Tag Archives: Return of the Jedi

Rogue One, or that time when the cameo did not overshadow the plot

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Yay one for finally watching the movie! And yay two for it being as good as it was! And yay three that I did not scream/giggle/gush or otherwise vocally embarrass myself inside the theatre. Believe you me, it was a struggle. I mean, ok, I knew it would be good. Unlike the -more- mixed reactions that The Force Awakens garnered (shove off, it was a good movie!), since Rogue One premiered everyone and their mother has been raving over how good it was. I was cruelly late to the bandwagon because reasons but, yeah… To be perfectly honest, my consummate fangirl side would have been glad to pay the admission fee just for the Darth Vader scene we had been promised in the trailer and Mother of the Great Hungry Sarlacc did that movie deliver both in terms of heroes and villains!

 

Unfortunately, this isn’t the sort of movie you can discuss without diving headfirst into spoiler territory (Legends included to an extent I’m afraid) so if you haven’t watched the movie yet and you mind spoilers the giant picture below will serve as your last signpost.

 

HERE BE SPOILERS FOR ROGUE ONE AND THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY!

 

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Right! Not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed when the Lucas Films logo wasn’t followed by an opening scroll or the iconic music. I suppose they chose to do so to divide it from the main storyline which, let’s be honest, could have been subtitled “The Skywalker saga” and still be true. Same with the shift in the font as well. The whole, cold opening – title – first act sequence seems to be very popular the last few years and in a way it does serve as a very effective time jump marker. After this slight failure to deliver for the rabid fangirl in me, I actually had to focus on the movie. I had only seen the very first trailer released, meaning, among other things, that certain events utterly blindsided me. Point goes to movie on that one.

More than all the establishing exposition-heavy dialog what I liked about the opening was how well it gave you a feeling on the reality of the Imperial galaxy. The original trilogy was mostly focused on the conflict between Alliance and Empire and son and father, and as such was strangely…small scale, if that is an appropriate term for the movie franchise that made a name for the ages by bringing weapons of mass destruction to a planetary level. The prequels, Clone Wars series included, gave us more of an understanding of exactly how huge the Republic is, how easy it is to entirely disappear with no trace, despite the tracking abilities of Force-sensitive beings and the technology available as well. It is therefore a testament to how pervasive the Empire’s hold is that Krennic (oh we’ll get to him later!) is able to track down the Erso family in the middle of Bloody Nowhere, probably somewhere in the Outer Rim. I suppose it could be argued that they never lost Galen and they just waited for him to be necessary before deploying the Stormtroopers…

All tone-setting elements aside, the opening left me with questions that I felt the movie failed to answer: What was the significance of the Kyber crystal neclace that Jyn is given by her mother? We learn later that Kyber crystals powered the Death Star laser (which begs the question, if the main mining site is destroyed, then where did they find enough to power the second Death Star?) on top of being the basis for lightsabers. And the crystal itself is not a raw piece. It has been clearly polished to its current shape. Did it come from a lightsaber? Did Galen or his wife know a Jedi? They used to live on Coruscant, through the Fall of the Republic so it is possible. Later on, why is Jyn in prison? How long has she been there? She’s clearly used to the conditions but has the necklace and the Empire doesn’t strike me as the type to allow prisoners personal effects. I have to say though, Jyn’s reaction to be being “rescued” by the Rebels was priceless. And it shows that maybe they weren’t as glorified by the general population as the original trilogy might lead you to believe… Which again brings us back to the point of this movie being more grounded to reality (as much as a sci-fi series can be) than the others.

It’s also shown in the depiction of the rebels. They aren’t a united front, they aren’t even all that confident in their prospects. There’s the idealists among them of course, but there are also they ones that are in it for the money, the fighting or even revenge (even Luke is not exempt from that. Lofty
Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για Davits Dravenaspirations aside, you can’t tell me that joining the Rebellion wasn’t at least in part in retaliation to what it had done to his family). And what  better representation of the less…shiny parts of the Rebellion than General Davits Draven himself. I wanted to punch the guy’s face in. I don’t know what it was about him, maybe I just have issues with authority figures (Mace Windu evoked a similar sentiment), but dear Mother of All he grated on me! He wasn’t even like Tarkin, whom you love to hate, he was just…unpleasant. Maybe it’s because I’ve come across some rather unflattering characterisations of General Madine lately. I’ve yet to track him down on the comics but if half the things the fanfic writers accuse him of or imply about him are true, then we already have an unlikable yet effective Intelligence Alliance General. Do we really need another one?

And speaking of unlikeable, yet entirely understandable characters, Saw Gerrera. Yeah, we’ll be entering awkward territory folks here. A Clone Wars Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για Saw Gerreraveteran, which, in my opinion, more than explains his attitude towards warfare. Are his opinions comfortable to hear? No, and not just because we as an audience are seeing everything unfold through Jyn’s point of view for the most part. Consider this as well. Gerrera serves as an absent father figure, one that seemingly abandoned our plucky young protagonist. He has seen the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire and is disillusioned about the state of the galaxy. He prefers to fight rather than look for a subtle approach. He is, by his own admission, part cyborg and carries with him a breathing apparatus that should by all application of logic hinder his fighting abilities. Does that sound familiar to anyone else? Even a little? And then there is his base of operation: the moon Jedha with its dessert-like environment and obsolete connection to the Jedi Order…

Oh Jedha! I’m on two minds about that entire sequence of events. On the one hand, anything that causes Tarkin a headache is welcomed by me! On the other hand, a subtle scene this was not. Perhaps that was the point they were going for. In keeping with the realism, they needed to  do away with most of the romanticised idealism of the previous movies. And maybe it’s even a good thing that I could see people squirming on their seats. Potential questions of social commentary aside, the Star Destroyer… I refuse to believe that behemoth can be parked inside a planet’s atmospheric layer without a. igniting said atmosphere and b. landing planetside because of the gravitational pull. It made for a really cool visual but other than that…. (And since we’re on the subject, no, there is no way the Death Star could have a targeting system more accurate than “obliterate planet X”)

Speaking of cool things; Chirrut Îmwe and everything he represented were definitely of the sort. Force user outside the Jedi/Sith dual system and the way he used the Force as an extension of his physical  senses is also how I always figured Darth Vader made do with the frankly atrocious field of vision the mask afforded him. His mantra was also interesting, a mix of what was said about the Force in the prequels and the original trilogy. I don’t know if that is because the film is set in a transitory point in terms of how much about the Force is known or because different sects? organisations? Orders? had different beliefs but it was nice. And I suppose if you aren’t exactly swinging around with a lightsaber you’d be less interested in the more combat-related applications of it. Not that the staff wasn’t awesome! Because I am an absolute sucker for staff-like weapons! And if things hadn’t gone the way they had I can totally see Baze Malbus, Han Solo and Chewbacca sitting together and having an absolute geek-fest over their weapons. Same with K-2SO and R2-D2. The sass could simply not be contained!

Meanwhile in the far less colourful world of the Imperials there were so many things that tickled me! Tarkin in all his vulture-like hatefulness and outmanoeuvring superpowers. (I thought the digital rendering was pretty great btw) I did not mind one bit how he replaced Krennic. Although I was confused when it comes to how they were placed in the chain of commander. Pretty sure they called Krennic a Director and Tarkin a Commander, but Tarkin was a Grand Moff in New Hope and does Commander trump Director? Sure, swift promotions around the upper echelons of the Empire are not exactly rare but still… Maybe they just made a mistake in the scenario. And I gotta say what absolutely cemented Krennic on the choke-worthy list was how he tried to sucker up to Lord Friggin Vader to get his position back. Folks, it’s been nearly twenty years. Are you honestly telling me that there are Imperials left alive alive that are not aware of Vader’s short patience?

And bothering him on his me-time? What’s up with that? Although I found it odd that, of all the planets in the galaxy, Vader would choose Mustafar for his seclusion. His introductory scene was so atmospheric! The shadows and partial lightning letting you wonder what exactly is going on, and then the blurry figure inside the bacta tank. -shivers- And it adds to the character, I think, that he goes from healing-session to rain-wrath-on-everyone in less than a minute flat. Some might say that the short order of Krennic’s visit contributed to Vader’s sour mood, but I stand by my point that he just doesn’t like Director Asshat. His voice was a little off in the beginning, but that may have something to do with the copy of the movie my theatre was playing because after a while it sounded like I remembered from the other movies. -shrug-

While I’m gushing over the Scariest Guy In The Galaxy, did anyone else think that the final scene (which was EPIC) sorta mirrored Vader’s introductory scene. Something about the smoke and shadows and the singular source of light (this time being the red blade)… But then again Vader does have a tendency for dramatic lightning in his scenes…

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The only other thing I will say for the closing scene is that it is an experience. And I would definitely rewatch the entire film just for those few minutes.

The attack on Scarif had shades of the battle of Endor. I suppose there are only so many effective ways to sneak in a highly secure military compound, especially when you have the Death Star looming over your head (and it will forever amaze me that that thing can actually jump to lightspeed. I know air resistance is not a thing in space, but look at that shape!). The ground assault was handled well and the stakes and consequences were illustrated in far harsher lines than Star Wars usually has done. (Maybe it has something to do with the shifting attitudes towards movie ratings. According to the MPPA, all Star Wars episodes up to and including Attack of the Clones were given a PG rating. From Revenge of the Sith and onward this was bumped up to PG-13, which admittedly allows for more leeway on what can be shown on-screen.)

I knew going in that the likelihood of any of the main characters of the movie making it alive to the end was slim to none, before I even knew that Darth Vader would have more screentime than the trailer implied (Stan Lee cameo number of seconds…). I was pleasantly surprised to find that of all the death scenes, none served as shock value. They all served a purpose in advancing the plot through its explosive climax and were allowed to be emotional and even quiet at times. Even Krennic got his moment of ironic justice, not that anyone would weep for him. For me, the more punch-in-the-gut death had to be Bodhi Rook’s. Poor man spent the entire film doing everything short of backflips to convince the Rebels he is one of them and just as he reaches a point where there is an element of companionship, it’s bombs away.

Despite my romantic tendencies I was beyond relieved that there was no overt romance between Jyn and Cassian. A lot of their interactions could be taken to indicate a budding attraction (budding being the operative word here) but I just as much liked them as friends. Maybe, if they have survived, it could have bloomed to something else but in the amount of time they’ve known each other and with the stupendous amount of baggage they have between them…no. And before anyone points fingers to the Anidala ship, a. they already were friends, b. they had more time to interact with each other and allow their friendship to grow to something else, c. by virtue of it being a sequel you could make a case of them being -heh!- star-crossed lovers since we kinda need them to be together for the Skywalker twins to be born.

This review has been all over the place and there are a ton of things I didn’t touch upon, but I’ve already hit an essay-length word count so I’ll leave it off here. In retrospect is Rogue One a perfect movie? No. Is it a good one? Yes. It slots neatly in the SW canon, it handles its subject matter well and hits quite a few nostalgic points without devolving into pure fanservice. Would I recommend it to a friend? Not a starter point for the franchise but if they had seen the other movies, then definitely!

Why the Star Wars prequels work

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Before you rage-quit my blog or the internet altogether let me say that I am aware of the many, many problems of the Star Wars prequels. The infamous trio seems to be one of the internet’s favourite hate targets (even if the duel on Mustafar was possibly the best in all the live-action movies of the series). But are these movies so bad? I don’t think so.

To begin with, passage of time allowed for better effects as well as more creative freedom in terms of world-building. The originals did an amazing job with the resources they had, no doubt about it, but if newer and better methods are available to not use them because of nostalgia id just plain silly. And yes, that includes more CGI. True, I could have lived without a more detailed visual of Jabba the frigging Hutt but I suppose you take the good with the bad. Also, can you imagine trying to film the fight at Kamino with late 70s-early 80s technology?

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Also, Christopher Lee! I mean, yeah, I’m a sucker for villains played by British actors, but you can’t deny that the not-so-good Count had class and a legitimately threatening presence. I suppose you could say the same for the Emperor but personally, having seen the originals first I was too focused counting the “I’m obviously a villain, idiots” signs to be properly intimidated. Also, I knew how lame his death was! Dooku on the other hand, I found generally interesting. Why did he leave the Jedi? Why did he not take the Darth title? (Yes, I know, Darth Tyrannus, but nobody calls him that in the movies!) Was his offer to Obi Wan in Attack of the Clones genuine? The Clone Wars cartoon fleshed out the character more to my delight, but even going only by the movie, he’s one of my favourite villains.

The soundtrack is epic. The music was one of the things that capture my attention on the original trilogy -especially the Darth Vader theme/Imperial March. Imagine my delight to listen to it subtly creeping up to moments in the prequels too. Music tells part of the story in movies (at least good movies) and I confess I really liked the prequel soundtracks. And for those who complain about storytelling in I-III, the party song in Naboo, at the the end of Phantom Menace is the Emperor’s theme sped up. How’s that for subtle build up?

The Padmé/Anakin romance. Sure, the chemistry between the actors wasn’t the best at times but I put that down partially to bad direction. I’ve seen both in other films and they’re good. Personally I found their subplot believable. They live in uncertain times, when high stake moves become AnakinPadme-HaydenNatalie-anakin-and-padme-25491236-1900-1227
increasingly the norm and they are both impulsive. Top that with Anakin’s “the rules don’t apply to me” attitude and the fact that they care deeply for one another  and people are surprised about their relationship? Would events have unfolded differently without the Clone Wars raging at the background? Probably. But that doesn’t discredit their feelings as they are shown in the movies. And again, Clone Wars cartoon! It covers the entire three year time-skip between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, including lots of interactions from my favourite sci-fi couple, and. Still. Counts. As. Canon.

While we’re on the subject of the Skywalker family I’d like to make an aside regarding a plot hole people believe Revenge of the Sith created. In Return of the Jedi Leia tells Luke that she remembers her mother. But Padmé died right after giving birth. So how can Leia remember her? There’s actually two plausible explanations for that:

  1. Leia is referring to her adoptive mother. The Star Wars wiki says that she died at the destruction of Alderaan,  but what with losing many good friends, living under scrutiny by the Empire and having close ties to the Rebellion, I don’t think she led a happy life.
  2. Leia is Forse-Sensitive although untrained.  She is increasingly shown to have the same accurate gut feeling as her brother. No doubt there would have been more indications of her Force powers if she wasn’t so in control of her emotions. However, as a child she would have probably been more open. Is it that far-fetched that she had dreams or visions of Padmé

On a completely unrelated note: why do people go BALLISTIC over the whole youngling thing? It’s a sci-fi universe. One of the tools used to make it more its own entity is to use terms variant to what we are familiar with. It wasn’t in the original you say? Name me one instance in IV-VI where a term of address for children is needed and I will concede the point. Also, I’m not hearing any complaints over the Klingons having their own language or Tolkien inventing a new language whenever he felt like it. (Yes, I went there.)

And I reach my main argument: the story itself. Contrary to complaints, the story is actually really good. I will try to keep Clone Wars out of this part since I’m mainly focusing on the movies. Still, what you have is a fascinating variant to the Hero’s Quest story motif. Or, in Star Wars terms, what might have happened to Luke if he had gone Dark. An believe you me, it’s actually not that improbably an alternative.

Luke’s story was a text book example of a hero’s journey from start to finish. So is Anakin’s. The only difference is, his journey spans six movies instead of three. Think about it. In Phantom Menace Anakin is the innocent child, one with enormous potential but without the necessary guidance to achieve greatness.  He comes from humble beginnings from which he is removed by a mentor. And therein lies the first issue. Qui Gon is framed to be the mentor to guide the Chosen One but is killed before he has the chance to fulfil his role. But Lia, you say, the same can be said for Obi Wan in New Hope. To which I answer, not quite. For one, Obi Wan has a chance to teach Luke a few things before he allows himself to be killed. Qui Gon doesn’t get that chance because at first the Jedi Council won’t allow it and then…well….Darth Maul happens.

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So Obi Wan, as a young, inexperienced Jedi, steps up to replace hi,. Yoda, the most respected person in the freaking Order, the one who is in charge of training the younglings allows it despite his misgivings. Why? Why not place Anakin in a class like the rest of the the Force-Sensitive children and when he reaches Padawan age have Obi Wan take over? Anakin is aware of how unorthodox his induction and training are, on top of his growing awareness of the difference in power levels. He is an outsider even among those he should have felt included in.

Luke finds mentors in Obi Wan and Yoda. Anakin has Obi Wan but he also has Palpatine. For us viewers, Palpatine has “kill it with fire” written all Palp_trustmeover his face. In-story however, he is trusted until almost the very end. It is basic human nature to want to believe the best for those you care about. Of course Anakin will not want to believe the worst for someone he considers a father figure. And for the record, he does the right thing when Palpatine admits to being a Sith Lord: he reports it. True, he doesn’t stick with that decision but it wouldn’t be a tragedy if there weren’t any conflicting motivations.

Anyway, I story development-wise New Hope corresponds to Phantom Menace and then Empire Strikes Back corresponds to Attack of the Clones and the first major divergences on the pattern appear. Luke gains a new mentor, delves deeper in the Force and has his first true confrontation with the Dark Side, which he temporarily overcomes. Anakin has been training with Obi Wan for ten years at this time and is considered competent enough to take a high profile mission on his own. His sub-plot with Padmé kick-starts, creating the first true conflict between duty and desire and he finds a way to at least temporarily compromise between the two. It is by no means a perfect or even long-term solution but it makes the best of an all-around difficult situation.

As for Anakin’s first brush with the Dark Side, I do need to excuse it to understand it. His protectiveness borders on possessiveness because he is never taught how to healthily let go. The Jedi’s modus operandi seems to be denying attachments which is a. hypocritical, b. impossible and c. a gross misinterpretation of what the Jedi Code says. And yes, I’ve read the damn thing. The Sith Code too. They’re pretty interesting when put side by side. So where Luke receives further support before his first true challenge, Anakin is left on his own because he thinks he cannot confide in anyone about his visions. I think that is this conviction that he cannot trust anyone with his more obscure gifts (I mean, we never really see any Jedi having detailed and accurate visions of the future until Luke comes around) that is warped to the arrogance that is evident in Revenge of the Sith. It’s a defence mechanism: if you seem untouchable then others cannot hurt you.

And things don’t really look up in Revenge of the Sith, do they? Return of the Jedi, even at its more bleak moments retains some measure of optimism. They save Han, Luke is acknowledged as a Jedi, things seem to look up for the Rebellion, the Death Star gets blown up -again- Luke saves his father, Han and Leia get their happily ever after. Happy endings all around. Not so much in the closing act of the prequel trilogy. The Republic is at its death throes, the war seems to have no end in sight, the Jedi have been forced to become soldiers while refusing to adapt their interpretation of the Code to be applicable at the times they live in. And in the centre of it all is Anakin who due to his openly(?) acknowledged status as the Chosen One has been stretched thin, expected to pretty much be at the forefront of the war effort, having to deal with the politics of Coruscant and still keep everyone he cares about alive. Something’s got to give. I wish I could say that that something is not his sanity but…

And it is to classify all that as a temper tantrum and label him a crybaby but honestly, can anyone say that at 23  (yes, that’s how old he is in Revenge of the Sith) they only made calm, informed decisions, especially when people they cared about where involved? I’m 22 and I can honestly say that no, that’s not how it works. Also, it seems that people like to ignore the fact that, as I said earlier, Anakin resists turning to the Dark Side. Even when he pledges himself as Sidious’ apprentice he doesn’t do it out of pure desire for power. He already knows he’s the strongest Force user to ever be born, and that’s before he consciously uses the Dark Side. It is his desire to save his family from a probable future and…that’s got to count for something, doesn’t it? That his vision proves to be self-fulfilled may not be surprising for the genre-savvy audience, after all the fastest way to make a prophesy come true is to tell those the prophesy is about (Harry Potter and the Order of PhoenixHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows anyone?). Again, in story, that is not a conclusion that is easily reached. Especially in time sensitive and tense situations.  If Anakin’s character development follows the Wheel of Fortune motif, then the end of Revenge of the Sith is the lowest point.

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But you know what’s the best thing about circular storytelling? Redemption is always a probably outcome. Star Wars I-III are called the prequels for a reason. Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker after all and he is very much present in the original trilogy…which, years before Phantom Menace was put to film, concluded with is redemption. Say what you will for the remastered versions, the addition of Anakin’s ghost was a nice touch and a chance for closure.

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And here it is. The reasons I do not wish for the prequels to burn in cinematic hell. There’s more to be said on the subject but unfortunately I have reading to do so I will sign out now. Till next time everyone!