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The Rise of Skywalker: It’s Kind Of A Lot

This piece contains major spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker. Like, all of them, probably several times over. Proceed accordingly.

Mike: Well, that happened.

I anticipated that my piece on The Rise of Skywalker two days ago would likely serve better as a semi-conclusive statement on the sequel era than something I forced myself to stay awake for in the aftermath of the movie, so instead of tackling this reaction piece single-handedly I invited the whole staff to weigh in with their first thoughts—but some quick ones from me first, because I’m in charge.

My friend Pearl and I both loved The Force Awakens, but we had absolutely polar reactions to The Last Jedi, and we’ve been arguing about it for two years, and will probably keep arguing about it forever because we’re like that. What I kept thinking during my first viewing of Rise tonight was that the movie felt precision-calibrated to make both of us, despite the separate universes we’ve been living in, equally happy—or at the very least, minimize our unhappiness at all costs.

Palpatine’s alive, but kind of not. Rey’s parents were nobody, from a certain point of view. Rose is there, but she doesn’t do much. There’s a gay kiss, but not the one people wanted. There’s a Reylo kiss, but it’s quick and vague and then he drops dead. Chewie dies and comes back. Threepio “dies” and comes back. There are porgs, but just barely. Hux goes rogue, but just barely. And on, and on—J.J. Abrams seems to screamingly, desperately want to make as many of us as happy as he possibly can, and if it required smothering logical and thematic coherence with a pillow, he was just the guy to do it.

But the thing is, superficial enjoyment is Abrams’s number one skill—and I’m honestly not saying that in a critical way, he’s really good at it. TFA definitely has a much, much easier lift than this thing does, but it’s got superficial enjoyability leaking out of every frame—and when it’s dumb, it’s just as dumb as Rise is. So I find myself in a weird position where I’m intellectually cynical but emotionally content, because a surprise acid trip that ruined your plans for the evening is still an acid trip, and chemically, it’s got you.

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Second Look: Who Are the Hostiles? – Star Wars and Colonialism

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In the Star Wars Rebels finale, there’s a masterful use of Kevin Kiner’s score, which flips its meaning on its head.

Grand Admiral Thrawn is once again pontificating on his art collection, explaining to Ezra Bridger that even though his homeworld of Lothal is about to be destroyed, at least some of the culture will be preserved. It will be safe in the hands of the Empire. Ezra is less than grateful, and counters Thrawn immediately:

You think you can take whatever you want. Things you didn’t make. Didn’t earn. Things you don’t even understand. You don’t deserve to have this art or Lothal.1

As Ezra erupts into this speech, Thrawn’s theme begins building in the background. This track is primarily used to highlight when Thrawn is closing in on victory, usually as a result of his deductive capabilities. Here, it’s building to Ezra’s victory, a moral voice slapping down Thrawn’s entitlement to cultures not his own.

It’s a re-appropriation of art on a meta level, as Ezra stares into the face of colonialism.

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  1. “Family Reunion and Farewell”. Star Wars Rebels. 2018. []

Qi’ra’s Choice – A Play on the Femme Fatale Archetype

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I have never been fond of the femme fatale. While that role gave a female character something more to do in the mystery/crime genre, exchanging passivity for vileness has always seemed a poor tradeoff. Moreover, the femme fatale frequently was punished at the end of the tale, not just for being evil but for also for daring to step outside of the usual definitions of femininity at the time of the archetype’s inception.

This development of the femme fatale as an active and evil player in the mystery/crime genre was a reflection of anxieties surrounding the changing roles of women in America in the 1920s and the 1940s-50s1. Female characters were given power in the genre by male authors, but that power was designed to denote terror, not heroism2. Heroism was instead assigned to the men who were capable of overcoming the wiles of these women and bringing them to punishment in the end.

The femme fatale exists as a test for the hero, to see if he is able to reject emotion and retain the isolation that is threatened by his attraction to the femme fatale. Will the hero be able to resist her and do the right thing? Raymond Chandler, a major influence in the noir sub-genre, was particularly fond of this trope. In the original novel Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, the hero and the femme fatale commit suicide together rather than being caught. In Chandler’s script adaptation, the hero instead decides to shoot the femme fatale, thus removing the element of choice in her death and reestablishing the aspect of punishment. Read More

  1. Unless otherwise noted, all original research for this piece is sourced from “Femme Fatale”, part of The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction by David Schmid, 2016. []
  2. Stuart, Esther M. “Femme Fatales and the Shifting Gender Norms of the 19th Century” (2017). Electronic Theses & Dissertations. 1602. []