Legends EU and The Force Awakens

Last week I wrote about my emotional response to The Force Awakens and commented on its quality. This week, I get to nerd out over the film in relation to the Legends EU. So what does that mean? When Disney bought the franchise they declared almost all of the EU, Expanded Universe, all the books and videogames and comics, got relegated to the Legends imprint so Disney could have a completely clean slate. This wasn’t surprising, as the EU had its fair amount of duds in it and had become so convoluted that a book was written to establish who in fact had gotten the plans to the first Death Star to the Rebel Alliance. A common expectation was that the new movies would be like the MCU, distilling the good ideas into a new form. Did that happen? Kinda sorta. Let’s jump into it.

BEWARE OF SPOILERS FOR EVERYTHING STAR WARS YE WHO ENTER

 

 

First, a quick note on background. I stopped reading the EU after the Dark Nest Trilogy but have some idea about both the Legacy era and the Second Galactic Civil War. As such, this shouldn’t be taken as any sort of exhaustive or definitive look. If you’re interested in going down the rabbithole in anyway, you can follow along here.

The world of TFA resembles little of the world of the EU at the same point in time. By 30 ABY(After Battle of Yavin) The EU had just survived an invasion by an extragalactic species of aliens who use biotech and are invisible in the Force. The New Republic and the Imperial Remnant are at peace and Chewie is the only main character from the films that’s dead. Further to the point the timelines don’t even match up a few years after RotJ(Courtship of Princess Leia is the last book that isn’t explicitly discounted) So suffice to say there’s a world of difference, but what got carried over?

Kylo Ren seems like a good starting point as he’s a sort of composite character. On one hand, he resembles Jacen Solo, one of Solo kids who turned to the dark side. On the other hand, he resembles Kyp Durron, one of Luke’s first students who fell to the Dark Side and was redeemed. There isn’t much to say about the Jacen part, while Kylo feels like Jacen, he doesn’t really have much else beyond surface similarities. So that leaves Kyp Durron, and the Jedi Academy Trilogy, and Kevin J. Anderson, three things that aren’t particularly liked.

Kyp Durron was one of Luke’s first students, and like Ren, he fell to the Dark Side. Unlike Ren, he did so because of a holocron containing a Sith Lord, blew up a solar system, was redeemed by Han. The key difference being that Kyp was a bit of an asshole, and never actually paid for his crimes, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of many fans. Kylo on the other hand, is a far more interesting and understandable character.

That part about blowing up a solar system? Yeah, the Empire was really big on superweapons such as the Sun Crusher. It was almost comical. Starkiller Base didn’t read to me as a retread of the original Death Star, it was just something one should expect from the Empire, cause the Empire loves superweapons.

Yes, I know it’s called the First Order, which actually brings us to my next point. In Legends, the Empire never really stopped being the Empire. While it was a part of the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances, it spent more time as either the Imperial Remnant or the new Empire. Instead it devolved into warlords and eventually settled into some sort of authoritarian regime as the Imperial Remnant. Also the Empire by and large doesn’t have anything to do with the Jedi or the Force as impacting their heads of state (save Joorus C’Boath) bringing us to the next point.

The Sith are still around in Legends…somehow. I never really understood how that worked but whatever. Going off of Maz’s comment in the basement of the cantina, the Sith ended at Endor, whatever Snoke and Ren are, is something else.

Going back to our protagonists. Fin doesn’t really map to anyone. One of the problems that the EU had, and this became more pronounced as the years went on, was that they stayed focused on Luke, Leia and Han. Their attempts at cultivating a new generation weren’t the best or most sustained. This was one of the reasons there was the timeskip to the Legacy era in the comics, a surefire way to say everyone died of old age. This is as good a time as any to discuss the differences of the prime three. Luke was by and large a successful Jedi Master, Leia and Han stayed married and remained important figures in the New Republic. Rey, on the other hand, carries over the tradition from Legends of strong women, and Rey has a fair amount in common with Jaina. They’re both Jedis, pilots, have a positive relationship with Han, and are strong yet human.

The Force Awakens also relates to a somewhat unexpected source, Knights of the Old Republic. These are just surface level similarities, but it’s still an interesting thing. Kylo’s mask is very close to Darth Revan’s. The game’s plot revolves around collecting maps. The sense of mystery we have with Rey’s backstory as we did with the main character of KOTOR.

And that is everything that I can think of, which again doesn’t mean it’s everything that was included or referenced. It’s also not an exhaustive comparative analysis. It does illustrate that the film has some strong ties, but by and large it’s doing its own thing. A move that I’m generally happy with, I’d rather get new stories with influences from the old ones rather than streamlined versions of the old ones. Next week, I don’t know what I’ll be writing about, but it won’t be about The Force Awakens. Till then

 

 

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You Can’t Go Home Again: The Force Awakens and Nostalgia

Beware of spoilers ye who enter

Long time readers will know that I am a huge Star Wars nerd, but I wasn’t exactly excited about The Force Awakens. I avoided the trailers because it seemed like the thing to do, not out of any earnest spoilerphobia. Part of me wanted the film to be good; another part of me wanted it to be bad so I wouldn’t feel compelled to watch it. There was a general sense of burn out and as Brianna Wu put it on Twitter, Star Wars is a brand and what we feel is brand loyalty to average products. But enough people on Twitter, people whose opinions I trusted said it was good and I ended up buying a ticket. And it turns out the film is entertaining at the very least. One of the more interesting things with a commercial film, produced by Disney’s mass media empire and curated for maximum public appeal made me feel something. That and the reasons why make the film worth discussing. Let’s not waste any time and jump right in.

The emotional crux of the film isn’t Rey’s visions or Fin’s defection or Han’s death. It’s Han saying, “Chewie, we’re home.” That moment brings all the fanservice, all the nostalgia and all the copied story beats from ANH more than their individual parts. Star Wars is a galaxy that was empty and filled with wonder, populated and now depopulated for new wonders. That’s the home the viewer is promised, through the focus of Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon. There’s just one problem though: You can’t go home again.

While the film plays on nostalgia it’s also setting up a new generation of heroes (a generation of heroes that rebuke the monochromatic masculine view presented in ANH). But this also comes with an epilogue of futility to RoTJ, the Empire has remade itself, the Dark Side of the Force is again on the rise, the sorrow that Han, Leia and Luke all feel and express, the galaxy is a different place. The galaxy is a graveyard and whatever sense of home it engendered is an echo.

It seems fitting that the strong invocation of nostalgia would make me think back to Don Draper’s sales pitch in the season one finale of Mad Men, that “nostalgia literally in Greek, means the pain from an old wound…takes us to a place where we ache to go again.” This so conveniently explains why the film appeals to so many people. If this new trilogy is to succeed though, to have any sort of cultural impact instead of being a monument to box office hits with no cultural footprint like the recently dethroned Avatar, its creators have to realize that they can’t go home again, but maybe they can build a new home out of the ruins. The next generation can’t just retread the steps of the old.

Next week, I’ll be talking about The Force Awakens in relation to the Legends EU. Till next time.

 

 

Review of Star Wars: the Clone Wars Season 1

As I mentioned a while ago, the second Clone Wars series is pretty awesome. I finally got around to finishing the first season and want to talk about it, so here we are. This is going to be a review more along the lines of my OITNB Season 2 review or The Honor of the Queen mainly cause it’s not so much a review so much as a discussion. Nonetheless, review is a catch all term these days so that’s what I use.

BEWARE OF SPOILERS YE WHO ENTER

Favorite Stand Alone Episode: Ambush. Honorable mention: Rookies, Hostage Situation 

‘Ambush’ is a really strong episode not only because of its own merits but it gives the viewer a good idea what’s actually going to be covered in this show. Yoda gets to be cool all on his own and the idea of clones as people is fairly important to the episode. It’s opening the door of possibilities of what this show can, and will do in the future. Rookies gets an honorable mention for being my second favorite by a very narrow margin. It provides a different perspective and is really fun on top of that. Hostage Situation on the other hand showcases a different side of the show. It makes the Padme/Anakin relationship believable as well as build up the Palpatine/Anakin relationship as well as some stuff on the homefront. It does all of this through a Die Hard scenario, which is never a bad thing if you do it right.

Worst Stand Alone Episode: Trespass

This episode has one glaring flaw in it that drags the whole thing down: the villain is a moron. While the fact that he stuck to his principles is nice from a narrative point of view, it’s just dumb.

Favorite Arc: Ryloth Honorable Mention: Malevonce

Ryloth is a really good war story that showcases a lot of different things effectively. It’s own downside is that the political element doesn’t come up until the last episode and makes the ending seem way too neat. Given how this all ends it’s honestly surprising that the Republic didn’t go back on its word and keep a GAR garrison on the planet. Revisiting this plot in the future is something I’m hoping for. Malevolence gets an honorable mention again for being my second favorite but it’s very different. Whereas Ryloth shows the Clone Wars as sort of its own thing, Malevolence feels a lot closer to classic Star Wars.

Worst Arc: Nute Gunray Captured

This sequence of episodes is terrible for one reason: it beats you over the head with the show’s limits. Nothing can have a lasting effect cause we know what happens to these people and it’s not an interesting journey. In comparison Dooku getting captured is engaging and doesn’t belabor the inevitable hanging over the characters’ heads.

Most frustrating episode: The Hidden Enemy

The Clone Wars has to walk a very fine when it comes to the Clones. On one hand, it’s actually interested in making them actual characters instead of faceless grunts. On the other hand, they’re child slave soldiers. Making that second part the motivation behind a traitor is incredibly awkward at best. if the show is going to remind the viewer that the clones are child slave soldiers in the future,I hope it does so with more thought.

Most Surprising Character: Jar-Jar

Funny how a comic relief character isn’t as bad in a cartoon. It also helps that he’s allowed to be competent, or I suppose a better would be successful, in his own way.

Most Boring Character: Assajj Ventress

I think I’ve just hit a saturation point with her over the years. She does one thing, and from a narrative/visual point of she does it well. It’s just meh. The most I can hope for is that her fate is different than what we already have.

Character I want to see more: Ahsoka Honorable Mention: Cad Bane

Ahsoka’s story isn’t complete and she’s the one variable the show has to play with. Not only that but she’s not a bad character in her own right. Cad Bane gets an honorable mention cause he’s a hyper-competent mundane who wins against the Jedi and i know he’s in the first arc of the second season.

Things that annoy me for no good reason: The Separatist Alliance

It’s the Confederacy of independent Systems.

 

That’s all the specific thoughts I have about the season. Overall it’s strong but there’s only so much to talk about. Join me next week when I talk about the latest deck building hit, Star Realms.

 

Some thoughts on modernish Star Wars stuff

Before I begin this week’s post proper, I just wanted to commemorate the double milestone. First, this is my 100th post on anothergamerguy.wordpress.com, which is exciting. Second, I’ve been doing this blog for two years. Boy does the time fly. Thanks to everyone who has been reading these past two years, I’ve had fun writing and plan on doing this for many years to come.

As you can see from the title, this week I’ll be talking about Star Wars. The reason I’m not more specific than that is because this post is going to be a bit of a meander. There are a few relatively disparate things that fall under this umbrella. No sense in wasting time with an intro that says even less than usual so let’s get right into it.

First some background so you all know where I’m coming from. I love Star Wars and a part of me always will. I grew up with the PT in theatres and the EU. While I was a huge Star Wars fan in my teenage years because of the EU this interest died hard and fast around the time of Legacy for a number of reasons. I know that this doesn’t apply to a lot of people and given the big tent involved in being a Star Wars there are no doubt people who just nodded their head in agreement or cringed. That doesn’t really matter, only that it makes sense for me to present my background before I go any further.

Star Wars the Clone Wars: I just started watching this and so far I’ve been really impressed for the most part. While the movie was a terrible mistake that should’ve just been four episodes, it was still entertaining and the series proper was a lot better. In a lot of ways it’s pretty comforting in how familiar a lot of it is. Part of this is due to the quality and how it gets the uniquely Star Wars things. A large part of this is in a big supporting cast with plenty of different Jedi. Star Wars EU in a lot of ways was about filling in and filling out the universe that the films presented for better or worse. I’m still not really sold on Ahsoka in that while I get that she’s meant to be a foil/audience identification tool for the target demographic, the first one wasn’t really that needed. The EU showed that Obi and Anakin had a good relationship and they played off one another pretty well. I’m not going to comment on the audience identification part cause that doesn’t’ really apply to me. Overall I still think it’s kinda weird to introduce such a pivotal character who doesn’t get mentioned in Revenge at all.

While I did say that I find Clone Wars to be comforting, it’s relation to the canon that I know is probably the worst part of it for two reasons. First, side and minor characters are an important way to present threats whose fates aren’t locked in by canon. The repeated dangling of capturing Dooku, Grevious et al is getting old really fast. Second, so what else is considered canon? Mainly this question relates to the first Clone Wars cartoon. While I find myself remembering more of the finer points of the EU canon then I’d expect after all these years, I’m not really bothered by the fact it’s been invalidated, just more curious about the stuff that would presumably have a higher priority.  Also cause I can just take the mindset of comics and mash all the good stuff in my head anyway.

Star Wars Legends: This was the best possible outcome for what was going to happen regarding the Disney takeover and the EU. It keeps the old stuff in print and gives it a respectful name and pasture to graze on. Mainly since no one would in their right mind would use the convoluted mess that the EU had become. Let’s remember that they commissioned a book just to clean up stealing the first Death Star plans and there were 2 or 3 different run ups to the Battle of Coruscant somehow. All of the new stuff should mine the EU for inspiration and build on it, stand on the shoulders of giants.

The new films: While I hate JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot that doesn’t inherently mean the new trilogy will be bad. I’m keeping an open mind and I’ll wait to see it to pass judgment.

Rebels and other stuff: I’ll probably try Rebels if/when it’s on Netflix if for no reason then I’ll just want to watch something new at some point. Book are a lot less likely given that in general I need to be more selective about my disposable income then when I was in high school and there are a lot of other things I value more highly.

A lot of this can be summarized as live and let live I guess.  In general it’s a pretty good attitude to have towards fandom and media. Maybe one of these days I’ll use a blog post to go down the lane of the EU. Anyway, until next time.