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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

So, I went this weekend (along with a 1/3 of the world's population apparently) to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I am a huge Star Wars fan, but I approached this with some trepidation. I "like" the prequels in theory, but not in execution. There are great ideas behind the prequels, such as a "manufactured" war, the decay that set into the Old Republic, the Sith's machinations, the Balance of the Force, etc. Unfortunately, they were not well realized on screen. The prequels suffered from poor writing, lack of drama or tension, virtually no (funny) humor, basically all the things that the OT had. And there was the opposite dilemma- there was NO WAY the new movie could live up to the OT. Anyone thinking this film could even come close to those heights were fools. I certainly wouldn't be. I was excited, but guarded.


So- I don't want to do a piece by piece review just now. I will say that the movie is an absolute blast. It is a ton of fun to watch- it gets SO much right that it is in fact a miracle. The actors, the special effects, the humor, the uncertainty (missing from the Prequels by their very nature), the energy- all of it is here. This is the sequel you have been waiting for in so many ways. Now- it is not perfect. It makes a few missteps, and it tries to "copy" parts of A New Hope a bit too much- and yet, despite the flaws, I feel the film works beyond all measure. You, of course, need to see the film for yourself if you are a Star Wars fan. I know at least one fan who disliked it, but just about everyone I have spoken with since have had nothing but enthusiastic praise for it- and some of these guys and gals despised the prequels and had pretty much sworn off Star Wars. Rating this, I'd give it 4 Marks of Chaos- flaws and all. After all- how do you measure "perfection"? If in film a measure is enjoying a movie then I enjoyed the hell out of this, hence the 4 Marks of Chaos. 

In this post I want to discuss a few issues and ideas that I have been mashing around in my head. However, these naturally involve a TON of spoilers. So- I will leave a gap so scroll on down. Go see the damn movie then come back- I ain't going nowhere.

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Final Spoiler Warning!! Beware.


A Start of a New Legend / Trilogy / Adventure

My friend and I  were debating the film after seeing it- he disliked it a great deal while I loved it (as did my wife). One of his chief complaints was that there were so many questions, so many things not explained, that it frustrated him. Immensely. What is the difference between the Republic and the Resistance? What happened between Han and Leia? Who the hell is Snoke? Why does Ren hate Solo so bad? What's Rey's deal? Brian argued that the film left so many things open that he felt it was incomplete and poorly done.



I believe that this "mystery" quality is essential to Star Wars. Look at the OT- they didn't give you EVERY SINGLE DETAIL. The story developed, with twists and turns, over 3 films! They didn't tell you EVERYTHING in A New Hope! Hell, they don't even mention Yoda! Yoda!! Let that sink in for a second... A New Hope left a ton of things open. You had to... dear lord... use your imagination. Like a book, YOU filled in the blanks- conjecture, rumor, friends arguing "what do you think Vader looks like" or "Why is Chewie with Han"... ANH lets you romp around in this universe in the midst of these events. It just goes full ahead- it doesn't spoon feed you all this micro (or even marco) details. I mean- listen to Kenobi "explain" who Vader is in ANH- its so brief and lacking all detail, and yet it works to get you interested.

The Force Awakens gets this. The Prequels tried to "explain" everything- Anakin's fall, the Emperor's ascension, the destruction of the Jedi, Trade Federations, etc. But the prequels went overboard on this- trade deals and taxes and a magical clone army that no one questions... But TFA doesn't fall for that trap. Like the OT, it drops you in the middle of the action- the opening crawl tells you all you need to know (compare TFA crawl with TPM- you can see the difference). The details- the background- are left open to YOUR imagination. That is a huge part of the fun.

But the lack of certain details also gives the next films latitude to maneuver. After all, you didn't learn that Vader was Luke's father till ESB. You didn't learn the identity of "another" till ROTJ. Characters like Han and Leia developed over the trilogy. ANH didn't lay all the cards on the table, and neither should TFA. They were wise in this instance- the mystery and blanks MAKE me want to know more. And that is essential to enjoying Star Wars.


Rey's Quick Guide to the Force

One of the criticisms I keep hearing is that Rey was able to use the Force way too quickly. At first I agreed with that, but then I paused a bit. I had to "unlearn" what I had learned- mostly from the Prequels. In those, it took YEARS to train Jedi in the Force. The Jedi believed in training infants- so that they could be brought up without attachment or other problems. It took decades for a child to become a Jedi.


But... that IS NOT what it was in the OT. Indeed, look at the facts. In ANH Luke meets Obi Wan. They talk about the Force. Obi Wan lets Luke use a lightsaber on a practice drone for 5 minutes. Before you know it, Luke is turning off his targeting computer and using the Force to guide his hand in destroying the Death Star. How long did he study with Obi Wan? A day or two? By ESB, some time has passed (but not THAT much), and you see Luke's skills are getting stronger (he pulls the lightsaber to him), without ANY training from Obi Wan- he has an intuitive feel for the Force (or, perhaps, it has "chosen" him). In ESB he trains with Yoda- but again, for how long? Even if you want to say the Falcon hid in the asteroid field for a week- or even a month (pushing it, but still)- that means Luke was training with Yoda for a short time as well. And yet, by ROTJ, Yoda says that Luke "knows that which" he needs... and surely Luke does things in Jabba's that Yoda didn't teach him.

In other words, one needs to forget the prequels a little bit. Luke, already older, learned things quite quickly. So Rey- similarly chosen by the Force- is able to wield it quickly as well. Now- I suspect Rey is either Luke or Leia's child, and hence is naturally gifted with the Force (again, a mystery). The Force gave her the power necessary to defeat Kylo Ren, as it gave Luke the ability to destroy the Death Star. Using the OT as the guide, you can see that it is very possible.

Snoke Spoke?

Another of the issues that some have had is that Supreme Commander Snoke is a huge mystery that is NOT at all answered in the film. He is obviously a user of the Dark Side, as well as the leader of the First Order (new empire). He appears to be 50 feet tall and is one of the few CGI characters in the film.


Now- who is he? Snoke is portrayed via motion capture by Andy Serkis- right there you should have some confidence. He is quite nasty sounding as he growls orders to his flunkies, such as General Hux. He appears to be huge- but they show you quickly that it is a hologram. Just as Palpatine appeared huge to Vader in ESB, so too does Snoke look enormous. But it is only a hologram image.

But- who is he? The character is evil, but with no background. This is on purpose, as it will no doubt be explored in the next films- you don't get Andy Serkis just to do a throwaway guy. So- here is where we go theorizing- I believe Snoke is none other than Darth Plagueis the Wise. This Sith Lord is mentioned by Palpatine as he tries to lure Anakin to the Dark Side in Episode 3 (the best of the Prequels). According to Palpatine, Darth Plagueis found a way to "create life" and "keep those he cared about from dying"- basically, he could "cheat death". It is HEAVILY implied that Plagueis was Sidious' master, and Sidious murdered him to become the main Sith Lord. It is also implied that Sidious did not know ALL of Plagueis' secrets. Suppose- Plagueis is like Yoda/Obi Wan- they have found a way to merge with the force upon death, becoming the so called "force ghosts". Spirits. But- let's say Plagueis did something similar- but instead of being spiritual, his rebirth was corporeal. He cheated death- AND the natural order of things- as Sith are wont to do.


In film terms, who can possibly be a bigger threat than Emperor Palpatine? Answer- the Sith who TRAINED Palpatine. Where's the evidence? First, Ren's line that his master is "very wise" (Darth Plagueis the Wise is what Paplatine called him). Then, there is the music. It is VERY reminiscent of the music in the Opera Scene- where Paplatine talks of Plagueis. It is VERY similar in tone. It isn't the same, but damn its close. In a meta way- if he is Plagueis, one of the few things they are going to take from the Prequels- what better way than to present him as CGI? That last one may be a stretch, but the other factors are just screaming that this is the solution. Now- I bet you have a different theory. Isn't this speculating a huge part of the fun?

The Heart and Soul of The Force Awakens

Now, I want to get to the "nitty gritty". Forget the action. Forget Starkiller Base. Forget the politics. All Star Wars films are about individuals (not all are Skywalkers) being confronted by these galactic problems. These characters are forced to make decisions on what to do when faced with the Galactic Civil War. Luke, Han, Leia, Lando- they all make choices and these decisions impact them personally, but also with wider implications for others. This is what gives Star Wars its real punch- not the space ships, but the drama. The inter (and intra) personal conflict. This is where TFA succeeds the most.


Han Solo and Kylo Ren are the heart and soul of the film (one could argue Rey- but hang on to that for a bit). When we left Han Solo in ROTJ, he was a rebel hero ("respectable"), and it seemed that he and Leia would live happily ever after. However, when we see him in TFA, he is back to his rouge-ish ways, and he and Leia aren't together anymore. Some grumbled about that- but heck, that's life. It takes twists and turns we don't expect. Life gives us happiness and tragedy at random sometimes. Who can say that Han and Leia would be exempt from that? Indeed, TFA wisely makes Han and Leia more human as a result- they are not the fairy tale couple. It's not "wonderful",  but it is more real.

Now, they were always bouncing off each other in the best of times- there was friction in their relationship from the beginning. But- what really broke them up as tragedy; a crisis of incredible magnitude. Their son, Ben Solo- known to the galaxy as Kylo Ren- has fallen from the light and is now the dark warrior of the First Order.


The film handles this brilliantly. Rather than reveal it at the last minute a la ESB, they tell you, almost off-handedly, that Han is Ren's father (it seems that it was only a secret to the audience). They reveal this about 1/3 of the way into the film, give or take. This is a great decision. They are not cribbing ESB with a "climactic" revelation. Rather, they have introduced an element of ongoing dread and tension. Will Han and Kylo meet? What will happen? What will Han do? The revelation early on allows it to breathe and permeate the whole film.

They make it clear that Ren was being taught by Luke, but was seduced to the Dark Side by Snoke. The details are sketchy, but I guess Snoke appealed to Ren's desire for "glory" (such as his grandfather had achieved). As a result, Ren turned, and did bad things- killing Luke's other students it seems. Han and Leia make it clear- once this happened, Luke blamed himself and vanished. Leia and Han's relationship fractured, and they broke up. The fall of Ben Solo to the Dark Side broke up the "trinity" of Han, Leia, and Luke.  It certainly wrecked Han and Leia's relationship. Han suggests that whenever Leia sees Han, she thinks of their lost son. Take the natural friction between these two (they always had a tumultous relationship), and add this sad loss of a son to evil, and their relationship breaks down. Han leaves and goes back to smuggling, and Leia buries herself in her work as leader of the Resistance. Frankly, this is a very realistic response to such a tragic event, and I give the creative team props for handling it so well.

One of the questions that many have asked is "Why does Ren hate his father so much"? In this respect I think they have it wrong. It isn't that Ren hates his father, though he does make a snide remark to Rey about it not "living up" to expectations. I would wager that Han was probably a pretty "cool" dad, but not as "successful" as a parent. Could you imagine growing up the son of Leia and Han? Lol

But seriously, those looking for the answer to the "hate" question have it backwards. In fact, Ren LOVES his father. Indeed, THAT is the conflict for Ren. On the one hand, he wants power, glory- to live up to the Skywalker heritage. But for Ren, the only way to achieve that power and strength is to turn fully to the Dark Side. Yet- how can one give oneself to the Dark Side if there is still love in your heart?


No- Kylo Ren / Ben Solo kills his father BECAUSE Ren loves him still. Ren wants to purge himself of the last vestiges of light. The only way to do this is to kill Han. To toss him aside totally and utterly. Ren struggles with that- even Snoke mocks him for it. On the bridge, the anguish isn't a ploy- the tears are real. He loves his father, but wants to be stronger than anyone. To achieve that level of power, he must strike down Han. Only then will be one with the Dark Side. Indeed, it is very telling that, after Ren fails to kill Rey and is defeated, Snoke says he wants to finish Ren's training. Snoke couldn't FULLY indoctrinate Ren until the last vestiges of light were extinguished. Killing Han accomplished that. Kylo Ren, I suspect, will undergo Sith training and will become Darth Something Something by the end of the next film.

There are a few things I love about this, and to me make up for any shortcomings with the rest of the film. First, it is an inversion of the Luke/Vader dynamic. Luke won't kill Vader because he is his father. Ren WILL kill Han because, well, he is his father. The killing of Han will cast a shadow over the rest of this trilogy. We (the audience) loved Han. How can we forgive his killer? Kylo Ren's completed fall has more resonance than Anakin's in the prequels, because, frankly, we didn't care enough about any of them. Here, it is different. This should be fun and moving to watch play out. Who would want to redeem Ren now?! Is he irredimable? What will his psyche be like as he grows stronger with the Dark Side, knowing that the cost of his ascension was so high?

The best part is how to complete's Han and Leia's arc. In ANH, Han is a criminal. A smuggler with very grey morals. However, as the OT goes on, Leia (and Luke to an extant) show Han a better, more noble path. People sometimes complain that Han was "softer" by ROTJ, but I felt that was a product of him loving Leia and thus, making him want to be a better man. I suppose that after ROTJ he tried his best, though Leia's "royal" attitude didn't make it easy for him. But, once Ben goes bad, and Han and Leia's relationship breaks down irretrivably, Han leaves. He goes back to his smuggler ways. Time passes- then he gets the Falcon back with Rey and the others desprately needing his help. At first, he rejects them (he offers to put them in pods and send them to the nearest planet). Then he tries to get Maz to help- but she chides him for it. Han is reluctant to get involved again. However, that changes when he sees his son take Rey. At that point he feels bound to go back to Leia and help.

Talking with Leia, Han suggests that their son is too far gone; as Han says, Ben has "too much Vader in him". Han thinks its hopeless. But Leia rejects that, stating that there is still light within their son. Han demurs, saying that if Luke failed, how could he succeed? Leia replies "You're his FATHER". As Han prepares to leave, Leia asks (begs) him to return home with their son.


So- now the bridge scene. Han sees Ren walking- he seems not to realize Han is there (is he too focused on finding Rey?). Han could have slipped past him, or maybe even shot at him. Instead, Han calls him by his birth name (that made my blood run cold). Han tries to bring his son back to the light. When Ren asks for his father's help- Han, looking encouraged, says "Anything". Ren stabs him then, but Han doesn't yell or fight back-he simply touches his son's face.

The irony is that Han did what Leia would have wanted him to do, and he died for it. Perhaps his first instinct was correct- Ren is too far gone. Yet, he still loves Leia on some level (that they never kiss is a sure sign of that, actually), and he still loves his son. So he tries, and he fails. However, in a different view, Han is redeemed once again, leaving his rouge ways behind and trying to fight for his family and the galaxy. A fitting but sad end for Han Solo.


Conclusion

I could go on and on- there are so many things in this film that deserve examination- Finn's transition from drone to hero. Luke's activities. Rey's background. The film has brought new life to Star Wars. The best praise I could give is that it felt like the OT and I can't wait to see where it goes next. The Force Awakens is fun, energetic, and exciting, but with a heart and soul (which the Prequels and many many other big movies lack). It was just a blast from start to finish. I plan on seeing it again (and again) in the coming weeks.

Until Next Time...




Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Mechanicus Trial Run and Apocalypse

Hey there denizens of the warp! Old Man Chaos is back with another update. I am super stoked for Star Wars- I just can not wait for that! Of course, I am still playing Fallout as well as doing some modelling. I even got in a few games the past few weeks too.


First, lets talk about the big Apocalypse game I played a couple of weekends ago. My friend Nick (whom I met at a tournament at our local over the summer) posted on Facebook that he was trying to get an Apoc game off the ground. I have fought Nick before, and he is an old school player in his technique. He has no interest in formations or anything wild. He is also a fun opponent, as he takes the game seriously but not THAT seriously. He is a cunning one, that is for sure, and I was eager to play him again. As it turned out the timing was perfect for me- I was available.


Nick asked if I could bring anyone else- and it turns out my Padawan learner Brian was also available. In the end, the game was to be 3 on 3- the forces of the Imperium against the forces of Chaos (as nature intended). No one could say how much to bring- so Brian and I were at 5K a piece, this way no matter what we would have plenty, and the others could bring what they wanted.




All, told, it was about a 20K point game (give or take). There were Baneblades, Knights, and my Lord of Skulls sallied forth. Man- the game was a ton of fun! Things were dying all over the place. Sadly, the Lord of Skulls only managed a few kills before being destroyed- he is a great model but NOT worth 888 points!! The best moment came when a single Maulerfiend destroyed an Imperial Knight in close combat. Brian was pissed! And I laughed, and then got a blood token!



The game was a lot of back and forth, and we played for hours! In the end, we decided to pull the plug- and the forces of Chaos were victorious! The win was so very sweet. But, win or lose, the game was just a complete blast. We posted pics on Facebook, and a bunch of people want to play next time. We are aiming for another Apoc game in January.



 I also managed to play my first game with my Mechanicus forces. The battle was against my old friend Joe. He hasn't played in quite some time (life getting in the way, as it does). However, things have settled for him a bit and he wants to give it another go. Sadly, his basement flooded and ruined most of his old stuff, so he had to start over. He decided to focus on his Dark Angels, and he has been busy assembling them and reading the new rules.


At any rate, as I prepared for our 1K point game, I decided to make 2 lists. One would be my standby Khorne Daemonkin. He hasn't faced them (obviously) and Imperiam versus Chaos just makes sense (again, as nature intended). But, looking at my Mechanicum, I saw that I had enough mostly painted to play, so I made that list (for the record, I consider Skitaii and Mechanicus ONE force, so I refer to it as such).


On the day of our game, I gave Joe the option- I basically let him chose. He decided to go with the Mechanicus, wanting to see something totally new to him. The game was held on 2 Realm of Battle boards (enough for our 1K point game). I couldn't help but smile at all the Terminators he was fielding- knowing that the Kataphron Destroyers would Grav them to death. But- should they survive, they would mop the floor with my servitors.


The game was fairly quick. The Destroyers (1x Grav, 1x Plasma) did SEVERE damage to his terminators, pretty much demolishing them. It was painful to see Joe wiped out like that. On the other side of the board, his units shot at my Kastellan Robots. They didn't fare as well, but I think I placed them poorly, and I had one CC and one shooty- I think they have to be all one thing in order to be used effectively. My Skitarii Rangers held against a lot of bolter shots. Finally, my Dragoons (a squad of 2) made short work of a Space Marine squad, and later his Chaplain. Yikes. +3 S on the charge is fairly nasty.



As i said, it was over fast. Joe swore revenge, saying next time he'd deep strike right by my Destroyers and take them down first. That is a real threat. And yet, I just can't get over how effective those Destroyers were. That many Grav and Plasma shots are just vicious. If I could make a whole solid gun line of them, they could take on any power armor / elite foe (not sure how they'd work on hordes like Orks or Nids).

Still, I cannot deny the effectiveness of the Mechanicus units. It plays VERY differently from what I'm used to (Chaos, at heart, is close combat oriented, and the Dark Eldar are all speed). I am looking forward to finishing more of my Mech stuff and using it in larger games.

Well, hope you have enjoyed the pics and "mini" battle report. If possible, I will post a review of Star Wars once I've seen it.

Until Next Time!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Star Wars Mania- Can One "Defend" the Prequels?

Hey there. I know its been a long time. I haven't posted in quite a while. It has been a confluence of events that have conspired against it. Work. Fallout 4. Family stuff. It has just kept me away from the interwebs. I have been painting my 40K stuff, and soon I'll be taking pics and posting them.


For my return to the Chaos Corner, I thought I'd have a little fun with a little film series called Star Wars. You may have heard that a new Star Wars is about to be released in a few theaters (LOL). But in all seriousness, I was introduced to SW at a young age. I wasn't born in time for the first, but I keenly recall seeing Return of the Jedi in theaters. I naturally had all the Kenner toys, and I dreamed of being a Jedi like Luke Skywalker. Or, in my darker moments...

Like Star Trek, Star Wars has been a huge part of my childhood, and my life as a whole. My heroes were Han Solo. Indiana Jones. Kirk. Luke. Yoda. Batman. GI Joe. Ghostbusters. And others. This was MY childhood, and Star Wars was a tremendous part of that. My family watched all 3 on VHS religiously. I clearly remember, in my college years, the excitement when they released the special editions in theaters- it was my first opportunity to see all 3 on the big screen. I remember frantically playing the N64 Shadows of the Empire game. Then- the anticipation of the prequels. Cinescape magazine had an army of Boba Fetts on the cover (looking back, they weren't that far off). The trailer. Darth Maul. Oh my...

Sadly, we all know what happens next. The prequels were, let's say, LACKLUSTER. Understatement? Hahaha. It seemed that George Lucas went off the rails. The films were filled with wooden acting, some weak dialogue, a forced romance between leads that had ZERO chemistry. I could go on, but as I said- we all know what happened. The prequels have cast a pall over the Star Wars universe (and franchise). Can the new film dispel those clouds? Is it fair to even suggest that it can? Perhaps no movie can live up to that.

However, are there any redeeming parts of the prequels? Are they, perhaps, not as bad as originally thought? Or maybe there are elements of the prequels that transcend the weaknesses of the whole?
Ha. The prequels are a mixed bag indeed, and there are some redeeming features to the prequels. I thought I'd discuss them a little bit, in no particular order:


Qui-Gon Jinn- As played by Liam Neeson, Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn is the very nearly ideal Jedi. He is exactly what you would expect (and want) them to be. Neeson belies Jinn's force powers with a warm, gentle personality. Neeson plays Jinn as an empathetic warrior. It is clear that Jinn cares about all life forms- big or small. In that respect he is like Yoda from ESB. Unlike Yoda though, Jinn showed the martial prowess of you would associate with a Jedi as well- a true guardian of the old republic. Neeson's performance is practically pitch perfect. He is the epitome of what you would like the Jedi to be.


For better or worse though, Lucas wanted to show the Jedi in the last stages of creeping decay. All of the Jedi come off as callous, aloof, uncaring at one point or another in the prequels. They basically have their heads up their asses. Even Yoda is neither wise nor particularly likable in much of the prequels because of this (though he and Obi-Wan do improve as the prequels wear on). While I get the idea of Lucas' intention, it made the Jedi practically unsympathetic. Lucas portrays them as a monastic order rather than knights, and it hurts.

I know I disagree with making Anakin a boy in TPM, but Neeson does a great job acting with the kid, never condescending or talking down to him, Neeson treats Anakin as he treats all others. Neeson also does well bouncing off McGregor's Obi-Wan. It would have been nice to see them on other adventures... but alas.

Throughout the prequels, Jinn was the only representative of what we all dreamed a Jedi would be. A hero who fought to protect the weak from the forces of evil. Someone with such power, but also very humane (and frankly, human). When he dies by Maul's hand, the pain is double. Plot-wise, you realize the Jedi and Anakin have lost something important and special. As a viewer of all 3 prequels, no Jedi will measure up to Jinn, and no actor will be as fantastic as Neeson.




Darth Sidious/Palpatine- If Jinn was the ideal hero, Palpatine was the perfect villain. By turns innocent, calculating, manipulative, honest, power-hungry, humble... The role required actor Ian McDiarmid to really run the gauntlet, and he does it very well- making what was a 2 dimensional bad guy in ROTJ into a malice-filled master villain that, ironically, you can't help but agree with (or perhaps slyly chuckle at) in the messy prequels.


In TPM, Ian McDiarmid plays the dual role to utter perfection. When he first appears as Darth Sidious, McDiarmid gives him just the right amount of evil- his voice and tone are not only perfect for the puppet master, he also makes damn sure that you KNOW he will be the Emperor- his manner is basically that of a younger Emperor from ROTJ. Later, when we meet him as Senator Palpatine, he seems perfectly proper and innocent.


Of course, so many of his lines have double meanings, and the actor just makes the most of it. McDiarmid nails the manipulation of the Queen to a tee. Forget Anakin- it is really Padme who gives him the literal keys to the galaxy with her "No Confidence" vote. His knowing look says it all.


While his role in Attack of the Clones is quite small (so he makes less of an impact due to the reduced role), he once again makes the most of the double meanings of his lines. However, it is in Revenge of the Sith that McDiarmid finally gets to let loose and chew all the scenery. At first Palpatine is just the brave Chancellor who is trying to save the Republic and a good friend to Anakin. But we know its a ruse, and little by little we see him twist the knife. His soliloquy in the Opera House is fantastic (what is true and what is a lie?)- the Jedi suck, they are powerless and selfish, unworthy of Anakin. His playing possum at a critical moment (the only scene where Sam Jackson's abilities are used properly).


By the time the Jedi are falling, McDiarmid really puts his foot on the gas and makes the new Emperor a cackling, homicidal maniac. But is this  only due to a flush of victory? Or is this what he truly is, freed of all masks and pretense? His battle with Yoda is one for the books, and McDiarmid's performance seals that deal too. He epitomizes evil for evils sake.



Order 66- the purge of the Jedi really should have happened in Episode 2, and it deserved time to be really developed. However, Lucas did give us an incredible montage of the Jedi being shot in the back by their erstwhile allies, the clone troopers. The montage shows several Jedi being taken out, some quite brutally.


The scene is too good for the prequels. It feels like it could have come out of the Godfather (the end "purges" in Godfather 1 and/or 2 are phenomenal and fitting climaxes). The music is mournful, the action is kept tight. There is no superfluous Dewbacks or Jar Jars. This is down and dirty political assassination. The purge is very well executed, worthy of ESB as a matter of fact. One wonders why Lucas could not have had that energy, emotion, and inventiveness throughout the prequels...



Lightsaber Battles- The Prequels really do blow the lid off of lightsaber duels and then some. Of course, everyone looks at the epic Maul / Jinn & Kenobi showdown. It is as epic as you can imagine, and stuntman/actor Ray Park is just legendary. The battle is frantic, hard hitting, and thrilling. The track "Duel of the Fates" just elevates the scene. The only problem is, since there is on history between the antagonists, the fight is just a fight. All other duels have an emotional core to them- the characters are connected in some way, making the duel MORE important. Here, it looks awesome, but is slightly hollow.


In Attack of the Clones, Yoda finally gets to show his skills in a battle against Darth Tyranus / Dooku. The new Sith is played by Christoper Lee-  a fantastic actor and in his day he fought a lot with swords on film; he was woefully underused by Lucas in the prequels. However, there is something thrilling in the tall and coldly proper Lee go against the whirling dervish that is Yoda. The scene had audiences on their feet in 2002. The duel had some emotional weight as it was revealed that Dooku was Jinn's teacher, and Yoda had taught Dooku! Wow- awesome stuff.


In Revenge of the Sith, the 2 duels at the end- Yoda vs. Sidious and Anakin vs Obi Wan are both fantastic, fitting climaxes. In the Senate Chamber, you can see Yoda's fear and frustration- how could the Jedi have not realized Palpatine was a Sith?!? And Palpatine- his plan has worked, he is king of all, he just has to defeat Yoda to take his crown. The battle is fantastic, with the Senate being crushed as both part of the action and as metaphor. Meanwhile, Anakin and Obi-Wan's battle in the midst of an inferno is also fitting, and there is plenty of blame, anger, and recrimination to go around. Obi-Wan winning at the end due to one of the most FUNDAMENTAL concepts in duelling is very proper- Anakin's power drunk attack showed that he lost something important (besides the battle), and he fell. Far. These fights provided a great way to end the sub-par prequels.


Conclusion- Unfortunately, the prequels never quite gel. It is frustrating, as Lucas does get some things right, but loses so much due to bad ideas and decisions. I personally enjoy the prequels, but I KNOW they are deeply flawed. Bad dialogue, humor that falls flat, bad acting, uneven special effects, etc. all combine to weaken the effort. Now, perhaps NOTHING could have lived up to expectations, but that doesn't account for it. I wish that Lucas had let someone else direct based on his ideas- such collaboration could have ameliorated the problems. Again, I can watch and enjoy the films, but they pale in comparison to the Original Trilogy. In the prequels, the Republic is a sham, the Jedi are arrogant fools, and Anakin is a whinny stalker. Now, I don't mind Lucas subverting expectations, but this just doesn't jibe with what he set up in the OT. That is the true nail through the coffin, as it were.


At any rate, we are less than a week away from The Force Awakens. I'll be seeing it Saturday evening with my wife, brother, and friends. I am keeping my expectations in check as much as I can. However, my hope is that it fits with the OT better than the Prequels did. Of course, if they are able to recapture the spirit of OT that would be perfect. And I still wonder if Snoke is Darth Plagueis? Lol

Until Next Time... May the Force Be With You.