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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Vanity Fair Covers 'The Last Jedi'

This post was updated on May 24 with the new details and images released by Vanity Fair. 

Following its Star Wars: The Force Awakens cover in June 2015, Vanity Fair is now – as many predicted – covering The Last Jedi for June 2017. This week, they unveiled four brand-new covers and a slew of exclusive photos by legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz, with exclusive details and reveals to match. 
The first cover features the title character(s), Luke and Rey, on Ahch-To. Their costumes are pretty much identical to what they wore in the last scene of The Force Awakens, but this is the first time that we've seen the two heroes side by side, united by the Force (and possibly blood). The one new addition is Luke's glove, which would confirm that the hand touching an ancient Jedi book in the teaser is Luke's.
The second cover showcases the leading triumvirate of the First Order: Captain Phasma, Kylo Ren, and General Hux. Hux looks as poised as ever, while Kylo has a new costume and cape. Phasma's appearance is the most notable here; she's seen without her helmet for the first time, and though it's no surprise to see Gwendoline Christie's fierce face, it does suggest that we'll see a more human – but still quite despicable – side of the character. 

Phasma is also wielding the staff that Making Star Wars first told us about in March. Vanity Fair elaborates that this is "a retractable pole arm that collapses into a smaller, easy to carry form." It connects to her own history, which Lucasfilm Story Group executive Pablo Hidalgo hints is "more low-tech than many would assume." Looks like she'll be trading in her chrome blaster for a unique, badass melee weapon. 
Next, the Resistance. Finn and Poe Dameron are united again, with mutual friend BB-8 sitting in the corner. Next to them is Rose, the biggest new character in The Last Jedi who we already know works as a maintenance worker. Vanity Fair revealed Rose's last name (not that it holds any great significance): Tico. The cover story confirms that her and Finn's "mission behind enemy lines" will take them to the casino city of Canto Bight. 
The fourth and final cover features General Leia Organa standing alone in a dark, almost sinister cloak. Carrie Fisher's co-stars assured Vanity Fair that she has a much larger role in The Last Jedi and truly dedicated herself to her performance. Lucasfilm was planning for Fisher to be at the center of Episode IX in the same way that Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill dominated The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, respectively.
Aside from Rose, Vanity Fair sheds some light on Laura Dern's and Benicio Del Toro's new characters. Dern is confirmed to be playing Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, seen in all of her pink-haired glory above. Holdo is a high-ranking officer in the Resistance, though Making Star Wars has told us that she'll be at odds with Leia and Poe. 
Meanwhile, Benicio Del Toro's "shady character" (above) is still called only "DJ" by the filmmakers. His shifty nature and unclear allegiances would perhaps make him The Last Jedi's equivalent of Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back. His real name must be a recognizable one if Lucasfilm is still reluctant to reveal it, although director Rian Johnson hinted that they call him DJ for a reason.

Leibovitz full portfolio includes all kinds of exclusive looks at the cast of The Last Jedi:
Rey and Luke next to the "Jedi village" on Ahch-To. Luke has been living here with "an indigenous race of caretaker creatures."

Hux, Kylo, and Phasma are all smiles
The monochromatic Resistance
The wealthy inhabitants of Canto Bight who have managed to "live apart from the galactic struggle," according to Hidalgo
Rey training with Luke's old lightsaber on Ahch-To
Kylo Ren swinging his iconic crossguard lightsaber
Rey and Chewbacca in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon
The droids of The Last Jedi, including Anthony Daniels in his gold C-3PO suit
Fisher with her daughter, Billie Lourd, who plays Lieutenant Kaydel Connix
The Skywalker twins reunited
What do you think of these new photos? Which new character are you looking forward to the most? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Reunions of 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'

The Last Jedi, like The Empire Strikes Back, will be splitting our heroes up as the young, Force-sensitive protagonist trains with a retired Jedi master while their rebellious friends attempt to escape an evil, fascist regime. However, the developments of The Force Awakens have set up the opportunity for friends, enemies, and family to meet again on an unprecedented scale. We're taking a look at seven reunions that we can expect in The Last Jedi, ranked based on their significance and emotional impact.

7. Captain Phasma and Finn

It's safe to say that Phasma is pissed after her former subordinate betrayed and humiliated her, sending her into Starkiller Base's trash compactor and leaving her for dead. She'll be coming for Finn, and as the commander of the First Order's ground troops, you can bet she won't be coming alone. 
This reunion is unlikely to inspire any tears from the audience, but it'll at least give Phasma a clear purpose in The Last Jedi (something she was sorely lacking in The Force Awakens) and the opportunity to prove herself to both Snoke and the audience. Who wouldn't want to see her pull a total TR-8R and attack Finn with her new spear like the traitor he is?

6. Luke and Chewbacca

The marketing for The Last Jedi will undoubtedly hype up Rey and Luke's meeting and interactions on Ahch-To, but let's not forget that she left Chewie and R2-D2 with the Millennium Falcon at the base of the island. No matter how reluctant he is to train Rey, Luke will definitely make a point of saying hi to his old friends.
Luke doesn't have an especially well-developed relationship with Chewie, and we don't know if he ever got around to learning the Wookiee language, but they share a special grief over Han Solo's death. Luke was one of Han's best friends so Chewie can find someone to properly mourn with, since he and Leia had zero interactions after his return from Starkiller Base. (JJ Abrams admits that Leia should have hugged Chewie, not Rey, when they got off the Falcon.)

5. Luke and R2-D2

This is probably the more tearjerking Ahch-To reunion. Artoo has been in a deep sleep since Luke's departure many years ago, and the only reason that he awoke was so that he could find his master again. Last time we saw him, he was rocking back and forth with excitement while Rey began to ascend the stone steps to find Luke. 
Artoo is simply Luke's most loyal friend and a longtime ally of the Skywalker family. His extremely limited role in The Force Awakens was a disappointment, so it would be great to see him become an active member of the plot again as his master does the same. 

4. Rey and Finn

"We'll see each other again. I believe that." Rey's last words to her comatose friend, before she left to fulfill her destiny with Luke, promised us that The Force Awakens' breakout pair would meet again. They care deeply about each other, and a reunion in The Last Jedi would be emotional for everyone.
Remember that Finn wasn't awake to see Rey use the Force to defeat Kylo Ren, so he would be shocked to see her burst in with a lightsaber to save his life once again. Meanwhile, Finn will similarly have found his place in the galaxy after (eventually) choosing to stand up to the First Order and dedicate all of his battle training to the Resistance. 

3. Rey and Kylo Ren

There's no denying that Rey and Kylo share a very special connection. They've both been estranged from their families. They're both attracted to Luke Skywalker's lightsaber. Kylo is tempted by the Light Side, while Rey's fury towards him brings her dangerously close to the Dark. They're going to meet again at some point, and the teaser already hinted at a rematch, with shots of Rey charging with her lightsaber and Kylo facing her with his own crossguard blade.
In the film, these shots are most likely 100% unrelated, but the marketing is clearly trying to hype up another lightsaber duel between the two. Rey will have honed her already-potent abilities while Kylo will have finished his training with Snoke (and probably won't be suffering from a Chewbacca-induced wound this time), so we can expect a duel on an even greater scale. 
If this were to occur near Darth Vader's old castle on Mustafar (which is likely to be a major location in the film), it would mirror Anakin and Obi-Wan's spectacular duel and finally silence the many fans who have criticized Disney of largely ignoring the events of the Prequel Trilogy.

2. Leia and Kylo Ren

Ben Solo's reunion with his father was one of The Force Awakens' most emotional – and saddest – scenes. We can assume that any scene with him and his mother would be just as impactful, especially considering the huge conflict of emotion that stems from Han's murder. Leia will always love her son and hold at least a sliver of hope for his redemption, but she knows what he's done and what she might have to do to stop him.
Leia is also no fool, so her reunion with Kylo would certainly be a far cry from Han's. She'll have all kinds of harsh words for her son (we know she's no stranger to space profanity), and she won't let him get within stabbing distance if she can help it. Nerdist also reported that we might see Leia (verbally) face off with Snoke after getting captured; a scene with Leia utterly roasting the First Order's leadership (including Snoke, Kylo, and even General Hux and Phasma) would certainly make Carrie Fisher's last performance a memorable one.
Unfortunately, there's only so many emotional reunions to fit into one movie, and it's possible that Lucasfilm elected to save this moment for Episode IX. In that case, we'd most likely never see it on-screen, since president Kathleen Kennedy confirmed that neither existing footage nor a CGI recreation of Fisher will be used in Episode IX.

1. Luke and Leia

The reunion of the Skywalker twins is definitely meant to be a high point of the Sequel Trilogy. Once again, we can't be sure if this was filmed for The Last Jedi or saved for later and then scrapped after Fisher's death. However, if Rey is returning to help her friends in the final act of the film, then Luke is likely to join her to satisfy the audience (who is dying to see him leave Ahch-To and kick ass once again), take down Snoke, and yes, see his estranged sister again.
Luke and Leia are bound by blood and the Force itself. Like Han and Leia's reunion, theirs has the opportunity to be a real tearjerker; while a loving hug can be expected, Luke must feel guilty about leaving her (maybe he blames himself for Han's death?) and Leia is sure to be resentful of his disappearance when she needed him the most.

Despite some serious daddy issues and an incestuous moment that they'd both like to forget, Luke and Leia are the Rebellion's greatest remaining heroes, and their reunion would signal a new hope for the Resistance. The Sequel Trilogy may be more focused on the next generation – Rey, Finn, Kylo, Poe Dameron – but the Skywalker twins together again at the end of The Last Jedi would set up an awesome final chapter in Episode IX, even if Leia won't be around for it.
Which reunions are you most looking forward to in The Last Jedi? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Could a New Animated Series Finish 'The Clone Wars'?

It's no secret that Star Wars: The Clone Wars fans weren't happy about the show's premature cancellation, and four years later, there's still a strong demand for its revival. We know the basic details of the remaining episodes and some have been released as novels, comics, and even incomplete reels, but many of the most intriguing stories – especially "The Siege of Mandalore," the would-be series finale – still deserve to be released in some format.
Last month at Celebration Orlando, Dave Filoni confirmed that Star Wars Rebels will be concluding with Season 4, but this will hardly be Lucasfilm Animation's last project. Yesterday, a Reddit post suggested that Filoni's idea for a new project is exactly (or at least, very close) to what Clone Wars fans wanted: an eight-episode miniseries, 40 minutes each, focusing on Ahsoka Tano towards the end of the Clone Wars. This would naturally include some of the planned episodes that we never got to see.
Of course, there's little reason to believe that this post is actually from an inside source at Lucasfilm. Reddit obviously isn't the most trustworthy source in terms of information leaks. But at the very least, this is a fascinating rumor that we've never heard before, and it's worth entertaining the idea. 

Ahsoka is one of the most popular Star Wars characters, particularly among the younger generation of fans, and if anyone could carry a new series, it would be her. Rosario Dawson is even interested in playing Ahsoka in a live-action movie. The promise of finishing Clone Wars stories with an equal or greater animation budget (as the rumor indicates) would also attract Clone Wars fans who otherwise wouldn't be interested in a series focused on the feisty ex-Jedi.
Aside from "The Siege of Mandalore" (in which Ahsoka leads Captain Rex and other clone troopers to retake the planet from Maul), these episodes would most likely include Ahsoka's "walkabout" in the Coruscant underworld and her return to the Jedi as she investigates a Sith temple deep underneath the Jedi Temple, crossing paths with Darth Sidious himself. We've heard details and seen sketches of all three of these stories.
Yes, this rumor is probably too good to be true, but at least it's given fans something more realistic to campaign for. A miniseries led by its most beloved character is perhaps the most sensible way of finishing The Clone Wars, rather than a full-on revival or even (as some fans have proposed) a live-action "Siege of Mandalore" movie. 

What do you think of this rumor? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

'Episode IX' Gets May 2019 Release Date

The Last Jedi is on the minds of every Star Wars fan right now, but Disney and Lucasfilm are already thinking ahead to its sequel. They announced today that Star Wars: Episode IX will hit theaters on May 24, 2019. Additionally, the next installment in the Indiana Jones franchise (the other major Lucasfilm property that Disney now owns) will be released on July 10, 2020, with Harrison Ford starring.
Episode IX was previously thought to open in December 2019, in the same pre-Christmas slot as The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi, so now fans will have much less time to wait between the untitled Han Solo film (May 25, 2018) and the finale to the Sequel Trilogy, which might conclude the Skywalker saga itself.

Both the Original Trilogy and the Prequels were all released in May, and The Last Jedi had a similar date until it was pushed back in January of last year. Depending on how well the Han Solo film performs with a springtime premiere, we could see the franchise permanently shift to May, making it the defining month for Star Wars movies once again.
Obviously, we can't speculate much about Episode IX until The Last Jedi is released, but we know that the late Carrie Fisher will not appear in the film; the story will somehow explain Leia's abrupt absence (since her role in The Last Jedi won't be altered to accommodate for Fisher's death) without using existing footage of Fisher or recreating her likeness with controversial CGI. Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) will direct.

What do you think of Episode IX's new release date? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Why It's Time for the Jedi to End

"I only know one truth: it's time for the Jedi to end." Luke Skywalker's chilling words from The Last Jedi's teaser trailer shook the Star Wars fandom to its core. The young, idealistic farmboy who was once committed to the return of the Jedi is now resolved to see the Order's demise. The simplest reasoning for this is that Luke is just an old pessimist whose logic has been clouded by personal loss, but maybe he's realized that the Jedi were completely ineffective and deserve to finally die out in order to make way for something better.
In the Prequel Trilogy, we saw the Jedi at the height of their prosperity. They had thousands of members, a huge Temple on Coruscant, and the respect of the entire galaxy. All of this started to crumble when the Clone Wars began and the Jedi were immediately placed in military command. There's something inherently wrong about these noble "peacekeepers" leading soldiers into battle, even if the Separatists (or at least, Count Dooku) were evil and wanted to conquer the galaxy.
And while Yoda, Mace Windu, and the rest of the Jedi Council were seemingly wiser than the corrupt politicians of the Senate, they made a lot of very poor decisions. In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, they faked Obi-Wan's death in an elaborate plot and purposefully excluded Anakin, letting him believe that his best friend was dead. In Revenge of the Sith, they refused to appoint him as a Jedi Master and instead ordered him to spy on his old friend, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Their reluctance to trust Anakin ironically sent him down a dark path that didn't end too well for any of them.
The Jedi's whole "no attachments" rule didn't do them any good, either. If Anakin hadn't been forced to keep his marriage a secret from the Council, he may have accepted their advice, instead of the dark teachings of Palpatine, when he began to fear Padmé's death. In the Expanded Universe, Luke even seems to recognize this flaw when he rebuilds the Order, allowing romantic relationships and starting a family of Jedi with Mara Jade. 

For many Star Wars fans, the Council's greatest misstep was when they expelled everyone's favorite, feisty Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, after she was framed for a Jedi Temple bombing in The Clone Wars. Despite years as a loyal and diligent Jedi, as well as strong evidence supporting her innocence, they abandoned her when she needed them the most. Later, Ahsoka was proven innocent and the Council sheepishly rescinded her expulsion; having seen for herself that they didn't trust her, Ahsoka rejected them and left.
Perhaps the best person to explain the faults of the Jedi Order is Barriss Offee, the obedient Padawan who bombed the Temple and framed Ahsoka. In front of a grand trial, she not only confessed her crimes but called the Jedi out for what they had become:
"I did it because I've come to realize what many people in the Republic have come to realize: that the Jedi are the ones responsible for the war, that we've so lost our way that we have become villains in this conflict, that we are the ones who should be put on trial, all of us! And my attack on the Temple was an attack on what the Jedi have become: an army fighting for the Dark Side, fallen from the Light that we once held so dear."
In case it wasn't clear already, the episode's official StarWars.com trivia gallery confirms that Barriss' words were 100% true. The Jedi had become pawns of the Sith because Chancellor Palpatine was secretly their greatest enemy, Darth Sidious, something that they failed to realize until much, much too late. He manufactured the Clone Wars, controlled both sides of the conflict, and manipulated the Jedi the whole time, until the day finally came to execute Order 66 and give birth to the Galactic Empire.
Maybe it's unfair to call the Jedi incompetent and idiotic for their obliviousness to Palpatine's plot. He was a master of deception, after all, and the Jedi were too busy to second-guess their Chancellor. But they had become peacekeepers fighting a war, and very few of them recognized that dichotomy. The Council also completely mishandled Anakin (who was the Chosen One for all they knew), refusing to respect him and turning their backs on his beloved apprentice; you almost can't blame him for falling to the Dark Side.

30 years later, history repeated itself. Luke attempted to train a new generation of Jedi, but one of his most gifted students – his nephew, Ben Solo – was seduced by the Dark Side and destroyed Luke's temple in yet another Jedi purge, albeit on a much smaller scale. Stricken with grief, Luke fled to the first Jedi temple on Ahch-To, where he spent the next several years in isolation until a certain multitalented, Force-sensitive young woman showed up at his door, presumably expecting him to train her in the ways of the Jedi.
Luke must have come to the conclusion that the Jedi Order is simply overrated, that it completely and utterly failed at its most basic purpose – to ensure the safety of the galaxy and prevent the Sith from rising – and that it doesn't deserve to be renewed. But maybe it goes even deeper than that. Maybe Luke has realized that what the galaxy truly needs is balance, something that the Jedi are incapable of providing.
At the beginning of The Force Awakens, Lor San Tekka told Poe Dameron, "Without the Jedi, there can be no balance in the Force." We've heard similar declarations before, but how is a galaxy with thousands of Jedi and exactly two Sith a balanced one? If balance is your ultimate goal, how is aligning with the Light Side any better than the Dark Side?

This is where Rey comes in. Anakin was tempted by the Dark Side, and Kylo Ren struggles to resist "the pull to the Light." In The Last Jedi's teaser, Luke instructs Rey to "reach out" into the Force, and what does she see? "Light. Darkness. A balance." Now look back to the posters for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi; Rey is always standing in-between the Light and the Dark. 
And while Rey has the compassion and innocence associated with the Light Side and the Jedi, we also see her fear and her fury, two emotions that lead directly to the Dark Side. She's drawn to an old Jedi lightsaber, but she wields it with Palpatine's unique fighting style and even seems to take pleasure in hurting Kylo Ren.

The reason that Luke trains Rey might be that she is equally attracted to both sides of the Force and thus makes the perfect candidate to start a new order that stays in the middle (similar to the Bendu in Star Wars Rebels), bringing true balance in a way that the Jedi and Sith never could. Kylo could even join her at some point, since he's admitted to being "torn apart" by his allegiance to the Dark and natural tendency towards the Light.
The term "Gray Jedi" has been thrown around quite a bit since the teaser's release. Although this would accurately describes Rey's potentially Force-neutral stance, we should probably stop using it; no matter what word precedes it, "Jedi" implies a bias towards the Light Side, something that Rey's new order would need to avoid. The big lesson that the Sequel Trilogy might teach us is that indulging either side of the Force more than the other is deeply unhealthy. It could easily be viewed as the source of the unceasing galactic conflict that the franchise is named after.

At the very least, we can be sure that Luke is aware of the Jedi's failures and sees Rey as an opportunity to found a new order. Luke is the last Jedi, and Rey is the first, uh, something else. As for whether this will be a better, purer Light Side organization or a revolutionary, neutral group of Force-sensitive individuals, only time will tell.
In the end, the Jedi had the best of intentions and they definitely did a lot of good for the galaxy, but their foolish leadership, rules against attachments, and possibly even their basic adherence to the Light Side all prevented them from fulfilling their basic goals of peace and balance in the galaxy. One way or another, it is time for them to end.

Why do you think Luke is training Rey? What will she become? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.