Archive for Opinion

Why It’s Healthy for Fans to be Constructively Critical

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One of the best aspects of fandom is the constant ongoing discussions you can have with your fellow fans. Interpreting stories, theorizing about where they might go, fanning out over our favorite characters tends to fill us all with amazing satisfaction. Star Wars has offered us the richest content for over forty years, and we should of course be grateful. However, in these ongoing discussions, it is also okay, and should even be encouraged, to be constructively critical as well.

Each of us is a different consumer with different backgrounds that will inform how we take in a property. While there are certainly many shared things we love, we may love those things for different reasons. For Rey, an example of a character that most people love, some love her for her courage. Some love her for her ingenuity. Some love her for being a paragon of feminism. Some love her for her mystery. Or for all of the above and more! Those same backgrounds and interpretations feed into whether each of us likes or dislikes a story or its elements.

Fans shouldn’t be hard on each other for being critical of certain aspects of our favorite franchise. Just because you recognize a few blemishes in your favorite film, TV series, book, or comic doesn’t mean you love it any less than others. It should be okay for me, for example, to say that I think that Rogue One, a film I love dearly, handled Saw Gerrera poorly by oversimplifying him in writing and performance (don’t get me started on how much I don’t like Bor Gullet, haha). While others might see a great character who exemplifies someone destroyed mentally and physically by his crusade, I saw a caricature with (mostly) weak dialogue and overacting from Forest Whitaker. The performance didn’t sell me, and Gareth Edwards’s previous interpretation of the character (which we glimpsed in the first Rogue One teaser) intrigued me more. Please note that this is not a dig at the reshoots (criticism of which, in my opinion, is mostly filled with hot air), which are normal for most films, but a criticism of the creative process going into this particular character. » Read more..

On Rebel Rising and Jyn Erso, the Unlikable Hero

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This is a rebellion, isn’t it? I rebel.

With one line from the first trailer for Rogue One, Jyn Erso established herself as something quite a bit different from the movie heroes we’d seen before. She was less noble freedom fighter and more scrappy loose cannon. But despite the immediately iconic nature of this line, it didn’t make an appearance in the final film. Nor, for that matter, did most of what we saw of Jyn’s personality. Rather than the antihero we expected, whose fiery bluster covers up a near lifetime of pain and anger, we got someone a little bit softer around the edges, whose main trait seems to be indifference.

Rebel Rising, by Beth Revis, fortunately stepped in to give us the hard-edged antihero promised by the movie trailers. Not only did it build off the movie (and excellent novelization by Alexander Freed) to develop Jyn, but it gave her a harder, scrappier edge than any protagonist we’d yet seen in a Star Wars film. And more importantly, it made Jyn a far more morally ambiguous (and occasionally, straight up awful) person.

Reportedly, part of the reason for the infamous reshoots on the film was to make Jyn less abrasive and more empathetic. Many of the scenes from the trailers hint at this; from General Draven’s laundry list of her crimes, to her mocking “yes sir” and, of course, her defiant “I rebel.” And that early version of Jyn still survives in the novelization, giving us a glimpse of what could have been. Her early scenes on Yavin and with Cassian show a woman who openly mocks authority, is ready to physically fight perceived threats at a moment’s notice, and whose biggest goal is just to do the job with as little fuss as possible so that she can be left alone. We see the morally gray figure Jyn was originally conceived as. However the final cut of the film showed a Jyn with a much less fiery personality. Instead of being hostile and antagonistic and actively insulting Cassian and the others, she comes across as more aimlessly indifferent to the struggle at large. In other words, her fierceness was cut to make her more likable.

But why should she have to be likable?

» Read more..

What Star Wars Comics Can Learn From Mainstream Marvel

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For mainstream Marvel fans, big, universe-shattering events are becoming a dime a dozen. I remember my first experience with events, House of M, which ended with the Scarlet Witch wiping out most of the mutant population. Since then there has been a massive event seemingly every summer. Skrull infiltrators disguised themselves as famous heroes one year, while another year focused on the collision of the multiverse into a single world. Some gave single villains time to shine while others introduced brand new threats for the heroes. These events would shape the course of many comics for the rest of the year, leading up to the next event.

Star Wars, on the other hand, has not had the same type of events in its two-plus years with Marvel. Rather than building to an event storyline, the Star Wars series have kept to crossover arcs. These are de facto events, just not advertised as such. The first, Vader Down, took place at the intersection of Darth Vader (as Vader fought Cylo’s creations) and Star Wars (as Luke continued his Jedi training.) Stranded on Vrogas Vas, Darth Vader fought the Rebel Alliance as Luke and the murderbots explored a Jedi temple. Recently, Star Wars and Doctor Aphra met in The Screaming Citadel, a gothic-esque storyline where Aphra’s search to make bank on a Jedi artifact tempted Luke to join her quest.

These crossovers grew in scope from one to the next, and if they want to keep up their pace, I believe they should recalibrate a bit and make a few changes. Both Vader Down and The Screaming Citadel introduced a lot of concepts which were underdeveloped and left hanging. If a film left those threads open, we would expect a novel or comic to fill in those gaps. But, seeing as these events are comics, we don’t expect supplementary material – the event is generally all we get, so to speak. To allow for more breathing room and to further explore these crossovers, changes should be made. I think the Star Wars line should take two major points from mainstream Marvel. First, events should be set up much further in advance, while their consequences should be far more lasting. Second, they should be longer, allowing for a more in-depth event, in terms of both characters and plotting. » Read more..

The Kylo Conundrum – or, the Elephant and the Blind Men

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The response to The Force Awakens brought, remarkably, a few areas of genuine consensus – with a small number of exceptions, Rey is generally beloved while Starkiller Base is usually derided. Other elements are divisive, but perhaps none more than the antagonist/anti-hero/Byronic dark prince/space Hitler/dudebro fanboy that is Kylo Ren.

Not merely in terms of popularity – depending on who you speak to, he’s either the best or the worst thing about the film – but also whether or not he is heading for (or deserves) redemption. Even the fundamentals of what exactly the character is, what he stands for, and how we are supposed to respond to him are the subject of a wide variety of viewpoints.

Kylo occupies an unusual space in a saga with clearly-defined characters – a postmodern figure in a world of archetypes.

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Everything leading up to TFA made us believe that Kylo would occupy the same space in the drama as Darth Vader in the original trilogy. He was an ominous figure, his mask plastered over every poster, toy box and tote bag. He was to be the icon of the movie, Vader for a new generation.

Indeed, the beginning of the movie makes good on that promise. In the first ten minutes he murders an unarmed old man, coldly orders the execution of dozens of innocent villagers, and demonstrates chilling and hitherto unseen dark side powers as he effortlessly freezes both a blaster-bolt and our hero, Poe Dameron.

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A Grown-Up Watches Star Wars For the First Time, Part One – The Prequels

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When was the last time you met an adult who had never watched a single Star Wars film? What if you could introduce them to the series, one film at a time, and ask them their thoughts as they went along? That’s exactly the situation I’ve found myself in, as my friend Kelsey just started watching the Star Wars films over the past few months and has become increasingly engrossed. After viewing Episodes I, II, and III, Kelsey agreed to be interviewed to satisfy my curiosity about her experience and reflections on the series so far. After all, most Star Wars fans who started with the prequels did so as children, and it’s a rare pleasure to be able to ask thoughtful questions of an adult fan with almost no prior knowledge of where the series is headed after Anakin’s fall to the dark side. Stay tuned for a follow-up interview with Kelsey in a few months after she finishes the series!

What were your favorite things about the prequels?

I really liked in Episode III all of the complications between Anakin and Padmé (I was able to get over the “weirdness factor” of their age difference!). And I saw there is something good and genuine in how they love each other, but somehow in the midst of all these good intentions, all these horrible things happened. But it wasn’t random or mysterious, it was that Anakin consistently made the wrong decisions; there was a twisting on his part. It wasn’t just a tragic love story—there’s no doubt there were some evil things that happened in Anakin that I think will set up the next couple movies. I’m intrigued about that. There was a lot of gray area: it’s not just black and white that you latch a story onto, the canvas is already gray.

I think there was also just a lot of cool worldbuilding. Especially in the middle of Episode II, I started figuring out how their society and universes generally work. In other words, I knew there was intergalactic diplomacy happening, but I didn’t understand it in [The Phantom Menace]. It wasn’t until [Attack of the Clones] that I felt I understood the universe enough that I felt if I wanted to, I could come up with another planet or species consistent with this galaxy’s rules. Plus as a biology major I enjoyed starting to see new kinds of animals in the second movie. » Read more..

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