TLJ: The First Order Storyline & Its Characters

This is Part III of IV in an ongoing series where I review The Last Jedi.

 

The First Order

The First Order was on point this movie. While I thought they looked a little foolish in TFA and I was wondering if they were even a large organization, they showed their might and strength in The Last Jedi.

Even with Poe’s stunt in the beginning taking out the Dreadnought, I felt like they shrugged it off as a minor loss and continued with business as usual. If they barely notice the loss of a Dreadnought, then what the heck was the Resistance thinking?! I believe this could have been the point General Organa was trying to make: save our people, for we need as many as possible. The First Order seems to have a limitless supply, similar to the Empire. Oh, you destroyed our Dreadnought? Okay, we’ll continue after you. Oh, you busted us up with your hyperspace maneuver? Okay, we’ll take our ground assault team to you.

When the Resistance keeps trying to win these battles against the First Order, they may feel like they win, but they lose in the long run. At least with previous movies, like The Phantom Menace, A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, they went after the big fish.

By destroying the Trade Federation, the Death Stars, and Starkiller Base, they are striking where it counts and suffering major losses in exchange for another major loss.

The lesson I took away from this movie is the First Order has the resources to infinitely outmatch the Resistance in these small battles. The Resistance made numerous mistakes throughout the film and it started with Poe’s hot-headed foolishness. They either need to take out all their leaders or their main base of operation (which may have been Snoke’s ship but I couldn’t quite tell). Yes, it may seem like a repeat of the other movies, but it’s a smart tactical move.

Sadly, by the end of the movie, you’ll notice that the entirety of the Resistance can fit inside one ship – The Millennium Falcon. The First Order is winning.

Supreme Leader Snoke

Much to the chagrin of many fans, Snoke came in with full evilness and was quickly destroyed by his apprentice. Rian Johnson clearly did not like his character and wanted to dispose of him as quickly as possible. Though I am completely fine with this, I wish we could have had a bit more of a backstory to him. Creating a character that looks a bit like a zombie, barely alive, but strong in the Force demands some explanation. Will they give it in Episode IX? Perhaps in a book?

While some were upset with his early death, I think it was an important and interesting move. This is the first time we have seen an apprentice over take a master and get rid of the leash holding him, giving him at least one full movie to explore his dark side. By killing Snoke, we give Kylo Ren full control of the First Order, and that is going to be very fascinating to watch in Episode IX.

Kylo Ren

Every time I watch Kylo Ren, I enjoy his character more and more. He is a volatile character, with smidges of good within his evil that makes him unpredictable. His instability is clearly shown with the way that Snoke was able to easily manipulate him. All he had to do was make fun of his mask and indecisiveness and Kylo destroys his mask. But as soon as Kylo Ren brings him Rey, he changes his tune once again. Unfortunately for Snoke, he pushed his manipulation too far to the point that even Kylo caught on and he didn’t see what was coming to him.

Everything Kylo does borders on sociopath prior to killing Snoke. You’re not sure if he was ever truthful with Rey, not only about her parents, but about everything he said during the Force communications. Is he using her for her strength or was he being honest?

But after he kills the Supreme Leader, a change comes over him that lands him in the territory of being insane. Not only does the power go to his head and he takes over the role of Supreme Leader, he tries to kill Luke in a brutal way. Even Hux got to the point of incredulity at how long Ren was shooting at his old Jedi Master. It makes me wonder if he would have killed his mother, Leia, had he been confronted her in his mental state at the end of the movie.

With Kylo Ren losing so much (Rey refusing to join him and unable to kill Luke) by the end of TLJ, I wonder how unstable he will be in Episode IX. What type of leader will he be? This is what I’m most interested to see. He is an emotional wreck and I can’t wait to see what this insecure Sith will turn into as a leader of the First Order.

General Hux

I love General Hux. When many thought he was pointless in TFA, I enjoyed his character as he is so completely brainwashed by the doctrine of the First Order. It’s a fascinating take on a character that we haven’t seen before. He continued with his magnificent sneers, pasty craziness, and intense loathing for Kylo Ren in this movie.

Yet his detestation for Kylo Ren was upped a level in TLJ and that was more intriguing than his leadership of the First Order. You knew he didn’t like Kylo Ren in TFA but TLJ showed us how much he HATED him. I am trying to figure out if he believes Kylo Ren to just be incompetent, if he can sense the conflict within him and believes that makes him weak, or if he sees Ren only as competition and that is where his disgust comes from. Either way, when he reaches for his blaster to kill him, I’m almost cheering him on. When he looks over in disgust at Kylo Ren’s need to blast Luke to smithereens, I find myself nodding in approval.

I believe Hux will have a larger part to play in the next movie and may orchestrate some of Ren’s downfall. He may not have the Force, and sometimes he’s not the smartest bulb, but his lust for power and hatred for Ren could culminate in something climatic in Episode IX.

Captain Phasma

Sadly, Captain Phasma went the way of Snoke and she never got to prove her bad-assery other than with a chrome outfit. I believe the directors and producers never expected Captain Phasma to become a fan favorite and were a little confused with how to handle her character. So they gave her a little hand-to-hand combat with Finn and then killed her off (which, by the way, how did Finn ever get away?). It kind of reminds me of Boba Fett, who was worked up so much between ESB and ROTJ, and Lucas decided to kill him in an embarrassing way. It wasn’t that bad with Captain Phasma, she did get her moment to shine briefly, but there wasn’t much to her character. She fell flat in TFA and fell flat in TLJ again. I would have rather they not have her in TLJ at all and saved a more dramatic confrontation for IX. Or, as Imperial Talker suggested, it would have been cool to see her lead a battalion of Stormtroopers onto Crait to attack the Resistance.

 

What did you like most about the First Order? Were you a fan of Phasma or Snoke and disappointed with their deaths? What would you have liked to be done better?

Advertisements

So Love Has Blinded You?

Over the past week I have come to the realization that if I connect with a character in a deep and meaningful way in a Star Wars movie, I become blind to almost all the other flaws within the movie.

I came to this realization primarily with two movies of the Saga:

  1. The Phantom Menace
  2. The Force Awakens

 

The Phantom Menace

 

With the Phantom Menace, my obsession is with Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui-Gon opened up a world to me that didn’t exist prior to the Prequels, and more specifically, the world of the Jedi as a functioning unit/organization.

I loved it. But it was peculiar because I loved Qui-Gon and didn’t care about any of the other Jedi on the Council or within the movie. Obi-Wan generated a shrug and “whatever” attitude from me, but I was obsessed with Qui-Gon.

I think the reason is two-fold: 1) Qui-Gon is a Jedi so therefore he follows some kind of moral compass , but 2) he is not on the council because he does not completely follow the Code and that is deliberate because he marches to the beat of his own drum.

I adored everything Qui-Gon said and did in The Phantom Menace…and I still do. I don’t understand why people dislike TPM because I’m blinded by the fact that Qui-Gon is in the movie and takes the movie to the next level.

There are flaws in TPM though, just like any other movie but there are glaring issues. I never realized this until this weekend when I saw that I have the same predicament with The Force Awakens.

Here are what I believe are the main issues with TPM. Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m only just coming to these realizations this weekend when I tried to take an objective look at the movie.

  1. The characters. If you’re a fan who grew up with the OT, the characters of TPM seem stale, lacking in warmth and connection, and they are not relatable. Whereas with the OT, we can kind of see ourselves in each of the three heroes shoes, with the PT, unless perhaps you followed a political career path, the characters seem less at ease and more distant. And don’t get people started on Jar Jar Binks (though I don’t really mind him but can understand why some people do).
  2. The politics. I have noticed this one before and have written about it. The movie is bogged down in politics to the point that it may become suffocating for some people. There is no simple (or even really linear) plot as everything is shrouded under Trade Federations, senate issues, etc.
  3. Droids. The droids were not as menacing as they should have been. The Destroyers did the job well but the Battle Droids came off comical. Where’s the fear that people had of the Empire? It’s not there in TPM, in fact, other than Darth Maul, there’s no real fear of the Trade Federation.
  4. No greater cause. With the OT, it felt like they Rebels were fighting for something real and a greater cause for the galaxy. In TPM, that essence is missing. There’s no overarching big bad guy to fight.

 

I’m only trying to play devil’s advocate here as many of you know how much I love TPM. It was the first Star Wars movie I saw in theaters and I thought it was amazing. I love that the main character is a child and there are numerous GOOD things about the movie.

But, I also came to realize that when digging deep on why I like TPM it all comes back to Qui-Gon. I blabber on about the Old Republic and the Jedi, but at my core, it’s all about Qui-Gon. He has blinded me to faults within TPM.

 

The Force Awakens

 

I had a very interesting Twitter discussion this weekend with other Star Wars fans. I learned that most hardcore fans are NOT looking forward to the Han Solo movie (this was also slightly confirmed in blog comments from last Friday). On top of that, what I thought was a minority of fans dissatisfied with Disney and the new movies, it’s actually a lot larger and the frustration runs a lot deeper than I had originally assumed.

I know there are people who did not enjoy The Force Awakens and as I was (am) a lot older when I saw TFA vs. TPM, I’m more aware of the issues in present time, instead of finding out years later.

However, I have a similar issue with TFA that I did with TPM: I love Rey. I love her more than I love Qui-Gon. She’s a female character who is relatable, but she can also fight and use the Force. She is strong without falling into a stereotype of a bland, physically strong female protagonist who has no emotion. I loved the character so much that I named my daughter with Rey as her middle name.

People bring to my attention all kinds of flaws with TFA and I have been able to argue or rationalize all the problems. I try to convince people that the movie is actually quite good and they are being bullheaded. But is the movie good? Or is my love for Rey blinding my love for the movie?

Tweeting this weekend with other fans made me take a step back and realize that TFA has some pretty major flaws.

  1. Too similar to A New Hope. This is obvious and even I couldn’t deny this one. The movie practically copies ANH in every way possible, to the point that even my beloved main character comes from a desert planet. Really? Starkiller Base is a bigger, badder Death Star…that gets blown up by the Resistance. Resistance sounds too similar to Rebellion. At least the Empire got a makeover in their name.
  2. Our 3 main heroes never get screen time. If you are going to go to such lengths to copy ANH and pay homage to the movie, why didn’t you give our 3 heroes some screen time together? If everyone survived, we could have maybe hoped for a reunion further down but that has been revoked with Solo’s death and the real death of Carrie Fisher.
  3. Politics…or lack thereof. Whereas TPM delved into politics TOO much, TFA goes in the extreme opposite direction where we have no understanding of the current political climate. At least within ANH we had some mumbles about the Imperial Senate and we understood Empire vs. Rebellion. In TFA there was Republic, a Resistance, and a First Order…but the First Order sounds kind of small? Or is it large? And is the First Order now the opposition group, like the Rebellion was?
  4. Too much convenience. Rey learns to use the Force very quickly. Artoo wakes up at the most convenient time. Luke/Anakin’s lightsaber magically appears at the right moment with no explanation of where it came from. There’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that you can accept when you see a movie, especially one in the sci-fi category, but TFA leaped and jumped over that line. Perhaps we will get all the explanations later, but if not, this is a glaring problem.

 

I have stood up to people’s complaints about TFA just as I did with TPM, but this weekend, I had to admit and accept that both movies have a lot of flaws. Would I love TPM or TFA as much if Qui-Gon and Rey were not in them? That’s where I bite my lip and think…no, probably not.

Qui-Gon was not in Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith and I do not enjoy the movies as much as I enjoy TPM. I actually reallllly don’t like AOTC and I enjoy ROTS but it’s not something I usually pull out to watch at odd times like I do with TPM.

With the future Sequel Movies, I get nervous that they won’t capture Rey’s essence as well as they did in TFA. I worry that there will be no character development or that she will become the Hollywood stereotype of a “strong female character” instead of, well, just, Rey. At least there is hope for The Last Jedi and Episode IX, whereas the Prequels are over and done with.

 

Tell me – have you ever loved a character (any movie, doesn’t have to be Star Wars) so much that it’s blinded you to shortcomings in the movie?

Haiku Me Friday! Taking a Brief Look at Han Solo (and a rant about recent movie news)

Will we get through this?
Such a ridiculous scheme
Let’s hope my luck holds

I like Han Solo, but I was never in love with him like other fans seemed to be. I see the appeal – he’s confident (or cocky depending on how you look at it), got a badass streak, and is very handsome.

(In my opinion, that’s a recipe for a disaster if you fall in love with someone like that.)

Yet Han has a lot of experience in getting out of trouble. You can’t be a good smuggler without being able to get out of tight spots and talk your way out of sticky situations.

So how did he feel about taking on this mission to Alderaan, only to be trapped in the Death Star and trying to get out? Rescuing a princess wasn’t part of the original bargain either. I wonder if he stumbled along, desperately hoping that something changes and his luck continues to pull through. I feel like you can sense Luke’s desperation in those scenes, along with a bit of Leia’s frustration and angst as she tries to organize all four of them into some semblance of a small mission.

But Han? He clearly gets annoyed at Leia and thinks Luke is too green, but his confident swagger never changes. The only doubt we see him show is in relying on Obi-Wan to disable the tractor beam. Though Han likes to “fly casual”, I’m sure leaving such a big part of this impromptu operation to someone he barely knows and thinks is slightly crazy is difficult for him.

The funny thing is – I feel like Han Solo is one of those characters that we know the least amount of information on. And I like that! A lot. He manages to get his way out of most situations because, well, he’s Han Solo. Part of the joy of his character is that we don’t need to delve into who he is, as we do with Luke and Leia. He’s a steady character that we definitely see changes within, but he’s a supporting character. Though people may argue differently as Solo is part of the original three heroes, he’s still not the main story line as the main story line follows the Skywalkers .

(Now I’m going to go on a rant. I did not expect this so I apologize in advance.)

It bothers me that we are getting a Han Solo standalone movie because I’d rather his history not be explained, like Yoda. The latest news of the directors being fired and replaced by Ron Howard makes me cringe. I thought the one saving grace of this Solo movie was the directors: Phil Lord and Chris Miller. They know how to do funny, and sometimes quirky, comedy. I thought this could be an interesting twist on a movie. You can look at Disney as either a Sith Lord or Jedi Master, but either way, they are holding the reins tightly on the new Star Wars franchise (sounds so weird to even call it a “franchise”) and I know what happened. Lord and Miller were probably too used to having creative freedom on the set to do what they want and Kathleen Kennedy needs to have the last word. And last sentence. And last paragraph.

While I appreciate that in some instances and I understand the delicate line Disney is walking, I disagree completely with a Han Solo movie. Therefore, if you are going to make a movie that I have yet to hear any fans be excited about (if any of you are out there – please pipe up!), let’s have it be creative. Let’s have it be different. If it’s a flop, then oh well. It’s not like a flop is going to stop Disney from churning out more Star Wars movies. They’ll still make money. Ron Howard is as different of a director as you’re going to get.

So where does this bring us with the Han Solo movie? Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised? I went in expecting to enjoy Rogue One but instead was really let down. Maybe if I go into the Solo movie expecting a horrible movie, I’ll enjoy it instead.

Or not.

I wish I could see the movie Lord and Miller were going to create. I’ll probably be forever wishing I saw it.

 

Over and out. MTFBWY on this summer weekend.

Fan Art Friday! Death Star Showdown

A few administrative items right off the bat.

  1. I’ve been very sick for the past week so if my post seemed a little grumpy yesterday – I apologize.  I don’t mind May the 4th that much, but I am beginning to get a little tired of it as it does not seem to really correlate with true Star Wars dates.  That said, I do try to celebrate it and find it cute that I have a lot of friends text me.
  2. I will be traveling internationally next week (Croatia!) and some of the following week and won’t be blogging.  BUT never fear! I wrote a lovely guest blog for The RebeLibrarian which should be going up next week.  I will try to reblog it here when I return.

Now, onto Fan Art Friday which I do with Mei-Mei every month.  Except months I forget, lol!  (I’ve gotten better because I now put it in my calendar with a reminder, good job Kiri).

I want to apologize to Mei-Mei because I found this picture to be incredibly boring.  I saw it while flipping through after I had re-watched Rogue One and thought it was appropriate.  But it very repetitive and I had to force creativity on it which was fun, I suppose, but still not fun enough.  Most of the time I like the mendalas because you’re not constrained by how things should look, but this month’s was a bore.

All that aside, when I Forced (omg I just capitalized Force out of habit but it’s too funny so I’m keeping it like that) my creativity into this picture and did a bunch of different colors, I found it to be more fun.

I kept the Death Star and TIE Fighters industrial grays, the X-wings are red (for obvious reasons), but then I switched up all the other colors.  There was really no rhyme or reason to the green, orange/yellow, and blue.  I just kind of went with what I thought would be fun.  I added pink and mahogany to the little circles but did not find that to be a good choice.  The circles are positioned too close to the red X-wings so it clashes a bit.

Can’t wait for next month’s as this one was a huge yawn.  Don’t forget to check out how Mei-Mei interpreted hers!

Jyn Erso: So Much Potential, But…

I watched Rogue One again two weekends ago.  I really wish I could say that I came away from it better satisfied than the first viewing, and while there were parts that did not irk me as much (such as Darth Vader on Mustafar), I found that I still had major issues with Jyn.

The problems I have are not so much with her, but more with Disney and how they decided to create her character.  I read an article a few years ago when the Hunger Games first came out – critics, especially female critics, were using the Hunger Games as an example of how movies with female leads can crush the box office, despite the fact that Hollywood bigwigs thought that men in leading roles would do better (i.e. make more money).  Hunger Games really broke the mold when it came to the leading female in an action movie and I think we have seen a good amount of movies since then that also prove that.

But this line in one of the articles has stuck with me ever since.  The author said something along the lines of,

Do not write strong female characters.  Instead write characters for women. The strong aspect will fall into place if it’s necessary.

I wish I could remember the article and link back to it, but alas, that was five years ago.

The author was saying that if you focus too much on creating a physically strong character, that character will lack the depth that makes people attracted to movies to begin with.  When we look at Katniss, whom her article was based off of, we see a young woman whose strength comes out of necessity to keep her family safe.  She taught herself how to hunt with a bow and arrow so that she could sell her food on the black market and feed her family.  Her love for her sister is what pushes her to join the Hunger Games.  Her feelings for Peeta is what forces her to turn the games on its head at the last minute and best President Snow.  By creating these driving forces within her, a strong character was created.

This is my first problem with Jyn.  We don’t see any character to her.  And you guys can all preach to me as much as you want that there are more in the books, but if a movie is to be good, you shouldn’t need to read a book.

We know Jyn saw her mother die and her father taken hostage.  We eventually learn that she was raised by Saw.  But because she has no character depth, I don’t understand her motivations.  When she figures out that Cassian had orders to kill her father, she is upset.  She rages at Cassian.  This all makes sense…though Jyn lacks character, anyone can relate to losing a parent; especially in her situation where the loss was not ideal (is it ever an ideal situation?).  Yet within a few minutes, she has joined the Rebellion and trying to convince them to find the Death Star plans on Scarif. 

What?  You want to join the team that blatantly lied to your face about killing your father?  They said he would be unharmed but then Cassian was going to kill him?  You know Cassian didn’t think of that on his own, he pretty much implied he was under orders.  So let’s hold hands with the Rebellion and let bygones be bygones, right?  Phssshhhhh.

Those are my first problems in a nutshell.  I can’t understand Jyn’s motivations and she doesn’t seem to have much of a personality.  And of course I could read the book!  I know!  But if you think that, you’re missing the point.

Now we are onto the second, larger problem I have with Jyn and Disney’s writing of her/the movie.

Disney goes out to make this strong leading heroine (yay!)…but this strong, supposedly capable woman always gets rescued.

Okay read that again.

She. Always. Gets. Rescued.

I’m not sure why I missed this the first time I saw it in theaters.  But watching it again, I can count on my hand three major times that she gets rescued.

The first time is when she meets up with her old foster father, Saw.  He shows her the hologram of her father, Galen Erso, and she is spellbound.  She hasn’t seen her father in years and he’s all of a sudden there calling her by her nickname “Stardust” and telling her about plans to destroy the Death Star.  Meanwhile, the Empire decided to use that exact moment to blow up NiJedha/Holy City. She falls to her knees in shock as the cave begins to crumble…and who comes running around the corner?  Cassian.  Because Cassian got himself out of a cell on his own and ran to get her.  If not for Cassian, Jyn would have been dust and pieces just like Saw Gerrera.  I don’t remember Jyn getting herself out of a cell or handcuffs.  NiJedha/Holy City is exploding, the ceilings are caving in, and Jyn sits there looking at a blank hologram until Cassian forces her to move.

The second time, again, has to do with her father, Galen.  Galen is blown up/shot on Eadu where Jyn had been watching everything, hidden.  She runs to his side, to possibly save him if she can, while trying to hear his last words.  Meanwhile, Rebellion X-wings and TIE fighters are having a full on battle and she’s sitting on the most obvious place (a platform that awkwardly juts out) any X-wing would want to shoot down.

Oh and while she’s sitting there crying over her father, who comes to extract her from this dangerous situation?  I remember – Cassian!  That guy who always seems to be most helpful in these situations where Jyn has high odds of dying.

And then finally, the third time, which is sadly the most unforgiveable.  Jyn and Krennic are face-to-face on the top of the tower at Scarif.  He has a gun.  It’s pointed at her.  How in the world will she get out of this situation?  Hmmm…why not use her brains and figure a way out?  Or not.  Remember that guy Cassian I keep talking about?  He somehow regained consciousness from when he fell, climbed all the way up a tower, just in time to shoot Director Krennic so that Jyn can upload the plans.

If Jyn had managed to get herself out of other situations before, this last rescue would not be so challenging in my eyes.  But she didn’t and never will.

Here’s where I pick my other gripe with Disney.  This would not be as big of a problem if they did not surround Jyn with an all-male cast.  If Jyn was consistently rescued by another women, not only would it show amazing teamwork within females (I think Hollywood likes to pit us females against each other in a petty fashion a bit too much), it would show us that girls can get out of situations on their own.  I’m not saying the entire surrounding cast has to be women, but it would have been helpful to have Cassian be played by a woman.  His character is easily interchangeable with a female lead.

In my point of view, this is why Rey succeeded so well in The Force Awakens and why Jyn’s character was such a failure in Rogue One.  They made Rey a young woman that could fight, cry, laugh, and empathize with others.  They made a character who turned about to be strong.  With Jyn, we get almost the same character throughout the movie and who does not seem to be able to get herself out of tense situations.  She constantly needs to be rescued which does not look good for a female lead, especially one they are hyping up to be battle hardened and tough.  This time, Disney made a strong female without any character.

 

Do you agree or disagree with my rant?  Am I too narrow minded and missing something important that would change my entire argument?