Archive for David Schwarz

Rebels Revisited: “Look What I Have Risen Above”

rr-oldwounds

“I’ve done a lot of prolonged lightsaber battles over the years and I think what’s most important about any kind of confrontation is what’s riding on it. What’s the tension going into it? It starts to matter less and less how you swing a sword or how creatively you do it if there’s not a lot riding on it.” – Dave Filoni

Mike: First and foremost, this was an Ezra episode. Like “Twilight of the Apprentice” before it, “Twin Suns” had to take an event of great significance to the larger saga and fashion it into a key step in the development of Star Wars Rebels‘ ongoing story. That being the case, of course we spent most of our time with Ezra, because his state of mind was the point of all this. When Obi-Wan tells Ezra to fuck off back to the Rebellion and Ezra actually listens, that’s such a major character shift as to be almost unbelievable. Ezra’s arc ever since meeting Darth Vader has been all about gaining enough power to defeat the Sith, so for him to willingly trot off into the desert with Maul standing right there shows that his conversation with Obi-Wan ended that delusion of grandeur once and for all—clearly it took being told by “Master Kenobi” himself that his place is with the Rebellion to finally get that through to him (and it’s certainly very interesting for Rebels‘ larger narrative).

And with Ezra out of the way, what does that leave us with? A weak, raving maniac still hung up on a thirty-year-old defeat facing off against a Jedi Master at the height of his powers, currently acting as an instrument for no less than the Will of the Force. Obi-Wan in this moment is Chirrut crossing the beach to the master control switch, and Maul, for all their history, is no more than a blaster bolt whizzing by. Not only should Obi-Wan have been able to take Maul apart logically speaking, he has the weight of the entire narrative—I’m sorry, I mean the Force—on his side. Compared to that, this isn’t an event of great significance, it’s a brief annoyance that just so happens to be cool to watch. And for the show to present it as precisely that is, I think, a triumph of perspective over fanservice.

Obi-Wan tells Ezra that Maul has “altered the course of many things”, which is a great meta wink at his even being alive in this time period. While I have to admit some great stories have come out of it, I’ll always see the decision to bring Maul back in The Clone Wars as a flawed one—for the last several years he’s been like a tumor growing on the side of the real story, superfluous yet impossible to ignore. Seeing him fight Vader a year ago may have been momentarily satisfying (though, much like this fight, it had a hard-to-top predecessor in the Legends comics), but that would have distracted from Ezra and Kanan’s needs as characters. Here, Maul’s defeat is a secondary concern and the real fight is over Ezra’s decision not to fight; the same decision Obi-Wan and Luke will make for themselves in the future—to do what the Force truly wants from them rather than seek a superficial sense of justice. Ezra casts his pretensions aside and rides north, leaving Obi-Wan behind to cut off the tumor once and for all. » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: Rounding Out the Cast

rr-ap5wedge

Mike: So I thought this episode was fun enough, but here’s a question that’s been in the back of my mind lately: is Star Wars Rebels serving its supporting characters adequately? I love the basic premise of AP-5 as a counterpart to Chopper, but we’re barely seen him this season—have they developed him enough in his two or three appearances to earn a POV story like this? Agent Kallus is the most prominent character without a Spectre designation, and even he never got to shoulder an entire episode himself until just a couple weeks ago, despite his having one of the most dramatic and consequential recent character arcs. Are they doing justice to these secondary players (hey, remember Ketsu?) or are we only seeing the Cliff’s Notes of their stories?

Ben: Short answer, no. Not nearly. The Rebels writers are still falling into much the same trap that they did during The Clone Wars, where they introduce side characters and then do nothing with them until it’s convenient to bring them back up later on. TCW could get away with it to some degree due to its less-serialized style, where people like Cad Bane and Barriss Offee could pop in and out of the overall narrative without too much of a disconnect. This approach had its own pros and cons, as any fan of Barriss will tell you. In Rebels, though…

Rebels’ storytelling is a much tighter, more straightforward narrative that’s driven by the actions of its central characters. The pacing is usually quick, almost too quick, driving events forward, where major plots are brought up and then resolved very quickly thereafter (for the most part; usually the villains work much more slowly than our heroes). This irreversible drive forward gets to the point where a lot of the side plots and characters don’t get the development that they really need. » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: Our Lady in White—Mon Mothma in Focus

rr-mothmahera

Ben: Rebels has been seeding appearances from different portions of the budding Alliance since the first season, when Bail Organa showed up as a secret observer of the Ghost crew and their increasingly public actions. But the third season has made a clear and definite effort to bring more of those pieces into play, until this week’s episode sought to unite them on screen at long last, showing one of those beginning moments that we always knew had happened but have never actually seen before now.

The keystone to this event is Mon Mothma. We get to see her formally resign her seat in the Imperial Senate and call for any and all fellow rebels to unite under a single banner. While we don’t see the formal signing of an organizational article stating as such, and Mon is far from the first rebel or even the first senator to turn against the Emperor, she is the most high-profile defector from decadence that we have seen up to this point. Major note is made of her courage to stand up against the Empire, fighting in the senate instead of with blasters since before the end of the Clone Wars, and her finally stepping down from that post is a major turning point in the escalation of the war.

Mon Mothma has been showing up a lot in Star Wars lately. She has major supporting roles in a couple of books (Bloodline, Empire’s End), a brief but central role in Rogue One, and now she pops up in Rebels. In the old Expanded Universe, she used to be little more than a name drop, listed as one of the founders of the Alliance but never given all that much to really do aside from administrate the New Republic and dole out advice to the far-more-central Leia Organa. Now, she’s just as prominent before the events of Return of the Jedi as she is after it, showing that she did more to help establish the rebellion than just sign some papers. » Read more..

The Force Does Not Throw Dice: Oops We Killed Darth Vader

vips-vaderHello and welcome again to The Force Does Not Throw Dice, the very irregular ETE feature devoted to tabletop roleplaying games in the galaxy far, far away. It’s been a long time since my last piece but, after seeing the warm reception that my Star Wars RPG tweets usually get, I’m going to try to change things around and turn this into a more regular feature. So expect more RPG rants in the near future!

Last month we asked Twitter for suggestions for future features, and the topic of this month’s piece was inspired by Mario Escamilla’s question on the use of VIPs in the game. So first let’s define a VIP as any canonical non-player character, from a main character like Luke Skywalker to a secondary character like Officer Thanoth. Using canonical characters in your game is, to many gaming groups, intrinsic to roleplaying in the Star Wars galaxy. If we used the jargon from the old GSN Theory classification method, we could classify Star Wars RPG as a “setting simulation” system: although there can be a variety of approaches and many divergent campaigns can be played, one of the most common objectives is to make the game feel like it’s set in the Star Wars universe. Some Game Masters find that, alongside using known worlds and technology, one of the easiest ways to make sure that the game is unequivocally set in the galaxy far, far away is to have an established character guest star in it.

Yet using VIPs in your Star Wars game is not as simple as it sounds, and can bring some unexpected headaches if not thought through. Although all published settings come with their own canonical characters, be it the wizard Elminster from Forgotten Realms or the various corporate chairmen from Shadowrun, few can claim to have any characters as ingrained in popular culture as Han Solo or Darth Vader. So let’s take a look at some common challenges and mistakes when it comes to using VIPs. Let’s ask ourselves a few questions.

» Read more..

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The ETE Special Edition

jedirocks

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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