One of the first adult Star Wars novels of the new canon was Tarkin, by franchise veteran James Luceno. Many of Luceno’s books have been “biographical” in nature, choosing a subject and covering a large swath of their existence in one story. Sometimes this works well, as in Darth Plagueis, which had a pretty open canvas to work with and, perhaps most importantly, a definitive climax and resolution that had never been told in detail. Other times, notably when alternating between backstory and events in the “present day”, Luceno has had trouble maintaining a balance between the primary plot and the wide-ranging flashbacks (do you even remember what Millennium Falcon‘s framing story was? I don’t).
This was the case with Tarkin, I felt—“the central story of Teller and his group of renegades stealing the Carrion Spike and cutting a swath through the Empire with it was actually pretty interesting,” I wrote at the time, “but ultimately I think I would’ve preferred a novel of just that.” Unlike with Falcon, I was more interested in the present than in the past, but the issue was the same—an imbalance wherein the thing I really wanted to read was constantly being interrupted by something far less interesting and only nominally related.
I thought then that a good solution would be to just jettison the alternating structure and tell overtly biographical stories, but wouldn’t you know it? Over the last few years, Star Wars has repeatedly followed that very advice—and I’ve come to see things very differently. » Read more..
Last month’s The Last Jedi photo spread in Vanity Fair, among lots of other things, gave us our first look at the characters played by Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro—something that’s especially interesting for Star Wars, where knowing that an actor is “in” a movie isn’t necessarily a guarantee that you’ll see their face. While Dern’s character was given not just a name, but a rank and affiliation—Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo of the Resistance—Del Toro’s character is identified only as “DJ”, and if the accompanying article can be trusted (though let’s be honest, it can’t), he gets no moniker at all in the film itself.
Picking through the scraps of information doled out in advance of a new film and trying to decide what’s important is one of the most fun things about this new era for me—who is Bobbajo? What’s a “Guavian Enforcer”? And who is this intriguing Constable Zuvio?? For us to know about them months beforehand, these must be crucial parts of the story, right?
Well, nope. Not remotely. The truth of Star Wars is that everything is a “big deal” in the sense that it’s new and fantastical and captures people’s attention—but actually playing a major role in the story is another thing entirely. This is reinforced by the fact that many well-known, respected actors will gladly sign on for what amounts to a cameo role, or even a completely anonymous one, just for the thrill of being in Star Wars. Knowing that Benicio Del Toro is in The Last Jedi, in other words, is a very, very different thing from knowing that his character matters. The fact that he allegedly doesn’t even have a full name supports this—“DJ” could be to TLJ what “Bobbajo” was to The Force Awakens: a glorified walk-on role.
Having said all that, though? I decided pretty quickly that he’s playing a grown-up Ezra Bridger. » Read more..
Ages and ages ago, I wrote a really long “Top 20 Expanded Universe Moments” piece for my personal blog at StarWars.com, which was a thing they let you have once. Most of it was the kind of thing your typical EU fan would gush over, but two entries were devoted to stories totally outside Legends continuity—what was then called Infinities.
One, actually my third most memorable moment, was a standalone Darth-Vader-versus-Darth-Maul story from Star Wars Tales, which sounds like the fanwankiest thing ever (and I mean, it was) but also happened to be a very interesting examination of Vader through the lens of a much more straightforward, dogmatic Sith Lord—who nevertheless proved to be the weaker of the two. The other was from the Infinites retelling of A New Hope, in which Han ends up accompanying Luke to Dagobah and, being a con man himself, immediately sees through the hermit routine—“this guy’s Yoda!”
What these two stories had in common was that they offered really interesting insights and character moments that couldn’t have happened in continuity as it was then. Ideally, that was the entire point of Infinities as a branding—not only can “what if” tales be great stories in their own right, but they can enhance our understanding of characters’ “true selves”, by showing how they might comport themselves in far-fetched circumstances. » Read more..
If you have any involvement whatsoever in the loose-knit community that is “Star Wars Twitter”, Story Grouper Pablo Hidalgo is hard to avoid. While several other prominent Lucasfilm employees have Twitter accounts, Pablo almost certainly has the biggest profile among major (read: obsessive) Star Wars fans, due to his status as one of the company’s “continuity experts” and his willingness to answer, or at least respond to, even the most inane and redundant questions. Needless to say, those questions are exactly what he gets, and while he must find it rewarding or amusing on some level, the intensity of the reactions he can provoke occasionally seems to frustrate him—over the last couple months, he’s made a series of lighthearted attempts to rebrand himself as a Transformers artist (which, okay, he technically is), a Revan stan, yours truly, and as of this writing, a lovable kitten.
But I can’t read his mind; his social media personae are his own prerogative and he owes us nothing. What I do want to unpack is something he’s mentioned once or twice in the last few weeks—that he prefers Rogue One to The Force Awakens. This is no great surprise, in my opinion, as Pablo is an “old school” fan and RO is very much an “old school” kind of Star Wars story; if not for the fact that it directly overwrites around a dozen stories from the Expanded Universe, it would fit in very neatly with that brand of storytelling, which is where Pablo largely cut his teeth as a Star Wars professional (and as a fan). We’re largely the same type of fans here at Eleven-ThirtyEight—the site was created in part to act as a bridge between the EU and the larger fandom—and without having asked, I’d venture to guess that most if not all of my staff writers also prefer RO to TFA. But after giving it a lot of thought over the last couple months…I don’t think I do. » Read more..
One of the more interesting recurring critiques of The Force Awakens around this time last year was the lack of established alien species. The film’s species diversity was tough to contest in pure numerical terms (I’d have loved to see more aliens in the Resistance, but it was roughly on par with Return of the Jedi in that area—and it certainly turned out to be better than Rogue One), but a notable number of the film’s detractors specifically expressed regret that amidst all the Hassks, Frigosians, and a sudden onslaught of Abednedos, not a single Twi’lek or Gran or Mon Calamari was seen.
What recurring species did appear came in the form of returning established characters like Chewbacca and Ackbar and Nien Nunb, with one hilarious exception: Constable Zuvio, likely by happy coincidence more than the designers’ intent, ultimately turned out to be a Kyuzo, the same species as The Clone Wars‘ bounty hunter Embo. And Zuvio, famously, is barely in the movie at all—about three frames, according to Wookieepedia.
Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, this has been rolling around in the back of my head all year: just how does TFA really compare to the other films in terms of its alien population? And is Rogue One, for all the emphasis on its contingent of Mon Calamari, really much different? Did the latter film do something right, here, that the former did wrong? Now that we’ve got a pretty solid amount of data on RO, I decided to find out. » Read more..