“Hawkeye” Casts Florence Pugh, Vera Farmiga, Several More!

With the Marvel Hawkeye Disney+ series having just started filming in New York City, official casting announcements were inevitable. The Hollywood trades proved to be a bit slow when it came to confirming that Hailee Steinfeld was, in fact, the series’ co-star (something that was reported by The Illuminerdi several months ago, and proven yesterday in behind-the-scenes footage from the Hawkeye set), and they weren’t even the first to break the news that Black Widow actress Florence Pugh will be reprising her role as Yelena Belova (can we say reprising if she hasn’t even had the chance to appear in Black Widow yet?) in Hawkeye, but they – specifically Variety – have now announced some exclusives of their own: including casting for Kate Bishop’s mother, the villains Swordsman and Clown, the antiheroine Echo, and her father.

Hawkeye
Yelena Belova (right) | indiewire.com

The biggest news is, of course, the Florence Pugh casting. Pugh, hot off an Oscar nomination and a string of other successes, will eventually debut in Marvel’s Black Widow as Yelena Belova, a suspicious assassin who reconnects with Natasha Romanoff, her “sister” and former Red Room classmate, in order to take down the shadowy Russian government organization that created her. Belova’s fate after Black Widow is still unknown, with many wondering if she’ll betray Romanoff at some point during the movie and have to go into hiding, reappearing after the Widow’s death in Avengers: Endgame; or perhaps she’ll become the founding member of the Thunderbolts team, a group of semi-reformed villains working undercover for a variety of different reasons…but whatever the case, we can be pretty assured she survives Black Widow, something that was previously in question. With COVID-19 continuing to delay the release of the Widow’s solo movie, more and more unintentional spoilers for the film are inevitable.

As for what Belova will be doing in the Hawkeye series, that’s a bit more mysterious – although it’s been rumored she’ll don the Ronin mantle that Hawkeye himself briefly wore during the events of Avengers: Endgame, while he was going on a murder spree throughout Asia. If Belova is coming back out of the shadows after Endgame, it would make sense for her to wear a disguise at first: though whatever crimes she commits while wearing said disguise would inevitably have consequences for the person who wore it before her. We’ve all been wondering how Hawkeye gets re-involved with the superhero business after retiring and settling down with his family – an ongoing fight between him and Belova to finally rid himself of the guilt and shame of the Ronin disguise and the damage it’s done to him…that would be just the thing, in my opinion, and it would be a great thematic throughline for the series.

But there could be another catch. The character of Echo, who will be played by newcomer Alaqua Cox (and when I say newcomer, I mean “does-not-even-have-an-IMDb-profile-yet” newcomer), is one of Marvel’s most interesting villains, with her own claim to the title of Ronin, and a possible connection to the Red Room – or at least people associated with the Red Room. Echo, a deaf Native-American woman born with the name Maya Lopez, takes the Ronin moniker in the comics while working undercover in Japan. She quickly becomes a prestigious crime-lord, but her moral code is complicated, and she sometimes offers her help to the Avengers as well. But one potentially crucial detail about her is that her superpowers are identical to those of the villain Taskmaster: the main antagonist of Black Widow. Both characters possess photographic reflexes, which allow them to flawlessly mimic the movements and fighting style of any opponent. From the Black Widow trailers, it’s become clear that photographic reflexes are also taught to all the Red Room cadets, including Natasha Romanoff herself, and Yelena Belova. In the MCU, it would make sense for Echo to be one of the last batch of Black Widows raised in the Red Room, or an apprentice of either Taskmaster or Belova, gone rogue after the events of Black Widow (which presumably ends with Natasha destroying the Red Room completely). Not only would it streamline the series, but it’s a choice that would make Echo even more significant: as the living legacy (or, one could say, an “echo”) of both Hawkeye and Natasha’s worst mistakes, but with her own unique identity and agenda. It also allows for Natasha to still be a part of the story after her death.

Hawkeye
Echo | fullcirclecinema.com

Echo’s father has also been cast, with Zahn McClarnon (most notable for roles in Westworld, Fargo, and Doctor Sleep) taking on the role. His character – named Willie “Crazy Horse” Lincoln in the comics, William Lopez in the show – is most notable for being murdered by agents of his former employer, Kingpin, and leaving the marking of a bloody handprint on his daughter’s face before he died: a marking she would adopt as her symbol. Hopefully he has more to do in the show, but no other details have been given on his role.

Two other villains are now confirmed, although there have long been rumors that they would show up. Fra Fee will portray Clown, a serial killer from the pages of the Hawkeye comics who comes from a circus and doesn’t really have any overarching agenda besides senselessly murdering people. I suspect that his tragic circus backstory will be retconned to tie in with Hawkeye’s own tragic circus backstory (it would be pretty bizarre to have two in one show, otherwise), but I don’t expect him to stick around long, or pose much of a threat. He’s minor antagonist material at best.

Swordsman, on the other hand, might have more to do. Set to be played by Better Call Saul‘s Tony Dalton, the character is getting a small name change – from Jacques Duquesne to Jack Duquesne – but his backstory should remain much the same. In the comics, Duquesne mentors the young Clint Barton at the circus where Barton grows up: before one day betraying him while attempting to flee with stolen money, and almost killing him in the process. Barton becomes Hawkeye and the two don’t really interact much beyond that. In the MCU, it’s possible that Barton will purposefully seek out the Swordsman for his help, or the two will be enemies. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see this part of Hawkeye’s history, which has heretofore never been referenced in the movies.

Hawkeye
Kate Bishop | gameinformer.com

And finally, we have Vera Farmiga – who will be playing Eleanor Bishop, the mother of Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop. Farmiga, the Oscar-nominated star of the Conjuring horror franchise, is a high-profile actress for such a small role…except that Eleanor Bishop isn’t your average movie-mom character, and she may be one of the series’ major antagonists. In the comics, Mrs. Bishop fakes her own death shortly after the birth of her daughter, and then proceeds to live a life of crime, as the mastermind behind the villainous Madame Masque (who, as you might remember, is rumored to appear in Hawkeye). The comics distinguish Bishop and Masque as two separate characters – but I think the Hawkeye series will make them one and the same for increased dramatic effect when the masque finally comes off. Eleanor Bishop might not have a very strong connection to Clint Barton, but it’s worth pointing out that Kate Bishop is supposed to be the co-lead of this show – and as such, she should have her own circle of supporting characters and villains.

So what do you think of the casting, and of my speculation? Which character are you most excited to see? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Hailee Steinfeld Confirmed As Kate Bishop In “Hawkeye” In Set Videos!

Marvel Studios has a reputation for strict secrecy, and they’ve always been good at keeping things hidden from the public and press, even if it means lying and spreading misinformation to cover their tracks. The casting of Kate Bishop, however, has been one of the studio’s worst-kept secrets in recent months, as literally every clue has pointed towards singer and Oscar-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld being the top choice for the coveted role – but nothing official from the major Hollywood trades has leaked to confirm or deny these rumors since September of last year, when Steinfeld was said to be “in early talks” to play the vigilante archer. This summer, The Illuminerdi was able to confirm that Steinfeld had officially landed the role, and they have now been proven correct. Hailee Steinfeld was spotted today in full Kate Bishop costume, filming the Hawkeye Disney+ series in New York City.

Kate Bishop
Hawkeye and Kate Bishop | freegametips.com

The question of whether Steinfeld could even play Bishop was always a tricky one, because of her pre-existing commitment to film another season of Dickinson on Apple TV. But it appears that her schedule has now cleared up thanks to the constant shuffling of production start dates, or something else has happened behind the scenes. Either way, video footage distributed online by multiple scoopers today (including Charles Murphy at Murphy’s Multiverse, whom I believe to have been the first to do so) clearly shows Steinfeld alongside Hawkeye star Jeremy Renner, racing through a subway station – accompanied by none other than Lucky the Pizza Dog, Hawkeye’s canine companion from the popular Matt Fraction Hawkeye comics, here making his first MCU appearance.

In the comics, as some of you will already know, Kate Bishop is a young adult crime-fighter who takes after Hawkeye and ends up becoming his apprentice and accomplice, taking on villains like Madame Masque, who has also been rumored to show up in the Hawkeye series. Later, she becomes a founding member and leader of the Young Avengers, a team that is currently being assembled across the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in both movies and TV. While the MCU’s version of Hawkeye is still very different from his portrayal in the comics (and you could make a convincing argument for why Renner has been miscast all along), MCU Kate Bishop already looks nearly perfect, and she’s equipped with her trusty bow. The overcoat she’s wearing appears to just be part of her outfit: unlike the heavy tarps often worn by MCU actors to hide their costumes. She’s definitely wearing something purple underneath the coat, although another behind-the-scenes photo seems to show that it’s an oversized sweater rather than a version of her actual superhero suit.

Kate Bishop
Kate Bishop | forbes.com

But no matter what, Steinfeld is clearly a great choice to portray this important character. She’s been in the running for so long, and the conversation around her casting has become so intense, with people picking apart her social media posts looking for hints, that it would have been absolutely bizarre if someone else had come in at the last minute and claimed the role instead of her. That’s not to say there aren’t other actresses who could have done so, but Steinfeld is – no questions asked – extremely talented in multiple different fields, with a strong film and TV resume, and a successful music career. No word yet on whether she’ll do any singing for Hawkeye, but I wouldn’t be opposed. Every good series needs a theme song, right?

Kate Bishop
Hailee Steinfeld in “Dickinson” | elle.com

Of course, the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fan in me can’t help but wonder if Kate Bishop’s other mentor and role model from the comics, Mockingbird, will make an appearance in the Hawkeye series. Mockingbird was portrayed by Adrianne Palicki all-too-briefly on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. before parting ways with the other agents and going rogue, and Palicki has expressed interest in reprising the role in Hawkeye (or even replacing Hawkeye completely, which sounds…okay by me, honestly?). Fingers crossed she gets to return!

So how do you feel about this casting? Is Hailee Steinfeld the Kate Bishop you had in mind, or were you hoping for someone else? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

What To Expect From Tython, Star Wars’ Force-Sensitive Planet

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

The latest chapter of The Mandalorian has definitely given me plenty to talk about, from the origins of Grogu to the backstory of Grand Admiral Thrawn. But one thing which we haven’t discussed yet – and which I haven’t seen being widely discussed online – is the series’ next destination: the planet Tython, where Din Djarin and Grogu will supposedly find a mountain, a magical seeing-stone, and quite possibly a Jedi willing to help them out of a tricky situation. Ahsoka Tano didn’t provide much other information about the planet in her vague set of directions, which means she failed to warn Djarin about something that might pose a small problem, depending on what’s canon now and what’s not: Tython is one of the few Force-sensitive planets in the galaxy, and it can be downright hostile to Force-users visiting its surface.

Tython
Tython | starwars.fandom.com

Tython is not a new addition to the Star Wars universe, made up on the fly by The Mandalorian‘s creative team: it’s existed on the fringes of the current, official, Disney canon for a couple of years, and far longer in the old – and now mostly disregarded or discarded – “Legends” canon. I don’t expect the planet’s entire “Legends” era backstory to be suddenly canonized in next week’s episode, but I do think that, with this being the planet’s first live-action appearance, there will be plenty of opportunities for Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni to slip in some subtly awesome callbacks to “Legends” material. And because they’ll probably only be hints at most, I thought you, dear reader, might want to go into next week’s episode prepared to quickly identify those hints.

First, though, let’s quickly go over what we know to be true of the planet Tython: i.e., what’s actually stated in the Disney canon. So far, it’s only been mentioned a handful of times, and visited just once, in an issue of the Dr. Aphra comics. Chelli Aphra and Darth Vader went there looking for the Rebel base – which Aphra, a Rebel sympathizer, secretly knew was located on the planet Hoth. Aphra was able to distract Vader and his Imperial forces on Tython for a while, leading the Sith Lord to a mysterious location known as the Martyrium of Frozen Tears, in the planet’s coldest region, where Vader was forced to confront traumatic memories of his past crimes. It’s unlikely that Din Djarin and Grogu will have any reason to visit the Martyrium themselves – though it could be useful, if we need to see any of Grogu’s own traumatic memories (such as his escape from the Jedi Temple during the Purge). The only other thing we know about Tython is that it’s located in the Deep Core (near the heart of the galaxy), and it’s one of several planets that vie for the honor of being the homeworld of the Jedi.

In the old “Legends” canon, Tython simply was the ancient homeworld of the Jedi – and, as I mentioned, it was also a Force-sensitive planet that reacted violently to any disturbance in the Force. Almost 40,000 years before the events of A New Hope, the Je’daii Order was founded on Tython by mystic pilgrims who arrived there in eight giant, flying, pyramids. Conveniently, they just happened to discover another giant flying pyramid already waiting for them on the planet (seriously, what are the odds?). These pyramids – named the Tho Yor – came to rest in various locations around Tython, where they became the foundations of the planet’s cities and temples. I’m not saying that the “mountain” that Ahsoka told Din Djarin to seek out is necessarily an ancient pyramid starship, but…wait, actually, that’s exactly what I’m saying. At least be aware of the possibility. These pyramids could also serve as weapons of mass destruction during wartime, which is both terrifying and awe-inspiring.

Tython
Tho Yor | swtor.fandom.com

Each of the temples built up around the Tho Yor had its own specific purpose – from martial arts, to healing, to balance. In these places of learning, the Je’daii invented and taught the philosophies that would later shape them into the Jedi Order we all know and love (do we love them? That’s up for debate: they’ve been pretty awful sometimes, no matter what canon you’re referencing). Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. Before long, Tython became a battleground for the Force Wars, a conflict between two opposing factions of mystics; some still calling themselves the Je’daii, others carrying Force-powered swords and known as…wait for it…Jedi. Needless to say, the Jedi won. The planet faded in importance as the Jedi spread out across the galaxy, and it fell into the hands of the Sith a few times.

But by far the most interesting thing about Tython is its ability to detect any imbalance in the Force, and respond with deadly force whenever necessary: the planet is sentient, and can change its weather to create catastrophic Force storms and earthquakes. How it determines “imbalance” is up for debate; apparently, even the mere presence of a very strong Force-user can cause the planet to start self-destructing. In the Disney canon, it’s unclear if this is still the case. After all, Darth Vader – whose midi-chlorian count is the highest on record – didn’t face any resistance from the planet; but Grogu is possibly even stronger. We’ll see. I would be thrilled if Tython actively tried to annihilate Grogu and Din Djarin, because I don’t think they’d be in any great danger: whichever Jedi they meet on the planet would surely be able to help calm the planet and lull it back to sleep – just as the Je’daii were trained to do for centuries.

Alternatively, we know that The Mandalorian loves a good old beastie – and Tython is crawling with them, both in “Legends” and supposedly in the new canon as well. Some of the monstrous animals to look out for next week include…(*takes deep breath*)…Silik, desert-dwelling humanoid lizard beings; hook hawks, that hypnotize unwary travelers with enchanting singing before gouging their eyes out; carniverous Manka cats, armed with tusks; giant Saarl worms, a distant cousin of the Sarlacc; vicious, bat-like Blood Spites, which exist in the Disney canon already; shaggy Uxibeasts; tentacled Gelfish; and acid spiders for good measure, just in case you wanted more after Chapter 10 gave us an entire arachnid army. Depending on where Din Djarin lands the Razor Crest, he’ll find plenty of creepy-crawlies to fight off while Grogu does the magic hand thing and tries to call up some of his old Jedi pals.

Tython
Tython | swtor-life.com

As for the actual seeing stone referenced by Ahsoka, I can’t find anything like that in the surprisingly extensive records about Tython. I suspect this is an entirely new invention, but it could also be the last remnant of one of the Je’daii Temples built around the Tho Yor pyramids. Either way, it obviously has a strong connection to the Force. It’s unclear how Ahsoka Tano even knows about it, but it’s possible she and other Jedi survivors visit the planet often, which is why she believes Grogu will be able to contact one there. There’s a small risk that Grogu will accidentally contact a Sith or other Dark Side user, and an even bigger risk that Moff Gideon will ambush Djarin and Grogu there (he’s been tracking the Razor Crest since Nevarro), so one has to hope there’s a Jedi on standby somewhere. I’m not sure how this whole thing is supposed to work: can Grogu summon Jedi instantly to his location? Do they have to sit on the mountaintop and wait? I guess we’ll find out next week.

What do you think? Are you excited to see Tython? How similar do you expect it to be to its “Legends” counterpart? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Who Is Thrawn? The Star Wars Villain, Explained.

As I mentioned while reviewing yesterday’s episode of The Mandalorian, I am a huge fan of the Star Wars: Rebels animated series. I love the entire crew of the Ghost; I get a kick out of seeing Rebels references and Easter eggs pop up anywhere from Rogue One to The Rise Of Skywalker; and today, when it was teased that a major cliffhanger from the Rebels series finale will finally be resolved, I nearly screamed out loud because it’s about time. Whether it happens in future seasons of The Mandalorian or an entirely new spinoff series starring Ahsoka Tano (and Sabine Wren?), we are going to learn the whereabouts of one of Star Wars‘ most enduring antagonists, Grand Admiral Thrawn. And, probably, the lost Jedi Ezra Bridger. This could not get any better.

Thrawn
Grand Admiral Thrawn | barnesandnoble.com

(No wait, actually it could. Please, Disney: cast Rahul Kohli as live-action Ezra Bridger. It’s the fan-cast that dreams are made of, and I will accept nothing less).

So let’s break it down. Even though we went over the basics in my review, I still feel like I have more to say (I always have more to say about Rebels), and anyway, it seems like fans of The Mandalorian are going to need more than a passing knowledge of Thrawn in order to fully understand what he could be up to, so many years after his initial disappearance at the end of Rebels.

Grand Admiral Thrawn, born Mitth’raw’nuruodo, was one of the Empire’s most terrifyingly efficient military leaders and strategists during the fight to suppress the rebellion. He’s been around in Star Wars canon for a long time, first appearing in the 1991 novel, Heir To The Empire. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and erased much of the old canon (now called “Legends”), Thrawn was nearly lost forever – but Dave Filoni swooped in and rescued the fan-favorite character from oblivion, giving him a key role in Star Wars: Rebels as the series’ main antagonist, and ultimate big bad. With his innate ability to strategize several steps ahead, and foresee every plausible outcome, the red-eyed Chiss alien commander is more like a super-computer than a living creature; his most “relatable” quality is his affection for art, which he steals from the worlds he plunders and assembles into a massive private collection.

In the waning years of the Galactic Empire, Thrawn’s attention was turned towards the remote planet Lothal, home to some of the Empire’s most valuable industrial centers. There, shortly before the battle in which the Death Star plans were stolen, setting off the events of A New Hope, Thrawn clashed with the Rebel forces led by Lothal native Ezra Bridger, a young Jedi with a deep connection to animals. All of Thrawn’s intricate plans were foiled by Bridger saving the day in a heroic, and completely unpredictable, act of self-sacrifice – by summoning an entire army of purrgil space whales from the other side of the galaxy. The purrgil grabbed both Thrawn and Ezra Bridger in their tentacles before shooting off into hyperspace at lightspeed, to a destination unknown. The moment leaves everyone – including the audience – in stunned silence, but Bridger’s actions end up saving Lothal: reeling from the loss of Thrawn, the Empire gives up on the backwater planet and turns its focus towards other, more urgent targets, while the core team of Rebels are free to go their separate ways, starting new lives.

Thrawn
Ahsoka Tano and Sabine Wren | starwars.fandom.com

And as for Bridger and Thrawn…well, nobody knows. But Dave Filoni has confirmed that both characters survived the space-crossing. Most likely, they exited hyperspace somewhere in the outermost regions of the galaxy (or perhaps even further afield?), and have now spent the last decade or so trying to find their way back. The final scene of Rebels picks up with one of Ezra Bridger’s former crewmates on the Ghost, Mandalorian graffiti-artist Sabine Wren, some years after the fall of the Empire; as she embarks on her own journey to locate Bridger and finally bring him home to Lothal. We know she has help from Ahsoka Tano, who made a promise to Bridger before his disappearance that she would find him. And now, thanks to The Mandalorian, we know a little bit more about Tano’s involvement in this very personal quest.

The general consensus amongst fans is that The Mandalorian‘s latest episode takes place just before Ahsoka and Sabine team up in that final scene of Rebels. It makes sense: the episode ends with Ahsoka learning the new whereabouts of Grand Admiral Thrawn from one of his acolytes, which could give her some hint of where to find Ezra Bridger as well, or at least where to start looking. But if Thrawn is back (and apparently already conspiring with his old allies), that means the New Republic has more pressing concerns than finding Bridger – the Grand Admiral could very well be the mastermind behind other Mandalorian villains like Moff Gideon, and the driving force behind the plan to rebuild the Empire, making him the biggest threat in the galaxy. As I said in my review, I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out that The Mandalorian is all leading up to the story of how Thrawn created the First Order from the remnants of the Empire. This would even line up with Thrawn’s original story arc in the “Legends”, where he set up his own secret empire, united the remaining Imperials in the wake of the Empire’s fall, and battled the New Republic. Much like Palpatine in The Rise Of Skywalker, he cloned himself and became something of a recurring threat long after his actual death.

Thrawn
Grand Admiral Thrawn | usatoday.com

Ezra, meanwhile, can’t be too far off. In fact, The Mandalorian dropped a subtle reference to him in this latest episode, with the sudden (and suspiciously random) appearance of a loth-cat in the streets of Calodan. Loth-cats are native to Lothal, and act as Bridger’s spirit guides throughout Star Wars: Rebels, communicating the will of his planet’s thriving ecosystem. They’re cute and all, but their semi-mystical powers and connections to the Force make them even more fascinating. Interestingly, this is the second loth-cat to show up in The Mandalorian: the first having almost eaten Baby Yoda (back when he was still Baby Yoda) in season one. Is a pattern emerging?

So what do you think? Are you excited to see Thrawn return to Star Wars, and make his live-action debut? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

6 Characters Who Could Have Saved Grogu From Order 66

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

Today’s episode of The Mandalorian was practically overflowing with Star Wars deep lore, including several big reveals, Easter eggs, and hints and teases of even more exciting things to come. But whereas many of those things (like Ahsoka’s future, and the location of Grand Admiral Thrawn) may be explored in spinoff series’ down the line, the true identity of Baby Yoda – sorry, Grogu – and the details of his mysterious backstory are almost sure to be explored in The Mandalorian itself. So let’s discuss the new biggest mystery surrounding Grogu’s past: who saved him from Order 66.

Grogu
Grogu | insider.com

Thanks to Ahsoka Tano, we now know that Grogu was raised in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant in the last years of the Old Republic. He was mentored by many Jedi Masters, and presumably became fairly strong in the Force – but in the intervening years between the fall of the Jedi Order and his reappearance in The Mandalorian shortly after the fall of the Empire, he has somehow forgotten much of his Jedi training and distanced himself from the Force. Ahsoka explains that this is because Grogu is afraid of something; probably the trauma of having survived the Jedi Purge and the execution of Order 66, when Emperor Palpatine turned on the Jedi and slaughtered all but a few in a massive bloodbath. In one of Revenge Of The Sith‘s most memorable sequences, Palpatine’s disciple Anakin Skywalker stormed the Jedi Temple and murdered pretty much everybody, including children. But somehow, Grogu survived the Purge, thanks to an unnamed rescuer who got him out of the Temple and kept him hidden from Anakin, Palpatine, and the long arm of the Empire for years. While the Emperor continued his hunt for Jedi survivors with the help of Darth Vader and a small army of Jedi traitors known as Inquisitors, Grogu remained alone in a secret location until somehow being brought to the attention of ex-Imperials in the aftermath of the Empire’s collapse. The rest is history.

But now, let’s look at a few characters who could have been Grogu’s secret savior (and one or two who definitely weren’t) – and who could be very important players in The Mandalorian‘s future storylines, as we continue to explore the child’s backstory and purpose.

Grogu
This is not the face of someone about to rescue a baby | express.co.uk

6: Anakin Skywalker. This is a bizarre theory I saw making the rounds on social media, though it seems very out of character for young Skywalker. In Revenge Of The Sith, we saw Anakin go from senselessly murdering children in the Jedi Temple to mowing down an entire Separatist council, Force-choking his wife, and trying to kill his mentor. I’m not sure there’s any space in between those events for Anakin to suddenly have a change of heart, randomly decide to spare a single padawan‘s life, and then go back to being an out-of-control killing machine. In his later years, as he witnessed first-hand the horrors he had helped to bring about, Anakin quietly (and sometimes subconsciously) started helping his enemies in small, secretive ways – such as destroying a Jedi holocron that would have supplied Palpatine with the names of every Force-sensitive child in the galaxy: which means that, technically, older Anakin actually did save Grogu’s life. But young Anakin? Not a chance.

Grogu
Yaddle | starwars.com

5: Yaddle. The Mandalorian introduced a new complication in the story of Yoda’s female counterpart, Jedi Master Yaddle, with Ahsoka Tano stating definitively that, in all her time as a Jedi, she’s only ever known one other member of Grogu’s species, besides Grogu himself – Yoda. It’s a big slap in the face to all of Yaddle’s fans, who are still waiting for her to return. She hasn’t been seen in live-action since her very first appearance in The Phantom Menace, and it’s been way too long if you ask me: especially since the current canon doesn’t provide any information about Yaddle’s fate in the Purge (and, in fact, hints that she survived). So why doesn’t Ahsoka know about her? Well, Yaddle is believed to have retired from her post on the Jedi High Council before Attack Of The Clones, meaning that Ahsoka might have never come into contact with her if she left the Temple completely. But if that’s the case, that means Yaddle probably wasn’t anywhere nearby when Anakin attacked and Grogu needed saving. So I think we have to rule her out as a likely option, but take comfort in the fact that it means Yaddle’s survival is even more plausible!

Grogu
Shaak Ti | aminoapps.com

4: Shaak Ti. I feel kind of sorry for Master Shaak Ti – who, coincidentally, filled Yaddle’s seat on the Jedi High Council. Ti was given a very important role in the Jedi hierarchy, overseeing the training of the Clone armies on Kamino. But in this role, she failed to thoroughly examine the nefarious secret behind the purpose of the inhibitor chips hidden inside each Clone soldier, despite all the warning signs. It would have been cruelly poetic if she had been killed by one of those same Clones at the same time as most of her fellow Jedi, but she was actually murdered by Anakin Skywalker himself: impaled while meditating in the Jedi Temple. That would seem to rule her out as a potential Grogu savior, but she did record a final hologram message before her death telling any surviving Jedi to rise up and rebuild the Order – so clearly, she knew what was going on before Anakin got to her. Could she have had time to rescue Grogu in that brief space of time and make up for many of her failings? Possibly. I doubt it, but never say never.

Grogu
He…survives this? | starwars.com

3: Mace Windu. I know what you’re thinking: isn’t Mace Windu literally one of the first Jedi to die in Order 66? Doesn’t the Emperor personally kill him, with help from Anakin? Well…maybe. Windu’s death is something that’s been debated in the fandom recently, with some (including Samuel L. Jackson himself, and George Lucas) theorizing that such a powerful Jedi could have withstood losing a limb, being electrocuted by Force lightning, and then getting thrown out a skyscraper window. This is Samuel L. Jackson we’re talking about here, so I’m prepared to buy that. And if he did survive his apparent death, maybe he could have gotten back to the Jedi Temple before Anakin and rescued Grogu: though I’d be interested to hear his reasoning for why only Grogu warranted saving. This theory raises a lot of questions. Too many, if you ask me. But if it means we get SLJ/Baby Yoda content, I’m prepared to forgive even the most random of retcons.

Grogu
Yoda | observer.com

2: Yoda. We still don’t know whether Yoda and Grogu are related in any way, despite being two of only three known members of their unidentified and incredibly secretive species, but Yoda would definitely have known who Grogu was during the child’s time in the Jedi Temple. He probably also selected some of Grogu’s Masters, and might have taken a role in mentoring the child – when Ahsoka mentioned Yoda’s name in her conversation with Din Djarin, Grogu’s ears immediately perked up, indicating that he recognized the name, at least. Yoda was one of the wisest and most far-seeing Jedi: if Grogu has any huge relevance to the overall story of Star Wars, it wouldn’t be surprising if Yoda knew that well in advance, and decided to protect the child from harm so he could one day grow up to become…whoever he becomes. Yoda did visit the Jedi Temple the morning after Anakin’s attack, so he could have found Grogu, if the child had hidden during the assault on the Temple. But why wouldn’t he have taken Grogu with him to hide on Dagobah?

Grogu
Jocasta Nu, the galaxy’s coolest librarian | themarvelreport.com

1: Jocasta Nu. If anybody had the motive and means of smuggling Grogu out of the Jedi Temple, it was Jocasta Nu. The elderly Jedi librarian who briefly interacted with Obi-Wan Kenobi in Attack Of The Clones may not have been of much assistance when trying to track down Kamino, but she became instrumental in rescuing and preserving Jedi knowledge after the Empire rose to power. According to the new Disney canon, she was able to escape from the Jedi Temple on the night of Anakin’s attack with a treasure trove of books, holocrons, artifacts – and potentially one stray padawan? Nu tried her best to locate other surviving Jedi, particularly Force-sensitive children; a list of whose names she kept in a valuable holocron. Although Darth Vader eventually killed her, she didn’t fail entirely in her goal: Vader destroyed the holocron without telling Emperor Palpatine of its existence, and the information Nu snuck out of the Temple provided the blueprint for Luke Skywalker’s later attempts to rebuild the Jedi Order. And it’s possible that, if she was Grogu’s savior, she may have played an even more important role in saving the galaxy.

As you can probably tell, there aren’t a whole lot of Jedi who could have saved Grogu: some of the ones on this list were probably either too far gone to the Dark Side, too far away, or just too dead, to help out. It’s possible this is a completely unimportant conversation, too: maybe Grogu was rescued by someone random, a Jedi we’ve never met before in any story. But I don’t think so. The way this reveal was set up – combined with the revelation that more Jedi are coming in future episodes of The Mandalorian – makes me think we will learn the identity of Grogu’s savior, and it will be someone we already know. It also makes me think we’ll be getting flashbacks to the attack on the Jedi Temple: just like the flashbacks we saw of Din Djarin’s own childhood trauma, and the slaughter of his people by Separatist battle droids, in The Mandalorian‘s first season.

So what do you think? Who saved Grogu? Somebody on this list? Somebody completely different? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Mandalorian” Chapter 13 Review!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AND STAR WARS: REBELS AHEAD!

Mere moments after The Mandalorian‘s thirteenth – and most eagerly-anticipated – chapter opens, we are introduced to Rosario Dawson’s live-action Ahsoka Tano, rising up out of the nocturnal fog with her twin lightsabers flashing on and off, hot on the trail of one of her enemies. And like me, your first reaction to this might be that it’s too soon for the episode to reveal her character, that you’re not yet prepared, that you haven’t had time: but that’s because we’ve all been under the (completely wrong) impression that Tano’s debut would surely have to be the biggest reveal in this entire episode, no matter what else happened. That is very much not the case. In fact, if I had to make a bet, I’d wager that any and all Ahsoka Tano discourse will dwindle out long before the uproarious debate about several other, arguably more urgent, reveals – including Baby Yoda’s birth name. This episode gives you absolutely no time to process any one of these reveals before dropping another bombshell on the audience, which makes the whole experience even more thrilling for a viewer (especially if, like me, you’re watching at three o’-clock in the morning and trying to stay quiet while also wanting to scream to the heavens because OMG WAS THAT A THRAWN NAMEDROP?)

The Mandalorian
Ahsoka Tano | polygon.com

Yes, yes it was.

But before my head actually explodes, let’s dial things back. Let’s start out with the most predictable and least shocking of all the reveals, which, ironically and a little bit tragically, turned out to be Ahsoka Tano. Over the course of The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, Tano gradually became one of the most well-written, complex, and compelling characters in all of Star Wars canon, growing from a reckless, free-spirited Jedi padawan, to a disillusioned cynic who left the Order rather than be complicit in its crimes, to a Rebel leader and a mentor for heroes like Ezra Bridger. The Mandalorian picks up with her shortly before her final Rebels appearance, still on Bridger’s trail after his mysterious disappearance (although he’s not the only missing person she’s following, as it turns out). Tano is once again entrusted to the care of her creator Dave Filoni, who directed this week’s turbulent, action-packed chapter.

It’s hard to find any glaring faults in Rosario Dawson’s performance, although the design of her striped lekku horns leaves much to be desired: somehow they went from ornate and almost waist-length at the end of Rebels to being short, soft, and rounded again, like they were in Clone Wars, and I can’t for the life of me understand why. Dawson has many of the character’s mannerisms down to a science, from her smirks and side-eyes, to the way she runs slightly hunched-over. She doesn’t perform quite as many gravity-defying leaps or twirls as her animated counterpart, but her action scenes are impressive nonetheless – and she has plenty of them. Her twin lightsabers, gashes of white light in the oppressively dark fog of Corvus (when Bo-Katan said it was a forest planet, she neglected to mention it was a petrified forest on a lava flat), are strikingly beautiful weapons as always. The only major difference between animated Ahsoka and live-action Ahsoka is her voice, which has up until now been consistently provided by actress Ashley Eckstein. Dawson’s voice is deep where Eckstein’s was higher-pitched, and the change is significant and hard to grow accustomed to in just forty-five minutes, especially when we’ve spent so much time with Eckstein as Ahsoka, and her unique voice has become such an intrinsic part of the character’s identity.

And, although I can’t believe I have to be saying this a second time, it is worth remembering and acknowledging that Rosario Dawson is still under fire for alleged transphobia, something that can’t be taken lightly. But whereas her Mandalorian castmate Gina Carano foolishly decided to make her petty transphobia public on her social media, Dawson’s case is more complicated, as it involves a severe allegation – that Dawson violently attacked a transman in her employ – that supposedly happened behind closed doors, and is thus much harder to prove. All but two of the charges filed against Dawson were dropped a few months back, but many fans still find it hard to support Dawson until more information is available, and that’s totally valid. No matter how you ultimately decide to process this information, it’s important that you know about it.

Din Djarin (voiced and sometimes played by Pedro Pascal), meanwhile, knows nothing about Ahsoka Tano except what Bo-Katan told him about her location on Corvus, in the city of Calodan. By the time Din Djarin and Baby Yoda reach Calodan, Ahsoka has already had to leave the city, and is now lurking in the forests just outside its walls, picking off her enemies one by one and slowly working her way towards the heart of the city, and its ex-Imperial Magistrate, a woman named Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto, channeling Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon era Michelle Yeoh very effectively), who wields a beskar steel spear and is withholding some very valuable information about her former masters. Elsbeth immediately enlists Din Djarin to hunt down and kill Ahsoka for her in exchange for her Mandalorian spear. But when Djarin does find Ahsoka, the two only exchange a few blows (and Djarin nearly scorches her with his trusty flamethrower, but whatever) before they both hesitantly lay down their weapons and agree to help each other. Like all of us, Ahsoka is immediately entranced by Baby Yoda, and wants to know more about him.

The Mandalorian
Baby Yoda | indepent.co.uk

And thanks to her ability to communicate with Baby Yoda via the Force, we actually get some solid, though incomplete, answers to our many questions about the child’s backstory and place of origin. But most shockingly, we also learn his given name. He couldn’t just be Baby Yoda forever, I suppose. Now, one can see the wisdom in Disney’s decision to name him “The Child” in all of The Mandalorian’s marketing – it seems they were trying to give him the most boring moniker imaginable, so that when the time came for the big name reveal, audiences would willingly make the transition. But just as they never realized how big a sensation The Child would become, they never realized how the entire fandom would instantly disregard “The Child” in favor of a hashtag-friendly nickname we all collectively decided upon: Baby Yoda. And now, a season and a half into the show, we’re being asked to give up the nickname/social media phenomenon that helped to fuel this show’s popularity in favor of a new name…Grogu.

Grogu is a short, simple, and kind of adorable in its own way. Who knows, it might even catch on with the fandom (though, from what I’ve seen, reactions to this reveal have been mixed). But the fight between the Grogu separatists and the Baby Yoda loyalists will be long and brutal, and I honestly don’t see how Grogu – despite being a truly cute name for a cute character – can beat out Baby Yoda, which has become so solidly cemented in the public consciousness over the past year. Personally, I hope both stick, because I’m not quite ready to let Baby Yoda go (though I will use Grogu from now on).

In-universe, though, he’s officially Grogu. He even answers to that name, which will make the Mandalorian’s parenting a lot easier from now on. And in his conversation with Ahsoka, Grogu feels comfortable enough to open up about some other details from his traumatic past – like how he apparently used to live at the Jedi Temple in Coruscant until the very end of the Clone Wars, at which point someone got him out of the Temple. Although nobody mentions the Jedi Purge or Anakin’s slaughter of the Temple’s younglings, it sounds like Grogu was snuck out during that night of bloodshed – Ahsoka notes that Grogu is still very afraid of something. Without any more information to go on, we’re still left with gaps in Grogu’s story that don’t make sense: like how he ended up in the pirate camp where Din Djarin found him in the season one pilot. Or, for that matter, how Ahsoka herself managed to live at the Jedi Temple for years without ever coming across the baby (it’s theoretically possible he joined the Order after she left, but there’s hardly enough time between then and the end of the Clone Wars for him to have been trained by “many Masters”, as Grogu says he was). The reveal that he came from the Temple doesn’t even necessarily suggest a connection with Jedi Masters Yoda or Yaddle: the Jedi took in hundreds upon hundreds of Force-sensitive children from every corner of the galaxy. He could be anyone.

At the very least, Grogu’s background as a Jedi-in-training will give him an advantage as he begins the learning process again and reconnects with the Force. Ahsoka practices with Grogu, helping him use the Force to levitate small rocks, but the child is stubborn – and too attached to Din Djarin for his own good, Ahsoka quickly determines. And so, after a single training session, Ahsoka politely informs Din Djarin that she can’t risk mentoring Grogu, and tells him in no uncertain terms to seek help elsewhere. Ahsoka’s own mentor and best friend did succumb to the Dark Side because of his powerful love for another, so she’s certainly entitled to be wary of any sort of “attachment”, something expressly forbidden by the old Jedi code. But in my opinion, this whole situation felt far too contrived for my taste, and out of character for Ahsoka. After all, Ahsoka knew about Anakin Skywalker’s love for Padmé, but she never actually found out that was what drove him to the Dark Side. And considering how she rejected the Jedi Order and its outdated rules pretty firmly in The Clone Wars, it seems odd that she’d now be so adamant about adhering to their traditions, so many years after the Order fell.

But The Mandalorian needs a way to write her off the show somehow, because apparently we don’t get to spend more than one episode with any new character. First, though, Din Djarin agrees to help Ahsoka storm the city of Calodan and defeat Morgan Elsbeth. And it’s a good thing he does, because we, the audience, get to witness a truly spectacular duel between Ahsoka and Elsbeth in the latter’s water-garden (while Din Djarin confronts Elsbeth’s henchman in a very suspenseful staring contest): and what’s more, we finally find out why Ahsoka is so intensely interested in this remote planet when the former Jedi asks Elsbeth point-blank where to find Grand Admiral Thrawn. Cue me, a Star Wars: Rebels fanboy, screaming at the top of my lungs. Thrawn, the chief antagonist of Rebels, went missing shortly before the events of the original trilogy, after being ensnared in the tentacles of a purrgil space whale and carried to an unknown location somewhere in the outermost reaches of the galaxy. Ezra Bridger, the young Jedi protagonist of Rebels, went with him – sacrificing himself to defeat Thrawn and put an end to the Grand Admiral’s schemes. Fans have always known that neither Bridger nor Thrawn died: but at the same time, we still don’t know where they went, or whether they’ve spent the intervening years trying to work their way back towards civilization. But now, thanks to her encounter with Lady Elsbeth, it looks like Ahsoka has the intel she’s been looking for – and despite leaving The Mandalorian for the time being, she may be back: this time, perhaps with her traveling companion Sabine Wren, another Mandalorian and former Rebel whom we know she eventually enlists to help find Bridger.

The Mandalorian
Thrawn | syfy.com

The big question, though, is whether we’ll meet Thrawn in this series, or a future spinoff – because I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for him to appear now. Although he failed in his attempts to obliterate the Rebel Alliance, he became a truly menacing villain thanks to his innate ability to play the long game, staying several steps ahead of his opponents at all times and only being defeated thanks to a truly unpredictable act of heroism. But if Ahsoka has reason to believe he’s back, that probably means he’s begun conspiring with other ex-Imperials. I would not be at all surprised if we eventually learned that Thrawn is as much one of the masterminds behind the First Order’s rise to power as his master, Emperor Palpatine.

But for the time being, the race to hunt down Thrawn is still merely a tantalizing subplot. The main plot is heading to the planet Tython, where Ahsoka tells Din Djarin he’ll find an old Jedi Temple – and maybe, just maybe, some other Jedi. No hint of whom that might be (share your own theories in the comments below), but I expect we’re about to be in for another big reveal.

Episode Rating: 9/10

The First “Ms. Marvel” Set Photos Have Been Revealed!

Despite Marvel having to shuffle its entire release date calendar every few months or so due to the COVID-19 crisis, the studio is continuing to film their various upcoming movies and Disney+ series’, in anticipation of the time when they’ll once again be able to release content on a normal basis and schedule. Ms. Marvel, a series that we still don’t know too much about, just went into production in Atlanta over the past few days, and now scoopers have obtained not one but two groups of behind-the-scenes pictures showing star Iman Vellani suited up (well, maybe) as Marvel’s newest superheroine, Kamala Khan, one of the fresh new faces who will lead the Marvel Cinematic Universe in its next phase. These pictures, distributed by Just Jared and Marvel News on Twitter, don’t reveal anything major, but they do give us a few clues as to how Marvel will be adapting Kamala Khan to the small screen.

Ms. Marvel
Kamala Khan | comicbasics.com

Most of the photos are all various angles of Iman Vellani riding her bike around town, wearing casual clothes for Kamala’s day-to-day attire, before she becomes Ms. Marvel: a colorful flannel jacket, bright red biking helmet (with her initials, KK, written on it), and so on. Nothing too interesting, right? Well, take a closer look and you’ll spot some cool details – like the Captain Marvel logo emblazoned on her helmet, the Avengers logo on her blue T-shirt, and an air-force badge on her jacket sleeve that’s identical to the one Carol Danvers wore before she became a Tesseract-powered superheroine in Captain Marvel. All these things indicate that, just like in the comics, the MCU’s version of Kamala Khan will be a huge fan of the universe’s many superheroes, but with a special emphasis on Captain Marvel, her role model. Considering how much merch she has on here, it seems likely that her room will probably be crowded with posters, action figures, memorabilia, autographs, Funko Pops, etc. I can’t wait to see it all: and presumably Disney will make sure you can buy it all too.

Ms. Marvel
Twitter | @BRMarvelNews

The second group of photos, revealed after the first bunch and shortly before I was about to publish this article (necessitating my having to quickly do some rewriting), show someone who I think pretty much has to be a child actor playing young Kamala, wearing a full Captain Marvel costume – complete with adorable glowing mohawk! – and being helped onto the roof of her porch by a friend, possibly her school classmate Bruno from the comics. This is probably just a cute flashback scene to show how Kamala’s obsession with superheroes has been almost lifelong, but it might have a lot of significance.

Ms. Marvel
Twitter | @BRMarvelNews

Even as an older teenager, Kamala Khan seems to like that spot on her porch roof, as a single photo in the first batch shows her perched there again, while a visitor – possibly a villain or antagonist – stands on the front steps. Kamala looks like she’s trying to hide on the roof, or perhaps planning to jump down and start punching (remember: Kamala Khan is an Inhuman, and her powers manifest themselves as the ability to redistribute the atoms in her body at will, a skill she often uses to create giant fists and stretchy arms and legs, or grow to an immense height). Unfortunately, both Iman Vellani (or perhaps her stunt double) and the other actress in this scene are wearing capes to hide their costumes: a common tactic on Marvel film sets. But a little bit of Khan’s outfit is visible – including one bright blue boot and a red pant leg. Up until the second batch of photos was just released, the assumption was that this had to be Kamala’s first, homemade, Ms. Marvel costume. It might still be, but comparing between the two groups of photos I think it’s easy to see that this outfit she’s wearing as an older teen is very clearly also a Captain Marvel cosplay. It’s possible she wears this at first because she doesn’t have time to make a whole new suit, and later upgrades to something entirely original. The other actress’ costume is completely concealed, sadly, making it hard to guess who she could be playing but very likely that she’s a superpowered character of some sort: probably not some random passerby, or family friend of the Khans.

Ms. Marvel
Twitter | @BRMarvelNews

Speaking of the Khans, I feel like I have to comment on how nice and tidy their little suburban house looks, with its tasteful porch furniture and assortment of potted plants. Some hanging decorations are visible through one of the upper windows. The curtains are a vivid shade of blue. It’s all very charming, and exactly the type of cozy, inviting, setting for a whole series. The behind-the-scenes photos don’t show any of the other members of Kamala’s family, but they can’t be far off. It’s also been reported that the series was filming at a mosque in Atlanta, meaning that we’ll see Kamala and her family going to worship, and catching up with friends and the rest of their Muslim community. It’s exactly the type of casual representation that Kamala Khan’s comic run was praised for, and which Ms. Marvel needs to succeed.

So what do you think? How excited are you for Ms. Marvel, and what do you hope we see next from the series? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Mandalorian” Chapter 11 Just Made Din Djarin Interesting

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

So…what is the way, exactly?

The mysterious “Way”, the unbreakable creed by which The Mandalorian‘s protagonist Din Djarin (voiced and sometimes played by Pedro Pascal) lives, and which, as far as we know, mostly exists to forbid him from ever removing his helmet in the presence of others, was well-established and cemented by the end of The Mandalorian‘s first season: but fans of Star Wars‘ animated offshoots The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels have always known something sounded a bit fishy about this “Way”, which never stopped previous Mandalorian characters in either of those canon TV series from removing their helmets freely and frequently.

The Mandalorian
Mandalorian Nite Owls | gamespot.com

And today, The Mandalorian finally addressed that lingering continuity error by revealing that, as many of us had suspected for some time…Din Djarin is kind of weird, even by Mandalorian standards.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – jumping the shark, or the mamacore, if you will. Best to start at the beginning, with Din Djarin piloting a very damaged Razor Crest towards the estuary moon of Trask, still ferrying Frog Lady (voiced by Misty Rosas) – who, to be fair, is keeping her cool under extremely disturbing circumstances. Luckily for the fandom, which can now finally take a break from the lively and occasionally heated debate about whether or not Baby Yoda intentionally committed genocide by devouring several of Frog Lady’s unborn children on last week’s episode (and whether or not that forebodes a turn to the dark side in his near future), the infant isn’t given an opportunity to eat any more eggs. Instead, his insatiable appetite finds other victims this episode; mostly small, tentacled creatures.

The crash landing on Trask goes about as well as you’d expect, which is to say it’s a complete disaster and Frog Lady is nearly killed one more time before finally reuniting with her husband – who is alive! That’s doubly fortuitous because it means that (a) Frog Lady’s entire species will not be wiped out of existence despite Baby Yoda’s best efforts, and (b) because this husband of hers is able to lead Din Djarin to a friend, who gets in touch with another friend, who supposedly knows some Mandalorians. This friend-of-a-friend’s deal involves a not-at-all suspicious boat ride across the open ocean with a sea monster (a mamacore, to be precise) in the cargo hold. Din somehow doesn’t find this alarming at all, and unsurprisingly ends up in the aforementioned cargo hold, drowning, with a bunch of Quarren pirates trying to strip him of his precious beskar steel armor, while the mamacore swallows Baby Yoda in his tiny motorized cradle.

The father/son bonding moment is broken up by some swift intervention by a trio of rogue Mandalorians wearing dark blue armor and jet packs. Their leader, instantly recognizable long before she’s unmasked due to the distinctive markings on her helmet, is none other than Lady Bo-Katan Kryze, making her long-awaited live-action debut, played by the same actress, Katee Sackhoff, who has voiced her for years in both The Clone Wars and Rebels. It was in Rebels that we last saw Bo-Katan, wielding the famous Darksaber and preparing to unify her warring peoples for an assault on Imperial-occupied Mandalore, her ancestral homeworld. The Darksaber has passed from her hands to others, and the Empire has now fallen, but the years that have passed since her appearance in Rebels have done little to change her iconic look – somehow, the costume department for The Mandalorian even nailed her strange, choppy, red bob haircut. But when Bo-Katan and her team remove their helmets is when things get weird, because Din Djarin almost immediately has a freakout moment and flies off with Baby Yoda, convinced his saviors aren’t really Mandalorians at all. I’m not sure how the Mandalorian education system works, but you’d think someone as well-traveled as Din Djarin would at least have heard stories about Bo-Katan, the sister of Mandalore’s former duchess and herself once its leader, after the end of the Clone Wars. But, as Bo-Katan rather scornfully points out, Djarin is a “Child of the Watch” – a signifier that, shocking as it might seem for fans of the show, confirms that Djarin is a member of a group affiliated with Death Watch, the super-violent, jingoistic, religious extremist militia group that was formed during the Clone Wars to oppose Duchess Satine’s peaceful rule. Bo-Katan herself was once a high-ranking member of the group, but left after Darth Maul got involved with Death Watch, and instead formed her own group called the Nite Owls. It appears she (understandably) doesn’t have warm feelings towards the people who stayed with Death Watch, and the people they in turn recruited into their ranks, like Djarin (who was only a child during the Clone Wars, and didn’t actively choose the way of the religious extremists).

The Mandalorian
Bo-Katan | meaww.com

Djarin isn’t having any of it and makes his escape, so hastily and awkwardly that he doesn’t even have time to retrieve Baby Yoda’s floating cradle. There’s no going back for it now – Bo-Katan blows up the entire ship when she leaves. It’s a small tragedy: that cradle wasn’t just a practical item that saved Baby Yoda from some dangerous situations; it was also a last keepsake by which to remember the hospitality and honorable sacrifice of Kuiil, the Mandalorian’s friend from season one. Without it, Din Djarin is now forced to carry Baby Yoda around in the crook of his arm everywhere he goes.

To add insult to injury, Bo-Katan’s Mandalorians return just a few minutes later to save Djarin again, after the brother of the Quarren smuggler who tried to kill him randomly shows up to avenge his sibling’s death. Over a drink and a cup of hot, steamy…sentient tentacles, the Mandalorians start to ease up, and we get some insight into what Bo-Katan is doing on Trask with her compatriots, who include Simon Kassianides as Axe Woves, and Mercedes Varnado (better known by her stage name, Sasha Banks, or her wrestling alias, The Boss) as Koska Reeves. Banks wasn’t playing Sabine Wren after all, as many people had guessed after seeing the second season trailer – nor was she a solitary Inquisitor, as some believed. All in all, her role turned out to be small but fun: and yes, she’s a better actress in her few scenes with minimal dialogue than The Mandalorian‘s resident anti-mask, conspiracy-peddling transphobe, Gina Carano, was in the series’ entire first season. The trio’s mission is to stockpile weapons and gear for an eventual assault on Mandalore, which Bo-Katan hopes to retake – she does have a valid claim to the throne, after all, and until recently was in possession of the weapon that would have solidified that claim: the semi-mythical Darksaber, which we the audience know is currently being wielded by Din Djarin’s arch-nemesis, ex-Imperial fanatic Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito).

Without many other options to choose from, it’s not long before Din Djarin has reluctantly signed on to help Bo-Katan and her squad in exchange for information about the Jedi – whom he also knows nothing about and needs help finding. The mission is a fairly simple job on paper, breaking into a cargo ship manned by some ex-Imperials and stormtroopers, but the potential danger means Djarin first has to stop by Frog Lady’s house and leave Baby Yoda in her care. Baby Yoda is always being dropped off places while Djarin does the dirty work, and that formula is growing a bit tiresome – I’m still waiting for the day when the child will actually be able to fight alongside his father, with his own itty-bitty little lightsaber and Force powers. Alas, today is not that day.

(On the other hand, it’s probably for the best, because Baby Yoda isn’t around to witness what has to be the biggest slap in the face to Din Djarin during an episode that mostly consists of Djarin being slapped around and otherwise humiliated: when Bo-Katan gives him an order and then follows it up with “This is the Way”, stealing his sacred catchphrase in a way that seems to be subtly poking fun at his strict, old-fashioned code. I don’t know what they call that in Star Wars lingo, but here we call that a burn).

The mission itself is a lot of fun to watch, and director Bryce Dallas Howard keeps it suspenseful even though the outcome is predictable: it’s a fight between four Mandalorians and probably around thirty or forty stormtroopers, so obviously the odds are in the Mandalorians’ favor. Even the ship’s conniving Imperial Captain (played by Titus Welliver) can’t do anything to slow down his attackers, despite an urgent call with a completely disinterested Moff Gideon to beg for reinforcements and then a last-ditch attempt to crash the ship into the ocean; though he does ultimately kill himself (in the most eerily Nazi way you could imagine, by biting down on a poison pellet in his cheek) before Bo-Katan can wrestle any information out of him about the Darksaber’s whereabouts. The whole incident sets up several new plot lines I can’t wait to see continued over time. We’ve all just assumed that Din Djarin will have to face off against Gideon at some point – but Bo-Katan’s arrival makes it far more likely that, if anyone is going to take him down, it’ll be her. She’ll definitely stick around: she’s far too important a character to only appear once, and we still have to see what happens when she and her now very heavily-armed team head to Mandalore to overthrow a government.

As for Din Djarin, he chooses not to follow them, because he still has an oath to lead Baby Yoda to the care of his own people, or at the very least a Jedi. He gets his next coordinates from Bo-Katan: the city of Calodan, on the forest planet of Corvus – an as yet unexplored location in the vast Star Wars universe, but supposedly home to one former Jedi, Ahsoka Tano. Let the fandom discourse begin anew, because Star Wars is about to welcome actress (and alleged transphobe) Rosario Dawson into the fold as one of the saga’s most popular and interesting characters – an extremely controversial choice, to put it lightly.

The Mandalorian
Baby Yoda | nme.com

But of the many repercussions this episode will have, one of the biggest (and subtlest) is that Din Djarin is finally interesting again. Up until now, The Mandalorian has positioned Djarin as a gold standard Mandalorian, a prime specimen of the group. He’s also been – for the most part – a fairly noble hero, who operates according to the tenets of his faith, putting his people’s needs first and respecting tradition above everything else. Revealing that Djarin’s “Way” is actually not the Way after all heightens the stakes dramatically, placing Djarin in a very uncomfortable position, challenging his faith and forcing him to reconcile with his clan’s past crimes. Whether Djarin knew about those crimes or not is still up for debate (he didn’t seem to know who Bo-Katan was, and he had never even heard of Jedi, so I don’t put it past him), but either way he’s been put in a deeply personal predicament.

But of course, because this is still really the Baby Yoda show, the episode ends with the child eating yet another tentacled creature, one that seemed much too large for him to tackle, but, hey, what can I say? He’s a growing…unknown type of alien, and he needs sustenance! Be glad he’s out of his baby-eating phase.

Episode Rating: 8.5/10

“The Mandalorian” Season 2 Premiere! Spoiler Review!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN SEASON TWO PREMIERE AHEAD!

For me, one of the biggest questions coming out of The Mandalorian‘s season two premiere is how to label it in my title headings: because, technically, you’d think it should be season two, episode one…right? But Disney+ lists it simply as “Chapter 9” of the total series, based on the assertion that the entire series is one continuous story. I’ve settled on the more neutral term “Premiere” for now, but I can’t say I fully agree with the terminology used by Disney+. Honestly, the premiere doesn’t feel very much like an immediate continuation of the story so far: under the direction of Jon Favreau, it jumps right back to the style of episodic, slow-burn storytelling that was so controversial (but ultimately successful) during The Mandalorian‘s first six episodes. I imagine that, unless things take a turn quickly, that’s how season two is also going to unfold – but this time at least I’m aware that’s what’s going on, and prepared to wait it out.

The Mandalorian
newsbreak.com

Favreau’s premiere episode has all the hallmarks we now expect of a typical episode of The Mandalorian: an entertaining side-quest on a backwater planet, and an uneasy alliance between our protagonist, Mandalorian bounty hunter Din Djarin (voiced and sometimes played by Pedro Pascal), and one or two new characters. This time, however, the side-quest is big, elaborate and prolonged – going on for almost an hour – and the episode even includes some flashback sequences to help us become attached to our new characters. Both quest and characters are also slightly more interwoven with our main plotline. Din Djarin and his tiny, adorable companion Baby Yoda find themselves on the planet Tatooine, following the trail of other Mandalorians who can help Djarin track down the whereabouts of Baby Yoda’s people. But that plotline gets put on the back-burner while Djarin tries to unite the bandits of Mos Elgo and the desert-dwelling Tusken Raiders against a ravenous Krayt dragon that has been terrorizing both groups – in exchange for a marvelous suit of Mandalorian armor possessed by Mos Elgo’s charismatic marshal.

Tatooine has been explored to death in the Star Wars universe, but The Mandalorian keeps coming back to it because it’s the planet that best exemplifies the series’ general sci-fi/Western vibe. And to its credit, The Mandalorian has at least made it feel fresh again by exploring some new corners of the desert planet besides just Mos Eisley – in this particular episode, the small frontier town of Mos Elgo. The town is run by a motley assortment of bandits, bounty hunters and low-level criminals, but is far from being a hive of scum and villainy. In fact, Mos Elgo seems pretty well-organized and well-governed, and even has a schoolhouse for the kids. It’s also a treasure trove of cool Easter eggs and Star Wars artifacts, such as a speeder bike made from one of the engines of Anakin Skywalker’s podracer in The Phantom Menace.

An alliance with the elusive Tusken Raiders means more opportunities to see just how much the portrayal of the Raiders has changed over the decades: once minor antagonists to Luke Skywalker’s journey, they’re now mostly depicted as sympathetic characters, no different from anyone else trying to aggressively carve out territory on Tatooine’s inhospitable surface in order to survive – and that shift is largely thanks to The Mandalorian, which showed Din Djarin peacefully interacting with them in season one and again in this season’s premiere, both times using sign language communication to strike up bargains with the Raiders. In this case, the Raiders are interested in helping the people of Mos Elgo defeat a Krayt dragon – a huge, carnivorous creature which technically made its first onscreen appearance back in the very first Star Wars movie; as a skeleton buried in the planet’s sand dunes. Now, over forty years later, we’ve finally gotten the chance to see one alive and in action, and it’s spectacularly fearsome (though eventually defeated by a poor, unsuspecting Bantha beast outfitted with explosives).

The season two premiere simultaneously finds room to include surprise appearances from characters we met on Tatooine in The Mandalorian‘s first season, like the human mechanic Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) and her small fleet of pit droids. The unexpected Motto/Baby Yoda reunion plays out just as one would hope, with Motto only half-joking when she asks Din Djarin if she can keep the child. For those wondering, Baby Yoda himself is still as adorable as ever (shocker, I know), and it’s a great relief to have him back after such a long, wearisome year. I just hope he finds an opportunity to exercise his growing Force powers sometime soon, because I’d hate to see him get upstaged by anybody else – and a newcomer has already come very close to doing just that.

The Mandalorian
Cobb Vanth | radiotimes.com

Said newcomer is none other than the Mos Pelgo marshal Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant, currently still trending on Twitter), a character from the Star Wars: Aftermath novels. Olyphant shines in the role, and not just because he gets to wear Boba Fett’s famous suit of armor, bought from Jawas who recovered it somehow from the sarlacc pit where Fett went down. He’s a lot of fun, with a braggadocio and swagger that comes from being able to pass for a Mandalorian, and a disarming, warm attitude. Can he be trusted? I think so, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he shows up again later in the series: especially since he’s unintentionally gotten himself involved in something much bigger than he probably imagined. Vanth is, however, lucky to have been able to give Din Djarin his armor after the success of their dragon hunt, a generous action that will probably save him in the long run – because somebody else, somebody with a personal, irrefutable claim to that armor, is also on the hunt for it…and judging by the assortment of large, nasty-looking weapons this somebody has on their person, I’m guessing they’re prepared to fight for it.

The Mandalorian
Boba Fett | menshealth.com

This somebody is Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) himself, of course; a character I’ve always personally found to be quite overrated, now returning for a chance at redemption after his humiliating “death” in Return Of The Jedi. Although the Boba Fett reveal comes at the very end of the premiere, it’s not exactly a big surprise to anybody who’s been following the production of the series closely, having been reported on some time ago. Nonetheless, it’s still exciting for several reasons: firstly, because it’s finally canon confirmation that Fett escaped the sarlacc pit, something that’s been debated in the fandom for decades; it’s likely confirmation that it was Fett whose shadowy figure we saw in season one, investigating Fennec Shand’s dead body; and it bodes well for what’s to come, as the series begins to dive into the history and lore of the Mandalorian people.

Whether or not Din Djarin stays on Tatooine any longer, I have a feeling that him and Boba Fett will meet up soon: the older Mandalorian warrior seems to have adapted to his new life as a desert nomad, but I’m sure he won’t pass up an opportunity to reclaim his old armor and his dignity – though, if it’s dignity he’s after, he might want to consider fixing or simply discarding his famously faulty jetpack, which malfunctions again while Cobb Vanth is using it. Just a suggestion.

Episode Rating: 7.5/10

Oscar Isaac Is The MCU’s Moon Knight!

Today has been an emotional rollercoaster of Moon Knight news – if you asked me this morning who would be my top candidate to play the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I would have said, hands-down, Sacha Baron Cohen, one of the most multi-talented actors working today and the man I’ve been pushing for the role for months now. If you had asked me the same question a few hours ago, when Murphy’s Multiverse broke the news that Hamilton‘s Daveed Diggs and comedian Nick Kroll were on the list of contenders for the role, I would have told you that Diggs was an incredibly interesting, out-of-the-box casting and that it actually sounded like something I could get behind. But just as I was beginning to wrap my head around just how great Daveed Diggs would be as Moon Knight, Deadline reported that Oscar Isaac is, in fact, in talks to play the character.

Moon Knight
Oscar Isaac | upi.com

There’s definitely reasons to be excited about this casting. Oscar Isaac is Guatemalan-American, making this a big win for the Latinx community, and he’s obviously a very well-liked and established actor with experience in both indie and mainstream films – his biggest role to date has been as Poe Dameron in the most recent Star Wars trilogy. While playing Dameron, he famously pushed Disney to try and make his character explicitly gay, which is endearing and awesome. Then there’s the matter of his Jewish heritage, and that’s where things get a little bit more complicated.

In the comics, Moon Knight (a.k.a. Marc Spector) is unequivocally Jewish and that’s part of what’s made him such an interesting character that so many people have been excited to see join the MCU. Oscar Isaac does have some Jewish heritage from his father’s side, although he was not raised Jewish – in fact, he was raised an Evangelical Christian and has said previously that he regards himself to be “a big mix of many things”. Because Jewish identity often follows a matrilineal line of descent, there’s been some confusion and debate over whether or not Isaac is considered Jewish or not, and whether this counts as good Jewish representation, considering that Isaac doesn’t appear to consider himself Jewish and once said that he lost a potential role because a director mistakenly thought he was Jewish based on his surname (which is actually his middle name). As someone who is not Jewish myself, I can’t say for certain what the answer to these questions are, but I will leave the question out there because it’s important to have this discussion. I recently addressed issues of colorism with regards to the possible America Chavez casting, and I think it’s unfortunate that we’re now having a similar conversation, especially when this was probably avoidable.

Moon Knight
Moon Knight | screengeek.net

Despite Isaac possibly not identifying as Jewish, the character of Moon Knight is likely to be depicted as such when he shows up for the first time in the upcoming Disney+ series that will star the character and explore his origins. For those who don’t know much or anything about Moon Knight, let’s quickly break it down: Marc Spector starts out on his journey as an ex-CIA operative and mercenary working in Egypt, where he gets involved in a fight with his former friend Raoul Bushman over a newly uncovered Egyptian archaeological site that Bushman is trying to plunder. Spector gets mortally wounded and lost in the desert, but is miraculously saved by divine intervention – the ancient Egyptian moon god Khonshu is able to resurrect him in exchange for Spector’s service, which Spector is able to perform while wearing the mantle of the Moon Knight. The Moon Knight fights a wide range of enemies, ranging from street-level fighters to psychic nuns and supernatural beings. Spector begins to suffer from dissociative identity disorder, and creates several notable personas including that of a millionaire named Steven Grant and a cab driver named Jake Lockley. It’s a juicy, complex role(s), and Oscar Isaac is definitely going to be doing exciting things with it, if the Moon Knight backstory isn’t radically different from the comics.

Isaac is only one of a long line of actors who will be starring in hotly-anticipated Disney+ series’ for Marvel, such as Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner, Tatiana Maslany and Iman Vellani. But Isaac is arguably the one with the biggest name recognition thanks to his work on Star Wars. There’s no word yet on if or when Isaac will jump to the big screen, but his willingness to jump onboard a streaming service for the studio makes it likely that he will have a prominent role in the MCU going forward. In the comics, Moon Knight has collaborated with the Midnight Sons under the command of Dr. Strange, and there have been reports that other members of that team will be showing up throughout the Marvel universe soon.

Moon Knight
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron | comingsoon.net

Interestingly, it won’t be Isaac’s first time working alongside superheroes. He played Apocalypse, the villain of Fox’s X-Men: Apocalypse, and had a voice cameo as one of many Spider-Men in the post-credits scene of Sony’s Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, something that is likely to be explored further in that film’s sequel. This casting also puts him en route to joining Ming-Na Wen as one of the few actors who are part of the Marvel, Star Wars, and Disney Animated universes (he’d make for a fabulous Disney Prince, honestly).

So what do you think? Are you excited for Isaac, or do you have reservations about the casting? Feel free to share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Raya And The Last Dragon” First Trailer!

For a while, the only official material we’ve seen from Disney Animation’s upcoming epic Raya And The Last Dragon is a few pieces of stunning concept art, one poster that wasn’t meant to leak, and a new poster released yesterday in anticipation of this morning’s first trailer release. And today, I am both surprised and relieved to discover that this is one of the few cases where the finished film actually seems to look just as good as – if not better than – the already beautiful concept art.

Raya And The Last Dragon
slashfilm.com

Set in the lush, vibrant kingdom of Kumandra, the first trailer for Raya gets off to a good start instantly, with a stringed instrument providing haunting, atmospheric background music over scenes of our brave young heroine, Raya, – voiced by the talented yet criminally underrated and mistreated Kelly Marie Tran, making a brave comeback after her role as Rose Tico in Star Wars made her the subject of cyberbulling and targeted harrassment by racists – while she prepares for the fight of her life. We see a wide range of different landscapes and locations throughout Kumandra in the trailer, most notably a palace or temple complex perched on a tall, arch-shaped rock formation which appears to be taking some architectural influence from real-life locations in Southeast Asia such as the temples at Bagan in Myanmar. Raya And The Last Dragon will become Disney’s first film set in Southeast Asia, and follows a pattern established over the past several years by Disney in that it stars a bold, capable, adventurous princess in the lead role – though, to be fair, it’s not entirely clear from the trailer if Raya is a princess by birth, and if that will make her ineligible to join the official Disney Princess line-up.

She might pull a Mulan and simply get in because she earned the title on her own. In the trailer’s first thirty seconds, we see Raya donning the outfit of a warrior meant for stealth missions (she has an entire room full of weapons, which I hope to see explored to the fullest): and then embarking on one such stealth mission herself, leaping from rooftops in the rain and vanishing into a network of deep, subterranean tunnels which presumably lie beneath the aforementioned palace/temple. The entire sequence is gorgeously animated, exquisitely filmed, and evocative of action films and spy thrillers. After a hold-up in a tunnel full of traps (falling nets rather than the usual spikes jutting from walls or disappearing floor-tiles), Raya reaches her destination – a massive, circular chamber housing what I have to imagine is the “Dragon Gem” she mentions later in the trailer as the magical artifact she’s sworn to protect: but on this particular occasion, she has company. A warrior is already there before her, wearing a fanged dragon mask to hide their features, and engages her in combat – although the warrior wields a large, wavy-bladed sword called a kris, Raya is using a martial arts style which employs two short staves: this could be Arnis, a fighting style popular in the Philippines, but which is believed to draw on influences from throughout Indonesia, Malaysia and India. The fight between the two warriors is interspersed throughout the rest of the trailer, with Raya and her opponent evading each other in a sort of dance.

Raya And The Last Dragon
ew.com

From there, we jump to a desert setting – which is interesting, because Southeast Asia isn’t really known for its deserts. Raya, now carrying her very own kris, is on a quest to find the Last Dragon of Lumandra, as she informs us through narration, so this could perhaps take place further afield, maybe even in India or China: not that it will matter much to Raya, who is lucky to have on her side a large pangolin/pillbug hybrid creature named Tuk Tuk, whom we are introduced to as an adorable baby in the opening sequence but is already enormous when we see him carrying Raya through the desert at high speeds. This, coupled with Raya telling us that she trained her whole life to become the guardian of the Dragon Gem makes me think that her fight in the cavern isn’t with an enemy, but instead a ritual she must have undergone to become said guardian – some sort of “passing the torch” ceremony meant to prove her worth and strength. But it seems like, despite her best efforts, something bad is happening to Kumandra and the Dragon Gem isn’t enough to keep several different kingdoms or clans united: these are the four groups we see moments later attending an event held by a man and a young girl who is probably his daughter and undoubtedly Raya. Maybe she is a Princess by birth after all. While a few of these groups might just be there to provide worldbuilding, two at least look like they are probably important to the story: the group dressed in dark green, equipped with a small army of elephants and led by a long-haired man who looks a bit like the warrior in the cavern; and the group to their left, dressed mostly in white, led by a very regal woman with a striking haircut, who come with a bunch of giant dog…wolf…creatures. A little hard to tell what’s going on there, but I am very intrigued. Will we get huge battles in this movie with war elephants and some mythical beasts? I hope so!

The trailer leaves us with only a tantalizing glimpse of the Last Dragon – through a colorful illustration in a scroll and a fleeting, feathery silhouette. But far more striking is the kaleidoscopic title card, which shows us tiny, blue-hued hints of other things I already can’t wait to see in clearer detail: Raya, standing on a cliff, looking out towards a huge staircase carved into the side of a mountain; and a mace carved into the shape of a writhing dragon. Raya looks to be the most heavily-armed Disney Princess in history, and I hope she gets to use all of that weaponry at some point: assuming the warrior in the cavern is not an enemy but rather a mentor or ritual opponent, there’s no sign of any other villain – except perhaps in the scroll, where we see the Last Dragon locked in combat with a black and purple swirl of cloud. This black and purple motif is possibly mirrored in the cavern, which is filled with glowing purple flowers which cover the walls and hang from the ceiling: but don’t seem to be the same glowing flowers we saw in the concept art and leaked poster, as those were bright blue. My takeaway from this is simply that we should be on the lookout for all sorts of significant botanical specimens in this film. I do also want to point out that I genuinely hope there’s a physical villain in Raya And The Last Dragon, only partially because I still feel cheated that we never got an epic third-act battle in either Moana or Frozen 2.

Raya And The Last Dragon
digitalspy.com

So what do you think? How do you feel about this first trailer, and how excited are you to see Raya in action? Share your own thoughts, theories and comments in the comments below – and if you come from the Southeast Asian region, please feel free to share any information about your own culture that you feel may have influenced the film!

Trailer Rating: 8.5/10

Barry Jenkins To Direct A Sequel To “The Lion King” Remake!

First thing’s first: I did not like The Lion King remake, released last year. I didn’t see it in theaters, and I am happy for that, because being able to watch it at home for the first time and rant about it was a much more enjoyable experience for everyone involved, I’m sure. So when it was announced today that a sequel to the photorealistic CGI remake has been greenlit by Disney and will soon go into production, one would think that my response would be one of disinterest or active distaste for the whole idea. But that is not the case, because when you attach a director like Barry Jenkins to your project, no matter how outlandish or seemingly unnecessary, you have instantaneously captured my attention and ensured that, despite all my reservations, I will be watching this sequel.

The Lion King
vulture.com

An unsavory subsection of Film Twitter has already exploded with rage over the news, with many writing long, strongly-worded condemnations of Jenkins, the indie director behind hits like Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, warning him that he’s making a mistake getting involved in Disney’s corporate process, that he “could do better”, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. I’m not going to get into it too much, because I simply don’t have time for snobbish “intellectuals” who regard themselves as film connoisseurs because they wouldn’t touch a Disney film with a ten-foot pole, but I will make my opinion on the subject clear: Barry Jenkins has the right to make whatever he wants, and he doesn’t need to take career advice from anybody on Twitter. If he wants to make a movie about CGI lions, I am not going to stand in his way because – shockingly – it’s very possible he could actually do wonders with this franchise.

As I said, I was not too fond of The Lion King remake. It was virtually a shot-for-shot remake of the original animated film, but lacking the charm and pizzazz of the Disney Renaissance classic. The characters seemed boring and expressionless, thanks to the “improved” CGI animation, which stripped away any chance of liveliness or color. The story was basically unchanged, save for minor changes that had no impact on anything whatsoever. Worst of all, the iconic musical numbers were completely butchered. I never anticipated a sequel, though due to the remake accumulating over a billion dollars at the global box office, perhaps I should have guessed one was coming. But the sequel we’re getting isn’t going to be a straight-up adaptation of any of The Lion King‘s animated direct-to-video sequels. This is going to be something entirely new: a film that explores the “mythology” of the franchise’s characters, and intertwines past and present.

The Lion King
imdb.com

The mention of the word “mythology” is what has me the most intrigued, because, while it could mean anything, it immediately conjures up images in my mind of Beyoncé’s Black Is King, released last month to critical acclaim and intense social media fanfare. Black Is King, a strikingly beautiful visual album directed by the popstar herself, adapts the story of The Lion King with a bold, Afro-Futuristic twist, leading the viewer on a spiritual journey into the world of African mythology, folklore and tradition, all while celebrating Black beauty and culture in all its forms. While there’s no word yet on whether Beyoncé will return to voice the lioness Nala once again for The Lion King‘s sequel, I hope and pray she will be involved in the production design for the film. Not only because the sequel could use her distinctive stylistic bravery, but because the messages she included in Black Is King are messages that can – and should – be woven into The Lion King franchise itself. It’s well-known that The Lion King was based off on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but the sequel has the opportunity to draw new inspiration from far more ancient and arguably far more impactful African legends that are rooted deep in Black culture across the world. HBO’s Lovecraft Country is currently doing something very similar, taking the stories of racist author H.P. Lovecraft (and just the traditionally exclusionary sci-fi/fantasy genre in general) and re-examining them from a unique, Black perspective). And if anyone is the perfect choice to do that for Disney, it’s someone like Barry Jenkins, whose films have explored various facets of underrepresented Black culture.

The Lion King
indiewire.com

As of right now, there’s no word on when the film will start production, but the script is apparently completed and Jenkins has already officially signed on. And so we find ourselves in this bizarre situation, where a film that I hated with a passion is now getting a sequel I would have thought completely unneeded – until now. With Barry Jenkins and (hopefully) Beyoncé at the helm, this film could easily be a masterpiece in the making.

So what do you think? How do you feel about the thought of a sequel to The Lion King, and what would you like it to be about? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!