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Monday, January 23, 2017

'Star Wars: Episode VIII' Title Officially Announced

We all knew this day was coming. Lucasfilm has announced that the film previously known as simply Star Wars: Episode VIII will have the official title of Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The teaser poster for the film (seen above) has the classic Star Wars logo in sinister red lettering, hinting at the darker tone that we've been hearing about since it first started production.

At first glance, "The Last Jedi" refers to Luke Skywalker, who The Force Awakens dubbed the "last Jedi" multiple times. It's promising us that Luke will have a much larger role in Episode VIII as Rey's mentor, rather than the single scene (and zero lines of dialogue) he received in The Force Awakens
But as any true Star Wars fan can tell you, "Jedi" is both a singular and a plural, meaning that this title is sneakily suggesting – but not confirming – that Rey will join Luke as one of the last remaining Jedi in the galaxy. We won't really know if the word "Jedi" in the title is referring to one or two people until December 15.
"The Last Jedi" also suggests that Luke – either with or without Rey – is not going to be rebirthing the Jedi Order. He already tried starting up a new Jedi temple after Return of the Jedi, and it didn't work out so well.

More likely, a wholly new organization of Force users will be constructed. Perhaps by the end of Episode IX, Rey and Kylo Ren (representing the Light Side and Dark Side respectively) will have joined forces (pun intended) to create a new order that truly brings balance to the Force. 
Most importantly, this announcement signals the unofficial shift of Lucasfilm's marketing focus from Rogue One to The Last Jedi. They've been intentionally holding back reveals like this for the past few months, but now the ball's starting to roll. A teaser trailer is expected at Celebration Orlando in April, though we may very well get our first look at The Last Jedi sooner.

What do you think of this announcement? Are you looking forward to Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

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 Padmé Amidala, Ahsoka Tano, 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.