Jay: Last time we had a Star Wars Celebration, I was the only member of Eleven-ThirtyEight there. The site was a couple years old, the new Star Wars around the same age, and we were all eagerly awaiting the new movie. Now, we have four staff writers attending — Sarah (who hadn’t joined ETE by the time of Star Wars Celebration Anaheim), David, Ben (who I believe is attending his first Celebration?), and I. I’m officially covering the event as press for ETE, but really, all of us will be covering panels and writing about the events. I thought we’d discuss what we plan to cover, what we hope to see, and what we think of Star Wars Celebration in general. In other words, how does Eleven-ThirtyEight approach Star Wars Celebration?
I’ll get us started with my initial thoughts on Celebration. This is my fifth Star Wars Celebration — I’ve attended all of the domestic Celebrations since Celebration III with the exception of Celebration V. Primarily, I attended them as social events: as a central meetup for all of my friends and fellow Star Wars fans, with the whole convention as sort of a convenient backdrop. The only panels I made an effort to attend were the books and comics panels. Aside from that? It was cool seeing costumes and stuff, but eh. But since Anaheim, Star Wars news has been huge — overnight lines, trailers dropping, wall-to-wall coverage. Being in the room for the <i>Force Awakens</i> trailer was an experience that I’ll never forget, and I’m eager enough to relive it that I’m going to be doing two overnight lines now for the 40th Anniversary and The Last Jedi panels.
For me, the social aspect of Celebration hasn’t changed — if anything, there are even more people I’ve gotten to know since Star Wars was revived and I want to spend time with all of them. But somehow I have to manage to see all the movie, book, television, and even toy news.
What about the rest of you? What were previous Celebrations like for you? What do you expect from Orlando, generally? » Read more..
Mike: When it comes to home video, Star Wars fans have never been starved for options. Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find a fan over a certain age who hasn’t at least bought the original trilogy multiple times just to keep up with modern formats—on top of which you’ve got Special Editions, box sets, new individual releases with the original cuts included, etc. And that’s just the old movies; now that we’ve got a new Star Wars film every year for the time being it looks like there are several options to consider with each: DVD, Blu-Ray, 3D Blu-ray, digital download, and if The Force Awakens is any indication, another fancy deluxe set at the end of the year with all the special features they didn’t include the first time.
With the digital Rogue One having been out for a couple weeks now and the hard copies showing up tomorrow, what calls have you guys been making amidst all these options? As if the different formats weren’t enough to keep track of, TFA and Rogue One both come in a few different slipcovers exclusive to different retailers, and wouldn’t you know it, I happened to fall in love with the neat-o BB-8 cover at the top of this article, which meant dragging myself to Walmart of all places, for the first time in several years. While it’s a bit more of a trek for me than Target (or Amazon, obviously), now that it looks like that character-focused style is going to be a recurring design thing I guess I’ll be going back to Walmart this week to pick up Rogue One. What about the rest of you? Do any of you actually buy multiple copies, to take advantage of the earlier digital release, or the better bonus features later on?
Jay: I always go for the Blu-ray, and it’s for the simple reason that I want to see Star Wars films in the best way that I possibly can. Right now, that’s Blu-ray on an HDTV. Of course, sometimes I just want to watch the movie and I can’t be bothered so I’ll watch it on the computer or phone or whatever else but that’s the trick: the Blu-ray already comes with a free digital copy, which is redeemable at the distributor of my choice (and through Disney’s rewards thing, through multiple distributors). I’ll also watch the digital version when I want to take screenshots, because while I own a BD-ROM drive as well, PC BD-player software annoyingly doesn’t let you take screenshots (and moreover, PC BD-player software is largely garbage). » Read more..
David: What makes a good villain? Is it an easy-to-understand motivation? Is it a certain degree of likability? Is it intelligence, perhaps, or the ability to command respect? Or maybe a personal connection to the heroes? Or is it that hard-to-define but easy-to-recognize factor that we often call coolness? Darth Vader has all of these, and that’s the reason he is one of the best villains in modern culture. His screen time in Star Wars Rebels season two was short but definitely memorable, going from a really strong first appearance where he basically made our heroes run for their lives to one final showing where he (maybe) killed one of the most loved characters in the franchise and left the rest of the crew reeling from the impact. But how have the other Rebels villains lived up to this example? Especially: how good of a villain has Grand Admiral Thrawn been?
When the trailer showing the animated Thrawn was first shown at Star Wars Celebration London, the room went completely wild. There you had what was probably the most popular villain from Legends jumping to the small screen and becoming the main opponent for the season, a successor to the Grand Inquisitor and Darth Vader. There he was, looking at art (omigosh at Sabine’s graffiti) and talking cryptically about the imminent destruction of the Rebellion. But once the initial excitement wore off there was one question hanging in the air: would the series do justice to the Grand Admiral? Timothy Zahn seemed to think so, but how would Thrawn work through the whole season? Was this the same old Thrawn from 1991?
No, he definitely wasn’t the Thrawn we were used to. » Read more..
“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..
(Note: This review is attempting to be spoiler-light – it’ll describe the main characters and that’s essentially it.)
Okay, hear me out. I know comparing dang near anything to the late, beloved Aaron Allston’s Wraith Squadron X-wing books is a tall order to justify. I don’t think anything could really fill those boots, but if I had to describe the first Join the Resistance book in a few words, “Wraith Squadron for kids” is exactly how I’d do it. It gets across what’s at the root of the story: a group of misfits trying to be heroes. Some of them don’t come across as misfits at first, and some definitely do. But they’re all imperfect people, trying to defy stereotypes and going through zany hijinks in order to get there. You have to suspend your disbelief a little further: if you could believe that Wedge Antilles could get away with assembling a squadron of washups who performed bizarre undercover missions, then this book asks a little more of you. It asks you to believe that the Resistance would recruit teenage cadets (not too unbelievable), and would train them on their headquarters at D’Qar (a little more unbelievable).
It’s important to remember that this book is for kids. But that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable for adults – it’s not as nuanced as the Servants of the Empire books, but I had a great time reading Join the Resistance and could hardly put it down. And it’s not un-nuanced, either. Like I said, the characters are not all what they seem to be. The story also plays into The Force Awakens and the political state of the galaxy, set as it is immediately prior to TFA. There’s some interesting new information in the book, but I wouldn’t say that anybody should read these books for information on TFA or upcoming movies. You’ll just be disappointed, and that’s not what these books are about. Rather, read these books if you want a fun TFA-era story about youngsters from different walks of life learning what it is to be good people and finding that it’s not as easy a question as it sounds. » Read more..