What I'm Watching: The Mandalorian

Bored by real life, and all done with ACNH until construction finishes tomorrow morning… so I wanted to watch something stupid. Signed up for Disney+ trial, even tho I loathe Disney. Gotta remember to cancel this in a week, giving them money is evil.

And they still don't have the last movie yet! I'll have to acquire it by other means. So instead I watch The Mandalorian, but I wanted something even dumber than space-trucker-and-green-monkey.

The musical themes are very obviously "Ennio Morricone but crappy Casio synth and plastic didgeridoo". And all the fake sets look like they're copied from Sergio Leone movies, but Sergio filmed in real dusty badlands, real worn-out mountains, and real poor shithole villages. This is all greenscreen cartoons around the actors, and I don't know why they bother doing anything "real". It's instantly obvious whenever scenes are fake, so all CGI cartoon would've at least been consistent. Or alternately they could've shot in real places for 1% of what this show costs. I fucking hate looking at this.

Sound editing is awful. They shoulda put a mic under Nota Fett's ("Mando" isn't a name, it's like calling a Human "Humie", so I gave him a new name!) helmet, because he is really hard to hear. Good thing for subtitles. They could've just redubbed in studio because you can't see his lips move. Sometimes the sets are live miced, maybe, or the foley is good; other times it's very obvious everything was muted and bad foley was added. I've rarely seen B-movies with sound design this bad.

The "shiny Mandalorians are the best" premise conflicts with Boba Fett, greatest of the Mandalorian bounty hunters, who was painted over in sort of camouflage, battle-scarred green armor over tan fatigues. The helmet really didn't make a lot of sense, you can't possibly see much. Here, Nota Fett quickly gets paid in a couple pounds of shiny steel which is apparently all he wants, and his helmet is even more useless than Boba's. It's especially obvious whenever he pulls out the little telescope, he's got no peripheral vision, no sight lines up or down. He glitters wherever he walks. I know Boba Fett also wore a cape, but it's stupid. "NO CAPES, DAHLING!" as another Disney-owned show (well, that narrows it down) says.

That all said, I like the Armorer and the Mandalorian survivor culture they're showing here. This is actually kind of good Star Wars mythology. I just wish the guy'd get a paint job.

Wernor Herzog is always entertaining. His Rick & Morty appearance gave real gravitas to a dick joke. Here, "The Client" (seriously what is Favreau's problem with giving characters names?) is a smarmy ex-Imperial jackass with filthy Stormtroopers (it's so hard to take them seriously after 40 years of fans cosplaying in white armor), and a whipped dog "doctor".

Carl Weathers as the bounty hunter boss is kind of decent. He's not a good actor, and his not-good acting is all on display here, but it's a thin, slightly menacing role which the guy can pull off. He's also the only black man in the Galaxy. Every other face in this except some villagers in E4 are so white, that vanilla yoghurt gets nervous they're gonna race-war it.

The bounty mission is inane, everyone has a "fob" (what? it's a radio receiver but somehow tracks the target without a transmitter?), and a replacement IG-88 shows up. The droids are as usual played for comedy, which is fine, but "Initiating Self-Destruct Sequence!" over and over isn't funny. Once is funny enough. I half expect a laugh track every time the droids come on.

It eventually gets to a long fight scene, and it's… long. There's a lot of blaster fire to little effect, nobody except Nota Fett can aim. Kills that should be violent and bloody just have people fall down or disintegrate, because Disney wants little kiddies watching imitation spaghetti westerns I guess. I loathe this Disneyfied "clean violence" as if murdering a bunch of people is just sterile fun where they vanish when shot.

An entire scene beat is wasted on figuring out that the giant cannon just used to kill everyone can open a door, too; but that's how all the direction and editing on this goes, very slow, dumb, deliberate. It's a master class in how to lose momentum and my interest by pandering to the slowest-witted children in the audience.

Baby Yoda (never actually named, again) is, as we all know, absurdly cute. Well, all baby muppets are cute! They only turn weird and pervy when they get old.

I just realized. John Favreau heard Clint Eastwood's role called "The Man With No Name" and that's why he doesn't name anyone. Except Fakero never watched these films, or he'd know Clint's character just goes by a nickname of "Joe", "Manco", or "Blondie", but everyone else does have a name.

The shitty-ass Jawas field-stripping a starship are great, and the crawler's a great junkpile tank. They deserve disintegration, of course. But then they have a ridiculous quest for Nota Fett to get his parts back, and the stupid CGI rhino, and hairy egg, and first plot reveal of Baby Yoda's amazing powers we never suspected except of course it looks like Yoda so waving his hand at things gives him telekinesis. Yoda needed hundreds of years of Force sensitivity training, but the baby can do it in just 50 years.

Then he turns in the bounty, has the usual double-cross, triple-cross shootouts, and again I'm disappointed in the clean cartoony violence on top of a show premise that's pretty grimdark. Pick one or the other, this is weird and dissonant.

So finally the show's hit the main plot, presumably "Lone Wolf and Cub" crossed with "The Incredible Hulk", a powerful warrior with a baby going town to town solving local problems. E4 goes right into that, with a beloved peasant village being attacked by Space Orc raiders, mercenaries hired all "Seven Samurai" like. Hey, it's "Angrier Rosie O'Donnell" from Deadpool! She also can't act, but she's the best pro wrestler-turned-actor in years.

Except, they cast the raiders as non-Human, so is it morally justifiable to exterminate them all because they're raiders, or because you're committing xenocide against the Space Orcs? The great village battle is incredibly badly staged, just charging masses, no maneuvering, no cool samurai fights (nobody even has swords, just pointy sticks), and then it's over because the Space Orcs are all dead or scared.

Why were the Space Orcs here? What's their deal? Is this their native planet, that these Human assholes "colonized" and took? Nobody bothers to ask, or tell us even a comforting lie. They're just bad because they look different and steal so they can brew skooma or whatever it's called. Just like Native Americans were "redskin savages" in old westerns and it was Good and Right for honkie cowboys & cavalry to mass-murder them when they fought back, or when they didn't fight back.

The AT-ST artillery is slow and kind of useless, extremely vulnerable as always; Star Wars has no wheels, but they do have some tracked vehicles, imagine an AT-ST on tracks, they could call it a Tank and it wouldn't fall over. I do kind of like the grubby, poorly-maintained, "monster eyes" Space Orc owned look of the thing, and the irony of them using xenophobic Imperial gear.

Well. I might watch a few more of these before my trial ends, but I'm not expecting much good from them. They have no fight choreography, no dramatic sense, it's just recycled stories told badly by an idiot, and it's a moral void. Once in a while there's a scene that makes me go "hey, that was all right!", but it's rare.

I have zero problem with "go hunt down bail jumpers, dead, alive, or frozen" as a job. I love crime dramas where people get beaten or killed in lots of interesting ways. What I do object to is showing sterile violence where it's just fun to shoot people and then you never have to worry about it again, there's no conscience, no blood, nobody has families who miss them or swear vengeance. Zap, dead. I really have a problem with the open xenocide being practiced here.


(And yes, I'm aware of my hypocrisy, in that some of my games have sort of cartoony genocidal combat, only a little blood and dialogue sometimes; but few antagonists in them are "people". Umbra had hostile survivors and insane cultists, and even then killing them lowered your sanity, and killing innocent Humans drove you insane. Perilar has Orcs as part of the Harbinger Lord's armies, which may be genocidal but it's a fair war. PortalWorlds openly casts you as the villain/antihero, a thief & murderer.)

May the Force be with Tuesday Music

"This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, hmm? What he was doing. Hmm. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things."
—Master Yoda

What I'm Watching: Solo

Sigh. I wasn't going to watch any more of these Disney "Star Wars", but I'm a completionist and a glutton for punishment and terrible movies.

The special effects are fine, the sets are great, the 5-act plot of train job-failure-heist-Kessel Run-treachery is predictable and badly written, but it's no worse than usual for Disney.

The soundtrack is a lame ripoff of John Williams' score. Long stretches are too quiet, a few spots are very heavy-handed covers of the Force Theme or other parts of larger songs. I guess I don't expect John to still compose at his age, but this was ham-fisted.

The incompetent schmaltzy Ron Howard direction and the terrible acting are the main problems. Everyone involved in this should've been fired and started over.

Alden Ehrenreich is not a pretty boy, and he's a blank, emotionless drone, a terrible Harrison Ford replacement. His Han Solo is brash but never fun.

Emilia Clarke as Qi'ra is sort of Leia-like in looks, but she does nothing really, has little spine, mostly there to threaten to motivate Han. She has a position and combat skills, but they're used only when nobody else is available.

Woody fucking Harrelson as Beckett. What the hell. Just a terribly out of place character, Woody's never really been an actor, the script asks nothing of him and he delivers it.

Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca since Last Jedi is… OK. Chewie has a couple scenes where body language matters and plays the part well. Certainly the best dialogue in the film.

Donald Glover as Lando is as relentlessly mediocre at this as he is at everything else he does. He plays a vapid, cape-obsessed, loathesome, un-lovable un-rogue version of Lando.

The rest, Val, Rio, the crime lord, Enfys Nest, and so on, have no depth or plot arc to even make their characters matter.

You already know all the beats this has to hit to put every Han Solo backstory element in a single movie, a few days of his life. Then he sits around in a Tatooine bar for 20 years waiting for Luke and the old man to show up.


What I'm Watching: Star Wars the Last Jedi

In the "that took a long time" category, I finally hit play on SWTLJ in my Netflix queue. I've been disappointed in all the new ones, so I didn't expect to like this. I'm drinking cheap wine and not in a great mood, perfect.


Holy shit this starts dumb, with Poe crank-calling Hux. I thought that was a joke meme, but no, it's actually a scene with "Admiral Hugs" and "your mother" jokes. The single fighter vs giant starship point defenses thing is nonsense especially since they should have learned since the Death Star. The bombers have really shitty fire control systems, and then somehow are gravity-fed. In space. They're not missiles, they're "bombs" which drop "down". What is down? So stupid.

Old Man Luke is annoying, but he's doing the Yoda thing, so annoying is in character for once. That's the only plot- and character-consistent thing I see in this shitshow.

Drinking intensifies.

The long tail chase with the few Resistance and First Order ships, and the centralized command system they use where one shot can behead the fleet, is so stupid. Scatter the ships to the wind, with randomized meetup locations, and no amount of tracking will help. Everyone in here is an idiot; Finn's attempt to flee is the only sign of sanity.

Now let's zoom off to a sidequest at a casino, like I do in JRPGs; sure, sure, fate of the world, first I have to race and breed Chocobos. The casino should be fun, altho it looks too much like a modern Vegas casino. Instead it's preachy because Rose hates fun. Also there's no way these scruffy degenerates get into a classy casino with a dress code. Also nobody in this will be implanted with Ovion eggs, or have Cait Sith join their party, which is what they deserve.

The endless "psychic phone calls" between Rey and Kylo are like a teenage soap opera, and the low-tech camera cutting is awful. Can't be bothered to even project force ghosts in the scene? Actually, now that I think of it, there are very few scene wipes for transitions in this, which is why it feels so jarring. It's all hard cuts with no context. The director's incompetent.

Burning down the Jedi "library" is typically ham-fisted metaphor for Disney Star Wars burning all the Expanded Universe and classic Star Wars. They don't care, and the callow youts of today aren't capable of reading. Yoda drones on and on, which is not at all Yoda-like, but the writer's a moron and doesn't know or care.

The mutiny is terribly executed. Admiral Bligh, er, Holdo is incompetent, but Poe has no idea how to use handcuffs or a brig? Abandoning warships so you can hide, when the First Order fleet still has scanners, is moronic. Instead of all but 6 ships exploding, it really should be all.

Drinking intensifies.

Snoke's always been a bad ripoff of the Emperor, but at least the hologram in The Force Awakens left the possibility he'd be 1m like Yoda; nope, he's human-sized, and basically parrots the Emperor's lines from Return of the Jedi. The duel in the throne room isn't bad, not amazing but the only good, Star Wars-like content in this film so far.

The only characters with any chemistry in the entire movie are Poe and BB-8. In The Force Awakens, it looked like Poe and Finn were gonna hump right on camera; they barely look at each other here. Rose tries to pull off a relationship with Finn, but it's not there.

I look back at Star Wars, and the love quadrangle between Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie was amazing. They were junkies hooked on each other. Leia and Luke only meet once in this movie and it's a quick, tired goodbye. Chewie has some cameos (and a bizarre infestation of CGI animals) but is never around Leia, and then vanishes. R2-D2 and C-3PO also get one line together.

The CGI animals and rocks in multiple scenes are so awful, they make Lucas' "special editions" look tasteful. This isn't quite Star Wars Rebels level of shitty cartoon CGI, but it's bad, very inappropriate.

Luke's death is pointless, repetitive of Kenobi's duel with Vader, because the moron writer can't write anything new, only recycle. The Just For Men beard before that is preposterous, though (worse than fake-young CLU in TRON: Legacy, which at least A) was set in a videogame, and B) is a vastly better film than this).

I knew going in that this would be bad, Extruded Star Wars-Like Product, but holy fuck. It's one of the worst-written, worst-acted things I've seen in forever.

In The Last Star Wars Movie, I suggested terminating the franchise, but still ranked TLJ above the Prequels-Which-Don't-Exist. I may have overestimated this trash.

★☆☆☆☆ and may the Force not ever be with you, Rian Johnson.

The Last Star Wars Movie

Star Wars, in descending order of quality/interest:

  1. Empire Strikes Back
  2. Star Wars
  3. Return of the Jedi: Tatooine only
  4. West End Games' Star Wars RPG, 1st Edition only
  5. Star Wars Holiday Special: Boba Fett cartoon only
  6. The Saga Begins, by Weird Al Yankovic: What a pity they never made this movie
  7. Marvel Star Wars comics
  8. Alan Dean Foster's Splinter of the Mind's Eye
  9. Brian Daley's Han Solo novels
  10. L. Neil Smith's Lando Calrissian novels
  11. Timothy Zahn's Thrawn novels
  12. Dark Horse Star Wars comics
    Below here there is only trash:
  13. The Droids cartoon
  14. The Force Awakens
  15. All Star Wars licensed media not otherwise mentioned
  16. The Ewoks cartoon & movies
  17. All the shitty new movies: Rogue One, The Last Jedi, Solo
  18. Prequels which I deny even exist

I can't tell you how important hundreds of viewings (some in theatre, rest on laserdisc) of Star Wars and Empire were to my young brain. And duels between little Luke and Vader action figures in cardboard and styrofoam sets I made. And weird and annoying rogues and freaks smuggling drugs and blowing things up for the Rebellion in SWRPG.

But I don't think it can ever be captured and repackaged again. The kids today are too whiny to be competent heroes or sympathetic villains, so it doesn't work. The original movies must look incredibly derivative because everyone's been ripping Star Wars off for 40 years.

It's OK to let old properties die out. Let it die with a whimper.

The same thing's happened with Dr Who. The original series (for me, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison) was low-budget, and you had to pay attention for a half-hour a day for a week (500% longer than modern attention spans), but it was actual science fiction with ideas; everything since the awful American TV movie and the reboot's been a dumb Hollywood action show with a magic wand and a lot of screaming and running around nice sets. They would have been better off making a new franchise, and sort of tried with Torchwood, but any pretense that NewWho has anything to do with an old man and granddaughter quietly investigating the past is nonsense.

Star Wars

  • Auralnauts Star Wars
  • Ep 1: Rewriting the Jedi as belligerent drunks looking for a party and disrupting chain restaurants makes far better sense than whatever late-stage-dementia Lucas was doing.
  • Ep 2-3: (Didn't watch, never saw the Lucas versions. Maybe I should?) Later: Have watched, was unbearably awful even in parody and short form, and 1.5x speed. I can't imagine how bad the original is.
  • Ep 3: Later: Even more awful for a while, then the music video, dance-fight, and end are pretty great.
  • Ep 4: LASER MOON. Creepio's psychosis and Leia's dating profile are to blame for everything.
  • Ep 5: The parade is adorable and the Bespin after-party is the bleak morning after we all deserve, but surprisingly this is the weakest ep.
  • Ep 6: The Last Laser Master is Star Wars on Ice plus Laser Floyd, and finally makes sense of muppet planet.

Fantastic. ★★★★★