Favorite Moments: Greedo’s Incompetence

We all have our favorite moments in movies, books, and games, moments that stay with us long after the story is over. This column is my attempt to examine my favorite moments and see why they stick with me.

***

The Video

Why it’s great

Outside of, ‘Did balrogs have wings?’, no nerd debate has gotten as much infamy as if Han shot first, or Greedo. In light of the news that the scene was changed yet again, I thought I’d go looking for the most ridiculous version of this infamous scene, and found one where Greedo’s incompetence at shooting someone three feet away is hilarious.

This little short also serves as an example of incompetence becoming funny:

Someone who thinks they’re the best + charging into a dangerous situation =  Comedy

It’s important to note that this formula works best if the situation is played for laughs, and the character is a villain deserving some good, old fashioned karma: watching a good-natured but incompetent soldier in a wartime drama charge into a battle only to be blown apart seconds later isn’t funny. Having racist, smug Nazi commandos wearing full body armor charge into battle against kids throwing snowballs, only to be beaten to a pulp (or be blown up when a snowball hits them) is much more amusing and satisfying because it feels deserved.

What we can learn from the many deaths of Jar Jar Binks

NOTE: This post contains videos that feature Jar Jar getting parts of his body ripped off, and depictions of blood.

‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ comes out in 17 days, and ends a storyline that’s been going for over 40 years. While much of that story has been embraced by fans of the saga, there are a few elements that most would like to forget, like Ewoks, the holiday special (if you value your sanity, don’t click that link) and Jar Jar Binks, infamous comic relief (and possible Sith lord). With the advent of computer editing, some fans take it upon themselves to rid the galaxy of the infamous gungan; one such video is ‘Han Solo VS Jar Jar Binks’ by Darren Wallace on Youtube:

For many fans out there, this is the catharsis they’ve dreamed of since 1999 (doesn’t hurt that the CGI is impressive, and the rotoscoping on Harrison Ford is top-notch), but at the risk of incurring the wrath of the Star Wars Fandom, I think this video is a good example of how not to kill off an annoying character. Yes, Jar Jar is smashed into paste, thus fulfilling the dreams of millions, but in the process, Han Solo is turned into a cold-blooded murderer.

Consider what happens: Jar Jar lands on the Millenium Falcon while searching for Anakin, briefly struggles with Han (who attacks him first) before having an ear ripped off, and is then thrown into the void of space before being smashed into bloody paste on the Falcon’s windshield. He’s not attacking Han, he’s not trying to hurt anyone, and he doesn’t dance, goof around, or do any of his usual antics; heck, he even surrenders before being killed! Your mileage may vary on how annoying Jar Jar was in ‘The Phantom Menace,’ (personally, I don’t find him annoying), but in this situation, Jar Jar doesn’t do anything to merit such a painful death. It feels heartless and senselessly cruel, like Zara’s death in ‘Jurassic World’

For the crime of being annoyed at having to babysit a teenager and her younger brother, Zara is eaten alive and drowns in the lightless void of a mosassaur’s stomach. It’s cruel, ghastly, and grotesque, feeling completely unearned for someone who isn’t the main antagonist. Jar Jar’s death here feels the same way: He may be despised by many in the Star Wars fandom, but does he deserve to have such a cruel death? In my opinion, no.

Now, let’s look at another example of a fan-made Jar Jar demise:

This version, while not as cruel as the first, still features Jar Jar being killed despite not doing anything offensive. However, in this version, his tone of voice at the beginning can be interpreted as being sarcastic, so in this video, he at least antagonizes the main character, making his death feel a little more earned, for who doesn’t like to see bullies and sarcastic thugs get their comeuppance?

Here’s a third death, edited together from a deleted scene from ‘The Phantom Menace’

This one features Jar Jar being smashed to pieces against rocks while doing his best impersonation of the Hamburglar. Here, Jar Jar doesn’t die from the actions of others (who, in their defense, try to save him), but from his own mistakes. Thus, this is a neutral death: He dies by own faults, not from being murdered.

And now, a fourth and final death:

This version of Jar Jar’s death goes for comedy and succeds admirably. Here, Jar Jar irritates Vader to no end, refusing to listen to his orders to leave him alone. It’s easy to imagine ourselves being annoyed by someone who’s as bothersome and pestering as Jar Jar, so it’s easy to side with Vader when Jar Jar is ejected into space… only to come back as an even more-annoying force ghost. Yet, despite Jar Jar being murdered, having it played for laughs and with no long-term consequences makes it easy to accept and fun to watch.

When comparing all four of these deaths, a common thread appears: The ones where the Jar Jar is annoying or antagonizing someone else makes his deaths feel more justified. The ones where he’s not trying to harm or do anything evil make his deaths feel less justified. Therein lies the an important lesson:

If an annoying character is going to be killed off, make their death be earned by being annoying, antagonistic, or playing it for comedy.

While it may be cathartic to see a reviled character bite the dust in a bloody manner, and tempting to write such a demise, doing so risks making those deaths feel sadistic. The most satisfying deaths are the ones that are deserved, not the ones that are cruel.

BONUS DEATH SCENE: Minutes after posting this article, I found out that Jar Jar has actually been blown up in an official Disney cartoon! (he gets better, but good grief, the poor guy just can’t catch a break).

The Best Background Characters: Don’t Bring A Stick To A Swordfight

Every story has a cast of characters that we follow and watch and come to love… but what about the background characters? The nameless masses who rarely get our attention? This column examines my favorite background characters who deserve a moment in the spotlight.

***

The Movie:

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’

The Character:

A Rohan swordsman who chose a strange weapon when fighting for his life.

The Scene:

(The swordsman in question appears at 0:39 in the upper left corner)

Why He Deserves A Moment In The Spotlight

The climactic battle at the Black Gates is a gripping scene, filled with tension, drama, and the fate of all Middle-Earth hanging in the balance. Victory here means that Sauron will be defeated forever, and failure will mean not only death for the combatants, but the enslavement of Middle-Earth until the end of time. All the soldiers and warriors who volunteered to go on this dangerous mission no doubt took their time to carefully select the best weapons they could find to protect themselves… including the guy who thought that bringing along a stick was a good idea.

What distinguishes this background character from all the other swordsmen and warriors in the battle is that he’s wielding a stick. A stick! I’m not versed in the art of armed combat, but I doubt a long, thin, piece of wood is going to do you any good when facing swords, axes, clubs, arrows, and spears, which makes me wonder about the story behind such an odd choice for a weapon; did the warrior want two weapons for the upcoming battle, but he was too late getting to the armory, and just grabbed a stick for lack of anything else?

In any case, aside from wielding a stick in the most important battle of Middle-Earth’s history, Stick Guy’s only other distinction is that he’s the sole spectator to Aragorn’s battle with the troll. Judging from how he jitters in place, it’s amusing to imagine him thinking if he should help Aragorn, only to realize that while his sword might help, his beloved stick wouldn’t do a thing against steel armor and troll hide.

The takeaway from Stick Guy is that, when doing battle scenes, it’s logical for the participants to have lots of weapons, but when someone brings along an oddball weapon, it’s an opportunity to show how desperate the situation is by having characters resort to fighting with anything they can get their hands on, no matter how ludicrous they might be. Not only is it funny, but the audience will find themselves rooting for them, whether they wield a stick, an old sword, or a cactus.

A Dark Fate vs A Force Awakened

‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ was intended to be the start of a new ‘Terminator’ trilogy that would eventually close the book on the story that began all the way back in 1984. However, despite making over $249 million dollars at the box office, ‘Dark Fate’ appears to signal the end of the Terminator franchise (for now, at least). Yet, despite the overall lukewarm reception, and disagreeing with some of the story choices, I’m still a fan of the film, thanks to the enjoyable cast (especially with Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger back together) and action scenes.

However, when writing about the film two weeks ago, I realized that ‘Dark Fate’ is surprisingly similar to 2016’s, ‘The Force Awakens’: Both are sequels to popular movies that feature new female leads, have the new antagonist that’s almost identical to the old one,  have a character from the original series be killed, and end with the main leads heading out to fight the new antagonists.

Yet, while I was disappointed with ‘The Force Awakens’ for feeling too much like a remake of ‘A New Hope’ with elements from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ sprinkled in, I had no such problems with ‘Dark Fate’, and ever since realizing how similar both movies are, I’ve been brainstorming why that’s so, and I think I’ve figured it out: The main reason I prefer ‘Dark Fate’ over ‘The Force Awakens’ is how they treat characters from the original series. In ‘Awakens’, most of them are given only minor roles, with only Han, Chewbacca, and Leia getting the most screentime. In ‘Dark Fate’, though, Sarah and the T-800 have large roles to play, with Sarah being newcomer Danni’s mentor throughout the runtime, and the T-800 acting as a bodyguard/protector who ultimately destroys the REV 9, ensuring Danni’s survival.

In short, ‘Dark Fate’ brings back legacy characters and gives them plenty to do alongside new characters. ‘Awakens’ may bring back more of its original cast, but only gives two (Han and Chewie) substantial roles.

When writing legacy sequels, or sequels that take place a long time after the previous entries, it’s important to let original characters have the limelight: longtime fans love seeing their favorite characters again, and it’s a good bet that newer fans enjoy seeing them, too. Despite killing off John Connor too quickly and easily, ‘Dark Fate’ honors and respects Sarah and the T-800 by giving them a lot to do and making them vital to the story. Considering how it’s unlikely we’re going to get a new Terminator film for a long time – if ever – it was a wise choice.

Favorite Moments: Darth Vader vs the Energizer Bunny

We all have our favorite moments in movies, books, and games, moments that stay with us long after the story is over. This column is my attempt to examine my favorite moments and see why they stick with me.

***

The Video

Why it’s great

Aside from the absurdity of the Emperor dispatching a Dark Lord of the Sith to destroy a pink bunny rabbit, this commercial is a great example of fish-out-of-water comedy: in this instance, a big, powerful character who’s normally always in control and feared by everyone suddenly running out of battery power for his lightsaber. Had it took place during one of his lightsaber duels in the films, it would be hilarious to see him scrambling to replace the batteries while avoiding his opponent’s lightsaber, but it’s still funny to see him lose his temper here.

Is Rexy God?

When it comes to fan theories, nothing’s off-limits. Are the characters in a show all dead? Are they aliens? Is everything happening in the show a dream? Is Jar Jar Binks a Sith lord who secretly masterminded the events of the entire Star Wars saga? There’s no limit to the creativity that fans can come up with, which leads to one of my favorite theories: that Rexy – the Tyrannosaurus Rex from the first ‘Jurassic Park’ film – is God.

No, really.

This theory is a combination of two different ideas: that the T-rex is the hero of the first film, and that she takes the role of God in a parable of the Garden of Eden, turning Rexy into a being executing divine judgment on everyone who crosses her path. But is there any truth to this idea? Is it possible that this famous dinosaur is really the supreme being, the creator of the heavens, the Alpha and Omega of everything?

No, of course not. It’s ludicrous. But for the fun of it, let’s take a look and see what conclusions we can draw, based on the evidence seen in the films.

In analyzing this theory, we need to lay out some ground rules about God. The most common characteristics of God are:

*God is everywhere.

*God is all-powerful and can do anything.

*God knows everything.

We also need to figure out what God wants. This is perhaps one of the most unanswerable of all questions, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s guess that God wants us to be good to each other. Therefore, we can assume that if God did come down to earth and took physical form, God would spend the lifespan of that body trying to help people live better lives and become more moral and fair.

Now, let’s apply all of these interpretations to Rexy, starting with God’s traits.

1. Is Rexy everywhere at once? No; she can be confined to paddocks, cages, etc.

2. Is Rexy all-powerful? No; she can break through fences, is quite strong, and surprisingly healthy as an old individual (Rexy is about 30 years old in ‘Fallen Kingdom’; the oldest known T-rex, Trix, died around the same age), but she cannot fly, shoot lasers out of her eyeballs, or summon black holes at will.

3. Does Rexy know everything? No. Rexy may be intelligent enough to test an electric fence when its power goes out, cooperate with other dinosaurs to kill even bigger and more dangerous dinosaurs, and destroy important objects that evil people want or need, but she is still distracted by flares and flashlights swung about by obnoxious children.

On the surface, these three points prove that Rexy is not God. To further prove this, let’s take a look at what she does in all the films:

‘Jurassic Park’

*Hides from the tour group

*Breaks out of her paddock after the power goes out

*Attempts to eat Tim and Lex

*Destroys one tour vehicle and shoves another off a cliff

*Gets distracted by a flare

*Injures Ian Malcom

*Eats a lawyer

*Sniffs Grant and Lex, but doesn’t eat them when she easily could

*Chases Ellie Sattler, Robert Muldon, and Ian Malcom in the jungle, presumably to get them out of her territory

*Eats a gallimimus.

*Saves Alan, Ellie, Tim, and Lex in the visitor center, which allows them to escape the island

‘Jurassic World’

*Eats a goat in her enclosure

*Follows Claire out of her paddock without trying to eat her

*Battles the Indominous Rex

*Gets injured fighting the Indominous Rex

*Teams up with Blue the velociraptor to defeat the Indominous Rex by shoving it towards the Mosasaurus paddock, where it is eaten

*Allows Blue to live, despite their species being mortal enemies

*Roars at the abandoned park.

‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’

*Attacks a team of mercenaries trying to salvage a DNA sample of the Indominous Rex.

*Tries to yank down a helicopter with said mercenaries as they try to escape.

*Allows the Mosasaurus to escape from Jurassic World and enter the open ocean

*Saves Owen from a Carnotaurus.

*Survives the eruption of Mt. Sibo and the destruction of Isla Nublar

*Seemingly attacks Owen after he and Claire take some of her blood to save Blue

*Eats a goat after arriving at the Lockwood Estate

*Eats Mills who wants to sell dinosaurs on the black market

*Destroys the only DNA sample of the Indominous Rex.

*Roars at a lion in a zoo.

Are these the actions of an incarnated god? No. Rexy destroyed the tour vehicles because they were unfamiliar objects and she considered them a threat. She attacked the Indominous because it was in her territory, and she ate Mills because he was easy prey.

However, it’s interesting to note that, starting with her saving Alan and the others in the visitor’s center, Rexy’s behavior starts to become more heroic as the films go on. If Rexy was God, then it’s logical that she would become a force for justice and righteousness. And with those facts in mind, let’s take another look at her narrative through the series, but rewritten to make her a divine being.

In ‘Jurassic Park,’ Rexy, having been sent by God to act as an embodiment of justice, has grown up and has been placed into a paddock, where she bides her time until she can break free and judge the humans on Isla Nublar. Finally getting her chance when the power goes out, she tests the fence and, confirming that there’s no electricity, escapes. She attacks Lex and Tim, but only because their yells and screeches annoy her. She turns her attention to Malcom, but upon realizing that he was only trying to save the children, she spares his life, and then, realizing how greedy Gennaro is, promptly eats him. She has the chance to easily eat Lex and Grant, but realizing that Grant is only trying to save the children, decides to spare the two. She thinks about trying to eat Tim, but decides to just get rid of them all by forcing them down into the jungle.

Later, she pursues Ellie, Robert, and Ian through the jungle to maintain her cover as an animal, while testing their will to survive. Deciding that they’re worthy, she lets them live.

After roaming the island and eating a gallimimus, she then realizes that the remaining humans on the island are innocent and in danger, and saves them from the pack of raptors at the visitor’s center, ensuring that they can escape to safety.

In ‘Jurssic World,’ Rexy – having been captured and put on display as a zoo exhibit – has allowed the humans to keep her like this, as she knows her presence delights other humans and helps educate them about the wonders of the animal kingdom. Plus, she gets free food, good medical care, and daily exercise and mental stimulation, so it’s a sweet deal.

When the Indominous breaks out, she decides to remain in her paddock to see what humanity will do. Throughout the day, she carefully observes as they try to contain the dinosaur, and then save as many people as they can, and decides that the surviving humans are worth saving. Thus, when Claire finally releases her, Rexy attacks the Indominous without a second thought, seeing it as an abomination to the natural order that must be destroyed.

However, having not gotten into any fights in over twenty years, Rexy is quickly overpowered and almost killed, but manages to turn the tide, thanks to Blue’s intervention. Knowing that she lacks the physical strength to kill the Indominous herself, she instead cunningly pushes it back to the Mosasaurus pen, allowing the larger beast to finish it off. With the battle won, she debates whether to kill Blue, but, seeing as how she, too, is an innocent, she spares her and departs, allowing the humans on the island to flee.

Two years later, however, not all is well. While on a routine patrol in search of evil, Rexy realizes that a group of people have arrived. Hiding in the shadows, she studies them, only to quickly realize that they are mercenaries who have come for a grave and evil purpose: Retrieving a sample of the long-dead Indominous Rex. Furious, she deems them unworthy to live and attacks, trying to bring down their helicopter so she can destroy the sample, taking care to release the Mosasaurus as a backup plan. But unfortunately, she fails, and the Mosasaurus is unable to destroy it, allowing the mercenaries to escape.

Later, during the eruption of Mt. Sibo, Rexy comes across Owen, Claire, and Franklin. Recognizing that all three are fighting to save dinosaurus and live up to their responsibility as their creators and protectors, Rexy saves them all from a carnotaurus.

She allows herself to be captured by yet another mercenary group, pretending to be angry so she can keep up her disguise. When onboard the ship, she’s drugged; upon awakening when she has her blood drawn, she’s confused and angry, and roars at Owen and Claire, briefly attempting to injure Owen as punishment for taking her blood without permission. However, he escapes unharmed.

Rexy decides not to pursue the matter further, as she needs to bide her time for her bigger mission: Finding the Indominus Rex DNA sample, and bringing justice to those who want to create more abominations against God.

Eventually, Rexy arrives at the Lockwood Estate, but can only observe and study what’s going on around her. After managing to escape, she brings justice upon Mills for both murdering Lockwood and selling dangerous dinosaurs and dinosaur genetics to the black market by eating him, and then destroying the Indominus Rex sample, ensuring that no one else will ever be able to use it again.

And so, with her task completed, she sets out into the world to continue her divine mission of justice, which we’ll have to wait until 2021 to see.

While the idea that Rexy is God is still ludicrous, the idea that Rexy is divine actually might have some merit. When viewed through the mindset that she’s a divine being sent to enact justice, Rexy’s actions throughout the films, especially ‘World’ and ‘Fallen Kingdom’ give the theory some credence.

Although it’s highly unlikely to become official cannon, I like to think that Rexy is some sort of avenging angel who inhabits the body of a T-Rex and brings justice to all those who defy the natural order, or do harm to others. And indeed, throughout the series, all the humans who are either innocent or good survive every encounter with Rexy, while those who do evil or are greedy meet their demise.

This may be a goofy idea, an implausible one, and something that someone with too much time on their hands comes up with, but it does allow for subsequent viewings of the ‘Jurassic’ films to take on a new light, and help us see them in a new, unexpected way.

Favorite Moments: The Passion of the Christ in 5 Seconds

We all have our favorite moments in movies, books, and games, moments that stay with us long after the story is over. This column is my attempt to examine my favorite moments and see why they stick with me.

***

The Video

Why it’s great

It’s been said that the mark of a tight, focused story is that it can be summed up in one sentence (aka, the logline). Occasionally, such a fact can be used for comedic effect, such as if a two hour movie can be accurately summed up in a one and a half second clip of a guy screaming.