The Problem with Research in Pokémon GO

I have been a huge booster of quest and research in Pokémon GO.  It’s the feature I was looking forward to for the longest.  Overall I’m happy with this addition but it doesn’t bring as much to the game as I had been hoping.

The pace with which new features and events have been coming to the game has been crazy over the past couple of months and that’s a very good thing.  At this time last year the game was so boring I was only playing for 5-10 minutes a day.  Now it’s hard to go an hour without checking in on the game to see what is happening.

Research added a great new element to the game.  The quest for Mew was cool but just too easy.  I completed it in a little over a week, doing it at a very leisurely pace.  Others completed it the day it was released.  The reason it was so easy is that for people who have been playing since day one most of the objectives were automatically accomplished.  The other ones, like transferring or evolving a few Pokémon, were incredibly easy.  Catching Ditto was probably the hardest part of the quest and that was more annoying than anything given it didn’t require anything other than dumb luck.

Some parts of in the special research would have been great had this feature existed since day one.  As a daily player for nearly two years it was a little disappointing.  If they make an element of quests be getting a gold Sinnoh medal, or evolving some rare Sinnoh region Pokémon then that will definitely seem like much more of a challenge.

I am currently sitting on 96 Lotad candies, and not a decent Lotad to evolve.  I’m excited any time I see one.  Imagine if I also knew that evolving Lotad would bring me one step closer to completing a special research assignment.

I’m also not sure if laying everything out in 8 segments is the best way to do it either.  Just having a complete checklist seems like it would work much better.  As it stands everyone is worried about evolving anything at this point as that evolution may be necessary to complete the next research project.

Field research has its own problems as well.  Since you can complete field research it’s really easy to just sit on three completed research projects then just use them daily.  Prior to research all we needed to do every day was catch a single Pokémon and spin a Pokémon and our mission for the day was complete.  During those boring days of the game last year a lot of days I’d open the game in the morning, do both of those things and then be done for the day in a matter of a minute.  Now I feel like my morning ritual also includes claiming a reward and that only adds a few seconds.

Including some sort of tracker to measure how many of each task you’d completed and maybe giving additional rewards for doing that task 5, 10, or 100 times would spice things up a bit.

Research is a great addition to the game but in the absence of an ongoing event it just becomes another task to perform to keep a streak alive.

The 7 day reward for Poké Stops is getting an evolution item, something almost completely unnecessary in the game at this point.  These are for Gen 2 evolutions and none of them are particularly useful evolutions at that.  So we’re all sitting on dozens of evolution items that we do not need.

The 7 day reward for research is a legendary encounter.  This sounded really cool at first but so far we have had four straight weeks of Moltres encounters.  This seemed like a really good solution for rural players who have no real options to get legendaries.  Imagine how stoked rural players must have been to have learned of this feature only to find out it would be the same encounter four weeks in a row.  On the one side you get four shots at getting something with decent IVs and you can get at least 12 candies for power ups.  The downside is at this rate you’ll need over a year to complete your legendary Pokédex, and that’s assuming that no additional legendaries are released.

Something about this needs to change.

It would be great if you could voluntarily select quests for the legendary Pokémon you need.  Long, hard quests that would result in a standard level 20 encounter.  There could be varying quest for each one and trainers could do them all simultaneously if they chose.  They could easily make the 7 day reward for research be something else like increasing an attack, defense, or stamina stat by one point, item rewards, or a number of other options.

Overall this has been a great addition and a solid test run of this new system.  Now, some tweaks are needed to add some more challenge to the game for hardcore players, and a little more incentive for rural players to want to continue to participate.

Pokémon GO’s Kanto Event Starts in a Matter of Hours

It’s official!  After my speculation the Kanto event begins later today, in just a few short hours.  Here’s the official announcement.

Trainers,

The appearance of the Mythical Pokémon Mew has attracted Pokémon that were originally discovered in the Kanto region. These classic Pokémon will be seen more frequently starting April 10 at 1 P.M. PDT, so you’ll have the perfect opportunity to earn a gold Kanto medal and even complete your Kanto Pokédex!

What’s more, certain Pokémon such as Aerodactyl and Snorlax will be featured in Raid Battles across the world. Keep an eye out for one you haven’t encountered yet!

As you encounter and catch more Pokémon originally discovered in the Kanto region, all actions will be rewarded with double Candy. So, not only will you be able to catch Pokémon you might not frequently see, but you may also get the chance to register their evolved forms in your Pokédex as well.

During this event, there will also be special boxes containing Raid Passes! These boxes will give you an opportunity to challenge many powerful Pokémon originally discovered in the Kanto region.

This special celebration ends on April 17, so get out there and make some more discoveries. If all goes well, you may be able to finish your first Special Research request and encounter Mew!

—The Pokémon GO team

It’s not quite the shiny extravaganza everyone was hoping for but the double candy will be enough to get me to transfer several hundred rare Pokémon and clear out some slots for Sunday’s Community Day Event.  I may also be rewarded with double candy if I’m fortunate enough to catch Mewtwo on Saturday.

We may still get surprised with shinies.  An interesting theory I’ve seen is that they’ve released all the shiny sprites just so they can surprise people instead of everyone always being able to predict what’s coming next.

Honestly I’d be happy to finally find a shiny Magikarp at this point.  Shinies are rare enough that I have a lot more hunting to do before I even collect half of the currently available ones in the game.

Who knows?  Shiny Pidgey may be mere hours away.

 

Catching Mew in Pokémon GO

Now that we’ve had a little over a week to fully explore research in Pokémon GO, I am pretty happy with the update.  The only thing that has me feeling a little let down is the fact that now that I’ve completed the quest for Mew and there’s no event going on it doesn’t feel like there’s anything to do in the game at present.

I stumbled upon a shiny Murkrow, the April Fool’s joke that they added to the came last week.  I hadn’t tapped on a Murkrow since I was trying to get my gold Delinquent medal.  I’m happy to not have to tap on any Murkrow again moving forward barring any necessary field research assignments.

Niantic also announced a cool Earth Day Cleanup event which I thought sounded like it could be fun.

Upon perusing the North American map of event locations my excitement faded pretty quickly.  I’m all for the premise but I don’t know that I can travel 1200 miles to clean up a beach.

I was able to complete my week of field research which unlocked the first field research reward.

It’s a really great additional that they’re adding legendary Pokémon through the research rewards but the surprise was spoiled by hundreds of people on Twitter who live in time zones ahead of mine.  Still, it’s a great addition to the game.

I completed the more difficult task for the Mew quest and that lead me to the final stage which, quite honestly, was supremely easy.  Catching a Ditto was the only difficult part of the entire quest which I was able to do at the very leisurely pace of about a week.  Honestly, for the final stage catching Pokémon with berries was very easy and did it mostly from my house by just opening the app once or twice and hour.  It was a little tedious but not really that challenging.  I made the single excellent throw on my first throw after the research was assigned and I got the gold Kanto medal about eighteen months ago.

When the quest was complete it was extremely confusing as to what was going on as I didn’t realize I’d be forced to catch Mew in AR mode with no choice of balls or berries.  After a few tosses I picked him up pretty easily.

The whole thing was a little anti-climactic as my Mew ended up having almost the worst IVs possible from a Mew catch.  I think the lowest possible IVs are around 73%.  I would have been pretty happy with at least 80% but since I’m probably not going to end up actually doing anything with this other than holding it as a trophy I guess it doesn’t really matter.

The more exciting news of the day was later that earlier that afternoon I finally got my first ever EX Raid pass.  What’s even more exciting is that it is at a time I was not scheduled to work or previously engaged.  Finally, I will get a shot at attempting to catch Mewtwo, something that most of the people I raid with have already done multiple times.

Overall the Mew Quest was pretty fun but my main gripe would be that this feature should have been available to the game from launch.  I remember how long it took me to evolve my first Gyarados which I powered up to be my first Pokémon over 2000 CP.  I remember how long it seemed to take to hit level 25 and how long it took me to register 100 Kanto region Pokémon in my Pokédex.  All of these things were instantly checked off my lists.  How much more exciting would it have been to have been working towards the greater goal of catching Mew while I was doing all that.  Evolving my fifth Gyarados, which I didn’t need, sitting on 2300 Magikarp candies wasn’t quite as exciting.  Actually I was a little annoyed because I didn’t need it and was hoarding the candies.  Catching my 98th Ditto wasn’t quite as exciting as it was catching my first.  Generally I’m annoyed when I ever see Ditto these days.

It was nice to have things to shoot for though.  I could have easily knocked this quest out in a day or two (you know, if I didn’t have a family or a job) but I took my time with it and it made the game more interesting.  I’m hoping future quests will have some slightly more challenging elements to them.

Even with how quick this quest could be knocked out I saw plenty of players on Twitter tweeting coordinates to Gastly nests so that people could spoof to the location and catch ten ghost Pokémon within minutes.  I can’t even imagine how that could fun for anyone, knocking this quest out in hours rather than enjoying it.  I was disappointed that I was able to catch my ghost Pokémon in one morning of casual play.

In the never-ending onslaught of recent developments in the game has been that there’s rumor of an event starting on April 10, this coming Tuesday.  The only information is that the event will focus on the Pokémon of the Kanto region.  However, recently, shiny sprites for over 100 Pokémon have been detected which means that the quest for shinies may be about to get crazy this week.

This event is likely to be announced tomorrow so we’ll see shortly what it’s all about.  One thing I’m eager for is another double candy event as I have over 200 Bulbasur and Dratini to transfer.

Even with nothing else my week will end with a Mewtwo raid and the Community Day Event.  It’s going to be very exciting to see what other surprise gets thrown into the mix.

 

 

The Last “Fortnite” in Pokémon GO Reviewed

Now that’s a headline full just brimming with SEO juice.

I can’t say that I remember a week of news like the one we’ve just had in Pokémon GO.  It seems like after nearly two years that Niantic has finally hit their stride with this game.  It’s almost as if it’s finally coming out of beta.  At this time last year I was so bored with the game that I created a second account just to do something different.  I’m not sure why I figured having two accounts would make it more interesting but I really love the game and I wanted to have something to do!

Let’s take a quick moment to review and grade what’s happened in the past couple of weeks.

1.) Shiny Lugia

When we heard that Lugia was coming back for another stint in raids a lot of players (myself included) breathed as sigh of relief.  Finally, I thought, I can take a break from raiding to catch the latest and greatest Legendary.  It was then discovered that there’d be a small chance that Lugia would be shiny which meant that no such rest would be coming.  Luckily for me I caught a shiny on my second attempt and was able to take a much needed raid vacation after that.

I’m not looking forward to subsequent legendary re-releases as I’m sure my lucky will not be quite as good in the future.  I think Niantic has very carefully done this in order to extend the interest in raids and, of course, purchase of raid passes.  I very rarely raid enough to even use a premium raid pass so generally my raids are from my daily raid passes.  Raids are pretty stale at this point and, unfortunately, have gone from being great fun to feeling a bit like a chore.

Still, I’m glad I got my shiny Lugia.

Grade: B

2.)  Eggstravaganza Event

This is a bit of a rehash of last year’s similar event.  The added excitement this year is that the Pokémon Togepi, Magby, and Wynaut have a possibility of hatching as shiny versions.  Additionally all Pokémon are hatching from 2k eggs.  While this is pretty nice and I’ve hatched a few rare tier Pokémon it also means that I’m going through incubators pretty quickly.  There’s an advantage to the player but Niantic is the real winner being able to sell a lot more incubators

Grade: C

3.) Gym Leader Wardrobe Items

It was announced that if you win the gym leader badge you would unlock new apparel for your avatar.   This was pretty underwhelming news that only got worse when it was revealed that you still had to buy the new apparel.  You were merely unlocking the option to buy something in the store.  This didn’t feel like much of a reward.

Grade: D-

4.) March 25th Community Day (Bulbasaur)

The March 25th event was pretty gun, though not quite as exciting as the shiny Dratin event a month earlier.  I can’t tell if that’s because Dratini is a more relevant and rare Pokémon or if it’s because the difference between regular Bulbasaur and shiny Bulbasaur is barely perceptible.  It may be a little of each.

At any rate the improved charge move and 3x XP made the event a lot of fun.  I’m looking forward to seeing how they develop this event moving forward.  By my calculations if they continue to release shiny Pokémon during these community events and do nothing else to release that will carry this gimmick for approximately thirty more years.

Even so, I can’t imagine ever getting excited about the release of a shiny Venonat.

Grade: B

5.) Official Research (Quests) Announcement

This is not only the biggest and best news of the past two weeks but quite possibly since the game’s release.  The fact that this new research feature will allow Mew to show up is exciting but far more than that is just having these ongoing challenges.  The game has desperately been missing this since day one and I feel like this genuinely completes the first version of the game.  They can call it 1.0 now as far as I’m concerned.  If done correctly this is going to be incredible.

This is another boon for rural players as well as there seems to be indication that research will allow you to finally catch Legendary Pokémon without participating in raids.  It’s unclear which ones exactly or if Mewtwo may be included.

As it’s scheduled to be released on Friday I am just hoping it is earlier in the day than the normal 1PM PST release we tend to see.

Grade: A+

6.) April 15th Community Day Announcement (Mareep)

The release of Mareep is pretty exciting for me, being one of my favorite Pokémon.  The only disappointing thing is that, along with Pikachu, it’s the least relevant Community Day release yet.  I’ll be excited to encounter tons in the wild and catch a few shinies, but I’m hoping the special move will allow Ampharos (one of the rarest and hardest to get Pokémon in the game) to be a useful attacker in gym battles.

There was a bit of disappointment in that many people were suspecting Charmander would be the release for next month but I’m pretty psyched about this one.  No doubt, many players who have yet to get an Ampharos will be equally excited.

Grade: B-

The end of March has been incredible and I’m really looking forward to April being a sort of rebirth for the game.  There have been some very frustrating and very boring stretches with this game.  There is no indication that we’ll be bored with the game at all as we enter into spring with the information we now have.

Now, can we please talk about EX Raids?

The Latest Pokémon GO Community Day and Something Mew!

Yesterday’s most recent Pokémon GO Community Day was another hit, at least in my area.  There were hundreds of people that turned out downtown to try to find shiny Bulbasaur.  I will admit that I didn’t hunt the entire time as I got a good number of shinies fairly quickly and the cold temperatures were taking a toll on my fingers.

Community Day has been pretty fun now that we are getting ample warning about when they will occur.  I must admit that I’m looking forward to April’s Community Day as the chances of weather being more favorable in my part of the world is much higher.

Bulbasaur wasn’t quite as exciting as Dratini as it’s not as relevant or rare a Pokémon but it was still a lot of fun.

The main issue was that in the bright sunlight I caught multiple shiny Bulbasaur without even being aware they were shiny.  In the light I couldn’t see the sparkles and the difference between shiny and normal Bulbasaur is almost imperceptible without a frame of reference (the shiny one is on the right).

I had intended to write a simple recap of Community Day before the biggest news in a long time dropped this morning.  Quests are coming to Pokémon GO!  This is something I’ve been wanting for a long, long time and it looks like in a week’s time they will finally be here.  Better yet, this first quest (or research) looks like it will be revealing one of the few holes in my Gen 1 Pokédex, Mew.

After not having seen Professor Oak since the first day I played the game he will apparently be making a return to tell us what we need to do to help him in his research.  It will be nice to see him again rather than repeatedly transferring Venonats to him.

It’s a little unclear exactly how they’ll work but the full details are available here on the official Pokémon GO website.

In a quest described as “A Mythical Discovery” they list 3 quest items:

1.) Spin 5 Pokéstops.

2.) Catch 10 Pokémon.

3.) Transfer 5 Pokémon.

I sincerely hope the quest items to unlock Mew are a bit more challenging than that.  I’m sure this is just an example or as indicated in the pic above perhaps the first level (of eight) that you need to do to get Mew.

There is also another screen showed which displays rewards for doing the specific items listed.

There appears to be some sort of stamp reward but it’s still unclear how this works or how you get them.

This screenshot shows a potential update to the game with the research icon replacing weather which has been moved to the top right corner of the screen.

To me this is the most exciting update to the game since the Buddy System was released, even though that system doesn’t have nearly the impact now that it did upon release.

To me, this is how Mewtwo should have been done.  I don’t care how hard the quest is or how long it takes, I’m so much more excited to play the game working toward a stretch goal than I am doing random raids hoping to win the EX Raid Pass lottery.  Even eventually getting the pass doesn’t mean I’d even be able to attend the raid if I happen to have an obligation that day.

I’m very much looking forward to March 30th to get my first glimpse of what this update looks like and have a new reason to play the game.

I Don’t Know How To Play Fortnite

I’d been hearing about Fortnite for some time now.  Given that my time for console gaming is exceptionally limited I’d been largely ignoring it.

That was until it was announced that it was being put out as a mobile app by invite only.  Figuring I’d be very low on the list for an invite I signed up only to receive my invite later that same day.

I’d played a lot of Halo as a multiplayer game in LAN parties then later Halo 2 online.  The age of these games give you an indication of how old my multiplayer shooter experience is.

Fortnite on mobile is a very fun experience.  The controls are much better than I would have thought though I would really like to give this game a shot with a traditional controller.  I know a mouse/keyboard combination is probably even better but I’m a controller guy (i.e. not a serious gamer).

I’ve figured out the basic gist of the game but there’s still a lot I’m in the dark about.  I’m sure a lot of things I’m confused about could easily be settled by watching a tutorial video but what fun would that be?

If there’s a way to customize your character I’m not smart enough to figure it out.  Oddly it seems to just give me a randomly generated character with each new game.

When you’re done in the lobby you are thrown into some sort of strange melee where everyone is jumping around and hitting each other but no one seems to die.  At first I thought this was the game and couldn’t figure out why nothing was happening.

After that you’re transported to a blue bus floating above an island on a balloon.  After a while you’re able to jump out of the bus and skydive to the island below.

Your default weapon is a pick axe which you can use to break apart almost anything and get bits of steel, wood, or presumably other materials.  There is undoubtedly something you can do with these materials but that is beyond me at this point.

You can also find weapons which you can then use to attack other players.  There are names hovering in the air giving you the names of other players.  After a bit I started hunting down these players and emptying all my ammunition into them.  It turns out these are members of your own team.  Luckily you can’t seem to kill them, you just watch as they stand there looking at you wondering why you are so bad at his game.

There’s also some storm that is always imminent.  In one of my games I survived long enough to see the storm in action.  I still don’t know what purpose the storm serves or why it happens but I’m sure it must be fairly significant to game play.

In one game so far I was able to hole up in a mine and actually take down several enemy players who do not have their names displayed and are much harder to spot.

In yet another game I stumbled upon a llama pinata, something that I know is an extremely rare item in the game.  I was excited even though I didn’t know hat 75% of the items did and I knew I’d be dead within a minute anyway.

With all of this being said I’m having a lot of fun playing this game.  I’m thinking I will eventually do some research to answer my questions and, most likely, make me much better at this game.

My teammates will likely appreciate this.

The Road to Level 40

The latest Pokémon GO special event has just concluded.  I had carefully calculated my XP gains so that I would reach level 40 late this morning.  Due to a miscalculation in my grinding schedule I hit level 40 late last night instead, unexpectedly after a binge evolution session gained me slightly more XP than I had planned on.

Events continue to be the only time I seriously play the game.  The rest of the time I am merely catching a few Pokémon and spinning a few stops to keep my streaks alive.  If Niantic were a little quicker in implementing quests I may be more apt to fire up the app during regular play.

When Pokémon GO first came out there was a sight with a calculator to estimate when you would reach level 40.  My estimation was mid 2019.  My grinding sessions over the past nearly two years must have really paid off.

There are people who hit level 40 mere months after the game was released.  It has been a long road but it’s pretty satisfying to finally be at he final level.  I am regularly in raid groups with people I see out all the time that are still in the mid 30s so knowing how much they play underscores the achievement of hitting level 40.

After all this time, here are my achievement medals and stats after hitting level 40:

Start Date: 7/9/2016
Total XP: 20010070
Medals
Jogger: 1,698.2 km
Kanto: 147
Collector: 29,678
Scientist: 5,226
Breeder: 1,003
Backpacker: 21,230
Youngster: 310
Pikachu Fan: 436
Johto: 98
Berry Master: 2,030
Gym Leader: 5,566
Hoenn: 103
Fisherman: 97/300
Battle Girl: 950/1000
Ace Trainer: 252/1000
Battle Legend: 108/1000
Unown: 6/10
Champion: 90/100
Schoolkid: 12,797
Black Belt: 291
Bird Keeper: 8,787
Punk Girl: 7,512
Ruin Maniac: 1,327
Hiker: 988
Bug Catcher: 5,488
Hex Maniac: 1,208
Depot Agent: 332
Kindler: 1,328
Swimmer: 5,182
Gardener: 2,737
Rocker: 1,014
Psychic: 2,687
Skier: 1,030
Dragon Tamer: 242
Delinquent: 785
Fairy Tale Girl: 983

I even finally retired my buddy, the Pidgey who had been my companion through all of level 39.  The need for Pidgey candy for grinding is now taking a backseat to finishing off my Pokédex.

I run into a lot of people who take months off then come back.  I guess the key is that I have played the game every day since it was released in July of 2016.  Sometimes it’s for ten minutes.  Today, for example, I have barely played as I take a break from the week long grind to complete level 39.  Other days, like yesterday, I’m opening the app every ten or fifteen minutes to get some valuable XP.

On Monday, only a few weeks before he was about to leave the game, I finally caught my first Rayquaza.  It was a little more difficult than normal given that everyone’s pretty sick of Rauquaza after a week.  Luckily there were some people grinding that were just there for the XP.

On Wednesday, my last full day of level 39, I randomly encountered my first ever Dragonite in the wild.  I nearly got him with my GO plus as I wasn’t really paying attention at the time.  I’ve never used a tracker to hunt down Dragonites and I had thought I’d never run into one.  I remember the odds of this were calculated somewhere around 1:1,000,000 so I was pretty psyched, even though I’ve evolved more than enough for my needs.  On top of running into it he ended up having very good IVs.  Even if he was 32 CP I would have kept him, excited to finally run into a wild one for the first time.

After hoping we’d get a bit of a legendary break it was announced yesterday that Lugia was coming back.  This wasn’t terribly exciting.  I have plenty so I was excited to have a break from all this raiding.  Then came the news today that there will be shiny Lugia.  Whether they are all shiny I am not sure at this point but it looks like  I will not be getting a break after all.

Back to the grind.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (In Conclusion)

My feelings about The Last Jedi remain complex.  There are parts of it that I really liked and enjoyed.  There are parts of it that were deeply disappointing.  There were parts that were incredibly beautiful.  There were parts that were just dumb.

The main problem with the prequels was in their direction and construction.  You had some exceptional actors who put in good performances and you had some good actors who put in lackluster performances.  The problem with them was George Lucas.  I have a deep and abiding love and respect for George Lucas.  After all, he gave us these wonderful stories to begin with.  That being said, many people need a collaborator, someone to balance them out.  There’s a reason that The Beatles were better than Paul McCartney or John Lennon left to their own devices.

The reason the original trilogy movies are so strong despite their flaws is because George Lucas then wasn’t George Lucas now.  While he was a well known up and coming filmmaker he was not yet revered as a god.  People challenged him.  People assisted him.  People said no to him.  Great writers assisted him with scripts.  Great directors assisted him with direction.  Great editors pieced together what he had created.  The fabric of the story and mythology of Star Wars is indisputably strong.  This is why it’s more popular than ever after 40 years.  This is why my two-year-old son came home from school one day and identified Darth Vader from a picture before I’d ever shown him the movie.  The characters and the events that happen in the movies are iconic.

George Lucas put together every facet of the prequel movies and the result is a jumbled mess.  On the surface, the story of the three movie arc isn’t bad.  A young Anakin is introduced to the Force, joins the Jedi order, falls in love with a marries a Queen, goes into battle during the Clone Wars, is ultimately seduced by the dark side of the Force, turns on his beloved mentor and friend, and becomes Darth Vader.  That story could be told in a very compelling way but a lot of the issues come in how the characters get from point A to point B.  In 1975 someone may have suggested starting Anakin as a young adult (for a number of reasons), or not introducing concepts such as midichlorians, or having a consistent villain throughout the trilogy that we could learn about rather than introducing and subsequently killing off one or two in each film.

George Lucas can be seen in behind the scenes footage creating a sterile environment where he can just get the scenes shot against a green screen and move on.  I get it.  I feel the same way about certain aspects of the creative process.  There are parts that I love and parts that are a chore.  The things is all the parts need to be done and done well.  When you’re talking about movies with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars you can hire people to do the things you don’t love and to do them well.  You just have to let go.  You can’t control everything.  Marcia Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Lawrence Kasdan, these are people that helped make the original trilogy great.  They or their equivalents were absent in the prequels and it shows.

The new trilogy addresses these issues.  There is more input.  There is more collaboration.  The stories seem better thought out even with their evident problems.  Every story has problems, it’s about having few enough that they can be overlooked.  So far I feel that a lot of the new trilogy’s problems can be overlooked.

There are a lot of people saying that The Last Jedi killed Star Wars.  I think that’s a bit of an overstatement.  Star Wars will never die.  To stick with the analogy of The Beatles, The Yellow Submarine was a pretty disappointing album.  It didn’t kill The Beatles.  Artists can have peaks and valleys.  The prequels were a valley.  The new films could be viewed as a new peak.  Maybe not a peak as soaring or majestic as The Empire Strikes Back, but a peak nonetheless.

Looking throughout the history of this franchise (and any franchise, really) you’ll find people claiming its death.  Just like with bands, people discover a band, get into it, the band gets popular, then a cutoff occurs where the fan claims the band is not as good anymore.  There’s no truth to this, it’s completely subjective.  I was really into Metallica in my early teens, then I said they sold out with the release of The Black Album.  Kids in my high school claimed they’d done so earlier with the release of … And Justice For All by having the audacity of releasing their first music video.  What sell outs!

You can read reviews of The Empire Strikes Back from shortly after its release and see that it was received with mixed reviews.  It’s practically unthinkable after nearly four decades.  For the vast majority of my life this movie has been widely accepted in the community as the best.  In this New York Times review from June of 1980 the writer, Vincent Canby, states:

“Gone from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ are those associations that so enchanted us in ‘Star Wars,’ reminders of everything from the Passion of Jesus and the stories of Beowulf and King Arthur to those of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, the Oz books, Buck Rogers and Peanuts. Strictly speaking, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ isn’t even a complete narrative. It has no beginning or end, being simply another chapter in a serial that appears to be continuing not onward and upward but sideways.”

The review goes on with various vicious stabs at what is considered so sacred by fans.  I would guess the writer was vastly older than many of us when he saw the first movie and followed it up with the second.  I am also vastly less critical of The Return of the Jedi than people that were ten years older then me when they saw it.

The Last Jedi, and in some smaller way The Force Awakens did kill Star Wars for me in a way.  What they killed in me was the investment.  I went into both films with low to no expectations.  I emerged from The Force Awakens happy and filled with hope.  I emerged from The Last Jedi a bit disappointed for all the reasons I outlined in my review.  The prequels had beaten most of the hope out of me so my investment was low.  I didn’t see a single trailer for either movie and had no idea what to expect.  After watching The Last Jedi a second time I did like it a lot more.  The beauty of so much of it balanced out some of the frustration I had with the story and characters.

When Timothy Zahn began releasing his famous Thrawn Trilogy in 1990 I remember that feeling of reading stories of Han, Luke, and Leia again.  Seeing, or reading, about these characters back in action against a new set of foes was incredible.  It’s probably hard for anyone ten years younger than me to understand what it was like at the time.  We had the three movies, some comic books which essentially told the same story, some BBC radio dramas which again told the same story, then we had Splinter of the Mind’s Eye which was a throwaway novel that served as a fallback script for the sequel if Star Wars bombed.  It didn’t and Splinter was cast aside only to be read by die hard fans.  The only other thing that existed outside of all of that was The Star Wars Holiday Special but that only existed in schoolyard rumors and legends.  No one had actually seen it and if they had no one had a recording.  Only have the internet sprung into existence did it start to take form and did we as fans get a chance to see it.  It turns out we weren’t missing much.

So when the Thrawn Trilogy was released it was exhilarating to see our old heroes back in action again.  There hadn’t been anything like it.  I remember watching the end of Return of the Jedi with tears welling up in my eyes and an aching in my heart wanting nothing more than to know what happened next.  What happened to our heroes?

People just slightly younger than me can’t comprehend this.  Why?  Because I can’t even begin to list the TV shows, comics, video games, and novels that have happened since.  There has to be hundreds, if not thousands, of outlets for those yearning to spend more time in this universe.  In the mid 1980s we were just left for nearly ten years wondering what happened until those books came out.  It was the better part of twenty years until the prequels were released.  I’d spent the majority of my life until that point formulating my own ideas for them, part of why they were so disappointing.

With the new trilogy I wasn’t very curious about Han, Luke, and Leia.  I knew what happened to them.  At least I thought I did from the dozen or so novels I read in the expanded universe before I tired of it.  These new movies took place so much farther in the future than the Thrawn Trilogy that it was conceivable that they did exist in the same universe with the exception of Han and Leia’s progeny.

People are saying that The Last Jedi killed Star Wars.  People have said that everything that has happened since the original movie was released has killed the franchise.  And every movie franchise.  And every book series.  And every set of albums by a band.  This has always happened and this will always happen.

While I respect people’s opinions I do find it hard to follow the logic that leads people to believe that this is the specific thing that “killed” Star Wars.  I can’t see how someone would look past the Star Wars Holiday Special, Caravan of Courage, The Battle for Endor, The Phantom Menace, The Attack of the Clones, The Revenge of the Sith, and somehow pinpoint this single moment as the moment Star Wars died.

Star Wars is not dead and it never will be.

I had my problems with this movie but we’ve had nearly twenty years to process what happened with the prequel trilogy and I have processed my disappointment so that I’m at a place where I can just enjoy being immersed in the universe again with a lower level of commitment.  What happens happens.  There will be varying levels of quality within the franchise.

What seems to be happening with these movies is that we’re saying goodbye to the original characters.  Future films will likely not have R2-D2 and C-3PO shoehorned into them.  We probably won’t see Chewbacca or the Millennium Falcon.  The Skywalkers will be gone and we can move on to see other things and meet new characters.

The thing I liked about The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi is that was that we were saying goodbye to the characters from the original trilogy.  The Force Awakens was Han Solo’s big goodbye.  We spent more time with him than any of the original characters and we said goodbye.  It was painful but it needed to be done.

The Last Jedi was Luke’s chance to do the same.  It wasn’t quiet as painful as Han’s goodbye and I didn’t really feel it was necessary but we did it an Luke is gone even if he may return as a Force ghost at some point.  I’m just sad that Leia won’t get the chance to do the same.  Episode IX should have been her movie, her chance to shine.  She had a big part in The Last Jedi but it wasn’t about her, it was about Luke.  I don’t know if there is enough scrapped footage or CGI that can change that.

The Last Jedi is not the movie I was expecting, however, the more I think about the better I feel about it overall.  I don’t see the perfect movie so many other fans saw and I certainly don’t see it as the franchise destroyer that others saw.  To me it was a mildly disappointing movie with some truly incredible parts in it.  While I wasn’t excited about this movie I do look forward to seeing it a third time when it is released on DVD.  I am also really looking forward to the new trilogy directed by Rian Johnson.

There’s one thing I’m sure of: this trilogy of trilogies is getting tired.  I look forward to a bold new direction for the Star Wars franchise in the future.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 15)

After Luke reveals himself to be tricking Kylo Ren we cut back to Ahch-to where Luke is shown struggling to perform this new Jedi Force Projection trick that Kylo Ren alluded to earlier in the movie.  Kylo Ren reveals that by merely doing this trick you could die and Luke does just that.

We see Luke stare off into the distance at two suns.  We don’t know for sure if these are Ahch-to’s two suns or if it’s some sort of hallucination the boring miserable planet that Luke hated being on for the first twenty years of his life.  Either way it is a beautifully shot scene and call back to the original Star Wars movie.

Immediately both Rey and Leia seem to feel Luke’s passing.  There is not a lot of grief, mostly just calm reflection by both of them.

I’m not sure I really like this end for Luke Skywalker.  I can understand that what he did must’ve been some pretty advanced level Force use but how and why did it kill him?    I’m not sold on the fact that Luke needed to die, at least not in this manner.  If he truly wanted to help out, much like Holdo, wouldn’t he have been of much more use alive?

If Luke had died selflessly to protect Rey, Leia, or whoever else needed protection by sacrificing himself that would have seemed more necessary.  I just have a very hard time wrapping my head around why this would have happened this way.  Why does Luke, who always rushed to his friends’ side and believed in the redemption of anyone turn into someone who abandons his friends and loses faith in his own nephew at the first sign of straying to the dark side.

Seeing Luke die is tough.  It’s less jarring than the death of Han Solo but it is still tough.  Tougher, however, is seeing who Luke has become.  Han and Leia have not changed all that much.  They’re both the same people they’ve always been, just sadder.  Luke seems to go against everything that he ever stood for in the original movies.  The question remains: why?  Because of that one time he failed?  That seems like a really weak reason even for a young Luke Skywalker who was no stranger to whining.  That one failure just makes him say, “Okay, I’m done with that.”  Then he walks away from it all and allows Kylo Ren to just kill everyone?

And why does Luke die?  Is the exertion of this projection task just so much that it will kill anyone?  Does he die just because he feel like it and he’s had enough?  When Yoda dies you get the feeling he was just using the Force to extend his life to help Luke.  Luke is roughly 850 years younger than Yoda.

After Luke’s death Kylo Ren storms the base and makes eye contact with Rey just as she about to fly off in the Millennium Falcon.  Along with her flies off the possibility of there being a real lightsaber battle in this movie.  Kylo Ren finds the dice from the Millennium Falcon and picks them up only to see them disappear in his hands.  This leaves me with a lot of questions about how Luke’s whole Force Projection trick works.

On board the rebel ship Poe meets Rey for the first time and they have to comment on it because I don’t think any viewers of the two movies realize it until it’s brought up.

Star Wars Episode VIII The Last Jedi screen grab

Finn goes into a drawer to get blankets for Rose and we see that Rey has stolen all the Jedi texts in a final act to really piss off the Force nuns.

Rey asks Leia, “How do we rebuild from this?”

Leia responds, “We have everything we need.”

The camera then falls back and we see everyone chatting, smiling, and laughing as if it were the end of The Return of the Jedi.  It’s unclear why anyone is doing anything other than suffering from intense levels of dread and despair.  Nothing has gone right for the Resistance and they’ve been cut down to about two dozen people at this point.  Things are bleak.  We all like an underdog story but unless some of those bums they were trying to call to help them on Crait show up it’s going to be impossible to believe any story line that leads this group to victory against the hugely powerful First Order.

The movie ends with the slaves back on Canto Bight.  We see a little boy use the force to bring a broom to his hand, something that would make Master Obi-Wan “very grumpy.”  We’re left to believe that the Force can be used by anyone, a bit of a departure from the genetically passed down Force trends of previous movies.  This is why Rey’s parents don’t matter.  This is, apparently, the hope Leia may be referring to.

Personally, I’m thinking they can’t wait for the slave kid with the broom to grown up.  They’re going to need to do some pretty intense planning before we can hope for a happy ending to Episode IX.

Next up: In Conclusion . . .

 

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 14)

As Leia sulks in the command center on Crait, we see the hooded figure of Luke enter, reminiscent of his entry into Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi.  It’s a touching family reunion between the two.  Luke explains that he has to face Ben and that he can’t save him.  He ends the dialogue by saying that no one is ever really gone and hands her the gold dice from the Millennium Falcon.  It was hard not to feel touched by this moment.  Much like seeing Han and Chewie in action again and like seeing Han’s unfortunate death it is hard not to feel touched during these scenes with the original characters.

Luke then heads out onto the battlefield to face the First Order army.  In what seems like an anticlimactic move Kylo Ren orders every gun available to fire on him.  I’ll admit, a part of me thought that was it.  That was the tragic and cheap ending of Luke Skywalker.  However, after a moment, the smoke clears and Luke is left standing there without so much as a scratch on him.  It’s more like a scene from Dragon Ball Z than from Star Wars.  I was happy though that Luke was still with us, at least for a brief time more.

Sometime during this Finn somehow manages to transport Rose around the explosions surrounding Luke and back into the rebel base.  Meanwhile Kylo Ren takes a shuttle down to meet Luke face-to-face.  They stand there looking at each other and Kylo Ren asks if Luke came to save him.  Luke says, “No.”

After a few minutes Poe says, “He’s doing this for a reason!”  Then he figures  out that they have to make an escape.  Apparently no one ever tells Poe the plan.

The plan is pretty flawed.  They’ve already lost valuable time since Luke didn’t actually tell anyone the plan and they’re also backed into a corner with no perceivable way out.  That is, until, they discover that the weird crystal foxes are somehow getting in and out of the base.  They, unfortunately, reach a dead end with a pile of boulders blocking the path with gaps only large enough for the crystal foxes to squeeze through.

“I failed you, Ben.  I’m sorry,” Luke calls out across the salt flats.

“I’m sure you are,” Kylo Red screams back.  “The Resistance is dead, the war is over, and when I kill you, I would have killed the last Jedi!”  This marks the first time the title of a Star Wars movie has been delivered as a line of dialogue in a good Star Wars movie.

Luke then delivers a line he’s already used once with Rey:  “Every word you just said is wrong.”  Then the movie does a very non Star Wars thing and Luke’s words become a voice over as we see examples of what he is talking about.  “The rebellion is reborn today, the war has just beginning, and I will not be the last Jedi.”  It ends on Rey lifting all the boulders out of the way so the Resistance can escape.

First we see Luke emerge from the smoke like Goku, now we see him dodge lightsaber slashes like Neo dodging bullets.  Eventually he allows Kylo Ren to stab him through the heart and he doesn’t even flinch.  It’s then that we realize Luke has been conning Kylo Ren this whole time.  He’s not actually there at all.  Kylo Ren has been duped and Luke is merely projecting himself, a technique Kylo Ren had brought up earlier in the movie.

I’ll have to admit that I didn’t see this coming.  I know I’m in the minority.  Everyone else that saw this movie, apparently, noticed that Luke looked younger, that he was using his original blue lightsaber, that his feet were not leaving red streaks in the salt.  In retrospect it was incredibly obvious but I was maybe the one theater goer that was blown away by this trick ending.

Part of me could easily feel cheated out of the fact that there is not showdown between Luke and Kylo Ren.  I could extend that to the fact that this is the only Star Wars movie aside from Rogue One that there is no point where two lightsabers touch each other.  It is the only Star Wars movie with two lightsabers where no lightsabers touch each other.

That aside, it is actually a pretty sneaky trick by Luke Skywalker.  He keeps his promise that he is never going back and at the same time he achieves closure with Leia and helps the good guys escape.  Luke vanishes after being stabbed by Kylo Ren.

This is met with exactly the calmness we have come to expect from Mr. Ren.

Next up . . . a bit more about Luke’s role in The Last Jedi and the conclusion of the film!