Posts Tagged Star Wars

Movie Review: Star Wars – The Last Jedi

This is not going to end like you think.

Ok, so obviously there’s a lot of SPOILERS coming your way, however… If you are looking for the entire movie narration, this is not the review you’re looking for. This is only going to make some sense if you’ve seen the movie. Although I won’t come out and say the outcome out right, I will discuss the consequence and that is enough for most SW fans to deduce the storyline. Stop reading, go see the film, come back.

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(Source: Lucasfilm)

Since I’ve already told you to go see the film, you can probably guess that I believe this is a film that’s worth seeing in a theatre. Yes, damn right it is. It is not perfect and some things work better than others but there are so many nods both little and huge that will be brain candy to the fandom that you’d be denying yourself an experience. That’s not to say that the overall plot is not worth your time – it is. That being said, you do need to leave the jaded critic behind. Not to say that a critic won’t enjoy it, but there’s so much pluses of seeing this as a fan.

That’s enough of being vague. Let’s get to some concrete stuff. There’s been a process of transition since The Force Awakens as classic characters pass the mantle to new ones. This continues here, although I have to say the way it’s done is both expected and new. There’s a bit of an insolence in the film for the grandiose gestures of old. Luke throwing the lightsaber. The tree that gets hits by lightning. The Snoke confrontation. For classic fans, it feels disrespectful at first. Some of these are even played out as humorous. The ways of old sometimes must be challenged by the new.

Not everything lands. The plot device this time is literally survival. The Resistance is being hunted towards extinction. There’s some sort of a plan that challenges the status quo, and gets stopped in the freaking middle when it goes awry to never complete. The Rebellion literally seems conflicted because they don’t talk/trust each other. Newcomer Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) doesn’t trust Commander/Captain Poe Dameron therefore she tells him nothing. Poe doesn’t trust Admiral Holdo therefore he acts on his own. Holdo and Dameron could have talked to each other openly and avoided unnecessary (and costly) conflict. The First Order side doesn’t do better.

And perhaps that’s what my calculating cold heart cringed at the most. The tactical decisions in this movie seem to be desperate on the Resistance side and relying on pure brute force on the First Order. Don’t expect any Thrawn-level strategies. Even Vader was more calculating by the time that he was in command of the Executor than any of the villains in this one. That being said, Luke does make a huge gamble that pays off. The Jedi Master does have some badass moments in this one that will have you cheering.

Jedi wise, everything you think about the Jedi order is challenged. Sometimes that comes from Rey, sometimes from Kylo/Ben and even sometimes from Luke himself. Not to mention someone else that I honestly did NOT expected to appear. It’s a good thing, though. The Jedi were not infallible, and even the best intentions do not result in the best outcomes.

Carrie Fisher’s last appearance as General Leia Organa is a rather dignified one. She’s the force behind the Resistance, its very spark. But even the former Princess of Alderaan has moments in which she yields to the new generation.

Mark Hamill reprises his role of Luke Skywalker with some amazing moments, including one that seems to bring his role and his story arc full circle. The most tender moment is his encounter with Leia. There’s a lot of Mark and Carrie in that moment, which you know will be their last onscreen time together.

Okey, so does it work? Yes. It’s a good movie. No, it’s not the second coming and it’s not going to replace any of the classic trilogy films. Is it a Star Wars sequel? Well, it’s a new Star Wars sequel. Actually, it feels very much like a conclusion. Director Rian Johnson even feels like adding a semblance of hope at the very end that has the feeling of a sendoff. I would highly recommend it to both old and new fans, not as a perfect film but as a good sequel to watch.

Highs, Lows and Porgs:

  • Let’s discuss the Porg in the room. Yes, the porgs are in it. No, they’re not instant superheroes or anything like that. They just show up, make eyes at you and scamper on their merry way.
  • Is Kylo Ren better at being a villain this time around? He seems to be on his way to becoming a bigger threat, but he’s no Sith yet. There’s the hidden significance of him destroying his helmet. Somehow that makes him less of a Vader fanboy but I’m also more inclined to call him Kylo than Ben.
  • On the other hand, Rey is a better Jedi in this one. There is still darkness here, but rather than elude it, Rey goes right to it. The whole mystery of her background seems to be downplayed in this one to the point of being inconsequential. However, since it’s Kylo telling her this, it could be tainted information.
  • The fundamentals of the Jedi doctrine are challenged. Luke himself realizes he still has things to unlearn, which becomes even more obvious the moment he sees… I can’t say it. You have to see that moment in the movie with your own eyes.
  • Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher steal the movie a lot. They’ve got some of the best lines as well. I won’t give them away, but they’re really making me consider a second viewing.
  • Okey one example without fully giving it away. Luke tells R2-D2 that there’s nothing they could say that would make him go back. What R2-D2 does next made me cry on the very spot. Luke’s reaction to it: “That was a low blow.”
  • I did love the character of Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). Benicio del Toro’s character is almost a cameo. Plus, I would’ve loved them to actually pick on the Expanded Universe lingo. A codebreaker might be an easy to figure out term for a hacker, but the proper term is a splicer. Sorry, I know why codebreaker was just easier – plus this whole side plot never matures.
  • One of the most obvious things in this movie is how the plot doesn’t resemble any specific film. On the other hand, there’s some side quests that feel unnecessary.
  • In the end it feels like certain things that showed promise ended up disappointingly short (Phasma, Snoke). There was so much more character development for Rey, Poe and Kylo while Finn got a side story that didn’t seem to go anywhere. On the other hand, there was so many crazy good moments with Luke, Leia and Luke with Leia that you’re willing to forgive it all.
  • There’s a sense of where do we go from here at the end, as we get this short scene with a kid that seems to almost be a sendoff for the entire series (or one of the zillion SW ads out there). It has been quite a long, long movie but somehow I didn’t feel the 152 minutes of runtime. Hardly perfect but very, very watchable, this one is one I would recommend catching in the theatre with a crowd of both new and old fans.

That will do for now.

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LEGO Break: My LEGO TIE Interceptor

The Imperial Navy TIE Interceptor has always been one of my favorite Star Wars ships, which I think is long overdue of a LEGO makeover. The older encarnations of the LEGO TIE Interceptor didn’t quite do it justice. The ship itself has inspired countless other ships such as the Jedi Interceptor and the TIE Striker. But alas, it’s yet to be seen in newer films so LEGO has not released a new version in ages. I adapted a few sets and built my own.

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My LEGO TIE Interceptor

For scale, that little dot you see in front is a minifig TIE pilot. The wings are HUGE.

I know, it’s hardly a MOC and somehow it is. It’s actually a hybrid merge of three sets. One is the LEGO New Order TIE Fighter (for the cockpit and “arms”) and the other is the TIE Striker, bought TWICE so I have both wings. That’s a lot of SHIP to pay but I wanted the extra long elegant wings. The first time I saw those in the Striker, my mind screamed: “Give those back!” Therefore, I committed to use them for my own version of the TIE/In.

Initially I wanted to use the variable configuration mechanism native to the Striker, but I found that it makes the wings extremely heavy and the whole craft tends to fall apart. It was cool to have the wings open outwards thus giving the TIE/In a whole X-Wing look. The cost was way too high. The build needed to lose weight.

But then there was another cost. As I lightened up the wings close to bare minimum, the TIE/In almost became a square with the wings enveloping it as a cocoon. It lost the figure. The wings were too close to the cockpit. The TIE/In should always be longer in wingspan that it is in height.

And so I redesigned the central joint in the middle of each wing. It needed to keep the grip of the arm-brace coming from the cockpit (a mechanism stolen from the New Order TIE) and at the same time fix the wings in place making it stable (at the cost of losing the transformation). The arms also have been extended by exactly one LEGO brick to each side, something that is barely perceivable but adds to the overall extension. The idea was not only to resemble the silhouette of the TIE much closer, but add something new. You can only see it from the back: the wings have gained boosters (therefore justifying the open hollow end with red, perhaps that needs a retouch).

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But I did got creative on the side by adding extra maneuverability using small stabilizer wings on the sides which can move. The fixed wings added stability (notice it can stand without help) and that gave the TIE/In something it didn’t have until now: it makes the build swooshable.

Of course, it’s not really swooshable – not from a kid-safe point of view. The wings are way too big which means you gotta look out for a) furniture and b) other people’s eyes, these wings are pointy! Plus the fact that the wings are designed to un-fasten the same way that the New TIE, doesn’t allow for hard swooshing. Both hands on both wings are the best way to go, but once you know what it takes to disconnect the wings it’s very solid to handle as long as you don’t make any twisting motions.

The effect of the super long wings increments the aggressive look of the craft by several Sith levels. It’s not that heavy to pick up, but it looks as cool as a collector’s edition version which never existed.

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Each wingtip has a separate laser-launcher since the TIE/In has four cannons – plus I’ve kept the two chin-mounted launchers on the cockpit rising the firepower to six. I don’t really load them all up because those things go flying everywhere way too easily.

Is it worth it? For 99.99% of people, it’s definitely no. That is, unless you’ve always thought the TIE Interceptor really deserved one more aggressive reincarnation. I’m just thrilled anytime I look at it, so I regret nothing. I will keep modifying it in any case, since at this point you can still guess out the boxes it came from.

That will do for now.

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Full Spoilers Movie Review: Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens (SPOILERS!)

(Source: Lucasfilm/Disney)

(Source: Lucasfilm/Disney)

There will be a LOT of spoilers including one or two theories here.

First, to reiterate what I said before in the spoiler-free pre-review post, I didn’t walk in expecting my Star Wars trilogy. George Lucas already made that in the 70s and 80s. It influenced me, it shaped me and it still binds the galaxy together. We’re here to talk about the start of trilogy for the new generation, for the new times. I don’t need someone to remake my Star Wars. Heck, even the same person that made the original A New Hope directed the start of a new prequel trilogy with a complete different feel to it. Even George Lucas has changed direction.

I’ve always found Hope, Empire and Jedi as a set of more elegant movies, but they were made for a different time. They were made for “a generation that grew up without fairy tales.”

Perhaps that is the reason why The Force Awakens tackles a very similar material, with a different execution. There’s a lot – some will say too many – of plot points that seem a little too familiar. A fugitive droid with critical information. A superweapon capable of destroying planets. A desperate plan to attack said superweapon before it destroys the rebel base. As everything was laid out for the audience to absorb, I couldn’t help having a bad feeling about this. But as it turns out, the execution was great – not flawless, but it makes one amazing movie.

You couldn’t make a movie without passing the torch. You needed the stars from the original cast involved. How much should they be involved and how much homage to pay the originals was a question that only J. J. Abrams could answer. If you think that he erred way too much on playing it safe, I have to bring up Solo. It was heart breaking to see his final scene. It drew parallels to Sir Alec Guinness’ experience playing Ben Kenobi. I feel Harrison Ford might have asked for it. However, as much as we get to see old faces, the new faces is where the movie shines with its own light.

Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is the Resistance’s shining X-Wing pilot. He seems to have the experience of Wedge Antilles mixed in with the cockyness of Han Solo. He gets captured by Kylo Ren and his first words are: “Are you talking first? Or am I? Who’s supposed to talk first?”. I feel like his story should begin earlier. I also would’ve liked a simpler plot for BB-8. Instead of the scavenger map to Luke Skywalker, BB-8 could just have been looking for help so somebody would rescue his master. The First Order could have just looked for the droid so that the Resistance didn’t learn of Kylo Ren being there. Poe is still the epitome of cool and BB-8 was a delightfully cheerful droid.

There’s a brand new story idea to introduce Finn (John Boyega). I do love the idea of a Stormtrooper going rogue, but why not go deeper? I would keep Finn inside the First Order a lot longer. You could start the movie a lot earlier while he was still very content with his role, slowly show him having doubts until he finally decides to defect. I think that could’ve given us a lot more of an original, previously unused point-of-view character development that would’ve made for a richer film. It’s a bit of an opportunity wasted to be honest. I get we want him to be a hero from the start, but it would’ve make him a stronger character. Finn also has some of the most jarring lines of dialog. He is an interesting character, but he could’ve been so much more.

On the other hand, I have no qualms or complaints about Rey (Daisy Ridley). She’s a strong female character with human flaws. Contrary to what others have criticized, she’s not flawless. Watch her trying to get the Millenium Falcon off the ground. After having a vision from touching a lightsaber, she doesn’t feel ready and wants to run away. Granted, it’s a bit of a tall order to take on Kylo Ren, who’s apparently had some training, and win. That being said, it’s not like she fired two proton torpedoes without a navigation computer and hit an exhaust port of an imperial battle station. Let’s call it Jedi beginner’s luck.

So that brings us to Kylo Ren. It’s quite a good character. He can be cold and calculating but his temper does get the better of him. Not quite Vader material yet. Have you noticed something about him on that poster? How his pose and Rey’s pose mirror each other? This might not be a spoiler unless it’s true by the sequel or the last movie but… Are they related? Rey is missing her last name. Kylo Ren was already revealed as Ben Solo. Are Kylo and Rey long lost twins? Would sound cruel for Han or Leia to never say anything. Then again, that’s almost a trend in this galaxy.

Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Him and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) boarding the Falcon was a dream scene. You can’t help but be moved. At the same time, I can’t quite picture him not finding his beloved freighter for an extended period of time. That whole scene where he has swindled two factions and the ball monster become loose felt a bit on the cheap side, but it’s still Han. And he still has a bad feeling about things. His chemistry with Leia is still latent. His swan song left the entire audience breathless. Joonas Suotamo played Chewie in the action scenes.

General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Yes, none of this royalty thing. I am not sure why we switched names from the Rebellion to the Resistance. I hope it’s something we can resolve in the next film. She’s running the show. I do feel she should’ve gotten to pick a lightsaber and become a Jedi herself. Perhaps we can keep that in? And make up a better ship for her to travel. Even the old Corellian Corvette Blockade Runner would’ve been more elegant.

As for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), we only get to see him briefly. I still don’t buy the whole map-to-find-me hologram that was so important to find. Plus, R2-D2 being on sleep mode the entire movie to conveniently turn itself on triggered by… By nothing. R2-D2 suddenly boots up to reveal the other part of the map at the end of the movie because reasons. Unless you’re going to retcon this plot point by saying Luke did it telepathically, the droid magically decides it’s time for the reveal.

Oh yes, we’re nitpicking because we love. The Force Awakens is not going to be my childhood fairy tale the way that the original trilogy was. I think I’ve explained that already. However, it might just become that for the next generation of fans. And it is a good movie to go watch in the theater, even with IMAX and 3D if you’re so keen. Personally, I already envisioned my own version of the final trilogy a long, long time ago.

Highs/Lows:

  • Maz Kanata, the Yoda-like glass-wearing underground crime boss was voiced by Lupita Nyong’o. Voiced. I would have loved to actually see the actress in this role. According to her Buzzfeed News interview, Miss Nyong’o wanted a role where her appearance was not a factor. I think it would’ve been more of an impact to see her act with her own appearance rather than a CGI character.
  • John Boyega, the actor that plays Finn, has some really awkward lines. “Do you have a boyfriend? A cute boyfriend?” he asks Rey while she’s fixing the Falcon. This teenage level of interaction can be attributed to his restrained life in the Stormtrooper corps, but it’s still jarring to hear.
  • The First Order. Really, I expect them to switch to full Imperial mode by the next film. Incidentally, the Empire declared A New Order back during A New Hope. It’s in the scrawling text at the beginning if you want to check. The Resistance can just be the Rebel Alliance. It’s just my opinion, but we don’t need to reinvent everything.
  • Supreme Leader Snoke is not a Sith. Actually, the Sith are absent. Kylo Ren supposedly received training by the Knights of Ren. I understand we’re trying to do our own thing, but the enemies of the Jedi are the Sith in my book. I don’t think that should change, but that could be just my old school Jedi mind playing tricks on me. Also, not really crazy about Snoke. Then again, too early to say. Perhaps a connection to the Sith will be revealed by the next movie.
  • The ships. The Millenium Falcon, the X-Wing and the TIE Fighters are excused. However, no Interceptor version? No TIE Bomber? Kylo Ren’s command shuttle doesn’t really hold a candle to the Lambda-class Imperial Shuttle from Return of the Jedi. The Resurgent-class Star Destroyer Finalizer that belongs to the First Order has even lost the prominent iconic bridge on top (it’s been flattened down). My apologies, I played the X-Wing Fighter and TIE Fighter PC games one too many times back in the day. EVERYONE has designed cooler ships for Star Wars. Literally google and you’ll find better designs. General Organa’s shuttle literally looked like a flying couch.
  • I loved BB-8. It has a cute personality all of its own. I missed R2-D2 and C-3PO being involved.
  • Let’s try for something that doesn’t look like Death-Star-esque as the main threat for the next film.
  • Kylo Ren stops a blast of energy in mid-air. I know what you’re going to say. The Force = magic, right? Sorry, it just didn’t fit in my idea of what you can do as a Force user. And yes, I do remember Luke guided photon torpedoes into an exhaust port once, but photon torpedoes are actually physical proyectiles with guiding systems. Not blasts of energy.
  • I’ll always have a soft spot for the Expanded Universe novels, although now they’re decidedly not canon.
  • All that being said, I did love the movie. It’s not going to take the spot of the movie of my generation, that’s already taken. It was never meant to. It was meant to be a passing of the baton, a nostalgic look to the past while looking into the future. Of course that balance was precarious. But overall, it was made to look forward to the next movies rather than reminisce about the past. I wished we’d gotten more details on everyone. Rey’s past is going to be further revealed. I think there was room for more development on Finn and Poe. We’ll get that, but there were aspects of their past that might have been interesting to explore.

That will do for now.

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