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A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy: The Star Wars Thread

4-So

False is the dawn that promises anything
As much as I love TLJ, they backed themselves into a corner when they killed off Snoke. Kylo Ren as Supreme Leader works but he was never the kind of character that was going to be the evil string-pulling master. Just like Vader in the original trilogy, he was more of an attack dog (albeit an ambitious one), and occupying the role of grand antagonist would have been a strange move. Just as Vader was manipulated by Palps, so to was Ben Solo manipulated by Snoke (Palps, of course); when Snoke utters his line in TLJ about a cur occupying a place of importance because a cur can be a useful tool when properly manipulated, he isn't just talking about Hux. Where the Star Wars mythos is concerned, there needed to be someone or something else playing the long, evil game. As such, I understand why Palpatine was brought back. To that end, my issue is that Palpatine's return needed some breathing room and, for me, need to be explained better than a single line by Merry Brandybuck talking about science and sorcery. And that doesn't even cover the eye-rolling WTF-ness of his scheme.
 

Egarwaen

(He/Him)
Sure, but that was the genius of killing off Snoke. There was someone playing the long, evil game. He goofed.

Now you've got a galaxy-spanning paramilitary in the hands of his "anger management problems" strong-man who's just been doubly humiliated after falling for Skywalker's Ghost Gambit and letting the dregs of the Resistance get away. He's obsessed with killing the past, but also clings to it, echoing the way TFA opens on a planet literally strewn with the mechanical debris of the last Galactic Civil War, only to show the current war being fought with updated versions of the same weapons. What does he do?
 

4-So

False is the dawn that promises anything
I agree, killing off Snoke was the right call. Still backs them into a corner. There are ways out of corners, of course. Not sure they picked the right one but it's one of the minor "problems" with Rise.

Honestly, my biggest problem concerning Palpatine is more from a mechanical, movie-making viewpoint. How do you resurrect the baddest, vilest most-Space-Hitleresque motherfucker in the galaxy, who the audience last saw plummeting to his death 30 years ago? If you're JJ Abrams, instead of showing, you simply tell, reintroducing him in the opening crawl. Just... fuuuuuuuck yoooooooou.
 

Zef

Find Your Reason
(He/Him)
I dunno where the spoiler-tagging started, but I'll follow the lead.

Pretty much, yeah. Diverging from the trite "mastermind and enforcer" legacy of Star Wars was a brilliant move, because it opened up whole new (ahem) galaxies of potential of where to go next. We had already had a Sith Lord who redeemed himself through love; let's see what happens when he surpasses his master instead.

Meanwhile, Rey felt kinship with Ben because she thought she saw someone else trying to find a place in the narrative, and also someone who possibly felt just as afraid and excited about their own potential (vis a vis the Force, but also in relation to human connection despite their background.) And it IS disheartening that Kylo Ren would reject that kinship (by trying to impose his own terms on it) especially since we've been taught that The Power Of Love is supposed to conquer that kind of thing. But... Finn is right there. He's trying to find his place in the world too. He has unrealized potential and he comes from just as dark a background as Ben and Rey. Nevermind the "Force-sensitive" thing, he knows what being a Stormtrooper is, he's learned to care for someone individually despite his terror, and he's learned to care enough for a cause to fight for it heart and soul. There's a whole character arc in helping Rey realize that, what she sought with Ben, she can find with Finn.

Plotwise it would've been fascinating to see the fascism of the FO tear itself apart, with Hux on one side and Kylo Ren on the other, instead of relying on a magical mastermind to completely sidestep the politics of that plotline. And yet.

If you're JJ Abrams, instead of showing, you simply tell, reintroducing him in the opening crawl. Just... fuuuuuuuck yoooooooou.
Not even that. He revealed it via Fortnite :p
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
(And then it does precisely zip with that fleet, which is my central peeve, but that's a different story.)
What do you mean? It does something with the fleet. It uses them to show how powahful OmniSith Palpatine's Force Lightning is.
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
As much as I love TLJ, they backed themselves into a corner when they killed off Snoke. Kylo Ren as Supreme Leader works but he was never the kind of character that was going to be the evil string-pulling master. Just like Vader in the original trilogy, he was more of an attack dog (albeit an ambitious one), and occupying the role of grand antagonist would have been a strange move. Just as Vader was manipulated by Palps, so to was Ben Solo manipulated by Snoke (Palps, of course); when Snoke utters his line in TLJ about a cur occupying a place of importance because a cur can be a useful tool when properly manipulated, he isn't just talking about Hux. Where the Star Wars mythos is concerned, there needed to be someone or something else playing the long, evil game. As such, I understand why Palpatine was brought back. To that end, my issue is that Palpatine's return needed some breathing room and, for me, need to be explained better than a single line by Merry Brandybuck talking about science and sorcery. And that doesn't even cover the eye-rolling WTF-ness of his scheme.
I think the only bit of backing into a corner that The Last Jedi did was that Kylo, with no pressure and with nobody more powerful and evil present, not only didn't reject the Dark Side, he didn't moderate the First Order's behaviour at all. Darth Vader's behaviour, although repugnant, was slightly understandable because he'd got stuck working for the Devil. With Kylo, it's difficult to see what could turn him back; he's already had the best chance he'll ever have (then Carrie Fisher went and died killing probably the only feasible remaining option). Beyond killing Snoke, it's hard to see what he could do now to make some kind of amends for his numerous atrocities.

That's really interesting, however, having an actually irredeemable villain in Star Wars. Which isn't against the spirit of Star Wars, he's only irredeemable by his own actions and choice. Show how dangerous the Dark Side is, it shouldn't be a day trip if you're a goody. Show real consequences for living that life.
 
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Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
That's one of the reasons why The Rise of Skywalker was so disappointing to me. They had the chance to do something different with the ending of the story and chose to do the same thing again but stupider.
 

Sarcasmorator

Same as I ever was
(He/him)
Yeah, there's really little reason I can think of to have the broadcast sequestered to Fortnite but not included in the movie itself. It was weird.
 

Egarwaen

(He/Him)
Or if you really must keep the plotter and enforcer structure, you make Kylo Ren the plotter - after all he's chosen his path, it only makes sense for that determination to transform into effective planning - and introduce a new enforcer type. You've even got a built in escape hatch for a mandated redemption ending, where Kylo boxes himself into a corner and the only way out is to atone for his crimes.
 

Paul le Fou

AAAAAAAA
(He)
Or if you really must keep the plotter and enforcer structure, you make Kylo Ren the plotter - after all he's chosen his path, it only makes sense for that determination to transform into effective planning - and introduce a new enforcer type. You've even got a built in escape hatch for a mandated redemption ending, where Kylo boxes himself into a corner and the only way out is to atone for his crimes.
You don't even need a new enforcer type - the "knights of Ren" were teased in a vision in ep 7 (which was its own issue, but still). They're right there.

And yeah, the thing was always that Vader was ultimately "supposed to" kill Palpatine and take over, with Luke as his new Sith apprentice - even before the rule of 2 bullshit was shoehorned in, Palpatine in ep 6 was basically like, "yeah go for it, I win either way." This would have been an opportunity to see what would happen if the second called his bluff and did take over. Even if it was a disaster, that could have been an interesting story. But no, we got...that.
 

Egarwaen

(He/Him)
And with a rewatch of Rise of Skywalker, I've finished the sequel trilogy.

The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars movie. It's a close contest between it and ESB - both are exceptionally well-structured films that manage to pack a surprising amount of thematic weight into a space adventure story. There's a lot of common threads in those themes too. Neither Vader nor Ren is doing what we think they're doing, and their actual agendas dramatically complicate what was previously a relatively straightforward villain. Our hopeful young hero journeys to obtain the teachings of a failed master who's retreated into seclusion, and finds their teacher challenging and unhelpful. Overall, the protagonists fail more than they succeed; what success they have is in helping and caring about each other, in rescue and evasion and trickery, not open battle. Both films are about coping with failure and setbacks, and holding to your beliefs even when things seem hopeless. Apart from their thematic strengths, both films have incredible pacing, opening with strong action scenes that set the stakes for the rest of the film, and seamlessly weaving together multiple concurrent narratives while still taking their time to breathe and spotlight their characters.

I want to point out that I particularly like Finn in The Last Jedi. Rey and Poe spend most of the film hitting their problems with their own faces and reacting to events, and only find success towards the very end when they totally overhaul their approach. Finn wakes up from a coma and instantly jumps into action. His first thought is "we're fucked, I have to protect Rey" - right out the gate, he's going for protecting those you love. Against his better judgment he gets pulled into Poe's plan, and he starts to move more towards confrontation, and gets so caught up in the opportunity to bloody the First Order's nose that he stops thinking. I mean, they fail on Canto Bight because they park their shuttle on a beach. They get sold out to the First Order because they discuss confidential information in front of an openly mercenary dude they just met. Even when he's at rock bottom, when he and Rose are about to be executed by firing squad, he's able to jump into action as soon as he gets an opening. Of the protagonists, he's the only one who gets in a direct confrontation and wins, triumphing over Phasma, his former tormentor, and escaping captivity.

At the other extreme, Rise of Skywalker is the worst Star Wars movie. On a second pass almost nothing about the film holds together. Even the action sequences are forgettable (Rey and Kylo Ren's duel is especially bad), the characterization is shoddy at best, the pacing is atrocious, and it throws away all the interesting setup from the prior films. There's not a single scene in the movie that's not ultimately either exposition or action; even sequences like Poe talking to Zorii wind up being plot exposition. The focus is a mess, with tons of time spent on things that are ultimately totally irrelevant, and skimming over stuff that's vital. Like, Rey's training is apparently all about trying to connect to Jedi who have passed on, but this is what feels like a single throwaway in dialogue with Leia... Until her final battle with Palpatine, where it abruptly comes up again and matters because they send her the energy to charge the Spirit Bomb she gets the strength to carry on.

Also with closed captioning on that scene lands totally differently, because you can tell who's speaking and that kind of matters. Qui-gon, Obi-wan, and Mace Windu are pretty recognizable, but she also gets support from Ahsoka, Kanan, and numerous Clone Wars-era Jedi Masters. (Aside: Kanan is voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr!)

Rewatching the prequels, I found lots of things about them to like. Overall I didn't love them, but I could see what they were going for, and things they did really well. I didn't find anything new in RoS on a second pass, and a lot of the things that I thought were okay before turned out to really grate.

The Force Awakens... Is a lot better than I remembered it being. The opening kind of bumbles around a bit until Rey and Finn get their hands on the Falcon, with some bits that are great and some that just drag. Once they get the Falcon, we're off to the races; the pacing smooths out, and we start getting some juicy character scenes that let us unpack who these new characters are and what the galaxy is like now. The bit at Maz' drinking hole is incredibly good, laying out personal stakes for Finn, Rey, and Han.

One thing I hadn't appreciated before is how hard TFA and TLJ lean in on Rey being adopted by Han and Leia - being their heir. She gets the Falcon; she's found on the same planet as it, instantly understands it, and is offered a job on it. After Han dies, Chewie's loyalty moves to Rey. She's a scavenger and an outlaw. She has a nearly-instant emotional connection to Leia, and upon returning from Starkiller Base, turns to her directly for emotional support. She takes up Leia's quest to find her brother, and to carry on the Jedi order, and while she does that Leia holds the beacon that will bring her home. She has no parents; she is, to reference the execrable reveal from Solo, solo. Her relationship with Kylo Ren, while ambiguous in many ways, comes off to me most plausibly as siblings. Once she escapes from Snoke's throne room, she fills Han's role of "the cavalry". It's really good, and really interesting!

And then RoS throws it all away and instead goes "Yer a Palpatine, Rey". I hate it!

Overall ranking, because rankings:
  1. The Last Jedi
  2. The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Return of the Jedi
  4. The Force Awakens
  5. A New Hope
  6. The Phantom Menace
  7. Attack of the Clones
  8. Revenge of the Sith
  9. Rise of Skywalker
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
There's not a single scene in the movie that's not ultimately either exposition or action; even sequences like Poe talking to Zorii wind up being plot exposition.
Yep, nobody does anything in that film because it's something their character would do, there's always some ridiculous plot device dragging them to the next scene.

Interesting rankings, I'd have Revenge of the Sith above all the other Prequels and The Force Awakens. First three are my choice but in a different order. Nice.
 

Egarwaen

(He/Him)
Interesting rankings, I'd have Revenge of the Sith above all the other Prequels and The Force Awakens. First three are my choice but in a different order. Nice.
Like I said, going back to the prequels, I found lots of things to like about them. The Phantom Menace tries really hard to produce a wide-eyed tale of whimsy and youthful adventure. Attack of the Clones tries to evoke a rocketships-and-rayguns serial. Revenge of the Sith... Does some stuff and is down at the bottom of my list with Rise of Skywalker for a reason.
 

4-So

False is the dawn that promises anything
If I had to rank them for myself, probably:

1. Return of the Jedi
2. The Last Jedi
3. The Empire Strikes Back
4. The Force Awakens
5. A New Hope
6. Revenge of the Sith
7. Rise of Skywalker
8. The Phantom Menace
9. Attack of the Clones

I'm not even sure Attack of the Clones deserve a spot, even if it's the bottom one, such is my disdain for it (relatively speaking). I'm also ranking based on pure cinema. If I had to extract the story and weigh them based on that alone, my rankings would be different. The best Prequel movies are the ones that exist in my head while reading the novelizations, and they'd likely rank higher than they do here.
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
Revenge of the Sith... Does some stuff and is down at the bottom of my list with Rise of Skywalker for a reason.
I think this is quite unfair and reductive towards Revenge of the Sith. When the prequels came out, "fans" were desperate for Darth Vader. They were champing at the bit for signs of Vaderishness and I suspect that this is the real reason that The Phantom Menace has such a bad rep among fans. They'd waited 17 (?) years for their edgelord hero and what they got was cute and innocent (and low-stakes, which is actually the point).

RotS is a moral challenge to these people. They understand how Vader acted but not what Vader meant - ultimately he's a wheezing mess-up who betrayed and murdered all his friends to be buttmonkey to a man who is cacklingly evil, but they saw "cool robot what strangles people and quips a lot". Revenge of the Sith confronts you with the reality - Vader isn't Vader because he's strong; he's Vader because he's weak.

The Prequels use The Phantom Menace as The Shire - what it portrays is low stakes and innocent - it's not a place where potential galactic disaster lurks around every corner so a trade dispute is Big News Actually, so when the Empire comes you feels the reality of a dictatorship. Revenge of the Sith has Frodo take the Ring and burn everything to the ground. I think Revenge of the Sith is the most successful of the prequels - Vader's appearance is not something you feel like celebrating after all of that waiting, it's a huge defeat.

1) Return of the Jedi
2) The Empire Strikes Back
3) The Last Jedi
4) A New Hope
5) Revenge of the Sith
6) The Force Awakens
7) The Phantom Menace
8) Attack of the Clones



9) Rise of Skywalker

To be honest, my annoyance with Rise of Skywalker is such that I'd happily not have it on the list. It misunderstands what makes Star Wars on every level, it feels like one of those crappy 80's knockoffs made by studios desperate to cash in.
 

Egarwaen

(He/Him)
I think this is quite unfair and reductive towards Revenge of the Sith. When the prequels came out, "fans" were desperate for Darth Vader. They were champing at the bit for signs of Vaderishness and I suspect that this is the real reason that The Phantom Menace has such a bad rep among fans. They'd waited 17 (?) years for their edgelord hero and what they got was cute and innocent (and low-stakes, which is actually the point).

RotS is a moral challenge to these people. They understand how Vader acted but not what Vader meant - ultimately he's a wheezing mess-up who betrayed and murdered all his friends to be buttmonkey to a man who is cacklingly evil, but they saw "cool robot what strangles people and quips a lot". Revenge of the Sith confronts you with the reality - Vader isn't Vader because he's strong; he's Vader because he's weak.
I actually agree with you! But I think AotC does that exact same thing, and does it far more effectively. Anakin can't talk politics for thirty seconds without declaring that power should be taken away from the people and concentrated in the hands of a dictator. His solution to literally everything is "find the bad people and kill them because they're not even human". When he can't do that, he falls back to whining and blaming others; he never admits fault himself. He's a really awful person!

That said, I can see the presentation of the concept in RotS going better for others. I felt like it softened the blow by making more of Anakin's fall the fault of Palpatine, rather than the fault of his own flaws.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Revenge of the Sith has the fundamental structure of a Greek tragedy. As a stage production, every scene which doesn't take place somewhere on the surface of Coruscant would be summarized as exposition by a messenger from the front lines, with the exception of the duel on Mustafar, which you'd have to move to Coruscant in order to preserve that Aristotelian unity of place.
 

Sarcasmorator

Same as I ever was
(He/him)
My current ranking is probably:

1. The Last Jedi
2. The Empire Strikes Back
3. Return of the Jedi
4. A New Hope
5. The Force Awakens
6. Rogue One
7. Revenge of the Sith
8. Solo
9. The Phantom Menace
10. The Rise of Skywalker
11. Attack of the Clones
 

Zef

Find Your Reason
(He/Him)
Her relationship with Kylo Ren, while ambiguous in many ways, comes off to me most plausibly as siblings.
This. THIS! I HATE that everyone read their relationship as instantly "romantic" when it's so much richer and powerful as a re-exploration/followup to Luke and Leia. Rey is flashing every neon sign available that she's looking for kinship, not romance--she's still trying to understand why she doesn't have a family and she's looking for one everywhere. When Ben goes full Kylo, Rey's sorrow comes not from a love interest betraying her, but from the betrayal of someone she thought was just like her and with whom she thought she could relate.

I want to believe that there's an alternate retelling of the third film, somewhere, in a better world where Fisher hasn't passed yet, where the parental relationship you mention is much more explicitly defined, and the theme of "found family" is brought to the forefront.

The one part where I'm not sure I agree with your analysis is in Finn's role during TLJ. I nod at and understand everything you point out, but with the passage of time I feel that it was poorly conveyed to audiences; to the point that Boyega himself feels Finn was done dirty by the subplot. Theoretically, Canto Bight us supposed to further his character arc along (TFA was "I need to save myself -> I need to save my friend(s)", TLJ is "I need to save myself and my friends (selfish) -> "I can identify with and fight for a greater cause (selfless)") but the execution was apparently too muddled for the majority of viewers to understand.
 

Egarwaen

(He/Him)
This. THIS! I HATE that everyone read their relationship as instantly "romantic" when it's so much richer and powerful as a re-exploration/followup to Luke and Leia. Rey is flashing every neon sign available that she's looking for kinship, not romance--she's still trying to understand why she doesn't have a family and she's looking for one everywhere. When Ben goes full Kylo, Rey's sorrow comes not from a love interest betraying her, but from the betrayal of someone she thought was just like her and with whom she thought she could relate.

I want to believe that there's an alternate retelling of the third film, somewhere, in a better world where Fisher hasn't passed yet, where the parental relationship you mention is much more explicitly defined, and the theme of "found family" is brought to the forefront.
It's a much more effective mirror of the original and prequel trilogies as well, as it means that rather than reprising an existing arc (mostly Luke's, though some of Anakin's as well), Rey is following the hypothetical "Luke is turned and Leia has to carry on the fight" arc that's there in the background through ESB and RotJ.

The one part where I'm not sure I agree with your analysis is in Finn's role during TLJ. I nod at and understand everything you point out, but with the passage of time I feel that it was poorly conveyed to audiences; to the point that Boyega himself feels Finn was done dirty by the subplot. Theoretically, Canto Bight us supposed to further his character arc along (TFA was "I need to save myself -> I need to save my friend(s)", TLJ is "I need to save myself and my friends (selfish) -> "I can identify with and fight for a greater cause (selfless)") but the execution was apparently too muddled for the majority of viewers to understand.
Boyega's got plenty of legitimate gripes with how his character was handled, and with how he himself was treated, and is trying to talk about that around a bunch of legal fencing that still limits what he can say. And from what he's said and what Oscar Isaac has said, and expressing "Finn is Force-sensitive" only as subtext in Rise of Skywalker - a film that otherwise feels the need to repeatedly bludgeon the viewer with exposition - it's pretty clear that corporate issued some kind of edict about what was and wasn't allowed with Finn. And as good as I think the final product was, Rian Johnson definitely did an abysmal job of navigating his relationship with corporate.

Which is really messed up because Finn should obviously have been the leading man of the entire trilogy. Boyega is a fantastic actor, and there's so much you can do with "disaffected Stormtrooper turned reluctant hero". As much as I like his arc in TLJ, I think he would've been better served with a more straightforwardly heroic arc, as a contrast to Poe and Rey. You can even fit in the same incredible ending with Rose, you just have to get there a bit differently.
 

Zef

Find Your Reason
(He/Him)
As much as I like his arc in TLJ, I think he would've been better served with a more straightforwardly heroic arc, as a contrast to Poe and Rey. You can even fit in the same incredible ending with Rose, you just have to get there a bit differently.
Ironically, I do feel he has a much clearer (and clearly heroic) role in TLJ than Poe does. Hell, while I don't have metrics or anything objective to go by, it feels like Poe is the one with the least screentime and the more simplified subplot once the three branches of the plot are underway. Finn gets to interact with all sorts of characters, learns from them at various points, and puts the experience to much better use. Even when his "sacrifice" is rebuked, it's still in service of his arc. His actions have clear consequences and he suffers for and from them. Poe basically sits and seethes for 90% of his arc, is much more useful in developing Holdo as a character, and while his actions lead to her jaw-dropping final act, they're also never commented upon and he doesn't seem to internalize the enormity of his mistakes.

But then RoS came along and made hash of both characters as it focused all of its energies on the Kylo-Rey-Sheev narrative.
 
Have some more rankings

12. Revenge of the Sith
11. Phantom Menace
10. Rogue One
9. Rise of Skywalker
8. Return of the Jedi
7. Last Jedi
6. Solo
5. The Clone Wars series
4. New Hope
3. Force Awakens
2. Star wars Rebels
1. Empire Strikes Back

(yes the one missing left off intentionally)
 
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