Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi I wish the entirety of The Last Jedi was like the first 45 pages.

I’ve really enjoyed Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff’s past tales of Jax Pavan and his merry band, so I was excited to pick up The Last Jedi.  Series hero Jax Pavan has grown from a self-serious Jedi apprentice to appropriately grim, sometimes even dour knight via the Jedi Purge and a stint as a gumshoe. He is a likable and fallible character – more worrisome than his mentors, but then, he does have the weight of the galaxy on his shoulders. Another thing that keeps him from becoming a stock lead (who also happens to know Anakin Skywalker) is the way he visualizes the Force as ribbons of light or islands in an ocean.

The beginning of the novel sets up a lot of questions about time and space, with Reaves and Bohnhoff displaying an enjoyable menagerie of strange beings such as the Cephalons. I do wish some of this hadn’t been shown in flashbacks: it would have worked just as well as a prologue. Reaves – I’m singling him out here because he did it in the first few Coruscant Nights books as well – has a habit of placing flashbacks or three paragraphs of introspection right in the middle of another scene, which often feels disruptive and distracting.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Spartan Ops Season One Wraps Up with a Bang

Spartan Ops was a transmedia event. A player wouldn't have to have read every piece of Halo expanded universe material to understand what was going on in their gameplay, but if they had they would be treated to moments of recognition and a huge step forward in the life of the woman who may be the series' most pivotal character.

Some spoilers under the cut.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Clone Wars: The Jedi Who Knew Too Much

Ahsoka is “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much,” but it’s what she doesn’t know that hurts her in this week’s episode. The story is action-heavy, but it also puts emphasis on conversations between Ahsoka and other characters to create a lot of different ways to show a harrowing situation. It’s an illuminating episode for her, including what may be my favorite Ahsoka moment ever.

“The Jedi Who Knew Too Much” solidified the characterization Ahsoka has – her constant belief in herself and her own righteousness – and showed how it in fact almost ruined her. This is the arrogance of the Jedi that led to their fall, and if Dave Filoni really has been disguising the arrogance of the Jedi as the arrogance of a typical lead character in a show for kids, I suppose I should credit him for that.

Ahsoka’s belief in herself is paramount to why she runs, instead of turning herself in to the clones. She refuses to remain calm when she didn’t commit the crime. The mysterious perpetrator – Sidious? – who framed her for murder probably would have arranged for Ahsoka to be found guilty, too, so maybe she is right in fleeing. But the earlier dialogue indicates that Ahsoka does have some shortcomings, which makes the whole episode seem more self-aware than usual.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Coming to Terms with Canon

I was talking about Jedi Healers on Twitter the other day.

 James of Club Jade asked why there weren't any Jedi Healers in the The Clone Wars episode 'Sabotage'.

 Star Wars writer and lore-master Pablo Hidalgo replied that he didn't think Healers actually exist in The Clone Wars canon. They'd been only seen in the games and books.

It got me thinking, because despite some clashes between canons in the last few seasons, I always imagine The Clone Wars to take place in the same 'reality' as the Star Wars movies. In my head, if Ahsoka flew far enough, she'd find Hapes and Zonama Sekot and the Chiss. As a fan fiction writer I considered all of it as part of the big universe I wanted to play around in.

But Ahsoka wouldn't find those things. She's a different 'level' of canon, because her creation involved more direct input from George Lucas.

On one hand I understand that it would be a hassle for Disney to fit their Star Wars movies into the existing EU timeline, and believe that they can probably come up with something more lasting and more emotionally powerful anyway.

But on the other hand, something is lost if one takes a universe so big and says that now it's a little bit smaller. I don't want Tahiri and Jaina and "my" Darth Revan to be gone.

And in a way they're not. I've got the stories in my head and the books on my shelf. But a totally clean slate in regards to the new movies, with only the films and The Clone Wars still being considered canon, does make the rest of it all feel a little pointless.

The books and games are still physically present but they're being shunted off into a little pocket universe, and I'm going to have to get used to that. Disney is in effect putting in an overpass between the little book neighborhoods and the big city. I knew all along they were part of a different level of canon, but it didn't feel important. With the new movies, it will.

 They're different levels of reality now. Whether one piece of fiction is more or less real than another is an academic question, but it's relevant now.  The Marvel universe, which also got the big-screen treatment from Disney, has a host of alternate universes, and fans seem to function just fine, even if it's confusing to think about these parallel realities.

We'll all have to get used to a new canon, and form our own new relationship to the old one. 

But I suppose I can still use Jedi Healers in The Clone Wars fan fiction if I really want to.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Clone Wars: Sabotage

Trailers for the season-ending episodes, beginning with “Sabotage,” promised that this arc would put more emphasis on Ahsoka than any other this season. “Sabotage” pulls some punches, but corrects a lot of The Clone Wars’ shortcomings in setting up an arc.

I admit I slung that loaded phrase “Mary Sue” at Ahsoka when she first appeared five years ago. The most unbiased definition of the term is “a young woman so over-powerful as to cast the realism of the story in doubt.” I thought it fit Ahsoka initially because while taking on everything from droid soldiers to the barely-mentioned akul beast as a teenager, she also was usually rewarded for traits such as arrogance and hot-headedness that should have been seen as flaws. I felt that the show was pushing her at me asking me to love her, and I didn’t like being told what to do.

For a while, Ahsoka also didn’t have much character development. Her inner life has largely been skimmed over in The Clone Wars, more than I would expect from a main character. Her trip to the dark side was in essence all a dream. We never saw her learn to wield two lightsabers, a rare technique. Her love interest never had much chemistry with her, and seems to have largely been forgotten after a series of meaningful stares. Lux left her twice - once floating in space and once for Steela - and Ahsoka hasn’t had much, if anything, to say about it. This problem can arise with male characters too, though; Beck from Tron: Uprising comes to mind as someone who goes from a civilian to a superhero without fear and with little comment in between. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Clone Wars: The Lawless

“The Lawless” was a cool, surprising, and emotionally demanding episode. Simply the events alone were fantastically dramatic. I liked the pacing, which made the episode feel long. It has some beautiful action scenes, including the Maul-Savage-Sidious duel that seems ready to go down in history, as well as a brief but exciting aerial wrestling match between Mandalorians. “The Lawless” also had its flaws, including the role of Duchess Satine. Despite the title, the dark side does have laws, and this episode showed the consequences for those who break them.

A brief, somber opening dedicates the episode to the memory of Ian Abercromie, the voice actor for Palpatine and Sidious, who passed away shortly after recording this episode.

“The Lawless” has a lot in it. Where do I even start? The koan is typically ambiguous: “Morality separates heroes from villains.” Yes, obviously. Sidious, Maul, Satine, and Obi-Wan could get an essay each. And I feel like I’m saying “this is the darkest episode ever” every other episode now. Even the largely comedic ones like “A Sunny Day in the Void” touched some dark subjects, but “The Lawless” was tense and frightening, with some truly nightmarish dark side Force actions.