“As always sir, a great pleasure watching you work.”

Iron Man 3

Draws on what happened in The Avengers.  Ben Kinglsey (Nizam in Prince of Persia, he appeared in The Last Legion and Schindler’s List.  There is also a video of him singing “Shall We Dance” with Julie Andrews from The King and I) is added to the cast as Trevor Slattery.  Miguel Ferrer (Assistant Director Granger from NCIS:LA; he sadly passed away in 2017) appears as the Vice President.

Tony voice-overs the opening of the film, stating “we create our own demons.”  And with I’m Blue playing, we flashback to New Year’s Eve of 1999 in Bern, Switzerland.  Tony, accompanied by a mullet-wearing Happy, had made a presentation and is thoroughly enjoying the after party, even bumping into Yensen (a callback to the first Iron Man movie).  Then he comes across a pretty girl who asks questions about research.  They move the party upstairs, though Tony is briefly approached by Aldrich Killian, who has a proposal for a think tank, named AIM.  Tony is briefly intrigued, but moves on to going over the pretty girl’s research, which examines the healing center of the brain, and she calls the project Extremis.  Extremis has explosive results.  Getting so caught up in the research, Tony forgets to meet Killian.

Fast forward to the present, post Battle of New York world, Tony is working on more suits.  The latest is the Mark 42, which is supposed to come to him piece by piece, guided by chips implanted in his arm.  There are a few errors, but then Tony has been awake 72 hours.  But the world doesn’t rest; the Ten Rings have reappeared and taken over the airways, with their leader, the Mandarin calling out Americans and warning “you’ll never see me coming.”  The President immediately announces that Captain Rhodes will be handling the situation as the Iron Patriot.  Tony has to meet his friend afterwards, but Rhodey is worried about Tony; he’s showing signs of PTSD, having panic attacks and flashbacks.  Tony tries to laugh them off in public and flies off before he has to deal with it.

In the meantime, Pepper is still CEO of Stark Industries, with Happy as her chief of security, which he takes seriously.  And he gets bad vibes from her meeting with Aldrich Killian and his bodyguard, and reports such to Tony.  Pepper wisely turns down Killian’s proposal on Extremis, feeling it is too weaponizable.  When she returns home, she finds Tony in his workshop and he’s trying to make this relationship work, admitting he’s a hot mess.  He loves her and just wants to protect her; that’s why there’s multiple suits; he can’t live without her.  Pepper gives him a chance, until he has nightmares in bed and unconsciously calls his suit to him, scaring Pepper.

Happy follows his hunch and follows the bodyguard, who’s doing some sort of deal.  Happy pockets something, then gets in a fight with the guard until the other man heats up and explodes.  Happy is gravely injured and Tony takes a place by his side, informing the nurse to ensure that everyone is wearing their security badge, something Happy is a stickler about.  Oh, and Happy thinks Downton Abbey is romantic, so keep him playing.  Tony is greeted by reporters outside the hospital [one of whom is Kim Holderness, who has a YouTube channel with her husband with funny skits now].  The Mandarin has already claimed the attack (and the videos are a bit terrifying).  Tony has a response; he’s not afraid of the Mandarin and he’s coming for him, good old-fashioned revenge.  He even gives the Mandarin his home address.

Once home, Tony has JARVIS compile a Mandarin database and examine the attacks associated with the terrorist.  There are several bombs that have detonated, like the one at the Chinese Theatre with high heat, but no bomb parts found.  Happy, in his last conscious moments, pointed to a clue for Tony and JARIVS finds a similar case in Tennessee.  Until there is a woman at the door; Maya.  Pepper, of course, wants to leave.  Their discussion is interrupted by helicopters outside that shoot missiles into Tony’s home.  Tony calls the suit, but has it cover Pepper, and in turn, she protects Tony, until he gets her to safety and calls the suit to him.  Tony manages to take out the helicopters as the house crumbles around him and he drops into the water.  He manages to shoot out of the water, but no one seems him.  He passes out and wakes up as he crashes in Tennessee.  The suit is low on power and JARVIS shuts off, so Tony drags the suit behind him until he finds a pay phone to leave Pepper a message.  Then he finds a seemingly deserted shed.  Turns out, not so deserted, it’s got a kid, Harley.  Tony convinces Harley to help him (cause what kid is going to turn down the chance to help Iron Man?)

Meanwhile, Pepper talks to Maya about why she came to the house (she did get Tony’s message and knows he’s alive, but let’s the media say he’s presumed dead).  Maya thinks her boss, Aldrich Killian, works for the Mandarin.  When they find a hotel, Aldrich shows up and captures Pepper.  Maya indeed works for Killian and yes, she went to Tony for help.  She needs him to fix the glitch in Extremis.

Tony investigates the explosion site in Tennessee, though Harley pesters him with questions about the Avengers and New York and causes Tony to have another panic attack.  Tony visits the victim mom, assuring her that her son was innocent, until another woman tries to arrest him.  He battles her; she’s another one that will glow, as well as Killian’s bodyguard.  He tires to take Harley prisoner, but Harley uses Tony’s bully defense sparkler to get away.  Tony’s got the information he wanted and instructs Harley to guard the Iron Man suit.  Tony realizes that AIM, Killian’s company is behind this, with the Extremis program, and calls Rhodey.  Rhodey’s a little busy, being Iron Patriot all over the Middle East, looking for the Mandarin, who put out another video, threatening to execute a man.  Even though the President called, the Mandarin still shot him (we don’t actually see that part).  Iron Patriot is taken down in one of the buildings he’s investigating.

This causes Tony to have another panic attack, and luckily, JARVIS is running enough to help him out, with some assistance from Harley.  JARVIS’s system is showing the Mandarin’s messages originating in Miami.  Harley suggests that Tony builds something, since he’s a mechanic.  So Tony showcases his genius again in making an arsenal out of what he can find at a hardware store (recalling that “box of scraps” comment from the first movie).  He enters the compound in Miami and finds the set of the Mandarin videos.  And that the Mandarin is actually just an actor hired to play a role.  And yes, Killian was behind it; a custom-made terror threat.  The bodyguard enters and captures Tony.  Tony sees Maya again, who reveals that Tony had jotted down an equation all those years ago and hence why she thought Tony could help.  But Tony doesn’t remember the equation and tries to appeal to Maya.  Killian enters and credits Tony with creating him; leaving him on the roof in Switzerland made him desperate and he decided to rule from behind.  He gave evil a face and a target in creating the Mandarin.  He’s planning on opening the Iron Patriot suit and he will own the war on terror, creating supply and demand.  Oh, and he’s given Pepper Extremis.  Maya threatens to kill herself to protect her work; Killian shoots her anyway.

The clock is ticking.  Tony calls the suit to him (which is hilariously delayed), but he still takes out the guards and makes his way back through the compound (one guard easily gives up; he’s had enough weird) to find Rhodey.  They have to find the President, who is now on Air Force One with someone he thinks is Iron Patriot.  Iron Man arrives in time to rescue the people falling from the plane [pretty cool].  Then he’s hit by a truck; it’s not actually Tony in the suit, he’s controlling it from a distance.  They continue to make their way to the shipping yard where Killian is staging the murder of the President.  Rhodey is no slouch in sneaking on and taking out guards, with Tony backing him out.  Then Tony’s other suits arrive, all controlled by JARVIS and the action really begins.  Tony uses this as a chance to find Pepper, who is trapped.  He almost has her, then she falls into a fire.  Rhodey, in the meantime, rescues the President.  Tony goes after Killian, switching suits as he needs to (because Tony cannot go against Killian as Extremis in just his human form; the suits come in handy and he can take on more dangerous enemies).  Killian mocks Tony, that Killian was trying to improve Pepper.  Tony retorts that no, he didn’t deserve her, and she was already perfect.  Tony gets Killian in one of the suits and blows it up.  It does not stop Killian, though he admits to the Mandarin plot.  Just as Killian is about to deal the final blow, Pepper to the rescue!  She knocks Killian out, then takes on the suit and blows up Killian.  Her comment at the end?  “That was really violent.”  Now she’s the hot mess.  Tony quips, it’s still debatable; she’s in a relationship with him.  He promises to fix her; he almost had it while he was drunk years ago, and this is what he does, he fixes things.  He then has JARVIS blow all the suits.

The story wraps up with Rhodey arresting the Vice President, who was in on the kidnapping of the President since his daughter would have benefitted from Extremis.  Tony got Pepper sorted out, then has surgery to finally remove the shrapnel from his chest and remove the arc reactor.  And Happy wakes up and Harley gets an updated lab.  Tony theorizes that his armor and tools can be taken away, but no one can take away the fact that “I am Iron Man.”  And this is all revealed to be Tony talking to Bruce (who fell asleep).

This is not my favorite Marvel movie, or Iron Man movie; there’s just too many things going on at the same time.  However, I do like seeing more of Tony Stary, rather than just an Iron Man suit.  While the suit is helpful, he’s no slouch outside of it.  There are a few things that I don’t get why the character had to do; like why did Tony have to destroy all of his suits?  He just proved how helpful they are and he doesn’t have to be in them all the time.  And while I think it’s great that Tony no longer has the shrapnel in his chest, I was a bit sad to see the arc reactor just thrown in the ocean.  And kind of missed seeing the other Avengers.  I get that these are their individual movies again, but some crossover would have been nice.  For instance, when Pepper is standing in the ruined mansion, alone.  No one came to check on her?  Or attempt to find Tony?

Up Next: We circle around to Thor: Dark World

“Doth mother know, you weareth her drapes?”

The Avengers

The big crossover movie for Marvel.  The big stars are back, though Edward Norton is notably replaced by Mark Ruffalo (I think the only other film I had seen him in before this was 13 Going on 30) to play Bruce Banner; this casting sticks for the rest of the MCU.  Cobie Smulders joins as Agent Maria Hill, a new character.  The film is also notably directed by Joss Whedon (responsible for Firefly and its movie Serenity, along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel.  He wrote several other MCU stories, as well as Toy Story, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and 2017’s Justice League).

This film quickly became iconic.  There are so many bits and scenes that remain popular and funny.  And the theme is totally awesome for this movie.

It opens with a deep voice announcing “the Tesseract has awakened;” reporting to a leader.  Their ally is handed a staff to lead an army against another world.  The universe will be handed to this leader and the humans will burn.  Next, we’re at S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in the midst of evacuation, with Director Fury arriving on the scene (with the first strains of the theme playing) to find out that the Tesseract is “behaving” as Selvig puts it.  Fury directs Agent Maria Hill to give priority to the mysterious Phase Two, because “until such time as the world ends, we will act as though it intends to spin on.”  It’s Barton, from his nest who points out to Fury that the Tesseract is a door to space, and doors open from both sides; meaning this energy spike is from somewhere in space.  Then the Tesseract creates a portal and Loki emerges, holding a scepter and wearing a manic grin [note the condition that Loki is in at this point; he’s not at peak form].  He soon attacks the agents, but finds that Barton has heart.  So he uses the scepter to turn Barton, while Fury takes the Tesseract.  Loki announces himself, proclaiming he is “burdened with glorious purpose.”  He comes with “glad tidings, of a world made free…of freedom.  Freedom is life’s great lie, once you accept that in your heart, you will know peace.”  He turns Selvig (who perks up at the mention of Asgard and realizes that Loki is Thor’s brother.)  Barton picks up that Fury is stalling, then shoots him in order to take the Tesseract.  Loki and his new followers leave and are almost free until Fury alerts Hill that Barton has turned. 

This starts a car chase, made more dangerous by the facility collapsing.  Fury gets out and takes a helicopter after Loki, who just shoots it out of the sky with his scepter.  Fury jumps out, Hill barely manages to keep from getting smashed and Coulson is with the last truckload of people.  Fury immediately begins coordinating S.H.I.E.L.D.; they are now at war.  Cue the title card and more of the theme.

We check in on Natasha as the Black Widow next, tied to a chair being interrogated.  Until a phone rings; it’s for her and she’s actually interrogating the men.  She has to end it quickly because Coulson informs her that Barton has been compromised.  Coulson holds while Natasha beats up the guys, even still attached to the chair, until she breaks it and uses it as a weapon.  In stocking feet and a dress.  This woman is badass.  She’s sent to India to collect the “big guy,” and no, it’s not Stark.  It’s Bruce Banner; Fury wants his help tracking the Tesseract, which is emitting levels of gamma radiation.

Meanwhile, Fury is meeting with a shadowy council, doing his best to make them understand that a threat has landed on Earth.  He has put together a response team; which one man retorts “you’re going to leave the fate of the world to a handful of freaks.”  Fury firmly believes that this group will be the response team the world needs with the right push.  When they call him out on sentimentality, Fury confirms that wars are won by soldiers.  So we’re back in the gym with Steve, getting his orders to save the world from Fury.  Steve recognizes the Tesseract as Hydra’s secret weapon.  Fury reveals that Howard Stark was the one to retrieve the cube from the ocean and was the first to make the argument that it is the key to unlimited, sustainable energy…hence SHIELD investigating it.  Steve retorts they should have left it in the ocean.

And speaking of energy…Stark is pulling his new building from the power grid, demonstrating self-sustaining clean energy and celebrating with Pepper.  Coulson interrupts their moment (or, 12% of  moment) and gives Tony homework with files on the Avengers Initiative and Tony recognizes the blue Tesseract cube, (which Howard had made notes on as we saw in Iron Man 2).  Coulson next brings Steve to Natasha and Bruce aboard an aircraft carrier.  Except it’s not a true aircraft carrier, it’s a helicarrier and it can fly, and disappear using reflective panels.  Steve gives Fury ten bucks as payoff on a bet about how the world has gotten stranger.

Meanwhile, Selvig is set up in a new lab and Loki is receiving orders [again note, Loki is not the one behind this attack and he still does not look like he’s at peak performance], trying to prove his worth to the alien spokesperson.  They “rescued” Loki from his defeat.  They care not for his desire to rule for they look to worlds that will be revealed by the Tesseract.  He warns Loki that if he fails “there will be no realm, no barren moon, no crevice where he can’t find you.  You think you know pain?  He will make you long for something as sweet as pain.”  Barton helps set up their next mission in Stuttgart, Germany…he’ll need an eyeball.  Loki attends a museum gala, then attacks the curator and uses a device to read his retina. Barton uses the data to enter a vault and steal iridium.  Loki enjoys the chaos, uses magic to transform his garb, and makes the crowd kneel outside.  “Is this not your natural state?  It is the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation.  The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity.  You were made to be ruled.  In the end, you will always kneel.”  [This is the voice that delivers Shakespeare’s speeches with perfection.]  One old man rises and stands up to Loki, saying they will not kneel to men like Loki.  Just as Loki is about to make an example of the man (who is canonically a Holocaust survivor), Captain America shows up, quipping the last time he was in Germany and a man was standing above everyone else, they ended up disagreeing.  The two trade shots back and forth and are interrupted by Shoot to Thrill and the arrival of Iron Man.  He manages to knock down Loki, who surrenders, transforming his clothing once again to something subtler than a cape and a helmet with gold horns.

Natasha pilots the Quinjet to bring Tony, Steve, and Loki back to the helicarrier; they hit a storm.  Loki is a bit nervous, which Steve picks up on.  Loki is “not overly fond of what follows” lightning.  Cue Thor’s entrance into the Quinjet and grabbing Loki.  Tony immediately grabs the helmet to his suit, to which Steve cautions they need a plan of attack.  Tony has a plan, attack.  Natasha suggests that Steve sits that bout out; they’re basically gods, she cautions.  Steve retorts that there’s only one God, and he doesn’t look like that, hiking up a parachute.  Thor attempts to reason with Loki, demanding where the Tesseract is.  Loki quips that Thor should be glad because now he has a reason to be sent to Earth by Odin.  Thor is not in a gaming mood, he plainly states he thought Loki dead and yes, he mourned for him [you can make out the relief image of Loki’s helmet embossed on his vambraces later], as did their father.  Loki cuts Thor off; Odin is not his father, or did he not inform Thor of Loki’s true parentage.  It doesn’t matter to Thor; Loki is his brother; they were raised together, played together, fought together.  Loki once again cuts off his brother; all he remembers is being in the shadow of Thor’s greatness, blaming him for falling off the Bifrost [you can hear ravens briefly; a sign maybe Odin is listening?].  Loki chuckles when Thor claims the Earth is under his protection; “you’re doing a marvelous job of that.  The humans slaughter each other in droves, while you idly fret.  I mean to rule them.”  Yes, he believes himself to be above humans.  Thor gently chides Loki that he misses the point of ruling, “the throne would suit you ill.”  Loki lashes out at Thor again; he’s seen the truth of the Tesseract in his exile; which Thor picks up as someone is behind Loki’s scheme.  He demands who is behind the would-be king and begs Loki to come home.  For a second, Loki is serious, then grins; he’s sent the Tesseract away, he knows not where.  Thor urges Loki to listen, but his next statement is cut off when Iron Man tackles him.  Loki simply stands there, “I’m listening,” then watches the two face off below.

Tony demands Thor return Loki, at least until they get the Tesseract and then he’s all Asgard’s.  When Tony quips “tourist,” Thor throws Mjölnir.  The two start pummeling each other, though when Iron Man gets hit by Thor’s lightning, his suit is now at 400% power, interesting.  Steve drops in to break up the fight, but when he asks Thor to put down his hammer, Tony tries to warn him.  Thor puts down the hammer, on Captain America’s vibranium shield, which causes a blast wave and more damage to the forest.  See, it’s funny here when superheroes fight because they’re all men who are used to leading and others following, and they haven’t sat down and made peace yet (it’s later on, down the road that we dislike them fighting).  And it does answer the question of what would happen if Thor’s hammer met Steve’s shield.

They settle down and bring Loki in; Fury sticks him in an impenetrable glass capsule.  Our leads start discussing the real issue.  Thor informs them of Loki’s plan to lead the Chitauri army in return for the Tesseract, which Bruce surmises he needs to make another portal, but there are some science barriers he has to overcome, which Tony picks up on.  Yes, he became an expert on thermonuclear astrophysics overnight, because he’s that good.  Oh, and he plants something on Fury’s computer.  Bruce makes a crack about the crazy on Loki and Thor defends his brother.  Natasha points out “he killed 80 people in two days.”  Well…he’s adopted.  Tony bonds with Bruce over science, which just confuses everyone else.  Steve points out that Loki’s scepter works an awful lot like Hydra weapons and Fury confirms it is powered by the Tesseract and he’d like to know “how Loki used it to turn two of the sharpest men I know into his personal flying monkeys.”  Thor may not understand that reference, but Steve does.  He’s proud, cause there’s a lot of references he doesn’t get in this modern world.

Tony and Bruce work together well and Tony invites Bruce to Stark Industries in New York for research and development.  Bruce declines, since the last time he was in New York, he kind of broke Harlem.  Steve walks in when Tony pokes Bruce, reprimanding him for putting people at risk because he wants to see if Bruce will Hulk out.  No, this is Tony not being afraid of Bruce and recognizing that there is a man behind the monster.  Also, Bruce wouldn’t have come aboard if he couldn’t handle a few prods.  Tony continues to say that he doesn’t trust Fury; Bruce concurs that there is something fishy going on because why is S.H.I.E.L.D. in the energy field and why didn’t they bring Tony onboard earlier?  (And the blueberry bit is Robert Downey Jr keeping snacks on set and sharing).  It does make Steve suspicious, so he goes snooping.

Natasha goes to speak to Loki, hoping to get information out of him about Barton; she owes him a debt for making a different call when he was sent to kill her years ago.  Loki points out that she is bargaining for one man when the fate of the world hangs in the balance.  “Regimes fall every day, I tend not to weep over that, I’m Russian,” she quips.  Oh, but Loki knows about the Black Widow, thanks to Barton.  Loki won’t touch Barton, until he kills Natasha in every way she fears, and then, when he sees what he’s done, he’ll split his skull (and calls Natasha a word that Frigga would not approve of).  At his monster quip, Natasha infers that he means to release the Hulk.

Everyone ends up in the scepter room, Fury angry about Tony hacking his system.  Steve reveals that Phase 2 is S.H.I.E.L.D. uses the cube to make weapons, like Hydra did.  Fury blames that move on Thor.  S.H.I.E.L.D. learned that not only are we not alone, we are hopelessly and hilariously outgunned.  Thor argues back that S.H.I.E.L.D.’s work with the Tesseract is what drew attention; it is a signal to all the realms that the Earth is ready for a higher form of war.  Tony argues that a nuclear deterrent never works and Steve gets a crack in.  Thor quips that he thought humans were higher evolved than this bickering.  It devolves into everyone speaking over each other, though there is a crack in there about Captain America is really on a threat watchlist?  Steve and Tony really rub each other wrong; Steve quips that they’ll go around when Tony puts on the suit, because under that suit, what is Tony.  He retorts he’s a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.  Thor watches this and chuckles; “you people are so petty.  And tiny.”  Then attention turns to Bruce when he calls Fury out on the capsule as a way to kill the Hulk if necessary.  But no one can; Bruce has tried (and watch everyone’s faces react).  He got really low once and wanted to end everything.  The “other guy” spit out the bullet.  As he gets worked up, he grabs the scepter.  When Steve calls him on it, he puts it down.  Just as they get a location on the Tesseract, there is an explosion.

While the heroes were fighting, Barton leads a team against the Helicarrier, locked in on the scepter.  Now Tony complies when Steve tells him to put on the suit.  Barton knocks out of the helicarrier’s engines.  Tony and Steve go to fix that, Steve keeping bad guys off of Tony’s tail while Tony does repairs midflight.  The explosion sent Natasha, Bruce, and Thor through the floor.  Bruce Hulks out near Natasha and chases her around the lower levels.  Thor tackles the Hulk and gets some hits in with Mjölnir.  Fury sends a pilot as a distraction before the Hulk can tear the carrier apart.  It works, for a minute, but the shots make the target angry and Hulk leaps at the plane.  He eventually pulls the pilot out and flings him away (chute opening safely) and the plane crashes, flinging the Hulk another direction.  Thor then goes to confront Loki, who uses his duplicating skill to trick his brother.  “Are you ever not going to fall for that?”  Loki sends Thor hurtling towards the ground in the capsule.  Barton is aboard and one of his arrows takes down S.H.I.E.L.D.’s system and the helicarrier begins to fall to the earth as well.  Fury sends Natasha after Barton, then directs someone to turn the helicarrier around so they’re over water.  They protest that navigation is down.  “Is the sun coming up?  Then put it on the left [proving that sometimes, the old ways are still best.]”  Clint and Natasha know each other’s moves well enough to dodge some.  They’re at an impasse until Natasha bites Barton, flips over him, and runs him into a pipe.  And a second time for good measure.

Coulson goes after Loki, but he uses his duplication again and stabs Coulson from behind.  Coulson predicts Loki will lose.  Fury finds Coulson as his associate argues about his belief in the team.  Loki has escaped with the scepter, though Barton is now onboard.  Steve and Tony managed to work together, Tony getting the last guy shooting who had Steve pinned down (after pinging around the engine for a minute like a pin ball).  Fury throws bloody Captain America trading cards at the ones left.  Fury admits that yes, an arsenal was in the works, but he was betting on the Avengers Initiative, to fight the battles that humans couldn’t.  But, it’s obvious now that the team couldn’t get along; maybe his idea was an old-fashioned notion.

Steve and Tony visit where Coulson died, Tony remarking that the man was an idiot for not waiting for back-up; he was obviously no match for Loki.  Neither of them trust Fury and come to the point that Loki was making this battle personal.  He’s a diva, Tony points out, and wants his name in lights.  Which means, he’s going after Stark’s tower.  He repairs his suit, Steve finds the suit Coulson designed, Natasha speaks to Clint and they agree to accompany Steve as they steal a Quinjet.  A security guard finds Bruce and gives him some words of wisdom. 

Everyone begins to make their way to Stark Tower, where Erik is set up to make another portal with the Tesseract.  Tony arrives first and trades barbs with Loki, pointing out that he managed to piss off the Avengers, “Earth’s mightiest heroes and all that.”  Made up of a demi-god, a super solider, a man with breath-taking anger management issues, and a couple master assassins.  Loki quips, “I have an Army.”  Tony comes back with “we have a Hulk,” and there is no version where Loki will come out on top, because even if they can’t protect the Earth, they will make damn sure they’ll avenge it.  Loki attempts to control Tony, but his reactor protects him, so Loki chucks him out the window.  Tony’s newest suit manages to catch up with him before he goes splat.

Selvig gets the portal open and the Chitauri army begins to fly through.  Thor arrives in his full armor and trades strikes with Loki.  After Loki fires at the Quinjet, Thor tries once more to reason with his brother, pointing out the madness going on around them.  Loki states it’s too late to stop them.   Thor pleads that they can stop it, together.  We think for a minute Loki will join his brother; instead, he stabs him, murmuring sentiment.  Thor ups the ante and throws Loki around, who eventually rolls off the tower and into his army.

When Steve, Natasha, and Clint crash, they immediately set to helping the civilians fleeing the scene.  Steve tries to give orders to the police, who question who he is until he smacks down a few aliens.  Natasha and Clint fall into helping each other, Natasha quipping about Budapest.  She and Clint remember that very differently, he cracks.  Steve soon joins them again, along with Thor and Bruce arrives.  Tony is pleased and tells Bruce to suit up, he’s bringing the party to them, meaning a whale-like creature.  Natasha is not sure how that’s a party, but they gear up.  Steve tells Bruce it may be time to get angry, to Hulk out.  Bruce’s secret is actually that he’s always angry, to which he transforms and punches the whale (and the theme gears up).  Our heroes circle up (iconic image) as the Chitauri yell at them.  Tony tells Cap to give the orders.  Thor is use bottleneck the portal, use lightning,  Tony is on perimeter; turn it back or turn it to ash.  Barton is up high, calling out patterns; Tony gives him a lift.  Steve and Natasha will remain on the ground, keeping fighting on them.  And Hulk…smash.  Which he does with glee.

Natasha eventually figures they need to close the portal, and has Steve give her a boost up so she can commandeer a ride from a Chitauri.  Selvig had been hit with a blast at some point and now realizes that there is a safeguard he built in.  You can close the portal with the scepter.  Hulk leaps into Stark Tower to confront Loki.  “Enough!” Loki shouts, calling Hulk a dull creature.  “I am a god, and I will not be bullied…”  Hulk grabs Loki and smashes him several times into the floor.  Loki wheezes from the crater and Hulk calls him “puny god.”  [Just about the funniest scene in the film.]  Everyone fights together (there’s a great tracking shot where we see everyone and all the action in one continuous shot), Steve and Thor both throwing and retrieving their weapons, Hulk even helping Thor – though he punches him as payback for the carrier fight.  Clint calls out patterns to Tony. 

In the meantime, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Council calls Fury and order him to release a nuclear bomb on New York City in order to stop the army.  Fury recognizes that “the Council has made a decision, but given that it’s a stupid-ass decision, I’ve elected to ignore it.”  [One of the best lines from the film].  He won’t release a bomb until he’s sure that the Avengers can’t handle it.  The Council goes behind his back and orders a pilot to takeover.  Fury manages to stop that plane, but not the back up.  He calls Tony to tell him on the incoming nuke.  Tony breaks away and flies as fast as he can to intercept it and shoots straight into the portal.  As he does that, the rest of the team is starting to fray.  Clint has to leap off the roof before he’s blown up, crashing into a window and landing painfully on his quiver.  Steve is shot a few times and even Thor is lagging a bit.  The Hulk is overwhelmed by fire, then Natasha says she can close the portal.  Tony has them wait long enough to take the nuke through.  As he enters space, his suit shuts down and he begins falling.  He’s awake long enough to see the missile hit and the ship explode.  Back in the city, the army falls down.  When the team on the ground can see the explosion, Steve makes the call for Natasha to close the portal.  Iron Man falls through at the last second, free from the explosion that gets trapped in space.  Agents cheer from the carrier, though Fury is downturned, knowing what it cost to rid the city of the nuke. 

The Avengers are happy to see Iron Man, but Thor quickly realizes he’s not slowing down his fall.  He swings his hammer, ready to retrieve his teammate, but Hulk catches him from midair.  He lays him down, but Tony is not breathing, as far as they can tell in the suit, whose reactor is growing dim.  Hulk yells and that startles Tony awake.  He’s exhausted and tells everyone they should try shawarma.  Well, first, they have to deal with something.  Loki has crawled out of the crater and asks Tony for that drink he offered earlier, while the whole team is standing around him, Clint’s arrow aimed directly at him.

The team does have to break apart; Thor takes Loki in a gag back to Asgard with the Tesseract.  Bruce accompanies Tony.  Natasha and Clint leave together.  Steve rides away on his bike.  Fury speaks to the Council, informing them that no, he’s not tracking the team’s whereabouts; they’ve earned a leave of absence.  And while that was not his call to make, he didn’t argue with the god who did.  Fury speaks to Maria Hill afterwards, that he trusts them to return because at some point, they’ll need them.  We see Tony working on new plans for the tower (and there are specialized floors laid out for each team member) and as the camera pans away, the only letter left out of Stark is the “A.”

There are two credit scenes; the first being a report on the invasion.  The reporter tells his ruler that to challenge the unruly humans is to court death.  A purple face turns towards the screen (that now all audiences know is Thanos, but only those who read the comics knew when the film first came out).  The second scene is simply the team eating shawarma silently after the battle; everyone exhausted [and trying not to laugh.  And Chris Evans’ hand is in front of his face to hide a beard he grew for his next role].

I will take a minute to say that the theme is very cool, with the strings keeping a rhythm that pushes the tempo a little, building excitement.  Then there’s a fanfare that’s perfect for a superhero movie.  Then it repeats a little more sedately which works well for the background of scenes.  It’s quickly become iconic; we hear this and know that heroes are banding together.  It’s positive.  It’s a full orchestra score compared to the electric guitar heavy Iron Man theme, or the brass fanfare of Captain America.

And let’s not forget the bloopers!  They play the theme from Smokey and the Bandit due to a crack from Robert Downey Jr.  It’s four minutes of fun I’ll play if I need something “fluffy” or funny.  Actors crack up and can’t set props down, or get a parachute on.  Cobie is a little more dramatic about Coulson’s death and Tom Hiddleston is dead on with an Alan Rickman impersonation (there’s a twinge of sadness knowing that beloved actor has passed now).  He also cracks up when he’s supposed to be moaning on the floor and even director Joss Whedon gets in on the argument, yelling for everyone to stop fighting.  Chris Hemsworth occasionally struggles to catch his hammer; Chris Evans catches his shield and keeps going.  Also, check out Tom Hiddleston’s appearance at Comic Con the following year as Loki, mimicking his speech from the movie.  The crowd goes nuts and Tom basks in it.  They chant “Loki!  Loki!  Loki!” but go silent when he puts his finger to his lips.  At the end, he has the crowd say his name, which they gladly do.  He now has his army.  The fact that he gets the entire Hall H (one of the bigger halls at the convention from what I’ve heard) to cheer for the villain…it’s a testament to the actor.  It is amazing and this is why we love him!

This film has just become iconic.  It’s one of the major crossovers in cinema, pulling superheroes that had their own films into one.  Black Widow eventually got her own movie and Hawkeye got his own show (neither of which I have seen yet).  As opposed to say X-Men that was always written as a team.  There wasn’t much development of some major characters on an individual basis.  It’s well written in the way that we remember a lot of the dialogue from the film.  The action is engaging and everyone seemed to get their moment.  True, the MCU only gets bigger from here, but I do recall it being a big deal when it came out and we shouldn’t forget that.  After this film released, there was so much speculation on what direction the universe would go (and fans went wild!)  It’s definitely a movie I recommend.

Up Next: Iron Man 3

“What happened to you?” “I joined the Army.”

Captain America: The First Avenger

Ho boy, there are a lot of familiar faces in this movie.  Chris Evans (he was recently Ransom Drysdale in Knives Out, we saw him as Johnny Storm the Human Torch in 2005’s Fantastic Four, and was opposite Scarlett Johansson in the rom com The Nanny Diaries) leads the film as Steve Rogers, the titular Captain America.  Sebastian Stan (he was in a couple episodes of the first season of Once Upon a Time) is his best friend, James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes.  Hayley Atwell (she’s Evelyn Robin, Christopher Robin’s wife in the 2018 Christopher Robin film starring Ewan McGregor, Ella’s mother in the live-action Cinderella, briefly appears in Testament of Youth [I mentioned it, oh gosh, a few years back as a movie I watched because Kit Harington is in it], and was the best friend to Keira Knightley’s character in The Duchess) is the capable Agent Peggy Carter [they proceeded to give her her own show…that I have not finished watching yet].

Tommy Lee Jones was in another superhero film before he played Colonel Phillips, as Harvey Two-Face Dent in Batman Forever.  Hugo Weaving (brilliant as Lord Elrond in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, and the villain Smith in Matrix, as well as voicing Megatron in the Transformer films) faces off as Johann Schmidt/Red Skull, aided by Toby Jones (he was in one episode of BBC’s Sherlock, and Dr. Who, as well as The Hunger Games franchise.  He voices Dobby in the Harry Potter series and is a stooge of sorts in Ever After [fun note, he’s in Pale Blue Eyes, which stars Christian Bale and was filmed at a university about half an hour from where I live]) as Dr. Zola.

Richard Armitage (Guy Gisbourne in BBC’s Robin Hood, dashing as John Thornton in North and South.  He made an appearance in Ocean’s Eight, but most well-known for starring as Thorin in the Hobbit trilogy) makes an early appearance as Heinz Kruger.  Stanley Tucci (he was in Devil Wears Prada, The Hunger Games, and Maestro Cadenza in the live-action Beauty and the Beast; all in the last twenty years) is Dr. Abraham Erskine.  And Dominic Cooper is a young Howard Stark (he reprises the role in Agent Carter, and also appeared in The Duchess, as Charles Grey.  He sings a bit in Mamma Mia with Amanda Seyfried).  A few other familiar faces: Natalie Dormer (the sultry Anne Boleyn in The Tudors, a little sweeter as Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones.  She also had a role in The Hunger Games franchise) is Lorraine, and the old man in Norway is David Bradley, whom many of us know as Argus Filch in Harry Potter.

The film opens with discovering a crash site in the Artic; a huge plane.  And in that plane is a bright red and blue shield (we can guess what this means, even for non-comic-literate viewers).  We jump back to 1942 to an attack in Norway (note that this is the same town that was referenced in the beginning of Thor where the Frost Giants attacked).  A bit like Last Crusade, Nazis are attempting to uncover a knight’s tomb in search of a relic.  Their leader enters and easily knocks the stone cover to the floor and removes a bluish cube, commenting that some superstitions are actually science.  He names the cube as the Tesseract, the jewel of Odin’s treasure room [considering the mythos of the MCU, this may tie the two movies together, that Odin sent the Tesseract to Midgard (Earth) for safe keeping and left it where there was an established human presence that worshiped the Asgardians as gods and thus would keep their relics hidden and safe].  Then smashes it, knowing it is not the real Tesseract, but it must be close by.  He surmises it is in the carving of Yggdrasil, the Tree of the World; a guardian of wisdom and fate.  The actual Tesseract glows blue.  While the Fuhrer digs for trinkets in the desert (referencing Indiana Jones a bit, I feel like), this man has uncovered something more.  The old man guarding the cube remarks that the other is a fool and cannot control the power that he holds.  He will burn.  The Nazi leader comments he already has and destroys the village.

Meanwhile, in New York, a scrawny man, Steve Rogers, is attempting to enlist in the Army, but his list of health issues bar him from being a solider.  When Steve is watching a film later, he tells off a rude man in the theatre, which leads the rude man to beating Steve up in a back alley.  Steve never gives up, quipping “I can do this all day,” but it is a good thing that his friend, James “Bucky” Barnes comes along and helps out.  James is in uniform, ready to deploy with the 107th in the morning.  However, on his last night, he drags Steve with him on a double date to a science expo.  Howard Stark, Tony’s father, is there, showing off his latest design, just like his son will sixty-odd years later.  Bucky and Steve argue outside a recruiting station; Bucky doesn’t want Steve to get sent to the war, home will be safer.  But Steve feels like he can’t do less than any other man.  Steve meets Dr. Erskine, who is part of the Strategic Scientific Reserve and the doctor offers Steve a chance.

Steve reports for basic training and Colonel Phillips is not impressed by this scrawny man, but Steve certainly gives it his all.  The point of their program is to create the best Army, by making super soldiers.  On a run, their instructor challenges the men to get a flag and simply jumping up the pole doesn’t work.  Steve instead uses his noggin and unpins the pole, letting the flag fall over.  He gets a ride back to camp.  Agent Peggy Carter watches all of this.  Erskine argues that he is looking for qualities beyond the physical; then Steve impresses everyone by jumping on a grenade that Phillips throws, while everyone else dives for cover.  Luckily, it’s a dud.  And Steve is accepted as the candidate for Erskine’s experiment, a formula that enhances a man.  Not just physically, but in that good traits become great and bad ones become worst.  His first subject was Johann Schmidt, the head of Hitler’s research division (the man that claimed the Tesseract in Norway), code-named Hydra.  Like Hitler, Schmidt has a passion for occult power and Teutonic myth, but truly believes that these myths are not fantasy, they’re real.  There is a great power in the earth.  Which Erskine doesn’t know, but Schmidt found.  After seeing the result in Schmidt, Erskine defected and is now searching for a worthy man.  For a weak man knows the value of strength and also knows compassion, he comments to Steve, and has him promise “to stay who you are.”  A good man, not a perfect soldier.

Back in Europe, a Dr. Zola is experimenting on the Tesseract with Schmidt in order to get energy.  Schmidt knows what Erskine is up to and has to stop him.  He must take away Erskine’s power from the Allies in order to secure a victory for Hydra.

Peggy leads Steve into the secret lab for the experiment, which is aided by Howard Stark.  Military and government brass are on hand to witness the event, which Erskine remarks is the first step on the path to peace.  His serum will start the process, then Steve will be hit by Vita-Rays to complete the transformation.  Steve steps into the capsule and as a bright light threatens to blind everyone, he shouts.  Peggy wants it shut down, thinking there is trouble, but Steve insists he can continue.  Stark dials it all the way up, then things start sparking.  The capsule opens and an impressively muscled Steve Rogers steps out.  Peggy is impressed and a bit taken aback (as are many female viewers).  But the State Department representative leaves a device in the viewing room, that he blows up in order to create a distraction to steal the last vial of serum and shoot Erskine.  Steve goes to his mentor while Peggy goes after the German.  She faces off against a car, and Steve saves her from getting run over, then chases after the car.  It’s a neighborhood he knows, so he finds a shortcut, but still ends up facing off against the spy.  He uses a car door as a shield for a moment until the spy kidnaps a child.  He throws him in the water and the kid happily shouts he can swim, so Steve can dive after the spy in the sub.  But once they’re on land, the spy bites down on a cyanide capsule, his last words being “Hail Hydra.”  The serum was smashed in the scuffle, so they now must rely on Steve’s blood to unlock the secret.

Schmidt faces off against other Nazi officers, who want to shut Hydra down, reminding the man that he serves at the Fuhrer’s pleasure.  The Red Skull has been indulged long enough, they comment.  Schmidt states that he has harnessed the power of the gods.  That just makes them think he’s mad.  And his response is to use one of his new weapons to vaporize all the officers.  “Hail Hydra,” he remarks.

Stark has to admit he is impressed by the Hydra technology; he’s nowhere close to them.  The SSR has decided to take the fight to Hydra.  But Steve is not going.  They need him in a lab so they can create more super soldiers.  A senator offers Steve another option, being the front man for morale.  He goes on tours across the U.S. in a show, boosting war bond sales, as the Star-Spangled Man with a Plan.  Comics start appearing about him.  That’s fairly fine and dandy until he appears in front of soldiers on the front who are not impressed.  Peggy finds him, commenting that he was meant for more; his only options are not lab rat or dancing monkey.  Then he finds out that the 107th was badly hit in an attack, most either dead or captured.  He asks Colonel Phillips about Bucky and is again told there is nothing he can do.

Well, Steve comes up with a plan, grabbing a helmet and a shield, and Peggy convinces Howard to help fly them into enemy territory.  Steve drops in and finds the Hydra facility where hundreds of prisoners are being held.  He gathers some evidence and frees the prisoners, then goes after Bucky.  He spots Zola, who is escaping with Schmidt, but is more concerned with Bucky at that moment.  Bucky is glad for a rescue, but remembers Steve being shorter.  Steve faces off against Schmidt, who rigged the facility to blow.  Schmidt reveals that he truly has become the Red Skull, pulling the skin off his face.  He gladly pronounces that he has left humanity behind and that Steve should do the same and embrace that feeling.  Steve would rather not.  Zola and Schmidt escape, and Bucky begins to make his way to the other side.  Steve has to jump.

Phillips pens a note, declaring Captain Steve Rogers killed in action and reprimanding Peggy Carter.  There is a commotion at camp: Captain Rogers leads the prisoners, closely followed by Sergeant Barnes and several other men who fell together while locked up.  Steve is willing to hand himself over for military discipline, but Phillips is forced to admit that won’t be necessary.  Bucky leads the cheers for Captain America.  Now Steve can lead missions.  He caught a glimpse of a map of Hydra’s facilities and plans to wipe them out.  He puts together a team of those who first followed him (who go on to become the Howling Commandos).  Bucky will follow Steve, not Captain America; the little guy who was too dumb to run away from a fight.  Peggy enters in a red dress, stopping all commotion.  She and Steve carry on a conversation and Bucky remarks that he is turning into Steve; now he’s the invisible one.

Stark continues to investigate the glowing sample Steve brought back and a blonde flirts with Steve, resulting in a kiss, which Peggy sees.  When Stark shows Steve some new ideas for a shield, Steve picks up the simple vibranium design.  When he holds it up, Peggy shoots at him.  Stark is a bit impressed and comes clean to Steve that he is not romantically involved with Peggy.

Next are clips of Steve’s missions, with lots of action and shield-throwing and punching.  Schmidt yells “You are failing!”  He cannot advance is plan to take over the world if a simpleton with a shield keeps destroying his factories.  The Commandos and Steve come to a train mission, intent on capturing Zola.  Bucky accompanies Steve to the train and they have to take on a few Hydra soldiers; then a hole is blown in the side of a car and Bucky goes through.  Steve tries to grab him, but Bucky falls into a canyon.  The mission is ultimately a success, but Peggy finds Steve later, drinking.  With his boosted metabolism due to the serum, he cannot get drunk.  Phillips interrogates Zola on information on Schmidt and they begin to plan their final assault. 

Steve heads in on a souped-up motorcycle first and lets himself get captured at the end, to be brought before Schmidt.  The rest of the task force crashes in and Steve heads after Schmidt when the Red Skull runs.  He has a plane waiting, ready to bomb major American cities.  The plane is just too fast for Steve to run after, but Phillips and Peggy bring a car.  Peggy gives Steve a kiss before he jumps onto the plane, Phillips declines.  Steve takes out what pilots he can and a few bombers, then faces off against Schmidt in the cockpit.  They hit the Tesseract housing and Schmidt picks out the cube, which showcases the swirling universe.  Then he evaporates, or disintegrates.  Steve is left to finish the mission.  He has to put the plane down, now, before it gets too close to New York; it will save the most people.  He gets Peggy on the radio and Phillips discreetly leaves.  Peggy tries to talk Steve out of it, but Steve Rogers is Captain America for a reason.  So they plan a dance date, to keep things light, until the line goes dead.

This is how there is a crash site in the Artic and indeed the shield they found is Captain America’s.  Stark is shown to find the Tesseract in the ocean, after it melted through the floor of the plane; he’s searching for Steve and will continue to do so.  The Commandos solemnly celebrate V-E Day.  Furthermore, Steve wakes up in a hospital room, with the radio playing a ball game.  A uniformed woman enters, but Steve picks up on the deception.  The ball game on the radio is from 1941; he knows because he was there.  He smashes through a wall and runs out into the streets…of modern-day New York City.  He stops and is surrounded in Times Square and Nick Fury steps out of a car.  He tells the soldier that he has been asleep for almost seventy years.

The credits note that Captain America will return in the Avengers.  The after-credits scene is Fury approaching Steve in a gym, after he destroys a punching bag.  He has a mission for Steve, to save the world.  And there is a trailer mentioning Some Assembly Required.

I’m noticing that as I re-watch these first few movies in the MCU, I’m recalling that hey, I actually like these movies.  Because they’re fun, like superhero movies should be.  Yes, there should be some sort of danger that they have to overcome and obstacles and such; that all makes a good story.  But these are fun movies to watch that you’re not trying to recall details from three movies ago.  For instance, I watched Iron Man and remember, yeah, Iron Man is cool and fun and this is a good story.  Then I watch Thor and oh yeah, this is definitely cool with the mythology and everything.  And now I watch Captain America and yes, again, this is cool, it’s a good superhero for World War II and introduced other characters that I want to read stories about.  And gearing up for Avengers…I miss some of that excitement.  I’m sure I will go into more detail as we continue through the MCU.

And on a personal note, I have to comment that I felt a bit like Steve Rogers entering Times Square for my first time.  And I even said that, since it was after this movie came out.  I have been to New York City once, on a college choir trip (we got to premiere a piece at Carnegie Hall, which yes, is very cool) and our first night in the city, my group trouped to Times Square and mind you, this is like nine or ten o’clock at night and Times Square is as bright as day with all the signs.  We hit a few stores, including the Disney store because we are millennials.  Later, I did get to check out Central Park and later ate at an Irish pub a few blocks from Times Square.  Sadly, we were there over a holiday weekend and the New York Public Library was not open for me to peruse its shelves.  But yes, I distinctly recall thinking I was a bit like Steve Rogers in Times Square.

Up Next: Avengers  

“Do me a favor, and don’t be dead.”


The fourth movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and boy does it have a cast!  First, you have Kenneth Branagh, who in addition to acting (he’s appeared in three movies he’s directed, is well known amongst a certain generation as Gilderoy Lockhart in Chamber of Secrets, and has appeared in several performances of Shakespeare, including the titular Hamlet and Henry V), has directed both Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, as well as the 2015 live action Disney Cinderella, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  On top of that, Chris Hemsworth (before this, in 2009, he played George Kirk in Star Trek, and was the Huntsman in both Huntsman films with Kristen Stewart) stars as Thor, Natalie Portman (well-known for playing Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy [so you kind of have the joke that in this movie you have James Kirk’s dad and Luke Skywalker’s mom, who are now a couple], and Anne Boleyn in the movie adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl) is Jane Foster, and Tom Hiddleston (has gone on to star in several films and even has a scene in Muppets Most Wanted, though I adore him in The Hollow Crown as Prince Hal/Henry V, and he appeared in War Horse alongside Benedict Cumberbatch [and a whole host of other British actors]) is Loki.  [Tom originally auditioned to play Thor, but was cast as Loki instead and these roles became star-making roles for both Hemsworth and Hiddleston…and I still need to watch that Loki show on Disney+.] 

Stellan Skarsgård (he was in both Mamma Mia films and two of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, along with being Cerdic in King Arthur in 2004 and the Grand Duke in the live-action Cinderella) is Erik Selvig, Anthony Hopkins (known for being Hannibal Lecter in several films, he was Don Diego de la Vega, the original Zorro in The Mask of Zorro; this actor has a list of credits that goes back to the 60s) is Odin, and Idris Elba (stars in the show Luther on television, was Krall in Star Trek Beyond, and dozens of other appearances [and there were brief rumors that he could be the next James Bond, but he has come out and said he will not]) is Heimdall.  Josh Dallas (I know him better as David Nolan/Prince Charming in Once Upon a Time) is Fandral, Ray Stevenson (he was Porthos in the 2011 Three Musketeers) is Volstagg, and Clark Gregg is back as Agent Coulson and has a bit more to do in this film.

The film opens in New Mexico (tying it in to comments made in the previous Iron Man 2), with a group of astrophysicists (well, Darcy is not one, but she was the only applicant for the assistant position) investigating atmospheric disturbances.  They drive towards weird lights in the sky, then something hits the earth.  As Jane insists they get closer, they run into…something.  They rush out of the truck and discover it’s a person.

Odin narrates a tale of yesteryear, how the Asgardians, led by Odin, beat back the Frost Giants when they tried to freeze the mortal realm, revealing that there are several realms and mortals believed at that time that these realms held some of their gods [this film gave me an interest in Norse mythology; I had already been interested in Vikings due to their ties to Britain, but I still have a lot of research left to do, hopefully to tie elements into my own fantasy book series].  They may now be relegated to man’s myths and legends, but it was Asgard that brought peace to the universe.  The scene pans to Asgard, a shining realm and Odin is telling this tale to his two sons.  One day, one of them will have to defend that peace.  Young Thor dreams of battle and Odin cautions him that “a wise king never seeks out war, but he must always be ready for it.”  Both boys are eager and Odin once again curbs their enthusiasm, stating only one may ascend the throne of Asgard, yet both were born to be kings (a bit of foreshadowing). 

It appears that years have passed and there is now a great celebration going on [I love the inclusion of knotwork in the design, especially on Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir…there is a historical link between the Norse and the Celts, considering that the Vikings harried the Scottish northern coast for centuries].  While Thor is egging on the crowd, Odin is serious; this is the coronation of his heir and firstborn, who wields the hammer, Mjölnir, whose power is no equal, “it is a weapon to destroy or as a tool to build.”  It is a fit companion for a king.  He asks Thor to swear to guard the Nine Realms, preserve the peace, and cast aside all selfish ambition and pledge himself to the good of the realm.  Before Odin can proclaim Thor king, he senses a security breach in the sacred vault; Frost Giants have broken in and attempt to steal back their glowing blue casket that is the source of their power.  But a silver guard, the Destroyer, stops them.  When Odin, Thor, and Loki investigate, Thor immediately wants to march into Jotunheim for answers, and to knock a few heads.  Odin snaps that Thor is not king yet, and thus the decision is not his to make.  Thor throws a tantrum in his chambers and Loki attempts to calm his brother, something that he has undoubtedly had to do in the past.  He’s not entirely helpful since he tells Thor he’s right and they should go ask questions, but that would mean defying father.  Thor thinks it is an excellent idea and drags his brother and his friends to visit Heimdall, who guards the Bifrost, the magical transport between realms.

Heimdall wants to know how these giants gained access because he sees all, except them.  So he allows Thor and his friends through.  Thor does not negotiate well with Laufey, who sees that this young prince only craves battle.  Thor does not know what his actions will unleash, Laufey warns, as well as declaring that the House of Odin is full of traitors.  Loki takes over negotiations and they are almost home free until Laufey insults Thor, who is ready to smash things with his hammer.  A fight ensues, and Volstagg [who reminds me of a Tolkien-esque dwarf…probably on purpose considering that Tolkien’s inspiration for the Dwarves were from the Norse sagas…more on that when we reach the Hobbit movies] warns his friends not to be touched by the Frost Giants; their touch burns.  Yet, when Loki is grabbed by one, his skin turns blue, then back to normal.  But no time to ponder that because Laufey has released a large beast that chases Thor’s friend while they attempt to retreat after Fandral has been wounded.  Thor continues to take out giants, then runs his hammer through the beast’s mouth, killing him.  But they’re still surrounded, until Odin arrives on an eight-legged horse [Sleipnir, according to legend.  And also according to legend, Loki’s son…not sure how that works out in the MCU].  Thor cheers, figuring his father is there to lead the battle.  Odin silences him and treats with Laufey; these were the actions of a boy (not a man, not a prince, not a would-be king), treat them as such.  And Laufey still fears Odin at this moment, so the Asgardians return home, under the threat of war.  Odin dismisses Thor’s friends and speaks to Thor.  Thor insists that the Jotun must learn to fear him, just as they feared Odin.  Odin retorts, “that is pride and vanity speaking, not leadership.”  Thor tries to argue back, that their status as fallen because of peace, Odin interrupts, “you are a vain, greedy, cruel boy!”  “And you are an old man and a fool!” Thor shouts back.  Odin takes a moment, yes, he was a fool, for thinking Thor was ready.  Loki attempts to intercede on Thor’s behalf, but Odin dismisses him with a growl [which actually startled Tom, since it was not in the script.  This is stunning acting on Anthony Hopkins’ part.]  Odin declares Thor unworthy, of the realms, of his title, and of the loved ones he has betrayed (and note how the camera turns to Loki at that moment).  Odin strips his son of his cloak, and of Mjölnir and his power.  He casts Thor out.  Then commands the hammer “whosoever hold this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor,” and sends it after his son.

These brings us back to Jane and her friends hitting Thor, who is very confused and yelling strange things at the sky, like hammer and Heimdall.  Darcy is freaked out and tases Thor (which is a bit hilarious).  Jane is distracted by the markings in the dirt, but Erik talks her in to taking the strange young man to the hospital.  (They don’t see the hammer crash down a little way away.)  When Thor initially wakes up, he tries to wreak havoc, until he’s tranquilized and strapped down.  Jane and her friends attempt to analyze the pictures of what they saw last night, mentioning an Einstein-Rosen bridge; essentially a wormhole.  She realizes she’s looking at another dimension and that the strange man is her best piece of evidence, so they have to find him.  He’s escaped the hospital, but not far, because she manages to back into him.  They clothe Thor [and we admire a shirtless Chris Hemsworth] and get him food; though his manners leave a bit to be desired.  At the same time, the hammer has created a crater that some townsmen have found and decided to see who can pull it out of the ground (a la the sword in the stone situation…hmmm…) (and our Stan Lee cameo).

Meanwhile, in Asgard, Thor’s friends and Loki discuss current events.  Loki reveals that he was the one who had ordered a guard to go to Odin, but obviously he was late, because the plan was to never arrive at Jotunheim.  And he never dreamed that Odin would banish Thor, and he loves his brother more dearly that the others.  Nevertheless, Thor is reckless and dangerous.  Loki storms out.  Sif comments that Loki speaks of love, but he’s always been jealous of Thor, and they begin thinking Loki may be responsible; he’s prone to mischief.  Loki finds the Jotun’s blue casket and it begins to turn him blue again.  Odin discovers him and Loki demands answers.  Is he cursed?  No.  What am I?  He is Odin’s son.  What more?  The casket was not the only thing Odin took from Jotunheim that day.  No; when Odin entered the temple, he found an abandoned baby, small for a giant’s offspring; and we see the babe change its appearance to mimic Odin’s.  Laufey’s son, incidentally.  Loki doesn’t believe that Odin brought him home simply because he was an innocent child, not when he’s the same monster that parents warn their children of; or was it to be held prisoner until Odin has use of him?  Yes, Odin had a purpose: he wanted a permanent alliance with Laufey and though Loki could be that bridge, but it doesn’t matter now, not after what Thor has started.  Loki resents that Odin never told him; too hurt to realize that Odin viewed him as a son, he simply remembers not being as good as Thor, feeling that Odin had always favored Thor and this must be the reason why [a superb performance by Tom…this is why we love him].  Odin protests that Loki is twisting Odin’s words, then collapses.  Loki calls for help.  Later, while Odin is sleeping, he questions his mother why he was never told.  She reiterates that they always viewed Loki as their son and simply wanted to love and protect him.  And there has always been a purpose to what Odin has done.  Loki is taking on the mantle of king and denies his friends’ plea to bring Thor back.  His first command cannot be to undo Odin’s last.  (We don’t believe that and neither do his friends.)

Back on Earth, the feds show up at the crater and lock it down.  Jane, Thor, Darcy, and Erik hear about it, after Thor demands more coffee by throwing down his mug.  Thor realizes that the crater holds his hammer and he must retrieve it.  Jane wants to follow, but Erik warns her off.  They shortly discover that S.H.I.E.L.D. is at their lab, confiscating her research.  So Jane finds Thor, who makes the deal that once he has his hammer, he will get Jane’s things back.  Thor enters the compound as a storm brews (he is the god of thunder, after all).  He easily takes on any guards that are sent his way, though he doesn’t kill him.  When the last one steps in front of him, he comments, “you’re big.  Fought bigger.”  Coulson calls from someone to get up high and keep on eye on their intruder.  A man, Barton, we hear, grabs a bow, then drawls to Coulson that he’s starting to root for their intruder as he takes out guards.  But Coulson holds on his call, wanting to see what Thor does when he finds the hammer.  Thor pulls on the handle and the hammer doesn’t budge.  He shouts to the raining sky and sinks to the mud.  He’s docile as he’s taken into custody and Jane quietly calls for Erik to pick her up.  She persuades Erik to go get Thor, arguing that while Thor may speak of magic, magic has been called a precursor to science.  Erik has heard of S.H.I.E.L.D. through a colleague and knows they’re not to be trifled with, but he will help Jane.  And get Thor to leave.

Coulson questions Thor, believing him to be a mercenary, but Thor doesn’t answer.  When Coulson steps away, Loki appears.  Then lies to his brother, saying that Odin is dead and their mother has forbidden Thor’s return.  Thor is broken-hearted and does not fight.  Loki makes his own attempt to lift the hammer and fails, though he maintains his illusion so no mortals spot him.  This is when Erik picks up Thor, then takes him drinking in hopes of getting Thor to leave.  Thor willingly drinks with the man, then has to carry him back to Jane’s place.  “He drank, he fought, he made his ancestors proud,” Thor proclaims, then spends a quiet evening with Jane.  He brought her notebook back and encourages her to continue her research; it’s right.  There are other realms out there.  Nine, according to Thor, who explains the Yggdrasill, the World’s Tree, that connects all of them.

Loki is still plotting in Asgard; he visits Jotunheim and promises Laufey that he will sneak him in and he will be able to slay Odin while he sleeps.  And yes, it was Loki who had snuck the few Frost Giants in to ruin Thor’s big day.  It was his way of protecting the realm from Thor’s rule.  Meanwhile, Thor’s friends decide to come get Thor and Heimdall helps, simply by not being the one to open the Bifrost.  He’s been keeping an eye on Thor.  Loki realizes what is going on and sends the Destroyer to keep Thor from returning.  Thor is thrilled to see his friends (Sif and the Warriors Three…which a SHIELD agent comments that they look like they came from a Renaissance Faire…he’s got a point [considering I have friends who have dressed up as various Avengers and attended faire as a group, “Thor” even threw his mug down and demanded another]), but argues he cannot come home.  Then he discovers Loki’s lies.  S.H.I.E.L.D. briefly wonders if the Destroyer is one of Stark’s until is blasts them.  Thor will stay with Jane to help evacuate the town; he does not have the power to help his friends, so they will be the distraction (which involves tossing the “dwarf”).  Sif runs the Destroyer through with a spear and all is well for a moment, until it turns its entire body and continues blasting.

Back in Asgard, Loki freezes Heimdall so he can get the Frost Giants in.  Heimdall realizes that Loki has found secret paths that Heimdall cannot see and that is how he has arranged his plot.  Thor, to stop the carnage, faces the Destroyer alone and speaks to his brother, apologizing for whatever wrong he has done.  He offers his life instead.  The Destroyer smacks Thor, sending him flying.  Jane rushes to him and believe our hero has died.  Until Odin’s words echo: whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.  The hammer flies to Thor and he regains his armor and power.  And yes, Jane, Oh. My. God, is correct.  The battle is short after that, Thor plowing the hammer through the Destroyer.  But he and his friends must rush back to Asgard to stop Loki, though he promises to return for Jane.  She pulls him in for a kiss before he goes, not settling for one of his kisses to her knuckles.  Thor also got Coulson to return Jane’s things; they are all on the same side and she’ll need it to continue her research.

Heimdall breaks the freeze so he can get Thor and his friends back and Thor flies to the palace.  Frigga, Odin’s wife, stands ready to defend her sleeping husband against the Frost Giants, though they knock her away after she takes out one.  Laufey is eager to kill Odin, saying “your death comes at the hand of Laufey.”  Loki blasts the king of the Frost Giants, and declares “and yours came by the son of Odin.”  Frigga is thrilled to see Thor when he enters, then he reveals Loki’s treachery.  They take their fight to the Bifrost, which Loki plans to use to destroy Jotunheim.  Thor’s view has changed and he wants to stop Loki.  He initially doesn’t wish to fight his brother, but Loki eggs him on until they begin exchanging blows.  Loki accuses Thor of becoming weak, thanks to human Jane.  He says he never wanted the throne, he just wanted to prove himself a worthy son to Odin, the equal of Thor.  Thor declares this madness.  “Is it?” Loki wonders (again, superb acting).  Thor throws Loki on to the bridge, then places his hammer on him while he figures out what to do.  Loki mocks, what can he do now with all his strength?  Well, there is something Thor can do.  He uses the hammer to smash the rainbow bridge to the Bifrost, destroying it, despite Loki’s protests that Thor will never be able to see Jane again.  But it will save the realms.  The blast knocks them both off the bridge; Thor grabs Loki and Odin grabs Thor.  Loki pleads with their father, “I could have done it, father.  For you.”  Odin sadly says “no,” (not sure why, or what he’s referring to), but Loki lets go of Thor, who cries after his brother.  Loki disappears into the swirling vortex.

Sif comments to Frigga later that Thor mourns his brother, and misses Jane.  Thor speaks to Odin, saying that one day, he may make his father proud, but he still has a lot to learn.  There has been no wiser king, nor better father than Odin, he says.  Odin returns that Thor has already made him proud.  Heimdall consoles his prince that Earth is not wholly lost to them, there is always hope.  We see Jane continuing her research, no doubt trying to bring Thor to her.

The after credits scene is Erik meeting Fury, who shows him a glowing blue cube that combines legend and history.  It is power and Fury wants Erik to study it.  In the background, there is Loki, who is intrigued by this cube as well.

My feelings on this movie?  If it’s not already apparent, I have a definite interest.  I have learned that Marvel played a little fast and loose with typical Norse mythology; not that anyone would be surprised, considering the water downed version of Greek mythology Disney gave us in Hercules.  Truly, the acting is superb, very emotional performances by the main cast.  Anthony Hopkins shows us his range, from angry father, to worried king.  His is a flawed character, to be expected from what little I’ve gleaned of mythology, evident when he tries to talk to Loki.  Thor started as a truly arrogant warrior prince.  Of course he can take on an army of Jotuns with just his four friends and younger brother.  Even if you just take into account this film, Odin clearly saw enough of war and realized that peace was best for the Nine Realms and he is in charge of that.  So for his oldest son to threaten that, to flounce the lessons he tried to instill.  And Thor did grow.  We can see that in how he treated Jane and her friends.  At first, they are simply mortal servants.  Then he helps make breakfast and will let his friends have the glorious battle while he gets innocent people to safety.  He argues Sif away from death in battle; live and tell those stories yourself, he encourages her.  He became worthy of his title and strength; a great message.  And we get some funny scenes of Thor not being so mighty, like getting tased.

And yes, I’ve grown to love Loki, partly because Tom Hiddleston is an adorable human being from what we’ve seen.  He comes across as a cool operator, showing one face while thinking or plotting something else, but in the presence of those he loves, he will breakdown.  He demands the truth from his father and then battles for what he feels is his rightful place that was denied him with his stronger older brother. He doesn’t truly begin to outright lie until later in the movie.  He may manipulate and as Fandral comments, he’s been one for mischief, but not treason.  As most villains go, he’s fine until he reaches a breaking point.  And that was discovering his ancestry.  Yet, he still wants to be a hero.  He wants to save his father and this is all about proving himself to Odin.  He delayed Thor’s coronation because he felt Thor is not right for the kingdom and if he shows their father Thor sneaking to Jotunheim, Thor will be demoted and Loki will ascend.  His final words before he falls is he was doing it all for Odin.  Odin may have said no because he feels that Loki did this all for Loki, but we do witness later that Loki and Thor were honest brothers.  There was no question as they were children.  There was love and happiness at one time.

Again, I applaud the performances.  As I saw commented somewhere, most likely Pintrest, Thor beautifully balanced magic in the real world.  They exist separately, but this one brings them together without jarring.  (Which is something I am striving for as I work on my fantasy series.)  The arcs are great in this movie, but we can tell that they are really starting to build to something else.

I can make the recommendation to read The Witch’s Heart by new author Genevieve Gornichec (a fairly local woman that I heard about through the faire grapevine), which involves Loki. I will hold off on fanfic recommendation until we’re further into the universe since they all start melding together.

Next Time: Captain America: The First Avenger

“Sir! I’m going to have to ask you to exit the donut!”

Iron Man 2

Our core cast returns, though Rhodey is now played by Don Cheadle (and keeps the gig for the rest of the MCU), and Scarlett Johansson joins as Natalie Rushman/Agent Romanoff.  Tony’s father, Howard makes brief appearances, played by John Slattery.  We pick up essentially where we left off in the previous Iron Man film, at Tony Stark’s press conference where he reveals he’s Iron Man.  There is an old man in Russia watching, who calls his son, Ivan to him.  He has knowledge to share, then passes away.  Ivan then finds Stark blueprints to the Arc Reactor which also bear the name, Anton Vanko.  With the wall of clippings about Stark and Iron Man, we can guess where this is going.  And then Ivan is successful.

Time jump to six months later and Iron Man leaps from a plane, dodges explosions, to land at his dazzling Stark Expo to AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill.  His opening address, he insists, is not about him, but about a legacy; what gets left behind for future generations and that is why for the next year, the expo will host the best and brightest from all nations to pool their resources in hopes of a better future.  Then he shows a video of his father at the last Expo, who claims that technology is the way to better living and the possibility of world peace.  Backstage, Tony is testing his blood toxicity level.  Afterwards, Tony is ordered to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Rival Justin Hammer is called in, as is Rhodey to attempt to give testimony against Tony, but Rhodey knows what game the committee is playing.  They want Tony to hand over the Iron Man suit to the military, or as Senator Stern puts it “to the American people.”  Tony refuses.  They attempt to show evidence of other copy cats out there, including Hammer, and then Tony shows them all failing.  He is confident that he is the only one with the knowledge to make that kind of suit.  He is America’s nuclear deterrent and has successfully privatized world peace.

Meanwhile, in Russia, Ivan is still working and adding whips to his arc reactor.  And back in California, JARVIS informs us that Tony has palladium poisoning, as it is the core of the arc reactor.  The thing that is keeping Tony alive is killing him.  Together they have tried every known element, but nothing is a suitable replacement for the palladium.  Pepper comes down and tries to get answers out of Tony about the company, which he evades, until he flat out tells her he wants her to run the company, to be CEO.  And he’s given it thought, he can name his own successor.  While Tony is boxing with Happy later, Pepper brings in Natalie Rushman from legal for the transfer.  Tony is obviously taken by the pretty young woman, who can then flip Happy.  He wants her as his new assistant.

Tony’s next stunt is to take over driving his racecar in the Grand Prix in Monaco.  Which is where Ivan Vanko shows up with his laser whips and begins taking out cars on the loop in an effort to get to Tony.  Happy and Pepper dash in with a suitcase that turns into a suit (Happy ramming Ivan a few times) and Tony can take on Ivan.  He then convinces the French police (and no, Robert Downey Jr cannot speak French), to let him interrogate Ivan for five minutes alone.  He muses to Ivan why he didn’t attempt to sell his device on the black market.  Ivan snaps back that the Stark family is full of thieves and butchers and reveals his father was Anton Vanko.  Ivan declares “when you make God bleed, people cease to believe.”  He also knows that the palladium is killing Tony.  Tony leaves.

Hammer then arranges for Ivan to be broken out of prison; he had seen his attack on Tony and instead of being horrified, enjoyed seeing someone try to take Tony down a peg.  He recruits Ivan to build him suits like Tony’s.  Back in California, Pepper knows Tony is hiding something from her, but he won’t outright admit it, so she goes on damage control with Natalie.  Rhodey goes to check on Tony and discovers that Tony is not feeling well, but again, Tony won’t say anything.  Rhodey insists he doesn’t have to do this alone.  Tony retorts that “contrary to popular believe, I know exactly what I’m doing.”  JARVIS also helps Tony research Anton and Ivan Vanko, but they don’t glean a lot of information.  Tony goes through with his birthday party, acting like the masses expect an eccentric billionaire to act.  Rhodey steps in, in another suit to get Tony to stop while Tony has the DJ play Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust.  Rhodey knocks Tony out and flies the new suit to an Air Force base.  The Air Force calls Hammer in to weaponize the suit, where he makes a ridiculous weapons’ demonstration.  Hammer is thrilled to be working with Stark tech, considering that Ivan is now making his suits drones.

This is where S.H.I.E.L.D. steps in; Nick Fury talks sense into Tony and reveals that Natalie Rushman is Agent Romanoff, stationed at Stark Industries to keep on eye on Tony.  They can get him back to working with an injection, but it’s not a cure.  Nick further reveals that he knew Howard Stark, who was actually a founding member of S.H.E.I.L.D.; yes, Anton Vanko used to work with Howard, but saw the arc reactor as a weapon, not energy, and was in it for the money.  Howard is the reason Anton was sent to Siberia and his life declined.  Furthermore, Howard once told Nick that Tony was the hope of the future.  Tony doesn’t quite agree with this; he remembers his father as cold and never said he liked him.  Nevertheless, Fury has other problems to be dealing with and leaves Agent Coulson in charge.  “I got my eye on you,” he warns Tony.  Tony does as he’s instructed and goes through Howard’s notebook and watches the reels that are left, mainly of outtakes of his Expo introduction [which honestly remind me of videos I have seen of Walt Disney introducing Disney World…not wholly ironic, considering that Disney now owns Marvel].  At the end of the reel is a message that Howard leaves for Tony; all of what he was building was for Tony; it is the key to the future, he says.  And above all, his greatest creation was Tony [there exists a version where Howard is holding a young sleeping Tony as he says this; apparently available with the Infinity boxed set…or on YouTube].  So Tony takes a quick trip in to Stark Industries, in attempt to apologize to Pepper and maybe explain.  But it comes out wrong and she sends him home.  Though on the way out, he catches sight of the old Stark Expo models.  And they give him an idea.  At home he makes a digital model he can manipulate and the layout is actually the atom of a new element.  Coulson stops in long enough to say he’s heading to New Mexico, after using a shield to prop up the coils Tony is using.  Of course Tony makes his own system to synthesize the new element after JARVIS tells him it’s impossible.  And it works, with a few mishaps.

Hammer is not happy with Ivan, who doesn’t deliver on what he said he would.  His drones will only be suitable for presentation, not demonstration.  Hammer is mollified since he has a new suit to kick things off with, but he sets guards on Ivan while he heads out to the Expo.  (Really dude, you didn’t think this ex-convict would try to double cross you?  Are you that dumb?)  After Ivan takes care of his guards, he calls Tony and Tony realizes what Hammer has been up to and the danger that is looming.  Tests will have to wait on the new care (which is a new shape as well), he shoves it in and suits up.  Tony arrives in the middle of Hammer’s military presentation and manages to warn Rhodey before the new suit shuts Rhodey out and the drones actually open fire.  Tony flies off to draw fire away from civilians and evades what he can.  [SPOILER: the kid that has an Iron Man mask on, that Tony saves, is a young Peter Parker, confirmed by Tom Holland and Marvel studios, which a lot of fans theorized for years.]   Pepper confronts Hammer behind the scenes and Natalie heads to his headquarters with Happy.  Happy keeps one guard busy while Agent Romanoff kicks butt.  But Ivan has escaped, though she manages to override his code to Rhodey’s suit so the friends can take on the rest of the drones, and dropping the bomb that Tony had been dying, freaking Pepper out momentarily.  Their last opponent is Ivan in a new suit with larger whips.  The blast from their two hands manages to take him out, yet he had rigged the drones to blow, so Tony races off to rescue Pepper.

Their argument on the rooftop results in a kiss, interrupted by Rhodey.  Afterwards, Tony meets with Fury and while he is not recommended for the Avengers Initiative at this time, they would like him to be a consultant.  The film closes out on a presentation for Rhodey and Tony by Senator Sterns to Highway to Hell by AC/DC, and the after credits scene is Coulson’s arrival to New Mexico (the license plate confirming it is the Land of Enchantment as Tony joked).  There is a carter holding a hammer and Coulson remarks “we found it.”

Overall, I still enjoy this film.  Does Tony act like an idiot at times?  Yes.  Do we forgive him a little considering he was dying?  A bit.  On the one hand, it looks like he doesn’t trust those who truly care about him, but in reality, he does.  He trusts Pepper to run him company.  He trusts Rhodey to have a suit, because he certainly could have made it impossible for Rhodey to take one if he really wanted.  He is looking out for the future and what mess he’ll leave behind and he’d rather be remembered as that crazy billionaire who went out in a bang.  He’s just bad at actually having serious conversations with those closest to him.

Next Time: Thor

“They fly now?!” “They fly now.”

The Rise of Skywalker

Richard Grant (he’s been in Downton Abbey and Doctor Who) joins in as General Pryde.  Billy Dee Williams is back as Lando Calrissian!  Yes, that is Dominic Monaghan (Charlie in LOST and Merry in Lord of the Rings [I forgot he was in this and looked and told the screen “Hi Merry!”]) as Beaumont.  Denis Lawson makes an appearance as Wedge Antilles once again and even John Williams, the composer, cameos in the festival.  And yes, Ian McDiarmid is back as Emperor Palpatine.

We open finding out there are mysterious broadcasts of the Emperor making their way into the galaxy.  Leia sends Poe and Finn to gather intelligence.  Kylo Ren also searches for the Emperor, determined to destroy any threat to his power.  We find him slaughtering a group in order to obtain a Sith wayfinder (I thought it was a Holocron because I know those exist).  It leads him to a Sith Temple and Palpatine.  Kylo voices his vow to kill the former Emperor [while the young man is determined to follow in Darth Vader’s path, he still has several reasons to be rid of Darth Sidious; I’m sure some part of him recalls stories his parents and uncle told him that boil down to “this man should not be allowed to live.”].  But Palpatine explains that he is the mastermind behind everything.  He created Snoke; he’s been every voice inside Kylo’s head.  (So just like Anakin, Palpatine brought about the turning of a Skywalker.)  He reiterates: “The Dark Side of the Forces is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.”  Like, creepy cloning.  The Sith Lord promises to give everything to Kylo; they’ll make a new Empire (which is the last thing we want to hear).  He raises a massive fleet of ships that have been worked on in secret and the Imperial March plays again.  But first, Kylo must “kill the girl,” and end the Jedi.  Only then will he become what Vader could not and rule as the new Emperor (and no one believes that.  He promised that to Vader…again, Sidious has a habit of breaking his promises once someone new comes along).  And the big question of the hour, who is Rey?

Poe and Finn discover that there is a spy within the First Order, who passes information through a middle man.  Have to say, it’s nice to see Finn, Poe, and Chewie working as a team on the Millennium Falcon.  Poe’s even got crazy moves to pull, like lightspeed skipping.  Meanwhile, Leia is training Rey.  Rey’s attempting to contact previous Jedi, whispering “be with me.”  They don’t answer.  And the connection between Rey and Kylo still exists and may be influencing Rey.  She has visions during her training run and doesn’t possess the quiet calm of a true master.  But she vows to Leia, “I will earn your brother’s saber, one day.”  For now, she banters with Poe about the Falcon being on fire (this bit is fun).  Poe argues that they need Rey out fighting, not training.  But he does confirm that Palpatine is alive and is coming for the rest of the galaxy.  They need to find Exogol, the hidden world of the Sith.

Rey recalls that Luke had been attempting that before he went into hiding.  He left notes, including about a Sith wayfinder.  Finn and Poe insist on going with Rey.  There is a touching farewell between Leia and Rey; hugging and Leia whispering to Rey “never be afraid of who you are.”  [Leia was achieved in this film with unused footage from Force Awakens and her role had to be downsized due to the passing of Carrie Fisher.]  Our heroes land on another desert planet and run into an old friend; Lando.  He rescues them when the First Order gets on their trail.  They’re tracking an old Jedi hunter and Rey vaguely recognizes the ship.  A serious of mishaps lead them to a Sith dagger, inscribed with the location of the wayfinder.  3PO can read the dagger, but it’s against his programming to speak the language of the Sith.  Chewie is sadly captured and Rey faces off against Kylo, who is still speaking to Rey, asking her to turn to the Dark Side.  Palpatine wants to kill her.  They fight over the transport carrying Chewie and Kylo pushes Rey.  She inadvertently uses lighting and blows up the carrier.  Poe, Finn, and Rey do manage to escape and Rey begins to fear where her path is leading.  She admits to Finn she had a vision of herself and Kylo both on the throne of the Sith.

Lucky for us, there was another transport and Chewbacca is alive!  Unfortunately, he’s now a prisoner aboard Pryde’s ship and they have possession of the Falcon.  Our trio of heroes take 3PO to bypass his memory so they can get the directions (and Poe’s backstory gets changed).  The downside is, it would cause a complete memory wipe, so 3PO takes one last look at his friends.  They get their information and yep, 3PO is back to introducing himself.  And Rey senses Chewie is alive!  So they mount a rescue mission.  Rey goes after the dagger and finds it in Kylo’s quarters.  There is a face off between them (through the Force since Kylo is on the planet).  Finn and Poe manage to free Chewie, then they’re captured.  They are in turn freed by the First Order spy, General Hux.  He’s not in it for the Resistance; he just doesn’t want Kylo to win.  Hux doesn’t last long after that; Pryde figures it out and shoots him.  But the Falcon manages to escape, Rey jumping aboard at the last second, still resisting Kylo.  He has managed to pass along useful information; Palpatine wants Rey dead because she is a threat to his power.  She has his power; she is his granddaughter.  Between Rey and Kylo, they make a dyad in the Force.  Kylo figures together they could kill Palpatine and rule the galaxy.  Rey is disinclined to acquiesce to his request.

The path to Exogol starts in the Endor system, with the crash site of the second Death Star.  Rey’s very determined to destroy Palpatine and plows ahead alone.  Finn discovers there are other stormtrooper defectors and they all rush after Rey.  [I do wonder what it would have been like if Luke had discovered the wreckage, considering all that had happened.]  She manages to find the second wayfinder, but receives a vision of herself as a Sith, with a double-edged lightsaber.  That leads her to Kylo.  He points out how the Dark Side is calling to her; neither of them can return to Leia now.  He crushes the wayfinder, so the only way to Exogol is with him.  They duel; it’s an angry duel, with little of the finesse the prequels or original trilogy carried.  This is about stunts and new moves.  Rey is tired, which Leia must sense, so she reaches out to her son, causing a moment of distraction for him.  Rey capitalizes on it and stabs Kylo.  And instantly regrets it.  This is not the way of the Jedi; she’s giving in to her anger and hate, like a Sith.  She heals him (which uses a bit of her own life…just like magic, these deeds have a price).  Afterward, she can sense that Leia has passed.  Rey admits that she wanted to take his hand, but as Ben.  Instead, she takes his ship.

Finn, Poe, and Chewie return to their base and are informed that Leia has passed.  Gosh, you want to cry alongside Chewie with his howl of grief.  Back on the destroyed Death Star, Han appears to Kylo.  “Hey kid.”  Father and son have another conversation, Han telling him to come home.  While Leia may be gone, what she fought for is not gone.  Ben repeats “I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.”  A mirror of their last encounter, Han reaches out for his son and Ben holds out his lightsaber.  “Dad,” he pleads.  Then tosses the lightsaber away.  When he turns back around, Han is gone.

Poe struggles to accept the position that Leia left for him.  He doesn’t know how to do what she did.  He’s not ready.  Lando comforts him; none of them were ready.  All they had were each other and that’s how they won.  Rey’s taken Kylo’s ship to Luke’s island to burn.  She throws Luke’s lightsaber, but Luke’s Force ghost catches it.  He was wrong to hide away and it is wrong for Rey to hide now.  They’re just running for their fears.  Rey is afraid of herself.  But Leia always sensed who Rey truly was; she saw past the name of Palpatine and saw Rey’s spirit and heart.  [Leia had her own struggle accepting herself as Vader’s daughter, detailed in Tatooine Ghost.]  There are some things stronger than blood and confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi.  Luke guides Rey to Leia’s lightsaber, hidden away when she sensed Ben’s fall.  Rey pulls out the wayfinder, but she still needs a ship.  Luke raises his X-Wing from the water (to the same music as Empire).

Rey sends her course to the Resistance so they can follow to Exogol.  (Oh, and R2 restores 3PO’s memories.  Yay, cause that was sad when he didn’t remember.)  Poe and Finn are now generals; they’ll lead the Resistance fleet.  Their plan is to knock out the navigation tower.  Chewie and Lando will take the Falcon and raise hope (and reinforcements).  Poe rallies the fighters:

“Good people will fight if we lead them.  Leia never gave up.  And neither have we.  We’re going to show them we’re not afraid.  What our mothers and fathers fought for, we will not let die.  Not today.  Today, we make our last stand.  For the galaxy.  For Leia.  For everyone we’ve lost.” 

They will take the war to the First Order (cue triumphant theme!)

Rey arrives on Exogol, the Resistance behind her.  They begin their ground assault on the command ship (a bit odd), aided by the other former stormtroopers (turns out, they were children stolen from their homes; one First Order officer referred to it as “harvesting the young.”)  The fleet will fire on the cruisers while they’re stuck in atmosphere for a few minutes.  And these new ships all have the power to blow up a planet, making it even more important to wipe them out.  Rey discovers the Sith throne, and life-supported Palpatine.  He didn’t want to kill Rey, he wanted her to join him.  “Strike me down,” and his spirit will pass into Rey, along with all the spirits of the Sith.  She will be the new Empress.  Rey refuses; she won’t hate.  Palpatine warns that he is her only family and turning will be the only way to save her friends.

Ben arrives (in an old TIE fighter) and faces off against the Knights of Ren.  At first, armed only with a blaster (yeah, that’s Han Solo’s kid).  But when it looks like Rey will strike down the Emperor, she instead passes Luke’s lightsaber (they managed to fix it at some point) to Ben.  Now it’s an even match between him and the Knights.  Rey then pulls out Leia’s saber and takes on the Red Guards.  Ben makes his way to Rey’s side and they face the Emperor.  “Stand together, die together,” he declares and sucks the life out of them, rejuvenating himself since they are more powerful as a dyad.

Just when Poe begins to lose hope that they are outnumbered, Lando arrives with an entire host of ships (apparently, the Ghost from Rebels is in that crowd, as is Tantive IV from the opening of New Hope).  Even Wedge Antilles is back.  But Palpatine is winning against the young couple.  He throws Kylo into a pit, “so falls the last Skywalker” (and getting revenge for Anakin’s final act against him), then shoots electricity into the Resistance, causing their ships to fall.  Rey murmurs “be with me.”  She hears the voices of Jedi past [reprised by their original actors]; Mace Windu, Qui-Gon Jinn, Ashoka, Kanan Jarrus, Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi (both as Ewan McGreggor and Sir Alec Guiness), urging her to rise.  “These are your final steps, Rey,” Obi-Wan starts.  Anakin tells her to bring balance, like he did.  Mace and Yoda both assure her she’s never been alone.  “Every Jedi who has ever lived, lives in you,” Qui-Gon tells her.  Kanan encourages “in the heart of a Jedi, lies their strength.” And Luke gives her the last words of wisdom: “the Force will be with you, always,” like Obi-Wan told him before blowing the Death Star.  [This is the most epic part of the entire movie.]  Rey rises up against Palpatine and calls the first saber to her hand.  She stands against his onslaught of lightning, bringing the second saber to her hand as well.  Palpatine declares “I am all the Sith!”  Rey retorts, “and I am all the Jedi.”  Palpatine disintegrates in his own lightning.  The Resistance can fly again and they hit the fleet hard.  Finn and his buddies knock out the command ship.  Poe goes after them to rescue Finn, but Lando is faster in the Falcon.

Palpatine’s destruction also brings about the destruction of the Sith temple.  Rey collapses and Finn can sense it (it’s been confirmed that Finn is Force-sensitive and that’s what he wanted to tell Rey before they were swallowed in the desert.)  But Ben climbs up and crawls over to Rey.  He takes her in his arms; she’s limp and her eyes are unseeing.  He calms himself and Rey eventually rises again.  She’s surprised and touches his face, calling him Ben.  They share a kiss and Ben even smiles (he looks better when he smiles).  But then Ben falls back.  His body disappears, as does Leia’s back at the base [point of reference, not all Jedi do that.  Qui-Gon didn’t, Dooku didn’t, Vader didn’t.  Probably got something to do with their power in the Force.]  Rey flies away and we once again see celebrations on Endor (complete with Wicket), Coruscant, and Jakku.

Back at the base, everyone is hugging.  Chewie finally gets a medal.  And it is so good to see Rey land Luke’s X-Wing.  The trio share an emotional hug (and it’s wonderful.)  Rey has one last errand; the Falcon flies over Tatooine again.  She finds the old Lars homestead (back where it all started…so heartwarming), wraps up Leia’s and Luke’s sabers and buries them in the sand.  She has a new saber made from her old staff, with a yellow blade.  An old woman passes by and asks Rey “who are you?”  “Rey,” she simply replies.  “Rey who?”  Luke and Leia’s Force ghosts look on as Rey chooses to name herself “Rey Skywalker.”  She’s found her family.  The theme plays and we once again look at twin sunsets.  (And a magnificent finale theme on the soundtrack; you want to cheer when you hear the original theme play again.  I’ll admit The March of the Resistance has grown on me.)  And I certainly hope that Rey is not staying on Tatooine long; she needs to get back to her new family with Finn, Poe, and Chewie.

I liked that Finn and Poe got more main action in this film; they felt like side characters in the last one.  Yes, Rey is the main character, but it would be bland if she’s the only one who does anything.  They all had their own mission in this film and important ones.  Poe and Finn work well together and while they’d prefer to have Rey nearby, they can survive without her.  In regards to shipping…I know there are wars going on amongst fans; I’m fairly open minded.  I did not mind the kiss between Ben and Rey because it was Ben, not Kylo.  Totally appropriate considering he just saved her life.  And if it was Ben, I could see a relationship between Rey and Ben.  It would have been a fun story to see those two grow up together.  I’m also okay with Rey paired with Finn or Poe (or both, or Finn and Poe together because they totally give off those vibes.  And Finn revealing he senses the Force is a much better reveal than him being in love with Rey because that’s a bit too cliched).  The movies are written well enough that there are a lot of options.

My thoughts on Palpatine being the ultimate big bad…it does bring all nine episodes into one arc; he was the big bad of I through VI and with VII, VIII, and IX being a direct continuation of those, it makes some sense.  On the other hand, it feels like a bit of a cop out.  Though I guess it makes more sense than figuring out a whole new villain, since Snoke was killed in Last Jedi.  But it does make one scratch their head because how did he survive the second Death Star?  He got thrown down a reactor (or something) and then the thing blew up.  Is this one a clone?  Was that one a clone?  And the whole cloning thing; the universe already proved that stable clones could be produced, so why are Palpatine’s all messed up?  Is it the Dark Side of the Force?

On the revelation that Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter; first, ew.  On so many levels.  Technically, it makes it a compelling story when Rey won’t turn and instead defeats Palpatine.  However, I’d much rather go with the fan theory that she was Obi-Wan’s granddaughter; it would explain her strength in the Force.  And give her a connection to the Skywalker clan considering Obi-Wan’s presences in Anakin and Luke’s lives.  There was also the theory that she was Leia and Han’s second child, which has some basis in the Extended Legends universe.  That would make the kiss at the end of the movie very awkward, but they’ve already gone there once.  But, Kylo would know his own sister.  Then there was the theory that she was Luke’s daughter (and in the Extended Legends universe, Luke married Mara Jade and had a son, so again, weaving in those elements fan were already familiar with).  There is a strong connection between Luke and Rey and she is incredibly strong in the Force; but Kylo’s knowledge is again a sticking point.  Some fans would argue that it would make a more compelling story for her parents to be completely unrelated to any of the main characters; there are more Force-sensitive beings out there than just the Skywalker clan.  But Anakin did have an incredibly high midi-cholrian count and was destined to bring balance to the Force.

I would have to say this is my favorite of the sequel trilogy.  It has the most compelling story and I love all the bits and pieces they brought in from the original trilogy (though someone give Chewie a hug).  Gotta smile when Luke raises his X-Wing like Yoda did.

Up Next: I start the Superhero section.  I’ll begin with DC, since there is a lot to unpack with Marvel.  X-Men will get thrown in the middle.  To start, let’s dive into Batman, with the animated series Batman Beyond.

“Some things never change.” “True, you still drive me crazy.”

The Force Awakens

The first of the sequel trilogy.  We’re introduced to Daisy Ridley as Rey, Oscar Isaac (he was Prince John in Robin Hood with Russell Crowe) as Poe Dameron, John Boyega as Finn, and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren.  Domhnall Gleeson (eldest son Bill of the Weasley family in Harry Potter) is General Hux, Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia in Black Panther) voices Maz Kanata, Andy Serkis (Gollum in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, as well as making an appearance in Black Panther…and apparently in the new Batman movie coming out) is Supreme Leader Snoke.  Gwendolyn Christie (Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones) is under the helmet of Captain Phasma.  Also from Robin Hood and Game of Thrones is Max von Sydow (he was Sir Walter Loxley in Robin Hood and the Three-Eyed Raven in Game of Thrones) as Lor San Tekka.  Familiar faces from other franchises include Simon Pegg (Scotty in Star Trek) is Unkar Plutt and Kiran Shah (he’s been scale doubles in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, and Ginarrbrik in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe) is Teedo.  Warwick Davis also pops up and yes, Daniel Craig hides out as one of the stormtroopers.  Anthony Daniels returns as C-3PO, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, and the old gang of Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill is back together (I find it interesting in the ending credits that they appear first) …and honestly, this is why I watched.  J.J. Abrams of the NuStar Trek films directed this film.

The film opens with “Luke Skywalker has vanished.”  (That certainly catches our attention.)  “In his absences, the sinister FIRST ORDER has risen from the ashes of the Empire and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi [thought he was first of the new as of the end of Return of the Jedi?  Wasn’t that the whole point?  And fans know there are others out there!] has been destroyed.”  General Leia Organa [pretty sure there should be a “Solo” in there] leads the brave RESITANCE with the support of the Republic and hopes to “find Luke and restore peace and justice to the galaxy.”  [Pretty sure they already did that.]  Anyways, a pilot is sent to Jakku [a desert planet, cause there’s more than Tatooine] to find and old ally who has a clue to Luke’s whereabouts.  We continue the trend to open a Star Wars movie with a large ship.  And we still have stormtroopers, though their helmets have changed a little (and now a car mimics that).

We’re introduced to the BB-8 droid who brings us to the pilot speaking to an old man.  With no Jedi, he cautions, there is no balance to the Force [um, wasn’t that solved by the whole Anakin/Vader storyline?  Seriously, why is this an issue?]  The old man gives the pilot an information stick and warns him to leave.  The First Order has arrived.  And lays waste to the village, led by a black-robed figure.  We do see one trooper get startled and not fire on the village.  The pilot attempts to escape, but his ship is damaged.  The information is given to BB-8 and the pilot is captured.  The old man (Lor San Tekka) stands up to the dark figure; he knew him before he took the name Kylo Ren, he was not originally from the Dark Side.  He cannot deny the truth of his family (hint hint).  However, he is impaled by a red lightsaber.

We follow the new stormtrooper as they return to a Star Destroyer and briefly meet his female captain.  We can already sense he is not like most stormtroopers and are later rewarded when he breaks the pilot out, after interrogation with Kylo Ren.  Kylo and the Frist Order, led by General Hux, start hunting for the BB-8 unit.

Which is still on Jakku and meets a young scavenger.  There is a crashed Star Destroyer and AT-AT on the planet and the young woman wears an old Rebel helmet at times.  She rescues BB-8 and won’t sell him even when she would be given more food.  But, someone calls in that the droid is on the planet and events really kick off.  The pilot, Poe, and the trooper, now named Finn manage to escape, but soon after crash back on Jakku.  They’re separated and we fear Poe is dead.  So now Finn is taking up the mission to find the BB-8 unit…well, mainly he wants to get away from the First Order.  But he literally runs into the young woman, Rey, and BB-8.  And they keep running when troopers land.  They need to get off planet and the garbage ship will have to do.  Turns out the “garbage ship” is the Millennium Falcon [and fans cheer!].  Finn and Rey work well together to escape the First Order.  Finn doesn’t admit to Rey that he’s a former stormtrooper and plays along with being from the Resistance.  Then they’re captured.  By Han and Chewie [more cheers and just about the best scene of the film!  Cue old theme!]  “We’re home,” Han tells his old friend. 

They discover Finn and Rey and then have to escape from trouble that followed Han (that hasn’t changed).  Finn knows Han as the Rebellion general and war hero.  Rey knows him as a smuggler (he’s both, and we love him for it).  Rey proves very useful onboard the Falcon, though when she asks Han if his plan will work, he retorts “I never ask that until after I’ve done it.”  The information still gets back to the First Order and the Falcon races off.  Han fills in a few questions.  Luke was training the new generation of Jedi when one betrayed him.  He felt responsible and so he hid [not a smart or wise move, Luke], under the guise of looking for the first Jedi Temple.  Han has also come around to the Force; he used to disbelieve, but he saw too many things.  So yes, he will help Finn and Rey.  He even offers Rey a job, but she counters with the need to return to Jakku.

Within the First Order, Hux and Kylo report to Supreme Leader Snoke (well, the giant hologram of him).  Snoke tells Hux to use their new weapon on the Republic.  His conversation with Kylo centers on the concern of new Jedi rising.  “There’s been an awakening.”  And acknowledgement that Han Solo is the father of Kylo Ren.  Kylo apparently turned to the Dark Side to honor his grandfather, Darth Vader.  He even dug up Vader’s old, mishappened helmet from the funeral pyre on Endor [dude!  Did you learn nothing?!].  We hear a few notes of the old Imperial theme and Kylo Ren vows to finish what Vader started.

Han takes his young companions to Maz Kanata.  She jokes that Chewie is her boyfriend (which is adorable), but is intrigued by Han’s companions.  Finn just wants to outrun the First Order and walks away (and two separate side characters inform both the Resistance and the First Order).  Maz is more interested in Rey.  She has seen darkness with the Sith, the Empire, and the First Order (and we wonder how old she is and if she’s Force-sensitive).  All must fight.  When Rey hears a child’s voice, she wanders down an old hallway and finds a chest.  It’s calling to her.  Inside the chest is a lightsaber.  Rey sees and hears the past [this scene is also very cool; though it also calls into question, how does Maz have Anakin/Luke’s old lightsaber, the one he lost with his hand on Cloud City?  But we do get to hear Alec Guiness and Ewan McGregor for a second].  Rey does not want the lightsaber, even when Maz tells her that the people she is looking for are not returning to Jakku.

Their discussion is interrupted by the arrival of the First Order.  Hux has stirred them into a frenzy [very reminiscent of Hitler].  He claims that the Republic will fall [already tried that] and they have a new weapon, even bigger than the Death Star [cause that worked so well the last time…and honestly, that bit confuses me].  Finn takes the lightsaber from Maz and faces some of his old friends.  Rey runs into the forest and BB-8 follows her.  She sends the droid into hiding so the First Order can’t get ahold of the map he holds.  Finn, Han, and Chewie are briefly captured, but the Resistance is to the rescue (led by Poe, hurray)!  [The music is similar to the bit the occurs in the Attack of the Clones soundtrack where we pan over the clones before the Imperial March kicks in…I’ve obviously listened to the soundtracks too much, but it’s a nice tie-in to the prequel trilogy and a very “good guy” sound].

But Kylo finds Rey in the forest.  He senses that she has seen the map, so he takes her.  Finn sees them briefly, but can’t get to them.  Leia arrives with the Resistance and reunites with Han [and I’d really like to know how exactly things broke up].  Chewie comes up and gives her a hug.  Han admits that he saw him; he saw their son.  BB-8 is happily reunited with Poe, as is Finn.  Those two even exchange a hug [release the shippers!]  The Resistance begins their plans.  Finn says he knows the base that Rey was taken to.  Han is trying to help, but Leia doesn’t quite believe him (she doesn’t count the Death Star).  We get a glimpse of R2, but 3PO doesn’t have much hope of him waking up, the droid shut down after Luke left.

Han and Leia continue their conversation.  Han feels there is too much Vader in their son.  Leia hoped that Luke could train him; however, she should have never sent him away because she ended up losing both her son and her husband.  It seems that when their son turned, the couple split and they both went back to what they knew.  But they haven’t been truly happy since.  And much like her brother, Leia believes that Kylo can be saved; and Han is the one to do it.  He’s the boy’s father.

We see Kylo take his mask off and he’s not disfigured; he doesn’t wear it for the reason that Anakin/Vader did.  However, he most likely wears it to hide his true identity and a black mask with a deep voice is intimidating, Vader proved that.  Kylo tries to persuade Rey to give him the information he seeks.  He could take it by Force (literally), but he’s also trying to bring Rey to the Dark Side.  Rey uses her burgeoning powers (she has to be Force sensitive to sense Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber and to have Jedi from the past speak to her) to read that Kylo is afraid he will never be as strong as Vader.  Snoke instructs Kylo to bring Rey to him to teach [just like Sidious/Palpatine instructed Vader to bring Luke.]  Rey is able to influence a stormtrooper [Daniel Craig] in freeing her and escaping on her own (you go girl!)

Han takes Finn to the First Order base [which is a planet, somehow?  Powered by the sun?  Still so confused] in hopes of destroying it while the Resistance fleet follows, much like a Death Star run.  Leia hugs Han goodbye; she hates watching him leave, but she asks him to bring home their son (and we’re treated to a reprise of their theme, yay).  Han crashes the Falcon a bit and Kylo senses his father has arrived.  And then throws a tantrum when he realizes Rey has escaped.  However, Finn’s true plan was just to rescue Rey.  But he figures they can “use the Force.”  Han bites back “that’s not how the Force works.”  [Ok, that part is funny.]  They end up capturing Captain Phasma and bring down the shields.  Han suggests putting her down a garbage chute and through a trash compactor [also funny].  But Rey’s got everything under control.  The guys find her and they decide to stay and blow up the base.  “Escape now.  Hug later,” Han tells the young people.

Kylo meets up with his father.  And turns out his name is actually Ben.  Han tells him to take off his mask and show him his son’s face.  Kylo retorts that Ben is gone, he was weak and foolish like his father (and he had remarked to Rey earlier that Han would disappoint her as a father…I really want to know what happened while they were a family).  Han tries to get Ben to see sense; Snoke is only using him and he’ll dispose of him one his use is completed.  Kylo insists it is too late.  Han tells his son, “no, come home.”  And the young man is so confused; he has tears in his eyes and he feels like he’s being torn apart.  All is wants is to be free of the pain.  “I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.”  He asks his father for help and Han answers “yes, anything.”  And Ben drops the mask and holds out his lightsaber to his father.  Han steps closer….And Kylo runs him through.  Chewie shouts.  Rey cries out.  Leia senses her husband’s death.

But they must complete their mission.  The detonators go off and the base begins to crumble.  The Resistance fleet hits it.  Kylo goes after Rey and Finn.  Rey calls him a monster and Kylo knocks her out.  Finn takes up the lightsaber again.  Kylo feels it belongs to him, he wants it back.  They duel for a minute, but Kylo is better trained and burns Finn’s shoulder and slices his back.  Rey is back up and there is a Force face-off between her and Kylo for the blue lightsaber (and we hear the Force theme).  Rey wins and attacks.  Kylo is wounded but still tries to turn Rey; she needs a teacher, she doesn’t understand this power she has.  She attacks again and manages to strike Kylo and scar his face.  Before she can wield a final blow, the planet begins to break apart and a gulf erupts between them (also very metaphorical.)  She runs back to Finn and Chewie rescues them in the Falcon.  They lead Poe and the other pilots away from the explosion.  Kylo has survived and Hux retrieves him per Snoke’s orders.  Snoke will complete Kylo’s training.

Back with the Resistance, R2 has woken up.  He has the rest of the map, so with BB-8’s piece, they have a complete route to Luke.  Leia sends Rey; an echo of A New Hope theme from the end of Revenge of the Sith plays as Leia wishes her “May the Force be with you.”  Chewie and Rey take the Falcon to a series of islands [actually the Skellig islands in Ireland, a UNESCO World Heritage site and they had to get special permission to film…also, that seemed like a short lightspeed trip].  Rey climbs up one to a cloaked figure and holds out the lightsaber.  The figure turns around with a metallic hand; it is Luke.  The Force theme swells, then switches to the main theme and credits roll.

My main issue with The Force Awakens and the sequel trilogy as a whole is that it recycles so much of the original trilogy.  It takes place thirty years after the Empire fell; why have things not changed or gotten better?  And if the New Republic opposes the First Order, why is there the need for the Resistance?  Isn’t that redundant?  The prequel trilogy at least had a different story line.  And more awesome music.  It’s great to hear the familiar themes after a decade, but Phantom Menace brough us Duel of the Fates.  There’s no new signature piece for Force Awakens.  Still love John Williams (and super stoked that he may be writing the music for the Kenobi series, which I eagerly await…that is about the only new Star Wars show I plan on watching [considering I don’t have time to re-watch shows I love and I still need to catch up on Marvel, Star Wars falls to the wayside]).

There are admittedly elements of the film that I liked.  I like that the lead is a female.  I think the young stars performed well.  I loved seeing Han again, but I wished we could have seen the other two a bit more.  Luke and Han don’t get to reunite.  However, this is supposed to introduce the new generation, so they should be the focus.  You should check out Jill Bearup’s video on YouTube about the fight between Finn, Kylo, and Rey (her videos are just awesome in general).  For a minute, I truly thought that Kylo would turn back to the Light and I think it still could have worked story-wise, that Han’s love as a father could bring his son back.  It worked the other direction, though admittedly it took several films.  And this technically makes sense story wise as well; just, seeing Han die made me sad, it truly was a shock the first time.  Harrison’s been asking for it since Empire Strikes Back; at least he played a good-sized role in this film.  I also appreciate that some elements from the former Expanded Universe are used in the sequels; such as a son of Han and Leia’s turning to the Dark Side.  In the books, it was Jacen, twin of Jania.  He also leads Ben Skywalker to the Dark Side.  Though, I have to shout “have you learned nothing?!”  Like, how do you not know that this is a bad idea?

Next Time: The Last Jedi  [I cannot keep these straight]

“I’m out of it for a little while and everyone gets delusions of grandeur!”

Return of the Jedi

The film was originally planned to be titled Revenge of the Jedi, but George Lucas decided that revenge was not the Jedi way.  That title got recycled as Revenge of the Sith, because revenge is definitely the way of the Sith.  Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick and Griphook in Harry Potter; he was in an episode of Merlin; Nikabrik in Prince Caspian) joins as Wicket [he was eleven years old].  Kenny Baker (R2) joins as another Ewok.  And my apologies, I forgot to mention in the previous write-up that Billy Dee Williams is the rascal Lando Calrissian.

While the Empire builds another Death Star (because the last one worked out so well), Vader arrives to put them back on schedule and announces that Emperor Palpatine himself will be joining him.  Luke returns to Tatooine to stage his rescue of Han and sends C-3PO and R2-D2 to Jabba’s palace.  His message gives them as gifts to Jabba and they are put to work.  Then a bounty hunter shows up with Chewie to collect the bounty.  They haggle over price and the bounty hunter wins when he threatens to blow everyone up with a thermal detonator.  Turns out, the bounty hunter is Leia, who sneaks down to free Han from carbonite in the evening.  Han is temporarily blind due to hibernation sickness, but he recognizes Leia’s voice when she says “someone who loves you.”  But their reunion is interrupted by Jabba.  He imprisons Han with Chewie and takes Leia as a slave (complete with impractical attire).  Han is a bit disbelieving when Chewie informs that Luke has a plan; “Luke’s crazy!  He can’t even take care of himself, let alone rescue anybody.”  Luke shows up the next day dressed in all black (interesting style choice) to once again barter for his friends, introducing himself as a Jedi Knight and using their tricks.  But mind tricks won’t work on the Hutts and so Jabba dumps Luke into a rancor pit (and that this is creepy).  Luke’s still got his old tricks and throws a rock at the controls to bring the gate down on the creature.  The gang is all back together and Jabba sentences Luke, Han, and Chewie to death in the Sarlacc pit.

When Luke is about to be pushed into the pit, he salutes R2, who ejects his new green lightsaber, and Luke flips into action (cue hero theme!).  Lando gets to take his mask off, but falls overboard while fighting, so Han and Chewie try their best to rescue him.  Han even inadvertently knocks Boba Fett off the barge and into the pit (he survived somehow, and that was even before these new shows started coming out).  Leia seizes the opportunity, and her chain, and chokes Jabba to death.  Luke boards to rescue her and they swing away as they blow up the sail barge (call back to A New Hope).  Luke returns to Dagobah to complete his training, but Yoda is dying.  “When 900 years old, you reach, look as good, you will not,” he comments.  He also tells the young man that he has all the knowledge he needs to become a Jedi Knight, except he must complete his destiny and confront Vader.  Luke insists he needs to know if Vader was telling the truth.  Yes, Yoda admits, Vader is Luke’s father; and the wizened Master repeats his warning about the Dark Side.  Do not underestimate the Emperor, or Luke will suffer the same fate as his father.  Yoda’s final words to Luke are “there is another Skywalker.”

Obi-Wan pays another visit to Luke and the young man questions him why he didn’t tell him the truth.  Obi-Wan’s argument is that the young man he trained, Anakin Skywalker was destroyed by Vader when he fell to the Dark Side; so it was the truth from a certain point of view.  “You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”  [You could write an entire article on how true that is; no, I’m not volunteering at this point, but I think I tried back in college.  I don’t think it turned out well, since I don’t remember]  Obi-Wan urges Luke to complete the task that he could not (when we go back to the prequels, Obi-Wan argues with Yoda that he cannot kill Anakin).  Luke replies that he cannot kill his own father [maybe Obi-Wan was hoping that if Luke lacked an emotional connection to Vader, it would make the task easier].  Obi-Wan confesses that yes, Luke has a twin sister; they were split up and hidden for their protection from both Vader and the Emperor.  Luke can sense that Leia is his sister.  Obi-Wan’s final warning is for Luke to bury his feelings; they do him credit, but they can be used against him.

The Emperor boards the Death Star and counsels Vader that young Skywalker will come to him.  When he does, Vader is to bring the young man to the Emperor and together they will turn him.  Everything is proceeding as he has foreseen.  However, later, the Emperor cannot sense when Luke is near, not like Vader can.  Palpatine is wondering if Vader’s feelings are clouding his judgment, but insists that Luke’s compassion for his father will be his undoing.

The Rebels prepare for their final attack.  Word has gotten to them that the Death Star is not complete and even better, the Emperor is aboard.  This is the perfect time.  Lando is now a general and is tasked with leading the attack on the Death Star to blow it up (again).  Han is also a general now and is tasked with leading the forces on the forest moon of Endor to knock out the shield generator.  Leia quickly volunteers to accompany him, as does Luke when he shows up.  Han insists that Lando take the Millennium Falcon, it’s the fastest ship in the fleet.  Though he has a strange notion he may not see his beloved ship again and makes Lando promise, not a scratch.

This is me, on a speeder bike display in the Star Wars section of Disney (circa 2007)

There is almost a slight hiccough while the Empire delays granting the stolen ship’s request to land.  And Han’s helpful instruction to Chewie is to “fly casual.”  They run into a bit trouble on the moon when they find some troopers scouting the forest.  Leia and Luke go after two of them and speed through the forest.  They’re separated and only Luke makes it back to Han.  Now they go searching for Leia.  Leia, in the meantime, has met the cute natives of the world, Ewoks (specifically Wicket, but they’re never named on screen).  Wicket helps her escape from more troopers and takes her back to his village.

Chewie gets the men caught in a net (“always thinking with your stomach!”) and they’re surrounded by Ewoks as well.  Who believe that 3PO is a god.  And “it would be against my programming to impersonate a deity,” the fuss bucket tells Han.  So Han, Chewie, and Luke are carted off to the village as well.  Luke uses a Force trick to mimic “magic” and get the Ewoks to set them free before Han can be roasted for dinner.  Leia and Han share a brief kiss and later, 3PO entertains the tribe with a brief retelling of their tale, complete with sound effects.  This gains them membership into the tribe, and some help.  Luke steps out and Leia follows.  Luke reveals that he can sense Vader is near; Leia urges him to run away.  He also reveals that Vader is his father and furthermore, the Force runs strong in his family; his father has it, he has it, and his sister.  Leia muses that she had sensed a connection as well.  Luke wants to try to save Vader; he can still sense good in him.  They part with a kiss on the cheek.  Which Han witnesses.  But Leia can’t tell him what she’s learned, but begs for Han to hold her.

Luke turns himself in to Vader, accepting the truth that Vader is his father.  Well, that Anakin Skywalker was his father.  Vader retorts that “that name no longer has any meaning.”  He examines his son’s new green lightsaber and declares his skills are complete.  But the Emperor will finish his training, in the Dark Side.  Luke cannot underestimate it; Vader must obey his master.  Luke even asks Vader to come away with him.  He tells his father “I will not turn and you will be forced to kill me.”  He feels the conflict within his father.  Vader insists it is too late for him.  And he still takes Luke to the Emperor.  Luke tells Vader “my father is truly dead.” 

The Rebels begin their space attack, but it’s taking a bit of time for Han and his team to get into the shield bunker.  The Ewoks create a distraction by taking one of the speeder bikes.  They make it a few steps in, except there are reinforcements.  (There is the notion amongst the fans that the older guy in Han’s attack group is actually Rex, who we know and love from the Clone Wars series.)  This is all a trap for the Rebels, laid by the Emperor.  Palpatine taunts Luke with the knowledge and urges him to strike him down in anger and descend into the Dark Side.  Luke retorts “your overconfidence is your weakness.”  “And your faith in your friends is yours,” Palpatine hisses.

But the Ewoks are clever creatures and attack the invading Imperials.  They have primitive weapons and for a while, things look bad.  But once Chewie helps a few Ewoks take control of an AT-ST (All Terrain Scout Transport), they gain momentum.  They use ropes to spin a speeder around a tree and clothesline another trooper.  Logs crush one of the walkers [Mythbusters tested this and it worked].  But this is still taking time and Lando urges Admiral Ackbar to give Han more time.  And the fighters unfortunately discover that the Death Star is fully operational when it blows up a large cruiser.  So they have to take on the Star Destroyers first.

Luke can’t take more of watching his friends die, so he calls his lightsaber and aims for the Emperor.  His blade crosses with Vader’s red one and the Emperor chuckles.  Then begins another duel between father and son [and the best one of the original trilogy].  But Luke stops fighting his father.  Vader doesn’t hold back long, even as Luke repeats he feels the conflict within.  Eventually, his thoughts drift back to his friends, and to his sister.  Vader was unaware there was a second child.  Perhaps she will turn easier than her brother.  This enrages Luke and he aggressively attacks, eventually knocking Vader down and slashing at him until he cuts off a hand.  He sees the wires in Vader’s limb, similar to his.  Palpatine laughs.  Luke’s hate has made him powerful.  Now, strike down Vader and become Palpatine’s new apprentice (see how loyal he is to Vader?  He did this with Dooku, if you recall.  This is the problem with the Sith, always backstabbing, completely untrustworthy the lot of them).  “Never,” declares Luke and throws his lightsaber to the side (bad move).  “You failed, your highness.  I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”  Palpatine cackles again and shoots lightning at Luke.

Han and Leia have victory on the moon and blow up the shield (reversing the “I love you”/ “I know” lines, which is adorable).  Now Lando and the fighters can launch their attack.  Wedge is leader of Red squadron and accompanies Lando.  Luke pleads “father, please.”  Vader studies Palpatine and when his master declares “now young Skywalker, you will die,” he shouts “No!” and picks up the maniac.  Lightning surrounds the two and Vader tosses the Sith Lord down the shaft.  Lando and Wedge’s shots ring true and the Death Star begins its’ destruction.  But Vader’s last stand has cost him.  His wheezing is worse and by the time Luke drags him to a shuttle Vader asks his son to help him take this mask off.  He knows he will die, “just for once, let me look on you with my own eyes.”  Anakin has aged, but the scars remain from his last battle.  The Imperial theme plays softly in the background, no longer menacing.  Luke pleads he has to save his father.  “You already have.  Tell your sister, you were right,” and Anakin Skywalker breathes his last.  Luke pilots them out in time.

Leia and Han watch the Death Star explode and Han is quick to assure Leia that Luke wasn’t on it.  She knows.  Very well, he won’t get in the way of the two of them when Luke returns.  No, it’s not like that, Leia reassures Han.  Luke is her brother.  Han gets a delightfully puzzled look on his face and has the most adorable realization after Leia kisses him.  He kisses back enthusiastically, until Wicket interrupts them.  The Ewok horns herald the celebrations, though Luke gives Anakin a funeral pyre alone.  We catch glimpses of Cloud City, Tatooine, Naboo (I’m glad they added Naboo), and Coruscant, where a statue is toppled.  Everyone hugs and Leia and Han cuddle.  Luke glances to the side and see the Force ghosts of both Yoda and Obi-Wan, then joined by Anakin (the new editions use Hayden Christensen, though I kind of agree they should have used the older Anakin from the original release; they used older Obi-Wan.  If you’re going to use Hayden, then use Ewan and heck, throw in Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon.)

A happy ending!  The evil Emperor is destroyed, his henchman is gone, and our heroes are one big happy family.

The story continues “officially” with the sequel trilogy in 2015.  However, before that, fans had the Extended Universe, now called Legends [because Lucas had to throw all that development out the window].  As I’ve stated, this was how I got into Star Wars.  I’ve already mentioned the Jedi Apprentice series by Jude Watson and Dave Wolverton, detailing Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s adventures while Obi-Wan was a Padawan (including how they were almost not paired up).  Truce at Bakura literally picks up where Return of the Jedi ends, Luke is undergoing treatment from his exposure to Force lightning when they receive a distress call (Han and Leia are looking for alone time and don’t get it because there’s always something going on).  Our heroes answer and meet a new race of aliens and Leia begins forging peace between the Rebellion and the Empire (Luke almost dies, again; he needs a vacation).  There’s The Courtship of Princess Leia (self-explanatory) where Han and Leia make it official. 

Timothy Zahn brings us the epic trilogy of Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command.  He introduces Grand Admiral Thrawn (the only non-human Grand Admiral and he’s appeared in Star Wars: Rebels, meaning he’s actually present-day canon) and Mara Jade.  Mara Jade is Force sensitive and worked as the Emperor’s Hand, a trained assassin who could hear her Master’s call anywhere in the universe.  And his final instructions are for her to kill Luke Skywalker, planting the image in her mind that Vader and Luke turned their lightsabers on Palpatine.  She does kill Luke, a clone made from his cut-off hand made by a crazy clone of an old Jedi Master, Joruus C’baoth (Zhan delves more into that backstory in Outbound Flight and Survivor’s Quest).  Mara and Luke actually end up married and Han and Leia have twins over the course of the first trilogy, Jaina and Jacen.  Later, they have a son, Anakin.  Leia becomes okay with that name after Tatooine Ghost by Troy Denning.  Zahn also wrote Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future.  I highly recommend any of his books.

The trilogy of books that actually got me into the original movies was the Jedi Academy trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson, consisting of Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, and Champions of the Force.  These chronicle Luke’s early attempts to rebuild the Jedi Order (it doesn’t go quite according to plan, he almost ends up dead, again.  Kid, seriously!)  I discovered these at my local library before I found the Zahn books.  Anderson also wrote the Young Jedi Knights series and I remember that is where it really caught my interest.  Oh, fun afternoons of exploring the science-fiction shelves in the back of the library, looking for more Star Wars novels.  Crystal Star by Vonda N. McIntyre is very interesting; the kids get kidnapped and Leia goes off to find them, and Jaina has certainly inherited her father’s sass.  [When I get a chance to pull all my books out, I’ll have to find out which ones I have and which ones I need, because I’m remembering how much I loved these books; and these were my first introduction to “fanfiction,” one could say].

I got out of the Star Wars novels when Vector Prime, and the rest of the New Jedi Order books started coming out.  They just ended up weird, in my opinion.  There’s another alien race that invades and wants to take over the galaxy.  Chewbacca dies, Han blames Anakin, Jacen turns to the Dark Side, taking Ben Skywalker with him.  That just killed the fun.  The galaxy still had its own problems, it didn’t need more.  It took time to dismantle the Empire and build the New Republic, which had its own problems (reading these books made me hate politics).  But yes, I’m a bit put-out that all of this development got thrown out the window when Lucasfilm decided to make the sequel trilogy.  There were great characters already developed and I would love to see Mara Jade on screen because she kicks butt and has no problem telling people off when they’re being stupid, including her husband. 

My overall opinion of the film; it’s fine.  Leia’s main accomplishment is to kill Jabba (which we cheer for).  Luke seems so old; which yes, he’s matured, that’s a good thing, but we also liked the puppy-like Luke from the first film.  Now he’s all serious; he’s caught up on saving Vader.  Part of it is the dialogue is so reparative.  You’ve said it, now move on.  Han is fun, love that cocky smile he gives “hey, it’s me,” and he’s so proud of himself when they trick the Imperials.  And that’s why we love him.  The redemption of Vader is another good twist and if anyone would get through to him, it would be his son.  There is a message of hope that someone who has fallen can rejoin the Light.  And yes, there is a plothole created by Leia’s memories of her mother because in Revenge of the Sith we learn that Padmé died directly after giving birth; that’s a continuity error due to writing the movies in reverse order.

On a fun note: if you have never gotten the chance, go watch Carrie Fisher’s roast of George Lucas when he was awarded the AFI Lifetime Achievement in 2005; it is hilarious!

Next Time: The Force Awakens

A Wee Bit of Fandom

I promise, I have not dropped off the face of the Earth! Life is just…hectic, chaotic, all those words. I most certainly will continue with my blogs on Star Wars (I want to share some of my favorite Extended Universe [now termed Legends; we’ll get into that later] novels). Sadly, those will most likely come after the new year. I don’t know what it is these past few months, but free time has floated by. I’m sure it’s a trait of adulthood, that when a day off rolls around, it gets filled with errands and chores and everything else; it’s just getting annoying.

On a happy note, I did accomplish some writing that made me happy…nothing publishable because my brain still refuses to concentrate on that work. Nevertheless, the stories have made me happy and a few plotlines are still floating about in my head. Heavily influenced by re-watching Disney XD’s show Lab Rats. [If adults can like Spongebob (I hated that show when it was out and I still don’t get it), then I can like Lab Rats 🙂 ] The show featured three bionic siblings who saved the world on missions. Adam, the eldest, had super strength, Bree, the middle child, had super speed, and Chase, the youngest, had super intelligence. The show ran for three years, and there was a half season of a spin off Lab Rats: Elite Force which added characters from another show, Mighty Med. The show was just getting interesting when it was cancelled. Chase is my favorite character; I like smart guys, though he could be egotistical at times and could probably use a smack upside the head.

I just needed something fluffy to occupy the time after work and before I fall asleep. It works.

If you happen to be interested in Lab Rats fanfiction, I can recommend: “A Slow Poison and a Final Straw” by WolfenM on AO3 and a whole slew of works by MoonlightMystery13.3 over on Fanfiction.net. 88keys has some good stories as well and “Because Family Matters” by Scribbler123 is worth a read.

I do want to thank everyone who has continued reading these blogs! And I hope everyone has a Happy Halloween! (One of my favorite holidays; I love dressing up in costumes, but kindly keep your gore and horror far away from me. You’re lucky I managed to watch Supernatural.)

I promise, Empire Strikes Back is coming!

Rebellions are Built on Hope

Rogue One

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.

Up Next: The one that started it all, A New Hope