Skip to main content

The Binary Sunset – Looking Forward, Looking Back

The binary sunset scene in A New Hope is perhaps the iconic image of the film – so iconic that the saga has gone back to it time and again. For me as a child, it was the wonder of seeing something that felt real but also fantastical: a boy dreaming of adventures to come, but also a realistic-looking leap of the imagination, of what the alien spectacle of a binary star system would really look like from one of its planets. That combined with John Williams’s greatest ever theme, what became the Force Theme (though at the time was known as Ben Kenobi’s Theme).

When George Lucas returns to this moment, it is done very deliberately, during moments which encourage the audience to look simultaneously backwards and forwards across the span of the saga. The sequel trilogy films, too, have returned to this image twice, and those moments tell us much about the films themselves, their directors’ priorities and sensibilities, and speak to a wider conversation about the role of nostalgia in Star Wars going forward.

Read More

Second Look: The Path to Immortality: Life and Death in The Rise of Skywalker

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

The Rise of Skywalker may not be a film that stands up to much in the way of analysis. A lot of it is fun as you are watching it (even if it’s in an ironic MST3K kind of way), but very quickly falls apart when you step back and think about it for more than a second or two. Still, it does introduce some new ideas relating to the Force that are worth looking at in the context of previous entries in the saga, particularly those related to healing, resurrection and immortality.

In The Path to Immortality parts one and two, I looked at the Sith quest for eternal life as established in Revenge of the Sith, how it arose from selfish instincts and was tied to extending the life of the physical, biological body. Anakin’s desperate attempts to save Padmé at the expense of everything else drew him to this power, and to the dark side. This idea is contrasted in Lucas’s Star Wars with the Jedi path to immortality, which involves letting go of the physical realm and becoming one with the Force, a process that involves compassion, selflessness and sacrifice.

The Force healing abilities introduced in TROS, used by Rey, at first glance seem closer to the Darth Plagueis model of eternal life, but there’s a crucial difference, one that keeps TROS consistent with the themes and messages of Star Wars as established so far.

» Read more..

The Path to Immortality: Life and Death in The Rise of Skywalker

The Rise of Skywalker may not be a film that stands up to much in the way of analysis. A lot of it is fun as you are watching it (even if it’s in an ironic MST3K kind of way), but very quickly falls apart when you step back and think about it for more than a second or two. Still, it does introduce some new ideas relating to the Force that are worth looking at in the context of previous entries in the saga, particularly those related to healing, resurrection and immortality.

In The Path to Immortality parts one and two, I looked at the Sith quest for eternal life as established in Revenge of the Sith, how it arose from selfish instincts and was tied to extending the life of the physical, biological body. Anakin’s desperate attempts to save Padmé at the expense of everything else drew him to this power, and to the dark side. This idea is contrasted in Lucas’s Star Wars with the Jedi path to immortality, which involves letting go of the physical realm and becoming one with the Force, a process that involves compassion, selflessness and sacrifice.

The Force healing abilities introduced in TROS, used by Rey, at first glance seem closer to the Darth Plagueis model of eternal life, but there’s a crucial difference, one that keeps TROS consistent with the themes and messages of Star Wars as established so far.

Read More

Second Look: How The Empire Strikes Back Ruined Star 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

“The saga comes to an end”, announced the trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. It isn’t the first time we’ve heard that.

In 2005, Revenge of the Sith was marketed with the tagline “The saga is complete,” and the first six movies are still available in a blu-ray box set titled “The Complete Saga”. The sequel trilogy was an unnecessary addition to the story of Anakin Skywalker, and the prequels themselves were unnecessary additions to the story of Luke. What is now a multi-generational saga, with a final episode which will define the legacy of the Skywalker family, was, just a few years ago, the story of the rise, fall and redemption of Darth Vader; and a few years before that, it was the hero’s journey of a farmboy.

Nothing, however, changed what Star Wars is more than The Empire Strikes Back. With Episode V, we gained a blockbuster franchise, a sprawling family saga, a modern myth. But we also lost something – a weird, fascinating high-concept movie, an episode of a Flash Gordon-style serial that the audience would stumble upon without ever knowing what came before, or what came afterwards; and the completion of a thematic trilogy of films by a young filmmaker which dealt with leaving home and going out into the world.

» 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