What Owen and Shmi Can Teach Us About Han and Leia

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Intrinsic to the premise of a sequel trilogy—obviously—is the notion that Return of the Jedi was not, in fact, the end of the Star Wars story. Proceeding from that, there are two basic strategies with which to approach further material; the Bantam-era Expanded Universe tried one in which the characters lived more or less happily ever after, and The Story would therefore concern itself only with minor trials and tribulations; speedbumps instead of true pitfalls. Eventually that approach turned off enough people that the Del Rey-era EU took the second road: one along which things could really go horribly wrong.

But let’s not get into all that again. The thing is, the missteps of late Legends notwithstanding, you can’t do a true follow-up to the original trilogy without Big Things Going Wrong. It wouldn’t be as interesting for new audiences who weren’t desperate for as much Big Three material as they could get, and it certainly wouldn’t have been interesting enough to drag all three original actors back into their respective robes, hair buns, and stripey pants.

Proceeding from that, then, is the unpleasant fact that getting new movies means our beloved Big Three had to fuck some things up. » Read more..

Paths to the Dark Side: The Future and the Past

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Throughout his Star Wars films, George Lucas keeps returning to the idea that dwelling on the possibilities of the future is dangerous, and that instead one should try to live in the present moment. In The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan approach this idea from the opposite direction, which may give us some clues as to where Rey’s journey, in particular, might be going in Episodes VIII and IX.

The original trilogy

In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda is at first reluctant to train Luke Skywalker, because “all his life has he looked away – to the future, to the horizon. Never, his mind on where he was! What he was doing!” Later in the film, while meditating, Luke sees a vision of the future: his friends Han and Leia in terrible danger. Yoda instructs him not to act on these images, and warns that “always in motion is the future”, but Luke defies him. The results are disastrous. Luke is unable to help his friends, who ultimately rescue themselves, and instead finds himself in a confrontation with Darth Vader that he isn’t ready for. The friends he goes to save end up having to save him.

In Return of the Jedi, it is Emperor Palpatine who fails due to his preoccupation with the future, this time fatally so. He confidently asserts that “everything is proceeding as I have foreseen”, constructing his plans around his own foresight. He even says, of Luke, “his compassion for you [Vader] will be his undoing,” and that it is Luke’s “destiny” to join the dark side. But Palpatine misses the truth that is right in front of him – the conflict in Vader. Luke sees this clearly, and in the end, it is Vader’s compassion for Luke that proves to be Palpatine’s undoing. » Read more..

“That’s Not How the Force Works!” – Looking at the Force in The Force Awakens

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The Force has become a rather divisive topic for Star Wars fans. Because of its nebulous nature that’s cribbed and sampled from a number of different mystic and religious beliefs, interpretations of its limits and abilities range across a wide spectrum. It’s especially difficult because of the different ways the Force was handled between the trilogies, with The Phantom Menace introducing midi-chlorians and their symbiotic relationship with cells into the mix while The Empire Strikes Back speaks solely of an omnipresent energy field.

We’re not going to go into all of that, of course. We could write several weeks’ worth of articles about the Force and its ins-and-outs across all of the films, The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. What we are going to do is zero in on the most recent film in the saga and the source for the fantastic quote that gave this article its title. The Force Awakens is very much a throwback film, taking the Star Wars franchise back to its roots, and its portrayal of the Force is no different.

The Force Awakens gives us a back-to-basics look at the Force, with the few practitioners of it being shrouded in mystery and myth, and the extent and even nature of their abilities left open to interpretation. One of the first characters we see on screen, Lor San Tekka, is a member of what supplementary materials call the Church of the Force, an organization that, aside from the name, we know almost nothing about except that they are devoted to keeping the ideals of the Jedi alive even when the Order has been scattered and largely destroyed. It’s an interesting thought and idea, that even those not sensitive to the Force still seek to serve it. » Read more..

The Case for More Padmé Amidala

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Like the rest of Star Wars fandom, I am eagerly anticipating next week’s release of Claudia Gray’s Bloodline. And while I am excited for a Leia-centric political novel, I can’t help but think of the other Skywalker family politician: Padmé Amidala. While I have always loved Leia, as a kid I latched onto Padmé in a way I never did with her daughter. I loved Padmé because she was both someone I looked up to and someone who was relatable. Padmé was a kid who ruled a planet and foiled Sith machinations due to sheer stubbornness and quick thinking, and yet was still totally a teenage girl. She pouts when she doesn’t get her way and makes friends with funny little boys in junk shops. I was enamored.

But sadly, most of the EU apparently doesn’t share my fondness for the galaxy’s most fabulously dressed politician. For a character who makes up one third of the prequel trilogy, she doesn’t get a lot of love outside the movies (or even within the movies, if we’re being honest). But she’s intimately connected to most major players in the saga; she’s close colleagues with Palpatine (at least at first), she’s married to Anakin (and indirectly one of the reasons for his fall), and she’s mother to Luke and Leia. She’s firmly entrenched within the Skywalker family and yet this is rarely acknowledged.

» Read more..

A Republic Both New and Familiar: The First Clues from Bloodline Emerge

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First, a disclaimer: while this piece won’t be getting into major plot details from Bloodline (since we haven’t read it yet), we will be dealing directly with information from the three-chapter excerpt that was released late last week by instaFreebie1 regarding the political context and background of the sequel era. If you deem that to be spoilery, proceed at your own discretion.

Mike: So Jay, you and I have spoken on and off about Leia’s founding of the Resistance as a difficult move to judge from our perspective here in the real world—on the one hand, we know the First Order is a serious threat, but in-universe, it’s very easy to see how she’d come across to the post-Endor generation as an old soldier refusing to accept peace, or worse, as a warmonger. At the beginning of Bloodline we learn that after a couple decades the New Republic senate has polarized into two factions: the Centrists, who favor a stronger leadership role for the Republic and a more aggressive military, and the Populists, who prefer more power and autonomy for individual planets. While at first glance it seems sensible that Leia would be part of the Populist faction, it’s especially interesting considering that she’s on the verge of starting her own army.

What first struck me about this backdrop, though, is how believable it felt—at least to someone used to American politics, which are nominally divided into “federal” people and “state” people. Something you’ve brought up here multiple times is the danger of haphazardly translating contemporary political issues into Star Wars’ fantastical setting, when they don’t really apply. Not only does Centrists/Populists feel to me like an artful distillation of real political divisions, it feels like a very appropriate division for the GFFA to have at this point, when so many of its members would be ex-Imperials and ex-Separatists alike. It takes the sort of generic sense of “corruption” we already knew was coming (and which appeared to varying degrees of success in the Expanded Universe) and grounds it in the known history of the galaxy—just like I’ve been hoping for all along. Did you get a similar real-world feeling from it? » Read more..

  1. Editor’s note–this piece mistakenly credited the release to the Playcrafting newsletter in its original form []
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