Archive for Jay Shah

Thrawn and the Clone Wars – Making Old Feel New Again

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Often, I feel like reactions to more Thrawn content roughly parallel the reactions to more Clone Wars or prequel-era content. Those who are big fans say ”yes, more of what I like please!” while those who are not either express dismay, boredom, or the exact opposite sentiment of the fans: “ugh, more of what I don’t like.”

At first blush, it’s easy to see Thrawn: Alliances as an attempt to capture a bigger audience than just fans of Thrawn or fans of The Clone Wars. I think that’s a little too simple though – for one thing, there are people who are fans of both and see the whole thing as a false dichotomy. For another, cynicism doesn’t write books (at least not good ones) – interest in telling a story does. And if there was thought put into what the fans wanted, it was probably with the intent of delivering a story people would like as opposed to thinking of ways to make people open their wallets.  

So why did I bring up a false fandom dichotomy and a cynical sales theory in the first place? Well, I think there’s something there – but it’s not about fanservice or personal storytelling preferences. It’s about the idea of “more of the same” and how the combination of more Thrawn and more Clone Wars produced something new. This story is strongest when the Clone Wars setting and the character of Thrawn are put together – with the result that we also get a pretty good portrayal of Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker in a storyline that wouldn’t feel out of place as a mini-arc in The Clone Wars. Maybe you bought the book for Anakin or for Thrawn, but you may end up enjoying how the rest of the book sheds insight on those characters. Personally, I went in excited about both Imperial intrigues and Padmé — but I ended up appreciating how it all came together. 

I avoid major plot spoilers below — but the Padmé section (“The Senator of Naboo”) has plot details you may not want to read until you’ve finished the novel.

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Mind or Matter? Unpacking Droid Sentience in the Films

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Mike: Recently we ran a fascinating guest piece by Eric Farr that unpacked the suggestion in Solo of a sexual relationship between Lando and L3-37—or at the very least, Elthree’s claim that such a thing is possible. The extent to which any given droid in the Galaxy Far, Far Away is truly conscious and self-aware has always been a little muddled, so the notion of droids consenting to sexual activity (as opposed to simply being programmed for it) is pretty complicated ground for Star Wars to be covering, and any conclusions are bound to be highly debatable.

And debate we did: as with many great pieces, a very interesting conversation unfolded in the comments over the following couple weeks between myself, Eric, and two other ETE regulars, Vincent Cagliuso and John Maurer. The discussion backed up a bit from Eric’s original topic and looked more broadly at whether droid rights are something that should be addressed at all, or if to do so would only unravel the basic premise of the universe—many of our heroes own droids, after all.

At one point Vincent posed a simple question that stuck out to me as a perfect encapsulation of the problem—particularly because it wasn’t about Elthree. There’s a lot going on with her that can be debated in and of itself regardless of how one feels about droid rights as a concept, so I thought I’d pose his question to the rest of the staff as a means of getting at the core issue and avoiding the need to rehash our feelings about Solo specifically.

So here’s the question, guys: Padmé Amidala owns a protocol droid. Said droid is absolutely drowning in personality; if any droid is self-aware, it’s this one. Upon Padmé’s death, Bail Organa takes possession of this droid, decides it knows too much, and promptly gives it a mindwipe. Is Bail Organa, hero of the Rebellion and beloved father of Princess Leia, a monster? » Read more..

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. 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 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

Last Shot

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..

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