It is just over three months on from the detonation of the bomb that was The Last Jedi. The fires of controversy are indeed still burning and show no sign of diminishing. In the wake of all that, those flames also very recently got a hefty dose of oxygen with the release of the film novelization. Does the novel salvage the film for me? No, that’s demanding far too much of it, especially as it has to work with the plot of the film which causes so many problems in the first place. And then there was the effect it had on the wider Star Wars universe. Um, how to put it? Where’s that very appropriate GIF? Ah yes, here it is:
Yes, whatever hopes I had for how the film might improve on the success of Rogue One‘s masterpiece of coordination the year before were pretty much dashed. And so it was on the books – Phasma gave some quite interesting info on how the First Order actually operates, The Legends of Luke Skywalker remains a great set of Luke tales, but the film followed through on both in the most mundane way possible.
So then, what can Mr. Fry actually do with one book in the wake of all this cavalier destruction? Quite a bit as it happens.
His previous work has been on books like the Essential Atlas or the Essential Guide to Warfare – books that are all about trying to make it all work. Or bringing a new take to material you might consider humdrum. In this respect the books Moving Target and The Weapon of a Jedi are each based around what seems a blindingly obvious character observation. In Moving Target’s case, a consideration of how the revelation of the second Death Star had a devastating effect on Leia. How could it not? Yet no one had spun that story into being. Similarly, bereft of anyone to teach him, how does Luke even start to work out how to use the Force? He had done it on the Death Star run but he did not know how he had. Again, seems so easy, so obvious, but when I read Weapon of a Jedi, the story felt new. » Read more..
Two years back, I did an article on why I was holding off from seeing The Force Awakens. I watched it just over a week ago, with The Last Jedi on the next day. (Reviews for both TFA and TLJ.) Did my expectations of what I thought I would make of TFA actually pan out? I think so, but with one difference in that I did not really see the same movie as others would have seen two years gone.
Nope, the version I saw was technically the same, but I saw it having a lot more information about how it all came about than any viewer would have had then. Did that change it? It bolstered and supported the film’s weaknesses. Even a partial, incomplete account of where the First Order came from beats nothing, similarly a general picture of how the Republic works beats nothing. I would disagree much needed to be done to address these in the film, each could have been covered by a single line, say of First Order agents paralyzing the Republic politically, an older Resistance member quipping to another about a sense of déjà vu. Small details to be sure, but they would have helped the film stand more on its own.
And that ten percent of the film I expected to dislike? Well, the Bloodline book did de-fang a lot of what TFA does with Han and Leia, by dating the collapse of everything for them as roughly six years earlier. That changes the picture quite a bit and lessens the impact. It’s notable that Han’s claim to be good at smuggling is complete bullshit. He wasn’t that good at it thirty years previous and age hasn’t made him any better. As an excuse for a man who blames himself for things he should not, it does work. Leia’s focusing on what she can do, rather than what she cannot – like convincing Han he should not blame himself – that works too. » Read more..
—spoilers from Legends of Luke Skywalker ahead—
To say Ken Liu’s The Legends of Luke Skywalker has been keenly awaited would be an understatement. Since the great reboot that followed Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, there have been exceedingly few stories of what Luke has been doing after the fall of the Empire. There was Shattered Empire, but that was only one issue out of four and that was more or less it. For some the book has been a disappointment for its lack of actual ‘here’s what Luke really did next’ material. Instead, the book is of a far more playful and trickster nature, built around stories being told of Skywalker. Are they all true? That’s up to the reader, but there are hints that sometimes tip the deck one way or another. Expecting a book coming out ahead of The Last Jedi to have much in the way of revelations is expecting the impossible, the pattern was set by The Force Awakens. If there are major ‘this really happened’ stories, they will be next year, not now. Nor was the book ever deceptive about its premise in its marketing either.
The first story concerns an engineer spinning a tall tale to a rapt audience. It is subtly suggested the audience’s main interest is in how ludicrous a tale can be spun, for it is a tale of mad, bad conspiracy theories aimed squarely at the exploits of Luke, Han and Leia, with one aim: to drag them down and dismiss them as frauds. When the reader engages with this tale, the initial response may well be to opt for outraged dismissal: what a pile of crap, this is an outrage. Yet to do so would be to play into the story’s hands, Liu is quite aware outrage might result. Look further: When we read or watch or play a Star Wars story, we do so separately from our lives. Luke, Han and Leia are not actual people. What if they were? If you were living in that galaxy at the time of the films or after, if you heard three people led the war the take down the Empire that ran the galaxy, then how can you possibly live up to that? If they did that with their lives, what does that make yours? Easier, by far, to spin a few conspiracy theories that render them frauds as then you’re protected, no comparison to lose out to. » Read more..
—major Phasma spoilers ahead—
It’s interesting that both of these books have come out in close proximity to each other. Each exists to promote a different item – Phasma is a Journey to the Last Jedi book, while Battlefront II: Inferno Squad tells you exactly what it is about. Both give an Imperial viewpoint, but they do so in very different ways.
Inferno Squad puts us in the position of four highly skilled Imperials – fighter pilots, military mechanic, and intelligence officer – and shows us how they view the world. Phasma is a biographical tale of its enigmatic lead, but is wrapped up in a far more interesting story of conflict with a First Order true believer. Of the two books I found Phasma the easier read. Both books sketch a very unpleasant picture, but only Inferno Squad attempts to give the reader an inside perspective of the Empire. The equivalent picture for the First Order and Phasma’s view of it is never covered in Phasma, instead it’s a story of how others perceive her.
It comes down to brutal honesty versus salesmanship. Inferno Squad seems to want to sell the reader on the worth of Imperial ideals. Phasma does not care about that, she does not care about you. You don’t like how she does things? Phasma says fuck you. She’s too harsh? Phasma says fuck you. Can’t she look out for anyone other than number one? Phasma says fuck you. The reader still gets a very clear picture of who and what Phasma is all about, but there is a lack of justification offered. There is character in Phasma who is all about justified belief and that’s Cardinal, the red stormtrooper who wants to know her origin.
Inferno Squad gives the most extreme, hardcore Imperial viewpoint there has ever been. There have been Imperial characters before – Legends’ Jahan Cross in Agent of the Empire, Baron Fel in X-Wing, more recently Rae Sloane in A New Dawn / Aftermath, however, in all three cases, it was either very clear they did not care for superweaponry as represented by the Death Star or they were ambiguous in their support of it. Inferno Squad dispenses with this and gives us Iden Versio, who we first encounter defending the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin while she still exults in the destruction of Alderaan by it. Just to hammer the point home further, if this first impression was not sufficient, the squad later drinks a bottle of Alderaanian wine as a celebration. » Read more..
–MAJOR ROGUE ONE SPOILERS AHEAD–
I saw this early Thursday night, 2D tickets bought easily, only a handful of people in the cinema too. And then, over the course of just over two hours, I got my head kicked in, metaphorically speaking. Oh and one hell of a buzz. Why? Well, in a word: Everything.
Rogue One is far from a perfect film, it has flaws, it is a bit jumpy at the start, it does have to establish itself apart from the main films, but it gets right far more than it gets wrong. And those things it gets right? It gets gloriously right. This film lives up to being the first real Star Wars movie that shows us the war. It shows us those fighting it and it is not afraid to make a distinction between the two sides while also embracing moral complexity.
Yet, for those of us who watched the trailers, it is also a strange finished product. On the one hand the macro elements are all present – the ground battles, the worlds, the characters, but the changes in the micro aspects indicate the substantive reshoots. There are entire lines present in the earlier trailers that never appear in the film, there are shots that never turn up. It makes for a somewhat disconcerting viewing. What might have been the road not taken? Given the portraits of the Rebellion and Jyn in the trailers, I suspect it may have been a harsher picture. A more cynical and colder Jyn, a more battle-hardened Rebellion, which likely gave rise to the fear, not unwarranted, that viewers may not back both. » Read more..