The Rise of Skywalker Novelization Review – Rey 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 third of my multi-part Rise of Skywalker novelization review!***

By Rob Siebert
A.K.A. Rob Skywalker

1. Force-Healing Powers.
Why did everybody get so bent out of shape about Rey’s Force-healing powers? Forget the fact that if you’re into Star Wars lore, you already know there were Jedi healers. But let’s say you’re not, and you’re still upset…

So the Force is a mystical energy field that binds the galaxy together, and the Jedi have access to it. What does that mean? For story purposes, it can mean whatever you want it to mean.

In the original film, it meant Obi-Wan could control people’s minds and make Stormtroopers hear things that weren’t really there. It also meant Luke could see through solid objects, hear Obi-Wan’s voice in his head, and move a proton torpedo with his mind.

Then in Empire, it also meant Luke could jump really high to avoid being frozen in carbonite, and that Darth Vader could stop blaster bolts with his hand.

In Return of the Jedi, it meant that if you were a bad guy, you could shoot lightning out of your fingers.

In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan could run super-fast like the Flash.

In The Last Jedi, it meant Luke could essentially project a hologram of himself across the galaxy. Oh, and that Snoke could link Kylo Ren’s mind with Rey’s.

Now in this movie it means Rey can heal a serpent monster, and Ben can save Rey’s life.

Folks, I know a lot of Expanded Universe stuff has been written about the Force, Jedi powers, etc. But at the end of the day, George Lucas was making this stuff up as he went along. He didn’t bend the rules of reality too far, but he used it to suit the story’s needs.

So if Force-healing has always been a thing, why didn’t Luke use it to save Vader’s life? Why didn’t Obi-Wan use it to save Qui-Gon’s? I don’t know. I just know they didn’t. That’s enough for me.

2. Rey Fixed Luke’s X-Wing
Okay, so healing someone with your magic powers? I’m okay with that. But fixing a spaceship that’s been underwater for years and is missing a wing? That’s where I draw the line, damn it!

In the movie when Luke raises his X-Wing out of the water on Ahch-To, it seems like it’s primed and set. As if he’s somehow been fixing it underwater in a translucent scuba suit or something. The book gives us further details. They don’t make the notion that Rey flew Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing into the unknown regions of space any less silly. But I’m glad they’re there.

On page 200 (of the original hardcover edition), we learn Rey didn’t just have to patch the wing that was serving as the door to Luke’s hut. She also had to use parts from Kylo Ren’s Tie Whisper, which she’d just set ablaze, and do a bunch of rewiring. The ship, might never fight againBut it was still fighter class, and its transition from vacuum to atmo was seamless.

Of course it was.

A little Wookiepedia research tells me that, assuming Luke went into exile soon after Ben destroyed his temple, that X-Wing was probably down there about six years. Jedi or not, plop my dirty Honda Civic in the ocean for six years and see how quickly you can get it running. Just sayin…

3. “Be With Me”
Like the movie, the book doesn’t specify who exactly is talking to Rey as all the Jedi of the past are rooting her on. It’s better that way, of course. After all, how would Rey know what Qui-Gon Jinn, Mace Windu, or Anakin Skywalker sound like? The only obvious tell is Yoda based on his speech patterns. And of course, she recognizes Luke.

There’s also an interesting line in here about not all these voices necessarily coming from beyond the grave…

Presences filled her awareness, some recent, some ancient, some still anchored to the living in a strange way. Rey didn’t understand. But she accepted.

I assume that’s in there not just to keep Ashoka Tano’s fate a secret, but because certain Force sensitives around the galaxy could feel what was happening and were cheering Rey on. Even if they weren’t quite aware they were doing it. “Broom boy” from The Last Jedi comes to mind. And of course there’s Finn.

4. The Lars Homestead; “Rey Skywalker”
Upon second viewing, the movie is better at covering Rey’s exploration of the Lars Homestead than I remembered. We get a lot of familiar shots, only these places are now partially buried in sand. Probably stripped for parts too.

The implication, at least the way I interpreted it, was that Rey would now be the one to train a new generation of Jedi. She’d do it from the Lars Homestead, where Luke’s journey began, and where Anakin also had strong ties.

As it turns out, that’s not the case. At the end of the book, she and BB-8 get back in the Falcon and fly off. Presumably back to Ajan Kloss.

That’s disappointing. Yes, I’m sure different Empire/First Order survivors or sympathizers across the galaxy know where Anakin and Luke were born. They’re likely more than capable of following their trail back to Tatooine.

But in terms of closing the book on the so-called “Skywalker saga,” it’s poetic not just to see it end where it began. But to see it begin there again. I understand why they closed the movie with the image of Rey and BB-8. But in terms of the book going with the whole “alone with friends” theme might have been better. Sure, BB-8 is there. But we’ve also got C-3PO to help translate old Jedi texts. R2-D2 to do astromech droid stuff, and provide anecdotes from his days with both Anakin and Luke. Then there’s Finn. Rey’s first student.

Finally, the book gives us a brief moment where Luke, as he and Leia’s spiritual presences look on at Rey, grants her permission to use his family name.

It’s yours, Rey.

And so we reach an ending. But every ending is also a beginning.

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

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: 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.

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.