Monday, March 19, 2018

'Forces of Destiny' Season 3 Review

Star Wars: Forces of Destiny is back! Eight new shorts premiered last night, giving us new adventures with Rey, Leia, Ahsoka, Padmé, and other iconic Star Wars characters. We're reviewing each of the episodes:

"Hasty Departure"
Unlike the last Hera/Sabine short, "Crash Course," this one has an original premise and some genuinely exciting action, in mid-air no less. Both rebels get to shine in their own ways, both get heroic moments, and Sabine learns from her mistake. It's another solid adventure for two characters who we won't see again for a while. 

"Unexpected Company"
Forces of Destiny has given us Ahsoka and Anakin and it's given us Ahsoka and Padmé, but all three of them together makes for a great Clone Wars throwback. Each of their individual relationships is developed, and we get another big piece of the everlasting puzzle of whether or not Ahsoka knew about Anakin and Padmé's forbidden love. (Turns out, she probably did—and Padmé, at least, was okay with that.)

"Shuttle Stock"
Take away the giant space jellyfish and this short is pretty boring. It basically just has Finn lazily piloting a shuttle while Rose fixes BB-8 so that he can pull off the difficult(?) maneuver of sending them up and out of nebula instead of, y'know, through it. It doesn't do much to develop Finn and Rose's relationship, either. (And since we saw them travel to Canto Bight through hyperspace in The Last Jedi, why exactly were they just flying through random space, anyway?)

"Jyn's Trade"
This is another annoyingly kid-friendly short, but it sheds some more light on her Kyber crystal necklace and how much it means to her—something that Rogue One didn't touch on too much. Plus, it gives her some cool physical stunts, which is perhaps the one area where she surpasses her fellow Star Wars heroines.

"Run Rey Run"
Forces of Destiny has given us plenty of Rey on Jakku, but this one shifts the location to the neat bowels of the crashed Star Destroyer. The action isn't particularly interesting (you're telling me she couldn't have kicked Teedo's ass the second he lowered his blaster?) but it once again highlights her compassion for all living creatures—even jerks like Teedo who seem to try to rob her on the daily.

"Bounty Hunted"
This isn't just the highlight of this batch of episodes; it might be the best Forces of Destiny short, yet. It goes above and beyond to explain the origins of Leia's seriously underrated Return of the Jedi Boushh disguise (yep, turns out she went toe-to-toe with the bounty hunter himself to get his armor), it sheds more light on Chewie and Maz's romance(?), and most importantly, it establishes Leia and Maz's relationship, something that The Force Awakens barely touched on.

"The Path Ahead"
Is this short interesting? Yes, especially in the ways that Yoda's teachings parallel Luke's in The Last Jedi. Does it add to the Star Wars canon? Sure—or at least, no less than the average Forces of Destiny short. But a short with exactly zero women is a fundamental betrayal of what this series has always been about: spotlighting the heroines of Star Wars and their relationships.

Okay, so maybe when Mark Hamill offers to lend his voice, you go out of your way to write an episode for him. But there's surely opportunity for a short with him and Rey on Ahch-To that would keep with the series' female-centric theme and better suit his 66-year-old voice. (Hell, we got another Luke/Rey moment in a deleted scene just last week.)

"Porg Problems"
Ever wondered how Rey lifted all those rocks at the end of The Last Jedi? Well, turns out she had a bit of practice on Ahch-To, and just like her lightsaber training, it was without Luke's help. The porgs in this short are absolutely adorable, but overall it feels more like a cool Rey moment than a childish story for kids.

The good news? Forces of Destiny has gotten decidedly better with this batch of episodes, even if it faltered from the core premise with "The Path Ahead" and generally didn't do too much to expand the number of characters already used in the series. It's still not a vital part of the canon in the way that The Clone Wars and Rebels are, but it continues to tell exciting, tiny stories that stay true to some of the franchise's best heroes.

Which of these shorts is your favorite? Who do you hope to see in Forces of Destiny next? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

'The Last Jedi' Deleted Scenes Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is out on Digital HD today. We're reviewing each of its 13 deleted scenes (excluding the alternate Phasma death scene that was revealed last week) and looking at what they would have added to the film.

"Alternate Opening"

Rather than the opening zoom through the Resistance fleet down to the D'Qar base, this scene starts the movie with an Alderaan blockade runner (the same model as the iconic Tantive IV) and a Nebulon-B escort frigate soaring over a round surface. But it's not a planet, it's Finn's domed medical capsule.
Finn's original revival scene then plays out, except this time he's watching Resistance transports evacuate to D'Qar. The First Order's Dreadnought and Star Destroyers arrive, and Lieutenant Connix tells Poe Dameron that they need more time to evacuate the base.

What this scene would have added: A neat visual trick to open the movie, an earlier appearance for Finn in the story, and some context as to why Poe confronts the Dreadnought alone in his X-Wing.

"Paige's Gun Jams"

During the battle with the Dreadnought, Paige Tico confidently blasts apart TIE fighters from her gunner's position. Her gun jams as two TIEs approach her bomber; she manages to fix it just in time and she blows them apart. Relieved, she pulls off her mask and clutches her crescent necklace.
What this scene would have added: Another badass Paige moment and a little more insight into her relationship with Rose.

"Luke Has a Moment"

After Rey explains why she and Chewie have come to Ahch-To, Luke retreats back into his hut and bows his head in sorrow. We then cut to the original footage of Leia in a similar pose on the Raddus, before the cruiser exits hyperspace.
What this scene would have added: A very brief emotional moment for Luke and another connection between the Skywalker twins as they presumably reflect on the death of Han Solo. 

"Poe: Not Much of a Sewer"

Poe explains to Finn that by attacking Starkiller Base, they exposed themselves to the First Order. Finn tells him that he believes in the Resistance but he's not committed to their army yet. Poe says he belongs with the Resistance and he gives him his jacket back, having sewed up the part that was cut open by Kylo.
What this scene would have added: A better explanation of how the Resistance wound up in this predicament and a nice Finn/Poe moment that would have explained how he got his jacket back.

"It's Kind of Weird That You Recorded That"

Finn examines Leia's homing beacon that's meant to lead Rey back to them. BB-8 rolls up and shows Finn a hologram of Rey's last words (and forehead kiss) to him when he was in a coma. Finn tells the droid it was kind of weird that he recorded that, but thanks him anyway.
What this scene would have added: Some context into Finn's decision to leave the Raddus on an escape pod.

"The Caretaker Sizes Up Rey"

After Rey fires her blaster in the Ahch-To village, a cranky Caretaker scolds Luke and he responds in their language. She continues cleaning her fish and gives Rey a dirty look as she follows Luke to their first lesson.
What this scene would have added: Just another funny, memeable moment with the Caretakers.

"Caretaker Village Sequence"

After Rey assures Luke that she won't fail him, she spots the Caretakers' burning village from afar. Luke tells her that a tribe from a neighboring island has come to raid and plunder them. Rey wants to go and stop them, but Luke tells her that a true Jedi would ignore that anger inside of them and do nothing. Following her own instincts, she hops down the cliff and ignites her lightsaber as she races to the village.
She bursts in but discovers that it's really just a party with the Caretakers and even Chewbacca and R2-D2. Later she confronts Luke, who laughs at her but insists that the Resistance needs someone like her, who tries to help those in danger, not the failed Jedi Order. Her response is chilling: "That old legend of Luke Skywalker that you hate so much, I believed in it. I was wrong."

What this scene would have added: A solid heroic Rey sequence (which the film could have used more of), a lot more insight into the Caretaker's culture, and another emotional moment with her and Luke (albeit one that makes him look like a jerk).

"Extended Fathier Chase"

This scene is just the original fathier chase except with a few new shots, including Finn and Rose crashing into a sauna, escaping to the beach through a tight alleyway, and a short sequence on the cliff next to the beach.
What this scene would have added: Another minute or so of everyone's least favorite part of the movie. 

"Mega Destroyer Incursion – Extended Version"

Kylo stands in the bridge of the Supremacy. Down below, Finn fixes DJ's posture and tries to smooth Rose's hair before they enter a large room crawling with First Order personnel. They pass through and an officer takes interest in them, but Finn manages to close the doors to the elevator on the other side before he can reach them.
A squad of stormtroopers then enters the elevator. A trooper with a Western accent recognizes Finn. There's a tense moment as Finn pleads with the trooper to not expose him while Rose readies her blaster, but instead he just congratulates Finn on being promoted to officer, even slapping him on the butt.

What this scene would have added: Another Vader-esque Kylo shot and a silly Tom Hardy cameo.

"Rose Bites the Hand That Taunts Her"

Captured in the Supremacy hangar, Rose accidentally drops her crescent pendant. General Hux picks it up and recognizes it as hailing from the Otomok system, where Rose's homeworld suffered from the First Order. He puts it back around her neck and assures her that the First Order will always win, and in response she bites his finger. He tells Phasma to execute them both and storms off.
What this scene would have added: A fiery moment of rebellion for Rose.

"Finn and Rose Go to Where They Belong"

After escaping the Supremacy in a shuttle, Rose asks Finn where they're going, and he says, "Where we belong." They direct the ship to Crait.
What this scene would have added: A small character moment for Finn that confirms he now aligns with the Resistance and understands his place is with them.

"Rey & Chewie in the Falcon"

Having disposed of the TIE fighters, Rey and Chewie return to the Crait battlefield, where the walkers are currently blowing apart Luke (or at least, his Force projection). "Let's go around back," she tells Chewie, and they turn the Falcon around.
What this scene would have added: A slightly funny moment that helps to explain where Rey and Chewie are during Luke's confrontation with Kylo.

"The Creatures and Costumes of Canto Bight"

This isn't a deleted scene so much as it is a collection of shots of the amazing inhabitants of the Canto Bight casino. It mostly just gives some more appreciation for the hundreds of unique, incredible costumes that the costume department worked on, only for fans to declare that they hated that part of the movie. (Oh, the joys of being a filmmaker.)
Which deleted scene is your favorite? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

'Star Wars Rebels' Concludes the Story of the 'Ghost' Crew

*MAJOR SPOILER ALERT for the last few episodes of Star Wars Rebels*

Star Wars Rebels aired its last episodes on Monday night, definitively concluding the series. The three-part finale – "A Fool's Hope" and "Family Reunion and Farewell: Parts 1 and 2" – saw the main characters enlist the help of old friends to take a final stand against the Imperial forces occupying Lothal, Ezra's homeworld.
The episodes ended with the destruction of most of Lothal's Imperial forces, including Governor Pryce – the steely, authoritative villainess that Phasma never was – and Thrawn's assassin Rukh. Meanwhile, Ezra and a defeated Thrawn vanished into hyperspace by means of the purrgil, massive space whales that Ezra first befriended in Season 2 and summoned to decimate the Empire's fleet over Lothal. 

In the epilogue, Sabine narrated the fates of her friends: Zeb took Kallus to Lira San to prove that he hadn't destroyed the Lasat people while working for the Empire; Hera fought in the Battle of Endor with Rex and Chopper and gave birth to a son, Jacen Syndulla, whose father was Kanan (raising all sorts of questions about cross-species breeding and just how intimate Hera and Kanan got before his death); and Sabine stayed on Lothal to watch over the planet in Ezra's stead.
In the episode's final moments, Sabine examined a mural she painted in Lothal's capital of the original Ghost crew and their Loth-wolf and Loth-cat friends. Recounting Ezra's last words to her – "Don't forget, I'm counting on you" – she decided to find Ezra and bring him home with help from a white-cloaked Ahsoka Tano. 
The implication, of course, is that the next Star Wars animated series (which has been rumored for some time now and will probably be announced very soon) will center on Ahsoka and Sabine's journey to find Ezra, post-Return of the Jedi. It's a neat premise that will allow some of Rebels' best characters to shine, but this time in a new, unexplored era. 

And though the main objective will be tracking down Ezra (as well as Thrawn, who is certainly alive in some fashion), the idea of Ahsoka and Sabine teaming up is pretty damn cool on its own. An ex-Jedi and a Mandalorian, both passionate and badass warriors who suffered physical and emotional trauma in their youths and came out the other side stronger than ever? Ezra won't have to wait long because there is nothing those two could not do together.
Comparing Rebels to The Clone Wars – as fans will naturally do for the next few decades, if not longer – isn't an entirely pointless endeavor, as there's a lot to analyze about their respective story arcs, themes, character development, animation quality, and music, just to name a few. But one thing's for sure: Rebels got the satisfying, conclusive finale that Clone Wars was robbed of.

The intended series finale for Clone Wars was "The Siege of Mandalore," an episode arc that would have synced up with the events of Revenge of the Sith and seen Ahsoka reunite with Anakin and Rex. "Sacrifice," the Season 6 finale and the last completed episode of the series, did end on a conclusive note, but left many threads hanging (such as Maul's, Ahsoka's, and Rex's fates).

Meanwhile, "Family Reunion and Farewell" felt like a culmination of the entire series, with many familiar faces turning up to help liberate Lothal, a centerpiece of the show since the very first episode. The last scene was something of a cliffhanger, but it showed that Star Wars Rebels was about the Ghost crew as a whole; their story as a team is over, even if most of the individual characters still have wide-open futures in the Star Wars universe.
No, contrary to its title, Star Wars Rebels was not about the  Rebel Alliance. While it certainly shed light on its formation and had appearances by iconic Rebel leaders like Bail Organa, Princess Leia, and Mon Mothma, at the end of the day the Ghost crew and their friends were fighting for what they personally cared about, without the help of the Alliance.

Kanan, Hera, Ezra, Sabine, Zeb, and Chopper. Not exactly soldiers, not exactly capital-R "Rebels," but a collection of lost individuals who together became whole again. They were a family who fought during the galaxy's darkest hour to protect the innocent from an evil that perpetuated genocide and slavery. And there's nothing more Star Wars than that. 
What did you think of the Rebels finale? Where do you hope Star Wars animation goes next? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

'The Last Jedi' Deleted Scene is the Phasma Death We Deserved

It's still three weeks until The Last Jedi comes out on Blu-Ray on March 28, but "The Star Wars Show" today revealed one of its most anticipated deleted scenes: an alternate death for Captain Phasma. 
The clip seems to begin right after Finn wallops his former captain in the helmet with his riot baton. But rather than falling into the wreckage below, Phasma climbs back onto the platform, as do several of her troops. They train their blasters on Finn and she gets a few more verbal jabs in: "Disobedient, disrespectful, traitor!"

Finn then points out that when he threatened Phasma with a gun to her head back in Starkiller Base, she "squealed like a whoop hog" and lowered the shields. For all the loyalty she preaches, she's something of a traitor herself. There's a hint of fear in her exposed eye as she realizes her own men are taking Finn's words to heart. 
Before the troopers can make any decision, Phasma whips out her pistol and guns them all down. Finn charges towards her and slices off her hand with his baton before she knocks him down into the pile of rubble. We then get the original "You were always scum"/"Rebel scum" exchange between them, before she raises her staff to finish him and he blasts her in the chest with a repeating blaster, sending her flying backwards.

A big complaint about The Last Jedi and the Sequel Trilogy in general is how they've completely wasted Phasma as a character, giving her nothing to do in The Force Awakens and then hyping up her battle with Finn in Jedi but only giving them a quick fight scene before seemingly killing her off. 

This scene doesn't fix how the trilogy has treated Phasma overall, but it does give her a hint of actual character depth as it addresses her traitorous actions at Starkiller. Shooting her own troops is also a shockingly ruthless move on her part, lining up perfectly with the Captain Phasma comic miniseries (in which she kills multiple First Order personnel to keep the secret of her betrayal). And getting her hand cut off but still recovering fast enough to parry Finn's next swing is a pretty badass move, too.
Not only was the theatrical version of Phasma's death much shorter, but it also made her fate more ambiguous, with her body falling into flames instead of getting blasted in the chest. This means the filmmakers still may be interested in bringing her back in Episode IX, if only because Gwendoline Christie is such a lovable presence on and off the screen and at least a few fans are still holding out hope for her redemption as a serious villain.

What did you think of this scene? Do you hope Phasma returns in Episode IX? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.