REVIEW: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

For those who can’t stand being “triggered”, this review has spoilers, and lots of them.  I’m not bothering to insert the actors’ and actresses’ names in here for the most part.  If you want to know who played who, go look it up on Wikipedia.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a time waster.  We sit through two hours and thirty-three minutes of one petulant child refusing to take on the responsibilities he begged to have in the first place, and the other petulant child still trying to gain a fruitless ascendance and rule the galaxy.

Our story begins with a sort of keystone cops bit where a rebel fighter pilot convinces enemy dreadnought brass that he has a message for them but cannot convey it because he cannot hear their response.  This silliness, which utterly deflates any threats we feel from the remnants of the Old Empire, is one of the touches Executive Producer JJ Abrams and Director Rian Johnson uses to kill off the magic of the Lucas years.

Everything goes downhill from there.

The grittiness is back, continuity flaws, cheap plot devices, unconvincing characters, lack of usage of old characters that we are familiar with, but now with new touches to ensure the destruction of the franchise, such as tawdriness and ugliness.

-We have Yoda laughing gleefully as he destroys an eons old tree which holds the sacred books of the Jedi, but unbeknownst to Luke, who is alarmed at Yoda’s actions, Yoda has lied to Luke.  Rey has stolen the books and hidden them on Han’s old ship, the Millennium Falcon.  Why would Yoda lie to Luke?  Especially when, if Yoda can see the future, he knows that Luke is going to die in a few scenes anyway?

-On that note, if the dead Yoda can destroy things on a whim, why didn’t Obi Wan or Yoda wipe out Vader, and later on, Kylo Ren, in prior movies?

-We have a casino scene where a drunken gambler keeps shoving coins into different slots on BB-8’s body.  Said casino and surrounding area has all the kinds of sleaze and scum one would expect on such a planet.

-We have the familiar -ships-appearing-out-of-nowhere scenes that Abrams likes to put into all of his space operas and space genre movies.

-We have dialogue that was almost copied and pasted from “Return of the Jedi” that we get bored with quickly.

-Snoke is killed as a kind of afterthought to a larger plot concept that never really gets off the ground, making the viewer wonder if there is any really decent nemesis in the galaxy to be feared.

-We have a surprise, utterly unexpected rabbit-out-of-the-hat love scene between Finn and a minor character.  It’s unexpected because there is nothing to indicate there is an emotional intercourse going on between the two characters.

-The closing scene is so amateurishly done as to be embarrassing.

But it looks like I’ve lost the thread of where I was headed, so I will start anew.

As I touched on in review of the “The Force Awakens“, JJ Abrams (and, here) Rian Johnson are not interested in using Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher for much of the movie.  Once again, we sit on the edge of our seats hoping to see them in action, but we really don’t.  Leia is an old bag who gives orders to the 400 remaining rebels, (everyone else in the galaxy has abandoned them- and this may be a hint as to what we, the viewers of the franchise, should do, too) and said orders are largely ignored. Abrams and Johnson mercifully puts her out of her misery for half the movie by blowing up the command deck and sending her out into deep space to die.  But she does survive near absolute zero temperatures in space without a suit, and, looking like a Monty Python illustration, she uses the force to propel herself back to the ship, and comes out unscathed when she wakes up on the ship later in the movie.  Not even a speck of frostbite on her.

After that, she doesn’t think to use the force again and just hopes Luke will show up and solve her problems for her.

Luke, who once begged to run off with Obi Wan to fight in the rebellion, refuses to pick up the light saber and begin anew, making statements to the effect that everyone in the new rebellion should just die, including his sister.

All this is because he feels guilt over the fact that Ren’s training went south the same way that Kenobi’s training of Luke’s father went south.  Rey tries to plant a foot in his ass and fails.  It isn’t until Yoda torches the sacred Jedi tree that Luke feels motivated.

But then JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson  pull out the rug from under us.  We see a duel in the making with Kylo Ren and Luke, where Luke withstands a barrage of cannon fire from multiple Imperial Walkers (or whatever they are called now), and Ren can’t seem to make any progress hacking away at him with his light saber.  This is because there is no Luke Skywalker on the scene.  It’s all a projection Luke creates from remote, and after he does so, he inexplicably dies, leaving Kylo Ren to fight another day.

And there you have it.  The whole story.  Everything else, including all the other characters, are incidental to the main plot, except that Rey is now the last Jedi, and it’s up to her to find a bunch of new kids to train up.

So, Leia never bothered to learn how to use the force to the extent we were led to believe she might in Return.  Her entire job in the most recent two movies with her in them was just to be a secondary character.

Interestingly, she was not killed off.  It would have been nice to re-shoot the end of the movie to give her a fitting   farewell, but I don’t get the idea that Abrams and Johnson are much on emotion.  Leia could care less when she hears of Luke’s death, so why should the audience care about Luke’s and -presumably in the ext movie- hers?  They’ll give a passing word to Leia’s death in the next movie, probably, and then we’ll have to watch the wimpy new crew move forward.

There were a few battle scenes, and we get to see a ship bigger than a command ship (which is bigger than a Star Destroyer) for the first time, but as with all of the newer movies, we’re not afraid of it.  Aircraft carrier or rowboat are equally useless and relatively defenseless against the tiny band of Rebels, who manage to take these ships out with relative ease, even as the shields on the Rebels’ comparatively paltry remaining ship deflect a constant and continuing hours long barrage of laser shots.

This is probably the worst Star Wars movie to date, and even if Kylo Ren died at the end, I’d still say that.

Thomas D. Taylor

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Author Interview: “The Tetrad Prophecy: Elemental Linx” by R. Castro

I know I haven’t interviewed other authors in a long time on this blog, but R. Castro’s Elemental Linx is a book that attracted my attention.  I’m sure it will be of interest to some of my fans as well.  I strongly encourage anyone reading this entry to check it out.  Links to the book and the book trailer can be found at the end of this interview…

1.) Author’s name:

R. Castro.

2.) Title:

The Tetrad Prophecy: Elemental Linx

3.) Genre:

Young Adult Fantasy

4.) What’s the approximate page count of your novel?

308 pages

5.) Without giving away spoilers, can you give us a brief summary of the book?

“After experiencing a tragedy too painful to accept, Viviana Magnus starts having strange dreams. In them, she’s whisked away from her cloudy Seattle home to the sun-drenched city of Tenochtitlan during the height of the Aztec Empire. She thinks it’s only an escape—a way for her mind to cope with her harsh reality—especially the parts featuring the handsome young Aztec General, Tadeo.

But when a strange, consuming fire starts building inside Viviana, she discovers her family has been keeping a dark secret. Her dreams aren’t just dreams; they’re preparation for an ancient destiny.

As the old world and the new collide, Viviana learns she is one of the four Elemental Linx, a group of powerful new era Gods and Goddesses, destined to fight a vengeful Aztec Deity bent on destroying the human race.”

6.)  I see this novel is Book 1 of a series.  How many more books do you plan to write before the series draws to a close?

I’d originally planned on three books for the series. However, it may just work out to be four. The research and storyline most certainly give way for more.

7.) Can you gives us any hints/teasers/clues about what might happen in forthcoming books?

The next book, Five Pendants of Creation, sends the Elemental Linx on a scavenger hunt type mission to a few various parts of the world. The research has been exciting, and I’ve found some fascinating twists to incorporate into the story. I can’t wait to share this with you all once it’s finished.

8.) What are some of the reasons you decided to write this particular novel on this particular subject as opposed to writing about something else?

I’ve been fascinated with Aztec history since I was very young, triggered by the artwork of Jesus Helguera, a Mexican painter. His work is possibly among the most reproduced and or reprinted throughout the homes of Mexican descendants, especially popular in the Chicano community.

‘Grandeza Azteca’ fueled my curiosity as a child. Often seeing the image on print calendars, many in which my family owned, not realizing the impact this was having on me. Then I discovered ‘Caballero Aguila.’ Determined to learn more about the people depicted in his artwork, the civilization, the Aztecs, over the years I would learn of the artist’s name, more of his work, but more specifically, I’d come to know ‘La Leyenda de los Volcanes,’ the final piece that would become my official foundation.

9.) What are some of the major themes that are explored in this book? In other words, what kinds of ideas are you trying to impart to your readers?

First, introduction into Aztec deity. Most people know of the Roman and Greek gods and goddesses. But, little know of the Aztec counterparts. While I do introduce a couple in their original names, I shorten the names, because, let’s face it, the names are a mouthful. Not easy to roll off the tongue. While the book is fantasy, it’s important to me to introduce translatable fears that people face in real life. The emotions that we go through when confronted with our complexities. The series once read completely, should have the underlying message of good vs evil, and being accepting of the rich diversity our world has to offer.

10) Who is your target audience?

Elemental Linx was written for the Young Adult market. However, it is a read that should cross over the generational lines.

11) Some authors have favorite characters in their own books and characters they hate.  Who are your favorite characters in The Tetrad Prophecy: Elemental Linx, and why?  Who are the characters you dislike the most in The Tetrad Prophecy: Elemental Linx, and why?

It’s hard to say in book one, at least without giving away too much of the series. But, I like Henry Magnus. There is a lot more to his character than meets the eye. I dislike Mr. Anderson, Zoe’s dad. As the series evolves, readers will understand why.

Speaking of readers, there is an official #TeamTadeo vs #TeamAlasdair movement. (I need to get that hashtag going.) I’ve heard from many of my readers about who they like best. I never set out with this intention when I wrote the book, but, I’ll take it.

12) How long did you conceptualize the novel before you began to write it?

A very long time. I’m not even sure when the story started unfolding in my head, but, I’d had the idea all plotted out, mentally, before I took to pen and paper.

13) How long did your book take to write, and how many hours do you think you spent working on it?

It took almost two years! The truth is, I’d written another version of the book, but ended up canning it because it didn’t ring true to my heart. I’d made the mistake of allowing others to read as I wrote, and outside influences drowned my characters voices. I know this works for some, but, it certainly did not work for me. I rather write raw. In terms of hours, it’s tough to measure. I don’t know.

14) How much does the finished product vary from the original idea?

There is about 70% of the original idea within the pages. The modern-day setting has changed, and one of the main characters is completely different to what I’d envisioned.

15) What do you think makes your book something that other people will like to read?

The story, as aforementioned, includes actual history. So there is an educational element. Yes, its fantasy, so its important to read it as such. I feel I do a good job in isolating what is real and what is not to the characters, and therefore to the readers.

16) If, hypothetically speaking, your book was going to be put on film, what do you think would be the best medium for it:  A television series, a television mini-series, or a feature film?  And why?

First, allow me to say, the thought of my book being picked up on film is amazing! Having said this, I’d have to go with a feature film. There is enough punch within the pages to make it so. A great screenwriter would see this and easily make it happen. Also, because I’m more of a movie gal than small screen.

17) What inspired you to get into writing in the first place?

Reading. I’ve enjoyed reading since I can remember. I was that kid with the flashlight under the blankets.

18) What would you say to aspiring authors who are thinking of writing a book?

If you are truly interested in writing, do it. Write raw, write daily, and keep on writing. If you want to publish your work, do the research. Join writing communities, and most importantly, invest in your art. You have to be willing to accept your shortcomings, be open to constructive criticism, and most importantly, have your work properly edited before you publish anything as a self-published author.

 19) If you could speak to your readers and tell them something here and now, what would it be?

Thank you! Thank you for giving me a chance. Without you, my characters voices would be sitting tucked away in a document that time would soon forget. So thank you. It’s because of you that I do this.

20) Please let us know where potential purchasers can find your book.

The Tetrad Prophecy: Elemental Linx

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XQV6KPB

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1217696772

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/elemental-linx

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/elemental-linx-r-castro/1126012355?ean=2940154272916

Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/342551568/Elemental-Linx-The-Tetrad-Prophecy

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/E-iZMDDZ3LQ

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/itsrosecastro/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RoseCastro

Web: www.rosesarehappy.com

Blog: www.rosesarehappy.wordpress.com

 

“Pinwheels and Pearls” Book Launch Benefits Relay For Life.

Sunday, March 26th, 2017 saw the fun and exciting launch of Elyse Bruce’s Missy Barrett chapter book “Pinwheels and Pearls.”

The event benefited Relay For Life, which supports the American Cancer Society.  One dollar from every sale of the book, which can be found on Amazon.com, goes directly to Relay For Life.

It all happened at Pat & Don MacPherson’s Sweet Fanny Adams Theater in Galtinburg Tennessee.  Gatlinburg, as many will know, boasts one of the most picturesque entrances into Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The Theater is “Gatlinburg´s ONLY Musical Comedy Entertainment Attraction and the OLDEST Purveyor of Professional, Live-On-Stage, Original Musical Comedies, outrageous humor and hilarious fun in the Smokies.”  See the Sweet Fanny Adams Theater website for details.

The theater provided the popcorn…

And Elyse Bruce, along with her entourage, provided the entertainment.  Here is the author herself, treading the boards and reading from her book, “Pinwheels and Pearls.”

Here she is with Sophia Conerly of Relay For Life explaining how important the cause is and what people can do to get involved.

Captain Cancer Fighter (who figures prominently in the book) and his mom, Ann Sutton Bowman, were “drafted” to act out parts of the book while Elyse read…

And last, but not least, here is Elyse with Charlie, who won a pearl bracelet from Tobias Gatlinburg.

There were many other door prizes given as well, all of these coming from local businesses, such as Arcade City, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, Elyse Bruce herself, and Relay For Life of Sevier County. Other businesses provided coupons and other forms of support for this event, and for Relay For Life.

I’m told there will be more events coming up in the future where Elyse’s book will be featured, and the sales from this book will benefit Relay For Life.

Stay Tuned!

Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2017 Rose Glen Literary Festival

2017 was a great year for the Rose Glen Literary Festival at the Sevierville Convention Center in Sevierville Tennessee where authors from around the state and country came to sell their books and speak about the books they’ve written!

Here I am, preparing for the arrival of the attendees.  These are not all the books I have written as you can tell from perusing other tabs on this blog.   But I only had so much room on the rack, and decided to be a little selective this year with my offerings for that reason.  One of the books displayed here is by a different author: Adelaide Urqhart.

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Author Elyse Bruce was right next to me.  Most of her books were from the Missy Barrett series, but she was also marketing books she’s written which are targeted for an older audience.

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She and I are also artists.  Each year, we collaborate on a painting that is used to advertise the Festival.  We both sponsor the Festival in this and other ways because we believe in promoting, reading, literacy, writing, and our fellow authors.  Other sponsors are the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, the Sevier County Public Library System, the Friends of the King Family Library, the Sevierville Convention Center, Old Mill Pigeon River Pottery, and WVLT 8 Knoxville.

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Here is an advertisement that includes our painting.  It was seen in print and television media in a multi-state area.

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The crowd was packed, and for good reason.

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There were a number of presenters there which were held in high regard.  This is June Hall McCash, author of “Titanic: A Love Story.”  Here she is alongside our painting.  And within the painting, is a young woman reading her book.

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Also present was Dr. Bill Bass, co-author of the Jefferson Bass “Body Farm” books.  His and co-author Jon Jefferson’s book, “Death’s Acre,” is the one being read by the fellow on the porch in the painting.

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And here is Jon Jefferson…

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And this is a picture of Elyse Bruce and I with Pulitzer Prize nominee (and the event’s keynote speaker), Ben Montgomery, author of “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail.”

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Lunch was Beef Wellington with the appropriate accompaniments.  Before and after, there were a lot of opportunities for people to interact with local, regional, and national authors.

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ArtieQ fans will be pleased to see that “Spectral Septet” was on sale at the event.  One of the stories within the book “Alien Invasion” has ArtieQ as one of the main characters.

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All in all, it was a FUN Festival.

Remember that it happens every February folks, and so if you’ve missed it, you’ll have more chances in the future to attend meetings with well-known authors, browse among the books being sold by even more authors, and… you’ll probably get a chance to meet me, too!

Thomas

REVIEW: ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

REVIEW: ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

Warning:  There will be lots of spoilers.

When I reviewed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, it may have seemed to some that I did it with a gleeful cynicism and happy animosity that probably annoyed and angered a lot of fans of the space opera.  It was a scathing review, to be sure, but in my opinion, the film deserved every word of vituperative criticism I gave it.  I literally came home from the theater enraged that I should have wasted a matinée ticket price for something that I thought was put together so sloppily, and felt compelled to write the review straight off.  That so many people were saying the film was great only added fuel to the fire.  How could the generous portion of plot holes and defects JJ Abrams served up for consumption go unnoticed by so many when the box office called them to dinner?

One should remember that I am a Star Wars fan, and part of the emotional response to “Force” was that Abrams’s treatment of the continuing saga seemed so disrespectful to what had come before it in my opinion.  Then and now, my feelings about Star Wars in general remain the same:  I want the Star Wars universe to continue to exist, and I want it to expand… but only if what’s newly-birthed is not going to be dead on arrival.

Now comes “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, and as I write this, I am debating what to say about it.  That I saw it on New Year’s Eve afforded me a few moments away from the film afterwards as my wife (who also so the film) and I, took some time to set off some fireworks and have some popcorn before I sat down to write.  I had hoped that with the small degree of separation from the movie I would come to like “Rogue One” a little more fondly, but regrettably, I cannot say that it was a perfect film, certainly not a great film, and possibly not even a good film.  And as with “Force,” the reasons for my lack of festivity with regard to “Rogue’s” arrival are due to what I see as plot holes, continuity flaws, clichés, tropes, weak characterization, and reserved use of important and favorite characters.  Yet, setting these problems aside, the film does have redeeming qualities enough to prevent me from berating it as harshly as I did “Force.”

In defense of the film itself, it has one strike against it that is not its fault, and that is that it is telling the story of what happened before “A New Hope”, and whenever a prequel is done after the originals, there will be limitations.  There is a possibility that books thought to be canon also tell part of the story of “Rogue,” but I could care less about these books.  I have the first three Star Wars comic books ever issued, and event these are not 100% loyal to “A New Hope.” But despite the limitations that may or may not bind the basic plot, I feel what’s lacking the most is George Lucas’s influence.  Though the film legitimately aspires to attain the same level of interest, intrigue, and enjoyability of “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back”, and “Return of the Jedi”, it falls short in terms of the kind of originality Lucas brought to those films.  Then again, it’s been said that Lucas’ hands were too ham-fisted in the three prequels which tell the story of Darth Vader’s ascendance to power, and this may have been what caused those films to be seen as too political for some.  So perhaps I am wrong about wishing for Lucas to have some say in “Rogue’s” plot and execution.

My hopes for the franchise overall are increased, however, by director Gareth Edwards’ efforts.  I believe he comes closer than Abrams did to providing the “feel” that is associated with, and conveyed, in the original three films. This happens from the first frame of action.  Gone is the grittiness that we see in “Force.”  I can believe that the various worlds we see in the back stories for what will become the main characters of this film belong in the Star Wars universe, and so I can more easily step into the film with the characters… at first.

However, the problems with the movie do start the moment the previews of coming attractions end.  The film begins with a weak sound score by Michael Giacchino, and no rolling narrative explaining what’s happened up to this point in the saga.  Instead, the film falls into a familiar pitfall that happens whenever the “show, don’t tell” rule backfires.  The writers (Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur, Simon Emanuel) and director have us learn the history of the plot and characters we are being introduced to by watching what happens.

As a result –and my wife felt this also- there is a bit of confusion at the beginning as to where the film is headed despite fans of the movie knowing where it will end.  Ironically, I believe the cause of this may be the writers’ desire to stay faithful to the Star Wars trope that it is fate and destiny which brings us all together, and that sometimes destiny is accomplished only when all vectors converge in exactly the right alignment to make the outcome the favorable one for all.

Still, the manner in which these back stories are fleshed out is somewhat rushed and confusing.  In the original Doctor Who, there is an episode called “The Five Doctors” in which the first five doctors and their companions are all brought together to face old enemies.  The way in which this happens was somewhat mysterious, but not puzzling, yet done quickly, in maybe ten minutes or so, with the remainder of the hour and a half long program devoted to the action.  In “Rogue One”, we are still trying to figure out who these people are and what significance they have in the story as the story moves on regardless.  This is discouraging, and a bad omen for anyone who has never seen the rest of the Star Wars films.  If they see this movie, they may be put off from seeing any other, because it might worry them that they’ll have to try and make sense of a kind of slipshod mythology that precedes each movie.

I suppose my gripe is that, given that just about all of these characters die in the end, is there any point in learning where they came from?  If the idea was to increase the pathos we feel when these characters die, I can understand this ploy.  It’s been done before by many writers and directors in many movies, but as with Han Solo’s death in “Force,” which almost seems offhanded in its happening, I find myself caring only for the loss of two characters and one ‘drioid at the end of the movie.

I’m not going to get into the back stories except to point out significant flaws in one of them, because as I have stated, the back stories seem irrelevant in importance once the plot starts up and gets rolling in earnest.  But, in the beginning, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), a scientist, is hiding from the Empire.   He’s the scientist who has invented the energy weapon housed within the Death Star, and has somehow escaped when work on the project is not quite complete.  Now, he is posing as a farmer on the planet Lah’mu.

This in itself is silly.  Every moment you sow, plant, reap, and sell, you are exposing yourself to the outside world.  While I appreciate that he and his family need an income to sustain themselves, surely there is a better alternative for a profession.  Another thing that irks the viewer is that he, like Uncle Owen in “A New Hope”, is now a farmer on a remote planet.  So already we get the idea that this movie has been, like a line of cars, built off of one chassis, and rolled off an assembly line, and we hope that this won’t be the way it is with the whole movie.

When representatives from the Empire come for Erso, he, his wife, and his daughter split up according to a prearranged plan. His daughter, Jyn (as an adult played by Felicity Jones), is very young, and being a parent myself, I’d have to say that in order to train a child to go into hiding in response to a situation like this, it would take a lot of drilling.  Extrapolating from this, the three family members would have to work in unison to ensure that everything would go right should there be a need to actually use this plan.  While we can believe that the young girl will fudge a little, it’s harder to believe that Galen’s wife Lyra (Valene Kane) would deviate from the plan and attempt –with a single blaster, on the spur of the moment- to rescue her husband from more than a dozen armed military personnel.  Prior to her killing, and just afterwards, there is a tense moment when we almost believe that Galen will pull off some kind of intricate defensive ploy, but it never happens.

Jyn sees her mother killed and Galen taken away, and this becomes her motivation for everything she does later on with regard to the Empire.

And here, so early in the movie, was where I began to lose patience, because what we are witnessing is no different from Luke Skywalker coming across his dead Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru and using that as his reason to fight against the Empire.  Further to the point –as the film progresses- I found myself –as with “Force”- feeling that Annikan Skywalker’s life was not tragic enough for him to turn to the Dark Side when compared with Luke’s or Jyn’s motivations.

Thus this prequel, which seems to be a sinking ship, in some ways, torpedoes the other movies in the series.

Let us remember that the only thing that absolutely needs to happen in this movie is for the plans to the Death Star to be stolen.  Other than that, the movie can do anything it wants.  But rather than be inventive, we’re stuck with a story we’ve already seen before, and one that seems to disrespect many of the other movies.

At any rate, time passes, things not worth mentioning happen, and just before everyone comes together, a grown-up Jyn, and a character named Cassian (Diego Luna) are wandering around the capital city on Jedha, trying to find the rebels there.  They have left a turncoat Imperial droid -K-2SO- back at their ship as they search for the rebels.  Before they reach Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), the leader of the rebel unit on this planet, and coincidentally, the same person who saved Jyn when she was a child, they face a few skirmishes with some Storm Troopers.

In watching these battles, where we see what looks like an Imperial battle tank, my mind drew comparisons from this scene to the last few scenes in Saving Private Ryan, where Tom Hanks and the remainders of his unit hook up with another group of soldiers to try and stave off the Germans, whose goal is to take and hold a bridge in the city where the Americans are holed up.  But we don’t see such an epic and honorable battle here.  Instead, we see Storm Troopers shot up and shot down with ease, and when K-2SO abandons the ship and steps into the fray, things get worse.  This ‘droid is able to knock down the Storm Troopers like bowling pins.  My feeling is that for those who had never seen any of the other Star War movies, they would come away from “Rogue” –if they left at this point, anyway- with no reason to fear Storm Troopers -or the Empire- in any other movie, because Storm Troopers as depicted here are little more than comic relief, and if they are representative of the Empire’s military forces, then the Empire is not a power to be feared.

When Jyn meets up with Gerrera, she gets to view a hologram of her father, Galen.  This hologram was brought to the rebels by someone from the Empire who defected.  The hologram explains that for the past decade or so, Galen has been working with the Empire to develop the main weapon aboard the Death Star, delaying its progress as much as possible in the hopes that the Empire, or at least the project, could be vanquished or sabotaged in the meantime.  Did Galen bother to send the plans with the hologram?  Of course not.  Perhaps he didn’t do it because it would have been too dangerous to copy and send the plans. Perhaps he didn’t do it because he didn’t have the time to copy the plans in the first place.  Perhaps he didn’t do it because it was too logical for him to consider doing it.  Perhaps he didn’t do it because it would have shortened the movie.  We don’t know.

Now, in my review of “Force,” I wrote “But the first thing that comes to mind is a question:  Why does The First Order even exist? With the members of the rebellion having blown up the last Death Star in ‘Return of the Jedi’, did they not go after the remnants of the Empire and get rid of them? And since this movie happens 30 years after ‘Return’, one wonders what the resistance has been doing all this time if they haven’t been doing that. This question arises a second time later on when we discover that an even bigger weapon than anything we’ve seen before exists, a whole planet that houses a canon capable of destroying multiple planets at once. Didn’t the resistance think it might be advantageous to destroy this weapon before it became operational? Apparently not.”

In “Rogue,” the question comes up yet again.  We know the Death Star is in development before Galen is taken away by the Empire to resume work on the weapon, and for as many as ten years the Death Star is under construction, and the rebels do nothing to destroy it, instead waiting until the Death Star is finished and with a shield around it before commencing their assault.  To be sure, in a later scene, an attempt to provide an explanation for this missed opportunity arises.  When all the rebel factions convene and vote on whether or not to steal the plans for the Death Star, the vote turns out to be negative.  It’s too risky, they say.  But what have they been doing for all these years up until now?  One would have thought that from the moment anything was discovered about the Death Star, there would have been some convention about what to do.  But all this time, nothing has happened.

Back on Jedha, and long before that vote happens, Jyn and Gerrera have a brief let’s get re-acquainted session.  [I should say at this point that Forest Whitaker is one of my favorite actors, but the directors or writers elected to make him a bit crazed, perhaps using his ptosis to enhance his inexplicable and randomly portrayed madness.]  Then the Empire uses the Death Star to destroy Jedha’s capital city, but in a dumb way.  Rather than hitting the city directly, they opt to project their giant laser blast in the nearby dessert and cause an explosion there, which travels toward the city swiftly, but not swift enough for Cassian and Jyn to escape with K-2SO in their spacecraft.

They escape specifically by switching to hyperdrive while still in the planet’s atmosphere as the debris from the explosion is about to overwhelm their craft.  [REMEMBER THIS LITTLE FACT FOR LATER.]

Now, I’m going to step away from the plot for a minute to compliment one aspect of this movie.

As with most of the other films, there is a lot of jumping between what’s going on on the rebels’ side and what’s happening on the Empire’s side.  Up until this point, we’ve been seeing a lot of scenes on the Empire’s side with Grand Moff Tarkin in them that I haven’t been mentioning.  In “A New Hope” Tarkin was played by Peter Cushing, who died in 1994.  Yet here in “Rogue” we see Peter Cushing standing before us in so many scenes, looking like himself, moving like himself, acting like himself, and sounding like himself –except it wasn’t Cushing.

At first I thought it was footage from “A New Hope” that had been left on the cutting room floor which had been digitally re-mastered and integrated into “Rogue One.”  But as the movie went on, I thought “That’s a lot of footage that was cut.”  And soon it became apparent that it could not possibly all be leftovers from the other film.  I understand now that none of it was.  Evidently, Cushing’s estate gave permission for the makers of the film to put a likeness of his face on the body of an actor (Guy Henry).  I must say that to date, I have never seen such good CGI, and later in the movie, similar CGI happens again with another character.

There were other familiar faces in “Rogue” who had made appearances in other chapters of the saga, the most notable being Darth Vader (Spencer Wilding and Daniel Naprous).

Vader’s role and impact was paradoxical.  James Earl Jones’ voice is every bit as frightening as it always was, and I couldn’t help but feel delight as he threatened and destroyed various members of the cast.  However, I could not get petulant Annakin’s petty motivations out of my head, and found it had to believe that Annakin should have matured into Vader.  In my mind, I almost see Vader as a separate person entirely.  I also could not help comparing the feeling of sheer terror Vader evoked in his minions with Kylo Ren’s pathetic attempt at leadership in “Force.”  One gets the idea that Ren is playing it being in charge.  He’s just a tantrummy wimp.

Another problem is that I felt the movie up until the point could have benefited from Vader’s presence throughout it.  I understand the need for characters to cut their own gouge into the saga’s history, but seeing as the majority of the ones in this movie die at the end, couldn’t this film have been as much a continuation of Vader’s story as a telling of the other characters’?

But getting back on track here, Vader is upset.  Apparently the majority of the carnage to Jedha was caused by a mining accident, not the Death Star, and he wants development of the Death Star put back on track immediately.

From this point onward, there is very little that needs telling until almost the very end.

Apparently, the secret plans to the Death Star –along with all kinds of files of supreme importance to the Empire- are kept in a building on the planet Scarif, which is, of course, protected by a shield, and also by a paltry number of Star Destroyers.  You’d think, given the importance of the installation, that the planet would be more heavily guarded, and you’d think, after the Empire’s defeat in the battle that ensues, that they would provide heavier security on Endor in “Return of the Jedi,” but whatever.

And so, again, we as movie-goers are resigned to sit through a rehash of what we have seen already in so many other Star Wars movies.  A big battle where a shield has to be lowered so that something big can get blown up.  The only thing of interest at in this particular experience is seeing what it is going to get blown up and how they are going to do it, and once you find that out, you might as well leave the theater.

I say this because in so many different ways, the closing scenes of “Rogue” are botched, thanks to a lack of imagination from the writers, and thanks to poor script editing.

As in “Return of the Jedi”, a small group of rebels sneaks onto the planet via an Imperial shuttle which has the necessary codes that will cause the Empire not to be suspicious of them.  Upon arrival, Jyn and Cassian and K-2SO sneak into the building were the files are kept to steal the Death Star plans.  The other rebels who have come with them cause disturbances near the building to deceive the Imperials from the real reason for the mission, and to draw, and divert, distract the Imperial troops from where the mission is going to go down in earnest.

In the battle that ensues, we see some of the most memorable and dumbest battle scenes in the movie.  I very much enjoyed seeing the Imperial walkers in action on what is in essence a giant beach, complete with palm trees, but I could not suspend my disbelief as the X-wings took them out with ease.  In “The Empire Strikes Back”, didn’t Luke and his buddies have to resort to using harpoons and tow cables to trip the walkers because the X-wings’ energy weapons had no effect on the walkers?

I could not suspend my disbelief again as a rebel ship rams an Imperial Star Destroyer and pushes it into another Star Destroyer that’s sitting next to it.  Accomplishing this feat takes a few minutes during which the Star Destroyer that’s about to get hit takes evasive action and tries to move out of the way.  But let’s remember that this ship is already in outer orbit and can simply go into hyperspace as Jyn’s ship did back on Jehda.  Instead, the one ship is pushed into the other, and both ships are destroyed, and we have no explanation for why the hyperspace escape isn’t thought of or used.

The remnants of one of those two ships plunges into the “doorway” in the protective shield (just like a Star Destroyer smashes into the Death Star in “Return,”) thereby shutting the shield down, enabling Jyn to transmit the Death Star plans to the rebel fleet.

What’s worse is that the Star Destroyers did nothing during the space portion of the battle, and neither did the major ships in the rebel fleet up until the ramming of one vessel into the other.  Rather, the battle was executed like a gang fight, with everyone pulling into a parking lot in their cars, with one gang parking on one side of the parking lot, and the other gang parking on the other, and everyone pouring out of the cars to enter the fray.  Except that in the movie, it was X-wing fighters against TIE-fighters.  Heck, in real wars, there are tank battles.  I’ve never heard of tanks pulling up to face each other, and the tank crews getting out of the tanks to fire at one another with rifles.

Now if all that action sounds exciting, I can say that it certainly looked exciting, but the unbelievability of the plot screwed things up for me as already stated, and multiple other times.  Here are other points that had me shaking my head:

  • While the main action is going on, different groups of rebels are in communication with one another, telling everyone what to do and where to go, and somehow –as in all the other movies- the Empire is unable to intercept any of these transmissions.
  • Jyn was realigning a dish on top of the tower in order to send the plans via transmission to the rebel fleet. But does anyone on the entire base think to blow up the dish before she succeeds? After the plans are transmitted, Jyn, having no idea whether or not the plans are received, or whether the rebel fleet will survive the battle that is taking place, leaves the disk with the plans in the transmission module.
  • And when Jyn encounters Krennic, (Ben Mendelsohn), who is in charge of Advanced Weapons Research for the Imperial Military, she tells him that her father, Galen, has built a flaw into the Death Star’s systems which will enable the rebels to destroy it. She even tells him what and where this flaw is, knowing that all he needs to do is kill her, and then fix the flaw in the system, thereby denying the rebels their victory.

During this battle, three characters that I actually care about die.  K-2SO, Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and Jiang Wen (Baze Malbus).  Why have I not mentioned the latter two characters up until this point?  Because though they command a strong screen presence, the writers, or maybe the director, use(s) them only in a weak secondary capacity.  They are foils for other characters, and one wishes they would have been used more.

The movie wraps up with Vader wreaking havoc on Princess Leia’s ship, and we get a brief glimpse of the CGI’d Leia before the credits roll.

I gave “Force” two and a half stars, and in looking back on it in comparison with this movie, my rating was generous, because “Rogue One” probably deserves three stars max.  I do afford it the credit it deserves for the CGI.  I believe the absence of Jar Jar Binks humor was pleasant.  There were some good action scenes.  But setting these aspects of the movie aside, it’s still shoddily put together plot-wise, has a number of continuity flaws (e.g. the inexplicable invincibility of the X-wings against the walkers in this movie and the invincibility of the walkers against the X-wings in “Empire”), and takes more away from the overarching space opera than it gives for all the reasons cited in this review.  As a standalone movie, I’d also consider it a disappointment, the convoluted beginning being confusing for those few people who had never seen a Star Wars movie, and Vader’s appearance being under-utilized, thus making him almost a secondary villain to other Imperial characters.

Thomas D. Taylor

What Authors And Pilots Do In Their Spare Time

Author Elyse Bruce, Author Thomas D. Taylor, and pilot Marc Hightower, subject of Elyse Bruce’s Missy Barrett Book “Barnstormin’“.  Marc runs Sky High Air Tours and flies a 1927 Waco 10 straight wing.  He’s based out of Gatlinburg Pigeon Forge airport in Tennessee.

 

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“Spectral Septet” Released in Time for Halloween

Just in time for Halloween, another horror anthology from Thomas D. Taylor:

 

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“Spectral Septet:Seven Spine-Chilling Compositions”

For the main characters in this book, The Last Days are here. The question is: How will they face them?

Will a surly teenager succumb to the eerie, horrific, and monstrous repercussions of his destructive experiments? Who will survive a mass-culling of the Earth’s animals? What are the implications for the residents of Kraken when Grimtown and its haunted past reawakens? Will a little boy vanquish the demonic entity that lives in his closet? Will another boy and a pop musician survive an alien invasion? And what must be done to save the wild cats at a zoo before a cataclysm arrives?

Taylor’s horror tales twist the fabric of the universe to bring the worst terror you can imagine straight into the depths of your mind. Read these stories with the lights on….

And repent, while you still can.

112,000 words.

Kindle:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M2XLXO8

Paperback:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/153950963X