Star Wars – The Re-Review – Rogue One

We have ten weeks until Star Wars – Episode 9 – The Rise of Skywalker releases, and conveniently, there are ten films in the series that come before it (yes, I’m counting the spinoffs). To view Episode 9 with the proper perspective, and gain shameless views for my site, I’m going back to watch all ten movies and review them with fresh eyes. Now, before I get into the first movie, a couple of notes.

First off, I love Star Wars, always have, always will, but on this run through I’m going to be looking at them a bit more critically. So, know that while these reviews might harp on the films, they are still some of my favorites.

Second, my watching order. I’ve thought about this for a while and am going with a modified version of the Ernest Rister order. I may have lost some of you already but let me break it down with a picture to explain who the heck an Ernest Rister is and why I’m following him.

Now we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the first film.

Rogue One – The First Star Wars Story

From the moment the movie starts Rogue One tries to carve a unique space for itself in the Star Wars universe. There’s no opening crawl, and instead we’re thrust straight into the action, a first for the Star Wars series, and a good indicator that this sits outside the mainline films. Unfortunately, in an effort to set a new tone and quickly introduce us to all its characters, Rogue One’s first hour feels very disjointed in both tone and filming style. In the first thirty minutes we’re introduced to a myriad of new planets never seen on the screen, and each is barely given enough room to breathe before the film cuts somewhere else. This is understandable given the film’s already two-hour run time, but it can definitely be confusing, even for a fan of the series.

Putting aside the jumpy first half, Rogue One does introduce some memorable characters with the standouts in some of the more minor roles. Personally, K-2S0, yet another sassy robot, and the pair of Baze and Chirrut are some of the most interesting characters, despite not being the leads. K-2SO’s one-liners help break up the film’s darker tone with some comic relief, Chirrut gives us some insight into what happened with the Jedi temples after Order 66, and Baze carries a damned big gun. Saw, played by Forest Whitaker is another standout side character, but he’s given so little screen time, that its hard to really enjoy his performance.  

A blind jedi boi and a thick gunner make eyes at each other on the beach
Name a Star Wars couple you’d ship more, I’ll wait.

Getting to the leads, their characters aren’t bad either, but Cassian Andor, Rogue One’s captain, swaps between cold-blooded assassin and suddenly hopeful rebel at the drop of a hat. While I like the idea of showcasing a more problematic character in Star Wars rather than another cookie-cutter hero, Cassian wasn’t that. Instead, he came off like a half-baked Han Solo with more dramatic flare and it just didn’t work.

Jyn Erso on the other hand is a bit more interesting. Born the daughter of the Death Star’s architect, she’s got plenty of reasons to be confused by the way the factions of the world work, and her character works best when she’s all the powers at be. Unfortunately, the story of Rogue One ends up being pretty cut and dry, leaving a simple black and white position for her character to take. When it comes to siding with the plucky rebels, or The Empire, hell bent on destroying whole planets with their shiny new Death Star, there’s not much of a choice. There wasn’t anything the writers could have done to ameliorate this as the plot was set from the get-go, but it does shortchange an otherwise memorable character.

If only this line had been given a sarcastic delivery

There’s also a few returning characters that are a heavily mixed bag. Through the magic of ridiculously expensive CGI, a not-so-believable Grand Moff Tarkin returned, and to be honest, he felt unnecessary. The scenes with him were distracting just because of the uncanny nature of his animation and didn’t do much to further the plot. Vader on the other hand is a true badass, aside from possibly one of the worst lines in Star Wars history…

Darth vader has a terrible fucking one liner
Just… SO bad. Who thought this was a good line? Was Lucas involved?!

Yeah, oof, and this is in a series that had the lines “I hate sand” and “She died of a broken heart”. Even with those in mind, this is by far the worst line in the entire saga. On the bright side, the rest of his screen time is memorable and sets up his entrance in the next film beautifully. Come to think of it, that’s what Rogue One is best at overall: setting up A New Hope.

At its core, Rogue One is a film about filling one of the series’s biggest plot holes and making it seem like a stroke of narrative genius. As a quick refresher, and another spoiler, Episode 4 ends with the rebels blowing up the immaculately constructed Death Star by having a farmer shoot 2 torpedoes into an exposed vent on the station’s surface. This causes a chain reaction that blows the whole damned thing up. Originally, fans were left to believe this was a terrible design flaw on the Empire’s part, but Rogue One has a better answer: sabotage.

Rogue One’s narrative of an engineer at odds with the Empire’s goals of creating a planet-destroying weapon works, and creates a believable reason for the Death Star to be more vulnerable. It’s aspects like this, bridging the gap between movies where Rogue One really shines, and most of them happen in the film’s back half. The last forty-five minutes of Rogue One are arguably some of the best in the Star Wars franchise. The battle for Scariff is memorable, has a point, and unlike many of the other films, does a fantastic job of demonstrating the human cost of such an effort. It gives more weight to A New Hope and shows the audience exactly what the cost was to set up Luke’s miraculous trench run.

Overall, despite these misgivings, I still really enjoy watching Rogue One. It’s a fun film that gives us something different from the mainline saga. The battles are intense and easily some of the best in the series, most of the characters are memorable, and we are introduced to some cool new worlds, albeit briefly. The script’s tone and some of the more gratuitous fan service (looking at you CGI Tarkin) were definitely not necessary, but they don’t take the film down as a whole.

Final verdict: 3.5/10 – Absolutely worth watching if you’re a fan, and gives great context that somehow makes A New Hope even better.

Wrongful Possession

This is the short story based on September’s suggested prompt, which came in the form of a meme:

So anyways, here’s a story about a demon possessing the wrong person. Please like, subscribe, comment, or do something to let me know if you enjoyed reading it!

Wrongful Possession

Ken was taking a lonely walk through a particularly dreary cemetery on a Friday afternoon. His colleagues had left work early to prepare for a party that he hadn’t been invited to, and as a result, he was feeling more than a little lonely. For a while, he considered wandering the streets aimlessly, but the bustling crowds only made him feel more alone. At least at the cemetery he was technically surrounded by people, and he was quite sure none of them minded him being there.

     Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, Ken wasn’t the only animated life in the cemetery that afternoon. A large, stone church reached toward the heavens, peeking out from between mausoleums. It was an old, sad-looking building with a massive bell tower that hadn’t clanged since a pair of bad riots in the eighties nearly tore the structure down. Ashley was hiding on the top of that bell tower.

     Not to put too fine a point on it, Ashley was a demon recently escaped from Hell. Like most other freshly escaped demonic entities, she was on the hunt for an easy possession. While she would certainly be on Hell’s shit list for leaving in the first place, entering a mortal was one of the few loopholes that would keep her off their radar. It wasn’t an intentional blind spot per se, but Hell certainly wasn’t putting their best engineers on demon tracking.

     As she sat on top of the church, she counted the passing seconds, wondering how long she had before enforcement would arrive. She had no doubt that her name was already being broadcast to every demon hunter in the Midway area, it was just a matter of how busy they were. Either way, there wasn’t much time to find a host.

Originally, she had chosen the church out of hubris, hoping to prove her skills by possessing one of the clergy. After several failed attempts that had ended in painful repulsion by the holy-hot spray bottle that was blind faith, Ashley opted for a new approach. The church was filled with the pious, sure, but the cemetery would likely have mourners, and mourners were vulnerable to say the least. However, there was a problem with this plan. Apparently, no one liked to bury a loved one on a Friday afternoon.

Ashley was near giving up and turning herself in when she spied Ken shuffling through the gravestones. He was the bipedal equivalent of a seedy motel she didn’t want to stay in but was the last place with available rooms. Knowing time was short, she leapt off the tower with a practiced flourish and swan dived into Ken’s head. To her surprise, there was no resistance, and a mere second later she was at the wheel, so to speak.

     Ken, who didn’t notice most things, felt an odd sensation like all his skin was prickling at the same time. There was a brief feeling of vertigo, and his vision tunneled out, giving the impression that he was sitting far behind his own eyes. Cackling demonic laughter echoed off the now cavernous walls of his skull. He didn’t have much of an opinion about it and waited for the situation to sort itself out.

     Ashley attempted to adjust to her new skin but felt lances of pain and discomfort as she did so. She looked down at the body, ensuring she wasn’t poking out in any odd directions, but no, everything was normal. “Hell, what is that?” she said aloud, grasping at a dull, throbbing pain in her lower back.

     “Oh yeah, that tends to flare up when its raining. Doctors don’t really know what it is,” said Ken from the back of his brain.  

     There was an awkward pause. Ashley had never been confronted by a host before. “Silence fool, your body is mine!”

     Ken fluffed the folds of his brain like a pillow and leaned back in thought; He didn’t really much care for his body. “Yeah, alright then. Am I being possessed?” Religion was never something that had tickled Ken’s fancy, but he had seen The Exorcist a few times.

     “Am I being possessed?” mocked the demon in a singsong voice. “Agh!” she exclaimed, clapping a hand to the side of her head. A sharp pain shot across it like a lightning bolt. “What the fuck was that?”

     Ken hadn’t felt a thing. “Probably a cluster headache,” he admitted. “The doctors say there’s not much to be done about them. Told me to reduce stress, but I tried to tell them I don’t have much stre—”

     “Are you not at all concerned about your current predicament?” Ashley had one hand to her back, and the other on her temple. The pain in her head was easing, but there was a lingering sensation reminding her that it might come back.

     Ken thought about the question. Being possessed wasn’t exactly ideal, but then again, what had been recently? “It’s nice to have someone to talk to,” he admitted.

     Ashley let out a low growl. “Nothing about possession is supposed to be nice.” She suddenly felt a wave of sadness wash over her. All her years trying to find a way out of Hell, only to be wasted on this useless flesh bag. Tears sprang to her eyes unbidden. I might be the most useless demon in the world.

     Ashley’s thoughts echoed through Ken’s head and he couldn’t help but chuckle.

     “What’s so funny?!” Ashley snapped.

     “Well, see, that’s the depression talking. It’s funny to see it from the outside for once.”

     He’s laughing at you because you’re a pathetic excuse for a demonic entity. He’d be more frightened of a newborn than you.

     “I’m really not saying that.” Ken stifled another laugh. For the first time in years, he wasn’t the victim of his own consciousness, and it felt great. A weight had been lifted from him the second the demon stepped in.

     “What have you done to my mind, mortal?!”

     “Well, it’s not what I’ve done, is it?”

Ashley tried to growl at him, but it came out as a whimper.

“Ease up a bit.” Ken had never been so care-free. “Like I said, that’s just depression. Apparently, it’s attached to my brain, which you currently inhabit.”

     “Fuck this!” screamed Ashley.

     “You could try exercising; the doctors say that might help! Or maybe pick up a new hobby.” Ken couldn’t help it, he burst out laughing. All the idiotic solutions people had proposed came rushing back to him. He would have felt bad, but she was a demon after all, right?

     A horrible, crushing weight constricted on Ashley’s new chest and she sat down, propping her back up against a tombstone. Tears were running down her cheeks in wide rivers. “I’m from Hell, but damn. Do you ever get used to this?” she asked, feeling a rare moment of vulnerability.

     “Ehhhh,” ken hesitated. “Not really, no, but sometimes it’s less horrible than others.”

     Ashley thought about it. She had been in the mortal’s body for under a minute and had never felt worse. “Screw it.” She coiled her ethereal legs and sprang out, landing back in her demon form on the cemetery path.

     Ken was thrown violently back into his body, nearly keeling over from the impact. Standing before him was a horrible winged creature with jet black eyes and horns to match. She turned towards him and opened her mouth, revealing hundreds of pointed, white teeth. “Well, doesn’t that feel better?” She stretched muscled limbs and they cracked horribly, echoing off the graves. “I’m going to do you a kindness, mortal.” She crouched, ready to pounce and widened her mouth.

     “Sorry miss,” came a voice from the side, “but I don’t believe you have a license to be on this plane.” The deafening roar of a shotgun blast cut through the quiet cemetery.

     Ken watched as the demon was shredded by a hundred pellets that burned anything they touched. Black gook sprayed him, leaving a clear impression of his silhouette on the gravestone behind him. He looked to his left and saw a man dressed in all black cleaning a triple-barrel shotgun.

     “Sorry about that.” The man tipped his black hat politely. “Good job getting her out though. Father,” he motioned to another man who was cowering behind a mausoleum a few hundred feet away. “Good news, no exorcisms needed today.”

     A shaking man in priest’s robes stepped out crossing himself.

     The other man put his shotgun in a leather holster and brushed what was left of Ashley off his coat. “This one could probably use tending to though.” He tipped his head toward Ken.

     The priest nodded and bustled over. “Why don’t we get you cleaned up, my boy? Come inside.”

     “T-thanks,” Ken managed, still in shock.

     The priest wrapped an arm around his shoulder and together they walked toward the church. Despite it all, Ken had one thought: I miss her already.

A New Home for Chadpocalypse

It’s Monday, which means time for a new chapter of Chadpocalypse, but for those who are new to the product, Doctors recommend examining the following questions before use:

What in the heck is a Chadpocalypse?
Chadpocalypse is an upcoming novel about, you guessed it, Chad. He’s your every day college dropout who never quite stopped the abusive levels of drinking introduced in fraternity pledging, and happens to be the only person who knows the apocalypse is coming. With the help of a Priest, a handful of illicit substances, and a few familiar friends, Chad must defeat the four horseman of the apocalypse, or risk missing the concert he has tickets to in a year’s time.

This Chadpocalypse sounds amazing, but how much is it going to cost me?
That’s the beauty of Chadpocalypse, given it’s work-in-progress nature, it is entirely FREE!! I will be releasing chapters every week (most of the time) until the book is finished, and until it eventually gets published, all of those chapters will be free to read. The only thing I ask in return is if you like it, please share it with others and let me know! Similarly, if you don’t like it, let me know, I can change things if needed!

I believe in the strict, to-the-letter teachings of The Bible, and Chadpocalypse sounds blasphemous
Yeah, you’re probably right there, it’s blasphemous as hell. Might I suggest one of my other books that is less focused on the hypocrisies of religion? Whiteout is just about good old fashioned monster hunting. It’s got 4.8/5 stars with 19 ratings, so I think you’ll enjoy it.

Alright, enough of the questions, where can I read it?
Well, you have options! You can either read new chapters as I post them here on the website, check out these google docs, or read it on Wattpad. If you’ve got somewhere else you think I should post it, feel free to holler at me!

I notice all of the chapters are named after songs, can I listen to this music somewhere?
So glad you asked! I have created a Spotify playlist for the official songs of Chadpocalypse and will update it as I write new chapters. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0UozdgzYvJeQxHVcwSwZ0w?si=Jz4r6W5ORmCiXx_i6a8uuQ

Take Me to Your Leader

Every month, members of my Patreon submit short story topics for me to write. Last month, a friend of mine had a very intriguing prompt about the Area 51 raid that garnered the most votes. I hope you enjoy it!

Original Prompt: ” Hundreds of thousands of people gather to storm the gates of Area 51, meanwhile, the ringleaders of the whole ordeal are using it as a distraction for something else… ”

Take Me to Your Leader

Suggested by: Check541

A loud bass-heavy beat thumped across the temperate night air of the Nevada desert. Mitch and his associates looked out from behind their clutch of rocks in disbelief. Technicolor lights shot into the sky and occasionally a crowd cheered over the slight wind that had picked up. Meanwhile, the blinking, barbed-wire perimeter of Area 51 was dead silent.

     The three of them had sat and watched all day as guards patrolled the exterior, stacking up towards the music festival that had congregated mere miles from the facility’s gate. Whatever they had said publicly, it was clear the guards were ready for a crowd of fanatics to swarm the installation at any time. All this from a poorly worded Facebook invite, thought Mitch. Things had progressed so rapidly that he hadn’t had time to bask in their success.   

     “Are you sure this is going to work?” Kira’s eyes flickered in the dark, glowing yellow.

     “We’re going to get him back,” soothed Mitch. “Our man on the inside is going to take care of everything.” Their man on the inside was a 21-year-old college student. Months ago they had abducted him, and on a whim tried a new hypnosis technique they were working. For his money, Mitch thought they had botched it a little, but after they set the kid down in a corn field, he did almost exactly as he was told. Sure, there had been some creative liberties taken with the message, Mitch didn’t know what a ‘Naruto’ was, but in the end, it worked.

     “Run it by me again,” hissed Kira, growing impatient.

     Mitch held out a placating hand. She had been on edge ever since her husband’s kidnapping, and he supposed he’d be on edge too if the situation were reversed. “It’s very simple. We’ve studied the behavior of the youth on this planet for a long time, right, Bill?”

     Bill was a full head taller than the rest of them and had clearly not taken much care in his human transformation. His neck was still far too long, and his head looked as though it had been over-inflated. Oddly enough, no one seemed to notice. When he spoke, it was with an uneasy baritone that sounded a bit like a freshman learning to play a tuba. “Mitch is right. I’ve watched these youth interact at festivals before. As soon as a few things go wrong in the right order, they will riot.” He smiled and clasped his hands before him. “Remember Fyre?”

     Mitch nodded. “Exactly, and our man on the inside is going to make sure more than a few things go wrong. This may have been converted into a music festival, but when the lights go out…” He let out a low, warbling whistle. “Well, then the chanting will start, and soon after they’ll start to wonder why they haven’t stormed the base. Shortly after that, they’ll carry through the event’s original purpose.”

     “To ‘see them aliens’,” quoted Bill, laughing.

     Even Kira cracked a smile at this. “You couldn’t have tried a little harder to learn the human language before the hypnotism?” she asked.

     Mitch sighed. “I don’t see a problem, do you?” As he said it, the music at the festival grew suddenly to a fever pitch, and stopped abruptly.

     “And just like that,” said Bill, clearly pleased with himself.

     For a few minutes, there was silence, apart from the wind rustling across the desert. There was a hollow click and an electrical whine as Area 51’s perimeter lights turned off. Mitch’s eyes adjusted, and with his impeccable dark vision, he saw soldiers moving around the edge of the base. They were dressed in all black, wearing slim, night-vision goggles, and wielding heavy rifles.

     “Think those are loaded with non-lethal rounds?” asked Bill. “Usually when it’s a protest, it’s non-lethal.”

     “This isn’t a protest.” Mitch felt some responsibility for the fate of the humans, but then remembered what they had done to Kira’s husband and refocused. “And that’s not a peacekeeping force, it’s a secret branch of the U.S. military. We know what’s in there and so do they.”

     Bill nodded in agreement and the three of them watched in silence as the soldiers passed. They were all congregating on the far side of the base, filling out foxholes and barricades that had been erected in preparation for the event. It was a formidable defense by any stretch. Even as the last soldiers moved into place, boos and jeers rang out from the festival venue.

     “Is it time?” asked Kira, impatiently.

     “Not yet, wait a minute.” Bill had his eyes trained on the horizon, looking directly at where the festival lights had been. A few short minutes later, hundreds of white lights appeared on the horizon. “I can’t be sure, but I think those are cell phones.” Bill grinned again. “I can’t believe it, but we did it.”
     “ATTENTION FESTIVAL-GOERS,” boomed a woman’s voice from what felt like a hundred loudspeakers. “RETURN TO THE FESTIVAL SITE IMMEDIATELY.”

     From a much weaker microphone across the desert came the voice of the assault. “WE ARE HERE TO SEE THEM ALIENS. YOU CAN’T STOP US ALL.”

     There was an audible click as hundreds of rifles were racked at once. “PLEASE, DON’T DO THIS. COME CLOSER AND YOU WILL BE FIRED UPON.” The woman’s voice was tired and conflicted.

     “That’s our cue,” said Bill, standing.

     Kira sprinted toward the fence as they had planned, keeping an eye out for guards along the way.

     Mitch pulled a razor-thin stick from his back. From a distance, it would have been hard to spot, but it wasn’t the size that mattered. He pushed a small button and a red, holographic targeting system appeared in the air above the stick.

     Kira began cutting through the facility’s electric fence, ignoring the low hum from beneath her gloved fingers.

     Above her, a sniper in all black appeared, checking the perimeter. Mitch got the man in his sights, muttered a quick apology, and with a snap-hiss, dispatched him. The man vaporized, leaving a thin, red mist behind him that quickly dispersed in the evening breeze.

     “Good shot.” Bill clapped him on the shoulder.

     Mitch laughed. “I never imagined it could be this easy.”

     Kira finished cutting open the fence and motioned for them to come in. Bill and Mitch ran forward and hopped through the small hole she had made, taking care not to bump the exposed fence that crackled with violent electricity. Once through, they rounded a corner to a service entrance. Mitch silently praised the man who had given them the intel, albeit unwillingly.

     In the distance, the crowd roared and charged. Everything was going exactly to plan. “Praise Facebook,” muttered Bill and pushed the service door open.

     On the other side, three soldiers stood with their weapons ready. One fired, but Mitch was quick, dispatching him with another snap-hiss. Red spackled the hallway in minute specks. He looked at the remaining two soldiers, saw one was beginning to shake, and shot the other. The bolt caught him on the side, causing more spray than the first, and splattering the remaining soldier.

     Mitch trained his rifle to fire again but waited with his finger rested on the trigger. The soldier was no longer in firing position. His mouth had dropped open and his gun was pointing at the floor.

     “Drop your weapon,” hissed Kira.

     The soldier did so without thinking, the black assault rifle clattering to the hallway’s smooth, concrete floor.

     “Very good.” Again, Mitch couldn’t believe just how easy it was. Slowly, he sidled up closer to the soldier, making sure his gun-barrel never left its target. When he was close enough to speak comfortably with the solider, he whispered: “Now, take me to your leader.”

If you enjoyed what you read, consider becoming a member of my Patreon! For $2, you can suggest topics for this month’s short story!

Cover image: “Area 51 Nevada”by tdeckard2000 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The Stakes – Part 2

Below is part 2 of The Stakes, a short Nick Ventner tale that will conclude with Part 3 in a week or so. If you like what you read, be sure to share it around!

Link to Part 1 

TheStakes

Part 2 – Midnight

David and I exchanged ‘pleasantries’ through the barricaded door for hours. Every time one of us was about to give ground, our resolve would stiffen and we’d be right back at the start again. I should have known it would go nowhere, vampires love to talk. When you think about it, they’ve got all the time in the world, so long as some stake-happy hunter doesn’t get any bright ideas. For the most part, the days of hunting vampires for the sake of it were over, so long as certain lines weren’t crossed. Luckily, any sort of tribunal would have a hard time pegging David as benevolent…

I was starting to feel that while tired there was a possibility I was going to be able to hold the door through the night, even if only by distraction. David’s pet hadn’t made much progress, and it didn’t take much more effort than leaning.  It wasn’t going to be pleasant, but I wasn’t going to die either. That’s usually the space I operate in. I was content with the situation, until a shrill howl cut through the door like it wasn’t even there.

“Well Mr. Ventner, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you, but that sound means I’m going to need to step away for a bit. You know what they say about werewolves and full moons.” There was a pause as he chuckled to himself. “Have a nice evening.”  Just like that, negotiations ended, and we moved on to the next logical step, war.

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