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A Co-Pilot in Christ is better than Flying Solo

We all need alone time once in a while. Between school, work, extracurricular activities, church and bible studies, friends, family, and other obligations, sometimes we feel like we need a little space. But what happens when we distance ourselves too much?

I’ve been struggling with mood disorders for a long time now. Sparing you the wookie-hairy details, one of the things that goes along with these issues of mine is I tend to isolate myself in the thick of it. When I’m in a mood, I want to hide from everyone I know, including my husband, who is honestly one of the few people I feel like I can spend time with on a regular basis.

When I’m in this malcontent head-space, becoming a recluse seems to be the most logical solution to the problem at hand. However, I’ve come to realize when I get all up in my feelings and shut everyone out, I’m shutting myself in and away from potential lifelines.

God does not want us to be alone, at least not the majority of the time. In the beginning, He looked at Adam and literally said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) and thus he created Eve to be a helper, or companion to Adam. We were designed from the beginning for fellowship and to help one another because, when it’s all said and done, we alone cannot truly help ourselves.

A lot of times when I get into my hermit mode, I feel by doing so I’m helping people. I know I’m not good company when I get like that, so I spare other people my unpleasantness. I think I’m doing everyone I know a service by doing this, because why would someone want to spend their time trying to fix this hot mess?

And yet, I look at myself and realize if the situation was reversed, even though I often feel I’m not much help when it comes to comforting other people, I would try my best to be there for my loved ones. After all, helping to carry the burdens of our loved ones and even strangers is what Christ wants us to do (Galatians 6:2), even if we don’t necessarily know how to help.

God uses us to help others in need and vice versa. So by me turning away the people who want to help me, in a way I’m also turning away God, and as Sonic says, “That’s No Good!”

I’ve found in the past when I do finally come out of my shell and let other people help me through my mood, though I feel a little lighter afterwards, I often don’t feel completely #overit. During these times, I tend to seek my fortress of solitude yet again to consider what is wrong with me. In these moments, I had failed to consider the obvious: it’s not more me-time I need, but God and me time.

Despite the fact that we weren’t made to be solitary creatures, we do need alone time with God from time to time. To make the best out of my sessions with friends after my many mood relapses, I should always have followed up with prayer to thank God for working through my loved ones and asked for His guidance to apply these lessons to my life in a way that best pleases Him. I should always do my homework to make sure I can continue doing what I’m supposed to.

I may always be this way. Depression, anxiety, etc, will likely always be a part of me, but it is the way God made me, and with His help, through others and otherwise, I know I can work through this–and I don’t have to do it alone.

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Action/Adventure Articles Movies Sci-fi/Fantasy

The Future of Star Wars: Trying to Make Sense of Argument and Frustration

  Okay Star Wars fans, it’s time for a little therapy!

The last decade and a half has been rough on Star Wars fans. We all suffered through watching the Prequel Trilogy struggle to meet any sort of expectations. We all watched as the Disney Corporation swallowed the franchise whole and attempted to turn it into a cash cow larger than it was seemingly capable of generating with a massive toy line that largely hasn’t sold. We’ve spent the past three years arguing about the quality of the four recent films from The Force Awakens to the most recent Box Office failings of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

In all that, I’ve never seen as many as a well thought out articulate film criticisms both for and against a single movie than the dozens upon dozens of fanboy and film critic deconstructions of recent Star Wars films. Even the famed Plinkett Reviews seem antiquated in comparison to just how much ink has been spilled in fanboy arguments trying to make sense about The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi. At the end of the day something about Star Wars touches at the very core of our being and yet we really can’t seem to agree what it is and what these new films should be to represent that part of us.

We here at Geeks Under Grace have some very complicated and nuanced opinions on the recent controversial Star Wars films. Several of us love the recent films and several of us despise them. Five of us sat down to offer our thoughts on the state of the franchise and where Disney ought to take Star Wars in the future.

Starting off, please give us a quick rundown on the four recent Disney Star Wars films and what you think about all of them? 

Juliana Purnell: 

The Force Awakens alleviated a lot of fears, demonstrating a return to form for the Star Wars franchise. I actually predicted a lot of the plot beforehand thanks to trailers, while I also found the nostalgic moments to be cheesy. But overall I enjoyed it!

Rogue One is my favorite out of the four. It was refreshing to see how the Star Wars universe would work without the presence of the Jedi. I also sensed that there was more creative license; since it was a spin-off, there was less pressure for it to conform to everyone’s ideas.

Once I got over my initial shock with The Last Jedi, I really began to admire this film’s boldness, creativity, and bravery for going against the grain. It contains a lot of depth; I like that Luke and Kylo Ren share the same beliefs but are still on opposite sides. I also developed newfound appreciation when it dawned on me that Poe is the main character in this one, with Finn and Rose being an extension of his character journey. So, I respect this film, but due to the runtime and the heaviness of the plot, it’s not my “go-to” favorite film in the series.

For Solo… it wasn’t amazing but it wasn’t bad either. Once everyone got together and everything had been established, that’s when I really started having fun. Yet I felt as though it ultimately wasn’t an interesting story to tell.

Derek Thompson: 

Rogue One was the best. Even though it eschewed the EU like they all did, it fit into “movie canon” well and had a charm to it. Solo was second, mostly for the same reasons–lots of fan service. Force Awakens had a lot of strong things–great directing, well-placed humor, diversity of cast–but didn’t really “do” anything. Also, the new FIVE-PLANET DEATH STAR and the Nazi bad guys (Empire 2.0) were idiotic and recycled. Much lower than the other two. TLJ is disgusting, primarily because of how out of character Luke is for the entire movie and how idiotic Leia’s force flight scene is. (And… much more.)

Sarah Bennet: 

With the exception of Rogue One, the writing feels rushed in the latest installments from a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars had simple characters in against-all-odds situations who we all fell in love with. Rogue One, in my opinion, kept that feeling. The other three, especially Solo, cut corners with characters by loading them with backstory. I believe the casting was brilliant for all four films.

Trey Soto:

  • Force Awakens: Fun, enjoyable, but definitely a nostalgia film that is almost identical to the original Star Wars of 1977.
  • Rogue One: Surprisingly entertaining and engaging in the area of the plot and pacing, but unmemorable characters, both protagonists and antagonists.
  • The Last Jedi: Somewhat solid main plot, but had a number of plot holes and boring side stories and missions. Also, that kiss between Rose and Fin….why?
  • Solo: Have not seen it yet, so I don’t have any opinion on it.

Tyler Hummel:

  • The Force Awakens: One of my favorite movies of 2015. JJ Abrams knows how to cast/direct/shoot a film to maximize the style and fill every scene with energy and love. Sadly without a wholly original story or a more solid script, the movie has struggled to hold up after several years of repeat viewings. It’s still a ton of fun though!
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: My original reaction to this in 2016 was that of being unimpressed. Having let it age it’s now my second favorite of the new films.
  • The Last Jedi: I unabashedly love everything about this film. I love how many risks Rian Johnson took. I appreciate just how many risks Disney took on arguably the most important chapter of their franchise in giving it to one person to be the sole writer/director. I appreciate just how coherently he is able to write his characters and how it manages to use the weakness of both the previous film and this film to build towards thematic statements. I love how beautifully it crafts the aesthetic of Star Wars and uses its top of the line CGI to craft incredible images like the Light Speed jump. I could talk for days about just how much depth there is in the script and how its ideas deconstruct Star Wars while affirming how powerful and necessary it can be. I digress.
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story: Most meh Star Wars film I’ve ever seen in my life. Shy of a few moments I was intensely bored and surprised by the depths the film was going to fit in bad fan service.

Both The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story have been received to widely mixed reviews and have generated some heated opinions from fans and critics alike. What have your discussions about the film been like with family/friends/fans?

Juliana Purnell:

In my experience, discussions about Solo haven’t been mixed or controversial. Everyone I’ve met has agreed with me–it’s an average film, not bad or good. Just meh.

The Last Jedi is a different story. When I wrote the review for GUG, I found the majority of my friends agreed with what I said about liking the film but not loving it. Except what people enjoyed and hated differed from person to person. For me, this was the first film in the franchise where I became really irritated about how some of the laws of physics in space were adopted, and others blatantly ignored.

Whereas my friends didn’t have their suspension of disbelief shattered, rather they were more upset about Luke’s character, or Finn and Rose’s subplot (which is something I ended up appreciating). The more I reflected on the film, the more I liked it, though my brother had the opposite experience. He is concerned that no one has developed an overarching plot, so each director seems to be doing their own thing; there’s no consistency or through the line. But for the most part, myself and a lot of my friends are willing to suspend criticism till we see how it connects with the next episode in the series.

I do have one friend that absolutely despises The Last Jedi. They couldn’t come to terms with Luke’s characterization, and whenever anyone tried to present a different viewpoint, my friend would just dig his heels in further. His anger over it still hasn’t dissipated to this day. Basically, he has embraced the idea of being a Last Jedi hater, and I don’t think anything will change his view because he has made it part of his identity. It’s his thing if you get what I mean. He did boycott Solo; I’m not sure of his reasons, whether it’s still out of spite or merely disinterest, but after hearing the news that Disney may be slowing down on Star Wars releases, last I saw was that he was starting to question his actions.

Derek Thompson: 

I think the Solo backlash is primarily from TLJ hate, as far as fans not going. Critics are crazy, I liked the movie a lot. (Critics also gave TLJ high praise…) TLJ was entertaining the first time, but the more I considered the consequences and depth of the movie, the angrier I became. I can’t find the thread but I saw a video of Rian Johnson from about fifteen years ago where he said “Movies that everyone likes are boring. I want to make movies that half the people love, and the other half hate.” Mission accomplished, dude.

Sarah Bennett: 

TLJ had some facepalm moments, the biggest being Leia’s survival and subsequent Mary Poppins flight. I haven’t met anyone who sees that plot moment as anything but ridiculous. The moment before, though, when her son doesn’t pull the trigger? Boom! That’s the Star Wars we love.

The talk of Solo around the table usually concedes with a couple of opinions: 1. On its own, it’s a decent watch. 2. They (the writers and Ron Howard) tried too hard to force the viewers to love a young Han Solo. It’s like a little girl strangling a cat, yelling, “LOVE ME!” Sure, the cat is cute, the girl is cute, but the whole thing is just a big, “Nope.”

Trey Soto:

Again, no opinion on Solo. As for The Last Jedi, I thought it received more praise than it should have from critics. I honestly enjoyed the main plot between Luke, Rey, and Kylo. Their character development was great, their interactions definitely leveled out, and it a lot of growth for all three. The side stories and subplots, however, were either boring, uninteresting, and even outright ridiculous–i.e. Snoke’s death, Rey’s parent’s reveal, Holdo’s horrible leadership, Poe’s incompetence, etc. I could go on forever, but I’ll stop now.

Tyler Hummel:

I’ve listened to so many debates, discussions, deconstructions, and analyses of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and much more recently in the context of Solo: A Star Wars Story. The conversation regarding TLJ really has struck a nerve. I was completely taken aback by the 53% Rotten Tomatoes score back in December and since then the discussion has gone to some bizarre places with people calling for Disney employees to be fired. I’ve almost gotten into some nasty arguments myself over the film’s quality with dear friends.

There are between 6-9 Star Wars films in development between Rian Johnson’s trilogy, the Game of Thrones writer’s trilogy, and the three potential Star Wars story films including Boba Fett, Lando, and Obi-Wan. Are you excited for any of these films?

Juliana Purnell:

It’s exhausting just reading the question. I do adore what David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have done with Game of Thrones. The prequel trilogy demonstrated that Star Wars could be a political beast, except George Lucas struggled to make it interesting on screen. That weakness is Benioff and Weiss’ strength. So I’m curious to see what kind of story they’re going to produce and whether they have the skills to create rather than adapt.

I was blown away by Donald Glover’s performance as Lando Calrissian. He nailed that role. I would love to see how “the stories” are true. With these spinoff movies, I feel there’s more room for creativity–it’s not locked in so much in terms of tone and vibe. Solo aimed to be a heist film, which would have been fantastic, but unfortunately just missed the mark.

Yet I do like the idea of mixing it up with different genres, as though each director brings their own flair to the Star Wars universe, within reason. It has worked at times the for Batman and Superman franchises. For instance, anthology films have made a comeback, particularly in Europe, thanks to movies like Ghost Stories and The Field Guide to Evil. Lando’s spinoff may work best in that format, where it’s a set of short stories all loosely connected together; just something different, mixing it up. Of course, you’ve got to get permission from the fanbase first. Yikes!

Derek Thompson: 

I’d rather Rian Johnson not touch Star Wars again.

Sarah Bennett: 

For me, everything depends on the writing. Not terribly interested in Boba Fett, since we had a cursory glance with the (awful) prequels. Lando could be fascinating, but again, it depends on the writing.

But count me in for Obi-Wan. He was pivotal to the original trilogy and I’m disappointed he didn’t make an appearance in TLJ (Come on! Just a quick CGI of Sir Alex next to Yoda would’ve been magnificent!).

Trey Soto:

Definitely excited for Obi-Wan. I have been wanting that for so long and I really hope we get it soon. Even though I am more of the Dark Side (have been since 1998 when I first saw Star Wars), Obi-Wan has been my favorite protagonist in both the originals and prequels. I’m kind of interested in Boba Fett considering his death was highly laughable and his impact on the Star Wars films was second rate other than his uniform.

Tyler Hummel:

In light of the recent news of the spin-off films being scrapped, I think that ultimately not having many more spin-offs would benefit the series. I’m totally on board with Rian Johnson doing his own thing for a trilogy. I hope whatever editorial dust-up is currently ongoing at Disney gets resolved without him losing his gig. I’m also really excited to see what the Game of Thrones writers have cooking. They haven’t confirmed what they’re working on yet but considering their wheelhouse I’m hoping what they end up doing winds up being an adaptation of Knights of the Old Republic. That would be tremendously fresh territory to stretch the franchise out into.

What SHOULD Disney do going forward?

Juliana Purnell:

I feel that in order to answer the question, one has to find the root of the problem, which is multi-faceted. I have a lot of thoughts, so it might be best if I dot point them for ease:

  • Star Wars was a landmark film for cinema as a whole. Deep down, people know that the more films that are created, the more the gloss of the originals are going to be tarnished because the chances are that they won’t live up to their legacy.
  • People may not have agreed with everything George Lucas did, but they respected the fact that it was his dream and creation. Now that the property has been opened up to other people, there’s more room for criticism and less cohesion with the direction of the brand.
  • Since it’s an old franchise, there has been a lot of fan fiction (or “fanon”) generated since Star Wars’ inception, and the studio will be up against the fanbase’s cognitive dissonance when those ideas aren’t adopted.
  • Fans say they want more Star Wars films, but they haven’t accepted that it also means the happy endings of their beloved characters will be destroyed in order to make room for a new adventure.
  • There’s this weird attitude right now where somehow only Marvel is allowed to have a cinematic universe. Also, there have been a LOT of “spectacle” films lately, and I’m starting to sense that maybe it’s starting to tire audiences (or maybe I’m just optimistic). So fans aren’t welcoming the idea of committing to another movie universe that’s going to bombard them every year.
  • Unlike other fandoms, Star Wars hasn’t been rebooted or reimagined as of yet. So the fans are going to experience some growing pains when this eventually occurs.

While Disney will want to get a return on investment with the franchise as soon as possible, I think it may be best if they pump the brakes for a while. Solo revealed two things: the fanbase is rather fickle and its power has been underestimated, and that Star Wars works best when it’s something “special” and not an annual event. With sequels, in general, being splashed out across screens, audiences have grown wise to the idea that it’s all a moneymaking strategy. If Disney pops out a film simply because it was set on the calendar, people will grow weary of the poor quality.

So first Disney needs to complete the current trilogy, and then just check the pulse of the franchise and the health of cinema as a whole (Marvel could be on the outs by then, and there could be a greater demand for a particular genre that Disney could exploit). From there, they should take a page from Pixar’s book and only make films if they’ve got a story worth telling. It could be in two years time, it might be a decade. But by trickling out films, fans will be more receptive (as absence makes the heart grow fonder) and theoretically, the quality should be higher, therefore ensuring the longevity of the franchise.

Derek Thompson: 

They don’t realize just what a rabid fanbase this is and just how much they screwed up by negating the EU. It might be too late for an entire reboot of the new stuff, but I have one (well two) basic suggestions. Remove Rian Johnson (too many fans hate him now) from the entire franchise, have Kathleen Kennedy step aside and put Dave Filoni in as the Kevin Feige of Star Wars. The dude successfully incorporated EU stuff (Thrawn), created one of the most liked characters (Ahsoka), and managed to make six seasons of a show where ANAKIN SKYWALKER IS LIKABLE.

He is the only one left with any clout who truly understands Star Wars, IMO. Quit hiring random big-name directors and put someone who’s been in deep with the universe for a long time over it. Also, there are thirty years where they can weave in the EU where they can, to appease fans. Like, make a Luke movie that shows him meeting and growing attached to Mara Jade, but maybe in this universe, it doesn’t work out. But you can still work in SOME appeasement for EU people like Filoni did with Thrawn.

Sarah Bennet: 

Go back to the George Lucas drawing board. I’m not saying to recycle the characters line by line because the vision should move forward. But strip the new characters back to simple motivations: Luke had nothing left to lose, Han was a hustler, Leia a princess. Rely less on CGI to tell the story (I’m eyeballing you, Grand Moff Tarkin). Hopefully, they don’t churn out new Star Wars movies every year. We fans live for long, agonizing waits and camping in front of theatres.

Trey Soto:

In terms of Star Wars? I personally think a trilogy or series on The Knights of the Old Republic would be awesome. It would definitely be something new that does not rely heavily on the Skywalker family let alone the original cast. While Knights of the Old Republic is not new to Star Wars fans, it would be great to see it on the big screen because it actually would be something new, cinematic wise. Honestly, I doubt that Lucasfilms/Disney would allow it since they threw out the foundations of Star Wars in the novels, comics, games, and so on. Still, there is that glimmer of hope.

Tyler Hummel:

There are two things I’d like to suggest.

What I personally hope they do is shake up the visual aesthetic of the franchise and place a series of movies in a brand new part of the timeline. I’ve heard so many people bring up that Star Wars is a limited campus for a science-fiction franchise but where the universe really finds its mileage is in the Expanded Universe where different time periods and factions are given room to breathe. The Old Republic, The Clone Wars, The New Republic, and the dozens of other conflicts and factions open up tons of space for potential refreshing takes on the franchise. Don’t focus every movie on the Galactic Civil War. It makes the visual iconography of the franchise stale.

Secondly, I believe strongly that Disney needs to trust its artists. So far the company has booted four directors off of three of their films before the films have been released and it’s created a PR nightmare for the studio. They need to find talented artists like Rian Johnson and honor their visions and ideas. Maybe this means that they honestly do need an editorial shake-up if Colin Trevorrow’s claims of Disney’s work environment being toxic are true. I just hope that Disney has the bravery to find artists with the ability to match talent with voice to create films that people will love for decades to come. Star Wars deserves nothing less.

With all that said what are your thoughts on the recent four films? The Prequels? The Future? Star Wars in General?

Let us know down in the comments. Please be respectful! We all love Star Wars!

Categories
Action/Adventure Movies Reviews Sci-fi/Fantasy

Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

Director: Ron Howard

Writers: Lawrence and Jonathan Kasden

Composer: John Powell and John Williams

Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Paul Bettany

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/Action

Rating: PG-13

The fourth Disney Star Wars film is finally here! After a deeply tumultuous development cycle involving replacing the directors, reshooting significant portions of footage and doing this all while their previous film was getting run through the wringer, the movie is finally out and it’s mostly okay.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Multiple fight scenes, battlefield scene, fist fights, and gun battles. There is no gore or grotesque violence shown.

Language/Crude Humor: Multiple uses of light cursing including h***, a**, d***, and one unfinished s***.

Drug/Alcohol References: Alcohol consumption and allusions to drugs (spice).

Sexual Content: Characters kiss.

Spiritual Content: None.

Other Negative Content: Characters betray one another multiple times.

Positive Content: Themes of doing the right thing when it is difficult.

Review

I’ve been rooting very hard for Solo: A Star Wars Story through its troubled development. I feel as though way too many people had written this movie off as a bad idea from the get-go. To me, almost everything from its inception to its casting to its choice of directors seemed logical within the frame of reference Disney was working from. Han Solo is the fan-favorite character of the franchise. After Harrison Ford’s departure in The Force Awakens, Disney would logically want to find a way to do at least one more film with the franchise’s most popular character. A prequel film would make sense because it lets you cast a younger actor who doesn’t exactly look like Ford.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were hot directors fresh off of The LEGO Movie and made sense to grab up to make an auteur crime thriller/western/space opera. Lead actor Alden Ehrenreich was fresh out of working with the Coen Brothers on their latest comedy Hail, Caesar! Grabbing him for the lead role for a star-making turn playing the most popular character in the most popular movie franchise ever seemed like an excellent pairing. There was a great deal of controversy at the time, mind you, and truthfully I understand where a great deal of that was coming from. Han Solo is an excellent character and attempting to recapture lightning in a bottle is a bit pointless, especially with a character whose appeal wasn’t based in his story importance as much as it was on his charisma and characterization.

Since the news of the film’s announcement, however, the film has been on a downhill slope. Solo lost its directors last year in a very public outing that resulted in Ron Howard being their replacement to reshoot a significant portion of the movie. We won’t know for sure what the exact reason for the departure of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller was until the tell-alls start dropping in the distant future but it’s safe to say either Disney didn’t like their direction or the quality was significantly sub-par and need to be reconstructed into something presentable.

This was clearly exasperated by the widespread negative fan reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi this past December. This blunder certainly lit the fire underneath everyone at Disney’s chairs. Simply put if Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm can’t get the franchise back on track sooner than later there is going to be a huge fan backlash against the entire studio. Some fans are even going as far as to request Disney to give Star Wars back to George Lucas. I can only imagine how many careers are on the line with Star Wars: Episode IX. Alas, the best thing I can say for Solo: A Star Wars Story is that it is not merely a cash grab by a massive conglomerate of the ever-expanding Walt Disney Corporation. This is not a cash grab. It isn’t right to turn a movie into a variable money pit and Disney isn’t trying to. This film is an apology, an incredibly poorly worded apology.

Let’s get down to brass tax. On paper, this film’s story is pretty easy to lay out. This is the story of a kid with a heart of gold who gets beaten down by the world and turned into a cynical morally compromised criminal. That’s a really solid premise for a character-driven movie and it’s even a bit transgressive in the sense that it’s the exact opposite of the story that Luke Skywalker has to take during the original trilogy. This is also a very well-trodden path in the realm of cinema. Many of Hollywood’s best films are stories about great men falling from grace. Alas, our central character’s central moral quest of the film is missing. Han does manage to listen to one of the many lessons he’s forced upon in this personal journey, but at the end of the day his character never truly changes. He’s still cocky but now he kind of doesn’t trust anyone like Han Solo in the first film.

That doesn’t change the fact that there are dozens of failings such as the utter lack of an overriding thematic point to all the randomly assorted play toys in the background or the long stretches of boring runtime where nothing of consequence happened. The movie then tries to apologize for this by alluding to the potential of another Star Wars Story film they may or may not be making with a gratuitous cameo that won’t be spoiled here. Strangely enough, the big twist I actually thought would happen didn’t happen. There were several clues towards the latter end of the film that suggested the movie was building to an insanely transgressive and potentially powerful plot twist that never happens and instead gets replaced with a moment of extreme fan service that, having paid close attention to the recent canon of the franchise through books and TV shows, makes me wonder what exactly they’re alluding too.

On the plus side, the film is possibly one of the best looking films of 2018. There are several very well-crafted individual scenes such as the heavily advertised Kessel Run scene and some Act 3 shenanigans that manage to keep the film from getting too boring. Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t bad overall but it’s spilling over into a bizarre new territory for a Star Wars film. Most of the performances in the film are excellent including the previously criticized Alden Ehrenreich as well as Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, and Paul Bettany who all put in solid performances.

There are great films in this franchise, terrible ones, and ones that are flawed but fascinating. This is the first time I can think of to ever call a film in this franchise outright mediocre. If this didn’t have the Star Wars title behind it might be a pretty okay science fiction movie. But with the full weight of its franchise and the reputation of an entire wing of the Walt Disney Corporation riding on the next few films in this franchise they can’t keep affording creating risky messes. Solo: A Star Wars Story went so far out of its way to make safer decisions that it drained all of its identity and as a result, it’s proving to be one of the least hyped and least critically acclaimed films of the fourth Disney has crafted. Considering the end of this film, I’m afraid now that Disney is going to steamroll the Star Wars division and turn Episode 9 into a fan service movie to “please the fans.” Speaking for myself and many others, I believe this franchise is too big to just turn it into a cash grab.

Categories
Bible Studies Christian Living

Bible Study: SOLO – A Star Wars Story (2018)

This Bible Study is for the movie, SOLO – A STAR WARS STORY. Download the printer-friendly document down below. You can then watch the movie with your Bible Study group (we recommend 2-15 people), and talk about the Christian values found in the movie. In this study, the discussion topic is entitled “Don’t Go It Alone”.

 

This film has been rated PG-13

for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.

 

 

We hope you enjoy Geeks Under Grace’s Bible Studies. They are completely free for you and your group to print and use. This is possible because of our Patrons. If you would like to help support us through Patreon, please go to:

www.Patreon.com/GeeksUnderGrace

Categories
Gaming PC Reviews

Review: Solo (PC)

Developer: Team Gotham
Publisher: Team Gotham
Genre: AdventurePuzzle
Platforms: PC
Rating: N/A
Price: $14.99

 

Many artists take inspiration from their life experiences. Team Gotham is no different in this regard. Per their own admission, the themes explored in Solo were inspired by the failed romantic relationship of a Team Gotham employee. In this way, Solo is a crowd-funded breakup mix tape. It works for Taylor Swift, and it seems to have worked for Team Gotham as well.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: Solo contains nuanced spiritual themes. The game presents love as a transcendental force. The Bible has much to say about love and it would affirm Team Gotham’s assertion about love’s transcendence. However, love is not presented as a force out in the aether. Instead, the Bible grounds love in the nature of the God who is love.

Additionally, Solo uses the term “love” exclusively to refer to romantic relationships. Other types of relationships are mentioned in the game but are often contrasted with and pitted against romantic ones. Also, I found the narrative to be subtly condescending towards those who choose celibacy. Team Gotham seems to have the unstated assumption that human flourishing requires one to be in the context of a romantic relationship. However, this assumption would lead to the conclusion that Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and countless others who have lived their lives reflecting God’s love but were not in romantic relationships, did not flourish in this life.

Sexual themes: The player chooses their gender at the beginning of the game. This choice includes a non-binary option. The game asks for the player’s sexual preference which includes heterosexual, homosexual, non-binary, and pansexual options. However, these options have little effect on the game and the player can change them at any time.

Positive themes: The game invites the player to explore the meaning, purpose, and origin of romantic love. It is often helpful to question the unstated assumptions behind our views to come to understand them in a richer way.

REVIEW

If The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Minecraft had a love child who was a puzzle-loving pacifist, I am certain it would look something like Solo. Make no mistake: this comparison is meant as a compliment. Solo is a beautiful game that is a wonder to behold. I often found myself taking the time to enjoy the visuals. The juxtaposition of the bright colors with the atmospheric music and weighty themes make Solo a unique gaming experience.

Solo‘s music is superb and pairs nicely with the overall feel of the game. The score creates a melancholy atmosphere which accents the moments of genuine reflection provoked by game. In addition to the music, the player has a guitar available to them and can strum 4 different chords and combine them into small melodies. Some of these combinations affect the game’s visuals by controlling the weather or adding a black-and-white filter.

The game design is decent and though its progression is linear, that simplicity works well with its general aesthetic. In order to progress, the player’s must activate out of reach elements in each island by solving a block puzzle. The blocks act as stepping-stones and bridges which allow the player to reach their desired destination. These puzzles are engaging and generally not too hard. Though a few times, I had to take a short break and look at the challenges with fresh eyes.

Each new section of the game introduces a new type of block and new ways to tackle the challenges. Additionally, later sections of the game introduce a new type of puzzle which involves reproducing a pattern by positioning the blocks in front of a light source to create the corresponding shadows. Solo also has optional puzzles which involve either guiding a stream of water or creating a bridge to reunite two of the game’s inhabitants.

The game’s narrative is minimalist and invites the player to contemplate the meaning of romantic love and what role romantic relationships play in their life. Solo takes the player on this journey of self-discovery by presenting a question after solving the block puzzle on each island. The player selects a response from among three options, but there is no right choice. Each choice has a subsequent response which invites the player to further reflect on the question.

Unfortunately, Solo is not without its flaws. First, the game’s controls need more polish. The controls while operating the block puzzles are similar to those in sandbox games. However, the camera locks in place when the player is attempting to position a block and it is difficult to place the pieces in the desired spot. Additionally, the default control scheme while using a controller is counter-intuitive and overly sensitive. This often caused me to spend more time fighting the controls than solving the puzzles.

Second, the lack of variety in the puzzles diminishes the experience towards the end of the game. Although the puzzles are fun, they become repetitive as the game progresses. The novelty of the new block types introduced throughout the game wears thin pretty quickly. This repetitiveness is particularly evident during a second playthrough. The combination of the lack of variety and difficult controls makes it difficult to enjoy replaying the game to experience the other narrative options.

Third, the game’s narrative is thought-provoking, but that doesn’t mean it is always profound. Several times, Solo presented a complex question but provided responses that were lacking in nuance. This forced me to choose an option for the sake of continuing the story and not because it was an option I wanted to choose. Although Team Gotham touted Solo as an introspective experience, this lack of nuance breaks the game’s immersion.

This lack of depth is especially clear if the player values other relationships higher than romantic ones. This narrative path betrays the unexamined western assumptions regarding romantic love and other kinds of interpersonal connections. Similarly, parts of the narrative pit reason against emotions. The naiveté displayed throughout the game about love is at times off-putting.

Overall, Solo is beautiful and it is worth spending the time to explore the compelling world crafted by Team Gotham. The visuals and music alone are worth the price of admission. The game’s missteps are a bit of a nuisance, but they are forgivable when considering the entire package.

Review code generously provided by Stride PR