Star Wars: Thrawn – A Great Beginning To A Classic Character

This week I decided to focus on the another inclusion from the Star Wars Universe, the novel Thrawn by Timothy Zahn. The character of Thrawn was introduced by Zahn in the original Expanded Universe of Star Wars, now labelled Legends under Disney purchase. Thrawn is the by far the greatest admiral that the Empire had during the prosperity and fall of the Empire, and many years after. He was a tactical genius, brilliant commander and victorious in every task he took on. While Thrawn was considered to be one of the most liked characters introduced in the original Expanded Universe, his omission by Disney was a stab in the heart of many fans. Disney has been expanding their universe to include much of the Legends content into main canon continuity. Thrawn by Timothy Zahn is just the first novel in a probable trilogy, with the next installment Thrawn: Alliances coming out later this year.

Thrawn Alliances

Thrawn was released on April 11, 2017 and quickly garnered a positive review by both fans and critics.

*This review will be spoiler free*

SETTING

Thrawn begins during the prosperity of the Galactic Empire.  The rebels have begun trying to infiltrate the Empire to learn their secrets, but have not been effectively amalgamated into the official “Rebellion” as seen in Star War Episode IV: A New Hope. As it stands each individual rebel cell is vexing various commanders and their fleets throughout Empire controlled space and some of the Outer Systems. While the Empire is prospering so is their Xenophobia. Most systems are inhabited by more than just humans, but the upper command and echelon of the Imperial Navy is strictly humans.

Pryce Mining Company on Lothal is one of the premiere companies on the small industrial planet. When a new Doonium vein is discovered, the Empire makes political moves to remove the Pryce family from their controlling interests in the company, making an enemy of the heir to the company.

With the new special project taking up all the resources of the Empire to construct; Senators, Moffs and Governors alike are all scrambling to see who knows what and who can be removed from their quests for power.

PLOT

The story begins with a small Imperial Scouting party to an uncharted world in the “Wild Space” section of the galaxy. Cadet Eli Vanto and the other members of the scouting party find a camp which shows signs of habitation. With several crates marked with an unknown language that is only familiar to those on the border of Wild Space, Vanto is brought up to translate. A mysterious assailant attacks the party and claims the lives of 5 stormtroopers. When the assailant stows away on the landing craft as is taken back to the Destroyer, he surrenders and is interrogated by officers with Vanto for translation. The assailant is revealed as a Chiss by the name of Mitth’raw’nuruodo, though he says the humans may refer to him as Thrawn. When Thrawn, a alien Chiss, is fast tracked into command in the Imperial Navy, he becomes a likely target of hate and resentment from many of his colleagues.

Thrawn military

Arihnda Pryce is caught between a rock and a hard place, either agree to the takeover by the Empire of her family’s mining company or be thrown in jail for treason. She doesn’t take this lying down and journeys to Coruscant to begin a career in political espionage and blackmail.

Doonium is being bought up left right and center by subsidiaries of the Empire for a “Special Project” that is unknown to most of the population. Being the most precious metal in the galaxy, curiosities become piqued inciting full investigations from several individuals both high ranking and not.

 

CHARACTERS

Mitth’raw’nuruodo “Thrawn” – A Chiss exiled from the Chiss Ascendancy and marooned on a planet in Wild Space. He is a brilliant tactician and strategist but completely inept in the political machinations of the Imperial Navy. He believes that in order to defeat an enemy you must first understand an enemy, which leads him to research a culture before coming into contact with them. When we first meet Thrawn he only knows basic words and phrases in the Galactic Standard “Basic”; he is fluent in Sy Bisti which is a wild space vernacular known to Ensign Eli Vanto due to him being from a system bordering wild space. He requests Vanto be assigned to him as translator and aide to assist him in his career with the Empire.

Eli Vanto – Ensign assigned the be Thrawn’s personal aide and translator. Was content with his career path to be come a supplies officer at a base near his home planet. With the arrival of Thrawn, his career path has taken a detour into left field. He resents the Chiss for being able to control his career, but admires him for his tactical brilliance and strategic awareness in battle. Acting as both aide and social instructor, Eli is unsure of his future, but knows it is tied to the Chiss officer.

Arihnda Pryce – The only daughter of the CEO of Pryce Mining on Lothal. Ruthless and fiercely loyal to her family and its history. When ousted from her home she sets her sight on the seat at the top making decisions for her whole system. Moving to center of power she begins her political career with nothing to her name and even less knowledge of the inner workings of the political landscape of Coruscant. Determined not to lose sight of her goal she begins a game of cat and mouse where all the cats are bigger and fiercer than she is.

Nightswan – The Moby Dick to Thrawn’s Captain Ahab. A cunning and strategic freelance criminal that will work for whoever pays them enough. With a penchant for organizing schemes of unique style, Thrawn is drawn to solving who this mystery person is and bringing them and their whole network down.

Colonel Yularen – Colonel of the ISB which investigates the senate and any illegal dealings associated with it. Efficient and thorough he becomes an ally of both Thrawn and Pryce as their paths eventually cross.

ISB_Squad_TCG-1

Notable Cameos – Emperor Sheev Palpatine “Darth Sidious”, Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, Darth Vader

WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD?

Speaking as someone who never really dove too much into the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, this book is a great starting point. It’s filled with lots of new locations and characters while still keeping it rooted in canon with familiar faces. The chapters all begin with excerpts from Thrawn’s personal journal in which he discusses various topics ranging from leadership to camaraderie and strategy.  I don’t want to speak too much about the chapters for fear of revealing something spoilerific, just know that at the end of the book all the chapter introductions come together in the epilogue.

Thrawn Legends

The entire story has an air of mystery as well with Thrawn trying to figure out who the Nightswan is and where the resources of the Empire are being diverted to. With the book taking place roughly  20-2 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), any person familiar with Episode IV: A New Hope is able to ascertain where the resources are being routed; however, it also adds an air of suspense as the characters figure it out for themselves.

As a whole I would rate the book to be a solid 7.5/10 it’s far from perfect, with some chapters really dragging on and some characters really serving no purpose, but overall a very enjoyable read. As I said before, it’s a great book for any Star Wars fan and if you were a fan of Thrawn before this is quite a poignant starting point for the character.

 

*This spoiler free review has been created with Barb Cottle in mind. May I never spoil anything nerdy for her ever again.*

Advertisements

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Bad but not Unwatchable

THIS ARTICLE WILL CONTAIN MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE LAST JEDI. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE LAST JEDI DO NOT READ THIS ARTICLE.

 

I, like many others, went and saw the newest addition to the Star Wars universe this past weekend with the release of the Last Jedi. I went with a group of friends that hit almost every demographic; we had the old guard who grew up with Star Wars, the young crew who started with episode VII, and my crew, who grew up with the prequel trilogy. I went into the movie with hopes in my head and can honestly say I was disappointed with the way the movie played out. I’m not saying that it was a terrible movie, but there are some major inconsistencies between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

Last week I made some predictions for how the movie would go and what would happen, I was wrong. I’m not bitter that I was wrong, I don’t mind. The fact that the movie wasn’t predictable is a good thing, but I still have issues with it.

Let’s dive right in and discuss the glaring issues with this movie…

FirstOrderDreadnought

#1 – The dreadnought and bomber fiasco

The movie starts off well enough with some banter and Poe being a badass pilot. But let’s look at what happens next. Poe takes out the defense canons on the dreadnought in like 30 seconds. Not mad about that, what I am mad about is the bombers. Throughout the entire saga of Star Wars the resistance has Y-wing bombers. That was literally why they were made, to bomb ships and imperial bases. They weren’t as fast as X-wings or A-wings, but they could clip along at a fair speed. So why the hell does the resistance all of a sudden have these bombers that move slower than a 90 year old grandma in a motorized scooter? The bombing bays of these ships open directly to the vacuum of space, which is why all the pilots are wearing breathing masks. When the one bomber is left and is making the final approach, the bay doors are open but the pilot doesn’t have a mask on and is able to breathe? For that matter how can one bomber destroy a dreadnought? Like how does that make sense?

#2 – Hux’s stupid plan to slowly pursue the Resistance

Who the hell gave this idiot command of the First Order? Little tip for you folks… when you have overwhelming force and can snuff out your enemy in one move, you do it. You don’t slowly pursue them giving them time to come up with a plan to get away from you… or destroy your ship.

#3 – The destruction of the bridge and Leia’s powers

I get it, Leia is force sensitive. You will not get an argument from me on that; however, when someone is blasted out of the bridge and into the vacuum of space, they die. They do not float there for a minute and then snap their hand up and witch their way back into the blown out bridge. That was probably what started me getting disappointed in the movie and that was within the first 15 minutes. That scene would’ve been a perfect way to write Carrie Fisher out of the series and it would’ve been a good death for her character. If I’m being honest too it would serve as a great rallying cry and driving force for the Resistance.

#4 – Canto Bight

This planet was the most colossal waste of time. Like seriously. The fact that Benicio Del Toro was working for the First Order all along just to betray Finn and Rose? Come up with something better. Not only that but Rose fixes pipes in the Resistance Cruiser, how the hell does she know how to fly a ship? The stampede of the horse/rabbit things was not needed and neither was the gremlin treating BB-8 like a vending machine, or BB-8 then using the coins as bullets to knock out the guards.

Luke and Rey

#5- Luke and Rey

Honestly, I don’t have anything to complain about with this. I think his reluctance to train her after the tragedy of his first temple is understandable. Her progression through the training was logical and followed the same path as Luke’s in Empire.

#6 – Kylo and Rey

The whole middle of the movie centers around a connection between Kylo Ren and Rey. They have telepathic conversations across the galaxy about their places in the world. There is one scene where they are actually seen sitting in the same hut and touching hands before Luke arrives and blows the hut apart with the force shouting “NO!”. It’s revealed that Snoke was the one who caused this mind link in order to turn Rey to the dark side. I get the whole thing about them being connected, they are the main characters after all, but the scene with Adam Driver shirtless and covered in baby oil was unnecessary. It was just awkward for a Star Wars movie.

#7 – Force holograms

This was a HUGE issue amongst myself and the people I saw the movie with. Since when the hell can a force user create a functioning corporeal hologram of themselves and other devices clean across the galaxy? Kylo does it with Rey in the hut, and Luke does it later on with not only himself but the golden dice that he took from the Millennium Falcon. How do I know it’s corporeal? Well his hologram is able to stop a lightsaber strike and the golden dice are able to be picked up and touched by both Leia and Kylo before dissolving into nothingness. I’m all for expanding on powers already there, but giving them random ass powers as a plot device is just ridiculous.

#8 – Snoke’s death

This had to have been the biggest waste in all of Star Wars after killing Darth Maul right away. Snoke was made out to be some big important leader and founder of the First Order. Not only did he found the First Order but he is also very skilled in the Dark Side of the Force. His Sith lightening ability, his ability to manipulate people as well as his ability to link people’s minds through the force are proof of this.  We never got to find out who Snoke is… and that is a glaring plot hole. Let me explain… we know there can only be two Sith at any one time, the Rule of Two was introduced by Darth Bane thousands of years ago. The last two remaining Sith were Palpatine and Vader. Both of which are dead. So… WHO IS SNOKE?! For someone to be as skilled in the Dark side of the force like he is he had to have training. With the last Sith having been destroyed in Return of the Jedi, who is he?

Finn-Captain-Phasma-Duel

#9 – Captain Phasma’s death

This one is a particularly sore spot for me because I really liked the character of Phasma. She was the first female stormtrooper and she was their leader. Not only was she their leader but with her tall stature and chrome armour she was a very imposing figure on the battlefield. Gwendoline Christie is a very great actress and I think she was robbed of her time by Disney. So let’s break this down… badass storm trooper with hundreds if not thousands of loyal soldiers at her back against a defected janitor and a ship mechanic… and who wins? THE GODDAMN JANITOR!!!! Like are you kidding me?! She easily could have mopped the floor with both of them and she should have but because a bad guy can never win in a Disney movie, the janitor smashes her across the face before she is dropped into a fiery chasm of death. The argument could be made that “Well you don’t see a body so she could be alive”… no. Disney has a habit of dropping their villains to their death. Look at all of the classic Disney movies, almost all of them have the villain die from falling to their death. I am hoping that she might find a way back in episode IX but I’m not going to hold my breath.

#10 – Admiral Holdo’s death/sacrifice

I’ll admit I was not the biggest fan of Admiral Holdo for most of the film, but that was the intended purpose, right? I get she had an ulterior motive and didn’t want Poe to muck things up, but she could’ve explained to him what she was doing and maybe he wouldn’t have performed a mutiny. All that aside though, what was with her death? Like honestly, you’re telling me that they don’t have auto-pilot in the Star Wars universe? They have tanks that can heal your wounds and ships that can travel faster than light but they don’t have an auto pilot? That being said her sacrifice by ramming their cruiser straight through Snoke’s ship will probably go down as the most badass death in Star Wars history.

#11 – Rey and Kylo fight side by side, the offer

This was one of only two saving graces in the movie for me. It really showed how awesome and unstoppable they are when they work together and it made me happy to see them fight side by side.

I predicted that they would break the mold and go with a grey jedi approach and I’m not going to lie, I’m sad they didn’t. But myself, and the group I saw the movie with, all agree that it would’ve been a better twist to have Rey accept Kylo as her teacher and then slowly work to bring him back to the light. It would’ve brought an interesting dynamic of Rey tapping into the dark side but not letting it consume her.

#12 – Snoke Couldn’t see the betrayal coming?

Snoke Claims to be master of Kylo and able to see the future of things and see into Kylo’s soul and know he is 100% committed to the dark side. How could he not see Kylo’s betrayal coming? How could he not feel Kylo turning the lightsaber? Why did he not stop it? This movie raised more questions than it answered…

Gorilla Walker

#13 – The unnecessary laser battering ram

So with the final assault on Crait, the First Order deployed their Gorilla walkers (AT-M6 for the hardcore fans), basically they’re just modified AT-ATs. But they dropped at least 7 of them. Now the walkers served no purpose but to stop the Resistance from destroying their laser battering ram, but here’s the thing… why did they need the laser battering ram? In Empire Strikes Back, two walkers were enough to destroy the rebel Base on Hoth even with their blast doors shut. This base on Crait is from the era of the Rebellion so it would stand to assume the blast doors are the same type that were on Hoth. So why not just use the mobile walkers to destroy the base instead of bringing down a giant laser battering ram and having the walkers do nothing but stand there?

#14 – Rose and Finn

For the most of the movie I didn’t mind the pair up of Finn and Rose, until they got to Canto Bight and until the battle of Crait. When Finn is preparing to make the suicide run on the battering ram so they can escape, Rose crashes her ship into his to stop him and then kisses him before passing out in the wreckage. this was another great moment for an unconventional plot twist by allowing Finn to sacrifice himself. Then Rose, who was enamored with Finn could use that as her driving force to become a major player in the resistance. But no. Disney had to interfere and make him survive even though all his character growth happened by the end of the first film. Not only did his botched sacrifice irk me, but then he dragged Rose on a makeshift stretcher for the entire length of the battlefield when they crashed right in front of the First Order. You’re telling me he dragged her several kilometers without getting apprehended or shot by the First Order? Come on…

#15 – Force ghost Yoda can control the weather/missing ghosts

Don’t get me wrong I love me some Yoda, and the fact that they went with the classic puppet version is okay in my books. What I’m not okay with is that somehow this Yoda force ghost can control the damn weather? He is dead. He doesn’t have any powers. He is able to manifest as a projection because of his training and dedication. If Force Ghosts are able to control things then why doesn’t everyone come back as one and they would essentially have an undead unbeatable army. While I did like Yoda I felt personally that it would’ve been more in line with the classic trilogy for the force ghost to have been Obi Wan in stead of Yoda. Yes, Yoda trained him but Obi wan was his guiding force for the entire trilogy. Not only that, but where are the others? At the end of Return of the Jedi, Yoda is accompanied by Obi Wan, and Anakin. So where are they? Surely Anakin could’ve appeared to Kylo and told him “Don’t go down this road Ben, it won’t end well… I would know”.

KyloRen

#16 – Kylo and Luke’s showdown

I’ve already talked about the force holograms and how absurd they are, but this showdown was actually the second of the saving graces of the movie. It was a call back to the showdown in A New Hope, when Obi Wan took on Vader to buy Luke and the others time to escape. The dialogue between Kylo and Luke is good, could’ve been better, but it was good. The biggest clue though that it was a sham,was the blue lightsaber and almost everyone in the theatre picked up on it. Anyone who watched the movie knew something was up when he pulled out the blue lightsaber. In the flashback sequences earlier in the movie and in Return of the Jedi, Luke has a green lightsaber, so why give him  a blue one showing everybody in the audience that this wasn’t the real Luke? It would’ve been a much better end to the character to have him legitimately sacrifice himself to fight Kylo and give the others time to escape.

star-wars-the-last-jedi

So, with all those things in mind I will say this, I didn’t hate the movie. I was not as harsh as my viewing compatriots were. They were spouting hate for it up until about 4am after seeing it. I will admit I grew up with the prequel trilogy. I had watched the originals before seeing the Phantom Menace, but I still do enjoy the prequel trilogy. Do I recognize what is wrong with them and why they are considered bad movies? Absolutely. At the same time though, I still like them. I like them for the story they tell (albeit a little wonky), and for the characters contained within. It’s the same reason I can look past the issue with Justice League, or Ghost Rider, or Batman; I have a love of the characters and that is what keeps me liking those movies even with all their flaws.

One of the main issues with this Star Wars for me was that they killed off all the old characters that should’ve stayed and kept the ones that shouldn’t. Leia should not have made it through this movie, and neither should Chewbacca. Leia for obvious reasons due to Carrie Fisher having died; however, Chewbacca for the purpose that, he watched his best friend of over 30 years get murdered by a boy he probably helped raise. Yet, Chewie remains loyal to Rey, a girl he has known for a total of about 2 days?

The timeline for this movie also doesn’t make sense. When the movie starts we are told the Resistance has enough fuel for 18 hours. Great, nothing wrong with that. But then we are shown Rey handing Luke his lightsaber and beginning her training which takes place over several days on Ach To. Obviously the planet could have a different length of day than what is going on for the rest of the Resistance. But this movie picks up almost immediately after the events in Force Awakens. Assuming everything was happening in real time that would mean that Starkiller base had literally just been destroyed and Han had just died, but nobody seems to notice or care? We get one mention of Han’s passing and that’s where Luke asks Chewie and Rey where Han is.

JJ Abrams brought a new fresh take on the Star Wars universe with the Force Awakens and he set up a lot of building blocks for the future of the trilogy. I found that while Rian Johnson made a very visually appealing movie it lacked all the substance that made the original trilogy great. It went for more stunning visuals than character development which works for younger audiences, but most older viewers want some character development. It seemed as though Johnson had looked at all the buildings blocks set up from the Force Awakens, picked the three he liked and discarded the rest. That is the biggest issue with this for me. I wouldn’t have cared if they had killed Snoke just as long as we got some bit of his backstory. Continuity is something that needs to be heavily taken into account when making a trilogy. I just felt this movie lacked in continuity and when for visual flair.

This can obviously be attributed to having two different directors making the trilogy. If you look at most of the successful trilogies they all have one director: Peter Jackson for the Lord of the Rings, Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight trilogy, the Wakowskis with The Matrix, and Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather. All of those trilogies are regarded as some of the best trilogies ever made and they were all directed by a singular person/team. When you have one director take what another did and try to expand on it, the flow doesn’t work and you end up with a big mess.

I would rate the movie a solid 3.5/10 for all the issues listed and the continuity errors. I don’t think it should be removed from canon like some hardcore fans seem to think, but it should definitely not be called “The best Star Wars since Empire” or “The best Star Wars film period”. I have respect for Rian Johnson and his other work and think he is a great director he was just caught in a Catch-22; no matter what he did someone was going to be unhappy. I am excited to see what Rian can do when he gets to create an entire original trilogy from scratch, I think that will be something to see, but this movie just didn’t capture the essence of Star wars.