Ages and ages ago, I wrote a really long “Top 20 Expanded Universe Moments” piece for my personal blog at StarWars.com, which was a thing they let you have once. Most of it was the kind of thing your typical EU fan would gush over, but two entries were devoted to stories totally outside Legends continuity—what was then called Infinities.
One, actually my third most memorable moment, was a standalone Darth-Vader-versus-Darth-Maul story from Star Wars Tales, which sounds like the fanwankiest thing ever (and I mean, it was) but also happened to be a very interesting examination of Vader through the lens of a much more straightforward, dogmatic Sith Lord—who nevertheless proved to be the weaker of the two. The other was from the Infinites retelling of A New Hope, in which Han ends up accompanying Luke to Dagobah and, being a con man himself, immediately sees through the hermit routine—“this guy’s Yoda!”
What these two stories had in common was that they offered really interesting insights and character moments that couldn’t have happened in continuity as it was then. Ideally, that was the entire point of Infinities as a branding—not only can “what if” tales be great stories in their own right, but they can enhance our understanding of characters’ “true selves”, by showing how they might comport themselves in far-fetched circumstances. » Read more..
Mike: When it comes to home video, Star Wars fans have never been starved for options. Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find a fan over a certain age who hasn’t at least bought the original trilogy multiple times just to keep up with modern formats—on top of which you’ve got Special Editions, box sets, new individual releases with the original cuts included, etc. And that’s just the old movies; now that we’ve got a new Star Wars film every year for the time being it looks like there are several options to consider with each: DVD, Blu-Ray, 3D Blu-ray, digital download, and if The Force Awakens is any indication, another fancy deluxe set at the end of the year with all the special features they didn’t include the first time.
With the digital Rogue One having been out for a couple weeks now and the hard copies showing up tomorrow, what calls have you guys been making amidst all these options? As if the different formats weren’t enough to keep track of, TFA and Rogue One both come in a few different slipcovers exclusive to different retailers, and wouldn’t you know it, I happened to fall in love with the neat-o BB-8 cover at the top of this article, which meant dragging myself to Walmart of all places, for the first time in several years. While it’s a bit more of a trek for me than Target (or Amazon, obviously), now that it looks like that character-focused style is going to be a recurring design thing I guess I’ll be going back to Walmart this week to pick up Rogue One. What about the rest of you? Do any of you actually buy multiple copies, to take advantage of the earlier digital release, or the better bonus features later on?
Jay: I always go for the Blu-ray, and it’s for the simple reason that I want to see Star Wars films in the best way that I possibly can. Right now, that’s Blu-ray on an HDTV. Of course, sometimes I just want to watch the movie and I can’t be bothered so I’ll watch it on the computer or phone or whatever else but that’s the trick: the Blu-ray already comes with a free digital copy, which is redeemable at the distributor of my choice (and through Disney’s rewards thing, through multiple distributors). I’ll also watch the digital version when I want to take screenshots, because while I own a BD-ROM drive as well, PC BD-player software annoyingly doesn’t let you take screenshots (and moreover, PC BD-player software is largely garbage). » Read more..
David: What makes a good villain? Is it an easy-to-understand motivation? Is it a certain degree of likability? Is it intelligence, perhaps, or the ability to command respect? Or maybe a personal connection to the heroes? Or is it that hard-to-define but easy-to-recognize factor that we often call coolness? Darth Vader has all of these, and that’s the reason he is one of the best villains in modern culture. His screen time in Star Wars Rebels season two was short but definitely memorable, going from a really strong first appearance where he basically made our heroes run for their lives to one final showing where he (maybe) killed one of the most loved characters in the franchise and left the rest of the crew reeling from the impact. But how have the other Rebels villains lived up to this example? Especially: how good of a villain has Grand Admiral Thrawn been?
When the trailer showing the animated Thrawn was first shown at Star Wars Celebration London, the room went completely wild. There you had what was probably the most popular villain from Legends jumping to the small screen and becoming the main opponent for the season, a successor to the Grand Inquisitor and Darth Vader. There he was, looking at art (omigosh at Sabine’s graffiti) and talking cryptically about the imminent destruction of the Rebellion. But once the initial excitement wore off there was one question hanging in the air: would the series do justice to the Grand Admiral? Timothy Zahn seemed to think so, but how would Thrawn work through the whole season? Was this the same old Thrawn from 1991?
No, he definitely wasn’t the Thrawn we were used to. » Read more..
Ben: The third season of Star Wars Rebels is in the bag and with it a season full of mixed character moments across the entire cast, both heroes, and villains. It’s part of the Rebels episode formula at this point and has been since the first season; each big episode is framed with many smaller episodes that feature just a few characters out of the cast. The smaller episodes allow for a greater focus on the different characters, whether that be in a dramatic sense or a comedic one; we’ve certainly had both over the course of this season.
It’s a variation on a common formula across media, I can find similarities with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with their smaller features focused on specific characters and their adventures between the big team-ups. Rebels typically saves its big ensemble moments for season premieres and finales, serving as bookends so we can get all of the callbacks and references to everything that happened during the season itself. This season’s premiere and finale serve as perhaps the best example out of any two episodes in the show’s run.
Rebels is a strong show when it comes to characterization; even characters who only appear once get lines that inject them with more life than most shows. Now that the show has been running for three seasons, they’ve not only given the main cast a good deal of development, they have also introduced a horde of secondary and supporting characters who, while not being as developed, still have enough color and fun to spice things up. » Read more..
“I’ve done a lot of prolonged lightsaber battles over the years and I think what’s most important about any kind of confrontation is what’s riding on it. What’s the tension going into it? It starts to matter less and less how you swing a sword or how creatively you do it if there’s not a lot riding on it.” – Dave Filoni
Mike: First and foremost, this was an Ezra episode. Like “Twilight of the Apprentice” before it, “Twin Suns” had to take an event of great significance to the larger saga and fashion it into a key step in the development of Star Wars Rebels‘ ongoing story. That being the case, of course we spent most of our time with Ezra, because his state of mind was the point of all this. When Obi-Wan tells Ezra to fuck off back to the Rebellion and Ezra actually listens, that’s such a major character shift as to be almost unbelievable. Ezra’s arc ever since meeting Darth Vader has been all about gaining enough power to defeat the Sith, so for him to willingly trot off into the desert with Maul standing right there shows that his conversation with Obi-Wan ended that delusion of grandeur once and for all—clearly it took being told by “Master Kenobi” himself that his place is with the Rebellion to finally get that through to him (and it’s certainly very interesting for Rebels‘ larger narrative).
And with Ezra out of the way, what does that leave us with? A weak, raving maniac still hung up on a thirty-year-old defeat facing off against a Jedi Master at the height of his powers, currently acting as an instrument for no less than the Will of the Force. Obi-Wan in this moment is Chirrut crossing the beach to the master control switch, and Maul, for all their history, is no more than a blaster bolt whizzing by. Not only should Obi-Wan have been able to take Maul apart logically speaking, he has the weight of the entire narrative—I’m sorry, I mean the Force—on his side. Compared to that, this isn’t an event of great significance, it’s a brief annoyance that just so happens to be cool to watch. And for the show to present it as precisely that is, I think, a triumph of perspective over fanservice.
Obi-Wan tells Ezra that Maul has “altered the course of many things”, which is a great meta wink at his even being alive in this time period. While I have to admit some great stories have come out of it, I’ll always see the decision to bring Maul back in The Clone Wars as a flawed one—for the last several years he’s been like a tumor growing on the side of the real story, superfluous yet impossible to ignore. Seeing him fight Vader a year ago may have been momentarily satisfying (though, much like this fight, it had a hard-to-top predecessor in the Legends comics), but that would have distracted from Ezra and Kanan’s needs as characters. Here, Maul’s defeat is a secondary concern and the real fight is over Ezra’s decision not to fight; the same decision Obi-Wan and Luke will make for themselves in the future—to do what the Force truly wants from them rather than seek a superficial sense of justice. Ezra casts his pretensions aside and rides north, leaving Obi-Wan behind to cut off the tumor once and for all. » Read more..