Star Wars Trailers! Star Wars Trailers! Star Wars Trailers!

The problem I have with Star Wars movies is basically the exact opposite of the problem I have with upcoming DC films: I tend to get so excited for them I have to actively fight off impossibly high expectations. And with Star Wars Celebration in full swing (Why am I not there?! Agghhhh!), the hype machine is in overdrive and so is my fanboyism. There’s all sorts of Star Wars news breaking at the moment, but below I’ve outlined my big three takeaways from Celebration so far. Let’s get cracking:

My enthusiasm for gaming tends to go through extremely dramatic and unpredictable ebbs and flows so I have no idea how interested I’m still going to be by the time Star Wars Battlefront II (curiously, it’s the second such game to be called that) is available to play on Nov. 17. But for the time being, this looks cool as hell. It’s supposed to be the first Star Wars game in the new continuity to explore a post Return of the Jedi setting and it appears to also set up the rise of the First Order. I’m a bit iffy on video game stories being made into franchise canon (good riddance, Force Unleashed), but Battlefront II gets the benefit of the doubt for now.

I was totally wrong about Star Wars Rebels concluding with its third season despite appearances to the contrary, but I wasn’t off by much. It’s been officially announced that it will end with the upcoming season four. Truthfully, I didn’t expect this show to last; in addition to the fact that cartoons for kids don’t usually have deep runs, the five years before A New Hope time frame didn’t give its storytellers tons of wiggle room. Nonetheless, the pieces of an emotionally satisfying conclusion are in place, especially since Hera’s somber narration doesn’t imply a happy ending. We know from that Easter Egg in Rogue One that she’ll probably be okay. My credits are on Kanan buying the moisture farm, since I don’t think Disney is about to kill off any 15-year-olds. I’m pretty sure Thrawn will go down too, which would take him “off the board” during the events of the OT. At any rate, I’m glad Rebels will get to end on its own terms, rather than get abruptly yanked off the air like Clone Wars did.

And that wolf! I don’t know what it is, but I love it already!

I’ve saved the best for last: the first trailer (it’s April; there’s going to be several more) for The Last Jedi. I’m super bummed that the elderly versions of Luke, Han and Leia won’t get to share the screen but it’s nice to have Luke back even though the last 10 or so years haven’t been kind to him. Luke took on a mentor role in some of the later post Saga books in the now defunct EU and getting to see that version of him onscreen is going to be treat, especially since Mark Hamill is really selling it with that magnificent beard. The only major plot point we can cull from this is that a despondent Luke, haunted by his failure with Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, will be ending the Jedi Order. Everyone – me included – thinks this means Star Wars is trying to move past the Light side/Dark side dichotomy (Luke’s “It’s so much bigger” line is lending that theory major credence). The idea that the Force has more than just two paths was touched upon in the previous season of Rebels via the Bendu character and hopefully it will get explored further in TLJ. I stand by what I said about Star Wars needing to take creative risks and this feels like a step in the right direction.

The Last Jedi comes out on Dec. 15.

Star Wars Rebels is Back on Saturday

Part of me kind of dreads the return of all the fall TV series. I mean, sure, I like Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Timeless, Supergirl and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D but all that viewing feels burdensome at times. Between going back to the gym regularly (hello 2017) and Final Fantasy XV my non-work hours are rapidly eroding. I’m in for a long winter, even without the imminent presidency of the Tangerine Troglodyte.

But Star Wars: Rebels? Hell, yes, I have time for that. The above three minute trailer heralding the second half of season three is a jam-packed doozy. I’m a fan by default at this point, but if you’ve just seen Rogue One (fantastic, by the way) and you’re still craving Star Wars, then start watching this show.

Season three has really expanded the scope of Rebels, something this series badly needed after mostly two seasons spent meandering about Lothal. It looks like that trend is continuing as season three comes to a close. I’m guessing Rogue One really lit a fire under the asses of executive producers Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman because it sure looks like big things are a coming and…possibly the end of not just this season but the whole series?

From what we can gleam from the trailer, the various Rebel cells are coalescing into a larger whole, there’s some familial drama with Sabine, her mother and the other Mandalorians (the darksaber from Clone Wars is back) and oh, shit, that Obi-Wan reveal…hopefully Old Ben will finish Maul off for good this time. This all looks conclusive; now we just need to know what will happen to Kanan and Ezra. Are these dudes even still alive during the events of the OT? I don’t think it likely but we shall see.

Star Wars: Rebels is back this Saturday (Jan. 7). Order a pizza, grab a six pack of some delicious beer and tune in at 8:30 p.m. if you’re on the West Coast.

What’s Next for ‘Star Wars?’

 

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Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Image courtesy of Wookieepedia.

The Force Awakens is knocking down box office records and Star Wars is perceived as cool again. Disney has charted a loose course for the near future and has deviated slightly by bumping Episode VIII from May 2017 to December of that same year. We are still going to be getting a movie a year from now until at least 2019, which will include the next installments of the new trilogy as well as standalone spinoff films (one of which is slated for release this December). In the meantime, we can help ourselves to a proverbial buffet of secondary Star Wars media: the Rebels animated series, the various Marvel comics series, the occasional new novel or two and of course, Legos.

But for many people, these are all trivial distractions from what’s really on their minds: Episode VIII. It has a director in Rian Johnson, who I only know from the fantastic Looper. Nonetheless he’s exactly the sort of filmmaker that I hoped The Force Awakens would get, but we had to settle for the poor man’s Spielberg that is JJ Abrams. While Abrams did an alright enough job, I’m eager to get this franchise into someone else’s hands.

For what it’s worth, Episode IX also has a director picked: Colin Trevorrow, which I’m not enthused about at all. His Jurassic World was a broken mess so contemptible that I’ve sworn off Chris Pratt until the next Guardians of the Galaxy. I sincerely hope Trevorrow either drops out or takes an online film school course between now and IX’s tentative release date.

Anyhow, a great many folks have pointed out many similarities between TFA and A New Hope, mainly that they are almost the same movie. I was willing to overlook this because A) TFA did not suck, B) the new characters made up for it and C) being the first Star Wars film in a decade, taking the safe road is forgivable, especially considering what happened last time we got a new trilogy. But now that Star Wars is back in everyone’s good will, I feel like I have to put this out there: Episode VIII needs to be different.

I really don’t want an VIII that is essentially an Empire Strikes Back knockoff. TFA following ANH is one easily brushed aside thing, but VIII following Empire just as closely? Then I’ll get mad. And that’s just it; Empire is universally considered the best film in the OT. Even I, the most ardent defender/apologist of Return of the Jedi you will ever meet, would not dispute that fact. I mean, that’s just crazy talk. With that in mind, can you envision a scenario where there isn’t overwhelming studio and/or fan pressure to make VIII into an Empire clone? If you are one of the suits at Disney, why wouldn’t you take another trip down memory lane to the tune of another billion dollar global box office take?

There is this one negative side effect from the prequels that no one ever talks about: it made Star Wars fans deeply afraid of change. Everything about TFA was tailor-made to address those fears: the return of the original cast members, the mostly practical effects, the rehashed plot, the near identical aesthetic and the presence of JJ Abrams, the aforementioned poor man’s Spielberg. All deeply comforting to a fan base that has a hard time letting things go.

Hey, speaking of not being able to let go of stuff, what the hell is up with the continuing presence of Darth Maul in secondary Star Wars media? Have you seen that dense, spoiler-filled trailer for the second half of the current Star Wars Rebels season? Guess which spike-headed, full-body tattoo enthusiast with cyborg legs is STILL kicking around a mere five years before ANH? Seriously, fanboys, what is the deal with your obsession with Maul? I get that he was the only cool and edgy thing (in strictly visual terms; film Maul had as much personality as a sock drawer) in a movie that was overflowing with pandering little kid crap but your drawn out attachment to this vastly overrated character is getting insane. Let. Go.

Okay, rant over. Let’s get back to business.

I guarantee that it’s only a matter of time before Kathleen Kennedy, Abrams (who will stick around as an executive producer) or one of the cast members will drop the “we’re going to make this one our Empire Strikes Back” line during an interview and the fans will eat it up. And maybe they’ll just be pulling our legs and will yank the rug out from under us in VIII by disregarding the OT formula entirely. That would be just dandy, but they could also just build a loose facsimile of Empire and most of us still won’t give a shit and will just go along with it like last time because it’s Star Wars. I have faith in Johnson, but I tend to be cautious with my optimism.

No one at Disney or Lucasfilm will ever see this column, but if I could give whoever is in charge of Star Wars just one bit of advice, it would be this: take a risk. Don’t stray down the path of familiarity and nostalgia and don’t try to give the fans what they think they want. Forget about the OT; this is a new saga. Make the most of it and please, for the love of the Force, don’t put a Starkiller Base II in Episode IX.

The Brilliance of the Ahsoka Face

Ahsoka in a state of shock. Image courtesy of Agents of Geek.

Ahsoka in a state of shock. Image courtesy of Agents of Geek.

During “The Siege of Lothal,” the second season premiere of Disney XD’s “Star Wars Rebels” animated series (read my thoughts on it here), there is a cool moment when Ahsoka reaches out with the Force and ascertains the identity of the Sith lord pursuing The Ghost: her former master, Anakin Skywalker. It’s some fairly heavy shit and it will no doubt be setting up even more heavy – and potentially tragic – shit down the line in season two.

While I thought it was great, the most memorable take away I have from that scene is the face Ahsoka makes in the above photo when she makes that awful realization. This is quite possibly the greatest face conveying shock and horror I’ve ever seen. It is also my new favorite facial expression. Expect this to become my go to JPEG when I need to express those same emotions in a comments thread.

I bring all of this up because I want to make a fun game out of this face by re-contextualizing Ahsoka’s expression with alternate scenarios where looking like that is a reasonable reaction. Now let’s add some levity to “Star Wars Rebels’” most dramatic moment.

  1. Ahsoka is a Cavaliers fan.
  2. Ahsoka just watched the brass knuckles scene from “True Detective’s” season premier.
  3. Ahsoka just listened to The Acacia Strain for the first time.
  4. Ahsoka just watched the Patrón Challenge.
  5. Ahsoka has overheard Obi-wan and Yoda using the term “turnt” in casual conversation.
  6. Ahsoka has just learned that the last In-N-Out on Coruscant has closed.
  7. Ahsoka found the search term “Togruta bukkake” in Anakin’s browser history.
  8. Ahsoka has just finished issue #15 of “Miracleman.”
  9. Ahsoka just became the first non-Wookie to actually see Wookie genitalia.
  10. Ahsoka just realized that the younglings in lightsaber practice aren’t using the safety blades.
  11. Ahsoka just read a sample of erotic “Luxsoka” fanfic.
  12. Ahsoka just discovered an early screenplay draft of “Revenge of the Sith” that prominently featured her, stuffed in George Lucas’ medicine cabinet.*

Wasn’t that fun? Please contribute your own Ahsoka Face Moment in the comments section.

*Rest assured, this was never a possibility. To my knowledge, Ahsoka Tano did not exist prior to development on “The Clone Wars” (both the theatrical film and the subsequent Cartoon Network series) in 2008.

‘Star Wars Rebels’ Briefly Comes Back; Is Still Awesome

Here are my thoughts on “The Siege of Lothal,” last night’s “Star Wars Rebels” TV movie:

  1. If getting James Earl Jones to reprise Darth Vader’s voice is considered fan service, than it is fan service I can get behind.

  2. The “Should we join the Rebels or sit this one out?” dilemma that the Ghost crew faces made for a good B-story. It actually had me sympathizing with Kanan, who I generally care about the least.

  3. If I recall correctly, Minister Maketh Tua is the first casualty we’ve seen on “Rebels” (ie, a character with a name and a speaking part, as opposed to the mostly nameless and faceless Stormtroopers).

  4. Ezra and Kanan’s duel with Vader was exceptionally well done and was also made unusually more visceral (for Disney standards) by that bit were Vader forces Ezra to hold his lightsaber against his own throat.

  5. Sabine once again displays a fondness for blowing shit up, which once again proves that her character is flawless. Also, visors on Mandalorian helmets are blaster proof.

  6. That bit with Ezra after the gang escaped from his parents’ house added some unexpected, though welcome, poignancy.

  7. I’m not sure how I missed Lando’s deep V-neck and medallion necklace in season one, but I guess that look suits him…

  8. Of course Vader could wipe his ass with an entire squadron of A-wings! No one should doubt this! On a more serious note that whole sequence is flawless.

  9. In case Kanan and Hera’s status as the surrogate parents of the Ghost crew wasn’t obvious enough, Hera drops this line: “Alright kids, do mom and dad proud!” Brilliant.

  10. Damn, Ahsoka finding out that it’s Skyguy under the helmet wrecked me. We’ve got a fascinating season ahead of us.

  11. Given the unfortunate history of mustache-wearing Imperial Navy officers, that Star Destroyer captain who failed to capture the Rebels and accidentally trapped Vader’s TIE fighter in the tractor beam probably doesn’t have a long career ahead of him.

  12. I’m sure Ahsoka has perfectly valid reasons for not sharing Vader’s identity with Kanan and Ezra, but it makes we wonder if there is such a thing as Master-Padawan privilege in the Jedi order. Like the ones between doctors and patients and lawyers and their clients? The sad part is that I’m not entirely kidding.

  13. Speaking of Ahsoka, I still haven’t seen enough of the adult version of her to get a good read on her character (she’s largely absent during this movie), but I’m still hoping that the writers retain at least some of her spunk and playfulness from “Clone Wars.” The “Star Wars” galaxy has an unfortunate habit of turning Jedi dry and stodgy once they reach veteran status.

  14. Chopper continues to give no shits and the show is so much better for it.

  15. Do we really have to wait until the fall for season two to begin properly?