Archive for Opinion

Too Much of a Good Thing? – On Alien “Diversity” in the Star Wars Films

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One of the more interesting recurring critiques of The Force Awakens around this time last year was the lack of established alien species. The film’s species diversity was tough to contest in pure numerical terms (I’d have loved to see more aliens in the Resistance, but it was roughly on par with Return of the Jedi in that area—and it certainly turned out to be better than Rogue One), but a notable number of the film’s detractors specifically expressed regret that amidst all the Hassks, Frigosians, and a sudden onslaught of Abednedos, not a single Twi’lek or Gran or Mon Calamari was seen.

What recurring species did appear came in the form of returning established characters like Chewbacca and Ackbar and Nien Nunb, with one hilarious exception: Constable Zuvio, likely by happy coincidence more than the designers’ intent, ultimately turned out to be a Kyuzo, the same species as The Clone Wars‘ bounty hunter Embo. And Zuvio, famously, is barely in the movie at all—about three frames, according to Wookieepedia.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, this has been rolling around in the back of my head all year: just how does TFA really compare to the other films in terms of its alien population? And is Rogue One, for all the emphasis on its contingent of Mon Calamari, really much different? Did the latter film do something right, here, that the former did wrong? Now that we’ve got a pretty solid amount of data on RO, I decided to find out. » Read more..

All Wings Report In: The Roots of Rebel Fleet Strategy

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The sight of the ragtag Rebel fleet dropping out of hyperspace into battle is enough to capture the heart of any five- or 55-year-old Star Wars fan. From Rebels to Return of the Jedi, the Alliance’s motley assortment of ships is a striking visual embodiment of their struggle against the Empire. There is real substance behind those amazing on-screen moments, as the Rebel fleet employs tactics that have deep roots in real world conflict.

Lacking the sledgehammer might of the Imperial Navy, the Alliance was forced to develop tactics tailored to their limited resources. Their strategy placed an emphasis on a force built around a backbone of starfighter superiority. The Rebels’ heavy reliance on starfighters echoes the U.S. Navy’s development of aircraft carrier task forces in World War II, which ushered in a new era of combined arms naval warfare.

I. Breaking Tradition

The Rebel Alliance’s starfighter-centric strategy represented a shift in space warfare. At the time of the Alliance’s formation, the prevailing galactic military strategy prized the power of capital ships over snub fighters. This sentiment traces back to the Clone Wars, where space combat was dominated by large-scale engagements between Republic and Separatist capital ships. Although the Republic made strides in developing effective starfighters like the ARC-170 and the V-wing, capital ships remained the central focus of combat and tactics throughout the war. The mentality that pervaded the Clone Wars is exemplified during the Battle of Coruscant, in which a massive number of capital ships slugged it out toe-to-toe. » Read more..

I Rebel, Like My Mother Before Me: On Jyn and Lyra

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Rogue One is a story about family; on the surface, it seems to be more the story of a father and daughter, Galen and Jyn. It is the story of a broken relationship, of a failed hero, of forgiveness, and strife. Under the surface, and thanks in part to James Luceno’s Catalyst, we can find another family story: that of Jyn and Lyra. Though Lyra dies at the very beginning of the film, echoes of her reverberate throughout the story.

The primary lens through which Jyn sees the world is through that of a prison. Not hard to imagine, after all she was born in a prison on Vallt. Even her life on Coruscant was, as her mother described it, more compulsory than by choice. After Krennic comes to Lah’mu, taking Galen and killing Lyra, Jyn is forced to hide in a cave. This becomes Jyn’s defining reality for everything that happens later, including her capture on Corulag and her release on Wobani. Even her “rescuers” don’t seem to stay for very long: Krennic becomes overbearing, directly threatening her mother; her mother dies and she hates Galen for going with Krennic; Saw abandons her in the field; and now the Alliance simply wants to use her as a means of getting Galen to the senate. It’s easy to see how being taken forcibly from Wobani (despite the levity K-2 provides), almost coerced into a mission to find Galen, and promised a vague premise of freedom after the mission, would sound less and less desirable (and even comparable to what Krennic offered the Ersos before).

This is where we hear the first echo of Lyra in the film. When Lyra was brought to Coruscant with Galen, she was quick to make her hesitations about working for the Empire known. In order to remove Lyra from Coruscant, Krennic arranges an expedition for her so that she might get out of Galen’s mind and let him continue to work. She takes up the expedition, more for Galen’s sake than for her own. She told Galen how she felt, and she had the opportunity to say something to Has Obitt and Nari Sable as they discover the damage done to legacy worlds. Only seeing the vast damage that the Empire has caused to worlds earmarked for environmental protection could make a neutralist in the Clone Wars into a staunch opponent of the new regime. Lyra is so outspoken about the damage that she attracts the negative attention of Director Krennic, who blatantly threatens her and Jyn. » Read more..

Inward Eye, Outward Hand – Chirrut Îmwe, Han Solo, and “Force Sensitivity”

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Baze was terrified. Chirrut was not. In the instant before he’d risen from the bunker, he’d questioned his own wisdom: How might be separate the will of the Force from his will, his ego, demanding action where action was unneeded? But there was no doubt in his heart now. The Force expressed itself through simplicity, and all it asked of him was to walk.

I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

Is Chirrut Force-sensitive?

The more we learned about him prior to the release of Rogue One, the more people found themselves asking this question. Cassian Andor even comes close to asking the question himself within the movie, and the answer Baze Malbus gives him isn’t much more definitive than the one Rogue One offers viewers: he’s no Jedi.

That much is clear—Chirrut is not currently, nor was he ever, a Jedi Knight. He’s part of a new group called the Guardians of the Whills; devout followers of the Force, but not necessarily wielders of it. Baze certainly seems content with his giant-ass cannon. But that’s not usually what people mean when they ask, is he Force-sensitive? What they mean is, could he have been a Jedi? Is the Force warning him when a blaster bolt is about to come his way? With training, could he levitate things, perform mind tricks, and so on?

Personally, I doubt it. But to look at what Chirrut can do and ask “what if?” is to miss the point of Chirrut’s abilities entirely. » Read more..

Rogue One, Representation, and the Problem with Rationalizations

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About one and a half years ago, we got the first cast picture for Rogue One, and the general consensus (myself included) was celebration of the ethnic diversity, followed almost immediately by dismay at the heavily male cast. But after the first trailer surprised us all with the appearance of Mon Mothma I was hopeful for Rogue One and optimistic that there would be more women. Unfortunately, my fears were proven right when I finally sat down in the theater to watch the movie and it turned out to be a pretty big sausage fest. An ethnically diverse (and quite attractive) sausage fest, yes, but still a sausage fest. 

It’s disappointing because I had high hopes for a movie whose cast represented a range of countries and ethnicities. I was hoping it would continue in the thread of The Force Awakens and make a concerted effort to show a wide range of women as well; I’ve written before on the lack of women of color in Star Wars and I was hoping Rogue One would prove me wrong. But it goes to show that allyship in one area doesn’t always translate to allyship in another. We should definitely celebrate when Star Wars does well. But we should also accept that it will make mistakes…and as fans we should hold it accountable when it does.

It’s hard to admit when things we love aren’t as perfect as we’d like them to be. I’ve found this to be especially with something like Star Wars, where people tend to structure their entire identity around the fandom. So I understand wanting to rationalize away the flaws rather than admit that our favored franchise didn’t put its best foot forward. And there’s been a rash of rationalizations as of late: Leia’s slave bikini is empowering because she uses it to kill Jabba. Padmé didn’t die of a broken heart, Palpatine actually drained her life essence to save Anakin. Rogue One doesn’t show a lot of women in the Rebellion because they were trying to be faithful to how it looked in A New Hope. » Read more..

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