Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) – Enjoyable but Weakest of the New Trilogy

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      ‘The Rise of Skywalker” is a mess with a ton of flaws and is easily the weakest out of all the new Trilogy. I felt that the things that were strong helped elevate the mess enough to the point that it still managed to be an enjoyable film, even though I hate how derivative it is of “Return of the Jedi.” A lot of my fears about Abrams return were certainly validated in this film but due to actor performances and character relationships that really made it work for me, as extremely flawed as it is.

The film was directed by J.J. Abrams who co-wrote the film along with Chris Terrio.

The story picks up a few years later with Leia training Rey as a Jedi as Kylo Ren finds Emperor Palpatine alive with his hidden fleet. From here it is a race against time as our heroes must stop Palpatine and Kylo Ren before they conquer the galaxy.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – John Williams is once again showing why he heads this series. He is once against the master of his craft here. I will definitely be listening to this soundtrack again and all his work with the prior films.

The Action – The action is good but nothing stands out like the fights in the prior film. There is emotional resonance to some of the action, specifically anytime Rey and Kylo fight one another. This film is primarily action though so it had to be at least serviceable. In that I’d say it succeeds but it isn’t as good as the action in “The Force Awakens” or “The Last Jedi.”

The Core Characters – The core characters are what makes this film work, even though I disagreed with some of the character choices done with them. For the characters I feel like were the strongest I’ll be going into more depth below as it was really these characters that made the film work enough for me in the end.

Poe – Poe takes up the leadership role that was left in the last film as we see him leading the Resistance after Leia’s death. He is made more like Han Solo in this film (which annoyed me) but I liked us seeing him clash with Rey. Both are headstrong so it’d make sense they’d clash. It also got away from shipping them, which I appreciated. Oscar Issac’s is of course wonderful as always.

Finn – John Boyega is one of the strongest of all the new actors and that is once again demonstrated here. Here we get hints that Finn might have the force (he senses things, especially when Rey is in trouble). I wish this could have been explored further, but I did enjoy him playing such a key role in the final battle and fully embracing his role as a member of the rebellion. He even meets a former stormtrooper in this who he forms a friendship with. He is my favorite of the new characters besides Kylo Ren / Ben Solo and I would like to see what is done with him in the future.

Leia Organa – Leia finishes Rey’s training from the unused footage from prior films. It worked for me and I like that her last act was reaching out to Ben Solo so he could return to the light. It was strong and you see that Rey’s healing in the force probably came from Leia’s training. R.I.P. Carrie Fisher. I’m glad we got to know her more in this. One of the strongest scenes is when Luke tells Rey that when Leia finishes her training from Luke she realizes what becoming a Jedi will do to her son. The consequence of having the power is recognized and I like how that shaped her and made her choose to stay the politician and general instead.

Kylo Ren / Ben Solo – Ben Solo’s arc is the biggest re-tread of prior films but it is also one of the things that works most about the film. In this it is in the act of Rey healing him and his mom reaching out to him with the last of her life force that change him to the light. After this he speaks to Han in his memory before casting away his red lightsaber. Adam Driver is acting the hell out of this film and he is a huge reason the film works. His redemption story is predictable but the way Kylo versus Ben carry themselves is noticeable and the steps to the transformation are rushed but worked. It was that heart of the film that I really felt anything and I appreciate that Ben dies to save Rey. It brings the story full circle and makes him the most developed character in the entire series.

The Cons:

Knights of Ren – The Knights of Ren show up and have no payoff. They don’t feel like a threat. Phasma did more and I felt like she wasn’t fully utilized or explored. We don’t learn anything about them and they have no interaction with Kylo beyond being enforcers and fighting him at the end. They are missed potential in a big way and could have been worthy foes.

Palpatine and his Plan – We never lean how Palpatine survived “Return of the Jedi” except that the Dark Side cult is probably tied to the reasons and maybe he did have a contingency like his hidden fleet with Death Star weapons. Ian McDiarmid is of course amazing in the role, but his existence is just a re-treated of “Return of the Jedi” as we never get what his plan was for the First Order, since he created Snoke.

Rey’s Origin – I wish Rey’s parents had been nobody. Her being a Palpatine makes this universe so small, with everyone being related to everyone. Plus it is hard to imagine someone who wants to live forever (Palpatine) ever having a kid. In the prequels and original Trilogy he shows no interest in romance or sex at all. So her origin story becomes nonsensical and meaningless. She’d have fought Palpatine anyway regardless of her bloodline so it changes nothing.

Force Bloodlines and Return of the Prequel Problems – Rey being a Palpatine and Ben being a Skywalker bring back the prequel problem of the force and bloodlines, when it looked like the “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” were trying to get away from that. Leaning all in just elevated the problem of the origin story in the first place and takes away the mystique of the force. I hated in the prequels and I hate it once again here.

This film is a mess and I do wish they’d been more original than re-treading “Return of the Jedi.” If you are a Star Wars fan chances are you will find something to like, though the things I hated might be a bigger deal for you as well. The Skywalker story is the strongest part of the film (Ben, Luke and Leia) and really what makes the film good. The characters are who carry this frenetic mess and elevate it to an enjoyable experience. If you liked the prior 2 films, you will probably enjoy this one. The flaws are huge and I wish Disney had been more original, but for a Trilogy that only really took risks with “The Last Jedi,” this worked but could have been so much more.

8.6 / 10

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) – Stupid Title in a Great Adventure

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is a stupid title. We know the film is about Han Solo, so adding that is “A Star Wars Story” tells us nothing we don’t already know. Given that they wanted to make a Trilogy out of this film I’m not sure how they’d show they are different, but I’m good with the sequels having different titles. Beyond my gripe about this title, I really liked this movie and thought it was a great. This was a film that explores the underworld of “Star Wars” where there are thieves, pirates and gangsters and no one is to be trusted. I enjoyed this film so much that I would watch sequels as the core cast and story were compelling and I found myself entranced through this entire side adventure within the Star Wars Franchise.

The film was directed by Ron Howard, (after the original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired) and written by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan.

The story follows the adventures of Han Solo and explores how he became the smuggler we know in “A New Hope.” I’ll get more into that later on but the core of the plot is how he gets the Millennium Falcon and his motivation for going into the smuggler life. 

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The “Star Wars” Underworld – The underworld is one of the core parts of the Star Wars films. We see Jabba and his palace in “Return of the Jedi” and get glimpses of the underworld of Coruscant in the prequels and in series like “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” tv series. I like this world… this is a world where money and power run everything and even the Empire stays out of their way. It is here, where we see characters make difficult and dark choices, as a matter of course and “Solo” does not disappoint in that regards. This film develops the underworld and we see the toll it takes on those who are forced into it or choose to become a part of it.

The Cloud Riders – This is a pirate group that is always getting in on Beckett’s jobs, as we see, he and the leader have a history with one another. I won’t spoil what happens with them, but there is more to them than meets the eye and, like everyone in this movie, they are far more complex than they first appear to be.

Tobias Beckett and his Crew – Woody Harrelson is fantastic as Beckett, a corrupt guy out for himself but, also, caring, as we see he’s married to his partner Val and clearly loves her. As well as, great rapport with his pilot, Rio, an alien with four arms and attitude. Eventually Chewie and Han join this group on a train heist job. The crew has a great dynamic and I would have watched a show about the 5 of them. Han joins them after he discovers their con and becomes part of their crew. 

Dryden Vos and the Crimson Dawn – Paul Bettany plays an amazing villain. This is a guy who reeks threat and charm as he invades peoples’ space, and does all he can to disarm them before ever having to fight them. You can tell why he became leader of the Crimson Dawn, as he flies in a huge ship to track his assets to make sure they finish their jobs. His power is far reaching, too, as Qi’ra and Han were orphans under the control of Lady Proxima, and now she is under Vos and the Crimson Dawn’s control. His organization has become one of the most powerful gangs in the galaxy. 

Lando – Donald Glover captures Lando’s charm beautifully. Young Lando is a gambler who does what he wants, and will cheat to win. This provides an interesting dynamic with Han who is idealistic and good at this point, where Lando shows the direction Han will go. Lando, of course, owns the Millennium Falcon and his co-pilot is L3, a droid who believes in equal rights for droids and has a complicated relationship with Lando.

Han and Chewbacca – Han and Chewbacca are the heart of the film, as we see that they have each others back on multiple occasions. Initially they start out distrusting each other and depending on one another for simple survival, but with each sacrifice they make for each other, they soon become partners and close friends by the end of the film.

Okay:

Qi’ra – Qi’ra is Han’s childhood friend and love interest. Amelia Clarke does a decent job in the role, but I wouldn’t call her super memorable. She plays her part in the advancement of the plot and there are some great twists with her character, but I feel more could have been done. I wanted more scenes of her with Han, so their relationship could be developed further and so that the romance would feel more real.

Fanservice – Want to learn how characters got their nicknames or names? Want to know why the Falcon looks why it does? Want to get some “A New Hope” references? Well, you will get all this, and more, in this film. It never gets as bad as “Rogue One” in the references and the original characters carry the film. So much of the fanservice wasn’t needed and I would have preferred we never had the questions answered.

The Cons:

The Cinematography – The cinematography is really dark. There were times I had trouble seeing what was going on on screen and had to depend wholly on what I heard the characters were saying, rather than what I was seeing. This was a huge detriment and what kept the film from being the perfect film of its type.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” was a film that as far as I know, no one was asking for, but in the end I was glad it got made. Hearing about the development hell, from the firing of the first directors, to hiring an acting coach for the lead… I was ready to hate this film. I had no expectations and was really annoyed this film even existed. “Solo” has now become one of my favorite “Star Wars” films. The film takes risks by giving us a world where no one can be trusted and the status quo is loss. I would watch sequels to this film, and cared far more about the characters here than I did anyone in “Rogue One.” If you like “Star Wars” or heist films, check it out. It is well worth your time and for me it did not disappoint.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – A Masterpiece of Betrayal, Family and the Philosophy of the Force

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      “The Empire Strikes Back” is truly the best of the Original Trilogy. It has the tightest story, it is desolate, there are stakes and it still manages to have hope. We also see why Darth Vader is the primary villain of the Trilogy as this one allows us the chance to see what it is like when Vader is charge and not reporting to Grand Moff Tarkin. It’s one of my favorites and the change that was made in one of the Special Editions of putting Ian McDiarmid in as the Emperor was good, though the new dialogue isn’t so good and the cgi Tie Fighters that were put in post production are distracting. The Original unchanged is still the strongest and that was the one I saw, like “A New Hope” and like I’ll be seeing “Return of the Jedi.”

      This film wasn’t directed by George Lucas and he was only one of the three writers behind it.

    The director was Irvin Kershner and written by Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasden and George Lucas, while being produced by Gary Kurtz.

     The story involves the rebels on the run, having escaped to Hoth to hide from the Emperor as they are still strong after the destruction of the Death Star. Darth Vader is hunting them, hoping to destroy the Rebellion for good and capture and turn Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is wonderful and John Williams captures the fear and terror the Empire so well as we are given the most desolate situation for the Rebellion as Darth Vader is successful in whatever he sets out to do.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful, especially the Battle of Hoth and the Duel between Luke and Vader. The use of mist and shadows to increase the fear and tension among our characters and heroes is done masterfully. Peter Suschitzky did a great job.

The Writing – The script is tight and fast and you can tell that Lucas was not the primary writer, though Lucas did do a great job on the script for the original version of “A New Hope,” to his credit. When he’s on a team he seems to be do better though.

The Empire – The Empire is powerful in this and we see Cloud City, the Rebels on Hoth and the pursuit of the Millennium Falcon. Part of the reason I enjoy this film so much is the Empire feels like a threat and they never stop feeling like a threat. They force our heroes to escape the Galaxy and no longer have a home base as the Empire has chased them away from all their safe havens, captured on of their Captain’s and friends (Han Solo) and injured one of their leaders (Luke). The Empire has a firm win, even if it isn’t a total victory. The stakes are raised in this.

The Rebellion – The Rebellion shows how resilient they are in this. We see that in the end, no matter how hurt they are (so many die in the Battle of Hoth) that they will keep going and resisting the Empire, and that is what makes them interesting.

The Battle of Hoth – The Battle of Hoth is my favorite “Star Wars” battle besides the assault on the Death Star. The AT-ATs are beautiful machines that are deadly and take a lot to take down. We also see how deadly the Empire is again as they walk all over the Rebels as above we see Star Destroyers from their fleet.

The Millennium Falcon on the Run – Han and Leia’s escape is a great arc. We see them forced together because they stuck around to make sure all the other Rebels escaped first and as a reward they are pursued by Vader himself through an Asteroid field and eventually by Bounty Hunters hunting them too. Through it Leia and Han fall in love as we see that they are both stubborn but have a huge respect for one another and notice how aware they can be with others. It is during the run we see Han grow up and stop pushing people away.

Cloudy City – Cloud City is a great location. It’s Lando’s base and business and is neutral in the war until Vader goes back on his deals with Lando and we see Cloud City join the Rebellion and resist Imperial oppression. It is a great arc as we see Cloud City is a selfish place but there is good here too when Lando saves our heroes and tries to save the friend he betrayed.

Luke’s Training – Luke’s training continues his heroes journey as we see him grow to look beyond appearances when Yoda reveals he is the Jedi Master and that his size does no matter as he raises Luke’s X-Wing out of the Swamp. In this we see Yoda is always forcing Luke to face himself and learn to let go, which Luke is not able to do as Darth Vader’s torture of his friends leads him leaving Dagoba even when Obi-Wan’s ghost and Yoda warn him how dire of a mistake it will be.

Dagoba – Dobaba is a fantastic location! It is dark and smoggy and full of life. You get why Yoda chose this place when he explains how the force flows through all life forms. It is foreboding but beautiful in it’s own way too.

The Characters – The Characters and their arcs are what make this film a classic and a favorite. More is done with them than in “A New Hope” and we see the choices they make that change them and help them to grow.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan is back as the mentor sending Luke to Dagoba and warning him about the challenge of facing Vader when he is not fully trained (which he would know having failed to kill his friend). There is a sadness to the character too as he can’t do anything a ghost but communicate with those already in connection with him.

Yoda – Yoda is awesome and Frank Oz owns this role. He’s a compelling character, unlike the CGI one-dimensional pillow sitting Master we got in the Prequels. Yoda is a trickster yet full of wisdom as he pulls Luke out of his comfort zone and forces him to confront himself and what it means to use the Force. It is this film that made Yoda one of my favorite characters, and we never see this level of depth from the character again.

Lando Calrissian – Billy Dee Wililams is awesome as the gambler who turns on his friend Han to save his people. He’s complicated and when you see the operation he runs you get why he made that terrible decision as he no doubt saw it as one life versus many. By the end he realizes he’s been tricked though and joins the Rebellion and tries to save Han to begin to atone for his betrayal. I really liked this character, he’s smooth, suave and owns his own city.

Boba Fett – Fett is great. I really like his original voice as it shows someone who has been through a lot. His voice is raspy and we get an idea how deadly he is when Vader orders capture only and no disintegrations to Boba. Boba is the one who figures out how the Falcon escaped the fleet and tracks them to Cloud City. In the end he succeeds and is able to bring Jabba Han’s frozen body.

Princess Leia – Leia is more passive in this after the Battle of Hoth than she is in Empire but we see she never stops being the one who figures things out first. She doesn’t trust Lando and we learn she is right to do and she comes around to Han showing that at this point Han has become a good person. She also tries to warn Luke, though Luke doesn’t listen and walks into Vader’s trap in Cloud City. She also saves Luke when Luke communicates through the Force to her.

Han Solo – Han is the main character of this film. He goes from the guy who is still selfish and just wants to have his old life back again, but each time rises to help the Rebellion, whether it is saving Luke in the Blizzard or finding the Imperial Search Droid. This eventually leads to him protecting Leia as slowly they fall in love as Han begins to show more awareness towards others from doing insults to treating Leia and C-3PO with only respect. Han learns to listen and in the end he is frozen in carbonite as he has finally found love with his partner Leia.

Darth Vader – Vader is driven in this and we see soon learn why as Luke is his son. Everything he does is to bring Luke to him so he can turn him to the Dark Side so he will no longer be alone. There is a sadness to the character in this as we see his scarred body when his helmet is being put on, which gives him vulnerability, though he never stops being ruthless. Whether is is taking over Cloud City, destroying the rebels on Hoth, the torture of Han and Leia to bring Luke and the cutting off of Luke’s hand. Vader is destruction contrasted with vulnerability and it makes him one of the most compelling villains of cinema.

Luke Skywalker – Luke grows up a lot in this as we see him discover the Force is not easy to learn and that he has so many hangups he needs get over. In the end we see him mature though as he loses his friends, the Rebellion (when he seeks Yoda for training) Han and in the end his hand and his innocence as he learns he is the son of the Dark Lord Darth Vader. This breaks him and completes the destruction of his worldview that Yoda began when he showed him size and appearance has no bearing on the force. In it he experiences betrayal from Obi-Wan and not telling him the complete truth and the realization that they were right, he was not powerful enough to kill Vader and now he doesn’t know if he ever can as he no doubt still lives his test in Dagoba where his killing of Vader in the forest revealed himself underneath the helmet. That vision hits much closer to home now. Vader is blood and family and was once a powerful Jedi who turned. If Obi-Wan’s best friend turned, than what hope does Luke have? None of this is outright stated but it’s implied in the scenes and drama that unfold in the Duel.

The Duel and Reveal – The reveal of Vader as Luke’s father is powerful as is the lead up to it. In it we see how Luke has learned a lot but everything Vader says about the Dark Side being more powerful seems to be true. He walks all over Luke, using the environment against Luke and getting into his head with the final reveal of that vulnerability we saw when Vader was without his helmet. “Together we can rule the Galaxy as Father and Son.” Vader does care even though he is this ruthless machine who sees life, whether it is Imperial or Rebel as expendable…he makes an exception for Luke because there is good in there. The duel is beautiful too as the Lightsabers are light in the dark and mist that covers the areas of Cloud City they fight in. It is my favorite duel of the series without a doubt because it isn’t just great action, it is great action with a purpose.

Philosophy of the Force – The Force is all about letting go. It is when the illusions of size, appearance and strength are mastered that you can master the world. This is shown in starting with the basics where Luke’s mind and body and strengthened but he isn’t able to let go as it is fear for his friends that leads to the loss of his hand and in the end he loses one of his friends anyway, showing that Yoda and Obi-Wan were right that leaving would change nothing.

The Ending – Han is captured by Jabba, the Rebellion has been chased out of the Galaxy and is on the run and has no safe haven and Luke is left to consider the words of his father and is given his first dilemma…can he kill Vader to save the Galaxy or is that price to high? The Rebellion has a new ally in Lando though as Vader is left to deal with the loss and escape of his son.

Okay/Pro: The Droids and Chewbacca – The Droids are alright, same with Chewbacca. They are support roles with R2 saving the day in the end when he fixes the ship so the Falcon can jump to Light Speed. They weren’t bad but compared to all the other characters I found them distracting at times, with the exception of Chewbacca and R2 sometimes. C-3PO was largely annoying.

The Emperor – He pops up once to show that Vader reports to a higher power but I never felt threatened by him in any version. He’s a force in the background but we’ve seen the things Vader has done. The Emperor in the Original Trilogy is just there as the symbol of the Empire’s power. He was used much better in the Prequels and his rise, I’d have liked to see him do more but he wasn’t a con.

    This is my favorite of all the “Star Wars” Films and I’ll be very surprised if “The Force Awakens” manages to beat it. So much is accomplished in this film and we learn so much about all our characters as they are put through their greatest tests and from those tests humanity and growth is revealed. This film is one of my all time favorite films and is beloved by so many for many for the reasons I describe above. Watch the Original if you can, the Ties are distracting in the “Special Edition” as is some of the added dialogue. Less is more and that is what the original version captures as it is wholly focused on our characters and their struggles. Suffice to say, I highly recommend this film.

Final Score: 10 / 10. The things that are okay do not bring down the score in this instance as everything else is solid.

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“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 – Season 1, Episode 9 – “Idiot’s Array” – Playing the Player

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This is the episode that introduces Lando Calrissian and we see just how shady and brilliant as a manipulator in the game he actually is. We also see that two members of the crew are better or on par at the game as him though when the episode unfolds and the crew have to get him out of the hole he built for himself. This was an enjoyable but not great episode.

The director of “Idiot’s Array” is Steward Lee and written by Kevin Hopps.

The story involves the crew being low on fuel and money and needing a job which Lando offers to them after he gets Zeb and Kanan to gamble him Chopper. From here the story unfolds as they must face gangsters, the cargo Lando is transporting and one another as they seek to come out on top in the long game Lando is playing on them all.

The Pros: Introducing Lando – The fact that Lando is introduced winning a game of gambling is a great introduction to his character as well as his charming everyone but Zeb and Ezra. The others soon see how untrustworthy he is though as his game against a gang puts people at risk.

Sabine – Sabine is passionate about her art and it’s wonderful seeing her discuss the history behind her motivations as well as the fact that she does impressionistic art as well and not just graffiti. She is great in this and is good at setting boundaries with Ezra and Lando.

Zeb – Zeb gambles away Chopper and is trying to make up for it the entire episode. He is right about Lando having most likely cheated though and his distrust of Lando should have been listened to from the beginning. The fact that he thought gambling Chopper away was okay shows some of his flaws though and how Chopper is not fully recognized as a member of the crew until the end of the episode.

Kanan – Kanan also has droid prejudice as he is willing to risk Chopper after Zeb shows him his hand. He’s very defensive of all the crew though and reacts like a good human being when Lando trades Hera for the merchandise. After he saw that Lando had no problems using he people he stops trusting him at that point.

Lando – Lando is a sociopath and shade of grey who only serves Lando. We see this in his accepting of the trade of Chopper the fact that he trades Hera and even though he tells her how she can escape, the fact that it happened in the first place shows how low he is at this point in his development as a character. I hope the crew gets back at him later, seeing Hera punch him for trading her into slavery was rewarding.

Hera – Hera doesn’t put up with Lando’s crap. After he trades her for a gangster boss for a big to find minerals on Lothal she escapes and when she gets back to the ship she punches Lando and supports Chopper’s playing of Lando when he stole Lando’s fuel.

Chopper – This is a great Chopper episode! He gets into Lando’s good graces acting like his servant after Zeb and Kanan had traded him away and later saves Zeb’s life and steals Lando’s fuel, showing he’d been playing Lando the entire time. Chopper’s crazy but smart.

The Cons: Azmorigan – A fat alien gangster that isn’t threatening and is only creepy. Really hated this character and was glad when he was defeated. The fact that he was a threat to Lando was something I never believed.

Ezra – Ezra is so insecure when Lando is flirting with Sabine and discussing her art with her. Really Ezra, you appreciate her? Haven’t you got that she doesn’t like you and only sees you as a friend (really hope they don’t change this). He’s super dense in this and after how much he grew last episode it was a shame to see him regress.

This was a good but not great episode. The villain was weak, Ezra was an insecure idiot and Lando was a bit too sociopathic and crossed some lines that I would have not had him cross as a writer (selling Hera into slavery for one thing). This episode does show the darker side of the Outer Rim though, on the outskirts smugglers like Lando are king and the Gang Lords are the threat besides the Empire shaping the region.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10.