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Women In Star Wars

The latest installment in the nearly 4 decades old Star Wars franchise, Rogue One, released last week and it has been generating a lot of very specific buzz. It is no secret that often times the franchise overall is seen as a sausage fest, i.e., just a collection of dudes doing some things while the women are relegated to the sidelines. And such a criticism is justified because while there are countless secondary media where the roles of women in Star Wars have been magnified and given center-stage, the movies have made no progressive decisions outside of the norm.

Today, while on Facebook, I came across a post from a female friend who saw the movie and was put off by the dismal representation of women in Rogue One. I cannot blame her for that. Despite having a strong female lead in Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso, she really is the only woman who is doing anything significant. The post has generated a lot of feedback from both sides of the aisle on representation in the movie in specific and in Hollywood at large, and I wanted to take a different tactic here, talking about how what we did get was still a bold move, and why it all matters moving forward.

Note: There are some spoilers from Rogue One here so if you wish to avoid those spoilers, please do not read the article. If you want to read my (spoiler) review of the movie, you can read it here.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Movie Review)

So, the big moment of the year has finally come and gone. This past Thursday, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh installment in the 38-year old movie franchise was released to great fanfare and the internet has been abuzz with speculations and discussions ever since. This is the first movie of the franchise that has been released under the auspices of Disney, which bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas some three years back, and is also the first in a new trilogy that will also eventually veer off into several spin-offs, charting a bold new era.

However, we come back to the movie itself. When Disney declared that all existing Star Wars canon outside of the movies and 2-3 animated series was now part of a discontinued universe termed Star Wars Legends, I was mad as hell. I’m a huge fan of the incredible and complex tapestry that has been woven by thousands of people in the last four decades and for Disney to disrespect that in such a way screamed foul to me. But, I was willing to give the movie a chance because when the trailers hit, I was ecstatic. They hit the right note for me and promised so much. And now I tell you whether the movie lived up to those promises.

Note: This review contains massive spoilers. Do not read if you have not seen the movie as yet.

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Trailer Thoughs: Avengers: Age of Ultron (Teaser)

When Marvel’s Avengers ended, it set a new standard for superhero movies. To the best of my knowledge, superhero team movies hadn’t happened before this movie, especially not when the movie in question was preceded by no less than four movies that set the stage for it. With Avengers, Marvel’s cinematic universe also moved into a new phase, a phase where we’ve seen some big changes in teh status quo for the various heroes and where we’ve also gotten to see lots of new characters, heroes and villains alike as well. And now, in just about half a year, we are going to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, the next big Marvel money-maker.

Avengers: Age of Ultron does not have anything to do with last year’s Age of Ultron event in the comics, though they both share the same name. It is going to be a new story about the sentient robot built (most often in the comics) by Hank Pym, the Ant-Man, that then goes on a genocidal rampage against humanity. Of course, we haven’t seen Pym in the MCU as yet, though there is a movie coming out soon that deals with his successor as Ant-Man, Scott Lang, so it is all going to rest in the hands of the MCU’s go-to tech-serf, Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Last night, after a trailer of the upcoming movie leaked out, Marvel and Disney went ahead and released the official teaser, and by gods it is awesome!

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Trailer Thoughts: Guardians of the Galaxy

Yesterday, Marvel/Disney released a set of three photos from the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy (check here), the first movie in the Marvel Cinematics Universe that will take place entirely in space and will feature the wider (science) fantastical world of Marvel comics. Its going to feature the team often dubbed as the Cosmic Avengers and has some interesting star power behind it in the form of Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana in two of the lead roles with WWE wrestler Dave Bautista in a third and the other two CGI-animated characters being voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.

We also got a 15-second teaser trailer at the same time, which was kind of nice, but far too brief. Personally, I don’t like teaser trailers. They are far too short to do anything really, even if I end up liking them. But then, but then just this morning, I saw a tweet by actress Karen Gillan in which she shared the FIRST FULL TRAILER of the movie! And I was hooked. Man, if the movie holds up to what this trailer is showing, this movie is going to be great.

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Twilight (Breaking Dawn Part 1): The End Begins

I saw the first three Twilight films for the first time some time in the summer of 2011, having borrowed them from a cousin. I had no idea what they were about, other than the fact that the covers had Kristen Stewart on them, as well as Robert Pattinson, the dead guy from Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire. I saw them, and I thought they were decent enough. They could be boring at times, and even outright dreadful, but they were okay nonetheless.

I get why a lot of people hate on the books and the adapted movies, but its not really bothered me all that much. They came, I saw them, that’s it. That’s one of the reasons why I eventually saw the final two films as well. Plus I was interested to know how things would eventually fall out with the characters. I suppose that the best thing that can be said for the books, and the movies, is that they marked a sort of revival for vampire/werewolf fiction everywhere. That’s fine with me.

Anyways, here’s a review of the fourth film in the series, which I saw at the theater, thanks to my curiosity.

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Captain America: The First Avenger

Part of Marvel’s phase 1 timeline for its movies, Captain America: The First Avenger had a lot riding on it. It was the rebirth of Marvel’s greatest superhero and one of its core characters, unlike Iron Man or Thor who, while important, weren’t quite so high-profile, especially not before getting their own movies. The movie wasn’t quite the success commercially that it was expected to be, but it set the stage for the eventual The Avengers and it cemented Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, having previously played Johnny Storm in Fox’s Fantastic Four duology. I wasn’t all that big a fan of the movie, it felt too cliched, but it was decent fun.

With Captain America: The Winter Soldier due in just two months, anticipation is riding high, and I believe that this time the First Avenger will be a huge success on all levels. The trailers have certainly been quite awesome, and I suppose that’s the best that can be asked for right now.

Either way, here’s a review of the first movie.

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Frozen: The Siblings Ascendant

So by now, I’m sure that most people have heard of Disney’s latest animated venture, Frozen, which has ended up smashing quite a few records, and has set some new challenges for Hollywood to follow. The movie has been both a critical and commercial success, whether we talk in its home North American territories or globally. All through the last three months, it has been the talk of much discussion pretty much everywhere. Myself, I wasn’t even aware of the movie until quite recently. I’m usually not all that big on animated movies these days, mostly because they’ve just fallen off my radar of late. But then I started hearing from social media friends about Idina Menzel’s track “Let It Go” from the movie and the portrayal of sibling relationships in the movie. And I was interested.

I saw the movie a little over two weeks ago, in 3D. Given how long the movie came out, I feel quite fortunate that I managed to get such a late viewing of it here in Dubai, but I suppose that speaks for the incredible success of the movie in the first place. I went in with some moderately high expectations, nothing particularly specific, but expecting a similar kind of wonder that I’ve felt on watching Disney’s classics from the 80s and 90s. And you know what? I came away amazed and ecstatic, brimming with energy verve to talk about it. For my money’s worth, it was one of the best movies of 2013, and I gave it place of honour as the best movie of the year, even above Pacific Rim (review), which I just loved.

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Best Movies of 2013

Its been an interesting year for the movie industry, whether we talk Hollywood or Bollywood. Big tent-pole movies were the norm at the box office, and there were both successes and flops from each region. It can’t be denied either that some of the box offices successes have proved to be quite surprising, such as the runaway hits Frozen and The Hunger Games #2: Catching Fire, which continue to tell studio executives that female-led movies, especially action movies, CAN be successful if given a chance and that hiding behind ridiculous sexist attitudes and thinking just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Or let’s talk Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim which underperformed in the US but was a big hit in international markets and the reason for the former can no doubt be laid at the feet of the subversive trend in American media of trash-talking movies that are different.

But enough of that. This post, the first such that I’m doing, is meant to celebrate the movies that I thoroughly enjoyed this year, whether Hollywood or Bollywood, and that’s what I’m going to focus on here. So let’s have at it.

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Star Wars: New vs Refurbished

Last year, news arrived that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and that once the deal was done with, the company owned full rights and licenses to anything involved Star Wars, Indiana Jones and other properties that were under the purview of Lucasfilm. At the time, there was absolutely no news about future Star Wars movies, and the license for all related comics was with Dark Horse Comics, who’ve had that specific license under contract for almost two decades and have done their share of adding to the Expanded Universe over the years, building on what Marvel originally did. But then, as expected and dreaded, it was announced a few days ago that by the end of this year, the license would be shifted back to Marvel and that Dark Horse would no longer publish any new Star Wars materials.

Part of this entire move has been that within weeks of buying Lucasfilm, Disney announced plans to do a third Star Wars trilogy of movies, Episodes VII to IX, and even plans to do several spin-off movies, most notably involving the Bounty Hunter Boba Fett, one of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars setting. The big question now is how much of the Expanded Universe would Disney adhere to, and whether it would just chuck out all of it. Details are starting to emerge on this front and there has been a lot of talk about it recently. Here is what I have to say on the matter, as someone who has been invested in the setting since early 2001 and has really come to love everything about it, whether good or bad.

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Black Widow/Wonder Woman: Impossible Perfections

Yesterday evening, I read an article on the geek news site The Mary Sue, which touched on an interview that ToonZone had with James Tucker recently (link to article). In this interview, he was asked by Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara’s recent comments that the studio really needs to get on with making a Wonder Woman movie because it is too big a thing to miss out on, essentially. Tucker is a supervising producer of the studio’s DC Animated division and as such, what he says should carry some weight in the discussion that has surrounded this topic of late: Wonder Woman getting her own live action movie, or at least the failed television show being given the go ahead.

I’ve been quite frustrated with all the non-news about the topic, particularly since DC and WB seem to be dragging their heels on the subject. What little comments that have filtered down to the masses, other than Tsujihara’s somewhat positive take, have all been about gender inequality and this notion that Wonder Woman can only work if she has THE perfect script going for her because she is, in a nutshell, too difficult a character to bring to the mainstream cinema audiences. Tucker’s comments fueled that fire further with his own brand of such silliness.

So, in a fit of frustration, I took to Twitter to talk about it and had a very interesting discussion with a few people about what is happening. This post is an offshoot of that entire discussion.

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Akira: A Transcendental Experience

I’ve been a fan of anime for a long time. Almost five years now, which is quite a bit of time for me really. I’ve seen various anime shows over the years, but haven’t seen any anime movies specifically. Recently, I helped my friend Nick Sharps put together a fiction anthology kickstarter, and when we were discussing the art that he was going to contract, he mentioned Akira, an anime movie from 1988 that is widely regarded as the best in the genre, even today, and certainly for its time. I’d never even heard of it before, but when Nick mentioned it, and later showed me an early version of the cover for the anthology, I was amazed. And I really wanted to watch Akira now.

Something about bikes just gets to me, I suppose. Whether its movies like Torque (yeah, yeah, I know its a terrible movie really), Tron and Tron: Legacy, Mad Max or Bollywood flicks like Dhoom and Dhoom 2, I love ’em all. All that adrenaline and action is something that I really enjoy. And for me, Akira proved to be no different, except for the fact that is so much more cerebral than either of those movies. It’d be like comparing The Lord of the Rings to Dungeons & Dragons, where Akira is, of course, The Lord of the Rings. Having seen the film now, I can definitley say that Akira is a fantastic film that truly survives the test of time and doesn’t feel dated at all.

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Bechdel and Mako Mori: Team-up or Deathmatch?

In the wake of the international success of Guillermo del Toro’s latest movie, Pacific Rim, there has been a lot of chatter about the characterisation in the movie. Specifically, people have been talking about the characterisation of Mako Mori, the only female character of note in the movie. Many people have condemned her as a weak, ineffectual protagonist, while others have hailed her as a great example of strong representation of female characters in movies.

I myself fall in the latter camp because I loved the character and I was able to look beyond what false trap that the character generates and consider her within the context of her culture and her own dialogue. You can read my thoughts on Mako in my review of the movie here.

One of the fallouts of Pacific Rim has been that a Tumblr user came up with the “Mako Mori Test” to evaluate female characters in movies. You can read more about it here. The test is a response to the fact that Pacific Rim fails the much more popular and long-established “Bechdel Test” but, for that user, was indeed a good representation of a female character, as I’ve already said. Clearly, the older test has some limits and the newer proposed test seeks to address those deficiencies.

So the question becomes, how do the two tests fit in with each other? Are they in conflict or can they be used together? That’s what this editorial is about.

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