On Theorizing, or Why Benicio Del Toro is Playing Ezra Bridger and I’ll Fight You Over It

totallyezrabridger

Last month’s The Last Jedi photo spread in Vanity Fair, among lots of other things, gave us our first look at the characters played by Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro—something that’s especially interesting for Star Wars, where knowing that an actor is “in” a movie isn’t necessarily a guarantee that you’ll see their face. While Dern’s character was given not just a name, but a rank and affiliation—Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo of the Resistance—Del Toro’s character is identified only as “DJ”, and if the accompanying article can be trusted (though let’s be honest, it can’t), he gets no moniker at all in the film itself.

Picking through the scraps of information doled out in advance of a new film and trying to decide what’s important is one of the most fun things about this new era for me—who is Bobbajo? What’s a “Guavian Enforcer”? And who is this intriguing Constable Zuvio?? For us to know about them months beforehand, these must be crucial parts of the story, right?

Well, nope. Not remotely. The truth of Star Wars is that everything is a “big deal” in the sense that it’s new and fantastical and captures people’s attention—but actually playing a major role in the story is another thing entirely. This is reinforced by the fact that many well-known, respected actors will gladly sign on for what amounts to a cameo role, or even a completely anonymous one, just for the thrill of being in Star Wars. Knowing that Benicio Del Toro is in The Last Jedi, in other words, is a very, very different thing from knowing that his character matters. The fact that he allegedly doesn’t even have a full name supports this—“DJ” could be to TLJ what “Bobbajo” was to The Force Awakens: a glorified walk-on role.

Having said all that, though? I decided pretty quickly that he’s playing a grown-up Ezra Bridger. » Read more..

The Scale of a Sequel – What The Last Jedi Can Learn from The Empire Strikes Back

han-bespin-whome

There is a conversation that has existed since the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens regarding the narrative direction of The Last Jedi and the possibility of it paralleling certain story elements of The Empire Strikes Back. The Force Awakens was a wonderful successor to the original trilogy – it captured the saga’s serialized thrill and introduced us to new characters who were so well developed that they were adopted immediately and are praised among fans (with the exception of a few vocal minorities). However, one of its biggest criticisms, and one I hold myself, is its narrative parallels with A New Hope.

I love The Force Awakens as a whole and this subject has been talked about endlessly. Suffice it to say that, with characters as good as Rey, Poe, Finn, and Kylo Ren, I would have liked to see them take more chances with the story; although I understand the apprehension involved that drove them to play it about as safe as safe can be. My hope is that The Last Jedi sets itself apart from its original trilogy counterpart by having a different overall direction and narrative beat. However, there are plenty of elements from Empire that The Last Jedi should strive to emulate and they have nothing to do with the plot of the film, but rather how the film itself is told.

Empire is unlike many sequels. It doesn’t seek to top A New Hope in terms of effects or spectacle. It never feels like the unnecessary continuation of a story; or a reactionary effort greenlit in the wake of monetary success. There’s no greater threat to top the Death Star, no McGuffin, no prolonged action sequences that try to distract the audience from a lack of story. Empire is a much smaller film than A New Hope and that may be its greatest asset. It recognizes that the best sequels don’t artificially increase their scale in lieu of story, but expand upon the characterization and emotional scope of their predecessors. It understands that great sequels allow their characters to change. Irrevocably. » Read more..

Let’s Game Like It’s 1999 — Running a Prequel to Your RPG Campaign

It's time for the people back there to take over!

It’s time for the people back there to take over!

Welcome again to The Force Does Not Roll Dice, our section about the wonderful world of running tabletop roleplaying games set in the Galaxy Far Far Away. No, this piece is not about gaming in what is known as “the prequel trilogy era”. What we are going to be talking about is how to set up a prequel campaign to your existing campaign. So dust off your Jar Jar sipping cup, find your old Y2K survival kit, play your least-hated Limp Bizkit CD… and let’s game like it’s 1999!

First of all: I’m perfectly aware that, out of the many words that are likely to elicit strong reactions from the fans, the two most powerful ones are probably “canon” and “prequels”, but this article is not going to get into whether the idea of Star Wars prequels was pure genius or a regrettable mistake. I have my own personal thoughts on the matter, of course, but it’s completely undeniable that the existence of prequels has become one of the most important or at least one of the most popular facets of Star Wars storytelling. So, if one of our objectives as GMs is presenting a faithful “Star Wars experience” in our RPG, why not bringing this to the table? So let’s work together and see how we can make our own prequel game.

Before taking a look at how to run a prequel, I’m going to make a few assumptions here. First of all, I’m assuming that you’ve had a “source campaign” running for a while and that you’ve created enough lore and characters to draw from: to be able to create a prequel, you need some kind of original work first! Second, I’m also assuming that we are talking about a “prequel” purely in the manner of the Star Wars prequel trilogy: we are not talking about a series focused on the childhood of the current characters or about a distant prequel set in the Old Republic or even before that, but a prequel set one or two generations before the current series. Third: in an effort to make this article as useful as possible, I’m assuming that the prequel campaign is going to be either a one-shot game or a short campaign, but there’s nothing stopping it from turning into a long campaign or even completely supplanting your original game: it happened to me, and it actually was the best Star Wars campaign I’ve ever directed. But I’m being realistic: it’s hard enough to get a campaign running, so I’m assuming you will be more likely to run a one-shot between adventures. Most experienced GMs are not really going to need any of this advice, but I still hope that they will find a few useful ideas in here! » Read more..

Parts of a Plan: Two Brits Debate the Sequel Trilogy

korrsella-balcony

Ben: It was the best of times, the worst of times, the time with a plan, the time with parts of a plan. Wait a minute, ‘parts of a plan’ ? What’s next, 11 percent of a plan? Yes, per this recent snippet:

“I had presumed (wrongly) that JJ Abrams and Larry Kasdan might have sketched out an arc for the entirety of the current trilogy. But as Rian Johnson told me, it really was a creative handoff—‘Over to you, Rian.’ And Rian is handing off to Colin Trevorrow in the same way. He said he’s made a mess that Colin will somehow have to clean up.”

David Kamp (Vanity Fair) on what surprised him most about The Last Jedi

This certainly set a Wookiee loose among stormtroopers, with people inclined to being confident, or considerably less so, of a successful outcome for the sequel trilogy. So, I got together with a fellow Brit fan to do a quick exchange as to what effect this has, both for the film trilogy but also wider elements.

Mark, I’ve got a couple of reasons for why this admission of there being no plan pulls the rug out from under a good few aspects of Star Wars.

One is the sheer degree to which The Force Awakens took it – originally I planned to hold off until Episode IX came out and then watch the lot, with the advantage of the films being bolstered by the books or comics. Problem is I’m no longer as certain that’s going to happen now as there isn’t as much of a plan as I thought. That’s a problem when your opening shot culminates, in part, with Han Solo being killed by his dark-side son. Just throwing that out there and leaving it to someone else to pick up feels awfully slapdash. If it was more restrained, I’d likely be less wary. » Read more..

Thrawn & Pryce – Rebels Revisited Special Review

thrawncoverTimothy Zahn made a grand return to the Star Wars canon with his book Thrawn. Its release timing was perfect for publicity, out a scant few days before the opening of Celebration Orlando, but that was part of the reason for a delay in any article on this site actually talking about it. Another reason for that delay is that the book is very good, a return to form for Tim Zahn, so a review would not be all that interesting. A simple quality check of the book would be redundant at this point since we would just be adding a voice to the chorus. Thus, rather than heap more praise onto it, we intend to instead analyze its portrayal of the two lead characters – Thrawn and Arihnda Pryce – and how they tie into Star Wars Rebels.

Be forewarned folks, we’re off the edge of the map. Beyond here, there be spoilers.

Thrawn being a part of the Rebels show itself is a topic we have discussed in the past. A topic we have not discussed is that he and Governor Pryce were both formally introduced to Rebels in the same season. Pryce was mentioned previously within the show but never seen, always having excuses made on her behalf by Minister Tua for not attending functions on Lothal herself, almost as if they were intentionally avoiding actually showing her. Then, she walks onscreen scant moments before Thrawn enters the scene. At the time, it just seemed a coincidence, the introduction of new antagonists to replace the ones who ended their journeys in the second season.
» Read more..

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