasons. None of those reactions, however, were in line with the basis for this ad being pulled from television.

No, this Doritos advertisement was rescinded because several pro-choice groups complained that it humanized an unborn baby. I wonder: can you humanize someone who is already human?

I think not. A human’s a human, no matter how small, to paraphrase Dr. Seuss’ inspired elephant Horton, from the book and film Horton Hears a Who. Watch the ad below, readers, and see for yourselves:

Doritos Ad

An unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected three days after conception. A human’s a human, no matter how small.

The Mithril Guardian

Advertisements

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers

Come on, readers – you knew it had to happen at some point! I am a Marvel fan. Of course I would get around to acquiring a Marvel book!

Actually, I have several. 🙂 The particular book which I am describing here, Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers, is one of my favorites. Marvel Masterworks are books which contain a certain number of original comic book stories within them. And in this case when I say original, I mean original! Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers contains ten stories – issues 11 through 20 – of the Avengers’ first adventures from 1964-65.

WARNING: MAJOR spoilers ahead!!! Read on at your own risk!

Inside this volume, true believers, you will find – Captain America! The Invincible Armored Iron Man! The Mighty Thor! Ant-Man and the Wasp! All in their original costumes and settings, with the quirky tools and fantastic adventures that could only be dreamed up by Stan Lee and his friends during the early 1960s!

Yeah, I just borrowed Stan Lee’s introductory style of the time. So what? 🙂

Okay, so the first story is issue eleven of the Avengers, or The Avengers #11, December 1964: “The Mighty Avengers Meet Spider-Man!” A sinister enemy watches the team from the far future. Kang the Conqueror, still smarting from his last defeat at the hands of the Avengers, is determined to have his revenge. But how shall he get it?!

Painstakingly, he searches the past for someone – anyone – who would be powerful enough to defeat our heroes. Finding such a person, he makes a robot duplicate and sends it back in time to fight the Avengers who have to deal with the confusing situation of a nefarious duplicate of the good guy they know. Who is the robot a duplicate of, you ask? None other than our friendly neighborhood webslinger, Spider-Man!

The next story is “This Hostage Earth!”, and we see on the first page that Ant-Man is greatly agitated. His ants are telling him that someone below ground is trying to destroy the Earth! However, none of the other Avengers take his warning seriously. He is upset because the ants are telling him something is wrong?! How silly!

Even Wasp and Cap do not listen to Hank. In an angry huff, Ant-Man shrinks down to investigate the matter himself –

And finds Mole Man has a created a machine which will induce tremors on the Earth’s surface. If the governments above do not heed his demands, Mole Man will make the surface world uninhabitable!

Next ish (ish is short for issue, non-comic readers 😉 ), we find our heroes lured into a trap by Count Nefaria. The villainous count is more than a little miffed that the team has been ruining his Maggia operations stateside. As part of the plan, Nefaria frames the Avengers as power-hungry tyrants who want to take control of the world! The team manages to stop him and clear their names but, in the process, Wasp is injured and left on the brink of death!

In “Even Avengers Can Die!”, the team races against time to find the one doctor on Earth who can save their only female teammate. They are truly desperate; even the Mighty Thor. This is because even his mortal alter ego, Dr. Don Blake, magnificent physician that he is, does not have the expertise to save her!

Then, in issue #15, Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil – the Enchantress, the Executioner, the Melter, and the Black Knight – spring a trap on the team. Kidnapping Rick Jones, Zemo lures Captain America to his South American base while the rest of the Avengers remain behind to fight the Masters. Then, in “The Old Order Changeth!”, Cap and Rick Jones work their way back to the States. In the meantime, Thor goes back to Asgard for a “Trial of the Gods.” After he leaves, Iron Man, Wasp, and Giant-Man realize they are plum tuckered out. They need a break from Avenging or they will be wrecks by the end of the year!

So they call for new heroes to step up and take their places on the team. Many apply but only three are chosen: Hawkeye, a former enemy of Iron Man, is chosen to join the team. Not long after, twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff are accepted as members of the team. Once enemies of the X-Men, the siblings known as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch now seek redemption as part of the Mighty Avengers!

In “Four Against The Minotaur!” Cap and his new teammates head out to the desert to find the Hulk in an attempt to build up their strength. Cap learns some of the limits and characteristics of his new recruits along the way. He has little trouble managing the twins but finds Hawkeye mouthy and as hard to control as an unbroken bronco. Despite this, Cap feels Hawkeye will make a splendid Avenger – once his rough edges are smoothed over! Meanwhile, in a separate part of the desert, Bruce Banner appears to die after a fight with the Leader.

The next ish shows us the fictional communist country of Sin-Cong, which is run by a ruthless Commissar. In a plot to show how strong the Commissar is, the Communists lure the Avengers to Sin-Cong for a “demonstration.” Trying to get a job with SHIELD, Cap is eager to answer the call – as is the ever-belligerent Hawkeye. Soon the Avengers are fighting the Commissar. But all is not as it seems and when the “weakest” Avenger, Wanda Maximoff, goes up against him, the Commissar gets more than he bargained for!

The last two issues in the book introduce us to the Swordsman, Hawkeye’s former mentor. Arriving one day at Tony Stark’s mansion – which is on loan to the Avengers – the Swordsman is greeted, ah, “warmly” by the Maximoff twins. The man escapes after a furious Cap reveals the Swordsman is wanted in a number of countries for theft!

But Cap has something else on his mind, too. He has applied to SHIELD, but Fury has not yet answered his letter, and he does not understand why. What Cap does not know is that his letter is on a desk in a decoy office Fury set up for HYDRA to watch. The director of SHIELD has not even laid his eye on the letter! (How it ended up in the decoy office is another mystery, readers!!!!)

Sadly, the note makes its way to the Swordsman, who uses it to trap Steve. Things get hairy when Cap’s three young friends track the two down, but the New Avengers are equal to the task and the Swordsman’s plot is foiled. Then the Mandarin takes a hand in the matter, and manages to get the thief accepted by the Avengers through some masterful trickery. But the Swordsman is only there to plant a bomb in their headquarters, to be detonated remotely by the Mandarin when Iron Man (the Mandarin’s arch-enemy) returns to the team!

However, the Mandarin eventually decides he is tired of waiting and tells the Swordsman he will be activating the bomb ahead of schedule. The scoundrel has to make a choice: leave the Avengers to die, or save them – even if doing so incurs the wrath of the deadly Mandarin!

I would say that issues 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, and 20 are my favorite stories in this book. All the comics in this book are, to those of us born in this late age, rather kooky and silly at first, second, and even third glance.

Perhaps that is not a bad thing, and I do not think I should cast aspersions on the past. If anything, this difference in eras shows not only how far we have come (or fallen, as the case may be), but how much our current storytelling in Marvel Comics has declined. Sure, we can tell great stories without resorting to fancy “image projectors” or suspended animation tricks and such things as we find in these stories…

But the modern stories in Marvel Comics lack the cheerfulness, flair, and optimism which characterize the company’s older stories in copious, startling amounts. The old stories are positive, chipper, and see the future as a bright road leading to a better tomorrow. The new stories – not so much.

As a last note, one of the things about “Even Avengers Can Die!” that I love is on the end page. There, the Watcher comments that many men have prayed for the Wasp’s recovery, adding that “the power of prayer is still the greatest ever known” in the universe. And the end caption for the last panel on the page in this issue adds, “Let us now leave the Avengers! Strong men should not be seen with tears in their eyes! Nor should they be disturbed as they lift their faces heavenward, in solemn, grateful thanksgiving!

I really, REALLY miss those kinds of statements – not only in our modern comics, but in all our current stories. This is what makes “Even Avengers Can Die!” one of my favorite original comics in the book.

Readers, if you someday decide it is worth a look, I hope you enjoy this volume of original comics as much as I do. And if you are totally uninterested not only in this book but in Marvel Comics in general, well, I hope you found at least a little happiness and sunlight in this post. That will satisfy me as much as anything else would.

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

More Francesca Battistelli Songs

A long, long time ago, a post called “Songs of Light” went up on this blog. It featured various songs by up-and-coming artist Francesca Battistelli. She is a young woman, married, with three children. And she loves God, writing songs that give Him glory – and help to make me happy. So, in this post, I have collected some more of her songs for you to enjoy at your leisure.

Certainly, her music does not appeal to every listener. If her songs are not to your taste, I am sorry for that. If you like her music as much as I do, hurrah!

Either way, God go with you, readers!

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian

Motion of Mercy

Run to Jesus

Something More

Good to Know

Trampoline

Constant

You Never Are

Choose to Love

Don’t Miss It

Hold Out For Love

Find Rest

So Long

Emily (It’s Love)

Strangely Dim

In Your Eyes

Holy Spirit

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Bruce Banner/Hulk

People – sheesh! Take it easy, or you are going to bring down the house!

Ever seen a bunch of Hulk fans jumping around in celebration? It can be a little scary. (There is a crash, bang, and wallop in the background, followed by the tinkling of broken china.) *Author winces theatrically.* And it can be somewhat costly, too.

The reason they are jumping for joy is because yours truly is finally writing a post about Big Green. It may surprise people, but I do have a soft spot for the Hulk and Bruce Banner. It may not seem like it, but it is true.

I have not really seen The Hulk. I seem to recall catching some snippets of the movie, but from the reports which have come my way about the film, I did not miss much. The Incredible Hulk is a great time-filler when one is bored out of their skull or wants a tonic for a bad day. Otherwise, it is a rather unsatisfactory film. Just my opinion.

Marvel’s The Avengers, however, more than made up for these big screen flops. The not-so-jolly Green Giant and his puny alter ego came onscreen in a “smashing” way in this film. I was much more impressed with Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner than Ed Norton or Eric Bana’s portrayals. Norton did a better job than Bana, for sure, and he physically fit the bill. But he hated being in a movie based on a comic book. It is not art, after all, which is what every actor seems to live for in Hollywood.

Yeah. Sure. Whatever. *Insert eye roll here, please, readers.* It is true that Hollywood’s imagination has tanked over the latter half of the twentieth century and early 2000s. Sure, they have had their moments – Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Princess Bride, and other films. But what happens when an entertainment, artistic industry dives into the gutter and proclaims that trash is art? Kids’ movies take center stage because they are the best entertainment the audience can get their minds on.

This is not to pick on comic book-based movies. That attitude of mine disappeared after I saw The Avengers. Superhero films are good movies, highly entertaining, and unless it is Deadpool or some similar movie, you can bring the children to the cinema and not worry about exposing them to anything raunchy and disgusting.

Are superhero movies art? Not exactly.

Are they the classics, like Shakespeare’s works? Nope.

Are these films fun? You bet!

But let’s get back to the point of this post. After Hawkeye, the one Avenger we saw the least of in the Phase Two films was Bruce Banner. Still, you Hulk fans got an idea of where he was during that time-frame! (We Hawkeye fans had to wait until Ultron to see the archer again!!!!) The post-credits scene in Iron Man 3 showed Bruce sleeping through what Tony considered to be a psychological therapy session. Banner may know the basics of how psychology works, but he never became that kind of doctor. As he said, he did not have the “temperament.” Hulk’s patience has a very low ceiling – just ask Loki!

After The Avengers, Bruce joined Tony at Stark Tower, following through on his fellow scientist’s invite to drop by for some R&R. Or rather, R&D.

It must have felt good to be back at his old job again. There was nobody to hurt, nothing to break…. just a lot of fun research and development on gizmos that would change the world. And he had a great friend who understood him working at his elbow to boot. Pure heaven compared to running around the globe, the way he had been, for so many years.

Then the Avengers reformed after SHIELD collapsed. And once again, the Hulk had to be released on a semi-regular basis for the greater good.

But this time things were better again, although still less than ideal. Bruce was not alone now. He had friends. Thor, Tony, Cap, Hawkeye, and Black Widow were in the fight with him. As nightmarish as it was to dive back into the Hulk’s mind, Bruce had something to look forward to afterward. He got to go home to a bed, eat regularly, and spend time with people who were not deathly afraid of him. In a surprising twist of fate, even Natasha Romanoff no longer feared him. (We will go back to that later on.)

Anyway, fast-forward to the attack on the Sokovian HYDRA base in Age of Ultron. The team finally recovers Loki’s scepter, which Thor wants to take back to Asgard. No biggie, right? Bruce would be as glad to see the back of the “glowstick of destiny” as the rest of the team. One less thing to worry about. Perfect. Everything is just perfect.

Then Tony tells him he has found something like computer coding in the stone embedded in the scepter. This is fascinating. Wait, Strucker wanted an artificial intelligence? That does not sound like such a great idea….

But Tony thinks it is fantastic. He explains the theory, about how there would be no more need for the Avengers or fear of aliens attacking the planet if they had an A.I. standing at the door. And the theory is beautiful. Bruce begins to think that it could work. There are fifty-fifty odds, but still….

And this is where the problem started, readers. Scientific theories are great. The theory of artificial intelligence is a great idea. Right….?

Riiiiight….. This is where Tony went off the rails, taking Bruce with him. Tony relies on synthetics to do most everything. Yes, his superpower is his intelligence. But to keep that intellect from getting smashed to a pulp, he has to wear a suit of armor – a synthetic skin.

Now, there is nothing wrong with this, up to a point. The knights of the Middle Ages, the Roman legions, the Ancient Greeks – they all used synthetic means to protect themselves in battle. Tony’s problem is that he puts far too much faith in synthetic materials being the answer to all problems – hence the artificial intelligence he wanted to build to keep the world safe.

*Smacks forehead in aggravation.* Really? People have spent the last two hundred years trying to come up with a satisfactory solution to fix the world! You give that math equation to a computer – even one programmed to think like a human – and it is going to pop a fuse and die!

Or go on a worldwide, murderous rampage. Take your pick.

Bruce’s problem is that he can always be suckered by the theory of the thing. He knows synthetics will always be inferior to natural things. The guy turns into a one thousand pound mountain of angry muscle. He cannot move continents but he can sure “break… Harlem”!

So Bruce does not have the same faith in synthetics that Tony does. But he has a similar problem. He has faith in scientific theories. And theories, as beautiful as they may be at first, second, third, and umpteenth glance, are not necessarily things one should try to make a reality. Stories throughout the last two or three centuries have warned of this: Frankenstein, Brave New World, Terminator, Eagle Eye… If you want some stories that prove it while scaring the pants off of you, read Dean Koontz’ novels. They are full of terrifying warnings about science run amok.

But, like Tony and Bruce, most scientists are not paying any attention to the warning signs. Bruce is reluctant to make Tony’s theory a reality at first, it is true. But JARVIS, the A.I. butler who runs Stark Industries and helps the Avengers in combat, turned out all right. How bad could it be to try and jump start Ultron?

It turned out to be really, really bad.

Bruce is the first to admit this in the conference that occurs after Ultron steals the scepter and flees Avengers Tower. While Tony rushes to defend his belief in synthetics and technology, saying he can fix anything and everything under the sun with these assets, Bruce willingly admits that he was wrong. “Really?” Tony says. “Is that what you’re going to do? Roll over and show your belly every time things get ugly?” (I paraphrased that quote.)

Basically, he was saying, “Thanks for the help, pal! I thought we were friends!”

“Yeah,” Bruce responds in subtext, “We’re friends. We’re friends when we’re right and when we’re wrong. We were wrong, Tony. We made a murder bot. There is no defense for that. You told Ultron to fix the world. Well, I hate to break it to you, but the only human way to fix the world is to destroy it.”

When humans try to fix the world, they only make it worse. Want some examples? Here are just a few: Communism, Eugenicism, Fascism, Nazism, Scientism, socialism, and now secularism. Look them up. They all boil down to this: We’re humans. We’re the only species on the planet with intelligence, speech, writing, and an opposable thumb. We can fix all problems. But that means tons of us are going to have to die, and among those who remain some are going to be more equal than others.

It is Bruce’s acknowledgement that he was wrong, that he was taken in by a beautiful theory, which allows the others to forgive him. (With the possible exception of Tony.)   Cap, Thor, Widow, Hawkeye – even Rhodey, Cho, and Hill all forgive Banner for helping to build Ultron. That does not mean he does not have to pay the piper. It just means his friends are not, by and large, holding a grudge against him.

But that attitude kind of gets rescinded when he helps Tony finish building Vision. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on Bruce. He was right when he said he was caught in a time-loop. Tony went after him with the same arguments he had used before to get Banner to help make Ultron. And Bruce bought it a second time. Though in this case, Vision was the antidote to Ultron. (We hope.) Does that absolve Bruce for playing in the forbidden zone twice..?

No!

….Which might be one of the reasons Widow threw him down the hole to awaken the Hulk. Bruce was ready to run again, but as she pointed out, “The job’s not finished.” Bruce had to pay the piper. He had to go the whole nine yards, or he would carry the weight of what he had done with him for the rest of his life.

Widow understood that. She is an Avenger in part because, from her point of view, it is penance. She has not let go of her guilt – or enough of it – which does weigh her down. But this does not mean that she does not have to atone for the acts she committed while under the command of her Red Room handlers. She also has to fight so that their ideals and the aims of others like them are thwarted. That does not give her the same delusions of grandeur that Tony has…

But it does make her an Avenger. It does make her a heroine.

Bruce’s problem here is twofold. He is tired of being the Hulk and – just like everyone else – penance does not strike him as fun. It is not supposed to be. Penance is supposed to hurt. That is the way it works; you hurt someone, you have to make recompense. If you are out playing baseball with your friends and you break the neighbor’s window, you have to pay for the replacement window pane. Your wallet does not like that, and you do not like working extra hard to earn the money to pay for the window. No matter how sorry you are, though, you still have to pay for the new window.

Bruce had to pay for his recess in the forbidden playground. He had to see the job finished. As much as it hurt her to do what she did, as much as she wanted not to awaken the Hulk so she could run off into the sunset with Bruce, Widow knew they could not do that. Bruce would not be the man she loved if he bolted when things got tough. He had to stay and see the job done.

And the half of him that would do that was big and green and perpetually angry.

Bruce will figure that out sooner or later, if he has not figured it out already. Before I sign off, let us take a closer look at his relationships in the film, shall we?

We will look at him and Natasha first. Their relationship has already been extensively discussed in the post “Avengers: Age of Ultron – Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff.” But there is more to be said here.

It is really interesting that Widow should fall for Bruce. Their romance was certainly a curveball, despite the obvious poetic irony, considering she was terrified of him in Marvel’s The Avengers! And it is surprising that Bruce would fall for her as well. He certainly seemed to distrust her in the last film, and for good reason.

Widow is a near-instinctive liar. She was raised by liars and killers. Even if some part of her resisted their manipulation, she could not help but pick up some things from them by osmosis.   Children always imprint off of their parents or those who raise them. It is an unconscious thing. Attitudes, phrases, habits – some of these are things we are simply born with. Others we learned from the observations of our elders we made as babies. It is how growing up works.

But in Age of Ultron, when Widow asks if Bruce will ever trust her, he responds: “It’s not you I don’t trust.”

WHOA!!! That was not the impression we got in the previous film! Natasha would probably have been the last person on the planet whom Bruce would have trusted back then. Now, though, their attitudes toward each other have changed drastically. Widow no longer fears Bruce or the Hulk, and neither of Banner’s personalities distrusts and hates her. Talk about Beauty and the Beast!

For Widow, this is the first time she has ever fallen in love. Oh, I am sure she has had liaisons with other guys. It was part of her job and one of the reasons she was called the Black Widow. The fact is that Natasha was a deadly lady of the evening, as it were, when she worked for the Red Room and the KGB. Bruce, on the other hand, had known love before with Betty Ross.

As we know, that did not work out well in the movies. Long distance romances are things no one in Hollywood believes in anymore. They have forgotten Odysseus and Penelope, the women who watched their men go to sea for years at a time, and the modern truckers and their wives. These are women who sit at home, holding the house together with duct tape and paper, praying their husbands’ trucks have not jack-knifed somewhere between Seattle and New York, killing them in the process. Hollywood and their cronies of a similar frame of mind always contend that long distance kills love.

I say they have no idea what love really is.

So why did Bruce leave Natasha at the end of Age of Ultron? There were a number of reasons. One, they had a perfect opportunity to run off together, and she threw him down a hole to bring out the big green guy. That hurts, and it probably makes him feel used, if not outright betrayed. That may be his surface thinking or initial reaction – and when he next shows up, those may be the words that come out of his mouth.

But there are other reasons. Widow could still be a mom, as I said before, by adoption. Marrying Bruce would be one thing, but after her confession at Hawkeye’s house, Bruce knows Natasha does not just want a husband. She wants what the Red Room operators worked so hard to deny her naturally – a family. He can only fill half the equation. Just because she cannot naturally have children does not mean Natasha could not become an adoptive mother.

Bruce knows that. And he knows that sooner or later, Natasha would have suggested the idea. But it would not work. He and the Hulk both have a soft spot for kids, but not on a daily basis. For a man with unshakeable faith in theories, this is one idea Bruce knows will never pan out for him. He can never be a father, not even by adoption. He does not have the temperament. Natasha does. If he were to stay with her, then her happiness would be incomplete. She would want children, and he cannot handle being a dad. It simply would not work.

Another factor for Bruce’s self-imposed exile might be his Scarlet Witch-induced rampage in South Africa. While no arrest warrant was issued immediately afterward, how much longer would that last? Eventually, he would be labeled a public danger and a menace again. And Natasha would leave her post as an Avenger, her job, her work, to go on the run with him when that happened.

He does not want to do that to her. That is no kind of life for a couple. It is hard enough on one. Bruce cannot settle down anywhere. He has to stay on the run, sleeping at odd hours, living from hand-to-mouth, quite probably for the rest of his life. He loves Natasha too much to drag her into that kind of life.

What is more, if the government(s) eventually caught up to him, he would be put in prison. Or some nincompoop would try to kill him. If Natasha ran off with him, then she would either be locked up or killed trying to protect him.

Bruce loves her too much to be willing to put her in that kind of danger. The only way to protect Natasha is to leave her, no matter how much it hurts. It is what he did with Betty Ross. General Thunderbolt Ross was not going to stop trying to bring Bruce down, and even though he might have drawn the line at killing Betty, he certainly was not averse to her getting hurt by being in close proximity to his attacks on the Hulk. He could always blame her injuries on the Hulk later on, when it was his obsession to bring him in that got her hurt in the first place.

Natasha would not have had even that protection. None of the other Avengers would. The only workable solution was to go on the run solo. No other plans were viable.

This is where we look at Bruce’s rapport with his male teammates. It is shown at the Avengers’ party after HYDRA’s defeat in Sokovia that Bruce and Steve have a fairly strong friendship. Since Cap is the most trustworthy man alive since Sir Galahad, Bruce’s confidence in him makes plenty of sense. Cap is probably one of the people Banner feels safest around. Nothing Cap says or does will “just set him off.” And the fact that Steve no longer fears angering him or worries that Bruce will simply explode means the two men have a healthy respect for each other. This makes him quite amenable to Cap’s orders and willing to listen when the other advises him to be Natasha’s boyfriend.

Bruce and Thor have a good – if awkward – friendship. Sometimes Thor’s glowing compliments on the Hulk’s performance in battle are really not what Banner wants to hear. Otherwise, they have a jovial understanding of each other. Thor knew Bruce could not lift the hammer because he saw the Hulk try that trick on the Helicarrier in The Avengers. So what if Bruce played at being King Kong and scared some of the others? Thor knows what he looks like when he is actually angry. He can tell when Bruce is playing around.

Bruce and Clint’s friendship still has some trust issues; though it is clear they respect each other and do not mind joking at the other’s expense. Remember when Clint was getting patched up in the Tower…?

Bruce (concerned): “How is he?”

Tony (with a straight face): “Unfortunately, he is still Barton.”

Bruce (biting back a laugh): “Oh, that’s terrible.”

Despite this, Clint is not amused when Bruce pretends to be on the verge of Hulking out after not lifting Mjolnir. It is not like he wants the party to tank, after all! Bruce realizes this and makes a sheepish, “Ah?” sound. Essentially he says, “Not funny, huh? Okay, I get the message.”

Otherwise, the two get along well. Both are worried when Natasha is captured by Ultron, though they show it in different ways. Bruce cannot show his agitation and anger the way Clint does. That could release the Hulk. But he is worried, and Clint understands that. Thanks to his wife’s insight, he also understands why Bruce is so worried. They each care about Natasha in their own way, and the brief moment when they and Tony are in the room with the Cradle shows this rather poignantly.

There is little else to say after this point. Bruce never gets to become friends with the Maximoff siblings. It could be a while before he forgives Wanda for sending him on a rampage through Johannesburg, too. Still, he was willing to work with the twins. That counts for something.

As for his friendship with Vision, at this point that is also non-existent. Maybe later they will get to know each other better. We will have to wait and see.

Anyway, puny humans, this is my post on the Hulk/Bruce Banner we see in Avengers: Age of Ultron. I know it was mostly about Bruce and not Big Green, but for cryin’ out loud, the Hulk is really hard for me to talk about! There is only one word which sums up his character and attitude, people….

SMASH!

The Mithril Guardian

Hulk SMASH

Spotlight: Zoids – The Dibison

Welcome back to Spotlight! And yes, this is another post about a zoid. Yeah, yeah, so what if the series has been off the airwaves for the last ten or more years? It is still a good series!!!

All right, down to “tacks of brass,” as North put it in Rise of the Guardians. Today’s zoid is the Dibison. The Dibison is a buffalo-type zoid. That is, it is designed to resemble a North American buffalo. Before I get to the zoid’s stats, here is a video of the Dibison in action for you to watch:

Impressive, isn’t it?

The Dibison is a heavily armored yet maneuverable zoid. Most of the zoid’s armor is concentrated on its front half, like most of a real buffalo’s weight is in the forward half of its body. This means that the zoid can, like a buffalo, charge forward and slam into an opposing “mechanical combat unit.” Oh, and those horns on the Dibison’s head? They are called the Twin Crasher Horns. They are as deadly as they look. The horns are strong enough to pierce Iron Kong armor in the right situation, and a pilot can use them to pick up and toss lighter zoids sky high – where they are easily shot.

You may also notice, readers, that this zoid has a three barrel cannon on its chest between its forelegs, just as the Shield Liger and the Zaber Fang have between their forelegs. The Dibison, like the Shield Liger, was built by the Helic Republic after that nation’s long war with the Guylos Empire came to an end. It would seem, however, that the Republic is still determined to pack as much firepower into their zoids as possible, despite the cessation of hostilities between the two nations.

Some things never change. 🙂

The cockpit for the Dibison is in its head, behind those angry orange eyes. If you are curious about those strange silver boxes on the zoid’s “cheeks,” they are eight shot missile pods. They are not to be laughed at, readers – unless you want to eat your laughter when the missiles hit you. Though I have never seen (to the best of my recollection) a Dibison using its hooves on another zoid, I imagine the appendages would bring down an opponent with finality.

Unfortunately, the two zoid pilots I have seen in a Dibison’s cockpit do not favor such creative tactics – not for the most part, anyway. Lieutenant Thomas Richard Schubaltz and Blitz Team member Lena Toros each piloted a Dibison. Thomas was the pilot of the Dibison in Zoids: Chaotic Century, while Lena had a bison for her first few episodes in Zoids: New Century Zero. Later, Lena exchanged her Dibison for a Gun Sniper loaded down with an excessive amount of artillery.

Both Thomas and Lena favored the Dibison for its most noticeable weapons: the seventeen shot assault cannons embedded in the hump on the zoid’s back.

These cannons are deadly, especially when fired all at once (Thomas called such a shot a “Megalow Max”). The seventeen shot assault cannons are, arguably, the Dibison’s main weapons in combat. Though the bison was built to be a multi-use zoid, the pilots in its cockpit almost always favor using the cannons in every battle they participate in. Here they are, sitting in a zoid with the ability to do so much – and yet they insist continually on using the cannons first and foremost in almost every battle.   It never occurs to them, apparently, that one of the smaller cannons, the horns, or a hoof would do the job more neatly. No, they believe that the best way to win a battle is with their finger pulling back the trigger.

I guess this penchant for using the cannons is understandable. At least it seems so, given that the two pilots I have seen in a Dibison each have a thing for pyrotechnics, explosions, and a wide field of damage. If all one wants to do is blow the surrounding countryside and everything in it to kingdom come, then the Dibison is a good zoid for the job. As long as you have ammo for the cannons on the zoid’s back, you can shoot just about everything on the battlefield you want.

But if that is the case, then you had better hope no zoids charge into you or otherwise attack your bison. However good the Dibison is as a fixed weapon, its front heavy armor lowers its speed significantly. The Dibison is maneuverable, but only up to a point. That hump will not bend after a while, and the bison is not nearly as quick and nimble as the predator-type zoids naturally are. In close combat, the Dibison has a good reaction time. But it cannot turn, duck, or lunge on a dime like a Liger, a Command Wolf, or a Zaber can.

And because the weight of the Dibison’s armor makes it so much slower than predator-style zoids, if you have to get out of Dodge in a hurry, you really have to push the bison to get going. It is not a long distance sprinter; it cannot lope, only huff and puff to keep the faster zoids ahead of it a few bison lengths away. This can be a severe disadvantage in a battle, and it is the limiting factor for the Dibison that weighs most on my mind.

Admittedly, while I am not a fan of either Thomas Schubaltz or Lena Toros, Thomas’ skill with the Dibison far outstrips hers. Lena is, in some ways, a certifiable nut job. She loves ammunition and guns. Throughout New Century Zero she is constantly begging her father, Dr. Toros, for more munitions or bigger cannons. And when she is beaten by a more nimble opponent who uses their zoid’s weapons and abilities in a conservative manner, her reaction is to yell and scream childishly.

Usually she promises that she will get her revenge, or screams that the battle was not a fair one. Well excuse me, aren’t we mature? Her battle tactics are determined by her pride, which says she does not need skill to win an engagement with another team, just an endless supply of ammo.

Yeah. Sure. You would think she would have learned a thing or two after being dumped on her tail every other episode in New Century Zero. But noooo, not Lena Toros! She is the best there is – when no one is cheating her out of her rightful winnings, of course! (*Insert irritated eye roll here, please, readers.*)

While Thomas also has an excessive love of blowing things to smithereens, he has successfully used his Dibison in close combat situations several times. I have to give credit where credit is due, and the fact is that while Thomas Shubaltz is annoying and something of a snob, he is not a horrible pilot. He is not one of the best zoid pilots out there, in my opinion… but he is a competent one. Until I see better, he is the one Dibison pilot I can point to as an example of how the zoid ought to be used in combat.

Well, readers, I have to sign off for now. Tune in next time for something new – hopefully!

See you on the battlefield!

The Mithril Guardian

Some Favorite Rock’n’Roll Tunes

I have quaint tastes. Rap sounds terrible to me, yet I also have a hard time appreciating opera. Numerous tunes and songs from the “Roaring ‘Twenties,” the ‘Forties, the ‘Fifties, and other eras are more to my liking. I am a noted appreciator of ‘Eighties music (shout out to Star-Lord!). But there are some current artists I enjoy as well. The only one I can name right off is Francesca Battistelli; modern tunes that I pick out are usually one-offs, and so I hardly ever pay attention to who the artist is.

Below you will find a sampling of some of my favorite rock’n’roll songs, readers. Before you find something else that is “more your style,” just play a couple of videos for a few minutes and see if you like any. Who knows, you may find something you recognize – or really, really enjoy!

See ya later, alligator!

The Mithril Guardian

Take On Me

Heaven Is a Place on Earth

We Belong

Give Me (The Beat Boys)

Don’t Stop Believing

Leave a Light On

Surfin’ USA

The Heat Is On

An American Storm

St. Elmo’s Fire

A Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens – More or Less

Good day, Star Wars fans! Well, I got to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens some time back. This post is way overdue, huh? I know it is, but life is like that. Some things take a little extra work before they are presentable. This post is one of those things.

The Force Awakens was better than I had expected it to be. While I do not like the film nearly as much as I enjoy the original trilogy, I did like it more than the three prequels we saw ten years and more ago.

That being said, like some people, I had a few issues with The Force Awakens. Not just the fact that the previous films were a complete set already (Lucas has been promising us a much longer saga for years), once Disney bought Lucasfilm, they would have been stupid not to run with its storylines. It was not necessarily something I was looking forward to – it was more something I could understand them doing. They bought a money-making machine. Why on Earth would they not run with it?

And I have to admit, I kind of missed having Star Wars in the theaters. Marvel, Star Trek, and the other franchises can only fill so many holes in the modern cinemas, after all.

While I do not think Disney did a bad job with The Force Awakens, it is possible that they could have done better with it than they did. Below I will endeavor to get the issues I have with the film out of the way, before going on to what was enjoyable in the movie.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW! Read at your own risk!

First up, Kylo Ren. Why in the galaxy did Leia and Han name him Ben?!? Han and Leia were not that friendly with Obi-Wan Kenobi – Luke was!!! That is why his son in the books was named Ben! Now I am not saying the writers should have called the Solo heir Anakin – that is just poor imagination. Even the Expanded Universe writers waited to do that. But, come on, did they have to use Ben?!?! Jacen was a viable option, was it not?! If not, there were other alternatives, people!!! Ugh!

Second – who cast Adam Driver as Han and Leia’s son? He looks nothing like either of them!!! I can forgive the long hair, but he has the wrong face! How in the name of the Force can he play their son?!? They should have been able to find someone in Hollywood who looked like Leia or Han – and could play the part as well!!!

BB-8 was more impressive than I thought he would be, admittedly. Since he is positioned to take R2-D2’s place, I was quite prepared to hate him. However, “Billiard Ball” 8 managed himself quite well. The scene where he is rolling down the staircase in Maz Kanata’s castle is especially good. I admit that R2 could not have done that. However, I will not, under any circumstances, accept this Wookiee soccer ball with a head as a viable replacement for R2-D2. R2 is my favorite droid, and I will not be swayed to love BB-8 more than I enjoy R2. So there!!!

How can Ben Solo be a Dark Side user and not a Sith? Is he like the Dark Side Adepts – strong with the Dark Side, but unable to become a full-fledged Sith Lord? If that is the case, then no wonder he is not as powerful as Vader! The Sith were always more powerful than the Adepts. Everybody – inside and outside of the Star Wars universe – knows THAT!!!

Who – and what – is Supreme Leader Snoke? Seriously, they could have just made him a creepy old bald human in dark robes, and that would have been enough. Andy Serkis is terrifying in his role, but his character looks more like a monstrous, damaged version of Gollum than somebody new to the Star Wars mythos. Knowing our luck, he will probably be an alien who is smaller than Yoda when we get a good look at the real Snoke later on.

And that speech of General Hux’s before he blew up the New Republic Senate and the Hosnian system? LAME!!! They went too far with the Nazi nods for the First Order. Honestly, we will hate them no matter how they are dressed up, or what they say they believe! They are the heirs to the Empire – the bad guys!!! Their whole purpose in the films is to be hated!!! Do the writers not understand that?!?!?

To quote Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang: “AUGGHHH!!!!”

And we have another super weapon capable of causing galactic destruction in this trilogy…? It was not that bad, as super weapons go, but really? I mean REALLY?!? *Smacks forehead and whimpers in exasperation.* I never liked this trope, even when they did it in the books. Do Star Wars writers really need to revisit this story gimmick over and over again? Bad enough we had the Sun Crusher device in the novels, now we have Starkiller Base! *Slaps forehead on the desk several times, moaning in aggravation.*

(Okay, yeah, I am not going to damage my desk. But you get the idea!)

Now we come to Rey. I have mixed feelings about her Force usage in this film. I can buy her having a Force vision in Maz Kanata’s cantina castle after touching Luke’s lightsaber – you do not need training to have Force visions. And I can buy her having Force-dreams about the island where Luke is hiding, since you do not need training for those, either.

I can even buy her resisting Kylo Ren’s mind probe. The novelizations for the original trilogy hint that Leia’s ability to resist Darth Vader’s interrogation was possible in part because she instinctively used the Force in a small way. This hint is not exclusive to new novelizations of the old films; the original novelizations included this speculation as well. So, thinking about it, I can actually acquiesce to Rey’s ability to tell Kylo to butt out of her brain and her ability to keep him out. Her getting a glimpse into his mind in the process is also something I can buy, after a little thought on the matter. When she pushed him out of her head, she probably pushed into his mind in the process.

Rey pulling off a Jedi mind trick on the trooper guarding her – that takes a little too much suspension of disbelief. One could say that, as a scavenger, Rey has trained herself to pick up and learn skills fast in order to survive. And at least they had her fail to trick the trooper twice before she managed to pull it off properly. Still, this incident seems to have been added to the film solely to make her the Amazon warrior who can save herself. She does not have to wait to be rescued, like the damsel in distress, but can rescue herself. All well and good… but she could just as effectively have gotten out of her situation with a feigned medical emergency. This would get the trooper to open her restraints, allowing her to grab his blaster and bludgeon him with it.

Problem solved. 😉

Instead the writers had her use a Jedi mind trick to get out, something an untrained Force-user should not be able to do. Ezra Bridger, the fifteen year old hero of Star Wars Rebels, who is still training, took a long time to learn how to pull off a mind trick!

The writers really should have done this scene differently. It was cute to see the trooper drop his gun on the floor at her command, but continuity wise, her ability to pull off a Jedi mind trick after accepting her Force-sensitivity is rather suspicious. Did they actually confirm that Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One in the prequels? ‘Cause if they did not, then that prophesied position might just belong to Rey at this rate!

As for Rey Force-grabbing the lightsaber and her skill with the weapon later on, that is easily explained, even if it is not a satisfactory explanation. One can do many things when she makes a concentrated effort at it, which explains how Rey called the lightsaber to her. (And it was “calling” to her, so that might have had something to do with it, too.)

As for her “skill” with the lightsaber, we see early in the movie that Rey is good with a quarterstaff. Staff fighting and sword fighting actually have a lot in common, according to a friend of mine who saw the movie with me. This means that, after a while, Rey can figure out the rudiments of lightsaber fighting. Her switch from defense to offense after she “opens herself to the Light” side of the Force, while not extremely satisfying or believable, is meant to be reminiscent of Luke’s letting go and trusting his feelings when he fired the torpedoes that destroyed the Death Star in A New Hope.

This explains Rey’s switch from defense to offense; her skill with a quarterstaff explains her ability to defend herself with the lightsaber in the first place. Not a perfect answer, but… *Shrug.* As a final note on this subject, Daisy Ridley’s stunt trainers need to work on her choreography – or they should get her a new outfit without tassels that can get in the way and trip her up. Some of her footwork in that duel with ‘Kilo’ looked too slow to match his attacks. It was obvious he was waiting for her to get back up and turn to fight him a couple of times. Not something you want in a film like this.

One last issue I have with Rey is this: the way her name is spelled is wrong. Rey is Spanish for king; the way it is spelled, her name should be a boy’s name (tell me that does not seem suspicious and silly to you). Rae, the feminine form of the name, would have been a better and more proper spelling for the writers to use. But they did not do this.

I found Kylo Ren’s temper tantrums completely scoff-worthy. The kid loses his temper far too easily. He is right to be afraid of not living up to Vader’s legacy. Darth Vader, even when we saw him as an apprentice in The Clone Wars, was more intimidating and deadly than ‘Kilo’ Ren. Ren’s just a whiney crybaby who breaks stuff when he cannot get what he wants. Yeah. I have seen four year olds do that, too. Totally scary. *Insert eye roll here.*

Of course, the point of these tantrums is in part to show that Ren is simply a Vader wannabe. He is not Darth Vader – he is not even a Sith! His heart’s not really in it, not the way Anakin’s was. Ren is an open and shut case of the quintessential copycat. He is fascinated with the power of the Force and his grandfather’s use of it. He wants that power and to be feared like his grandfather, and he wants it yesterday.

Whoop-dee-doo, I am so scared. (NOT!!!) Can I please haul off and slap this kid? He needs some sense knocked into him.

And did anyone get a look at that dress Leia was wearing at the end of the film? Ow, it resembled one of Padmé Amidala’s dresses!!! For some reason, seeing Leia wearing that dress just hurt. I do not know why, but I hated it. It seemed so wrong on her. That was not the type of dress she would wear. Why not put her in something more her style than her mother’s? Ouch….

Poe Dameron did not come out so well in the later scenes in the movie. In contrast, Finn actually did pretty well. He seems to have been handed Han’s role from the original films. In the original trilogy, Han was the one who wanted to run out on the Rebellion. In this film, Finn is terrified of the First Order and wants to disappear into the galaxy’s dregs to escape it. The interplay between him, Han, and Chewie was some of the funniest and best in the movie.

Speaking of our “scruffy-looking,” nerf-herding rogue, Han had some great time in this film. It was wonderful to have him, Chewie, the Millennium Falcon, Leia, and Luke back. And it was awful when ‘Kilo’ Ren killed him.

Something about that scene makes me think it did not need to happen. I suspected the writers would begin killing off the original characters in this new trilogy, but I thought for sure Luke would be the one to die in The Force Awakens. I was probably not the only one who thought this, which means that, to be unpredictable, the writers decided Han should be killed first.

All I have to say about this is – ow, Ow, OW, OW!!! I read spoilers on the film for a friend not long after the movie came out, expecting to find that Luke had died. So when I learned it was Han who was killed, the news was something of a shock. I never realized how much affection I had for our cocky smuggler until the news that he had died came out. I almost broke down and cried on the spot.

This part of the film – pardon my uncouth language, readers – really sucked. I am glad that Chewie shot ‘Kilo’ in the side and that Rey slashed him across the face, not to mention put a hole in his shoulder. Let him bear the wounds for the shameful atrocity he committed!

And I have a warning for the writers of the film: they had better watch their shins. There is someone I know who wants to “put a foot to J.J. Abrams’ shin” for Han’s death. Myself, knocking Ben Solo down and beating him up very badly is a more appealing option. Failing that, I hereby challenge J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Simon Kinberg to each dump a BIG bucket of icy water over their heads. It is the least they can do in penance for killing Han!

Ranting and personal feelings aside, the scene was a poignant one for Han, who showed Ben he loved him no matter what he did. Ben came out the loser in that conflict – as he did in his fight with Rey, and the destruction of Starkiller Base. Some Vader he is turning out to be!! *Add derogatory snort here.*

Now we come to the parts of the film I enjoyed and promised to talk about above. Rey is a very interesting character. We do not know her last name as yet, and her history is barely given the light of day in the movie. We know she was left on Jakku and grew up there on her own, scavenging parts from downed Imperial and Republic ships in order to survive.

But who would leave their child on such a world? This is not something we have seen in the Star Wars mythos before. Luke and Leia were hidden on Tatooine and Alderaan, as Rey was apparently hidden on Jakku. But they each had guardians to love and care for them. Rey, in contrast, was left to fend for herself.

That does not sit well with the previous stories in the Star Wars’ saga. From what we can see, Rey’s heritage is related to the original trilogy somehow. She is Force-sensitive, and that is not an accident. Hints are scattered throughout the movie that she is somehow related to Han, Leia, and Luke. But the clues are proposed in such a way that we cannot be sure just how she is related to them.

‘Kilo’ mentions while interrogating Rey that she considers Han to be the father she never had. Rey learned to be a pilot by using a simulator she scavenged from a downed Y-wing; she learned the droid language (binary), and Wookiee tongue from a translator device she repaired. Besides these languages, Jakku’s populace uses many different languages, which Rey is well versed in, too. Wookiees sometimes dropped by Niima Outpost while she was growing up, and she had experience talking to them. That was where she heard stories about the Rebellion, Han and Chewie, Luke, Leia, and Darth Vader.

The point here is that her skill flying the Falcon and her knowledge of machinery seem to point to her being Han and Leia’s daughter. At the same time, though, she is drawn to and makes use of Anakin and Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. Not to mention she refers to the Falcon as garbage, a notable homage to Luke’s description of it as a “piece of junk” in A New Hope. She also grew up on a desert world, and she puts on an X-Wing pilot’s helmet near the beginning of the movie. We all know that neither Leia nor Han flew an X-Wing!! Plus, Rey “opens herself” to the Force to beat ‘Kilo’ Ren, the way Luke made use of the Force to destroy the first Death Star in A New Hope.

Also, Rey has green (others say hazel) eyes. Han and Leia both have brown eyes, as did Padmé Amidala. Shmi Skywalker’s eyes were brown, but Anakin and Luke both had/have blue eyes…

Mara Jade, notably, had green eyes. If they bring her into the new Star Wars timeline (and since Mara was the only Expanded Universe character who ever made it into the top twenty favorite Star Wars characters’ list, I think they would be nuts not to bring her back), then she might have married, or at least fallen in love with Luke in this new timeline as well.

In which case, Rey’s mother may be/may have been Mara Jade, and she left their daughter on Jakku to keep her safe. Add to this the fact that when Maz says the belonging Rey desires is not behind her but before her, Rey responds by saying Luke’s name. All at once you have a very convincing case that argues the heroine of The Force Awakens could be the new Skywalker in this trilogy.

This suspicion is only compounded by her meeting with Luke on the island on Ahch-To. Luke was not at all surprised to see Rey. He looked like he was seeing someone he had expected to see for a long time. And he looked like it made him happy while at the same time it caused him enormous pain. (And did anybody else notice the headstone-like rock at his feet? Oooh! Is it Han’s or Mara’s, I wonder?)

Now, all of this is pure conjecture, readers. We have no idea how Rey is related to the Solo-Skywalker clan. We only know that she is related to them, somehow, some way. Her use of Luke’s old lightsaber is the proof of the pudding. Whether she is a stolen or hidden daughter/niece, she is related to Luke Skywalker and Anakin before him. That much we can be absolutely certain of. The rest will be revealed as Luke’s and Leia’s heritage was in the first trilogy: bit by aggravating bit.

Let’s try not to grind our teeth while we wait, shall we?

On the subject of pluses for The Force Awakens, as I stated before, Finn was a winning character. Though the scenes which suggest he is falling in love with Rey – and she with him – occasionally seemed forced and flat (to me), their friendship was definitely genuine. And Finn got some of the best lines in the movie, such as when he mentions that Chewie has nearly killed him six times. Chewie’s response is to grab him and roar in his face, making Finn say, “Which is fine!” John Boyega has a real sense of fun, and he obviously made the most of the part given to him in The Force Awakens.

Speaking of great lines, Han was the other character who got grand zingers and dialogue in this film. This is no surprise – in the original trilogy, he was always shooting his mouth off in an endearing, funny way. It was a real pleasure to see him and the Falcon again. It only got better when he reunited with his wife. He and Leia had some great moments together, such as when Han says, “I’m only trying to help…”

“When has that ever helped?” Leia retorts tartly, adding, “And don’t say the Death Star!”

Oh, it is so good to have them back, if only for a little while!!! I missed the original heroes sooo much over the years – I never realized just how much I actually wanted to see them onscreen again!

Leia herself seemed more tired than anything in The Force Awakens. But the nice thing is how readily she and Han got back together. Even after all the pain they have been through, those two still love each other. The way they forgave each other for splitting up was good, considering how badly things ended up for them.

Maz Kanata was also a real winner. She is not only a Force-sensitive voice of wisdom; she has a sense of humor! After a thousand years of living, watching evil come and go, that is no mean feat!! I liked her a lot more than I thought I would.

And of course, we have X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon back!! YEAH-HOO!!! I have ached to see those ships again!!!

Oh, and we cannot forget Chewie! That “walking carpet” is a great big teddy bear (with a temper) and almost all Star Wars fans love him to bits! It is so nice that he is not dead in this timeline!!!

There are just a few more things I have to mention before I sign off here. One, though Rey never changes her desert garb until the end of the movie (at which point she simply exchanges it for a grey getup of the exact same style), she really was not given a chance to get changed until then. Even Han barely had time to get a jacket before heading out to Starkiller Base.

However, Finn came through in the pinch. He gave Rey the jacket Poe let him keep. It was a nice touch – maybe chivalry is not dead after all. It is hardly Finn’s fault that Rey took the jacket off at some point and gave it back to him. (Can a few more guys in the movies be that thoughtful of the girls? It would be great to see more scenes where the guy treats the girl like she is worth a million dollars!) Admittedly, seeing her breath steaming up or a few shivers would have at least let us know she was dealing with the cold.

As for Ren’s ability to read the minds of others against their will, that is a tactic straight out of the now non-canon Expanded Star Wars Universe. However, the whole problem with making the Expanded Universe non-canon is that it took around thirty years to build it up in the first place. Scrapping all that work and building from the ground up again will take way too much time.

Plus, the Expanded Universe stories are extremely popular. Mara Jade’s solid fan base (which includes me), is confirmation of this. The stories may now be non-canon, but Disney knows that making a whole new universe from scratch will cost them a lot of time and money… and they know that Star Wars fans are heavily invested in what has come before. Why waste precious time and money making “a new universe” (to quote Erik Selvig), when they can simply pilfer from the treasure hoard of the Expanded Universe, tweaking it to fit the new timeline they are making?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series already did this – though they were operating off of canon novels at the time. They brought Force-sensitive bounty hunter Aurra Sing into the series from the novels. The TV show also featured the Force-sensitive witches of Dathomir, specifically the Dark Side sect of Adepts known as the Nightsisters. These were mentioned extensively in the original Expanded Universe. Dathomirian witch Teneniel Djo married Prince Isolder of the Hapes Consortium and had a daughter with him, Tenel Ka. Tenel Ka became a Jedi Knight and Jacen Solo’s girlfriend, eventually giving birth to their daughter, Allana.

Rebels (which serves a similar purpose to The Clone Wars), is following the same pattern, albeit they are pulling things from stories that are now non-canon. There are creatures and weapons that come directly from the Expanded Universe in the show. Characters may follow as well – Agent Kallus, the ISB agent hunting the Ghost crew in the series, was almost a Chiss warrior before the writers decided he should be a Human. And there were rumors running around for a while that the writers might bring Grand Admiral Thrawn in during Rebels’ third season. (That would be interesting, to say the least!)

The writers had already set a precedent for this by adding Inquisitors to the Rebels series. The Inquisitors were also part of the pre-original Star Wars trilogy Expanded Universe novels. Dark Side Adepts working for the Emperor, their purpose was to hunt down stragglers from the Jedi Purge and Force-sensitive youths or infants. They would destroy the stragglers and the children who refused to turn in the books, while taking the infants to mold as future Inquisitors – something the Dark Side users in Rebels are doing as well.

Is this cheating? Yes, in a way. Is this contemptible, underhanded treatment of the fans? Some will find it so. But it makes money, as well as keeps a full-blown riot from hitting the fan and ruining Disney and Lucasfilm’s bottom lines. And the writers for Rebels and the new trilogy love Star Wars as much as the fans. They will want to salvage as much from the “Legends” novels as they can, because they like it as much as the fans do.

It is also, basically, the only thing they, Lucasfilm, and Disney can do. They cannot make films from the novels. Even the Legacy novels and comics, which were opening up new territory for the Expanded Universe (some of it rather bizarre for Star Wars), are things they could not film. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill are not able to run around and do that kind of legwork anymore. It is too hard for them.

Hamill has been voice acting since at least the 1990s. This is the first time he has been in front of a camera in years. (As far as this writer is aware, anyway.) Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford have kept in front of the camera, but Ford is the only one now who is still capable of running around and shooting people up. How much longer that will last, we do not know. Disney does not know, either; and they cannot take chances with an acquisition as big and lucrative as Star Wars is. This meant that they had to make the books non-canon. But they still own the rights to these novels – and that means they can filch from them any time they want.

This handicap also means that they had no choice but to remake Star Wars IV: A New Hope when they wrote the script for The Force Awakens. There was no other way to get kids who never saw the prequels and who may never have seen the original trilogy interested in the franchise.

Could they have made The Force Awakens a less politically correct remake of A New Hope? Absolutely. This is nothing against Finn or Rey, but the fact is this political correctness was not needed to revitalize the story. The writers could have made as good a film – or a better one – without all the political posturing. The first three films did it, the prequels avoided it (more or less?), and The Force Awakens could have done it.

However, Disney has done what it has done. J.J. Abrams has reinvigorated the series as best he could, the way he did with the Star Trek film franchise. (Don’t worry, I am not rescinding my ice bucket challenge to him! I am simply according him the credit that is his due – little as it may be in the eyes of some.)

Does that make The Force Awakens and the new saga perfect?

Nope.

Is it still enjoyable?

Yes… more or less.

However, until episodes VIII and IX somehow manage to blow The Force Awakens out of the water, I will stick with the original trilogy, Star Wars Rebels, and the non-canon novels. I enjoy them more than The Force Awakens – so far. I am not averse to going to the theaters to see the new Star Wars films, but I do not yet like them as much as these older stories. And the fact is that this attitude may not change.

Well, readers, this is my long-winded opinion of the opening salvo for the new Star Wars saga. Take it or leave it, as you like. Until next time –

The Force will be with you, always!

The Mithril Guardian