Rob Watches Star Trek: Kirk the Jerk?

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

TITLE: Star Trek: The Motion Picture
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Stephen Collins, Persis Khambatta
DIRECTOR: Robert Wise
WRITERS: Alan Dean Foster (Story), Harold Livingston (Screenplay)
STUDIOS: Paramount Pictures, Century Associates
RATED: G
RUN-TIME: 132 min
RELEASED: December 7, 1979

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

I came into Star Trek: The Motion Picture ready to be bored. This is, after all, the film infamously called the “Slow Motion Picture.”

But boring isn’t what I got out of it. There are slow portions, obviously. But I wasn’t bored at any point. To yours truly, the story of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is one of a charmingly odd sci-fi flick that missed out on some of its potential.

Eighteen months after the end of the five-year mission, Kirk has been promoted to admiral. But when a mysterious and destructive energy cloud is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth, Kirk takes it upon himself to investigate the mysterious entity aboard a refitted Enterprise. But while there are many familiar faces aboard, this is not the Enterprise Kirk remembers, and he hasn’t been a starship captain in quite some time. Meanwhile, Spock feels a telepathic connection with the entity that will serve to guide the Enterprise on its mission.

Watching the film for the first time in 2020 means there’s a giant elephant in the room whenever Stephen Collins is on screen as Decker. Not because of 7th Heaven, but because of what we’d later learn about him. Years ago, I made the mistake of listening to the recording that came out of him talking about what he’d done. I now desperately wish I hadn’t.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture reportedly had a very rushed production schedule. So much so that director Robert Wise once said he felt the final film was only a rough cut of the one he wanted to make. I can only assumed this rush to the finish line is the reason much of the movie seems to be not very well thought out.

For instance, the main thing I took away from the movie was just how wrong Kirk is. When he decides to investigate what we later learn is the V’Ger entity, he uses his authority as an admiral to forcefully replace Decker as captain of the Enterprise. The two then proceed to clash over how to advance the mission, with Decker ultimately being vindicated. We see that, despite his noble intentions, Kirk is out of practice when it comes to captaining a starship.

This tension between Kirk and Decker is there by design, and is the most interesting part of the movie. The problem I have with it is that it only gets a half-hearted resolution about midway through the film. We don’t really get to savor the meat of the issue. It eventually becomes a moot point. But beforehand, why not throw in some kind of sequence where Kirk admits to Decker that he was wrong and restores his rank, only to have Decker turn him down? That way, we get a satisfactory conclusion to the arc, and Kirk doesn’t look like such a jerk…

If you’d asked me to guess before hand who would get the film’s best entrance, my guess wouldn’t have been Bones. But low and behold, there he is. Beamed in with his space disco suit and medallion, griping about how he’s been drafted back into service. Moments later, he’s part of get of the best character moments in the film when Kirk, in a moment of vulnerability, tells Bones he needs him. In that moment Bones’ demeanor changes, and albeit still somewhat begrudgingly, he once again becomes the Enterprise‘s resident doctor.

The character who undergoes the biggest, and yet surprisingly understated, transformation is Spock. At the start of the movie, he’s on Vulcan taking part in a ceremony signifying the purging of all emotion. When he returns to the Enterprise, he’s as cold and stoic as ever. But after journeying into space and mind-melding with the V’Ger entity, he’s a changed man. In an exchange with Kirk in sick bay, Spock says…

“…with all its pure logic, V’Ger is barren. Cold. No mystery. No Beauty. Should’ve known. … [Spock takes Kirk’s hand.] This simple feeling is beyond V’Ger’s comprehension. No meaning. No hope. Jim, no answers. It’s asking questions. ‘Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?'”

In asking those questions, the V’Ger entity thereby prompts Spock to ask himself those very same questions. Thus, to an extent, his character arc is complete. He realizes the value of emotion and feeling as opposed to pure logic. I like this. I just wish it had been given a little more emphasis outside of that one scene. After all, Spock’s relationship with his own feelings is one of the tentpole subjects the original series revolved around.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was developed from what was to have been an episode of a new series, Star Trek: Phase II. Complete with new characters Decker and Ilia. If you look at the plot without the elements needed to put Kirk, Spock, and the gang back together, it does indeed look like something they’d have done on the original series. The Enterprise comes into contact with a mysterious entity in space, it possesses Ilia, hijinks ensue and things are back to business as usual at the end.

But while the movie does feel reminiscent of the show in that sense, something on this scale that’s meant for both Star Trek fans and general audiences would likely have benefited from a conventional villain. Obviously, The Wrath of Khan would go on to justify that sentiment. That’s not to say Kirk needed a bad guy to punch. But a big sentient energy cloud isn’t necessarily who I’d have picked to match up against the Enterprise crew in their cinematic debut.

What’s more, the interior of the Enterprise doesn’t look or feel as fun as it did on the TV show. All the bright colors, campy as they were, are missed. The “refitted” Enterprise looks more like a refurbished dentist’s office.

Imagine my surprise at hearing what I thought was the Star Trek: The Next Generation theme. Star Trek: The Motion Picture marked the first time that classic score by Jerry Goldsmith was heard. Apparently, Goldsmith was Gene Roddenberry’s first choice as composer for the original Star Trek pilot. How fitting that he came back to create what to this day is the franchise’s most recognizable theme.

There’s a famous klunker of a line in this movie that I’d hoped wasn’t as bad as legend tells. Sadly, it’s everything I’d heard it was. During Ilia’s introduction, out of the clear blue sky, she says, “My oath of celibacy is on record, captain.” The movie seems to try and justify this line by having Sulu and Chekov gawk at her when she walks on to the bridge. But it clearly wasn’t enough. Over 40 years later, it still comes off creepy and weird.

But for my money, an even bigger klunker comes from Kirk about midway through the film. His line is, “Stop competing with me, Decker.” But for whatever reason it comes out, “Stop…….com…petingwithmeDecker.”

In some circles, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is considered the worst of the six films based on the original series. Perhaps the worst in the franchise overall. Certainly the film is deeply flawed, and perhaps even ill-conceived. But even as someone fairly new to Star Trek, I still found it enjoyable. It’s not worthy of being the franchise’s big-screen debut. But it has its merits. Mostly in the smaller, quieter moments between the characters we know and love from the show.

For more “Rob Watches Star Trek,” check out the archives.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

George Lucas on Star Wars: Chewbacca and the Ewoks

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Scene: To aid in their final defeat of the Empire, the Rebel Alliance finds unlikely help on Endor in the form of the diminutive, fuzzy, primitive ewoks.

George Lucas Says (Via From Star Wars to Jedi): “In the original screenplay [the ewoks were] a society of wookiees who had this giant ground battle with the Empire at the end of the film. And also a space battle. They were trained to fly ships, and they were able to take over the Empire. Well, in the evolution of the script I realized I couldn’t do this giant battle. When I came to the third film and the battle was back in again … I couldn’t use wookiees, because I’d established Chewbacca as being a relatively sophisticated creature. … He [wasn’t] the primitive that he was in the original screenplay. So I had to develop a new kind of wookiee or a new kind of creature that was primitive … [what I decided to do was] instead of making them incredibly tall the way wookiees are, I’d make them incredibly short. And at the same time to make them look different from the wookiees I’d give them short fur instead of long fur. That’s really where the ewok evolved.”

George Lucas Also Says (Via the Return of the Jedi Commentary Track): “It was a wookiee planet. Since I had fallen in love with the wookiees so much when I made Episode IV, I decided to make [Han Solo’s] co-pilot a wookiee, which meant that he was technologically advanced. And the whole concept originally was that the people that overthrew the Empire were not technological. So I had to reinvent a half-sized wookiee.”

I Say: “Before Jar Jar and the gungans became as despised as they are, we had Wicket and the ewoks in Return of the Jedi. I don’t hate either group the way a lot of fans do. I actually enjoy the ewoks quite a bit. But I do reject the notion that a society of wookiees couldn’t have worked in Jedi. I’m fairly certain that even back then, Chewbacca’s backstory was that of a slave, freed and taken in by Han Solo. Given enough time, you can teach technology to a primitive. Chewie could have been unique among his people, and thus been that much more distinct.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

George Lucas on Star Wars: The Cave Scene

***Think what you will about George Lucas, but in terms of Star Wars, it can all be traced back to him. That’s why I always find it so interesting to listen to him talk about it. His creative process, the reason certain decisions were made, and how these movies became pop cultural staples. This space is dedicated to just that. This is “George Lucas on Star Wars.”***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Scene: At Yoda’s behest, Luke walks into a cave. Inside, he’s confronted by Darth Vader. A fight ensues in which Luke beheads his opponent, only to discover his own face under Vader’s mask. It has all been an illusion.

George Lucas Says (via The Empire Strikes Back commentary track): “Part of the [cave scene] is learning about the Force, learning the fact that the Force is within you and at the same time you create your own bad vibes. So if you think badly about things, or you act badly, or you bring fear into a situation, you’re going to have to defend yourself, or you’re going to have to suffer the consequences of that. In this particular case, he takes his sword in with him, which means he’s going to have combat. … He is creating this situation in his mind, because on a larger level, what caused Darth Vader to become Darth Vader is the same thing that makes Luke bring that sword in with him. … [Luke] has the capacity to become Darth Vader, simply by using the hate, and fear, and using weapons, as opposed to using compassion, caring, and kindness.”

I Say: This is probably blasphemous to many, but those words from Lucas being to mind a line from The Phantom Menace: “Your focus determines your reality.” Lucas may suck at writing dialogue, but at least he’s consistent.

Something I’ve always been a little unsure of is Yoda’s relationship to the cave. On this same commentary track, Empire director Irvin Keshner says that Yoda is “setting it all up, what’s going to happen in the cave.” That always seemed to be the indication based on the cinematic language of this sequence. But if you listen to Lucas tell it, the cave seems to have mystical elements on its own, and Luke taps into them via his connection to the Force.

That idea is supported by other Star Wars creators as well, including Timothy Zahn in his Thrawn trilogy of books, and a recent Supreme Leader Snoke comic written by Tom Taylor.

I’m inclined to think this is a situation where everybody is right, and we just don’t know how all the dots are connected yet.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

George Lucas on Star Wars: Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn

***Think what you will about George Lucas, but in terms of Star Wars, it can all be traced back to him. That’s why I always find it so interesting to listen to him talk about it. His creative process, the reason certain decisions were made, and how these movies became pop cultural staples. This space is dedicated to just that. This is “George Lucas on Star Wars.”***

By Rob Siebert
Wisconsin Raider

The Scene: As Anakin Skywalker slaughters Tusken Raiders over the death of his mother, a meditating Yoda feels his pain and suffering. He also briefly hears Qui-Gon Jinn calling to the young padawan.

George Lucas Says (Via the Attack of the Clones Commentary Track): “… we cut to Yoda, who is meditating, who hears this off-screen, and we do hear a voice in there. That voice is the voice of Qui-Gon Jinn. So we very subtly establish … Yoda is feeling the pain and suffering of Anakin and the Tusken Raiders, [and] he’s also making a connection, unwittingly with Qui-Gon Jinn. Up to this point we haven’t really established that you can make a connection with the departed in this world. That will become a factor in [Episode III].”

I Say: If by factor he means “afterthought,” then  yes, it became a factor in Episode III.

This has always been one of the more frustrating aspects of Revenge of the Sith for me, as it would have done so much to justify Qui-Gon’s entire presence in The Phantom Menace. Plus, they just would have been cool scenes.

The novelizations of Episode II and III both touched on Yoda communicating with Qui-Gon. The latter even had a brief dialogue between the two. But somehow they didn’t make it into the films. So the whole “training I have for you” thing at the end of Sith seemed comically tacked on.

Even The Rise of Skywalker got this one right, with Rey hearing the voices of all the Jedi at the end. It’s not like it was an entirely separate plot thread or anything. It would have taken maybe five to 10 seconds in Clones, and maybe a minute in Sith. All you need is a few lines of audio from Liam Neeson.

All to establish that Yoda has not gone bonkers when he tells Obi-Wan to talk to his dead master.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

The Rise of Skywalker Novelization Review – Kylo Ren and Misc. Edition

***I just recently finished the Rise of Skywalker novelization by Rae Carson. Naturally, as the “Expanded Edition,” it’s intended to supplement the events of the film and hopefully fill some of those gaping plotholes. Naturally as a Star Wars geek, I’ve got opinions. Too many to fit into a single review. Thus, welcome to the fourth and final of my multi-part Rise of Skywalker novelization review!***

By Rob Siebert
Holds the Holocron of Useless Knowledge

1. Hux Hated Kylo Ren’s Hair
Obviously Armitage Hux despised Kylo Ren. They were at odds since we first saw them in The Force Awakens. Eventually Hux would betray everything he stood for to make sure Kylo Ren was defeated. He hated him for a great many reasons…

But his hair?

There’s a line early in the book about Hux not liking Kylo Ren’s hair because it wasn’t regulation. True, obviously. Perhaps a nice little reminder of just how deep Hux’s hatred ran. But what a weird thing to mention in a Star Wars novel. Not bad. Just weird.

2. The Interrogation of Chewbacca
This has gotten plenty of press. So I won’t go on too long about it. But yes, for some bizarre, inexplicable reason this scene was cut from the film. A scene where Kylo Ren gets to interrogate his “Uncle Chewie.”

To her credit, Carson writes it very well. Complete with quick flashes to Ben Solo’s childhood. I’m not sure if they filmed it or not. But at least we get to see it here.

3. Threepio in Chewie’s gear
There was a promotional image floating around for this movie that absolutely terrified me. On numerous posters, there was an image of Threepio wearing Chewbacca’s gear and carrying his bowcaster. Naturally this sparked a lot of questions, not the least asked was, “What the hell is happening with Threepio in this movie?” We’d seen the shot of him with the red eyes, and now this? Were they turning this robotic British butler into a war machine? *cue the AC/DC song*

But, to quote Eric Bichoff, “Context is King.” During the mission to rescue Chewbacca aboard Kylo Ren’s ship, there’s a scene where Rey thrusts all of the Wookie’s things into Threepio’s arms. When we next see the droid, he’s wearing Chewie’s bandolier (THAT’s what that thing is called…) and satchel, and carrying his bowcaster. He’s not using them. He’s simply wearing them for comedic effect.

Thank God. C3PO’s an interpreter, not a fighter.

I’m assuming one of two things happened here, and both of them take place in a marketing meeting. One possibility? Some oblivious executive saw that shot of Threepio with weapons and said, “Hey, that looks kinda cool. Let’s use it.”

On the other hand, it could have been someone completely in the know, who saw that image and said, “That’ll drive the fans crazy and drum up all sorts of speculation. Let’s use it.”

Ignorance or intelligence? It’s a question we find ourselves asking far too often in more than one walk of life…

4. Poe Dameron is a secret asshole.
I’ve grown to dislike the Poe Dameron character. Hindsight being 20/20, he should have died in The Force Awakens. But that’s another story for another time. (Literally. I’m going to write something that breaks that down.)

He didn’t do himself any favors in my eyes by treating C-3PO the way he did in The Rise of Skywalker. I get the sense they were trying to establish a dynamic like the one Threepio had with Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back. The problem with that is that while they’re quite alike at face value, we actually like Han Solo. He’s a charming, snarky rogue. Poe Dameron is not charming. He’s childishly impulsive and got a lot of people killed in The Last Jedi.

That’s not to say Threepio should be revered or considered a relic. But Carson establishes that Leia has told Rey about the droid’s long history. This is the third war he’s been in over the course of 50 years. If Leia told Rey, you’ve got to believe she told Poe at some point.

The final nail in the coffin is that in Empire we liked Threepio. So we forgave his endless whining and nagging. By the time we get to The Rise of Skywalker, ol’ Goldenrod has been with us for nine movies. More than that if you count the Clone Wars cartoon. So while he shouldn’t be revered in-universe, he’s very much revered by us. So picking on him excessively just makes Poe look mean.

5. Wicket W. Warrick
The Rise of Skywalker desperately wants to be Return of the Jedi. Thus, we have a cameo from Wicket. It’s implied in the movie that the little guy next to him is his son. The novel confirms that is indeed the case. Wicket has a son named Pommet. (Pommet Warrick?)

Until I saw the movie a second time, I’d forgotten they borrowed from Jedi (the special edition at least) yet again by cutting to various planets we’ve been to throughout the saga. In that context, the Wicket cameo makes much more sense.

While the novel only takes us to Endor, the movie shows us Bespin and Jakku as well. They probably went with Bespin because of Lando being in the movie. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have opted for Naboo or Coruscant, though. Heck, maybe even Canto Bight.

6. Who Came to the Rescue
While the novel doesn’t reveal the identities of the Jedi that Rey hears, it does tell us who responded to Lando’s distress call. Or at least the names we know…

– The Mon Calamari fleet, who we saw in the Allegiances comic from Marvel.
– Phantom Squadron. If I’m not mistaken, this is a reference to the old Star Wars: Legacy book Dark Horse did. It took place 130 years after the Battle of Yavin.
– The Ghost, the main ship from Rebels. Hera is likely aboard.
Alphabet Two, a callback to the Alphabet Squadron books by Alexander Freed. The first one is sitting on my nightstand. I couldn’t get into it, but am going to try the audiobook.
– Zay Versio, daughter of Iden Versio, the main character from Battlefront II.
– Kazuda Xiono, the main character from the Resistance cartoon.

I’ve also heard some buzz about Dash Rendar being among the rescuers. His ship, the Outrider, definitely appears in the movie.

7. All You Need is Love
When you get right down to it, this the main reason the book is better than the movie: It gives valuable context to Leia’s sacrifice.

When she reaches out to Ben with the Force, the former Kylo Ren realizes his mother has forgiven him. That she has continued to love him despite his turn to the dark side.

Snoke lied and manipulated him for years, convincing him that his family never cared about him. Just the New Republic. Later, the Resistance.

But Leia’s sacrifice changes all that. Kylo Ren dies when Ben Solo sees that he is loved. By both his mother and his father. Cue the Harrison Ford appearance.) I can’t even begin to say how important these details are. It explains how Han and Leia’s son turned to the dark side, broke up their family, and set about conquering the galaxy with the First Order.

More importantly, it makes sense. Imagine being the only son of two war heroes, one of whom was one of the leaders of the original Rebel Alliance. Imagine being the only Force-sensitive descendant of the Skywalker bloodline. Your uncle is Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi and the one tasked with reviving the order. Your grandmother was a beloved queen and senator, and ultimately one of the founders of the Alliance.

Your grandfather was a Jedi, a hero of the Clone Wars, and in the end the one who brought down the entire Jedi Order and bent the galaxy to the Empire’s will.

Ben Solo thought his parents saw him as a tool. A means to an end. Not a son. But something to strengthen their New Republic, their cause. This could explain part of why he was so interested in Rey. Originally, it was because of her strength in the Force. But in The Last Jedi he learned that she cared about him. The way his family supposedly never had.

But of course, they loved him all along. Had these details been explored in The Rise of Skywalker, or even better, in The Last Jedi, it would have effected the entire sequel trilogy for the better.

Anakin Skywalker’s journey was about not being able to save the people he loved and winding up alone.

Ben Solo’s journey was about identifying with Darth Vader’s loneliness to the point of idolization, only to realize he was never alone at all.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

The Rise of Skywalker Novelization Review – Leia Edition

***I just recently finished the Rise of Skywalker novelization. Naturally, as the “Expanded Edition,” it’s intended to supplement the events of the film and hopefully fill some of those gaping plotholes. Naturally as a Star Wars geek, I’ve got opinions. Too many to fit into a single review. Thus, welcome to the second of my multi-part Rise of Skywalker novelization review!***

By Rob Siebert
Would not be called “General Rob”

1. “General Leia”
When The Force Awakens came out, I understand why she was marketed as “General Leia.” The world had known her as Princess Leia for almost 40 years. Calling her General Organa, or even General Leia Organa, might be confusing for some. I don’t think the name Organa is said at any point in the original trilogy.

In the movies they did the right thing. She wasn’t General Leia. She was General Organa. Or just Leia. But in the Rise novelization she’s called “General Leia” a handful of times. It’s off-putting. Consider this: In Return of the Jedi we didn’t have General Han or General Lando. It was General Solo and General Calrissian.

So let’s get this down once and for all: In licensing meetings she can be General Leia. But in-story? She’s General Organa.

2. Luke Was Speaking to Leia From Beyond.
As the story begins, Leia knows she’s dying. Thanks in no small part to getting blown into space during The Last Jedi. She knew she had to maximize the time she had left. What’s more, she had a persistent voice telling her that her time to go was now.

Between helping Rey and bugging Leia, Luke was a busy Force Ghost.

Their first exchange in the book is simply…
“Leia. It’s time.”
“Not just yet.”

Brother later told sister, “There is only one thing left. Then you can rest.”

Finally, when Leia sacrificed herself reaching out to Ben and passes into the Force, she feels “a surge of welcome from Luke, who was not alone…”

I’d like to think he’s not talking about all the other Jedi we hear from later. Though that would mean she’d get to see her father, and even Obi-Wan Kenobi. To yours truly, the ideal vision is Anakin, Padme, Luke, Leia, and Han. The Skywalker family reunited in full. Sticklers will tell us that neither Padme nor Han could have preserved their consciousness in the Force.

But it’s intentionally left vague. I imagine there’s a reason for that.

3. Leia’s Jedi Training
With Luke gone, Leia was the only one left who could offer Rey anything remotely resembling Jedi training. She wasn’t a Jedi herself. But as we’d later learn, she was very much a qualified teacher.

The novel delightfully yet briefly touches on Luke’s training of Leia. Nothing too extensive. But we learn that her training, or at least much of it, took place on Ajan Kloss, the planet the Resistance is based on when the story begins. Luke would often compare Leia’s training to his with Yoda. Thus, he tended to refer to Ajan Kloss as “nice Dagobah.”

Certain things came naturally to Leia. Not long after the Battle of Endor, Luke tried to teach Leia a lesson in patience by having her stand on her head for a long period of time. Much like he did with Yoda. In response to taunts he threw her way, she used the Force floated up and on to her feet. “You’re going to make me a better teacher,” Luke said.

4. The Tantive IV
Remember the first ship we see in the original Star Wars? The blockade runner that gets captured by the Star Destroyer? Yeah, apparently that’s not only still functioning 34 years later, but it’s in this damn story. It’s even in the big space battle at the end. It goes down, though. Among the casualties aboard are Nien Nunb, Lando’s co-pilot from Return of the Jedi.

This movie and it’s original trilogy collectibles. Honestly.

5. “Leia Was Stronger Than All of Us”
Luke says that to Rey during their scene on Ach-To.

This book practically worships Leia. Which I’m actually okay with. Not because of Carrie Fisher’s death, though that does make it more poignant. It’s because in the end, Leia was the strongest person in the saga. There’s actually a line in the book

Rian Johnson touched on this in the commentary track for The Last Jedi. Over the course of her life, Leia…

– Was taken from her birth parents.
– Lost her adoptive parents when her world exploded, as she was forced to stand by and watch.
– Discovered her father was Darth Vader, who was the one to hold her in place and make her watch aforementioned explosion.
– Lost her son to the dark side, just as Vader had been lost to it.
– Lost her husband when he was murdered by aforementioned son.
– Lost her brother when he sacrificed himself to save the Resistance.
– Endured the death of so many friends. In the sequel trilogy she also lost Holdo, who’d been a childhood friend, and Admiral Ackbar, whom she’d known since the days of the Rebellion.

And yet, when the galaxy needed her to fight, she kept on fighting.

Turns out Leia, like Carrie Fisher, was as tough as they come.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

The Rise of Skywalker Novelization Review – Palpatine Edition

***I just recently finished the Rise of Skywalker novelization. Naturally, as the “Expanded Edition,” it’s intended to supplement the events of the film and hopefully fill some of those gaping plotholes. Naturally as a Star Wars geek, I’ve got opinions. Too many to fit into a single review. Thus, welcome to the first of my multi-part Rise of Skywalker novelization review!***

By Rob Siebert
Has a LOT of free time during quarantine.

1. After the Big Boom
The book confirms something that a lot of fans already suspected: The Palpatine we saw in The Rise of Skywalker was indeed a clone. Or rather, the real Palpatine’s consciousness in a clone’s body.

There are more than a few Darth Plagueis references in the novel, which is a nice touch. Having learned from his old master how to cheat death, the Emperor began working on his contingency plan when he sensed the conflict in Darth Vader.

Palpatine’s consciousness left his body as he fell toward the Death Star core in Return of the Jedi. It traveled “far, far away to a secret place he had been preparing.” I can only assume that secret place was Exegol. But his new body wasn’t fully prepared, and his various Sith heretics rushed to sustain him. Obviously they never fully succeeded, as he would eventually plan to take Rey’s body as his own.

I know some fans thought Palpatine’s survival essentially negated the end of Return of the Jedi. I never really got that logic. Darth Vader was redeemed, the Empire was dealt a fatal blow, and the galaxy had three decades of peace. Not a bad deal as far as I’m concerned.

2. “They turned our kids into our enemies.”
Since The Force Awakens, one concept that’s both fascinated and frustrated me is the formation of the First Order. How they came together, what they want, how they’re different from the Empire, etc.

Lando has a few lines in this book that I really wish they’d put in the movie. During the scene on Pasaana where he tells Rey and the others he’s not coming back with them, he says…

“First Order went after us – the leaders from the old wars. They took our kids. … My girl wasn’t even old enough to walk. Far as I know, she’s a stormtrooper now. … They turned our kids into our enemies. My girl. Han and Leia’s son, Ben. To kill the spirit of the Rebellion for good.”

When you take into account Palpatine was been behind the First Order from the start, and that he’s essentially the most patient villain in pop culture history, that makes all the sense in the world. What better way to not only take the galaxy back, but to exact revenge on the heroes of the Rebellion than by targeting the next generation? You turn Han and Leia’s son into your unwitting apprentice, and you get Lando’s daughter as a bonus. The movie never even indicated that Lando had a daughter…

To an extent, the whole “They took our kids” thing applies to Luke as well. Remember, all his students ended up dead. All of them.

Ultimately, Palpatine’s plan worked, didn’t it? Han and Leia’s family imploded, Luke went into exile, and Lando ran away from it all.

3. Stormtroopers and Sith Troopers
The book tells us that the Sith Troopers, a.k.a. the red stormtroopers, were pulled from the regular stormtrooper roster, and designated lost in action somehow.

While the novel never indicates this explicitly, I think putting Palpatine in charge of the First Order adds a nice little irony to the stormtroopers being taken as children and forced into training. Because, to an extent, that’s exactly what the Jedi did.

Granted, you can make that argument without Palpatine. But it’s much more poignant with him.

4. You Have One Unheard Message
The first paragraph of the opening title crawl tells us “The galaxy has heard a mysterious  broadcast, a threat of REVENGE in the sinister voice of the late EMPEROR PALPATINE.”

Gotcha. But what did he say exactly? We never hear it in the movie.

Thankfully, the book fills us in…

“At last the work of generations is complete. The great error is corrected. The day of victory is at hand. The day of revenge. The day of the Sith.”

5. More From Dark Empire
While I’m about to talk about this book yet again in relation to The Rise of Skywalker, it must be said that Dark Empire is one of the most atrociously colored books I’ve ever seen. Obviously it was a style choice. But hindsight being 20/20, a different choice would have been better.

This isn’t so much about the novelization as the story itself. In Dark Empire, Palpatine comes back in a clone body and has a fleet of “World Devastators” at his disposal. In the end, he’s defeated by Luke and Leia as they draw strength from words spoken by Yoda as he trained Luke.

Would Star Destroyers with attached Death Star lasers count as “World Devastators?” Asking for a friend…

I’m not trying to make any sort of salacious allusions here. I just find it amazing how prophetic this story from 1995 would turn out to be in terms of a movie that would come out 25 years later. And feature a much older Luke and Leia.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

TMNT: The Movie at 30: Fan Film Inspiration

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

In my experience, fan films are very hit or miss. And as far as Ninja Turtle fan films go, it’s almost always a miss. The reason is very simple: A fan film simply doesn’t have the budget to create Turtle costumes that suspend disbelief. It’s primarily a lip sync issue. Hell, in a lot of them the mouths don’t move at all.

But two TMNT fan films have won me over with sheer nostalgic charm, thanks to a connection with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie.

The first, and I’d argue most impressive, is Casey Jones. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, it’s clearly intended to be a prequel to the 1990 movie. The filmmakers are clearly going for similar lighting. The lead actor looks ike Elias Koteas (who played Casey in the movie). But the ultimate cherry on top? Robbie Rist, who voiced Michelangelo in all three original films, reprises his role here. And he’s obviously older, he does a fine job recapturing that Mikey magic.

My one big critique? I wouldn’t have put April in the yellow jumpsuit. Yes, we all love the old cartoon. But that’s clearly not the vibe you’re going for here.

Up next is Back in the Shell, which was to be a TMNT live action fan series. The idea is awesome, of course. To their credit, these folks at Prop Shop Garage make some of the most incredible Turtle costumes I’ve ever seen. I even gave them a little press when I first caught wind of it. The influence from the 1990 film is as plain as green on a Turtle. Sadly, the series never got off the ground. But we did get this awesome trailer…

I should add that I was originally going to spotlight a third project here. It came out around the same time as the first Michael Bay TMNT film. It saw Raphael, played by his movie voice actor Josh Pais, interrogating “Megan Fox” about what the new movie would be like.

But apparently, much like the Turtles themselves the film struck hard and faded away…without a trace.

Email Rob at at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

TMNT: The Movie at 30: The Alternate Ending

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As those of us who fell in love with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie as kids have grown into geeky adults, more and more curiosity has generated regarding unused content from the film, or scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor.

For instance, cut footage exists of a scene where Shredder fights off the street punks that got caught after mugging April. And he does it while sitting down.

Other bits and pieces supposedly exist. But what you see below is, to my knowledge, the closest thing we have to an actual deleted scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie. This was to have been an alternate ending, in which April and Danny pitch their story to a comic book publisher while the Turtles look on…

While this is a cool thing to see all these years later, I think it goes without saying we were better off without it in the actual film.

Robbie Rist provided the voice for Michelangelo in the movie. Obviously that’s not him at the end. Would have been cool, but I can’t bring myself to complain about something like this.

Astoundingly, we’ve never gotten any kind of deluxe edition of the film in the United States. But for some odd reason, the German release of the movie contains not only this scene and some alternate takes, but commentary by director Steve Barron.

Totally bogus, dude.

Email Rob at at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

TMNT: The Movie at 30: Original Trailer

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

If you’d have told me in say, February, that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie was about to turn 30, I’d never have believed it.

But after “social distancing” at home for a mere week and change, I absolutely believe it. Heck, I’d believe ya if you told me it was 50.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is 30 years old as of yesterday. If you’re a child of the ’80s, this is one of the movies that shaped your childhood.

But it’s more than just a great nostalgia movie, or even a great comic book movie. It’s a great movie. Period. It’s about more than martial artists in turtle costumes. At its core, it’s about family. The family you’re born with, and the family you choose.

So as we celebrate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie this week, I invite you to take a look at the film’s original trailer…

Obviously, much was unfinished when this trailer hit screens. Most notably the voiceover work. But thanks to the magic of internet geeks and YouTube, we can now watch a “remastered” version of the trailer with the correct accompanying voice work.

God I love this movie.

Email Rob at at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.