The Parity Problem, or Why Padmé is the Best Character in the Prequels

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With the dawn of the sequel trilogy less than a year away, 2015 has been a year of relitigation: new and old segments of Star Wars fandom, maybe even subconsciously, attempting to settle old scores and nail down our history one way or another so what we might all move forward together into whatever the hell The Force Awakens ends up being.

Most recently, this could be seen in last month’s brouhaha over two “Slave Leia” stories: first, a parent taking issue with the character’s presence in the toy aisle, where she was discovered by his young daughter. Then, just a couple days later, the new issue of GQ magazine featured a cover and photo spread with Amy Schumer involving the slave bikini, the droids, and pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Some people loved it, some were offended, and some (hi) just found it boring.

That was a couple weeks ago and people are still talking about Slave—excuse me, Huttslayer Leia and whether that scene was good, bad, or just plain unnecessary. For my money, Tricia Barr covered all the right bases and then some. But way before Leia ended up in the news again, 2015 began with the relitigation of, perhaps, an even more controversial element of Star Wars: the death of Padmé in Revenge of the Sith. » Read more..

The Expanded Universe Explains, Vol. XI – The Bounty Hunters of Ord Mantell

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After a nice long break to recover from the insanity of the Death Star plans (which I recently adapted into a short video for Star Wars Minute), we now return to our regularly-scheduled program, wherein I explicate the handful of offhand references in the original trilogy that the Expanded Universe couldn’t help but explain multiple times over. This time around:

22. What happened with the bounty hunter Han “ran into” on Ord Mantell?

By my count (and one thing I learned from the Death Star piece is that there’s a fair chance I’m missing someone), there are seven different encounters on Ord Mantell between Han and at least one bounty hunter between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. In researching this piece, one interesting thing I noticed is that, counterintuitively, about half of these weren’t even directly the result of Jabba’s bounty, but were instead brought on by Han’s position in the Rebellion. This is neat because it sort of contradicts the context of Han’s line in Empire but at the same time reinforces the idea that he’s ready to move on. Like lots of stuff in this period, some of the dating is fuzzy, but I’m going to attempt to run through them all chronologically, starting with… » Read more..

Welcome the Sweet Embrace of Disappointment: Reading and Writing in a Shared Universe

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Being one of those eternal constants of life alongside death and taxes, disappointment has been an inseparable part of Star Wars (like countless other franchises) since the very beginning: many of those who enjoyed A New Hope were turned off by the darker turn taken by The Empire Strikes Back and welcomed the comparatively joyful Return of the Jedi, while more modern critics and audiences are often inclined to have quite the opposite reaction. The prequels are even more divisive, ranging from those who wish they’d never even been made to those who consider them vastly superior to the Original Trilogy. Reception for entries in the Expanded Universe span a veritable roller coaster of reactions.

Significant events, whether they be on screen or transmitted through the written word, are even more likely to arouse controversy and outrage, especially when the matter of major character death arises. Chewbacca and Mara Jade Skywalker come to mind, to say nothing of the wailing and gnashing of teeth that will undoubtedly happen when the Big Three finally bite the proverbial dust. But, of course, a universe in which nothing ever changes and nobody of importance ever dies is hardly reasonable or suspenseful, either. So why is it that we’re so frequently disappointed by the products we buy, and what can be done about it?

» Read more..

The Pitch: Space Travel is For Suckers

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Alongside the now-confirmed Han Solo movie and the still-theoretical Boba Fett movie, one of the most perennially-rumored spinoff films is one (or three!) centering on Obi-Wan Kenobi. While such a movie could conceivably be set during the Clone Wars thanks to Ewan McGregor’s annoying eternal youthfulness, speculation generally assumes the movie would be set during his exile on Tatooine (for the record, Ewan is currently 44, which in Obi years puts him at about six years after Revenge of the Sith). Speculation also tends to assume, at least when I’ve seen it, that the story would involve some sort of dire mission pulling him away from Tatooine for a brief time.

Leaving aside the conceit that anything could be important enough to pull him away from Luke, and leaving aside the fact that rather than twiddling his thumbs, the one thing we know for sure is that Obi-Wan spent that time communing with Qui-Gon and Yoda and learning how to transcend death (which was still a distant second on his list of priorities after safeguarding Luke), it bugs me when people take for granted the idea that an Obi-Wan movie would automatically require him to leave Tatooine, because for all its ostensible overuse in the film saga, Tatooine is really interesting.

Look no further than John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi, a book dealing with that selfsame period that manages to restrict its action not just to the one planet, but to an area small enough to fit on a handy-dandy map. Kenobi, the first novel whose release Eleven-ThirtyEight had the privilege of covering, was a rousing and heartrending adventure story with more shades of the traditional western than A New Hope could’ve, ah, hoped to squeeze into its running time—and not for one second does the reader find themselves wondering “yeah, but what’s going on on Coruscant right now?” » Read more..

The Downfall of the Star Wars Film Universe

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The Effects Wizards

The wonders of modern visual effects have brought some terrifically imaginative and amazingly realistic things to the screen in the past couple of decades. Ever since Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 let the computer genie out of the bottle, the limits to what can be portrayed on screen have shortened more and more each year. Since the turn of the millennium, technology has advanced to such a point where just about any world, creature or event can be created or re-created in lifelike detail, no matter how outrageous it is. It’s certainly hard to see how a good number of the modern blockbuster films most of us see each summer might have been made just twenty years earlier. They might have been made, certainly, but they would have looked a lot different.

As amazing as this has been for those who love movies, it has also had an unfortunate retroactive effect on films done before this time. » Read more..

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