Ranking The Star Wars Planets, Part II

Continuing our look at the Star Wars planet from the worst to the best, here are the most memorable worlds a galaxy far, far away. The planets on the  list are scored on a scale of 30 points in three categories.

Plot Significance: so, out of these three categories, this the most straightforward; how important is the planet to the plot of the movie it’s featured in, or to the overarching story. In this way, the perfect planet is one that couldn’t be replaced by any other.

Design: Usually related to visuals, but design can go down to the characters, the ships, the animals, and anything related to the planet. The worst type of design is one that is easily forgettable, while the best is one that is visually striking as well as thematically relevant.

The hardest of the three categories to explain is Plausibility, which scores how believable the planet is, usually in a sociological and ecological way. (In theory, none of the planets are really that plausible; no habitable planet would be all desert, all snow, or even all urban sprawl.) So, plausibility is especially relative. In order to be plausible, a planet should have an ecosystem, a society, an economy, and whatever else it needs to feel lived-in. Worlds that change across the movies feel plausible and well-developed. Since plausibility is difficult to gauge, the average plausibility score is about 6. Below that indicates that the planet is not very believable, and above that means it is rather believable.

20. Dagobah

Appearances: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Revenge of the Sith

Plot Significance: 8   Design: 6.5  Plausibility: 5.5   Total: 20

You might be surprised to see Dagobah this far down on the list, and frankly, so am I. It loses some points for plausibility – is this whole planet just jungle with one hut and magic cave? It makes sense to have Yoda hide out here, because it’s isolated and lonely, but that puts it a little further down this ranking.

Also, an important design detail: outside of the creature in the water that momentarily attacks R2D2, all of the creatures we see on Dagobah are just regular Earth creatures. That might have gone unnoticed when Empire first debuted, but with the standards of design post-prequel trilogy, that feels lazy.

Yoda’s hut is neat, but obviously the point of interest here is the cave. Luke goes in there, against the advice of Yoda, and is confronted by an image of Darth Vader. It’s such an exciting and intriguing element of Dagobah that I wished had been a little more developed; what’s this place’s connection to the Force?

There’s nothing wrong with Dagobah, but it all blends together. As a setting, it just feels empty.

19. Kamino

Appearance: Attack of the Clones

Plot Significance: 7   Design: 8   Plausibility: 5   Total: 20

Kamino is very eerie, and that makes me love it. The obvious significance to the plot is that it is where the clones, and later, the Stormtroopers come from.

I think that storms in fiction can kind of be used as an overdone trope; when a character looks out the window and notes “there’s a storm coming,” and it’s supposed to be a brilliant device that symbolizes the upcoming turbulence. But on Kamino, this is done seamlessly, because the entire planet is a storm. It’s subtle enough not to be noticed. Having the clones made on a planet where it’s always raining gives the whole thing a very creepy vibe.

Speaking of creepy, how about the Kaminoans? They look slightly angelic in an incredibly unsettling kind of way. This is some excellent creature design

But also, is Kamino a planet of exclusively water, with a manufacturing plant built on top of it? Sure, Earth at one point was covered in water, but if you found a planet of entirely water, would you build a manufacturing plant there? I do find the whole thing a little difficult to believe, but Kamino is one of my favorite planets in Kamino.

18. Takodana

Appearances: The Force Awakens

Plot Significance: 7    Design: 7   Plausibility: 7   Total: 21

“I didn’t know there was this much green in the galaxy.” – Rey

Let’s go over everything that happens on Takodana; the Millennium Falcon, flown by Han/Chewie/Finn/Rey, they stop by Maz Kanata’s bar, the First Order attacks, there’s an exciting battle, “TRAITOR!” Rey gets taken hostage, Han and Finn leave with Leia.

We get a decent look at this planet; when Rey is being chased by Kylo Ren, we get to see the jungle. The space battle and land-battle which breaks out uses the area’s terrain to a pretty exciting degree, and I really leave this planet with a good impression of it.

17. Kessel

Appearances: Solo

Plot Significance: 6   Design: 8   Plausibility: 7   Total: 21

So, the Kessel Run has been mentioned constantly through Star Wars, so it makes sense that we’d get to see Kessel and the Kessel Run in Solo. I’m still not sold on the Kessel Run and why exactly we needed to see it, but Kessel itself is so awesome! The mine is well-designed, and feels lived-in. Watching the characters interact with the environment, and the environment change in response feels like a real-life situation. The uprising started by L3-37 is a bit silly, but again, it feels authentic.

16. Pasaana

Appearances: Rise of Skywalker

Plot Significance: 6   Design: 8   Plausibility: 7   Total: 21

I saw Pasaana in the early Rise of Skywalker trailers and groaned. “Oh no, another desert planet. Great.” But Pasaana manages to set itself apart with its Life Day Celebration Festival of the Ancestors. My absolute favorite shot from Rise of Skywalker is the one used in the trailer, where our heroes round a corner and see the Festival. It’s visually exciting and feels real. The population celebrating the Festival and the interlude with the quicksand and the snake monster is just icing on this pretty good cake.

15. Scarif

Appearances: Rogue One

Plot Significance: 7   Design: 7    Plausibility: 8   Total: 22

This beach planet makes for an interesting battleground during the most interesting part of Rogue One. It makes for a refreshing change of pace, much in the same way the action in Rogue One is a change of pace from the action in other Star Wars movies. We get to see a battle from the perspective of infantrymen in a way that feels more visceral than similar scenes from the Original Trilogy. Similar to Lah’mu, having the violence of the Empire set against a verdant, green planet only highlights how villainous and destructive they can be.

14. Forest Moon of Endor

Appearances: Return of the Jedi

Plot Significance: 8   Design: 7   Plausibility: 7   Total: 22

Endor! Who doesn’t love Endor? And again, if the scenes on the Ocean Moon took place on the Forest Moon, I’d probably rate this a little bit higher.

But Endor is great. The Ewok village is intricate and fun, and while the Ewoks might be tonally at odds with the end of the trilogy, they’re undeniably cute. And they facilitate the change on Endor during the course of the movie – we watch as the Ewoks and the Rebels band together to fight the Empire. It puts another perspective on the struggle against the Empire; even primitive teddy bears will come together to take down a regime.

13. Exegol

Appearances: Rise of Skywalker

Plot Significance: 9   Design: 8   Plausibility 5   Total: 22

All right, let me get the negatives out of the way first: do you mean to tell me that this entire planet is perpetually stormy and perpetually evil? Introducing Sith as a planetary culture rather than an order raises more questions than it answers.

That being said; the Sith temple is dramatic and over-the-top, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s sinister and creepy, and it’s a fitting place for the end of the Skywalker Saga. The Temple is huge and feels overwhelmingly empty, and the introduction with the Knights of Ren and Palpatine’s chambers properly set the tone on the most sinister planet in the galaxy.

12. Alderaan

Appearances: Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope

Plot Significance: 6   Design: 8  Plausibility: 8 Total: 22

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” – Obi-Wan

I considered saying that Alderaan’s destruction is the only planet whose destruction actually carries any weight but also… it doesn’t really. I don’t think the rebellion would have been any less motivated, and the Death Star likely would have been destroyed. Leia is upset for one scene and then goes back to normal. Alderaan is not mentioned in A New Hope after its destroyed. I get that mentioning the fact that millions of people were destroyed in a fiery explosion kind of doesn’t jive with the light tone these movies have but like… give me one pilot saying “we have to do it for Alderaan,” or anything.

That aside, I have a lot to praise about the planet’s design and plausibility. What little we see of it is really cool, and most resembles Earth. Revenge of the Sith makes me wish we saw more of Alderaan in any of the movies.

11. Corellia

Appearances: Solo

Plot Significance: 7   Design: 8   Plausibility: 8   Total: 23

I like Corellia!

We don’t see too much of it, but it’s a good place to start the action in Solo. It’s shabby, and grimy, and perfectly sets the tone for the type of movie you’re going to watch. All in all, Corellia seems like a pretty terrible place to be, so the chase scene with Han and Qi’ra trying to escape is thrilling, and you really root for the two of them. The speeder moving through the streets make for a great action sequence that shows a different kind of economic disparity. This is Han’s Tatooine, and I think getting to see it is an important part of his storyThis planet gave us both Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon (a Corellian freighter). I’d certainly say this planet has earned its place this high on the list.

10. Kashyyyk

Appearances: Revenge of the Sith

Plot Significance: 6   Design: 9   Plausibility 8   Total: 23

“But what about the droid attack on the Wookies?!” – Ki-Adi-Mundi

It’s hard to qualify why I like Kashyyyk as much as I do. It’s visually stunning (design), isn’t just one type of terrain (plausibility), and is significant enough (but, compared to the other planets in Revenge of the Sith most feels like a side quest). One thing that does make Kashyyyk feel a little more plausible is knowing how the Empire exploits it for their own gain, enslaving many Wookies. Almost a little too true to life.

Kashyyyk has all of my favorite qualities from Endor – intricate treehouse settlements and a conflict which shows the struggle between technology and nature.

9. Hoth

Appearances: Empire Strikes Back

Plot Significance: 8   Design: 8  Plausibility: 7.5   Total: 23.5

Hoth is spectacular, even though we see relatively little of it. We get little glimpses into its Ecosystem; tauntauns and wampas show a fair amount of how this planet operates, and how difficult it can be to survive. How desperate must the Rebels be if they decided to move their base from Yavin to Hoth?

And the AT-AT attack on the Rebel Base is iconic. When the first one is taken down, it feels like a huge victory, but ultimately, the AT-ATs win the battle. This properly sets the tone for what ultimately ends up being the original tonally darker sequel.

8. Bespin

Appearances: Empire Strikes Back

Plot Significance: 9   Design: 8   Plausibility: 7  Total: 24

“You truly belong with us among the clouds.” – Lando

This is where Star Wars’ biggest moments happen. Bespin’s Cloud City is where Empire’s climax takes place. Lando sells out his friends, Han gets frozen in carbonite, Darth Vader reveals himself to be Luke’s father.

Bespin as a settlement is fine, I appreciate how they have their own little economy of mining, and we get to see the junk traders who want to scrap C3PO. And that economy facilitates the biggest choice in that movie: Lando’s betrayal is motivated by his interest in bolstering Bespin’s economy.

I had thought to take away some plausibility points from Bespin just on the basis that we only see Cloud City and never get to see the planet’s surface, but then I did a little more research and found that Bespin is a gas planet, so there likely is no surface.

But Bespin’s greatest strength is in its set design; the carbon-freezing room is visually amazing. Contrast that with the sterile, stuffy hallways our characters are seen walking through. And the duel between Vader and Luke shows us the interior of the mining facility, which is the only place where such an intense confrontation could possibly take place.

7. Crait

Appearances: The Last Jedi

Plot Significance: 8   Design: 10   Plausibility: 6   Total: 24

Perhaps the most cinematically enchanting planet in all of Star Wars, the battle on Crait gave the studio its color scheme for The Last Jedi poster. This planet easily wins 10 points in the design category. Yes, the color schematic of white salt that turns red when disrupted is a simple gimmick, but it is a gimmick used to a brilliant effect, especially in the “duel” between Kylo Ren and Luke – notice how Luke doesn’t leave footsteps, indicating that he’s not really there. What a clever use of setting!

As far as plot significance, the climax of the movie is set here, and Luke makes his last stand. It’s really tremendous. As far as plausibility, Crait is plausible enough; it’s a salt mining planet that has since been abandoned, and thus makes sense as a hideout for the Resistance.

Crait is possibly the finest examples of the sequel trilogy’s attempts to show us worlds that are new and captivating.

6. Jakku

Appearances: The Force Awakens

Plot Significance: 7  Design: 8  Plausibility: 10  Total: 25

“All right, that is pretty much nowhere.” – Luke

“Why does it always have to be a desert planet?” I grumbled, watching the opening scenes of The Force Awakens. I assumed that just because the trailers showed a desert, that we’d get Tatooine, or worse, a Tatooine knock-off.

But in its small differences, Jakku manages to set itself apart. Jakku was the location of a battle shortly after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, which led to a community of scavengers and junk traders. It’s a logical cause-and-effect relationship that gives the planet some verisimilitude that other planets don’t have.

Another small but highly amusing touch is that people constantly comment that the Millennium Falcon is a piece of junk, so to have it in the hands of junk traders is really just exceedingly fitting. This world feels lived-in and thought-out.

And I love all of the design elements, like seeing how Rey lives in an AT-AT and tallies the days she’s been there. It ends up feeling like Tatooine, but more thematically desperate.

5. Tatooine

Appearances: Really, are you going to make me list all of them? Fine. Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker

Plot Significance: 10   Design: 8   Plausibility: 7    Total: 25

“If there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.” – Luke

The OG! Tatooine is the planet the saga keeps coming back to. I haven’t done a full count, but I’m sure Tatooine has the most screen time by a pretty wide margin – I’d bet Coruscant is the only planet that almost comes close.

There’s a lot that happens here – Podracing, the attack of the Tusken Raiders, the beginning of Luke’s quest, Jabba the Hutt gets taken down, and Rey becomes a Skywalker. There’s no way this planet couldn’t get a 10 in the Plot Significance category.

Design here is pretty neat; the real-life Tunisian architecture is used to show us Mos Eisley. But then, in light of Mos Eisley, Mos Espa (where Anakin grew up) is mostly forgettable, with the Podracing stadium being the one point of interest there. Jabba’s palace and the Sarlacc Pit are other standout locations.

Plausibility is adequate – we see different societies like the Tusken Raiders and the Jawas, and we see different occupations like droid sellers and moisture farmers, which actually makes a lot of sense in a desert. The only non-plausible thing about Tatooine is why that many people want to live there. Were the property taxes on Alderaan too high?

(Also, I know I said I would stay out of The Mandalorian, but episode 5 of the show gives us some great details about the local economy. After the fall of the Empire, the droids from Jabba’s Palace were out of work, so they went to Mos Eisley where they got work as bartenders, and the cantina which didn’t allow droids in New Hope. I just like to see locations change over time.)

4. Coruscant

Appearances: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith

Plot Significance: 10   Design: 10   Plausibility: 5   Total: 25

Is it an exaggeration to say that this planet carried the prequels? I don’t think so.

After the OT, getting to see the Galactic Senate feels like a crucial part of seeing the rise of the Empire. And no matter how boring you think the politics of the prequels are, Coruscant is an important part of the trilogy and the Saga as a whole. It is where the Jedi Council thrived, and let the Empire rise right under their noses.

I like getting to see the different locations, with the Senate Chamber and the Council Room are the obvious things. But the other local spots show more of the planet’s nuance; the theater, the skyhighways, the library, the bar where Obi-Wan does not buy Death Sticks, Palpatine’s office, the Jedi meditation rooms… Coruscant feels like a real city, like the galaxy’s equivalent of Washington, D.C.

Coruscant loses plausibility from only being urban sprawl. The movies only show us locations that are in this intensely clustered city area. Are there any public parks or bodies of water or anything?! If the planet were even slightly less crowded, I’d find it more believable.

3. Mustafar

Appearances: Revenge of the Sith, Rogue One, Rise of Skywalker

Plot Significance: 9.5   Design: 9.5   Plausibility: 7    Total: 27

Mustafar is a planet I like more every time I see it. Rogue One showed us that after his defeat by Obi-Wan, Darth Vader built a castle, which makes the planet and the character both a little bit more interesting. And then, in the opening of Rise of Skywalker, we see Kylo Ren’s attack in the forest, showing us that that planet was more than just lava and manufacturing. (Though to be fair, it’s understandable if you didn’t immediately recognize it as Mustafar, I certainly didn’t.) It doesn’t really gain or lose any plausibility points, it’s a planet that seems to be mostly volcanic, but I’m glad to see it wasn’t the same all around.

But Mustafar is best known for Obi-Wan and Anakin’s duel, and it is a planet that really reflects the conflict that takes place there. The landscape is fiery and violent and is the only fitting place for the end of Anakin’s prequel arc. Revenge of the Sith is a violent and dramatic movie, and this is perhaps the only place violent and dramatic enough for the conclusion of the movie.

2. Ahch-To

Appearances: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker

Plot Significance: 9.5   Design: 9.5   Plausibility: 7   Total: 27

“You think that I came to the most unfindable place in the galaxy for no reason at all? Go away.”-Luke

I considered having an additional category for thematic relevance, and if I had, both Ahch-To and Mustafar would have gotten an additional 10 points. Serving as the ancient birthplace of the Jedi, Ahch-To represents something important in the sequel trilogy; it’s an obstacle for the characters to overcome. First, in Last Jedi, Luke has resolved that he plans to die there (without doing anything else) and spends most of the movie reaching the decision to overcome that. In Rise of Skywalker, Rey resolves to do the same thing, but Luke helps her overcome that. The fact that we are only shown the one island helps solidify the theme of isolation that both characters are looking for.

Somewhat obviously, this world loses societal and environmental plausibility because we see so little of it. Sure, like Earth, it’s a world that seems to be made up mostly of water, which makes it fairly believable. It has a small society of the fish-like nuns and an ecosystem that includes porgs and other animals. For me, that certainly puts it above average on the plausibility scale.

But again, we only see the temple island and its features by design. Ahch-To represents isolation, meditation, and despair. Thematically, the most important thing a character can do on Ahch-To is to leave, thereby overcoming despair.

1. Naboo

Appearances: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones

Plot Significance: 10   Design: 9   Plausibility: 10   Total: 29

“PEACE!” – Boss Nass

While I don’t think there’s an inverse relationship between the movies that put a greater emphasis on the planets, I do think it’s ironic that the best planet on this ranking is from what many viewers and critics consider to be the two worst movies in the franchise. And yet, Naboo is the best-developed planet across all eleven movies.

While Naboo isn’t crucial to the plot of the Skywalker Saga beyond Phantom Menace, the planet has an entire arc across that first movie: the reconciling of two distinct people groups on the same planet.

And that goes to another thing that Naboo does better than the other planets: Plausibility. There are different locations on this planet that feel unique, like a true, biodiverse planet. We see the royal palace, we see the swampy forests, we see the fields, but we also see an underwater city. Love them or hate them (probably hate them), the Gungans are a crucial part of what makes Naboo such an excellent setting.

Naboo’s story in The Phantom Menace is one of two symbiotic societies learning to cooperate with each other to fight an outside threat – the Gungans from underwater and the above-ground natives of Naboo uniting to fight the Trade Federation droids. The movie starts with the Federation’s tanks moving across the forests of Naboo and ends with Boss Nass and Amidala’s peace parade.

It’s almost unsurprising since we spend such a significant amount of time here, but Naboo is highly plausible, carries its own story, changes over time, has different societies and ecosystems, and manages to be beautifully designed. The prequels did not do everything perfectly, but their attention and ambition in the design of planets shines brightest with Naboo.

Of course, this ranking is subjective, and what I look for in the design of a planet. Maybe you look for something else, so I’m interested to hear: what do you look for in a Star Wars setting, and which planet is your favorite?

Special thanks to Andrew Rainaldi at Pop Cultural Studies for providing this guest post.

Andrew writes about Star Wars and a variety of other topics on: popculturalstudies.wordpress.com

The Identity Behind Star Wars: Rise Of The Skywalker

 

With the release of the first teaser trailer for the latest Star Wars film, Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, one thing about the title is raising many questions. Chiefly, whom is the title referring to? Luke Skywalker, Anakin Skywalker, Leia Organa? Or is Rey herself a Skywalker?

Consider this, technically there are only two Skywalkers left and their last names aren’t even Skywalker. That is Leia and her son Ben Solo/Kylo Ren. So are either one of them the person in the Star Wars title? Thinking about it, not likely. Due to Carrie Fisher’s untimely death a couple of years ago before this film began filming, her screen presence will be limited. As for Kylo, unless he pulls Vader-in-Return-of-the-Jedi act and renounces the Dark Side of the Force, he isn’t the Skywalker either. Besides he is a Solo.

A popular and logical theory going around is that it’s Rey. She has no family and her past is mysterious, even to her. The only problem is that according to the previous Star Wars saga film, she came from a family of nobodies. This revelation disappointed fans who were hoping that the mystery alluded to in Star Wars: The Force Awakens would lead to her being a long-lost Skywalker. But given how divisive Star Wars: The Last Jedi was, and based on the nostalgic tone of Rise of the Skywalker trailer, it looks like the new film will retcon The Last Jedi to the relief of many. So we may learn that Rey is part of the Skywalker family, but who’s child is she? Luke and Leia with their affinity to the Force didn’t acknowledge her as a relative. But who knows with the new film?

Could it be Luke Skywalker coming back from the dead as an advanced Force ghost? He is very powerful in using the Force and would have the ability to do so as Yoda and Obi-Wan hinted in the past. Or is this person some other lost child (and no this does not mean that slave kid at the end of The Last Jedi) that we haven’t met yet? Doubtful. What if it’s Anakin coming back as a Force ghost to right the wrongs committed by Ren and the First Order? That could happen, but there hasn’t been any reports of Hayden Christiansen on the set of the film.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker could be referring a cause, a movement instead of a person.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi made a big deal over how the Jedi were extinct and even Luke Skywalker wanted the order to wither away because of his failure over Kylo Ren’s rise. But as we know, at the end, Luke had a change of heart and proclaimed that he was not the last Jedi and it was up to Rey to carry the torch. She was shown to have taken the Jedi texts with her so she could learn from them, but she never passed the trials to become a Jedi.

It’s possible that like the Sith, the Jedi are indeed gone, never to return. But in a new and better order will take its place and it will be called Skywalker. Think of it as Buddhism or Christianity. The religions are based on the philosophies of two influential people, Buddha and Jesus Christ. It’s possible that an order called Skywalker will be more about keeping balance in the Force and will spread by the end of the film. Followers of the movement will be inspired by Luke and Rey’s actions as they carry out a crusade to wipe out the First Order and bring peace and justice throughout the galaxy.

This is just a thought, a mere speculation, but keep it in mind when going to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker later this year and by watching the teaser trailer below.

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Is A Polarizing, Mixed Bag In The Star Wars Saga

This review for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is coming later than usual because I wanted to think about the film I saw on opening weekend before plunging ahead with words about its merits…and faults.

The first part of this review will be spoiler free and talk about the latest Star Wars film in general terms. The second half will discuss in more details my impressions, which will go into spoiler territory.

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi continues the saga of the universal struggle between good and evil in a distant galaxy. It takes place shortly after the last film where fledgling Jedi, Rey (Daisy Ridley), finds the long-lost Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on a distant planet called Ahch-To. She wants to be trained and enlist Skywalker’s help in the struggle against the First Order, the despotic government that rose from the ashes of the Galactic Empire.

Meanwhile the ragtag group she belongs to, the Resistance, is in dire straits and on the run from the First Order. Its leader, Snoke (Andy Serkis), and his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), are determined to wipe out the pesky Resistance once and for all and destroy Skywalker, who is the film’s titular character. This largely sums up the plot of Star Wars: The Last Jedi without giving anything away.

The eighth film in the main Star Wars trilogies is a mixed bag. There are so many powerful moments and unpredictable developments. These will resonate not only with fans, but with the overall saga. Admittedly, this film borrows elements from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but only superficially. Certain expected narrative beats never occur and the film left me guessing as to what would happen next. The unpredictable nature of the latest Star Wars film will leave viewers unsure about the fate of characters, which creates genuine tension. We genuinely wonder if certain characters will survive by the end of the film. The film also takes time to examine the Force, the mystical energy wielded by the Jedi and the bad guys. Unlike those stupid midichlorians, the Force in this film rightfully returns to its metaphysical roots as the film explores its nuances. For the eighth film in a franchise to be this unpredictable and out of the box is a testament to the skills of writer and director Rian Johnson.

Unfortunately, there are too many flaws in logic and gaping plot holes that cannot be waved away with a Jedi mind trick. As skilled as he is, Johnson failed to think through the plot. Too often, we keep asking “why did so and so do that? Why don’t they just do this and be done?” This is a problem Johnson displayed with his acclaimed (and overrated IMO) film Looper, where cool concepts were undone by flaws in narrative logic. Honestly, this makes me wonder about the quality of the new trilogy he will oversee.

Just as crippling is the film’s pace. It starts with a blast, but meanders in the middle and feels uneven, though the final 45 minutes are terrifically nail biting. Certain characters fly off on meaningless quests in scenes that could have used another pass in the editing room. Other characters are given well-rounded and satisfying arcs that allow them to grow and change. Others should have not appeared at all.

No matter where one stands with it, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is a very polarizing film. It is unlike previous Star Wars films, which will disappoint many fans. On the other hand, story and character wise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi strikes bold new directions that anyone would have to admit bring new and much-needed wrinkles to the Star Wars saga.

Alright, this is the final warning for anyone who has not seen Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and does not want to be spoiled.

 

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Top 40 Greatest Star Wars Moments, Part II

We’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of Star Wars! The “little” sci-fi film that came out in 1977 has spawned an intergalactic media franchise that is just as popular today as it was 40 years ago. Being that it’s the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re continuing the countdown of the 40 greatest moments in Star Wars films and TV.

Palpatine forms Empire

20. Emperor Palpatine Forms The Galactic Empire (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith): We, and many of the film’s characters, watched with horror as the disfigured Chancellor Palpatine used a failed attack upon him by Jedi as an excuse to dissolve the crumbling Galactic Republic before cheering throngs. What made this moment so unsettling to watch was that it can be compared to real-life events in our history.

19. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn vs Darth Maul (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace): Say what you want about the flawed Star Wars prequel, but it had one kickass lightsaber duel. Buttressed by green screens and John Williams’ rousing, operatic soundtrack the deadly duel between the Jedi Knights and Darth Maul was wild, exciting and undoubtedly the best moment in the film.

ahsoka-quits

18. Ahsoka Leaves The Jedi Order (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “The Wrong Jedi”): In the final episodes of the fifth season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi apprentice, had been framed for murder. After much ordeal, Ahsoka was cleared, but she was so disillusioned with the Jedi Order that she chose to leave it at the end of the last episode. This turn of events was frankly surprising and deftly sets up Anakin’s own disillusionment with the Jedi later on.

Arent you a little short for a stormtrooper

17. “Aren’t You A Little Short For A Stormtrooper?” (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): When Luke Skywalker disguised as a stormtrooper bursts into Princess Leia’s prison cell on the Death Star, her first words to him were unexpected. Instead of being fearful or excited, she comes off as nonchalant and unimpressed with her liberator. Throughout the film Leia displayed spunky bravado and put up a steel front even as a prisoner. This savvy attitude perfectly summed up Princess Leia, who dispelled the cliché of being the damsel in distress. We knew that no matter what she could take care of herself.

16. The Battle of Hoth (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back): The very first Star Wars sequel set a darker, more ominous tone which was foreshadowed in the first acts’ climatic battle. Rebel forces were forced to evacuate their base on the frozen world Hoth and brave fighter pilots and troops, including Luke Skywalker, desperately tried to hold off imperial metal, behemoth walkers. It was soon clear that the Rebels were outmatched by the superior forces and the one-sided battle was disheartening, yet exciting, to watch.

yoda-in-last-star-wars-clone-wars

15. Yoda’s Vision Quest (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Vision”, “Destiny” “Sacrifice”): In the series finale, Jedi Master Yoda goes on a spiritual retreat because he is troubled by the Clone Wars and the rise of the dark side of the Force. His insightful visions during a visit to a Sith planet let him (and the viewers) know there was more to the Force than he knew. He realized that waging war was not the answer to bringing balance to the Force and that the Force was much more multi-layered than just good and evil. This, and Yoda’s vision of a true Chosen One, was a poignant way to end the series.

han shot first

14. Han Shoots First (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): In the original and true version of the first Star Wars film Han is cornered at the cantina bar by the bounty hunter Greedo, who has come to collect Han’s debt owed to Jabba the Hut. From the testy conversation, Han knew Greedo was going to shoot him so he beat the bounty hunter to the punch and underhandedly shot him dead. Pure badassery and it sets up perfectly Han’s eventual redemption later in the film.

13. Darth Vader Saves Luke Skywalker (Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi): Following the climatic lightsaber duel in Return of the Jedi a victorious Luke refused to kill his father Darth Vader and to submit to the dark side of the Force. In response, Emperor Palpatine attacks Luke with vicious lightning attacks. Luke was helpless under the savage assault while Vader stood by passively. At this point, Vader made a life-changing choice and turned against the Emperor. This cost Vader his life, but his final act saved Luke and put him on a path of redemption as he rejected the dark side of the Force. This moment made Vader much more layered and somewhat of a tragic figure instead of a one-dimensional villain.

12. Darth Vader Goes Medieval (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story): This moment came in the closing scenes of Rogue One and neatly segued the way into Star Wars Episode IV. After the Rebel flagship received the plans for the Death Star, it was prevented from escaping and boarded by Darth Vader. As the frantic Rebel troops tried escaping onto another ship with the plans, Darth Vader silently cut through the hapless soldiers with his red lightsaber being the only source of light. The way he so viciously and quickly killed the troops was both frightening and awe inspiring. The scene demonstrated how deadly Darth Vader was as he displayed his mastery of the Force.

11. Order 66 (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith): Perhaps the darkest moment ever seen in a Star Wars film was when Emperor Palpatine ordered the Republic’s clone troopers to turn against the Jedi. One by one, we witness heroic Jedi taken by surprise and slaughtered by their own forces. Underlining the gravity of these acts were John Williams’ haunting score, Yoda’s pained reaction at feeling all those sudden deaths and Anakin Skywalker coldly murdering young children, who were training to be Jedi (thankfully this happened offscreen).

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Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and Its Similarities To The Empire Strikes Back

GOTGV2 as Empire Strikes Back

Many people who have seen Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (GOTGV2) have noted that the film, whether they enjoyed it or not, has a different tone than the original film. Some have even gone so far as to claim this sequel is to the first Guardians of the Galaxy film as The Empire Strikes Back was to the first Star Wars film. The reason for this opinion has to do with the more adult and darker mood oozing throughout Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 despite all the jokes and action. Is this a valid way to look at the movie? Consider the following and it goes without saying that major spoilers will be revealed…

Separate Ways

In the second Guardians film, the title characters split up and go off on their own separate adventures in smaller groups and meet other people. Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord takes off with Gamora and Drax to join his newly found father Ego and later meets Mantis. When they leave with Peter’s father, Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot are left with Gamora’s sister Nebula (who is at this point a prisoner instead of a full-fledged Guardian). The remaining trio then meet up with Yondu and his Ravagers. This encounter leads to Yondu’s powerful story arc, while Peter learns about his heritage.

A similar plot device was used in The Empire Strikes Back where after abandoning the Rebel base on Hoth, Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 go to Dagobah and meet the Jedi Master Yoda. As this happens, Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, Chewbacca and C-3P0 spend most of the film evading Darth Vader and his imperial forces. Eventually they meet up with Han’s old friend Lando Calrissian. Both groups are changed forever by their separate adventures just like in GOTGV2.

Deeper Characters

Even though some people have issues with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, these critics agree with fans that the second film does a better job of exploring the characters. Writer and director James Gunn took time to delve deeper into what makes the core group and the supporting characters tick. By the time the film finishes we understand the Guardians and their associates much more than in the original film. They are no longer stock character types. Instead, they are more rounded and we know how and why they act and feel like they do. This leaves us with more relatable and believable characters who enhanced our enjoyment of the film.

The same thing occurs in The Empire Strikes Back. Everyone loves the second Star Wars film for its focus on the characters and making us care more about them. From joining Luke in his painful spiritual journey to understand the Force and the ways of the Jedi, to observing the growing love Han and Leia have for each other. In both films, while the dazzling special effects and sounds are out of this world, what we take away from the viewing experience is our love of the characters.

Fathers and Sons

The main character and story arc in GOTGV2 is Peter Quill’s relationship with Ego. Before meeting him, Peter and the audience did not have any idea of who his father was. When the two men meet it’s a joyful reunion as Ego fills in Peter about where he came from. Naturally, Star-Lord is excited to learn that he is a demigod. But sadly, the occasion turns sour when Peter and his friends discover Ego’s true nature and plans. The man is actually a monster who murdered not just his own children, but Peter’s mother. To make matters worse, Ego has plans to massacre countless people throughout the galaxy in order to spread his seeds.

Ego and Guardians

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