What does Luke’s statement in the The Last Jedi Teaser mean?

Personally I find it rather futile to guess and speculate the meaning behind a 1 minute teaser designed to market a movie. Ironically I find people who really hate spoilers are also ones trying to piece together a story out of the limited footage revealed in a trailer. I say, just wait for the movie to come out and you’ll find out. However, as the hypocrite that I am, I’m going to speculate on the new teaser for The Last Jedi with this article including a click-baity title. Why? Because this website needs more views and I’m going to indulge your need to speculate to get views. Firstly, if you haven’t seen the trailer already go watch it here:

I don’t know why these Star Wars teasers require a jump-scare at the very beginning. Anyways, the big thing that people are going on about is the statement Luke makes at the end of the teaser.

I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.

People have been freaking out over the meaning of this statement. Did Luke turn to the dark side?! Has he become so defeated from the betrayal of Ben Solo that he’s giving everything up?! Is he Rey’s father?!

Well, lets take a step back and look at the Star Wars series as a whole. Some facts to be aware of before I give my educated guess as to the meaning of Luke’s statement. George Lucas was heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell when creating the Star Wars universe. Joseph Campbell is an anthropologist who studied mythology from all around the world. His studies were not to discover the differences between them but rather the values, meanings and purpose behind these myths that is shared by the whole world. He wrote several books but the one most important to this discussion is his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

In this book, Campbell discovered a structure that is shared by mythology all over the world. This is known by many as The Hero’s Journey or The Monomyth. This structure has been influential to storytellers all over the world and is used heavily by films, books, television and video games. A textbook example of the Hero’s Journey is actually the first Star Wars film. George Lucas was in fact one of Campbell’s students in school and was very familiar with the themes, meanings and structure found in mythology as outlined in Campbell’s book. Here’s s basic outline of the Hero’s Journey:

http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/Workshop-stuff/Joseph-Campbell-Hero-Journey.htm

Several lectures can go into each step so I won’t attempt to go through the whole thing in detail. For the purposes of our discussion though, I wish to focus attention on Apotheosis (it’s misspelled on the diagram). Apotheosis is the process of a man (meaning the overall broad sense of humanity) becoming a God. In the context of the screen-writing, it’s a transformation that is made that allows him/her to reach beyond a stage of ignorance into a stage of knowledge, giving them power to achieve a goal that the hero has set out to do in the story.

So how does this have anything to do with the The Last Jedi teaser? Reading deeper into Campbell’s work helps you to understand the mythic context behind Apotheosis. A large portion of the text talks about the concept of the unity of opposites which can be summarized in the concept of the Yin Yang. If you don’t know, Yin Yang is a symbol of a eastern philosophy that two seemingly contradictory elements are actually two sides of one great whole. According to Campbell, apotheosis is a stage where both opposites come together to form a God using the example of the Male-Female Gods of mythology. God in many religions represent many contradictory sides, a God of creation and destruction, of time and eternity, light and darkness, justice and mercy and so forth.

So let’s bring it back to Star Wars, where the central conflict with the series has always been the light side versus the dark side of the force. In the prequel trilogy, the Jedi council speak about a chosen one destined to bring about the “balance of the force.” Because the prequel trilogy was poorly written, they do not explain what that actually means. Many in the series interpret that to mean the destruction of the dark side. But how does that bring balance?

Let’s go back earlier in the teaser when Rey talks about seeing the light and dark, the balance. Luke tells her that there’s more to it than that. Here’s where I start speculating on how Luke has changed over the years in exile. I believe he discovered that which one who was raised by the Jedi could not understand. That the force is not divided into light and darkness but is both all in one. Where Anakin failed to bring balance to the force, the reincarnation of the chosen one seen in Rey (they both are expert mechanics, pilots and force users) may in fact bring balance to the force. But in order to do that, the Jedi, who represents the light side of the force, can no longer exist. It doesn’t mean that Good needs to give into Evil, but rather the Jedi need to transcend the exclusive use and study of the light side and become one with the force as a whole, both light and dark. This would also mean the end of the Sith has to happen. Perhaps Anakin did fulfill his role as chosen one by ending the Sith by killing his master and himself. Leaving the end of the Jedi to his son and his reincarnation, Rey.

So worry not Skywalker fans, I do not believe that he has turned to the dark side. Rather I think he discovered a secret to the force that the Jedi and Sith have ignored for centuries. In fact, according to non-canon Star Wars history, both groups came from one group of force users who practiced in both light and dark sides of the force and sought true balance with the force named the Je’daii. So perhaps Rey will do what Anakin could not, which is to fully bring balance to the force and end the conflict between the light and dark sides for good.

Again, this is all speculation. But there is strong evidence that this is the direction they will be going. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait until December to find out for sure.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

It seems that everyone has been playing this game or at least have been bombarded by memes, secrets videos and the like. So I don’t know how much more I could add to the conversation. But I have had people tell me this is what they wanted so I will go ahead and give my two cents.

Some disclosure, I played the Wii U version as I didn’t want to bother waiting until now when the Switch starts to be more available and I really needed to justify my Wii U purchase as I bought it solely for two games, Smash Brothers and Zelda. So I will not be reviewing the Switch as many other reviewers have done. So lets dive into this!

Likes:

  1. The real star of this game is the world of Hyrule. No game has fully realized a place since Skyrim. The map is not only massive but it is diverse. Each area is distinct and different from the rest of the map. A lot of open world games tend to take a copy paste approach to the world design to save time. Nintendo really used the game delays to their advantage and made a spectacular world. It is a place you want to spend time exploring and discovering little secrets hidden across the kingdom of Hyrule. There is no doubt that this game will become the definitive representation of Hyrule. Every part of the world is beautiful in its own unique way and there will be moments where you finish climbing to a hill or tower, see the area and have your breath taken away by the beauty of it all.
  2. Most Zelda games have been built around some sort of gameplay gimmick (such as time-traveling, sailing, dimension hopping, or motion controls) this was really a return to the very roots of the Zelda franchise: exploration. The gimmick in Breath of the Wild is exploration and open ended gameplay. This game accomplishes that spectacularly. You start in one area that is closed off and acts as the tutorial for the rest of the game. Once you leave this area, you are free to do whatever you want. There is only one real goal in the game and that is to destroy Ganon.  Everything else is optional. Granted this things are highly encouraged to do since the side quests and shrines are designed to help you get stronger and ready to fight Ganon. But many speedrunners have gone to fight Ganon with nothing more than 4 hearts and a stick. You could even ignore the main quest and spend hours looking for ingredients and recipes to become a master chef. The game rarely forces you to go into a linear path and no one person will approach this game the same.
  3. As big as the world is and the freedom the game gives you, it is a major shock how stable this game is. Even great open-world games still have many bugs and glitches as QAing games like this is really difficult. But Nintendo did a great job in making this the most stable open-world game I’ve ever played. There were only a few times where I had major frame-rate drops but otherwise they were only brief and not game crashing. You don’t see NPC walking into walls or fall through the floor. While that means there may not be as many funny glitches that many Bethesda games are known for, there are plenty of other funny moments in the game that makes up for it.
  4. With a game this open-ended, you’d think that the story is nothing more than an afterthought. But the story is one of the best in the series. One of my favorite quests was looking for areas on the map that will help Link recover lost memories. Doing this will unlock cutscenes that give backstory to Link, Zelda and many other major characters in the game. The Zelda in this game is one of the best portrayed in all the games, even Skyward Sword. But aside from the memories, the world itself tells many stories as to what happened to Hyrule 100 years ago. For example, there were times where I’d stumble upon several decayed guardians (the spider robots seen the marketing material) with rusted swords in the ground, a display of a battle long ago. It’s an additional testament to the world design and how well thought out it was.
  5. You will get your money’s worth with this game. I played over 105 hours to beat the game and there is still plenty of things I can do. There are 4 main dungeons, 120 mini-dungeons (shrines), 900 korok seeds, several armor sets and upgrades for them and plenty of side quests. By far the biggest Zelda game yet.

Dislikes:

  1. There are a handful of gyroscopic puzzles that use the control’s gyroscope to solve. These are frustrating above all other puzzles in the game. The controls felt off and I hate it when Nintendo tries to force motion controls into my zelda games (it was tolerable in Twilight Princess but frustrating in Skyward Sword). Again, there are few of these and they are completely optional.
  2.  The rain. The fact that it rains in the game is totally fine, but there are drawbacks when it rains. One, climbing cliffs is practically impossible when it gets wet from the rain. Ok, so lets make a campfire and wait it out, oh wait, the wood gets wet and you can’t make a fire. So you’re stuck on a cliff edge and have to wait 5 real life minutes before the rain stops (if it does at all). I might be able to forgive this if it only happens a few times in the game, no, it happens all the time. So much so that it almost feels like the weather programmers deliberately coded the rain to come when you’re climbing something. I wouldn’t care if the game allowed you to wait it out like Skyrim does. But you have to build a campfire to do that and it’s impossible to do during the rain. It sucks you out of the game when you have to sit there and wait for the rain to end before you continue your adventure.
  3. Speaking of weather, lightning can be annoying as well. Because not only is mother nature precision aiming death bolts at you, it’s also raining. The solution is to equip non-metal gear but the problem is that most of the best weapons in the game are steel. So there were times when I was caught in a storm without any wooden weapons which makes it hard when you get ambushed. However, there is a set of armor that makes you immune to electricity that changed everything. Then I would run into a group of enemies just more lightning struck and laugh as my enemies are destroyed around me. But unless you know where said armor pieces are and have the materials to upgrade them, you won’t being having fun in the lightning storms until late in the game.
  4. It took me a while to get used to the controls, as a Zelda veteran, the control scheme for most of the games have been fairly consistent since Ocarina of Time. The controls are very different in this game and it was quite a learning curve for me. But after several hours and accidentally whistling while sneaking I managed to get the hang of it. The interface on the menus weren’t the best either has you had to sort through a bunch of crap to find the items you wanted to cook.
  5. I don’t know why Zelda insists on doing stealth segments. Half the reason why I swore off stealth games for so long was because of crappy stealth from Zelda games. Hyrule Castle in OoT, Gerudo Fortress in MM, Forsaken Fortress in WW, the list goes on. While the stealth in this game is improved from the last games, it’s still frustrating when your forced to do it during certain moments in the game.

Both Liked and Disliked:

  1. The gear durability system is mostly hated by fans. While I do like how the game forces me to try out different weapons, I think it could have been improved. I would have liked to have seen a durability bar on the gear so I know how much use it has left, being able to repair weapons, or doing a quest-line allowing you to make unbreakable weapons (The Master Sword while technically unbreakable, loses its charge after prolonged use, which is the exact same problem). For a game that encourages agency in it’s gameplay and exploration, I think it should allow you to use the weapons you like. At the very least, they should have increased the durability of all gear as they always seems to break quickly and at the worst possible moment. I also found myself not using my good weapons out of fear of them breaking. Again, this is not as bad later in the game when you expand your inventory and good weapon drops become more regular.
  2. These is easily the hardest Zelda game in recent memory. The game is especially brutal at the beginning of the game where there are several enemies that can one shot you. It can be really frustrating for new players. However, much like Dark Souls, the game rewards you for overcoming the odds. You really get a sense of accomplishment when you go back to an area that gave you trouble and totally wipe the floor of those pesky blue monsters. Near the end of the game I finally got courageous enough to take on Lynels (which are the hardest enemies in the game) and felt awesome dodging their attacks, shooting them in the face and stabbing its back while its trying to buck you off. So if your struggling with the game, keep it up and you’ll git gud.

Overall:

If you love open world games, you cannot do better than this game. The world and player choice are the best anyone can offer. This is definitely a worthy title for the Zelda franchise. Is it my favorite Zelda game? I don’t know if I can really say that as it’s very different from the other Zelda titles. Majora’s Mask still holds a piece of my heart (pun intended) since it was the game that got me into the series. But this is definitely the best 3D Zelda title since then. Unless you already have a Wii U, I would just play the Switch version. The differences aren’t big enough to say one is better, but the Wii U is dead at this point and there’s no point in buying one for Zelda alone.

Racial Identity in Ghost In The Shell (2017) **Contains Spoilers**

44% on Rotten Tomatoes and $18.6 Million on the opening weekend. With these numbers it is safe to say that the adaptation of Ghost In The Shell is an utter failure, both financially and critically. So why did I love this movie so much? Am I stupid for loving this racially-insensitive Hollywood cash-in or am I seeing something that everyone has missed or ignored? As amusing as it would be to make an article of me facing my own cognitive dissonance to realign my thinking to popular views, I think I’m going to do the dangerous thing: Have my own unpopular opinion and defend it. So here’s why Ghost In The Shell (2017) was great and why everyone missed the point of the movie.

Let’s start with the problem that many people have with these movie: the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi, a Japanese cyborg counter-terrorist. Hollywood has had a lot of issues of racially insensitive casting for movies throughout its whole history. Blackface, yellowface, and redface were all common place for decades where white actors were put under make-up to play roles that are for other races. This allowed for the spreading of negative racial stereotypes that still continue to this day. While many improvements have been made in our current media, there are still examples of Hollywood whitewashing traditionally ethnic characters like in the live action The Last Airbender and The Lone Ranger. This article is not to defend such practices by any means. Minorities are extremely under-represented in popular culture, even today. However, in the context of the themes, story and world of Ghost In The Shell the casting of Scarlett Johansson was not only justified, it allowed the movie to take a self aware look into how capitalist-driven corporations seek to change our identity for profit.

So in the movie, the plot is primarily driven by Major’s desire to find out who she is. The dilemma of that is faced with being a human-like cyborg but not completely human. In the world of Ghost in the Shell, many people have cybernetic implants. Some like the Major, have a completely synthetic body. So the way that many people retain their humanity is by having a “ghost.” A ghost is the mind, so the identity of a person is linked to the mind or their “ghost.” Both the new and the original movies show the problem with this as memories are hacked and altered by both cyber-terrorists like the Puppet Master or mega corporations like Hanka Robotics. In both films, Major struggles with their own identity as she’s unsure if her memories are her own or is artificial like her body is. The animated film doesn’t seek to answer questions as to the truth of Major’s identity, rather it ends with her finding her humanity by ironically evolving into a higher and completely technological being by merging with The Puppet Master. This is where the live action version differs.

In the live-action version, the central focus is on finding out Major’s identity. In the film, she is introduced as a (presumably American) refugee that survived a terrorist attack, thus giving her the motivation to hunt down terrorists in the anti-terrorism unit Section 9. However, after meeting with hacker Kuze, her identity is put into question and she seeks answers. She finds out that not only is the terrorist attack that killed her parents a fake memory implanted by Hanka, but her real identity (or ghost) is a Japanese runaway named Motoko Kusanagi (surprise!). So yes, The Major in the live-action movie is in fact Japanese, or specifically she is a Japanese Ghost in the American Shell.

So does this justify white-washing Major’s character in the first place? Or, as some of the critics claim, a sloppy means for the filmmakers the hop around a sensitive issue? First of all, the story antagonizes the corporation that kidnaps children, brain washes them with a new identity and then gives them a new body as a means to get profit. I don’t think the film is trying to say that changing a person’s race and identity for your own gain is okay. I’m happy that the filmmakers were ballsy enough to even attempt to be a mirror at Hollywood’s own race problem. Do you know how many actors and actresses needed to change their name to make them sound less ethnic? Charlie Sheen was born Carlos Irwin Estevez, his father’s name is Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez, you know him as Martin Sheen. That is an example of only one actor out of many that had to change their name. The closure for The Major in the live action movie comes from discovering her real name: Motoko Kusanagi. Only then is she able to connect to the world around her, using not her American shell but through her Japanese ghost.

By the way, I asked two friends of mine, both of whom are Asian American, how they felt about the movie. Both of them enjoyed the movie and weren’t bothered by the casting. One of them even said that Scarlett Johansson did the character justice. The anime doesn’t even address her ethnicity so her race doesn’t effect her characterization at all. Ironically the one time it does is the American adaptation because it’s part of her character arc. The big irony in all this though is how everyone is upset that Hollywood changed the identity of the protagonist, and the movie agrees with you wholeheartedly.

If the plot itself isn’t enough to convince you, then I will start talking about the themes of the original animated classic and the cyberpunk genre as a whole. The opening text in the Ghost in the Shell (1995) says that “The advancement of computerization, however, has not yet wiped out nations and ethnic groups.” The keyword in that statement is ‘yet’. The implications are important to understanding the multicultural themes in both cyberpunk and Ghost in the Shell. The original movie, Major does in fact transcend race and nation by merging with The Puppet Master and evolving into a computerized ghost without age, gender or ethnicity. The world of cyberpunk is filled with multiculturalism. Blade Runner is a world full of different ethnicities (primarily Chinese) even though it takes places in a future Los Angles. Ghost in the Shell is a Japan full of multiculturalism as well. Here’s an excellent video essay by The Nerdwriter about how Ghost in the Shell does this.

One of the themes in Ghost in the Shell is developing a world that is truly uni-cultural by the use of technology. When all differences are removed by uniting the world on a global network and controlling our appearance via synthetic bodies. However this may present a problematic dilemma in the current discussion on race. Does this uni-culturalism mean that we should be color blind? What I mean by that is, does the mixture and evolution of multiple cultures mean we must lose our past in order to make a future where no race exists? I think the movie makes that clear when The Puppet Master says this:

“All things change in a dynamic environment. Your efforts to remain what you are is what limits you.”

The difference between the original animated film is that the live action film is about embracing your cultural identity. The ending is Major accepting her past and reuniting with her mother. This is ultimately what I loved about the live-action version is that is it not the same as the original. It is not a remake but an adaptation, which I think it did well for the current discussions on race which promotes the acceptance of one’s heritage, promote diversity and the tolerance toward other’s ethnicity.

So it would make sense for the cast of the new Ghost in the Shell to be multicultural. Many of it’s supporting characters are Chinese, Japanese, Black, and White. It reflects the multiculturalism found in America and (increasingly) in other countries around the world. It may not focus attention on the ethnic characters as much as I’d like but none of them I would say are stereotypical. I mentioned in my review that “Chief” Aramaki, a Japanese character played by a Japanese actor (the great Beat Takeshi Kitano) that speaks Japanese throughout the whole movie, is one of my favorites (pictured below). I think the movie did try to show a world of people of different colors to work together in a much more optimistic way than your typical cyberpunk movie.

The new Ghost in the Shell is not here to mimic what made the original anime great. Instead it took the source material and adapted to a more international and contemporary audience. It’s okay with me if the new Ghost in the Shell didn’t work for you. But I feel like I have to explain myself why I seem to be a minority in how I feel about this movie. I just feel that people are watching the film without reading what it’s trying to say, or worse, not watching it and judging it based off the opinion of others. It isn’t a perfect movie, but it at least got me to not only think about the depiction of race in pop culture but also be a fun and visually stunning movie to watch. I have to give credit to a movie that does that for me.