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Film Codex

Box Office Report: Weekend of 5/14 – ‘Spiral’ Tops ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’

By @HolocronJosh for @FilmCodex

The latest in the Saw franchise, Spiral, opened to relatively strong numbers at this weekend’s box office. Over the three day weekend, Spiral grossed $8.7 million from 2,811 theaters. This is a solid number given the relatively low budget of the film and the fact that roughly 45% of domestic theaters remain closed. Many of the ones that are open are still holding to capacity restrictions which are sure to have an impact on overall gross.

Internationally, the film earned another $3.3 million from 16 foreign markets. Boasting star power in the form of Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson is sure to have helped its performance both domestically and abroad as well.

As we wrote in our review of the film, “it’s difficult to fault Spiral too much given that, perhaps, it falls victim to expectations of something more novel and distinct than it ultimately ended up being. It’s a shame that the film falls flat in exploring more nuanced themes and carving out its own unique sect of the Saw franchise. Nonetheless, Spiral is an incredibly entertaining film elevated by polished production design, cinematography, and trap sequences, with some unique casting choices that are bound to intrigue fans.”

Wrath of Man continued its theatrical run as well this weekend, bringing in another $3.7 million from 3,007 theaters, taking second spot at the domestic box office. The Jason Statham led thriller opened last weekend to relatively strong numbers and somewhat positive reviews.

Another new release this weekend was Those Who Wish Me Dead, starring Angelina Jolie and Jon Bernthal from director Taylor Sheridan. From Warner Bros, this film was released in a hybrid model with HBO Max, the latest to do so after Godzilla vs Kong, Mortal Kombat, and others. Jolie’s latest film didn’t take the box office by storm (by pandemic standards) as those others did, however, bringing in just $2.8 million domestically and $2.7 million internationally. These aren’t great numbers, even by pandemic standards, but it’s important to keep the current global situation in mind and not judge too harshly.

Also released in select theaters this week was Zack Snyder’s latest film, Army of the Dead, which debuts on Netflix next Friday. At around 400 theaters, the film is estimated to have brought in $800,000-$900,000, though the exact number is hard to discern given Netflix’s secrecy over official box office totals.

Stay tuned to Film Codex for more reviews, news, and next week’s box office totals!

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 3

by @HolocronJosh and @HolocronJulie for @sw_holocron

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 3 – Replacements

Clone Force 99 returns for the third episode of their Disney+ series, a dark and yet somewhat conventional installment titled Replacements. The episode sees the Bad Batch attempting to repair their ship after crash landing on a dangerous and desolate moon. Meanwhile, Crosshair and the Empire’s first elite squad go on a mission to eliminate Saw Gerrera.

Replacements adopts a different structure from The Bad Batch’s initial episodes by dividing its attention between two narratives. The adventure of Clone Force 99 largely feels like a detour from the central narrative, something Star Wars series like Rebels and The Mandalorian excelled with. And, inevitably, the results vary when the central narrative takes a backseat in favor of a more standalone adventure. The Bad Batch’s plot line in this episode is serviceable, but doesn’t really make a significant emotional or narrative impact. These parts of the episode are certainly watchable and entertaining; they’re just not particularly engaging or captivating. This focus of the episode largely plays like Han, Leia, and company’s detour amidst the Hoth asteroid belt in The Empire Strikes Back. It’s not a particularly suspenseful plot, although there’s definitely intrigue regarding Wrecker’s mysterious ‘headache’ and Omega getting her own room at the end was very touching.

The focus on Crosshair, however, was the most captivating aspect of Replacements. It’s interesting to see the behind-the-scenes mechanics of the Empire as officials like Tarkin and Rampart navigate the necessity of Clones and the usage of alternative soldiers in this new era. This provides added relevance to The Bad Batch in offering insights into this era that further builds out canon. And it’s with this part of the episode that Star Wars animation delves into some of its darkest territory yet. The mission Crosshair and his new squad (like a Badder Batch) go on sees the crew mercilessly slaughter civilians. This definitely went into darker territory than expected heading into this episode, but it was effective in highlighting how the inhibitor chips corrupted good men and just how evil the Empire really is. The positioning of Crosshair as the series’ villain was startling and poignant, and this journey continues in episode 3 and is one of the most intriguing elements of the series moving forward.

The Bad Batch continues to impress with outstanding visuals and voice work. Director Nathaniel Villanueva and the entire animation team keep pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved in this medium of Star Wars content. The landscapes and characters are breathtaking and really add a cinematic quality to the episode. As does Dee Bradley Baker, whose performances as the various clones continues to be the backbone of the series. It’s easy to watch an episode like Replacements and get lost in the plot or the action, but Baker’s performances warrant immense praise. It continues to be amazing to see a series like this showcase his brilliant talents.

Verdict: 7/10

After an outstanding first two episodes, The Bad Batch continues with an entertaining, yet somewhat uncaptivating installment that delves into unexpectedly dark territory. Moments of intrigue, such as Wrecker’s potential susceptibility and Crosshair’s transformation, and emotion, such as the growing bond Omega has with the Bad Batch, offset an otherwise conventional episode. 

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm

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Horror Necronomicon

REVIEW: Spiral

by @holocronGeorge for @horrornecronom

Ever since there were initial rumblings of a Chris Rock-driven Saw film, Spiral has easily been one of the most intriguing horror films on the horizon. Now that the film has finally been released (after several date shifts due to COVID-19), it’s unfortunate that Spiral ultimately fails to live up to its potential as a unique, timely installment in the long-standing horror franchise, despite being a serviceable and entertaining reentry into the series.

The ninth installment of the franchise sees director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV) renter the fold with James Wan and Leigh Whannel returning as executive producers. Spiral follows Detective Zeke Banks, played by Chris Rock, as he and his rookie partner investigate a series of grisly murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s dark past and loop in Zeke’s father Marcus, played by Samuel L. Jackson.

Ultimately, Spiral is more of a continuation than a reinvention. The Saw franchise dominated for much of the early 2000s, but eventually fizzled out with uninspired sequels of dwindling quality. Spiral was billed and heavily marketed as a novel take on the Saw franchise, forging a pathway to take the series into a unique future. The focus on corrupt police officers evidenced in promotional material seemed particularly timely and something ripe for exploration in a post-Get Out landscape of horror films. However, it’s not that the film fails to reinvent the franchise and explore more nuanced themes – it simply doesn’t try. The budget is notably higher, the production design is more refined, and the cinematography is spectacular, but, aesthetic differences aside, Spiral feels more like a Saw X than it’s own thing. This is likely to please hardcore fans of the franchise yearning for customary suspense and deadly traps. Otherwise, fans hoping for a little more will likely leave the theater somewhat disappointed.

Another unique element of Spiral is its casting choices of Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson as the leads. It’s difficult to pin down whether this is a fault in the writing, directing, or acting, but Rock seems somewhat miscast in the film. This is particularly evident in the earlier parts of the movie as we grow accustomed to his role in the franchise, such that by the end of the film we’re comfortable with him in the role. Samuel L. Jackson, meanwhile, is fantastic again as – well – Samuel L. Jackson. He adds a much needed sense of gravitas and humor to the movie, albeit with relatively little screen time.

This isn’t to say, however, that Spiral is unwatchable. In fact, Spiral is an incredibly entertaining and thrilling film. The movie is a tight 93 minutes and flies along at a brisk pace. Sometimes, it would’ve been nice for a bit of breathing room between sequences of great intensity, but, nonetheless, the film is unlikely to bore or lose the attention of any viewers. The traps are captivating, the quick-cut and flashy editing has returned, and Spiral features many of the brilliant twists and turns we’ve grown to love in the Saw franchise that keep you guessing to the end.

Verdict: 6/10

It’s difficult to fault Spiral too much given that, perhaps, it falls victim to expectations of something more novel and distinct than it ultimately ended up being. It’s a shame that the film falls flat in exploring more nuanced themes and carving out its own unique sect of the Saw franchise. Nonetheless, Spiral is an incredibly entertaining film elevated by polished production design, cinematography, and trap sequences, with some unique casting choices that are bound to intrigue fans.

Images courtesy of Lionsgate

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Star Wars Holocron

Star Wars Celebration Anaheim Dates Moved Up to May 26-29, 2022

By @HolocronJosh for @sw_holocron

Star Wars Celebration Anaheim will arrive sooner than expected. Previously slated for August 18-21, 2022, the new dates have the convention set for May 26-29, 2022.

Celebration Anaheim was originally scheduled for August of 2020, yet was pushed back considerably due to the pandemic. Now, fans can look forward to the convention returning next year in a little over 12 months from now.

Those who purchased tickets to the 2020 event who still want to attend will have their tickets automatically transferred to the 2022 convention. Fans also have the option of a refund if they wish, which must be submitted on or before June 11, 2021.

Star Wars Celebration Anaheim is set to be a remarkable event, and one in which fans can finally return to rave about their favorite franchise in person and safely.

Last time out in 2019, we got our first look at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, including the epic trailer, title reveal, and, of course, the announcement of Emperor Palpatine’s return. We also saw a brief glimpse at The Mandalorian, as well as many interesting panels from those in a galaxy far, far away. With so much on the upcoming Star Wars slate, including Andor, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and The Mandalorian season 3, next year’s Celebration will surely be full of announcements and surprises.

Images courtesy of Disney and Lucasfilm

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Star Wars Holocron

Could The Mandalorian Crossover Be an Heir to the Empire Adaptation?

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

It’s incredible to think that this month marks the 30th anniversary of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire. A quote from Dave Filoni perhaps best encapsulates what Heir to the Empire meant to Star Wars fans when it was released in May 1991. 

Filoni once said, “You couldn’t have grown up a Star Wars fan without encountering Thrawn in Heir to the Empire. It was a dark time when there weren’t any movies, and it blew our minds that there could be more.” 

But, now, three decades after its release, the legacy of Zahn’s novel still lives on. So much so, in fact, that we have a theory as to how the upcoming crossover event in The Mandalorian will be an Heir to the Empire adaptation.

For those not as familiar with Heir to the Empire, the novel is Legends or Expanded Universe content now. It was set five years after Return of the Jedi and the fall of the Empire, and is well known for introducing some fan favorite characters, including Mara Jade and, of course, Grand Admiral Thrawn. 

Essentially, the story looks at the aftermath of the Empire’s fall. We see Han and Leia married as they navigate the politics of the New Republic. And we see Luke Skywalker taking the mantle of the leader of a burgeoning Jedi Order. It’s what’s happening on the outer edges of the galaxy, however, where the plot really kicks into gear. 

One of the Emperor’s last warlords – Thrawn – develops a strategic plan to overthrow the New Republic and restore the Empire. With the help of his personal bodyguard Rukh and the mad clone of a dead Jedi master, Thrawn kicks off a chain of events that have dire consequences across the galaxy.

So, why do we think The Mandalorian may adapt Heir to the Empire in one way or another. If we take a step back, The Mandalorian has a lot of similarities with Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy already. Both tackle the aftermath of the Empire with a struggling New Republic and a relentless Empire that doesn’t want to seem to go away. There’s also quite a bit in the Thrawn trilogy involving the underworld, gangster elements of the Star Wars universe, something that is core to the story of The Mandalorian.

It’s also interesting to look at the similar functions The Mandalorian and Heir to the Empire share with one another in the broader Star Wars universe. Both take place after Return of the Jedi and, largely, serve to bridge the gap between what came before and what’s to come. For The Mandalorian, as creator Jon Favreau has spoken of previously, this means connecting the original trilogy to the sequel trilogy, highlighting the origins of the First Order. For the Thrawn trilogy, we get the set up for the events that unfold in Dark Empire, the Second Galactic Civil War, the Yuuzhan Vong War, and much more.

Now, let’s take a step back to December 2020, when Kathleen Kennedy, during Lucasfilm’s Disney Investor Day Presentation, announced a slew of new Star Wars projects, including several Disney+ series. These included a new season of The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Rangers of the New Republic, and Ahsoka. Perhaps most interestingly though, Kennedy revealed that these series will crossover in an epic, interconnected event at some point. 

Immediately, this raises the question: what will this crossover event entail? Well we have several clues to suggest it may be something akin to Heir to the Empire. 

In Chapter 13: The Jedi, we find out that Ahsoka is hunting after Grand Admiral Thrawn. The last we saw Thrawn was in roughly 0 BBY, in the series finale of Rebels. Ezra and Thrawn are plummeted deep into hyperspace into the unknown. Then, five years later, we see Sabine and Ahsoka reunited on Lothal, presumably teaming up to find their mutual friend. 

But, the revelation in Chapter 13 makes it very clear: Thrawn is back, he’s still a threat, he seems to have quite a following, and Ahsoka is out to stop him and retrieve Ezra. 

With a crossover event incoming, there needs to be a threat notable enough to warrant all of these different shows and characters intersecting and Thrawn may well be that threat.

Now, I’m not saying The Mandalorian will straight up adapt Heir to the Empire. It’s unlikely Mara Jade is showing up anytime soon. The Thrawn trilogy sees Leia give birth to twins. But, nonetheless, the barebones of Heir to the Empire – Thrawn claiming the Katana Fleet and strategizing a master plan – seems more than feasible in the crossover event.

Also of note is the character Jorus C’baoth in Heir to the Empire. 

Jorus is a mad clone of a Jedi Master, who allies with Thrawn and attempts to turn Leia’s unborn twins and Luke to the dark side. It’s not entirely inconceivable that Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni find a way to make Ezra the Jorus C’baoth of canon. 

We know that Ezra is highly likely to appear in live-action, with Aladdin star Mena Massoud reportedly helming the role. And the last we heard of Ezra and Thrawn they were together. So, it’s possible that Ezra is somehow worked into this crossover event as a reluctant ally of Grand Admiral Thrawn, either a clone version of Ezra or some kind of mind-altered version of Ezra.

Nonetheless, it’s exciting to look back at Heir to the Empire and see its continued legacy to this day. Dave Filoni has intelligently incorporated elements of Legends throughout The Clone Wars, Rebels, and now The Mandalorian, so it’s possible he leans into EU content once again in crafting the upcoming crossover series, witn Jon Favreau in the driver’s seat.

Images courtesy of Disney and Lucasfilm

Categories
Film Codex

Box Office Report: Weekend of 5/7 – Wrath of Man Tops Box Office at the Start of the Summer Movie Season

By @HolocronJosh for @Film_Codex

Guy Ritchie’s latest film Wrath of Man, starring Jason Statham, topped the box office this weekend with a 3 day total of $8 million from 2,875 theaters. Overall, Ritchie’s film took in $25.6 million worldwide. This doesn’t include China, where it is set for release tomorrow (May 10). Wrath of Man earned an impressive A- CinemaScore.

These numbers are far from disappointment overall given the current situation with the pandemic, with many U.S. theaters still closed (but have been consistently reopening for months now) and Europe’s cinema remaining largely closed. There are also a series of capacity restrictions in place in the U.S. and around the world, meaning that each showing of any film will be impacted monetarily. Although not a normal start to the summer movie season, the fact that theaters are open and releasing new films is a good sign for things to come, especially as upcoming projects like Fast 9 and Black Widow remain on the horizon.

Elsewhere, Demon Slayer continued its strong run at the box office with a second place finish, taking in $3.05 million from 2,088 theaters to a domestic total of $39.6 million. Mortal Kombat is also still playing in theaters with its third weekend, earning $2.375 million to a domestic gross of $37.8 million. Godzilla vs Kong and Raya and the Last Dragon rounded out the top 5 with $1.93 million and $1.865 million respectively. Mortal Kombat, Godzilla vs Kong, and Raya were released simultaneously in theaters and on streaming services.

Internationally, Wrath of Man performed well with $18 million overall. It was two Chinese films that dominated the international scene this weekend, however, with Cliff Walkers and My Love adding to their already impressive totals. Cliff Walkers has currently earned $118.2 million, with My Love taking in $114 million.

Stay tuned to Film Codex for next week’s box office numbers!

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 2

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 2: Cut and Run

After a stellar pilot, Star Wars: The Bad Batch continues the momentum into its second episode with the unexpected appearance of an interesting character and a furthering of the father-daughter bond between Hunter and Omega. Episode 2, titled Cut and Run, sees Clone Force 99 continue their evasion of the newly-formed Galactic Empire by reuniting with an old friend on the planet Saleucami.

In its second episode, The Bad Batch largely leans into a number of motifs and themes explored in other Star Wars projects, while adding its own really interesting, unique layers. Cut and Run largely plays like Chapter 4: Sanctuary of The Mandalorian. Our central characters flee from Imperial forces to what appears to be a safe haven, where they rely on locals for safety. We’re treated to a number of callbacks from Cut Lawquane’s appearance in The Clone Wars (we’ll get to him in a second). Omega’s amazement at the greenery of Saleucami captured Rey’s childlike wonder after taking in the beauty of Takodana. And, perhaps most touching of all, the Hunter-Omega bond mirrors that of Mando and the Child in presenting a reluctant father figure taking care of a gifted, mysterious youngster. It’s this bond that appears to be the emotional backbone of The Bad Batch moving forward. Omega has an immediate, intangible connection to Clone Force 99, in particular Hunter. But, Hunter, being a renegade Clone on the run from the most powerful entity in the galaxy, wants to protect Omega and thinks she would be better off with Cut and his family. The parallels between this and The Mandalorian are striking and perhaps some may find the two projects to be a little too similar, but, at least for the time being, their burgeoning relationship is really captivating.

Also captivating is Omega as a character herself. Her inclusion in the series, as evidenced by her role in Cut and Run, excels on a number of levels. Omega is somewhat of the audience’s entry point into the Bad Batch. This crew are hardened, experienced soldiers, each with their own unique abilities and personalities. They’re seasoned and products of war. Omega is not. Omega enters the scene with bright, curious eyes – she is taking in these new characters and this new world just like we are. In addition, Omega’s appearance in promotional material for the series led to much fan speculation and, after two episodes, much mystery still surrounds the new member of the Bad Batch. Star Wars always excels in presenting these mystery boxes to unfold, whether it be Rey’s parentage in the sequel trilogy or everything to do with Grogu in The Mandalorian. Omega adds a certain intrigue and gravity to The Bad Batch – this is not just a story of Clones post-Order 66, which would be incredibly interesting on its own. No, this is also a story that appears to have broader relevance with more wide-reaching implications than we realize yet.

One of the highlights of Cut and Run is the titular character, Cut, and how the Bad Batch’s interactions with his family provide insight into the quickly changing structure of the galaxy. The Skywalker saga films present really broad-based pictures of the most important events in the galaxy’s history, but it’s projects like The Bad Batch that really deepen the mythology and make the universe feel truly lived in. We don’t just see Order 66 happen in Revenge of the Sith and left to speculate what effect this had on the galaxy. Instead, we, along with Cut and the Bad Batch, are experiencing what it’s like to live amidst the beginning days of the Empire. 

Verdict: 9/10

Cut and Run continues the impressive start to Star Wars: The Bad Batch with an interesting detour that draws upon various elements through Star Wars lore. The episode excels in its depiction of the growing father-daughter bond between Hunter and Omega, while depicting what it’s like to experience the change from Republic to Imperial rule.

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 1

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

And, as the Clone Wars end, the era of the Empire (and the Bad Batch) begin. The newest Star Wars series finally hits Disney+ after months of anticipation and, thankfully, does not disappoint whatsoever. Viewers are treated to an epic and cinematic 70-minute premiere episode full of unexpected appearances and moments, unique character development, and an episode that brilliantly lays the foundation for what’s to come in Star Wars: The Bad Batch.

It’s hard not to associate The Bad Batch pilot with the words “epic” and “cinematic.” The extended length, jaw-droppingly detailed animation, and an unexpectedly deliberate pace makes the first episode of The Bad Batch feel more like a feature film than anything we’ve seen in Star Wars animation to date, with the exception of the Siege of Mandalore arc in season 7 of The Clone Wars. Every sequence is meticulously crafted top to bottom and every department is firing on all cylinders in this pilot. Kevin Kiner’s score adds a grand sense to the whole episode, evoking many of John Williams’ themes from the prequel trilogy, while also carving out a distinct tone for Clone Force 99. The dialogue from writers Jennifer Corbett and Matt Michnovetz perfectly suits the tone of the new series. And, of course, the animation is stunning to say the least. The episode feels like a Star Wars film given the extent to which our lead characters hop from planet to planet, each of which are beautifully animated and really come to life in this episode.

From a narrative perspective, The Bad Batch clearly forges its own tale moving forward, while honoring what came before it and the era it is situated in. The pilot very much feels like a sequel to The Clone Wars, but, as the minutes and scenes go by, it becomes increasingly clear this is its own show – this is The Bad Batch. One of the most interesting things about this pilot was how it explores what it’s like to be a Clone amidst the changing structure of the galaxy. We’ve seen projects like Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story highlight the efforts of rebels fighting to overthrow the tyrannous Empire in the years before the Battle of Yavin. And we’ve seen a lot to do with the seedy underbelly of the Star Wars galaxy during this era, perhaps most notably Solo: A Star Wars Story. But, The Bad Batch adds a different layer to this era that was perhaps the highlight of the series so far. What is it like for a Clone Trooper following Order 66? How do you adjust to the fact that your comrades, the Jedi, are all of a sudden gone? Do you adhere to the directions of a new government or do you follow your own moral backbone? All of these questions and more are intricately explored in The Bad Batch and make it stand out from other projects set during the Imperial Era.

The episode also excels in the extensive character development it’s able to achieve in its 70+ minute premiere. Clone Force 99 featured in four episodes of The Clone Wars’ final season, but they were largely servicing a broader narrative populated with established characters like Rex, Cody, and Anakin. Now, the Bad Batch truly take center stage. All of what we learned about this rag-tag crew from their arc in the Clone Wars is expanded on tenfold here. Yes, each character has their own, distinct abilities as a soldier, but they also have truly unique, idiosyncratic personalities that complement one another brilliantly. It’s a testament to the direction and writing of this pilot that we really get a solid feel for each of Clone Force 99, without a disproportionate focus on a single character. We intimately see and feel what it’s like for Hunter to lead his team amidst this changing galaxy and navigate his own morals and duty to the Empire. We see and feel what it’s like for Wrecker, who is naturally predisposed to destruction, but is confused by the state of things and always apt to unleash his inner child. The crew comes together brilliantly in this episode, in large part due to Dee Bradley Baker’s spectacular performances as the titular characters. Baker has been a staple in Star Wars for many years now, but The Bad Batch feels like the best opportunity yet for the talented voice-actor to get the much-deserved spotlight. Baker deftly transitions from character to character and really makes each member of Clone Force 99 feel like their own individuals. 

As all good pilots do, The Bad Batch sets up a number of interesting plot threads ripe for exploration in subsequent episodes. This is a spoiler-free review, so no worries if you haven’t had a chance to catch the episode yet, but let’s just say there’s more than a few appearances and plot choices that took me by surprise. Some of the most intriguing elements of this premiere pertain to Omega, the new character teased in promotional material. Her origins are unknown, as is her purpose on Kamino, but it’s certain that she will play a significant role in the series moving forward. Her inclusion definitely evokes elements of The Mandalorian in more ways than one. 

Verdict: 9.5/10

Star Wars: The Bad Batch kicks off with an epic and cinematic 70-minute premiere full of intrigue, suspense, and humor. Extremely polished and refined, the series feels like a sequel to The Clone Wars and features plenty of unexpected appearances and moments. It evokes some of the best elements of The Mandalorian and features a captivating opening act that ranks up there with some of the best Star Wars animation to date. A deliberate, slower pace allows for each of the titular crew to develop as unique characters, making us eagerly anticipate what’s to come for Clone Force 99.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm

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Star Wars Holocron

INTERVIEW: Dee Bradley Baker, Brad Rau, and Jennifer Corbett Talk The Bad Batch, Exploring Clones Post-Order 66, Omega, and More

by @holocronGeorge and @holocronJosh for @sw_holocron

The newest Star Wars series hits Disney+ this month with Star Wars: The Bad Batch, following the adventures of Clone Force 99 in a quickly changing galaxy. We recently had a chance to attend a press conference previewing the new series hosted by Ash Crossan of Entertainment Tonight with supervising director and executive producer Brad Rau, head writer and executive producer Jennifer Corbett, and the voice of the Bad Batch Dee Bradley Baker. Here are some of the highlights from the press event.

In providing an overview of the members of Clone Force 99, Dee Bradley Baker identified Wrecker as his favorite of the batch.

BAKER: It’s-it’s fun to be Wrecker, because he’s so honest and…so clear and funny. Uh, but I have great affection for all of them. They’re all very interesting fellows. Uh, but Wrecker’s-he’s probably the furthest away from me as-from all of them. [LAUGH] And, uh, and he’s great fun.

Brad Rau and Jennifer Corbett spoke about what it was like to collaborate with Dave Filoni on the series.

CORBETT: I got to work with Dave on Star Wars Resistance, which was such a great experience. And getting the chance to develop the series with him, uh, you know, it’s kinda like a master class in writing Star Wars? And he, you know, with this being a-a sequel series of sorts, to-to the Clone Wars, it was kind of crucial that-that he be, you know, involved in this process very much. Because these are characters that he’s created and it’s the world that he knows, but, um, every-every day, every script is, uh, is a learning experience.

RAU: Dave-he’s awesome. I’ve known Dave for a long time. Uh, when he was starting Clone Wars, I first met him up at-up at the ranch-Skywalker Ranch, and I happened to just be starting my own animation studio at that time. So I was unable to join the force of the Clone Wars. It was one of my regrets that I rectified later on in Rebels, to join as an episodic director. And then on Resistance. And he’s-he’s an awesome guy, a good friend. Really good, you know, I couldn’t think of a better mentor. Especially for Star Wars. The stuff he tells us every day, is-is fantastic. And amazing. And yeah, just-just collaborating with him and-and-and being able to work with you, Jen, so closely on this show’s been awesome. It’s been a dream come true.”

One of the things head writer and executive producer Jennifer Corbett found interesting about the show was the possibility of exploring the immediate aftermath of Order 66 from the perspective of Clone Troopers.

CORBETT: We’ve seen the Clone Wars where it’s the height of-of the Clone Troopers doing what they’re meant to do, and what they were created for. And you know, the question became, “What happens after the war is over? What happens to clones who all they know, um, is being soldiers?” Especially for the Bad Batch who do things differently as it is with the Republic and how they fit in once it becomes the Empire…it was interesting to just sort of talk about the transition from the Republic to the Empire and what that looks like, because it’s not-it’s not what we saw in the original trilogy, wh-where it’s the dominance of the Empire.

The team behind the Bad Batch spoke about similarities between their show and The Mandalorian, especially in relation to the mysterious new character Omega.

BAKER: It’s interesting, uh, in terms of the-of the story and the writing, to have this kind of personal relationship with the younger character. And to see how that-how that changes and how they accommodate that and how-how that works. Because it’s more of like an uncle/niece, or a father/child, uh, dynamic, but not entirely. Because Omega is her own interesting, um, uh, potential of-of powers. [LAUGH] Maybe. And, uh, and so it’s interesting to see all of that unfold. But it, I think, it connects you to-to the story in-in a personal way. So it’s not just an action story.

RAU: To have these clinical, best of the best soldiers as suddenly fish out of water in this changing galaxy, and to have this kid that they do, um, look to, to help raise in a very parental way. And-and it’s a two way street, honestly, the way-the way that that works, that none of them are really equipped to go out into the world. And how do they, you know, how do they eat? They don’t have a mess hall to go to. How do they get their gear fixed? How do they get fuel for their-for their ship? These are things that are, “Wait a minute, oh yeah, we didn’t-we didn’t have to deal with that la-last week, now we gotta deal with it.” Are all things we get into. It’s really interesting.

The Bad Batch also evokes Rogue One in being a story independent of Sith and Jedi and more focused on reluctant, rag-tag soldiers.

RAU: It is really interesting, kind of off of what we were just saying, to deal with this family dynamic. To have the stories be emotionally charged, and emotionally based gives, um, gives the action a lot-a lot more texture, honestly. ‘Cause I mean, we-let’s face it, we’re blowing stuff up and we’re, you know, [LAUGH] we’re having fun doing that but, to have the emotional, um, context of that is-is the challenge, I think, in any of these stories. And it-for us, I think, it helps that we are coming into characters that are familiar and yet, we don’t know that much about. And it gives us room to kind of play around with how those characters develop.

The team behind the scenes of The Bad Batch were impressed with the range and versatility of Dee Bradley Baker’s performances as the five titular characters.

CORBETT: It’s impressive to watch him do it in-in the room, because when we first started, I thought he was gonna go a character at a time. And just watching him like, act out a scene with himself, with all of these Clones. But and-but there’s no pause. He just goes right into it. And I-I was blown away. And each-each time we do one of these record sessions, I’m-I’m just amazed at Dee’s talent.

RAU: Same. Yeah, some-sometimes I accidentally say, “Okay, so Wrecker, oh wait, I mean, wait, Dee.” I’m losing my brain.

Corbett commented on how she drew on her experience in the United States Navy during the writing process of the series.

CORBETT: I understand [LAUGH] how, um, people in the military become like, brothers and sisters very closely when you’re sent on missions together. When you’re in close quarters and kinda the-the camaraderie and-and also the banter that comes with living with people, so closely, in high stress situations. So, I think, you know, that’s what I try to bring to it, is how-how this squad, even though they are these elite soldiers, they are this-this family. But they don’t have to agree all the time, and all the things. And all the different perspectives that each of them brings, because they’re all so very different. And, um, I think that speaks to, you know, the military. No one comes from the same background, everybody has their different reasons for doing what they’re doing. And, um, it is-it is a family dynamic in real life, so, yeah.

Hearing Dee Bradley Baker, Brad Rau, and Jennifer Corbett take a deep dive into their upcoming series was exciting to say the least. The Bad Batch appears to be yet another interesting installment in Star Wars canon, offering new insights into Clone Force 99 and their experiences in a galaxy post-Order 66.

Stay tuned to Star Wars Holocron for more coverage of Star Wars: The Bad Batch!

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm

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Star Wars Holocron

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Kevin Kiner Talks The Bad Batch Score, Influences on the New Show, His Time Working with Dave Filoni and George Lucas, and More

by @holocronGeorge and @holocronJosh for @sw_holocron

Kevin Kiner has been a familiar name to Star Wars for over a decade now, and his brilliant work in a galaxy far, far away continues with Star Wars: The Bad Batch. The composer of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels returns to the fold this month scoring the newest Star Wars show streaming on Disney+. We had a chance to speak with Kevin Kiner, who opened up about scoring The Bad Batch, his work in the Star Wars franchise, collaborating with Dave Filoni and George Lucas, musical influences, and more.

Kiner spoke of his long history with Clone Force 99 as he first composed the music for the animatic story reel, before scoring The Clone Wars season 7, but how he didn’t expect to be working with these characters for so long.

“No, I had no idea. The theme for Bad Batch was co-composed Sean and Dean [Kiner’s sons], and, you know, we wrote them for that episode before The Bad Batch came out in The Clone Wars. We had no idea they were going to be that big of a deal. Having said that, I’m really happy with that theme and it plays a large part in the show now.”

Similar to his work on The Clone Wars and Rebels, Kiner collaborated with his sons Sean and Dean on the score for The Bad Batch.

“We were worked all of season 7 of Clone Wars. Quite a lot of Rebels, almost all of Rebels I believe. You know you’d have to go back to season 6 or 5 of Clone Wars when I was not writing with my sons when they were still at university. It’s become kind of a team endeavor for five, six, years or whatever. It’s really fruitful. It keeps me fresh. It helps take a load off of me, because I’ve been doing this for 35 or 36 years. I’ve been doing Star Wars since ‘06 since I started with George and Dave when I first auditioned…’06 or ‘07, something like that. So that’s, you know, 14 years there.”

In terms of the process of composing the music for The Bad Batch, Kiner noted some minor logistical issues due to the pandemic, but, overall, noticed his work was not affected by the state of things.

“Film and television composers are kind of lone wolves out in our little cave. Composing is a bit of a solitary life. So, you know the pandemic didn’t really affect that at all. There were some logistical things that continue to be with orchestras. And we had a time where we went to Budapest, Hungary, and Prague when they were not having much problems there. So, we were able to record at times when we were completely locked down in the States…That’s just logistical. In terms of writing process, it’s not different at all.”

Unlike The Clone Wars, Kiner isn’t playing around with as many established characters with his work on The Bad Batch. Kiner spoke about what it was like composing music for a new series characterized by five central characters with five unique abilities and personalities.

“As always with Clone Wars, a lot of the great direction comes from the showrunners. Dave Filoni set up Clone Wars and he set up Bad Batch as well. One of the bits of direction he gave us, because he’s not really running that show anymore. One of the bits of direction he gave us was that the Bad batch are a group of misfits, sorta like the dirty dozen. So we went and watch dirty dozen and listened to the soundtrack. Guns of Navarone, another one called Kelly’s Heroes. So you’ll hear a harkening to a gang of misfits, they don’t really fit in, and yet they end up winning the day in a very unconventional way. Very similar to those great caper films and so that is an element you’ll hear in Bad Batch.”

Kiner also commented on what it was like to work on The Bad Batch with less direct involvement from Dave Filoni:

“Brad Rau is now the showrunner of Bad Batch. He’s really stepped into that job and we’re having a great collaboration with him too, super fun guy to work with. Really pays attention, knows what’s hes doing. Its amazing how Lucasfilm is able to find these people. I mean, I really feel like I was the right call for music and I try to live up with it everyday. And I know so many of the people I’m surrounded with were totally the right call. Look at Dave Filoni. George handpicked him. And it was pretty good choice [Laughs]. Everyone has their own personality and [way of] dealing with things, but, overall, it’s been seamless. And one of the cool things, Dave didn’t just say, “Bad Batch / Dirty Dozen! See you later!” He’s still involved, he still watches the show, he still listens to the things we’re doing and gives comments and stuff. And he’s doing this with Brad and Athena and all of the people involved, so it’s just been seamless…The transition has been seamless.”

In reflecting on his work in the Star Wars franchise, Kiner noted that it’s been one of the most demanding challenges of his career.

“It’s definitely the hardest gig I’ve ever had, on so many different levels. Filling John Wiliams’ shoes, which really is impossible, so I’ve never really filled his shoes. But I try not to wreck what he started. And I try to do it justice and I respect it. I’ve tried to, for instance, be really big on melody and he writes the greatest melodies ever for film, so there’s a huge challenge there. And his orchestral chops are insane. And I’m a rock and roll guitarist, I played in garage bands when I was kid since I was 10 years old. I was playing in bars way before it was legal for me to play in bars. There’s a different tradition that I come from. You know, I’ve educated myself on classical music. I continue to educate myself on classical music and study scores, study John Williams’ scores. And then the best I think is to study who he studied: Korngold, Stravinsky, all of the real greatest, Boulez. A lot of these fantastic composers and orchestrators and guys that came before. Star Wars is just in another league. It’s harder than anything for sure. It’s really rewarding, you know, once you’ve gotten through it. And the process is rewarding too. Because your brain doesn’t sit still.”

Throughout his work in Star Wars, Kiner has noticed it has become easier to strike a balance between honoring the work of John Williams and executing his own, unique style.

“I always…use this parallel, as a guitar player you’re starting to learn to solo and, as all of us guitar players, love to shred, right? That’s what we live for. So, maybe you copy a Jimi Hendrix solo or even a Joe Pass jazz solo or I copied the solo on Stairway to Heaven, Jimmy Cage. You don’t do that so you can play that solo over and over every night when you’re gonna play that song…The reason you learn that solo is so that it gets under your fingers, so when you do your own solo, some of those motions, whether it be physically or whether it be tonally or pneumatically, they’re kind of under your fingers, they become a little bit of you, they become an influence. But you don’t play them note for note, but now I can move in that direction if I want to. As much as I’ve studied John Williams, I don’t really worry about it. Some of his licks and stuff have gotten inside of me and I express them in my own way now. I’m not really concerned…I don’t think about it any longer. I used to think about it a lot, like I said it wasn’t a great strength of mine so I feel like I overcompensated for my lack of classical background for a long time.”

Beyond Star Wars, Kiner is proud of his other work in various different franchises.

“I had a great time doing the Bond games. I did Goldeneye and Bond Legends. That was really, really fun. It would be awesome to work on a Bond film or something like that. Everything I’m working on…I worked on Superboy in the 80s… so now here is Superboy and he shows up in Titans and it’s 30 years or something like that, it’s crazy. And I get to work with, here’s Batman, and Nighthawk and all of the different iterations and Robin. And Doom Patrol. I’ll tell you, I’m really most interested in the new stuff coming out. There’s a couple things I can’t really talk about, but when I see some of the new things coming across my desk I’m like ‘Wow, I can’t imagine enjoying something more than what I’m doing.’..Also, look at how good Clone Wars is. It’s such a great property…You could argue Clone Wars has done a tremendous amount for Star Wars as a franchise, I don’t even think that’s an argument – it’s a fact. To be involved in that is a complete dream. And to be involved with any kind of project that is really well respected. I’m working on this third season of Narcos Mexico. What a great show that is, the drama is fantastic. Really, really different score. It keeps me really fresh. And the style is very different.”

Following John Williams’ cameo appearance in The Rise of Skywalker, Kiner was asked if making a cameo appearance would be of interest to him.

“Man! I gotta ask them about that! Next time I talk to Brad, they gotta animate me…This guy has a museum, he used to work with Lucasfilm. He’s up in the Bay area. He’s got so much Star Wars memorabilia. A lot of it is fan art. He’s got the entire cantina band, you know all posed in the cantina, and there’s a picture of me sitting in with the band there…That’s what it should be. I should be in the club….I’m gonna bring that up now.”

Looking forward, Kiner hopes that his time in the Star Wars universe doesn’t finish any time soon.

“I certainly hope it’s not the end of myime. I hope I’m doing Star Wars for the next 20 years. Like me and John Williams, we’re not going to quit. Pry it from our cold dead fingers, I guess. That’s my attitude.”

Finally, in speaking of the members of Clone Force 99 in the upcoming series, Kiner included a little tease of what’s to come in The Bad Batch…

I think I can say, there’s not just 5 central characters…”

It was an honor to be able to speak with Kevin Kiner about his work on The Bad Batch, his career, and more. His thoughtful and insightful comments have made us even work excited for the upcoming Disney+ series. 

You can check out Kevin Kiner’s website for an in-depth look at his career and the projects he has worked on.

Stay tuned to Star Wars Holocron for more coverage of Star Wars: The Bad Batch! And look out for our video interview with Kevin Kiner coming soon!

Images courtesy of Disney+, Lucasfilm, Netflix, and kevinkiner.com