Tuesday, November 7, 2017


"There's an Awakening. Have you felt it?"

From its inception, Star Wars the Force Awakens has been fraught with doubt and cynicism, by some, jubilation and cluelessness by everyone else. Doubters need not worry, Director JJ Abrams and Lucasfilm have acquitted themselves quite nicely. It’s an roller-coaster ride, filled with archetypal characters with plausible psychologies, theatrical confrontations fueled by spiraling emotions, wonderful daring do with a few jaw-dropping and dare I say, heartbreaking moments.

The journey to the screen was not an easy one as scripts were written thrown out and written again but eventually found their way. This was a conflicted experience for me as I had to get used to the fact that Uncle George had bid the franchise adieu and left it where he placed it, at the foot of Disney for Lucasfilm to do as it wanted. I’m happy to report that, despite his retirement and acknowledged struggle with turning loose his baby, Uncle George is still, at least in spirit all over the film. His influence and impact on cinema is felt in every frame. There is no snide dismissal of the criminally maligned prequels; in fact there are a few references to it; this a love letter to Lucas, to the franchise in what it means to world, to its fans all the while being its own entity.

Many joked in 2009 when “Star Trek” premiered that JJ had made the best “Star Wars” movie in years,- not true of course, but he did give the waning franchise a recognizable jolt to the testes. His enthusiasm is certainly on display as he has fun with the original characters and gives the newbies, some welcomed spit and fire. He knows his way around an action sequence, solid editing and knows how to reintroduce familiar characters. I was pleasantly surprised that this is the most un-JJ like film yet. He restrains himself by making the cameras not do wild tricks; this is still a Star Wars after all, we don’t need shaky ugly cam. My biggest fear for the film was that it would rely too much on nostalgia- it does some of that, but it’s done with restraint and care. When the original kids show up; Han Solo (Harrison Ford) General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) we cheer because its’ earned. It’s been too long since we saw them last; the lines on their faces show characters they've lived adventures beyond our reach.
  This film is very much concerned with the new generation. Rey is the first of several mysterious characters that are introduced. She seems extremely gifted right out of the gate. Her relationship with former Stormtrooper, Finn is one of the many highlights. Both have personal demons and both are lively and believable when the confront Kylo for the first time. We root for Finn when hes the first in line, but he’s badly wounded, so Rey meets her destiny and stares down the Sith in training. Kylo acts as though he knows her, or at least might be intimidated enough by her he wants her on his side in the future. Their tussle in the woods is gloriously raw and messy and full of emotions- rage and fear. This is Rey’s first time with a saber but you wouldn’t know it. A great shot in the trailers was always Finn holding the light saber, to say maybe he’s a Jedi too, but it was all a maneuver to subvert expectations as Finn is dispatched a little too soon and leaves it open for Rey to deal with Kylo. Star Wars has always been progressive with female characters; that's not a political thing, but reality; Rey certainly joins that list of iconic females along with Ventress and Asoka. John Boyega as the defecting Stormtrooper known only as FINN, is perfect. He’s surprised by all of this and he’s used for many of the film's best jokes.

 With JJ’s direction come the great performances; from the top on down, all deliver. The prequels took some unnecessary arrows in that regard, but this is a different animal, we aren’t dealing with repressed politicians, stifled Jedi warriors and frustrated angst. Daisy Riddley and John Boyega as Rey and Finn are youthful, vibrant and deliver far more than expected. 
 From the giddy up, this is a film about rage belonging to Kylo Ren, (for those keeping score, Ben Solo) who struts, preens, throws fits for reasons he probably doesn’t understand. He dresses like the former Lord Vader, right down to the black garb and face, mask. Except underneath is not an old man of wounded ego, crushed spirits and enslavement, but of a young man moving too fast, wanting too much and not realty understanding where he is going and despite his hero worship of Vader seems to be headed in the same direction. He has amassed a collection of Sith relics, including Vader’s burnt helmet last seen on the funeral pyre in JEDI. An eerie Hamlet vibe takes over when he lifts the helmet in a ‘Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well,” moment. Ego and foul spoiled temper take the kid over as he resentfully says, “I can have anything I want.”

 Ironic motivations for sure as he’s obsessed with his grandfather, Darth Vader yet misses the broad points of how he turned and how he was redeemed. Anakin seemed to soften once Luke reached out to him; Kylo took offense to it and struck out. He was not yet ready to acknowledge what was left of his humanity whereas Anakin slowly welcomed it as he finally saw a way out. Kylo is far more vicious animal. It’s unsettling as he’s cut his ties with his family in the most dramatic, harshest of ways by killing his father. He’s actively seeking out the Dark side. Anakin never searched for the Sith to include in his life he got tricked into it, this one, Kylo Ren is actively trying to go Dark. Palpatine poured golden words in Anakin’s’ ear for sure, with promises of living happily ever after with Padme. No such happy endings for Kylo as he’s an untrained, spoiled raging brat.

 It’s a great, steady performance and Adam Driver makes Kylo a well-rounded conflicted punk; and by the third act we are wishing him dead for what he does to his father Han Solo. One of the most intense and lasting images to remain with me is the demise of Han Solo. With an act that will be felt for the rest of the franchise, the death of Solo permeates with heartbreaking impact; a father desperate to reach his son. This reverberated with me in such a surprise that I become lost n the moment. Kylo’s mindset reminded me of a drug addict; lost into the abyss, obsessed with the selfishness of self-destruction. His father reaching out, demanding, pleading he come back home; Ren a complicated conflicted soul. Always in a rage, looking for- something is offended. Solo reaches out to him, touches his face. Kylo rejects the gesture and plunges a light saber in his father’s gut and sends him down a massive chasm. What lead to his mindset we do not yet know, but Uncle Luke will certainly have questions.

To the gut…. That hurt.- But what a way to go!

 One of the most iconic characters of the last three and half decades went out in noble fashion; a father fighting for the soul of his only son. It was needed, it gave the film balls; an emotional anchor that I feared it would lack. Also it adds a different dynamic to the sacrifice motif. In ANH, Ben sacrifices himself as he knows it will be more useful in guiding Luke as one with the Force. He becomes Luke's mentor and guide in a way that can't be broken by the empire. Kylo Ren however; Han's sacrifice in trying to save him, is what will haunt him. It makes redemption far harder to find. I very much doubt Ren will be redeemed at the end as like Vader. As a character, right now, Ren/Ben is much more dangerous than Vader, in the making of it at least. And stopping and holding a blaster bolt in mid-air is all kinds of cool.
 Dominal Gleason as General Hux was your typical uptight Imperial commander; he’s the films new Tarkin who evidently holds Kylo’s leash, and repairs computer panels after the boy’s many temper tantrums. He fears him as well due to his many mood swings, but there seems to be more of a competitive spirit between them. Like two brothers competing for their father’s favor.

JJ’s film does nothing to break the mold. Rather, it shows that the mold exists for a reason. Lucas created this mold; Abrams borrowed it, polished it, tweaked it and dressed it up for company. JJ is not a visionary visualist like Lucas, but he’s not bad; the TIEs flying on against the sunset was a nice touch, as was the wide shot of Rey riding on the speeder with the Star Destroyers half buried in the ground.

In his defense, he’s doing what Lucas did; a mash-up of past movies, comic books and pulp with a heavy layer of myth and high adventure. Abrams is doing what others do and it bothers some that its working so well for him. TFA borrows from the past films, but puts neat and significant spins on them and also subverts the details of it at every turn.

Our Rebel-on-a-mission who gets caught in the first act, is freed almost immediately instead of being captive for half the film. Our desert-dwelling hero doesn't dream of a life of adventure, but rather longs for the comfort of family and doesn't want to leave "home." She also initially doesn't want to learn the ways of the Force, and ultimately isn't the one who delivers the finishing shot to destroy the command/battle station.

 Said deadly battle station, the central element to ANH's plot, is treated here as a last-act afterthought and even the characters discuss destroying it in a rushed "been there before, lets get this over with already" way. It's commander Hux also flees before it's destroyed rather than stay aboard out of arrogance like Tarkin did.

 Our black-clad, helmeted villain? No lies, mystery, or misdirection about his past, just here's who he is and what he looks like under the helmet. And for added measure, no waiting for the middle film to see his and the First Order's leader. Lucas loved repeating themes or similar events in his characters lives in the prequels; he constantly compared Anakin and Luke’s journeys and added similar beats. With this new generation of adventures, it doesn’t feel anything but fresh and exciting and I cant wait for the next two chapters.

 Like the OT it so often harkens to, it asks more questions than it answered and let’s hope it answers the biggies; Rey’s heritage, who is Snoke and why did Kylo go bad? And what is left of the the political state of the galaxy?

 I love this film; every damn frame of it. Thank the maker for showbiz miracles. We never got a Beatles reunion, Elvis was never able to conquer his demons and enjoy his golden years, but here, by God is Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill in a sequel to "Return of the Jedi!"

Saturday, September 23, 2017

"Only What You Take with You"

I'm going to do some ranting here so if the truth hurts, I don't apologize, just agree or move along. 
  Someone once said,  “No one hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans.” That is a cold fact. It sickens me to agree with it, but it's true.  Having lived through the fake outrage over the Special Editions, the reception to the prequels by a small vociferous bitter minority, the select few who bitch about “The Force Awakens” and now the shitstorm because JJ Abrams' returns to the Director's chair for Episode 9;  I have no faith in a Star Wars fanboy or acknowledge anything that complain about since they now have zero creditably. 
  On a personal level, Star Wars fans are freakin Awesome! As a collective they are the worst humans ever produced. Every loathsome human trait is coalesced in one mass smelly, unwashed morass. 
  Most nerds have no idea what a Director even does so the outrage is laughable.  They could not name five living or dead legends outside of Spielberg or Scorsese. JJ did what many could not do, make “Star Wars” film without George Lucas in the mix, and still have it feel like Star Wars.  Why get angry over something most have no clue how it's done? 

Let us rewind a bit and see where and why nerds have fallen so low on the creditably scale.  The Prequels are misunderstood, period. Not flawless, but way over-hated. I can think of five franchises that are far worse in every respect. Much worse.,  MUCH Worse. 

The Hunger Games
Paranormal Activity 
 Pirate of the Caribbean 
 Lord of the Rings 
 The Howling  

 If your last enjoyment for Star Wars was 1983, you are NOT a fan. You like three Star Wars films, but a fan you are not as there is tons more to the story.  No one rips chapters out of a book and claim it to be their best favorite of all time! Do they? I hate bread, sauce and cheese, but Pizza is my favorite food ever! No its not and leave it alone = NOT a FAN. 

 You only like Sean Connery as James Bond doesn't make you a fan of Bond, but a Connery fan as there are tons more films. I am James Bond fan because I love the character; Roger Moore is my favorite version, but I dig all incarnations so far= FAN. 

And The Force Awakens is NOT a remake of “A New Hope-” they share the same narrative beats in some ways, but that is far and away from a remake. That's a lazy excuse for those that have no clue what a narrative beat even means.  Facts are, there are similarities throughout the entirety of STAR WARS. To say this was a remake is to say the same for them all. They all have similarities; share shots, cues, character movements and plot points- things that we all look for is what we all love about STAR WARS = FAN. 

 There's a fairly new expression in nerd circles, that Trekkies are superior; they at least have their dignity. (No laughter please) They like what they like and move past what they do not. Star Wars cranks suck the life out of everything they touch and leave it radioactive. Refusing to let anything, “objectionable” go, declaring George Lucas enemy of the state, JJ is an, “evil Jew” and Kathleen Kennedy is pushing 'feminist agenda.” Not sure why making a female lead character strong and resourceful is a bad thing, but nerds aren't known for their consistency or smarts.  A symptom of today’s nerd culture and society in general, crybabies and wimps who want everything NOW and done their WAY!  When they start wishing the filmmakers dead and personally attacking their children, something is definitely skewed.

 I'm not saying you have to like it all, but when you start carving it up like a Holiday turkey, are you even a fan at that point? When does your rage outweigh the pleasure? And what's your problem? Do you only read half a book and call it good? 

 And hopefully let's put it to bed where it belongs- Disney does NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT dictate Star Wars content. They are merely the money and the distributors. They do not have sway or stomp their feet to kill the old EU. A move, by the way, done by Lucasfilm, set in motion long before the Disney sale began. EU was killed because Lucas was prepping his own Episode 7, but figured it was easier to not do it and just sale. Old EU was a convoluted mess that needed a mercy killing as it was looking like a Thalidomide baby; twisted and retarded by repeating itself and riddled with contradictions and bad storytelling. 

Fan boys and their wants are suspect anyway as they think they know whats better for anything they get their grubby clams on, yet they can’t gather enough energy to crawl out of the basement, take a bath or find a good job. They seem to forget, their memories are their own, but the property is not.
Fandom is often great, it builds a great sense of community, and collective love for a certain thing can be fun sometimes. Some of the most talented people I have ever met have been at sci-fi fantasy conventions. The kids who build those elaborate costumes are awesome, but then there are those cultist freaks who take it past the line with too much importance and seriousness. The fantasy and reality become blurred and the danger mode is engaged. It is cool to use Star Wars to escape reality, not let it become your reality.

 A perfect example of how fan boys can ruin it for all.  This goes back to the beginning of the prequel hate and how awful the mouth-breathers reveal themselves to be. The nadir of the Lucas tirades and Star Wars backlash was awful little story I read about in 1999 or so, shortly after the release of The Phantom Menace. At a premiere in Italy, Ahmed Best, the black actor who portrayed Jar Jar Binks, was jeered at by a gathered crowd who called at him “Nigger, Nigger!”

Ugh. How pathetic.

 Lucas is gone, it seems like nerds need a target and a villain in their constant struggle to be a SW fan. JJ and Kathleen Kennedy will be the new targets from the perpetual losers.  Instead of just enjoying the universe, it seems that some have to rant, rage and demand someone's head on a stick because the lights on the Falcon are white, instead of green, Greedo shot at Han or that Kylo Ren's facial scar is moved over a few centimeters to the left! 

 What is the purpose for complaining about such insignificant minutia? 

Let me make myself perfectly clear, the magic of these movies is not lost. The alterations do not change the impact these movies had on me when I first saw them and they certainly aren’t diluted now. I never felt like George Lucas has “raped my childhood’ with the prequels… because, I am not a child anymore. To talk about these movies from a perspective of how you saw them as a child is just that…childish. Your memories can not be robbed or diluted, they are yours and yours alone. Unless Lucas has the ability to reach across time and inside your head to erase, pollute said memories than he really is a dastardly brilliant mad genius.... but he's not so stop it. 

George Lucas, JJ Abrams, Disney, Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, are not your enemies! Carbohydrates and exercise might be, but they are not! 

 Disney didn't ruin anything since they are not in control of the ride.  As sad and scary as it was to read Lucas had sole Star Wars, it was a gift unlike anything we could possibly imagine. More saga films, some stand-alone, new television series., comic books and cool novels. What could possibly be there to irk the most jaded of all fans? I would guess that phrase right there is wrong- Jaded fan implies there is something inherently wrong in Star Wars. Guess, what? There isn't. It's your ego causing the problems, not the films/Universe. Your ignorance of how movies are made/produced and general lacking in knowledge of the Universe itself is the your true ire.  Remove ego and learn to be a good fan. Don't cherry pick, and split it the franchise up like an indignant douche bag. In the real world, if something is irritating, objectionable, (if we don't marry it- zing!) We get away from it- except those mental defects who call themselves Star Wars fans and feel compelled to be in a constant state of rage, annoyance and disappointment. Why? 

 So what gives? 

 Right before entering the Dark side Cave on Dagobah, Luke asks, “What’s inside?” Yoda’s reply, “Only what you take with you,” Luke took his Light saber ready for battle and saw a prophetic vision. A general life lesson, and one to use here with the enraged fan boys who take a battle stance every time Lucasfilm releases something, they are ready to pounce and are surprised that they are not only full of rage, but disappointment. They get what they expect, yet they do not want it (huh?). In watching the movies, they get only what they take with them. If disappointment and rage is what you covet, you get it. Way to go! It’s all on you!

Give it a rest and grow up! 


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Where in the Galaxy is Luke Skywalker?

Who are Rey's parents and why was she on Jakku is on the tip of  nerd tongues everywhere. Come December, we hope to have answers. Most of all, what sent Luke over the edge and sent him into years of exile?
 I have a few theories, canon novel, “Bloodlines,” mentions Ben Solo is away from his family and being trained under Luke at his then-new Jedi Academy. But we later learn Kylo and his Knights of Ren, take over and kill all in sight.
 Is Rey's mother among them?

 From the tidbits in the film and some other audio books, I have no reason to think this is what went down, other than my roving imagination and determination to make sure the theory is not some crackpot, half-assed loser rambling coming from the likes of usual Anal spew of dumb saying Mace Windu/Yoda/Bobba Fett/Gonk droid is Snoke!

 Something utterly devastating must have happened to send Luke into exile and basically turn himself into the galactic Howard Hughes, not seen by anyone for decades, not sure if he's even still alive. Gone so long he's become a legend, whispered about unsure if he even existed as real guy.
  My theory is, Luke had many students in his Jedi Academy, his most promising was nephew Ben Solo., son of his best friend, Han Solo and sister, Leia Organa.
  Somewhere along the way, Kylo and Luke have a conflict of ideas. Perhaps Kylo feels he's being held back, not being taught what he wants to know- even worse, maybe he becomes intoxicated with the cult of personality surrounded by his grandfather,Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. The allure of the Sith is too much, the coveting of power by the young one flips the switch and he enlists several other students, who feel the same way- Christened as The Knight of Ren, Founder Kylo Ren goes on an ape shit tear and begins striking down all who stand in his way. His first target is Uncle Luke. Being half Skwalker. He hates all he stands for- reasons we have yet to know, he wants to kill him for some perceived slight. He tries- Luke is knocked out, his Academy destroyed, both in figurative and literal sense. Kylo kills all the students, mows them all down. One refuses to die- Luke's wife; in the crappy old EU it was Mara Jade – in the new canon, we have no clue. Perhaps she stands in defense of their daughter REY- Kylo and the Knights kill mother and out of sheer spite, steal REY and spirit her off to the planet of Jakku- Luke fears she's dead, but has no real clue. Not wanting to put his sister and the Resistance in the spotlight, he hides away. He spends his time in exile, trying to communicate with his daughter, not sure if she's dead or alive, but has no clue where she is. Meanwhile the Knights of Ren and Kylo burn the Jedi Academy out of existence and make Luke the most wanted man in the galaxy. Han Solo runs off to help find Rey and to soothe the heartache created by his son's betrayal.
Although Kylo acted a little surprised by Rey's appearance in TFA; maybe he left it up to someone else to dispose of her, maybe they were suppose to kill her and instead stole her from Kylo- Lars San Tekka, perhaps?
  If these questions aren't answered, The Last Jedi could possibly be considered a failure. I doubt any of this happens, but these are merely my musings, I have no way to know how this will turn out, but the days are slowly coming towards us to find out. Can't wait.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

“Unlearn what you have learned”

  Many reasons have been dissected and stated why the Jedi were exterminated. Most of it was self-inflicted; hubris, arrogance thinking their way was the only way. The most significant reason was not ironically, not standing up for their core beliefs. Mace Windu himself stated, “We are not Soldiers, but peace keepers.” Yet we have Anakin, Obi Wan being slapped with titles of General and leading their clone troops and Jedi cohorts into war. The Jedi allowed their arrogance to take place of their moral center. Had they stood up to Palpatine and told him they are not soldiers, they could have had him removed from office, but instead of fighting a war on moral grounds, they fought a war politically, which meant they were on the losing side. No matter who won the war, they lost since it was contrived from the beginning and the only winner was going to be Palpatine and he was damn sure not going to share that victory and any possible blow back would be blamed on the Jedi- and it was. 
   Add all the drama with Anakin, it was a real shit show and it's biggest performers lost big time. Mace and everyone else- murdered , Obi Wan, Yoda, Ahsoka, driven into exile.
Imagine having everything you ever believed in, fought for, burned to the ground, dismissed and practically purged from history.
 To the prequel bashers, Yoda is two different characters from each trilogy for a reason. The PT tested the Jedi and their beliefs and they totally failed- they refused to stand up to Palpatine and his evil empire. When he teaches Luke about the Force with the utmost reverence and caution, he ain't kidding. 
 Hatred led to Anakin's turn and the Jedi going to war. No Midichlorians for him and the blood tests- Yoda was going to make sure that the core values returned and the Jedi would live on in Luke for no other than reason than to prove Love does beat hate. Luke doesn't win by being a pussy pacifist, he wins by not clouding his mind with hate, emotion and ego. He wins by showing compassion for his father. He wins by believing in the core values of the Jedi. No war General, no titles, no planning, just the Force and his strength of character.
 Yoda lived his final years in exile, shamed, painted a fugitive, but he had the final word as Luke showed them all you didn't need the Jedi or the Sith to be a powerful Force user. Luke was given two choices when going to face Vader and Palpatine, he chose his own path, the third choice.
Luke taught Yoda and Obi Wan that the Force was not a schoolhouse lesson or a recipe on a card, but an ongoing, living breathing entity that needed constant nourishment and adjustment. And it's users do the same. 
 Ironically, the Jedi had rules and notions of how the Force worked, but never once did they accept that it was their equal, not their tool to used as they wish. Anakin abused the tool, Luke perfected it. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

  One of, if not THE most anticipated film of recent memory, especially in the summer of 1999, scored enormous box-office returns and breathed new life into the Star Wars phenomenon in 1999. By going back to the past, Lucas laid the ground work for the entire saga. Not an easy task, but one pulled off with relative ease and skill in my opinion....

“Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace” is a visually stunning film, wearing its mythological underpinnings on its sleeve, it reminds us why we fell in love with that galaxy far, far away in the first place....
  Set nearly forty years before “A New Hope”, TPM begins with a trade dispute over the planet of Naboo. Of course things are not as they seem. With Jedi’s sent out to settle the disagreement, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his Padawan Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), meanwhile, Queen Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) is used a pawn in Senator Palpatines’ scheme to become Chancellor. As the Jedi’s slowly uncover a mystery they discover a 9 year-old boy on a distant desert planet of Tatooine that may be the one that will bring balance to the force.
The best character from the film and the best addition to a Star Wars film since Yoda is Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Liam Neeson plays him with quiet dignity and intensity. A great character that comes off looking not so good in the grand scheme of things considering his rebellious streak is one of the main ingredients that unknowingly triggers the Jedi orders obliteration.
 His best scenes are with young Anakin on Tatooine; acting very much like John the Baptist, preparing the way for the Star Wars version of the coming of the Savior. Upon meeting the intimidating Jedi, the boy says, “I saw your laser sword. Only Jedi’s carry that type of weapon.” In pure test mode, Jinn replies with a steely eye, “Maybe I killed him and took it from him?” without a beat Anakin replies, “No one can kill a Jedi.” Jinn perhaps instantly humbled by the boys naiveté says, “I wish that were true.” An instant bond between the two as Jinn realizes this boy is THE one. His important scene with Anakin’s mother, Shmi is solid too. Telling her her son is destined to do great things.
  Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker has taken a beating by the critics over the years for his performance. For me, he did what all nine year-olds do, act like a KID! Children at that age are not good actors, (Henry Thomas of E.T. is an exception) they can be taught to be good mimics, but for the most have no life experience to use their emotions to create a performance. Lloyd was hired to portray Anakin as a wide-eyed, kind-hearted little kid and it worked. He has two stand out moments in the film; When he tells his mom goodbye and when he asks Obi Wan “What will happen to me now?” during the funeral of Qui Gon. Jake has nothing on Edward Furlong- THE worst kid performance of all time in "Terminator 2" and he was older! Ugh.
  Ewan McGregor does a fine job as young Obi Wan Kenobi. The future liar and crazy old wizard living in the Tatooine desert makes for some groovy foreshadowing with his appearance. His scenes are limited when they are on the desert world, but he shows up in fighting form when they venture back to Coruscant to fight Darth Maul. My quibble with his performance is he should have been the “cynical one” everyone was clamoring for. A snide remark here, a cynical eye there, would have spiced the relationship up between he and Jinn, but as it is, it works fine. I understand what Lucas was doing by not bringing a cynical character; this is a different era, a different political landscape that doesn’t call for it. It would make about as much sense as putting a hip-hop rapper in a post civil war drama. Still it’s a great performance that would make the late Alec Guiness proud for sure.
Natalie Portman does fine as the beleaguered queen. She’s more of a reactor than actor so the claims of her being a stiff are misguided. And since she is a queen, she’s going to keep her emotions close to the vest trying to remain as classy and dignified as possible. She livens up when Maul shows up on Naboo, as her and her soldiers witness Maul’s entrance, she quips, “We’ll take the long way.

 And what of Jar Jar Binks? One of the most relentlessly and needlessly picked on characters since the Ewoks can’t get a break. Is he annoying? I don’t know, Robert DeNiro, and Christian Bale are two of  the obnoxious hacks to me, so everything is relative I suppose...He serves his purpose and the hate aimed at him is over-stated.
  Did Lucas get a little too crazy with his technology and go over-the-top, yes he did, but that’s ok, because I can’t bash a guy having fun with a new toy. At the end if the day, in no way shape or form does the character ruin the movie for me. Binks was a first for Lucas and he’s obviously having a blast, for example take a look at the scene during the battle droid melee with those big blue energy balls chasing Binks, Lucas shows more of his cinematic inspirations as Jar Jar’s reactions are straight out of the silent era with the Gungan channeling Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
   I will defend the characters existence by saying Binks’ inspiration comes from Akira Kirasowa’s “The Hidden Fortress”. The peasant characters in that film act just like Binks; they are the fools, the non-believers. Their purpose and Jar Jar’s is to react, not to act. His function is to hide and make amusing comments, not to display heroism, although it happens accidentally. Also too, his naiveté is used to full advantage in “Attack of the Clones” as he willingly hands Palpatine the proverbial keys to the kingdom.
 And yet another misunderstood plot point-  “Midichlorians.” Many claimed it reduced Star Wars spiritually down to mere science-fiction and it removed the spirituality seen in the original films- NO  it did not and that was by design. Why would it still be the same considering that is one of the main reasons why the Jedi were eradicated? Makes no sense!  Only for those not paying attention would the Midichlorians not make sense, but one must look a little deeper. The MIDIS are NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT the Force, but mere messengers of it; the allow the communication happen... convoluted? No.  Biology and spirituality are inseparable in our world so it’s easy to accept that it’s inseparable in the Star Wars universe as well. Even though they are linked, they have their own distinctions. Conceiving a child is biology, Immaculate Conception is spirituality/religion. One can be proven; the other is based on faith. The prequel trilogy is biology, the classic trilogy is spirituality/faith.
  I believe the Midichlorians concept works for several reasons; it explains Anakin’s virgin birth scenario and sets him up as being very powerful. It further explains the Jedi Prophecy of the one who brings balance to the force. It shows how clueless the Jedi were/are in not considering the prophecy was in favor of the Dark Side. The Siths had been extinct for almost a millennia, it makes only sense that the Jedi’s days were numbered. Also too, it shows how cavalier the Jedi’s perspective of the Force and its uses. Qui Gon especially, he tells Obi Wan to live in the now. Don’t worry about the future. He tells Anakin of the living force. It seems to be regarded as merely a tool, a selfish device to get from A to B. On several occasions it’s used for attack while in battle. As opposed to the classic trilogy when an older and wiser Yoda instructs Luke in a reverential, cautionary tone, of the Dark side, its seductive qualities and the danger it holds. This is where people miss the point, it doesn’t contradict the Force origins, the midis are merely messengers/conduits of the Force. What old Ben and tell Luke is still relevant, only their tune had changed considerably.
 The Prequel trilogy Jedis see the Force as something you are born with, biology. No more, no less. If you have it, use it. It became a crutch of sorts to settle disputes. They didn’t bother getting to the heart of the problem, use the Force, it will solve it. Much like Big Government thinkers and rational people. The Prequel kids relied too much on the Force for things; meetings, policy- trying to find meanings - stuff that should have been handled with a “human touch,” instead of clinging to tradition and ‘big government.   ‘The original trilogy, Jedi, Yoda and Ben have learned their lessons big time and see the Force as spiritually; something bigger than the person using it; a source of comfort and especially strength. Luke was asked to look inside himself and find the courage and strength BEFORE tapping into this mysterious Force, the most important thing was to rely on yourself.
 Not the other way around.
  It was something you use only when necessary. If you abuse it, or don’t acknowledge its power, it will get you, i.e. turn you over to the Darkside, hence Darth Vader. Qui-Gon didn’t mention Darkside stuff because it hadn’t happened yet, Anakin was yet to be turned. Luke was a good person, Ben and Yoda knew that so they instilled fear and patience of the Force. They didn’t feed his ego like Anakin, who was constantly told he was the most powerful-ever and the Force was his tool, not the other way around.

Power corrupts indeed.

 The supporting cast is fine as well. Pernilla August, a former- regular of Ingmar Bergman, shows the correct amount of kindness and warmth as Skywalker’s mother. The droids, C-3PO & R2-D2 make their way as we see their origins. Anakin being a mechanical fix-it wiz built the prissy protocol droid as a helper to his mother having no idea he was making a metallic big brother for Luke and Leia in the original films. R2-D2 once again, rises to the occasion to save human asses. This time he’s on board Padme’s royal starship and literally rolls into action. As R2 is in fix-it mode, there is a shot of him that is identical from ANH when the little droid is repairing the Falcon’s hyperdrive.
 Ian McDirmid, once again gives credibility to even the most fleeting of scenes. Future Emperor and all around galactic asshole, is an idealistic, kindly old politician from the Frank Capra universe on the surface, but underneath is a cold, menacing peace of evil shit that’s equal parts Hitler, George W. Bush and Niccolò Machiavelli. He doesn’t have a lot to do in TPM other than getting elected, but that’s good enough as we see him showing off his skills as a politician and he does have the films best and eeriest line, after destroying the contrived drama with the Trade Federation, he looks at Anakin with a glib smile on his face says, “I’ll be watching your career with great interest, young Skywalker.”
Ray Parks as Darth Maul is excellent, his brief character serves merely as a bulldog, an attacker only. His fight with the Jedi’s is just one of the many highlights. His return on "Clone Wars" is pleasant surprise!
 The special-effects are a marvel. Simply breathtaking as ILM shows us why they are the best at what they do. One fantastic shot after another. Some folks have claimed Lucas has crammed too much into a shot, damn right! We are along for a ride, why not enjoy it? A complaint that is constantly thrown out there, but is wrong is the lack of model use. Actually, this film and its sequels use more model work than in the original trilogy. Same goes for location shooting. Yep, wipe your tears, fanboys, it’s true!
  Along with its lush visual and production design, the film’s thematic beauty is satisfying as well. Queen Amidala and Senator Palpatine are both ensconced in duality. The queen is constantly trading places with her handmaidens and Palpatine as both the kindly Senator and the evil Lord Sidious. However, the films biggest thematic statement is the loss of innocence by virtually all the main characters; Queen Amidala and her first planetary crisis and the Senate ruckus, Anakin Skywalker leaving his mother too soon, Obi Wan Kenobi and the rest of the Jedi order dealing with the death of Qui Gon Jinn. The biggest loss is for the Republic itself as the ending shows us that it sure it looks happy, but actually the bad guys win- Palpatine elected and the Jedi have Anakin.
  Director George Lucas acquitted himself nicely and the small amount of complaints about his abilities are unfounded. I find it odd most people have no clue about what it takes it make a movie or the process of acting, yet they suddenly think they are Lee Strasberg and know it all when it comes to Lucas and his handling of his actors.  These films are not meant to be be acting showcases, the originals weren’t, and no one goes in for a SW experience to see Meryl Streep. The acting is fine…
 A review of Star Wars can not exist without the mentioning of composer John Williams. Great work all around, Duel of the Fates is easily one of his best pieces of work, the best in the film.
The Rodney Dangerfield of the Star Wars universe, The Phantom Menace, I predict, will get its respect over time and it slowly has. I’ve always felt from the very beginning, that if you don’t like this film and the sequels that followed, you were never that big a fan to begin with. This film was never meant to be hip or cool, by the measure of today’s standards, as it is a work from the heart  and not pandering to the idiot fanboy masses. Every dog has its day as the fanboys who felt spurned will grow up, grow some emotions, cram their whiny, bullcrap bromides and enjoy the touch of females.When they do, this film will be looked at with less scrutiny and admired for the artistry behind it, no matter the flaws.
 For this fan, but far from perfect, the film has and always will be one of great accomplishment, wonder and fun, an old fashion adventure from a bygone era. An ambitious beginning that lays the groundwork to the eight-part saga (and beyond) we all know and love. The films continue to enchant as a new generation of fans discover it.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


“Begun this Clone War has…”
- Yoda-

Picking up after the events of Attack of the Clones, the opening salvo of the contrived conflict, the Republic sends its Jedi all over the galaxy to put out the fires of war, all the while, being manipulated by Chancellor Palpatine’s/Darth Sidious and Count Dooku/Lord Tyranus’s grand scheme….
In 2008, Lucasfilm made a slight snafu by releasing the animated pilot first as it had yet to find its creative footing and really showcase the talent involved. It’s not terrible by any stretch, but it gave ammo to the bitter critics and raised skepticism of how STAR WARS will translate and THRIVE on television. Thank the Maker, Clone Wars shut all that down; impressing audiences and critics, winning several Emmy's and becoming cartoon Networks biggest ratings grabber- ever. The credit goes to creator and executive producer, George Lucas and writer/director/producer/show runner, Dave Feloni who was a Lucas-by-proxy, for capturing the nuances of the characters and universe and infusing it with high action, emotions and plenty of adventure.

 Too many were dismissive by calling it a, “kid’s show,” which it can be, but it was/is for everyone, since not many kids shows have aliens doing torturing methods that involve BRAIN stirs on their victims or have the word, “murder”, or “Senate” in an episode title. As bloodless as it is, it has a high body count for being family entertainment.

 Deeper characterizations and themes of betrayal, duty, friendship and misplaced loyalties are sprinkled throughout and played out through the prism of war and political machinations; sophisticated storytelling with visual flair and amazing voice acting, push The Clone Wars over the top of some of the best damn STAR WARS ever seen and one of the best animated series- period.

 Unfortunately, this excellent series will be a Rorschach test for some – many will likely only see exactly what they want to see and won’t give it a proper chance. The CG animation will be dismissed and lamented over for a regressive, old fashion style; or that it’s ugly, too “video gamey” - Only what you take with you.

Set up as mini-movies, each episode with a narrated version instead of the standard opening crawl gets a hunk of set-up out of the way at the start, straight to action and contains all the expanded universe characters, iconic starships and bounty hunters you could ever want!

 To its credit, Clone Wars never started off small, and the 22 minute running time didn’t mean a darn thing. Visually it could rival and often times surpass the movies and the sound packed the required punches as well, especially if you have a quality sound system. It’s huge and this epic quality translated beautifully. The best part is that in some ways,(not all, but some) the series was/is far superior to the prequel films as we get to spend a lot more time with all of the participants- no more broad strokes- we get strong characterizations from all the usual suspects and few more surprise appearances. Anakin Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi, Plo Koon, Ki Adi, Yoda, Mace Windu and Padme Amidala get plenty of screen time as they struggle to keep the peace in a galaxy at war.
Anakin has become my favorite character of the series and we see him as the noble hero, frustrated by the boss’s obsession with procedures and rules; he is the most compelling figure as we see flashes of darkness, yet his decency keeps him stable…for now. He’s a well-meaning kid, but his zealous tactics are at times questionable and he unknowingly puts his fellow Jedi’s in danger. He’s likable and brash and at times and even naive loaded with a great sense of humor as does the series; a great running gag throughout is how Anakin and General Grievous never see each other… since they officially don’t meet until SITH. Obi Wan is still the big brother, frustrated by his Padawan’s antics, he too is fun, likable and so very proper with his measured judgment.

Jar Jar is still around being as divisive as ever and continues to annoy those around him. His last appearance in season 6 redeems him somewhat as he fights off some enemies and saves Mace Windu’s life.

Padme doesn’t get as much time as the two show hogs, but she too is duty bound and they all get their moments to shine and does a wonderful lead in to Revenge of the Sith. Her last few appearances with Anakin in season 6 offer some very prophetic happenings and show Anakin’s dark side moments as he becomes increasingly fearful and PROTECTIVE.

The series’ most controversial aspect was the addition of Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s Padawan’s. How can Anakin have a Padawan? Anakin was a blank slate for many years so it wasn’t entirely impossible. Many cried foul at this, but as the series moves on, she proves her mettle and becomes a welcomed addition. She turns out to be the best addition, the best character to a long list of new character additions, alongside my favorite Ventress and Savage Opress.
My favorite Jedis established in the films make appearances throughout and are expanded on; Kit Fisto, Plo Koon and my favorite, Ki Adi,; all end up dead by the end of Episode III, but here have their moments to shine. CW took should be recognized for all the new characters it introduced specifically for this series; Ziro the Hutt, Cade Bane, Hondo, Asajj Ventress, Savage Opress, characters that appear as typical window DRESSING at first, but do add up to something memorable and valuable.

Old favorites make an appearance throughout the series, like Zutton, Chewbacca, Ackbar (not yet Admiral), (the future Grand Moff) Wilhuff Tarkin who, naturally, strikes up an instant friendship with Anakin; Liam Neeson reprises his role as Qui-Gon Jinn briefly in season 3 and Season 6, explaining the prophecy of the Chosen One and the latter time, conferring with Yoda and explaining just what the “living force” means and how the Midichlorians do not contradict a single thing!
Palpatine is always around, the Galaxy’s version of the Don Vito Corleone, schemes, plots, manipulates both sides even when he’s not directly involved. Bounty hunters make an impression; IG-88, 4-LOM, Zuckuss, Dengar, Bossk and the previously mentioned Cade Bane; a Duro who wears a big cowboy hat and talks like Clint Eastwood- he looks just as cool as I described; Jabba The Hutt and his extended family, uncle Ziro The Hutt, a very clever and flamboyant character that is best taken with a much needed sense of humor. He’s not a campy joke, but a worthy addition as he proves he’s just as sneaky and cutthroat as his nephew Jabba and in later episodes will pay for it with a lover’s betrayal. Pirate Hondo Ohnaka makes several appearances throughout the series.

One fascinating storyline dealt with the clones and how they wondered if they were worthy as individuals while Yoda gives them a very interesting and heart-felt life lesson. In the latter seasons things get heated and more exciting with the Mandalorians and Obi Wan involved in a civil war on their home world of Concord Dawn and the return of an old enemy and the home stretch episodes deal with Yoda trying to solve the mystery of the Sith and just getting enough information to know something bad is coming for the Jedi order.

I was skeptical at first, harrumphing at the “Computer Generated” animation. I feared it would be ugly and stiff like Starship Troopers: Roughnecks, but I could not have been more wrong! Forget all that- the animation style has a wonderful fluidity, smoothness and is easy to enjoy. The eyes on the human and humanoid characters is still an odd point as most have that glassy look, but it gets less so as the series moves forward, but never enters Polar Express ugliness.
The action of course is the heart of the series- the animation is booming whenever a fight breaks out; Space ships pulling alongside each other, firing lasers- blasting everything; the Jedi and Sith bounce about their environments, throwing loose objects and displaying their athletic prowess with abandon. Not to forget the Clone Troopers, who are swift and lethal, making their presence alongside the Jedi essential.

 The vastly over-hated prequel films do a decent job of world building; this series surpasses that occasionally, simply due to time. Anakin and Obi Wan’s relationship is fleshed out and we find out why old Ben said ‘he was the best star pilot in the galaxy and a good friend," (that's explained in the movies too, but you get my point!) It's great that this series shuts that poisonous turds up- since they were never fans anyway.

 Voice actors Matt Lanter as Anakin and Corey Burton as Kenobi are damn near uncanny to their movie counterparts, infusing both with what he know along with a few surprises, both are excellent and prove that voice acting is consistently underrated and misunderstood. For the trivia nerds, these two played the parts longer than anyone so credit is long overdue.

 The films set the events and situations up and presented them in broad strokes, this series fills in the blanks and focuses in a little closer on characterizations, motivations and especially the bad guys and the overall themes and time taken to explore more areas of the universe. It’s excellent to see Dooku, and Palpatine’s agenda seen and dissected and understood; the most favored element is to see how both sides are sometimes correct; the Jedis are not always right and the Sith are not always wrong; makes for an interesting climax in SITH.

For the betterment of the series, the Jedis are still seen as heroes of the galaxy, although still tied to procedure and bureaucratic routine, (a necessary element to show since Palpatine uses the system against them) they do show their intentions are good, despite the Chancellor’s meddling and their system rotting, which would not make any sense for something so established to crumble overnight. Ironically, the only one not stifled by routine and procedure is Anakin, who takes a lot of heat for his impetuous philosophy, but is at least honest with his intentions, Ahsoka too as she tries to bend her idealism to conform with reality.

It’s also great to see Anakin in the role of hero, not yet on the verge of cracking, he’s still a likable hero and we root for him despite knowing his fate. We see his obsessiveness over the ones he loves; Padme, Ahsoka and even R2-D2. Not so much with Obi Wan who he occasionally targets for his petty jealousies. His relationship with Ahsoka is one of the big surprises of the series with her being the only pure character of the series who walks away from everything before being affected by Palpatine’s machinations. A character I was skeptical about, but turned out to be a real treat, one of my favorites in fact due to her clarity of character. Her relationship with Anakin is big brother/little sister type, but it quickly moves past the gimmick and gets into strong defining relationships. They become great friends and Anakin slowly sees her as his equal as she proves her fighting skills and her ethics.

Mission accomplished as it captures everything we love about the Star Wars universe impeccably so in its most pure, visceral form. Wonderfully kinetic, the series reflects the style, attitude, ideals and spirit of the seven (and counting) “Star Wars” films in the expected and unexpected ways.
These are the absolute best and my favorites of the seasons. They may not coincide with the agreed upon greats, but for me, they work splendidly.

Season 1 2008-09

1- Ambush
Following the mixed reactions to the Clone Wars movie, the new series debuted with a force and reminded people to never under estimate Star Wars. It’s a perfect bland of action, character, humor and theme- yes theme! This series has it out the wazoo and it shines luminously here with Yoda at the forefront- what better way to usher in the new series. This is spread out over the first two episodes.

5- Rookies
A standout as it focuses on the sacrifices of war and makes an effort to give the clones some distinct personalities- Yoda shines here as he imbues the Clones with confidence and self-worth, very mature and nicely done.

7- Duel of the Droids
Anakin and Asoka finally track down both the location of R2-D2 and the Separatist listening post, established in the previous episode. Once there, the pair of Jedi led their clone troopers to rescue their droid comrade and destroy the station.
Plenty of nice bits here, Asoka is left alone to fight off General Grievous and learns a thing or two about herself, as do we. This riff of Anakin and Grievous never meeting is kept on through the series end. She steps out of her role as Anakin’s sidekick. After this she becomes more than just a gimmick.
I liked Anakin’s near maniacal devotion to R2, besides the important data he is carrying; he considers him his friend and proceeds to jeopardize the mission all in the name of friendship. That’s a likable and respectable trait in anyone and it’s played for truth and not forced or gimmicky.
I am a droid guy, I love anything droid related and the final showdown between was as sweet as anything since the films. R2-D2 is my favorite character and to see him get some shine time is always welcomed, plus it’s just a great episode. Rousing and packed to the rafters with action and we get some great character moments from all the leads, especially R2, but Anakin and Asoka as well, a real nice departure from their usual Jedi sleuthing.
R2 is shown in all the movies to be his own personality, as loyal and as fierce as a dog and a smart as a whip, but R2 is clever and he’s also a valiant warrior as he uses all the gizmos and additions to fight the other droid. No one thinks of R2 as an ass-kicker, but he is. It’s done with great affection for sure, but it’s also a kick ass action scene that is a great foreshadowing to the Anakin vs. Obi Wan fight in Sith- And everything, from the gantry, to the swelling of the music, to the clash of droids matches that showdown in such a way as to provoke intentional amusement and enthusiasm- such a geeky moment, the highlight of the season and series. Love it

22- Hostage Crisis
Bounty Hunter Cad Bane, takes several Republic Senators hostage (including Padme and Bail Prestor Organa), for the purposes of securing the release of one Ziro the Hutt (the same from the Clone Wars movie). As a wild card, Anakin is in the Senate Building – but without his light saber.
The resulting action is excellent, tense, flawlessly executed sequences riffing on Die Hard. In the end, the Senators are saved, but Bane accomplishes his mission to free Ziro who comes back for troublemaking. This episode offers some excellent character moments and some nice quiet beats between Anakin and Padme as they continue in their secret romance; losing the light saber gag starts off as carry-over from the movies but builds up to a wonderful conclusion that would make John McClain smile.

The stand out moments, Anakin’s ingenious fighting skills and my favorite new character, Ziro the Hutt who plays much better here than in the movie, shares all the best jokes with Bane.

Season 2: 2009-2010
The first season was a bit wobbly, but things vastly improve in season two; a solid season, plenty of good stuff coming with the bounty hunters and Mandalore arcs, but this was my favorite.

5-Landing at Point Rain
Due to the war, the Republic was unable to maintain control of the planet and now it has reverted to being a foundry for the Separatists’ droid armies. It’s a reality that the Republic cannot allow to continue, so they send Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ki-Adi Mundi, Anakin and Ahsoka Tano to lead a powerful planetary invasion with the goal of shutting down the foundries and capturing the Geonosian leader, Poggle the Lesser.
Brutal! Our kids take a hit and keep on fighting; pounding and more pounding as they lose troops at a distressing rate. They are consistently outnumbered and outflanked- heroics from both sides, Jedi and Clones win the day. Beautifully designed and choreographed, the action is far more substantial than anything in the films from this battle’s POV. Well written and executed all the way around, not only as fun episode, but as an important one, the action never lets up and becomes an excellent treatise on war and heroics however simplistic it may be; exciting and tense from the opening shot to the roll of the credits.

17- Bounty Hunters
In a rural and remote corner of Felucia, Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka form an uneasy alliance with four deadly bounty hunters to protect a local village from Hondo Ohnaka and his band of pirates.
This was an interesting episode as it showed Bounty Hunters working during the Republic. The most interesting element is that the Hunters weren’t indiscriminate murderers; how much more of business minded they are then getting in melees. This riff on the Magnificent Seven was clever and full of the usual eye popping battles, but a very cool theme of not judging by the cover.

Season 3: 2010-2011

4- Heroes on Both Sides
When the Senate begins debate on a bill that would eliminate government oversight of the Banking Clan’s activities, Padmé and Asoka travel in secret to the capital of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, in an attempt to forge a peace agreement with the Separatists. Before the eyes rolls from cement heads watching, this is quite compelling and continues to show the corrupted political process rotting.
It’s always interesting to see heroes on a mission, forced to question their ideals and situation when they realize maybe they aren’t on the right cause. The Clones/Jedis aren’t totally right and the Separatists aren’t completely wrong. Star Trek: Enterprise tried this with the Vulcans with mostly brilliant results as a once perfect race that was shown to be not so truthful and pristine as we once thought. Planting the seeds for the Jedis not being complete, perfect heroes; we saw the cracks in the prequel films and it made perfect since as long-standing institutions don’t crumble overnight nor do its participants. Most bemoan the political stories, but they are tightly paced and compelling here and lay the ground work to the inevitable.

5- Clone Cadets
On Kamino, before the events of “Rookies” (Season 1 Episode 5), 5 clone cadets of Domino Squad are at risk of washing out unless they pull their team together while trainers Bric, El-Les, and Jedi Master Shaak Ti debate their fate.
One of the more interesting aspects of the series was its unique take on the clone soldiers and its attempts to make them individuals. One of its greatest traits has been addressing moral ambiguities, Star Wars has always been known for its straight-shooting mentality and its black and white cowboy hat wearing bad guys versus the good guys- all part of the charm and I dig it, but the unsure nature of the events unfolding makes things just that much more interesting… and the series takes a potentially dumb idea and makes it great. We find out the clones are not carbon copies of Jango, but real people, with real feelings and the only thing they share exclusively are their looks. They want to be recognized for their unique abilities. The animation team manages to discriminate the clones with understated differences in dialogue, body language, and tone. Very cool ideas are sprinkled throughout.

9- Hunt for Ziro
Quinlan Vos, a favorite from the EU also makes his first appearance in the series as he teams with Obi-Wan Kenobi to battle the awesome cowboy hat-wearing Duro bounty hunter Cad Bane (the show’s best original creation) and culminating in genuinely surprising twist. This episode takes place soon after the Season 1 finale, Hostage Crisis. Ziro the Hutt has been freed from prison on Coruscant and is now being held by the Hutts on Nal Hutta — they want Ziro to hand over incriminating information about their dealings, while Ziro realizes that he will only stay alive as long as the information is hidden and the Jedi’s must get to Ziro before Bane does…
Tit for tat, quid pro quo- a very amusing episode packed with tons of atmosphere and film noir touches and plenty of gangster film homages, as it introduces one of the universe’s strangest characters, Sy Snootles, the female singer in the band in Jabba’s palace from JEDI, who is just a working singer here and is the stories’ femme fatale with her hotly gaze on Ziro. They share a passionate history- yes, Ziro digs chicks, who would have thought? His dark romance with Sy gives the episode a strange amount of heft considering the inherent absurdity and poignancy as it ends with a shock- Sy indeed does live up to her femme fatal title.
Vos is excellent, (and canon) as he is a great counterpoint to Kenobi’s by-the-book stuffiness and Anakin’s balls deep, gung-ho attitude. Have a sense of humor first before dumping rage on Ziro, I found him very funny and clever. I had fun with this episode, as it successfully pools tongue-in-cheek sensibilities with an action-driven plot and leaves us wanting more at the end; it had no reason to work, but is masterfully pulled together.

12- Nightsisters
Troubled by Asajj Ventress’ growing prowess with the dark side of the Force, Darth Sidious commands Count Dooku to eliminate her. But Ventress survives Dooku’s hit, and the jilted former apprentice vows to take revenge and goes to her kinswomen, the Nightsisters, led by the mysterious Mother Talzin located on the planet Dathomir.
WOW. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” certainly fits the stage here. What a great episode packed full of tons of Shakespearian overload…. Star Wars has a unique way of getting one to “like” or even identify with a the supporting characters and Ventress is no different, I felt sorry for her as her entire world is ripped from her without any type of warning. Dooku as usual, pours golden words in her ear only to stab her in the back. Some bitter irony in his future not realizing he too will eventually suffer the same fate. Once again, the Sith dynamic is underscored as they can’t trust anyone and whoever adopts an apprentice will betray said apprentice.
No longer just a bulldog or hired hit of Dooku, Ventress has some legitimate grievances and goes full- Khan on Dooku for her revenge. After this episode she has some greatness still left in her as his allegiances are cast in a haze. A once paper-thin character gets plenty of development becoming one of my favorites from the series. Some great moments for Anakin to shine as he shows off his great piloting skills and Dooku shows some moments of humanity and I was surprised by his look of regret when he thinks Ventress is dead.

Some striking visuals indeed fill the frame as we can add Dathomir to the ever growing list of exotic, mysterious alien worlds. Stunning as a blood-red planet, and the barren forest, complete with giant webbed teardrops hanging from the trees; it sets the eerie tone as we meet the Nightsisters, another instantly iconic mysterious baddies, led by Mother Talzin, with her gliding gait and her spooky echo in her voice. Dathomir and the “Sith Witch” concepts were pulled from the former EU book, “The Courtship of Princess Leia.” Awful, terrible book, but excellent ingredients turned into of the best episodes with wall-to-wall action and backstabbing fill this episode written by none other than Lucas’s eldest offspring, Katie Lucas, well done!

13- Monster
When Count Dooku calls upon the Nightsisters seeking a replacement for Ventress, she and her kin seize the opportunity to exact revenge. Ventress visits the far side of Dathomir and the males of the planet seeking the most brutal and powerful warrior among them. Talzin has Asajj secretly select a warrior from the distant Nightbrother village: Savage Opress. With the power of dark magic, Talzin transforms Savage into a hulking warrior ultimately loyal to Asajj. She then delivers Opress to Dooku, where he will serve as his secret Sith apprentice in a plot to overthrow Darth Sidious.-
Another new character favorite, Savage Opress, is victimized by the Sith. I felt some sympathy as he was being pulled and lied to from every direction; the Zabrackian version of Anakin; both victims of “corrupt institutions,” and both going off their nut because of said institutions. The plot thickens moves and morphs into some impressive moments as Opress become quite powerful.
Star Wars is constantly dealing with the concept of evil and here it’s handled quite deftly. Opress wasn’t born evil, but cruelty and the fostering of his hate lead him to be. Dooku came off very much like those scumbags that raise pit bull puppies to fight; the breed is not born evil by any stretch, but treated with cold, unrelenting cruelty over time will transform any creature and Opress certainly does. It’s ironic too how the Jedis are not much different, they too pluck worthy candidates and ferry them away from family and friends and “train” them and indoctrinate them- the only difference is the emotions used and the message sent. Excellent.

14- Witches of the Mist
Sent to track down the mysterious figure behind the deaths of several Jedi, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi find themselves on the trail of Count Dooku’s newest apprentice – the monstrous Savage Opress. However, Dooku and Asajj Ventress discover that their creation has a will of his own, and that he has grown more powerful than either of them had anticipated – perhaps even more powerful than the combined forces of the Jedi and the Sith.
I found it interesting to see Opress unspoiled at first, plucked from his clan, but later turned into Dooku’s brute who was outright cruel to him, constantly berating and shocking him with Force lightning to do his bidding; an eerie mimic the path later taken by Anakin and underscores the psychological slavery the apprentices endure. Opress was a mean motherscratcher at his physical peak; no wonder Vader deferred to Palpatine, one flick of the lightening and his iron lung would shut down.Dooku was shown to have a weakness as well; he put way too much trust in the Nightsisters considering their link to Ventress. A cool mirror moment with Dooku training Opress like his former Master Yoda trained him with Opress stating, “What you ask is impossible.” Reminiscence of Luke’s training on Dagobah, but obviously going in the other direction. An eerie moment as Dooku is full of wisdom and guidance one second and shocking him to get what he wants the next. The Count becomes more like a Bond villain here, (ironic sense Christopher Lee was the Bond baddie Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun! – I rock!) Calculating, cruel and full of betrayal to move the agenda.
Overall, it’s a fantastic episode that continued to build up the mythology and added some interesting complex psychology into the mix. Stellar visuals, music and propulsive action that ends with a thrilling 5 way duel between Ventress/Dooku/Opress vs. Obi Wan/Anakin. Again, impressive work, kudos to Katie Lucas, for creating such a compelling episode with interesting characters.

A mysterious force draws Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka to a distant planet, and its inhabitants — a family of exceptionally powerful Force-wielders — in an attempt to determine whether Anakin is truly the Chosen One. The patriarch of this family, known only as the Father, has spent ages maintaining the balance between his Daughter, who is strong with the LIGHT side of the Force, and his Son, who aligns with the dark. The Father reveals his days are numbered, and he seeks Anakin to take his place as the fulcrum of this balance. A series of tests proves that Anakin is capable of controlling both offspring, as the Father does, but Skywalker refuses to take the Father’s place.
Here we go, the Mortis trilogy- Anakin’s fate is revealed… or as some have called, The Holy Trinity saga. Shit just got real. There is no other to say it, the entire STAR WARS mythology was turned upside down, given a good shake as the mystical elements are turned up to 11. This is the beginning of the end for the Jedi order and the Republic as they inch closer to know of the bad things happening and what is to come; these three episodes contain some of the most incredible moments, scenes and action of the entire franchise. It’s the On Her Majesty Secret Service level of franchise importance, except nothing is shit on in the next INSTALLMENT but is definitely on Empire Strikes Back in execution and emotional importance.
YES, it’s THAT good.

 It also introduced three more STAR WARS weirdos, The Daughter, the Son and the Father, non-corporeal Force users (Anchorites as The Father explained) who have a vested interest in Anakin as the ship carries passengers Obi Wan and Ahsoka…as Anakin is vetted for his role as Chosen One.

15- Overlords
Having not seen this episode since it aired, I had forgotten the power behind it. One words describes these episodes- SURREAL, some very heavy stuff is thrown around as it asks a profound question; would you want to know the day you died- which is in essence what happens to Anakin when he’s turned to the Dark side, the good man who all know is placed on pause so to speak while Darth Vader emerged- shown his fate, the kid doesn’t like what he sees. I found it ironic here that after Anakin was shown his fate, he reacted the same strident way he did when he was anointed Darth Vader – a fool again to believe the Son and nearly accepted his OFFER to join him. Also fascinating to see Anakin, gifted with all the powers by the Father, was the Chosen One as the prophecy said, yet he didn’t take him up on his sincere offer to take his place. He was though ready to accept the Son’s dishonest offer – interesting.

16-Alter of Mortis
Alter of Mortis has tons of symbolism and references to the future as Son tried to convince Anakin to join him in the vision at the BEGINNING of the episode, he sounded conspicuously like Emperor Palpatine using the lines “My friend” and “How simple you make it, with a heavy vibe from Empire Strikes Back as Son tried to sway Anakin with the promise of restoring balance and peace just as Anakin himself would later do with Luke, interesting too is that Anakin was strong enough to reject the offer.
The Chosen One prophecy is described in painstakingly precise detail, for all those anti- Midichlorians- watch this! Even the Jedi had no clue what the true force is all about, many interpretations and uses and no one defining explanation. It SOON became clear that Son and Daughter represented the two sides of the Force, with the Father as the balance, but at the same time that our entire idea of the Force was woefully insufficient. As Father said, we and the Jedi knew only a “very simple view of the universe.”
I was as perplexed as Anakin as this episode cracks open and offers up a picture of the universe more majestic than anything we have ever been given to understand about STAR WARS. Not only do we learn more about the Force, but Qui Gon too as he makes a brief return and converses with Obi Wan who spills his guts about his abilities to train Anakin and his fear of screwing it up.

17- Ghosts of Mortis
The final treatise of the trinity saga shows Anakin’s fate and is touched on in closer detail in the last episode as his stubbornness and ATTACHMENT is played up paving his way to the Dark side all the more easier to accept in SITH. He has a hard time accepting it and with an act of mercy by The Father, didn’t really know how to handle it. One of the most unsettling moments ever was the creepy montage of Anakin’s Dark side descent shown to him via Son; from “lightning Sidious in Jedi” to “choking Padmé”, from “anguished Obi-Wan” to “exploding Alderaan”, and from “I hate you” to “You were my brother, Anakin!”- All brilliantly told- there has never been a scene this chilling and powerful in the history of the series. And to top it all off, we got an image of Anakin reaching out in anguish in front of the smoky image of Darth Vader’s mask. The act done to him by the Father might be called a cheat by some, but I saw it as merciful and perhaps Father saw it, despite putting a band aide on a hemorrhage, also as staving off the inevitable and hopefully eschewing it altogether.

WOW! This is not to be missed.

18-The Citadel
With help from R2-D2 and a squad of captured battle droids, an elite team of Jedi and clone troopers led by Obi-Wan and Anakin attempt to free a captive Jedi
After much anguish and philosophizing from the previous episodes, we get back to more straight forward adventures. The first of many great bits was how Anakin, Obi Wan and the clones were encased in Carbonite to escape the droid sensors gaining access into the prison and seeing R2 in General mode leading a battalion of battle re-programmed Battle droids. Neat.
Great action and visuals all around, but the best part was the repartee developed between Tarkin and Anakin, they see eye to eye on many things; like why are Peacekeepers in charge of a military campaign, Tarkin asks and Anakin agrees. Again, another strike against the Jedis that is not incorrect.

19- Counterattack
After their ship and only way off the planet is destroyed, Anakin and Obi-Wan must lead the escaped prisoners across Lola Sayu’s perilous landscape as Plo Koon commands a task force of four cruisers and their fighters through the Separatist defenses in a daring rescue. Even Piell is ravaged by anooba tracking beasts, but before he dies, he passes on his Nexus Routes coordinates to Ahsoka. When the survivors return to Coruscant, Ahsoka knows half the intel, and refuses to disclose it to anyone but the Jedi Council, while Tarkin refuses to hand over his half to anyone other than the Chancellor.
Even Piell, the freaky looking Jedi Master with one eye gone, was a cool character to see in action, but fleeting moments they were as he dies soon after.
We continue to see Plo Koon as one of Anakin’s closest friends and his loyalty keeps the kid sane as he is the only Jedi Master that didn’t dislike him, (Windu) or lie to him, (Obi Wan, Yoda). Plo Koon sees good in the boy much to the chagrin of some of his colleagues; he admires and believes Anakin is correct… most of the time.
The more interesting bits are with Anakin and Captain Tarkin as compliments Skywalker on his military sensibilities, revealing a hidden lack of faith in the Jedi Order. The two quickly form a smooth working relationship and mutual respect, Anakin slowly comes to the conclusion that the Jedi are floundering. Tarkin’s moments with Ahsoka are strained; he clearly holds her and her integrity in contempt and its ditto for her with him.

20- The Citadel Rescue
The concluding story arc went out with a bang as we see some of the best space scenes in the entire series so far. I truly believe that no other episode has produced an array of space battle sequences with more visual equivalence to the opening scenes of Revenge of the Sith. One of the shots I enjoyed the most was the one where the ARC-170s deployed for combat as the camera panned back to show the assembled Republic cruisers- nice.
The best bits are with Anakin and Tarkin, who is an evil oil slick that has Anakin in the palm of his hand. Both reveal their closeness to Palpatine, but its Tarkin who boats of having his ear paving the way for his future assignment on the Death Star. Both men are enamored with each other, both see the Jedis as flawed and vulnerable and both see each other’s talents and strengths as they will soon make for a harmonious pairing.

21- Padawan Lost
During a mission on the planet Felucia, Ahsoka is kidnapped by a group of Transdoshan sport hunters, Krix, Smug and Dar -along with a group of younglings are dropped on the Transdoshan moon, Wasskah and forced to engage in an elaborate cruel hunt. When morale sinks and the group is on the verge of giving up, Ahsoka uses her Jedi training to keep them all alive.
Here’s an odd little episode, taking a break from all the galactic turmoil and philosophic battles with Grievous vs. Jedis vs. Dooku vs. Sideous; we get to journey down a side corridor of the universe if you will; the path less traveled, into what is initially a fairly straight-forward story.
A nice adventure tale with Ahsoka flexing her wits and escaping hunter’s grasp. I love it when odd, small characters are given the spotlight, the Transdoshan sport hunters is an odd as you get. For the nerds keeping track, this is not bounty hunter “Boosk” from “The Empire Strikes Back,” – just the same species- the ugly the better and they were nasty buggers made creepy communicating with guttural noises and high-pitched reptilian shrieks when in distress.
Lots of great visuals and action, but most of all Ahsoka being tested both physically and especially psychologically as she’s forced to grow up fast as the Padawans constantly undermine her fighting spirit with near unanimous acceptance of defeat. Ahsoka is had been the sunny-side-up character up to this point until she’s given a big dose of disappointing reality. This is another instance of a straight-forward adventure turning dark as Kalifa is killed by the hunters with a laser blast hole shown in her chest. Intense.
Anakin’s reaction to his Padawan’s disappearance is not surprising… he freaked his shit out… the series continues to reap what the movies have already planted- Anakin’s fear. His fear of losing those close to him as well sense the urgency laced with some irony as its’ a reminder to viewers of his steady but inevitable descent into darkness because of said attachments. Although I did not find his irrational behavior as a bad thing this time because Ahsoka and him share that head-strong trait and this time, that stubbornness that each possess behooves them- Anakin’s dogged pursuit of his friend and Ahsoka’s refusal to be a trophy on an alien’s wall.
Interesting too was Anakin’s final moments as he becomes sick and tired of the Jedis ways as Plo Koon keeps reminding him, “There’s nothing more we can do” and this is a test for his young Padawan.
For nerds keeping score, we see some nice visual and sound effect touches; in the hunters room there were heads of Wampas, Banthas and Wookiees hanging on the wall. Zutton, the red Snaggletooth, makes an appearance on board the prison ship and at the beginning of the episode as the droid reinforcements landed; we hear the Imperial klaxon from Return of the Jedi.

22- Wookiee Hunt
Ahsoka and the younglings meet a new addition to their group, Wookiee capture, Chewbacca as they CONTINUE to elude the grasp of the Transdoshan hunters, Krix, Smug and Dar.
Heavily promoted at the time, Chewbacca the Wookiee makes his first appearance and it’s one of pronounced tribute as the character is treated respectfully and knowingly. His appearance looks great, but the animation of hair is still a tricky thing. He’s not just a cheap cameo, but integral to the story as it’s revealed that he was a prisoner on the Transdoshan prison vessel that is crashed THANKS to Ahsoka and her teams sabotage.

 The best part is we see the Wookiees in real fighting action, something that did briefly in Sith, but do a lot more. Alongside Chewbacca is GENERAL Farfull, seen first in SITH; they beat, choke, throw and treat the Transdoshan like dirty rag dolls. There is an excellent spirit of teamwork developed among the crew with Chewbacca his addition the to team bolstered their confidence even more despite not having weapons. We see his bravery, his fighting skills and his mechanical abilities as he builds a transmitter for their rescue. The animation nails every little movement to perfection. I love his reveal, as he steps out of the shadows similar to Indiana Jones in Raiders.

Ahsoka learns plenty of lessons in this duology as she struggles to keep her Jedi TRAINING intact and not take the Dark side route even though she was tempted several times; a nice dichotomy paired with Anakin’s reactions to similar things. The Transdoshan made great villains, nasty, mean and unrepentant.

For nerds keeping score, another EU bit of history made Canon- Wookiees being hunted by the Transdoshan has been mentioned many times in EU and in several well-received books.

Season 3 started off a bit SLOW, but ends with a bang. There is one major story arc that ends all story arcs with Anakin and its surreal- plenty of other damn fine important character defining moments with the introduction of the mysterious Nightsisters, Ventress and Savage Opress. Others to watch for with plenty of political stories and adventures tied together by the recurring characters Ackbar, Captain Wihuff Tarkin (Later to be Anakin’s boss, Grand Moff) as we get some damn fine happenings and the hint of a late characters return in Season 4.

                                                     PART 2 COMING SOON!