Monday, September 1, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Star Wars: A New Dawn


 




Star Wars: A New Dawn” is an important entry into the Star Wars library for a few reasons. First, it is the first book in Disney’s new Star Wars canon. In other words, this book is just as much a part of the Star Wars saga as any of the movies. Second, this book introduces readers to a few of the main characters in the upcoming animated TV show “Star Wars: Rebels.”

To be perfectly honest, I had not been particularly excited about “Rebels.” I had some issues with “The Clone Wars” and the same creative team is heading “Rebels.” From what I’d seen thus far, it seemed like the beginning of the Disneyfication of Star Wars. So I was initially somewhat skeptical of this book. That said, John Jackson Miller is one of my favorite Star Wars authors, so it had that to its credit.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Poli-Sci Jedi is going overseas...

You've probably noticed I haven't been active recently. I found out that I've been selected for fellowship to do research in Myanmar (Burma). So stay tuned because once I arrive I will definitely start blogging about my experiences there, including my experience watching Episode VII abroad...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Far Far Away Radio podcast episode about politics

I just finished recording a podcast episode about politics in Star Wars with Far Far Away Radio. Look for it soon!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Revising politics in Attack of the Clones

In my article for the Far, Far Away Radio blog, I mentioned that many critics attacked the political scenes in the Prequel Trilogy. I had mentioned that the Prequels sometimes failed to connect the political story with the characters' arcs. Of course, criticizing is one thing; doing is another. So, as an intellectual exercise, I thought I would take one political scene from Attack of the Clones to see if I could retain the substance of the scene but add more of a character moment.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

WHY WE NEED POLITICS IN STAR WARS

The Far, Far Away Radio blog kindly published an op-ed piece I wrote about politics in Star Wars. I discuss why politics is essential to the saga, as well as how it works best on screen. I then propose a few ideas for the Sequel Trilogy. You can read it here. Thank you again to the team at FFAR for sharing my work!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Got to sink the Malevolence!

Historian and teacher Cole Horton has posted an interesting article about the uncanny comparisons between the Confederacy of Independent Systems flagship Malevolence and Nazi Germany's Bismarck. Horton shows how in both cases a seemingly invincible enemy flagship was destroyed by long-range bombers.

I'd be curious if Lucas and Filoni based this Clone Wars arc on World War II history or the 1960 film Sink the Bismarck! based on those events. The movie cottons some historical inaccuracies, but probably nothing that would have been translated into the show.

Read the full article at StarWars.com.

Friday, May 9, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Science of Battlestar Galactica

As I've mentioned before, I'm also a fan of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series, in no small part because of the intelligent way it deals with politics and religion. I've previously reviewed The International Relations of Battlestar Galactica, about the politics of the show, and The Theology of Battlestar Galactica, about the religious themes. Here is a review of a book that deals with the scientific aspects of the show, The Science of Battlestar Galactica, by Patrick di Justo and Kevin R. Grazier.

The word "science" comes before "Battlestar Galactica" in the title of this book, and I think that placement describes this book well. The book is written by BSG science advisor Kevin Grazier and is organized around various scientific issues that arose during the course of the show.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The EU is dead, long live the EU!

UPDATE (4/28/14): Subsequent announcements from DelRey and other sources have now stated that the announcement signals the end of all EU material that had been published up to this point. Thus, the only stories in the canon are now the six theatrical films, The Clone Wars, and Sons of Dathomir, a comic coming out soon wrapping up the Maul arc from The Clone Wars. This is somewhat more disappointing than I'd hoped. Still, I hope to have an article up soon about where politics in Star Wars might go from here.

Disney and Lucasfilm have just announced on the Star Wars website that Episode VII will not follow the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe. While the announcement mentions that Star Wars will continue to draw upon the EU for ideas, this essentially amounts to a reboot.

Most of these characters never existed...
I'm sure the Internet will be flooded with commentary about this. But a few points are worth keeping in mind:

Nixon in Star Wars

I have been reading J.W. Rinzler's The Making of Star Wars Return of the Jedi and came across a great quote about George Lucas' early conception of politics in Star Wars. In one the July 13-17, 1981, story conference with Richard Marquand, Lawrence Kasdan, and Howard Kazanjian, Lucas explained about Emperor Palpatine:
... he was a politician. Richard M. Nixon was his name. He subverted the senate and finally took over and became an imperial guy and he was really evil. But he pretended to be a really nice guy. He sucked Luke’s father into the dark side.
It is well known that Lucas based parts of the Original Trilogy on political events in the 1970s, with the concept of primitive natives defeating a technologically superior army taken directly from the Vietnam War (as discussed here). Nevertheless, I was taken with how directly Lucas equated Palpatine with Nixon. To what extent does Palpatine really reflect Nixon?

Friday, April 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Theology of Battlestar Galactica

As I've mentioned before, I'm also a fan of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series, in no small part because of the intelligent way it deals with politics and religion. I've previously reviewed The International Relations of Battlestar Galactica, about the politics of the show. Here is a review of a book that deals with religious aspects of the show, Kevin J. Westmore's The Theology of Battlestar Galactica.

As a fan of Battlestar Galactica, I already knew that the show dealt with complex issues of religion in faith. However, I hadn't realized how sophisticated its treatment of religion really is until reading about it from a bona fide expert on the subject.

Friday, March 14, 2014

CLONE WARS REVIEW: Yoda arc (addendum)

That is why you fail, Yoda
I realize that I was quite tough in my review of the Yoda arc yesterday. I felt my questions were justified given the high standards set by the The Clone Wars. That said, I feel like the Yoda arc is an overly complicated attempt to explain 1) the differences between Yoda's in the Prequel Trilogy or the Original Trilogy, and 2) the phenomenon of Force Ghosts. This is a noble goal, I think it only fair to explain how I would have approached these issues. After all, it's easy to be critical but harder to be constructive.

One of the most important principles in science is Occam's Razor, the strategy that scientists should choose the simplest explanation that best fits the available evidence. I also think this principle applies to storytelling. Simpler explanations tend to work better.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

CLONE WARS REVIEW: Yoda arc (Season 6, Episodes 10-13)

Yoda, in touch with nature
In honor of the release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Netflix, I've decided to review Season 6, the previously unreleased "Lost Missions." Overall, this is some of the best we've ever seen in the series. Even when I had complaints about plot elements, the characterization is rich and animation gorgeous. These reviews are meant more to think critically about the plot and character elements in the episodes, so there are spoilers - I strongly recommend readers watch each episode before continuing. With that said, on to the Yoda arc...

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I know many fans are already calling the Yoda arc - "The Lost One", "Voices", "Destiny", and "Sacrifice" (Season 6; Episodes 10-13) - one of the most important stories of The Clone Wars. For me, it seems a case of style over substance. I get the sense that The Clone Wars team wanted us to believe that these episodes explained key aspects of Yoda's character and the Force, but there were just too many plot holes and questionable choices for me to become fully invested. However, ignoring the story, the episode features some interesting abstract imagery and symbolism, as well as some innovative ways to allow viewers to see fan-favorite characters one last time.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

CLONE WARS REVIEW: Disappeared I & II (Season 6, Episodes 8-9)

Jar Jar Binks, superhero?
In honor of the release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Netflix, I've decided to review Season 6, the previously unreleased "Lost Missions." Overall, this is some of the best we've ever seen in the series. Even when I had complaints about plot elements, the characterization is rich and animation gorgeous. These reviews are meant more to think critically about the plot and character elements in the episodes, so there are spoilers - I strongly recommend readers watch each episode before continuing. With that said, on to the Disappeared arc...

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The Disappeared arc ("The Disappeared" Part I & Part II) does not have a complex plot or character developments. It features Jar Jar Binks, which is ordinarily enough to doom it from the start. However, "The Disappeared" is a fun ride in the style of Indiana Jones. The arc uses Jar Jar well and even gives him some nice character moments. Visually, this episode is a treat and highlights how far animation techniques have progressed in this show. Ironically, I found myself enjoying this pair of episodes more than any other arc in Season 6.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

CLONE WARS REVIEW: Clovis arc (Season 6, Episodes 5-7), Part II

The most interesting politician in Star Wars
In honor of the release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Netflix, I've decided to review Season 6, the previously unreleased "Lost Missions." Overall, this is some of the best we've ever seen in the series. Even when I had complaints about plot elements, the characterization is rich and animation gorgeous. These reviews are meant more to think critically about the plot and character elements in the episodes, so there are spoilers - I strongly recommend readers watch each episode before continuingWith that said, on to the Clovis arc...

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The Clone Wars has had a mixed history with telling stories about politics, but the Clovis arc ("An Old Friend", "Rise of Clovis", and "Crisis at the Heart"; Season 6, Episodes 5-7) finally gets it right. While stories about intergalactic politics will never be the most popular amongst fans, the political decisions in this arc actually seem to matter. More importantly, this arc keeps the focus where it should be: on the characters, particularly Clovis. The relationship between Anakin and Padmé get some much needed development. We also get a few fun chase scenes with everybody's tenth-favorite bounty hunter, Embo.

I split the review into two parts. Part I was posted yesterday; Part II is below...