Tag Archives: Star Wars

Destroying Star Wars: “The Last Jedi”

shifting Rey and Kylo

Whether or not the Galaxy no longer needs the Jedi, it certainly doesn’t need any more Star Wars reviews. Why write another? Because I am tired of having this conversation with myself in the shower. The characters and conflicts Rian Johnson depicted in The Last Jedi touched me deeply. I decided to ask myself “Why?” With the Blu-Ray, I can examine my thoughts.

“Destruction” and “Belonging” seem to swirl round the heart of this film. Who and what still belongs, and is relevant, in the Star Wars universe? And what is best left sliced apart by Laura Dern with purple hair in heels?

Rian Johnson’s film creates new space for new characters to live and breathe within the narrow, pigeon-holes called characters in earlier films. The characters, and film itself, rebels against the lofty “archetypes” and “legends” Lucas and Campbell assigned to them in the 70s, and remakes a legend for our times.

The Last Jedi felt like a smack in the face and punch in the gut because it was meant to. Johnson dove into the “sacred” space of Star Wars. And somewhere, between a fold in Jabba’s back fat and a CGI Gungan, he came up with what still matters in Star Wars. Just as Yoda destroys the ancient Jedi temple without hesitation, Johnson blows apart the myth of the mythos of Star Wars. And, though we realize that Rey has made off with the “Sacred Jedi Texts,” the Star War’s fan is left holding Joseph Campbell’s ponderous Hero with a Thousand Faces. Read it have you? A page-turner it is not. Already know we that which we need. Hmmmm!?

The most important piece Johnson salvages from the junk heap that is the checkered history of Star Wars is its humanity. The sometimes disgusting and confusing tangle of real human emotion, exorcised from the Prequels, return. The excitement, adventure, and humor The Force Awakens gave us back have returned, minus the 40-something nostalgia wallow. And, in true Star Wars tradition, offers an awesome and glorious vision of space and The Galaxy on the red and visceral edge of visual effects and cinematography that pushes itself from backdrop to integral story-telling tool.

Within the first moments of the film, we learn everything we need to know about it. Cocky, fly-boy Poe Dameron approaches The First Order’s lead ship with “an urgent communique for General Hux from General Leia.” When Poe’s “tooling” has bought the time his mission required to evacuate the Resistance from the planet below, he signs off with a “your momma” joke directed at Hux.

Aside from the character-appropriate, Star Wars humor, I found myself thinking of Hux’s mother. Hux obviously had one. We know he isn’t a clone. And suddenly all of his Uriah Heep misery and resentment makes Hux human. In a Galaxy where your lineage means everything, somewhere, Hux has a mom.

In the bombing sequence that follows, we also learn that the film is an action film with clear human consequences. In the death of the bomber pilot Paige, we see the human cost of Poe’s rashness. He earned that slap in the face from Princess Leia. Even rebellions have rules. “Into the garbage shoot, fly-boy!”

But where Johnson’s vision truly sharpens, lies in the relationships between Rey, Luke, and Ben Solo/Kylo Ren. We begin where we left off, with Rey earnestly holding out Vader’s old light saber to Luke on the lonely island that houses the first Jedi temple. I had a brief flash in the theater: “He should to toss it.” Single best choice in the entire film: an honest moment that set us up for what to expect from both the character of Luke and the film’s treatment its venerated idols and icons.

We know Mark Hamill disagreed with Johnson’s choices for Luke. So, let’s think about what we know about Luke Skywalker. While his Uncle is purchasing the droid that will lead to the destruction of the Death Star, what is Luke doing? Say it. “But I wanted to go into Toshi Station and pick up some power converters!” In the next scene he’s playing with his model space ships and complaining to droids. Luke is a good person, with good impulses. From what we see, he was raised with care by his salt of the earth aunt and uncle. But his mind is always elsewhere, chasing distant dreams, searching for excitement, a place to belong set apart. He cannot see what is in front of his face. Luke craves excitement and fame. And he will whine and pitch a fit when he doesn’t get his way.

Yoda liberally beats Luke for this. When Luke executes his plan to free Han Solo from Jabba’s palace, Han describes Luke as having “delusions of grandeur.” So what do you really believe would become of such a man when he fails? What happens when the man who single-handedly * destroyed the Death Star, trained with both Obi-wan and Yoda, brought about the end of The Empire, and redeemed his father Vader? The last Jedi? What happens when that guy fails? When Luke Skywalker finds the weakness, the Vader, the humanity inside himself, reflected in his nephew Ben. He lashes out with his light saber, just as in Yoda’s cave. Luke is left utterly broken. Just as Obi-wan failed Vader, Luke fails Leia and Han by chasing their son to the Dark Side. How does a legend, how does Luke Skywalker deal with that level of failure?

Johnson’s choice to leave Luke a bitter, broken, self-pitying and self-loathing man hiding away from the Galaxy in Ireland seems true to the character we have known. So when a young girl from “nowhere,” turns up with his father’s old light saber, in desperate need of a surrogate father, a sense of belonging and care, of a teacher; he pushes her away. Straight into the arms of Ben Solo.

And while both Luke and Rey were from nowhere, let’s call him Ben Solo, is definitely from somewhere and is someone. He is a Skywalker. That passionate family that drove the plot of a 40 year old franchise. They slice each other’s limbs off. They live on the planets where they were engulfed in flames and had their limbs sliced off. They commit vague acts of incest. They are hard-headed, petulant, and powerful. In short, they are a dynasty as mighty as the Olympian Gods. And in Luke’s own words, they have the flaw of those who would be gods, hubris, and they suffer their fate. Pity and Fear.

Which leads us to Ben Solo. While he sees Vader as a man to emulate, his character surpasses Vader as a villain in complexity and relevance. He is a man to be both pitied and feared, in the ancient Greek sense. As a boy, he has a barely there Dad, and a working Mom who pushes him off on his famous Uncle, who feels threatened by the boy. As a young man, he seeks escape and belonging with a manipulative leader. He becomes a patricide, and what we all too clearly recognize as a rampage killer, a Columbine kid. That is who he is. A shattered monster. But he is still a Princeling with pedigree. And, unlike Vader, he is young, vulnerable, and handsome. The perfect “fixer- upper boyfriend” for a lost, confused, lonely, and rejected young woman, searching for someone to show her where she belongs in the world. Which is exactly what Rey is.

Ben Solo uses the language of an abuser with Rey. He tells her what she fears most, that she is utterly alone, a nobody. That her parents where nobodies, junkies, buried in forgotten graves in the sands of nowhere. He tells her that she is nothing, except to him. Except with him. In a world where lineage and status count for everything, to be with him is to matter. #MeToo Rey.

And this is the true essence of Johnson’s modernization of Star Wars expressed through the failure of Luke that Yoda refers to. His failure of Rey. But, like Luke’s insistence that “it’s time for the Jedi to end.” Like the burning of the ancient tree of the first Jedi temple, and Ben’s desire to “kill the past.” Rian Johnson manages to save Star Wars by destroying it.

Earlier in the film, Luke snidely demands of Rey if he should walk out and face down the entire First Order with a “laser sword.” And yet, that is what he does. As Leia and the remaining rebels hole up inside the rusted remnants of an old rebel base, Luke performs his most heroic act in any of the films, he offers himself as a sacrifice so that his friends may escape and live on, and only then finds the Hero he needed to be.**

And, as we watch knowing that Carrie Fisher has herself become one with the Force, the burden of STAR WARS falls away forever. Rian Johnson’s great achievement in creating The Last Jedi was, yes, kill the past. Lords and Princesses are replaced by nobodies from nowhere. Clones are replaced by Finn and Hux’s Mom. Storybook romance is replaced by the complexities of the neglect, dependency, abuse, and just the usual messy humanity that Disney films in particular have glamorized for too long. Both the heroic and the evil, the Light and the Dark, are left in the hands of the uncertain young characters who will determine the future of the Galaxy. And I like that.

*Unapologetic pun

**Like the old King Beowulf, Campbell fiends. 😉

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Traitors & Blasphemers

I finally realized who Kylo Ren reminded me of: Omar Sharif as Sharif Ali Ibn el Kharish in Lawrence of Arabia. Then I noticed some other similarities as well…and not just sand, but that too. There’s an unique dynamic between Ali and Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) that seems echoed between Kylo Ren and Rey in The Force Awakens. And, yes, I’d say part of that echo involves romance.

The roles of dark and light are reversed in Lawrence. Yes, O’Toole as Lawrence is the fair, naive and unwilling hero who is initiated into a new world by Sharif Ali. However, Ali, in that fantastic black robe and headdress that had to be inspiration for Kylo’s dress and mask , remains the moral center and light in Lawrence’s increasingly darkened and conflicted mind.  While Lawrence descends into a nightmare of blood and egoism, Ali sends him back to the “light.” He screams at him to “go back to England. English blasphemer!” He literally just sends him back to the white folks, who are the bad guys. The imperialist users and abusers of the Arabs. Because ultimately that’s what Lawrence is.

In Force Awakens, we may not get that nifty switch-up. But Ren’s character does initiate Rey’s character — forcibly — to a new world as well. He basically dumps her into the deep end of the pool of The Force. And she just has to learn to swim or die.

The characters’ backgrounds and attitudes echo each other as well. Lawrence and Rey are  bastards and orphans. Ali and Ren are princes of important families they esteem (at least to Granddads). Their beliefs inform their lives, so you get the cries of “Blasphemer!” and “Traitor!” Different words for ideological apostates. And while Lawrence’s claim that “nothing is written” turns out to be a lie. Rey, the “nobody’s,” lack of initiation in the crazy world of Light and Dark allows her to intuit her way to the right path.

Yeah, OK, now romance. Now, there are no women in Lawrence of Arabia, just a few wide shots of shrouded figures. But there is romance between Ali and Lawrence, as there is between Ren and Rey. And while I adore the gender flip of Rey the Conquering Hero, I kinda have to give the prize to Lawrence of Arabia again because the romance and gender roles are played out by males at a time when this subtext had to be extremely subtle. Ultimately, Ali and Lawrence cannot inhabit the same world. And The Force Awakens leaves Ren and Rey with a giant chasm opening between them, but obviously that relationship isn’t over. But, their dynamic can’t play out like Vader and Luke’s (Father and Son). It’s going to play out through male and female through the darkened lens of the violence used against Rey and then turned back onto Kylo.  Because that’s how Star Wars works.

Hey, who knows? Perhaps we’ll get the Dark and Light reversal like Ali and Lawrence in Ren and Rey. We shall see. I’m just super tickled to find new ways of seeing Lawrence of Arabia — one of my favorite films of all time — and The Force Awakens — quickly becoming a new favorite through the lenses of one another.

I have to give credit for the many wonderful cinematic references in The Force Awakens, not simply within the Star Wars saga, but to the rest of the cinematic galaxy. As M. Grand’s imaginary publisher proclaimed after reading his grand ouvre “Gentlemen, hats off!”


You will talk The Force Awakens

 

the-force-awakens-script-proves-kylo-ren-was-corrupted-as-a-child-before-star-wars-7-gifs-790732

I got this funny way of showing gratitude. You’ll see.

“Who’s the more foolish? The fool or the fool who follows him?” I follow where you lead Star Wars. I bought the digital download of The Force Awakens with Bonus Features on April 1st, even though Amazon dropped off the Blu-Ray on the 5th as promised.  April Fools! You took my money, huh? Take! It’s Star Wars. I’ll give you anything.

So now I have seven viewings in, can we please talk about this movie some more? I’m “focusing” (not  “obsessing”) on it again. I need some help from fellow fans. A support group. Something? Oh yeah, it’s called the internet!

And thank The Force for that.

The Force Awakens on the interwebs just keeps giving. Want the ultimate gif expression of tech-rage? Here ya go.

tumblr_inline_o4exk5o8321tl6bz1_500

S T O O P I D STOOPID COMPUTERS!!!!!

Want to listen to the dinner-table fights at the Solo home? Yup:

Would you like to talk about fan-fic, Reylo, theories, art?

I love all of these wonderful, creative, passionate fans! The internet has finally succeeded in bringing the world together…through Star Wars. Pretty cool.

But there’s still so much I . . . WE need to talk about. Your favorite moment/character/theory?  I don’t know where to begin. I’m being torn apart. I want to be free of this pain. I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it. Will you help me?

*written while listening to Finn’s Playlist on Star Wars Spotify.

Edit: I didn’t even mention all the Star Wars YouTubers! Sorry HelloGreedo! Love ya man! Oh dear, and even Mr. Plinkett awakens…OH MY GAAAHD!


Jess Kicks Her Own Ass Pt. 1.4

Hoth

Me taking out the trash, but Star Wars.

Tales of Snow and Star Wars

Posting a rough draft was helpful. Not only did I appreciate the feedback, I also see more of what I need to change/expand upon. We’ll do that again someday. But it is not this day!  No, today is a day to be lectured by Russians that I am “pussy” for mild anxiety regarding blizzards. Today is a day to only shave one of one’s legs in the shower. Today is a day to still be wearing the same fleecy leggings I’ve had on for more than a couple of days. A day for losing one’s vape saber repeatedly. For apologizing to my dog for jipping her on her walk. (Are we allowed to say “jipp”? Screw it, I typed “pussy” already.)

Yes indeed folks. But you know, I like snow storms once in a while. Like a nice rainy day. Do some major faffing about. Although it’d be better if Force Awakens were on Blu-ray. (*Talk to Russian friend about that.) I’ve done everything I can to replace the deep hole within me without Force Awakens on tap. The Extended Editions of LOTR AND The Hobbit movies (commentary tracks and special features),  Wes Anderson, Kubrick, TNG, new Sherlock, starting re-watching the first part of this season’s Walking Dead, Lawrence of Arabia, started a Civ, colored, started Moby Dick again . . . Yeah, I’m dying over here!

Well, I can still think about Star Wars all the time, mostly. I’ve realized that the magic of movies has tricked me into empathizing with a character that is already a school-shooter in a galaxy that rewards school-shooters with positions of great power by the time we first meet him in Force Awakens. Kylo Ren is the Trenchcoat Mafia love child of a three-way between Dexter, Buffalo Bill and Napoleon Dynamite. Damn it! I still really like that character. But I also was still on Walter White’s side until the very end.  And Buffalo Bill is cool, of course. He’s just misunderstood.

I don’t feel bad that I’ve spent all my movie-going allowance (and some gift cards from the day we don’t mention) on seeing Star Wars, when there are a lot of fantastic movies out right now. It’s honestly Tarantino’s fault for scheduling the release of The Hateful Eight on the same weekend as a new Star Wars film. And maybe I’ll wait until spring to watch The Revenant. And again, that’s just on them. There are other movies with Tom Hardy that I can watch right now if I need to (may need to). Obviously I’m just going to keep seeing Star Wars into the cheap theater until it comes out on Blu-ray.

Frankly, I don’t give a damn whether I’m obsessing. That movie made me happy. And (until five seconds ago) Episode VIII comes out on my birthday, so this is apparently all about me anyway. You know what else made me happy? The Beatles on Spotify. I didn’t listen to any music from the day we don’t mention last year! Not when I can do Abbey Road on my surround sound. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah…and a hair-tossing “woooooh!” Anyway, I don’t think of it as “obsessing”. I think of it as “focus”. I’m extremely focused.

Yeah so anyway, what are you all planning to do during the storm? I think I’m going to play Civ V for three days. I have a lot of those little soups that come in boxes. I’ll just drink them from a straw. Oh yeah, and should I just stop putting quotes around my Morrissey references? I don’t attribute Star Wars quotes. But then people don’t know Morrissey as well as some focused folks. I think I’ll just leave them alone and either A) people will get it or B) people will think I have a wickedly morbid wit. I’ll take that.

May the Force shovel you sidewalk.

I don’t like the digital skips between tracks on Abbey Road though. It’s the same with Dark Side. It’s a tease when radio stations play just one track off Dark Side. You just want to hear the next song on Dark Side then. It doesn’t matter what they play next. It sucks.

 

 

 

 


Jess Kicks Her Own Ass Pt 1

Help me finish what I started, burnt husk of a mask.

Help me finish what I started, burnt husk of a mask.

 

Sometimes my self-loathing has consequences for the good. I mean, appeals to my vanity always work. People who say that you should: eat healthy, exercise, or just like take a shower and make your bed because it makes you feel better and not because it’ll make you look better just don’t get me. However, that’s not why I’m hating me now. I’m hating me now because I’ve been so neglectful of my writing that I feel as though I should just resign myself to a life of cleaning up after my animals and my boyfriend (redundant). Ew and like cooking stuff to eat. Yeah, but see now I’ve got a plan to turn that all around. All thanks to my unfailing ability to disappoint myself. I’m going to write 500 words at least on this blog every day, except Saturdays, for two weeks. Not rollin’ on Shabbas.

That’s just the part of the plan. I have other things going on as well, and I will up my game as I go. But this is the goal 1.1 subsection A for now. And I’m going to post this brain drivel on my blog so there’s some sort of accountability to like my thousands of followers, I guess? Whatever. That’s what I’m doing.

So, did anybody see that Star Wars movie? I saw it for the third time this past Friday. It gets better with every view. It’s got a sort of old-school, ET or Close Encounters era Spielberg thing going on. Magical, full of wonder…just an old-fashioned kind of fun movie like you would’ve gone to see on like a Saturday or after school as a kid. I cannot quarrel with or nit-pick this film at all. It’s just too much fun.

I know some folks are nit-picking it, but I just finished rewatching the LOTR Extended Editions — because I can’t watch Force Awakens every day at home yet — and remember the quibbles for those films? Where’s Tom Bombadil? Why is Frodo so young? Why is Arwen’s part bigger? Yeah, see you didn’t remember until I just brought that up because no one cares anymore. Just as no one will be whining that Rey beat Kylo in a saber battle in the future when all is well.  Like Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, all that will be left is just a glorious cinematic legacy to be enjoyed forever. Or until the zombie apocalypse.

Which is another thing I want to happen: I mean the return of The Walking Dead. Winter is bleak enough without having to stumble through without being able to enjoy watching folks suffer and die amid the flesh-eating undead. Besides, this whole season has been a giant cliff-hanger, and I need some resolution. My money is on Carol’s little psychopath in training blowing the whole “we’re totally zombies” cover. No more cookies for you little freak. The monsters are going to come and eat you up and no one will be able to hear you or help you.

Well, there see, I done did it. I could totally take this momentum now and go work on something else, but it’s snowing and maybe I’ll just play Fallout. I don’t know. I’m not even editing this. Because I’m not worth it yet. I still hate me. But gettin’ bettah all the time…

 

PS – is anyone else experiencing lag and glitches on the Xbox One? Is that all the people who got one for Christmas taking up all the “shared processing”? Noobs. 


Star Wars: The Force Awakens: a Personal Review (No Spoilers)

image

Yes!

Somewhere, deep down in a locked and staunchly protected room in my heart, lay my sincerest hopes for how Star Wars: The Force Awakens would make me feel. I grew up on the original films. In many ways they substituted for religion in my household. My Dad and older brother showed me the first two (on Betamax). My sister and I were old enough to go to the theater for Jedi, and we spent many childhood hours playing Luke and Leia with our white lab Obi-wan in the yard.

I never got into the “expanded universe.” In film school I learned about Joseph Campbell, lending the old films of my youth new credibility and significance. But by the time the prequels came out, I was watching Fellini and Bergman and The Sopranos. And The Lord of the Rings outshone the dottering old empire.

That’s not to say I didn’t still love Star Wars. Far from it. I bought all of the successively worse “Special Editions”. And I still watched the original trilogy whenever it was on TV. And, like all fans, I quote the films regularly.

My reinvestment in Star Wars really began with the cathartic Red Letter Media reviews of the prequels. And, soon after, the news of Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilms was announced.

As a grown-up, managing expectations became a priority in all areas of my life. I certainly loved JJ Abrams. I devoured every episode of Lost. His second Star Trek was disappointing. But, given my knowledge of Lost and his 2009 Trek, he felt right at the helm of the new generation of Star Wars.

Yet, still, beneath my growing anticipation for the new film, I buried my secret hope for it. I didn’t much care about an expanded universe, or what new Star Warsy things I’d learn. I just wanted to feel that joy. I wanted to know if it were possible. I wanted to feel like a kid again.

Secretly, I pinned Fox Mulder’s poster up in my heart: “I want to believe.”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens delivered and more. It was better than I allowed for even in my most hidden hopes. And laughing and crying and cheering with that audience was the best I’ve felt in a long time. I feel connected to my fellow human beings in a ring of pure, undiluted bliss.

I’m not going to nit-pick the plot. Everything I wanted, and needed, was there: the wonderful characters, the banter, the thrills, the family drama and friendships, the Force…but most importantly…the fun.

Isn’t that why we all loved Star Wars to begin with? It’s not because they’re the best films ever made, or the greatest works of art, or the deepest explorations of the human heart and psyche. Star Wars began as George Lucas’ homage to the serials and movies that made up his childhood. His creations made up my childhood. Star Wars is about wonder, the wonder of seeing the world as a child. Star Wars isn’t about reserved, measured grown-up sensibilities. Star Wars is for children of all ages.

So I have to thank Disney, Abrams, the cast, Kasdan, the gaffer, the caterers, the sanitation troopers (hey Finn!)…you all gave me a gift that was better than this weary soul had allowed itself to hope for. I feel just like a kid again. I can’t wait to see it a bazillion times…and buy the toys!

And, without reservation, it is my pure pleasure to wish:

May the Force be with you…always

I know you were watching too Dad. 🙂


Notes to Self, II: Responses

Try not to say this.

Try not to say this.

As a supplement to last week’s post, I thought it might be helpful for me to list acceptable and unacceptable responses to typical social situations that I have discovered in my research…I mean in my social life. I mean in my “social life”. I mean…I have no social life, but I’m working on it! And this list will totally help me achieve that because this is how all human beings operate: observation, list making and careful deductive reasoning. So proceeding from that hypothesis, here we go.

1) Invitations: When one is at a get-together and someone says, “Hey, we should all totally hang out!” You might think the proper response is, “But aren’t we already hanging out?” I made the same mistake. Apparently this is a meaningless phrase used to express polite interest, not an actual invitation. Therefore, the proper response is, “Yeah, totally!”  Even if you hope to never see that individual ever again.

2) Inquiries: “How are you doing?” Answer: “Fine.” Only add “And you?” if you actually want to listen to this person —  who obviously hasn’t done their research or read my highly informative blog — go on about people you do not know and do not care about engaging in bizarre activities such as participating in organized athletics or the benefits of their new kale-only diet. Do not tell them about your asthma/allergies/sinus issues, how many panic attacks you’ve experienced in the past week and their intensity, that thing you’re working on, or the evolution of your crush on your favorite character in The Walking Dead (Rick!). And the answer to “Have you lost weight?” is “Yes.”

3) Fangirling: Occasionally you may find a subject in which you have genuine interest will come up. This is the time for self-control. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, the subject is Patrick Stewart. Take a deep, deep breath, count to ten, and in your calmest voice possible respond thusly, “Yes, he is still attractive. I appreciate his work very much.”  Yes, I realize this is a tough one. However, if someone else expresses a slightly higher level of interest, you may question them further, until both of you have long lost any other connection to the larger social group and are breathlessly recounting how you could totally see some of Picard’s butt when he was captured by that Cardassian in the “There. Are. Four. Lights.” two-parter.

4) Um, actually: No. No. No. No. No. Whether the topic be if global warming is caused by humans (Um, actually the consensus among scientists says that it is), or the “planet” the second Death Star blew up in Return of the Jedi (Um, actually it was a forest moon.) just learn to bite your tongue until it bleeds. Odd as it may seem, many people don’t really care about facts, and they also don’t care about the gigantic store of them you have neatly organized in your brain by subject and with cross-referencing through your Memory Web. Also, probably don’t talk about your Memory Web.

5) Bigots: Shut them down. Always and without prejudice. 😉 If they don’t like President Obama’s policies, they’re wrong, but that’s OK. What is not OK , ever, under any circumstance is to nod and smile as someone demeans an entire group of human beings out of ignorance, hate and fear. Grandma, the Moors were in Italy, get over it. You with the handlebar mustache, thanks for identifying yourself as a moron by wearing a T-shirt with the Rebel and American flag displayed side by side. Frickin’ idiots. And then run and do a shot or ten of the alcohol closest to you, and find some better folks to talk to.

That’s my summary for now. Although I must include a general warning against responding to every statement or question with a quote or reference, unless it’s to Star Wars or The Beatles. Actually, just try sticking to Star Wars and The Beatles, and you’ll do just fine. The only people who don’t like them are dead inside anyhow.


Han First

han solo

 

And the “Han shot first” in Star Wars!


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