How to Avoid Movie Spoilers: Tips for Movie Fans and Critics

popcornclapboard2

With Avengers: Infinity War officially releasing tonight in the U.S., I’ve been doing my best to navigate social media without running into any spoilers. A recent Forbes article (which I will not link to) apparently listed every spoiler in the film despite the fact the movie is not even out yet! My sentiments on this align with film critic John Campea, who posted a response on his YouTube channel, stating that Forbes basically armed trolls to spoil the movie for fans.

Like many, I hate spoilers. It’s especially enraging when people spoil movies that we’re most anticipated for. On the surface it may sound trivial, almost like, “What’s the big deal about spoilers, it’s just a movie, right?” The reality is, film is experienced differently from person to person. Some people watch movies and TV shows for pure entertainment; others are looking for an escape – a break from their busy schedules; and some watch them to appreciate the art of cinema (none of these reasons are mutually exclusive, of course). When we spend so much time invested in an upcoming movie, it can be quite upsetting when everything gets spoiled and we are not able to have the experience the filmmaker(s) wanted us to have upon the first viewing.

Whether we hear spoilers in a YouTube video, from a co-worker, or even read it in a title of an article (one of my biggest pet peeves!), the outrage is understandable. I know there are plenty of articles written about avoiding spoilers in the internet age, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to add another voice to the discussion. Below are some ideas and suggestions for both movie fans and critics on how we can steer clear of and prevent spoilers for movies we are most anticipated for.

1.  Understand your definition of a spoiler

Initially, my first suggestion was to tell people to stay off the internet (point number 2 below), but in recent years, there are debates about what constitutes a spoiler. The definition of the term has become much more subjective. For example, if we look at a movie like Blade Runner 2049, some might argue that disclosing the plot of the movie is a spoiler in of itself (if you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about). However, I also know people who didn’t have issues with knowing the plot beforehand.

Most non-spoiler movie reviews will discuss plot points, but this may be viewed as spoilers by some. Speaking for myself, if it’s a movie I’ve been waiting for years to see (like Avengers: Infinity War), I don’t want to hear too much about the plot.

So figure out what you’re OK with knowing. If you’d rather not know anything about the movie, it’s probably safer to not read movie reviews before seeing it.

2. Stay off the internet! 

The Russo brothers suggested this for Avengers: Infinity War, and it makes perfect sense. Don’t log on to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, etc. Given how we’ve seen article titles contain spoilers for movies in the past, you might as well just stay off the internet completely until you’re able to see the movie!

If you can do this, great! But, if you’re like me and have a habit of constantly checking Facebook, staying off social media may not be the most practical solution.

3. Read and watch spoiler-free reviews only from critics you trust

If you can’t resist the reviews, I suggest reading/watching reviews only by critics you trust. Sites like Collider and Screen Junkies are pretty reliable when it comes to not spoiling movies. What’s helpful is that they will post two reviews: a non-spoiler review and a spoiler review. They’re even considerate enough to remind you in the video just in case you misread (or didn’t read) the title of the video!

If you’re a movie critic, you may not consider plot points a spoiler, but as mentioned above, there’s a debate about this. When I’m watching a review for a movie that I haven’t seen yet, I’m just looking for the basics from critics: (1) Did you like the movie? (2) How did the movie make you feel? (3) Do you recommend going to see it?

Once I read about those general thoughts and feelings, I will stop reading and return to the review later (because I suspect a summary of the plot will be provided in the review).

Something I appreciate about movie reviews by Andre at Black Nerd Comedy is how he posts up non-spoiler reviews, but also states that he will mention some plot/character points. His recent review for Avengers: Infinity War begins with his initial impressions of the movie and he mentions clearly that he will talk about some aspects of the plot. This way, for those of us who don’t want to hear about plot points, we can simply close the video after listening to his general thoughts and feelings.

4. If you must read Twitter, only read social media reactions from the same critics you trust

I strongly advise against using Twitter in the days leading up to the release of the movie. The spoilers are Twitter are rampant and much harder to filter out than sites like Facebook.

But if you’re going to read reactions to the film, ONLY read tweets from the critics you trust. After Avengers: Infinity War premiered, for instance, I only read tweets from critics from Collider. Their tweets only contained general reactions to the film, nothing specific.

5. DON’T. READ. THE. COMMENTS.

Even if you’re reading or watching a spoiler-free movie review, DO NOT read the comments. Don’t even scroll down. I saw a ton of trolls spoiling The Last Jedi in YouTube comments. Just read/watch the review and close the window! You can read the comments later!

So those are some of my suggestions for avoiding spoilers (for now). Of course, movie critics and movie websites also have a responsibility to preserve the secrets of a film as well. But since this is never a guarantee, the best we can do is make adjustments to the way we navigate social media – at least until we’re able to see the movie!

Advertisements

Rumi, Bulleh Shah, and The Last Jedi

Parh parh ilm hazaar kitaaban
qaddi apnay aap nou parhiya naee...

Yes, you have read thousands of books
But you have never tried to read your own self...

~ Bulleh Shah

There is a moment in The Last Jedi that touches upon the theme of this beautiful poem by Punjabi poet Bulleh Shah. Before I continue, I have to warn that MAJOR SPOILERS are ahead! Don’t read further if you haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet!

SPOILERS start now:

One of my major disappointments with The Last Jedi was the way Rian Johnson handled the Star Wars lore. Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking, “Man, Rian really went all Order 66 on the Star Wars mythos.”

But I actually think he did some things that were more thoughtful than I initially suspected. In fact, I remember watching the scene with Yoda and thinking, “Hmm, this reminds me of a Sufi poem I once read.” I couldn’t remember which poem or story exactly, but I figured it must have involved Jalaluddin Rumi. I didn’t think about this scene later because I was too caught in processing the rest of the film.

When Yoda burns the sacred Jedi texts, he’s basically teaching Luke that the Force cannot be found in books, but rather within one’s self. The larger message is one that challenges religious dogma and rigid orthodoxy. By the way, it’s interesting to see Yoda’s own arc when we compare his anti-dogmatic stance with his rigid principles in the prequels.

But even more interesting to me is how this scene seems to carry similar themes with spiritual traditions in our own galaxy. Whether Rian Johnson is familiar with Islamic or Sufi literature, I don’t know, but it is interesting how similar the Yoda scene is with a particular story about Rumi. The following tale is about the first time Rumi met his teacher Shams-e Tabrizi:

“Rumi was sitting in his library with some books and his pupils gathered around him. Shams came along, greeted them, sat down and gesturing toward the books, asked: ‘What are these?’

Rumi replied, ‘You wouldn’t know.’

Before Rumi finished speaking, the books and the library caught on fire.

‘What’s this?’ cried Rumi.

Shams retorted, ‘You wouldn’t know either,’ and got up and left.

There is actually another version of this story, as mentioned below:

“Jami, Amin Ahmad Razi and Azar all tell a version of this mythical encounter, but substitute water for fire.

Rumi was sitting near a garden pool with a few books when Shams arrived and asked, ‘What’s this?’

Rumi replied, ‘These are called debates, but you needn’t bother with them.’

Shams touched them and threw them in the water. Rumi got upset at the ruin of these rare and precious books. Shams reached in the water and retrieved them one by one. Rumi saw that there was no trace of water damage on them.

‘What secret is this?’ he asked.

Shams replied, ‘This is spiritual inclination and entrancement, what would you know of it?’

The excerpts cited above were quoted from the book, Rumi: Past and Present, East and West – The Life, Teachings and Poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi (p. 166).

Yoda setting fire to the Jedi texts also reminded me of this poem by Bulleh Shah:

Masjid dha de, mandir dha de,
dha de jo kucch dainda,
Par kisi da dil na dhain,
Rab dilan vich rehnda

You could tear down the Mosque and the Temple,
break all that can be broken,
but never break anyone’s heart,
b
ecause that is where God lives.

Emphasizing one’s inward relationship with self and God, and challenging the outward, dogmatic aspects of religion is a common theme in Bulleh Shah’s work. We’ve seen this throughout the Star Wars films as well. As Luke laments the fact that Kylo destroyed his Jedi Temple, Yoda reminds him that the Force lives within us all.

Here’s another poem by Bulleh Shah that carries a similar message:

Parh parh ilm hazaar kitaaban
qaddi apnay aap nou parhiya naee,
jaan jaan warhday mandir maseedi
qaddi mann apnay wich warhiya naee,
aa-vain larda aye shaitan de naal bandeaa
qaddi nafss apnay naal lariya naee

Yes, you have read thousands of books
But you have never tried to read your own self,
You rush in, into your Temples, into your Mosques
But you have never tried to enter your own heart,
Futile are all your battles with Satan
For you have never tried to fight your own desires

This is perhaps Bulleh Shah’s most quoted poem and it serves as a reminder to not only confront our own egos, but also establish a deeper and honest connection with ourselves. When Yoda tells Luke, “The greater teacher, failure is,” it makes him realize that he never really processed his failure. He avoided it rather than confront it.

As disappointed as I am that Luke was not physically on the planet to fight Kylo Ren, I can appreciate the deeper, spiritual theme Rian Johnson seemed to be going for. Luke had entered his own heart and became at peace with himself.

He became One with the Force.

What I Loved and Didn’t Love About The Last Jedi (Spoilers!)

Wow.

Where does one begin with this movie? Before I continue, I have to emphasize that there will be heavy SPOILERS throughout this post. Don’t read further if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

Overall, I loved The Last Jedi. The film was filled with so many amazing moments and twists. It kept you on the edge of your seat. For me, Vietnamese American actress Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico is a standout. I loved her character and wish she had more screentime. Contrary to what many critics are saying, I thought the storyline with Finn and Rose was excellent. The political themes about injustice and oppression (which have always been integral to Star Wars) were most prominent in Rose’s scenes.

Also, what’s not to celebrate about Rose representing the first lead woman of color character in the Star Wars films (there was Steela Gerrera in the animated Clone Wars series, but she never appeared in a live-action film). I vehemently disagree with some movie critics and fans who argue that Rian Johnson could have “trimmed down” the Finn/Rose storyline on Canto Bight. Not only do these criticisms overlook the relevant political issues addressed in those scenes, they also don’t seem to realize the significance of this story being led by people of color characters, particularly a Black man and an Asian woman. It was refreshing to see a sci-fi/space fantasy movie where resistance against oppression is not led by a predominately white cast (unlike so many other films).

The racial and gender dynamics in regard to Finn and Rose were especially powerful and compelling. And, honestly, I don’t think I could ever complain about a Star Wars movie being “too long.” I wouldn’t care if The Last Jedi was 3 hours long. Give me 4 hours of Star Wars, I don’t care!

I enjoyed the scenes between Rey and Kylo as well. The scene where Rey goes into the cavern was absolutely mind-blowing. It even had a horror movie vibe (and I’m sure we’ll see a Star Wars horror movie some day). Furthermore, the brilliantly shot scene with Snoke was probably the biggest surprise. The way the audience reacted was priceless.

But as much as I love this movie, I have to say there were a few things that left me disappointed. One of them was, in fact, the disposal of Snoke. Don’t get me wrong, that scene was amazing and so well done, but I was among those hoping that Snoke was actually Darth Plagueis. Or, if he wasn’t Plagueis, it would have been nice to have learned about his backstory. But it’s fine, I’ll get over it! Especially considering how breathtaking his death scene was.

But my biggest disappointments had to do with Luke and the way Disney is handling the Force. While Mark Hamill was promoting the film, he infamously said to Rian Johnson, “I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character.”

And honestly, I agree with Hamill. I was not a fan of how they depicted Luke. It seemed very out of character from when we last saw him in Return of the Jedi. Granted, a lot of time has passed since then, but what makes it challenging to accept Luke this way is that we haven’t had the opportunity to visually see this transition occur on screen. Sure, there will most likely be (new canon) novels and comic books that will address this, but for the most part, we are left filling in the blanks.

I think one of the major barriers for me is that I used to read the Expanded Universe (EU) novels and comics growing up (now decanonized). They are as much part of my childhood and adolescence as the original trilogy is. Of course, the EU wasn’t perfect. With so many novels, comics, and video games, there were bound to be some terrible stories (e.g. killing off Chewbacca in Vector Prime), but overall, I was a fan.

If you’re familiar with the EU, you’d know that Luke is profoundly different than who he is in The Last Jedi. The Luke of the EU is consistent, in my opinion, with Luke in Return of the Jedi: The man who throws his lightsaber aside and declares to Palpatine that he will never join the Sith because, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”

The Last Jedi was yet another bitter reminder that I need to come to terms with the fact that the EU doesn’t exist anymore. Luke of the EU is not going to show up. There is no Mara Jade here.

There was one particular image that I’ve been extremely attached to over the years, and it’s a scene in the Dark Empire comic book. Luke makes his entrance onto the battlefield and uses the Force to singlehandedly bring down an AT-AT:

And oh my God, they came so close to doing this. SO CLOSE. Even the shot composition of Luke standing in front of the AT-M6 walkers was nearly identical to the panels in Dark Empire.

I really hoped that Luke would have taken at least one of them down with the Force. But the moment never happened.

What made it more disappointing was the reveal that Luke was not physically on Crait, but rather casting a Force Illusion (okay, at least it was cool to see Force Illusions used in a movie). We never got to see Luke engage in a lightsaber duel with Kylo.

And then came Luke’s death, which caught me by surprise. Had he exhausted his use of the Force to the point that it killed him? I admit I’m not a fan of the way he died.

The other barrier for me is that I am a prequelist (and, yeah, it was cool how Luke name-dropped Darth Sidious). I always viewed the saga films as being a family space drama, as George Lucas described, and I was fine with that. But the new trilogy seems to be gradually decentering the Skywalkers and discarding any notions of the Jedi prophecy.

I think a lot of fans, including myself, was hoping that Rey would have significant connections to other Star Wars characters that we know – either Luke or Obi-Wan (or both!). We still don’t know who her parents are, but if Kylo is to believed that her parents are “nobodies,” the implications of what this means for the Star Wars mythology are huge.

For example, the very last scene of The Last Jedi shows a young white boy from a low socioeconomic background casually using the Force to grab a broom. What’s basically being communicated here is anyone can potentially use the Force. This is somewhat contradictory to what Lucas seemed to be depicting in his previous films, especially the prequels, that the Force is mostly something hereditary and passed down. The concept of the midi-chlorians, much maligned by many fans (not including me though), will most likely never be mentioned again in the new films.

I shouldn’t say “concept” because midi-chlorians are canon whether people like it or not. I personally don’t think the midi-chlorian count indicated that certain individuals couldn’t ever use the Force; I think Lucas introduced this into the Star Wars mythology to highlight how unique Anakin was. If someone had a higher midi-chlorian count, it meant that they were more attuned to the Force than others. The way Disney disregards this aspect of the Force doesn’t sit well with me.

If The Last Jedi has made anything clear, it’s that this is no longer George Lucas’ universe.

A lot of people will say that’s a good thing, but I’m among those who wish Lucas was still involved, at least in a producer role (just like for Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Clone Wars animated series). Others have noted this too, but you don’t get the sense anymore that these films are created and developed by one person. One had the sense that all of the films and the Clone Wars TV show were interconnected. Now, it feels more like a committee – namely, Disney – creating these stories now.

The literal snapping of Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber is a symbolic one. It represents Disney breaking off from the established Star Wars mythology and reimagining it. I had heard rumors that Disney is not interested at all in connecting the new trilogy to the previous films or mythology, and that’s kind of unfortunate and disappointing.

The idea that anyone can potentially use the Force seems to have been Disney’s goal from the beginning. What else would “The Force Awakens” be referring to? And if Rey’s heritage does not, in fact, include individuals who were Force sensitive, then the final scene in The Last Jedi is linked with this theme of the Force “awakening.”

On the surface, it’s obviously far more egalitarian that anyone can use the Force. This creates opportunities for other characters to wield the Force, especially people of color characters. However, as exciting as all of that sounds, what causes pause for me is how it disrupts the Star Wars mythology. Also, admittedly, if that final scene had involved a boy or girl of color, I think I would have responded differently. But I think they could have still kept consistency with the Star Wars mythology and had characters of color who use the Force.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that disrupting the Star Wars mythology takes me out of the movie. It makes me think about the behind-the-scenes decision Disney made to deliberately depart from Lucas’ vision of Star Wars being a “soap opera” about family problems. Rey being a “nobody” is more in line with Disney’s plans than her being a Skywalker and Kenobi. And yes, Star Wars should expand beyond the Skywalkers and perhaps the young boy will be the center of Rian Johnson’s new trilogy, but I’m disappointed with how Disney is concluding the Skywalker saga this way. Unless there’s serious misdirection happening about Rey…

So, those are my thoughts about The Last Jedi. I know my disappointments with the film may sound like I didn’t like it, but it’s always easier to write about the negatives than positives. I want to reiterate that I still loved the movie overall. I may have been disappointed with how they portrayed Luke, but I’m reminded how much I love the new characters – Rey, Finn, Poe, and Rose – and how much I look forward to seeing more of their stories.

The Truth of What’s Happening with Directors at Lucasfilm

Here’s a breakdown on what’s happening behind-the-scenes at Lucasfilm:

Kathleen Kennedy = Darth Vader

darth-vader-force-choke-stimulated-boredom-dana-sciandra

Gareth Edwards = General Motti (reprimanded, but played by the rules)

mottichoked

Phil Lord and Chris Miller = Admiral Ozzel (cocky, arrogant, unapologetic)

ozzelchoked

Colin Trevorrow = Captain Needa (overconfident, failed last mission miserably)

captainneeda

Ron Howard = Commander Jerjerrod (obedient, but given a tight schedule)

jerjerrod

Tony Gilroy = Boba Fett (dependable, for hire, backup plan when the job doesn’t get done)

Bobafett

Rian Johnson = General Veers (trustworthy, daring, exceeds expectations)

veers2

J.J. Abrams = Admiral Piett (loyal, safe, follows orders)

piett

Anyone else who tries to mess with Kennedy’s vision for Star Wars:

vaderrogueone

Yes, We Need an Obi-Wan Standalone Movie

As reported in The Hollywood Reporter, a standalone Obi-Wan film is in early development at Lucasfilm. Academy Award-nominated director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) is currently in talks to direct the film.

To put it bluntly, I was ecstatic when I heard this news. Obi-Wan is my favorite character in the Star Wars universe and I have been waiting for them to announce a standalone film ever since Disney discussed the possibility of making spin-off films. A large part of why I like Obi-Wan so much is because of Ewan McGregor’s performance in the prequels. While there hasn’t been any confirmation that the Trainspotting actor will return, I can’t see Lucasfilm going forward without him! It absolutely astounds me that some people out there would even (blasphemously) consider replacing McGregor! One article argues that McGregor’s presence in the film will serve as a reminder for how “bad” the prequels were.

Um… No. You want to go home and rethink your life.

Over the years, McGregor has repeatedly and enthusiastically stated that he would be happy to reprise his role as Obi-Wan and often spoke specifically about setting the film between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. When you have an actor who is still passionate about the character and wants to return, why would Lucasfilm not cast him?

I know there is criticism about the new Star Wars films not branching out beyond the Skywalker era, and understandably so. I personally was never a fan of them making a Han Solo spin-off (however, with Donald Glover and Ron Howard on board, my excitement for it has grown). I’ll show up opening night for the Han Solo film, no doubt, but it would be nice to see Lucasfilm/Disney explore new stories with new characters (I would love to see films set in the Tales of the Jedi era).

Having said that, I believe an exception should be made for an Obi-Wan standalone movie. There is so much potential for this film (which, who knows, could even turn into a trilogy) and it could connect deeper to the new Saga films. If you’re among those who are on the fence about seeing an Obi-Wan movie, consider some of my reasons for wanting this:

1. Ewan McGregor returning as Kenobi

This one is obvious. As I mentioned earlier, McGregor’s performance as Obi-Wan stands out as one of the strengths in the prequels — something that prequel haters admit themselves. McGregor remarkably captured the spirit of Alec Guinness’ original performance while also making the character his own. One could even make the argument, without downplaying Guinness’ performance, that Obi-Wan’s popularity is mostly due to McGregor.

2. The film will be character-driven

Imagine a lower-budget, smaller scale, and character-centered Star Wars film. At the end of Revenge of the Sith, we see glimpses of a broken Kenobi. He not only watched his fellow Jedi knights perish, but also saw his apprentice – the man he considered “brother” – become a Sith Lord.

There are several layers to unpack here. First, after Qui-Gon Jinn was murdered by Darth Maul, Obi-Wan promised to teach Anakin the ways of the Jedi. Although Qui-Gon expressed he was confident in Obi-Wan’s training being complete, one could argue that Obi-Wan was not ready nor competent to train Anakin. After all, Qui-Gon was adamant about training Anakin and knew he couldn’t as long as Obi-Wan was still his apprentice. To Obi-Wan, he feels like he has failed both Anakin and Qui-Gon. Furthermore, as he watches the galaxy fall under the oppressive rule of the Empire, he feels responsible for all of the hell his former apprentice has unleashed.

A standalone film would allow the opportunity to explore Kenobi’s guilt, trauma, inner turmoil, and struggles with self-doubt. At this point, he is a character who is haunted by the past, present, and future. Perhaps he refuses to use the Force, or, similar to Ulic Qel-Droma in the Redemption comic book, he cannot use the Force (though not for the same reasons as Qel-Droma, of course).

McGregor’s talents as an actor coupled with Daldry’s character-focused direction are an excellent combination for a truly unique and powerful film.

3. The film will be about Ben Kenobi, not Obi-Wan

But wait, you might say, aren’t they the same person? Of course, but there is significance in the fact that Ben says he hasn’t been called “Obi-Wan” in a long time. Sure, he is hiding from the Empire, but I think there’s some meaningful symbolism here, too. Again, this relates to the character-driven approach that this film will most likely adopt. How does Obi-Wan become Ben? How is Ben different?

We have not really seen the character of Obi-Wan explored in-depth, nor have we seen much of this duality in the character. By centering on Ben Kenobi, we will essentially see a different character, or at least a side of the character we haven’t seen before (much like Logan showed us a different side of Wolverine).

From an actor’s standpoint, this is an exciting opportunity for McGregor to deliver a standout (and potentially Oscar-worthy) performance we have yet to see in a Star Wars film.

4. Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse will return as Owen and Beru, respectively

I’m really surprised that movie news sites/blogs aren’t talking about this enough. Think about it, did anyone know who Joel Edgerton was when Attack of the Clones came out? Over the years, movie fans and moviegoers have become more familiar with seeing Edgerton on screen, and his growing popularity works to the film’s advantage. While Bonnie Piesse’s resume isn’t like Edgerton’s, my hope is that the film will develop her character more.

Furthermore, Edgerton and Piesse returning as Owen and Beru respectively will give us a chance to see what their relationship with Obi-Wan was like. Why is Owen so dismissive towards Obi-Wan in A New Hope? Why did Owen want to keep Obi-Wan away from Luke? What was Beru’s stance on all of this? Expect to see this explored in the film!

5. Obi-Wan may be Rey’s grandfather

One theory that has been out there for a long time is that Rey is a descendant of Obi-Wan. I would take it further and argue that Rey is both a Kenobi and a Skywalker. If either of these theories are correct, the standalone movie could show Kenobi finding love again. Given that Lucasfilm was willing to bring a Clone Wars character, Saw Gerrera, onto the big screen, could we see flashbacks of Satine Kryze?

Is it possible that Obi-Wan doesn’t know he has a child by the end of the film? This would explain why Obi-Wan or Yoda didn’t seek out his child during the original trilogy.

Also, if Obi-Wan is Rey’s grandfather, it would explain why he is speaking to Rey in her Force vision.

6. New characters

A standalone Obi-Wan movie doesn’t mean it won’t include new characters. Whether the film stays on Tatooine or goes off-world, there’s potential for Obi-Want to meet new allies and encounter new enemies. I would also hope that Lucasfilm remains consistent in casting people of color in significant roles. In particular, it would be great to see more women of color lead characters in the Star Wars universe (Rose seems like a good start in The Last Jedi).

Some shameless self-promotion here, but last year I mashed up a Mad Max-style Obi-Wan fan trailer that featured Gina Torres as a supporting lead. You can watch it by clicking here!

7. More Darth Vader and… the return of Hayden Christensen?

Obviously, Darth Vader is still alive during this time. It could be tricky to include Vader because of the dialogue in A New Hope where he tells Obi-Wan, “When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.” Still, it’s possible we could see Vader searching for Kenobi. Also, what if Vader is feeling a “pull to the light” similar to Kylo Ren? I get that people enjoyed seeing Vader ruthless in Rogue One, but we know he is much more complex than that.

I know this is unpopular for some Star Wars fans, but I really hope we get to see Hayden Christensen return as Darth Vader. He received a standing ovation at Star Wars celebration this year and I think it would be amazing if his performance in an Obi-Wan film, no matter how small, surprises people in a good way. Let’s also not forget that we could see Obi-Wan and Anakin again in a short flashback scene, preferably one that would take place during the Clone Wars.

8. Liam Neeson, Ian McDiarmid, and Jimmy Smits could return 

At the end of Revenge of the Sith, Yoda tells Obi-Wan he will teach him how to commune with Qui-Gon Jinn’s Force ghost. A lot of people who didn’t enjoy the prequels tend to say Ewan McGregor was the “only good part.” However, I couldn’t disagree more, and I’m not just saying this because I’m a fan of the prequels. Liam Neeson’s carefully calculated and layered performance as Qui-Gon Jinn is much overlooked in my opinion.

One aspect of Qui-Gon that I find fascinating is how he questions authority, particularly the dogmatic order of the Jedi (which is why he’s not on the council). What Qui-Gon taught Obi-Wan was very different than how Yoda trains Jedi. Since Obi-Wan never completed his training, it would be interesting to see Qui-Gon guide him through his current struggles.

Speaking of positives from the prequels, Jimmy Smits and Ian McDiarmid would also have opportunities to come back as Bail Organa and Emperor Palpatine, respectively (it was great seeing Bail in Rogue One). We didn’t need to see Palpatine in Rogue One, but I think it makes more sense to bring him back for the Obi-Wan film. Palpatine is Anakin’s Sith master and he would be threatened at the thought of Anakin’s Jedi master still being alive.

So, there you have it! Those are my 8 reasons why we need an Obi-Wan standalone film. I’m sure I have more reasons, but these are the ones that come to mind. Again, I think this movie has incredible potential to not only delve deeper into a character we know and love, but also give us a truly unique Star Wars film.

Episode 8 Title Reminds Me of a Scene in Heir to the Empire

sw-the-last-jedi-tall-b

As many of you know already, Lucasfilm/Disney has released the official title of Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi.

Based on how Luke Skywalker is explicitly described as “the last Jedi” in The Force Awakens, I think it’s also possible that the term may apply to multiple Jedi. After all, the term “Jedi” is both singular and plural (one of my pet peeves is when people say “Jedis”).

But the title also reminded me of a scene that took place in a novel published a long time ago. In the first Expanded Universe novel Heir to the Empire (published in 1991 and no longer canon thanks to Disney), Luke says to himself, “Then I am alone. I am the last of the Jedi,” to which Obi-Wan responds, “Not the last of the old Jedi, Luke. The first of the new.” I also put this line in a graphic arts project back in high school too, haha (sigh I feel old).

Anyway, it would be cool if this line is in Episode 8.

I know the Expanded Universe is no longer considered canon, but Disney has still kept some elements of it. Grand Admiral Thrawn (who was also introduced in Heir to the Empire) was reintroduced in the Star Wars Rebels animated series and is officially canon. And let’s face it, Ben Solo/Kylo Ren is basically Jacen Solo/Darth Caedus.  I also can’t imagine Disney not wanting to incorporate Mara Jade into their canon either (yet another character from Heir to the Empire). I’m still hoping that Lauren Dern is playing her!

Why You Should Watch Saw Gerrera’s Backstory in Clone Wars Before Seeing Rogue One

saw-steela
Saw and Steela Gerrera in The Clone Wars: A War on Two Fronts  (Season 5, Episode 2)

“I’m not a terrorist. I’m a patriot. And resistance is not terrorism.” – Saw Gerrera (The Clone Wars – Season 5, Episode 4)

I should have written this post sooner since Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been out for a while now and most people have seen it. However, even if you’ve already seen Rogue One and haven’t watched The Clone Wars animated series, I think the latter will only enhance your viewing of the former.

I think it’s unfortunate most moviegoers aren’t fully appreciating Forest Whitaker’s character, Saw Gerrera, in Rogue One. His character is the first to make the leap from an animated show to film in the Star Wars universe. To really appreciate his character and understand his context, I highly recommend watching his backstory in the Onderon arc of The Clone Wars – Season 5, Episodes 2-5 (you can stream these if you have Netflix). The Clone Wars series as a whole is 6 seasons long and while I recommend watching it in its entirety, it is not required to understand the episodes in which Saw appears. At the very least, you just need to know that The Clone Wars takes place between Attack of the Clones (Episode II) and Revenge of the Sith (Episode III), and that Anakin has a padawan named Ahsoka Tano.

Major spoilers ahead for The Clone Wars and Rogue One.

The Onderon episodes first aired on Cartoon Network on October 6, 2012, so it’s understandable that some fans may not have seen it. Also, as I noticed on Twitter, there are a lot of fans who have just started watching The Clone Wars now. I personally miss The Clone Wars a lot. It took me a while to enjoy Star Wars Rebels and even though I keep up with every episode, it’s still not as great as The Clone Wars. 

Saw and Steela are characters created by George Lucas. They were always meant to play important roles in the Star Wars franchise. If you’ve seen the trailer for Season 3 of Rebels, you’ll notice that Saw Gerrera plays a significant role. It’s clear that Lucasfilm is not finished with the character, despite his quick and, frankly speaking, badly written demise in Rogue One. Below are some reasons why I think watching Saw’s backstory in Clone Wars Season 5, Episodes 2-5 make his presence in Rogue One more impactful and significant.

1. You learn an interesting fact about who trained Saw, Steela, and the Onderonian rebels

In Rogue One, Saw Gerrera is mentioned a lot by the other characters. Mon Mothma and the Rebel Alliance refer to him as an “extremist,” yet the narrative clearly wants us to sympathize with him. When Saw’s rebels attack the patrolling and occupying Imperial forces on Jedha, the scene looked like a live-action Clone Wars episode, particularly the Onderon episodes.

But who trained Saw, Steela, and the Onderonian rebels? Who taught them the tactics? The connections not only bridges the prequel era with the new Disney canon, but it also reveals some fun irony. That is, Anakin Skywalker was one of the individuals who helped train the Onderonian rebels. What Anakin didn’t realize is that he would become Darth Vader and that his training of Saw would eventually lead to inspiring a resistance movement that would destroy the Death Star!

2. You discover the heart-breaking depth of Saw’s character

There is a line Saw says in Rogue One when talking to Jyn. After he asks if she was sent to kill him, he says, “There’s not much of me left” (don’t know if that’s the exact quote; I only saw the movie twice!). The line is heart-breaking if you know Saw’s backstory. Now, The Clone Wars doesn’t explain Saw’s physical injuries, but it provides some context for the trauma he has experienced. In particular, he feels responsible for the death of his sister, Steela.

I hate the fact that Steela is killed off at the finale of the Onderon arc. Not only was she a powerful character, but she was also among the few Black women in the Star Wars universe (I’m including the novels and comic books). What upset me about her death is that it fueled the trope of Black women characters being killed off to become martyrs that inspire revolutions led by white protagonists (another example is Rue from The Hunger Games).  Supervising director of The Clone Wars Dave Filoni even expressed his regret about killing off Steela:

I will say this about Steela. When I think of her, I think that she’s one of the biggest regrets I have this season, which is I wish we hadn’t killed her. We all ended up liking that character very much. I thought she was very successful. Dawn-Lyen Gardner played her and played her brilliantly. I just thought that there was an opportunity to bring a character like that back in the future because we liked her so much by the time we were ready to kill her… She was just a fantastic character. I thought the design for her turned out great. Yeah, really enjoyable. Big regret.

This regret seems to have been shared by Disney after they bought Lucasfilm from Lucas. The inclusion of Saw Gerrera in Rogue One may have been an attempt to make up for Steela’s death, but unfortunately, it seems that Lucasfilm made the same mistake by killing Saw off so quickly.

But my point is, if you watch the Onderon episodes before watching Rogue One, you can understand how damaged Saw is, not just physically, but emotionally as well. Without context, I fear some people will simply dismiss and pathologize Saw.

3. You’ll have a better understanding of his relationship with Jyn

In Rogue One, Jyn expresses anger at Saw for abandoning her when she was 16. Saw tells Jyn that he was afraid people would have recognized her as the daughter of Galen Erso and used her as ransom. The scene also has Saw justify his decision by stating that he knew Jyn was one of the best soldiers he knew, and therefore could survive on her own.

But is this really the reason why Saw abandoned Jyn? In the last episode of the Onderon story, Saw feels responsible for Steela’s death. He fires a rocket at a gunship, which crashes into a cliff that Steela was standing on. The last time we see him in The Clone Wars, Saw is filled with guilt. Is it not possible that Jyn reminded Saw of his sister, and that Saw was afraid of being responsible for Jyn’s death? This doesn’t justifying abandoning her, but knowing Saw’s past provides more context to explain his actions and decisions.

4. You don’t see Saw as an extremist

Although the narrative in Rogue One does not seem to be vilifying Saw and his rebels, it does seem to “otherize” them. But Saw is used to these labels because they’ve been attributed to him before. In the Onderon episodes, he is frequently referred to as a “terrorist,” but it’s very clear that the narrative wants you to be on Saw’s side. When you see Saw’s backstory and see him as a hero, not an “extremist” or “terrorist,” you have a better appreciation of him in Rogue One.

Overall, in addition to having awesome characters, it’s impossible to deny the political messages in the Onderon episodes. The episodes shift our attention from the Jedi to focus on marginalized resistance fighters, particularly two Black protagonists, who stand up against oppression. It is definitely one of most radical mainstream cartoons I’ve seen. I would actually advocate showing it to kids to teach them about politics, too! There are a lot of similarities with Israel’s occupation of Palestine, as well as U.S. wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The resistance movement against the droid occupation of their planet is led by Steela and the rebels are explicitly deemed “terrorists” countless times throughout the episodes. It’s hard not to see this as a deliberate effort to challenge the mainstream perception of “terrorist.”

Lastly, there are some critiques I have of these episodes, which I mentioned above (my biggest complaint being that they killed off Steela), but overall, I think the Onderon story is not only entertaining and fun, but also really compelling and nuanced. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we learned that the Jedha scenes in Rogue One were inspired by these episodes!