REVIEW: Star Wars Visions – Volume 2

Star Wars Visions is back with a plethora of new stories from creative teams all across the globe! These nine incredible stories show the power of storytelling through different cultures and viewpoints and why allowing different voices to tell these stories is important.

The anthology series was originally devised to offer a diverse, fresh series of stories told through the lens of Star Wars. While the first volume focused on Japanese animation studios, this new volume offers stories and visual styles from different countries around the world: Spain (El Guiri), Ireland (Cartoon Saloon), Chile (PunkRobot), the UK (Aardman), South Korea (Studio Mir), France (Studio La Cachette), India (88 Pictures), Japan/US (D’art Shtajio & Lucasfilm) and South Africa (Triggerfish).

By opening up this initiative to a wider range of storytellers, we’re rewarded with even more compelling and gorgeous pieces of Star Wars stories which are intrinsically linked to their own human experiences. Whether that’s exploring the effect that imperialism and colonialism have had on different cultures and how communities have continued to fight back or the fundamental core concepts of good vs evil and balance.

These aren’t new concepts to Star Wars by any means, but giving more voices the opportunity to explore their own cultures’ mythology, history and experiences within the realms of animation gives us an entirely new way to view these stories. And that’s the beauty of Star Wars Visions – it’s clear that the producers and teams behind this whole project LOVE stories as much as we do, and it’s reflected in the work that we see in front of us.

Storytelling is a fundamental part of being human. It’s how we learned to survive, teach, and impart wisdom. It’s universal. It transcends culture and history and brings us all together – and that’s what is great about this project. No matter where you come from, Star Wars has affected us in some way and inspired us to continue telling those stories.

The different animation styles are just joyous to behold, whether it’s classic 2-D animation, stop-motion (Wallace and Gromit fans will LOVE the short from Aardman, which features a few fun easter eggs if you pay attention!) or 3-D animation, there’s something visually stimulating about each short and helps to push back against the archaic notion that animation is “just for kids” and showcases how the medium can tell stories in so many different ways.

Overall, Star Wars Visions: Volume 2 delivers a gorgeous anthology of stories which showcases the beauty of animation and storytelling around the globe through a uniquely Star Wars lens.

I personally cannot wait to see what the next series of storytellers have to bring us in Volume 3, but until then, we’ll be diving deep into each story from Volume 2 on the podcast, so don’t forget to subscribe to hear those thoughts!

Star Wars Visions: Volume 2 is available to watch on Disney+ on 4th May 2023

Star Wars Visions is back with a plethora of new stories from creative teams all across the globe! These nine incredible stories show the power of storytelling through different cultures and viewpoints and why allowing different voices to tell these stories is important. The anthology series was originally devised to offer a diverse, fresh series … Continue reading REVIEW: Star Wars Visions – Volume 2

REVIEW: Willow (2022) – A Classic Returns with a Modern Flourish

Willow” Early Social Media Reactions Revealed – What's On Disney Plus

He’s back! Yes, after years of rumours and potential sequel ideas floating around on the internet, Willow Ufgood is back to save us all from the forces of darkness.

When we last met our titular character (played by Warwick Davis) in the 1988 movie, he and his friend, the roguish mercenary Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), were joined by formidable warrior Princess Sorsha (Joanne Whaley) to protect a young child who was destined to bring down the evil sorceress Queen Bavmorda.

Set many years later, the new Disney+ series, also titled Willow, introduces the audience to a new set of young characters: Princess Kit (Ruby Cruz) and Prince Airk (Dempsey Bryk), Prince Graydon (Tony Revolori), Jade (Erin Kellyman), and Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel). It’s revealed that Willow had once predicted that evil would return, only to have his worries fall on deaf ears. Now that premonition has come to pass, Sorsha’s son Prince Airk is kidnapped – and it’s up to this new ragtag group to work together, find the legendary sorcerer Willow and save Airk before it’s too late.

Willow is a great continuation of this magical Lucasian story, with writer Jon Kasdan’s love for the original movie deeply ingrained through the DNA of this new show. But he’s not afraid to add a modern flair to the story, which I think will deeply resonate with a whole new audience who didn’t originally grow up with this movie.

(L-R): Jade (Erin Kellyman), Kit (Ruby Cruz) and Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel) in Lucasfilm’s WILLOW exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Particularly with this new and extremely talented young cast, who add freshness to the show while retaining the whimsical nature of the original film. I want to highlight Ruby Cruz’s Princess Kit, one of my favourite parts of the premiere. While having a badass female warrior-princess isn’t new for a Willow story, Ruby manages to perfectly embrace her role as the daughter of Madmartigan. Her performance is so perfectly Val Kilmer’esque you won’t doubt their characters are related for a second.

She also shines when acting opposite the exceptional Erin Kellyman, who finally gets even more of a chance to shine as Jade. It was also a pleasant surprise to see these characters share a kiss, giving us one of the first examples of an LGBTQ+ relationship in a Lucasfilm project. About time!

Warwick Davis slips easily back into his role as Willow, slightly wearier with age and the burden of prophecy but still the kind-natured hero we last saw in the original movie. But this time, there’s an extra-familial connection thanks to the performance of Annabelle Davis, actress and Warwick’s daughter, playing Willow’s daughter from the original movie. Annabelle is a fantastic actor, but it’s particularly sweet to watch father and daughter act off against each other with true tenderness and love.

(L-R): Dove (Ellie Bamber), Kit (Ruby Cruz), Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel), Graydon (Tony Revolori) and Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) in Lucasfilm’s WILLOW exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

There’s also plenty of comic relief, thanks to some hilarious performances from Chadha-Patel’s Boorman, a thief/rogue who leads the group through this journey, albeit apprehensively. There’s a specific scene featuring horses which had the entire crowd laughing out loud at the premiere screening. He’s definitely going to be a fan-favourite character going forward.

But the heart of the show relies on Ellie Bamber’s Dove, who is the Luke Skywalker of this new story – a plucky hero from low down in society who finds themselves at the centre of the battle against evil. Ellie’s fantastic, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her appear in more projects going forward. That’s a star to look out for.

Overall, Disney+’s Willow captures the magic from the original movie but also modernises itself to appeal to a brand-new audience, particularly through the use of the young cast members who are all individually brilliant. It’s a great start to a new adventure, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

He’s back! Yes, after years of rumours and potential sequel ideas floating around on the internet, Willow Ufgood is back to save us all from the forces of darkness. When we last met our titular character (played by Warwick Davis) in the 1988 movie, he and his friend, the roguish mercenary Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), were … Continue reading REVIEW: Willow (2022) – A Classic Returns with a Modern Flourish

REVIEW: Star Wars: The High Republic – The Rising Storm

The High Republic - The Rising Storm

It’s fair to say that Star Wars’ new multi-pronged literary initiative, Star Wars: The High Republic, got off to a good start. Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi soared to the summit of The New York Times Best Sellers list with a #1 debut and the accompanying material of Young Adult and Junior novels and comics were met with adoration from fans around the world. With readers of all ages eagerly anticipating this new era of storytelling, it certainly meant a lot was riding on the second wave of High Republic stories. Luckily, Star Wars: The High Republic – The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott (published by Del Rey) delivers on every possible front.

Following the events of Light of the Jedi, The Rising Storm does what all great second installments accomplish by deepening the characters and raising the stakes to a devasting degree. It is incredibly difficult to encapsulate what The Rising Storm accomplishes concisely. When I try to speak about my experience with it, several emotions and feelings rush to the tip of my tongue. Captivating. Inspiring. Brutal. Spiritual. Sensual. Debilitating. The main takeaway is that any reader ready to take the plunge into this novel should be prepared to FEEL because Scott hits you at the same level General Veers hit Echo Base’s shield generator: Maximum Firepower.

Light of the Jedi was a triumphant read, both emotionally and in terms of plot. However, by the end, Soule really lays some groundwork for the darkness that is to come, and after reading that playbook, Scott comes in and executes in the Rising Storm. This novel is Darkness. A horrible, rumbling, foreboding sense of evil on the rise that is not looking to relent. Scott achieves this storytelling primarily by focusing on several characters who are really getting to shine for the first time in this era. I would say the standouts are Elzar Mann, Ty Yorrick, and Stellan Gios because they are characters who complicate the narrative of who we believe heroes are in this era. Mann continues to struggle with a vision of doom he feels powerless to stop and plays in emotional areas we have never really seen a Jedi navigate. Yorrick is essentially, if you’ll allow a reference to another fictional universe, a Force-sensitive Witcher whose path has been guided by who is offering the highest number of credits. Gios holds the morality of a vintage Jedi hero and certainly appears the part.

You rarely find yourself rooting against him, but Stellan’s complications come from the future he is symbolizing. Knowing what we know about the role of the Jedi Order in the Prequel era, he appears to be one of the first steps toward the clouded, politically-minded Jedi. His new responsibilities as a Council member have him working in conjunction with the Chancellor more often and you can begin to track how the Order came to be the home of the Prequel Jedi we know and love who were so blinded by the machinations of the Senate (and of a Sith Lord, to be fair) that they could not prevent their own downfall. These three imperfect heroes end up being the perfect lenses through which to show a galaxy that appeared to be in its zenith but is truly teetering on its breaking point.

Of course, the story is not complete without observing the main antagonists assaulting that galactic breaking point. The Nihil continue to develop into a ruthless foe, united in their hate for the Republic and the Jedi but riddled with the distrust and back-stabbing power struggles you would expect to come from a society with no real moral center. While entrusting the responsibilities of fighting the Republic to his Tempest Runners, resulting in the incredibly epic, action-packed attack on the Republic Fair, Nihil leader Marchion Ro delves into a long-lost galactic secret that is in equal parts awe-inspiring and horrifying. By the novel’s end, you truly wish some secrets had remained hidden. The increasingly unstable Ro is determined to inflict tragedy upon the heroes of the Republic and through his actions, we truly begin to see what is at stake in this phase of the conflict.

Which, much to the terror of all readers, is where this novel ends. Cavan Scott leaves us with the cliffhanger of our nightmares. One final twist of the knife before he thanks us for reading his novel. It is simply one of the most sadistically brilliant endings to any installment of a Star Wars story and it propels this first phase of High Republic storytelling into its final wave. What awaits in Wave 3 and then eventually Phase 2 has fans of the era in a feverish state, and anyone curious about what kind of power The High Republic can wield needs to get on board with this novel.

If you have yet to read any of Cavan’s work, the prowess of his craft is so evident in this book and he really shows why he has been entrusted to be on the creative Dream Team for this initiative. Earlier I said it was hard to concisely encapsulate or explain what this story accomplishes, but it took me several hundred words to realize that might not be true. Simply put, this novel is pure, unchained brilliance. Anyone who loves emotionally impactful storytelling, let alone Star Wars, will find it to be a vital piece of art.

Star Wars: The High Republic – The Rising Storm is available to purchase at all bookstores. 

It’s fair to say that Star Wars’ new multi-pronged literary initiative, Star Wars: The High Republic, got off to a good start. Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi soared to the summit of The New York Times Best Sellers list with a #1 debut and the accompanying material of Young Adult and Junior novels and comics … Continue reading REVIEW: Star Wars: The High Republic – The Rising Storm

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Series Premiere

The Bad Batch - Crosshair, Echo, Wrecker, Hunter & Tech.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is Lucasfilm Animation’s latest project, which focuses on Clone Force 99 (AKA: The Bad Batch) after the events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and the Rise of the Empire. First developed by George Lucas and Dave Filoni during the original The Clone Wars run, these troopers were designed to have specific genetic mutations to improve certain aspects/skill-sets. When Disney+ brought back The Clone Wars for its final season, the original episodes were completed and introduced the world to this intriguing and unorthodox band.

But, make no mistake – this isn’t a new season of The Clone Wars in everything but name. If anything, saying so would be a disservice to the storytelling being told in this new show. While the characters, art style and stories are lifted from the other show, The Bad Batch gets to focus on these specific characters and their outlook towards the end of the war and the sudden rise of the Empire. While the characters originated over a decade ago, this new show has Jennifer Corbett as head-writer and Brad Rau as supervising director – their energy and creativity are found all over the DNA of the show, helping to distinguish this as something fresh.

With the Bad Batch already being different from the other troopers we’ve watched over the years through Attack of the Clones through to The Siege of Mandalore, it’s fascinating watching these characters observe how their brothers and their sudden change in attitude now the war is ended. We’ve seen a little bit of this exploration in Star Wars: Rebels, but that was set many years after the events of Episode III. With this show, we get a direct look at how the Galaxy quickly adapts to this new world order and status quo, it’s haunting.

That’s not to say the show is 70 minutes of doom and gloom, that’s far from the case with Dee Bradley-Baker delivering such hilarious jokes and managing to somehow find a way to add more life and originality into these characters, despite having voiced *HUNDREDS* of them. With The Clone Wars, Rebels and Resistance under their belt, it’s no surprise that the animation throughout this premiere episode was absolutely on point, reiterating how this medium is not merely ‘secondary’ to the live-action content, but equal. Whether it’s the consistently rain beaten planet of Kamino or a jungle planet, every location is rendered brilliantly.

Like much of Star Wars, while you will be rewarded as an audience member that has watched The Clone Wars or consumed other media in a galaxy, far, far away – you don’t need to enter this story knowing every single detail. Even the story beats, which will have watchers jumping out of their seats, are crafted in such a way that it still delivers the necessary emotional and story-driven points that it wants to relay. This is a mark of great storytelling – putting an interesting story first and foremost. If it happens to connect to other parts of this world? Even better.

The Bad Batch introduces Omega, a curious and bright child who seems very inquisitive about the Bad Batch and knows all about their various exploits during the war. Omega is voiced by New Zealand actress Michelle Ang who delivers a wonderful performance, portraying both Omega’s caring and inquiring nature with such joy. While first appearing in this show, Omega is definitely going to be a character that fans fall in love with straight away and we wouldn’t be surprised if she rises up people’s favourite character lists. No pressure, Grogu!

Overall, much like the time period in which it’s placed, The Bad Batch is a story of both hope and tragedy. It’s a clever new entry in the Star Wars universe that knowingly takes audience expectations and turns it on its head rather quickly – emphasising how this time in the galaxy is equal parts frightening and exciting.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is available to watch on Disney+ starting today.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is Lucasfilm Animation’s latest project, which focuses on Clone Force 99 (AKA: The Bad Batch) after the events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and the Rise of the Empire. First developed by George Lucas and Dave Filoni during the original The Clone Wars run, these troopers were designed to … Continue reading REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Series Premiere

REVIEW: Star Wars: The High Republic – Light of the Jedi

Star Wars: The High Republic – Light of the Jedi, written by Charles Soule and published by Del Rey, kickstarts a brand new era in the Star Wars galaxy. The High Republic is a publishing initiative which tells multiple stories 100 years prior to Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, showing readers the Jedi during their heyday – looking after a relatively peaceful galaxy. These stories, which are being told through different companies such as Del Rey/Marvel/Disney Publishing, focus on how the Republic attempts to expand into the outer-rim – while facing a disaster hyperspace event and a new mysterious threat – the Nihil.

Light of the Jedi has a lot hinging on its success. As the first novel in this brand new period, I don’t envy Charles Soule’s task of introducing readers to this new set of characters & context for the galaxy in general. Thankfully, much like Soule’s work on other Star Wars properties (Marvel’s Star Wars, Lando, Darth Vader, etc), he manages to succeed and leave you desperate to read more about this period. The novel has an explosive opening that sets up the bulk of the problem that the Jedi have to face in the story, in fact, it felt almost like a Bond movie – with a pre-credits scene introducing how deadly these baddies can be.

Soule spends a good amount of time throughout the novel introducing this brand new age of Jedi, who resemble the noble keepers of the peace far more than the Jedi we see in the Prequel Trilogy (although one or two of those Jedi make appearances here). Reading about this diverse group of individuals who devote themselves to helping others just because it was the kind/right thing to do was actually really refreshing to read at the end of 2020, and no doubt a great way to kickstart off the new year. Of course, this is merely just coincidental – it was still uplifting to see how a galaxy could work together. It’s also an interesting reflection of the Jedi in Episodes 1-3, who feel very distant and distrustful of the politics of the Chancellor, whereas we see a more positive – almost symbiotic relationship between the Republic and these peaceful negotiators. Soule also introduces concepts very relatable to the prequel trilogy too, particularly regarding Avar Kriss and Elzar Mann, which is intriguing – especially if these enticing seeds plant into something bigger down the line.

The novel also sets up the villains of this new era, the Nihil – who feel very much like the pirates/highwaymen of the galaxy, with a post-apocalyptic twist that I’m sure would please George Miller. Much like the heroes of the story, Soule really diversifies these villains – they’re from different walks of life, class, species, but all with the joint goal of taking whatever they want, regardless of the consequences. In terms of criticism, you could argue that the Nihil feel very scattered and that their ramshackle existence feels very different to the specific goals of villains we’re used to like The Empire. However, I think that Light of the Jedi also acts as an origin for these villains as well – providing some extra context and fuel for later appearances. Thankfully, this story should grip you enough to follow through these other mediums/stories to find out what damage they will go on to cause.

I will admit that personally, I was very cautiously apprehensive about this new storytelling initiative. I love the storytellers chosen to bring these books and comics to life, but I wasn’t certain that I would enjoy the pre-skywalker saga stories. I can say without a single doubt, Light of the Jedi has removed all of these worries and I can’t wait to read more about these characters and their journey through the galaxy. Charles Soule writes an awe-inspiring entry that makes you fall in love with new protagonists, fear the new villains, and leaves you on the edge of your seat. I very much recommend picking up this book!

Star Wars: The High Republic – The Light of the Jedi will be released on January 5th, 2021 by Del Rey Publishing.

Star Wars: The High Republic – Light of the Jedi, written by Charles Soule and published by Del Rey, kickstarts a brand new era in the Star Wars galaxy. The High Republic is a publishing initiative which tells multiple stories 100 years prior to Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, showing readers the Jedi during their … Continue reading REVIEW: Star Wars: The High Republic – Light of the Jedi