Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Top 10 Original 'Clone Wars' Characters

Star Wars: The Clone Wars was a truly great show. Centered on the titular conflict that tore the galaxy apart, the series gave us great storylines while expanding on the characters from the Prequel Trilogy that never really got their time to shine on the big screen. It turned angsty and unlikable Anakin into a funny, intelligent general, while emotional and helpless Padmé became a strong, determined politician fighting to end the bloodshed.
But today, we're looking at the ten best new characters from the series that didn't come from the cinematic saga. These include both original creations and those that made their way from other Star Wars comics and novels. We're ranking them based on characterization, likability, and pure cool factor. 

10. Fives

Over the course of a handful of episodes throughout the six seasons, we watched CT-27-5555 evolve from a failing trainee to an elite ARC trooper. He was a recurring, likable character for the first five seasons, but it wasn't until the beginning of Season 6 that Fives took the spotlight in one of the series' most intriguing episode arcs.
After witnessing fellow clone trooper Tup murder a Jedi Master in the middle of a battle, Fives began to uncover a shocking conspiracy that would lead to the downfall of the Jedi Order. He discovered that all clones had secret bio-chips in their heads designed to ensure their obedience, specifically when the time came to execute the infamous Order 66 and kill all Jedi. 

Unfortunately, Fives' search for the truth led to his death, and the secret of the clones' programming died with him. Fives ultimately showed us that clones weren't evil killing machines, ready to betray the Jedi at any moment; they were honorable, free-thinking men, victim to a sinister plot set in motion decades before their creation. 
9. Pong Krell

Anyone who wields two double-bladed lightsabers automatically deserves a spot on this list. Krell's first and only appearance was in the Umbara episode arc (some of the best episodes of the series), when he temporarily took Anakin's place as the general of the 501st Legion. We quickly learned that unlike many of the other Jedi we had met, Krell had no regard for the lives of his troopers, and would happily sacrifice thousands of clones as long as he got results. 
At first, he appeared to simply be a strict substitute teacher in the eyes of both the troopers and the audience. That changed when Captain Rex discovered that Krell had tricked two legions of clones into attacking and killing each other. Rex and his men eventually arrested Krell, and the general revealed that he had foreseen the future and determined that the Republic was going to lose the war, so he attempted to sabotage the efforts on Umbara in order to gain favor with Count Dooku. 
Krell's badass choice of weaponry was probably his most memorable characteristic, but more importantly, he was the first (and far from the last) to show us that the dark times of the Clone Wars were enough to corrupt the Jedi themselves. He wasn't just a cruel and demanding leader; he was a genuinely evil guy. 

8. Pre Vizsla

Imagine if Jango Fett was more ambitious and had an army of Jango Fetts at his control. That's probably the best way to explain Pre Vizsla (voiced by actor/director Jon Favreau), the leader of the radical Death Watch warriors who fought to restore Mandalore to its glorious, violent past. He had all the usual Fett gadgets – blasters, flamethrowers, jetpacks – plus an awesome black-colored lightsaber called a Darksaber.
Besides all of the cool tech and armor, the fascinating thing about Vizsla is that at the end of the day, he was just a man dissatisfied with the current state of his world and desperate to return to a seemingly better time. That's really not too different from the modern politicians we have in real life. (Vizsla's slogan easily could have been "Make Mandalore great again.") 
Vizsla ended up losing his head after forming an alliance with a pair of powerful, horned brothers: Darth Maul and Savage Opress. He was all about old school Mandalorian honor, so it was fitting that he died in a traditional duel with Maul to determine the future commander of the Death Watch. 

7. Mother Talzin

We first met Talzin as the powerful leader of one of the coolest and most mysterious groups to be introduced in The Clone Wars: the Nightsisters of Dathomir, a coven of witches that used the Force to wield dark magicks. Talzin initially seemed like an ancient, kind woman who gave Asajj Ventress a new home and only got involved in the Clone Wars to help Ventress seek revenge on Count Dooku.
But it soon became clear that Talzin had a much more ambitious plan: she intended to use Darth Maul (later revealed to be her son) to defeat Darth Sidious and become the most powerful being in the galaxy. At the climax of the Son of Dathomir comic (which adapted storylines that were supposed to be aired on television), she engaged in a Force lightning battle with Sidious himself and then sacrificed herself to let Maul escape. 

What made Talzin special is that while she was certainly evil, she was neither on the Light Side nor the Dark Side of the Force, and she introduced us to a mysticism that we had never really seen before in Star Wars. Over the years, she turned ordinary men into monsters, tortured her enemies with voodoo dolls, dueled Mace Windu, and even possessed Count Dooku's body. Pretty impressive for an old witch. 
6. Cad Bane

The Clone Wars had a lot of cool bounty hunters – Boba Fett, Aurra Sing, Bossk, and Embo, just to name a few – but Cad Bane was the best. He appeared as a recurring villain in the first four seasons, often working for the Separatists and repeatedly butting heads with Anakin and Obi-Wan.
With a slew of tricks up his sleeve and a signature hat to add to his swagger, Bane would take on any long as he got paid. He robbed the Jedi Temple, delivered Force-sensitive children to Darth Sidious, took senators hostage, and nearly kidnapped the Chancellor himself. If anyone could have taken Jango Fett's place as the best bounty hunter in the galaxy, it would have been him.

5. Barriss Offee

Yes, Barriss did appear in Attack of the Clones as one of the exotic background Jedi, but she had zero lines. The Clone Wars gave her a voice, a personality, and a shocking twist on her character. Barriss was introduced in Season 2 as Luminara Unduli's studious, obedient padawan who nevertheless became close friends with impulsive and feisty Ahsoka. 
At the end of Season 5, Barriss expertly bombed the Jedi Temple and framed Ahsoka for it. Ahsoka was eventually caught by the authorities and nearly convicted of the crime, until Anakin discovered the truth and arrested Barriss.

In front of a grand Republic trial, Barriss confessed and went on to accuse the entire Jedi Order of having lost their way and become as vile as the Sith. It was obviously sad to see such a promising young Jedi fall on this dark path, but even worse was the realization that she had a point
Despite being a terrorist and completely betraying her friend, Barriss wasn't 100% wrong that the Jedi had become the opposite of the peacekeepers they were supposed to be. She inspired both the characters and the viewer to contemplate this moral dilemma, and The Clone Wars was really at its best when it explored these kinds of philosophical quandaries.  

4. Duchess Satine

Satine Kryze ruled Mandalore with a courage and pacifism that rivaled Padmé (who was a close friend of hers, no surprise). She was a relatable leader who only desired for her planet to remain neutral in the Clone Wars and move beyond its violent past. And, most memorably, she was the true love of Obi-Wan Kenobi. 
Sadly, Satine failed to keep Mandalore peaceful. With help from Maul and his Shadow Collective of crime organizations, the Death Watch finally took control of the planet in Season 5. Even worse, it was Satine's heart, not her fight for peace, that led to her demise. Maul stabbed her to get revenge on Obi-Wan, and she died in her lover's arms as her home was descended into utter chaos. 
3. Asajj Ventress

One of the most tragic characters in all of Star Wars, Ventress was born into the Nightsisters but given up to a pirate. A Jedi Knight recognized her Force sensitivity and trained her for many years, until he was killed. Filled with rage and sorrow, Ventress turned to the Dark Side and became an apprentice of Count Dooku, playfully clashing with Anakin and Obi-Wan on multiple occasions. 
When Dooku betrayed Ventress on Sidious' orders, she returned to her Nightsister clan and developed a revenge plot with Talzin and her new sisters. It ultimately failed, and Dooku later struck back by sending his army to wipe out the clan. Once again, Ventress had lost her family. She decided to put her skills to good use by becoming a bounty hunter. 

She became something of an antihero, saving Obi-Wan from Maul's wrath and temporarily teaming up with Ahsoka, even though Ventress was still considered an enemy of the Republic. In the Dark Disciple novel, her story was concluded as she partnered with unorthodox Jedi Quinlan Vos to assassinate Count Dooku, and ended up falling in love with Vos and sacrificing her life to save him. 
Ventress was a likable and entertaining character throughout the series, whether she was battling Jedi, Sith, clone troopers, or pretty much anyone who picked a fight with her. Star Wars has lots of villains, but (arguably) none as layered and relatable as Asajj Ventress.

2. Captain Rex

Rex is the best example of how The Clone Wars turned the clones into unique human beings. He was the right hand man to Anakin and Ahsoka, leading the 501st into countless battles with loyalty, bravery, and his signature twin blasters.
Nearly all of the heroes of Star Wars have been Jedi, rebels, or politicians. Rex was a soldier through and through, and pretty much the first soldier we ever got to know and love almost as much as his Force-sensitive commanders. Fortunately, Rex has returned in Star Wars Rebels, lending his years of combat experience to the central team.

1. Ahsoka Tano

When fans first met Ahsoka as Anakin's new padawan in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars feature film (which served as the pilot for the series), she was dismissed as annoying and unnecessary, an obvious plot device to set the animated show apart from the Prequels and give Anakin some more responsibility.
And then, over the course of five seasons, we watched Ahsoka evolve from an immature, reckless teenager to a strong, fearless young woman, literally capable of decapitating four Death Watch commandos at the same time.
In the Season 5 finale, Ahsoka decided to leave the Jedi Order because the Council had abandoned her and refused to believe that she was innocent for the Jedi Temple bombing. We all knew that she was going to die or otherwise exit the show eventually (because she wasn't present in Revenge of the Sith), but that didn't make it any less painful.

When Ahsoka slowly walked down the steps of the Temple, away from her previous life and friends, away from her confused and saddened master, it was genuinely tear-jerking. She had cemented her role as the series' most popular and beloved new character.
An older, wiser Ahsoka returned in Rebels in a recurring role as an ally and advisor to the team. She reunited with Rex and later crossed her blades with Darth Vader's, making the most emotionally affecting moment the series has offered us yet as master battled apprentice. 
Her fate at the end of the fight was unclear, but seeing as we have an Ahsoka novel coming in October (detailing her adventures after leaving the Jedi Order), we won't be saying goodbye to this fan-favorite character anytime soon.

Honorable Mentions

Savage Opress - Darth Maul's monstrous brother, enhanced by Nightsister magicks, who met his end at the hands of Darth Sidious. He wielded a double-bladed lightsaber and was immensely powerful, but had little personality and was quickly overshadowed by his brother when Maul re-entered the picture. 
Aurra Sing - a highly-skilled and deliciously evil assassin who repeatedly clashed with Ahsoka. Although we first saw her in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in The Phantom Menace, and she popped up in other comics and novels, The Clone Wars showed us just how merciless and diabolical she was. 

Bo-Katan - Vizsla's deadly lieutenant (and Satine's estranged sister) who rebelled against Darth Maul when he took control of the Death Watch. After Satine died, Bo-Katan rescued Obi-Wan from Maul's clutches and then stayed on Mandalore to fight the ensuing civil war. 
Hondo Ohnaka - a greedy and comical pirate who had an unusual relationship with the Republic, sometimes robbing them and sometimes lending a hand. He's currently back as a recurring character on Rebels

The Zillo Beast - a gigantic, Godzilla-like monster who wreaked havoc in one of the series' most memorable (and strangest) episode arcs. 
Saw Gerrera - a freedom fighter on Onderon and the only original Clone Wars character to make it to the big screen; Oscar winner Forest Whitaker will be playing him in Rogue One this December. 

Which of these characters is your favorite? Where do you hope to see them again? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

International Trailer Sheds Light on Galen Erso

The first international Rogue One trailer has hit the Internet, and as expected, it has several new bits of footage and dialogue that we haven't seen before. Most notably, we see an extension onto Mon Mothma's explanation of the Death Star mission to Jyn. She says that they've "intercepted a coded Imperial transmission" which contains details about the imminent weapons test. Cassian Andor then informs Jyn that the message was sent by her father, who we know is named Galen Erso. 

It's been revealed through various press releases that Galen is a brilliant scientist who works for the Empire, but this is the first time that anyone's mentioned him in the trailers. Jyn's relationship with Galen was definitely going to be a major subplot; now we know that it's also one of the reasons why she's sent on the mission in the first place. 
Other new pieces of footage:
  • This quick shot of Bodhi Rook, sporting goggles in what looks like the U-Wing cabin.
  • Death Troopers patrolling a grassy terrain. This seems to be the Erso farm, in a flashback in which Director Krennic and his black-suited enforcers capture Galen and burn down the farm as a young Jyn runs away.
What do you think of these new details? How do you think Jyn and Galen will interact in the film? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

'Rogue One' Trailer 2 Breakdown

The highly-anticipated second trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dropped during the Rio Olympics coverage last night on NBC. These two minutes deliver an impressive new look at the film's characters, locations, and action sequences. Here's a breakdown of the trailer, shot-by-shot, frame-by-frame:
  1. The trailer opens on a city on the planet Jedha with TIE fighters flying over it. We know that Jedha used to be an important world for the Jedi, and it's still used as a pilgrimage site for Force believers, like Chirrut Îmwe. It's where Chirrut and his best friend, Baze Malbus, will join Jyn Erso's rebel team. 
  2. Jyn tentatively approaches Saw Gerrera. "The world is coming undone," he says. His many years of rebellion clearly haven't made him optimistic. In an interview with EW, Forest Whitaker described how Saw and Jyn have a very close relationship, despite the fact that the Rebel Alliance doesn't totally support his extremism. 
  3. "Imperial flags reign across the galaxy," Saw explains as we see a Star Destroyer hover over the Jedha city. The databank states that although the Empire occupies Jedha, groups of Rebels (including Saw's) still resist it. Why is the Empire so interested in the planet? According to Donnie Yen, it's because it contains a resource used to make lightsabers, possibly the Kyber crystals themselves.
  4. "Can you be trusted without your shackles?" a Rebel officer asks Jyn as she's marched into a strategy room. "Let's just get this over with, shall we?" she replies after Captain Cassian Andor removes them. Jyn is expecting to be given a jail sentence, but the Rebellion has something else in mind...
  5. "We have a mission for you. A major weapons test is imminent, we need to know how to destroy it," Mon Mothma tells an intrigued Jyn as we see the construction of the Death Star. It seems that Jyn is skilled enough that the Rebellion is willing to trust her with its most important mission, despite her previous crimes and volatile nature. 
  6. "If you're really doing this, I want to help," Cassian tells Jyn in the Yavin Temple hangar. Here we have Jyn's first recruit, an experienced officer who will hopefully balance Jyn with his calm temperament. Chances are, Cassian has his own beef with the Empire (most of the heroes do) that motivates him to join this high-risk mission.
  7. Jyn and Cassian leave the base on a U-Wing starship. "Good," she replies. "Good," he agrees. The Star Wars Show revealed that the U-Wing has convertible wings and doubles as both a troop transport and a gunship, making it a fitting vehicle for our heroes.
  8. "I've been recruiting for the Rebellion for a long time," Cassian reveals. He and a hooded Jyn pass stormtroopers escorting Rebel prisoners in a Jedha market. Is it possible that Cassian is the one who originally read Jyn's files and recommended her to his superiors? 
  9. The U-Wing flies through a dark, stormy canyon. "They destroyed our home!" Baze shouts as he shoots down several stormtroopers in the same environment. As Jedha natives, it's not hard to imagine why these two might jump at the chance to seek revenge on the regime that's taking over their planet. And now we know that Baze's big gun isn't just for show; he's a crack shot with it, too. 
  10. "I fight the Empire now," Baze explains as we see him survey the Scarif beach. No matter who he fought before (perhaps it was the Republic), this longtime rebel and evident weapons expert will be a nice addition to the team. 
  11. The U-Wing flies across the Jedha desert. "I fear nothing. All is as the Force wills it," Chirrut declares. He expertly dodges stormtrooper fire and knocks them out with his staff. He's blind and has no real Force powers, but Chirrut's instincts and devout faith clearly make him a formidable opponent. It looks like his first (and far from last) stormtrooper beatdown in the film will be to save Jyn and Cassian after they get apprehended. 
  12. "The Captain says you are a friend. I will not kill you," K-2SO tells Jyn in an alleyway in the Jedha city. "Thanks!" she sarcastically replies. This demonstrates both Kaytoo's loyalty to Cassian (who reprogrammed him to serve the Rebellion instead of the Empire) and his hilarious, blunt manner. 
  13. "There isn't much time," Jyn says as the Death Star floats upside-down and eclipses the sun over Jedha. We know that Scarif is the main construction site of the Death Star, so why is it orbiting Jedha? Maybe after stripping it of its resources, Director Krennic intends to target the planet as the first demonstration of the superweapon that Mon Mothma spoke about earlier. 
  14. "Every day they grow stronger," Jyn asserts as we see Director Krennic observing Jedha aboard the Death Star. The rumored Kyber crystals on Jedha are actually the main power source for the Death Star, so as the director of Advanced Weapons Research, Krennic will do everything in his power to stop the pesky rebels from getting in his way. 
  15. Rebel soldiers exit a U-Wing and charge across the Scarif beach. Other Rebels pass the flaming remains of a U-Wing and Chirrut stands in the sand. We've been led to believe that this will be the film's biggest – and final – battle as the Rebels and their X-Wings face off against AT-ACT's, TIE Strikers, stormtroopers, Death Troopers, and shoretroopers. 
  16. "There is a 97.6% chance of failure," Kaytoo informs the team as we see Baze charging on Scarif, Death Troopers firing, and an Imperial transport exploding. Although Kaytoo isn't nearly as fussy and polite as C-3PO, he seems to share the habit of telling his friends how unlikely their success is. As Han Solo would say, "Never tell me the odds." 
  17. "He means well," Cassian assures Bodhi Rook, who doesn't look convinced. We know a fair bit about Bodhi – he's a tense, volatile, ex-Imperial pilot – but he gets very little screen-time in comparison to the rest of the Rebels, suggesting that he doesn't have as large a role in the film.
  18. X-Wings fly through the same dark canyon and blast an Imperial facility. If this is on Jedha, as the rocky terrain would suggest, then the Rebels may be targeting a mining facility where the Imperials harvest the coveted Kyber crystals. 
  19. Baze fires a missile at an AT-ACT and hits it in the head. As EW points out, this trailer is full of imagery of small people juxtaposed with bigger, mightier forces. (Director Gareth Edwards is quite familiar with this small-vs-big technique after helming 2014's Godzilla.) It represents the Rebellion's seemingly-hopeless effort against the Empire, and it's one of the key themes of the film. 
  20. "This is our chance to make a real difference," Jyn says to Saw, who responds with a small smile. Saw must be seeing the same kind of hopeful spirit in Jyn that he had when he was her age. It's also possible that his smile is a sad one, as if he doesn't believe whatsoever that she could cause such change, but he doesn't have the heart to tell her and crush her dreams. 
  21. In the U-Wing, Jyn and Cassian evade an ocean of falling rubble. She frantically shouts something to him and he jumps to hyperspace. If Krennic does plan on destroying Jedha, this rubble could be the result of a blast from a partially-powered – but still quite destructive – Death Star laser. This would explain why Jedha isn't mentioned in the Original Trilogy, and it would still allow Alderaan to technically be the first complete victim of the superweapon in A New Hope
  22. A TIE fighter crashes and kills two Death Star gunners. "Are you with me?" Jyn asks as we see her limping across a railing towards an antenna and a hovering TIE. Again, the David vs. Goliath motif. Jyn's wounded (probably a result of the Scarif battle, based on the ocean seen behind the TIE), but she's still determined to reach that antenna, even if the starfighter in front of her is ready to gun her down.  
  23. "All the way," Cassian promises her. He, Chirrut, Baze, K-2SO, and several other Rebels huddle as they prepare for battle aboard a U-Wing. Jyn smiles in return. The final shots of the Celebration Reel indicate that this scene ends with the landing door opening over the Scarif battlefield as Jyn says, "May the Force be with us." 
  24. Darth Vader inhales as he examines a diagram of the Death Star! This is the moment we knew was coming, the moment we were all waiting for: the Vader tease. Sure, these new characters all look great (like really, really great), but nothing beats the most iconic Star Wars character of all time. Welcome back, Lord Vader. We've missed you. 

For a film receiving so much negative buzz and doubt from even the most devoted of fans, this trailer does the trick to get everyone excited and invested again. The first trailer did a great job introducing us to Jyn, but this one expands enormously and shows us the rest of the heroes, as well as some intriguing environments and lots of action shots that probably weren't completely polished back in April. 
The trailer also successfully assures us that despite all those rumors about the reshoots lightening up Rogue One, the film will stick to its noticeably dark tone. There's certainly hope to be found, but there's also abundant oppression, death, tension, and sorrow all around. 

The first trailer ended with the question, "What will you become?" posed by Saw Gerrera. It asked us to consider the costs of rebellion and the toll that takes on both the body and the mind. This time, we hear "Are you with me?", and we get an explicit answer that promised us the overarching theme of Star Wars: unity. 
It evokes the metaphor of the silver lining behind the dark cloud, which is essentially the principle idea of Rogue One, since we know that happier days will follow it in the Original Trilogy. 

In short, Lucasfilm managed to satisfy the fans, silence the naysayers, and get everyone very excited for December 16th in less than 120 seconds of footage. What did you think of this trailer? What was your favorite moment? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.