Archive for Scotch Tape and Popsicle Sticks

Too Much of a Good Thing? – On Alien “Diversity” in the Star Wars Films

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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..

Inward Eye, Outward Hand – Chirrut Îmwe, Han Solo, and “Force Sensitivity”

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Baze was terrified. Chirrut was not. In the instant before he’d risen from the bunker, he’d questioned his own wisdom: How might be separate the will of the Force from his will, his ego, demanding action where action was unneeded? But there was no doubt in his heart now. The Force expressed itself through simplicity, and all it asked of him was to walk.

I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

Is Chirrut Force-sensitive?

The more we learned about him prior to the release of Rogue One, the more people found themselves asking this question. Cassian Andor even comes close to asking the question himself within the movie, and the answer Baze Malbus gives him isn’t much more definitive than the one Rogue One offers viewers: he’s no Jedi.

That much is clear—Chirrut is not currently, nor was he ever, a Jedi Knight. He’s part of a new group called the Guardians of the Whills; devout followers of the Force, but not necessarily wielders of it. Baze certainly seems content with his giant-ass cannon. But that’s not usually what people mean when they ask, is he Force-sensitive? What they mean is, could he have been a Jedi? Is the Force warning him when a blaster bolt is about to come his way? With training, could he levitate things, perform mind tricks, and so on?

Personally, I doubt it. But to look at what Chirrut can do and ask “what if?” is to miss the point of Chirrut’s abilities entirely. » Read more..

The Expanded Universe Explains, Vol. XIV – The Alliance to Restore the Republic

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In recent weeks, as the Rogue One hype train reached full speed, a new comment from Gareth Edwards made certain longtime Star Wars fans take notice—in a short featurette for the film, Edwards stated that while the thrust of the film is the theft of the Death Star plans, “through [the heroes’] journey, we see the formation of the Rebel Alliance”. While he could very well have intended “formation” in a metaphorical sense, characters learning to work together and all that, fans wouldn’t be fans if they didn’t at least suspect that he might have been speaking literally—meaning the film will show us the official consolidation of the various lowercase-R rebel cells into the capital-R Rebel Alliance.

While Star Wars Rebels has laid much groundwork for this already, it hasn’t yet depicted such an event, so while Rogue One is situated almost three years after the most recent episodes, it’s entirely possible that a formal Alliance won’t exist until then, implying that when A New Hope begins the organization is only weeks, or even days, old. That would jive well with the most literal interpretation (there’s that word again) of the opening crawl’s statement that stealing the plans is the Rebels’ “first victory”; indeed, the mere existence of a show like Rebels requires such a literal reading—the show wouldn’t last very long if the main characters never succeed at anything, so one must draw a distinction with the Ghost crew’s small, often pyrrhic, victories and the coordinated military victory we’ll soon witness in theaters.

For the Rebel Alliance to form so late in the timeline is a deviation from the Legends version of events, but not as much of one as you might think—likewise, the continuing presence of Jedi within the organization on Rebels seems like a big deal, but it’s nothing us old Expanded Universe fans aren’t used to. So in anticipation of the new canon finally linking up the rebels and the Rebels (whether it happens in Rogue One or not), let’s take a look at how this went down the first time.

» Read more..

So, how much of Rogue One have we seen already?

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Well, it’s that time again—a new Star Wars film is only two weeks away, and promotion, once considered by some to be worryingly sparse, has reached the “unavoidable” stage. According to ComicBook.com’s YouTube channel, there are at least sixteen discrete Rogue One TV spots, plus two behind-the-scenes featurettes, three “international” trailers, two standard trailers, the original one-minute teaser from last spring, and last but not least a full 39-second clip that was released literally as I was writing this paragraph.

With all this stuff floating around, some inevitably start to wonder aloud if they’re showing too much. This was an even more pronounced concern a year ago, when spoiler aversion for The Force Awakens was at an almost religious intensity, so it occurred to me, a moderately spoiler-phobic fan myself, to actually sit down and do the math. After adding up all the distinct content I could find, I ended up with a figure of about five and a half minutes, or about four percent of TFA’s expected running time. That didn’t seem like very much after all, and furthermore, it turned out that the later a scene was situated in the film, the less of it we’d seen—almost half of the content was from Jakku, in fact.

But TFA was a special circumstance by any measure; an utterly blank canvas where simply the existence of stormtroopers, for example was Major New Information to be doled out carefully. With Rogue One, we already know how the damn thing ends: the Death Star plans are handed off to Princess Leia with Darth Vader in hot pursuit. The stakes here are not in the mission’s success but in the ultimate cost in the lives of the team, none of whom seem to be around later—but even the most revealing trailers generally have enough sense not to reveal who dies. So all things considered, it’s reasonable to expect a much lower bar for withholding the details of RO from us, and for that to be reflected in the material they’ve released. But there’s only one way to know for sure, so it’s time once again to dive deep into the footage and see what’s what. » Read more..

Stages Within Stages: The Minority Report, Year Two

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Ever since 2009, I’ve conducted an ongoing study of diversity in Star Wars fiction—first (and still) at the Jedi Council Forums, then here at Eleven-ThirtyEight. Over time, I developed a means of “diversity scoring” various stories based on the demographics of their casts, and began looking for trends and precedents in the franchise, for good or ill. One huge thing I’ve learned from this process is that it’s very, very hard to quantify diversity in a useful way; people inclined to argue with me will often yell “Quotas! One of everything!”, which is an easy logical leap to make but hardly a solution. Not all roles and stories are created equal, so simple math is at best a limited measure of work’s value.

This became especially clear to me a year ago, when scoring the first several works of the new Star Wars canon. While at first glance these stories had established a number of remarkable things like an all-female stormtrooper unit, a black main character for a middle-grade series, and several LGBTQ characters in a single book, these bold steps weren’t showing up in the scoring—if anything, the raw figures were slightly worse than they had been in my studies of Legends material. While the average score has ticked down a little over the last year—from 67 to 60—that feeling has mostly held up. » Read more..

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