So, how much of Rogue One have we seen already?

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Well, it’s that time again—a new Star Wars film is only two weeks away, and promotion, once considered by some to be worryingly sparse, has reached the “unavoidable” stage. According to ComicBook.com’s YouTube channel, there are at least sixteen discrete Rogue One TV spots, plus two behind-the-scenes featurettes, three “international” trailers, two standard trailers, the original one-minute teaser from last spring, and last but not least a full 39-second clip that was released literally as I was writing this paragraph.

With all this stuff floating around, some inevitably start to wonder aloud if they’re showing too much. This was an even more pronounced concern a year ago, when spoiler aversion for The Force Awakens was at an almost religious intensity, so it occurred to me, a moderately spoiler-phobic fan myself, to actually sit down and do the math. After adding up all the distinct content I could find, I ended up with a figure of about five and a half minutes, or about four percent of TFA’s expected running time. That didn’t seem like very much after all, and furthermore, it turned out that the later a scene was situated in the film, the less of it we’d seen—almost half of the content was from Jakku, in fact.

But TFA was a special circumstance by any measure; an utterly blank canvas where simply the existence of stormtroopers, for example was Major New Information to be doled out carefully. With Rogue One, we already know how the damn thing ends: the Death Star plans are handed off to Princess Leia with Darth Vader in hot pursuit. The stakes here are not in the mission’s success but in the ultimate cost in the lives of the team, none of whom seem to be around later—but even the most revealing trailers generally have enough sense not to reveal who dies. So all things considered, it’s reasonable to expect a much lower bar for withholding the details of RO from us, and for that to be reflected in the material they’ve released. But there’s only one way to know for sure, so it’s time once again to dive deep into the footage and see what’s what. » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: “When Have I Asked You to Trust Me and it Hasn’t Worked Out?”

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Mike: While it was as entertaining as Hondo episodes always are, the thing I found sort of perplexing about this week’s installment of Star Wars Rebels was that I’m not certain what they want us to think of Hondo at this point. He stands firmly apart from the assortment of quasi-recruits we discussed last week in that he has no direct interest in the Rebel cause and only works with them when he can get something out of it, but it seemed like the larger point of this episode was to suggest to viewers that Ezra is fundamentally mistaken in trusting him, and continuing their chaotic friendship is going to lead our heroes to a bad place.

But would that amount to sowing doubt for its own sake, or are Hondo and Ezra headed for a real split soon? It’s more likely, I think, that they’d want us to think they are in advance of a genuine hero moment for Hondo. For all the noise the characters make about him only being out for himself, the creators have always had so much obvious affection for the character (going back to his adventures with Obi-Wan and Anakin in The Clone Wars) that I have a hard time seeing him ever truly betray Ezra and the gang in a serious way—as Ezra notes, he may be sketchy but teaming up with him has always worked out in the end. Are they really signaling a change in that dynamic? According to Taylor Gray in Rebels Recon, Ezra feels genuine affection for Hondo because he reminds him of the carefree scoundrel he was as a child–so what did he take away from this week’s events that he didn’t know already?

Ben: Well, right now it seems to be a question of driving a wedge between him and Hera. Hera’s buckled down on the shenanigans as things have gotten more intense and serious, especially with Kanan being blinded and taking a backseat, and having Hondo (and Azmorigan) around is putting an agent of chaos into the mixture. I feel there was a bit of meta-commentary when Ezra mentioned that every time they team up with Hondo, things seem to work themselves out in the end. Even in this episode, they rescued the Ugnaught and got away with a hold full of proton bombs. Yes, it does work out, we know from a narrative standpoint that it will because Hondo is who he is from an out-of-universe perspective. But Hera doesn’t have our perspective, and neither does Zeb. » Read more..

Is the Empire a “White Supremacist” Organization? Should It Be?

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Mike: Many, many moons ago, before The Force Awakens and before the Expanded Universe reboot, our own Jay Shah wrote a piece entitled Senseless Sexism in the Galactic Empire. His premise, in short, was a) that the Star Wars setting offered no logical explanation for an Empire that actively discriminates against female officers, and b) that in practice the EU’s attempts to engage with the issue had been flawed to the point that it would have been better left out altogether.

Jay was reacting to the simple fact that because Imperials are the bad guys—and more importantly, stand-ins for real-life oppressive governments—many are quick to ascribe any and all bad qualities to them. Surely there’s an anti-alien contingent, as witnessed in A New Hope and further supported by the prequel trilogy, but does the Empire actually discriminate against women, or people of color, as well? It’s easy to get that impression when every Imperial in the original trilogy is a white man (though the Rebels in ANH and The Empire Strikes Back aren’t much more diverse), but looking at their successors in the First Order complicates the issue—as do prominent non-film characters like Rae Sloane, who has largely been met with joy from fans for making the overall setting more inclusive, and demonstrating that anyone can be, well, “the bad guy”.

With all this serving as prelude, in the aftermath of last week’s heated US presidential election, Chris Weitz and Gary Whitta, two writers attached to Rogue One, tweeted the following:

Chris Weitz @chrisweitz
Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization

Gary Whitta @garywhitta
Opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.

While nothing tossed off on Twitter (and since deleted) should be taken as canon, and it certainly can’t undo the existence of the powerful, serious black woman who becomes the nominal leader of the Imperial military after Palpatine’s death, I thought Weitz and Whitta’s comments (and let’s be real, the current events that prompted them) merited a revisiting of this topic. So I’ll put the question to all of you: as a separate matter from the “reality” of gender and race discrimination within the GFFA, which can never really have a definitive answer, is there value in explicitly, rather than allegorically, linking the Empire to misogyny and white supremacy? Can there be a sliding scale of interaction with real hate, or is it all or nothing? » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: “Sounds like a Shipful of Ezras”

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Ben: Writing teenagers is hard. It’s very easy for teens to come off as annoying, since the most common stereotypes for them are them being self-confident, rebellious or angst-ridden, and sometimes all three at once. Of course, most adult viewers won’t remember what being a teenager is like, loaded with the beginnings of emotions and understanding that will eventually give way to adulthood, typically through circumstances and time.

Rebels stepped into this minefield right away by giving us Ezra, the precocious youth with the laser slingshot and enough attitude to thumb his nose at the stormtroopers stomping around his hometown. Ezra has developed a lot over the show’s course, though, so the writers knew better than to just give us a teenager and leave him as it was for the long term. It probably helps that they had experience with Ahsoka’s character arc in The Clone Wars.

In “Iron Squadron”, we meet a crew of three teens much like Ezra when we first saw him: young, scrappy and willing to stick it to the Empire however they can. Unlike Ezra, who was on his own before being found by Kanan, the trio who make up Iron Squadron only have each other. Their leader, Mart, lost his father in the resistance, and it was likely his idea for them to take a ship and use it to fight back however they could. Unlike Ezra, who was embittered about fighting after his own parents’ death, Mart sought to follow his father’s example. » Read more..

The Manipulation of Galen Erso – Catalyst: A Rogue One Story

catalyst1It’s a unique time in the life of Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel. The book is, as the name indicates, a direct tie-in to Rogue One, a movie which is not even out in theaters for another few weeks. We still do not know the extent of how the two works will tie in together, what from one will show up in the other or how much one work may lean on the other for support in character development or story. Thus, this will be an examination of the book on its own merits rather than as a tie-in.

Let’s start with overall impressions before we get into what might be considered spoiler territory. Catalyst is written by James Luceno in the grand tradition of Luceno Star Wars novels, in that it ties to the larger events of a film or other project while still telling its own story. Catalyst is very much a prequel, but it tells its own tale well enough to not need the help of the film to support it. It does, however, give context to larger events by taking us behind the scenes, as it were. In this case, we go behind the scenes of the creation of the Empire’s first superweapon.

Through the novel we follow three characters, Galen Erso and his wife Lyra, along with their “friend” and greatest supporter Orson Krennic. The relationship between the three is complicated and ever-evolving as the galaxy spins, events unfold and everything changes around them. We follow our dysfunctional trio from the midst of the Clone Wars through the end of the war to the midst of the Galactic Empire, but the true strength of the book isn’t in the myriad of references or hints at things yet to come; its strength is the leads and the choices they make, the characters themselves bearing the weight of the story.

» Read more..

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