Monthly Archives: August 2011

Rue’s Lullaby: The scene we need to see in "The Hunger Games"

Contains spoilers for “The Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

“Tonight it sends me Rue, still decked in her flowers, perched in a high sea of trees, trying to teach me to talk to the mockingjays. I see no sign of her wounds, no blood, just a bright, laughing girl. She sings songs I’ve never heard in a clear, melodic voice. On and on. Through the night. There’s a drowsy in-between period when I can hear the last few strains of her music although she’s lost in the leaves.”
“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
Pg. 235-6)

With any movie based off a book, each fan has a particular part they wish to see. For example, I wanted to see Fred Weasley’s death in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.” I felt that this scene helped solidify Harry’s resolve to meet Voldemort. Harry’s determination to stop others from dying for him is a major theme of the entire series. Watching Fred die, someone close to his age and like family, was necessary to back up the point. Unfortunately, all we saw was Fred’s corpse. Another set of books will arrive on the big screen next spring with its own variety of vital, emotional scenes: The Hunger Games trilogy.

Countless moments stood out to me while reading “The Hunger Games.” Had someone asked me immediately after I finished reading the book what scene I wanted to see the most, I’m not sure what my answer would have been. The parade? The Cornucopia? The berries? Now I now: Rue’s dying scene.

That Rue, the young Tribute from District 11, died was no surprise. Her death acted like a turning point in the novel.

While Rue lies on the ground dying, she asks Katniss to sing to her. Katniss complies, singing a sweet, comforting lullaby. Tears fall from her eyes and her voice grows quieter as she sings Rue to her final resting place. Katniss then lines Rue’s lifeless body with wildflowers. Between the song and the flowers, Katniss shows the people of Capitol that the ones the government continues to abuse are human, are real people. Her actions make the reader wonder if a spectator had a second thought about watching children die for entertainment.

With any book to movie adaptation fans fear the changes. I hope that this scene is included in the film exactly as Suzanne Collins wrote it in the book. To lose such a powerful moment would harm the story.

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REVIEW: Fate of the Jedi: Ascension

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Fate of the Jedi: Ascension by Christie Golden loses the ability to keep readers by glorifying domestic abuse.

Around the halfway point in the book, Ben Skywalker forces his way into Vestara Khai’s room aboard the Jade Shadow. When she won’t reveal what she is doing, he takes her wrists forcefully. Vestara fights back and Ben strikes her cheek with a Force-slap. They continue to struggle until Ben restrains her with her sheets. He then reads the letters she had written. Ben feels shameful for reading her letters, but not for striking or restraining Vestara. A few minutes later, the two cuddle in bed and kiss. Vestara references the latter part of the evening towards the end of the book-with no mention of Ben’s violent behavior. The message? Domestic violence is okay. It will end in romance.

It’s not off base to think that Vestara is used to this type of behavior. Her father refers to her mother as a “good Sith wife” and acts condescending to her. She acts like someone who may have experience in that type of situation. Vestara simply gives up and allows Ben to do as he wishes.

The scene feels surreal. The concept that Ben Skywalker could strike a woman is downright insane. Expanded Universe fans know that Ben did not grow up in an abusive household. It’s beyond out of character. Luke and Mara’s son would never dream of doing such an act.

Character issues are the minor problem. The fact remains that domestic abuse is part of Star Wars with NO CONSEQUENCES. At no point should domestic abuse be seen as a good thing. It’s bad enough that women are continuously shoved down in the Expanded Universe. Adding a scene of positive abuse alienates the female audience even more.

I expect more from Del Rely and Lucas Books. That they allowed this horrible sequence to be published is disturbing and inexcusable.

Star Wars is ultimately the story of good versus evil. Heroes do not beat their spouses. They do not shove the people they care for down in a fit of rage. That is the activity for a horrible villain. Showing a future hero- the son of Luke Skywalker, no less- hurt the woman that he claims to care about in anger hurts the character, the brand and the book.

Ascension is plagued with side plots that would have been interesting if written properly. For example, the showdown between Imperial Head of State Jagged Fel and Former Chief of State Natasi Daala brings in an element that any fan of Fel will love. The stilted dialogue and glossed over space battle detract from what could have been a fantastic sequence. This is just one of the many sequences Golden doesn’t describe. She changes or adds in details with little or no explanation to fit the situation.

The book lacks a feeling of “doom” or “worry.” Abeloth is still dull. The little bit of characterization we seen makes her appear pathetic and petty. The Lost Tribe of the Sith are just unbelievable. Beings that escape isolation after thousands of years do not understand the galaxy enough to pose a threat. Their archaic lifestyle is highlighted at the beginning of the book with ceremony and masquerade. Reading these events was like watching a group of believers greet aliens for the first time or the Ewoks fawning over C-3PO.

The editing in Ascension is better than it was in Allies. Golden does use far too many clauses and repeats information a little too much. Her constant use of food becomes distracting. How many times must she discuss food in one book? Her understanding of the characters in the Star Wars universe often falls flat, especially regarding dialogue. Too many lines sound like they belong in the mouths of other people. When adding to the Star Wars universe, it’d vital to have an understanding of at least the voice of a character.

It’s clear that Vestara and the Lost Tribe of the Sith are her favorites, as they are all more developed and more intelligent than the other characters. Vestara, for example, continuously outsmarts Luke. A girl of her age could not logically take down Luke Skywalker.

Golden also uses far too many movie tie-ins. The constant references seem more like a way to say, “Yes, I do know Star Wars” than to provide amusement like Allston’s references did in Conviction.

Readers wanting a fun, interesting, worthy story in the Star Wars universe should stay away from Ascension. Its contents have forever marred the beloved fandom with an ugly, harmful moment of glorified domestic abuse.

And quite frankly, that’s enough of a reason not to buy the book.

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Captain America: Too Perfect to be Interesting

Tonight I met another member of The Avengers. At first, I was charmed by Steve Rogers, the man who wanted to serve his country but wasn’t physically able. Too soon, though, Rogers became the man with no faults. He ran the fastest. He could swim like a dolphin. His reflexes never failed. His aim was never off. Women wanted him. He sweat liquid gold (okay not really, but you get my point).

He was boring. In the beginning, his friend Bucky mentioned that Rogers had something to prove, but it was never mentioned again. The audience could infer that he wanted to live up to his father, who died of mustard gas or that he wanted to prove that a scrawny kid from Brooklyn could defend America. This message wasn’t clear, though.

Rogers physical weaknesses weren’t enough to give him any real faults. (SPOILER) Even when Bucky died, it wasn’t a weakness on Roger’s part. It’s not like there was anything he could do. That’s not a weakness; it’s an unpleasant fact of life- and war. (END OF SPOILER)

It was too easy for Captain America to beat his enemies. Of course, he is going to win, but it’d be nice to see him break a sweat. He took some punches, but they didn’t make a real difference. At least Iron Man and Thor have faults. Their faults are part of why they are interesting characters. Even a fear of heights would have given Captain America a little depth.

The problem with a perfect superhero is that nothing is a challenge. When he can easily beat any foe, the audience has no reason to worry. There’s no suspense. Why would I watch a movie if I know that all it will take is a couple punches and the hero wins? Even if I know the hero will survive, the fights needs be difficult. I want to see a hero have to use all of his wits. I want to see a hero fight to overcome some weakness or personal flaw in order to beat the villain. That is interesting storytelling. Watching the perfect person kick the enemy a few times and declare victory is boring. It adds nothing to the character.

The movie was tolerable. The villain, Johann Schmidt/Red Skull, wasn’t fleshed out enough. It was clear that he was nuts, but there was no real information about the tesseract he uncovered. I admit, I found it amusing that Red Skull resembled a Yuuzhan Vong without tattoos or implants. The best parts were the war bond rallies and seeing so much of Howard Stark.

The entire movie felt like a quick briefing of who Captain America is. The end is rushed, and leaves out some information. (Spoiler: Like exactly how he survived the crash.)

Captain America is essentially what the army made him: the perfect tool of patriotism and physical ability. Unfortunately, no personality was injected into his veins.

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Paul S. Kemp’s "Deceived" places readers in mind’s eye of a Sith

Within the first 35 pages of Paul S. Kemp’s Star Wars The Old Republic Deceived, Darth Malgus reveals to readers the reason why there will always be Sith in the galaxy. Malgus needs to kill and reveals that he would kill allies if necessary. His bloodlust appears in several parts of the books, like when he mentions the need for constant war. Following Malgus through “Deceived” is like watching footage of a video game. He’s slightly overpowered, and determined to finish his mission.

In addition to the Sith, Kemp introduces a down-on-his-luck smuggler, Zeerid Korr, and a conflicted Jedi Knight, Aryn Leneer. Zeerid isn’t as rough and dangerous as other smugglers seen in the Star Wars universe. Zeerid’s need for credits is honorable, making him the most sympathetic character in the book. This difference provides a refreshing feel to smugglers as a group. Readers wanting to see a powerful or traditional Jedi will be disappointed. While Aryn goes through realistic human emotions, her decisions lack the control and dedication associated with the Jedi.

The smuggler, trooper and Imperial agent classes are referenced, making the book a strong tie-in for Star Wars The Old Republic.

The books plot flows well and is easy to follow. Kemp describes all of the encounters in a way that fans of lightsaber fights and aerial dogfights will enjoy.

Deceived is ultimately a book for the Sith. Malgus’s overpowered actions make some parts of the book seem surreal and over the top. Fortunately, the excellent characters balance out these flaws, making “Deceived” a worthy addition to the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

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