The Physics of The Last Jedi

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In the concluding remarks of my previous piece about the physics of Concord Dawn, I argued that one could use science to think about how something unusual in a work of fiction might happen, and its consequences and implications, rather than just calling it a flaw that was not addressed and must be pointed out. After The Last Jedi‘s release, however, many chose this second option when faced with an element from the film’s opening sequence: bombers in space.

The argument generally goes like this: it makes no sense that Resistance bombers would attack a First Order Dreadnought by flying over it and dropping their bombs, since everything happens in space where there is no gravity, and therefore the scene was just filmed that way because that’s how bombers operate on Earth and it looks cool. Mind you, that might well be the actual reason! But since we’re thinking about physics, we could go a bit deeper than this and see where it takes us. One can’t invoke the planet’s gravity to explain bombs falling onto the Dreadnought, since the ship is not oriented with its ventral side directly facing D’Qar, although its artificial gravity seems to extend a bit beyond its topside hull (as seen when debris from explosions and destroyed TIE fighters fall towards it). There’s also artificial gravity inside the bomber, as an important plot point makes us painfully aware, and that alone could have propelled the bombs away. But it turns out that gravity was never necessary—according to TLJ’s Visual Dictionary, the bombs are launched from the bomber by electromagnetic means. » Read more..

Fleeing The End: Why I Finally Watched The Force Awakens—and The Last Jedi

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Two years back, I did an article on why I was holding off from seeing The Force Awakens. I watched it just over a week ago, with The Last Jedi on the next day. (Reviews for both TFA and TLJ.) Did my expectations of what I thought I would make of TFA actually pan out? I think so, but with one difference in that I did not really see the same movie as others would have seen two years gone.

Nope, the version I saw was technically the same, but I saw it having a lot more information about how it all came about than any viewer would have had then. Did that change it? It bolstered and supported the film’s weaknesses. Even a partial, incomplete account of where the First Order came from beats nothing, similarly a general picture of how the Republic works beats nothing. I would disagree much needed to be done to address these in the film, each could have been covered by a single line, say of First Order agents paralyzing the Republic politically, an older Resistance member quipping to another about a sense of déjà vu. Small details to be sure, but they would have helped the film stand more on its own.

And that ten percent of the film I expected to dislike? Well, the Bloodline book did de-fang a lot of what TFA does with Han and Leia, by dating the collapse of everything for them as roughly six years earlier. That changes the picture quite a bit and lessens the impact. It’s notable that Han’s claim to be good at smuggling is complete bullshit. He wasn’t that good at it thirty years previous and age hasn’t made him any better. As an excuse for a man who blames himself for things he should not, it does work. Leia’s focusing on what she can do, rather than what she cannot – like convincing Han he should not blame himself – that works too. » Read more..

Farewell, Old Friend – Saying Goodbye to Ackbar, and the Lessons We Learn From The Last Jedi

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Fandom is a strange, funny thing. We all identify with certain characters for varied reasons, but what matters most is simply that we love them. For some, that favorite is Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master. For others it is Constable Zuvio, whom sharp-eyed fans can spot for a scant instant in The Force Awakens. Whether they dominate the screen or are only covered in supplemental materials, at the end of the day our favorite characters are who they are. Period.

For me, it has always been Admiral Ackbar. My admiral.  The victor of Endor, Kuat, Kashyyyk, Jakku, and so many other countless engagements. Hero of the Rebellion, New Republic, and most recently the Resistance. Tough, loyal, at times gruff, but always a leader and a bulwark his friends could count on. In pop culture, Ackbar is remembered for “It’s a trap!” and the countless memes that line has generated. For many of us Star Wars fans, he was the quintessential admiral.

He dies in The Last Jedi.

Ackbar meets his end on the bridge of the Star Cruiser Raddus, doing his duty until the last moment. For those of you not as familiar with the current canon, Ackbar leaves a quiet retirement to come to Leia’s side when she forms the Resistance. He leaves the safety of his home on Mon Cala, determined to fight one more time for the freedom and liberty of the galaxy. He’s over ninety years old, but that doesn’t matter. Ackbar is back – and he does his duty. » Read more..

Heroism vs. Leadership – Poe Dameron’s Story

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The Last Jedi is a lot of things. It’s a war movie, a heist movie, a political allegory, a morality tale, and more. In other words, it’s a Star Wars movie. We’ve already had a number of great articles discussing the film from various angles, but this article is focused on something highlighted in the first face-to-face interaction in the movie between General Leia Organa and Poe Dameron, wherein she comes face to face with her best pilot and surrogate son after he’s just come back from a mission… and slaps him across the face. Let’s look at The Last Jedi as a deconstruction of the traditional ideals of heroism.

One Hell of a Pilot

The character of Poe Dameron was little more than an archetype in The Force Awakens: an ace pilot who is jovial and friendly among his allies, and managed to maintain his banter even while fiery and intense during combat. We see him interact with Lor San Tekka, Kylo Ren and Finn within the opening ten minutes or so, showing us both the humor and warmth, and the focused intensity, that are cornerstones to his character. We also see the reckless determination that seems to inform his every move. Poe jumps right in with Finn without hesitation, then immediately takes the reins from him upon their escape so he can continue his mission. He is the epitome of an old-fashioned film hero, and might well have stepped out of a film serial from the 1930s.

The opening combat set piece in The Last Jedi continues that characterization, showing off his incredible skill as a pilot and his determination to earn a victory at any cost. Poe has gone a long way in his career on skill alone, and that’s given him a certain mentality toward his missions, namely that victory in combat outweighs all else. Even as we see him arguing over the comm with General Leia, he sticks with the plan, seeing only the enemy in front of him that he needs to destroy, and draws the pilots of Cobalt Squadron along with him. His efforts lead to the destruction of an enemy dreadnought, but once Poe gets back to the command cruiser, we see that the results are not at all what he expected. » Read more..

Luke Week: We Are All Luke Skywalker

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting older pieces. In recognition of Luke Skywalker’s electrifying return to the saga in The Last Jedi, this time around we’ve declared it Luke Week! Every day this week you’ll find a different piece taking a closer look at Luke’s character and legacy—some recent, some less so—back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

legendsoflukeTo say Ken Liu’s The Legends of Luke Skywalker has been keenly awaited would be an understatement. Since the great reboot that followed Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, there have been exceedingly few stories of what Luke has been doing after the fall of the Empire. There was Shattered Empire, but that was only one issue out of four and that was more or less it. For some the book has been a disappointment for its lack of actual ‘here’s what Luke really did next’ material. Instead, the book is of a far more playful and trickster nature, built around stories being told of Skywalker. Are they all true? That’s up to the reader, but there are hints that sometimes tip the deck one way or another. Expecting a book coming out ahead of The Last Jedi to have much in the way of revelations is expecting the impossible, the pattern was set by The Force Awakens. If there are major ‘this really happened’ stories, they will be next year, not now. Nor was the book ever deceptive about its premise in its marketing either.

The first story concerns an engineer spinning a tall tale to a rapt audience. It is subtly suggested the audience’s main interest is in how ludicrous a tale can be spun, for it is a tale of mad, bad conspiracy theories aimed squarely at the exploits of Luke, Han and Leia, with one aim: to drag them down and dismiss them as frauds. When the reader engages with this tale, the initial response may well be to opt for outraged dismissal: what a pile of crap, this is an outrage. Yet to do so would be to play into the story’s hands, Liu is quite aware outrage might result. Look further: When we read or watch or play a Star Wars story, we do so separately from our lives. Luke, Han and Leia are not actual people. What if they were? If you were living in that galaxy at the time of the films or after, if you heard three people led the war the take down the Empire that ran the galaxy, then how can you possibly live up to that? If they did that with their lives, what does that make yours? Easier, by far, to spin a few conspiracy theories that render them frauds as then you’re protected, no comparison to lose out to.

» Read more..

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