Posted in Books, Movies

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

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

By Rob Siebert
Holds the Holocron of Useless Knowledge

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

But his hair?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Wrestling

WWE Extreme Rules Predictions – Peeking Back in

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

There’s a reason I haven’t written about wrestling in awhile. Simply put, the WWE product sucks right now. It’s largely sucked since Wrestlemania. I almost posted something awhile back entitled, “Lapsed WWE Fan Confessions: Why I Finally Tuned Out.” Because I had tuned out. I’d check the websites, and listen to a podcast or two. But as far as watching Raw and Smackdown every week? After more than two decades, I was done.

Why? Yeesh. How much time do you have? Among various other elements, we have…

– Uninspired writing, for characters that have become largely flat and boring, resulting in stories that are largely flat and boring.

– The continued over-scripting of promos and segments, resulting in something that, over time, bears less and less resemblance to the world we live in, and more like it’s own “WWE Universe.”

– The “Wild Card Rule,” which allows select wrestlers from Raw to appear on Smackdown each week, and vice versa. Raw wrestlers are allowed to challenge for Smackdown titles, and vice versa. Thus, everything is watered down, and the rules of engagement are blurred. What’s more, the two tag titles, two women’s titles, two world titles, etc, are even more redundant than they were before.

But the recent news that WWE has hired Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff to serve as “Executive Directors” of Raw and Smackdown respectively, piqued my interest. While neither man supposedly has the level of control he will have (Bischoff apparently hasn’t even started yet), I was curious enough to get me to check things out again. While I can’t say I’m in love with what I see, my creative juices are flowing a little bit more.

So let’s take a look at what’s on tap for Extreme Rules this weekend…

WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Drew Gulak (c) vs. Tony Nese

I was happy to see Tony Nese get the spotlight during Wrestlemania season. He’s obviously got the talent and the look, if not necessarily the charisma, of a champion. Still, Drew Gulak is just as deserving, if not a little more. He’s successfully transitioned from a comedic character doing powerpoint presentations to a credible and dangerous shooter champion. As he just won it at the last pay per view, I don’t see any reason to take the title off him now. Let’s let him have a little bit of a run and see what develops.

PREDICTION: Drew Gulak

Aleister Black vs. Cesaro

I don’t know if you’ll find a better first opponent for Aleister Black (or anyone, for that matter) than Cesaro. So from a wrestling standpoint, I’m expecting great things here. But from a story perspective? This whole thing has been pretty hokey, with the whole “knocking on the door” thing. The split-screen segment between these two on Smackdown was almost cringe-worthy. Hopefully what they give us between the ropes can make us forget that.

PREDICTION: Aleister Black

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Revival (c) vs. The Usos

When I last saw the Revival, they were losing the Raw tag belts to Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder on the Wrestlemania pre-show. Apparently, absolutely nothing was done with them as champions, so the belts simply went back to Dash and Dawson.

For all the talk there’s been about the Revival leaving WWE once their contracts expire, at least WWE has started showing them a little respect. They’re the champions again. So I say we just let them have the lengthy reign everybody seems to want them to have. Supposedly, the reason the Street Profits have been on Raw lately is because Heyman really likes their work. So in my little head, they’re the team that eventually get the rub from Dash and Dawson.

PREDICTION: The Revival

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
Daniel Bryan and Rowan (c) vs. Big E. and Xavier Woods vs. Heavy Machinery

I’m really liking Daniel Bryan and Erick Rowan (or rather, just Rowan) as tag champs. That’s one of the reasons I hate the Wild Card Rule so much. If both sets of tag champs can appear on either show, then what exactly are Bryan and Rowan the champions of?

The New Day have little to no use for tag team gold at this point, and it’s too soon to put the belts on Heavy Machinery. So Bryan and Rowan get the win by process of elimination. But also because they’re the best team for this spot right now.

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan and Rowan

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE:
Bayley (c) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

So here we have Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross, two Raw wrestlers, wrestling for the Smackdown Women’s Title. So if they win…do they go to Smackdown? For that matter, if Nikki scores the fall, does that mean Alexa wins the title? How does this work?

In the end, I think we’re going to find out. I do indeed see this match ending with Nikki pinning Bayley. Whether she wins the title, or more likely, Alexa gets it, that advances their story enough to lead to a match between the two. Most likely at Summerslam.

PREDICTION: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

LAST MAN STANDING MATCH:
Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley

Lashley needs Lio Rush. Seriously, he does. Rush was the perfect mouthpiece for him. Don’t send Rush to 205 Live, don’t send him back to NXT. Put him back with Lashley on Raw. That’s where he belongs.

I dug the whole set crash/explosion angle. But more importantly, I dug the way they followed it up. Both the wrestlers and the announcers took it seriously. And this is the kind of thing I don’t mind them mentioning across different “brands,” a la Smackdown and 205 Live.

As he’s meant to be a dominant giant, I’m of the mindset that Braun Strowman losses should be few and far between. That’s why he’s my pick to win. But because Strowman doesn’t have to be pinned to lose here, a Lashley victory wouldn’t be the end of the world. It’d be that much more effective with Lio Rush, backing him up, but still…

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Ricochet (c) vs. AJ Styles

So here we have the rubber match. Ricochet defending against the now heel AJ Styles, who once again has Gallows and Anderson backing him up.

To give some credibility back to the Club, who apparently just signed new deals, I see them costing Ricochet the title. Naturally, that leads to a rematch of some kind at Summerslam, where Ricochet wins the title back. But for now, the belt leaves with AJ.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Samoa Joe

I love the good guy/bad guy dynamic between Kofi and Joe. So in that sense, this is a great pairing. What’s not so great is that we have yet another instance of a Raw wrestler challenging for a Smackdown title. So again, what happens if Joe wins?

He won’t, though. As great as Joe is, and he is great, he’s always a groomsman and never a groom when it comes to these title matches. He’s the best pure heel WWE has right now, and maybe even the best promo. For whatever reason, it just never seems like the right time. Such is the case here as well. Granted, if they wanted to extend this thing until Summerslam, Joe might be able to take it there. But here? On this show? No. Kofi Kingston’s got the belt at least until Summerslam.

PREDICTION: Kofi Kingston

EXTREME RULES MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL AND RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS:
Seth Rollins (c) and Becky Lynch (c) vs. Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans
Winners take all.

I actually like the winners-take-all stipulation for this match. Now that we’ve established Rollins and Lynch as an on-screen couple, it’s a nice tool for drama. Though I’m not sure it’s one they’ve been able to play up to it’s full potential. The audience is still getting used to this pairing. So to tease friction or tension between the two of them so early is awkward.

Like many others, I’d say it’s taking place about a month too late. Corbin and Evans have failed to win these titles individually on multiple occasions. So now we’re supposed to believe they can do it in a tag match?

Rollins and Lynch keep their belts here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a “Dusty finish” here, i.e. make it seem like Corbin and Lynch have won, but then re-start the match and have the champions retain. The ensuing Twitter explosion alone would be worth it.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch

NO HOLDS BARRED MATCH:
Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre

You know what’s weird? They’ve hardly played up the Undertaker’s match with Roman at Wrestlemania 33. Granted, from a wrestling standpoint that’s a match ‘Taker probably wants us to forget. But it was the main event of a Wrestlemania, and Reigns has been calling WWE “my yard” ever since. From a storyline perspective, he took ‘Taker’s spot and temporarily retired him. You’re telling me there’s no tension between them? At all?

My hope is that this match finally puts an end to the Roman/Shane stuff, and potentially paves the way for the Undertaker to put Drew McIntyre over at Summerslam. With any luck, the bells and whistles in this match, and a decent performance next month can wash the foul taste of that Undertaker/Goldberg match out of everybody’s mouth.

I say Shane takes a Tombstone and the pinfall, prompting McIntyre to come out the next night and say ‘Taker never beat him. Ergo, the Summerslam match. As for Roman, next month seems like as good a time as any for a “brother vs. brother” match with Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns and The Undertaker

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