Star Wars: Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray – A Book Review

Star Wars: Master & Apprentice is a new book written by Claudia Gray.  It features Qui-Gon Jinn and his relatively recently appointed Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  As you’ve probably guessed, it takes place before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

I looked forward to reading this book for two reasons.  The first is that Qui-Gon Jinn is a fairly enigmatic figure in the Star Wars mythology.  I haven’t seen much of him in other books, graphic novels, cartoons, or movies.  I felt excited not only to learn more about him as a person, but to also examine his dynamic with Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The second reason is that I enjoy Cladia Gray’s Star Wars voice.  Her novel, Star Wars: Lost Stars, remains one of my all-time favorite Star Wars stories due not only to its unique characters but also because it connects seamlessly to major Star Wars events.  True, I didn’t find her two Princess Leia books as engaging, but I hoped Master & Apprentice would recapture the magic of Lost Stars.

Unfortunately, Master & Apprentice suffered the same fate as those other two Star Wars books featuring Princess Leia in that it gets far too bogged down in political complexities without any actual character growth or revelations occurring.

It started off on a good note.  Several references were made to Count Dooku which led us to believe he could make an appearance in this novel, especially because Dooku trained both Qui-Gon and a newly revealed Jedi named Rael Averross.  Rael is older than Qui-Gon, so it’s initially interesting to see that new side of Master Jinn.  There are also ample teases that Darth Maul could be working from the shadows.  This would make perfect sense as he’s later revealed to be the Phantom Menace.

Furthermore, early on in the book, Qui-Gon is invited to join the Jedi Council, which would mean he would have to relinquish his role as teacher to Obi-Wan.  Obi-Wan feels betrayed by this possibility, which further damages their already-strained relationship.  In this book, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon rarely see eye-to-eye on much of anything and are typically not on the same page.  I found this refreshing, though, to be honest, it is not especially innovative compared to other Master/Padawan duos that we’ve encountered.

So, as you can see, there is a great deal of rich character conflict available for exploration in Master & Apprentice.  Sadly, most of it falls by the wayside in favor of a political story pertaining to a child about to be named Queen and her connection to an intergalactic corporation hoping to gain control of a hyperspace corridor.

Frankly, I found the first two hundred pages of the novel a little uneventful.  Things started heating up for the last one hundred and thirty pages, but, in the end, nothing substantial happens to our favorite characters.  They are primed and ready for The Phantom Menace, but, other than improved communication skills, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are basically unchanged.

More often than not, this seems to be a theme in the Star Wars novels that I’ve read.  They delve far too much into political intrigue without any serious ramifications to the characters we care about.  Lost Stars proved special in that it created two brand new characters, made them important to us, mixed them in with major beats from the Star Wars movies, and then sent them through some serious character development.

Master & Apprentice had wonderful potential.  Acknowledging Dooku was really cool, but it went nowhere.  We really didn’t get that much of a better feel for Qui-Gon than we do in The Phantom Menace.  Obi-Wan is also virtually the same as he’s depicted in The Phantom Menace.  Rael seemed like an important addition, but even he remained unchanged by story’s end.  And those hints at Darth Maul?  Nothing came of them.  I hope that’s not a spoiler, but I don’t want you to be disappointed.

I really get the feeling that the authors of these books are being hamstrung by a corporate influence.  While they create complicated conflict, in the end, none of it really matters to the overall Star Wars story that we know and love.  Perhaps it’s just me, but if these books don’t somehow improve upon the characters or events that draw us to them, then what is the point of their existence?

40886363._UY630_SR1200,630_

Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2X3S7vO or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

Advertisements

Doctor Aphra: Remastered (Volume 3) – A Book Review

I still maintain that Doctor Aphra is one of the greatest additions to the Star Wars mythology in recent years, but this volume confirms my fear about the character–she cannot solely carry her own title.

This installment tries to spice things up a bit by making Doctor Aphra beholden to Triple-Zero, the murderous entity in the guise of a protocol droid.  Triple-Zero sends Aphra on a series of missions in which she must lead a group of mercenaries.  There are some interesting asides as Aphra develops a relationship with Magna Tolvan, the Imperial Officer.  Hera Syndulla also makes a substantial appearance, which was super cool to see.  But in the end, much of it felt forced to me.

The problem is that Doctor Aphra works best as a foil to, well, everyone else.  I love it when she pops into a scene, plays havoc with everyone and everything, and then leaves.  She has the luxury of being an agent of chaos.  She is naughty, hilarious, greedy, and lovable.  But in a title featuring her, she doesn’t have that advantage.  She has to carry every episode from month to month.  The writers seem obligated to reveal every little detail about her, and this is diluting the character.

In my opinion, Doctor Aphra has lost her “hook.”  She had it when she appeared in Darth Vader.  We knew just enough about her and what she was about and we (obviously) loved her.  Unfortunately, we loved her so much that they kept giving us more in the form of her own book.

I don’t know exactly how they can fix this issue, and I fully confess that this may be my issue alone.  Perhaps everyone else is loving the direction of the book and character.  I think I would like to see the book function as an ongoing gag on how Aphra swindles everyone she meets, but we never get the stories from her perspective.  Each arc would be narrated by her victims.  That would afford her the ability to maintain her mystique and “devil-may-care” persona.  It would take a great deal of creativity to constantly come up with stories where Aphra outsmarts everyone while revealing virtually nothing about herself, but I think that would maximize her potential.

Doctor Aphra does have a great deal of potential, by the way.  Clearly, she has connected with fandom.  I’m concerned that she’s being overexposed, though, and that we’re learning too much about her too quickly.  I adore this character and don’t want her to fade out of everyone’s interest.

Image result for doctor aphra remastered cover amazon

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

Be a Star At Hollywood Studios: Family 2018 Disney World Vacation (Part 4)

We started our Walt Disney World vacation at my favorite park — Hollywood Studios.  If you know me, it’s probably not hard to guess why I love this park so much.

Two words: Star. Wars.

Before we go there, though, I’d like to give you an overview of Hollywood Studios in terms of shows, rides, and restaurants.

Let’s start, shall we?

Shows

My wife and kids are not huge fans of rides, so we take in a lot of shows, which is totally fine by me because the shows are always amazing.  Allow me to briefly run through them.

For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration — I must admit that I wasn’t quite excited to see this one again after seeing it in the summer of 2017.  Boy, was I wrong.  The premise is that two Arendelle historians run through the story of Frozen with appearances by men and women dressed as Elsa, Kristoff, and Anna.  They also show scenes from the movie in the background on a huge screen.  The stage is made to appear as though you are inside Arendelle’s walls.  Make no mistake, however–the historians are the real stars of this show.  The historians are part story tellers, part singers, and part comedians.  They sing each and every major song while encouraging the audience to join along.  But they are also hilarious.  As I said, I wasn’t quite so excited to see this show again, but the historians were so funny that I actually enjoyed it more this second round.  A man fell asleep in the front row who also happened to have very shiny knees (yes, you read that right) and they started improvising the heck out of that situation.  They had the Kristoff actor laughing so hard that he had to turn his back to the audience in order to collect himself.  They absolutely had me rolling.  Of course, Elsa makes a grand entrance at the end and the kids will love it when fake snow begins to fall from the ceiling in the air-conditioned theater.  Even if you’re not especially into Frozen, the ad libs and improvisation will more than entertain you.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular — This was a first-time experience for us.  Though we loved it, it might have been a little too intense for my six-year-old.  As an avid Indiana Jones fan, I insisted that we take this one in.  While you sit in a large outdoor amphitheater, you watch a director and his stunt crew recreate epic scenes from the Raiders Of the Lost Ark film–yes, they are epic.  It’s not just recreating the scenes, though, it’s almost like watching a story of the director actually filming it.  There are some incredible falls from atop buildings, lots of jumps and flips, and even some extremely large explosions.  These explosions caught us off guard.  They were fireball big, loud, and we could very easily feel the heat from them from where we sat.  I loved it, but it frightened my youngest to the point of tears.  If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t take her to it.  It’s incredible, but far more intense than I expected.

Beauty and the Beast: Live On Stage — Again, you sit in an outdoor amphitheater for this one.  This show is about 30 minutes and features live actors creating an abbreviated version of the movie.  The character costumes are really impressive, but a little on the cartoonish side.  The singing is wonderful and the dancing is really something to behold.  There is always a lot to take in on stage, so I don’t see the young or old getting bored during this one.  I have no idea how the dancers in the character costumes could stand the heat, but they gave no signs of fatigue.

Voyage Of the Little Mermaid — Parents, this is another air-conditioned theater, so put it on your list!  This short, 15 minute show features puppets standing in for the fish and a live actress as Ariel.  Some of the show takes place in the pitch black with the puppets lit up by black lights as they sing and dance–it’s very cool.  The actress then appears as Ariel as she runs through many of her songs while clips of the movie play in the background.  The stage and theater are designed to give you the sense of an underwater cave.  An enormous Ursula appears at the end.  She’s a neon puppet and literally takes up half of the stage–very impressive.  It’s especially cool when water lightly drizzles from the ceiling during a fabricated lightning storm.

Disney Junior: Live On Stage! — My nine-year-old was not quite as excited to see this again after seeing it last year, but my six-year-old still loved it.  If your child loves Disney Junior, this is the show for them.  You enter a giant (air-conditioned) room with the stage set up to look like the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  An actor or actress (we’ve had each) leads the crowd in song and dance as puppet versions of Jake the Pirate, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and Minnie appear.  You sit on the floor and the crowd is mainly comprised of small children, so be ready to dial your patience up to full-throttle.  I had a baby next to me intent on feeling my knee as I sat cross-legged.  Didn’t bother me, but you may encounter something similar.  Again, items fall from the ceiling at various points during the show, which the kids love.

Muppet Vision 3-D — My kids aren’t terribly familiar with the muppets, but that didn’t seem to bother them one bit.  In fact, they loved this little show so much we saw it two or three times!  Kermit is desperately trying to put a show together when Beaker unleashes Waldo, a 3-D character who takes everything up a notch.  This show has excellent 3-D and is very funny to boot.  You even have the two old guys sitting up in the balcony!  I recommend this show no matter what, but if you’re looking to sit down in the air-conditioning, this is a fantastic option.

Fantasmic — A nighttime show, Fantasmic makes use of fireworks, music, lasers, actors, automated creatures, and fire.  It’s an extraordinary thing to behold, but if I’m being honest it was far more intense than we anticipated.  The audience sat in an outdoor amphitheater with a moat between us and a mountain.  Mickey Mouse appears at the top of the mountain and that’s when the show starts.  At one point, a giant dragon appears which frightened my youngest.  It was absolutely huge.  At another point, they literally lit the moat on fire.  It was so hot that we could feel it from where we sat.  My oldest did not care for that aspect.  The fireworks, while amazing, are right on top of you and pretty tumultuous.  My wife and I were quite impressed by the whole thing, but neither of our kids particularly enjoyed it.  They honestly found it a little scary.

Star Wars: Path Of the Jedi — This short film creatively summarizes everything that takes place leading up to The Last Jedi.  It even includes a few scenes from The Last Jedi that really sets up Kylo Ren and Rey’s evolving dynamic.  My nine-year-old and I are very big Star Wars fans, and we loved this refresher.  We thought they were very clever how they weaved in and out of the seven films.  It doesn’t move chronologically, yet it somehow still covers all of the most important bases.  I’m not sure how much the casual person would enjoy this, but Star Wars fans will really get a kick out of it.

Star Wars Launch Bay Characters — By far my favorite place in the park, the Launch Bay houses several props and models from the Star Wars movies.  You’ll see replica lightsaber handles, helmets, blasters, models of vehicles, and even some full-sized vehicles!  Best of all, you’ll have the chance to meet BB-8, a very fun Chewbacca, and an unsettling Kylo Ren.  BB-8 is just a model on a platform, but still cute as can be and full of sounds.  Chewbacca is an actor in costume, and he loves to play around with people.  Kylo Ren is another actor in costume reciting lines from the movie.  He will get right in your face and try to intimidate you, so be ready!

Rides

As I said earlier, my family is not big on rides, so this section will be much, much shorter!

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue — Last year I had to ride this one by myself, but this year I managed to get my wife and kids on-board with me!  Though this ride doesn’t actually go anywhere, you feel like you’ve traversed the galaxy by the time it’s over.  The premise is that you’ve loaded onto a freighter in order to travel to your destination.  A life-size automated version of C3PO is piloting your ship when it’s discovered that a rebel spy sits among you.  The First Order or Empire (depending) come after your ship, and that’s when it blazes across the galaxy trying to escape.  A giant screen looms before you–a view out the cockpit–and with your 3D glasses you’ll feel like you’re zooming through several popular planets from the film.  Again, you don’t actually go anywhere, but the “freighter” pitches up, down, and side to side in conjunction with the screen to give the illusion that you are actually zipping through space.  Apparently there are many different adventures, so you can keep riding it and experience something new every time!

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror — Needless to say, I rode this one by myself.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this, but I’m so glad I did it!  With this ride, you load onto an elevator car.  It has about four rows in it for people to sit down.  You then begin moving up, and out, then up, then out.  As it’s moving you along, you’ll have to deal with all kinds of trippy optical illusions.  Finally … the car shoots straight up into the air, then plummets, then shoots up again, then plummets again.  This went on for several moments.  I’m not sure how high we went, but at the peak of our climb I could easily see the whole park.  Be prepared, though the fall did not feel out of control, it was so hard and fast that my arms were lifting over my head on their own volition.  It was a thrilling ride that left me breathless!

Restaurants

Hollywood & Vine — This was a really fun experience because, along with the buffet of everything you could ever want, you immediately got a picture with Donald Duck as you entered (see below).  Furthermore, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Daisy Duck were all wandering around as well.  All four stopped at our table and interacted with my daughters.  Goofy even attempted to floss with them–the dance, not the dental hygiene measure.  He was very confused at first.  They were a blast, and the food was very good.  This is a popular, busy place, so be sure to plan ahead and make your reservations.

50s Prime Time Cafe — Among my favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World!  Clearly one of my best meals, this restaurant is straight out of the 50s.  The wait staff refers to themselves as “Cousin” this or “Uncle” that, and they continuously remind you to behave, keep your elbows off the table, and chew with your mouth closed.  This is not the kind of place where they will berate you, though.  My daughters were on red-alert thinking that they were going to get in trouble.  It’s all done in good-nature.  Most of the food is diner style comfort food, so right up my alley!  Our waiter was particularly good, and he made the experience all the more pleasant.  Like with Hollywood & Vine, make your reservations ahead of time.  I heard them say the wait time was 90 minutes at one point!

Okay!  I hope that gives you an idea of Hollywood Studios.  Obviously, I loved it all.  We didn’t go into every shop, but I feel like we’ve covered most of it during the last two years.  As always, thanks for reading.  Magic Kingdom is up next!

daffy duck and family

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

Star Wars: From a Certain Point Of View – A Book Review

This collection of short stories will satisfy every Star Wars fan alive.  The premise is genius.  It takes small, seemingly unimportant moments from A New Hope and zeroes in on them.  It provides names and backstories, tragedies and victories, motivations and inclinations.  It satisfyingly adds to a universe already well developed.

One of these stories in particular proved among my favorites.  Do you remember the guy standing lookout in the crow’s nest of a pole?  You saw him as the X-Wings took off to intercept the Death Star?  His story is written by Will Wheaton, entitled “Laina,” and it is absolutely heartbreaking.  There is another called “Time of Death” which features Obi-Wan Kenobi’s final moments and thoughts as he faced certain death at the hands of his former apprentice.  Speaking of such, Claudia Gray wrote “Master and Apprentice” which explores Qui-Gon Jinn’s spirit visiting Obi-Wan on Tatooine.  Still another is called “There Is Another,” and it’s about Yoda living on Dagobah and wishing he could train one last Jedi–someone he believes has great potential.

Of course, as you can see, not all stories are directly related to a moment in A New Hope.  Such as with the Yoda story, some of the stories check in on characters technically not introduced in the original 1977 classic.  Boba Fett, for example, offers a first-person account during a bounty hunt.  We have a story starring Lando trying to swindle someone.  We have another with Doctor Aphra, a relatively new character, in the lead.  Yet another stars the Emperor himself.

However, these are all pretty big names in the Star Wars mythology.  Most of the short stories actually utilize characters that are essentially unknown.  Remember the red R2 unit that Luke and Uncle Owen almost bought?  He’s got a story.  Do you recall the Tusken Raiders who knocked out Luke?  Yep, they have a story, too.  That bartender who told Luke to get the droids out of his tavern?  You guessed it.  Even one of those little mouse droids in the Death Star has a story.

Are all forty of these short stories great?  Not in my opinion, no.  However, those that didn’t speak to me personally may very well be your favorite.  I will say this, though, the vast majority of them were exceptional.  The writers’ ability to take seemingly irrelevant characters and develop them into engaging, charismatic figures proved uncanny.

I highly recommend this book for any Star Wars fan.

Image result for From a Certain Point of View

 (Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

 

 

 

Star Wars: Screaming Citadel – A Book Review

I’ve greatly enjoyed the various Marvel Star Wars series, but Star Wars: Yoda’s Secret War left me a little unsatisfied.  I’m very happy to say that the next installment–Screaming Citadel–righted the course and returned the series to its high standard.

Of course, this volume is not just comprised of the Star Wars series.  It also has issues from Doctor Aphra.  Obviously, the two comics crossed over with each other to deliver this story as  whole.

Doctor Aphra has an ancient crystal supposedly housing the sentience of a powerful Jedi.  She needs the Queen of the Screaming Citadel to access it for her, and she needs Luke Skywalker to entice the queen into doing so.  You’ll have to read the book for the details on using Luke as bait.  Doctor Aphra sells it to Luke as a chance for him to encounter an actual Jedi master, and it’s a chance for her to witness a remnant of the ancient past because she is an archaeologist after all, albeit a bit of an immoral one.

That’s a pretty good premise to achieve what this story is really all about–watching Luke and Aphra interact.  I believe Doctor Aphra is one of the greatest additions to the Star Wars universe in decades.  She first appeared in the Darth Vader series, and she won over the audience so thoroughly that she quickly earned her own title.  Honestly, though Aphra works best when pitted against the pure of heart, or at least those on the side of the Rebels.  She’s Aphra, so of course she manipulates Luke, double-crosses him, saves his skin a few times, then cheats him again.  That’s just who she is.

It’s also interesting to see a rebellious streak in Luke as he jaunts off with Aphra without telling Han, Leia, or anyone else for that matter.  We know his dad didn’t always follow protocol, so these little deviations are always revealing when Luke is concerned.  It’s also fun to see him beginning to realize his power.  This particular story takes place soon after A New Hope, so Luke has not yet begun to completely understand what he has at his disposal–though this book does depict Luke having some pretty cool moments with his burgeoning abilities.

We also have quite a bit of Han, Leia, and another invaluable addition to the mythology named Sana Starros.  All three get their moment to shine as Han finds more and more of the hero within, Leia further establishes herself as the capable leader she is, and Sana Starros slowly reveals more and more of her past to the reader.  Guess what?  Not only does she have deep connections to Han Solo, but it’s heavily hinted that she is also tied to Doctor Aphra as well.  The specifics may surprise you.

And, as always, Aphra’s versions of C3PO and R2D2 steal the show.  They are named 0-0-0 and BT-1.  They are basically the murderous, demented, evil version of our favorite droids, and they are forever a delight.

The story of Screaming Citadel itself is entertaining.  The art is very pleasing to the eye and keeps the plot moving at a quick pace.  At times the faces of the characters based off of real life actors look almost photo realistic, which is sometimes jarring when the rest of the panel does not look so true to life.  Of course, the best quality of the book is simply seeing all of these characters play off of each other.  It’s refreshing to have such rounded, charismatic new characters as Aphra, Sana, Triple-Zero, and Bee-Tee 1 making waves with our legendary favorites.

Image result for screaming citadel book cover amazon

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

 

 

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – A Movie Review

The first half of this review will reveal no specific spoilers.  I will offer a warning and then a page break before I get into specifics situations.  However, I will generally address the tone and plot devices in the beginning of this review.  If you do not want any sort of preconceived notion before seeing the film, I suggest you to do not read this review.  Sound fair?  Okay, let’s go …

 

The Force Awakens got everything just right.  It introduced new, charismatic characters while allowing the established favorites to shine.  It utilized an action-packed pace while jumping from location to location to location as it revealed a plot that tickled our fancy in all the right — albeit familiar — ways.  It gave us spaceship chases involving, well, our favorite spaceships, lightsaber duels, witty banter, and real emotional stakes.  It focused on old relationships rekindling, new relationships bonding, and teased future relationships to come.  Best of all?  It set the scene for major revelations.  What would Luke Skywalker’s role be in this story?  Who are Rey’s parents?  Is Kylo Ren as evil as he would like us to believe?  Will Poe and Finn be the best new duo in Star Wars lore?  Will Captain Phasma have a defining moment?  How do Leia and Chewbacca move on after Han Solo’s death?  And just who is this Supreme Leader Snoke?  At the end of The Force Awakens, I not only felt extremely satisfied, but genuinely excited to discover all of these things with the next installment.

If I could choose one word to describe The Last Jedi, it would be “anticlimactic.”

The Last Jedi starts off with a bang, but then just kind of fizzles and fizzles and then disappears.  I actually found myself a little bored for quite a bit of this movie, which is something I thought I would NEVER say about a Star Wars film.  There’s so much talking.  Soooo much talking.  But nothing is really ever happening — nothing that felt substantial, at least.

And when something monumental did seem to be happening, it quickly turned out to be nothing.  It fizzled, like I said.  The Last Jedi would raise out hopes time and time again only to laugh in our face and run away.  It got a bit offensive, honestly.

Perhaps the greatest offense of all?  It did not get me excited at all for the next episode.  Just the opposite.  Again, I won’t get into specifics in this space, but The Last Jedi seemed intent to crush every cool thing The Force Awakens teased while leaving us with nothing to replace our anticipation.  The Force Awakens had me counting down the days until the next installment.  The Last Jedi left me ambivalent and, frankly, disappointed.

Want to know exactly why I feel this way?  Scroll past the below image and keep reading …

Image result for the last jedi movie poster

Spoilers coming in …

5 …

4 …

3 …

2 …

1 …

Let’s run through my long list of grievances …

Kylo Ren – Is he good or evil?  Is he a plant by the Resistance?  Is that why he had such difficulty killing his father?  Is that how he got overpowered by a novice, the great new hope of the Resistance?  Yeah, he’s evil.  Or, at least, that’s what they tell us.  Because, you know, they mostly tell us stuff in this movie.  I really don’t buy him as this supremely evil person.  Worst of all?  He wore his mask for maybe five minutes.  Kylo Ren with the mask and voice?  Awesome.  Could watch him all day.  Kylo Ren without the mask?  No thanks.  Adam Driver’s face does not scream the kind of evil they would like us to believe.  Exactly the opposite.

Leia – Spent most of her time talking.  They showed us an amazing display of the Force.  Then she fell into a coma.  Then she talked some more.  Then she faded into the background.

Finn – Virtually no interaction with Poe or Rey, which, I think, were the crowning moments of The Force Awakens.  No background revelations.  He’s honestly not in the movie much at all.  On a mission to accomplish a goal that seemed forced.  No longer the fish out of water trying to make good.  Just kind of there.

Captain Phasma – Showed up for about three minutes near the end of the movie.  Fell down a hole.  On the plus side, we learned one of her eyes is blue.  Yes, that’s sarcasm.

Poe – In quite a bit of the movie, but now depicted as a mutinous, trigger-happy lunkhead.  No longer the selfless, hotshot pilot with awesome one-liners.  Now spends most of his time questioning leadership as he’s apparently being groomed to be the next leader of the Resistance.

Chewbacca – In maybe two total minutes of the movie.  Does not address his dead partner at all.

Supreme Leader Snoke – Killed in perhaps the most anticlimactic fashion in the history of movies.  Absolutely nothing revealed about his past.  We never find out who he is, where he’s from, or even if he’s Jedi, Sith, or something else.  Why did I care about this guy again?  Why did they put so much effort into making me care about this guy?

Rey – Given virtually nothing to do as she spends most of the movie on Luke’s island being ignored.  No real “heroic” moments to speak of other than moving some rocks.  Has one cool lightsaber fight that proved pointless.  Got to see Finn for the first time with only five minutes left in the movie.  Oh, and her parents?  Apparently, they were nobody.  Just sold her off as a slave.  They wasted so much potential with Rey’s character.  So much potential.

Luke Skywalker – Return Of the Jedi gave us perhaps the perfect sendoff for Luke Skywalker.  He rescued his friends.  He made things right with Yoda.  He got closure from Obi-Wan Kenobi.  He turned his father, the supposedly irredeemable Darth Vader, back to the good side.  He got to see all three of his father figures reunited in peace and harmony as the Empire fell at last.  If you bring him back for The Last Jedi, you damn well better outdo Return Of the Jedi.  They didn’t.  He spends most of his time actively trying to ignore Rey, being cranky with Rey, or being sarcastic with Rey.  He does not train her as a Jedi at all beyond a philosophical lecture about the Force.  However, at the end of the movie, he makes his lone stand against The First Order.  Kylo Ren faces him one-on-one.  We’re prepared for an epic lightsaber battle as Luke stalls so his sister and her Resistance can escape.  Perhaps he’ll gain a grand death, one that will make movie-history.  Or maybe he survives to team up with his sister and lead the Resistance for the next movie?  Nope.  He evades Kylo Ren’s attacks, and then it’s revealed he’s simply an astral projection of the Force, an illusion.  He wasn’t really even there at all.  The real Luke is sitting on a rock, sweating, back on his island.  And after his friends escape, he falls off the rock.  And then he gets back on the rock.  And then he dies.  So, yeah, that felt like a slap in the face.

Those are just the highlights of my disappointment, by the way.  I could go on and on.  But I won’t.  The creative minds behind The Last Jedi seemed to take into account everything we loved about A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, The Return Of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, and then do the exact opposite.  I don’t understand this rationale at all.

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

 

Star Wars: Leia by Claudia Gray – A Book Review

Claudia Gray completely won me over with Lost Stars, so I’ll read anything written by her now if it pertains to Star Wars.  I initially felt a little strange as a forty-year-old man reading a book about a sixteen-year-old princess, but because it’s Leia, I forged ahead.  I mean, after all, she is one of the best characters in the Star Wars mythology.

Gray sets this book slightly before Rogue One.  Leia must go through a rite of passage in order to proclaim her readiness to one day be queen, and so she declares three challenges to overcome.  She’s also serving as a junior member of the Senate.  Finally, she’s got a bit of a love story too involving another junior senator.

But, none of that is what this book is really about.  This book is all about establishing Leia as one of the galaxy’s greatest freedom fighters.  You’ll witness her slowly discover her parents’ role with the upstart Rebels, and you’ll finally get to know Bail and Breha Organa as the heroes they are.  This is the first time I ever really cared about Bail, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Breha, her adopted mother, depicted before.  Furthermore, you’ll realize Alderaan was not quite the random target we all believed.

There are some truly tense moments, like when one person in particular seems to recognize Leia’s genetics.  We have appearances by Mon Mothma, Grand Moff Tarkin, the planet Naboo, Wedge Antilles, C3PO, R2D2, and even a reference to Obi Wan Kenobi himself.  The Emperor is a constant presence, and that presence is stifling as his grip tightens across the galaxy.

Ever wonder why a princess is able to handle a blaster so well?  How she can adapt to any environment?  Why she’s just so damn tough!  This book answers all of that.

We even learn specifically why the Organa’s adopted to begin with.

But this book does not function as a plot check-list.  Gray has a fluid, logical story with this book.  She weaves in some great treats for fans, but they never deter or detract from the overall plot.

Leia’s love story in this book didn’t especially compel me, but even it lays the groundwork for why Han Solo would be so appealing to Leia.  Everything in this work serves a purpose.

By far, though, the book flourishes most when it addresses the birth of the Rebellion.  It does not shy away from the complexities of rebelling against authority, and it’s especially strong as the characters themselves realize no rebellion can remain bloodless.

If you’re a Star Wars fan, I think seeing the Organas, in this new light will prove fascinating.

 

Image result for star wars leia book cover

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)