Mutant. And Proud

X-Men: First Class

The start of the prequel-ish series and brings in James McAvoy (I adore him in Becoming Jane and he’s Tumnus the Faun in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) to play Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender (he’s the reason I went to watch the Jane Eyre movie that came out around the same time and led me to actually reading the book [that sometimes works]) to play Erik Lensherr.  Oliver Platt (Porthos in the 90’s Three Musketeers) is simply “Man in Black Suit,” though Kevin Bacon (star of Footloose) brings dimension to Sebastian Shaw.  Jennifer Lawrence (this came out a year before the first Hunger Games film, where her fame skyrocketed.  She has since won a Golden Globe for American Hustle and an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook [no, I have not watched those, but I love her in this role]) is Raven, while Nicholas Hoult (now you see him all the time for ads for The Great, and he’s remarkable in Tolkien) is Hank McCoy, and Lucas Till (the new MacGyver) is Alex Summers.  A few older adults are familiar; Rade Serbedzija (Prince Kragin in the first Downton Abbey movie and Gregorvitch in Deathly Hallows, and Emile de Becque in the TV movie of South Pacific with Glenn Close) is the Russian general, Glenn Morshower (he shows up in a bunch of TV shows, usually as someone in charge) is General Hendry, and the senior William Stryker is played by Don Creech (yep, that’s Mr. Sweeney from Nickelodeon’s Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide).

The film begins the same as the first X-Men film, in Poland in 1944.  But this time, we see someone watching young Erik Lensherr pull down the gates.  This man is known as Klaus Schmidt and he’s very interested in discovering Erik’s abilities.  The Nazis are only partially correct in their idea of genes unlocking a new age, but Schmidt is focused on latent abilities.  He offers Erik chocolate to move a metal coin.  When that fails, he brings in Erik’s mother and threatens to shoot her after the count of three, unless Erik can move the coin.  Sadly, the teenager cannot move the coin, and Schmidt shoots Mrs. Lensherr.  Erik goes on a rampage, destroying everything else metal in the room, to Schmidt’s great delight.  As a “reward,” he gives Erik the coin at the end, noting that he can unlock the boy’s gift with rage and pain (that does not bode well).  At the same time, in Westchester, New York, a young Charles Xavier discovers a young Raven in his kitchen.  At first, she morphs into Mrs. Xavier, but Charles quickly realizes she’s a fake since his mother has never stepped foot in the kitchen and has never offered to make him hot chocolate.  But when Charles realizes it’s another mutant, he’s excited, as is Raven.

Eighteen years later, in Geneva, Switzerland, Erik tracks down a former Nazi banker to make him give up the location of Klaus Schmidt.  He’s sent to Argentina, where he notices a photo of Schmidt aboard a ship based out of Miami.  Erik kills the men, after remarking that he is Frankenstein’s monster, and he’s looking for his creator [this sequence highlights Michael Fassbender’s talent with languages].  At the same time, Charles is finishing his degree at Oxford University and hitting on girls in pubs, while his “sister” Raven watches on.  While Charles praises pretty girls for their “mutations,” such as two-colored eyes and brown hair, Raven has to hide her true form in order to fit in.  She mocks a girl for saying “mutant and proud,” but the relationship between Charles and Raven is very sweet: Charles is very much a brother by saying that the overall concept of his sister dating is that “any man would be lucky to have you,” while the actual thought is, “you’re my sister, I don’t think of you that way.”  And he genuinely fears Raven slipping up and what the consequences would be.  [And excellent editing, playing Charles’ thesis over the scene where Erik walks into the bank, stating “the mutated human species meant the extinction of its less-evolved kin.”]

In the States, CIA agent Moira McTaggert is investigating the Hellfire Club in Las Vegas, discovering several officials and important people are all meeting, including General Hendry, so she sneaks in.  And overhears Shaw pressuring the general to put nuclear missiles in Turkey, extremely close to Russia and almost certainly a declaration of war.  But some of his mutant companions help sway the general.  When her report is not believed, she sets out to find an expert in genetic mutation.  Which leads her to Charles, who initially tries to flirt with her, until he discovers that there is something more interesting going on.  So, Charles and Raven accompany Moira back to the CIA headquarters, where Charles gives his presentation, but isn’t taken seriously, until he uses his abilities.  Of course, they think he’s a spy, until Raven transforms into Styrker.  They’re still not trusted, so the man in the back ground [Oliver Platt] offers to house them in his facility, since it’s secure and off-premises.  Then a lead comes in about Shaw’s whereabouts, and Charles persuades Moira to take him.

Erik has caught up to Shaw (who is in fact Klaus Schmidt) after Shaw has killed Hendry by demonstrating his mutant power: he absorbs energy and can redistribute it, which also keeps him young.  Erik is knocked off the boat by Shaw’s associates, then uses the anchor to begin tearing the ship apart.  Emma Frost and Shaw escape into their submarine, which Erik attempts to stop using his powers.  But the U.S. Coast Guard is also on the scene, with Charles on board.  Charles senses Erik in the water, after mentally running into Emma, who is also a telepath.  Charles urges Erik to stop and let the sub go; he’ll drown.  When the man doesn’t listen to him, Charles jumps into the water himself and calms the man down.  “You’re not alone.”

Charles brings Erik back to the “Covert CIA Research Base,” where they investigate the application of paranormal powers in a military setting.  Or as Charles jokingly calls them, the “mutant division.”  They meet young Hank McCoy, who on top of being extremely intelligent, has abnormal feet.  Charles accidentally outed Hank, but Raven is pleased to meet the young man.  It’s someone else who has a physical mutation.  Hank has developed a supersonic plane [looks an awful lot like the SR-71 Blackbird], (which appears in the other X-Men films).  When the two teens talk afterwards, Hank wants some of Raven’s blood in order to develop a serum that will mask their physical mutations, but not their actual powers.  Erik walks by in time to stop a kiss, but also points out they shouldn’t have to hide.  Erik is still bent on revenge, but Charles stops him before he leaves.  Charles wants to help Erik, and stresses that Erik has a chance to be a part of something bigger.  Erik in fact, stays, but they find out that the missiles have been placed in Turkey and Shaw is on his way to Russia.  He also has a helmet that blocks a telepath’s ability to read his mind.

It’s time for Charles and Erik to gather mutants of their own.  Hank developed a transmitter, he calls Cerebro, that can amplify Charles’ brainwaves and abilities, so Charles can locate other mutants.  Hank suggests shaving Charles so the helmet would fit closer, to which Charles definitively says “don’t touch my hair.”  They first find a club dancer whose tattoos are actually wings; then there’s a cab driver, then Alex Summers who is in solitary confinement.  Next, there’s a teenaged boy on a date, but he can drive fish away.  They find Wolverine in a bar, but all he says is “go fuck yourself,” and they leave.  The teens get to know one another and show off their powers and decide on nicknames.  The club dancer is Angel, the cab driver is Darwin, because he adapts to survive.  Raven becomes Mystique and the red-headed boy is Sean and he goes by Banshee because of his sonic blast.  Alex becomes Havok due to his laser blasts.  Erik and Charles are trying to plan their next step and are disappointed to find the kids having a party and goofing off (and destroying part of the building).  Raven does manage to tell them their nicknames; Charles is Professor X and Erik is Magneto.  The adults head off for Russia to hopefully head Shaw off, but he doesn’t show, Emma is leading the meeting with the Russian general.  Erik is determined to take her instead, so Charles chases after him.  Erik wraps Emma in metal hard enough to crack her diamond form, which allows Charles to read her mind for Shaw’s plan: place U.S. missiles in Turkey, place Russian missiles in Cuba and then make a nuclear war happen.  “Radiation gave birth to mutants; what will kill the humans will only make us stronger,” and Shaw can take over the world.

Shaw, in the meantime, has discovered that Erik and Charles are recruiting, so he heads for Virginia to find them.  His minions accompany him and start ripping the agents apart.  The agents attempt to protect the kids, even though some of them were teasing them not too long ago.  Until the last guy is very eager to hand the mutant teenagers over to the psychopath.  Shaw only wants to make an offer to the kids, saying that the humans will eventually rise against the mutants and they need to pick their sides now: either wait to be enslaved, or rise up to rule.  Angel willingly goes with Shaw.  Darwin starts to go with Shaw, then signals for Alex to let loose a laser, hoping to take out the bad guy.  Unfortunately, they did not realize that Shaw would absorb the power, then feed it to Darwin.  Shaw, Angel, and his minions leave.  When Erik and Charles return, Charles initially wants to send the kids home, but they point out it’s too late for that.  Erik convinces Charles to train the teenagers.  And Charles knows where.

At the mansion, Charles teaches each teenager that they need to control their powers, not let their powers control them (we see this lesson repeated in the previous trilogy).  Seeing Sean learn to fly is humorous, just the way he falls into the bush, and then Erik simply pushing him when Charles tries to let him out of trying.  It’s Erik who points out to Raven that she is splitting half of her attention in order to look normal.  She wants society to accept her, but she won’t accept herself.  And Charles and Erik work together, Charles showing Erik that he doesn’t need to use anger to fuel his power; that true focus lies between rage and serenity.  Charles feels the good in Erik.  Hank finishes the serum and shows Raven, but she’s realized the truth in Erik’s words and it doesn’t help that Hank calls the serum a cure.  She’s finally mutant and proud.  When Hank tries the serum, it initially works, but then goes the wrong way.  Meanwhile, Erik and Charles are playing chess and discussing the mutant issue, fundamentally on opposing sides, but for the moment acting like gentlemen.  Raven sneaks into Erik’s room to wait for him and even tries her older form, but he doesn’t say “perfection,” until she’s in her natural blue form.  She confronts Charles afterwards and he struggles to see her point.

The team heads out to try to put an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis, using the plane that Hank developed.  He’s now blue and furry, thanks to his serum, but he’s now become Beast.  When they reach the embargo line, Charles makes the Russians fire on their own ship, so the Americans won’t have to fire and then start the war.  They figure Shaw is nearby, perhaps underwater, so they use Sean as sonar (and he stays away from Erik, so he won’t get pushed out).  Shaw is indeed on site and plans to become the weapon, draining the nuclear reactor of his sub.  But Erik manages to lift the sub out of the water and crash it on the beach.  The plan crashes shortly after.  Erik heads for the sub, and Beast, Havok, and Banshee take on Angel, Riptide, and Azazel.  Erik realizes that smashing the mirrored walls of the reactor will allow Charles telepathy to work, so he can freeze Shaw.  Shaw attempts to win Erik over to his side, and Erik admits that Shaw made him into a weapon.  Then Erik puts on the helmet so Charles can’t stop him from using the coin to pierce Shaw’s head in final retaliation for killing his mother.  [Excellent editing, following the path of the coin and overlaying Charles’ face occasionally, indicating that he feels what Erik is doing.]

Stryker is causing problems and orders both sides to hit the mutants on the beach.  This just adds fuel to Erik’s argument that the humans are against the mutants and they all need to band together.  Charles still holds hope that there are some good humans out there.  Erik manages to stop the missiles and turns them back to the ships, but Charles tackles him, breaking his concentration so the missiles start exploding in midair.  The two men wrestle, then Moira starts shooting at Erik.  He deflects the bullets, but one lands in Charles’ back.  Erik retaliates by cradling his friend and strangling Moira.  Charles points out this was Erik’s doing.  He releases Moira, but pleads with Charles that he needs the man by his side; they’re brothers, they want the same thing.  No, my friend, we do not (and we’re hit by James/Charles’ piercing blue eyes).  Erik leaves Charles, makes one last plead to gain allies.  Raven steps towards him, though she detours to her brother, who gives her permission.  “Mutant and proud,” are her parting words.  The rest of the team swarm their leader and Charles can only say he can’t feel his legs.

They’re back at the mansion, formalizing plans to make it a school.  And Charles has to protect the anonymity of his students, so with a kiss, he wipes Moira’s memory.  Erik breaks Emma Frost out of prison, now wearing the repainted helmet and a cape and going by Magneto.

This has become my favorite X-Men film, because it’s a story that can really stand on its own.  They make it fit well into the Cuban Missile Crisis, so we wonder, could this really have happened?  There’s also more energy to the movie.  It’s nice to see older Charles and Erik get along on occasion, but it’s even better to see how they started.  Yes, some continuity snarls show up, but since none of the movies were exactly planned out years in advance to fit together, it still works.  And I probably allow much more leeway since I have never read the comics.  It’s also not as dark as many of the previous movies were.  Several mistakes were made by characters in complete innocence.  The soundtrack also heightens the energy of the film, with the electric guitar and steady pace.

And yes, I totally subscribe to the theory that Charles and Erik are a couple. And utterly adore the new fact that Charles and Raven are siblings. These people need more hugs!

Fanfiction Recommendations:

I love blueink3’s Rumor Has It, which picks up where this film left off and adds an unknown child of Charles’ to the mix.

Up Next: Days of Future Past

“You are my partner, not my mother.”

My apologies; I got sidetracked after watching the various Batman movies, recalling that Chris O’Donnell is a lead in NCIS: Los Angeles.  And I have a couple seasons on DVD.  So, I had to start watching them again.  And decide that I need to catch up on that series (I am terribly behind).  (I also took the time to work on some writing, inspired partly by reading fanfiction associated with the show, but also typing up scenes I had written elsewhere into their corresponding document on my computer…there are a lot…and I’m not finished yet.  But hopefully they’ll all be in one place soon, which makes finding a specific scene a spot easier…maybe…there’s one that’s disappeared).

I did watch the first show, JAG for several seasons.  It then spun off into NCIS, which is still going strong, but I’m also several seasons behind on.  Then they created NCIS: Los Angeles (and had a show based in New Orleans as well for a few seasons, and now Hawaii…that’s because they got rid of Hawaii Five-0 and Magnum P.I. but probably felt like they still needed a Hawaii show…I do not have plans of watching it).  I’ve always likes Los Angeles a bit more than the original NCIS, due to pacing and the characters.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Gibbs and Abby was amazing.  Ducky has great stories and it was fun to watch Tony and Ziva bicker.  But it’s even more fun to watch Deeks and Kensi bicker in Los Angeles and the bromance between Callen and Sam is strong.  And Hetty is intriguing.

We know that NCIS: Los Angeles and Hawaii Five-0 are part of the same universe; they even had a crossover episode. And MacGyver (the rebooted series) is in same universe as Hawaii Five-0 because there was a crossover episode between them as well. So, what I really wished had happened was a crossover between NCIS:LA and MacGyver because they both take place in Los Angeles (technically, MacGyver is filmed in Georgia, I believe, but they could have worked out the logistics. Sadly, with MacGyver off the air, that will not happen. But…that is where my brain has decided to play.)

(The car is also cool)

There are some hilarious quotes I recall from the show (and these only scratch the surface):

Callen and Sam back-and-forth: “Is that a frog?” (referring to an origami figure) “It’s a swan.”  “From where, Chernobyl?” (this always makes me laugh)

Callen (referring to Sam): “Seals are inoculated for everything, except suicidal tendencies.”

Callen to Hetty: “See, I see the glass as half full, Sam sees it as half empty, Kensei drinks the glass, Nate wonders why it has to be glass, and Erick knocks it over by putting his feet up on the table.”

Callen: “No.  Hetty + Mechanical Bull + Tequila = Bar Fight.”

Callen to Sam: “You are my partner, not my mother.”

Callen to Hetty: “No doubt. I mean, you never know when a horde of murderous Mongols are gonna come galloping over Laurel Canyon.”

I have also discovered some entertaining fanfiction stories:

NotARedHead has a story focused on Being Callen on fanfiction.net

Then I discovered a whole slew of stories on AO3, such as Trust and Blurred Lines by justfandomthings.

And definitely check out In_Dee’s stories like Come Hell or High Water and Endure and Prevail.

Sweet Dreams Though the Guns are Booming by OrionLady is a good read as well, a bit sad at points.

There are about a dozen stories by ifwednesdaywasaflowerchild that pair Callen with Nell Jones, which is a fairly common pairing in the fandom. They’re rather sweet and I’m okay with that pairing because Callen is a caring guy and Nell is someone who can hold her own.

And Zathara001 wrote a rather fascinating crossover with Batman entitled G is for Grayson

Just thought I’d share some fun things I discovered while my brain took a detour. 

Next Up: Wonder Woman  (within the week, I swear)

The Legacy of Batman

Return of the Joker

Batman gets to work and interrupts a heist by the Jokerz; a new group we haven’t seen in the show.  There’s a spot of gentlemanly behavior, when he hesitates to hit the pair of girls.  There’s no such hesitation after they taser and kick him.  Of course, Batman stands out from other heroes and saves one of the girls when they start to plummet to their death.  Her twin sister rescues her.  Destruction is caused, but one of the Jokerz gets away with a computer component.  When they meet up with their mysterious boss later, it’s not enough.  When one of the gang members speaks out on his frustration with their current jobs for the mysterious boss, the boss shoots him.  Okay, this is something new…and made a bit worse by the revelation that the original Joker is back and he is ready to give Gotham a wedgie.

Back in the Batcave, Bruce can still throw a batarang with precision.  And his company has dropped “Powers” from their name, returning to Wayne Enterprises.  Bruce is taking more control of his company again.  He keeps an eye on his protégé and questions Terry’s decision to go out that evening; he’s sore and tired, but Terry quips back, “the night is young and so am I.”  That lasts all of a couple minutes once he hits the club with Dana; he falls asleep on her.  Later, at a Wayne Enterprises party, the Joker’s laugh interrupts the festivities.  Terry, as Bruce’s assistant, tries to head off some of the Jokerz gang.  Once Bruce is fine for the moment (he takes out one member with a cane), he tells his assistant to “go to work.”  A minute later, Batman swoops in to save the patrons.  The Joker rises out of the floor and causes mayhem, but ultimately escapes.  Terry grouses to Bruce later in the cave that he should have gone after the Joker, but Bruce reassures him he did the right thing by saving the people.  However, he won’t talk about the Joker.

Terry switches tactics and goes to Barbara Gordon; “what do you know about clowns?”  “In this town, they’re never funny.”  And she refuses to talk.  Terry comes back to the cave to see Bruce going over the Joker’s file.  He is listed as deceased, yet when Bruce runs an analysis on the voices from the archive and from the previous night, they are a match.  When Terry asks again, Bruce calls the man a psychopath and a monster; and he wants Terry to give back the suit.  He has no right to force this life on the young man, or anyone.  Terry disagrees; Bruce didn’t force the life on him, Terry stole the suit.  And they come from two different worlds.  For Terry, Batman is a way for him to make up for past sins (running with a gang, etc), this appeases his soul and is a chance for him to be a worthwhile human.

  “It’s what I want, Bruce.” 

“Stupid kid.  You don’t know want you want, none of you did,” Bruce retorts as he walks away.  Terry throws the suit as his feet and runs out.

With his new free time, Terry meets up with Dana at the club again.  Bright side, more time for her.  Bad side, less pocket money.  Their evening is interrupted when the Jokerz gang shows up and goes after Dana.  The two girls attempt to distract Terry while Dana is grabbed, but he fights them off.  Dana is hurt and Terry puts Chelsea in charge while he finishes off the gang.  He heads to Bruce, who has been working on Joker anti-toxin.  The clown himself shows up in the cave and greets Bruce “hello Batman.”  A gas fills the room.  By the time Terry arrives in the cave, the clown is gone, but he left graffiti and a mess.  Bruce is frozen on the floor, wheezing out a few words between a weird laugh.  Terry administers the anti-toxin in time and calls Barbara for help.  She finally opens up about what last transpired between Bruce and the Joker, still adamant that it’s not the real Joker, but Terry deserves answers. 

Dick Grayson had already left; Tim Drake was Robin.  He was abducted and she and Bruce spent three weeks searching for him before a clue was delivered.  The Joker and Harley Quinn had taken Robin to Arkham Asylum.  They decided they wanted a family of their own and decided to “borrow” one of the kids that Batman had lying around.  The Joker molded Robin into “Joker Jr” and not pleasantly.  He tortured the kid (and shows Batman a video) and now know who’s under the cowl.  Barbara goes after Harley, who falls several stories, though they never found the body.  Bruce goes after the Joker.  The Joker gets a lucky cut on Bruce and holds Batman up for Robin to kill.  Robin ends up shooting the Joker amidst laughing, then crying.  Barbara tells Terry they buried the Joker and Tim was able to put the events behind him after extensive therapy, but Bruce forbade him from ever donning the Robin costume again.  Tim eventually left as well.

Terry decides to pay Tim a visit while in the Bat suit.  Tim is adamant that he knows nothing about the Joker’s reappearance and he as much as anyone wishes the clown gone.  Besides, he was so sick of the crime-fighting that he never wanted to see his suit again.  Terry goes searching for other clues, Barbara sitting in the chair in the cave this time.  She does suggest that Terry look up Nightwing for more stories if he wants.  Batman checks on a disgruntled Wayne Enterprises employee, thinking he’s behind it, but finds the Jokerz gang there, ready to waste him.  Yes, the employee had been in on the one attack, but the man behind the scenes decided to tie up loose ends, sending a laser weapon after the man and Batman.  Batman saves him, but is more than happy to turn him over to the commissioner. 

Bruce is up and around a bit more now and apologizes to Terry; he never wanted the young man to go against the Joker.  Terry notes that he is a completely different Batman, he never was a Robin.  And it’s then that they notice the only costume the Joker completely shredded was Tim Drake’s old costume.  And Terry puts together the parts he knows the Jokerz have stolen and they align with Tim’s expertise.  Bruce tells him to suit up, and take Ace with him.  The Joker is not pleased that Terry has figured it out shoots down the Batmobile. 

Between Ace and Terry, they take out the Jokerz gang.  Terry finds Tim face down, but then the man starts acting funny and feels unwell.  Soon his body transforms and Tim Drake is not just in league with the Joker, he is the Joker.  Or rather, as the Joker explains, the old Joker implanted young Tim with a chip coded with the Joker’s genetics.  Tim doesn’t realize he is the Joker.  His first order of business is to threaten to either go after Dana, Mary and Matt, or Bruce.  Ace attacks and the fight begins.  The Joker knows all of the tricks from Bruce’s peek and Terry is out of his league.  Bruce suggests that Terry tries to drown out and power through the Joker’s talking.  Terry has a different idea.  He likes to talk too.  He mocks the Joker; it was sad that he fixated on Batman in the past; the man wouldn’t know a joke if it bit him in the cape.  Oh, and Terry fights dirty.  Proof the Joker doesn’t know him.  Terry laughs, the Joker is pathetic.  “Not funny,” the Joker growls.  “I thought you wanted to make Batman laugh!” Terry calls down from the rafters.  “You’re not Batman!”  The Joker gets a good hit and Terry’s on the ground, the Joker trying to choke him.  Terry picked up a joy buzzer and burns out the chip on Tim’s neck with it.  Terry manages to get himself, Tim, and Ace out of the hideout before the laser (that has been running through Gotham) hits.

Terry visits Tim in the hospital alongside Barbara.  Tim thanks him and compliments that “Bruce couldn’t have chosen anyone better to put on the mask.”  Bruce actually shows up to visit Tim.  Before Terry leaves, Bruce corrects his earlier statement; “it’s not Batman who make you worthwhile, it’s the other way round.”  (On a funny note, Dee Dee, the twin girls from the Jokerz gang, have their bail paid by their grandmother, Nana Harley [Quinn]).  At the end, Terry stands over Gotham, in the suit, ready for work.  He slips on the mask and swoops into action.

As already stated, Terry McGinnis as Batman makes a few more appearances in the DC Animated Universe.  He shows up in an episode of Static Shock, where a young Static time-travels to the future, meeting old Bruce Wayne and the new Batman (and having to help break his future-self free from the Kobra gang).  He also appears as part of the two-part episode Once and Future Thing in Justice League Unlimited.  In the first half, Batman (Bruce Wayne), the Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman chase a thief named Chronos to the past, specifically, the Wild West.  They then end up following him to the future in the second half and there meet the older Static, Warhawk (who happens to be the Green Lantern’s son), and younger Batman.  Also featured are the new Jokerz gang that were introduced in Return of the Joker…with some upgrades.  The heroes manage to escape, after taking a beating and Batman leads them to the new Justice League headquarters, the old Hamilton Hill High School.  The Watchtower had been attacked and most of the members killed.  Old Bruce enters at that moment to keep everyone from dwelling on the bad; they’ve got a mission to attend to.  Bruce faces his younger counterpart and comments “surprised to see me?”  “A little,” original Batman remarks, though he’s more surprised to see he lived that long. Terry quips “Batman, Bruce Wayne, Bruce Wayne, Batman…or, have you met?”  They deliver “not now!” at the same time, so he gripes “what did they use to call it, stereo?”

The main issue is that the time line is becoming polluted, as original Batman notes, and Bruce responds that history is becoming fluid.  This needs to be stopped.  Batman writes a program to put an end to Chronos’s time travel belt; now they just have to find him.  Terry tries to warn Batman he doesn’t know the new town.  “Are criminals superstitious and cowardly [and we laugh because of the musical!]?”  “Yup,” Bruce responds.  They catch one of the gang and original Batman’s method of interrogation is to hang him over a building and tell him to talk before his arm gets tired.  Bruce hauls the criminal away and growls he can’t believe he was ever that green…his cane is a bit menacing in his hand, but he succeeds.  They can get to Chronos through his wife.  

There is a final showdown between the League and the Jokerz while time itself unravels.  Dee Dee pins Terry and electrocutes him.  We hear his cries of pain, then Bruce at the school shouts “Terry!”  Then silence.  But Green Lantern and Batman follow Chronos who wants to see the beginning of time and put a stop to the madness.  They end up back at the Watchtower from when everything started; the only ones to remember the events (and putting everything back in order).

Justice League Unlimited also brought us Epilogue.  We’re even farther in the future; Terry has bulked up and sneaks into Amanda Waller’s residence for some answers.  Apparently, Bruce needed a new kidney and Terry was found to be a perfect match.  The odds of that are suspicious, so he does a DNA test and discovers his DNA matches that of Bruce, not Warren McGinnis.  There is a scene where Terry confronts Bruce about it and also where he breaks things off with Dana, but these turn out to be just a dream.  Terry is mad at Bruce, thinking he meddled, but Amanda admits it was her doing; Project Batman Beyond.  She used project Cadmus (which, the Joker used on young Tim Drake in the flashback of Return of the Joker; Terry admits it was as low blow when he accused Bruce of it) and Batman’s DNA from crime scenes; then she overwrote Warren McGinnis’s reproductive DNA to that of Bruce and so when he and Mary had a son, Terry, he was in fact, Bruce’s son.  (This was a way to explain how both Matt and Terry have dark hair while their parents have ginger hair; Warren and Mary were selected since they had similar psychological profiles to Bruce’s parents.)  Amanda originally had planned that Warren and Mary would be killed while Terry was a child to mimic the tragedy Bruce underwent to become Batman, but the assassin backed out, arguing it was not what Batman would want.  So life continued unassuming until Paxton Powers had Warren McGinnis murdered and Terry met Bruce as a sixteen-year-old.  She urges Terry not to make the same mistakes as Bruce and points out that he is Bruce’s son, not his clone.  He doesn’t have quite the brilliant mind that Bruce does, but his heart is just as big, if not bigger. 

The episode ends up Terry contemplating an engagement ring for Dana, then helping Bruce out with his meds and vowing to continue to be Batman.  Bruce urges the younger man to eat something before attending to League duties.  Terry quips he’s stubborn, like his old man.

First, my thoughts on Return of the Joker; I think it’s a great continuation of the Batman Beyond story and a reasonable way to bring back Batman’s greatest enemy.  Because who would have ever expected that the Joker was hiding in Robin?  And the showdown between Terry as Batman and the Joker is great.  Terry is a different Batman and he doesn’t have a history with the Joker.  I wouldn’t say he’s not emotionally involved in the fight, because this man did harm his mentor (I’m sure running down to find Bruce gave Terry flashbacks to finding his father).  Terry also shows that he’s not a brash teenager any longer; when Bruce doesn’t want to talk about something, he does back off, same with Barbara.  But he is correct that he deserves answers.  Also, Bruce doesn’t waste time telling Terry off for suspecting Tim; Bruce trusts Terry’s skills.  And he tries to help during the showdown with the Joker, giving Terry advice.  And I think it’s a bit sweet that Barbara fills in for Bruce after the Joker’s laughing gas attack.

And the irony of Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker voicing the Joker will never not be funny (and it will always be funnier that he voiced Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar: The Last Airbender)

As for the Justice League episodes; Epilogue at least gives us a proper ending to the series (as does Return of the Joker; Unmasked was pathetic and lame).  And I agree that it gives us a reasonable explanation to the family non-resemblance Terry has with his parents.  On the one hand, it’s sweet that Bruce has a biological son, though in the lore, he adopted Tim Drake (apparently Dick Grayson was a ward, which had some standing; I reiterate, Batman lore is not my strong suit, I just like this show).  Terry will continue his legacy not just as Batman, but potentially as a Wayne (he’d have to find some way to explain that to the public pending circumstances).  And as Amanda points out, Terry is Bruce’s son, not a clone.  He is not Bruce Wayne, he’s still just Terry.  His decisions were his own.  On the other hand, there is a more compelling story of Terry being Batman with no blood connection to Bruce.  I’m glad the episode ended well nevertheless.

As for Once and Future Thing, Terry is hilarious at times.  I’m a bit sad to realize he was essentially killed at one point, though relieved that it was erased.  It’s a satisfactory story, though I mainly watch it for the “Batman meet Bruce Wayne” bit.

This was one series I explored fanfiction early on.  I have several recommendations that I repeatedly re-read:

Katfairy has “Beyond Knightfall” where Terry lands is a spot of trouble and his friends have to help him out (though I wish it would be completed), and “Divine Secrets of the YoYo Sisterhood.”  It has a good mix of drama and humor.

“Virus” by ChampagneWishes could be another episode in the show.

Bumpkin has some good little scenes in “Welcome to My World,” “An ‘Inside Peek’ into Mary’s Mind,” and “Nelson’s Wake Up Call.”

Tomy’s “Reparation” is excellent and “Reclamation” is good as well.

Jadeling has a whole series of stories, most especially “Lover, Friends, and Family.”

And if you want a hilarious crossover joke, try “Ron Beyond” by speedster.

Next Time: Batman Forever and Batman and Robin with Chris O’Donnell.

“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.

“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!

“These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For”

A New Hope

Originally released as simply Star Wars.  It ranks 13th in AFI’s Top 100 Movies, #1 for Film Scores, #8 in Movie Quotes, and #14 in Heroes and Villains.  This is the film that started the saga.  Expertly cast with Mark Hamill (would later voice the Joker in several Batman cartoons [we’ll catch one later] and Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar: The Last Airbender [we’ve already noted the irony of that casting and characterization]) as wet-behind-the-ears Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa, and Harrison Ford (action star extraordinaire; Jack Ryan, Indiana Jones, Air Force One) completing the trio as Han Solo.  Alec Guinness is Obi-Wan Kenobi, Peter Cushing (he worked alongside Christopher Lee several times, mainly in horror films, but he portrayed Sherlock Holmes as well) is Grand Moff Tarkin.  Anthony Daniels brings C-3PO to life, like Kenny Baker does with R2-D2; Peter Mayhew dons the Chewbacca costume while David Prowse wears the Vader suit.  Of course, James Earl Jones (Mufasa, as well as appearing with Harrison Ford in the Jack Ryan movies) provides that deep voice (though not credited in this film).

And seriously, the original theme is also the best, since it doesn’t have to segue into any other theme.  It’s the most joyful and triumphant.  We also hear the Force theme for the first time, which also plays a huge part in the soundtracks of the rest of the saga.  I could try to go into how this film was pioneering, but I wouldn’t be the best choice since I was not alive to witness this film when it first came out and wasn’t a huge fan of it when I first saw it.  And now that the prequel trilogy is out especially, it’s a bit hard to separate what was all brand new in this film when first released with what we know now.

After the crawl, we see that iconic scene of the Star Destroyer chasing the Rebel Runner and are first introduced to R2-D2 and C-3PO; 3PO is the definition of a fusspot.  R2 is given a secret mission and they must escape from the imposing black-caped Darth Vader.  He is looking for the stolen Death Star plans (which we saw how those ended aboard this ship in Rogue One; which was kind of the whole point of that film) and captures Princess Leia.  R2 and 3PO end up on Tatooine and separated briefly until the Jawas (and their signature “oo-tee-dee!”) get their hands on them.

Enter teenager Luke Skywalker and his aunt and uncle Beru and Owen Lars.  They purchase R2 and 3PO.  But R2 is insistent on pursuing his mission and escapes to find Obi-Wan Kenobi, though Luke only knows an “Old Ben.”  Uncle Owen shuts down his questions, simply stating that Obi-Wan died alongside Luke’s father, and he shouldn’t worry about Ben.  Luke, tired of being stuck on a backwater planet, storms off.  Owen tells Beru he’s afraid that Luke has too much of his father in him [and we know why that would be dangerous].

When Luke goes looking for R2, he runs into Sand People.  Ben is around to scare them off and is surprised that a little R2 unit has come searching for him.  Luke asks Ben if he knows an Obi-Wan.  Of course he does, he’s Obi-Wan.  But he hasn’t gone by that name since Luke was born.  He takes Luke home with him and informs the teenager that his father was a Jedi Knight, as was Obi-Wan; they fought in the Clone Wars together.  They were guardians of the peace and justice in the Old Republic.  Luke inherited his piloting skills from his father and Obi-Wan gifts him with the blue lightsaber; “an elegant weapon for a more civilized time.”  Darth Vader was once a pupil of Obi-Wan’s, until he fell to the Dark Side of the Force and betrayed and murdered Luke’s father (uh, he’ll get to that later…shh, it’s a secret for now).  We finally see the whole message that Leia sent to Obi-Wan, asking for his help in the name of her father, Bail Organa [oh yes, you should totally read Wild Space by Karen Miller to find out how Bail and Obi-Wan ended up becoming friends].  She has stashed important plans inside the R2 unit that are vital to the Rebellion.  “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you’re my only hope.”

Luke doesn’t want to go running off to Alderaan; he has responsibilities here that his uncle was outlining just the previous evening.  He comes across an attack on Jawas on his way home and Obi-Wan deduces it was stormtroopers trying to disguise there attack as Sand People,  They were looking for the droids.  Which would have led them home.  Luke races back only to discover the homestead to be smoldering and two burnt bodies at the door.  He has nothing now, so he’ll follow Obi-Wan.  “I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi, like my father.”

First, they must find transport and head to Mos Eisley; “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”  Obi-Wan gets them past the troopers using a Jedi mind trick [that he probably picked up from Qui-Gon] and they search for a pilot in the cantina (cue that iconic music).  Luke gets in a bit of trouble and Obi-Wan proves he still has some fight left in him, slicing off a criminal’s arm with his lightsaber.  They then meet Han Solo and Chewbacca who agree to take them to Alderaan, avoiding Imperial entanglement, and no questions asked for a pretty sum.  Han briefly deals with Greedo after the pair leave (and yes, he shoots first!).  Then he buys more time to pay back his debt to Jabba the Hutt.  Han also gets the idea that his passengers may be more than meets the eye when Imperials show up and start firing as the pair attempt to board the Millennium Falcon.  Chewie gets them out of Tatooine; “here’s where the fun begins.”  Luke is certainly an eager young kid, contrasting with Han who is more world-wise.

Meanwhile, Leia has been taken aboard the Death Star and Vader attempts to interrogate her on the location of the Rebel base, but she resists the mind probe.  Grand Moff Tarkin (he goes by Governor in the film) has another idea.  If Princess Leia does not reveal the base, he will fire the Empire’s ultimate weapon on Alderaan.  Leia finally gives them the planet Dantooine.  Tarkin destroys Alderaan anyway to prove a point.  Obi-Wan feels the incredible loss of life all the way on the Falcon.  But he insists that Luke continue with his training.  Han’s not one to believe in the Force while Obi-Wan comes back that there is no such thing as luck. 

When they come out of hyperspace, they discover what the Empire has done, though they don’t know how.  Until Obi-Wan realizes that the object in the distance is no moon.  It’s a space station.  And they are caught in its tractor beam.  Luke has a very bad feeling about this.  Obi-Wan has a better idea that fighting.  They hide away in the smuggling holds from the Imperial boarding parties, though Vader senses something. Obi-Wan also has an idea on how to deal with the tractor beam.  Han figured the old man would do something foolish.  “Who’s the more foolish; the fool, or the fool who follows him?”  [Still spouting wisdom.]

Han and Luke then discover that Leia is aboard the Death Star and Luke immediately wants to rescue her.  He persuades Han with the promise of reward.  They use Chewie as a prisoner to get to the cell.  The plan goes pretty well, until Han’s funny conversation and Leia notes that Luke is short to be a stormtrooper.  Proving he is an eager young lad, he announces himself to Leia “I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to rescue you.”  Oh, and I have your droid.  And Obi-Wan Kenobi.  As Han predicts, they end up with company and Leia takes charge: “into the garbage shoot, flyboy.”  Han either wants to kill the princess, or he’s beginning to like her.  “What an incredible smell you’ve discovered,” Han snarks once they’re out of the line of fire.  Leia contends that the situation could be worse.  Now Han has a bad feeling about this.  It gets worse when a slug creature grabs Luke.  It only lets go when the trash compactor starts up.  Luke calls for R2 and 3PO, but the droids are almost too late to save their humans.  R2 to the rescue in the nick of time!

And now they just have to get through a couple dozen troopers.  Han and Leia still snip at each other; Han is used to taking orders from just one person, himself.  Leia is used to being in charge and asks someone to get the walking carpet out of her way.  (Gotta admire a woman who takes charge and doesn’t wait to be rescued)  They split up; Han deciding it is great tactics to chase after one’s opponent shouting at the top of his lungs.  His luck holds out.  Luke and Leia have to swing across an opening [which Mythbusters proved was possible; and was performed by Mark and Carrie on set in one take (they didn’t have the money for stunt doubles).]  They all eventually meet up by the Falcon.

Obi-Wan sneaks about the battle station and Vader determines he must face his old master alone.  Tarkin dismisses Vader’s power (which we’ve already witnessed is a bad idea; he choked a subordinate when he found his lack of faith disturbing.)  When he confronts Obi-Wan, he claims he is now a master.  “Only a master of evil, Darth.”  Vader claims Obi-Wan’s powers are weak.  Obi-Wan also warns Vader “if you strike me down, I’ll become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”  [Yes, this duel is much slower than their epic battle in Revenge of the Sith, but keep in mind that this was the first lightsaber duel ever conceived; and take into account Alec Guiness’s age.  And Vader is impeded by a black suit.  And heck, he probably hasn’t had to duel anyone in a while…yet the end of Rogue One proves he’s still got it.  George Lucas’ original concept was that there was a heft to lightsabers; he didn’t want them flung about.  Obviously, once we got back and see Jedi young and in their prime, the duels are more fantastic.  Nevertheless, the choreography is sound]  Obi-Wan senses his young charges are near and allows Vader to slice through him.  But his body disappears (surprising everyone).  His disembodied voice urges Luke to run and the Millennium Falcon escapes.  There’s a brief dogfight to ensure they get away [I remember reading in a novel somewhere that gravity is a bit off in the Falcon at that ladder] which Leia insists was an easy escape.  In fact, Vader has a homing beacon planted on the Falcon.

Our heroes make for the Rebel base on Yavin 4 with all haste to analyze the readouts on R2.  Han takes his reward and intends to leave.  He’s got debts to pay off and going against the Death Star is not his idea of courage.  The Rebellion is banking on snub fighters getting past the guns, flying through a trench, and hitting a small opening to start a chain reaction.  Luke figures it’s not much bigger than the womp rats he used to shoot on Tatooine.  He’s disappointed in Han, but the smuggler does tell the boy, “May the Force be with you,” in parting.  Luke cheers up a bit reuniting with his friend Biggs.  They’re part of Red Sqaudron, along with Wedge Antilles [played by Ewan McGregor’s uncle, Denis Lawson; and the character is most likely related to the Captain Antilles Bail Organa addresses at the end of Revenge of the Sith].

The Death Star is orbiting Yavin to get into position to fire on the base.  Tarkin refuses to leave, even after the techs figure out what the Rebels are aiming for.  The Grand Moff is certain this is the Empire’s moment of triumph.  Even Vader commented that this day saw the end of Kenobi and will see the end of the Rebellion, though he does take his TIE Interceptor out to shoot down Rebel ships.  [Lucas was influenced by the dog fighting of WWII, and I feel that the effects still hold up well forty years later; proves how well made it originally was]  Wedge is hit and has to break off his attack.  Biggs is killed protecting Luke.  Luke hears Obi-Wan urge him to trust the Force to aim his torpedo.  Vader and his friends are gaining on Luke in his X-Wing and R2 is a bit fried [Anakin!  You shot your droid!]  Han swoops in on the Falcon to save the day; knocking Vader away, and giving Luke his chance.  Bombs away just as the station powers up its giant laser.  Huge explosion!

Luke is greeted by cheers and a hug from Leia.  Han joins in.  Luke’s thrilled he returned; Han claims he couldn’t let Luke get all the credit.  [Note the height difference between Carrie and Mark and Harrison, particular Harrison.  It’s a bit funny]  The Rebels hold a ceremony (cue awesome music) to recognize Han, Chewie, and Luke for their actions. 3PO and R2 are all shined up and the Rebellion lives to fight another day.

The main word I can use to describe this film is “iconic.”  Even if you’ve never watched the film, you probably know a lot of key points and dialogue because it is seeped into pop culture so much.  There are several books and magazines articles that outline all the trouble George Lucas went through to get this film made; I highly encourage you to check them out!  This film, and really the whole saga, echo Joseph Campbell’s idea of the “monomyth.”  There is a path that most major hero stories follow [I’ve read the book twice and not even for a class!  And I totally agree with his hypothesis].  Luke receives his “call to adventure;” there is a “refusal of the call;” then there is “supernatural aid.”  This all happens on Tatooine with Obi-Wan.  Luke crosses his first threshold and is thrown into the “belly of the whale.”  That would be joining the Rebellion.  And he begins to undergo trials.

Up Next: The Empire Strikes Back

Some Fancy Flying

Solo

Alden Ehrenreich heads up the cast of Solo as the titular character (he did have a small part in an early episode of Supernatural, but this is probably his best known role).  Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones) is beside him as Qi’ra, Woody Harrelson (my parents known him as Woody Boyd from Cheers, I sort of recognize him as Haymitch from Hunger Games) joins as Beckett.  Donald Glover is the young Lando Calrissian and Paul Bettany (Vision in the MCU and Chaucer in Knight’s Tale.  Also Silas in Da Vinci Code and Dr. Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander) seems to have a bit of fun as Dryden Vos.  Warwick Davis (Professor Filius Flitwick and Griphook in Harry Potter, Nikabrik in Prince Caspian.  He’s been in other fantasy films but his first role was Wicket in Return of the Jedi, and he’s played roles in all of the recent films) even makes an appearance.  Ron Howard directs.

Crime Syndicates thrive under the Empire, especially on Corellia, where we meet a teenager attempting to flee.  A young Han wants to escape Corellia and take his girlfriend, Qi’ra [totally not the way I thought it was spelled because it sounds like “Kira”] with him.  First, they have to flee their warden (voiced by Linda Hunt who is amazing as Henrietta Lange in NCIS: Los Angeles), then attempt to bribe their way through Imperial officers.  Han makes it through, Qi’ra does not, but she shouts at him to run.  Han decides to join the Imperial Navy so he can become a pilot and once he’s accomplished that, he’ll return to Corellia for Qi’ra.  When the office asks Han for his last name, “who are your people?” Han tells him he doesn’t have any.  So Han becomes Han Solo.

Three years pass and we catch up with Han on a battlefield where he questions orders.  There is a company he wants to join, but they aren’t really Imperials; they’re thieves about to make off with Imperial equipment.  Well, questioning orders gets Han thrown into a pit with a “beast.”  A very muddy Wookie appears and attempts to pummel Han to death, but Han knows a bit of Shyriiwook and persuades the Wookie to not kill him.  Instead, if they work together, they can escape. They manage to hitch a ride with the thieves afterwards and the Wookie introduces himself as Chewbacca.  He’s searching for his family, but for now, he’ll stay with Han and Beckett as his crew.

The crew’s next target is a train heist for coaxium, a superfuel.  There is competition for the fuel from Enfys Nest.  Han manages some fancy flying, but only Chewie, Han, and Beckett survive the heist.  And Han has to dump the cargo to save them from crashing into a mountain.  But this was a job for Crimson Dawn and its leader, Dryden Vos, is not a forgiving man.  Beckett has to come up with a way to make it up to Dryden, or they’re all dead.  While they wait, Han pleasantly discovers that Qi’ra is no longer on Corellia; she works for Dryden.  She is his top lieutenant and admits that Dryden also works for someone; someone who will demand the coaxium.  Han steps in and suggests they retrieve raw coaxium from Kessel, then process it somewhere else in order to escape Imperial notice.  For that, they’ll need a fast ship.

Qi’ra suggests a great smuggler, Lando Calrissian.  They find him in his den, surrounded by fans.  Han plays sabaac (space poker) against Lando in order to gain his ship, but Lando cheats in order to win.  But Qi’ra and Beckett smooth things over, except they have to retrieve Lando’s ship from the impound lot.  Han is instantly taken by the Millennium Falcon (we hear a bit of the original soundtrack at this moment; and just look at the face on Han); it’s a style ship his father worked on when he was alive on Corellia.

In order to make it to Kessel, a spice mining planet reliant upon slave labor, they must travel through the Maelstrom.  Lando’s first mate droid is an excellent navigator…and proponent for driods’ rights.  On the trip, Han tries to catch up with Qi’ra, but Beckett warns the young man to trust no one; expect everyone to betray you and you’ll never be disappointed.  He’s also insistent on sticking to the plan; no improvising.  And at first, everything goes according to plan (and recognize that mask from Return of the Jedi?).  But a prison riot gets started and that throws a wrench into the works.  Chewie goes off to rescue some Wookies and Han has to get the coaxium by himself.  But Chewie of course comes back, but there is a battle going on outside between them and the Falcon.  They’re almost ready to leave, until Lando rushes off to save his copilot, then Han rushes off to save Lando [and the actor has got the Han Solo stance down].  Once they’re above the planet, they run into an Imperial cruiser.  With Lando injured, Han takes control of the Falcon and Chewie quickly becomes his copilot.  And Han proves every boast he’s made about his piloting skills.  They evade TIE fighters and he even comes up with a plan to quickly make it out of the Maelstrom, but they need the navigation system from Lando’s droid.  They are admittedly almost eaten by a giant space monster and almost get sucked into a gravity well, but they make it out, true Han Solo style (and why the Falcon is missing a few pieces).  He even has a good feeling about this!  And that is how he made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs [explaining how the Kessel run is a specific distance and Han managed to find a shortcut, rather than a unit of time…which as someone who is not well-versed in science, I just always assumed it was a space measurement of time].

They’re almost away until Enfys Nest shows up and wants the coaxium.  And they may be pirates, but they’re just people who have been pushed out of their homeworlds by the Crime Syndicates, like Crimson Dawn.  They want the coaxium for the Rebellion.  Qi’ra knows that Han is a good man and tells the female leader of Enfys Nest that Han will try to help them.  Han tries to convince Beckett to help him, but Beckett chooses to leave.  Han can look him up later on Tatooine.  Han and Qi’ra go before Dryden, but he’s been warned about their plan.  By Beckett.  Proving his statement about betrayal.  But Han is smarter than he looks; he already figured Beckett would double-cross him and so it is the real coaxium, so Beckett takes it and Chewie.  Leaving Qi’ra and Han to fight against Dryden, since Beckett helpfully took out the other guards.  Qi’ra kills Dryden to save Han.  She kisses him, then sends him after Chewie.  She’ll stay behind to steal the jewels so they have money.

But Qi’ra doesn’t follow Han.  Instead, she takes over Crimson Dawn.  And her ultimate boss is revealed: Maul [a surprise to anyone who hasn’t watched the animated series Clone Wars and Rebels; we hear a few strains of Duel of the Fates and see the mechanical legs].  He orders her to Dathomir after she lays the blame for the mess with Beckett.  And she does protect Han; she never names Beckett’s allies and claims they’re all dead.  So Maul won’t go after Han.  Han meets up with Chewie and Beckett, then shoots Beckett.  Because Beckett would have shot him, though Han seems genuinely sad about the older man’s passing.  They give the coaxium to Enfys Nest and decline joining the Rebellion.  The leader muses that Han may someday feel different.  Then Han and Chewie find Lando again and play for the Falcon.  This time, Han was on to Lando’s trick, so he stole the extra card Lando hides.  But he didn’t need it to win the final hand; he won the Falcon fair and square.  And thus, a beautiful team flies off into the galaxy.

Ok, I like this movie better than the sequel trilogy, but there are still elements that I miss from the Legends canon.  Though I will admit that this was written close to the general plot points of that timeline.  In the book trilogy from the late nineties, Han grew up as a street urchin and pickpocket on Corellia before joining the Imperial Navy as a pilot.  There is a young woman that Han becomes attached to, but it doesn’t work out.  What I loved about the trilogy the one time I read it was the female Wookie cook that treated Han like a son and that is where he learned the language.  This film is written in such a way that that aspect may have happened, but was never shown, so I appreciate that.  There’s just part of me that wishes they had done something more with this film.  I applaud Alden on his performance.

Next Time: Rogue One

You’ve Become the Very Thing You Sought to Destroy

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Let me include a few thoughts about Clone Wars first.  While I have not watched the whole series (and not entirely sure if I want to due to some plot points I’m aware of), it does come up in fanfiction a lot.  I watched most of the traditional animated series when it came out, and it was weird.  So no, I did not want to watch the animated film that came out later and I objected to the idea that Anakin had a Padawan.  And, by the way, the film is still weird.  The series, once I gave it a chance, it better.  I learned to like Ashoka and was pleased with elements they included in parts of Rebels that I happened to catch.  I agree with some plot points that occur in the series (SPOILERS); I thought it was interesting to give Obi-Wan a possible love interest (and if you’ve read some of the Legends books, you know this isn’t the first time).  I adore his sassiness; because my favorite characters tend to be snarky, so much fun!  Anakin isn’t as whiny, huzzah.  We see clones in action and bond with certain ones (which comes to bite us in the butt later).  I was not fond of them bringing Maul back because, really!  Obi-Wan sliced the guy in half and he fell down a shaft [I could make a comment regarding the sequel movies here…apparently that does not mean death in the Star Wars universe…I also disagree with that; more of that rant later].  Can we be nice to Obi-Wan, please?  There are some plot lines that I understand needed to occur, but wish they hadn’t because we’d rather see our characters ultimately happy (after we whump them a bit)

I am interested in reading the Wild Space novel, which has been referenced in several stories (which will be listed at the end of the blog), but for now, on with the main event!

All the familiar faces are back: Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan, Natalie Portman as Padmé, Hayden Christensen as Anakin, Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, Samuel Jackson as Mace Windu.  Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Kenny Baker as R2-D2 are the only two actors to appear in all of the original and prequel movies; in fact, the characters appear in all nine films, plus Rogues One, as well as two of the cartoon series, Clone Wars and Rebels.  A fun note about the title of this episode; originally, Episode VI was supposed to be Revenge of the Jedi, but George Lucas decided that revenge was not the Jedi way, but completely acceptable for the Sith.

After the title crawl, the film opens with a huge space battle; you really get a feel for the scope; there are layers and levels and feels a bit like a roller coaster…so be careful if you have a bit of a squeamish stomach.  Also, we now realize fully where the stylistic designs for the Empire originated; those certainly look like Star Destroyers and it doesn’t take much to see the similarity between clone troopers suits and stormtroopers.  Our heroes are in the thick of it and Obi-Wan’s starship gets attacked by buzz droids, so he’s not happy.  Anakin tries to help and R2 is cool; they ultimately end up crashing into General Grievous’ ship [I’m not a fan of Grievous; he was totally unnecessary, you’ve got Dooku]…Obi-Wan does a totally awesome flip out of his fighter and slashes through droids.  Now, time to spring the trap and rescue Chancellor Palpatine.

Anakin and Obi-Wan confront Dooku together this time; Sith Lords are their specialty, but Dooku is quick to take Obi-Wan out of the picture, throwing him into a walkway.  Anakin gets a bit cocky and Dooku can sense fear, hate, and anger in Skywalker, but he doesn’t use them.  Anakin manages to disarm (literally) Dooku and crosses a red and blue blade at the Sith Lord’s neck.  Palpatine orders Anakin to kill Dooku (Dooku was not aware that that was part of the plan); his Sidious voice comes out when he growls “do it” [and that throne looks awfully familiar…fast forward to Return of the Jedi].  Anakin decapitates the Sith Lord and frees Palpatine.  [Ok, seriously, you’ve got Christopher Lee and you use him for about ten minutes, to make room for some mostly-droid being that should have been hacked to pieces the first time he crossed someone’s path]  The Chancellor then tries to get Anakin to leave Obi-Wan (all part of his plan), but Anakin will not leave him.  All three manage to get captured by Grievous, for about a minute, then Anakin and Obi-Wan escape their bonds.  Grievous is a coward and abandons ship.  Anakin manages to land the wreckage of the ship, or as Obi-Wan puts it, half a ship, and calls it “another happy landing.” 

Obi-Wan leaves the politics to Anakin, who sneaks away as soon as possible to visit his wife.  Padmé quietly reveals that she is pregnant.  Anakin is happy (though note the brief hesitation).  Their happiness is soon marred by nightmares Anakin has of Padmé dying in childbirth.  He will not let what happened to his mother happen to the other woman he loves.  Now he’s on a search to find a way to save her.  He even seeks help from Master Yoda, with no details revealed.  Yoda once again counsels Anakin that fear of loss will lead to the Dark Side; attachments lead to jealousy and greed.  Anakin does not seek help from Obi-Wan.

Instead, the Council is concerned by the powers that Chancellor Palpatine is amassing.  Palpatine puts the next step of his plan into action and appoints Anakin as his personal representative on the Jedi Council, planting doubt in Anakin’s head [along with the dream about Padmé, no doubt].  The Council reluctantly accepts the appointment, but will not grant Anakin the rank of Master.  After the meeting, where Yoda states he will help the Wookies on Kashyyk, Obi-Wan and Anakin talk.  Anakin may not have asked for the position, but it is something he has wanted and Obi-Wan tries to get his former Padawan to see that Palpatine is interfering with the Jedi.  The Council, against Obi-Wan’s protests, are asking Anakin to spy on Palpatine (which is what Palpatine is asking of Anakin, but he’s too blinded by loyalty bought at a young age to see that…Palpatine tells Anakin what he wants to hear, so the young man keeps coming back).

Anakin visits Palpatine that evening.  The Chancellor feeds the young Jedi the information on where Grievous is hiding.  Then their conversation drifts to the Sith; Palpatine claims they are similar to the Jedi in their quest for greater power.  “All who gain power are afraid to lose it.”  He also knows a Sith legend on Darth Plageus, who could manipulate the midi-chlorians in a life form and create life [hmm, maybe that’s how Anakin came to fruition], and also, how to keep from dying.  That perks Anakin’s ears, his thoughts are on Padmé.  Palpatine claims that the Dark Side is a pathway to many abilities that would be considered unnatural (and Anakin is so consumed with thoughts of his wife he doesn’t question how the Supreme Chancellor knows Sith legends, or why, or why he’s telling him these things).

The Council decides to send Obi-Wan, who has more experience, to Utapau to capture Grievous.  Former Master and Apprentice bid each other good-bye; Anakin apologizes and thanks Obi-Wan for his training and Obi-Wan declares his pride in Anakin; he’s a far greater Jedi than Obi-Wan could ever hope to be [we’ll get to some Obi-Wan appreciation in a bit].  “Good-bye, old friend,” Obi-Wan says in parting.

Obi-Wan engages in a duel with Grievous on Utapau, leaping down and quipping “hello there.”  Grievous, proving to be a lazy coward, first instructs his guards to kill the Jedi (and weird opening lightsaber stance), Obi-Wan quickly rids himself of the pests.  Then quickly removes two of Grievous’s extra limbs to even the fight.  Obi-Wan’s division of clone troopers [the 212th] arrive to take on the droids, and Grievous runs off.  Obi-Wan pursues him and loses his lightsaber.  When the pair fall onto a platform, Obi-Wan first uses an electro-stave, then decides that hand-to-hand combat is a brilliant way to take on a heavily machined opponent (Obi-Wan, dear, don’t kick the droid) and he gets thrown around a bit.  He manages to grab a hold of a blaster while he’s dangling and a few well-aimed shots ignite what is left of Grievous’s organs.  “So uncivilized,” he quips when he regains his feet (call forward to A New Hope when he refers to a lightsaber as a weapon of a more civilized age).

Meanwhile, Mace Windu senses a plot to destroy the Jedi, the Dark Side surrounds Chancellor Palpatine and there is a fear that he will not set down the extra power he has been granted.  Now the Jedi Council is treading a dangerous line, planning to take control of the Senate.  At the same time, Palpatine is speaking to Anakin, making him believe that everyone else is out to get Palpatine and then he blatantly tells Anakin “only through me can you achieve a power greater than any Jedi,” only the Dark Side holds the power to save his wife.  The young Jedi finally realizes that Palpatine is the Sith Lord they have been looking for all these years.  He wisely goes to the Council.  Windu orders Anakin to remain at the Temple while they arrest Palpatine; Anakin argues that the Masters will need him.  Well, one point for Anakin for finally making a good decision and Windu has a point that Anakin would be comprised, facing Palpatine, but Anakin does not handle sitting still well.

Palpatine continues to weave his influence over Anakin and Anakin leaves the Temple for the Senate building, walking in on the arrest.  Palpatine has finally drawn his own lightsaber and killed the three Masters who accompanied Windu.  Windu has Palpatine cornered, Force lighting reflecting off his blade back onto the Sith Lord.  Anakin pleads that he needs Palpatine in order to save Padmé.  Palpatine pretends to be feeble and Anakin still argues to do the right thing, then takes off Windu’s hand when the Master goes to strike down Palpatine.  Palpatine strikes back, shouting “unlimited power!” and tosses Windu out the window.  Anakin realizes he’s made another mistake and promptly agrees to be Palpatine’s apprentice and turn to the Dark Side [because that’s very logical; let’s negate the good decision made with the worst possible alternative].  Palpatine is now fully Sidious, scarred face and deep voice.  We hear the Imperial March when Sidious names his new apprentice Darth Vader.

That’s not terrifying at all

Sidious proclaims the Jedi an enemy of the Republic and sends Anakin to the Temple to kill all the Jedi there.  Afterwards, he is to go to the Mustafar system and destroy the Separatists leaders.  Anakin leads the 501st division of clones on the Temple, he’s gained the yellow eyes of the Sith, and they murder all there, including Younglings (our hearts start breaking).  Sidious issues Order 66 and the clones turn on their Jedi generals [oh boy, after learning to love these clones and see that they love their Jedi commanders in Clone Wars, yeah, stomp on our hearts why don’t ya…we also discovered in the cartoon that this order is compulsory; the clones were essentially under mind control and didn’t have a choice…bar a few we find out later].  Yoda, already reeling from feeling Anakin, manages to sense his attack and escape, with the help of a familiar Wookie (Chewie!).  Cody and his men fire on Obi-Wan, after he gave his general his lightsaber back.  Obi-Wan falls into the water and does not emerge.  We see him steal a fighter and escape.

Bail Organa investigates the commotion at the Temple and is lucky to escape alive after witnessing the clones kill a Padawan who tried to defend his home.  He boards his ship (the Rebel runner we’ll see in the opening of A New Hope) and goes to rescue Jedi.  He makes contact with Obi-Wan.  Padmé cries when she sees the Temple in flames and is thankful that Anakin is alive.  Anakin reports that there was a Jedi rebellion and they must stay loyal to the Chancellor [deleted scenes show that Padmé was already doubting Palpatine and was part of the group that would become the foundation of the Rebellion, including Mon Mothma and Bail Organa].  Obi-Wan joins Yoda at the Temple and they take down some clones and change the outgoing message to turn the Jedi away from the Temple [we eventually discover most notably in A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller that Caleb Dume/ Kanan Jarrus was the young Padawan who recommended this to Obi-Wan].

Palpatine calls a special Senate meeting that Padmé and Bail attend where he blames the Jedi who have left him scarred.  But his resolve is stronger than ever.  So, in the name of security and stability, he will dissolve the Republic and create the Galactic Empire!  As Padmé puts it, “this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.”  [There is a can of worms here that I am not brave enough to open.]

Obi-Wan doesn’t want to believe the security recordings when he discovers it was Anakin who marched on the Temple, or that he has turned.  The two Jedi Masters must face the two Sith Lords; Obi-Wan begs Yoda to allow him to go after Sidious, he cannot go after Anakin.  The young man is like his brother, he cannot kill him.  But Yoda fears Obi-Wan would not survive Sidious, so Yoda takes on the Sith Master himself.  Obi-Wan goes to Padmé; he must find Anakin.  But Padmé won’t say where he husband has gone; and Obi-Wan knows she’s pregnant, and Anakin’s the father.  [Side rant here, it’s made clear in Clone Wars that Anakin and Padmé are not as subtle as they believe they are; Obi-Wan has probably known for a while that there is something between them, maybe not marriage per say.  And how does no one else know Padmé is pregnant!  Look at how she dresses now!  (Mind you, they are pretty gowns, and I love her more natural hairstyle, but that’s beside the point).  And she’s have to be a far ways along; it’s stated at the beginning that Anakin and Obi-Wan have been gone for months in an Outer Rim Siege, meaning her baby was conceived the last time Anakin was home.  How do her friends not guess?]

Padmé flies off to see her husband and Obi-Wan stows away on the ship; he knows his friends.  Anakin has executed all the Separatists leaders but is still excited to see his wife.  Until she questions his actions.  Anakin now believes that Obi-Wan has turned her against him; it’s back to being all Obi-Wan’s fault.  Then Obi-Wan reveals himself and Anakin turns on his wife.  He chokes her (cause that’s a real smart idea with a pregnant woman) and Obi-Wan tries one last time to talk sense into his former Padawan, but his mind is lost to Palpatine’s machinations.

Thus begins the Battle of the Heroes [another stunning masterpiece composed by John Williams.  I can remember Jimmy Smits introducing this piece at A Capitol Fourth, referring to the orchestra as “some friends,” I thought it was funny and totally cool that they played it in Washington D.C. for everyone].  It’s blue lightsaber versus blue lightsaber (a first for the series), brother versus brother.  This is the most epic duel of the entire saga [I will fight you on this].  It is fast, and no, that was not digitally altered, Hayden and Ewan performed this duel themselves and are skilled enough now to fight at that speed.  This is a fight between foes that know each other’s fighting styles intimately.  They’re often a blur of blue and will use the same move against each other.  Heck, they even throw in a bit of Duel of the Fates at one point.

At the same time, Yoda faces Sidious in the Senate building.  Sidious resorts to throwing the Senate seats at the diminutive Jedi and it ends as a stale mate.  Yoda escapes and tells Bail Organa he must go into hiding, failed, he has.

Obi-Wan expresses his own failure to Anakin.  Anakin is now immersed in the Dark Side and feels that the Jedi are evil (goes back to everything Palpatine has fed him for over a decade).  Obi-Wan gains the high ground and cautions Anakin to surrender.  Anakin is still cocky and flips over his former master, but he’s still in reach of Obi-Wan’s blade and loses the rest of his limbs.  The heat of the lava lands on him, burning and scaring him as Obi-Wan releases his pain: “You were the Chosen One!  It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them!  Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!”  Anakin shouts his hatred at Obi-Wan.  “You were my brother, Anakin.  I loved you.”  [Excellent acting by Ewan]  Obi-Wan cannot bring himself to end his best friend (which could be argued was a mistake, but we love Obi-Wan too much to judge him too harshly), so takes his discarded lightsaber and walks away.  He takes Padmé to Bail Organa where the medical droids deliver her twins (a bit of a shock to everyone, except us).  Sadly, she’s lost the will to live but tells Obi-Wan as he holds newborn Luke that there is still good in Anakin.

Palpatine senses Vader is in trouble and saves him, but that necessitates a large black suit to keep him alive.  This is where that iconic look comes from and that distinctive breathing.  When Vader asks about his wife, Palpatine tells him that he killed her.  Construction begins on the Death Star [why it takes nineteen years to build the first one, unless there were large-scale prototypes first…there are a few plot holes between the ending of III and beginning of IV].  Padmé’s family buries her on Naboo.  Yoda recommends that the infants be split up for their protection; Bail offers to take Leia to Alderaan.  Obi-Wan will take Luke to his family on Tatooine (cue theme from Episode IV).  Yoda has one final lesson for Obi-Wan; Qui-Gon has kept his identity in the Force and offers to teach the remaining Masters.  We also get a quick scene that shows C-3PO’s memory was wiped before working for Bail Organa, but R2-D2’s was not…meaning that little astromech knows everything.

So now, all we have to do is wait for the next generation to grow up.

This movie, like the other prequels, has its good and bad points.  Anakin’s Heel-Face Turn was too sudden when it finally happened.  Yes, the ground work has been laid, particularly since Attack of the Clones.  But it seems within the space of a few hours, Anakin goes from ‘I trust the Jedi Council to handle this threat I discovered’, to ‘I kill the Jedi Master and boom, now I’m a Sith Lord’.  And then he takes it out on his wife.  Of course, this is majorly influenced by Palpatine’s schemes, but I really want to smack Anakin upside the head.  [And this is why there exists many fix-it fictions].  And all Padmé does it sit around, being pregnant.  She took charge and kicked butt in the previous two films and now, nothing.  She loses the will to live after giving birth…yes, this obviously had to happen because she’s not around in the originals (and begs the question, how did Leia have memories of her…plot hole), but still disappointing.  Grievous was an unneeded character; you already had an extra bad guy and why build up Count Dooku if you’re not going to use him.

The banter was fun; Anakin was a bit better, at least at the beginning of the film; not so whiny.  The massive duel at the end was epic!  That sells the entire film; it’s fraught with emotion.  Obi-Wan may not have been planning on killing Anakin, but he did plan on stopping him.  What makes it even more interesting is that the two characters (and actors) were evenly matched.

Up Next: Solo

I’ll put my musings on the Jedi Code here:

As the extended universe wrote out, the Jedi Code declares There is no emotion, there is peace.  There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.  There is no passion, there is serenity.  There is no chaos, there is harmony.  There is no death, there is the Force.  I’m sure someone has done a paper somewhere comparing this to different philosophies or religious beliefs and this as it is written out is a mindful way to live.  For a while, I felt that the Jedi Code was meant to make Jedi into unfeeling beings, which is the opposite of what humans are.  As humans we have emotions, we are emotions.  And as a teenager, just getting into the fandom, I went along with the idea that the Council was denying Anakin’s basic needs as a human; of course he should feel love.  But there is a difference between love and attachment.  It circles back to that saying “if you love something,  let it go.”  The attachment rule is to prevent the Jedi from putting one thing or being or whatever about another.  Like Anakin putting the fate of Padmé above the rest of the galaxy.  Of course Jedi should love and have a compassion, but they have a larger duty to the galaxy.  In Clone Wars we see Obi-Wan tempted due to love, but he resists.  Is the Council flawed?  Yes.  It’s a bit odd to look back and see that wise Master Yoda made some mistakes.  Like, instead of simply telling Anakin over and over that fear leads to the Dark Side, how ’bout some actual help? And it pains me to say this, but technically Palpatine had a point in telling Anakin to completely understand a subject, he must study all aspects, not just the dogmatic, narrow view of the Jedi. There is obviously a fine line (and someone could make the connection between magic and the Force and compare Harry Potter to Star Wars…I do not have the time for that, lol), but simply excluding something because it is “dark” without understanding it is asking for trouble. Caution is urged, of course.

It is heavily implied within the extended universe that Qui-Gon Jinn loved a fellow Jedi Master, Tahl and his decisions regarding her were not wholly logical.  It caused a rift between him and Obi-Wan more than once while Obi-Wan was a Padawan. …Yeah, I’ve come to realize that Qui-Gon was not the greatest Master and this is where fandom has declared Obi-Wan deserves hugs. I once thought Mace Windu cold and unfeeling.  While he too was flawed, as is any good character, he also had his depths.

Some Obi-Wan Kenobi appreciation [can you tell he is my favorite character?]:

He’s referred to as the Ace on TV Tropes [a lot of this information came from there, but I certainly agree with their points]; one of the best Jedi that the Order ever had.  Third strongest Council member after Windu and Yoda; tactical genius, top diplomat (Negotiator), expert pilot (out flew Jango Fett), master of multiple forms of lightsaber combat (particularly Form III [Soresu] and Ataru).  Considered to be the single best defensive duelist in the galaxy in his prime.  In canon, the only battle he loses is against Vader in A New Hope and he most likely threw that as a distraction to help Luke.  He faced off against the Sith, killing an apprentice when he was only a Padawan and Grievous.  Became a broken ace after the death of Qui-Gon and most of the Order, and (SPOILER) his love Satine by Maul [I disliked that bit].  Saw the death of Padmé and spent nineteen years in hiding on Tatooine with guilt and trauma. 

Sees more combat that most of the other Jedi in canon.  More of a brother relationship with Anakin, less of an age gap; bicker like siblings (and it is hilarious).  The one who started the trend of Jedi generals wearing clone trooper armor in order to relate more closely to their troops.  Primary enemy of Maul and Grievous, but greatest enemy was Anakin.  Took a Level in Badass: goes from getting very lucky against Maul to a Master who defeated Grievous and bested the most powerful Force User in the galaxy.  Badass Bookworm – intelligent, cultured gentlemen, who can kick a lot of ass when the time comes for it (love this!).  Bash Brothers and Big Brother Instinct and Mentor with Anakin.  The fandom is quick to point out that while Obi-Wan undoubtedly made mistakes in training Anakin (and he beats himself up for it), he went directly from being a Padawan to having a Padawan and one who was already too old to begin Jedi education yet young to be a Padawan.  And had several members of the Council who disagreed with training the boy, so cut him a little slack.

Is described as “the ultimate Jedi” partially because he is modest, heroic, focused, and kind.  Nevertheless, if you push him far enough (like taking part in the murder of almost his entire “family” aka Jedi Order, including innocent children) he is prepared to hack off your limbs and leave you alone to slowly burn to death.  Calm facade breaks while fighting Anakin in Revenge.  Anytime the emotionally controlled Obi-Wan get emotional, something is wrong.

Humble Hero [fanfic authors recognize this]: It seems that Obi-Wan is the only being who doesn’t understand how great a Jedi he is – when the Council proposes to send their ‘most cunning and insightful Master’ after Grievous, he has no idea who they mean.  He’s also surprised when Mace Windu (the guy who created his own form of lightsaber combat) refers to him as ‘the master of the classic form,’ note, the master, not simply a master.  He is easily the nicest and most immediately personable member of the Jedi Order in Prequels.  Overall, maintains a kind demeanor and strong moral code in spite of the vast amount of hardship he faces.  Slightly aloof and snarky and times, but also polite and compassionate.  The Paragon: stands as pinnacle of heroism; selfless, morally upright, humble, and inspires others, in control of his impulses and emotions.  Not perfect, but closest to embodying ideals of Jedi Order.  Extremely clever, worldly, intelligent.

Does get beaten up at times (Attack of the Clones where he jumps out window and then the arena).  Combat Pragmatist.  Sharp wit and sardonically sarcastic sense of humor (could be a result of seeing death and destruction…I believe somewhere in Legends canon, young Obi-Wan suffered from visions).  Gentleman Snarker [I love that]: Obi-Wan’s polite, diplomatic demeanor can mask some pretty biting snark.  Poster boy for Snark Knight; he also likes to flirt with his enemies. Mainly meaningless, but still funny.  Refuses to give up after learning about the occurrences of the Jedi Purge and Anakin’s betrayal of the Order.  Still hurt years afterward, still believes Luke will save the Jedi.  Jedi are fettered as a rule, but Obi-Wan explains the strength that comes from resisting the temptation of the Dark Side while confronting Maul later.  Makes up for lack of character growth with the sheer amount of action he goes through.

Foil to Anakin, both skilled and famous Jedi with troubles love lives: Anakin and Padmé obviously.  Obi-Wan and Duchess Satine (Legends: Siri).  Obi-Wan takes firm hand training Anakin, more of a gentle touch training Luke.  Throughout Prequels and Clone Wars, Obi-Wan has several good reasons to turn to the Dark Side, but resists.  Cannot be corrupted.  Has Innocent Blue Eyes that symbolize his heroic, righteous, and pure nature.  Mentor Archetype.  Morality Chain to Anakin: Anakin respected Obi-Wan enough that Palpatine had to get him off the planet before turning him to the Dark Side, and Anakin still tries to (threateningly) talk Obi-Wan out of fighting him.  Morphs into dark version of Worthy Opponent.  Dooku  considers Obi-Wan a worthy opponent (Hardeen plotline; foil an attempted kidnapping by disguising himself as a bounty hunter and sabotaging the plot from the inside)

Implied friendship formed with Padmé and turned blind eye to her relationship with Anakin.  Good is not Soft: prefers to settle conflict diplomatically.  But will fight.  Demonstrates some of the most powerful Psychic Powers in canon.  Also prone to passively enhancing his physical strength and durability with Force; shot straight up four feet by arm strength to beat Maul; shook off blows from Grievous that sent him falling thirty feet; and fought Anakin within inches of lava.

Similar position to Han Solo in Prequel Trilogy; they both serve as older brotherly figures (Han to Luke, Obi-Wan to Anakin…I’ll get into more of the former when we hit the original trilogy because I love that part).  Obi-Wan is Anakin’s Jedi Master and partner who Anakin also saw as a Parental Substitute while Han is Luke’s partner and closest friend, who later becomes his brother-in-law.  Conversely, Anakin and Obi-Wan’s bond is destroyed, while Luke and Han have a rocky start but become family (even before marriage).  Belligerent Sexual Tension with love interests (Satine, Leia).  Obi-Wan Ideal Hero, Han Anti-Hero.  (SPOILER): Both are murdered by someone they had a complicated father-son relationship with.  Driving force behind the Prequels, but still major character in New Hope.

Disagrees with (SPOILER) dismissing Ahsoka [and another reason I’m not keen on finishing Clone Wars].  Also believes the Council should be more open with Anakin about their concerns over Chancellor Palpatine and the Sith, but overruled.  The Stoic: has one of the most unpleasant lives (and afterlife?) of any character in fiction, but remains clam, never complains, and usually keeps his emotions well in check.  You Didn’t Ask: rather sad one, only reason didn’t stay with Satine is she didn’t ask.  Oh, and Leia is Luke’s sister.

Later in life, the Atoner for training the man who destroyed the Jedi Order and never recognizing the threat Anakin really represented.  Will still cut off arms if need arises.  Even after all the trauma he went through in his younger days and having spent almost twenty years living as a hermit, Obi-Wan is a remarkably kind and patient man.  Explanation for fight against Vader; stalling and Vader’s powerful attacks.  Starts off as a young and brash apprentice to Qui-Gon, becomes more wise and experienced Jedi Master, culmination in teaching Luke, his former pupil’s son.

And thus I am totally excited for the upcoming show on Disney+ and very glad they kept Ewan McGregor for the role.

Some fanfiction recommendations, all from AO3:

Check out

Both Lost Destiny and Crossroads by Nihes are interesting, but you end up wanting to punch something at the end.  However, Jedi Babysitting for Professionals is hilarious

I certainly hope that Big Fat Bumblebee’s Found is continued because it is certainly time that someone takes care of Obi-Wan.  Brothers care for brothers, Infuriating Man, Battle of Wills, and Enforced Convalescence are heartwarming (apparently the only thing Anakin and Mace Windu agree on is caring for Obi-Wan, not the Order, or the Republic, or even the Force, but yes to Obi-Wan).

Meysun’s There is no Pain is rather poignant, and you certainly want to wrap Obi-Wan up in a hug afterwards.

As I Fall and A Long Way Down by KCKenobi include some Obi-Wan whump.  Some Things You Just Can’t Speak About is another one that makes you want to wrap Obi-Wan up in a hug.  We get some protective Mace Windu in Old Wounds.

Must_Be _Thursday’s Just Surrender is rather good.

AndyHood’s Fought for Him really emphasizes why Obi-Wan needs some hugs.

Siri_Kenobi12 gives us some Obi-Wan whump in TestedMemoirs of Kadavo is wonderful and I already told you I love It Takes a Village from the write-up on Phantom Menace.

You Are Wanted Obi-Wan Kenobi by allwalkfree is my new favorite story.

There’s Always a Bigger Fish

STAR WARS

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

I have a, we’ll say multifaceted relationship with Star Wars.  This was one of the first fandoms I got interested in as a teenager, but it certainly wasn’t love at first sight.  My parents put on the original trilogy, long before there were even rumors of prequels, when I was growing up; and I had no interest whatsoever.  The most interesting things I can remember from that was that Frank Oz voiced both Yoda and Fozzie Bear.  I was about ten when the prequels came out and still did not have much of an interest.  That changed when I volunteered to man the children’s librarian’s desk during the summer reading program.  All the new children’s books were right behind me, including the Jedi Apprentice series, which tells the tales of the early days of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s master/apprentice relationship.  One sounded vaguely interesting (Number 12, The Evil Experiment, if I recall correctly), so I gave it a go.  And enjoyed it.  And then borrowed all of the other books in the series (which I finished in quick order; they were easy reads for me).  So I favored the prequel movies for the longest time.  Still didn’t necessarily want to watch the original trilogy.  Until I picked up another book at the library: Young Jedi Knights, chronicling adventures of Han and Leia’s twins, Jania and Jacen…I’ll get into all of that when we hit the original trilogy.  Again, I was hooked and thus brought into the fold of the original trilogy.

It was not always fun being the only one of my friends in school interested in Star WarsHarry Potter was fine, everyone at that point loved it.  As a teenager, the Jedi Code sounded interesting, mastering one’s emotions.  I read Star Wars and Philosophy and ended up writing a paper for college writing based on it [Living Morally in a Business World; not the project I am most proud of].  For a while, Star Wars played a role in developing my fanfiction world.  Star Wars fanfiction was actually the first fanfiction I read.  Then, I got into Lord of the Rings and that eventually took over.  I still like Star Wars and definitely have favorite characters and there are some books I will re-read multiple times, but growing into an adult changed my perspective on certain things (like Qui-Gon Jinn might not be the epitome of best Jedi Masters…partially influenced by some awesome fanfiction stories on AO3) and I now heavily favor the original trilogy.  Except the lightsaber battles, because they’re just totally awesome in the prequels.

I know there are about a half dozen different ways to watch this film franchise; I seriously debated posting this in release order, but I felt it would be too much jumping around.  I also will not be covering any of the cartoons; I’ve seen a good bit of Clone Wars and Rebels, but not all of them.  And I have not watched and don’t necessarily intend to watch The Mandolorian…I do not have time.  (I’m also really behind on the MCU shows on Disney+ right now, so it becomes a choice).  I do intend to watch the Obi-Wan Kenobi series when it comes out.  Apologies for any disappointment.  Star Wars is such a huge part of pop culture that it is expected that one knows certain things going into the prequels. 

George Lucas put together a great cast for Phantom Menace.  Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List [no, haven’t watched and not one I think I will], Gawain in Excalibur [I probably should watch that movie], the Irishman played Scottish folk hero Rob Roy, appears in Kingdom of Heaven and Batman Begins.  He voices Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, and makes bad guys fear for their lives in the Taken franchise) is Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, Ewan McGregor (he’s got a great voice in Moulin Rouge, is a bit funny in Down with Love, is dashing in Miss Potter, and voices Lumiere in the live-action Beauty and the Beast.  He appears in Nanny McPhee Returns, Angels and Demons, and a seriously weird movie The Island [I watched it because he was in it and I still get freaked out by memories of it]) is his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Natalie Portman (before she was Jane Foster in the MCU and Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl) is Padmé Amidala and Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean, the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, The Duchess) briefly appears as her handmaiden Sabé (the girls looked remarkably alike at that age).  Samuel L. Jackson (before intimidating everyone as Nick Fury in the MCU) introduces Mace Windu, I recognize Terence Stamp now (Siegfried in the hilarious Get Smart movie in 2008) as Chancellor Valorum.  Ian McDiarmid returns to play Palpatine; Frank Oz, Kenny Baker, and Anthony Daniels all reprise their roles from the original trilogy.

Now, let’s venture “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

Jedi ambassadors are sent to the Trade Federation blockade of Naboo to force a settlement.  Master Qui-Gon Jinn feels that negotiations will be short.  As young Obi-Wan Kenobi points out later, they are short indeed; the Trade Federation is under the control of a Sith Lord, Lord Sidious, who instructs them to kill the Jedi.  Not so easy, they find out.  The two Jedi sneak down to the planet and make their way to the Queen.  They pick up Jar Jar Binks along the way [I don’t hate him, but he is annoying], but make it in time to rescue Queen Amidala and her handmaidens.  Qui-Gon recommends taking Amidala to Courscant to plead her case with the Senate, but their ship is damaged while escaping the Trade Federation blockade.  Little R2-D2 to the rescue! 

They still have to divert to Tatooine to make repairs.  The Queen sends Padmé along with Qui-Gon to find parts and in town, they discover a little boy in the shop; Anakin Skywalker [who very awkwardly tries to flirt with Padmé; mind you, he’s nine and she’s fourteen.  Why a nine-year-old is using lines he picked up from spacers…]  Qui-Gon attempts to use Jedi mind tricks on the shop owner, but they don’t work, only money.  So Anakin chimes in when he takes the newcomers home that he has built a podracer.  He’ll pilot and win and his new friends can repair their ship.  Qui-Gon is intrigued by this boy, a bit to Padmé’s displeasure.  Anakin’s mother admits to Qui-Gon that her son has no father [um, when did the Chosen One become Jesus?  Though technically, there are several mythical heroes that do not have fathers; Geoffrey Monmouth’s legend of Arthur terms Merlin as one such lad].  But Shmi feels that Anakin was meant to help Qui-Gon and Padmé.  Qui-Gon does manage to use a Jedi trick in order to gamble for Anakin’s freedom; sadly, the owner will only let one go.

Anakin wins the podrace [space Nascar] and Shmi encourages him to go with Qui-Gon.  As any nine-year-old boy would, he doesn’t want to say goodbye to his mother; but this is his chance to live out his dreams of seeing the stars. On their way back to the ship, Qui-Gon encounters a man dressed in black, carrying a red lightsaber.  We know that this is Darth Maul, Lord Sidious’s apprentice, tasked with finding the Queen and Jedi.  Qui-Gon manages to escape and introduces “Anakin Skywalker, meet Obi-Wan Kenobi” (and those of us familiar with the original movies see foreshadowing!)  On Courscant, Queen Amidala meets with Naboo Senator Palpatine and Chancellor Valorum to discuss politics; Palpatine does not have much faith that their situation will be dealt with swiftly.  He urges Amidala to consider voting out Valorum.

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan report to the Jedi Council.  The Sith (enemies of the Jedi) have returned.  Qui-Gon also informs them about Anakin, believing he was conceived by the Force (how is that a thing?), thus making him the prophesized Chosen One who will bring balance to the Force.  The Council doesn’t quite believe Qui-Gon, but allow the boy to be tested.  He is truly Force-sensitive, but he is too old, and too attached to his mother.  Attachments are forbidden within the Jedi Code.  Qui-Gon attempts to take Anakin as his Padawan.  One problem, he already has a Padawan.  So he declares Obi-Wan ready to face the trials to become a Jedi Knight.  The Council tables the discussion; Queen Amidala has chosen to return to Naboo to fight for her people.  The Senate is in an uproar over outing Valorum and Palpatine is nominated to replace him (more foreshadowing…some of us know where this is going).  Yoda warns Anakin “fear is the path to the Dark Side.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

Our heroes return to Naboo and Amidala meets with the Gungans to form an alliance (and a background pilot is a younger Richard Armitage, fun fact).  And turns out, Padmé is the real queen!  Sabé has been pretending to be the queen in order to protect Padmé.  Boy, is Anakin surprised.  The Gungan army will be a distraction against the droid army [and you’ve listened to John Williams a bit too much when you can tell there is a note sequence in the droid invasion theme that is heavily reminiscent of Indiana Jones facing off against the Nazis; not identical, but pretty close] while Padmé and her people sneak into the palace and take the Trade Federation leaders hostage.

Qui-Gon orders Anakin to stay safe in the cockpit of an empty fighter.  Then Darth Maul enters (most dramatic scene of the film and to the amazing Duel of the Fates soundtrack).  The Jedi will handle him, Padmé will go around.  I must say, it is very cool to see a young woman take charge and kick butt.  But the best part of the movie is Duel of the Fates, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon facing off against Darth Maul [fun note, the actor hired to portray Maul, Ray Park, is a professional martial artists and swordsman. Liam and Ewan did most of their own stunts and fighting as well; Ewan kept bending his prop lightsaber.  Further fun fact in regards to the words behind Duel of the Fates, they are taken from a Welsh poem and translated into Sanskrit; if you’re John Williams, of course you do that].  These are the Jedi warriors in their prime (compared to a disabled man and elderly man fighting in A New Hope).  There are flips and kicks and falling down platforms.  Maul manages to separate Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, trapping them all in separate force fields [what that area is actually supposed to be, I have no idea.  It looks cool, so we go along with it].  Maul and Qui-Gon make it through the corridor, but there is one field left, holding Obi-Wan back.  And he witnesses Maul run his Master through.  His “no!” echoes through the chamber.  Maul is waiting for him and it is an aggressive duel.  Maul overpowers Obi-Wan enough to disarm him of his blue lightsaber and kick him into a shaft.

Meanwhile, Anakin has kept his promise to stay in the cockpit, along with R2-D2.  Then he tries to help Padmé by shooting droids, but that engages the autopilot and takes him into space above the planet.  He accidentally crash lands into the droid control ship and blows it up from the inside, escaping to the cheers of the other pilots.  Padmé outwits the Trade Federation leaders.  Obi-Wan summons up his strength and leaps over Maul, calling Qui-Gon’s lightsaber to him, and cutting his enemy in half.  Both halves fall down the shaft, but Obi-Wan runs to his fallen master.  Qui-Gon’s last words to his Padawan are to make him promise to train Anakin.  Obi-Wan agrees.

When the Jedi Council arrives alongside the newly elected Chancellor Palpatine, they confer the status of Jedi Knight on Obi-Wan.  Yoda personally disagrees with the decision to allow Obi-Wan to train Anakin; he senses grave danger in training the boy.  Obi-Wan is willing to go against the Council to honor his fallen master’s final wish.  Yoda retorts “Qui-Gon’s defiance I sense in you, need that you do not.”  Ultimately, the Council has agreed to let Obi-Wan train Anakin Skywalker.  At Qui-Gon’s funeral, Yoda and Mace Windu wonder if Obi-Wan has killed the master or apprentice Sith.  (Then the shot focuses on Palpatine…foreshadowing!)  The film ends with a joyful parade between the Naboo and Gungans, declaring peace.

Now that I am older and re-watching the movie, the first part just seems to drag.  As mentioned above, Duel of the Fates is the highlight of the film.  I understand the necessity of setting up the back stories for all these characters we know, but a good portion of this film falls flat.  John Williams’ score is of course, amazing.

Some fanfiction stories that I have discovered that tie-in with Phantom Menace include

It Takes a Village by Siri-Kenobi12

There is no Pain by Meysun

Both of these require some knowledge of characters introduced in the Jedi Apprentice books.

Up Next: Episode II: Attack of the Clones