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Posts tagged “stormtroopers

Gripes, Likes & Theories: Rogue One

If you haven’t seen Rogue One yet, consider yourself warned… ***SPOILERS***

Pardon the stream-of-consciousness post; it may get a bit messy. I’ve seen Rogue One five (yes, 5!) times in the theater now. The latest was on my 13th wedding anniversary (yes, 13th!), which happened to be the same sad day that our favorite Princess passed away.

Though I never had the honor of meeting her, Carrie Fisher always felt like a friend. It never occurred to me as a child that she was old enough to be my mom—she was Princess Leia, and she was my friend. As an adult, of course I appreciate the many facets of her career, advocacy and person. Her biting sarcasm and quick wit balanced with sincerity, something I will always admire. Watching Rogue One hours after learning of her death was harrowing (ironically, my 4th viewing was just hours before her heart attack). The public display of emotion got a bit uglier than I had hoped, what with the heaving shoulders and snot snorting. On the bright side, the Vader bit is impressive even with tear-blurred vision.


Things I loved about R1:

Literally everything in the last hour or so of the film. The battle, the tragic ends*, VADER. Seriously, when the lightsaber illuminates Vader in that dark corridor…ugh, I love it all so hard. That scene is everything I’ve ever wanted from Vader. And it all makes me cry. A. LOT.

*yes, even my Imperial sympathizing heart hurt over that. That said, this should lay to rest rumors of Jyn being Rey’s mom.

For me, the part in which the film really starts feeling like a Star Wars story is as they’re escaping Jedha. From there, I find myself far more engaged in the plot and connecting more with the characters. I really thought at least one of our heroes would make it out, but this ending was much better from an urgency and storytelling angle. That last scene with Jyn and Cassian is soul-crushing in the best way possible. Their chemistry was a brilliant mix of platonic and maybe-could’ve-been-more. I LOVE Cassian! I thought he was as well written as he was acted, which is impressive for a complex character. I would be compelled to watch anything with Diego Luna in it now. Really enjoyed Donnie Yen’s performance as well.

I so appreciate how Gareth Edwards worked it into a piece that’s so layered and nuanced that it feels like a sort of love note to Star Wars. The many thoughtful, lovely references in this feel less nostalgia-gimmicky than TFA (which I also loved but still). It’s a beautiful bridge between the prequels and original trilogy that makes both Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope better.

I think subsequent viewings really do make a big difference for this movie since there just so much to absorb. The first time around, I was delighted to see the original Red Leader and Gold Leader (if you haven’t seen how they made that happen, read this)…though I’m not sure I needed to know how/why Luke inherited the Red Five call sign. I also got a kick out of the complete-fanservice-but-still-fun cameos by Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba. Took me until the third viewing to finally notice the blue milk in Galen & Lyra Erso’s hovel. I think the CG is also less bothersome after the initial shock. Is ‘shock’ the right word? Whatever.

Except for the vaguely cartoonish mouth movements, I thought the CG on Tarkin & Leia was surprisingly good. My only complaint is that there was perhaps too much full-face Tarkin; it took away the “is it really him?” intrigue and turned it into “oh look, CG!”

K2-SO is probably my favorite droid now (he and BB-8 blow the originals out of the water for me). Not only is K2-SO better than C-3PO, but Alan Tudyk knocks the socks off of Anthony Daniels.


Things I didn’t love about R1:
Saw Gerrera/Forest Whitaker. His existence beyond rescuing Jyn as a child seemed overly contrived and almost entirely unnecessary. Every scene that he’s in makes me eye-roll, and I wasn’t sad when he ‘sacrificed’ himself to the imploding planet. In fact, I would have been glad that he bit it, except that I was eye-rolling so hard from his over-the-top acting that it really just annoyed me. Maybe part of the reason I didn’t like him was the way the character was written, but Whitaker’s melodramatic delivery of the lines didn’t help. His “save the dream” line was arguably the worst in the movie, too—even worse than Vader’s pun about choking on aspirations. And the “truth monster” was just awful. That was definitely the parallel to the rathtars in TFA that should’ve found the cutting room floor.

The score. I will say my frustration with this has diminished a bit with each additional screening. My understanding is that Giacchino had very little time to compose, and for that I am in awe with how relatively good it is. Nevertheless, it lacked a lot of the emotional weight of a John Williams score. It felt particularly lackluster in the title sequence after the prologue.

Speaking of the title sequence, I really missed the opening scroll and classic Star Wars theme. I do understand that Lucasfilm is trying to make it clear that these are not Skywalker-centric stories but I’m not sure how chopping out the expository scroll and iconic strains are supposed to do that.

R2-D2/C-3PO cameo. I guess I didn’t really dislike this, per say, but I think that scene felt really shoehorned on Yavin. Had we seen them on the Tantive cruiser, it would’ve made (more) sense. It seems Threepio has worn out his welcome with me.


Outstanding questions about R1:
Do Death Troopers speak a different language, or were they just suffering from Bane unintelligible syndrome? Friends have speculated they utilize a spy-code that scrambles their transmissions outside of their helmets. I’ll buy that, but I also would’ve liked to hear them speak actual words instead of garbled zombie sounds.

Just how did Evazan & Ponda get off Jedha so we could eventually meet them at the cantina? I assume they were already headed to their departing ship.

Also, why didn’t they show the Mustafar planet ‘tag’ like all of the other planets? Probably just trying to surprise everybody with Vader’s lair but the inconsistency bugged me ever so slightly. Regarding Mustafar, I LOVED seeing Vader’s castle and half expected it to be Hayden Christensen’s head in the bacta tank!

During Jyn’s flashback aboard the U-Wing, we saw her family enjoying drinks with Krennic. Did the view out the apartment windows look like Coruscant to anybody else? Started reading the “Catalyst” novel today and it mentions Galen & Lyra marrying on Coruscant so I think we can assume it was supposed to be.

I want to know more about the relationship between Krennic and Tarkin—I’m currently reading “Catalyst” and hoping to find out more about this. It seems a nice parallel to the dynamic of Kylo Ren and Hux in TFA; almost like a sibling rivalry.

And I guess that about sums it up for the moment…largely because my lunch break is over and I have to get back to work. What say you? Did you love Rogue One, hate it, feel conflicted? Let’s chat in the comments!


What About the Bad Guys?

Once upon a time, I worked a job that was soul-crushingly awful. And “soul-crushingly awful” describes only the good days. The bad days were akin to sliding face-first down a giant razor blade straight into a vat of boiling acid. It’s not a huge exaggeration to say that there were days when I left feeling like the Gestapo dude whose face melts off at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Those days sucked, and they surfaced far too frequently.

Admittedly, there were a few perks: the pay was pretty decent for my first gig out of college, and a handful of my coworkers were fantastic. One of those associates was named Amy.

Ultimately, the positives failed to outweigh the negatives, and I abandoned the company just shy of my 2-year anniversary. As it turns out, my departure helped pave the way for an infinitely better work environment—the greatest offender came face to face with a pink slip based in large part on my exit interview feedback. I was lauded as a heroine, the provocateur who sparked a revolution towards emancipation. But I digress.

Amy left said company several months prior to my departure to devote time to her photography business (she’s phenomenally good!). Thanks to the magic of technology, we kept in touch via email and, eventually, social networking. Her family relocated to the Seattle area, so we made plans to visit this time around. Some 7 years after parting ways, I finally saw Amy again!

Amy and her husband Justin have fantastic kids: Luke, Ella & Matthias.
We’re not much of kid people, but these three almost converted us. In addition to their fun little personalities, they all dig Star Wars. Luke is a fan of facts…and Luke Skywalker. Ella crushes on Qui-Gon Jinn and Yoda (hey, the heart wants what it wants haha). And Matthias, well, he loves it all—a youngling after my own heart.

‘Thias buddied up to us pretty quickly, a rarity in our childless world. He asked to ride in our car, so I gave him my iPhone to look at pictures of my SW room.
He noticed all sorts of little details that would’ve been lost on most people. One of the more obvious things he commented on was my shelf that features Darth Vader and Stormtroopers.

In his adorable first-grader voice, Matthias asked, “Why do you like the bad guys so much?”

Imagine the sound of crickets for a moment, because that’s what was happening in my head. I had nothing. I’d never given much thought to the idea that I even do like the bad guys. So the answer I gave, the answer that needed the least explanation and self-evaluation was, “I think they look cool.” And they do.

There was a little sigh from the back seat, followed by Matthias’s emphatic response, “I think they look cool, too…but I don’t want them to wiiiin!”

And that’s what reminded me that Star Wars is so much more than the collector-y thrill that it has largely become for me and many other adults. At its core, Star Wars is a character study on the dichotomy of good and evil, of flux and fealty. Fantastical creatures and places and escapades are the proverbial icing on the cake. {Side note: I ADORE cake & icing!}

I loved the SW toys when I was a kid not because they looked cool but because they were a tangible piece of the Star Wars universe. With action figures in hand, I could live out scenes from my favorite adventures. The characters literally became part of my world.

It didn’t matter that I was an only child; most of my SW toys weren’t games that required multiple players to make them fun. It didn’t matter that I was a girl; my SW toys ranged from Ewok stuffed animals (they call them “plush” in the industry today) to action figures that I could “girl-ify” if I so chose—I crafted clothing for Princess Leia using flower petals and scotch tape. My SW toys went hand in hand with my imagination, which paid no mind to the societal constraints that loom in adult consciousness.
Perhaps that’s why I’m still so drawn to toys: they take me back to a time when the world and its worries were no concern of mine.

At some point in my life, I guess I sold out a little bit. I lost sight of the whimsy and gravitated towards what was deemed cool.

For those who’ve forgotten (or weren’t alive yet), there wasn’t much about Star Wars that was still deemed cool by the early ’90s. As I recall, the franchise was all but extinct in the public’s consciousness. It wasn’t until word began spreading of production for the 20th-anniversary “Special Edition” theatrical re-release that the tendrils of SW began to poke back into the collective pop-culture mindset.

The ‘steroid series’ of Hasbro figures launched in 1995, to the mutual delight and chagrin of toy enthusiasts. The classic heroes looked ridiculous, which played into my affinity for the darker characters. The “bad guys” still managed to look cool.

Also responsible was my age and resultant awareness. After a war in the Persian Gulf and bombings at the World Trade Center and Oklahoma federal building, the world around me seemed less gentle. Even fashion and music had trended edgier, more alternative (thanks, Kurt Cobain!).
I began to accept the inevitability of growing up, acknowledging the more melancholy aspects of life as well as the tumult within myself. And yet, I held to the hope of a happy ending.

One needn’t squint too hard to see how that is reflected by Lord Vader, even all those years before we learned of Anakin’s petulant twerp tendencies.

So, that’s why I like the Star Wars bad guys. It’s not just because they look cool, but because they embody the notion that life isn’t always neat and tidy. Were it not for bad guys, there would be no reason for “good” people to rise up and defend honor or virtue. Plus, they are a steadfast reminder that any of us, even the most vile, has a chance for redemption.

On the last night of our Washington stay, we had dinner at Amy’s house. I was treated to a lightsaber battle, a thorough examination of action figures, a cross-examination about SW trivia (most questions starting with, “Do you know…” or “Guess what?!”) and episodes of The Clone Wars and The Yoda Chronicles.

The Force is strong with these friends of mine!

Luke & Matthias

Luke & Matthias, Halloween 2012