Film 365

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (SPOILERS!!!)

Rian Johnson has calmed my fears about this Star Wars trilogy and the future (Skywalker-less) trilogy of which he’ll be at the helm. While The Last Jedi isn’t perfect, it blows the prequels, The Force Awakens, and Rogue One out of the water. If not already, it won’t be a surprise if this film isn’t cemented as the best of the Star Wars franchise.

Last JediThere’s a lot going on in the movie and we’re introduced to a few new players that I hope to see more of in the future (be it in film or in novel). Rose Tico adds new flare into Finn’s life (and an unnecessary love-triangle between Finn and Rey).  Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo isn’t a generic Leia copy. And while her character is underplayed in the film, her heroics aren’t. The film also keeps up with tradition of downplaying fan favorite characters. Captain Phasma and Maz come to mind.

All in all, the film surpasses expectations and delights its audience. I fear what destruction J.J. Abrams will bring upon the franchise with his return for Episode IX.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me touch upon things that stood out for me in The Last JediWarning: There are spoilers.

Leia & the Force

“You have that power too… The Force is strong in my family,” Luke breaks it down for Leia on Endor just before he turns himself over to the Empire. “My father has it. I have it. My sister has it.” We’ve never seen Leia use the Force despite her knowing he possesses the power to do so. There is a small moment in The Force Awakens when Han dies at the hand of their son that she felt a disturbance, but one could also write that off as the intuition of someone you love passing. I made that mistake and am glad I did. Had I realized the truth, the moment in The Last Jedi would have been ruined.

After conflicted Kylo decides not to fire on his mother’s ship, two TIE fighters take the lead. Blasting everyone on the bridge into deep space. Many deaths happen (I’ll get to that later). Leia, surprisingly, isn’t one of them. Instead, we see her unconscious body floating in the serene quite of the vacuum. That is until her eyes snap awake and she “reaches out.” The Resistance will not go quietly into that good night, First Order!

Yoda, Man.

When footage of Rey’s training was released, the internet exploded with theories that she was being trained by Master Yoda. They came to this conclusion because of a small figure perched on top of some rocks. (I just saw more rocks.)

We are treated to a Yoda cameo, though. When Luke is dead set on destroying the Jedi Order for good by destroying the tree that houses the sacred texts. As if to call his bluff, Yoda’s Force ghost appears before him. Luke, of course, cannot bring himself to destroy the sacred tree. Not one to take his bullshit, Yoda calls down lightning and strikes the tree himself. While it’s later revealed that Rey stole the books before she boarded the Falcon to meet up with Kylo Ren, Luke isn’t aware of it. And whether he’s in the known before the end is up for discussion (though, yes, I’d say).

The moment calls back to Yoda’s words in Revenge of the Sith after fighting Palpatine – “Failed, I have.” Luke explains to Rey that the legacy of the Jedi has been failure. Perhaps, Yoda agreed. Perhaps, he knew what Rey had done (again, yes, I’d say). But, in that moment, as Luke and Yoda watch the tree burn, there’s peace. As if both know how it’ll all play out.

Snoke Isn’t Half the Sith

Little is still known about the Supreme Leader, but I’m sure that’ll change in time. The extended universe is bound to cover it now. And I wonder if the block on Rey’s location was an act of Luke or, rather, an act of Yoda. Despite his depiction of being the strongest in the galaxy during Luke’s absence, he still doesn’t see the munity brewing before him. Even when his apprentice betrays him to save Rey.

While the death of Snoke didn’t surprise me (we all knew this was going to happen, right? That Kylo wouldn’t be under his thumb for long, right?), the way it carried out offered so much more than we were previous led to believe. Kylo is much stronger than we formerly understood. Especially if he could hide his betrayal with resolved conflict.

Anakin 2.0

Previous statement aside, Kylo still bugs the shit out of me. I expected temper tantrums from Anakin 2.0 and I was rewarded for doing so. Not sure what is in store for Kylo in Episode IX, but it’s clear that his rage will be his undoing.

There might have been a time where I thought he’d turn to the light and join the fight, but that was extinguished the moment he guided lightsaber to halve his master. And while he fought side-by-side Rey against the Elite Praetorian Guard, there wasn’t a shadow of doubt that the move was done selfishly.

Hux the Little Bitch

Or maybe General Hux.

To add to the list of annoying villains in movies. It would seem that Supreme Leader Snoke is terrible at selecting who will lead his First Order to victory.

Hux comes off a child who begged his father for attention. And when he didn’t get it, killed his father and took his place. Still, there is some animosity between Hux and Kylo—after learning that Snoke was slain, Hux goes as far as thinking of just killing Kylo where he lay. I want to say that this sort of double crossing would be interesting to watch unfold, but how annoying would it be that the First Order is destroyed by itself?

Phasma Wasted (Again)

A moment of déjà vu hit me when the trailer for The Last Jedi was released. Again, we saw Captain Phasma in her shiny attire marching into battle. Surely, Rian Johnson would not tease us with the character only to give us a small, unsatisfactory helping. But he did just that. And while the fight between her and Finn swelled the climatic scene, it didn’t do favor for the character.

What we got instead was a glimpse of her humanity, something he failed to show in her origin story. And just as we think Finn would finish her off, the floor beneath her crumbles and she falls into the unknown. Once again, the fate of Phasma lingers in the air. Has she died? Is she floating in space? Or will she return to finish what she started in Episode IX (only to get a Boba Fett death?).

Luke vs. Kylo vs. Kenobi vs. Anakin/Vader

The rebirth of the Star Wars franchise owes a lot to nostalgia. The Force Awakens, despite argument, is a rehashing of A New Hope. And Rogue One is the events leading toward A New Hope. The Last Jedi doesn’t hold back on the nostalgia either. From the moment Luke steps out of the rebel base, Kylo orders his men to focus on their guns at his former master and uncle. When that fails, he decides to take matters into his own hands, and the two duel it out before the First Order while the Resistance escapes with the help of Rey, Chewie, R2, and a Porg.

The fight calls back two scenes, the battle between Anakin-turned-Vader and Obi Wan in Revenge of the Sith and the battle in A New Hope where Kenobi uses himself as a distraction which allows Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and the droids escape.

The rage which carries Kylo’s lightsaber contrasted against the peaceful, yet strategic, dodges of Luke were a perfect choregraphed piece. And the moment Kylo’s saber passes through his old master, we’re given the sentiment of Kenobi’s peaceful acceptance.

Of course, Luke doesn’t die there. Because Luke was never there.

The Empire of the Trilogy

It’s too easy to call this the Empire of the new trilogy, but that’s what it’ll be seen as. This movie packed more of a punch than prequels and the two Disney helmed films. Like any good second volume in a franchise, the heroes lose but live to see another day. And that gives us something to look forward to in final volume of this trilogy.

This movie captures our hearts, pushes our emotions to the brink, and delivers more than it promises, regardless of its shortcomings.

Porgs & Canto Bight: Veganism & Human and Animal Rights

I am not a Vegan. I’m not a vegetarian. No one will mistake me for either. But I’ll be remised if I don’t point out the correlation between the way people treat each other and the way they treat animals. This is something we see as a flock of porgs watch Chewie cook and nearly eat one of their own on Ahch-To. And which we see again in Canto Bight, the Las Vegas of a galaxy far, far away. Where slavery still reins (though it’s not called slavery, is it?) and fathiers are treated cruelly by their handlers.

It’s a homage to the current class war that we still experience to this day. And if science fiction isn’t used as an analogy for our current situation, what use can it serve?

Our Heroes Have to Die

I was a little upset when Han Solo died in The Force Awakens. And I too felt the loss of Luke as he faded into the Force. And however they want to treat Carrie Fisher’s passing in Episode IX, I know there will be remorse for the loss of Leia.

But, our heroes have to die. Nothing is made clearer than that with the depiction of Luke in this film. Heroes don’t go into battle thinking they’d become legends to carry the weight of hope on their shoulders. The fact that none of the other Resistance answer their cries for help makes it just another burden for the hero to carry. Nobody wants that.

But Poe Dameron has it right. Rey, Finn, Rose, him, and all the other newcomers are the spark that will burn down the First Order. It’s not Luke. It’s not Han. It’s not Leia. It’s this new team of characters. Because our time has come and gone. It’s time that a new generation of nerds be indoctrinated into the Star Wars world. And they need their own characters to get them there.

J.J. Abrams is George Lucas (No, Not a Compliment)

Rian Johnson provided a better film than J.J. Abrams could ever fathom. The story was original and it pushed the audience to accept all that we saw in the screen. While it depended on our nostalgia, none of it was forced. Much like how Empire Strikes Back did well without Lucas, Star Wars flourishes without Abrams and his pointless mystery box.

Books

Star Wars: Battlefront II – Inferno Squad by Christie Golden

No one would mistake me for a gamer. Sure, I’ve dabbled in blowing off a zombie’s head here and there; I’ve taken to the streets of Gotham and defeated the Joker three times; my portal-thinking skills have propelled me through a dystopian future; and I’ve crash landed on a strange alien creation harboring some pesky secrets. None of these has ever made me a serious gamer. They’re more of a pastime than a passion or even a hobby. Inferno_Squad

I do read, though. And I do love traveling through the depths of fandom that might lead me to other forms of it.

Earlier this month, I wrote a review for Delilah S. Dawson’s take on under-used character from The Force Awakens. And if you can get through the tangent at the beginning, you know that the it blew my socks off. Today, I sit in front of my computer trying to find the right words to describe Christie Golden’s prequel to the Battlefront II video game. And the only adjectives that pop into my head are “conflicted” and “heartbreaking.”

The story picks up during the final battle in A New Hope, as Senior Lieutenant Iden Versio maneuvers her TIE fighter, shooting down the Rebellion scum stupid enough to on the galaxy’s ultimate weapon: the Death Star. It’s by chance that Iden is clear when Luke (though not mentioned in the book) takes his shot that causes a chain reaction which destroys the Death Star and every Imperial member on board. Iden, understandably, wants revenge.

She isn’t alone. The destruction of the Death Star has injured the Empire far more than they’re willing to admit. And the knowledge that one of their own created the flaw sends a shudder through those loyal to the Empire. Under the guidance and instruction of Garrick Versio, Iden’s father, she and three others are teamed together to make the Empire’s last best chance to fight against the Rebels who’ve blindsided them.

They are the best of the best (or the best of the worst, depending on perspective) and are known as Suicide Squad Inferno Squad. The other three members are Gideon Hask, Lieutenant JG, Lieutenant Commander Del Meeko, and, my personal favorite, Lieutenant Seyn Marana.

It isn’t long, nor is it a surprise, when Iden is given the role of captain. And after, several successful missions (don’t worry, these are glossed over in the book), the team sets off to infiltrate the last of Saw Gerrera’s partisans known as Dreamers. It’s in this mission where their skills are put to the test and have their limits pushed. And the more time they spend with the members of this Rebel group, the more difficult it becomes to carry out their mission.

This book paces itself despite its slimmer length. There were moments in the story where I wondered if I’d fall in love with any of these characters as I had done while reading Phasma. (With the exception of Seyn. I fell hard for her “quirkiness” from the start!)

By the rise of the conflict, I felt torn between wanting these guys to succeed and desperately hoping they’d fail and betray the Empire. When the resolution came, it left me empty and happy. Giving me, not the ending I wanted but the one I needed.

Christie Golden’s writing talent isn’t up for questioning. She managed to craft a fantastical tale that renders the reader reaching for the tissue while cheering on the bad guys. And upon concluding the book, I’ve a strong urge to play the game upon its release.

It’s just that I really suck with controllers.

Oh well, until next time—keep on huntin’.

Books

Star Wars: Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson

Imagine being a nerd—an adult nerd—who grew up watching the epic battles of the “star wars” on VHS tapes. Movies recorded off cable TV. Or catching the edited-for-time versions networks seemed to play on heavy rotation. Imagine this adult nerd in high school, sophomore year, feeling the excitement—an excitement that he spent weeks cultivating—drain out of him as he watches the first film of a prequel trilogy. And imagine that teenage nerd being disappointed into his early twenties as he tries to wrap his head around the idea that a whiny teenager could become the galaxy’s ultimate bad guy. Imagine this nerd in his early thirties as he sits in front of his computer as he watches the first teaser to the first film of a new sequel trilogy. Star Wars: Phasma

It’s November 2014, and, in five months he’ll watch the second teaser. And in that teaser, a stormtrooper in a chrome suit will catch his attention. He’ll wonder about that character and its importance to the story. And nearly year from the first teaser, he’ll watch the trailer and fight to urge from reading fan theories and discussions about the movie. He’ll learn, in passing, the character’s name—Phasma. He’ll learn that Gwendoline Christie was cast to play the part. He’ll see the studio raise the character up on a pedestal. It will give him a new hope in the franchise.

And that December, as he watches J. J. Abrams rehash the first movie, he’ll feel the pang of disappointment when the movie under uses Phasma. Cringe at the lack of arc, screen time, and how easy it was for Finn and Han to dispatch her. A broken hearted man, this nerd became when she gave up the information they sought.

Sure, this movie excelled where the prequels failed. But what cost? Yet, he hopes that the second film will make more use of the character.

And, as if to answer the cry of several disappointed nerds across the world, writer Delilah S. Dawson takes up the mantle to give justice to the most underwhelming anticipated character The Force Awakens promised.

At the beginning of September, Star Wars: Phasma hit shelves across the world and sucked readers onto the road towards Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This much needed and welcomed book gives the reader insight to this mysterious character, providing the origin story for the First Order’s most deadly human weapon.

Dawson holds no punches when it comes to storytelling. Readers hit the ground running as Vi Moradi, a Resistance spy, is captured by Captain Cardinal of the First Order on his ship, the Absolution. Cardinal isn’t interested in learning Resistance secrets from Vi; he’s more intent on hearing what she’s learned on Parnassos, a desolate wasteland planet and home to First Order darling, Captain Phasma. He needs useful information to assist him on his mission: the take down of his most dreaded enemy within the First Order. Information that Vi promises she has.

The frame story, as told by Vi, follows Siv and members of her tribe known as the Scyre, who are led by siblings Keldo and Phasma. Where Keldo excels in working with their enemy for a better future, Phasma understands that in order to survive on a dying planet one must take drastic measures. And things do take a drastic turn when a “star” falls from the sky and brings with it the promise off the planet. Against the will of her brother, Phasma and her most trusted warriors assist Brendol Hux and his three stormtrooper escorts journey across the wastelands of the Parnassos in order to reach his ship. It is on this journey Siv truly begins to understand her leader’s motives and what she’s willing to do to reach her goal.

This book answers questions some fans may have had about Phasma. We learn that her planet of origin was rendered barren by the Con Star Mining Corporation. We learn that unlike other stormtroopers, Phasma entered in as an adult. We learn where her chrome suit comes from. Not to mention how ruthless she’ll become in order to ensure her survival. And we learn that she’s hiding a dark secret from the First Order, which Captain Cardinal hopes to be her undoing.

As most science fiction, Dawson seems to incorporate a political stance within the book. While it’s a subtle commentary on our species’ bad habit of polluting our planet to the brink of death, it doesn’t take front and center stage of the story. Just adds an unignorable, inconvenient truth about what we’re doing to out planet as we continue to depend on fossil fuels and nuclear power to sustain us. There is scene that echoes the Chernobyl incident with a dash of Hiroshima*.

In a rare occasion, I give this book five stars. Because not only does the book deliver what The Force Awakens failed to, it also keeps you guessing while entertaining you. Until next time, keep on huntin’.

*Yes, I know Hiroshima was a war atrocity. Read the book and you’ll understand.