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.
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.
For me, the start of Disney XD’s Star Wars: Rebels has been bug-ridden. The animations are often poor and the characters are little beyond the typical Disney caricatures and cliches. The hour-long special Spark of Rebellion, following in the wake of several shorts that introduced the various characters, is my first introduction to Disney’s reboot of the Star Wars franchise, and by the looks of it, things look pretty bleak and dire to me. It was a decent special, if we want to stretch the truth out, but the fact is that I just couldn’t go along with it. It was too childish for me.
The first three episodes proper of the show are now out, and I have to say that I noticed almost nothing in the way of improvement from Spark of Rebellion. Stormtroppers still can’t hit worth a damn, making them the most inept army in the history of fiction, ever. Dialogue and characterization is still firmly on the side of clunky. There’s no real story here other than madcap adventures of the characters in question. The third episode ups the quotient a little bit by bringing out the show’s big bad, the Inquisitor, but even that fails to impress as much as it should have.
Disney XD’s Star Wars: Rebels is the first big production in the Star Wars franchise released after Disney acquired Lucasfilm a couple years ago. Set 14 years after the terrible events of Revenge of the Sith and just 5 years before A New Hope, it follows a group of do-good mercenaries as they rock it out with the Empire again and again. With (relatively) recent news that Disney has basically kicked out all previous Star Wars Expanded Universe canon in favour of a new canon centered around the six movies and The Clone Wars, it is an uncertain future at best for the franchise, and how Rebels performs in the coming weeks is going to be a big indicator of that uncertain future.
Disney kicked off the show with four shorts focused on the various characters, and then an hour-long special a little over two weeks ago. Titled “Spark of Rebellion“, it introduces the characters to the audiences and gets them all together after the (somewhat) scattered adventures of the shorts. It is a decent series opener, as such things go, with the characters being interesting all of them, though some of the hallmarks of Disney are prominently visible character-wise. And as for the animation, well, it is certainly problematic in many ways and nowhere near the smoothness of The Clone Wars.
When I began my “25 Series To Read In 2014” reading challenge this year, I was intending to cover Lost Tribe of The Sith. And then just last week, or the week before that, I discovered that it wasn’t a series as much as it was a collection of short stories and I was like, uhm… well…., so I rethought the whole thing and added the Fate of The Jedi series to the challenge instead. From what I’ve heard from a lot of friends who are dedicated Star Wars fans, this particular series has a, let’s say, not-so-good reputation. So I decided to take up that challenge because I wanted to get a bit more current with my Star Wars reading, and this seemed like a good place.
Fate of The Jedi #1: Outcast presents a very bold new vision of Star Wars that really might not be for everyone. When this novel begins, the galaxy far, far away has changed considerably since I was last in it. Jagged Fel is now the ruler of the Imperial Remnant. Former Imperial Natasi Daala is now the Chief of State of the Galactic Alliance. The Jedi are a force directly under the aegis of the GA, with much of its freedom curtailed, and so on. To be honest, I loved all of this. Yeah, sure, it was all really weird at first, and I still can’t accept that Daala of all people is now the leader of democracy in the galaxy, but yeah, this was actually quite a fun book!
Once Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and the rights to pretty much all future Star Wars movies and cartoons and comics and what not was finalized last year and news began filtering in of all the new things being planned, one of the ones to come out was that the House of Mouse was going to deliver on a new Star Wars animated series set in the period between Revenge of The Sith and A New Hope. The first trailer released was somewhat decent, though problematic, but I was kind of excited that a different period was being considered for the format, given that most of the previous work was so focused on the Clone Wars themselves.
And this past week at San Diego Comic Con 2014, Disney released a new trailer that also contains some extensive footage of the animated series, and this is kind of where I am beginning to lose some interest because the story appears to be rather haphazard and the characters appear to be cliches in the way that only Disney can do, though sometimes to great net-positive effect, and the animation doesn’t really work so well for me either, especially not after having seen three excellent seasons of The Clone Wars (it rain for a total five seasons!) and other previous Star Wars animated work, from what I remember.
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.
The Clone Wars is one of the best animated series to have been created in the last ten years. Telling the story of the events that happened between the second and third movies of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, this series delved into all sorts of aspects and elements of the Star Wars universe as the creators explored both the heroes and the villains and everything in between as well. Say what you want about the continuity inconsistencies and the dumbing down of certain characters, but The Clone Wars really was a great show and it all ended rather abruptly when it was cancelled and all we got was a truncated sixth season. And as Dark Horse Comics prepares to bring its entire Star Wars line of comics to an end, the publisher is going out with a bang.
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir is Dark Horse’s latest Star Wars mini-series, a format of the franchise that the publisher has championed for several years now, and it tells the story of what happens when one of the most awesome villains in the entire Star Wars franchise goes up against his own mentor and master. Darth Maul versus Darth Sidious? That’s a fight for the ages. The first issue deals with what happens after that battle, which Darth Maul lost, and is about how he regains his power to get back at his former master. It is fast-paced and replete with action, but it sometimes suffers from those same things.
Just a few short days ago passed the man who brought me into the Star Wars universe with my first ever novel in the setting, X-wing: Starfighters of Adumar. The writer was Aaron Allston, a man who has given me some great reading experiences with his X-wing novels over the years, and is someone I can pick up unreservedly and know that I’m in for a good time. I wrote about his passing and the passion he inspired in me to get stuck into the Star Wars universe in a post here. If you’ve never read a Star Wars novel before, and only know the broad basics, then I’d say Starfighters of Adumar is a great place to start. It mixes in a cameo character from the original movie trilogy with lots of new characters and presents a very interesting world.
Mercy Kill came out a year and a half ago to great fanfare and great anticipation. The X-wing novels have a great pedigree, first shepherded by Mike Stackpole with his Rogue Squadron-centric novels, and then with Aaron as he began with the Wraith Squadron. I’ve read them all, pretty much, and each of them has been quite satisfying. Among the best tie-in novels I’ve read. Mercy Kill, Aaron’s last fanfare with this universe, proves that it deserves to stand there with the best, whether we talk about Rogue Squadron or Wraith Squadron. It really is a wonderful novel that takes a lot of chances and comes out the better for it.
I’ve never done a post like this. The reason is that of all the creators that have passed in the 3 years since I started this blog, I’ve never had a personal connection with them. But this week, Aaron Allston passed away, and with this fine gentleman I have a very personal and important connection, something that I’ve unfortunately overlooked in recent times when talking about my first proper forays into the wide world of science fiction and fantasy.