Archive for Mark Eldridge

“He Is” – Bendu, Bombadil and Balance

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Comparing anything in the Star Wars galaxy to the works of JRR Tolkien is a tricky business, and one we should be cautious of. Though George Lucas did once cite The Lord of the Rings as an influence, thematically they are very different works, and Tolkien and Lucas drew their core inspirations from very different places. When it comes to Dave Filoni’s work on The Clone Wars and Rebels, though, the situation is a little different.

Filoni is a self-confessed Tolkien fanboy, who has talked often of the professor’s influence on his work. He even gave Ahsoka some of Gandalf’s lines in Rebels season two (“I have questions – questions that need answering”), as Ahsoka dropped in and out of the story as the old wizard does in The Hobbit. In a recent interview with Fangirls Going Rogue, Filoni revealed that his main influence when creating the character of Bendu for season three was in fact the notorious Tom Bombadil from The Fellowship of the Ring.

Bendu is generating a great deal of interest as the internet struggles to decipher Luke Skywalker’s cryptic words in the trailer for The Last Jedi. Bendu does, after all, claim to be “the one in the middle,” a new perspective on the Force. Attempts to argue that the character is a sign that Lucasfilm are laying the groundwork for a more “grey” approach, however, risk clouding the true meaning of the character, and overlooking some unsettling truths about him. For a fuller understanding, it helps to look at the character of Bombadil, and work towards Bendu from there.

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Selfish Love: Why the Jedi Were Right About Attachment

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It’s a common take: the Jedi were wrong to forbid “attachment,” and Luke proved this by saving the galaxy through his love for his father.

Themes are always open to interpretation, and my reading is a little different. I’d argue that the Jedi were, broadly, correct, and whatever the flaws in their approach, I firmly believe George Lucas meant for us to view his story as a warning against the jealousy and greed that arise from becoming overly attached.

What is “attachment”?

The key is to understand what is actually meant by “attachment” in Star Wars. Anakin explains it in Attack of the Clones:

Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion – which I would define as unconditional love – is central to a Jedi’s life. So you might say that we are encouraged to love.

Attachment, here, is one manifestation of love – one tied up with “possession,” and separated from the selflessness of compassion. Yoda reinforces this in Revenge of the Sith:

Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is. (…) Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

“Jealousy” is used here in its true sense. It is not the same as “envy,” which is wanting something that somebody else has; “jealousy” is the fear that somebody or something in your possession will be taken from you.

The influence of Buddhism on Lucas’s thinking is well documented, and echoes of its ideas are undeniable here. In Buddhist terms, attachment can be defined as “exaggerated not wanting to be separated from someone or something.” Compassion is the selflessness of “wishing others to be free from suffering.” To traditional Buddhists, attachment is the path to misery, because change is inevitable; to gain peace, we must accept change and learn to let go. » Read more..

One Movie, Too Many Freaking Options: Which Rogue One is For You?

tfa-bb8coverMike: When it comes to home video, Star Wars fans have never been starved for options. Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find a fan over a certain age who hasn’t at least bought the original trilogy multiple times just to keep up with modern formats—on top of which you’ve got Special Editions, box sets, new individual releases with the original cuts included, etc. And that’s just the old movies; now that we’ve got a new Star Wars film every year for the time being it looks like there are several options to consider with each: DVD, Blu-Ray, 3D Blu-ray, digital download, and if The Force Awakens is any indication, another fancy deluxe set at the end of the year with all the special features they didn’t include the first time.

With the digital Rogue One having been out for a couple weeks now and the hard copies showing up tomorrow, what calls have you guys been making amidst all these options? As if the different formats weren’t enough to keep track of, TFA and Rogue One both come in a few different slipcovers exclusive to different retailers, and wouldn’t you know it, I happened to fall in love with the neat-o BB-8 cover at the top of this article, which meant dragging myself to Walmart of all places, for the first time in several years. While it’s a bit more of a trek for me than Target (or Amazon, obviously), now that it looks like that character-focused style is going to be a recurring design thing I guess I’ll be going back to Walmart this week to pick up Rogue One. What about the rest of you? Do any of you actually buy multiple copies, to take advantage of the earlier digital release, or the better bonus features later on?

Jay: I always go for the Blu-ray, and it’s for the simple reason that I want to see Star Wars films in the best way that I possibly can. Right now, that’s Blu-ray on an HDTV. Of course, sometimes I just want to watch the movie and I can’t be bothered so I’ll watch it on the computer or phone or whatever else but that’s the trick: the Blu-ray already comes with a free digital copy, which is redeemable at the distributor of my choice (and through Disney’s rewards thing, through multiple distributors). I’ll also watch the digital version when I want to take screenshots, because while I own a BD-ROM drive as well, PC BD-player software annoyingly doesn’t let you take screenshots (and moreover, PC BD-player software is largely garbage). » Read more..

Tales from the Journal – On Storytelling and “Canon”

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“Originally, I was trying to have the story be told by somebody else; there was somebody watching this whole story and recording it, somebody probably wiser than the mortal players in the actual events (…) the stories were actually taken from the ‘Journal of the Whills’.”

George Lucas – Star Wars, The Annotated Screenplays

The Journal of the Whills occupies a strange place in Star Wars lore. Initially part of George Lucas’s early drafts and referenced in the novelization of A New Hope, it then disappeared from Lucas’s work almost entirely (though he did return to his “Journal” notes during pre-production on The Phantom Menace, and considered referencing a “Shaman of the Whills” in Revenge of the Sith). The idea has seen a resurgence of a kind recently, though, with its reference in the novelization of The Force Awakens and with Baze and Chirrut, the mysterious “Guardians of the Whills”, in Rogue One.

Though Lucas did not make the Whills an explicit part of the story, instead developing the idea into the Force, the concept of the story being recorded in an ancient Journal, from which he is retelling it, is something he never quite let go of. In 2005’s The Making of Revenge of the Sith, Lucas revealed that the story was told to the Keeper of the Whills by R2-D2, 100 years after Return of the Jedi. The ongoing use of the introduction “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” – a modern “once upon a time” – reminds us that Star Wars is a fairy tale, a myth that is being retold to us, and that this is how we should look at it.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The ETE Special Edition

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Last Tuesday, January 31st, was the twentieth anniversary of the release of the Special Edition of Star War—ahh, I mean A New Hope. While the exact date I saw the thing is lost to history, this anniversary is doubly important to me, as it’s the twentieth anniversary of my own Star Wars fandom. Being a contrarian, I’ve always had a special appreciation of the fact that the thing that got me into Star Wars was seen at the time (and still by some) as controversial, even sacrilegious.

Can I appreciate the argument against Greedo shooting first? Sure. But if George Lucas hadn’t been nitpicky enough to want to make that round of changes—not the first round, but definitely the most high-profile—who knows if I’d ever have found an excuse to watch the original trilogy at all? Who knows if I’d have gone to college for Visual Effects, a decision to which I can trace almost everything about my life today? And of course, who knows if this blog would exist?

I did eventually learn how it felt on the other side of the fence, though—when Hayden Christensen was added to Return of the Jedi, it bugged me not so much for philosophical reasons, but because Hayden doesn’t seem to have any idea what’s going on in the take they used (the rumor is he didn’t realize what he was being filmed for) and it takes me out of the moment. I can’t stand the blu-ray version of Obi-Wan’s krayt call, and the less said about Vader’s “nooo!” in the blu-ray version of Jedi, the better. » Read more..

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