While some argue that there are no perfect films, pictures like Citizen Kane (1941), Casablanca (1942), Star Wars (1977), Unforgiven (1992), and Galaxy Quest (1999) don’t exactly exist in a vacuum. (Feel free to insert your own nominations for ‘perfect films’ at your leisure.) In case you missed my point, I’ll tell you that perfect films do indeed exist, and they continue to resonate with audiences well after their first theatrical screenings in theaters. How we tally up the bits and pieces to determine just what perfection looks like might change over time, but the foundation likely remains the same. Perfect features are out there; you just must be willing to look for them.
But even a classic might include a bad idea or two. Just because a film remains perfect doesn’t even remotely imply that it has no blemishes, so perhaps it’s safer to suggest that we tweak our expectations both as we grow and as a film ages. It’s this combination, however, that stays forever on our minds.
Now … that said, I’ll admit that I’m really struggling to enjoy the good and the bad of the latest Disney+ Star Wars series, Ahsoka.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the episode’s IMDB.com page citation:
“Hera tangles with New Republic politics while Ahsoka and Sabine Wren voyage to a distant planet.”
Ok. Here goes, folks.
I’m no huge Dave Filoni fan, but like many who’ve followed his work I do believe he’s earned the opportunity to take Star Wars into the future … so long as his is not the only creative voice. I’ve said several times before that both his Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels ended up being better shows as they aged: both suffered from a bit of clunkiness right out of the gate, and it took Filoni and his behind-the-scenes crew some time to get each of them into their own respective rhythms. I do think that Star Wars: The Bad Batch – while being a bit smaller in scope than either of his previous works – started off quite good and then dipped a bit here and there along the way, but it still managed to craft some interesting stories around fringe elements of the wider Star Wars Universe in a way that audience appreciated.
So I’ve followed Ahsoka – as a character – not so much as she’s been interesting to me but because she just keep seems to popping up here and there. Her run in The Clone Wars was vastly more interesting than her ‘maturation’ in Rebels, and here’s precisely why: in Wars, she was – like Anakin in his early years – an outsider trying to fit in. In Rebels, Ahsoka had this Jedi-style wisdom that just, frankly, came out of nowhere. To my knowledge, we were never brought up to speed on just how she turned into this masterful wizard; instead, we were just to accept it and go about our business.
If you follow the “logic” of her character’s arc (to that point), then here’s what we know: she left the Jedi Order because she never found her place there after a bit of what we’ll call a professional scandal she was unjustly blamed for. But know – all these years later – she’s suddenly behaving like a Jedi Master despite having never completed her training. While such demonstrated wisdom isn’t, say, only endemic to Jedi in the galaxy far, far away, I find it a bit ironic and offputting that – while putting down the Order at nearly every opportunity – she’s still acting like a Jedi Master.
In fact, she goes to great lengths in “Part 3: Time To Fly” to both use Jedi tactics and denounce Jedi tactics while attempting to break through to Sabine Wren in what we’re presumed to be (cough cough) Jedi training. Viewers see Ahsoka using the ‘blast shield’ helmet technique – the very same one Obi-Wan Kenobi used on a young Luke Skywalker in the Original Trilogy – and then the two engage in their own sparring match which one can (again) only presume is something Jedi padawans would’ve employed. Only moments later, Ahsoka then remarks to the droid Huyang something to the effect of it not being important for Wren to be a Jedi so much as it is she “be herself.”
Look: either you want her to be a Jedi, or you don’t. As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is not try.” Still, all we’re seeing of this unlikely ‘odd couple’ is a helluva lot of trying and very, very, very little doing. While Wren is kinda/sorta weakly confirmed to not be Force-sensitive, then why are the writers insisting on taking her through training that most likely was designed for those who are Force-sensitive? Wouldn’t there be a completely different regimen, one specifically tailored to aid the pupil in growing a greater sensitivity? Seems to me like that would be a good idea, but that might get in the way of so many callbacks to events of earlier Star Wars films.
Naturally, it’s comforting to see Filoni using the nostalgia factor to further his legacy in this universe, but it seems that he’s starting to do it by bastardizing what came before. To a degree, I suspect this is because he – like Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy – are determined to drag the franchise and its fans kicking and screaming into the future; doing this at the expense of destroying moments that made the juggernaut into what it is, however, is not a respectable way of going about it. You’re risking alienating fandom only further than you have at this point (no, I’m not gonna begin dissecting the strengths and weaknesses of The Mandalorian, The Book Of Boba Fett, Andor, and Obi-Wan Kenobi because I try to respect space considerations of my readers), but I don’t think Star Wars can survive another blatant and obvious attempt to desecrate canon.
As long as I’m up on my high horse, though, let me also sound off on one point that clearly underscores that Filoni definitely got his start in cartoons.
Without going into a greater summary, our heroes (Ahsoka, Huyang, and Sabine) do find themselves stranded in a spacecraft without power at one point with the enemies closing in and guns blazing. For some fantastic reason, Ahsoka decides she’s going to suit up and venture outside the ship to (cough cough) engage the fighters directly … with nothing but her twin lightsabers!
Erm … what?
In what will likely go down as one of the most ludicrous moments in perhaps television history, our lead Jedi/NotJedi somehow manages to force her attackers to shoot at her instead of shooting at the ship they’ve been tasked to destroy. If their intent is to kill her – which we presume all of that blasting was for in the first place – then why not simply vaporize the ship? As she’s standing on its outer hull, she’d most likely succumb to such a tactic, and they’d be rid of her. In case you missed it, the ship’s is – literally – dead in space. It’s a sitting duck. The shields are down. The engines are disabled. It’s – LITERALLY – waiting to be destroyed. It’s practically calling out to be blown to atoms. And, yet, this doesn’t happen because of a very, very, very bad idea. Let’s agree it was also a bit ‘cartoonish,’ which is why I said it’s clear that Dave got his start in that arena.
See what I mean? Stories are, fundamentally, nothing more than a collection of good ideas and bad ideas.
At this point, it seems that Ahsoka is more bad than good.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that I’m beholden to no one to provide a review of Star Wars: Ahsoka streaming series as I’m presently a subscriber to Disney+ … which might be changing in the future as their programming has really gotten a bit stale.