2019 looks like it will be a year of transition for Star Wars. We will see the release of Episode IX, the end of the Skywalker Saga and the only Star Wars film currently known to be in production. The release schedule for future film series remains a mystery, and with Rian Johnson currently working on Knives Out with Daniel Craig, another Star Wars film before late 2021 seems out of the question.
The A Star Wars Story anthology movies appear to have been shelved for the moment, with Bob Iger suggesting a general “slowdown” of releases following Solo’s box office under-performance, which he attributed to poor scheduling and marketing, and trying to do too much too soon. The future of Star Wars at the cinema may be closer to the Lucas model – big events, trilogies and occasional breaks between them. Instead, this year will see a shift toward television. The Mandalorian will debut on the Disney+ platform, and by then the Cassian Andor show will be well into production.
As Lucasfilm’s strategy changes, now seems as good a time as any to celebrate the two anthology films we did get, look at what they achieved, and hope that similar stories can still be told on Disney+. Because to my mind (Star Wars Rebels being in a class of its own), Rogue One and Solo are the best live-action works of the Disney era.
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Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul are two characters who were introduced in The Phantom Menace, wherein they both were killed in an epic duel. Supposedly killed, that is, as both lived on all the way up to the doorstep of A New Hope, each of them drastically affecting the growth of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Therefore, it makes sense on a surface level for Qui-Gon and Maul to having dueling comic releases. But this isn’t just a nice nod and a wink to their shared screentime. There’s much more to be found in their texts’ comparison.
Age of Republic is a limited comic series that will run through March 2019, with a hero and a villain each getting their own issue every month along with an additional special issue combining the stories of other characters. The series kicked off in December 2018 with Qui-Gon’s and Maul’s comics, entitled “Balance” and “Ash” respectively, both comics written by Jody Houser.
Not only did Houser create two solid tales that give us better looks into these characters, but she also made them rhyme. George Lucas would be proud. “Balance” and “Ash” are a dance of contrasts, following the same beats of story while united by a particular theme: the galaxy’s perception of the Jedi.
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As you may know, a little personal project of mine is to tabulate and track the demographics of named Star Wars characters from year to year, so that we fans can discuss with some accuracy how diverse they are (or aren’t). If this is the first you’re hearing of it, click the series tag at the end of the piece or see last year’s entry for a more thorough explanation. It’s been an interesting year for this subject—two new films have been released since my last update, and only three original adult novels. This is a self-explanatory phenomenon, of course, because two films means two novelizations, which means two fewer original stories. Add in the final season of Star Wars Rebels and for the first time, the amount of visual Star Wars media in a given year equaled the amount of published media—at least by the methods I’ve chosen for this project.
While that’s very much out of the ordinary for the franchise—last year’s update included one film, one season of Rebels, and eight novels—it helped bring into focus something I’ve only vaguely acknowledged over these last few years: when characterizing the overall diversity of the franchise no amount of novels can really compare to the representational value of a movie star. So even though there are far more novels overall than films or television series, the latter category deserves at least equal weight to the former, debatably even moreso—and with multiple live-action television series on the way it’s only getting more important.
Another development of the past year was the dawn of the #SWRepMatters social media campaign. Short for “Star Wars Representation Matters”, the hashtag was started by a group of fans on Twitter that includes several former Eleven-ThirtyEight guest contributors to highlight different communities of underrepresented people and why they belong both in the Star Wars universe and behind the camera (or pen). It’s been a great campaign to watch (with no signs of letting up!) in part because of the diversity of participants—one reason I choose to talk about this in such a dry, academic way is because I’m not from an underrepresented community; I can’t speak about it as insightfully and passionately as fans who really do long for that representation, and I wouldn’t presume to be an arbiter of which characters are or are not “good representation”—numbers, though, I can do. » Read more..
One of the things that most defines a hero in a Star Wars film is having faith. Faith in the Force, faith in fate itself, but most of all faith in other people, that they will do the right thing when it matters most. Luke has faith that Anakin Skywalker will not let the Emperor kill his only son. Obi-Wan has faith that Luke will become the Jedi his father never was. Leia has faith that her brother will be found and come back to help save the galaxy.
However, increasingly, we’re seeing deconstructions of that sort of faith. The sequel era especially seems to relish twisting that idea around. Rey is the poster child for this, everyone she has faith in turns away from her (Finn in The Force Awakens, Luke in The Last Jedi), dies (Han), or exploits that faith somehow (Kylo Ren). Her character arc is as much about having faith in herself as anything else. But all of our heroes from this era seem to run into this sort of problem, and Star Wars Resistance has brought another one of these to the forefront beyond the scope of the films: Poe Dameron.
While Poe having faith in his friends and comrades is a fundamental reason why Finn leaves the First Order and joins the Resistance, there is a subtext to Poe’s arc in TLJ that sometimes he can lean too much on this faith and not enough on facts or logic. It’s Poe’s faith in his comrades to do the impossible that lead to the loss of Cobalt Squadron, and his faith in Finn and Rose’s plan that almost destroys the Resistance entirely. And, rewinding the timeline a bit but moving forward in out-of-universe time, we come now to his faith in Kazuda Xiono. » Read more..
“You have too much of your father’s heart in you, young Solo” snarls Supreme Leader Snoke at his apprentice, Kylo Ren, in the wake of the younger man having just murdered Han Solo. It is a clear taunt, part of a broader litany fired at the troubled Knight of Ren by the Supreme Leader – a dressing down that informs the character’s behavior for the rest of The Last Jedi. As part of that same passage, Kylo Ren is compared yet again to his grandfather, Darth Vader. It is a comparison invited and encouraged by Kylo, and the idea that he might not measure up to “the most hated man in the galaxy” is an easy way to wound him, as we have seen on multiple occasions.
Kylo Ren, the former Ben Solo, does not only draw his inspiration from the iconic Darth Vader however. Whether he likes it or not, the influence of his parents is indeed apparent in his behavior and his choices, as suggested by Lor San Tekka when we first met the character in The Force Awakens. It is these alternate influences that make Kylo Ren such a dynamic, exciting, and perhaps more terrifying villain than anything that has come before in Star Wars. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in many respects, and as the character channels his resilient mother and particularly his unpredictable father, we see the emergence of a new kind of challenge for this new generation of heroes to overcome in Episode IX. » Read more..