A quick note before we begin: I am happy to be back. I apologize for the delay; I’m not sure where all my time goes, but it doesn’t leave a lot of room in my schedule for this fun exercise. I eagerly await finishing this saga and continuing with more movies (we haven’t touched Marvel yet, or even the movies that make me happiest). And now, on with the show!
Empire Strikes Back
Released three years after the first film took people by storm, the core cast returns. Julian Glover, who we saw as Donovan in Last Crusade pops in as General Veers. Frank Oz gives us that iconic Yoda voice. And a fun fact; Bob Anderson who choreographed the sword fights for Princess Bride, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, and dozens of other films and taught Viggo Mortensen, Errol Flynn, and Sean Connery to sword fight is the stunt double for Darth Vader in this film and Return of the Jedi.
We left our heroes celebrating the destruction of the Death Star and gaining an important victory against the Empire. Vader is now obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker. But the Empire is still hunting the rebels. They’ve taken refuge on the ice planet, Hoth. Luke and Han are placing sensors when Luke sees a crash. He assumes it is a meteorite; we know it is a probe from the Empire. He tells Han he’s going to check it out. Han returns to base and reports to the general; he needs to leave and pay back Jabba to get the price off his head. Leia follows him because he can’t just leave. The couple has a “discussion” in the hall. Han is certain that Leia has feelings for him, but she won’t admit it (and vice versa, Han certainly has feelings for Leia but won’t admit it either.) Han’s departure hits a snag, besides the lengthy repairs he is doing with Chewie to the Falcon, 3PO reports that Luke hasn’t returned.
I think one of my favorite things from the original trilogies now is the friendship between Han and Luke. They’re like brothers (and a different relationship than Obi-Wan and Anakin had). Han is very concerned that Luke has not returned and immediately sets about discovering his whereabouts. When it is clear that Luke is still out in the freezing weather of Hoth, Han does not hesitate to suit up to go after him. Someone cautions “you’re Tauntaun will freeze,” Han quips “see you in Hell!” (because of course Han is going to be the one to swear in the film).
And Luke has indeed found trouble. A Wampa ice creature knocks him out and takes him back to cave, intent on eating him [the Wampa reminds me of Bumble the snow creature in Rudolph, or vice versa]. [Supposedly, the scars from the Wampa were to mask scars Mark Hamill had received from a car accident]. Luke uses his lightsaber to escape, but then trudges in the blowing snow (actually shot in a blizzard in Norway; the crew were nice and safe in a hotel while Mark got to venture outside). He collapses and Force-ghost Obi-Wan visits him and urges him to go to Dagobah to find Yoda to complete his Jedi training. That is how Han finds him, delirious and freezing. Han’s Tauntaun does freeze to death, so Han uses Luke’s lightsaber to slice it open in order to keep Luke warm and alive.
Commander Skywalker and Captain Solo are rescued come morning and Luke spends some time in a bacta tank. Everyone meets up in the medical bay; “that’s two you owe me, junior,” Han remarks to Luke. Leia and Han continue to push each other’s buttons until Leia proclaims Han to be a “stuck up, half-witted, scruffy looking nerfherder!” and then kisses Luke just to prove that Han doesn’t know everything about women. Luke is very pleased.
The Empire has to crash the party and the Rebels prepare to evacuate. Luke leads the snow-speeders in knocking out the Imperial AT-Ats (All Terrain Armored Transport), rather ingeniously. Han ends up taking Leia in the Falcon when Imperial troops enter the base and headquarters are in disarray. Vader is steps behind them. They’re pursued by a Star Destroyer and Han executes some fancy flying; until they try to go to lightspeed and the Falcon malfunctions. Han gets the crazy idea to hide in an asteroid field; because the Imperials would have to be crazy to follow them, snapping at 3PO “never tell me the odds!” They find a cave on a large asteroid to hide and make repairs.
Luke reaches his X-Wing and leaves Hoth as well. Then he heads for Dagobah. R2 doesn’t quite agree with his decision and Luke is wrong when he assures the little astromech that the planet is safe for droids. Fog clouds his sight and he crashes into a swamp and R2 almost gets eaten by something, until the creature decides it doesn’t like metal and spits the droid out. They set up camp and a short green creature comes upon them, very curious about them, even stealing Luke’s dinner and whacks R2 with his stick when R2 won’t let him take a light. But he knows Yoda. He’ll take Luke to Yoda. Luke shows his impatience and Yoda finally reveals himself when he remarks that Luke is not ready to become a Jedi. “Adventure, excitement, a Jedi craves not these things.” Obi-Wan’s voice chimes in that he was the same. “For eight hundred years I have trained Jedi. My own counsel I will keep on who is to be trained” (oh boy if this didn’t tie-in with the prequels). Luke insists he wants to finish his training, declaring he is not afraid. “You will be,” Yoda warns.
Meanwhile, Vader must report his progress to the Emperor. The Emperor has sensed a great disturbance in the Force and knows they have a new enemy in Skywalker. He declares him to be the offspring of Anakin Skywalker and Vader asks how [this is a bit of a plot hole when you take into account the prequel because Anakin knows that Padmé was pregnant, but he doesn’t know that the child was born, especially since the Emperor told him she had died]. The Emperor informs his apprentice, “the son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.” Vader suggests that they turn Luke to the Dark Side; he’d be a great asset. “He will join us or he will die.”
On the Falcon, Han and Leia have another interlude. Leia is still resisting her feelings and calls Han a scoundrel. He’s fine with that and we hear their theme as they finally share a kiss! Only for 3PO to interrupt them. Later, there is something flying around outside the Falcon; Leia remarks “I have a bad feeling about this” (famous saga line). Mynocks are starting to attack the ship and the cave is not feeling like a cave. Han beats a quick retreat; “there’s no time to discuss it in a committee,” he snaps at Leia. “I’m not a committee,” she snaps back. Just in time because the cave was actually a giant slug! After they escape, they hide on the Star Destroyer, powered down so the Empire won’t read them. Once the Imperials decide to separate, the Falcon can float away with the trash. What they don’t know is that Vader has contacted bounty hunters to find Han and Leia.
Yoda puts Luke through his paces in his training. He cautions Luke to beware the Dark Side; anger, fear, aggression. “Once start down that path, consume you it will,” like Vader, the wise master warns. Canonically, this is the first lesson on the Force and Jedi we learn. The Dark Side is not stronger, but an easier path, Yoda teaches. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack [written before Attack of the Clones and can be viewed as something Yoda regretted]. There is a cave on Dagobah, strong with the Dark Side. Luke ventures in it to learn something about himself and ends up dueling an illusion of Vader. When Luke beheads his adversary, the helmet explodes to reveal Luke’s face. A cautionary tale that Luke can fall the way of Vader (and also hinting at a deeper connection). When Luke’s X-Wing sinks deeper into the swamp, he despairs at retrieving it. He argues with Master Yoda there is a difference between lifting a stone with the Force and lifting an entire ship. “No difference, only in your mind!” Yoda insists. Luke tries to raise the ship. The infamous “do or do not, there is no try,” [and even in Rebels Kanan admits he doesn’t even know what it means]. Luke does not succeed, because he does not believe he can. Yoda raises the ship
Han suggests they take refuge with Lando, an old friend one could say, on Bespin. They don’t know that a bounty hunter is following them. Lando teases Han a bit when greeting him, but seems happy to see the old scallywag. And then is very pleased to meet Leia. Han’s now not so sure about introducing Lando to Leia; luckily, she is not taken by the man’s charm. 3PO wanders off and is attacked. Chewie eventually finds him and sets about putting him back together. Unfortunately, the bounty hunter Boba Fett arrived before Han and Leia and reported to Vader. Lando leads our heroes into a set up with Vader. The suited man tortures Han; he never asks any questions, just causes pain. Lando admits that Han and Leia are just bait for Luke.
Luke has a vision of Han and Leia in danger while training. He faces the question of rescuing his friends and possibly bringing about their suffering, or else staying and completing his training and following their wishes. Obi-Wan cautions his pupil that the Dark Side will try to tempt Luke; he must complete his training. He doesn’t want to lose Luke the way he lost Vader. Luke promises to return and flies off. Obi-Wan remarks to Yoda “that boy is our last hope.” “No, there is another,” Yoda answers.
Vader’s plan is to test carbon freezing on Han to see if it will work on Luke; he doesn’t want to damage the Emperor’s prize. Boba can have him afterwards. If Solo dies, Boba will be compensated. Chewie tries to fight the guards, but Han charges him with protecting the princess. He gives Leia a searing kiss before he’s pulled away. “I love you,” she finally declares. “I know,” the scoundrel answers (this line was Harrison Ford’s idea; and this scene was partly due to not knowing if Harrison was coming back for the third movie). Then Han is frozen; perfectly preserved and alive and now on his way to Jabba the Hutt.
Luke arrives on Bespin and begins searching for his friends. Leia briefly spots him and screams “it’s a trap!” But he’s funneled towards Vader anyway. The lighting of this scene is iconic now; only the silhouette illuminated. The lightsaber blades shine out. Luke manages to hold off Vader, though he falls in the chamber for a moment and Vader muses whether Luke is really worth it, but the lad is full of surprises. They move lower in the city, Vader pushing Luke back, even throwing heavy objects at the young man. He urges Luke to dip into his anger; only his hatred will destroy his enemy. They end up in a windy chamber and Vader literally disarms his opponent and tries another tactic. “Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.” “He told me enough. He told me you killed him.” “No. I am your father” [the shocker of the decade. Only a handful of people knew that was the actual line; it had originally been written as “Obi-Wan killed your father;” a huge plot twist as well. George and the director knew, and James Earl Jones when he recorded it, but not even David Prowse (the actor in the suit) knew and Mark was told only moments before shooting. He was warned that if the secret got out, they’d know who to come after. Harrison apparently had words with Mark after the premiere.]
Luke makes the ultimate getaway by falling down the chamber and hanging off an antenna at the bottom of Cloud City. Lando has gotten Chewie and Leia out of Cloud City aboard the Falcon; they were too late to rescue Han. But Leia has Chewie turn around when she hears Luke call to her in her mind. Chewie easily accepts her request despite Lando’s protest. They catch the young man before Vader can come after him. Luke moans “Ben, why didn’t you tell me.” With a little help from R2, who knows that the hyperdrive on the Falcon had been disengaged, our heroes escape right from under Vader.
We see our heroes at another medical facility where Luke gains a life-like artificial hand. The plan is he will join Lando and Chewie on Tatooine once he’s healed and they will rescue Han.
While I have said that I love Anakin and Padmé’s love theme, Across the Stars because you have that sweeping, passionate love theme that makes your heart melt, Han and Leia’s theme is more sedate. It is a more mature refrain. It echoes how they are unsure about each other. There were hints of their attraction from the moment they met; Han even joked that he was beginning to like her when she took over her own rescue. The music is upbeat for just a moment to brighten the peril they are in.
Empire Strikes Back is a good second movie in a trilogy. We continue the adventure with characters we already know and love and everyone gets a bit of character development. A lot of it focuses on Luke because he’s training to be a Jedi, but it’s Han and Leia who are trying to outrun Vader the entire movie. We’re left with a cliffhanger which makes us anxious for the final film to come out. And this lightsaber duel is even better than the one in New Hope (but just wait until the third movie!). And the plot twist! First time viewers had no idea that was coming. I didn’t the first time I watched the movie as a child (and my reaction to Yoda was “it’s Fozzy Bear!”)
Originally released as simply Star Wars. It ranks 13th in AFI’s Top 100 Movies, #1 for Film Scores, #8 in Movie Quotes, and #14 in Heroes and Villains. This is the film that started the saga. Expertly cast with Mark Hamill (would later voice the Joker in several Batman cartoons [we’ll catch one later] and Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar: The Last Airbender [we’ve already noted the irony of that casting and characterization]) as wet-behind-the-ears Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa, and Harrison Ford (action star extraordinaire; Jack Ryan, Indiana Jones, Air Force One) completing the trio as Han Solo. Alec Guinness is Obi-Wan Kenobi, Peter Cushing (he worked alongside Christopher Lee several times, mainly in horror films, but he portrayed Sherlock Holmes as well) is Grand Moff Tarkin. Anthony Daniels brings C-3PO to life, like Kenny Baker does with R2-D2; Peter Mayhew dons the Chewbacca costume while David Prowse wears the Vader suit. Of course, James Earl Jones (Mufasa, as well as appearing with Harrison Ford in the Jack Ryan movies) provides that deep voice (though not credited in this film).
And seriously, the original theme is also the best, since it doesn’t have to segue into any other theme. It’s the most joyful and triumphant. We also hear the Force theme for the first time, which also plays a huge part in the soundtracks of the rest of the saga. I could try to go into how this film was pioneering, but I wouldn’t be the best choice since I was not alive to witness this film when it first came out and wasn’t a huge fan of it when I first saw it. And now that the prequel trilogy is out especially, it’s a bit hard to separate what was all brand new in this film when first released with what we know now.
After the crawl, we see that iconic scene of the Star Destroyer chasing the Rebel Runner and are first introduced to R2-D2 and C-3PO; 3PO is the definition of a fusspot. R2 is given a secret mission and they must escape from the imposing black-caped Darth Vader. He is looking for the stolen Death Star plans (which we saw how those ended aboard this ship in Rogue One; which was kind of the whole point of that film) and captures Princess Leia. R2 and 3PO end up on Tatooine and separated briefly until the Jawas (and their signature “oo-tee-dee!”) get their hands on them.
Enter teenager Luke Skywalker and his aunt and uncle Beru and Owen Lars. They purchase R2 and 3PO. But R2 is insistent on pursuing his mission and escapes to find Obi-Wan Kenobi, though Luke only knows an “Old Ben.” Uncle Owen shuts down his questions, simply stating that Obi-Wan died alongside Luke’s father, and he shouldn’t worry about Ben. Luke, tired of being stuck on a backwater planet, storms off. Owen tells Beru he’s afraid that Luke has too much of his father in him [and we know why that would be dangerous].
When Luke goes looking for R2, he runs into Sand People. Ben is around to scare them off and is surprised that a little R2 unit has come searching for him. Luke asks Ben if he knows an Obi-Wan. Of course he does, he’s Obi-Wan. But he hasn’t gone by that name since Luke was born. He takes Luke home with him and informs the teenager that his father was a Jedi Knight, as was Obi-Wan; they fought in the Clone Wars together. They were guardians of the peace and justice in the Old Republic. Luke inherited his piloting skills from his father and Obi-Wan gifts him with the blue lightsaber; “an elegant weapon for a more civilized time.” Darth Vader was once a pupil of Obi-Wan’s, until he fell to the Dark Side of the Force and betrayed and murdered Luke’s father (uh, he’ll get to that later…shh, it’s a secret for now). We finally see the whole message that Leia sent to Obi-Wan, asking for his help in the name of her father, Bail Organa [oh yes, you should totally read Wild Space by Karen Miller to find out how Bail and Obi-Wan ended up becoming friends]. She has stashed important plans inside the R2 unit that are vital to the Rebellion. “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you’re my only hope.”
Luke doesn’t want to go running off to Alderaan; he has responsibilities here that his uncle was outlining just the previous evening. He comes across an attack on Jawas on his way home and Obi-Wan deduces it was stormtroopers trying to disguise there attack as Sand People, They were looking for the droids. Which would have led them home. Luke races back only to discover the homestead to be smoldering and two burnt bodies at the door. He has nothing now, so he’ll follow Obi-Wan. “I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi, like my father.”
First, they must find transport and head to Mos Eisley; “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Obi-Wan gets them past the troopers using a Jedi mind trick [that he probably picked up from Qui-Gon] and they search for a pilot in the cantina (cue that iconic music). Luke gets in a bit of trouble and Obi-Wan proves he still has some fight left in him, slicing off a criminal’s arm with his lightsaber. They then meet Han Solo and Chewbacca who agree to take them to Alderaan, avoiding Imperial entanglement, and no questions asked for a pretty sum. Han briefly deals with Greedo after the pair leave (and yes, he shoots first!). Then he buys more time to pay back his debt to Jabba the Hutt. Han also gets the idea that his passengers may be more than meets the eye when Imperials show up and start firing as the pair attempt to board the Millennium Falcon. Chewie gets them out of Tatooine; “here’s where the fun begins.” Luke is certainly an eager young kid, contrasting with Han who is more world-wise.
Meanwhile, Leia has been taken aboard the Death Star and Vader attempts to interrogate her on the location of the Rebel base, but she resists the mind probe. Grand Moff Tarkin (he goes by Governor in the film) has another idea. If Princess Leia does not reveal the base, he will fire the Empire’s ultimate weapon on Alderaan. Leia finally gives them the planet Dantooine. Tarkin destroys Alderaan anyway to prove a point. Obi-Wan feels the incredible loss of life all the way on the Falcon. But he insists that Luke continue with his training. Han’s not one to believe in the Force while Obi-Wan comes back that there is no such thing as luck.
When they come out of hyperspace, they discover what the Empire has done, though they don’t know how. Until Obi-Wan realizes that the object in the distance is no moon. It’s a space station. And they are caught in its tractor beam. Luke has a very bad feeling about this. Obi-Wan has a better idea that fighting. They hide away in the smuggling holds from the Imperial boarding parties, though Vader senses something. Obi-Wan also has an idea on how to deal with the tractor beam. Han figured the old man would do something foolish. “Who’s the more foolish; the fool, or the fool who follows him?” [Still spouting wisdom.]
Han and Luke then discover that Leia is aboard the Death Star and Luke immediately wants to rescue her. He persuades Han with the promise of reward. They use Chewie as a prisoner to get to the cell. The plan goes pretty well, until Han’s funny conversation and Leia notes that Luke is short to be a stormtrooper. Proving he is an eager young lad, he announces himself to Leia “I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to rescue you.” Oh, and I have your droid. And Obi-Wan Kenobi. As Han predicts, they end up with company and Leia takes charge: “into the garbage shoot, flyboy.” Han either wants to kill the princess, or he’s beginning to like her. “What an incredible smell you’ve discovered,” Han snarks once they’re out of the line of fire. Leia contends that the situation could be worse. Now Han has a bad feeling about this. It gets worse when a slug creature grabs Luke. It only lets go when the trash compactor starts up. Luke calls for R2 and 3PO, but the droids are almost too late to save their humans. R2 to the rescue in the nick of time!
And now they just have to get through a couple dozen troopers. Han and Leia still snip at each other; Han is used to taking orders from just one person, himself. Leia is used to being in charge and asks someone to get the walking carpet out of her way. (Gotta admire a woman who takes charge and doesn’t wait to be rescued) They split up; Han deciding it is great tactics to chase after one’s opponent shouting at the top of his lungs. His luck holds out. Luke and Leia have to swing across an opening [which Mythbusters proved was possible; and was performed by Mark and Carrie on set in one take (they didn’t have the money for stunt doubles).] They all eventually meet up by the Falcon.
Obi-Wan sneaks about the battle station and Vader determines he must face his old master alone. Tarkin dismisses Vader’s power (which we’ve already witnessed is a bad idea; he choked a subordinate when he found his lack of faith disturbing.) When he confronts Obi-Wan, he claims he is now a master. “Only a master of evil, Darth.” Vader claims Obi-Wan’s powers are weak. Obi-Wan also warns Vader “if you strike me down, I’ll become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” [Yes, this duel is much slower than their epic battle in Revenge of the Sith, but keep in mind that this was the first lightsaber duel ever conceived; and take into account Alec Guiness’s age. And Vader is impeded by a black suit. And heck, he probably hasn’t had to duel anyone in a while…yet the end of Rogue One proves he’s still got it. George Lucas’ original concept was that there was a heft to lightsabers; he didn’t want them flung about. Obviously, once we got back and see Jedi young and in their prime, the duels are more fantastic. Nevertheless, the choreography is sound] Obi-Wan senses his young charges are near and allows Vader to slice through him. But his body disappears (surprising everyone). His disembodied voice urges Luke to run and the Millennium Falcon escapes. There’s a brief dogfight to ensure they get away [I remember reading in a novel somewhere that gravity is a bit off in the Falcon at that ladder] which Leia insists was an easy escape. In fact, Vader has a homing beacon planted on the Falcon.
Our heroes make for the Rebel base on Yavin 4 with all haste to analyze the readouts on R2. Han takes his reward and intends to leave. He’s got debts to pay off and going against the Death Star is not his idea of courage. The Rebellion is banking on snub fighters getting past the guns, flying through a trench, and hitting a small opening to start a chain reaction. Luke figures it’s not much bigger than the womp rats he used to shoot on Tatooine. He’s disappointed in Han, but the smuggler does tell the boy, “May the Force be with you,” in parting. Luke cheers up a bit reuniting with his friend Biggs. They’re part of Red Sqaudron, along with Wedge Antilles [played by Ewan McGregor’s uncle, Denis Lawson; and the character is most likely related to the Captain Antilles Bail Organa addresses at the end of Revenge of the Sith].
The Death Star is orbiting Yavin to get into position to fire on the base. Tarkin refuses to leave, even after the techs figure out what the Rebels are aiming for. The Grand Moff is certain this is the Empire’s moment of triumph. Even Vader commented that this day saw the end of Kenobi and will see the end of the Rebellion, though he does take his TIE Interceptor out to shoot down Rebel ships. [Lucas was influenced by the dog fighting of WWII, and I feel that the effects still hold up well forty years later; proves how well made it originally was] Wedge is hit and has to break off his attack. Biggs is killed protecting Luke. Luke hears Obi-Wan urge him to trust the Force to aim his torpedo. Vader and his friends are gaining on Luke in his X-Wing and R2 is a bit fried [Anakin! You shot your droid!] Han swoops in on the Falcon to save the day; knocking Vader away, and giving Luke his chance. Bombs away just as the station powers up its giant laser. Huge explosion!
Luke is greeted by cheers and a hug from Leia. Han joins in. Luke’s thrilled he returned; Han claims he couldn’t let Luke get all the credit. [Note the height difference between Carrie and Mark and Harrison, particular Harrison. It’s a bit funny] The Rebels hold a ceremony (cue awesome music) to recognize Han, Chewie, and Luke for their actions. 3PO and R2 are all shined up and the Rebellion lives to fight another day.
The main word I can use to describe this film is “iconic.” Even if you’ve never watched the film, you probably know a lot of key points and dialogue because it is seeped into pop culture so much. There are several books and magazines articles that outline all the trouble George Lucas went through to get this film made; I highly encourage you to check them out! This film, and really the whole saga, echo Joseph Campbell’s idea of the “monomyth.” There is a path that most major hero stories follow [I’ve read the book twice and not even for a class! And I totally agree with his hypothesis]. Luke receives his “call to adventure;” there is a “refusal of the call;” then there is “supernatural aid.” This all happens on Tatooine with Obi-Wan. Luke crosses his first threshold and is thrown into the “belly of the whale.” That would be joining the Rebellion. And he begins to undergo trials.
Felicity Jones leads the cast as Jyn Erso, Mads Mikkelsen (the bad guy in Doctor Strange, Rochefort [the bad guy] in The Three Musketeers from 2011, Le Chiffre [the bad guy] from Casino Royale, Tristan from King Arthur, and he will appear as Gellert Grindlewald in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3 and is supposedly in the upcoming Indiana Jones film) is her father, Galen [not a bad guy]. Jimmy Smits reprises his role briefly as Bail Organa, and if one of the senators looks familiar, that’s Jonathan Aris, who plays Anderson in Sherlock. Alan Tudyk voices K2. They made good use of CGI in this film considering that this takes place directly before the original trilogy and many of those actors are too old to reprise their roles, or sadly passed away. Grand Moff Tarkin came across excellent.
The Imperials are coming. A family tries to run and hide, but the father stays back to deal with their visitors, after assuring his young daughter that all he does is to protect her. Her mother turns back, but tells the girl to hide and “trust the Force,” fastening a crystal around her neck [okay, could she be an old Jedi Initiate or similar? As revealed later, that crystal is a kyber crystal, which was the heart of a Jedi’s lightsaber…and we know that some Jedi managed to escape the Purge. She could be hiding in plain sight, married to an Imperial scientist, or else, no one is that dumb…two minds] But the girl watches her father greet the visitor, an Imperial governor, Krenic. Galen is instructed to return to the Empire to continue his work. His wife, Lyra steps in to threaten Krenic, but she’s quickly dispatched. The child, Jyn flees. There’s a secret hide-out she curls up in until a family friend retrieves her.
We jump ahead fifteen years and meet Jyn briefly again in a prison. She is rescued by the rebellion and taken to the rebel base on Yavin 4. They need her help; news has come out that an Imperial pilot has defected and is searching for the rebel Saw Guerra. Jyn has a history with Saw; he was the one to rescue her after the incident with Krenic. The pilot is also said to be acting on instructions from Galen. Mon Mothma sends Jyn with Cassian to find the pilot and information he carries about an Imperial weapon.
Grand Moff Tarkin visits Krenic to oversee the final assembly of the Death Star above Jeddha [why do these all look like Tatooine?]. They are harvesting the kyber crystals from an old Jedi temple. The pilot has made his way to Saw Guerrra, but Saw is a paranoid extremist and doesn’t believe the pilot. Cassian and Jyn begin their search, but get caught in an attack by Saw’s men. They also meet a blind guardian who speaks of the Force: “The Force is with me and I am with the Force. And I fear nothing for all is as the Force wills it.” Impressive fighting from both Chirrut and Jyn [which that staff is totally part of a lightsaber hilt]. Chirrut is followed by Baze who carries an arsenal to keep them safe. All four are eventually taken to Saw’s headquarters, but only Jyn is allowed to see the man. The other three find the pilot and when the attack comes, they hightail it out of the compound.
Jyn finally gets to see the message from her father. He obeyed the Empire because he knew that was the only way to destroy them. He designed a flaw in the Death Star; Jyn only needs to recover the plans and get them to the rebellion. Above the planet, Tarkin wants to make an example of Jeddha, so he has the Death Star fire on the holy city; also testing Krenic whether the station is operational. Luckily for Krenic, it is, but Tarkin is also taking over command. Krenic leaves to discover the depths of treachery that came from his science base.
The ragtag crew heads to Eadu to possibly rescue Galen, but we also know that Cassian carries orders to kill Galen. But he hesitates. Then an alliance squadron bombs the area anyway, almost hitting Jyn and mortally wounding Galen. Cassian does rescue Jyn, but they have words later. Director Krenic discovers Galen’s treachery and manages to get away. He appeals to Darth Vader (who may be on Mustafar, not sure since it wasn’t label and why would he return there?). Vader cautions Krenic “be careful not to choke on your aspirations.” Krenic needs to ensure that the Death Star was not sabotaged.
The Alliance is not willing to trust the word of either Erso’s and will not commit their fleet to going after the plans. So a volunteer squadron gathers and they head for the Imperial information station, giving themselves the call sign Rogue One. Jyn and Cassian make it inside the building and Cassian’s sarcastic droid, K2 helps them find the correct data file. But they have to beam out the information; it will be difficult to get it off world. In the meantime, Bail Organa is heading back to Alderran and sends a trustworthy woman to speak to an old Jedi friend. The Alliance finally decides to scramble part of the fleet, led by a few daring leaders (we even see R2 and 3PO for a brief moment. And that is the same Red Leader we’ll see in A New Hope [they used unused shots from New Hope]). A battle takes place over Scariff crashing to Star Destroyers into each other to take out the shield while Jyn tries to align the dish. Krenic is about to kill her, but Cassian limps in to save the day. The couple sits on the beach as the planet is destroyed by the Death Star to protect the Empire’s data.
Vader boards a rebel ship, using his red lightsaber to slash through the men. The disc manages to escape and is beamed to a familiar Rebel Runner with a familiar young woman aboard (another example of CGI).
This all leads directly into Episode IV: A New Hope
My thoughts on the film are mixed. We could guess that it was a foregone conclusion that the new characters introduced would all die by the end of the film because they weren’t in the original trilogy. Cassian [who apparently is getting his own Disney+ show] is not a wholly nice character, which some people would applaud as it builds dynamic. But he’s trying to come off as a cross between Luke Skywalker and Han Solo (look at the shirt he wears in the last few scenes) and he has none of the charm. I applaud him for following his conscious finally but you also want to smack him a lot in the beginning. Jyn is very much like Rey from the sequels which makes it a bit confusing.
Overall, the movie is very slow. It also relies on the audience knowing the current expanded universe; like I had no idea who Saw Guerra was before this but everyone in the film does. [After watching some of Rebels, I did catch the shout out to General Syndulla (Hera), but it’s so small that you don’t notice it if it means nothing to you]. I wish we saw more of the battle at Scariff (it has been noted that Star Wars finally made a tropical beach base; then blew it up with the Death Star…this is why we can’t have nice things)
Speaking of Rebels, I have watched some of the first two season (and I hesitate to continue because I am aware of some things that happen and not sure I really want to actively sit and watch that) and it is hilarious. Lots of good banter, wonderful to see some familiar faces. And the family dynamic of the crew is heartwarming. This is why Jedi should be allowed to have families! I totally recommend the show.
Alden Ehrenreich heads up the cast of Solo as the titular character (he did have a small part in an early episode of Supernatural, but this is probably his best known role). Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones) is beside him as Qi’ra, Woody Harrelson (my parents known him as Woody Boyd from Cheers, I sort of recognize him as Haymitch from Hunger Games) joins as Beckett. Donald Glover is the young Lando Calrissian and Paul Bettany (Vision in the MCU and Chaucer in Knight’s Tale. Also Silas in Da Vinci Code and Dr. Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander) seems to have a bit of fun as Dryden Vos. Warwick Davis (Professor Filius Flitwick and Griphook in Harry Potter, Nikabrik in Prince Caspian. He’s been in other fantasy films but his first role was Wicket in Return of the Jedi, and he’s played roles in all of the recent films) even makes an appearance. Ron Howard directs.
Crime Syndicates thrive under the Empire, especially on Corellia, where we meet a teenager attempting to flee. A young Han wants to escape Corellia and take his girlfriend, Qi’ra [totally not the way I thought it was spelled because it sounds like “Kira”] with him. First, they have to flee their warden (voiced by Linda Hunt who is amazing as Henrietta Lange in NCIS: Los Angeles), then attempt to bribe their way through Imperial officers. Han makes it through, Qi’ra does not, but she shouts at him to run. Han decides to join the Imperial Navy so he can become a pilot and once he’s accomplished that, he’ll return to Corellia for Qi’ra. When the office asks Han for his last name, “who are your people?” Han tells him he doesn’t have any. So Han becomes Han Solo.
Three years pass and we catch up with Han on a battlefield where he questions orders. There is a company he wants to join, but they aren’t really Imperials; they’re thieves about to make off with Imperial equipment. Well, questioning orders gets Han thrown into a pit with a “beast.” A very muddy Wookie appears and attempts to pummel Han to death, but Han knows a bit of Shyriiwook and persuades the Wookie to not kill him. Instead, if they work together, they can escape. They manage to hitch a ride with the thieves afterwards and the Wookie introduces himself as Chewbacca. He’s searching for his family, but for now, he’ll stay with Han and Beckett as his crew.
The crew’s next target is a train heist for coaxium, a superfuel. There is competition for the fuel from Enfys Nest. Han manages some fancy flying, but only Chewie, Han, and Beckett survive the heist. And Han has to dump the cargo to save them from crashing into a mountain. But this was a job for Crimson Dawn and its leader, Dryden Vos, is not a forgiving man. Beckett has to come up with a way to make it up to Dryden, or they’re all dead. While they wait, Han pleasantly discovers that Qi’ra is no longer on Corellia; she works for Dryden. She is his top lieutenant and admits that Dryden also works for someone; someone who will demand the coaxium. Han steps in and suggests they retrieve raw coaxium from Kessel, then process it somewhere else in order to escape Imperial notice. For that, they’ll need a fast ship.
Qi’ra suggests a great smuggler, Lando Calrissian. They find him in his den, surrounded by fans. Han plays sabaac (space poker) against Lando in order to gain his ship, but Lando cheats in order to win. But Qi’ra and Beckett smooth things over, except they have to retrieve Lando’s ship from the impound lot. Han is instantly taken by the Millennium Falcon (we hear a bit of the original soundtrack at this moment; and just look at the face on Han); it’s a style ship his father worked on when he was alive on Corellia.
In order to make it to Kessel, a spice mining planet reliant upon slave labor, they must travel through the Maelstrom. Lando’s first mate droid is an excellent navigator…and proponent for driods’ rights. On the trip, Han tries to catch up with Qi’ra, but Beckett warns the young man to trust no one; expect everyone to betray you and you’ll never be disappointed. He’s also insistent on sticking to the plan; no improvising. And at first, everything goes according to plan (and recognize that mask from Return of the Jedi?). But a prison riot gets started and that throws a wrench into the works. Chewie goes off to rescue some Wookies and Han has to get the coaxium by himself. But Chewie of course comes back, but there is a battle going on outside between them and the Falcon. They’re almost ready to leave, until Lando rushes off to save his copilot, then Han rushes off to save Lando [and the actor has got the Han Solo stance down]. Once they’re above the planet, they run into an Imperial cruiser. With Lando injured, Han takes control of the Falcon and Chewie quickly becomes his copilot. And Han proves every boast he’s made about his piloting skills. They evade TIE fighters and he even comes up with a plan to quickly make it out of the Maelstrom, but they need the navigation system from Lando’s droid. They are admittedly almost eaten by a giant space monster and almost get sucked into a gravity well, but they make it out, true Han Solo style (and why the Falcon is missing a few pieces). He even has a good feeling about this! And that is how he made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs [explaining how the Kessel run is a specific distance and Han managed to find a shortcut, rather than a unit of time…which as someone who is not well-versed in science, I just always assumed it was a space measurement of time].
They’re almost away until Enfys Nest shows up and wants the coaxium. And they may be pirates, but they’re just people who have been pushed out of their homeworlds by the Crime Syndicates, like Crimson Dawn. They want the coaxium for the Rebellion. Qi’ra knows that Han is a good man and tells the female leader of Enfys Nest that Han will try to help them. Han tries to convince Beckett to help him, but Beckett chooses to leave. Han can look him up later on Tatooine. Han and Qi’ra go before Dryden, but he’s been warned about their plan. By Beckett. Proving his statement about betrayal. But Han is smarter than he looks; he already figured Beckett would double-cross him and so it is the real coaxium, so Beckett takes it and Chewie. Leaving Qi’ra and Han to fight against Dryden, since Beckett helpfully took out the other guards. Qi’ra kills Dryden to save Han. She kisses him, then sends him after Chewie. She’ll stay behind to steal the jewels so they have money.
But Qi’ra doesn’t follow Han. Instead, she takes over Crimson Dawn. And her ultimate boss is revealed: Maul [a surprise to anyone who hasn’t watched the animated series Clone Wars and Rebels; we hear a few strains of Duel of the Fates and see the mechanical legs]. He orders her to Dathomir after she lays the blame for the mess with Beckett. And she does protect Han; she never names Beckett’s allies and claims they’re all dead. So Maul won’t go after Han. Han meets up with Chewie and Beckett, then shoots Beckett. Because Beckett would have shot him, though Han seems genuinely sad about the older man’s passing. They give the coaxium to Enfys Nest and decline joining the Rebellion. The leader muses that Han may someday feel different. Then Han and Chewie find Lando again and play for the Falcon. This time, Han was on to Lando’s trick, so he stole the extra card Lando hides. But he didn’t need it to win the final hand; he won the Falcon fair and square. And thus, a beautiful team flies off into the galaxy.
Ok, I like this movie better than the sequel trilogy, but there are still elements that I miss from the Legends canon. Though I will admit that this was written close to the general plot points of that timeline. In the book trilogy from the late nineties, Han grew up as a street urchin and pickpocket on Corellia before joining the Imperial Navy as a pilot. There is a young woman that Han becomes attached to, but it doesn’t work out. What I loved about the trilogy the one time I read it was the female Wookie cook that treated Han like a son and that is where he learned the language. This film is written in such a way that that aspect may have happened, but was never shown, so I appreciate that. There’s just part of me that wishes they had done something more with this film. I applaud Alden on his performance.
Let me include a few thoughts about Clone Wars first. While I have not watched the whole series (and not entirely sure if I want to due to some plot points I’m aware of), it does come up in fanfiction a lot. I watched most of the traditional animated series when it came out, and it was weird. So no, I did not want to watch the animated film that came out later and I objected to the idea that Anakin had a Padawan. And, by the way, the film is still weird. The series, once I gave it a chance, it better. I learned to like Ashoka and was pleased with elements they included in parts of Rebels that I happened to catch. I agree with some plot points that occur in the series (SPOILERS); I thought it was interesting to give Obi-Wan a possible love interest (and if you’ve read some of the Legends books, you know this isn’t the first time). I adore his sassiness; because my favorite characters tend to be snarky, so much fun! Anakin isn’t as whiny, huzzah. We see clones in action and bond with certain ones (which comes to bite us in the butt later). I was not fond of them bringing Maul back because, really! Obi-Wan sliced the guy in half and he fell down a shaft [I could make a comment regarding the sequel movies here…apparently that does not mean death in the Star Wars universe…I also disagree with that; more of that rant later]. Can we be nice to Obi-Wan, please? There are some plot lines that I understand needed to occur, but wish they hadn’t because we’d rather see our characters ultimately happy (after we whump them a bit)
I am interested in reading the Wild Space novel, which has been referenced in several stories (which will be listed at the end of the blog), but for now, on with the main event!
All the familiar faces are back: Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan, Natalie Portman as Padmé, Hayden Christensen as Anakin, Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, Samuel Jackson as Mace Windu. Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Kenny Baker as R2-D2 are the only two actors to appear in all of the original and prequel movies; in fact, the characters appear in all nine films, plus Rogues One, as well as two of the cartoon series, Clone Wars and Rebels. A fun note about the title of this episode; originally, Episode VI was supposed to be Revenge of the Jedi, but George Lucas decided that revenge was not the Jedi way, but completely acceptable for the Sith.
After the title crawl, the film opens with a huge space battle; you really get a feel for the scope; there are layers and levels and feels a bit like a roller coaster…so be careful if you have a bit of a squeamish stomach. Also, we now realize fully where the stylistic designs for the Empire originated; those certainly look like Star Destroyers and it doesn’t take much to see the similarity between clone troopers suits and stormtroopers. Our heroes are in the thick of it and Obi-Wan’s starship gets attacked by buzz droids, so he’s not happy. Anakin tries to help and R2 is cool; they ultimately end up crashing into General Grievous’ ship [I’m not a fan of Grievous; he was totally unnecessary, you’ve got Dooku]…Obi-Wan does a totally awesome flip out of his fighter and slashes through droids. Now, time to spring the trap and rescue Chancellor Palpatine.
Anakin and Obi-Wan confront Dooku together this time; Sith Lords are their specialty, but Dooku is quick to take Obi-Wan out of the picture, throwing him into a walkway. Anakin gets a bit cocky and Dooku can sense fear, hate, and anger in Skywalker, but he doesn’t use them. Anakin manages to disarm (literally) Dooku and crosses a red and blue blade at the Sith Lord’s neck. Palpatine orders Anakin to kill Dooku (Dooku was not aware that that was part of the plan); his Sidious voice comes out when he growls “do it” [and that throne looks awfully familiar…fast forward to Return of the Jedi]. Anakin decapitates the Sith Lord and frees Palpatine. [Ok, seriously, you’ve got Christopher Lee and you use him for about ten minutes, to make room for some mostly-droid being that should have been hacked to pieces the first time he crossed someone’s path] The Chancellor then tries to get Anakin to leave Obi-Wan (all part of his plan), but Anakin will not leave him. All three manage to get captured by Grievous, for about a minute, then Anakin and Obi-Wan escape their bonds. Grievous is a coward and abandons ship. Anakin manages to land the wreckage of the ship, or as Obi-Wan puts it, half a ship, and calls it “another happy landing.”
Obi-Wan leaves the politics to Anakin, who sneaks away as soon as possible to visit his wife. Padmé quietly reveals that she is pregnant. Anakin is happy (though note the brief hesitation). Their happiness is soon marred by nightmares Anakin has of Padmé dying in childbirth. He will not let what happened to his mother happen to the other woman he loves. Now he’s on a search to find a way to save her. He even seeks help from Master Yoda, with no details revealed. Yoda once again counsels Anakin that fear of loss will lead to the Dark Side; attachments lead to jealousy and greed. Anakin does not seek help from Obi-Wan.
Instead, the Council is concerned by the powers that Chancellor Palpatine is amassing. Palpatine puts the next step of his plan into action and appoints Anakin as his personal representative on the Jedi Council, planting doubt in Anakin’s head [along with the dream about Padmé, no doubt]. The Council reluctantly accepts the appointment, but will not grant Anakin the rank of Master. After the meeting, where Yoda states he will help the Wookies on Kashyyk, Obi-Wan and Anakin talk. Anakin may not have asked for the position, but it is something he has wanted and Obi-Wan tries to get his former Padawan to see that Palpatine is interfering with the Jedi. The Council, against Obi-Wan’s protests, are asking Anakin to spy on Palpatine (which is what Palpatine is asking of Anakin, but he’s too blinded by loyalty bought at a young age to see that…Palpatine tells Anakin what he wants to hear, so the young man keeps coming back).
Anakin visits Palpatine that evening. The Chancellor feeds the young Jedi the information on where Grievous is hiding. Then their conversation drifts to the Sith; Palpatine claims they are similar to the Jedi in their quest for greater power. “All who gain power are afraid to lose it.” He also knows a Sith legend on Darth Plageus, who could manipulate the midi-chlorians in a life form and create life [hmm, maybe that’s how Anakin came to fruition], and also, how to keep from dying. That perks Anakin’s ears, his thoughts are on Padmé. Palpatine claims that the Dark Side is a pathway to many abilities that would be considered unnatural (and Anakin is so consumed with thoughts of his wife he doesn’t question how the Supreme Chancellor knows Sith legends, or why, or why he’s telling him these things).
The Council decides to send Obi-Wan, who has more experience, to Utapau to capture Grievous. Former Master and Apprentice bid each other good-bye; Anakin apologizes and thanks Obi-Wan for his training and Obi-Wan declares his pride in Anakin; he’s a far greater Jedi than Obi-Wan could ever hope to be [we’ll get to some Obi-Wan appreciation in a bit]. “Good-bye, old friend,” Obi-Wan says in parting.
Obi-Wan engages in a duel with Grievous on Utapau, leaping down and quipping “hello there.” Grievous, proving to be a lazy coward, first instructs his guards to kill the Jedi (and weird opening lightsaber stance), Obi-Wan quickly rids himself of the pests. Then quickly removes two of Grievous’s extra limbs to even the fight. Obi-Wan’s division of clone troopers [the 212th] arrive to take on the droids, and Grievous runs off. Obi-Wan pursues him and loses his lightsaber. When the pair fall onto a platform, Obi-Wan first uses an electro-stave, then decides that hand-to-hand combat is a brilliant way to take on a heavily machined opponent (Obi-Wan, dear, don’t kick the droid) and he gets thrown around a bit. He manages to grab a hold of a blaster while he’s dangling and a few well-aimed shots ignite what is left of Grievous’s organs. “So uncivilized,” he quips when he regains his feet (call forward to A New Hope when he refers to a lightsaber as a weapon of a more civilized age).
Meanwhile, Mace Windu senses a plot to destroy the Jedi, the Dark Side surrounds Chancellor Palpatine and there is a fear that he will not set down the extra power he has been granted. Now the Jedi Council is treading a dangerous line, planning to take control of the Senate. At the same time, Palpatine is speaking to Anakin, making him believe that everyone else is out to get Palpatine and then he blatantly tells Anakin “only through me can you achieve a power greater than any Jedi,” only the Dark Side holds the power to save his wife. The young Jedi finally realizes that Palpatine is the Sith Lord they have been looking for all these years. He wisely goes to the Council. Windu orders Anakin to remain at the Temple while they arrest Palpatine; Anakin argues that the Masters will need him. Well, one point for Anakin for finally making a good decision and Windu has a point that Anakin would be comprised, facing Palpatine, but Anakin does not handle sitting still well.
Palpatine continues to weave his influence over Anakin and Anakin leaves the Temple for the Senate building, walking in on the arrest. Palpatine has finally drawn his own lightsaber and killed the three Masters who accompanied Windu. Windu has Palpatine cornered, Force lighting reflecting off his blade back onto the Sith Lord. Anakin pleads that he needs Palpatine in order to save Padmé. Palpatine pretends to be feeble and Anakin still argues to do the right thing, then takes off Windu’s hand when the Master goes to strike down Palpatine. Palpatine strikes back, shouting “unlimited power!” and tosses Windu out the window. Anakin realizes he’s made another mistake and promptly agrees to be Palpatine’s apprentice and turn to the Dark Side [because that’s very logical; let’s negate the good decision made with the worst possible alternative]. Palpatine is now fully Sidious, scarred face and deep voice. We hear the Imperial March when Sidious names his new apprentice Darth Vader.
Sidious proclaims the Jedi an enemy of the Republic and sends Anakin to the Temple to kill all the Jedi there. Afterwards, he is to go to the Mustafar system and destroy the Separatists leaders. Anakin leads the 501st division of clones on the Temple, he’s gained the yellow eyes of the Sith, and they murder all there, including Younglings (our hearts start breaking). Sidious issues Order 66 and the clones turn on their Jedi generals [oh boy, after learning to love these clones and see that they love their Jedi commanders in Clone Wars, yeah, stomp on our hearts why don’t ya…we also discovered in the cartoon that this order is compulsory; the clones were essentially under mind control and didn’t have a choice…bar a few we find out later]. Yoda, already reeling from feeling Anakin, manages to sense his attack and escape, with the help of a familiar Wookie (Chewie!). Cody and his men fire on Obi-Wan, after he gave his general his lightsaber back. Obi-Wan falls into the water and does not emerge. We see him steal a fighter and escape.
Bail Organa investigates the commotion at the Temple and is lucky to escape alive after witnessing the clones kill a Padawan who tried to defend his home. He boards his ship (the Rebel runner we’ll see in the opening of A New Hope) and goes to rescue Jedi. He makes contact with Obi-Wan. Padmé cries when she sees the Temple in flames and is thankful that Anakin is alive. Anakin reports that there was a Jedi rebellion and they must stay loyal to the Chancellor [deleted scenes show that Padmé was already doubting Palpatine and was part of the group that would become the foundation of the Rebellion, including Mon Mothma and Bail Organa]. Obi-Wan joins Yoda at the Temple and they take down some clones and change the outgoing message to turn the Jedi away from the Temple [we eventually discover most notably in A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller that Caleb Dume/ Kanan Jarrus was the young Padawan who recommended this to Obi-Wan].
Palpatine calls a special Senate meeting that Padmé and Bail attend where he blames the Jedi who have left him scarred. But his resolve is stronger than ever. So, in the name of security and stability, he will dissolve the Republic and create the Galactic Empire! As Padmé puts it, “this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.” [There is a can of worms here that I am not brave enough to open.]
Obi-Wan doesn’t want to believe the security recordings when he discovers it was Anakin who marched on the Temple, or that he has turned. The two Jedi Masters must face the two Sith Lords; Obi-Wan begs Yoda to allow him to go after Sidious, he cannot go after Anakin. The young man is like his brother, he cannot kill him. But Yoda fears Obi-Wan would not survive Sidious, so Yoda takes on the Sith Master himself. Obi-Wan goes to Padmé; he must find Anakin. But Padmé won’t say where he husband has gone; and Obi-Wan knows she’s pregnant, and Anakin’s the father. [Side rant here, it’s made clear in Clone Wars that Anakin and Padmé are not as subtle as they believe they are; Obi-Wan has probably known for a while that there is something between them, maybe not marriage per say. And how does no one else know Padmé is pregnant! Look at how she dresses now! (Mind you, they are pretty gowns, and I love her more natural hairstyle, but that’s beside the point). And she’s have to be a far ways along; it’s stated at the beginning that Anakin and Obi-Wan have been gone for months in an Outer Rim Siege, meaning her baby was conceived the last time Anakin was home. How do her friends not guess?]
Padmé flies off to see her husband and Obi-Wan stows away on the ship; he knows his friends. Anakin has executed all the Separatists leaders but is still excited to see his wife. Until she questions his actions. Anakin now believes that Obi-Wan has turned her against him; it’s back to being all Obi-Wan’s fault. Then Obi-Wan reveals himself and Anakin turns on his wife. He chokes her (cause that’s a real smart idea with a pregnant woman) and Obi-Wan tries one last time to talk sense into his former Padawan, but his mind is lost to Palpatine’s machinations.
Thus begins the Battle of the Heroes [another stunning masterpiece composed by John Williams. I can remember Jimmy Smits introducing this piece at A Capitol Fourth, referring to the orchestra as “some friends,” I thought it was funny and totally cool that they played it in Washington D.C. for everyone]. It’s blue lightsaber versus blue lightsaber (a first for the series), brother versus brother. This is the most epic duel of the entire saga [I will fight you on this]. It is fast, and no, that was not digitally altered, Hayden and Ewan performed this duel themselves and are skilled enough now to fight at that speed. This is a fight between foes that know each other’s fighting styles intimately. They’re often a blur of blue and will use the same move against each other. Heck, they even throw in a bit of Duel of the Fates at one point.
At the same time, Yoda faces Sidious in the Senate building. Sidious resorts to throwing the Senate seats at the diminutive Jedi and it ends as a stale mate. Yoda escapes and tells Bail Organa he must go into hiding, failed, he has.
Obi-Wan expresses his own failure to Anakin. Anakin is now immersed in the Dark Side and feels that the Jedi are evil (goes back to everything Palpatine has fed him for over a decade). Obi-Wan gains the high ground and cautions Anakin to surrender. Anakin is still cocky and flips over his former master, but he’s still in reach of Obi-Wan’s blade and loses the rest of his limbs. The heat of the lava lands on him, burning and scaring him as Obi-Wan releases his pain: “You were the Chosen One! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!” Anakin shouts his hatred at Obi-Wan. “You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you.” [Excellent acting by Ewan] Obi-Wan cannot bring himself to end his best friend (which could be argued was a mistake, but we love Obi-Wan too much to judge him too harshly), so takes his discarded lightsaber and walks away. He takes Padmé to Bail Organa where the medical droids deliver her twins (a bit of a shock to everyone, except us). Sadly, she’s lost the will to live but tells Obi-Wan as he holds newborn Luke that there is still good in Anakin.
Palpatine senses Vader is in trouble and saves him, but that necessitates a large black suit to keep him alive. This is where that iconic look comes from and that distinctive breathing. When Vader asks about his wife, Palpatine tells him that he killed her. Construction begins on the Death Star [why it takes nineteen years to build the first one, unless there were large-scale prototypes first…there are a few plot holes between the ending of III and beginning of IV]. Padmé’s family buries her on Naboo. Yoda recommends that the infants be split up for their protection; Bail offers to take Leia to Alderaan. Obi-Wan will take Luke to his family on Tatooine (cue theme from Episode IV). Yoda has one final lesson for Obi-Wan; Qui-Gon has kept his identity in the Force and offers to teach the remaining Masters. We also get a quick scene that shows C-3PO’s memory was wiped before working for Bail Organa, but R2-D2’s was not…meaning that little astromech knows everything.
So now, all we have to do is wait for the next generation to grow up.
This movie, like the other prequels, has its good and bad points. Anakin’s Heel-Face Turn was too sudden when it finally happened. Yes, the ground work has been laid, particularly since Attack of the Clones. But it seems within the space of a few hours, Anakin goes from ‘I trust the Jedi Council to handle this threat I discovered’, to ‘I kill the Jedi Master and boom, now I’m a Sith Lord’. And then he takes it out on his wife. Of course, this is majorly influenced by Palpatine’s schemes, but I really want to smack Anakin upside the head. [And this is why there exists many fix-it fictions]. And all Padmé does it sit around, being pregnant. She took charge and kicked butt in the previous two films and now, nothing. She loses the will to live after giving birth…yes, this obviously had to happen because she’s not around in the originals (and begs the question, how did Leia have memories of her…plot hole), but still disappointing. Grievous was an unneeded character; you already had an extra bad guy and why build up Count Dooku if you’re not going to use him.
The banter was fun; Anakin was a bit better, at least at the beginning of the film; not so whiny. The massive duel at the end was epic! That sells the entire film; it’s fraught with emotion. Obi-Wan may not have been planning on killing Anakin, but he did plan on stopping him. What makes it even more interesting is that the two characters (and actors) were evenly matched.
Up Next: Solo
I’ll put my musings on the Jedi Code here:
As the extended universe wrote out, the Jedi Code declares There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity. There is no chaos, there is harmony. There is no death, there is the Force. I’m sure someone has done a paper somewhere comparing this to different philosophies or religious beliefs and this as it is written out is a mindful way to live. For a while, I felt that the Jedi Code was meant to make Jedi into unfeeling beings, which is the opposite of what humans are. As humans we have emotions, we are emotions. And as a teenager, just getting into the fandom, I went along with the idea that the Council was denying Anakin’s basic needs as a human; of course he should feel love. But there is a difference between love and attachment. It circles back to that saying “if you love something, let it go.” The attachment rule is to prevent the Jedi from putting one thing or being or whatever about another. Like Anakin putting the fate of Padmé above the rest of the galaxy. Of course Jedi should love and have a compassion, but they have a larger duty to the galaxy. In Clone Wars we see Obi-Wan tempted due to love, but he resists. Is the Council flawed? Yes. It’s a bit odd to look back and see that wise Master Yoda made some mistakes. Like, instead of simply telling Anakin over and over that fear leads to the Dark Side, how ’bout some actual help? And it pains me to say this, but technically Palpatine had a point in telling Anakin to completely understand a subject, he must study all aspects, not just the dogmatic, narrow view of the Jedi. There is obviously a fine line (and someone could make the connection between magic and the Force and compare Harry Potter to Star Wars…I do not have the time for that, lol), but simply excluding something because it is “dark” without understanding it is asking for trouble. Caution is urged, of course.
It is heavily implied within the extended universe that Qui-Gon Jinn loved a fellow Jedi Master, Tahl and his decisions regarding her were not wholly logical. It caused a rift between him and Obi-Wan more than once while Obi-Wan was a Padawan. …Yeah, I’ve come to realize that Qui-Gon was not the greatest Master and this is where fandom has declared Obi-Wan deserves hugs. I once thought Mace Windu cold and unfeeling. While he too was flawed, as is any good character, he also had his depths.
Some Obi-Wan Kenobi appreciation [can you tell he is my favorite character?]:
He’s referred to as the Ace on TV Tropes [a lot of this information came from there, but I certainly agree with their points]; one of the best Jedi that the Order ever had. Third strongest Council member after Windu and Yoda; tactical genius, top diplomat (Negotiator), expert pilot (out flew Jango Fett), master of multiple forms of lightsaber combat (particularly Form III [Soresu] and Ataru). Considered to be the single best defensive duelist in the galaxy in his prime. In canon, the only battle he loses is against Vader in A New Hope and he most likely threw that as a distraction to help Luke. He faced off against the Sith, killing an apprentice when he was only a Padawan and Grievous. Became a broken ace after the death of Qui-Gon and most of the Order, and (SPOILER) his love Satine by Maul [I disliked that bit]. Saw the death of Padmé and spent nineteen years in hiding on Tatooine with guilt and trauma.
Sees more combat that most of the other Jedi in canon. More of a brother relationship with Anakin, less of an age gap; bicker like siblings (and it is hilarious). The one who started the trend of Jedi generals wearing clone trooper armor in order to relate more closely to their troops. Primary enemy of Maul and Grievous, but greatest enemy was Anakin. Took a Level in Badass: goes from getting very lucky against Maul to a Master who defeated Grievous and bested the most powerful Force User in the galaxy. Badass Bookworm – intelligent, cultured gentlemen, who can kick a lot of ass when the time comes for it (love this!). Bash Brothers and Big Brother Instinct and Mentor with Anakin. The fandom is quick to point out that while Obi-Wan undoubtedly made mistakes in training Anakin (and he beats himself up for it), he went directly from being a Padawan to having a Padawan and one who was already too old to begin Jedi education yet young to be a Padawan. And had several members of the Council who disagreed with training the boy, so cut him a little slack.
Is described as “the ultimate Jedi” partially because he is modest, heroic, focused, and kind. Nevertheless, if you push him far enough (like taking part in the murder of almost his entire “family” aka Jedi Order, including innocent children) he is prepared to hack off your limbs and leave you alone to slowly burn to death. Calm facade breaks while fighting Anakin in Revenge. Anytime the emotionally controlled Obi-Wan get emotional, something is wrong.
Humble Hero [fanfic authors recognize this]: It seems that Obi-Wan is the only being who doesn’t understand how great a Jedi he is – when the Council proposes to send their ‘most cunning and insightful Master’ after Grievous, he has no idea who they mean. He’s also surprised when Mace Windu (the guy who created his own form of lightsaber combat) refers to him as ‘the master of the classic form,’ note, the master, not simply a master. He is easily the nicest and most immediately personable member of the Jedi Order in Prequels. Overall, maintains a kind demeanor and strong moral code in spite of the vast amount of hardship he faces. Slightly aloof and snarky and times, but also polite and compassionate. The Paragon: stands as pinnacle of heroism; selfless, morally upright, humble, and inspires others, in control of his impulses and emotions. Not perfect, but closest to embodying ideals of Jedi Order. Extremely clever, worldly, intelligent.
Does get beaten up at times (Attack of the Clones where he jumps out window and then the arena). Combat Pragmatist. Sharp wit and sardonically sarcastic sense of humor (could be a result of seeing death and destruction…I believe somewhere in Legends canon, young Obi-Wan suffered from visions). Gentleman Snarker [I love that]: Obi-Wan’s polite, diplomatic demeanor can mask some pretty biting snark. Poster boy for Snark Knight; he also likes to flirt with his enemies. Mainly meaningless, but still funny. Refuses to give up after learning about the occurrences of the Jedi Purge and Anakin’s betrayal of the Order. Still hurt years afterward, still believes Luke will save the Jedi. Jedi are fettered as a rule, but Obi-Wan explains the strength that comes from resisting the temptation of the Dark Side while confronting Maul later. Makes up for lack of character growth with the sheer amount of action he goes through.
Foil to Anakin, both skilled and famous Jedi with troubles love lives: Anakin and Padmé obviously. Obi-Wan and Duchess Satine (Legends: Siri). Obi-Wan takes firm hand training Anakin, more of a gentle touch training Luke. Throughout Prequels and Clone Wars, Obi-Wan has several good reasons to turn to the Dark Side, but resists. Cannot be corrupted. Has Innocent Blue Eyes that symbolize his heroic, righteous, and pure nature. Mentor Archetype. Morality Chain to Anakin: Anakin respected Obi-Wan enough that Palpatine had to get him off the planet before turning him to the Dark Side, and Anakin still tries to (threateningly) talk Obi-Wan out of fighting him. Morphs into dark version of Worthy Opponent. Dooku considers Obi-Wan a worthy opponent (Hardeen plotline; foil an attempted kidnapping by disguising himself as a bounty hunter and sabotaging the plot from the inside)
Implied friendship formed with Padmé and turned blind eye to her relationship with Anakin. Good is not Soft: prefers to settle conflict diplomatically. But will fight. Demonstrates some of the most powerful Psychic Powers in canon. Also prone to passively enhancing his physical strength and durability with Force; shot straight up four feet by arm strength to beat Maul; shook off blows from Grievous that sent him falling thirty feet; and fought Anakin within inches of lava.
Similar position to Han Solo in Prequel Trilogy; they both serve as older brotherly figures (Han to Luke, Obi-Wan to Anakin…I’ll get into more of the former when we hit the original trilogy because I love that part). Obi-Wan is Anakin’s Jedi Master and partner who Anakin also saw as a Parental Substitute while Han is Luke’s partner and closest friend, who later becomes his brother-in-law. Conversely, Anakin and Obi-Wan’s bond is destroyed, while Luke and Han have a rocky start but become family (even before marriage). Belligerent Sexual Tension with love interests (Satine, Leia). Obi-Wan Ideal Hero, Han Anti-Hero. (SPOILER): Both are murdered by someone they had a complicated father-son relationship with. Driving force behind the Prequels, but still major character in New Hope.
Disagrees with (SPOILER) dismissing Ahsoka [and another reason I’m not keen on finishing Clone Wars]. Also believes the Council should be more open with Anakin about their concerns over Chancellor Palpatine and the Sith, but overruled. The Stoic: has one of the most unpleasant lives (and afterlife?) of any character in fiction, but remains clam, never complains, and usually keeps his emotions well in check. You Didn’t Ask: rather sad one, only reason didn’t stay with Satine is she didn’t ask. Oh, and Leia is Luke’s sister.
Later in life, the Atoner for training the man who destroyed the Jedi Order and never recognizing the threat Anakin really represented. Will still cut off arms if need arises. Even after all the trauma he went through in his younger days and having spent almost twenty years living as a hermit, Obi-Wan is a remarkably kind and patient man. Explanation for fight against Vader; stalling and Vader’s powerful attacks. Starts off as a young and brash apprentice to Qui-Gon, becomes more wise and experienced Jedi Master, culmination in teaching Luke, his former pupil’s son.
And thus I am totally excited for the upcoming show on Disney+ and very glad they kept Ewan McGregor for the role.
Some fanfiction recommendations, all from AO3:
Both Lost Destiny and Crossroads by Nihes are interesting, but you end up wanting to punch something at the end. However, Jedi Babysitting for Professionals is hilarious
I certainly hope that Big Fat Bumblebee’s Found is continued because it is certainly time that someone takes care of Obi-Wan. Brothers care for brothers, Infuriating Man, Battle of Wills, and Enforced Convalescence are heartwarming (apparently the only thing Anakin and Mace Windu agree on is caring for Obi-Wan, not the Order, or the Republic, or even the Force, but yes to Obi-Wan).
Meysun’s There is no Pain is rather poignant, and you certainly want to wrap Obi-Wan up in a hug afterwards.
As I Fall and A Long Way Down by KCKenobi include some Obi-Wan whump. Some Things You Just Can’t Speak About is another one that makes you want to wrap Obi-Wan up in a hug. We get some protective Mace Windu in Old Wounds.
Must_Be _Thursday’s Just Surrender is rather good.
AndyHood’s Fought for Him really emphasizes why Obi-Wan needs some hugs.
Siri_Kenobi12 gives us some Obi-Wan whump in Tested. Memoirs of Kadavo is wonderful and I already told you I love It Takes a Village from the write-up on Phantom Menace.
You Are Wanted Obi-Wan Kenobi by allwalkfree is my new favorite story.
A lot of carry-over from Phantom Menace, though Hayden Christensen has been brought in to play an older Anakin Skywalker. Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman return as Obi-Wan and Padmé. Esteemed Christopher Lee (sadly passed away in 2015, but is extremely memorable for playing Saruman in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit [he had met Tolkien once], as well as voicing the Jabberwocky in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. He was also Rochefort in some of the older Three Musketeer movies featuring Michael York as D’Artagnan, and was a Bond villain in The Man with the Golden Gun; portrayed Dracula, and several different characters is various Sherlock Holmes renditions. His filmography goes back to the mid-forties, with over 280 credits, after serving in the Royal Air Force in WWII) plays Count Dooku. Jimmy Smits (spent a decade with NYPD Blue and a few years after that on The West Wing, and has a role in the new In the Heights movie. Prior to that, he was with L.A. Law; I think that’s how my parents knew him…I do remember him hosting A Capitol Fourth one year; the orchestra played Battle of the Heroes after Revenge of the Sith came out) joins as Senator Bail Organa (yes, Leia’s father down the road).
Takes place ten years after Phantom Menace, Anakin and Obi-Wan have grown as a Master-Padawan team and are assigned to protect Padmé Amidala, now a Senator after an attempt has been made on her life (the opening of the film). Anakin still puts his foot in his mouth and apparently has not lost his crush on Padmé. Obi-Wan cautions him, but Anakin is also distracted by dreams and visions he’s had about his mother. That is why they almost miss a bounty hunter sending a droid to put two worm creatures into Padmé’s room. Obi-Wan takes the quick way and jumps out the window after the droid (who’s reckless now?) Anakin chases after his Master in a speeder, weaving in and out of Courscant traffic. The bounty hunter shoots down the droid and Obi-Wan almost plummets to his death, but Anakin catches him. Then they banter back and forth a bit and Obi-Wan comments “if you spent as much time practicing your saber technique as you do your wit, you’d rival Master Yoda as a swordsman.” “I thought I already did.” “Only in your mind, my very young apprentice!”
What follows is a bit of a chase, where Obi-Wan is not fond of Anakin’s flying; “I don’t mind flying, but what you’re doing is suicide!” [I did an excerpt of this scene from the novelization as a dramatic reading when I was on the forensics team in high school] Until a shortcut doesn’t work out so well and the pair thinks they’ve lost the bounty hunter. Anakin then leaps out of the speeder to catch the bounty hunter; “I hate it when he does that,” Obi-Wan mutters. The bounty hunter tries to shake Anakin, but he persists, though he drops his lightsaber in the process. Obi-Wan follows and catches his Padawan before he can run after the bounty hunter again. They track their prey to a bar, Obi-Wan bemoaning a bit, “why do I have the feeling that you’re going to be the death of me?” Anakin insists not, Obi-Wan is the closest thing he has to a father. Obi-Wan sends Anakin to scan the crowd while Obi-Wan draws their prey out by having a drink at the main counter, after sending a patron away with a mind trick. Obi-Wan catches the bounty hunter with his lightsaber and they attempt to question her, but another bounty hunter fires a toxic dart, leaving the Jedi with more questions and few answers.
The Jedi Council instructs Obi-Wan to track down the second bounty hunter. Meanwhile, Anakin is to escort Padmé back to Naboo and keep her protected. Chancellor Palpatine is eager to help young Skywalker and remarks he sees Anakin becoming the greatest Jedi, even more powerful than Master Yoda. [This is not going to end well]. While Padmé is packing, Anakin complains to her about Obi-Wan; yes, his master may be as wise as Master Yoda and as powerful as Master Windu, Anakin still feels like he is ahead of Obi-Wan. The older man is holding him back (fueled no doubt by the general consensus that Anakin is the Chosen One and probably nudged further by Palpatine’s slippery words). An old informant of Obi-Wan’s sends him to Kamino; once he gets some help from Yoda and younglings when the Jedi Archives are incomplete regarding the planet. They’re cloners, Obi-Wan is told. They seem pleasant enough when he meets them, though they were expecting a Master Sifo-Dyus. He ordered an army created for the Republic, using a man named Jango Fett as the base. Jango claims he was recruited by a man named Tyranus. Oddly, Sifo-Dyus was killed ten years ago. When Obi-Wan reports to the Jedi Council, they confirm that this army was created without their authorization. Obi-Wan is to bring Jango Fett in for questioning. Jango Fett is undoubtedly the bounty hunter that Obi-Wan is searching for and they battle each other in the rain. Jango has a young son named Boba (he’ll pop up down the road) who tries to help out (and that ship probably looks a bit familiar). Obi-Wan manages to plant a tracker on their ship and follows.
Padmé’s not terribly keen on hiding out on Naboo, but she can’t really go against everyone. There are some deleted scenes that show more of Padmé’s family; very sweet. And the scenery for Naboo is gorgeous, feels very Tuscan. She and Anakin do manage to share a kiss while at the lake house (cue gorgeous love theme), but Padmé breaks it off. Anakin tries to awkwardly talk about their feelings [the dialogue here is terrible], but Padmé keeps insisting that even if there was something between them, it is terribly unwise and forbidden. While there, Anakin continues to have nightmares about his mother. Padmé agrees to go with him to Tatooine. There, they discover that Shmi is now married to Cliegg Lars. But she’s not at the Lars homestead; she was taken by Tusken Raiders. Anakin leaves Padmé with Cliegg, his son Owen and soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Beru (not the last time we’ve heard those names), so he can track them down (we hear Duel of the Fates reprised briefly). He indeed finds his mother, but she dies in his arms. Rage fills Anakin and he slaughters the entire village. In the background we can hear Qui-Gon Jinn beg Anakin “no!” Even Yoda hears it. It does nothing to sway Anakin. He confesses to Padmé after he brings his mother back. She tries to comfort him, saying that to be angry is to be human. Anakin retorts that as a Jedi, he is better than that. He blames the Tusken Raiders, he blames Obi-Wan (and in pops a theme that will gain significance as we go).
Obi-Wan tracks the Fetts to Geonosis, after surviving an asteroid field; again, he’s not too keen on flying. [Fun note, in the books that precede this film, mainly the Jedi Apprentice series, Obi-Wan didn’t mind flying, but there was an incident at some point that made him not as keen. And Anakin is very reckless when flying, so that probably doesn’t help] He transmits his report to Anakin to relay to the Council, then is captured. We finally meet the man behind a lot of this; Count Dooku (yep, over an hour into the film and we finally meet the big bad). Dooku tries to sway Obi-Wan to his side, telling him that the Senate is under the influence of a Sith Lord named Darth Sidious. We all know this is true, but Obi-Wan doesn’t trust a fallen Jedi. Dooku was once Qui-Gon’s master and feels that his former Padawan would have aided him and attempts to sway Obi-Wan that way. Together, they can destroy the Sith! [All Sith seem bent on destroying something or someone]. Obi-Wan holds firm.
The Council is disturbed by the news from Geonosis. They order Anakin to stay put. Jar Jar is chosen to petition emergency powers being granted to the Chancellor in order to take control of the clone army (another reason for us not to trust the Gungan). Palpatine makes a rousing speech promising to lay down the power that has been granted to him when the conflict is over. [Liar! And further disturbing note, this is very similar to how Adolf Hitler gained power in Germany]. Yoda will go to Kamino and Windu will take what Jedi he can to Geonosis to rescue Obi-Wan.
Luckily, Padmé firmly tells Anakin she is going after Obi-Wan, so if he wants to continue protecting her, as ordered, he will have to come with her. They find a droid factory on Geonosis and almost make it through, even R2-D2 and C-3PO get in on the action, but the couple is captured. They declare their love for each other, considering there is a good chance they’re going to die soon and share a kiss before taken into the large arena (sweeping love theme!) Obi-Wan quips they did a good job of rescuing him. Dooku announces that the three will be executed and three animals are released. Padmé quickly makes it to the top of her tower (cause she was smart and snuck a lock-pick into her mouth); she’s showing up the men. All three manage to get free, notwithstanding any injuries. But droids roll out. Countered by Mace Windu holding a purple lightsaber to Jango Fett’s throat, the cue for dozens of Jedi to enter.
Battle commences. Everyone gets in on the action, Padmé picks up a blaster and R2 has to rescue 3PO. Jango and Windu face off and Windu decapitates the bounty hunter (with his son watching; I think the Jedi Master does regret it). Dooku calls for a halt when the droids seem to be winning, offering the Jedi a chance to surrender. Windu refuses for them to become bargaining chips. “Then my friend, you will die.” Not so fast, Yoda to the rescue with the clones. Now it’s clone versus droid with the Jedi taking the lead. Anakin, Padmé, and Obi-Wan follow after Dooku. Unbeknownst to them, Dooku has secret plans for the ultimate weapon [and that picture should look familiar] in his possession. The trio’s carrier is knocked about and Padmé falls out. Obi-Wan insists to Anakin they continue with their mission (except he hasn’t missed what his Padawan’s reaction implies).
Obi-Wan and Anakin face off against Dooku [his fighting style is influenced by the fact that Christopher Lee was trained in fencing (Three Musketeers, etc)] Anakin rushes in and Force lightning quickly throws him into a wall. Obi-Wan lasts a few minutes against the master swordsman, but two cuts put him down. Anakin leaps to his master’s defense. For a moment he even has two blades, then they fight in dim lighting (call forward to some duels in the originals), but Dooku cuts off his arm (and I think he even regrets that for a moment). Yoda hobbles in to face Dooku, who turns out to be his own former Padawan. They’re equal in knowledge of the Force, so it comes down to skills with a lightsaber. And Yoda jumps everywhere! Just a blur of green! Dooku can sense he’s losing, so turns his attention back to the fallen pair and tries to bring machinery down on them. Yoda saves them, but that allows Dooku to escape.
Dooku meets with Lord Sidious on Courscant, revealing that he himself is now a Sith, named Darth Tyranus. Everything is falling into place as Sidious planned. The military parade outside the Senate building is ominous (paired with a very familiar theme). Yoda sadly announces to Obi-Wan that the Clone Wars have begun (hinted at back in the original film). And Anakin and Padmé secretly get married on Naboo.
There are elements of the film that I like; of course the music is amazing. As much as I may not like the love story between Anakin and Padmé, or at least how poorly it was developed, the love theme, Across the Stars does make me think of a grand romance with a hint of yearning; it’s just perfect for that deep passionate kiss…I mean, you could use it as inspiration for any favorite pairing. There is a dramatic bit in the middle that signifies that all is not wonderful and happy in love. (At times it does sound a bit similar to Fawkes the Phoenix from the soundtrack of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; the movies were released the same year and shared a composer; we’ll forgive him).
The arena scene is probably the best of the movie; very cool to see that many lightsabers. Again, compared to the original trilogy, this is when the Jedi are at their height. And it was fun to see how our main trio each fought their monster. The duel between Dooku and our heroes was a bit of a letdown; he defeats Anakin and Obi-Wan fairly swiftly, though certainly left his mark (and it makes another connection between him and Luke). Yes, it was rather cool to watch Yoda finally duel.
Often the middle movie in a trilogy will suffer a bit, because the set up has occurred, but you don’t get to the pay off yet (this occurred with Dead Man’s Chest). Spoilers for those of you who have not managed to actually watch the rest of the series. We know that a Clone Wars occurs during Obi-Wan and Anakin’s lifetime, though this was not how I was expecting it to occur; I always thought that the Jedi were fighting against the clones. We know that Anakin at the very least sleeps with someone if not outright marries them and they clearly set that up back in Phantom Menace. But what is supposed to be the main focus of this film, the developing love between Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala falls flat. There’s no chemistry between the couple. Their conversations about feelings are almost painful. Anakin feels he is entitled to Padmé because he had a crush on her as a boy and has thought of her for ten years. She still sees him as that boy she helped rescue. They just seemed forced together because it’s “supposed” to happen; and it’s Star Wars so there’s got to be some other action.
We all kind of fall in love with Obi-Wan a little more; well, a portion of the fanbase at the very least. Man, I love sarcasm. Or quips. Or snark, whatever you want to call it. I appreciated all the bits thrown in to connect to the original films. And yeah, we can now clearly see where design elements of the Empire originated, lot of clone influence.
For me, not the best Star Wars film, but better than basically all of the sequel trilogy…we’ll get to that rant in due course. What are your thoughts?
I have a, we’ll say multifaceted relationship with Star Wars. This was one of the first fandoms I got interested in as a teenager, but it certainly wasn’t love at first sight. My parents put on the original trilogy, long before there were even rumors of prequels, when I was growing up; and I had no interest whatsoever. The most interesting things I can remember from that was that Frank Oz voiced both Yoda and Fozzie Bear. I was about ten when the prequels came out and still did not have much of an interest. That changed when I volunteered to man the children’s librarian’s desk during the summer reading program. All the new children’s books were right behind me, including the Jedi Apprentice series, which tells the tales of the early days of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s master/apprentice relationship. One sounded vaguely interesting (Number 12, The Evil Experiment, if I recall correctly), so I gave it a go. And enjoyed it. And then borrowed all of the other books in the series (which I finished in quick order; they were easy reads for me). So I favored the prequel movies for the longest time. Still didn’t necessarily want to watch the original trilogy. Until I picked up another book at the library: Young Jedi Knights, chronicling adventures of Han and Leia’s twins, Jania and Jacen…I’ll get into all of that when we hit the original trilogy. Again, I was hooked and thus brought into the fold of the original trilogy.
It was not always fun being the only one of my friends in school interested in Star Wars. Harry Potter was fine, everyone at that point loved it. As a teenager, the Jedi Code sounded interesting, mastering one’s emotions. I read Star Wars and Philosophy and ended up writing a paper for college writing based on it [Living Morally in a Business World; not the project I am most proud of]. For a while, Star Wars played a role in developing my fanfiction world. Star Wars fanfiction was actually the first fanfiction I read. Then, I got into Lord of the Rings and that eventually took over. I still like Star Wars and definitely have favorite characters and there are some books I will re-read multiple times, but growing into an adult changed my perspective on certain things (like Qui-Gon Jinn might not be the epitome of best Jedi Masters…partially influenced by some awesome fanfiction stories on AO3) and I now heavily favor the original trilogy. Except the lightsaber battles, because they’re just totally awesome in the prequels.
I know there are about a half dozen different ways to watch this film franchise; I seriously debated posting this in release order, but I felt it would be too much jumping around. I also will not be covering any of the cartoons; I’ve seen a good bit of Clone Wars and Rebels, but not all of them. And I have not watched and don’t necessarily intend to watch The Mandolorian…I do not have time. (I’m also really behind on the MCU shows on Disney+ right now, so it becomes a choice). I do intend to watch the Obi-Wan Kenobi series when it comes out. Apologies for any disappointment. Star Wars is such a huge part of pop culture that it is expected that one knows certain things going into the prequels.
George Lucas put together a great cast for Phantom Menace. Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List [no, haven’t watched and not one I think I will], Gawain in Excalibur [I probably should watch that movie], the Irishman played Scottish folk hero Rob Roy, appears in Kingdom of Heaven and Batman Begins. He voices Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, and makes bad guys fear for their lives in the Taken franchise) is Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, Ewan McGregor (he’s got a great voice in Moulin Rouge, is a bit funny in Down with Love, is dashing in Miss Potter, and voices Lumiere in the live-action Beauty and the Beast. He appears in Nanny McPhee Returns, Angels and Demons, and a seriously weird movie The Island [I watched it because he was in it and I still get freaked out by memories of it]) is his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Natalie Portman (before she was Jane Foster in the MCU and Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl) is Padmé Amidala and Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean, the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, The Duchess) briefly appears as her handmaiden Sabé (the girls looked remarkably alike at that age). Samuel L. Jackson (before intimidating everyone as Nick Fury in the MCU) introduces Mace Windu, I recognize Terence Stamp now (Siegfried in the hilarious Get Smart movie in 2008) as Chancellor Valorum. Ian McDiarmid returns to play Palpatine; Frank Oz, Kenny Baker, and Anthony Daniels all reprise their roles from the original trilogy.
Now, let’s venture “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”
Jedi ambassadors are sent to the Trade Federation blockade of Naboo to force a settlement. Master Qui-Gon Jinn feels that negotiations will be short. As young Obi-Wan Kenobi points out later, they are short indeed; the Trade Federation is under the control of a Sith Lord, Lord Sidious, who instructs them to kill the Jedi. Not so easy, they find out. The two Jedi sneak down to the planet and make their way to the Queen. They pick up Jar Jar Binks along the way [I don’t hate him, but he is annoying], but make it in time to rescue Queen Amidala and her handmaidens. Qui-Gon recommends taking Amidala to Courscant to plead her case with the Senate, but their ship is damaged while escaping the Trade Federation blockade. Little R2-D2 to the rescue!
They still have to divert to Tatooine to make repairs. The Queen sends Padmé along with Qui-Gon to find parts and in town, they discover a little boy in the shop; Anakin Skywalker [who very awkwardly tries to flirt with Padmé; mind you, he’s nine and she’s fourteen. Why a nine-year-old is using lines he picked up from spacers…] Qui-Gon attempts to use Jedi mind tricks on the shop owner, but they don’t work, only money. So Anakin chimes in when he takes the newcomers home that he has built a podracer. He’ll pilot and win and his new friends can repair their ship. Qui-Gon is intrigued by this boy, a bit to Padmé’s displeasure. Anakin’s mother admits to Qui-Gon that her son has no father [um, when did the Chosen One become Jesus? Though technically, there are several mythical heroes that do not have fathers; Geoffrey Monmouth’s legend of Arthur terms Merlin as one such lad]. But Shmi feels that Anakin was meant to help Qui-Gon and Padmé. Qui-Gon does manage to use a Jedi trick in order to gamble for Anakin’s freedom; sadly, the owner will only let one go.
Anakin wins the podrace [space Nascar] and Shmi encourages him to go with Qui-Gon. As any nine-year-old boy would, he doesn’t want to say goodbye to his mother; but this is his chance to live out his dreams of seeing the stars. On their way back to the ship, Qui-Gon encounters a man dressed in black, carrying a red lightsaber. We know that this is Darth Maul, Lord Sidious’s apprentice, tasked with finding the Queen and Jedi. Qui-Gon manages to escape and introduces “Anakin Skywalker, meet Obi-Wan Kenobi” (and those of us familiar with the original movies see foreshadowing!) On Courscant, Queen Amidala meets with Naboo Senator Palpatine and Chancellor Valorum to discuss politics; Palpatine does not have much faith that their situation will be dealt with swiftly. He urges Amidala to consider voting out Valorum.
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan report to the Jedi Council. The Sith (enemies of the Jedi) have returned. Qui-Gon also informs them about Anakin, believing he was conceived by the Force (how is that a thing?), thus making him the prophesized Chosen One who will bring balance to the Force. The Council doesn’t quite believe Qui-Gon, but allow the boy to be tested. He is truly Force-sensitive, but he is too old, and too attached to his mother. Attachments are forbidden within the Jedi Code. Qui-Gon attempts to take Anakin as his Padawan. One problem, he already has a Padawan. So he declares Obi-Wan ready to face the trials to become a Jedi Knight. The Council tables the discussion; Queen Amidala has chosen to return to Naboo to fight for her people. The Senate is in an uproar over outing Valorum and Palpatine is nominated to replace him (more foreshadowing…some of us know where this is going). Yoda warns Anakin “fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
Our heroes return to Naboo and Amidala meets with the Gungans to form an alliance (and a background pilot is a younger Richard Armitage, fun fact). And turns out, Padmé is the real queen! Sabé has been pretending to be the queen in order to protect Padmé. Boy, is Anakin surprised. The Gungan army will be a distraction against the droid army [and you’ve listened to John Williams a bit too much when you can tell there is a note sequence in the droid invasion theme that is heavily reminiscent of Indiana Jones facing off against the Nazis; not identical, but pretty close] while Padmé and her people sneak into the palace and take the Trade Federation leaders hostage.
Qui-Gon orders Anakin to stay safe in the cockpit of an empty fighter. Then Darth Maul enters (most dramatic scene of the film and to the amazing Duel of the Fates soundtrack). The Jedi will handle him, Padmé will go around. I must say, it is very cool to see a young woman take charge and kick butt. But the best part of the movie is Duel of the Fates, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon facing off against Darth Maul [fun note, the actor hired to portray Maul, Ray Park, is a professional martial artists and swordsman. Liam and Ewan did most of their own stunts and fighting as well; Ewan kept bending his prop lightsaber. Further fun fact in regards to the words behind Duel of the Fates, they are taken from a Welsh poem and translated into Sanskrit; if you’re John Williams, of course you do that]. These are the Jedi warriors in their prime (compared to a disabled man and elderly man fighting in A New Hope). There are flips and kicks and falling down platforms. Maul manages to separate Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, trapping them all in separate force fields [what that area is actually supposed to be, I have no idea. It looks cool, so we go along with it]. Maul and Qui-Gon make it through the corridor, but there is one field left, holding Obi-Wan back. And he witnesses Maul run his Master through. His “no!” echoes through the chamber. Maul is waiting for him and it is an aggressive duel. Maul overpowers Obi-Wan enough to disarm him of his blue lightsaber and kick him into a shaft.
Meanwhile, Anakin has kept his promise to stay in the cockpit, along with R2-D2. Then he tries to help Padmé by shooting droids, but that engages the autopilot and takes him into space above the planet. He accidentally crash lands into the droid control ship and blows it up from the inside, escaping to the cheers of the other pilots. Padmé outwits the Trade Federation leaders. Obi-Wan summons up his strength and leaps over Maul, calling Qui-Gon’s lightsaber to him, and cutting his enemy in half. Both halves fall down the shaft, but Obi-Wan runs to his fallen master. Qui-Gon’s last words to his Padawan are to make him promise to train Anakin. Obi-Wan agrees.
When the Jedi Council arrives alongside the newly elected Chancellor Palpatine, they confer the status of Jedi Knight on Obi-Wan. Yoda personally disagrees with the decision to allow Obi-Wan to train Anakin; he senses grave danger in training the boy. Obi-Wan is willing to go against the Council to honor his fallen master’s final wish. Yoda retorts “Qui-Gon’s defiance I sense in you, need that you do not.” Ultimately, the Council has agreed to let Obi-Wan train Anakin Skywalker. At Qui-Gon’s funeral, Yoda and Mace Windu wonder if Obi-Wan has killed the master or apprentice Sith. (Then the shot focuses on Palpatine…foreshadowing!) The film ends with a joyful parade between the Naboo and Gungans, declaring peace.
Now that I am older and re-watching the movie, the first part just seems to drag. As mentioned above, Duel of the Fates is the highlight of the film. I understand the necessity of setting up the back stories for all these characters we know, but a good portion of this film falls flat. John Williams’ score is of course, amazing.
Some fanfiction stories that I have discovered that tie-in with Phantom Menace include
It Takes a Village by Siri-Kenobi12
There is no Pain by Meysun
Both of these require some knowledge of characters introduced in the Jedi Apprentice books.
Let me first thank all of my loyal followers; I am pleased to have hit the 100 mark. This is my 162nd post in just about three years and I’ve still got a ways to go! I hope you all are enjoying these and much as I am enjoying re-watching them!
Star Trek Beyond
The film released the same year as the fiftieth anniversary of the original series. Idris Elba (Heimdall in the MCU) joined the cast as villain Krall. Sadly, Leonard Nimoy passed away the year previous, but Spock Prime is mentioned in the film, and this was the last appearance of Anton Yelchin as Chekov; he passed away in an accident about a month before the film released.
The film begins with a goodwill mission gone awry, but still funny (and Chris Pine has a devil of a time saying the alien race’s name). Alas, Captain Kirk is getting a bit jaded after 966 days in deep space; he’s starting to wonder what are they trying to accomplish. But maybe some leave on the Federation station Yorktown will bring a reprieve. Or as Bones classifies it, a snow globe in space waiting to break…ever the optimist. Bones and Kirk toast to Kirk’s birthday, a little early considering the circumstances, sharing some of Chekov’s Scotch (acquired without his knowledge possibly). Jim is now a year older than George ever became and he is seriously wondering what he believes in. In Yorktown you seriously have to wonder which was is “up” and we discover that Spock and Uhura have broken up. Sulu has a family and Chekov likes to flirt with alien females. Spock also receives word that Ambassador Spock has passed away (in deference to Leonard Nimoy’s passing).
We, the audience discover that Kirk has applied for a Vice Admiral position, but the discussion is put on hold while the Enterprise embarks on a rescue mission through a nebula. But the victim is a traitor. There is a swarm of enemy ships waiting above the planet on the other side of the nebula. They attack the Enterprise. Kirk orders the crew to abandon ship after fighting off the invaders, led by Krall. They are searching for the artifact he brought back from the last mission. First, Kirk tries to separate the Bridge dish from the ship to give it a fighting chance, but the enemy is ruthless and cuts everything to pieces. Then they take the escape pods. The battle ends with survivors crashing to the surface and the dish of the Enterprise sliding into a field. [Within the first half hour, they have utterly destroyed the Enterprise, again. Why must every Star Trek film destroy the ship?]
Scotty finds an alien woman, Jaylah, who is willing to help him. She wants to get off this planet as much as the Enterprise crew. Spock and McCoy escaped together and Spock was injured. The pair manages to get along, though they snip at each other all along the way, as they are wont to. McCoy even gets Spock to reveal the reason behind his break-up with Nyota; Spock feels it is his duty to help repopulate New Vulcan and he wishes to step away from Starfleet. [So both Spock and Kirk are planning on leaving, but haven’t told anyone…nice going.] Uhura and Sulu are with the remains of the crew, held prisoner by Krall. Chekov is with Kirk. They make their way to the saucer supposedly to find what Kirk stashed, but it reveals their guest’s treachery.
Uhrua and Sulu discover why Krall wanted the artifact; with the technology left by the inhabitants of the planet, he can suck the life-force from his prisoners and extend his own. With the artifact, he can do so on a grander scale. And plans to attack Yorktown. Scotty discovers that Jaylah has been living in the remains of the U.S.S. Franklin; a wreck over a hundred years old. They eventually meet up with Kirk and Chekov (and there’s a wordless battle over the captain’s seat) and begin to plan their escape. Scotty manages to find Spock and McCoy just as they are about to be attacked. McCoy patches the Vulcan up a bit better and Spock reveals that he gifted Uhura with a rare gem from Vulcan, which emits low level of radiation, meaning they can lock on to that signature to try to beam out their crew. Short version? He low-jacked his girlfriend…which Bones helpfully points out.
Kirk gets to ride a motorcycle as a distraction against the guards, using Jaylah’s holographic technology and Jaylah gets to kick some butt. Scotty beams the crew out of danger. Then just comes the task of getting a spaceship that was never meant to take off from land and hasn’t run in a hundred years to fly back into space. To start, just tip yourselves off a cliff and hope to reach terminal velocity before hitting the bottom. The crew pulls it off and race after Krall, who has already left for Yorktown. And worse news, Krall used to be Captain Balthazar Edison of the Franklin. He feels that the Federation forgot about him and thus swears vengeance upon the Federation.
Once the Franklin passes through the nebula, they have to disorient the swarm ships. They beam Spock and McCoy onto one enemy ship, cutting off Bones’ famous line “Damn it, I’m a doctor, not a -” And in order to drown out the swarm’s communication, they blast rock music, which is classified in the twenty-third century as “classical.” It is rather awesome to see the enemy ships just explode in a wave of sound and the Yorktown shields repel them in a similar fashion. But a few of the enemy make it into Yorktown. McCoy and Spock do what they can, but the Franklin has to burst out of the water to take them out. But Krall now looks like Edison and blends in with the crowd. He’s going to take the device to the central air circulator, hook it in, and watch everyone disintegrate in Yorktown. It comes down to Kirk chasing after him and a midair fight between the two. Kirk does attempt to talk sense into Edison, but the man is too far gone. So Kirk attempts to vent the device into space and almost follows himself; better to die saving lives than live taking them, he declares to Edison. That is the world Kirk was born into. Edison is not so lucky. Spock and Bones catch Kirk before he can go splat on the “ground” in Yorktown. “What would I do without you, Spock?”
The recent events have proved to Kirk that he is not ready to settle down as a Vice Admiral. His place is in the stars, with his crew. We shed a few tears as Spock goes through Spock Prime’s final effects, and finds a picture of the original crew (from the fifth movie. Only four of the original main cast of the Original Series are still alive. James Doohan, the original Scotty, passed away in 2005. DeForest Kelley, the original Bones, passed away in 1999. That leaves William Shatner, the original Kirk, Nichelle Nichols, the original Uhura, Walter Koenig, the original Chekov, and George Takei, the original Sulu).
A fairly happy ending; Bones has arranged a celebration with the rest of the crew for Kirk’s birthday. It appears as if Spock and Uhura are back together and the command crew all stand alongside each other, watching the new Enterprise being built for their continuing mission. Both Spock and Kirk have decided to stay aboard. All of the main cast share reading the ending titles. In the middle of the crawl, the movie is dedicated in loving memory of Leonard Nimoy and for Anton.
I appreciated the small moments they inputted in memory of Leonard Nimoy because he was a huge pop culture icon (and frankly, without him, there may not be any Star Trek.) But this movie seemed to drag compare to the previous two. Krall seems a stereotypical villain and while I’m okay with Kirk saving the day, can we give the poor guy a break? And stop breaking his ship! That part annoyed me the most. I am ultimately glad that the crew is staying together because it would just be sad if they broke up. To me, the best parts are when the command crew is all doing their job, surviving together through a crisis. And the theme is still amazing!
On the plus side, I have discovered some amazing fanfiction stories (and I want to investigate some more). I highly recommend checking out
What Sulu Sees by IsmayDeVain
beamirang’s stories, particularly Genesis if you can find them
And I just discovered kcscribbler’s works on AO3; they are wonderful and leave me laughing for a full minute at times.
Next Time: A slight change in plans; I’m going to go ahead and start Star Wars, pending my schedule. And yes, it may be a bit controversial, but to me it is the most logical, and I will progress in episode order, inputting Solo and Rogue One between Episode III and Episode IV.
The second of the new Star Trek movies, bringing back all of our favorite characters. Joining them is Peter Weller (popped up recently as Elliott Mason in MacGyver) as Admiral Marcus, and yes, that is Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith from Doctor Who) that briefly appears at the beginning of the film. And of course, Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Smaug and the Necromancer in the Hobbit trilogy, Dr. Stephen Strange in the MCU, amongst a dozen other roles) as John Harrison.
The film opens on an alien planet, Nibiru, where McCoy and Kirk are being chased by the natives. This is a distraction so that Sulu and Uhura can drop Spock into a volcano and render it inert so it doesn’t destroy the planet and the entire civilization. Events, of course, do not go entirely to plan. Ash from the volcano forces Sulu and Uhura to head back to the Enterprise, leaving Spock in the volcano. The Enterprise is actually sitting on the bottom of the ocean at the moment, but Kirk sees no other way of rescuing Spock aside from rising out and showing themselves to the primitive natives, and violating the Prime Directive (prohibits members of Starfleet from interfering with the natural development of alien civilizations). So now, the Nibiruians worship the Enterprise.
In London, a couple visits their sick daughter until a man (Harrison) approaches the father, saying he can save her life. Back at Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco, Pike meets with Kirk and Spock to address their recent mission. Spock reported Kirk’s actions, which Kirk tried to hide his wrongdoing, considering he did it in order to save Spock. Starfleet command has voted to take the Enterprise from Kirk; he will be sent back to the Academy. Their argument, Pike points out, is that Kirk feels like the rules don’t apply to him. He’s been lucky and he uses that argument to support his actions. Pike finds Kirk again that evening and reveals he has managed to become the new captain of the Enterprise and has finagled Kirk to be his First Officer; Spock has been reassigned. “It’ll be okay, son.”
They get a call late in the evening, after the archives have been blown up in London (by the father we saw earlier. Harrison’s blood managed to save his daughter). Kirk wonders why Harrison, revealed to be part of Starfleet, targeted essentially a library. Then formulates that Harrison’s next target must be their very meeting. As soon as he shouts “clear the room,” a small craft appears outside the windows and open fires. Kirk manages to get alongside the craft and attempts to jam the engine. He succeeds, but Harrison warps out before it crashes. And Kirk sadly discovers that Christopher Pike was killed in the attack, his last moments watched by Spock (who even mind-melded with the man). [Wonderful acting on Chris Pine’s part; you can read his character’s devastation on his face] The next morning, Kirk approaches Admiral Marcus for permission to hunt Harrison down. He’s hidden on the homeworld of the Klingons, Kronos. Marcus gives Kirk permission to sit on the edge of the Neutral Zone and fire new photon torpedoes to take out Harrison.
On their way to the Enterprise, Spock argues with Kirk over the morality of simply executing Harrison without a trial. They are also joined by Carol Wallace, a Science Officer assigned to transfer the new torpedoes. The torpedoes that Scotty doesn’t want to allow on the Enterprise. He and Kirk get in an argument, Scotty uncomfortable with the militaristic nature of their endeavor. Scotty ends up resigning. Kirk then instructs Chekov to take over as Chief of Engineering, “go put on a red shirt.” (Chekov looks appropriately worried; red shirted crew members are notorious for dying on Star Trek) With a look to Spock, Kirk announces to the crew that they will covertly set down on Kronos in order to capture Harrison and bring him back for trial. Kirk leaves Sulu in charge…and oh boy, Bones is right, we should never piss off Sulu, that message was on point.
Before they head down to Kronos, Spock deduces that Carol Wallace is actually Carol Marcus, the Admiral’s daughter. She snuck aboard the Enterprise to take a look at the torpedoes. Kirk warns the away team that they cannot be tied back to Starfleet, then there’s a brief argument aboard the shuttle between Spock and Uhura over his willingness to die in the volcano; Spock reveals he chooses not to feel the fear of death again, which he experienced the day Vulcan was destroyed and when he melded with Pike. There’s a brief chase and Kirk makes them fit between two structures, Spock isn’t sure it counted, but they’re soon cornered. Uhrua asks that Kirk let her speak Klingon and tries to negotiate their way out. Until Harrison open fires, admittedly saving Uhura’s life, but everyone else begins firing. Harrison surrenders to Kirk when he demands how many torpedoes were aimed at him. Kirk accepts his surrender on behalf of Pike, then proceeds to beat Harrison until Uhura stops him.
Kirk’s questioning of Harrison doesn’t go quite according to plan; it raises more questions than answers. He calls Scotty and asks the man to investigate the coordinates Harrison gave them. And Carol and McCoy head to a deserted planetoid to open up the torpedoes. “When I dreamt about being stuck on a deserted planet with a gorgeous woman, there was no torpedo!” It’s all fun and games until McCoy gets his arm stuck in the torpedo as it’s about to detonate. Luckily, Carol disarms it by pulling out the wiring. And it’s not fuel inside the torpedoes; there are people locked in cyrotubes inside. They were Harrison’s crew and he hid them there after Marcus woke him up for his military mind. Admiral Marcus is preparing for a war and discovered a ship full of people genetically engineered to be superior in every way. And Harrison’s real name? Khan [which even a fairly Star Trek-illiterate person knew meant bad things]. Khan points out to Spock “you can’t even break a rule, how can you be expected to break bone?” Marcus needed Khan’s savagery. [Benedict’s performance is also excellent; precise and calm, which makes it all the more menacing]
A huge ship arrives, helmed by Admiral Marcus and he’s not pleased that Kirk didn’t do exactly as he was told, nor that he’s spoken to Khan. Marcus demands that Kirk hand Khan over, but Kirk has Chekov take them to warp drive. Marcus aboard the Vengeance is able to catch them and knock them out. And now he’s deemed them criminals and intends to fire on them. He beams his daughter out when she tries to protect her new friends and Kirk pleads for the lives of his crew. They were only following his orders. But Marcus will kill them all…until their system is rebooted. Guess what Scotty found?
Now Kirk has a new idea; he’ll use Khan to board the Vengeance and get Marcus to stand down. Kirk orders Spock to take command; the ship needs someone who knows what they’re doing in charge and Kirk is running on a gut feeling. [Interesting note, at this point, there is still an hour left in the movie, meaning a lot more is going to happen, including the bulk of conflict and action] While Kirk and Khan engage in a space jump, Spock calls his older counterpart. He vowed to never reveal the future to his younger counterpart; they must follow their own path. Nevertheless, Khan was the most dangerous adversary they ever faced and they only defeated him at great cost (reference to the second original movie I believe, I’ve only watched it once) Luckily, we have Scotty to throw in some humor during the tense situations and all three men fight their way to the bridge. Scotty stuns Khan and Kirk tries to get Marcus to step down. The Admiral will have none of it. “War is coming, and who is going to lead us? You? If I’m not in charge, our entire way of life is decimated.” While everyone is distracted, Khan strikes. He knocks out Scotty and breaks Carol’s leg. He knocks Kirk out of the way with a few extra punches then crushes Marcus’s head. “You should have let me sleep,” he hisses to the Admiral. Khan calls the Enterprise and is not concerned that Spock has discovered that Khan truly is a war criminal, banished for mass genocide on anyone deemed less superior. Khan makes it easy for Spock, give him the torpedoes of his crew and he’ll return Kirk. Vulcans do not lie, the torpedoes are aboard the Vengeance. Khan beams Kirk, Scotty, and Carol back to the Enterprise. “After all, no ship should go down without her captain.”
Chaos erupts. Khan fires on the Enterprise, then the torpedoes detonate aboard the Vengeance. Spock was not so cruel as to kill Khan’s crew; all seventy-two cryotubes are safe with Bones. But the Enterprise has sustained too much damage; the ship loses power and begins to fall. Scotty and Kirk race to Engineering, with some help from Chekov when gravity flips around. Spock orders everyone to abandon ship; he will stay behind and do what he can. The bridge crew refuses to leave. In Engineering, they discover the warp core is not aligned, meaning there’s no way to reboot power. Kirk knows of a way. He knocks Scotty out and opens the door to the core, which is filled with radiation. He climbs in and kicks the components back into alignment. The Enterprise is saved and rises out of the clouds (still awesome). Spock knows there is no such thing as a miracle and runs to Engineering when Scotty calls him.
A door separates Kirk and Spock, keeping the radiation from everyone else. Spock tells Kirk that he saved the ship, the crew is safe because of him. Kirk comments that the stunt with Khan was something he would have done; and entering the core room was something that Spock would have done (the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…and what happened in the second movie). Kirk admits he’s scared and asks Spock how to not feel. But Spock cannot control his emotions at this time. And he recognizes that Kirk rescued him from the volcano because he is Kirk’s friend. Kirk puts his hand to the glass and Spock mirrors him; their fingers move to the Vulcan greeting, then Kirk’s hand falls. Spock is silent for a moment, then yells “Khan!” in rage.
They’re not out of danger yet; the Vengeance falls past them and crashes into San Francisco Bay. Khan jumps into the ruins and Spock beams down to pursue him. Bones is devastated when Kirk is brought to him in a body bag. Then the tribble on his desk trills; the one that was dead that he injected Khan’s blood into. He orders Jim put in a cryotube, but he needs more of Khan’s blood. Uhura goes down to stop Spock from killing Khan, protecting her boyfriend from being crushed to death like Marcus. Spock manages to knock Khan down and proceeds to beat him…what was Khan saying about Spock not breaking bones? Uhura has to explain that the madman is the only way to save Kirk. A final uppercut knocks the psychopath out.
Over a black screen we hear bits of the first movie; George and Wionna naming Jim, Pike daring Jim to do better, and then Jim is awake. McCoy was able to transfuse Khan’s blood, but it’s taken its toll. Spock is there and Kirk thanks him for saving his life. A brief final scene takes place after we see that Khan and his crew have been put back to sleep. A memorial service for all the damage done the previous year and Kirk speaks to the crowd that there will always been those who mean to do us harm and we risk waking the same evil in ourselves trying to defeat them. But vengeance is not who we are. It is Chris Pine’s voice that gives us “Space, the final frontier.” The Enterprise is rechristened and will begin a five-year mission. We see the bridge crew preparing to depart, joined by Carol Marcus. Kirk is excited and ready for a long journey.
Of the three new movies that are currently out, this is my favorite (there are rumors of a fourth installment coming in 2023). It takes a bit for the story to truly get going, but the action all falls together at the end. Excellent performances by the whole cast. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Harrison fairly affable so you want to believe this strange man will help, while hiding his true identity…for those who didn’t guess early on; so it helps not being completely to speed on prior Star Trek lore. And this Khan is less creepy than the original for some people, which helps as well. I thought Kirk’s death was a strong, poignant moment and thought for a moment the first time through that they had actually killed off the main character. (And there is lots of fanfiction to delve into this moment and the developing friendship between Bones, Spock, and Kirk.)
I will be the first to admit that I am not a huge Star Trek fan; I got more into Star Wars in my teens, but I fondly remember watching Next Generation while growing up. So my captain was Jean-Luc Picard. My parents watched the original series and there are pictures of me as a young girl in displays at the National Air and Space Museum when there was an exhibit; so I was at least aware of the original series. But when a new movie was announced, I first dismissed it because I didn’t watch the original, why would I watch the new one? My parents saw it and enjoyed it, so I eventually decided to go one evening when I was home from college. And thoroughly enjoyed it. It was filled with action, filled with characters in my generation. I cannot speak for how it was received or how it measures up to longtime fans, but the new movies did create a new fan. Can I quote minutia about the series or the craft or the larger universe? No. But I can do that with other shows, so I think it balances out, lol.
The rebooted movie series premiered in 2009 (and that is how it tends to be listed within fanfiction communities, or sometimes NuTrek), directed by JJ Abrams (who has gone on to do Star Wars Force Awakens and Rise of Skywalker). It stars Chris Pine (a bit dashing as Nicholas Devereaux in Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, then voiced Jack Frost in Rise of the Guardians, Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods, and became the ‘Chris’ for DC in Wonder Woman playing Steve Trevor. He played a younger Jack Ryan in Shadow Recruit and stars as Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick in Outlaw King…which I really need to watch) as James Tiberius Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Zoe Saldana (Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, Neytiri in Avatar, and before all of that success, she was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl [Jack Sparrow had stolen her boat]) as Nyota Uhura, Karl Urban (yes, I know he joined the MCU as Skurge in Thor: Ragnarok and is one of The Boys [which recently gained Jensen Ackles, but no, I don’t believe I will be watching the show], but for me, he will always be Eomer in Lord of the Rings) as Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and Simon Pegg as Montgomery “Scotty” Scott. Leonard Nimoy appears as Spock Prime, and that was wonderful. Eric Bana (Bruce Banner in the 2003 Hulk movie [which is not part of the MCU], Hector in Troy, Henry Tudor in The Other Boleyn Girl)is Nero and Bruce Greenwood (the President in National Treasure: Book of Secrets) is Christopher Pike. Rounding out the bridge crew is John Cho as Hikaru Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Pavel Andreovich Chekov. Chris Hemsworth (before he was Thor) briefly appears in the beginning as George Kirk and Jennifer Morrison (Emma Swan in Once Upon a Time) is Winona Kirk. [My father has made the humorous connection that in Thor you join Kirk’s father and Anakin Skywalker’s mother]. And Winona Ryder (I know her best from 1994’s Little Women) plays Spock’s mother, Amanda Grayson.
The film begins with the USS Kelvin facing a lightning storm in space. A huge ship emerges and begins firing on the Kelvin. The captain (played by Fahran Tahir, who has appeared in numerous television shows from JAG to Supernatural [Osiris] to Once Upon a Time [Nemo] and a bad guy in Iron Man) orders an evacuation and puts George Kirk in charge when he goes to meet the enemy. George’s wife is in labor and anxiously awaiting her husband to join her, but autopilot has been knocked out, so George must pilot the starship manually in order to buy everyone else time to escape. Winona delivers a son in the shuttle and they decide to name him after both their fathers: Jim Tiberius. They’re a family barely a minute before the Kelvin is destroyed. We fast forward a couple years and a young Jim Kirk is racing his stepfather’s antique car in Iowa, then crashes it into a ravine, barely escaping himself. Meanwhile, on Vulcan, a young Spock is teased by agemates for being half human. He cares not for his sake, but when one boy calls his mother a whore, Spock initiates a fight. His father encourages Spock to embrace the Vulcan way of life and control his emotions, lest they control him. And when asked why he married Spock’s mother, his response is “it was logical.” Another time skip and Spock is being accepted into the Vulcan Scalene Academy. A fine honor indeed, until one points out Spock’s disadvantage of having a human mother. While Spock tells the leaders “live long and prosper,” you can tell he means something else and he elects to join Starfleet.
Back in Iowa, Jim starts flirting with Uhura at a bar and honestly, everything was going fine until other cadets got involved and started a fight. Captain Pike enters the bar and a sharp whistle gets everyone’s attention. He speaks to Kirk afterwards, commenting that the young man’s aptitude tests are off the charts and calls him a genius repeat-offender. He encourages Jim to join Starfleet, then dares him to do better than his father; he was captain for twelve minutes and saved eight hundred lives. Jim shows up for the shuttle the next morning (and riding the motorbike like he did reminded me of Top Gun [which apparently was an influence in Pine’s performance, along with Harrison as Indiana Jones and Han Solo]). A man sits next to him, a doctor who is scared of space and flying, but only has his bones left. “I may throw up on you.”
Three years later, which Kirk bragged he would complete his coursework compared to four, and Kirk takes the infamous Kobyashi Maru test…and wins. By cheating. Spock brings him up on charges, but they’re interrupted by a distress call from Vulcan. Cadets are assigned to ships, but not Kirk, pending his hearing. Bones sneaks him aboard the Enterprise under the pretense of a medical emergency. Captain Pike comments that the maiden voyage of Starfleet’s newest flagship deserves more pomp and circumstance, but they will follow through on their mission. Sulu is piloting (after a little bump) and Chekov makes his first shipboard announcement. Jim hears about the “lightning storm in space,” and instantly knows they’re flying into a trap. Despite some hilarious side effects, he manages to grab Uhura who intercepted a Klingon transmission earlier and reports to the bridge. Spock first tries to get him off, but once Kirk calmly explains his logic, Spock backs the notion that all may not be as it seems. Uhura takes over at communication and the Enterprise braces for battle when they drop out of warp, to find the rest of the fleet decimated. Nero hails them and once again requests the captain to board his vessel. Pike has Spock, Kirk, and Sulu follow him; Spock will have command while Pike is gone and Sulu and Kirk are to try to knock out the drill that is aimed at Vulcan. And he makes Kirk second in command.
Sulu does get to break out his sword while battling Romulans on the platform and they succeed in knocking out the drill. But the Narada shoots a pinprick of red matter into the core of Vulcan, which will eat the planet and create a black hole. Chekov luckily is able to beam Sulu and Kirk aboard as they’re falling and Spock beams down to save the elders and his parents. But Amanda falls to her death at the last second. Spock orders the ship to rendez-vous with the rest of the fleet in another system, and we see Uhura privately comfort him, but Kirk urges they return to fight. Spock works out that Nero is from the future and by coming back, has altered events, creating an alternate reality; their destines have changed. “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” (Funny note: this was originally a quote from Sherlock Holmes, which Spock in the original series claimed was a distant ancestor. Then, in the newer Sherlock series, Sherlock makes this remark and John calls him Spock. It’s all just a big ball of wibbly wobblly, timey wimey stuff)
Onboard the Narada, Nero demands that Captain Pike tell him about Earth’s defenses so he may destroy it and continue with his retribution against Spock. And…he uses creepy bugs. Then Spock kicks Kirk off the Enterprise, stranding him on an ice planet. Lo and behold, Kirk is saved by Spock…not the young one, the original Spock. Who relates to Kirk, through a mind meld, how 129 years in the future, Spock tries to save Romulus from an exploding supernova, armed with red matter. But he was too late. And Nero, a “particularly troubled Romulan,” vows vengeance. They both get sucked through the black hole, but Nero arrives first, destroying the Kelvin. What was seconds for Spock was actually twenty-five years before he emerged. Nero captured him and stranded him so he could witness the destruction of his home, Vulcan. They find Scotty and Spock Prime gives him Scotty’s own equation on trans-warp beaming so the two young men can board the Enterprise. Spock advises Kirk to gain captaincy of the ship; Spock has just lost his home and is of course, emotionally comprised. Then Kirk can take on Nero. But Spock Prime will not accompany them; he implies a catastrophe may occur if both Spocks would meet. Kirk points out before they leave that coming back to the past to change events is cheating. Well, Spock learned from an old friend.
The bridge crew is obviously surprised to discover Kirk and Scotty aboard the Enterprise and Kirk has a rather uncomfortable confrontation with Spock, resulting in a fight. Spock’s father has to call him off and Kirk does gain command. Spock and his father share a quiet moment, and his father finally reveals that he married Amanda because he loved her. So Spock rejoins the bridge as Chekov reveals his idea to hide behind Saturn’s moon so Kirk can beam aboard the Narada. Spock volunteers first and Kirk insists on joining him. “I could cite regulation, but I know you will just ignore it.” Spock is learning.
Nero is starting the drill at Starfleet Academy while Spock and Kirk sneak aboard. Well, they end up fighting Romulans pretty quick, but Spock makes it to the futuristic shuttle and escapes so he can blow up the drill. Kirk goes after Captain Pike. And Nero just shouts after Spock, “I want Spock dead now!” Spock returns on a collision course, which of course would ignite the red matter, creating another black hole. But Nero is past reason now and shouts to “fire everything!” The Enterprise to the rescue (and it is so darn cool to hear the theme play and the ship rises up) and Scotty proudly manages to beam three people from two ships onto one pad. Kirk tries to take the high ground and offer Nero and his crew compassion, which in this case Spock argues against, but Nero refuses. Kirk has all weapons fire and destroys the Narada. But the Enterprise is caught in the gravitational well of the black hole and while Scotty is giving it everything she’s got, they’re falling. He suggests as a last ditch effort to eject the cores and they ride the blast wave out.
On Earth, the two Spocks do indeed meet; Spock Prime may have lied a little to Kirk. The elder encourages his younger counterpart to remain with Starfleet and forge a friendship with Kirk it will define them both. Put aside logic, do what’s right. Kirk is given commendation and captaincy of the Enterprise, relieving Pike who is now an Admiral (and confined to a wheelchair as a result of those creepy bugs). He enters the bridge of the repaired starship, finally wearing a gold command shirt. Spock the enters and offers to be Kirk’s first officer. The gang is back and ready for new adventures.
Leonard Nimoy gives us the final voiceover: “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission, to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life forms and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before.” [The original tagline was a five-year mission, and was ‘where no man has gone before.’ I appreciate that they kept the slight revision for this film.] And the exit music is the original theme.
I felt this film was a good balance of action and drama, with the right amount of comedy thrown in. The soundtrack is cool. Poor Kirk gets beat up a lot throughout the story. And ultimately, they got the characters to all be where they’re supposed to be. It’s more fun to see Spock and Kirk at odds with each other and it will make their ensuing friendship deeper and the crew respects Kirk for his actions; keeping everyone safe and pulling them through a fire. Scotty is hilarious, I certainly believe that Uhura could kick butt. Bones is long-suffering but caring and Chekov is quite frankly adorable.
Everything fit with the basics that everyone knows about the show simply from pop culture, without having to know every episode or movie and for someone who doesn’t know that, it made it an easy film to watch. It was also written so it can all go together; they’re all canon because this is recognized as an alternate reality. These familiar characters can have new adventures without taking anything away from the original. (Of course, fanfiction comes up with their own ideas, which I’ll post my favorites with the last movie). This was a solid update; technology was advanced enough to put it in our future without being cheesy or completely improbable. Great cast, they made the roles their own and I certainly recommend this film.