Tagged: star wars

How to Solve the Skywalker Problem

Daisy Ridley as Rey

A few years back, Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy famously said that the episodic Star Wars “saga” films are and always will be the story of the Skywalker family. From Episode I on, we’ve followed Shmi, Anakin/Vader, Luke, Leia, and now Ben/Kylo Ren.

In The Last Jedi, it’s revealed that the new trilogy’s heroine, Rey, has no connection to the Skywalker lineage. She’s not a Skywalker, a Solo, a Kenobi, a Windu, or even a Palpatine. She’s “no one” from “nowhere,” a development that worked narratively and emotionally for the character; it was the worst news Rey could have possibly received, yet she managed to rise above it and persevere. That’s what being a hero is all about.

But fans were kinda disappointed. Because logically speaking, how could the newest Jedi of the Star Wars saga not be a Skywalker? Not only did it break with the narrative pillars of the rest of the saga, it also meant that the evil Kylo Ren is the last of the Skywalker line — a development that doesn’t bode well for the line’s future.

(more…)

More

The Year of Ahsoka: Star Wars Rebels Season 2 on Blu-ray

Despite a drought of extra features, Star Wars Rebels: Season 2 on Blu-ray is worth owning thanks to its high caliber storytelling.

I loved Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It had a shaky start, but after working out the kinks, it became truly compelling television. It introduced Ahsoka Tano and a slew of other fun characters, it resurrected Darth Maul, it showed us the realities of war, and it even managed to give Anakin Skywalker the complex layers the prequels couldn’t be bothered with.

But there was always something nagging me about it, and after two seasons of Star Wars Rebels, I finally know what it is. Despite how great and entertaining it was, hanging over Clone Wars was always this sense that it was… filler. That these were “in-between” stories that could never address the biggest of stakes, could never kill off or drastically change most of its heroes and villains, and could never truly resolve the storylines of major characters. The show was able to add subtle shades to those characters and flesh them out a bit, but that’s all. Since it’s set prior to Revenge of the Sith, every character whose fates were spoken for in that film had to, by definition, remain fundamentally untouched in Clone Wars.

Star Wars Rebels: Season 2 poster

Don’t get me wrong, there was genuinely high-stakes drama in there at times — and these were the times when Clone Wars was at its best. Darth Maul’s killer reunion/showdown with Palpatine. Ahsoka’s heartbreaking exit from the Jedi Order. Asajj Ventress’ surprising, slow turn toward redemption. The Jedi Order unwittingly becoming the very military power it once vowed it would never be.

[stag_icon icon=”television” url=”” size=”16px” new_window=”no”] Blu-ray Extras

Bottom Line: The extra features are entertaining but there are too few of them to satisfy Star Wars Rebels fans.

Rebels Recon
All 20 behind-the-scenes looks at Star Wars Rebels episodes are included. It’s nice to have them collected, even though you could already watch them on YouTube.

Connecting the Galaxy
This all-too-short feature shows how the Lucasfilm Story Group connects the dots between the movies, TV shows, comics, novels, etc. Hardcore fans won’t learn much that they hadn’t already noticed, but casual viewers will come away with a stronger sense of how much thought goes into everything the show cooks up.

From Apprentice to Adversary
A special look at Ahsoka’s journey from the beginning of Clone Wars to where she finds herself in Rebels.

[stag_icon icon=”exclamation-triangle” url=”” size=”12px” new_window=”no”] SPOILERS [stag_icon icon=”exclamation-triangle” url=”” size=”12px” new_window=”no”] If you’re looking for hints regarding Ahsoka’s fate, Filoni says: “I will explain what happens when the Temple shuts. You will know, once and for all: Did Ahsoka live? Or did she become part of the Force? But you have to be patient.” So the answer’s coming, just not anytime soon.

These moments, focusing on characters unique to Clone Wars, increased as the show aged and matured. But there weren’t enough of them. There were too many stories without a distinct beginning that would probably never get a satisfying end. (For the sake of argument, there is some evidence to the contrary on that last point.)

Star Wars Rebels, on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air. No longer confined to the stuffy, societal strictures of the Republic, Rebels is very intentionally designed to mimic the loose, lawless, always-in-danger format of the original film trilogy. At the same time, its main cast is entirely comprised of brand new characters. Sure, it’s set during the Imperial reign between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, so beloved characters from those movies have to remain unaffected. But that’s not really a problem, since most of them never appear on Rebels — and the ones who do, like Princess Leia or Yoda, are used with restraint.

Instead, Rebels introduces us to pilot Hera Syndulla, lapsed Jedi Kanan Jarrus, Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren, last-of-his-race muscleman Zeb, cranky Astromech droid Chopper, and brash, orphaned Jedi potential Ezra Bridger. These characters being wholly owned part-and-parcel by the show means that there’s no filler here. The show gave us their beginnings, and will one day give us their endings. Every moment matters, and anytime the crew of the Ghost crosses paths with established characters like Tarkin or Vader, there’s no guarantee they’ll all walk away from it.

If there’s anything hanging over the head of Rebels, it’s that very fact that its crew never appear in any of the movies, which suggests that some or all of our heroes may not survive their TV adventures. And that fear has never been more palpable than it was in Season 2.

[stag_icon icon=”exclamation-triangle” url=”” size=”20px” new_window=”no”] SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON [stag_icon icon=”exclamation-triangle” url=”” size=”20px” new_window=”no”]

The new Star Wars Rebels: Season 2 on Blu-ray — featuring a crystal clear, high-def transfer — contains all 20 episodes, which rank among the finest that the Clone Wars/Rebels crew have ever made. Every character gets at least one moment in the spotlight, with long-awaited details about their backstories finally revealed. But it’s Kanan and Ezra who still get the bulk of the screen time.

ADVERTISEMENT

That said, history will forever record Season 2 as the time when Ahsoka Tano returned, leading to her climactic showdown with her former master Anakin Skywalker — now known as Darth Vader. (James Earl Jones lends his voice to the show, giving Vader’s every appearance immeasurable gravitas.) Their reunion in the season finale, “Twilight of the Apprentice,” is undoubtedly the dramatic highlight of the collection. But there’s plenty of exciting, gripping developments to hold your attention before you get that far.

Aside from Ahsoka, other Clone Wars characters make welcome returns, and in most cases are more enjoyable now than before. Clone leader Captain Rex comes to mind, who always struck me as uptight in Clone Wars but here his attitude has been tempered by age and experience. Princess Leia even shows up for an episode, and yeah it’s total fan service, but it offers an interesting look at what the young princess was like as a 16-year-old.

[stag_icon icon=”angle-down” url=”” size=”12px” new_window=”no”] ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW [stag_icon icon=”angle-down” url=”” size=”12px” new_window=”no”]

Carousel: images not found

Some mysteries were finally revealed, and others deepened. Are Ezra’s parents alive? Is Zeb really the last surviving Lasat? Where do the Inquisitors come from? Why doesn’t Hera ever talk about her famous father? Why is Agent Callus such a jerk? Does Chopper really care about the crew? And what’s up with Sabine’s mysterious past? All of these questions are either answered or touched on in Season 2, with some genuinely surprising results.

But as I mentioned before, it’s clear from the spectacular, hour-long season opener, “The Siege of Lothal,” that a reunion is in the offing. (Why else would Ahsoka and Vader both debut in the same episode?) Ahsoka actually appears in very few episodes — I believe she features in four, with a few smaller appearances here and there — a strategy done intentionally to not minimize the importance of the main cast.

[stag_video src=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJTF77uy0iQ”]

But man, is that finale worth waiting for. Not only does it feature the heart-stopping showdown fans have been waiting years for, it sees the return of another old foe, and forever life-altering events for our two main Jedi. In case it wasn’t obvious, the gloves are off — and in a way that The Clone Wars was rarely capable of.

 [stag_icon icon=”link” url=”” size=”16px” new_window=”no”] Important Links

From the moment that Ahsoka and Vader first share the screen, the show reaches electrifying new heights that it’s never before approached. In one of the Blu-ray extras, executive producer Dave Filoni explains the two beats from the Ahsoka/Vader fight that he’d had in mind for eight long years. It’s the emotional undercurrent of the duel that elevates the material to places that were never even achieved in some of the movies. This showdown is everything the Obi-Wan/Anakin fight in Revenge of the Sith should have been, and it’s some of the very best Star Wars ever produced — in any medium.

I’ve said it before, but after the fight, there’s a montage of scenes that ends the season, in which the show commits art. A large reason for that is Kevin Kiner’s extraordinary musical score. Just listen:

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/256865230″ params=”color=3f69a2&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Season 2 of Star Wars Rebels is a must-own for Star Wars fans of all ages. Whether you buy it digitally, on DVD, or on Blu-ray as seen here, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. And I have never been more excited for the future of this show.

[amazonjs asin=”B01GDJZJUC” locale=”US” title=”STAR WARS REBELS: THE COMPLETE SEASON 2 Blu-ray”]
More

I’m Not Done

For eight awesome months, I ran the Star Wars website at About.com. I’m proud of the work I did there; I think it’s some of the best I’ve ever done. A few months ago, I was told that About would no longer be pursuing Star Wars as a topic site, due to some heavy restructuring of its business model.

That’s entirely their right, and I completely respect it. Jobs come and go for writers; it’s the nature of the business.

I don’t entirely understand their decision; Star Wars has never been a hotter topic than it is right now, and it’s only getting bigger by the day. Rogue One, Episode VIII, Rebels, novels, comics, video games… Disney is doing Star Wars right, and now is the best possible time to cover it.

But things happen and we move on.

The thing is: I’m not finished talking about Star Wars. And funny enough, people are still subscribing to my Star Wars social media feeds even though I haven’t written anything on the subject in months! I had all kinds of ideas cooking, materials to review, features to share, and insights to offer. And there are people out there who still seem to want to hear what I have to say.

So I’m going to keep going.

But as long as this is my own thing, why limit it to Star Wars? I’m passionate about lots of geeky stuff, like superheroes, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Tolkien, Harry Potter, video games, comic books, LEGO, movie soundtracks, board games… Basically, if it promotes great storytelling and creativity, I’m in.

I’ve been in this business for more than 20 years, and I still receive communications and review materials from a variety of sources. Many of those materials are quite brilliant, and I’m dying to share them with you.

But there’s another reason I’m doing this.

People love the Internet because it’s an endless well of content, and it’s content that’s posted insanely fast. Before the Internet, the fastest turnaround time in media was newspapers, which published the next day, i.e., the day after something newsworthy happened. The Internet changed that; we’ve been trained to now expect our content to be fed to us with the utmost immediacy. Major media companies employ staffs of dozens or hundreds to catch the latest minutiae and write about it as fast as humanly possible. Breaking news alerts are fed to our phones via notifications. Twitter gives us a steady stream of instantaneous, knee-jerk reactions and snarky commentary.

I believe that in pursuit of all that speed, we’ve lost something valuable. Anyone can regurgitate a press release or turn around a quick news piece summing up known facts, or say something in less than 140 words. What’s missing is voice. Authority. Intelligence. Quality has taken a backseat to the almighty throne of urgency.

This is something that’s been bugging me for a while, and a recent viral video crystallized my feelings on the matter. Maybe I can do my part to reclaim some of what we’ve lost.

I’m not reinventing the wheel, I’m just looking for an outlet. And maybe I can add a little thoughtfulness and depth to the conversation. I might even present a few things you won’t see anywhere else. The usual stuff — structured, scored product reviews, for example — has been done to death. Who needs more of that?

This is going to be different. Experimental. Unexpected. Fun.

I’m not setting a publishing schedule. Life is too crazy for that. I’ll post something when I have something to post. Follow along on social media to find out when something new is up. (If you already follow “All About Star Wars” on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere, you’re good to go.)

Welcome to Assorted Geekerywhere quality is baked right in.

More