Star Wars Visions is a series of nine stories, one episode each, that showcase a variety of characters, worlds, and animation styles.
This review will be a little different. Because each episode has each of the seven categories and are separate from each other, we need to change the format. Scores will be a relative average of each of the nine episodes, but each section will feature the best and the worst of each category.
Before anything else, I ranked the episodes:
- Lop & Ocho
- The Ninth Jedi
- The Duel
- The Twins
- The Elder
- The Village Bride
- Tatooine Rhapsody
Best: The Duel
The best characters are the ones that need no introduction. The Duel takes a very simple approach to characters. We get two lightsaber users, they fight. There is no backstory to either of them, there is simply one who starts creating terror in a small village and a wandering traveler who challenges them. Each of our duelists introduce themselves by simply drawing their lightsaber. The female who is terrorizing the village uses an umbrella-like lightsaber that is easily the most creative approach to the weapon in all of Star Wars history. I was instantly captivated by her character, who reminded me of a mixture of Cruella Deville from 100 Dalmations and Rell from League of Legends. On the flip side, the male challenger has his own unique style. He is very clearly based on a samurai and really has a basic design, but it is the mystery surrounding him that makes him noteworthy.
I spent twenty minutes watching Star Wars Pinocchio try to become a real episode and it never happened. It was an unexpected twist to walk into the series and find so many lighthearted episodes like T0-B1. T0-B1 is a boy-like robot who was created by an old man who is obviously force sensitive and lives alone with countless robots that do menial tasks. T0-B1 learns from his master that there is a kyber crystal on the planet and goes out to search for it, trying to become a Jedi of the legends. Both the master and T0-B1 felt like they were talking on .8 speed and were part of some Disney movie from the 50s. Both the Master and T0-B1 played such predictable characters that there was nothing that they could do to impress us or make us empathize with them. In a search to become something real, you cannot be fake. In a chicken and egg situation between faking it until you make it, there was never a chicken so we were left with the plain egg that was these characters.
Best: The Duel
Call me The Emperor because The Duel had me shocked. The animation is jarring. We are not in the animation section but there is an off putting nature to the animation. It seems slow and awkward at first, until the action. Once the action starts, all of the movement is highlighted by the darkness of the picture. Just when you think that you have the situation figured out, there is another twist. Nothing is as it seems and no one is quite what they look like. My Armchair Anime commandment to not spoil is really put to test on this review. But trust me when I say that once you get over the initial shock of the animation, it only adds to the emotion of the fight and the wild twists that the writers throw your way. It is the first episode and likely the best candidate to lead the series.
Worst: Tatooine Rhapsody
As someone who prides themselves on casual reviews, this take of mine feels very uncasual and it bothers me, despite my conviction: Anyone with the opportunity to tell a story in a universe as unique and prestigious as Star Wars should be ashamed to make something like Tatooine Rhapsody. When you think about it, maybe one hundred people in this century will get the opportunity to write and tell a Star Wars story. With the entire universe open to you, I was horrified to watch what feels like a feel-good spoof about a flopped jedi turned crappy underground band singer. The concept felt childish, there was no exploration of any new places, and the twist on an old place felt… sacrilegious. I felt offended. How could a lifetime opportunity be used to tell such a trivial and pointless story?
Best: The Ninth Jedi
There are several points in Star Wars history where either the Jedi or the Sith are practically wiped out. The Ninth Jedi technically breaks cannon by asking, “What if there was a lightsaber smith?” Canon wise, each Jedi seeks out their own components to their lightsaber. They craft it with a kyber crystal that connects them the most with the force and gives their lightsaber their color. My take? Screw canon. That is lame anyways. Inject those insane lightsaber designs into my veins like the vaccine. The idea that there is a master crafter of special lightsabers that respond to the force power of the user is new. It’s fresh. It explains half of the other episodes in the anthology. It feels like this simple introduction opens the door to all kinds of saber based opportunities that other episodes really didn’t give us when it came to thinking about the Star Wars Universe. Because why do lightsabers all need to be silver? Why do they need to just be a sword? Why aren’t force users using their powers to alter the blade? The Ninth Jedi lets us imagine and that is what I really wanted out of this show.
Worst: Everything else?
I really cannot find much to discuss idea wise in the rest of the show. This is not an over exaggeration, I just simply cannot recall another interesting idea. Lots of the episodes explore interesting takes on what a lightsaber looks like but not enough that it was a coherent idea that seems worth discussing.
Pacing is the only section where picking a favorite and least favorite felt pretty irrelevant. Many of the episodes had similar pacing, good or otherwise. Almost all of the episodes struggled with being way too fast. Most of the episodes did not even reach the standard twenty four minute mark and it showed. At least half of these anthology entries feel as if they should have been broken up into three or four episodes and expanded upon. But for the bottom half of the list, save The Village Bride, there is not enough to expand upon. I have a couple of questions about the nature of the series because of these pacing issues. Did the studios not ask for more than one episode? Did Disney hold them to a single one? If the studios were held to one episode, why did they tell the stories in the way that they did? It seems like it would have been better to give slices of story and let the audience wonder how we got to where we did instead of giving so much exposition. Something was not aligned, I just do not know what side is at fault or if it was both sides.
Best: Lop & Ocho
There is a single moment that separates a lightsaber fight from any other kind of fight in the history of humanity; the heat of battle as sabers lock and sparks fly. Lop & Ocho has the single best frame of the entire series and it takes place as the sisters of the show battle it out in a duel of ideology and lightsabers. Yes, the general animation of the episode is good even if bunny girls are weird to me. But the final fight is something to behold. The shine in the eye of Lop took my breath away and led to at least three replays. It reminded me of the Saber versus Rider fight in the last Fate Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel movie. The eye detailing on them both as they go in for the final strike is something to behold and reason enough to watch the episode.
I wish there was much to say about T0-B1 in the animation department. While all the elements are intentional, I don’t like much about them. The animation is fuzzy, it looks childish and pale, and has no visual interest. It feels like, again, it was taking after Pinocchio. Why they would take after a creepy movie like that is beyond me, but trust me there isn’t much missed by skipping T0-B1.
Best: The Village Bride
Walking into an anthology series is tough. A single episode to tell a story means that world building is very tough and I won’t sugar coat it by saying the series as a whole did a good job. Yet, The Village Bride is far and away the winner in this category. There is no close second. In a single episode we get the story of the connection that the people have to their planet, the economic context of their culture, how they connect to the force, and more. While I think the plot made me more bored than a FedEx package, what was put in front of us was both new and interesting when it comes to world building in Star Wars digital media. What I liked most is that Star Wars largely ignores the romantic relationships between anyone but main characters, and even then they have siblings kiss so the relationships are a little weird. To have an entire episode dedicated to a marriage ceremony is a far departure from the standard formula. And that adds a lot to the universe in my opinion. Little ceremonies, cultures, and locations will always add more to Star Wars than something like connected Star Destroyers will. There is something so subtle in the depth that they bring to the world building that I really appreciate.
Worst: Tatooine Rhapsody
If there is a planet that I could live without ever seeing referenced again, it is Tatooine. There is nothing on that planet that has been shown to me that I feel needs more explanation. We went there, we got Darth Vader (spoiler alert, it’s been 22 years), and we got out. The desert is not interesting. There are no large cities that were shown. It ran its course. To come back to Tatooine and effectively add nothing to the world is pointless. Like many of the worlds in this anthology, I felt like we didn’t learn much about the people or the places we visited. The Ninth Jedi and the Village Bride are the only two episodes that I felt like alluded to the events or status of the world outside the frame. Part of what made Star Wars amazing is that so much was going on across the galaxy. There would be ground wars raging for planets while characters are going through personal battles against a rival. Tatooine Rhapsody is focused on what is right in front of us, in a place we already know, with a twist that feels not that big of a twist. It’s really not that far-fetched that there would be a band playing at the pod racing arena. So I ended the episode wondering why the story needed to be told. What did this story add to the world that someone was determined to bring into fruition. I couldn’t figure it out.
For some reason, the choice was made to release the music from each episode as a separate album. So my original listen though was a ten track playlist for the Village Bride episode that I mistakenly thought was all that was released. Then later, I thought there was no way this was correct and found the full seventy-three track playlist of all the music bundled together by a random spotify listener who uses the same lettuce based username that my brother does. What are the odds? Pretty low. But you know what isn’t low? The score I gave this…score. There are few movie scores that I am okay with hearing variations of over and over and Star Wars is one that I can listen to forever. I used to own the original trilogy on ripped copies that my dad got on a business trip to China and would play them on repeat until my parents couldn’t take it anymore. Needless to say, there were those who embraced the traditional Star Wars feel and those who chose to do their own thing.
Best: The Village Bride
Emi Evans was the singer for a number of songs on this episode and without seeing a picture of the woman I imagine she is an angel. Her voice is simply not of the world that I live in and plays natural themes of the episode perfectly. It felt like the intention was to give us another realm to walk into. We have heard the musical space of the Death Star, Tatooine, and other planets, but we needed to carve out space for new music; something The Village Bride accomplishes better than the rest of the episodes. I can hear these tracks becoming the base of more themes and sounds to be played during longer stories that take place in the same star system and that is what makes it exciting. It doesn’t seem to draw too strong of inspiration from its Star Wars predecessors and for what feels like the first time, incorporates vocals in a prominent way.
Worst: Lop & Ocho
The curse of including yourself in a universe as incredible as Star Wars is that you have a lot of phenomenal music to live up to. There is no “bad” music in the overall soundtrack, but Lop & Ocho’s music just kind of exists. It fits the show well, it built some dramatic moments for the viewer to enjoy, but it largely just felt like drumline music I could hear anywhere else. There is no room for the standard quality in a work that wants to go toe to toe with generation defining content. The orchestral work is good, but when we compare it to The Village Bride, or even T0-B1 who chose to take a chance with the kinds of sounds that it played with, we really find no reason to be particularly impressed with the music. And sadly, the cool little lightsaber animation on the Spotify track timer does not make up for music that is still good by all accounts, but my least favorite out of all the episodes.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||2||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||3||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||2||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||2||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||2||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||1||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||3||3|
I hate to say it, but you really aren’t missing much if you don’t want this series. Star Wars fans who want the limits to be tested, unique stories to be told, and new worlds to be explored really won’t find that here. There are strong ties to previous works so anyone who is super attached to the music and dialog of the original works will find a home here.