Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Revisiting Star Wars: The Spin-Offs

I’ve now gone through most of the main films, many of which I have already seen many times. Now I’m going to look at the spin-offs, both of which I have only seen once each in theaters.  Rogue One was particularly awkward after watching it, as we saw it in a large group then went out for drinks to discuss after (remember when we could go to movie theaters and then go to the pub? In groups??)  It seemed that I was the only one who didn’t like the film so I remained silent.  My friends have told me many times since then to give it another chance.  So here I am.


Highlights

  • The basic premise works pretty well. The main character’s father designed the Death Star but purposefully made a flaw. A team is sent to retrieve the information. It works well enough to hang the movie on.
  • There are lots of great visuals. I particularly like seeing the Death Star actually be built. I also think that the final space battle looks amazing. It would have been better had we actually known any of the characters in that battle, but oh well. I really liked seeing the two Star Destroyers collide.
  • The idea of a tropical island planet was a great addition. It looked amazing, and seeing Stormtroopers march on beaches and AT-ATs stomp through the palm trees was a feast for the eyes.
  • K2S0 was a fun new droid character who provided some much needed personality.
  • I thought Ben Mendelson crafted a great villain in Director Krennig. He was menacing enough while clearly having his own motivations and not being exactly like other stiff Imperial officers.
  • It was cool to see Vader again, even though James Earl Jones’ voice sure ain’t what it used to be. It was also fun to actually see him on Mustafar.

Downfalls

  • Perhaps my biggest strike against the film is that its just sort of dull. I found myself bored through most of the middle section in particular. The basic story makes sense, but there’s not really an sparks of interest throughout. This problem may be because…
  • The characters were bland. As much as I like Felicity Jones, Jin Urso didn’t seem to have much personality. Neither did most of the crew they put together, other than the droid mentioned above. The closest was the former imperial pilot, but they don’t really take his arc where they could have. Another problem here is that I didn’t there was much of a relationship built between the characters themselves, which was a huge strength of Force Awakens. They were just sharing the same space.
  • I especially want to point out the blind character, who the filmmakers clearly wanted to be a Jedi, but didn’t want to break canon.  So they made him some sort of half-Jedi, Force cultist.  I didn’t like this; it felt very much like fan fiction.  I especially cringed with that maxim he would constantly chant: “I am with the force, the force is with me”. May the Force Be With You is one of the most popular adages in film.  Stay in your lane.
  • Saw Gerrera was a completely ridiculous character.
  • I like the decision to keep John William’s as composer only for the main series of films. But that means that this movie’s music does suffer as a result, being a definite step down. No offense to Gianchinno, as he’s made some great stuff, but William’s he ain’t.
  • The decision to give us a CG Tarkin really bothers me. I know that the likeness of the character is owned by Lucasfilm, and legally they cold do it, blah blah blah. But I find it really disrespectful to Peter Cushing and I don’t like the door it has opened. I also found the effect really jarring.
  • Lets talk about the Vader scene at the end, shall we? Nerds went berserk when they saw this. Nerds still go berserk about it now. But personally I think it was thrown in there to end the film on a crescendo to make people forget how boring the first half of the film was. I also think its incongruous with Vader’s character. We’ve never seen him go full out like this before, even when fighting Luke. Is he really going to turn into mega-fighter for a few rebels who are already trapped in a room? No, he’s just gonna send his storm troopers in to do the job. This felt like pandering to fans taken to the highest degree.

I am almost through my months long rewatch of the Star Wars live action films.  I just have one more spin-off left before the classic original film will cap things off for me.  So lets take a look at that spin-off:  Solo.

Highlights

  • Okay, lets be honest here. This movie is fun. Its well-paced and has quite a few exciting sequences which are framed in an appropriate sense of adventure. If nothing else, its entertaining. Much more-so than the previous “a Star Wars story”.
  • Its been said many time, but Donald Glover does a really good job of capturing Lando. Alden Ehrenriech actually gives a good lead performance as well, but I’m going to come back to this.
  • I liked the central friendship that is built between Han and Chewie. They give the relationship its time in the spotlight without going overboard with it.
  • The hover train heist is a blast. The Kessel Run is pretty fun as well, and is visually interesting at the same time. It suffers a little from the “Bigger! Better!” fallacy, but I can look past it.
  • So yes, the action scenes are fun.  But most of the reason why the film is so watchable is the humour.  Han has a lot of good lines and small interactions that really make the film work.

Downfalls

  • As I mentioned before, I do think Ehrenriech works well in the role. But… lets face it: he ain’t no Harrison Ford. Because of this its really hard to think of him as Han Solo. This was what I was worried bout most when the movie was announced, and my worries were not assuaged.
  • I hate Lando’s droid. I understand they are trying to do a different take on the star wards droid, but it just doesn’t work. The character seems to be from our modern times rather than being in the Star Wars universe, and is very obviously so.
  • What is with the dice? All of the sudden, between Last Jedi and this, a ton of importance is heaped onto these metal dice that Han had in his cockpit. I’ve been a Star Wars fan for a couple of decades, and I never even noticed them.
  • I don’t quite understand the ending where the lead Raider takes her helmet off, and its played up like some big reveal. There was no establishment of who this was supposed to be previously in the film. Is it just that we aren’t supposed to expect she is female? Or is she supposed to be younger than we are supposed to expect? I don’t get it.
  • The Darth Maul reveal is stupid. Obi-Wan sliced him in half. I don’t really like this idea of “comic book character death reversals” being in star wars. And before you say “They did it with the Emperor too!”, I hated that as well.
  • This leads to a more general point, that the movie really feels like fan fiction rather than a legit Star Wars film entry. The fact that Han is more of an imitation of Han, again despite the fact that I liked the performance, adds to this feeling. Therefore I have to declare that while I ultimately like this movie as an adventurous science fiction, I don’t really consider it a legitimate piece in Star Wars canon. Now I understand that the idea of fictional canons is a ridiculously nerdy thing to make claims like this for, but I’m comfortable with that.

Current Re-ranking List

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Return of the Jedi
  3. The Last Jedi
  4. The Force Awakens
  5. Revenge of the Sith
  6. Solo
  7. The Phantom Menace
  8. Rouge One
  9. Attack of the Clones
  10. The Rise of Skywalker

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