Archive for Scotch Tape and Popsicle Sticks

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.

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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..

Let’s Dispel With This Fiction That Mon Mothma Was Wrong

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Star Wars fandom, and this site in particular, have spoken at great length over the last year about the course charted by the New Republic from Endor through to the destruction of Hosnian Prime. Is the New Republic actually better than the old one? Is it different enough? Should it be different? We have an unusual frame of reference for these questions, because aside from a few hints in Aftermath, pretty much the first thing we saw the New Republic do was get blown up in The Force Awakens. Since then, both stories have gotten a lot of new elaboration and context, but we’re still debating the big question—could the destruction caused by Starkiller Base have been prevented somehow?

Way back in March, before we had either Bloodline or Life Debt to consider, Ben Crofts tackled this question head-on in his piece Fantasy Foresight—basically arguing that it would have been impossible for the New Republic to eliminate the vein of Imperialism that became the First Order without becoming just as bad as the Empire itself.

Surely they could have acted differently than they did, though, right? In last week’s guest piece What the New Republic Should Have Learned From the Old Republic, Chris Wermeskerch looked specifically at the example of Kashyyyk, whose liberation Mon Mothma argues against in Life Debt, and cites several examples where even the Old Republic, corrupt and bureaucratic as it was, managed to act in the interests of small, oppressed populations. Isn’t there a big grey area, Chris wonders, between absolute pacifism and rampant militarism? » Read more..

The Expanded Universe Explains, Vol. XIII – Young Han Solo

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The Expanded Universe Explains series has had an interesting evolution over the last few years; originally it was a compendium of lots of actual questions posed by my friend Pearlann; once the reboot happened I then moved on to detailing stray movie references that had been told and retold in Legends multiple times (and thus, were especially in need of a reboot). That strategy eventually led me to one of the biggest messes of all—the theft of the Death Star plans.

Perhaps not all that coincidentally, that low-hanging fruit became the seed (ha, fruit pun) of the first Star Wars spinoff film—Rogue One. As such, interest in that particular piece has remained quite steady over the last eighteen months as more and more people become curious about the story. That recently led me to the conclusion that the next spinoff film, its premise also rife in Legends, was a worthwhile topic for an EU Explains, and so here we are.

24. What is Han Solo’s pre-A New Hope backstory?

Well, for starters, there’s a whole bunch of it—two entire novel trilogies, plus any number of scattered bits and pieces. If you really want to get the full young-Han-Solo experience, you’re in luck, as both the Han Solo Adventures, a self-contained trilogy by EU VIP Brian Daley, and the much more recent (and expansive) Han Solo Trilogy by Ann C. Crispin are among the best of the Legends material out there (while managing to be very, very different kinds of stories), and unlike a lot of my recent topics here, they’re pretty damn good at consistency—Crispin’s trilogy covers effectively Han’s entire life pre-ANH, meaning that at one point Han basically takes a leave of absence from his own book and the plot continues without him while the events of Daley’s trilogy are taking place. » Read more..

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