Categories
Star Wars Holocron

ROUNDTABLE INTERVIEW: The Bad Batch’s Jennifer Corbett, Brad Rau, and Ming-Na Wen Talk the Mystery of Omega, Holiday Special, Cad Bane, The Mandalorian Parallels, and More

by @holocronGeorge & @holocronJosh for @sw_holocron

WARNING: Contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 9: Bounty Lost

After following the adventures of Clone Force 99 in a quickly changing galaxy over the course of eight emotional and unpredictable episodes, Star Wars: The Bad Batch hit its halfway mark this week in characteristically superb fashion. We recently had a chance to attend a roundtable looking back at the series so far and orienting ahead as to what’s to come with supervising director and executive producer Brad Rau, head writer and executive producer Jennifer Corbett, and the voice of Fennec Shand herself Ming-Na Wen. Here are some of the highlights from the press event.

Ming-Na Wen became an instant fan favorite upon her debut in The Mandalorian and she has since reprised her role in The Bad Batch before appearing in The Book of Boba Fett later this year. In a response to a question posed by us at Star Wars Holocron, Wen spoke how excited she would be to see Fennec Shand appear in other mediums.

“Anything at all! Bring back the holiday special! Whatever! I’m excited about any venture into this universe. Of course, if I got to participate in a cinematic release of a film in the future that would pretty much make me pee in my pants! But yeah, anything. You know, I’m just excited to see the dolls and the toys that are gonna come out. Like I hear that one of the black series is coming out and I’ve collected Star Wars toys since I was little, so this is insane. It’s just unbelievable.”

Despite her sprawling role in a galaxy far, far away now, Ming-Na Wen was initially unaware of how important Fennec Shand would be, as revealed when she spoke to Endor Express.

“I had no idea [of the depth of my role], but, boy, am I happy it happened the way it happened. When Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni offered me this role, I was really excited, because my entire life has been trying to manifest this moment when I get to be a part of a Star Wars project, but when I read the script and she dies I was like, ‘…Oh.’ [Laughs]. That’s kind of sad. So, I wasn’t sure. But you realize, this may be my only opportunity so I gotta check this off my bucket list. And of course talking with Jon and Dave, it’s three people talking the same language, because we all love Star Wars so much.”

In The Bad Batch, Ming-Na Wen is not only approaching the character in a new medium, but at a different time in her life as a less seasoned bounty hunter. Wen revealed to Fantha Tracks how she sees the Fennec we see in The Bad Batch compared to the Fennec we see in The Mandalorian and beyond.

“I know that the 22 year old me is very different from me now. But, at the same time, I’m still that geek nerd girl [where], every time I get on a new set and see the Star Wars characters, I geek out and freak out like I would if I was a teenager. So those are the elements I try to bring into the young Fennec. Definitely less experience. More ambition. More of a drive to prove who she is and make her mark in the world. I think her energy and her focus and her tactics might be a little bit more raw and different. And I give her a slight, little pitch change, but not too much.”

Incredibly, in response to a question by Coffee by Kenobi, Ming-Na Wen revealed that she delivered her performance as Fennec Shand in The Bad Batch under interesting circumstances…

With live action, you have other actors to work off of. You have a set or scenery. You have a director to help you – producers, writers. You have costume, makeup. It’s a full-on process. When you do voice acting you could be in your pjs and in fact with The Bad Batch because of Covid, they brought in all this equipment. The computer – they delivered it all. The microphone, everything. I had to set it up in my home and the only place that I found to be really good for sound buffering was in my closet because of all the clothes. So I did the season of The Bad Batch in my closet. So can you imagine you had to like create this whole – like bring this character to life with your imagination while you’re surrounded by your clothes. It’s pretty crazy. I love it.”

Wen also spoke to the team at the Skywalking Through Neverland Podcast regarding how she draws upon attributes of the fennec fox when playing the bounty hunter:

“It’s interesting, because I watched a lot of videos of foxes, especially fennec foxes, and there’s a slinkiness to their walk. They’re loners and they listen, they’re mean. The fennec fox has huge ears, so they’re very, very alert and aware, and another thing that I actually said [Fennec] can read people or she thought she could read people really well except for that one time with Toro but, you know, he has no scruples. That’s why that’s a whole other thing. But for the voice, I wanted to kind of give a little bit of that quality to her so there’s like a sort of a more elongated slinky rhythm that, you know, came from the fox and so when she talks it’s there. There’s a little bit of an exaggeration and a stretching of words here and there, and whenever she does speak it’s, you know, there’s a pointed reason for it.”

When speaking to Dork Side of the Force, Ming-Na Wen spoke about her conversations with Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau about Fennec’s origins, but remained guarded as to what these conversations entailed.

“It’s kind of difficult for me to talk about that, because the stuff that Dave Filoni and I, and the writers of The Bad Batch discussed about what young Fennec Shand would be like and why she became a bounty hunter – we collaborated and we threw out a lot of ideas. You know, [we] threw a lot of ideas out at each other. So I don’t know what will stick and what won’t. So, I’m worried that if I reveal something from that conversation that hasn’t been explored yet or brought to life in the animation or in future episodes, in either, you know, down the line or in other venues, so I can’t discuss that. I really wish I could.”

One of the highlights of Star Wars: The Bad Batch so far has been the newest member of the crew – Omega. Ming-Na Wen spoke to Ion Cannon Podcast about the interesting dynamic between Fennec and Omega.

“I feel like with Fennec, especially young Fennec, she is good at reading people, manipulating, and playing a certain quality to invite herself into that particular person’s trust. So I’m not sure how sincere and genuine her care for Omega is, or if she sees her as a bounty and a gig that she had to fulfill. So, that’s really interesting…I’d like to think there is also a quality and a side to her that she connected with Omega in a certain way, but we’ll see.”

Ming-Na Wen spoke to Star Wars News Net and Fangirls Going Rogue about the role model figure Fennec is and how important greater Asian-American representation is in such expansive roles.

“I think it’s kind of cool to see sort of this young civilian female bounty hunter who’s able to kind of keep up, if not, be feared by the others and making a mark for herself. I think it’s a great role model, in many ways, for women even though she’s an assassin. I know okay, okay that’s a technicality, but I love roles like that. Where she’s sort of an outsider and yet she makes up her own rules, and she believes in herself. She believes in what she’s capable of doing and she’s fearless in pursuing her goals…For me, I’m just grateful that more characters have been incorporated…What was lacking early on was Asian characters and now there’s been so many [like] in Rogue One…It’s great. And I wrap Temuera [Morrison] in this expansive Asian blanket. It’s just wonderful and I’m so thankful that fans like her, because, as a big Star Wars fan myself, it’s a gift. I’m grateful and I hope that this sort of success story will only encourage them to create more Asian characters.”

On a touching note, Ming-Na Wen emotionally outlined to Syfy how much Star Wars meant to her during her formative years. 

“I grew up and I came to the United States when I was younger and I had to learn English in 3rd grade. I think for me science fiction and fantasy was always like a great form of escapism, and so I was already a fan of that genre. But, when Star Wars came out, I had no idea what it was. We didn’t have social media back then, you just kind of hear word of mouth that there’s another great movie out and everybody was kind of crazy about it. The experience I felt from the moment the music came on and the scrolling of the story, and then the big Imperial cruiser going over our heads as a young kid you’re just like it’s endless. It just went on forever. I just knew I was in for an amazing adventure and the connection I felt with Luke Skywalker especially at the time when he looked at the binary sunset. I think this might be for all of us – that one moment. It’s like 30 seconds of celluloid, but with the music and him staring out there thinking about ‘Will I ever fulfill my dreams? Will I ever be who I want to become?’ That was me. I totally understood that being a kid stuck in Pittsburgh – I mean not that I was stuck, but I felt stuck – and wanting and dreaming about being an actor, being Asian and being a woman, and knowing the obstacles ahead of me. So, I think it was just all of that. I mean the force became a religious experience the whole thing, and I’m sure for you guys too on many levels, right? It’s so cool. It unites us all. Oh! And then when I got on the set of The Mandalorian and that volume lit up and it was Tatooine with the binary sunset – oh you should have seen how much I freaked out! I cried. I literally cried! I was so happy and then I had the AD take a picture of me looking at the binary sunset.”

Supervising director and executive producer Brad Rau and head writer and executive producer Jennifer Corbett also spoke at the roundtable event, detailing a host of interesting information about the Disney+ series.

Rau and Corbett spoke to us at Star Wars Holocron about their favorite characters beyond Clone Force 99 to approach in an ensemble piece like The Bad Batch.

Rau: “I love Sid. Sid is so good because she gives everybody an equal amount of guff, and it’s just delightful. Rhea Pearlman is such an outstanding actress. It’s been fun seeing how her voice when we first started recording affected some of the future scripts – some of the way that Syd would talk. Then when our animation and lighting department started bringing Sid to life, it’s just this awesome character. It’s exactly the kind of character that I love as a Star Wars fan. So yeah, she’s a blast.”

Corbett: “I personally loved Cad Bane, just being a massive The Clone Wars fan and you know him being so terrifying to watch on screen and intimidating. Having the chance to just see how he interacts with the batch compared to a different bounty hunter and what’s changed for him in his life since we last saw him. So he was fun to bring back.”

Speaking of Cad Bane, Coffee with Kenobi asked about the evolution of the infamous bounty hunter from The Clone Wars to The Bad Batch.

Corbett: “When talking about the first half of the season, obviously the Kaminoans put this bounty to have Omega return to them and we knew we wanted to have the batch interact with Fennec Shand – just to see how they end up because they’re still not fully street smart yet. They’re still very much soldiers. They don’t really know how the galaxy works in different ways and while Fennec is new to the scene, she’s still very dangerous. To sort of compare that interaction with when the Kaminoans hire an even bigger gun, and just a completely different experience for the batch where Hunter was able to get away that first time, but this time no one is going to outdraw Cad Bane. So, it’s kind of like just a continuation of who this squad is interacting with, and how each interaction, each experience they’re learning something new about other threats that are out there in the world, and how that affects them moving forward.”

Rau: “I’ll say Corey Burton – he’s such an amazing, fantastic, decorated actor. We have such a blast working with him. For the design of Cad Bane we were looking at some designs that had never fully gone into production that were in progress in The Clone Wars both for his look, and also for his ship that you see in 109. It was a lot of fun to go back to those and sort of take them out of the garage and tinker with it , push it, and rework it a little bit so that Cad Bane and his ride felt familiar, and yet a little bit more nuanced. A little more detail, but yeah Corey and his performance – it just informs all of the animation and a lot of the blocking. He’s phenomenal.”

Cad Bane isn’t the only antagonist Clone Force 99 bump heads with though, as one of their own – Crosshair – shockingly allied with the Empire in the series’ pilot. In speaking with Dork Side of the Force, Corbett revealed what it was like to make Crosshair the central antagonist.

Corbett: “Early on in the development process we knew that Crosshair was going to be the one who would sort of be the foil to this group and and be our main antagonist, but you bring up a good point because one of the things we always try to talk about with this series and when The Bad Batch are dealing with the regs, is that question of choice. Because with the chips, they didn’t really have a say and they’re conditioned to follow orders. With Order 66, we see them execute that without hesitation, so what the regs are going through and what Crosshair is going through is something we continue to explore throughout the season. So we don’t want to give too much away, but the discussion of choice is a big topic.”

Rau detailed to Star Wars News Net the mystery surrounding Omega and the fact that she is, technically, Boba Fett’s brother.

Rau: “There’s definitely a mystery that we won’t go into too much today, but we’ve just had a lot of fun playing the mystery up, to be honest. Just to see that there’s something to this kid. Something that makes me excited is when we can show this kid whoever it is, wherever she’s from, whatever her deal is. When you see her training alongside these other guys and failing, honestly sometimes and then seeing her overcome, that’s the most exciting part of her character. More than anything else, but there are other parts of her story to tell that we will be excited for you guys to see in the future.”

The exploration of the era in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope has been one of the highlights of The Bad Batch so far. Rau and Corbett spoke to Fantha Tracks and Syfy about telling a tale while navigating the ins and outs of this interesting slice of canon.

Rau: “It’s something that we’re really excited about in this era that hasn’t been really explored in the Star Wars timeline. There’s so many things going on, there’s so much change. There’s like a kind of wild west sensibility, and yet, the rise of the empire. How does that look, are things that get us really excited for the stories that these characters go into 100%.”

Corbett: “The [Lucasfilm Story Group] keep us very honest. Because, as Brad said with this timeline, we have a bit of wiggle room before we start getting into Rebels and even Solo and A New Hope. There’s an opportunity for us to explore lots of things, but anytime we have a story discussion or an episodic discussion the story team weighs in on things that could potentially be an issue or things that could potentially be a tie-in. And if it makes sense creatively that’s something we discuss and talk about, but we’re never really confined by things. It’s just if we like to shoot for the stars and if it gets into a certain area we have to be careful about, then we have a longer discussion on what we’re trying to accomplish and if it can fit with anything else.”

Rau: “…in this era there are a lot of different characters sort of bumping around, so anytime we can maybe see one or two of them in our show we’re just super excited about that.”

Speaking of characters bumping around, Rau teased the inclusion of characters from Star Wars Resistance to Jedi News.

“That might be too loaded of a question actually, but I’ll just say Resistance was an awesome show with this amazing cast of characters. Our crew working on the show primarily is the same crew both here at Lucasfilm and overseas as well, and it’s interesting how that show and the production of that show has affected what we do as we continue to push forward in the animation process. As far as specific characters, I mean I’m not going to go into too many details. There is definitely a long amount of time from where we are to where Resistance was, but it’s an interesting question.”

The adoptive father-child bond and the theme of found family are not only at the heart of The Bad Batch, but also The Mandalorian too with Din Djarin and Grogu. Rau and Corbett spoke of the similarities and differences between the themes explored in the two series.

Rau: “Really, for us, there are some similarities for sure that rollover the idea of a found family especially with grizzled warriors sort of having parenthood forced upon them, and then learning how to deal with that for good and for bad is just this classic storyline that when we were looking at The Bad Batch, it made sense to go that way really quickly. Not intentional as a symmetrical nod to The Mandalorian necessarily, more so just to create interesting point of view that could get the audience into the series where you might not always identify as a super soldier or as a clone, but as a family as a big brother a little sister – whatever it might be – it seemed like a natural way to get into this show.”

Corbett: “I think, to ground it in real life, when you see different families on the surface, they all may seem similar or you know have similarities, but really when you get into their dynamic and what they’re going through, that’s where you see the different shades. So, I think that’s kind of true with Star Wars as well.”

The Bad Batch has made headwaves with many of the series episodes being written by women so far, another example of Star Wars’ commitment to representation in front of and behind the scenes. Rebel Cells – the Star Wars Animation Podcast asked Corbett and Rau what makes a successful writers’ room.

Corbett: “It’s definitely all about collaboration and it’s great to bring in so many excited writers who love Star Wars, and who just want to play in that sandbox. The enthusiasm they bring and then from story breaking on through the whole script stage, and then production, we work closely with each freelancer and then with Brad and his team to each step along the way fine-tuning, adding, giving it that extra Star Wars thing to really kind of make the episodes pop. And yeah if i could say anything it’s collaboration, collaboration, collaboration, and I owe a lot of that to to Brad and the production side, because we give them stuff written on a page, but then seeing how they execute it – it’s like they take it from here to here and each time I’m amazed with every script.”

Rau: “I’m gonna swing that right back to you Corbett. You are the best. I mean really this collaboration that we have is unlike any other show i’ve ever worked on because truly when these amazing scripts – and they are amazing – and they’ve gone through so many stages, there’s so much love, blood, sweat and tears on each page, you can just feel it, but once we launch into our story phase, and into animation and lighting, and all the way to the end – we’re constantly talking, we’re constantly reworking things, and making sure they line up. So it’s that part of the collaboration that is really great and not every show is like that. I think it’s one of the special things about Lucasfilm Animation.”

Especially after speaking with Brad Rau, Jennifer Corbett, and Ming-Na Wen, we’re more excited than ever to see what Clone Force 99 will be up to in the remaining episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch. With Cad Bane on the table now, and the threat of Fennec, Crosshair, and the entire Empire looming over the Bad Batch, Hunter, Omega and the team will have plenty on their hands as The Bad Batch heads into its second half.

New episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch are available to stream on Disney+ every Friday! Stay tuned to Star Wars Holocron for more coverage of Star Wars: The Bad Batch!

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm

Categories
Star Wars Holocron

Padmé Tried to Kill Anakin: Revenge of the Sith’s Original Ending

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

The relationship between Padme and Anakin is at the heart of Revenge of the Sith, and comes to a devastating conclusion in the film’s final act. But their relationship went through several iterations in drafts of Revenge of the Sith, including one in which Padme attempted to kill Anakin.

Concept artist Iain McCaig revealed that George Lucas originally envisioned the final moments between Anakin and Padme on Mustafar differently.

In the final film, we see a troubled Padme arrive on Mustafar after Obi-Wan relayed to her the horrors committed by Anakin.

Padme is in disbelief and her love for Anakin blinds her to the truth: that her husband has turned to the dark side.

It isn’t until their final conversation that Padme realizes Obi-Wan was right, and Anakin’s rage takes over.

But this scene was originally viewed differently by George Lucas. 

After being told that Anakin had turned to the dark side, Padme arrived on Mustafar with more certainty about her husband’s actions. Yes, she’s devastated by what Obi-Wan has told her, but she doesn’t come to Mustafar for reconciliation with her husband, or to clear up what Obi-Wan told her. 

Instead, Padme makes an attempt on Anakin’s life, realizing the kind of man he has become. Storyboards show that when Anakin and Padme embraced on Mustafar, Padme would’ve approached Anakin with a knife, only to realize she was ultimately incapable of killing the man she loved.

For Game of Thrones fans, this will feel a little like the final moments between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen – the key difference being that, when Jon Snow realized the monster the love of his life had become, he was able to kill her.

The attempt on Anakin’s life aligned with Lucas’ original plans to depict how Padme gradually realized her husband was a monster throughout Revenge of the Sith. The Padme we see in the final film is largely in denial of this realization until her final moments with Anakin, whereas Lucas originally envisioned her recognizing her husband’s progressive fall to the dark side over the course of the film.

Regardless, it’s interesting to see the different ways Lucas conceptualized his characters and their relationships before arriving on the final version of the film.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm

Categories
Film Codex

REVIEW: F9

by @holocronJosh for @FilmCodex

The Fast and Furious reaches new heights of spectacle (and absurdity) in its newest installment F9. The tenth film in the franchise sees Dom (Vin Diesel) and the fast family team up once again to face a threat from Cipher (Charlize Theron), who teams up with Dom’s brother Jakob (John Cena) on a mission for revenge.

Few franchises have had the longevity and underwent the evolution that the Fast and Furious franchise has. What was originally a more ‘grounded’ street racing series evolved into a heist series, before its current iteration over the last several films breached into wacky, globe-trotting, spy territory. Unfortunately, it’s with the current batch of the films that the Fast and Furious franchise has seen more mixed results than ever. While Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious were absurd in terms of the plots, action sequences, and character decisions, the franchise managed to still deliver entertaining installment after entertaining installment, albeit proving to be more lackluster compared to previous films.

F9 continues this trend in the franchise with another film that, honestly, bridges on parody for most of its duration. This isn’t to say the film fails to entertain. From the opening sequence to the very end, F9 delivers scene after scene of action expertly directed by Justin Lin (a true veteran of the Fast and Furious franchise at this point). The problem, however, feels very much akin to what happened with the James Bond films of the late 1980s. Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s didn’t take themselves too seriously, but still managed to feel raw and approachable. And it’s in this middle ground between seriousness and parody that the Fast and Furious franchise somewhat delicately balanced for a while. But the scales have completely tipped in F9. The characters are invincible, a joke that Tyrese’s character makes several times in the film. Cars behave in absolutely bonkers ways. They even go to space. No, this has never been a gritty, slice of real life franchise, but there comes a point where enough is enough – and F9 feels like that.

On a more positive note, John Cena is an interesting and really natural addition to the franchise. With the much publicized feud between Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel, Hobbs is obviously nowhere to be seen in this film, but his absence is never really felt. The Fast and Furious films have always been ensemble pieces and this became even more evident with the fourth film and beyond. Characters come and go from film to film, and there’s a few surprise inclusions that fans of the franchise will enjoy in F9.

Also a major positive of F9 is the return of Justin Lin. This marks Lin’s fifth time in the driver’s seat of the franchise and it’s a testament to his ability as a director that he can still deliver enthralling, preposterous action set-pieces film after film. On a side note, Lin has ventured into different territory with directing stints on True Detective and in Star Trek Beyond, but it would be really nice to see a director of his caliber take on an original project outside of the Fast and Furious franchise.

At 145 minutes, though, the action does grow tiresome and, like many of the more recent Fast and Furious films, F9 greatly overstays its welcome. The film peaks early with an incredible action sequence, but loses steam throughout. Trimming a solid 20-30 minutes off this film would’ve greatly improved the pacing and made the over-the-top ridiculousness of the whole film a little more digestible.

Verdict: 5.5/10

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.

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures

Categories
Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: Loki – Episode 3

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Loki – Episode 3

The mysterious Sylvie enters the fray in the latest episode in Loki, a clever, intimate, and apocalyptic change of pace for the superb MCU series. Episode 3, titled Lamentis, sees Loki and the other ‘Variant’ reluctantly team up to escape a planet on the brink of destruction.

Last week’s episode left off on a startling cliffhanger as Loki followed the Variant away from the TVA, leaving fans with many questions left to answer. Opting for Demons by Hayley Kiyoko, rather than the classic MCU entry music, Lamentis picks up in an interesting fashion. We’re finally given a proper look at the Variant, later identified as Sylvie, deftly brought to life by the excellent Sophia Di Martino. In a seemingly inconsequential opening scene, we’re given a lot of information about this character, who has previously remained in the shadows (both literally and figuratively). She’s powerful, possessing abilities somewhat akin to Wanda Maxmioff, but certainly different from the Loki we know. She’s also driven and willing to go to great lengths to complete her mission, whatever that may be. And, soon after, Di Martino infiltrates the TVA itself and let’s the audience, and Loki, know she’s a formidable foe.

From there on out, Lamentis becomes another expertly executed installment in the sub-genre of superhero and buddy cop, except this time Tom Hiddleston’s Loki trades back-and-forths with Sylvie, rather than Owen Wilson’s Mobius. Although Wilson and his banter with Hiddleston have been highlights of the series so far, Lamentis was so consuming and captivating that Mobius and the inner-workings of the TVA we’ve grown to love in the past episodes weren’t missed. This episode works because of Hiddleston and Di Martino’s dual performances. So much character development and relationship building occurs within a compact 42 minute episodes, and every second of it is investing and believable due to the commanding lead performances. Loki met his match with Mobius in episodes 1 and 2 and now meets another individual who matches him in wit and mischievousness. 

The entire episode is structured around this burgeoning relationship and its reluctant necessity as the two must team up to escape the planet on the brink of destruction. This added a sense of urgency to the episode as well as the terrific sequences and dialogue that follow from a team-up neither party wants, but both parties recognize as necessary. The reveal that Loki is bisexual was delicately done, making Loki the first openly bisexual character in the MCU. And, although not strictly speaking reveals, there’s a number of hints in the episode that the TVA aren’t exactly as they seem. Should Loki continue his fight with the TVA against the Variant? Or is he on the wrong side of this battle and should Sylvie be his partner? 

Special attention needs to be directed toward the closing moments of Loki’s third episode, which stuns with a manufacturing one take sequence as Loki and Sylvie try to escape the planet. Everything in this sequence was breathtaking – top to bottom. From the production design to the directing to the score to the acting to sound design, the final scene in Lamentis was meticulously put together and really highlights that the line between television and cinema is blurred now more than ever. Not to mention the jaw-dropping cliffhanger the episode concludes on that has you just begging for more. It’s a somewhat abrupt ending, but one that perfectly sets the stage into the next episode.

Verdict: 9/10

Mobius and the TVA take a step back as Loki hits its half-way mark in characteristically spectacular fashion. Sylvie is a welcomed addition to the show and the episode triumphs largely due to the cleverly constructed dynamic between Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino’s characters. Lamentis and its impending apocalypse truly come to life in this episode and offered a jaw-dropping cliffhanger that has us waiting on the edge of our seats for more.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios

Categories
Star Wars Holocron

New Books Added to Del Rey’s Star Wars: Essential Legends Collection

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

The celebration of Lucasfilm’s 50th anniversary continues with a new batch of books in Del Rey’s Star Wars: Essential Legends Collection. After this month’s release of Heir to the Empire, Shatterpoint, and Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, this Fall sees the release of new, trade paperback editions of: Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn, The Last Command by Timothy Zahn, Darth Bane: The Rule of Two by Drew Karpyshyn, and Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole, all of which feature beautiful new cover art.

Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn

Dark Force Rising is the second installment in Timothy Zahn’s acclaimed Thrawn trilogy of the 1990s. The new cover art is designed by the incredible Tracie Ching.

The Last Command by Timothy Zahn

The Last Command wraps up Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy in spectacular fashion and is another worthy addition to Del Rey’s Essential Legends Collection. This beautiful, new cover art was also designed by Tracie Ching.

Darth Bane: The Rule of Two by Drew Karpyshyn

Following Path of Destruction, Drew Karpyshyn’s Darth Bane: Rule of Two continues the story of Darth Bane, as he and his apprentice Darth Zannah navigate the aftermath of the Seventh Battle of Ruusan. The new cover art was designed by Simon Goinard.

Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole

And, last but not least, Rogue Squadron sees the light again as part of the Essential Legends Collection. The first of the Rogue Squadron series features exciting new cover-art by Doaly and will receive a new, unabridged audiobook edition read by Marc Thompson.

All of these books will release on September 7th, and Del Rey will be continuing adding classic titles to their Essential Legends Collection in Spring 2022.

Images courtesy of Del Rey

Categories
Film Codex

Box Office Report: Weekend of 6/18 – ‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ Takes Top Spot

By @HolocronJosh and @HolocronGeorge for @FilmCodex

Lionsgate’s The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard dethroned A Quiet Place Part II to take the top spot at this weekend’s domestic box office. Over the three day weekend, the film took in $11.7 million, a good start, especially for an R-rated comedy in the era of the pandemic. The longer five day period took the movie’s total to $17 million.

The film, which stars Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson returning in their roles from the first in the series alongside Salma Hayek, has received lukewarm reviews with 25% on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, the star power of the three leads was surely a factor in audiences wanting to decide for themselves on this comedy. It also received a B CinemaScore.

Meanwhile, A Quiet Place Part II returned to second place with a 22% drop, meaning it held extremely well again this weekend. Overall, the Emily Blunt led film earned $9.4 million and has now passed $200 million globally. This is arguably the greatest hit during the pandemic as reviews, audience reaction, and box office gross have all been exceptional, especially given the circumstances.

Unfortunately, In the Heights did not hold as well as A Quiet Place. After a disappointing opening weekend, Warner Bros.’ latest film fell to number 6 in the charts, earning a mere $4.2 million and dropping off 63%. Despite the excellent reviews and reactions from those who watched the film, it doesn’t seem to be getting the attention that other movies have recently. Whatever the reason for that is, perhaps In the Heights is bound to be a cult classic only appreciated in years to come.

Other films released in the last few weeks continued their release include The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Cruella, and Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. The Conjuring earned $5.2 million this weekend, while Cruella grossed $5.1 million and Peter Rabbit took in $6.1 million.

The box office is set to be jolted into life yet again with the release of F9 next week, which is projected to be the biggest domestic film of the pandemic thus far. It’s expected to benefit from the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in many areas, such as capacity limits, which will allow theaters to seat more viewers per showing.

Stay tuned to Film Codex for more reviews, news, and more!

Categories
Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 8

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 8: Reunion

The Bad Batch marks the halfway point of its first season with one of the best efforts in Star Wars animation to date. Episode 8, titled Reunion, follows Clone Force 99 as Crosshair and his troopers show up on Bracca and pose the greatest threat to the Bad Batch yet.

After 8 episodes, Reunion really affirms what we’ve felt since the series’ pilot: The Bad Batch is more cinematic than anything we’ve seen from Star Wars animation yet. Although its run time hovers under 30 minutes, watching Reunion feels like you’ve sat down to watch a Star Wars movie – or at least a significant portion of a Star Wars movie.

The stakes feel higher than ever for the Bad Batch with the return of Crosshair. The former member of Clone Force 99’s allegiance to the Empire was heartbreaking and unexpected in the series’ pilot, but Crosshair has been conspicuously absent from the series’ third episode. In the meantime, we’ve seen the Bad Batch navigate life in the Imperial era and the growing bond between Omega and the other members of the ragtag team. But all this time, Crosshair’s absence has spoken volumes. Kind of like a slasher film’s villain disappearing for large stretches of the movie, we’re left thinking: when will Crosshair appear and what will happen when he reunites with his former teammates. This sense of dread was palpable in Reunion, which did not shy away from the danger posed by Crosshair nor the stakes at hand for the Bad Batch. 

The entire episode has a frantic, tense feel to it as Hunter and the others try to fight (and think) their way out of the perilous situation. With the exception of a few lovely moments at the beginning between Wrecker and Omega, the episode largely focuses on a series of suspenseful action set pieces. At times, shows like The Clone Wars or Rebels or even The Bad Batch have suffered from excessively action-centric episodes. But although Reunion marked a stark contrast from last week’s slow burn installment, the action was purposeful and brilliantly executed in this week’s episode. And the moments of ‘rest’ between action sequences proved more tense than the action itself. Hunter and Crosshair’s showdown was haunting. Crosshair seemed like a shell of the man he once was, and appeared unresponsive to Omega and Hunter’s calls for him to recognize the influence of the Inhibitor Chip.

The action came to a head with the ignition of the cruiser’s engine and how the Bad Batch turned this maneuver against their enemy. The scale of this entire sequence was incredible and added a welcomed variation on blaster and hand-to-hand combat. Crosshair’s defeat in the episode was unexpected and it was interesting to see such a powerful character reduced to a man in aid in Reunion.

Just when we think the Bad Batch are in the clear though, we’re greeted with shock and heartbreak. The shock comes with the appearance of none other than Cad Bane. The infamous bounty hunter was a highlight of The Clone Wars and it was jaw dropping to see him re-emerge in this series. It’s a testament to The Bad Batch so far that a show set in an era we know so much about manages to continually surprise us week after week. But it’s not longer after the shock and joy of seeing Cad Bane comes about that dread and heartbreak sets in. Cad Bane. Hunter and Bane’s Western stand-off was terrific and, coupled with Kevin Kiner’s superb score, felt like perhaps the most overt reference to the Western genre in Star Wars to date. The stand-off ends unexpectedly – Hunter is shot and Omega is stunned and captured by Bane. For better or worse, this really evoked Chapter 14: The Tragedy of The Mandalorian, in which Grogu is captured by the Dark Troopers despite the best efforts of his father-figure Din Djarin. The Bad Batch and The Mandalorian have closely shared a theme of found family and this reluctant father figure’s touching relationship with a child. For now, these parallels are acceptable given the emotional impact of The Bad Batch week after week, but some deviation from The Mandalorian’s core plot would be nice moving forward.

Verdict: 9/10

Reunion delivers shock, and heartbreak in abundance as The Bad Batch hits its halfway mark. Crosshair’s long-awaited return lives up to expectations and sets up a tense reunion with Clone Force 99. And just when the episode packs in some incredible action and emotion, we’re given a one-two punch with the return of Cad Bane and the capture of Omega, making it almost impossible to patiently wait until next week’s episode.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm

Categories
Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: Loki – Episode 2

by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Loki – Episode 2: The Variant

After a stellar premiere episode, Loki propels forward in another intriguing, clever, and compelling installment. The Variant sees Loki and Mobius continue their investigation into the variant Loki wreaking havoc across the timeline as they uncover clues about the threat posed.

Two episodes in and it’s pretty clear: Loki is the best MCU series on Disney+ yet. So much brilliant exposition, narrative, character dynamics, and humor are packed into a tight 54 minute episode that simply flies by. A significant reason for the series’ success so far, as evidenced in The Variant, is the relationship between Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius. The two play off one another superbly and deliver screenwriter Elissa Karasik’s sharp dialogue to perfection. Hiddleston is such a commanding screen presence and continues to highlight why he’s the MCU’s best villain to date. Loki is tricky, devious, witty, and yet undeniably likable, which is no small feat given that this is the character who led an invasion of New York City just days ago. Owen Wilson’s Mobius serves as a worthy juxtaposition to Hiddleson’s character. Loki evokes a sort of maniacal confidence and egocentrism that is delicately balanced by Mobius’ calm, collected, and equally intelligent demeanor. Loki has clearly met his match in Mobius. Their relationship, especially given the organization of the TVA and sci-fi leanings of the series, feels like the MCU’s version of the relationship between Will Smith’s Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K in the Men in Black series.

Unlike WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki doesn’t wait to dive head first into its central plot. The brilliant set-up in Glorious Purpose is capitalized on here as we see Loki and Mobius reluctantly team up to stop the variant Loki right from the get-go. Loki continues to draw upon Doctor Who, both aesthetically and narratively, while feeling like a natural next step in the sprawling MCU. And despite the speed at which we’re thrown into the core plot of the series, The Variant is largely devoid of action, with the exception of its opening and closing scenes. This felt refreshing as the character dynamics and machinations of the TVA are the most compelling aspects of the show so far, and the series continues to place these elements in the spotlight. Moments of tension and suspense do not rely on big, CGI-heavy action sequences to add stakes. But, rather, the plot and character arcs are driven by more intimate and clever conversations and revelations.

These conversations and revelations kept us interested for the entirety of the episode. We see Loki and Mobius do a bit of detective work to uncover that the variant Loki is hiding out in an apocalypse after disrupting other parts of the timeline. This revelation came about with a terrifically morbid sequence on Pompeii that somehow balanced the humor and horror of the situation. Ravonna Renslayer and Mobius’ conversations also added some depth to the Time Keepers and the inner-workings of the TVA. Everything we know about the TVA so far is so interesting and has surprisingly widespread implications for the MCU. Questions about free will, determinism, and the purpose of life add a unique, philosophical bend to Loki.

And the tension and suspense ramped up significantly in the episode’s closing act. The futuristic grocery store setting was eerie and fitting for the mysteriousness of the cloaked figure. Sophia Di Martino made her first appearance in the show as Lady Loki – confirming many fans’ speculations ahead of this reveal. Lady Loki has a crazy track record in comics to say the least, so it’ll be interesting to see how this character is depicted as the plot unfolds in Loki.

Verdict: 9.5/10

Loki impresses once again with an episode full to the brim with clever dialogue and interesting reveals driven by two superb leading performances. The Variant evokes element of Doctor Who and Men in Black as the time-bending, sci-fi-heavy plot moves forward in surprising and compelling fashion. The episode is worth watching for Hiddleston and Wilson’s relationship alone, but thankfully Loki has a captivating and impactful plot that lives up to the performances of its stars.

Images courtesy of Marvel Studios & Disney+

Categories
Star Wars Holocron

EXCLUSIVE LOOK: Star Wars Insider 203

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

The long-running Star Wars Insider continues this month with #203, and we’re happy to deliver an exclusive first look at the upcoming release. Featuring a new The High Republic story by Justina Ireland, an interview with Star Wars and Indiana Jones producer Robert Watts, a lookback at the cultural phenomenon that is The Mandalorian, and more, the new issue (hitting bookstands on June 22 in the U.S. and July 8 in the U.K.) looks to be full of interesting pieces and insights for all types of Star Wars fans. Check out the exclusive preview below!

MANDO MANIA

How secrets, storytelling and fan-pleasing moments helped make The Mandalorian an instant pop-culture phenomenon.

How the secret of Grogu helped the first live-action Star Wars series make the space-fantasy saga a cultural phenomenon yet again.

ROBERT WATTS INTERVIEW

The veteran Star Wars and Indiana Jones producer looks back on his days scouting the world for galactic locations.

Of all the distant worlds of the original Star Wars trilogy, one fact remained consistent: They each needed to be captured on film at a more down-to-Earth location. It was part of producer Robert Watts’ job to scout the real-world setting that would make for suitable doubles for the likes of Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor.

REBEL ROUSERS

From the dawn of its foundation to its triumphant victory, we profile the top ten leaders of the Rebel Alliance.

At the heart of Star Wars beats a story of good and evil. While allegiances and choices can be complicated – not all Jedi make the right decision all the time, and scoundrels and bounty hunters can make some of the best allies – the stories always come back to people who fight for justice, kindness, and freedom from fear. That’s especially evident in the story of the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire.

And that’s not all Star Wars Insider #203 has in store…

PAUL BROOKE INTERVIEW – TEARS OF A RANCOR KEEPER

The British actor reflects on his scene-stealing turn as Malakili, the tearful rancor keeper from Return of the Jedi.

It may have only been a few days’ work for actor Paul Brooke, but the bereaved rancor keeper Malakili’s brief appearance in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983) remains a standout moment in the saga. Star Wars Insider caught up with Brooke to look back at his time on set shooting the memorable scene.

A GALAXY ON YOUR DOORSTEP

A guide to the Californian filming locations for the forest moon of Endor, Tatooine, and even the Death Star.

The Star Wars movies have been filmed at exotic and often remote locations all over the world, but there are some that are within easy reach of residents of mainland U. S. A. Star Wars Insider takes a trip across California to find a galaxy far, far away that’s not so very far away at all.

NEAL SCANLAN INTERVIEW – A FORCE REAWAKENED

An exclusive conversation with the award-winning Star Wars creature and special makeup effects supervisor.

Creature and special makeup effects supervisor Neal Scanlan headed up the Star Wars creature shop for all five of the movies released since 2015. Star Wars Insider spoke to him about the part his team played in bringing the Skywalker saga to a close.

A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW

Star Wars expert Michael Kogge explores the best locations for Rebel Alliance and Resistance bases.

STAR WARS INSIDER #203 is on sale: US: JUNE 22, 2021 / UK: JULY 8, 2021

U.S. / CANADA SUBSCRIPTIONS

U.K. SUBSCRIPTIONS

REST OF THE WORLD SUBSCRIPTIONS

DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS

Images courtesy of Titan Comics

Categories
Film Codex

Box Office Report: Weekend of June 11 – ‘A Quiet Place Part II Regains Top Spot as ‘In the Heights’ Underperforms

By @HolocronJosh for @FilmCodex

As movie theaters begin returning to normal once again domestically, new releases are coming on a weekly basis. Just a few weeks ago, A Quiet Place Part II landed in theaters, before the latest chapter in The Conjuring franchise came and conquered the box office. This weekend, it was In the Heights’ turn, albeit with lukewarm results that were less than what most predicted.

Directed by John M. Chu, In the Heights earned $11.4 million over the weekend, when it was predicted to make around double that figure at least. With great reviews (and a terrific 96% on Rotten Tomatoes), this performance came to a shock to many movie audiences and those in the industry, especially as Warner Bros. funded an expensive advertising campaign for the film. Still, audiences didn’t seem too keen on returning to theaters for Chu’s film, leading to a second place finish at the box office.

In the Heights’ performance could come down to a few factors. While audiences might feel excited to go to see films like A Quiet Place Part II in theaters, they clearly didn’t feel the same enthusiasm for this, perhaps showing the strength of the horror genre, something that we’ve seen in the past few years as well. By all means, A Quiet Place was an event film, and highly anticipated by audiences since the first movie released in 2018. As much as the studio wanted to push In the Heights as a similar movie that people simply couldn’t miss in theaters, they were unable to do so, which could have hindered the box office performance. And while the hybrid release model didn’t seem to affect The Conjuring 3 all that much, it’s plausible that audiences were indeed interested in In the Heights, but not driven enough to see it on opening weekend, instead watching it at home on HBO Max. If this is the case, it could show the inherent lack of sustainability in the hybrid release model going forward, or at least for certain kinds of movies such as this. Still, there’s a good chance that In the Heights recuperated some money on the streaming service, a bright side of all of this.

In its place was, once again, A Quiet Place Part II, coming in at $11.7 million. In doing so, the film was the first pandemic movie to gross $100 million domestically. Meanwhile, Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway opened with $10.4 million over four days (the film released on Thursday). Once again, this was below expectations, which signals the sheer unpredictability of the box office and that some films will do exceptionally well, but others won’t. And while this is similar to pre pandemic box office, it certainly seems to be more volatile and up and down, at least for now.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It came in fourth with $10.02 million, and Cruella rounded out the top 5 with 6.7 million.

Stay tuned to FilmCodex for more box office reports, news, reviews, and more!