Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The ETE Special Edition

jedirocks

Last Tuesday, January 31st, was the twentieth anniversary of the release of the Special Edition of Star War—ahh, I mean A New Hope. While the exact date I saw the thing is lost to history, this anniversary is doubly important to me, as it’s the twentieth anniversary of my own Star Wars fandom. Being a contrarian, I’ve always had a special appreciation of the fact that the thing that got me into Star Wars was seen at the time (and still by some) as controversial, even sacrilegious.

Can I appreciate the argument against Greedo shooting first? Sure. But if George Lucas hadn’t been nitpicky enough to want to make that round of changes—not the first round, but definitely the most high-profile—who knows if I’d ever have found an excuse to watch the original trilogy at all? Who knows if I’d have gone to college for Visual Effects, a decision to which I can trace almost everything about my life today? And of course, who knows if this blog would exist?

I did eventually learn how it felt on the other side of the fence, though—when Hayden Christensen was added to Return of the Jedi, it bugged me not so much for philosophical reasons, but because Hayden doesn’t seem to have any idea what’s going on in the take they used (the rumor is he didn’t realize what he was being filmed for) and it takes me out of the moment. I can’t stand the blu-ray version of Obi-Wan’s krayt call, and the less said about Vader’s “nooo!” in the blu-ray version of Jedi, the better. » Read more..

Too Much of a Good Thing? – On Alien “Diversity” in the Star Wars Films

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One of the more interesting recurring critiques of The Force Awakens around this time last year was the lack of established alien species. The film’s species diversity was tough to contest in pure numerical terms (I’d have loved to see more aliens in the Resistance, but it was roughly on par with Return of the Jedi in that area—and it certainly turned out to be better than Rogue One), but a notable number of the film’s detractors specifically expressed regret that amidst all the Hassks, Frigosians, and a sudden onslaught of Abednedos, not a single Twi’lek or Gran or Mon Calamari was seen.

What recurring species did appear came in the form of returning established characters like Chewbacca and Ackbar and Nien Nunb, with one hilarious exception: Constable Zuvio, likely by happy coincidence more than the designers’ intent, ultimately turned out to be a Kyuzo, the same species as The Clone Wars‘ bounty hunter Embo. And Zuvio, famously, is barely in the movie at all—about three frames, according to Wookieepedia.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, this has been rolling around in the back of my head all year: just how does TFA really compare to the other films in terms of its alien population? And is Rogue One, for all the emphasis on its contingent of Mon Calamari, really much different? Did the latter film do something right, here, that the former did wrong? Now that we’ve got a pretty solid amount of data on RO, I decided to find out. » Read more..

All Wings Report In: The Roots of Rebel Fleet Strategy

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The sight of the ragtag Rebel fleet dropping out of hyperspace into battle is enough to capture the heart of any five- or 55-year-old Star Wars fan. From Rebels to Return of the Jedi, the Alliance’s motley assortment of ships is a striking visual embodiment of their struggle against the Empire. There is real substance behind those amazing on-screen moments, as the Rebel fleet employs tactics that have deep roots in real world conflict.

Lacking the sledgehammer might of the Imperial Navy, the Alliance was forced to develop tactics tailored to their limited resources. Their strategy placed an emphasis on a force built around a backbone of starfighter superiority. The Rebels’ heavy reliance on starfighters echoes the U.S. Navy’s development of aircraft carrier task forces in World War II, which ushered in a new era of combined arms naval warfare.

I. Breaking Tradition

The Rebel Alliance’s starfighter-centric strategy represented a shift in space warfare. At the time of the Alliance’s formation, the prevailing galactic military strategy prized the power of capital ships over snub fighters. This sentiment traces back to the Clone Wars, where space combat was dominated by large-scale engagements between Republic and Separatist capital ships. Although the Republic made strides in developing effective starfighters like the ARC-170 and the V-wing, capital ships remained the central focus of combat and tactics throughout the war. The mentality that pervaded the Clone Wars is exemplified during the Battle of Coruscant, in which a massive number of capital ships slugged it out toe-to-toe. » Read more..

I Rebel, Like My Mother Before Me: On Jyn and Lyra

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Rogue One is a story about family; on the surface, it seems to be more the story of a father and daughter, Galen and Jyn. It is the story of a broken relationship, of a failed hero, of forgiveness, and strife. Under the surface, and thanks in part to James Luceno’s Catalyst, we can find another family story: that of Jyn and Lyra. Though Lyra dies at the very beginning of the film, echoes of her reverberate throughout the story.

The primary lens through which Jyn sees the world is through that of a prison. Not hard to imagine, after all she was born in a prison on Vallt. Even her life on Coruscant was, as her mother described it, more compulsory than by choice. After Krennic comes to Lah’mu, taking Galen and killing Lyra, Jyn is forced to hide in a cave. This becomes Jyn’s defining reality for everything that happens later, including her capture on Corulag and her release on Wobani. Even her “rescuers” don’t seem to stay for very long: Krennic becomes overbearing, directly threatening her mother; her mother dies and she hates Galen for going with Krennic; Saw abandons her in the field; and now the Alliance simply wants to use her as a means of getting Galen to the senate. It’s easy to see how being taken forcibly from Wobani (despite the levity K-2 provides), almost coerced into a mission to find Galen, and promised a vague premise of freedom after the mission, would sound less and less desirable (and even comparable to what Krennic offered the Ersos before).

This is where we hear the first echo of Lyra in the film. When Lyra was brought to Coruscant with Galen, she was quick to make her hesitations about working for the Empire known. In order to remove Lyra from Coruscant, Krennic arranges an expedition for her so that she might get out of Galen’s mind and let him continue to work. She takes up the expedition, more for Galen’s sake than for her own. She told Galen how she felt, and she had the opportunity to say something to Has Obitt and Nari Sable as they discover the damage done to legacy worlds. Only seeing the vast damage that the Empire has caused to worlds earmarked for environmental protection could make a neutralist in the Clone Wars into a staunch opponent of the new regime. Lyra is so outspoken about the damage that she attracts the negative attention of Director Krennic, who blatantly threatens her and Jyn. » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: Trials and Revelations

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Jay: THIS WAS THE EPISODE I WANTED SINCE SEASON ONE.

Let me explain. I always wanted a Sabine-centric episode like this. We got a few, but I wanted to learn about Sabine the same way we learned about Ezra. We got her story teased instead: Imperial Academy references early on, and we knew she was a Mandalorian, and something happened with her family. But that’s it. The episodes were as tight-lipped about Sabine’s background as Sabine herself was. And despite our impatience, it makes perfect sense: Sabine doesn’t just volunteer this information. It’s a slow burn, once she gets to trust you.

But here there was a payoff and boy was it a payoff. This episode was elegantly simple: the training was the entire plot, so it could focus on character work. It meant there was room for it to be an ensemble episode: Ezra, Kanan, and Hera all got great character moments in addition to Sabine. And we learned a ton about Sabine, featuring some of the finest character work yet seen in this show. For my money, this was the best episode in the series to date.

We saw the characters engaging with their histories and biases, engaging with each other — having flare ups and drama. And goodness, if there was any episode to get on the day of the Women’s March, this was it. In addition to Sabine’s history, I love that Hera both called Kanan on his crap and also helped Sabine out as well.

Goodness, what an episode. » Read more..

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