Tag Archives: Disney

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.

“The Skywalker Saga”: Can We Please Shut Up About It?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I was one of the millions that saw the trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife yesterday. For the uninitiated, this one is different from the 2016 film, in that it’s actually a sequel to the first two movies. The ones with Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, etc. The trailer hits you right in the feels. Especially you’ve got a special place in your heart for this story and these characters.

Another story with a special place in my heart? Star Wars. I’m doing my best to go into The Rise of Skywalker with my expectations tempered. But it’s tough, as they’re trying to pull you into the theater by your heartstrings. The footage of Carrie Fisher. Mark Hamill’s voiceover. Rey and Kylo Ren facing off one last time. C-3PO taking “one last look at my friends.” And the proclamation that, once and for all, “The saga will end”…

Pffft. Yeah, okay.

The movie itself actually looks pretty good. Given J.J. Abrams’ involvement, I think we all have reason to be hopeful. But all this “end of the Skywalker Saga” stuff grates on me.

They don’t mean the end of Star Wars, of course. They mean the end of this nine-part story that’s mainly about the Skywalker family. The tragedy of Darth Vader. Luke and Leia’s rebellion against the Empire. And finally, Leia and Han’s son Ben, and his role in the rise of the First Order. Supposedly, we’ve got other Star Wars movies coming down the pipeline. What they’re about is anybody’s guess.

But let me tell you a little something about this “Skywalker Saga,” a term they’ve only just started using in the promotion of this film.

It’s only the end until the next beginning.

See, the Skywalker Saga has actually already ended. Twice. The first time was way back in 1983, in a little movie called Return of the Jedi. Anakin Skywalker was redeemed by his son Luke, and ultimately died in the process. Also, the Rebel Alliance blew up yet another Death Star, leading to the fall of the Empire. Sure feels like an ending to me. Pretty cut and dry.

Only then, they decided to make the prequels. And in 2005, Revenge of the Sith closed the loop between Episode I and Episode XI. We now had six movies chronicling the rise and fall of Darth Vader. Honest to God, if I had a nickel for every ad I saw that said, “The circle is now complete.” But in any event, George Lucas’ magnum opus in space was finally finished!

Until he sold it to Disney in 2012, and they said, “But wait! There’s more!” Three movies later, and we’re at another ending.

Look, I love Star Wars, warts and all. So I’ve got no issue calling this “Skywalker Saga” out for what it is: A sleazy marketing gimmick.

Some die-hards will tell you about George Lucas giving Time a quote about there being plans for nine Star Wars movies. Three trilogies, Luke and the gang coming back in the third one, etc. He said that in 1978, two decades before he decided Star Wars was a six-film saga, and the prequels would be the last Star Wars movies. In a 2005 interview with 60 minutes, he said point blank, “There is no Episode VII.”

Until there was. As the story goes, Lucas was working on another three Star Wars movies before he opted to sell to Disney.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy the sequel trilogy was made, and I’m grateful Star Wars can continue on in the hands of other filmmakers. (Specifically ones that can write actual human dialogue.) But let’s not kid ourselves, folks. Call him brilliant, call him a visionary, call him a genius, call him whatever you want. But George Lucas was making it up as he went along. Just like Disney is making it up as they go along. That’s not even a bad thing, per se. I believe George had vague ideas about what might happen in a sequel trilogy. But there was no grand plan. No nine-film blueprint.

Which means, if these “non-Skywalker” films don’t work out, Disney can once again say, “But wait! There’s more!” Kylo Ren banged some chick on a Star Destroyer, and has a kid he never knew about! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…Damian Skywalker! (Or would it be Damian Solo?) Learn all about him in Episodes X, XI, and XII!

Hey Disney? We love ya. But most of us have been through this before. We understand Star Wars movies come three to a pack. You don’t have to beat us over the head with this Skywalker Saga stuff. You’re being pretty presumptuous about the whole thing. Star Wars doesn’t need to be chained to this one messed up family that chops each other’s limbs off. But if somebody has a good idea for a next-gen “Skywalker” story down the line, why not go for it? Why write yourself into a corner?

Back on the subject of magazine interviews, Esquire recently asked Billy Dee Williams about the possibility of playing Lando Calrissian again someday. Williams replied…

[The Rise of Skywalker] is a conclusion —certainly it depends on how much money is generated. That’s when they determine where’s the conclusion. … The one thing about show business, you can resurrect anything.”

You can resurrect anything. Even a war against a space dictatorship that spans entire galaxies, and has a bunch of people in robes hitting each other with laser swords.

Smart man, that Billy Dee.

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

Astonishing Art: Star Wars by Eric Tan

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’m a sucker for a good Star Wars poster. So when I came across this set from Disney artist/designer Eric Tan, I fell head-over-heels very quickly. For a time, the posters based on the original trilogy were actually sold at the Disney store for hundreds of dollars. While that places them firmly outside of my price range, from a quality perspective I understand it. These things are friggin’ gorgeous…

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

Toy Chest Theater: Kermit the…Hulk?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Everybody dreams of being something bigger. Even little green frogs.

That’s what I love about this image from Indonesian toy photographer Kadir Alaydrus. On the surface, it seems like a silly image of the Hulk with a Muppet head. But it speaks to something universal. The caption reads, “Dream Big Little Guy.”

Then, barely a day after posting the above photo, Kadir was at it again. The caption for the image below reads, “Kermithropus Erectus: The evolution of Kermit the Frog.”

Technically, I think the figure on the right is Robin, Kermit’s nephew. But you get the idea.

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

YouTube Spotlight: Star Wars and the Catholic Church

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The other day, I stumbled across this video from the folks at Wisecrack, a channel that examines pop culture through a philosophical lens. It makes the extravagant, though not altogether inappropriate comparison between the Star Wars fandom and social systems facing a legitimation crisis. Case in point, fans rebelling against the direction Disney is taking the Star Wars franchise.

The most concrete comparison the video uses is to the legitimation crisis faced by the Catholic Church in the 1500s. The invention of the printing press allowed the masses to get their hands on more hard copies of the Bible, and thus develop their own interpretations of the text. At first, it’s an easy comparison to scoff at. But the video does a pretty convincing sell job. And the points it makes have stuck with me. So clearly it did something right.

Check it out for yourself, and may the Force be with you!

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

Astonishing Art: Star Wars and Marvel by Melissa Thomas

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Awhile back, I stumbled on to the artwork of Melissa Thomas. I really wish I remembered how I found her. Then maybe I could do it again, and with any luck find more art that’s this much fun!

Thomas’ work is clearly inspired by some of the classic Disney animated films. You can easily see one of her characters walking out of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, or Mulan. Thus, it’s fitting that she so often uses it to depict characters from the Star Wars and Marvel universe.

Below are a few of my favorites among Thomas’ work. For more, I would encourage you to check her out on Behance, Instagram, and Twitter. She also has a store over at Society6.

Visit one of Thomas’ pages, and you’ll see she’s a big fan of The Clone Wars. Her Anakin Skywalker is particularly strong. The above sketches were my first exposure to her work. I wasn’t the only one to appreciate it, as the official Star Wars Instagram account re-posted it. Talk about reaching your target audience…

Obviously this one is much more refined. We have a filter over an actual still from Attack of the Clones, with Thomas giving us her take on Anakin and Padme. For yours truly, the sharper angles in the facial structure evoke some of the newer movies, as opposed to some of the classics. Anakin is giving me bit of a John Smith from Pocahontas vibe. That Disney romance charm is definitely there, though. She the refined product of royalty, and he the boyish charmer. If only Hayden Christensen had been allowed to be this likeable.

The premise of this one is interesting to me. Rey and Finn in an office setting. Two Star Wars characters in a setting that’s not at all like Star Wars. We’re almost journeying into alternate universe territory. This one actually reminds me of Paperman, the black and white short they put in theaters with Wreck-It-Ralph. Paperman is in black and white. But go watch it, and hopefully you’ll see what I mean.

We’re venturing into Marvel territory here, as Thomas captures the heart-wrenching goodbye we saw from Peter Parker in Infinity War. The big, tear-filled “Disney eyes” literally make the whole image. Thomas gives the piece just the right amount of emotional gravitas, without going too far. Peter is going away, but he doesn’t necessarily have the time to really process it. And just as he starts to process it, he fades away. Beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This last one is a simple sketch. An older one, at that. It’s based on a famous promotional shot of Harrison Ford for the original Star Wars.

I’m comparing the live image to the sketch because the latter is a perfect illustration (no pun intended) of how Thomas captures a character’s essence, while still maintaining her own style. In the photograph, Ford is playing it cool. He’s emotionally inaccessible. Thomas, on the other hand, gives Han a little smile. He’s every bit the charming rogue he should be. But the smile gives it that touch of Disney magic that Thomas is going for. So simple, yet so effective.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

A Christopher Robin Review – What Would Pooh Do?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I really love Winnie the Pooh.

As a 30-something dude, it’s weird to hear myself say that. But it’s true, and has been for a few years now. I wrote something about this a few years ago. Long story short, I keep it as a daily reminder to be kind in a world that’s increasingly mean. Almost like a sign that asks, “What would Pooh do?”

This weekend, Mrs. Primary Ignition and I went to see Christopher Robin. I almost couldn’t help but go. Keep in mind what I just said about the world we’re in right now, and look at the trailer…

Christopher Robin was essentially marketed as a movie where Pooh and his friends put the title character, a cynical and withdrawn adult who neglects his family in favor of work, back in touch with his inner child. Something you can take your kids to see, while also taking something home for yourself. And that’s what it turns out to be. It’s a very nice movie. It’s true to the characters, Jim Cummings hits all the right notes as the voice of Pooh (and Tigger), and Ewan McGregor is a fine choice for an adult Christopher Robin.

All that said, Christopher Robin underachieves. Or at least it feels like it does.

As we were leaving the theater, Mrs. Primary Ignition and I realized what we’d been expecting, based on the trailers and advertising: Toy Story 3. Or perhaps Toy Story 3 in reverse.

If you were an adult when Toy Story 3 came out, I’ll bet what you remember most about it is the ending. Andy has to leave his childhood, i.e. Woody and the gang, behind as he goes off to college. In Christopher Robin, our main character has long since left his childhood behind. But now his old toys have popped back up to remind him of who he used to be, and what’s really important in life.

Whether Disney meant for this or not, the trailers for Christopher Robin very much evoke that sentimental tearjerker vibe we got from Toy Story 3. But it doesn’t deliver on that.  So it ends up being just another movie. Which is a real shame.

I’m not suggesting Christopher Robin should have been a more mature movie. It doesn’t need to be. But I think it could have benefited from Ewan McGregor being a little more Scrooge-ish. The movie depicts him as someone who’s lost touch with his own heart because the world has ground him down so much. Let’s see a little more of that. He didn’t need to yell or scream. We just needed him to be a little more…cold. Then it’s that much more impactful to see his heart warm in the end.

Christopher Robin is a perfectly serviceable night at the movies. But it could have been so much more. It could have prompted moviegoers to look into their own lives, and ask that all-important question: “What would Pooh do?”

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.