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The Unexpected Optimism of The High Republic

Announced some time ago, I have to admit to a certain amount of skepticism about The High Republic. With the last few years seeing some quite spectacularly awful real-world politics, a sequel trilogy of films that decided its best move was killing off Luke, Han and Leia, plus – and how could this one be forgotten? – a global pandemic, I was lukewarm about its claims to being a more optimistic Star Wars story. At the same time I had some reason to be wary of the writer kicking it off, which Charles Soule would I be getting? The one that did some smart work on the first Lando comic miniseries or the one who takes the corporate gigs like killing off Wolverine? Finally, there is the cynicism born of numerous brighter, happier superhero relaunches that end quickly with some character getting eviscerated.

It’s therefore a rather delightful surprise that Light of the Jedi defies all of this to do something entirely different, very, very unexpected but not at all unwelcome.

One question that comes up with regard to stories is if the heroes have all the advantages how can there be any real conflict or challenge? How can the villains get any victories or even represent a genuine threat? The first answer to this question comes in the face of the disaster that opens this story, and from the very start it defies expectations in a positive way. When reading it, some of what you expect does happen; you may well foresee that a particular new character is not going to be around long and, while you might be right, you may also end up caring about them far more than you thought you would. At the same time, Soule does not play the darkness card here – it’s a disaster sure, many, many people die, but the plot does not overly dwell on it. Instead we see what The High Republic is about in its response to this disaster.

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The 20 Most Memorable Moments of the New Star Wars Canon, Part II

Welcome to Part II of our Memorable Moments feature–Part I can be found here! This thing is long enough already so let’s get right to it…

sloaneposter13. Admiral Sloane Orders the Retreat, “The Levers of Power” (Jay Shah)

Initially, my entire list of favorite moments consisted of key events from RAE SLOANE’s story across different media and throughout the timeline of novels in which we’ve seen her. That would have been a little silly for a list of moments, even though I believe RAE SLOANE’s journey through the new canon has been the most remarkable and every moment we saw her in another context was a surprise and a sheer delight. But if I had to pick a single moment, I would choose her appearance at the Battle of Endor in the short story “The Levers of Power” — it’s the pivot point around which her whole career orients and changes.

Before the Battle of Endor, RAE SLOANE is a dutiful Imperial true believer who does the right thing as she sees it but is unable to rise as far as she merits due to the Empire’s internal politics and her unwillingness to play those games. After the Battle of Endor, RAE SLOANE is one of the most powerful forces in the Empire and becomes the very face of its surviving military as a grand admiral (literally, in the case of propaganda posters).

“The Levers of Power” shows Admiral RAE SLOANE on the precipice, just as her Empire is. It is a harrowing story. The Battle of Endor felt like it could go either way, until disaster mounted on disaster and it couldn’t. We see all the classic hallmarks of RAE SLOANE: her tactical skill, her dislike for power games (exemplified by a particularly odious ISB loyalty officer), and her ability to cut through the expected to get things done. She does not suffer the loyalty officer’s second-guessing as she leads as ably as any Imperial officer could. More than that: when she has to make the key decisive call that the battle is lost and duty requires the fleet to be preserved, she shoots the loyalty officer dead and gives the order to retreat. She has to. Read More

The 20 Most Memorable Moments of the New Star Wars Canon, Part I

While Eleven-ThirtyEight was founded in 2013, the earliest piece of writing hosted here is much, much older. In the summer of 2005, soon after Revenge of the Sith “completed” the saga, Star Wars Insider magazine published a feature by Abel G. Peña and Enrique Guerrero entitled “The 20 Most Memorable Moments of the Expanded Universe”. The piece concluded with a prompt for readers to share their own lists, and that was just the excuse I needed to begin a new blog at StarWars.com, which was a thing they let people do in those days.

The final product was my first major piece of Star Wars writing outside of TheForce.Net, and while I didn’t end up doing much else over there, I remained pretty fond of it, so with the official blogs long since defunct I took the opportunity of ETE’s birth to port the thing over here, where it has lived happily in seclusion ever since.

While I’m normally not a fan of “listicles” (gag) or retrospectives on content long past, that “memorable moments” concept has always stuck with me as one of the more acceptable ways of approaching both things—so with the five-year anniversary of the Star Wars continuity reboot last month I decided this would be a good opportunity for us to stop and look around a bit.

While the ranking that follows is of course despicably subjective, it is the result of an obnoxiously elaborate ranked-choice voting system: each of our nine regular contributors offered their own list of ten moments, with everyone’s top choice counting for ten points, their second choice counting for nine points, and so on. That left us with sixty-two distinct “moments” and several ties, which we then voted on until arriving at a conclusive top twenty.

With no further ado, enjoy, and be sure to check back on Wednesday for Part II! – Mike Read More

Why Darth Sidious is Exactly What the Sequel Trilogy Needed

For all that it is an apocryphal line wrongly attributed to John Maynard Keynes, it is particularly apt for this article:

When my information changes, I alter my conclusions.

For the recent revelation that the Emperor will feature in Episode IX, along with the title being The Rise of Skywalker, changes things greatly. Now, of course, they could be playing games. Episode IX’s predecessor has become infamous for doing exactly that but this time? This time, I think not. They have put these two pieces out as a PR vanguard for the film. Each would be stunning by itself, but together? Well, gives new meaning to the old line of “always two, there are.” Combined they are a seismic bomb that could re-spin the entire trilogy, while also enabling it to take its place in the wider story.

I haven’t written for this site in a while, due to the destructive aspects of The Last Jedi. It was not just a case of killing Luke off, which has come to feel nastier as time has gone on, but that the film overall was highly destructive across the board. Speculate as to what will happen in the next film other than offing old characters? Er, with what? What is there to speculate with? As of the end of TLJ there’s twenty beings crammed into the Falcon against the entire First Order, with only Leia of the original trio left alive and the new trio comprehensively trashed to a far greater degree than anything ESB ever did. There is very little to work with here.

The new teaser trailer starts to supply the material to speculate with and the killer move in it is the final seconds – Death Star wreckage and a very ominous, very familiar laugh. Before I suspect they might have gone with a is-it-or-isn’t-it card but this time? Nah, they’ve gone: Fuck it, it’s the last film, we’ve no time for games, it’s the Emperor, ‘kay? Read More

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