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I Rebel, Like My Mother Before Me: On Jyn and Lyra

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Rogue One is a story about family; on the surface, it seems to be more the story of a father and daughter, Galen and Jyn. It is the story of a broken relationship, of a failed hero, of forgiveness, and strife. Under the surface, and thanks in part to James Luceno’s Catalyst, we can find another family story: that of Jyn and Lyra. Though Lyra dies at the very beginning of the film, echoes of her reverberate throughout the story.

The primary lens through which Jyn sees the world is through that of a prison. Not hard to imagine, after all she was born in a prison on Vallt. Even her life on Coruscant was, as her mother described it, more compulsory than by choice. After Krennic comes to Lah’mu, taking Galen and killing Lyra, Jyn is forced to hide in a cave. This becomes Jyn’s defining reality for everything that happens later, including her capture on Corulag and her release on Wobani. Even her “rescuers” don’t seem to stay for very long: Krennic becomes overbearing, directly threatening her mother; her mother dies and she hates Galen for going with Krennic; Saw abandons her in the field; and now the Alliance simply wants to use her as a means of getting Galen to the senate. It’s easy to see how being taken forcibly from Wobani (despite the levity K-2 provides), almost coerced into a mission to find Galen, and promised a vague premise of freedom after the mission, would sound less and less desirable (and even comparable to what Krennic offered the Ersos before).

This is where we hear the first echo of Lyra in the film. When Lyra was brought to Coruscant with Galen, she was quick to make her hesitations about working for the Empire known. In order to remove Lyra from Coruscant, Krennic arranges an expedition for her so that she might get out of Galen’s mind and let him continue to work. She takes up the expedition, more for Galen’s sake than for her own. She told Galen how she felt, and she had the opportunity to say something to Has Obitt and Nari Sable as they discover the damage done to legacy worlds. Only seeing the vast damage that the Empire has caused to worlds earmarked for environmental protection could make a neutralist in the Clone Wars into a staunch opponent of the new regime. Lyra is so outspoken about the damage that she attracts the negative attention of Director Krennic, who blatantly threatens her and Jyn. » Read more..

What the New Republic Should Have Learned From the Old Republic

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Any good government should learn from the mistakes and the successes of its forebears: in this case, after the defeat of the Empire, the New Republic should have copied the successes of the Old Republic without copying the mistakes that allowed Palpatine to take control so easily. The Old Republic, mired in controversy and stalemates, was easily manipulatable and powerless to stop its own corrosion, even though it was easily seen by every party involved.  When all of the supplementary material for The Force Awakens was launched, I was shocked to see that the story of the New Republic was closely mirroring the story of the Old Republic. Stuck in a stalemate, the New Republic couldn’t decide how to move forward in terms of dealing with a shadowy organization that posed a pretty clear threat to it. I was afraid that we were seeing that the New Republic hadn’t learned the lessons it should have from the Old Republic and might prove itself to be in just as bad a place as the Old Republic. Bloodline seemed to explore the New Republic more critically, from Leia’s point of view, asking: what can a stagnant governing body do? For Leia, the answer was rebel against her own government…again. Which lessons did the New Republic not learn, and fail to learn so disastrously that Leia had to leave that which she helped create? And did their failure to learn these lessons make the New Republic worse from the start?

It may not come as a shock, but the biggest issue to address in the New Republic is its view of the military: what should the role of the military be in the new government? Should it be as large as it was under the Republic? An idealistic Mon Mothma begins demilitarization efforts on Chandrila only a few months after the Battle of Endor! I don’t think that this type of thinking can save the galaxy. Eventually, the fighting must stop and some sort of treaty has to be formed—you can’t kill an ideology just by killing a lot of people (something Leia has learned by 34 ABY). It is my opinion, though, that the New Republic reduced their military far too soon. Remember: this effort started before the Galactic Concordance was signed, so the Imperial Army and Navy was still intact! Between Endor and Jakku, you’ve got at least the four invasions of Naboo, the heavy blockade of the Anoat sector and Kashyyyk, and the continued plight of Ryloth. With these as just a few examples of Imperial aggression, it’s hard to figure out what made Mothma confident in de-escalating the war so early. » Read more..

The Freemaker Adventures and LEGO’s Piece of the Galaxy

freemaker-rowanrogerPremiering on the first day of summer, DisneyXD recently introduced us to the Freemaker family in the new show LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures. Following a family of scavengers, older brother Zander, younger sister Kordi, and Force-sensitive, twelve-year-old Rowan, with their battle droid Roger, making their way in the galaxy. The show is steeped in its love for the Star Wars galaxy and a fun side adventure for those who want just a little bit more out of the franchise that keeps giving, and giving, and giving.

The problem, for some fans, is that the LEGO series are usually made for children (as if that alone disqualifies a story) and that they aren’t canon. They’ve got a point – both Leland Chee and Pablo Hidalgo have confirmed that the series takes place outside of “the canon”. Does that mean that there is no place for the LEGO adventures in the lives of the most dedicated fans? Or does a non-canon series still have a lot to offer the fan who has seen it all?

My first introduction to the LEGO series was actually less than memorable. I had forgotten that I played the LEGO Prequel Trilogy game years ago when it came out on the GameBoy Advance. In the time that’s passed, I didn’t really connect with the LEGO video games (not out of disinterest in the franchise, but because I’m not much of a gamer). My interest was recently re-piqued when I saw the adventure starring Poe Dameron, BB-8, C-3PO, and Admiral Ackbar posted on the Star Wars Twitter page. » Read more..

Visions of the Future—Kanan and Ahsoka’s Struggles with Destiny

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Star Wars Rebels presents us with a look at two Jedi with similar pasts—Kanan and Ahsoka were both separated from the Jedi Order at the end of the Clone Wars, both spent their lives on the run, and both encountered a Sith Lord on Malachor—but entirely different futures. At the end of Rebels season two, we find the two Jedi on opposite ends of the spectrum: Ahsoka, after a duel with Darth Vader, walks away from everything; on the other hand, Kanan embraces the Force fully after a duel with Maul. What separates these two Jedi, and what of their pasts helped move them to embrace, or completely renounce, their Jedi pasts?

The two Jedi had similar experiences in the Order, like their initial struggles to find acceptance, their histories with troubled masters, and their earth-shattering expulsions from the Jedi Order. Ahsoka, at her first mission, the Battle of Christophsis, was not greeted warmly. Obi-Wan met her expecting her to be his apprentice, but was almost rejected by Anakin when it was revealed that she was assigned to him rather than to Kenobi. Under Anakin’s tutelage, Ahsoka took on a lot of the characteristics of her master. Toward the end of the Clone Wars, Ahsoka was framed for the murder of Jedi, clones, and civilians, and was put on trial by both the Jedi and the Republic. Because everything she knew turned against her, Ahsoka fled from the Order. Despite moving away from the Order, Ahsoka seemed to walk toward any path she found where she could help someone: she was instrumental in founding the Rebellion, she helped the crew of the Ghost find missions and help people, and she fought Inquisitors.

On the other hand, you have young and brash Caleb Dume. His master, Depa Billaba, was highly troubled after an encounter with General Grievous, who wiped out ninety percent of her forces. Caleb struggled to find a place in the Order, being known as highly inquisitive and almost disruptive at times. Caleb felt at home in the war and felt like he belonged on the battlefield more than he belonged anywhere else. Depa taught out of her brokenness, and used her experiences as a way to guide young Caleb. At the onset of Order 66, Caleb was forced to literally run from the Order to survive. Caleb kept running, took on the name Kanan Jarrus, and tried his best to avoid connections that could grow into meaningful relationships. For years, he ran. He continued to run until he was stuck: Hera helped him turn his running into something beneficial. Finding Ezra forced him to return, ultimately, to the Order and rely on the Force again completely. In a highly symbolic move, Kanan donned a mask of a Temple Guard, reversing the order that the Grand Inquisitor moved in: Kanan evolved from someone running from the Jedi to someone who fought to keep all of their ideals alive. » Read more..

The Symbolism of The Force Awakens

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One of the best aspects of literature is ambiguity; ambiguity that leaves important scenes up for speculation and exploration that causes discussion for years to come. At the end of the novelization of The Force Awakens, the narration tells us “Remembering, Rey reached into her pack and removed [Luke’s] lightsaber. Taking several steps forward, she held it out to him. An offer. A plea. The galaxy’s only hope.” In context, I think the narration makes it seem that Luke is the galaxy’s only hope. But how is he the galaxy’s hope? Does Rey imagine that Luke is going to bring the galaxy together under the Resistance? Does she want Luke to come out of hiding and kill Kylo? I think the direction of the plot subtly moves us into accepting a different ending: that Rey, fully trained by Luke as a Jedi, is the galaxy’s only hope.

What makes me think this? The symbolism in Star Wars. The franchise is not afraid of stretching its visuals to their furthest capacity, leading to some rich storytelling that doesn’t rely solely on the narration to tell every part of the story. But how does The Force Awakens’ symbolism specifically point to Rey as the galaxy’s only hope? It’s too easy to point out Rey’s similarities to Luke, as many have already done. No, the way forward is to look at some of the differences between the two. I think there’s an unexplored area of the movie that we should look at: the symbol of ascent. The symbol of ascent is all over the movie, as the movie starts in the night, in the middle of a desert world and ends on top of a mountainous island in the middle of the day. In many ancient worldviews, “ascension” meant many things: it symbolized a movement from death to life, it symbolized the ritual practitioner’s ascent into heaven, or maturity. Ascension was necessary in many worldviews because the ground was death: to descend was to enter Hades or Sheol, and to stay on the ground was to be tied to the material world rather than the spiritual world. Kosignas, the priest-king of a town in Greece, builds a ladder to Hera to leave the world; the prophet Jonah descends into the sea and into the fish to escape God, comparing it to living in Sheol; the Rig Veda shows the first man who died climbing mountains to show people about life after death; early Gnostics wanted to ascend to heaven to escape the evil material world. » Read more..

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