Ante Up? – A #FilthyCasual’s Reflections on The Force Awakens

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Before I get into any depth about my (certain) point of view here, let me first say that I LOVE The Force Awakens. Every moment of it. And as some of you might have previously read in my interview with Mike Cooper, I went in 100% unspoiled. I knew nothing, was ready for anything. And I loved everything.

The feel of the movie was delightfully familiar, in the best possible way. The story didn’t feel as much an echo of Episode IV — as I have so often since seen discussed — as it feels like a rhyme, which is precisely what made it seem so very Star Wars to me. All of the previous Episodes distinctly rhyme with one other, hearkening back to different notes and colors of the same concerns, unfurling a history both doomed and destined to repeat over and over in subtle variations of the lessons.

The grander arc feels sewn together on the same cloth, and not just tacked onto it — as I’d feared it might be, following my views of the former Expanded Universe. And, instead of the fantasy ending of celebration and fireworks with Force ghosts nodding in assent as the final word, the galaxy suddenly feels all the more realistic. We see the real ramifications, the unintended consequences of good intentions and all the mess that’s left at what we arbitrarily entitle “the end”. Rey and company have their work cut out for them, not because they’re just individuals who happen to bump into familiar people and places, but as true, logical extensions of a grander theme that began A Long Time Ago, and that never ends. » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: The Artistry Of It All

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Jay: For a while now, I’ve really enjoyed the McQuarrie-esque animation style of Rebels because it brings me back to the original trilogy roots of Star Wars as adventure and space opera. But it wasn’t until this week’s episode that I really put together what the art does for the feel and tone of the show, and how that enhances the storytelling. It helps that there’s been a vast improvement in animation quality — and I don’t just mean the characters, who have far more detail than their season one iterations. The environments have been gorgeous this season: think about Hera flying through the skies of Shantipole, the shattered planetscape of Concord Dawn, and the gorgeous maelstrom of the not-Maw nebula in “Legends of the Lasat”.

The planetary environments have always had a lush, painterly quality to them, even back to the first season — and this seems fairly intentional to me. The views of Lothal/Garel and the new season two worlds resemble actual McQuarrie concept art and matte paintings, and they’re intentionally not computerized. This adds more than an OT feel to it: this makes the story feel like almost like a tableau vivant — but with action! The characters are characters in a painting brought to life, and it adds to the fairy tale and mythological vibe so present in Star Wars.

The otherworldliness had great dividends this episode, as the story took a daring risk in expanding the mythology of the Force. We saw different Force traditions in Legends, and we saw the Nightsisters of The Clone Wars casting spells but the Ashla of the Lasat showed the Force manifesting itself in a more mystical way than we’re used to these days. The Force used to be the province of knights, priests, and/or magicians: Jedi, Sith, and other Force-using traditions that featured people specially imbued with the gift to touch the Force. This time we saw Yoda’s promise in The Empire Strikes Back made real: the Force is in all living things and binds the galaxy together. We’re pretty sure that Zeb is not Force-sensitive in the way that we understand it, he can’t feel what Kanan and Ezra feel. But the ritual had real power to him. The Force is in all things and connects all things — as Lucas and Abrams have said in interviews, the Force is everyone’s common denominator. » Read more..

She’s Not a Jedi Yet?

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I remember reading with interest the rebirth of the Expanded Universe with the release of the Thrawn trilogy. We were going to find out what happened with our favorite characters. And I was sure that we were going to see the tales of adventure that two young Jedi would have – the adventures of Luke and Leia. Because, of course Leia would be a Jedi. That was basically Yoda’s dying request to Luke – “pass on what you have learned! There is another Skywalker!”

Zahn didn’t go that way. Leia had undergone some nominal training, but the realities of politics in a galaxy far, far away (literal politics – not gender politics but organizing a new galactic government) stood in the way. It actually was a theme of the trilogy – the fact that Leia wasn’t making time to learn, that Luke felt fears about training her. She did learn a bit. Zahn did a great job with that bit of character development. But then, in the rest of the EU, she just stopped learning. For something like twenty odd years. So many of the stories just wouldn’t move on to Leia finally becoming a Jedi.

Then we had The Force Awakens come out. J.J. Abrams has said that part of what drove the creation of the story was answering the question, “who is Luke Skywalker?” Fair enough – interesting entry point. But now things would be fixed, because surely, this time around, Luke would do what Yoda said and train his sister. Except, once again, those in charge of officially telling the story decided that Leia wasn’t going to be a Jedi. She’d be Force-sensitive – we see that in the film – but Leia appears to have purposefully not trained as a Jedi. Her talents thus remain latent, never reaching their full potential. » Read more..

Why Give A Damn for Dameron?

poecomic1So, I’m not seeing The Force Awakens yet but am very much interested in the Poe Dameron series, why? Surely, the very act of being interested in such a comic indicates cognitive dissonance at work in my psyche? I say I’m not seeing TFA yet am intrigued by a comic featuring one of its characters? I suppose I could blame Before the Awakening. I did pre-buy that way before the film came out and was stuck with it. But, I haven’t yet found a duff story written by Rucka and so it proved to be so three times over with that book! In this case, I have no such excuse – so why do it?

Let’s consider a tale of taxation. Yea, I refer to the now infamous opening scrawl of The Phantom Menace. Taxes? That’s never going to work as a Star Wars story, no one is going to care about taxes. And that was the view for a while, then a year or so after the film came out, a book called Cloak of Deception was published. A prequel to a prequel, it actually took that nonsensical scrawl and brought order to its chaos. Luceno would go on to do two more books in a similar vein and each aided the main story being told by the films.

Going further back, there is the little matter of how the fan base for Wedge Antilles was tapped to end up with an entire line of stories – ten-to-fourteen books, depending on how you count them and a thirty-five-odd-issue comic run are very respectable stats for what are minor characters. They are also, in the majority of cases, Force-less. What made the X-Wing series sing more than anything else was a downplaying of the Force and the mystical powers it grants. Instead the flying skills of Wedge and Tycho – and later, the deadly Baron Soontir Fel – were portrayed as superb fast thinking combined with equally skilled three-dimensional situational awareness. There’s a great section in I, Jedi, where one of the exceedingly few Force-sensitive pilots, Corran Horn, sims against Tycho Celchu. Horn taps into the Force pre-cognitive ability but finds it is of limited use because Tycho’s adaptive abilities are too damn fast. Sure, Horn can tell what Tycho might do, but at any one time, Tycho’s also running a slew of contingency options, any one of which he can go for. Horn only just won, and only by resorting to the Force. » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: The Matter of Simmer v. Boil

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Ben: Star Wars Rebels‘ first season was a rather brisk affair. With only sixteen episodes’ worth of run time total, we were delivered character introductions, development of those characters, decisions with consequences and plot twists, and a satisfying, rousing conclusion that led nicely into a future full of possibilities. What that meant in terms of storytelling was there was little to no room for padding; every episode paid off somehow at some point, and plots that you might have thought for sure the storytellers had forgotten about wound up coming back.

The second season, by comparison, has had a good deal more than that, around twenty-two episodes, and of course we were all happy at the prospect of getting even more of the show and characters we loved. What I didn’t count on, and what caught a lot of people off-guard, is that the storytelling gears shifted. Rather than continuing to embrace the same taut pace, season two is taking its time with many things. We’ve been introduced to a load of new characters who all had the potential to recur, both good and evil, and a lot of hints and ideas about characters that may or may not pay off later on.

In “The Protector of Concord Dawn” for instance, we got hints about Kanan’s past during the war (directly referencing a current comic storyline, natch), as well as Sabine’s own Mandalorian pedigree, Hera’s position as Phoenix Leader, and the Rebel fleet’s scattered resources slowly coming together. All of it was following up on things that had been seeded earlier this season, but they’re far from concluded at this point. And we got a whole new faction of characters introduced in the Mandalorian Protectors, who might play a huge role later on, or might not play a role at all. Who knows? » Read more..

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