Okay, anyone who reads this blog, which is admittedly a very small number, knows how much I disliked The Force Awakens, which I called a snide parody of Star Wars.
What follows is a reaction piece and not a proper review.
I liked Rogue One very much better than The Force Awakens. It did not suffer the glaring continuity problems of FA. The legacy characters were not prominent enough to raise questions of motivation and continuity as with Han and Leia. I laughed, I cried, I twisted my beard in suspense. I did not facepalm. All unlike FA.
Great special effects, of course. Tons of easter eggs for the fans, with not only many call-forwards to Star Wars (which I refuse to retrocall to ‘A New Hope’) but also a few nice callbacks to Rebels and The Clone Wars animated series. And for aficionados of the Old Republic games and books, there was the heroic role played by the 4,000-year-old design of the hammerhead corvette.
So now to some things I found problematic.
The story is essentially a coming of age story for the protagonist, Jyn Erso. Her name is suggestive of Jan Ors, the Rebel agent in the game Dark Forces. The black clad Death Troopers seem to owe their design to Dark Forces also, but this is due to them both being based on Ralph McQuarrie’s designs for the original Star Wars.
I didn’t feel like they sold the relationship between Jyn and Saw Guerrera. He was a cipher. How did he come from Onderon to Jedha? Why was he huffing on that tube like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet? We don’t find out. And his and Jyn’s reactions to one another seems flat and unconvincing. Very underplayed by the actors. And why, having found him at last, does Jyn just leave him there to die? They could probably throw him in a Bacta tank and fix him up. Or at least get him a better respirator.
Also what’s Jedha? Could they not use Ilum, or Ossus, or Tython, or Dantooine, or Utapau, or some other place where kyber crystals came from the old expanded universe continuity? And why make a demonstration of destroying their own facility and kyber crystal mines? Missed opportunity there.
The whole thing for the Sith of ‘only two they are’ and ‘the last of the Jedi will you be’ are such straightjackets they should just be decannonized or treated as inaccurate or things which are true ‘from a certain point of view.’
Here we have a blind guy who uses the force to see, Chirrut Îmwe. He fights hand-to-hand better than Obi-Wan or Anakin, and has mad aiming skills and never misses and always crits with his bowcaster. But he’s ‘not a Jedi’ he’s a Guardian of the Whylls. Another mythology gag for the fans btw.
I heard a page at the Rebel Base, Massassi Temple (an old Rakata temple, btw) on Yavin IV, for “General Syndulla.” And there was a ship which looked like the Ghost in the Rebel fleet. This raises hopes that maybe someday the Ghost crew from Rebels will cross over into the live action continuity. However, Disney seems to have an aversion for Ahsoka Tano’s character and essentially ordered her killed off in Rebels. Though Filoni and company more like put her on the bus. Ahsoka is so not a Disney princess. She’s austere in her adult appearance, she never needs rescuing even as Anakin’s padewan, and she has no Prince Charming, she is very much a loner. In many ways the good counterpart of Darth Vader as his former apprentice who experienced much of what he did, but came to a different conclusion. But since Rebels spent a season establishing that she was one of the founders of the rebellion along with Bail Organa, it would be weird for her to fall out of continuity in the movies. Of course where was she in Episodes 3-7?
I thought it was odd that the Rebellion fleet commander was a Mon Calamari, but not Admiral Ackbar, but some other dude. I mean, when they found out the planetary shield was up, he could have shouted, “it’s a trap!” which would have got a big laugh.
Anyway, thank goodness the Rebellion *had* a fleet, and not just a few wings of fighters as is ridiculously in FA.
I was okay with the “everybody died” theme, it is canon that many good people died to get us this information. That’s so very not Disney, except for the Disney offscreen deaths for a few of the more marketable characters who might be called back.
Anyway, Rogue One is very enjoyable. It looks and feels like a Star Wars movie, *the* Star Wars movie, and that can only be a good thing.
Five stars. Highly recommended.
Copyright © 2016 Henry Edward Hardy
These are some of my thoughts after seeing the two part Season 2 finale of Star Wars Rebels, “Twilight of the Apprentice.”
This isn’t a review, it is my thoughts as I might share them with a friend who is already conversant with Star Wars lore as far as the 6 movies plus The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. As well as being familiar with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
If this is all Greek to you, you can catch up at wookiepedia, but more satisfying will be to watch The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels first. See you next month in that case.
Let me just lay out the character correspondences I see between the principals in LotR and Rebels.
Ezra = Frodo
Zeb = Samwise
Chopper = Pippin
possibly that other new droid = Merry (if the comically sociopathic Chopper doesn’t kick him off the ship from a great height like he did the last new droid)
Kanan Jarus = Aragorn
Ahsoka Tano = Gandalf
Rex = Boromir?
Hera = ???
Sabine = ???
Maul = Gollum
Vader = The Balrog
Emperor Palpatine = Sauron
The Inquisitors = Orcs, the cave troll
The Sith Holocron “containing all the knowledge of the Sith” and great destructive power = The One Ring
Star Wars intentionally follows the heroes journey particularly as described by Joseph Campbell with the Jedi characters Yoda and Luke. Each has a “descent into the Underword” experience during which they come near the brink of death and arise as it were from the grave, now infused with great spiritual power and innoculated against fear of death which is one of the great temptations of the Dark Side. So too, at Moria, Gandalf falls, to later be reborn as Gandalf the White.
So if you want to trace the narrative of the Fellowship of the Ring at Moria vrs the three (former) Jedi from Rebels, it would be as follows.
Yoda/Elrond sends the company on a quest which will lead them into darkess in order to evade the snares of the enemy.
The Watcher in the Water/Initial fight with Inquisitor 8th Brother
Ezra becomes separated from the group and meets a denizen of the darkness who has been trapped there a long time. Ezra and Maul parallels Bilbo and Gollum in The Hobbit here.
Fight with the inquisitors/Chamber of Mazarbul. The Seventh Sister/cave troll and the other Inquisitors/orcs are soundly defeated. Ezra/Frodo is saved from being skewered.
Now comes the big bad, Darth Vader/The Balrog. Everyone is scared. Only Ahsoka/Gandalf can stand unafraid and alone.
There’s also another direct callback to the Lord of the Rings here with Ahsoka/Eowyn defying the spirit of evil with I am no Jedi/I am no man.
You shall not pass! Protecting Ezra/Frodo.
Ahsoka force pushes Ezra out of the fight at the last moment/Gandalf: Fly you fools!
The company flees, disconsolate at losing their most moral, most powerful member and leader.
Meanwhile, Ahsoka/Gandalf and Vader/The Balrog fight. Long fight. Vader is severely injured/The Balrog is destroyed.
There is a last vision of Ahsoka descending deeper into the Sith Temple/Gandalf:
‘Long I fell, and he fell with me. His fire was about me. I was burned. Then we plunged into deep water and all was dark. Cold it was as the tide of death: almost it froze my heart. […] Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things…’
“‘Ice fell like rain. I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.
“‘Naked I was sent back – for a brief time, until my task is done. And naked I lay upon the mountain-top. […] I was alone, forgotten, without escape upon the hard horn of the world. There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was as long as a life-age of the earth. Faint to my ears came the gathered rumour of all lands: the springing and the dying, the song and the weeping, and the slow everlasting groan of overburdened stone.’ ”
So Ahsoka will return, of course. But not unchanged, and not until things look very bleak indeed for the company.
Of course Disney can throw a monkey wrench into all this. Indeed it seems they have insisted that Ahsoka be written out of the story at this point. Ahsoka is so not a Disney princess. She isn’t girly, she wears practical, not sexy armor, she doesn’t need rescuing, and she isn’t going to get married and live happily ever after. Despite that she is the character that the youngest generation of Star Wars fans have come to know and love above all others for the past ten years, Disney seem to instead want to go the Abrams route. For more on that see my article, Force Awakens is a snide parody of Star Wars.
However, the force is strong with Ahsoka and her legions of fans, so I think it more likely than not that we will see her in the live action movies at some point.
There are a number of callbacks to the Old Republic in Twilight of the Apprentice, notably the Sith temple on Malachor and the female who made the great Sith Holocron, who would then be Jedi Master Arren Kae/Darth Traya/Kreia.
As far as in-universe, what does Ahsoka do next?
I would suggest that she gains knowledge of future events enough to know that not only will all of the known Jedi either fall or turn to the Dark Side, but that Luke’s New Jedi Order will fail and fall to the Dark Side and be destroyed as well.
What would she do in such a circumstance?
I suggest Ahsoka will get as many force sensitive kids as she can and head to Tython to begin a new order, which will be effectively a Grey Jedi order dedicated to the living force, like the predecessors of the Jedi, the Je’daii Order and the Dai Bendu.
By going back to the original homeworld of the Jedi, Tython, Ahsoka would be following in the footsteps of another female Jedi Master from the Old Republic era, Satele Shan. Shan went to Tython after the Sith defeated the Republic and sacked the Jedi temple on Corescant during the Great Galactic War.
This will take her off the stage indefinitely but not put her out of play if things get really bleak and suddenly the space cavalry needs to ride to the rescue as it were. Maybe literally if she can commune with the Purgill space whales like Esra. Or the Duinuogwin space dragons mentioned in early histories of the Old Republic.
Well those are my thoughts thus far. What do you think?
Copyright © 2016 Henry Edward Hardy
“The Force Awakens” is another snide Abrams parody and deconstruction of a beloved science fiction classic. Here’s why.
There is this terrible inversion of the moral and ethical underpinnings of Lucas’ shared universe.
Love doesn’t redeem. The force doesn’t protect the (mostly) innocent. Han doesn’t shoot first when necessary. Family ties are not stronger than the lure of power.
I think Abrams likes to destroy the tropes and ethics of the works he is mocking. Look at what happened to the dear old Enterprise in Abrams’ parody of Star Trek.
Enterprise NCC 1701 could go mano-a-mano with the world-eating doomsday machine in TOS but in Abrams it is disgracefully beat to shit by another Star Fleet vessel without even being able to fire a shot.
The most generous interpretation of this is that Abrams loves to use the cheap trope of the “Worf effect.”
“This monster/baddy is really terrible, see it beat the crap out of Worf.”
The ungenerous interpretation is that Abrams likes to make little kids and fans cry.
As the kid sitting in front of me at the Force Awakens premiere said, “I didn’t like to watch it because evil won.”
I like the idea of a storm trooper character and of course he would be conflicted and confused. But there is a right way and a wrong way to invoke this. The right way is in The Clone Wars, where the Clone Troopers (not Storm Troopers) despite being a clone army, are fully individuated and several like Rex particularly have become such fan favorites that they have been resuscitated for Rebels.
We literally got no backstory and no characterization for any of these Force Awakens characters other than stock tropes. Orphan–virgin birth–desert planet. Storm trooper–cowardly–can’t shoot straight. Supreme leader–inhuman and scary, appears in holo-images. The leader’s second — Cyborg==black armor==fallen Jedi, etc. That is so lazy.
Rey is a major Mary Sue by any definition, to a ridiculous and suspension of disbelief breaking degree. And actually, no that’s not okay. It means the script is operating at the level of the most self-servicing and badly written fan fiction.
Luke didn’t just magically learn to be an ace pilot without ever having flown before. Luke trained with two old Masters, Obi-Wan and Yoda. And it was a major plot point when he went tearing off before his training was complete and promptly got his ass handed to him and his hand chopped off.
Contrast Ahsoka Tano, who made major mistakes and lost the better part of two squadrons of fighters and almost lost an entire battalion of soldiers in her first commands before she gained more experience and learned to bridle her aggressive tendencies. In The Clone Wars Season I.
I’m sorry but the the action scenes in Force Awakens are horrible, only better than a mediocre fan film or kids playing Star Wars in the back yard due to better production values. Truly embarrassing. Okay Rey has probably never used a light saber so that’s excusable. But Kylo Ren is supposed to be the head of the Evil neo-Sith/Dark Jedi Knights, who trained with Luke Skywalker and Supreme Leader Snoke? What an emo shlub!
The following a good light saber battle. Imagine if this was the trailer for the new Star Wars movie how much cooler it would be than the Abrams parody:
There’s more character development, drama, suspense, action, plot advancement and general badassery there in six minutes than in any 3 hour Abrams sludgefest.
Or a more recent example from Rebels a few weeks ago:
Ahsoka Tano is Anakin’s former apprentice in both old and new continuity. This is her Big Damn Heroes/The Cavalry moment as we haven’t seen her in action since she left Anakin and the Jedi Order at the end of season 5 of The Clone Wars. 16 years ago in-universe time.
I’m not trope averse, I just don’t like to see them mishandled or misused.
Another negative regarding Force Awakens is the presence of the Jar-Jar expy, Finn. The prequel movies are rather derivative of the original trilogy, and Force Awakens is completely unapologetic in strip mining the tropes from the real Star Wars films.
Although the character elements have been tossed a bit we can still clearly see trope-wise, or structural analysis-wise:
Rey = Luke (ground) = Anakin
Finn = C3PO = Jar-Jar
BB8 = R2D2 = R2D2
Poe Dameron = Luke (air) = Anakin
Luke = Yoda = Yoda
Mas kanata = Obi-Wan = Qui Gon Jinn
Kylo Ren = Darth Vader = General Grievous
Snoke = The Emperor = Count Dooku
I’ve read a number of articles praising the new Star Wars parody by JJ Abrams as, “inclusive” or words to that effect. Really? There is one count ’em one, black or brown face among the characters.
My issue is not with John Boyega’s portrayal of the character. He has done a good enough job with the material he was given.
However, Boyega’s character, “Finn”, shares a number of tropes and characteristics with Jar-Jar Binks, the much-derided alien from the prequel movies.
Here are some specific points of similarity between Finn and the dark-skinned alien with big lips and a faux-Carribean patois:
Fails at everything he attempts? Check.
Treated as comic relief? Check.
Lies to the other characters? Check.
Abrams has even added an old trope new to Star Wars. What’s Finn do when he finds the protagonist, Rey? As soon as the Empire arrives and they flee, he grabs Rey’s hand, twice. She even explicitly tells him not to do that, which puts this into the squicky realm of harassment.
Your Star Wars dollar is far better spent watching the old movies, even the prequels, or the excellent “The Clone Wars” or the almost-excellent “Star Wars Rebels” than this dreck.
Copyright © 2015 Henry Edward Hardy