Rogue One: A Review

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There is no doubt that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is an unqualified success.  The movie has grossed over one billion dollars in worldwide cinema ticket sales and has proved immensely popular with Star Wars fans and new fans alike.

I had the chance to watch the film a little while ago with my 15 year old nephew – which added a whole new dimension to my viewing experience.

He likes Star Wars, but, unlike his Uncle, has never been a die-hard fan.

Before going any further, despite the fact I’m pretty sure everyone who wants to see Rogue One has already seen it, I need to say…

Spoiler Alert

What did I think of the film?

I’m probably going to get slammed for this… but while I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it.  I didn’t hate it, I just left the cinema feeling depressed.

Those feelings would have really affected me, or at the very least interfered with my entire memory of the film, had the movie not ended with Princess Leia’s appearance and her all too brief message of hope.

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Maybe it was because I was still trying to process Carrie Fisher’s passing (which affected me deeply and, to be honest, is still affecting me), but Leia’s appearance in the film softened the ending which was just a handful of scenes that were filled with death after death after death of characters we’d started to become attached too.

My nephew?  He didn’t enjoy it.  He didn’t hate it, he found it confusing.  To put that in context, he loved The Force Awakens, is a fan of the Prequel Trilogy (he was a child when they came out), and enjoys the Original Trilogy.  He loves war movies and thrillers and horror films and going to the cinema in general.

Rogue One?  He didn’t get sucked into the story.

When I pressed him for more information, he mentioned all the different bad guys – Stormtroopers, Shoretroopers, Hover Tank Troopers, Death Troopers… he didn’t know the names of them, he just wanted to know why there were so many different troopers when compared with the other films.  He also felt like the movie was rushed and that parts of it didn’t need to happen.

I definitely agreed with him on the Stormtrooper comments.  In the Original Trilogy we did see different Stormtroopers across the three films, but they were added in one per film and somehow it made sense to the overall narrative.  But Rogue One?  No.  It felt like an exercise in selling merchandise or prepping for a new game.

That might be an unfair comment, because it doesn’t seem to have been an issue for anyone but my nephew and I, but to me we didn’t need them.  My nephews other comments about parts of the film feeling rushed and unnecessary?

He thought that everyone dying was a waste of two and a half hours.  Why invest?  Flow wise, he thought everything was convenient and happened too quickly and too neatly

I didn’t disagree.  At times the pacing was off and the narrative felt contrived.  It lacked the “band comes together” naturally feel that we had with Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  The band came together in Rogue One, yes, but in a way that didn’t feel organic.

Galen Erso’s story felt rushed, and his brief appearances and too quick death robbed the story of a lot of its emotional weight.  It felt like it should have been his and his daughter’s story in a much more involved and intimate way.

Mon Mothma’s appearance was also disappointingly rushed.  This movie raised some important questions about the Rebellion and the way it conducted its business, and there felt like there were some pretty great opportunities for Mon Mothma and Bail Organa (who also makes a too brief appearance) to discuss that and agonise over it a bit.  It would have been exciting to see these two juggernauts go head to head over the methods being utilised.  If a film is going to dump a load of Bantha poodoo over an entity and institution that means so much to so many old school fans, that deserves some exploration.

Jyn’s conversion… almost convincing, but a little rushed and mostly because Galen’s story is thin.

Saw Gerrera… wasted opportunity.  This was a real opportunity to link Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the entire Prequel Trilogy in a substantial way.

Chirrut Imwe… another wasted opportunity.  Chirrut was arguably the most fascinating character to come out of Rogue One.

Krennic… awesome, but also wasted.  It felt like so much more could have been done with that fascinating character.  He was one of the best new bad guys Star Wars has ever produced – slimy, selfish, manipulative, cowardly, obnoxious!  He was wonderful.  He broke the mould of other Star Wars Imperials and Ben Mendelsohn deserves an award for his excellent performance.

Watching him and Galen go at it could have created some intense and meaningful drama.

The unnecessary comment?

For me, that was the death side of things.  Not the Death Star, but the fact everyone pretty much dies at the end of the film.

I’ve read so many arguments about it, with a lot of people saying it had to happen because we don’t see or hear from these guys again – but I disagree.  One of the things the Prequel Trilogy did so well was show us how expansive and vast the Star Wars universe is.  There would have been hundreds of conflicts against the Empire throughout the explored galaxy – many of which could have been led by, or in some way involved, Jyn and Cassian and many of the others.

A few of the main characters dying, yep… I’ll go with that.  It’s a war movie.  War should never be glorified and if we can teach our children one thing via entertainment, it is that war is horrible… but all of the characters being wiped out?  Just unnecessarily depressing.

Star Wars definitely has its dark moments – the death of Padme standing out as one of the darkest, but this felt – to me – unnecessary and a complete waste of what were becoming compelling characters.

The next day I checked in with two scifi loving work colleagues who also saw the movie that weekend.  Their first words?  Both of them said: “Oh… I found it depressing.”

Honestly, if Leia hadn’t have made a cameo the film would have been obnoxiously dark.

 

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The movie is definitely worth seeing.  It is good, it does honour Star Wars and it does do that universe justice.  The director did an incredible job, and he took some brave risks – many of which work.  For me, character is everything and when all of the characters die, it changes my emotional relationship with the movie.

Definitely go see it and buy it on DVD and BluRay, just know that my review is mitigated by what I felt was an unnecessary culling of characters.

I’m going to give the movie three out of five Death Stars.

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Best bits:
– Outstanding special effects;
– Brilliant performances;
– Great music score;
– The appearance of Leia, Bail Organa, Grand Moff Tarkin and Mon Mothma;
– It did feel like Star Wars, despite the odd jarring directing and editing moment and the revelation the Rebellion wasn’t as pure as us older fans probably would have liked.

Worst bits:
– Uneven in places;
– A story that felt rushed;
– An unnecessary amount of Stormtroopers!
– Too little time spent on certain characters;
– Everyone dies.

The last thing I’ll talk about is the CGI Tarkin and Leia.  There are moments when you first see Tarkin that shake you, because it’s obviously CGI – and then it’s seamless.  It’s the same with Leia.  At first, it’s as if 1977 Carrie has been transported forward in time – then it’s obviously CGI, and then it’s convincing again.

The Tarkin CGI in particular is phenomenal.  He’s on screen so often, and the work the effects team did is remarkable.  Just as remarkable is the actor’s voice work.  Guy Henry sounds just like Peter Cushing.

If you are one of the few people who haven’t seen the film yet, don’t let the rubbish around the CGI scare you off.  It really is masterful.  Yes, there are a couple of slips but they are momentary.

The Anthology series is a brave step forward in Star Wars story telling, and despite my disappointment over a few things it’s a movie we as fans can be proud of.

Now, I can’t wait for Star Wars: Episode VIII.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was directed by Gareth Edwards and was produced by Kathleen Kennedy.  The screenplay was by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta.  It starred Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker.  The music was by Michael Giacchino with the original theme, of course, by John Williams.

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Our Forever Princess

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2016 has been a remarkably cruel year.  A lot of people have suffered in one way or another, and many of them in ways they could never have imagined.  In my day job I’m a Counsellor, and from my experiences of interacting with hundreds of people this year while they’re at their most fragile, and from simply being someone on social media seeing what people post, I’ve seen what I’d call a remarkable upswing in personal sadness and tragedy.

On top of all the personal trials and tribulations so many of us have endured, 2016 has taken from us some incredibly bright lights.  Most recently, Carrie Fisher.

2016 saw the passing of 46 celebrities to date, names that have defined the entertainment world and many of our lives.  Among them, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Jon English, Garry Shandling, Ronnie Corbett, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Anton Yelchin, Kenny Baker, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Leonard Cohen, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael and too many more.

For those of us who literally grew up with Star Wars, playing with the action figures as children in the late 70s and early 80s, reading the comics, collecting the books and cutting out newspaper and magazine articles for our scrapbooks, Carrie Fisher’s death is a devastating and surreal blow.

Only yesterday I was posting on this blog that Carrie was doing better, and now today I’m sitting at my computer with my dog at my feet, writing about the death of my all time favourite actor – and wondering how her beloved companion, Gary, will cope.  For those of you who aren’t dog people, our furry friends don’t do well with change and they definitely don’t cope well with losing people.

When I first saw a Star Wars film, it was Empire Strikes Back.  I was nine.  I saw a new hope after Episode V, so my introduction to Star Wars was a little skew whiff.  Because I was raised by a single mother (an incredibly strong woman who had to fight every day for us just to eat) it was the character of Princess Leia Organa that spoke to me.  Not Han Solo, not Luke Skywalker, not Boba Fett (which was a thing back then).  I was swept away by Leia.  Princess Leia was it for me.  She was a character whose strength helped get me through some very rough times.

It might sound strange for a man to say that the character he most identified with in Star Wars was a female character, but to me she was stronger than the men, more resilient and more gutsy.  Han was cocky and actually reminded me of a few of the bullies I had to contend with, and Luke never became a favourite of mine until much later in my life.  Leia was headstrong, confident, hilariously mouthy and unapologetically bold.  As a child I used to think that if I could be half as plucky as her, I’d be okay in life.

As I matured, Leia remained my favourite, but my attention turned to the actor behind the character.

Carrie Fisher was many things.  Most importantly to me, she was someone who endeavoured to live life.  She made a multitude of mistakes and some of them were quite public, but she faced up to them and in doing so changed the world for a lot of people.

Yes, she had a drug addiction, but rather than be victimised or defined by that, she used her fame and her formidable sense of humour to combat her addiction and help others find the courage to do so too.  We eventually learned that her addiction was a form of self-medication, because she had BiPolar Mood Disorder.  Rather than sink into self pity at her mental health condition, she used her celebrity to advocate for mental health reform and to bring awareness to mental health issues in general.  She joked about it, spoke frankly of her struggles, and tried her hardest to live her life.

She turned her experiences into a number of best selling books and gleefully “took the piss” out of herself on multiple occasions.  She faced life by facing her fears, and in doing so actually become fearless.

As a writer, an actor, a Counsellor, and someone with a mental health condition, she was an amazing gift to me – like I know she was to so many people.

Right now I’m just numb.  I opened up the news at a little after 6am here in Melbourne Australia, to see as the top headline the announcement Carrie was gone and burst into tears.  Her death affected me as badly as if it had been a member of my family, and I’m fighting a deep depression as I type this.  I’d had my Princess Leia action figures lined up on my bedside table since Carrie’s heart attack, using them as a focus for good thoughts, and I’d been so happy to hear she was improving yesterday.  The news she has passed is just too much.

The thing about having been a Counsellor since my early twenties is that whether I want to or not, I’m pretty much programmed to “process”.  It’s now 8:30am and I just want to get drunk, but the rational part of my mind is telling me it’s way too early to give into that demon and I need to work through it.

Hopefully my process might help you if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, like I am right now.

Carrie Fisher has passed, but Princess Leia Organa has not, and if the powers that be at Lucasfilm and Disney have a heart, they won’t kill her in Episode VIII or IX because Carrie isn’t able to reprise that role.  While that move worked for Spock in Star Trek Beyond as a way if acknowledging Leonard Nimoy’s passing, it won’t work in Star Wars.

Leia is still out there, kicking fascist ass and that’s empowering to me.  And Carrie?  Her bravery lives on even if she is no longer with us physically.  Her example is a good example, and her life was a life lived well.  Carrie Fisher accepted herself for who she was, warts and all, and though she battled with severe depression for most of her life she used humour and self reflection to stay afloat and to help others in similar situations stay afloat.  She didn’t have to bear her life warts and all for our entertainment.  She did it to de-stigmatise addiction and mental health, and as her own way of processing what she was experiencing.  Yes, she smoked like a chimney, at one time drank like a fish, struggled with her weight, and in her younger years snorted anything she could get her hands on, but those actions didn’t and don’t define her.  What does define her is the person she became and remained after her youthful missteps and her attempts at self-medication.

Carrie was courageous, beautiful, frighteningly intelligent, obnoxious, hilarious, dangerous, relentless, insightful, an unabashed and honest mess, ridiculous, inspirational, obscene, loving, compassionate, effervescent, confronting and powerful.

If each of us could live our lives half as audaciously, we’d probably be a lot happier.

I’ll take Carrie’s example with me, each day, as I confront my own demons and help other people confront theirs.

Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for changing my life and making my world a much brighter place because of your presence in it.

I send my deepest, heart felt condolences to Debbie Reynolds, Carrie’s mum.  To Todd Fisher, her brother, and most especially to Billie Lourd, her daughter, and Gary, her companion.  While my heart is breaking, I know each of yours is shattered.  I hope the love we’re all pouring out for your daughter can in some way help you guys get through this.

This might seem inappropriate, but I’m fairly certain Carrie would appreciate it.  Years ago Carrie gave an interview where she reflected on what she’d like people to say when she eventually passed.  It went like this:

“Remember the white dress I wore all through that film (Episode IV)?  George came up to me the first day of filming, took one look at the dress and said: ‘You can’t wear a bra under that dress.’

“‘Okay, I’ll bite,’ I said.  ‘Why?’  And he said: ‘Because… there’s no underwear in space.’

“He said it with such conviction.  Like he had been to space and looked around and he didn’t see any bras or panties anywhere.

“He explained.  ‘You go into space and you become weightless.  Then your body expands but your bra doesn’t, so you get strangled by your own underwear.’

“I think that this would make for a fantastic obituary.  I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”

Rest in peace, Carrie.  You were a gift and I love you.

Carrie Fisher.  She died in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.

Though this powerful woman is no longer with us, her legacy lives on.  Long live Princess Leia.

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Rogue One Proves its Pedigree

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Without question, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is a hit!

The film was released internationally only a few days ago, and earned $155 million across its opening weekend.

To put that into perspective, it’s the second biggest December debut ever.  No prizes for knowing the BIGGEST December debut.  Hint… it has ‘star’ and ‘wars’ in its title.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has come in at 37.4% behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and is 83% bigger than the $84.6 million debut of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (in 2012).

The opening gross for the film puts Rogue One in third place for a film’s debut for this year, behind Captain America: Civil War (at $179.1 million) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (at $166.1 million).

Not bad at all for the very first Anthology film in the Star Wars universe.  There were people predicting it wouldn’t do well, people predicting it would, and people who were wise enough to keep their mouths shut!  I’m relieved it’s proven itself.

What are the critics saying?

They’re saying mostly good things.  Some have commented on how some of the digital characters momentarily took them out of the film (some in surprise at seeing a particular character in the film, and some because apparently the effects weren’t 100% convincing), and others have said the story is a little thin in places, but most agree the film is excellent.

Rotten Tomatoes has the film sitting (as of the 20th of December) at 84% certified fresh by critics, with a 90% audience satisfaction score.

Me?  I haven’t seen it yet.

The lack lustre information coming out about the film in recent months had kind of dulled the excitement for me.  Which really frustrated me.  I was super-excited for the film up until about October, and then the publicity machine went in a weird direction that didn’t appeal to me.

Because we’re this close to Christmas, I’ll be waiting a little while before I see it, but there will be a review around New Year’s Day.  Am I excited?  Yes.  I honestly am.

On a personal level, despite my disappointment in its promotion as we drew closer to the release date, I’m thrilled this film is kicking goals.

The reviews say it is worthy of the name Star Wars, and that it answers a lot of questions that make you want to watch A New Hope all over again.  Critics have called the film “faithful”, and I’m over the moon they’re exploring other areas of the Star Wars galaxy now that we’re almost at the half way point for the latest (and possibly last) saga trilogy.

If the film hadn’t have been faithful to Star Wars I would have been deeply disappointed – to the point of feeling betrayed, but it sounds like Director Gareth Edwards has pulled it off, and to be honest, from the first two previews I saw, I didn’t actually have any fears about him being faithful to the saga that has defined most of my life.

Go see Rogue One and share some Star Wars love.  If future Anthology films are as dedicated to continuity and the essence of that galaxy far, far away, as Rogue One reportedly is, then we, the long time fans of Star Wars, are in for many more years of joy after what were now and again long periods of time where it looked like we’d never see a Star Wars film on the big screen again.

Last thing – reports are that George Lucas loves the film!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is playing now in theatres all around the world.  It stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Genevieve O’Reilly and Forest Whitaker with unexpected appearances by a handful of Saga characters I won’t name because I don’t want to spoil the movie for you.  The music is by Michael Giacchino (with original Star Wars themes by John Williams), and the film was directed by Gareth Edwards and produced by Kathleen Kennedy.

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Star Wars News Roundup

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I don’t know what’s going on at the moment, but I’m not “feeling” the Star Wars vibe right now.

The lead up to Episode VII had me doing back flips of joy.  The initial news coming out about the first Anthology film likewise had me pretty excited.

Now?  That’s all kind of evaporated.

The odd bit of news is coming out about Rogue One, and we’re getting some news on Rebels too, but next to nothing on Episode VIII so maybe that’s the deal breaker for me?

I’ve always been heavily invested in the Saga films.  I love Luke, Leia, Han, Threepio, R2, Chewie, Lando and Yoda.  I loved Anakin, Padme, Obi-Wan and Palpatine despite how unpopular it was to enjoy the Prequel films.  I’ve fallen in love with Poe, Rey and Finn.  Maybe the lack of news on that film has diminished the initial excitement I’d been feeling for Rogue One?

Maybe the news that’s coming out is just average.. and I’m getting too philosophical about it all!

So, rather than write an article on what’s been going on in the land of Star Wars lately, let me direct you to two incredible sites that will keep you up to date on everything.

They’re my go-to sites, but I admit I’ve stopped visiting them as often as I used to because they are kind of drowning in way too many podcasts.  One or two podcasts, fine, podcast after podcast all about the same thing just done by different people and I kind of don’t see the point and it becomes a bit of a turn off.

Never the less, the news these two sites presents is usually pretty good – even if they never ending podcasts are a little irritating.

If you’re keen to keep up to date on all the various things happening with current Star Wars productions, check out makingstarwars.net and starwarsunderworld.com.

Of course, you should also always check out the official Star Wars website at www.starwars.com.

As soon as anything momentous pops up, I’ll be sure to post about it here.

Until then, May the Force be with You.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Update

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A few days ago, a new trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dropped online.

As with the first official trailer, this one was atmospheric, beautiful, exciting and seems to promise one amazing adventure.

Multiple sites have dissected it, and by and large all of them agree that this looks like it’s going to be a great film and a really worthy addition to the Star Wars saga.

If you’re trying to avoid everything about this new movie, don’t read on because there are very minor spoilers ahead.

Spoiler Alert

There are a lot of things to love about the new trailer, but something that was a really nice touch was one of the first opening shots, which shows us all a familiar image – a moisture vaporator.

It’s a really little thing, but it subconsciously ties this movie into the Star Wars universe.

Standing next to the moisture vaporator is a man who we quickly learn is Jyn’s father.  Approaching him from across the tundra is our new bad guy, Orson Krennic and a bunch of cool looking Stormtroopers.

Interspersed between the images of Orson and his troops approaching are shots of a young Jyn and her father talking, as he tells her to stay where she is.

It’s obvious Jyn’s father is not happy about Orson coming to visit, and may even be frightened of what’s about to happen next.

He’s taken away, and Jyn is left alone in a field watching the events unfold without any way to intervene.

The next images help to further set the tone of this film – a massive Star Destroyer floating above a city scape… TIE Fighters zooming about… explosions… Stormtroopers everywhere… an older Jyn… her arrival at the Rebel HQ where she meets their leadership.

We see Mon Mothma again, and that’s quickly followed by a beautiful image of the Death Star rising above the clouds, brief shots of all the new characters, what looks like it could be the back of Darth Vader’s head as Orson talks to him, and then a lot of fighting and crap getting blown up.

The most noteworthy thing about the trailer is the reveal of Darth Vader through a cloud of steam or smoke.

The second official trailer is jam packed with visuals that remind us this isn’t another saga film, this is a war movie and it’s own beast.

Having Mon Mothma and now Darth Vader in the film help ground it in the Star Wars mythos, and announce to the audience that the stakes at risk in this movie are high.

As I’ve said before, I am excited to see more of Mon Mothma’s story, and now that we know Darth Vader is officially in the film, that amps up my excitement a great deal.  While I love the prequel movies (though admittedly not as much as the original trilogy), I’m not happy that the last cinematic image I have of Vader is him screaming “NO!” after being put back together by Palpatine at the end of Episode III.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is scheduled for release on the 16th of December.

I think Disney and Lucasfilm have fallen in love with this particular month, especially after Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens performed so well as a Christmas movie.

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If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, you can view it on YouTube or by visiting the official Star Wars website here.

Not many sleeps until this movie is released world wide.  Hopefully it will do good business, and we’ll see more anthology films featuring these characters in the future.

I haven’t even seen the film yet and I’m already falling in love with its characters.

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The Future of the Star Wars Saga

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Have you wondered what will happen to the story of the Skywalker family when Star Wars: Episode IX premieres in 2019?

A number of media outlets are reporting today (thanks to Variety ) that Disney CEO Bob Iger, has spoken with investors about the future of the Star Wars saga (among other things).

According to Variety, Iger has had conversations with Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, and mapped out the future of Star Wars well past 2020.

We have confirmation that the anthology movies will be continuing, focusing on moments in time in the saga’s history, and some media commentators are suggesting the saga films could also continue.

It’s reasonable to expect that Episodes VIII and IX will continue to focus on the Skywalker family.  Luke, Leia and Kylo Ren are holding the banner at the moment, but what will happen to this famous, history shaping family after Episode IX?

Will that be the end of their story?

It’s doubtful Kylo Ren will survive.  He’s about as bad as a villain gets in Star Wars, especially with his horrific act on Starkiller Base in Episode VII.

It’s still possible that Rey is a Skywalker.  It’s also possible that Luke did have a child before exiling himself, or that Leia and Han had a second child who was secreted away after Kylo’s fall.  Another possibility is that Kylo has a child who will continue the history of the family – hopefully as a Jedi and not as a Knight of Ren or a Sith.

It would be wonderful to see another generation of Skywalkers work to uphold peace and justice in the galaxy.

Part of me wants the saga films to continue.  I’ve been in love with the Skywalker story for a very long time, and seeing it end would be like saying good bye to an important part of my childhood, but part of me would also feel a sense of closure if the story does end in a way that isn’t just horrifically tragic.

Time will tell.  I’m sure the anthology series will gain a huge audience, and it might only be us GenXers who will feel the absence of the Skywalker family – having grown up with it.  Either way, it is nice to know that Star Wars will continue, probably indefinitely, to inspire new generations to spend some time in that beautiful and compelling galaxy, far, far away.

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Rogue One and Rebels

Star Wars Update

We have a mission for you.  A major weapons test is immanent.
We need to know what it is, and how to destroy it.
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As December draws closer, we are getting to see a little more of the upcoming first Anthology film in the Star Wars saga.

A recent trailer, which you can view here, gave us some spectacular visuals, including: the Death Star orbiting a red planet, a Star Destroyer hovering in-atmosphere over what might be a base or a township on top of a levelled off mountain, beach combat for the first time in Star Wars film history, and my personal favourite – Jyn Erso going face to face with a TIE fighter… and she’s not in a starship.  She’s literally face to face with a TIE fighter.

Since the most recent trailer previewed, new publicity shots have also been released including these beautiful ones which have popped up over at /Film.  Check them out here.

As you can see, if you visited either of the above links, Rogue One looks like Star Wars but at the same time has a slightly different visual aesthetic.  The previews, and the stills, have a definite indy vibe to them – which is exciting, but also, if you can believe the reports, something that made Disney a little nervous and may have been the cause of the recent reshoots – though Disney does claim otherwise.

I personally love the look and I am really falling in love with this film – it’s visual style, the snippets of performance we’re seeing, and most certainly the incredible special effects.  I think it’s appropriate Rogue One have a different yet familiar feel to the Saga films.  We’re seeing side stories that play into the overall arc of the Skywalker family, adding more ‘meat’ to the events that caused Darth Vader to become one of the most feared beings in the known galaxy, and the events that catapulted his children, Luke and Leia, onto the Galactic stage.  They should feel different, and they should evoke something new while still being obviously Star Wars.

Star Wars: Rogue One premiers around the world in December of this year, and promises to be a hard-hitting, unique entry into the overall Star Wars story.

The film was directed by Gareth Edwards, and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker (in what will be the most diverse cast to ever appear in a Star Wars film).

The movie has been written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta.

Kathleen Kennedy’s guiding hand is, of course, present as one of the producers of the film.

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What else is happening in that galaxy far, far away?

Some very interesting news for Star Wars: Rebels and fans of the Star Wars Expanded Universe series, now known as the Star Wars Legacy series.

A popular character from the Expanded Universe is making their way onto Rebels – and the character they’ve picked to appear is a really wonderful choice.  He captured all of our imaginations years ago when Timothy Zahn released the first Star Wars novel to officially follow up on the adventures of Luke, Leia and Han post Return of the Jedi, and has stayed a fan favourite ever since.

Who is it?

Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Thrawn has never appeared in any Star Wars movie.  His first appearance was in the Timothy Zahn novel Heir to the Empire, way back in 1991.

Thrawn was one of the very few non-human officers to serve in Palpatine’s Imperial Navy, and though he was relegated to the backwaters of space, made a name for himself there – so much so, he ended up eventually leading the Empire after Palpatine’s death.

We don’t know how much of that original backstory will be in play come Season Three of Rebels, but hopefully we will see the same thoughtful and charismatic officer many of us got to know in the Expanded Universe novels.  It would be nice to see him as a strong leader who could, perhaps, go on to lead the Empire after the second Death Star gets destroyed… because that could mean he would appear in a future Saga film (maybe Episode IX) – or maybe even get his own Anthology movie.

One of the brilliant things about having Thrawn appear in Star Wars: Rebels is that he is now a canon character.  It’s an exciting development for those of us who are fans of the Expanded Universe, because there’s now the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to see a few more characters from that series of novels in the future.

Thrawn will make his appearance in the third season of Rebels, due to air September 24.

For more information, check out the official Star Wars website here.

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Episode VIII and Rogue One Update

Star Wars Update - SWVIII and SWARO

There’s been a little angst around the recent reshoots that took place for the first of the Star Wars Anthology films, Rogue One.

Some outlets reported that Disney was not happy with the tone of the movie, and didn’t feel that it “fit” with the original trilogy (or even the prequel trilogy), and they were apparently concerned it could cause a backlash from fans.

Other rumours insisted a test audience had reacted poorly – except it was later discovered the film hadn’t been seen by a test audience.  It had only been viewed by the executives at the Mouse House.

All that we really know for sure is that reshoots did indeed happen, but no one seems clear on why – other than the usual reasons for reshoots, which are to tighten up scenes that weren’t working, or to fix something that wasn’t spotted during principal or second unit photography.

If you’d like to dive into those rumours, the two best sources for a wrap up on all the drama are Making Star Wars and the Star Wars Underworld.  For the MSW stories, click here and here.  For the SWU story, click here.  They’re a good read.

One of the benefits of having been in the entertainment industry for two decades, is knowing that reshoots are not a bad thing.  Yes, sometimes they’re done because a film has lost its way, but more often than not they’re done because a mistake was missed during principal or second unit photography, or because something needs to be fixed that didn’t play right when seen in the context of the whole film.  What looks good on the page, doesn’t always translate to the screen.  Reshoots are so common that production companies budget for them in the months before principal photography begins.  They’re run of the mill, and don’t necessarily mean anything is wrong.

I don’t think the fan community need worry too much!

In Episode VIII news, the latest rumour out is that fan favourite, General Leia Organa, gets to use the Force in the film, and in fact, it’s her ability with that energy field that binds the galaxy together, that saves her life.

To read more on this, visit the article at Making Star Wars here.

Finally, there have been a few people questioning whether or not John Williams, the legendary composer, will return to score Episode VIII.  He is, after all, 84 and might actually want to retire.

For a lot of fans this has caused concern, because many of us can’t imagine Star Wars without John’s incredible score accompanying the amazing visuals and story.

John himself recently announced that he would be scoring Episode VIII, if Disney and Lucasfilm would have him.

To read more from John on whether or not he’ll have a part to play in any future Star Wars films, visit the Star Wars Underworld here.

As more news comes to light on the Anthology films and sequel trilogy, we’ll feature it.

In the meantime, be sure to visit the Star Wars Underworld and Making Star Wars to stay up to date on everything!

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John Boyega on Episode VIII

John Boyega and Star Wars EVIII Update

The beautiful and frustrating thing about a Star Wars film is that we rarely know what to expect, but we all like to guess – and we all like to be titillated by the stars and other creative people involved in the films.

The incredibly charming and insightful John Boyega whose character, Fin (FN-2187), was one of the breakout fan favourites in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, recently spoke about the next instalment in the saga to Variety and Vulture while at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

A question a lot of the media and a good many fans often ask is “will Episode VIII be darker?”  Some of us who love pop culture seem to have a worrying preoccupation with how dark, nasty, and downright depressing a movie or television series needs to be.

Which is confusing, because we constantly move the goal posts and shoot off mixed messages.  Media pundits often wonder if “The Walking Dead has gone too far?” and “become too dark?” while at the same time deriding Fear the Walking Dead for not being dark enough.  Man of Steel was criticised for being too dark but so many people seemed to want it to follow in the footsteps of The Dark Knight, which was, funnily enough, pretty dark.  At the same time, people can’t get enough of the sadistic dysfunction of a bunch of people fighting over a steel seat in Game of Thrones.  Damien, the series that follows in the footsteps of The Omen apparently isn’t gory enough, but American Horror Story apparently went too far.

Either media critics have a serious personality disorder, and the public really doesn’t know what it wants, or writers, actors, directors and producers everywhere just need to give us all the middle finger and make what they want to make because it’s obvious we don’t have a clue what we want.

Personally, I hope Rian Johnson doesn’t give a crap and isn’t listening to the contradictory and often fickle arguments.  I hope he just gives us a mind-blowing movie that’s true to him as an artist, and true to the saga of a family caught up in the events of a galaxy far, far away.

Historically, Star Wars has become a film about family.  An extraordinary family, but a family never the less.  To date, the films have always taken us on a journey with each trilogy, one that focuses on the Skywalkers, and that journey has always been a mix of tragedy and joy, light and dark.

In the original trilogy, each movie had it’s dark aspects – Episode IV had the merciless destruction of an entire planet, the torture of a Princess, the slaughter of one of our heroes’ only known family, and the death of a revered Jedi Knight.  Episode V had the betrayal by a supposed friend, the capture and entombment in carbonite of one of our heroes, and another of our heroes lost his hand after being told he was the son of one of the most evil men in the galaxy.  Episode VI saw our only heroine enslaved by a giant slug, the suggestion one of our heroes might have to kill his father to banish the dark side from the galaxy, the slaughter of hundreds of cuddly little bear creatures, and the sort of suicide of the saga’s main villain.

Episode I saw a young Queen lose her throne to a greedy corporate collective, explored the issue of slavery, saw a mother lose her son to the Jedi, and the death of one of the film’s heroes.  Episode II saw the attempted assignation of a politician, the revelation someone somewhere had grown a clone army, the death of our young hero’s mother, the capture and attempted execution of all our heroes, and the secret wedding of a Jedi and a Senator.  Episode III was perhaps the darkest Star Wars film of them all, with our hero surrendering to his fears and sliding into the arms of the dark side which leads him to slaughter children and eventually kill the love of his life.

And people think Empire is dark.

I think a lot of fans, when they call Episode V dark, mean that it’s atmospheric.  When you look at V verses every other Star Wars film, it’s definitely not the darkest.  It does end on a cliffhanger, and tonally it is the most emotional – thanks to the spectacular performances of Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford during the scene where Han is frozen, and Mark Hamill’s brilliant and heart-breaking performance when Darth Vader delivers his saga defining news, but it’s not the bleakest of all the films by a long shot.

John, in answering the question about how dark VIII will be, pretty much says that any level of ‘darkness’ will come down to the individual perspectives of the viewer.  He does, however, say it will be darker than VII… which worries me!  Hello?  Han, anyone?

In both interviews, John talks about the joys of working with Rian Johnson, his new co-stars, the possibility of a romance with Rey, and how Episode VIII is BIG and will blow us all away.

To check out the interviews, visit my two favourite Star Wars fansites, Making Star Wars and Star Wars Underworld here and here.

Star Wars: Episode VIII is set to be released in cinemas around the world on the 15th of December next year.

The movie has been written, and is also being directed, by Rian Johnson, and stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisey Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran.

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Episode VIII Update – Luke, Leia, Poe and More

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We’re 626 days away from the release of Star Wars: Episode VIII, and trickles of information continue to escape the production as fans obsess over details both minor and potentially major.

There are so many little pieces of information coming out, that it’s actually a bit exhausting keeping up with it all.  It’s not all that often that I find something I want to take the time to post about, because at the moment we’re getting a lot of disjointed minutia.

I am, however, invested in the story and the characters and when I come across interesting pieces on those aspects of the new film, I’m more than willing to find the time to sit down and write about it.

Some people could consider the following to be spoilers, so proceed with caution.  They deal with the characters of Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Poe Dameron, Laura Dern’s as yet unnamed character… and Han Solo!

Spoiler Alert

As reported earlier this month, there are a series of scenes between Poe Dameron and Laura Dern’s character in the upcoming feature film.

In those scenes, it looks like Poe leads a mutiny against Laura’s character.

A few more details have come out giving further insight into those scenes which were originally reported on by Latino Review.

The extra information comes from the wonderful MakingStarWars website.

Laura Dern Leia Organa Poe Dameron

Laura’s character is a leader in the Resistance.  That part of the first report was a bit vague, with there being an opinion she might have been a leader in the New Republic.

Leia’s vessel is ambushed and she is blasted ‘through space’ – which sounds like the vessel she is in is severely damaged during the fight, venting atmosphere and people into deep space!

Leia lives, but ends up in a coma.

Laura’s character takes command of the Resistance while Leia is in medical care.  She kinda screws things up and Poe is not happy.

Poe takes charge and becomes the defacto leader of the Resistance.

To read more on these scenes, visit MakingStarWars here.  The breakdown of the scenes is after a piece on some changes that have been made to Poe’s costume for Episode VIII.

Luke Skywalker Episode VII

The amazing MakingStarWars has delivered some more insight into the upcoming movie via a brief description of a scene that involves Luke.

The scene takes place in what looks like it’s a casino and Luke is walking through it, hunting for someone.  The casino scene is said to be full of aliens, and harkens back to the original cantina scene in Star Wars: A New Hope, and the death sticks scene from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones where Obi-Wan and Anakin are trying to find the bounty hunter Zam Wesell in a bar after an assasignation attempt on Senator Amidala.

Not much else is known about that scene, but some internet commentators have wondered if Luke is looking for Lando Calrissian – which would be amazing.  One of the very few things I didn’t like about Episode VII was the lack of Lando.

To read the article, click here.

Han SWTFA

Harrison Ford is toying with all of our emotions.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Harrison made a comment when asked if Han could return, that set the internet alight: “Anything is possible in space. I wanted Han Solo to sacrifice himself for the good of the other characters to bring some gravitas to the story.

That comment, combined with a recent casting call for Episode VIII that included Harrison’s name on it, has the rumour mill bubbling.

Could Han Solo still be alive?  I hope so – but I doubt it.  I can’t see Lucasfilm and Disney doing that.

Han’s death made sense in Episode VII and it carried such immense emotional weight – plus, Leia felt it in the force.  Yes, she could have sensed a terrible wound, but I can’t see anyone screwing with us fans that mercilessly.

But, as Harrison says, “Anything is possible in space.

To read the article, click here.

That’s it for now!

As more information on the story and characters for Star Wars: Episode VIII comes out, I’ll post it here.

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