Another Idea For Rey’s Parentage

(Guest article by Matthew W. Quinn)

One of the great mysteries of the Star Wars “sequel trilogy” is the parentage of heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley). All she remembers is that her parents left her on the isolated world of Jakku and fled, and she has been waiting for many years for their return. That they’re not coming back is something she learned to accept in The Force Awakens, but her desire to learn more about them is part of The Last Jedi. There the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) claims they were vagrants who sold her for beer money and she’s “nothing,” but given the fact he’s a wannabe Sith Lord, he might not be the most trustworthy source.

The following discussion contains spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker, so be ye warned…

The new movie reveals that her parents weren’t really “nobodies” after all – her father was the fugitive son of none other than Emperor Palpatine. Although some fans had noticed that Rey’s lightsaber technique resembles Palpatine’s from Revenge of the Sith, the fact she’s Palpatine’s granddaughter raises a lot more questions than it solves.

For starters, if Palpatine had a son, why isn’t he ever referenced in the original trilogy or the prequels? The son of the Senator from Naboo might not attract a lot of attention, but as the Hunter Biden-Ukraine situation shows, the son of the Supreme Chancellor definitely would. And when said chancellor makes himself Emperor, said son is a logical candidate for succession if Palpatine dies. And given how Darth Vader is the Sith Apprentice to Palpatine’s Sith Master, he probably expects to be Palpatine’s successor. Palpatine having a child at all isn’t some minor bit of trivia, but something that realistically would have come up earlier. This is a Chekhov’s Gun that should have been revealed before it was fired or, to put it in cruder TVTropes terms, an Ass Pull.

I will concede that one positive result of the Palpatine connection is the character moment it gives Leia. In The Rise of Skywalker, Leia trains Rey in the Jedi techniques she herself had learned from Luke, even though, according to Luke’s shade, she knew Rey was Palpatine’s granddaughter. This reflects well on Leia that she will not condemn someone for their ancestor’s crimes, especially given how the revelation she was Vader’s daughter ended her political career in the new-canon novel Bloodline. However, her not being a massive hypocrite is a relatively low bar to jump.

It’s easy to criticize without offering solutions. Here’s an idea for Rey’s parentage that allows for the Palpatine connection, gives Leia an even better character moment, and gives Rey conflict about whether or not she’s somehow tainted or prone to the Dark Side.

Rey isn’t Palpatine’s granddaughter. She’s actually his gender-flipped clone or another type of being created from his DNA — either way, some kind of Sith science project. The cult that raised Palpatine from the dead created her, perhaps as an alternative body or some kind of blood sacrifice to revive him. Rey’s “parents” weren’t really her parents, but scientists from the project who had become attached to her and bolted, leaving her on Jakku while they fled in a different direction as a distraction. Unfortunately, they were killed in some kind of starship accident (and so the cultists assumed Rey was dead too) and so Rey was abandoned. Kylo Ren finds this out from his dealings with Palpatine’s cult or perhaps some kind of independent espionage on his part. This would explain why she flees to Ach-To and destroys the stolen TIE fighter to strand herself there — she views herself as tainted, something the shade of Luke has to talk her out of. Having an evil man as the grandfather you never knew doesn’t make you have visions of ruling from the Sith Throne and cause you to strand yourself in the middle of nowhere, but thinking you’re some kind of Sith science project intended to help revive the most evil and reviled man in galactic history just might.

This also gives Leia an even better character moment. Given all the crap she’s gotten due to being Darth Vader’s daughter, she doesn’t seem like the sort who would mistrust or mistreat someone due to their parentage. But Rey as a clone of Palpatine is a completely different matter — given how clones are treated as expendable cannon fodder during the prequel era, people might fear Leia would not view Rey as human, much like how droids are treated as property despite being clearly thinking beings. Furthermore, in this scenario Rey isn’t a blood relative of her greatest enemy who never knew her grandfather but is some kind of Sith black magic spinoff of him. The fact Leia judges Rey on the content of her character and views her as an ally (and given all the hugging possibly the daughter she never had) rather than a monster or potential threat shows even better Leia’s kindness and wisdom.

Matthew W. Quinn is the author of the Lovecraftian horror novel The Thing in the Woods and the horror-comedy novella Little People, Big Guns. His military fantasy novel Battle for the Wastelands, which Jack blurbed, is available HERE on Amazon.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — My Review (SPOILERS)

Rise of Skywalker

Rise of Skywalker

Yikes. So that’s how they ended the trilogy. I refuse to call Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker the last movie in the Skywalker Saga, because that was Return of the Jedi, and it was a perfect ending, plus or minus a few Ewoks.

The last movie in the Disney Trilogy is a mess. I knew as soon as I heard Palpatine was coming back that it would be, and I wasn’t wrong. JJ Abrams set up the trilogy well in FA, even if it was completely the wrong way to go about it (you need to evolve the universe, Lucasfilm, and honor what has come before, not reboot/remake A New Hope). But Force Awakens was fun, and could have functioned as a tonally light starter to a more serious, interesting trilogy.

Instead, Rian Johnson turned his entry in the series into a platform for political propaganda and a display case for bad storytelling devices, and it was a tonal nightmare, too. It seriously opened with a your-mama joke and a cell phone gag, then proceeded to destroy the epic, mythic hero the series had been built around.

Just as bad, Last Jedi dropped the plots set up in Force Awakens, and even eliminated the villain. So Rise of Skywalker was never going to be a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, because the trilogy was toast as soon as Rian Johnson was through with it.

But it didn’t have to be this bad. They wipe C3-PO’s mind in order to decode a dagger, which they’ve lost, because he’s the only one that has memorized its inscription … but then they instantly find the dagger.

They try to turn Po into Han Solo. They actually retcon him as a smuggler that “goes good” and joins the rebellion. He did have one funny moment at the end, though, waggling his eyebrows at that lady in the helmet. Seriously, that was her only defining characteristic.

They misuse Finn, again, but at least he comes out better in this one than he did in Last Jedi. He still doesn’t fulfill the potential he had in Force Awakens.

Kylo is still the most interesting character, but they don’t do much with him here. He gets a decent end.

Rey comes out the best, probably. They actually give her a little character arc. But like everything else, it’s too little, too late, and making her a Palpatine doesn’t answer how she was able to use her Force abilities. Luke was also descended from a powerful Force user, but he couldn’t do anything with it until he was trained. And don’t get me started on her deciding to become a moisture farmer and calling herself a Skywalker.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a mess, but it’s not offensively awful like the Last Jedi, and there are some fun practical effects, some nice aliens and cool Star Wars-y bits of tech.

Sadly I never connected with the movie, and was never “in” the movie. I kept on waiting to be emotionally engaged, but it never hooked me.

Some questions: Why did projecting his mere image through the Force kill Luke Skywalker, but Rey and Kylo Ren could exchange entire physical objects through the Force without breaking a sweat? Why did Palpatine task Kylo with killing Rey if he wanted Rey to kill him? And why, after Rey did do that, did he not go through with his plan to possess her? Why was there an inscription on the dagger? For what purpose? Why did Rey know to extend the little do-dad on it at just the right moment, and stand in just the right spot?

This movie just made no sense, from top to bottom. Its heart was in the right place, though (or close enough), and I appreciate that. I just wish its head had been in the right place, too.

It really does feel like just a bunch of random stuff that happens. Also, how many times can Rey and Kylo be in an evil throne room just when the rebel fleet is engaged in battle with the evil fleet?

Also, why was the Emperor hanging out building a giant fleet and developing tens of thousands of Sith followers, without actually doing anything with that power? If he was never dead, why did he ever stop running the Empire? Why did the war end?

Another thing In the final battle, the rebels destroyed the ships of the Emperor. That’s it. The First Order, which had conquered the galaxy at that point, is presumably still out there ruling it. The Emperor’s new fleet was just a bonus for them, but they’d already won, so it was unnecessary. In other words, despite the big battle at the end, the bad guys still won, and some First Order general is still out there somewhere, ruling the galaxy with an iron fist. I don’t think this was intentional or a set-up for future movies. I’m absolutely sure this was simply the result of terrible, terrible writing. Seriously bad writing. I’m a writer of epic fantasy and science fiction, and I am professionally insulted by the storytelling of this movie.

Why . . .(throwing up hands). This movie is profoundly stupid. Last Jedi was an affront and an abomination to Star Wars. Rise of Skywalker is simply an embarrassment. A huge, ridiculous, loud embarrassment.

I still don’t consider the new trilogy canon, and I might never see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker again. Maybe a fan edit to see if it can be fixed. That would help if they release some deleted scenes.

I recommend this only to Star Wars completionists, although some people seem to like it.

This movie makes no sense. None.

At least there wasn’t a your-mama joke.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — My Review — SPOILER WARNING

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have seen ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, and here are my brief, SPOILERY thoughts on it, after a spoiler wall. Do not continue reading if you don’t want the movie spoiled for you.
.
.
.
.

Okay, here goes. Spoilers beyond this point . . .
.
.
.
.
.
They saved Sharon Tate! That made me very happy. It’s what I was hoping for going into the movie, and I knew it was possible after Inglorious Basterds. But QT did it, and even got some retroactive “revenge” on several members of the Manson Family, which was very satisfying. Thank you, QT.

I’ve seen some people complain that Margot Robbie didn’t have much to do in the movie. I don’t understand that complaint, unless you don’t know the story of the Manson murders. Every second Margot Robbie/Sharon Tate was on the screen was vital — it’s where the menace was. We know her fate, and getting to know her and love her, even a little, built the threat even more. That’s where the tension in the movie came from. All Margot had to do was be lovable, and she succeeded.

And Once Upon a Time in Hollywood needed that tension, because most of the rest of the movie is very laid back. QT wants us to revel in 1960s Hollywood, and he does a terrific job of evoking that time and place. The movie doesn’t have much actual plot to speak of, and a large chunk of it is simply a day in the life of its three principal characters.

None of the characters drive the plot forward, and, like I said, there is very little plot to drive. This is a ticking time-bomb movie where the characters involved don’t know there’s a bomb. But the audience does, and that’s where the tension is. We can bask in the ’60s goodness and still be on the edges of our seats — a very interesting approach to film-making.

And they saved Sharon Tate and her friends, and brought blood vengeance to the Manson Family. All in all, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a very good time at the movies, and one that isn’t a reboot or sequel or based on an existing franchise. Recommended.

To see what others have to say about it, here’s the link to the Rotten Tomatoes page for the movie.

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

1980s horror movie roundup — The Nest and The Intruder

The Nest movie

The Nest

Horror movie report:

Last night I did a double feature of THE NEST and THE INTRUDER, two 1980s horror movies that I’d somehow missed. The 1980s were the golden age of horror. So how do these two stack up?

Pretty well, actually

THE NEST is a surprisingly well-written, professionally made movie aimed at a theatrical audience. Nice pacing, good acting and an overall decent time at the movies, even if the threat of the film is only extremely vicious cockroaches. Also notable for having a strong female co-lead that is always off having her own adventures and being an effective protagonist without having to wait for the Age of Woke-ness to liberate her. Amazing.

Overall, a fairly well-made and watchable horror movie, I don’t care what Rotten Tomatoes says. Nothing to write home about, but if you’re a horror fan you might want to check it out.

Don’t let the cover fool you, though. There are no giant cockroaches terrorizing ladies in bikinis. Also no bikinis.

THE INTRUDER is another film from the same era. I was lured into watching it because Amazon told me it starred Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi. Well, not so fast, Amazon. Bruce is barely in the movie, and Sam has a bit part.

This movie feels more like a direct-to-video number, and it has a very small budget — most of which goes to the gore in the second half of the movie. A group of teens are trapped in a small supermarket with a psycho, and the bodies pile up quickly. Not much in the way of character development or plot, but the director makes up for it by trying to live up to his actor, Sam Raimi. I’ve got to give him credit for trying to make bold, fun stylistic choices, even if they don’t always work, and I have to wonder if Sam spent a little time behind the camera on this one.

A total waste of Bruce, though.

However, it was nice to see the actor who played the redneck from Evil Dead II get some screentime. He should have been in more movies.

Overall, not a great movie, definitely the lesser of the two, but well-paced and with some attempt at style.

What should I watch next? I just did Sleepaway Camp 2 the other day (with one crossover actress from The Intruder, interestingly). Tempted to check out Sleepaway Camp 3. So far the series hasn’t been impressive, but somehow it’s fun to see the subpar version of Friday the 13th. It elevates the Friday series to see all the things it does right that Sleepaway does wrong (atmosphere, characterization, plot progression — not normally things I associate with Friday the 13th, but with a similar setting and plot, it’s hard not to compare and contrast).

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Marvel Phase Four — My thoughts on the newest phase of the MCU

Marvel Phase Four lineup

Marvel Phase Four

Interesting. We’re getting more Thor before more Guardians. Does that mean the Guardians will be in Thor, since they were last seen together? Love that He-Man-esque font for Thor. Not sure about “Love and Thunder”, and I’m not thrilled at the idea of Natalie Portman coming back and becoming Lady Thor. Maybe she’ll surprise me, but she hasn’t been the best thing about those movies, to put it nicely. Still, I love Ragnorak and it’s the same director, so I’m hoping a trailer can get me more interested.

I don’t know much about the Eternals or Shang-Chi, and if Black Widow is a prequel I’m not going to be that excited. If Blade isn’t rated R, my interest in that is going to be pretty low, too, and I’m not sure if Mahershala Ali can sell the physicality of the character the way Wesley Snipes could. But he’s a talented actor, and I look forward to seeing what he does with the role. Most of the rest are TV shows, and I’m curious but not excited about any of them.

Which leaves Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness as the only one of the new Marvel movies I’m really looking forward to, at least as things stand now. New information (like, that Black Widow isn’t a prequel) or a good trailer could spark my excitement for one or more of the others, but that’s my temperature at the moment. And I love that title — “Multiverse of Madness”. That’s badass. Also interesting that they’re going with the multiverse idea after teasing that and throwing it out in the latest Spider-Man.

Anyway, those are my initial thoughts on the new Marvel lineup. For more discussion on it, check out i09.com’s coverage.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Child’s Play … is okay. My short no-spoilers review of the new Chucky movie.

Chucky Child's Play

Chucky

I have seen the new Child’s Play movie, and here are my brief, NO SPOILERS thoughts.

Child’s Play 2019 a solid movie. If you like horror movies, you’ll probably like this one. It keeps some of the tone of the original, but adds in some new notes all its own.

In the new incarnation of Chucky, the filmmakers have taken out the supernatural elements from the original and simply made Chucky a homicidal AI doll that can control other technology, too, a la the Terminator in T3. None of that is a spoiler, since that’s established in the prologue for this movie.

I prefer the more supernatural take on Chucky, with a fully-formed evil madman possessing the doll, instead of a blank-slate AI that grows more evil as it goes, but it’s a well-made movie for what it is, and I had a good time at the theater.

Generally recommended for horror fans. I would rate it a B-, with a sliding scale for horror.

Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 60, both in Critical Reviews and in Audience Reviews.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

My review of the movie “Us” by Jordan Peele (MILD SPOILERS)

US the movie

US the movie

Jordan Peele’s second horror movie, Us, dropped this last weekend, and it’s making quite a splash. But is it good?

I quite enjoyed his first movie, GET OUT, even though I found it somewhat racist and unnecessarily focused on divisive politics. Just the same, it was a taut, well-constructed, highly atmospheric film.

US let me down. I’d hoped for the same level of quality as GET OUT, but unfortunately US is a bit of a mess. It can’t quite strike a consistent tone, the pacing is off, and the tacked on scientific explanation at the end proves that sometimes less is more. The best episodes of Twilight Zone were the ones where they didn’t try to explain what you just watched.

And if you are going to explain things, action must follow that explanation. You don’t have a strange story, then an explanation at the end, and that’s it. Something must follow that explanation. It must go somewhere. Otherwise it feels like the filmmaker simply justifying the movie.

But that’s pretty much what we get in US, followed by what might be the most telegraphed reveal of all time.

The actors uniformly do a great job, the atmosphere is taut, until a few misplaced jokes are fired out, and the film contains some fun, original ideas. Bonus points for that.

Bottom line: for horror fans, US delivers a taut, original narrative, so it’s definitely worth a watch. But the execution is muddled and the whole is not as satisfying as GET OUT. C+

Looks like that’s about where the audience score for Rotten Tomatoes is. Never trust the critics, especially for a movie that has been politicized, as US has.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

The Alita: Battle Angel movie rocks! My review

Alita Battle Angel

Battle Angel Alita poster

I saw ALITA BATTLE ANGEL recently, and here are my brief NO SPOILERS thoughts.

Alita Battle Angel is a blast. A extremely fun, well-made movie, put together by the unlikely duo of Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron (who I would describe as opposites in their approach to filmmaking, one fast and loose, one meticulous and slow). But somehow it works.

I’m a big fan of the original manga,and I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. For years it looked like James Cameron himself might make it, but that didn’t happen. And you know what? That’s okay. The movie we got is quite good, and he did at least co-write it, so the movie has the benefit of his strong narrative underpinnings.

Alita herself is well-realized and is a fantastic character. They do such a good job making her awesome that any other defects in the movie sort of melt away, much like the Marvel movies in their approach to heroes.

Is it perfect? No, there are flaws here and there, as there are in any movie, and the ending sets up a sequel that we might never get. But the movie is good enough that you’ll want that sequel. At least I do.

Which brings up an interesting point. Right now the critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes is in the 50s. The audience score is in the 90s. Trust the audience score. So why do the critics judge Alita so harshly? Why is it that the critics have become less and less reliable lately?

Look at Last Jedi, which had the opposite situation — an overwhelmingly positive critical response but an audience score in the 40s. That particular situation had to do with politics. Does this one — that is, Alita? Or, to put it another way, does Alita’s complete lack of a political agenda hurt it with the critics?

It’s the only explanation I can come up with, because it’s a damn fun movie. Better than Aquaman, which I quite liked.

I saw it in IMAX 3D, which is definitely the best way to watch this movie.

Highly recommended!

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

About that Lord of the Rings TV series Amazon is working on . . .

Interesting! That Amazon Lord of the Rings TV series will focus on Numenor and the Second Age. This is actually a pretty cool idea. Sauron himself will almost certainly be a character. I would bet that the series focuses on him slowly corrupting Numenor. Also, the emergence of a resistance against him.

Numenor is also a confined location, and it could be shot mostly on sets, so it wouldn’t prove quite as expensive as shooting in New Zealand on location (if they went that route).

Tolkien wrote an unfinished love story about characters in Numenor. It touches on broader events, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the two proud lovers of that story are characters, or at least inspire characters.

Other characters, ancestors of Aragorn, develop a resistance to Sauron later in the timeline. I would expect the series to be set then.

I will miss traveling through Middle-Earth, though. That is part of the appeal of the saga, so hopefully we will see some of Arnor and Gondor, too. And that would be in keeping with the timeline.

What do you think?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

My review of Captain Marvel

Capt Marvel movie

I saw CAPTAIN MARVEL recently, and here are my brief NO SPOILERS thoughts on it.

All the Marvel movies have been entertaining, and this one is no exception. It has a fast-moving plot, multiple space aliens, and a character trying to find her way.

But is it good? Well, it’s okay. It’s definitely a mid or lower-tier Marvel movie. The friend I saw it with ranked it around the tier of Ant Man and the Wasp, and I would have to agree with that. The difference that makes AMatW superior, in my opinion, is that they nailed the character of Ant Man in that movie.

They didn’t do so well with Captain Marvel, the character. Marvel (the studio) has always been very good at building their heroes, often to the detriment of their villains, but it works, and it’s created some very memorable franchises (or sub-franchises?). Perhaps a different actress could have elevated the material and really brought Captain Marvel to life in a big way, but Brie Larson, while fine, just doesn’t have that ability. And the writing does her no favors.

The other big problem with her development is Sam Jackson. He’s just too good. He’s so effortlessly charismatic that he steals every scene, but if you’re going to have a star of that caliber serve as a supporting lead (and much of this film is a buddy movie, so he gets a lot of screentime) you need to have your lead be equally as engaging. John Travolta could do it. Brie Larson can’t. And unfortunately Sam Jackson has more chemistry with the cat than with her.

But, again, I don’t want to blame Brie too much. Her political preaching may be annoying, but if I waited for actors that I agreed with to come along I would never see a movie. So I can let that go. Her performance is pretty meh, but the writing that informs it is even worse. This is the one time I can think of that the Marvel creative team really let a main character down, and it’s a shame.

What about the rest of the movie? Well, it’s fast and zippy until a certain plot twist halfway in, and that plot twist felt more like a comment on modern day politics than an attempt at good storytelling (hint: it has something to do with immigration). After that point the plot mechanics become somewhat clunky, and the last act is muddled because of it. Ronan the Accuser is totally wasted, and in fact he’s made into a joke to build up Capt. Marvel’s character more — not a great move on the part of the writers.

Also, there’s some continuity problems this movie creates, since it’s set before most of the other movies.

And don’t get me started on how Nick Fury loses his eye. Sigh.

Anyway, I could go on, but I don’t dislike the movie enough to savage it, and I don’t like it enough to really recommend it. If you’re a Marvel completist, you’ll see this movie, and you won’t have a bad time at the theater. Sam Jackson and the cat are great, and there’s some cool alien stuff. There are some politics, and I do feel that they somewhat derail the movie, and the whole thing feels kind of messy, but with a different writer and director I would be interested to see the further adventures of Carol Danvers in a future movie, hopefully in space.

If you want a pro-female action movie to go see this weekend, I would highly recommend the far, far better ALITA BATTLE ANGEL.

Have you seen Captain Marvel? What did you think?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus