DJ: Most Wanted (Review)

A while back I was perusing the local comic store when I came across a decently priced copy of DJ: Most Wanted. I didn’t really have an interest in the Marvel one-shot about the slicer named DJ who helps Finn and Rose in The Last Jedi, primarily because I was underwhelmed by his presence in the film. While it was fun to see actor Benicio Del Toro in a Star Wars film, I ultimately left my first (and subsequent) viewings of The Last Jedi not really caring one way or the other for his character. I guess you could say I “nothinged” him, having no opinion of DJ other than to say “he is in the movie.”

Yet, as I stood there looking at the Marvel one-shot – which was released in January 2018 – I decided I would bite the bullet and give it a chance. At the very least, I convinced myself, perhaps the story would make DJ slightly more interesting and help me appreciate him a little bit more. Except, that didn’t really happen. While it took me some time to finally read DJ: Most Wanted, I did eventually get around to it and was left feeling…nothing.

Spoiler Time!

The general story run down for the comic book goes like this: DJ is on Canto Bight doing some gambling, but really he is just stealing money. He finds himself in a lot trouble and as a way of saving his own skin from the casino bosses he willingly gets himself arrested. Thus, he is plopped down in a jail cell and there he will sit until Finn and Rose show up.

DJ, Finn, Rose
DJ (center) with Rose and Finn.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Now, in fairness, there is a bit more to the story than my very basic summary. But ultimately the idea behind this comic book is to tell us how DJ ended up in jail, thus setting up his encounter with our Resistance heroes. Frankly, I have no problem with this. I am all for minor characters from the Star Wars movies (and other stories) getting some interesting depth tacked onto them. This can be fun and can even be used to add fascinating concepts into the galaxy far, far away. Ultimately, this is what DJ: Most Wanted is meant to do – give DJ a little background and some extra dialogue, use him to provide a little more insight into the culture of Canto Bight, all while explaining how his story intersects and merges with The Last Jedi.

Because I was a bit “meh” about DJ in the film, reading DJ: Most Wanted DID give me some more insight into his character. But it didn’t do anything to really make me more interested in him in general.  I am not disappointed for taking the time to read it, or for even spending a few bucks on it (though I would never have paid full price), but I am also not necessarily ever going to say to myself “I need to re-read DJ: Most Wanted.” Perhaps someday I will, and I hope if/when that happens I can more fully appreciate DJ as a character. Although, to be perfectly honest, the likelihood of that happening really hinges on whether DJ makes more appearances in Star Wars stories in the future where he gains added depth from meaningful encounters with other characters in the franchise For example, I could easily see him interacting with Hondo Ohnaka, perhaps on Batuu (at the “Galaxy’s Edge”).

Unfortunately, I don’t get the impression there are any plans for DJ to receive more treatment any time soon. And if I am right, this is really too bad. I mean, at the very least, a Star Wars character played by Benicio Del Toro should be a bigger deal. Right?

Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Trailers for The Rise of Skywalker


As more trailers are revealed I will add them to this post. For now, enjoy the teaser and leave a comment with your thoughts about it!

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Princess Leia

There is a line in Star Wars: A New Hope which often gets lost in the greater scope of the film, a quote which points to the toughness of the movie’s lone female protagonist, Princess Leia. It comes when Darth Vader, the movie’s villain, speaks to Grand Moff Tarkin, the secondary villain in the film. Pacing back and forth as if annoyed, Vader admits that, “Her [Leia’s] resistance to the mind probe is considerable. It will be some time before we can extract any information from her.” Prior to this admission, we saw Vader enter Princess Leia’s prison cell with an interrogation droid floating behind him, a needle protruding from the droid and Leia’s face giving off subtle apprehension. Now, Vader states that it was for not, that the Princess has resisted this “mind probe” and that breaking her will take more time.

I have always loved this line; it has always resonated with me because it points directly to the fearless resolve which resides in the heart of Princess Leia. Even before Vader utters these words, we know that Leia is a force to be reckoned with, a whirlwind of confidence capable of holding her own. After all, it is Leia who was leading the mission to Tatooine to find Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi at the film’s outset. When the ship fell under attack, Leia created a new plan to secure Kenobi’s help EVEN AS IMPERIAL SOLDIERS STORMED THE VESSLE! Dispatching the droid R2-D2 to Tatooine’s surface, Leia awaited her inevitable capture, and even shoots/kills an Imperial stormtrooper before she is apprehended.

Leia and Vader
Leia confronts Darth Vader after her ship is attacked and she is captured.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Captured by the Empire’s white-armored soldiers, Princess Leia is escorted before Darth Vader, the nefarious and imposing villain we were JUST formally introduced to as he lifted a man by the neck and crushed his windpipe. The black-clad Vader towers above the petite, white dressed Princess, an obvious visual meant to represent the power of the evil Empire towering over the small, fledgling Rebellion. But Leia is far from intimidated. Oh no, not only does she stand tall next to this masked monster, she speaks first AND is the one who chastises him with palpable disdain!!!

In just a few frames, Leia presents herself as competent and fearless, especially under pressure. Rather than quivering and backing down, she boldy stands her ground against imposing odds. It is no wonder then that later, when Darth Vader assaults Leia, probing her mind for the “location of the Rebel base”, her resistance is “considerable.” Princess Leia is the embodiment of fearless resolve, the very heart and soul of the small Rebellion against an Empire which spans a galaxy. There was never a chance the mind probe would work, it was always going to be an act of futility on the part of Vader.

An Alternative Form of Persuasion

It is Grand Moff Tarkin who chooses a new tactic to extract the information they seek following the failure of the mind-probe. Rather than probing her mind, Tarkin gives Leia a choice: give up the location of the Rebel base OR watch as her home planet of Alderaan is destroyed by the Death Star superweapon. It is a brilliant move on Tarkin’s part, one that catches Leia off-guard. Pleading with him, the Princess turns into a supplicant as she tells the Grand Moff her planet is “peaceful” and has “no weapons.” Tarkin, of course, does not care and, presenting the question again, demands to know where the Rebel base is located. It is now that Leia gives in: “Dantooine. They’re on Dantooine.”

Leia Stares Down Tarkin
Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin square-off.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

That Leia gives in to Tarkin is shocking, but all the more painful as Leia must continue to stand and watch as Alderaan is destroyed. This is an unsurprising move on Tarkin’s part, an obvious example being made to the whole galaxy (and the Princess) that no one, not even “peaceful” worlds, are safe from Imperial military might. Now, the fearless young woman who stood her ground at the film’s opening, who chastised Vader and resisted his mind probe must steel herself as she watches her home world and her family perish in a ball of fire.

And yet, what we do not realize in this moment is that Leia has tricked Tarkin. Presented with the choice of Alderaan being destroyed OR the Rebellion being destroyed, the quick-thinking Princess chose a different route: an open-ended lie. We do not discover this right away, not until an Imperial officer informs Tarkin that scout ships discovered a deserted Rebel base on Dantooine. Furious, but more importantly humiliated, the Grand Moff orders the immediate execution of the Princess.

That Leia lies about the location of the Rebel base is brilliant, a narrative misdirect that leads Tarkin and the audience alike to THINK this strong-willed woman has caved under pressure. It is easy to forget this, as later we DO discover the real location of the Rebel base. But in this instance, we are led to believe Leia has given it up, that Dantooine is, in fact, the location. Instead, what we discover a few scenes later is that Princess Leia was in control the entire time, and while her plea to the Grand Moff that “Alderaan is peaceful” is certainly genuine, it, too, was also part of her quick thinking plan to save both Alderaan AND the Rebellion.

Awaiting Tarkin’s Fury

Knowing she has lied to Grand Moff, we can surmise that after being returned to her cell that the Princess sat and waited for Tarkin’s fury. Surely, too, she sat there in mourning, the loss of her world and family weighing heavily on her heart. One could hardly criticize the fearless female if she did break down and cry, although it is hardly necessary to know whether she did. The imagination is enough in this case.

Regardless, when we next see Leia she is reclining on the hard bench in her detention cell. Luke Skywalker, wearing stormtrooper armor, barges in to the rescue and, without missing a beat, the reclined Princess – certainly suspecting Tarkin’s fury has arrived – directs a shot of insulting sarcasm at the soldier: “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”  While Vader’s comment about her resistance to the mind-probe directly points to Leia’s strong-willed personality, this shot of sarcasm – coupled with the sarcasm she throws at Tarkin earlier (see video clip) – highlights her constant disposition towards her Imperial foes. Basically, Leia is always ready to level an attack against the Empire, even if that attack is in the form of words alone.

But she is also more than happy to criticize her own allies, in this case her rescuers: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca. Cornered by Imperial soldiers in the detention center, the Princess chastises the films heroic men, noting that it “Looks like you managed to cut off our only escape route.” What makes this all the better is that the quick-thinking Princess – who, we should remember, was not anticipating a rescue – immediately comes up with a plan and puts it into action. Taking the blaster from Skywalker, Leia blasts open the wall across from her and demands that everyone jump into the garbage chute. Before objections can be raised, Leia is already on her way into the depths of a Death Star trash compactor.

To be perfectly honest, this has always been my favorite “Leia Moment” in A New Hope. On one hand, her action makes the film’s heroes – Luke and Han – look incredibly foolish for not actually thinking about HOW they should go about completing their rescue mission. On the other hand, and more importantly, this moment demonstrates a clear reversal in fortune for the Princess. When the film begins, and her ship falls under attack, the protocol droid C-3PO tells R2-D2, “There will be no escape for the Princess this time.” True in that moment, C-3PO is ultimately proven wrong as Leia not only escapes, but does so by taking control of her own rescue when she and her allies are quite literally backed into a corner.

Into the Garbage Chute
“Into the garbage chute, flyboy!” – Princess Leia
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

But there is an additional element of control which Leia brings to her escape: her decision to travel directly to the Rebel Base on Yavin 4. Why, if Leia knew the Millennium Falcon was being tracked, would she willingly lead the Empire to the Rebel Base, the location she resisted sharing with Vader and Tarkin? For some time, I felt this was a curious move on her part, a clear flaw in her thinking. Yet, the deeper I have considered it, the more I have realized that it is the safest choice given the stakes. With Alderaan destroyed and Obi-Wan Kenobi dead, Princess Leia is left with the only choice that makes any sense: getting the Death Star schematics stored in R2-D2 to the Rebel High Command as quickly as possible. A detour to another world, or a stop to acquire a new ship, runs the risk of Imperial capture, while traveling directly to the Rebellion ensures that the Death Star information (not to mention her own life) is protected. Besides, the sooner the schematics are delivered, the sooner the Rebellion can craft a plan of attack to destroy the planet-killing superweapon.

A Beacon of Hope

Once Leia and company arrive at the Rebel Base on Yavin 4 her role in the film becomes primarily observational. While Luke Skywalker will jump into an X-Wing to participate in the impending engagement, and Han Solo will get a reward and leave before the fight begins, Leia will stand in the Rebel Command Center watching the battle unfold on display screens. Admittedly, it is a bit odd that with the Death Star approaching and preparing to destroy the Rebel Base, Leia (along with others) choose to stand-around watching rather than evacuating. On some level, this sorta gives away what we know the inevitable outcome of the battle will be: the Rebels will win and the Death Star will be destroyed.

On another level, though, that Leia remains in the Command Center puts the final stamp of bravery on her fearless nature. With the Death Star approaching and preparing to destroy Yavin 4, it is conceivable that the Princess was asked (perhaps even ordered!) to evacuate before the battle begins, her safety and importance to the Rebellion being tantamount. Instead, by remaining, Princess Leia reveals once more that she is the very heart of the Rebel cause, a beacon of hope for the Rebel soldiers fighting the Imperial war machine. She may not be in an X-Wing or Y-Wing fighting the battle, nor giving orders as a General, but Leia’s stoic presence in the face of imminent death testifies not only to her personal resolve, but also the resolve of the Rebel Alliance.

Given her status and importance to the Rebellion, it is unsurprising that Princess Leia is the one to bestow medallions upon Luke Skywalker and Han Solo following the Battle of Yavin. With the Death Star destroyed, the two men (accompanied by Chewbacca) will march down the center of a great hall, flanked on both sides by the entire assembly of Rebels on Yavin 4. Arriving at the bottom of a staircase, the trio ascend the steps until they are standing before, albeit slightly below, the magnificently dressed Leia. This is the only point in the film in which Leia has changed clothing, and she is now without the iconic hair “buns.” Wearing a gown, with her hair in a braided updo and jewlery drapping her neck, Leia now, officially and formally, looks like a Princess. Never-the-less, while she is resplendent in her royal attire, we also know that there is far more to her than meets the eye, and that what makes Princess Leia truly regal is her considerable fearlessness and capacity for hope in the face of overwhelming odds.

The Princess
The Princess
Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

I’ve joined forces with some other exciting bloggers and YouTubers – Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Mike of My Comic Relief and Green Onion of The Green Onion Blog – for a little salute to “Fiction’s Fearless Females.” Starting on International Women’s Day and going forward over the next couple months, a different contributor will offer their take on a favorite female who harbors a fearless spirit. Click on the links below to read about the other women being profiled.

Fiction’s Fearless Females

Ellen Ripley

Captain Janeway

Amy Pond

Wonder Woman

Scarlett

Rey

A Star Wars Celebration

My twelfth birthday party was a Star Wars celebration. Just ten days before I turned the big “one-two” (March 24, 1997) the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi was released in movie theaters. So on the Sunday before my birthday, a handful of friends and I were dropped off at the local theater to see Episode VI/

While there are plenty of gripes to be had with the Star Wars Special Edition – George Lucas’ re-mastered/edited Original Trilogy – as a kid I really had no issue with them. At the time, what got me excited was seeing Star Wars on a big screen, plain and simple. Besides, the Original Trilogy Special Edition were not just another set of films. Oh no, they were the pinnacle of cinematic brilliance in my young mind, a new way of experiencing Star Wars in a shape and form I had never imagined possible. Coupled with the knowledge that Lucas was, at the time, working on a new Star Wars trilogy, the Special Edition was, in many respects, my first step into a fundamentally different way of being a Star Wars fan.

I am unable to remember every detail about my twelfth birthday. Today, twenty-two years removed, many of the details are a blur. I can recall which friends I went with, but I do not remember what we talked about as we sat and waited for Return of the Jedi to begin. I am sure our conversation was brilliantly nerdy and immaculately adolescent. I would expect nothing less from almost 12-year-old me. Likewise, my memory of watching the film on that Sunday afternoon is spotty, and I am just not able to bring forth the emotions/feelings I had as the movie played.

Except, that is not entirely true. While memories fade as time moves on, I CAN recall precisely how I felt at the end of the film. Etched into my mind is the sheer joy, hope, and wonder of seeing the various celebrations which took place across the Star Wars galaxy following the Battle of Endor. While the original cut of Return of the Jedi ONLY included the Rebels celebrating with the Ewoks after the battle, in this new Special Edition of the film George Lucas inserted brief shots of galactic citizens flooding streets and celebrating together. As I sat there watching these Star Wars celebrations unfolding on Bespin, Tatooine, Naboo, and Coruscant, I was left feeling dizzy with excitement. Even now, as I think of that moment in the theater, the memory is visceral, I am still dizzy and overwhelmed.

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But why? Why, after watching two hours of Return of the Jedi, would the end, and the inclusion of these celebrations, resonate with me so deeply? Honestly, the answer is so dang obvious that it is almost underwhelming: it’s because humans and aliens across the galaxy were coming together to celebrate the downfall of the Galactic Empire.

I always enjoyed the original celebration at the end of Return of the Jedi, where the Ewoks and Rebels are dancing/singing together (and Lando is awkwardly clapping along to the “Ewok beat”) following their victory at Endor. But this Star Wars celebration was always small scale and localized, it was JUST the participants from the battle who were rejoicing. In the Special Edition, what we end up seeing is the news of the Endor victory cascading across the galaxy: another Death Star destroyed, the Imperial fleet in tatters, and most importantly, the Emperor dead. On Coruscant, in the heart of the Imperial capital, fireworks were launched and statues torn down. On Naboo, Gungans danced and shouted “Wesa free!” Seeing these celebrations taking place on different planets expanded the impact of what the Rebellion had accomplished not for themselves, but for the galaxy writ-large. In that moment, as I sat transfixed by the sights and sounds of these Star Wars celebrations, I was transported across the vast expanse of the Star Wars galaxy and was given the chance to truly experience just how important the Rebel cause, and victory, was for average people. 

George Lucas gets a lot of flak for choices he made with the Special Edition but to this day I am incredibly grateful – as a Star Wars fan and a person – for the addition of these celebrations at the end of Return of the Jedi. On a day I was having a Star Wars celebration of my own, getting to witness the joy of individuals within Star Wars celebrating the defeat of the Empire was truly special. 

The “Sin” of Star Wars Expectations

I recently came across a quote from Frank Oz – the man who brought Yoda to life – where he gave his very direct opinion regarding Star Wars fans who disliked The Last Jedi. Speaking at a SXSW event, Oz states that,

“I love the movie [The Last Jedi]…All the people who don’t like this ‘Jedi’ thing is just horse crap. It’s about expectations. The movie didn’t fill their expectations. But as filmmakers, we’re not here to fulfill people’s expectations.”

How could I, or anyone else, NOT consider what Frank Oz has to say on this point? He is a gifted filmmaker with a perspective and understanding of storytelling which I can only dream of reaching. For a number of days I allowed Oz’s point to marinate in my mind, bouncing around my brain as I reflected on my own expectations for Star Wars, not to mention the expectations of the entire community of Star Wars fans. Of course, I am in no position to speak for the entire Star Wars “fandom.” It is so massive, so diverse, and so damn opinionated that it would be folly to even try to provide any “grand unified theory” to sum-up Star Wars fans. In fact, the ONLY thing that can be said is that Star Wars fans are “unified” around Star Wars, but what Star Wars means for each fan is subjective. It is personal. And because of this, I think Frank Oz is absolutely correct: some fans certainly disliked The Last Jedi because the film did not meet the very personal and deeply held expectations they may have had going into Episode VIII.

The thing is, while I agree with Oz, I only do so up to a point. Beyond that, I fundamentally disagree with him. Why? Well, just as I cannot provide a “grand unified theory” of Star Wars fans, Frank Oz is in no position to provide a definitive answer for why people did not like The Last Jedi. It is a generalization to do so, a fallacy stating that a part (those fans who did not have expectations met by The Last Jedi) actually represents the whole (every fan who did not like The Last Jedi). Logic just doesn’t work that way, and it is important to recognize that a great deal of nuance exists within the Star Wars community precisely because individuals have those deeply personal ties to the decades spanning franchise. And this applies to fans who truly loved The Last Jedi and those who absolutely despise the film, as well as all those who fall somewhere in the middle (which is where I happen to land). My point is: some Star Wars fans didn’t like The Last Jedi because it didn’t meet their expectations, plain and simple, while other fans had a more nuanced reaction and didn’t like it for a trove of entirely different reasons. 

But beyond this  pretty obvious fact, that some fans didn’t like it because of high expectations, the more I thought about what Frank Oz said, the more I was bothered by the implication: that Star Wars fans should have no expectations for the stories which they love. Realistically, how can one NOT have expectations when they go into a Star Wars film (or any film for that matter)? How does one fully set-aside their expectations and experience a story entirely devoid of expectation? Frankly, I do not believe it possible, unless perhaps one ejects every single Star Wars thought from the mind. But going into a Star Wars movie with a “tabula rasa”, a blank slate, is just not possible, at least for me. Maybe someone out there can show me how to do it, how to just sit down with popcorn, Junior Mints and an oversized cup of Diet Coke and watch Star Wars for what it is – just another movie. Me, I cannot set aside my thoughts, and feelings, and ideas about Star Wars because the franchise has seeped into my bones. I live Star Wars, I breathe Star Wars, it infects me like a damn virus. For me, Star Wars is NOT “just another movie,” it is a way of life. And as a result, I am guilty of the sin of expectation, I demand greatness from Star Wars and yes, sometimes, I even expect it to acquiesce to my expectations.

There were a lot of things about The Last Jedi I didn’t like, and some things I absolutely did like, and I lay a number of these out in my post Reflections on The Last Jedi.” But I also know, and can easily admit, that I had expectations for The Last Jedi which were not met. I am not ashamed to say it and why should I hide it? For example, I wrote a post titled The (Mis)Use of Captain Phasma where I blasted writer/director Rian Johnson for not utilizing the First Order villain more effectively in the movie. I absolutely expected her to be a greater factor, especially after a novel and a comic series preceding the release of The Last Jedi built her up as a total badass. How could I not expect more?

Luke and Ben

Many Star Wars fans, myself included, expected Luke to NOT try to kill his nephew given that he threw his lightsaber away at the end of Return of the Jedi. Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

So yeah, I had expectations for The Last Jedi. But you know what, I also had expectations for The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Solo. I had expectations for The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. I had expectations for The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels, and Star Wars: Resistance. And, going forward, I have expectations for Episode IX, The Mandalorian, Galaxy’s Edge, and every other Star Wars movie, novel, comic, video game, etc. But I am under no illusion that all of my expectations will be met. Are Star Wars filmmakers and storytellers supposed to meet every expectation of “the fans”? Certainly not. They can’t do it. At best, they can only hope to meet one very basic, very simple expectation: that the fan will be entertained. That is, after all, what the entire Star Wars franchise is, a massive form of entertainment. Right? We all expect to be entertained, to be transported to the galaxy far, far away so that through the experience we will find some form enjoyment.

And, as a fan, the best I can do is manage my expectations. I have to willing and able to acknowledge that everything will not line up with how I want it to unfold. But managing expectations does not mean jettisoning expectations. Rather, it means having an open-mind and giving things a chance, even when – no, especially when – things do not immediately line-up with those expectations. 

Frank Oz, the voice of Yoda, stated that “…All the people who don’t like this ‘Jedi’ thing is just horse crap. It’s about expectations. The movie didn’t fill their expectations. But as filmmakers, we’re not here to fulfill people’s expectations.” He is right, some fans didn’t like The Last Jedi because it just didn’t meet their expectations; others had more nuanced reasons for their dislike of the movie. And he is correct, filmmakers are not here to fulfill everyone’s expectations; and fans, myself included, do have to manage expectations. However, I am not going to give up my expectations for Star Wars. I am going to continue to demand greatness from it, and yes that means holding the filmmakers and storytellers to a high standard and having expectations for the franchise. And the reason I am going to do this is simple:

Because a long time ago I was mesmerized as I watched a small space ship being chased by a large space ship over a desert planet. From that moment forward, my expectations for Star Wars started to blossom and I can’t change that. So instead, I will live in the sin of Star Wars expectation and, if Frank Oz or anyone else wants to be annoyed with me, I will wear that annoyance as a badge of honor. 

Lando’s Luck (An Imperial Talker Review)

I was browsing some discounted books at Barnes & Noble one day and came across Lando’s Luck on the shelf. A middle-grade novel by Justina Ireland (with illustrations from Annie Wu) which was released in October 2018 as part of the Flight of the Falcon series of books and comics, I decided to give Lando’s Luck a chance and ended up taking it home with me. Besides, since the book was on clearance it was easier to justify the purchase, especially if, in the end, I ended up disliking it. Except, I actually really enjoyed the novel and, having finished reading Lando’s Luck, I am interested in continuing the Flight of the Falcon series.

Set before the events of Solo: A Star Wars Story – with the exception of the Prologue and Epilogue which are set around the time of The Force AwakensLando’s Luck chronicles the “flight of the Falcon” to the planet Hynestia, a frigid world best known for its prized gherlian furs. There, Lando Calrissian ends up being forced by Queen Forsythia Jin – the Assassin Queen – to deliver a valuable possession to the Galactic Empire on behalf of her world. This possession, the Solstice Globe, will be delivered to the Empire in lieu of Hynestia’s regular tribute of gherlian furs, a result of the latest shipment of furs having gone missing.  However, the Queen’s 13-year old daughter Rinetta has different plans for the Solstice Globe and, stowing away on the Millennium Falcon, sets out to recruit Lando and the droid L3-37 to her cause.

Rinetta
Princess Rinetta

Photo Credit – Lucasfilm Press Illustrator – Annie Wu

The protagonist of the novel whom young readers are meant to identify with, Princess Rinetta is a precocious girl who is determined to return the Solstice Globe to it’s rightful owners: the Lynna from the planet Livno III. The Globe, we come to learn, is one of three orbs – the other’s being the Rain Globe and Breeze Globe – which were created by “The Architects” to power a machine that provides Livno III with a stable, habitable climate. Sadly, we are given no detailed background about “The Architects,” a disappointing omission considering that the ability to control a planetary climate makes these “Architects” a pretty big deal. Regardless, long ago the orbs were lost in a war, and while the Rain and Breeze Globes were recovered, the Solstice Globe remained missing. Until, that is, it was discovered in the treasure vault on Hynestia by Rinnetta and her Lynnian mentor, Zel Gris.

With the Solstice Globe safely in the cargo hold of the Millennium Falcon, the story takes us from Hynestia, on the edge of Wild Space, to Neral’s moon in the Corellian system. There, Lando will find himself in dire straits thanks to his (surprise!) penchant for being a swindler who skips out on debts. Luckily, Rinetta’s unexpected presence on the Falcon will end up proving beneficial to Lando as she helps him escape from thugs and bounty hunters. And, after he is imprisoned back on Hynestia – the Queen and her royal guard track the Falcon to Neral’s moon – Rinnetta will free the scoundrel from the dungeon, making him promise to bring the Solstice Globe to Livno III for her help. Lando, we find out, takes promises very seriously and, once given, must see it through to the end (a good lesson for young readers).

While I dare not spoil the entire plot, I will note that Justina Ireland crafted an easy-to-follow tale for young readers. While there are certainly moments throughout where an older reader (translation: me) may question the way things unfold, this never really detracts from the overall narrative or enjoyment of the story. Moreover, for a Star Wars fan who is paying extra close attention they will discover that Lando’s Luck addresses a Star Wars concept that tends to be overlooked: the passage of time while in hyperspace. Essentially, Lando’s Luck acknowledges that hyperspace travel takes time, especially when venturing long distances. Consider the following quote towards the end of the book: “They spent a couple of days on the Millennium Falcon. The trip through hyperspace was a long one…” (pg. 147). While many Star Wars tales – books, comics, tv shows, movies, etc. – overlook or outright ignore this fact about hyperspace travel, it was nice to come across a handful of references, like the one above, acknowledging this reality.

L3-37
L3-37

Photo Credit – Solo: A Star Wars Story

Finally, what can be said about Lando and his droid – sorry, his first mate – L3-37? I genuinely enjoyed how Ireland presents them, capturing their individual voices and motives with care so they feel like the characters in Solo: A Star Wars Story. This is easily done with Lando as he is hellbent on 1) making money and 2) maintaining his own image. But it is doubly true for Elthree who, time and again, reminds us that she is an equal to Lando and other humans (and aliens). She is rightfully furious when a restraining bolt is attached to her and, given her belief in the rights of droids, chastises Princess Rinetta for the suggestion that a sentry droid could be used for her own spare parts. In short, I loved that when  L3-37 would speak I could “hear” actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge in my head.

Overall, I really enjoyed Lando’s Luck and I am glad I picked it up when I found it at Barnes & Noble. I not only recommend it for young readers who will identify with Princess Rinetta but likewise encourage older Star Wars fans to give it a read when they have time to check it out. 

Forgotten Faith: Doubting the Sacred

What Luke Skywalker accomplishes in the climactic final Act of Star Wars: A New Hope is nothing short of miraculous. Tasked with the responsibility of destroying the Empire’s planet killing Death Star, to succeed and win the day Skywalker unexpectedly gives himself over to the mystical energy field known as the Force. Doing so at the behest of the recently “deceased” Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, young Luke puts his faith in something greater than his available technology (or luck, or logic and reason), allowing the sacred and mysterious energy to guide his actions. In doing so, Skywalker not only saves the galaxy by destroying the Death Star, but also takes a giant leap of faith into a realm of wondrous possibility. As Skywalker speeds back to the Rebel base after the battle station explodes, Kenobi speaks to the young pilot from “the beyond”, reminding Luke that “the Force will be with you, always.” Luke Skywalker, farmer-turned Rebel pilot-turned galactic hero, will always have the Force as his ally.

Yet, when we once again meet Luke in The Empire Strikes Back three years after his leap of faith and heroic deed, the young man has all but forgotten the Force is with him.

After putting his faith in the Force in A New Hope, one would anticipate that when we meet Skywalker again that he will have started to more fully develop his understanding of, and connection to, the Force. This, however, is not the case, and is actually hinted at early in The Empire Strikes Back as Luke hangs upside down in the Wampa’s lair (having been ambushed and knocked unconscious by Hoth’s apex predator). His lightsaber protruding from the snow a few feet away, Luke’s initial instinct is to desperately grab for his weapon, and only concentrates on using the Force to bring the weapon to him once he recognizes the blade is out of reach.

 

Luke Wampa Cave
Luke hangs upside down in the Wampa’s lair.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Luke’s use of the Force in this instance reminds the audience of his connection to the energy field while likewise foreshadowing the lessons he will learn when he makes his way to Dagobah in the film’s second act. After all, in the Wampa’s lair we see for the very first time that one can move objects using the Force. Later in the film, this reality will be expanded, with Luke moving boulders and the ancient Jedi Master Yoda using the Force to move Luke’s X-Wing Starfighter.

The episode in the Wampa’s lair likewise foreshadows the doubt and disconnect Luke will display, with respect to the Force, when he travels to the Dagobah system to learn from Yoda. The Force is certainly with him, but at the outset of The Empire Strikes Back it is a curious afterthought, a seemingly forgotten aspect of his being. Even after bringing the lightsaber to him in the lair, the Force seems to fade away as panic sets in, Luke maiming the Wampa and anxiously fleeing the snowy cave.

At the end of A New Hope, Luke was the victorious hero who we last saw receiving a medal for destroying the dreaded Death Star. Now, only a short way into The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker stumbles out of the Wampa’s lair, his flight response fully in control. Unsurprisingly, Luke will succumb to the harsh elements on Hoth, collapsing into the snowy Tundra. Face down in the snow (see featured image above), his body surely experiencing the effects of hypothermia, it is here and now that Obi-Wan Kenobi curiously chooses to re-appear. Calling to the (freezing) young man, Kenobi appears in astral form and commands Luke to “go to the Dagobah system” where he will learn the ways of the Force from Yoda. 

Crashing into a Swamp

It is Luke’s journey to Dagobah that serves as the surest example of his mystical disconnect. Consider that as Luke flies his X-Wing into the planet’s atmosphere – the very same X-Wing he piloted to destroy the Death Star! – he relies entirely on the starfighter’s technology to guide him to the planet’s surface. “All the scopes are dead. I can’t see a thing…” he exclaims as he descends into the thick, dense atmosphere/fog covering the planet. The technology at his disposal fails him, and [a panicked] Luke does not call upon the Force to serve as his guide. It is no wonder he crashes into the swamp.

Luke Crashes on Dagobah
Luke stands on the nose of his X-Wing after crashing in the swamp on Dagobah.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

In turn, what makes this scenario all the more fascinating is that Dagobah is teeming with life, and as Yoda will explain to Luke, it is life which makes the Force grow. “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter,” the elderly Master will note once young Skywalker has started his rigorous Jedi training. Luke, we know from his actions in A New Hope, already has a special connection to the Force, an ability to destroy a planet killing superweapon thanks to faith alone. Never-the-less, piloting his X-Wing to Dagobah, Luke Skywalker is incapable of navigating his way to the surface of a planet glowing with the radiance of the Force.

In the three years between the end of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker has chosen to ignore, or has simply forgotten, his connection to the Force. Or, perhaps over time he began to doubt the mysterious energy field, placing more trust in technology than on the mystical source of his power. Indeed, Luke express such doubt to Yoda – “you ask the impossible”, the young man will exclaim when given a Force-specific task – and Yoda will note that it is Luke’s doubt, his inability to believe in the possibility of the impossible, which makes him fail.

Whatever the reason for Luke’s disconnect with the Force – be it doubt, forgetfulness, ignorance, or something else entirely – from a narrative perspective it is a profound way of highlighting that even after becoming a hero one can still face incredible challenges. Luke may have relied on the Force to destroy the Death Star, but he must also face great external/internal struggle to ascend beyond a singular act of heroism to become truly heroic. In fact, The Empire Strikes Back goes to great lengths to show Luke stumbling, being knocked down, and crashing time and time again as he embarks on this new path of ascendance, towards becoming a Jedi Knight. Consider the following:

  • Luke is knocked off his Tauntaun when the Wampa attacks.
  • He falls from the ceiling of the Wampa’s lair.
  • He stumbles over a snow drift as he escapes the lair, and later falls to the ground as he walks across Hoth’s desolate tundra.
  • His Snowspeeder crashes when it is struck by a laser blast.
  • After destroying an AT-AT using his lightsaber and a thermal detonator, he unhooks his harness and falls far to the ground below.
  • Piloting his X-Wing, he crashes into the swamp on Dagobah.
  • Exiting his X-Wing, he jumps into the swampy marsh and must crawl up the muddy embankment.
  • When he is doing his first handstand during his Jedi training, moving large rocks while Yoda sits on his feet, Luke becomes distracted and falls.
  • Later, doing another handstand, suspending a number of containers and his droid R2-D2 in the air, he again becomes distracted once again.
  • As he battles Darth Vader he is knocked into the carbon-freezing chamber; he is blasted out of a window; stumbles to the ground and barely escapes Vader’s next attack; and falls, by choice, into the great abyss at the center of Cloud City after learning he is Vader’s son (presumably choosing death rather than continuing to face his father).

After falling into the abyss on Cloud City, Luke ends up literally hanging below the city on a weather vane, grasping desperately with his one hand (the other had been cut off, along with his lightsaber, by his father) for the door above him. Even here, in this desperate situation, the literal and metaphorical lowest point in his life, Luke forgets his connection to the Force, instead trying to climb to safety with his single hand. Unsurprisingly, Luke once again slips and begins to fall, this time only being saved by his legs (which catch the weather vane).  Just as he was hanging upside down in the Wampa’s lair at the beginning of the film, at the end of the film Luke is once again in a desperate situation hanging upside down.

Luke Weather Vane
Luke hangs upside down from a weathervane below Cloud City. Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

In a sense, this is the most appropriate metaphor for the existential situation Luke Skywalker finds himself in throughout The Empire Strikes Back – his heroic journey has quite literally been turned upside down. Where he gave himself willingly to the Force in A New Hope, placing his faith in something greater, in The Empire Strikes Back he stumbles and falls as he attempts to rekindle, and grow, in his understanding of and relationship with the Force. Eager to learn about the sacred energy field in A New Hope, Luke’s forgetfulness and doubt are why he crashes and fails in The Empire Strikes Back.

Separatist Profile: Whorm Loathsom

I have never really spent a great deal of time discussing the Confederacy of Independent Systems on this site. While the Separatist Alliance has popped up here and there, I’ve otherwise never discussed them at length. This surprises me because I have always had a deep fascination with the Confederacy. Since encountering the organization in Attack of the Clones, my interest in the Separatists has never really ceased to expand. True, they are the “bad guys” in the Clone Wars, their droid armies – led by the vicious General Grievous  – reaping havoc across the galaxy. But while the evil machinations of Grievous, Count Dooku and Darth Sidious, not to mention others like Nute Gunray and Poggle the Lesser, drive the deadly war effort for the Separatists, it is easy to forget that they do not represent the motivations of every member of the Alliance. This is no more apparent than with Mina Bonteri of Onderon, a former Republic Senator turned Separatist Senator who was introduced in The Clone Wars episode “Heroes on Both Sides.” In the episode, Bonteri – whose husband died a year prior during a clone assault on a Separatist military installation – presents herself as an individual who has legitimate feelings of discontent with the Republic. While she is friendly with Republic Senator Padme Amidala, both of whom agree that the war should come to an end, Mina Bonteri is never-the-less fully committed to the Separatist cause of independence from the Republic.

As a result of Bonteri’s views and choices to support the Separatist cause, I am left wondering why others chose to ally themselves with the Confederacy and join the war against the Republic. This is not to suggest answers can easily be found, or even at all. Unlike Bonteri, other Separatist figures are rarely given the chance to express their deeply held or personal views regarding the Republic or even the war. Moreover, the motivations of Separatist figures, especially in The Clone Wars animated show, are often one-dimensional, tending to present Separatists as entirely “evil.”

Consider how in the first act of The Clone Wars movie – an act which introduces the effervescent Ahsoka Tano  – we are also introduced to the Whorm Loathsom, the Separatist general leading the war effort on the planet Christophsis. While his name invites us to quite literally loathe him – why would we willingly side with someone named “Whorm Loathsom”? – he is “loathsome” precisely because he is battling the forces of dynamic duo of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. Moreover, he has pushed Kenobi and Skywalker to the breaking point, their forces having been backed into a corner and barely holding on thanks to a battery of artillery holding Loathsom’s tanks at bay. When Ahsoka Tano arrives on the battlefield, she does so during a short lull in the fight, a lull brought on by Loathsom when he chooses to disengage his tank forces to keep them out of range of the cannons. 

With the story focused entirely on the three Jedi, their bleak situation, and the cunning plan they conjure to combat the renewed Separatist assault, we are never given the chance to view Loathsom as anything but a bad guy facing off against the good guys. Now, I am not going to go out of my way to suggest that Star Wars fans should be cheering for the Separatists at the beginning of The Clone Wars film. Nor will I try to persuade you that the film should have given us more of Loathsom’s backstory. But what I will offer is a two-fold suggestion:

  1. General Whorm Loathsom is clearly a much more gifted commander than either Kenobi or Skywalker.
  2. It is worth asking why Loathsom chose to join the Separatist cause, wanting to know more about his backstory so as to better understand what led him to the point of commanding the Separatist forces during the Battle of Christophsis.

In regards to the first point, it is worth reiterating what I already said: at the outset of the film, the clone battalion which Kenobi and Skywalker command have been backed into a corner by Loathsom. For all intents and purposes, the outcome of the Battle of Christophsis is already decided, with Loathsom having effectively won the tactical engagement. Pulling his forces back because of the Republic cannons, Loathsom chooses a new strategy: advancing his forces while under the protection of a shield generator. It is a brilliant decision that immediately neutralizes the Republic artillery fire. Without any conventional answers available Kenobi, Skywalker (and Tano) must enact an unconventional plan to stop Loathsom. With some cunning and deception the Jedi and their clone forces are able to come out victorious, but not because Anakin and Ahsoka end up destroying the shield generator. This is certainly an important part of the Republic victory but it is not, in my assessment, the reason the Republic wins. Rather, it is because Kenobi is able to capture Loathsom that the battle is concluded. Even with the shield generator destroyed, had Loathsom not been captured he could have simply disengaged his forces once again and developed a new strategy.

Kenobi captures Loathsom
Obi-Wan captures General Loathsom.
Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Clone Wars

But underneath Loathsom’s prowess as a field commander is a deeper question: why is Whorm Loathsom a Separatist general? His backstory resides entirely in shadow, although a small nugget lurks within The Clone Wars when Obi-Wan Kenobi, using flattery, tells Loathsom, “…you’re a legend throughout the Inner Core.” There is no reason to assume Obi-Wan is lying and, as such, Loathsom’s “legend” as a general is a tantalizing morsel. For myself, the desire to know more about his legend burns bright, wanting to discover what sort of military campaigns he previous led. While it is unlikely his legend as a general will ever receive any serious treatment I can, never-the-less, hold out hope that it will be (maybe I will just fill in the gaps by writing some Whorm Loathsom fan fiction…). Moreover, the question regarding his decision to take up arms against the Republic, his personal motivations for doing so, persist. For whatever reason, he chose to bring his military prowess, his “legend,” to the Confederacy and, until we are given even one line (even in a reference book!) answering “why” he did so we will be left in the dark. 

This is really too bad because without a motivation for joining the Separatists, Whorm Loathsom is just another “bad guy.” Perhaps his reason for joining is actually a nefarious one and he truly is just a bad guy with bad intentions. That is certainly one option but the possibility also exists that he, like so many others, viewed the Republic as corrupt and felt compelled to act to create a more just galaxy. Or, maybe his homeworld of Kerkoidia chose to secede from the Republic and he was honor-bound to defend the planet.

But these are just guesses and, well, your guess is as good as mine.

Luke Skywalker: The Loss of Innocence

Frantic to return to his homestead to warn his family about an impending Imperial raid, Luke arrives too late. Slowing down in his landspeeder, the young man leaps out and calls to his uncle Owen and aunt Beru as black smoke billows from his burning home. Scanning the destruction, Luke locks eyes on the smoldering carcasses of his guardians. Not only was he too late, but the extermination was absolute. Luke may have expected, as he sped closer to home and could see the smoke on the distant horizon, that he would find the limp bodies of Owen and Beru. But he surely did not expect such an abhorrent scene – the grotesque, distorted skeletons of his loving uncle and aunt. One cannot help but wonder -and certainly the thought must go through Luke’s mind – if his uncle and aunt suffered in their final moments of life, tortured by the pain of being burned alive.

Grotesque
The grotesque corpses of Owen and Beru.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

This short but disturbing moment in A New Hope is one that never fails to move and pain me. Admittedly, the event is a narrative necessity, albeit a disturbing one, a way of jettisoning Luke from the confines of his childhood connections into a larger world. Seeking adventure and desiring to leave home, even petitioning his defiant Uncle at dinner the night before to allow him to leave, Luke’s adolescent dreams can not be fulfilled. There is no longer any resistance standing in his way and he can join Obi-Wan Kenobi on his valiant quest to defeat the Empire.

And yet, as the scene concludes with Luke standing there in the quiet desolation of his childhood as the smoke billows and the carcasses continue to smolder, I have always wondered: what did Luke do next?

Skywalker Alone
What did Luke do after this moment?

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

This is not a question that demands a definitive answer. In fact, I would be furious if the Lucasfilm Story Group was to provide an “official” or “canonical” account regarding Luke’s actions (or his thoughts/feelings) when the scene concludes. On one level, this is because this scene in A New Hope, which we can link with Luke’s sad return to Obi-Wan and his admission that he can now join the Jedi Master’s journey, work with seamless fluidity even though they are separated. We do not need to be told what Luke did in the interval because the narrative intention in A New Hope is to move Luke from one stage of life to the next. The innocence of his childhood is literally destroyed and he will now venture forth into the responsibilities of adulthood.

On another level, any “official” explanation would usurp the imaginative faculties of fans, taking away the opportunity for one to insert their own thoughts and feelings into the heart-wrenching moments before, during, and after Luke arrives. Not knowing what Luke does, or the emotional turmoil he experiences, is in many respects what makes the death of Owen and Beru so powerful. Without explanation, other than the pained look on young Skywalker’s face as he views the carnage of his familiar surroundings, we are left to fill in the gaps, all of which enables our own, individualized connections with Luke, and the film, to flourish.

And so, the question – what did Luke do next? – percolates in my mind precisely because my imaginative faculties, aided by the emotion which the scene evokes inside of me, consistently arrives at a number of possible explanations. Just as I can believe Luke simply turned around, walked back to his speeder and left his home, I can just as easily imagine that Luke feel to the ground and broke down in tears. Or maybe Luke dropped to his knees and screamed, bellowing out the agony and guilt of not being there to protect his loving family.

Perhaps Luke sprung into stoic action, choosing to carefully bury the bodies as he internally contemplated the loss of his innocent and simple life. Digging graves next to those of his great uncle Cliegg and great aunt Shmi, Luke placed the wrapped bodies of uncle Owen and aunt Beru in graves he methodically dug. The burial complete, Luke returned to his land speeder and drove off into the Tatooine desert, taking nothing but the memories of his family, his home, and his youth with him.

Favorite Star Wars Music (by Film)

A long time ago…in 2017…I wrote a piece detailing why “The Imperial March” is my absolute favorite musical score in the Star Wars franchise. This admission came as little surprise to many of my trove of followers/readers as I have often professed my cultish admiration for The Empire Strikes Back (ESB) on this site. It stood to reason that The Imperial March would top my list considering the fact that the iconic anthem for the Galactic Empire/Darth Vader was first introduced in Episode V. Plus, given my “Casterfoian” obsession with the Empire, it stood to reason that I would likewise adopt the score as my all-time favorite.

While my unadulterated affection for all things ESB stands firm, and “The Imperial March” continues to receive constant replays on my Spotify account, there are never-the-less many other pieces of Star Wars music that have been elevated to the top of my musical mind. Hardly a shock – I am positive you can say the same if you happen to be a Star Wars fan – I wanted to take the opportunity to share a musical composition from each Star Wars film that I hold near and dear to my heart. For the sake of brevity, I have only chosen one from each film and decided to forgo long-winded explanations detailing why I love each piece, in large part because music is so damn personal it would take some of the fun out of it. Still, I may do a post for each at some point if the Force moves me to do so. We shall see.

Enjoy and be sure to comment with your own “faves” list!


A New Hope  “Tales of a Jedi Knight/Learn About the Force”


The Empire Strikes Back – “Yoda’s Theme”

While my heart will always be dedicated to “The Imperial March,” I decided to share another score from ESB in this particular list to mix things up a bit.


Return of the Jedi – “Leia’s New/Light of the Force”


The Phantom Menace – “The Droid Invasion and the Appearance of Darth Maul”

**Surprise! You were expecting “Duel of the Fates” weren’t you? Here is the deal: I love “Duel of the Fates” with a crazy passion but I likewise love “The Droid Invasion and the Appearance of Darth Maul.” I had to pick one and so I went with my gut. Besides, just listen to how the piece shifts when Maul is introduced! Holy frick that is haunting!!!!


Attack of the Clones – “Across the Stars”


Revenge of the Sith – “The Birth of the Twins and Padmé’s Destiny”


The Clone Wars – “Battle of Christophsis”


The Force Awakens “The Jedi Steps”

**I don’t care much for sentimentality but I readily admit that this piece gives me the feels. Like “Tales of a Jedi Knight/Learn About the Force”, “The Jedi Steps” packs an emotional punch by forcing me to imagine the Jedi Order, now a dying remnant, who once served and protected the galaxy far, far away. Between hearing this piece, and watching Rey literally walk the steps of the ancient Jedi, I was brought to tears in my first viewing of The Force Awakens.**


Rogue One“Your Father Would Be Proud”


The Last Jedi – “The Spark”


Solo: A Star Wars Story – “Savareen Stand-Off”

*Leave a comment with your thoughts about my list or share your own favorites!!!*