Torn Apart: The Predictable Downfall of Ben Solo

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“Darth Vader is your grandfather.”

There’s no easy way to tell someone that they’re related to one of the most evil men in history, no pleasant way to share information that will shake them to the core. The best thing to do is be upfront, be honest and be willing to talk about it, but Han and Leia did none of these things with their son, Ben Solo. Leia waited for years hoping that the opportunity to tell Ben of his lineage would present itself, undoubtedly keeping it a secret to protect him from the pain it would cause. Unfortunately there’s no such thing as the right time to tell someone their grandfather slaughtered little children and became a monster.

However, Leia’s efforts to find the perfect moment were taken away when her political opponents publicly exposed her relationship to Darth Vader in an effort to ruin her chances of overseeing the New Republic. While they succeeded in preventing her from taking power, what they could not predict was the side effect the news would have on her son. This revelation was potentially the moment that started Ben down the path to fill the void left by Vader’s death.

To understand why Ben was willing to join Snoke we need to look back at a few factors of his life prior to The Force Awakens, some which have been revealed and others we need to deduce from common human behavior. The first thing to examine is Ben’s relationship with the Force. Pablo Hidalgo states in The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary that there is something about Ben that makes Snoke believe he is “the ideal embodiment of the Force, a focal point of both light and dark side ability”. This is not some sort of prophecy like with Anakin Skywalker, but the natural way Ben is connected to the Force. Snoke was able to feel this power in Ben from a very young age and as a result started to pull him towards the dark side early on.
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I’m Watching The Clone Wars and It’s All Star Wars Rebels’ Fault

tcw-filmposterIt is. Really. If it wasn’t for the Rebels cartoon and its friends, the A New Dawn book and the Kanan comic, I’d still be able to not care about the Clone Wars cartoon. Well, that and someone deciding to reboot the entire line a couple of years ago…

If we go back but three years you’ll find I was quite adamantly defending the first Clone Wars run from being steamrolled by its fatter, younger brother! So, what changed? How did I end up in a position where watching the The Clone Wars’ opening movie came to be not only a good idea but a fun experience too? There hangs a tale…

I became interested in Rebels due to brilliance of John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn, which focused on Kanan and Hera. Before then I had no reason to be interested, but those two characters got and kept my interest. Marvel also released a Kanan comic which delved into his origin tale in more detail. The first arc of that book also presented an entirely new take on the clones’ betrayal of the Jedi with Order 66. For anyone who had watched the Clone Wars cartoon, they’d likely have the full story of the chips in the clones and the sense of violation they inflicted. I did not have it but was intrigued enough by the pieces I had.

Even so, what about that animation style? I was far from an immediate fan – cartoony? Sure, but a bit too stylized. That cannot possibly work, can it? Again, all the fault of Rebels. Sure, Rebels is a few years on, the animation has advanced, it’s not quite so stylized – I can notice that only now, but nonetheless the series convinced me that Star Wars can work just fine as animation in the modern era. (Go back far enough and you’ll encounter the Droids and Ewoks cartoons which were fun as a kid, not sure how they’d hold up thirty years on.) » Read more..

Of Gods and Men: Exceptional Individuals in Star Wars

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Among the myriad responses to The Force Awakens, two in particular have caught my eye recently. One is the criticism that Rey is “overpowered,” and that her Force abilities come too easily to her. The other is a theory: that Finn will ultimately be revealed to be Force-sensitive himself. Two very different responses, but I think both are missing a fundamental truth that lies at the heart of Star Wars: simply put, this is a galaxy where some are born with exceptional powers, and others are not, and the films are interested in telling the stories of both.

A brief note before we begin. As this article on StarWars.com suggests, potentially anyone may be able to learn to use the Force to some degree. Midi-chlorians reside, as Qui-Gon Jinn says, within all living things. Yet it is also true that Force powers come more easily to some than others. While there is an interesting story to be told about a character with a low midi-chlorian count who learns to use the Force through hard work and meditation, it is not a story that has yet been told, and I do not see that changing in the near future. As Han Solo bluntly puts it to Finn in TFA, “That’s not how the Force works.”

I should also note that the criticism of Rey being “overpowered” often comes hand-in-hand with the allegation that she is a “Mary Sue.” That reductive and erroneous assertion has been dealt with eloquently by excellent writers elsewhere, so I will not be addressing it here. » Read more..

Grand Admiral Thrawn: Separating Man From Myth

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As the primary antagonist of the inaugural nineties Expanded Universe trilogy, Grand Admiral Thrawn presented a different sort of Imperial villain – one who was intellectual, collected, and yet not darkly sinister. Thrawn stands out and his Empire seems to take on a different tone from the Empire of Palpatine. He presents a better way – order without cruelty, governance without megalomania. Inspired by Napoleon, Rommel, Alexander the Great, and others, Grand Admiral Thrawn is nigh-invincible – defeated but for circumstances – and with him dies the dream of a better Empire. But is all of that true? We’re a pretty big fan of Thrawn – in fact, he’s one of the early Imperial characters we first latched onto as a villain worthy of respect and admiration (having read Kevin J. Anderson and Mike Stackpole prior to Zahn). He was unlike any Star Wars villain to come before or since, and Thrawn very rightly generated a lot of buzz and excitement when his return to the Star Wars canon was announced at Celebration Europe this July. We wanted to say that first as a bit of a disclaimer – that we’re a big fan of Thrawn – before getting to the gist of this article: which is that Grand Admiral Thrawn is tremendously overrated. Now wait – this isn’t one of those “you should feel bad for liking this, and here’s all the reasons why you’re wrong” pieces. The thing about Thrawn is that he’s not perfect – he is flawed, and has made some pretty colossal blunders just in the Thrawn trilogy set of books.

Both in and out of universe, people tend to assume Thrawn is perfect and unbeatable. Out of universe, that can occasionally manifest into excessive fannishness or dislike for a character that is “better” than the film villains. In universe, that manifests in characters assuming that Thrawn is completely beyond the abilities of any of the protagonists to defeat. But Thrawn isn’t invincible – far from it. He makes assumptions, he makes convoluted plans that fail when the slightest thread is unraveled, and he ultimately creates a system that cannot outlast his own demise. He’s also every bit the villain Darth Vader and the Emperor were – he supports the Empire’s mission, and even though later EU books try to put his decision to serve the Emperor into a noble light, the truth is that he literally made a deal with the devil and agreed to serve him.

Here’s the trick though: that’s what makes Thrawn work, and that’s what makes him so good. He operates at a higher tempo than most of his opponents, and gambles with hunches and convoluted plans where the pay-off is so spectacular that it looks like magic. Thrawn not only plays to his opponents’ psychology through his characteristic artistically-informed military tactics, but by causing them to doubt themselves and their own abilities by believing that Thrawn would be aware of their every move. Thrawn uses his own reputation and his opponent’s self-doubts as a weapon, and that’s rather more impressive than if he were simply an all-seeing mastermind. Thrawn’s a genius, but he’s also part charlatan – something that Timothy Zahn himself played off of in his sequel Hand of Thrawn duology that ended the Bantam run of the EU. It’s something we hope to see again in Star Wars Rebels – the mastermind and the trickster, whose evil is of a different shade but nonetheless recognizable as such.

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All is as the Force Wills it – Unpacking the Rogue One Trailer

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So many pretty new pictures! I got together over the weekend with David Schwarz, Ben Crofts, and eventually, guest contributor Nick Adams, to discuss our immediate reactions—thrills, hopes and concerns—to the new trailer for Rogue One that premiered last Thursday. That’s all there is to say—enjoy!

Mike: First topic: it’s hard to have a measured conversation about a trailer without devolving into “ohmigod that shot was so cool”, so purely from an aesthetic standpoint, what were some of your favorite images?

David: It’s hard to choose, isn’t it? That trailer was a feast!

Ben: Superlaser star destroyer eclipse, Donnie Yen = badass

Ben: The canyon sequences were damn cool.

David: I have to go with the Death Star eclipsing Jedha’s sun. There’s something primal about eclipses, I guess. Plus it made me think about what the view from Alderaan was.

Mike: I choose to think that the Death Star went out of its way to block the sun just to mess with everybody.

Ben: Eclipses are just a great homage to THAT Empire sequence with the Executor. There’s also that talk Tarkin gives in Darklighter about seeing the Death Star rise above a world.

Mike: I wonder if Alderaan could see it at all—it seems way, way closer to Jedha than it was to Alderaan. Which could have any number of implications.

David: I also loved the final shot, the “we are with you to the end”. A bunch of nobodies ready to fight the Empire. 100% Star Wars. » Read more..

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