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Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi Subverts the Star Wars Universe, Makes Me Use Two Colons in This Post Title

Spoilers ahoy!

A lot can happen in a fictional universe in two and half hours, and director Rian Johnson took the opportunity to subvert a lot of the established narrative rules of the Star Wars franchise. Monumental things happen in interpersonal relationships, while large-scale events are drawn out with explicit detail. Granted, this happened in previous Star Wars installments before—the three-way between Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine, while the Endor shield generator and Death Star II space battles raged on in Return of the Jedi comes to mind—The Last Jedi turned the idea into a best practice. Scenes where solemnity is expected, Johnson hands you flippancy; where you expect easy answers to questions raised by The Force Awakens, Johnson generates another question while mostly dodging the original. Whether this is a desirable turn of events is in the eye of the viewer, but it’s clear that Johnson steered the franchise’s narrative style in a different direction.

Cinematically, Johnson’s style and design vocabulary is top notch and his camera shots were impeccable, and he really shined at expressing the impact of large-scale scenes (the hyperspace destruction of the pursuing First Order fleet was an awe-striking tableau). In congruence with the meta-theme of subversion, there’s lots of unorthodox angular shots and upside-down or reverse-lateral perspectives—techniques not found easily in standard issue sci-fi/fantasy films. I found it a smidge more preferable to J.J. Abrams’ lens flares and trucks-and-pans. The action moves too fast for some of these techniques to be admired, so while Johnson’s aesthetic could be on the level of Denis Villeneuve’s, we’re not allotted much time to breathe it in.

Much could be said, and probably is being said, about the shoehorning of women leaders into the franchise. Johnson’s view of the role of women in power is rather narrow, and though it’s not nearly on the scale of George Lucas’ blatant sexism against men in using millions and millions of male clones specifically as obedient cannon fodder for the Clone Wars story arc, it’s still just as egregious. The two Resistance female protagonists in power, Princess/General Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo, both come off as annoyed mothers-in-law than effective leaders. Leia slaps Poe Dameron for disobeying orders, in front of the entire crew, instead of something less humiliating like a one-on-one chastisement in private. Granted, Dameron was open and unapologetic in his rebellion, but the impetus is on Leia, as his superior, to handle the situation properly. Holdo is so terrible as a substitute captain, both professionally and in her personality, that she inspires a successful mutiny against her and her commanding officers—though she more than redeems herself later on. Rose Tico, though just a mechanic and not a commanding officer, henpecks and finger-wags Finn, and is at the helm of a goody two-shoes, baffling “rich people are mean and hurt animals” narrative subplot that consumes about 20 minutes of screen time. The message is implied but rather clear: women, especially women in power, are tactless bitches*.

J.J. Abrams was listed as a producer in The Last Jedi‘s credits, and is slated to direct the next Star Wars episode, number 9. It remains to be seen how Abrams will tie together Johnson’s unraveling threads of the Star Wars franchise.

* Perhaps ironically, the best woman leader in the most recent two Star Wars films is Captain Phasma. Though she had to uphold some pretty nasty First Order protocols, she never did anything reckless or inappropriate to her position. Her dealing with Finn’s disobedience was more in line with effective leadership that what was seen in the Resistance leaders.

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Steel City Comic Con 2017 Photos (December)

Warning: tons of photos! Click here for the photos from the comic con earlier in the year.

Jyn Erso, in the Scarif disguise:

Dr. Doom:

Daughter DiNitto on the left, as Keith from Voltron, with Pidge:

A blurry photo of yours truly with R2-D2. See way at the end of the post for a video I took of him (it?):

Bob and Linda Belcher from Bob’s Burgers:

Kylo Ren and Rey. I can tell their costumes were homemade but they were pretty accurate:

Loki with the Tesseract, someone I forget, and Thor:

A queen from something?:

Kylo Ren in disguise as Matt (Matilda, in this case), the radar technician:

They are Neegan from The Walking Dead:

Someone from something and a Deadpool:

Aquaman and Boba Fett without his helmet:

Jyn Erso in her standard outfit:

Deadpool. Her costume was impeccable:

A Dr. Who:

Wonder Woman and Green Arrow. Two more great costumes:

Cruella DeVille:

Wonder Woman and Snake from Escape from New York/LA:

Kira from Death Note, third from left, and people from things:

Jabba the Hutt with slave Leia:

Inuyasha. The sword was even bigger in person:

Master Splinter and Shredder:

Robin:

Festive Shoretroopers (I think):

Deadpool. He had the boombox on every time I saw him:

Batman and a Star Trek person:

The Green Ranger:

A bowless Green Arrow:

Captain America:

A Mandalorean (Star Wars) soldier:

A Ghostbuster:

Two Sith Lords:

Silent Bob:

The Flash:

Princess Mononoke:

Captain Jack Sparrow. Dude was always in character…i.e., tipsy and rakish:

Harley Quinn:

Logan and Deadpool, best friends:

Darth Vader. One of the best costumes:

Princess Zelda and Link:

Mario, Luigi, and Koopa Troopa girlfriends:

A Sith Lord:

Jason Voorhees:

Barf from Spaceballs. She was going to put the Pepsi’s down but I told her to hold them, since the drinks are fairly in character:

A battle-worn Goku:

A Sailor Moon and Wonder Woman:

Finn, Spiderman, and a guy from a thing:

Ed from Good Burger, another guy who was always in character:

Something from Star Wars:

A nurse from Silent Hill:

Leia in the Hoth base uniform:

A Voltron mini-convention:

People from Stranger Things:

Freddy Krueger/Santa Claus:

People from things I don’t know:

A video of the functional R2-D2:

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Initial Thoughts

Minor spoilers below…

1 – It was good, with some great moments and mildly cringy moments—par for the course for the franchise.

2 – As expected, the production values were top shelf. Some faces, to match the age of the actors seen almost 40 years ago in Episode IV: An New Hope, had to be CGI, and they were pretty much flawless renderings. Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia were the most obvious, and I believe Garven Dreis (“Red Leader, standing by…”) was spotted.

3 – Forest Whitaker and Wen Jiang as Saw Gerrera and Baze Malbus, respectively, were excellent, and Alan Tudyk’s voice work for the resigned, deadpan K-2S0 was top notch. On the antagonist side, Ben Mendelsohn as Director Orson Krennic, the Chief Very Bad White Villain, kept pace with the obvious fan-favorite focus on Darth Vader. Not an easy task. Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso, the Stock Female Badass Protagonist With Eyeliner, gave an average performance, but in some scenes she had her moments.

4 – As it relates to the Star Wars universe in general, the film was intentionally darkwashed and feminized—two of the film’s writers said so, going so far as retconning the Empire into a white supremacist organization. Fighting against racial imperialism is actually a good thing, but note that nearly no white supremacists/imperialists exist—being pro-white (or pro-any-race) is nowhere near the same thing as being pro-white-racial-imperialism. If you can’t parse that difference, or feel the need to special plead for certain demographics, you’ve been successfully propagandized.

5 – Cassian Andor’s styling yet functional parka.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Ending Prediction

Luke Skywalker invokes the Vulcan mind meld on R2-D2. Ripley and a Xenomorph are off-screen.

Luke Skywalker invokes the Vulcan mind meld on R2-D2. Ripley and a Xenomorph are off-screen.

This has probably already been said somewhere, but given what we know from the trailers, other sources, and basic cinematic tropes, I can predict one of the crucial plot element at the Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We know Luke Skywalker is in exile for some reason. He’s in the second trailer (see screenshot above), with R2-D2, in front of a bonfire. He may be in exile because he’s being hunted, or maybe he reasons becoming an active Jedi will elicit a Sith Jedi to emerge, in order to maintain balance. I don’t know the universe mechanics too well right now to be sure.

There’s the revived Empire and the new rebellion, the Resistance. Given the subtitle of the movie, too, I’m going to say Luke is convinced that he needs to take up the Jedi mantle again, in some form or degree, to meet the growing power of Rylo Ken and the Empire. A final scene will show Skywalker taking up his lightsaber once again (Leia has it…see link above) to set things in motion.

Not a giant leap of a prediction, since Star Wars is riddled with reluctant heroes, like many sci-fi media. Just some food for thought.

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