Long before he played the greatest Starfleet officer of all time and directed the immortal ‘The Voyage Home‘ Leonard Nimoy spent 18 months in the Army reserve. According to Military.com, Nimoy achieved the rank of sergeant and spent much of his army service “putting on shows for the Army Special Services branch which he wrote, narrated, and emceed.”
Nimoy acted in the following instructional film along with future “Davy Crockett” star Fess Parker. It addressed what was then called combat fatigue, or the emotional and psychological toll of warfare. The film shows how Marine Corps psychologists were supposed to treat combat fatigue sufferers, giving a glimpse into how the wartime military of the 1950s dealt into the still-vital question of how to address the mental health needs of its troops. Nimoy appears as the first of the two Marines in the clip to undergo treatment.
This clip was made in 1954, shortly after the Korean War ended and 12 years before Star Trek premiered on NBC.
By the time Nate Ellis reached the sixth grade he knew there were two things he wanted to do with his life: make movies and fly airplanes for the military.
Ellis was raised in a family with military experience. His father had joined the Coast Guard during the Vietnam era as a way to avoid the draft and his older brother had joined the Air Force ROTC program as a way to pay for college. He says he was the first among them to go in actually motivated to serve.
“All I wanted to do was Army aviation,” he said.
Ellis attended Austin Peay State University in Tennessee on a ROTC scholarship and wound up the top-ranked cadet nationwide among aviation selectees. Three days after graduation he found himself at Fort Rucker ready to start flight school. A year or so later he was a Blackhawk pilot.
In time he found himself in Afghanistan, stationed at Shindand Air Base in the western area of the country as part of the 4th CAB contingent there. He was assigned as the “battle captain,” overseeing all of the unit’s air operations, a position of great responsibility.
He was also flying Blackhawk sorties, and one night he launched as part of an air assault package comprised of three Blackhawks and two Chinooks. The helicopters carried a total of 99 troops — Italian special operators and Afghan National Army regulars — for a raid to capture a “high-value target,” one of the Taliban’s bad guys.
The helicopters touched down at the LZ around 3 AM, and after the troops jumped out they immediately came under fire. The helos took off and held nearby.
“We were at the holding point listening to the chaos, waiting, burning gas,” Ellis said. “It was the worst.”
There were two Apache attack helicopters on station, but one ran out of ammo and the other took an enemy round through the cockpit. The ground force, facing overwhelming numbers, wanted to get out of there immediately. But, by the helicopters’ operating procedures, it was too hot for them to fly back in to pick them up.
The mission commander, a lieutenant colonel, made the call to go in, but only after taking a quick survey of his fellow pilots over the radio to see what they thought about the risk.
“We went up and down the line, and all aircrews said they wanted to go in,” Ellis remembered. “But everyone was concerned at the same time. Everyone knew what they were getting into.”
The LZ was in the middle of a valley, what Ellis described as “the worst place to fly into.”
He saw the gunner in the Blackhawk ahead of him return fire on a group behind a wall as his own gunner froze, unable to pull the trigger. Sixty of the troops came running at them trying to load up. The Blackhawk only had room for 12 of them, so Ellis’ crew chief heroically jumped out and sorted the situation out as the bullets landed around them. After “the longest 3 minutes of my life,” they lurched back into the air at the Blackhawk’s maximum takeoff weight.
“Because we were heavy we couldn’t yank and bank,” Ellis said. “We had to fly straight ahead. My missile warning gear was going off the whole time.”
Once he was out of harm’s way, he had an epiphany.
“I was more present than I ‘d ever been in my life,” he said. “It was like all of the bullshit in my life came to the surface and skimmed off. I heard my inner voice: ‘Life is short. Live with a purpose. Do what you love.'”
And Ellis realized — along with flying Army helicopters — that he loved making movies, something he’d continue to dabble in even during the most demanding parts of his military life.
“I was always working on something while I was in,” Ellis said. “Short films — writing and directing. I’d edit them on my computer and post them to YouTube or wherever.”
After his war tour, he was stationed in South Korea while his marriage to another Army helicopter pilot came apart. “Long story short, we were separated for 18 months,” he said.
He was ready for a change in his life. So after 7 years of active duty, he resigned his commission and entered USC to get a master’s degree in filmmaking. While he immersed himself in the curriculum, he also found himself processing a lot of anger.
“I’d lose my temper if somebody jumped in front of me at a bar or cut me off in traffic,” he admitted. “I felt this sense of entitlement, like, who are they to treat me like that? Don’t they know who I am and what I’ve done?”
By his own account, it took him three years of grad school to process his emotions.
“I don’t want to be that person,” he said. “I don’t want to feel that way. Now it’s more like who cares? That guy, that girl, they have their own thing going on. They have their own path.”
He made a name for himself among the talented grad students at USC. He created five short films, including “10,000 Miles,” his thesis film that had a $30,000 budget plus a $350,000 Panavision grant.
Ellis also made “The Fog,” which he describes as “very personal,” another short that won a faculty screenwriting award and “Best Narrative Short” at the 2016 GI Film Festival. “The Fog” was also a semi-finalist for the student Academy Awards.
Ellis left USC with an impressive body of work, and an effective Hollywood network that included his USC-assigned mentor who also happened to be the president of a major studio. With his master’s degree in hand, he’s wasted little time in making some things happen. He wrote a screenplay based on “Chickenhawk,” the classic Vietnam-era story about a helicopter pilot, and he said Harrison Ford is “interested.”
At the same time, he worked as a production assistant on “The Wall,” directed by Doug Liman (who also directed “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Bourne Identity”), wrote another screenplay targeting both Chinese and American audiences, and co-created an animated web series called “Thrift Video” that he described as “‘Adult Swim’-type humor.”
And, somewhat ironically, Ellis’ work in Hollywood placed him behind the controls of a helicopter again.
“My USC mentor introduced me to the president of Studio Wings, Steve Stafford, a Marine vet,” he explained. “I’ve been flying a Huey, one of the types of helicopters I flew during my time in the Army.”
And the Studio Wings Huey is owned by one Vince Gilligan, the creator of the hit series “Breaking Bad.” Ellis and Gilligan have co-piloted the Huey on several occasions.
“Vince is a super-nice guy and very interested in my active duty experience,” Ellis said. “He’s also interested in my screenplay.”
Ellis is quickly learning that success in the movie business is about two things: who you know and how much talent you have.
“All this stuff is just coming out of the blue,” Ellis said. “But I love the non-linear aspect of Hollywood. You’re thrown into the big mix with everybody. How do you set yourself apart?”
Ellis has also learned when and where to leverage his military experience and the limits of it.
“The whole reason I’m flying helicopters with Vince Gilligan is because I flew helicopters in the Army,” he said. “But after that, it’s about the quality of my work.”
Within our military community, the tools of rehabilitation and reintegration of veterans of our nation’s wars changes each year.
One of the most popular ways to take a mental break for the post-9/11 generation comes from video games. They’ve become an interactive hobby that allows you to turn your brain off for a while, focus on the story, and receive positive stimuli as you progress through the levels.
Simple mobile games like Candy Crush reward the players with in-game text that display positive messages or the opposite end of the spectrum; Dark Souls, where the challenge is the reward. These are all benefits in a world where some veterans live in constant fight-or-flight mode.
Gaming also provides an outlet for those who suffered brain trauma. Rhythm games like Guitar Hero or puzzle games like Portal are an excellent tool used by Army Therapists to work on and measure progress.
But do shooter games that take place in the setting of modern conflict played by those who fought there help?
YouTuber “Clients Incoming” — an Army combat veteran whose channel is dedicated to digital marketing strategy — said it best. In his video “Treating PTSD with Video Games” he says, “The adrenaline rush of being in the fight, knowing that death hangs in the balance, is not something you can recreate outside of combat.”
“More importantly, what I get out of the gaming experience in games like [Battlefield 3] is the team aspect,” he adds. “And if you’re with a group of guys that know what they’re doing and know how to approach the situation tactically and they communicate really well. That’s an awesome ride.”
Online gaming provides a platform for our veterans to interact with each other again. I’ll admit I don’t call the guys from my old unit as much as I’d like, but I’m always able to catch them online for a round or two of Playerunknown’s Battleground.
Things always pick up just like it was the last day we were all drinking in the barracks together.
What are your thoughts? Do you use video games as a therapy or a way to reconnect with your buddies? Let us know in the comment section.
“Ranger Games,” by former Seattleite Ben Blum, is something of a genre mashup, part journalism and part family memoir.
The journalistic part pieces together, in high definition, the brazen 2007 robbery of a South Tacoma bank by a group of Army Rangers from Fort Lewis. The robbery, Rick Anderson’s coverage of which for Seattle Weekly gets brief mention (“Soldiers of Fortune,” Nov. 29, 2007), is a stranger-than-fiction tale in which a possibly psychopathic Army specialist convinces a “cherry” private and a small group of others that their training makes them well-suited to take out a bank.
As Blum describes it, the robbery sounds like something that would have been fun to watch were you not facing the barrel of one of the AK-47s the robbers hoisted: Rangers vaulting over barriers, calling out precise time checks, and then respectfully thanking everyone when it was done, all within 2 minutes. Astoundingly, the elite soldiers’ dexterous robbery was undone when they drove away, with security cameras watching, in one of their own cars with the license plates in full view. Arrests were made within a day.
None of these details are spoilers, by the way; so rich is this book that the facts of the robbery are dealt with quickly in the first few pages.
Which brings us to the family memoir part of the book: Blum’s insight into this piece of local history is sharpened by the fact that his cousin was one of the robbers—or the get-away driver, to be precise. Pfc. Alex Blum’s Audi with Colorado plates was the team’s undoing, and a large portion of Ranger Games is devoted to Ben Blum trying to figure out how Alex wound up involved in such a fiasco. As described by the author, the Blum family is an all-American sort, which is not necessarily a flattering look: they are wealthy, white, apathetic toward the Iraq War Alex would soon be fighting in, and sitting ducks for the looming housing crisis.
Blum’s portrait of his cousin is unsparing, peppered with quotes that make you kind of hate him. “I play a tough guy on the exterior, but a kid gives me a card, I hang it in my office. He signed it himself, in his little retard writing,” Blum quotes his cousin at one point in full bro mode.
Indeed, it is Ben Blum’s love-hate relationship with his cousin that is the driving tension of the book. The central question is how willing a participant in the robbery Alex was. Through breezy explanations of Ranger culture and prisoner psychology, Blum builds a plausible case that Alex was completely at the mercy of his military chain of command, and so when a superior told him to drive to a bank with a bunch of guns in the back seat he had no choice but to follow orders.
This theory was endorsed by none other than Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist who orchestrated the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971. At one point, Zimbardo and Alex appeared on the Dr. Phil show to explain how it all worked in Alex’s brain. “So what you’re telling me,” Dr. Phil says at one point, speaking for the entire world, “is that you did not know that you were involved in an armed. Robbery. Of a bank.”
Blum shares Dr. Phil’s skepticism. The author is careful to note the holes in this explanation, and as the book progresses those holes grow and shrink. The book reaches its climax when Blum has an 8-hour interview in a federal penitentiary with Luke Elliott Sommer, the ranger who orchestrated the heist. Blum contemplates whether Sommer is a psychopath—with the help of a clinician from Washington’s McNeal Island—to uncertain results.
What’s clear is the guy is highly manipulative and fucking nuts, a dangerous combo if there ever was one. He was prone to forcing subordinates to do “suicide checks” at Fort Lewis, which entailed giving soldiers a gun and demanding they hold it to their head and pull the trigger, to prove loyalty and trust. Blum writes that he could empathize with those who obeyed the crazy orders.
“At the distance of a small table from Elliott, there was a strange double quality to my consciousness,” Blum says in describing falling into Sommer’s trap, “one half telling myself I could see right through him, the other half helplessly interacting on his terms.”
More than anything else this is a book about uncertainty: Uncertainty in one’s consciousness, in one’s family lore, in Dr. Phil, in what we can call free-will. Uncertainty in why the robbers didn’t cover up the Audi’s license plate.
As the Chairman and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, Vince McMahon knows a thing or two about leadership, business, and being successful.
So when he offers advice, it’s a good idea to listen. McMahon did just that in a question answer session specifically for veterans in partnership with American Corporate Partners, a mentorship non-profit for vets (Disclosure: This writer went through ACP’s year-long program in 2011).
On how to keep people motivated without stifling their creativity:
“One of my expressions is to ‘treat every day like it’s your first day on the job.’ When you do that, it either confirms what was done yesterday was right—or it gives you an opportunity to take a fresh look at something. I always ask our employees not to think traditionally in a non-traditional world.”
On what veterans offer to civilian employers:
“Work ethic, leadership, communication skills and time management, as well as the ability to multi-task and work under pressure are traits I believe veterans can offer any organization. At WWE, we recruit experienced talent from a variety of industries and pride ourselves on promoting from within the company.”
On what veterans should do when they are transitioning out of the military:
“Don’t just be satisfied getting a job. Determine what it is you really want to do and be passionate about it. Be tenacious and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
On how to choose what to do with your life:
“My advice to anyone is to follow your heart and passion, and reach for the brass ring. You shouldn’t be afraid to try new things. This may mean working long hours in your current career field and then going into business for yourself in your spare time.
You’ll know when the time is right to make the jump in its entirety, but be totally prepared. You need a well-thought out plan of action. Obtain as much professional advice as you possibly can and don’t let your ego get in the way.”
ProPublica senior reporter Sebastian Rotella, author of “Rip Crew,” lays out what popular TV shows and movies like “Narcos” and “Sicario” get right and wrong about Mexican drug cartels. Following is a transcript of the video.
Sebastian Rotella: I’m Sebastian Rotella. I’m the author of the novel Rip Crew and I’m a senior reporter at Propublica.
“Sicario” was a, was a good movie, and some of the things it portrayed were very accurate, for example that shootout at the border, if you remember in “Sicario” when they’re at the border crossing, stuck in traffic, that has happened, and something that I was very worried about when I was covering the border, because you know that is a sort of a prime vulnerability moment when you’re stuck in that traffic at the border.
There were other things in, for example, in “Sicario” that I thought pushed the envelope, the sort of gratuitous and casual torture taking place on US territory, that in my experience, you know, it happens very rarely, I’m really not aware of it. And that isn’t because there aren’t particularly Latin American law enforcement and intelligence and military units that work with the US that engage in that kind of activity, but it tends to happen precisely in those countries. You know, the idea that you would bring someone into the US to do that and expose yourself to all kinds of potential prosecution and scandal, that did not ring true, for example. So it really depends.
I think “Narcos” is quite well-researched. What happens is, and I’ve done this having written fiction, and having been involved in projects where you move this stuff to the big screen, things have to be simplified, they have to be made dramatic, they have, you lose nuance, and oftentimes, they’ll be things that happen in real life that I think would make for good, it would be good on, on a TV show or a movie, but they’re harder to portray because oftentimes they happen out of ineptitude.
Right, I mean the scary thing sometimes about this world is the combination of that, how lethal, but sometimes how inept or how unsophisticated some of these actors are, that factor that is hard to portray in the best series this question of ineptitude of the mix of sophistication and coincidence and sort of human flaws, I think when that is draw out in series, that is when they’re at their best, because I think that is very human and that is very real. There is still a sense of the drug lords in Mexico. You know people talk a lot about Chapo Guzman, who was just captured.
The thing about Chapo Guzman is he was kind of the last of the drug lords of his style, and one of the reasons that Mexico was so violent, and the drug violence and drug corruption has gotten so bad is precisely because the generation of drug lords like Chapo Guzman has kind of died out, and the people who run most of the cartels now, the cartels are adamized and fragmented for one thing. And the other thing is what you have is a phenomenon, is as the drug lords like Chapo Guzman have faded out, the trigger men, the gun men, who pretty much resolve everything through violence have risen.
So it’s not to say that Chapo Guzman and the Arellano-Felix brothers whom I covered in Tijuana years ago and others, weren’t violent. They were bloodthirsty and sadistic, but they also had a sense of when to corrupt, rather than kill, when to do packs, when to, how to, how to, how to approach this as a, as a business, as a violent business, but a business, none the less. Whereas the drug cartels like the Zetas, and some of the remnants of other cartels that have risen, the Zetas were former commandos in Mexico actually military men who took over and created their own cartel. Pretty much they resolve everything through violence, so people think about a drug lord sort of sitting on a throne somewhere and running this vast empire and it’s much more a series of smaller, very anarchic, dangerous, chaotic empires, that are, you know, that have been splintered and fractured and that unfortunately has created more violence and not less.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For months leading up to this week’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere, the universe created by George Lucas, purchased by Disney, and boosted by Sci-Fi mastermind JJ Abrams has been central in our cultural consciousness. But remember that other franchise Abrams revived from the mothballs film and television history, the one whose crew boldly goes where no one has gone before?
A trailer for the third installment of the rebooted Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Beyond, just popped up without warning, to what appears to be mixed applause from the trekkie-trekker community. Why, you might ask? The trailer clearly shows a significant reduction in lens flare over the previous two installments. No, the people either love or hate the choice of music for the trailer. Judge for yourselves.
There’s not much discussion about what’s new or even what the plot is, except that the cast of the previous two films have returned, with the notable addition of Idris Elba joining them as this guy. I think. Maybe not.
Who knows. They’ve been pretty hush-hush about this ever since production began.
This time it seems, things will be different. Where Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek immediately turned the canon of Star Trek on its head, director Justin Lin’s vision for the franchise is more to the heart of the “wild west in space” spirit of the original series (also, Lin probably watched more than just the Wrath of Khan for background research). And of course, Captain Kirk somehow gets on a motorcycle because Lin’s previous credits include three Fast Furious movies.
But he is responsible for the epic “Modern Warfare” episode of Community… so there’s hope.
Believe it or not, there is one gun very notable for having been taken by the United States Air Force to other planets. That said, it was only on TV.
The “Stargate” TV franchise — based on the 1994 movie featuring Kurt Russell — starred Richard Dean Anderson of “MacGyver” for its first eight seasons. The series was notable in having two separate Air Force Chiefs of Staff cameo as themselves, Gen. Michael Ryan in “Prodigy” and Gen. John Jumper in “Lost City, Part Two.”
The central premise around the series was that the Air Force had acquired a “stargate” that was set up in Cheyenne Mountain. The team led by Anderson’s character, SG-1, was pretty much carrying out a mission similar to of the Army Special Forces: building alliances with native populations.
The adventures eventually took SG-1 all the way across the galaxy and beyond, where they not only faced off against hostile nations, but also made contact with friendly aliens and acquired new technology.
And as is the case with special operations forces, SG-1 had gear that average grunts didn’t get their hands on — usually. In addition to all the alien tech, they did get some earth weapons, too. Notable among them was the P90 personal defense weapon from FN Herstal.
The P90 is a select-fire weapon that fires the 5.7x28m cartridge. It is a compact weapon with a 50-round magazine. The gun made its combat debut during Operation Desert Storm with Belgian special operations troops.
You can see a video about this PDW that has gone to other worlds below.
Forbes recognizes Matt Damon as one of the most bankable stars, the world sees him as a philanthropist, and the Hollywood scene noticed him as one of the most successful actors of all time. He is also involved in screenwriting and producing. However, he officially started acting at the age of 18. Born in 1970 in Massachusetts, Damon grew up with his mother after his parents got divorced in 1973. One of the people that he was spending a lot of time with since early childhood was Ben Affleck, who lived only two blocks away from him.
As a teenager, Damon was performing in numerous high school theatre plays which had a significant impact on his love for the theatre and the movie industry. He was also a student at Harvard University, but his passion for acting was very strong, so he decided to dedicate wholeheartedly and left the university. As far as we can tell, he has proven his commitment from the variety of awards won including an Academy Award, two Golden Globes, seven Emmys and three BAFTA awards.
Through his performances in “The Bourne” series, and “Ocean’s” Franchise, Matt has attracted a lot of attention and brought him fame in the Hollywood scene. Nonetheless, there are so many other lovely roles performed by this multitalented actor that we forgot about and missed. That is why we will make a throwback to the ’90s and review 4 of his best movies which shaped his career.
Matt Damon in 2015.
Good Will Hunting
Written by Matt Damon itself and his friend Ben Affleck, Good Will Hunting got the reputation as one of the best movies ever made by telling the story of a delinquent janitor (Will Hunting) who is a genius. Among all of the awards that this movie has claimed, it has earned 2 Academy Awards. The whole team has performed very professionally including Robin Williams, Stellan Skarsgård and Casey Affleck. Thanks to Matt Damon’s fantastic performance in the movie, students at M.I.T. (the place where the movie was filmed) in Boston are still crazy about Will Good Hunting. The movie brought him fame back then and was one of the critical factors in shaping his acting career.
The poker drama movie describes the life of Mike McDermott, a law student who is taking part in poker tournaments into the exciting underground casinos in New York and Atlantic City, which didn’t adhere to any laws or gambling regulations. Nowadays, poker players can enjoy playing legally on the internet, knowing they are in the right hands and provided with a secure gaming atmosphere. Damon, as Mike does a more than fantastic job in performing the role of a skilled poker player, he also mentioned in one of his interviews that he would be happy to reprise the movie, taking into account that the world of online playing has changed ever since then.
He got provided with appropriate training for the film, which is visible on the big screen with his focus, strategy and patience. However, Damon cleverly took advantage of those skills has applied them in many other movies which shaped him in an actor that he is now.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Saving Private Ryan won 5 Academy Awards, and it is one of the best WWII movies in history. On the one hand, Steven Spielberg’s drama perfectly describes the clash of cruelty and humanity, which are always present during wars. Back then, when Spielberg was focused on the casting for the role of Private Ryan, he preferred to find someone who is very unpopular in the movie industry. That is how he ended up with Matt Damon, but he won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting in the meantime. The movie is still highly respected in the Hollywood scene, and it will be remembered as one of the most epic films of all time.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
The Talented Mr.Ripley is a psychological thriller directed by Anthony Minghella. Based on a novel written by Patricia Highsmith’s in 1955, the movie will get you through the story of Tom Ripley who always wanted to become a fake somebody rather than a real nobody. Tom Ripley’s character is very complex, he is a liar, manipulator and amoral, but yet sophisticated and polite. Despite the perplexing personal characteristics, Matt Damon successfully manages to represent Tom Ripley in his true colour. The movie also stars one of the most famous actors and actresses of all time such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman and has received five nominations for an Academy Award.
The Far Cry video game series has always gone above and beyond in placing the player in a beautiful, open world and pitting them against a cunning and well-written antagonist. The graphics in the most recent installment are as crisp as you’d expect from the series, the gameplay is phenomenal, and plenty of critics are already singing its praise, but what sets this game apart from every other shooter is the storyline.
This time around, instead of exploring some scenic island fighting against drug-running pirates or a prehistoric valley against neanderthals, Far Cry 5 pits the player against deranged cult in a fictional county of Montana.
You play as a Sheriff’s deputy tasked with arresting Joseph Seed, a cult leader who is a mix of David Koresh, Jim Jones, and a hipster douchebag. There’s a palpable eeriness as you walk through his church’s compound and Joseph is seemingly compliant at first. He lets you handcuff him before saying, “you’ll never arrest me.” As you make your way back to the helicopter, one of his followers hurls himself into the propellers, allowing Seed to escape back to his followers, kicking off the game.
The player is then saved by the first of many veterans you’ll encounter in the game, Dutch. He’s a loner Vietnam veteran who has shut himself off in a bunker while the world goes to sh*t outside. Inside his bunker, you’ll find plenty of little references to real-life military units, like an homage to the 82nd Airborne patch (the “AA” has been replaced by the number “82” in the same style) and a patch that’s the shape of the 101st, but with the XVIII Corps’ dragon.
He offers to help you out and gives you something to wear something other than your uniform, which includes (and I’m not making this up) some 5.11 gear.
The next veteran who helps you out is Pastor Jerome Jeffries, a Gulf War veteran turned Catholic priest. He’s holed up in his church with the few citizens who haven’t been indoctrinated by the cult. While there, you set up a resistance to buy time until the National Guard can come reinforce. You must band together with the rag-tag group of remaining people to take down Seed and his followers.
Which brings you to the third main veteran in the storyline, Grace Armstrong, a U.S. Army sniper who deployed to Afghanistan. She’s one of the characters that fights alongside you throughout the game, providing fire support from a good distance.
Though his veteran status remains unknown, you’ll also come across a companion named Boomer. Boomer’s a dog who, if he gets hurt, can be healed with a nice belly rub. It’s the little things in this game that make it amazing.
Colby Buzzell was almost killed when his entire battalion was ambushed by insurgents in Iraq.
“I heard and felt the bullets whiz literally inches from my head, hitting all around my hatch and making a ping, ping, ping sound,” Buzzell said, recalling how the enemy armed with rifles and RPGs attacked from rooftops, alleys, windows from every imaginable direction.
Even worse, a few minutes after the battalion fired their way out of the kill zone, they were ordered to go back to where they got ambushed.
“I literally felt sick to my stomach,” Buzzell said. “I felt like throwing up. My gut, my body, my mind, my soul, my balls were all telling me loud and clear not to go back. I was scared to death, but we had to go back. And, we did.”
Watch how (a scared) Buzzell musters the courage to do things most Americans couldn’t imagine doing in this riveting short video:
As an ardent Star Wars fan, I know what can come of voluntarily walking into the lion’s den of this fandom to offer any sort of commentary. Rest assured, I’m not going to challenge any well known canon (or dare mention the word midi-chlorian), but instead offer up some of the most interesting bits of Star Wars trivia, that are based more in fact than fiction.
George Lucas has never shied away from sharing the sources of inspiration that influenced the universe he created. In a 2005 interview, he told the Boston Globe:
“I love history, so while the psychological basis of ‘Star Wars’ is mythological, the political and social bases are historical.”
Star Wars, its heroes, and its villains were born from the likeness of Nazi Germany, Ancient Rome, the Vietnam War, the Knights Templar, and even U.S. Presidents. Lucas’s world reads as both commentary and cautionary tale, portraying what can happen when dark overpowers light.
Emperor Palpatine: A melting pot of authoritarianism
One of the most formidable characters Lucas created, Sheev Palpatine’s origins as both emperor of the Galactic Empire and Darth Sidious, a Sith Dark Lord, were composed of a handful of leaders throughout history who perceivably aimed to dismantle democracy. Originally, the character of Palpatine was based predominantly on Ming the Merciless, the fictional tyrannical dictator and archenemy in the Flash Gordon series, both print and screen. In the book Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas, author Dale Pollock details the influence Ming had not only on Palpatine, but on Darth Vader as well.
In fleshing out a more long term vision of Palpatine as the series took off, inspiration started to come from the real world. Borrowing from the behaviors of dictators like Hitler and Julius Caesar, it was easy to see the kind of manipulation and underhandedness the character was meant to embody. The trajectory of Palpatine’s rise to power, including abusing an elected position to change or control governmental bodies, is perhaps an only slightly more dramatized version of real history.
Even the use of the title “chancellor” (prior to his invoking martial law and declaring himself Emperor) was a nod to Adolf Hitler, who bore the same title in 1933 as a result of Nazi Party electoral victories. The Nazi’s also gave the inspiration for Stormtroopers, who share a name with German soldiers from WWI as well as WWII’s Sturmabteilung, or Storm Detachment, the Nazi Party’s paramilitary organization.
The historical allusions were also found in the cinematography. A notable scene is in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, when Emperor Palpatine arrives at the Death Star and is met with an air parade of TIE fighters as well as stormtroopers, Army & Navy Troopers, officers and droids, all poised for the event within Hangar 272. The visuals in this scene were meant to resemble Russia’s May Day military parades.
One final name on the Palpatine vision board was the 37th President of the United States, Richard Nixon. Lucas started diving further into the character during Nixon’s re-election campaign, reflecting on the state of the world, and questioning how seemingly flawed but functional democracies can become dictatorships. At a story conference in 1981, Lucas was asked whether or not the Emperor was a Jedi, to which Lucas replied:
“No, he was a politician. Richard M. Nixon was his name. He subverted the Senate and finally took over and became an imperial guy and he was really evil. But he pretended to be a really nice guy.”
…not exactly the greatest way to have your legacy paid homage, but hey, at least you can say you were a muse to George Lucas.
Ewoks & The Rebel Alliance: The poster kids for intergalactic guerrilla warfare
Prior to setting his sights on Star Wars, Lucas was slated to direct the now critically acclaimed war movie Apocalypse Now, a job that ended up going to Francis Ford Coppola, following his successes with the first two Godfather movies. With the Vietnam War weighing heavily on most people’s minds, it easily seeped into both the obvious and subtle context of artistic expression, especially for those who purposefully wanted to send a message.
Love them or hate them, Lucas had a reason behind creating the polarizing, meter tall inhabitants of Endor. He wanted the juxtaposition of a group using less advanced means of fighting taking on the much more technologically adept force of the Empire. The Ewoks used primitive weapons and modes of transportation–knives, spears, hang gliders–and in terms of surviving in their natural environment, they thrived in ways the Empire’s technology was unable to adapt to. They were able to understand, respect and adapt to their terrain in a way that gave them the upper hand in a lot of ways. The defeat of the Galactic Empire was a direct comparison to the Viet Cong, who fought against American soldiers during Vietnam.
The Ewoks weren’t alone in their position of little fish in a big pond. Lucas applied the practices and techniques of both the Viet Cong as well as the People’s Army of Vietnam when thinking about the Rebel Alliance’s approach to combating the power of the Empire. He likened the Empire to the United States, a larger and more technologically advanced superpower, versus smaller groups.
“The irony is that, in both of those, the little guys won. The highly technical empire — the English Empire, the American Empire — lost. That was the whole point.”
-George Lucas, from James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction
A tale of two Empires: Neither Rome nor the Republic was built in a day
We’ve already mentioned the impact Julius Caesar had on the development of the character of Palpatine, so the leap of comparing the Star Wars Empire to that of Ancient Rome isn’t really all that far. They both began as republics, seemingly strong ones that theoretically should have been long standing parts of their development over time.
Both Caesar and Palpatine held onto their elected positions much longer than they were slated to, due to conflict and under the guise of “protecting their republic”
…which was really just an opportunity for them to gain more control and the ability to give themselves a job promotion that inevitably shifted both republics into dictatorships.
They also each had their own instances of entering into, or starting, conflicts with the reasoning of either expansion or supremacy. Rome had the Punic Wars, three separate conflicts between Rome and Carthage, who were the two major powers of the Western Mediterranean at the time. Star Wars had both the Old & New Sith Wars, as well as the Clone Wars.
The Clone Wars are probably the most integral to the recognition of the darkness it takes to overthrow a democracy, as they were masterminded and orchestrated by one person orchestrating both sides (Palpatine as Chancellor of the Republic, and Palpatine again, as Darth Sidious, at the head of the Separatists).
The Empire and Ancient Rome also share the similarity of being slowly brought down by much smaller factions, with the Roman Empire being met by force from the Huns and Germanic tribes, while the Rebel Alliance took on the Galactic Empire.
“The whole point of the movies, the underlying element that makes the movies work, is that you, whether you go backwards or forwards, you start out in a democracy, and democracy turns into a dictatorship, and then the rebels make it back into a democracy.”
The Jedi: Sharing the moral high ground with ancient warriors
Jedi are well known for being keepers of peace, guardians of justice within the Galactic Republic, and an overall force for good within the universe. Their ability to defend and protect, while also embodying the noblest of character traits is arguably what makes them the ultimate good guys (with Anakin being a divisive exception). They use the Force for good, are never self-serving, and remain committed to improving themselves through training and seeking greater knowledge.
“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.”
-Jedi Master Yoda, Episode III; Revenge of the Sith
Aesthetically, Lucas modeled the Jedi after both Shaolin monks and Japanese samurai, in the kinds of clothing they wore as well as drawing some inspiration for the Jedi fighting style and lightsabers from Katana fighting. The monk and samurai belief systems can also be seen mirrored throughout the Jedi timeline.
In the bookStar Wars and History, author Terrance MacMullen puts forth another area of influence in creating the Jedi: the Knights Templar. Often referred to as “warrior monks”, the Templars were a Catholic military order, originally established in 1119 to protect Christian pilgrims in the dangerous “Outremer,” or Crusader states, following the First Crusade. Of all the warriors that built the idea of the Jedi, the most direct parallels can be drawn to the Templars.
Both Jedi and Templars went into battle fearlessly, regardless of being outnumbered or overpowered. It was this dedication to the cause, or rash invincibility complex, that distinguished them both as formidable opponents and examples of aggressive morality. This fearlessness was guided by invisible forces on both sides. For Jedi, it was quite literally the Force, while the Templars were driven by their faith.
Oppression plays a large role in the history of Templars and Jedi as well. In 1307, almost 200 years after their inception, the Templars were taken down by King Philip IV of France, who essentially just wanted to steal their amassed wealth and pay off his outstanding debts. Many high ranking members were taken tortured and ultimately burned at the stake. In 1314, two years after Pope Clement V disbanded the order, the Grand Master Jacques de Molay was burned alive. Which is essentially like if they had publicly executed Yoda.
Jedi also faced oppression at the hands of the Galactic Empire and the Order of the Sith Lords when the Great Jedi Purge was ordered, which aimed to extinguish any Jedi who remained following Order 66, a previous attempt to destroy the Jedi en masse. While the vast majority were lost, the Jedi Order, though bruised, remained intact and held together by the surviving Jedi.
The overarching reach and appeal of Star Wars is undeniable and virtually untouchable, but even more interesting still is its ability to parallel almost any moment in time. History buff that he is, Lucas was able to pick up on common tropes of humanity, and present them in an approachable and entertaining way.
“The story being told in Star Wars is a classic one. Every few hundred years, the story is retold because we have a tendency to do the same things over and over again. Power corrupts, and when you’re in charge, you start doing things that you think are right, but they’re actually not.”
-George Lucas, in a 2005 interview with Wired Magazine
With politics, world events, media and entertainment seemingly enmeshed like never before, Lucas’s legacy and continuing commentary is a great representation of art imitating life, and life imitating art (we didn’t even get to tackle Star Wars metaphors being used in politics, I’m looking at you, Ronald Reagan). In the end, it feels like the classic battle of good vs. evil is almost unavoidable, both on and off screen. What seems equally predictable however, is that light always finds a way to overpower the darkness.
This weekend, a sequel to a movie series that you kind of like is trying to have it both ways. “Terminator: Dark Fate” is many things, but the easiest way to describe it a sequel to “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” and also the start of a new franchise of Terminator movies in a new timeline.
Right now, there are a ton of spoilers out there about the movie, but we’re not going to do that. (Though seriously, be careful, because there is some crazy stuff that happens in like the first few minutes.) The big question is right now, does “Terminator: Dark Fate” have a post-credits scene? And does that post-credits scene set-up a sequel? Here’s the non-spoiler answer.
No! “Terminator: Dark Fate” does not have a post-credits scene of any kind, though the ending of the film does strongly imply a sequel is coming. The director of Dark Fate, Tim Miller has gone on record saying that he thinks a post-credits scene is a “Marvel thing.”
Terminator: Dark Fate – Official Trailer (2019) – Paramount Pictures