Skywalkers Ascending

Well, here we go.  It’s been a rather quiet year for Star WarsSolo under-performed at the box office, there was no winter film release in 2018, and there’s been no substantive talk of future movies — there’s just the final film in the “Skywalker Saga,” set to come out in theaters at the end of this year.  Mysteriously left untitled in the YouTube video’s title, the two-minute teaser trailer for Episode IX was revealed this morning during the annual Star Wars Celebration in Chicago.  Let’s have a look at each scene, shall we?

The Lucasfilm Logo, for the last time in a Saga Star Wars film.  Probably.

In the darkness, Rey is panting, out of breath.  There’s almost no music until the visuals begin.

“We’ve passed on all we know.”

She’s standing alone in a vast desert.  Among the many deserts we’ve seen in Star Wars, this one looks most similar to Jedda.  But that can’t be right.

“A thousand generations live in you now.”

Rey awaits an opponent, lightsaber drawn.  A TIE fighter is heard whining in the distance; it slowly comes into focus.

“But this is your fight.”

EVERY GENERATION HAS A LEGEND

A sweeping shot over the sand dunes of the aforementioned desert planet.  Are we back on Jakku? Tatooine? Jedda??

Kylo Ren’s TIE Silencer zips by, kicking up a trail of dust.

Rey faces away from the oncoming TIE and bursts into a sprint.  Don’t forget to zig zag!

Someone’s hands at the controls.  Whosoever could it be?  They don’t show a face, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t many TIE Silencers out there.

He gets closer…

…and closer…

I love this telephoto-style shot.  The TIE lurks behind.  One thing to note: compared to The Last Jedi, this TIE Silencer has a different front window, as well as red fuselage accents.  Maybe this isn’t Kylo’s ship?

Then the most bonkers shot of the trailer.  Rey Force Jumps backward, flipping head over heels to strike the fighter with her lightsaber.  The shot is in slow-motion, which had been used very sparingly in The Last Jedi, but still feels out of place here.  This isn’t Zack Snyder’s Star Wars.  I have no reason to believe this cinematographic choice is limited to the teaser trailer either, though it’s also weirdly possible that this scene doesn’t even appear in the final cut.  Who knows!

THIS CHRISTMAS

Leia’s theme plays in a new heavy arrangement.  I am exceptionally curious about her arc in this film, which I’ll get into more below.

A starfighter flies into a very blue planet.  On a series of foggy mountain bluffs sits a city of some kind, dotted with yellow and orange lights, with several distinctive towers on its corners.

Kylo Ren body slams an armored knight with his lightsaber.  Again, there’s a slow-motion effect.  He is attacking alongside Storm Troopers in a dead forest amidst red clouds.  I feel like this scene might be in the beginning of the film.

Kylo Ren remakes his mask, with red accents!  I’m sensing a theme…

Finn and Poe stand and lookout from a rock formation on previous desert planet.  Poe is dressed like an archaeologist, halfway between Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park.

BB-8!  And a new friend that looks like a hair dryer on a unicycle!  Dio, I believe is its name.

Lando!  Back on his ship.  He looks happy.  I’m really curious about how he ends up tangled in all of this.

Also, why is he wearing the same clothes he wore in Solo?!  I swear, if this movie makes a tie in to that one, I will be moderately displeased. So, it’s definitely going to happen, right?

THE SAGA COMES TO AN END

A skiff chase on desert planet.  The scenery, the explosion, the weird array of spires, and especially the color grading feels very Mad Max: Fury Road.  Which is awesome.

C-3PO, Finn and Poe dodge laser blasts during skiff chase.  If this doesn’t remind you a little bit of the Jabba’s Sail Barge part of Return of the Jedi, you haven’t been paying attention.  Of course there’s going to be massive parallels to Return of the Jedi, because the sequel trilogy has been nothing but parallels.

This is a really neat quick shot of a silhouetted A-Wing about to crash.  A-Wings have gotten no love or respect in the sequel trilogy.  In Return, they were badass and nearly single-handedly cost the Empire the Executor.  Here they just get blown up in hangars and shot out of the sky.  Let’s see some awesomeness from the reborn Green Group, eh?

“We’ll always be with you.”

This is one of the medallions given to Han and Luke during the Throne Room ceremony at the end of A New Hope.  I assume that’s Leia holding it, but I cannot reasonably guess to which of the two that belongs, now that they’re both gone…

Leia and Rey, in a scene cut from The Force Awakens and integrated into this one.  According to J. J. Abrams, these scenes worked seamlessly within the new story.  I really hope so, for everyone’s sake.  The shot here looks like it took place on Takodana, so they must be somewhere similar.  A handful of the promo shots featured a forest (more Return parallels), so maybe that’s where it fits?

The gang stare off of a windswept, grassy hill.  I get Hawaii vibes from the terrain.  Everyone is here together, which is something that’s somehow pretty much never happened in the first two films before the end of The Last Jedi.

“No one’s ever really gone.”

Okay, this is super creepy and awesome.  Giant waves crash against cliffs below the above grassy hill; in the distance, ruins of the freakin’ DEATH STAR.  A couple of things here: there are shades of The Force Awakens in using the ruins of old Imperial military behemoths as an absolutely gorgeous set piece.  Secondly, which Death Star is this?  Both exploded pretty finely so I assume we’re retconning that into realistic debris.  Both Yavin IV and Endor were primarily featured as densely forested moons, but the wide shots of both planets also show bodies of water as well, albeit nothing at an ocean-like scale.  Ultimately, I think what gives it all away happens during the very next “shot.”

Darkness.  I know that laugh…

Unmistakably, that’s the gleeful cackle of Emperor goddamn Palpatine!  Last seen cast down a deep elevator shaft on the Second Death Star, which promptly exploded, there’s no way he’s still around 30-some years later in corporeal form, right?  In the Extended Universe, he’s cloned several times, but I would assume they’re not going to follow the now “Legends” of the old EU.  So, does this mean he’s some kind of Sith Force Ghost?  Is his spirit alive within the ruined shell of the Second Death Star.  Why are all of our heroes there on, evidently, Endor in the first place?  I guess we’ll find out…

It closes with another ominous score. STAR WARS, fittingly, in blue.

And the title: The Rise of Skywalker.  Now that is an extremely curious, if clumsy title.  It doesn’t specify which Skywalker is risen — does Luke return from the dead?  Probably only as a Force Ghost.  Does Kylo Ren Solo Skywalker get redeemed?  Likely, in some way.  Is Rey actually a Skywalker after all?  I hope not.  Does it mean something else entirely?  I have no idea!

The teaser, as usual, gives away absolutely nothing.  There are some gorgeous shots, some exciting action spots, and of course the stinger at the end to keep people guessing.  I’m cautiously excited — I just hope it concludes satisfyingly.  Nothing in the trailer feels final in any way, and this is, as everyone knows (and is written above in big, bold text just for good measure) the end of the saga.  There’s no coming back to tie up any loose ends.  No pressure, J. J.  Get it done right.

Solo: A Space Western

I saw Solo: A Star Wars Story this past weekend.  As is now a recurring theme, it was a Sunday matinee on opening weekend, except this time, in May.  It feels weird to have a new Star Wars film release in the spring, but that is, after all, how they used to come.  Until very recently, I had just about no interest in seeing Solo; compared to my limited hype for Rogue One two years ago, this was absolutely negligible.  I watched the first few trailers and thought it was okay looking, if potentially problematic, and then I kinda just forgot about it.  My skepticism was naturally rooted in the fact that they’ve effectively recast the iconic character of Han Solo with someone I’ve never seen act before and who is not Harrison Ford.  However, I was always intrigued by the announced supporting cast — I don’t know how you can go wrong with such players as Thandie Newton and Donald freakin’ Glover by your side.  Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson aren’t bad either, though I have seen them in some pretty bad movies.  Well, Solo is… something.  I liked this movie way more than I thought, but it’s not really that good.  There are, let’s just say, a lot of issues.

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The Not Quite Last Jedi

In what has now become an annual tradition, I found myself once again taking in the spectacle of a new Star Wars film on a Sunday in mid-December.  The first time I did this was a bit unique in that I then hopped a plane to Peru that evening, the memories of the film dancing through my mind during a trip through the jungle.  Last year’s experience had little of the build-up, nor the memory; Rogue One is a fine movie, it just doesn’t really make an impression on its own given that it’s solely in service to a greater film.  Now, The Last Jedi is a film I’d been trying to temper my expectations for since the moment I walked out of that theater in 2015.  The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite film of all time, so this new middle chapter had quite a challenge facing it and a bit of sequel-driven history to live up to.  Let’s just say, it’s complicated.  As I walked home from the screening, I was somewhat torn.  There’s a lot of really awesome things that happen in The Last Jedi.  There are also an excessive amount of minor things that really shouldn’t be in the film at all, or at the very least, odd decisions that should be toned down a smidge for the sake of tonal continuity.  But most importantly of all, in direct response to the main criticisms of The Force Awakens, it doesn’t clone a previous film, but rather attempts to subvert its spiritual predecessor at every turn.  Does it work?  Let’s walk through it together and find out.

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