Welcome to From the Hawk’s Eye!

Hello, world! Don’t worry that there’s not a ton of brand new content on this website. The fact of the matter is I did kinda stop posting blogs here so I could focus on my vlogs (and other videos) over at my YouTube page. I’m leaving this website up for two reasons:

1.) As an archive of the writing I did before

2.) A place to gather all of my links. Links to all of my content can be found in the navigation bar above this post and to the right. I hope you’ll check out my work in those places and that I’ll hear from you soon!

Until next time, have a beautiful day and may all of your paths be paved with hexagonal stones!

The Dresden Files: Skin Game shows other people how to write

I’ve been listening to James Marsters read the Dresden Files books for months now. I got the first one on sale from Audible more than a year ago and have been borrowing them from the library or buying them on Audible ever since. The first book definitely had its issues and especially early on read like someone who couldn’t stop thinking about sex for five seconds, but if you follow along the now 15-book (plus a handful of short story collections) series you can watch a writer – in this case, Jim Butcher – grow into his talents.

The series starts out good but far from perfect in Storm Front. By the time Butcher got to the fifth book, Death Masks, he had really started to hit his stride and the series went from being something I listened to idly for lack of an obviously better choice to one I devoured as fast as I possibly could. Skin Game, the most recent full novel released by Butcher, was easily the best, yet. It also showed far superior versions of flawed moments in movies I have written about, this year. SPOILERS for Avengers: Infinity WarSolo: A Star Wars Story, and The Dresden Files: Skin Game follow.

Spoiler alert! Turn back if you don't want any spoilers!

This book was terrific for a lot of reasons and if you want to read it I really hope you’ll turn back, now. Similarly, if you haven’t seen the aforementioned movies these are not little baby spoilers. They’re really massive ones on which the movies turn, entirely. Alright, I’ve warned as much as I can.

Skin Game is actually a heist story

Harry gets ordered by Mab, the Queen of Winter Faerie and his current boss, to help out Nicodemus Archleone, the head of a group of fallen angels melded with evil humans known as the Knights of the Denarius or the Denarians. Nicodemus wants to steal The Holy Grail from Hades. If you’ve ever heard a better setup for a fantasy heist story I want to hear about it. You immediately have what’s guaranteed to be a nigh-impenetrable vault owned by an incredibly powerful person who is likely to take offense at your attempted burglary, and you’re partnering the hero with the most villainous character and organization* he’s ever encountered. It’s going to be a good time.

*One quick note: Nicodemus and his crew are recurring villains in this series, but this is only, I think the third time they’ve been encountered. Butcher does a tremendous job creating villains that the audience is going to want to hear from again and then not overusing them. A lot of other authors, I think, would be tempted to put Nic behind every single problem Harry faces but we can go several novels in between appearances so he – and other recurring villains in the series – never wear out their welcome, for the audience.

The most important staple of a heist story is assembling the crew. And they do it. Nicodemus is joined by his alleged daughter Deirdre; a summoner and take on the traditional cockney ne’er-do-well who isn’t 100% evil, Binder; warlock, fire-specialist, and ally of Binder, Hanna Ascher; shapeshifter Goodman Grey, former cop and frequent Dresden ally Karrin Murphy, thief-with-a-grudge-against-Nic Anna Valmont; and a Bigfoot-like creature that can wield incredibly powerful magic known as The Genoskwa.

Each of these members gets a proper introduction. Each of them has a specialty which allows the team to function as a whole. There are conflicting personalities which raise the tension of the heist above and beyond the actual theft. And, like any true heist story, the setup for the caper is significantly longer, tougher, and more interesting than the theft itself.

If Solo had really wanted to be a heist film, this is the model it should have followed. Because it doesn’t really do any of these things it’s actually an action film starring thieves. That doesn’t make it a bad film, just not what I was expecting and not what it could have or should have been if it wanted to be more than a perfectly adequate summer popcorn flick.

Skin Game shows how to have a villain kill that which he loves

By far the biggest issue in Avengers: Infinity War was the bit about the Soul Stone. To jog your memory a bit: Thanos discovers, after finding the location of the Soul Stone, that to actually acquire it he must sacrifice that which he loves most. But the way he has been described and portrayed throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a person who is as incapable of love as Gamora takes him to be. Instead, Thanos informs Gamora that she is what he loves most in the universe before throwing her off of a cliff.

Some have argued that comparatively, the man who loves nothing might come closest to loving Gamora and that’s fine for an argument purely in response to nitpicking the logic. But the greater issue is that which it conveys to its audience about the nature of love and abusers. I’ve already written on the subject and here’s someone else writing more eloquently than I could if you want to read more about that. But the basic idea you should be getting is that it was a really poor choice on the part of the Russos.

Skin Game, though, has a lesson for the MCU, in this. It turns out Hades has blocked the way to his vault with three gates. The third and final gate is the Gate of Blood. To get through it you must kill someone in front of it and their shade must pull the lever to open the way. In this moment Nicodemus knows there is only one person on his team that he can trust to open the gate once he has killed them, his daughter, Deirdre.

Unlike what happens in Avengers, everything leading up to this moment has shown that Nicodemus and Deirdre absolutely care about each other, even if it is in their own twisted way. They both think they’re doing the right thing, for whatever reason, and so when Nicodemus kills her it’s also a moment of self-sacrifice for her. She chooses that fate for herself as much as he does. And the fact that Nicodemus loves her so much comes into play, later in the story, as well. His grief over killing her causes him to react stupidly multiple times. It’s the turning point for the climax of the novel, even.

Skin Game shows Solo how to have a friendly-appearing crook betray their allies

It was obvious from the beginning that Nicodemus, Deirdre, and The Genoskwa were going to betray Harry. Grey also seemed to be on their side, though less emphatically. Similarly, Anna and Karrin and eventually Michael Carpenter – he had to replace Karrin after an early confrontation with Nicodemus led to her being too injured to continue – were all on Dresden’s side. Binder and Hanna were anyone’s guess but they both seemed like they weren’t entirely evil and so the audience could hope they’d come down on Harry’s side and turn the balance in his favor.

Hanna, especially, just seemed like someone who had been dealt a bad hand in life and who, with a little bit of effort, could be convinced to work for the side of the good guys permanently. Perhaps a bit like a certain Tobias Beckett? But, like Beckett, she decides to betray our heroes and work for the villains. Unlike Beckett, however, her heel turn makes perfect sense.

She was close with Binder but not so close that it was unreasonable for him to be unaware of the full extent of her identity or plans. You’ll note how different that is from Beckett who had a woman who loved him and seemed to know him very well as well as a very relaxed, friendly creature on his team; it just doesn’t make sense that these two people with obviously good hearts could work for or with such a cold-hearted villain. When Hanna reveals her betrayal to Dresden she does so with a full explanation of how very much she hates him; that’s another huge difference from Beckett; betrayals work better with strong motivations and Hanna has one while Beckett had nothing but a shrug and I-told-you-I-was-going-to-do-thises.

It’s one of the saddest but strongest story moments in the entire book and even a highlight moment of the entire series. Because Hanna was everything she seemed to be. But there was more to her, as well. She wasn’t directly lying to Harry or Binder she just didn’t tell them the whole truth. When the reveal comes everyone realizes they’ve allowed themselves to be fooled. The entire thing is driven by strong character motivations and makes for a terrific denouement instead of just checking a box off on your storyboard.

Skin Game ends like a heist movie, too

Every good heist movie has a moment where it looks like the thieves have been outsmarted after all and are going to lose everything. The action is abruptly interrupted to go back in time to some seemingly unimportant moment that you hadn’t stopped to think about since it ended and it’s revealed that the protagonist(s) saw it coming all along and planned for this eventuality, too.

Harry uses Nicodemus’ grief against him so that Nicodemus will pick a fight with Harry. The obscure rules of engagement they were playing under meant that Harry couldn’t make the first attack but he also had no intention of letting Nicodemus leave The Underworld with The Holy Grail if he could help it. Nicodemus takes the bait but then puts Harry in a sticky situation. Not only is The Genoskwa on his side but so is Hanna. And they’ve both taken up Coins of the Fallen, meaning they’ve got fallen angels riding shotgun in the back of their brains giving them more strength and cunning than they had before. And then Grey waltzes over, ready to join the party.

It is at this moment, when all seems lost, that Harry flashes back to before the heist even started. He remembers the steps he had to take in order to hire Goodman Grey, whose loyalty is entirely to the person who hired him and who never betrays such a contract, before the heist even started. Back to the present and Grey takes Harry’s side against the enemy which turns the tide of the conflict and allows Harry and friends to become victorious.

There is, of course, more to the story before, during, and after the events I’ve described which combine to make it even better. If you’re interested in urban fantasy novels I can highly recommend The Dresden Files. The series, as I said before, starts out rough, but it definitely improves and you get a much greater appreciation for where the character is, where he’s been, and where he’s going by starting from the beginning. And if, on top of the urban fantasy, you want to read a good heist story or just see some terrific examples of common story tropes done amazingly well? Then Skin Game is probably the book for you.

All Good Things… Part 3: Once Upon a Time

The series was mediocre, but they had a terrific finale.

Once Upon a Time had its series finale a few weeks ago. Several of you just asked, “Didn’t that show end last year?” and the answer is, of course, no. Despite the fact that a good portion of the leading section of the ensemble called it quits at the end of the previous season the show rebooted itself a bit for one final run. The final season focused on an adult Henry and Regina under the effects of a new curse with new villains and new friends.

The season, by and large, was fine. It wasn’t noticeably better or worse than any of the previous seasons and maintained the same messages of hope, love in all forms, acceptance, and redemption that were common to the rest of the series. Once Upon a Time will never win any awards but in a day and age when many stories are darker and grimmer than ever and reality seems just as dark and grim it was nice to have a show where you knew the heroes would eventually prevail and even half of the villains could be converted to the side of hope. It’s frequently one of the stories I hold up when I tell people, “You can love a movie or TV show even if technically it isn’t very good.”

One of the issues that plagued Once Upon a Time through its entire existence was the fact that the stories were largely forgettable and tended to blend into each other. You might recall that Ariel spends a period of time on the show but chances are you have no idea which season she was in or exactly how her story played out. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Once Upon a Time was ever a great show or even really a good show. But it was a nice show and I’m going to miss it.

The finale, despite being one cohesive story, was split across two weeks – at least on Hulu, where I watched it. And, in the end, the story of the finale is largely as forgettable as the rest of the series but the strengths of the show were also in full evidence.

The themes of the show were rendered everywhere with gleeful abandon. Every kind of love you can imagine is on display – friendship, familial, and romantic – multiple characters who have sought redemption find it in their own ways. Hope was mentioned and paid off more than once.

The other strength of the show was always the large number of reimagined fairytale characters. The villains almost always had depth. The heroes had hopes and fears and flaws to go with their hope and strength. And the final episodes remembered the vast majority of the characters. Almost everyone of any importance who has ever appeared on the show reprised the role one last time for at least a few moments. Notable exceptions were Neal/Baelfire and Pinnochio who played large parts in the first seasons but hadn’t been around for some time and were either forgotten or whose actors couldn’t be enticed to return. Others were probably also missing but, honestly, the show has featured so many cast members during its existence that it was nearly impossible to bring them all back. Several of the characters who did make a return had no lines and only a few brief moments on screen.

So, yeah, Once Upon a Time wasn’t a great show. But it didn’t have to be. And when it came time to say goodbye they did a terrific job. Everyone gets some version of a happy ending and the realm was saved and restored. The whats and hows of this show have always been less important than the whos and whys and OUAT‘s team knew it. The creative team even remembered to say goodbye to the iconic locations as the final moments of the show featured the camera sweeping past Granny’s Diner, Gold’s Pawn Shop, and even Emma Swan’s little yellow beetle. The final shot of the show was the epochal “Leaving Storybrooke” sign. That’s an image that will stick with me for a long time. The same as the messages of hope, love, and acceptance Once Upon a Time stood for.

Deadpool 2 is better than the first

The creative team behind them is 110% committed to getting it right.

When I was in college working toward my BFA in musical theatre I took a class early in my degree which involved a few acting exercises. One of those exercises will stick with me forever. We were split into pairs and told to have one person do everything in their power to make the other laugh while the other person tried to avoid said laughter. This is the sort of game you might play as kids just because kids are imaginative and it doesn’t require anything in particular, but it’s also a really good acting exercise. When you’re acting, especially live, things go wrong and you have to roll with it and not break character.

Anyway, the lady I was paired with tried her darnedest to make me laugh but she was making absolutely no progress. There are a lot of reasons that she couldn’t make me laugh but one of the biggest was her inability to fully commit. Nothing against her but acting was not her passion. As I recall, she switched to a fashion degree shortly thereafter. Telling a joke or being funny requires being committed. If you half-ass it because you’re worried about the response or looking stupid or any other reason you will look stupid and people will feel awkward and pity you instead of laughing at you.

As she was trying to make me laugh one of the guys in another pair jumped up on a platform behind half of the class. I don’t remember exactly how he went about it but he walked or ran until he fell off the platform and dropped suddenly and unexpectedly which caused everyone who could see him to laugh out loud, including me. He was fully committed to getting that laugh and it worked.

Deadpool 2 continues the creative team’s efforts from the first movie to be fully committed to what they’re trying to accomplish. Nothing is held back. The gore and blood and violence are there. The jokes similarly shove themselves into your eardrums without waiting for permission. Ryan Reynolds gives everything he has to fully realizing the Merc with the Mouth. He doesn’t hesitate when the time comes to be gross or crass he just goes for it. This is what makes both of these movies so good.

The moment that made this stand out in stark highlight was the climactic battle of the movie. I’m not going to get into spoilers but it’s an action movie so if you didn’t know there was going to be a climactic battle I’d think you maybe have no business watching Deadpool movies. The fight itself was very Deadpoolish but while it was going on they replaced your standard orchestra/choral singing with this song:

They could have used any kind of generic lyrics or gone entirely without and just had the choir voice vowel sounds and no one would have noticed or complained. A lot of people probably missed this joke entirely on their first run of the movie – though they do play it at the end of the credits to make sure you get the full effect. But Deadpool’s creative team doesn’t ask themselves, “What would be the cheapest or easiest way to get this done?” they ask themselves, “What would be the absolute best way?” and then they ask, “Can we add anything else to make sure it’s perfect?”

The only thing that worries me is that the fear that some people will see the ultra-violence or the crass jokes and think that that’s what’s really doing it for the Deadpool franchise and try to just ape those aspects. But, of course, that’s not entirely what’s going on here. A lot of peoople are enjoying those elements but what really makes these movies work is the complete commitment to presenting the most authentic version of Deadpool on the big screen as humanly possible. Any movie team that similarly commits to whatever it is they’re trying to do will likely meet with similar success.

Deadpool movies are not and will never be for everyone. You need to be old enough to deal with the stuff they’re going to show you and you also have to enjoy them. But if you  do enjoy the comics or enjoyed the first Deadpool film I can easily recommend this one even more because Ryan Reynolds and friends didn’t let their feet off the gas, at all.

All good things… Part 2: The Princess Series – The Snow Queen’s Shadow

A terrific book series ends horribly due to questionable reasoning.

I adore The Princess Series. The first three books are masterpiece fantasy efforts that take fairytale princesses with which we’re all familiar then go back to their less familiar roots then changes them in subtle ways to tell a completely unique and fresh story. The series stars Cinderella, known as Danielle, Snow White, known simply as Snow, and Sleeping Beauty, known as Talia. After their original tales, they go on adventures to protect Cinderella’s kingdom from a wide variety of threats. Goodreads describes it a bit like fairytales crossed with Charlie’s Angels and they’re not entirely wrong.

The protagonists and antagonists of these stories are almost exclusively women making it an exceptionally feminist-friendly tale. For those looking for more representation, there is even a lesbian relationship or two included in the stories. Each of the books puts plenty of focus on each of the three women and gives them their times to shine and Jim C. Hines does a terrific job finding a broad range of solutions for each of the three characters to enact using their unique skill sets while breathing life into these characters with interesting, complicated relationships between them that lead to tears and humor in equal measure.

At least until The Snow Queen’s Shadow.

According to a postface following The Snow Queen’s Shadow, the fourth and final book in the series, Hines had initially planned to make the stories more episodic and write a lot of books but decided against it once he realized that one of the characters was in love with another. At that point, he felt he needed to go a different route and serialized his story and ended it after only four novels. I disagree with his reasoning – that the only way to do justice to the character was to have a serialized arc that ended – but we’re not going to get into that, just now.

I’ve said at least a dozen times that ending series is incredibly difficult. Last week I talked a bit about how I interpreted Kevin Hearne’s writing in the ending of The Iron Druid Chronicles as an attempt to deal with some of those pitfalls with mixed results. Hines went in a completely different direction and, if you hadn’t gathered from my single sentence paragraph, there, I was left more than a little unimpressed. In fact, it might very well be the only novel I’ve ever disliked that much and still completed. I’m about to get into SPOILERS but before I do I wanted to make sure you understand; the first three books in this series are great and I really can’t recommend them enough. But I probably wouldn’t bother to read The Snow Queen’s Shadow if I were you. And now I’ll tell you why.

Spoiler alert! Turn back if you don't want any spoilers!

The first thing that bothers me is that the story is still pretty episodic. Each book completes its own arc and while character traits and growth carry over from novel to novel there are not really any continuing story arcs. What that means is that Hines naturally avoided most of the pitfalls that come from writing series that make writing the endings so hard and he still managed to screw it up.

There is only one real problem with the story. And you might be asking yourself, “One problem? You love all kinds of terrible things with far more problems. Solo: A Star Wars Story had at least 4! What is your deal?” And the answer is that it was a really big problem. So big that I have to keep hyping it up a bit. A lot of times in stories with large ensembles you’ll see long-lost characters or frequently recurring guests make returns in the finale in order to say goodbye. If you need some examples think of Star Trek: Enterprise or Once Upon a Time (which I’ll talk about more in the next couple of weeks.) This is a perhaps cliche but very solid way to end a series by making sure even supporting characters get their sendoff, as well.

TSQS does the exact opposite of this. Not only were prominent characters from earlier stories largely or completely ignored but one of the stars of the series was completely removed from it. Snow White is possessed by a demon within the first 30 pages of the book and only barely recovers herself in time to say goodbye to Talia after Talia kills her at the end of the book because it is the only way to slay the demon possessing her. Snow’s body is present but her mind, far more important, especially in a book, is not.

Remember how Hines felt the need to make the story more serialized (even though he didn’t actually do any such thing) because Talia’s unrequited love for Snow deserved a real arc? This was his conclusion to that arc. That Snow be largely missing from the final story and that Talia be forced to kill her.

Only it gets worse.

Because before Snow was completely possessed by the demon she ripped out a part of herself, made this imaginary-sister-come-to-life named Gerta love Talia, and sent her to help the heroes. Talia, with no one else to be in love with, falls for Snow’s “sister” after she is forced to kill Snow. Kevin Hearne tried to have his cake and eat it, too, with Atticus as I described last week but it was nothing compared to deleting a character and then slotting her imaginary sister into the story as an exact replacement and having all the other characters just slot the new one right where the old used to go.

It’s true that not all stories have to have happy endings. But this isn’t just “not a happy ending”. This is actively ignoring one of your three main characters for the entire story followed by a sad ending followed by a super weird and awkward consolation prize for all of the surviving characters. The writing isn’t bad but the decision-making that led to that writing surely was.

I feel confident in assessing Jim C. Hines as an above-average writer based on his efforts in the first three books of this series, though I haven’t yet read his other works. But this book was simply poorly conceived. I like to re-read my favorite books occasionally and I am reasonably certain The Princess Series will be added to this rotation. All of them except for The Snow Queen’s Shadow which I will hopefully completely forget now that I have written this post.

All good things… Part 1: The Iron Druid Chronicles – Scourged

Endings suck both because there’s no more and because they’re incredibly hard to write.

I recently managed to read the final books in two different series at basically the same time and I’ve got a TV series finale sitting on Hulu staring at me in reproach. I always get lots of feelings when a story concludes and the only way I know how to deal with them is to write. So I decided now is probably a good time to talk about all of them and offer some of my thoughts on the pitfalls and difficulties of ending long-running stories while I’m at it. We’re going to start with The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne because that’s the one I finished first.

Ending a long-running book series is hard. If you don’t believe me just look at the examples set for us by Robert Jordan and George R. R. Martin. Neither of them was just lazing about as they continued to write and write and write – Jordan just kept adding to the middle of his series rather than finish it while Martin has chosen to work on other projects and to flesh out the history of his story. If ending these things were easy The Wheel of Time would almost certainly be significantly shorter and might have been finished by Jordan. Heck, even when Brandon Sanderson took over the project following Jordan’s passing he found he had to write three more books to wrap up all the plot threads Jordan had set in motion and there were still some things left to be desired.

Kevin Hearne did at least manage to end his series. But he didn’t do it perfectly. If, indeed, it is even possible to end a series like this perfectly. Let’s talk about some of the issues he ran into and the ways he tried to combat them and how well he did. SPOILERS for the entire Iron Druid Chronicles series ahead!

Spoiler alert! Turn back if you don't want any spoilers!

The tone finishes shifting

One of the major issues with long-running stories for which there seems to be no real answer is shifting tones. You fall in love with the tone and characters of the first book in a series and by the end, it’s completely different. In SF/F novels that follow this trope, you’ll most often see a first book start out relatively fun. The threats might be real but the hero deals with them relatively easily and maintains their charm throughout. As the story continues the problems get more and more dangerous, the mood gets darker and darker, and by the end of the series, it’s almost impossible to recognize the originally friendly, happy character with whom you started the series in the grizzled, bitter one with whom you’re finishing.

The most famous example of this might be Harry Potter. Despite being raised by an emotionally abusive family he was a fairly well-adjusted kid who made friends relatively easily, treated most people with kindness, and found pleasure in small things. By the end of the series he was angry and bitter and we only got a glimpse of the return of the previously mellow kid in the epilogue of the final book once he was years removed from the events of the story that had been told.

The problem is that this isn’t bad writing; characters grow and change and stories often need to allow that. That a character might become less happy after experiencing multiples tragedies and life-or-death struggles is a more than reasonable writing choice. But it still means that by the end of the multi-book story you’re no longer reading the style of story you fell in love with. This is absolutely a thing that happens in The Iron Druid Chronicles.

The tale starts off with a happy bookshop owner who, yes, has lived for millennia on the run from a deity in the Irish pantheon but for whom life is a joy. His only companion is the Irish Wolfhound, Oberon, with whom Atticus has formed a bond that allows them to communicate using telepathic speech. Oberon as a dog finds pleasure in the simple things of life and often reminds Atticus to do so, as well. As the saga continues Atticus finds himself embroiled in deeper and darker trouble. By the end, he faces the literal Ragnarok, an apocalyptic event in the Norse mythological style led by Loki and Hel (though these interpretations of the characters are very different from those in the recent Marvel movie.) The story also does not end happily at all, but we’ll get to that in more detail in a minute.

The ending of the story is short on details

One of the issues with ending these long series, as I hinted at earlier, is attempting to wrap up the large number of plot threads. For many series, each book will only resolve some of the plot threads from previous books while it introduces several new ones and likely won’t even resolve all of those, either. This means that every book adds more characters and plot threads to be tracked in later books. It’s difficult to wrap them all up successfully in a single book, as Brandon Sanderson found out when he agreed to attempt to complete The Wheel of Time after Robert Jordan passed.

Before I had even started the final IDC book I was ready for the series to be over. I had stopped having fun with it several books previous but I kept reading because I have only once met a story that got so twisted from where it had started that I gave up caring about the characters and chose to move on with my life. And the book reads a bit like Kevin Hearne was tired of it as well. The book reads as if the outline for the novel were fleshed out the minimal degree necessary to tell the story and then went to print.

The point that stands out most to me in this regard was his treatment of the Yeti. Through the course of the saga, we were introduced to five Yeti who turned out to be the children of Irish ocean deity Manannan Mac Lir. They helped with a part of one of the quests taken on by Granuaile MacTiernan, a druid trained and bonded by Atticus as well as his love interest. The returned to this story long enough to defeat a fire giant summoned by Loki to burn the world. Their total appearance in the novel lasted approximately 10 pages and three of them unceremoniously died.

60% of the Yeti in the entire world were killed while they fought and killed a being who was apparently the only or last of his kind. And it received as much “screen time” as bath and breakfast for Atticus’ hound, Oberon, received in the first book. I hate when characters return after long periods of time away simply so they can be killed off at any point in a story but this seems particularly egregious. This is not even remotely the only time this happens in Scourged, either.

Several books prior we received a multi-chapter massive fight between the heroes and Loki’s monstrous wolf, Fenrir. In another section of the final book the battle between the world serpent, Jörmungandr, and Atticus’ occasional witch ally, Laksha Kulasekaran, lasted only a pair of pages as Laksha merely possesses the monster and commits suicide. So Laksha makes a return after being largely absent for a long period of time to die again and does so to quickly end what the story had built up to be the greatest threat Atticus would yet face, as well.

Other prominent characters received a token amount of page time or merely a reference. Flidais shows up long enough to get drunk and start a bar fight before vanishing for the rest of the book. Perun and Leif Helgarson are mentioned but never seen.

Hearne may not have actually been tired of the story. It’s possible that this was simply a choice the writer made in order to ensure the plot threads were dealt with in this single book. Which brings us back to the question of whether it’s even possible to provide fitting endings for these massive sagas. The scope just gets to be too large to actually do it justice; events and characters get left out or are under-represented.

The story ends. Then it gets an epilogue.

Things get even worse, personally, for Atticus by the end of the story as his erstwhile allies lop off his right arm – necessary for a very large amount of the Atticus’ druidic abilities – following the battle. The Norse feel his efforts in the war were not sufficient for the crimes he committed. And it’s hard to blame them. Atticus didn’t just attack their pantheon and kill a handful of their gods; that would have been bad enough. He also enlisted the aid of the frost giants by promising them that they would have an opportunity to capture and rape Freya if they came with him. In his defense, what little there is of it, he hoped for and expected them to fail. He mostly wanted them along as a distraction while he and his band of heroes attempted to kill Thor.

Hearne does the series credit by taking this decision of Atticus very seriously at the very end of the story, though. Atticus is further punished by being banned from ever returning to the stomping grounds of the Norse gods. When Granuaile finds out about what he did to deserve the punishment she is disgusted with him and ends their relationship, as well. The tone of the story has finished shifting from a light-hearted romp with a talking dog into a full-blown tragedy. And every result follows logically from the decisions Atticus made. In a lot of stories a decision that, as gross as it was, was such a minor plot point in a story would not have blown up in a character’s face like that. Again, credit to Hearne for either keeping it in mind when it happened or catching back up to it, later, and working it back into the story instead of just ignoring it.

The story doesn’t end happily, nor does it have the tone it did at the start, but it does end fittingly. Could Atticus have made other choices for a better result? Maybe, maybe not. But this result fits the choices he made even if they were the only reasonable choices available to him. This is something he laments at the end to drive the point home. It’s a bit fatalistic but, again, it suits the story where it has come to rest.

And then the epilogue comes. Oberon gives Atticus an idea to have his arm restored and while we aren’t shown the fruits borne of the idea, we’re left with the distinct impression that everything will work out for him. We’re also reminded multiple times that Atticus and Granuaile are functionally immortal and it’s entirely possible they might get back together some day. The epilogue basically reads as if the editor told Kevin, “Listen. This is great and all. But you gotta give people hope for the ending they would have rather had because that’s what you do.” So rather than stick to his guns with the ending that was there or add an epilogue that suggested Atticus might find peace some day even without a girlfriend or his arm – something that would have been a great moment of validation for people who are missing limbs or don’t feel the need for romantic relationships – we get an ending that promises those things are still possibilities for the “hero” who “cocked everything up.”

There are absolutely worse things than providing hope for the readers who wanted to see a completely happy ending for Atticus but it one thing it did not do was make the story stronger.

Scourged isn’t a perfect ending for The Iron Druid Chronicles but is an ending. It’s also a good sight better than other endings we have seen to other tales. Hearne provided us with several terrific books before we got here and it’s good to see that he managed to complete the tale before the story collapsed beneath its own weight.

 

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: June 2018

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgePurpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! If it links to Google+, be sure your blog is listed there. Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can’t find you to comment back.
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

June 6 question – What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?
The awesome co-hosts for the June 6 posting of the IWSG are Beverly Stowe McClure, Tyrean Martinson, Tonja Drecker, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

 

Well, based my current WIP I’m going to say title names are harder to come up with. You see, I have named every character in my story but one and I still have no idea what the title is. The only other completed short story I’ve got didn’t actually have any character names but the title was definitely the last thing I came up with. When it comes to characters I can just pick a name that feels right for them. Maybe it tells the genre-savvy reader something about the character or maybe it just feels right. But it’s never really been difficult. That’s the great thing about character names, they don’t have to do anything.

Titles, on the other hand, have to attract an audience. They have to relate somehow to the story being told. They have to feel good, sound good, and they have to avoid being too similar to other titles. And as much as it feels like every story has already been told it feels even more like every title has already been used half a dozen times. Also, titles, with a few exceptions, can’t just be a string of syllables put together to entertain me.

I almost always wait until the story is finished before I give it a name. Partly that’s due to the difficulty but I think it also stems from my writing process. I’m not much of an outliner. I come up with a fragment of an idea and I prefer to start writing and see where it goes. One major flaw with this process is that fragments don’t always grow into terribly interesting completed stories. Or, indeed, into completed stories at all. But it also means that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to give it a name because if a name describes a story then it’s important to know what I’m trying to describe and I don’t really know until it’s completed. I do, at least, know who a character is and more or less what they want to accomplish when I add them to a story.

Even harder than coming up with a title, though? Coming up with a concept, to begin with. There is a reason I spend far more time writing critiques and general thoughts about writing than I do actually writing stories. I’m having a lot of trouble feeling motivated to work on my current WIP, lately, because I feel like it’s too generic and uninteresting. I know that this is a common feeling for a lot of writers but what if mine actually is generic and uninteresting? How will I punch it up? Anyone got any advice for me about feeling this way and what to do about it?

The 4 best and 4 worst things about Solo: A Star Wars story

The movie has ups and downs but ultimately comes out ahead.

Solo: A Star Wars Story came out last weekend. I put it in a poll against Deadpool 2 and it squeaked out as the movie for which people wished to see me write a review. So here we are. Here’s an odd thing. When I walked out of the theater I was pretty sure I hadn’t enjoyed the movie. But the more I thought about it as I was preparing to write this review the more I realized that yeah, I did enjoy it.

It was a pretty generic summer blockbuster but there’s value in that kind of movie, too. They don’t make you think hard, they don’t make you cry too much, they don’t piss you off. They’re there. They’re the pretzels at the bar. Comforting and offering a pleasant distraction with their familiarity even when they aren’t particularly note-worthy.

One thing I think is of particular interest is that this movie demonstrates Disney’s continued desire to implement large chunks of the old Expanded Universe stories that they axed out of the canon in one of their first moves after purchasing the IP. We’ve seen this before in Disney asking Timothy Zahn to write a new Thrawn book to add to the new canon before they added the character to the TV show Rebels. The writers of this film also borrowed from the young Han Solo trilogy written by Ann C. Crispin. The original story was a trilogy of books so some chunks of the story are condensed while others are left for possible future films and some of the details are different but many of the same major character moves for Han still exist in both stories very similarly.

Even being a very generic movie, there were a few things that stood out, both good and bad, in the movie. Let’s look at those, shall we? SPOILERS ahead!

Spoiler alert! Turn back if you don't want any spoilers!

The trailers were misleading

The trailers made this movie look like it was going to be a heist movie in the vein of Ocean’s 11 set in space. You may recall that one of the first articles ever posted on this website was one in which I hoped that Jon Snow’s trip beyond the wall in Game of Thrones was going to be turned into a miniature fantasy version of a heist flick. Heist movies are one of the few genres that greatly intrigue me outside of fantasy and sci-fi. Every time I think I see a meshing of the heist with one of the other two I always get excited and this movie was no exception. But it didn’t really happen at all.

The train robbery that the latest trailer focused so much on was really just the end of the first act of the movie. It involved something of the highly specialized crew but the recruitment phase that is a staple of the genre doesn’t really exist and the entire story arc is over so quickly that it doesn’t feel very heist-y. The infamous Kessel Run was used as part of the second act of the movie, but again it only gets an act devoted to it instead of an entire movie and again omits the necessary crew building step as they only make one stop to add to their team and there’s little to no specialization among the various group members. The movie also ignores all three opportunities it has for describing intricate plans, another staple of the genre.

The movie works as the generic sci-fi action flick it ends up being but it’s always confusing and frustrating when trailers lie directly to the potential audience like that.

It reintroduced the Kessel Run workaround

As I mentioned above they included a story arc about the infamous Kessel Run. For those of you who are not nerdy enough to remember what that is, let me explain. In Star Wars: A New Hope, when Luke Skywalker meets Han Solo for the first time Han brags that the Millenium Falcon is one of the fastest ships in the galaxy and that it even made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Now, in the context of only that movie, it was probably a writing error because parsec sounds like a fancy futuristic unit of time. A parsec is a unit of distance, though, and some people endlessly made fun of the movies. (The script apparently indicates that Han was lying through his teeth in an attempt to con Obi Wan and so one could interpret that to mean that Han was the one making the error rather than the writers. George Lucas also later indicated that Han was both telling the truth and that the distance unit is used because the Falcon accomplished the feat with superior navigating rather than velocity. So there’s definitely some mystery, here) In the expanded universe a workaround was introduced wherein getting to Kessel required flying past a cluster of black holes known collectively as The Maw. A faster, smaller ship could do the run in less distance because it would be able to fly closer to the black holes while trusting the lack of mass and velocity to keep it from sucked in.

The movie changes some things. Instead of flying through/past The Maw ships are forced to navigate a deadly combination nebula and asteroid field known as The Maelstrom (which is pronounced bafflingly by Lando as “The Maw-lstrsom”). When they flee Kessel after successfully performing their theft they are forced to flee through the Maelstrom without using the safe route that has been inexplicably blockaded by Imperial forces (Yes, it’s a pretty glaring plot hole but is really just a means to an end, so we’ll let it slide.) During their flight through the nebula, they do come across The Maw, but it’s not the same. It’s described by the characters as a single massive gravity well instead of a cluster of black holes. I’m not sure what the difference between a massive gravity well not created by a planet or star and a black hole is, but that’s how they describe it. Eventually, Han and company escape and he immediately starts crowing about how they made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. It was a nice call-back to both the original series and the Expanded Universe many of us grew up with.

The action was abysmal

As I’ve mentioned before, I am by no means any sort of expert on combat sequences. But even I could tell that the action scenes in this movie were abysmal. I’m not sure what led to the issues but the majority of the fight scenes were so shaky and filled with so many cuts that it was quite impossible to figure out who was doing what to whom at any point until the fights were finished.

The relationship between Han and Chewie was great

The action was abysmal, but a lot of the emotion was terrific. I think if you asked casual fans what they most wanted to see in this movie they would say the beginnings of Han and Chewie’s relationship. I don’t know that that item would be as high for the more hardcore fans but it would probably be on the list, too. And you absolutely get to see that relationship from the very beginning and follow through as they gradually go from guys working on a criminal crew because they don’t even know what else to do into lifelong friends who just want to stay one step ahead of everyone and anyone who might want to kill them.

Perhaps the best part of their relationship is how the movie allows it to grow alongside the plot instead of trying to force things. It happens very naturally and organically as the story unfolds and it’s really terrific. Aldon Ehrenreich was not a 100% pitch-perfect Han Solo, but he wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the rumors indicated he might be and his best moments were always with Chewie which would be the place I’d want the strongest moments to go, anyway.

Emilia Clarke is maybe not a very good actor

Emilia Clarke gained fame and notoriety for her role as the Dothraki Khaleesi, Daenerys Targaryen in HBO’s Game of Thrones. She’s a hot ticket for any movie that wants to add some female star power. But the more I watch her the less convinced I am that she actually has much acting talent. I noted in several of last season’s Game of Thrones reviews that while the plot was still treating her as a superhero her actions and emotions were far less consistent with that reading of her character. Watching her as Qi’ra in this movie I again felt like her actions and emotions were out of sync with who and what the movie wanted us to see her as. In Game of Thrones, I figured it was bad writing, but now that the sample size has increased I start to wonder if it’s actually the acting.

Her character doesn’t seem to feel anything strongly throughout the entire movie. The most animated she gets is when Han kisses her, but she doesn’t otherwise act particularly as though she likes him. Unless you count that she seems to stick her neck out for him at the beginning of the second act but that could also be read as her seeing an opportunity to take out Vos. The problem with either interpretation is that she never expresses a desire to accomplish either of those things until she gets the latter at the end of the film.

Apparently all she ever wanted was a chance to kill Vos and take his place in the dastardly criminal organization, Crimson Dawn. But without any sort of foreshadowing for that moment it reads as a writer choice to keep her separated from Han so that it will be just him and Chewie when Luke needs a ride off of Tatooine in a decade rather than a reasonable conclusion for her character arc.

Don’t get me wrong, it could still definitely be the writing. For all Solo’s high points it’s got some low ones and not writing her character well would easily fall within the bounds of the other issues with the movie. But this is the second time I’ve been able to watch her and think, “Clarke seems to only be able to act one beat per scene, max, and it isn’t even always one of the beats that belongs there.” and that probably isn’t all on bad writing.

Donald Glover’s Lando was amazing

When I saw 2009’s Star Trek reboot there was one actor who completely out-did everyone else, for my money. Karl Urban was given the responsibility of bringing DeForest Kelley’s Leonard “Bones” McCoy back to life on the big screen despite not looking anything like the original actor. Urban was so good in the role that he solidified his position as one of my favorite current actors. He didn’t just duplicate the acting and emotional choices the original actor might have made but he also duplicated mannerisms and intonations that Kelley may never have even been consciously aware of.

I bring this up because Donald Glover did the exact same thing with his version of Lando Calrissian. His first lines were spoken from off-screen and, out of context, I would have been hard-pressed to tell you whether that was a line spoken by Donald Glover or Billy Dee Williams. He brought that level of authenticity to the character throughout the entire movie. This shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone, though. Even from the very first trailer, it was obvious that Glover embodied the charisma of the Williams’ interpretation of the character and during the press tours it came out that Billy Dee actually met with Donald for lunch and answered questions about how to play the character. My one complaint about Lando Calrissian in this movie was the decision to change him from a gambler who was so very good at it that it was nearly a super-power into a common cheater and grifter. But there could definitely have been worse things. There are rumors swirling that Disney may greenlight a Lando spinoff and if they can get Glover on-board for it I think that might be their best decision with this IP, yet.

Tobias Beckett is inconsistent for the sake of the plot

Tobias Beckett, as played by Woody Harrelson, is a complex character. But he’s a bit…too complex. When Han meets this character he’s a very happy-go-lucky scoundrel, much in the vein Han grows into by the time of A New Hope. He puts on a tough face, but you can tell he has a heart of gold. The easiest way to tell if a scoundrel has a heart of gold is always by the crew they surround themselves with. Chewbacca seems threatening in ANH, but he never hurts anyone. His actions tell a story of giant furball who knows his strength and size are intimidating to strangers and has enough of a sense of humor about it to mess with them from time to time. If Han is hanging out with an honorable warrior with a sense of humor like that then you can tell he can’t be as bad as he wants you to think he is.

Tobias’ crew is much the same way. He has a woman who has a clear, strong sense of honor who obviously desperately loves him. The pilot is a good sort with a calm sense of a humor who tries to draw the new guys out of their shells. There is no way a truly evil dude would have worked with a crew like those two for very long. And, yet, the movie telegraphs very early in the second act to even the least genre-savvy viewer that Beckett is absolutely going to betray Han at some point. That’s not entirely unexpected or unreasonable; scoundrels with hearts of gold are still scoundrels, after all. We’ve seen before how such characters might abandon the other heroes for selfish reasons – heck, just look at how Lando abandoned Solo and Beckett at the refinery when Enfys Nest shows up. But when Beckett’s betrayal comes it has nothing to do with personal gain or keeping his hide. He does it simply because he apparently likes working with Paul Bettany’s evil criminal mastermind character, Dryden Vos.

There are some villains who disguise themselves as scoundrels with hearts of gold but there’s always something foreshadowing about their behavior or their associates to give it away. It takes more than a warning to assume everyone will betray you to make that shift work.

Han shoots first

After Beckett betrays Han he also betrays Vos and then tries to make off with the hyperfuel. Han wants to give the fuel to the rebels because it’s the right thing to do but once Han escapes Vos and catches up with Beckett. Beckett, unfortunately, is not interested in splitting the treasure and so he monologues for a moment as he tries to distract Han, who already has the drop on him, so he can shoot him and escape with the booty.

There has been a grueling debate among the Star Wars fanbase ever since George Lucas released the special editions of the original trilogy. You may recall that in ANH Han runs into the Rodian bounty hunter Greedo after agreeing to transport Luke, Obi-Wan, and the droids to Alderaan. In both versions of the scene, Han is forced to sit down at a booth at gunpoint by Greedo. In both versions, they have a conversation where Han tries to convince Greedo to let him go. In the original version, this conversation is mostly a distraction so Han can get his gun out and blast the villain, ruthlessly but necessarily in order to save his own skin. In the modified version, Greedo shoots first but inexplicably misses a seated Han from less than three feet away before he gets blasted. Lucas wanted to make Han look less scoundrel and more heart of gold but it’s a far weaker interpretation of the character and most fans argue that “Han shot first”

As Beckett tries to distract Han in Solo, Han doesn’t fall for it and he doesn’t hesitate. He guns down his mentor and friend before Beckett can shoot him. This is Han the scoundrel with the heart of gold. He didn’t want to shoot Beckett, you can tell from his actions before and after he does so, but he knows he has no choice if he wants to live and Han is a survivor. You can’t survive in the criminal underworld without being a little ruthless sometimes, and it was good to see that acknowledged as we continue to hurtle to a new world with fresh takes on Star Wars.

Solo is not a perfect movie. It’s not even really a particularly good movie by most measures. But it’s a fun movie that does nostalgia in a significantly better, if more specialized, way than Ready Player One. It’s easily the kind of movie that your average Star Wars fan can keep around the house for a bland but quite enjoyable palette cleanser in the years to come. As long as you aren’t entirely opposed to the idea of a Han Solo origin story, you’re not expecting some sort of cinematic masterpiece, and you have a large, friendly bucket of popcorn to munch you should find this movie plenty enjoyable.

Before we see Solo, let’s fix The Last Jedi

I trashed this movie pretty hard, but it wouldn’t take much to fix it.

So it’s no secret that a lot of people didn’t like The Last Jedi. A lot of people did, too, which is fine. But for the most part, it seems to me that the people who like it do so because they see what it was trying to do and give it a pass for not actually accomplishing those things. There’s honestly nothing wrong with that approach, but it doesn’t work for me for this movie.

So instead, I’d like to pontificate for a moment about a few things we might do to actually fix this movie. I’ve spent a fair bit of time thinking about this and my suggestions might not be perfect but I think they would get us closer to what Rian Johnson actually wanted to accomplish.

So here, in no particular order, are the things I would change to help The Last Jedi accomplish its goals.

Canto Bight

Let’s not change anything here. I know a lot of people hate this sequence because it ultimately doesn’t solve the problems they set out to solve. That’s OK, though. Some people also dislike it because ultimately nothing Finn and Rose accomplish there sticks – the damage is repaired, the horse things are recaptured. But that wasn’t the point either. The point is in that final moment with the kid who force pulls the broom to himself. He was inspired by their actions. A rebellion is built on hope, I’ve heard, but it’s sustained with inspiration. The kid sees a different path, now, and he probably isn’t the only one. That is because of Finn and Rose. The sequence does everything we need it to.

Poe’s plot

OK, so, let’s actually have Poe screw up. I think the simplest way to do this is to change the initial plan. Instead of having a plan to destroy the enemy cruiser that Leia tells Poe to abort let’s have the plan always be about Poe distracting and annoying people. And then let’s have him audible in the bombers. At this point, ensuing deaths would be 100% his fault because instead of just insisting they follow through on a plan to which everyone initially agreed he really appears to be seeking glory and heroism. This much more closely fits what everyone accuses him of.

Then let’s actually remove him from the command structure. Don’t demote him; bench him entirely. Confine him to quarters while you try to figure out what you need to do with him and have that decision delayed by the First Order’s follow up attack and Leia’s coma. Don’t let him out to try to fly against the Imperials. Keep him locked up and frustrated. Then, when he comes up with the plan with Rose and Finn that counters what General Holdo wants to accomplish, he’s really acting out. Instead of just acting on command authority without consulting others who are technically above him but practically in a different command structure. He’d be using authority he shouldn’t even have anymore. The rest of this can play out more or less the way it actually did in the movie only it will fit a lot better.

Rey and Kylo’s plot

Actually, this isn’t bad either. the biggest change I’d make here is that I’d have Rey learn the truth of her parentage in the cave. As things stand the cave is entirely pointless. She stands around snapping her fingers and absolutely nothing happens. Why is this sequence here? Let’s kill two birds with one stone. I had the light shown to me when I read somewhere – I forget where so if you know please tell me so I can properly credit the writer – that the way Rey’s parentage is revealed is a tad on the icky side because it could have been a moment of empowerment for her but instead becomes something Kylo gets to wield against her. So let’s take that away from him – he doesn’t need it – and give it back to her.

After meeting with Luke and realizing he doesn’t want to train her she’s probably already feeling rejected, again, so let’s let her face her past on her own terms. The follow through where she continues to resist the temptation to slip to the dark side then follows a bit more strongly, as well. I think it was intended to show her hitting rock bottom but it never really feels like that so I think a different angle might do better.

General Holdo

For starters, let’s put her in a uniform. There’s really no need for the dress and it’s distracting as hell. Then, now that we’ve fixed Poe’s place in the story, we don’t have to change her much. Everything she does makes sense in this new context. Except for one thing. The way she acts after sending the transports off to Crait. First of all, she always should have adjusted course to try to block line-of-sight to the transports just for added security and safety. But let’s assume that wasn’t an option because the very act of changing course would have given the game away. That seems reasonable. You know what would have been a hell of a lot more distracting than just trying to fly along on her merry way? (Which, ya know, flying straight is probably something the autopilot could have handled anyway.) Doing the thing she eventually did, anyhow. Flip the cruiser around and use it as a giant weapon against the First Order fleet.

This moment of self-sacrifice would be even more of an excellent lesson for Poe about “Glory” and the costs it has if it had been planned from the beginning and made clear to Poe that that was the case. It makes Holdo a stronger character with firmer convictions and noble purpose instead of the helpless incompetent who stood there and watched half of her allies get slaughtered before she finally coming up with a desperate plan.

Luke Skywalker

Finally, we get to Luke. We’re going to need to make a couple changes here. I still, for the life of me, can’t see Luke Skywalker being the kind of guy who would whip out his lightsaber and wield it against his sleeping nephew before realizing that’s probably a bad idea. But I can see a couple other options that would work just as well to motivate Ben – keeping in mind that Luke losing an apprentice in any sense, but especially one which saw students or staff die at the hands of a traitor could still lead him to run away and lick his wounds as he ends up doing. He could see or sense Ben meeting with Snoke and arrive on the scene wielding his lightsaber which caused Ben to move up the timetable for his betrayal; it’s already canon, after all, that Ben was being tempted to the Dark Side. Luke’s fears did not come out of nowhere. Or perhaps Ben could overhear Luke having a conversation with ghost Obi-Wan about Luke knowing that Ben has been meeting with Snoke and maybe Old Ben tells Luke he should just kill young Ben, now. Heck, you could rip a page out of Final Fantasy XV and have Snoke use a Jedi mind trick on Luke that causes him to think Ben is Snoke or someone else just as evil and have Luke attack him unintentionally.

The point is that you can move the characters to the same places with the same feelings without turning Luke into such a cowardly figure. I think most Star Wars fans are willing to go along with you to a world where Luke isn’t perfect. Where Luke is scared, or confused, or angry. But to ask us all to believe in a Luke who is so cowardly that he would so seriously consider killing his own student and nephew while he slept in cold blood is just a bridge too far.

I know I spent some time in my original review complaining about Luke dying. I didn’t think it was necessary and I didn’t like the way it was done. I still don’t think it was absolutely necessary but I can see how it works even if it wasn’t. Luke’s continued existence in the franchise would be something of an Avengers problem for every subsequent movie where people would ask why he doesn’t come out of retirement to help solve this latest problem the same way they ask why the Avengers don’t always show up to help out heroes in every solo superhero movie.  I also still don’t like how Luke’s death was done with what amounts to a fakeout followed by the real death. But I’m actually not entirely sure how I’d fix that. The best I’ve come up with is maybe to show him straining more when we flash to his real body after the reveal so that it’s more apparent that what he’s doing will kill him.

And that’s it. Well, one more thing, I’d like to see Rey ditch the ancient Jedi texts. In a movie that goes on and on about letting the past die it still feels incredibly odd that the absolute worst part of the past – the texts of an order that did stupid things in the name of stupid ideals and hurt people and ultimately got themselves killed – survives. And I wouldn’t have Rose fall in love with Finn after knowing him for less than 24 hours. That seems way too convenient.

OK, so that’s it. As you can see most of the movie survives intact. It’s just a few key changes to actually communicate the messages and ideas Mr. Johnson appears to have been trying to tell through this movie. He doesn’t have bad ideas it’s just like he didn’t bother to completely plot out all the details and trusted the audience to just accept whatever outcome he gave them. How about you? Do you like these changes or would you rather make different ones?