May The Twenty-Seventh Be With You: Star Wars: Rebels

James Proclaims (4)

rebels

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I have been somewhat unsuccessful in my attempts to watch every episode of every show in the Star Wars canon before the end of this month (although I’ve given it a pretty good go).

Unfortunately this 2014 successor to ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars‘ is one of the shows I haven’t been able to view in it’s entirety.

But I’ve watched a few episodes and I’d never let a little thing like ‘not really knowing my subject matter’ stop me from writing a blog post about it.

But first a spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: I’m only up to about a third of the way through series 2 of this, so please don’t ruin it for me. Although if you haven’t seen any episodes, I suppose there’s still a small chance I could spoil it for you in the rest of this post.

I really like this cartoon. It’s very different in tone and style to ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ and some might say it suffers by comparison.

I haven’t seen enough to fully inform my views but I’d say that what I’ve seen so far holds up pretty well and there are definitely elements about this that I prefer.

The main things I like are probably nostalgia driven, because this show is chronologically much closer to the original trilogy. Which means that we get proper Stormtroopers, Imperial Officers and Star Destroyers.

Oh and we get Darth Vader. He’s not in every episode, but he shows up a few times and he’s voiced by James Earl Jones and everything.

And so far in the episodes I’ve watched, we’ve also had Lando (voiced by Billy Dee Williams) and C3PO (voiced by Anthony Daniels but that’s less of a novelty because C3PO is in all the Star Wars cartoons and he’s always voiced by Anthony Daniels). Grand Moff Tarkin has also been in some episodes although obviously not voiced by the original actor. But it was still nice to see him feature.

There are also recurrent characters from ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’, notably Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex, who were two of my favourites from that show and who are voiced in this by the same actors.

And while they haven’t yet shown up, I’m fairly certain from the marketing I’ve seen around this show that Obi Wan Kenobi (the older version from the original trilogy) and Darth Maul (who seems to be making the most of his implausible resurrection) are both going to show up too.

But the show really hinges on its central characters. I don’t really know how I feel about them yet, but so far I’m fairly optimistic. There’s no-one I actively dislike and potentially by the time I’ve got through all of the episodes there’ll be a few who’ll be up there with my favourites.

All the core characters in this were essentially new to Star Wars when this show first aired, which means they had no existing capital with fans (which seemingly can be a problem for some Star Wars fans). It does, however, leave a lot more room for character development, which, even though I’m still not that far into it, is already apparent in the episodes I have seen.

Aside from trying to win over the fans, the main problem with introducing new characters, particularly in a show that is set a few years before the original trilogy, is the difficulty in explaining why these characters aren’t around in those movies.

Particularly as, so far, we’ve got two Jedi in Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger, as well as the aforementioned Ahsoka, who isn’t technically a Jedi anymore but who still knows how to wield a lightsaber like the best of them. And there are no shortage of bad guys with red lightsabers called the inquisitors who are also not in the movies. Although at the stage I’m at with my viewing, one of those is already dead, so maybe the others will follow suit.

But will the good guys also die?

And if not, how will the show resolve itself to explain their absence from the movies, given that they are very much part of the Rebel Alliance?

Obviously I’ve done a lot of reading about Star Wars in recent weeks so, unfortunately, I have subjected myself to some spoilers and my understanding is that the show will have answered my questions by the time I get to the final episode.

To be fair, I’m not too precious about such things really, as long as the show is entertaining.

And on the evidence I’ve seen so far, ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ is a pretty good watch.

Best character (so far) – Ezra Bridger

ezra

The force is strong with this one. He’s a bit of an archetype, but I quite like him because in many ways he represents what I always imagined the young Anakin Skywalker should have been in ‘The Phantom Menace’. Rather than the Anakin we actually got in ‘The Phantom Menace’…

Worst Character (so far)  – Chopper

chopper

He’s like R2D2 but with a bad attitude. Sometimes he’s funny but he’s often quite annoying and frankly he’s a liability. Given the general disposability of droids in the rest of Star Wars, it’s a wonder the other characters in this bother to keep him around.

Unsung hero – Minister Tua

tua

Initially presented as a fairly unsympathetic official working for the Empire, not exactly evil but not especially nice. But with the arrival of Darth Vader things take a darker turn and she realises she’s out of her depth. Tries to defect to the Rebels and gets blown up for her troubles. 

And that’s all I’ve got to say about ‘Star Wars: Rebels’. Which is actually quite a lot given how few episodes I’ve seen. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be attempting to write about another show I haven’t seen in its entirety.

 

 

May The Twenty-Sixth Be With You: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (The Series)

James Proclaims (4)

Star_Wars_The_Clone_Wars

In all honesty, when I started this month long homage to Star Wars, I wasn’t actually planning on doing much more than writing about the nine movies of the ‘Skywalker Saga’ in episode order over the first nine days of the month. Then I thought, given that I’d seen both ‘Solo‘ and ‘Rogue One‘, I might as well write about those. Then it occurred to me that as I had, in the past, sat through the appalling ‘Holiday Special‘ I should probably write about that too. And once I’d committed to that, it seemed a shame not to include the Ewok movies, especially as the first of those was the very first movie I ever saw in the cinema.

Throw in a few posts with pictures of the various Star Wars merchandise that I own, and I probably had enough material to write about Star Wars for quite a few days.

But to write about it for the whole month?

To achieve that I’d have to watch the various TV series. And, aside from the Ewok cartoon of the eighties and the 2003 show ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars‘, I hadn’t seen a great deal of the animated shows really. And I hadn’t seen the Ewok cartoon since the eighties, so I’d definitely have to re-watch that in order to be able to write about it.

So, as well as writing a lot about Star Wars, I have spent most of this month (and quite a lot of the previous month) watching Star Wars in its various guises.

Which has been made easier, thanks to the UK launch, in March, of Disney Plus, which has made a lot Star Wars content available in one place. Although my quest has still meant some foraging around elsewhere on the internet. Particularly for Ewoks.

But still, it has been quite an undertaking and I have rather failed in my bid to watch everything.

Obviously if I was experiencing the kind of lockdown that the media would have us believe is the norm, I would have had plenty of time, but I have mostly still been working and when not working I have my little girl to look after. And she isn’t a massive Star Wars fan.

Yet.

I’m working on it but she still prefers Peppa Pig.

I have made a pretty good effort to cover the whole Star Wars back catalogue.

And I’ve watched enough episodes of enough of the series to be able to post something about most of them.

Which is a relief, because if I’m going to undertake a pointless month-long project, I’d hate to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Like the Empire frequently does.

But it would be lying to claim I’ve watched every episode of every show.

Part of the reason I’ve struggled to watch everything in it’s entirety is the series I’m writing about today. Because there are a lot of episodes of ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’.

I have managed to get through most of them, but at the time of writing I’ve yet to see series six and seven. I will watch both of them (because I am now a big fan of this cartoon) but as the show essentially wrapped up at the end of series five in 2014, with series six almost being viewed as bonus material (it’s subtitled ‘The Lost Missions’) and series seven essentially a short revival of the series made this year specifically for Disney Plus, it’s fair to say I’ve probably got a relatively good handle on the show, having watched the first 108 episodes (and of course the movie, which I’ve already written about).

But before I go any further, I will issue my now customary spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: This is a brilliant show and you should definitely watch it, but I am potentially going to reveal some plot details from this point onwards. Although there are a lot of episodes and consequently there are also a lot of intersecting plotlines and there’s no way I could cover them all, so it’ll probably be fine.

Not to be confused with the excellent, but very brief, 2003 cartoon, ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars’, which is only a definite article away from having the same name, ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ essentially renders that earlier cartoon null and void in the sense that both tell the story of what happened between ‘Attack of the Clones‘ and ‘Revenge of the Sith‘ but they tell very different stories.

Nonetheless the 2008 cartoon is arguably even more brilliant than its shorter predecessor.

It didn’t have the most auspicious of beginnings.  The movie which introduced the series was not beloved by critics. I can understand some of the animosity directed towards that particular cinematic release, not least when viewed as a stand-alone movie, but I still think the critics were overly harsh. And when viewed as part of the series as a whole, the movie does work quite well. However, it’s nowhere near as strong as the series would go on to be.

Obviously a lot of the action is centred around Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi, with the former being easily the best incarnation of that particular character. This is an Anakin Skywalker that is played by someone who can act, which really helps, but he also benefits from some well written storylines and some actual character development (as opposed to just having different hairstyles). It’s easy to believe that this Anakin was a genuine hero, but equally, his darker traits, though often subtle, are also there to see and once in a while he really loses it and is not a million miles away from the Darth Vader we know and love from the original movies. The dialogue is also well written, with this version of Anakin quite often adopting a turn of phrase that we hear Darth Vader say in the movies. Which as writing goes, is impressive. Most impressive.

However, one of the strengths of ‘The Clone Wars’ is the way it brings the other characters to life. We see a lot of Jedi in the prequel movies but we never get to know very much about them and in this cartoon we’re able to explore that world in greater depth. And although there are definitely good guys and bad guys, a lot of the time it’s more nuanced and very few of the good guys are completely good and very few of the bad guys are totally bad. Apart from Palpatine, who is palpably evil. And Count Dooku is pretty much always bad too. And General Grievous doesn’t have any redeeming features. But everyone else is more nuanced.

While it’s the characters from the movies that you start out invested in, it’s other characters who come to the fore. Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s Padawan learner, was initially disliked by many, but, possibly because she is not weighed down by any preconceived expectations, her character has one of the most interesting journeys throughout the series. The same is also true for villain turned antihero Asajj Ventress, who’s only prior on-screen appearance was in the 2003 cartoon.

The other standout characters from the show are the clone troopers. I had huge misgivings about the clones in the movies, but in the cartoon, although they all look the same (although are distinguishable by having differing hairstyles, facial hair, tattoos, etc) and they are all voiced by the same actor (who is frankly incredible), they all have distinct personalities and some individual troopers (notably Rex, but there are others) have the most interesting narrative arks. There a several episodes that focus exclusively on a group of clones and they are some of the best.

A lot of the promotional material surrounding the later series did focus on the resurrection of Darth Maul, who absolutely and conclusively died in ‘The Phantom Menace‘. I was apprehensive about this particular storyline, but it’s done really well, and far from dominating the later series, he’s really only in a few episodes. They are some of the best episodes though, which confirms that killing him off in ‘The Phantom Menace’ was a stupid decision. Although that movie is full of stupid decisions…

‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ is by no means perfect. At times it gets bogged down by some of the same problems as the prequel trilogy, and any episode that focuses on ‘the politics’ tends to be a bit dull. Jar Jar Binks, although not a prominent character, does pop up a few times and is generally as annoying as he was in the films.  But there are far more good episodes than bad ones and in many ways this series serves as a far more satisfying prequel to the original Star Wars Trilogy than the actual prequel trilogy ever did.

Best character – Ahsoka Tano

ahsoka

When I was still on series one, Anakin was my favourite character, but as the show develops, Ahsoka comes more and more to the fore and you could make a convincing case to say that she, rather than Anakin, is the central character in ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’. 

Worst character – Tan Divo

tan di

Despite it’s brilliance, there are quite a few annoying characters who pop up from time to time. The aforementioned Jar Jar Binks obviously and Ziro the Hutt, who irritated me in the film version of this show. But I think Tan Divo, who is a pompous, yet fairly inept, police officer is the one that probably annoyed me the most. Fortunately, like all the other annoying characters, he wasn’t in that many episodes.

Unsung hero – Riff Tamson

riff

OK, he was absolutely a bad guy. But he was also a shark. And he was hard as nails. He was only in three episodes. If you look like a shark, you should be in more episodes. 

 

Frankly I could I write about this series for days on end and still only scratch the surface. It’s utterly brilliant. But I must stop writing now, so I can cram in a few more episodes of the show I’m planning to write about tomorrow before my daughter wakes up from her nap.

May The Twenty-Fifth Be With You: Do Or Do Not, There Is No Dry

James Proclaims (4)

Today is Towel Day, an annual celebration in honour of the late great Douglas Adams, and in particular ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’, which is celebrating it’s 42nd anniversary this year. As fans of that particular guide will know, this is especially pertinent, what with ’42’ being the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.

I love ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’, I’ve read all the books multiple times and consumed it in many of its other various guises (radio show, TV show and movie), so I feel it’s only right that I join in the fun of Towel Day this year.

But I’m currently (for reasons I can’t quite remember) committed to writing about Star Wars for the entirety of this month, which presents something of a conflict of interests.

To be fair, there are some links between the two; both are set in space and although both are frequently mistaken for science fiction, there isn’t much in the way of actual science in either (a bit like current government policy surrounding ‘you know what’, which frequently claims to be guided by ‘the science’ but might as well be guided by ‘the force’ for all it has made any actual sense, and certainly ‘knowing where your towel is’ seems infinitely wiser advice than anything that has come out of the mouth of Mr Johnson of late, although his recent defence of Dominic Cummings was a new low even by his standards).

Also they’re fairly contemporaneous, with Star Wars coming into our lives in 1977 and the first incarnation (the radio version) of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ popping up in 1978.

Oh and there were 42 years between the first Star Wars movie and ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, and while the latter seems unlikely to be the last Star Wars movie, it did notionally wrap up the story started by the first movie,  a story now commonly referred to as the ‘Skywalker Saga’. So I think ’42’ has some pertinence to Star Wars.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to justify writing a post about ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ and ‘Star Wars’ without a more forensic, detailed look at the parallels and differences between the two.

Unless you happen to own a Star Wars themed towel. Then you can cheat and just post a picture of that…

 

Thanks to Pedantry at Wibble for blogging fairly regularly about this year’s Towel Day, otherwise I might have missed it and today you could be reading about some obscure Star Wars cartoon that you have never seen and have no intention of ever watching….

May The Twenty-Fourth Be With You: Solo: A Star Wars Story

James Proclaims (4)

solo-a-star-wars-story-poster

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ has the dubious claim to fame of being the first Star Wars movie to make a loss at the box office and it’s perhaps the main reason that the focus for future Star Wars projects, after the release of ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ has been more geared towards content for Disney Plus, rather than cinematic releases. There are still numerous big screen projects allegedly in the pipeline, but at one stage there were ambitions for an annual Star Wars movie, and that seems to have been somewhat dialled down since the relative failure of this film.

Whether there really is an ‘audience fatigue’ for new Star Wars movies or whether this film failed to achieve box office success because it was fundamentally flawed from the outset is up for debate, but it’s clear, with the benefit of hindsight, that this movie was always going to struggle to live up to expectations.

It is a shame, because, while it would be a stretch to describe this as a great movie, it’s a perfectly entertaining couple of hours and I did enjoy it.

But before I get into all that, here is my customary spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: As quite a lot of people didn’t bother to watch this movie, then there’s a more than reasonable chance that you haven’t seen it. But if you like Star Wars then there is a lot to like about this film. I doubt you’ll love it all, and some bits might actually irritate you, but overall you probably won’t hate it. I’m going to write about it now and I may include some details of the plot so consider yourself warned.

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ was always a gamble. Han Solo is one of the most iconic characters in the whole franchise, but a big part of the reason for that is that he is played by Harrison Ford. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill.

And to be fair to Alden Ehrenreich, he does a pretty good job. The failings of the movie cannot be levelled at his door. But, while I’m glad they didn’t go down the ‘Rogue One’ route of CGI(ing) a young Harrison Ford into the movie, I’d question the wisdom of making a movie about a young Han Solo, with a new actor, so soon after Harrison Ford had recently reprised the role in ‘The Force Awakens’. Maybe this one should have been given a few years.

Or perhaps, if a Han Solo back story was necessary (and of course it really wasn’t) then it might have been better suited to a TV format. The success of ‘The Mandalorian’ suggests that this is a pretty feasible outlet for Star Wars and the recasting of such an iconic character would be less likely to be an issue in a TV show.

But Alden Ehrenreich is not the problem. He’s better than anyone could realistically expect him to be and I didn’t find it too hard to accept him as Han. Donald Glover also does a more than credible version of Lando Calrissian, although to be fair, much as I love Billy Dee Williams in the original trilogy, you’d have to say his shoes aren’t quite as hard to fill as Harrison Ford’s.

The problem with ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is that it doesn’t seem to have much of a story to tell and instead seems to be a series of attempts at ‘fan-pleasing’ moments, strung together by the most prosaic of narratives.

The attempt at a love story between Han and Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra is particularly perplexing because, as we all know, Han loves Leia. So I can’t possibly be invested in a love story between Han and someone else.

Paul Bettany’s Dryden Vos would also have to be in contention for ‘least interesting bad guy’ in the whole of Star Wars.

And while Darth Maul’s brief cameo at the end of the movie might mean something to those of us who have watched ‘The Clone Wars’ cartoon series, it would be quite jarring for anyone that only watches the movies. And only watching the movies is a perfectly acceptable position for a Star Wars fan to take. It’s a position I was in myself prior to undertaking this month-long homage to Star Wars. I love the cartoons but they shouldn’t be essential viewing in order to understand the movies.

Plus the Darth Maul cameo hinted at a sequel, which we now know is not going to happen and I hate it when movies make promises they can’t fulfil.

To be fair, the film can’t have been helped by a change of director six months into filming and while Ron Howard has a perfectly credible filmography, he wasn’t an especially exciting choice and seemed like a ‘safe pair of hands’ to replace the apparently more maverick Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were not, seemingly, playing by the rules. I think, on balance, I’d quite like to see the version of this they were trying to make though.

But Ron Howard does as well as can be expected under the circumstances and though ultimately ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is a film that takes very few risks (beyond the original risk of trying to re-invent a character that didn’t need any re-invention) it’s enjoyable enough all the same.

Best character – Han

Han Solo, Alden Ehrenheich

Ok he’s not the Han we know and love from the original trilogy, but he’s still eminently likeable in this and if you can set aside your preconceptions, he’s definitely the best character in the movie.

Worst character – L337

null

Generally Phoebe Waller-Bridge can do no wrong in my eyes, but the first time I saw this I didn’t know that she was playing this particular CGI character. And I found L337 quite irritating and it’s quite hard to revise that opinion just because I’m a usually fan of the actor playing the role. In fairness the droids-rights activist was, in many respects, the most innovative character in the movie and in a different sort of film (perhaps the version that the original directors were trying to make) I might even be on board with L337. But I didn’t feel the character worked especially well in this film.

Unsung heroes – Val and Rio

nullRio_Durant_Databank

Part of the ‘crew’ that Han joins fairly early on in the movie. Both killed on a ‘heist that goes wrong’ and essentially never mentioned again, even though Beckett, one of the principal characters in the movie, was married to Val. 

And that’s all I’ve got to say about ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’. Tune in tomorrow for something else Star Wars related.

May The Twenty-Third Be With You: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

James Proclaims (4)

Day 23 of me writing exclusively about Star Wars, purely on the basis that it’s currently May and I can entitle each post ‘May the (whatever date it actually is) be with you’. Which possibly was never that funny. Or if it ever was funny, the joke is wearing thin now. Surely the end is in sight? And yet, for me not to have given up after 23 days would suggest that I am determined to see this through to the end of the month, in spite of the fact that my blogging stats, fairly resurgent only a few weeks ago, now seem to be in sharp decline. Fortunately if I were motivated by such things as blogging stats, I would long ago have retreated from the blogosphere with my head hanging in shame.

However, today I am at least writing about a Star Wars film that most people have actually heard of, which is something of a concession to those intrepid readers who have stuck with me throughout this particular ‘blog project’.

For today I am writing about ‘Rogue One’, a movie that is oft thought of as the first Star Wars spin off. But as several of the preceding twenty-two posts will attest, it isn’t the first Star Wars spin off.

But it probably is the best.

Before I write about it I should issue a spoiler alert.

Spoiler Alert: This is quite a good film and if you haven’t seen it you probably should. But I’m going to write about it now and that might ruin it for you. So, if you haven’t seen it, go and watch it now and then come back and read this later.

Riding very much on the coattails of ‘The Force Awakens’, 2016’s ‘Rogue One’ appeared to confirm the return to form of Star Wars after the much maligned prequel trilogy. Not only that, but this was the first cinematic release that wasn’t either part of the main saga, predominantly about Ewoks or a cartoon.

‘Rogue One’ also offered up the tantalizing possibility that we could be getting a new Star Wars movie every year and that stories set outside of the main ‘Skywalker Saga’ could not only work well, but had the possibility of being even better than the movies in the aforementioned saga.

Obviously, a few years later, we know better. While the Star Wars franchise is very much alive and well, it’s fair to say that not every cinematic release since 2016 has met with universal acclaim.

But people did really love ‘Rogue One’, with some people mistakenly going as far as to claim that this was the best Star Wars movie ever.

Which it isn’t.

Not least because it relies quite heavily on the existence of other Star Wars movies to work. Prior knowledge of the Death Star, the Empire, the Rebellion, the Force, certain major characters, certain minor characters and the entire plot of the original 1977 movie all help you to enjoy ‘Rogue One’ a lot more than I think would be possible if this were the first Star Wars movie you’d ever seen.

In spite of that, it does dare to be different. There is no shortage of carnage in most Star Wars movies, but it’s generally minor characters who meet their end. Certainly if a main character dies, it’s a pretty big deal. So to kill off pretty much every central character at the end of this movie was a definite departure.

That said, I did find it hard to care too much about many of the characters and frankly, when the most emotional death is a droid, it probably hints at a slight lack of character development.

Equally, entertaining though the movie undoubtedly is, for two cameos by Darth Vader to steal the show, would suggest the rest of it maybe isn’t as compelling as it could be. Then again, Darth Vader is a very hard act to top.

If Vader was the most memorable, there were plenty of other cameos throughout the movie, from C3PO and R2D2, to Bail Organa, to the two barflies that attack Luke in the original movie. The most notable, and most controversial, was the CGI enabled return of Grand Moff Tarkin. Because at first glance it looks very much like the late great Peter Cushing is playing the role. Which would be impossible given that he died in 1994 . So obviously it’s not Peter Cushing, and when you pay closer attention you can clearly see the CGI at work. It’s an impressive technological feat nonetheless. As to whether it should have been done, given that the particular story that is being told deals with events that take place immediately prior to the original movie and heavily features Tarkin’s place of work, the Death Star, it would have been hard not to include the character. And to have a different actor play the role could have brought its own protests (I mean obviously a different actor does play the role, the CGI is not the whole story, but you get what I mean). So it was a no win situation in some respects and as Peter Cushing’s estate had approved the use of his image, it was perhaps worth the gamble. It mostly pays off.

Perhaps this predicament could have been avoided entirely if the character of Tarkin wasn’t so completely absent (aside from a token CGI background appearance at the end of ‘Revenge of the Sith‘) from the prequel trilogy. I always thought this omission was quite strange given his prominence in the original movie. If there had been a young Cushing-a-like cast in one or more of the prequels it would have been reasonable for that actor to reappear here without any need for CGI wizardry.

As things stand, I’d rather have the CGI Tarkin than no Tarkin at all.

A young CGI Leia also manages to appear at the end of the movie, but it’s the briefest cameos really. Unlike Tarkin, the movie doesn’t really hinge on Leia, but the scene does make narrative sense. It all depends on how you feel about this particular use of CGI really. I didn’t hate it.

Ultimately, ‘Rogue One’ is an easy movie to like. It doesn’t add a great deal to the overall mythology of Star Wars, but it’s a compelling enough tale set against a familiar Star Wars backdrop.

And the original stormtroopers are in it, and pretty much confirm that they are better than the versions that appear in either the prequels or the sequels. 

Although I was less sure about the black-suited death troopers that turn up in this, because they look a bit like Darth Vader wannabes.

Best character – K2SO

k2so 

Aside from Darth Vader’s cameos, K2SO is hands down the best thing about the movie. He looks fantastic, it’s genuinely hard to believe he is CGI, but it’s the voice performance by Alan Tudyk that makes him stand out from virtually every other droid that has ever been in Star Wars. Indeed I’d go as far as to say he’s one of the greatest characters in any Star Wars movie. Arguably the movie’s only concession to comic relief, it’s nonetheless K2SO’s ‘death’ that is by far the most moving scene in the whole film. Which is particularly noteworthy given that every character dies…

Worst Character – Baze Malbus

Baze-Malbus_Big_6

Possibly the biggest failing of ‘Rogue One’ is that a lot of the characters really aren’t all that memorable, but Baze is probably the least memorable of the lot. Which I think makes him the worst. I’m not sure. I don’t remember that much about him other than he has quite a big gun.

Unsung hero – Bohdi Rook

bohdi

In many ways, the bravest character in the movie. Gives up a presumably secure career in the Galactic Empire to join the rebels, providing them with some much needed intel and gets tortured for his efforts. No-one ever really says thank you and yet he still gives his life for the cause at the end. 

And that’s it for ‘Rogue One’. Tune in tomorrow to see if I write about the one Star Wars movie I’ve yet to deal with.

Or something more obscure.

 

 

 

May The Twenty-Second Be With You: Star Wars: Forces Of Destiny

James Proclaims (4)

forces-of-destiny-logo

I’m not sure too many Star Wars movies would pass the Bechdel test, but there’s no denying that there have been some great female characters throughout the franchise.

Having said that, I approached ‘Star Wars: Forces of Destiny’, which is a series of short animated stories, predominently centred around the aforementioned female characters, with some trepidation.

The concept is fine, but it was heavily linked with a new line of Star Wars toys that seemed to be marketed specifically towards girls. I find the notion of ‘girls toys’ and ‘boys toys’ a bit outdated given that this series first aired in 2017.

Then again, Star Wars has always been intrinsically linked with the selling of toys and frankly my nephew and niece mix and match each others’ action figures/dolls all the time so I suppose it doesn’t matter whether there was an archaic marketing policy with regards the actual product, so long as fun is had by the children who own them, and no-one felt they couldn’t watch the cartoon because it wasn’t ‘aimed’ at them.

And as it happens the cartoon itself is pretty good. It lacks some of the energy of the 2003 series of animated shorts, Star Wars: Clone Wars, but it has plenty going for it nonetheless.

But first a spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: This series is made up of a lot of unrelated, very short, episodes, centering on different characters within the Star Wars universe. So it’s unlikely I’ll be able to spoil it for you. But I am likely to reveal some minor details, so it’s up to you if you want to read any further. It’ll probably be fine, but don’t come crying to me if I ruin this cartoon for you.

This is definitely a cartoon aimed at children, rather than adults. Which is obviously true of a lot of Star Wars stuff, but it’s probably more apparent with this one.

That said, I’m a fully grown adult and I did enjoy it. And actually, if you’d spent the last month or so watching nothing but Star Wars, including some of the more obsure spin-offs, then you’d enjoy it too.

Because there are actually one or two little references in there that you could only get if you watched the Ewoks cartoon. And the Ewoks movie. Which I have. So I did get them.

One of those references is the appearence of an Ewok wearing a pink hood, for this is none-other than Kneesaa, one of the principal characters of the aforementioned cartoon series. She’s never been featured in any other Star Wars movie of TV show outside of that long forgotten cartoon, but she turns up in this. Which I found genuinely quite exciting.

Another episode deals with Leia and Luke getting attacked on the forest moon of Endor by a gorax. And that was only ever featured in the first Ewok movie, Caravan of Courage. So if, like me, you have sat through that ‘not very good’ movie, then you can smile smugly when the gorax pops up in this.

I like things like that. It’s like a little reward for those of us who really should use their free time more wisely.

Although most of the episodes predominently center around one or sometimes several female characters, there are some exceptions. At least one is about Luke and Yoda and another is mainly about Chewbacca and R2D2. But these episodes are the exception. All the episodes are stand-alone, but if you’ve seen the movies, it’s generally pretty clear where they fit into the wider Star Wars universe.

The voice cast is actually quite exceptional, the characters from other animated shows like ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ and ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ are voiced by the same actors who played them in those shows, but quite a few of the actors from the movies lend their voices to their animated characters too, including Daisy Ridley, Felicity Jones (for some of the episodes), John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran. Obviously Anthony Daniels does C3PO. Oh and some bloke called Mark Hammill does the voice for Luke Skywalker too.

I really liked this cartoon. It was pretty fun and it covers the whole of Star Wars in easily digestable bite-sized chunks.

Best character – Leia

leia

I was torn on this one. It was pretty much between Rey, Ahsoka Tano and Leia. And Leia, for obvious reasons, is the only one of the three that isn’t voiced by the original actor that played her. But she’s still Leia and when all is said and done, that’s enough to make her the best.

Worst character – Qi’ra

qu

If you haven’t seen ‘Solo’ you wouldn’t know who she was. And a lot of people haven’t seen ‘Solo’. She only merited one episode of this, she wasn’t even voiced by Emilia Clarke who portrayed her in the movie.  It’s not a bad episode but the other characters are more memorable.

Unsung hero – Kneesaa

kneesa

Because her appearance in this made me smile but also because she shot down a tie-fighter in one episode and was instrumental in stopping the gorax in her other appearance.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about a cartoon that really wasn’t aimed at me, but which I enjoyed in spite of that fact. Tune in tomorrow when I will once again be writing about Star Wars in some capacity.

 

 

 

May The 21st Be With You: I Have A Bad Peeling About This…

James Proclaims (4)

There are still quite a few days left of May.

Which is surprising because it feels like I’ve been writing about Star Wars forever.

Although there remains plenty within the Star Wars back catalogue for me to write about. Which is good news. From a certain point of view…

But today I’m going to have to go with the slightly lazier option of posting a picture of something Star-Wars-y that I own.

Fortunately I have plenty of stuff that ticks that particular box.

Today I thought I’d go with this little guy:

He’s one of my favourite things.

Indeed if I was to update that famous song from ‘The Sound of Music’ I’d change it to:

Cadbury’s Roses and memes of cute kittens
A functioning kettle and droid oven mittens
Amazon packages when the doorbell rings
But Darth Tater is my most favourite thing

Obviously some of the above is not really true. I like a Cadbury’s Rose, but I’m just as partial to a Quality Street. I have no interest in kitten memes, and you can’t prove otherwise. But if you’re going to do a rubbish parody of a verse of a well-known song, it’s important to keep a hint of the original elements in it I think.

I do actually own some R2D2 oven mittens, but they’ve seen better days (because they are functional as well as fun) so I won’t include a picture of them.

Darth Tater is brilliant though. Few things can make me smile like this fella.

You can get other Star Wars themed ‘Mr Potato Heads’. I believe there is a Spud-Trooper, a Luke Frywalker, an Artoo Potatoo and most recently a Frylo Ren.

I don’t own any of those.

Darth Tater more than meets my ‘Mr Potato Head’ needs.

 

 

May The Twentieth Be With You: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (The Movie)

James Proclaims (4)

clone wars movie

So, what’s the worst Star Wars movie in existence?

Many people will have their views. A lot will tell you it’s ‘The Phantom Menace‘ and they might have a point. Others will tell you it’s ‘The Last Jedi’ and, although they are entitled to their opinions, they would be wrong, because ‘The Last Jedi’ is great.

Some of us, those of us who count the two stand-alone Ewok movies as Star Wars movies, would point out that they aren’t great.

And if you include 1978’s ‘Star Wars: Holiday Special’ then one would imagine that you would have to believe that is the worst of the worst.

Fortunately we no longer need to rely on our own opinions because there are websites that tell us what to think.

Probably the best known of these websites is Rotten Tomatoes and although they don’t have a score for the 1986 Droids feature length special ‘The Great Heep’ (presumably because no-one ever actually watched it in the first place, let alone reviewed it), they do have scores for every other Star Wars ‘movie’. And I’ve collated them into a handy little table below:

Star Wars Movie Rotten Tomatoes Score
The Empire Strikes Back 94%
The Force Awakens 93%
A New Hope 92%
The Last Jedi 90%
Rogue One 84%
Return of the Jedi 82%
Revenge of the Sith 80%
Solo 70%
Attack of the Clones 65%
The Phantom Menace 53%
The Rise of Skywalker 52%
Ewoks: The Battle for Endor 51%
Star Wars: Holiday Special 27%
Ewoks: Caravan of Courage 23%
Star Wars : The Clone Wars 18%

Which should leave us in no doubt that 2008’s ‘The Clone Wars’ is officially the worst Star Wars movie ever.

Now, I’ll be honest, I don’t necessarily agree with the Rotten Tomatoes scores, but that is because opinion is subjective, and frankly if websites could think, there’d be none of here…

Nonetheless, Rotten Tomatoes is an attempt to be objective by collating lots of reviews and extrapolating ‘meta’ scores from those reviews. In that context, although my favourite Star Wars movie is the original, I’m not surprised to see ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ topping the list. And while I personally feel that ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ was ultimately a better movie than some that are listed above it, I know it wasn’t well-received by a lot of critics and so it’s not a huge surprise to see it score as low as it did.

But to see ‘The Clone Wars’ score below ‘The Holiday Special’ and both Ewok movies is definitely a surprise.

Because it is in no way as bad as any of those.

And I actually quite like it.

Before I get into that though, here is a spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen this then you might be put off watching it based on the ‘data’ I’ve shared with you. And frankly this is only something you should watch if you are a completist (as I apparently am) because it isn’t a brilliant movie. But it’s not the worst thing ever made by any stretch of the imagination and it is definitely better than the ‘Star Wars: Holiday Special’. By some distance…

This movie has nothing to do with the similarly named 2003 TV show that I wrote about yesterday, but it was a forerunner for the identically-named  2008 TV show and could be viewed as an extended episode of that series.

But this movie did come out before the TV show and it was released in cinemas so it’s reasonable to view it as a separate entity too.

Indeed, until recently, I hadn’t seen the TV show, but I did see this movie quite soon after it was released. I don’t think I saw it in the cinema, but I’m pretty sure I rented it on DVD, because I think renting DVDs was still a thing back in 2008.

And I definitely didn’t hate it.

But obviously I didn’t love it enough to bother with the subsequent TV series.

Which was my mistake, because the TV show is excellent. Or what I’ve seen of it is, because I’m watching it on Disney Plus at the moment. Well not at this exact moment because I’m writing this. But when I’m not writing blog posts and not working and not looking after a toddler, I’m watching ‘The Clone Wars’ series. It’s slow going. I don’t know if I’ll finish watching it in time to write about it because there are a lot of episodes.

But what I’ve seen of the TV show is really good.

So why is the movie so hated?

I think there are a few reasons.

One reason would have to be that, when viewed as an extended episode of the TV show, this is one of the weaker episodes. The storyline is about the kidnapping of Jabba the Hutt’s son. Who even knew Jabba had a son? But the underlying rationale behind the kidnapping is that the bad guys want Jabba to agree to give them access to his ‘trade routes’ and the good guys try and rescue Jabba’s son because they also want access to those ‘trade routes’. And there is something about ‘trade routes’ that makes any Star Wars offering seem a bit more boring than it should be. It was the curse of the prequel trilogy and it’s here again too.

Also ‘The Clone Wars’ TV show, and by extension this movie, are all about what happens between two of the prequel movies. So it’s heavily linked with the prequel trilogy and, as we all know, people didn’t really love those movies. And even though the subsequent TV series is generally beloved by fans, when this movie came out there was still a fair bit of animosity towards those movies, so it would have needed to be excellent to overcome the negative preconceptions. And it isn’t excellent, it’s only OK.

The main thing would probably be that, because this came before the TV show, it asked a lot of its audience. The character of Ahsoka Tano was introduced for the first time in this film and, although she is now fairly firmly established as a fan favourite, she was an unknown quantity in this movie and for a major character to be introduced (as Anakin Skywalker’s padawan learner no less) was a bit of a stretch for audiences. You were either going to hate her (in which case you would have to hate the movie because she’s in it a lot) or you’re going to quite like her but be constantly troubled by the fact that, given her absence from ‘Revenge of the Sith’ she’s probably going to die at some point.

And while (double-spoiler alert) she doesn’t die and indeed pops up in subsequent Star Wars shows (and is due, I believe, to make her live-action debut in series 2 of ‘The Mandalorian’) back in 2008 her inevitable death was the only reasonable conclusion you could reach.

Also, if you were unfamiliar with the unrelated 2003 Clone Wars cartoon, then Asajj Ventress, one of the principal antagonists in this movie, would also be a character that you’d never met before. Because she also isn’t in the movies (although to be fair [triple spoiler alert] she does die prior to ‘Revenge of the Sith’), and while, again, she is now very much a fan favourite, to give her so much weight in this film when no-one really knew who she was, perhaps didn’t help people warm to this movie.

Ultimately it is not a great stand alone movie. It’s an ok episode of a TV show that no-one had seen yet.

It’s still way better than the ‘Holiday Special’ though.

Best character – Anakin Skywalker

anakin

Finally an Anakin that is actually pretty good. Every inch the hero, but with subtle hints of the darkness that would eventually lead to him becoming everyone’s favourite Sith Lord.

ziro_the_hutt_sw_2518

Inexplicable. Doesn’t get better in the TV show. Fortunately he’s only in a few episodes and then he gets killed off.

Unsung hero – Captain Rex

rex

If you’re unfamiliar with the TV show then he might seem like just another clone trooper. Which he is. But despite the regular and somewhat unceremonious deaths of lots of clones throughout the series, the clones do have their own distinct personalities and none more so than Captain Rex. But even though a lot of that character development hasn’t taken place at this point in the narrative, he is still, hands down, the hardest clone out there and single-handedly takes on a lot of the bad guys.

And that’s in for the most critically panned (but definitely not the worst) movie in the Star Wars back catalogue. Why not come back tomorrow and see if I’ve written about something else Star Wars related?

 

 

 

May The Nineteenth Be With You: Star Wars: Clone Wars

James Proclaims (4)

Star_Wars_Clone_Wars

Not to be confused (but very easily confused) with ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’, which is a different cartoon (and movie), this series of animated shorts aired between 2003 and 2005 and aimed to ‘fill in the gaps’ between Episodes II and III of the prequel trilogy.

And it’s as bonkers as it is brilliant.

Before I get into it though, please enjoy this spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: Nothing I could write would spoil this animated series for you. There aren’t too many surprises in terms of plot and, actually, there really isn’t a lot of plot full stop. It’s just a lot of spaceships, lightsabers and violence. Which is a good thing.

I’m not sure there is much to say about this series beyond the fact that I loved it. After the disappointment of ‘The Phantom Menace’ and ‘Attack of the Clones’, this series was a breath of fresh air.

Technically it’s no longer considered ‘canon’ as the similarly named 2008 series also deals with the same time period and tells a different (and much more in-depth) story, but during the build-up to ‘Revenge of the Sith’ this series was the definitive version of the clone wars.

And the only negative I can really offer about this iteration is that everyone is just way too cool.

Which is no criticism at all.

But, alongside an Anakin Skywalker we can all finally get on board with, we see all of the Jedi doing incredible things. Mace Windu and Yoda are particularly impressive, with the former probably getting my vote for ‘most awesome’. Samuel L Jackson is the definition of cool, but his version of Mace Windu is essentially a librarian (who are also cool in a different way) in comparison to the depiction in this cartoon.

The clone troopers look like a well-oiled military machine, and even the battle droids have a more menacing air in this than they ever managed to convey in any other on-screen depiction.

Alongside Count Dooku and Palpatine, there are three main bad guys, only one of whom made it to Episode III. The one is General Grievous and he’s so much better in this than he was in the movie.

The other two are General Durge, who to be fair, would have been a nightmare to try and recreate for a live-action movie (but he’s very cool in this) and a nameless assassin, who would go on to appear in the subsequent Clone Wars cartoon and be known as Asajj Ventress, and who is the closest thing we get to a Darth Maul type (given that at this point in the continuity he was still officially dead and wouldn’t be resurrected until the fourth series of the later cartoon).

The early episodes were bite-sized at under 4 minutes each. Later episodes were longer, but still only 12 minutes. This really was a series for people with limited attention spans, but the brevity meant the focus was far more on the action and far less on ponderous dialogue.

And after the first two prequel movies, this was exactly what we needed from Star Wars.

Best character – Mace Windu

mace

It’s really a toss of a coin between him and Yoda, but as Yoda is cool in quite a lot of other Star Wars stuff and Mace is often not as cool as we’d like him to be, he gets the nod. He’s basically superman in this. But with a purple lightsaber.

Worst character – Anakin Skywalker

anakin clone

It’s a sign of how much I loved this cartoon that I couldn’t think of a bad character. Anakin is actually fantastic in this, but he still has a slightly winey voice. And when the competition is as fierce as this, he still ends up bottom of the pile.

Unsung hero – The Jedi who looks like a wolf

wolf

Because he looks like a wolf! And he’s a Jedi! He’s only in two episodes of this, but that’s two more appearances than he’s made in any other Star Wars movie or TV show. Which seems like a huge oversight if you ask me.

 

And that’s it for ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars’. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be writing about something else Star Wars related. Which might also be a cartoon.

 

 

 

 

 

May The Eighteenth Be With You: The All New Ewoks

James Proclaims (4)

EwoksS2intro

Eighteen days into my month-long homage to Star Wars and I appear to have lost all reason.

Not that I had much of that at the start of all this.

I could have just stopped when I’d written about Episodes I – IX, though I’m sure no-one would have begrudged me writing about ‘Rogue One’ and ‘Solo’ as well.

But that would still only have been eleven posts.

That’s not excessive.

And had I done that, I’m sure most people would have agreed that I’d completed a pretty thorough retrospective on Star Wars.

Instead, here I am, on day 18 of this madness and I haven’t even touched on the aforementioned spin-off movies.

Because I’ve been writing quite a lot about Ewoks.

Some might say too much.

But it ends here.

The Ewok stuff I mean.

Obviously I’m going to carry on writing about Star Wars.

However, I assure you that this is my last post about the bloody Ewoks.

But it is still probably a post too far.

Because I’m writing about series 2 of the 80s cartoon.

I wrote about series 1 yesterday.

But I irrationally felt the two series deserved separate posts.

Because, they were, essentially two different shows.

But before I go on, here is today’s redundant spoiler alert:

Spoiler alert: On the off chance you were planning on watching this long forgotten cartoon, then I would implore you to reconsider. It is not good. It is bad. Series 1 wasn’t great, but series 2 was abysmal. Nonetheless, if you insist on putting yourself through the horrors of this, then I may reveal some plot details in the text below. If I can find any to reveal. I don’t remember there being too much in the way of plot though. 

So, 1985’s ‘Star Wars: Ewoks’ was renewed for another series. But it was also ‘revamped’ and made into something different.

The new version was called ‘The All New Ewoks”.

And it was ‘all new’.

Rather than each episode being dedicated to one 20-minute story, they were split into two 10-minute stories.

Although the first series also concentrated on the exploits of the four main characters of Wicket, Kneesaa, Teebo and Latarra, there were a few other Ewoks who featured quite regularly. Most of those characters, while notionally still in this series are very much in the background.

And, aside from Kneesaa, who is, in fairness, largely the same character, the others are all completely different. And not just because they’ve been drawn differently and they are being voiced by different actors (both of which are true) but because they have entirely different personalities. And they’re much less likeable. Oh and bizarrely, whereas it used to be Latarra who had an unrequited crush on Teebo, it’s now Teebo that has an unrequited crush on Latarra.

Series 1 had recurring villains, and some sort of continuity across the episodes, but each of the mini-stories in series 2 has a new villain and there is no continuity at all. There are so many new characters and species introduced in this series that it appears that the forest moon of Endor (which we’ve established across the two stand-alone movies and the first iteration of this cartoon, is only partially forest at best) is incredibly densely populated with creatures who all possess varying degrees of magical powers. And the Ewoks are the most magical of all because they possess the Sunstar, which is a kind of magical stone, that everyone else wants to steal. I don’t remember the Sunstar from ‘Return of the Jedi’. Or the two Ewok movies for that matter. It is in series 1 of the cartoon, but it’s only central to a couple of episodes. In series 2, virtually every story is about someone trying to steal the Sunstar. And failing obviously.

The two main antagonists in series 1 were Morag the witch, who was killed in that series, and the inept Duloks. The Duloks are back for series 2, but only in a couple of episodes. They mostly have to make way for the plethora of new antagonists, who mostly show up for ten minutes and then are never seen again.

It is rubbish, but it is a kids cartoon. And I didn’t notice any of the changes when I was young and I still watched it so I shouldn’t be too annoyed. But I am a bit annoyed because series 1 was better and I don’t know why anyone would go out of their way to make an ‘ok but not great’ cartoon into a really bad cartoon.

Both versions of the cartoon were extremely far removed from anything resembling Star Wars. But series 2 is the one when any pretence that these are the same Ewoks that helped the rebels defeat the Empire has finally been eroded. ‘The All New Ewoks’ was a cartoon about some bears who live in a magical land and have magical powers. It was a bit like another 80s cartoon, Disney’s ‘Gummi Bears’, but nowhere near as good.

So when, in the penultimate episode, the Empire turns up in a Star Destroyer, complete with stormtroopers, it really is quite a surprise.

Particularly as Emperor Palpatine is referenced a few times and is sort of, but not quite, in the actual episode (he’s notionally in a shuttle that we see a few times on screen).

And you kind of remember at this point that the Ewoks did originate in ‘Return of the Jedi’, but it’s all been so different to Star Wars for so long that it’s actually quite weird when Star Wars appears. It just doesn’t feel right.

I can’t bring myself to fully hate this cartoon, because I did watch it and love it as a child. But I do wish I had only watched the first series as kid, because then I could dismiss ‘The All New Ewoks’ as utterly worthless.

Sadly, however, I know I loved both series equally, so nostalgia does help to redeem this abomination a little bit.

Best character – Kneesaa

kneesa

She was one of the more likable characters in series 1 anyway and as she’s pretty much the same character in this, she is the best by default, because the others have all become so much worse.

Worst character – Teebo

Teebo

Was pretty cool in series 1 and really isn’t at all cool in series 2. Seems to by a hybrid of some different characters from series 1 that were subsequently written out. Possibly the most irritating of all the irritating changes that were made.

Unsung Heroes – The Duloks

duloks

As antagonists, the Duloks were the most fun in series 1 and they’re severely underused in series 2. But when they do appear they are still pretty good value and those rare appearances are definitely the best episodes.

And that really is all I have to say about the Ewoks. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll probably still be writing about a cartoon, but it will be a much better cartoon than this was.