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Star Wars Breakdown (Part 1) – Anyway, That’s All I Got

star wars

Solo: A Star Wars Story hits theaters this weekend, so we decided to revisit each and every Star Wars movie, including the strange, misfit TV movies history has tried to erase. We didn’t want to force (no pun intended) every single installment into one episode, so for part 1 of our discussion we review everything from the very first movie up through the prequel trilogy. Our discussion has plenty of surprises and hot takes (mostly from Jason), and we hope you enjoy listening!

Question for you: What do you think of any of the movies we talked about today (especially the Ewok movies and the Holiday Special)?

Go on…Star Wars Breakdown (Part 1) – Anyway, That’s All I Got

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Review: ‘Rogue One’ Is About Half Of A Great Star Wars Movie

rogue one

Before Rogue One, which is aptly subtitled “A Star Wars Story,” even begins, it suffers from a remarkable weakness no other movie in this franchise has ever had. A real purpose.

It’s a standalone prequel to the original trilogy, filling the gap (and space) between Episodes III and IV, but it does nothing of note beyond that, except to elaborate on a minor plot point that sets up A New Hope, in the form of a ragtag suicide squad on a mission to retrieve the Death Star plans so Luke Skywalker can find them in a droid days later.

All the while, Rogue One presents side character archetypes as protagonists to a well-realized war movie, one without much of the Force or any stunning lightsaber duels to balance against the space battles. It’s exactly one-half of what we love about Star Wars, but lavishly treated with respect for fans who’ve always yearned for a shift in emphasis toward the “Wars” in “Star Wars.” Cinematographer Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty) managed to make this universe feel big again, and one of the film’s greatest strengths is its sense of location and a visual consistency begging for a better story to match it.

There’s no doubting this is the galaxy far far away, just taking place a bit earlier than what George Lucas and his team established aesthetically 40 years ago. The colors, technology, and overall atmosphere are masterfully recreated, less so however with the CGI-rendered actors we recognize from A New Hope as well, not that they’re the prime focus of what’s essentially an ensemble film. Less recreated, however, are any deep or enriching characters to serve as a compelling thread throughout this surprisingly complex (and fast) war drama.

rogue one

It seems at one point that Disney and Lucasfilm intended to give a weightier role to Jyn Erso, played rather straight here by Felicity Jones, once again one of about three women in a Rebellion consisting of hundreds of men onscreen, which is a noticeable step back from the more balanced Force Awakens.

Much of the material used in the trailers for Erso seem to have been shifted in those pesky reshoots, so that the rest of the “Rogue One” rebels too rebellious for the rebellion could have thematically interesting moments of their own. That was the intention, anyway. Instead, even the most creative characters are quite thin, falling short of what’s done so successfully in Guardians of the Galaxy, which is a more cohesive and ultimately satisfying “misfit ensemble in space” movie.

Rogue One is a classic example of what happens when a beautiful and polished movie filled with colorful characters fails to come together by the third act, which is more bombastic and methodical than anything epic or narratively  fulfilling. The story builds to something far more grand in scope, while also personal in its individual characters’ struggles against the overwhelming Empire, but instead, everything simply fizzles out and fades to the distance to make way for New Hope matters, muting the questionable triumph for these rebels, instead of what the dialogue suggests we ought to feel for them.

rogue one

That said, Rogue One is an easy sell for fans of Star Wars, who will love it anyway for everything that does work—like the complexities rendered for a tougher, less forgiving Rebel Alliance and world-class sci-fi cinematography and sound mixing—and overlook what is sorely missing that would have made this good film actually great, or at least as memorable as something like The Force Awakens, a flawed movie that had a much easier time justifying itself.

Come for the snarky droid, stay for the blind Force monk, and prepare for one scene in particular toward the very end that will make you yearn to see a “real” Star Wars film.

Grade: B

Extra Credits:

  • Now I’m really worried about that Young Han Solo spinoff.
  • Better than the prequels, but that’s about it.
  • First Star Wars movie not scored by John Williams, which is pretty sad. But Michael Giacchino did a tremendous job, and this one has a main score I found much more memorable than in Force Awakens. Edit: I do wish, though, that the music matched the movie’s actual tone. I just don’t blame Giacchino.
  • Alan Tudyk as the aforementioned snark droid, K-2SO,  was easily the best character. Not just in terms of comic relief, but as the obvious heart of the team, similar to Tudyk’s “Wash” in Firefly.
  • Some of the cameos and Easter eggs are great. A handful are just pointless and completely unnecessary, similar to the prequels. Still, I won’t spoil any so you can view them as surprises. Not enough of this movie is a surprise, anyway.

    Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

    Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


Snarcasm: The ‘Star Wars’ Prequels Were The Best Movies All Along

Star Wars prequels

Snarcasm is a weekly series where I encounter and try to understand the worst articles on the Internet. This week, I take on my fellow millennials who’ll say anything for a click. 

OK, we already talked about Star Wars a few weeks ago, but that was more about Piers Morgan and how irrelevant his film commentary is. That said, a similarly contentious article about the revered Star Wars saga was recently dropped on my doorstep with “It’s a trap!” scribbled across the label.

Writing for Toronto Star, Ian Gormely presents his case for why we may have been a little too harsh with the Star Wars prequels. Of course, that means his headline is…

Why the Star Wars prequels are better than the originals

And they say clickbait doesn’t write itself.

Now to be fair, the subhead is a little less sensational:

A generation of fans who grew up with the more recent trilogy make a compelling case that those are the superior films.

*shrugs*

Alright, you have an element of an interesting think piece here because younger viewers like me gave the prequels a pass, which is arguably similar to how older fans forgave the original trilogy for its ample flaws. I don’t agree, but it’s a worthwhile argument.

Then the article starts.

The prequels never stood a chance.

Right. One of the most anticipated films of the last 20 years never stood a chance. And yet the hype surrounding The Phantom Menace was astronomical, more so than this year’s The Force Awakens (because hey, we’ve learned the hard way not to get our hopes up).

The prequels very much stood a chance. People over the age of 15 just didn’t like them.

Hampered by two decades’ worth of expectations and hype, George Lucas’s deep dive back into the Star Wars universe was destined to disappoint.

I’m sure Ian would have said the same thing about The Empire Strikes Back if it had been terrible.

Star Wars (awkwardly retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope when Lucas rereleased it in 1997) and its sequels were generation-defining movies.

Awkwardly? I grew up in this time period, too, and I don’t remember having an issue with the naming conventions. And if they had kept the name “Star Warsfor just the fourth movie, that would have been way more awkward.

Also, why even bring that up?

When Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace arrived in May 1999 fans were met with a film that was visually (computer-generated effects) and tonally (it was aimed at kids) miles away from their beloved originals.

When he says aimed at kids, he’s implying that the movie was mostly aimed at kids. Which isn’t true at all if you remember any scene from The Phantom Menace about trade negotiations, political squabbling, and multiple Jedi blathering instead of fighting until the last ten minutes.

And just to be clear, I enjoyed The Phantom Menace as much as I did Revenge of the Sith. I think they’re decent, even average movies. Their mediocrity is all the more depressing, of course, when you compare them with the original trilogy. Attack of the Clones is the only Star Wars film (in my opinion) that gets a failing grade.

 Subsequent prequels, Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, moved closer to Lucas’s originals, but many fans felt betrayed. This wasn’t their Star Wars.

He’s framing this argument as if Lucas was some sort of visionary trying to create something different, but those pesky fanboys were just too afraid of change. The problem, obviously, was that this change we got in the prequels was filled with annoying issues that even kids pretty much shrugged at.

Granted, we loved the prequels as kids. At the time, they were beautiful spectacles that forced us to wade through hackneyed plots to get to the stylized action. But not once did I ever consider them better than the original trilogy, solely because they were designed to be depressing departures, while the rest of the saga was filled with…well, hope.

J.J. Abrams’ upcoming seventh film, Episode VII: the Force Awakens, will reportedly hew closer in style to the original trilogy. 

Reportedly? Why did this blog spam suddenly remember it’s on a news publication?

But here’s the rub: a lot of people went to see The Phantom Menace — it made a billion dollars at the box office. Now in their 20s, this generation of Star Wars fan grew up not knowing a world without digital effects or Jar Jar Binks.

You know, unless we watched Quentin Tarantino movies instead.

To get a better sense of how they view the Star Wars universe we asked three deeply passionate fans to share their thoughts on the prequels.

Nice prank, Ian! For a second, I thought you were going to crowdsource your opinionated article with anecdotes instead of arguments—

Stuart (do you really want to know his last name? Isn’t privacy a thing in cases like this?)

Current Age: 26, which means he was 10 when Phantom Menace was released in 1999.

Why is this happening?

I’m going to leave out the heaps of personal data Ian dishes out for this guy, including his inclusion of (and I’m not joking) working for Virgin Radio.

I loved Darth Maul. The final lightsaber battle, that was the best lightsaber fight I’d ever seen.

Really? Because even my 8-year-old self still preferred Luke’s freakout in Return of the Jedi. Different strokes, but perhaps you loved that lightsaber battle more because the rest of the movie was so forgettable? Maybe?

Fans of the old series were looking for that nostalgia that they could relive. When the Phantom Menace came out, that’s when I think I was getting the experience that my dad and his generation had when the originals came out.

The problem is you think you had the same experience, but you’ll never know. And that’s fine. It’s great that you enjoyed these movies, but how can you compare that with someone’s else’s experience with a different movie during a different era? It would be like me telling my grandmother that seeing Get Hard was the equivalent of her going to see Gone With The Wind on opening night.

Ian’s next conveniently positive anecdote comes from someone who was 6 when The Phantom Menace came out (I wonder why we aren’t talking about Attack of the Clones at all?)

If you look at Star Wars as an epic Grecian tragedy, (the prequels) contextualize the original trilogy so well. It actually lends the original trilogy a lot more power when you know the history behind it

At times, this happens, sure. Notably in Revenge of the Sith when we get some solid scenes of Anakin getting seduced by the dark side. But come on, that’s a fraction of the whole film, which was mostly nonsense dialogue, deadpan characters, needless explanations of things that were better left to our imaginations, and sand, everywhere.

The worlds, the designs and the sci-fi concepts they introduce (in Attack of the Clones) are the best in all of Star Wars.

No.

No, they are not.

No reasonable fan with a straight face can say that the worlds of Attack of the Clones — Coruscant (which we’d already seen before), Tattooine (which we’d already seen before), Naboo (which we’d already seen before), and an asteroid field (which we’d already seen before) — were superior to anything in the other films, including the prequels.

Scrap those rehashed locations and you’re left with the green screen that is Kamino and Geonosis, which was basically Tattooine with mountains and a CGI factory.

Simply put, saying Attack of The Clones has the best worlds and designs is like claiming Chappie is a better Neill Blomkamp movie than District 9.

They made the political parts of The Phantom Menace that people hated, the political intrigue, actually interesting.

Oh really? I wonder how many people can tell me (without looking it up) why Jango Fett was trying to assassinate Senator Amidala. Or how Palpatine specifically got his emergency powers. Or why the clones were working for Jango, but ended up in the hands of the Republic by the very end. Or why Dooku betrayed the Jedi. Or what Anakin’s deal is with SAND EVERYWHERE, HE’S FROM A SAND WORLD SO HE SHOULD BE USED TO IT.

Sorry. Unresolved issues.

Star Wars was an adventure story and now they give it scope. It’s more than a ragtag team trying to take on the whole world. It almost becomes a political thriller.

Now we’re just throwing words into sentences and calling them paragraphs, people.

A ragtag team? Of a girl, her stalker, and two droids who offer nothing to the plot but are only there because we remember them from other movies? Or were you referring to Obi-Wan and…um…that fat alien from the diner? Oh, those dang misfits!

Ian provides more anecdotes, and what’s funny about them is that these guys completely admit the elements of the prequels are terrible. One guy notes “the crappy love story,” but justifies it by saying people were invested and had to see what’s next. You know, like clickbait.

And that’s it! Ian ends the article…there. No conclusion…hmmm…comments are closed, that’s interesting…

I guess I missed the part where Ian and his friends actually make a case for why the prequels are better than the original trilogy. Or bring up specific things about the original trilogy. All I read was a laundry list of subjective observations and straw grasping for the sake of getting attention. That’s the Snarcasm guarantee.

Guys, I’m not trying to hate on anyone who loves the prequels. I get it. They can be guilty pleasures because we saw them at an age when all we wanted to see on the big screen was a cacophony of lightsaber fights and epic space battles. And the prequels absolutely delivered on that.

But let’s not kid ourselves, pun intended. The prequels were fan service, but for the lowest common denominator. They were the Fast and Furious movies in space, except they were intended to be more compelling, which makes them all the more cringeworthy. I don’t mind re-watching them and appreciating decent moments throughout, but you’re never going to convince true fans of any age that they’re better than what we got with the original trilogy.

And please don’t watch Chappie

Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

 

What’s the Worst Star Wars Movie?

worst star wars movie

Everyone pretty much agrees that Empire Strikes Back is objectively the best of the franchise, but which one is the worst? Maria’s pick might surprise you…

Stick around for Movie Releases, where we talk about this weekend’s new movies and which ones look the most promising. And we also talk about Selma, the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic that just came out, as well as the new Ant-man trailer that came out last week.

Enjoy the show, and don’t forget to subscribe and rate us on iTunes (if you feel like it)!

Question of the Week:

Which Star Wars movie is your least favorite and why?

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