If You Want New Star Wars Films, Give Star Wars Films Up

Late Monday night, a website named Above the Line reported that writer Damon Lindelof had “exited” the untitled Star Wars film project he’d previously been reported to be working on alongside Justin Britt-Gibson and director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

I’d never heard of Above the Line before this week but they style themselves as a “trade”, akin to much more established publications like Deadline or Variety. I don’t know if they’re anywhere near as reliable as the more familiar trades, but I do know that their Twitter account only dates back to October and as of this writing they have exactly 898 followers. Just last week Lindelof himself openly expressed doubts about his desire to move forward with the project at the South by Southwest festival, so for him to have officially stepped away now is certainly a plausible notion.

But I’m not here to raise any doubts about the report—one that, by midday on Tuesday, had been backed up by Deadline itself. What’s interesting to me about this news is that, Lindelof’s own comments notwithstanding, he was never actually announced to be writing a Star Wars movie in the first place.

No, this saga began in the trades and was developed further by the trades, so I suppose it’s only fitting that a trade should end it. My question for you, beloved reader, is: did all this reporting produce anything of value for us, as fans, in any way?

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The Legendary Eleven-ThirtyEight Turns a Page

Four years ago, I attended Star Wars Celebration for the first time. Never having attended a real convention before, the months leading up to it were filled with a lot of uncertainly regarding hotels, passes, the survival of my car, and so on—some of which I documented here, actually. The biggest uncertainty, of course, the one that fed all the others, was money. Had I saved enough? Had I saved enough to enjoy myself? What if something went wrong?

To alleviate some of these concerns, I decided to ask you, our stylish and insightful readers, for assistance paying that year’s hosting bill. I originally intended to collect donations for a week, but by the third day I had to deactivate my PayPal link because I had collected enough to pay for not just that year’s hosting but for four years.

That level of support felt lovely, of course, but it brought with it a major sense of responsibility: I now had to earn all that support. With only one Star Wars movie left on the horizon at that time and Disney+ still a major question mark, could I keep Eleven-ThirtyEight going another four years? What the hell would Star Wars even be by the end of that time?

It also occurred to me, though, that those four years of funding would bring us to 2023, the year of the site’s tenth anniversary. If I could keep things going that long, justify all that faith you folks had expressed in us, that anniversary would be a great moment to put this whole thing to bed. That was still a long way off, of course, so I put a pin in it and got back to business.

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The Case for Continuing the Queen’s Series—With or Without Padmé

The final section of this piece contains major spoilers for Queen’s Hope. There will be another warning immediately beforehand.

There’s something about Star Wars and threes. Queen’s Hope, which released yesterday, is the third young adult book about Padmé Amidala in as many years, and while I have no special reason to assume this will be the end of that particular line of stories, it feels likely, doesn’t it? If nothing else, E.K. Johnston is quickly approaching the end of Padmé’s life; having covered her transition from queen to senator and now from single to married, there isn’t much more of significance for her to write about beyond retreading the events of Revenge of the Sith—and even those the series already touched on briefly in the epilogue to Queen’s Shadow.

On top of that, there just isn’t much precedent for Star Wars doing four or five of something; even the perpetually-bestselling Thrawn books have always ended up resetting in one way or another after no more than three. While junior novel series are a common exception, you’d have to go back to Legends and the New Jedi Order for an example of adult novels telling a single linear narrative across more than three books—even the High Republic has broken its meta-arc, so far at least, into “phases” of three books per format.

On the other hand, “young adult” novels as they’re currently understood don’t have a lot of precedent in Star Wars to begin with. While they tend to be smaller in scope and more limited in their perspective than Del Rey’s novels, the modern Star Wars young adult line has displayed a range of quality and, er, maturity in its writing equal to and sometimes even surpassing Del Rey’s.

I’m hopeful, though, that the line can embrace its position “between” the adult and junior novels in one respect: by embracing the junior novels’ willingness to go long. It’s hard to say authoritatively how well the Queen’s books are selling compared to anything else, but given how quickly we got the first two follow-ups (even with a six-month delay this time around) it certainly seems like they’ve found an audience. And if it were up to me, E.K. Johnston would keep going for the foreseeable future—even if that means leaving Padmé behind.

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Eye of the Storm: The Hole at the Center of The High Republic

Phase One of The High Republic has come to an end, and with that came the surprising announcement that Phase Two will actually be going back another 150 years, apparently to flesh out how certain long-forgotten events led to the mess our heroes are currently dealing with in the (relative) present day.

In this respect, The High Republic seems to be mirroring the release structure of the Skywalker saga, which introduced the battle against Emperor Palpatine in the original trilogy, then showed the origins of that conflict, then jumped forward again to resolve it once and for all, now with the benefit of hindsight.[1]Depending on how one views the sequel trilogy’s efforts to integrate into the larger story an even more apt comparison might be machete order, in which the prequels are treated as an extended … Continue reading

If the creators really are intentionally mirroring the films, that suggests that Phase Three will be a conclusion of some sort—if not to the era in general, at least to the threat of Marchion Ro. For the purposes of this piece, I’m assuming as well that said conclusion will be meant to be genuinely happy, rather than the pyrrhic victory of The Phantom Menace; it’s fair to believe otherwise considering where things end up a couple centuries later, but it’s my feeling that they called this saga “The High Republic” for a reason, and the defeat of Marchion Ro will be presented as a rousing triumph of the Galactic Republic and its Jedi, rather than the first in a long line of compromises that will lead to the Empire.

Since we don’t know what we don’t know, it’s hard to say exactly what Phase Two will be about, what important context it will add to the story we’ve gotten so far. But allowing for the above priors, I have a pretty good idea of what the era is currently missing: a satisfying, multidimensional antagonist.

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References
1 Depending on how one views the sequel trilogy’s efforts to integrate into the larger story an even more apt comparison might be machete order, in which the prequels are treated as an extended flashback between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Razor’s Edge: Why I Struggle With Star Wars “What-Ifs”

The embodiment of evil in the galaxy lies disarmed at Mace Windu’s feet.

Ravaged by his own reflected lightning, Palpatine whimpers helplessly. Anakin Skywalker, standing uncomfortably close, insists that he live to stand trial. Mace swats the notion away: “He’s too dangerous to be left alive!”

Maybe he is, maybe he’s not. Maybe he’s faking his current weakness, maybe he’s not. With the entire galaxy hanging in the balance, Mace refuses to take that chance. After a moment of agonized uncertainty, he swings his lightsaber.

The saber connects. Palpatine has wagered everything on Anakin’s loyalty, and dies knowing he’s lost.

What happens next?

*     *     *     *     *

AUs—alternate universes—are having a moment right now.

This is mostly Marvel’s doing, with the first season of Loki introducing several “variants” of the titular character and What If…? now doing the legwork to show how those variants might come about by changing one or two little details from the history we already know. Whether coincidentally or otherwise, Star Wars is now poised to dive heavily into AUs for the first time since D-Day with Star Wars: Visions, an anthology of anime shorts untethered by canon—some diverging in small ways (if at all), some existing in wholly different realities with only aesthetic and tonal connections to Star Wars as we know it.

While we’ve seen lots of ambiguously-canon stories over the years—from the recent LEGO games and specials all the way back to “Skippy the Jedi Droid” in the Star Wars Tales comics—that material has almost always been set in the familiar continuity, with its ambiguity stemming solely from a comedic tone. Only once before, with Star Wars Infinities, has the franchise so pointedly and prominently delved into AU storytelling. Where in Visions continuity is ultimately beside the point, Infinities was much more in line with Marvel’s What If…? model—picking a single point of divergence from the story of each of the three original films and then spinning out a whole comic miniseries from how that divergence might change the story.

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