My Favorite Stormtrooper Armor from Star Wars

Maybe this gets me out of the controversial arena of Batman suits and Star Wars ship rankings, since no one seems to care as much about stormtrooper armor as much as I do.

The Challenge

A particularly difficult part of this task is how broadly to define the term “Stormtrooper,” as it’s used by casual and dedicated fans alike to refer to any trooper at any period of time in the storytelling arc of the Star Wars universe.

I draw a distinction between the prequel trilogy and the other eras, specifically because of the rebranding of the troopers over time from clone troopers to stormtroopers. It’s further muddied by the fact that both Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story are both prequels, hence why I used the specific term “prequel trilogy” beforehand.

However, the rebranding is just that – a rebranding. So I’m going to leave the category more broad and lump in the prequel trilogy and even extend consideration to the armor stylings of “The Final Order” because that’s just a rebranding, too.

Republic is rebranded to Empire. Empire is rebranded to First Order. First Order takes over the galaxy and one year later is rebranded to Final Order.

Which spurs a thought that maybe Palpatine would have been less evil if he’d just gone into marketing since what he seems to love most is to rebrand things. Well, maybe he just would have been a different type of evil, not less evil.

(Of course, the Rebellion rebranded to the Resistance just to rebrand to Rebellion in Star Wars: [Don’t Say Episode VIII:] The Last Jedi, and then rebrand back to the Resistance a year later. Make up your damn minds!)

The Winners

I know that “My Favorite Stormtrooper Armor” may imply a singular choice, but in this case it does not! However, unlike my post about onscreen Batman suits, I’m not going to go through a lengthy history of things. I’m just going to present my Top Five in no particular order.

Why five? Because I’ll go nuts if I try to pare it down further than that, and and I’ve already been writing longer than I intended.

Death Trooper

I just think they look lethal. If I saw this armor walking toward me I’d be a little worried. The sheen on the armor also makes them less boring. It’s actually disorienting to focus on them.

Death Trooper | kesseljunkie Death Star Trooper | kesseljunkie

Of course, try not to confuse it with the 1977 action figure known as “Death Star Trooper,” which is significantly less scary.

Sith Trooper

The Sith Trooper from Star Wars: [Don’t Say Episode IX] The Rise of Skywalker is a beautiful set of armor. It looks elite, has interesting texture and details, and harkens back to my beloved prequel era with the faceplate. It introduces an angularity to the “marshmallow trooper” of the sequel era. This armor looks like the person wearing it is ready to punch through a steel wall to gut you.

It’s also maddening, because this should have been what the First Order stormtroopers looked like in Star Wars: [Don’t Say Episode VII] The Force Awakens. That sort of ferocious zeal is supposed to be what the First Order is all about. This would have made me sit up and take notice of the design choices in the sequels.

Too perfect, too late.

Death Star Trooper | kesseljunkie

Shock Trooper

I love all the Clone Trooper armor. The prequel era was heaven for an armor obsessive like me. In my collecting days, I made a point to get every a figure for every variant. I loved where they went with the armor for Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and considered it the most perfect iteration I’d seen to that point.

But I still remember seeing the Shock Troopers for the first time in Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and being struck by how much I loved the way the color was applied. Just terrific.

Shock Trooper | kesseljunkie

Range Trooper

Seen briefly in the massively-underrated Solo: A Star Wars Story, Range Troopers just look cool. Awesome faceplate, dense armor, fur collars, heavy weapons and, in this iteration, magnetic boots. What’s not to love?

Range Trooper | kesseljunkie

Biker Scout/Scout Trooper

I went nuts for this armor as a kid. While I loved the Snowtrooper variation in Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the Biker Scout in Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi lit up my imagination like never before.

I still think it’s just one of the neatest armor suits I’ve ever seen.

Range Trooper | kesseljunkie

In Closing

Unlike ship designs, at least a suit of armor from the sequels makes it here. Had I expanded this to include other armor variations like the Imperial Guards, Republic Guards, or Praetorian Guards, I’d likely have had to rethink some things.

But I didn’t, so I won’t.

My Favorite Onscreen Batman Suit

With the upcoming reimagining of the iconic character for The Batman, we’re going to be treated to yet another interpretation of his trademark suit. Starting in the comics as a simple-yet-effective gray-and-black outfit, Batman’s outifit has had quite a number of reinterpretations.

Most of them amount to variations on a theme, but as the line between comics and film gets blurred we see some shared inspirations there as well. For the purposes of this exercise, however, I am going to stick with onscreen interpretations.

I’m also going to stick with Polonius’ advice here that brevity is the soul of wit. I feel no need to flex any sort of nerd credibility muscle here and pontificate on the where, when, why, or how of the suits. That material is all out there for your consumption if you’re interested, cataloged by people who were either paid to do so, or more inclined to try to become an Alpha Nerd.

Fortunately for me, someone already compiled almost all of them into one easy-to-view graphic, so I’m just pulling it in here. The original image is over on Reddit (of course). It’ll also help keep the blog a touch shorter so I don’t have to embed every suit, though a few will make their way into the course of things.

So keep this compilation in mind and then bear with me later as I bring in some additional ones that this compilation leaves out.

I’m not really going to waste time on the pajamas of the early years through 1966. They were of their time, and while I think the 1966 suit is actually pretty neat for what it is…they’re never going to be in a real conversation for my “favorite.”

Of course, 1989 ushered in the era of armor for the Batsuit, to account for the fact we lived in a different world than the one which gave birth to Batman. They could not hope to anchor Batman in “reality” and not put him in something that would take handguns into account.

This is something worth pondering to me because it’s not that guns were all that hard to come by in the 1930s, so you’d think that there’d have been a consideration of some sort of “armor” back then, too, even if it was just a simple plate a la Clint Eastwood’s trick that inspired Marty McFly in 1885.

The suit game was upped in Batman Returns, for my money. Instead of trying to mold a physique onto Michael Keaton, they went with a more armored approach. This one has tremendous appeal, and was in the top spot for quite awhile, because I liked the suit more in the sequel even if I think Batman Returns is lacking in some key regards.

Batman Returns suit | kesseljunkie

Then along came nipples in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Here’s where we get to the deficiency in the compilation image, though, and it seems to be a gap for some when recollecting the onscreen Batsuits.

The first one that image compilation forgot is Batman’s costume change at the end of Batman Forever, where he appears in the “Sonar Batsuit.” This is the suit that Batman would wear when he finally defeats The Riddler. It’s silvery sheen may announce his presence, and the abdominal pattern gets a bit more armor-like, but it also subtracts something in the process.

Sonar Batman suit | kesseljunkie
Do you notice what’s missing?

The other one they forgot is Batman’s costume change at the end of Batman & Robin, where he appears in the…IDK, “Thermal Underwear Batsuit”? This is the suit worn when he defeats not just Mr. Freeze but any remaining dignity the audience had left.

Sonar Batman suit | kesseljunkie
They’re STILL missing!

What’s fascinating about these third-act costumes is that they are both missing nipples. Even beyond the codpieces, the nipples were the most reviled addition to the Batsuits for Schumacher’s films. It’s a weird thing to note that, at the end of the ordeals, the one sure sign Batman was done toying with his enemies was to ditch the nips.

Weird, isn’t it?

The Animated Series

Of course, since I’m talking about onscreen suits, I have to mention The Animated Series, which included two movies, Mask of the Phantasm and Batman / Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero.

While I LOVE the series and I LOVE the art direction, I’m always going to lean toward the live-action suits.

Batman The Animated Series | kesseljunkie

And no, I’m not going to entertain the idea of the suit from Superfriends or when Scooby-Doo met Batman. Those are just animated versions of the 1966 outfit, which disqualifies them.

I also know that if I don’t at least mention them I’ll leave myself open to some doddering savant who’d feel the need to challenge whether I was actually aware of them. Gatekeeper, I say to this Straw Man! Gatekeeper!

Then Along Came Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan seemed to embrace the straightforward armor aspect of the Batsuit that was first introduced in Batman Returns. The suit was a great success, although Batman still couldn’t really turn his head. I remember commenting on it at the time. If anything, they made his neck thicker and it was just a marvelous thing Batman could survive so well with such restricted head movement.

This lingering problem never got solved until The Dark Knight, when Bruce Wayne makes a point to request a more agile suit design from Lucius Fox. And here we get to my favorite onscreen Batsuit.

It’s armor, it’s agile, and it even builds in a sonar tech later in the film without the need to be spray painted silver! I think it’s a terrific, modern treatment to the age-old dilemma of how to present Batman in a believable outfit that seems practical and effective.

I know there is some slight variance with the suit he dons in The Dark Knight Rises, but they’re very minor and I think mainly have to do with resculpting for how Bale’s physique changed between films. I could be wrong about that.

And Then There was Zack Snyder

I’ll just make this brief. The costume might have looked like a great homage to the comic books, but the molded wrinkles on the Batsuit in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Thesaurus Marketing Title and in Justice League: Joss Whedon’s Legacy just sort of ruin it for me.

The “wrinkles” in the comics like The Dark Knight Returns are stylistic flair to make it seem like the fabric is straining against Batman’s physique. It conveys a kinetic power that he’s working to contain and channel. With wrinkles “molded” into permanence on a suit, it just looks weird. Those wrinkles are even there when no one’s in the thing.

I will give it this: I enjoyed the short ears, utility belt, and forearms. Hard to really call them gauntlets, but they did look cool.

Batman v Superman suit | kesseljunkie

The Winner: The Dark Knight/The Dark Knight Rises Suit

The Dark Knight suit | kesseljunkie

My judgment is anything but final. I can go back and forth on this a fair amount, I just always liked the “armor” look all the way back to 1992 so it’s kind of inevitable I wound up here.

Also, I guess I put a ton of pics in here despite my thought that I wouldn’t. Oh well.

So which one is your favorite?

My 7 Favorite Ships from Star Wars

OK, wading into controversial territory again. Or maybe not. I’m not the one on trial here. OR AM I?

This is my official ranking of my 7 Favorite Ships in Star Wars. At least, this is how it stands today.

When I say Star Wars in this context, of course I mean the franchise as a whole and not the original film. In fact, I think you’d have to get pretty creative to create a “7 Favorites” list just from the original film.

Usual disclaimers about this being a matter of personal opinion. No more preamble. Let’s get to it. No particular order, this is just how it stands at present. And yes, you can believe me that this list was harder to compile than it would be for your casual moviegoer.

I could have made a “Top 20” list easily, but gave myself a “Top 7” because a “Top 5” could have driven me insane.

My 7 Favorite Ships from Star Wars

Jedi Starfighter
I have been in love with the Jedi Starfighter since I first saw it. I loved it in Episode II, but I loved it even more in Episode III. It captures the aesthetic of the A-Wing, another beloved design in the franchise lore, and it painfully bumps it from the consideration for this list. If it did not exist, the A-Wing would be here.
Jedi Starfighter | kesseljunkie

The Twilight
This is the spice freighter that Anakin keeps on the side for “unofficial missions” in the Clone Wars series, and I love the asymmetric flight configuration and hints of the B-Wing that was featured in Return of the Jedi.The Twilight Anakin's Ship | kesseljunkie

The Millenium Falcon
Everyone loves the Falcon. And they should. The cockpit placement has that same asymmetric element that attracts me to the Twilight, and it’s the ship of the original bad boy of Star Wars, Han Solo. But here’s the twist — my favorite version is the one from Solo: A Star Wars Story.

The Imperial Shuttle
True Fans will point out that this is a Lambda Class Shuttle from Star Wars, but I don’t care. I just remember being a wee lad and seeing this onscreen for the first time. I’ve been in love with it ever since. The way the wings fold, the menacing grace of its design, and the simple lines have always captivated.

Count Dooku’s Solar Sailer
Here’s my outlier! I’m not sure many people remember Dooku’s Solar Sailer, but I sure do. I was enamored of it the moment I saw it take flight and unfold its sails in Episode II, and love everything it says about the character. This is a ship that belongs to an era that is dying, and to which Dooku belongs. It’s an outward showing of his pride and short-sightedness that he thinks it, or he, will have a place in the future of the galaxy.
count dooku solar sailer star wars | kesseljunkie

Razor Crest
The ship flown by The Mandalorian in the show of the same name, she is a thing of beauty. Evocative of power, and age, and eternal utility. Like all the great ships, she looks like there’s a surprise hidden in her somewhere. We haven’t seen everything of which this ship is capable, but it invites us to imagine what those capabilities are. It’s also evocative of the Republic Gunship, a design from the “prequel” era for which I have an excessive fondness, and which almost made this list.
count dooku solar sailer star wars | kesseljunkie

The B-Wing
I’ve written about my love for the B-Wing before. I strongly encourage you to look at that post for my complete thoughts! I’ll share this tantalizing snippet from that previous post: “There’s nothing particularly sleek or even well-imagined about the ship. There is the neat concept that the cockpit stays steady while the ship rotates around it; I don’t think this concept is demonstrated practically in Return of the Jedi though. The only reason any fan knows it is because the toy did that or some other supplemental material explained that.” Also, I know I’m not alone because it got a highlight spot in an episode of Star Wars Rebels that I adored.
star wars b-wing | kesseljunkie

So That’s the List

This list is forever open to change. Honestly, it might need to be updated, if I wrote it a month from now as I ponder more. Such is the nature of lists like this.

There are, as you might notice, no “favorites” from the sequel trilogy. That’s not an oversight.

So what are your favorite ships from Star Wars?

I Don’t Think the Drive-In Movie Experience is Worth Reviving

Time to get a little controversial again. This is something that has been sitting in my brain for a bit, and I just need to say it. I know you value my honesty.

I’m not thrilled about the resurgence of the “Drive-In Movie Experience.”

As local theaters around me convert their parking lots, and WalMart decides to enter the business and crush small theater chains who can’t afford to adapt (it’s a business model!), I am filled with trepidation about the trend.

I know that there’s a romanticizing of the experience for people who are approaching middle age, among the last with true working memories of the drive-in theater. But while I’ve changed my mind about the Return of the LP, and have a nice collection built up in that format again, I don’t think I can get on board with drive-in movie theaters making a big comeback.

The primary reason is that the experience sucks. There, I said it.

Drive In Movie Theater | kesseljunkie
What an experience!

The Last Drive-In

The last drive-in movie I went to was a longer time ago than I care to remember. There was a lot of noise, the car got stuffy since we turned the engine off, and there were interruptions regularly about the snack bar.

I’ll note that the car got stuffy on a temperate night in the middle of nowhere in Maryland. Now that I live in the Sun Belt, trapping me in a car at any time of day is worse treatment than they get at Gitmo. I don’t know why I’d pay for it, unless I frame it as a sweat lodge experience and at the end of it I gain some sort of shamanistic insight

There was no way to get “into” the movie, either. That extra pane of glass, the distractions all around, and the general discomfort subtracted from truly connecting with the movie.

You could circumvent that by showing only accessible extravaganzas with big action set pieces like Mission: Impossible, or John Wick, or a Fast & Furious movie. But I’d still prefer to watch those in real comfort instead of a wheeled prison environment.

Additionally, I think that people’s temperament has changed such that I don’t trust how an argument plays out when some idiot leaves their headlights on, or someone gets a bit too raunchy in the car next to you. I’m aware that drive-ins have always been a destination for a lovers’ rendezvous, and people have managed to enjoy the movies anyway, but I’m not sure the modern self-involved moviegoer cares as much about disturbing others as they once did.

So be prepared to have awkward conversations with your kids.

I’m sure some would say I’m looking too much at the downside of the drive-in experience. While I understand the sentiment, I’d simply retort that I’m not sure what the up side is.

The fact is that the Drive-In was a response to the rapid suburbanization of the country, and became an easy way to appeal to a society in the throes of its love affair with the automobile. They died out because better experiences presented themselves, not because of some Oliver Stone-style sinister conspiracy.

John Candy JFK Dean Andrews | kesseljunkie
“Don’t you get it, Jimmy? Big Movie killed the drive-in!”

The Best of No Worlds

While I don’t plan on shelling out $30 to Disney©®™ for Mulan at home, I don’t plan on shelling out $15 or more for a bad experience outside the home, either.

I’m sure that people hungry for a communal movie experience would ask for my solution to the problem, then. I don’t plan to give it, because that’s a whole other discussion I don’t want to get into right now.

I’d rather just go over to my Bookshelf of the Banned and watch a classic.

The 6 Best Movies for Catharsis

My cousin Rob recently answered, via post, a question I had posited in one of my own posts. He has an interesting solution to the question, in the same way that James Tiberius Kirk, renegade threat and terrorist to the Klingon Empire, solved the Kobayashi Maru test. Give it a read.

Anyway, instead of creating my own Top 5 List for movies I’m going to take the lead here and post The 6 Best Movies for Catharsis. Why 6? Because it’s my blog and I wanted to do it that way.

What is Catharsis?

It’s the purification and purgation of emotions, originally put forth by Aristotle. It is a sort of restoration process when done right. That Aristotle was a pretty smart cat. Hopefully his statues will remain standing.

Theater types love the idea of catharsis, because it’s a goal of theater to lead the audience to that state. Since film is an evolution of theater, there are plenty of filmmakers who see catharsis as a goal. It can also be a goal just to entertain, like a lesser Michael Bay movie or a Three Stooges short.

A great comedy could elevate your spirit and maybe soften your heart toward the world. Since movies are essentially an evolution of theater, a comedy like Planes, Trains and Automobiles would do exactly that.

A great drama could prove cathartic by putting you in touch with a pain and working through it. I may never be the head of a crime family as prestigious and influential as the Corleone’s, but I can still achieve catharsis through its exploration of complex family dynamics.

So, here are my 6 Best movies for catharsis, in no particular order. You’ll notice the term “crying” appears more than once. That typically goes hand-in-hand with the purgation of emotion, but it’s not a requirement.

The 6 Best Movies for Catharsis

Rocky
The quintessential film about just wanting a chance. The outcome isn’t what’s important. What’s important is that you went out there and gave it everything you had. History may record the winners, but it’s built by the people who gave it everything no matter the odds.

If you don’t cry at the end of Rocky, I don’t know if there’s anything I can do for you.

Braveheart
Recently I responded to someone on Twitter about a favorite memory tied to this film. As I watched it on cable after its theatrical run, with a friend in the room, it got very quiet during the ending. We laughed at each other as we both looked over and saw that we’d been ugly crying.

The Game
As someone who’s struggled with my sense of self worth at various points, and the illusion of control in life, The Game is a quiet work from David Fincher that a lot of people overlook. It’s not as flashy as Fight Club, nor is it as easily accessible as Gone Girl. But for me, it’s a keystone cathartic film.

You can hear my complete thoughts on it on House of Fincher, including another story in this film which I think is surprisingly similar to it.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The aforementioned comedy masterpiece that I watch once a year. I still laugh at the jokes, and I still cry at the end. I still remember watching this with my parents, especially my dad, whose hysterical laughter was one of the greatest sounds the world has ever known. This film is classic John Hughes, and I’d argue it’s his greatest work.

Scrooge (1970)
Really, any adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is supremely cathartic. It’s a redemption tale that reminds us be open to showing compassion, and the film adaptations often take great pain to show the good people who never give up on Scrooge despite his misanthropy.

This version in particular, a musical starring Albert Finney, was also a favorite of my father’s. When Scrooge awakens at the end of his soul’s long journey through the night, he performs a magnificent song, “Begin Again,” with an undeniable energy that should melt even the iciest heart.

It’s a Wonderful Life
It can be “hip” to dislike this film. It got you credit for some time to turn up your nose at it. But like Rocky, it shows that every little moment has a lifetime leading to it. Has the ending been spoiled for you? Possibly. But the ending is a culmination of emotion that the audience has earned.

A Quick Note

I didn’t put Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, nor its brilliant companion arc from The Clone Wars series called The Siege of Mandalore because they are very specific and I’m not sure how accessible they are to non-Star Wars fans.

But if I want a purgation of emotions then those two, Episodes I & II, the original trilogy, and Solo: A Star Wars Story are basically my immediate therapy session.

In Conclusion

I said that these were the 6 Best Movies for Catharsis, but they’re far from the only ones.

What are yours?

Disney’s Blood from a Stone

Money!

Disney®™© just announced they’re going to put their delayed-release Mulan onto the Disney+ streaming service for $30, setting up the future of blah blah blah so on and so forth and whatever else reasons people are putting out there. We all knew movie theaters were being forced to shift their business models.

Disney©®™© just became the guy who gave the patient a bad prognosis while taking their last beer and smacking them on the way back out.

It Gets Worse

Most every blog or podcast you come across acts as some sort of Disney shill now, so take anything positive you hear with a grain of salt. The spin put out through the willing and spineless “reporters” out there will be quick and effective.

With the recent shift in habits (and employment!) during the ongoing sadomasochistic waltz of modern politics, it’s downright cruel to force people to fork over a substantial amount of money to watch a new-release movie.

Of course, the aforementioned spin has started, as evidenced thus:

That means it’s a glorified rental. I can keep access to it for the exorbitant price of $30 plus a monthly maintenance fee. This makes as much sense as a Neil Breen movie.

I don’t care what the reasons are. I don’t care how justified it might be. I don’t care how many times someone challenges themselves to use the words “pandemic,” “unprecedented,” and “horseradish” in their hot take, what this really boils down to is “Blood from a Stone.”

It’s twice the cost of a movie in the theater!

Beyond that, I can buy a movie on any platform that’s tied to my MoviesAnywhere account – Amazon Prime, Vudu, Apple, and so on – and I “have access” to a digital copy of said movie until I die and/or the service decides they don’t want to host it anymore. In the Disney+ model, I have access to this $30 (!) digital copy so long as I continue to pay a monthly fee for access to it.

At least, I guess, it clears up any questions of ownership in the digital model.

The thing that sucks most of all is that I love certain aspects of the Disney™®©® experience. I love the parks. I adore the Haunted Mansion. I enjoy the memories attached to a time when it indulged artists to take real risks, not just purchase any business that looked like it was capable of making a dime.

It does have a shade of brilliance, though, as they are charging twice the average price of a movie ticket while sharing none of the revenue along the distribution pipeline. The mob struggled decades to try to get a handle on that model.

But this mercenary abuse of viewers and business partners, along with the sorrowful decision to betray a certain filmmakers’ trust, is Bob Iger’s clearest legacy. This is just one more stone in that unfortunate memorial.

To Summarize

Can I change anything? No. Am I just a nobody ranting on the Internet to a small audience? Yes. Could Bob Iger conceivably have me murdered in my sleep with what amounts to pocket change for him? Certainly.

I’m also completely aware that it’s my choice whether I buy it or not. I’m talking about principles at this point, so save your lecture if that’s the basis of your counterpoint.

The truth is the truth. There won’t be a backlash against Disney over this because they control virtually all the outlets who’d dare to criticize them. There won’t be an honest debate because it’s just another slip down the Sarlacc slope.

So blink twice if you’re free to think your own thoughts, and blink once if you’d like to listen to the David Fincher podcast on which I’m appearing or the award-winning Star Wars podcast that features me as weekly cohost.

I’ll be over here, not forking over $30 for a glorified rental.

Lando Sarlacc Pit Star Wars Return of the Jedi | kesseljunkie
“Hurry! Iger needs a new pair of shoes!”

“What Does Multi-Format Mean?”

Short answer: It means waste.

Agent Bun, whilst shopping around for something that may or may not have been a gift for me (it was, I’m sure), sauntered into the room and asked, “What does Multi-Format Mean?”

I found this charming, because I consider it basic knowledge to the point that I forget it isn’t basic knowledge for everyone. It’s incredibly easy to lose perspective on those things, be it so-called “easter eggs” in movies or a section of the U.S. Constitution.

The qualifier here is she was making sure specifically because she knew I wouldn’t accept a format older than BluRay. She had asked about movies earlier in the day while fishing for ideas. While we haven’t upgraded to 4K yet, it’s mainly because we don’t see a need to replace a TV until it stops working.

(However, I had told her that if she got me a DVD, it may as well be a VHS tape. I know we’re just supposed to be grateful for things, but we can also have standards.)

But it spurred the discussion about Multi-Format in the first place. Why not just a BluRay disc?

I’ve heard any number of stories, up to and including a lawsuit someone filed because of the inherent requirement to upgrade your player for the new format, but I’ve yet to find specific confirmation of it. Also, if you want to go play Barnaby Jones and get me the link, that’d be great.

Barnaby Jones takes a phone call | kesseljunkie
Barnaby Jones would figure this out in 60 minutes, with commercial breaks included.

Multi-Format gets under my skin when it means more than one disc just because I hate hate that they’re giving me an extra copy I don’t want and don’t plan to use. It’s not good for the environment to keep making plastic discs that will go into a landfill sometime between now and I’m a rotting corpse, so why not make as few of them as we can?

It’s like I’ve bought a book and someone packages the large-print edition with it for slightly more. I’m only going to use one of these. Save yourself – and me – the extra cost and materials.

To avoid the typical complaining that one of my oldest friends offers on occasion, I’m not advocating the abolishment of physical media. I may have in the past, but that was before I figured out that owning a digital-only copy may not be the great bet I once thought it was.

Setting aside the unsettling topics of de facto shadow censorship by corporations, I know that there’s streaming. I also know some things are special enough to get on disc, and are the only way to preserve specific iterations of films you love, including Blade Runner or Apocalypse Now.

And there are other movies that you want to own as well, without being dependent on streaming overlords. Not everything is on a service to which you subscribe. Sometimes you want to watch it without an additional rental fee, especially if it’s something you’ll watch with any regularity.

Of course, it’s not true across the board. But it’s been true often enough. If I want a copy of a movie in a format, just let me have that copy in that format. If I want it in both formats for some odd reason, then I’ll get it in both. Heck, I know a guy who still buys 3D discs because…well, that’s his thing not mine.

Just give me the option to get a disc in a single format, and go on my way.

Although, if we live in a simulation, my environmental concerns…don’t matter at all.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Movies That Mold Us

A new episode of House of Fincher dropped today, and it was a discussion about Fight Club. As I listened back, I was struck again by how much of an impact the film had on my tastes and how much it resonated with me when I saw it.

To be clear, I wasn’t one of those guys who “joined a Fight Club” once I saw it. I knew a guy who did that, and it struck me as supremely…dumb. I’ll leave it to you to discern why I might have thought that.

But Fight Club certainly made an impact. Something in it spoke to people, especially people who were coming to terms with some of the absurdities of modern living. There was a comforting rebelliousness against a natural order that seemed terribly unnatural.

But this blog isn’t about that.

It’s more about how you can never know when or how you’ll encounter a film that will change the way you think, or affirm a feeling you’ve had. And these movies wind up molding you.

Sometimes movies mold you in small ways. Sometimes they mold you in large ways.

Rosemary’s Craigula is one of the greatest horror pictures of all time.

Sometimes, as you grow, you look back on something like JFK and think, “I became a conspiracy theorist because of that nonsense?” Sometimes you look back on The Doors and think, “Why would you lionize behavior like that?” (And I don’t mean just Morrison.)

Sometimes you realize Oliver Stone made both of those, and became a de facto historian for an age. Was that a good thing?

But they had an impact and they molded my tastes and my opinions, at least for a time. Some of that is a function of age, and some of it is just a function of taste, which is especially odd considering movies can also mold your tastes along the way.

Does a movie resonate because it reveals to you something about yourself? Can it show you who you want(ed) to be? Why do some of them salve a pain deep somewhere in your soul?

It’s humbling to realize how much a piece of entertainment can have an impact, and at times disturbing to realize the things you let sway you based on a strong emotional presentation.

There are so many moments tied to movies in my life that they’re inextricably a part of who I am. It’s both terrifying and enlightening to think of it that way.

It’s bizarre to think that movies don’t have that same sort of impact on others. It’s always an odd moment when I realize they exist in a completely different context for other people, even though we share the same cultural lexicon thanks to the ones that gained the most notice.

One of my favorite icebreaker questions with people is, “What are your five favorite movies?” It reveals a lot about them. Same with albums and books, of course, but movies have an even greater pull on the collective unconsciousness than those media, which are more likely to dip into very niche choices very quickly.

It will just always fascinate me.

A stock photo representing Inception. Only the best for you.
Photo by Ash @ModernAfflatus on Pexels.com

Why Not Dr. Freeze?

This is just a random musing, because like most anyone else I kick this around in my head from time to time.

One of Batman’s many nemeses, Dr. Viktor Fries could only live in a special suit that maintained a ridiculously cold body temperature because of a condition whereby….so on and so forth. Along the way he was imbued with a tragic backstory of his wife being frozen while he searched for a cure to a deadly disease.

If you really don’t know his history or why he’s a sympathetic villain, I recommend you watch his episodes in Batman The Animated Series or its direct-to-DVD movie Batman/Mr. Freeze Sub-Zero.

Heck, the character is of such long-standing you could see him in the 1960s Batman TV series! It’s kind of charming, actually, to see him from an era when comic book programming was decidedly for children.

In the 1966 series, his original name was Doctor Shivel, not Fries. But for the purposes of this blog I’ll be using my preferred surname of his past life, Fries.

If you really want to bring the pain, you can watch Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. But I strongly recommend you stick with the animated stuff instead. It’s the only time onscreen that Mr. Freeze’s character really found a compelling groove.

Today’s musing, though, is why Doctor Fries chose Mister Freeze as his criminal moniker. I’ve never been able to resolve it completely.

Mr. Freeze Batman Animated Series | kesseljunkie
The only truly interesting Mr. Freeze to be honest, outside the video games.

Possible Reasons

Did he believe it would throw people off the trail?
You could imagine people saying, “Oh it couldn’t be Victor. He’s a doctor.” That way he could let his old life die and, like Two-Face, draw a distinction between who he was and who he had become.

Is it an outward symbol of a doctorate he doesn’t feel worthy to hold?
Doctor Fries was an intelligent man and a great researcher, depending on the iteration. It’s possible that the outward manifestation of his limitations has made him forsake the honorific “Doctor,” to remind him to be humble while he works on a cure for his wife.

Has he simply moved past the pretension of your typical Ph.D., insisting everyone call him “Doctor”?
I really think this might turn the spotlight on me since I find Mr. Freeze sympathetic, I might just be making up a reason to have him be less of a pretentious sort.

Is he avoiding malpractice lawsuits?
While Batman may have a heck of a time keeping Mr. Freeze locked up, there are few things as tenacious as lawyers. He may just feel like running from one vigilante is a lot easier than having to change his phone number every six months.

Did the [whatever] board strip him of his doctorate when he turned to crime?
This seems feasible. It could also set up a nice arc where he traps everyone in a hearing room to present his case why he still deserves to have his accreditation. Then, when he loses, he freezes them all.

There’s also the easiest explanation, though it’s the least fun:

The writers just chose Mr. Freeze because it sounded cool.

But I’m an obsessive nerd in the online age, I want a better answer than that!

Mr. Freeze Batman & Robin Arnold Schwarzenegger | kesseljunkie
Of course, I also wanted a better movie than this, but you can’t always get what you want.

James Cameron’s Greatest Work of Art

The headlines recently touted how the release date of James Cameron’s next film, Avatar 2: Still Filming, was delayed “due to COVID.” This is incredibly disingenuous and designed to deflect people away from analysis and allow them to wallow in the “what else could go wrong” narrative that fulfills their days locked away from their regular lives.

Avatar 2: Probably Never Coming Out has been delayed so many times that I am not even sure how to count each instance. The man responsible for so many stunning achievements in cinema history – The Terminator, writing Rambo: First Blood Part II, Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Titanic (look, it was, OK?) – has become consumed with the idea of creating a perfect arc of sequels to the billion-dollar blockbuster that people weren’t all that much in love with in the first place, Avatar.

It’s frustrating because I want to see him make something else in the interim. I want to see him direct a music video, or challenge Michael Bay to a cage match, or even just appear in a commercial for deodorant. ANYTHING.

But what assuages that frustration is that I realized he’s actually engaged in the greatest piece of performance art in history.

Avatar | kesseljunkie
For someone who cares about the environment, all these little plastic balls seem…not great.

The Great Work

He’s milking the production pipeline, and now the Rodent Overlord Conglomerate, for all the money they’re willing to spend for him to deliver…something eventually.

Even if he never delivers Avatar 2, 3, 4, or 5, or however many there are now supposed to be, he’s getting paid by Disney®™© regardless. He’s already sitting on a giant pile of cash, and he can just keep adding to his bottom line just filming and toying with effects to no end.

He is single-handedly exposing how to get a giant production house to hand someone endless cash with no pressure to deliver on a timeline.

How many filmmakers bemoan that their timelines affected their vision for a movie?

Ron Howard had to reshoot most of a film in record time, and complete post-production, when the original filmmakers were fired and Disney didn’t want to move the release date. It worked out well because Solo: A Star Wars Story is far better than the cranky nerd-ragers think, and even has a grassroots demand for a sequel simmering online the same way Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League did.

But there are many examples of compromises and shortfalls along the way. Last Action Hero is a famous example of a movie was rushed through production to compete for a summer release, and became regarded as an Ishtar-level disaster.

JJ Abrams had to adjust his production methods to meet an arbitrary release date for Star Wars: [Don’t Say Episode IX:] The Rise of Skywalker, and it was the first of his films to have an overwhelmingly mediocre reception from critics and rational audience members.

But not James “Jimmy” Cameron. He gets paid, is given resources, and gets to deliver his film(s)…whenever the hell he wishes.

He’s a model for other filmmakers to follow, and I have no idea why more can’t follow his lead. He’s showing that you don’t have to be a slave to the release schedules dictated by Disney©®™ and its near-monopolistic dominance of the multiplex.

His greatest work of art will always be this moment in time…

Avatar | kesseljunkie
…because it certainly wasn’t Avatar.

The Sybok Series: Seeing Sybok’s Shortcomings

I very much want you to say that title ten times fast.

We’ve spent the last several days with a series examining Sybok and his quest to heal the pain of other fictional characters. I hope it’s been a learning experience!

I mean, I’m sure that you at least learned that my pal Craig wasn’t joking when he said I know how to commit to a bit. In time, the line between the bit and me blurs.

But it’s time to end the Sybok Series for now, as much for my sake as yours, and I wanted to offer a brief coda to reflect on the shortcomings exposed in Sybok.

I don’t mean to say that they’re shortcomings of the construction of the character. I mean the shortcomings that make him all the more sympathetic and tragic.

The Deepest Flaws in Sybok’s Character

I’m not going to be flowery with my analysis of Sybok. I’m just going to lay it out here point by point.

Sybok is selfish.
With an amazing intellect and special gift to help others confront their own fears and pain, he does not set out just to help people. He helps people so that he can get what he wants.

How much more beautiful would it be if Sybok helped J’onn – and the countless others he recruited – for no other reason but to help them? These are people in pain,

Instead, Sybok uses his power to win followers so that he can build, for lack of a better word, a cult. His helping others is about what he gets out of it, in turn. He subverts their freedom to his cause.

Sybok is manipulative.
Naturally, his manipulation of people is in line with his selfishness. A selfless person gives without thought of reward. A giving person wants nothing in return.

Sybok uses his gifts to bend the will of others to his perspective. He knows that he cannot win their minds, so he turns their hearts. And like all manipulative people, he frames it in the idea of caring.

He knows that vulnerable people will want to serve him. He uses their vulnerability to give them the illusion of choice, when he is really converting their longing into his desire.

Sybok is naive.
How else can you describe someone with such a short-sighted view of life to think that it can be free of pain and fear? Pain and fear motivate us. They drive us to learn. They are the fire that burns away our limitations to replace them with resolve.

Instead of quoting Kirk’s retort once again from Star Trek V, about how pain defines us, let’s look instead at a key moment for Kirk in the big-budget TV episode released to theaters called Star Trek: Generations.

Kirk is happy in the Nexus, a place beyond life and death, until he leaps a ravine on horseback. He is not afraid. The lack of fear is not right. There is no barrier for him to push through, no obstacle he cannot overcome. It is Heaven without the satisfaction promised of a spiritual realm.

Sybok comes up short in all these ways.

Sybok and Not God Star Trek V | kesseljunkie
The pivotal moment.

Even Sybok Realized This

These observations of Sybok are true until he realizes all the ways they’ve limited him. He confesses to Spock that it’s his hubris, his folly, that has allowed him to be fooled by the being-who-isn’t-God.

His realization and his redemption are what make his character sympathetic and tragic. We forgive Sybok because, as a passionate Vulcan he is ultimately…human.

We’ll return to more scenarios and observations about Sybok encountering other fictional characters in the future. I’m just taking a break for now. But I will return, because it’s just too much fun.

But remember, if you want to be like Sybok, then help people. Just do it because you want to help, not for what you get out of it. Not for likes, not for followers, not for attention.

Do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Sybok | kesseljunkie
Verdict: Be better than Sybok.

The Sybok Series: Ending Colonel Kurtz’s Nightmares

This final stop (for now) in our series examining Sybok and his quest to heal the pain of other fictional characters brings us to a true icon of suffering as a character, the antagonist of Apocalypse Now, Colonel Walter E. Kurtz. A broken character consumed by trauma, the decorated Army special forces Colonel Kurtz retreats to the deepest jungles of Vietnam, living as a god and freed from human notions of morality.

Colonel Kurtz is a challenging character. Unlike previous characters burden by trauma and pain, Kurtz is a character who has been “freed” by it in a disturbing sense. No longer limited by the notions of “right and wrong,” he has established a fiefdom where he doles out judgment and punishment in whatever way works for him.

Kurtz is a warning about the horrors of war. He’s also a warning about the sorrowful fact of how post traumatic stress can change a person, in a film made before the term PTSD was accepted in psychiatric circles. To be clear, it existed and was called by different terms like “shell shock,” but Colonel Kurtz really seems to be the first expression of it through the lens of more modern understandings.

Kurtz’s specific arc is a challenge, in the context of this blog, specifically because of how he’s chosen to deal with his pain.

Would Kurtz Kill Sybok?

Kurtz is not a nice person. He is enigmatic, and capricious in his actions. The photojournalist, played by Dennis Hopper, lives with the delusion that Kurtz has achieved greatness and as such is spared. Kurtz is not so generous with Frederic Forrest’s Jay Hicks, who dies for the simple crime of bringing Captain Willard to Kurtz’ riverside kingdom.

This shows that Sybok’s advance to Kurtz would have been more difficult than the stunt he pulled with the Federation at Nimbus III. It’s conceivable that he would have started ‘converting’ Kurtz’s “hosts” before he went to the bald maverick (hey now), but volume of conversion alone would have been daunting.

If he were to approach with converts that could have been sacrificed for the cause, then attrition would have probably helped him as it did Willard. I’d also be willing to bet that Kurtz would have spared Sybok’s life because it amused him.

Setting aside the potentially lethal logistics of Sybok invading Kurtz’s domain, I think that Sybok attempting to “convert” Kurtz may have been too big a task.

This likely would have led to Sybok’s death as it did when he encountered the being-who-wasn’t-God at the center of the galaxy.

Let me explain.

Colonel Kurtz Apocalypse Now Screencap | kesseljunkie
He DID have the most sensible haircut, however.

The Pain Runs Too Deep

Like any self-help guru or halfwit consultant who peddles feel-good nonsense to the gullible and the discontented, Sybok’s trick only works for those who have discernible pain. Some pain is too deep for him to heal by simply standing at your side and telling you it’ll be okay after a good cry.

Like the being-who-wasn’t-God, Kurtz is fundamentally broken and can’t simply return to civilization after a quick bout of meditative therapy. This is true of nearly everyone, to be honest. Everything is about learning to deal with what we must carry, and how we might choose to help others carry what they also have.

Kirk, again, was right in Star Trek V. You can’t cure pain with “the wave of a magic wand.” How you deal with your pain is critically important; as Kirk also pointed out in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “how we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.”

Death, pain, and sorrow come for all of us. For some, the burden is overwhelming. While Sybok is arguably doing some measure of good by helping carry with others that which they have trouble with on their own, he’s also limited by his own motivations (more on that later) and how deep the pain is for the person to whom he’s offering help.

And you must also remember that the person who enters the bond with Sybok must do so willingly. Kirk is able to refuse, and mystifyingly doesn’t just beat Sybok into submission in an effort to free his crew.

Kurtz, likewise, would refuse. And I could easily see him ending Sybok’s life.

Sybok and Not God Star Trek V | kesseljunkie
If you remember me for nothing else, remember that I compared Colonel Kurtz to the Being-Who-Wasn’t-God in Star Trek V.

Final Points

Consider further the being-who-wasn’t-God, if it hadn’t been mad before it was imprisoned at the center of the galaxy, was certainly driven mad in his isolation. He even growls at one point, “An eternity I’ve been trapped in this place.”

Kurtz, while in a self-imposed exile, at least has other humans around him. But like the being-who-wasn’t-God, he’s been driven past the brink and is likely beyond Sybok’s understanding gaze.

Like his sacrificial moment to engage the being-who-wasn’t-God, Sybok would be overmatched by Kurtz. He would be driven past the limits of his own psyche, broken himself, and likely destroyed.

Oof. Didn’t mean to end the tour on such a downer. Tune in next time for a final review of Sybok’s character in the context of this series.

Sybok | kesseljunkie
Verdict: Kurtz eats Sybok.

CODA

I really do feel bad about ending on a down note, so please enjoy the greatest movie parody of all time, Porklips Now, a sendup of Apocalypse Now.

The Sybok Series: Saving Ellen Ripley

The next stop in our series examining Sybok and his quest to heal the pain of other fictional characters brings us to a paragon of female heroism, Ellen Ripley. For those not familiar with Ellen Ripley, I…I mean, I don’t know how you wouldn’t know her.

Ellen Ripley is the prototypical modern female action heroine, a stunning blend of determination and intelligence who – not once, not twice, but thrice! – saved humanity from a gooey nightmare in the form of the iconic Alien designed by H.R. Giger (or, later, based on his designs).

But along the way, we have to ask ourselves, what would it have looked like if Sybok had happened across Ellen Ripley after she lost her friends on the Nostromo, but before Burke and the company goaded her into returning to LV-426?

When Sybok Met Ripley

Ripley’s pain is so apparent that it’s apparent to everyone. It doesn’t take a hyper-intelligent and emotional Vulcan to see Ripley’s soul is torn asunder by so much loss in her life. Her crew has been slaughtered by a horror unimagined. After a long cryo-sleep, her daughter is lost to the mists of time, having lived a full life while believing her mother dead.

The pain is deep within Ripley, and it comes to define her.

One would imagine that Sybok, encountering her as she smoked in a squalid apartment, would look deep into her mind and see the sorrow she carried there. He would seek to free it, to see it with her, and to take it upon himself to help her resolve it.

This resolution would potentially doom humanity as a Ripley at peace does not call Burke and ask to go on the trip back to LV–426 to save the colonists. She is content to let the world unfold as it will, having moved on from the pain she had within.

If we move it forward in Ellen’s life to after Aliens, Sybok would encounter her during the events of Alien3, which doesn’t end well for anyone. As a matter of fact, her actions at the end of Alien3 preclude a need for Sybok. She has accepted who she is and what has been her pain.

Ellen Ripley Aliens Publicity Still | kesseljunkie
I’m building to something here. Trust me.

Ripley’s Resolution

Once again, we see confirmation that Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the Starship Enterprise is correct. Our pain defines us and makes us who we are. We can’t take back bad decisions, or good ones, or erase the sorrow that we as humans must endure.

To think that we can live a life without sorrow and loss is foolishness at its peak. So much discontent seems to take root because of the idea that we can live lives without suffering and chaos. Life is suffering and chaos.

The first three Alien films are all about the fact that we have to face this inevitable difficulty. When we run from it, when we think we can control it, we are only making it worse when we do encounter it.

Elllen Ripley is motivated by her pain. Like Batman, she uses her tragedy as the driver to help others who have had similar tragedy. Her strength comes from her pain and her refusal to allow it to propagate.

A Ripley “resolved” to her pain and no longer aware of its truth, wouldn’t have bothered to travel to LV-426. She would have accepted that it was time to move on and let the past fade. If she had, Burke may have succeeded in bringing a xenomorph back to the Earth, where many unfortunate hijinks would have ensued.

Yet another case where Sybok’s self-help psychology hurts more than it helps. If you’re paying attention, this is a trend.

Sybok | kesseljunkie
Verdict: Oh no, you killed Newt. That was David Fincher’s job!