Star Wars – The Issue of Scope

The Star Wars universe is a vast and diverse place, with hundreds of species and galaxy-spanning governments that, throughout the course of the three trilogies, work either to do good or to serve the cause of evil. Despite the huge array of planets that we see in the Star Wars series, however, the films have never done a very good job of presenting the impacts that its various factions have on the Galaxy in which they live, for various reasons. To get an idea of the variety of creative ways in which Star Wars misses the mark when it comes to Galactic Politics, it is easiest to look at each individual trilogy separately and assess the degree of success it has in making the audience genuinely care about the Galaxy at large, and not just about a band of smugglers, monks and robots travelling around in an old spaceship.

The Prequels

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To get this right out of the way, Star Wars Episodes I to III do the best job at presenting a huge Galaxy with a wide variety of planets. One only needs to look at the Galactic Senate to get an idea of how many populated worlds there are in Star Wars, and thanks to the improved special effects and multiple plot threads going at once we get to visit many of these planets throughout the prequels – Utapau, Felucia, Kamino, Naboo, Mustafar, Mygeeto – the list goes on. But the central conflict to the Prequels – the Clone Wars – appears to stop short when we reach the Republic capital, Coruscant. Arguably the most important location in the prequels, Coruscant represents the heart of both the Republic and the Jedi, and is the primary setting of the finale, Revenge of the Sith. Despite this, the ever-present Clone Wars doesn’t seem to physically affect Coruscant in the slightest, even when a giant space battle occurs right above the planet, the city itself is totally undamaged. We see evidence of some lavish parties, mile-long traffic airborne traffic columns, and even operas going on even towards the end of the films, implying that the Clone Wars is an event that is detached from the everyday lives of Republic citizens, rather than the frightening and fate-deciding conflict that it is described as.

This is juxtaposed massively with the state of some of the planets that we see briefly throughout the film, such as Mygeeto which is portrayed as a ruin, with scarred bridges, destroyed buildings and constant combat – but this planet has never been seen before, and is never seen again after the one sequence in which it appears. How is the audience supposed to connect to a planet that we see so briefly? If it were a world like Naboo, which in The Phantom Menace is portrayed as an idyllic paradise, that was devastated by war in Revenge of the Sith, then perhaps this would provoke more of a response. As it stands, the Prequel trilogy doesn’t do a very good job of making its central conflict seem very real, pitting disposable CGI Clone Troopers against equally disposable Separatist droids on faraway planets that we never even knew existed.

The Original Trilogy

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The grandfather of the franchise, the Original Trilogy does no better a job at making its conflict seem real than the Prequels do, although it has a more concrete excuse. A New Hope was released in 1977, then simply titled Star Wars, and experienced crippling issues with budget, on-location filming, limitations of the special effects of the time, and the uncertainty at the time of whether it would be a success. Regardless, we get quite the spectacular space opera, that is lacking in just one area – scale. The environments in A New Hope are small, cramped and don’t convey the true size of the Star Wars universe as effectively as its successors, with just three main locations – Tatooine, the Death Star, and Yavin IV. That being said, we do see the destruction of another planet, Alderaan, but since we know absolutely nothing about that planet and are never shown its surface or population the effect is completely nullified. The Empire may as well have blown up a barren rock for all the emotional weight that is put into Alderaan’s destruction, especially since Princess Leia doesn’t even mention it again.

But surely Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi do better jobs? After all, they had higher hopes, higher budget and higher stakes, but again, the effect is lesser than it could have been. Only Empire actually, finally, shows the audience an innocent inhabited planet threatened by the Empire, and that is Cloud City – which is abandoned to its fate by the heroes, never to be heard from again. Like A New Hope, Empire shows barren, often inhospitable worlds like Hoth and Dagobah that could bounce between ownership of the Rebellion and the Empire with absolutely no consequence for anybody, which lessens the impact of the Rebellion’s struggle. If we do not know who the Rebels are actually fighting for, surely their struggle becomes pointless? Well, not exactly. We can infer from the original trilogy that the Empire are an oppressive and ruthless force ruled by an evil master of the Dark Side – after all, Alderaan may have been a planet we knew nothing about, but presumably it had a population roughly similar to that of Earth, and the Empire wipes it out without a second thought – and we see enough of the Rebels themselves to get a sense of why we should care for their struggle. It just would have made for a valuable bit of world-building if we got an idea of who the Rebels represent.

Ironically, the abominable Special Editions give us more of an idea of the state of the wider Galaxy after the Empire is defeated in the form of a few quick shots of Coruscant, Tatooine, Naboo and Bespin, all showing mass-partying and celebration upon the defeat of the Empire. But there is a problem here – you’d expect that after 20+ years of Imperial rule, the Galaxy would be in quite a state, but this isn’t the case. When we see Coruscant in Return of the Jedi, it looks identical to where we left it in Revenge of the Sith, which begs the question – did the Empire have any impact on the planet at all? So the Special Editions are a double-edged sword – they show us the wider Galaxy in a way that the original movie couldn’t, and yet it presents it in a way which derails the point of it being there in the first place.

The Sequels

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Now at last we reach the Sequel trilogy, which should have combined the best elements of the previous trilogies to deliver a conflict with depth and weight to it whilst also presenting the impact that said conflict has on the wider Galaxy. Sadly, we arguably get neither of these. The Force Awakens clearly tries its best to avoid any association with the Prequels, possibly based on the misguided assumption that anything that was in the Prequels is automatically bad, regardless of how it is portrayed. This essentially means that there is no politics in The Force Awakens whatsoever, which leaves fans stumped as to what the various factions in the movie actually stand for. Who are the ‘Resistance’? why are they ‘resisting’ the ‘First Order’ when there’s apparently a ‘New Republic’? None of this is ever explained, and despite how terribly it was handling the Prequels, a few scenes of Senate politics might have actually helped The Force Awakens audience members to get a grasp of the stakes. We have no idea how big the Republic is, we have no idea what it stands for. We have no idea how big the First Order is, and we have no idea where it came from. When the New Republic planet (is it Coruscant? Is it another planet? Again, we are never told) is destroyed, we see an attempt by the filmmakers to tug out our heartstrings by showing shots of various people screaming as they realise their fate, arguably something that would have been better placed in A New Hope alongside the fate of Alderaan. But without the emotional link that Princess Leia provided to Alderaan’s destruction, we find ourselves oddly desensitised to this mass-destruction, since the film never truly gives us the context we need to understand what its fate means. Ultimately, thanks to an attempt to distance itself from the sterile politics of the Prequels, the Sequel trilogy rejects any opportunities for wider world-building, instead relying on Expanded Universe media like books and comics to tell those stories in a manner similar to Halo 5: Guardians (A narrative strategy that nobody should emulate).

So where does this leave Star Wars? In a sense, right back where we started – a universe that is vast, diverse and creatively devoid of investment, especially thanks to Disney’s reset of the canon and the eradication of over 30 years of stories that filled the Star Wars universe with life. Whether or not you let this angle on the films affect your judgement of them is up to you, and one might argue that I am asking too much of Star Wars, and that the kind of world-building that I am looking for is best found in a franchise like Star Trek. But for a franchise with more planets in its Galaxy than Earth has countries, it seems smaller now than ever.

But what are your thoughts? Leave a like if you agree with my ideas, and if not, leave a comment explaining why. Be sure to Follow us or Like us on Facebook for more content like this, and you can read more below. Thanks for reading!

 

Top Ten Sci-Fi Spaceships

The Science-Fiction genre is replete with examples of iconic spaceships, often used as transports and even mobile homes for the characters in science fiction. As such, the ship almost becomes a character in itself, developing its own quirks and technicalities that give it its personality. But the question remains – which ship is the best? For this list we will be judging based on how useful the ship would be, and the extent of its powers. To begin:

10 – Red Dwarf – Red Dwarf

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Despite being a slow, unwieldy, ancient mining ship that is peppered with meteorite impacts, Red Dwarf always pulls though and provides a home for its disparate band of occupants. Also, it comes packaged with Holly, the transgender eighth generation ‘hologrammic’ computer with an IQ that supposedly exceeds 6,000. Depending on the day, Holly might be sane or totally senile, and the ship seems to attract trouble on a near-daily basis. Don’t look forward to speedy travel with the Dwarf, however, since it trundles along at a snail’s pace. You do, however, get Starbug, but its up to you whether or not that’s a good thing.

9 – High Charity – Halo

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The Covenant Holy City-ship of High Charity serves as the cultural, political and military headquarters of the alliance, and mobilises the Covenant assault force against Humanity.  The best thing about High Charity is its environments, which you explore during the Halo 2 levels Gravemind and High Charity. The curved purple interiors and modular architectural design demonstrate the alien nature of the Covenant, and in terms of power it boasts a slipspace drive for instant transportation and a vast array of destructive weapons, with docking structures that can contain and transport hundreds of capital ships. So whether you like strolling through botanical gardens or invading planets with huge fleets of warships, High Charity is for you.

8 – Thunderbird 3 – Thunderbirds

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The ultimate classic rocket design, Thunderbird 3 might not have weapons but it is extraordinarily fast – able to make it halfway around the world in a matter of minutes, in some cases. Overall, the red rocket tops any other rocket-type ship in sci-fi, and the best part about it is that you might even get Tracy Island thrown in, as well as the ability to travel to and dock with Thunderbird 5, an orbital space station. Designed to launch as an SSTO (single-stage-to-orbit) rocket, the ship can be re-used unlike contemporary rockets used by NASA, and it even runs on the same fuel,

7 – Ebon Hawk – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

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The spiritual predecessor to the Millenium Falcon, the Ebon Hawk serves as the home for the traveling circus cast of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. This ship was constructed over 1,000 years before the Falcon, so it isn’t as fast but it does seem to be more heavily armoured. However, featuring dual engines, the Ebon Hawk was certainly fast for its era, and could certainly hold its own against more powerful ships like the Leviathan. After all, this was Darth Revan’s ship for a reason.

6 – Serenity Firefly

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Similar to the Ebon Hawk, Serenity is a freighter primarily, designed to haul cargo from planet to planet. Thanks to heavy modifications, however, she serves as the vessel of Mal Reynolds and his crew, a band of vagrants and smugglers who partake in various illegal activities. The ship was described by Firefly creator Joss Whedon as the ‘tenth character’ of the series, and she has character indeed – fans have likened Serenity to freighters like the Millenium Falcon. The biggest strength of Firefly-class ships is their durability and ease of repair, and Serenity is no exception.

5 – USS Enterprise-D – Star Trek: The Next Generation

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The USS Enterprise is a fantastic ship in its own right, but the USS Enterprise-D surpasses it in almost every conceivable way. For one, it is essentially just a more powerful version of the original Enterprise, and it also has much more advanced technology aboard like the Holodeck and the Saucer Separation. Not only that, but the ship is also more luxurious, with more space and better living conditions – the original Enterprise was built with practicality in mind, with dull grey bulkheads and no inch of space wasted, whereas the Enterprise-D has a warm beige interior design with the occasional appearance of wood paneling. With the addition of the crew, particularly Data, the Enterprise-D is equipped to deal with any obstacle, whilst also providing a comfortable environment.

4 – Millenium Falcon – Star Wars

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Allegedly the fastest piece of junk in the Galaxy, the Millenium Falcon is certainly a go-to starship if speed is a priority. Han Solo boasts in A New Hope that the Falcon ‘made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs’, which sounds like he made it up on the spot but will undoubtedly be extrapolated to the Nth degree in the upcoming Solo Movie, but the general jist of what he is saying stands – the Falcon is a fast ship. Able to outrun any Imperial starship, this unassuming-looking freighter has gone on to become one of the most famous ships in the Galaxy, and aided in the destruction of not one but two Death Stars. The only real downside of the Millenium Falcon is its amenities – it is essentially a grotty smuggling vessel, with very few forms of entertainment to pass the time during the long hyperspace jumps (unless you count a dodgy holographic chess set and a flying ball.) The ship would be handy in a pinch, but for long-distance travel the Falcon falls short of the best ‘conventional’ starship in Sci-Fi, which is:

3 – USS Voyager – Star Trek: Voyager

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The Intrepid-class starship won the top spot for Top 10 Federation Starship Classes, and the most famous ship of its class is at least half of the reason why. The exploits of the USS Voyager top any starship of this dimensional plane, and its already advanced and reliable design is augmented by many modifications that the crew picked up during the ship’s time in the Delta Quadrant, including some Borg technology and a massively improved warp drive. With the Voyager also comes the Delta Flyer, a greatly upgraded and improved redesign of the standard Federation Shuttlecraft for ship-to-surface transport or even ship-to-ship dogfights, an innovation that other Federation starships lack. Despite the greater focus on tactical systems and speed, the Voyager still features the entertainment systems available on the Enterprise like the Holodeck, and is sleeker, faster and comes with a holographic medic.

2 – Heart of Gold – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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The Heart of Gold is powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive, a wonderful new method of crossing interstellar distances in a mere nothingth of a second, without all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace. This incredible propulsion system temporarily launches the ship through every part of conceivable space simultaneously, and the only payoff is a temporary bout of extremely high improbability, which can cause hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, or a complete rewrite of the ships entire internal environment at a molecular level. Known effects have included the creation, and spontaneous upending, of a million-gallon vat of custard, marrying Michael Saunders, the transformation of a pair of guided nuclear missiles into a whale and a bowl of petunias, and transforming one of its crew into a penguin.

1 – The TARDIS – Doctor Who

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The TARDIS may not look like much of a spaceship, but its abilities exceed all of the other ships on this list combined. Capable of traveling anywhere in time and space, the TARDIS can quite literally take its crew anywhere in any time period, and even other dimensions under the right conditions. If that were not enough, the ship is dimensionally transcendental, meaning the interior exists in a separate dimension to the exterior, creating the illusion that it is bigger on the inside, and the interior of the TARDIS is so vast that after over 2,000 years of owning the ship the Doctor has still not managed to fully map the floor plan. The TARDIS is alive, in a sense, and can alter and reshape its interior to suit the needs of its occupants, as well as allowing for a huge amount of internal systems such as a karaoke bar, a cinema, a library and a swimming pool, all of which occasionally move, change, or in rare cases fuse (causing the swimming pool to sometimes appear in the library). The ship is shielded to the extent that Dalek missiles – of which less than 10 are needed to eradicate a planet – don’t even scratch the blue box. Undoubtedly, no other spaceship in Sci-Fi even comes close to beating the TARDIS.

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And that’s our list of the Top 10 Sci-Fi spaceships. If you enjoyed, be sure to leave a like, and you can follow us and like us on Facebook for more content like this. If you have your own list of Top 10 Sci-Fi spaceships, be sure to leave it down in the comments below!

 

Top 10 Most Challenging Halo Skulls

Skulls in Halo are gameplay modifiers that were first introduced as Easter Eggs in Halo 2 to provide an extra layer of depth to the game, and to provide more of a challenge for players by altering the way the game plays. To activate a Skull, the player must first find it, which is usually a challenge in itself, as the Skulls are scattered throughout the campaign levels, usually well off the beaten track, with some requiring complex exploits, codes, platforming, glitches or even surviving a gauntlet to actually reach them.

In this list, I will be counting down the Top 10 Skulls from the perspective of modifying the game to make it more of a challenge. I have already done a list of Top 10 Most Fun Halo Skulls, and to clarify there may be some overlap between that list and this one, since not all the Skulls that make the game more difficult are necessarily frustrating or unfair (although some of them are). I will also be factoring in the difficulty required to actually retrieve the Skull, to a certain extent, but I will not be including Skulls on this list purely for that reason (so no Halo 2 IWHBYD). With that out of the way, we start with:

10 – Fog – Motion Tracker Disabled

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Fog, referred to as ‘Cloud’ in Halo: Reach, disabled the handy motion tracker that has been a staple for mainline Halo games since the beginning. This effectively removes the ‘eyes in the back of your head’, as the Skull’s description states, meaning you cannot sense enemies before you can see them. This Skull is most often used by players on Flood levels to heighten the sense of fear as you are unaware of enemies sneaking up behind you, although experienced players can easily overcome this. Overall, this Skull removes a helpful feature in the game but nothing more, so it provides some challenge but doesn’t really affect gameplay all that much, unlike…

9 – Tilt – Enemy Strengths and Weaknesses to Particular Weapons Increased

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Though that may sound like an overly complex description, this Skull’s very specific effects are actually surprisingly complicated, since Halo’s weapon sandbox philosophy relies on certain ‘types’ of weapons that are stronger or weaker depending on how you use them. Plasma weapons, for example, are good against shields but not against armour, and with this skull on plasma weapons become twice as effective against shields but twice as useless against un-shielded targets. What makes this Skull challenging is that it makes all enemies with plasma weapons (which is a lot since plasma weapons are the staple of the Covenant armory) twice as good at taking down your shields. This Skull does make fighting Flood somewhat easier, however, and can come in handy if you can acquire plasma weapons of your own, making it somewhat of a double-edged sword.

8 – Tough Luck – Enemy ‘Luck’ Increased

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To say that this Skull increases the ‘luck’ of AI does require some explanation – technically, this Skull modifies AI behaviour so that they are much more effective at dodging grenades, vehicles, and basically any form of slow-moving threat, whilst also making it far more likely that enemies will enter an enraged state. This does create the impression that the AI is just ridiculously lucky, however, and this makes the player seem unlucky by comparison, hence the Skull’s name. Needless to say, this does create a challenge, and although this Skull’s effects also extend to your allies the sheer frustration of having enemies be able to dodge grenades that they cannot even see drains any potential fun-factor from this Skull.

7 – They Come Back – Flood are Terrifying

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This Skull’s official description reads: “Flood Combat Forms spawned by Infection Forms reanimating a corpse are much more dangerous“, although they neglect to mention exactly how the Flood Combat Forms are made more dangerous – one would expect a damage boost, improved intelligence, or perhaps an expansion to the amount of weapons they can use – but no. This Skull speeds up Combat Forms so they now charge towards the player at breakneck speed, all while flailing their limbs around in an impossibly fast and suitably terrifying way. This Skull does only affect Combat Forms that had previously died and later reanimated, but in real terms, that’s still a significant proportion.

6 – Catch – Enemies Throw More Grenades

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This Skull has a very simple effect, in that it makes enemies throw more grenades. Whilst this inevitably leads to a hailstorm of lethal fire pelting the player from all angles, all is not lost – this Skull also makes enemies always drop two grenades of their preferred type when killed, which even the odds slightly. An unusual quirk with this Skull is that it almost forces enemies to throw grenades with reckless abandon – they will toss explosives regardless of situation, even if it will almost certainly get them killed. This Skull would have ranked higher on the list were it not for the apparent reduction in AI intelligence and for the fact that anyone who is familiar with Halo multiplayer will knows how to deal with countless poorly-judged grenade tosses rounding every corner.

5 – Famine – All dropped Weapons have Half Ammo

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This Skull is just plain cruel. Already sparse ammo for heavy weapons, sniper rifles, or basically any power weapon is now ridiculously rare, and the fact that all weapons have their ammo halved means that plasma weapons now expend their ammo within mere minutes, finding dropped ammo refills is even more essential, and every last shot has to count. For an even greater (and ludicrous) challenge, this Skull can be combined with the ‘Recession’ Skull, which makes every shot worth twice the ammo – so you are essentially left with a mere quarter of the ammo you would have in regular gameplay. To add a further level of difficulty to this Skull, it remains one of the most frustrating Skulls to retrieve in Halo 3, requiring the use of several players at once unless a rare Gravity Lift powerup can be obtained, and even then it requires precision platforming. Halo 2’s incarnation of this Skull should have made my Top 10 Creepiest Halo Easter Eggs list, since the Skull is found surrounded by twitching Flood corpses…

4 – Assassins – All Enemies are Cloaked

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If cloaked enemies weren’t bad enough, this Skull amps that up to 11 by making every single enemy cloaked permanently. This includes everything from Flood to Hunters, and even includes your own Marines if you betray them. Oddly, this Skull was originally set to appear in Halo 3, but was removed, probably to make LASO (Legendary with All Skulls On) mode less infuriating. This is one of the few Skulls that could possibly be considered a whole separate difficulty in itself, as when activated even the lower difficulty settings require a whole new level of skill to master.

3 – Thunderstorm – All Enemies are at Max Possible Rank

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I already covered this Skull in my Top 10 Most Fun Halo Skulls, since its ability to promote allied Elites to their highest rank does come in handy in missions where they are available. However, in any other given situation, this Skull definitely amps up the difficulty by making all enemies at their maximum possible strength, intelligence and tactical capability. Not only that, but in Halo 2 it means all Elites can withstand a direct stick with a plasma grenade on Legendary, and will draw their swords to cut through Marines with ease if they are angered. This Skull also gives all Sentinels and Elite Flood Combat Forms shields, meaning it is harder to take them out with quick successive precision shots.

2 – Mythic – All Enemies have Increased Health

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The semi-unofficial ‘Mythic Difficulty’ involves playing Halo on Legendary with this Skull on, and it definitely increases the challenge by making all enemies ridiculously strong. With this Skull on, certain high-ranking Elites won’t even be vulnerable to an overcharged plasma pistol, making the age-old ‘Noob Combo’ strategy of taking out shields with an overcharge and following up with a headshot obsolete. There are a few positives to this Skull, namely that your allies are given a slight health boost too, but this seems utterly inconsequential compared to the massive boost in health and shields that even a lowly Elite Minor receives on Legendary. Combine this with the Thunderstorm Skull, and you have your own personal purgatory.

Honorable Mentions

Blind – No Heads Up Display

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I include this Skull here as an ‘honorable mention’ since it doesn’t really seem fair to the other Skulls to actually include this on the list proper, because it certainly makes the game ridiculously hard. Without a Heads-Up Display you cannot see your motion tracker, health, ammo, grenades, or even the reticule – however, this Skull is rarely used in actual gameplay since it was not added with the intention of being a challenge. It is not included in the required Skulls needed to activate LASO, it does not need to be found on Legendary and it is often found near the start of the games in which it appears. This Skull was included as a means to create machinima, take screenshots or record game clips before those features became more readily available through theatre mode or Xbox capture, but if you want to attempt to actually play the game with HUD elements disabled, a better alternative is the Malfunction Skull which disables one random HUD element with each try, a much more lenient alternative.

Ghost – AI no longer flinch from attacks

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One of the many Skulls to debut in Halo 2 but never return again, the effect of this Skull sounds like no more than a minor inconvenience to the player, but when activated the effect becomes immediately noticeable. This Skull essentially makes frontal assault melee attacks against Elites useless, since without the flinch mechanic the enemy can immediately melee you back, which is an instant kill on Legendary. The removal of flinching also means that enemies are no longer stunned by sniper shots, glancing explosive attacks or vehicles, which can be frustrating when pacing shots.

Jacked – Ground vehicles can only be used by hijacking

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When vehicle hijacking was first introduced in Halo 2, it was hailed as a fantastic innovation to help balance vehicular combat – essentially, it meant that the player could easily acquire a new vehicle without having to waste time killing the occupant, and made dispatching heavy vehicles like Wraiths much more easy. However, with this Skull activated, vehicles can only be used if they are hijacked, which basically makes UNSC vehicles unusable. Thankfully, air vehicles are not affected, so at least it isn’t totally game-breaking.

Anger – AI fire weapons much faster

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Found in the Halo 2 mission Gravemind guarded by a secret invisible Grunt armed with heavy weapons, Anger makes all enemies fire their weapons at ridiculous rates – much faster than the player can physically fire them. Plasma rifles become a stream of lethal energy, Jackal Snipers can pick off the player and three Marines in rapid succession, and Grunts fire their weapons so fast that they overheat. This Skull makes standing still a death warrant, and on Legendary allies are ripped apart by a merciless wave of weapons fire. Whilst this sounds like a nightmare, that’s nothing compared to number one on this list:

1 – Iron – ‘Death carries a Heavy Price…’

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This Skull is insane. Whilst activated in Single Player, checkpoints no longer exist, meaning that if you die, you have to restart the entire level from scratch. This Skull has almost certainly been responsible for the destruction of more Xbox controllers than any other Easter Egg in the history of the console, because it makes every single level an unforgiving rage-fest on Legendary. Don’t think co-op will save you either – whilst checkpoints do still exist with Iron on in co-op mode, the death of any player reverts everyone to the last checkpoint, making teamwork and strategy essential since the cheap ‘hopscotch’ method (which involves leaving one player out of combat for the others to respawn nearby) totally redundant.

To make matters worse (or better, depending on if you like insane challenges) most of the Halo: Reach Weekly Challenges, Xbox Achievements or Maximum Scoring Records require the use of the Iron Skull, such as the Vidmaster: Annual achievement which requires four players to complete the final level of Halo 3 on Legendary in separate Ghosts, so if any player falls off the crumbling walkways, everyone is hurled back to the checkpoint. The only reason why you will ever want to activate this Skull for fun is if you want to rack up insane score multipliers, since it offers the highest point multiplier in the game for its insane level of difficulty.

And that’s my list of Top 10 Most Challenging Halo Skulls, I hope you enjoyed, and if you did then be sure to leave a like, you can also comment down below if you thought any other Skulls should have made the list. Also, you can Follow Sacred Icon or like us on Facebook for more content like this, uploaded every other day.

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Top 5 Terrible CGI Star Wars Prequel Characters – and Top 5 Terrible CGI Star Wars Sequel Characters

It’s fun to bash the terrible CGI in the prequels, particularly because it’s not hard. You get mobile games with better graphics than the CGI of the CGI in Attack of the Clones, and despite the slightly improved CGI in Revenge of the Sith it includes even more truly awful and unnecessary CGI characters. As part of their quest to disassociate themselves as much as possible from the prequels (for better or worse), Disney decided to use more practical effects in their sequel trilogy, and yet even more godawful CGI characters slipped through the cracks. To clarify, this list is judging both the quality of CGI used for the character and the strength of the actual character itself, and with that, we start with:

Prequel Countdown:

5 – General Grievous – Revenge of the Sith

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Despite being totally obsessed with Star Wars as a child and knowing oddly specific knowledge about obscure parts of the lore and wider universe, I have trouble now remembering what General Grievous was supposed to be. It must have been explained in a tie-in novel or comic or even video game, but therein lies the problem. Nobody knew who General Grievous was because the film didn’t tell us, he appeared seemingly out of nowhere as a random Separatist leader who had lightsabers. I was among the relative few who watched Star Wars: Clone Wars animated TV show as a child, but that portrayed Grievous as a cold, calculating badass rather than the choking, shuffling Transformer-esque robot we got in the movie.

4 – Watto – The Phantom Menace

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The Phantom Menace ticks almost every box when it comes to criteria for terrible Star Wars movies, but a conspicuous exception is that it is not riddled with as much blatant CGI as its prequel siblings, but the CGI creatures that they do have are among the worst. Watto is not only terribly rendered but he is also terribly racist, embodying a crude Middle Eastern stereotype in his accent and character whilst also sporting a prominently large and hooked nose. But seriously, why did Watto need to be CGI? It would have saved a lot of time and effort to just put someone in an alien costume and have him stand there, even if you dub in the lines later. But no, instead we have to watch over half an hour of Liam Neeson negotiating gambling odds with the Crazy Frog. Thanks, George.

3 – Lama Su – Attack of the Clones

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“Who?” I hear you ask? Exactly. This idiot, Lama Su, appears briefly in Attack of the Clones to spout a huge wad of exposition about the Clone Army to Obi-Wan, but aside from holding the dubious honour of starring in what has been scientifically proven to be the most boring scene in all of Star Wars, Lama Su also holds the responsibility of the entire plot of Attack of the Clones in his hands. He’s the man with the answers, so to speak, and so when Obi-Wan goes to visit him you expect to finally find out answers to all the questions that have been cropping up throughout the movie: ‘Who is Count Dooku?’ ‘Who is trying to kill Padme?’ ‘Who wrote this script?’ spring immediately to mind. But no, when the movie was in dire need of some explanation as to the basic backstory, what we get is more questions. Who the heck is ‘Sifo Dyas?’ is he ever even mentioned again? Is he Count Dooku? We may never know.

2 – Dexter Jettster – Attack of the Clones

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Imagine it. You’re sat in the cinema, watching Star Wars: Attack of the Clones for the first time ever. You thought The Phantom Menace was pretty bad, but so far this film seems  promising – there’s been a speeder chase, explosions, lightsabers, even some mention of a wider story that you may or may not have been interested in. Overall, it seems more like proper Star Wars.
And then this brown, hulking, four-armed CGI creature comes shambling over to Obi-Wan Kenobi, calling him his ‘old buddy’ before giving him a hug, pulling up his trousers and squeezing his bloated computer-generated body into a plastic booth in terrible futuristic 1950s space-diner. Who let this happen? Who created this abomination? Why does he have that creepy Mario mustache?
Like many prequel characters, ‘Dex’ only appears in one scene – a bland, one-dimensional throwaway character who is cobbled together on a computer. But think – with the Obi-Wan Kenobi standalone movie coming out, maybe there’s a chance that Disney will do Dex justice.

1 – Jar Jar Binks – Who Else?

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There is very little I can say here that hasn’t already been said. Jar Jar Binks is overdesigned, overacted and overly hysterical, and he appears far too often throughout the prequels. As a one-shot Dex character, Jar Jar might just be remembered now as an embarrassing scene from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but due to the diabolical decision to make him a main character in the first prequel movie cast a shadow across the entire trilogy, and due to his prominent role in what will soon be considered the ‘first’ Star Wars movie, his poorly-rendered shadow now looms over the entire franchise.

Sequel Countdown:

5 – Maz Kanata – The Force Awakens

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If you thought the prequels were the only Star Wars movies with totally unnecessary CGI characters, you were wrong. Enter Maz Kanata, who singlehandedly introduced at least 3 major plot holes into not only The Force Awakens  but the wider Star Wars story too. If she has been on her planet for over a thousand years, why have we never heard from her before? If she’s older than Yoda then surely she would have some interesting things to contribute to the prequel story if anyone thought to ask her – heck, Obi-Wan should have gone to her instead of Dex, She’d probably have had Palpatine’s diary lying around in her back room somewhere. Come to think of it, she never explains how she retrieved Anakin’s lightsaber from Bespin, so after being pointlessly shoehorned into The Last Jedi and possibly even the Han Solo Movie, we may be due a fourth round of Maztime in Episode IX.

4 – CGI Tarkin – Rogue One

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The uncanny valley reached new depths with this creation, which in fairness is a highly accurate representation of the late Peter Cushing (who, after ANew Hope, would go on to play the Doctor in the garish and hilarious Dalek Movies), that sparked debate upon the initial release of the film as to whether or not the digital recreation of an actor who is long dead was even ethically justifiable. Regardless, old Wilhuff has appeared once before, in the prequels – except that time he was played by Wayne Pygram pretending to be a younger version of the character – but when Rogue One came around, they felt that the movie needed a totally accurate digital recreation of Tarkin, who looks like he is made of plastic compared to the real members of the cast. Admittedly, the performance of the actors imitating Cushing do a fantastic job, and overall the level of quality in the cameo is high, it just the visuals which let it down.

3 – Porgs – The Last Jedi

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Of course Porgs are objectively adorable, there’s not question about that – but were they necessary? Well, the answer is certainly no, unless you factor in that Rian Johnson needed something to cover the fact that the island used to film all of Luke’s scenes plays host to a Puffin colony. From a marketing perspective, Disney certainly jumped on the idea of having a tiny puffin-shaped creature to turn into thousands of mass-produced stuffed toys, McDonalds Happy Meal prizes and lunchboxes, but their scheme did backfire somewhat when it turned out the movie was terrible, and so now everyone has a central icon to rally against in hate of this movie, and it’s the poor Porgs.

2 – Everything in Canto Bight – The Last Jedi

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So whilst not everything in the Canto Bight sequence was CGI, there were a lot of critters running around – the alien mounts that rampage through the casino merely added to the cacophony of visual diarrhea in this scene, with one particularly annoying alien insisting on inserting dozens of gold coins into BB-8 – why? Surely BB-8 isn’t hollow? And why does BB-8 have a mechanism to fire them out like bullets? The thing that most annoys me about Canto Bight, however, is that it continues the sequel trilogy’s trend of introducing vast swathes of new alien races without supplementing it with aliens we already know exist in Star Wars. Sure, the Galaxy is a big place, but after seeing recurring races like Rodians and Twi’leks so often in both the prequels and the original trilogy it seems odd that suddenly everything is different.

1 – Supreme Leader Snoke – The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi

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Despite the hundreds of theories stating otherwise, Snoke turned out to be totally useless in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, simply serving as a poor-man’s Palpatine to play the role of the ambiguous evil dark lord master who is really strong with the Force. Unlike Palpatine, who is shown to be the puppeteer from the beginning, Snoke seems to have suddenly emerged from the shadows, and it is this trait that initially peaked everyone’s interest. Sadly, however, the potential for this character was extinguished in The Last Jedi, as Snoke is tossed aside as quickly and easily as Palpatine was before him, and now the hopeful theorists are left to widely speculate their way to insanity trying to uncover the hidden meaning behind this character that was ultimately as contrived and disposable as the multitude of CGI characters in the prequels. His death scene definitely had shock factor, and it did come as a surprise, but it is extremely likely that Rian Johnson wanted it that way to make the movie more memorable – at the expense of a potentially important character. And note I say potentially important – Snoke had all the makings of a good villain, but we just never found out enough about him to understand either his motives or his place in the Star Wars universe. As such, he is now cut in half and cast into the chasm of irrelevance like Darth Maul before him.

So that’s the Top 5 Terrible CGI Star Wars Prequel Characters, and the Top 5 Terrible CGI Star Wars Sequel Characters, if you enjoyed then do remember to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook. Look down below for more articles like this one.

Top 10 Most Fun Halo Skulls

Skulls in Halo are gameplay modifiers that were first introduced as Easter Eggs in Halo 2 to provide an extra layer of depth to the game, and to provide more of a challenge for players by altering the way the game plays. To activate a Skull, the player must first find it, which is usually a challenge in itself, as the Skulls are scattered throughout the campaign levels, usually well off the beaten track, with some requiring complex exploits, codes, platforming, glitches or even surviving a gauntlet to actually reach them.

In this list, I will be counting down the Top 10 Skulls from the perspective of modifying the game to make it more fun. I will also be doing a list of Top 10 Most Challenging Halo Skulls for balance, and there may be some overlap. Nevertheless, we start with:

10 – Bandana – Infinite Ammo

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Bandana comes quite low on the list due to the fact that it basically amounts to cheating, but having infinite ammo comes in handy for other reasons than just making the game ridiculously easy. This skull is essential if you want to do any boundary-breaking, out-of-map exploring or ridiculous grenade jumps because it means you aren’t limited to the 4-frag cap from the original Halo 2. Hidden deep within the Silent Cartographer Island in Halo: Combat Evolved, retrieving this skull requires clever manipulation of the original Halo’s unusual physics engine, and a clever way of making this skull redundant for any actual ‘cheating’ that was included in Halo: The Master Chief Collection makes gaining points impossible whilst this skull is activated, so really its just for fun.

9 – Black Eye – Melee Recharges Shields

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Whilst it might seem like it wouldn’t be very fun at all to have to melee enemies in order to recharge your shields, the Black Eye skull appears on this list due to how it works in Halo 2. Unlike all other Halo games (so far) Halo 2’s version of the Black Eye Skull lets you increase your shield strength to far in excess of what is usually possible by whacking enemies, allowing you to survive explosions and other forms of damage that would kill you in normal gameplay. This opens up huge possibilities for exploration since you can stack grenade explosions to propel the player up high buildings and across chasms, and since Halo 2 lacks any form of invisible barriers or kill timers, basically anything you can see, you can reach.

8 – Grunt Funeral – Dead Grunts Explode

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It requires no explanation as to why a Skull that makes dead Grunts explode like Plasma Grenades makes the game hilarious to play, particularly since it actually also adds a layer of challenge to the game since all Grunts become time-bombs, and avoiding them at all costs is a priority. An interesting quirk with this Skull is that any and all dead Grunts explode, including ones that are already pre-loaded into the level – this can create some interesting results, particularly in Flood levels, as it redistributes any object that isn’t glued to the ground in a blaze of plasma.

7 – Masterblaster – Co-op Special Powers

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One of a few wacky ‘co-op only’ Skulls that 343 industries added to Halo 2 in Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Masterblaster gives one player huge overshields but removes their ability to shoot and gives the other player infinite ammo but removes their shields entirely, with the roles swapping after a certain amount of kills. This skull essentially makes co-op a bit more challenging, but also has potential for hilarious results, particularly when the roles switch halfway through a rampage.

6 – Prophet Birthday Party – Regret Guitar

 

Another bizarre Skull that 343 industries added to Halo: The Master Chief Collection, the ‘Prophet Birthday Party’ skull is unique in that it has only one use – if you could call it a ‘use’. What this skull lacks in usefulness it makes up for in sheer ludicrousness, as it punctuates every whack that you deliver to the Prophet of Regret during the boss fight halfway through Halo 2 with electric guitar licks (performed by none other than Steve Vai himself) and lightning bolts. Increasing the difficulty magnifies this skulls effect, as it takes at least 10 punches to kill Regret on Legendary and the licks intensify each time.

5 – Sputnik – Physics Modifiers

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This Skull is essential for level exploration, particularly in the original Halo 2, as it significantly reduces the mass of all objects in the game, making melees and grenade explosions blast objects much further than they did before. This means that the player can use grenade jumps to reach places that are further away, and makes whacking objects around much more easy, allowing the player to uncover passageways and secrets that would be impossible in normal gameplay. For example, to find the Giant Football in the Halo 2 level Metropolis, the player needs to use the Sputnik Skull combined with a grenade jump to blast themselves onto a high tower, and the Sputnik Skull is also needed to be able to melee the football down, after which Ghosts can be used to knock the ball around. There is an even more extreme version of this Skull in the Anniversary version of Halo 2, but more on that later.

4 – Grunt Birthday Party – Headshots Become Explosions (or Confetti)

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This Skull is one of the many that had its effects altered over the course of the Halo games – in the original Halo 2, this Skull required a descent to the very bottom of the Heretic Gas Mine upon which the player is confronted with a circle of dancing Heretic Grunts, all worshiping the aforementioned Skull and with good reason, since all headshots become plasma explosions with this Skull activated, even on dead bodies. However, in later Halos (and even in the Halo 2: Anniversary port in Halo: The Master Chief Collection) this Skull turns headshots into small explosions of confetti, coupled with the jarring but now famous sound clip of children cheering from Viva Pinata.

3 – Envy – Master Chief can go Invisible

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This may sound like another ‘cheat’ Skull, and in some ways it probably is, depending on your point of view. Technically, all this Skull does is grant the Chief access to an ability usually only accessible when playing as the Arbiter, as in Halo 2 Arbiter’s ‘active camouflage’ replaces the flashlight and allows for more stealth-orientated levels. However, the stealth ability is notoriously unreliable, since it only lasts for a short time and requires lots of time to recharge. When Chief has this ability, you can’t even see the timer for the recharge either, so you have to rely on the audio cues to know when camo is ready to use again. However, it does allow for a stealth alternative in the Chief levels, which adds an extra layer of depth to the gameplay that is usually only present in the handful of tailor-built Arbiter levels.

2 – Feather – Like Sputnik on Steroids

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Ah, the elusive Feather Skull. Unavailable to many players in the early days of Halo: The Master Chief Collection’s release due to a bug in the pre-order system (which was later fixed when all the pre-order bonus Skulls became available to everyone), the Feather Skull initially seemed to be not worth the bother – according to the description, with this Skull activated all melees ‘impart more movement physics’, essentially making this Skull’s effect very similar to the Sputnik Skull. However, when you combine the effects of both Skulls together at the same time, it doubles the effect and allows the player to reach inconceivable heights with grenade jumps, (usually resulting in death unless a much higher-up destination is nearby) but, more importantly, allows for ridiculous arcing jumps if an explosion occurs just next to or behind the player, making this Skull and its older brother popular with speedrunners as it allows for huge leaps that allow Chief to clear entire buildings in a single leap, cutting time by requiring fewer grenade jumps.

Honorable Mentions

Thunderstorm Skull – All Enemies are at Max Rank

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Whilst this Skull will certainly feature on my ‘Top 10 Most Challenging Skulls‘ due to the fact that it makes every enemy the strongest and most intelligent that it can possibly be, in certain situations (in Halo 2 in particular) this Skull also makes the game much more fun, since the Skull’s influence also affects Covenant allies. This means that with Thunderstorm activated, any level in which you encounter Minor Elites or Grunts as allies will now gift you with a squad of highly-trained, uber-powerful Elite Ultras and surprisingly confident and capable Grunt Ultras, and the best part is that Ultra Elites always carry an Energy Sword as their secondary weapon meaning Brute enemies rarely stand a chance.

That’s Just… Wrong Skull – Better AI Sight and Hearing

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This Skull, like Thunderstorm, seems like it would make the game more difficult than fun, since it removes the restrictions that the developers put on many of the AI to balance the gameplay – they now hear your footsteps, can see the shimmer of your invisibility, and fire with amazingly precise accuracy at all times, so why is it on this list? Well, for the same reason as Thunderstorm – these effects are also bestowed upon your allies. With this Skull on, allies will rarely ever accidentally kill themselves with heavy weapons, can now locate and dispatch cloaked enemies with ease, and fire with (literal) inhuman accuracy. Essentially, with this Skull on, the allied AI is probably as good as the game as you are.

Streaking – Shields Decay, and Recharge with Kills

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The final Skull in the ‘Honorable Mentions’ category is yet another example of a Skull with a challenging effect that can be manipulated for fun. This Skull fixes a critical weakness of the Black Eye Skull, namely the fact that after doing a particularly elaborate grenade jump that blasts you out of the map you have no way of actually recharging your shields. With this Skull on, however, grenade throws can actually recharge your shields, meaning with Bandana on you can slowly recharge your shields by throwing grenades. Whether or not this is a glitch, it opens up more possibilities for exploration by allowing the player to pull off multiple Black Eye-enchanced feats in succession.

1 – IWHBYD – Rare Dialogue is more Common, and Secret Dialogue is unlocked

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This Skull is fantastic because it makes the game much funnier to play in such a simple way. By reversing the probabilities of common and rare combat dialogue, this Skull makes lines of dialogue that are usually heard only once in a blue moon much more common, and unlocks hidden lines of dialogue that are locked in the game’s standard code. This makes Marines, Elites, Brutes, Grunts and basically anything else in the game that speaks English yell more hilarious (and sometimes vulgar, perplexing or even downright ridiculous) insults to the each other, the player, or even the developers via fourth-wall breaking complaints about the game. The Skull also increases the chances of AI talking to and interacting with each other, and allows the player to hear tales such as the story of Flipyap the Grunt, Sergeant Bank’s message home (delivered in the form of a telegram) and Sergeant Johnson’s many hidden lines of cutscene dialogue.

Named after the subtitle ‘I Would Have Been Your Daddy…’ from the start of Halo: Combat Evolved’s fifth level, Assault on the Control Room, The Skull actually unlocks this line of dialogue for Sergeant Johnson in-game, and he completes the quote with ‘…but a dog beat me over the fence.’ What makes this Skull even more interesting, however, is the ridiculous lengths you have to go to in order to actually unlock it in Halo 2 and Halo 3. Halo 2 involves navigating the normally-inaccessible rooftops of Mombasa to find the Skull (which may or may not actually be there) before having to face off against wave after wave of Ultra Elites who guard the Skull (for whatever reason) before finally unlocking the effects. Halo 3 requires the player to jump through giant holograms of the Halo rings in a specific order – each ring hums at a different tone when you jump through it, so jumping through the rings in a sequence that plays the seven notes of the Gregorian Chant in the Halo theme causes the Skull to magically appear before the player, opening the door for many hilarious encounters to come.

So that’s my list of the Top 10 Most Fun Halo Skulls, I hope you enjoyed and if you did, why not leave a like? You can also follow Sacred Icon or like us on Facebook for more content like this, and look down below for more of my Halo posts!

 

 

“I need someone to show me my place in all this” – Why Rey is NOT a Mary Sue

Of all the criticisms of the new trilogy of Star Wars, the one that irritates me more than anything else is the arrogant, unfeeling assertion that Rey is a Mary Sue – a self-insert who has no personality or chemistry and who is, without explanation, more powerful than any other Jedi we have seen so far in Star Wars. To those not in the know, if a character is described as a ‘Mary Sue’, it essentially means that they are poorly written – the term originates from the Star Trek fan-fiction community, and has since spread to all areas of media as a basic term to mean any character who has been written, designed or otherwise created to be infallible, flawless, perfect at everything, universally loved and essentially unbeatable. The phenomenon often goes hand-in-hand with so-called ‘self-insert’ characters, which are examples of characters written in fan fiction to be a representation of the author within their work, playing off the idea of authors literally ‘inserting’ themselves into the continuity as a character. Generally, characters who are regarded as Mary Sues are often considered to be bad characters who break the immersion of a film, book or video game because they seem just that little bit too good – which alleviates all the drama from a work of fiction since you don’t feel as though they are in any danger.

Almost inevitably, when Rey debuted in the first film of the new trilogy, The Force Awakens, people classified her as a Mary Sue. Why was this inevitable? Well, she is portrayed as being very powerful in Episode VII, and many people took issue with this, for some reason. Apparently in order to correctly qualify as a Star Wars protagonist, you have to be totally out of your depth and clueless as to what is going on in the first movie of your trilogy, and only suddenly gain increased skill in lightsaber combat and the Force in your second film, silly. But let’s just take a second to think about why that isn’t such a good idea – for a start, the only reason why people seem to think that Rey was too overpowered in The Force Awakens is that she seemingly picked up a lightsaber and immediately knew how to use it. This might seem like a kick in the balls for people who like the prequels, since Anakin had to learn and hone his lightsaber fighting style throughout all three of those movies. Remember the crucial scene from the first film where we see Anakin pick up a lightsaber for the first time, and he tries to do a spin attack and drops the saber, and Qui-Gon picks it up and says “Don’t worry Anakin, you’ll level up after 40 hours of grinding”.
No?
Of course not, because that didn’t happen, did it? In fact, do we ever see any scenes of Anakin even once practicing his lightsaber combat to explain why he can use CGI video game powers to jump and flip everywhere? No, of course we don’t. But hold on a second – we do see someone showing initial skill in melee combat to establish their skill before giving them a lightsaber, now who was that again?

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Of course.  To be fair, Anakin had ten or more years training under the peaceful, non-violent, stoic Jedi in which to hone his violent combat skills. Rey only had eighteen years on a hostile desert planet surrounded by scavengers, bounty hunters and murderers with absolutely nothing to do in her spare time, there is no way she would be as good in a fight as Anakin. But the other thing about Rey that makes her so unforgivable as a character is that at the end of the film she suddenly gains the ability to use the Force, an unprecedented occurrence in the Star Wars universe. Never before has a desert-planet dweller ever suddenly harnessed a dormant power within him to perform a feat of unbelievable good luck and then escape, it just doesn’t happen, and that is why Rey simply cannot stand on her own two feet as a character.

But in all seriousness, now that we have the established notion that Rey’s achievements are actually just as odd or random or unexplained as Anakin’s or Luke’s out of the way, we can actually get more into the meat of why Rey certainly isn’t a Mary Sue in the way she is written, and to do that we have to explore more of the reasons why people think Rey has been written as a Mary Sue. Allow me to make one thing perfectly clear and then I will not mention it again – I am fairly certain that a lot of the people who dislike Rey attempt to find reasoning for explaining why they don’t like her without admitting that they actually don’t like her because she is a woman. Regardless of what you might think of that as an assertion, anyone who has been into the Youtube comments of any video relating to Rey being a Mary Sue will immediately understand what I am talking about – people think that just because Rey is female the writers and producers will have made her a Mary Sue – because according to Hollywood, women can’t ever do wrong and can never be faulted. This, at least, I agree with – they did the same thing with Hermione in the Harry Potter movies (sorry, Ron, but your character is denied) and countless other times with random, one-shot female protagonists who need to be ‘cool’, ‘independent’ and ‘strong’ by basically putting down every male member of the cast. This is a totally separate issue from Rey, however, because it cannot come close to accentuating her characterization.

Rey is flawed, and we know this because she shows it. Unlike Anakin, who basically kept a straight face throughout any time in the prequels when he wasn’t scripted to be angry, or Luke, whose expression fluctuates from confused to content to confused again for most of the original trilogy, Rey actually expresses her emotions. Daisy Ridley’s range of facial expressions that can be plucked out of thin air on a whim lends heavy credibility to her as an actress, since she can perfectly portray in her face the emotions that her character is currently feeling, and in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Rey’s emotions are varied and plentiful. She feels anger, she feels fear, she feels loneliness, she feels sorrow and hate and self-doubt and loathing at so many points throughout the two films that many have even pointed out that she is in danger of falling for Yoda’s old ‘Anger leads to Hate, Hate leads to Suffering’ nonsense from the prequels. But the important point to take away from all of this is that if Rey were a Mary Sue, she simply would not feel these emotions because, for a Mary Sue-type character, these emotions would not be on the agenda.

For a Mary Sue character, negative emotions are a no-go. If a Mary Sue character needs to be upset or annoyed or angry, it must be due to the fact that they are so perfect and flawless that they push other people away. Rey, on the other hand, shows her potential as a protagonist because she gets upset, angry and annoyed. Most importantly, however, she feels self-doubt, and expresses it. This is the final nail in the coffin for Rey being a Mary Sue, as far as most rational-minded critics in the know are concerned. Everything from Rey’s body language, to her reactions to plot developments, even down to her lightsaber fighting style, it all rounds off the idea that Rey is a normal person. If Rey truly had been a Mary Sue, if she had been written to be a self-insert character who fulfills all the tropes that a Mary Sue usually carries, Episode VII would have gone a lot differently.

For a start, Rey would not be living in an AT-AT. She would be a scavenger still, probably, but she’d be the scavenger who always found the best part that day, and Simon Pegg in a fat-suit would give her all the portions she ever wanted. Then, one day, a handsome young resistance fighter by the name of Finn would show up in her town. Rey would guess straight away that Finn was a defecting Stormtrooper, because nothing ever gets past her, and she would then proceed to beat up all the other Stormtroopers and Finn would fall immediately in love with her. At this point, the rest of the story may as well not happen, because obviously both Kylo Ren and Han Solo would also fall in love with Rey, and the entire First Order would implode as Kylo, Hux and Snoke all fight over who gets to be her date for the Coruscant Homecoming Ball on Life Day. The crucial factor to remember when dishing out helpings of the ignorant assertion that Rey is a self-insert is that Rey is designed to be a character with positive traits, because she is the protagonist of the flagship franchise of a major child-friendly corporation, and she is supposed to be a good guy. If all protagonists were picked apart with the same vigor and zeal as new trilogy haters do for Rey, one might just find that most protagonists in television shows, films, books and video games display these traits, because they’re the protagonists.

To finish, one final scene that people often use to cite that Rey is a Mary Sue is the scene in the Millenium Falcon cockpit with Han and the ‘compressor’. To contextualise, people seem to think that Rey being able to bypass a compressor on the Millenium Falcon and therefore fix the ship is further evidence to suggest that she is a Mary Sue. I left this part until last because I really wanted to isolate how stupid that really sounds, if you think about it. Han may have owned the Millenium Falcon when we knew him, but he was by no means an expert on the ship, and this is heavily implied if not shown to us by his handling of the repairs in Empire Strikes Back. Are we honestly expected to believe that Han, a freeloading smuggler who prefers to sweet-talk his way out of trouble unless he thinks he has good odds at blasting his way out, the man who claimed to be able to re-wire a simple door in Return of the Jedi and ends up somehow botching that job, are we actually expected to believe that he has the faintest idea how or why the Millenium Falcon actually works? I mean, he can fly the thing, that’s for sure – but fix it? Isn’t that the whole reason why he has Chewbacca around, so that he can handle all the technical stuff while Han flaunts his fame to any random girl who passes through Mos Eisley Cantina? And yet people are up in arms about the idea that a technically-minded young girl who had worked on this ship when it was sat in the junk for years of her life could possibly outwit a sixty-or-more-year-old ex-smuggler who couldn’t even sneak up on a Scout Trooper. Frankly, it begs the question of why so many people are intent on picking apart Rey’s character when they aren’t pleased with the fact that she actually acts like a normal person.

Action Man – Robot Atak – Why am I watching this again?

So this is something a little different, I’m posting more of a review/analysis of this quirky little animated ‘mini-movie’ for the simple reason that my sister and I watched this recently out of pure nostalgia since we first saw it years ago as children, and there was just so much I wanted to talk about, so don’t take this one too seriously and let’s analyse this masterpiece.

So the rather oddly titled ‘Action Man – Robot Atak’ (with a seemingly deliberate spelling mistake) begins with a nice few shots of a man, presumably Action Man, on his motorbike speeding through the city. So far, so good, at least until Action Man decides to careen through the window of a bald, weirdly animated gangling professor (Who is not Doctor Gangrene). As it happens, all is not quite as it seems, since Action Man speaks in a voice that sounds like an actor for an Orc from The Lord of the Rings is doing an impression of what he thinks a half-Russian, half-Cockney person might sound like. It turns out that Action Man is actually a villain in disguise, he kidnaps the professor, and they leave. Now is probably the time to point out that plot points progress very quickly in this short film, and cuts between scenes are often sudden and accompanied by a little animation to let you know that one scene has ended and another has begun. In this case, the villain kidnapping Professor… Moron (Is that really his name?) is followed suddenly by a warmly-lit shot of the real Action Man and his team. You know its the real Action Man this time because he doesn’t stand around creepily not talking for ages even when directly addressed.

Oh wait, he does. And it’s really weird. Why does it take Action Man so long to say anything? And when he does speak, boy is it weird. I thought the dead giveaway of the last ‘Action Man’ being a fake was that his head was malformed, he spoke weirdly, and generally acted like a freak but this real Action Man is not much better. For a start, his companions address him by the rather awkward acronym of ‘AM’, so it sounds like they’re ending every statement to him with ‘Ey, Em’. Secondly, since Action Man is a British product, Action Man himself is also British. This has never sat right with me, even though I am British I have always considered Action Man to be American and it seems to fit his more gung-ho attitude. Having him have an RP voice makes him sound like he is a villain, and given that his introductory scene is so weird we’re left thinking ‘is this guy even the real Action Man?’ I suppose we shouldn’t expect class-A acting from a plastic figurine.

Speaking of plastic figurines, Action Man’s two compatriots seem to act as nothing more than these during this entire film. They act like pre-programmed robots with set phrases, usually praising Action Man for how cool he is and spouting expository dialogue about the plot. All we really know about Flynt (yes, again, it is spelt that way) is that he is Australian and likes to do stereo-typically Australian things and all we really know about Redwolf is that he is Native American and likes to… be bored? This definitely comes to a head in two of the few scenes where all three characters are sat around doing nothing action-orientated. I’ve already discussed the first one, where we first see Action Man and the whole thing is boring and weird. The second one, however, is perhaps even more awkward and out-of-place. Having been on an adventure, the scene begins with the team chilling in the back of the Team Truck, only for Flynt to start reeling off a list of prior feats that the Team has accomplished (even accompanied by little 2-second-long interspersed shots of said feats) purely so that the audience can see that they have been busy killing robots. Why not just montage the shots of the various battles and just let us know that way?

Regardless, one of the worst scenes in the film is here. This scene, and indeed the character it introduces, ruins the entire show for me. After managing to fool Doctor Moron, No-Face goes ahead and reanimates his master, Doctor X, ranting incessantly about how awesome he is (like two other characters we already know) and makes a big deal about his return that was inevitable anyway since he’s the villain. But honestly, until Doctor X comes along, things seem to be going pretty well for No-Face. He’s fooled everyone into thinking Action Man is a criminal and, in the process, kidnapped a brilliant scientist who he assumes can make him ‘mind-control gas’.
So why bring back Doctor X? He seems to be doing pretty well on his own. As it happens, No-Face reveals that he brought Doctor X back so that the mad scientist can make him a new face. The poor bastard just wants a new face, since he appears to have swapped his skin for a load of purple and green play-doh, and Doctor X is apparently the only person who can make him one. So why didn’t he just rebuild Doctor X as a head and then bribe him? Or threaten to never rebuild him again if he didn’t make a new face?

Whatever, No-Face is no longer the villain, now Doctor X is in charge. And boy, is he terrible. From almost the first scene he is in, this guy hams it up to the max and he just looks ridiculous. No-Face was threatening and almost menacing with his trench coat and face bandages but Doctor X looks like the end boss of a level from a Japanese shoot-em-up game. And his voice is hoarse and, at times, quite shrill, so on the whole he isn’t very threatening at all. It’s obvious that they had to put Doctor X in the movie since he is the main villain and this just so happens to be the design that Doctor X had at the time in the toy line, but they could have at least tried to beef him up with more to do than stand around ranting, being beaten up, and having his awful plans foiled. His first scene, his opening scene in the film where you see the main villain for the first time, has him being unceremoniously ripped apart by a gorilla and his limbs scattered around the room. Imagine a world where Darth Vader’s first scene in Star Wars: A New Hope is him having his arms and legs popped out of their metal ball-joints by an obese primate and tell me if that still makes him intimidating.

After a substantial dose of ‘capture-and-escape’ involving a ridiculously incongruous boxing match, a missile silo and a very flimsy harpoon cable we finally get to our final confrontation between Action Force and Doctor X. For some reason, they decide not to bring the gorilla with them this time and smash through the walls of Doctor X’s base in a heavily armed and armoured battle truck, only to step out of the truck and challenge Doctor X and his henchman to a… duel? I think? Whatever the motivation, they all start fighting, and after a long fight scene Flynt redirects the mind-control missiles (of which apparently there are only three). It is here that we must ask a vital question – does the mind control gas even work? It was never tested, and Professor Moron didn’t seem too sold on the idea of making it in the first place. Doctor X seems to think that three missiles full of this stuff is enough to allow him to conquer the world though, and he clearly has a good noggin on his shoulders (except for the numerous times in which he doesn’t) and anyone with the confidence to shape an entire previously undiscovered Eastern-Pacific island into a clumsy representation of their most aggressive-looking initial could probably take over the world regardless of what’s in the damn missiles. Nonetheless, Flynt decides to redirect said missiles – back to the location from which they were fired, namely, the room in which he is standing. They all die horribly, and the movie ends with the credits rolling silently over a black screen.

Nah, not really. They all escape and it’s only Doctor X and No-Face who die horribly. Except they don’t, since this is a cartoon, they survive (somehow) and vow revenge. But shouldn’t they be mind-controlled? I guess the missiles were just missiles after all, maybe Doctor X got confused. He was ripped apart by a Gorilla earlier that day. So the movie ends, just like that, with the heroes victorious – or does it?
I propose a theory that Action Man was Doctor X all along.

Only Doctor X would hire someone as incompetent as Flynt to carry out technical and demolitions responsibilities on a team carrying out high-stakes missions like Action Force do. Flynt is unwittingly working for the bad guy all along.

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