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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I hope everyone had the happiest of holidays! My gift for you readers out there are my thoughts about the most recent Star Wars movie! 😉

In the last week, I have read so many thoughtful reflections on the movie, so I will post my observations as character studies as I have in past movies, such as I did in Captain Marvel and Solo. While overall my viewing experience was mostly positive, my thoughts go far beyond what I can share in character reflections, but hopefully, enough is shared for readers to understand my conflicted thoughts on this movie.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Let’s start with the droids: C-3PO, BB-8, R2-D2  and D-O (not pictured).  No Star Wars movie is complete without an adorable or wisecracking droid. In this movie, C-3PO gets a featured role as being able to interpret a needed Sith artifact to find a hidden planet, but his sacrifice of giving up his memories is undone by D-O’s intel. Thus, his whole storyline ended up being filler, when other plot points could have been developed further. Still, it is always good to see these droids as part of the action!

Star Wars did Rose dirty! Obviously, they listened to some toxic fans who didn’t like her possible romance with Finn, and cut her role down to a bare minimum. She was left on the Rebel Base the entire time with little to do and no character development. She deserved more (plus, she almost didn’t get a character poster- this one was released after the rest)! For a thoughtful in-depth analysis of how Rose’s character was treated, read Jeff’s post The (Mis) Use of Rose Tico on The Imperial Talker site.

So instead we got a new character shoved down our throats- Jannah. She is an ex-Stormtrooper, who along with other trooper deserters gets sucked into the action. She is paired with Finn (instead of Rose!) in the last battles because obviously Finn always needs some sort of female side-kick in every movie. While I do think she was kinda cool, it took away from Rose, and what was the deal with her conversation with Lando in the last scene???Zorii is a rebel in a Boba Fett type costume that is from Poe’s past and plays a part in helping Rey, Finn and Poe get some needed information from C-3PO’s memory banks (which later proved to be a waste of time). I love actress Keri Russell who played her and was relieved when she lowered her face mask at one time to see some of her face. I liked the moment in the end when she didn’t automatically get swept up in Poe’s arms for a finale kiss (how very woke) but a bit of romance in this film would have also been welcome.

I’m throwing General Hux in here, although he did not receive an official movie poster. I always liked Hux’s scenes in all the movies, as he always came off as a petulant child, which I found amusing. So when he was revealed as the spy, I was thrilled as he helped Rey, Finn and Poe escape. However his true motivation was not in helping them, it was to screw over Kylo Ren who had disrespected him in front of others. Hux was not redeemed, as many people stay bitter and angry at the end, and I found that angle more realistic.

Chewie- the one surviving character that was in all three of the original Star Wars movies! I laughed when he received the medal that he should have received in A New Hope– there was finally #JusticeForChewie! I do wish he had received more character development in this recent set of three movies, as he was an integral part of the rebel alliance and he should have interacted more with Han, Luke and Leia. At least he was reunited with Lando for some fun adventure in this film.

Thank you for bringing back Lando! This rebel general still wears his capes with aplomb, and he was a needed legacy character to balance what little they did with Han, Luke and Leia. With Carrie Fisher’s death and the fact that Han and Luke’s characters were dead, this fan-favorite helped bring that chapter to a close. But is Lando’s story over? The clunky dialogue with Jannah at the end seemed to point to Disney having more adventures planned for this scoundrel.

I believe that Finn is force-sensitive. Is this what he was planning to say to Rey, or did he want to declare his love to her? Finn always seemed to be connected to a female in the three movies, first Rey, then Rose (did he ghost her?) and finally Jannah. There was always romantic tension with him and these three ladies, and let’s not forget his bro-mance with Poe! There were many fans who were clamoring for a relationship to develop between the men but frankly, Disney would never be brave enough to do that, instead, they had two females kiss in the last scene between characters we barely knew. Finn was my favorite of the new characters, his good nature and loyalty won me over.

Poe was first written as a Han-type, a pilot who could be a bit morally ambiguous but have the classic heart of gold. His leadership progressed in this film, and I finally truly saw him as a leader of the resistance, and someone who deserved the title of General. While Oscar Issac has leading-man looks, Poe never really had a romance developed for him, except for hints that perhaps something with Zorii will develop in the future.

I will always wonder what storyline was planned for Leia and Kylo, had Carrie Fisher not died. He killed his father and was a mass-murderer, how was he possibly going to be redeemed? That a romance with Rey was suggested throughout the movies, and their kiss before his death was part of his redemption was very uncomfortable because it played up a toxic and abusive relationship as romantic. What a horrible message to young viewers that one partner needs to put up with their partner’s abuse, because they can “save” that person. Please read the astute post from Michael of My Comic Relief: Reylo’s Role In Redemption- A The Rise of Skywalker Reflection that goes into much thoughtful reflection on the problems with a Rey and Kylo relationship. Seeking forgiveness and granting forgiveness is not and should not be a one-time conversation or deed by one person. While Kylo’s character was layered and Adam Driver is an amazing actor, his role was problematic from the start.

Rey is a strong character whom I liked quite a bit, but who was tarnished at the end with her family ancestry and with her choice of love interest. And what was the deal with her new healing powers? No Jedi in the past has ever done that. There had been much speculation that Rey would be Luke’s child or even Ben Kenobi’s, but in the end, she was shown to be the evil Palpatine’s grandchild. What?! Why was Palpatine even alive, much less that he had had an adult child who smuggled Rey away from him? While I hated almost all of The Last Jedi, the one thing I did like is that Jedi (or anyone) don’t need to come from an important family, they literally can come from anywhere. That was an important message for moviegoers, but that was erased here for Rey to now be fighting the dark side and her family connection to it. And that she choose Kylo to passionately kiss, over loyal and steadfast Finn? What the fuck! I did like her concluding scene, as she claims the Skywalker name, showing that one can claim their family alliance over blood-ties.

Lastly, and most importantly, let’s go over my beloved original three of Luke, Leia and Han Solo. I was devastated that Luke became a grumpy hermit and later died in the last movie (see my passionate post An Ignoble End to the Skywalker Saga on The Imperial Talker’s site) and in this movie, there was a bit of course correction in his role as a Jedi ghost, but what was done was done. Considering Fisher’s death, director JJ Abrams did his very best with existing footage of Leia to craft her farewell role. She got a good concluding arc, showing how she was helping train Rey as a Jedi, which was a lovely nod to her Skywalker heritage and the flashback to her and Luke during her own training was heartfelt and tied up some loose threads. I believe she was supposed to help redeem Kylo, and at least she did play a small role in helping him turn although I will always be sad that she and Kylo were never able to play a scene together. Han’s cameo came as a lovely surprise, I’m sure in part to push the narrative that Kylo’s parent’s love helped turn Kylo back to the Light. I just dearly wish that these three had been given a scene together (along with Chewie)- it will always be a shame that the directors choose not to have them reunite in some way.

While I’m sure Disney is far from done with Star Wars storytelling, this movie brought to a close the Skywalker saga. There is no way that all fans could be satisfied with any narrative that Disney filmed, but I just wished they had been able to capture the scope and mysticism that George Lucas had brought to his imagined universe. However, I will be forever grateful that these stories were told, and they have captured so many people’s imagination. May the Force be with you!

-Nancy

Solo Movie Review

I walked into Solo unsure of how I would feel about it, considering my recent Star Wars movie experience was excruciating.  I was frankly quite devastated at how the preceding The Last Jedi played out, especially in regards to Luke Skywalker’s portrayal. But I never felt the emotional tie to Han Solo, as he was known for his scoundrel swagger, and I’ve never been a fan of the bad boy trope. So I went into Solo with no expectations- I didn’t really care if his character was crucified. The movie proved to be solid. Not great…not bad…just good.

Rather than going into a full review of the movie, which you can find on dozens of other sites, I will address a few issues and then move into nine character studies.

*An issue going into any prequel is that you know the main characters survive in a future timeline. As such when Han, Chewie and Lando were in dangerous situations, I knew it was the new secondary characters that would bite the dust. To throw in a Star Trek joke- you knew who the redshirts were.

*I saw this movie with my husband and daughter, and afterwards we all agreed that the movie felt like a run of the mill sci-fi action movie, with a few Star Wars references thrown in. The movie showcased some new planets and none of them had the Star Wars vibe. I spotted a few Stormtroopers in the beginning plus there were a few ships such as TIE fighters that were iconic, but these new worlds just didn’t feel like what we have seen in the other movies.

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Alden did a fair job of creating a young Han Solo. He had the unenviable job of following in Harrison Ford’s footsteps, but he tried to capture Han’s charm, without being a caricature of the original. I had hoped for more background to his past and there was a brief mention of his father, but no explanation as to how to came to be alone. I liked the explanation of his last name when he was applying to get off planet but then there was a big time jump and we didn’t see him get kicked out of pilot school. At times he came off as cocky vs suave, but as he is a younger man here, the suaveness will come in time.

 

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Joonas Suotamo played Chewbacca- why is his name not on this poster like all the other actor and actresses names are? Is this yet another example of Chewie being treated more as a pet than a humanoid alien? While I appreciated the origin story of how he and Han met, it still didn’t go far enough in explaining why Chewie has given Han such intense loyalty. Now that Star Wars Holiday Special is canon (Disney put one of the characters from the special into the official book From A Certain Point Of View) we know he has a family back on his home planet. Why would he leave them for Han Solo? Loved what he did when he saw other Wookies on one of the missions!

 

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Donald Glover WAS Lando! He ably portrayed this charming gambler with plenty of charisma. Seemingly only out for himself,  he showed enough compassion for viewers to know that he will be able to make the leap from selfish to selfless in future movies.  His banter with Alden was authentic and he wore his capes with aplomb!

 

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I was happy to see Star Wars include a woman of color in a main role! With natural hair! She was tough as nails, but had the classic heart of gold. Can’t say too much more about her with out spoilers, but I wish her role had been larger.

 

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Gotta have a spunky droid, and L3-37 does not disappoint! Voiced by a woman, this robot was a social justice warrior (especially for droid rights) who implied she had a crush on Lando. My question is: why does an unseen actress get billing on a poster when Chewbacca’s does not? L3-37 is very woke and should fight for his name inclusion as one of her many causes!

 

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I’ve been a big fan of Woody Harrelson for years, but I had a hard time seeing past the actor for this role. He has played grizzled world weary characters in too many roles, and Beckett was cut from the same cloth. All the double and triple crosses in the end reinforced my feeling that it wasn’t a Star Wars film but an action heist  movie.

 

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Qi’Ra was Han’s love interest, so right away we knew things would not go well for her. Her fate at the end wasn’t exactly what I expected, and leaves open a possibility of another prequel movie to explain what happens to her and a certain other memorable Star Wars character. She played her femme-fatale role well, and you almost forget that her appealing character would soon enough be cast aside for Princess Leia.

 

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Ugh- a a wise cracking four armed monkey pilot. Enough said.

 

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Paul Bettany did a good job playing slimy villain Dryden. I was able to forget he recently played the superhero The Vision in the Avengers movies. His cultured voice belayed the fact that he was a crime lord that would betray you as soon as you turned your back.

*****

Will I be back if they put out another Han Solo prequel? As of now- I wouldn’t spend the money to see it in the theatre but might once out in DVD. Solo was fine- so in essence I am damning this movie with faint praise. It is Star Wars: Episode IX that I will save my passion for and how they handle the plot lines going forward.

-Nancy

Star Wars: From A Certain Point Of View

I love Star Wars! I love short stories! Together this anthology was a win-win for me.

Forty authors celebrated forty years of Star Wars by contributing a story of a minor or supporting character from the ending of Rogue One to the finale of A New Hope. I listened to these stories on audio, but also had a copy of the book to refer to when I wanted to double check a detail or if I didn’t like the way a story was voiced. There are a few spoilers, but I did my best not to give it all away! 😉

Raymus by Gary Witta   4/5

Captain Raymus Antilles holds onto hope to the very end that his ship carrying Princess Leia away from the Battle of Scarif will escape from the Imperial Fleet.

The Bucket by Chrsitie Golden   4/5

Stormtrooper TK-4601 begins to have feelings of dissent with the Empire after he meets Leia. Not an immediate deserter, but the seeds are sown…

The Sith of Datawork by Ken Liu   5/5

A fun tongue-in cheek story that will be appreciated by the many of us who feel that paperwork is endless at their jobs and in their homes. Arvira, Imperial Logistic Datawork Officer, knows her forms and helps Bolvan, the gunnery captain who let a certain escape pod go unchecked to Tatooine, cover up his mistake with layers of reports.

Stories in the Sand by Griffin McElroy 4/5

Am amusing tale of little Jot, a Jawa who doesn’t erase R2-D2’s memory like he typically does with other droids for resale. By watching other droid’s chips he sees there is more to the universe than the gritty Sandcrawler he works on.

Reirin by Sabaa Tahir  3/5

We meet Reirin, a female Tusken Raider, who is willing to leave the safety of her clan for the mysterious charms of a green crystal she finds.

The Red One by Rae Carson  4/5

A surprisingly poignant story about R5-D4, the red droid that Uncle Own picked first from the Jawas. His malfunction was truly a sacrifice made for the Rebellion.  It was fun to start getting outsider’s views of Luke as we first meet him in A New Hope.

Rites by John Jackson Miller 3.5/5

Three young Tuskens want to make names for themselves in their warrior society. They meet Obi-Wan, whom they consider a wizard, and Luke whom they call Sandy Hair.

Master and Apprentice by Claudia Grey 5/5

Obi-Wan receives a visitor and because of their conversation realizes he needs “to think of death as only the beginning of wisdom”. While I was surprised at this entry, as he formally was not part of A New Hope, the visitor’s wisdom would have always remained with Ben.

Beru Whitesun Lars by Meg Cabot 5/5

LOVED this story! Author Meg Cabot gave Aunt Beru a beautiful backstory and a voice in how she loved raising Luke. I was tearing up as I listened to this story, for Beru was more than an aunt, she was a MOTHER to him and should have been recognized more for being the loving woman who shaped Luke into the man he became.

The Luckless Rodian by Renee Ahdieh  4/5

Greedo…and his last hours before his fateful encounter with Han Solo.

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Not for Nothing by Mur Lafferty 4/5

A supposed excerpt from one of the Bith band member’s memoirs about why they were playing at the cantina, after a forced extended stay at Jabba the Hutt’s “palace” . The music must go on…

We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here by Chuck Wendig 3.5/5

A character study of Wuher, one of the bartenders at the cantina. My biggest take-away from this story is learning that Ackmena, the barmaid from the Star Wars Holiday Special,  is now canon!

The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction 1/5

When are we going to leave Tatooine??!! Why was the worst story also the longest story? I did not care one whit about the crime planned to take place at Chalmun’s Cantina.

Added Muscle by Paul Dini  5/5

Luckily the next story balances the previous story by being short and fresh. We learn Boba Fett’s recollections of what happened between Han and Jabba in Docking Bay 94.

You Owe Me a Ride by Zoraida Cordova  4/5

Twins Brea and Senni Tonnika live on the edge of society, unwillingly trapped at Jabba’s palace. The sisters begin to scheme how they can leave the sandy planet forever.

The Secrets of Long Snoot by Delilah S. Dawson  2/5

Are we STILL stuck on  Tatooine??!!  Not every bounty hunter is successful and suave, and Long Snoot skulks along the fringes hoping to pick up easy information he can then pass along to the Imperial Troopers hoping for enough credits to reunite with his family.

Born in the Storm by Daniel Jose Older  4.5/5

Stormtrooper TD-7556 relates his recent mission on Tatooine in an incident report form. Turns out he was one of the soldiers who sent Obi Wan, Luke and the droids on their way- “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”.   This stormtrooper is no mindless drone, he is funny and sarcastic and the story was a fun read.

Laina by Wil Wheaton  5/5

OMG the feels! A widowed Rebel soldier wishes to send his beloved daughter Laina to safety and makes a video for the toddler. He recounts to her information about her mother and the reason why he is fighting against the Empire. Already a poignant tale of a family being separated, it takes an even more heartrending turn at the end. ( I have re-imaged the last bit in my mind to make a happier ending)

Fully Operational by Beth Revis  3.5/5

General Tagge uncomfortably witnesses Lord Vader’s reaction and choke hold of Admiral Motti. Previously believing the Empire’s greatest weapon was the Death Star, he now realizes it is Vader himself.

An Incident Report by Mallory Ortberg   3.5/5

Admiral Motti gets his rebuttal and blusters about his importance to cover up his shame of being humiliated in front of other staff. He refuses to see Vader’s power and relies entirely on the Death Star’s technology.

Change of Heart by Elizabeth Wein  3.5/5

The indomitable Leia unknowingly influences another Imperial soldier to rethink his alliance after he witnesses her strength when Alderaan is destroyed. Having two stories like this was over kill. I have huge Leia love, but to have two soldiers completely change their ways just by observing her was too much.

Eclipse by Madeleine Roux  4.5/5

A heartbreaking look at the last hours of Breha and Bail Organa. Despite them realizing their planet’s impending doom, they cling together in love and with hope in their hearts that their daughter is safe.  On a side note- I had a hard time imagining Leia growing up there. Things at the palace were so ornate and orchestrated, instead I thought of Padme.

Verge of Greatness by Pablo Hidalgo  4/5

Evil Empire leaders are taught not to trust anyone else and to only look out for themselves- but if Tarkin and Krennic had been able to work effectively as a team, perhaps then they could have been more powerful than Vader.  I appreciated the shoutout to Galen and Jyn Erso at the end.

Far Too Remote by Jeffrey Brown 4/5

Surprising and funny one panel cartoon from the author/artist who writes children’s books Vader’s Little Princess and Vader and Son.  See book for dialogue! 😉

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The Trigger by Kieron Gillen  3/5

Aphra is a dubious archaeologist who skirts the law on Dantooine. Captured by stormtroopers she talks her way out of trouble. She was an unfamiliar character to me, but her fleshed out backstory hinted that she plays more of a role in Star Wars canon, so I wasn’t surprised to realize she can be found in many Star Wars graphic novels. .

Of MSE-6 and Men by Glen Weldon 1/5

Why again are the worst stories the longest stories? Told from the perspective of a mouse droid found on the Death Star.

Bump by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker  3/5

One of the stormtroopers from the Tatooine unit that let the droids by, due to Obi Wan’s mind tricks, is called up to report once that data has been reviewed. He knows he’s in for it, but remains true to the Empire until the end.

End of Watch by Adam Christopher   4/5

Commander Pamel Poul is at the end of her shift on the Death Star and just wants to be off duty. But there seems to be a small problem in one of the detention blocks, and an odd message from an alleged soldier there doesn’t seem to follow protocol…

The Baptist by Nnedi Okorafor   5/5

When a creature is taken from their home planet and taken to the Death Star, I wondered where in the world the story was going. Then I realized it was the garbage disposal monster and I was intrigued. I found this story strangely appealing!

Time of Death by Cavan Scott   3/5

This story had me torn. While in one way I liked having more time with Obi Wan, his after life is a delicate subject matter to tackle. There was one little remembrance that I enjoyed- a missing piece of his lost years at Tatooine when he interacts with a young Luke and his Uncle Owen.

There Is Another by Gary D. Schmidt 3.5/5

This pushed canon a bit too far. While I have always wondered why Leia never trained to use the Force, this story has a certain green somebody quite opposed to training Luke, claiming that Leia would be more suitable. Maybe so, to a degree (see picture below), but he missed Palpatine being a Sith Lord, so maybe just maybe he could be wrong about Luke. (And he was.)

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Palpatine by Ian Doescher 4.5/5

An interesting soliloquy from Palpatine’s perspective that I first listened to and then read to get the full power of his thoughts as it was written in poem form.

Sparks by Paul S. Kemp  4.5/5

Told from the perspective of Dex, a Rebel fighter pilot, during the battle of Yavin 4. This was an action packed story that had an expected sad ending for Gold Two.

Duty Roster by Jason Fry   4/5

Not every Rebel pilot gets to fly when there are not enough ships and Col, aka Fake Wedge (to his chagrin), is not chosen. He is furious at not being picked when newbie Luke Skywalker is selected, but as most of the pilots die, he survives for future missions.

Desert Son by Pierce Brown  4/5

Oh, Biggs Darklighter, we barely knew you…and you seemed so appealing! If only you and Luke had been able to reunite but your heroics helped ensure Luke’s victory.

Grounded by Greg Rucka  4.5/5

Chief Nera Kase, an integral part of the Rebels for her mechanical knowledge, watches as the pilots and ships she cares for head into battle. Not every body can be the flashy hero, but her behind the scenes work is an heroic as any pilot or leader’s contribution. I always root for the solid characters, who often don’t get their due because they are quiet and unassuming.

Contingency Plan by Alexander Freed  4/5

All good leaders should have contingency plans, for even the best laid plans can go sideways in a moment.  Mon Mothma is no exception, and the Rebel victory gives her renewed vigor for the cause.

The Angle by Charles Soule  4.5/5

With the new Solo movie coming out, I couldn’t help but think of our favorite caped scoundrel as being a mix of Donald Glover and Billie Dee Williams. The audio version had this guy voiced perfectly, as he wonders why in the world his fellow rogue Han would risk his life.

By Whatever Sun by E.K. Johnston and Ashley Eckstein  3.5/5

Captain Miara Larte and her crew witnesses the medal ceremony for Luke, Han and Chewbacca. While perhaps it can be argued it was a premature celebration, she feels that the joyful occasion is needed in a time of sorrow. This character was another one I was unfamiliar with, as she is from the Ahsoka book that I have not read yet.

Whills by Tom Angleberger  5/5

Awesome ending! I adored the two Whills scholars debating how to chronicle the Star Wars saga. They debate both where to start the story (Episode IV!) and the wording that we have grown to love.

This book is a must read for all Star Wars fans! It strengthened and filled in gaps in the narrative and this new canon was a treat from beginning to end.

-Nancy

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