My New Found Appreciation for AOTC

I really dislike Attack of the Clones. I find it to be unbearable in some instances. Of all the films, I find it the weakest and I’m always surprised by people who prefer it over The Phantom Menace. I forced myself once to watch it and try to find 10 things to like about the movie.

The script writing is atrocious and we never get to see if Hayden Christensen is a good actor because of it (if you’ve seen Shattered Glass – he is a better actor than most people give him credit for). Natalie Portman works her magic as best as she can, but I feel there are only a few times her skills really get to shine. Ewan McGregor seems to be the only saving grace of this movie. Though there are times that are also halting and a little awkward with him, he seems much more comfortable on a green screen and with funny, jilted, strange dialogue.

While watching one movie every weekend (I lie – sometimes it’s been 2.5 movies in one weekend because I’m really behind) in the Machete Theory Order to prepare for The Last Jedi, I watched AOTC over the Thanksgiving break.

I enjoyed this movie for primarily one reason:

Ewan Mcgregor/Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Ewan McGregor totally steals this movie as Obi-Wan. He is excellent in it and his entire plot line had me riveted. Even when I think I know everything about Star Wars, it goes to show that it’s full of surprises.

Two things that struck my interest this time around:

  1. Obi-Wan’s treatment of Anakin got me pissed off, and
  2. This is the only Star Wars movie where we see an entire plot line that is a mystery.

 

Obi-Wan & Anakin

Obi-Wan derides Anakin constantly in Attack of the Clones. No wonder Anakin wants to throw off his yoke and thinks he is better than Obi-Wan! The entire beginning of the movie is Obi-Wan berating Anakin and emphasizing how young he is.

We are not going to exceed our mandate, my young Padawan learner.

We are not going through this exercise again, Anakin. You will pay attention to my lead.

We will do as the Council has instructed, and you will learn your place, young one.

It’s too risky… and your senses aren’t that attuned, young apprentice.

If you’d spend as much time working on your saber skills as you do on your wit, young Padawan, you would rival Master Yoda as a swordsman.

 

It was starting to get under my skin, and quickly. I could not figure out if this was a normal way for Masters to speak to their Jedi Apprentices or if it was unique to Obi-Wan and Anakin. Even if it was the norm, Anakin clearly did not do well with that kind of instruction.

I’m not sure why I noticed this dialogue more closely than I have in the past but it opened my eyes to the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin and helped me understand why Anakin could have been much closer to Palpatine than the brief glimpses we saw in the movie.

Palpatine was always building Anakin up, telling him how wonderful he was, and how he would become the greatest Jedi Knight. For someone with such high standing in the galaxy to be telling you that…I would want to be more in his presence as well.

This was briefly touched upon when Obi-Wan is talking with Mace and Yoda. They discussed that the padawans were becoming more arrogant of their powers over the years. Perhaps the way Obi-Wan talked down to Anakin was his way of trying to curb that arrogance.

Another thing to keep in mind was that Anakin had been hearing about how he was the “chosen one” since Qui-Gon brought him before the council. So not only does he have great power, he also believes he’s some sort of prodigy.

Don’t get me wrong – I believe Obi-Wan was doing the right thing by criticizing Anakin and taking him off his high horse. But I also think he did it a little too much and he may not have realized it.

Watching Obi-Wan’s interaction with Anakin in AOTC and seeing how it shifts in ROTS (it’s much more friendly and equal in the third episode) helped me empathize with Anakin and how he felt like he was constantly being held back.

 

The Mystery

Obi-Wan’s plot in AOTC is the only plot in Star Wars where we have a mystery. There are subtle mysteries, to be sure, like wondering who Luke’s father is, who are Rey’s parents, etc., but this plot line was very deliberate and elaborate.

It starts with Padmé’s ship being blown up as soon as we open the movie. From there, there are covert directives from a strange bounty hunter to an assassin, along with a Jedi chase. A planet has been lost and cloners are brought into the mix.

If this wasn’t an interesting enough chase of information, the kicker is when Obi-Wan arrives on Kamino to find that Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas had ordered an expansive clone army without any of the Council’s knowledge, and, Sifo-Dyas is dead.

This whole time, we have a backdrop of political unrest in the galaxy’s capital – Coruscant. The separatists are leaving the Republic and the only reason Padmé returned was to vote on the Military Creation Act which coincidentally ties into the discovery of the clone army on Kamino. As a seasoned Star Wars viewer who in a twisted way admires Palpatine, I have to wonder if he planned all this on purpose. Did he mean for Zam Wesell to fail in her missions, for Obi-Wan to get a glimpse of Jango, and see the dart? Was he working this entire time to try and figure out a way to get the Jedi to Kamino?

 

It’s enough to make your head spin. Actually, I believe I missed many finer points for the first 10 years that I watched the movie.

This mystery side plot IS the main plot of the movie and I misunderstood this for a long time. I watched the movie focusing on Anakin and Padmé’s romance and cringed so much that it made the movie unbearable.

I found a new appreciation for Attack of the Clones when I watched it last weekend and focused on Obi-Wan’s chase to unravel a large hole in the Jedi’s knowledge. I understood where The Clone Wars took directive from in their short episodes. One of the primary thoughts I had was that Obi-Wan’s plot reminded me of a fleshed out TCW episode. The movie became riveting and I learned more information than I have in the past.

I never thought I’d write this, but I left my viewing of AOTC extremely satisfied and I enjoyed it.

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Haiku Me Friday! Snoke and the Force

Twisted, deformed
But I am so much stronger
Should I use the Force?

I haven’t talked about Snoke in a while. But his theme music came on today when I pulled up my blog post to write so now is as good a time as any, especially with TLJ in less than a month.

***Please – I am trying to stay as spoiler-free as possible, so do not list any spoilers if you know them!

I’m interested to see what and who his character is. I have always stated strongly that I really, really hope he is not Palpatine. But at the same time – as we get closer to The Last Jedi, I find that I have more of an open mind. I’m not sure who he is, and some of me doesn’t really care.

Looking at the TV spot/trailer, it seems like he knows how to use the Force – or, it’s implied though it could be some fancy editing. I liked the theories out there that said Snoke is not a Force user, just a crazy manager of the Knights of Ren with extensive knowledge of, well, everything.

I think, in some ways, it would be weirdly delightful to have no explanation on him and he would be like Yoda – just enough info, but most of it is locked away. I know that won’t happen as Disney is going to try to exploit as much as possible – but I thought it would be an interesting turn to just accept a character for once, instead of knowing his entire back story.

I’m dreaming.

And if Snoke is Palpatine, I will be disappointed though I think not nearly as disappointed as when I was first speculating theories almost two years ago. I guess it could make sense, but I believe Disney is trying to lead us down the direction of thinking he is Palpatine (his disfigured face, looming presence, etc.) to throw the fans off.

In the end, does it matter?

Not that much. We’ll probably end up accepting the explanations they tell us.

 

What’s your favorite Snoke theory so far?

Book Review: Thrawn

He’s back! A favorite character of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe, now Legends, has been recreated in this new novel by the one and only Timothy Zahn.  I believe Thrawn was one of the greatest disappointments to numerous fans when Disney announced that the EU was no longer going to be canon.  Thrawn is amazing.  Seriously.  His tactical genius made him a beloved character, up there with Mara Jade.  Even fans who were not into the novels, had a general idea of who Thrawn was.

I can speak for a lot of fans that when Thrawn was announced as a new character in Star Wars Rebels, fans were delighted. Then they announced a new book with him as well written by Zahn and the fans went nuts.

This new novel is an origin story of Thrawn. It shows how he came to work with the Empire and evolve into one of the greatest strategist’s and commanders (or Grand Admiral) of the Empire’s fleet, overcoming obstacles along the way.  His chief obstacle was that he is an alien and as the Empire is, you know, kind of prejudiced against aliens, it’s quite a feat that he makes it as far as he does.

 

***spoilers ahead***

 

The novel starts with Thrawn being rescued by the Empire from being exiled by his native Chiss species. I use the word “rescued” loosely because Thrawn purposefully drew them to him to board their ships and let himself be seen and caught by them and we find out later, in typical Thrawn style, that it was never a rescue at all – he had planned everything. On the ship, he encounters a young man Eli Vanto, who is on the road to becoming a supply chain officer. Vanto helps translate for Thrawn at times since his Basic is rusty and also because Vanto was also brought up in the Outer Rim (therefore also slightly disliked by others because he is “backwater”). Thrawn immediately gets taken to Emperor Palpatine who puts him into the Imperial Academy on a fast track with Vanto.

Throughout the novel, Vanto remains at Thrawn’s side through the academy, to commanding posts, and missions. Thrawn sees potential in Eli though it takes a long time for Eli to also see it. Half of the novel follows Eli regretting that he ever met Thrawn as he only wants a quiet life in the supply department.

As a side story, we are introduced to Arihnda Pryce, whom we have also seen from Star Wars Rebels. Her path intersects with Thrawn’s later down the line but we get a fleshed out backstory for her (the later governor of Lothal).  She begins her story working at her parent’s mine – Pryce Mining – which gets ripped from her by the Empire. She resolves to get it back. How does she get it back? Through political scheming and working with the Empire. If you can’t fight them, join them. Her journey to that point is up and down along with lots of petty backstabbing.

As Pryce moves up the ranks in the Empire politically, Thrawn also rises as a commander. Pryce does not have too much involvement with Thrawn, but when she does she helps him and Vanto through favors with connections (the great Tarkin, who was written superbly) and Thrawn also helps her with his tactical, objective way of looking at things.

The end of the novel sees a culmination of a battle (where we know Thrawn will obviously come out ahead) where those who doubted Thrawn are now convinced of his genius, along with understanding the real reasons for…well…everything in the novel that Thrawn has done. The side twist belongs with Arihnda Pryce and how far she has gone down the path of corruption. Thrawn’s beautiful plan gets screwed up by her with unnecessary deaths, but she never admits to it and covers her tracks beautifully, though he knows but can’t prove it. Thrawn still comes out ahead, but it’s interesting to see that this is the beginning of Pryce and Thrawn’s working relationship that we see in Rebels.

 

Pros:

  • It’s Thrawn. Enough said.
  • But seriously, there is not too much changed from the character older Star Wars fans loved reading about. He is still a genius and still a masterful tactician…rivaling Palpatine in some respects.
  • How did Thrawn get in Palpatine’s good books so well that Palpatine fast tracked him through the Academy and military career? Anakin Skywalker. Yes – interesting twist. Thrawn says he heard of Palpatine through his “servant, Anakin Skywalker”. This implies a lot. It implies that 1) Thrawn met Anakin when he was a Jedi and 2) he could have caught on to Palpatine’s game of chess that he was already working on bringing Anakin to his side prior to the Empire existing. It’s not a stretch to believe that as Thrawn is able to deduce everything. The question remains though – does Thrawn know Vader is Anakin? My guess is yes though nothing is confirmed.
  • Each chapter begins with an excerpt of Thrawn’s diary which made for a fascinating read. Chapters are also interspersed with Thrawn reading people’s body language and giving insight on how he picks up on their next moves.
  • There’s a lot on Thrawn in here, obviously. But crazily, I still feel like he’s a bit of a mystery. Well done Zahn!
  • You can read this novel even if you are a Disney-hater; if you love the EU and refuse to acknowledge anything Disney related. It actually fits into both Legends and the current canon, which I admire, especially since it’s a backstory. And, amazingly, this canon backstory actually fits in perfectly with Thrawn’s original backstory in Legends.
  • This novel ties into Rebels nicely as well as the other new canon books, though it’s not hitting you over the head with it.
  • Most of the characters from the movies are spot-on with the writing. Grand Moff Tarkin was eerily written, to the point that I had no problems believing his character (which is unlike how I felt with the writing of Han in Bloodline). Palpatine was done pretty well too, not 100%, but well enough for the time he was in the novel.
  • The new characters are also well written, for the most part. Pryce ended up being one of my favorites after reading, though during the novel I kept wanting to go back to Thrawn and see what he was up to. But once I closed the book and mulled over it for a bit, she ended up being one of the most multi-faceted interesting characters to come out of it. The last scene/battle of the novel when she goes down a point of no return, and sees the look on her parents faces, you have to wonder…is it worth it? She did everything for them and their mine, but you can tell they’d rather she hadn’t if they had to sacrifice who Arihnda had become.
  • There are hints of the Rebellion littered throughout the novel, but for the most part, it’s extremely Empire-driven, which I very much appreciated. It’s hard to write about the Empire in a way that seems positive, or at least neutral, when you’re writing in the Star Wars universe. This novel did it brilliantly…and I feel a little disloyal to the Rebellion for liking it so much!
  • My favorite observation of this entire novel was that I didn’t actually feel like I was reading a Star Wars novel. I felt like I was reading a good sci-fi book. Again, a little hard to do with Star Wars, especially with characters we love in the book. But because there was no mention of the Force (I think; I don’t remember it) or mysticism, Jedi, etc., it felt like a great sci-fi, outer space novel.

Cons:

  • For me, I felt like it took a while for Thrawn to feel like Thrawn. There was a learning curve for him in the beginning of the novel as he learned the Empire, and nuances of politics. In a way, I thought he seemed very much like Spock in the beginning of this novel. It eventually leveled out and got to a point where he felt like the Thrawn I loved and remembered, so I’m not sure if that was a deliberate move on Zahn’s part or if it was him being a little rusty.
  • Some of the book was littered with little side plots that I thought could have been kept out entirely. It’s tough because some of the side plots do end up coming together at the end of the novel, but some had me thinking…oh that’s it? When they were resolved.
  • Not enough time with Thrawn and art. One of the most loved parts about Thrawn (for me) was how much information he gained from observing society’s artwork. Through their art, he was often able to bring them down. It was a final piece of the puzzle that other tactician’s didn’t have time with or feel was necessary. Unfortunately, there was only one scene in this book where art played into the success of Thrawn. It always lingered in the background and was mentioned often, but we didn’t get to see it enough in action. We get in Rebels, thankfully, but I was sad about there was not as much in Thrawn.
  • I didn’t love Eli Vanto. He was a main character but the ending of his story was a little unbelievable to me. I won’t say much, but I don’t think he has the chops for what the end of his character arc bestowed upon him. I believe he was created as a bit of a Watson foil to Thrawn’s Sherlock but I often wanted him cut from the story entirely. I think I may be in the minority here but he was blah.
  • I’m not sure I want to put this as a con but it’s a little interesting. Was there a plot? I’m not sure. It seemed more like a detailed timeline of events. There wasn’t a real antagonist, more of a mystery Thrawn wanted to solve but it didn’t seem too pressing. So if you need a plot and an arc and all that good stuff, maybe you won’t really get into this as much as you’d want to.

I’m giving Thrawn 4/5 stars. It’s hard for me to rate any book 5/5 stars, and Star Wars books usually don’t make that cut. BUT this is still the best book I’ve read from the new canon.  Read it if you have EU nostalgia, love Thrawn, or want a good Empire-driven Star Wars novel.

Haiku Me Friday! Droid Starfighters (and ramblings about AI, losing our privacy, etc)

Not flown by people Similar to BSG This has a droid brain

Not flown by people
Similar to BSG
This has a droid brain

Okay, one of the not-so-great haikus I’ve written, but the Droid Starfighter showed up on my calendar today and I needed a topic.  And then I began to think about jets being flown completely by Artifical Intelligence…and my post formed.

Doesn’t the Droid Starfighter look similar to the BSG Cylon ships?  And the BSG ships are also robots.  Look at them side by side.  Okay, one of them is curved more, but I feel like the concept is the same:

 

This all got me thinking about our real life little Earth…I did some research and currently, the Navy and Air Force are working on their next ships to have AI installed within them.  They wouldn’t have AI completely driving and flying the ships, but instead would have them as a co-pilot.  Their argument is that having the AI as a Chewbacca frees the pilot to focus on fewer tasks, giving them an advantage over the enemy.  The jet will be called F-X (Air Force) or F/A-XX (Navy).

Concept art for the Navy's F/A-XX

Concept art for the Navy’s F/A-XX

Am I the only one blown away by this?  It also makes me slightly nervous.  I feel like there’s a lot that could go wrong.  Obviously, I’m sure they’ll have an override, but remember Hal in 2001?  Yeah, we’re inching towards that.  Further, what if the AI feature can be hacked by enemies?  Oh goodness, that would be horrible!  I feel like that’s always a risk with anything computer oriented.  Even if the AI is just a co-pilot, the enemy could hack in, turn off the override feature and the pilot would have no control.  If the AI is completely in control of the plane and it gets hacked, uh-oh.  In the words of Threepio, “We’re doomed.”

Maybe I’ve been watching too many movies.  I think AI can be a good thing, honestly.  At other times, AI pisses me off.  A lot.  Like yesterday when I was on the phone with Apple support for a client and the robot transferred me to a department that was the wrong one.  Usually not the biggest deal, but when you’re on hold for an hour with crappy music, I thought I was going to break down when I finally reached someone and they told me they were going to have to transfer me.

Do we want AI in our cars, fighter jets, or even fridges?  (Yes they make “smart” fridges now)  At what point will we want our privacy to return?

CortanaMy Surface Pro/Windows 10 has Cortana built into it.  I wanted to use it because I’ve heard great things about it…but in order to use it, I need to let Cortana access my location.  And for some reason, I really didn’t want to.  I’m not sure why I don’t mind so much with my phone – probably because it’s portable and I have a GPS on my weather and maps app so it feels okay.  But on my home tablet/laptop?  Really?  Just so you can spew more ads (“recommendations”) at me?  No, I don’t want that.  I would like to keep my Surface blissfully ignorant of where I am on this planet, thank you.

When is AI useful?  When is AI too much?  I guess I’m not sure of the answer.  I have my limits, clearly.  My fridge and TV are not “smart”.  My phone is riddled with AI and probably knows too much about me.  I refuse to connect my phone to my washing machine or thermostat though both have the options to do that.  Most of the time I don’t even think about it, though occasionally when I’m out, I wish I could turn up the heat slightly so it’s warmer when I get home.

The Trade Federation loved AI.  They were all about droids as were the Separatists.  General Grievous was practically a droid himself.

But then why did Palpatine decide to move to human intelligence?  What are the advantages?  The disadvantages are clear – as we saw with FN-2187.  But the advantages could be that there is common sense and the ability to sense when something is not right/gut feelings.  The Clone Wars did an excellent job in showing us why human clones are a better choice than droids, especially with the camaraderie they build making a better team.  Living beings can’t really be “shut down” or hacked like robots can.

 

What are your thoughts on AI?  Is our American society striving too hard to have everything become easier, but instead, we are only losing more of our privacy?  Is it something we should just accept and let it assimilate into our daily lives?

Is Redemption and Life Possible?

Hi guys!  Long time no visit here…been enjoying the sunny weather down in Florida.  But alas, I’m back up in Massachusetts and it’s cold.  My favorite (sarcasm).

There have been a lot of mixed reactions on Kylo Ren between Star Wars fans.  When I first saw The Force Awakens, I wasn’t sure I liked him much.  He was whiney, a tad bratty, at times had complete mastery over the Force, and then got whooped easily by Rey by the end of the movie.  I also didn’t think he was as imposing or as threatening as I would have liked a new dark character to be.

I saw the movie two more times since then and I have actually grown to enjoy his character.  He is conflicted and I think that comes out in the temper Ren and Vader helmettantrum side that he has.  Disney gave us something new and different by presenting a character that openly admits his struggles with the dark and light side of the Force.  The light side calls to him and he wants to conquer his pull toward it.  We haven’t seen that before in a character.  We certainly saw Anakin struggle in AOTC and then more openly in ROTS, but never displaying an open reference to his struggle.  Okay, Kylo Ren’s wasn’t necessarily “open” since he was talking to Darth Vader’s helmet in private, but I like that we saw that personal part of his life.  With Anakin, his turn to the dark side felt like a means to an end.  With Kylo, we still are unsure what drove him to the dark side or if there was a final tipping point like Anakin had.  If Mace Windu hadn’t said he was going to kill Palpatine (“he is too dangerous to be left alive!”), Anakin may not have turned to the dark side.  Weak argument, but could be true.

Since Kylo’s turn is still open ended, maybe there was no tipping point or means to an end.  Perhaps like Leia implied, Snoke seduced him and maybe Snoke’s methods of seduction are not as strong as the manipulation Palpatine did with Anakin.

Because of Kylo Ren’s grey area, are we now supposed to know that by killing his father he is fully entrapped in the dark side?  Are we meant to think that there is no more struggle?

If we believe that Kylo has wholly turned to the dark side, but also know how much he struggled in TFA with the complete conversion, then is there a chance he can be redeemed?  What would be most interesting to me is if he is redeemed, they choose to have his character continue to live.

Is that even possible?  From what we’ve seen, when someone turns back to the light side, usually they die right afterwards which is convenient because can you imagine if Luke brought Vader back to the Rebellion and tried to convince everyone he was good again?  But it sounds like Kylo could have grown up with the Resistance and obviously with notable parents.  Even Lor San Tekka acknowledged Kylo by his real name Ben, not a knight of Ren possibly implying he was around when he was growing up.  So would it be easier for other light side characters to accept a converted Kylo Ren?  As an audience, it would also be less complicated to understand his transition back the light side because the foundation for that has already been set in TFA.kylo ren

It could be an alternate outcome to ROTJ.  Luke was a notable Jedi who brought his father back to the light side.  Rey could be the notable Jedi who brings her (brother? Cousin?) back to the light side, but this time also brings him back home to his family.

I fully understand the chances of this happening are slim as it’s so much more dramatic and plays out better cinematically to have Kylo either stay completely in the dark side or convert to the light side, sacrificing himself for the noble cause.

But from a storytelling perspective, I like thinking about the possibilities if they decided to have his character live and join Rey to bring about the destruction of Snoke, Hux, and the First Order.  (Though, on another note, if wannabe Empires keep forming and getting destroyed, Star Wars would get stale really fast so hopefully they find an alternate storyline.)  By uniting with Rey, he could be accepted back if everyone saw his redeeming qualities.

Either way, if Kylo Ren dies unredeemed, or redeems himself and lives, or redeems himself and dies…I definitely enjoy his character and am hoping that we continue to see evolution from him.

 

Other notes:

TFA will be released digitally on April 1st and DVD on April 5th.

I found this when I was wandering the Internet thinking about Kylo Ren. It’s pretty good for a laugh.