Rebels Revisited: Can Good Guys Do No Wrong?


Mike: Who knew the space whale episode would be so controversial?

Where “The Call” continues Star Wars Rebels’ streak of episodes with gorgeous and interesting new visuals and skillful staging and humor, it has provoked fresh debate amongst many fans about exactly when and why the protagonists will choose to kill people—especially striking after “The Protector of Concord Dawn” dealt overtly with the subject for the first time just a couple weeks ago. In that episode Sabine clashes with Kanan and Hera when she wants to take revenge against the Mandalorian Protectors—potential Rebellion allies—for almost killing Hera. This week reshuffles the deck in an unexpected way by pitting Ezra (and eventually Kanan) against Hera in defense of the purrgil, whose lives Hera could give a womprat’s ass about. For my money, the episode does sufficient legwork in justifying Hera’s flippant attitude by explaining that she’s lost comrades to purrgil collisions in the past (she is a professional spacer, after all), but it ignores a much more interesting point: they’re all totes on board with wiping out the Mining Guild goons.

Now, not much is known about the canon Mining Guild (or the Legends one, for that matter), so it’s very easy to assume that they’re much worse than just innocent civilians making a living. But the script certainly doesn’t seem very concerned with getting that across, so it’s just as easy to assume this episode is about our heroes robbing and murdering people who did nothing worse than stand their ground. The directing all but delights in this; we get a quick look at the second TIE pilot moments before Ezra shoots him down, and a nice long look at Boss Yushyn being carried to his apparent demise in the jaws of an angry purrgil. » Read more..

The Scars of Concord Dawn—A Physicist Overthinks Star Wars Rebels


Star Wars art designers seem to have a tendency to carve chunks out of planets lately, be it to make them part of a massive superweapon, to create a hellish and/or exotic landscape, or to show that a place has gone through serious turmoil over the centuries. The latter of those led to the newest depiction of Concord Dawn in the Star Wars Rebels episode two weeks ago, “The Protector of Concord Dawn”, as shown in the picture above. Now, I won’t lie; it looks very cool, and makes for a beautiful and interesting background, more memorable than just what a normal planet with some moons in the darkness of space would be. But still—and Mike knew this when he tempted asked me to write this piece—I can’t put my astrophysicist’s brain aside when looking at it, and as such I can’t help but wondering: could a place like this really exist? Would a planetary body retain that shape after some unknown cataclysm blows away a big portion of it into fragments, or would everything collapse pretty soon under its own weight?

To answer this, one must first gather some basic information. For example, how big is the world in question? In the episode, the surface where the Protectors’ camp is located seems to match what we see of this bigger object from space. And if we assume that it is, we can tell that it has quite an Earth-like gravity (although lower gravity in Star Wars is typically represented like this, too), a comfortable atmosphere with clouds, landscapes that don’t seem so bad harboring what look like rivers or lakes, and an intact half that looks very much like a semisphere. Taking all that into account, I’d say this world is somewhere between the sizes of Mars and Earth (6,000 to 12,000 km in diameter). This is important because size and roundness are related when it comes to planets—If you make a list of all the objects in our solar system, you’ll see that everything with a size of 1,000 kilometers and up is round, no matter how violent its past. The biggest impact basins are no more than a few kilometers deep. Even the Earth is the result of the collision of two planet-sized objects that merged to form a bigger one, and we wouldn’t know if it wasn’t for the fact that this is how the Moon came to exist. » Read more..

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


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


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?


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..

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