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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 14

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 14: War-Mantle.

Jaw dropping animation and the return of an unexpected character mark the latest installment of Star Wars: The Bad Batch. Episode 14, titled War-Mantle, sees Clone Force 99 respond to a distress signal from Captain Rex asking them to rescue an old friend of his.

War-Mantle marks a stark improvement over the last several episodes of The Bad Batch and a return to form of the fantastic, emotional, and expansive episodes that characterized the first half of the season. The last few episodes, while entertaining, have felt a little more formulaic and less intimate with a lessened focus on the Bad Batch – something War-Mantle addresses head on. This episode packs in a wealth of exciting action sequences, tense character moments, interesting world building, and a cliffhanger ending to top it all off.

It’s difficult to review any episode of The Bad Batch, War-Mantle being no exception, without noting the incredible animation on display. From the beautiful and tense chase sequences in the woods that kicked the episode off, War-Mantle retains a cinematic quality to its environments, characters, lighting, and textures throughout. Some shots, including a particularly picturesque exposition shot of Imperial ships hovering over Kamino, would not be out of place in a feature film. And all of this really highlights how far Star Wars animation has come. 2008’s The Clone Wars film was met with mixed reception (at best), with much of the criticism targeted towards the film’s block-like and undetailed animation. 13 years down the line and no such criticism can be launched at The Bad Batch. War-Mantle is a visually stunning 28 minutes of Star Wars storytelling.

The animation was coupled with a compelling adventure of the week in episode 14. Rex’s friend Gregor (from The Clone Wars and Rebels) is trapped in an Imperial training facility and needs Clone Force 99 to break him out. It’s not a particularly novel plot, but one that intelligently places the Bad Batch at the heart of the story again. While Omega is given an uncharacteristically backseat role in this episode, more time is spent with Hunter, Echo, and Tech with great results. Their rescue mission heavily leans on A New Hope’s sequences on the Death Star, even to the inclusion of brilliant throwback musical cues brought in by the Kiner family.

But, while this mission is tense and captivating, it’s the opportunities for character and world building afforded by the plot that make this episode really excel. Gregor delivers one of the series’ most poignant lines yet, “It’s the ones who want to stay here that are really defective.” It’s interesting to see how conceptions like defection and individualism are perceived by clones like Gregor and Hunter in this quickly changing galaxy. Hunter and company were once the “defective” ones, but now they seem to be part of a select few with a sense of purpose and morality. 

War-Mantle also offers some interesting answers to long-standing questions in the Star Wars universe. The transition from clone troopers to stormtroopers has been a topic of conversation dating back to Attack of the Clones that has since been explored incrementally in projects like The Clone Wars and Rebels. Here though, the writers intelligently incorporate important information regarding this transition into the episode. We see that the Empire, shortly after the events of Revenge of the Sith, took active steps to replace clones with stormtroopers. They used clones, in particular clone commandos, to train new waves of cheaper, more expendable, and more numerous recruits of the Imperial army. Scenes on Kamino in War-Mantle depict the logistics of this situation from a different angle. Lama Su recognizes that the Empire will soon find the Kamino cloning operation useless and eliminate those involved. His attempts at hatching an escape plan are thwarted by Admiral Rampart, who, unfortunately, continues to play a rather generic villainous role in the series. Nala Se continues to be an intriguing character, but it’s a shame she isn’t given more screen time over the duration of the series so far. Her ominous presence is strangely juxtaposed with somewhat touching maternal instincts, as evidenced by her brief conversation with young clones in this episode and her bond with Omega. We’re looking forward to seeing Nala Se in a more prominent role moving forward as the series continues to explore this transitional period in the galaxy

On the downside, War-Mantle repeats one too many beats from previous episodes. A prominent side character sets up the plot in the first few moments. Hunter is reluctant to help, but is convinced by his crew to do so. Omega is left behind, but eventually saves the day. All of this is fine and leads to some great moments of storytelling. It’s unfortunate though that the series isn’t willing to exercise a bit more flexibility in regards to its episode structure. Nonetheless, the cliffhanger of Hunter and Crosshair finally coming face to face again was a great closing moment heading into next week’s episode.

Verdict: 8/10

Brought to life by jaw dropping animation, War-Mantle excels in delivering a tense mission of the week packed full of interesting world building and reveals. While the episode is a bit formulaic at times, the rescue of Gregor and the elements of canon this plot affords an exploration of are captivating. Concluding with a terrific cliffhanger of the long awaited confrontation between Hunter and Crosshair, we can’t wait to see how events unfold in the season’s final two episodes.

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 13

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

As the Ryloth arc comes to a conclusion, The Bad Batch are back at the center of their story (sort of) in another episode focusing on Clone Force 99’s run-ins with the criminal underworld. Episode 13, titled Infested, sees Cid’s power taken away from her by a new gangster on the scene named Roland Durand. In turn, Cid recruits the Bad Batch to overthrow Roland and take back her spot, while avoiding the grip of the Pyke Syndicate in the process.

Infested is an entertaining, but, ultimately, lightweight episode of the series. The Bad Batch felt somewhat sidelined in the past two episodes and this served as a refreshing change of pace and focus for the series. So now, at this juncture, the series feels due for another more intimate look at the crew as other episodes have done this season. Unfortunately, Clone Force 99 feel like side characters in an episode that, largely, focuses on Cid. Rhea Perlman’s character has been a fantastic addition to Star Wars canon and it’s great to see her get a bit more of an arc in the series. Nonetheless, Infested makes Clone Force 99 feel, mostly, like generic clones for the first time in the series to date. Each member is given things to accomplish their mission, but little time is spent on more in-depth characterization.

That being said, Infested still offers a solid adventure for the Batch to tackle. The clones and Cid trek the mines of Ord Mantell to steal Roland’s spice, which leads to an eerie cave sequence that draws inspiration from The Fellowship of the Ring. The entire sequence is tense, especially when Roland’s goons are thrown into the mix. But, things don’t go as planned, and the Bad Batch soon find themselves back in the mines to recover the lost spice for the Pykes.

By the end, not much has changed. Cid reclaims her throne and the Bad Batch have an employer again. Some of the most interesting character work in the episode comes from Roland. He’s introduced as an aspiring criminal trying to live up to the standards of his parents. As the episode goes on, however, we see more depth to Roland and, through his interactions with Omega, get a glimpse into his good side. Roland will surely appear in the series again and it’ll be interesting to see where the writers take his character moving forward.

Verdict: 7/10

Infested is perhaps the most throwaway episode of The Bad Batch yet. A largely inconsequential plot is coupled with relatively little character work, which is a shame given the backseat the Batch have played in the previous episodes. Nonetheless, Infested is a compelling episode and it’s harsh to fault the series for not always going out of its way to propel the narrative and characters forward. A focus on Rhea Perlman’s terrific Cid and the introduction Roland offer points of intrigue as The Bad Batch moves into its final few episodes.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 12

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 12: Rescue on Ryloth

After a step away from the action, the Bad Batch take center stage again in Rescue on Ryloth. The twelfth episode of the Disney+ series is a direct follow-up to its predecessor, showing Hera team up with Clone Force 99 in an effort to save her parents from Admiral Rampart and the villainous Empire.

Rescue on Ryloth proved to be Part 2 of a two-parter arc that falls somewhat short of Part 1. Devil’s Deal was a refreshing step away from the show’s central characters in focusing on the Empire’s rule of Ryloth as an anthology-type episode. And, while it was interesting to see a more distanced episode like this, inevitably, Clone Force 99 would be thrown into the mix, which was the case this week.

The episode proceeds in an entertaining, albeit procedural manner. Conversations between Hera, Omega, and Hunter add depth to a common theme in The Bad Batch: what is Clone Force 99’s place in the universe now that the Clone Wars are over? It’s an interesting theme to explore that isn’t really touched on in other stories in canon. Hunter sees the danger in helping Hera. He says, “We can’t put our lives on the line every time someone in the galaxy is in trouble.” But, Omega sees it differently. “Why not? Isn’t that what soldiers do?” This period in the galaxy is a transition for everyone, and seeing Hunter and the crew deliberate their newfound roles and responsibilities continues to be of interest.

Meanwhile, Crosshair and Rampart offer formidable opposition to the Bad Batch in this episode. Rampart is yet to stand out as anything more than a generic Imperial villain so far. Granted, he has had relatively little screen time, but the intriguing villain work is largely left to Crosshair, who continues to play an unexpectedly marginalized role in the series. Crosshair’s arc this season has felt very stop-start, with some interesting progressions interrupted by a string of absences. Crosshair is given plenty of attention in this episode, although little, if any, time is spent on the complexities of his villainous turn.

Nonetheless, it’s Clone Captain Howzer’s role amidst this conflict that proved the most gripping in Rescue on Ryloth. Howzer is an intriguing character, and one we’re not quite sure what to make of yet. It’s clear his inhibitor chip either failed to work or has been suppressed (perhaps due to his connection to the Syndullas?). Howzer navigates the moralities of siding with the Empire, eventually disobeying orders and standing with those he was initially tasked to serve. All of this proves to be tense and compelling storytelling with (potentially) important implications for Crosshair and other Clones. Here’s hoping that this is explored in later episodes.

Amidst all of this, we still have the Twi’leks themselves, but take a backseat compared to last week. Cham and Eleni are relegated to a cell for the majority of the episode, although their conversations with Howzer were impactful. We see more of Hera and Omega’s relationship: their innocence and pure-hearted nature continues to be so endearing in the series. 

Verdict: 7/10

Ultimately, this episode is a return to a focus on its titular characters with mixed results compared to some of the superb installments in the series we’ve seen before this. Perhaps, this is just The Bad Batch being so entertaining at times that episodes that miss the mark somewhat (like Rescue on Ryloth) stand out more. Regardless, the conclusion of this two-parter offers plenty for Star Wars fans to feast as the Bad Batch’s role in the galaxy is further explored and interesting questions are posed regarding the free will of Clones.

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+

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Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: Loki – Episode 6

by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Loki – Episode 6: For All Time. Always

The MCU is changed forever as Loki bows out with a jaw dropper of a finale. For All Time. Always sees Loki and Sylvie arrive at destiny’s door as they finally unravel the mystery of the TVA.

After the beautiful chaos of last week’s episode, Loki’s finale took our breath away from the start and didn’t let the tension drop for a second throughout. Each episode of Loki, including the finale, works so well as an installment in a grander narrative, but also a standalone tale. For All Time. Always feels like the conclusion (of sorts) to a story of Loki, while also feeling like a wild MCU movie that sets the stage for so much more to come.

The opening moments of the finale evoked The Wizard of Oz. Loki and Sylvie have been through thick and thin together on this journey and are finally at their destination’s doorstep. Who is behind the curtain? What are his / her / their intentions? Well, questions were answered (and posed) with the introduction of Jonathan Majors as Kang. This was surprising to say the least. Yes, we knew that Majors would play Kang the Conqueror in the MCU, but to see him be introduced in such a fashion here was spectacular. Loki puts criticisms regarding the lack of implications that WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier aside by blowing the MCU wide open in this finale. The finale, and Loki overall, are absolutely necessary viewing moving forward in this sprawling universe.

There’s so much to unpack with Kang’s introduction in the show. For starters, Jonathan Majors absolutely steals the show here. While it was a bit of a shame to see Hiddleston and Di Martino somewhat sidelined or overshadowed in their finale, Majors’ performance is simply captivating from start to finish. The actor has impressed in projects like Lovecraft Country and The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and continues to showcase his talent on this new stage. Majors plays the character with a frightening nonchalant attitude. We anticipate some gruesome monster at the end of this tunnel and, instead, the man behind it all is a self professed “jerk,” a man who looks like he’s wearing a purple bathrobe as he toys with the fabric of reality. And it’s with Kang that we’re given an explanation of what’s going on with the TVA and the stakes at hand if he is dislodged from his throne. We already know that projects like Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man: No Way Home will be delving into multiversal matters and it seems as if that door has been blown wide open by Loki. And, it’s a testament to the incredible writing of this season that the complex plot regarding time travel, free will, and multiverses is told in an approachable and comprehensible way throughout.

Kang aside, the resolution of other plot threads and themes in this finale was mixed. Loki and Sylvie are given fantastic moments together as they deliberate the fallout of Kang’s reveals and it’s tragic to see these two characters who love each other so dearly see this situation so divergently. Nonetheless, I wish the episode spent a bit more time with these two characters and wrapped up their journeys this season a little tighter. The same could be said for Owen Wilson’s Mobius, who has been a highlight throughout Loki, but fizzled out by the season’s conclusion. 

And, despite ending rather abruptly and abstractly, Loki’s finale leaves you desperately wanting more. There are so many questions left standing about the multiverse and the state of the TVA that we’re so desperately awaiting answers for now, which is a great sign for a TV show heading into its (now announced) second season.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Loki closes out with a bang – answering many questions, while posing many others. The introduction of Jonathan Majors’ Kang was the highlight of the episode as the mystery of the TVA was unveiled and we were introduced to the next big bad of the MCU. Although it would’ve been nice to see more time spent wrapping up Loki, Sylvie, and Mobius’ arcs, Loki’s finale provides plenty of brilliant character work and moments that affirms this series is easily one of the best installments in the MCU yet.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 11

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 11: Devil’s Deal

The Bad Batch take a surprising backseat in a captivating and slow-paced episode featuring a fan favorite Star Wars character. Devil’s Deal shifts away from Clone Force 99 and focuses on the Empire’s occupation of Ryloth, the home world of the Twi’leks, as Cham Syndulla tries to balance his planet’s autonomy and safety.

Overall, Devil’s Deal was a welcomed change of pace for the series. The Bad Batch showcases once again that it isn’t merely a story of rogue clones surviving in the Imperial era, but, rather, is a broader tale of what life is like in the quickly changing galaxy. We’ve gotten some insights regarding life for civilians, soldiers, and bounty hunters under Imperial rule, and now the focus shifts to local politics once again following last week’s episode on Raxus. The episode doesn’t get bogged down in action, instead taking the time to showcase how each of the major players are dealing with this situation. Admiral Rampart recognizes how tenuous the situation is and appears to be taking a page out of Thrawn’s book with a more subtle strategy of control. Meanwhile, Gobi is on the other end of the spectrum as he fundamentally disagrees with the Empire’s takeover of Ryloth and takes steps to retake his planet. Orn Free Taa epitomizes self-interest as he quickly finds himself an ally of the Empire. And, of central importance to the episode, we have Cham, Eleni, and Hera (!!!) Syndulla.

Hera is easily one of the most well developed Star Wars characters in recent years and her appearance in The Bad Batch was surprising to say the least. Obviously, the character goes on to play major roles in the Rebellion and New Republic, but here she is a spirited and curious young girl, very much akin to Omega. Kevin Kiner brilliantly leans into John Williams’ Leia theme to deliver a warm and touching melody to accompany Hera in this episode. And, from a canon standpoint, it’s interesting to see the humble beginnings of the eventual Rebel leader. Of course, Hera is accompanied by Chopper, who was also great to see again. So far, we’ve seen Kanan, Hera and Chopper – could other Star Wars Rebels characters make appearances in the future? Either way, seeing Hera and Chopper again was simply delightful.

Hera’s interaction with Omega also adds another layer to The Bad Batch’s exploration into life in the Imperial era. Hera and Omega are children plummeted into very serious situations. They’re deprived of the protected and insulated childhood they deserve as the galaxy crumbles around them. With the exception of The Phantom Menace, the live-action films largely stay away from children in central roles, leaving a gap that the animated shows have brilliantly filled. Amidst the turmoil on Ryloth, Hera is warm and kind and curious, showing that there’s still light left in the darkening galaxy.

With the exception of this scene with Omega, Clone Force 99 are nowhere to be seen in this episode. And this is seldom an issue due to the strong writing on display in Devil’s Deal. The political machinations of Ryloth are more than interesting enough to sustain an entire episode, and hold us over until the Bad Batch’s inevitable inclusion next week. Crosshairs also makes a return this week, sporting some new injuries from his last tussle with his former friends. So far, Crosshair’s intermittent presence in The Bad Batch has been a little underwhelming given the weight behind his turn in the pilot. Nonetheless, the series still has plenty of time to explore this character in upcoming episodes.

Verdict: 8/10

The Bad Batch step aside as the focus shifts to the tumultuous political landscape of Ryloth in an episode full of fan favorite characters and examinations into life in the Imperial era. Devil’s Deal sets the stage nicely for Clone Force 99’s reintroduction in the next installment after this deliberately paced and captivating episode.

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+

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Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: Black Widow

by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract

11 years and 8 movies later, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow finally gets a much deserved solo outing as Phase Four finally kicks off. It’s unfortunate, however, that the film, while bolstered by great supporting performances, falls short of delivering a journey worthy of the long-standing MCU character. Set in between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Black Widows follows Natasha Romanoff on the run from authorities after her violation of the Sokovia Accords. Natasha’s attempts to remain in the shadows, however, are thwarted when she has to team up with her sister to defeat an enemy from the past.

From beginning to end, Black Widow struggles to justify its existence beyond righting the wrong that was sidelining Johansson’s character for so long. This isn’t to say that every project in the MCU needs to have great relevance and implications for subsequent stories, but Black Widow feels more like a filler installment of a long-running TV series than anything the MCU has done to date. But, how inconsequential the film is could be ignored if it was an enthralling and self-sufficient tale on its own, which, for the most part, it is not.

Black Widow felt like the perfect opportunity to give Scarlett Johansson’s character the attention and recognition she deserves after playing significant, yet largely understated, roles in previous MCU films. Johansson herself has spoken negatively of the over-sexualized version of the character in Iron Man 2 and attempts to really grow her character (i.e. the possible romance between Nat and Bruce) often fell short. But. fans eager to immerse themselves in a deep and profound examination of Natasha will likely leave this film disappointed. Black Widow provides somewhat interesting details about Nat’s upbringing, her family, and the infamous mission in Budapest, but falls short in offering much else to her character. Despite the personal stakes for Nat, her involvement in the film’s central plot feels rather passive. The film is called Black Widow and yet it’s more a film about the secret organization of Black Widows rather than the character herself.

Black Widow excels when it focuses on the family dynamics of Nat and her mother, father, and sister figures. The film is immediately captivating as it opens up like an episode of The Americans with surprising emotional depth and a terrific action sequence on a runway. After an incredibly choppy first act largely devoid of any family focus, Black Widow eventually shifts its focus back to its most interesting elements. Florence Pugh’s Yelena makes her debut and virtually steals the show from there on out. After impressive performances in Midsommar, Fighting with my Family, and Little Women, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Pugh is such an exciting addition to the MCU. Also superb here is David Harbour, masterfully taking on the role of Red Guardian. The Soviet Union’s counterpart to Captain America has some of the film’s best one-liners and, with Pugh, easily delivers the film’s most touching moments. It’s with these touching moments that Black Widow impresses – it’s just unfortunate that more of them do not focus on Nat. Rachel Weisz’s character Milena, on the other hand, feels rushed and out of place. Very little information is provided about her motives and backstory, making it difficult to really care about her journey at all. 

Black Widow’s antagonists also leave much to be desired. A miscast Ray Winstone plays General Dreykov, the leader of the Red Room and a villain that is absent for almost the entire duration of the film. This leaves much of the villainous work to Taskmaster, whose introduction is haunting and superb. However, over the course of the film, Taskmaster’s intrigue and threat diminishes and the third act reveals simply don’t pay off. 

Verdict: 6/10

Black Widow is extremely watchable, entertaining, and humorous, but Scarlett Johansson’s character deserved more in her first and only solo outing. While the film’s spy elements work and the performances of Harbour and Pugh were captivating, Black Widow tells a choppily paced and low-stakes story lacking the emotional impact we wanted to see.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios

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Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 10

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 10

After a string of interconnected episodes, The Bad Batch takes a step back this week with an interesting episode exploring a theme of ideologies explored in The Clone Wars. Common Ground follows Clone Force 99 as they attempt to rescue Senator Avi Singh from the grips of the Empire on the formerly Separatist world Raxus. Meanwhile, Omega stays back with Cid and exercises some of her strategic skills to pay off her crew’s debt.

The prequels detailed the most important overarching events leading up to the fall of the Jedi and the rise of the Empire, but left much of the nuances of this tumultuous era in the galaxy to The Clone Wars. As such, one of the central themes of The Clone Wars that remained untouched in the prequels pertained to the notion of good guys fighting on both sides of the war. Little information is provided about what the lives of Separatists look like in the films, but The Clone Wars added a humanity to these characters, evidenced by the Mina Bonteri episodes of the series.

This week’s episode of The Bad Batch explores the humanity of the former enemy, while providing some interesting world-building throughout. Common Ground is largely set on Raxus, the former capital of the Confederacy of Independent Systems that battled the Galactic Republic in the Clone Wars. Through the struggles of Avi Singh (voiced by the incredible Alexander Siddig) and the people of Raxus, we see that Separatists were victims too. They didn’t willingly align with Dooku, nor are they willingly aligning with the Empire now. This adds some retrospective nuance to The Clone Wars and much of the events in the prequel era and is, once again, evidence one of The Bad Batch’s highlights so far in its focus on a quickly changing, Imperial-led galaxy (we’ll get to that in a moment).

The theme of humanizing the Separatists is largely explored through Echo, who, more than other members of the crew, voices concerns about helping and trusting their former enemy. Echo’s concerns felt natural and well-deserved, especially given his experiences with the Separatists in season 7 of The Clone Wars. And, although this was only superficially explored, it was interesting to see Echo come to a greater understanding of the plights of citizens and rulers under Separatist control.

Back to one of The Bad Batch’s core strengths, the series continues to impress in its examination of the beginning days of the Empire. Each episode, including Common Ground, add a layer to what life is like in the immediate aftermath of the Republic’s fall. This week opts to focus on the internal struggles of a leader, whose planet has been occupied by the Empire. Alexander Siddig conveys incredible empathy and concern in his performance as the senator grappling with the ethics of succumbing to the Empire. Hopefully, Singh will appear again as it felt like there was more to explore with a character whose planet was controlled by Separatists and the Empire back-to-back.

Away from the central story, Omega and Cid are given a fun, light, and inconsequential plot to navigate. The issue of where Omega finds herself in this team is explored once again: is she a bona fide member or is she a child that needs protecting? Dialogue between Omega and Cid fleshes this out more and showcase the struggle between the innocence of youth and the want to grow up that the young clone is experiencing. And each week, Cid seemingly becomes a more integral part of the series. Her interactions with Omega, while out of self-interest, add a level of kindness and trust to the seedy character. Rhea Perlman’s inclusion in the Star Wars universe continues to take us aback and Cid has unexpectedly become one of our favorite new characters of the show.

Verdict: 8/10

The Bad Batch furthers a theme introduced in The Clone Wars regarding the blurry lines between good and bad in exciting, albeit surface-level, fashion this week. Common Ground excels in world-building and emphasis on Echo and Singh as two individuals navigating this confusing time in the galaxy. The episode doesn’t reach the exciting heights of the previous few installments, but is yet again an enthralling addition to the animated series.

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+

Categories
Star Wars Holocron

What’s New in Star Wars – July 2021

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

From new episodes of The Bad Batch to more in the War of the Bounty Hunters, exciting adventures in a galaxy far, far away continue this month with a host of new projects. Below includes a list and description of upcoming Star Wars projects in the month of July. It is important to note all of these release dates are subject to change.

July 2 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Common Ground

The adventures of Clone Force 99 continue in the series’ 10th episode debuting this month.

July 6 – Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Graphic Novel Adaptation

Alessandro Ferrari’s graphic novel adaptation of The Phantom Menace will be individually published this month after it was previously involved in a Disney-Lucasfilm Press release. The publisher’s summary is ass follows: “Experience the excitement and thrill of the epic Star Wars movies in this young-reader friendly adaptation of Episode I! Peace reigns in the Galaxy, guarded by the thousand-years old Jedi Order. But dark forces plot in the shadows to restore the power of the Sith, long believed gone. Unaware of this evil plan, two Jedi knights rescue Queen Amidala of Naboo and discover a young boy. Capturing the galaxy-spanning action of The Phantom Menace, experience Episode I as a beautiful graphic novel combining the epic wonder of Star Wars with streamlined, young-reader friendly designs.”

July 7 – Star Wars Adventures 6

IDW Publishing’s impressive Star Wars Adventures series continues in this new issue by Katie Cook and Shaun Manning. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Padme and Anakin have grand plans to have a romantic night together after a long separation. But before they get a chance to get together, Anakin is Jedi-napped by a group of outlaws! Now it’s up to Padme to use all of her cunning to infiltrate the outlaw group and rescue him. Then, get a glimpse into the times of The High Republic with a story of the Nihil!”

July 7 – Bounty Hunters 14

Ethan Sacks’ impressive Bounty Hunters series continues this month with another issue situated in the broader narrative of the War of the Bounty Hunters. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Hunted by the mysterious assassin DEATHSTICK, a wounded VALANCE and his reluctant partner DENGAR are running out of options! T’ONGA is outgunned and outnumbered… but she does have one last surprise up her sleeve! And the shadowy force behind all of the danger makes its move!”

July 11 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Devil’s Deal

The 11th episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch also debut this month.

July 14 – Doctor Aphra 12

After Durge’s explosive debut in canon, Alyssa Wong’s Doctor Aphra series continues this month with another issue crossing over with War of the Bounty Hunters. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “A MYSTERIOUS INVITATION leads DOCTOR APHRA and SANA STARROS to an exclusive party… teeming with scum and villainy! Will Aphra and Sana be able to survive the underworld social event of the century? Or will their cover be blown by A FAMILIAR FACE with an agenda of their own?”

July 14 – War of the Bounty Hunters 2

After the shocking appearance of Qi’ra in the first issue, the second issue of Charles Soule’s War of the Bounty Hunters comes out this month. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Notorious bounty hunter BOBA FETT has tracked his missing prize — heroic smuggler HAN SOLO, frozen in carbonite — to the remote, frozen world of JEKARA. But representatives from many of the galaxy’s most powerful factions have gathered, and they all want the same thing — Solo. Things go from bad to worse, as Boba Fett realizes that he himself has become almost as valuable to the galaxy’s hunters as Han Solo, and he must turn to the least trustworthy person in the galaxy for help…DOCTOR APHRA…”

July 16 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Rescue on Ryloth

The Bad Batch will seemingly journey to Ryloth in another episode of the series this month.

July 20 – Star Wars Mazes

An exciting and interactive activity book releasing this month will allow fans to navigate illustrated mazes of iconic scenes and locations throughout the Star Wars saga. From Chronicle Books, the publisher’s summary is as follows: “Expert maze creator and lifelong Star Wars fan Sean C. Jackson brings the saga to life through more than 30 beautifully illustrated mazes of iconic scenes and locations ranging from the forest moon of Endor to Bespin’s Cloud City, the dark side planet of Exegol, Jabba’s palace, pod races, clone armies, and much more. Each full-color maze includes notes about the environment and special bonus elements to find hidden along the way.”

July 20 – Star Wars Legends: The Old Republic Omnibus Vol. 1

The entire Dark Horse Comics series Knights of the Old Republic and the miniseries Knights of the Old Republic: War are collected in this hardcover omnibus with terrific cover art by Brian Ching. The publisher’s summary is as follows: A“long, long time ago, the Star Wars galaxy was a very different place. Welcome to the Old Republic! When young Jedi Zayne Carrick is framed for murder by his own masters, he goes on the run with three unlikely allies: con artist Marn Hierogryph, fugitive scientist Camper and bodyguard Jarael. But can they survive long enough to clear Carrick’s name, uncover a conspiracy and maybe gain a bit of profit along the way? Strap in for an adventure that spans the galaxy as this ragtag group of heroes face corrupted Jedi, deadly Mandalorians, the power of the Sith and more! Collecting STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC #1-50, STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC — WAR #1-5, STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC HANDBOOK and material from STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC/REBELLION #0.”

July 20 – The Star Wars Book of Monsters, Ooze and Slime

DK has a tradition of delivering exciting Star Wars books for kids, and the Book of Monsters, Ooze and Slime will hopefully continue this impressive track-record. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “The strangest and yuckiest secrets of the galaxy. What does the Zillo Beast feast on for breakfast? Does slimy Jabba the Hutt ever have a bath? What are the three yuckiest things he eats? Take a trip on the wild side and discover the weirdest facts in the Star Wars galaxy! From gross creatures and strange bugs to dangerous deserts and sinister Sith, this icky picture book is the perfect gift for young readers.”

July 21 – Darth Vader 14

Greg Pak’s Darth Vader series for Marvel Comics also continues this month with its 14th issue. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “For decades, no figure has stood as close to the EMPEROR with so much mystery surrounding her. Who is the UMBARAN? What is her role within the EMPIRE and in the WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS? And what happens when she emerges from the darkness to challenge Darth Vader himself? Featuring an unprecedented look at the inner workings of the Emperor’s inner circle — and the return of IG-88!”

July 21 – War of the Bounty Hunters – Jabba the Hutt 1

Jabba the Hutt is given the spotlight in this upcoming one-shot comic written by Justina Ireland. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “JABBA NEVER FORGIVES! JABBA NEVER FORGETS! JABBA THE HUTT is one of the most powerful and ruthless gangsters in the galaxy—and BOBA FETT, his most trusted bounty hunter, has failed him. How will Jabba deal with betrayal? VIOLENTLY. And what does this have to do with a bounty hunter with ties to the HIGH REPUBLIC?”

July 21 – The High Republic Adventures 6

Amidst all of the War of the Bounty Hunters content, this month also features a continuation of adventures in the High Republic with Daniel Jose Older’s comic for IDW Publishing. The publisher’s summary for the upcoming sixth issue is as follows: “As the galaxy prepares for the Republic Fair, Qort and Farzala leave their Padawan friends to join Leox Gyasi and the crew of the Vessel on a secret mission for the Jedi. What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out: literally everything.”

July 23 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Infested

Another episode of The Bad Batch hits Disney+ this month, titled Infested.

July 27 – The High Republic: Out of the Shadows

Justina Ireland’s terrific young-adult novel in the High Republic hits bookshelves this month. And the publisher’s summary is as follows: “The darkest secrets are the hardest to bring to light….Sylvestri Yarrow is on a streak of bad luck with no end of sight. She’s been doing her best to keep the family cargo business going after her mom’s death, but between mounting debt and increasing attacks by the Nihil on unsuspecting ships, Syl is in danger of losing all she has left of her mother. She heads to the galactic capital of Coruscant for help, but gets sidetracked when she’s drawn into a squabble between two of the Republic’s most powerful families over a patch of space on the frontier. Tangled up in familial politics is the last place Syl wants to be, but the promise of a big payoff is enough to keep her interested…Meanwhile, Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh has been summoned to Coruscant, but with no idea of why or by whom. She and her Padawan Imri Cantaros arrive at the capital along with Jedi Master Cohmac Vitus and his Padawan, Reath Silas—and are asked to assist with the property dispute on the frontier. But why? What is so important about an empty patch of space? The answer will lead Vernestra to a new understanding of her abilities, and take Syl back to the past…and to truths that will finally come out of the shadows.”

July 27 – Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Vol. 2 — The Engine Job

This upcoming trade paperback collects issue 6 through 10 of Alyssa Wong’s Doctor Aphra series. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Someone sinister has put a price on Doctor Aphra’s head… and it’s none other than Domina Tagge! Now Aphra finds herself running for her life, trying to shake every bounty hunter on her tail. But one of those hunters is Aphra’s angry ex Sana Starros — and for Sana, it’s personal! Aphra can’t out-think Domina or outrun Sana… so what choice does she have left? Perhaps locating a mysterious piece of tech that could shift the balance of the galactic civil war? Aphra’s desperate hunt takes her to Corellia — but unfortunately for her, that’s right on Sana’s doorstep. And our roguish doctor isn’t the only one with an eye on this prize…”

July 28 – The High Republic 7

After the terrific The Rising Storm, Cavan Scott’s incredible run in Star Wars continues with The High Republic 7. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “A JEDI FACES THE DARKNESS! KEEVE TRENNIS has put everything on the line to save her former master, but the scars run deep. As AVAR KRISS summons a task force to deal with the DRENGIR THREAT, a desperate NIHIL REMNANT attacks a distant outpost. Can Keeve fight back the shadows long enough to stand for light and life? Guest-starring ORLA JARENI, Jedi Wayseeker.”

July 28 – Star Wars 15

Luke, Leia, Chewie, and Lando continue their involvement in the deadly War of the Bounty Hunters in the 15th issue of Charles Soule’s Star Wars main line series. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “LUKE SKYWALKER embarks upon an epic mission with WEDGE ANTILLES and the brave pilots of STARLIGHT SQUADRON to rescue a lost division of the REBEL FLEET. LEIA ORGANA, CHEWBACCA and LANDO CALRISSIAN attempt to save HAN SOLO from the evil clutches of BOBA FETT. But what hidden vision will the Force send to Luke about the troubles to come?”

July 30 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – War Mantle

The last Bad Batch episode of the month is ominously titled War Mantle…

For reference, a condensed list of upcoming projects in July without descriptions is included below:

July 2 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Common Ground

July 6 – Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Graphic Novel Adaptation 

July 6 – Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 4 

July 7 – Star Wars Adventures 6 

July 7 – Bounty Hunters 14 

July 11 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Devil’s Deal

July 14 – Doctor Aphra 12 

July 14 – War of the Bounty Hunters 2 

July 16 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Rescue on Ryloth

July 20 – Star Wars Mazes 

July 20 – Star Wars Legends: The Old Republic Omnibus Vol. 1 

July 20 – The Star Wars Book of Monsters, Ooze and Slime 

July 21 – Darth Vader 14 

July 21 – War of the Bounty Hunters – Jabba the Hutt 1 

July 21 – The High Republic Adventures 6 

July 21 – Star Wars Adventures 7 

July 23 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Infested

July 27 – The High Republic: Out of the Shadows 

July 27 – Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Vol. 2 — The Engine Job 

July 28 – The High Republic 7 

July 28 – Star Wars 15 

July 30 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – War Mantle

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm, Disney+, Marvel Comics, IDW Publishing, Titan Comics, Chronicle Books

Categories
Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: Loki – Episode 4

by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Loki – Episode 4: The Nexus Event

It’s incredible how much emotion, tension, intrigue, and action can be packed into a mere 48 minutes, but Loki proves time is no restriction in its fourth episode. The Nexus Event picks up on Lamentis with Loki and Sylvie waiting for an impending death on the apocalyptic planet. Meanwhile, Mobius searches for the variants as mysteries about the TVA are unveiled.

Last week’s cliffhanger left us waiting with baited breath after we were finally introduced to Sylvie and saw her relationship with Loki develop and evolve over the span of an episode. The Nexus Event immediately follows up on Lamentis as Sylvie and Loki await their deaths. There was something destructive, yet poetic about these beginning moments of the episode. Loki and Sylvie have known each other so briefly, but now they are two individuals who will be sharing their final moments together so intimately. Loki’s comforting of Sylvie was heartwarming and the backdrop of the planet silently turning to rubble was stunning. From the get-go, Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino command the screen once again in this episode.

After a departure from the inner-workings of the TVA last week, episode 4 sees a reintroduction of Mobius, Ravonna, and Hunter B-15. The Nexus Event really explores the intrigue surrounding the TVA and the unique position Loki finds himself situated in. Once recruited by the TVA to stop Sylvie, Loki now feels connected to his fellow Variant and disturbed by her revelations about the TVA. In many ways, episode 4 feels like a mirror of episode 1, but things have changed now. Loki isn’t the conniving villain he once was – he is more reasonable, vulnerable, and selfless. Owen Wilson’s superb turn as Mobius continues, but now with a twist – there’s a seed of doubt regarding the intentions of the TVA. There was a sense of tension reverberating throughout the entire episode as we saw Mobius and Hunter B-15 gradually grow suspicious of the TVA in the wake of their interactions with Loki and Sylvie. After a few episodes in the background, Gugu Mbatha-Raw was given her most substantial role in the series yet as we follow Mobius’ suspicions and similarly come to realize the TVA is not what they seem.

Apart from the core mystery, The Nexus Event also featured the return of Jaimie Alexander’s Sif in unique fashion. While ultimately inconsequential to the broader narrative, the mere inclusion of Sif added a sense of interconnectivity between Loki and the Thor films that came before it and, hopefully, opens the door for Alexander’s return as the character in future projects.

Tensions come to a head in the final act of episode 4. After deliberation and investigation, Mobius follows his gut and concludes that the TVA is hiding something and that Loki may be telling the truth that he and the other agents were not created by the TVA, but are Variants plucked from the timeline. It’s not long after the formation of Loki and Mobius’ reforged alliance that Mobius shockingly ‘dies’ at the hands of Ravonna and her TVA forces. At the time, this moment was shocking and felt like we had truly said goodbye to Mobius, but the closing moments of the episode put this in doubt. Either way, Loki’s reaction to Mobius’ death as he is dragged through the halls of the TVA was heartbreaking and further emphasized what kind of person the God of Mischief is becoming as a result of his interactions with others.

It’s from there that the episode goes to new heights of suspense and unpredictability. We are finally given our first look at the mysterious Time Keepers. Their design was grandiose and haunting, although their dialogue was too muffled and difficult to hear. The entire action sequence that ensues before the Time Keepers very much evoked Rey and Kylo’s team-up in Snoke’s throne room in The Last Jedi, as many fans have pointed out. And, similar to the duel in Star Wars, this fight also felt like it could have been at the center of the closing moments of a movie. As the agents of the TVA are disposed of, we see Sylvie behead one of the Time Keepers, only to reveal that they are machines. This fake-out felt a little predictable given the MCU’s tradition of similar fake-outs in previous projects. That being said, the twist comes with two episodes to go and is executed extremely well.

Speaking of twists and turns, seeing Loki ‘die’ as he was about to confess his feelings for Sylvie felt like a knife to the back. We had never seen this intimate and warm side of Loki before and suddenly he is taken away. This heartbreak doesn’t last long, however, as we’re greeted to one of the MCU’s most bonkers post-credits scenes yet. Loki wakes up only to stand before three other Loki variants, once of which played by the incredible Richard E. Grant. What this means for the remainder of the show remains unseen, but the sheer surprise of it all really took our breath away.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Mysteries were interestingly unraveled in The Nexus Event, an episode that saw Loki reach new heights of intimacy and unpredictability. The suspicions of Mobius and Hunter B-15 were intriguingly explored, as was the relationship between Loki and Sylvie. The big reveal regarding the Time Keepers was well executed, albeit somewhat predictable, which is something that could not be said for the death and reappearance of Loki before a series of Variant Lokis. Needless to say, Loki demands your viewing and continues to impress week after week.

Images courtesy of Marvel Studios & Disney+

Categories
Film Codex

Box Office Report: Weekend of 6/25 – ‘F9’ Earns Pandemic Best Debut

The latest chapter in the Fast and Furious franchise, titled F9, finally debuted this weekend after a lengthy delay. Despite the challenges of releasing a movie right now, which have admittedly lessened as the vaccine came, the box office is still not at full strength. Still, F9 took in $70 million from 4,179 domestic theaters. Oddly enough, the pandemic is really put into perspective when one considers that this number is the most any film has made since late 2019, yet still doesn’t come close to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the highest grossing film of the last 18 months or so.

F9 has received mix reviews from critics, while still earning somewhat positive reactions from audiences (a trend in the franchise). As we wrote in our review of the film,

F9 misses the mark somewhat in an installment that takes the franchise to new heights of absurdity. The film is admittedly entertaining, in large part due to the unintentional humor that comes from the wooden performances and the incredible action directed by Justin Lin, but, ultimately, falls flat as F9’s attempts at grandiosity ultimately feel like parody.”

Elsewhere, A Quiet Place Part II took second spot once again, earning $6.3 million. This continues its strong hold and low drop offs weekend after weekend, and is poised to be one of the big successes of the year. It has already earned $136 million worldwide.

Meanwhile, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard earned $4.8 million, a relatively strong drop off from last weekend’s already lukewarm performance. The film has earned $25.8 million so far. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway and Cruella rounded out the top 5 with $4.8 million and $3.7 million respectively.

Stay tuned to @FilmCodex for more news, reviews, and more!