📚 five of 2020: Return of the Jedi, by James Kahn ⭐️⭐️⭐️

A much better adaptation than Empire was. Most interesting moment: Wicket’s long speech convincing the Ewok leaders to assist the Rebels in their attack on the bunker. Those teddy bears are pretty eloquent!

📚 four of 2020: The Empire Strikes Back, by Donald F. Glut ⭐️⭐️

A clumsy and unimaginative adaptation. Most interesting for the handwritten notes contributed by a former owner of this copy, correcting all the Han/Leia romance to be screen-accurate.

Baby Yoda and ‘The Dark Crystal’ Prove We Still Need Puppetry in the Age of CGI: “Frankly, I don’t always want my entertainment to look effortless. Instead, I want to stand in awe of these feats of creation: painstakingly crafted miniature worlds, marionettes that fire arrows, extraterrestrial tots that beg you to scoop them up and kiss them on the forehead. I want to shout, ‘How the hell did they do that?!’”

The Rise of Skywalker

A few more brief non-spoilery thoughts on The Rise of Skywalker, while it’s still fairly fresh in my mind.

I thought the first hour or so of the movie was far too rushed. There was no time to breath, to take anything in, and it felt like Abrams was concerned that if he gave the audience time to actually think about what we were watching, instead of just reacting, the film would fall apart. Which, in a lot of ways, it would.

This Twitter thread by @ZenOfDesign raises a lot of good points and questions about The Rise of Skywalker, many (but not all) of which came to my mind as I was watching it. Obviously, spoilers all through the thread, and if you absolutely loved the film, maybe you don’t want to click through.

It was very pretty, of course, and I was generally entertained. However, there were so many moments (like many of those in the above-linked Twitter thread) that pulled me out of the film that I never really got truly invested. I’ve seen other people comment on how fanservice-heavy the film was, and I’m very much in agreement; I think it was so concerned with trying to 1) touch on as many pieces of the saga as possible, and 2) satisfy as many fans as possible (unfortunately, particularly those most vocal about not liking The Last Jedi) that it hindered more than helped.

I also think it shares some DNA with Avengers: Endgame in that it was so wrapped up in being the end of a saga that there’s simply no way the film can stand on its own. Neither of these films are comprehensible at all without having watched some (and, preferably, all) of the films that came before them, and as such, suffer when thought of as single entities rather than as chapters in a larger work. These certainly aren’t the only films to be in such a position, of course, but it seems particularly the case for these.

Of course, that saga theoretically stretches over nine films, but I was very amused that everything about the end of TRoS calls back to the original trilogy, and there’s actually very little at all in the film that is a direct or even offhand reference to the prequel trilogy (one line about Gungans is all I’m immediately remembering). It’s very possible to ignore the prequels entirely, and just view episodes IV-IX as a complete story.

In the end, as I noted just after seeing it, it is an entertaining film, and an acceptable, though not incredible, end to the Skywalker saga. But it’s definitely the weakest of the three new films (with The Last Jedi being the strongest).

Well, now. That was definitely a movie!

Spoiler-free mini-review: It’ll do as an acceptable end to the Skywalker saga (and rather amusingly, you really don’t need the prequels at all; this could easily be a six-movie story), but also the weakest of the latter three films. 🎬

An Alarmingly Deep Dive Into the Science of Baby Yoda: “But whether the Yoda is Baby Yoda’s true daddy isn’t what fascinates us every time we tune into The Mandalorian. What keeps us coming back for more is trying to figure out what in the actual hell Baby Yoda is supposed to be. […] We have more questions than The Mandalorian will likely ever get around to answering. But sometimes it’s the mysteries, the dots that don’t quite connect no matter how many biologists you ask, that make the Star Wars universe so enduringly fascinating.”

There are no humans in Star Wars.

This should be obvious from the title card. We’re a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Human beings evolved on this planet, Sol 3, over the last sixty million years or so depending on how you count. If we don’t want to go all “Chariots of the Gods?” we have to throw out the notion that the people represented by human actors in Star Wars movies are in fact human. They’re something else.

Why represent them as human? Let’s assume that the Star Wars movies are dramatizations of real history: that Luke, Leia, Han et. al. actually existed in a galaxy long, long ago (etc.), and that George Lucas accessed this history via the Force and wanted to represent it on film. Star Wars tells the story of a dominant-species empire arising from a pluralistic society, then being overthrown by courageous rebels and warrior monks. Lucas had to cast this drama with human actors, and the obvious choice was to use unmodified humans to represent the most common species.

While convenient, this approach does present one problem: watching the Original Trilogy, we assume that the ‘humans’ of the GFFA (Galaxy Far Far Away) are biologically and sociologically identical to Sol 3 humans. When obviously they’re not! In fact, I think a few important context clues present a very different picture of the dominant race of the Original Trilogy.

Read the rest of Max Gladstone’s theory for what he thinks is the most likely answer. From 2013, but I just came across this link today.

Baby Yoda Has Conquered the World: “‘I had a day with one of the weirdest moments I’ve ever had directing,’ [Director Deborah Chow] told Vanity Fair. ‘I was directing Werner with the puppet, and Werner had just fallen in love with the baby. Werner, I think, had forgotten it wasn’t actually a live creature, and started sort of…directing the baby.…. Werner is talking to the baby as if it was a real thing. And I’m trying to direct Werner,’ Chow said. ‘And I’m just like, How did I get here? How did my life end up like this?’”