Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) – The “Star Wars” Mostly Works But Drags Though the Ending is Fantastic

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     “Rogue One” is a good movie. It isn’t a great movie…not by a long shot as it has structurual problems and a lot of the characters don’t have arcs and this goes for the overall structure too. If you want an experience in the “Star Wars Universe” though, this is a good experience of that, and for what it’s worth it is better than “Return of the Jedi” but I’m one of those people who doesn’t really like that film and only finds it okay.

      The film was directed by Gareth Edwards, written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy and produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur, Simon Emanual.

      The story involves the Rebels getting the plans for the Death Star as told through the eyes of the group that comes to be Rogue One, lead by the extremely rebellious Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), daughter of the man (Mads Mikklesen) who designs the Death Star under threat from his former friend Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of “Star Wars” in that galaxy a long time ago in a galaxy far far away…is one that I care about. I am a fan and not just of the Original Trilogy, I love KOTOR, the Thrawn Trilogy, The Clone Wars (3D and 2D) and Rebels. I grew up on the games that are no longer cannon and this is sci. fi. fantasy in it’s base form. This film captures so much of that as we really see the breadth and strength of the Empire and that is one thing that kept me in this film through it all.

The Cinematography – Gareth Edwards knows how to direct and this film is beautiful in the scenes that are shot, especially those of the Death Star and the Space Battles.

The Action – The action is the strongest part as the action has consequences. Characters die and like “The Empire Strikes Back,” we see the consequences of the Rebellion. This can’t be stated enough and knowing that the Rebellion is only going to suffer more in the coming film lends this film strength.

Grand Moff Tarkin as Character – The character of Tarkin is fantastic even if the CGI is really good video game CGI but not quite there CGI. I still enjoyed the things he did even if how he looked was a little distracting. They should have just got a look a like, they did in “Revenge of the Sith.” Beyond that though, his character is a wonderful snake who is using and disposing people to meet his final ends of holding his power and position and destroying the Rebellion. He is the greatest threat outside of Vader through the film.

Darth Vader – We got to Vader’s Palace on Mustafar! The fact that this is even a thing makes me happy as it fits, the “Dark Side” gains it’s power from pain and rage and that is where Vader lost everything so Krennic visiting him here (and getting strangled for trying to assume on Vader) gives us more to Vader’s mystique. He also kills a lot of the rebels and shows why he is one of the only 2 Sith in the Galaxy.

K-2SO – Alan Tudyk is wonderful as the cynical reprogrammed Imperial Droid and he is the only one of the “Rogue One” rebels with an arc. He goes from uncaring from someone who sacrifices for others. I really like how cynical he is and how nihilistic he is about everything. He is very Marvinesque (From “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”) and it works. It sucks the other cast members weren’t given an arc.

Getting the Plans – Getting the plans is really well done as we see Jyn and Cassian go undercover at the Imperial Intelligence homeworld to get the plans that Jyn’s father implanted in the system. It is really well done and it is this battle and heist that is easily the best part of the film. There is cost, consequences and action…it is a shame we couldn’t have gotten more of this earlier.

The Final – The rebels barely escape Vader with the plans and all of the Rogue One characters die. This is powerful and I like that for the first time since “Empire Strikes Back” the Empire felt like a threat. “Star Wars Rebels” is mostly miss on this issue sadly and most “Star Wars” lore is about the victories…but all that does is make the Empire look weak. This film did some work to change that with the final.

Okay: Rogue One Team – Bunch of guys from a Temple Guardians (a cynic and a blind man) to a rebel intelligence agent (Cassian) to K-2, an Imperial Pilot who joined the rebellion (Bodi) and Jyn. Outside of K-2 most of these folks are just there. They don’t get any arc and are just pulled along by the plot, which is sad as the idea of all of these characters was good, but none of it went anywhere.

The Ersos – The Father and Daughter relationship was supposed to be central but it wasn’t. Mads and Felicity did fine with what little they were given but we didn’t get anything on their relationship to the Empire or Krennic. They were pulled along by the plot rather than shaping the plot. This isn’t a con as it didn’t make me angry and it wasn’t bad…but it wasn’t good either.

Orso Krennic – This dude is just a pawn which for a guy who is the main villain was a waste. I cared about him more than Hux from “The Force Awakens” though as Krennic was fighting against a system that wanted to crush him. Hux was at the head of his game and was still winy.

The Cons: CGI Lore Characters – Leia and Tarkin look like video game characters. I get the look they were going for but it still looks not quite right. It worked in the story but it also took me out of the story. They should have just used look alikes.

Extremely Slow First Half – I felt like I was nodding off early on until the Death Star is finally used. This is due to characters not fully being developed and the film going way to slow. There were so many missed opportunities for character development and growth in the first hour that were never taken.

Character Arcs? – None of the “Rogue One” cast have character arcs…and they need them for us to fully feel their loss. Outside of K-2 I cared way more about Vader and Tarkin since I knew from from prior works…this film needed to develop the main cast and it failed to deliver.

   This was a film that I’d recommend to anyone who is a fan of Star Wars. I enjoyed it even though I wouldn’t call it great, it isn’t “The Force Awakens” (a film with characters that had actual arcs and growth) but it is better than “Return of the Jedi” and easily my 4th favorite “Star Wars” film. There was the potential to do so much more, either making this a complete heist type film (an under appreciated genre) or make this an ensemble film. I wanted to love Bodi, I wanted to care about to Orsos…but I was never given the chance too. We didn’t get exploration of what they really desired and were fighting for and that went for the rest of “Rogue One” which makes the deaths matter not nearly as much as they should.

Final Score: 8.1 / 10

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977): A Hero’s Journey and a Classic

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         It was really difficult finding the original unaltered “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” but it was worth it. The bad CGI in the Special Editions completely took me out of it when I tried watching one of them first and the old organic feel to the Original gave the series life and made the world feel lived in. The only thing that really needed to be changed was just polishing up the picture as some shots didn’t look as great as they could have due to the film at the time…but it was worth it. “A New Hope” is easily one of my all time favorite films after watching it again after not seeing it for years, and I’ll get into the reasons why.

      The film was directed and written by George Lucas and produced by Gary Kurtz.

       The story involves the Rebel Alliance stealing the Death Star plans from the Empire leading to the ship’s capture as Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hides the plans in R2-D2 who escapes with C-3PO to Tatooine. It is there Luke (Mark Hamill) buys them and finds himself pulled away from his life on the farm when the Empire kills his Aunt and Uncle and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness) and he must escape and get the plans to Alderaan.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – John Williams’s score is part of what truly makes this film a classic. Tension is always rising throughout the film and it happens from his use of sound to add mystery and shock when we are Tatooine to the threat of the Empire whenever Vader or the Death Star arrive on the scene. If there had been no dialogue and only this score it would be a favorite film.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful! Whether it is the opening shot of the Star Destroyer chasing down the Rebels or the final Death Star run the scenes are filmed in such a way that tension is created and our villains and heroes are clearly illustrated.

The Special Effects – The practical effects are what make this film work. From models of space ships and actual explosions that in the process gave us actual stakes, which sadly has been forgetten in so many films that are overdependent on CGI (Hello Prequels).

The World – The World is ,awesome! There are clear sides (The Rebels and Empire) but outside of those sides there are threats all around. If you are droid you could be captured and sold by Jawas and if you are a farmer killed by Sand People and the Imperial Influence is everywhere. Even if you are in the outskirts of Tatooine (like the Lars were) they will find you and kill you.

The Galactic Empire – The Empire is an awesome threat! We have the Emperor dissolve the Imperial Senate firmly establishing that the Governors like Tarkin now control their sectors of Space and the Death Star to enforce terror on any revolting populace. Darth Vader is the hand of the Empire too and we see him deal with threats easily, only being stopped by a surprise ally to the Rebels in the last battle.

The Rebel Alliance – These guys are small and use planets like Alderaan as safe havens since they can’t take the Empire on militarily. We see this when they are quickly dispatched in the opening and at the end when Vader kills most of the X-Wing Pilots who are attempting to destroy the Death Star. They are flexible though and driven as we see Leia sacrifice her home of Alderaan when she lies to the Empire about where the Rebel base is.

The Characters – The characters are amazing and feel fully fleshed out. They have wants, needs, desires and trials. Honestly after watching the Prequels it’s hard to imagine that George Lucas actually wrote this script. It’s quick, understands people and has heart to even the small characters like droids.

R2-D2 and C-3PO – These two are the odd couple with R2-D2 being fully in with the Rebellion while for 3PO is just doing his job as an interpreter. They care for each other though and any time they get separated you see the joy they feel at being reunited again. These  two go through a lot…from discrimination in Mos Eisley, near capture by the Empire at the beginning, captured by Jawas and in R2’s case nearly destroyed by Vader.

Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru – Knowing what happens in the future I get why they were so protective of Luke. They knew if he left he could face the same trials as his father and end up corrupted and lost. Sadly what they didn’t realize is that no one is safe from the Empire as a Stormtrooper group kills them. I liked their dynamic with Owen as the disapproving father figure and Beru as the supportive mother.

Chewbacca – Chewie is a small role but he is wonderful as Han’s support. We see him willing to risk himself as a prisoner to infiltrate the Death Star and see how deadly he is on countless occasions. He is the only one who tends to accurately hit Stormtroopers most of the time. Our other heroes are as accurate as the Stormtroopers themselves.

Grand Moff Tarkin – Peter Cushing is great as Vader’s boss in this as we see him kill an entire planet (Alderaan) just to make a point to Leia that the Empire doesn’t have compassion and that the only way to rule is through fear. He doubts the power of the force (due the Jedi being hunted to near extinction no surprise there) and even his arrogance isn’t misplaced. He only dies because Luke destroys the Death Star at the final moment when they are about to destroy the Rebel Base on Yavin. What an awesome villain.

Han Solo – Han Solo is the rogue who has an arc from being a very selfish guy (only being in it for the money and doing the good thing to survive and not out of any kindness). He changes over the course of the film as Luke’s idealism rubs off on him and when he realizes that he can’t leave the Rebellion to die (after experiencing how deadly the Empire was first hand there was so much selfishness there too). Harrison Ford owns this role and this is one of his most memorable characters. He is funny, witty, sarcastic and the only one who able to match wits with him is Princess Leia who he starts out having an antagonistic relationship with (like Luke) but who in the end he becomes friends with. Han is ruthless and smart as we see him kill the Bounty Hunter Greedo before Greedo can collect the bounty on Han’s head.

Princess Leia – Leia is a tough character who I wish we could have got to know more. Her homeworld of Alderaan gets destroyed, she is tortured by Vader and the Empire…but she never gives up the Rebels. She is also a quick thinker and helps Han, Luke and Chewie escape when the Imperials have them pinned. Carrie Fisher is fantastic in this role.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Alec Guiness plays the wise, old mentor role really well in this and was my favorite character in the film besides Darth Vader. In him we see a tired old man broken from time, the Empire’s rise and the loss of his friend Anakin Skywalker. It is in Luke he finds hope for the future though so he teaches him the ways of the force and in the end sacrifices himself so that our heroes can escape. We see his goodness and nobility throughout and that he does have an awareness of the bigger picture, as he doesn’t even leave a body behind when he faces his old pupil Vader showing that he has become more powerful than Vader can imagine.

Luke Skwalker – Mark Hamill plays the winy farm boy who grows up over the course of the film. He is the idealist who just wants to do right by his Aunt and Uncle (he rejects being trained by Obi-Wan at first because of his obligation to them) but when circumstances force him on his quest he embraces it. This is Luke’s heroes journey as we see him use the force that Obi-Wan had taught him to destroy the Death Star, and it is his reminding Han of the good in people and in Han himself that leads to Han Solo saving him from Darth Vader and giving him the chance to destroy the Death Star. Luke goes from selfish to selfless, just like Han and changes this world for the better.

Darth Vader – James Earl Jones was perfect for the voice of Vader and Darth Vader is one of my all time favorite villains. We see that he is a man from the past (a former Jedi who goes into combat himself to fight unlike Tarkin safe behind the Death Star) and that he is a force to be reckoned with. When he sets the Empire on someone (the droids) they cause a path of destruction in their wake. Vader is that destruction and force and even the higher ups in the Empire (all the Admirals) fear him, and for good reason as we see him strangle a man who dares to question the power of the force. It is his courage and drive that make him a survivor to as when the Death Star is destroyed he is the only one who escapes as he was killing the X-Wings who had made the run to destroy the Death Star in the first place and as he escapes it’s hard for the victory celebration at the end not to feel empty. The Death Star was deadly but Vader was more-so…wherever he went, death followed.

The Force – The Force is what binds all beings together and allows those in touch with it to manipulate things around them, be they objects or minds. We see it in how Obi-Wan gets Stormtroopers off their back and when Luke forces the Torpedos down the shoot leading to a victory for the Rebellion. We also see Vader use it on countless occasions to destroy.

Okay: Leia’s Development – Leia loses her planet but we never see what that means to her. She has lost her parents as far as we know and that is never dealt with beyond her pleading for the life of Alderaan. Adding at least one scene could have fixed this.

Too Long with the Droids – The time with the Droids on Tatooine could have been cut in half. All it establishes is their odd couple relationship and that Tatooine is deadly, which we learn later anyway when the Sand People attack Luke. Adding Luke into the story earlier or giving Leia more development is what should have been done instead.

   This is a classic and one of my all time favorite films. Watch the Original version if you can. It is beautiful and there isn’t distracting CGI like in the Special Editions. It is fully focused on the characters and organizations being filmed which lends power and focus as we witness Luke’s Hero’s Journey as he helps the Rebellion win their greatest victory against the Galactic Empire. This film is part of what make “Star Wars” as a universe unforgettable.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Star Wars A New Hope

“Star Wars Rebels” Season 1 Retrospect – A Band of Outcasts Against the Empire

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     “Star Wars Rebels” is a great series. Such a great series in fact that it has inspired me to eventually review “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which was made by some of the same creators. What was it that made this series great? How would this series be defined? What made this series work were the characters, the themes and the writing and within that the fact that this is the only series besides “Firefly” that really captures the feel of a band of outcasts fighting against a force so much more powerful and overwhelming, all of which made this series work.

      The series was created by Lucasfilm and Lucasfilm Animation with Dave Filoni as Executive Producer and Supervising Director while also being joined by Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman.

      The premise of the series is that a band of rebels fights against the Empire in the Outer Rim world of Lothal as Ezra Bridger learns he is force sensitive and must deal with his role as a force user with potential to become a Jedi as all of the crew of Ghost deals with the threats of the Empire and The Inquisitor.

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The Pros: The Soundtrack – Kevin Kiner does an amazing job adapting John Williams’s original score to fit the television series. The music is one of the strongest parts of the series as it creates tension and adds to the characters.

The Premise – The premise is wonderful as we explore the lives of one rebel cell and get to see what life is like for the Rebels in the Outer Rim and how complete Galactic control really is from the Empire.

The Characters – The characters are mostly all fantastic! Whether it is the Imperials, Rebels or even some minor characters, most of them get explored and it lends great power to the series since there is still room for all of them to grow, even though they have grown this season.

The Imperials – I really enjoyed the Imperial characters. Some of them weren’t completely bad and even the bad ones had moments of empathy or mercy and we were given a chance to sympathize with them even though they are the wrong side for obvious ethical reasons.

Agent Kallus – Kallus committed genocide against Zeb’s people and is a very hands on commander. We see him put himself out there on multiple occasions and be in the thick of battle. He is not underhanded and is very Mandalorian in how he does things. You can tell how much he loves battle and he does have respect for his troops.

Minister Tua – Tua is the one trying to put a nice face on what the Empire does and she does a good job at it as she isn’t outwardly cruel though she endorses the open cruelty that others do. She does have a conscience though and we see it when The Inquisitor executes Aresko and another Imperial Commander under orders of Tarkin. So much of what she does is truly ruled by fear even if true belief is there.

Commandant Aresko – I like Aresko, we see him train the recruits and he’s actually a kind guy who looks out for those under him. He may not always succeed but it certainly isn’t from lack of trying. For this reason I actually mourned this characters death.

The Inquisitor – Jason Isaacs is wonderful once more as a fantastic animated villain!  The Inquisitor is cold and calculating and does a good job at getting into Kanan’s head. He’s introduced as a force of nature and in defeat we see his humanity as he fears things worse than death that the Emperor or Vader would do to him for failing to stop Kanan and Ezra.

Grand Moff Tarkin – Tarkin is brutal and we see why he was put in charge of the Death Star as it is thanks to his fighting the rebels as a war and not a police excercise that leads to Kanan’s capture and forces the fledgling Rebel Alliance to reveal itself to save the Lothal Rebels. After his failure to stop them and the reveal of the Alliance he decides that Vader will be brought in to deal with this new Jedi and Rebel threat.

The Crew of Ghost – The crew of Ghost is a band of misfits and comparable to the crew of Serenity in the show “Firefly.” From the witty chemistry they have with one another and wounds they carry for being refugees and the last of their people or kind we see a rich humanity to them.

Zeb – Zeb is one of the last of his people the Lasat and is an intelligent guy who doesn’t put up with Ezra’s crap, though they do become quick friends when they are forced to work together. Like Sabine he is the primary muscle and the one who causes distractions though he is good at pulling his weight for whatever the mission needs. He has a lot of pain over all he has lost and deals with it by being rough around the edges and first and valuing the time he has alone. He still has to kill Kallus for being one of the primary ones responsible for the genocide against his people.

Sabine – Sabine is a Mandalore and ex-stormtrooper who expresses herself through her art. She does a bunch of different kinds of art but specializes in graffiti and protest art. She’s a great actor and is the most witty against opponents. She also has a lot of awareness to and saves a data disk from Ezra’s home so he has a picture of his family again. Her biggest issues are trust issues because of how she was betrayed by the Empire when she served them.

Hera – Hera is the mother of the group and has to make the tough decisions. We see this in her withholding information in case the Empire captures them and the chances she chooses to run or stay low so the entire Rebellion doesn’t get eliminated. She sees the big picture, where none of the other members of the crew really do. She also gets people and is the one who makes Ezra aware of others.

Kanan – Kanan is one of the last of the Jedi who was never trained to be a Master but is forced to become one. He is unsure of himself but when he chooses to fight for his crew and to raise Ezra we see a will of iron born as he withstands torture and sacrifices himself so the Lothal rebellion lives on. He doesn’t die and they rescue him of course, but it shows that he is no longer about just surviving and is not afraid of being known as a Jedi.

Ezra – Ezra goes from a selfish thief to someone who is willing to sacrifice himself to protect his new family. He has a lot of anger and fear towards the Empire and the loss of his parents by the Empire but has potential to forgive as we see him do just that to the family friend who abandoned him as a child. He invents his own lightsaber (that also functions as a gun) and gets his first scar in the final fight against The Inquisitor. He has a lot of force potential but is very much a Padawan in training in over his head, which makes him human and gives him a lot of room to grow.

Chopper – Chopper trolls everyone but comes through in the end. Whether it’s conning Lando to steal his fuel while Lando was conning them or saving the crew on multiple occasions, Chopper may grumble an groan the entire time…but he or it comes through.

Minor Character Shout Outs – The informant Fulcrum is Ashoka (Want to “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” to know fully who she is beyond Anikan’s apprentice), Lando makes an appearance and uses the crew to his own ends and R2-D2 and C-3PO are in the first episode and show the role they play in the Rebellion. Yoda also makes an appearance in “Path of the Jedi” as a voice guiding the Jedi, which I think is what was his primary role in hiding. For those who seek the force he is there to guide them.

The Themes – The themes are fantastic! From dealing with the consequences of Genocide as Zeb’s people were wiped out, what it means to teach when training was never finished (Kanan teaching Ezra) trust and sharing of information during war (The ruling among the Rebels that they should reveal themselves and come together and Fulcrum’s secrets and Hera and Kanan being the only ones who know individual missions) and that just because you are a Rebel or Imperial does not automatically make you good or evil (which fits into the theme of the “Gundam Universe”).

The Potential – There is so much potential in this series and I love it! From showing that the Rebels could do unjust things for just ends and getting the perspective of the Empire and the players within both factions and putting them through arcs. Bringing Vader in and saying next season will be “The Empire Strikes Back” of this series is just what I needed to hear and I hope they follow through with that promise. So much potential to be a great series beyond just the first season.

The Cons: Empire Needed a Major Victory – The Empire needed a victory for me to give this show a 10. The rebels were always on the run but the one time they are “defeated” is only because Kanan surrenders himself to buy them time. It’s something he chose to do, a Imperial Victory is one where the Rebels don’t have a choice and are forced to surrender or lose one of their own. This did not happen, hope it does next season though.

   I really enjoyed Season 1, it did so much right and makes me want to watch a series I was worried about due to how much of a failure “The Prequel Trilogy” was in relationships to “Star Wars.” Not many shows can do that. I hope it will stay good all the way through but I’m not counting on anything, and for what it’s worth this first season was amazing and I highly recommend it to any “Star Wars” fan. You will see characters who grow and change, be in a world that feels lived in and experience some powerful and enjoyable stories.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

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Star Wars Rebels Finale – Season 1, Episode 13 – “Fire Across the Galaxy” – Unifying the Rebellion

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       What a fantastic end to a great season! I got to say after the reveals at the end of this episode and the character growth we see take place, I’m excited to see where this series goes. “Star Wars Rebels” has the potential to be one of the greatest animated television shows made if it can handle it next season(s) right and have an ending.

   “Fire Across the Galaxy” was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Simon Kinberg.

    The story follows from the last episode with the crew of Ghost mounting a rescue of Kanan who has been brought to Mustafar by Tarkin in order to be destroyed. It is at this point the Rebels plan is put into motion and they infiltrate Tarkin’s Star Destroyer with the Tie Fighter taken from “Fighter Flight.” On the ship they mount their escape as The Inquisitor prepares to destroy both Kanan and Ezra as Tarkin works to destroy the Rebel Cell for good.

The Pros: The Plan – The plan starts out with stealing an Imperial Transport with Sabine being the distraction while while Zeb and the other take the ship. Next the Tie Fighter Zeb and Ezra stole is used to get into Tarkin’s Star Destroyer and a Energy Pulse is used to shut down all power on the ship (and knockout the troops). From here they make their way through the ship with Chopper staying behind to help them escape once they get off the Star Destroyer.

The Inquisitor – The Inquisitor is the main focus as the most that Tarkin does is call in more troops to overwhelm and destroy the Jedi…but it is The Inquisitor who pushes Kanan to the dark side and makes him despair over the fact that he ran during Order 66 and didn’t stay and fight. He is good at the mind games and is only defeated when Kanan is fighting with two lightsabers and nothing to lose. In the end he chooses death though as he rejects Kanan’s offer to be saved knowing their are far worse things than death if he were to change. R.I.P. The Inquisitor, what a great enemy.

Kanan – Kanan shows that he has truly become a Jedi Master. He is rescued by Ezra and believes that Ezra has died after The Inquisitor knocks Ezra off the bridge they are fighting on. This leads to him fighting with nothing to lose and we see how he has grown mentally as he even offers to save the Inquisitor’s life. He has truly become a Jedi to be reckoned with.

Ezra – Ezra is the one who came up with most of the plan and he sticks with it all the way to the end, risking his own life on multiple occasions to save Kanan. We see how devoted he is to his new family and that he is the glue that is holding them all together and truly becoming a great Padawan.

The Rebellion – The Rebels would have been killed if Senator Organa hadn’t arrived with reinforcements to Mustafar to help them escape the overwhelming forces of Tarkin. The victory at Mustafar is a major blow to the Empire as was Ezra’s transmission which has given people hope and a reason to fight. A United Rebellion is what we see at the end and they are ready to stand openly and together against the Empire.

Fulcrum Reveal – Fulcrum was Anakin’s apprentice from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars!” Ahsoka Tano survived the purge and Order 66 and is now an open resource for the surviving Jedi and the Rebellion. It’s a powerful reveal especially since the Empire is bringing in Darth Vader to deal with the Lothal Rebellion. Can’t wait to see what’s done and seeing her playing such a big role in this series makes me want to watch “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”

Empire Rising – The Empire knows that it is fighting a larger rebellion now and is risking in turn. Tarkin is still on the scene but now Darth Vader is as well. Vader is famous for being the ultimate Jedi killer and I hope we get to see him do just that when Season 2 roles around. There is so much potential with using Vader as the main threat, especially since the creators said they want Season 2 to be “The Empire Strikes Back” of the series.

  This show is an amazing show that captures the spirit of “Star Wars” so well. The Finale did this in a great way too, even if we got less character moments with the crew as it was primarily focused on the overall arc and setting the stage for next season. Still fantastic action, amazing story and a great sign of things to come to end a fantastic season.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10.

Star Wars Rebels – Season 1, Episode 12 – “Rebel Resolve” – To Risk

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   “Rebel Resolve” is mostly setup for the finale for Season 1 but it doesn’t change the fact that it is still a good episode, especially in regards to how Hera and Ezra get defined more…and the plan to get the information on where the Empire is holding Kanan is done really well. It is a high stakes infiltration that involves our heroes taking a lot of risks to make the plan even work, but more on that later.

    The episode was directed by Justin Ridge and written by Charles Murray and Henry Gilroy.

    The story begins with the rebels hijacking a Walker to try and find out where Kanan is being held. They aren’t successful as the Imperials have changed how they communicate after they destroyed the Communications Tower. This leads to Fulcrum ordering Hera to stop the search and to hide until it blows over. She orders her crew to do so but they have other ideas as Ezra comes up with an idea to find out where Kanan is being held and is willing to go to any lengths to get the information.

The Pros: Vizago – The gangster we saw prior is willing to help after Ezra proves he is a Jedi and Kanan is too…which leads to Vizago showing him how the Imperials are transporting information (droids) and that now Ezra owes him a favor down the road. It’s another side of him we see even if he is still the same gangster.

Zeb and Sabine – These two are the support for Ezra in going behind Hera’s back and finding Vizago. They stick with him the entire time and are part of the plan as it moves forward. Sabine especially plays a big role later on the rescue next episode.

Chopper – Chopper is one of the main characters as he goes undercover as an Imperial Droid and steals their information. It is his missing of Kanan that leads to the first Alliance among the crew as Ezra has already resolved to do anything to rescue him. Chopper is great in how he ignores the Imperials and the crew at different points. Chopper doesn’t care, except about Kanan.

Hera – Hera is conflicted this episode but we see that she is a soldier. When Fulcrum gives the order to stand down, she does even though she misses her partner and lover Kanan. She eventually joins Ezra’s plot though too after Ezra apologizes and she realizes that he’s doing what she’s wanted to do all along.

Fulcrum – Fulcrum sees the bigger pictures and knows that if a larger rebellion is seen to exist the Empire will destroy them. The only reason they’ve been able to survive so long is because no one can turn another in…all that gets risked due to the actions of Ezra and the crew of Ghost.

The Imperials – The Inquisitor tortures Kanan but is not able to break him which leads to Tarkin ordering Kanan to be sent to Mustafar, which is where Jedi go to die. The Empire never feels powerless in this and always feels like a threat which makes the events of this episode actually mean something.

   This was a really good episode as we get to see Hera the soldier and what it means to to be a rebel leader (sometimes you lose people) and also how Ezra’s recklessness could lead to him going down a darker path since his risking everything for Kanan could easily push him to the edge and desperation, and with how powerful he is in the force…the dark side. Suffice to say this episode was enjoyable, I just wish we’d spent more time with the Imperials.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10.

Star Wars Rebels – Season 1, Episode 11 – “Call to Action” -The Horror of Tarkin

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     This is the episode that shows us just how kind the Lothal Empire was by comparison to the changes in Imperial Policy happening on a larger scale. The symbol of this power and terror and the action behind it is Grand Moff Tarkin who is Governor of the Outer Rim. I’ll get into the details of his brutality later but I’m really curious now how he was handled in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” as I know he appears in it and he makes direct reference in this episode to fighting in the Clone Wars and knowing what it takes to win a war because of it.

   “Call to Action” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Greg Weisman and Simon Kinberg.

    The story involves the arrival of Grand Moff Tarkin who has arrived to rid Lothal of it’s Rebel movement and to shape up the Imperials stationed there for their failures in stopping the Rebels prior. His first act is the execution of Commandant Aresko and Taskmaster Grint before sending probe droids around the planet. At the same time the crew of Ghost is planning the hijacking of an Imperial Communications Tower to tell the truth to Lothal and other systems of what is going on under Imperial Rule.

The Pros: R.I.P. Grint and Aresko – Grint and Aresko were actually pretty kind by Imperial Standards. They sought to protect their men and we never saw them act in opression of the population if anything they just trained people who wanted to join the Empire and I really like Aresko. Aresko could be kind and I liked how aware he could be of others. Their deaths show just how much of a bastard Tarkin is and that he doesn’t tolerate failure in the same way Vader doesn’t tolerate failure…which is probably going to cause more problems for Tarkin later in this series.

Agent Callus and Minister Tua – Much like Grint and Aresko Callus and Tua are kind compared to Tarkin, at least to the citizens of Lothal who are Imperials. They react with horror when Tarkin has the Inquisitor kill Aresko and Grint and you get the idea that they are questioning everything they do now since to some degree they are ethical and have standards in war.

The Rebel Plan – Hijacking the communications tower to deliver messages of resistance is brilliant, especially since folks probably remember Ezra’s parents. It’s a great answer to Senator Trayvis’s attempts to turn the people against them now that he’s openly loyal to the Empire now. We get to see Sabine and Chopper in action and they do a fantastic job as well as see Ezra live like his folks and give the message of hope to the people of Lothal. The seed of rebellion has been planted, though at a price.

The Inquisitor – The Inquisitor is successful in this one as the Empire manages to capture Kanan since he sacrifices himself to let his friends escape. We see a different side to The Inquisitor too as he fears and respects Grand Moff Tarkin. We also see he has the least qualms about the new horror of the Empire as he doesn’t even react when he kills Grint and Aresko. He is the closest member of the Old Guard of Lothal who most willing to take the cruelty to the fullest, though even he was willing to let the rebels go if Kanan would surrender so he does still have some measure of practicality.

Kanan’s Sacrifice – Kanan’s moment of sacrifice is one of the hardest moments for Ezra and Hera as both try to stay as long as they can before the escape with Ezra still fighting to stay after. It is his sacrifice that makes the crew ready to fight on and resolved to find a way to save him and make things right on Lothal.

Grand Moff Tarkin – This guy is brutal and I can understand why everyone fears him. He doesn’t tolerate failure and has a habit of inspiring action that brings results. We see this in his destruction of the Tower to stop the transmission and his recognition that the Rebels don’t kill so they don’t have what it takes to win against the Empire. It’s a powerful realization and we see how willing Tarkin is to kill with the execution of Grint and Aresko. What his plans are for Lothal and total victory remain to be seen but I’m glad he is in this series as Tarkin was one of the characters that made “A New Hope” so memorable as a film.

 The stakes have rose as we now have only 2 episodes remaining in the season which Tarkin in charge as the bigger bad than all the villains we’ve met prior who have been hunting our rebels. What they do and what Tarkin does are really the big questions as well as the question is can the rebels win without killing? How does Tarkin’s work in the Outer Rim contribute to him being put in charge of the Death Star? He must be victorious to some degree, so I’m curious how that will be shown, unless we don’t see his greater victories until next season. This was a favorite and stands strong on it’s own even though it is part of the final arc of the season 1 Finale.

Final Score: 10 / 10.