Archive for Guest Editorials

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..

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..

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..

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

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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

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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..

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