Aggressive Negotiations: Negotiations with a Lightsaber

Episode II: Attack of the Clones

A lot of carry-over from Phantom Menace, though Hayden Christensen has been brought in to play an older Anakin Skywalker.  Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman return as Obi-Wan and Padmé.  Esteemed Christopher Lee (sadly passed away in 2015, but is extremely memorable for playing Saruman in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit [he had met Tolkien once], as well as voicing the Jabberwocky in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.  He was also Rochefort in some of the older Three Musketeer movies featuring Michael York as D’Artagnan, and was a Bond villain in The Man with the Golden Gun; portrayed Dracula, and several different characters is various Sherlock Holmes renditions.  His filmography goes back to the mid-forties, with over 280 credits, after serving in the Royal Air Force in WWII) plays Count Dooku.  Jimmy Smits (spent a decade with NYPD Blue and a few years after that on The West Wing, and has a role in the new In the Heights movie.  Prior to that, he was with L.A. Law; I think that’s how my parents knew him…I do remember him hosting A Capitol Fourth  one year; the orchestra played Battle of the Heroes after Revenge of the Sith came out) joins as Senator Bail Organa (yes, Leia’s father down the road).

Takes place ten years after Phantom Menace, Anakin and Obi-Wan have grown as a Master-Padawan team and are assigned to protect Padmé Amidala, now a Senator after an attempt has been made on her life (the opening of the film).  Anakin still puts his foot in his mouth and apparently has not lost his crush on Padmé.  Obi-Wan cautions him, but Anakin is also distracted by dreams and visions he’s had about his mother.  That is why they almost miss a bounty hunter sending a droid to put two worm creatures into Padmé’s room.  Obi-Wan takes the quick way and jumps out the window after the droid (who’s reckless now?)  Anakin chases after his Master in a speeder, weaving in and out of Courscant traffic. The bounty hunter shoots down the droid and Obi-Wan almost plummets to his death, but Anakin catches him.  Then they banter back and forth a bit and Obi-Wan comments “if you spent as much time practicing your saber technique as you do your wit, you’d rival Master Yoda as a swordsman.”  “I thought I already did.”  “Only in your mind, my very young apprentice!”

What follows is a bit of a chase, where Obi-Wan is not fond of Anakin’s flying; “I don’t mind flying, but what you’re doing is suicide!”  [I did an excerpt of this scene from the novelization as a dramatic reading when I was on the forensics team in high school]  Until a shortcut doesn’t work out so well and the pair thinks they’ve lost the bounty hunter.  Anakin then leaps out of the speeder to catch the bounty hunter; “I hate it when he does that,” Obi-Wan mutters.  The bounty hunter tries to shake Anakin, but he persists, though he drops his lightsaber in the process.  Obi-Wan follows and catches his Padawan before he can run after the bounty hunter again.  They track their prey to a bar, Obi-Wan bemoaning a bit, “why do I have the feeling that you’re going to be the death of me?”  Anakin insists not, Obi-Wan is the closest thing he has to a father.  Obi-Wan sends Anakin to scan the crowd while Obi-Wan draws their prey out by having a drink at the main counter, after sending a patron away with a mind trick.  Obi-Wan catches the bounty hunter with his lightsaber and they attempt to question her, but another bounty hunter fires a toxic dart, leaving the Jedi with more questions and few answers.

The Jedi Council instructs Obi-Wan to track down the second bounty hunter.  Meanwhile, Anakin is to escort Padmé back to Naboo and keep her protected.  Chancellor Palpatine is eager to help young Skywalker and remarks he sees Anakin becoming the greatest Jedi, even more powerful than Master Yoda.  [This is not going to end well].  While Padmé is packing, Anakin complains to her about Obi-Wan; yes, his master may be as wise as Master Yoda and as powerful as Master Windu, Anakin still feels like he is ahead of Obi-Wan.  The older man is holding him back (fueled no doubt by the general consensus that Anakin is the Chosen One and probably nudged further by Palpatine’s slippery words).  An old informant of Obi-Wan’s sends him to Kamino; once he gets some help from Yoda and younglings when the Jedi Archives are incomplete regarding the planet.  They’re cloners, Obi-Wan is told.  They seem pleasant enough when he meets them, though they were expecting a Master Sifo-Dyus.  He ordered an army created for the Republic, using a man named Jango Fett as the base.  Jango claims he was recruited by a man named Tyranus.  Oddly, Sifo-Dyus was killed ten years ago.  When Obi-Wan reports to the Jedi Council, they confirm that this army was created without their authorization.  Obi-Wan is to bring Jango Fett in for questioning.  Jango Fett is undoubtedly the bounty hunter that Obi-Wan is searching for and they battle each other in the rain.  Jango has a young son named Boba (he’ll pop up down the road) who tries to help out (and that ship probably looks a bit familiar). Obi-Wan manages to plant a tracker on their ship and follows.

Padmé’s not terribly keen on hiding out on Naboo, but she can’t really go against everyone.  There are some deleted scenes that show more of Padmé’s family; very sweet.  And the scenery for Naboo is gorgeous, feels very Tuscan.  She and Anakin do manage to share a kiss while at the lake house (cue gorgeous love theme), but Padmé breaks it off.  Anakin tries to awkwardly talk about their feelings [the dialogue here is terrible], but Padmé keeps insisting that even if there was something between them, it is terribly unwise and forbidden.  While there, Anakin continues to have nightmares about his mother.  Padmé agrees to go with him to Tatooine.  There, they discover that Shmi is now married to Cliegg Lars.  But she’s not at the Lars homestead; she was taken by Tusken Raiders.  Anakin leaves Padmé with Cliegg, his son Owen and soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Beru (not the last time we’ve heard those names), so he can track them down (we hear Duel of the Fates reprised briefly).  He indeed finds his mother, but she dies in his arms.  Rage fills Anakin and he slaughters the entire village.  In the background we can hear Qui-Gon Jinn beg Anakin “no!”  Even Yoda hears it.  It does nothing to sway Anakin.  He confesses to Padmé after he brings his mother back.  She tries to comfort him, saying that to be angry is to be human.  Anakin retorts that as a Jedi, he is better than that.  He blames the Tusken Raiders, he blames Obi-Wan (and in pops a theme that will gain significance as we go).

Obi-Wan tracks the Fetts to Geonosis, after surviving an asteroid field; again, he’s not too keen on flying.  [Fun note, in the books that precede this film, mainly the Jedi Apprentice series, Obi-Wan didn’t mind flying, but there was an incident at some point that made him not as keen.  And Anakin is very reckless when flying, so that probably doesn’t help]  He transmits his report to Anakin to relay to the Council, then is captured.  We  finally meet the man behind a lot of this; Count Dooku (yep, over an hour into the film and we finally meet the big bad).  Dooku tries to sway Obi-Wan to his side, telling him that the Senate is under the influence of a Sith Lord named Darth Sidious.  We all know this is true, but Obi-Wan doesn’t trust a fallen Jedi.  Dooku was once Qui-Gon’s master and feels that his former Padawan would have aided him and attempts to sway Obi-Wan that way.  Together, they can destroy the Sith!  [All Sith seem bent on destroying something or someone].  Obi-Wan holds firm.

The Council is disturbed by the news from Geonosis.  They order Anakin to stay put.  Jar Jar is chosen to petition emergency powers being granted to the Chancellor in order to take control of the clone army (another reason for us not to trust the Gungan).  Palpatine makes a rousing speech promising to lay down the power that has been granted to him when the conflict is over.  [Liar!  And further disturbing note, this is very similar to how Adolf Hitler gained power in Germany].  Yoda will go to Kamino and Windu will take what Jedi he can to Geonosis to rescue Obi-Wan.

Luckily, Padmé firmly tells Anakin she is going after Obi-Wan, so if he wants to continue protecting her, as ordered, he will have to come with her.  They find a droid factory on Geonosis and almost make it through, even R2-D2 and C-3PO get in on the action, but the couple is captured.  They declare their love for each other, considering there is a good chance they’re going to die soon and share a kiss before taken into the large arena (sweeping love theme!)  Obi-Wan quips they did a good job of rescuing him.  Dooku announces that the three will be executed and three animals are released.  Padmé quickly makes it to the top of her tower (cause she was smart and snuck a lock-pick into her mouth); she’s showing up the men.  All three manage to get free, notwithstanding any injuries.  But droids roll out.  Countered by Mace Windu holding a purple lightsaber to Jango Fett’s throat, the cue for dozens of Jedi to enter. 

Battle commences.  Everyone gets in on the action, Padmé picks up a blaster and R2 has to rescue 3PO.  Jango and Windu face off and Windu decapitates the bounty hunter (with his son watching; I think the Jedi Master does regret it).  Dooku calls for a halt when the droids seem to be winning, offering the Jedi a chance to surrender.  Windu refuses for them to become bargaining chips.  “Then my friend, you will die.”  Not so fast, Yoda to the rescue with the clones.  Now it’s clone versus droid with the Jedi taking the lead.  Anakin, Padmé, and Obi-Wan follow after Dooku.  Unbeknownst to them, Dooku has secret plans for the ultimate weapon [and that picture should look familiar] in his possession.  The trio’s carrier is knocked about and Padmé falls out.  Obi-Wan insists to Anakin they continue with their mission (except he hasn’t missed what his Padawan’s reaction implies).

Obi-Wan and Anakin face off against Dooku [his fighting style is influenced by the fact that Christopher Lee was trained in fencing (Three Musketeers, etc)]  Anakin rushes in and Force lightning quickly throws him into a wall.  Obi-Wan lasts a few minutes against the master swordsman, but two cuts put him down.  Anakin leaps to his master’s defense.  For a moment he even has two blades, then they fight in dim lighting (call forward to some duels in the originals), but Dooku cuts off his arm (and I think he even regrets that for a moment).  Yoda hobbles in to face Dooku, who turns out to be his own former Padawan.  They’re equal in knowledge of the Force, so it comes down to skills with a lightsaber.  And Yoda jumps everywhere!  Just a blur of green!  Dooku can sense he’s losing, so turns his attention back to the fallen pair and tries to bring machinery down on them.  Yoda saves them, but that allows Dooku to escape.

Dooku meets with Lord Sidious on Courscant, revealing that he himself is now a Sith, named Darth Tyranus.  Everything is falling into place as Sidious planned.  The military parade outside the Senate building is ominous (paired with a very familiar theme).  Yoda sadly announces to Obi-Wan that the Clone Wars have begun (hinted at back in the original film).  And Anakin and Padmé secretly get married on Naboo.

There are elements of the film that I like; of course the music is amazing. As much as I may not like the love story between Anakin and Padmé, or at least how poorly it was developed, the love theme, Across the Stars does make me think of a grand romance with a hint of yearning; it’s just perfect for that deep passionate kiss…I mean, you could use it as inspiration for any favorite pairing.  There is a dramatic bit in the middle that signifies that all is not wonderful and happy in love.  (At times it does sound a bit similar to Fawkes the Phoenix from the soundtrack of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; the movies were released the same year and shared a composer; we’ll forgive him).

The arena scene is probably the best of the movie; very cool to see that many lightsabers.  Again, compared to the original trilogy, this is when the Jedi are at their height.  And it was fun to see how our main trio each fought their monster.  The duel between Dooku and our heroes was a bit of a letdown; he defeats Anakin and Obi-Wan fairly swiftly, though certainly left his mark (and it makes another connection between him and Luke).  Yes, it was rather cool to watch Yoda finally duel.

Often the middle movie in a trilogy will suffer a bit, because the set up has occurred, but you don’t get to the pay off yet (this occurred with Dead Man’s Chest).  Spoilers for those of you who have not managed to actually watch the rest of the series.  We know that a Clone Wars occurs during Obi-Wan and Anakin’s lifetime, though this was not how I was expecting it to occur; I always thought that the Jedi were fighting against the clones.  We know that Anakin at the very least sleeps with someone if not outright marries them and they clearly set that up back in Phantom Menace.  But what is supposed to be the main focus of this film, the developing love between Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala falls flat.  There’s no chemistry between the couple.  Their conversations about feelings are almost painful.  Anakin feels he is entitled to Padmé because he had a crush on her as a boy and has thought of her for ten years.  She still sees him as that boy she helped rescue.  They just seemed forced together because it’s “supposed” to happen; and it’s Star Wars so there’s got to be some other action. 

We all kind of fall in love with Obi-Wan a little more; well, a portion of the fanbase at the very least.  Man, I love sarcasm.  Or quips.  Or snark, whatever you want to call it.  I appreciated all the bits thrown in to connect to the original films.  And yeah, we can now clearly see where design elements of the Empire originated, lot of clone influence.

For me, not the best Star Wars film, but better than basically all of the sequel trilogy…we’ll get to that rant in due course.  What are your thoughts?

Up Next: Revenge of the Sith

There’s Always a Bigger Fish

STAR WARS

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

I have a, we’ll say multifaceted relationship with Star Wars.  This was one of the first fandoms I got interested in as a teenager, but it certainly wasn’t love at first sight.  My parents put on the original trilogy, long before there were even rumors of prequels, when I was growing up; and I had no interest whatsoever.  The most interesting things I can remember from that was that Frank Oz voiced both Yoda and Fozzie Bear.  I was about ten when the prequels came out and still did not have much of an interest.  That changed when I volunteered to man the children’s librarian’s desk during the summer reading program.  All the new children’s books were right behind me, including the Jedi Apprentice series, which tells the tales of the early days of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s master/apprentice relationship.  One sounded vaguely interesting (Number 12, The Evil Experiment, if I recall correctly), so I gave it a go.  And enjoyed it.  And then borrowed all of the other books in the series (which I finished in quick order; they were easy reads for me).  So I favored the prequel movies for the longest time.  Still didn’t necessarily want to watch the original trilogy.  Until I picked up another book at the library: Young Jedi Knights, chronicling adventures of Han and Leia’s twins, Jania and Jacen…I’ll get into all of that when we hit the original trilogy.  Again, I was hooked and thus brought into the fold of the original trilogy.

It was not always fun being the only one of my friends in school interested in Star WarsHarry Potter was fine, everyone at that point loved it.  As a teenager, the Jedi Code sounded interesting, mastering one’s emotions.  I read Star Wars and Philosophy and ended up writing a paper for college writing based on it [Living Morally in a Business World; not the project I am most proud of].  For a while, Star Wars played a role in developing my fanfiction world.  Star Wars fanfiction was actually the first fanfiction I read.  Then, I got into Lord of the Rings and that eventually took over.  I still like Star Wars and definitely have favorite characters and there are some books I will re-read multiple times, but growing into an adult changed my perspective on certain things (like Qui-Gon Jinn might not be the epitome of best Jedi Masters…partially influenced by some awesome fanfiction stories on AO3) and I now heavily favor the original trilogy.  Except the lightsaber battles, because they’re just totally awesome in the prequels.

I know there are about a half dozen different ways to watch this film franchise; I seriously debated posting this in release order, but I felt it would be too much jumping around.  I also will not be covering any of the cartoons; I’ve seen a good bit of Clone Wars and Rebels, but not all of them.  And I have not watched and don’t necessarily intend to watch The Mandolorian…I do not have time.  (I’m also really behind on the MCU shows on Disney+ right now, so it becomes a choice).  I do intend to watch the Obi-Wan Kenobi series when it comes out.  Apologies for any disappointment.  Star Wars is such a huge part of pop culture that it is expected that one knows certain things going into the prequels. 

George Lucas put together a great cast for Phantom Menace.  Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List [no, haven’t watched and not one I think I will], Gawain in Excalibur [I probably should watch that movie], the Irishman played Scottish folk hero Rob Roy, appears in Kingdom of Heaven and Batman Begins.  He voices Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, and makes bad guys fear for their lives in the Taken franchise) is Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, Ewan McGregor (he’s got a great voice in Moulin Rouge, is a bit funny in Down with Love, is dashing in Miss Potter, and voices Lumiere in the live-action Beauty and the Beast.  He appears in Nanny McPhee Returns, Angels and Demons, and a seriously weird movie The Island [I watched it because he was in it and I still get freaked out by memories of it]) is his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Natalie Portman (before she was Jane Foster in the MCU and Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl) is Padmé Amidala and Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean, the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, The Duchess) briefly appears as her handmaiden Sabé (the girls looked remarkably alike at that age).  Samuel L. Jackson (before intimidating everyone as Nick Fury in the MCU) introduces Mace Windu, I recognize Terence Stamp now (Siegfried in the hilarious Get Smart movie in 2008) as Chancellor Valorum.  Ian McDiarmid returns to play Palpatine; Frank Oz, Kenny Baker, and Anthony Daniels all reprise their roles from the original trilogy.

Now, let’s venture “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

Jedi ambassadors are sent to the Trade Federation blockade of Naboo to force a settlement.  Master Qui-Gon Jinn feels that negotiations will be short.  As young Obi-Wan Kenobi points out later, they are short indeed; the Trade Federation is under the control of a Sith Lord, Lord Sidious, who instructs them to kill the Jedi.  Not so easy, they find out.  The two Jedi sneak down to the planet and make their way to the Queen.  They pick up Jar Jar Binks along the way [I don’t hate him, but he is annoying], but make it in time to rescue Queen Amidala and her handmaidens.  Qui-Gon recommends taking Amidala to Courscant to plead her case with the Senate, but their ship is damaged while escaping the Trade Federation blockade.  Little R2-D2 to the rescue! 

They still have to divert to Tatooine to make repairs.  The Queen sends Padmé along with Qui-Gon to find parts and in town, they discover a little boy in the shop; Anakin Skywalker [who very awkwardly tries to flirt with Padmé; mind you, he’s nine and she’s fourteen.  Why a nine-year-old is using lines he picked up from spacers…]  Qui-Gon attempts to use Jedi mind tricks on the shop owner, but they don’t work, only money.  So Anakin chimes in when he takes the newcomers home that he has built a podracer.  He’ll pilot and win and his new friends can repair their ship.  Qui-Gon is intrigued by this boy, a bit to Padmé’s displeasure.  Anakin’s mother admits to Qui-Gon that her son has no father [um, when did the Chosen One become Jesus?  Though technically, there are several mythical heroes that do not have fathers; Geoffrey Monmouth’s legend of Arthur terms Merlin as one such lad].  But Shmi feels that Anakin was meant to help Qui-Gon and Padmé.  Qui-Gon does manage to use a Jedi trick in order to gamble for Anakin’s freedom; sadly, the owner will only let one go.

Anakin wins the podrace [space Nascar] and Shmi encourages him to go with Qui-Gon.  As any nine-year-old boy would, he doesn’t want to say goodbye to his mother; but this is his chance to live out his dreams of seeing the stars. On their way back to the ship, Qui-Gon encounters a man dressed in black, carrying a red lightsaber.  We know that this is Darth Maul, Lord Sidious’s apprentice, tasked with finding the Queen and Jedi.  Qui-Gon manages to escape and introduces “Anakin Skywalker, meet Obi-Wan Kenobi” (and those of us familiar with the original movies see foreshadowing!)  On Courscant, Queen Amidala meets with Naboo Senator Palpatine and Chancellor Valorum to discuss politics; Palpatine does not have much faith that their situation will be dealt with swiftly.  He urges Amidala to consider voting out Valorum.

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan report to the Jedi Council.  The Sith (enemies of the Jedi) have returned.  Qui-Gon also informs them about Anakin, believing he was conceived by the Force (how is that a thing?), thus making him the prophesized Chosen One who will bring balance to the Force.  The Council doesn’t quite believe Qui-Gon, but allow the boy to be tested.  He is truly Force-sensitive, but he is too old, and too attached to his mother.  Attachments are forbidden within the Jedi Code.  Qui-Gon attempts to take Anakin as his Padawan.  One problem, he already has a Padawan.  So he declares Obi-Wan ready to face the trials to become a Jedi Knight.  The Council tables the discussion; Queen Amidala has chosen to return to Naboo to fight for her people.  The Senate is in an uproar over outing Valorum and Palpatine is nominated to replace him (more foreshadowing…some of us know where this is going).  Yoda warns Anakin “fear is the path to the Dark Side.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

Our heroes return to Naboo and Amidala meets with the Gungans to form an alliance (and a background pilot is a younger Richard Armitage, fun fact).  And turns out, Padmé is the real queen!  Sabé has been pretending to be the queen in order to protect Padmé.  Boy, is Anakin surprised.  The Gungan army will be a distraction against the droid army [and you’ve listened to John Williams a bit too much when you can tell there is a note sequence in the droid invasion theme that is heavily reminiscent of Indiana Jones facing off against the Nazis; not identical, but pretty close] while Padmé and her people sneak into the palace and take the Trade Federation leaders hostage.

Qui-Gon orders Anakin to stay safe in the cockpit of an empty fighter.  Then Darth Maul enters (most dramatic scene of the film and to the amazing Duel of the Fates soundtrack).  The Jedi will handle him, Padmé will go around.  I must say, it is very cool to see a young woman take charge and kick butt.  But the best part of the movie is Duel of the Fates, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon facing off against Darth Maul [fun note, the actor hired to portray Maul, Ray Park, is a professional martial artists and swordsman. Liam and Ewan did most of their own stunts and fighting as well; Ewan kept bending his prop lightsaber.  Further fun fact in regards to the words behind Duel of the Fates, they are taken from a Welsh poem and translated into Sanskrit; if you’re John Williams, of course you do that].  These are the Jedi warriors in their prime (compared to a disabled man and elderly man fighting in A New Hope).  There are flips and kicks and falling down platforms.  Maul manages to separate Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, trapping them all in separate force fields [what that area is actually supposed to be, I have no idea.  It looks cool, so we go along with it].  Maul and Qui-Gon make it through the corridor, but there is one field left, holding Obi-Wan back.  And he witnesses Maul run his Master through.  His “no!” echoes through the chamber.  Maul is waiting for him and it is an aggressive duel.  Maul overpowers Obi-Wan enough to disarm him of his blue lightsaber and kick him into a shaft.

Meanwhile, Anakin has kept his promise to stay in the cockpit, along with R2-D2.  Then he tries to help Padmé by shooting droids, but that engages the autopilot and takes him into space above the planet.  He accidentally crash lands into the droid control ship and blows it up from the inside, escaping to the cheers of the other pilots.  Padmé outwits the Trade Federation leaders.  Obi-Wan summons up his strength and leaps over Maul, calling Qui-Gon’s lightsaber to him, and cutting his enemy in half.  Both halves fall down the shaft, but Obi-Wan runs to his fallen master.  Qui-Gon’s last words to his Padawan are to make him promise to train Anakin.  Obi-Wan agrees.

When the Jedi Council arrives alongside the newly elected Chancellor Palpatine, they confer the status of Jedi Knight on Obi-Wan.  Yoda personally disagrees with the decision to allow Obi-Wan to train Anakin; he senses grave danger in training the boy.  Obi-Wan is willing to go against the Council to honor his fallen master’s final wish.  Yoda retorts “Qui-Gon’s defiance I sense in you, need that you do not.”  Ultimately, the Council has agreed to let Obi-Wan train Anakin Skywalker.  At Qui-Gon’s funeral, Yoda and Mace Windu wonder if Obi-Wan has killed the master or apprentice Sith.  (Then the shot focuses on Palpatine…foreshadowing!)  The film ends with a joyful parade between the Naboo and Gungans, declaring peace.

Now that I am older and re-watching the movie, the first part just seems to drag.  As mentioned above, Duel of the Fates is the highlight of the film.  I understand the necessity of setting up the back stories for all these characters we know, but a good portion of this film falls flat.  John Williams’ score is of course, amazing.

Some fanfiction stories that I have discovered that tie-in with Phantom Menace include

It Takes a Village by Siri-Kenobi12

There is no Pain by Meysun

Both of these require some knowledge of characters introduced in the Jedi Apprentice books.

Up Next: Episode II: Attack of the Clones

“It’s Continuing Mission…to Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before”

Let me first thank all of my loyal followers; I am pleased to have hit the 100 mark. This is my 162nd post in just about three years and I’ve still got a ways to go! I hope you all are enjoying these and much as I am enjoying re-watching them!

Star Trek Beyond

The film released the same year as the fiftieth anniversary of the original series.  Idris Elba (Heimdall in the MCU) joined the cast as villain Krall.  Sadly, Leonard Nimoy passed away the year previous, but Spock Prime is mentioned in the film, and this was the last appearance of Anton Yelchin as Chekov; he passed away in an accident about a month before the film released.

The film begins with a goodwill mission gone awry, but still funny (and Chris Pine has a devil of a time saying the alien race’s name).  Alas, Captain Kirk is getting a bit jaded after 966 days in deep space; he’s starting to wonder what are they trying to accomplish.  But maybe some leave on the Federation station Yorktown will bring a reprieve.  Or as Bones classifies it, a snow globe in space waiting to break…ever the optimist.  Bones and Kirk toast to Kirk’s birthday, a little early considering the circumstances, sharing some of Chekov’s Scotch (acquired without his knowledge possibly).  Jim is now a year older than George ever became and he is seriously wondering what he believes in.  In Yorktown you seriously have to wonder which was is “up” and we discover that Spock and Uhura have broken up.  Sulu has a family and Chekov likes to flirt with alien females.  Spock also receives word that Ambassador Spock has passed away (in deference to Leonard Nimoy’s passing).

We, the audience discover that Kirk has applied for a Vice Admiral position, but the discussion is put on hold while the Enterprise embarks on a rescue mission through a nebula.  But the victim is a traitor.  There is a swarm of enemy ships waiting above the planet on the other side of the nebula.  They attack the Enterprise.  Kirk orders the crew to abandon ship after fighting off the invaders, led by Krall.  They are searching for the artifact he brought back from the last mission.  First, Kirk tries to separate the Bridge dish from the ship to give it a fighting chance, but the enemy is ruthless and cuts everything to pieces.  Then they take the escape pods.  The battle ends with survivors crashing to the surface and the dish of the Enterprise sliding into a field.  [Within the first half hour, they have utterly destroyed the Enterprise, again.  Why must every Star Trek film destroy the ship?]

Scotty finds an alien woman, Jaylah, who is willing to help him.  She wants to get off this planet as much as the Enterprise crew.  Spock and McCoy escaped together and Spock was injured.  The pair manages to get along, though they snip at each other all along the way, as they are wont to.  McCoy even gets Spock to reveal the reason behind his break-up with Nyota; Spock feels it is his duty to help repopulate New Vulcan and he wishes to step away from Starfleet.  [So both Spock and Kirk are planning on leaving, but haven’t told anyone…nice going.]  Uhura and Sulu are with the remains of the crew, held prisoner by Krall.  Chekov is with Kirk.  They make their way to the saucer supposedly to find what Kirk stashed, but it reveals their guest’s treachery.

Uhrua and Sulu discover why Krall wanted the artifact; with the technology left by the inhabitants of the planet, he can suck the life-force from his prisoners and extend his own.  With the artifact, he can do so on a grander scale.  And plans to attack Yorktown.  Scotty discovers that Jaylah has been living in the remains of the U.S.S. Franklin; a wreck over a hundred years old.  They eventually meet up with Kirk and Chekov (and there’s a wordless battle over the captain’s seat) and begin to plan their escape.  Scotty manages to find Spock and McCoy just as they are about to be attacked.  McCoy patches the Vulcan up a bit better and Spock reveals that he gifted Uhura with a rare gem from Vulcan, which emits low level of radiation, meaning they can lock on to that signature to try to beam out their crew.  Short version?  He low-jacked his girlfriend…which Bones helpfully points out.

Kirk gets to ride a motorcycle as a distraction against the guards, using Jaylah’s holographic technology and Jaylah gets to kick some butt.  Scotty beams the crew out of danger.  Then just comes the task of getting a spaceship that was never meant to take off from land and hasn’t run in a hundred years to fly back into space.  To start, just tip yourselves off a cliff and hope to reach terminal velocity before hitting the bottom.  The crew pulls it off and race after Krall, who has already left for Yorktown.  And worse news, Krall used to be Captain Balthazar Edison of the Franklin.  He feels that the Federation forgot about him and thus swears vengeance upon the Federation.

Once the Franklin passes through the nebula, they have to disorient the swarm ships.  They beam Spock and McCoy onto one enemy ship, cutting off Bones’ famous line “Damn it, I’m a doctor, not a -”  And in order to drown out the swarm’s communication, they blast rock music, which is classified in the twenty-third century as “classical.”  It is rather awesome to see the enemy ships just explode in a wave of sound and the Yorktown shields repel them in a similar fashion.  But a few of the enemy make it into Yorktown.  McCoy and Spock do what they can, but the Franklin has to burst out of the water to take them out.  But Krall now looks like Edison and blends in with the crowd.  He’s going to take the device to the central air circulator, hook it in, and watch everyone disintegrate in Yorktown.  It comes down to Kirk chasing after him and a midair fight between the two.  Kirk does attempt to talk sense into Edison, but the man is too far gone.  So Kirk attempts to vent the device into space and almost follows himself; better to die saving lives than live taking them, he declares to Edison.  That is the world Kirk was born into.  Edison is not so lucky.  Spock and Bones catch Kirk before he can go splat on the “ground” in Yorktown.  “What would I do without you, Spock?”

The recent events have proved to Kirk that he is not ready to settle down as a Vice Admiral.  His place is in the stars, with his crew.  We shed a few tears as Spock goes through Spock Prime’s final effects, and finds a picture of the original crew (from the fifth movie.  Only four of the original main cast of the Original Series are still alive.  James Doohan, the original Scotty, passed away in 2005.  DeForest Kelley, the original Bones, passed away in 1999.  That leaves William Shatner, the original Kirk, Nichelle Nichols, the original Uhura, Walter Koenig, the original Chekov, and George Takei, the original Sulu).

A fairly happy ending; Bones has arranged a celebration with the rest of the crew for Kirk’s birthday.  It appears as if Spock and Uhura are back together and the command crew all stand alongside each other, watching the new Enterprise being built for their continuing mission.  Both Spock and Kirk have decided to stay aboard.  All of the main cast share reading the ending titles.  In the middle of the crawl, the movie is dedicated in loving memory of Leonard Nimoy and for Anton.

Ready for new adventures

I appreciated the small moments they inputted in memory of Leonard Nimoy because he was a huge pop culture icon (and frankly, without him, there may not be any Star Trek.)  But this movie seemed to drag compare to the previous two.  Krall seems a stereotypical villain and while I’m okay with Kirk saving the day, can we give the poor guy a break?  And stop breaking his ship!  That part annoyed me the most.  I am ultimately glad that the crew is staying together because it would just be sad if they broke up.  To me, the best parts are when the command crew is all doing their job, surviving together through a crisis. And the theme is still amazing!

On the plus side, I have discovered some amazing fanfiction stories (and I want to investigate some more).  I highly recommend checking out

What Sulu Sees by IsmayDeVain

beamirang’s stories, particularly Genesis if you can find them

And I just discovered kcscribbler’s works on AO3; they are wonderful and leave me laughing for a full minute at times.

Next Time: A slight change in plans; I’m going to go ahead and start Star Wars, pending my schedule.  And yes, it may be a bit controversial, but to me it is the most logical, and I will progress in episode order, inputting Solo and Rogue One between Episode III and Episode IV.

“One day, I’ve been off this ship. One bloody day!”

Star Trek Into Darkness

The second of the new Star Trek movies, bringing back all of our favorite characters.  Joining them is Peter Weller (popped up recently as Elliott Mason in MacGyver) as Admiral Marcus, and yes, that is Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith from Doctor Who) that briefly appears at the beginning of the film.  And of course, Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Smaug and the Necromancer in the Hobbit trilogy, Dr. Stephen Strange in the MCU, amongst a dozen other roles) as John Harrison.

The film opens on an alien planet, Nibiru, where McCoy and Kirk are being chased by the natives.  This is a distraction so that Sulu and Uhura can drop Spock into a volcano and render it inert so it doesn’t destroy the planet and the entire civilization.  Events, of course, do not go entirely to plan.  Ash from the volcano forces Sulu and Uhura to head back to the Enterprise, leaving Spock in the volcano.  The Enterprise is actually sitting on the bottom of the ocean at the moment, but Kirk sees no other way of rescuing Spock aside from rising out and showing themselves to the primitive natives, and violating the Prime Directive (prohibits members of Starfleet from interfering with the natural development of alien civilizations).  So now, the Nibiruians worship the Enterprise.

In London, a couple visits their sick daughter until a man (Harrison) approaches the father, saying he can save her life.  Back at Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco, Pike meets with Kirk and Spock to address their recent mission.  Spock reported Kirk’s actions, which Kirk tried to hide his wrongdoing, considering he did it in order to save Spock.  Starfleet command has voted to take the Enterprise from Kirk; he will be sent back to the Academy.  Their argument, Pike points out, is that Kirk feels like the rules don’t apply to him.  He’s been lucky and he uses that argument to support his actions.  Pike finds Kirk again that evening and reveals he has managed to become the new captain of the Enterprise and has finagled Kirk to be his First Officer; Spock has been reassigned.  “It’ll be okay, son.”

They get a call late in the evening, after the archives have been blown up in London (by the father we saw earlier.  Harrison’s blood managed to save his daughter).  Kirk wonders why Harrison, revealed to be part of Starfleet, targeted essentially a library.  Then formulates that Harrison’s next target must be their very meeting.  As soon as he shouts “clear the room,” a small craft appears outside the windows and open fires.  Kirk manages to get alongside the craft and attempts to jam the engine.  He succeeds, but Harrison warps out before it crashes.  And Kirk sadly discovers that Christopher Pike was killed in the attack, his last moments watched by Spock (who even mind-melded with the man).  [Wonderful acting on Chris Pine’s part; you can read his character’s devastation on his face]  The next morning, Kirk approaches Admiral Marcus for permission to hunt Harrison down.  He’s hidden on the homeworld of the Klingons, Kronos.  Marcus gives Kirk permission to sit on the edge of the Neutral Zone and fire new photon torpedoes to take out Harrison.

On their way to the Enterprise, Spock argues with Kirk over the morality of simply executing Harrison without a trial.  They are also joined by Carol Wallace, a Science Officer assigned to transfer the new torpedoes.  The torpedoes that Scotty doesn’t want to allow on the Enterprise.  He and Kirk get in an argument, Scotty uncomfortable with the militaristic nature of their endeavor.  Scotty ends up resigning.  Kirk then instructs Chekov to take over as Chief of Engineering, “go put on a red shirt.”  (Chekov looks appropriately worried; red shirted crew members are notorious for dying on Star Trek)  With a look to Spock, Kirk announces to the crew that they will covertly set down on Kronos in order to capture Harrison and bring him back for trial.  Kirk leaves Sulu in charge…and oh boy, Bones is right, we should never piss off Sulu, that message was on point.

Before they head down to Kronos, Spock deduces that Carol Wallace is actually Carol Marcus, the Admiral’s daughter.  She snuck aboard the Enterprise to take a look at the torpedoes.  Kirk warns the away team that they cannot be tied back to Starfleet, then there’s a brief argument aboard the shuttle between Spock and Uhura over his willingness to die in the volcano; Spock reveals he chooses not to feel the fear of death again, which he experienced the day Vulcan was destroyed and when he melded with Pike.  There’s a brief chase and Kirk makes them fit between two structures, Spock isn’t sure it counted, but they’re soon cornered.  Uhrua asks that Kirk let her speak Klingon and tries to negotiate their way out.  Until Harrison open fires, admittedly saving Uhura’s life, but everyone else begins firing.  Harrison surrenders to Kirk when he demands how many torpedoes were aimed at him.  Kirk accepts his surrender on behalf of Pike, then proceeds to beat Harrison until Uhura stops him.

Kirk’s questioning of Harrison doesn’t go quite according to plan; it raises more questions than answers.  He calls Scotty and asks the man to investigate the coordinates Harrison gave them.  And Carol and McCoy head to a deserted planetoid to open up the torpedoes.  “When I dreamt about being stuck on a deserted planet with a gorgeous woman, there was no torpedo!”  It’s all fun and games until McCoy gets his arm stuck in the torpedo as it’s about to detonate.  Luckily, Carol disarms it by pulling out the wiring.  And it’s not fuel inside the torpedoes; there are people locked in cyrotubes inside.  They were Harrison’s crew and he hid them there after Marcus woke him up for his military mind.  Admiral Marcus is preparing for a war and discovered a ship full of people genetically engineered to be superior in every way.  And Harrison’s real name?  Khan [which even a fairly Star Trek-illiterate person knew meant bad things].  Khan points out to Spock “you can’t even break a rule, how can you be expected to break bone?”  Marcus needed Khan’s savagery.  [Benedict’s performance is also excellent; precise and calm, which makes it all the more menacing]

A huge ship arrives, helmed by Admiral Marcus and he’s not pleased that Kirk didn’t do exactly as he was told, nor that he’s spoken to Khan.  Marcus demands that Kirk hand Khan over, but Kirk has Chekov take them to warp drive.  Marcus aboard the Vengeance is able to catch them and knock them out.  And now he’s deemed them criminals and intends to fire on them.  He beams his daughter out when she tries to protect her new friends and Kirk pleads for the lives of his crew.  They were only following his orders.  But Marcus will kill them all…until their system is rebooted.  Guess what Scotty found?

Now Kirk has a new idea; he’ll use Khan to board the Vengeance and get Marcus to stand down.  Kirk orders Spock to take command; the ship needs someone who knows what they’re doing in charge and Kirk is running on a gut feeling.  [Interesting note, at this point, there is still an hour left in the movie, meaning a lot more is going to happen, including the bulk of conflict and action]  While Kirk and Khan engage in a space jump, Spock calls his older counterpart.  He vowed to never reveal the future to his younger counterpart; they must follow their own path.  Nevertheless, Khan was the most dangerous adversary they ever faced and they only defeated him at great cost (reference to the second original movie I believe, I’ve only watched it once)  Luckily, we have Scotty to throw in some humor during the tense situations and all three men fight their way to the bridge.  Scotty stuns Khan and Kirk tries to get Marcus to step down.  The Admiral will have none of it.  “War is coming, and who is going to lead us?  You?  If I’m not in charge, our entire way of life is decimated.”  While everyone is distracted, Khan strikes.  He knocks out Scotty and breaks Carol’s leg.  He knocks Kirk out of the way with a few extra punches then crushes Marcus’s head.  “You should have let me sleep,” he hisses to the Admiral.  Khan calls the Enterprise and is not concerned that Spock has discovered that Khan truly is a war criminal, banished for mass genocide on anyone deemed less superior.  Khan makes it easy for Spock, give him the torpedoes of his crew and he’ll return Kirk.  Vulcans do not lie, the torpedoes are aboard the Vengeance.  Khan beams Kirk, Scotty, and Carol back to the Enterprise.  “After all, no ship should go down without her captain.”

Chaos erupts.  Khan fires on the Enterprise, then the torpedoes detonate aboard the Vengeance.  Spock was not so cruel as to kill Khan’s crew; all seventy-two cryotubes are safe with Bones.  But the Enterprise has sustained too much damage; the ship loses power and begins to fall.  Scotty and Kirk race to Engineering, with some help from Chekov when gravity flips around.  Spock orders everyone to abandon ship; he will stay behind and do what he can.  The bridge crew refuses to leave.  In Engineering, they discover the warp core is not aligned, meaning there’s no way to reboot power.  Kirk knows of a way.  He knocks Scotty out and opens the door to the core, which is filled with radiation.  He climbs in and kicks the components back into alignment.  The Enterprise is saved and rises out of the clouds (still awesome).  Spock knows there is no such thing as a miracle and runs to Engineering when Scotty calls him.

Accompanied by the amazing soundtrack theme

A door separates Kirk and Spock, keeping the radiation from everyone else.  Spock tells Kirk that he saved the ship, the crew is safe because of him.  Kirk comments that the stunt with Khan was something he would have done; and entering the core room was something that Spock would have done (the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…and what happened in the second movie).  Kirk admits he’s scared and asks Spock how to not feel.  But Spock cannot control his emotions at this time.  And he recognizes that Kirk rescued him from the volcano because he is Kirk’s friend.  Kirk puts his hand to the glass and Spock mirrors him; their fingers move to the Vulcan greeting, then Kirk’s hand falls.  Spock is silent for a moment, then yells “Khan!” in rage.

They’re not out of danger yet; the Vengeance falls past them and crashes into San Francisco Bay.  Khan jumps into the ruins and Spock beams down to pursue him.  Bones is devastated when Kirk is brought to him in a body bag.  Then the tribble on his desk trills; the one that was dead that he injected Khan’s blood into.  He orders Jim put in a cryotube, but he needs more of Khan’s blood.  Uhura goes down to stop Spock from killing Khan, protecting her boyfriend from being crushed to death like Marcus.  Spock manages to knock Khan down and proceeds to beat him…what was Khan saying about Spock not breaking bones?  Uhura has to explain that the madman is the only way to save Kirk.  A final uppercut knocks the psychopath out.

Over a black screen we hear bits of the first movie; George and Wionna naming Jim, Pike daring Jim to do better, and then Jim is awake.  McCoy was able to transfuse Khan’s blood, but it’s taken its toll.  Spock is there and Kirk thanks him for saving his life.  A brief final scene takes place after we see that Khan and his crew have been put back to sleep.  A memorial service for all the damage done the previous year and Kirk speaks to the crowd that there will always been those who mean to do us harm and we risk waking the same evil in ourselves trying to defeat them.  But vengeance is not who we are.  It is Chris Pine’s voice that gives us “Space, the final frontier.”  The Enterprise is rechristened and will begin a five-year mission.  We see the bridge crew preparing to depart, joined by Carol Marcus.  Kirk is excited and ready for a long journey.

Of the three new movies that are currently out, this is my favorite (there are rumors of a fourth installment coming in 2023).  It takes a bit for the story to truly get going, but the action all falls together at the end.  Excellent performances by the whole cast.  Benedict Cumberbatch plays Harrison fairly affable so you want to believe this strange man will help, while hiding his true identity…for those who didn’t guess early on; so it helps not being completely to speed on prior Star Trek lore.  And this Khan is less creepy than the original for some people, which helps as well.  I thought Kirk’s death was a strong, poignant moment and thought for a moment the first time through that they had actually killed off the main character.  (And there is lots of fanfiction to delve into this moment and the developing friendship between Bones, Spock, and Kirk.)

Up Next: Star Trek Beyond

“I have been and always will be, your friend.”

Star Trek

I will be the first to admit that I am not a huge Star Trek fan; I got more into Star Wars in my teens, but I fondly remember watching Next Generation while growing up.  So my captain was Jean-Luc Picard.  My parents watched the original series and there are pictures of me as a young girl in displays at the National Air and Space Museum when there was an exhibit; so I was at least aware of the original series.  But when a new movie was announced, I first dismissed it because I didn’t watch the original, why would I watch the new one?  My parents saw it and enjoyed it, so I eventually decided to go one evening when I was home from college.  And thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was filled with action, filled with characters in my generation.  I cannot speak for how it was received or how it measures up to longtime fans, but the new movies did create a new fan.  Can I quote minutia about the series or the craft or the larger universe?  No.  But I can do that with other shows, so I think it balances out, lol.

The rebooted movie series premiered in 2009 (and that is how it tends to be listed within fanfiction communities, or sometimes NuTrek), directed by JJ Abrams (who has gone on to do Star Wars Force Awakens and Rise of Skywalker).  It stars Chris Pine (a bit dashing as Nicholas Devereaux in Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, then voiced Jack Frost in Rise of the Guardians, Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods, and became the ‘Chris’ for DC in Wonder Woman playing Steve Trevor.  He played a younger Jack Ryan in Shadow Recruit and stars as Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick in Outlaw King…which I really need to watch) as James Tiberius Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Zoe Saldana (Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, Neytiri in Avatar, and before all of that success, she was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl [Jack Sparrow had stolen her boat]) as Nyota Uhura, Karl Urban (yes, I know he joined the MCU as Skurge in Thor: Ragnarok and is one of The Boys [which recently gained Jensen Ackles, but no, I don’t believe I will be watching the show], but for me, he will always be Eomer in Lord of the Rings) as Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and Simon Pegg as Montgomery “Scotty” Scott.  Leonard Nimoy appears as Spock Prime, and that was wonderful.  Eric Bana (Bruce Banner in the 2003 Hulk movie [which is not part of the MCU], Hector in Troy, Henry Tudor in The Other Boleyn Girl)is Nero and Bruce Greenwood (the President in National Treasure: Book of Secrets) is Christopher Pike.  Rounding out the bridge crew is John Cho as Hikaru Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Pavel Andreovich Chekov.  Chris Hemsworth (before he was Thor) briefly appears in the beginning as George Kirk and Jennifer Morrison (Emma Swan in Once Upon a Time) is Winona Kirk.  [My father has made the humorous connection that in Thor  you join Kirk’s father and Anakin Skywalker’s  mother].  And Winona Ryder (I know her best from 1994’s Little Women) plays Spock’s mother, Amanda Grayson.

The film begins with the USS Kelvin facing a lightning storm in space.  A huge ship emerges and begins firing on the Kelvin.  The captain (played by Fahran Tahir, who has appeared in numerous television shows from JAG to Supernatural [Osiris] to Once Upon a Time [Nemo] and a bad guy in Iron Man) orders an evacuation and puts George Kirk in charge when he goes to meet the enemy.  George’s wife is in labor and anxiously awaiting her husband to join her, but autopilot has been knocked out, so George must pilot the starship manually in order to buy everyone else time to escape.  Winona delivers a son in the shuttle and they decide to name him after both their fathers: Jim Tiberius.  They’re a family barely a minute before the Kelvin is destroyed.  We fast forward a couple years and a young Jim Kirk is racing his stepfather’s antique car in Iowa, then crashes it into a ravine, barely escaping himself.  Meanwhile, on Vulcan, a young Spock is teased by agemates for being half human.  He cares not for his sake, but when one boy calls his mother a whore, Spock initiates a fight.  His father encourages Spock to embrace the Vulcan way of life and control his emotions, lest they control him.  And when asked why he married Spock’s mother, his response is “it was logical.”  Another time skip and Spock is being accepted into the Vulcan Scalene Academy.  A fine honor indeed, until one points out Spock’s disadvantage of having a human mother.  While Spock tells the leaders “live long and prosper,” you can tell he means something else and he elects to join Starfleet.

Back in Iowa, Jim starts flirting with Uhura at a bar and honestly, everything was going fine until other cadets got involved and started a fight.  Captain Pike enters the bar and a sharp whistle gets everyone’s attention.  He speaks to Kirk afterwards, commenting that the young man’s aptitude tests are off the charts and calls him a genius repeat-offender.  He encourages Jim to join Starfleet, then dares him to do better than his father; he was captain for twelve minutes and saved eight hundred lives.  Jim shows up for the shuttle the next morning (and riding the motorbike like he did reminded me of Top Gun [which apparently was an influence in Pine’s performance, along with Harrison as Indiana Jones and Han Solo]).  A man sits next to him, a doctor who is scared of space and flying, but only has his bones left.  “I may throw up on you.”

Three years later, which Kirk bragged he would complete his coursework compared to four, and Kirk takes the infamous Kobyashi Maru test…and wins.  By cheating.  Spock brings him up on charges, but they’re interrupted by a distress call from Vulcan.  Cadets are assigned to ships, but not Kirk, pending his hearing.  Bones sneaks him aboard the Enterprise under the pretense of a medical emergency.  Captain Pike comments that the maiden voyage of Starfleet’s newest flagship deserves more pomp and circumstance, but they will follow through on their mission.  Sulu is piloting (after a little bump) and Chekov makes his first shipboard announcement.  Jim hears about the “lightning storm in space,” and instantly knows they’re flying into a trap.  Despite some hilarious side effects, he manages to grab Uhura who intercepted a Klingon transmission earlier and reports to the bridge.  Spock first tries to get him off, but once Kirk calmly explains his logic, Spock backs the notion that all may not be as it seems.  Uhura takes over at communication and the Enterprise braces for battle when they drop out of warp, to find the rest of the fleet decimated.  Nero hails them and once again requests the captain to board his vessel.  Pike has Spock, Kirk, and Sulu follow him; Spock will have command while Pike is gone and Sulu and Kirk are to try to knock out the drill that is aimed at Vulcan.  And he makes Kirk second in command.

Sulu does get to break out his sword while battling Romulans on the platform and they succeed in knocking out the drill.  But the Narada shoots a pinprick of red matter into the core of Vulcan, which will eat the planet and create a black hole.  Chekov luckily is able to beam Sulu and Kirk aboard as they’re falling and Spock beams down to save the elders and his parents.  But Amanda falls to her death at the last second.  Spock orders the ship to rendez-vous with the rest of the fleet in another system, and we see Uhura privately comfort him, but Kirk urges they return to fight.  Spock works out that Nero is from the future and by coming back, has altered events, creating an alternate reality; their destines have changed.  “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”  (Funny note: this was originally a quote from Sherlock Holmes, which Spock in the original series claimed was a distant ancestor.  Then, in the newer Sherlock series, Sherlock makes this remark and John calls him Spock.  It’s all just a big ball of wibbly wobblly, timey wimey stuff)

Onboard the Narada, Nero demands that Captain Pike tell him about Earth’s defenses so he may destroy it and continue with his retribution against Spock.  And…he uses creepy bugs.  Then Spock kicks Kirk off the Enterprise, stranding him on an ice planet.  Lo and behold, Kirk is saved by Spock…not the young one, the original Spock.  Who relates to Kirk, through a mind meld, how 129 years in the future, Spock tries to save Romulus from an exploding supernova, armed with red matter.  But he was too late.  And Nero, a “particularly troubled Romulan,” vows vengeance.  They both get sucked through the black hole, but Nero arrives first, destroying the Kelvin.  What was seconds for Spock was actually twenty-five years before he emerged.  Nero captured him and stranded him so he could witness the destruction of his home, Vulcan.  They find Scotty and Spock Prime gives him Scotty’s own equation on trans-warp beaming so the two young men can board the Enterprise.  Spock advises Kirk to gain captaincy of the ship; Spock has just lost his home and is of course, emotionally comprised.  Then Kirk can take on Nero.  But Spock Prime will not accompany them; he implies a catastrophe may occur  if both Spocks would meet.  Kirk points out before they leave that coming back to the past to change events is cheating.  Well, Spock learned from an old friend.

The bridge crew is obviously surprised to discover Kirk and Scotty aboard the Enterprise and Kirk has a rather uncomfortable confrontation with Spock, resulting in a fight.  Spock’s father has to call him off and Kirk does gain command.  Spock and his father share a quiet moment, and his father finally reveals that he married Amanda because he loved her.  So Spock rejoins the bridge as Chekov reveals his idea to hide behind Saturn’s moon so Kirk can beam aboard the Narada.  Spock volunteers first and Kirk insists on joining him.  “I could cite regulation, but I know you will just ignore it.”  Spock is learning.

Nero is starting the drill at Starfleet Academy while Spock and Kirk sneak aboard.  Well, they end up fighting Romulans pretty quick, but Spock makes it to the futuristic shuttle and escapes so he can blow up the drill.  Kirk goes after Captain Pike.  And Nero just shouts after Spock, “I want Spock dead now!”  Spock returns on a collision course, which of course would ignite the red matter, creating another black hole.  But Nero is past reason now and shouts to “fire everything!”  The Enterprise to the rescue (and it is so darn cool to hear the theme play and the ship rises up) and Scotty proudly manages to beam three people from two ships onto one pad.  Kirk tries to take the high ground and offer Nero and his crew compassion, which in this case Spock argues against, but Nero refuses.  Kirk has all weapons fire and destroys the Narada.  But the Enterprise is caught in the gravitational well of the black hole and while Scotty is giving it everything she’s got, they’re falling.  He suggests as a last ditch effort to eject the cores and they ride the blast wave out.

On Earth, the two Spocks do indeed meet; Spock Prime may have lied a little to Kirk.  The elder encourages his younger counterpart to remain with Starfleet and forge a friendship with Kirk it will define them both.  Put aside logic, do what’s right.  Kirk is given commendation and captaincy of the Enterprise, relieving Pike who is now an Admiral (and confined to a wheelchair as a result of those creepy bugs).  He enters the bridge of the repaired starship, finally wearing a gold command shirt.  Spock the enters and offers to be Kirk’s first officer.  The gang is back and ready for new adventures.

Leonard Nimoy gives us the final voiceover: “Space, the final frontier.  These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.  Her ongoing mission, to explore strange new worlds.  To seek out new life forms and new civilizations.  To boldly go where no one has gone before.”  [The original tagline was a five-year mission, and was ‘where no man has gone before.’  I appreciate that they kept the  slight revision for this film.]  And the exit music is the original theme.

I felt this film was a good balance of action and drama, with the right amount of comedy thrown in.  The soundtrack is cool.  Poor Kirk gets beat up a lot throughout the story.  And ultimately, they got the characters to all be where they’re supposed to be.  It’s more fun to see Spock and Kirk at odds with each other and it will make their ensuing friendship deeper and the crew respects Kirk for his actions; keeping everyone safe and pulling them through a fire.  Scotty is hilarious, I certainly believe that Uhura could kick butt.  Bones is long-suffering but caring and Chekov is quite frankly adorable. 

Everything fit with the basics that everyone knows about the show simply from pop culture, without having to know every episode or movie and for someone who doesn’t know that, it made it an easy film to watch.  It was also written so it can all go together; they’re all canon because this is recognized as an alternate reality.  These familiar characters can have new adventures without taking anything away from the original.  (Of course, fanfiction comes up with their own ideas, which I’ll post my favorites with the last movie).  This was a solid update; technology was advanced enough to put it in our future without being cheesy or completely improbable.  Great cast, they made the roles their own and I certainly recommend this film.

Up Next: Star Trek Into Darkness

Jumpin’ off the deck, shovin’ into overdrive

Top Gun

The classic 1980’s film starring Tom Cruise as Maverick, Val Kilmer as Iceman, and an appearance by Meg Ryan as Carole.  I have an interesting history with this film; my father loves planes and loves this movie, but I refused to watch it as a kid.  Then, my friend played in while I was on vacation with them in middle school, so I finally watched it and enjoyed it.  But, I like it for the planes.  I don’t care about Tom Cruise.  Though, who can forget the line: I feel the need, the need for speed!  The film does have the very cool song Danger Zone performed by Kenny Loggins (so I use this film as a connection in “Six-Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” since Kenny Loggins did the iconic Footloose song in that film as well).

The premise is the top one percent of Naval aviators attend the Fighter Weapons School, known as Top Gun, to learn dog fighting.  One of the instructors, Viper, later states in the movie that the ratio pilots shooting down enemy planes in the Korean War was 12 to 1, then dropped to 3 to 1 in Vietnam because they relied too much on missiles; they had forgotten how to dogfight.  The film opens with activity on the flight deck on an aircraft carrier.  Maverick and his rear-seat partner, Goose are flying with Cougar and Merlin and encounter enemy Soviet MiG (they used the A-4 Skyhawk and F-5E Tiger as stand-ins for the MiGs, though they did use actual F-14 Tomcats, which are now retired).  Cougar gets shaken up after a MiG gets a missile lock on him, but Maverick scares them off.  Maverick doesn’t land and instead goes back up to help talk Cougar down.  While it was very brave, it was against orders.  But Cougar has given up flying, so their commanding officer sends Maverick and Goose to Top Gun.

Maverick is known for his wild flying, but he’s good enough at what he does that he doesn’t get thrown out of the Navy.  He and Goose attempt to hit on a woman at a bar by singing You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, in which all the guys join in; then discovers that she is one of his civilian instructors at Top Gun.  Though a civilian, her call-sign is Charlie; she has a PhD in Astrophysics and the Pentagon listens to her.  And she, of course, starts to fall for Maverick when he demonstrates that he flies as well as he says he does.  Their theme throughout the film is Take My Breath Away.

Maverick butts heads with Iceman because Maverick’s flying is reckless and he has the habit of leaving his wingman.  They’re both vying for the top spot at Top Gun.  That volleyball scene is just an excuse to have the young men shirtless.  Maverick is also trying to prove himself after his father mysteriously dies during an encounter while flying.  Viper later explains to Maverick that his father was indeed a good pilot and saved several lives during his last mission, but it occurred on the wrong side of a map line for the politicians.  Maverick does get reprimanded several times for ignoring rules that are set.

We see a wonderful, happy family shot between Goose, his wife and son, Maverick, and Charlie, singing Great Balls of Fire before Maverick and Goose fly a “mission” with Iceman and Slider.  Iceman is slow to take a shot and when Maverick moves in, his plan gets caught in the jetwash, causing it to flat spin (an actual fault in the F-14, and very dangerous).  Goose has to eject them and he hits the canopy, dying (that has actually happened).  Maverick is lost without Goose, even though it wasn’t technically his fault, he feels like it is.  Goose was his responsibility.  His friends try to help him out, but when Viper sends him back up for another “mission,” he freezes and can’t take the shot.  He tries to quit Top Gun, but his conversation with Viper encourages him to stay and at least graduate.  Then he, Iceman, Slider, Hollywood, and Wolfman are sent on an assignment.

Hollywood, Wolfman, Iceman, and Slider are the first two planes up and encounter MiGs; more than they thought.  MiGs like to fly close together to hide their numbers on radar.  Hollywood and Wolfman are shot down and eject.  Maverick is teamed up with Merlin, Cougar’s old partner, and they have to go up and help Iceman and Slider.  Maverick and Merlin end up in a jetwash again, but manage to recover.  But it still shakes Maverick, like Cougar earlier in the film.  Merlin and Iceman are begging for help, but Maverick takes a moment to think of Goose.  Then engages the enemy planes and gets them off of Iceman.  He’s learned not to leave his wingman.  He then does his famous flyby, accompanied by Iceman.  The crew all cheer the two planes and the once-adversaries are now at least friendly and joke they’ll be each other’s wingman.

Maverick is given his choice of duties and decides to go back to Top Gun as an instructor.  Charlie meets him there, playing You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling on the jukebox before she shows herself.

Yes, this is a simplistic write-up of the film; with the flying action and jargon (which is apparently mostly made-up), it is a film that is better experienced simply by watching.  It increased Navy recruiting and was backed by the Navy.  There were obviously artistic licenses taken and several of the flight maneuvers were done “because they’re cool.”  Sadly, an experienced stunt pilot was killed while filming this movie and the movie was dedicated to him.  There is a sequel subtitled Maverick that is due out…sometime.  It was due out this summer, but many movies have been postponed.  Tom Cruise is back, as is Val Kilmer.  I fully intend to see it with my father, for the planes.

pair f-14 picHowever, this film also inspired the hit series JAG that I loved.  It starred David James Elliott as Harmon Rabb Jr (he was also a Tomcat pilot), Patrick Labyorteaux as Bud Roberts Jr, Catherine Bell (check her out in Hallmark’s Good Witch series) as Sarah MacKenzie, John M. Jackson as A.J. Chegwidden, and Karrie Turner as Harriet Sims.  That shot from early in Top Gun where the two planes come to formation is used in the opening credits of JAGJAG also introduced NCIS midway thru its run, and NCIS has gone on to run for seventeen seasons so far and it in turn spun-off NCIS: Los Angeles (love Sam and Callen in that one), and NCIS: New Orleans.  I primarily know the middle seasons of JAG, the first ten or so seasons of NCIS (Gibbs’ dynamic as the team’s father is amazing and I was sad to see various characters leave), and the first couple seasons of NCIS: Los Angeles (Callen is definitely my favorite character).  And that is how I play “Six-Degrees of Kevin Bacon;” Footloose leads to Top Gun which leads to JAG which leads to NCIS and thus various actors from there.

 

 

Up Next: I start the Bond movies, but I will be dealing with the last eight or so.  It may be sacrilege, but I haven’t watched any of the original Sean Connery films all the way thru; I’ve seen bits.  But I am familiar with Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

Are They Fighting or Are They Dancing?

The Mask of Zorro

Another of the swashbuckling movies produced in the nineties, like Three Musketeers and Prince of Thieves and like those two, it’s very well done.  Stars Anthony Hopkins (a classic Welsh actor who is Odin in MCU Thor, famous as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs [and I refuse to watch that movie, I do not need the nightmares], was Van Helsing in 1992’s Bram’s Dracula, was in A Bridge Too Far with the other great actors of that time) as Don Diego de la Vega, Stuart Wilson (an older Robin Hood in Disney’s Princess of Thieves) as Don Rafael Montero, Tony Amendola (Marco/Geppetto in ABC’s Once Upon a Time series amongst other TV series) as Don Luiz, Antonio Banderas (this is probably his most famous role) as Alejandro Murrieta and Catherine Zeta-Jones (who is actually Welsh, and married to Michael Douglas since 2000; this was her breakthrough role, and she went on to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2002’s Chicago) as Elena.  This is not the first appearance of the character Zorro; he dates to 1919 and was originally supposed to be a one-time character, then the popularity of the 1920 movie had the author create dozens of further stories.  However, this is probably one of the more well-known iterations.

The story begins in 1821 as Spain is leaving Mexico due to a rebellion led by General Santa Anna.  The last governor, Don Rafael Montero is ordered to leave, but has one last piece of business to take care of.  He gives his friend Don Luiz orders to distribute the Spanish land amongst themselves and pay taxes to Santa Anna, thereby maintaining their wealth.  Montero is planning to execute three innocent men amidst a protest.  Two boys are waiting for the legendary Zorro to appear and he does not disappoint.  The boys even save Zorro from a trap and in return, he gifts them with a medallion.  The crowd cheers for their hero and protects him from the guards.  He confronts Montero and marks his neck with a “Z”, three slashes for three men.  Montero would murder a hundred innocent men in order to kill Zorro.  But Zorro rides away.

There is a lair beneath his estate (the original Bat cave; in fact, Zorro is considered an influence to Batman); Zorro remarks to his faithful black steed that they are both getting too old for their activities.  Zorro without the mask is Diego de la Vega and he visits his infant daughter in her nursery and tells her stories about his escapades.  His wife, Esperenza joins the pair.  They are interrupted by Montero and his guards.  Montero has an inkling at this point that de la Vega is Zorro and pressing on his arm reveals a bloody scratch de la Vega received during the fight that day.  He attempts to arrest de la Vega as a traitor to both his country and his class, and oddly apologizes to Esperenza.  Turns out, Montero loves Esperenza and is upset that she married de la Vega; but now, he probably is thinking with de la Vega out of the way, he can claim Esperenza.  But Esperenza tries to protect her husband during his duel with Montero and a guard accidentally shoots her.  Montero dispatches the guard, and de la Vega goes for his crying daughter; a fire has started during the scuffle.  Montero knocks de la Vega out, puts him in chains, and claims his daughter.  Montero leaves with young Elena for Spain and de la Vega is taken away to prison to rot; Montero’s parting words to de la Vega: you must “live with the knowledge you have lost everything you hold dear,” and “your child should have been mine.”  (This of course, takes away the notion of Esperenza’s own choice; she seems very happy with de la Vega and aware of his secret, most likely meaning it was a love match, so no, Elena should have never been Montero’s child.)  de la Vega swears to Montero, “you will never be rid of me!”

Twenty years later: the Murrieta brothers have been caught…well, actually, they were in on their capture so they could steal the guard’s money and redistribute it to the poor (a la Robin Hood).  But there is a new Captain in town, Captain Love from Texas; he ends up shooting Joaquin and capturing Jack.  Alejandro escapes, but watches his brother shoot himself instead of being captured.  Alejandro collects his brother’s medallion, then tries to barter it away for a drink.  In the meantime, Montero has returned to California.  His first stop is the prison, in order to be sure that Zorro is dead.  Several prisoners claim they are Zorro (like the famous “I’m Spartacus” scene), but Montero doesn’t believe any of them.  He walks right by an old man with an eye patch, pauses for a moment, but dismisses him.  He deduces Zorro is dead.

Wrong.  That old man is de la Vega and he manages to free himself and get smuggled out of the prison by impersonating a dead body; meaning he then digs himself out of the grave.  He will exact his revenge on Montero.  He attends Montero’s official arrival the following day, where Montero plays to the crowd, insulting the other Dons so he can claim he works for the people.  Obviously, de la Vega knows better and starts to make his way to the former governor, until Montero’s “daughter” arrives, Elena.  This halts de la Vega.  He must rethink his plan.  On his way to his hideout, he comes across Alejandro and his old medallion as Alejandro prepares to barter it away.  He easily bests Alejandro in a fight, but offers to train the young man.

mask of zorroAlejandro is eager to start fighting, though his answer of “the pointy end goes in the other man, [sounding like Jon Snow or Arya Stark]” shows de la Vega that he must start with the basics.  The master has a new apprentice.  de la Vega has Alejandro bathe and trim his hair.  After disarming the old fox once, Alejandro figures he is skilled enough to capture a black Andalusian, like Zorro’s Tornado.  Alejandro, in a mask, encounters Elena and she is quite taken by the dangerous man.  When his plan goes a bit awry, Alejandro hides in the church and ends up hearing Elena’s confession, that she is starting to have thoughts about the masked man and her heart is too wild for her father’s liking.  Alejandro manages to escape before Captain Love appears, but he leaves the “Z” mark to let them know Zorro has returned.

de la Vega, expertly using a whip to extinguish candles (Hopkins could do that trick and was added into the movie), is not pleased with Alejandro; Zorro serves the people, not himself.  Alejandro is tired of the lectures and demands de la Vega duel him.  The older man holds up a spoon.  Alejandro must have the polish of a proper gentleman, and needs to spy on Montero.  The two men attend a gala held at the estate, de la Vega masquerading as Alejandro’ s servant, who goes by the title Don de Castilio.  Alejandro is properly presented to Elena, but his gentleman charm does not impress her, though he is impressing Montero.  However, when Alejandro has to stall Montero, he dances quite passionately with Elena (it is a wonderful and lively dance).  Alejandro gains an invitation with the rest of the Dons and Montero reveals his plan; he means for the Dons to claim California.  They will buy it from Santa Anna with gold from a mine on his own land that he is unaware of.  Santa Anna will take the gold because a war with the United States is expensive.  Montero shows off the mine the next day and Alejandro discovers that poor Mexicans who have gone missing have been taken to the mine.

Elena has a conversation with de la Vega the next day in the stables, only knowing him as Alejandro’s servant.  But de la Vega remarks that she looks like her mother.  Elena has been told that her mother was very proper.  And de la Vega’s voice is familiar.  Then, in the market, her former nursemaid makes a gift to her, recognizing her as the daughter of Esperenza de la Vega.  Elena tries to tell the woman she is mistaken and that she was born in Spain.  But she’s already encountered native Californian flowers she remembers the scent.  Montero’s tale is starting to unravel.

de la Vega gifts Alejandro with a proper Zorro mask and instructs him to sneak into Montero’s office; they need the location of the mine.  de la Vega sets a flaming “Z” on the hillside as a distraction, but Alejandro still encounters Captain Love and Montero and even duels them both.  he escapes through the stables and faces off with Elena, who is skilled in sword fighting as well (I love that she’s an action woman).  He does delicately cut her clothes off her as a way to stop her (her hair covers her top).  Alejandro still has hilarious issues with his new horse, but does demonstrate that he is a good rider.  de la Vega returns that evening to confront Montero and demands that Elena be brought out.  Montero’s tale fully unravels; the name “de la Vega” is a clue from the woman in the marketplace and the truth comes out.  She persuades de la Vega to put down his sword to save himself from being shot.  At this point, Elena must be wondering what did Montero do that he was able to take her from de la Vega and what truly happened to her mother.  Then she later frees him from the cellar he’s been thrown into and they race off to help Zorro.

zorro dance

Zorro sneaks into the mine and discovers the people are locked in.  Captain Love’s suggestion is to blow up the mine once all the gold is out and kill the people as well so there are no witnesses.  But when Zorro shows up, Love cuts the fuse so he has time to deal with the nuisance.  de la Vega confronts Montero again as Elena watches.  Montero seems willing to kill her to stop de la Vega, but he wouldn’t actually hurt the woman he views as a daughter, though it gives him the chance to shoot de la Vega.  Zorro dispatches Love, even after being stabbed and unmasked, then Montero is caught behind the wagon as it falls.  Elena goes to rescue the trapped people and the fuse has restarted.  Zorro helps her with the last cells and they save the day!  Alejandro holds de la Vega as he bids his daughter farewell; she has the same spirit as her mother.  He even blesses Alejandro and Elena, then passes away.  Elena mourns de la Vega; not Montero.

There must always be a Zorro; it is a destiny and a curse, for there is always another battle.  But both Zorros have loved Elena.  And now Alejandro tells the story to his son.

In 2005, there was a direct sequel to this film, The Legend of Zorro, bringing back both Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones to reprise their roles.  Rufus Sewell (Knight’s Tale, Tristan and Isolde, Victoria) joins as Armand, a former friend of Elena de la Vega’s when she grew up in Spain.  This film is not nearly as good as Mask of Zorro.  The premise is that California is voting to become part of the United States in 1850, but there is a secret organization attempting to block it.  Zorro is doing his best, but since he is gone often, his marriage is strained and he’s missing out on seeing his son grow up.  His secret is found out by mysterious men, who blackmail Elena into working undercover for them.  She divorces Alejandro and he must make a choice between being Zorro and saving his family.

Of course, several of the fight scenes are still good and Elena retains some of her action-girl status.  But there are several glaring errors.  California at that time was Catholic; divorce was not allowed and Elena’s status would have surely suffered.  Mentions of the Confederacy are inaccurate since it didn’t form until 1861.  The inclusion of nitroglycerin is just barely factual; it was invented in 1847 as an explosive, but to me, still seems a bit farfetched.  The overall feeling I get from the film is that they were trying too hard.  The villains are flat.   Of course, the son learns who his father is, and the marriage is put to rights.  I argue how could Elena say to Alejandro “we were never meant to be together?”  You married him knowing full well who he was and what he did.  That was what attracted you to him.  There was a more logical way to deal with the matter.

So, definitely watch Mask of Zorro, it is a classic.  Hopkins is excellent and I actually would love to see more of him in that role.  Antonio is charming and this is why Puss in Boots in Shrek is a takeoff on Zorro, since Antonio voiced the cat (despite the tale being French).  As I’ve stated before, I love a good sword fight.

Next Time: Top Gun

Tiding Over

A Random Fandom Update:

I happen to be listening to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks recently, which makes me want to re-watch the first trilogy.  They also have inspired a few scenes and notes for my eventual fantasy epic (which is good, because it needs some major work).  And yep, still love the first three movies!  The original is still the best and looking back, I feel some pity for the special effects team because it could not have been easy timing all the moonlight skeleton effects.  Orlando Bloom is young a dashing (he was a celebrity crush when I was a teen) and still swoon at the kiss at the end 🙂

I like elements of Dead Man’s Chest soundtrack and the battle against the Kraken is thrilling.  And the ending of At World’s End is full of emotions.  That flourish in the orchestra during Will and Elizabeth’s wedding times perfectly with the spin, squee!  And Most.  Epic.  Kiss.  Ever!  Of course, I have to find the few clips of Will in the fifth movie and I think it’s sweet that they use Will and Elizabeth’s theme in the background while he talks to his young son, Henry.

I also really want a good crossover fic between Pirates of the Caribbean and Once Upon a Time because there is such a realm of possibilities between Killian Jones knowing either Jack and/ or Will.  If anyone finds a good story,  let me know so I can check it out!

In the meantime; I’ve read several novels off my shelf, re-reading a couple different fanfiction stories, but haven’t gotten much writing done.  The action-adventure blogs will be starting soon, just gotta get my brain to focus, lol!

Let me know what fandoms have been keeping you entertained!

“My heart want to sings every song it hears”

The Sound of Music

Probably my favorite musical of all time and I don’t even mind that it’s nearly three hours long.  It’s a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic and the range is well suited to my voice; I’d love to perform it sometime.  It too stars Julie Andrews and was released one year after Mary Poppins.  It won Best Picture in 1965, and Julie was nominated for Best Actress.  Julie is Maria, and the cast includes Christopher Plummer as Captain Von Trapp.  It is based on the life of the Von Trapp family singers, who did escape Austria trapp family lodgebefore war broke out.  They traveled in the United States, singing, before they settled in Vermont, where they founded the Trapp Family Lodge (it reminded them of the mountains of Austria).  But some aspects of their lives were changed for the film; their father was not as cold as he appeared and there were more children with different names.

The film opens on the mountains and Maria twirls around, “the hills are alive/ with the Sound of Music/ with songs they have sung/ for a thousand years.”  Bells ring after the song and she has to run back to the abbey.  The audience is treated to a little tour of Salzburg [ironically, the movie is not all that well known in Austria].  The other nuns in the abbey ask Mother Superior, “how do you solve a problem like Maria.”  “How do you catch a cloud/ and pin it down…but how do you make her stay/ and listen to all you say/ how do you keep a wave/ upon the sand?”  In the end, she’s a girl, not a demon nor a lamb.  But Mother Superior does speak to Maria.  The young woman can’t stop singing and she may not have been prepared for the kind of life that nuns lead.  So Mother Superior will have her act as a governess to seven children, to see if she can really live the nun’s life.  Maria is nervous at first, but finds I Have Confidence.

von trapp familyHer introduction to the Captain is not the best.  He expects his home and his children to be run with discipline and calls for his children with a whistle; like one would on a ship [that never happened].  Maria refuses and admits she was trouble at the abbey [the truth].  Liesl is 16, Friedrich is 14, Louisa 13, Kurt 11, Brigitta 10, Marta 7, and Gretl 5.  As many children are wont to do when someone new arrives and they’re trying to get attention, they play tricks on Maria.  But she surprises them and takes them in stride, and I believe that is why some of the younger girls begin crying at dinner.  Liesl sneaks out to meet the telegram boy, Rolf.  She is Sixteen Going on Seventeen, while he is seventeen, so Liesl hopes Rolf will tell her how to act in a grown up world.  They dance in the gazebo while it rains and at the end, Rolf pulls Liesl in for a kiss.  She grins in joy later, then has to sneak in to Maria’s room.

Maria discovers from household gossip that Captain Von Trapp is considering marrying Baroness Schrader, but the Captain will not grant Maria’s request for play clothes for the children.  She makes inroads with Liesl, so the young woman admits she may in fact still need a governess.  Gretl runs into Maria’s room, scared of the thunder, quickly followed by the other girls.  The boys join a minute later, to “make sure the girls weren’t scared.”  Maria shares that she thinks of My Favorite Things when something scares or saddens her (I adore this song), “and then I don’t feel/ so bad.”  The children begin laughing and they’re having a merry time, until the Captain appears.  Maria covers for Liesl, but the Captain asks that Maria acquire discipline while he is gone.  She gets an idea from her curtains as she finishes her song.

do re miWhile the Captain is away, Maria makes new play clothes for the children from her old drapes, since new ones are to be made.  They traipse about Salzburg and Maria takes them to her hill and teaches them to sing.  “Let’s start at the very beginning/ a very good place to start/ when you read/ you begin with A B C/ when you sing / you being with Do Re Mi.”  (This is a classic choir song and the solfeg is actually very helpful.)  The Captain returns home with the Baroness, and Uncle Max.  The Captain feels that the Baroness has brought meaning back into his life and she does not want to speak out of turn with Max.  Though she admits that wedding bells may be ringing, but she’s very fond of the Captain.  Max wants to keep the money between the two in the family.  They are surprisingly joined by the children from the river, where they tip over the boat (the young actress playing Gretl couldn’t swim, so she was carried out of the water).  The Captain sends his children in to change, but doesn’t want to discuss them with Maria.  She stands up to the Captain, insisting they are children and all they want is love.  A sound breaks their argument; the children singing.  The Captain is surprised.  Maria watches as he joins his children on The Sound of Music and the family hug afterwards.  The Captain apologizes to Maria in the entryway and asks her to stay.  She managed to bring music back into the house.

Life is merrier.  The children show off a puppet show and The Lonely Goatherd to the other adults and Max wants to enter them into a local music festival.  The Captain refuses; his children will not sing in public.  They do ask their father to sing; he chooses Edelweiss (which is not actually an actual Austrian folk song or national anthem; in fact, it was the last song Hammerstein wrote).  The Baroness notices the looks the Captain gives Maria and so suggests a party, so all of his friends can meet her.

Underlying the family storyline are the historical events of the end of the thirties.  Hitler has begun his rise in Germany and wishes to annex Austria and join it to Germany, the Anschluss.  Rolf has already mentioned it and Herr Zeller attends the party, noting the Austrian flag hanging in the Captain’s home.  Captain Von Trapp was a hero of the Austrian navy in the first world war.  Zeller butts heads with the Captain a little, but they keep it light since it is a party.

Maria starts to show the children an Austrian folk dance, but Kurt is too short.  The Captain assists.  Maria flushes.  The Baroness witnesses.  Then it is time for the children to say good night.  The guests assemble for So Long, Farewell; Gretl is such a sweet child.  Max insists to the Captain that Maria stay with adults for dinner and the Baroness offers to help Maria change.  She mentions to Maria that the Captain has been noticing her; the Baroness can tell that Maria loves the Captain, and the Captain may even think he is in love with her.  Maria decides to leave and the Baroness agrees.

Intermission.  After the Entr’acte back through Salzburg, the children are despondent.  They are not happy with the Baroness and she even remarks to Max that her solution to the children is boarding school.  The children don’t even want to sing anymore.  They venture to the abbey and ask to see Maria, but she’s in seclusion and not seeing anyone.  Mother Superior calls her in to find out what happened with the Von Trapps.  Maria was not mistreated, but she can’t face him again.  Mother Superior asks her plainly, “are you in love with him?”  “I don’t know!” Maria exclaims.  Mother Superior counsels the young woman that she has a great capacity for love, but she must decide what she will do with it.  Maria should return to the Von Trapps, face her problems, and discover the life she was born to live.  Climb Ev’ry Mountain, Mother Superior counsels; “follow ev’ry rainbow/ ’till you find your dream/ a dream that will need/ all the love you can give/ ev’ry day of your life/ for as long as you live.”

Maria does return, as the children sing My Favorite Things to lift their spirits (after claiming to have eaten loads of berries and missing dinner).  They’re thrilled, as is Maria, until she discovers the Captain’s engagement.  She tells the Captain she will remain until a new governess is found.  But the Baroness and Captain break off the engagement.  The Captain admits he has not been fair to the Baroness, loving someone else.  And the Baroness needs to be needed, or at least, need her money.  The Captain goes to Maria that evening at the gazebo and kisses her.  Something Good has come to their lives.  Their wedding follows at the abbey, with the organ and choir reprising Maria.

Max has the children rehearse for the festival while Maria and the Captain are on their honeymoon.  The Anschluss has occurred and Nazi flags drape the buildings [there were concerns with filming whether the people would dislike the flags so soon after the war, but it was better than using news film].  Zeller wishes to speak to the Captain, but he has not returned yet.  He insists that “nothing in Austria has changed,” everything is still the same.  The Captain and Maria have in fact returned home to find a Nazi flag on their house.  There is a telegram delivered from Rolf via Liesl ordering the Captain to report for a position in the Third Reich.  He decides the family must get out of Austria, tonight.  The Germans are waiting for the family that evening when they try to sneak out (the butler was a Nazi-sympathizer).  The family uses the festival as their excuse and in fact final concertperform as a whole.  It’s a rearrangement of Do Re Mi and the Captain follows by singing Edelweiss with the crowd.  Max reveals the Third Reich’s plans for the Captain, causing the audience to mutter against the Nazi invasion; the family will perform a final encore, So Long, Farewell.  When the winners of the festival are announced, the Von Trapp family is gone.

They take refuge at the abbey and Mother Superior hides them in the cemetery.  There are always nerves as the Nazis shine their flashlight, searching for the family, even if it’s the dozen-th time I have watched the movie.  Rolf hides and discovers the family as they start to get away.  He pulls a gun on the Captain; it’s him the Nazis want, not the family.  The Captain manages to get the gun and begs Rolf to come with them, he’s only a boy.  But when he says that Rolf is not a Nazi, Rolf raises the alarm, just to prove that he is.  The nuns have taken pieces of the Nazis cars to stop them from following the Von Trapps.  The family hikes into the mountain and will cross into Switzerland on foot.  A choir reprises the chorus of Climb Ev’ry Mountain as the family passes by [what actually happened is that they took a train into Italy, then made their way to England and ultimately the United States.  If they had gone over the mountains, they would have ended up in Germany, near Hitler’s mountain retreat.]

The family storyline in the film is heartwarming; a father learning to reconnect with his children, especially through music.  The music is superb; there’s a reason it is one of the best known musicals.

Further Reading:

Agathe von Trapp: Memories Before and After The Sound of Music, written by the eldest von Trapp daughter and contains the actual history of the family.  It’s a nice read; even though the family initially disliked the film since it portrays their father colder than reality, they recognize the impact it has had on moviegoers.

The Sound of Music Companion by Laurence Maslon and Julie Andrews, behind the scenes of filming and bringing the original stage production to life.

Julie Andrews also has two autobiographies out at this time, Home and Home Work

 

This  film with the half dozen previous posts, made up a big portion of my childhood.  Definitely danced around the living room to the soundtrack of Joseph.  As already noted, my brother and I watched these on repeat as children.  I still love to sing along to these soundtracks.  1776 was the influence of a paper I wrote in college; aided by a dozen of my mother’s books on John Adams.

Ah yes, by now I have watched Hamilton thanks to Disney +.  I didn’t mind the middle part, but it started to drag on at the end.  It’s a very cool concept, to mix American history with modern music and dance.  But…I will always love 1776.

Up Next: I’ll start the action/adventure section.  Posts might be spread out a bit more to give me a chance to truly analyze story and character aspects.  It’ll definitely take us through Christmas.  I begin with the Zorro movies.

“The biggest word/ you’ve ever heard/ and this is how it goes!”

Mary Poppins

An iconic Disney musical.  And it so happened to have been on television both the night my brother was born, and the night I was born, twenty months later.  The original book series was written by P.L. Travers.  For the film, music was composed by the Sherman brothers and production was overseen by Walt Disney himself, as showcased in Saving Mr. Banks.  I have seen the film and it was an interesting look into how the film was created, though a bit sad as well.  Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson were excellent in it.  The classic movie stars Julie Andrews (Sound of Music, The Princess Diaries) in her first major movie role (though she was already experienced on the stage) as the titular Mary Poppins.  [And a note about that; Julie had starred as the original Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady on stage and had hoped to earn the role again in the film.  But it went to Audrey Hepburn.  Mary Poppins won the Oscar that year.]  Her co-star was Dick Van Dyke (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) as Bert, David Tomlinson (Bedknobs and Broomsticks) as Mr. George W. Banks, Reginald Owen (Bedknobs and Broomsticks) as Admiral Boom, and Arthur Treacher (yes, of the Fish and Chips restaurant line; he also appeared in several Shirley Temple films) as the Constable.

The establishing shots of the London skyline tell us we’re in England and we see Mary Poppins sitting on a cloud.  Bert is a one-man band, entertaining a crowd, until the wind blows by: “something is brewing/ about to begin.”  Then he addresses the audience, as we asked for directions to Number 17, Cherry Tree Lane.  We pass by Admiral Boom, who has rigging on the top of his home, as well as a canon to mark the time.  The world takes its time from Greenwich, but Greenwich takes its time from Admiral Boom.  There is an argument brewing at Number 17; seems Katie Nana has lost her charges, but blames them, so she is leaving.  Mrs. Banks arrives home from her Sister Suffragette rally, though it takes several tries to inform her that her children are missing.  She quickly puts her things away so as to not upset her husband.

Mr. Banks arrives home cheerfully, it’s 1910, “King Edward’s on the throne/ it’s the Age of Men,” and he is pleased with The Life I Lead.  Everything is on schedule, his servants and family treat him with the respect he deserves as head of the household (noblesse oblige) and it takes several minutes before he realizes his children are missing.  The kindly constable brings them home and tries to encourage Mr. Banks to not be hard on them, but Mr. Banks dismisses him.  With the same tune, he has his wife take down an advertisement for a new nanny.  No-nonsense is the first requirement, “tradition, discipline, and rules/ must be the tools/ without them/ disorder, catastrophe, anarchy/ in short, you have a ghastly mess.”  Jane and Michael have their own advertisement and though their mother follows her husband’s commands, she does insist that they listen to their children.  Their first requirement is a cherry disposition, and a desire for games, all sorts.  After the children are sent to bed, Mr. Banks tears up the notice and throws it into the fireplace.  What he doesn’t see are the pieces float out the chimney.

There is a queue of nannies in the morning, but before Mr. Banks can begin interviewing there is a large gust of wind that blows them all away.  Mary Poppins gently floats down and lands at the door.  In her hand are the children’s qualifications, not Mr. Banks’ and so he wonders over at the fireplace what happened.  Mary gives herself the job, but Mr. Banks seems suitably impressed and takes credit for it when his wife asks.  Mary does the most extraordinary thing and rides the banister up.  She quickly takes control in the nursery, putting her things away, after pulling them out of an empty carpet bag (loved that part as a kid).  Michael thinks she’s tricky.  Jane thinks she’s wonderful.  Mary also pulls out her tape measure, to see how the children measure up.  Michael is extremely stubborn and suspicious, while Jane is prone to giggling.  Mary Poppins is “practically perfect in every way.”  Time for their first game, tidying up the nursery.  “In every job that must be done/ there is an element of fun/ you find the fun/ and snap, the job’s a game.”  A Spoonful of Sugar helps the medicine go down.  Snapping puts the toys and items laying about away, though it takes Michael several tries.  It gets a little out of hand and Mary Poppins puts an end to it, but the children eagerly join her for a walk afterwards.

Today, Bert is a street artist and the trio arrive.  He recognizes Mary Poppins and knows Jane and Michael from their adventures nearby.  He tries some magic to pop the children into a drawing, but Mary Poppins steps in to do it properly.  Now the children run off to a fair in new outfits and Bert remarks to Mary “it’s a Jolly Holiday…when Mary hold your hand/ it feels so grand/ your heart starts beating/ like a big brass band.”  Animated animals come up to them and even join in the singing [animation style reminds me a bit of 101 Dalmatians].  The pair end up at a cafe with dancing penguins (I love this part!)  Bert joins in the dancing and it’s wonderfully hilarious.  He is quick to insist “cream of the crop/ tip of the top/ is Mary Poppins/ and there we stop.”  They do join the children on a merry-go-round, but Mary has the horses jump off the carousel.  They join a fox hunt, with Bert rescuing the Irish fox and that leads to a horse race.  Mary’s manners lead her to the front and when the interviewers congratulate her, she reveals there is a word to use when one does not know what to say.  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (just about the best song of all time).  “Even though the sound of it/ is something quite atrocious/ if you say it loud enough/ you’ll always sound precocious.”

Rain ruins their day and they’re back in London in their regular clothes.  Mary shows further magic when her medicine changes color and flavor for each person’s preference.  When the children insist they are much too excited to go to sleep, Mary lulls them to Stay Awake.  Of course, they drift off, but are cheerful the next morning, to their father’s chagrin.  He feels Mary Poppins is undermining the discipline in the house; indeed, everyone is in a good mood except him.  But he goes off to work and Mary takes the children out on errands.  The dog, Andrew, barks he needs Mary’s help; so the children meet Uncle Albert.  Bert is already there, and oddly, Uncle Albert is floating near the ceiling.  I Love to Laugh, he declares, “loud and long and clear.”  “The more I laugh/ the more I fill with glee/ and the more the glee/ the more I’m a merrier me.”  Everyone joins him on the ceiling, though Mary simply floats up.  She raises the tea table, but a little later, insists they must get home.  And that is the secret to getting down; one must think of something sad.  Bert stays with Albert.

Mr. Banks confronts Mary Poppins at home about the nature of her outings.  He dislikes filling his children’s heads with silly nonsense.  If they must have outings, they should be practical.  Like taking them to the bank, suggests Mary.  She tells the children that she never puts notions in someone’s head; it’s just the logical following of what they were saying.  She urges the children to look for the bird lady at St. Paul’s Cathedral and to hear her cry of Feed the Birds (one of Walt Disney’s favorite songs).  The song lulls the children to sleep again.  They eagerly accompany their father, but he won’t let them use their money to feed the birds.  Instead, he shows them to the leaders of the bank; several old men who use financial terms that confuse the children.  The eldest, Mr. Dawes Sr (played by Dick Van Dyke as well) wants Michael to give his tuppence to the Fidelity, Fiduciary Bank.  One must think prudently, thriftily, frugally, patiently, and cautiously.  Of course, these all go over the children’s heads (and mine).  When Michael is a bit confused, Dawes Sr. grabs the tuppence.  So Michael shouts “give me back my money.”  The other customers hear and start demanding their money as well.  In the chaos, Michael and Jane run off.  It’s a bit scary for a moment and they run into a man covered in soot.  Luckily, it’s Bert.  He calms them down and leads them home.  Today he is a chimney sweep, “you may think a sweep’s/ on the bottom-most rung/ though I spends me time/ in the ashes and smoke/ in this whole wide world/ there’s no happier bloke.”  Chim-Chim-Cheree  “Good luck will rub off/ when I shake hands with you/ or blow me a kiss/ and that’s lucky too.”  At the house, Mrs. Banks is off for another rally and asks Bert to look after the children since it’s Mary Poppins’ day off.  The children are interested, until Michael shoots up the chimney when Mary walks in.  Jane quickly follows, so Bert and Mary join them.

They get a beautiful view of the rooftops of London and march about.  They run into Bert’s pals, all of whom are chimney sweeps as well and they entertain their visitors with a Step in Time (love this dance).  Mary even joins in with a rising spin [I wonder what effects they used to film the sequence, since it had to be safe for the dancers.]  Admiral Boom spots the dancers and has his assistant shoot firecrackers at them, chasing them off the roof.  They all end up in the Banks’ home until Mr. Banks returns.  After the exodus of chimney sweeps from his house, Mr. Banks gets a call from the bank; they want him to return later.  He has a conversation with Bert, who points out that it is admirable to want to provide for your family, but soon they will grow and he won’t know them.  Jane and Michael apologize to their father and Michael gives him his tuppence.

The board wants to dismiss Mr. Banks, for causing a run on the bank.  They invert his umbrella, tear his flower, and punch out his hat.  When they ask if he has anything to say, he recalls “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”  He even repeats the joke Michael taught him; for he’s seen what good Mary Poppins has done in his family and has made the decision that they are more important.  He gives the tuppence to Dawes Sr, who starts pondering the joke and then begins to laugh.  He laughs so much, he begins floating and his grown son cries out “Daddy!  Come back!”

Mr. Banks gives his family a bit of a scare; they’ve called the constable because they can’t find him, until he emerges singing from the cellar.  He’s mended the kite and asks Jane and Michael to join him.  Mrs. Banks adds a sash for a tail and they are all excited to Let’s Go Fly a Kite, an absolutely heartwarming number.  The wind has changed, and it’s time for Mary Poppins to go.  The children are sad at first that she’s leaving, but their father’s good mood cheers them up and Mary leaves once the family does.  Bert nods to her and she smiles at her friend.  Her talking parrot umbrella insists that Mary Poppins does love the children, but she states it is proper that they love their father.  “Practically perfect people never permit sentiment to muddle their thinking,” and she rises back to the clouds.

Mary Poppins is a lovely family film and is cherished in our home.  We did watch the late sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, which stars Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, with appearances by Dick Van Dyke, Angela Landsbury, Ben Whishaw, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, and Meryl Streep.  Did not like it.  It was trying too hard and didn’t have the charm that the original had; there’s just no repeating the magic.

Up Next: The last musical, The Sound of Music