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Mind or Matter? Unpacking Droid Sentience in the Films

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Mike: Recently we ran a fascinating guest piece by Eric Farr that unpacked the suggestion in Solo of a sexual relationship between Lando and L3-37—or at the very least, Elthree’s claim that such a thing is possible. The extent to which any given droid in the Galaxy Far, Far Away is truly conscious and self-aware has always been a little muddled, so the notion of droids consenting to sexual activity (as opposed to simply being programmed for it) is pretty complicated ground for Star Wars to be covering, and any conclusions are bound to be highly debatable.

And debate we did: as with many great pieces, a very interesting conversation unfolded in the comments over the following couple weeks between myself, Eric, and two other ETE regulars, Vincent Cagliuso and John Maurer. The discussion backed up a bit from Eric’s original topic and looked more broadly at whether droid rights are something that should be addressed at all, or if to do so would only unravel the basic premise of the universe—many of our heroes own droids, after all.

At one point Vincent posed a simple question that stuck out to me as a perfect encapsulation of the problem—particularly because it wasn’t about Elthree. There’s a lot going on with her that can be debated in and of itself regardless of how one feels about droid rights as a concept, so I thought I’d pose his question to the rest of the staff as a means of getting at the core issue and avoiding the need to rehash our feelings about Solo specifically.

So here’s the question, guys: Padmé Amidala owns a protocol droid. Said droid is absolutely drowning in personality; if any droid is self-aware, it’s this one. Upon Padmé’s death, Bail Organa takes possession of this droid, decides it knows too much, and promptly gives it a mindwipe. Is Bail Organa, hero of the Rebellion and beloved father of Princess Leia, a monster? » Read more..

What Star Wars Can Learn From Avengers: Infinity War

So, The Force Awakens is no longer the top opening-weekend earner at the box office here in the United States. Lucasfilm’s sister company Marvel has taken that crown with their latest effort, by far their biggest movie to date. Avengers: Infinity War is a seminal film not only for how much money it has made but also what it represents. Ten years of steady buildup has finally exploded into an epic movie on a scale that few others in history can match, in terms of both scope and budget.

Of course, the runaway success of the Avengers’ latest film has drawn inevitable comparisons between the Marvel cinematic franchise and Star Wars. Directly comparing a movie like Avengers: Infinity War to a movie like, for instance, The Last Jedi, isn’t a useful exercise since they are very different movies coming out at very different times for each franchise. However, I do believe there are things that Star Wars as a franchise can learn from both how Marvel has gotten themselves to this point, and from Infinity War in itself.

Before we go on, please know that there will be spoilers discussed below regarding Infinity War. If you have not seen the film, go ahead and close the window now and come back when you’ve had a chance to go and see it.

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Eleven-ThirtyEight’s Star Wars Hot Takes

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After taking the last couple April Fools’ Days off, we decided to do something a little different this year—and not just because today is April 2nd. Around Christmas, staff writer David Schwarz created the Twitter bot Star Wars Hot Takes, which does pretty much what it sounds like, tweeting an auto-generated Star Wars take/thinkpiece title once an hour—many of which you could easily imagine someone throwing together as clickbait, and some of which, I have to admit, sound very close to actual ETE articles.

Truthfully, I think the term “hot take” is a little overblown as a criticism; it’s a category people use to reflexively dismiss big swaths of content they don’t like without much regard for the thought put into it. The key difference between a good piece and a “hot take”, in my opinion, isn’t the point of view expressed but how thoughtfully it’s presented—and I absolutely go out of my way to highlight takes on ETE that are distinct and outside the norm (even when I don’t necessarily agree with them) so that they can be given a thoughtful and balanced airing.

With that said, another important principle of this site is to not take ourselves too seriously—it’s just Star Wars, and there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that everyone’s opinions can get a little overblown once in a while. So in the spirit of taking just a little air out of our sails this April Fools’, I challenged the staff to pick a Star Wars Hot Take tweet and develop it into a “serious” mini-editorial. Here’s what they came up with. » Read more..

Sticking the Landing – The Finale of Star Wars Rebels

—this piece contains major spoilers, obviously—

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Ben: So. That was bittersweet. I want to say up front that I know that the direction the show went in its last season didn’t agree with everyone. They went to some weird places and were not afraid to take chances with characters and the overall direction of the show, and are entirely unapologetic about it. I know that my personal feelings about the show don’t reflect everyone’s feelings, I acknowledge that other people might have taken away different things from the show than what I took away, and I don’t in any way intend to belittle people’s feelings or thoughts with what I have to say.

I’ve watched every episode of Rebels as it’s come out, I’ve been fully invested in the show since before it even started airing, and it’s been the one major constant about the franchise in general that I’ve been attached to since the Disney acquisition. The very first article I ever wrote for this site as a staff member (that hasn’t aged well but I digress) was in defense of Rebels from malingers who were badmouthing it before an episode had even aired. My time with the show has not been all sunshine and rainbows, and I am fully willing to acknowledge that the show is flawed.

All of that being said, the last fifteen minutes or so of the final episode made me so emotional that I was literally trembling. I’ve been invested in the crew of the Ghost for four years, and having their story finally come to an end is something that I intellectually knew had to happen at some point, but that I was not fully emotionally prepared for. I want there to be more. I want to tune back in next week and have another adventure with Sabine, Ezra, Zeb, Hera, Chopper and Kanan ready and waiting for me. I want to see more of Lothal, I want to get more banter and fun, I want to learn more about each of these characters, I want to see them keep interacting, keep fighting, keep living. » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff

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So this week brought us two episodes, but let’s be honest, there’s one major focal point of the two of them: the Lothal Jedi Temple and the fact that it can transport people through time and space. To say that this raises a lot of questions is an understatement of the highest order. We can start with how it’s handled in the episode itself, of course, before going into the possibilities that this might open for Star Wars storytelling in the future. Strap in folks, things are going to get very weird.

The main purpose of the temple within the context of the story and the characters within that story is to teach Ezra one last lesson before the show’s conclusion: letting go. It’s far from the first time we’ve seen a Jedi have to learn this lesson, but Ezra’s situation is very poignant, in that he’s dealing with the death of his Master and surrogate father. Kanan and Ezra’s relationship is one of the closest of any two characters in Star Wars Rebels, so of course when he’s presented with the possibility of doing something to save Kanan’s life he jumps at the chance.

But Rebels twists the script a bit by making Ezra’s temptation not based on the dark side like Anakin’s was once upon a time. This is not some temptation that will lead him down a dark path that will forever dominate his destiny. Ezra is presented with an opportunity that is entirely neutral from a moral standpoint, a literal door through which he can walk to Kanan’s side as the fuel tank explodes. No strings, no dark voice whispering in his ear tempting him with unlimited power. Just reach out, and pull him through.

Of course, it isn’t that simple. If Ezra does save Kanan, it would be at the cost of his own life, and the consequences of that sort of action on the rest of the team would be incredible. Not to mention the timeline of events after Kanan’s death with Ezra already present would create a paradox that may have unimaginable consequences. Faced with these realities, Ezra is forced to stand aside and watch, again, as Kanan dies. » Read more..

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