Archive for Mike Cooper

Rebels Revisited: Part of the Family

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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

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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

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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..

Let the Past Die: The Last Jedi Flings the Torch

—this piece contains major spoilers from The Last Jedi

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When Rian Johnson was announced as the director for Episode VIII, I recall one of my first thoughts being “oh shit, the ‘Ozymandias’ guy”. While I had seen Looper and liked it well enough, Johnson’s work on Breaking Bad was the most interesting to me in light of this job—what would a TV director do with Star Wars?

So it’s fitting that one of the easiest comparisons people are making to The Last Jedi is ’33’, an early episode of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica that sees the heroes’ fleet hounded indefinitely by the Cylons with no escape in sight. We knew the Resistance’s escape from D’Qar would be an early set piece in the film, but never in a million years would I have expected that escape to be the entire film. Though maybe that’s on me—The Empire Strikes Back is mostly about the heroes running away as well.

Nevertheless, it felt like a bold decision in a film full of bold decisions. Both supporters and detractors can generally agree that The Force Awakens was the safe version of a new Star Wars movie—it needed to be loved by as many people as possible or the whole operation would have been limping right out of the gate. But The Last Jedi expands the cinematic (and tonal) language of Star Wars enough for both of them. Actual, non-Force-based flashbacks, time lapse shots, X-Men-style telepathic conversations, and that crazy lightspeed ramming sequence are just some of the new ideas Johnson injects into the saga here, and while one or two of them may not be well-regarded in the final analysis, you have to give the guy credit for daring to try. » Read more..

Something Truly Special: We Revisit Our Early Rey Theories

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Twenty-three long, speculation-fueled months ago, in the immediate aftermath of The Force Awakens, I asked the staff for their best early guesses and hopes as to the origin of Rey. Jay Shah was Team Solo, mostly out of affection for the legacy of the Expanded Universe’s Jaina Solo and a desire to see Rey channel that role in the new canon. David Schwarz was Team, ah, Durron—his point being that Rey should be the child of new characters, preferably a promising student or students from Luke’s first crop of trainees. Rocky Blonshine was Team Skywalker for all the familiar evidentiary and legacy reasons, and Ben Wahrman, while preferring “that she not be related to anyone”, chose Team Kenobi as a poetic way of splitting the difference between a protagonist coming out of nowhere and one forced to deal with all the story baggage of the Skywalker/Solo family.

I myself was Team Snoke. I go into detail in the original piece but my basic idea was that Snoke was once similar to Aftermath‘s Yupe Tashu—an adviser to Palpatine who gained access to a mysterious source of dark side power and ultimately intended his powerful child to lead the First Order on his behalf, only to have Luke Skywalker steal her away and hide her. TFA, therefore, was not about Snoke looking for Luke as much as Snoke looking for Rey, who he assumes is with Luke. As an aside I mentioned the possibility that she wasn’t his biological daughter, but rather a second attempt at the same experiment that created Anakin Skywalker; thus Snoke would be her figurative father and her actual lineage would be the Force itself—what better birthright with which to claim the mantle of Supreme Leader?

Fast forward a couple years, and that aside is looking much more likely. At nine feet tall, Snoke is pretty definitely an alien, and Rey is pretty definitely a human, meaning a biological relationship seems pretty implausible. I stand by the rest of the theory though—if we meet Rey’s biological parents at all, they could even be First Order loyalists who volunteered for Snoke’s experiments rather than having a baby just pop up randomly in the galaxy. Thematically, what appealed to me about it was the question “what would Luke have done if his father has been Palpatine rather than Vader?” If Rey owes her existence not to some conflicted underling but to the devil himself, what would that mean for her destiny, her “place in all this”? I’m still hoping to find out. » Read more..

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