Archive for Jay Shah

Solo Shoots in a New Direction

This image is called 'sologroup' and that makes me laugh

Like many people, I kept my expectations low going into Solo. I thought it was a movie that I wasn’t sure needed to exist, but the trailers looked pretty cool and I hoped to get a good Star Wars movie out of it. So when people asked me what I thought of the movie after watching it, I was surprised to realize that I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It wasn’t like The Last Jedi, which needed a few viewings to process what was happening in the movie. Solo was pretty straightforward – I was sure that I liked it, but I wasn’t sure how much. I told a few people that I thought it was “just fine” but even as the words came out of my mouth, I thought that I was damning the movie by faint praise and that just didn’t seem right. The movie was different from the previous episodic films and even from Rogue One, but it wasn’t a bad movie. I liked it.  

After a while, I realized that Solo felt a little different to me than other Star Wars movies. I would almost say less cinematic, except Solo is clearly a movie made by a moviemakers conscious of cinema tradition in general (the movie has echoes of Lucas’s oeuvre, noir, crime dramas, etc.). But despite its cinematic trappings, it felt more like a season of TV or an expanded universe novel condensed down into two hours. This isn’t a negative – I like Star Wars TV and I like SW books, both Legends and canon. But something about the story – more than just assorted lore namedrops – reminded me of the type of Star Wars story telling that isn’t “necessary” (you don’t have to read every book) but tells us a little more about the Star Wars universe by providing texture and character. That’s what Solo is, I think — it’s a story that’s available if you want it, but not mandatory if you just don’t have any interest in the subject matter or era.

Spoilers beneath the cut! I’m avoiding major plot points on purpose, but I always advocate being as spoiler free as possible! 

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Last Shot’s Ewok Codebreaker Peekpa and How Your Stereotypes Should Make Like a Tree

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Last Shot is a zany Han and Lando novel, but among all the fun there were moments that covered some pretty weighty issues. The presence alone of an Ewok slicer, Peekpa, makes us question some of the assumptions we’ve had about Star Wars aliens in and out of universe. In another scene (details below the spoiler cut), Older has an alien character discuss how their species is still stereotyped and discriminated against by humans, even though they’re all supposed to be equal. Finally, Lando’s droid, L3-37, is an advocate for droid rights and while I don’t know how much of that will show up in the Solo movie (it’s enough to warrant a mention on L3’s StarWars.com databank page), the relationship between droid and organic sentience is a major theme of the book. These are the sorts of topics that Star Wars really papers over or treats superficially, if at all.   

Before I get into the topic in full, I did want to briefly give Last Shot a straightforward review. I greatly enjoyed it. The book felt like coming back home to the old-school EU with its take on the post-Endor New Republic and the adventures of Lando and Han, or the relationship between Han and Leia (my favorite part of the book aside from the scenes below). There are some great lines and hilarious scenes, especially featuring certain droids near the beginning of the book.  

But as much as I quite enjoyed all of that, I want to focus on aliens and droids—populations in Star Wars that have to live by humanity’s rules, and who might defy human expectations if given a chance. This book does just that—it’s the little things, but Daniel José Older gives us things we have not seen in Star Wars before by treating aliens and droids with respect. They’re involved in jokes, but they are not the butt of jokes. Minor spoilers beneath the cut. 

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Eleven-ThirtyEight’s Star Wars Hot Takes

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After taking the last couple April Fools’ Days off, we decided to do something a little different this year—and not just because today is April 2nd. Around Christmas, staff writer David Schwarz created the Twitter bot Star Wars Hot Takes, which does pretty much what it sounds like, tweeting an auto-generated Star Wars take/thinkpiece title once an hour—many of which you could easily imagine someone throwing together as clickbait, and some of which, I have to admit, sound very close to actual ETE articles.

Truthfully, I think the term “hot take” is a little overblown as a criticism; it’s a category people use to reflexively dismiss big swaths of content they don’t like without much regard for the thought put into it. The key difference between a good piece and a “hot take”, in my opinion, isn’t the point of view expressed but how thoughtfully it’s presented—and I absolutely go out of my way to highlight takes on ETE that are distinct and outside the norm (even when I don’t necessarily agree with them) so that they can be given a thoughtful and balanced airing.

With that said, another important principle of this site is to not take ourselves too seriously—it’s just Star Wars, and there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that everyone’s opinions can get a little overblown once in a while. So in the spirit of taking just a little air out of our sails this April Fools’, I challenged the staff to pick a Star Wars Hot Take tweet and develop it into a “serious” mini-editorial. Here’s what they came up with. » Read more..

Sticking the Landing – The Finale of Star Wars Rebels

—this piece contains major spoilers, obviously—

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Ben: So. That was bittersweet. I want to say up front that I know that the direction the show went in its last season didn’t agree with everyone. They went to some weird places and were not afraid to take chances with characters and the overall direction of the show, and are entirely unapologetic about it. I know that my personal feelings about the show don’t reflect everyone’s feelings, I acknowledge that other people might have taken away different things from the show than what I took away, and I don’t in any way intend to belittle people’s feelings or thoughts with what I have to say.

I’ve watched every episode of Rebels as it’s come out, I’ve been fully invested in the show since before it even started airing, and it’s been the one major constant about the franchise in general that I’ve been attached to since the Disney acquisition. The very first article I ever wrote for this site as a staff member (that hasn’t aged well but I digress) was in defense of Rebels from malingers who were badmouthing it before an episode had even aired. My time with the show has not been all sunshine and rainbows, and I am fully willing to acknowledge that the show is flawed.

All of that being said, the last fifteen minutes or so of the final episode made me so emotional that I was literally trembling. I’ve been invested in the crew of the Ghost for four years, and having their story finally come to an end is something that I intellectually knew had to happen at some point, but that I was not fully emotionally prepared for. I want there to be more. I want to tune back in next week and have another adventure with Sabine, Ezra, Zeb, Hera, Chopper and Kanan ready and waiting for me. I want to see more of Lothal, I want to get more banter and fun, I want to learn more about each of these characters, I want to see them keep interacting, keep fighting, keep living. » Read more..

Jogan Fruits of Imperial Labor – The Growth of Villainy in Star Wars Rebels

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With the imminent finale of Star Wars Rebels, I thought it was a good time to take stock of the recurring villains of the show. Where did we start, and where did we end up? Are the villains satisfying? Are they evil, without seeming cartoonishly so? Or should they be cartoonish, because this show is actually a cartoon? When this show started, Grint and Aresko were among the first Imperials we saw – and they were spending their time stealing from jogan fruit vendors and threatening to lock them up for treason on ridiculous pretexts. Thankfully, those clownish villains weren’t typical of the villains we’d get in the show. The use of Thrawn in “Jedi Night” and “DUME” is what got me thinking about how villains have been portrayed throughout the show’s four seasons and it’s as good a time as any to take a villainous retrospective.

The end of the show isn’t the first time that it’s made sense to take stock of the villains of the show. There have been a lot of new villains introduced, and a lot of change. What’s the villainy of Maketh Tua (RIP) next to Vader and Tarkin? Was Kallus’s defection earned, or was he “honorable” all along? Would the return of fan-favorite Thrawn result in white-washing, or a nuanced portrayal? The villains’ competence reflects that of the heroes – every time the Ghost crew up the stakes, the Empire did so in turn. Tracking the arc of the major villains is another way to track the arc of the show and its main characters.

Ultimately, Rebels is a kids’ show that belongs to the Star Wars franchise: it’s clear to everyone who the villains are and who the heroes are. The complexity is never in terms of moral gray: the show will never make us ask “are the Imperials good?” or “are the Rebels bad?” Instead, the villains are given complexity in other ways: the petty evils of Grint and Aresko give way to the likes of Thrawn and even Darth Maul. They’re bad people but they’re evil in different ways. We might even forget for a second that they’re villains, until the show rightly reminds us that they are.

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