Tag Archives: Star Wars movies

Rian Johnson on The Last Jedi: Leia in Space

***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: Moments after being blown into the vacuum of space, Leia, seemingly by instinct, uses the Force to drift toward the safety of a nearby Resistance ship.

Rian Johnson Says (Via The Last Jedi Commentary Track): “This was something that Kathy Kennedy would bring up. The notion that Leia is a Skywalker as well, and she’s got that same heritage. There’s a line in [Return of the Jedi] where Luke says ‘you’ve got these powers too.’ We never see them manifest. And the notion that in a moment like this, when it seems like all is lost, and she just realizes she’s not done yet. … Almost like you hear about parents when their kids are caught under cars being able to get Hulk strength and lift them up. That’s kind of what I wanted this moment to be with her using the Force kind of for the first time in these movies to pull herself back and say, ‘No. We’re not done. This is not ending here.'”

I Say: I distinctly remember my jaw hitting the floor when that ship blew up, and seeing Leia violently jerked into the vacuum of space. Keep in mind, when The Last Jedi came out Carrie Fisher had been gone just shy of a year. So the notion of the Leia character being killed off so abruptly was jarring, to say the least.

I didn’t have as big a problem with this as other people did. But I can definitely see where the criticism comes from. There’s definitely an unintentional silliness to it. And yes, the idea that even as a Skywalker, an untrained Leia can use a Force in such a drastic way does push at the boundaries of believably. In a Star Wars movie, that’s certainly saying something.

One of the missed opportunities with this new trilogy is that we never learned why Leia didn’t become a Jedi herself. In the old expanded universe novels, now under the “Legends” banner, she more or less decided it wasn’t her path. Obviously, something like that has happened here as well. But why? We’ve never even gotten a throw-away line or a reference to it. Some closure on that would be nice at some point.

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

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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.

Toy Chest Theater: Star Wars by Marcel Eisele

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

“Holy sh*t, this guy’s good!”

Did I say those words out loud when I saw Marcel Eisele’s images for the first time? No. But it almost happened. That’s got to count for something.

I’ve selected aside six shots for display, and narrowing the field was not easy. I opted to stick to Star Wars stuff, as that’s the arena he spends most of his time in. But on Eisele’s Instagram page, you’ll also see characters from Marvel, Planet of the Apes, The Walking Dead, IT, among others. Honestly, some shots were downright painful to leave out. So don’t be surprised if you see him in this space again down the road…

What I find so amazing about Eisele’s work is that he’s able to do so much with so little. Or at least what seems like so little. Take this shot of Mace Windu. It’s really just a tight shot with a lighting effect. But given the face sculpt, and Eisele using just the right amount of lighting to keep half the figure’s face in the shadow, the end result has so much gravity. Imagine walking into this guy on the dark end of the street. Yeesh. A little bit of pee just came out.

In a write-up done by BanthaSkull.com about a year ago, Eisele mentions taking a lot of shots in his backyard. I can only assume that’s where this was taken. It’s tough to go wrong with a silhouette. Don’t discount the timing element here. It feels like sunsets go by really fast when you’re trying to beat the clock.

Again, seemingly very simple. What we have here is basically a superhero shot of Luke on Ahch-To. You get the right angle, and the cape and the background do most of the work. But what is the right angle? How far back go you go? How much of the terrain do you show? How do you nail the figure’s positioning? Somehow, Eisele answered all these questions correctly. Because what he gave us here is damn near iconic.

Here’s one that hits you right in the damn feels. We never did get to see Luke and Han on screen together one last time. It might have a Grumpy Old Men vibe to it. But who cares? It’s Luke and Han.

Eisele also does some customization, as is the case with these next two shots. I appreciate this one because it sneaks up on you. When you’re scrolling by, it’s easy to assume that’s Luke behind Rey. But when you actually look at it, you’re surprised to see it’s an alt-universe Han Solo. Rocking the Jedi Master beard, no less.

Then there’s this last one, which I absolutely love the imagination behind. A custom-made “Dark Side Obi-Wan Kenobi.” There’s also a shot of this figure with a red lightsaber, thus unofficially classifying him as an evil Sith. But I like this image better, as I’m not in love with the idea of an evil Obi-Wan. By not drawing focus with the lightsaber, this pic allows us to take in all the differences between this character and the one we knew from A New Hope. The bald head, the longer beard, the bare feet, the tattered and dirty robes. I like to imagine this figure as Obi-Wan from a darker timeline, as opposed to being on the dark side himself. Perhaps not Old Ben Kenobi, but Older Ben Kenobi.

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

YouTube Spotlight: Star Wars and the Catholic Church

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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.

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.)

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