Archive for The Works

Tales from the Journal – On Storytelling and “Canon”

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“Originally, I was trying to have the story be told by somebody else; there was somebody watching this whole story and recording it, somebody probably wiser than the mortal players in the actual events (…) the stories were actually taken from the ‘Journal of the Whills’.”

George Lucas – Star Wars, The Annotated Screenplays

The Journal of the Whills occupies a strange place in Star Wars lore. Initially part of George Lucas’s early drafts and referenced in the novelization of A New Hope, it then disappeared from Lucas’s work almost entirely (though he did return to his “Journal” notes during pre-production on The Phantom Menace, and considered referencing a “Shaman of the Whills” in Revenge of the Sith). The idea has seen a resurgence of a kind recently, though, with its reference in the novelization of The Force Awakens and with Baze and Chirrut, the mysterious “Guardians of the Whills”, in Rogue One.

Though Lucas did not make the Whills an explicit part of the story, instead developing the idea into the Force, the concept of the story being recorded in an ancient Journal, from which he is retelling it, is something he never quite let go of. In 2005’s The Making of Revenge of the Sith, Lucas revealed that the story was told to the Keeper of the Whills by R2-D2, 100 years after Return of the Jedi. The ongoing use of the introduction “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” – a modern “once upon a time” – reminds us that Star Wars is a fairy tale, a myth that is being retold to us, and that this is how we should look at it.

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Putting the “War” in “Star Wars”: Rogue One, genre and the future of the franchise

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“It’s called Star WARS”Gareth Edwards

The success of Rogue One with critics, fans and at the box office will have come as a huge relief to Lucasfilm. Not only does it show that the series can succeed without centering on the saga of the Skywalker family, it also indicates that the wider audience are open to the idea of entirely new kinds of Star Wars films. Rogue One has been lauded both for its gritty vision of war, and for its morally grey portrayal of the Rebel Alliance.

For fans who follow Star Wars outside the films, and have read Battlefront or seen the Clone Wars “Darkness on Umbara” arc, the idea that you can tell a “gritty” war drama in this world is nothing new. Rogue One, to us, might not seem like a radical departure, but to the eyes of the general viewer it is something entirely different. It is a bold move for a franchise to make after forty years, and seven films which have stayed fairly close to the same format: despite some aesthetic and tonal differences between and within the episodic “saga” films, they are all essentially mythic “hero’s journey” space fantasy tales, with a visual language that is part Flash Gordon, part Kurosawa. The risk of shaking up such a familiar format after all this time shouldn’t be downplayed.

The furthest the films went in terms of playing with genre before now was during the first hour of Attack of the Clones, where the paranoid thriller of Obi-Wan’s film noir-inspired investigation into an assassination attempt is intercut with old-fashioned courtly-love melodrama: all lakes, flowers and fireplaces. The jaggedness of this contrast, though, is one of the things AotC receives criticism for, and in any case, it returns to a more traditional Star Wars feel for its final act. Rogue One is something new – it is resolutely attempting to tell a story in another genre, the “war movie,” but set within the universe of Star Wars. » Read more..

In Praise of Qui-Gon Jinn: The Quiet Rebel

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Slowly, Yoda nodded. “A very great Jedi Master you have become, Qui-Gon Jinn. A very great Jedi Master you always were, but too blind I was to see it.”

He rose, and folded his hands before him, and inclined his head in the Jedi bow of respect.

The bow of the student, in the presence of the Master.

Revenge of the Sith novelization, by Matthew Stover

Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn appeared in only one Star Wars film, but few characters have had such a profound influence on the direction of the story. For a generation of fans, including myself, he was the mentor, our old Ben Kenobi. Liam Neeson’s return to the role in The Clone Wars was, for me, the highlight of the series: I had been desperately disappointed in 2005 when Neeson’s lines were cut from Revenge of the Sith, but the two TCW story arcs involving Qui-Gon made up for that and then some.

Qui-Gon’s role has also been mildly controversial. Some lay the blame for everything bad that happens – from Anakin’s fall to the rise of the Empire – at his door. Others argue that the character should never have been included at all, and that Obi-Wan should have discovered Anakin Skywalker himself.

For me, though, not only is Qui-Gon the definitive Jedi, he is also crucial to our understanding of what they are, and what they should be. His philosophy and quietly rebellious nature is inspirational, and by exploring his relationship with the Jedi Council, we can learn everything we need to know about the Order and its mistakes. » Read more..

Luke Skywalker: The Hero Who Ran Away?

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“Luke Skywalker has vanished”

So begins The Force Awakens. Hold on, though – shouldn’t Luke be fighting with Leia’s Resistance against the First Order, taking on the villainous Snoke and his fallen apprentice Kylo Ren, rather than running away from his problems? For many fans, to whom Luke was a childhood hero, this narrative choice seemed at best out-of-character, and at worst a betrayal of everything he stood for.

Luke’s disappearance is indeed a long way from the swashbuckling young hero we saw in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. But Luke’s journey in the original trilogy is to become a Jedi, the Jedi – the one to correct the mistakes of the previous generation. From this perspective, his choices following Return of the Jedi make perfect sense.

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First Steps into a Larger World: What the Prequels Taught Me about Life, Politics and Myself

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The release of The Force Awakens in December saw, predictably, a wave of reflections on the Star Wars prequel trilogy: from brief, usually dismissive asides in reviews of JJ Abrams’s sequel, to a range of works defending the prequels’ artistic value. The most well known are Mike Klimo’s ambitious Ring Theory and the documentary The Prequels Strike Back, though I would also recommend these three articles as particularly eloquent and interesting perspectives on the first three episodes.

Beyond the critical response, the assumption is often that the prequels were generally received negatively by the fan community. After all, the most prominent voices in fandom had long been those of the original trilogy generation, where the response was indeed mixed, as the younger generation has taken time to grow into adulthood and find its voice. But as Abrams says:

“…if you ask someone around the age I was when the original trilogy came out, “Whats your favorite Star Wars movie?” they will tell you one of the original trilogy. If you ask someone around that age when the prequels came out, they will say one of the prequels. And it’s scientifically proven and undeniable.”

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