Skip to main content

The Perfect Space Battle: What Scarif and Exegol Learned, or Didn’t, From the Battle of Endor

I don’t use the word perfect a lot, but I do for the space battle over Endor in Return of the Jedi. That film, released 37 years ago (nearly one month after the birth of a future online admiral with a penchant for fish people), undoubtedly laid out the structure for how good space battles are designed, shot, and utilized narratively. It is the fleet battle against which all fleet battles in sci-fi are measured against. Our gold standard.

Before I dive in, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a quick shout out to the brilliant minds at Industrial Light & Magic, both past and present. Those wizards created fantastic physical and digital models for these space battles and the techniques to film or compose a shot. Regardless of these battles’ narrative elements, ILM’s work is perfect and without peer.

This article will focus primarily on the narrative structure of a good space battle and how, when used properly, they can be an integral and memorable part of a film. To do so, I will first showcase the decisions and story beats that comprise the space battle over Endor. Second, I will compare these traits to what we see in the two major fleet battles of the modern Star Wars era, the Battle of Scarif in Rogue One and the Battle of Exegol in The Rise of Skywalker. Along the way, we’ll see what works, what doesn’t, and what are the elements of the “secret sauce” that makes a damned good space battle!

Read More

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.

Read More

The Return of the Mon Calamari – An Interview with Ethan Sacks

The Journey to The Rise of Skywalker is underway and we’re excited to share an interview I recently conducted with Ethan Sacks, Marvel Comics author and longtime Star Wars fan, about his miniseries Star Wars: Allegiance, which debuts this week. Set between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, Allegiance shows the ongoing efforts of Leia Organa and the Resistance to light the spark of rebellion once more to face the First Order. In dire need of allies and with their numbers reduced, Leia reaches out to the world of Mon Cala, hoping they will join the fight once again.

First off, thank you for taking the time for this interview, Ethan! For starters, could you walk us through how this opportunity popped up and how you went about crafting your initial story pitch?

My wonderful editors, Mark and Tom, came to me with the assignment right as we were wrapping up Galaxy’s Edge. I knew it would be a little bit of a tricky dance because this story had to fit neatly as a puzzle piece that lined up with J.J. Abrams’ vision for The Rise of Skywalker, so Lucasfilm was very involved in helping me hone the story so that it fills in some of the backstory that happens before the final installment starts. But I had some leeway as to how we got there.

When we last see the Resistance at the end of The Last Jedi, it is basically down to a few dozen people and the Millennium Falcon. Can you give us a sense of how much time has passed when your story starts and what have our heroes been up to?

It’s a few months later and the Resistance is scrambling from planet to planet to find more ships and weapons to stand a fighting chance against the First Order. But Kylo Ren is still nursing his own outrage over being outwitted by his former teacher and being abandoned by the one person in the galaxy he thought would understand him. So, finding Rey and crushing the Resistance is very, very personal. Which means General Organa has little room to maneuver.

Read More

The Case Against a Galactic Republic – Continuing Thoughts

Mike: Over the last few years I’ve started to wonder whether the Old Republic’s model of governance, even prior to the rampant corruption on display in the prequel trilogy, was doomed to fail just by dint of the scale of the Galaxy Far, Far Away and the idiosyncrasies of its countless worlds. On Friday I presented my case here, and in response I was pleased to hear a wide variety of other takes on the matter both here and on social media. Two of my fellow Eleven-ThirtyEight staff writers in particular, Nick Adams, and Jay Shah, had some very thoughtful, yet strong, disagreements with my conclusions.

While I suppose we’re going to have to agree to disagree, I felt that the conversation that ensued in the original piece’s comments section was worthy of a spotlight of its own—never let it be said that I don’t encourage a diversity of opinion here at ETE. As such, that conversation has been lightly edited and expanded and is “reprinted” below for your enjoyment.

Nick: Galactic history has already proven that when governance is weak evil rises. Without some central authority and military, what prevents powerful worlds from exploiting weaker ones? In your model, how would the “shining city on a hill” and Rey’s young school of Jedi stop Kuat from building a large navy to impose its will on its neighbors? Or stop the Corporate Sector from establishing control of trade in the Outer Rim?

If the answer is hoping that Chandrila will speak out, Mon Cala will build a navy to counter it, and Ryloth will send pilots, that’s a tad naïve. The galaxy has proven it can rally a few times, but is that really to be counted on? “Every village sending a warrior” isn’t a strategy, its a Pollyanna-like wish. We see this very risk in the sequel trilogy. If the “good worlds” don’t show up, do we just hope things will get better?

Read More

“This is the beginning” – Hera Syndulla, Alphabet Squadron, and the Road to Jakku

This piece contains minor spoilers for the novel Alphabet Squadron.

For folks who follow me on Twitter or know me from the Jedi Council Forums over at TheForce.Net, one of my obsessions…err…hobbies in the new canon has been trying to make sense of the final year of the war between the Rebel Alliance-turned-New Republic and the faltering remnants of the Galactic Empire. Four years ago this September, I started a discussion on this critical year, the “Endor to Jakku” period. Thanks to the ever-expanding new canon, we are slowly but surely filling in the gaps. We’ve come a long way since Lost Stars and Shattered Empire gave us our first hints at this period. Our first real deep dive was in the Aftermath trilogy, but even that created as many questions as it answered. This week’s release of Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed answers many of those questions, by hearkening back to the earlier reference in Shattered Empire of an Imperial counterattack after Endor: Operation Cinder. This galactic atrocity would have far-reaching repercussions, including one that was presumably unintended: the almost overnight growth in power, appeal, and reach of the fledgling government known as the New Republic.

Before jumping into the topic at hand, let’s remember the status quo immediately prior to the Battle of Endor. The Alliance to Restore the Republic was in dire straights. Despite victories at Scarif and Yavin, major losses in the Mid Rim Campaign, at Mako-Ta, and at Hoth had whittled the Alliance down and forced them to flee to the edges of the galaxy. They held no territory—major allied worlds like Chandrila and Mon Cala were under blockade and they were fighting a losing war of attrition against the Empire. The threat of the second Death Star was enough that the Alliance risked everything to take it down. The scattered warships and fighter squadrons were assembled at Sullust, concentrating the entirety (or nearly that) of the Alliance’s fighting strength. We all know the story of the Battle of Endor, so let’s now jump to the day after. The Alliance’s assets are still the same: a roving fleet and a quasi-government-in-exile. Admirals and generals are faced with determining their next military move, while Mon Mothma and her council of former senators are faced with the nearly impossible task of laying the framework for restoring democratic rule to a galaxy oppressed for two decades.

Let that sink in. The Alliance, without solid supply lines, a main base, or actual territory, needed to seemingly overnight start a campaign to liberate the galaxy and start a new Republic. If C-3PO was asked, I’m sure he’d say that the odds of success were almost incalculable. The next subsequent twelve months would be a whirlwind of events. The New Republic, for all it’s heroic ideals and victories, would benefit more from events outside of its control than those it dictated.

Read More