Category: Movies (Page 2 of 38)

ONG in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' action adventure "KONG: SKULL ISLAND," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Why Do We Need ‘Kong: Skull Island’ Movie?

1933’s King Kong is one of my favorite movies. When I was young, under five-years-old, I saw it for the first time on a flickering black and white TV on a Saturday afternoon, and became obsessed with dinosaurs, adventures, and especially King Kong himself. That’s right, my first love was a giant ape.

The first movie I remember seeing in the theater was the 1976 remake of King Kong, which was okay for my six-year-old eyes (it’s terrible), but I couldn’t believe that they cut out the dinosaurs. Giant snake? Fine. But not as cool as dinosaurs. Also, I will always love Jessica Lange, who is as beautiful today as she was through the ape’s eyes. So I guess my second love was Jessica Lange. She still comes after the giant monkey. Sorry, Jessica! The Peter Jackson labor of love remake of King Kong from the early ‘00s is okay, but mostly a misfire with some nice moments. That movie is long as hell!

On March 10, 2017, we are getting Kong: Skull Island, a spin-off into the world of King Kong. The first question you might be asking is, why? Why is King Kong important? Why would anyone make another movie about Mike Brown’s first love, the giant ape?

Firstly, Hollywood is always obsessed with it’s own history and King Kong is one of the most important and greatest movies ever made.

Everyone from the Library of Congress to The American Film Institute to the venerable men and women of Rotten Tomatoes have hailed it one of the best films of all time, usually settling in somewhere around #20. For generations, King Kong was their Star Wars, a movie they saw that just blew them away with story and effects and tough guys. Dock workers found themselves crying at the end because the monster is killed. No one cries (or believes it) when Freddy Krueger dies. But in 1933, people found themselves crying over a giant ape that had killed a lot of people over about two hours, stomping them, eating them, dropping them, or knocking their planes from the sky.

King Kong set the gold standard for effects until somewhere around 2001, the movie, not the year. I’ve read interviews with effects wizard Ray Harryhausen who said that the movie quite literally changed his life. (If you don’t know who Harryhausen is, he did stop motion effects on countless movies but might be best known by contemporary audiences for the original Clash of the Titans, which utilizes the stop motion camera work used in King Kong.) He had seen movies with people in gorilla costumes in movies and he knew Kong wasn’t that, but he didn’t know what it was. Can you imagine that? Seeing an effect and not knowing how it was possible? In this age of “Googling,” we know everything immediately! Harryhausen didn’t find out for years!

I’m assuming that Harryhausen’s reaction wasn’t unique. He went on to work with Willis O’Brien, the special effects man, who was Harryhausen’s inspiration, who created Kong. Techniques used in King Kong are in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire Strikes Back, and the original The Terminator movie. I can’t really overstate how important Kong was to movie makers.

(L-r) JOHN GOODMAN as Randa, TOM HIDDLESTON as Conrad, BRIE LARSON as Mason and JOHN C. REILLY as Marlow in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' action adventure "KONG: SKULL ISLAND," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

(L-r) JOHN GOODMAN as Randa, TOM HIDDLESTON as Conrad, BRIE LARSON as Mason and JOHN C. REILLY as Marlow in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “KONG: SKULL ISLAND,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

King Kong is also one of the weirdest ideas for a movie that I can think of that also totally fit the zeitgeist of the time.

Callow filmmaker in search of fortune and glory finds a map to a hidden island purported to hold wonders, which turns out to be real. Of course, he takes a beautiful actress with him. There’s a giant ape, Kong, on the island who sort of falls in love with the actress. Kong gets knocked out, transported to New York, where he becomes a Broadway star! Until he gets scared, grabs Ann, and climbs the Empire State Building.

One fun note about Faye Wray, the original actress who played Kong’s lady love, the audio from her screams in King Kong were frequently used in other movies when the actress’s screams weren’t up to snuff. Trivia!

The creators of King Kong, Merian Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, were adventurers. Cooper in particular was an amazing man who joined the National Guard in 1916, learned to fly a plane, and quickly found himself a bomber in World War I. After the war, he volunteered to support the Polish army against the USSR, got shot down, and interred in a Soviet prison camp, which he escaped, and walked to Latvia. So Merian Cooper was no Hollywood phony. I think he might have later supported Joe McCarthy, but I’m ignoring that. Lots of people did! Hell, after you’re in a gulag for any length of time, you’re allowed to hate commies. I’m not exactly sure where Schoedsack and Cooper hooked up, but Schoedsack was a camera man and they started making movies where they would go to exotic places and film wild animals doing terrifying things, maybe Schoedsack would dig a hole and hide himself and a camera in it while Cooper chased a herd of Cape Buffalo over to the hole. Eventually, they found themselves in Hollywood looking for an idea.

I mentioned the zeitgeist earlier, and one of the things that was still strong in Cooper’s mind was the discovery of Komodo dragons by Europeans. So there it is, 1912, and a new species of animal was discovered! “Discovered” by Europeans. The people on Komodo probably knew all about the dragons. These giant monitor lizards sound amazing on paper. I don’t think anyone outside of Komodo got to see them until almost 1930, when a breeding pair was put on display in London.

Also, people had known about dinosaurs for a while. I think the Chinese called them “dragons.” But dinosaurs were becoming well known at this time with many museums stirring people’s imaginations with not only the bones, but paintings of likely looks for the most popular species, which was the Tyrannosaurus Rex even back then.

KONG in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' action adventure "KONG: SKULL ISLAND," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

KONG in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “KONG: SKULL ISLAND,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

So what else could be out there?

Maybe a giant ape named Kong who lived on an island with dinosaurs who he had to constantly fight? Of course, no one really thought that, but it wasn’t as crazy as it might seem now. Hell, there were reports out of Scotland even then that that a diplodocus was living in one of their lochs. Although if you look, a lot of Loch Ness Monster sightings were in 1933. I don’t know if it was inspired by King Kong or just the zeitgeist I keep mentioning, but something was in the air about giant monsters.

I don’t want to get too far into the racism of the time, but Hollywood— and the United States— was extremely racist in 1933. So I know this isn’t anything to jump up and down about, but I don’t think King Kong has any black face actors and had many black actors in it. So… that’s something. But I do think that so much of Kong is great, it’s hard not to point out it’s one drastic flaw, a very dated view of black actors, even the idea that black people live in the South Pacific. So it’s not all great!

King of Skull Island

Okay, that was a pretty deep dive into King Kong, but other than trying to re-capture the magic of one of the greatest movies of all time, why make another movie? You know all those attempts at sequels to Gone with the Wind have been terrible, right? Actually, the more beloved a movie is, the more it’s probably a mistake to make a sequel. Remember Return to Oz from the ‘80s? It’s actually a decent movie, but it was a flop. On some level, telling a new story about this kind of thing usually doesn’t work.

And no movie can plan to have ground-breaking effects or become one of the greatest movies of all time. I bet when they were making Jurassic Park, they wished they could do more with computer effects. But of course, that movie holds up so well today because of the mix of CG and puppets— and of course, is an homage to King Kong. Hello, giant doors! But I don’t think from the trailer that Kong: Skull Island is using anything new, just reasonably good CG. They also made Kong look more like his ’33 model, not like the actual silverback gorilla that Peter Jackson envisioned.

I’m going to have to point my finger right at the success of the Marvel movies and their shared universe as the real reason that Kong: Skull Island is being made.

All of these interconnected super hero movies are basically printing money for Marvel and other movie makers are trying to get in on it. Universal is doing a complete reboot of their monsters: the mummy, Frankenstein, Dracula, and probably the gill monsters. They’re coming out with a series of movies meant to bring them into the 21st Century. And Legendary pictures is setting up a King Kong/Godzilla shared universe. How do I feel about this? Great! If the movie is good, I hope they make all the money in the world. I guess there are some The Force Awakens in there too. Hey, you can go home again, at least financially. It’s gotten fashionable to criticize The Force Awakens, but not only was there a lot to like in there (Gonk!), but that movie made a boat load of money. And how was it successful? By respecting the past and looking towards the future. I’m hoping that Kong: Skull Island follows that same path.

The story of Skull Island always left a lot of questions.

For instance, why would anyone give a giant monkey a human woman to appease it? Would that work? Where did that idea even come from? Well, I’d like to think it comes from the same place that the idea that medieval villages would sacrifice a virgin to a dragon came from. But that story never made sense to me either. And Smaug (The Hobbit) wanting gold? It’s baffling attributing human desires to dragons. So maybe we’ll get some kind of explanation. Also, I always saw Kong’s role as a protector when I was young. There were all those dinosaurs around. I assume Kong kept them away from the people. As an adult, I’m not sure what the movie was trying to say about all that, but it doesn’t really need to make sense because it is awesome.

I’m all for shared universes.

The Godzilla movie was okay and I know that Legendary is gearing up for a Godzilla vs. King Kong movie, which I will definitely see.

(L-r) TOM HIDDLESTON as Conrad, BRIE LARSON as Mason in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' action adventure "KONG: SKULL ISLAND," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

(L-r) TOM HIDDLESTON as Conrad, BRIE LARSON as Mason in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “KONG: SKULL ISLAND,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Of course, I always have trouble with the idea of a Godzilla vs. King Kong movie idea because King Kong is 25, 30 feet tall and the latest iteration of Godzilla is about 300 feet tall. King Kong is a monster that could conceivably happen, we used to have 25 foot tall fire lizards walking around. Godzilla is an unstoppable Lovecraftian hell beast who could never actually exist outside of a nightmare. Of course, I like Godzilla. But you can’t really interact with him. King Kong can look you in the eyes right before he throws you to the ground. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m not sure how Kong could fight and beat Godzilla, who breathes fire, for God’s sakes. Kong has fur!

But I’m willing to believe that Legendary has already thought of these issues and I would be really surprised if we didn’t see Kong in the same role as the Legendary Godzilla from the latest movie, a protector of some kind. They are probably going to be working together against a threat: Godzilla against a monster mother, Kong against something much shorter.

And, yes, the odds are stacked against a great Godzilla/Kong movie working. Hell, all the things I mentioned that made Kong great, zeitgeist, effects, are working against it now. But could it be good? Hell, yeah! I don’t think anyone thinks Skull Island is going to be the greatest movie of all time. But they seem to have captured the idea from the original movie of an adventure, which I like a lot. I’m picturing more of an Indiana Jones-style film with this. And with a shared universe, I’m hoping that Kong wins this time! No one is taking this Kong off his island. I’m betting a lot of asses are kicked by a giant, angry monkey. I could watch that all night.

One more thing that keeps rattling around in my head is that in King Kong, Kong is the last of his kind. But who knows what happened to his family? This is a prequel. There could be a Queen Kong or a Grandpa Kong in it! If there is, I’ll be that guy who can’t help but to stand up and cheer in the theater! I love you, baby Kong!

But here’s what else I’m hoping: That whomever is making this movie has a sense that it is important to have a good King Kong movie. With The Force Awakens, there was this idea that a bad Star Wars movie was somehow a betrayal. I get it. Disney is making Star Wars movies so that they make money. But they will make a lot more money if the movies are good. I’m hoping that Legendary believes that same thing about King Kong.

I liked the trailer! And I have high hopes. So in just a few months, I get to sit down for a few hours with my first love. That’s worth something!

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No time? Read our 3 sentence movie reviews.

3 Sentence Movie Reviews (Logan)

Short on time? Check out our 3 sentence movie reviews. Jump to chronological (most recent first) or alphabetical.

These 3 sentence movie reviews include movies from approximately the last 6 to 12 months. I’ll update this blog post as new 3 sentence reviews roll in, so check back frequently. After a while, some of the reviews will be archived.

Chronological

Logan (March 3, 2017)

Visceral and bloody but not glorifying the violence, Logan manages to delve into the pain of this anti-hero’s existence. He’s the best at what he does, and what he does isn’t pretty—and there was enough humanity to make me tear up three times (!) during the film. This was a better send off for dear Wolvie than the 2014 comic The Death of Wolverine. – A.P.

Rogue One (December 12, 2016)

Although Rogue One isn’t as good as the original Star Wars trilogy, it is certainly better than the first three Episodes. The beginning is tricky to follow so pay close attention. The action and emotional wallop are well worth the price of admission. – N.B.

Moana (November 23, 2016)

Moana didn’t get as much attention as it deserved during the end of 2016. The story is entirely unique with complex, original characters. There wasn’t a prince in sight! – N.B.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (November 18, 2016)

There’s plenty of magic but not enough story in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The story is darker than you expect, but there’s not enough of it to keep the pace up. The characters, however, are very endearing. – N.B.

Doctor Strange (November 4, 2016)

Heavier than Ant-Man, but not as wham-bam as the Avengers movies. The actors give engrossing performances, especially Benedict Cumberbatch. Even though the movie focuses on mystical energy and magic, the plot was more believable and had fewer holes than most Marvel movies. – N.B.

Insecure (October 9, 2016 / HBO)

Issa (played by Issa Rae) is a twenty-something asking herself, “Is this all there is?” She struggles to find meaning in her job, romance in her relationship, and understanding with her BFF. Insecure is a thoroughly enjoyable comedy about a little-seen community: professional African Americans in Los Angeles. – L.M.

Phantasm: Ravager (October 6, 2016)

Conversation held after watching this movie: “Look, there are commentaries and blooper reels!” “If the commentary isn’t just apology after apology and the blooper reel isn’t just the entire movie shown over again, I don’t want to see them.” Just like in the Phantasms that came before it, Angus Scrimm was the best thing to be found anywhere in the film; him standing and being menacing almost made up for the rest of the nonsense. – A.P.

Suicide Squad (August 5, 2016)

What a hot mess of a film! Too much time is spent on the characters back stories and not enough time is spent winning us over. We needed to see the Suicide Squad defeat smaller enemies before taking on the big one. – N.B.

Star Trek Beyond (July 22, 2016)

The new Star Trek series finally has a movie that’s not only packed with action, but actually more believable than the others. Each of the actors finally seems comfortable in their characters, rather than portraying them as imitations of the originals. Star Trek Beyond is just fun entertainment. – N.B.

The Secret Life of Pets (July 8, 2016)

The animation is executed very well, but there’s little original style or surprises. The story is cute enough, but very forgettable. Really, I don’t see why there was such a fuss about this movie. – N.B.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (North American release: June 24, 2016)

Beautiful New Zealand scenery, check. Sam Neill as a gruff old man who learns to accept the teenager forced upon him, check. Excellent movie with both laugh-out-loud comedy and heart-felt moments, check and check! – A.P.

X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27, 2016)

The new cast of X-Men tells a thought-provoking story about a man with too much power. The story is well-written, with good balance of action and the characters’ own journeys. Each mutant gets a scene to show off their powers. – N.B.

Captain America: Civil War (May 6, 2016)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier remains the best Marvel film to date, but Captain America: Civil War gives audiences plenty of conflict to chew. The story may seem melodramatic to some, but Marvel fans will dig it. The action and effects are amazing, with plenty of great moments for everyone in the cast. – N.B.

The Jungle Book (April 15, 2016)

The special effects are so amazing that you are never, not once, taken out of the movie by something that looks garish or fake. The scenery and the characters are lush and gorgeous. The performances are spot-on, pulling out every motion needed for this classic story. – N.B.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25, 2016)

Batman v Superman doesn’t deserve the acerbic criticism it received. It’s dark and dramatic, which audiences aren’t used to because they’ve gotten used to the Marvel format. Batman v Superman takes it time building the characters and inserting plenty of comic book Easter Eggs. – N.B.

Zootopia (March 4, 2016)

Zootopia centers around an important story that sends a wonderful message about acceptance. Plus, the animation is gorgeous and the writing is terribly clever. Zootopia is a far better animated film than The Secret Life of Pets. – N.B.

Deadpool (February 12, 2016)

Deadpool is two hours of grown-up fun, from start to finish. Ryan Reynolds is like an orchestra conductor, using every kind of comedic and acting instrument he has to create a wonderful, and raunchy, performance. The dialog is fast-paced and full of jokes, so go in with your listening ears turned on. – N.B.

Attack on Titan, Parts 1 and 2 (2015)

If you liked the anime, this isn’t for you. And if you like the manga, don’t even give it a try. This live-action movie of the popular Japanese export isn’t for people who want relatable characters or comprehensible plots. On the plus side, the Titans were damn creepy. – A.P.

Alphabetical

Attack on Titan, Parts 1 and 2 (2015)

If you liked the anime, this isn’t for you. And if you like the manga, don’t even give it a try. This live-action movie of the popular Japanese export isn’t for people who want relatable characters or comprehensible plots. On the plus side, the Titans were damn creepy. – A.P.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25, 2016)

Batman v Superman doesn’t deserve the acerbic criticism it received. It’s dark and dramatic, which audiences aren’t used to because they’ve gotten used to the Marvel format. Batman v Superman takes it time building the characters and inserting plenty of comic book Easter Eggs. – N.B.

Captain America: Civil War (May 6, 2016)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier remains the best Marvel film to date, but Captain America: Civil War gives audiences plenty of conflict to chew. The story may seem melodramatic to some, but Marvel fans will dig it. The action and effects are amazing, with plenty of great moments for everyone in the cast. – N.B.

Deadpool (February 12, 2016)

Deadpool is two hours of grown-up fun, from start to finish. Ryan Reynolds is like an orchestra conductor, using every kind of comedic and acting instrument he has to create a wonderful, and raunchy, performance. The dialog is fast-paced and full of jokes, so go in with your listening ears turned on. – N.B.

Doctor Strange (November 4, 2016)

Heavier than Ant-Man, but not as wham-bam as the Avengers movies. The actors give engrossing performances, especially Benedict Cumberbatch. Even though the movie focuses on mystical energy and magic, the plot was more believable and had fewer holes than most Marvel movies. – N.B.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (November 18, 2016)

There’s plenty of magic but not enough story in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The story is darker than you expect, but there’s not enough of it to keep the pace up. The characters, however, are very endearing. – N.B.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (North American release: June 24, 2016)

Beautiful New Zealand scenery, check. Sam Neill as a gruff old man who learns to accept the teenager forced upon him, check. Excellent movie with both laugh-out-loud comedy and heart-felt moments, check and check! – A.P.

Insecure (October 9, 2016 / HBO)

Issa (played by Issa Rae) is a twenty-something asking herself, “Is this all there is?” She struggles to find meaning in her job, romance in her relationship, and understanding with her BFF. Insecure is a thoroughly enjoyable comedy about a little-seen community: professional African Americans in Los Angeles. – L.M.

The Jungle Book (April 15, 2016)

The special effects are so amazing that you are never, not once, taken out of the movie by something that looks garish or fake. The scenery and the characters are lush and gorgeous. The performances are spot-on, pulling out every motion needed for this classic story. – N.B.

Logan (March 3, 2017)

Visceral and bloody but not glorifying the violence, Logan manages to delve into the pain of this anti-hero’s existence. He’s the best at what he does, and what he does isn’t pretty—and there was enough humanity to make me tear up three times (!) during the film. This was a better send off for dear Wolvie than the 2014 comic The Death of Wolverine. – A.P.

Moana (November 23, 2016)

Moana didn’t get as much attention as it deserved during the end of 2016. The story is entirely unique with complex, original characters. There wasn’t a prince in sight! – N.B.

Phantasm: Ravager (October 6, 2016)

Conversation held after watching this movie: “Look, there are commentaries and blooper reels!” “If the commentary isn’t just apology after apology and the blooper reel isn’t just the entire movie shown over again, I don’t want to see them.” Just like in the Phantasms that came before it, Angus Scrimm was the best thing to be found anywhere in the film; him standing and being menacing almost made up for the rest of the nonsense. – A.P.

Rogue One (December 12, 2016)

Although Rogue One isn’t as good as the original Star Wars trilogy, it is certainly better than the first three Episodes. The beginning is tricky to follow so pay close attention. The action and emotional wallop are well worth the price of admission. – N.B.

The Secret Life of Pets (July 8, 2016)

The animation is executed very well, but there’s little original style or surprises. The story is cute enough, but very forgettable. Really, I don’t see why there was such a fuss about this movie. – N.B.

Star Trek Beyond (July 22, 2016)

The new Star Trek series finally has a movie that’s not only packed with action, but actually more believable than the others. Each of the actors finally seems comfortable in their characters, rather than portraying them as imitations of the originals. Star Trek Beyond is just fun entertainment. – N.B.

Suicide Squad (August 5, 2016)

What a hot mess of a film! Too much time is spent on the characters back stories and not enough time is spent winning us over. We needed to see the squad defeat smaller enemies before taking on the big one. – N.B.

X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27, 2016)

The new cast of X-Men tells a thought-provoking story about a man with too much power. The story is well-written, with good balance of action and the characters’ own journeys. Each mutant gets a scene to show off their powers. – N.B.

Zootopia (March 4, 2016)

Zootopia centers around an important story that sends a wonderful message about acceptance. Plus, the animation is gorgeous and the writing is terribly clever. Zootopia is a far better animated film than The Secret Life of Pets. – N.B.

—-

I started this page of 3 sentence movie reviews because I’ve had several people ask me why there aren’t more movie reviews on Media Medusa. Lately, my freelance writing jobs have taken up a lot more time, so I haven’t been able to post lengthy reviews. I want to! But time just does not allow.

As an alternative, I decided to at least have a page where I post super-short movie reviews. (I’m surprised and flattered that y’all truly want to know my opinion on this stuff.) Contributing writers will be invited to share their 3 sentence movie reviews as well, so look for the writer’s initials* at the end of the brief movie review.

I was going to have a really clever section called movie review haiku, but someone beat me to it.

Do you like 3 sentence movie reviews? Sign up for our newsletter to get updates!

* N.B. = Nancy Basile; M.B. = Mike Brown; A.P. = Amy Peters; L.M. = Lou Martin

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story..L to R: Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), and Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen)..Ph: Giles Keyte..© 2016 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

5 ‘Rogue One’ Revelations

I offer the revelations that i’m still thinking about from the excellent Rogue One.

I finally saw Rogue One and loved it. I’m not really a guy who can give you a reasonable review since I was predisposed to love it and all things Star Wars. (Here’s my review of Star Wars Pringles! “They’re awesome!”) If Rogue One was terrible, you’d already know. But it was great.

A lot of hay has already been made about how the movie re-positions a lot of your assumptions about the first Star Wars movie. For instance, the flaw in the death star was designed by an angry engineer, so that makes the flaw itself more reasonable. But there were some other, smaller surprises in the movie that jumped out at me, an old hand at Star Wars.

I should point out that I made it a point NOT to read the novelization or look at Wookeepedia yet, so this is just stuff that I noticed and, as such, could be wrong.

Warning: This article contains spoilers!

Rogue One Jyn and Captain Cassian Andor

Rogue One Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor

The Tantive IV just happened to have the Death Star plans on it.

The Tantive IV is the small corvette ship that we see enveloped by Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer in the opening shot of Star Wars. Captain Antilles is the captain, who Darth Vader lifts up by the neck and then breaks his spine. The three significant passengers are R2-D2 and C2-PO, who get in an escape pod and rocket to Tatooine — fortunate that a penny-pinching commander doesn’t want to shoot a pod with no life forms in it — and Princess Leia, who is captured.

This was unexpected! I thought that the idea was that “coincidence” was something that happened with the Force more than usual. While on the run from the Empire with the Death Star plans, the Tantive IV just happened to be at Tatooine looking for Obi-Wan, where Darth Vader’s son, Luke, lived. But the part that seemed like a coincidence was really the main point! They weren’t on the run with the Death Star plans, they were looking for Obi-Wan! Let’s look into that a little more.

Princess Leia had a mission to go get Obi-Wan Kenobi back in the game.

But during the battle of Scarif in a mad scrum to get away from a terrifying Sith Lord who was cutting everyone up with a laser sword, the rebels throw the Death Star plans onto the Tantive IV and it hauls ass away on its mission to find Kenobi. So Leia obviously would understand immediately how important the Death Star plans were, but she also tried to go on with her original mission. It all sort of worked out, but I guess R2-D2 is really the lynch pin of the whole plan. The bottom line is that the plan was only to find Kenobi, everything else was improvisation. It shows how delicate the threads holding the Rebel Alliance together were. If Leia failed her mission, probably the whole Alliance falls apart.

Orson Krennic

Orson Krennic

Geek Note: I think it’s impossible to tell how long it is from the end of Rogue One to the beginning of the first Star Wars. [Editor’s note: The movie’s producers have said Episode IV happens immediately after Rogue One.] How many times have we seen a ship jump to hyperspace and leave whomever was chasing them to purse their lips or put their hands behind their back and begin to pace because, the way I understand it, you can’t chase someone into hyperspace. Maybe you can guess where they are going from what direction they go, but that’s about it. So I’m thinking what happened is that the Empire didn’t follow the Tantive IV, but used spy craft to figure out where the hell they were going and caught them that way. So I’d be surprised if it was more than a day or two after Rogue One that Vader finally boards the ship. I wonder if Darth Vader was surprised when he found himself back at Tatooine?

The Rebel Alliance leadership catalyzed into a real thing because of the Death Star.

The implication to me in Rogue One was the Rebel Alliance was not really an alliance yet. There were too many voices yelling at Jyn Erso without a clear leader. No one seemed to have ultimate authority in a military situation, no clear chain of command. I assumed once Mon Mothma said something, everyone else would pipe down. But at this point, the Alliance seems like a bunch of complainers with everyone having equal authority, not a committed, cohesive group that would take down the Empire. Sure, they’ve done some stuff, but one wonders how aware the Empire is of their activities. Probably at this point they are less than insignificant.

And remember that Cassian is ordered to capture Galen Erso by the rebel leaders, and then as he’s walking out, General Draven tells Cassian to kill Galen. That is a bad sign from a leadership perspective and indicates to me that there is not a unified idea of how the rebellion should be run. Orders from the top should be orders from the top. So from that perspective, later when Cassian doesn’t shoot Galen, he’s actually following orders from Mon Mothma (to be fair, failing in the mission to capture him), while disobeying orders from General Draven. If people from different planets keep their loyalty to their own leaders, the rebellion will never work. Again, the rebellion is a slender thread that could break at any moment.

But once the Alliance finds out about the Death Star, and then when Alderaan is blown up, I believe that the Alliance finds it cause and, hence, their cohesion, a chain of true believers tired of the brutality of the Empire.

From this perspective, it took the earnestness of Jyn Erso to make the rebellion into what it was by The Empire Strikes Back, a military unit to be reckoned with. Without Jyn Erso, the bickering of the leadership— a Star Wars trope— will keep them from accomplishing anything. But in Jyn Erso, the cause gains their “girl on fire,” an inspiration who knows instinctively the right thing to do. I’ve heard a lot of people say that this movie makes Luke seem like even more of a goofball, but I think it shows that a few earnest, committed people can inspire a movement.

Rogue One Baze

Baze

And one point that I wonder if it was on purpose, which it probably was, was that the Empire is, don’t forget, human-centric racists, not employing non-humans, even as Stormtroopers. So the Mon Calamari Admiral, Raddus, is more than ready to go and stick it to the Empire. I really liked Raddus and his decisive leadership. I wonder if in Return of the Jedi, Admiral Ackbar says off camera, “This is for Admiral Raddus, you sons of bitches!”

While we’re talking about Jyn as an inspiration, one quibble here that my niece and wife pointed out, would it have killed them to throw some more women on the team? It’s weird that at the end, it’s Jyn in a ship full of about fifty men. [Editor’s note: Yep.]

Darth Vader has a palatial home!

This might be the most unimportant part of the movie, but I was really surprised that Darth Vader has a house! I guess I assumed he spent most of his time on Star Destroyers. I love old Universal monster movies and this was right out of the House of Frankenstein, horror upon horrors, with the bacta tank room, the lava-falls, Darth Vader in there terrifying servants. I’m reasonably sure that his home was on Mustafar, the planet where Obi-Wan cut off Vader’s arm and two legs, [Editor’s note: Is is.] and where an angry Anakin pushed Padme and started the chain of events that would lead to her death. I don’t mean to be judgmental, but this is a messed up place to live, even by Sith standards. I guess it goes back to the old Captain Kirk line reworked, “I’m from Tatooine and I live on Mustafar. I only work in space.”

So again, I don’t think that this is much for the plot. But I definitely think we will see Vader’s bachelor pad again. It’s too cool of a set not to re-visit. Perhaps in the young Han Solo movie?

There are more Jedi relics than I expected.

I’ll posit that Jedha was a Jedi home world or something, based on the planet name and the giant statues that had fallen that seemed vaguely “Jedi” in origin. But why? Why were they in Rogue One?

What is it with Star Wars and collapsed junk? I know that Jedha wasn’t exactly Coruscant, but you’d think that someone would eventually clean up those statues that fell down if they had fallen centuries before, which I think was what we were supposed to think. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens the fallen debris of the Empire was evocative. Years ago, the Empire had fallen, but there was still its “machinery” all over the universe and it was slowly being “scavenged.” What do Rey and the First Order have in common? They are both picking over the leavings of the Empire.

And it also tells a story. There were battles after the Battle of Endor— the climactic battle of Return of the Jedi where the Jedi put up a fight, but was ultimately defeated by the New Republic. So what of Jedha, a clue for some future adventure? Maybe. But it is equally possible that the visual designers of Star Wars just thought it would be cool to evoke the fallen Jedi for those viewers who missed the prequel trilogy.

But for Jyn Erso, she lived on Jedha as a young girl. Was she Force sensitive? Who knows? But she certainly seemed to tap into the Force at key points in the movie because this is a Star Wars movie and there is a Force in the galaxy that can make a simple farm boy move things with his mind. Perhaps Jyn is moving probabilities in her direction unconsciously, as Chirrut did consciously when he walked to flip that switch chanting, “I’m one with the Force and the Force is with me.”

And don’t forget that the farm boy is actually on some other planet where the first Jedi temple supposedly was. Could these Jedi relics be important in Episode VIII and Episode IX? Don’t forget that Kylo Ren was collecting Sith relics and seemed to derive some power from them. The Jedha Jedi stuff could turn out o be important in future Star Wars movies.

Are we going to see Jedha again? Again, who knows? But the implication seemed to me to be that the inhabitants of Jedha in the distant, distant past had been some of the first to name and wield the Force, if not the first temple builders.

Rogue One Cast

You don’t have to be an expert to use the force.

I think the Force was all over this movie without being out in the open.

Obviously Chirrut wasn’t a Jedi— or even a Sith— but was Force sensitive on some level. This is something that we haven’t seen before, a working man’s Force user, someone who didn’t have to dedicate their whole life to a celibacy cult. Chirrut is formidable and takes out a whole squad of Stormtroopers, although it seems pretty clear that he would have been killed without the intervention of Baze.

And how about Baze? Was Baze such a good shot because of the Force? He was, right? So there are options other than Jedi and Sith, a middle ground where maybe you’re just a lucky dude or people who are, for lack of a better expression, Force hobbyists, who can maybe levitate a coin or suggest that their friends pick up the check at dinner. “I will pick up the check at dinner,” their mind-tricked friends reply. My sister pointed out that Jyn Erso was climbing like a pro up that storage facility and that maybe the Force helped her. So on repeat viewings, I’m going to look for people who use the Force and don’t know it.

Geek Note: When we first see Chirrut, he’s saying, “May the Force of others be with you,” which is from the first draft of the Star Wars script when instead of “May the Force be with you,” they said “Force of others.”

I’ve only seen Rogue One once but am hoping for repeat viewings to ferret out some of the subtleties I may have missed. But one thing that I think is undeniable is that Rogue One was made by Star Wars fans for Star Wars fans. There’s a lot of love in the movie and a lot to love. It’s too bad we lost all the main characters by the end, but also a bold move not only to have fewer Skywalkers than normal, but also not to leave room to revisit the characters again, a Reservoir Dogs in space.

And hey, now we know where Darth Vader watches holos and veges out!

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