The latest installment in the nearly 4 decades old Star Wars franchise, Rogue One, released last week and it has been generating a lot of very specific buzz. It is no secret that often times the franchise overall is seen as a sausage fest, i.e., just a collection of dudes doing some things while the women are relegated to the sidelines. And such a criticism is justified because while there are countless secondary media where the roles of women in Star Wars have been magnified and given center-stage, the movies have made no progressive decisions outside of the norm.
Today, while on Facebook, I came across a post from a female friend who saw the movie and was put off by the dismal representation of women in Rogue One. I cannot blame her for that. Despite having a strong female lead in Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso, she really is the only woman who is doing anything significant. The post has generated a lot of feedback from both sides of the aisle on representation in the movie in specific and in Hollywood at large, and I wanted to take a different tactic here, talking about how what we did get was still a bold move, and why it all matters moving forward.
Note: There are some spoilers from Rogue One here so if you wish to avoid those spoilers, please do not read the article. If you want to read my (spoiler) review of the movie, you can read it here.
In recent years, my relationship with the Star Wars franchise in its entirety has been in flux. Whether it be the disappointments of Episode VII: The Force Awakens or some of the recent novels like A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller or Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey, I haven’t been enamoured of the franchise at all. There have been stand-outs such as Paul Kemp’s Lords of the Sith and James Luceno’s Tarkin, but there haven’t been many. And I won’t even get into the new comics from Marvel since most of them are retreading the area already covered extensively under Dark Horse and I don’t have much interest in them. However, when Rogue One was announced as a stand-alone movie in the franchise, and a prequel to the original Star Wars no less, I was excited because it was going to focus on almost entirely new characters and present us with something that we hadn’t really seen before on such a major platform.
Cue this past Thursday when the movie finally released. The trailers had built up a lot of hype for me, who was desperately looking for something to cheer for after the failings of The Force Awakens. Yes, the story would go over some material from Dark Horse and what some of the earlier video games had covered, but it was still mostly uncharted territory. Additionally, the period of the Galactic Empire’s dominance of the galaxy is one of the most fascinating periods in Star Wars lore, and I was totally ready for this movie. It looked to have a really awesome cast with some great promised cameos and I was all-in. And you know what, the movie didn’t disappoint. It was almost everything that I wanted from The Force Awakens but never got, and then some.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers from the movie, especially the ending, so read at your own risk.
So, the big moment of the year has finally come and gone. This past Thursday, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh installment in the 38-year old movie franchise was released to great fanfare and the internet has been abuzz with speculations and discussions ever since. This is the first movie of the franchise that has been released under the auspices of Disney, which bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas some three years back, and is also the first in a new trilogy that will also eventually veer off into several spin-offs, charting a bold new era.
However, we come back to the movie itself. When Disney declared that all existing Star Wars canon outside of the movies and 2-3 animated series was now part of a discontinued universe termed Star Wars Legends, I was mad as hell. I’m a huge fan of the incredible and complex tapestry that has been woven by thousands of people in the last four decades and for Disney to disrespect that in such a way screamed foul to me. But, I was willing to give the movie a chance because when the trailers hit, I was ecstatic. They hit the right note for me and promised so much. And now I tell you whether the movie lived up to those promises.
Note: This review contains massive spoilers. Do not read if you have not seen the movie as yet.
In just eight months or so, we will have the first new live-action Star Wars movie since 2005. The Force Awakens is the name of this movie, continuing on from the legacy of both the original and the prequel trilogies. The trinity from the original trilogy will be returning in The Force Awakens, older and wiser, but still alive and kicking, and I think that it is going to be a glorious time for Star Wars fans. Some months ago, we had the teaser trailer that kicked everything off last year, and just today, we got to see the first proper trailer for the movie.
Before we start with the whole thing let me make one thing clear, while I understand Disney’s decision to scrap the Star Wars Expanded Universe canon, I am also completely opposed to the whole idea since the SWEU contains such a wealth of incredible lore shaped over decades by hundreds of people. To just throw it all by the wayside… well, that rubs me the wrong way. Either way, having seen the new trailer, I’ll be going into the movie with an open mind, largely because I love how tasteful the trailer is and how it completely pulls me in, which is invaluable.
By now, pretty much everyone knows that Lucasfilm is now owned by Disney and that the giant mega-corp is going to be putting out new Star Wars movies through its own studio and comics through its Marvel publishing arm. Since this whole thing kicked off, I’ve been very dead-set against what Disney is doing with the Star Wars franchise, especially once it was made known last year that pretty much the entirety of the Star Wars Expanded Universe was junked in favour of new continuities and new characters and so on. Very disheartening.
But, at the same time, I have to say that Star Wars #1 by Jason Aaron reads a lot better than I expected it too. It is set just after the events of Star Wars (1977) and follows the new adventures of the Star Wars Trinity (Han, Leia, Luke) as they continue to further the goals of the Rebel Alliance against the Empire. This is actually a fairly good story, and the art too is pretty good actually. John Cassaday, Laura Martin, and Chris Eliopoulos do right by the setting and the characters, which is all that can be asked at this stage and I hope that the series is consistently good, so that it takes some of the bitter sting away of the whole “reboot”.
Last year, Lucas Books began a brand-new Star Wars series, the Empire and Rebellion, wherein we got to read three different stories, each focusing on a different member of the Star Wars trinity: Leia, Han and Luke. The first novel came out last year, Martha Wells’ quite excellent Razor’s Edge, and I’ve been kind of looking forward to the other two books ever since, Corey’s Honor Among Thieves and Kevin Hearne’s Heir To The Jedi. I love reading fiction about the Rebellion Era and Razor’s Edge scratched that particular itch quite well, so I was expecting Honor Among Thieves to be quite good, even though it is written by an author I don’t like.
Honor Among Thieves is the second in the Empire and Rebellion series and it focuses on smuggler and pilot-turned-hero Han Solo as he undertakes another mission for the Rebellion some time after the destruction of the first Death Star and before the events of the second of the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back. And it proved to be a very disappointing read since neither the characters nor the premise of the novel made any good impression on me. In fact, it feels most unlike a Star Wars novel, for the characters are nothing like how they’ve been portrayed over the years and the premise is just entirely silly.
After all the heavy reading of the previous weeks, this past week proved to be a little less intensive, but not by much. The only real difference this time was that I didn’t get to read any graphic novels or trades. And I only just managed to read all these comics anyways because things are getting hectic here with all the marriage preparations, not to mention the court marriage I had the other day (yes, officially married now!). So yeah, things are just a little bit really hectic.
The surprise hits of this week were 7th Sword #1 from IDW Publishing, Harley Quinn #6 from DC Comics, and Dejah of Mars #1 from Dynamite Entertainment. The surprise flops would be Batman #31 and The Flash #31, both from DC Comics, both of them quite disappointing in that the arcs do not make sense anymore and I’m really turned off of them. Comics that I expected to be great, such as Ms. Marvel #4 from Marvel and Thanos Annual 2014, also from Marvel, and Future’s End #4 from DC Comics, were all good, amongst others. So a nice spread of everything, as usual.
Last year, I blogged over at The Founding Fields about 25 book series from various genres, science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, space opera, etc that I wanted to read in 2013. The intention behind that particular reading challenge was to read a broad variety of some of the most popular names in those genres as well as to try out several new authors and revisit some favourite classics. While I wasn’t as successful in the challenge as I might like, I’ve made it a new year resolution to make sure that I do indeed repeat the challenge in 2014 with new books, new authors, and finish it this time.
To that effect, here are the 25 book series I’ve picked for this reading challenge for this year. You can see the previous list for 2013 here.
For this new seasonal list of the best SFF characters I’ve read this year, my eighth pick is trio of Leia Organa, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, who have been the mainstays of the Star Wars universe since its earliest days and have recently starred together in several novels, most notably in Troy Denning’s latest, Crucible, as an old generation of heroes and in Martha Wells’ Razor’s Edge as a young generation of rebels against the galactic tyranny of the Empire. Both novels are among my favourite novels of the year and the portrayal of this trio has been excellent in both.
Hit the break to see why I picked these characters.
Since 2013 is now over, its time to do my second “Best of the Best” list, for the second half of the year from July-December. There were some really good reads in this period, and as always, picking the best has been a chore. I always try to keep these lists as diverse as I can and hopefully you agree.
You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then! Read the rest of this entry