Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga – The Game Star Wars Didn’t Know it Needed

For all that I was expecting great things of Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, it still managed to exceed them. It did particularly well in its version of the main story, bringing new emphasis to certain aspects and expanding and improving upon others. Above all, it did something entirely unexpected: not only did it treat the nine films as a series of nine films, it made the story flow from the start to the end. Yes, that does include the sequel trilogy.

My route through the set was originals then prequels then sequels, but by all accounts, the game is rather smart in enabling any structure. You want to play in the machete order? Off you go. Two ace cards the game plays early and frequently are the assumption that the audience knows the material and a very smart sense of humour. The humour turns up all over the place in surprising ways and, at times, takes a very meta tack. For instance, one Phantom Menace level is called Better Call Maul. Similarly, a quest in The Rise of Skywalker that you play to unlock Beaumont Kin is called Second Breakfast, a sly nod to Dominic Monaghan’s role of Merry in The Lord of the Rings films. These jokes and others show that Traveller’s Tales (henceforth TT) were aiming this game at everyone. Sure, kids are the primary audience, but not exclusively.

George Lucas’s approach was mostly on the big-picture, grand-themes stuff — details, consistency, these were not his forte. This was demonstrated in how he syncs up the end of Revenge of the Sith and the start of A New Hope — it kind of works but when you start looking at the details it gets a bit iffy. The sequels, in some sort of weird homage to Lucas, replicated this freewheeling approach to its component parts. The result was three films but not a trilogy. It had the pieces to be so but the films just do not work together. The game cannot entirely fix all this but it has a very good go at it.

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The Case for Continuing the Queen’s Series—With or Without Padmé

The final section of this piece contains major spoilers for Queen’s Hope. There will be another warning immediately beforehand.

There’s something about Star Wars and threes. Queen’s Hope, which released yesterday, is the third young adult book about Padmé Amidala in as many years, and while I have no special reason to assume this will be the end of that particular line of stories, it feels likely, doesn’t it? If nothing else, E.K. Johnston is quickly approaching the end of Padmé’s life; having covered her transition from queen to senator and now from single to married, there isn’t much more of significance for her to write about beyond retreading the events of Revenge of the Sith—and even those the series already touched on briefly in the epilogue to Queen’s Shadow.

On top of that, there just isn’t much precedent for Star Wars doing four or five of something; even the perpetually-bestselling Thrawn books have always ended up resetting in one way or another after no more than three. While junior novel series are a common exception, you’d have to go back to Legends and the New Jedi Order for an example of adult novels telling a single linear narrative across more than three books—even the High Republic has broken its meta-arc, so far at least, into “phases” of three books per format.

On the other hand, “young adult” novels as they’re currently understood don’t have a lot of precedent in Star Wars to begin with. While they tend to be smaller in scope and more limited in their perspective than Del Rey’s novels, the modern Star Wars young adult line has displayed a range of quality and, er, maturity in its writing equal to and sometimes even surpassing Del Rey’s.

I’m hopeful, though, that the line can embrace its position “between” the adult and junior novels in one respect: by embracing the junior novels’ willingness to go long. It’s hard to say authoritatively how well the Queen’s books are selling compared to anything else, but given how quickly we got the first two follow-ups (even with a six-month delay this time around) it certainly seems like they’ve found an audience. And if it were up to me, E.K. Johnston would keep going for the foreseeable future—even if that means leaving Padmé behind.

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Eye of the Storm: The Hole at the Center of The High Republic

Phase One of The High Republic has come to an end, and with that came the surprising announcement that Phase Two will actually be going back another 150 years, apparently to flesh out how certain long-forgotten events led to the mess our heroes are currently dealing with in the (relative) present day.

In this respect, The High Republic seems to be mirroring the release structure of the Skywalker saga, which introduced the battle against Emperor Palpatine in the original trilogy, then showed the origins of that conflict, then jumped forward again to resolve it once and for all, now with the benefit of hindsight.[1]Depending on how one views the sequel trilogy’s efforts to integrate into the larger story an even more apt comparison might be machete order, in which the prequels are treated as an extended … Continue reading

If the creators really are intentionally mirroring the films, that suggests that Phase Three will be a conclusion of some sort—if not to the era in general, at least to the threat of Marchion Ro. For the purposes of this piece, I’m assuming as well that said conclusion will be meant to be genuinely happy, rather than the pyrrhic victory of The Phantom Menace; it’s fair to believe otherwise considering where things end up a couple centuries later, but it’s my feeling that they called this saga “The High Republic” for a reason, and the defeat of Marchion Ro will be presented as a rousing triumph of the Galactic Republic and its Jedi, rather than the first in a long line of compromises that will lead to the Empire.

Since we don’t know what we don’t know, it’s hard to say exactly what Phase Two will be about, what important context it will add to the story we’ve gotten so far. But allowing for the above priors, I have a pretty good idea of what the era is currently missing: a satisfying, multidimensional antagonist.

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References
1 Depending on how one views the sequel trilogy’s efforts to integrate into the larger story an even more apt comparison might be machete order, in which the prequels are treated as an extended flashback between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Thrawn Ascendant: How an Evil Genius Villain Became a Sympathetic Antihero

Timothy Zahn first introduced the now-popular character Grand Admiral Thrawn in 1991 as the lead antagonist of his novel Heir to the Empire, in what was then known as the Expanded Universe (referred to now, and hereafter in this article, as Legends). The character was further developed in the next two novels in that trilogy, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command, and though dead following the conclusion of the trilogy, Thrawn also played a significant role in the Hand of Thrawn duology, Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future. A popular character among Legends fans, Thrawn was notably reintroduced into the new canon as an antagonist on the animated series Star Wars Rebels during its third season in 2016. This opened the door for the reintroduction of Thrawn in the literature of the new canon, allowing Zahn to produce two further Thrawn trilogies thus far: one beginning in 2017 and featuring Thrawn, Thrawn: Alliances, and Thrawn: Treason; and Thrawn Ascendancy beginning in 2020, featuring Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising, Thrawn Ascendency: Greater Good, and Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil.

However, while ostensibly the same character, the characterization that we get of Thrawn across these texts changes significantly.  Even more fascinatingly, it is not a simple matter of a division between Legends and new canon: the characterization of Thrawn in Rebels has more in common with his initial appearance in Heir to the Empire than he does to the version that we see developed in the two canon trilogies. Furthermore, the way that Thrawn is characterized in the Hand of Thrawn duology, and even the way that he is developed in Dark Force Rising and The Last Command, is more nuanced and less straightforwardly villainous than his appearance in Rebels. An analysis of the portrayal of his character and his development across both Legends and the new canon offers us a unique look at the way the new canon has allowed for significant changes in previously established characters, while also calling into question our understanding of this character and what assumptions we might have for him going forward, with the presumed inclusion of him in upcoming live action shows. [1]In order to present a more concise argument here, this article will forgo many examples of direct textual analysis. For an expanded edition of this article featuring close literary analysis of the … Continue reading

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References
1 In order to present a more concise argument here, this article will forgo many examples of direct textual analysis. For an expanded edition of this article featuring close literary analysis of the text, please visit Talking Trek Wars.

From the Computer Comes a Stranger: CGI Luke Skywalker and the Obsession with Nostalgia

Reactions to episode six of The Book of Boba Fett, titled “From the Desert Comes a Stranger”, have been mixed to say the least. For the second week in a row, the show spent little time on Tatooine with the titular bounty hunter and instead focused on the trials (both figurative and literal) of Grogu’s Jedi training. And once again we were treated to the inclusion of CGI Luke Skywalker, now with the CGI fixed to look almost identical to the Mark Hamill of Return of the Jedi and the revelation that none of his lines were spoken by an actor but were instead created by a neural network

A frequent comment I’ve seen floating around the fandom is (paraphrased) “This is the sort of technology George Lucas would love, so how can I not love that Star Wars has progressed to this point?” And, well, I don’t necessarily disagree; it’s no secret that Lucas is a techie at heart and rather infamously doesn’t get on well with actors engaging in the acting process. So it’s not a big leap of logic to think he’d be fully excited about the latest in CGI and computer innovation, though for fairness’s sake none of my research has shown him ever commenting on the use of CGI for Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One. So at the end of the day we can only guess, we don’t actually know. But whether or not Lucas approves of the technology and how it’s used is beside the point. He hasn’t been substantially involved in the franchise since 2014, but even if he was, his opinion shouldn’t be the only litmus test for whether we think something is a good idea or not.

It’s understandable: Lucas (and the Lucas movies) were our childhoods and the desire to recapture that childhood magic is strong. But why are we so intent on recreating it digitally rather than giving real people the chance to breathe new life into it? Or better yet: why are we so intent on keeping Star Wars exactly the same as we remember it rather than letting it grow and be new?

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