Ranking my favorite sci-fi/fantasy franchises

This blog is mostly about Star Wars, but like most fans, there are many other franchises out there that I love. I thought I’d list them here and rank them, based on my level of obsession and commitment. I love them all to varying degrees, but here they are from least favorite to most:

Blade Runner. I’m not sure if this counts as a franchise, since there are only two movies, but I also thought I heard that there’s a series in the works. At any rate, Blade Runner came to my attention in the early 80’s when the first one came out (it was released in 1982) since Harrison Ford was in it. At 12 years old, I was deep into my Star Wars obsession, and had my first celebrity crush on Ford. But I was a bit disappointed in the trailer, since it looked nothing like Star Wars, and Harrison Ford didn’t look like Han Solo, lol. I didn’t actually watch the film until much later, in my twenties, and I absolutely loved it. It just looked cool, and was cerebral in a way Star Wars wasn’t, and realized this was science fiction while Star Wars was fantasy. When Blade Runner 2049 came out in 2017, I was excited about it. Some people either didn’t like it, didn’t understand it, or thought it was way too long and convoluted. I loved it, though. Ryan Gosling was incredible in the role of K/Joe, and it explored all the philosophical themes I loved in the original (what does it mean to be human? What is love? What is real? etc). And Ford was great.

Indiana Jones. Another Ford franchise I’ve loved since childhood. Raiders of the Lost Ark remains one of my favorite nostalgic films. The franchise is low down on my list because the films have been kind of hit or miss. Raiders–awesome. Temple of Doom–gruesome and silly. Last Crusade–awesome. Crystal Skull–disappointing. I’m hoping number five continues the pattern and is awesome, and a fitting farewell to the character.

Mad Max. I first saw Beyond Thunderdome when it came out in 1985. At the time, I thought it was pretty cool, although now I consider it the weakest out of the movies. I backtracked and saw the first two Mad Max films, and while the first one was decent, it was The Road Warrior that cemented my love for the franchise (and young Mel Gibson was extremely easy on the eyes, too). The Road Warrior was quite simply an action masterpiece on wheels, and I’m not someone who’s into action films, really. It has to be action blended with something else, like an existential dystopian journey. When it was announced that there would be a reboot with Tom Hardy as Max, I had my doubts. No one but Mel could play Max. But I was wrong. Tom did a great job, but I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t really Max that did it for me this time; it was Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron. I absolutely love her, and the film has the same high-octane car chases as the originals. I think there’s a Furiosa sequel on the way, and I’m on board.

The Terminator. I missed this one when it first came out in 1984 because I was too young to go see it in the theater. I caught up with it later, and instantly loved it. The idea of it just blew my young mind–a robot coming back through time to kill a woman so she wouldn’t bear a son who would inspire a human rebellion against the machines?? What?? That’s so cool!!!–and Arnold Schwarzenegger was awesome as the Terminator. I also related to Sarah Connor, because she was just some normal waitress who happened to be the mother of John Connor. And oh, the father was the guy who came back in time to protect her from the killer machine. OMG, What???? The son sent his own father back in time so he could be conceived??? It was all so mind-bending to me, lol. And of course, the sequel was fantastic, and Sarah Connor had grown into this badass fighter who would do anything to protect her son. She was one of the first badass women action characters (next to Ellen Ripley, see below) who was inspiring to me at the time. The subsequent sequels were fine, but couldn’t quite recapture the magic, and I think I even skipped the last one or two, I don’t know. But the first two will always be rather high on my list of faves.

Alien(s). This was another instance where I saw the second movie before the first one, and then backtracked. The second Alien movie, simply called Aliens, is by far the best of the bunch. I saw it in the theater and just sat on the edge of my seat teeming with adrenaline the whole time, lol. The aliens are terrifying and gross and Ellen Ripley is one of my female heroes, next to Sarah Connor, naturally. Just a normal woman who got caught up in something that required her to do insanely brave things, not only to survive, but to help those she cared about to survive, too. When I backtracked and saw the first Alien movie, I was surprised at how different it was; it was more of a slow burn that eventually boiled into terror. The subsequent movies weren’t that great, to be honest. The third one was just grim and depressing, and the fourth was kind of weird and unsettling. I like to just pretend the third and fourth never happened, and Ripley and Newt lived happily ever after with Hicks.

Marvel. Marvel is a relatively recent obsession, starting just last summer with the Loki series. I loved it so much, and worked through all the films for several months to catch up. Where had I been all these years? Lol. I will confess, I thought the “comic book movies” silly and for the nerd boys (nevermind that I was, and had been for years, a nerd girl). But Loki opened the door for me, and I’m so glad he did. It was so fun discovering all these movies, and some I absolutely loved, and others, meh, not so much (here’s my ranking of the films). And the D+ shows have been mostly great; I especially loved, besides Loki, Wandavision and Moon Knight. I haven’t been keeping up with the shows–I haven’t watched Ms. Marvel or She-Hulk, which is surprising for me, since they’re female-centric, but I think I just got a case of Marvel fatigue, lol. They’ll always be there and I’ll catch up some day.

Star Trek. Ah, Star Trek. For me, it all started with The Next Generation in the late 80’s. I think I’d seen a few shows of the original series before that, but it didn’t capture my attention like Next Gen. It was silly at times (especially looking back, lol), but it found its rhythm in later seasons and put out excellent episodes. I think it’s the only series of which I’ve seen every single episode (besides Enterprise). I loved Deep Space Nine and Voyager, but didn’t watch all the episodes for one reason or another. Enterprise is another favorite; I have a soft spot for Scott Bakula from Quantum Leap, and just found the show fun and entertaining. The newer shows, like Discovery and Strange New Worlds, I haven’t seen at all, and I’ve only seen the first season of Picard. I hope to remedy that some day. And the films are a whole other thing. I enjoyed some of the films with the original crew (2,4, and 6 specifically), and the Next Gen films were mostly good, particularly First Contact. And the new JJ. Abrams Trek films about the original crew with new actors are quite good, too. I’ll always love Trek and what it represents–mostly, faith in humanity and an examination of science and ethics–and Jean Luc will always be my favorite captain.

Lord of the Rings. This is another relatively new obsession, although this one started over twenty years ago (!) with the release of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001. I had never read the books before this (but have since read them twice through) nor did I ever feel the need to. But damn, when that first trailer came out, I was gobsmacked! I had to see this movie. And when I did, I just stared up at the screen in awe. This was just something I had never experienced before, besides what I felt with Star Wars. It was gorgeous, stunning, epic, and so full of heart I could barely breathe. It was quite simply one of the best movies I had ever seen, period; at least until The Return of the King came out. That was an experience I’ll never forget. It deserved its gazillion Oscars (okay, eleven, but it really swept that year, and it’s a fantasy film, which had never happened before). I immediately read the books as soon as Fellowship came out, and I enjoyed those. Then I tried The Silmarillion. I knew immediately I wasn’t going to be a LOTR expert or any such thing. There’s just too much. I didn’t get too far before I set it down, defeated. But that’s okay. It’s actually a good reference book as I watch the new Rings of Power show, which has been quite good, though probably doesn’t follow it to the letter. I’ve also been re-watching The Hobbit trilogy, and while it doesn’t reach the heights of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s great fun and has some lore in there, too.

Star Wars. As you might have guessed, this franchise takes the top spot in my heart. I made a blog about it, after all. There’s just something so special about this galaxy far, far away. Maybe because it’s about hope amid relentless tyranny. Maybe it’s the characters and their journeys. Maybe it’s the futuristic space setting, but as the song says, it’s not the future. It’s a fairy tale, a once upon a time in space. Maybe it’s the nostalgia: I fell in love with it when I was ten years old, over forty years ago, and it’s been with me ever since. Whatever the reason, Star Wars will always be a part of me, a meaningful part of me, as weird as that sounds. I mean, I even got a Jedi Order tattoo on my arm last year, to solidify my commitment, lol. And it’s not static; it’s alive and well after all these decades, evolving and adapting and always recreating itself, while still remaining the same at its core: the story of good versus evil, of darkness ever rising, and the light always to meet it.

What are your favorite franchises? Sci-fi/fantasy or not, let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!

Ranking the Star Wars books released this year (so far)

I thought I’d post my rankings of the Star Wars books that have released this year–so far, since there are some High Republic Phase 2 books coming out this fall. I’ve included mostly adult and YA novels; the only middle grade book I’ve included is the short story collection Stories of Jedi and Sith. Obviously, I’ve only included books that I’ve read, and so the High Republic audio drama Tempest Runner is not included.

So here we go, from least favorite to best:

8. The High Republic: Midnight Horizon, by Daniel Jose Older (YA). This book occurs concurrently with The Fallen Star, but I consider it the last book of Phase 1 of the High Republic. Older is not one of my favorite Star Wars authors. This story is fine, but it’s one of my least favorite of the High Republic novels (Out of the Shadows takes the least favorite spot), and the least favorite of the books that came out this year. It has Reath Silas in it, though, so that makes up for it, and an awesome cameo by Yoda in the last few pages.

7. Stories of Jedi and Sith, by various authors (Middle-grade). These short stories are fun and showcase some great characters like Asajj Ventress, Maul, Luke, Rey and Poe. They don’t add anything significant to the canon, but they’re fun and interesting. I particularly liked the Asajj story, and the Maul story.

6. Queen’s Hope, by E.K. Johnston (YA). I’ve always been a fan of the Padme books, and this one is no exception. It’s the third in a trilogy, and takes place at the start of the Clone Wars and Padme and Anakin’s marriage. As soon as they’re married, they a get a few blissful days on Naboo, but are soon separated on their own missions. I was kind of hoping it was more of a The Princess and the Scoundrel sort of thing, where they get to go on a mission together. They do at the very beginning, but it’s one little chapter, not a whole book. Of course, their marriage is a secret, and Padme must deal with all that entails. It’s still good, and I especially enjoy the Sabe scenes.

5. Padawan, by Kiersten White (YA). This is a young Obi-Wan adventure, and it was quite fun. It shows a very unsure Obi-Wan Kenobi shortly after he is taken on by Qui Gon Jinn as a Padawan. He’s full of doubt and worries, and trying to figure out his relationship with both his Master and the Force. He ends up going alone to a planet where he finds young people with strange Force-like abilities. As he tries to unravel the mysteries of the planet and help these parent-less teens, he comes to understand himself, and the Force, better.

4. Brotherhood, by Mike Chen. This is an Anakin and Obi-Wan adventure, just as the Clone Wars are beginning, and taking place just after Queen’s Hope. Obi-Wan is sent to Cato Neimoidia after the planet suffers a terrible disaster, to investigate the bombing and figure out who is responsible–the Republic or the Separatists. Anakin has just been made a Jedi Knight, and is sent on his own mission, but the two aren’t used to being without the other, and must come to terms with their new relationship–not master and apprentice, but brothers. Anakin shows up, of course, with a youngling in tow, which presages his taking on an apprentice of his own. This is a great book that explores more of Neimoidian culture, separate from the Trade Federation, and how the Republic–as well as Obi-Wan and Anakin–have to overcome certain prejudices against these people. Asajj Ventress is in the book, too, “investigating” on behalf of the Separatists, and you can bet she causes trouble.

3. Shadow of the Sith, by Adam Christopher. This book takes place about fifteen years after Return of the Jedi. Luke and Lando are on a mission to help a young family–six-year old Rey and her parents, Dathan and Miramir–escape the Sith and Ochi of Bestoon. Lando is involved because he feels it will help him deal with his grief over losing his own daughter when she was two; he asks Luke for help, who is currently running his new Jedi Temple on Ossus. We get to see a young Ben Solo a couple of times, and he’s kind of sweet and eager to please his uncle Luke :(. Anyway, Luke gets drawn into a mystery involving an ancient Sith mask possessed by the spirit of a Sith Lord from long ago. It’s a big book, with a lot going on, and it ties together a lot of loose ends from the sequel trilogy. I was a bit disappointed with the portrayal of Luke, who seemed like a robot through the entire book. Otherwise, it’s a great read.

2. The Princess and the Scoundrel, by Beth Revis. I had doubts about this one, and certainly didn’t think it would be so high on my list. But I loved it! If you live for Han and Leia banter and romance (me, it’s me), this one delivers. We see their lovely wedding on Endor, and then Mon Mothma convinces them to take a honeymoon on the Halcyon, a space cruise ship based on Mothma’s homeworld of Chandrila. It’s somewhat for PR purposes, but she truly wants them to have a nice honeymoon, too. But of course they caught up in some intrigue on a troubled moon, all the while figuring each other out and how this marriage thing works. It’s a very satisfying book, at least to me.

1. The High Republic: The Fallen Star, by Claudia Gray. This is the adult finale of the first phase of The High Republic, and it’s fantastic. Claudia Gray is my favorite Star Wars author (Bloodline, Leia: Princess of Alderaan, Into the Dark, and Lost Stars are all exceptional), and she doesn’t disappoint here. Told mostly from the points of view of Stellan Gios, Elzar Mann, and Bell Zettifar (among several others), it takes place mostly on Starlight Beacon, a new space station that is the pride and joy of the Republic. Naturally, Marchion Ro, the main villain of the High Republic novels, has it in his sights. Since it takes place mostly on the station, and there’s a Jedi-killing monster on board, it’s got some Alien-like vibes. But the character work with Stellan and Elzar, especially, is great. It’s wonderful and heartbreaking, and I can’t wait to get back to these (surviving) characters in Phase 3.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you have a favorite? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!

My five favorite ships in Star Wars

No, I’m not talking about Reylo…I mean real spaceships, lol.

I’ve never been much of a “ship nerd,” memorizing designations and specs, etc. In fact, all I know is the Empire has Star Destroyers, and the Rebellion has X-Wings, pretty much. Okay, I know a little bit more, but not much.

I do have some favorite ships, though, and I thought I’d share them here.

  • Jedi Vectors. These are cool little ships. What I love about them is that they are connected to the Jedi who fly them: the Jedi pilot uses the Force to fly it. Also, the weapons on them can only be accessed by a Jedi’s lightsaber–they must insert the lightsaber into the vehicle like a key. This serves a couple of purposes: the ship can never be used as a weapon by a non-Jedi; and the Jedi must make a conscious choice to use weapons instead of a non-lethal way to solve problems. So cool. And they look like mosquitos buzzing around.
  • Padme’s Naboo Royal Starship. This is one sleek, shiny ride. I just love how this ship looks: luxurious but sharp as a needle. This one’s totally based on looks alone.
  • Poe’s Black One X-Wing. X-Wings are cool, but Poe’s modified black X-Wing is even cooler. I don’t know much about its “specs,” but I do know from The Force Awakens novelization that BB-8 has a hard time dealing with it because it’s so fussy. I like when ships have (literal) personalities. And it’s one-of-a-kind. I was sad to see it blow up in The Last Jedi.
  • The Ghost. This one’s more of an emotional attachment than anything else, although it’s a nifty little ship. It represents my love for its crew more than anything else, but it can do some amazing things with Hera at the helm. And I love that its shuttle is called the Phantom (and that each crew member is called Spectre One, Two, etc. See what they did there?)
  • And of course, the Millenium Falcon. But particularly when it belonged to Lando in Solo: A Star Wars Story because it’s so shiny and new, with all kinds of bells and whistles. I love its long nose which is the shuttle (that Han ejects for some crazy escape, to Lando’s despair. Oh Lando, it’s just beginning!) But it’s also lovely inside, with a wet bar, a “love nest” that is Lando’s bedroom, and a huge closet for his capes! And I love learning that L3-37, after her death, is incorporated into the ship. It gives the Falcon’s rather funky personality some context.

So those are my five favorites. I don’t have any Imperial ships on the list; they just don’t interest me as much. I thought about including Mando’s Razor Crest but honestly, it’s pretty ugly, lol.

What are your favorite Star Wars ships? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!

Mothers in Star Wars

Star Wars rather obviously deals with relationships between fathers and sons (Vader and Luke; Han and Ben) or father figures (Mando and Grogu; Hunter and Omega; Kanan and Ezra; etc.). It’s a subject George Lucas himself wanted to explore as a result of his challenging relationship with his own father.

But what about mothers? Who are the mothers of Star Wars, and what, if anything, do they say about motherhood itself in the galaxy far, far away?

Here’s a list of the most obvious mothers in Star Wars and my take on their relationships with their children:

  • Shmi Skywalker. Shmi is the Skywalker matriarch, and raised Anakin by herself on Tatooine. Though they were slaves, Shmi raised her son with love and wisdom. Shmi knew her son was special, as he apparently had no father and displayed uncanny abilities in podracing. Because she knew he was destined for greater things, she found the strength to let him go with Qui Gon and live a better life. Unfortunately, Anakin’s love for his mother was something that got in the way of his Jedi training, and proved to be the first step on his path to the dark side–namely, that he felt he failed her when he couldn’t save her from the Tusken Raiders who kidnapped her. But with her last dying breath, Shmi only praised her son and told him she loved him. The pain of losing her only made Anakin determined not to lose Padme, at any cost, and…well, we know what happened there.
  • Padme Amidala. Birth mother to Luke and Leia, she dies just after giving birth to them. In Revenge of the Sith, Padme seems nervous at first about telling Anakin she’s pregnant, knowing the consequences, but ultimately seems happy about it. When Anakin tells her about his dreams of her dying in childbirth, she asks worriedly, “And the baby?” So it’s always been a little irritating to me that Padme dies of “sadness” or a broken heart because of Anakin’s turn to the dark side. Yes, it’s devastating, but she’s got babies, plural, to love and look after. You’d think that would be enough to give her something to live for. Padme, in Eps 1 & 2, is a strong, capable woman, as well as a loving, compassionate one; I’ve always found it hard to believe that she would simply give up. I know the story needed her to die; why couldn’t they have had her die of complications in birth, like Anakin dreaded? I get that Anakin’s dreams were a self-fulfilling prophecy–that he caused the death he so desperately wanted to prevent–but still. It irks, lol. It goes against her character, in my opinion.
  • Breha Organa. Queen of Alderaan, Leia’s adopted mother and Bail Organa’s wife, we see little of her in the films. She’s been mostly fleshed out in the book Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray, and in the recent series Obi-Wan Kenobi. Breha is regal, strong, intelligent, and loves her adopted daughter deeply. She raises Leia firmly but lovingly; and instills in her the sense of duty that Leia takes very seriously as she grows up. She expects much from Leia, and more importantly, lets her know that she believes in her. She and Bail tell Leia from the very beginning that she is adopted (while omitting the more distressing details) and instill in her the sense that she is an Organa in every way. She is royalty, and raised as royalty. While Leia has many qualities from her birth parents, the Organas are an extremely important part of who she is.
  • Beru Whitesun Lars. While Leia was raised as royalty, Luke was raised as a farmboy by his Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen on Tatooine. Though technically not related by blood, Owen and Beru love and raise Luke as their own. In A New Hope, Owen is portrayed as a grumpy barrier to Luke’s destiny; Beru is the content homemaker, serving blue milk and making whatever it is in that kitchen appliance. But in the series Obi-Wan Kenobi, we get more insight into both of them. Owen truly does love Luke (which I never doubted, really), and Beru, well, Beru is a bona-fide badass, lol. Owen wants to flee when Reva is on her way to kill Luke, but it’s Beru who gets out the guns and insists they make a stand. More is learned about Beru in the Padme trilogy books; Sabe goes to Tatooine to try to help free slaves. She meets Beru Whitesun, who is a prominent figure in the movement to fight slavery on Tatooine (the group is called the Whitesuns, so there you go). This is what I love about the books and series that are coming out–we learn a whole lot more about these women than in the films; they become more three-dimensional characters. In sum, Beru was a great mother/aunt to Luke.
There’s no actual footage of Leia with Ben, so here’s some sweet fanart by bee__stings on Anarchiveofourown.
  • Leia Organa Solo. Mother to Ben Solo, who eventually turns to the dark side to become Kylo Ren. Some say that Han and Leia were bad parents, ignoring their son while they pursued their careers, and that’s why he went bad, among other things (like Luke attacking him, and oh, Palpatine whispering in his ear since the womb). I don’t think they were bad parents. I think they were busy parents who underestimated the enemy, and their son’s discontent. But it’s clear they loved him dearly. They both sacrificed their lives for him. Leia, in particular, never lost hope for her son. Sensing her decline, she made that long-distance Force call to Ben, using the last of her life force to reach him. It was the first step in getting him to wake up. Whenever Ben heard Snoke or Vader in his head, it had been Palpatine deceiving him. But Leia’s voice, the voice of his mother, was real. It was a mother’s love, and it helped bring him back to the Light. Leia also, as well as being a mentor to Rey, was a kind of mother-figure for her.
  • Miramir. We know from The Rise of Skywalker that Rey’s then-nameless mother and father were killed by Ochi of Bestoon after hiding her on Jakku and refusing to divulge her whereabouts. That’s all we really knew about them (except that Dathan was a failed and discarded clone of Palpatine). In the book Shadow of the Sith, we learn more about them. They deeply loved Rey and were willing to do anything to protect her. They were both brave, but Miramir, in particular, was clever. She had a knack for technology, ship mechanics, slicing, that sort of thing, and used her talent to always keep them one step ahead of the enemy that relentlessly pursued them. And it was Miramir’s idea to hide Rey on Jakku–to bring her back there, in fact, since that’s where they lived for awhile in the first place. It broke both their hearts to leave her there with Unkar Plutt, but they were desperate to keep her safe. And it was only supposed to be temporary; we know it turned out otherwise. She also thought to use some beads from Pasaana to throw Ochi off and make him think that’s where Rey was, and that’s why Luke and Lando pursue him there; that’s why he died there in the sinking sands. So Rey was absolutely right when she told Palpatine, “My parents were strong. They saved me from you.”
  • Lyra Erso. Wife to Galen Erso, and Jyn’s mother, we only see her a little bit at the beginning of Rogue One; we learn a lot more about her in the book Catalyst by James Luceno, as well as the book Rebel Rising by Beth Revis. Lyra gave Jyn the kyber crystal necklace she wears in the film. Before she was born, Galen and Lyra were studying kyber crystals; Lyra was completely devoted to Galen and looked after him, as he often got lost in his work. She was also suspicious of Krennic long before Galen figured it out. She’s smart, but I thought she was foolish to leave Jyn as they fled Krennic; I’m not sure what she hoped to accomplish, but she got herself killed, Galen was taken by Krennic, and Jyn was left alone, only to be taken in by Saw Gerrera. As with Padme, I was puzzled over a mother’s decision to choose her husband over her child(ren). And yes, Jyn losing her mother and being alone is part of her character arc, but Lyra could have died defending her child. That I could have understood. I make it sound like husbands are chopped liver, lol, but that’s not what I’m saying. It just seems counter-intuitive to me, but everyone’s different, I suppose. I don’t doubt Lyra’s love for Jyn, though.

Those are all the main ones I can think of. Though fatherhood seems to take center stage in Star Wars, motherhood is just as important, obviously. Both mothers and fathers sacrifice themselves for their children, as most would. Star Wars is about, among other things, the importance of family, and how those relationships shape us and determine our actions.

Did I miss anyone? Who’s your favorite mother in Star Wars? Let me know in the comments, and we’ll talk about it!

A Jedi’s connection with animals

I thought I’d return to my list-like format for a bit with a few post ideas I’ve been thinking about. This one’s been in my draft pile for awhile now, and it seemed as good a time as any to actually write it out and share with you.

I’m a big animal lover, and I’ve always loved how some Jedi are particularly connected to animals, either through the Force or just because they’re compassionate people. Here’s five examples that came to my mind:

  • Obi-Wan and Boga. We all remember how Obi-Wan made use of a veractyl, a lizard-like creature on Utupau, while he pursued General Grievous. We don’t learn too much about it in the movie, but in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith (by Mathew Stover, it’s fantastic, please please please read it!), we learn that Obi-Wan connected with the animal through the Force, and that her name was Boga. We learn of Obi-Wan’s preference for riding animals rather than starships in the book Master and Apprentice, by Claudia Gray. In the book, he rides another veractyl and enjoys the experience, while having a rather harrowing experience on a ship that causes him to hate flying. We also see in the series Obi-Wan Kenobi that he is simply kind to animals when he takes some meat from his butcher job to bring to his eopie.
  • Ezra and lothcats, lothwolves, purgil, and most other animals. While Obi-Wan (and probably most Jedi) can connect with animals through the Force, Ezra Bridger seems to have a natural talent for connecting with them. In Rebels he connects with lothcats, lothwolves, and the purgil, and probably some other ones I’m not remembering. While his companions, and even Kanan sometimes, dismiss the importance of animals in a given situation, Ezra seems to zero in on them and connect with them on a whole other level. Kanan is forced by Bendu to connect with the spider creatures on the Rebel base, and the lothwolf Dume is connected to him by relaying his special purpose on Lothal, but it’s Ezra that seems to understand them best. It’s one of the reasons I love that kid so much, lol.
Art by bel on Twitter.
  • Bell and Ember. In the High Republic books, a Padawan named Bell Zettifar has a pet charhound named Ember. The fact that a Jedi is allowed to have a pet shows how different this era of Jedi is. It’s not encouraged, but neither is it frowned upon, at least in Bell and Ember’s case. The two share a bond that is special, and while I’m not sure if it’s a Force connection, the two are very important to each other. Ember has also been a great help in several sticky situations that Bell found himself in, and without her he might have failed or died. They’re devoted to each other and it’s really very sweet. It makes sense, too, as Bell sees the Force as fire, and Ember can breathe flames. They’re meant for each other!
  • Rey and the vexis. In The Rise of Skywalker, Rey and her friends encounter a (very large and angry) serpent in some underground tunnels. Poe wants to blast it, but Rey intuits that there’s something wrong, and indeed, the beast has been wounded and is hissing aggressively. She bravely steps toward it and Force heals it. Once healed, it uncoils and slithers away. I don’t think Rey has a particular connection to animals like Ezra, but I like how, like a true Jedi, she doesn’t immediately want to destroy something that scares her (except maybe Palpatine, but that’s a different story, lol).
  • Ahsoka and Morai. Ahsoka is often seen trailed by a convor called Morai. We see the owl-like bird in Rebels, and also in The Mandalorian (and possibly The Clone Wars, I can’t remember). The bird is a guardian and protector of Ahsoka, and is linked with The Daughter from the Mortis arc in the Clone Wars. In that arc, Ahsoka dies and the Daughter resurrects her. The Daughter also dies in the arc, and Morai seems to be the spirit of the Daughter guiding and protecting Ahsoka. It’s a Force connection, but also a spiritual one that makes it a little more mysterious. Morai isn’t a pet or even a constant companion; she comes and goes depending on what’s happening.
  • Grogu and the rancor. In The Book of Boba Fett, Boba’s rancor is running rampant in Mos Espa, wreaking havoc and destroying everything in its path. He’s angry and lost without his master, but Boba is otherwise occupied at the moment with Cad Bane. Din Djarin tries to control him, but is thrown from his back. Grogu sees the beast’s distress, and toddles away from Peli to confront him. Not to hurt him, but to calm him. He reaches out his little hand and connects with the rancor, putting him to sleep. Drained, he then walks up to the creature and falls in a heap next to him to sleep as well. It’s the cutest thing, but then again, Grogu is cute all the time. But it shows how much he’s learned from his time with Luke; instead of lashing out fearfully at what scares him, he’s learned to connect with others and control his power.

That’s all I could think of. Did I miss anything? What’s your favorite Jedi/animal connection? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!

Marvel Rankings

So, I’ve never ranked Star Wars movies because, well, it’s Star Wars and I love them all. It’s like ranking your children. Yes, there are some I like slightly better than others, but I don’t want to hurt their feelings by ranking them in writing, lol. I love them all, and I’m sticking to that.

Marvel, on the other hand, is a different story. I fell in love with Marvel last summer, when I decided to catch up on them all when Loki came out. And there are definitely some I love more than others, and I don’t feel particularly bad ranking them. I just haven’t up until now because there’s so many of them, lol, and I hadn’t really thought about it. But I’ve been inspired by other people’s rankings, and thought I might as well add my own to the roster. And it was kind of fun figuring it out; I had to dig a little bit to find out why I liked one more than the other, at least in my own mind. I kept my comments to one line each, trying to make my assessments succinct, and to keep this post from being super long.

Anyway, here’s the list: (first to last)

Top 10: (Superb; always on the rewatch list)

Winner by a long shot.
  • Loki. Duh, it’s Loki. And every episode is excellent; the story and writing is tight.
  • Shang Chi. Absolutely beautiful movie, and a wonderful story of a broken family.
  • Eternals. I can’t help it, I love this movie. Weird and wonderful with interesting characters.
  • Spiderman: No Way Home. Fabulous third Tom Holland outing; nostalgic, heartbreaking.
  • Dr. Strange. My favorite origin story, and favorite character besides Loki. He’s just cool.
  • Infinity War. Thanos’ shenanigans are riveting and our heroes’ response is inspiring. Tragic.
  • Endgame. Our heroes save the universe but at a cost. Epic.
  • What If. Surprisingly wonderful foray into alternate realities, and just plain fun.
  • Thor Ragnarok. Hilarious, fun, a complete joy ride. And Led Zeppelin.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy. Also super fun, and a wonderful soundtrack (I’m old, lol).

Next 10: (Very good; I’ll probably watch again)

  • Avengers. Our heroes come together for the first time, and Loki is so good at being bad.
  • Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman as T’Challah is perfect. Empowering and entertaining.
  • Thor: The Dark World. Loki being bad, then being good. Then being bad again. Love it!
  • Thor. This origin story for Thor and Loki is great. The Loki and Odin scene alone is worth it.
  • Wandavision. Wacky, weird, and wonderful. Wanda is one powerful witch.
  • Hawkeye. A little uneven, but I love Hawkeye, so there. Good transition to Kate.
  • Spiderman: Far From Home. Tom Holland as Spidey is just fun to watch.
  • Spiderman: Homecoming. Same as above, I just liked FFH a little better.
  • Ironman. Good, solid origin story for Tony, our fearless and snarky leader.
  • Black Widow. I didn’t expect to like this one so much, but I did. Red Guardian!

Next 10: (Goes from “Good, I may watch again; to “Not great, I probably won’t watch again)

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Not as good as Vol. 1, but the music is still great.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger. Good origin story for our Captain.
  • Ant Man. Something about Paul Rudd is irresistible. And Scott Lang is just a nice guy.
  • Ant Man and Wasp. Same as above, but still not a great movie. Not bad, but not great.
  • Captain America: Civil War. Painful to see our heroes against each other.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ultron was kind of weird. At least we get Wanda and Vision.
  • Captain Marvel. This movie was fine. I just didn’t really care. Alien cat was the best part.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I love these characters, but this was just boring.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Very boring. Don’t even remember what it was about.
  • Iron Man 3. Again, boring. At least we got Trevor Slattery, aka The Mandarin.

Least favorite of all time: Iron Man 2. Over two hours of Tony being an a**hole.

Tony is a car wreck in this one.

So that’s it. This being a very subjective exercise, you may not agree with me on any part of this list, lol. But I am interested in what you think. What are your top 5 or 10? Give me a whole list, if you want. Or top of the list and bottom of the barrel. Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!

Brief thoughts on my X-Men Movie Marathon

I’ve been casting around for something else to watch that fits my mood lately, and it suddenly struck me that I haven’t seen all of the X-Men movies. I did see the first one when it first came out (in 2000–wow!) and maybe the second one, but that’s about it. I remember liking it, of how it shone a light on those who are born differently and are discriminated against because of it. So I went to Disney+ and scrolled down to “Marvel Legacy Movies,” and started in. Here’s my brief opinions on the films:

X-Men (2000). A solid first entry, setting up the world and the characters. The history between Charles and Eric, the love triangle between Logan, Jean, and Scott, the mysterious past of Wolverine, and the political climate surrounding the Mutants. My favorite Mutant? Mystique, baby! She’s bad, but she’s SO cool.

X-Men 2/X2: X-Men United (2003) A worthy follow-up. The X-Men and Magneto unite to defeat Stryker, a man bent on annihilating all mutants; he also seems to know the particulars of Wolverine’s past. I liked Nightcrawler–he’s very sweet and his faith keeps him from being bitter. Jean Gray’s death was sad, but I feel like we haven’t seen the last of her.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) This was a fairly enjoyable movie, but there was something about it that was unsatisfactory. Bringing Jean Gray back from the dead as a ruthless monster? Well, okay. Not using that beautiful bald kid to stop her at the end? It didn’t make sense to me. Of course, it forced Wolverine to kill the woman he loves, and endure losing her a second time, a love that I never got invested in anyway. Not perfect, but a decent popcorn movie.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) Now this was a great movie. We get Logan’s mysterious past explained, and why he can’t remember any of it. Interesting that he crossed paths with Scott (who was blind at the time, and so wouldn’t recognize him later). Another tragic love story for Logan. I was going to skip the Deadpool movies, as I wasn’t sure how they fit into X-Men, but of course I get it now, so they’re on the list, lol.

X-Men: First Class (2011) I loved this movie. I loved learning how the X-Men began, and seeing the young Charles and Eric forming their friendship and then diverging onto different paths. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are perfect for the roles. My favorite out of all of them, I think.

The Wolverine (2013) I’ll watch this one at a later date and post my thoughts.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) This one was….strange, lol. Dark and weird and a little confusing, but I think I got the gist. I think. It was cool seeing the older Xavier and Magneto and the younger in the same movie, but the plot was kind of absurd. Even so, it changed the timeline, and everything going forward is different. I was a bit startled to see Peter Maximoff–hey, that’s the guy from Wandavision, who was pretending to be Wanda’s brother!–and it just kind of confused me. But I’m going with the flow, lol.

Deadpool (2016) I’ll watch this one at a later date and post my thoughts.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) At first I thought this one was going to be absurd, too, lol, but it turned out pretty good. Poor Eric just can’t catch a break, and my heart breaks for him. I kind of understand why he wants to destroy humanity, the jerks. Also, Peter Maximoff is his son???? I’m happy to see (younger) Nightcrawler back. And what’s up with the new Storm? At the end of Future Past, Halle Berry is there as Storm. More inconsistencies, but oh well. But most importantly, we see how Charles loses his hair.

Logan (2017) I’ll watch this one at a later date and post my thoughts.

Deadpool 2 (2018) I’ll watch this one at a later date and post my thoughts.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) Finally, aliens! This was a good new spin on Jean Gray. I was kind of hoping to see more of Peter Maximoff and maybe Eric finding out he’s his son, but I guess not. Interesting how Mystique became more Raven with these new films, a hero rather than a villain, but she kind of annoyed me. I preferred her as a villain, to be honest.

The New Mutants (2020) I have zero interest in this movie right now. It looks more like a horror film than an X-Men movie, which is fine but not what I want right now.

All in all, I really enjoyed this marathon. It’s fun to see the various mutants, and I love the complicated relationship between Charles and Eric. My favorite character (besides villain Mystique) is Magneto played by Michael Fassbender. My only criticism is that the films lack consistency and are kind of all over the place. I feel like the X-Men arc is kind of Marvel’s warm-up to its Avengers arc, which is superior in a lot of ways.

As I noted, I’ll watch the Wolverine and Deadpool movies later, and do a catch-up post on those.

Have you watched the X-Men movies? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!

My thoughts on Star Wars: Visions

When I heard about Star Wars Visions way back when all the new shows coming up were announced, it was pretty much last on my list concerning my interest level. I’m not an anime fan and don’t know much about it. But even with it at the bottom of my list, I knew I’d at least check it out when it released, out of curiosity if anything.

I’m pleasantly surprised to report that I enjoyed it, for the most part. It’s visually beautiful and looks at Star Wars from a different perspective, one that I found intriguing, for the most part. As I suspected, there were shorts that I really liked, even loved, while others were a little too “out there” for me, lol. Here’s a list of my personal ranking from best to worst, with some brief thoughts on each:

  1. The Elder. I have to admit, I think this is my favorite because of the familiar Star Wars elements, mainly the Jedi Master/Padawan relationship. It looks like it could be right out of the Republic era. Master Taijin reminds me of Qui Gon Jinn (and I think maybe that was intentional), and so of course I loved him. I love that Taijin was voiced by David Harbour, from Stranger Things and Black Widow.
  2. The Duel. I loved the look of this one, and the story was pretty intriguing, too (that’s why I ordered the novel based on it, called Ronin). I want to know this man’s story, and to learn about the alternate Jedi and Sith history.
  3. The Ninth Jedi. I think everyone universally loved this one, and I thought it was great, too. I love the idea of lightsabers changing colors based on who wields it. And it’s ripe for continuation in either more shorts or books or whatever they want to do with it.
  4. The Village Bride. I thought this one was lovely. I recognized the groom’s voice as Christopher Sean, who voiced Kazuda in Star Wars Resistance, which immediately endeared me.
  5. Lop and Ocho. Despite the bunny (not a fan of the cutesy stuff), this one was pretty good. I liked the strained family dynamics, the very cool lightsaber, the adopted kid becoming the father’s heir.
  6. Akakiri. This one committed the ultimate sin of being kind of boring, lol. The main character reminded me of Diego Luna, who plays Cassian Andor, which I thought was interesting even though there’s absolutely no connection, lol.
  7. T0-B1. An obvious Pinocchio allusion, this one was a bit too cutesy for me. I’m intrigued by a droid training as a Jedi, though.
  8. The Twins. Although this one looked cool and the story sounded promising, it was just too much for me. Fighting in the vacuum of space? Riding on top of a ship during hyperspace? The female sibling screaming dramatically and incoherently? No thanks.
  9. Tatooine Rhapsody. Maybe I’m being too harsh on this one, I know some people loved it, but it just didn’t work for me. The singing didn’t interest me, but I could have tolerated it if the Padawan singer actually did some Jedi stuff with his lightsaber microphone. But he didn’t. He just sang. That’s fine, but not enough for me, lol.

All in all, I enjoyed watching these shorts and I’m glad Star Wars was explored through this perspective. Despite looking a little different, they focused on what Star Wars, to me, is all about: Jedi and Sith, The Force, lightsabers (I especially loved the variations on lightsabers–even the microphone one, lol), family, good against evil, dreams and longing, wonder and hope. I’m even up for a Season Two, if it happens.

Let me know what you thought about Star Wars Visions, and we’ll talk about it!

Star Wars Soundtrack: What’s your favorite?

If there’s one thing Star Wars fans can agree on, it’s that the music is spectacular.

When I was in the thick of my Star Wars obsession as a teenager, I had cassettes of the soundtracks of all three original films. I’d pop them into my walkman (a primitive ipod, for you kiddies, lol) and listen to them as I took walks, or even as I fell asleep at night. I could relive the movies this way, in a time when it was harder to come by the movies once they were out of the theater. I knew every note, every theme, every scene each piece represented, and they were burned into my brain. I haven’t listened to the soundtracks in this way for decades, and the only other movies I did this with was The Lord of the Rings movies much later, in my thirties.

But I’ve never forgotten the joy that those soundtracks brought me.

John Williams is, of course, a legend in the Star Wars universe (among many other fandoms and films), and is considered a genius when it comes to scoring iconic movies. I’ve never done a post on the music of Star Wars; I’m not sure why. So I figured it was time. It’s hard to choose among all that glorious music, but I made the agonizing choices below as my five favorite themes (these are arranged chronologically by film release):

It’s interesting that as much as I loved the original score and had memorized every note, I only have one song from the OT here. That’s because, I think, the most iconic themes–the main title theme, The Imperial March, The Force, Binary Sunset, etc–are contained in them, and are no brainers as favorites.

Honestly, I love all the music, and this list could be different tomorrow, and again the next day, depending on my mood, lol. But some very close Honorable Mentions would include:

  • Princess Leia Theme (ANH)
  • Han Solo and The Princess (ESB)
  • The Asteroid Field (ESB)
  • Battle of the Heroes (ROTS)
  • Kylo Ren’s Theme (TFA)

What are some of your favorite Star Wars themes? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!

My Top Ten Star Wars Heroes

I was inspired to write this post from a Star Wars fan group I was scrolling through the other night. I often see the question “What are your top ten favorite Jedi?” or villains or pilots or whatever. But heroes in general? Nope. I had to think about it, because there are a lot of heroes in Star Wars, but how would I rank them and why? So after some thought, I came up with this list, in descending order:

  • Ahsoka Tano

I have to go with Ahsoka at the top of the list. Not only is she an incredible Jedi, but after Order 66 she worked as Fulcrum, the secret contact for the Rebellion during their fight against the Empire. Even after the defeat of the Empire it seems, from events in The Mandalorian, that she’s still working to help those in need, as well as possibly be looking for Ezra (through her search for Thrawn). Her battle against Maul at Mandalore is incredible, her compassion for Rex and the Clones during Order 66 (even though they were trying to kill her) is heartfelt and heartbreaking, and her confrontation with Vader in Rebels is unforgettable. I really can’t think of any flaw in her, lol. Nobody’s perfect, but she’s pretty close. Whether as a Jedi, a spy, or a friend, she’s a great hero.

  • Leia Organa
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Phone Wallpaper | Moviemania

Leia Organa is a true hero of the galaxy, whether as Princess of Alderaan, a Senator (both Imperial and New Republic), a soldier of the Rebellion, or a General of the Resistance. Leia was truly dedicated to helping the galaxy be a better place, whether she was on mercy missions as a young Senator, fighting the Empire in the Rebellion, passing important legislation in the New Republic, or gathering together those who would resist the First Order. Her bravery, her strength in the face of tragedy, and her commitment to the cause is unparalleled. Perhaps her most important act was sacrificing herself for her son Ben Solo, to bring him back to the light. So even as a Mom, Leia was truly heroic!

  • Obi-Wan Kenobi

In every incarnation, whether in the Clone Wars, the prequels, Rebels, or A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a hero. He was a holonet hero (along with Anakin) during the Clone Wars, he discovered the Clones on Kamino and defeated General Grievous in the prequels, defeated Maul in Rebels (and showed compassion to his old Nemesis as well), watched over Luke for what must have been a lonely twenty years on Tatooine, and sacrificed himself to Vader to save Luke in A New Hope. Even after death, his Force ghost was often there to advise Luke. Obi-Wan wasn’t perfect–he made some questionable decisions concerning Anakin when it mattered most–but he always loved him and did what he thought was best. Obi-Wan’s commitment to the Light never wavered, and his impact on the galaxy can’t be overstated.

  • Luke Skywalker

There will be some who think Luke should be higher up in the list, and I get that. Luke is the original hero of Star Wars, after all. He blew up the first Death Star, was a hero of the Rebellion, saved his friend Han from Jabba the Hutt, confronted the Emperor, and brought his father, Darth Vader, back to the light. And don’t get me started on that hallway scene in the Mandalorian! Totally awesome. But, like all humans, Luke had flaws. Or rather, he made some mistakes–most glaringly, after his gaffe with Ben Solo, he retreated from the fight, and from the galaxy, cutting himself off from the Force. Not from cowardice, just regret, and shame, and a firm belief that the Jedi must end. Luckily, he got over that and helped the Resistance at Crait–sacrificing himself so they could get away, in the most Jedi-like way possible. Bravo, Luke.

  • Din Djarin

Din Djarin was just your average bounty hunter (well, possibly an exceptional bounty hunter) until he met a little guy name Grogu, and then he became the Dadalorian. He formed a strong, yet tender, bond with this special child, and would do anything to protect him. Even if it meant giving him up, he would do what was best for Grogu. As most parents do–in the end, we have to let them go. Which isn’t heroic, just necessary, but Din was definitely heroic in his quest to protect Grogu from those who would harm/take him, and to get him where he ultimately belonged–with a Jedi. Not that we sobbed or anything when the time came for Grogo to go with Luke, lol. I’m eager to see what kind of hero he’ll be to the Mandalorians in future seasons of the show.

  • Rey

Rey is the hero of the sequel trilogy, becoming the last hope for the Jedi as the First Order grows in power. She joins the Resistance and becomes fast friends with Finn and Poe, as well as forming a strong bond with Leia, who takes her on as an apprentice. Rey is the only person, besides Leia herself, who believes Ben Solo can be turned back to the light. When she fatally injures him on Kef Bir, she instantly turns around and Force heals him, showing a compassion that defines her. On Exegol, she defeats Palpatine with the help of the Jedi who came before, nearly giving her life to do it. With Palpatine gone, the Sith Eternal and the First Order fall, freeing the galaxy from evil once again.

  • Han Solo

Despite his smuggler/scoundrel status, Han Solo early on becomes one of the bigger heroes of the galaxy. No matter how he might prefer to think of himself, he’s got a big heart and always ends up doing the right thing. He comes back at the last minute to help Luke blow up the first Death Star, becomes a General in the Rebellion and leads the attack on Endor, ultimately being successful in that mission, allowing the second Death Star to be destroyed. He helps free the Wookiees from the waning Empire on Kashyyyk. When the First Order threatens the galaxy, he plays his part to help, but loses his life in trying to bring his son back from the Dark. He begins the saga as a pilot for hire who’s in it for the money; he ends it with sacrificing himself for love.

  • Chewbacca

Wherever Han Solo is, there is Chewbacca. Whenever we talk about loyalty in Star Wars, we must talk about Chewie. A copilot, a good shot with a bowcaster, a steadfast friend. When Han helped save him from the Imperials in Solo, he owed Han a life debt, and stood by his side for many years. Chewie helped his friends during the Rebellion, and then went back home for awhile to be with his newly freed family on Kashyyyk. He eventually found his way back to Han Solo, and once again stood against tyranny and fought the First Order.

  • R2D2

Okay, so maybe R2 should be at the top of the list. Because without this little droid, our heroes wouldn’t have gotten very far. His very first act on screen is to get the Death Star plans from Princess Leia and get them off the Tantive IV, away from the Imperials and into the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine. In every movie and in the Clone Wars, he’s always plugging into some data portal or other and gathering information, making doors open or close, distracting the enemy, and whatnot. In the sequel trilogy he’s largely absent, powered down since Luke disappeared, but he carries the last piece of the map to Luke’s location inside him. He’s a feisty, brave little astromech, with plenty of grit and attitude. He also has the patience (most of the time) to put up with Threepio’s insufferable complaining. Now that’s heroic.

  • Kanan Jarrus (and the entire Ghost crew).

Kanan Jarrus is one of my favorite Jedi, and he, along with the rest of the Ghost crew–Hera, Sabine, Zeb, Chopper, and of course, Ezra–belongs on this list of heroes. Kanan used to be Caleb Dume, a Jedi Padawan who survived Order 66. The experience haunted him, and at first, he tried to forget who and what he was in order to survive. But once he met up with Hera, he decided to help those in need, and then later, become an important part of the Rebellion against the Empire. He stumbled around at first in training Ezra, but eventually found his groove, and his own Padawan became a hero of Lothal–freeing that world from the Empire’s grip. Kanan sacrificed himself to save those he loved, and it’s one of the most painful deaths for me in Star Wars.

Honorable mentions:

  • the entire Rogue One crew
  • Clone Wars Anakin Skywalker
  • Captain Rex
  • Bail Organa
  • Lando Calrissian
  • Poe Dameron and Finn

I could go on and on. There’s so many great heroes in Star Wars, people doing what is necessary to make the galaxy a better place.

What about Yoda? He’s a great Jedi Master, and I do love him. But let’s face it, he was the head of the Jedi Order when it fell. He made mistakes. Instead of following the Force, he followed the “rules” of the Jedi. He got the Jedi involved in politics and in a pointless war. Yes, they were all duped and drawn in by Sidious, but come on. He was their leader, hundreds of years old and ostensibly “wise.” So I can’t call him a hero, at least not until he trains Luke, and at that point, any Jedi could have done it. His wisdom comes after the fact. But I still love the guy, lol.

Who are your favorite Star Wars heroes? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!