—this piece contains major spoilers from The Last Jedi—
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..
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..
With The Last Jedi seemingly poised to spend a good chunk of time in the environs of the first Jedi Temple, it is likely to include revelations about the history of the Jedi, or even the Force itself, that affected Luke Skywalker profoundly and perhaps contributed to his belief that “it’s time for the Jedi to end.” We’ll have to wait a couple more weeks to find out what those revelations might be, and just how much detail we’re given. But in the meantime, did the Expanded Universe ever get into this?
You’d better believe it did—though impressively, Lucasfilm resisted the impulse to fully explain the Jedi’s beginnings for almost thirty-five years. In 2012, the comic book series Dawn of the Jedi by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema finally pulled back the curtain and stitched the few scant details we did have into a much larger tapestry of brand-new characters and conflicts that still felt true to their trademark brand of Star Wars melodrama. The series was successful enough that a tie-in novel, Into the Void by Tim Lebbon, was released about a year later (and only one year before the reboot was officially announced, meaning the whole project came in pretty close to the wire). Let’s talk about what they came up with. » Read more..
Mike: Last week we ran a guest piece from Abigail Dillon discussing her love of the From a Certain Point of View story “The Baptist”, focusing specifically on Omi the dianoga’s status as one of the very few “monstrous” female characters in Star Wars. In our earliest discussions of the story, Abigail had a more expansive analysis in mind, having been taken not just by Omi but by how Nnedi Okorafor “ascribed meaning” to A New Hope‘s trash compactor scene. I was just starting FACPOV myself at the time, so I jumped ahead to “Baptist” in order to more fully imagine what sort of material might be written about it—and I was, frankly, less impressed than she was.
Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was an excellently-written story and I loved the picture Okorafor paints of dianogan psychology and culture, and Omi’s perspective in particular. But at the titular baptism, she lost me. I’m keenly aware that this reaction was borne out of my own history with Star Wars as much as the work itself (and seems to be the minority opinion within my circle of fandom), but as soon as I realized the significance of what was happening all I could think was “Skippy the Jedi Droid”—the old Legends comic story in which R5-D4 is secretly a Force user and fakes his malfunction so that R2-D2 can continue his mission. While it was nothing more than a silly little tale that served to underline Star Wars Tales‘ non-canon status, over the years Skippy became a poster child for the Expanded Universe phenomenon of ascribing outsize significance to every little thing that happens in the original trilogy.
So with the reboot clearing away Jedi aspirant BoShek and Death Star IG-88, I went into FACPOV expecting more emphasis on basic storytelling and less on “the tallest Jawa is really Boba Fett”. And by and large, I got that—but even now that I’ve read the whole book, Omi still stands out to me. As I said in our group piece on FACPOV, some of my favorite stories were the ones in which a bit player furthers the heroes’ quest not because the Force demanded it but out of a simple act of kindness (which from a certain point of view is the Force’s way of demanding it). As it happens, the new R5-D4 story, “The Red One”, is maybe the perfect example of this: Arfive is hinted to have some rebel connection in his past, but he isn’t anything special, and he doesn’t receive any visions that convince him to let Artoo take his place; indeed, to do so almost certainly means consigning himself to the scrap heap. Nevertheless, Artoo makes his case and Arfive simply chooses to believe him—and is rewarded for it with at least a slim chance of survival. » Read more..
Ben: Two major things happened “between” this episode and the last episode: Hera apparently got a promotion after basically cussing out Mon Mothma and the other Rebel leaders, and a squad of X-wings came out of nowhere. I understand the need for narrative velocity in a show that only lasts twenty-two minutes and has a cut-down episode count for its last season, but c’mon. It’s been almost a year since we learned that Hera was even getting a promotion, and now that the show has reached that point it happens off-screen?
It’s pretty obvious at this point, and should have been obvious before, that they’ve had to trim a few corners narratively to get to the finale at the end of this season. Again, this is a trimmed-down season as it is, and they’ve already crammed a lot in. But some of the corners that they’ve cut are the wrong ones, in my opinion.
On the other hand, this episode gave Thrawn a pretty solid victory, which I think has gotten lost in a lot of the discussion about it. He successfully predicts not only the attack, but that the Rebels would be tenacious enough to pierce the blockade despite everything, so he kept most of his fighters in reserve and then slaughtered the Rebels when they thought they had already been through the worst. He even had Rukh capture multiple downed pilots, including Hera herself. That visual of seeing all of the X- and Y-wings raining down on the city was really, really nice. » Read more..