Archive for Opinion

Playing by the Rules – On Mon Mothma, Violence, and Consistency

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Over a year ago, on this very site, I wrote that I believed it was wrong for Mon Mothma to disband the New Republic armed forces only a year after the Battle of Endor. The Empire, defeated at Jakku, goes in two separate directions: the fleet jumps into hyperspace, hiding in the outskirts of the galaxy, while those remaining sign the Galactic Concordance. The Galactic Concordance states that the Empire may not raise an army, nor can they employ stormtroopers or engage in any weapon building/trafficking. When Starkiller Base fires upon the Hosnian system, the Resistance watches as the New Republic dies in flames. The New Republic, disarmed decades ago under Mothma’s watch, was unable to attend to the growing threat of the First Order, ultimately causing its destruction.

Did Mon Mothma make the right decision? Pragmatically, I still hold that it was wrong to dissolve the New Republic’s military strength. But morally? I think I am siding with her now more than ever. It is hardly up for debate that Mon Mothma has had one of the greatest renaissances of the new canon. Making appearances in Rogue One, and also in comics, novels, and reference books like the recently-released Rebel Files, we’re finally seeing the fuller picture of Mon Mothma that we missed out on when her scenes were cut from Revenge of the Sith. One of the most pressing issues for her, in the canon, is maintaining the integrity of the Alliance and its members while pushing for the end of Palpatine’s tyranny.

While Mothma’s role in many stories has been, essentially, handing out missions or arguing about proposed missions, she has a much more nuanced role in the new canon. She sees violence as a last-ditch effort in the fight to end the Empire’s tyranny, and has problems authorizing violent action on her account unless the full Alliance High Command comes to a unanimous consensus. The Alliance was still a political movement, and it would act and vote accordingly. Her personal views affect the way that she assigns these missions, and they may cause her to deny certain ones. » Read more..

Heroes on Both Sides: Why We Need a Novel About the Separatists

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At this point in Star Wars history, there has been a multitude of stories centered around the Clone Wars. From the latter half of the prequel trilogy to the eponymous television show, we’ve seen how the conflict embodied the end of the Republic, engineered by Palpatine as part of his final descent into totalitarianism. However very little attention is given to the issue that kickstarted the whole war: a secession movement known as the Separatist Crisis. Despite being talked about in the opening crawl for Attack of the Clones, it’s barely mentioned after that and rarely have we seen anything discussing how the galaxy came to that point in the first place.

The Clone Wars was an excellent TV show that did a fantastic job adding needed dimension to the prequel movies. However, it remains disappointingly one-dimensional in its depiction of the Separatists. With the exception of Mina Bonteri, they’re overwhelmingly shown to be uniformly evil almost to the point of caricature. And while this fits with the pulp style that TCW affected, it was still a missed opportunity to bring some depth (and truth) to the line from Revenge of the Sith’s opening crawl that “there are heroes on both sides.” With the recent trend of injecting more nuance in the franchise (from the multitude of Imperial POV novels to Rogue One and Saw’s Partisans) it’s time to extend that into the Separatist era.

Granted, it seems rather odd to advocate for a return to the prequel trilogy when the franchise is in the middle of putting out sequels that take place fifty years later. But a Separatist novel is an excellent opportunity to tie the sequels in with the prequel era because it would provide important context for the New Republic.

» Read more..

Put Down That Weapon: Luke Skywalker, His Masters, and Acts of Instinct

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Of the myriad moments in The Last Jedi that have caused an uproar among the fandom, it is Luke Skywalker’s actions in Ben Solo’s hut that have proved the most divisive. Given the Rashomon treatment, we see the scene three times, with Luke withholding key information in the first telling – namely that he had ignited his lightsaber with the briefest view towards murdering his nephew.

Understandably, a sizable portion of fans feels betrayed by this moment, and that it is out of character for Luke, a man who saw the good in his fallen father when nobody else believed, the man who threw away his lightsaber while staring down pure evil, proudly declaring his allegiance and heritage as a Jedi. A figure of warmth and optimism would not, could not contemplate such a barbarous act… surely?

The Last Jedi is many things; among them it is a comment on Star Wars and Star Wars fandom itself – a concept that is already being explored more than adequately. It is also, within the narrative, an examination of what it means to be a Jedi, and what values that involves. Writer-director Rian Johnson, via Luke, is explicit in his view of the classic, prequel-era Jedi Knights: that they were heinously derelict in their duty and allowed Darth Sidious to create the Empire while exterminating their order, but is only an invitation to dig deeper into the film’s (and Luke’s) view on the differing ideologies of the saga’s other two key Jedi characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. » Read more..

The Force and I Have Different Priorities: The Last Jedi and Life as a Star Wars Character

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When Luke agrees to train Rey in The Last Jedi, the first thing he asks her to do is explain the Force. She says it’s the power to “control people and make things float.” It’s played as a joke, one the audience is expected to be in on. But really the joke’s on us. While we’ve all heard Obi-Wan and Yoda explain what the Force is countless times, the Star Wars fandom is constantly proving that we still don’t get it. Every time someone suggests Jar Jar’s Drunken Fist fighting competence proves he’s a Sith, or writes a story implying that the Force blew R5-D4’s motivator, we show we still think of the Force like Rey—just a box you have to check to unlock the skill tree of cool powers.

Part of the problem is that the explanations Jedi like to give aren’t actually very clear. Calling everybody “luminous beings” doesn’t shed much light on the question. There’s a simple answer, but it’s dressed up behind a veil of Orientalist mysticism that makes it hard to extract. I can’t say it ever occurred to me until I read Nick Lowe’s Well Tempered Plot Device. Fair warning: once learned, it can’t be unlearned.

The Force is the plot.

It’s that simple. Every single thing in the story, from the luck of a sabacc draw to the very fabric of the entire GFFA, is the Force. “Nothing happens by accident” because everything in the story is a conscious decision by the author. » Read more..

The Physics of The Last Jedi

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In the concluding remarks of my previous piece about the physics of Concord Dawn, I argued that one could use science to think about how something unusual in a work of fiction might happen, and its consequences and implications, rather than just calling it a flaw that was not addressed and must be pointed out. After The Last Jedi‘s release, however, many chose this second option when faced with an element from the film’s opening sequence: bombers in space.

The argument generally goes like this: it makes no sense that Resistance bombers would attack a First Order Dreadnought by flying over it and dropping their bombs, since everything happens in space where there is no gravity, and therefore the scene was just filmed that way because that’s how bombers operate on Earth and it looks cool. Mind you, that might well be the actual reason! But since we’re thinking about physics, we could go a bit deeper than this and see where it takes us. One can’t invoke the planet’s gravity to explain bombs falling onto the Dreadnought, since the ship is not oriented with its ventral side directly facing D’Qar, although its artificial gravity seems to extend a bit beyond its topside hull (as seen when debris from explosions and destroyed TIE fighters fall towards it). There’s also artificial gravity inside the bomber, as an important plot point makes us painfully aware, and that alone could have propelled the bombs away. But it turns out that gravity was never necessary—according to TLJ’s Visual Dictionary, the bombs are launched from the bomber by electromagnetic means. » Read more..

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