Archive for Ben Crofts

Fleeing The End: Why I Finally Watched The Force Awakens—and The Last Jedi

reyluke-vanityfair

Two years back, I did an article on why I was holding off from seeing The Force Awakens. I watched it just over a week ago, with The Last Jedi on the next day. (Reviews for both TFA and TLJ.) Did my expectations of what I thought I would make of TFA actually pan out? I think so, but with one difference in that I did not really see the same movie as others would have seen two years gone.

Nope, the version I saw was technically the same, but I saw it having a lot more information about how it all came about than any viewer would have had then. Did that change it? It bolstered and supported the film’s weaknesses. Even a partial, incomplete account of where the First Order came from beats nothing, similarly a general picture of how the Republic works beats nothing. I would disagree much needed to be done to address these in the film, each could have been covered by a single line, say of First Order agents paralyzing the Republic politically, an older Resistance member quipping to another about a sense of déjà vu. Small details to be sure, but they would have helped the film stand more on its own.

And that ten percent of the film I expected to dislike? Well, the Bloodline book did de-fang a lot of what TFA does with Han and Leia, by dating the collapse of everything for them as roughly six years earlier. That changes the picture quite a bit and lessens the impact. It’s notable that Han’s claim to be good at smuggling is complete bullshit. He wasn’t that good at it thirty years previous and age hasn’t made him any better. As an excuse for a man who blames himself for things he should not, it does work. Leia’s focusing on what she can do, rather than what she cannot – like convincing Han he should not blame himself – that works too. » Read more..

Luke Week: We Are All Luke Skywalker

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting older pieces. In recognition of Luke Skywalker’s electrifying return to the saga in The Last Jedi, this time around we’ve declared it Luke Week! Every day this week you’ll find a different piece taking a closer look at Luke’s character and legacy—some recent, some less so—back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

legendsoflukeTo say Ken Liu’s The Legends of Luke Skywalker has been keenly awaited would be an understatement. Since the great reboot that followed Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, there have been exceedingly few stories of what Luke has been doing after the fall of the Empire. There was Shattered Empire, but that was only one issue out of four and that was more or less it. For some the book has been a disappointment for its lack of actual ‘here’s what Luke really did next’ material. Instead, the book is of a far more playful and trickster nature, built around stories being told of Skywalker. Are they all true? That’s up to the reader, but there are hints that sometimes tip the deck one way or another. Expecting a book coming out ahead of The Last Jedi to have much in the way of revelations is expecting the impossible, the pattern was set by The Force Awakens. If there are major ‘this really happened’ stories, they will be next year, not now. Nor was the book ever deceptive about its premise in its marketing either.

The first story concerns an engineer spinning a tall tale to a rapt audience. It is subtly suggested the audience’s main interest is in how ludicrous a tale can be spun, for it is a tale of mad, bad conspiracy theories aimed squarely at the exploits of Luke, Han and Leia, with one aim: to drag them down and dismiss them as frauds. When the reader engages with this tale, the initial response may well be to opt for outraged dismissal: what a pile of crap, this is an outrage. Yet to do so would be to play into the story’s hands, Liu is quite aware outrage might result. Look further: When we read or watch or play a Star Wars story, we do so separately from our lives. Luke, Han and Leia are not actual people. What if they were? If you were living in that galaxy at the time of the films or after, if you heard three people led the war the take down the Empire that ran the galaxy, then how can you possibly live up to that? If they did that with their lives, what does that make yours? Easier, by far, to spin a few conspiracy theories that render them frauds as then you’re protected, no comparison to lose out to.

» Read more..

We Are All Luke Skywalker

—spoilers from Legends of Luke Skywalker ahead—

legendsoflukeTo say Ken Liu’s The Legends of Luke Skywalker has been keenly awaited would be an understatement. Since the great reboot that followed Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, there have been exceedingly few stories of what Luke has been doing after the fall of the Empire. There was Shattered Empire, but that was only one issue out of four and that was more or less it. For some the book has been a disappointment for its lack of actual ‘here’s what Luke really did next’ material. Instead, the book is of a far more playful and trickster nature, built around stories being told of Skywalker. Are they all true? That’s up to the reader, but there are hints that sometimes tip the deck one way or another. Expecting a book coming out ahead of The Last Jedi to have much in the way of revelations is expecting the impossible, the pattern was set by The Force Awakens. If there are major ‘this really happened’ stories, they will be next year, not now. Nor was the book ever deceptive about its premise in its marketing either.

The first story concerns an engineer spinning a tall tale to a rapt audience. It is subtly suggested the audience’s main interest is in how ludicrous a tale can be spun, for it is a tale of mad, bad conspiracy theories aimed squarely at the exploits of Luke, Han and Leia, with one aim: to drag them down and dismiss them as frauds. When the reader engages with this tale, the initial response may well be to opt for outraged dismissal: what a pile of crap, this is an outrage. Yet to do so would be to play into the story’s hands, Liu is quite aware outrage might result. Look further: When we read or watch or play a Star Wars story, we do so separately from our lives. Luke, Han and Leia are not actual people. What if they were? If you were living in that galaxy at the time of the films or after, if you heard three people led the war the take down the Empire that ran the galaxy, then how can you possibly live up to that? If they did that with their lives, what does that make yours? Easier, by far, to spin a few conspiracy theories that render them frauds as then you’re protected, no comparison to lose out to. » Read more..

Points of View on A Certain Point of View

facpov

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?

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Phasma v Inferno Squad: Dawn of Empire

—major Phasma spoilers ahead—

phasmanovelIt’s interesting that both of these books have come out in close proximity to each other. Each exists to promote a different item – Phasma is a Journey to the Last Jedi book, while Battlefront II: Inferno Squad tells you exactly what it is about. Both give an Imperial viewpoint, but they do so in very different ways.

Inferno Squad puts us in the position of four highly skilled Imperials – fighter pilots, military mechanic, and intelligence officer – and shows us how they view the world. Phasma is a biographical tale of its enigmatic lead, but is wrapped up in a far more interesting story of conflict with a First Order true believer. Of the two books I found Phasma the easier read. Both books sketch a very unpleasant picture, but only Inferno Squad attempts to give the reader an inside perspective of the Empire. The equivalent picture for the First Order and Phasma’s view of it is never covered in Phasma, instead it’s a story of how others perceive her.

It comes down to brutal honesty versus salesmanship. Inferno Squad seems to want to sell the reader on the worth of Imperial ideals. Phasma does not care about that, she does not care about you. You don’t like how she does things? Phasma says fuck you. She’s too harsh? Phasma says fuck you. Can’t she look out for anyone other than number one? Phasma says fuck you. The reader still gets a very clear picture of who and what Phasma is all about, but there is a lack of justification offered. There is character in Phasma who is all about justified belief and that’s Cardinal, the red stormtrooper who wants to know her origin.

Inferno Squad gives the most extreme, hardcore Imperial viewpoint there has ever been. There have been Imperial characters before – Legends’ Jahan Cross in Agent of the Empire, Baron Fel in X-Wing, more recently Rae Sloane in A New Dawn / Aftermath, however, in all three cases, it was either very clear they did not care for superweaponry as represented by the Death Star or they were ambiguous in their support of it. Inferno Squad dispenses with this and gives us Iden Versio, who we first encounter defending the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin while she still exults in the destruction of Alderaan by it. Just to hammer the point home further, if this first impression was not sufficient, the squad later drinks a bottle of Alderaanian wine as a celebration. » Read more..

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