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Galaxy’s Edge: Exploring Unknown Narrative Regions

Part of the appeal of the Star Wars narrative is the fact that it tells a story too grand in scale to be limited to a single medium. While books, comics, video games, and even virtual reality experiences have already added to the vast and varied narrative tapestry that is the Star Wars franchise, Galaxy’s Edge represents a foray into uncharted narrative regions.

A Fixed Chronology

In most instances where a property has been adapted into a theme park attraction, it’s removed from the property’s narrative chronology. One example is Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, the previous Star Wars-themed attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Each journey on Star Tours is unique, because the adventure is comprised of multiple randomized scenes that may take place in any corner – or at any period of history – in the Star Wars galaxy. Passengers on the Starspeeder 1000 might encounter characters and locations from any of the Star Wars eras, and they may be out of order: the first scene might take place with Finn and the Millennium Falcon on Jakku, while the next scene might occur during the events of The Phantom Menace on Tatooine. As a result, it is obvious that Star Tours is not “canon”, since characters and events separated by decades appear side-by-side or non-chronologically. Read More

Rules of the Game: The Malevolent Heart of The Phantom Menace

As The Phantom Menace turns twenty it has encouragingly ushered forth open reappraisal, new discussions, and even admiration for much of the creative work that went into one of the most accidentally incendiary films of the modern era. As someone who loved it as an impressionable, Anakin-aged nine-year-old in 1999 this is music to my ears. I have for much of its lifetime found it to be a curiously easy watch, rather than the repellent slugfest many of its loudest critics label it. As I’ve grown older I’ve appreciated more and more some of George Lucas’s flourishes that were imperceptible or just “part of the furniture” to my younger, less-developed critical faculty. I am also more than aware of the film’s many transgressions and faults. I understand completely why the film doesn’t work for so many, and why it was upsetting or frustrating.

In an odd way though, many of The Phantom Menace’s mistakes form part of its appeal now for me as an adult. While on the surface it is a children’s storybook of a film and is (relatively) less mature than what is to come, this belies a story that is steeped in some of the noir traditions that would become more obvious in Attack of the Clones, and as mentioned in Sarah Dempster’s excellent anniversary piece, is the beginning of the end of the galaxy far, far away’s Belle Epoque. Beyond that, with respect to what may be in store for us with The Rise of Skywalker, it is also the best showcase for one of the silver screen’s most diabolical and terrifying villains: Sheev Palpatine. Read More

Yoda’s Story: The True Burden of All Masters

Of the Star Wars characters who have been fortunate enough to appear in all three trilogies of the Skywalker saga, Yoda’s is perhaps one of the most patchwork – largely a supporting role, an invention to fill the void after Obi-Wan Kenobi’s not-entirely-planned demise in the original Star Wars. Yoda briefly took center stage as a major character in the operatic, apocalyptic Revenge of the Sith, and made a somewhat unexpected return to the series as a ghost in The Last Jedi. He may return yet again for The Rise of Skywalker, but even without that final installment Yoda’s story has perhaps by accident become one of the most poignant and illuminating that the cornucopia of Star Wars has to offer. It sees him on both ends of the spectrum of galactic power, but beyond that it tells a story of an individual’s battle with dogma and orthodoxy, and ultimately the selflessness to be surpassed by his greatest pupil.

Enter the bureaucrat

Contrary perhaps to expectations prior to the 1999 release of The Phantom Menace, when Yoda’s backstory during the time of Anakin Skywalker was unveiled he was shown to be in a drastically different milieu to that of his humble existence of Dagobah. We see that he was in fact a member of the Jedi High Council, residing on Coruscant, the capital of the Republic, in a gleaming, imposing temple with his fellow masters. He is, quite notably, not a very fun character in this environment – a naysayer in The Phantom Menace, like his colleague Mace Windu he urges caution against training Anakin.

This is not the limit of Yoda’s influence in his first chronological appearance, however – he is involved in the politics that underpin the film. This, ultimately, is of more relevance to Yoda’s story in the prequel trilogy, which escalates in the second film, Attack of the Clones. Perhaps one of the most pivotal scenes of the trilogy occurs when Obi-Wan Kenobi contacts Yoda and Mace to inform them of his discovery on Kamino of a clone army for the Republic. Processing this information, Yoda despairs that the ascendancy of the dark side has effectively rendered the Jedi blind, if they could have been so easily and completely deceived for a decade. Mace suggests that they inform the Senate that they are unable to operate to the best of their ability, but Yoda vetoes this decision. It is perhaps a throwaway hypothetical, but one can imagine that Yoda does not trust the system within which he works enough to be transparent. This plays into the hands of the Sith, creating a hermetic culture of secrets and ignored incompetence. There is a vital arrogance too: the Jedi do not humor the idea that Count Dooku has fallen to the dark side until it is far too late. Read More

“Your Focus Determines Your Reality” – The Phantom Menace Turns Twenty

For years, it was a commonly accepted truth in Star Wars fandom that the prequel trilogy was unequivocally a blight on the franchise and perhaps even the worst set of movies unleashed on mankind. In fact, I’m sure in many areas of the fandom that sentiment still holds true. Liking the prequels was not something one admitted to, and especially not The Phantom Menace. A Star Wars movie about trade disputes? Ridiculous.

However as the years have gone on and social media has become a much bigger force in fandom, that sentiment is slowly changing. Far from being universally derided, the prequels have quite a large and devoted fanbase and the era itself is enjoying something of a renaissance these days through books, comics, and television. As we approach the twenty-year mark of the start of this trilogy, it’s worth looking back on the prequels and acknowledging that there’s quite a lot to enjoy…and quite a lot done well.

The Phantom Menace in particular has received the brunt of anti-prequel sentiment, and unfairly so. Not only is it a genuinely fun movie on its own, but it’s vital to the overall Star Wars saga and to the Skywalker mythos. It introduced key characters who are still important to the story years later (hello Darth Maul), brought depth to the franchise as we knew it then, and added key ideas, themes, and concepts that we now take for granted. While the prequels as a whole have experienced a resurgence in public favor lately, so too has TPM finally been getting the respect and appreciation it deserves.

And so in honor of its twentieth anniversary it’s time to take a look back at The Phantom Menace and see what makes it so great. In both its characters and its story, it’s worth appreciating all that it adds to the Star Wars universe.

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Ahsoka in the promotional image for season 7

There is No Precedent, There is Peace – Expectations for The Clone Wars Season Seven

The Siege of Mandalore is upon us at last!

Canon’s first reference to it was back in 2005, though Mandalore may not have been the intent at the time. In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin refers to “the Outer Rim sieges” from which he and Obi-Wan had been recalled to rescue Palpatine. Ahsoka and Rex would later tie this reference to Mandalore in Star Wars Rebels. Rex mentions the siege by name, and Ahsoka speaks of the last time she saw Anakin before he rushed off to rescue the Chancellor. Maul is added to the mix with the familiarity of his “Lady Tano” nickname, a connection made explicit in E.K. Johnston’s novel Ahsoka.

In 2016, Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo gave us an unprecedented level of detail in the “Ahsoka’s Untold Tales” panel at Star Wars Celebration, revealing that the Siege of Mandalore had been planned to be the true finale of The Clone Wars. We have had long years of references and teases, with the major beats of the story established in a piecemeal way that we usually don’t get from Star Wars.

As such, I admit that I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the Siege of Mandalore would have in store for us. I was eager to see it, but I’d given up on the idea of being surprised by it. Then Celebration Chicago happened, and in one panel, I was forced to reconsider everything I thought I knew about the resurrected Season Seven:

“When I got the script for this stuff and finally could read what the Siege of Mandalore was all about, I was shocked. And I mean shocked. I don’t mean, ‘You guys are gonna really like it.’ No, I mean like I was shocked. I’m glad I’m sitting down. Are you sitting down?” – Sam Witwer1

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  1. Star Wars: The Clone Wars Sneak Peek Panel 2019. []