What Star Wars Can Learn From Star Wars: Visions

Since Disney+ launched, one of its biggest selling points has been exclusive Star Wars media released directly to the platform. Starting with The Mandalorian, Star Wars launched its parent companies into the streaming era, and after its wild, runaway success, a green light went up for a number of Star Wars projects that otherwise might never have been given that go-ahead. One of those projects, and perhaps the most unusual and niche of them all, is Star Wars: Visions. A limited series of standalone episodes, each produced by one of seven different Japanese animation studios and telling an all-new story, a project like Visions would not have been possible previously, except maybe as a direct-to-home-video release, but thanks to streaming it was released to a platform that is already the home of major streaming flagship shows like the aforementioned Mandalorian or The Clone Wars.

What this article is going to broach are the elements that Visions brought to the table that would be welcome and wise to take further to the wider universe of Star Wars media at large. There are many different ideas, theories and other factors that could be considered here, but one that we will not get into is how Visions’ existence as media that is foundationally Japanese affects its place within the winding cultural miasma that Star Wars has always been, and how Star Wars can continue to draw from this well in ways that aren’t appropriative. Emma Candon, author of the Visions tie-in novel Ronin, dug into this idea far more thoroughly and with more insight than we would be able to here, so please check out her Twitter thread in the link below for more thoughts on this topic.

Setting that where it is, here are some more ways that Star Wars as a media franchise can learn from what the creators of Visions have produced.

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Second Look: What Have We Learned? – How Time Has Changed The Clone Wars

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

I was cautiously excited when it was announced that The Clone Wars would make its triumphant return to the screen by airing three previously-unfinished arcs on Disney+. I’ve been hot and cold on the series in general, because while it does do a great deal to expand and deepen the era between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the actual show itself has a very distinct tone and style that often rubs me the wrong way. It is a show unafraid to bring up big concepts and ideas, ones challenging to the era and the franchise as a whole, but often tosses them aside or bypasses them in favor of more sharply-animated action setpieces or references to other parts of the franchise.

The biggest issue that this raises is with the characters. Giving characters depth or exploring their motivations has simply never been TCW’s strong suit. Arcs like Ahsoka’s trial fall flat for me because the central character — other than Ahsoka — is the true culprit, Barriss Offee, who we hadn’t seen since the second season at that point and had apparently undergone a lot of change and turmoil in that time, all of it offscreen. While I wasn’t personally offended because I wasn’t invested in Barriss as a character, that in itself is damning; this character I didn’t care about because we’d seen so little of her was such a major part of the arc that my absence of feeling toward her motivations and fate felt like a hole in the story.

In the time between the show being cancelled from its original airing on Cartoon Network, the debut of its sixth season on Netflix, and now the seventh and final season on Disney+, the show’s crew has gotten up to plenty of other things. Dave Filoni and his team of animators moved to Star Wars Rebels, and then the animators worked on Star Wars Resistance while Filoni himself assisted with the production and direction of The Mandalorian. Filoni has said that all three of these shows were tremendous learning experiences that he and his team were able to bring back to TCW to make its final three arcs better. I assumed that he meant mainly in terms of direction and animation; I didn’t expect him to have taken some lessons from either of those shows in terms of how to write compelling character moments. And my expectation was borne out in the first four episodes of this new season, known as the Bad Batch arc.

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Ended, The Clone Wars Have

What a journey we’ve had from 2008 to now! Through a cancellation, a surprise release of a sixth season and story reels, and a few arc adaptations to comics and books, The Clone Wars has at last reached the finale that we’d been teased about for years. Staff writers Ben Wahrman, Sarah Dempster, and myself (Abigail Dillon) got together to talk about following the show over the years and how we felt it ended.

Sarah: Hilariously, what got me to actually watch TCW was learning that Maul was coming back. I loved the character but didn’t want to jump in in the middle of Season Three so I figured I should start from the beginning. I was in high school when the movie came out and I mostly ignored it; I was in a lull in my Star Wars fandom and some random cartoon movie didn’t interest me. And I regret to say that I was definitely one of those “too cool for school” fans who thought Ahsoka was annoying, the show was dumb because Anakin had a Padawan, etc. etc. It wasn’t until the whole show was on Netflix (and had been canceled in the wake of the Disney acquisition) that I really started watching it while I worked on costumes in the lead-up to Celebration Anaheim in 2015. But I still think it’s funny that my interest in it started out purely because of Maul; my brand is strong!

Abigail: Look, if fandom isn’t about being On Brand, then what actually is its purpose? For me, getting into TCW was a way for my brothers and I to reconnect when they came back from college over Christmas. We set up a laptop to watch the show on StarWars.com as we built a blanket fort and played with LEGOs. That’s really my earliest memory of watching it, and while I liked it, liked Ahsoka and Rex, and caught up with it all when it was on Netflix, I didn’t become a massive fan until “Twin Suns”. That got me back into Star Wars as a whole in a big way and turned me into a Maul fan so…I guess Maul’s to blame for two of us being here.

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What Have We Learned? – How Time Has Changed The Clone Wars

I was cautiously excited when it was announced that The Clone Wars would make its triumphant return to the screen by airing three previously-unfinished arcs on Disney+. I’ve been hot and cold on the series in general, because while it does do a great deal to expand and deepen the era between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the actual show itself has a very distinct tone and style that often rubs me the wrong way. It is a show unafraid to bring up big concepts and ideas, ones challenging to the era and the franchise as a whole, but often tosses them aside or bypasses them in favor of more sharply-animated action setpieces or references to other parts of the franchise.

The biggest issue that this raises is with the characters. Giving characters depth or exploring their motivations has simply never been TCW’s strong suit. Arcs like Ahsoka’s trial fall flat for me because the central character — other than Ahsoka — is the true culprit, Barriss Offee, who we hadn’t seen since the second season at that point and had apparently undergone a lot of change and turmoil in that time, all of it offscreen. While I wasn’t personally offended because I wasn’t invested in Barriss as a character, that in itself is damning; this character I didn’t care about because we’d seen so little of her was such a major part of the arc that my absence of feeling toward her motivations and fate felt like a hole in the story.

In the time between the show being cancelled from its original airing on Cartoon Network, the debut of its sixth season on Netflix, and now the seventh and final season on Disney+, the show’s crew has gotten up to plenty of other things. Dave Filoni and his team of animators moved to Star Wars Rebels, and then the animators worked on Star Wars Resistance while Filoni himself assisted with the production and direction of The Mandalorian. Filoni has said that all three of these shows were tremendous learning experiences that he and his team were able to bring back to TCW to make its final three arcs better. I assumed that he meant mainly in terms of direction and animation; I didn’t expect him to have taken some lessons from either of those shows in terms of how to write compelling character moments. And my expectation was borne out in the first four episodes of this new season, known as the Bad Batch arc.

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The Pitch: Rey’s To-Do List

The Rise of Skywalker happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It is already over. Nothing can be done to change it.

So, what now? Rumors abound, but outside of season two of The Mandalorian and a slate of books and comics that looks pretty similar to last year’s (at least until they spill the details on Project Luminous), exactly what form mainline Star Wars content will take remains an open question. The Old Republic, or maybe the Even Older Republic, seems to be the most likely next step, if only to give the sequel cast some time to breathe and perhaps age up a little.

But the galaxy didn’t end just because the Skywalker saga did; the story of those characters will go on, first in fanfic and almost certainly in officially-licensed material of some sort, someday. Let’s dwell for a moment on what that day might look like.

Rey may be the last Jedi, but even the relatively tight confines of the sequel films have established at least two other Force-sensitives in Finn and Temiri Blagg, better known as Broom Boy. Potentially even Jannah’s entire company of former stormtroopers depending on how strictly you want to interpret ROS’s nudges–imagine for a moment a new Jedi Order whose first class is composed almost entirely of First Order stormtroopers! It’s a hell of a thing. Between that and Rey’s own training seeming to have come at least as much from the original Jedi texts as from the Skywalker twins, you’ve got a recipe for a very different Jedi Order.

And they’ll have their work cut out for them. Another side effect of the saga’s tight-focus ending is a lot of lingering threads and unanswered injustices in the galaxy: slavery, both biological and mechanical; a newly-familiarized Unknown Regions with untold mysteries and threats, the ignorance of which allowed the First Order to rise in the first place; and even within the quote-unquote civilized galaxy, political divisions have been exposed that make the Empire look positively centrist. Not only are the possibilities endless, but it strikes me that they’re uniquely interesting in their potential to underline the ways in which the old Jedi let the galaxy down in the name of holding it together, and the lessons Rey might have learned from them.

So with that in mind, what’s an established, persisting injustice in the GFFA that you think an ideal NJO should take on? If you’re Grand Master Rey, what would you do in your first hundred days?

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