Thursday, January 12, 2017

Top 10 Princess Leia Scenes

In honor of Carrie Fisher's passing last month, we're taking a look at her top 10 scenes as Princess Leia Organa. These are ranked not just on her actions, but how they portrayed her as the strong, three-dimensional, iconic heroine that she was.

10. Leia's introduction

Princess Leia's first real scene in A New Hope immediately establishes that despite her fancy gown and royal status, she's no ordinary princess. Stormtroopers spot her on the Tantive IV and set their weapons to stun. Leia doesn't take the same liberty. She blasts one of them with lethal accuracy and makes a break for the escape pod, before getting stunned and captured by the troopers.
This scene reveals very little about her actual character, but it sets up a detail that will recur throughout the Original Trilogy: Leia happens to be one of the best shots in the Star Wars universe. Her skill with a blaster is one of the most awesome qualities she shares with her mother.

9. Reacting to Han's death

This isn't a scene so much as a single, long shot of Leia nearly collapsing with grief in the Resistance base after Kylo Ren stabs Han through the heart. The look of anguish on her face is truly heartbreaking, and it accentuates the tragedy of the moment. 
The incredible pain that she's feeling is from both the death of her soulmate and the fact that their son was responsible. Leia's simultaneously lost two of the most important people in her life; one's falling down a pit on Starkiller Base with a new hole in his chest, while the other has officially fallen to the Dark Side. 
What makes this shot so powerful is that it's a silent confirmation to the audience that Leia's Force sensitivity is very much still present. At the very least, she can still sense those closest to her from afar. If Leia ends up reuniting with Kylo in Episode VIII, let's hope that she trades a motherly hug for a badass, rage-fueled Force push. 

8. Disguised as Boushh

Leia makes quite an entrance in Return of the Jedi. As part of an intricate plan to rescue Han from Jabba's palace, she disguises herself as the bounty hunter Boushh and bargains with Jabba for the reward for "capturing" Chewbacca. When he won't agree to her price, the unrecognizable Princess calmly pulls out a thermal detonator and threatens to blow up Jabba's throne room. No surprise, he settles.
It's not until later that Boushh's true identity is revealed. Leia demonstrates some impressive espionage skill in this scene – she learned a whole alien language, for crying out loud. Not just any woman could pose as an intimidating, male bounty hunter and nearly pul it off, nor have the courage to threaten one of the galaxy's most feared crime lords with a suicidal explosion. 

7. Killing Jabba

It's no secret that Fisher was very much against Leia's infamous golden bikini when she's briefly enslaved by Jabba the Hutt at the beginning of Return of the Jedi. It was a shameless oversexualization of the character, and worst of all, it permanently turned Fisher into a sex symbol, an unwanted role that would plague her for the rest of her life.
The obvious silver lining for the "slave Leia" scenes was that she ends up strangling and killing Jabba with her own chains, making one of Leia's most badass moments. Not to mention the incredibly powerful imagery of seeing a slave turn the tables on their oppressor with such precision.  
When Fisher was asked who her favorite Star Wars character was during her Celebration Europe panel last summer, she responded in her usual hilarious and unpredictable manner: "Well, in the yes and no way, I like Jabba, because I like to kill him." We liked it when you killed him too, Carrie.

6. Face to face with Tarkin 

Leia is at the top of her game when Vader brings her to Grand Moff Tarkin on the Death Star bridge. With a strange, awkward British accent, she starts off with insulting Vader's "leash" and Tarkin's "foul stench." She's unfazed by the announcement of her imminent execution, and her recent torture hasn't diminished her confidence either. 
Even when Tarkin threatens the destruction of her home planet, Leia doesn't reveal the true location of the Rebel base; she knows that the Rebellion and what it stands for is ultimately more important than the millions of lives in the balance. And as seen in later scenes, the loss of her home and family doesn't impede her fighting spirit. 

5. Pep talk to Han

General Leia doesn't get any action in The Force Awakens, but her strength can still be found in the handful of scenes that she receives. When Han mopes about the loss of their son, Leia assures him that they can still save him, together. She gives him the courage he needs to confront Ben Solo on the catwalk on Starkiller Base, even if that emotional moment ends in Han's death. 
This scene best demonstrates Leia's optimism and determination, two of her most important qualities that have weathered the years. She doesn't give up on her son, and she probably never will. As her brief appearance in Rogue One told us, Leia's always had hope. 

4. Rescuing Luke

Luke isn't doing too well at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. He's lost a hand, just learned that his father is Darth Vader, and he's dangling off the edge of Cloud City with no tangible way of contacting his friends...until Leia senses him in the Force and tells Han to turn the Millennium Falcon around and go back for him. 
This is the first time that Leia's Force sensitivity is shown, or even hinted at. Her sudden discovery of this great power within her that she can use, despite her complete lack of training, is very similar to Rey's journey throughout The Force Awakens. When Yoda says "there is another" besides Luke who could destroy the Sith, there's no doubt as to whom he's referring.

3. Scruffy-looking nerf herder

Leia and Han's relationship throughout the better part of The Empire Strikes Back is oozing with romantic tension. On Echo Base, Han tells Chewie and Luke that she confessed her feelings for him earlier. Enraged, she lays down one of the best sci-fi insults of all time: "Why you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder!"
When Han doesn't stop mocking her, she hits him with the ultimate blow: kissing Luke right in front of him, before wordlessly walking away. This scene is best known for its incestuous moment between the secret Skywalker twins, but it's just another example of when Leia was able to leave a group of men dumbfounded. Like Fisher herself, she had a sharp tongue and was full of surprises. 

2. "I know."

Leia and Han's most memorable exchange – her confession of "I love you" and his response of "I know" – was classic and iconic, but not the best indication of her character. Leia was forced to be the emotional, vulnerable woman, while Han was just the tough man.
In Return of the Jedi, Leia flips this moment on its head. She's wounded by a laser bolt and Han's cornered by two stormtroopers outside the Endor bunker. Leia then reveals to him the greatest sight a woman could show a man: her concealed blaster. He confesses his love and she smiles and replies with "I know," before shooting down the troopers with ease.
The reversal of their roles in this scene is a perfect example of how Han and Leia complemented each other as equals in their relationship. And the juxtaposition of Leia's loving smile and swift execution of the troopers shows how she was able to seamlessly fit the roles of both a warm romantic partner and a fierce warrior.

1. Saving everybody's skin on the Death Star

Strangely enough, Leia's rescue at the hands of two men is one of her most empowering scenes. Luke opens the door to her cell on the Death Star and she lays down some classic Leia sass with an iconic quote: "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?"
The heroes are soon pinned down in the corridor by a squad of stormtroopers, and Leia instantly distances herself from the typical damsel role by taking charge of her own rescue mission. She grabs Luke's blaster, blows open the garbage chute, and with a cry of "Somebody has to save our skins," fearlessly opens fire on the troopers before ordering Han to follow her into the chute.
Leia's intelligence and skill were never clearer than in the presence of the well-meaning but fairly incompetent men with whom she associated. For Rey, Jyn Erso, and (hopefully) more to come, she set a precedent for fearless young women in Star Wars who aren't afraid to speak their minds and save the day just as much as any man. 

These were the scenes that defined Leia Organa, and to an extent, the last 40 years of Carrie Fisher's life. Her true sentiment about being permanently linked to this iconic character was unclear; she might have preferred that fans recognize her for her writing career and advocacy projects than her Star Wars role.
But after several decades of seeing herself merchandised in every possibly way – including a Princess Leia sex doll that she kept in her house – it seems that Fisher ultimately made her peace with the character. During her Celebration Europe panel, she explained that she had accepted her synonymy with Leia. "I am Leia, and Leia is me. Let’s call the whole thing off."

What's your favorite Princess Leia scene? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Significance of Darth Vader's Castle

Midway through Rogue One, it's casually revealed that Darth Vader has a castle on Mustafar where he seems to rest when he's not carrying out the Emperor's orders. It's the site of his dramatic introduction and subsequent meeting with Director Krennic. The film doesn't dwell on the castle in the slightest, but it could have some serious implications.
The concept of Vader's castle is hardly a new one. In the Expanded Universe, he has both a palace on Coruscant and Bast Castle on Vjun. As Rogue One showed, the canon version is on a much more personal location for the Sith Lord: the lava planet where he truly became Darth Vader after suffering horrific injuries at the blade of his best friend, Obi-Wan Kenobi. 
The fact that he would choose to regularly return to this site of pain and anguish suggests that this is a form of penance for him. In his bacta tank, Vader must meditate and reflect upon his past, especially his life-changing first visit to Mustafar many years ago. 
Would the folks over at Lucasfilm introduce this major detail to the Star Wars canon and then never go back to it again? Perhaps. But it seems likely that the brief appearance of Vader's castle in Rogue One is actually meant to set up a plot detail in Episode VIII next December.

Kylo Ren's obsession with Vader is no secret, and he would surely visit his grandfather's old sanctum if he had the chance. As a powerful source of Dark Side energy, it could be where Snoke finishes Kylo's training, as he promised at the end of The Force Awakens
In fact, concept art of Vader's castle next to a river of lava was seen in The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (via Movieweb), confirming that there had been plans for it to appear in the Sequel Trilogy, even if it was going to be in a more frigid climate.
Returning to Mustafar in Episode VIII would also help to calm fans who were frustrated that The Force Awakens pretty much ignored all of the events and locations of the Prequel Trilogy. And it would be undeniably amazing to see another lightsaber duel on the volcanic terrain.

We can be sure that Vader's castle will return, one way or another. Star Wars Rebels mentioned that Mustafar is "where Jedi go to die," and the series has explored ancient Sith lore in the past, so we could very well see another Rogue One tie-in (the first being Saw Gerrera's reintroduction in this week's episode) in the form of a visit to Vader's castle in the future.
When do you think Vader's castle will reappear? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

'Rebels' is Planning Another Epic Season Finale

Star Wars Rebels reached (and arguably surpassed) Clone Wars-level heights with its emotional duel between Darth Vader and Ahsoka Tano in its Season 2 finale. As confirmed in the new mid-season trailer today (and hinted at in earlier episodes), its third season will end with yet another epic duel between two well-known Star Wars characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul.
Ever since returning to the Star Wars canon in Season 4 of The Clone Wars, Maul's principal goal has been to seek revenge on the Jedi who famously sliced him in half in The Phantom Menace. Maul caused endless trouble for Kenobi and even murdered his soulmate, Satine Kryze, but apparently only a battle to the death will resolve this grudge – a battle that Kenobi will almost certainly win, finally ending Maul's reign of terror. 
At the end of the trailer, Kenobi – looking like his very first appearance in A New Hope – is confronted by Maul next to a campfire on Tatooine. Maul ignites his lightsaber. "You're in the wrong place," Obi-Wan warns in a very Alec Guinness-y voice (courtesy of Stephen Stanton) and strikes a classic Kenobi fighting stance.
Admittedly, this rematch isn't nearly as emotionally affecting as Vader and Ahsoka's duel, since Kenobi and Maul have a far less complex and well-documented history. But it'll still be fascinating to see a much older Kenobi show off some fancy Jedi moves. It'll be like a practice session before his decisive duel with Vader in A New Hope, a few years later.

Other exciting moments from the mid-season trailer:
  • James Arnold Taylor returns to voice a younger Kenobi in a pre-recorded hologram watched by Ezra. It's amazing how both Taylor and Stanton expertly imitate Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness, respectively.
  • Grand Admiral Thrawn and Director Krennic apparently share more than a penchant for white suits; Thrawn is seen with the iconic Death Troopers that guarded Krennic in Rogue One. Hopefully, we'll hear confirmation that these silent soldiers earned their name because they're actually zombies.
  • We get another quick look at Saw Gerrera's role, following the promo from a few weeks ago. He'll help the Rebel team investigate an Imperial superweapon's construction on Geonosis in this week's two-part episode. Obviously, they won't discover the Death Star yet, but we'll probably learn why Saw split from the Rebel Alliance.
  • "We're building an alliance. This is our Rebellion," Mon Mothma tells the Ghost crew as the Rebel fleet assembles. It sure sounds a lot like Genevieve O'Reilly is reprising her role from Rogue One. In any case, it's great that Mothma will get more screen time as one of the most prominent Alliance leaders.
  • There's extensive footage of Sabine Wren visiting some old Mandalorian buddies (including her mom) and training with the legendary darksaber in an effort to convince them to join the Rebellion. This is also hinting at the return of Bo-Katan (voiced by Katee Sackhoff), the badass Death Watch lieutenant from The Clone Wars, which was unofficially announced back in September.
What are you hoping to see in Kenobi and Maul's duel? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Major Scenes Cut from 'Rogue One'

When you watch Rogue One, it doesn't really seem like a mess of a movie that underwent tons of behind-the-scenes changes fairly late in the game. It's only until you exit the theater and think back to the film's trailers that you realize how many scenes must have been cut.
Yes, every blockbuster has a few notable trailer scenes that are missing from the final cut, but Rogue One takes it to a new level. This wasn't just a few unnecessary seconds of action; they must have reworked and redone entire sections of the film, especially towards the end. Heck, most of the footage from April's first teaser trailer seems to have been completely scrapped.  

On one hand, this was kind of a nice thing. Many fans complained about the trailers and TV spots spoiling too much of the film's action sequences and plot, so it was refreshing to have so much previously-unseen footage. But it's also a huge indication of just how different the original cut of the film was, which isn't exactly a good thing. 
We're going to look through all the footage from the trailers, TV spots, and featurettes for Rogue One to see which scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, and what they can tell us about how the plot was changed.

Jyn rebels

"This is a rebellion, isn't it? I rebel." Jyn's line from the teaser trailer, as she met with Mon Mothma and other Rebels in the Yavin 4 base, instantly defined her character. Whether you loved it for its attitude or hated it for its cheesiness, you couldn't deny that this quote was iconic. 
In the final cut, Jyn's entire first scene in the Yavin 4 conference room is different. Most of the dialogue between her, Mon Mothma, and General Draven was changed at some point. 

They must have realized that Jyn came off as volatile and unlikeable in the original cut, so this was one of the key scenes that needed to be reworked. The Hollywood Reporter actually has a whole article about how Jyn ultimately falls flat as a lead character, quite possibly as a result of the reshoots. 

"What will you become?"

"What will you do if they catch you? What will you do when they break you? If you continue to fight, what will you become?" These thought-provoking words of caution were spoken by a bald Saw Gerrera in the teaser trailer. 
When we later saw images of the character with a full head of hair, we were assured that this wasn't a major discontinuity or a result of the infamous reshoots; it was simply his appearance at two different times in his life. 

Although we did indeed see a bald Saw at his introduction in the film's prologue, these words never came up. And in the below shot of him in the teaser trailer, he's bald and appears to be in his hideout on Jedha, while in the final cut, he has hair by the time we see his hideout. 
Furthermore, there's a shot from the Celebration Reel that shows an adult Jyn talking with a bald Saw outside his rocky base of operations – none of which makes any sense. Saw has hair by the time Jyn's an adult, and they never once speak outside. 
What we can deduce is that, for whatever reason, most of Saw's scenes were redone and his hair was one of the major changes. It's also worth noting that his voice in the teaser was a lot more natural than his accent in the later trailers, so maybe the filmmakers decided that he should be more of an eccentric character, with the voice and wild hair to match.

Jyn gets lit 

The shot of Jyn Erso in her Imperial disguise, gradually illuminated by a series of lights in a round corridor, was the final shot of the teaser trailer and the film's most iconic piece of imagery. News sites loved to use this as a header for their Rogue One articles. It was beautiful, visually impressive, and incredibly gif-able. 
So it came as a disappointment when this shot didn't end up in the film. The round corridor was seen in the background as the passage to the vault that contained the Death Star plans, but we never actually got to see it light up. Maybe this corridor was a more important location in the original cut. Or maybe this shot had no significance whatsoever. 

For a single shot like this, it's possible that they built this hallway as part of the set, realized how cool it looked with the lights slowly turning on, and just took some spontaneous footage of Felicity Jones. And then later, someone from the marketing team could have found it and decided that it would make the perfect final shot for the teaser trailer. 

More Vader

Part of what made Darth Vader's role in Rogue One so perfect was that his last scene wasn't teased whatsoever in the marketing. His massacre of the Rebel troops would have been great trailer material, but they successfully kept it under wraps. 
However, of the Vader shots that we did see in the marketing, about half of them were missing. There was the shot of his reflection spreading across a glass floor (which was the very first Vader tease from the Celebration-exclusive trailer), and a similar shot of his back turned as he looked at a diagram of the Death Star (which capped off the first official trailer). Clearly, one major Vader scene was cut.
His final, violent scene, for all of its glory, was probably part of the reshoots. If you think about it, it was kind of an awkward way to end the movie, since all of the main characters had already died and the action was quickly winding down. This is exactly the kind of scene that Disney executives would have requested, because they knew how much it would thrill audiences.
So maybe the less action-packed scene of Vader examining a Death Star diagram was originally intended to be his final scene. It could have ended with him declaring that he would follow the Tantive IV on a Star Destroyer, instead of boarding the Rebel command ship in order to seize the plans in person.

The Battle of Scarif

These are by far the most notable missing scenes from the film. The climactic shot of the teaser trailer was Jyn – carrying the Death Star plans – charging across the Scarif beach with the rest of the Rogue One crew as an AT-ACT opened fire on them. It was the focus of the teaser poster, and it was supposed to be one of the key action sequences in Rogue One.
In the final cut, Jyn, Cassian, and K-2SO never made it onto the battlefield. They went directly into the facility to steal the Death Star plans, where Kaytoo died, and then Jyn and Cassian transmitted them to the Rebel command ship from the top of the tower and descended onto the beach to prepare for the blast wave to obliterate them.

Even more curiously, the teaser trailer had a shot of Krennic striding onto the beach with stormtrooper bodies littering the ground. Behind-the-scenes footage from the Celebration Reel showed the same shot from a different angle. In the version of the film that we saw, he also never appeared on the battlefield, choosing instead to deal with the Rebel agents inside the facility.
This all points to an extremely different version of the film's climactic battle. Jyn and Cassian would have had to run somewhere else to transmit the plans. On the way, she might have gotten some satisfying revenge on Krennic. He and Kaytoo definitely would have had different death scenes. 

Jyn and Cassian's final beach scene may have actually been the same, but it would have made more sense since they would have already been on the beach and not at the top of a tower crawling with stormtroopers. 
This large section of the film was probably reworked because it was deemed "too dark." Something about the intense trench warfare with bodies constantly hitting the ground may have been a little too much for a Star Wars movie.

However, none of these scenes cut from Rogue One are necessarily lost forever. The DVD/Blu-ray release will definitely have at least a few deleted scenes. Disney may decide to include a whole alternate cut of the film due to the boost it would give to sales. It would be embarrassing for them to admit how much the reshoots altered, but there are many fans who would pay to watch an alternate version of the film.
Which of these scenes would you like to have seen in Rogue One? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Remembering Carrie Fisher, Our Princess

Carrie Fisher, best known as Princess Leia in the Original Trilogy and The Force Awakens, died today at 60 following a massive heart attack on Friday. The legendary actress, writer, and activist was a beloved member of the Star Wars community. She brought a wit and strength to Leia that made her a truly iconic heroine. 
And Carrie herself shared these characteristics. She was widely known for her sense of humor and brutal honesty, particularly when observing the film industry into which she was born. As the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher (essentially the Brangelina of the 1950s), she had a unique perspective of Hollywood:
"Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence. People-pleasing, going on those interviews and jamming your whole personality into getting the job, ingratiating yourself to people you wouldn't f***ing spit on if they were on fire."
Acting clearly wasn't Carrie's passion, but writing may have been. In 1987, she wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards from the Edge, as well as the screenplay for the film based on the book, starring Meryl Streep. She published Wishful Drinking, a book based on her autobiographical one-woman play of the same name, in 2008. Her latest memoir, The Princess Diarist, hit shelves last month. 

Even more impressively, Carrie was one of the most talented script doctors in Hollywood. She fixed the screenplays for 1990s classics such as HookSister Act, and Lethal Weapon 3. In the Star Wars franchise itself, she worked on the scripts for parts of the Original Trilogy (as seen in the image below) and was later hired by George Lucas to polish dialogue for the Prequel Trilogy as well. She received no credit for any of these contributions. 
Fisher's notes on a page from the Empire Strikes Back script
The greatest indication of Carrie's bravery in the face of the scrutiny of Hollywood is her famous outspokenness about her bipolar disorder and history of cocaine addiction. In 2005, Harvard College gave Fisher its Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism:
"Ms. Fisher's work humanizes a popular culture obsessed with celebrity, and helps readers laugh at the absurdity of contemporary society and relationships. Her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy."
Fisher with her daughter, Billie Lourd (Lieutenant Connix) on the set of The Force Awakens
Fortunately, Carrie's work – in particular, her contribution to Star Wars – isn't over yet. She finished filming her scenes for Episode VIII several months ago. Next December, we'll see her take the screen as General Leia Organa once again, though it'll come with a certain bittersweetness, as well as some reservation about how the franchise will handle her death. 

On and off the screen, Carrie Fisher was a symbol of fortitude, fearlessness, intelligence, humor, feminism, and general badassery. She will always be our Princess, and she will be missed dearly.