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.

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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).

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.

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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.

Mothers, Daughters, and Loss: A New Way to Watch the Alien Saga

Back in 2015, it was revealed that Neill Blomkamp was working on ‘Alien 5’, a new installment in Fox’s ‘Alien’ franchise that would be a direct sequel to ‘Aliens,’ ignoring both ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Alien: Resurrection.’ As time passed, news came that both Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn would come back as both Ripley and Hicks, along with a now-grown up Newt and, presumably, Lance Henriksen as Bishop.

As a fan of the series, this was one of the most exciting movie news I had seen in years; the thought of seeing Ellen Ripley on the big screen again for the first time since 1997 was a dream come true, and I eagerly followed every scrap of news, every piece of concept art, and even makeup tests. My dream sequel was finally coming together!

And then the movie was canceled.

While there’s still the faintest hope that the movie could be resurrected (if James Cameron’s words are any indication), it seems that, for now, Ellen Ripley’s story still ends with her sacrifice on Fiorina 161.

But what if it doesn’t?

Back in 2011, writer Rod Hilton proposed watching the Star Wars saga (which, at the time, was still only six movies) in what he called, ‘machete order.’ While his post explains it best, the basic gist is that you watch episodes 4 and 5, then 2 and 3, and then 6, which starts with the best film, includes (two) prequels, while also preserving the twist that Darth Vader is Luke’s dad. While musing if ‘Alien 5’ will ever be made, it recently dawned on me that the Alien franchise could be viewed in a similar manner; one of the biggest draws of ‘Alien 5’ was the idea that Ellen could get a happier ending than she did in the canon timeline, but thanks to this new viewing order, which takes the stories that work and – in keeping with current Hollywood trends – pretending that the ones that don’t never happened, she does.

So, what is this new viewing experience? It has two of the films and one of the videogames, experienced in this order:

  1. Alien

  2. Alien: Isolation

  3. Aliens.

For those who don’t know, ‘Alien: Isolation’ is a 2014 video game that follows Ellen’s daughter, Amanda, as she goes in search of the Nostromo’s flight recorder to find out what happened to her mother, only to be trapped aboard a space station that’s been decimated by a single Xenomorph, turning her quest into a fight for survival. It’s a tense, frightening experience, and after playing through it over a dozen times, I’ve come to regard it as a sequel to ‘Alien,’ hence its inclusion in this list. Thus, the saga begins with the first film, continues with the video game (which can be further enhanced by reading the novelization, which adds more history to Amanda and Ellen’s history together) and ends with the second film, pretending that ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Alien: Resurrection’ never happened.

While this fan-version of the saga is shorter, and ends with Ellen still alive, there’s a more subtle change that I didn’t realize until I had gone through these three tales again one after another: The ‘Alien’ saga has been about Ellen and her adventures with phallic aliens from beyond the furthest stars, but it’s also a parable about the dangers of greed, corrupt corporations, and those corporations doing anything and everything to increase their profits, no matter the cost in human suffering. The original four film saga was about Weyland-Yutani (and the military) trying and failing to get the Alien for their own purposes, and Ellen foiling them time and time again. In this new trilogy, the story arc is about Weyland-Yutani tearing a family apart in a blind pursuit of profit, and then that family successfully denying said corporation what it so desperately wants while healing and moving on with their lives: Amanda learns what happened to her mother and gets closure, while Ellen, having lost Amanda to cancer before waking up from stasis, manages to stop Weyland-Yutani for good, and saves a little girl from having to grow up without a mother, as Amanda did.

Of course, this isn’t official in any way; it’s just one fan’s version of the Alien saga that has a more hopeful, upbeat ending that lets us imagine all the good times ahead for Ellen. If Alien 5 is never made, this is a way for fans to still have a happy ending, free to decide for themselves what happens next. In my headcanon, Ellen officially adopts Newt, marries Hicks, Bishop is repaired and becomes the family’s robot-butler, Jones continues to be a little s*** head, and they all live happily ever after! Of course, there’s still Weyland-Yutani to deal with, but they’re soon bought out by Disney. And, in my opinion, that’s a far happier ending than seeing one of sci-fi’s greatest heroes being burnt to a crisp.

Favorite Moments: IT Recut as a Family Film

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.

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The Video

Why it’s great

In honor of “It: Chapter Two’ being released tomorrow, I thought I’d share one of my favorite trailer recuts, which changes the 1990 miniseries ‘IT’ into a heartwarming tale of a concerned citizen dressing up as a clown to bring hope and joy to a town on the verge of bankruptcy and failure.

There are many trailer recuts out there, but ‘IT’ remains one of my favorites for its stellar use of uplifting music, corny taglines (Do you believe in magic?), and turning one of the most memorable monsters of the early 90’s into a being who only wants to save his community and bring happiness and hope to others.

Favorite Moments: Jurassic World Battle Royale

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.

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The Video

Why it’s great

Here’s an interesting mental exercise to try when you’ve finished your next book or screenplay: If all the characters in your story were put into an enclosed area and forced to fight to the death, who would win?

That’s the premise behind this video, which features every dinosaur in the game, ‘Jurassic World Evolution’ (up to that point) released into a single, large enclosure to fight for survival, and see who would come out on top. As you might imagine, it’s… well, it gets pretty chaotic as herbivores and carnivores duke it out to see who wins the privilege of being the last one standing, to have the privilege of being lord of all they survey, to stand tall on Isla Nublar and bellow forth their call of triumph as they’re pelted with popcorn by gawking tourists for the rest of their lives.

While I’ve always found massive free-for all battles fascinating, it wasn’t until this video that I realized why: The fewer contestants there are, the higher the drama gets, and if one of your favorite characters is among the last few standing, you’ll hope against hope that they’ll survive (I was rotting for the Spinosaurus and the T-rex), even though fortunes can turn in an instant, and death is only one mistake away.