Ian Thomas Malone

Star Wars Archive

Friday

25

February 2022

0

COMMENTS

The Book of Boba Fett never makes the leap from product to art

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Star Wars, TV Reviews

Science fiction often carries its greatest impact through the genre’s ability to invoke a sense of awe and wonder. The cantina scene in the original Star Wars practically changed cinema all its own, a dazzling display of creativity and world-building. Throughout his time at the helm of the franchise, George Lucas placed a heavy emphasis on world-building, to take his audience to places they’ve never seen before.

Disney loves its piles of rocks and sand. As if Tatooine wasn’t enough of a remote desert wasteland, Star Wars threw cheap knockoffs Jakku and Navarro at the audience to switch things up. There’s a certain obvious joke to be made at how Boba Fett saw the show that bears his name co-opted by The Mandalorian, but it was never really his show in the first place. The Book of Boba Fett was always The Book of Tatooine.

Why go to another planet when you can film a whole season using only a sandbox and a green screen? Seven episodes is hardly a long season, but Disney struggled to come up with enough plot for even that amount for its empty shell of a show, choosing instead to give up halfway through in favor of The Mandalorian season 2.5. Apparently that’s life in the streaming era. When things aren’t working, just make episodes of a different show and pretend it’s still The Book of Boba Fett. The whole mess is certainly fitting for a character who had four lines in the original trilogy.

Temuera Morrison can hardly be faulted for an occasionally wooden performance. The Book of Boba Fett never laid out any clear vision for what it wanted Fett to be, a menacing bounty hunter turned morally righteous crime lord. Ming-Na Wen gets even less to work with as Fennec Shand, an alliance seemingly born solely out of the idea that she might be fun for the spin-off.

It’s easy to see the logic. Morrison and Wen have a natural, easy chemistry that was pretty apparent from their first pairing. The premise of the show should have followed suit, staying out of its own way to let two bounty hunters do what they do best. Instead, the gang plot often played second fiddle to Fett’s silly Sarlacc and Tusken Raider flashbacks, dragging down a narrative that never seemed to find its footing. The show even managed to botch introducing a character like Black Krrsantan, popularized in Kieron Gillen’s excellent Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra comics, neutering the wookie in service to absurdly silly Mos Espa politics.

There was something oddly depressing about watching Fett and Mando stand in a wide-open street being shot at during the finale, a fitting metaphor for the state of Star Wars under the Disney regime. Both men could easily use their jet packs to seek more advantageous tactical positions, but they don’t, for no reason at all. Too often, The Book of Boba Fett comes across as the product of a brainstorming session that lasted five minutes, with no critical thought or pushback applied to a single decision.

Disney left its content farm out in Tatooine’s suns for far too long, a wilted mess of a commodity masquerading as a television show. What a sad showing, not just for Star Wars, but for art itself. There is no reason on the planet why this show needed to be this bad.

Boba Fett is not the most interesting character in the world. He barely qualifies as an actual character in the original trilogy, an enigma that lent itself well to stories children play with their action figures. That kind of dynamic could have worked well for The Book of Boba Fett, especially with the Nikto gang and their ridiculous speeder bikes that look like toys from a different playset. You could probably make better Boba Fett stories in a local playground sandbox, which just needs a green screen to complete the Tatooine look.

All blockbuster franchises are products, even the ones that are crafted with love. That’s the problem with The Book of Boba Fett. It never looks like something anyone enjoyed making. Star Wars doesn’t need an artistic mandate, but maybe a little effort would be nice. It’s hard not to feel sad that this abomination exists.

Thursday

24

February 2022

0

COMMENTS

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Written by , Posted in Podcast, Star Wars

Grab your porgs and your blue milk! The Last Jedi is a bit of a polarizing film, to say the least. Rian Johnson brought plenty of fascinating ideas to the sequel trilogy’s middle entry, its best by a mile. Ian talks about what she liked about the film, what she would have changed, and the characterization of Luke Skywalker, diving a bit into Luke’s appearances in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett.

Ian’s original 2017 review of the film: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2017/12/the-last-jedi-offers-aimless-entertainment/

Ian’s write up of The Phantom Menace that is mentioned in the episode: https://fansided.com/2019/12/16/star-wars-phantom-menace-best-prequel/

 

Tuesday

2

March 2021

0

COMMENTS

Adrienne Wilkinson

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast, Star Wars

We delighted to welcome Adrienne Wilkinson to the show for a wide-ranging interview including her new film Dreamcatcher. Fans of Estradiol Illusions may know Adrienne best for her roles as Eve on Xena: Warrior Princess, Daughter in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Maris Brood in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and as Captain Lexxa Singh in Star Trek: Renegades. Adrienne shares many fascinating insights from her career throughout so many iconic franchises.

 

Dreamcatcher is available March 5th, on demand and digital, on Amazon, Apple, Redbox, and other major VOD services.

 

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Ian’s review of the film: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2021/03/dreamcatcher-subverts-slasher-norms-in-an-intriguing-horror-narrative/

 

Headshot courtesy of Adrienne Wilkinson. Photo by Damu Malik.

 

Poster and stills courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Monday

25

January 2021

0

COMMENTS

WandaVision isn’t designed to meet expectations

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Star Wars, TV Reviews

WandaVision ushers in a new era for the MCU on the small screen. While Marvel Television only delivered peanuts on its promises of a shared continuity, Marvel Studios has brought the gravitas required to create a real sense of connectivity to its storytelling, largely in the form of its two leads. The Scarlet Witch and Vision hardly got much of a chance to shine across a handful of films that had many other heroes to entertain itself with.

The series largely succeeds on the chemistry of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, perpetually eager to act out WandaVision’s many tributes to classic American sitcoms. There are smiles to be had on everyone’s faces, though the audience knows the idyllic suburb is hardly what it seems. Sparking nodes of Marvel Comics, “House of M” and “Decimation” arcs, the show offers a slow burn that gradually hints at what lies ahead in the MCU’s post-Avengers: Endgame world.

WandaVision embraces MCU mastermind Kevin Feige’s key strategy of gradual plotting, having fun in the present while rarely losing sight of what’s eventually to come. Supporting players Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Harris and David Payton help paint the portrait of a world that sparks curiosity that its twenty-two minute episode runtimes can hardly satisfy.

To some extent, it’s a good thing that WandaVision leaves the audience wanting more by the time the credits roll. There is also the reality that this is the first meaningful new piece of MCU content since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home (not counting Marvel Television’s Helstrom, which served as an uninspired curtain call for the company), the longest stretch in franchise history. It’s a burden that shouldn’t be WandaVision’s to bear, the first glimpse of how the future will look for Marvel on Disney+.

The reliance on humor based in nostalgia for sitcoms that aired more than fifty years ago is bound to rub some people the wrong way. As a company, Disney has increasingly relied on nostalgia as a selling point for much of its cinematic portfolio, including their live action remakes and the Star Wars sequels, which often felt like remakes themselves. People are starved for new Marvel content, only to be presented with references to pieces of Americana that their grandparents grew up with.

Television is a medium that tends to save its biggest bangs for its premieres and finales. WandaVision is presented as event television, only to mostly spend its time mirroring more conventional entries in the form. This formula would almost certainly play better if the audience was treated to a traditional twenty-two episode season that used to be the norm. The fact that most of the audience has waited years to learn the fate of Vision after his Avengers: Infinity War demise doesn’t exactly do much to temper expectations.

WandaVision is solid television, albeit not the kind of fare that’s well designed to live up to unsustainable hype. The Mandalorian is really, really good at producing cinematic-quality storytelling in practically every episode. WandaVision sits in the same category as a standard-bearer for a top-tier streaming service, lacking the sense of mandate to be the MCU’s flagship television offering.

Whether that’s fair or not is kind of beside the point. Olsen and Bettany are fun to watch no matter the circumstances or the state of the MCU’s broader portfolio. There’s a natural sense of urgency to want something to happen, but it’s hard to dwell on that too long when the present put in front us manages to put a smile on one’s face each and every week. Maybe WandaVision will overstay its welcome down the road, but for now, the show is still a delight.

Tuesday

5

January 2021

1

COMMENTS

The Mandalorian Season 2 Review

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Star Wars, TV Reviews

Season two of The Mandalorian began with a fairly daunting task. The show built an enormous amount of goodwill during its freshman effort for crafting a narrative that carried the aura of being far-removed from the rest of Star Wars lore, even if the constant, subtle Easter Eggs tended to suggest otherwise. As the sequel series faltered, The Mandalorian suggested that the future of the franchise rested in standalone storytelling.

All the recent announcements of close to a dozen new Star Wars series throw a wrench in this whole thesis, but it’s clear that The Mandalorian had been inching toward this destination for a long time. The chance to feature series favorites such as Bo-Katan, Boba Fett, and Ahsoka Tano transformed what was once predominantly an episodic meme-factory for the hijinks of an adorable puppet and his adopted father. Season two will be defined as the point where The Mandalorian stopped explicitly being “The Baby Yoda Show,” and not just strictly because the cute little fella finally got a proper name.

The perfectly executed season finale should rightfully spark melancholic feelings toward the change in status quo for The Mandalorian, which now finds itself firmly entrenched in Skywalker lore. Season two featured plenty of episodes defined by their self-contained adventures, from the slaying of a Krayt dragon to the head-scratching detour to ice-spider planet. Individual victories from episode to episode are bound to take a backseat to big mic-drop moments.

The Mandalorian built an enormous amount of goodwill for moments crafted by its own characters. For a man who rarely shows his face, Pedro Pascal brought an impressive depth of emotional range to Din Djarin, subtly setting up the tear-jerking departure of the final episode, where he bucked his traditions and removed his helmet. Those are the kind of set-ups that The Mandalorian excels at, but it’s harder to recreate that dynamic when the complications of decades of fan-nostalgia begin to occupy the same space.

Season two benefited from an untapped reservoir of guest stars, rewarding longtime fans for their dedication in following the animated series, comics, and broader Expanded Universe. Soon there will be other places to find those highs, including The Book of Boba, which will air at the end of this year. The Mandalorian will hardly be the only game in town.

Show creator Jon Favreau improved upon season one in practically every way imaginable. The episodes felt more vital, even as they relied upon their own self-contained adventures. The show eased up on its love of rocky desert planets. Grogu didn’t lean too hard into his status as a walking meme, aside from perhaps the moment where he decided he’d practice the Force by swiping blue macarons. For all the moments in season one that felt like the show was dragging its feet, season two moved the ball forward in practically every episode.

Season two built on the strong foundation of the first while expanding the narrative to define The Mandalorian’s place in Star Wars lore. Favreau accomplished all of this while not losing sight of his two heroes that made all the magic in the first place. A cameo from Star Wars’ original hero may be the most noteworthy thing to come out of the show, but The Mandalorian ensured that the franchise won’t be defined by its first family.

It is weird think that The Mandalorian may have already established its legacy two seasons in. The streaming world it helped established will look very different when the show returns, presumably in 2022. It may be a bit overblown to say that The Mandalorian “saved” Star Wars, a billion dollar entity that can absorb some lackluster installments.

The urge to reach that conclusion comes from a fairly natural point. There may come a day when the show loses itself in endless callbacks, a fate suffered by the sequel trilogy. The Mandalorian is great TV. That’s pretty much the only thing that needs to matter.

Saturday

19

December 2020

2

COMMENTS

The Mandalorian Season 2 Review: Chapter 16

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Star Wars, TV Reviews

As a franchise, there’s little Star Wars loves more than the past. Two of the three entries in the sequel series existed primarily as shrines to nostalgia, while its middle installment sparked endless controversy for daring to engage the idea that maybe we should, “let the past die.” The Mandalorian has mostly charted its own course, albeit carrying plenty of crowd-pleasing Easter eggs along the way.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a current work possessing deep reverence for its broader lore, as the season two finale proved. Great storytelling can be powerfully enhanced by interweaving the present in with the characters fans have grown to love. Luke Skywalker never looked more powerful than when he was mowing down Terminator-esque Dark troopers one by one, delivering on a wish fans have clamored for since Return of the Jedi.

This episode combined all the best elements of the show, a near perfect finale. The show’s supporting bench was mostly all-hands on deck to rescue Grogu from Moff Gideon’s light cruiser. Dr. Pershing is a fairly compelling tertiary character, though his quick defection to Team Mando seemed a bit rushed.

The stand-off on the Imperial Shuttle was perhaps the episode’s lone clunky bit of fan service, a back-and-forth over the ethics of blowing up Death Stars ripped straight out of Clerks. A chief complaint of the Skywalker Saga as a whole has been how small the galaxy seems with everyone knowing every else. Between the shuttle and Bo-Katan’s instant familiarity with Boba Fett, it felt like this episode was crafting an intimate family drama rather than a giant space epic.

The action sequences were predictably phenomenal, giving the female members of the team plenty of chances to shine while only just barely dipping into the cringey “girl power” energy that Avengers: Endgame consumed to excess. The Dark troopers were appropriately menacing, even in scenarios where they didn’t really get a chance to wield their full power. Mando destroying one with his flamethrower might suggest that they’re easier to beat than the show lets on, but it’s understandable that none of Mando’s crew didn’t want to test this theory too much.

Moff Gideon has been a pretty menacing figure despite only making sporadic appearances. Giancarlo Esposito has a gift for playing characters who display a transactional sense of villainy. For a second, he really makes you believe that he’s simply okay letting Mando and Grogu walk away, before swinging the Darksaber right at Mando’s back.

The fight itself was pretty solid, though the sight of an old man parrying with an armored bounty hunter, albeit one who was recently bashed in the head, ran the risk of carrying on past the point of plausibility. Gideon seemed like a likely candidate to not make it past the episode, though Chapter 16 opted not to add to the show’s body count. All hands are still on deck for an eventual war on Mandalore, as the show is increasingly hinting will be its focus for next season.

Luke’s entire sequence was perfect, a moving tribute to the franchise’s most beloved hero. The use of body-double Max Lloyd-Jones mostly worked, though the dialogue portion was a bit clunky. The sight of R2-D2 brought tears to my eyes, a beloved character who was woefully neglected by the sequel trilogy.

Luke never got a chance to bask in the limelight after beating the Empire. Regardless of how you feel about his well-crafted arc in The Last Jedi, it is a shame that Star Wars turned the page on Jedi Master Skywalker without giving Hamill a chance to enjoy Luke in his prime. This episode was a great tribute for those of us who lament the end of the Expanded Universe.

The most impressive thing about the last ten minutes of the episode was the way it managed to give simultaneously both Mando and Luke their tearjerker moments. Mando taking his helmet off to say goodbye to his adopted son had been hinted at, but it played so powerfully here. Grogu not wanting to leave was perfectly complemented by R2’s exuberance at seeing the young child.

The whole scene worked on so many levels, combining Star Wars’ vast lore with the affection we’ve built for our current cast of characters. The franchise finally used nostalgia not as a crutch, but as a seasoning for its carefully curated buffet of emotion. It’s hard to think that The Mandalorian will sideline its breakout character for very long, but the show succeeded in presenting that as a possibility.

“The Rescue” represented the finest chapter in the Star Wars saga since The Empire Strikes Back. The episode utilized every single moment to its advantage, both in the present and with regard to planning for next season. Both Mando and Grogu will have their hands full with new adventures next year, giving comfort to those who might still be sobbing over the idea of their separation. It’s hard to think of a better way to end this era of The Mandalorian.

If that wasn’t enough, we were treated to an excellent post-credits scene where Boba Fett and Fennec paid a visit to Fett’s old friend Bib Fortuna at Jabba’s Palace. Fett hasn’t had nearly enough chances to shine since his introduction, playing bit roles in the past two episodes. Looks like a spin-off is on the horizon, along with all the other Star Wars projects in development.

Quick programming note. We will return with a review of the season as a whole. Be sure to check out Estradiol Illusions’ weekly podcast recaps. Thank you so much for following along with us every week! Happy Life Day.

 

Saturday

19

December 2020

0

COMMENTS

The Mandalorian Season 2 Recap (Episode 8)

Written by , Posted in Blog, Star Wars

What an episode! Join Ian for a recap of what she referred to as a the best chapter of Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back. Such a beautiful tribute to everything fans love about this franchise. If only R5-D4 had come along for the adventure from Tatooine.

Ian’s written review: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2020/12/the-mandalorian-season-2-review-chapter-16/

Programming note: we will return after Christmas with a full review of season two. Happy Life Day everyone! 

Saturday

12

December 2020

1

COMMENTS

The Mandalorian Season 2 Review: Chapter 15

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Star Wars, TV Reviews

This season of The Mandalorian has done a superb job with its big moments. Ahsoka Tano, Boba Fett, and Bo-Katan all shined in their debut episodes. As a medium, television rarely relied so heavily on the giant splashes before the streaming era. The quieter moments need to count too.

The Mandalorian is not very good at stopping to take a breath in order to process its events. Mando has assembled an impressive team of Fett, Fennec, and Cara Dune to help him rescue Grogu, but as an episode, “The Believer” cares very little for any of these people. Chapter 15 belonged to Migs Mayfeld.

For a show starring a puppet and a bounty hunter who never removes his helmet, The Mandalorian has done a fairly decent job building up its supporting bench. Bill Burr shined in last season’s sixth episode as the backstabbing former Imperial sharpshooter. Now imprisoned, Mando needs his services to figure out the location of Moff Gideon, whose imprisonment of Grogu apparently prevented him from making an appearance this episode.

The whole Morak quest was a fairly paint-by-numbers undercover mission. The Mandalorian often leans heavily into Western tropes, but here it was borrowing heavily from the spy/adventure shows that once populated the network TV landscape. It’s fun without being particularly inventive or ambitious.

Most jarring in the episode was the sequence after the undercover Mando and Mayfeld fought off a raiding party, only to be greeted with a chorus of applause from Stormtroopers. We rarely see Stormtroopers winning anything, let alone actually hitting a single target. If anything else, it was entertaining to watch.

Burr did a great job with fairly mundane material. His commentary on the geopolitics of Morak was a clear substitute for American interventionism abroad in places like Vietnam and Iraq, fairly out of place in the Star Wars universe. As the audience, we can follow along with his broad points as they relate to our reality, but that isn’t a dynamic Star Wars has ever really shown to us. The Empire and the New Republic are not really two sides of the same coin.

The dramatic tension in this episode mostly stemmed from Mando being forced to remove his beskar helmet. As soon as the Stormtrooper helmet went on, it became clear that we’d probably get an appearance from Pedro Pascal, mustache and all. Bo-Katan’s statements on Mando’s sect of Mandalorian being extremists set this all up quite well.

Pascal handled the dynamic well, constantly looking like a fish out of water without his security blanket. It’s not a super compelling conflict, since I imagine most of the audience would rather see Pascal on a regular basis rather than stare at Mando’s expressionless helmet. Like Mayfeld’s pontifications on relativism, much of this drama felt like going through the motions.

Mayfeld gets redemption as a character through his ill-advised rant to his former commanding officer Valin Hess (Richard Brake, who’s familiar to Game of Thrones fans as the first Night King). The whole sequence was obviously made to set up his release at the end of the episode, while maybe also serving to show him as not a bad guy. It’s entertaining while also being just a tad too predictable.

The action was mostly good, even if the sight of numerous Imperial officers running to their immediate deaths in the mess room hallway seemed a tad ridiculous. Cara and Fennec had some moments, but Fett was left with not enough to do. I guess we can blame that on some stage fright that some Imperials might recognize his face after his father served as the template for the entire Clone army.

This season has largely been about Mando coming into his own as a father. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why the show wanted to have Mando send a threatening message to Gideon. It did feel rather out of place for him as a character though, needlessly showing his cards.

While a bit lazy in its execution, Chapter 15 served as an effective set-up for the season finale. Burr got his moments to shine, but with a 38-minute runtime, it’s hard to make the case for why no one else could have had a moment as well. Fett superfans were bound to be disappointed by the sidelining of the original helmeted bounty hunter. The Mandalorian needs to do a better job with simply taking a breath every once in a while.

For more Mandalorian coverage, check out Estradiol Illusions’ weekly recaps 

Saturday

12

December 2020

0

COMMENTS

The Mandalorian Season 2 Recap (Episode 7)

Written by , Posted in Blog, Star Wars

Why does Mando wear a mustache? Join Ian as she spends most of the episode pondering the show’s existential questions (mostly kidding!), like why Boba Fett spent much of Chapter 15 hiding. Mayfeld returns, bringing American interventionism into the equation, territory that Star Wars hasn’t quite presented as something its audience should worry about with regard to the New Republic. 

No Grogu this week, but never fear. A sighting of Pedro Pescal’s beautiful face can go a long way toward forgetting about that adorable little fella.

Ian’s written review: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2020/12/the-mandalorian-season-2-review-chapter-15/

Saturday

5

December 2020

0

COMMENTS

The Mandalorian Season 2 Recap (Episode 6)

Written by , Posted in Blog, Star Wars

Grab your jetpack and your Sarlacc pit, Boba Fett is back! The long-awaited return of everyone’s favorite tertiary bounty hunter lived up to the hype. Temuera Morrison was absolutely superb.

Ian provides some context for Boba Fett’s popularity, including his debut in the beloved Star Wars Holiday Special. Mando might not be very good at watching his son, but at least Grogu has darksaber to keep himself occupied.  

Ian’s written review!