Rob Watches The Mandalorian: Wait, That’s Not Hoth!!!

***As the second season of The Mandalorian rapidly approaches, it’s time to take a look back at the foundation laid by the first season. This is “Rob Watches The Mandalorian.”***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This opening scene is, of course, our tone-setter. And once of the best I’ve ever seen. As far as space westerns go, you can’t do much better than this. Our lone gunman walks into a saloon, finds trouble, and has to shoot his way out. Everything is perfect.

For whatever reason, when I think of The Mandalorian the first thing that comes to mind is that poor guy getting cut in half by the door. Maybe it’s because, like the series itself the whole thing is so damn smooth and cool.

So why is this snow planet not Hoth? Because, as Admiral Piett told us in The Empire Strikes Back, “The Hoth system is supposed to be devoid of human forms.” Originally I was miffed that a later episode took us back to the friggin’ Mos Eisley Cantina, but we couldn’t go to some random bar on Hoth. Whoops…

That’s a problem Star Wars creators are running into these days. The more films and TV shows that are made, the harder it is to make all these planets feel distinct and different. A lot of the worlds in the sequel trilogy, for instance, look alike.

Our blue friend, who I don’t believe has a name, is played by SNL alum Horatio Sanz. I knew I recognized him from somewhere…

Is this the first time we’ve seen a bounty puck? There certainly weren’t any in the movies.

Practically every Star Wars project has to do the cantina. Or at least some version of a cantina. Some setting where aliens from various different worlds come together for a drink or a party or the like. In this episode alone we get two of them. At least The Mandalorian had the guts to take a stab at the Mos Eisley Cantina, the cantina setting, later on.

I love that the client, the guy that hires Mando and really gets the plot moving, is part of this tiny little faction of Imperials, complete with a few beat-up looking stormtroopers. It’s a great bit of world-building. It’s one thing for Mando to say the Empire is gone. It’s another thing for us to actually see what it’s been reduced to.

Whenever I watch the scene with Mando trying to ride the Blurg and talking with little Kuiil, I always think of the prequels. If the prequels had blended practical and CGI effects as seamlessly as The Mandalorian, people would talk about them in such a different light. They’d still be badly written, but at least they wouldn’t look like giant video games.

In writing this, I at one point had in my notes, “I’m happy they didn’t give him a quirky droid sidekick.” A character like K-2SO in Rogue One or L3-37 in Solo. That’s another Star Wars trope people have to be mindful of going forward.

Then I realized, “Oh wait, they did give him a quirky droid sidekick.” It’s just that IG-11 isn’t around the whole time.

I do like IG-11, largely because his presence in the climactic shoot-out sequence explains how IG-88 works. In The Empire Strikes Back, IG-88 was essentially just a tall prop that stood next to Boba Fett and the other bounty hunters. It couldn’t have been on screen for more than a second or two. But like many a bit player in Star Wars, it gained a cult following. But of course, we never got to see the IG-88 in action. We were never meant to. As such, I always wondered how this tall, seemingly cumbersome, ridid-looking robot was supposed to do the same job as Boba Fett…

Turns out, these IG droids may be all of those things. But they’re also fast, and make for a hell of an action scene!

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

Rob Watches Star Trek: Meet the Parents

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

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S2.E10 “Journey to Babel”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
GUEST-STARRING: Mark Lenard, Jane Wyatt
WRITER: D.C. Fontana
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: November 17, 1967
SYNOPSIS: As the Enterprise transports planetary delegates to a diplomatic conference, Spock’s father becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

There’s a moment in this episode that I absolutely love. It’s when we cut to a wide open common area and see all the various aliens that have come together on the Enterprise. We’ve got blue people with antennas, we’ve got pig men, we’ve got little people painted gold (shown below). And of course, we have a Vulcan.

For yours truly, this is a sort of gloriously campy predecessor to what we’d see 10 years later in the cantina scene in Star Wars. For a few brief moments, Star Trek does some world-building simply via the visuals. Those glorious ’60s sci-fi visuals.

The only thing missing was a Gorn. Though that particular alien race seemed, shall we say, less inclined toward diplomacy. And hey, maybe Kirk’s got hard feelings. You can’t blame him, can you?

In addition to a Gorn-less alien convention, we’ve got quite a bit else happening in this episode. A family reunion with Spock’s parents, Marek and Amanda. We then go into a murder investigation after one of the pig men is killed. Next we find out Marek is ill and needs a blood transfusion from his son. This leads to Bones having to perform the procedure as the Enterprise is rocked back and forth in a space battle with the Orion crime syndicate. There are so many plates spinning, and yet it somehow all seems to fit. That’s a credit to the writing.

So Marek is Vulcan and Amanda is human. The Vulcan mindset is that humans are emotional, thus irrational. Vulcans, on the other hand, are strictly logical. The idea, which we see played up in this episode, is that Spock gets his rarely seen emotional side from his mother.

I reject this notion.

MEANWHILE, IN NOVEMBER OF 1967: The satellite ATS-3 transmits the first color image of Earth’s entire disk (nearly all of the western hemisphere).

We’ve heard Spock discuss the Vulcans and their history before. As a race, they were once quite volatile even by human standards. Warfare was commonplace, to the point that it threatened their very existence. Their salvation came via the adoption of a philosophy that cast uncontrolled emotion as the root cause of all problems. Thus, the need to rigidly control all emotion, and conduct one’s self via an ethical and logical code.

So the Vulcan mindset is cultural, as opposed to being somehow biological. They are taught to be as cold and emotion-less as they are. This flies in the face of the show’s implication that Spock’s behavior is genetically influenced by either one of his parents. For all intents and purposes, humans and Vulcans are born with the same blank slate. The difference lays in nurture, not nature.

What I’d love to see is a new and budding romance between a human and a Vulcan. I’m sure the franchise has covered that at some point in its 50-year history. But thus far the closest we’ve seen (or at least the closest I’ve seen) is the strange dynamic between Spock and Nurse Chapel. Not exactly Romeo and Juliet, those two…

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

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.

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A Star Wars #5 Review – The Jedi Bounty

Star Wars #5 (2015)TITLE: Star Wars #5
AUTHOR: Jason Aaron
PENCILLER: John Cassaday
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: May 20, 2015

Need to catch up? Check out Star Wars #4.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

“I’m never coming back to this planet again.”

Luke said that about Tatooine in the original Star Wars movie, of course. But it turns out you can go home again, and not just to rescue your buddy from Jabba the Hutt. Sometimes you’re looking for answers.

Star Wars #5 brings Luke Skywalker back to Tatooine, hoping to find clues on which path to take next. But our hero is gravely unaware that Darth Vader has sent one of the galaxy’s most notorious bounty hunters after the young pilot that destroyed the Death Star. Boba Fett is on Tatooine, and he’s coming for Luke.

Star Wars #5, Boba FettI’ve been pretty critical of Jason Aaron’s work on this series. But in this issue he writes an absolutely bad ass Boba Fett. We find him in the iconic Mos Eisley Cantina looking for leads. When he finds a teen with answers, we see something that rings very true to the Boba Fett character: A capture and interrogation sequence. This man is a ruthless, stone cold killer, and Aaron and Cassaday are able to illustrate that to great satisfaction. They give the sequence more of an edge than we usually see in a Star Wars story. Yet it still feels like the universe we know and love, especially when Fett finishes with him…

This issue is actually a reminder of how sucky it was when they redid Fett’s voice for the Empire Strikes Back DVD. Jason Wingreen had a gravelly, malice-filled, Clint Eastwood-type voice that was perfect for the character. Temuera Morrison had an accent. That’s about it.

I’ve also come to respect the way Aaron writes Luke Skywalker. In this issue, as well as the previous one, Aaron has captured the spirit of that young man who met Yoda in Empire. He’s impatient, impulsive, reckless, and as we saw last issue, immensely frustrated at times. But we still see traces of a great hero and a brave leader. As such, Luke is pretty easy to root for here.

Star Wars #5, 2015, Han Solo, John CassadayThat’s not to say we’ve seen a 180 in Aaron’s writing. This issue also sees Han Solo and Princess Leia scout locations for a new Rebel base using a stolen Imperial shuttle, much like the way they used one in Return of the Jedi. We even get some familiar talk about clearance codes and what not. But that’s not the problem. Aaron gives us some of the angry flirting between Han and Leia that, again, serves as a precursor to Empire. A Han and Leia get into some deep doo doo, as they’re prone to doing, we get the following dialogue…

Leia: “I can’t believe I’m going to die here with you. You are without a doubt the worst smuggler I’ve ever met.”

Han: “Frankly lady, you aren’t much of a Princess.”

Leia: “I hate you.”

Han then kicks over Leia’s sandcastle, prompting her to plop down and cry.

Star Wars #4, Jesus ChristI’m a fan of Han and Leia being next to each other in this series, but the dynamic in their whole love/hate relationship shouldn’t be this stripped down. That’s part of the fun of the whole thing! They dance around it, and then when they finally get close to it, something happens to spoil the moment. C’mon, Jason. Let’s not turn science fantasy’s greatest romance into an episode of Rugrats.

This is the penultimate issue of John Cassaday’s run on Star Wars, which is a shame. This hasn’t been his best work, but he’s given us some memorable stuff. Not the least of which was the awesome pin up from last issue (shown left). Naturally, as the issues have gone on he seems to have found his groove in the Star Wars universe. He’s able to tap into the classic Star Wars characterizations strictly with his art. Case in point, the way he plays with Han Solo’s acting here (shown above). Boba Fett’s body language is also perfectly on point. There are also some little things, like the texture he gives to the robes Luke and the sand people are wearing, and the cracks on the outside of Obi-Wan’s hut. It all lends itself well to the “used universe” concept George Lucas was going for in that first movie.

I’ll be sticking with Star Wars through issue #7 at least, just to see what new penciller Stuart Immonen brings to the table. This series started off on a sour note, but it’s gradually been picking up in quality. I maintain what I’ve said previously, however. If you’re looking for great Star Wars comics, Darth Vader is the place to be.

Images 1 and 2 from author’s collection. Image 3 from comicvine.com.

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