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How The Empire Strikes Back Ruined Star Wars

“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.

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Second Look: The Phantom Menace is Innocent: We’re to Blame for Modern Cinema Culture

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

Ah, clickbait. “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is To Blame For Modern Cinema Culture” is a wonderfully clickbaity headline, and I was baited to click. Now I’m going to add my voice to the silliness. The article, by Hannah Jenkins, caused a bit of a stir in the digital gazebo known as Star Wars Twitter, arguing as it did that TPM was responsible for many of the trends in current popular cinema, the good and the bad. Most of these arguments were not particularly convincing. The true legacy of TPM, and the lessons we can take from it, can be found when we look not at the industry or at the movie itself, but at ourselves.

Jenkins argues that TPM’s trailer was a defining moment in the marketing of movies, and there’s truth in this. Suddenly the advert was an event in and of itself, and following the “illegal” sharing of it across the internet, studios quickly had to catch up with this new digital way of consuming these things. I remember spending anxious hours downloading each Attack of the Clones trailer via dial-up on QuickTime (an ironic name if ever there was one), and being irritated by Warner Bros.’ attempts to force us into the cinema to watch Scooby Doo by releasing only a thirty-second trailer for the trailer of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets online. Maybe TPM did lead the way to the era of big simultaneous Super Bowl/Twitter trailer reveals. And Jar Jar Binks was certainly a leap forward when it came to motion capture, though this can be overstated: he was hardly the first fully CGI leading character in a movie, with Casper, Dragonheart and Mars Attacks all preceding him.

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The 20 Most Memorable Moments of the New Star Wars Canon, Part II

Welcome to Part II of our Memorable Moments feature–Part I can be found here! This thing is long enough already so let’s get right to it…

sloaneposter13. Admiral Sloane Orders the Retreat, “The Levers of Power” (Jay Shah)

Initially, my entire list of favorite moments consisted of key events from RAE SLOANE’s story across different media and throughout the timeline of novels in which we’ve seen her. That would have been a little silly for a list of moments, even though I believe RAE SLOANE’s journey through the new canon has been the most remarkable and every moment we saw her in another context was a surprise and a sheer delight. But if I had to pick a single moment, I would choose her appearance at the Battle of Endor in the short story “The Levers of Power” — it’s the pivot point around which her whole career orients and changes.

Before the Battle of Endor, RAE SLOANE is a dutiful Imperial true believer who does the right thing as she sees it but is unable to rise as far as she merits due to the Empire’s internal politics and her unwillingness to play those games. After the Battle of Endor, RAE SLOANE is one of the most powerful forces in the Empire and becomes the very face of its surviving military as a grand admiral (literally, in the case of propaganda posters).

“The Levers of Power” shows Admiral RAE SLOANE on the precipice, just as her Empire is. It is a harrowing story. The Battle of Endor felt like it could go either way, until disaster mounted on disaster and it couldn’t. We see all the classic hallmarks of RAE SLOANE: her tactical skill, her dislike for power games (exemplified by a particularly odious ISB loyalty officer), and her ability to cut through the expected to get things done. She does not suffer the loyalty officer’s second-guessing as she leads as ably as any Imperial officer could. More than that: when she has to make the key decisive call that the battle is lost and duty requires the fleet to be preserved, she shoots the loyalty officer dead and gives the order to retreat. She has to. Read More

The 20 Most Memorable Moments of the New Star Wars Canon, Part I

While Eleven-ThirtyEight was founded in 2013, the earliest piece of writing hosted here is much, much older. In the summer of 2005, soon after Revenge of the Sith “completed” the saga, Star Wars Insider magazine published a feature by Abel G. Peña and Enrique Guerrero entitled “The 20 Most Memorable Moments of the Expanded Universe”. The piece concluded with a prompt for readers to share their own lists, and that was just the excuse I needed to begin a new blog at StarWars.com, which was a thing they let people do in those days.

The final product was my first major piece of Star Wars writing outside of TheForce.Net, and while I didn’t end up doing much else over there, I remained pretty fond of it, so with the official blogs long since defunct I took the opportunity of ETE’s birth to port the thing over here, where it has lived happily in seclusion ever since.

While I’m normally not a fan of “listicles” (gag) or retrospectives on content long past, that “memorable moments” concept has always stuck with me as one of the more acceptable ways of approaching both things—so with the five-year anniversary of the Star Wars continuity reboot last month I decided this would be a good opportunity for us to stop and look around a bit.

While the ranking that follows is of course despicably subjective, it is the result of an obnoxiously elaborate ranked-choice voting system: each of our nine regular contributors offered their own list of ten moments, with everyone’s top choice counting for ten points, their second choice counting for nine points, and so on. That left us with sixty-two distinct “moments” and several ties, which we then voted on until arriving at a conclusive top twenty.

With no further ado, enjoy, and be sure to check back on Wednesday for Part II! – Mike Read More

Master & Apprentice: The Tie-In Book The Phantom Menace Always Needed

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This review contains minor spoilers for Claudia Gray’s novel Master & Apprentice

Since the Star Wars “canon” was reset in April 2014, I’ve had a wish list of stories I wanted to see told, all filling gaps in the prequel era. While the first few years following the “reboot” focused mainly on the original trilogy, I held out hope that we would eventually see a novel about Padmé set between Episodes I and II; an origin story for Dooku’s turn to the dark side; and the great missing piece from The Clone Wars, the Siege of Mandalore. Someone must have been listening.

What I wanted more than anything, though, was a novel about my favorite character, Qui-Gon Jinn. And after her incredible short story “Master and Apprentice” in 2017’s From A Certain Point Of View, I knew I wanted Claudia Gray to write it. From the heartbreaking Lost Stars to her work with Leia in Bloodline and Princess of Alderaan, Gray has been one of the shining stars of the new novels. So maybe I was pre-programmed to like this. I can honestly say, though, that Master & Apprentice is everything I wanted it to be, and more: a look inside the mind and beliefs of Qui-Gon Jinn, an unexplored take on his relationship with Obi-Wan, and something of a love letter to fans of The Phantom Menace.

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