Archive for Mike Cooper

Bugs in the System – The Great Unspoken Subplot of Star Wars


As a general rule, I try to stay away from retrospective pieces here at Eleven-ThirtyEight. Sometimes, like with David’s excellent Jaxxon piece on Monday, there’s a new hook that makes old information freshly relevant, but by and large my feeling is that Star Wars material released prior to the Disney era—and certainly the original trilogy in particular—has had its time in the sun and continuing to poke at it years or decades later is tantamount to navel-gazing and doesn’t really advance the conversation. That can be fun, don’t get me wrong—but it’s not something I’m interested in doing here.

Sometimes, though, new stories create a fresh context for that old material. Luke’s behavior in The Last Jedi might create a new lens through which to view his training, for example, or a pending film might prompt the revisitation of related material from the Expanded Universe. Even if you discount Legends, Star Wars remains a gigantic body of work and there are always new threads, new patterns, that can be isolated when the moment is right.

Despite the scattershot nature of the eight saga films’ release timeline, despite being written out of order and across multiple generations and largely on the fly, one such thread has lingered in the background since the very beginning. It has a logical starting point in Episode I, pays off in Episode VI, and most impressively, continues in a sensible and compelling way in the sequel trilogy—all with very little in the way of open acknowledgement from the creators. This thread, to my mind the great unspoken subplot of Star Wars, is the quest for the perfect soldier. » Read more..

It’s Time For the Year of Sabine Wren


Mike: This week saw the beginning of the second half of the fourth season of Star Wars Rebels—and in less than three weeks the series will have come to its conclusion. While the final fate of Ezra remains a gigantic, some would say overwhelming, question mark, we’ve known since Rogue One came out a year ago that Hera and Chopper survive, at least into the original trilogy era. And how could they not? Hera is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars canon, and the small pile of random appearances she’s accumulated since then demonstrates that creators are clamoring to use her in stories of their own—and once Rebels has finished telling its story they’ll be freer than ever (barring an immediate follow-up series) to really dive into her role in the formal Rebel Alliance and beyond.

But there’s another character every bit as deserving of that increased spotlight, whose fate is also in question. Sorry, Zeb—I’m talking about Sabine Goddamn Wren. While it appears that Sabine’s major character arc as far as Rebels is concerned concluded with her reunification with her family earlier this season, it remains possible, however unlikely, that she won’t make it out of this show alive. And even if she does, will she return to Mandalore and stick to being a local player? Or become an Alliance leader in her own right?

As long as those questions remain open, I get why Lucasfilm would be reluctant to use Sabine elsewhere, whatever the time period—it stinks, like it stinks that we probably won’t get any post-The Last Jedi content for a while yet, but I get it. Dave Filoni is Sabine’s creator, and to the extent that Rebels is telling one complete story it’s fair to let him have the “last word” on who Sabine is, where she’s from, what she wants. » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: Part of the Family


Mike: Well, you can debate whether or not this was inevitable—lord knows we have—but you can’t debate that it’s happened: Kanan Jarrus is no more.1 There are two angles, I think, from which to discuss this development—did it really need to happen, and did they handle it well? I reject the notion that it was absolutely necessary from any sort of continuity standpoint, but I do think in the context of this story it’s dramatically justified. And since fans have been perfectly happy to spend the last few years debating whether Kanan should die, I’d rather not rehash that again here, and instead focus on how he died, and whether Star Wars Rebels managed to earn this moment that, arguably, they knew all along was going to happen.

Just in terms of the artistry involved, the score, the pacing, the characters’ reactions, I thought it was beautifully and naturalistically done rather than some kind of idiot-ball situation where the plot gods reached down and smooshed him because they wanted to (though okay, I could argue that his eyes randomly healing for two seconds was a smidge over the top). But while I never didn’t like it, the more I think about it the more I appreciate how it seems to fit into not just Rebels‘ larger narrative but the overall Star Wars story at this point in time.

In the heat of the moment, and with a couple months off between this episode and “Rebel Assault”, it’s easy to forget how important the TIE Defender factory has been to the last couple seasons, and underestimate how big a deal it is for Pryce to effectively destroy it just to take Kanan down. Both “Jedi Night” and “DUME” even take the extra step of establishing a competition for resources between Thrawn’s Defenders and Krennic’s Death Star project, meaning that the films could have gone very differently with that factory operational and Thrawn coming out on top. And speaking of Thrawn, it sure looks like his and Pryce’s happy working relationship has come to an end—once again, he’s undone not by his own failure but by the rash decision of an underling. Whether Thrawn or Pryce emerge from this mess intact remains to be seen, but unless Rebels gets too wrapped up in Mortis shenanigans to give this plotline a satisfying payoff, I suspect Kanan’s messy demise will prove to be one of the most important events the show has portrayed—and thus, I’d call it very much earned. » Read more..

  1. Okay, this is Dave Filoni and it’s possible he’s a wolf now, but that’s beside the point. []

In Defense of Bad Decisions


A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the real world, a human being exists in a superposition. Their capacity for love or hate, honesty or guile, can evolve wildly over the course of their lives, or even from day to day. The second you try to nail someone down, best-case scenario, all you’ve really captured is an echo. Worst-case scenario, it’s an outright fabrication.

Star Wars has a reputation for grabbing an extra-thick Sharpie and drawing hard, clear lines between good and evil, but I would argue that that’s a function of aesthetics more than storytelling—you know immediately that Darth Vader is evil, until suddenly he’s not. You know immediately that the Republic is a good thing, until suddenly it’s an Empire. You know immediately that stormtroopers are bad guys, until one of them has second thoughts.

So when two “good guys” come into conflict, who exactly are we supposed to root for?

The Last Jedi delights in forcing these questions on us, making us second-guess who the hero is and what that role really requires of them—but while Luke Skywalker is the marquee Questionable Hero, the one who has engendered far more interesting debate, for my money, is Poe Dameron. » Read more..

Luke Week: Everything Disney Needs to Know, It Can Learn from 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


Probably the main reason my friend Pearlann, she of the numerous Expanded Universe Explains questions, never really got too into the EU herself was because she agreed with George Lucas on one key point: after Return of the Jedi, she felt, the story was over. She was never quite a movie purist; she’s read Dark Lord and Kenobi, for example, and even now is eagerly awaiting Heir to the Jedi—but she never had any problem with the notion that the Empire basically collapsed after Endor and all was right with the galaxy from then on.

While Lucas’s lack of involvement in EU plotting was a major factor for many, that’s probably as close as you could’ve come to an absolute dividing line between pro- and anti-EU fans back in the old days—whether one felt there was anything left to do with the characters after Jedi. In Mike Klimo’s Star Wars Ring Theory essay, which I’ve discussed previously, he details how the six films exist not just chronologically, but as a circle—how the two trilogies both parallel and mirror each other, and the extent to which Jedi even “links up” with The Phantom Menace to create a unified body of themes that begin in one place, evolve either positively or negatively, then return to where they began.

While the essay is very convincing, one can debate just how much of this detail was completely intentional on Lucas’s part—but what can’t be debated is that viewing the films through this lens as opposed to a strictly chronological one doesn’t really lend itself to the whole “expanded universe” thing. To a ring theorist, Star Wars is not unlike a clock; removing a piece would harm the entire structure, and adding extraneous bits and bobs would, too. What was Obi-Wan doing on Tatooine for nineteen years? How did Leia get her bounty hunter disguise? What happened in that nest of gundarks? None of that is relevant, and constructing explanations for them is superfluous at best, because that information isn’t in service to the clock.

» Read more..

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