My The Rise of Skywalker Theory: Rey is a Clone

A new Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer dropped and well. . . I feel it’s time to share a theory I’ve had since The Force Awakens (Spoiler alert from here on out).

First, the trailer:

Since The Force Awakens (TFA), I’ve concluded Rey is a clone of Luke Skywalker’s hand from The Empire Strikes Back (TESB). These points have only been reinforced with more Star Wars films. Why? Let me quickly list my points then elaborate on them further:

1. Rey has no knowledge/vision of her parents
2. Rey speaks with a British accent
3. General Hux discussing cloning very briefly in TFA
4. Luke/Vader’s lightsaber “called” to her in TFA
5. Rey’s vision of Cloud City when when she first grabbed the lightsaber
6. Snoke’s non-existent backstory
7. A lot of things in the new films are previously established Star Wars canon, “the Expanded Universe” (EU), now known as “Legends.”
8. It doesn’t break the Jedi Code, keeping the Skywalker lineage clean
9. The new trailer

1. Rey has no knowledge/vision of her parents

In The Last Jedi (TLJ), Rey makes it to Ahch-To and trains with Luke to both try and recruit him and have him train her as a Jedi. Much like how Luke fought a faux Darth Vader in TESB, Rey falls into a cave and sees a silhouette of her “parents.” We get no information on what they look like or even if they’re human. They’re simply shadows. In TFA, all we get is a flashback of Rey’s “parents” flying away on a ship – as if she was left abandoned. As a child, surely one should be able to have any little glimpse of their parents. Heck, in Return of the Jedi (RotJ), Leia said about her mother, “She was, very beautiful, kind, but sad.” Even though Leia WAS A BABY, she still had an idea about her mother. What’s Rey got? Nothing. Why? Because there’s nothing there.

Rey’s parents or shadow puppets?

2. Rey speaks with a British accent

I hope this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but the reasons why most Imperials speak with a British accent is for one of two reasons: One is that they’re imperialists much like how the British were – George Lucas wanted a direct correlation to the Empire and to real-world history. The second reason is because they’re from the central worlds like Coruscant, Corellia, Chandrila (lots of C’s there), and Alderaan. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn both had accents because they were on Coruscant with the Jedi and raised in central worlds. The Imperials had the accent because they were from main worlds. Mon Mothma and Bail Organa both had semi-British accents (as did Leia in A New Hope (ANH)). Jyn Erso from Rogue One had an accent because of her father raising her with Imperials around.

These accents are important to note because if Rey really did come from a poor world and family were really “filthy junk traders who sold [her] off for drinking money,” she wouldn’t have had the accent. She most definitely would not have picked it up on Jakku. She must have been raised in an Imperial world – or at least a central world. This is backed up further into my next point:

3. General Hux discussing cloning very briefly in TFA

Kylo Ren: How capable are your soldiers, General?
General Hux: I won’t have you question my methods.
Kylo Ren: They’re obviously skilled at committing high treason. Perhaps Leader Snoke should consider using a clone army.
General Hux: My men are exceptionally trained. Programmed from birth.
Kylo Ren: Then they should have no problem retrieving the droid.

This little discussion early in TFA subtly plants the suggestion into the reader’s mind that cloning IS A THING yet we don’t hear about it again.

In ANH, cloning was loosely talked about with Luke, Leia, and Obi-Wan, as the two Skywalker’s mentioned Obi-Wan serving with Anakin (or Bail) in the Clone Wars. Outside of that (and the prequels), we’re led to believe that’s all there is to cloning – only cloned Stormtroopers (but more with that on point 8). However, here we know that the bad guys, the First Order, are ACTIVELY using clones for the first time since the prequels (or in the Star Wars timeline, 60-80 years later). And like I said, that’s weird because cloning was not relevant in the original Star Wars trilogy, nor has cloning been relevant in the first two films of the new trilogy. So why bring it up at all? And I can’t help but feel that clones will probably have British accents like the rest of the First Order too. . .

4. Luke/Vader’s lightsaber “called” to her in TFA

A lot of this will be reinforced in point 7, however I think it’s important to let you know that in the Timothy Zahn book series, the Thrawn trilogy, Grand Admiral Thrawn has Luke Skywalker’s hand, cut off by Darth Vader in TESB, and clones it to create the cringe-worthy clone named “Luuke.” (I know, right?)

To make things really interesting, and to kind of sprinkle in point 5, with Rey’s vision of Cloud City, one could see how the blood of a Skywalker could want to “call out” to the lightsaber. To hit the point home even further, Rey touched the lightsaber and immediately found herself in Cloud City. Now most people would assume that it’s because “that’s where the lightsaber was last.” Perhaps it was Rey “remembering” when she was on Cloud City? A deja vu, if you may. However, it’s the Skywalker blood that’s having the deja vu. How can Rey not remember her parents, yet have a vision of some place she’s never been to?

♫”We built this Cloud City and Rey’s a clone.”♫

6. Snoke’s non-existent backstory

One thing I absolutely despise in storytelling is how the storyteller will purposefully leave out important information to make the “big reveal” feel stronger – films that loosely reveal information that helps develop a backstory – either with flashbacks or some sort of prophecy. With Snoke, it honestly feels more “hidden” than anything. There was tons of time to slip a line or two in about Snoke’s backstory. But what does the audience get? Nothing! Not a single damn thing. Films that purposefully hide plot points behind reveals is simply lazy storytelling. For a while, I was feeling frustration that there was lazy storytelling in TFA and TLJ. I really ripped into The Last Jedi over that one, actually.

However, I’ve come to the more comfortable conclusion that they’re purposefully not telling us because this “clone” reveal is going to be so huge that any glimpse into Snoke’s past would have said too much. If anything, since we know Emperor Palpatine is back, I’ll bet you Snoke was a failed clone of Emperor Palpatine – hence the disfigured face and, well, everything.

Speaking of hiding plot points, and to reinforce point 3: I wonder why General Hux – or for that matter, director J.J. Abrams – had cloning mentioned in TFA at all if cloning hadn’t been necessary to any plot point in the new films yet? . . . hmm.

7. A lot of things in the new films are previously established from the Star Wars EU, now known as “Legends.”

A lot has been borrowed from the original Star Wars EU, previously established in earlier books, video games, and comics. I mentioned in my review of The Last Jedi, that “Leia’s use of the Force bubble is something pulled from the EU/Legends in the book, The Courtship of Princess Leia.”

We also have lots of other tidbits from the EU, such as:
– The Hammerhead class Republic cruiser in Rogue One, which originated from the Knights of the Old Republic video game
– Kylo Ren being named “Ben,” which is what Luke and Mara Jade call their son
– The Sun Crusher and Starkiller Base both have the ability to wipe out systems, not just planets
– Exar Kun was an evil force that helped wreck Luke’s New Jedi Order. Look at what Kylo Ren did.
– Kylo Ren, a Solo, turned to the dark side. Just like Han and Leia’s son, Jacen Solo, turning to the dark side and becoming Darth Caedus
– Death Troopers looking like Shadowtroopers from Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
– In Solo: A Star Wars Story, L3-37 (ugh) is very similar named and looking like LE-BO2D9, or “Leebo,” Dash Rendar’s droid from Shadows of the Empire
– Swoop bikes and Dash Rendar’s Outrider from Shadows of the Empire were added into the Special Edition of ANH
– Darth Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber was originally created with Exar Kun
– Kylo Ren’s crossguard lightsaber first originated out of the Star Wars comic books
– Grand Admiral Thrawn from the Star Wars TV series is originally from the EU books
– I’ll admit I’m speculating here, but in the Thrawn trilogy by Zahn, Leia feels the presence of Palpatine where he died in space over Endor. In a later book by Zahn, the Emperor returns as a clone. From the first teaser trailer, we hear the Emperor laugh over the destroyed Death Star on Endor. . .

Believe me, there’s more. But what I’m trying to get at, is that the Star Wars films aren’t without influence from things considered “non-canon.” The idea of Rey being a clone isn’t too far fetched when cloning characters is literally within the confines of the fantasy world Star Wars has built. We hear the Emperor laughing in the first teaser trailer for The Rise of Skywalker (TRoS). Is it that wrong to assume he’s back as a clone?

8. It doesn’t break the Jedi Code, keeping the Skywalker lineage clean

This is my big one: Anakin Skywalker falls in love with Padmé Amidala and marries her. That is forbidden by the Jedi Order because jealousy, temptation, and fear of loss could ultimately turn one to the dark side. Anakin breaks the Jedi Order, falls in love, and turns to the dark side. He becomes Darth Vader, the ultimate bad guy.

Padmé, however, gives birth to Luke and Leia. Leia is not a Jedi technically, so she’s in clear. Also, because Star Wars borrows from the real world, Ben is a Solo, not a Skywalker, because of his dad.

The clone of Rey, however, would be the perfect way to wipe the slate clean for the Skywalker lineage. Not only would Rey be a Skywalker, but she would be a way for Luke to “have a child” without ever having to break the Jedi Order. This Rey clone would keep the Skywalker lineage in check, and thus keep the Jedi, or even a neutral “Jedi” path, safe (that link/idea is also from the EU and has been heavily suggested from fans). It’s also called, “The Rise of Skywalker,” not “The Rise of Solo,” so it can’t be talking about Ben. What a better way to keep Luke’s lineage/nobility to the Jedi Order than to just clone him than have him “break the rules.”

9. The new trailer

Ah. The face of someone who has complete control of their mind. Definitely not a clone. . . ?

And finally we come to the new trailer that has dropped. We see Rey with a double-bladed lightsaber (which I’ve already established came from the Expanded Universe). Doesn’t she look a bit. . . stoic? Seems familiar to one Luuke Skywalker.

Mentally, he was little more than a mindless drone, an extension of Joruus C’baoth’s will. The clone was created for C’baoth’s use as a tool, and he obeyed the insane Jedi Master’s every command instantly. The clone was devoid of any sense of individuality and showed no recognizable sign of emotion until the end of his bout with [Luke] Skywalker, when he shrieked and attacked Mara Jade in fury after a viewscreen blew up in his face. Skywalker considered the clone to be thoroughly evil, a twisted perversion of himself.

While I’m not suggesting that there’s going to be TWO Rey’s in TRoS, it wouldn’t surprise me if she became the Luuke in this example – the extension of the Emperor’s mind to fight Kylo Ren or something. I’m not sure, of course. However, when you think of a mindless drone, that certainly is the face of one, no? From that short clip, Rey’s mind is gone, and I’m suggesting, is under Palpatine’s will.

I have to say, the more information that comes out about the film, unless it explicitly shows “these are Rey’s parents!” I have to continue my rationale that Rey, is indeed, a clone of Luke Skywalker’s hand.

Thoughts, concerns, or arguments to be had? Let’s go!

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’.

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Why I Disliked Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I love me some bad movies. I can watch a film like The Room or Birdemic: Shock and Terror with ease. Give me a bad, campy movie and I’ll eat it right up.

Give me a movie that’s supposed to be good but ends up bad; I’ll struggle to watch it again.

Herein lies my problem with The Last Jedi: a movie that’s supposed to be good (currently sitting with a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes) but ends up being bad. Why is that? Let me count the ways.

I feel the need to express my thoughts over this film because most people I’ve talked to are shocked I disliked the movie. As both a lover of film (especially Rian Johnsons’s Looper) and an even bigger lover of Star Wars (R.I.P. Expanded Universe), I have a strange case of wanting to love this movie. However. . . I didn’t. Obviously, spoilers are ahead.

Why I disliked The Last Jedi as a fan of film:

Where to begin? Let’s start with the plot:

Ex-Marvel Comics Editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, once wrote a storytelling lecture on his blog. There, he covers the basic fundamentals of storytelling using the poem of Little Miss Muffet. He writes,

Little Miss Muffet–introduce the character. Sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey–establish the status quo. Along came a spider–introduce the disruptive element. Sat down beside her–build suspense. Scared poor Miss Muffet–climax. Away–resolution. Now you know the basic building block of entertainment. Is that all you need? No. Little Miss Muffet is a story, it fits the basic building block, it is however a lousy story. You don’t know anything about this girl, you don’t know anything about the spider. It gets old pretty quick. But we can make it better.

Now let’s look at The Last Jedi: At the beginning of the film, Rey has the Force and she’s learning to use it. We also have The Resistance defeated by the First Order. We also have Kylo Ren who’s the big baddie and is angry all of the time.

By the end of The Last Jedi, we have Rey who is learning to use her Force powers, The Resistance is defeated, and Kylo Ren who as the big baddie and is angry all of the time. The rest of the movie is filler. Without a status quo change, arguably the movie really didn’t need to happen, did it? Let’s go deeper:

At the end of The Force Awakens, Rey learns she has the Force. She goes to Luke to learn how to use the Force. She syncs up with Kylo Ren a handful of times to add some mystery to the story. She even dabbles with the dark side, according to Luke. She then leaves Luke and meets up with Kylo Ren. Snoke dies and she refuses to join Kylo. She re-joins the Resistance, despite being not that much further ahead in her training than she was before. Sure, she’s learned to control her Force powers a bit better, but essentially, that’s Rey’s arc. She went from learning how to use the Force to still learning how to use the Force. Yes, it’s filled with her arguing between Kylo and Snoke – refusing the dark side and all that fun stuff – but ultimately, she’s left unchanged in the film. We kinda sorta don’t learn her history regarding her parents either, so her motives are still somewhat unchanged. She’s really not that much better off than what we started with. The audience knew she was a good person because it was established in the first film. Even as she spoke with Luke, we saw her still fighting for good, despite temptations. Ultimately, Rey’s status quo didn’t change at all.

Even these little things didn’t bother me as much as the movie itself.

Looking at The Resistance, they didn’t change much at all. If anything, they just got smaller. We know they are the good guys who got beat down (which they definitely did in this film), but they were already the underdogs. They went from being underdogs to staying underdogs. They lost Admiral Ackbar, Admiral Holdo, Rose’s sister Paige at the beginning of the film (they’re all heroes, don’t cha know?), and hundreds more. And so? They weren’t relevant to the film anyway. Their loss didn’t change anything, actually. The status quo of the Resistance didn’t change.

Then we have Kylo Ren – an angry defeated boy at the end of The Force Awakens who turns against his master in The Last Jedi. And that’s about it. Like I said earlier, he goes from being angry to staying angry. He was technically second-in-command of the First Order anyway so the “shift” in his character really wasn’t all that dramatic. Sure, he saved Rey from Snoke showing he has some light in him, but shortly after he wanted to kill her. Mood swing. The status quo for Ren changed in the film but was ultimately reset back to the beginning of the movie when The Last Jedi ended. That’s pretty lame.

Finn and Rose we’re something irrelevant. You could literally rip their storyline straight out of the movie and nothing would change outside of Captain Phasma still being alive (but she was irrelevant anyway). To recap: Finn wakes up, runs into Rose (who got over her sister’s death pretty quickly) and they take off to the Casino to pad out the movie. They find the Slicer DJ, end up getting caught by Phasma, getting saved by BB-8, go to the planet Crait, get both of their speeders wrecked, they both escape, and then the movie ends. They literally did nothing in the film and as such, their existence in the The Last Jedi was irrelevant.

Lesser characters, Poe, General Hux, Captain Phasma, Luke, and Leia, ultimately didn’t have much effect on the film either. Their storyline could’ve all been left out.

Poe went from being a rebellious jerk to being a rebellious jerk. General Hux didn’t change at all. Captain Phasma goes from being completely irrelevant in the first film to being completely irrelevant in the second. It was if neither director knew what to do with her. We learn Luke’s story over the past forty years, but ultimately we go from not having Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens to not having Luke Skywalker by the end of The Last Jedi. Leia was the voice and leader of the Resistance and continued to be so. She was left unchanged.

“I’m in this movie for all of the wrong reasons.”

Looking back at Little Miss Muffet with The Last Jedi – we have our characters on their tuffet and a status quo of their curds and whey. The First Order is the disruptive element and well. . . that’s as far as we get. We’re back to everyone on their tuffets eating their curds and whey.

So my biggest problem with The Last Jedi? In 152 minutes, our characters physically fly from Point A to Point B. The rest is filler. No ones character evolved in the movie and as such, the status quo did not change.

Character Development

Snoke dies. Luke dies. Rey lives. Kylo Ren lives.

Why didn’t I care what happened to these characters, living or dead? The answer is motives. The audience isn’t given any – and if they are – they’re not strong enough to care about.

Let’s take a look at Snoke: what’s his motive? How did he create the First Order? Did he create it? We have no back story to him, despite his few moments of spewing out exposition when talking to Rey. We really don’t know what his character is about outside of him being big and bad. That’s it. He dies and that’s the end for him. Not only was he a lame character, but without a back story, we’re unfortunately victims to lazy screen writing and character development. R.I.P. Snoke, we hardly knew ye.

“I’m irrelevant.”

Luke’s death, while a bit of a surprise, upset me for the wrong reasons. He didn’t need to die (let alone however he died which I’ll get into below). But his motives still weren’t entirely clear. He trained Rey out of guilt, I guess. But it wasn’t much training at all. By the time we learn his back story, Rey’s already buggered off and we’re left with Luke’s final moments straining to delay Kylo Ren from killing the rest of The Resistance. Did Luke get closure because of this? Rey and Leia confirmed Luke felt “at peace” but did he really? The characters had to tell us that in the film because I certainly didn’t understand or feel it.

With Rey, we have her wanting to learn her origin but we’re still left ambiguous about it. Kylo Ren tells her something about her parents, but hey – he could be lying! We’re given vague answers to her throughout the whole movie – what her power set is, where’s she’s from, and most importantly – why we should care about her. She only became “the last Jedi” by the end of the film. Her status quo didn’t change outside of a title, so my care for her is the same as it was at the end of The Force Awakens: I really don’t know how to feel.

And with Kylo Ren, he’s still a moody, angry teenager. He killed his master, which was probably the most development we received about him in the film, but that’s about it. He lives to fight on and kill the Resistance, but I mean, how’s that any different than what he was in the first movie? It’s really not.

Consistencies

I’ll try to keep these to bullet points as I’ve already whined too much:

– Rey goes to Ahch-To to find Luke. Given the night and day cycles, we can assume she’s there for at least a week. We also know that the Resistance only has a little amoutn of fuel left from the start of the movie (we’re told around eighteen hours then down to six hours). By the end of the film, Rey and the Resistance meet up at the same time. Nice. The only explanation is if Ahch-To has significantly shorter day cycles, which obviously isn’t discussed.

– For plot convenience, I’m glad BB-8 can become an X-Wing conductor to help destroy a Dreadnought, can talk to a prisoner who fortunately happens to be a Slicer and steal a ship for our characters to escape, and can suddenly pilot a First Order walker (conveniently destroying its hull from the inside to reveal it’s him to the audience) to save his friends. BB-8 became the most convenient deus ex machina in cinematic history.

– I guess Threepio doesn’t need a red arm anymore? Between escaping the secret Resistance base and getting onto the Resistance capital ship, they swapped his arms?

– Yoda is cool with lying to Luke about the Jedi books and burning trees down (in case you missed it, the books were on the Millennium Falcon at the end of the film).

– The First Order has hundreds of TIE fighters at their disposal and can easily destroy the hull of the Republic cruiser (R.I.P. Admiral Ackbar). Why drag the movie out for two hours when a handful of TIE’s could’ve ended the film? We know TIE fighters can destroy the bridge easily so. . .

– From the previous point: so the Resistance exited hyperspace to a random place only to be followed by The First Order. Whose idea was that? Even IF it was with plans to fly to Crait all along (which conveniently showed up for the Resistance to escape to if it wasn’t), why would only Leia and Admiral Holdo know of the plans? There’s probably an argument that the rest of the people “in the know” died on the bridge, but in reality, the audience was left out of the information to add some drama to the story. It was unnecessary.

– What camera was following Maz around? That’s one helluva cool selfie stick.

– DJ was a slicer who helped Finn and Rose, then back stabbed Finn and Rose. What happens to him? Who cares.

– Where’s the rest of the Knights of Ren Luke spoke about?

A showdown with little build up, tension, or history behind it. Finn is undefeated with Phasma. The score’s 2-0 now.

– Nit-picking as a Star Wars fan, Luke’s death bothered me because of how he died. In Revenge of the Sith, we learn Qui Gon Jinn discovered the “path to immortality” which is why Obi Wan and Yoda disappear and become one with the Force after they die in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. This is also why Anakin Skywalker’s body doesn’t disappear in Vader’s suit, or why all of the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith do not disappear after their deaths. However, we see Yoda come to Luke presumably for the first time (as per his reaction) since Return of the Jedi. Unless Yoda explained Qui Gon’s discovery to Luke off-screen, I can’t see how Luke could’ve disappeared at the end of The Last Jedi without that specific knowledge that Yoda didn’t even seem to have known some-eighty years prior.

General Questions

– It bothered me in The Force Awakens and it still bothers me now: WHO ARE THE RESISTANCE?! We have the Republic in The Force Awakens. They were the five planets that were destroyed by the Starkiller Base. The Republic and its fleet were wiped out.

But why did the Resistance exist to begin with? Wasn’t the Republic in control? Was there a civil war? What was going on? Why is General Leia against The Republic? Was she against the Republic? To that extent, why did the Republic only exist on five planets? More so, at the end of The Last Jedi, if the Resistance had “other friendlies” to contact, why are they such wussies and refuse to help the Resistance on Crait? Are they even relevant? To that extent (and to reinforce what I’ve said earlier), if the Empire was defeated in Return of the Jedi, who let The First Order rise to be the size that they were? How is The First Order funded? What’s Snoke’s back story? Answer: it’s lazy screen writing.

– If we assume The Last Jedi takes place right after The Force Awakens, can we also assume enormous grief is what’s going to kill General Leia off in the final installment? We can assume that in a span of maybe, twenty-four to forty-eight hours(?) she loses Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Admiral Ackbar, Admiral Holdo, most of the Resistance/her friends, and admits her son cannot be saved. That’s arguably a bigger loss than Alderaan’s destruction. However, Leia seems to handle that all in-stride. Classy.

– I’m all for jumping into lightspeed to split Star Destroyers in half, but how did it manage to destroy ALL of the Star Destroyers? Convenient.

– More of a comment: this movie isn’t Fern Gully. I can’t remember a Star Wars movie where the film goes full-stop and suggests cruelty to animals and the wealthy are bad. There’s obviously social messages in prior movies, but Star Wars was never the kind to make it so apparent. That bothered me because scenes at the Casino planet made Star Wars feel more like a Disney product than a Star Wars film.

Despite all of what I’ve said, I liked some things in The Last Jedi. Here’s what I liked:

– Leia’s use of the Force bubble is something pulled from the Expanded Universe/Legends in the book, The Courtship of Princess Leia. In there, Luke and Isolder fall from orbit safely onto a planet because Luke wraps them in a Force bubble. It was neat to see that used in the film.

– While I pointed out issues with some character development above, there was one character who had tons of back story given to her with very little screen time. Admiral Holdo’s arc and development stood out – especially when Leia and her share a scene together. We get a lot of history with Holdo with very little exposition and it completely works for the character. We have her full arc, going from a emotionally shut off Admiral to someone who had a plan unfolding all along. She has a rich history and ends up saving the Resistance due to her commitment to the cause. A true martyr. The Little Miss Muffet poem, Admiral Holdo is.

One of the few decent things to come out of The Last Jedi.

– Yoda’s cameo was great – not for nostalgic reasons, but because Yoda had some ridiculously good words of wisdom to share to Luke. While I snickered at Yoda’s CGI appearance at first (’cause he looked like a baby), they switched him over to a puppet for close-up shots and he looked fantastic.

– I loved some of the directorial artistry in the film. Some scenes I wished I could take a picture of because they were so beautiful. Those scenes are: Luke and Yoda sitting in front of the burning tree, Luke vs. Kylo Ren and their standoff on Crait, Admiral Holdo ripping through the Star Destroyers, and of course, the First Order walkers on Crait.

While I’m not petitioning to remove The Last Jedi from canon, I do feel like this’ll be the end for me and Star Wars post-Episode Nine. I’m two movies into a new trilogy and the only characters I’ve cared about died already, with Carrie Fisher unable to reprise her role in the third. I’m disappointed how the new trilogy has presented itself and have minor hopes it can turn around for Episode Nine. However, I’m cautiously optimistic and will find out in a few more years.

What do you folks think? Did you love The Last Jedi? Hate it? Was I wrong with anything I’ve said? Sound off below and let’s start a discussion.

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Clichés in Fantasy Storytelling: Prophecies

Clichéd storytelling, man. It freaks me out.

It reoccurs in many films and books throughout many cultures around the world and we’re usually quite satisfied with the final product.

Specifically I’m speaking about any kind of prophecies that are placed in the film in order to actually make the story a story. Yes, there are films and books whose stories rely entirely upon a prophecy. Without the prophecy there would be no need for a story and as such no way for the masses to consume. Prophecies are a big part of fantasy stories. One is almost to expect them to appear in one way or another in the story as they seem like common practice for the genre.

Some of these clichéd points are done either really well or really awful. Or they’re hidden well enough that when one considers how the rest of the story is portrayed, the cliché is forgiveable.

In my eyes, writing in a prophecy is no different than writing a deus ex machina for the ending of the story. The only difference is that a prophecy gives the writer the rest of the story to set up the crap-shoot of an ending to make the prophecy make sense. In contrast, the deus ex machina will simply resolve it by some bizarre fashion (or groan-worthy moment).

I think of it like writing during NaNoWriMo: if someone decides to make a story for the month, they plug away at it and when they don’t know how to end it, the deus ex comes in and saves the story.

Alternatively, if someone doesn’t really know how to end their story properly because they “just need to write X amount of words,” putting a prophecy in at the beginning makes the ending fall into place easier.

But it’s strange. We’ve all shook our heads to clichéd storytelling at one time or another, yet we let some stories get away with it more than others. For example, films like The Fifth Element and Lord of the Rings (we’ll go with the film version for LotR simply to make it easier) both use cliché storytelling models and we’re (well, I am) mostly okay with it.

The Fifth Element is self-aware and tongue-in-cheek regarding its central prophecy (that a Fifth Element will save the world), and it is established at the beginning of the movie. The story itself is a wild one, filled with nods to other science-fiction films and stories, while kind of really making the prophecy the central point of the movie – it became fun and was purposefully clichéd.

If your prophecy includes Chris Tucker, I'm instantly hooked.
If your prophecy includes Chris Tucker, I’m instantly hooked.

While one easily argue that The Fifth Element is rather trite with its story, it still reeks of fan-service to its audience that (in my opinion) out-weighs the stories short-comings regarding the cliché of prophecies.

In the Lord of the Rings film, it is established early on that the sword that cut off Sauron’s finger which bore the ring is needed to quell Sauron’s forces. Only Aragorn, if he fulfills the prophecy of returning to the throne by wielding the sword, can he help defeat Sauron’s evil.

This cliché feels a bit more laxed as there are multiple stories happening within the film, so as a viewer, it is not the central story to the movie. It’s a bit of a passable cliché solely because it’s not involving a main character – or at least one that hasn’t become a main character yet from the storytelling and audience’s perspective.

Then we have The Matrix. One character, Morpheus, passes the prophecy onto our main character, Neo. Then the viewer is dragged along for another two movies as the prophecy is continually shoved into our face with more philosophy than action (I should take this time to say I actually enjoyed the Matrix trilogy. However, I have to be critical for reasons of this discussion). The prophecy, from the beginning, becomes the heart of the movie and in-turn, is all the movie is trying to resolve – Neo fulfilling his destiny/ancient prophecy told by the elders.

“If I’m the Chosen One, does that mean I get to keep this spoon?”

Now that I’ve ripped on three major films regarding this topic, let me redirect the focus to something a bit more constructive.

Let’s look at Star Wars and how these films deal with prophecies.

A long time ago in a prophecy far, far away. . .

Starting in order of appearance, we have the Original Trilogy (OT) – episodes IV: A New Hope, V: The Empire Strikes Back, and VI: Return of the Jedi – which do not really deal with prophecies much at all. Then we have the Prequel films – episodes I: The Phantom Menace, II: Attack of the Clones, and III: Revenge of the Sith – which is all about the prophecy of “the Chosen One” (to clarify, I’m not referring to this chosen one).

That’s not to say that there are not prophecy-like instances in the OT.

What I would like to try and show here (and is essentially my thesis) is that the way in which Star Wars presented prophecies is what I think, one of the better ways to tell a story involving prophecies.

Now let’s drive right in and talk this one out.

Within the OT, we have the traditional fantasy story of a young hero out to save a princess and fight the forces of evil. Within that fantasy is the all-powerful Force: a mystical power that binds everything together and can be used for good or evil. As the story moves on into episodes V and VI, it unfolds to finding out that the villain is the hero’s father (spoiler) and that it is up to the hero to save him and defeat evil once and for all.

“Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up my stolen dank mix tapes.”

That is a very bare-bones summary of the OT, but I think it works when trying to discuss prophecies. There was a mention about an “ancient religion” by Admiral Motti in A New Hope, and villain Darth Vader does proclaim, “Luke it is your destiny,” in The Empire Strikes Back when it came to trying to convince Luke to join him.

But that was really all that stood out regarding prophecies. The OT films did not rely on prophecies to make the story work and rarely alluded to them as well. There is mention of the Force in all three of the OT films, but it is not tied to a prophecy at all. The Force just “is.” Most people agree that the OT films are the best ones because of acting, action, effects, and so on. However, they may not be aware of it – but it could be because of the lack of clichéd prophecies within the fantasy world too.

But let’s look at the prequels.

“You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force. You believe it’s this. . . boy [Anakin]?” asks Mace Windu in The Phantom Menance.

In Revenge of the Sith:
Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Is he [Anakin] not the Chosen One? Is he not to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force?”
Mace Windu: “So the prophecy says.”
Yoda: “A prophecy that misread could have been.”

“You [Anakin] were the Chosen One! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness!” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, Revenge of the Sith

The very vague prophecy is implied in little bits in the prequel films but is never fully explored or explained. We know that the prophecy revolves around Anakin Skywalker who will eventually become Darth Vader and kill his master, Emperor Palpatine. We know this because the OT came out thirty years before the prequels did. Anything that happened in the prequels was not really a surprise at all.

Can you see what I’m getting at here?

In the prequel films, we’re told that a young boy, Anakin Skywalker, may be the one to bring balance to the Force. The audience already knows that the prophecy gets fulfilled with Darth Vader, so the prophecy comes to no surprise.

Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace even takes the “mystical” out of the Force by putting science into the Force – and as such – into the prophecy. By describing midi-chlorians and how Anakin has the most of them out of any known Force-user grounds the prophecy to something more tangible rather than speculation. Anakin is the Chosen One because, damn it, he has the most midi-chlorians! That, and because the audience knows he becomes Darth Vader!

It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! I mean, I think I heard that somewhere. I, uh, I'm sure that's what it said!
“It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! I mean, I think I heard that somewhere. I, uh, I’m sure that’s what it said!”

What the prequels do WELL regarding the prophecy cliché is not try to let it become the story. While in The Matrix, there was the story of Neo being the Chosen One. In Star Wars we’re not forced to watch the path of Anakin become the Chosen One because we already know what happens and that he is the Chosen One. In a way, the prophecy is spoiled for the viewer before the prophecy is even brought up in the movie. He still has to bring balance to the Force? Well we knew all the Jedi were going to die and already know that Vader kills Palpatine. The viewer knows how the prophecy is fulfilled already.

The prophecy in the Star Wars prequel films are used as a plot device – a catalyst, if anything – to show the audience the story of Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader – not the story of Anakin Skywalker doing thing-X and something-Y to fulfill a prophecy to conclude the story. The prophecy, first mentioned in Episode I, is used to kick-start the story of Anakin for two more films. But the prophecy is not central or really that important to the rest of the story. The prophecy is in the background being unimportant as the rest of the movies move on. The audience is reminded in little bits, such as with the quotes I’ve posted above about the prophecy, but that’s about it. No one is concerned about the prophecy because the movie isn’t concerned with it. The prophecy and even its origin is not explored any further or delved into any deeper than what it is at face value to the audience. And you know, it works.

While I could see an argument how the prophecy in the Star Wars prequels is kind of like a deus ex machina at the BEGINNING of the movie, it still is not the primary focus of the prequel films, and as such, Star Wars as a whole.

Whoopty doo!! What does it all mean, Basil?!

If the Star Wars prequels did anything right, it was how it handled prophecies within a fantasy world. Midi-chlorians aside, the prequels put the prophecy on the back burner and focused on the characters and actions within the film – the prophecy only being mentioned to remind the viewer that there was a reason why Qui-Gon Jinn died.

But how can a writer get away with clichéd storytelling when they want to write about fantasy or prophecies in general?

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit and I think I have a decent answer thanks to the Star Wars prequels. While one can go through great pains to avoid cliché prophecies, I’ve considered that holding off to explain a prophecy may be best until the world is built around it first.

Promo poster for The Phantom Menace. Spoiler Alert: Anakin becomes Darth Vader. But we already knew that, didn't we? It was not because of some prophecy in the storytelling.
Promo poster for The Phantom Menace. Spoiler Alert: Anakin becomes Darth Vader. But we already knew that, didn’t we? It was not because of some prophecy in the storytelling.

Look at it this way: I feel the prophecy worked in the Star Wars prequels because we already had three established films with the OT. When the prophecy is first mentioned in the prequels, the audience is generally fine with it as they understand the world and what’s to come with the character the prophecy is alluding to.

While I’m not saying one should spoil the ending of their story at the beginning solely to let a prophecy flow nicely and not feel clichéd, as a writer or author, you can keep that tool in mind to craft something much more genuine and unique. It would be something where it requires a lot of planning, but as a result, one would have a more fulfilled fantasy world with a rich and diverse setting and a deeper understanding to why there is a prophecy and how it is believable, rather than adding in a prophecy solely to get a character from Point A to Point B.

Establishing a prophecy at the beginning of a story simply to let the character go through the motions of fulfilling it makes for a clichéd – and boring – story. However, to establish a prophecy within the world without overtly telling the audience about it is key to a good writer and good storytelling.

Hulk smash prophecies

Here’s another case: I’ve recently re-read Greg Pak’s run on The Incredible Hulk with the story Planet Hulk and World War Hulk. Long story short, the Hulk is sent to another planet called Sakarr and is enslaved to fight in a gladiatorial arena. After a few victories, the peasants of the planet begin to see how strong he is and how he could be Sakarrson – the one to free the people of Sakaar. At the same time, the ruler of the planet and host to the gladiator arena, the Red King, has already been considered to be the Sakarrson by the people of Sakarr.

So the Hulk – and the reader – is forced into a story and onto a planet where a prophecy was already established before any of them got there. The Hulk is learning of the prophecy along with the reader. It feels natural because the prophecy has already been fulfilled – in this case by the Red King.

PSA: Surf boards are not adequate shields.
PSA: Surf boards are not adequate shields.

While the prophecy is established early on within the story like that in The Matrix or Lord of the Rings, it comes along as a natural occurrence because it is not forced upon the reader by an obvious means.

Writing Fantasy is hard

When it comes to writing about prophecies, it certainly requires some major thinking and reworking of a story in order to avoid the cliché and come up with something that is engaging for audiences.

However, I feel like it should be said again: cliché storytelling is not bad at all. It’s quite common and works a lot of the times such as with the examples of The Fifth Element and Lord of the Rings. What stings is that within fantasy realm, the cliché can be overused. As the term cliché implies, it’s a failure of originality. Once one sees enough prophecy clichés, it becomes a bit tiresome.

When a prophecy does not fall under a cliché, there is excitement and zest that comes with the story that can be felt by the reader – and more importantly – the writer.

Admittedly, I’m critical about these sorts of things. I partly blame watching nearly every episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but also the fact that I’m an author myself really strikes a nerve.

Once upon a time I wrote something without using clichés. The Distomos is not one of them.
Once upon a time I wrote something without using clichés. The Distomos is not one of them.

While my book, The Distomos, avoids using prophecies like the plague, it is still a challenge to create a world that is unique and engaging for the reader to enjoy. On one hand, it’s part of the job as being a writer. On the other, it’s part of the challenge I want to give myself when creating something for the masses. I did not want to create another clone of what other people have read or seen before. I wanted to create something different and cool for readers.

But I know even I fell into some clichés while writing my story. Sometimes they are unavoidable. But like The Fifth Element or Lord of the Rings, it’s important to have something engaging for the audiences. Not only will they enjoy the story more, but it may also help them not notice the little missteps or care to critique them (See: me regarding The Fifth Element).

But am I on the right track with these ideas? Am I being too critical on The Matrix and not enough on Star Wars? What are your thoughts on clichés in fantasy? Forgiveable or dangerous? Sound off below and let me know what you think!

If not, grab a cup a tea and start writing!

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Pokémon GO & Growing Up as a Nerd in the 90’s

With the new release of Pokémon Go seemingly affecting everyone’s lives and social media platforms (which arguably are the same thing to some folk), it always surprises me when I see something from my childhood come back into the mainstream. That’s not to say Pokémon ever went away. There are still new movies, new toys, and of course the online sensation known as TwitchPlaysPokémon which went all over the news which also introduced lots of people to the streaming service Twitch. This also happened with the Twitch Bob Ross marathon, but I digress.

I grew up in the 90s. I was born in the mid-80s, letting me absorb the cool TV shows that survived the end of the 80’s era: GI Joe, Transformers, Dino Riders, and Denver the Last Dinosaur were only a few of the many shows that trickled over into the 90s with me.

I was pretty obsessed with dinosaurs as a kid. I wanted to be a palaeontologist when I was in grade three and wrote cool stories featuring both dinosaurs and Transformers in my English classes. Why I never considered just writing about the Dinobots – I’ll never know. I collected rocks and went through the gravel in neighbours driveways to look at the imprints of trilobites or plants within them. It was really fascinating to me.

Ah, my first comic book.
Ah, my first comic book.

In the early-90s, I stumble across a animated TV show called The X-Men on FOX Kids. There was also Spider-Man, Batman, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, The Tick, and a short-lived Hulk series that I also enjoyed. I picked up my first comic book, X-Men #36, in 1994 when I visited a local convenience store. I recognized Sabretooth from the cartoon. The book also featured Jubilee – who I also knew from the show – as well as having a gatefold cover which caught me up with what was going on in the series. I recognized a lot of the X-Men on there. I felt like I was in the loop!

Coming to the mid-90s, some kids my mom babysat brought over this three-part movie series on VHS called “Star Wars.” Needless to say, that changed my life in a dramatic fashion. No longer did I want to dig up old dinosaur bones: I wanted to fly into space, maybe meet the Shi’ar Empire, fly an X-Wing, and so on. You know, the usual stuff kids dream about doing.

But as with everything, there comes a price.

I was a scrawny kid. I had asthma, acne, allergies – the works. All I ever wanted to do was talk about Star Wars and read comic books. It’s quite typical to look back and think that’s all kids in the 90’s wanted to do. If they weren’t doing that, they were playing video games. Let’s not forget that great pastime. I especially played the non-sport games or popular games from franchises. NHL series? Nope. Zelda? No time! At least Super Mario? I certainly played those games to death but would easily prefer games on a different “console” – the PC. SimCity 2000? Totally. X-Wing? I still have all five floppy discs! Command and Conquer? My ion cannon was ready!

While everything I wrote above gives you a good idea to what kind of kid I was, it was definitely not considered “the norm.”

I remember in grade seven on May 4th (years before the “Star Wars Day” even existed), my grade seven teacher wrote on the chalkboard “May the Fourth be With You.” I distinctly remember arriving early to class that day before both the teacher and the majority of my fellow classmates came in. I saw those words on the board, and I nearly cried in embarrassment. I ran up to the chalk board and erased everything that was written. I went back to my seat while the few other students didn’t say anything about my actions. When class started and the teacher arrived, she asked why her message was erased. Once I was ousted as the culprit, she asked me why I did what I did. I shyly shrugged my shoulders. She was good enough to accept the answer and move on with the day.

She understood why I did it: I was picked on a lot as a kid. Star Wars wasn’t cool. I wasn’t into the same things the rest of the students were: MuchMusic (Canada’s version of MTV), WWF, sports, hanging out with each other after school. . . it just wasn’t me. While I did participate in after-school sports, I wasn’t considered “cool” enough by my peers for a variety of other reasons. I still had no idea what music they were talking about, what movies they went to see together, and what games they were playing. I had my own world with my own interests.

I was often bullied and usually made fun of for my indulgence of the things I enjoyed. However, I eventually became a bit numb to it and ended up wearing it like a badge of honour. In my grade eight yearbook, my nickname was “Star Wars Fan” as the teacher opted not to have “Freak” put into the book. Good call, grade eight teacher. Good call.

1997 saw a lot of changes such as Greedo shooting first.
1997 saw a lot of changes such as Greedo shooting first.

So you can see how looking upon the fads now, I’m a bit surprised by how popular all of these things are. While sure, Star Wars is definitely one of, if not, the most popular film franchise of all time, there was a period when it was completely not cool to like it. I know that because I lived it.

With Return of the Jedi’s release in 1983, there was no new Star Wars until 1999. That’s a long period of time for something to be removed from popularity. While the 1997 Special Edition release brought the series back into the spotlight my fellow peers didn’t care, but my excitement and intensity over the films only increased. Newer toys were being released which I bought up with my paper route money.

I remember trying to talk to someone in my grade eight class about a few toys I had purchased. Their response? “You could’ve used that money to buy a car.” I was laughed at by a few of the other students. I was thirteen. Star Wars was what made me happy. I’m sorry I didn’t watch Party of Five or 90210. I was busy watching Nova on PBS. Besides, I wasn’t even old enough to drive.

Even as I began to discover music, I found myself starting to enjoy both progressive rock and heavy metal. It was complex stuff that shunned away the masses but really drew me in. As with heavy metal music, it is a purposeful insular culture that gives the middle finger to the establishment. And for me, that establishment was the two Catholic schools I attended and the rest of the people who didn’t understand me.

By that time as well, I was in high school and I had stumbled across a PC game called StarCraft. Even to this day, I watch professional StarCraft as my “sport” of choice. I don’t and never have followed popular sports. But I do follow the eSports scene.

Game 3 of Scarlett vs. Bomber during Redbull Battlegrounds.
Game 3 of Scarlett vs. Bomber during Redbull Battlegrounds.

With all that being said, you can imagine seeing the rise in popularity of comic books, their respective movies, and other nerd culture being highlighted in the media – how someone like me can feel a bit overwhelmed and if not sometimes feeling like a bit of a shut in.

However, now some friends and family will come to me to ask me questions about comic book character X, or ask me about the Star Wars Expanded Universe (or Legends as it’s now called). Suddenly the ridicule for the things I enjoyed for the first sixteen years of my life was to be forgotten: my interests were in the spotlight and as collateral had it, so was I.

But I wasn’t, and still at times, am not ready for it. It’s just seems strange to see people freak out over Pokémon Go now when I still talked about Pokémon exclusively with my younger brother when I was in grade ten because I didn’t know anyone else who was interested in it (shortly after I found, and still have, some long-time and close friends who I can nerd out with). Even look at the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Kickstarter that BROKE records. While I am super happy for MSTies everywhere, it was only myself and two other friends who watched the show religiously, making it a surprise for me to see the revival actually happening. How didn’t I know so many other people liked it? Where were these people in my life growing up?

Now when the big comic book movies hit the theaters, I’m allowed to be myself in public and indulge in the culture I was once made fun of for indulging in before. When I’m at work, I’ll see a customer with a comic book movie shirt on and talk to them about it. They may not be fans of the comic books, but that’s okay! It’s great to finally be able to have the conversation without getting made fun of.

I'm actually level 15 now.
I’m actually level 15 now.

As irony would have it, I was out playing Pokémon Go with a friend the other night. We were only two out of about 150 people in the downtown core playing at a couple of close proximity Pokéstops. Five kids, I’m guessing ages 7 to 10, rolled up next to us on their scooters and bikes, looking out to the crowd of 15-35 year olds playing Pokémon Go. Their response? “Pokémon Go is THIS popular? What a bunch of losers!” they said out loud.

While everyone ignored them, my friend and I laughed as they rode away in disbelief. It was certainly something wonderful to see that despite all of the diversity and ridicule one may have had growing up, I looked out upon this group of Pokémon Go’ers and felt right at home.

In another instance this week, I spoke with a lady in her late-forties and joked with her about the game – not revealing that I play it. She said, in all-seriousness, “If I catch my son playing the game, I’ll kick his ass.” Her son, she admitted, is twenty-seven years old. Fortunately I was mature enough to simply let the conversation bounce off of me and not feel concerned about what she thought (and unfortunately I wasn’t in a position to correct her at the time).

So in one instance there’s a mother bullying people younger than her over the game, while in another instance those young kids who looked down upon my friend and I would’ve been the same kids to do that to me when I was their age.

While some things will never change and crappy kids and adults will always exist – one thing is for certain, if not a bit clichéd: enjoying what you do – regardless of popularity – is important. Life does get better.

Remember my grade seven teacher who wrote “May the 4th be With You” on the chalk board? Later in the day she did come to me in private before recess and apologized for unintentionally offending me. She knew how I felt and it was really one of the only times in my grade school years I felt someone outside of my family actually get what I was going through. I know this because here I am in 2016 still remembering that very simple gesture from all those years ago. I can only hope that more people are like that to children today. Empathy is a wonderful thing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go catch some Pokémon with some friends.

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

The Format Wars

A short while ago in a novel pretty darn close to home. . .

The Format Wars
Episode I
My Novel

It is a period of civil war. Curved quotations (“ ”),
striking from my word processor, have won their
first victory against my novel.

During the writing, straight quotations (" ")
sporadically appeared, creating a difficult
editing process. Teamed with inconsistent
hyphen lengths (- en dash) (— em dash), when
sentences are broken up, editing difficulty ensues.

Pursued by a drive to make things perfect,
UncannyDerek races to format the book
aboard his computer, custodian of the
novel, that can finally be published to
restore semblance in his life. . . .

Format Wars

But Really

I originally had wrote my novel in one font. While changing fonts while editing, I somehow overlooked how the quotation marks and apostrophes. Apparently not all of the quotation marks and apostrophes change when you “Select All” and change the font. It’s quite a bugger. So I’m going through my novel line-by-line AGAIN to make sure it’s all consistent.

When you self-publish, there’s no one to fix these issues for you. You have to do them yourself. I’ve spent most of my day going through my book to change them over, but my eyes can only take so much!

Another thing I foolishly missed was the dashes, or hyphens, while writing. There are two different types of them (as shown in my opening scrawl). I have to make sure they’re consistent too.

Ah, the little things to focus on before the book hits the printer.

Let my folly be a lesson for you all!

And for the record, I’m using curved quotation marks for my novel and so should you.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Ralph McQuarrie Passed Away

On Saturday, the legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie passed away at the age of 82.

In case it wasn’t known, I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan. It’s literally a part of my everyday life – somehow. I have to thank Ralph McQuarrie for that.

He helped George Lucas created and define the worlds and characters that existed in the Star Wars universe.

When Star Wars Special Edition came out in 1997, my mom purchased a book for me called “The Art of The Empire Strikes Back,” where I first got a glimpse into McQuarrie’s mind. I was completely stunned by his artwork and grand designs for well. . . everything! I couldn’t help but think, “I want to draw like him!” and “How did he come up with these ideas.” I was ten years old when I was completely blown away by McQuarrie’s works.

Today, I’m still floored by his works. When news of him passing came out, the internet flooded with praise, tributes, and thanks for everything he’s done. Most of the tributes featured tons of his art – some which I had never seen before. My jaw still drops to the floor when I see it.

McQuarrie was a man ahead of his time. In fact, he was ahead of all of us. Words can not describe how impacting his influence was on me. Ralph McQuarrie defined my childhood for me. He will be sorely missed.

Rest in peace, sir.

Irvin Kershner

Kershner impacted my life in more ways than anyone realizes. My imagination, childhood and lifestyle is based entirely around what this man did for film, especially with The Empire Strikes Back – a movie which literally changed my life. May the Force be with him.

Please see Part One and Part Two of this interview with Kershner, to see what a brilliant man he was.

April 29, 1923 – November 27, 2010

Kershner