Monday, April 15, 2019

'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' Season 7 Trailer Breakdown

Last July, Star Wars: The Clone Wars was miraculously revived for a seventh season on Disney+, and at the Celebration Chicago panel on Saturday we got a full trailer for the season, as well as three clips. The trailer has yet to be uploaded as its own HD video for some reason, but you can see it in the video of the whole panel below: 
The panel confirmed that the Bad Batch episode arc will be among the 12 episodes of the final season, along with an arc about Ahsoka's life in the Coruscant underworld following her departure from the Jedi Order. This will culminate in the Siege of Mandalore, the series finale in which Ahsoka, Bo-Katan and her Mandalorian warriors, and Rex and a legion of clone troopers (with their helmets painted like Ahsoka's face) battle to retake Mandalore from Maul and his own Mandalorian army. 

The trailer promises a great balance between clone-vs-droid action and Ahsoka's storyline in Season 7. Ahsoka has a couple of spectacular action sequences, one in which she makes a badass landing with her new blue lightsabers while a gunship explodes behind her, and another that sees her kick Mandalorian ass in a gunship and then take to the skies by slicing one of their jetpacks. 

The climax of the trailer, however, is a tease of her duel with Maul on Mandalore. Creator Dave Filoni said during the panel that he wanted a truly "epic" duel to close out the series, and broke new ground by having Maul actor Ray Park perform his part of the duel in motion-capture.

Surprisingly, the panel also revealed some aspects of the new season that will borrow from Solo, perhaps the unlikeliest Star Wars film to be connected to Clone Wars. Maul's new outfit resembles his look in his famous hologram scene in Solo, and from the trailer it seems that Ahsoka's adventure with sisters Trace and Rafa Martez (who she meets in the underworld) will involve the Pyke Syndicate and take them to the spice mines of Kessel, both of which had a prominent role in Solo.
Reviving The Clone Wars might seem like a weird choice to some and even unnecessary considering years that have passed since its cancellation, the success of Star Wars animated series since then, and the details about the planned episode arcs that were given after its cancellation. However, this trailer is promising absolutely fantastic animation, emotional character moments, and battles on a scale never seen before in an animated Star Wars series; finding a viewership will not be hard. 

Unfortunately, there's still no release date set. The season is almost certain to be delayed to 2020; Disney+ isn't launching until November 2019 and will immediately offer the first episode of The Mandalorian, and The Rise of Skywalker opens in December, so there's really no room for more Star Wars content. At least we can hope for it to arrive on the early side of 2020. 

What do you think of this trailer? What are you most looking forward to in Season 7? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Friday, April 12, 2019

'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' Teaser Review

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has finally been unveiled. The film's panel at Star Wars Celebration Chicago, hosted by Stephen Colbert, revealed the title for the first time and dropped the teaser trailer and poster. 

The trailer opens with an extended sequence of Rey on a desert planet alone, facing off with a specialized TIE fighter. She gathers her confidence and ignites the repaired Skywalker lightsaber. "We've passed down all we know. A thousand generations live in you now," Luke Skywalker's voice says. "But this is your fight." He's reminding her that she's carrying the weight of the Jedi Order alone. The "thousand generations" could also refer to the prophecy of the Chosen One.
The fighter barrels towards Rey and she runs and does a backflip, presumably to slice it with the lightsaber. The pilot of the fighter isn't shown, but based on their gloves and the strong resemblance to Kylo Ren's TIE Silencer from The Last Jedi—as well as the apparent plot significance of this showdown—we can guess pretty easily that it's Kylo. This might very well be the climactic battle of the film (as well as the trilogy).

From there the trailer shifts to the usual series of quick shots of different characters and locations; Kylo in battle in the woods; Finn and Poe on the same desert planet; BB-8 and his new buddy Dio (who both rolled out during the panel). We see Lando Calrissian laughing in joy as he and Chewbacca pilot the Millennium Falcon, confirming that the Falcon's most deserving pilots will get some action on it again.  
Then there's some teases of more action sequences. Finn, Poe, and C-3PO race across the desert planet as another speeder and assailants with jetpacks (most likely stormtroopers) shoot at them. There's a brief shot of a classic A-wing spiraling next to a Star Destroyer, hinting at an in-atmosphere space battle.

The most tear-jerking part of the teaser is a tribute to the legacy characters. Carrie Fisher's Leia hugs Rey in footage that must have been an alternate take of their hug in The Force Awakens. "We'll always be with you," Luke says. There's also a shot of a hand (seemingly Leia's) holding one of the medals given to Luke and Han in A New Hope, a callback to the beginning of the franchise.
The final shot is the main heroes gathering in a field and looking out onto the remnants of the Death Star (at least, one of the Death Stars). "No one's ever really gone," Luke concludes in his famous line from The Last Jedi, except the connotations here are a little more sinister; the cackle of none other than Emperor Palpatine is heard before the title card. 
Ian McDiarmid stepped onto stage after the teaser, confirming that he will indeed appear as Palpatine in the film. This raises so many questions about how Palpatine survived, in what form he now exists, and where he's been this whole time. The editing of the teaser suggests that the Death Star wreckage (in this case, the Death Star II) is connected to his return, which makes sense because that was, of course, where he seemingly died. 

"The Rise of Skywalker," just like "The Last Jedi," is quite open to interpretation. It gives weight to Bendemption, the extremely popular theory that Kylo—the last of the Skywalkers—will be redeemed. It doesn't hurt that his personal musical theme is heard during the title card on top of the final note of Leia's theme (which itself plays throughout the second half of the teaser, making Leia's presence known despite the relatively little screen-time she'll have for obvious reasons). 
The title also raises the possibility of Anakin and Shmi Skywalker appearing as Force ghosts, since these two obviously played key roles in the family's history and this is supposed to be the conclusion to the entire saga, including the Prequels. Meanwhile, the teaser has reignited the theory that Rise of Skywalker will retcon The Last Jedi and make Rey a Skywalker instead of "no one."

What did you think of this teaser? Who do you think "The Rise of Skywalker" refers to? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

'Episode IX' Poster and Character Collage Leak

*SPOILER ALERT* for Episode IX character designs and minor plot details!!!

We're expecting a huge dump of Episode IX content—including the title, teaser trailer, and teaser poster—during its Celebration Chicago panel on April 12, but this morning we got one of the biggest leaks yet in the form of a poster and character collage image, via RedditBoth images line up with the various leaks and rumors we've heard so far, so they're definitely legit.

My thoughts, in no particular order:
  • The poster doesn't have the title and is more crowded than the typical Star Wars teaser poster designs, so we can assume it's not the official teaser poster and we'll get different artwork at Celebration (as well as an official version of this one at some point).
  • The funniest bit here is C-3PO wielding Chewbacca's bowcaster and with an ammo belt slung around his torso. This will undoubtedly be played for laughs in the film, though it's hard to tell if it'll just be one funny sequence or if Threepio will actually be blasting stormtroopers in multiple scenes. 
  • It's little surprise at this point, but it's still nice to have the Knights of Ren confirmed and get a look at their designs and weapons. 
  • Those red stormtroopers have been rumored for a while now. There are still regular stormtroopers visible too, so are the red ones some kind of special forces? 
  • Naomi Ackie's character is seen on both the poster and character collage, indicating that she'll have a pretty major role. Her name is given as Jannah (seemingly condradicting the rumor that she was "Vera Calrissian," as in Lando's daughter), and the large bow that she's wielding hints that she'll be one to watch.
  • Judging by previous rumors, the masked woman in a purple outfit named Zorii (as seen in both images) is most likely Keri Russell's character, a bounty hunter of some kind. (Russell even said in an interview last night that she has the "coolest costume.") Her position on the poster seems to place her on the Light Side, but her true allegiances will probably be more ambiguous.
  • The top right corner of the poster confirms the return of classic A-wing and Y-wing fighters, as well as (of course) the X-wing.
  • As first revealed by a character concept art leak last month, Lando's outfit is similar to the one he wore in Solo, but with a new cane. 
  • Perhaps the most major absence from both images is Rose. In fact, there have been very few rumors or leaks about her role in IX. Though we can still hold out hope that JJ Abrams will do her character justice, it's worth remembering that she's the only character in IX who wasn't originated by Abrams; her presence in the film is more of an obligation for Abrams than an active choice. 
What do you think of these images? Which character are you most looking forward to seeing? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Lucasfilm Developing Multiple Spinoff Series

Hey, remember last month when I theorized that Star Wars television would be giving series to more pre-established characters in the future and I pitched 10 series ideas? Well, turns out I might have been onto something. Reports from We Got This Covered yesterday and HN Entertainment today claim that Lucasfilm are planning to give Finn, Poe Dameron, Qi'ra, and Lando Calrissian their own series on Disney+, and are also considering series centered on a young Princess Leia, Captain Phasma, the Knights of Ren, Rose Tico, and Darth Bane.
Before I delve into obligatory speculation, I need to address the obvious: the credibility of these reports is disputable, and even if they are completely true, these series are still in very early stages of development and will take years to reach our screens. It's also quite possible that some of these ideas will fizzle out and not amount to anything.

But even if the specifics of these reports are worthless, there's a very low chance that they're complete nonsense and the polar opposite of Lucasfilm's real plans. At the very least we can still take value in the broader picture they're painting, and it's a vital one: the future of Star Wars television—and, to some extent, the future of Star Wars as a whole—will indeed be standalone character-focused series.

Now, onto the speculation. As for the Qi'ra, Lando, Phasma, and Knights of Ren series, you should check out my post from last month in which I pitched those as series ideas and theorized what they would be about. (Am I just good at predicting Lucasfilm's decisions, or does Kathleen Kennedy get inspiration from this blog? Kathy, if you're reading this, listen very carefully: Bossk and IG-88 series!!!

The remaining five series are where things get interesting. A Poe Dameron series could easily be set pre-The Force Awakens and show his early missions as a Resistance agent, just like the Cassian Andor series. However, Finn's life as a stormtrooper wouldn't make for a terribly interesting series, so this report would seem to serve as confirmation that he survives Episode IX and has more adventures afterwards. 
"Young Leia" has been a popular concept for a Star Wars movie for a while now, since she lived a pretty interesting life as a princess and budding Rebel agent before A New Hope. Everyone's favorite fancast is Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown, due to both her resemblance to Leia and her own enthusiasm for the role. 

The Rose Tico series is a bit out of left field, but there's definitely potential for interesting stories in her life before The Last Jedi (or after IX, assuming she survives). A series pre-Last Jedi would also be a great opportunity to see more of her sister Paige, whose death—though heroic and show-stopping—left much to be desired in terms of her own character development and relationship with Rose.
The Darth Bane series is by far the most surprising and intriguing one, since Disney-era Star Wars has shied away from that kind of pre-The Phantom MenaceExpanded Universe lore. So far his only canon appearance has been as a vision in an episode of The Clone Wars. If Lucasfilm really are considering this series, then we can could be seeing a lot more ancient Jedi and Sith Star Wars content down the line.

What do you think of these series ideas? Which one is your favorite? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

'Episode IX' Wraps Production

After more than six months of filming, Episode IX has wrapped production. JJ Abrams confirmed the news in a twee this afternoon, reading "It feels impossible, but today wrapped photography on Episode IX.  There is no adequate way to thank this truly magical crew and cast.  I’m forever indebted to you all" and followed by a heartwarming/breaking picture of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac hugging each other on the set. 
It's not exactly been a secret that IX was filming in Jordan and will include a desert planet (either Jakku or Tatooine, both of which have thematic importance) but this photo reveals that Rey, Finn, and Poe will all have scenes at this location. It also confirms the report that Rey will once again be wearing her three-bun hairdo from The Force Awakens. (If you want more spoiler-y costume details, check out this major leak from last week.)

Fans have been anxiously waiting for IX's official title for months now, and Abrams refused to deliver with this tweet (despite the fact that The Force Awakens and Solo both announced their titles at the end of photography). However, there's a strong rumor swirling about a teaser trailer for IX arriving very soon, and that seems like the logical spot to reveal the title. 

While it was widely expected that the first footage of IX wouldn't arrive until Celebration Chicago in April, a teaser in February that announces the title would actually make sense. There's no reason for them to save the title for Celebration since a longer trailer and the first poster for the film will almost definitely drop then no matter what. Plus, Avengers: Endgame similarly opted to leave its title unknown until the title card at the end of its first trailer. 

What do you think of this photo? What do you expect to see in the first teaser for IX? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

10 Cassian Andor-Style 'Star Wars' TV Pitches

When Lucasfilm announced The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars TV series, they promised an original story that would borrow from familiar concepts but ultimately focus on new characters in a new corner of the galaxy. However, the subsequent announcement of the Cassian Andor series hinted that Star Wars television could instead be a platform to tell stories about pre-established characters who are already well-liked by fans.
On its own, the Cassian series announcement doesn't tell us much about Lucasfilm's future plans for television, but let's put it in the context of the recent news about Marvel Studios developing series centered on characters like Loki, Scarlet Witch and Vision, and Falcon and Bucky, which will similarly be streaming on Disney+. Marvel is giving high-budget series to fan-favorite characters who don't quite warrant feature films of their own; with the Cassian series, it seems that Lucasfilm is doing the same.

This makes sense from the perspective of Disney, which, of course, owns Lucasfilm, Marvel, and the streaming platform. For characters like these, who have solid fanbases but not exactly A-list name recognition, giving them 6-10 episode series that audiences can watch from home (with budgets of about $10 million per episode) is less risky than spending $150 million or upwards on a theatrical film that could very well tank at the box office.
This doesn't mean that after The MandalorianStar Wars television will shift entirely towards stories centered on pre-introduced characters with the same actors returning. But at the very least there's a precedent for it now, and if the Cassian series is a massive hit, Lucasfilm will definitely be looking at other familiar faces who could launch their own series. 

I've come up with 10 pitches for more Star Wars TV series centering characters like Cassian who are unlikely to receive films of their own but still deserve to have their stories told in live-action:

Maz Kanata

With Maz, The Force Awakens gave us an instantly iconic character, but the franchise hasn't quite figured out how to use her. Aside from her cameo in The Last Jedi, her biggest role has been as the narrator (and occasional star) of the Forces of Destiny web series. Lupita Nyong'o is confirmed to reprise the role in Episode IX, but we don't know if she'll get the major role she deserves as a key ally of the Resistance in their final stand against the First Order.
As a creature more than 1000 years old with vast experience in the galactic underworld, Maz has tons of potential within the Star Wars universe. She deserves a series of her own that delves into the inner workings of her character. How did she build her reputation as a "pirate queen"? As a Force-sensitive being, did she come into contact with the Jedi or the Sith?

This could even be an anthology series that shows us a handful of different Maz stories from different eras. It could include any number of cameos from familiar faces who encounter her, including Han Solo, Maz's "boyfriend" Chewie, and even Yoda (because you know he and Maz would have an interesting conversation).

The Knights of Ren

A topic nearly as infamous among fans as Rey's parentage and Snoke's origins, the Knights of Ren are heavily rumored to finally appear in Episode IX, after being mentioned briefly in The Force Awakens and then entirely absent from The Last JediNo matter their presence in IX, this is undoubtedly a canonical concept that has lots of potential, particularly regarding the Knights' origin.
While a lot of this series would be developing the characters of the individual Knights as they train and carry out missions for Andy Serkis' Snoke, the main selling point would be the return of Adam Driver's Kylo Ren, especially since IX will conclude his arc in one way or another. Including Snoke would also entice viewers with the possibility (but by no means the obligation) of exploring his own origins.

Lando and L3-37

Lucasfilm struck gold when they cast Donald Glover as Lando, as proven by both the initial reactions to the casting and the reactions to his performance in Solo. They'll probably try to fit Glover's Lando into another story in the next few years; a series following his adventures with L3-37, another popular character with an unsatisfactory fate, is the best idea. It can even revolve around—and maybe take its name from—Lando's vlog-like "Calrissian Chronicles," which were glimpsed in Solo.
Like the Cassian series, this one would promise another hilarious human-droid dynamic as the duo navigate the stars and engage in some less-than-legal activity. As an added bonus, the series would be able to flaunt the Falcon as a key story element in its marketing, since it was Lando and L3's transport and home during this time.

Enfys Nest

Erin Kellyman's Enfys Nest and her Cloud-Riders could and should carry a movie (if not a whole trilogy) of their own. Enfys is beloved by fans after appearing in Solo, and her role as a young Rebel warrior leading the fight against colonialism and fascism makes her the perfect example of how Star Wars can create original, compelling characters that stay true to the core of the saga—not to mention the importance of her status as a young woman of color. 
However, if Lucasfilm's not interesting in an Enfys Nest film, a series is the next best thing. It would ideally take place after Solo and show the Cloud-Riders' continued efforts against Crimson Dawn and the Empire. Flashbacks to Enfys' childhood and her relationship with her mother, who wore the same armor and fought for the same cause, would be pretty neat too. The series could have guest appearances by Saw Gerrera and a young Jyn, who met Nest in the Solo novelization. 

Captain Phasma

Star Wars has never known quite what to do with Captain Phasma. Despite an immediate fanbase due to her unique armor and the popularity of actress Gwendoline Christie, The Force Awakens barely used her at all and The Last Jedi gave her only a few cool moments before seemingly killing her off. These days, you can spot her occasionally on Star Wars Resistance, voiced by Christie again. 
Phasma's self-titled novel and comic book have already proven that there's enough depth to her character that she can carry a story on her own. No matter whether it was a live-action adaptation of one of these stories or an entirely new chapter in her life, a Phasma series would explore her ridiculously strong survival instincts and include flashbacks to her past on Parnassos. 

Chirrut and Baze

While these two didn't get the same kind of characterization in Rogue One that Cassian did, they were still fan favorites. Between Chirrut's devout faith and Baze's gruff cynicism—and the interesting mesh of their fighting styles—many hours of entertaining content could be squeezed out of their dynamic in another Rogue One prequel series set on Jedha.
But why limit the series to just Chirrut and Baze when there's still so much to be known about the Guardians of the Whills, the group of warrior Force monks to which both of them belonged (and a perfect title for the series)? This show would do best to introduce other Guardians and dive deeper into their lore, especially their connections to the Force and to Kyber cystals. 

Han and Chewie

Unlike the rest of these characters, these two do have A-list name recognition, but with a Solo sequel unlikely, the better option is a series starring Alden Ehrenreich and Joonas Suotamo that takes place shortly after the events of Solo. Not only would a large audience be guaranteed due to the iconic nature of these characters, but it would also entice Solo fans who want to see more of Ehrenreich and where he takes the character next. 
This series would pick up where Solo left off and follow Han and Chewie as the join Jabba the Hutt's crew—which would most likely include Boba Fett and other familiar faces—on Tatooine. It could also delve into the duo's other adventures during the 10 or so years before A New Hope, perhaps including Lando, Enfys, and fan-favorite comics character Sana Starros. 

Beckett and Val

There's a lot to say about Val's early death in Solo (I wrote a whole post about in June), but at the very least, it was a huge waste of Thandie Newton's talent. Nothing can ever fully rectify that mistake, but giving her a series with Woody Harrelson's Beckett on various missions and heists together before the events of Solo would be a good start.
After all, Beckett and Val gave us one of the most mature and healthy romantic relationships we've seen in Star Wars. From their handful of scenes together, it was clear that their relationship was defined by commitment, a mutual respect of each other's skills, and equal contribution towards the shared goal of retiring together. The best way to sell this series would be as a Star Wars romantic thriller about this pair of outlaw lovers who flirt and bicker as they casually murder and steal. 

This series could also see the return of Rio Durant (voiced by Jon Favreau), Enfys Nest, and Paul Bettany's Dryden Vos. Other possible characters include the Xan sisters and Bossk (rumored to appear in The Mandalorian), who Val name-dropped in the film as fellow criminals who had worked with her and Beckett in the past. 

Jyn Erso

You know who's even more popular than Cassian? Jyn. And she had her own adventures pre-Rogue One, as detailed in the novel Rebel Rising and glimpsed in Forces of Destiny. Moreover, it would be a huge waste if Lucasfilm used Felicity Jones for only one film and then never again, especially since her contract already includes the possibility of more appearances. Jones even said just last month that she'd love to play Jyn again.
This series would generally center on Jyn committing crimes and kicking stormtrooper ass (as seen in Forces of Destiny), and could include guest appearances by Forest Whitaker's Saw Gerrera and possible flashbacks of Mads Mikkelsen and Valene Kane as Galen and Lyra Erso, respectively. As for a series title? "Stardust." 

Qi'ra and Maul

The biggest thread left hanging by Solo was Qi'ra's decision to take Dryden Vos' place and meet Maul, her new boss, on Dathomir. This story was most likely intended to be told in a sequel, and will inevitably be told at some point to explain the fate of Qi'ra and Crimson Dawn. A live-action series would be best way to tell this story in high quality and to a large audience. 
A series led by Emilia Clarke and focusing on Qi'ra would also rectify one of the flaws in the way Solo handled her; they kept her past and true ambitions so ambiguous that she had little agency for most of the movie and her final decision to join Maul was open to interpretation. This series would give us a much better look at Qi'ra as a character—whether she's a good person who had to sacrifice herself to save Han, or she really has become evil and seeks to usurp Maul and lead Crimson Dawn herself. 
Another idea is an amalgamation of a few of these pitches as a Solo direct sequel series that follows the general plan for the film's cinematic sequel and includes Han, Chewie, Qi'ra, Maul, Lando, and Enfys. This would hit several birds with one stone and satisfy the fans who want a sequel to Solo, although it wouldn't allow nearly as much focus on supporting characters like Qi'ra and Enfys (opposed to the idea of splitting it up into multiple series about different characters from Solo). 

What do you think of these pitches? Who do you want to see receive a Star Wars TV series of their own? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all.