Poking Holes at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The trilogy no one necessarily wanted finally came to its conclusion last weekend, finally wrapping up something that was “42 years in the making.” If that were truly the case, certainly they could have figured out the glaring plot holes over that length of time.

Alas. We have been given Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (TRoS). It should be noted that director JJ Abrams, who also co-wrote the film, didn’t have Lawrence Kasdan on board – one of the OG Star Wars writers who helped him with The Force Awakens. I should also just note Kasdan didn’t co-write The Last Jedi either. Not like any of that matters because – spoiler alert – The Last Jedi was essentially retconned TRoS.

If you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now.

I’m not entirely sure where to start. On one hand, I did enjoy TRoS because it had a story: a beginning, middle, and end. Unlike The Last Jedi, I disliked it predominately because the status quo didn’t change – nothing happened. There wasn’t so much a story as it was a visually stunning film. TRoS does take the story, ultimately the one from The Force Awakens (minus Snoke) and replaces it with Emperor Palpatine. Aside from that, nothing much else has changed from The Force Awakens, save for Han Solo being dead and no one was looking for Luke Skywalker anymore (also dead).

Our heroes: together again. . . for the first time.

There’s a lot of stuff going on in TRoS. A lot of the film does wrap up the overall story quite well: we learn the history of Rey’s parents, we learn where Snoke came from. . . and that’s about it. Maybe some part of it was my own failed expectations, or some of it was people setting bar too high, but TRoS’s “reveals” were all pretty lack-luster. For example, I feel my argument for Rey being a clone, while I would have expected it, would have also been far better than what was provided (in my opinion, of course).

So let’s take apart what happened in the film and critique it to death – because hot-damn, that’s what us fans of Star Wars do, no? I’ll break these up into four sections: The Bad, The Strange, The Good, and The Borrowed.

The Bad

When the trailer dropped and Emperor Palpatine laughed at the end, I’ll admit I got chills. I was excited because Palps was back! It was a kind of confirmation that he was still “pulling the strings.” Lots of theories kicked around such as Snoke being a failed clone of Palpatine and that Palp’s spirit was living on a la the style of Exar Kun. But a physical body? That was a surprise.

Within moments of the opening scroll of the film, “The dead speak!” is read. Palpatine was inexplicably back, according to the opening scroll. We see Kylo Ren inevitably finding Palp within the first five minutes and then exposition central begins. Palpatine was hooked up to a machine and. . . he did survive the Death Star explosion somehow. Somehow, because we don’t really know anything nor is it explained fully. It is somewhat implied he’s a cloned body (with the cloning stuff around him), or that he was revived learning from his teachings of Darth Plagueis, but it really makes little sense. It’s a bad reveal as it’s never truly explained. To top it off, there were really no explanation for how he built his army, who was building it, and well, everything about him. It felt like a convoluted mess and we were only five minutes in.

In two lines, we finally get Snoke’s explanation: he was created by the Emperor through cloning and ancient Sith rituals on Exegol. But why? We don’t know. Why were there more Snokes? We don’t know. Why not have Snoke come back again after he died the first time? Who knows! Why didn’t the Emperor come back himself and rally his troops? None of it is explained. While I’m sure one could theory-craft an explanation together, at face-value there’s nothing but questions.

In line with that, the rise of the First Order is still never explained. Neither are the Knights of Ren, who were utterly useless in the film. They consistently lose track of the heroes and had no purpose the film. It’s as if they were invented in The Force Awakens then suddenly were forgotten until TRoS. Who were they? Why were they at Luke’s Jedi temple? Were they old students of Lukes? If they were ex-Jedi, why didn’t they use Force powers or lightsabers? Why were they so incompetent? What was their purpose in the film outside of selling more action figures?

From The Force Awakens until now, the Knights of Ren are still inexplicable.

Speaking of inexplicable things, let’s talk about super weapons: A New Hope had the Death Star. Return of the Jedi had a bigger Death Star. The Force Awakens was criticized for having an even BIGGER Death Star. So where can one go from there? Why, a fleet of Star Destroyers that have Death Star weapons on them, of course! Silly concepts like that happen when story ideas get written into a corner: they had already done the “biggest baddest thing” two movies ago and had to up the ante, a la Return of the Jedi. Logic (for a fantasy film) be damned, the threat has to feel higher or else there would be no dilemma for the heroes. As if a fleet of Star Destroyers wasn’t enough, of course they had to have planet killing weapons added because where else could they go after The Force Awakens? Like the Knights of Ren, it was unfortunate what happened in TRoS because the film had to ultimately try and deal with its impossible expectations and build an even bigger threat. The Emperor’s return as an old man simply wasn’t enough. The idea was so far fetched that a lot of my friends and folks on the internet even felt the appearance of the large Star Destroyer army in the movie trailer “had to be a dream.” Nope. They were legit in the movie.

Taking a step away from the Empire/First Order for a moment, General Leia died, yet Poe was second in command? Where on Earth did this come from? In The Last Jedi he was such a complete douche. His rise in rank seemed not only improbable, but didn’t make any sense. There was no character building for Poe in the film – he went from being a cocky sonuvagun to becoming the one in charge. Poe’s promotion wasn’t earned or deserved. The last time we saw him try a mutiny in The Last Jedi, he had to do it solo because no one else could trust him, nor he anyone else. Then, because TRoS only had one other character to work with, Poe made Finn a General as well. Suddenly the two young kids who have had little development in The Last Jedi are running the Resistance (and it is still not explained why the Resistance exists in the first place). The kicker about Poe and Finn’s promotion? General Lando Calrissian was with them the whole time. Why did the young blood get to take over instead of someone who had experience? Also, why was Poe being a spice runner bad? Nothing is properly established.

All three main characters: Rey, Poe, and Finn, act as if they are best friends. They act like they all have some sort of history together, like Luke, Han, and Leia. In reality, Finn and Poe know each other, but Rey never really met Poe until the END of The Last Jedi. It’s undetermined how much time is between The Last Jedi and TRoS, but we can assume not much has passed since the Resistance still believes they’re on their own against the First Order. Their first outing to the desert planet of Pasaana is the first time we see all three of them together and doing something rather than moping around like at the end of The Last Jedi. Unlike in the original trilogy, or even in the prequel trilogy, the character building in this series failed the viewers. I didn’t care about their relationships, where they came from, or what they did, because I had been given no connection to them. Hell, even Johnny Rico, Carmen Ibanez, and Carl Jenkins from the Starship Troopers film have a richer history than the three heroes in this film.

What’s bigger than one big gun? Hundreds of big guns!

I must ask: why did this trilogy have to happen? I mean, if everything was being conducted by Emperor Palpatine, why did he do what he did? Why let the First Order rise without him as he hid in the shadows? Why let Rey run free for so many years when you were entirely capable of finding her yourself? I’m sure the easy answer would be because of Palpatine’s pride and ego: Luke once did say to him, “Your overconfidence is your weakness,” yet his overconfidence didn’t make any sense. He literally had everything and decided to bide his time rather than take everything back. Patience does not equate to overconfidence. If I try to think any deeper about it, it makes my head spin. However, it just feels that the last two films were a almost unnecessary because TRoS sort of tosses each of them aside to create a “new world” for itself. It’s both frustrating and strange.

The Strange

Emperor Palpatine had a son! (or daughter?) His kid had a kid! It was Rey! Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter! Yet no one knew about this? Who was the mother? Was his son normal then? Did he not have Force powers? I don’t understand why something as important as Palpatine’s son could just get brushed aside without any explanation. When they were revealing Rey’s backstory in the film, I couldn’t stop thinking about, “WHO IS HIS SON THEN?” Yet the film leaves us with another unanswered question. If Palpatine was alive, why didn’t he go after his son or his granddaughter sooner? Even worse, it is later revealed both Luke and Leia knew Rey was a Palpatine! Like. What.

Speaking of Palpatine, why didn’t his soul go into Rey’s body after he died like he said it would? Was it because she didn’t kill him in revenge or anger? Or was it because he technically killed himself with Force lightning? And speaking of Force lightning, did Palpatine not learn from the first time against Mace Windu? One can argue he purposefully let Mace Windu wreck his face so he could have a case against the Jedi in the Galactic Senate – that makes sense. Is Force lightning like peeing though? Once you start, you can’t stop?

Also to sort out: Finns relationship with Rey, Rose, and Jannah. Finn wanted to tell Rey he had the Force. Cool. They somewhat leave Finn’s feeling for Rey ambigious too. That’s fine. Whatever. But were he and Rose a thing? Because it certainly felt like he was hitting on Jannah a lot and brushing Rose aside. A lot. For the little screen time she got, Rose seemed written to be the emotional anchor to Finn’s danger – we knew how much danger Finn was in through Rose’s reactions. Yet I can’t confirm if they were a couple or not. The Last Jedi seemed to establish them as a pair, yet this film makes it heavily ambiguous. When Jannah comes into the picture, TRoS throws us a curve ball. Finn and her bond over being ex-Stormtroopers and quitting for the same reasons. They both go into battle together. They both almost sacrifice themselves together. That was more screen time together than Finn and Rose. Yet Rose was the one who kept caring about Finn’s well-being. Was she just being strung along? The whole thing was just strange.

Kelly Marie Tran was incredible and unfortunately underutilized in The Rise of Skywalker

And with Rose, a really strange decision was to cater to the haters and toss her aside in the film. Rose, while her character was unlikable in The Last Jedi, had a complete 180 and ROCKED it in TRoS. In fact, Kelly Marie Tran absolutely rocked it (not that she was a bad actress in The Last Jedi. Her character was just “meh”). Rose’s character begged for more screen time as they made her act and seem a lot more bad ass than in The Last Jedi. Does she still love Finn? Does Finn love her? We don’t know these things still. All I know is that it was abundantly clear they downplayed her character in the film when, in fact, I felt Kelly knocked it out of the park. I was both surprised and disappointed in Disney’s decision.

Speaking of decisions, Kylo Ren and Rey kiss. Then Kylo died immediately and I thought, “Oh. Okay.” That was it. No emotions were had, because I didn’t feel any sort of emotional weight between the two. If anything, the bad guys were dead! Hooray! And apparently overdoing it with the Force kills more people than lightsabers (see: Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi, Leia in this film, for reference). And sure, Ren gave his “life” to save Rey – whatever. Apparently no one needs training to use Force powers anymore either, right? Yeesh.

Let’s also point out Threepio and being unable to talk Sith – it’s understandable that he couldn’t as he couldn’t “impersonate a deity,” in Return of the Jedi. Programs come with limitations – that’s fine. However, the lack of impersonating a deity didn’t bog down Return of the Jedi with planet-searching hunt for a black market droid mechanic – slowing down the story which ultimately brought nothing to the table: Threepio lost his memory only to regain it 20 minutes later. Was the point of the whole thing to introduce Poe’s faceless ex-girlfriend? If so, what was her point in the film? Did she only exist to prove to the audience he was not gay? Sure, she gave the team a Captains Medallion to land on the Star Destroyer – but they could’ve easily found that in Ochi’s ship with the droid D-O and save us a lot of unnecessary babbling and screen time. I mean, I’m not a screenwriter, but c’mon. It could’ve saved heavily the on the budget. Disney, hire me.

Another strange moment was Hux’s betrayal. Not only was it obvious, but it was lame. Admittedly, if anything, his and Kylo’s characterizations were the only two things that survived from The Last Jedi – Hux was upset and disappointed because whiny man-child Kylo Ren became the Supreme Leader. But of his obvious feelings from The Last Jedi, of course it would have been Hux betraying Kylo. There was nowhere else for Hux to go as a character except die as an wasted Imperial officer at the end (poor Captain Phasma). I felt he didn’t even need to justify why he was the spy – I already was comfortable with him doing it. The reveal was disappointing and his character, ultimately, was too.

The other strange development from The Last Jedi was how Luke’s X-Wing was stranded on Ahch-To. Apparently it could fly just fine! So that meant Luke could’ve left the planet at any time, right? Doesn’t that kind of cheapen the entire reason of why he was in The Last Jedi? Doesn’t that kind of undo everything about Luke? Wha? The simple scene opened up a whole can of worms which makes me question whether or not the writers even cared about continuity.

If it was so difficult to find the Sith Wayfinder (and who are we kidding here, they’re holocrons), how did Kylo Ren find the first map at the beginning of the movie? How did he even know of the existence of Wayfinders? The movie just hit the ground running and didn’t explain a thing.

The weirdest and arguably most awkward conversation goes to Lando with Jannah at the end of the film – “We’ll see where you’re from” – whaaaaaaaat? What the heck does that all mean? Way to end the film on a strange note.

Not to nitpick (lol) but even though First Order TIE Fighters were established to have light speed at the beginning of TRoS, the original TIE Fighters were established to NOT have light speed – HOW LONG did it take Kylo Ren to fly to Exegol at the end of the film? Yeesh.

Back to my Rey is a Clone theory, why did Luke’s lightsaber call to her in The Force Awakens? It makes even less sense now. It’s also still not explained how Maz Kanata got Luke’s lightsaber to begin with. Also, didn’t Luke’s lightsaber get destroyed in The Last Jedi? What crazy inconsistencies are going on here?

The Good

Lando Calrissian was the best thing about the movie, despite not being really in it. Nostalgia aside, because he was still the same ‘ol Lando, he made the film feel grounded. As JJ Abrams directed a chaotic movie with quick edits and snarky dialogue, Lando kept it cool and brought everyone together. He was the rock of the film and made everything seem. . . calmer. He was the veteran on set and I think because he was still part of the “old guard,” he stood out brighter than the rest of the characters in the movie.

As I mentioned earlier, Rose got the short end of the stick in this film. However, Kelly Marie Tran absolutely crushed it with great acting and an actual feel for the character. While it wasn’t properly established in the movie, I could feel she had a rich history and fighting fire within her. That’s a part of great acting. Just about everyone else felt bland, but Kelly Marie Tran was a gem in this film.

Thank goodness for Lando (for many reasons)

You know who else wasn’t bland? Kylo Ren! And he had a story arc! They wrapped him up nicely, and the character matured greatly from the last film. I appreciate how much he evolved as a character throughout the film and how his changes felt natural. It was a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one.

Carrie Fisher was fantastic. Knowing they had stock footage was certainly a challenge for the film crew, but I believe they did her right – including her death in the film.

WEDGE ANTILLES CAMEO. YEE.

The droids were great – BB-8, Threepio, and the aesthetics of D-O. D-O wasn’t really a great character, but the physical droid itself was fantastic. It felt like an old droid. I also enjoyed Threepio becoming relevant as it always felt that the droids were just side characters in these films. Finally some justice. And I’m still wondering what happened to his red arm between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

The cameo filled with Jedi voices at end – Yoda, Mace Windu, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan (both actors), Ashoka, and more, were a nice touch for the finale.

Chewie’s medal, while silly and unnecessary, was still cute. The “injustice” was finally served. In the film, it does seems stupid stupid however. Like, in her will, Leia would have, “When I die, give Chewie a medal” as if it bothered him for all of these years and she would’ve just held on to it because of reasons. I mean, one touching thing to consider is you could say the medal was for Peter Mayhew, the original actor of Chewbacca. So arguably there is that sort of warm feeling to associate the medal with.

The Borrowed

As I’ve mentioned in my Rey is a Clone theory, a lot of this trilogy had been borrowed from previously established Star Wars lore. It used to be known as the Expanded Universe, but is now acknowledged as “Legends.”

The Expanded Universe incorporated everything from television to books, comics, and video games. The whole “lore” of the EU was traced back to well-before 10,000 years before A New Hope and hundreds of years after Return of the Jedi. Some of the earlier EU came from the video game known as Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), which is one of my favourite video games and Star Wars “movies” ever. It takes place around 4000 years before A New Hope and established the Republic and Sith Empire with a rich backstory and legacy that spanned even further than you what you played in the game. The game’s story was so rich and incredibly it became canon within the EU.

After two games, Knights of the Old Republic turned into an MMO (massive multiplayer online) game, like World of Warcraft. This game was called, Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). It’s still thriving today, and I play it on and off from time to time. The MMO takes place around 300 years after KOTOR 2 and explores similar themes. These games, as they are so far away canonically from the films, have lore borrowed from them for the new films/TV shows. This is because there is little to no worry of anything being retconned.

Some of the lore included the Hammerhead class Republic cruiser in Rogue One, which originated from the KOTOR, a Sith planet called Korriban (turned Moraband in the TV show, which obviously inspired Exegol in the new film), yellow lightsabers (such as Rey’s at the end of the film), the Sith Wayfinder – which is without a doubt a holocron, and a massive, unlimited fleet created by dark energy known as the Star Forge.

Just quickly about holocrons (because why not?) They were first established in a comic book series from 1995 and were then featured in TV shows, video games, and books afterwards. They really took off after KOTOR as their colour and shape were really defined in the game.

A Sith Holocron from KOTOR in 2003
This is a Sith Holocron from the TV series.
This is a “Sith Wayfinder” from The Rise of Skywalker.

Imagine seeing and reading about something since 1995, then finally seeing it in film only to be told it’s something else. Weird, no?

Holocrons aside, one bit of lore that I felt was ripped right out of the Star Wars MMO, SWTOR was The Eternal Empire – the expansions to SWTOR known as Knights of the Fallen Empire and Knights of the Eternal Throne.

The story is very similar to TRoS, but began at the tail end of 2014: The Emperor was dead. With ancient powers of the Sith, he bore himself into a new body, named himself Emperor Valkorion and slowly built a new world called Zakuul (a la Palpatine on Exegol). This world created a massive fleet that could destroy planets (like Star Destroyers). Ultimately, the “outlander” – the person without a real definition about who they are (like Rey) – had to challenge the Emperor with the unlikeliest of allies – The Emperor’s son and daughter (similar to Kylo Ren). Both the Republic and the Empire team up together by slowly piecing together a team (like Lando’s fleet) to defeat the Zakuul army – called the Eternal Empire and wipe out the Emperor permanently.

Watching the movie play out, I was floored by the similarities. Certain lines felt familiar, and the overall feel of Palpatine reeked of Emperor Valkorion. I had a friend reinforce my opinion when he mentioned the similarities to the Eternal Empire without me prompting him. It’s a bit too coincidental.

It was all very interesting.

My Overall Feeling

The Rise of Skywalker, unfortunately, ended on a whimper. With years of being teased by Disney and theory-crafting with friends, the film ending was ho-hum. While it certainly wrapped up the story, albeit poorly, I find myself asking: did this trilogy need to happen? Upon quick reflection, I’d have to say no. The new trilogy didn’t bring anything new to the table and felt like it just tried to cash in on nostalgia – which props to Disney for it.

The ending concluded similarly to both Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi – showing planets being freed, Palpatine showing “your friends are dying” as a space battle happens far away from his chamber, and of course ending with Rey setting foot at the Lars’ homestead on Tatooine (for some reason) and staring off at the twin suns (and how did she know where the homestead was anyway – and why was there an old lady just wandering the desert?). Even still, the film left me with a more questions than answers. Apparently a lot of the story can be filled in with companion reading material – but as a film that’s where it falls short. Unfortunately, that also seems to be the nature of entertainment today: you have to be committed to the franchise in order to enjoy it.

As you can probably tell from what you’ve read, I’ve been committed to the Star Wars franchise since I was a wee one. I’ve read the Expanded Universe, played the games, and was really involved in all the fandom that the franchise had to offer. Disney came around and wiped the slate clean – which they had every right to. However, back then the films and EU were separated. Nowadays, it feels – like the companion reading material – that it’s all one in the same. It’s as if Disney is trying to get you into eating up the new lore by intentionally leaving plot points and backstory out from the films. It’s unfortunate, but it feels like the way it’s going now.

Leaving the theatre, I was baffled at the decision making in the film, but was also relieved: I don’t need to see anymore Star Wars films (arguably I didn’t need to to begin with) and I don’t have to be committed to anything after this. This new entertainment model of TV crossing over with film and books is still relatively new and certainly feels a bit overwhelming at times. The Rise of Skywalker felt like it required a lot of explanation that will be done outside of the film through various means.

As a stand alone film, unfortunately, it leaves me disappointed and well. . . empty. The film did not give the characters or worlds enough justice for me to care to follow. It’s disappointing because I want to care about these characters. I was invested in the Star Wars universe. Throwing away the Expanded Universe to create new films was a bold move and I am fine with it. I enjoy watching Disney borrow from it and utilize other stories – but when the stories themselves are bad – I just can’t care enough. And apparently some fans are getting tired of it all, too.

As a whole, was The Rise of Skywalker better than other Star Wars films? Most certainly. But as a comprehensive story, I’m confused beyond belief.

For those who are interested, here are my Star Wars films ranked:

1. The Empire Strikes Back
2. A New Hope
3. Return of the Jedi
4. Revenge of the Sith
5. Rogue One
6. The Force Awakens
7. The Rise of Skywalker
8. The Phantom Menace
9. Solo
10. The Last Jedi
11. Attack of the Clones

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’.

My The Rise of Skywalker Theory: Rey is a Clone

A new Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer dropped and well. . . I feel it’s time to share a theory I’ve had since The Force Awakens (Spoiler alert from here on out).

First, the trailer:

Since The Force Awakens (TFA), I’ve concluded Rey is a clone of Luke Skywalker’s hand from The Empire Strikes Back (TESB). These points have only been reinforced with more Star Wars films. Why? Let me quickly list my points then elaborate on them further:

1. Rey has no knowledge/vision of her parents
2. Rey speaks with a British accent
3. General Hux discussing cloning very briefly in TFA
4. Luke/Vader’s lightsaber “called” to her in TFA
5. Rey’s vision of Cloud City when when she first grabbed the lightsaber
6. Snoke’s non-existent backstory
7. A lot of things in the new films are previously established Star Wars canon, “the Expanded Universe” (EU), now known as “Legends.”
8. It doesn’t break the Jedi Code, keeping the Skywalker lineage clean
9. The new trailer

1. Rey has no knowledge/vision of her parents

In The Last Jedi (TLJ), Rey makes it to Ahch-To and trains with Luke to both try and recruit him and have him train her as a Jedi. Much like how Luke fought a faux Darth Vader in TESB, Rey falls into a cave and sees a silhouette of her “parents.” We get no information on what they look like or even if they’re human. They’re simply shadows. In TFA, all we get is a flashback of Rey’s “parents” flying away on a ship – as if she was left abandoned. As a child, surely one should be able to have any little glimpse of their parents. Heck, in Return of the Jedi (RotJ), Leia said about her mother, “She was, very beautiful, kind, but sad.” Even though Leia WAS A BABY, she still had an idea about her mother. What’s Rey got? Nothing. Why? Because there’s nothing there.

Rey’s parents or shadow puppets?

2. Rey speaks with a British accent

I hope this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but the reasons why most Imperials speak with a British accent is for one of two reasons: One is that they’re imperialists much like how the British were – George Lucas wanted a direct correlation to the Empire and to real-world history. The second reason is because they’re from the central worlds like Coruscant, Corellia, Chandrila (lots of C’s there), and Alderaan. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn both had accents because they were on Coruscant with the Jedi and raised in central worlds. The Imperials had the accent because they were from main worlds. Mon Mothma and Bail Organa both had semi-British accents (as did Leia in A New Hope (ANH)). Jyn Erso from Rogue One had an accent because of her father raising her with Imperials around.

These accents are important to note because if Rey really did come from a poor world and family were really “filthy junk traders who sold [her] off for drinking money,” she wouldn’t have had the accent. She most definitely would not have picked it up on Jakku. She must have been raised in an Imperial world – or at least a central world. This is backed up further into my next point:

3. General Hux discussing cloning very briefly in TFA

Kylo Ren: How capable are your soldiers, General?
General Hux: I won’t have you question my methods.
Kylo Ren: They’re obviously skilled at committing high treason. Perhaps Leader Snoke should consider using a clone army.
General Hux: My men are exceptionally trained. Programmed from birth.
Kylo Ren: Then they should have no problem retrieving the droid.

This little discussion early in TFA subtly plants the suggestion into the reader’s mind that cloning IS A THING yet we don’t hear about it again.

In ANH, cloning was loosely talked about with Luke, Leia, and Obi-Wan, as the two Skywalker’s mentioned Obi-Wan serving with Anakin (or Bail) in the Clone Wars. Outside of that (and the prequels), we’re led to believe that’s all there is to cloning – only cloned Stormtroopers (but more with that on point 8). However, here we know that the bad guys, the First Order, are ACTIVELY using clones for the first time since the prequels (or in the Star Wars timeline, 60-80 years later). And like I said, that’s weird because cloning was not relevant in the original Star Wars trilogy, nor has cloning been relevant in the first two films of the new trilogy. So why bring it up at all? And I can’t help but feel that clones will probably have British accents like the rest of the First Order too. . .

4. Luke/Vader’s lightsaber “called” to her in TFA

A lot of this will be reinforced in point 7, however I think it’s important to let you know that in the Timothy Zahn book series, the Thrawn trilogy, Grand Admiral Thrawn has Luke Skywalker’s hand, cut off by Darth Vader in TESB, and clones it to create the cringe-worthy clone named “Luuke.” (I know, right?)

To make things really interesting, and to kind of sprinkle in point 5, with Rey’s vision of Cloud City, one could see how the blood of a Skywalker could want to “call out” to the lightsaber. To hit the point home even further, Rey touched the lightsaber and immediately found herself in Cloud City. Now most people would assume that it’s because “that’s where the lightsaber was last.” Perhaps it was Rey “remembering” when she was on Cloud City? A deja vu, if you may. However, it’s the Skywalker blood that’s having the deja vu. How can Rey not remember her parents, yet have a vision of some place she’s never been to?

♫”We built this Cloud City and Rey’s a clone.”♫

6. Snoke’s non-existent backstory

One thing I absolutely despise in storytelling is how the storyteller will purposefully leave out important information to make the “big reveal” feel stronger – films that loosely reveal information that helps develop a backstory – either with flashbacks or some sort of prophecy. With Snoke, it honestly feels more “hidden” than anything. There was tons of time to slip a line or two in about Snoke’s backstory. But what does the audience get? Nothing! Not a single damn thing. Films that purposefully hide plot points behind reveals is simply lazy storytelling. For a while, I was feeling frustration that there was lazy storytelling in TFA and TLJ. I really ripped into The Last Jedi over that one, actually.

However, I’ve come to the more comfortable conclusion that they’re purposefully not telling us because this “clone” reveal is going to be so huge that any glimpse into Snoke’s past would have said too much. If anything, since we know Emperor Palpatine is back, I’ll bet you Snoke was a failed clone of Emperor Palpatine – hence the disfigured face and, well, everything.

Speaking of hiding plot points, and to reinforce point 3: I wonder why General Hux – or for that matter, director J.J. Abrams – had cloning mentioned in TFA at all if cloning hadn’t been necessary to any plot point in the new films yet? . . . hmm.

7. A lot of things in the new films are previously established from the Star Wars EU, now known as “Legends.”

A lot has been borrowed from the original Star Wars EU, previously established in earlier books, video games, and comics. I mentioned in my review of The Last Jedi, that “Leia’s use of the Force bubble is something pulled from the EU/Legends in the book, The Courtship of Princess Leia.”

We also have lots of other tidbits from the EU, such as:
– The Hammerhead class Republic cruiser in Rogue One, which originated from the Knights of the Old Republic video game
– Kylo Ren being named “Ben,” which is what Luke and Mara Jade call their son
– The Sun Crusher and Starkiller Base both have the ability to wipe out systems, not just planets
– Exar Kun was an evil force that helped wreck Luke’s New Jedi Order. Look at what Kylo Ren did.
– Kylo Ren, a Solo, turned to the dark side. Just like Han and Leia’s son, Jacen Solo, turning to the dark side and becoming Darth Caedus
– Death Troopers looking like Shadowtroopers from Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
– In Solo: A Star Wars Story, L3-37 (ugh) is very similar named and looking like LE-BO2D9, or “Leebo,” Dash Rendar’s droid from Shadows of the Empire
– Swoop bikes and Dash Rendar’s Outrider from Shadows of the Empire were added into the Special Edition of ANH
– Darth Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber was originally created with Exar Kun
– Kylo Ren’s crossguard lightsaber first originated out of the Star Wars comic books
– Grand Admiral Thrawn from the Star Wars TV series is originally from the EU books
– I’ll admit I’m speculating here, but in the Thrawn trilogy by Zahn, Leia feels the presence of Palpatine where he died in space over Endor. In a later book by Zahn, the Emperor returns as a clone. From the first teaser trailer, we hear the Emperor laugh over the destroyed Death Star on Endor. . .

Believe me, there’s more. But what I’m trying to get at, is that the Star Wars films aren’t without influence from things considered “non-canon.” The idea of Rey being a clone isn’t too far fetched when cloning characters is literally within the confines of the fantasy world Star Wars has built. We hear the Emperor laughing in the first teaser trailer for The Rise of Skywalker (TRoS). Is it that wrong to assume he’s back as a clone?

8. It doesn’t break the Jedi Code, keeping the Skywalker lineage clean

This is my big one: Anakin Skywalker falls in love with Padmé Amidala and marries her. That is forbidden by the Jedi Order because jealousy, temptation, and fear of loss could ultimately turn one to the dark side. Anakin breaks the Jedi Order, falls in love, and turns to the dark side. He becomes Darth Vader, the ultimate bad guy.

Padmé, however, gives birth to Luke and Leia. Leia is not a Jedi technically, so she’s in clear. Also, because Star Wars borrows from the real world, Ben is a Solo, not a Skywalker, because of his dad.

The clone of Rey, however, would be the perfect way to wipe the slate clean for the Skywalker lineage. Not only would Rey be a Skywalker, but she would be a way for Luke to “have a child” without ever having to break the Jedi Order. This Rey clone would keep the Skywalker lineage in check, and thus keep the Jedi, or even a neutral “Jedi” path, safe (that link/idea is also from the EU and has been heavily suggested from fans). It’s also called, “The Rise of Skywalker,” not “The Rise of Solo,” so it can’t be talking about Ben. What a better way to keep Luke’s lineage/nobility to the Jedi Order than to just clone him than have him “break the rules.”

9. The new trailer

Ah. The face of someone who has complete control of their mind. Definitely not a clone. . . ?

And finally we come to the new trailer that has dropped. We see Rey with a double-bladed lightsaber (which I’ve already established came from the Expanded Universe). Doesn’t she look a bit. . . stoic? Seems familiar to one Luuke Skywalker.

Mentally, he was little more than a mindless drone, an extension of Joruus C’baoth’s will. The clone was created for C’baoth’s use as a tool, and he obeyed the insane Jedi Master’s every command instantly. The clone was devoid of any sense of individuality and showed no recognizable sign of emotion until the end of his bout with [Luke] Skywalker, when he shrieked and attacked Mara Jade in fury after a viewscreen blew up in his face. Skywalker considered the clone to be thoroughly evil, a twisted perversion of himself.

While I’m not suggesting that there’s going to be TWO Rey’s in TRoS, it wouldn’t surprise me if she became the Luuke in this example – the extension of the Emperor’s mind to fight Kylo Ren or something. I’m not sure, of course. However, when you think of a mindless drone, that certainly is the face of one, no? From that short clip, Rey’s mind is gone, and I’m suggesting, is under Palpatine’s will.

I have to say, the more information that comes out about the film, unless it explicitly shows “these are Rey’s parents!” I have to continue my rationale that Rey, is indeed, a clone of Luke Skywalker’s hand. Not to mention the film’s called “The Rise of Skywalker” and (spoiler!) there’s no other Skywalkers left save for Kylo Ren – but he’s never really been considered a Skywalker and I feel his inclusion to becoming one would be lame and not well-received by fans. That being said, those fears didn’t stop them from making The Last Jedi, so what do I know?

Thoughts, concerns, or arguments to be had? Let’s go! If you’d like, you can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram!

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’.

Why I Disliked Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I love me some bad movies. I can watch a film like The Room or Birdemic: Shock and Terror with ease. Give me a bad, campy movie and I’ll eat it right up.

Give me a movie that’s supposed to be good but ends up bad; I’ll struggle to watch it again.

Herein lies my problem with The Last Jedi: a movie that’s supposed to be good (currently sitting with a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes) but ends up being bad. Why is that? Let me count the ways.

I feel the need to express my thoughts over this film because most people I’ve talked to are shocked I disliked the movie. As both a lover of film (especially Rian Johnsons’s Looper) and an even bigger lover of Star Wars (R.I.P. Expanded Universe), I have a strange case of wanting to love this movie. However. . . I didn’t. Obviously, spoilers are ahead.

Why I disliked The Last Jedi as a fan of film:

Where to begin? Let’s start with the plot:

Ex-Marvel Comics Editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, once wrote a storytelling lecture on his blog. There, he covers the basic fundamentals of storytelling using the poem of Little Miss Muffet. He writes,

Little Miss Muffet–introduce the character. Sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey–establish the status quo. Along came a spider–introduce the disruptive element. Sat down beside her–build suspense. Scared poor Miss Muffet–climax. Away–resolution. Now you know the basic building block of entertainment. Is that all you need? No. Little Miss Muffet is a story, it fits the basic building block, it is however a lousy story. You don’t know anything about this girl, you don’t know anything about the spider. It gets old pretty quick. But we can make it better.

Now let’s look at The Last Jedi: At the beginning of the film, Rey has the Force and she’s learning to use it. We also have The Resistance defeated by the First Order. We also have Kylo Ren who’s the big baddie and is angry all of the time.

By the end of The Last Jedi, we have Rey who is learning to use her Force powers, The Resistance is defeated, and Kylo Ren who as the big baddie and is angry all of the time. The rest of the movie is filler. Without a status quo change, arguably the movie really didn’t need to happen, did it? Let’s go deeper:

At the end of The Force Awakens, Rey learns she has the Force. She goes to Luke to learn how to use the Force. She syncs up with Kylo Ren a handful of times to add some mystery to the story. She even dabbles with the dark side, according to Luke. She then leaves Luke and meets up with Kylo Ren. Snoke dies and she refuses to join Kylo. She re-joins the Resistance, despite being not that much further ahead in her training than she was before. Sure, she’s learned to control her Force powers a bit better, but essentially, that’s Rey’s arc. She went from learning how to use the Force to still learning how to use the Force. Yes, it’s filled with her arguing between Kylo and Snoke – refusing the dark side and all that fun stuff – but ultimately, she’s left unchanged in the film. We kinda sorta don’t learn her history regarding her parents either, so her motives are still somewhat unchanged. She’s really not that much better off than what we started with. The audience knew she was a good person because it was established in the first film. Even as she spoke with Luke, we saw her still fighting for good, despite temptations. Ultimately, Rey’s status quo didn’t change at all.

Even these little things didn’t bother me as much as the movie itself.

Looking at The Resistance, they didn’t change much at all. If anything, they just got smaller. We know they are the good guys who got beat down (which they definitely did in this film), but they were already the underdogs. They went from being underdogs to staying underdogs. They lost Admiral Ackbar, Admiral Holdo, Rose’s sister Paige at the beginning of the film (they’re all heroes, don’t cha know?), and hundreds more. And so? They weren’t relevant to the film anyway. Their loss didn’t change anything, actually. The status quo of the Resistance didn’t change.

Then we have Kylo Ren – an angry defeated boy at the end of The Force Awakens who turns against his master in The Last Jedi. And that’s about it. Like I said earlier, he goes from being angry to staying angry. He was technically second-in-command of the First Order anyway so the “shift” in his character really wasn’t all that dramatic. Sure, he saved Rey from Snoke showing he has some light in him, but shortly after he wanted to kill her. Mood swing. The status quo for Ren changed in the film but was ultimately reset back to the beginning of the movie when The Last Jedi ended. That’s pretty lame.

Finn and Rose we’re something irrelevant. You could literally rip their storyline straight out of the movie and nothing would change outside of Captain Phasma still being alive (but she was irrelevant anyway). To recap: Finn wakes up, runs into Rose (who got over her sister’s death pretty quickly) and they take off to the Casino to pad out the movie. They find the Slicer DJ, end up getting caught by Phasma, getting saved by BB-8, go to the planet Crait, get both of their speeders wrecked, they both escape, and then the movie ends. They literally did nothing in the film and as such, their existence in the The Last Jedi was irrelevant.

Lesser characters, Poe, General Hux, Captain Phasma, Luke, and Leia, ultimately didn’t have much effect on the film either. Their storyline could’ve all been left out.

Poe went from being a rebellious jerk to being a rebellious jerk. General Hux didn’t change at all. Captain Phasma goes from being completely irrelevant in the first film to being completely irrelevant in the second. It was if neither director knew what to do with her. We learn Luke’s story over the past forty years, but ultimately we go from not having Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens to not having Luke Skywalker by the end of The Last Jedi. Leia was the voice and leader of the Resistance and continued to be so. She was left unchanged.

“I’m in this movie for all of the wrong reasons.”

Looking back at Little Miss Muffet with The Last Jedi – we have our characters on their tuffet and a status quo of their curds and whey. The First Order is the disruptive element and well. . . that’s as far as we get. We’re back to everyone on their tuffets eating their curds and whey.

So my biggest problem with The Last Jedi? In 152 minutes, our characters physically fly from Point A to Point B. The rest is filler. No ones character evolved in the movie and as such, the status quo did not change.

Character Development

Snoke dies. Luke dies. Rey lives. Kylo Ren lives.

Why didn’t I care what happened to these characters, living or dead? The answer is motives. The audience isn’t given any – and if they are – they’re not strong enough to care about.

Let’s take a look at Snoke: what’s his motive? How did he create the First Order? Did he create it? We have no back story to him, despite his few moments of spewing out exposition when talking to Rey. We really don’t know what his character is about outside of him being big and bad. That’s it. He dies and that’s the end for him. Not only was he a lame character, but without a back story, we’re unfortunately victims to lazy screen writing and character development. R.I.P. Snoke, we hardly knew ye.

“I’m irrelevant.”

Luke’s death, while a bit of a surprise, upset me for the wrong reasons. He didn’t need to die (let alone however he died which I’ll get into below). But his motives still weren’t entirely clear. He trained Rey out of guilt, I guess. But it wasn’t much training at all. By the time we learn his back story, Rey’s already buggered off and we’re left with Luke’s final moments straining to delay Kylo Ren from killing the rest of The Resistance. Did Luke get closure because of this? Rey and Leia confirmed Luke felt “at peace” but did he really? The characters had to tell us that in the film because I certainly didn’t understand or feel it.

With Rey, we have her wanting to learn her origin but we’re still left ambiguous about it. Kylo Ren tells her something about her parents, but hey – he could be lying! We’re given vague answers to her throughout the whole movie – what her power set is, where’s she’s from, and most importantly – why we should care about her. She only became “the last Jedi” by the end of the film. Her status quo didn’t change outside of a title, so my care for her is the same as it was at the end of The Force Awakens: I really don’t know how to feel.

And with Kylo Ren, he’s still a moody, angry teenager. He killed his master, which was probably the most development we received about him in the film, but that’s about it. He lives to fight on and kill the Resistance, but I mean, how’s that any different than what he was in the first movie? It’s really not.

Consistencies

I’ll try to keep these to bullet points as I’ve already whined too much:

– Rey goes to Ahch-To to find Luke. Given the night and day cycles, we can assume she’s there for at least a week. We also know that the Resistance only has a little amoutn of fuel left from the start of the movie (we’re told around eighteen hours then down to six hours). By the end of the film, Rey and the Resistance meet up at the same time. Nice. The only explanation is if Ahch-To has significantly shorter day cycles, which obviously isn’t discussed.

– For plot convenience, I’m glad BB-8 can become an X-Wing conductor to help destroy a Dreadnought, can talk to a prisoner who fortunately happens to be a Slicer and steal a ship for our characters to escape, and can suddenly pilot a First Order walker (conveniently destroying its hull from the inside to reveal it’s him to the audience) to save his friends. BB-8 became the most convenient deus ex machina in cinematic history.

– I guess Threepio doesn’t need a red arm anymore? Between escaping the secret Resistance base and getting onto the Resistance capital ship, they swapped his arms?

– Yoda is cool with lying to Luke about the Jedi books and burning trees down (in case you missed it, the books were on the Millennium Falcon at the end of the film).

– The First Order has hundreds of TIE fighters at their disposal and can easily destroy the hull of the Republic cruiser (R.I.P. Admiral Ackbar). Why drag the movie out for two hours when a handful of TIE’s could’ve ended the film? We know TIE fighters can destroy the bridge easily so. . .

– From the previous point: so the Resistance exited hyperspace to a random place only to be followed by The First Order. Whose idea was that? Even IF it was with plans to fly to Crait all along (which conveniently showed up for the Resistance to escape to if it wasn’t), why would only Leia and Admiral Holdo know of the plans? There’s probably an argument that the rest of the people “in the know” died on the bridge, but in reality, the audience was left out of the information to add some drama to the story. It was unnecessary.

– What camera was following Maz around? That’s one helluva cool selfie stick.

– DJ was a slicer who helped Finn and Rose, then back stabbed Finn and Rose. What happens to him? Who cares.

– Where’s the rest of the Knights of Ren Luke spoke about?

A showdown with little build up, tension, or history behind it. Finn is undefeated with Phasma. The score’s 2-0 now.

– Nit-picking as a Star Wars fan, Luke’s death bothered me because of how he died. In Revenge of the Sith, we learn Qui Gon Jinn discovered the “path to immortality” which is why Obi Wan and Yoda disappear and become one with the Force after they die in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. This is also why Anakin Skywalker’s body doesn’t disappear in Vader’s suit, or why all of the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith do not disappear after their deaths. However, we see Yoda come to Luke presumably for the first time (as per his reaction) since Return of the Jedi. Unless Yoda explained Qui Gon’s discovery to Luke off-screen, I can’t see how Luke could’ve disappeared at the end of The Last Jedi without that specific knowledge that Yoda didn’t even seem to have known some-eighty years prior.

General Questions

– It bothered me in The Force Awakens and it still bothers me now: WHO ARE THE RESISTANCE?! We have the Republic in The Force Awakens. They were the five planets that were destroyed by the Starkiller Base. The Republic and its fleet were wiped out.

But why did the Resistance exist to begin with? Wasn’t the Republic in control? Was there a civil war? What was going on? Why is General Leia against The Republic? Was she against the Republic? To that extent, why did the Republic only exist on five planets? More so, at the end of The Last Jedi, if the Resistance had “other friendlies” to contact, why are they such wussies and refuse to help the Resistance on Crait? Are they even relevant? To that extent (and to reinforce what I’ve said earlier), if the Empire was defeated in Return of the Jedi, who let The First Order rise to be the size that they were? How is The First Order funded? What’s Snoke’s back story? Answer: it’s lazy screen writing.

– If we assume The Last Jedi takes place right after The Force Awakens, can we also assume enormous grief is what’s going to kill General Leia off in the final installment? We can assume that in a span of maybe, twenty-four to forty-eight hours(?) she loses Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Admiral Ackbar, Admiral Holdo, most of the Resistance/her friends, and admits her son cannot be saved. That’s arguably a bigger loss than Alderaan’s destruction. However, Leia seems to handle that all in-stride. Classy.

– I’m all for jumping into lightspeed to split Star Destroyers in half, but how did it manage to destroy ALL of the Star Destroyers? Convenient.

– More of a comment: this movie isn’t Fern Gully. I can’t remember a Star Wars movie where the film goes full-stop and suggests cruelty to animals and the wealthy are bad. There’s obviously social messages in prior movies, but Star Wars was never the kind to make it so apparent. That bothered me because scenes at the Casino planet made Star Wars feel more like a Disney product than a Star Wars film.

Despite all of what I’ve said, I liked some things in The Last Jedi. Here’s what I liked:

– Leia’s use of the Force bubble is something pulled from the Expanded Universe/Legends in the book, The Courtship of Princess Leia. In there, Luke and Isolder fall from orbit safely onto a planet because Luke wraps them in a Force bubble. It was neat to see that used in the film.

– While I pointed out issues with some character development above, there was one character who had tons of back story given to her with very little screen time. Admiral Holdo’s arc and development stood out – especially when Leia and her share a scene together. We get a lot of history with Holdo with very little exposition and it completely works for the character. We have her full arc, going from a emotionally shut off Admiral to someone who had a plan unfolding all along. She has a rich history and ends up saving the Resistance due to her commitment to the cause. A true martyr. The Little Miss Muffet poem, Admiral Holdo is.

One of the few decent things to come out of The Last Jedi.

– Yoda’s cameo was great – not for nostalgic reasons, but because Yoda had some ridiculously good words of wisdom to share to Luke. While I snickered at Yoda’s CGI appearance at first (’cause he looked like a baby), they switched him over to a puppet for close-up shots and he looked fantastic.

– I loved some of the directorial artistry in the film. Some scenes I wished I could take a picture of because they were so beautiful. Those scenes are: Luke and Yoda sitting in front of the burning tree, Luke vs. Kylo Ren and their standoff on Crait, Admiral Holdo ripping through the Star Destroyers, and of course, the First Order walkers on Crait.

While I’m not petitioning to remove The Last Jedi from canon, I do feel like this’ll be the end for me and Star Wars post-Episode Nine. I’m two movies into a new trilogy and the only characters I’ve cared about died already, with Carrie Fisher unable to reprise her role in the third. I’m disappointed how the new trilogy has presented itself and have minor hopes it can turn around for Episode Nine. However, I’m cautiously optimistic and will find out in a few more years.

What do you folks think? Did you love The Last Jedi? Hate it? Was I wrong with anything I’ve said? Sound off below and let’s start a discussion.

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

My Top Albums of 2016

And starting off at number fifteen. . .

15. Evergrey – The Storm Within

evergrey

While it has only been two years since Evergrey was last featured on my Top 15 list, they knocked it out of the park with this album. What I feel to be their best album since 2004’s The Inner Circle, Evergrey takes it up a notch with The Storm Within; showcasing some of the most aggressive song writing, grand choruses, and dark lyrics.

Watch the music video for “In Orbit” featuring Floor Jansen:

14. Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder

darkthrone-arctic-thunder

Yet almost redefining their sound again, Darkthrone somewhat goes back on their black metal roots but now taking shape with some bits of crunchy doom metal. Coming at the listener with thundering beats and punishing riffs, Darkthrone really impresses with this surprisingly straight-forward album that, despite being their sixteenth studio album, still comes as a breath of fresh air.

Listen to the first track, “Tundra Leech”:

13. iamthemorning – Lighthouse

iamthemorning

One part chamber pop, another part progressive rock, iamthemorning have always been a bit different. With beautifully haunting music and vocals, Lighthouse stands out as a daring take on making something complicated sound so beautiful and elegant.

Check out the entire album streaming here:
https://iamthemorningband.bandcamp.com/

12. Deströyer 666 – Wildfire

destroyer-666

As far as blackened thrash metal goes, Deströyer 666 create a solid album with gripping choruses and challenging aspects to their listeners. It’s not just your run-of-the-mill thrash album. There’s lots going on. The production is solid, the songs are great, and the riffs are crunchy. Putting this album on makes for one helluva fun ride.

Listen to the single, “Wildfire”:

11. Borknagar – Winter Thrice

borknagar

Even into their tenth studio album, Borknagar still shows the skill and comfort in their songwriting capabilities as Winter Thrice can take you over a variety of genres while still being Borknagar. Thrash, black, viking, progressive – thematic elements and bombastic choruses make for a audibly exciting album that anyone could really get into. Borknagar has always been a band that delivers quality – and with Winter Thrice – they still do.

Watch the lyric video to the first track, “The Rhymes of the Mountain”:

10. Marillion – Fuck Everyone and Run (FEAR)

marillionfear

This was a surprise to me. Hands-down to be one of their greatest albums, Marillion’s FEAR truly harkens back to classical progressive rock times. Lyrically speaking, the album mirrors the title as it reflects upon the changes in England and people left behind; between the have and have-nots. Sometimes feeling like a gloomy, slow burn, the music is emotionally driven and if anything makes the listener realize that they are not alone with their thoughts.

Listen to “The New Kings” here:

9. Drombeg – Earthworks

drombeg

I stumbled onto Drombeg by sheer luck. Listening to the first few songs of this debut album, I was sold. His publisher’s description of the album describes it best: “A soundtrack for the middle-of-nowhere, the wild landscapes of Brookes’ native Southern Ireland are littered with historic, and geological structures hardened under the relentless elements. Sinuous string melodies, and tender piano phrases reach like sunlight breaking through heavy clouds, blended with electronics and field recordings in careful balance to produce a rich cinematic sound.”

Check out the entire album here:
https://futuresequence.bandcamp.com/album/earthworks

8. Devin Townsend – Transcendence

devintownsendtranscendence

I wasn’t sure if I liked this album at first. As a biased Dev fanboy, I felt like I was simply getting another version of Epicloud. After a few spins, it hit me, and I fell in love with Transcendence. Truly showcasing how much Devin has progressed as a musician over the years, his songwriting skills have tightened and makes for an engrossing album that sonically delivers. Not to mention this is the first album that features song writing credits to the rest of the band – being Dev’s first real collaboration with them. A true treat for the ears.

Watch the music video for “Stormbending”:

7. Aborted – Retrogore

abortedretrogore

Absolutely devastating death metal, Retrogore is a feast to the ears for those into horror films and, well, gore. It’s vile to the point of hilarity, and the band is fully-aware of that. With song titles like “Whoremageddon” and “Forged for Decrepitude” (which also features classic lines from Re-Animator), Aborted makes a much improved effort from their previous release and excites me to see what will come next.

Listen to the title track here:

6. Abbath – Abbath

abbathst

Immortal’s ex-frontman Abbath debuted his first album earlier this year to great success. Never would I have found black metal to be this damn catchy (which I suppose goes against the grain of what tr00 kvlt black metal is), but damn it’s catchy! Beat after beat, this album comes at you with stellar force.

Check out the video for “Winterbane”:

5. Anneke & Árstíðir – Verloren Verleden

annekearstidir

Icelandic folk band Árstíðir teamed up with one of my favourite vocalists, Anneke van Giersbergen, to showcase a variety of traditional and classical songs. It’s a wonderfully peaceful album with great resonance naturally showcased within the albums’ production. I found myself spinning this album a surprisingly large amount of times this year. Absolutely beautiful.

Listen to the wonderful cover of “Bist Du Bei Mir”:

4. Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason

meshuggah

What’s not to like about Meshuggah? This band is always pushing the listener to something that rhythmically uncomfortable yet familiar. Always a great band to divulge into, if not a bit challenging to fully comprehend, The Violent Sleep of Reason is a crushingly great listen with riffs that will still have your head spinning to understand.

Check out the music video for “Clockworks”:

3. Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust
gorguts

Gorguts was last seen in my Top Albums of 2013 with their full-length, Coloured Sands – reaching the number two slot on my list. While I often don’t like to count EP’s as an album, Pleiades’ Dust stands out for being such a work of art I’d hate myself for not giving it proper recognition. The album forms a historical experience about the House of Wisdom and its destruction within a thirty-three minute song that is broken up into several movements. While Gorguts still stick with their technical death metal roots, the experimentation – and the overall experience – is an absolute joy.

Listen to the full song/album here:
https://gorguts.bandcamp.com/album/pleiades-dust

2. Moonsorrow – Jumalten aika

moonsorrow

I first got into Moonsorrow when I first got into metal. In fact, I learned about them when they were first starting out. I dug their first three albums (I started with Kivenkantaja) and fell in love with the band. And they’ve only become better over time. With their seventh album in place, these pagan black metallers have created another success. “Mimisbrunn” may just be one of the best songs they’ve ever written.

Check out the music video for “Suden Tunti”:

1. Vektor – Terminal Redux

vektorterminalredux

The gap between my second place album and this spot is gigantic. I don’t think there has been an album deserving a number one slot as much as Vektor’s Terminal Redux. I cannot say enough good things about this stunningly brilliant, progressive thrash album. I’ve been gushing over it since its release in May and am still excited listening to it.

The concept is grand, if not surprisingly ambitious for the thrash genre, but these guys make it right. While the lyrics are deep, intellectual, and well-written, the music is on a league of its own.

Lightning-fast riffs with tremendous variety makes the album refreshing to listen to on each spin; vocals representing the agony of the traveler and his yearning to learn more – as does the music want the listener to do. Nothing is stale and everything is wonderful. With the addition of female soul singers during integral parts of the story, the album begins and concludes with such choral ferocity, I still get goose bumps when I’ve fully invested myself into the album.

From the first track, “Charging the Void” to the incredible finale with “Recharging the Void,” Vektor brings the listeners on a wild journey through the far reaches of space all in the span of nine pulse-pounding songs.

Vektor’s Terminal Redux. I simply cannot say enough good things about this album. It has easily become one of my favourite albums ever to have graced my ears. It is now one of my favourite albums of all-time. An epic masterpiece worth your attention.

The incredible opening track to my album of the year, here’s “Charging the Void”:

Honourable Mentions:

Testament – The Brotherhood Of The Snake

Opeth – Sorceress

The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude Of A Dream

Anderson/Stolt – The Invention of Knowledge

Fates Warning – Theories of Flight

Amon Amarth – Jomsviking

Most Disappointed:

Dark Funeral – Where Shadows Forever Reign

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Megadeth – Dystopia

Riverside – Eye of the Soundscape

Redemption – The Art of Loss

Dream Theater – The Astonishing

Levin, Minneman, Rudess – From the Law Offices of Levin, Minnemann, Rudess

Questions? Comments? Agree? Disagree? What have you?