Tag Archives: Disney

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.

Advertisements

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.

A Solo Bullet-Point Review – “Unnecessary” Excellence

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: The following contains some minor, fairly harmless spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story.***

I loved this movie. No, seriously. I loved it. It surpassed my expectations in almost every conceivable way. The characters (yes, even the new ones) were fun and engaging. The thrilling Star Wars action component was on point. Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover nailed the Han and Lando characters, while at the same time adding a little something themselves. It had he obligatory scenes you expected to see, i.e. Han meeting Chewie, winning the Milennium Falcon, etc. But it didn’t pile on the nostalgia the way Rogue One did. I left Solo with a smile on my face, which is more than I can say for either Rogue One or The Last Jedi.

So let’s do this. Punch it!

– Ron Howard. The production of Solo was mired in controversy. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller departed during filming, citing “creative differences.” Word broke of Lucasfilm bringing in an acting coach for Alden Ahrenreich, the actor who plays Han. That didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Toss in the polarizing reaction The Last Jedi received, and it was looking like it was going to be a disaster.

I’d be very curious to learn what exactly Ron Howard changed about this movie. Because I don’t think we can deny just how vital his touch was to the creative success of Solo. Not just because he’s directed movies like Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and Frost/Nixon. But because he’s got such a long-lasting friendship with George Lucas. He’s had direct access to the mind that sparked the creation of this whole phenomenon. So I would imagine few filmmakers are more qualified to create something faithful to his vision.

– “Unnecessary.” I don’t understand the critique that Solo is unnecessary, or adds nothing new to the franchise. Yes, the movie largely plays into pre-established exposition. But if you go by that logic, what was the point of even attempting to make the prequels? Or Rogue One? What exactly qualifies one of these movies “necessary?” What does that even mean?

Furthermore, Solo is hardly devoid of fresh ideas. But we also learn new information about Han, Chewie, and Lando. We’re also introduced to new faces, like Qi’ra, L3-37, Tobias Beckett, Enfys Nest, and Crimson Dawn. Hell, I was even partial to Rio Durant.

In the end, Solo is fun. That’s what matters. It’s certainly all the “necessity” I require.

– When Han met Chewie. Laying the groundwork for the Han Solo/Chewbacca friendship was a vital component here. Their relationship is one of the most important in the entire Star Wars saga. I was struck by the believably and downright simplicity of how Solo sets that up. They save each other’s asses a few times and build up trust to the point that a genuine friendship forms.

Actually, I was surprised with how well Solo handled most of the pre-established stuff. Lando owning the Falcon, the card game, the Kessel Run. It all pretty much worked. At least it did for me. Consider how fickle fanboys like me can get about this stuff, that’s nothing to sneeze at.

– No Jabba. No Mos Eisley. No Luke or Ben. Solo has no shortage of references, winks, or nods. The folks over at Red Letter Media speculated that the movie would end somewhere during the events of A New Hope, much like Rogue One did. Specifically, with Han in the Mos Eisley Cantina. It could very well have ended with Han sitting at the table, and a shot of Obi-Wan and Luke walking over. I was very pleased they restrained themselves in that respect. For that matter, while he’s referenced, we don’t see Jabba the Hutt in Solo. There isn’t even a mention of Boba Fett or Greedo.

But I imagine one of the reasons they were a little more conservative with this one is because they’re saving those tricks for later…

– Sequels. Solo leaves a lot of room or sequels, and even spin-offs. There’s already been talk of a Lando movie. There’s also a surprise return that comes about as far out of left field as you can get. If you’ve seen it, you know who I’m talking about. They can go in that direction for another Solo movie, but the returning character would also make for a heck of a box office draw in their own right.

In the end, Solo wound up being the best case scenario for one of these  “anthology” movies. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, stands up on its own, and paved the way for continued storytelling.

To put it another way, “Great shot, kid! That was one in a million!”

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

Muppet Babies: The Reboot

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So until this morning, I had no idea that Disney was reviving Muppet Babies. But low and behold, here we are…

I’m pretty much numb to the nostalgia effect at this point. I’ve made peace with the fact that the ’80s and ’90s are now exhumed pop cultural grave sites. So what the hell? Enjoy yourselves.

I mean, at least the show LOOKS good. For whatever reason, I’m drawn to the different textures. The frog skin on Kermit. Gonzo’s feathers. Fozzie looks like an actual teddy bear. It’s a fun show to look at.

So we’ve got this new character, Summer Penguin. She’s harmless, of course. But from a nostalgic perspective, she’s a little annoying. The artsy character they put in there for young girls with creative interests to identify with. When you look at it as an adult, it’s all very transparent.

But in the end, of course, it’s about the kids. And that’s how it should be. Despite the temptation, you can’t get possessive of this stuff as an adult. The best we can hope for is that it gets treated with a certain amount of love and respect. That definitely seems to be the case here.

You know who else did that really well? The people in charge of the new Duck Tales series. I’m sure it’s no coincidence they’re both Disney properties. That’s one of the reasons Disney now runs the damn world. They know what to do with their characters…

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

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.)

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

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.