In accordance with my goal of keeping this site reasonably positive, the normal function of our What Star Wars Can Learn From series is to highlight great things about other franchises that we feel would serve as valuable lessons for Star Wars—in other words, suggesting good stuff instead of dwelling on bad stuff. In the run up to this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, however, an interesting circumstance presented itself that required a somewhat different take on the concept.
First, allow me to start with some history. Just about fifteen years ago, the epic New Jedi Order novel series began with an ambitious set of goals: it aimed to move on from the long-drawn-out conflict between the Rebels and the Empire, while at the same time shifting the focus from Luke, Han and Leia to their children—and finally, to do all this in a more, let’s say grown-up, atmosphere where good and evil weren’t so simply delineated and where the good guys were in genuine danger. It was a controversial period in Star Wars publishing, but for better or worse, most people will at least agree that these goals were never met so perfectly and enthusiastically as in Matthew Stover’s Jacen Solo-centric novel Traitor.
The book began with Jacen having been captured by the alien Yuuzhan Vong invasion force, and remanded into the custody of Vergere, herself a bizarre alien of a different feather who claimed to have once been a Jedi of the Old Republic. In any event, her take on the Force was certainly much more nuanced than what Jacen—and us Star Wars fans—had grown up hearing. The Dark Side, Vergere suggested, wasn’t some malevolent exterior force, but was in fact a part of us all; only by acting through love or hate does one truly commit to one side or the other. » Read more..
Thirty years is a long time between Episodes VI and VII. The GFFA will have to completely rebuild its political systems and recover from a civil war, and the Jedi will have to find some way to continue. Now that all of this time is completely open, what are the possibilities for reestablishing the Jedi? Restoring order to the galaxy as a whole is a challenge enough, but the Jedi have been the protectors of justice and the Republic, and perhaps it just won’t be a new Republic without them.
In Heir to the Empire, Luke is reminded that he is “not the last of the old Jedi, but the first of the new.” Regardless of canonicity of this moment, this is a weighty charge. Giving one quickly-trained Jedi the responsibility of restoring the entire order is intimidating. So much Jedi history has been lost and destroyed to the point that Luke has literally no clue where to go from there, and there are no easy answers. In the Expanded Universe, Luke muddles through reestablishing the Jedi. Records appear, potential students come out of the woodwork, and it becomes clear that the Empire hasn’t been able to completely eradicate all non-Imperial Force-users. Some student succeed and become the teachers for the next generation, some fall to the dark side, some leave the order- just as the old Jedi order. Considering how little information Luke has to work with, it’s quite a miracle that the Jedi return and survive.
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..
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.
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..