Star Wars and Totalitarianism: Less is More

Totalitarianism is a frightening notion and, in theory, one of the things the Rebels fight against in SW. The last pre-reboot book, Honor Amongst Thieves, had Han and Chewie pay a visit to a cold, tightly controlled Imperial world called Cioran. It makes for a quite chilling example of what the Empire’s vision of utopia is. At the same time the story is smart enough to know that for Star Wars a light touch is better where totalitarian systems are concerned. Why? Because totalitarianism is both a past and present horror.

With the end of the Cold War, the spectre of totalitarianism faded to a degree. To many now, the Cold War is two decades away and consigned to history. Yet, while the world has the sheer lunacy of North Korea to remind it of totalitarianism’s excesses, its more subtle form embodied in China tends to be missed. To do justice to what totalitarianism embodies would be for SW to abandon much of what it is. No looking up, no hope for the future, no freedom to even think, never mind act! » Read more..

The Art of Star Wars

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Alas, despite the name, this is not to be an exhibition of the countless fine works that have been produced by this franchise’s artists over the years, though they would undoubtedly be deserving of such a feature. Instead, today we’ll be taking some time to discuss the place of military strategy in Star Wars – or rather, the technological basis that makes it all possible.

As even a cursory study of history will tell you, the methods by which wars are fought have always depended heavily on the tools available at the time. All great advances in weaponry have heralded significant changes in the very nature of how warfare is conducted – consider the evolution in our own history from mounted knight in armor to modern infantryman, or from ancient galley to aircraft carrier.

Despite their somewhat eclectic nature, the standards of warfare in the universe of Star Wars are fairly well established, if not the specifics. Starfighters are more or less analogous to World War II fighter aircraft, infantrymen are still deeply entrenched in trench warfare, and starships map more closely to the great vessels of the Age of Sail than actual spacecraft, lining up alongside each other and blasting away with broadsides.

It is an approach that I, for one, wholeheartedly endorse: while a realistic depiction of space combat might be scientifically interesting, it would make for rather dull watching and reading. However, in a galaxy that often finds itself sundered by war, even such dynamic portrayals of combat will eventually become stale, so it would be of considerable benefit to us to be forward-thinking about what we can do to stir the formula a bit to keep it fresh.

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Why So Serious?

Recently a YouTube video answered the question of: How to make Star Wars cool? The answer was: Give it a bitching new soundtrack! Or, more accurately, re-edit SW into a trailer that riffs on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy trailer! And does it work! It actually throws all the great things about SW right in your face – namely, all the fun stuff!

Fun gets a bad rap these days and has for years. Fun is not deemed to be suitably grown-up, fun is not serious, fun lacks gravitas and dignity. Fun in a post-9/11 world seemed out of place, something that did not belong. Certainly there’s a real schism in Marvel and DC’s superhero output before and after. Before, Kang destroys Washington and then gets defeated, city gets rebuilt. After? That story would likely be unthinkable – why are the heroes not held at fault for failing to stop the bad guy? A SW riff on this would be that the Rebels are at fault for not stopping the Death Star before it blew up Alderaan, bunch of lazy bastards that they are!

It took years but finally Robert Kirkman took aim at this worldview in Invincible, with one character laying into the lead with all the bad things that have happened and gets told – yeah, that happens! Huh? Shit happens and that’s it? Well, what else is there to say? We live in a fucked-up world at the best of times, that shouldn’t be news to anyone. Yet superheroes are sent barreling down this skewed path in search of a perfect morality that’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And, for SW, so too, are the Jedi. » Read more..

Clone Wars Character Autopsy: Ahsoka Tano

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Our previous two articles focused on some of the villains of The Clone Wars, both of whom originated elsewhere but received the lion’s share of their development within the 100-plus episodes of the TV show. There were many notable characters who were created specifically for the show as well, on both sides of the conflict. But none of them received the spotlight as much or as harshly as Ahsoka Tano.

Behind the scenes, Ahsoka was created as part of the initial outline of the show, which involved her and an elder Jedi Master, along with other more motley crew members, traveling the Outer Rim and involving themselves with various adventures. George Lucas saw the concept art and initial sketches of her and proposed that she be apprenticed to a more notable Jedi instead: Anakin Skywalker. Ahsoka, in his eyes, would be the ideal tool to help Anakin develop from the brash, undisciplined apprentice he was at the end of Attack of the Clones into a more mature, reserved Jedi Knight in Revenge of the Sith.

Like Asajj Ventress before her, however, Ahsoka would grow into a full-fledged character in her own right. Though apprenticed to Anakin, throughout the show’s run she often left Anakin’s side and joined other Jedi on adventures through many scopes of the war. This, along with her unorthodox lightsaber style and penchant for giving nicknames (and snark) to everyone she met rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way as she made her debut in the Clone Wars movie. On the other hand, she has become a favorite character for a large portion of fans for some of those same reasons, especially among young girls. » Read more..

Second Look – A Case for Starting Over

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One of the founding hypotheses of this website is that even in a post-reboot landscape, readers of the Expanded Universe are uniquely positioned to recognize the pitfalls and possibilities of continuing the main story of Star Wars beyond Return of the Jedi—and that understanding that landscape makes our insight valuable in the Sequel Era even if our beloved stories no longer “happened”. As staff writer Alexander Gaultier put it in the first of his six-part series A Case for Starting Over:

“…it is beyond any doubt that the galaxy far, far away will have undergone a great number of significant changes [in the thirty years since Jedi]. The Rebel Alliance will likely have restored the Galactic Republic, or at least founded a successor state of their own. Luke will have reestablished the fabled Jedi Order and begun training a new generation of Jedi Knights. Our heroes will have children, who now go on to face their own challenges. All these things have occurred at one point or another in the Expanded Universe that has been growing since the day A New Hope was released.”

Over the following several months, Alexander would break down the framework of the EU from many different angles, highlighting what worked, analyzing what didn’t, and suggesting all sorts of new avenues by which we might at arrive at even the most foregone of conclusions. He added:

“Given the complicated nature of the early development of the Expanded Universe, I don’t think its vision of the galaxy after Return of the Jedi is a bad one. I do, however, believe that we are fully capable of doing better, and that the sequel trilogy offers us the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that.”

Each part of the series can be reached below, or you can click the link at the top of this post to view the entire category.

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