“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.

“You were always scum.” “Rebel scum.”

The Last Jedi

The main cast returns, with Mark Hamill and Andy Serkis having more screen time than the last movie.  Billie Lourd (Carrie Fisher’s daughter) has a role as Lieutenant Connix as well.  Laura Dern (Marmee March in the 2019 Little Women amongst dozens of other movies) is Vice Admiral Holdo.  And if the captain of the First Order ship at the beginning looks familiar, that is Mark Lewis Jones, who has appeared in Merlin, Game of Thrones, Master and Commander, The Other Boleyn Girl, and Robin Hood.

We are informed that the First Order has taken military control of the galaxy and plans to wipe out the Resistance.  Leia is still certain that Luke will return and bring hope to the galaxy.  The Resistance is fleeing their last base when a Dreadnought ship appears.  A single light fighter [like in the original film] goes against the massive ship, piloted by Poe.  He’s able to take out the canons since he is too small and too close for their other weapons to hit, and still has time to joke with Hux.  This is supposed to pave the way for the rest of his squad to come in and bomb the Dreadnought.  His disobeys Leia’s orders and loses all of his bombers.  The last one manages to drop their payload, but falls into the resulting explosion.  They did manage to destroy the Dreadnought, but it came at a great cost. 

Nevertheless, Snoke is disappointed with Hux.  Snoke is also disappointed with Kylo Ren; he has too much of his father’s heart in him.  He keeps Hux around because he can be manipulated into a sharp tool.  But Kylo; Snoke sensed the raw, untamed power within him, in combination with the potential of his bloodline.  He could have been a new Vader.  Snoke fears he is mistaken.  “You’re no Vader.  You’re just a child in a mask.”  Kylo destroys the mask.  His new task is to snuff out hope in the galaxy, alive because the seed of the Jedi lives.

The Resistance thinks they have gotten away.  Finn wakes up and finds Poe, but he’s more concerned with “where is Rey?”  Leia slaps Poe and demotes him.  He needs to learn that “you can’t solve everything by hoping in an X-Wing and blowing something up.”  Then they receive word that the First Order has found them.  Poe immediately asks “permission to jump in an X-Wing and blow something up?”  Permission granted.  Poe doesn’t make it into the hanger before Kylo Ren blows it up.  Kylo senses Leia and does not fire.  His troops do not hesitate to blow the bridge.  Leia floats into space, but she uses the Force to bring herself back on board.  She is unconscious and needs time to heal.

Meanwhile, Rey attempts to get Luke to train her.  Well, her first argument is that the Resistance needs him.  That’s after Luke accepts his lightsaber from Rey and throws it over his shoulder.  His X-Wing is underwater.  [Fun note, the Pogs were created because puffins are prevalent on Skellig Michael and to digitally remove them from every scene would be impossible.  Thus, we get cute Pogs!]  Rey eventually has Chewie break in Luke’s door in demand of seeing him.  Luke is initially happy to see his old friend and hear that the Falcon is nearby.  Then he asks “where’s Han?” [there is a deleted scene that should have been kept of Luke mourning his brother-in-law.]  Luke tells Rey to go away.  She won’t leave without him.  So she gets to watch his daily routine (including a weird milking scene that could have been deleted instead).

But Rey begins to hear something.  She wanders the island and finds old books – the original Jedi texts.  Luke finally asks “who are you?”  Rey feels she knows the place from her dreams.  Luke now wonders why Leia sent Rey specifically to him.  Rey wants to learn, but Luke refuses to teach. “It’s time for the Jedi to die.”  That is, until Luke visits the Falcon alone and finds R2.  R2 tries to convince him.  Luke retorts “nothing can make me change my mind.”  Then R2 shows him Leia’s message from all those years ago: “help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”  Low blow, but it works.

I’ll admit, the bit with Luke and the palm branch “do you feel it?  Oh, you must be very strong!” while training Rey was funny.  When Luke tells her to reach out, she needs to reach out with her feelings.  The Force is not just something to lift rocks and control people.  It is balance and energy between everything and inside of you.  And it does not just belong to the Jedi.  He’s a bit impressed with Rey’s training with the lightsaber, until she cuts a rock in two.  However, when Rey senses a dark pit on the island, she doesn’t heed Luke’s warning to stay away.  She dives right in, attempting to discover what it is it wants to tell her.  Luke is troubled; he sensed that same power in Ben Solo.  Rey realizes that Luke has cut himself off from the Force.  He tells her that when you strip away the mythology of the Jedi, their legacy is failure.  At the height of their power, they allowed Darth Sidious to rise and destroy them, and create the Empire.  It was Sidious who was responsible for Darth Vader.  Rey argues that a Jedi, Luke, brought Vader back.

Luke recalls that yes, there was balance for a time after the defeat of Vader.  Luke became a legend in the galaxy.  And he feels he became arrogant.  He thought he could teach the next generation of Jedi.  He thought he could teach his nephew.  But Ben ultimately betrayed him and slaughtered his school.  Luke blames himself.  Like the Jedi of the Old Republic, he failed.  Rey argues that Luke was not the one who failed; Ben failed him.  She vows not to fail Luke.

She also discovers a connection to Kylo Ren.  They can see each other, but not their surroundings.  Kylo attempts at the beginning to force her to tell him where Luke is, but realizes it won’t work.  It is Kylo who wonders why there is a connection.  He even agrees with Rey when she calls him a monster.  During one of their conversations, he’s shirtless, which unsettles Rey a bit.  She asks him “why did you hate your father?”  Kylo admits he didn’t hate him, but won’t answer why he killed him.  Instead, he muses on how Rey is constantly searching for parents.  And she finds those figures first in Han and now in Luke.  But did Luke tell her the truth?  Kylo tells her that Luke sensed his power and feared it.  He tried to murder his nephew.  Kylo tells Rey “let the past die, kill it if you have it.  It is the only way to become who you were meant to be.”  In return, Rey admits to Kylo what she saw in the cave (a very weird mirror universe) and she tried to see her parents, but it didn’t work.  She comforts Kylo that they are not alone.  It’s not too late for Kylo.  Their hands reach out for each other.  Their fingers touch.  And Luke walks in.

Luke and Rey fight.  Rey pulls out the lightsaber and demands an answer.  Did Luke try to murder Ben?  Luke elaborates; he had sensed that Snoke had turned Ben’s heart.  He saw Ben’s future, saw him destroy everything Luke had fought for, and for a brief moment, Luke was tempted to end the threat.  That moment passed and he was left with shame and the consequences.  The last Luke saw of Ben was the eyes of a frightened boy.  That is why Ben saw Luke raise his lightsaber.  Then Ben reacted and everything went to pot.  Luke warns Rey when she wants to go to Ben and attempt to save him “this is not going to go how you think.” Rey leaves on the Falcon.

The ghost of Yoda appears when Luke attempts to burn the sacred tree and texts.  But Luke can’t bring himself to do it.  So Yoda calls down lightning and ignites the tree.  Luke even tries to save the texts, but Yoda laughs.  So Yoda must agree, it is time for the Jedi Order to end.  No, it’s time for Luke to look past a pile of books.  It has always been the way of things for the students to grow beyond the master.  Luke must pass on what he knows, Yoda instructs.  “Greatest teacher, failure is.”

Back with the Resistance, Vice Admiral Holdo takes command.  Finn doesn’t intend to stick around long enough to find out what her plan is; his plan is to leave and find Rey and keep her safe.  But a young woman named Rose stops him.  Together, they realized that the First Order managed to track them through lightspeed, which should be impossible.  But they could only be using the lead ship.  There’s a way to disable the tracker.  They tell Poe the plan and he contacts Maz for help.  She sends Finn and Rose after a master code breaker.  They check out an upscale casino, then managed to get arrested.  They meet another criminal hacker and during their escape, free some animals and destroy the casino, giving the poor locals hope.  When Finn and Rose are delayed, Poe confronts Holdo about her lack of plan, then takes command in order to buy his friends more time.  Leia wakes up in time to take the bridge back from Poe and stun him.  In actuality, she and Holdo like Poe.  Holdo’s plan all along was to get the last of the Resistance to a hidden Rebel base.  The First Order wouldn’t track the small cruisers.  She’s staying aboard the larger carrier to keep up the decoy.

Many of the characters all end up on Snoke’s ship.  Finn, Rose, and BB-8 are aboard to turn off the tracker.  They are instead caught by Captain Phasma, finding out that their criminal “friend” double-crossed them and they are almost executed.  That’s going on while Rey attempts to turn Ben.  “You don’t have to do this.  I feel the conflict within you.”  (Reusing dialogue from Return of the Jedi).  She’s seen the future where Ben does not bow to Snoke.  Ben has seen a different future, where Rey is the one who will turn.  They appear before Snoke, who calls Ben his good and faithful apprentice.  Snoke sensed that as Kylo grew stronger in the Dark Side, he equal would grow in the Light.  So Snoke bridged their minds and planted bait.  And Rey was not wise enough to resists it.

Similar to Return of the Jedi, Rey witnesses the destruction of the Resistance fleet and calls Kylo’s lightsaber to her.  Snoke senses that Rey holds the spirit of a true Jedi.  And that is why she must be destroyed.  He calls upon Kylo, the heir apparent to Vader, to kill her.  Rey still holds hope.  Snoke disabuses her of that notion; he cannot be betrayed or beaten.  He can see Kylo’s every thought and even now, he turns his lightsaber to kill his true enemy.  And Kylo did that.  He turned Luke’s lightsaber next to Snoke and cuts him in two.  Ben and Rey fight the guards off together (also catching the room on fire); Rey even tosses her lightsaber to Ben when he’s disarmed.  She begs Ben to come with her when they’re finished.  Ben in turns asks Rey to stay; together, they can rule and create a new order.  Let the past, all of it; Sith, Jedi, Skywalker, Snoke, die.  He knows that Rey’s parents were nobodies.  That would make Rey a nobody.  But not to him.  “Join me.”  Rey won’t.  They Force-fight for Luke’s lightsaber and it ultimately breaks in two, knocking them out.

When Snoke’s ship starts firing on the transports, Holdo turns the cruiser and jumps to lightspeed through the ship.  Finn gets a showdown with Captain Phasma, who then falls to her death.  Finn and Rose manage to escape with BB-8 (who has managed to get ahold of an AT-ST!)  The transport with Leia and Poe manages to make it to the base, where Finn and Rose crash land.  (Yes, Poe is happy to see them, but he wants his droid back.)  They put a call out for help.  In the meantime, there is a battering ram cannon that will eventually make it through their door.  A final stand then.  The Resistance is bolstered when the Millennium Falcon comes to their aid (Rey is safely aboard with Chewie, and a few Pogs).  Hux has saved Kylo, though not willingly.  Kylo declares himself the new Supreme Leader and leads Hux’s army.  Kylo now demands “blow that piece of junk out of the sky!” (meaning the Falcon).  Finn informs his friends that the New Order hates the Falcon.

The Resistance fighters are picked off.  Poe orders them to retreat, but Finn insists he has to take out the cannon; the New Order cannot win.  He continues with his suicide run until Rose knocks him out of the way.  She tells him that they will win by saving what they love, not be fighting what they hate.  She gives him a gentle kiss and passes out.  The cannon did its work and Kylo orders Hux to advance.  No quarter will be given and no prisoners taken (Kylo knows his mother is in there; he does not hesitate now).  The Resistance fears that no help is coming; the galaxy has lost hope, the spark has gone out.  Then a cloaked figure enters and kneels before Leia.  It’s Luke.  He apologizes to his sister, but that is not necessary; she’s glad he’s here at the end [and that is so poignant given that Carrie Fisher passed away before this movie was released].  Luke tells her that he is here to face Kylo, but he can’t save him.  She knows her son is gone.

Everyone watches Luke walk out.  Kylo orders every gun fire on that man, even shouting “more!”  Hux calls it off.  But Luke is still standing.  Kylo steps down to face him, and Luke admits that he is not here to save Kylo’s soul.  They duel, though notice that Luke dodges Kylo’s lightsaber strikes.  Meanwhile, Poe realizes that Luke is serving as a distraction; he’s stalling so they can escape.  They follow the crystal foxes for a way out.  When they get there, rocks are blocking their way.  But the Falcon is there and Rey lifts the rocks and rushes people onboard.  Luke cautions Kylo that if he strikes him down in anger, he will always be with him, just like his father.  Luke is not the last of the Jedi.  Kylo runs Luke through.  And finds out that Luke is a Force projection.  Luke is meditating on his island and collapses.  When he gets back up, he opens himself up to the Force, one last time.  He disappears and his cloak falls.  Kylo is not pleased to find the base deserted when he finally walks in.  He “sees” Rey one last time, before she shuts the door on the Falcon.  (Oh, she’s also hidden the Jedi texts on there.)  She has a conversation with Leia; they both sensed that Luke is gone, but he was at peace.  They will rebuild the rebellion.

Overall, not terribly interested in the side quest, because honestly, it wasn’t needed.  It was just some action for the characters to do when we weren’t focused on Rey, Kylo, and Luke.  And technically, if you think about it, if Finn and Rose hadn’t met that criminal, he couldn’t have double crossed them, thus allowing the First Order to target the small cruisers taking the Resistance to their base.  The story felt disjointed; yes, everything came together at the end, but it was clearly three separate stories going on.  This is repeating elements of Empire Strikes Back, with Rey training with Luke, and Han and Leia facing off with Vader.  But Vader was using Han and Leia as bait for Luke.

And we have to wonder where did Snoke fall in the whole timeline of Sidious turning Anakin and the rise of the Empire and eventual fall?  There is a very famous “Rule of Two” amongst the Sith, that there is only ever a master and an apprentice.  (Hence why Dooku became the apprentice after Maul was killed and Dooku had to die in order for Anakin to become Sidious’s apprentice.  Though in the Legends universe, there were other Force-sensitive students of Palpatine, but maybe they were not considered true apprentices?)

What I do like is the examination of the Jedi and the dichotomy between Rey and Ben/Kylo (he’s Ben when he’s good, Kylo when he’s bad).  They’re both fighting for a place to belong.  Again, we want Rey to succeed in turning Ben back to the Light.  And it almost works for a minute!  Then Kylo has to be stupid and vote for power.  That last scene between Rey and Kylo, when Rey shuts the door, I thought “she has the life you would have.”

Up Next: The Rise of Skywalker

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

The Force Awakens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Return of the Jedi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Time: The Force Awakens

“You Have Failed Me For the Last Time”

A quick note before we begin: I am happy to be back. I apologize for the delay; I’m not sure where all my time goes, but it doesn’t leave a lot of room in my schedule for this fun exercise. I eagerly await finishing this saga and continuing with more movies (we haven’t touched Marvel yet, or even the movies that make me happiest). And now, on with the show!

Empire Strikes Back

Released three years after the first film took people by storm, the core cast returns.  Julian Glover, who we saw as Donovan in Last Crusade pops in as General Veers.  Frank Oz gives us that iconic Yoda voice.  And a fun fact; Bob Anderson who choreographed the sword fights for Princess Bride, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, and dozens of other films and taught Viggo Mortensen, Errol Flynn, and Sean Connery to sword fight is the stunt double for Darth Vader in this film and Return of the Jedi.

We left our heroes celebrating the destruction of the Death Star and gaining an important victory against the Empire.  Vader is now obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker.  But the Empire is still hunting the rebels.  They’ve taken refuge on the ice planet, Hoth.  Luke and Han are placing sensors when Luke sees a crash.  He assumes it is a meteorite; we know it is a probe from the Empire.  He tells Han he’s going to check it out.  Han returns to base and reports to the general; he needs to leave and pay back Jabba to get the price off his head.  Leia follows him because he can’t just leave.  The couple has a “discussion” in the hall.  Han is certain that Leia has feelings for him, but she won’t admit it (and vice versa, Han certainly has feelings for Leia but won’t admit it either.)  Han’s departure hits a snag, besides the lengthy repairs he is doing with Chewie to the Falcon, 3PO reports that Luke hasn’t returned.

I think one of my favorite things from the original trilogies now is the friendship between Han and Luke.  They’re like brothers (and a different relationship than Obi-Wan and Anakin had).  Han is very concerned that Luke has not returned and immediately sets about discovering his whereabouts.  When it is clear that Luke is still out in the freezing weather of Hoth, Han does not hesitate to suit up to go after him.  Someone cautions “you’re Tauntaun will freeze,” Han quips “see you in Hell!” (because of course Han is going to be the one to swear in the film).

And Luke has indeed found trouble.  A Wampa ice creature knocks him out and takes him back to cave, intent on eating him [the Wampa reminds me of Bumble the snow creature in Rudolph, or vice versa].  [Supposedly, the scars from the Wampa were to mask scars Mark Hamill had received from a car accident].  Luke uses his lightsaber to escape, but then trudges in the blowing snow (actually shot in a blizzard in Norway; the crew were nice and safe in a hotel while Mark got to venture outside).  He collapses and Force-ghost Obi-Wan visits him and urges him to go to Dagobah to find Yoda to complete his Jedi training.  That is how Han finds him, delirious and freezing.  Han’s Tauntaun does freeze to death, so Han uses Luke’s lightsaber to slice it open in order to keep Luke warm and alive.

Commander Skywalker and Captain Solo are rescued come morning and Luke spends some time in a bacta tank.  Everyone meets up in the medical bay; “that’s two you owe me, junior,” Han remarks to Luke.  Leia and Han continue to push each other’s buttons until Leia proclaims Han to be a “stuck up, half-witted, scruffy looking nerfherder!” and then kisses Luke just to prove that Han doesn’t know everything about women.  Luke is very pleased.

The Empire has to crash the party and the Rebels prepare to evacuate.  Luke leads the snow-speeders in knocking out the Imperial AT-Ats (All Terrain Armored Transport), rather ingeniously.  Han ends up taking Leia in the Falcon when Imperial troops enter the base and headquarters are in disarray.  Vader is steps behind them.  They’re pursued by a Star Destroyer and Han executes some fancy flying; until they try to go to lightspeed and the Falcon malfunctions.  Han gets the crazy idea to hide in an asteroid field; because the Imperials would have to be crazy to follow them, snapping at 3PO “never tell me the odds!”  They find a cave on a large asteroid to hide and make repairs. 

Luke reaches his X-Wing and leaves Hoth as well.  Then he heads for Dagobah.  R2 doesn’t quite agree with his decision and Luke is wrong when he assures the little astromech that the planet is safe for droids.  Fog clouds his sight and he crashes into a swamp and R2 almost gets eaten by something, until the creature decides it doesn’t like metal and spits the droid out.  They set up camp and a short green creature comes upon them, very curious about them, even stealing Luke’s dinner and whacks R2 with his stick when R2 won’t let him take a light.  But he knows Yoda.  He’ll take Luke to Yoda.  Luke shows his impatience and Yoda finally reveals himself when he remarks that Luke is not ready to become a Jedi.  “Adventure, excitement, a Jedi craves not these things.”  Obi-Wan’s voice chimes in that he was the same.  “For eight hundred years I have trained Jedi.  My own counsel I will keep on who is to be trained” (oh boy if this didn’t tie-in with the prequels).  Luke insists he wants to finish his training, declaring he is not afraid.  “You will be,” Yoda warns.

Meanwhile, Vader must report his progress to the Emperor.  The Emperor has sensed a great disturbance in the Force and knows they have a new enemy in Skywalker.  He declares him to be the offspring of Anakin Skywalker and Vader asks how [this is a bit of a plot hole when you take into account the prequel because Anakin knows that Padmé was pregnant, but he doesn’t know that the child was born, especially since the Emperor told him she had died].  The Emperor informs his apprentice, “the son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.”  Vader suggests that they turn Luke to the Dark Side; he’d be a great asset.  “He will join us or he will die.”

On the Falcon, Han and Leia have another interlude.  Leia is still resisting her feelings and calls Han a scoundrel.  He’s fine with that and we hear their theme as they finally share a kiss!  Only for 3PO to interrupt them.  Later, there is something flying around outside the Falcon; Leia remarks “I have a bad feeling about this” (famous saga line).  Mynocks are starting to attack the ship and the cave is not feeling like a cave.  Han beats a quick retreat; “there’s no time to discuss it in a committee,” he snaps at Leia.  “I’m not a committee,” she snaps back.  Just in time because the cave was actually a giant slug!  After they escape, they hide on the Star Destroyer, powered down so the Empire won’t read them.  Once the Imperials decide to separate, the Falcon can float away with the trash.  What they don’t know is that Vader has contacted bounty hunters to find Han and Leia.

Yoda puts Luke through his paces in his training.  He cautions Luke to beware the Dark Side; anger, fear, aggression.  “Once start down that path, consume you it will,” like Vader, the wise master warns.  Canonically, this is the first lesson on the Force and Jedi we learn.  The Dark Side is not stronger, but an easier path, Yoda teaches.  A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack [written before Attack of the Clones and can be viewed as something Yoda regretted].  There is a cave on Dagobah, strong with the Dark Side.  Luke ventures in it to learn something about himself and ends up dueling an illusion of Vader.  When Luke beheads his adversary, the helmet explodes to reveal Luke’s face.  A cautionary tale that Luke can fall the way of Vader (and also hinting at a deeper connection).  When Luke’s X-Wing sinks deeper into the swamp, he despairs at retrieving it.  He argues with Master Yoda there is a difference between lifting a stone with the Force and lifting an entire ship.  “No difference, only in your mind!” Yoda insists.  Luke tries to raise the ship.  The infamous “do or do not, there is no try,” [and even in Rebels Kanan admits he doesn’t even know what it means].  Luke does not succeed, because he does not believe he can.  Yoda raises the ship

Han suggests they take refuge with Lando, an old friend one could say, on Bespin.  They don’t know that a bounty hunter is following them.  Lando teases Han a bit when greeting him, but seems happy to see the old scallywag.  And then is very pleased to meet Leia.  Han’s now not so sure about introducing Lando to Leia; luckily, she is not taken by the man’s charm.  3PO wanders off and is attacked.  Chewie eventually finds him and sets about putting him back together.  Unfortunately, the bounty hunter Boba Fett arrived before Han and Leia and reported to Vader.  Lando leads our heroes into a set up with Vader.  The suited man tortures Han; he never asks any questions, just causes pain.  Lando admits that Han and Leia are just bait for Luke.

Luke has a vision of Han and Leia in danger while training.  He faces the question of rescuing his friends and possibly bringing about their suffering, or else staying and completing his training and following their wishes.  Obi-Wan cautions his pupil that the Dark Side will try to tempt Luke; he must complete his training.  He doesn’t want to lose Luke the way he lost Vader.  Luke promises to return and flies off.  Obi-Wan remarks to Yoda “that boy is our last hope.”  “No, there is another,” Yoda answers.

Vader’s plan is to test carbon freezing on Han to see if it will work on Luke; he doesn’t want to damage the Emperor’s prize.  Boba can have him afterwards.  If Solo dies, Boba will be compensated.  Chewie tries to fight the guards, but Han charges him with protecting the princess.  He gives Leia a searing kiss before he’s pulled away.  “I love you,” she finally declares.  “I know,” the scoundrel answers (this line was Harrison Ford’s idea; and this scene was partly due to not knowing if Harrison was coming back for the third movie).  Then Han is frozen; perfectly preserved and alive and now on his way to Jabba the Hutt.

Luke arrives on Bespin and begins searching for his friends.  Leia briefly spots him and screams “it’s a trap!”  But he’s funneled towards Vader anyway.  The lighting of this scene is iconic now; only the silhouette illuminated.  The lightsaber blades shine out.  Luke manages to hold off Vader, though he falls in the chamber for a moment and Vader muses whether Luke is really worth it, but the lad is full of surprises.  They move lower in the city, Vader pushing Luke back, even throwing heavy objects at the young man.  He urges Luke to dip into his anger; only his hatred will destroy his enemy.  They end up in a windy chamber and Vader literally disarms his opponent and tries another tactic.  “Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.”  “He told me enough.  He told me you killed him.”  “No.  I am your father” [the shocker of the decade.  Only a handful of people knew that was the actual line; it had originally been written as “Obi-Wan killed your father;” a huge plot twist as well.  George and the director knew, and James Earl Jones when he recorded it, but not even David Prowse (the actor in the suit) knew and Mark was told only moments before shooting.  He was warned that if the secret got out, they’d know who to come after.  Harrison apparently had words with Mark after the premiere.]

Luke makes the ultimate getaway by falling down the chamber and hanging off an antenna at the bottom of Cloud City.  Lando has gotten Chewie and Leia out of Cloud City aboard the Falcon; they were too late to rescue Han.  But Leia has Chewie turn around when she hears Luke call to her in her mind.  Chewie easily accepts her request despite Lando’s protest.  They catch the young man before Vader can come after him.  Luke moans “Ben, why didn’t you tell me.”  With a little help from R2, who knows that the hyperdrive on the Falcon had been disengaged, our heroes escape right from under Vader.

We see our heroes at another medical facility where Luke gains a life-like artificial hand.  The plan is he will join Lando and Chewie on Tatooine once he’s healed and they will rescue Han.

While I have said that I love Anakin and Padmé’s love theme, Across the Stars because you have that sweeping, passionate love theme that makes your heart melt, Han and Leia’s theme is more sedate.  It is a more mature refrain.  It echoes how they are unsure about each other.  There were hints of their attraction from the moment they met; Han even joked that he was beginning to like her when she took over her own rescue.  The music is upbeat for just a moment to brighten the peril they are in.

Empire Strikes Back is a good second movie in a trilogy.  We continue the adventure with characters we already know and love and everyone gets a bit of character development.  A lot of it focuses on Luke because he’s training to be a Jedi, but it’s Han and Leia who are trying to outrun Vader the entire movie.  We’re left with a cliffhanger which makes us anxious for the final film to come out.  And this lightsaber duel is even better than the one in New Hope (but just wait until the third movie!).  And the plot twist!  First time viewers had no idea that was coming.  I didn’t the first time I watched the movie as a child (and my reaction to Yoda was “it’s Fozzy Bear!”)

Next Time: Return of the Jedi