Happy Ending Override

Happy Ending Override

Warning: Spoilers for the recent novel Bloodline and The Force Awakens

“But when we think of those people who perished in the conflict, let us remember that they died for justice. For liberty. For the extraordinary peace we now enjoy. This is what we fought for.”
–Senator Tai-Lin Garr

Futility

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Destruction of the Hosnian System: TFA

I just finished Claudia Gray’s Bloodline last night. In my opinion, it is the best novel in the new canon. Not surprising considering how much I loved her previous entry Lost Stars.

As awesome as the book was, my first thought upon finishing it was just how bleak this new post-VI timeline is. In fact, one of the more common criticisms I see leveled against The Force Awakens is how the film renders the Rebellion’s victory completely meaningless. I mean, who cares if the Empire fell if the New Republic is just as useless and corrupt as the Old? (Thanks Mon Mothma!)

Same goes for the Big Three of the Original Trilogy. Han and Leia’s marriage went sour, their son turned to the dark side, and Luke is a traumatized hermit in hiding after his failure to restore the Jedi Order. Kind of seems like these guys fought for nothing.

Oh, and to top all of that off, remember how I wrote about Vader’s dark legacy a few weeks ago? As of Bloodline, the secret of the Skywalker twins’ parentage is public knowledge. Leia’s political adversaries use this to discredit her in the Senate and strip her of any power there. Leia suffers the most for this revelation but the novel briefly touches on Luke’s trustworthiness being questioned and the potential for abuse of his Force powers.  

Two heroes with bad publicity; what a difference from their Legends personas. I suppose we’ll have to wait until Episode VIII to fully see how the public views Luke.

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Han and Leia: TFA

Necessary Evil

Here’s the thing. Any time a sequel to a completed story arc is announced, you know that something bad has to happen to further the story. The Peaceful Retirement Adventures of Han and Leia sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it? You can’t have a good story without conflict and it’s no different in a galaxy far, far away.

Not So Different 

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Star Wars: The New Jedi Order

I frequent a lot of Star Wars-related social media and I’ve seen some Legends fans criticize the new timeline for its darker overtones and lack of happy endings for the Power Trio. I think it’s just nostalgia talking because the old Legends EU was just as rife with conflict and heartbreak as the current canon. Let’s take a brief look back at a few of the ways Legends made life difficult for our heroes, shall we?

1. Palpatine returned

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Star Wars: Dark Empire

Yep. Not much to say here. Probably my least favorite aspect of Legends. Zahn wasn’t a fan either.

2. The galaxy was invaded by extra-galactic, technology-hating alien fanatics

3. Chewbacca had a moon dropped on him. 

4. The Solos suffered one tragedy after another.

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Jaina vs Darth Caedus

Think they have it bad in current canon? The Legends Solo family lost their youngest son, Anakin, to war and their eldest son, Jacen, turned Sith and was killed by his twin sister, Jaina.

Yeah.

5. Luke lost his wife to Jacen/Caedus and his New Jedi Order was eventually destroyed by Darth Krayt’s One Sith nearly 100 years after Endor. 

 

Going Forward-A Ray of Hope

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Rey: The Force Awakens

“Without the Jedi, there can be no balance in the Force.” –Lor San Tekka

(Ah, name puns… How I love thee.)

With all the downer and bittersweet endings we seem to be getting lately, it’s important to remember that Star Wars is a story about hope and good triumphing over evil. Despite decades of darkness, the light side isn’t out of the fight yet. With Leia leading her Resistance and Luke and Rey representing the last bit of Jedi light, it’s apparent that Snoke and the First Order still have much to fear from our protagonists. 

None of our heroes’ past struggles were for naught. How does the old adage go? “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

(Sorry, Han!)

Thanks for reading!

 

Note: I forgot to note another criticism of the nucanon New Republic–its short reign. It was actually around for longer than the Empire and the galaxy got almost three decades of peace. Nothing to sneeze at.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post-TFA

Warning: Spoilers for The Force Awakens ahead. You have been warned. 

 

“Hope is not lost today… It is found.” -Maz Kanata 

I got to see the new Star Wars film while on vacation with my wife in NC. It was a good trip and now that I’m home and I’ve gotten some time to mull over the finer details of the movie, I’m ready to talk about it.

So what did I think of the newest chapter in the saga? I adored it. It was a return to form for the franchise and the critics and (most) fans seem to agree with this sentiment (94% Rotten Tomatoes. Not bad).

This post won’t be going into too much detail on specific points. Instead, I’d like to quickly go over the aspects I really enjoyed or that I thought were important.

Practical Effects

 

I didn’t realize how much I missed the aliens of the Original Trilogy until I saw this film. In fact, this entire gorgeous film just has a tangibility to it that was sorely lacking in the PT.

That’s not to say there wasn’t CGI (it’s a 2015 film, no way they wouldn’t have used some), but when computer animation was used, it complemented the look of the film instead of dominating it.

Bittersweet Tone

There’s no getting around it, The Force Awakens personifies the trope Happy Ending Override more than Legends ever could. Sure, the Empire finally fell at Endor followed by Jakku, and a New Republic was established to bring democracy to the galaxy, but the film portrays anything but a post-VI happy ending. Let’s count the ways the film tramples on our hearts.

1. A fanatical offshoot of the Empire (First Order) remains a credible threat despite being dismissed by the New Republic. The FO proceeds to cause the…

2. Destruction of the (current) New Republic capital world Hosnian Prime. Nice job dismissing Leia’s warnings, NR senate.

(Remember what I said about spoilers? I’m warning you again, because this one is a doozy)

3. Han and Leia’s son, Ben, is seduced to the dark side by Snoke and the legacy of Ben’s grandfather, Vader.  Their marriage goes sour. They reunite briefly only for Ben (now called Kylo Ren) to skewer his father through the chest. If you didn’t feel Chewie and Rey’s anguish in that moment, perhaps you need a heart check.

4. Luke Skywalker. I’ve never been shy about the fact that Luke is my favorite character and a fictional hero of mine. Although his appearance was brief and wordless, his face spoke volumes about the heartbreak and failure he had experienced.

I think I came to realize that I had held on to fragments of his post-ROTJ Legends counterpart. In my pre-TFA mind, Luke successfully reestablished the Jedi Order in order to combat the First Order’s Knights of Ren and the new dark side threat.

Well, I was half right. Luke did start a Jedi Academy, but I never predicted that he would be betrayed by his nephew and that he would see his apprentices slaughtered. Having another Jedi purge just decades after Order 66 is horrific.

That being said, tragedy often makes for good storytelling. My naive, idealistic desire to see a New Jedi Order in the film is fanfic material. What I actually got lends itself well to character development. As much as I hate to admit it, a downtrodden Luke is more believable than the one who essentially became a human god in Legends. (Please note that I guarantee Luke is still absurdly powerful, but the film only gives us a brief glimpse of his physical and emotional state and not his Force prowess).

Rey

 

I’m sure this comes as a surprise to no one, but of all the characters I was most excited to see in The Force Awakens, Daisy Ridley’s Rey was number one. Boy, was I not disappointed. This girl is clearly the star of the show, and the movie shines all the more for it.

Rey averts the tired damsel in distress trope in a huge way. She is a self-sufficient, intelligent, and likable. As Luke was the hero I wanted to be as a kid, she will be to a new generation of female Star Wars fans.

I strongly disagree with the Mary Sue criticisms, by the way. If any male character (like Luke) showed aptitude for any of the things she does, he’d merely be seen as a standard superhero. She’s been shown to be incredibly Force-sensitive and perhaps has some (suppressed) former training. Plus, if the most obvious parentage theory is correct, she’s got the Chosen One’s blood in her veins. (Why else would the Skywalker family lightsaber call out to her?)

Kylo Ren

 

You’d think that after all the atrocities this character has committed both on-screen and off, I’d hate this character. Truth is, I really like this character a lot. He’s genuinely angsty and brooding in a way Hayden’s Anakin failed to be on every level.

Ben’s conflict between light and dark lends itself well to his character’s persona and his psychotic fits of rage show just how undisciplined he is. Plus, the guy takes a bowcaster bolt and is still able to fight. That says a lot about him.

Lightsaber Duel

I’ve seen the final duel between Finn/Rey and Kylo Ren criticized as “boring” and “unflashy.” I disagree. None of these characters were masters with the lightsaber and their incessant hammering on each other carried far more emotional weight than the sterile, overly-choreographed fights of the prequels. Watching Rey smash through Kylo’s defenses was extremely cathartic considering who he had just murdered minutes before.

Oh! And I really liked how lightsabers now cast a glow on their wielders and surroundings like they should. It makes for a really cool effect.

That’s about it. I’ll save some content for next time. It wasn’t a perfect film by any means and it did borrow quite a few things from a New Hope (like a plot coupon hidden in a droid) and yet another (sort of) Death Star. But all in all, Abrams and Kasdan nailed it. It is a Star Wars film through and through. I can’t wait to see more of Luke and Rey in VIII and the inevitable clash between light and dark.



“That’s not how the Force works!”