The Mandalorian Expands The Star Wars Mythos In Its Second Season

mandaolorian s2 poster

The second season of the Disney+ TV show, The Mandalorian, streamed its finale recently and not only has the second season of The Mandalorian pleased Star Wars fans but expanded its universe.

The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal as the mysterious bounty hunter known to many only as the Mandalorian, though his real name is Din Djarin. The other star of the show is Grogu, the infant member of Jedi Master Yoda’s equally mysterious race known for their connection to the Force. Originally in the first season of show the Mandalorian was hired to deliver Grogu to the remnants of the Galactic Empire (the show takes place several years after Return of the Jedi and the Empire has been defeated) for nefarious purposes. However, the mysterious bounty hunter developed a bond with the Child (as he was called then) and refused. Now hunted by the Empire, the Mandalorian spends most of the second season trying to learn more about the Child and find a proper home for the aforable, little impish being.

mandalorian and grogu

As it turns out the bond became quite powerful and over the course of the second season, Djinn became a father figure to Grogu and when the small Force-wielder was threatened the bounty hunter went all out to protect his adopted son.

In its second season, The Mandalorian expanded its mythos and embellished the Star Wars Universe as we were shown how the universe evolved after the events of Return of the Jedi. What was left of the Empire had been driven to the outer edges, perhaps this was the genesis of the First Order from teh Sequel Trilogy. Naturally, the Imperials are in dire straits as the New Republic attempt to restore order to the galaxy. There are signs the New Republic is having a hard time doing this, and again this provides clues to the backdrop of the Sequel Trilogy. In some ways, The Mandalorian is fullfilling the same role that Star Wars: The Clone Wars did in that that show fleshed out the worlds of the Prequel Trilogy, which led many to better appreciate those films.

Speaking of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, characters and details from that revered animated show, as well as Star Wars: Rebels, made live-action appearances in the second season of The Mandalorian, including the exiled Mandalorian princess Bo-Katan (played by Katee Sackhoff, who voiced her in Star Wars: Rebels), and Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), the popular Jedi featured in both animated shows. Seeing these characters, especially Ahsoka, was a thrill to watch and gave validity to the Star Wars spinoffs as they are rightfully part of the Star Wars Universe. Even though it was a bit odd not to hear Ashley Eckstein’s voice coming out of Ahsoka, Dawson did a fine job interpreting a more mature Jedi warrior, who provided important details about the Child to the Mandalorian, starting with his name.

djinn and fett

Another popular Star Wars character finally returned alive and well. That being the most famous bounty hunter in the galacy, Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), who is more of an anti-hero in his appearances in the show. However, we do not learn how he escaped his grisly fate as a meal for the sarlacc in Return of the Jedi. But the final episode gave us the biggest surprise appearances, which elevated the show to a whole other level. More on this later.

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Marvel (MCU) & Star Wars Have A Bright Future At Disney

By now, everyone reading this must have heard of the Disney 2020 Investor Day announcements on Decelber 10, which left us geeks and nerds salivating and tickled pink with excitement over what Disney has planned with our favorite IPs in their Disney+ streaming platform and theatrically. That last point alone is enough to hearten us since Disney more or less declared that the theatrical viewing experience will not die out. The best example of their commitment came when presenter and Marvel Studios head, Kevin Fiege, affirmed that the long-delayed Black Widow film will debut in theaters next May. This squashed any rumors that the film would premiere first on Disney+ and marks a return of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

MCU Phase 4

Marvelous News

Kevin Feige gave perhaps the most anticipated presentation since we’ve all been suffering from MCU withdrawal this year. Fortunately the wait will soon end as WandaVision will finally stream next month on Disney+ and the new trailer shown on Disney 2020 Investor Day was just as bizarre and trippy as the previous trailers. WandaVision looks like it will be a pivotal anchor in the MCU going forward and is rumored to be the first of a multiverse-connecting trilogy that will be further explored in the next Spider-Man film before concluding with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It was confirmed that the Doctor Strange sequel will feature America Chavez.

By the way, very little information was given about the new Spider-Man, probably because it’s a Sony film, but the non-stop reports about cast members from all the previous Spider-Man  films coming back just leaves us very ecstatic.

Other highlights from Feige’s presentation were the news that the She-Hulk TV show will star Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, have appearances by Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, and Tim Roth will return as the Abomination; two mini-series about the Secret Invasion and Armor Wars comic book events will stream on Disney+; the third Ant-Man film (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) will feature Kang the Conqueror as the villain; Christian Bale will play Gorr the God Butcher in Thor: Love and Thunder; and from the footage shown the best were the previews of the new Loki series which will deal with the Time Variance Authority, the animated What If…, and the tantalizing behind-the-scenes footage of Ms. Marvel, who will also appear in Captain Marvel 2. Perhaps the most exciting news was the confirmation that Marvel Studios will produce a proper Fantastic Four film to be directed by Jon Watts, who directed the MCU Spider-Man films. Finally, a chance to do the Fab Four correct! Hopefully Spidey can make an appearance in that film!

Aside from Black Widow it is at this point too early to go into the release dates announced by Feige because we all know the schedule can change. But it is exciting and comforting to know that Marvel Studios is plowing full-steam ahead with their productions and 2021 will mark the Great MCU Comeback. Continue reading

The MCU Drought

 

Disney and Marvel Studios threw in the towel a few days ago when it came to releasing any films in 2020: Black Widow was bumped out of its slated November release date into next year. This created a domino effect in that all other scheduled MCU films were pushed back, in some cases to 2022. For the first time since 2009, a year will pass without any offerings from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Face it folks, we are in an MCU drought.

This is quite a downer and is completely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how irresponsible many people have been (wear the damn mask already!). Of course, this is simply a First World complaint and pales to other more serious plights going on, but the lack of an MCU film for fans to enjoy is just more proof that the pandemic has uprooted our lives.

At this rate, who knows when things will go back to “normal” or if it is even possible. If this keeps up will any high profile film be released in theaters next year? It is understandable that film studios are hesitant to release films in theaters under current circumstances, even though some theaters are now open. The problem is that even if every theater re-opened, many people would be hesitant to go attend them, not with COVID-19 lurking around. Sure, some would not have a problem but any released film will not earn its full potential at the box office. Take Tenet as an example. At one point, it was one of the most eagerly anticipated films and thought to be the one film to herald a return to the movies after the pandemic ended. Only the pandemic did not end and the film was shuffled around almost as much as The New Mutants. In the end, Tenet turned out to be a box office disappointment. Even though it has earned over $200 million that pales to what was once expected of Tenet.

As for The New Mutants, the fact that it was eventually released is a small miracle and oddly enough wound up being the sole film released in 2020 that was based on a Marvel Comics property, though it clearly was not set in the MCU. Also worth mentioning is that fans already had a property released this year that was set in the MCU…sort of. That was Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Whether or not that TV show was considered part of the MCU is open for debate but on paper it was. Another Marvel property coming to the small screens in a few weeks is the Helstrom TV show which will debut on Hulu, though it is not marketed as a Marvel property.  With all that said, keep in mind fans of the MCU will have at least something for 2020 to get through the MCU drought and that is the upcoming WandaVision TV show on Disney+ later in 2020.

WandaVision may be a consolation prize, but judging from its trippy trailer it promises to be a wildly imaginative treat for MCU fans with its bizarre imagery of a 1950s Middle American TV landscape that morphs into more modern sitcoms. Hopefully, WandaVision will be as mind bending and thought provoking as Legion, but with an added bonus that it’s set in the MCU and is a vital cog that lines up with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

But even though WandaVision is supposed to come out in 2020, Disney+ still has not said when it will stream. It is believed to be in December but certainly after the second season of The Mandalorian has finished its run. It’s just too bad that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was not completed enough for it to have streamed this year on Disney+ as originally planned. But at least we know that WandaVision is still on track to come out later in the year.

Yes, the MCU is in a drought but this will not last forever. The pandemic will pass. Theaters will re-open fully and be safe to attend. There will be plenty of MCU fare coming our way. Next year promises four MCU films (Black Widow, Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and a new Spider-Man film) along with two Sony films, Morbius and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which are now rumored to be part of the MCU. Plus, Marvel Studios and Disney+ promised there will be more MCU shows streaming in 2021, starting with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and then Loki and What If…

So, before long, we will have so many plum offerings to make up for our current MCU drought. Hang in there, be patient and wear your mask!

 

 

Tron: Uprising Presents A Bold Digital Realm

As most of us are staying home as a precaution to the coronavirus, one way to pass time is to binge-watch the myriad of TV shows and films available in our physical media collections or streaming services.

Anyone who has Disney+ will see that the streaming service has the animated series Tron: Uprising. This show aired on Disney XD shortly after Tron: Legacy as a holdover to an expected sequel. Sadly, the sequel to Tron: Legacy never happened and the animated series was cancelled. This was a shame because Tron: Uprising was a well-done show that expanded on the world building of the Tron universe.

Below is a quick review of the show that was done for a previous version of Starloggers back when the show debuted. Tron: Uprising may not be as attention grabbing as other shows nor as fondly remembered but it is certainly a notable sci-fi show, which should be on anyone’s queue list; besides there are other things to watch on Disney+ besides The Mandalorian!

Tron: Uprising, the Disney animated series, follows the adventures of a young program called Beck (Elijah Wood), who becomes a heroic rebel leader in a virtual realm that exists within computers. This reality is the Grid that was visited by humans in the films and the series focuses on the programs that exist as distinct entities within the Grid.

The series actually takes place between the two films and has many aspects and references to the films, which will delight fans, while adding nuances and layers to the unique digital world. The cityscapes are wonderfully detailed and build upon the architecture seen in the Tron films. The result is that the digital world seems more complete, more vibrant, and more alive. Kudos to Disney’s animation team for pulling off this feat.

Disney released a preview episode on iTunes, YouTube and on the Disney Channel that sets up the series and is a must viewing to understand what is going in with the regular series. In that preview called “Beck’s Beginning” viewers are introduced to Beck a young happy-go-lucky mechanic and disc player in the distant Grid city called Argon. He has a joyous existence with his friends until the forces of the tyrannical program called Clu arrive and occupy the city.

Clu, is a doppelganger program of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges in the films) that became corrupted, took over the Grid and betrayed the heroic program Tron (Bruce Boxleitner, who reprises his role by providing the voice of Tron in this series).

After Clu’s forces, which are led by General Tesler (Lance Henriksen), kill or derez Beck’s friend, he decides to strike back against Clu’s reign. Tron by this time has become a cult hero who was supposedly killed by Clu. So Beck decides to assume Tron’s identity to inspire a revolution. Along the way he encounters enemies and allies including Tron himself, who passes on the mantle to young Beck.

Some of the graphics of Tron: Uprising are beautiful and faithfully represent the digital world of Tron but while the series is computer animated the series, on the whole, has a more traditional animated feel. It isn’t an obvious approach but it helps distinguish it from the films. But in trying to set itself apart from the films the series goes too far in terms of the characters’ anatomy that are grossly disproportional; characters are drawn with long, giraffe-like legs! It can be distracting but it doesn’t detract from the show. Many sequences are simply stunning to watch and capture the essence of Tron, especially the latter film Tron: Legacy. It’s an auspicious start for an animated series, one can only hope that future episodes maintain the quality seen in the first few episodes.

The digital world of Tron lives on with Tron: Uprising and it can be enjoyed by fans of those films, and even those who haven’t seen them.

The Star Wars Sequel Trilogy: An Honest Assessment

With the release of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy and the entire nine-film Skywalker Saga has come to an end. The film has had its share of controversy, scorn and praise from all parties. Despite what trolls hoped for, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is an actual hit film. Now as to its quality, that is another story. Personally, I truly enjoyed the film but am honest enough to admit the latest Star Wars film is riddled with plot holes and faults. Still it did enough to entertain me and others and provided closure to the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy. Looking at the three films in this trilogy it is fair to opine that on the whole, the trilogy was badly flawed and can be considered to be the weakest of the three Star Wars trilogies. And that is due to many reasons, especially one: it is clear that Lucasfilm and its owners Disney did not have a clear plan for the sequel trilogy and it hobbled the films overall.

Inconsistent Characters

Looking at the past three films (standalone films aside), it was difficult to tell what was the main story. The only consistent arc that flowed logically was Rey and Kylo Ren’s personal journeys in their understanding of the Force. Not surprisingly, this storyline is what received the most praise. Everything else, not so much.

future jedi finn

Look at Finn’s story in the films. He had a brilliant setup, the world of Star Wars told from the POV of a normal Stormtrooper, and how he comes to believe in a greater cause than his lot in life. As well as his story was set up in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it stagnated in the followup, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, where he became a bumbling comic relief shuffled off to a pointless side quest. Then in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, his story arc had a radical course correction as we are tantalized with him developing Force sensitivity, which hinted at his potential future as a Jedi.

Even more jarring was figuring out who was the main bad guy in these films. Kylo Ren’s story was fine and flowed smoothly as he struggled with his conflicting emotions. But he was set up to be the main villain according to The Last Jedi. In that film, he killed the supposed main boss, Supreme Leader Snoke, and took his title. Meanwhile, Snoke was dispatched too early and the filmmakers were left scrambling to find another villain for the final film. This is why director J.J. Abrams and others hastily resurrected the long-dead Emperor Palpatine. As great as it was to see him cackling and oozing evil on the screen again, his reappearance into Star Wars lore was sloppily handled. If he had been hinted at in earlier films, his revival would have made more sense and not come off as a desperate plot ploy.

Then there are the other supporting characters who were treated as disposable plot beats. Take poor Rose Tico, first introduced as an annoying and self-righteous wannabe crusader in The Last Jedi, which led to toxic online backlash from misogynistic and racist trolls attacking the actress. In The Rise of Skywalker, her role was noticeably reduced to that of a glorified extra and any hints of a romance with Finn alluded to in the previous film were gone.

Aside from Rose, the most contentious character introduced in The Last Jedi was Admiral Holdo played by a badly miscast Laura Dern. This supposedly brilliant military leader did not exude any kind of gravitas as a leader, which infuriated many viewers and emboldened Internet trolls. But hey, at least she had a cool death scene where she used her ship to take out the ginormous uber star destroyer.

Then there was Hux, the First Order leader who instead of inspiring dread and fear like Grand Moff Tarkin became an ineffective joke in The Last Jedi. His character was so mangled that he was mercifully killed off in The Rise of Skywalker after he nonsensically was revealed to be a spy working against the First Order.

Contrasting Visions

The fault for the way they and other characters turned out has to be with the scripts, which reeked of being written on the fly. Another important reason for the disjointed feel of the sequel trilogy was the contrasting visions of the directors of the films, J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson.

abrams johnson

Although both men are talented directors who brought good ideas to Star Wars, their viewpoint clashed wildly. With The Force Awakens, Abrams was clearly doing an homage to the original films, especially Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

A valid criticism of The Force Awakens was that it was too similar to A New Hope: both films opened on a desert planet where good guys and bad guys sought a droid that held vital information. The heroes run into an older mentor type who gets killed and the films end with a space battle to blow up a superweapon planet. Be that as it may, The Force Awakens was a fun film that served as a soft reboot and reintroduction to the world of Star Wars for a new generation. It also set up many plot threads that Abrams left for future directors to follow up.

The problem was that the next director, Johnson, obviously was not interested in doing that. Instead he had a mindset of doing a deconstruction of Star Wars. Luke Skywalker, set up as a long-lost would-be savior in The Force Awakens, turned out to be a bitter old man without any hope. His final moments disappointed fans who were itching for him to decimate the First Order.

rey the last jedi

Rey, who was to be the next generation of Jedi, had a mysterious past and was seeking to learn about her parents. Was she related to anyone in the Original Trilogy? Why was she so powerful with the Force? Johnson obviously did not care with the casual dismissive announcement that she came from a family of nobodies. Something that had to be retconned later.

Supreme Leader Snoke was introduced as a trilogy’s final threat was unexpectedly killed by Ren. Meanwhile, Ren was hinted at in the film of having a redemptive arc but instead turned his back on Rey and embraced the dark side of the Force.  Both films are clear evidence that there wasn’t a coherent vision with the trilogy.

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