Tag Archives: Rian Johnson

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.

Rian Johnson on The Last Jedi: Luke, Rey, and the Force

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Scene: In an attempt to teach Rey about the Force, Luke guides her in reaching out with her feelings. He is horrified when she is drawn to the dark side.

Rian Johnson Says (Via The Last Jedi Commentary Track): “I felt like it was important, if we were going to have a couple of these topsy-turvy lessons where Luke is trying to teach her why not to be a Jedi, but why the Jedi need to end, the notion of approaching a Force lesson. What is the Force? And the notion of, especially for kids who are watching this … the Force is not a super power. It’s not just about making things float. … It’s not like a Superman thing. And the notion of trying to explain in a gentler, more spiritual way … Do a little bit of a rest on it. I thought [that] could be something that would be really good. And I think Mark is just tremendous in this scene, and I think Daisy is amazing.”

I Say: This is one of my favorite scenes in the movie. A sort of refresher course for fans new and old on what the Force is.

In watching this movie again, I realized Luke uses some of the same verbiage that Obi-Wan used in A New Hope….

Obi-Wan: “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”

Luke: “It’s the energy between all things. A tension. A balance that binds the universe together.”

I can only assume Rian Johnson did this intentionally. Why wouldn’t you, after all? Luke is essentially in the Obi-Wan role here.

This won’t be a popular opinion, but in terms of explaining what the Force is, I actually prefer the Last Jedi scene to the one with Obi-Wan. The use of the cinematography alongside Rey’s dialogue helps really drill it home.

Rey: “The island. Life. Death and decay, that feeds new life. Warmth. Cold. Peace. Violence.”

Luke: “And between it all?”

Rey: “Balance. An energy. A Force.”

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

Rian Johnson on The Last Jedi: Luke’s Exile

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Scene: Picking right up from the ending of The Force Awakens, Rey has arrived on the planet Ahch-To to seek out Luke Skywalker. She brings him his father’s lightsaber, the same one he lost on Bespin decades ago. Luke tosses the weapon over the cliff, refusing to help Rey.

Rian Johnson Says (Via The Last Jedi Commentary Track): “This moment of Mark [Hamill] tossing the saber, that was always just something that made a lot of sense to me … The first thing I had to do as I was writing the script was figure out, why was Luke on this island? … So he knows his friends are fighting this good fight, he knows there’s peril out there in the galaxy, and he’s exiled himself way out here and taken himself out of it. So I had to figure out why. And I knew because it was Luke Skywalker, who I grew up with as a hero, I knew the answer couldn’t be cowardice. So I knew the answer had to be something active, he couldn’t just be hiding. It had to be something positive. He thinks he’s doing the right thing.

“And that kind of led to…the notion that he’s come to the conclusion from all the given evidence that the Jedi are not helping. They’re just perpetuating this kind of cycle. They need to go away so that the light can rise from a more worthy source. So suddenly that turned his exile from something where he’s hiding and avoiding responsibility to him kind of taking the weight of the world on his shoulders and bearing this huge burden of know his friends are suffering. And because he thinks its the bigger and better thing for the galaxy, he’s choosing to not engage with it.”

I Say: The notion that they handed this series off to Johnson without a plan, or answers to certain questions, is flabbergasting to me. Supposedly, that is indeed what happened. He sat down and wrote this movie with no idea why Luke had exiled himself, who Rey’s family was, who Snoke was, or any of that. He had to create his own answers. So I can sympathize with the position he was apparently put in.

The reason he came up with for Luke’s exile was fine. I like it a lot, in fact. I can certainly appreciate that it wasn’t simply cowardice. What I, and certainly numerous others, did not appreciate was the comedic chucking of the lightsaber over the cliff. That moment between Luke and Rey at the end of The Force Awakens had so much weight to it. It was the first time we’d seen Luke since Return of the Jedi. He was shocked to see this new person who’d discovered him, and Rey was vulnerable, silently asking for his guidance. It was a cliffhanger suitable to end the movie, and one we waited two damn years to get the payoff for…

It’s not Luke’s rejection of the weapon, and thus Rey’s question, that irks me. It’s the tonality of it. Instead of having Luke toss it, why not just let it drop to his feet? It’s less heavy-handed (no pun intended), and subtly speaks to his refusal to take on the responsibility of being a hero. Instead, he just tosses the weapon away like a discarded soda can or something. To do it the way they did was almost disrespectful to The Force Awakens

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

Rian Johnson on The Last Jedi: “…About His Mother.”

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Scene: During the film’s opening sequence, General Hux talks to Poe Dameron via comm link. Dameron makes an antagonistic allusion to Hux’s mother.

Rian Johnson Says (Via The Last Jedi Commentary Track): “I held on to this. This was something where I felt like…with the heaviness of it being the middle chapter, and I knew people were going to come in with expectations of all the grand opera of it. And I really wanted this movie to be fun. I love the tone that J.J. [Abrams], Michael [Arndt], and Larry [Kasdan] set with The Force Awakens. And the tone of the original films has a spirit of fun to it. I felt like we had to, at the very beginning, kind of break the ice and say we’re going to have fun here. We’re going to try some fun stuff, and it’s going to be okay to laugh at this movie. So we kind of start it with a little Monty Python sketch.”

I Say: He’s not wrong about the original movies having that fun spirit to them. Just a few minutes into the original movie, Threepio and Artoo comedically rush through a barrage of blaster fire. So we can’t say that humor hasn’t been part of the franchise’s DNA from the get-go. Frankly, a lot of The Last Jedi‘s jokes landed with me. Still, I wonder if given the chance to go back and chance things, Rian Johnson wouldn’t take that “…about his mother” line out.

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

A Star Wars: Bloodline Review – Descended From Darkness

Star Wars: BloodlineTITLE: Star Wars: Bloodline
AUTHOR: Claudia Gray
PUBLISHER: Del Rey Books
LIST PRICE: 
$28.00
RELEASED: May 3, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Politics have always been a part of Star Wars. After all, one usually can’t have war without politics. Such things have the spotlight at some points more than others. It’s as much at the forefront in Bloodline as any Star Wars story you’ll ever read. That works to its detriment at times. But ultimately, Bloodline reveals something that may turn out to be a very important factor in Ben Solo’s turn to the dark side.

The book takes place over two decades after Return of the Jedi. The Galactic Senate of the New Republic is divided into two parties. First are the Populists, of whom Leia is a prominent member, who believe planetary authority should be retained by the individual worlds themselves. In contrast, the Centrists believe planets should be governed by a larger government and a more powerful military. Sadly, these two groups are more divided than ever, as such leaving the Senate largely unproductive. But when representatives from the planet Ryloth alert them to the emergence of an organized criminal element, Leia stumbles on to the foundation of a new war for the fate of the galaxy. But Leia is also about to face personal adversity. A secret will be revealed that few have ever known. Even two decades after his death, the shadow of Darth Vader looms heavily.

Star Wars: Bloodlines, postersThe imagery and marketing associated with Bloodline is somewhat misleading. It leads you to believe much of the book is about Leia being nominated for First Senator, more or less the equivalent to what the Chancellor of the Republic was in the prequels. It even comes with a double-sided “Vote Leia” poster, which on the flip side is defaced with an image of Darth Vader and the word “traitor.” In truth, the book has little to do with Leia being part of an election, and more to do with the unraveling of who the criminal group is. This is frustrating, but it doesn’t necessarily tarnish the book. Once we get into the second half, and the Vader element comes into play, things really pick up.

One of the reasons many fans soured on the prequel trilogy was the emphasis on politics, and the happenings in the Senate. Such fans will want to avoid Bloodline. It’s less about the action and more about the intrigue. There’s nothing wrong with that. But as much a die-hard as I am, I had trouble staying interested at times. Mostly during the first half.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Princess LeiaThough it plays the political card pretty heavily, Bloodline is somewhat timely for those who are so inclined. The book is largely about a political body heavily divided in its beliefs as they try to elect a leader. If you pay even the most remote attention to the news, that should sound familiar. It even offers us a little ray of hope, as we see Leia learning to trust and befriend a Centrist senator. Apparently even in a galaxy far, far away, one can reach across the aisle now and then.

One of the great things about new Star Wars stories in 2016 is that there’s so much fertile ground to cover between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. In various Star Wars novels and comic books (including Claudia Gray’s other Star Wars book, Lost Stars), we’ve been getting bits and pieces of the state the galaxy is in, what happened to the Empire, etc. Bloodline offers a lot of that, including how the First Order and the Resistance were formed.

But the major event of this book involves the revelation to the galaxy that Leia is Darth Vader’s daughter. What’s more, Ben Solo, who is off training with Luke Skywalker at this point, doesn’t know the truth about his heritage. That point is understated, but it’s perhaps the most notable development in the entire book. Ben doesn’t know. Imagine learning a secret like that, not from your parents, but from the news. How angry would you be? And in time, wouldn’t you want to know more about the grandfather you never knew you had? For a certain kind of person a fixation, or even an obsession, might form…

Kylo Ren, Darth Vader helmetReportedly, Rian Johnson, the director for Episode VIII, contributed ideas for this book. I’d be floored to learn that either Johnson, or someone on the inside at that movie didn’t float that to Gray. That’s too integral a detail to Ben’s turn to the dark side.

Bloodline isn’t the most thrilling Star Wars book you’ll ever read. Readers will definitely feel its length at times. But it offers an abundance of something many fans are looking for these days: Information. Casual fans may want to leave it on the shelf, but die-hards will gobble this up like a Sarlacc Pit devouring their favorite bounty hunter.

Image 1 from stormtrooperlarry.wordpress.com. Image 2 from cinemablend.com. Image 3 from screen rant.com.

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