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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Will Darth Vader Be Resurrected in "The Force Awakens"?

Since Star Wars: The Force Awakens was first announced, there have been tons of crazy rumors and unconfirmed reports. Many of these actually seem pretty realistic; Luke Skywalker is missing and/or evil, Rey is the daughter of Han and Leia, et cetera. But one of the most intriguing rumors involves the franchise's most iconic figure: Darth Vader. Specifically, he's said to be resurrected by Kylo Ren, the promotional face and primary antagonist of the film. The craziest part? It actually makes sense. 
Vader's helmet in The Force Awakens' teaser 
First, let's talk about the most obvious evidence. The second teaser for the movie featured a long, dramatic shot of Darth Vader's charred helmet. The last time we saw his suit, it was being ceremonially burned on the moon of Endor during the victory celebrations at the end of Return of the Jedi. Someone must have gone to a lot of trouble to track it down and reclaim it. And thanks to director JJ Abrams, we know exactly who, and why. 

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly last August, Abrams revealed that Kylo Ren has some kind of infatuation with Vader. His own mask is a "nod" to Vader's, so it seems perfectly reasonable that he would want to add the original to a personal collection. But maybe the obsession doesn't end there. Maybe he's such a Vader fanboy that he wants to use his own Sith-ish powers, with help from the remnants of Vader's suit, to bring him back from the dead. Maybe that's the whole purpose of the Knights of Ren, a mysterious order that Kylo Ren belongs to, and got his surname from. 
Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) with his Vader-esque mask 
Hmm, does the idea of using the Force to bring people back to life sound familiar to you? That's because it was part of Vader's motivation to join the Dark Side in the first place; in Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine (AKA Darth Sidious) told Anakin Skywalker stories of his own master, Darth Plagueis, using the Force to bring people back from the dead. Anakin had been having precognitive nightmares of his wife Padmé dying, so this convinced him that joining the Sith as Darth Vader would allow him to save her. 

Since the self-titled novel about Plagueis (that confirmed his resurrective powers) is no longer part of the Star Wars canon, we have no way of knowing if Palpatine's tales were accurate, or just lies to bring Anakin closer to the Dark Side. But if they were true, this would certainly give some background information if Kylo Ren tried to bring Vader back from the dead. 
Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker

The most recent addition to this rumor is that Hayden Christensen himself will return to play Vader. In some ways, this makes sense. Who says that a resurrected Vader would have to still be in his suit? It would make a lot more sense if Kylo Ren just needed to recover the suit for the body tissue found inside, and Vader would somehow return in-the-flesh as a young man. And if Vader was back as a young man, it wouldn't make sense if he looked any different from when Christensen canonically portrayed him in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith

But on the other hand, one of the (many) reasons people hated the Prequel trilogy was Christensen's undeniably wooden acting. The biggest doubts about The Force Awakens are because of the overall terrible-ness of the Prequels, so the film has appropriately distanced itself from them. Bringing back the Prequels' most hated star would enrage fans and cause lots of bad buzz about the movie. 

Do you think Darth Vader will be resurrected in The Force Awakens? Tell me in the comments, and may the force be with you all. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Gwendoline Christie Talks Captain Phasma and Fighting Gender Stereotypes

Since we first saw Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) in all of her chrome-plated glory in the second teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, she's attracted tons of discussion and speculation. There's a female stormtrooper now? How could that have happened? Various interviews, merchandise, and promotional art has confirmed her role as a prominent villain in the film, and J.J. Abrams cited her as his favorite character. 
Christie as Brienne of Tarth (left), Captain Phasma (right)
Christie is most known for starring in Game of Thrones as strong and honorable knight Brienne of Tarth. In comparison, Phasma is a power-hungry, intergalactic officer of the villainous First Order. These two characters seem pretty different, but the clear connection is that they're both capable, female warriors who reject gender stereotypes. Additionally, Christie is starring in another huge movie of the winter, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2, as Commander Lyme, yet another strong woman. If she's being typecast, she's certainly not complaining about it, Christie told Variety.
“I don’t think many female actors get the opportunity to play a part where they’re not having to think about the way their face looks, but I found exactly the same thing with Brienne of Tarth, and that was very liberating. It was great as an actor to work on your skills — that it isn’t about holding your head so you look beautiful. It’s about what you’re transmitting, and to be in service of an idea greater than yourself, whether it’s the character’s overriding objective or, beyond that, hopefully something more sociopolitical. We have seen an image of [Phasma] and again, it’s an unconventional kind of woman exhibiting a kind of strength, but in a very different way to my other two characters.”
Christie also spoke about the challenges of portraying Captain Phasma: 
“It was very important to J.J. that I was there acting a part. I found it to be a really interesting acting challenge, not just because of what I felt this character was representing — and it was just what I felt, and we talked about it a little bit, but it was never like a manifesto, ‘this is what it must be’ — and it was exciting to me to have that weight of responsibility taken away, of having to be a certain way as a woman, to have to be mindful in a way that isn’t always useful. To have that stripped away was very liberating, and it meant that as an actor I had to focus on other things. I had to focus on what my body was communicating and what exactly my voice is communicating.”
In late August, on the official Star Wars Facebook page, a user named Cody Paul made a rather sexist remark about Phasma's armor looking unfeminine, and the page personally responded with a pretty logical defense, much to the delight of the rest of the Internet. Presumably, Paul was expecting high-heeled boots, a short skirt, and/or a cleavage-bearing breastplate, all of which are common among other fictional female warriors, and yet severely impractical in real combat. Christie explained to Variety how she made her character feminine in much more subtle ways, and what she thought of the brilliant response from the Star Wars page. 

“It becomes about the way in which you hold your hand, the way in which you walk, where your weight lies and what you want that to mean, and I wanted to give the character identity. I thought it was interesting to make something about the character identifiably female in a non-superficial way, and I hope that comes across... [The Star Wars page's response] was beautiful because it was informative, which is what we all need in order to tackle prejudice of any kind in our world…to be fed information. That’s just my opinion, that education combats fear, and fear leads to prejudice."
Christie certainly seems to have very progressive ideas, and it's clear that she dedicated herself to the role. We can only hope that we'll see some of Captain Phasma in action when the first full-length trailer for The Force Awakens drops sometime this fall. What are you hoping for in Captain Phasma's character? Tell me in the comments, and may the force be with you all. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

What Will Be In The Force Awakens' Post-Credits Scene?

Thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's become increasingly popular for action and sci-fi movies to feature post-credits scenes, short clips during and/or after the credits that tease upcoming movies in the series. Since Star Wars: The Force Awakens is one of the most anticipated movies of all time, and it has several spin-offs and sequels coming up, it's a perfectly appropriate candidate for a post-credits scene. 

Schmoes Know reported this week that the film will indeed have a post-credits scene teasing Rogue One, a prequel centered on the Rebel squadron that steals the plans for the original Death Star, coming in December 2016. But if you think about it, this doesn't really make much sense. This alleged scene would basically be saying, "You may think that you just watched something really exciting, but now you can get ready for this unrelated, less interesting movie that takes place 30 years ago." The Force Awakens features a totally different superweapon, so it really doesn't seem to directly connect to Rogue One in any way that would be appropriate for a post-credits scene. It would just come across as the Lucasfilm executives admitting that Rogue One is indeed a less exciting movie that desperately needs all the promotion it can get. 

It seems far more likely that the scene will instead tease Star Wars: Episode VIII, the direct sequel to TFA that will feature many of the same characters. The film will begin production this month, so it wouldn't be too hard to piece together a minute or two of teasing footage. Maybe it could show us the villain of VIII, confirmed to be played by Oscar-winning actor Benicio del Toro, who probably has some kind of connection to the villains of The Force Awakens

Or maybe the movie has no post-credits scene whatsoever. This is Star Wars, after all. The previous movies have never had post-credits scenes, so why start now? The Force Awakens is a classy, nostalgia-inducing film, with a cinematic history that goes back almost 40 years. It doesn't need to conform to the modern-day standards of action movies, just to prove that it's "cool" and "hip". 

What would you want to see in a post-credits scene of The Force Awakens? Tell me in the comments, and may the force be with you all. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Star Wars Databank Reveals New Details on Starkiller Base and More

Despite the teasers, interviews, toys, and constant rumors, we still know very little about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We know the main characters and some basic plot points, but besides that, the Internet is totally in the dark. But some light is now being shed on the secrets of the movie, thanks to the last source you'd ever expect: starwars.com itself. 

The official Star Wars website features a databank on characters, creatures, locations, weapons, and more, throughout the entire Star Wars saga. In honor of Force Friday, the database was updated with information regarding The Force Awakens. Most of this is pretty minor spoilers and/or stuff that we already knew, but there's a few new details that seem truly significant to the movie's plot. 

Finn 
A trained warrior desperate to escape his past, Finn is plunged into adventure as his conscience drives him down a heroic, but dangerous, path.
Finn in stormtrooper gear
So we knew that Finn was an ex-stormtrooper on the run from the Empire, but what exactly is his past? Director JJ Abrams confirmed that Finn's last name hasn't been revealed for a reason, meaning that he's the descendant of someone familiar from the Star Wars universe. A popular theory is that he's the son of Lando Calrissian, but we saw him wielding a lightsaber in the short Instagram teaser, so perhaps he's actually the son or grandson of Mace Windu. 

Rey 
Rey is a resilient survivor, a scavenger toughened by a lifetime of dealing with the cutthroats of the harsh desert world of Jakku.
Rey, Finn, and BB-8 evading First Order forces
We knew that Rey was a scavenger on Jakku, and that she was very self-sufficient and physically capable, but now we know that she's lived on Jakku her entire life. Director JJ Abrams confirmed that her last name hasn't been revealed for good reason, leading many to believe that she's a Skywalker. But so far, we've seen her exclusively wielding a staff, rather than a lightsaber, and there's been no evidence of her having force powers, so maybe she's the descendant of another important character. In any case, who are her parents, and why would they abandon her on a planet full of "cutthroats"?

Teedo

Speaking of cutthroats, the databank features a new character that was completely unknown until his action figure was spotted. 
Teedo is a small, brutish scavenger that roams Jakku’s vast wasteland on his semi-mechanical Luggabeast.
Teedo riding his Luggabeast, with BB-8 and Rey below

It's unclear if Teedo will be friend or foe, but he must be a semi-major character if he's deserving of his own databank entry. And his half-machine-half-something Luggabeast gives us a good idea of the bizarre new characters and creatures that will be introduced to the film. 

BB-8
BB-8 is the spherical, loyal Astromech Droid of the Resistance pilot Poe Dameron.
Hmm...we've seen BB-8 hanging around Rey and Finn a lot, so why did he leave Dameron, his master? The key might be the image above of Teedo and Rey, with BB-8 in his net. Oscar Isaac revealed that Dameron is sent on a mission that leads him to Finn and Rey, so perhaps he and BB-8 land on Jakku, and the droid is captured by scavengers and later rescued by Rey. 

General Hux 
A young, ruthless officer in the First Order, General Hux has complete confidence in his troops, training methods and weapons.
We really knew nothing about Hux besides his name and affiliation, so this gives us some idea of his character. The officers of the First Order include Hux, Captain Phasma, and Kylo Ren, but the guy in charge is Supreme Leader Snoke, played by motion-capture expert Andy Serkis. We haven't seen anything of Snoke so far, but JJ Abrams revealed that he's "the most powerful figure on the dark side of the Force". 

First Order Star Destroyer (Finalizer) 
With a dagger-shaped silhouette reminiscent of the Imperial battleships of yesteryear, the Finalizer is a First Order Star Destroyer.
The Finalizer
We saw this star destroyer in the second teaser of the movie, but now we know its (kinda stupid) name. As you can see, it's similar to the classic star destroyers of the Original Trilogy, but the command bridge is slightly tucked into the rest of the craft, as a smart defense against divebombing A-wing starfighters. 

Starkiller Base
An ice planet converted into a stronghold of the First Order and armed with a fiercely destructive new weapon capable of destroying entire star systems.
An army of stormtrooper at Starkiller Base 
Whoa. These spoilers just jumped from "slightly revealing" to "gasp-worthy". The name of this base was announced several months ago, and at the time, we assumed that we already knew the origins of "Starkiller". Now we can scratch that: it's not just a reference to the original surname of Luke and Anakin Skywalker, it's not just a reference to the main character of the Force Unleashed video games, it's called Starkiller Base because it kills stars!
The Sun Crusher

You can bet that this superweapon will play a huge part in the plot of the movie. It's pretty much the Death Star except a lot, lot more powerful, so just like with the Death Star, the Rebellion (now known as the Resistance) will be trying its hardest to take it down. The most accurate parallel of this superweapon in the Expanded Universe would be the Sun Crusher, a starfighter with torpedoes that cause a star to turn into a supernova and destroy the surrounding star system. However, The Force Awakens is disregarding the Expanded Universe, so chances are, this weapon won't be in starfighter form. Instead, this weapon might be the planet itself. 

The databank description seems to imply that Starkiller Base is the entire ice planet, not just a few buildings on the planet's surface, and it's "armed" with the superweapon. The word "armed" there could be taken two different ways: either the base/planet is armed in the way that it simply has the weapon, or it's armed like a nuclear missile, like the entire planet is the weapon. This latter idea raises all sorts of questions, but it fits in perfectly with the other awesomely ridiculous things in the movie, like Kylo Ren's crossguard lightsaber. 

What do you think of Starkiller Base's superweapon? Tell me in the comments, and may the force be with you all. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Star Wars: Episode VIII Shortlist Revealed

Though Star Wars: The Force Awakens has barely begun its promotional campaign, we've got a few other sequels and spinoffs to be excited about. Rogue One, a prequel centered on a squad of Rebel fighters that teams up to steal the Death Star plans, is set to be released in December 2016, and it started filming in early August. And after that comes Star Wars: Episode VIII, a sequel to The Force Awakens, coming May 26, 2017.

Casting for Episode VIII has begun, and the shortlist for the female lead has been reported by The Wrap. I'm going to review each of the three actresses, including their previous roles and accomplishments. 

Gina Rodriguez 
This 31-year-old Puerto Rican actress has starred as the titular character in the CW comedy/drama "Jane the Virgin" since last fall, a role which one her a Golden Globe. So she can act, and it would be great for a Latina actress to join the Star Wars universe, but there's one big problem: she's mostly known as a comedic actress, and it's hard to imagine her in a dramatic, action-heavy role. Furthermore, if the new cast of this movie is anything like that of The Force Awakens, it'll rely heavily on up-and-coming dramatic actors, not stars of telenovela-parodying TV shows. 

Tatiana Maslany 
This 29-year-old Canadian actress is the star of the popular sci-fi thriller series "Orphan Black", where she plays a diverse group of clones. The role obviously requires a great acting range, and Maslany has been rewarded for her performance with Golden Globe and Emmy nominations. Unlike Rodriguez, she's already established herself as an excellent dramatic actress, and she has a huge fanbase in the sci-fi world. 
Tatiana Maslany's various "Orphan Black" clones, via playbuzz
Olivia Cooke
At 21, Cooke is the outlier of the trio, being much younger than Rodriguez and Maslany, and less famous, too. She co-stars in "Bates Motel", and in this summer's critically acclaimed comedy Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, as the titular dying girl. She's virtually unknown to most, which puts her on the same level as The Force Awakens stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega.  

A 10-year age gap amongst candidates for specific role isn't that unusual, but it seems a bit odd when the actresses are this young; Rodriguez and Maslany appropriately look like women in their late 20s or very early 30s, but Cooke looks like she could be straight out of college or high school. The Wrap article implied that they were all auditioning for the same role, so the screenwriters must have written a character with a flexible age. 

Star Wars: Episode VIII will star Oscar-winning actor Benicio del Toro as the primary villain. Which actress do you hope will get the part? Tell me in the comments, and may the force be with you all.