Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

star wars Archive

Tuesday

2

March 2021

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COMMENTS

Adrienne Wilkinson

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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.

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Tuesday

5

January 2021

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The Mandalorian Season 2 Review

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Join host Ian Thomas Malone as she breaks down The Mandalorian’s excellent second season. The Baby Yoda Show covered a lot of ground this year, finally bestowing a proper moniker on the little fella. As Grogu heads for the Jedi Temple, Ian talks about what worked and what didn’t for season two.

Ian’s written review: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2021/01/the-mandalorian-season-2-review/

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Saturday

12

December 2020

1

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The Mandalorian Season 2 Review: Chapter 15

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, 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 

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Saturday

28

November 2020

1

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The Mandalorian Season 2 Review: Chapter 13

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There is a reason none of the Marvel characters from the Netflix series made appearances in Avengers: Endgame, a film with a finale designed to cap off a historic era in film connectivity. Popular as they may be, the inclusion of such characters presents some problems for a global audience that may have no idea who these people are. The hardcore fans are left with a natural degree of wanting for scenarios that would have been so incredible to see up on the big screen.

Ahsoka Tano is the breakout star of the popular animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, the former of which carried the torch for the fandom as it transitioned from the post-Revenge of the Sith Lucas era to its current home at Disney. There was a period of time where Ahsoka Tano was the best Star Wars creation of the 21st century, a sentiment countless Clone Wars fans undoubtedly still hold.

Tano’s appearance in The Mandalorian has been rumored since the show’s inception, a naturally tantalizing prospect for many. The logistics of her inclusion presented the showrunners with some of the same hurdles that the Marvel universe experienced with how to include a popular character in a global phenomenon that has plenty of fans who have never heard of her. Thankfully, Star Wars vet Dave Filoni rose to the task with near flawless execution.

The arrival on Corvus gave The Mandalorian a much needed reprieve from the piles of rocks on Tatooine and Nevarro, but also a chance to move the narrative forward in a game-changing fashion. This season has been about Mando delivering Baby Yoda to a Jedi. Given the show’s often glacier-slow pacing and affection for filler subplots, it might have been reasonable to assume that this might happen sometime at the end of the season.

Instead, we get a fan favorite character and a name for the Child. Grogu is not a good name. Yoda and Yaddle (the latter of which’s legacy was apparently forgotten by Tano, who presumably arrived at the Jedi Temple a little while after her death) are much better names. Grogu is the kind of cringy name that flies in the face of how adorable this fella is.

The action sequences were predictable phenomenal. Mando’s quest to find Ahsoka at the behest of former Empire leader Morgan Elsbeth was a tad perfunctory, but this episode had too much going on to be bogged down in narrative mechanics.

The audience could be forgiven for some eye-rolls at the timeline that Ahsoka provided for Grogu’s residence at the Jedi Temple. The little guy seems to understand Mando better this season, but he’s still basically a baby with a one-track mind for snacks. Are we really supposed to believe that he was trained at the Temple during the era of the prequels when he was 1/5th his current age?

Obviously Ahsoka is not going to train Grogu. That would require The Mandalorian to either lose its best asset or for the show to do a sharp pivot away from its title character. Neither Ahsoka nor Grogu popped up in the sequel trilogy, apart from the former’s brief vocal cameo in The Rise of Skywalker along with all the other Jedi who gave Rey a pep talk.

Rosario Dawson handled the fan favorite character quite well. Perhaps the highlight of the episode was when Ahsoka Tano reflected on her former master Anakin Skywalker in her refusal to train Grogu. Jedi are supposed to be trained at a young age to prevent outside attachments. Mando is for all intents and purposes Grogu’s father.

Mando can never succeed in his mission because it would mean the end of the series. In order to satisfy the viewers, the show is throwing out fan favorite mentions like Grand Admiral Thrawn and the planet Tython to keep things interesting. With the way “The Jedi” played out, longtime fans may get a bit antsy for more franchise reveals that probably won’t be coming anytime soon.

The only point that didn’t really work was Ahsoka Tano’s battle with Elsbeth. The whole nature of Tano’s efforts to make it seem like she killed Mando was a bit pointless, but seeing the skilled dual-wielding Jedi struggle to fight a woman wielding a beskar spear seemed very silly. Tano could’ve jerked the spear away with a single motion of the force. The fact that she didn’t gives fans a bit more satisfying of an action scene, but this sequence was silly enough to begin with.

Mando and Grogu will almost certainly not arrive on Tython with only three episodes left of the season, especially with Moff Gideon tracking the Razor Crest. Chapter 13 was the best episode of the series, striking a perfect balance between casual viewers and Star Wars superfans. This wasn’t just good television, but a perfect roadmap for a franchise to use with regard to exploring its own ethos. The Mandalorian is pretty great when it’s just performing as “The Baby Yoda show,” but there’s so much more for the series to explore.

Be sure to check out Estradiol Illusions’ Mandalorian recaps!

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Saturday

14

November 2020

1

COMMENTS

The Mandalorian Season Two Recap: Chapter Eleven

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Would Mando be better off simply traveling to various planets asking locals in their bars for help finding Jedi? Maybe he should stand on a table holding Baby Yoda up, yelling, “Does anyone know where this kid came from?” That’s basically where we’re at.

Last episode saw the Razor Crest almost destroyed because Mando needed to travel at sub-light to protect Frog Lady’s eggs. The reason beyond this dangerous missions was supposed to be that Frog Lady’s husband had valuable information as to where Mando could find other helmet-wearers like him. Mando will likely spend the rest of his days picking spider webs out of his ship in service to this vital step in his journey.

Upon arriving at the water-heavy planet Trask, almost destroying what’s left of the ship in the process, Mr. Frog Lady does have a big reveal. He points at a bar. That’s it. That’s the information Mando almost died for. A glorified chowder recommendation.

Mando would have been much better off simply asking the X-wing pilots if they knew of any Jedi. They probably do. None of this is nitpicking. This season has yet to supply a reason for its broader quest to find other Mandalorians.

Mando finds some leads while Baby Yoda chows down on octopus chowder. Mr. Frog Lady didn’t exactly give the best intel, as the Quarren fishing boat was less interested in helping Mando than acquiring his armor. Baby Yoda’s floating bassinet apparently doesn’t float over water.

Part of the beauty of The Mandalorian is that it’s clearly crafted by people who love Star Wars. The series isn’t constructed in a way that forces anyone to watch animated shows like The Clone Wars or Rebels, while rewarding those that do. Seeing Bo-Katan in live-action is amazing, especially with Katee Sackoff reprising her role from the animated series.

Unlike Mando, Bo-Katan and her buddies are free to remove their helmets. While fitting in line with their animated appearances, seeing helmet-less Mandalorians is also valuable for the audience. People like to see faces and the expressions worn on them. This dynamic also allows the show to explore Mando’s core belief, one that would naturally sound pretty radical to any casual viewer.

Bo-Katan suggests that Mando is a Child of the Watch, essentially a Mando-extremist cult that broke off from the rest of Mandalore’s society. Mando doesn’t have a ton of time to process this information before the rest of the 35-minute episode’s action scenes need to take place, but this is a valuable question for the show to explore over the course of its run. Ideally, we the viewer may like to envision a scenario where Mando settles down, able to look at his adopted son with his own eyes.

Speaking of Baby Yoda, thankfully the little guy didn’t eat any more of Frog Lady’s eggs. It’s kind of ridiculous that Mando would ask her to babysit considering his snacking habits last episode, but it’s not like he has a ton of friends, on Trask or elsewhere. Kuiil would have been a great traveling babysitter. I miss him.

The action scenes aboard the Gozanti-class Imperial cruiser were great. It was super fun to see TV veteran Titus Welliver as the ship captain, who sadly died before he got a chance to have some tea. Obviously the other Mandalorians weren’t interested in raiding the ship for blasters, or other weapons.

Great to see the return of Moff Gideon. Giancarlo Esposito is fabulous in everything he’s in. Darksaber is one of the big questions of this season, one that I suspect the show won’t be in too big of a rush to address. Fun episodes like this make the destination less important than the journey.

Mando’s quest to find other Mandos did prove fruitful. After quoting Hillary Clinton’s “Stronger Together” slogan from her 2016 campaign, Bo-Katan tells Mando to head to Calodan to find Ahsoka Tano, another fan favorite. He probably could have stumbled upon that tidbit without having to travel by sublight to Trask, but here we are.

“The Heiress” demonstrates the show’s keen ability to simultaneously satisfy casual fans and Star Wars diehards. The Mandalorian rarely suffers when it drags its feet, but this episode moved the plot forward in a way that’s been lacking from this season’s first two installments. We’re almost at the halfway marker, as much as it feels like things just got started. Boba Fett may not come back until the end of the season, if at all. For now, that hardly seems to matter.

For more of Ian’s Mandalorian analysis, be sure to check out Estradiol Illusion’s weekly recaps

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Sunday

22

December 2019

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Sinks in Familiar Territory

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There’s a line in The Last Jedi where Kylo Ren is practically addressing the entire Star Wars fandom. The suggestion to, “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to,” is good advice for a franchise perpetually in love with its own lore. The sequel trilogy was designed to introduce new characters into the mix, even as the films themselves often looked like remakes of earlier, better material.

The return of J.J. Abrams to the director’s chair suggested a change in course from Rian Johnson’s mandate in The Last Jedi to let go of that which came before. The Rise of Skywalker is a film all about the past. From the many cameos to the mirroring of earlier narratives, it’s hard to even discuss the film on its own merits, for it doesn’t really have any. The Rise of Skywalker is more like a greatest hits compilation than an actual movie.

Rey, Finn, and Poe were all introduced as characters with the potential to carry the franchise to fresh worlds and new adventures. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac all have obvious chemistry, characters brought together by a shared desire to belong to something greater than themselves. There could have been a point in time where a great trilogy could have been crafted all about these characters, and their adorable spherical droid companion BB-8.

The sequel trilogy always struggled to juggle its many pieces. There are the old characters, the new characters, the older plot, and the minor deviations the new narratives take to differentiate themselves just enough to justify their existence. The Rise of Skywalker can’t plot its own course because Abrams never allows it to stray too far from familiar territory. It’s hard to tell your own story when you have to squeeze in so much of earlier Star Wars lore as well.

The film does handle Carrie Fisher’s death quite well, making the most of mere minutes of footage left over from the previous two entries. It would be quite difficult to wrap up the “Skywalker saga” without Princess Leia. Abrams honors Fisher’s legacy in a way that feels vital to the narrative.

The same holds true for most of the other legacy characters. After being mostly sidelined for the past two films, C-3PO and R2-D2 each get multiple moments to shine. Anthony Daniels gets plenty to work with as everyone’s favorite mildly annoying golden protocol droid. Billy Dee Williams brought plenty of his signature charisma to Lando Calrissian, absent from the films since Return of the Jedi. Even Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo, who took over from Peter Mayhew who died earlier this year) gets a meatier plotline than previous entries.

Star Wars means a lot of different things to its large fandom. There are those who appreciated Rian Johnson’s efforts to plot a new course for The Last Jedi and there are those who loathe what the film did to Luke Skywalker. Plenty of people enjoyed Abrams’ The Force Awakens, which often felt like a straight remake of A New Hope.

The Rise of Skywalker understandably carries the most appeal to fans who want a nice heavy helping of nostalgia to go with their space battles and laser sword fights. The biggest problem with this entire approach is that it robs the new characters of any chance to stand on their own feet. Rey may be the hero, but this isn’t really her movie. It’s not Luke’s either, or Leia’s or Han’s, or any other possible person the film may try and make you remember. It’s the past’s movie, your childhood memories brought back to life for the sake of another ticket sold.

Star Wars used to make its audiences’ collective jaws drop, with stunning technological feats. George Lucas may have no skill for dialogue, but the man knew how to take people to places they’d never been before. As a child I was blown away by the sheer sight of R2-D2 on the bridge of the Tantive IV in the very first film.

The Rise of Skywalker lacks any of that wonder and awe. It doesn’t make an earnest effort to try to impress anyone. Rather, a half-hearted attempt is made to reignite the audience’s faded memories of better times with better movies. Lightning may never strike the same spot twice, but force lightning seems to only know one tired story. We’ve seen this all before.

 

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Saturday

23

November 2019

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COMMENTS

The Mandalorian Season One Review: Chapter 3

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Note: this review contains spoilers

The breakout sensation that is Baby Yoda does not need much of an explanation. The audience knows absolutely nothing about this character, no name, no species, and certainly no backstory. None of that really matters since the character is one of the most adorable creatures in Star Wars history. There is perhaps another reason why this character has won over the hearts of so many in such a short period of time.

As a franchise, Star Wars evokes a lot of emotion from its fans. People passionately dissect every new minute of content entered into this canon for a very simple reason. They care.

The Mandalorian doesn’t give its viewers many outlets to channel that intense emotion. Its title character has yet to show his face. This isn’t a particularly dialogue-heavy show, dispensing character development in incredibly small doses. Baby Yoda captures the audience’s attention through its sheer cuteness, but also because there hasn’t been anything else presented to care about.

Chapter 3: The Sin was a very effective episode, delivering subtle nodes of character development while also establishing the clear arc of the narrative. Wisely, the show is doubling down on Baby Yoda, who won over the Mandalorian while playfully tampering with his ship’s controls. Every scene featuring Baby Yoda is like an instant endorphin rush.

The whole Mandalorian guild is a little silly, a bit too reminiscent of the Jedi Order. Why do all of these people wear their masks at all times? Don’t the insides start to smell?

At least we finally got a female character with a speaking role. Perhaps not coincidentally, this was the first Star Wars live action installment directed by a woman. Deborah Chow did a great job with the episode, particularly with the framing of the action sequences.

Similarly silly was the idea that asking about the bounty is against the Mandalorian “code,” something that was brought up by both The Client and Greef Karga. It’s hardly outside the norm for a bounty hunter to be expected not to care about what happens after payday. There isn’t really a need to mythologize the taboo nature of his line of questioning.

There’s still five more episodes for the Mandalorian to show his face, but it would be a misstep for the show to go the whole season without this reveal. Boba Fett may not have taken off his helmet in the original trilogy, but his father did in Attack of the Clones. The difference between those two roles is that Boba Fett was barely even a character in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, on screen for barely more than five minutes. Here, the Mandalorian is a lead character.

This episode featured a couple fun Star Wars throwbacks. A super battle droid appeared in a flashback sequence from the Mandalorian’s childhood. Best of all was when a patron of the cantina uttered “echuta” at the Mandalorian in response to his success with the bounty, a line first spoken to C-3PO by a fellow protocol droid in Empire Strikes Back. “Echuta” is probably the closest we’ll ever get to Star Wars profanity.

Thankfully, the show looks poised to head to a new planet. The dynamic on the planet that’s probably Tatooine was getting a little old, exacerbated by the lack of compelling characters for the Mandalorian to interact with. Carl Weathers is perfectly serviceable as Karga, but the character simply isn’t that interesting.

The action sequences were a lot of fun. We finally got to see a Mandalorian with a jet pack. It’ll be interesting to see how much the Mandalorian mythology comes into play now that the show is heading off planet, but there’s certainly a lot of unfinished business with regard to the fallout of the Baby Yoda jailbreak. Is the credibility of their whole group shot? Who knows, but the mystery is quite compelling.

This episode was hands down the best of the three so far. A lot of the cast has yet to be introduced, leaving plenty of plot for the remaining five episodes. This episode also put the previous one in context as a standalone adventure rather than simply stalling. As long as there’s plenty of Baby Yoda, it seems safe to say this show will continue to be a hit.

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Thursday

14

November 2019

0

COMMENTS

The Mandalorian Season One Review: Chapter One

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

Note: This review contains spoilers

The Mandalorian carries a lot of weight that most television series don’t really deserve. After more than a decade of waiting, the first live action Star Wars show is finally here, a drama that also happens to be the flagship offering of a new streaming service. The kind of hype that comes with this terrain would be enough to destroy a planet the size of Alderaan.

To its credit, episode one never feels like it’s trying to juggle all this weight. Instead, it’s mostly an introductory narrative, one that isn’t particularly full of answers or compelling reasons to care about the characters. With regard to the latter, it doesn’t exactly need to give a reason. Star Wars already has plenty of fans.

As a lead, The Mandalorian is a challenging character to get behind. The helmet doesn’t help, limiting Pedro Pascal’s range. As far as this episode goes, how you feel about the title character could largely boil down to how cool you find his costume.

The breakout character in episode one is perhaps unsurprisingly Werner Herzog’s Client. There’s some obvious joy to be had in seeing such an iconic director amidst a group of Stormtroopers, but Herzog plays the role with complexity that makes you wish he were in more scenes.

The first half of the episode relies a bit too much on Mythrol (Horatio Sanz) to carry the narrative. He’s funny and the perspective is helpful as a means to introduce the show, but he’s also a guest character who isn’t going to be around for the long haul. At times, it felt like the episode was kicking its feet, waiting for the big action to begin.

The sight of The Mandalorian and IG-11 fending off countless foes on Arvala-7 was spectacular. The whole sequence brings out the best in Disney+, merging high quality production values with the comfort of one’s own home. The sets are all lavishly designed, but it wasn’t until the blaster fire picked up that everything really started to feel like Star Wars.

The end reveal of a baby from the same species as Yoda, the name of which remains a mystery to this day, felt like a bit of an unnecessary big finish, like the episode wanted to end on a note that would get everyone talking. It worked. We’ve never seen a baby Yoda before, unsurprising for a species that lives for hundreds of years.

While there’s no established norm for runtime on a streaming service, at 39 minutes, episode one feels a bit on the short side for a show meant to be the premier offering for the whole streaming service. That’s not to say that the episode should’ve padded itself with extra filler, but the delivery felt a bit underwhelming. Worst of all, at times, it felt a little long. Not exactly a great sign for an episode shorter than most network TV dramas.

Chapter one was a passable episode of television that never felt like it was trying to win over viewers who weren’t bound to tune in already. Star Wars is a big deal. This episode felt small. That’s not the worst thing in the world, especially since it accomplished some world-building, but Star Wars deserves better.

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Thursday

29

August 2019

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What to Make of Star Wars – Galaxy’s Edge

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The launch of Star Wars – Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland has had its fair share of hiccups, from a poorly implemented reservation system to the delays involving the land’s marquee attraction, Rise of the Resistance. With a construction cost of over one billion dollars, Disneyland’s first new land since the early 90s features plenty of gorgeous scenery, fourteen acres of full immersion in Star Wars lore. It’s the kind of project perfectly built for first impressions.

For an area of the park built to last for decades, first impressions aren’t the sole barometer to gauge the impact that Galaxy’s Edge will have on the Happiest Place on Earth. Much of the reported low attendance throughout the summer of 2019 can be blamed on blackout dates imposed on the lower tier Annual Passports (APs), forcing plenty of people who have shelled out hundreds of dollars to Disney to wait an additional three months to visit the new land. While every day welcomes plenty of out-of-town newcomers to Disneyland and California Adventure, the park clearly relies on SoCal residents to fill out the lines, even during the busy summer months.

Galaxy’s Edge is absolutely beautiful, a dream come true for countless Star Wars superfans. The vast land is practically sensory overload, full of droids, rebel fighters, and the Millennium Falcon itself to explore. It all seems like a lot, at first. Second, third, or fourth time through, the whole thing starts to feel a little bit smaller.

To some extent, that’s natural. Wonder and awe works best the first time through. The problem with Galaxy’s Edge is that immersion and depth are fundamentally two different concepts. There isn’t really a heck of a lot to do, and most of the activities are rather expensive.

Some of this feeling can be blamed on the delays surrounding Rise of the Resistance. The idea of Cars Land opening without Radiator Springs, or rival Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter debuting without Forbidden Journey, seems completely preposterous. Smugglers Run is certainly more immersive than either of those parks B-rides, but it’s still a motion simulator. There’s the thrill of riding the Millennium Falcon contrasting with the reality of watching PlayStation 3-era graphics while being distracted by the need to push a few buttons.

Smugglers Run is hardly an E ticket attraction. From seemingly all reports, Rise of the Resistance will be, but even with its marquee attraction, Galaxy’s Edge will still be a fourteen-acre park with only two rides. A trip through Olga’s Cantina will undoubtedly be an experience to remember for many, but the $42 dollar cocktails aren’t the kind of fare that many will line up to consume more than once. The same holds true for the “hand-built” lightsabers or the Droid Depot — lots of fun, but not built for return visits.

Since its debut, Galaxy’s Edge has often been compared to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in terms of total immersion. Both lands place a high degree of emphasis on the full experience provided by the land, not just the thrills from their rides. Ostensibly, you’re supposed to enjoy walking around Hogsmeade as much as riding Forbidden Journey. Disney appears to be banking on Olga’s Cantina being as entertaining as Smugglers Run, a notion supported by their similar wait times throughout the early months of the land.

Beyond the obvious cash grab that stems from elevating shopping to the same tier of experience as rides, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter provides a certain function for Universal Studios Hollywood that isn’t particularly needed for Disneyland. Walking around Hogsmeade is certainly fun, but even a packed day at Universal leaves a fair amount of time to do just that. Universal has about a third of the rides as its SoCal neighbor even before you consider California Adventure, reflected in its shorter park hours on most days. Even after seeing a show or two, there’s plenty of time to walk around and take in the sights that Hogwarts has to offer.

Though Disneyland is often open for upwards of fourteen hours, it can be very hard to fit everything you want to do in on a single day. Several of the hotel package options only give you one park a day, making it easier to get the full Disneyland and California Adventure experiences, but there’s simply so much to do in both parks. For APs, you can arrive at opening, leave at closing, and still be able to count all the stuff you weren’t able to do on both hands, even with a MaxPass.

How much idle time spent wandering around Galaxy’s Edge does someone really want to do with all that other stuff to consider? That question is a bit tricky even if you try to separate APs from people who are only there for a day or two. For the latter category, time is limited, but for APs, there’s still a finite amount of activities for any single one person to be able to do. The scenery is a lot of fun to look at, but there reaches a point where continuing to look at an A-Wing fighter comes at the cost of riding some of the park’s other marquee attractions.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, along with Cars Land and Animal Kingdom’s Pandora – The World of Avatar, filled obvious voids in each park. These lands provided immersive places for people to check out after experiencing each park’s more limited opportunities. Disneyland has never had this problem. Well before Galaxy’s Edge broke ground, Walt Disney’s original theme park set the gold standard around the world.

The decision to base Galaxy’s Edge off a new planet, Batuu, rather than an existing world in Star Wars lore has proved a bit controversial. Enjoyment of the land requires a desire to immerse oneself in an entirely new chapter of the fandom, putting aside the presence of the Millennium Falcon and a few other familiar elements. The fact that Batuu feels a lot like Tatooine probably doesn’t help for those who would have rather seen Mos Eisley in the first place.

Cars Land is a beautiful recreation of Radiator Springs. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter brings J.K. Rowling’s beloved landmarks to life. Pandora reminds people of why Avatar made billions at the box office with its exquisite landscapes.

Batuu is something new, with hints of beloved lore. Segments of the Star Wars fandom have been at war with its governing body ever since George Lucas started tinkering with his movies. In the expansive community that loves this world, Galaxy’s Edge didn’t really stake out a base of support. It’s trying to build a new one, but that takes time. For Disneyland, that’s time that people need to want to take out of doing other things, including plenty of attractions designed around capitalizing on nostalgia rather than subverting it.

Much of this sentiment won’t fully apply to the version of Galaxy’s Edge opening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. Unlike its California counterpart, Galaxy’s Edge has much more room to be the main attraction in a park that hasn’t been open since 1955. By comparison, Hollywood Studios opened in 1989, only four years before Disneyland’s version of Mickey’s Toontown, the last new land to open before Galaxy’s Edge.

Disneyland earned the title of The Happiest Place on Earth decades before Galaxy’s Edge came around. A couple trips through the impressive new land give the impression that it won’t soon cause people to abandon the attractions that made the magic in the first place. Galaxy’s Edge may have cost a billion dollars to build, but the behemoth it spawned proves to capture surprisingly little of the mind’s attention compared to the other lands in the greatest theme park in the world.

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Wednesday

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January 2018

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Luke Skywalker Never Changed

Written by , Posted in Blog

Note: This article contains spoilers for The Last Jedi.

Luke Skywalker is not a great character. He whines all the time, whether it’s at his uncle for making him do chores, his teacher for making him do swamp cardio, or at his father for not being around when he was little. He is almost always the worst person on screen in Star Wars, constantly upstaged by Han, Leia, R2-D2, Vader, Yoda, Chewbacca, Bib Fortuna, and the Jawas. He is by far the lamest major character in the original trilogy, beating runner-up C-3PO by a wide margin.

People are mad about the characterization of Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi, suggesting that his behavior was inconsistent with the earlier films. I don’t think so. Luke was a whiny little boy who grew up to be a crabby old man. What’s inconsistent with that?

Luke is a coward. He waited until everyone else had died before attempting a trench run on the first Death Star. He escaped Hoth through the back door, avoiding all the Star Destroyers that everyone else had to face. He ran away to his daddy instead of attacking the shield generator with Han and the Ewoks. It is no surprise that he refused to leave his Porg island to face Kylo Ren and decided to die rather than help his sister rebuild the Resistance, which had dwindled to a size that could fit comfortably on the Millenium Falcon. When disaster strikes, Luke has never wanted to be around.

The distinctions between Luke’s exile and those of Yoda and Obi-Wan further reveal Master Skywalker’s cowardly nature. The latter two Jedi exited stage left after becoming hopelessly outmatched against Palpatine, serving only as liabilities to those who would offer them sanctuary. Luke got upset after getting caught being paranoid about Kylo Ren and left, though presumably, the New Republic had enough firepower to deal with the budding Snoke situation, especially considering how weak a villain the Supreme Leader turned out to be. Obi-Wan returned to the fight when Leia called for him. Luke shrugged and went looking for nipple milk.

The entire plot of The Force Awakens is driven by a map to Skywalker, a man who doesn’t even want to help. What was the point of that movie? What does it really say about Luke’s character that he would allow people in the Resistance to die to protect a map all because he was too selfish to leave a forwarding address?

There is something to be said for the idea that Luke disconnected from the Force because he thought it had caused nothing but problems. He is essentially correct, though in this case abstinence would hardly be the best prevention as the Sith would still exist to reek havoc. Humanity has a lot of bad apples. We as a collective body keep going. The Force keeps going, even if Luke was too lazy to put in the effort to bring about real change. The Force cannot be bad simply because Luke does not care to be good.

The Last Jedi has its problems. The fuel shortage/slow speed chase plot is incredibly weak. Snoke is pathetic. The casino subplot was boring and unnecessary. None of these complaints have much to do with Luke Skywalker. His part was fine.

Luke had one job in The Last Jedi: to pass the baton. Luke is not the hero of Star Wars anymore. The idea of his character sticking around as a kind of mentor to Rey conflicts with his status in the franchise. As the “chosen one,” he can’t retire, not when Leia, Chewbacca, Nien Numb, and company are still in the fight. He shouldn’t be the center of attention, but it’s hard to successfully marginalize a character with abilities as strong as Luke’s in a narrative. He’d be a major whiny distraction in a franchise with no shortage of interesting new characters, even as the death of Carrie Fisher brings an unfortunate end to Leia’s arc.

Luke had a good send-off. He got to phone in a pretend battle and quietly fade away. Sure there are plenty of old fans who wished Luke could do backflips and hang upside down from ice shackles in a Wampa cave, but those days are over. There will be new adventures with new characters who don’t whine as much and certainly don’t need to go to Tosche Station to pick up power converters.

Star Wars is not about Luke Skywalker. It’s about the various predicaments that prevent C-3PO and R2-D2 from hanging out. Luke stayed consistent from his first appearance on Tatooine to his final pretend battle with Kylo Ren. His arc in The Last Jedi should be celebrated for bringing an end to a character whose immaturity has always been a detriment to the franchise. Yoda’s skepticism was well founded. Finally, we have cut our losses.

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