Alex Ross Spotlight: Star Wars and Star Trek Collide

By Rob Siebert
Space Pacifist…who just happens to be right.

Happy May the 4th, everybody!

As a kid, I never understood the whole Star Wars vs. Star Trek thing. Mind you, I’d never seen Star Trek. But I understood how the two universes were different. It’s apples and oranges.

Star Trek, when it’s done right, is designed to ask us questions. Most good science fiction is. Ideally, you’re supposed to come away asking questions about yourself and your world, i.e. “Who are we as a people, really?”, “What would you do in this situation?”, etc.

Star Wars on the other hand, is more about the thrill of the adventure. Yes, all that stuff that’s been written about George Lucas, Joseph Campbell, and the hero’s journey are true. And I love all of it. But at the end of the day, we want to be along for the ride.

But as I got older, it started to make a little more sense. For my money it’s not about pitting the two franchises against each other. It’s about how you like your science fiction. Are you an intellectual or an adventurer? Both worlds have a certain amount of each, but there’s nothing at all wrong with leaning in one direction over another.

This is all a really long-winded introduction to this painting by Alex Ross.

Ross has depicted the two worlds separately (shown above). But obviously this is his first time mixing them. I admit, I have no idea why this piece exists. But I ain’t complaining.

Note that the Enterprise crew members have beamed in alongside the rebels. Han Solo isn’t pointing a blaster at Spock, and Obi-Wan Kenobi isn’t swinging a lightsaber at Kirk. All our heroes are standing together against evil.

That says it all, right there.

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

Astonishing Art: Karen Hallion’s He/She Series

By Rob Siebert
Has great taste in art. Just sayin’.

Every year during C2E2, Mrs. Primary Ignition and I make sure to drop by Karen Hallion’s table over in Artist’s Alley. The wife is a big fan of hers, so naturally I became one too.

As far as that tradition is concerned, this was a pretty special year for us. We purchased a pair of very special prints that I’m happy to say are currently hanging in our living room.

The above two selections are from Hallion’s “She Series” and “He Series” respectively. The premise is fairly simple: Hallion draws profile shots of inspiring people, role models, etc. Next to them she places a verb associated with that individual. “Lead” next to Harriet Tubman, “Care” next to Fred Rogers, etc.

If I’m not mistaken, this concept started with Hallion using powerful female fictional characters, such as Disney princesses and Marvel superheroes. For my money, the concept is much more powerful with real-life heroes and role models.

As a new father, it warms my heart to see these every day. Because naturally, one day my daughter will ask who these people are. And we’ll be able to tell her about some of the best minds, hearts, and souls to ever grace humanity.

For more from Karen Hallion, check out her web site or her Etsy shop. She can also be found on Instagram.

Hallion also has a children’s book coming out called Never, Never Quit, which was funded via Kickstarter. It can be pre-ordered here.

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

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: 10 Lingering Questions

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I might have been the last die-hard Star Wars geek to see The Rise of Skywalker. Such things are the case when you’ve got a six-month-old. You can’t very well bring an infant with you to a movie with this many pew-pews and explosions. Although you just know that somebody, somewhere, totally did.

At this juncture, a traditional review is essentially pointless. So I thought I’d try something a little different, and just ask some questions. Some you’ve probably heard by now. But certain others, perhaps not…

In case it needs to be said at this point, ***SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!***

1. Why so much?
The most common complaint I’ve heard about The Rise of Skywalker is how overstuffed it is. It seemed like J.J. Abrams and his co-writer Chris Terrio were trying to make up for lost time, i.e. The Last Jedi. They had to straighten everything out with Palpatine, Snoke, Kylo Ren, the Sith, etc. We had to send our heroes on a bunch of different quests, then deal with Rey’s parentage, have Leia die, and then have the biggest space battle ever you guyz.

As such, the pacing is way too fast. We barely have time to digest anything. You can call that a non-stop, rip roarin’ action adventure if you like. But those quieter character moments are every bit as important, if not more. Rey and Kylo had their share. C-3PO did too. But we didn’t have time for anyone else.

My question is, why overstuff it so much? For instance, going to the planets Kijmi and Pasana. For me, the most interesting planet in this movie was Kijmi, where we met Kerri Russell’s character. Why not just have Rey and the others take the Falcon straight there, find out where the Sith McGuffin thing is, and skip Pasana all together? Did we really need yet another desert planet in the Star Wars universe? They could have found Lando, done the TIE Fighter stunt, and faked Chewie’s death just as easily on Kijmi, and it would have saved us some time.

2. Has Disney learned its lesson about planning this stuff out in advance?
It’s amazing to me that the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with its dozens of movies featuring different characters and settings, exists under the same umbrella as this new Star Wars trilogy, which couldn’t stay consistent through three consecutive films.

We learned from The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson that by the time he signed on, the Disney/Lucasfilm brain trust hadn’t figured anything out beyond The Force Awakens. To this day, that’s staggering to me. They had access to Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Not to mention George Lucas himself. And yet they couldn’t be bothered to at least come up with some basic bullet points? If you need to change course at some point, then do so. But at least draw a friggin’ map before you start the trip…

3. Was Chewie really that upset over the whole medal thing? Both The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker go out of their way to “fix” something with Chewbacca.

In The Force Awakens, fans called foul when, upon their return from Starkiller Base, Rey got a hug from Leia, while Chewie seemingly walked by unnoticed. Remember, Han Solo, Leia’s former husband and Chewie’s BFF, had just been killed. By his own son no less. So in The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson had Leia exclaim, “Chewie!” and then give him a big hug. A cute little wink. Harmless.

Since the original film, it’s been a running joke that while Luke and Han got medals for destroying the Death Star, Chewie was left empty-handed. Kind of funny, but again, harmless.

And yet in this movie, after the battle is won, Maz Kanata gives our fuzzy friend one of those Death Star medals. (Presumably Han’s?) I get the gesture. But in a movie that’s already so long…why? After more than three decades, was Chewie still sore that he didn’t get a trinket? It’s not like they made him sit in the audience. He was standing up there with them! He ain’t easy to miss, either.

Also, where does Maz Kanata get her original trilogy collectibles? We never did find out how she got her hands on Luke’s lightsaber…

4. Is there a “cutesy character quota” in every Star Wars project now?
Everybody seemed to like Babu Frik, the little puppet who worked on C-3PO. With a fanbase as divisive as this one can be, something universally praised is a pretty big deal.

Between Babu Frik and Baby Yoda in The Mandalorian, I’m starting to wonder if there’s going to be a “cutesy character quota” every Star Wars project has to meet from here on out.

“Well Mr. Feige, I like what you’ve turned in here. But let me ask you this: How would you feel about adding a baby Ewok?”

5. What’s the deal with Palpatine’s body?
I don’t have an issue with them bringing Palpatine back. They shouldn’t have needed to, but that’s another story. If the Jedi can come back as “Force Ghosts,” then there’s no reason Palpatine couldn’t have used some kind of Sith alchemy to preserve himself after death. It fits with all that talk about cheating death in Revenge of the Sith.

And yes, there is a comic book that uses a similar concept with Palpatine transferring his consciousness into different bodies. Dark Empire, circa 1992. There’s even a similar line that we hear in The Rise of Skywalker about how, “It was not the first time I died…Nor will it be the last.” (Shown above.)

However, the movie doesn’t get into specifics about what exactly is going on with Palpatine. Is it a cloning thing? Is that somehow his original body? I’m hoping the novelization clears up the specifics of what exactly it is.

6. Really? Palpatine’s entire throne room survived the second Death Star explosion?
Because this movie, like the prequels, relies way too heavily on original trilogy nostalgia, Rey and Kylo Ren wind up fighting inside the remains of the second Death Star, which crashed on Endor. Including the Emperor’s throne room.

Point blank: This was stupid. Not just that we had to go back to Endor, but that so much of the second Death Star survived at all, much less the Emperor’s damn chair. We were going to see Palpatine later on anyway. There was no reason to have it in there other than a lazy play at nostalgia. Ditto for when Wicket made that cameo for no real reason.

To quote Luke, “That was a cheap move.”

7. Couldn’t R2-D2 have gotten in on the fun? Artoo has never been a main character. But he always had a prominent supporting role in both the original and prequel trilogies. George Lucas had a soft spot for him. He could be an unlikely hero, while also providing some comic relief.

But in this sequel trilogy, Artoo really only serves one purpose: Plot convenience. In The Force Awakens, he completes the map to Luke. In The Last Jedi, he convinces Luke to talk to Rey about the Jedi. In The Rise of Skywalker, he’s there to restore Threepio’s memories. Yes, he flies in Poe’s X-Wing during the end battle. But that’s supposed to be BB-8’s job, isn’t it? What’s more, it really should have been Artoo at the Lars Homestead with Rey. Assuming she’s setting up her own little Jedi Academy there, he’d be a great source of information, having spent all those years with Anakin and Luke. Instead, she brings BB-8.

It is indeed BB-8 we have to thank for Artoo sitting on the sidelines like this. I like the little guy and all, but he essentially took Artoo’s job as the resident hero droid. With BB-8 around, Artoo had nothing to do. That’s a damn shame. As one of the more iconic Star Wars characters, he deserved better.

8. What was with all the dead Jedi voices Rey heard?
Yes, the prequels turned out pretty rough. Even so, hearing the voices of Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), and yes, even Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker) during Rey’s big crowning moment was awesome. Like much of the film, it was hard to digest it all. But apparently, in addition to Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, we also heard TV characters like Ahsoka Tano and Kanan Jarrus.

But while I loved it, I have to ask…how?

In the prequels, the first one to learn how to retain your consciousness in the Force, i.e. become a Force Ghost, was Qui-Gon. In the years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, a spectral Qui-Gon taught both Yoda and Obi-Wan how to do it. I think it’s fair to assume Luke learned how to do it at some point after the fall of the Empire. But what’s the story with everybody else? Presumably, none of those other characters had the chance to learn that ability.

And as long as we’re on the subject, how did Anakin appear as a Force Ghost in Return of the Jedi? It was less than a day after he died!

The only explanation I can come up with is that Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and the others are somehow able to reach out to whatever spectral trace remains of their fallen comrades, and allow them to briefly speak. Or in certain special cases, even grant them the ability in the moments after their death, i.e. Anakin in Jedi. Given this is the Star Wars Universe we’re talking about, it’s about as plausible as anything else…

Would this whole trilogy have been better if Poe had died in the The Force Awakens?
According to a documentary among the special features on The Force Awakens Blu-ray, the Poe Dameron character was originally supposed to be killed off. I can only assume it would have been in the TIE Fighter crash on Jakku. But Oscar Isaac had been killed off early in some other movies, and didn’t want to do that again. The filmmakers obliged.

So, if I’m understanding this correctly, the only reason Poe made it through the movie is because Oscar Isaac would have declined the role otherwise? Um…what? He’s a great actor, but did Star Wars really need Oscar Issac that badly? If he wasn’t up for the role, I’ve got a hunch there might have been other actors willing to step in. I mean, y’know, maybe a few?

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? What could The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker have been like if they hadn’t had to balance Poe’s plotlines along with everyone else’s? Imagine how much more time they could have devoted to Finn’s development. We could have skipped all that Canto Bight stuff, and maybe had Finn be the one in conflict with Holdo. They might not have felt the need to cram so much stuff in. We could have gotten a little more breathing room…

10. What happens now?
The interesting thing about The Rise of Skywalker compared to both Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith, is that despite being the final chapter of the trilogy, there’s so much more meat on the bone from a storytelling perspective.

Just off the top of my head…

– Rey attempting to succeed where Luke failed, starting her own low key Jedi Academy based out of the Lars Homestead on Tatooine. She’s now in a position to redefine what it means to be a Jedi. There’s probably two or three movies worth of content there alone. Especially if Finn is Force sensitive, as the film seemed to suggest. Maybe weave in a potential romance between the two? That obviously contrasts with the old Jedi ways.

– Assuming the 82-year-old Billy Dee Williams is willing and able to do it, a follow-up on the question of Jannah’s lineage, and whether Lando is her father. Bring Threepio and Artoo along. Why the hell not?

– What happens with the government now? Is the New Republic gone? Do they have to start from scratch? If so, how? Almost everybody died when Starkiller Base blew up the Hosnian system. Maybe look at it from Poe’s perspective? As one of the de-facto leaders of the Resistance, he’d undoubtedly get looped into things. Finn too.

– After Order 66, Darth Vader, the Inquisitors, and the Empire at large hunted and killed the surviving Jedi. The Resistance can do the same thing here with surviving Palpatine loyalists and First Order figureheads. Is the First Order even completely gone?

Granted, much of this depends on whether they can get the actors back. Neither Daisy Ridley or John Boyega seem anxious to come back. I can’t imagine Oscar Isaac is, either.

In the end, I think the reason there’s so much uncharted territory here is because, sadly, there’ve been so many missed storytelling opportunities with these new movies. I didn’t necessarily dislike The Rise of Skywalker. I didn’t totally hate The Last Jedi either.

But by the Force, imagine what those movies could have been…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Weekly Comic 100s: Star Wars Stuff, Batman/Superman,

*”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Nothing too in-depth here. Just straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Tacked an extra one down on the end here. The most recent issue of Superman. But of course, in the spirit of the Rise of Skywalker hype, we begin with Allegiance

TITLE: Star Wars: Allegiance #3
AUTHOR: Ethan Sacks
ARTISTS:
Luke Ross, Lee Loughridge (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Marco Checchetto.
RELEASED:
October 23, 2019

Leia, Rey, and some of the Resistance are still on Mon Cala in this issue. Because it’s largely an underwater planet, Leia has to wear the equivalent of a scuba suit. Imagining an older Carrie Fisher in an outfit like that is…weird.

The “B story” in Allegiance has been about Finn, Poe, and BB-8 stealing weapons for the Resistance. Sacks writes their chemistry very well. Well enough, in fact, that I felt a pang of sadness that they didn’t end up being romantically involved. Yeah, I was on that team.

No Kylo Ren in this issue. Bummer.

TITLE: Star Wars #73
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Phil Noto, Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 16, 2019

This volume of Star Wars is going out strong as we head toward its issue #75 finale. Greg Pak knows how to weave the multi-strand rip-roaring adventure, as all of our main heroes fight for their lives.

But for yours truly, the star of this “Rebels and Rogues” storyline has been Phil Noto. He’s been one of my favorite Star Wars artists dating back to the build-up to The Force Awakens. His “sketchy” style is a lot of fun, and he nails all the likenesses. As far as I’m concerned, he’s welcome in this galaxy any time.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #3
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: David Marquez, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 23, 2019

Unlike many, I’m not really into the Batman Who Laughs, or much of the Metal stuff. But the premise of that character “infecting” six characters across the DCU, and our two heroes having to solve the mystery of who they are was enough to draw me in.

But the way Williamson has executed it thus far, it’s not so much a mystery as it is them happening upon each victim. It’s still a cool idea. I just wish they’d dig a little deeper into it. On the upside, it’s great to see Marquez drawing the World’s Finest.

TITLE: Action Comics #1016
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Szymon Kudranski, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED: October 23, 2019

I absolutely adore the framing device for this issue. A Daily Planet reporter does man-on-the-street interviews to recap a fight between Superman and the Red Cloud. Bendis is as good as almost anyone at playing up the journalism element in Superman’s world.

A Szymon Kudranski comic that’s this colorful takes some getting used to. There’s nothing wrong with it. But his M.O. is typically on the dark and gritty side. Type his name into Google Images. You’ll see what I mean.

TITLE: Superman #16
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS:
David LaFuente, Paul Mounts (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Ivan Reis.
RELEASED:
October 9, 2019

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Superman look quite so…blocky. I know LaFuente’s style is more on the cartoonish side, and generally I like what he turns in. But the Superman we see here looks more like a Superman action figure than the Man of Steel himself.

This issue gives us the inevitable reunion between Superboy and Robin after Jon Kent’s trip into space, which aged him a few years older than Damian. Bendis gives us what you’d hope to see here. The initial awkwardness, some hijinks and a feel-good exit. A strong issue, blockiness notwithstanding.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Rian Johnson on The Last Jedi: Leia in Space

***Lots of people have lots of opinions about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. You have one. I have one. But you know whose opinion I want to hear? Rian Johnson’s. He wrote it. He directed it. Now let’s hear what he has to say about it. That’s what this space is for. This is “Rian Johnson on The Last Jedi.“***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Scene: Moments after being blown into the vacuum of space, Leia, seemingly by instinct, uses the Force to drift toward the safety of a nearby Resistance ship.

Rian Johnson Says (Via The Last Jedi Commentary Track): “This was something that Kathy Kennedy would bring up. The notion that Leia is a Skywalker as well, and she’s got that same heritage. There’s a line in [Return of the Jedi] where Luke says ‘you’ve got these powers too.’ We never see them manifest. And the notion that in a moment like this, when it seems like all is lost, and she just realizes she’s not done yet. … Almost like you hear about parents when their kids are caught under cars being able to get Hulk strength and lift them up. That’s kind of what I wanted this moment to be with her using the Force kind of for the first time in these movies to pull herself back and say, ‘No. We’re not done. This is not ending here.'”

I Say: I distinctly remember my jaw hitting the floor when that ship blew up, and seeing Leia violently jerked into the vacuum of space. Keep in mind, when The Last Jedi came out Carrie Fisher had been gone just shy of a year. So the notion of the Leia character being killed off so abruptly was jarring, to say the least.

I didn’t have as big a problem with this as other people did. But I can definitely see where the criticism comes from. There’s definitely an unintentional silliness to it. And yes, the idea that even as a Skywalker, an untrained Leia can use a Force in such a drastic way does push at the boundaries of believably. In a Star Wars movie, that’s certainly saying something.

One of the missed opportunities with this new trilogy is that we never learned why Leia didn’t become a Jedi herself. In the old expanded universe novels, now under the “Legends” banner, she more or less decided it wasn’t her path. Obviously, something like that has happened here as well. But why? We’ve never even gotten a throw-away line or a reference to it. Some closure on that would be nice at some point.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review – The Burden of Expectations

TITLE: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
STARRING: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega
DIRECTOR: Rian Johnson
STUDIOS: Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm Ltd
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME: 152 min
RELEASED: December 15, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I had to sleep on this one. That’s partially why I waited a week before releasing my review. When I came out of The Last Jedi, I wasn’t sure what to think. That wasn’t the reaction I expected. When I walked out of The Force Awakens, I knew I loved it. When I left Rogue One, I knew I hated it. This one was in a weird “What did I just see?” zone.

In hindsight, the mountains of advance praise heaped on The Last Jedi harmed it in a way few seemed to anticipate. Not just praise from critics mind you, but from Disney themselves when they put director Rian Johnson in charge of the next Star Wars trilogy. That’s a hell of an endorsement. The biggest entertainment company in the world put this guy in the driver’s seat for the biggest movie franchise in the world. All signs pointed to: “Rian Johnson is great! The Last Jedi is going to be amazing and perfect in every way!” What else were we supposed to think?

Sometimes hype hinders. Just ask George Lucas. He learned that the hard way with a little movie called The Phantom Menace.

That’s actually an apt comparison, as The Last Jedi could be the most divisive Star Wars story since The Phantom Menace. Obviously, a portion of the adult Star Wars fanbase has been perpetually butthurt since before butthurt was even a thing. But even the even-tempered and reasonable among us have taken issue with the film.

So allow me to serve as a voice of the middle-ground. A life-long Star Wars buff who isn’t among those that creates petitions to make certain movies non-canon. For the sake of organization and simplicity, let’s make this a simple pro/con list…

Pro: Rey’s parentage
The Force Awakens left us with a lot of questions about Rey’s parents. There were plenty of candidates. Was she Han and Leia’s daughter? Was she Luke’s daughter? Was she somehow Ob-Wan’s daughter? Could she be Snoke’s daughter?

As it turns out, she’s nobody’s daughter. Nobody we know, anyway. In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren (Or are we officially calling him Ben Solo now?) reveals that Rey is the child of junkers from Jakku who sold her off for “drinking money.” They’re almost trolling us with that one. The franchise with the most famous family revelation in cinematic history sets up another one, then gives us an anti-reveal.

But here’s the thing: It’s the right call. Not making Rey a descendent of Luke, Leia, or someone from the original trilogy gives her a refreshing independance. It makes her a self-made hero. I can also appreciate them not repeating the “I am your father” beat again.

Con: Snoke’s identity
Snoke was every bit the subject of speculation that Rey was, if not more. Who was this mysterious Force-wielder that taught Ben Solo the ways of the Dark Side? Why was his face so messed up? Was he even human? Was he the infamous Darth Plagueis?

The truth of Rey’s parentage may not have satisfied everybody, but at least we got an answer. With Snoke we got nothing. Nothing. Ben turns on him halfway through the movie, ultimately taking his spot at the top of the First Order food chain. While killing him off isn’t necessarily an issue, not addressing who he is, even if it’s just another non-reveal, is the movie’s biggest letdown.

You can make the argument we knew next to nothing about Palpatine in Empire and Jedi. Hell, they never even said his name. He was just the Emperor. But they then proceeded to make three movies chronicling his rise to power. Snoke’s identity is also wrapped up in the backstory of the First Order, of which we know so little.

I suppose there’s a chance we’ll learn a little more about who this guy was in Episode IX. But this was their big opportunity to explore him, and they missed it. That’s astounding. It’s not as if they didn’t know we were curious…

Pro: Mark Hamill as grumpy Luke.
There’s naturally a warm and fuzzy nostalgic quality to seeing Mark Hamill come back to Luke Skywalker. But he’s also perennially underrated as an actor. So to see him in a major motion picture again is very satisfying. He more than holds up his end of the bargain.

People have had mixed emotions about what they’ve done with Luke in these new movies. The execution hasn’t been perfect. But the idea itself isn’t bad. The events of Return of the Jedi happened more than 30 years ago. A hell of a lot can happen in three decades. People change. Luke has changed. I like that none of us were expecting grumpy old Luke Skywalker. It opened some interesting doors, and allowed Mark Hamill to turn in a different, more nuanced performance than he otherwise might have.

Con: Overstuffing the plot
The Last Jedi is so bloated that it may be the first Star Wars movie that overstays its welcome. It struggles to give both Finn and Poe Dameron something to do. As Rey, Finn, and Poe are supposed to have essentially the same level of importance, they all have their own plot threads. This leaves the story overinflated and less focused. As much as I like Oscar Isaac as Poe, he’s the one who needed to be scaled back.

While Finn and his new ally Rose are off on their big mission to a space casino, Leia is incapacitated. So Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) is put in charge of the Resistance. When Poe doesn’t like her more reserved and passive strategy, he stages a mutiny. We later learn Holdo is trying to be discreet while moving the Resistance to an old Rebel base on the planet Crait. She ends up sacrificing herself to buy them time.

While I enjoyed Laura Dern’s presence in the film, this whole subplot was unnecessary. I understand the lesson Poe is supposed to learn about seeing the bigger picture. But the movie already has so much going on, and they could have saved time by simply having Poe and Holdo work together in Leia’s absence. Then, inspired by her sacrifice, he can take charge and lead the Resistance forward into a new era.

Pro: New Planets
The planets in both The Force Awakens and Rogue One left something to be desired. None were particularly memorable other than Jakku, which is essentially the same world as Tatooine.

Crait isn’t a particularly interesting setting, at least not that we know of. But it does make for a unique visual during our climactic battle. You’ve got a thick layer of salt on the surface, with the red mineral content underneath. It’s a new kind of environment. That’s not an easy thing to give us after eight Star Wars movies.

The casino city of Canto Bight, which Finn and Rose travel to, is memorable as well. It doesn’t blow you away in terms of creatures or visual spectacle. But the novelty of basically seeing Star Wars characters go to Vegas is amusing.

Con: The Era
Here’s a little something Disney doesn’t want you to realize: We’re never going to get another universally beloved Star Wars movie ever again. Hell, we haven’t had once since The Empire Strikes Back, and even that’s debatable in some circles. The phrase “everyone’s a critic” has never been more true than it is in 2017. The advent of the internet, blogs, YouTube shows and the like have allowed for pop culture to be analyzed and re-analyzed to the point of absurdity. (And yes, I am indeed saying that on my own blog.) You can’t find something more heavily ingrained in our pop culture than Star Wars.

You also can’t find a more opinionated fandom. These movies and this universe connect with people on such a personal level. So something that’s perceived as wrong or harmful can spark a tidal wave of emotion. The prequels taught a generation of geeks (myself included) how to pick a movie apart and spit it back at its creators. We love Star Wars, but we are forever on guard from being burned again. As such, any and all future Star Wars films will be under a microscope as long as fans can access the internet. 

The Bottom Line
The Last Jedi does not live up to its hype. But that hype was so ridiculous that you almost can’t fault it for that.

Almost.

There’s a lot to like in this movie, and I appreciate that they surprised us, and are trying to avoid doing the original trilogy over again. But the plain and simple truth is that they tried to do too much with too many characters. As such, the movie’s focus is spread too thin. It almost feels like they shot their wad, and won’t have anything left for Episode IX. We’ll find out in two years, when thankfully JJ Abrams will be back in the director’s chair.

Help us, JJ. You’re are only hope… (No pressure.)

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Talking Star Wars: Looking Back at The Force Awakens

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Mrs. Primary Ignition and I are going to see The Last Jedi tonight. So naturally, last night we sat down to watch The Force Awakens. It was her idea, actually. Ladies, if you’re husband is a geek, ask him if he’s up for sitting down with some chili and a Star Wars movie. See what happens.

Obviously I’ve seen it a number of times already. In addition to officially reviewing it two years ago, I’ve discussed numerous elements here and there. The Force Awakens rightfully got a lot of flack for mimicking the original film. But I still love it. I can’t help it. There’s just something about Star Wars that brings out the inner child in so many of us. The Force Awakens did that in a way the prequels didn’t.

Moreso, The Force Awakens was a hell of an accomplishment. It breathed so much new life into the franchise, by introducing new faces and telling new stories. It restored some of the magic of the original trilogy by incorporating more practical effects, and not leaning so heavily on CGI. We had yet another epic score from the incomparable John Williams. In the end, it set the bar pretty damn high for Disney’s foray into the Star Wars universe.

What follows are a some notes I jotted down during the movie. This was my last stop on the road to The Last Jedi. Sometimes in order to appreciate where we’re going, you must first remember where you’ve been…

Mere minutes into the movie, Mrs. Primary Ignition asks: “Who built BB-8?” A fair question, I suppose. It’s sometimes tough to wrap your head around the idea that these robots, who play such pivotal roles in these movies, were mass produced in a factory somewhere. Unless you’re C-3PO, of course.

What The Force Awakens suffers from more than anything is a lack of exposition. When we were last in this universe, the Empire was being dealt a fatal blow. The implication was that they were gone for good. Then in the opening title crawl we’re told the First Order has “risen from the ashes of the Empire.” So where did they come from, and when? How did they acquire all their resources? Has there been relative peace in the three decades since Return of the Jedi? I understand certain things had to be kept a mystery. But little tidbits here and there to fill in the gaps would have been helpful.

Captain Phasma has a great look. Her armor is a nice extension of the stormtrooper get-up, and works as a symbol of the unwavering strength of the First Order. It’s also perfect to base toys off of. That always helps.

On a similar note, I’ve never liked the blasters the First Order troopers use. The mix of white and black makes them look like toy guns.

You can pinpoint the moment the audience is supposed to understand Rey is a good guy. When she’s sitting there cleaning off the parts she found in the old Star Destroyer, she looks at a frail old lady across from her doing some cleaning of her own. We see sympathy and compassion on her face. Thus, we make a positive connection with her. Remember, t this point in the film Rey hasn’t spoken yet. So it’s a nice subtle move.

The Empire’s last stand took place on Jakku. That’s why we see the crashed Star Destroyer, the downed AT-AT that Rey lives in, etc. But no one else us this. Again, lack of exposition. It doesn’t make or break the film either way, but it would have helped.

There are a lot of little details that are meant to make your brain associate The Force Awakens with the original trilogy. The noise the mouse droids make. The placement of the gas masks on the Millennium Falcon. The belch noise from the rathtar monster. That’s to say nothing of the more overt stuff, like the chess board and remote on the Falcon.

The Mos Eisley Cantina has to be one of the most imitated settings in cinematic history. Even within in the Star Wars universe, creators can’t help but put their spin on the idea. We obviously get that here with Maz Kanata’s cantina. It was fine. But it was pretty obvious what they were doing.

Should Kylo Ren/Ben Solo have had a pale, worn face that hadn’t seen light in awhile? When he takes his helmet off, he just looks like a normal guy. But I picture him never wanting to be seen without it, much like Darth Vader.

There’s a great little moment with Leia that was cut from the movie. Now that Carrie Fisher is gone, I really wish they’d kept it in. Leia is talking to someone about contacting the Senate and insisting action be taking against the First Order.

“Not all the senators think I’m insane. Or maybe they do. I don’t care.”

That line, and the way she delivers it, are so great. Considering how open Carrie Fisher was about her own mental illness, I bet she loved that line. I don’t think the line between Carrie and Leia was ever thinner than during those three sentences.

My favorite exchange in the movie happens between Han and Finn while they’re trying to infiltrate the Starkiller Base.

“Solo, we’ll figure it out. We’ll use the Force!”

“That’s not how the Force works!”

Han’s death scene is still hard to watch. Even when you know it’s coming, it doesn’t help. That horrified roar from Chewie might be the worst part of it all.

There’s a fan theory that Han actually pointed the lightsaber at himself, allowing Ben to turn it on and kill him. The idea being that he knew Snoke would kill Ben if he failed to carry out the deed. It doesn’t make the most sense. But stranger things have happened.

I love the fight between Kylo Ren and Rey. There’s very little fancy fight choreography, and neither look like extremely polished fighters. They’re just wailing on each other. It’s also a different environment than we’ve ever seen a lightsaber fight, which is accentuated when Rey uses the snow to extinguish Ren’s weapon.

The music callback from A New Hope when Rey catches the lightsaber is a touching moment. We heard it when Luke accepted his call to adventure, and now Rey is accepting hers. A hero is born.

On paper, you’d think the ending to this movie would be infuriating. We finally find Luke Skywalker, and then the movie ends. But it works.

Despite only appearing on camera for a matter of seconds, Mark Hamill did not have an easy job. He had so much to covey in so little time. This is the first time we’ve seen the character in so many years, and so much has happened. So the audience is just staring at him, taking in all the details.

I’ve heard that Hamill steals the show in The Last Jedi. I hope that’s the case. It’s time for mainstream moviegoers to see what we in the geek community have known for a long time: This man is a gem.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

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Carrie Fisher: More Than Just a Princess

Carrie FisherBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This one hurts. This one hurts a lot.

As most of us know, Carrie Fisher went into cardiac arrest on December 23 during a flight from London to Los Angeles. She passed away this morning at the age of 60.

Naturally, Star Wars fans have reacted very strongly since Fisher’s heart attack. There’s been a lot of stuff to the effect of, “2016, don’t you dare take Princess Leia from us!” Plenty of animated gifs of Luke Skywalker screaming “No!” in The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader doing the same in Revenge of the Sith, etc. It’s all done with good intentions. But I really wish people would stop. 

It goes without saying that Carrie Fisher will be remembered most for Star Wars. It’s one of the most iconic roles in cinematic history, and Disney will continue slapping her likeness on t-shirts, posters, action figures, and what not for decades to come. Her performance inspired many and it’s a great thing for little girls to see.

But Carrie Fisher was so much more than Princess Leia.

Fisher’s sharp-tongued wit was like no other, as she illustrated in countless television appearances and in her books. One of her memoirs, Wishful Drinking, was adapted into a stage show, which Mrs. Primary Ignition and I were fortunate enough to see  in Chicago. I’ve always been grateful I got to see that show. That’s the case now more than ever.

What you see below is one of the more famous appearances Fisher ever did, roasting George Lucas as only she could. Much of what she said was pulled from Wishful Drinking. 

Fisher’s battles with mental illness were well documented. She dealt with bipolar disorder, and addictions to both cocaine and prescription medications. But to her eternal credit, she never shied away from them. She even turned them into a semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards From the Edge. Mental illness still has a stigma in 2016, but we’ve broken a lot of ground in terms of understanding and tolerance. But Postcards came out in 1987. Imagine the courage it takes to open yourself up to the public like that when everyone knows your face. As someone who’s dealt with mental illness himself, that’s a tremendous thing to see. Especially from someone you watched when you were a child.

I’m not sure if I’ll end up with a son or daughter someday. But as much as I’d want a child of mine to be inspired by Leia’s bravery, it’s more important that they be inspired by Carrie’s. Whether it was the world’s perception of mental illness, the rules for women in Hollywood, or the injustice of ageism, Fisher refused to keep quiet. More than anything, she was honest about the world in front of her. That honesty made people uncomfortable at times. But we were better for it. The world was better for it.

There are many others who’ve spoken about Fisher more eloquently than I. Here’s some recommended reading…

– What Carrie Fisher Meant to Me as a Mental Health Advocate
– Carrie Fisher was a hero to all women, an example of how to be utterly fearless to the end
– Carrie Fisher Struggled Against Being a Nerd-Boy Sex Object Her Whole Life
– 15 of Carrie Fisher’s Best, Most Honest Feminist Quotes

I’m a Star Wars geek. I probably always will be. While I understand what people who love Princess Leia are feeling right now, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Leia is a character in a space fantasy. The woman behind her was someone who endured real hardships, and overcame real obstacles in the real world. But in spite of it all, she never lost her wit, her humor, or her will to go on.

In the end, Carrie Fisher was the real hero.

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

A Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review – Spoiler-Free For Your Protection

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, posterTITLE: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
STARRING: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Adam Driver, Oscar Issaac
DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
STUDIOS: Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm Ltd, Bad Robot Productions
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME: 135 min
RELEASED: December 18, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This week, The Los Angeles Times ran article about John Williams composing the music for The Force Awakens. The famous film score composer said he felt “a renewed energy, and a vitality, and a freshness that did not estrange any of the characters or material from the texture and fabric of [George] Lucas’ creation — but revivified it.”

That’s pretty much been the energy surrounding The Force Awakens as a whole. We’ve all felt it. This film represents a new dawn for the Star Wars franchise. And the box office figures indicate, we’re ready to greet the day.

The plot for this movie has been delightfully shrouded in mystery from the get-go, and I see no reason to go into detail now. But here are the basics. Thirty years after Return of the Jedi, the First Order has risen from the ashes of the Empire. Near the top of their ranks is Kylo Ren, a mysterious warrior following in the footsteps of Darth Vader. But new heroes will rise, such as Rey, a scavenger on the planet Jakku. At her side is Finn, a defected stormtrooper whose conscious led him away from the violent First Order. This duo will fight alongside none other than Han Solo and Chewbacca, heroes of the Galactic Civil War. All the while, the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa, searches for the one hero missing amidst the conflict: Luke Skywalker.

Rey, Finn, BB-8, Star Wars: The Force AwakensAs a life-long Star Wars fan, I can indeed confirm that The Force Awakens is good. But it’s a different kind of Star Wars movie. Not drastically so, but Star Wars die-hards may notice. Certain portions have dimmer lighting, which leads to a darker vibe. There’s also a little more blood than we’re used to seeing from Star Wars. It’s still a scarce amount in the grand scheme of things, but it’s noticeable. I attribute this to the absence of George Lucas, who wasn’t there to micromanage things in his own…ehem…unique way.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m a George Lucas fan. But if The Force Awakens proves anything, it’s that Star Wars needed to get away from him. The man who wrote and directed the prequels could not have created a movie like this. This movie gives us new heroes we can invest in and care about. While it doesn’t shy away from nostalgiac winks here and there, it doesn’t need to be propped up by original trilogy elements the way the prequels did. It’s a thrill ride very much worthy of the Star Wars legacy.

Kylo Ren, Star Wars: The Force AwakensThe original trilogy character we spend the most time with is Han Solo, who is as charming and witty as ever. Harrison Ford essentially gives us exactly what we wanted to see from that character. He’s not necessarily the same daring rogue. But he’s still Han Solo. We also see a good amount of Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. It’s especially cathartic to see her in the role again. It’s such an iconic character, and she deserved that renewed spotlight. As for Mark Hamill’s portrayal of Luke Skywalker…that would be a spoiler.

Most of the new characters we meet are intriguing. But for my money, none are more interesting than Kylo Ren. It’s encouraging that he’s not simply a Darth Vader clone. He’s very much his own man, with his own demons. Some may argue that makes him less threatening than Vader, or other Star Wars villains. But without saying too much, there’s a level of instability there that should make for an entertaining journey.

Captain Phasma, Star Wars: The Force AwakensA fair complaint about The Force Awakens is that it’s simply the original Star Wars film done over again. The similarities are undeniable. We have our hero on a desert planet who gets a call-to-action from a droid, and is quickly swept into a galactic war against a Nazi-like organization with a base that has the power to destroy planets. Sound familiar? At one point, they even do a side-by-side comparison of Starkiller Base and the Death Star. The inside of the base is also clearly modeled after the Death Star!

Given what we’d seen from our most recent Star Wars movies, I’d argue a throwback isn’t the worst thing in the world. This movie gives people the Star Wars they want to see. Good and evil, the Rebellion and the Empire, Jedi and Sith. Some of the names have changed, but at their core, they’re the same. As a bonus, we even get to see some of the faces we fell in love with from the original trilogy.

131416_ori The Force Awakens is designed to jump-start the Star Wars franchise, getting us to remember what we loved about the originals while introducing new faces to carry the brand into the future. It accomplishes that goal, easily giving us the best installment in the series since Return of the Jedi. Lingering questions do remain, but I expect they’ll be resolved in future films. It’s fun to watch The Force Awakens, and if there’s anything that’s been missing from Star Wars in recent years, it’s that sense of fun and adventure. J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and everybody else involved with this movie deserve credit for living up to the hype, and restoring something that was lost.

So rejoice Jedi, wookies, droids, and even you damn gungans! Star Wars is fun again!

RATING: 9/10

Images from rottentomatoes.com.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A Star Wars #1 Review – A Bittersweet Beginning

Star Wars #1 (January 2015)TITLE: Star Wars #1
AUTHOR: Jason Aaron
PENCILLER: John Cassaday
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: January 14, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Seeing the Star Wars comic book license go back to Marvel was extremely bittersweet for yours truly. Dark Horse had more than done right by everybody’s favorite galaxy far, far away. Particularly in the last year and a half or so, when Brian Wood was penning a title simply called Star Wars, something of a throwback series featuring the classic characters we all know and love. It was the same thing, in essence, that this book is doing.

But while Marvel has no shortage of A-list creators at its disposal, and is undoubtedly capable of providing us quality books, the company’s first crack at Star Wars in the 21st century leaves something to be desired in the realm of depth and logic.

Star Wars #1 brings Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 to the Empire’s largest weapons factory, with the intent to infiltrate and destroy. But little to they know that Darth Vader himself is very near, and he’ll soon come face-to-face with the young rebel who destroyed the Death Star….

Star Wars #1, John CassadayOn paper, it’s a simple but effective way to kick off a Star Wars series. Stick all your main characters in the middle of an Imperial hotspot, and have them fight their way out. Just like they did on the Death Star, just like the did at Cloud City, just like they did on Endor, etc. Using this formula definitely helps capture the classic Star Wars feel they’re looking for.

Another crucial element in this respect is the issue’s four-page replication of the Star Wars opening title crawl. We’ve got a page dedicated entirely to “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” a two-page spread of the big Star Wars flash, and on the fourth page the issue gets its own title crawl. Then, in typical Star Wars movie fashion, we go to empty space, and a ship flies into frame. If you’re a Star Wars geek, they’ve easily got you at this point. And low and behold the first hero we see is Han Solo, doing his witty Han Solo stuff!

Star Wars #1, John Cassaday, Han SoloBut the biggest selling point of this issue by far is seeing John Cassaday draw Star Wars stuff. I once read his artistic style described as “instantly iconic,” and that’s certainly the case here. He’s got a great handle on the likenesses of ‘70s Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. His Mark Hamill isn’t perfect, but that’s forgivable. Hell, the man’s face literally changed between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. And unlike other artists who’ve done these characters, Cassaday’s take on the Darth Vader death mask and C-3PO’s ever-distinguishable headcover remain frozen and consistent throughout the issue. Elements from all three classic films are incorporated into this issue, and if I were a betting man, I’d say Cassaday had fun with this one.

All this said, this issue lacks a lot of the depth and heart that made Brian Wood’s stuff so good. It relies on spectacle over substance. Case in point, Luke’s use of the lightsaber. Yes, we all love lightsabers, but I’m a firm subscriber to the Harry S. Plinkett philosophy on their overuse, and how they can sometimes be a sign of lazy or bad writing.

In Star Wars #1 we see Luke use the lightsaber to fight off a guy with a laser-whip weapon. Shortly after cheaply paraphrasing a line from A New Hope, an off-panel fight ensues, during which all we see is the lightsaber swinging for two panels. A splash page of Luke soon follows, the ignited weapon in his hand. We also see Vader use his lightsaber later, though only for an instant.

Star Wars #1, 2015, Luke SkywalkerThis is where I get a bit nitpicky: How proficient was Luke with the lightsaber at this point? It’s heavily implied that this issue takes place shortly after the Death Star was destroyed. So Luke’s knowledge about his heritage and the Jedi ways, much less this new weapon (which he didn’t even use in A New Hope) are still rather limited. And yet he’s able to dispose of this guard pretty quickly.

My proposed solution? Give us a little more action by extending this scene a page. Have this guard with the whip get the better of Luke at first. But in the end, he perseveres and wins. This gives our young hero a small victory, and we also get a sense that he’s grown a bit in experience, but is still nowhere near where he wants to be.

An extra page for the scene with Luke might have eliminated the completely contrived and ridiculous one in which we see Leia question Han’s motivation for helping the rebels. In the middle of the Empire’s largest weapons factory, on a mission that’s rather time-sensitive, Leia stops to thank Han for his contribution, and ask him why he’d publicly associate himself with the Rebel Alliance. She literally asks: “What is it you really want, Han Solo?” At this point, even Han himself says: “Maybe now’s not really the best time…”

Star Wars, John Cassaday, Falcon, C-3POAlso, why is Leia even on this mission? Why is one of the Rebellions’ top leaders being sent into the middle of enemy territory? Hell, they don’t even keep her in the Millennium Falcon with Threepio. She’s directly in the line of fire. From a creative standpoint, it’s obviously so we can have our three main heroes together. But logistically, it makes no sense.

At the very least, Star Wars #1 is pretty. But it’s also frustrating. Look, we all love that classic Star Wars stuff. Darth Vader, lightsabers, the big title crawl, etc. But imagery from the classic trilogy can’t be the only thing your issue has going for it, or it’ll fall flat. Especially considering this is the first Star Wars issue Marvel has published in decades!

C’mon, guys. You can do better than this.

Image 1 from popmatters.com. Image 2 from littlestuffedbull.com. Image 3 from blacknerdproblems.com. Image 4 from starwars.com.