The Seven Droids We Love from Star Wars (and what exactly they do)

We love our Star Wars Droids, big and little, especially when they are funny or maybe cute. Moreso when they are funny AND cute — like R2-D2 and BB-8. Every live-action Star Wars movie (plus The Mandalorian) has at least one memorable Droid character tagging along with their human owners.

(Yes, Droids are considered property. This uncomfortable issue about agency and consent rarely comes up in Star Wars.)

Can you name the “Big Seven” Droids we know and love? Do you know what they were created to do? 

First things first. Why are they called Droids?

Unknown. There aren’t any androids in Star Wars. Androids are AI robot machines with flesh on the outside, like a Terminator, or Data from Star Trek…so what exactly are Droids? Every single one is in reality a plain old robot with AI (artificial intelligence) and some degree of EI (emotional intelligence). We never wonder about this. So…go with it. George Lucas must have liked the sound of the word.

Let’s discuss each main Droid with no further ado.

Note: Spoilers follow for all live-action Star Wars films and The Mandalorian

1. C-3P0

Protocol Droid, Human-Cyborg Relations

Job: Language Interpreter and Diplomatic Adviser, Ewok God

Owned By: Anakin Skywalker (his creator), Padme Amidala, Captain Antilles, Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and finally, the Rebels/Resistance in general.

Seen In: Every Star Wars film but Solo. (Also, not in The Mandalorian.)

Notable: Knows Bocchi and 6 million other forms of communication. Not permitted to speak Sith by Senate decree. (We assume Palpatine made this law to keep Jedi out of Sith business.)

There are no true Cyborgs in Star Wars, unless you count Lando’s assistant on Bespin in the Empire Strikes Back. Also, those slaves in Solo who had their faces and brains shaved off and replaced with what I assume is a hard drive. This is too awful to contemplate, so let’s move on.

I’m case you didn’t know, a Cyborg is a human with augmented MI (machine intelligence).

So why does Threepio keep saying Human-Cyborg relations?

2. R2-D2

Astromech

Job: General assistant and on-board flight mechanic for StarFighters.

Owned By: Padme, Anakin, Captain Antilles, Luke, and possibly Rey.

Seen In: Like C-3P0, every Star Wars film but Solo. (And The Mandalorian, right.)

Noteable: R2 is scrappy, spirited, opinionated, friendly, and helpful. He holds the distinction of having never been mind-wiped in the entire series. Only speaks Binary. Counterpart and companion to C-3P0.

3. BB-8

Upgraded Astromech

Job: General assistant and on-board flight mechanic for StarFighters.

Seen In: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker

Owned By: Poe Dameron. He seems to share him with Rey at the end, but it’s made clear BB-8 belongs to Poe.

Notable: Actually cuter than R2-D2, but not as wise. Only speaks Binary. He seems to enjoy physical affection from his humans.

4. D-O

To sell cute toys and merchandise.

Does anyone know what this Droid is for? Seriously, this is all the information that even the Wookieepedia could find. If they don’t know what D-O is for, no one does. Feel free to make it up yourself.

Job: ?? He gets plugged in for information sharing at one point by the members of the Resistance, once he learns to trust them.

Seen In:  Rise of Skywalker

Owned By: Ochi, Rey.

Notable: The smallest droid in the ‘verse, it’s entirely unclear what he does or why Ochi (A dangerous Sith Assassin) needed him. Abused in the past. Rey shows him compassion when he joins the new crew. Also, he speaks Galactic Basic in addition to Binary.

5. L3-37

Navigational Droid, self-made from astromech and protocol parts

Job: Programs ships for Hyperspace lightspeed jumps. Droid Freedom Fighter. Possible lover to Lando. And why not? As she says, “it works.”

Seen In: Solo

Owned By: Lando Calrissian. Mental unit later absorbed into the navigational systems of the Millennium Falcon.

Notable: The only Droid self-identifying as female in Star Wars.  Cares deeply about Droid rights. Frees the enslaved mining Droids on the Spice Planet of Kessel.

6. K-2S0

Imperial Security Droid

Job: Murder, mainly

Seen In: Rogue One

Owned By: The Empire, Cassian Andor

Notable: Extremely funny yet sociopathic buddy to Cassian.

7. IG-11 (AKA IG-88 for detail sticklers)

Bounty Hunter/Assassin

Job: Hunt and capture or kill targets for dubious clients.

Seen In: Briefly in The Empire Strikes Back, and several times in The Mandalorian.

Owned By: Not clear — the Bounty Hunters Guild? Eventually reprogrammed by the compassionate Ugnaught Kuiil, and assigned to Baby Yoda.

Notable: Bounty Hunter-turned Nanny Droid? A lethal fighting machine with a snuggly baby-carrier on-board? Yes!

Other Droids seen and sometimes heard:

Diagnostic Droid (A New Hope – talks Binary to Han on the roof of the Falcon in the Tatooine Landing Bay)

Mouse Droid (A New Hope: the tiny one that runs when Chewie roars at him on the Death Star. This makes Chewie very satisfied.)

The Gonk (A New Hope, Return of the Jedi)

Torture Droid (Return of the Jedi, at Jabba’s Palace)

 

Imperial Probe Droid (On Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back)

Surgical Droid (Heals Luke twice, in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi)

Imperial Interrogation Droid (A New Hope, in Leia’s prison cell)

All the unnamed Droids seen in the Jawa Transport Crawler (A New Hope — see above video)

Pit Droids (the weird little things in Watto’s workshop in The Phantom Menace)

And, finally, the Droids we really, really hate:

Too many ridiculous Soldier/Battle Droids (From the Prequels, especially The Phantom Menace)

Ultimately, there’s a whole Galaxy of other Droids seen in Star Wars. Tell me who I missed in the comments below.


Who appears in every Star Wars movie?

Star Wars – Every Force Ghost Heard in Rise of Skywalker

Every Type of Starship and Starfighter in Star Wars, Explained

Every Type of Star Wars Stormtrooper, Explained

So, I was making my own list of every type of Stormtrooper we see in Star Wars, and I found a definitive video explaining more types than I ever noticed. And I notice most things in science fiction films. One of the great things about Star Wars is the massive but oft-unmentioned world-building. The more you watch these movies, the more you notice.

So many Stormtroopers, so little time to spot them

Can you recall which movie features Shore Troopers? How about Snow Troopers, Riot Troopers, SandTroopers, Mud Troopers, and Scout Troopers?

Offhand, I can answer that. In order: Rogue One, The Empire Strikes Back, The Force Awakens, A New Hope, Solo, and Return of the Jedi/The Mandalorian. But that’s barely scratching the surface of Stormtrooper designs.

Some sweep by so quickly you have to stop the movies to catch the new armor and designs. Apparently, I missed a lot of brand new specialized Stormtroopers in Rise of Skywalker.

Also, Star Wars has a lot of Imperial & First Order Guard Troopers. These aren’t the same as the generic Troopers: they are elite. These are the scary ones in red that defend the Emperor and Supreme Leader Snoke. Honestly, in their scenes I mainly noticed they were red-suited, and often wore capes. Sometimes they used unique laser weapons and may have a touch of the Force.

I learned there’s a lot more to the Guard Troopers than I realized when I watched the clip below.

Lucasfilm made this video with real design crewmembers, and it’s incredibly detailed.

Obviously, the designers had a lot of fun creating these different Stormtrooper outfits. There’s a lineage that flows through the decades of storytelling in Star Wars. I’m impressed with the care and attention paid to even the smallest difference in helmet features and armor accessories.

Additionally, if you like Stormtroopers in general, and A New Hope specifically, this parody spoof Troops below is a must-see. It’s now part of my personal head canon on what went down that fateful, deadly day at the Lars Homestead on Tatooine.

“All suspects are guilty. Period:”

TROOPS – A Star Wars Parody Does COPS

Lastly, here is a high quality satire from Saturday Night Live taking place behind the First Order scenes with Kylo Ren and his off duty Stormtroopers, called Undercover Boss. Adam Driver is not to be missed as he sends up his pouty, emo character arc in The Force Awakens. I consider this head-cannon too. Why not? It fits right in.

Undercover Boss – A Star Wars Parody on SNL

Star Wars – Death Stars and Planet Killers: Enough Already

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Ominous, menacing, gorgeous. Rogue One has the best use of the Death Star.

Star Wars is stuck in a Death Star rut. Why is Lucasfilm so attached to Planet Killers? A New Hope opened with a super-weapon. They probably felt they had to up the stakes forever after. How many Star Wars movies feature a Death Star — or something like one?

It’s been on my mind since Star Killer Base in The Force Awakens, because being geeky is what I do.

Cruise with me through the galaxy far, far away and gander at the Death Star type weapons used in each film.

rogue-one-star-wars-deathstar-explosion
A tragic, truly ugly-cry climax in Rogue One.

Death Star appearances, by production order: (spoilers ahoy through Rise Of Skywalker)

1. A New Hope

I ‘hope’ you remember there’s a Death Star in this movie. In the very first Star Wars film, the Death Star drives the entire plot. Poor Alderaan was exploded to smithereens by it. The climax is dedicated to blowing it up. Is a Death Star just a platform for a really big laser? It’s not exactly explained, but we get some more details in Rogue One.

2.     Return of the Jedi

The plot of the third Star Wars film isn’t all about the Death Star. It’s all about the Death Star II.  😉 But seriously, the Death Star II is bigger and badder than its predecessor, and built in record time. They probably fixed the exhaust port leading to the reactor, but that didn’t matter since the station was unfinished enough to fly into. Other plot things happened (had to have Ewok Time, you know), but vast stretches of story were spent on/fighting around this Planet Killer, or trying to turn off its shields. It’s a trap!

3. Revenge of the Sith

Remember that insectoid race on Geonosis? (The prequels are too plot-thick to explain, so I won’t go there.) Before they evacuated their planet, they’re seen closing a holo of Death Star schematics, taking their data, and caboosing out of there. Yes, the first Death Star took DECADES to make, in-universe.

4. The Force Awakens

Don’t make me laugh. StarKiller Base? It’s just a different kind of Death Star. Apparently this one can take out whole systems in one shot, and the core planets of the New Republic were vaporized. Trillions of voices crying out in terror? I love The Force Awakens, don’t get me wrong, but too many people noticed the lack of originality. They could have used the needle ship that blew up actual stars (from one of the discarded EU novels) if they needed a scarier weapon…but then we couldn’t stage entire set pieces on it.

5. Rogue One

If you watched the Erso family’s story, it’s all about the Death Star. And frankly, this is the single best use of it. While it doesn’t unleash its full destructive capabilities to destroy planets, we see first hand the fear of being targeted by even a fraction it its might. It was glorious and terrifying. This was a solid and very appropriate use of the Planet Killer. It felt novel, in a series already long in the tooth. Rogue One gets the RunPee Award for Best Use of a Star Wars MacGuffin.

6. The Last Jedi

Ha! You thought you were safe here. No Death Stars to be found, right? Wrong. Remember that big canon the First Order dragged across the salty, red-soiled planet of Crait?

Yes. It’s a Death Star weapon without the space station attached. Listen to the dialog. Finn didn’t have a chance in Tartarus destroying it with his attempted suicide run, but I was a sucker for his moment anyway. It was stupid, but he meant to sacrifice himself for a larger cause, and there his arc basically concluded. At the foot, literally, of another (in essence) Death Star.

7. Rise of Skywalker

Whew, getting bored yet? Almost done.

Every set piece on the ruins of Death Star II looked grand. Like the movie or not, you have to admit these were gorgeous scenes: both the fights outside the ruins, and the mental anguish in the old Throne Room sets therein. This would have been fine. A thoughtful coda to the Empire’s obsession with Death Stars.

But then Rise of Skywalker screwed the pooch by magically unleashing an entire fleet of new Star Destroyers, EACH equipped with handy underslung Planet Killer canons. We see it used to explode…what planet was that? Anyway, it seemed like thousands of Death Star equivalent weapons were now casually attached to every Imperial (okay “Final Order”) capital ship.

Just no. No, no. Make it stop! The stakes were already high —  we didn’t need this. The Death Star ground was no longer fertile, salted and scorched by too many retreads. A Dreadnaught/Imperial Destroyer is overpowered enough. Just one is enough to inspire panic (see the cameo appearance in Solo).

If Lucasfilm removed the ships’ canons from Rise of Skywalker, it would have gone a long way towards fixing the movie, which I otherwise (aside from Palpatine) enjoyed. Enough, already.

Star-wars-death-star-battle-return-of-the-jedi
Return of the Jedi makes the Death Star II look great. But it’s already a dead horse Lucasfilm never stopped beating.

The Mandalorian, and Death Star Weaponry

I hope the Disney+ series The Mandalorian stays far, far away from Planet Killers. The show happens after Return of the Jedi and before The Force Awakens, so we don’t know what Palpatine is doing right now (he’s busy becoming a Zombie?). So far,The Mandalorian is such a crazy success because it stays away from almost everything told and retold, with just the right amount of Star Wars fanservice. I have faith showrunner Jon Favreau won’t bother with super-weapons. He seems fairly attuned to what Star Wars needs right now to get the fan base back on board.

Can we have a movie about something else now?

So, out of 11 movies, a Death Star appears in seven films. Except for a cameo appearance in Revenge of the Sith, Planet Killers drives the plot. This is so unnecessary and repetitive that I have to wonder two things: 1. why not just stick a Death Star in every movie and call it Death Star Wars? Or 2. aren’t there other stories to tell in a universe otherwise fleshed out so well?

Did I miss an appearance, reference to, or other sighting of a Planet Killer?

I did an entire series rewatch, but wasn’t specifically looking for weapons of mass destruction. Is there another Death Star allusion somewhere? Maybe with some stormtroopers shooting the shit, a passing reference in the Senate, or rebel officers in a throw-away line about a shadowy rumor. Tell me what I missed in the comments below!

The 6 Most Epic Lightsaber Fights in Star Wars (plus 3 that didn’t make the cut)

I have a bad feeling about this… Who said it in Star Wars and When?

Star Wars Analysis – What does balance in the Force mean?

Star Wars Analysis – What does balance in the Force mean?

star wars the last jedi the force
Are we balanced yet?

Since we first saw The Phantom Menace in 1999, audiences wondered what precisely it meant to bring balance to the Force. Anakin Skywalker was prophesied to “bring it” and at the time, we all assumed it meant to bring more Light Side and less Darkness. Which made no sense, since we all knew who Anakin would grow up to be. He wasn’t going anywhere good until the very last 20 minutes of Return of the Jedi, when he pitched the Emperor over a railing…and died.

There’s been confusion over this ‘balance’ aspect since then. Was Anakin Skywalker’s whole life and six movies leading up to him tossing said Emperor? THAT was bringing balance to the Force? Not too impressive after so much build-up.

Integration is the answer

I always ascribed to a Jungian philosophy, where one needs to balance the anima and animus, or in other words, walk a line between light and dark. We all have aspects of good and evil within. It’s what we choose to do with our potential that makes us who we are. And it seemed that Star Wars creator George Lucas was telling us only the Light made right.

Well, fast forward a couple of decades plus three more films, and it turns out that I — and Jung — were not wrong. It’s kind of unbelievable it took 42 years from A New Hope until The Rise of Skywalker to make it clear what a “balance of the Force” meant. Succinctly: if there were going to be a lot of Jedi Knights, their Light would be spread pretty thin. And that with only two Sith (roughly) at any time, each of the two would have an equal power of Dark, shared among the Master and Apprentice. This isn’t exactly what I (okay, and Jung) had in mind, but balance definitely did NOT mean destroying Dark Side users and embracing only the Light. Or the inverse.

From what I can tell after the finale of the nine-part Skywalker saga, Force balance means each aspect will have an equal amount of…let’s call it life power…at any one time. This is my theory, at least.

Spoilers follow for Star Wars up through Rise of Skywalker.

In Rey’s communal message from all the Light Side Jedi, you can clearly hear Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) tell her to bring back the balance, “as he did.”

Um. Did he? Maybe he wanted Rey to throw Palpatine into another pit? I just don’t think that was the endgame after all this heavy world-building. I was very glad there was more to it than that.

When Anakin was The Chosen One, there were a lot of other Jedi out there. And two (or more, depending on if you include Count Dooku and General Grievous) Dark Force/Sith users. So, if his job was to bring balance, it wasn’t the good thing anyone hoped for. He brought balance by killing off almost every Jedi in existence.

After he became Dark Vader we had two Sith Lords (he and Palpatine) on the one side, and two Jedi, with Obi-Wan and Yoda, on the other. Actually, that sounds a lot like balance, doesn’t it?

A Ceaseless Cycle of Balance and Unbalance?

When Luke and Leia were born, there was a potential to throw off the balance again, unless one of the twins went Dark and the other went Light. Or neither could use the Force at all. When both became users of the Light, and Luke built his New Jedi Academy to make more Light Force users, right there the universe had a problem again.

If the natural course of existence is to seek Force balance, that meant either some of the students would turn mildly Dark, or one would become very Dark. We got a combo: I think the Knights of Ren were an example of the “some,” with Ben Solo — now Kylo Ren — being the very strong one. We also had powerful Dark strength in Snoke (created in a tank), and Palpatine (essentially a Force zombie).

Who was left to carry the Light half of the equation?

Kylo Ren killed the rest of the Jedi students, so what remained was a lot of Dark Side users, plus Luke (exiled), Leia (retired), and Rey (an unknown). It made sense for Kylo to be conflicted — the Dark Side wasn’t stable.

Of course, now we know Kylo Ren turned to the Light, Rey nearly turned to the Dark, and finally, only Rey remained…with, I suppose, aspects of both. The Kylo/Rey Dyad was broken, but somehow balance emerged.

I’m guessing here about Rey having access to both Light and Dark going forward. There’s no direct indication of where the Force is headed next, or if we get any final closure, ever. Rey buries the lightsabers of Luke and Leia. She lights her new sword: a yellow one made from her quarterstaff, and watches twin suns set over Tatooine…

And the familiar, final Star Wars score begins. Cue the credits.

In The Last Jedi, we saw BroomSaber Boy at the coda, so clearly there are Force potentials out there. In Rise of Skywalker, it appears Finn is Force-sensitive. Maz Canata has some Force abilities. And Rey has all the books of Jedi lore she swiped from Planet Ahch-to.

What does all of this mean, and where do we go after Rise of Skywalker?

I’d like the Force to stay balanced for a nice long while.

I’d really like to think we’re done with the Skywalkers. I was happy one of my guesses about Rey’s parentage proved true, and I’m content to stop the saga now. It would be nice if future movies didn’t involve rebels and fascist regimes.

If I have my way, new characters can allude to whatever Rey and her ghost friends decide to do. Establish a Force Academy that actually teaches balance, perhaps, but don’t make a movie about it. Follow some of the great Star Wars Extended Universe tales as the “New” New Republic rebuilds, rooting out the last bastions of the Empire/First Order/Final Order/Whatever. Something great could be based on the EU’s Grand Admiral Thrawn trilogy, for example. The EU is no longer considered canon Star Wars, but the movies already started cherry-picking storylines from those books anyway.

I really don’t care, as long as the next movies are well made and a pleasure to watch. Star Wars no longer needs to be tethered to Skywalkers, Palpatines, Kenobis, or even Solos. (Although I wouldn’t mind a Lando movie with Donald Glover. He was the best part of Solo.)

We don’t need another set of trilogies establishing how the Force gets balanced/unbalanced, why Rey’s lightsaber is a new color, or if Chewbacca ever goes home to Kashyyyk.

Enter The Mandalorian

If you managed to catch the first season of The Mandalorian on Disney+, it’s clear how much can still be done properly in the galaxy far away and long ago. Jon Favreau gets it: The Mandalorian is very, very good. It takes its sweet time crafting an interesting tale in the storytelling gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, without relying on old characters or well-trodden tropes.  I look forward to season two.

So far, balancing the Force isn’t a Mandalorian theme. Nor does it seem to be about achieving immortality, which is what the Skywalker Saga really boils down to.

Do you think Rey brought balance to the Force? Will her story continue, or should Star Wars follow The Mandalorian’s lead and tell new tales? What do you want to see Lucasfilm and Disney do with Star Wars next?

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The 6 Most Epic Lightsaber Fights in Star Wars (plus 3 that didn’t make the cut)

A Meta-Side Discussion of the Force, and how Star Wars Ultimately Failed:

The Force is dead. Long live the Force.

The Force is dead. Long live the Force.

<rant>

I saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker twice over opening weekend — just to make sure the Peetimes were spot on.

The good news is that it’s an enjoyable film, if you just don’t think about it too much. But if you’re like me, and you can’t help it, you’ll find that you like the movie less and less.

Who made this mess?

To be fair, it isn’t all J.J. Abrams’ fault. Lucas crapped on Star Wars way back in the Phantom Menace with the whole midichlorian debacle. I remember there was considerable optimism when Disney announced Abrams was going to oversee the Star Wars franchise, but I’ve seen enough of Abrams to know that he wasn’t going to fix the Force. If anything, he’s made it worse.

What I love about the Force?

Star Wars: A New Hope introduced audiences to this mysterious but ubiquitous Force. “May the Force be with you,” is one of the most memorable movie quotes ever. It sounds like saying, “Good luck,” but goes much deeper than that. Deep down it’s akin to the Buddhist concept the Middle Way, or Eightfold Way — don’t stray too far in the direction of indulgence or austerity.

When they get it right in the movies, may the Force be with you translates into: may you take the path laid out by the Force and find your way to an end that is balanced between extremes. 

The Force feels right because it acknowledges that good and evil aren’t intrinsic to an action. A shark eating a seal isn’t evil. Sharks must eat to survive. And in hunting the seals they keep the seal species healthy. When an ecosystem loses its predators the prey often increase in numbers to such an extent they threaten not only their own survivability, but the survivability of the entire ecosystem. Like the Force, an ecosystem works best when there is balance.

Bringing balance

The Dark Side of the Force represents greed; the desire of power for the sake of power; killing for sport, not survival.

But if that’s so, then there must be an opposing Light Side of the Force, which is the desire to do good for the sake of good. This light side of the Force is only hinted at in the movies. And this is where the mistakes begin.

The Force Bible

I don’t believe Lucas or J.J. Abrams ever intentionally sat down and wrote a bible for what the Force is and how it works. It’s the storytellers’ prerogative to keep the audience mystified. When done properly, it works wonders. But a storyteller can’t keep themselves in  a mysterious place  of making things up to suit a preconceived outcome.

Both Lucas and Abrams keep the Force vague  so they can make it work the way they needed it to, in order to tell the story they wanted to tell. Any skilled storyteller would tell them that approach doesn’t work. (Okay, they’ve made billions, so I guess it works, but they end up producing high caloric stories: they feel good when we watch them, but we feel like crap later when we think about it.)

Better storytelling

Good storytelling involves defining a universe and its characters so they tell the story. Once you have a well crafted character, they will tell you what they would do. The author telling the character what to do is cheap and obvious. And that’s essentially what we get out of Star Wars stories today. We’re told everything that happens. There’s no figuring things out; there’s no feeling of synthesis as disparate threads inevitably weave together in an outcome that couldn’t have been predicted, but seems obvious in afterthought. No, in Star Wars there’s only characters acting inconsistently to achieve the outcome of Lucas/Abrams’ vision.

Fixing the Force

There’s almost no fixing the mess they’ve made without a reboot — and that’s not going to happen. The only solution I see going forward is to introduce another Yoda-like character who re-explains the Force and how it works. They would need to reimagine much of the existing canon created in the Star Wars universe, but they’ve been wildly inconsistent so far. Why stop now?

First and foremost, drop any genetic relationship to the Force. That’s just absolute crap from the start. It’s absurd to think that gurus, saints, or prophets,  can pass on their knowledge genetically. Why should it be any different for the Sith and Jedi? What can be passed down is the teaching.

Also, by making the Force a genetic trait it creates elitist royal bloodlines of the Skywalkers and Palpatines. While the concept of the Force feels real on some level it’s a real turnoff to think that true mastery of this mysterious Force is off limits to we plebeians.

There are numerous examples of Jedi talking about “balance in the Force.” It’s time to formally adopt the concept of the Middle Way, by acknowledging that good and evil are the same as positive and negative charges in particle reactions and will always be conserved. For every good there will be an evil, and visa-versa. And as such, the power of the light side of the Force, represented by the Jedi, will always be balanced with the dark side of the Force, represented by the Sith.

Video Essay – How to Film a Good Sword Fight

In Phantom Menace there were hints of this. The Jedi were described as impartial arbiters of the galaxy for thousands of years. As such, they didn’t intend to do good or bad, but only arbitrate and enforce contracts/laws. However, as time went on they grew inclined to take sides in some situations and do what they thought was right/good. In doing so they created the imbalance in the Force and thus gave rise to the power in the dark side, themselves.

It’s a common and compelling trope that the protagonist unwittingly creates its own opposition.

Hold on, you say, there were lots and lots of Jedi and only two Sith in Phantom Menace. True. But as I’d recommend, the combined power of the two Sith alone balance out the combined power of all the Jedi combined.

This introduces another interesting plot twist: Darth Maul and Palpatine share all of the power of the dark side of the Force. Even though Palpatine is the Sith master, it still leaves an incredible amount of power for Darth Maul. Making any fight between Maul and any individual Jedi unfair. However, as Maul, and later Vader, kill off the Jedi, they are inevitably killing off their own power. The balance is continually maintained. If Palpatine truly had every Jedi killed then he would be left powerless. And by using the dark side he would inevitably recreate his own opposition. There’s no way around it.

Transcendence through Gnosis/Knowledge

Wait,  there would be one way around it. During the climactic confrontation in Rise of Skywalker I momentarily thought Rey might possibly take the following approach. She could come to a new understanding of the Force, that while the balance must be maintained it can be maintained inside one person. She could have mastered both the dark side and the light side simultaneously. Making her inconceivably more powerful than Palpatine, who was limited to only the dark side.

It would have been an ending similar to The Matrix, when Neo realized that he was beyond the rules, and could create new rules as it suited him. Once Neo achieved gnosis/knowledge, he moved beyond his adversary, who was still rooted in the rules.

Imagine the satisfaction of seeing Rey achieve a level of gnosis/knowledge —where she could contain all of the dark and light side of the Force — continually balanced, like the Hindu god Dattatreya who contains the triad Brahma/creator, Vishnu/preserver, and Shiva/destroyer as one.

That’s the story I want to see. I guess I’ll have to write it myself.

</rant>

Movie analysis – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

 

Movie analysis – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

One of the most endearing characteristics of Star Wars movies is the well written dialog. From characters talking over each other in the haste of a chase, to characters thoughtfully telling bold faced lies, from a certain point of view, Star Wars has relied on double meanings, quips, and for wrong the word order getting — which is anastrophe for those of you who are interested — to create some of the most memorable lines in cinema.

[ Spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned. ]

The Rise of Skywalker continues the trend and I would say is the second only to Empire Strikes Back for best dialog.

Take this sample:
Rey: What happened? No spy?
Poe: No. Spy.

Superbly done. Poe repeats Rey’s two word sentence with two one word sentences and affirms that they did in fact complete their mission to contact the spy. And bravo to Oscar Isaac (Poe) for emphasizing it just right.

Another shining moment for Oscar Isaac was at the very end when he looked at Zorii Bliss — his old partner from his spice running days, played by Keri Russell from The Americans — and first gives her a look of appreciation, then a sexually suggestive expression (denied), and finally an expression of understanding but disappointment. No words were spoken, but that’s still great communication achieved via the writing and acting.

There are numerous other instances of superb dialog:

  • C-3PO: (speaking in the background) This isn’t the afterlife is it? Are droids allowed in? (C-3PO still has PTSD after the Mos Eisley incident.)
  • Poe: Which way?
    Finn: I have no idea. Follow me.
  • Poe: How thick do you think that ice wall is?
    Chewbacca: Howl (translation: WTF?)
  • There were many more, but I need to see it again to make note.

Consistency problems

I know I’m beating a dead Tauntaun here, but pretty much every Star Wars movie has consistency problems with how the Force works and especially how adept one character is using it from one moment to the next.

For instance, Rey is seen floating in air, rocks orbiting around her, while she meditates. She jumps impossible distances while fighting on the Death Star II ruins, but then struggles to climb up a shaft in those same ruins, and almost falls. Couldn’t she just levitate her way up there? Surely if she can float she can, you know, fly. Don’t show a character nonchalantly performing some magnificent feat at one point in a movie, but then be unable to duplicate something like it when under duress.

Sword fights full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

I hate to say it, but for a movie that relies so heavily on sword (lightsaber) fighting they really are less than impressive. If the art of cinematic sword fighting is something you’re interested in I highly recommend the article below.

Video Essay – How to Film a Good Sword Fight

The fight scenes in Rise of Skywalker are short on choreography and rely over and over on facial expressions that could be best described as “Pretend you’re pooping a brick.”

Story resolution

The resolution wasn’t bad, which for a Star Wars movie is a compliment these days, but it could have been so much better.

So Rey is a Palpatine? Okay, sure. I suppose that works. But unexpectedly bringing the villain from the prequels back felt like pulling a rabbit out of a hat — or something that’s done in a low budget horror movie. Ever since The Force Awakens we’ve all wanted to know where Rey comes from. There were numerous possibilities — long lost daughter of Ben Kenobi is my favorite.

Here’s how they should have done it from the beginning: In The Force Awakens hint at a select number of possibilities. Give the fans something to tease apart. Follow that up with more clues, but nothing definitive, in The Last Jedi, and then resolve it in Rise of Skywalker. JJ Abrams needs to understand that no one is ever impressed with an unexpected ending. I have the feeling that the writer/director J.J. Abrams gets off on people saying, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming,” like it’s a good thing. What impresses people is an unexpected ending where they think, “Wow, I should have seen that coming, but didn’t.”

Imagine the tension in the scene when Kylo Ren tells Rey who her father is if we had all been sitting there, knowing it had to be one of a few possibilities and then we get it resolved. I’m not sure about you, but I knew it was Palpatine way before the announcement because first, we see in the opening screen crawl that Palpatine is back and, second, in the first five minutes of the movie Leia says to Rey, “Don’t be afraid of who you are.” Well the ONLY option she has to fear is that she’s a Palpatine, so case solved.

You know what else works? Just tell the audience from the beginning who her father is, but let it be a mystery to the character. There’s tension there as well. I half wish the scene had played out like this:

Kylo: You don’t know who your father is, but I do…. (Dramatic pause.) You’re an Abrams.
Rey: Noooooooooo!

Of course Rey kills Palpatine. There’s no drama there because we know that’s going to happen. But first, there’s little satisfaction in the scene because, again, we know what’s going to happen. What works better is letting the villain have a moment to realize that they’re going to die. That it’s all coming to an end. Give the villain that moment, because it’s so satisfying to the audience, not just to see the hero succeed, but to see the villain know they are defeated.

They did this right in Avengers: Endgame. There’s a moment, however brief, that Thanos realizes Tony has defeated him and there’s nothing he can do about it.

I’m not sure what was up with Rey returning to Tatooine to bury the two lightsabers in the sand, but whatever. Undoubtedly it will come up in a later movie when those swords are needed.

And who was that old woman? No one? It could have been a cool moment if Rey’s father had been Obi Wan instead. Then, perhaps, that could have been her mother. A much better ending.

Okay, I’m going to stop now. The more I write about it the less I like the movie, and I started out sorta liking it.

Lesson: don’t think about Star Wars movies too much or it will ruin the experience.

Star Wars Revealed: Obi-Wan Kenobi is a lying liar who lies

More Powerful Than You Could Possibly Imagine

All Star Wars Movies, ranked by personal watchablility

I have a bad feeling about this… Who said it in Star Wars and When?

The End of Skywalker – the Rise of…Something

Spoilers ahead for Rise of Skywalker!

As of this second, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker. Episode IX. Are they still actually numbering them? I don’t know…

That’s really it… I don’t know… I DON’T know…

I’ll start with something easy. This was leaps and bounds better than The Last Jedi. But I don’t think that’s a very great standard to compare against.

Where The Last Jedi was like an extended version of the title crawl, through the whole movie, The Rise of Skywalker moves too fast. The team has sooooo much to do and so little time to do it.

Imagine if Avengers Endgame didn’t have 3 hours to give us the relief of seeing Thanos brought to justice. Bring us up to speed on the 5 year time gap. The hope in the form of quantum realm time travel. The hops through time for each heroes’ missions, and the final battle with the fan service and story telling we needed.

If Avengers had to do all the same things, with 40 minutes less… I don’t think it would have worked.

That’s how this final installment of the Skywalker Saga felt.

Wasted Opportunities

Emperor Palpatine was wasted as a character. Glimpsed early on with some important story. But absent, except as a threat, until the end of the film.

The First Order’s Supreme Leader is Kylo Ren. But his role makes no sense based on the past bad guys to hold that type of role. Palpatine and Snoke.

While they were very uninvolved and more the “man behind the curtain”, Kylo is a very “on the ground” or “frontlines” type. That DOES make sense for Kylo based on what he really is. A warrior. There is a character that acts like the man behind the curtain, or a Grand Moff Tarkin type, and this leads to the feeling that Kylo isn’t really in charge. But not in the same way as the power struggle between Kylo and Hux in VII and VIII.

Rey. She earns some of her role as the last Jedi, finally, in this movie. But she is still very much over-powered. Things are not explained. Like why every Jedi lives within her. She has a new Jedi instructor. It’s something that comes very much out of left-field because there has been very, VERY little set up for it based on what was shown later in this movie. This surprise just hasn’t been well planned.

Rewind to The Last Jedi really quick. When Kylo hesitates and the storm troopers blow up the bridge of the ship with Leia on board, and she seems gone, only to use the Force and pull herself back from death and the vacuum of space. At least we had the knowledge that she is a Skywalker and that she is Force-sensitive, from her directing Lando to rescue Luke back in Empire Strikes Back. We had some set-up that she could use the Force. So that little bit of Force magic used to save her own life is something we can accept.<

More Issues to Unsnarl

Back to this new movie. Suddenly there is another person that learned from Luke and can teach Rey. But didn’t offer to back when Luke was MIA… The backstory that we need for this to make sense is finally given to us later in this movie. It is both an “Oh! THAT’S how this person knows enough to train Rey,” and a “Why did you need to do that?! Luke’s Force ghost could still train her in the ways of the Force!”

Kylo and Rey… Its seems to me that the only planning for the trilogy was that these two would have a conflicted love story. His interest in her started with her ability to block his mind reading. And he became obsessed with her from then on. Jealousy over Luke’s/Anakin’s lightsaber. (Don’t even get me started on this plothole/retcon. How is it somehow a working weapon, in one piece, after the events of The Last Jedi?!?!)… Her seemingly unearned skill with the Force. Then their Snoke influenced connections during TLJ. They were being pushed together, culminating in Kylo offering Rey to rule by his side.

Let’s face it. He wanted to carry on the Skywalker line with her.

New Force Powers

There is more of that here. But suddenly there are new Force powers influencing their — previously — Snoke-influenced connections. There is even a Romeo and Juliet end scene type of moment with them.

I’ve gotta be honest. There are jokes and memes about random movies and characters being a better love story than Twilight. I think we’ve finally found a love story that is worse than Twilight. Just my opinion, of course…

There is one “new” Force power that can be kind of accepted easily. “Kind of,” because Star Wars fans have only been teased with the idea of it once before. So, it existed before all of this. But suddenly it is very real and is being used a few times.

The Big Twist

To me it didn’t come off as big a shock, as we are certainly meant for it to be. They hint at it in an earlier scene of the movie, which is why i wasn’t surprised. But really, the very obvious hint could have been misleading. It’s a new Force power for this character, but one we’ve seen used by at least two other Star Wars characters. So the revelation could have gone either way. The twist is, of course, Rey’s lineage. We learn who her family is, even if we don’t learn where they’ve been before all this.

So…what, overall?

Feelings throughout the movie: the movie moved so fast that there were only a few chances for real emotion throughout. There were some good laughs out of the droids and a new character. A short sequence from the main team. Then there were three scenes that tugged on the heart strings. One of them was fully expected due to real life circumstances. Most of us know what happened shortly before The Last Jedi released and knew Leia would be leaving us, because there was no other choice. Its really remarkable just how much this character was in this movie.

The other scenes involve one of the strongest characters in the series. The second of this character’s scenes really show us a side we’ve never seen before. It’s a gut punch, and just like the first of this character’s big scenes, because of the pace of the movie, it’s over too fast.

There is one big battle in the movie. As there needed to be. But in a lot of ways it made little sense. The battle kind of dragged on, while the big characters had their slow plot dump scenes.

The Knights of Ren, much like the Emperor, were wasted. We didn’t get to see them in action the way they deserved with their status among The First Order. The only real fight we saw with them was pretty much like Hela’s arrival on Asgard in Thor Ragnarok. And I’m not saying that they were Hela in this fight… I’m also not saying that Rey was Hela in this fight…

The film closes where the saga began back in the 70s. We get some quick nostalgia, and a reveal for the reason of the title of the movie. There was a bit of a cheesy heartfelt, yet weird, expected moment at the end.

Since I kind of have to boil it down… I’m kind of just “meh” about this movie. Somewhere between a C+ and a B-.

The timing, length, real world events, and a poor predecessor really hurt it.

The political subplot in Knives Out that tells the real plot

Knives Out - MartaYou may go into Knives Out thinking it’s a murder mystery, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but that’s not what the movie is really about.

Let’s start by acknowledging that Rian Johnson, the writer and director, did a masterful job. Everything about this movie is top notch. In my book it’s a perfect A+++…

There are numerous flashbacks in the story but it’s never confusing. Everything fits together seamlessly and comes together in an unexpected ending.

The humor is outstanding and it feels real, not manufactured or forced, as it is in most movies that try to be funny.

The who-done-it aspect of the mystery is creative and not at all formulaic.

That’s all I can say without giving anything away. If you haven’t seen the movie yet then I hope I’ve convinced you it’s worth your time and money. Now go away because… SPOILERS AHEAD. I hope you come back later and read the rest, because there’s much more to this movie than meets the eye.

[ Spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned. ]

If you’re still reading I assume you’ve seen the movie. When did you notice that the movie wasn’t just a whodunit mystery but was also making a profound political statement contrasting immigrants/immigration against white entitlement? For me it was around the time the first family member, I think it was Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), said to Marta, “I wanted you to be at the funeral but I was out voted.” (A very typically American way of saying: the reason you weren’t invited wasn’t that we forgot about you. We actually discussed it and no one wanted to include you.)

Right away we see the schism between the way Harlan (the father played by Christopher Plummer) has treated Marta and the way all his children treat her: dismissive. Marta is Harlan’s real confidant. The only one who really listens to him for who he is, not what he can do for her.

Oh but wait,” you say. Marta was employed by Harlan to be his caregiver. He paid her for what she gave him. Yes and no. We know from detective Blanc’s (Daniel Craig’s) questioning that Harlan paid her a flat fee and that initially she worked 15 hours a week but that her working hours grew over time, but not her pay. Sure, she was there for the income, not out of pure generosity. But she gave everything she had: an increasing demand on her time, her expert care, and her friendship.

In Harlan’s heart Marta, the child of an illegal immigrant (a Dreamer), became his daughter, while his genetic/legal family treated him like the money grubbing, entitled, untalented, self deluding, sycophants they are.

Question: what does Harlan represent?

I believe Rian Johnson, the writer/director, uses the character of Harlan to represent something along the lines of the American Spirit. He’s old; he’s successful; he’s wise in a way that he realizes he’s made mistakes and wants to try and fix them. He says to Marta that he was perhaps too generous to his children and didn’t encourage them enough to make it on their own.

Even Linda, the self made woman, is portrayed as successful only because her father gave her the business loan to get her where she is today. At the same time Linda looks down on her brother Walt, the publisher, for only managing what her father gave him, but never creating anything on his own.

Walt, I think, represents the portion of corporate America that wants to bleed the common people dry. Those corporations that don’t do anything creative or constructive themselves, but have a position of influence and wealth they can use to harvest the resources of America for their own gain. Just as Walt wants to harvest his father’s books into movies for greater profit while himself contributing nothing.

There’s a crucial scene in the movie where Marta is at the memorial service and has a flashback to the birthday party on the night of Harlan’s death. The scene starts in the middle of a family argument about immigration politics, apparently immediately after Joni, the daughter-in-law, said something negative about Trump, to which Richard, the son-in-law, responds, “I don’t like him either, but maybe he’s what we need.”

Joni is the ditzy family hanger-on that thinks she’s enlightened — the rest of the family tolerates her at best.  She’s the lone voice supporting the rights of immigrants during the family argument. However, when push comes to shove, she’s just as duplicitous and scheming as the rest. She has been taking advantage of Harlan’s generosity by double-dipping for her daughter’s college tuition.

There’s no point even discussing the young grandson Jacob who is a nazi wannabe. (Grammatically, the noun “nazi” should be capitalized but I’m not going to dignify it with a capital “N”.) I only wish instead of Richard saying that young Jacob was in the bathroom “masterbating to dead deer,” he had verbitized the noun master race to become, “Masterracing to pictures of dead deer.”

And then there’s Ransom. Oh, they did a number tightly weaving this character into both the mystery plot and the political subplot. Ransom is so undeserving that even his undeserving family thinks he’s worthless. Ransom cares for nothing other than maintaining his lazy entitled status, even if it means murdering the source that granted his status in the first place.

I’m extremely interested to know if Chris Evans was cast to play Ransom in this movie specifically because for the past 10 years he has played the role of Captain America. What a perfectly ironic twist from what Evans has represented.

The casting of Daniel Craig as detective Blanc is spot on, but I question the character’s background. Personally, I think it would have played better had Daniel Craig used his native British accent which I think would have suited him better as the independent observer in the movie.

Either way, Knives Out did a masterful job contrasting the Dreamer with White Entitlement and showing us that immigrants represent the true Spirit of America better than those who are at best dismissive of immigrants and at worst blame them for self inflicted problems.

If you would like to read a very thoughtful review from someone who experienced Knives Out much more poingently than any American caucasian, like myself, ever could then I highly recommend this piece by Monica Castillo in the New York Times: Why I Left ‘Knives Out’ With Emotional Whiplash.

Spoiler-iffic Review of Terminator – Dark Fate

Please don’t read this review if you haven’t seen Terminator: Dark Fate yet. You’ve now been warned.

So, I did a story where I neatly ranked every Terminator film from 1984 through 2015, and they slot themselves perfectly by year. As in the first being the best, T2 coming close on its heels…and then each one a little (or a lot) less good than the one before.

Now I have a big decision to make. Where does T6: Dark Fate (“no dark fate but what we make”) fit in? And what about that short-lived but underappreciated two season TV show, The Sarah Connor Chronicles? Now I have to rethink the whole thing. Way to mess up my ranking order, Hollywood.

Talking Dark Fate

Man, the fans loved it. Whoo-ee! Me, I like some things they did and am pissed off about the rest.

LIKED: Grace the augmented human was wonderful. She stole the movie and our hearts. Too bad this was a re-tread of the plot in Terminator: Salvation. I’ll return to this thought.

ALSO LIKED: Carl the Drapery Terminator. What does an out of work T-800 do? T2 established they can’t self-terminate. So once he fulfills his mission, the cyborg creates a family and a business, and sends encrypted messages to former nemesis Sarah. Why does he bother? He must have felt bad about things and joined the human race. Like Spike in the Buffy series, he grew his own conscience. I’m fine with this — actually, more than fine….really happy, actually. I never expected this plot pivot and find it super charming.

Arnold nailed it. The writers did good. This is a very neat turn of events, and we at RunPee would gladly watch a prequel TV show about T-Carl’s Drapery Business. Who wouldn’t?

Terminator Dark Fate - Carl
#ThereAreNoDrapesButWhatWeMake

Where Dark Fate Failed

So, yes, Mackenzie Davis as Grace was the main reason this film is so good. But having JUST watched the entire series for my ranking post, I’m annoyed that Grace, the augmented human-Terminator hybrid, is a retread of the Sam Worthington plot in T4: Salvation. T4 actually picks up quite well where T3: Rise of the Machines leaves off, with a pregnant Kate and the other remnants of humanity eeking out a post-Judgement Day life. I’m not sure why we had to have another go at an “augmented human” plot.

All I can think is Linda Hamilton wanted to return before her T-3 cannon “death” and the producers felt a soft reboot was the way to go…and — bonus — liked the idea they ran with in Salvation. So, a soft sort of re-telling had to happen to bring back Sarah. (And if you saw Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, you’d see another way to side-step this pesky issue, using time travel to just skip right over the…um…cancer.)

But, as I mentioned above, we are dealing with TIME TRAVEL in this franchise. There could have been many ways to bring Sarah back without ditching the storylines in T3 and 4. (Forget 5. That was entirely unnecessary). We could have also added Grace without ditching the 1-4 film cannon.

Although…I’m not certain at this point what’s considered cannon in this franchise anymore, or if we are to accept three or more timelines.

(REALLY,  STOP READING NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN  TERMINATOR: DARK FATE.)

Hasta La Vista, John Connor?

So, there’s my main beef. John Connor. Remember him? Well, forget about everything that mattered since 1991, because he’s unceremoniously offed in the first few minutes of Dark Fate.

That’s right. John’s gone. Out of nowhere, on a lovely beach. Poof.

What was the point of making me care about everything that came before? (Yes — I’m angry.)

I guess it’s better than where they took John Connor in 2015s  T: Genisys, which insulted everything ever done before and pissed all over the fanbase…seriously, who though that was a fine idea? Does anyone even remember what happened in Genisys, even just a scant few years ago?

More Pissy Thoughts

Lastly, I was rather bored by the new, spiffy Terminator in this outing, which was a real shame, in spite of Gabriel Luna’s earnest attempts to make it work. He just wasn’t as amusing as Robert Patrick’s T-1000. The Rev-9 was…made of tar? And had a skeletal drone? Was that really the best the writers could come up with over the last decade of thinking about this?

This just should have been better and more up to date, like something using nanotechnology. Or a pure internet-based intelligence that hunts and kills using our world-spanning interconnected cyber systems, tracking you like the “God’s Eye” in the Fast & Furious franchise. (If the F&F movies could come up with something more exciting, you know there’s trouble.)

Think about it. The liquid metal special effects looked better in 1991 than the the tar special effects in 2019.

Moving on.

Dark Fate: Girl Power Version

So, some gal in Mexico steps up as the new savior. Okay. Fine already. She’s not a womb; she’s the real deal. At least the real deal-to-be.

Except Dani’s kind of boring. I can’t remember a single significant moment she had. Do you?

sarah-connor-young-linda-hamilton
Come with her if you want to live.

Sarah Connor…is back

And the long awaited return of Sarah? Of Linda Hamilton reprising the iconic role?

Well, for one thing, she needs to lay off the cigarettes, since her vocal cords are shot. And she’s really, REALLY bitter. Not that I wouldn’t be too, after running away from several Terminators, losing her lover, losing her son, getting locked down in a facility for the criminally insane, and being wanted —  apparently — in all 50 states.

Hamilton does a great job in the role, fitting easily back into her Sarah Connor persona, but it kind of hurt to see how awful life treated her character, and how little she had left to live for. She is brittle, and so, so damaged. It’s got to suck when an ex-Terminator who killed your son has a nice home, a good job and loving family, and you’re alone and on the run…with nothing but hardship and a lifetime of regrets. While the Terminator franchise depicts an apocalyptic near-future and isn’t intended to be a happy story, it’s just not fun to see characters you care about living in such pain for so long. No wonder Sarah drinks herself to sleep every night.

At least she was up to date enough on her film history to realize the first “death” of the Rev-9 was bogus. That made me smile. Linda Hamilton wasn’t married to James Cameron for nothing.

I’m going to go back to the John thing. I understand it’s cool to see a woman herself being the hope of humanity vs a just another Mother Mary, but there really was no need to off poor John. It actually makes me angry that I cared about the series at all. It retroactively makes the first two wonderful Terminator movies pointless.

So, I had to see Dark Fate again

I saw Dark Fate twice to see if I’m just being too picky about all this. Well…the answer is no. I’m not. Right now I feel betrayed, like I did with Aliens 3, when they unceremoniously killed off Newt and Hicks. That STILL bothers me, and I can’t really appreciate this new Terminator entry until I come to terms with what they’ve done.

I’ll say this: Dark Fate is probably the third best Terminator film, but not as good as the Terminator TV series. Damning with faint praise?

It seems like it, but honestly, in spite of my annoyance, Dark Fate really is a good movie.

dark-fate-grace
Strictly human or not, she kicked some serious machine butt.

Judgement Day: Now What?

One final thing. It does seem the Terminator franchise posits that we’re going to have an AI apocalypse, in any possible timeline, no matter how we try to prevent it. Skynet, Cyberdyne, Legion, Google, whatever. As Thanos would say: Judgement Day is… inevitable.

Chew on that.

Movie Grade: B+

Ranking the Terminator Movies

Official Movie Review – Terminator: Dark Fate

Movie Review – The Terminator

Terminator TV Series: The Carlenator

In Defense of Terminator 3

 

 

Fast & Furious 1 & 4 Is Really ONE MOVIE

Dominic "Dom" Toretto
Dominic “Dom” Toretto

I finally watched a couple of Fast & Furious movies. Even though the upcoming film is called Hobbs & Shaw, I do know they are a F&F spin-off, and was curious about WHY WHY WHY there are all these movies out there about fast cars and criminals? Why these are movies so popular?

I adore action films, but am not automatically into the whole ‘root for the villain’ thing. Some may have a ‘heart of gold’  — but Dom and Brian had not gelled yet in the 2001 story, so I was like, “Meh.” Neither were close to the anti-hero levels of Han Solo or Robin Hood…and certainly not Malcolm Reynolds (from Firefly/Serenity). Or even Diesel’s own beloved Riddick character from Pitch Black.  Not yet.

At this point, these dudes were just testosterone-oriented criminal adrenaline junkies in LA.

And as for driving fast, I used to flash people in San Diego driving down the 805 at 100 MPH over the Mission Valley interstate bridges…but grew out of that after college and a few very expensive speeding tickets. (My boyfriend had a convertible and we thought we were immortal, and I have a cute butt…it made sense at the time, but was frankly stupid).

So at the tender age of 50, I just watched F&F 2001, and was appalled. Here’s a bunch of criminals doing totally unsafe things that should kill bystanders. With women dressed in almost no clothes, saying they will do sexual acts with racing winners they don’t even know, and behaving far more sluttily than my innocent butt-flashing highway moments ever were.

I watched this, which was essentially a movie of the video game Grand Theft Auto, and thought exactly this: “???”

Why was this popular enough to spawn a franchise that will be 9 movies long by 2020, and how did I never see any of these?

I can’t say. The original F&F 2001 had an ending that was ambiguous at best. I can appreciate that as a bold choice, but since the movie had almost no plot, it didn’t feel earned. It’s 75% racing, 10% sexy stuff, and then the story picks up the scraps. I guess driving dangerously fast didn’t interest me any more.

I was more involved in Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, the Marvel movies, and, of course (to me) the Lord of the Rings. (And now you know what geekhoods I love best.)

It actually took watching the 2009 (the 4th) film, which follows up exactly where the first movie leaves off, to get me on-board.

Finally, the movie came together. I’ll say the best thing — if you’re still new to the franchise — is to watch 2001 and 2009 as one movie. Back to back. That makes one decent story and serves as a fine introduction to what comes ahead.

2009 cut down on the ‘male gaze’ aspect immensely, to my relief, I guess. If I wanted to see that kind of female behavior, I’d find some porn. The men keep their clothes on on F&F, and their clothes are not skin-tight either. Why can’t we see some male flesh? Oh jeez. I’m barking down a well. (It’s not like I need to see that, but it would at least be fair. I still like butts.)

So, why do the women have to be essentially naked if the directors want half the population to watch their films? So, yes THANK YOU that the women, seven years later, are allowed to be real people and not simply male decorations. I say this understanding that the few women racers were also bad-ass…but they were still totally hot and dressed to show it. This was off-putting. How is this relatable?

But back to the Fast & Furious origins storyline:

If I was baffled by the appeal of the first movie (Vrooooom, vrooom, NOX, boom!), I liked where things continued in 2009. The Mexico borderlands sequence was an incredible nail-biting experience (but still felt like a video game, granted). And the Brian/Dom relationship was allowed some space to unfold, finally. It wasn’t just trading insults from hate (it was trading insults from bro looooooove).

I like adrenaline too, but mine is legal and low key: rock climbing, cave rappelling, plane jumping, traveling solo in foreign countries, bungie jumping, sword fighting, backpacking, and aerial acrobatics. It’s not like I’m a boring person. But I dress for comfort, not to attract men. I think I was spoiled by being an Outward Bound instructor in my younger years. I was valued and admired for my outdoor skill set and leadership ability, not for cleavage and sexual taunts.

Probably you want me to shut up on all this. So I’ll get back to the plot.

RunPee Dan wrote an extensive and very helpful article about the entire series. Granted, he skipped a few films, but these are arguably worth skipping, based on both the Rotten Tomatoes Meter, and RunPee Sis’s definitive recommendations (as a F&F UBERFAN). (Seriously.)

Sooooo, what should you watch to get started with the Fast and Furious oeuvre?

Like I said, I think 2001 and 2009 should be viewed back-to-back as one film. 2009 picks up right where 2001 leaves off and flows seamlessly together. Both are exciting (but 2009 is just damn better, okay?).

I’m going to make a judgement call and say they are one good movie, but only when viewed together.

Everything changes after the 2009 film, with the 2011 addition of Dwayne Johnson — AKA The Rock — but that’s not important for now. 2001 and 2009 are the important bro foundation between Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker), and their love for…well, driving really fast. They bond. Bonding is good, right?

I will say Vin Diesel definitely has the charisma to anchor a franchise. (Really. Watch Pitch Black, please. And, lest ye forget, he’s also Groot.)

I’m reliably told the story gets more ‘heroic’ in subsequent iterations. So I’ll be watching to see the inevitable Vin vs Dwayne mano a mono fight (I love them both, even if they are…well…fungible.)

BTW: Apparently Vin and The Rock really, REALLY dislike each other. Does anyone know why?

Hobbs & Shaw’s Backstory from Fast and the Furious

Fast and the Furious – Furious 7 Movie Review

Movie Review – The Fate of the Furious – F8

Movie Review – Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw