I’m flying solo for this mini-ish episode, among other things I get into the series finale of one of my favorite shows, Star Wars Rebels. I also cover some oStar Wars Expanded Universe stuff and some other cool news, like the new costumes the X-Men will wear in the new X-Men Dark Phoenix movie and more! Enjoy! Listen here or subscribe on iTunes:
I’m sure I’m not alone when I sometimes look back at things that I loved as a kid and wonder if they hold up. Unfortunately many don’t. Some people look back at the X-Men Animated series or Spider-Man The Animated Series fondly, but there are only two show that I know of that are as good as you remember and hold up to this day: Batman The Animated Series and Gargoyles. We’ve talked and written about Batman The Animated Series A LOT here at World’s Best Media, because it fucking rules. Probably the best animated series ever produced. But believe it or not, Gargoyles May be damn worthy second.
This show has enjoyed a cult following for years and I’ve always been a big fan. But what prompted me to write about the show, was the entire series recently became available on iTunes. When the show was released on DVD years ago, Disney never released the whole show. This was at least 10 -15 years ago and due to demand from the cult following of the show, the final season was finally given a barebones DVD release a year or two ago. I think Disney put the show on iTunes because they’re thinking of using the property in some way and this one way to gauge audience interest. They’ve been remaking a lot of their animated catalogue into live action films lately and the show certainly lends itself to live action adaptation. It would make a pretty cool franchise if they skew adult. Or they could be doing another animated show? Or it’s just an iTunes release. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear some talk from Disney about a movie or something. As I said, done the right way it would make very cool franchise. It’s dark, complex, thought provoking show with great characters and an excellent mythology.
The epic saga of the Gargoyles, a mythic clan of winged creatures — who come alive at night and turn to stone at sunrise — continues with all-new adventures entitled, “Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles,” coming to ABC Saturday Mornings, beginning September 7 at 11:30 AM (ET)/10:30 AM (PT). For additional information contact: Ray Slay Director, Photography Walt Disney Television DD. 818.560.4168 FX. 818.566.6566 E-Mail. firstname.lastname@example.org
Allow me to refresh your memory on this excellent TV show and then I’m going to tell you why it’s still so good and groundbreaking: On the series, Gargoyles , like the stone statues you see in castles and churches, are a noble and intelligent race of warrior beings that turn to stones by day (almost like hibernating in a cocoon) and come alive at night. Though they cant outright fly, they have strong claws and wings that allow them to glide if they get high enough. Though mostly feared by the humans who see them as monsters, their nature is to protect life. I always thought the really cool monologue that played over the opening credits explained it well: One thousand years ago. Superstition and the sword ruled. It was a time of darkness. It was a world of fear. It was the age of Gargoyles. Stone by day. Warriors by night. Betrayed by the humans we had sworn to protect. That gives you gist of it more or less.
Gargoyles begins in Scotland in 994 A.D Following a particular clan of Gargoyles that protect Castle Wyvern on the Scottish coast. Led by Goliath (voiced by Keith David) the story’s protagonist, the Gargoyles have an uneasy alliance with the humans they live alongside. In exchange for protection while they sleep during the day, vulnerable in stone form, the Gargoyles protect the castle from any attackers, including the that Vikings have begun to invade Scotland.
After one Viking attack is easily repelled by the Gargoyles, the humans (including the castle ruler, Princess Katherine) still look down on them as nothing but unnatural beasts. Princess Katherine’s chief adviser is The Magus, a young sorcerer who distrusts the Gargoyles. Demona (Marina Sirtis, Troia from Star Trek: The Next Generation), Goliath’s second in command and the human Captain of the castle guard (I don’t think he’s called anything but Captain) are disgusted at the way they were treated. After all, without the help of the Gargoyles, everyone in the castle would have been captured or killed by the Vikings. Goliath sees that it’s in the nature of humans to fear what they don’t understand and though bothered by it, shrugs the incident off.
Demona is also Goliath’s lover (they don’t really have marriage) and though she loves him, her hatred for humans has festered over the years. Demona and The Captain strike a deal with the Vikings, attack during the day and sack they castle taking their spoils and killing whoever they want. When the Gargoyles wake up, the humans will be gone and they’ll have the castle all to themselves. But the plan goes tragically wrong. Demona tries to get Goliath to take the entire clan and hunt down the Vikings and their leader Hakon, in the woods. Goliath thinks a small sneak attack with his old mentor, the battle hardened gargoyle Hudson, is a better idea. Despite Demona’s protesting, almost the entire clan is left vulnerable when the Vikings attack the next morning. Far too late Goliath, backing him up, realizes something is very wrong, but the sun rises and they’re far away from the castle during the attack. Though The Captain tries to stop him, saying this wasn’t part of the plan, helpless in their stone form Hakkon and the Vikings slaughter the entire clan.
The next night Goliath heads back to find the castle burning and his clan dead. Besides Goliath and Demona, only five other gargoyles from the clan survived. Three young, male Gargoyles, Brooklyn, Broadway, and Lexington, Bronx a different breed of gargoyle that’s more like a dog, and Hudson (The modern names are explained later in the film length first episode). Demona, ashamed and horrified at what she’s done, allows Goliath to believe she died in the massacre. The Vikings kidnaped the Princess, The Magus, and some of the villagers. Hakkon plans to ransom the Princess to her Uncle, The King. But Goliath is out for blood.
The Gargoyles find the Viking camp and Hakkon and The Captain run off with the Princess. While the other Gargoyles finish off the Vikings and save the villagers, Goliath goes after Hakkon. When he finds them near cliff overlooking the ocean, Goliath is horrified that The Captain, a man he believed to be his friend, betrayed him. A fight ensues and Hakkon and The Captain fall to their deaths, but even after all he’s been through Goliath saves the Princess from falling as well, robbing him from a more satisfying revenge.
Back at the Viking camp, the Vikings defeated and the villagers free, The Magus mistakenly believes that Princess Katherine was killed in the conflict between Goliath, Hakkon, and The Captain. In his grief, he casts a spell on the Gargoyles that turns them to stone permanently, day and night, seemingly forever. When Goliath returns with The Princess, The Magus sees that he’s made a horrifying mistake. The book that could reverse the spell was burned by the Vikings and the spell was designed so the Gargoyles would “Sleep until the castle rises above the clouds…”
After bringing each of his remaining stone Gargoyle friends back to the castle, Goliath does not want to live in a world where he is truly alone. He asks The Magus to cast his spell one more time and Goliath joins his surviving fiends in a never ending stone sleep. As for Demona, well you’ll just have to watch the show…
One Thousand Years Later…
Castle Wyvern. Present Day. The Castle and everything inside (including the still intact stone Gargoyles) have been bought by American billionaire David Xanatos, voiced perfectly by Jonathan Frakes AKA Ryker from Star Trek: The Next Generation. In fact one of the best things about the show is the phenomenal voice work and the excellent talent they managed to attract. The people who wrote the show must have been big Star Trek: The Next Generation fans because a lot of actor from that series play characters on Gargoyles. In fact, this would be a great time to point out the incredible voice talent the show attracted. Well known voice performers, fantastic character, actors and few bigger names make up the cast that includes: Keith David, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Ed Asner, Brent Spiner, Matt Frewer, Bill Fagerbakke, Jonathan Rhys-Davies, Tim Curry, David Warner, Thomas F. Wilson, Kate Mulgrew, and Jim Belushi just to name a few. That’s a hell of a cast and that isn’t even all of the notable voice actors.
Anyway, Xanatos is definitely one of the most interesting characters on the show. He’s kind of a mix of Lex Luthor, Tony Stark, and a little bit of Doctor Doom. He’s extremely intelligent, machiavellian, and charming. He’s the guy who’s 10 steps ahead of everybody else in the room. He may not be completely trustworthy , but he’s such a cool, likable character that you can’t help rooting for this guy a little bit, despite how shady he is. He’s one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. A self made man, who built one of the largest corporations in the world. With defense contracts, cutting edge robotics, genetics, and much more.
He’s kinda, sorta the “villain”, but things aren’t that black-and-white. Which is another excellent thing about this show. It doesn’t talk down to its audience with characters that are clearly all good and clearly all evil. The entire cast includes well-rounded, interesting individuals with complex personalities and motivations. None of the characters are all good or all bad. This kind of moral complexity shows the maturity of the storytelling.
The New York City skyscraper that’s both his home and company headquarters is tallest building in the world. As part of an astronomically massive project, Xanatos has Castle Wyvern taken apart piece by piece and reassembled atop his New York skyscraper. Which just so happens to be high enough that it’s above the New York clouds. As the spell says the Gargoyles will “Sleep until the castle rises above the clouds…”
You’re probably asking yourself exactly why he’s doing this. Why would he want to break the spell? What does he have to gain? He has multiple reasons that play out across the series, so I don’t want to say too much, but it’s not out of sheer curiosity. You’d have to be 100% certain that magic and all kinds of other crazy shit is real before even thinking about doing this. Let’s just say you don’t fly a castle from Scotland halfway across the world and rebuild it onto a skyscraper without a pretty fucking good reason.
I should take this time to point out that a Scottish castle atop a cutting-edge New York skyscraper could be the coolest fucking headquarters of any villain or hero in all of fictIon. That’s some badass shit. Once the castle is completely reassembled back in New York, the Gargoyles are brought back to their posts on the castle towers and Xanatos waits for nightfall. He is not disappointed. The spell is broken and the Gargoyles awaken. Xanatos tries to explain what’s happened and how long it’s been, even though Goliath knows that by the very nature of his situation the world he’s woken up to will probably be a different one, nothing can compare prepare him in the other Gargoyles for seeing New York City below them instead of the Scottish coast. Adding to an already bad situation is the realization that people of the modern world have almost completely forgotten about magical and supernatural creatures. Xanatos tells them they’re the last of their kind, Gargoyles are essentially extinct except for Goliath and his Clan (fortunately, we find out later in the series, that may not be true).
Shortly after the Gargoyles have awakened into this strange new world, we meet police detective Elisa Maza. Goliath and the other Gargoyles meet Elisa after some crazy shit goes down at the castle. After everything that went down a thousand years ago with The Captain, Goliath is reluctant to put his trust in any human again. But he knows he’ll need to trust someone in this modern world for his clan to survive and he’s smart enough to know he’s better off with Elisa than Xanatos. As the series unfolds, she becomes like family to the Gargoyles and develops a profound and deep bond with Goliath in particular.
Eventually when it’s clear that living in the castle with Xanatos isn’t safe, the move to a closed clock tower above the police station Elisa works out of (conivently the night shift). From their new home in the clock tower the Gargoyles view New York City as their new castle. It’s in a Gargoyle’s nature to protect and they intend to do just that in their new home. As time goes on, Elias’ part of the Clan for all intents and purposes. As the rest of Gargoyles begin to acclimate to life in 20th Century New York, we begin to get to know them a bit more. Goliath was unusual when it comes to Gargoyles, the humans of the Castle gave him a name, but typically Gargoyles don’t have names. In keeping with this new life, in this new world they live in the rest of the gargoyles all pick modern names. Like the 3 young Gargoyles: Brooklyn: a natural leader, Broadway: friendly and loving the different foods of the modern world, Lexington: who becomes fascinated with computers and electronics. As well as their experienced, but past his prime mentor Hudson, and their guard dog Bronx. I wanted to give a deeper exploration of the rest of Goliath’s clan, but if I take the time to describe each one this article would be way too long. So for now, at least you have the bare bones of who the rest of the Goliath’s clan consist of.
Probably the most important relationship on the show is between Goliath and Elisa. The show has a great ensemble of characters, like the other Gargoyles, villains, and allies, but Goliath and Elisa are the heart of the show. They’re kindred spirits. Their values are the same, but just like real people, they waver at times. I would be so easy for either of them, and all of the Gargoyles for that matter, to be consumed by the darkness and death that has been such a large part of their lives. Ultimately, they believe in fighting for justice in a world that they know is broken, but they continue the good fight every day (or night) anyway. They may seem different on the outside, but they’re both protectors at their core and the bond that grows between them goes beyond the physical. Also, Elisa is another great example of how this show was ahead of it’s time. She’s a smart, tough, interesting character. Even though she find herself constantly in situations where she’s fighting WAY out of her weight class, she’s never a damsel in distress. She’s also mixed race, her mother is African American and her father is Native American. Though her cultural heritage is touched upon in important ways several times in the show, her race doesn’t define her. We don’t have enough of these types of characters in our pop culture today, it’s even more impressive her character existed almost 25 years ago. I think the fact that she wasn’t just another stock white, cookie cutter, female protagonist isn’t only more compelling to watch, but it also informs her relationship with Goliath and the other Gargoyles. Hating someone just because of who and what they are is a big theme in the series. Racism and sexism are both very real problems in American today and it would have been much worse 25 years ago. From their very first meeting forward, the relationship between Goliath and Elisa deepens because they see so much of themselves in each other.
What makes Goliath a hero isn’t that he fights bad guys. It’s the fact that he’s face genocide, betrayal, and loss on a scale that would be hard to imagine, but in spite of all that he still fights to do good, to protect. The darkness of the story is never swept under the rug. Goliath and the rest of his clan are forever haunted by the massacre at Castle Wyvern and it informs many of the choices Goliath makes throughout the series. This certainly isn’t the type of deep material you’d expect on the old Disney Afternoon. In a Season 2 episode, Xanatos comes to Goliath asking for help when Fox, a woman Xanatos is truly in love with, is in mortal danger. Goliath and Elisa consider are very reluctant to help because they know how untrustworthy Xanatos is, after all this could be some kind of con. But Goliath ultimately decides to help, saying “If Xanatos is telling the truth… If someone like him can love, perhaps there still is some hope for this world.”. That’s one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite episodes of the show. It tells you a lot about Goliath, how he sees the world, and his belief in the power of love and redemption.
Gradually, Goliath and Elisa clearly fall in love with one another. Out of all the Gargoyles, he looks the most human. Almost like a muscular man, it reminds me of Hellboy and Liz Sherman. They may be different species, but anatomically I get this sense that Goliath and Elisa could have sex, but definitely not biological children. The fact that show goes there at all is another testament to the quality of this incredible story. By the end of the series, they move past their physical differences that they felt kept them from being together. Though it’s not explicitly spelled out for us, they share a moment together toward the end of the show that tells the audience that their relationship has fundamentally changed. They seem to acknowledge their love for each other and it’s strongly implied that moving forward they’re together as a couple.
Watching this show as a kid, I was blown away. It goes in so many interesting directions, incorporating mythology, folklore, sci-fi, and even Shakespeare to build a universe unlike anything else I’d seen before or since. So many of the things that I love today are concepts I was first introduced to by watching Gargoyles. If you do check out the show (and you should), I cant even begin to describe how the world and mythology of the show becomes so much bigger that what I’ve written about here. Any given episode could have the Gargoyles facing Cyborgs, Artificial Intelligences, Aliens, Hybrid monsters created through genetic engineering another episode could find them facing Odin and other pagan gods, The Loch Ness Monster, Dark Elves, and even King Arthur. It may sound crazy, but it all works in the best way. Probably my favorite creation of the show is the concept of “Oberon’s Children”, “The Third Race” of the planet after Gargoyles and Humans. They’re dangerous beings of pure magic that play an intricate part in the series.
Much like Batman: The Animated Series, it’s hard to think of exactly who the audience for this show was. In fact, Gargoyles gets away with WAY more than any animated show I can think of that wasn’t explicitly made for adults. For example, the characters get the occasional minor swear in. In one of the first few episodes, when Xanatos is having the castle taken apart in Scotland, his assistant comments that it was difficult to find workers for this project because the locals believe the castle to be haunted. Xanatos replies “Pay a man enough and he’ll walk barefoot through Hell”, “that may not seem like particularly strong language, but even that is extremely unusual for a show like this.
The level of violence shown on screen is much higher than you would expect as well. Most cartoons never show anyone actually dying, but people get killed left and right on Gargoyles. Pretty brutally in fact. Full on medieval battles are shown. People get stabbed and shot. One guy has his face set on fire followed immediately with his head exploding. It’s not just the deaths that were brutal either. In one episode Demona maims a kid’s face with her claws just because he gets in her way. All of this adds up to a very unique and captivating show that is absolutely worth revisiting.
While the first season is a strong set up for things to come, it’s really the second season where the show becomes something incredible and the narrative becomes incredibly ambitious. Regardless, definitely give Gargoyles a try if you’re curious. If you liked it as a kid, it absolutely holds up and it’s very cheap on iTunes. As always, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this look back at Gargoyles!
Don’t forget to check out our Amazon Affiliate link below if you want pick up Gargoyle’s on DVD! (no Blu-Ray yet, sadly).
For the past few weeks rumors have bounced around Hollywood that Disney was in serious talks to buy the film and television divisions of 20th Century Fox. Now, it seems that after weeks of negotiation, this deal will become a reality.
If you’re sharp and pay attention to this kind of thing (and World’s Best Media) you may have already put 2 and 2 together and realized why I might be pretty happy about this news. After all Disney owns Marvel Studios which gives us the Marvel Cinematic Universe and from the beginning, the MCU didn’t have access to key Marvel characters like the X-MEN, Fantastic Four, and until recently, Spider-Man. The film rights to X-Men and FF are held by 20th Century Fox. On paper this would mean everyone is coming home to Marvel. However, I’m not as enthusiastic about this deal as you may think…
After the utter shit show that was Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony who still owns the film rights to Spider-Man, made the very smart move of making their current deal with Marvel Studios, Which means that Marvel Studios has our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man swinging around with The Avengers (at least for a few more films, but something tells me that will be extended) as well as creative control of the Spider-Man movies they’re making.
Now, if Sony had handled Spider-Man pretty poorly before their Marvel Studios deal, then Fox has handled the Fantastic Four like a deliberate train wreck. Fantastic Four and it’s sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer aren’t going to be on anyone’s list of the all time great superhero films. But last years attempted reboot, FF, made those films look like The Dark Knight. For studio’s to retain the rights to these characters they need to keep making movies within a certain period of time before the rights revert back to Marvel. I don’t think anyone thought Fox was going to throw away hundreds of millions of dollars on another sad attempt to develop a film from a property that they clearly don’t understand. My point is that eventually, something similar to the Spider-Man deal would have been worked out with Marvel, if not the rights reverting back to Marvel Studios outright.
(My God, seriously, these movies are SO, SOOOOO bad. Just… What the fuck?!)
When Bryan Singer was making the the 1st X-men film, it was clear FOX that didn’t understand what they had. The movie had a a pretty small budget compared to the Superhero juggernauts we see today. So (even though it was released in July, the heart of tent pole, summer block busters) they didn’t have much faith in the movie. Ryan McDonald (World’s Best Media contributor) once said to me that the first X-MEN film is a science fiction movie and not really a superhero film. I always thought that was a great observation and if you rewatch X-MEN as a sci-fi movie, it works a little better than superhero film. X2 on the other hand felt much more like a superhero film, as well as feeling much more like the X-MEN Comics.
The first X-Men film doesn’t get nearly enough credit for creating the Golden Age of comic book movies that exists today. As the superhero movie making process began to drastically change after X-MEN was released in 2000, The X-MEN films have always been there chugging along. In the 17 years since X-MEN was released there have been 10 X-MEN movies counting Deadpool. This is a series that has had major highs and lows. But lately something really great has been happening to the X-MEN franchise, which brings to my main point: I don’t want the X-MEN part of The MCU (for a couple of reasons).
First, in a time when every damn studio is looking to emulate Marvel’s golden model of a “shared universe”, The X-MEN movies have been doing the “shared universe”-thing without even trying. Anyone who reads comics knows that The X-MEN have so many decades of characters, storylines, spin-offs, crossovers, and events that they’re a universe unto themselves in Marvel Comics. My point is that though they are very much Marvel characters, there’s so damn much going on in the comics to cherry pick from for the movies, The X-MEN films don’t need the MCU to be successful. The X-MEN are a never ending stream of characters and stories. Think about everything that’s happened in The X-MEN film franchise and imagine if that was part of the MCU. It would be a goddamn mess.The X-MEN mythology is too big and unwieldy to dump into the MCU. It would just be too much. Yes, it would be cool to see Wolverine and Beast, two classic Avengers members, on the team. And yeah, sure it’d be cool to have the Avengers face off against Magneto and a cool version of The Brotherhood. In the end, it wouldn’t be worth it though. Even in the comics, The X-MEN are kind of off in their own little corner right now.
(Look at all this! It’s madness!!!)
Second, Fox is doing so many interesting things with The X-MEN in film and TV it would be a shame to stifle and censor the creativity that we’ve seen in the franchise lately. Legion on FX was on of the years best shows and one if the most wildly unique comic book adaptations that I’ve ever seen. Logan could be nominated for or even win an Academy Award with incredible performances from Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart (Seriously, it would be a crime if Hugh Jackman doesn’t get awards attention for this unforgettable movie). Then of course we have Deadpool which would NEVER, EVER, EVER be made if it was in the MCU at the time. Legion, Logan, and Deadpool are some of the best superhero stories ever made. Fox is taking bold risks with their X-MEN properties. With projects like the upcoming New Mutants movie being a straight up horror film with X-Men characters in it, it seem like this studio is willing to do the type of out of the box super hero stories that will keep comic book adaptations alive. Comic Books aren’t a genre, they’re a storytelling medium and the projects I listed above are proof of that. Hell, Logan might as well be a straight up western.
I will admit that the silver lining for me is that Marvel Studios will have access to the Fantastic Four which I desperately want to be part of The MCU. Seeing Tony Stark and Reed Richards, two of the comic book world’s biggest pieces of shit, finally on screen together recklessly causing more problems than they solve would be a delight. Of course, seeing The Avengers fight Doctor Dom would be fucking amazing. But The X-Men and The MCU don’t need each other right now. Maybe someday, but not now.
I will say that I think it’s a good thing that Marvel never had access to their A-list characters like the X-Men and Spider-Man when they first started the MCU. Instead they had to use lesser-known characters like Captain America and Iron Man, which forced them to be more creative and pull more deeply from the rich roster of characters that Marvel has. Which would’ve meant we’d most likely never have gotten something like the wonderful Guardians of the Galaxy on the big screen.
Obviously this is out of my hands, I don’t know if they’re going to somehow make an attempt to put the existing X-Men universe into the MCU or if they’re going to treat the X-Men as brand new characters that we’ve never seen before in this universe. I think if they do decide to make the X-Men part of the MCU, the smartest way to go would be to recast and go in a complete different direction than what’s been done before. It’s going to happen anyway one way or another. At the end of the day I’ll be happy if they finally get fucking Doctor Doom right at the very least.
After months of waiting, It’s finally here! Star Wars Episode VIII The Last Jedi has hit theatres at last! We couldn’t wait to dive into this podcast. This Episode is so EPIC that I needed TWO guest co-hosts to handle it! (Unfortunately Tim was out of town this weekend).With me on the show is long time World’s Best Media contributor Ryan McDonald; as well as friend and supporter of World’s Best Media, Mr. Matt Supple. This episode is FULL SPOILERS!!! And there’s A LOT to unpack. So, wait until after you’ve seen the movie (or if you don’t care). There was a lot to unpack and go over, but I think we did a good job. Enjoy! Listen here or on iTunes :
Here’s the next in our series of articles looking back at the Star Wars Saga. Today we look back at the one, the only, the ORIGINAL, STAR WARS EPISODE IV A NEW HOPE. This excellent article is written by our very own Ryan McDonald and it is not to be missed. With respect to all of my other fantastic writers, I think this may be my favorite article in our Star Wars series. Enjoy!
Star Wars EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE written by Ryan McDonald
Unfortunately, I can’t remember the first time I saw Star Wars, (I can remember the copied VHS tape I had) but I really can’t remember the exact moment I saw it. I feel ashamed being as Tim called me in his Phantom Menace article, a “Star Wars Guy”. I wish I had some great “blown away” story about seeing it as a kid and it changing my life forever. What I can always remember though is, how it felt, or should I say how Star Wars makes me feel. Having watched Episodes I to VI in a single day (ladies, I’ll post my phone number in the comments) I know if someone had never seen a single Star Wars movie, I would definitely have them start with Star Wars Episode IV New Hope. A New Hope has a timeless quality to it that makes it feel brand new every time I see it and I keep getting sucked down the rabbit hole again and again every time I watch the movie.
I think what gives the movie this unique quality is how you’re just immediately thrown into this world. Most movies that take a place in a fictional universe tend to take up a lot of screen time, or even whole movies, setting up the history of the world before they can tell story they actually want to tell. I think George Lucas brilliantly began the Star Wars saga in medias res, with what would later learn was the fourth movie, right in the middle of a chaotic shoot-out between the Rebels and the Imperial army. He has you follow C-3PO and R2-D2, two seemingly unimportant characters as they escape from this conflict, unintentionally find Luke Skywalker and along the way uncover Princess Leia’s secret mission for R2 to find the mythic Obi-Wan Kenobi, thus our first steps into this larger world.
Let’s highlight Princess Leia Organa for a minute here. In my opinion she’s truly the first female bad-ass in science fiction movies. One moment I absolutely fucking love, is when one of the imperial Stormtroopers finds her during the aforementioned shoot-out and says “there’s one, set for stun” like she’s just some defenseless little thing who poses no threat, so I’ll just stun her and BOOM she just blows him away. She seems to have this stigma of being a damsel-in-distress. Yes, the fact that she did have to be rescued and the “help me Obi-Wan Kenobi” message doesn’t really help my case here. I love that she was hurling insults as Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin took her prisoner, tortured her and eventually blew up her home planet. She would later go on in the trilogy to have some truly great moments, like killing the Al Capone of the Star Wars universe, Jabba the Hutt. Princess Leia was a trailblazer in film. I think future sci-fi heroines like Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor owe Leia some kind of gratitude or at least their creators do.
Leia’s rescuers are our two heroes, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Han was what every fan wanted to be, smooth, all the best lines, coolest ship and he had the best partner-in-crime ever, Chewbacca. Luke was who every fan actually was, the kid stuck in a rut, longing for more. Luke gazing off into the binary sunset on Tatooine with John Williams’ music doing what it does best is the epitome of that Star Wars feeling for me. I whole heartedly believe that a huge part of the success of these films is the Incredible music of John Williams. He’s carved out some of the best themes in movie history, but his music for the Star Wars Saga, is the playbook on how to score anything. Literally every character, moment and scene has some kind of musical acknowledgement. They never felt repetitive or feel copied and pasted from one scene to another, they just felt right. Williams is so fucking good he even makes the background music in the Cantina bar scene memorable.
Speaking of the Cantina, let’s talk about something I never saw before in any sci-fi movie, a dive bar. Filled with every awful looking creature you can think of: yeti-thing, thirsty-rat, butt-face, satan-guy etc. they’re all just hanging out, drinking like regulars you would see at any dive.
One of these scumbags makes the fatal mistake of messing with Luke and attacking old Ben Kenobi resulting in Ben cutting its fucking arm off. The band stops playing and all the patrons are just staring at Ben, Luke and the severed arm on the floor, only to immediately go back to what they were doing, the band continues to play, not giving the slightest shit, CLASSIC DIVE BAR, I love this place.
I obviously can’t talk about A New Hope without mentioning is main antagonist, the one, the only Darth Vader. Without the influence of the prequels, we only knew Vader as the half man/half machine Imperial Commander, who could strangle people with his mind and stuck to his belief in the long forgotten Force. To me, Vader is at his coldest in this installment, strictly business, trying to locate that damn Rebel Base. The only tiny crack we see in his armor is when he sees Obi-Wan for the first time in very a long time. What I love is just how much I felt their history, in the way these two characters felt each other’s presence in this moment. I love how the shot lingers on Old Ben as he walks down the quiet Death Star corridor then comes to a slow stop. We see Vader standing there with his lightsaber drawn, just waiting for him and of course, that breathing.
Their duel that follows is barely a duel really and I don’t think it was meant to be either. Their dialogue during this scene is almost unnecessary; the sound of the lightsabers, Obi- Wan’s facial expressions, Darth Vader’s body movements and the lack of music does it all, you know shit just got real.
Obi Wan sees Luke and the gang escaping, that stirring force theme whispers its way into the foreground again, he holds his lightsaber up to his face, closes his eyes in moment of Zen and Vader takes him down. I remember being full-on panicked when Old Ben died “what the fuck are they gonna do now?”
A New Hope’s final act is Luke in his X-Wing with his fellow Rebel pilots, against Darth Vader and his TIE Fighters in a dog fight along the crevice of the Death Star. Han, who bailed earlier, shows up just in time to knock Vader out of the fight and give Luke a clear path to destroy the Death Star, stopping the Empire…for now.
When I saw the Death Star explode in theatres during the 1997 Special Edition re-release, I think the entire audience reacted as if something had actually blown up inside the theatre, everyone screamed and immediately began laughing and clapping when the scene ended.
The movie of course ends with a medal ceremony for Luke and Han (not for Chewbacca though? I call bullshit) bestowed upon them by Leia and the Rebel alliance leaders. The recipients turn and face the audience as they are applauded to one final reprise of the Star Wars theme and cut to stars in space…and cut to me buying hundreds of toys, making friends who also love these movies, seeing every episode after with these friends and feeling it every time.
I’m a big fan of Pixar’s films. When Toy Story came out, I was 11 years-old, and I’ve kind of grown up with them. What’s been nice, about growing up with Pixar, is that they had such an amazing record (still have a good record). After Toy Story came A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story 2, neither of which was as deep as Toy Story, but certainly weren’t vapid either. After Monster’s Inc., and Finding Nemo was The Incredibles, and it lived up to the name. I was twenty years old, and watching Pixar do the unofficial version of Fantastic Four that we have still yet to get, but totally deserve.
After The Incredibles, we got Cars. Now, Cars is an article all in itself, but to try to quickly summarize what I have to say about Cars is: I personally think it’s the weakest Pixar original (it’s a total knock off of Doc Hollywood) which pains me, because George Carlin is one of my favorite comedians/celebrities of all time and he voiced Fillmore; it is the pivot point film between a Disney/Pixar partnership, and Disney owning Pixar, and was used as part of the negotiations; and so while I think it’s the weakest, in a lot of ways I still think it’s better than a lot of other films, and it’s important.
After the pivot of Cars, a reinvigorated Pixar went into what I think was their renaissance creating Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3 (the latter 2 were nominated for Best Picture Oscars, the former each getting Best Screenplay nominations). These 4 films, should definitely be mentioned when discussing the best animated films of all time.
Then after the renaissance came the other shoe. Part of Pixar’s agreement with Disney, was that they would create sequels to their most successful box-office films. After Toy Story 3, we got Cars 2. Now personally, I think Cars 2 is better than most will give it credit for, but it is certainly a departure from the depth of the four preceding films. We’ve since got Brave (an attempt at a deep dive which falls a little flat), Monster’s University (a serviceable prequel), Inside Out (the only foray into greatness since TS3), The Good Dinosaur (akin to the A Bug’s Life, in it’s fine but doesn’t match the glory of the prior film), then Finding Dory (again, it’s a serviceable sequel, but nothing special) and Cars 3 (I haven’t seen it yet).
The reason that I wanted to do this article, is that in couple of weeks Pixar is going to release their next film, which will be an original, entitled Coco. I really hope Coco is good, but I’m worried, because it looks like Pixar’s amalgamation of two recent animated films Kubo and the Two Strings mixed with The Book of Life. Now, I’m sure it is not a knock-off of those two films, but I hope it’s dissimilar enough. I want to see them really be creative and deep again, and this may have the potential, but I’m nervous. The film’s done though, so I want to talk about the future past Coco.
Pixar has five films they’re currently working on, but only 2 have been officially announced; The Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4. Personally, I don’t want too many sequels from Pixar, since their strength has really been in originals, the exception of course being the Toy Story films, so while I thought TS3 wrapped things up nicely, I’m keeping a very open mind on this. As for the Incredibles 2, the original warranted a sequel more than any other Pixar original, and the first came at the beginning of the superhero era in film, so to check in with the family now with how the genre has changed is exciting.
But ultimately, I want more originals. One of the things that really has been great about the Pixar films that have been amazing were 2 things, originality, and character connection. I think people have misread the formula, I think they see Toy Story and think “kids like toys, lets make a movie about toys” or “kids like animals and adventure, let’s make a movie about animals and adventure (Up),” but the reason why we really fell in love with those movies is that Woody learns that he has to share Andy’s love, or that Ellie got to live the adventure she always wanted, and Carl finally did too. (BTW, I’m tearing up just thinking about Carl and Ellie, can you say that about any other 5 minute relationship in film history?)
If Coco for all of it’s “Dia de Muerta” makeup, which totally does look cool, doesn’t have some strong clinching emotional connection, it’s going to fall flat. That’s what I want to see, I want them to be the master manipulators that we all know they can be, and tug on our heartstrings. This is less likely to happen in sequels, because it seems to be something forged in the examination of new characters, although each Toy Story movie so far has managed it, that’s because each time the relationship with Andy, the Buzz and Woody relationship, and the relationship with their purpose in life altered to examine it. I hope the 4th manages to continue this, I hope that The Incredibles turns from Bob’s insecurity about domestic life, and how he loves his wife and kids, to him now knowing who he is again, being able to guide them more. I guess don’t have a clue what direction I want the Incredibles to head in, but I don’t want rehashing of the same basic emotional connections the way that I think some of their lesser sequels have.
Ultimately, I suppose the sequels aren’t going to stop, but let’s take ratio which seems to be a little more than half of the recent movies have been sequels, and flip it. Do sequels that are organic, but not necessarily just because they sell well. Pixar currently has an amazing legacy in the making, and I think there is a lot of promise assuming they make some adjustments. Look at their parent company Disney’s legacy. Disney, love them or hate them, has had an incredible run for 80+ years, and although there have been some lulls, ultimately they’re doing great. But one thing they do, they have places to put their lesser sequels. Sure, they’ll make the Cinderella 10: Back In The Saddle, but it’s straight to video. This is the way to make cash-grab movies, and not tarnish your legacy.
Lastly, I want to say, I’m going to continue to see every Pixar film until they have thoroughly defeated my spirit, and I don’t think they’re even close yet. Their worst film is still better than most, I just want to see them return to being better than EVERYONE.