Books vs. Movies vs. Video Games

Reading fiction is constantly portrayed as a Really Good Thing™. Books engage your brain by forcing you to create the images for yourself in your own mind and interpret the deeper meaning behind the author’s words. Books are supposed to make you live longer because they keep your brain working. (If that’s true, then I’ll probably live forever.)

But is reading fiction better or more worthwhile than other modern forms of entertainment, like watching movies and playing video games? When I read fiction, I do it to relax and get lost in a story. (Sometimes I do it to study the author’s technique.) I don’t necessarily read fiction to give myself an intellectual workout or ponder the meaning of life, unless the book lends itself to those kinds of themes and ponders those questions. I don’t actively seek to deeply study the fiction I read.

It would seem like watching movies is more or less the same. Most people don’t watch movies to study them. They just want to relax and be entertained. Movies are supposedly more passive than books because you’re not envisioning the events yourself—it’s all right there for you on the screen. But I suppose that when you’re watching a movie, you’re doing the same as you would with a book: trying to anticipate what the characters will do next and possibly trying to analyze characters’ true motives or some deeper meaning.

Video games get the worst rap out of any form of entertainment. They are seen as complete garbage because many of them involve gratuitous violence, and they can suck you in for hours at a time. A movie lasts for 2 or 3 hours at the very most. A book lasts anywhere from 2 to 8 (or even more) hours, depending on how long the book is and how quickly you read. A video game can last for months, depending on the depth of the adventure, the number of side quests, and how long it takes you to figure out the game’s mechanics. Some video game veterans can beat complex games overnight, but for the most part (from what I’ve experienced), you can sink hundreds of hours into certain video games and not really have gained anything that is useful outside of the game world. Do video games cause you to ponder the workings of the universe? For me, no.

Many argue that because video games are games, they keep your mind working because you’re trying to figure out the rules of the game, develop a strategy, and complete the quest. Games teach problem-solving skills, but do they do that in the same way a book or movie does? A book or movie wraps up the problem neatly at the end (in the best case), but a video game leaves that responsibility to the gamer. You are in charge of your own destiny in a video game, so perhaps video games are more valuable than they seem.

I suppose it all depends on what kinds of books you read, games you play, or movies you watch. A deep fiction book like something by Faulkner is obviously more valuable than Grand Theft Auto V. A thought-provoking movie like Inception is more worthwhile than one of those cheap regency romance novels, and a video game like Myst or a similar strategy game is superior to a movie like Fifty Shades Freed. I would argue that any movie or video game is better than any book supposedly written by a reality TV star. But “better” or “more worthwhile” even depends on the particular person reading the book: a certain person may get deeper meaning out of Doom than from Love in the Time of Cholera, and the video game may honestly be a better use of time for that person.

Books will always be my favorite. I get so little out of movies and video games most of the time—I guess I’m not really a “visual” person in that sense. But that doesn’t mean that books are inherently superior. What do you think?

The Last Jedi But Not the Last Star Wars Movie

Caution: SPOILERS.

The Last Jedi was a lot of fun. The adventurous spirit of the Star Wars saga was maintained well; the movie was full of action sequences, lightsaber battles, and even some wisdom from the old Jedi Master Yoda. But those traits might have also been the movie’s downfall—it was an awful lot like every other Star Wars movie, which is what some critics have complained about. That didn’t really bother me.*

One of the hallmarks of the Star Wars series has always been the complexity of the relationships between the characters and how they affect the series. The relationship between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker is reminiscent of the relationship between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi back in the first three episodes: we have a very angered young man, strong with the force, who feels a pull to the dark side, and a Jedi master who is powerless to stop him.

I also feel as though the relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey could become similar to the one between Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader and Padmé/Queen Amidala. The “ship” of Kylo Ren and Rey is already pretty contentious among the fans because many are still convinced that the two are related by blood,** which would make a potential relationship incestuous. I’m a sucker for villains/bad boys, so I’m hoping that Kylo Ren and Rey end up in a relationship, and she is able to “turn him” to the light side as she predicts. However, other fans see this as a potentially abusive relationship and damaging to the movie’s image of the “strong woman.” That would be reminiscent of Anakin and Padmé because Anakin turned to the dark side, became Darth Vader, and even used the Force to choke Padmé while she was pregnant with Luke and Leia. (But was Padmé a “weaker” woman because of that? I don’t think so.)

Is there enough of the light side left in Kylo Ren that he can be changed? I think so. There’s still not enough explanation for why he turned to the dark side and became so angry, and his anger still seems more along the lines of teen angst/mood swings and not truly justified. Because his anger is so petulant, he may very well be able to turn to the light. He’s not as steeped in darkness as Anakin was, and in my mind, he doesn’t have a good enough motivation to keep toward the dark side, especially since his mentor, Supreme Leader Snoke, has been killed.

Some critics were complaining that the movie was essentially a left-wing spiel about left-wing values, like feminism and diversity, but I don’t agree (or at least, I don’t agree that this is something new). Females were always given powerful roles in the Star Wars series, and by virtue of being a space opera and taking place in planets all over the galaxy, the characters had to be diverse. It only makes sense. Star Wars characters have been diverse from the beginning of the saga.

Would I recommend the latest Star Wars? Absolutely. It is quite long (about 2.5 hours), but it doesn’t feel like it’s that long because it’s 100% pure fun from the first moment to the last.

*There is really nothing wrong with The Last Jedi being like every Star Wars movie because God knows, in real life, situations repeat themselves, humans make the same mistakes twice, and that lineage of error affects entire generations. I do hope that there is closure in the ninth episode in the saga (supposed to be coming out in December 2019) and that Kylo Ren turns to the light side simply as a reversal of what Anakin/Darth Vader did in the first three episodes. Reversals do happen in real life, too.

**I’m really hoping that they’re not blood relatives, but at the same time, I feel like Kylo Ren lied to Rey when he told her that her parents were “nobodies.” At least one of her parents has to be somebody important. She’s spent so much time wondering about her parentage that it seems weak to just leave it at “they were nobodies who sold you for drug  money.”

The Wonder of Being Different

This post may contain SPOILERS.

Wonder is a lovely movie that hit theaters at the end of 2017, which was a turbulent, hate-filled year for many. Watching Wonder will help you remember that not everyone in the world is evil and bigoted, and it will give you hope. It’s based on a children’s/middle-grade novel by R.J. Palacio, and it follows Auggie Pullman’s journey from home school to a private middle school. Auggie has Treacher Collins syndrome, a genetic disorder that is characterized by facial deformities. Kids in middle school are needlessly cruel, so naturally, they all pick on Auggie without seeing who he really is: a courageous and intelligent young man.

Warning: Wonder is a tearjerker. Do not watch it without having tissues close by. Somehow the writers and director also managed to make it a tearjerker without making it corny or cheesy. They also divided the movie into several viewpoints, so we get the other characters’ perspective on being the sibling, friend, or parent of Auggie.

I have very little to complain about with this movie. My only issue with it is that the Pullman family’s dog, Daisy, was put to sleep close to the end, and I don’t see what that really had to do with the plot except to emphasize the fact that life still happens when you’re fixated on your own issues. I also believe that was part of the movie’s message (aside from the obvious anti-bullying theme): Life doesn’t revolve around you. When you think your problems are insurmountable, there is always someone who has bigger problems, and there is always something to focus on aside from your own problems. It’s a good message for the self-focused world we live in.

tl;dr: If you want something different from the gazillions of superhero movies and don’t mind shedding a few tears, you will love Wonder.