Archive for Guest Editorials

The Scale of a Sequel – What The Last Jedi Can Learn from The Empire Strikes Back

han-bespin-whome

There is a conversation that has existed since the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens regarding the narrative direction of The Last Jedi and the possibility of it paralleling certain story elements of The Empire Strikes Back. The Force Awakens was a wonderful successor to the original trilogy – it captured the saga’s serialized thrill and introduced us to new characters who were so well developed that they were adopted immediately and are praised among fans (with the exception of a few vocal minorities). However, one of its biggest criticisms, and one I hold myself, is its narrative parallels with A New Hope.

I love The Force Awakens as a whole and this subject has been talked about endlessly. Suffice it to say that, with characters as good as Rey, Poe, Finn, and Kylo Ren, I would have liked to see them take more chances with the story; although I understand the apprehension involved that drove them to play it about as safe as safe can be. My hope is that The Last Jedi sets itself apart from its original trilogy counterpart by having a different overall direction and narrative beat. However, there are plenty of elements from Empire that The Last Jedi should strive to emulate and they have nothing to do with the plot of the film, but rather how the film itself is told.

Empire is unlike many sequels. It doesn’t seek to top A New Hope in terms of effects or spectacle. It never feels like the unnecessary continuation of a story; or a reactionary effort greenlit in the wake of monetary success. There’s no greater threat to top the Death Star, no McGuffin, no prolonged action sequences that try to distract the audience from a lack of story. Empire is a much smaller film than A New Hope and that may be its greatest asset. It recognizes that the best sequels don’t artificially increase their scale in lieu of story, but expand upon the characterization and emotional scope of their predecessors. It understands that great sequels allow their characters to change. Irrevocably. » Read more..

Forty Years of Inspiration—From A New Hope to Rogue One and Beyond

lilwermy

When I woke up this morning, I tossed aside my A New Hope-themed comforter. In the shower, I lathered up with Suave for Kids – hey, it was my only option for finding shampoo with Kylo Ren on it, isn’t it? Before leaving for the morning, I brushed my teeth with Colgate for Kids featuring Rey and BB-8. As the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars approaches, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on what the franchise means for me – and what it can mean for others.

One of the most powerful aspects of literature, in my mind, is its ability to be pedagogical. That is, fiction can teach us and change us. No fiction has shaped my life as utterly as the Star Wars franchise has. There are times I wonder what kind of person I would be if I had never seen Star Wars. Asking this aloud prompted my roommate to note that I wouldn’t have any t-shirts, at least.

But I think there are a few other ways it has taught me and changed me. First, Star Wars taught me that ordinary people can do great things. Growing up, I wasn’t really the most confident person. I wasn’t the best looking, nor did I really apply myself to my grades as much as I could have. I wasn’t good at sports, and I needed remedial band practice between regular band practices. I think this caused a lot of existential despair in me, for a long time. » Read more..

“For a Thousand Generations…” – Evolving Jedi Philosophy from Star Wars to The Last Jedi

luke-jediend

On April 15th, 2017, the first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released to the thunderous roar of a thousand live attendees at Celebration Orlando and the individual cheers of viewers at home. The trailer closed with a line from Luke Skywalker, uttered in a gravelly voice and tinged with foreboding, “I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Cue the launching of a thousand speculations as people wondered what exactly those words meant for the Jedi and the overall philosophy of the Force in the Star Wars universe.

When Star Wars came out in 1977 the concept of the Jedi, as explained by Ben Kenobi, was relatively simple – the Jedi were space-age knights, chivalrous and inherently good, wielding a mystical energy field that was ever-present but relatively unexamined and mysterious. Juxtaposed against the evil of the fallen Jedi Knight Darth Vader in a space-fantasy play, it seemed their position as the relative “good guys” was pretty much sealed.

Over the course of the original trilogy we got to explore aspects of the Jedi and their relationship with the Force. I’ve always felt that Star Wars was conceived as an adventurous morality play with the dynamic of the light side versus the dark side as the center theme of the classic films. Although it can be argued that Jedi believe in the yin and the yang of the Force where the light and dark comprise a whole that ties the galaxy together, they are firm believers that the “yang” or “light” side of the Force is morally right. Their actions and philosophies reflect this attitude and are not challenged within the original trilogy itself. » Read more..

All Wings Report In: The Roots of Rebel Fleet Strategy

yavinvhistory

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

lyra-lahmu

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..

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