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.
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.