Archive for Sarah Dempster

Heroes on Both Sides: Why We Need a Novel About the Separatists

mina-bonteri

At this point in Star Wars history, there has been a multitude of stories centered around the Clone Wars. From the latter half of the prequel trilogy to the eponymous television show, we’ve seen how the conflict embodied the end of the Republic, engineered by Palpatine as part of his final descent into totalitarianism. However very little attention is given to the issue that kickstarted the whole war: a secession movement known as the Separatist Crisis. Despite being talked about in the opening crawl for Attack of the Clones, it’s barely mentioned after that and rarely have we seen anything discussing how the galaxy came to that point in the first place.

The Clone Wars was an excellent TV show that did a fantastic job adding needed dimension to the prequel movies. However, it remains disappointingly one-dimensional in its depiction of the Separatists. With the exception of Mina Bonteri, they’re overwhelmingly shown to be uniformly evil almost to the point of caricature. And while this fits with the pulp style that TCW affected, it was still a missed opportunity to bring some depth (and truth) to the line from Revenge of the Sith’s opening crawl that “there are heroes on both sides.” With the recent trend of injecting more nuance in the franchise (from the multitude of Imperial POV novels to Rogue One and Saw’s Partisans) it’s time to extend that into the Separatist era.

Granted, it seems rather odd to advocate for a return to the prequel trilogy when the franchise is in the middle of putting out sequels that take place fifty years later. But a Separatist novel is an excellent opportunity to tie the sequels in with the prequel era because it would provide important context for the New Republic.

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Luke Skywalker is a Fallible Hero and That’s Okay

—this piece contains major spoilers from The Last Jedi
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“Luke Skywalker has vanished.”

The opening line of the crawl for The Force Awakens was like a gut punch to Luke fans everywhere. And not only was Luke gone, he’d apparently gone missing voluntarily, as a result of Ben Solo falling to the dark side and becoming Kylo Ren. For two years the fandom theorized not only on why Kylo became evil but why Luke Skywalker, Rebel hero and Jedi legend, has apparently given up. In The Last Jedi, we finally get those answers. Luke takes Yoda’s advice to “pass on what you have learned” to heart, but a split-second mistake on Luke’s part brings the whole thing crashing down. And as a result Luke decides to exile himself on a remote island and leave no trace of his whereabouts. By the time Rey finds him, he’s an acerbic, sarcastic hermit who in so many rude ways tells her to leave him alone and that he refuses to help Leia fight the evils of the First Order.

This seems a sharp contrast to the bright, shining figure we see in the original trilogy. Luke had hardships and made decisions that backfired on him, but he was never one to run away from a problem. So at first glance this seems like a long string of extremely out of character moments meant to create drama and difficulty for Rey and Kylo. However, when taking a deeper look at Luke’s character and personality in the original trilogy, his circumstances in TLJ are a natural extension of his character. » Read more..

The Pitch – Here Rian Johnson, Have Some Trilogy Ideas

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Last Thursday, as soon as the news broke that Rian Johnson had been tasked with creating a brand-new trilogy of Star Wars films, I ran a Twitter poll of a few of the more popular spinoff ideas that have been floating around the last few years. To no one’s great surprise, the winner was “Ancient Republic”, with more than three-fifths of voters opting for that (admittedly broad) premise over any other choice, even literally “other”. I followed that up with a more specific poll, and a strong plurality voted for a trilogy revealing the origins of the Jedi Order.

That certainly looks like a plausible option as well, with The Last Jedi seemingly about to shed some light on how the Jedi came into being (and what made Luke all mopey about it). So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that, when I asked the staff to pitch me their ideas for a spinoff trilogy, I got three stories roughly involving, well, the origins of the Jedi. Here’s what they came up with.

Mark: Star Wars: Pioneers

The early days of hyperspace travel. Before a galactic senate has been established, corporations are sending out ships to discover new planets and exploit their resources. But one region of the galaxy is shrouded in mystery, and both expeditions have failed to return. Strong energy readings have been detected, indicating a highly valuable power source.

Explorer Captain Jessica Henwick (finally getting her starring role) leads a crew of specialists on a dangerous mission to investigate. Among them is the state-of-the-art droid Huyang (David Tennant), and a mysterious man played by Ben Daniels. The first movie is space horror in the vain of Event Horizon or Sunshine – they find one of the missing ships, where the crew have been killed by a race of aliens who appear to have magical powers. The big revelation – Daniels is part of a mysterious new start-up religion that began on Ahch-To, called the Jedi, and was sent by his fellow believers to investigate dark powers flowing from this region of space. His own powers – similar to those of the creatures – lead to a lot of distrust within the crew. » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: Alliances Make For Strange Bedfellows

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Jay: This two-part episode really did a great job highlighting the Mothma-Saw conflict and presenting their opposing viewpoints in the clearest way, while simultaneously developing Saw in a way that didn’t make him look like a two-dimensional cartoon character (lol). But this episode’s strengths highlighted the weakness of its handling of Kallus, who has somehow transformed himself. I don’t mean the Hot Kallus thing, that’s mostly funny (and people are allowed to be fans of characters even if they aren’t the purest). What I mean is that Kallus, formerly Fulcrum, formerly ISB Agent Kallus, is now important enough to the Rebellion that he’s present in councils with Mon Mothma and General Dodonna. He, a former genocidal Imperial agent, gets treated better than a fellow Rebel, Saw. He also gets more trust than Jyn, a person who’s been anti-Imperial her whole life, and more trust than Bodhi Rook, another defector who is in fact distrusted by the Rebel high council.

This is problematic, not least from an optics point of view. Saw, Bodhi, and Jyn are mistrusted (POCs and a woman) while Kallus (white male) is implicitly believed. This disparity is a bad look, even though it is obviously not the intent of the writers (indeed, it’s easy to justify the contrast between Bodhi’s treatment and Kallus’s–Kallus’s Fulcrum stint has earned him credibility, and Bodhi is an unknown quantity). But it doesn’t look good, and I think people are noticing the troubling optics there. But leaving that potentially controversial point aside, it’s hard to see why Saw’s extremism makes the Rebel leadership so uncomfortable with him when they’re apparently fine with Kallus.

It’s possible there will be story repercussions for Kallus, and a treatment of his war crimes just hasn’t shown up in the show yet. That’ll satisfy the need for it to be addressed, but it makes me ask — why put it off until later? Kallus was, more than any other character, the main antagonist for the Ghost crew. His defection is a big deal, and the consequences of it and his addition to trusted Rebel staff deserve to be addressed before we suddenly see him as one of the good guys. I have enough faith in the writing team to believe that it will be addressed, but the fact that it hasn’t been addressed yet bothers me. » Read more..

This is Not Going to Go the Way You Think: Our Hopes for The Last Jedi

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Since the release of The Last Jedi‘s theatrical trailer last week, two years of theories and speculation have at last begun to collapse into a rough shape of the movie’s plot. Not the overall structure, really, but certain moments are depicted very clearly—Luke in awe of Rey’s strength, Finn versus Phasma on a First Order base that may be the Supremacy—and a couple others strongly suggested: Kylo preparing to fire on Leia, and later offering his hand to Rey. Do those scenes really happen in the film? Lord knows we should be used to the trailers not being 100% indicative of the final films by now, but I’m inclined to believe that the essence of those two scenes does indeed happen—even if the footage used here isn’t quite right.

Kylo working up the nerve to fire on Leia is a pretty logical thing to happen post-The Force Awakens (and not especially suspenseful given that we know Carrie Fisher was meant to have a big role in Episode IX), but the suggestion that Kylo and Rey might be remotely cooperative for any reason whatsoever was like a bomb going off in the fandom: does Rey turn, fed up with Luke’s refusal to train her? Does Kylo turn, unable to follow orders and kill another parent? Or is this more of a détente, a brief setting aside of hostilities in order to reach some common goal? Personally, I don’t know, but I do know that I’ve been hoping for something along those lines to happen and I will gladly seize the thread this trailer offers and hold on tight for the next couple months.

I do think, though, that fans should try to open their minds to a much wider range of options than simply “Rey goes bad” or “Kylo becomes good”. This trilogy may have started with a defection, but I don’t see either Kylo or Rey really operating as members of the militaries they ostensibly represent—Force users rarely do. Kylo may have second thoughts, may even work actively against Snoke, but that hardly means he’d be welcomed with open arms by the Resistance or the New Republic. And Rey may well be tempted by Snoke, but we don’t really know his actual goals, do we? The First Order could simply be a means to an end for him, and if that end involves Rey, her cooperation could change his larger game in ways we can’t begin to guess—but I’m excited to see these lines blur a bit, for the movie to ask questions that the previous saga films haven’t prepared us for.

With the trailer and all its lovely possibilities now swirling around in your heads, what’s one scene, or moment, you particularly want to see in The Last Jedi? Is it a plot event or more of a character beat? And why is it important to you? » Read more..

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