Archive for Opinion

Paths of Redemption: How Do You Solve A Problem Like Kylo?

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The ending of The Last Jedi brings the sequel trilogy’s three main characters to the end of the quests for identity and belonging they began in The Force Awakens. Finn has learned to fight for a cause (Phasma’s death bookending his refusal to execute the Jakku villagers), while Rey has found her place as heir to the Jedi and beacon of hope for her new family in the Resistance.

Kylo Ren, meanwhile, ascends from the conflicted former Ben Solo, eager to conclude his grandfather’s work and destroy the Jedi, to a status Vader never achieved – dictator of the galaxy. Twisted with hatred, as TLJ closes he seems more consumed by the dark side than ever, having now refused two golden opportunities to save himself. The response of many viewers is that he is now irredeemable.

Rian Johnson believes Kylo can still be redeemed, that he “isn’t as bad as Vader”, while acknowledging that this decision is for JJ Abrams to make. The comparison to Vader, though, is more complicated than Johnson suggests, and if TLJ tells us anything, it is that different rules apply to Kylo Ren, and we should not expect him to follow the same path.

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“A Man Who Wants to Run” – Finn’s Character Arc in The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi takes our beloved main characters from The Force Awakens on separate journeys that are imperative to their character development: Ben Solo kills Supreme Leader Snoke and solidifies his roots as the bad guy, Rey takes on the symbolic journey of training as a Jedi with Luke Skywalker – or tries to, anyway – and Poe is prepping to become the leader of the new Rebel Alliance (you can read about Poe’s story here). No less important than these is Finn’s necessary journey in this film that solidifies his role within the Rebellion. He is transformed from a man who wants to run into a man who wants to fight. With the help of Rose, their mission to Canto Bight, and his battle with Captain Phasma, Finn gains an understanding of how important the Resistance’s message is and what it truly means to be “Rebel scum”.

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In The Force Awakens, Finn’s main “mission” is to leave the First Order behind and run to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. But how was this decision made and why? We are introduced to a stormtrooper who was taken from a family he will never know and thrust into an ideology he doesn’t identify with. In a rigorous training program, Finn, along with many other stormtroopers, is conditioned to serve the First Order and obey all commands without question. Only when he is faced with the prospect of killing innocents on Jakku does he make the decision to leave. But his doubts about the First Order can be traced further back than the events of The Force Awakens.

Finn has a strong moment of truth in Before the Awakening that plants the seeds of his secession from the First Order. In the novel, Finn rescues one of his fallen comrades and he is chastised about it by Captain Phasma. According to the First Order, to have a strong group you have to leave the weak behind. Going back and saving fallen stormtroopers was a waste of resources – stormtroopers are expendable. To Captain Phasma, Finn is replaceable. He is only his number: FN-2187. » Read more..

In Defense of Bad Decisions

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A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the real world, a human being exists in a superposition. Their capacity for love or hate, honesty or guile, can evolve wildly over the course of their lives, or even from day to day. The second you try to nail someone down, best-case scenario, all you’ve really captured is an echo. Worst-case scenario, it’s an outright fabrication.

Star Wars has a reputation for grabbing an extra-thick Sharpie and drawing hard, clear lines between good and evil, but I would argue that that’s a function of aesthetics more than storytelling—you know immediately that Darth Vader is evil, until suddenly he’s not. You know immediately that the Republic is a good thing, until suddenly it’s an Empire. You know immediately that stormtroopers are bad guys, until one of them has second thoughts.

So when two “good guys” come into conflict, who exactly are we supposed to root for?

The Last Jedi delights in forcing these questions on us, making us second-guess who the hero is and what that role really requires of them—but while Luke Skywalker is the marquee Questionable Hero, the one who has engendered far more interesting debate, for my money, is Poe Dameron. » Read more..

Playing by the Rules – On Mon Mothma, Violence, and Consistency

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Over a year ago, on this very site, I wrote that I believed it was wrong for Mon Mothma to disband the New Republic armed forces only a year after the Battle of Endor. The Empire, defeated at Jakku, goes in two separate directions: the fleet jumps into hyperspace, hiding in the outskirts of the galaxy, while those remaining sign the Galactic Concordance. The Galactic Concordance states that the Empire may not raise an army, nor can they employ stormtroopers or engage in any weapon building/trafficking. When Starkiller Base fires upon the Hosnian system, the Resistance watches as the New Republic dies in flames. The New Republic, disarmed decades ago under Mothma’s watch, was unable to attend to the growing threat of the First Order, ultimately causing its destruction.

Did Mon Mothma make the right decision? Pragmatically, I still hold that it was wrong to dissolve the New Republic’s military strength. But morally? I think I am siding with her now more than ever. It is hardly up for debate that Mon Mothma has had one of the greatest renaissances of the new canon. Making appearances in Rogue One, and also in comics, novels, and reference books like the recently-released Rebel Files, we’re finally seeing the fuller picture of Mon Mothma that we missed out on when her scenes were cut from Revenge of the Sith. One of the most pressing issues for her, in the canon, is maintaining the integrity of the Alliance and its members while pushing for the end of Palpatine’s tyranny.

While Mothma’s role in many stories has been, essentially, handing out missions or arguing about proposed missions, she has a much more nuanced role in the new canon. She sees violence as a last-ditch effort in the fight to end the Empire’s tyranny, and has problems authorizing violent action on her account unless the full Alliance High Command comes to a unanimous consensus. The Alliance was still a political movement, and it would act and vote accordingly. Her personal views affect the way that she assigns these missions, and they may cause her to deny certain ones. » Read more..

Heroes on Both Sides: Why We Need a Novel About the Separatists

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At this point in Star Wars history, there has been a multitude of stories centered around the Clone Wars. From the latter half of the prequel trilogy to the eponymous television show, we’ve seen how the conflict embodied the end of the Republic, engineered by Palpatine as part of his final descent into totalitarianism. However very little attention is given to the issue that kickstarted the whole war: a secession movement known as the Separatist Crisis. Despite being talked about in the opening crawl for Attack of the Clones, it’s barely mentioned after that and rarely have we seen anything discussing how the galaxy came to that point in the first place.

The Clone Wars was an excellent TV show that did a fantastic job adding needed dimension to the prequel movies. However, it remains disappointingly one-dimensional in its depiction of the Separatists. With the exception of Mina Bonteri, they’re overwhelmingly shown to be uniformly evil almost to the point of caricature. And while this fits with the pulp style that TCW affected, it was still a missed opportunity to bring some depth (and truth) to the line from Revenge of the Sith’s opening crawl that “there are heroes on both sides.” With the recent trend of injecting more nuance in the franchise (from the multitude of Imperial POV novels to Rogue One and Saw’s Partisans) it’s time to extend that into the Separatist era.

Granted, it seems rather odd to advocate for a return to the prequel trilogy when the franchise is in the middle of putting out sequels that take place fifty years later. But a Separatist novel is an excellent opportunity to tie the sequels in with the prequel era because it would provide important context for the New Republic.

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