Last Thursday, as soon as the news broke that Rian Johnson had been tasked with creating a brand-new trilogy of Star Wars films, I ran a Twitter poll of a few of the more popular spinoff ideas that have been floating around the last few years. To no one’s great surprise, the winner was “Ancient Republic”, with more than three-fifths of voters opting for that (admittedly broad) premise over any other choice, even literally “other”. I followed that up with a more specific poll, and a strong plurality voted for a trilogy revealing the origins of the Jedi Order.
That certainly looks like a plausible option as well, with The Last Jedi seemingly about to shed some light on how the Jedi came into being (and what made Luke all mopey about it). So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that, when I asked the staff to pitch me their ideas for a spinoff trilogy, I got three stories roughly involving, well, the origins of the Jedi. Here’s what they came up with.
Mark: Star Wars: Pioneers
The early days of hyperspace travel. Before a galactic senate has been established, corporations are sending out ships to discover new planets and exploit their resources. But one region of the galaxy is shrouded in mystery, and both expeditions have failed to return. Strong energy readings have been detected, indicating a highly valuable power source.
Explorer Captain Jessica Henwick (finally getting her starring role) leads a crew of specialists on a dangerous mission to investigate. Among them is the state-of-the-art droid Huyang (David Tennant), and a mysterious man played by Ben Daniels. The first movie is space horror in the vain of Event Horizon or Sunshine – they find one of the missing ships, where the crew have been killed by a race of aliens who appear to have magical powers. The big revelation – Daniels is part of a mysterious new start-up religion that began on Ahch-To, called the Jedi, and was sent by his fellow believers to investigate dark powers flowing from this region of space. His own powers – similar to those of the creatures – lead to a lot of distrust within the crew. » Read more..
Jay: So guys, we’ve had a chance to digest From A Certain Point of View for a little while. This was always an interesting project — a book commemorating the 40th Anniversary of A New Hope, but trying to avoid well-trod ground. It was a huge undertaking to get 43 authors involved, and even more so to accomplish all of that for a charitable cause. Here at Eleven-ThirtyEight, we’ve been extolling the virtues of short stories for a while — both as a way to introduce new authors into the mix and to experiment with different kinds of stories. After all, I think several of us would agree that there is no one right way to tell a Star Wars story — that we can think beyond the expectations of Jedi, space battles, past tense, all of that, and get something different that still feels very much like Star Wars (the original movie was, after all, experimentation based on the familiar).
FACPOV gave us that — and it gave us a large variety of stories, catering to various different perspectives and interests. I’m sure that between all of us, there was at least one story that we knew we’d love as soon as Del Rey announced the story subjects. But what I want to get into first is…what surprised you? We’ll have time to talk about expected favorites later, but for me part of the joy was finding several stories I never expected to be my favorites, but they were. Was it the same for you?
» Read more..
Jay: This two-part episode really did a great job highlighting the Mothma-Saw conflict and presenting their opposing viewpoints in the clearest way, while simultaneously developing Saw in a way that didn’t make him look like a two-dimensional cartoon character (lol). But this episode’s strengths highlighted the weakness of its handling of Kallus, who has somehow transformed himself. I don’t mean the Hot Kallus thing, that’s mostly funny (and people are allowed to be fans of characters even if they aren’t the purest). What I mean is that Kallus, formerly Fulcrum, formerly ISB Agent Kallus, is now important enough to the Rebellion that he’s present in councils with Mon Mothma and General Dodonna. He, a former genocidal Imperial agent, gets treated better than a fellow Rebel, Saw. He also gets more trust than Jyn, a person who’s been anti-Imperial her whole life, and more trust than Bodhi Rook, another defector who is in fact distrusted by the Rebel high council.
This is problematic, not least from an optics point of view. Saw, Bodhi, and Jyn are mistrusted (POCs and a woman) while Kallus (white male) is implicitly believed. This disparity is a bad look, even though it is obviously not the intent of the writers (indeed, it’s easy to justify the contrast between Bodhi’s treatment and Kallus’s–Kallus’s Fulcrum stint has earned him credibility, and Bodhi is an unknown quantity). But it doesn’t look good, and I think people are noticing the troubling optics there. But leaving that potentially controversial point aside, it’s hard to see why Saw’s extremism makes the Rebel leadership so uncomfortable with him when they’re apparently fine with Kallus.
It’s possible there will be story repercussions for Kallus, and a treatment of his war crimes just hasn’t shown up in the show yet. That’ll satisfy the need for it to be addressed, but it makes me ask — why put it off until later? Kallus was, more than any other character, the main antagonist for the Ghost crew. His defection is a big deal, and the consequences of it and his addition to trusted Rebel staff deserve to be addressed before we suddenly see him as one of the good guys. I have enough faith in the writing team to believe that it will be addressed, but the fact that it hasn’t been addressed yet bothers me. » Read more..
Our fandom is rarely without some kind of controversy. It’s been like this since the times of message board wars and it feels like social media has only exacerbated this tendency towards grabbing pitchforks and torches that we often show. Sometimes these controversies become full-blown online wars (just look “Reylo” up on Google), sometimes they just fizzle down after a couple of annoyed grunts, and sometimes they actually become polite discussions. A couple of weeks ago one of the latter happened when Florian from Jedi-Bibliothek revealed that then-upcoming book Leia: Princess of Alderaan (since then positively reviewed by Jay and Sarah in this website) had a very disconcerting scene: at one point, Leia happily speaks of an old Alderaanian proverb, strength through joy. For those not in the know, Strength Through Joy (Kraft durch Freude) was the name of a Nazi leisure organization; our friends at Jedi-Bib, a German fan site, were understandably puzzled, so were I and many others, especially European fans (I wonder why!). The fan reactions were multiple if muted, from the fans that suspected that it was intended to be a sarcastic commentary on the reach of the Empire to the fans that thought that it was not that big of a deal because to American readers it was an obscure reference, to even a few that said “STJ was just a tour operator, not a big deal, get over it.” I personally thought that the obscurity of the reference was what made the reference complicated, as it meant that in practice it worked like a dog whistle. Anyway, the strife lasted just one day: author Claudia Gray was horrified when she found out about the phrase’s origins, explaining it was just a coincidence, and everyone seemed to accept it and move on (although word is still out on what’s going to happen with future reprints and especially with the upcoming German translation). It was obvious from the start that it was most likely just an unintended reference: if George Harrison can accidentally copy one full song, the chances that Claudia Gray had referenced Strength Through Joy without knowing of its very dark origins were not small.
Yet the reaction of some fans who were just unwilling to contemplate the possibility that a Star Wars book could somehow have an intentional Nazi reference—while understandable because the author is well-liked and the book is really good—highlighted the sometimes complicated relationship that fandom has with both the representation of fascism in the Star Wars saga and the influence that fascism itself has had on it. I’ve mentioned before that I personally find the commodification of Imperial chic to be slightly disturbing, but this time I’d like to dig a bit deeper and to talk about the very tortuous relationship that Star Wars has always had with the concept of fascism itself. Is Star Wars a fascist dream? Is Star Wars actually anti-fascist? » Read more..
I don’t like for this site to do instant-reaction pieces very often because I want us to be measured at all times, and focused on the big picture rather than the heat of the moment. But sometimes an announcement comes along that’s so vaguely detailed that there’s nothing particularly informed or complex we as fans are in a position to say about it—so it’s either offer up our first impressions for what they are, or ignore it entirely.
But how could we possibly ignore something as big as the news that JJ Abrams will be returning to the franchise to direct Episode IX after Colin Trevorrow was put on a bus out of town? With most directors, Trevorrow and even Rian Johnson included, you can speculate a great deal about what their version of a Star Wars film would look like based on their other work, but Abrams is the only working director who has an actual Star Wars film already under their belt that we can pick apart for clues as to what he’ll do next.
That said? I’m reasonably agnostic on this choice. I love The Force Awakens even more two years later than I did when I first saw it, so I’m completely certain he can produce another Star Wars film that I enjoy. But Star Trek Into Darkness (while I don’t hate it as much as many do) wasn’t anywhere near as good as his first Trek film so I’m not quite convinced he’s the kind of director who gets better at a given property with practice—TFA could very well be his high-water mark.
I also wonder how he’ll cooperate with Lucasfilm this time around; Bad Robot had a pretty heavy hand in TFA because LFL was still largely getting their shit together and figuring out how they wanted to do things—their trust in him was rewarded that time, but with a more firmly ensconced Story Group and a president who knows what she wants and isn’t screwing around, is he willing to accept more “outside” input this time around? Is he willing to take chances of his own? I hope so.
Since Abrams is such a known quantity in this fandom, I’ll make this a little more challenging for the rest of you—if you’re generally positive about this news, what’s the thing that most concerns you? And if you’re generally negative, what are you most optimistic about? » Read more..