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

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017) – An Amazing Subversion of Expectations

   “The Last Jedi” is my second favorite Star Wars film. This is a series that is second only to “The Empire Strikes Back,” and in many ways has greater depth even though the structure of this film is a bit of a mess. What this film does though is upset the status quo, delve into the reasons the First Order and Resistance have for even existing in the first place and also a much deeper analysis of “The Force” that we haven’t really gotten since the Original Trilogy. Before I get into spoilers, this is a film with the best characters and themes thus far, amazing character development and emotional payoff, amazing action and it is easily the most beautiful of all the Star Wars films. Seriously, check it out.

The film was directed and written by Rian Johnson while being produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman.

The story involves the Resistance attempting to escape from the First Order who are attacking them after the destruction of Starkiller Base, while Rey is seeking Luke’s help in their fight. Things soon get more complicated when the First Order executes a trap that forces members the Resistance to seek outside help  to escape the First Order trap, and a clash within the Resistance itself between Poe and Vice-Admiral Holdo after General Leia is incapacitated.

SPOILERS

The Pros: The Cinematography – This is visually the best looking of any film in the Star Wars franchise. Whether it is the filming of fight sequences in space or within a ship…the camera executes the action beautifully and each planet was somewhere I wanted to return back to after it was done.

The Universe – This Star Wars has quite a few different environments and animals. From the adorable porgs, to crystal foxes, to the salt world of Crait, Luke’s Island and Snoke’s Flagship and a Casino World. I was never bored because there was always more to see as each environment was so rich.

The Reason for Resistance – One of the major themes of the film is the reasons to resist. We see this as a class struggle in regards to oppression through the eyes of kids and Rose, a character we are introduced in this film…and also that personal identity is a huge role too and that finding the balance between them is important. Poe is driven by ego and glory for much of what he does but comes to see that it is bigger than each fight, the war is larger than any one person as the individuals and groups define what it means to resist, just as much as if not more than the personal reasons to fight.

The Cost of War – So many people die in this film. There are lots of heroic sacrifices, but also the people who are being oppressed by those profiting from the war, the deaths of so many soldiers on both sides who die. You feel that in this and it does a good job humanizing both the Resistance and the First Order. War is hell and sometimes no one wins, this film captures that theme beautifully.

The Characters – The characters are the best part of this film. This film is all about relationships between characters, be it Leia and Poe, Rose and Finn, Kylo and Rey or Luke and Rey. Each relationship gets developed over the course of the film and reveals layers to the characters that didn’t exist in “The Force Awakens.”

Vice Admiral Holdo – Holdo is a character who has got a lot of crap from the fanbase, but she was one of my favorite characters in the film. She was respected for winning in the past but Poe doesn’t get that. She is presented as an antagonist through a good portion of the film, and the payoff of who she actually is and what she is doing is great.

Rose and Finn – It is through these characters that we get to see another face of the Resistance and why they fight. Finn is originally a part because of his friends and is even willing to leave in order to protect Rey but Rose reminds him of the bigger picture and that at the core they exist to fight oppression. It is handled on the casino world and seeing their friendship bloom was one of the more memorable parts of this film.

Master Luke Skywalker – Luke is done with everything. Like before in the Original Trilogy guilt defines him and it is mistake that helped lead to Kylo Ren’s creation and that guilt is something he carries with him and resists until the end. He is wanting to destroy the Jedi order and die as the last Jedi until Rey helps him realize there is so much more that he’s forgotten and that he can still make a difference and change things. Mark Hamill is fantastic.

General Leia Organa – I miss Carrie Fisher. It was great seeing her in this, her whole drive is survival and protecting the Resistance from the First Order. She is the mentor who is there to remind the young folks there is a time and place for glory but you have to work to keep everyone alive, or there won’t be anyone else left to fight. This was my favorite presentation of her besides “Empire Strikes Back” and I’ll miss her in these films, now that she’s gone.

Rey and Kylo Ren – One of the core relationships is that between Kylo and Rey both of who are alone and seeking more beyond the old order as so much of who they were was tied to the legends of the past. They are connected but still adversaries and it is great relationship to see explored as Ren becomes more confident and much more of a bully and Rey finds an identity outside of her parents and her expectations of Luke and the Jedi.

Subverting Expectations – If you go in expecting “The Empire Strikes Back” or another version of “Return of the Jedi” or “A New Hope” prepare to be surprised. This is a film where most things don’t work out for any characters. Things change, both in the First Order and the Resistance in regards to their identities…but it doesn’t repeat the cycle. We get away from The Ring Cycle a bit here and from that “Star Wars” seems to finally be developing it’s own identity outside of the past. We also see The Force not being tied to bloodlines and the fantasy feel of the past films and midichlorians are implied to no longer be a factor (Rey’s background and the last scene of the film). I loved that, this is no longer the Skywalker show, Star Wars has to be bigger than one family drama and I can’t wait to see where the series goes.

Everybody Loses – Poe finds out he was wrong, Rose and Finn get betrayed, Rey isn’t able to turn Kylo Ren and even the Resistance only barely survives. The First Order isn’t in great shape either after the events that take place and it is going to be transforming further or it will collapse. That is powerful and with it we see the most potential for change both within the Resistance and the First Order. They’ve lost too much to remain static.

Okay: Welcome to the Casino / Side Quest – This first point is related to the second point, there is a side plot on a casino world in order for Rose and Finn to get a code breaker in order to break onto Snokes’s ship so that they shutdown the Empire’s ability to track the Resistance’s fleet. It explores the meaning of the Resistance so I’m not putting it as a total negative but it could have been shorter and achieved the same purpose in the plot, and I would have traded a few Finn and Rose scenes for more scenes with the codebreaker played by Del Toro named DJ. He is fun.

Structure and Clutter – The greatest issue with this film for me was the structure and how cluttered some of the different plots are. It wasn’t bad, I saw this film twice but it does feel long during some of the side tangents. The overall story and themes greatly overwhelm this in quality though and it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the film.

This is probably going to be in my Top 5 films at the end of the year. This is a film I’ve watched twice and is easily the most fun I’ve had at a film this year since “Baby Driver.” I can’t wait to see where things go after this film as it upsets so much of the status quo. I am a guy who loves the original Extended Universe and I always will, but I’m glad they didn’t repeat it (and I still enjoy it as another timeline of Star Wars). By the time of “The Force Awakens” I was done with the Skywalker drama, predictability will kill this franchise as so many of the problems that plagued the Prequels was the lazy recycling of the Original Trilogy. This film is strange, different, takes chances and changes things and honestly, it is the only way Star Wars can grow beyond the corner it was written in to. Here is to Disney embracing that change and giving us more great stories like this film.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10. Second best Star Wars film thus far.

 

“Star Wars Rebels” Season 2 – A Great Beginning, Character Episodes and End but Overall Lack of Focus

Star Wars Rebels Season 2

   “Star Wars Rebels” Season 2 was a season that started with a lot of promise. “The Siege of Lothal” is one of the best episodes in the series and the promise of it being “The Empire Strikes Back” of the show was a very big claim that initially looked like would be successful executed. Sadly the shows lack of focus, clearly showing the threat of the Empire and poor setup of big payoffs brought the show down overall, making it weaker than Season 1 for me. This doesn’t discount what works though and this show is still a favorite. So without further ado, here is my overall assessment of the show.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation continues to be amazing and flow beautifully, especially in regards to the action sequences and giving us what the planets look like. This has never been an issue with the show and continues to be one of the strongest points within it.

The Action – The action when it happens is fantastic. The duels between Inquisitors, fights between the Rebels and Empire and any fight that involves Darth Vader is awesome. My biggest issue is the action wasn’t all the tight so that brought it down.

Hondo – Hondo is back and one of the few elements of comedic relief that works as we see his mercenary nature rub off on Ezra and help push him to the dark side in small ways as in helping him and when he helps the crew it shows an ends justify the means mentality that illustrated Anakin’s fall.

Captain Rex – Captain Rex is a pretty amazing character and I’m glad they brought him back into this Universe. I’m still hoping he dies so he can get the warrior’s death that would fit his character arc so well…his arc is great in that he and Kanan grow to have a respect for one another as they are both mentors for Ezra.

Yoda – Yoda makes an appearance in this and it is awesome! He recognizes his past mistakes with the Jedi order and helps our heroes make peace within themselves. He even reaches out to Ahsoka and is happy to see you. He really was handled beautifully this season.

The Crew of Ghost – The crew of the Ghost continues to be where the strongest characters are as we have a “Firefly” type relationship between this crew of survivors as they find themselves pulled into a larger story that they are only pieces in. For this reason, the glimpses of the Universe we get are all the more profound and how it impacts the crew.

The Crew of Ghost – The Crew continues to be the strongest part of the show as I’ve come to care about the drama they go through and what motivates them in what they do.

Chopper – Chopper is shown to be complex in this! He helps liberate an Imperial droid, we learn he fought in the Clone Wars and the cares deeply for the crew and those around him even though he’s a bit insane.

Sabine – We learn more about Sabine’s Mandalorian side and her willingness to do anything to achieve ends even if it means killing. The only reason she doesn’t kill is because she learns from Hera and Kanan who become like a father and mother figure to her. She is a lot of fun and could have done with some more exploration, especially tied back to the Empire.

Kanan – Kanan gets some great exploration in this as we see his relationship to Hera’s father who he fought with in the Clone Wars and is a hero and from that how deeply he cares about her. We see him rise in power in this and go through his arc of letting Ezra go and knowing that he can only give Ezra so much training. He connects with the light side of the Grand Inquisitor too which is pretty amazing.

Hera – In this we see that Hera is looked down upon by her father who is a hero of his people for fighting in the Clone Wars and is willing to go any means to win. It is Hera who shows him that wider perspective of how allies are their best bet to win the war. She really is a great character and we see her abandonment fears when Kanan is going off to face the Inquisitor as she has already lost her mother to war and in a way her father too. Her character is tragic and strong.

Zeb – Zeb is my favorite character in the series and in this he becomes the Hero of the Lasat as he works with the Elders to help them find the original Lasat homeworld. We also see his growth when he connects with Agent Kallus and helps them survive on a dangerous moon. He is a character with depth who manages to bring strength and humor to any situation and is easily one of the wisest characters on the show now.

The Empire – I still really like the Empire in this though I feel the writers spent most of this season making them feel weak. This was bad on their part as we were promised “The Empire Strikes Back” of the show and I didn’t feel that at all. If anything, it was more of “The New Hope” based off the Finale.

The Inquisitors – The Inquistiors have a cool look and start out strong but become weaker over the course of the series. When Ahsoka easily beats two of them they never recover for it and end being slaughtered by Maul in the Finale. I like the idea of them but they could have been handled as a threat a lot better (same with the Empire as a whole).

Agent Kallus – In this season we learn Kallus was a grunt who lost his men to a Lasat Mercenary and that is why he hates them. We also learn the slaughter of the Lasat was not what he thought would happen and he carries guilt over it. By the season’s end he is questioning and alone as he realizes he is being lied to and is just a cog in the Imperial Machine.

Darth Vader – Darth Vader is awesome and is the best part of “The Siege of Lothal” and “Twilight of the Apprentice.” His arc ends with him once again killing Anakin so that he can destroy Ahsoka and all his connections to the past. He beats her but we don’t know if she’s dead or not (I hope she is). This season we get glimpses of the light in the overwhelming dark of Vader.

The Old Master / Maul – Maul is back and he is awesome! In this he acts as Ezra’s teacher in the Dark Side and is responsible for killing the Imperial Inquisitors and blinding Kanan. He is after power and wants Ezra as his apprentice. It is great to see him again as he’s lost everything to the Jedi and Empire and now only has hate and vengeance to drive him. He survives the destruction of the Sith Temple and is out there still too.

Ahsoka Tano – Ahsoka’s arc in this is making peace with leaving Anakin and the Jedi order as we see her fight to avenge Anakin to destroy the monster he’s become in Vader. In the end she chooses to stay with him too as her spirit is broken as she sees the monster consumed by rag and power that Anakin has become. She really is a great character and I like how she never feels comfortable being a teacher because she is a free agent and not a Jedi, just a force user who uses light sabers and the light side of the force. I hope she died, she deserves an awesome death which she got.

Okay: Commander Sato – Sato is another character with potential, though I wish he’d die this season. He is the face of the larger Rebellion that connects to the crew and he even gets captured once. Sadly this doesn’t go anywhere as he is rescued and it establishes his respect for Ezra. He is a symbol of Rebel power and that is about it.

Ezra – Ezra has great moments when we see him tempted by the Dark Side but he is so overpowering at times that he feels like a Mary Sue at times. It is far to easy for him to save the people and the crew and he doesn’t go through any trial I felt until the final battle at the end. There was a lot of missed opportunities for this character.

Other Minor Characters – Sabine’s friend a few others are pretty weak. All they exist for is to show the crew has more allies, and in the process make the Empire even more weak as they can’t seem to kill people who should be dead. At least Ezra’s parents aren’t alive.

The Cons: Lack of Narrative Focus – We have fillers, we have a lot of bottle episodes for characters and some episodes that don’t involve the Empire at all. The Empire is set up to be THE threat with the Inquisitors in “The Siege of Lothal,” but it doesn’t go anywhere until the Finale and I blame that on the lack of focus.

Filler Episodes – We get a whale episode, an episode where we meet a mercenary who worked with Sabine and a few others that just feel like baggage. All they end up doing is make the Empire look weak and expand the size of the Universe.

    This season was not nearly as strong as last, though the First and Finale episodes of the season were on part with the best from last season and sometimes better. It was these episodes where the core drama between Darth Vader and the rebels really got explored and the Empire felt like a threat. Outside of that they spent most of this season being beaten by the rebels at every turn. Seriously, the Inquisitors became useless by the end leaving me to wonder how Dave Filoni is going to fill in a new threat for them as I worry making Vader the main threat will just make him as useless as the Inquisitors, which I don’t want. If this show ruins him I’m going to hate this show. That didn’t happen this season at least, and for all of the problems it had, there were some great moments of gold.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episodes 19-20 – “Twilight of the Apprentice” – The Many Faces of the Force

Twilight of the Apprentice

    This was a Season Finale that was powerful in a lot of ways, could have done with more setup but at the end of the day gave us a glimpse into the many faces of the force and how it isn’t as simple Jedi versus Sith…that within the force there are many identities that can be taken and forged as well as showing us the galaxies past is still informing the future that  may come.

     “Twilight of Apprentice” was a 2 part episode directed by Dave Filoni and written by Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg and Steven Melching.

    The story involves Ezra, Kanan and Ahsoka traveling to the Sith Temple on Malachor to learn how to fight the Inquisitors. All as not as it appears to be as the Inquisitors are already there hunting another and Ezra finds himself drawn to this mysterious “Old Master” who is not all he appears to be.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Malachor – Malachor has a really cool look. The Sith Temple is underground and looks like a giant pyramid and around the Temple are dead Jedi and Sith turned to ash by some unknown force. It is creepy and establishes how dangerous this place is quickly.

The Inquisitors – The Inquisitors have a great look as we have the Seventh Sister and Fifth Brother return and are introduced to the Eighth Brother who was hunting Maul. They manage to harass our heroes but when Maul allies with them they are killed by him.

The Action – There are so many great duels this episode! From our Heroes and Maul against the Inquisitors, to Maul versus Ahsoka and Kanan and Ahsoka against Darth Vader. Each duel means something and helps our characters advance in some way.

The Old Master / Maul – Maul is the anti-Yoda in this as he comes off as weak and more intellect when helping Ezra as they enter the heart of the Temple using the power of the Dark Side. He saves Ezra at least once and we see he wants Ezra as his apprentice and to use the Temple as a weapon against all his enemies as the Sith destroyed his people, family and everything he had. Maul is hate and also a smart manipulator too. He survives the destruction of the Temple and we see him flying off hinting that he may return to finish Ezra’s training and corruption.

Kanan – Kanan is the protector in this and we see how unprepared he has been to teach Ezra as Maul is able to do what Kanan has been unable, from protecting Ezra from threats, to getting inside the Temple and countless other things. In the end he is still the protector though as even after he is blinded by Maul he is able to knock Maul off the Temple and return to Ezra at the top.

Ezra – Ezra is going to the dark side as we see him learn the power of his anger in this and how his training has left unable to protect the ones he loves. From Ahsoka being defeated by Vader and Kanan losing his eyes to Maul. It is all of this that leads him to using the dark side to open the Sith Holocron at episode’s end showing that he is ready to embrace that side of himself fully.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka is amazing! This is the episode where we see how she isn’t a Jedi and that in leaving the order she shaped her own identity as one who is comfortable with Revenge for those she loves (she says she will kill Darth Vader for killing her Master) and we see it has given her great power as she cuts Vader’s mask. In the end her fate is left unknown as she chooses to stay with Vader in the exploding temple. I hope she got defeated and became a force ghost as she chose not to leave Vader, which means her death, just like it did for another character “The Force Awakens” when he chose to stay with someone who had gone dark side.

Darth Vader – Darth Vader is a force of nature in this. Maul fears him and will not face him alone, Ezra is beaten down easily by him and the only one who stands any chance is Ahsoka who matches him but also is broken down and is only able to injure Vader when he distracted in trying to get the Holocron from Ezra using the force. In the end he defeats Ahsoka (I hope defeats means kills) and we see him limp from the Temple ruins, the only characters still standing tall and unbroken.

The Faces of the Force – In this we have Maul, a dark side user who isn’t a Sith, the Inquisitors who are tools of the Sith, Vader who is a Sith Lord, Kanan who is a Jedi, Ezra his apprentice and Ahsoka who is a light side wielder but not a Jedi, rather a force user who lives by her own code.

Okay: Ambiguous End – We don’t know if Ahsoka is dead or alive as one of the final scenes is her saying she will stay with her Master as they fight one another and the Temple has a Force explosion. The final scenes have Vader limping away and Ahsoka or he ghost entering the Sith Temple. It looked cool but I really wanted a clear victory by Vader, I hope it is Ahsoka’s Force Ghost as Vader would have never left her alive.

Okay/Con: – The Story of the Inquisitors – We don’t know who the Eighth Brother, Seventh Sister and Fifth Brother were and now they are dead. They had great looks at least and they put up a good fight in this episode.

The Cons: Not Enough Setup – The Inquisitors hunting Maul was never setup, Malachor as a place to go was only vaguely hinted at and Maul came out of nowhere. These were all things that could have easily been established in past episodes rather than us getting filler Space Whale ones.

  This two-parter is one I highly recommend. It is some of the best from our heroes and writers and we get to see just how diverse identities are within the use of the force. Bringing Maul back worked really well here too, with the only underutilized folks being the Inquisitors whose backstories we never learned, just like their motivations. What really sales this episode though is that exploration of the force and the core relationships between Kanan and Ezra, their relationship to Ahsoka and her relationship to Vader. This core drama drives the story and makes it a favorite episode for me in the end. This a show that has always been about the characters and these episodes are a beautiful illustration of that.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 18 – “The Mystery of Chopper Base” – Fear of Things to Come

Mystery of Chopper Base

    “The Mystery of Chopper Base” is another decent run. I felt the fear and anger the crew was feeling was a bit overdone but it made sense when they actually explained why all the characters feel the way they do. I’m really hoping we lose one of our heroes, if not Darth Vader who is appearing later in the series is going to be hard to take serious as a threat on this show, especially as he’ll probably have Inquisitor back-up. This episode is setting up tragedy, now lets see if it goes somewhere.

     The story was directed by Bosco Ng and written by Steven Melching.

  The story involves the crew finding a threat at the new Rebel Base Chopper helped discover as they deal with the fear of Kanan and Ezra leaving soon to face the Inquisitors and what it will be like to be without them.

The Pros: Sabine – We see Sabine in action a lot this episode as she holds her own against the Spider Monsters and saves the crew quite a few times. She plays an essential role that way. She also nudges Kanan to talk to Hera.

Captain Rex – Captain Rex is awesome again, even though he’s mostly in the Zeb role of holding the line (Zeb is nearly invisible this episode). He doesn’t really give any advice but it was great to see him again.

Ezra – In this we see that Ezra is okay killing as he talks about killing the Inquisitors as he thinks that’s the only way for them to be safe against the threat. We also see he can’t control all animals (thankfully) and that he is still very new in the force and not over powered (it is sad they had to establish this as it should have been made more obvious throughout the season). I really hope he turns over the next few episodes.

Kanan – In this we see a lot of Kanan’s stubbornness and that he is now evenly matched with Ezra. We also see how he deals with fear and anger by cutting himself off from people. We see he is capable of knowing though as we see just how much he loves and will miss Hera.

Hera – Hera is in full Captain mode, taking care of the crew and preparing them for when the Jedi leave. This makes her cold at times, but she’s right. I felt bad for her as you see she does have abandonment stuff and Kanan can’t promise her he’ll back when he doesn’t know. She believes anyway and you can see just how much she loves him.

The Ending – Hera and Kanan hold each other as Kanan promises he’ll come back (I hope he dies) leaving us with a feeling of foreboding and hope. It was great seeing their love though as you’d have never seen it in the Jedi Order before Order 66.

The Cons: Anger and Fear – I felt like there was too much of it and it could have been handled better. Them leaving should have been established the episode after the Inquisitors attacked the Jedi Temple as that was when they knew they had to bring the fight to them or they’d always be hunted. Since it wasn’t established early on, the fighting often times comes off as petulant.

This was a great episode, though not a favorite since the characters acting angry and afraid had not been established earlier. There is some great character stuff with Sabine, Ezra, Kanan and Hera though and that is really what carries the story. The animal threat of the episode was alright but it was also sad too that those creatures gave them more trouble than the Empire has often times this season. So I’m hoping that is corrected in the upcoming episodes.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10

Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 13 – “The Call” – Not Another Whale Episode

The Call SWR Season 2

    This was a visually stunning episode whose message of “Save the Whales” just wasn’t handled well at all. When it comes to nature and animals the two thoughts are never fully explored as far as the danger of nature because every time Hera speaks up…someone shoots her down. Seriously, this episode was annoying.

    “The Call” was directed by Mel Zwyer and written by Fred Tatasciore.

    This is a film where the crew are trying to steal some fuel for the rebellion from The Mining Guild who is working with the Empire but are nearly destroyed by Purrgil and must work with them to stop the Mining Guild.

The Pros: The Visuals – This is a visually stunning episode and the color contrasts of the Purrgil with the darkness and void of space are fascinating and really well executed.

The Action – The action is great in this episode! Mostly the assault on the Mining Guild base but when it finally happens there it tension the entire time and it takes a lot for our heroes to win.

The Cons: The Purrgil is Love the Purrgil is Life – The Purrgils are the main focus of this episode and it is awful. We are introduced to them via wonder of giant animals and Hera bringing up her loss of friends to these creatures is never brought up until the very end. Ezra argues they didn’t know…but we see no reason to get they comprehended, just that he understood them and their need for the gas from the mining station. Seriously, why do stories like this usually suck?

After how great last episode was this one was a major fall…which is a shame given that more could have been done with exploring the danger and wonder of Purrgils and hearing the stories of pilots Hera had lost to them…instead we get an over-idealization of animals, seriously we were going to get that anyway, we at least could have got balance.

Final Score: 4 / 10 Action and visuals are the only thing making this episode watchable.

Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 9 – “Legacy” – Return to Lothal

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Episode 9 Legacy

     This was an episode that could have been more, sadly I think that giving this series more episodes has only been a detriment to the story. In giving each of our characters more exploration they end up facing the Empire and soundly defeating them making the Empire continue to be a waste of a villain, this of course after Darth Vader and the Siege of Lothal established that you don’t mess with them…hell Tarkin and the Inquisitor established that. This season has forgotten that for character development leading me to have much less favorite episodes this season, including this mid-season finale.

   Henry Gilroy was the writer of this episode.

   The story involves Ezra having visions of his parents on Lothal and wanting to return there as the Empire attacks the Rebels base that Ezra had accidentally revealed to one of the Seventh Sister’s droid. The Empire attacks and the Rebels must make their escape.

The Pros: Kanan – Kanan is the voice of wisdom here as we see him council Ezra on leaping to rage on multiple points. We also see them share the loss of being alone and losing their mentors or parents. These are great scenes that help make the episode stronger. He is the one who talks about the fact that even though Ezra’s parents are dead, they will always be with him.

Hera – Hera looked everywhere for Ezra’s parents and we see how deeply she looked, giving us a greater experience of the loss of them. It also shows how devoted she is to the crew. She is the captain for a reason. I’d watch a show just about her.

Chopper – Chopper chickens out during the battle. It’s funny given how active he was prior. It also showed how insane and temperamental he is.

Ezra – Ezra goes dark side at one point to defeat General Kallus and almost gets drawn into his destruction by the Inquisitors. Was impressed on how they handled his character and I completely expect him to go dark later, if only briefly.

Okay: Zeb and Sabine – Are just kind of there and don’t really do anything memorable.

The Rebellion – Is on the run, I never thought they were all at risk and they lost one ship. You never feel the loss of that ship.

The Empire – The Empire is still arrogant and overall useless even when they find the Rebel Hideout. They really need a win like what they had at Lothal.

  Not much happens with the Empire and Rebellion. The Rebels escape, only losing one ship and again the Rebels face no consequences and experience no real loss, while again the Empire is made to look like fools. I know they are the bad guys, but they have to win sometimes or else they will no longer be taken seriously as threats. Why even have Luke, Leia and Han if Disney XD’s rebels already had it handled…

Final Score: 7 / 10

Upcoming Reviews – The “Star Wars” Films

Star Wars Films

    With “The Force Awakens,” coming out in 6 Weeks I am going to begin reviewing the “Star Wars” Film series. I am only r reviewing Original Theatrical Releases as I’d rather not see them marred by what George Lucas did to them later in regards to the Original Trilogy until I can dedicate some to just describing everything he changed. This also I think gives the fairest comparison between the different films as I will be watching the Theatrical release of “The Force Awakens” not the “Special” or “Extended” Edition of “The Force Awakens.”

     It has been a while since I’ve watched these films though “The Empire Strikes Back” and “A New Hope” are two of my all time favorite films and I’m curious to see how they compare now that there is so much distance from when I originally saw them, as well as the Prequels.

      My approach is going to be like the reviews I’ve done in the past, listing the pros, cons and what was okay. I know humor isn’t my strong suit and if you want to see some comedic takedowns of the prequels there is always Redlettermedia or if you want to see a defense of Episode 1 there is Moviebob’s look back. These films are such a part of our cultural mindset and have already been creatively taken down in so many ways that I just want to talk about them with my own voice and perspective given how long it has been since I’ve watched them and fully explore the pros and cons of each of the films.

     I’ll be starting with “The Phantom Menace” and working my way up to “Return of the Jedi.” So here we go. I’ll be reviewing around a film a week with “Return of the Jedi” being reviewed the week before opening week of “The Force Awakens.”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 6, Episodes 10-13 – “The Immortality Arc” – Yoda Against the Darkness

EpGuide613

  There is a lot I want to like about this arc. We get to know the force more, we visit Moraband the Homeworld of the Sith…we learn at least some of what happened in regards to Sifo-Dyas and we get to spend time with Yoda, this really is his arc at the core. The problem is we don’t get to know him all that well. Yoda never had the vulnerabilities that Anakin and Obi-Wan did and that made the temptations he faced not feel as strong as they could have been, Yoda also asks with wisdom the entire time so the arc once we leave Sifo-Dyas doesn’t feel like it really has stakes. I’ll get into that more though.

    “The Lost One” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and written by Christian Taylor who also wrote the other episodes in the arc. “Voices” was directed by Danny Keller, “Destiny” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and the final episode “Sacrifice” was directed by Steward Lee.

  The story begins with the search for Sifo-Dyas as Anakin and Obi-Wan visit the Pykes to find the missing diplomat who was traveling with him while dealing with the threat of Dooku who has to silence the last missing link. This sparks Yoda’s vision quest as Qui-Gon is communicating with him to help him achieve immortality so that his life force can live on to train the one who will bring balance to the Universe.

The Pros: “The Lost One” this is a really great episode. We get to see the former Chancellor Valorum and see Dooku being strangled by Sidious for not killing all the missing links to the Clone Creation. We see Anakin and Obi-Wan and the Pykes attempt to stop him and Dooku show why he is Darth Tyranus as he kills the Pyke leader and escapes from Obi-Wan and Anakin after suppressing the only person who knew what had happened. It is a great arc and shows some wonderful dynamics between Palpatine and Yoda and Dooku and Obi-Wan.

Score: 10 / 10

Anakin and Obi-Wan – When they are investigating Sifo-Dyas’s disapearance and death they have some great conversations and we see how powerful they are Jedi too as even the gangster Pykes respect them. They don’t succeed in their plan but they do a good job to try and succeed.

Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus – Proves once again why he is a Sith Lord. Kills the leader of the Pykes who was trying to kill him. kills the Chancellor Aide who had been traveling with Sifo-Dyas and manages to escape from the Pykes, Obi-Wan and Anakin as well as helping Sidious attack Yoda later.

Darth Sidious – This guy is evil and knows it and we see him moving forward on his long term plans while still having the patience to wait. After Yoda gets out of their trap he recognizes the power of Yoda and the Jedi and knows that their plans cannot be rushed. He’s a smart powerhouse.

The Philosophy of the Force – Minus how often they bring up Midi-chlorians, which has always been a stupid idea…the relationship between the living force and cosmic force is really cool. The living force feeds the cosmic force which gives back and keeps balance in the Universe. Yoda learning all of this and making peace with his death and all he will lose is powerful.

The Cons: The Force Priestesses – These five are all different personalities and being that still have their being even though their bodies are one with the force. They are archetypes so not really characters, which was a shame.

Moraband Was Underwhelming – For the homeworld of the Sith this place was pretty boring. Darth Bane is revealed but they don’t do anything with him and for all the talk of the Dark Side they do not do enough with fear and temptation…the fact this is Yoda makes it so there are not stakes either.

   The show got canceled at this time, which was a shame as Grievous was just beginning to become an actual threat, Mother Talzin’s overall agenda is still unknown, Darth Maul is missing and we have no idea what became of the Separatist Parliament. For an ending this could have been a lot better, but I appreciate that they attempted to answer the question of Yoda becoming a Force Ghost. I’ll have a write up on the series as a whole later as well as my Top 5 Episodes/Arcs. Suffice to say though, this has been a fun journey.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Pilot – Season 1, Episode 1 – “Ambush” – “Life” is Conditional and Yoda is Powerful

Ambush_Yoda_clones

    The pilot of “The Clone Wars” is great at showing just how much of a powerhouse Yoda is, as as well as showing his respect for life but not sentience. This episode also completes to Toydarian arc from last episode as the King’s meeting with the Jedi representative takes place in this episode.

    The episode was directed by Dave Bullock and written by Steven Melching.

     The episode is about King Katuunko and the Separatists and Republic vying for his support. In this Ventress arrives and sends droid forces after Yoda to show the Separatists as the superior force. In this Yoda and the three Clones must outwit their enemies and get to the meeting point before the fall of night.

The Pros: Ventress, Dooku and the Separatists – The Separatists are shown to be a big threat in this and it is only Yoda appearing at the last second that saves King Katuunko’s life when he chooses to join the Republic. The one thing I’d say against it is the making bigger waves wasn’t smart. When you go out go all out.

Yoda and the Clones – Yoda counsels the Clones and uses the droids lack of cognitive skills against them. In the end the Clones save Yoda from the reinforcements that had sent. They have some great moments where Yoda helps the Clones learn about themselves and shows where he comes from and that the force binds all life together and even Clones can get in touch with it and have value.

The Cons: Expendable Droids – Droids clearly think and value their life yet they are massacred by Yoda. He never seeks to disarm droids he always goes for destruction showing some level of hypocrisy as the droids are sentient even if they aren’t organic life. This is true to lore though. In “Empire Strikes Back” Yoda was pretty abusive to R2.

This was a decent episode that could have been better. I would have liked to see Dooku and Ventress do more than just send wave after wave of troops and see Yoda show some awareness in regards to droids. Droids are his blindspot and it doesn’t matter how smart and sentient they are.

Final Score: 7 / 10