Friday, July 27, 2018

'Episode IX' Cast Announced

Lucasfilm have officially announced the cast of Star Wars: Episode IX before it begins production on August 1. The full cast includes returning actors Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd, with Star Wars veterans Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams. The new cast additions are Naomi Ackie, Richard E. Grant, and Keri Russell.
But perhaps the biggest announcement is that Carrie Fisher will be back as Leia Organa, using unused footage from The Force Awakens. The film's novel adaptation included a conversation between her and Rey before Rey left for Ahch-To, so it's possible we'll see that scene on the big screen as a final sendoff for Leia as she passes the torch to Rey. 
Other notes from this announcement:
  • Episode IX is explicitly described as "the final installment of the Skywalker saga." They're already making it very clear that this is the end of an era. (You can bet the marketing will capitalize on this.)
  • Mark Hamill is back! While there was always a good chance of him returning in Force ghost form, it's interesting that they're not even trying to keep it secret.
  • Naomi Ackie, who seems to have taken the role codenamed "Caro," will follow Solo's Thandie Newton as the second Black actress with a major visible role in Star Wars (unless her character is an alien like Nyong'o's). It's depressing that "Black women in Star Wars" is still a big deal, but we'll root for her anyway. 
  • Even though Fisher will likely only have a few minutes of screen-time, her daughter Billie Lourd has been upgraded to the main cast; Kaydel Connix will continue to have an important role in the Rebellion.
  • Richard E. Grant (Logan, Game of Thrones) totally looks like he'd play a First Order leader.
  • Though Billy Dee Williams' return as Lando has been reported for a little while now, it's still good to hear it confirmed. He and Chewie better get to fly the Falcon again...
What do you think of this cast? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Seven Hopes for the 'Clone Wars' Revival

*SPOILER WARNING* for the next season of The Clone Wars. Everything in this post is either speculation or details already shared publicly by the creators, but if you want to go into the revival completely fresh, you might want to stay away.

The announcement of #CloneWarsSaved brought waves of excitement...and also questions. The only official details are that the revival will be 12 episodes on Disney's upcoming streaming service, and the teaser trailer and poster pretty much confirmed that the Siege of Mandalore storyline will be the finale (no surprise) and the Bad Batch arc will also be adapted.
With so much left unknown, there's a lot for us to look forward to when the beloved show returns next year. Here are seven hopes for the seventh season of The Clone Wars:

Original content

When The Clone Wars was cancelled, there were about two and a half seasons of incomplete content remaining. As detailed on The Midi-Chlorian Center, two major storylines were adapted into comics or novels, two episode arcs (including the Bad Batch) were released online as unfinished story reels, and most of the rest has been revealed through sketches and discussions with the creators.
If the revival were just an on-screen adaptation of some of that content, it would be perfectly satisfying and no one would complain. And no matter what, there will certainly be at least a few small surprises. But after five years of waiting, it would be great to see new and original content. (Especially since otherwise, the Bad Batch arc would just be the same as the story reels we've already seen, only with much better animation.)

And if the creators wanted to not only adapt the Dark Disciple storyline but retcon the ending so that Asajj Ventress doesn't die? Well, then they should go right ahead. 

Longer episodes

When The Clone Wars was airing on television, each episode was 21-22 minutes total so that it could fit the 30-minute timeslot with commercials added. But since the next season will be on Disney's streaming service, there's virtually no time limit. Each episode could hypothetically be over an hour, like the theatrical film that debuted the series.
That's not very realistic; they probably would have mentioned if each of these 12 episodes was actually several times the length of a regular one. But at the very least, we can expect each of the new episodes to not have as strict a time limit; they might be closer to 30 minutes than 22.

All this means is that we can hope the 12 new episodes will amount to more total content than 12 regular Clone Wars episodes would.

Rebels references

One of the great opportunities this revival has is to include Rebels references that wouldn't have been possible if the series had continued as originally planned. Rebels included older versions of many major Clone Wars characters, so it would only be fair for Clone Wars to do the same in the reverse direction. 
The Kanan comic series already explains what young Caleb Dume and his master Depa Billaba are up to at the end of the Clone Wars, but it would still be neat to see them pop up in a hologram or in the background of a scene. There's even a Clone Wars design for Billaba already.
During the Siege of Mandalore, there's even better opportunity to see familiar faces. Ursa Wren and Fenn Rau were both dedicated and skilled Mandalorian warriors who allied with Bo-Katan in Rebels, so it would make sense for younger versions of them to appear as her lieutenants who fight alongside Ahsoka, Rex, and the clones. 
Not to mention Sabine Wren, who's about two years old at the time of the Siege of Mandalore. If Ursa's going into battle, it's not just to restore justice to her home, but to ensure that her infant daughter doesn't grow up under Maul's rule. At the very least, Ursa could mention that she has a young child back at home. And if we got a glimpse of baby Sabine, maybe doodling with markers (hinting at her passion for art)? That would be pretty great, too.

Maul's perspective

No matter what, Maul will have a huge role in the Siege of Mandalore arc; Ahsoka's main motivation is to finally capture (if not kill) the nemesis of her old friend Obi-Wan. But we deserve more than just a couple scenes of him reacting to the mounting threat against him and then a climactic duel with Ahsoka. After all, The Clone Wars is what made him such a fascinating character.
Canonically, Maul has returned to Mandalore after the Son of Dathomir storyline that ends with the death of his mother (Mother Talzin) and the collapse of his Shadow Collective syndicate. What's he going through? Is he falling into the insanity we saw from him earlier in The Clone Wars and later in Rebels? Is he still just laser-focused on killing Obi-Wan? Does he know that killing Ahsoka would deal another major blow to him?
Another unique opportunity presented to the revival series is to explain Maul's cameo in Solo; how he went from defeat on Mandalore to ruling Crimson Dawn in about nine years' time. We could see him communicating with other crime lords, maybe even a younger Dryden Vos voiced by Paul Bettany.  

No matter what, scenes with Maul will most likely also see the return of Gar Saxon and Rook Kast, his lieutenants from the Son of Dathomir comic who led his super commando soldiers. (Saxon later appears in Rebels.) Maybe Bo-Katan and Rex will throw down with them while Ahsoka duels Maul. 

Justice for Padmé

Padmé is one of the key characters in The Clone Wars who consistently shows up to fight both on the front lines and in the halls of the Senate. She may not be involved in the Bad Batch or Siege of Mandalore arcs, but she still deserves to have a meaningful subplot of her own in the last episodes of the series. 
After all, Padmé doesn't just spend her days waiting for her beloved Anakin to holo-call her. At the very least we could have a few scenes of her speaking in the halls of the Senate, maybe protesting Republic intervention on Mandalore (which would put her at odds with her close friend Ahsoka). And her buddies Bail Organa and Mon Mothma should show up too, because there's no way those two would sit out a juicy political campaign. 
Perhaps most importantly, since the Siege of Mandalore takes place directly before and during Revenge of the Sith, we have the opportunity to see when Padmé first learns of her pregnancy—a key moment in the Skywalker saga. Watching her grapple with the news and figure out how to hide it and continue her career would make for a fascinating and relevant subplot.

The Battle of Coruscant

Before Star Wars: The Clone Wars, there was Star Wars: Clone Wars, a 2D-animated micro-series that ran from 2003 to 2005, before being effectively replaced in the canon by The Clone Wars in 2008. It has a lot of awesome and ridiculous elements, and one of the best is its portrayal of the Battle of Coruscant, the end of which we saw at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith.
While the huge ground battle on Coruscant shown in the cartoon is no longer canon, the fantastic subplot that sees General Grievous chase down the Chancellor and his Jedi escorts still is. Who wouldn't want to watch Shaak Ti show off some badass moves as she fights off Grievous and his MagnaGuards in 3D Clone Wars animation?
Meanwhile, there's quite a bit that happens during the space battle before Anakin and Obi-Wan arrive to save the Chancellor. In the 2003 cartoon, Jedi Master Saesee Tiin leads a charge across the vacuum of space to board and commandeer an enemy vessel. Antics like that might be a little far-fetched for The Clone Wars, but there's still opportunity for some outer-space action involving familiar Jedi.

The only problem is that the trailer set up Anakin and Ahsoka's reunion as the emotional high point of the season, and the Battle of Coruscant scenes would take place at the same time. It might be distracting to cut between the dramatic reunion scenes and action-packed ones. 

A true ending

Until now, the series finale of The Clone Wars was the end of the Lost Missions episodes released on Netflix, which sees Yoda reflect on the future of the galaxy after returning from a wild adventure. It's not half bad as a conclusion to the series, but the revival needs to give us an unequivocal ending that truly brings everything to a close.
We know the Siege of Mandalore ends with (again, spoiler alert!) Maul's capture being interrupted by Order 66. Maul escapes and Ahsoka and Rex (whose control chip has been removed) go into exile. This is, of course, at the same time as Anakin's assault on the Jedi Temple. 

The best idea is an epilogue in the style of the Rebels finale, narrated by Ahsoka. We could see animated glimpses of scenes from Revenge of the Sith – Order 66, Anakin and Obi-Wan's duel, Luke and Leia's birth. etc. – while Ahsoka explains the rise of the Empire and the supposed death of her master. 

What do you hope to see in the Clone Wars remake? Which familiar faces would you like to return? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' is Coming Back

We prayed. We hoped. We tweeted. We wrote. We continued to support Star Wars: The Clone Wars after its untimely cancellation five years ago, and our dedication has been rewarded: The Clone Wars is finally coming back. The show's tenth anniversary panel at San Diego Comic-Con ended with a teaser for a revival series of 12 episodes coming to the upcoming streaming service Disney Direct.
The teaser begins with ominous footage (likely produced only for the teaser) of rows of clone trooper helmets, many of them familiar, paired with a voiceover from various clones. Using the same music from the second Force Awakens teaser, it transitions into a sweeping shot of what seems to be Fort Anaxes. Anakin, Rex, and Bad Batch leader Hunter watch as a huge Republic fleet collects overhead.

But the real emotion is saved for the end of the teaser. Rex summons Anakin and Obi-Wan to a surprise hologram meeting with a grown-up Ahsoka Tano and the Mandalorian leader Bo-Katan Kryze. "Hello Master," Ahsoka says. "It's been a while."
While it's unknown exactly which unfinished episode arcs will be included in the revival, it's certain that we'll get the Siege of Mandalore, the original plan for the series finale that involved Ahsoka, Bo-Katan, and Rex and his troops liberating Mandalore from Maul's rule. The footage of Fort Anaxes and Hunter also indicates that we'll see the Bad Batch arc, centered on the titular elite squad of clones.

Additionally, a teaser poster simply shows a clone helmet painted to look like Ahsoka. This originates from sketches of how Ahsoka's clones decorate their armor during the Siege of Mandalore. The image perfectly incapsulates two of the show's most beloved and unique elements: the clones and Ahsoka. 
Disney's streaming service isn't scheduled to drop until fall 2019, which means we still have a long way to go. At least we'll get a longer trailer with more footage from the episodes before then. (Maybe at Comic-Con next year?)

On a scale of "a lot" to "I'm actually drowning," how hard are you crying over this announcement? Which stories and characters would you like to see in the revival? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Keri Russell in Talks to Join 'Episode IX'

As expected, the Star Wars: Episode IX casting announcements have begun, before it starts production later this month: Variety is reporting that Keri Russell is in "early talks" to join the film. This is most likely connected to the report that the film was casting an actress in her 40s to play a new role codenamed "MARA." May the speculation commence.
For many, her casting (if finalized) would be a disappointment because Russell would be yet another white brunette woman to enter Star Wars. And it's just bad timing considering that today is another #SWRepMatters day on Twitter where fans discuss representation of minorities—this time, with a special focus on Native Americans. (There are some fantastic threads out there that you should really check out.)

However, between Felicity, Mission:  Impossible III, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and (most recently) The Americans, Russell has shown herself to be a versatile actress who can absolutely slay whatever empowered character JJ Abrams hands her. (Stunts wouldn't be too hard for her either.) Her talent is undeniable, and it would be interesting to see what she brings to Star Wars.

And again, this is only the start of the casting news. We can't forget that in addition to "MARA," IX was also looking at black actresses between the ages of 18 and 26 to play a new character codenamed "Caro." Russell's casting may have been announced first, but there's still a solid chance a young actress of color will join the film in the next few weeks.

What do you think of this news? What kind of character do you hope Russell plays? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all.