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

Celebrating The 40th Anniversary Of The Empire Strikes Back

Today marks the 40th anniversary of what is widely considered to be one of the best if not the best film sequels of all time, The Empire Strikes Back. What was known as the second Star Wars movie before it was released and is now Episode V of the Skywalker Saga. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back it should be noted this film is iconic and highly regarded both as a followup to George Lucas’ wildly successful first Star Wars film and also, on its own. a sci-fi classic. It also demonstrated, both in its story and ideas, how to make a successful follow up in contrast to other “part 2s” that merely regurgitated what came before.

The story picks up three years after the destruction of the Death Star in the first film and has the Rebels hiding on the ice world of Hoth, and Luke Skywalker continuing his training as a Jedi Knight. The epic ground battle that ensued between the Rebels and the Galactic Empire on Hoth was a highlight and something unique in action films where a climactic battle happened near the beginning of a movie. This is something that sets The Empire Strikes Back apart from other films, and also lets the audience know that Lucas was doing something different.

Rather than just make a carbon copy of A New Hope, George Lucas was building a universe and telling a long-form story; The Empire Strikes Back was the second act or a larger tale, not just your typical sequel. This was shown further when our heroes Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca escaped to the cloud world of Bespin and meeting Han’s old smuggling buddy Lando Calrissian. They then encountered danger and despair at the hands of legendary villain Darth Vader, who carried out his search for Luke and showcased his sinister dark side powers to the extreme. Meanwhile, Luke journeys to the swamp world of Dagobah and meets the now-famous Jedi Master Yoda, who deepened Luke’s training and understanding of the Force. Eventually the protagonists met up on Bespin, but still found defeat and uncertainty at the film’s conclusion.

This is another unique aspect of The Empire Strikes Back, in that it concluded with a cliffhanger ending and a shocking plot twist with Vader revealing that he was Luke’s father, all of which is well known now, but at the time was very risky for Lucas to do. Sequels usually just retell the same story but add a few extra things. This Star Wars sequel really changed all of that and broadened the scope of the mythology of Star Wars and led to pretty much everything that Star Wars is known for. From John Williams’ iconic Imperial March theme, to the towering AT-AT walkers on Hoth, to Master Yoda, as well as other fan favorites like bounty hunter Boba Fett and the aforementioned Lando.

All of these events and people in this film now define the franchise and continue to influence Star Wars films and TV shows. Rey’s journey to Jedi Knighthood in the sequel trilogy echoes Luke’s which really jumped into high gear in The Empire Strikes Back. The success of The Mandalorian TV series obviously is due to the big appeal of Boba Fett and his mysterious nature, which again got started in The Empire Strikes Back. Also, Lando’s return in The Rise of Skywalker was a treat to see, since it harkened back to his introduction in the very first Star Wars sequel.

Overall, the appeal and influence of The Empire Strikes Back is massive and long lasting seeing as how it is just as beloved now 40 years later as ever. It is now commonly considered as the best Star Wars film and will probably continue to claim that mantle for the foreseeable future. There are many reasons why the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back is being commemorated. This is a character driven film that also has exciting set pieces, as well as interesting and thoughtful ideas. The Empire Strikes Back paved the way for other Star Wars and genre films, and set the bar incredibly high for all sequels to follow.

C.S. Link

Top Ten Sci-Fi Vacation Spots

Sigh, the summer is almost here and we cannot enjoy it, much less think about a vacation. One thing for sure is that after this crisis is over the last thing anyone will want to do with time off from work is have a staycation! While most vacation hotspots are unavailable right now it’s always fun to dream of an ideal place to visit. But nevermind places like Aruba or Disney World or cruises, think big, out-of-this-world big. Let your imaginations and dreams go wild as you consider these sci-fi vacation spots. Sure, they’re not without problems; ahem, like out-of-control androids, malfunctioning cruise ships or rampaging dinosaurs. However, these prime vacation spots will ease tired minds or excite anyone seeking a vigorous adventure.

10. Carillon (Battlestar Galactica “Saga Of A Star World”):

Imagine you’re a weary war refugee and need a resort planet with people to welcome you with open arms, food, drink and great chances to win fortunes. Look no further than Carillon and don’t mind the fact that the indigenous Ovions only want to wine and dine you in order to fatten you up for their children’s menu.

9. The Avenue Five (Avenue Five“): 

Want to book a voyage on an interplanetary cruise ship with five-star amenities and breathtaking views of Jupiter? Be sure to book passage onboard the Avenue Five. Commanded by the famously heroic Ryan Clark, this is the ship for you. It’s posh, elegant and can get you back to Earth after a rugged adventure in just three years…more or less.

8. The Fhloston Paradise (The Fifth Element):

So the Avenue Five with its faulty equipment may not be your thing. How about a magnificent, state-of-the-art space cruise ship that takes leisurely anti-g sails on alien oceans? For entertainment the ship features charismatic blue aliens that sing opera! And hey, you may get a chance to help Korben Dallas save the universe!

7. Naboo (Star Wars Episode I and II):

Forget about that so-called vacation world Canto Bight with its morally ambiguous entertainment. Now, this a planet of royal luxury! Verdant plains, magnificent waterfalls, and majestic Mediterranean-like architecture are just some of the highlights in your trip to Naboo. Just don’t mind those pesky Trade Federation android armies or those underwater Gungans.

6. The Axiom (WALL-E):

Ahh, gluttony, hedonism and instant robotic service at your fingertips are on board the Axiom. Make sure to run a few laps around the giant vessel’s jogging track or you’ll wind up looking like its permanent residents. Otherwise enjoy the advanced resort and spa, take in spectacular galactic sights and lend a hand to a certain beat-up little garbage robot, who’s out to save humanity.

5. Time Safari (A Sound Of Thunder):

Go anywhere in time with the Time Safari. The most popular temporal destination is the prehistoric past where guides on marked above-ground trails help you hunt down a vicious tyrannosaurus rex just before its natural death. Please make sure not to leave anything behind, not even footprints, and don’t step on any butterflies.

4. Westworld (Westworld):

The Delos Corporation’s amusement park also features Medievalworld and Romanworld, but Westworld is the most memorable spot to visit. For a mere $1,000 per day, you can indulge yourself in your most primal desires. Have a shootout (and win!) with gunslingers, do some hard drinking and bar fighting or spend time with a lovely partner. Don’t let those recent glitch with the human-looking androids to keep you from visiting. Cowboys aren’t your thing? There are plenty of other time periods and locales like Shogunworld, WarWorld, Fantasy World, and more.

3. Jurassic World (Jurassic World):

Located on Isla Nublar, this is a must-visit theme park that blows away all the others. For anyone tired of fake-looking audio-animatronics, Jurassic World has actual, living dinosaurs! Resurrected after millions of years of extinction thanks to genetic engineering, these gigantic beasts are a wonder to behold for the young and old. Visitors can view them in their natural habitats from the safety of perimeter fences and rugged jeep vehicles. Back at the park’s facility take a behind-the-scenes tour of how these reptilian giants were recreated. Or indulge yourself with top-notch amenities, petting zoos, and be sure to visit the gift shops and restaurants.

2. The Amusement Park Planet (Star Trek “Shore Leave”):

Located in the Omicron Delta system, this planet’s highly advanced facilities can literally create your ideal dreams just by scanning your thoughts. Want to get even with the school bully? Here’s your chance to find him and give him a beat down! You can also be a part of imaginative fairy tales, fight a samurai, evade dangerous wildlife, or spend time with the person of your dreams. Just be mindful of your thoughts.

1. Risa (Star Trek: The Next Generation “Captain’s Holiday”, and other Star Trek shows):

This is the resort planet that everyone talks about and visits. No wonder Risa is the most relaxing of sci-fi vacation spots. From Captain Archer in the 22nd century to Captain Picard and the Deep Space Nine crew in the 24th century. Why would so many people visit Risa? Well, imagine a planet with a plethora of white-sand beaches, luxurious resorts, rich gardens, outdoor activities, nightclubs, perfectly controlled weather and unforgettable twin sunset views. Risa is the best spot in the galaxy for couples wanting to get away from it all and for amorous singles. Here’s a travel hint for vacationing singles looking for romance: be sure to have a Horga’hn statue ready.

Here is a bonus. If these sci-fi vacation spots are out of your price range or you are unable to travel, why not visit a local Rekall and live out the wildest adventure in the comfort of a lounge chair through Rekall’s innovative memory implants? You don’t have to leave your locale and can have your pick of the ideal vacation spot on Earth, Mars or anyplace else.

Any of these places and options would be ideal vacations for all of us.

The Final Season Of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Concludes

Star Wars: The Clone Wars has had many homes from Cartoon Network to Netflix and now Disney+. Focusing on the adventures of the Jedi Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), his apprentice Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) and assorted characters from the Republic Era, The Clone Wars was widely acclaimed for its enriching storylines that fleshed out the prequel films. They added much needed context to the films and in some ways improved them and fully realized George Lucas’ vision for the prequel era. The show was canceled shortly after Disney acquired the Star Wars property and apparently wanted everyone to forget the prequels and anything related to them existed. However, the love for Star Wars: The Clone Wars refused to go away and finally, a new season was produced and began streaming earlier this year on Disney+. The seventh and sadly final season of the animated classic series concluded on May the 4th. Yes, it probably was timed to stream on the unofficial Star Wars Day, and it was a grand way to celebrate the day.

Essentially, the season is broken up into three story arcs. The first one told the story of a platoon of clone troopers that are sort of misfits from the clone army in that they have distinctive characteristics. These troops nicknamed the Bad Batch prove themselves in battle as clone commander Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) searches behind enemy lines for his lost comrade Echo. The second arc follows Ahsoka after she left the Jedi order in season six and how she falls in with two sisters who run into trouble with the underworld of Coruscant. This allowed Ahsoka to see a different way of how the Jedi are seen by the downtrodden. This arc directly leads to the final one which was the best of the three.

While not a perfect season, it does wrap up many lingering plot threads from the previous seasons and leads up succintly with the final Star Wars prequel film, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The standout episode of the final arc was the penultimate episode “Shattered”, which takes place at the same time with Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In the episode and the finale, we get to see another side of the infamous Order 66 and how Ahsoka escaped from being killed when the order was given.

As thrilling as the final episodes were, they took on a distinctly ominous tone that differed from the rest of the show. Even the opening intro departed from the norm by eschewing the triumphant score of The Clone Wars, its opening opening pseudo quotes and bombastic opening narrator. Instead, the final four episodes flow seamlessly together as if they were an actual feature-length film. Throughout the final episodes there was a sense of disquieting unease and dread which paid off as Order 66 was executed and everything Ahsoka believed in fell apart. The final arc elevated the season and made it stand up there with the best of what the previous seasons offered.

As can be guessed, Ahsoka was the true main character in this season while Anakin and Obi-Wan were mostly guest characters. The only other characters who had important roles in this season were Rex and Maul (Sam Witwer), who displayed an impressive range as a villain. He demonstrated in the episodes that he is not only a complete powerhouse of a villain (and one of the best Star Wars foes) but a tortured and complex character as he too, was betrayed by his beliefs as Ahsoka was.

While the stories in these final episodes were fine, it is too bad, the showrunners did not finish the Utapau-based episodes that were never completed the original sixth season of The Clone Wars. Yes, we can see them on StarWars.com, but it is puzzling why they were not finished. On another note, the seventh season episodes were so well-made it boggles the mind why Disney did not commission more episodes to be produced. More of them would have fleshed out the season, which felt a bit abrupt.

It is a bit odd seeing this final season come to life. The original run of Star Wars: The Clone Wars opened with a story about Yoda and ended with the diminutive Jedi Master Yoda and ended with him in the classic episode “Sacrifice”. For the longest time, “Sacrifice” was the series finale and a fitting one, as Yoda realized that the Clone Wars were irrelevant as opposed to bringing balance to the Force and the hope for the galaxy was in the future. Now that has to be discarded with the more downbeat “Victory and Death” episode that focused on Ahsoka and her disillusionment with her former mentor and all that she stood for. In many ways, “Shattered” and “Victory and Death” served as complementary pieces to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and its pessimistic outlook. However, unlike that film, which provided in its final moments a sliver of hope for the future and in “Sacrifice”, “Victory and Death” is missing these types of optimistic scraps. That would have to come later with Star Wars: Rebels.

All in all, it was great to watch these final stories of Star Wars: The Clone Wars; they will certainly please fans as they embellished and elevated the Star Wars prequels.