“Star Wars Rebels” Season 3 – Some Great Arcs are Completed and one of my Favorite Villains Enters the New Canon

    “Star Wars Rebels” has found great quality again, and they do it by getting rid of the Inquisitors (who were really wasted last season) all together and bringing in a character who existed in the original canon of Star Wars, Grand Admiral Thrawn. Doing this was one of the smartest things Disney could have done as even when the Empire is losing most of the time in small battles, it all comes together in Thrawn’s master plan and a pretty glorious final that shows just how deadly the Empire is since the Death Star or Battle of Hoth. Suffice to say, I loved this season and highly recommend it.

    The story of Season 3 involves the arrival of Governor Pryce as the new Moff over Lothal and Grand Admiral Thrawn as the new Imperial Agent to destroy the Rebellion in the sector. As the rebellion gathers allies to free Lothal from Imperial Rule Thrawn uses their own strengths against them as his master plan unfolds to wipe out the Rebellion.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Growing Rebellion Arc – A major arc this season is the Rebellion collecting allies and meeting the leaders of other cells. Whether it is Saw Gerrera on Geonosis, the stupid Iron Squadron, the Twi’lik on Ryloth, Hondo and leaders of the Rebellion like Mon Mothma. This season continues on Season 2 and 1 as the Rebellion Cells are coming together to form a greater fleet so worlds can be liberated.

The Mandalore Arc – The Mandalore arc is one in which the Empire is in firm control but slowly loses it as Sabine and Clan Wren become greater power players when she takes on the leader of the Empire on Mandalore, Gar Saxon and makes peace with her family. From here it is decided to fight and Mandalore is thrown once more into Civil War as it is the only chance for Mandalore to exist for Mandalore and not the Empire. This is where Sabine leaves too as she has found a greater purpose beyond the tech. of the Ghost crew.

The Fulcrum Arc – Agent Kallus is fully a good guy in this season and his arc is helping the Rebellion and getting information to them until he is discovered by Thrawn. In this we see the Rebellion come to trust him and his arc ends with him officially joining them at their lowest as Thrawn’s battle is a success and the Rebels are routed from their base.

Maul’s Arc – Maul’s arc continues the theme of last season of showing how the Dark Side only leaves one alone and resentful of all. By the end of the series all he has is hatred of Obi-Wan and nothing more as he was not able to corrupt Ezra. For a character who really should have stayed dead or died in Clone Wars they at least gave his story a purpose. He is a character who brings about pity as he has lost everything and the Empire is so large and powerful he has no way of gaining back his prior position. He is taking easy outs because if he stays around long enough the Empire will hunt him down. His story is sad and he shows the loneliness of the Dark Side and how empty the quest for power truly is as in the end he dies in Obi-Wan’s arms as Obi-Wan has found peace and a higher cause beyond power and is able to help Maul find peace.

The Bendu – Tom Baker plays the Bendu, a force being who is made up of both the Dark and the Light. He is the one who trains Kanan and Ezra and helps them find balance after their losses last season. He is a great character who in the end is hurt by the Jedi, showing that they aren’t good, as forcing him to fight leads to his death at the hands of Thrawn. In the end he was right in a way and in the end the Jedi turning him to the Dark Side and destroying his balance, is one of the saddest parts of the season as it is what leads to his destruction.

Grand Admiral Thrawn’s Plan and Payoff – Much of this Season involves Thrawn as the observer, watching the different players of the Rebellion and studying how they fight, discovering who Fulcrum is and developing weapons for the Empire. In the end his plan is a success, though it is isn’t a complete success. He destroys most of the Rebellion on Atollon and forces the Rebellion on the run again. He only loses due to the pride of Pryce and Konstantine who let ego get in the way of results and in order for the Rebels to even survive Commander Sato has to sacrifice himself to destroy a ship at the Battle of Atollon, which the battle that ends this season.

Revenge versus Mercy – One of the major themes this season is Revenge versus Mercy and the heart of how the Rebellion and characters should act. We see this with Saw Gerrera and his willingness to kill the last survivor of Geonosis, Cham Syndulla and his willingness to kill and risk his life for the liberation of Rylok and each cases how isolated the characters are when they don’t act with mercy and only want Revenge. It is mercy that turns Kallus to the Rebellion and helps the Rebellion gain allies from Mandalore as well as keeping Ezra’s balance. This theme is universal through the season and gave it strength.

Grand Admiral Thrawn – Lars Mikkelson plays one of my favorite characters in the EU, both in the original lore and now the new lore. This is a character who is an alien among an organization made up of humans and because of this doesn’t care about his own ego and pride. He is ruthless and cares about results and it makes sense because he is an outsider. He has a history and we see that he is honorable to as he lets Cham Syndulla escape after Cham is willing to destroy his own home to escape and is the observer. Every rebel victory is a learning experience that pays off. He is unconventional too as he is making Tie Defenders on Lothal and they are shielded ties that the ghost crew has trouble destroying. Because his greatest asset is knowledge he takes out rebels spies whenever we see him and he is the one who traps Fulcrum and nearly destroys the Rebellion, as the Rebels only manage to escape because Kanan angers the Bendu and Ezra brings allies from Mandalore. He is still alive and I can’t wait to see what he does next season. Just as he was my favorite character in the original lore he is now in the new canon.

Okay: Empire Needed More Wins – The Empire still needed more wins, and with the dead of Admiral Constantine (a stupid Admiral who is obsessed with glory) is killed in the finale that may happen. Thrawn turns even scenarios were he doesn’t crush the Rebellion into learning experiences that lead to his trap unfolding at the Battle of Atollon.

 The Cons: Iron Squadron – Iron Squadron is a rebellion run by a bunch of kids. They were super annoying and overpowered. They were the only folks from the Rebellion we meet who clash with the competence and fear that pervades the rest of the Rebellion and allies. I hated this episode, it is the only episode I hated this season. The rest are good or great.

   Season 3 was a lot better than Season 2 and was much more focused than Season 2 as Thrawn’s overall agenda was revealed at the end and the rebel plans became undone. This was a Hoth moment for the Lothal Rebellion and it was powerful to see what was supposed to be a fleet to liberate Lothal, decimated by Thrawn and the Rebellion forced to run, only just surviving because of unexpected allies. I really enjoyed this given that the Empire experienced mostly losses this season until Thrawn’s trap was finally sprung. This Thrawn is true to his original counterpart in the books in all the ways that matter, and if you were a fan of him in the books, as I was, you will most likely love him on the show. Can’t wait to see how his story unfolds and I hope he survives this series.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

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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: The Clone Wars – Season 2, Episode 15 – “Senate Murders” – Toxic Nationalism

Onaconda_farr_dead

     Watching “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” in order of events was the right thing to do. If I hadn’t done that I would have had nearly enough time with Farr or gotten to know the character how I did if not for it, because I had time to see his relationship to his people, the Republic and Padme, it makes his death actually mean something. This event is one of the powerful things to happen in the series thus far as well as learning more about the members of the Peace and War Faction.

     The episode was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and written by Drew Z. Greenberg and Brian Larsen.

     The story revolves around the death of Farr from Rodia when and the Peace Faction are rallying against a Bill by the War Faction to increase Clone Trooper production. From here Padme seeks to find out who was the one responsible as the fight against the Bill rages on.

The Pros: The Politics – The Peace and War factions are really cool. On one side Farr, Mothma, Organa, Padme and Lolo work against the Bill while Deechee and the Kamino Senator Burtoni. Neither side is clear of dirt and we see that both are using whatever is at their disposal to win, though the War faction is more ruthless.

The Death of Senator Farr – Farr is a great character, he will do anything for his people…be it joining the Separatists or fighting against Bills that would lead money going to war rather then the Refugees and his world. He is a true patriot that way as well as imperfect and it is his imperfection that leads to his death.

Senator Burtino – Is cold and calculating and doesn’t respect the Peace Faction at all. She also thinks they aren’t dangerous enough to kill though Lola sets up to be framed for the murder until Padme forces Lola’s hand.

Senator Deechee – Lola kills him too and he is the one who respected Farr. He had Farr followed and knew about the meeting between Lolo and Farr but didn’t know who or the details. I liked this character as he truly believes that increase in troops is the only way to win the war.

Lolo – Lolo is a nationalist and believes that Farr doomed their people the moment he entered the war. She isn’t wrong but she is blinded to any other perspective. This is her undoing in the end as she tries to remain hidden rather than standing openly against Farr politically and using political power to stop him.

Padme – Padme is the idealist and continues fighting for the Bill until she loses everything when Lolo plays her hand and the Peace Faction is discredited in the process as we see that the other side of Populism is Nationalism and Nationalism can lead to great stupidity.

Palpatine – Palpatine does a great job manipulating everything and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had pushed Lolo’s ideology through his very subtle form of influence. He speaks great double speak as at the end he sympathizes with Padme but also thinks that maybe the increase of Clones maybe the only way to make peace at this time…he is brilliant and has planted the growing seed of doubt in Padme.

The Horrors of Nationalism – Nationalism at it’s extreme can mean the silencing of dissenting voices as country matters more than the perspectives within it. It is this Nationalism that leads to Farr’s death and a further economic cost on Rodia because of it.

  This episode is a great contrast with the populism from last episode. Lola was like Padme’s handmaiden except she saw only rage by Farr’s involving Rodia with the Separatists and Republic and her reasons to hate were the same desperation that the people are feeling because of the war. That is what makes the entire event a tragedy and asks the question, “How can there be peace with one’s enemies when there isn’t peace at home?”

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 3, Episode 11 – “Pursuit of Peace” – Populism to Bring Change

EpGuide311 Pursuit of Peace

     “Pursuit of Peace” is somewhat connected to the peace arc but is far more focused on internal affairs, which is why I am giving it it’s own review. It is in this we see inside the Republic and how terror is being used to force votes in favor of keeping the war going, to the point that those who are against spending more money on the war are fighting themselves beaten by thugs. It’s a powerful episode and the ending scenes are some of the best this series has offered thus far.

     The story involves Amadala and the Peace Faction (Mothma, Organa and Farr) working to bring about an end to protesting the War Bill and turning the public against it after Mina is killed by “Republic” forces though it is mixed as far as information goes since rumor has it Dooku was involved. From here they chose to stand for her legacy as the final vote approaches in regards to the Bill. Padme and her faction must face threats of violence and the public that has turned against them to stop the Bill from passing.

The Pros: Robonino and Chata – These two guys are a great and they nearly stop Padme, they critically injure Organa and keep him from making his speech forcing Padme’s hand and they injure Farr. These two cause such an uproar that many of the Senators are living in fear for their live and don’t want to vote against the Bill.

The Peace Faction – Padme, Organa and Farr are the most vocal and Farr fights on even with his injury while Padme’s idealism really comes through while Organa is good at hiding his idealism as he is so popular he is a celebrity of the Senate. Seeing their dynamic is wonderful as each has distinct personalities.

Padme – Padme fights for her life on multiple occasions and in the end stands up when her servant tells her story as Padme speaks for the people who the Bill will affect negatively. War makes all the people suffer and the people need to be remembered if the war is ever to be won since they are the reason people fight. It’s a powerful speech and this one really shows how strong Padme’s empathy is, as well as her populist power.

Palpatine and Mas Amedda – These two are working together and Amedda knows where things are going with Empire as the final goal. Together they consider how one voice can change the public and Palpatine decides to wait before taking things to extremes as he knows the nature of the senate.

The Cons: The Banking Clan – These guys are only ruled by greed and I would have liked to see a more logical justification on why they planned to hike interest rates. These guys weren’t handled well, it felt like money for the sake of money with no rational explanation of how loans actually work.

  This episode really showed the power of populism and how one person can direct fear in a different direction, or to remind people why they fight and from there use it to support the Thesis. Padme is a master of words and it is great seeing her idealism contrasted with the ambition and manipulations of Palpatine.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10