“The Mentor believes that Rebellions are built on hope, but I don’t believe it. Rebellions are built on hate” – Staven, Battlefront II: Inferno Squad
Last year I wrote about the ways in which the value system of Star Wars as defined by the Force apply not just to the journeys of its Force-sensitive characters, but also to its politics. Movements of power and self-interest – whether the greedy exploitation of the Trade Federation or the militaristic authoritarianism of the Empire – represent the fear, hatred and selfishness of the dark side, while peace is found in the compassion, harmony and symbiosis of the light.
With Rogue One as its centerpiece, Lucasfilm’s recent work has largely focused on the build-up to the Galactic Civil War, adding new political context to the iconic conflict that defines the original trilogy. Yet for all the talk of new “shades of grey”, the core values of Star Wars have ultimately been reinforced rather than subverted.
With Saw Gerrera’s return to Star Wars Rebels in “In the Name of the Rebellion,” his conflicts with Mon Mothma and with Jedi philosophy were brought to the forefront. This article will look at why, in the moral universe of Star Wars, his conduct and motivations are such a problem, and the wider dilemma of understanding a story that teaches us both that evil must be fought, while also warning that violence is the path to evil.
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Note: The speculation about The Last Jedi in this article is based only on official sources – behind the scenes footage, interviews with the cast and director, and merchandise.
It’s been lurking in the fandom subconscious for some time; we’re just afraid to confront it. Surely they would never kill Luke Skywalker in the very next film after offing Han Solo? The childhood hero for millions, forced by his own guilt into a lonely, tortured exile, returns to the galactic stage only to shuffle off its mortal coil for good? That would be absurd, wouldn’t it?
Lisa Schap already speculated, long before details of the story were known, about the necessity for Luke to be written out of the sequel trilogy. Didn’t everything change, though, with The Force Awakens? Didn’t Han’s unexpected (yet quite wonderful) role as Rey’s mentor/father figure, and his tragic death, mean Luke dodged this particular bullet?
I’ve felt that way for a long time. I’ve lived happily in denial. I’m sorry to say, though, that knowing what we now know about Luke, I can no longer deny the truth. TFA only prolonged the inevitable. Luke dying in The Last Jedi is not just a very real possibility – it might also be best not just for the story of the trilogy as a whole, but also for Luke himself.
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The response to The Force Awakens brought, remarkably, a few areas of genuine consensus – with a small number of exceptions, Rey is generally beloved while Starkiller Base is usually derided. Other elements are divisive, but perhaps none more than the antagonist/anti-hero/Byronic dark prince/space Hitler/dudebro fanboy that is Kylo Ren.
Not merely in terms of popularity – depending on who you speak to, he’s either the best or the worst thing about the film – but also whether or not he is heading for (or deserves) redemption. Even the fundamentals of what exactly the character is, what he stands for, and how we are supposed to respond to him are the subject of a wide variety of viewpoints.
Kylo occupies an unusual space in a saga with clearly-defined characters – a postmodern figure in a world of archetypes.
Everything leading up to TFA made us believe that Kylo would occupy the same space in the drama as Darth Vader in the original trilogy. He was an ominous figure, his mask plastered over every poster, toy box and tote bag. He was to be the icon of the movie, Vader for a new generation.
Indeed, the beginning of the movie makes good on that promise. In the first ten minutes he murders an unarmed old man, coldly orders the execution of dozens of innocent villagers, and demonstrates chilling and hitherto unseen dark side powers as he effortlessly freezes both a blaster-bolt and our hero, Poe Dameron.
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As season three of Star Wars Rebels reached its finale, it was once again plagued by the criticism that it had contained too many “filler” episodes. This usually referred to any episode of a vaguely comedic nature, or more broadly, any which did not focus on its two central story arcs – Thrawn vs. the Rebellion, or Maul vs. Ezra.
The argument implies that these episodes, whether it be the adventures of Iron Squadron or AP-5’s musical number in space, are somehow of lesser status, and are written only to fill in a gap in the schedule while we wait for the “real” story to continue. It’s a criticism that has been leveled at the series since the beginning. It is also entirely misplaced.
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Comparing anything in the Star Wars galaxy to the works of JRR Tolkien is a tricky business, and one we should be cautious of. Though George Lucas did once cite The Lord of the Rings as an influence, thematically they are very different works, and Tolkien and Lucas drew their core inspirations from very different places. When it comes to Dave Filoni’s work on The Clone Wars and Rebels, though, the situation is a little different.
Filoni is a self-confessed Tolkien fanboy, who has talked often of the professor’s influence on his work. He even gave Ahsoka some of Gandalf’s lines in Rebels season two (“I have questions – questions that need answering”), as Ahsoka dropped in and out of the story as the old wizard does in The Hobbit. In a recent interview with Fangirls Going Rogue, Filoni revealed that his main influence when creating the character of Bendu for season three was in fact the notorious Tom Bombadil from The Fellowship of the Ring.
Bendu is generating a great deal of interest as the internet struggles to decipher Luke Skywalker’s cryptic words in the trailer for The Last Jedi. Bendu does, after all, claim to be “the one in the middle,” a new perspective on the Force. Attempts to argue that the character is a sign that Lucasfilm are laying the groundwork for a more “grey” approach, however, risk clouding the true meaning of the character, and overlooking some unsettling truths about him. For a fuller understanding, it helps to look at the character of Bombadil, and work towards Bendu from there.
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