Disney released all nine Star Wars Visions episodes early Wednesday morning. Since I am neither well versed in anime (I do watch a few shows and movies – few of the usual ones though – so, I am far from being an expert) and my knowledge of Japanese cinema is limited to the occasional Akira Kurosawa and Godzilla (sorry, Gojira) movie I will not provide proper reviews and a few details and things may go completely over my head. But what I will do is provide a few thoughts here and there and I also want to give you an opportunity to talk about the new series here on JTA! Since all nine episodes were released at once it would be too much and too confusing to talk about them all in one article, instead I will post one article each day, for the next nine days or so where we can talk about Visions! So let’s begin with “The Duel”, the first of the Visions episodes. And yes, there will be some spoilers, so if you don’t want to be spoiled you should stay away from the Visions articles! Click through for the short discussion!
So let’s talk about The Duel.
Here are my general feelings and thoughts. The episode is all style and almost no substance. Of course a very short 13 minute runtime makes any complex storytelling almost impossible.
Imagine you knew nothing about the prequels and one day a short film is released that shows the duel between Qui Gonn & Obi-Wan vs Darth Maul. And just that. Nothing else.
You would probably think, “wow, that’s cool” and “I wish there was more, is there more?”.
“The Duel” is exactly like that. There is virtually zero story but the concept of a former Sith Ronin wandering the countryside to atone for former sins is certainly a very intruiging one. Too bad there is nothing like that in Star Wars, discounting books or comics here, I focus on movies or shows. It gets even worse when you realize that hey, we could have had something like that if J.J. Abrams had not decided to kill off Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo at the end of The Rise of Skywalker, he could have made for a pretty good Ronin in future movies who wants to atone for all of his previous crimes and atrocities.
So in the end “The Duel” is well made, it looks like some old black and white Kurosawa movie, only a few lights and the light sabers have some color, but it ultimately lacks any substance. And people who are intrigued by the short and know little about Star Wars will probably be disappointed to find that nothing like that really exists (again, ignoring books or comics here, since few bother to read them).
A few words about the style, most things work very well, the female villain’s hairstyle is a bit comical though. I also feel that the droids felt out of place here, since the setting is very much based on an old version of Japan (i.e. Tokugawa period probably) the droids felt like they don’t belong at all, since their designs were mostly unaltered, the astromech is wearing a straw hat, that is it, but it’s still very recognizably the same astromech design from the movies. Also, seeing some Stormtrooper helmets based on First Order designs felt wrong, my general feeling is that trooper and droid designs should have taken a cue from Bandai’s excellent Movie Realization toyline where they reimagine Star Wars characters in a traditional Japanese style.
So in the end I think The Duel is a fun snack sized bit of Star Wars entertainment. But I feel it will not bring in any new fans and it may be too far removed from typical Star Wars for quite a few people. To me, “The Duel” felt like a pitch for a movie, an animatic that is supposed to be a proof of concept for a series or movie. Should there ever be a proper series or movie about the Ronin character (only set in the proper Star Wars galaxy) it could be truly excellent. But as it is it’s little more than a curiosity. There will be a book based on the Ronin character, but again, books are mostly niche and don’t even remotely have the same reach as series or movies do. It will be interesting to see if Lucasfilm will develop any of the shorts into a proper series or movie.
But these are just my thoughts. What do you think about “The Duel”? And please, only focus on “The Duel” here, we will discuss the other episodes in the coming days!
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