Tag Archive for Reviews

Jason Fry and Fixing Up the New Star Wars Canon

It is just over three months on from the detonation of the bomb that was The Last Jedi. The fires of controversy are indeed still burning and show no sign of diminishing. In the wake of all that, those flames also very recently got a hefty dose of oxygen with the release of the film novelization. Does the novel salvage the film for me? No, that’s demanding far too much of it, especially as it has to work with the plot of the film which causes so many problems in the first place. And then there was the effect it had on the wider Star Wars universe. Um, how to put it? Where’s that very appropriate GIF? Ah yes, here it is:


Yes, whatever hopes I had for how the film might improve on the success of Rogue One‘s masterpiece of coordination the year before were pretty much dashed. And so it was on the books – Phasma gave some quite interesting info on how the First Order actually operates, The Legends of Luke Skywalker remains a great set of Luke tales, but the film followed through on both in the most mundane way possible.

So then, what can Mr. Fry actually do with one book in the wake of all this cavalier destruction? Quite a bit as it happens.

His previous work has been on books like the Essential Atlas or the Essential Guide to Warfare – books that are all about trying to make it all work. Or bringing a new take to material you might consider humdrum. In this respect the books Moving Target and The Weapon of a Jedi are each based around what seems a blindingly obvious character observation. In Moving Target’s case, a consideration of how the revelation of the second Death Star had a devastating effect on Leia. How could it not? Yet no one had spun that story into being.  Similarly, bereft of anyone to teach him, how does Luke even start to work out how to use the Force?  He had done it on the Death Star run but he did not know how he had.  Again, seems so easy, so obvious, but when I read Weapon of a Jedi, the story felt new. » Read more..

Luke Skywalker is a Fallible Hero and That’s Okay

—this piece contains major spoilers from The Last Jedi

“Luke Skywalker has vanished.”

The opening line of the crawl for The Force Awakens was like a gut punch to Luke fans everywhere. And not only was Luke gone, he’d apparently gone missing voluntarily, as a result of Ben Solo falling to the dark side and becoming Kylo Ren. For two years the fandom theorized not only on why Kylo became evil but why Luke Skywalker, Rebel hero and Jedi legend, has apparently given up. In The Last Jedi, we finally get those answers. Luke takes Yoda’s advice to “pass on what you have learned” to heart, but a split-second mistake on Luke’s part brings the whole thing crashing down. And as a result Luke decides to exile himself on a remote island and leave no trace of his whereabouts. By the time Rey finds him, he’s an acerbic, sarcastic hermit who in so many rude ways tells her to leave him alone and that he refuses to help Leia fight the evils of the First Order.

This seems a sharp contrast to the bright, shining figure we see in the original trilogy. Luke had hardships and made decisions that backfired on him, but he was never one to run away from a problem. So at first glance this seems like a long string of extremely out of character moments meant to create drama and difficulty for Rey and Kylo. However, when taking a deeper look at Luke’s character and personality in the original trilogy, his circumstances in TLJ are a natural extension of his character. » Read more..

The Downtrodden and The Oppressed: Social Class and Canto Bight

—this piece contains major spoilers from The Last Jedi


Deep in the Corporate Sector lies the world of Cantonica. A desert wasteland of a planet where the rich and the powerful have managed to create a paradise for those able to afford it, a city called Canto Bight. A cocktail that’s equal parts Monte Carlo, Casablanca, and Dubai. A place where the bright lights hide a layer of pain and sorrow, a pit from where the new hope for the galaxy might end up emerging.

Class struggle is a concept that’s always been pretty much foreign to Star Wars. We’ve seen it used as flavor in a few galactic settings, like Anakin’s (pretty comfortable) slavery at the hands of Watto or the Naboo’s elitist disdain for the Gungan ethnic minority, equals part speciesism and classism. The supplementary material, both in Legends and in canon, has taken a closer look and how the rich and poor live in the galaxy and how they interact with each other, but it’s never been something to take much prominence. The conflict between the Republic and the Trade Federation, although later on explored as having its roots on a long conflict between a rich Core and a poor Rim, is never portrayed in the movie as anything other than a clash between two monolithic powers, a corporation and the government, over taxation.

But we’ve rarely seen the oppressed of the galaxy.

» Read more..

The Force Reinforced: How The Last Jedi Reaffirms the Values of Star Wars

—this piece contains major spoilers from The Last Jedi


“Light … darkness … a balance.”

“It’s so much bigger.”

Those lines, in the first teaser for The Last Jedi, led to a mountain of speculation about just how far the film would go in terms of challenging and changing our understanding of the Force and the Jedi Order. Could it herald the beginning of “grey Jedi,” or Rey and Kylo Ren starting a new order of “balanced Force users” (whatever that is supposed to mean)? As it turned out, those lines were not in the film, and far from reinventing or even re-framing our understanding of the Force, TLJ reinforced it.

The entire film is ambitious in its attempts to cram in as many classic Star Wars themes and values as possible: the danger of impulsive, reckless heroism and the importance of patience; that staying neutral in the fight against evil makes you complicit; and the notion that the younger generation will redeem the mistakes of the old. It is in its exploration of the Force, though, that TLJ covers the most ground, and makes old Star Wars values more explicit in the text than ever.

» Read more..

Let the Past Die: The Last Jedi Flings the Torch

—this piece contains major spoilers from The Last Jedi


When Rian Johnson was announced as the director for Episode VIII, I recall one of my first thoughts being “oh shit, the ‘Ozymandias’ guy”. While I had seen Looper and liked it well enough, Johnson’s work on Breaking Bad was the most interesting to me in light of this job—what would a TV director do with Star Wars?

So it’s fitting that one of the easiest comparisons people are making to The Last Jedi is ’33’, an early episode of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica that sees the heroes’ fleet hounded indefinitely by the Cylons with no escape in sight. We knew the Resistance’s escape from D’Qar would be an early set piece in the film, but never in a million years would I have expected that escape to be the entire film. Though maybe that’s on me—The Empire Strikes Back is mostly about the heroes running away as well.

Nevertheless, it felt like a bold decision in a film full of bold decisions. Both supporters and detractors can generally agree that The Force Awakens was the safe version of a new Star Wars movie—it needed to be loved by as many people as possible or the whole operation would have been limping right out of the gate. But The Last Jedi expands the cinematic (and tonal) language of Star Wars enough for both of them. Actual, non-Force-based flashbacks, time lapse shots, X-Men-style telepathic conversations, and that crazy lightspeed ramming sequence are just some of the new ideas Johnson injects into the saga here, and while one or two of them may not be well-regarded in the final analysis, you have to give the guy credit for daring to try. » Read more..

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