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Planes – A Review

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It has been some time since this blogger sat down and watched Disneytoon’s Planes. Panned by the critics, I found the film not only entertaining but quite interesting. And despite the poor reviews the movie made enough money to justify a sequel – Planes: Fire and Rescue. So the creators clearly did something right. The question, of course, is what?

Planes takes place in a world similar to that seen in Cars. It may even be the same world. But since this story has a different focus this is neither confirmed nor denied. There are enough likenesses, however, to make it plausible.

The story follows Dusty Crophopper, a cropdusting plane who dreams of racing around the world rather than fertilizing corn fields all day. As he himself says, “I’ve flown thousands of miles… And I’ve gone no where.” He wants to see the world beyond his hometown, an aspiration almost everyone can sympathize with, even if they have found that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Dusty has three main problems with following through on his wish. First, he is a cropduster, not a race plane. Second, he is an older model plane (not significantly older, but twenty years for a plane is not the same as twenty years for a human being). That means parts can and will be an issue. If he breaks down and loses an important piece, replacing it may not be possible.

Third, Dusty is afraid of heights. While that sounds laughable and crazy at first, it actually makes a lot of sense. As a cropduster, he has naturally has to fly low in order to do his job. For that reason trying to reach heights greater than, say, the average skyscraper literally sends him into a tailspin. He cannot look down without losing control and dropping like a rock.

Despite the scoffing of some closest to him, Dusty trains with his friends so he can qualify to enter the Wings Across the Globe race. Before trying out, Dusty approaches an old F4U Corsair named Skipper Riley and asks him to become his coach. Skipper refuses and, when Dusty fails to meet the requirements for the race, it’s a severe blow to the little plane’s morale.

Planes - Disney Wiki

However, when the plane who beat Dusty is eventually prohibited from entering the race due illegal fuel intake usage (he was essentially using steroids), everything changes. Now an official competitor in the race, he has to get into shape to make first place in the competition. Impressed by Dusty’s willingness to keep working, Skipper surprises him by offering tips and becoming his informal mentor. The old war plane isn’t happy when he learns about Dusty’s fear of heights, and he is quite put out when the farm plane absolutely refuses to fly higher than his upper limit. But he stays and continues to train him for the race.

Once he’s achieved the proper speeds, Dusty heads to New York for the start of the competition. There he makes several friends before running afoul of the race’s three-time winner, a plane named Ripslinger or “Rip” for short. (Not inconsequentially, his voice actor is Roger Craig Smith, the man who played Captain America in Avengers Assemble.) Although he dismisses Dusty at first, Rip rethinks his opinion when it becomes clear the farm plane has the talent and skill to beat him. He then resorts to every dirty trick he can think of to put this up-and-coming star out of the race.

From this overview it is clear that Planes is a pretty standard American film. It stars the country underdog who impresses everyone with his sportsmanship and gumption. The film also carries a patriotic subtheme, showing the United States Navy in a very good light, and not just with Skipper. All in all, it’s not a bad story.

Planes | Teaser Trailer

So why did the critics pan it?

Personally, I think they trashed the film precisely because it is so American. A throwback to the days when it wasn’t taboo to bless American and love her, Planes presents everything good about our home country. There is not an ounce of America-bashing angst in the entire film.

But that’s not the only area in which Planes shines as an inherently American tale. The trope of the underdog who wins the respect of the world and topples the previous record-holder is one that is uniquely American in character. The reason for this is because America herself has traditionally been the “little guy” on the world stage. We were the country bumpkins who whipped the British Empire – which ruled more territory than anyone since Ancient Rome – in two wars that were rarely close to a fair fight. We then proceeded, by dint of sheer determination and grit, to make ourselves a world power.

In keeping with this theme, as mentioned above, the film also presents the navy as an inherently good organization. Skipper and his history in World War II, while fantastic, remind viewers of the fact that we practically saved the world in the 1940s. The scenes which refer to the modern military demonstrate that the spirit which led us to step up seventy-five years ago remains very much alive and well today. Skipper’s navy has received many technological upgrades, true, but none of those have changed her heart in the least.

Another area where the film affronts the sensibilities of many modern critics is its main motif, which is that everyone “can be more than what [they] were built for.” Dusty follows through on his dream of being a race plane, proving that the audience can, with perseverance and fortitude, achieve their desires as well. Many people today feel they cannot attain what they hope for, and while Planes is not the only movie/tv show/story to use this theme in the present era, it is one of the few that does so in a forthright, American manner.

This point deserves to be expounded upon a bit. Americans are so well-acquainted with the “pursue your dreams” motif that they have largely forgotten the rest of the world actively pushes the opposite message. For the most part, even in the 21st century, all other nations on the planet force people to remain in whatever state of life they were born into.

It is extremely hard for people elsewhere on the planet, for example, to change jobs. In some countries, if a man is born into a certain caste or chooses a particular profession, when he reaches adulthood that becomes his occupation for life. A few places may let him train and/or trade jobs, but the transition will be neither cost-effective nor relatively timely.

Nor will a man who moves into another profession be respected for doing so, whether or not he works as hard as the other people in his occupation. He has reached above or below his station and therefore must be held in some measure of contempt by the rest of society. If he is not, then others might think to challenge the status quo, which would upset the standards of class practiced over the course of centuries and, eventually, lead to a culture that is no longer static.

Planes for Rent, & Other New Releases on DVD at Redbox

For Americans, the reverse has traditionally been true. We have had actors becomes soldiers and soldiers become actors, and no one has batted an eye over it. We have had plane manufacturers become farmers and farmers become plane manufacturers without the slightest bit of trouble or nationwide resentment….

And so on and so forth; almost everyone in the history of the United States has, at one time, traded his or her jobs like a set of hats. In doing so they have never had to worry about societal backlash or difficulties because it has been traditionally understood that in America class has no place. A farmer is as good as a billionaire, a CEO, or a high paid lawyer because all men are created equal. They are not kept equal, as they are in other countries, but they are born with an equal amount of potential to be more than what they were “born for.”

Planes takes these American tropes and runs with them in wholehearted, happy abandon. It does not apologize for being an American movie to its core. Instead, it flaunts its old-fashioned U.S. values with cheerful pride. In so doing the film reminds American viewers of what they can really do if they work hard and don’t quit. Nothing – except maybe a religious film – upsets critics so much as a purely American story. Thus it is not hard to see why critics hated the film and movie-goers loved it.

John Lasseter, the erstwhile head of Pixar, penned and directed this movie. While Planes may not be among the crown jewels of his achievements, it certainly deserves more respect than it has received so far. I would personally rate Planes near the head his list of accomplishments because, as usual, the critics were wrong. This is a movie that is well worth the purchase price and the time spent watching it.

If you are looking for a light, fluffy film that is shameless in its embrace of the American spirit, I highly recommend this movie. Hollywood has largely lost the ability to tell stories like this, so when such a gem is discovered, it deserves all the love and appreciation it can get.

Until next time, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

Book Reviews: Star Wars Rebels – Ezra’s Gamble and The Rebellion Begins

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“Thanks for doing the heavy lifting!”

As you know, readers, Star Wars Rebels was a dark horse for this blogger. I figured I would watch the first episodes and be so disgusted, upset, or unimpressed with it that that would be the end for me. Watching it wouldn’t bother me any faster than ignoring it would.

However, my early assessment of the show could not have been more wrong. I quickly fell in love with this series, primarily because of the two Jedi who formed the core of the story. Han Solo is great, Mandalorians are cool, and Wookiees are wonderful, but the Jedi are the pièce de résistance of the Star Wars universe for me. I cannot say why the Jedi are my favorite part of this mythos. All this blogger can say for sure is that she loves ‘em. So the fact that we were getting two new ones in my favorite era of Star Wars – that period around the time of A New Hope – was the hook which pulled me into the series.

Since the show has concluded, I thought it best to review these two short children’s novels which tie into the series. If you are not a die-hard Star Wars fan bent on satiating a hunger for new fare, you probably will not be too interested in them. I like the series enough that it does not matter to me if the books related to it are churned out for children. Yes, they have their limitations; but they are also well written and they satisfy my desire for decent stories starring Jedi. I will take what I can get, especially since this new timeline offers us precious little in the way of enjoyable stories – particularly about the space knights I love so much.

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The first novel is Ezra’s Gamble, by Ryder Windam. This author is a “hired gun,” if you will. He has written several different novels in franchise universes for kids. The ones I remember off the top of my head were related to the Transformers films. Those were not books I would describe as great, but that may have been due to intereference from the people running the franchise rather than poor writing on the author’s part.

Ezra’s Gamble is much better than his Transformers books, which felt more stilted than the first three movies in the franchise. I would guess Mr. Windham is a Star Wars fan and possibly an afficianado, since he writes in a style similar to Timothy Zahn’s. I did not sense our time and place intruding on his story at any point in the narrative, either, which made the book far more enjoyable than Star Wars: The Lost Stars. (There will be more on that travesty of a novel below.)

A prequel to Star Wars Rebels, Gamble begins with Ezra selling tickets to an illegal gladiator fight on Lothal. He manages to fleece his customers of the valuables on their persons while he does this. But said items – and the cash he receives for the tickets – are lifted from him by his mentor and the man who got him involved in selling the vouchers. This would a Xexto by the name of Ferpil Wallaway.

Meanwhile – and you bounty hunter fans will love this – Bossk is approaching Lothal in the Hound’s Tooth to collect a reward for a gambler named Shifty. Turns out that Shifty jumped bail on another planet and fled here for some reason. The Imperial on duty at the spaceport, who calls himself Lieutenant Herdringer, gets Bossk an unwanted escort to the surface. Before terminating their conversation, Herdringer adds that he does not want any shooting when the hunter goes after Shifty.

Well, the Hound’s Tooth lands, and Ezra takes a peek at the ship. This gets Bossk’s attention, leading to a conversation between them. Smelling a chance to make some extra money, Bridger offers to be the bounty hunter’s local guide, since Shifty is supposed to be at a place called Ake’s Tavern and the Trandoshan has no idea where that establishment is. Bossk hires him after some haggling and fussing, then acts like he forgot Shifty’s name in order to make Ezra enter the building ahead of him.

Bossk does this to distract the assassins hired to protect Shifty. Apparently, someone has a lot to lose if the gambler is caught and taken back to face the music. In the ensuing chaos, Shifty is killed. After this, Ezra and Bossk are forced by circumstance – and the future apprentice’s good heart – to work together to find out who set the bounty hunter up.

This is a good book, one that speed readers, afficianados, and most people who love reading can race through in a day. The fact that it is written for children really does not diminish the quality of the story. Mr. Windham studied up on his setting very well, melding the Bounty Hunter part of the old Star Wars EU seamlessly with Rebels. He also tosses out words from the old EU like “ferrocrete,” which made reading the novel a lot more fun.

Best of all was Windham’s handling of Bossk. I have never “met” this bounty hunter in the original EU novels, but I have read about him in my New Essential Guide to Characters. From what I can tell, fans of this Trandoshan will not find fault with his depiction in Ezra’s Gamble. He seems almost unchanged from his previous deportment here.

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Next we have the novelization for Star Wars Rebels’ introductory film/episodes: The Rebellion Begins, written by Michael Kogge. This book is not quite as good as Ezra’s Gamble, but it is not bad because of that. It starts out in a different place than the show does; there is a build-up to the opening scenes viewers of the show saw when Spark of Rebellion first aired, adding context to the story and characters.

Since I do not want to spoil the beginning, all I will say is that you have to go through a prologue and two chapters before reaching the point where Spark of Rebellion officially begins onscreen. Ghosts are a motif throughout the book, and Agent Alexsandr Kallus gets some interesting moments here as well. By far, I like this novel most for how it deals with Kanan, showing his reticence and giving us a good idea of why he is so afraid to use the Force.

Hera comes through this novel well, as does Ezra. Zeb is presented in a good light, along with Sabine, though there is not as much depth for her as I would like. This is probably due to the fact that the book was written before her history was revealed, which means that Mr. Kogge did not have enough info on her to give us hints about her past. So while the story is quite satisfactory for someone just coming in to the series, it is rather annoying for a reader who has watched the show from the beginning to roughly half of its final season.

I wish they had more books like Ezra’s Gamble and The Rebellion Begins out on shelves. Mr. Kogge and Mr. Windham proved here that they can write good Star Wars fiction. I think that, if they were turned loose on this era of the mythos, they would do the prior EU writers proud – more so than the authors of The Lost Stars and the new novelization of A New Hope have. These writers did little for the franchise except to wrap current political arguments in Star Wars dressing, which is NOT what authors are supposed to do.

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An author’s job is to entertain his or her audience by telling great stories about good beating evil, not stories where a Rebel and an Imperial can fall in love and yet remain divided by one’s firm adherence to her oath to the Empire. Even Rebels’ writers had Kallus change sides when he learned the truth about the Empire, for Pete’s sake! Stories like The Lost Stars are supposed to end with the guy getting the girl, but this is not what happened in that “novel.”

(Warning for Younger Readers: The Lost Stars includes three completely unnecessary sex scenes. One of these practically qualifies as a rape, in my opinion, despite the fact that the woman involved told the man, “Don’t you dare stop.” I have never heard of a pre-Disney Star Wars story which approved of such behavior, as The Lost Stars seemed to do. Such books may have been written in the old EU, which means that I missed them. However, my impression from studying up on and personally reading older Star Wars fare was that even in a galaxy far, far away rape was rape, period, and that it was not to be accepted or approved of. EVER.)

Also, in my opinion, the latest junior novelization of A New Hope all but ruined Princess Leia for the next generation of readers. For some reason, the author of that book spent paragraph upon paragraph having Leia whine about how everyone expected her to be a demure little princess who could not take care of herself. Pardon me, readers, but that is pure Bantha fodder. Yes, Leia surprised everyone when she snatched the blaster rifle from Luke to shoot at the Stormtroopers in A New Hope. There is, however, a perfectly logical reason for that which has NOTHING to do with Luke, Han, or any other man believing she could not take care of herself because she was a woman.

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Remember that Luke lived a sheltered life on Tatooine. He had no more idea that princesses were trained to fight than Han had any idea of how to run a moisture farm. As it is, Han had been around the block many times, so he knew women who could and would fight. He just did not stop to think that anyone would take the time or have the inclination to teach a princess to fight, anymore than most of us automatically expect rich or important people in today’s world to pay for their children to be trained to defend themselves.

We do not expect this because most of these people do not insist their children learn self-defense. It is not because we think their children – both sons and daughters – could not be taught to fight. It is because so very few of them are taught the art of combat that we therefore expect so little of them. The same applies in this case to Han and Luke. The precedent for rulers of any kind teaching their children – whether they are princes, princesses, lordlings, etc. – to fight is so low that even in a galaxy far, far away, a farmboy and a smuggler can be taken by surprise when a noblewomen picks up a blaster and starts shooting with the skill of long practice.

Luke and Han’s surprise does not make them misogynists. It shows Luke’s naïveté and Han’s lack of refinement. Neither of these things makes them evil members of the patriarchy bent on keeping women down. It shows them being human, being men – something which is particularly interesting in regards to the scruffy scoundrel most people would automatically write off as a bad guy.

But now, in the New Order of the Cosmos, we cannot have men being gallant to women for the sake of their womanhood or even for the sake of the men’s own sacred honor. Nooo, we have to have female characters fuming about being “patronized” and “dominated by the patriarchy” before “overcoming it and proving” that they are just as good as men. That is all Leia does in the latest junior novelization of A New Hope – and it is absolutely infuriating.

Ezra’s Gamble and The Rebellion Begins do not have such stupidity in their narratives, which is another reason why I enjoy reading them. These books tip their helmets to the EU writers who kept Star Wars alive after Return of the Jedi left theaters, and they do the new characters in Rebels immense credit. Despite their limitations, I find these short novels worthy reading when I need good entertainment and a Star Wars fix.

If you do not like them, or they are not to your taste, I am sorry to hear that –although I accept the fact that they will not appeal to everyone. I thought it worth mentioning them, however, since they pay tribute to Star Wars instead of dishonor. Too much of the new material does the latter these days, which is why it is good to spotlight the better media produced for fans. Despite the ending for the final season, I think Rebels – and these two books preceding the series’ start – fall into that category.

Until next time, readers, may the Force be with you.

Star Wars Rebels, Season Four – A Review and an Opinion

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Okay, first things first. I have not seen the last six episodes of season four of Star Wars Rebels and, judging by the descriptions, I don’t think I want to see them – not any time soon, at least. I know I am a minority opinion in this regard, and if my decision upsets you, I am sorry for hurting your feelings. But we’re not responsible for the choices of others; my decision is my own, so don’t feel bad if you think I’m wrong. That is your decision, and I certainly don’t feel bad about it. Neither should you.

All right, let’s review some of the episodes I did see. I mostly enjoyed Heroes of Mandalore, with just a couple of minor points of reserve/annoyance. One, I would have preferred to see Alrich Wren in Mandalorian armor rather than normal attire. He is a Mandalorian, for Pete’s sake; dress him like one! He can be less severe than Ursa Wren all day long, but that doesn’t mean you have to make him look like a wimp. Two, if Ezra could have actually been there to watch Sabine decide to destroy the Duchess rather than show up and beg not to be shot, I would have been happier.

This was the biggest sticking point for me in these otherwise excellent episodes. Seriously, what is so bad about letting the guy help the girl? Could someone please explain this to me? You could have had Ezra show up and deal with Tiber Saxon’s backup while Sabine fixed the Duchess to zap Stormtrooper armor instead of Mandalorian armor, couldn’t you? Then Ezra could help Bo-Katan turn Sabine from a desire for revenge to choosing to do what was right. He’s a Jedi, and he’s been where she is, and so I would think that would add some weight to his advice.

All right, venting done. On the plus side, it was good to see so much more of Mandalore. It was also nice to watch Bo-Katan letting go of her past while helping Sabine see her future, just as it was nice to see the Wren family and Rau survive this battle. Mandalore isn’t free yet, but it is on the road to freedom, and that means the Empire’s in trouble here for the rest of the Rebellion. (Yay!)

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Next we had “In the Name of the Rebellion.” Now these episodes were more aggravating for me than the others, and that had less to do with the characters than it did with the way the Rebellion leadership behaved. In the original EU and film trilogy, the Rebellion was about doing, not talking. Whose bright idea was it to make the Rebel leadership so spineless in the new timeline, anyway? When we were originally introduced to Star Wars, the Rebellion was well past this political whining – if it had ever really had to deal with it. Watching them dither about committing troops to a fight or leaving their own bases absolutely grinds my gears.

That said, I agree that Saw Gerrera’s tactics are over the top and wrong. And I do agree with the writers’ decision to hammer this point home to Ezra and Sabine. Hitting the enemy hard does not mean you put innocent people in danger, which Saw was doing, and they needed to learn that truth.

However, Saw also had a valid point which the writers didn’t really do anything to explain; if you fight according to the enemy’s rules, you will lose. Because guess what, they are the enemy’s rules, and that means the enemy can change them any time they want. If you let the enemy do this to you, you won’t be able to adapt to the changes fast enough to survive, let alone win the fight. When you are fighting for freedom from tyranny, fight to win, dang it! Otherwise, get out of the way and let everyone else do their job.

As you can tell, this plot point really got under my skin, but there were things to enjoy here. Watching Kanan help Hera fly blind was great, and seeing a huge khyber crystal was very interesting. I also liked that these shows gave us a glimpse of the scientists the Imperials were using to make the Death Star. We rarely got to see prisoners being rescued by the Rebels in this series, so it was nice watching Ezra and Sabine work out how to destroy the crystal while protecting the prisoners at the same time.

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Bonus points, we got a new Stormtrooper scream out of this show. I always love those. 😉

The rest of the episodes were fun and artfully done, from the return to Lothal to the mission to make contact with the Rebellion. I had a few points of disagreement with the writers along the way, though. Watching the Rebellion leadership wimping out again was seriously aggravating, as was the lack of Kallus’ presence in these shows when he had promised to have such an interesting part in this season. The general trend in “girrrrrl power” at the expense of the guys’ characters and masculinity was another demerit for this season, too.

But I would have to say that “Rebel Assault” was the show I had the biggest problems with, and not just because of the warning about Kanan’s impending demise. No, my biggest problems here were how the Rebellion decided to handle this attack and how the writers showed Hera fighting Rukh.

First, we will deal with the Rebellion. In “Rebel Assault,” the mission is supposed to be an attack on what is, in essence, a war factory. But somehow Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, General Dodonna, and the rest send nothing more than a couple of measly fighter squadrons to destroy it.

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What the Sam Hill….? That makes no sense, even when you consider that Thrawn is the one directing the Empire’s defense. When we sent fighter planes over Germany and Japan, they weren’t carrying the bombs we dropped, the bombers were. Y-wings certainly have the capability to drop bombs, but they’re still, technically, fighters. Hera should have had at least a few corvettes and blockade runners backing her squadrons up on this mission, but that didn’t happen.

This mistake on the part of the writers immediately pulled me out of the story when I watched the trailers and led me to the conclusion that Hera’s attack was doomed to failure. No commander in their right mind, for a mission like this, would send in just fighters. The Death Star was so darn big that it had to be attacked by little bitty fighters, which it couldn’t swat as easily as it could have obliterated a bigger ship.

But in this battle, the Rebels were up against Star Destroyers. Yes, Star Destroyers are big, powerful, and scary. Unlike the Death Star, however, they can be challenged by ships of equivalent or smaller size with relative success.

Dodonna would certainly have known this, and I would think Mon Mothma and Bail Organa would know it, too. The fact that the writers did not send a support force with Hera’s squadrons shows me that they either weren’t thinking, they don’t have even a glancing knowledge of military history, or they were under pressure from their superiors. My money is on the latter, to be honest; these writers have shown a level of skill which makes it hard for me to believe they aren’t clever enough to think of these things or don’t know at least a bit about history. I can’t believe (not right now, anyway) that they would do this out of simple ignorance and thoughtlessness. They’re too smart for that answer to fly.

Now we come to Hera’s hand-to-hand battle with Rukh. I am sorry, Hera fans, but I had a major problem with this. In this episode, Hera crash lands in the capitol city of Lothal after her failed attack. Obviously, she has to escape back to camp so the Empire can’t interrogate and kill her. The main difficulty with this plan is that she faces a Noghri hunter – Star Wars’ version of a super ninja – who has been sent to bring her in for interrogation. Yet after crashing and being injured, she still manages to handle Rukh perfectly in close combat, despite having a headache and an injured arm.

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Sorry for the blurriness of this shot.

Pardon me, but whaaat….?

Leave aside for a moment the fact that the Noghri are invisible to Force-sensitives (they can’t sense them through the Force at all) and that they are good enough at combat to scare competent Jedi like Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa Solo, and Mara Jade. Leave aside as well the fact that Wookiees, impressive, massive warriors that they are, cannot bring down a squad of Noghri without suffering serious wounds and severe losses. Bottom line, Hera’s injuries should have been limiting factors in her fights with Rukh. She should have tried harder to avoid hand-to-hand combat with him because of her weakened state.

A Noghri’s size is extremely deceptive; they are strong enough to go hand-to-hand with full-grown Wookiees and match them in physical power. The fact that Hera can somehow, with a bum arm and a headache, throw and hold Rukh so easily shouldn’t be possible in-universe. And yet the writers had a wounded Hera Syndulla rather easily hold her own in battle with an alien whose people are veritable super ninjas, beating out the Jedi, Mandalorians, and Mistryl Shadow Guards in terms of skill and prowess. (Author glances from side to side.) Am I the only one who sees a problem here? I like Hera – even though she is not my favorite character – but come on. Am I the only one who looked at this fight and went, “Agh, here we go with the girrrl power motif again”?

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Yep, thought so. Told you I was the minority opinion. 😉

Speaking of which, now we come to the last six episodes of the season that I did not view. I missed the first two, where Kanan dies, and I avoided the other four or five in order to find out if they were shows I wanted to watch. From the descriptions I have read, I feel pretty safe in saying that I do not want to see the end of season four for Star Wars Rebels. There are several reasons for this, but to make sense of it, I am going to break it down into parts. Because everyone knows Kanan Jarrus was my favorite Rebel, we will start with him:

Kanan’s Death

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Yes, part of the reason I do not wish to see the last six episodes of Rebels is because Kanan dies. I had a feeling it was coming, and I knew it was going to be especially upsetting for me personally. HOWEVER; this is not the first time I have seen a major character I liked die, so it is not simply the fact that Kanan croaks which makes me desire to avoid these installments in the series. In fact, when I think of where he died, I dissolve into giggles.

Now you are thinking I am some kind of heartless maniac, right? I don’t want to giggle over this – seriously, the guy was my favorite character! I spent lots of pixels talking about and praising him.

But every time I think of him standing on a fuel tank when it goes up, I just start giggling. There’s something kind of – I don’t know, anti-climactic in picturing someone being blown up while standing on top of a fuel tank. I guess it makes me think of all the bad guys I’ve seen/wished to see blasted off into kingdom come by a big explosion, or all those idiotic side characters who choose to stand in the wrong place at the wrong time and get blown up. There’s also the whole “blow-up-the-fuel-to-save-the-environment-while-standing-on-the-fuel-tank” angle to consider. It’s just – it strikes me as a rather comical place to die. And yes, I am giggling while I write this.

Now if I had seen Kanan die, I probably wouldn’t be so cavalier about this scene. It sounds like a tear-jerker, which is another reason I want to avoid it right now. None of my friends need me breaking down on them when we’re supposed to be relaxing in front of the TV, after all. And if I watched it alone, I would be stuck dealing with me sniffling. That is not nearly as much fun as the movies make it look, readers.

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But the bigger reason is that I think that, if Rebels had been allowed to last longer, Kanan need not have died at all. We’ll delve into this a little more below, but does anyone else feel like the last six episodes were a bit rushed? It is as though someone told Filoni and the gang, “Season four is your last; kill the show. We don’t care how you do it – so long as you don’t kill the girls – but end this thing before 2019.” The last six episodes are jam packed, proceeding at a near breakneck pace I can sense just from the descriptions. There’s barely a pause for breath in each one.

Based on what I have read about these final installments, I think Filoni knew when he started this series that the higher ups at Disney/Lucasfilm wouldn’t like it due to their political leanings. He’s thrown some political bones into the mixture from time to time over the past three seasons, but on the whole, I would say he was telling a good story well here. There is nothing more aggravating to the “artísts” who insist that every piece of fiction should be a vehicle for one agenda or another. He knew he was on borrowed time, more or less, and that giving Kanan and Ezra their fair shakes would probably cost him in the end.

So when they told him to kill Rebels, he said, “Okay, but can I kill it my way?” They of course said yes, thinking he was being a good little drone doing what they wanted him to do. Personally, though, I believe he blew up Rebels rather than let them get their hands on it. This brings us to my next big problem with how the series ended….

Time-Travel…. Really? REALLY?!?

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When I read the description for “A World Between Worlds,” I handled it pretty well at first. But thinking back over it, I began to get more and more uncomfortable. Even in the old EU, I was not happy with the writers’ decision to add time-travel to the Star Wars universe. Star Wars, like The Lord of the Rings and other fantasy stories, has a fixed timeline. You may be able to view the past in some way in Star Wars through the Force, but the idea of sending people backward and forward through time in the mythos never sat well with me.

This is why I didn’t like the old EU’s penchant for messing with time-travel. The reason I don’t like it in Rebels is that it completely negates the ending of season two of the series. In essence, it saves Ahsoka by cheating; sending Ezra back in time to save her instead of letting the Force protect her in some more spiritual/physical manner, knocks everything in Twilight of the Apprentice into a cocked hat.

Now if the “World Between Worlds” had been more like the “Wood between the Worlds” in Narnia, where the spiritual and physical planes sort of “meet” each other more completely than they do anywhere else, I would have been happier. In a case such as this, I would think the writers could have had Ahsoka escape to the “World Between Worlds” from Malachor either on her own or with the help of the Force. While a year or so passed outside the Lothal temple, for her, minutes would have elapsed between her arrival there and Ezra’s journey inside.

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Because Ahsoka was here, and because this was a place where the physical plane and the Force sort of “touched” each other moreso than they otherwise do, the writers could have had the Emperor chasing the two down in an effort to convert/kill them and take over the place. Then, because this area intersected with the spiritual realm, the writers could have had Kanan’s spirit appear to help the two escape/thwart Palpatine.

Though not trained like Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Yoda in keeping his form when he became one with the Force, I don’t think Kanan would have needed such training to appear in a place where the Force and the physical plane meet. Writing the story this way would also have allowed him a chance to say good-bye to Ezra while still giving him his “last lesson” as a Jedi. To me, this would not have been nearly so much of a cheat as the story we did receive in “A World Between Worlds” was.

Now we come to the third reason why I will not watch the end of Rebels…

The Battle of Lothal

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I have two problems with this battle, and the first is the idea that the Empire left Lothal alone after the remaining members of the Ghost crew blew up all the Imperials on the planet. The idea that, one year out from the completion of the first Death Star and roughly five years before Endor, Rebels could throw the Empire off of a planet as valuable as Lothal and that planet would remain free until the final battle of Return of the Jedi is completely illogical. Anyone who knows anything about history can tell you this. For example, the Battle of Trenton did not free the United States from British tyranny, nor did it keep the British from coming back to Trenton. It took eight long years for us to boot them from our soil and guarantee the safety of all our citizens’ from English attack/retribution.

Likewise, the Rising of the Vendee against the revolutionaries who wrought such barbaric terror on France did not free their country. In fact, most of the Vendee fighters were slaughtered by the revolutionaries running the French Republic. The Cristeros in Mexico had it little better, which you will see if you watch the film For Greater Glory. Though the Mexican president was eventually forced to stop fighting them, the Cristeros were still being killed many years after the end of the Cristero War.

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The people of Zaragoza, a city in Spain, rose up against Napoleon’s army after he conquered their country and threw the best troops in the world out of their city. Months to a year later, however, the Zaragozans were defeated by the vengeful French and the few remaining inhabitants were marched out of a city that was in ruins. The same thing happened to the Tyrolese – twice – when they fought Napoleon’s forces in an attempt to rejoin Austria after he had annexed their district from their mother nation.

My point in bringing up these examples is that you do not bloody a tyrant’s nose and get off scot free, readers. You have to keep fighting until the tyrant is six feet under, no longer on your country’s soil, or you are dead. And at this point in the mythos, Palpatine is still alive. Even considering the destruction of the first Death Star, he should have had forces committed to Lothal to at least wreak his vengeance on that world. The war was touch-and-go from A New Hope up to the moment Luke decided not to kill his father on the second Death Star. Like the rest of the galaxy, Lothal should only have been freed by the Battle of Endor, when Palpatine was killed.

The fact that the writers didn’t do this is absolutely mind-boggling to me. It also helps convince me of the theory I mentioned before; the people above Filoni must have told him to kill Rebels but to make it “a happy ending.” So he gave them what they wanted, but not what would actually work, ala blowing up the story rather than letting them get their hands on it. I could be wrong of course, but that is why you are reading this as an opinion rather than as a stated fact.

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With regards to the splitting of the “space family” at the end of the show, it doesn’t sit particularly well with me, either. The whole point of the series seemed to be centered on this family holding together throughout the Rebellion. In keeping with that premise, I would have thought the writers would have kept the whole crew on or around Lothal for most of the Rebellion, until Endor put everything to rights (hence my belief that Rebels was killed early by the people running Disney/Lucasfilm).

If the writers had gone this route, it would have prevented the Ghost crew from running into Luke and the gang during the films, while not derailing Yoda’s line about Luke being the last of the Jedi. If Kanan was busy splitting his time between Rebel work and being a father, I don’t think Yoda would consider him much of a Jedi. The same would go for Ezra; with such an unorthodox teacher (and maybe a girlfriend of his own at that point), Yoda wouldn’t have thought of him as much of a Jedi in such a case.

And that brings me to my earlier point about Kanan not needing to die if the series had lasted longer. Even keeping his death in the story, the rest of this ending is too compressed and illogical to stand the way it is. This means that I think that if I tried watching these last two episodes alone, my head would explode from the sheer absurdity of the ending. It has to be the result, to my mind, of interference from the people running Disney/Lucasfilm. Filoni is too smart, from what I have seen, to do something like this and expect people to buy it.

In conclusion, I have to admit that the ending for Rebels has been a severe disappointment for me. But that is only in the ending. The first three seasons I will happily re-watch for many more years to come. I’ll probably watch season four’s first nine episodes again, too. And who knows? Maybe I will watch the last six shows at some future date.

For the time being, however, I am content not to watch them, due to the reasons listed above. Call me a coward or stupid or whatever you like, readers, but the fact is that, to me, these last six episodes are a non-ending. In my opinion they do not do justice to their characters, their story, or their audience. And right now I really, really do not need to deal with any of that.

Until next time, readers, may the Force be with you.

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Spotlight: The Lion Guard – Kion

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Yes, I watch Disney’s The Lion Guard. So what? I am not as big a fan of it as some are, but with my other choices being The Walking Dead or Beavis and Butthead, I have made do with what I have. (For those of you wondering how I can skip out on such a compelling show as The Walking Dead, please remember that I have stated that I do not like horror stories, the genre which includes zombies.) I will take talking lions and cheetahs and baboons – oh, my! – over the undead and stupid caricatures at every opportunity.

The Lion Guard focuses on Simba’s heretofore unknown son, Kion. The second born cub of Simba and Nala, and Kiara’s younger brother, Kion is given the responsibility of protecting the Pridelands and the “Circle of Life” by leading a team known as the Lion Guard. Their mission is to defend the Pridelands from invasion, as well as the imbalance due to the greed of the creatures that live in and around the territory controlled by Simba and his pride.

Other than his royal heritage, what gives Kion this right and responsibility? He has inherited the power of the “Roar of the Elders.” When Kion roars, the great lions of the Pridelands’ past roar with him. This gives his own roar quite a big boost, allowing him to knock down and scatter the enemies that continue to trouble the Pridelands and threaten the Circle of Life. Turns out, Scar had this roar, too, when he was a cub. But he got to like wielding it too much and thought he could use it to get Mufasa out of the way and make himself king.

Well, when he asked or demanded that his Lion Guard – made up of lions from the pride – help him overthrow Mufasa, they refused. Enraged, Scar used the roar on his own Lion Guard. This presumably killed them, and the fact that Scar used the roar for evil cost him his ability to use it. It also made him the skinny, unhealthy looking lion we saw in the first Lion King film.

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Now there has been a big to-do over Kion’s Lion Guard. This Guard is supposed to show “diversity” in that the only lion in the Guard is Kion. The rest of the animals in the Guard are Bunga, a honey badger; Ono, an egret; Beshte, a hippopotamous, and Fuli, a cheetah.

It is more than slightly laughable to think that this mixed bag of animals is a good representation of “diversity” for children. Eventually, the children will grow up to learn that animals in the wild do not mix like this. Egrets, honey badgers, and hippos all do their own things, while cheetahs will get up and leave a kill when a lion starts walking toward it and them. Because lions are bigger than cheetahs, the smaller cats have very, very little to do with them, mostly because they do not want to be the lion’s side dish at the dinner table.

You can see that I give the “diversity” aim of The Lion Guard the respect it deserves. Why, then, do I continue to watch the show – even to avoid a series like Beavis and Butthead? I watch the show because the lead character and his male friends are actually allowed to be smart, chivalrous boys.

Allow me to explain: if you watch Sofia the First or Elena of Avalor with your daughters/nieces/sisters/whichever, you have seen the girls lead the boys in everything. They are braver, smarter, more compassionate, and completely better in every way than the men in their lives. Although the main male characters in these shows might not be bumbling, fumbling fools ninety percent of the time, the side male characters often are.

Now, admittedly, The Lion Guard has a character that falls into this category ninety percent of the time. This would be the honey badger, Bunga, Kion’s best friend and the adopted nephew of Timon and Pumba. Bunga’s position in the Guard is the bravest – he is so brave he “[borders] on stupid,” to quote Kiara. Most fans find him annoying and want him dead.

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I think that last part is a little harsh. I agree that Bunga is irritating, but this is a children’s show, people. And Bunga’s voice actor should get a chance to pay for his college education, too, so I do not want his character dead. If he could be a little less stupid and a little more observant, I would not say no to that; dead, I will not accept.

Bunga is the only member of the team to act in a consistently dense manner. The other two male members of the Guard – Beshte and Ono – are far from unintelligent. Beshte is the hippo and the strongest in the Pridelands. He is therefore the quintessential gentle giant, and there is nothing wrong with that. Andre the Giant was a gentle giant; gentle giants are good characters. And Beshte also has a temper that will flare up occasionally, so he has a little spice mixed in with the sweetness.

Ono leans toward the studious know-it-all trope. The keenest of sight in the Pridelands, Ono acts as the Guard’s eyes, looking for trouble and yelling it out to the Guard. While Ono has many of the nose-in-a-book stereotypical trappings, the difference is that he will fight without too much hesitation. He has mixed it up with vultures, hawks, and land animals, no mean feat for a bird that is not a raptor. It usually makes up for his skittish or know-it-all failings.

Kion is, by far, the one who breaks the mold of the modern formulaic boy. He is polite, friendly, calm, fierce, and quick-thinking. Even Avengers Assemble struggled with portraying the male heroes in this fashion, as you will find if you read the posts about the series here on my blog. The male Avengers – especially Hawkeye – were portrayed as fools in most of the episodes at the series’ start. This is due to the fact that the writers began telling the story of Assemble through a liberal-ified lens in the first season and kept it going through the second (and they seem to be reverting to that form with a vengeance for season four).

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If you drop by the Disney channels, even for the advertisements alone, you will find them to be mostly girl-centered. This is not just with shows like Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Elena of Avalor. Disney has a whole series of ads called “Dream Big, Princess” to inspire girls to be anything they want to be. They also have advertisements for Lab Rats, Descendants, and other shows which make boys look like brainless idiots and girls look like uber women in training.

This is not only unrealistic and disheartening, it is dangerous. What is your son/nephew/brother or the boy next door supposed to achieve with these caricatures as his models? Disney has no “Dream Big, Prince” television ads encouraging boys to be great men like Prince Phillip, Prince Eric, or even Kristoff in their last big film, Frozen. Instead they push the popular narrative that boys are mini-barbarians or mini-buffoons in training who will someday grow up to be Big Barbarians or Big Buffoons.

If I had to bet, this is one of the reasons why The Lion Guard has taken off. Throughout the series so far, Kion has rarely failed to be a good little boy. In the first episode of the series, Kion ends up in the Outlands after chasing some marauding hyenas out of the Pridelands. While on the other side of the border, he bumps into a female hyena named Jasiri.

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At first, Kion is suspicious of Jasiri, referring to her as “hyena” and being snappish when he speaks to her. But when Jasiri proves to be totally unlike the other hyenas, Kion starts treating her better. He proves that his earlier conduct toward her was a lapse in judgement and a jump to a conclusion when he comes back to defend Jasiri from the same marauding hyenas at the end of the episode. Though Jasiri proves to be a capable fighter, there is never a hint that Kion should apologize for coming to help her or defer to her as some fighting goddess he should worship.

In fact, at one point during the battle, he thrusts Jasiri to the ground in order to headbutt a hyena she has not seen coming. Not only does the move show fast thinking, it proves that Kion’s earlier behavior was a mistake he has since recognized and corrected.

And so far in the series, when fighting alongside a girl, Kion does not leave his manly concern for her at the edge of the battlefield but keeps it with him at all times. Jasiri even thanks Kion for his help in this show, a rare thing in modern media. (Just look up Avengers Assemble’s “Captain Marvel” episode from season three to see why I say this.)

This is not the last time that Kion behaves in a chivalrous manner toward a girl, either. Although they have the regular spats any pair of siblings would, Kion treats Kiara with a respect that is the exact opposite of simpering worship. It also has overtones of a greater reverence than most boys in modern media show their sisters. It is an esteem which comes from a healthy dose of – *gasp* – chivalry!

Yes, I just said that the lead character in The Lion Guard possesses chivalry. Kiara is still a poor fighter in the series; this is to presrve the timeline for the story. We saw Kovu point out twice in The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride that Kiara’s fighting tactics were less than stellar, and the television show did not change this fact. In The Lion Guard, Kion had to come to his sister’s direct defense in “Can’t Wait to Be Queen.” He also showed a fair bit of attachment to, and concern for, her in “The Rise of Scar.” Kion also demonstrates a chivalrous deference and love for his mother, Nala, in the episode “Never Roar Again.”

But the best episode to show Kion’s sense of chivalry so far was “The Search for Utamu” because it was his most obvious display of the virtue. It also added a healthy dose of chilvalry to the other Guard members’ characters as well.

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In this episode the lone female member of the Guard, Fuli the cheetah, overexerts herself while she is supposed to be resting. Cheetahs can only keep their amazing speed going for a few minutes. After that, it can take them up to half an hour to get their breath back. Once a cheetah makes a kill, it has to sit beside the animal for at least that long to get its breath and then it can eat.

This is why it will get up and walk away when it sees a lion coming to check out the kill. Not only is the cheetah smaller and weaker than the lion but, when out of breath, it cannot outpace the lion.

Fuli is still a cub, and as of this episode she did not believe that she had any limits. Her inevitable exhaustion after her lone escapade leaves Fuli vulnerable to an attack from a group of vultures. When the male Guard members learn about her danger, they all rush to their female friend’s defense. Kion especially shows anger at the vultures when he blasts them into the distance with the Roar of the Elders (which is probably why we did not see them for some time after this episode).

So while Fuli and Jasiri are both female characters who can manage their own affairs – and who often say they can look after themselves without interference from “foolish males” – they have both landed in situations where they needed Kion and the other boys’ aid. And while Kion respects the abilities and competence of his two female friends, he also treats them with the special regard that they deserve as girls.

This does not diminish the girls’ fighting and survival abilities and, amazingly, it does not make the boys’ desire to protect them when they cannot defend themselves appear silly. This showing of chivalry is a great thing, as it spotlights a virtue which male characters have been denied in similar series – created by Disney and other companies – for far too long.

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Another way our male lead demonstrates his chivalry is by his dealings with Kiara’s airheaded “friends,” the lioness cubs Tiifu and Zuri. While the Guard has Bunga, the typical “boys drool” character, Kiara is saddled with two lioness cubs who are more concerned with their looks and social status than with anything even vaguely important.

Kion treats both these fluff-brained characters in general with a respect they have never earned, only rolling his eyes once when talking to them in “The Rise of Scar” and telling them off, rightly, when they allowed Kiara to go to a meeting with a known enemy on her own in “Can’t Wait to Be Queen.” The only explanation for his willingness to consider these two girls as anything remotely resembling “family” is the fact that they are girls – and oh, yeah, they happen to hang out with his sister.

As I have already mentioned, Kion continually shows quick-thinking during the series. Unlike Star Trek: The Next Generation’s unending roundtable discussions in the midst of calm and battle, most of the Guard’s tactics and strategies are actually made by Kion, either on the spur of the moment or through hours of training between patrols. The other members of the Guard follow his orders and decisions, though not always without question or input. In comparison to other male leads (in the modern Disney brand and other franchises), Kion is far more intelligent than the talking heads would have children believe boys can be.

It is also refreshing to see that, even when Kion must trust his friends to come up with a plan, he does not effusively kowtow to them after this. He accepts their advice and praises his friends’ plans without being a sycophant, congratulating them on their quick-thinking before turning back to the task at hand. Or paw, in his case.

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Something else to note about The Lion Guard is Kion’s fighting prowess. The four leading male characters in the show are good fighters, but Kion is the best of the bunch. Where the girl often comes to the boy’s rescue in current children’s television shows, Kion is rarely in need of such a save. And when he does need the help of a female character, such as in “Never Judge a Hyena by Its’ Spots,” Kion shows by his dialogue that he thinks just as deeply and quickly in such situations as those where he is supposedly “in control” of the circumstances.

Thus far, The Lion Guard has proven to be a better series than I had anticipated. It is a show with a male protagonist who is chivalrous, competent, and smart. Though I take issue with some of the show’s themes, one thing which I really appreciate and cheer on is Kion’s quiet, unabashed, and completely proper masculinity.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend. Shows which focus on female leads are wonderful inspirations for girls, certainly. But boys need television shows with male characters who are not only unafraid to be boys, but who have a sense of chivalry, along with smarts and fighting ability. They have been denied this for a long time, readers, and The Lion Guard is a more than welcome anticipation of a change in the fads. From what I have seen so far, we need more shows like this one. So, ‘til the Pridelands end –

Lion Guard defend!

The Songs from Disney’s Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins was one of my favorite Disney films while I was growing up. I still love it, perhaps more now than I did when I was young. Saving Mr. Banks probably has something to do with that. 😉

It is Saving Mr. Banks and the Disney franchise’s reboots of Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast that make me wary of the new Mary Poppins film scheduled to come out next year. I am a big believer in the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The original Mary Poppins might be old, but it is NOT broken. I am not sure I see the sense in making a new film about Mary Poppins – other than the crass, corporate urge to make money off of everything that has sold before, rather than on what could be created now.

However, you came here to listen to music, not to read me carp about the stupefied imagination of most of Disney’s hierarchy. So let the music play, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

 

One Man Band

 

Just A Spoonful of Sugar (Helps the Medicine Go Down)

 

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

 

I Love to Laugh

 

Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)

 

Step In Time

 

Let’s Go Fly a Kite!

Brave-ly Done (More Disney Music)

Every child is influenced by the entertainment they are shown. I am fortunate in that I saw many Disney movies as a child. I do not like every Disney movie out there, but most of them are hard to dislike. After all, Walt Disney was not in the habit of writing trash. He was one of those rare entertainers who earned money as a reward for telling a good story, not telling any old story just to make a dollar. *Sigh.* We could use a few more storytellers like that these days!

Anyway, readers, here are some more Disney songs which I would like to share with you. I hope you enjoy them! After all, it’s…

“A Whole New World!”

The Mithril Guardian

Brave

Touch the Sky

Aladdin

Arabian Nights

One Jump Ahead

Friend Like Me

Prince Ali

A Whole New World

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

I’m Wishing

A Smile and a Song

Whistle While You Work

Heigh-Ho!

Scrub in the Tub

The Dance in the Dwarfs’ Cottage

 

Robin Hood

Ooo De Lally

Love Goes On

A Pox on that Phony King of England

Not In Nottingham

 

 

The Jungle Book

Elephant Patrol

Bare Necessities

I Want to Be Like You

That’s What Friends Are For

 

Mulan

You’ll Bring Honor to Us All

Reflection

I’ll Make a Man Out of You

A Girl Worth Fighting For

True to Your Heart

 

 

The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride

We Are One

Upendi

Not One of Us

Love Will Find A Way

 

(I know it’s not technically a Disney movie, but they are the ones who translated it into English, so….)

The Secret World of Arietty

Spotlight: Star Wars Rebels – Agent Kallus

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You may or may not have seen my post “Star Wars Rebels’ Zero Hour and Season 3 Review.” It was a long post. In that article, one of the things about Rebels’ season three which I noted was Agent Kallus’ defection to the Rebellion from the Empire. Some people were surprised by his change of heart this season, and I admit to being taken aback that he became the new Fulcrum.

However, I was not in the least bit astonished that he turned Rebel. If you are in the mood to look up my previous posts on Rebels, you will find in one or two of them that I mentioned a belief that Kallus would change sides. I knew right from the start that Kallus had “the heart of a Rebel.”

Of course, this begs the question: How did I know?

A friend asked me that a little while ago. It is a good question, one I cannot answer in a scientific manner. I knew when I saw the first advertisements for Rebels that Kallus would be an Imperial goon; that he would be an antagonist. I knew that his name comes from the word callous, which means “being hardened and thickened…feeling no emotion; feeling or showing no sympathy for others: hard-hearted.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)   But even as I watched Spark of Rebellion, I looked at Kallus and thought, “You’ll be a Rebel someday, pal. Just you wait and see!”

How did I know? There were lots of little giveaways, I think. Not many people would notice them, especially among the show’s target audience. I have been a child before. I know how they see things. I gave up on lots of characters fighting on behalf of evil as a kid, only to be blindsided with shock when they became good guys later on. It is totally understandable that kids would see Kallus as nothing but a hopeless baddy, irredeemable and undesirable. One even gave him the nickname WAFAR: Walking Advertisement for a Razor, in reference to his huge sideburns.

Despite helping to create the moniker and adopting it myself, I did not see Kallus as a hopeless villain, and below are some of the reasons why.

From the get-go, I noticed that Kallus did not mind going into battle at the head of a legion of Stormtroopers. When Vader steps on the scene, he is usually the central point of the conflict. He is neither with the Stormtoopers nor goading them on from behind. If there are Stormtroopers present when Darth Vader enters the scene, they are in the background, firing at the heroes. Vader takes center stage whenever he shows up.

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Kallus was different. He was not in front of the Stormtroopers, like Vader typically is, he was in the front line with them. This is also a departure from the aloof attitude demonstrated by most Imperial officers. They are all safely behind the Stormtroopers when they appear on screen. We have never really seen an Imperial officer, agent, or other bigwig dive into the thick of a fight against the Rebels. The obvious reason for this is that the Imperials are perfectly willing to dish out the pain, but they are not willing to experience it themselves.

Kallus is different. He is willing to fight. He is willing to brawl. Whether he is using a blaster, his Lasat bo-rifle, or his own fists, he enjoys the thrill of combat. He is not afraid of getting hurt, though he is not reckless and does not wish to get himself killed. Nevertheless, from the start it was obvious that he enjoyed a good scrap.

This, I think, was my first hint that Kallus had the makings of a Rebel. Another hint was that he was not prone to preening, as most Imperials in Star Wars are. I do not recall seeing Kallus boast over anything he did while with the Empire, even his successes as an ISB agent. One Star Wars encyclopedia claims that he turned down numerous offers of promotion in order to stay on the front lines. So he did not have an unhealthy, inflated opinion of himself. Hmm, not your typical Imperial reaction to success, eh, readers?

To the observant viewer, this shows that Kallus is not interested in power or advancement in the Imperial bureaucracy. He is interested in his job as an ISB agent because he enjoys it. He wants to be on the front lines, fighting what he thinks is the good fight. His scrupulous attention to his job, his lack of interest in prestige and power, his love of combat because he is at his physical peak, hinted that he had a sense of honor. Though he kicked a Stormtrooper down a Kessel mineshaft and did some other, similarly nasty things, Kallus definitely possessed an aura of real dignity which is lacking in most of Star Wars’ Imperial characters.

Hint number three about Kallus’ eventual change of heart was that he was smart. Most Imperials are so busy trying to “get ahead” in the Imperial power structure that they have lost whatever imagination they had before they became part of the Emperor’s machine. You watch them while they are working on the bridge of a Star Destroyer or some such place, and they are all vying for “their fair share” of the glory. This means that they never look beyond their own nose. Because they are so busy looking out for good ol’ Number One, they do not understand the Rebels.

The Rebels would never leave a man behind if they could find a way to save him. Kallus realized this at the start of the series and, like Grand Admiral Thrawn, he began to profile our heroes. He did not do it through studying art, as Thrawn does, but by assessing their actions in combat.

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There are benefits to both kinds of deduction, obviously. Thrawn’s fascination with art and what it shows about a particular artist’s or species’ mindset is a superpower all by itself. It is what allows him to make such great, overarching plans. If there is one thing Thrawn is proud of it is his intellect, the fact that he is the smartest man (or Chiss) in the room, and so he holds all his subordinates and enemies in contempt. Kallus’ understanding of the Rebels is based more on their performance in combat, and so he never held them in complete contempt.

Kallus is not a genius, like Thrawn, but he is intelligent. He analyzed the Ghost crew’s patterns of attack and would be ready to meet them when they came running to the bait he had set up. His hand-to-hand battles with the Ghost crew, particularly Zeb, taught him their personal strengths and weaknesses.

In a way, this knowledge gave him a more realistic and basic picture of the Rebels than the one Thrawn has drawn up. Thrawn understands how they think; Kallus knows why they think the way they do. Thrawn is detached from his knowledge of the Rebels. With very, very few exceptions, he has not engaged them in personal combat. He has studied their tactics, yes, but he has done so through secondhand reports. Though thorough, these reports do not equate to actual experience.

Kallus has not engaged the Rebels simply with his head but by fighting them physically. He knows, therefore, that they will do the totally unexpected, not because of a picture they painted on a wall or a mask they left lying around. They will do the totally unexpected because they are determined to survive long enough to get a Rebellion against the Empire up and running. If someday they have to die so that a Rebellion can be born, then they will do it. But if they can find a way to survive they will take that chance, however slim or insane it seems to be. That is all there is to it.

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Thrawn thinks he can synthesize thousands of years of art and battle tactics into an efficient metric by which to plan out the perfect battle. To an extent, he is right. But what Kallus knows and what Thrawn has not recognized is that heart beats brains every time. The Ghost crew’s determination to win, to look out for each other, trumped his every plan to bring them to face what he believed was justice. And all of his plans were remarkably neat, for an “average” Imperial. So how can someone so smart get beaten so often by people who, logically, should be easy to defeat?

The writers finally answered Kallus’ question in The Honorable Ones. After bushwhacking the crew in an Imperial factory orbiting Geonosis, Kallus follows Zeb as the Lasat tries to return to the Ghost via an Imperial escape pod. The two end up fighting while the escape pod jettisons, damaging the controls in the process and landing on an ice moon as a result. Zeb is knocked cold by the landing while Kallus breaks his leg.

The episode is actually nothing special, from the point of view of the plot. Two enemies who hate the other end up stranded together and have to work with one another if they hope to survive to rejoin their respective forces. We have seen this device used time and time again. It is not a particularly spectacular plot and, if handled badly, it leaves an awful taste in viewers’ minds.

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But The Honorable Ones pulls it off very well – and not just because of all the “freak-out noises” Kallus makes. Having watched Zeb for so long, we know how he is going to react when he realizes that Kallus cannot fight because of his busted leg. Kallus, however, believes that Zeb will take the first opportunity to kill him. He repeatedly tries to get his hands on a weapon, but Zeb disarms him and does not hurt him, in spite of pointing out how easily he could kill the ISB agent.

Zeb then makes a crack about how Geonosis is supposed to be a desert planet. He knows very well that they are on one of the planet’s moons – a frigidly cold one, at that. But in order to ease the tension of their situation, he makes a joke about it. Kallus misses the joke and takes him seriously. He lectures Zeb as though the Lasat was a child, asking how he could be bested time and again by an ignoramus like him.

Zeb’s curt reply – “Get a sense of humor, Agent!” – must have surprised him. Due to a bad experience with a Lasat mercenary some years before, Kallus held all Lasat in contempt. Because of this past encounter with a member of Zeb’s species, he probably knows more about the Lasat as a race than anyone but Zeb and Thrawn. This hatred of his for the Lasat blinded him to their better qualities.

So Zeb pointing out that he was joking and Kallus not grasping it is one of the things that makes the Imperial agent sit up and pay attention. Zeb is not a genius but neither is he stupid. He was having a bit of fun at their expense, like any soldier who still held hope of rescue would. If Zeb had been a human or a fellow Imperial, Kallus might have understood that his comment was a joke. Instead, his bias blinded him to Zeb’s sense of humor.

Throughout the episode Kallus slowly learns to take off his dark glasses and look at Zeb as he is and not how his hatred has painted him. What he finds is an intelligent, honorable Lasat who is tactically bright. He also realizes that Zeb has something he does not. Several somethings, actually…. He has friends. Friends he believes in and trusts to come for him no matter what. Friends he knows will risk their lives for him because they have done it over and over again. Friends he will in turn risk his life to protect and help.

Kallus has no friends, not because he does not want them, but because they do not want him. With the Imperials, friends are extra baggage. They can get you demoted or put you on the chopping block for their mistakes. The Galactic Empire of Star Wars reminds me a great deal of Lewis’ description of Hell in The Screwtape Letters. Almost everyone in the Empire loves nothing greater or better than himself. They all hate each other to some extent and cannot wait to show up the person sitting next to them so they can climb the ladder to the Empire’s upper echelons.

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And in The Honorable Ones, this is what Kallus finds out. He finds out that he has not been fighting for the right side at all. He has been working for an evil Empire, doing evil deeds in its name.

The way this is shown in the episode is when he apologizes to Zeb for what happened on Lasan. The initial mission statement was not to massacre the Lasat. At least, this was not the mission statement that Kallus and everyone below him saw. The Empire meant it to be a massacre from the beginning, but they knew that not all of their soldiers would gleefully agree to exterminate an entire species. So the Empire had to feed them this idea that they were fighting just one little battle but it spiraled out into an inevitable world-clearing assignment.

Kallus bought the lie hook, line, and sinker because he already hated the Lasat. Though he admired an individual Lasat’s honor and courage by accepting that warrior’s bo-rifle before the latter died, he did in general despise the species. It made him willing to listen to and obey the Empire’s lies even when part of him balked and said, “Maybe this isn’t actually the right thing to do.”

The real clincher comes at the end of the episode, when Kallus watches Zeb’s reunion with the Ghost crew from a distance. The kids rush up to Zeb, shouting with relief, while Hera offers the milder, “You had us worried,” line. Kanan’s brash, “I told you he was all right,” is the more manly way of expressing relief. It is clear that the crew is genuinely happy to see Zeb, that they love him as part of their battle family.

Kallus’ reception aboard the Imperial Star Destroyer is the exact opposite. No one rushes up to see if he is okay or even to take him to sickbay for his broken leg. The one man aboard whom he knows by name, Admiral Konstantine, has his nose in a datapad when Kallus tries to get his attention. Konstantine’s brush-off is totally at odds with the Ghost crew’s joyous discovery of Zeb, alive and well, on that Geonosian moon.

Disappointed and shocked that no one aboard cared whether he lived or died, Kallus limps to his austere quarters and sits down on his bed. The one colorful thing he has is a meteorite Zeb found and gave to him because it generated heat, which Kallus needed more than he did because he could not walk. Somehow, I think Kallus realized then that, if he and Zeb had been friends and he had been lost, the big Lasat would have welcomed him back to the ship heartily.

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Though he always respected the Rebels’ fighting abilities, Kallus finally realizes after this episode that they are in the right and he has been wrong this whole time. It must have hit him hard; finding out that you have been fighting for and doing the work of someone evil is pretty awful. But the interesting thing is that Kallus does not let his feelings overwhelm and destroy him. Instead of staying in bed, wracked with guilt, he follows Zeb’s advice: he starts asking questions, looking into what the Empire is actually doing, not what it says it is doing.

The answers he finds spur him to join the Rebels as a spy, feeding them vital information from the first episode of season three onward. Despite not being a hundred percent successful in helping the Rebellion all the time, Kallus’ information comes in handy more often than not. It is so valuable, in fact, that when the Phoenix cell gets word he might be discovered, they try to get him out of the Empire.

In this way, they recognize Kallus’ true value more than he does. They see Kallus as more than a useful tool that can get them intelligence which could mean the difference between life and death. They see him as he is: a man of inestimable worth in and of himself, a man who does not deserve to be murdered by the Empire. They are willing to sacrifice any future lifesaving intel he could gain to save his life.

But Kallus’ more practical, Imperial-tinted view of his role in the Rebellion means he is not yet ready to break away from the Empire. He stays behind to keep feeding the Rebels information, feeling he can do more good from the inside than from without. A noble idea, certainly, but in the end his decision is almost disastrous. Thrawn uses Kallus’ next transmission to find Phoenix Squadron’s base, methodically destroying the Rebel fleet assembled overhead to put a halt to the TIE Defender factories on Lothal. Kallus’ warning barely alerts the Rebels in time, allowing them to mount a defense against the attack.

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It is, however, a costly defense, with many Rebels lost in the battle, along with most of the supplies they stored in the base which they are just able to abandon. Kallus is forced to watch the people he decided to help get killed before his eyes, held as he is aboard the Chimera’s bridge, powerless to act on their behalf. Though he eventually manages to escape it is clear he is not very happy with the day’s events at the end of Zero Hour, Part 2.

It is not too hard to guess why. Kallus thought he could be of more help to the Rebels from inside the Empire, that he could be useful to them as a spy. Instead he got them discovered, which led to many of their men being killed in action and lost them a well-stocked hidden base. He is lucky that they decided to take him in despite all that, which is why he thanks Kanan for accepting him.

Kanan, through his Force-sensitivity, must sense what Kallus is feeling. He also knows the man will not accept coddling. He cannot. He is a grown, responsible adult, which means he has to deal with his feelings as an adult should.

This does not mean that Kanan cannot tell him how much the risks he took on behalf of the Rebellion, on behalf of the Ghost crew, mean to them. He thanks Kallus for risking so much for them, for doing the right thing.

Kallus’ expression after Kanan leaves is very interesting. In fact, it is comparable to Ezra’s expression after he helps Sabine and Zeb take crates of food to feed hungry Lothal refugees in Spark of Rebellion. After one of the denizens of Tarkintown thanks Ezra for the food, thinking he is part of the Ghost crew, Ezra’s face falls with shame. “But I didn’t do this,” he mutters. “I didn’t do anything.” He was looking out for himself when he got caught up in the Ghost crew’s raid, but the people in Tarkintown did not know that. To them, he is a new member of the crew of benefactors that supplied them with the necessities they could no longer acquire themselves. This leaves Ezra feeling guilty, a guilt which helps spur him to join the Rebellion because it helps bring him out of himself, showing him that there is a larger battle to fight. That he can, in fact, make a difference and help people in a way that matters.

From Kallus’ expression, it is clear he is running up against the same feelings Ezra did. He does not think that he risked much, not the way the rest of the Rebels have been for years. He is a Johnny-come-lately to the Rebellion; it has been building for years, and he never considered it anything less than evil until recently. In fact, he actively worked to destroy it. Kanan, Hera, Ezra, Sabine, Zeb, and even Chopper saw this evil for what it was from the beginning. Kanan has paid for his Rebel service with his eyes, for Pete’s sake, yet he is thanking Kallus for risking his life as a mole in the Empire! They have been fighting it, risking their lives to defeat it, far longer than he has. “But I didn’t do any of this,” he is thinking as Kanan leaves. “I didn’t do anything.”

Kallus is a big boy, and sooner or later he is going to realize that this assessment is not entirely true. Yes, he was not an enemy of the Empire from the beginning. Yes, he fought and killed Rebels before he joined their fight. Yes, he will be making up for lost time now that he has become a Rebel.

But he did risk his life to give the Rebels important, lifesaving information. He did warn them in time, not just in Zero Hour but in Warhead as well. He did throw off Governor Pryce’s command capabilities by upsetting her, reminding her of the consequences of failure in the Empire. He did, at last, escape the Empire’s clutches and join the Rebellion. He is, finally, becoming more of the person he was meant to be.

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That makes him pretty darn important. It makes him worth thanking. It makes him worthy of the Rebels’ respect. And it is going to make him a heck of a Rebel, readers. I cannot wait to see him kick some Imperial backside in season four!

Journeying with Kallus has been almost as much fun as following along with the Ghost crew. I hope he gets to the party on Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi, where our Phoenix Squadron friends can slap him on the back and offer him some of the local cocktail. Maybe, in whatever series follows Rebels, we will get to see more of Kallus. He is an intriguing character I would hate to lose as a viewer. As a writer, I would have to have a pretty good reason to kill him off.

But we will have to wait and see what Dave Filoni and his crew have in store for our heroes. The final season of Star Wars Rebels is going to big and probably painful on a series of levels. As the song says, “We may lose and we may win/But we will never be here again/So open up, I’m climbin’ in.” I’ve followed the Ghost’s hyperspace vectors this far, readers. I cannot turn back now. If you have come this far with us, I know it is the same for you.

So…may the Force be with you, readers and Rebels alike!