If you have any involvement whatsoever in the loose-knit community that is “Star Wars Twitter”,1 Story Grouper Pablo Hidalgo is hard to avoid. While several other prominent Lucasfilm employees have Twitter accounts, Pablo almost certainly has the biggest profile among major (read: obsessive) Star Wars fans, due to his status as one of the company’s “continuity experts” and his willingness to answer, or at least respond to, even the most inane and redundant questions. Needless to say, those questions are exactly what he gets, and while he must find it rewarding or amusing on some level, the intensity of the reactions he can provoke occasionally seems to frustrate him—over the last couple months, he’s made a series of lighthearted attempts to rebrand himself as a Transformers artist (which, okay, he technically is), a Revan stan, yours truly, and as of this writing, a lovable kitten.
But I can’t read his mind; his social media personae are his own prerogative and he owes us nothing. What I do want to unpack is something he’s mentioned once or twice in the last few weeks—that he prefers Rogue One to The Force Awakens. This is no great surprise, in my opinion, as Pablo is an “old school” fan and RO is very much an “old school” kind of Star Wars story; if not for the fact that it directly overwrites around a dozen stories from the Expanded Universe, it would fit in very neatly with that brand of storytelling, which is where Pablo largely cut his teeth as a Star Wars professional (and as a fan). We’re largely the same type of fans here at Eleven-ThirtyEight—the site was created in part to act as a bridge between the EU and the larger fandom—and without having asked, I’d venture to guess that most if not all of my staff writers also prefer RO to TFA. But after giving it a lot of thought over the last couple months…I don’t think I do.
Truth be told, I suspected as much from the minute my first viewing ended. I loved the movie in that moment, and I continue to love it.2 But sure enough, I love it in the way I love the best of the EU; it’s like an amazing behind-the-scenes feature about the all the work that went into the real story that is A New Hope. It’s an excellent and vital supplement to the Star Wars saga, but it’s a supplement nonetheless.
This is not a point of view I came to easily, or ever expected in my wildest dreams to arrive at. The first question I asked after seeing the original trilogy for the first time was “okay, and what else happened?”, which is what led me to the EU to begin with. When D-Day finally arrived, I met the news of a sequel trilogy the way you might view a series of inoculations before a big vacation—a necessary evil to get to the really good stuff. The spinoffs, I felt, would be an opportunity for the wild experimentation of the EU (and, to be fair, The Clone Wars) to really take off and go nuts, to provide a freshness Star Wars in that moment sorely needed. With Rogue One, that hope very much came true. But what I never saw coming was how much The Force Awakens would capture my imagination first.
That’s not to say TFA is a perfect movie; I might even grant that RO is better on a technical or creative level. The Han/Leia banter on D’Qar was a smidge too cute for me, and Starkiller Base turned out to be that necessary evil I was worried about, the unfortunate thing we had to endure to kickstart the stuff that really mattered. But I don’t really view Star Wars movies as movies in a technical or creative sense; they’re a visceral experience, two-hour expressions of a much larger unseen mechanism—and RO just doesn’t tap into that for me. I love that Jyn Erso exists, but nothing she does feels as gripping or as consequential to me as the moment Anakin’s lightsaber snaps into Rey’s hands. The real test of how much I like a Star Wars movie is how much I want to rewatch it as the years unfold, and I enjoy TFA as much now as I did a year ago—while I can already feel RO becoming more of an analytical experience, something I rewatch to count the female background characters or to study the makeup of the Rebel fleet. I neither know nor care how many capital ships are in the shot of Hosnian Prime because that’s a canon thing, and the canon matters of TFA are secondary to OMG REY AND FINN AND POE.
But look at me veering off-course again—none of that is the point of this piece. The point is, when Pablo mentioned that he likes Rogue One better, and it hit me (right then and there, really) that I didn’t, I saw no problem with that. I didn’t leap from that to “Pablo hates the sequels”, or “Pablo and JJ Abrams didn’t get along”, or “Pablo has a vendetta against Kyle Katarn”. I also didn’t intuit from our disagreement that he’d think less of me as a fan for this.
But beyond even that, why should you, as a lone fan out there in the wild, even give a shit what Pablo thinks? He’s just a guy. His tweets are not 140-character excerpts from the Journal of the Whills; his books go through the same editorial process as everyone else’s. He has an incredibly awesome day job, and his tastes and sensibilities certainly influence what comes out of this franchise to some degree, but he’s not even in charge of anything—Kiri Hart is the head of Story Group, and I’ve never seen anyone fret over whether she thinks Dash Rendar is a stupid character.
I love the Expanded Universe. Wrote a gigantic book to that effect and loved every minute. But I will never not make fun of Dash Rendar.
— Pablo Hidalgo (@pablohidalgo) September 21, 2016
Star Wars puts out a shit-ton of product because it has a shit-ton of fans and Lucasfilm endeavors to satisfy a variety of interests; nobody is expected to like everything, and as long as our support allows Pablo and Kiri and Leland Chee and Rayne Roberts and Matt Martin and Whoever I’m Forgetting to keep those awesome jobs of theirs, they’re not going to judge you for refusing to buy EU books with Legends banners on them, or for still not being over 1313‘s cancellation, or for being really, really into Reylo. It’s great that Pablo makes himself so available to us fans, even if it’s only a by-product of his weird compulsion to draw robot dump trucks, but you don’t need his input on every thought that crosses your mind—and you damned sure don’t need his approval. So just this once, maybe don’t bother with that tweet you’re planning.