Why Do We Care About the Star Wars Sunset?

One of the most iconic moments from Star Wars is where Luke watches the binary sunset on Tatooine. It’s director J. J. Abram’s favorite scene out of all the Star Wars films, and the theme that this scene uses has been incorporated in the rest of the movies ever since, even in the trailers for Rogue One. But what about this scene is so stirring? What makes a film director say it’s his favorite moment from the franchise, and what makes everyone in the room go quiet when it plays?

Tatooine Sunset

There have been many thoughts on why we should care about Star Wars, and even in-depth discussions on why this scene alone is so amazing. And there are undoubtedly many reasons why the scene came together so well and why it resonates with different people, from costume and cinematography to lighting and, of course, music.

However, there must be some particular aspect of this scene that strikes the core of most, if not all, of those who watch it. Without something deeper going on for most viewers, this scene could only be aesthetically pleasing at its best, and Star Wars might not have taken off quite the way it did forty years ago. Upon inspecting what we know about human happiness and the background of the scene, there’s actually a succinct reason for us to still enjoy this moment after four decades since its showing:

We care because of our desire to help others.

Human Happiness:

Force For Change

To fully understand why this rather abstract concept helps us appreciate the sunset, we first need to understand a little bit more about how humans function. It seems fairly intuitive to guess that most humans are happier and more fulfilled when they believe they’re making a positive impact on other people—however, this isn’t just a wild guess supported by Huffington Post articles and editorials from Berkeley. This is something that seems to be repeatedly confirmed by serious scientific studies, including those showing positive effects on mental health from volunteer work, increased donations when donors feel more directly connected to those affected by charities, lowered blood pressure and mortality rates correlated with volunteerism, and conjectured positive feedback loops between prosocial spending and overall happiness.

However, few of us need to hear these studies; even when we’re not making a conscious effort to increase well-being, we’re still constantly grounded with this underlying principle of aiding conscious creatures. This is why so many human beings justify what they do by describing their actions as helpful ones. Whether they say that the “morality” of actions is determined by obeying one god or principle over another may cause some disagreements, but rarely do people guard the core of their arguments without saying that they are improving someone’s well-being. And the most widely discussed ethical systems—from Utilitarianism to Kantian ethics—tend to have conscious beings’ welfare at the forefront of their guidelines. Even on both ends of something as dichotic as immigration policies, one side will claim protecting certain human lives while the other will claim benefiting others—both arguing that they are, in the end, helping humanity. Thus, for almost all people, both our happiness and our reasoning is dependent on whether or not we are improving others’ well-being. This foundation—of constantly valuing what helps people—is what drives some of our deepest desires and decisions, whether we consciously consider it or not.

Our New Hope:

Luke Burning homestead

After acknowledging how deeply helping others affects ourselves, one can see several bits of A New Hope that capitalize on this facet of human nature. Within the first shot of the movie, we see that there is some kind of interstellar conflict. Soon, we learn that there are two very different sides invested in this battle: the good, who are the underdogs that fight to save the galaxy; and the evil, who are the oppressors that crack people’s necks and destroy ambassador’s ships to protect their superweapons. Very quickly, we come to understand that there is a large distinction in this film between the morally good and bad, and that supporting one over the other will benefit entire worlds of people.

Then we see that Luke wants to join the good side. Just before the binary sunset, we watch him discussing how his friends have already gone off to fight with the Rebellion, and that he desires nothing more than to do the same. Of course, later films show that Luke will learn that he can’t paint either sides of the conflict with just “good” or “evil,” and even Rogue One displayed how imperfect the Rebellion was, but looking past this mild naivety, the audience understands that Luke wants to do good. Though we don’t fully understand the specifics of how he’ll do this, we accept that, at his core, he wants to improve the galaxy and help others.

Finally, we also get to see Luke’s mediocrity, and this helps us relate to the longing for a greater purpose that he feels. As Luke performs menial tasks and chores, grumbles about the harvest and his uncle’s broken promises, and even plays with a model ship, he can frustratingly, albeit possibly subconsciously, remind us of ourselves. The majority of our daily activities don’t involve blowing up a tyrant’s weapon, solving world hunger, or even marginally improving someone else’s life, and so we can more easily connect with Luke when he kicks aimlessly at the ground and complains about not joining something bigger than himself.

Each of these details—the pitting of the good against the bad, Luke’s inherent desire to help others, and the main character’s ordinariness resembling our own—all vault us toward connecting with what Luke sees on that reddening horizon: a chance to get out there and finally do some good. Though we don’t analyze the scene as its playing, the reason we emotionally connect with the moment is because we don’t need to analyze: we’re already cognizant that there are terrible things happening, we’re hoping that there must be something out there to stop these awful events, and we’re also painfully aware of our own mediocrity when compared to these huge conflicts.

Thus, when the music crescendos and our hero stands before us in pure white, watching yet another blood-red sunset burn away before his eyes, we intuitively understand and relate to what Luke’s hoping for without having to read the underlying message at the bottom of the screen. Despite the odds against us, despite the boring chores and the obstacles blocking us from our ability to actually fix something or save someone, we still want to be involved in something greater, in something that actually matters and helps people. That’s what we see when Luke looks out at those two falling suns. That’s why we care.

Luke Watching The Binary Sunset

Our desire to do good is an extremely powerful motivator. And because of the carefully laid details in A New Hope, we can see that there is much to be done to help those around us and around Luke. When he sees the binary sunset, he isn’t just looking out to the unknown, to the stars he wants to explore, or to some kind of professional advancement or purely enthralling adventure—he’s looking to a future in which he will help others. And because we’re dreaming of that same future, that’s why the room goes silent when John Williams’ strings crescendo and the suns dip beneath the horizon.

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The Boba Fett Movie Terrifies Me

With Rogue One being a huge hit and the production of a Han Solo film fully under way, more and more rumors are hinting that the next spinoff film to be confirmed in the Star Wars franchise will focus on Boba Fett. However, while I love this character, the thought of an entire, canon film about him is horrifying for several reasons:

 

  1. Eradicated Mystery.

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A huge reason that Boba’s character is so intriguing is that we know so little about him. He only has a handful of lines in the Star Wars films, and the few he speaks reveal nothing but a propensity for violence and success. Apart from these minor glimpses into his character, for nearly twenty years after the Original Trilogy he remained a fan-favorite even though the fans knew nothing of him—not his parents, his home planet, his upbringing, his motivations, or any of his struggles.

Even with the Prequels, we got very little insight into Boba Fett. All we learned was that his father was also a bounty hunter and that this father died—apart from these two things, we still had next to nothing. What did he really do after the Clone Wars, or the height of the Empire, or the rise of the Rebellion? What are his hopes and struggles?

boba-with-jangos-helmet

This mystery, this retained disconnection between a young boy and a stolid, silent, menacing bounty hunter, helps creates so much interest in this character. JJ Abrams goes more in-depth as to why the unknown is so enticing, but the fact of the matter is that Boba’s poorly documented transformation and motivation keeps him intriguing.

Much like with Vader, we’re intensely curious about what formed this menacing character—but prequels and origin stories destroy this curiosity. They may clarify the transformation, but they also reveal the magician’s trick, and, more often than not, they leave an audience barely satiated or completely dissatisfied. I’d rather Boba remains an unsolvable mystery than a discovered disaster.

 

  1. Exposed Weakness.

 vader-dont-like-him-either

In revealing Boba’s backstory, we not only lose the enigma of Boba Fett, but we also have to see him in a relatable way. And a character is usually made relatable through weakness.

Often times, a weakness can enhance a character: Rey’s fear of a dark past, Luke’s skirmish with evil, and even C-3Po’s constant anxiety all make us better understand them. But the audience doesn’t need to be emotionally connected with every character. For some, Anakin’s emotional struggle in the Prequels became overbearing and desecrated the image of the merciless villain we knew as Darth Vader.

The same reason some disliked this exposure to Vader’s soft side is the same reason we don’t see characters like Bane from the Dark Knight Rises have complete emotional breakdowns (at least, nothing like Anakin’s after losing his mother), nor participate in relatable, normal activities, whether it be needing some kind of encouraging talk or even just eating or dressing: to see their deepest weaknesses and boring normalcy may increase their relatability, but it also often presents them as weak and, for some characters, too inferior. For a no-nonsense, quiet villain like Boba Fett, seeing his weaknesses would take away the grandiose, impenetrable version of him that many fans cling to.

 

  1. Destroyed Legends.

erosions

Even for those who have heavily researched Boba Fett, the man is still a mystery. In the many novels that focused on his character (now appropriately dubbed “Legends”) there was a wide range of interpretations for his motives and a broad spectrum of personalities which he was written with.

In Tales of the Bounty Hunters, he’s a calm, quiet hunter who’s inveterately satisfied with continually hunting down others. He counsels Leia on immorality, and it’s written that he’s “never so much as held a woman in his arms.”

In Bloodlines, however, he’s a more sullen warrior, with a chip on his shoulder and a torn family that he created and wants to take care of. In other previously canon novels, his characterization seems to continue traveling all over the map—he was a loner and a wannabe family-man, a ruthless murderer and a beacon of morality, and a detached hunter and the leader of an entire civilization, all in the span of a single lifetime.

bountyhunters_cover

Published twenty years ago, this book just doesn’t have the same Boba Fett as the one shown in the latest Clone Wars episodes.

Because of these wildly varied depictions of Boba, those dedicated enough to research him have always been able to choose who they want him to be. Some completely disregard him in the Christmas Special, others ignore events affecting him in the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, and others still avoid the newest Clone Wars episodes showing his younger days. Explanations for this cherry-picking of events and characterizations vary just as wildly as their stories—some fans can say Boba grows into each role, others may criticize the discrepancies, and others might simply ignore the sources as some choose to ignore the Prequels.

However, this ability to flexibly interpret would be disintegrated with a film focused on Boba Fett. With this new movie, any conflicting traits or characteristics will be undeniably de-canonized, and, for the first time, we’ll have a narrow understanding of who this man really is. Maybe he’ll be portrayed as a moody teenager or a sarcastic, aging warrior—but whatever it is, it will tear apart the previous image so many fans had structured in their minds. With the release of a new film, millions of fans will experience a very particular interpretation of his character in the most definitively canon medium of the Star Wars franchise—taking away any previous awe developed for the enigmatic legend of Boba Fett.

Boba Slave I

I’d still be intrigued by a Boba Fett movie, of course, but my concerns grow the more I think about it. What do you think? Leave a comment if there’s a better way of considering the next possible film for Star Wars.

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Catalyst Adds Plenty To Rogue One

Many Star Wars fans have wondered if the novel prefacing Rogue One, called Catalyst, enhances the film it was released with. While Rogue One certainly stands well on its own, the book is a capturing read with several intriguing characters, and it also adds several dimensions to Rogue One that will make viewers appreciate the newest Star Wars film even more:

SPOILERS ahead for Rogue One and Catalyst:

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  1. Galen’s Dedication

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While we certainly saw a lot of Galen’s inspiring sacrifice in Rogue One, Catalyst delves more deeply into his dedication to serve the galaxy. The opening of Rogue One shows that he wants nothing to do with the Death Star; the first chapter of Catalyst shows that he’s actually completely against the evils of war itself. He works with one particular company, Zerpen, specifically because it wasn’t supposed to take part in the Clone Wars that are raging during the beginning of the novel. Even as the Wars progress, and more and more people request Galen’s work for the improvement of the Republic’s (and eventually the Empire’s) military, he utterly refuses.

The offers continue throughout the novel, and Orson Krennic even tries to convince Galen to work with him by showing his homeworld being ravaged by war. However, the only way in which Galen resumes his work (after Zerpen is unable to contact him) is by being duped—in fact, Director Orson Krennic himself is the one that fools him, saying that Galen’s research is providing power for less fortunate planets. This information not only justifies that scene in Rogue One where Galen is drinking happily with Krennic—it also confirms just how dedicated Galen Erso was to bettering the galaxy, whether it was through only ever improving energy research or taking down the superweapon that had taken his life’s work into practice.

  1. Jyn’s Mother

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While we see some of Jyn’s father in Rogue One, we get very little of her mother, Lyra Erso. Catalyst is able to provide a much deeper look into this character, as she is one of the narrators of the story, and a proactive one at that. Krennic’s description of her as “troublesome as ever” in Rogue One is made much clearer throughout this book, as we see Lyra combat her opponents time and time again. She not only momentarily evades warriors in the first chapter and continually bounces back against threats from Krennic—she is the one to initiate the discovery that Galen’s work is being misused by Krennic, and the one who plans their escape from the Empire’s tightening grasp so they can try out a peaceful life.

In addition to seeing Lynda’s actions, we also get to see a bit of explanation for her interest in the Force. In Catalyst, we see that she works closely with Galen as he’s first researching Kyber crystals, and that she holds a sort of reverence for the Jedi, even after their Temple falls and their reputation is slandered. At one point in which she seems to try coaxing her husband away from his research, she asks about the Jedi, “couldn’t it be that they were protecting the rest of us from [the Kyber’s] power?” Such reverence leaves her considering the Kyber crystals as almost sacrosanct, and offers a greater understanding for why she both offers Jyn the necklace with a Kyber crystal and counsels her to “trust in the Force.”

 

  1. Krennic’s Power

krennic-folded

Finally, Catalyst shows that Krennic is more than a simple pawn in Tarkin’s game; instead we learn that he is a true, powerful rival of Tarkin’s, and a suave opponent that few are able to easily halt. We see more clearly in the novel that he is the man who orchestrates the construction of the Death Star’s superlaser, and we see that he accomplishes this task by masterfully manipulating those around him. Such power leaves the reader wondering whether the title of Catalyst is supposed to refer to Galen or Krennic as they both ensure the creation of such an awesome weapon.

We see Krennic’s abilities several times: at one point, he practices picking up on the slightest details of Emperor Palpatine’s advisor—such as the quiver of the lethorns on his face, or the position of his fingers—carefully steering conversations to manipulate the advisor’s revealed feelings and use his resources. Even when dealing with the war criminal Poggle the Lesser, Krennic familiarizes himself with the captive’s language to the point that he can “proffer a formal greeting that took Poggle by surprise,” and eventually convinces the leader to provide some assets. And, with Galen Erso, Krennic repeatedly manipulates the stubborn pacifist, varying his tactics from logical debates to showcases of Galen’s planet being destroyed, until he’s finally able to deceive the engineer into starting the energy research necessary for the weapon.

As we see these endless efforts, we also see who Krennic is, and that he considers himself adept at leading people in teams, to the point that “his leadership became as important to a project as their contributions.” He even covertly tells Galen what pushes him to perfect his final project, explaining that “I stumbled onto something I’m good at, so I’m fulfilled.” And as we see how much Krennic has dedicated to the construction of that destructive laser, the novel offers an even deeper reading into what Krennic’s death truly means. Not only is his brainchild turning against him at the end of Rogue One—his life’s work is being twisted around to finally halt the project-building he was so “good at,” to destroy everything that once fulfilled him, much like he did to Galen Erso.

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What Bloodline Taught Us About Princess Leia

With Carrie Fisher’s recent passing, it’s important to understand what one of her most notable roles had become, both with Fisher’s own contributions and with other artist’s interpretations. The canon Star Wars novel, Bloodline, follows Princess Leia well after the events of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and details this character’s efforts in stabilizing a freshly shaken government. Along with being a fantastic and enrapturing read, Bloodline enlightens the reader on 4 important things to understand about one of the best characters from the Original Trilogy:

SPOILERS ahead for Bloodline and The Force Awakens

bloodlinecover

  1. Leia Rarely Saw Her Loved Ones:

thank-you-very-muchAfter watching The Force Awakens, I mistakenly inferred that Han and Leia had a relatively close relationship until they lost Ben. Bloodline shows that this is far from the case—Leia and Han didn’t just go back to “the only thing [they were] ever good at” after losing their son—they’d already been doing so for years before that. We come to learn early in the novel that, two decades after the destruction of the second Death Star, Leia and Han had “been apart too often in their marriage. Too long… Leia had remained stuck… mired in the political muck.” Yet, even after Leia has this realization in the first act of the book, and the rest of the novel describes her repeated attempts to escape the political warzone she’s in, the story only ends with her and Han still separated by different duties.

She never even sees her son, Ben, in the novel, and what little hints we get about Luke tend to show that he’s rarely in the picture. The implications of such loneliness may be explored later in Star Wars: Episode 8, but for now it’s clear that Leia rarely saw those she loved between the Original Trilogy and Episode 7. Perhaps this familiarity with loneliness and separation—most likely endured in the same way she stoically coped with the destruction of Alderaan—explains how she maintained so much composure after the tragedy in the end of The Force Awakens.

  1. She Hasn’t Forgiven Vader (and might never forgive Kylo Ren):

tell-your-sister-you-were-rightSeveral times throughout Bloodline, Leia converses and ponders over the actions of her biological father. At one point after telling a fellow Senator about the time Vader tortured her, she mused about how “Luke had told her of their father’s last hours. He had renounced darkness, saved Luke, and become Anakin Skywalker. Whenever Luke told the story, a beatific smile lit up his face; his memories of that event gave him a level of comfort and even joy that sustained him. Those were memories Leia couldn’t share.” Just before thinking of this unshared peace, Leia even explained, “Sometimes I felt as if the only thing that kept me going in the aftermath of Alderaan was the strength of my hatred for Vader.”

These insights into Leia’s mind, which are repeatedly visited throughout the book, show just how starkly different Leia’s relationship with Vader was from Luke’s. In Return of the Jedi, Luke looked to Vader with hope, and was able to find peace in his redemption. Leia, however, fueled herself with the rage that she found against her father, and even when he’d been gone for two decades, she found no comfort in his attempt at a deathbed repentance. This could clearly have an impact on the story in the Sequel Trilogy—if Kylo Ren somehow yearned for the forgiveness of his mother, it’d be intriguing to see how she reacts. Given what occurs in Bloodline and how Kylo Ren replicated Vader’s actions by eliminating what Leia likely loved most at the time, she may have difficulty ever granting him mercy for what he did.

  1. She’s Extremely Selfless:

i-cant-believe-hes-goneAs troubled and hardened as she is, Leia may still be one of the most selfless characters in Star Wars. Such an inference is easy to make just given her backstory: she was an orphan, raised in a loving home and given a position within the Empire’s unstoppable government—and yet she pursued a rebellious path, regardless of the dangers such a trail led to. Even after her crew on Tantive IV was destroyed by stormtroopers, her body was tortured by Darth Vader himself, and her people were annihilated by the Death Star, she still refused to give in to her enemy’s demands. She fought the Empire through every step of the war and only sought to comfort or command others for the greater good.

Bloodline continues this trend of service, and it highlights the tolls such dedication takes. Leia embarks on several dangerous missions throughout the novel: she investigates a purported Hutt-controlled gang, puts a tracker on herself and is “caught” by a mob boss to ascertain his position, and risks her life in several skirmishes to gather intel for the Republic. She does all of this while juggling a term as a Senator and begrudgingly maintaining a campaign for a new government position. Because of such a hectic, dangerous lifestyle dedicated to the galaxy, she seems to give up all her personal free time and any relationship she might have been able to enjoy; in fact, her self-sacrificing nature is the reason she never sees her loved ones, and despite understanding this, she continues working hard.

Bloodline especially highlights Leia’s selflessness in one scene with Han: after surviving a life-endangering mission and dutifully resuming a campaign for a grueling term in office, Leia is told by the scoundrel, “Don’t apologize to me for taking this too seriously, okay? You put duty first. Drives me crazy sometimes, but that’s who you are.” After hearing this assertion through a galaxy-spanning call, Leia attempts to console Han by telling him they’ll eventually get to spend time together, saying, “Someday.” Yet immediately after this, the reader sees that “The words sounded like a promise. But Leia couldn’t make herself believe that day would ever really come… and she knew Han couldn’t, either. Someday was the sun disappearing behind a cloud, a morning lost to darkness long before night should have come.” With this single paragraph (that is also constantly reinforced throughout the book) we can see just how altruistic Leia is, and how she endures the fact that her moral sacrifices will always take a toll on her life—and even, sometimes, others.

  1. She’s Still Awesome

leia-killin-itAs mentioned previously, Leia dedicates almost all of her time to either helping or saving the galaxy. However, this dedication doesn’t just involve long Senate meetings or even venturing out on dangerous missions where someone else does the hard work—for Leia, it means taking charge of her allies and destroying her enemies in a way that is uniquely charming to the last. Even her aide tries to temper her particularly confident gusto in one scene:

“But, Princess Leia!” C-3PO’s voice rose in alarm. “You can’t! The mission sounds terribly dangerous.”

“Threepio, in the quarter century you’ve served me, have you ever known me to run away from danger?”

“Well. No.” The droid considered this a moment before adding hopefully, “Yet you might eventually develop a stronger instinct for survival.”

Leia couldn’t help laughing. “Don’t count on it.”

Leia’s observation of herself undoubtedly rings true in the rest of Bloodline. Throughout the novel, she’s unafraid of confronting any sympathizers of the old Empire. She is the first to detect a terrorist attack and move everyone from danger, the only operative on her team who runs deeper into a criminal’s city—and kill a mob boss while doing so—and the lead investigator that uncovers a coalition of radical paramilitary groups preparing to fight the New Republic. Each of these moments—and many more within the novel—continue displaying Leia’s skill, courage, and gusto, all confirming that she is still the awesome Princess-warrior that we came to know and love in the Original Trilogy.

general-leia

Carrie Fisher: “There is no point at which you can say, ‘Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

Leia Organa is an incredible character. Throughout the films, we grew to understand that she was an influential, intelligent fighter, and Bloodline only reinforces and enlightens our perception of her. When I first drafted this post, I had hoped that we would continue to see Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of her incredible character for several more years—but now, we can only hope that Episode 8 will give us one final look at this fantastic persona, even more deeply exploring the lonely, hardened, selfless, and incredible woman that was seen throughout Bloodline. I’m optimistic that more books will do the same. May Carrie Fisher rest in peace, and may we continue to remember what she added to this world through her introductory portrayal of such an inspiring character.

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Rogue One: Adding Depth to the Dark Side

SPOILERS ahead for Rogue One:

Star Wars films are no strangers to harrowing stories or moments. In some sequences like the Battle of Hoth or the Battle of Endor, the camera offers several shots of dying soldiers. In other moments, like Anakin’s destruction of the Jedi Temple, the films more clearly hone in on known characters’ downfalls while taking the time to ensure the audience understands the dramatic importance behind each dark detail.

Rogue One, however, adds a whole new level to the grisly side of Star Wars. While it still balances lightheartedness and drama in some scenes, the film is much closer to the tone of Saving Private Ryan than any other movie in the Star Wars franchise. It hones in on the pain of those within its story, and mercilessly—and intriguingly—showcases a more gritty dark side of the Star Wars galaxy through a variety of tools:

1. The Suffering:

why-would-you-make-a-pun-you-8-foot-asthmatic-robot

The suffering in Rogue One adds a layer of pain that we’ve never seen in the franchise before. One moment that utilizes this is, of course, the scene in which Darth Vader immolates several Rebels. Though the moment is short, the sheer panic and mayhem that explodes when Vader approaches the men is enough to show the audience just how horrifying the Galactic Civil War really was. No longer are we seeing faceless Clone Troopers blow up droids, or watching the moment that only foreshadows Anakin killing children—this time, we’re up close and personal with several human warriors that we’re rooting for, listening as they scream in horror before being slaughtered.

Second, a smaller, albeit possibly more telling detail in the film that showcased suffering was near the beginning, when Jyn saves a crying child. This is the first time in the Star Wars films that the audience has seen a child actually despairing in the middle of combat. Though we get the dramatic hint towards Anakin Skywalker’s killing of younglings and see one young warrior fight in Episode 3, Star Wars had yet to show us the emotional reaction of a child within the horrors of war. As soon as we glimpse this moment, however, Rogue One carries on with the film, not stopping to dramatize or emphasize the point any more than it needs. It simply shows that children are being hurt by the Rebels’ battles and moves on. These two scenes offered a glimpse at just how terrifying the galaxy could be, whether one was a child or a grown soldier, and in so doing added a more austere level of human suffering that was previously unprecedented in Star Wars movies.

2. The Story:

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More obviously, the overall story of Rogue One shows just how dark Star Wars can be. It didn’t take its time dramatizing every single death that occurred, nor did it withhold itself from harming the most beloved characters—it simply showed the deaths of its protagonists, sometimes with an almost indifferent tone, as though simply detailing the sacrifices made. First came Galen’s death, which, unlike Vader’s in Episode 6, gave his child no comfort or resolution apart from confirming that she still had a job to do. Then K-2SO, the film’s main comedic source, was abruptly eliminated, and then Bodhi was taken in an unforgiving explosion, and so on and so forth until every main protagonist was gone. Some died holding each other for several painful moments, but others fell in quick, bursting sequences of flame and shrapnel that were as merciless as the bombs that caused them. The uncompromising, successive, and varied deaths that all but ended the story showed that Star Wars doesn’t need a happy ending—that sometimes, people will fight the good fight and still be destroyed by the dark.

3. The Rebellion:

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Perhaps most importantly, Rogue One shows a much more questionable side of the Rebellion than most fans had glimpsed before. First to note are the harsh decisions of the Rebels around Galen Erso: one Rebel leader explicitly tells Cassian Andor to kill Jyn’s father, even though he comes to understand that the Imperial superweapon that Galen’s helping with is already operational. Even after Andor refuses this order, however, X-Wings scramble on Galen’s location and are the cause of his death—showing just how ruthless the Rebellion can be, and confirming how the Empire is not alone in accepting collateral damage for its cause.

Second, Rogue One also displays the Rebellion’s dark side simply by having characters reveal the organization’s weaknesses. Bodhi, the Imperial pilot who throws in his lot against the Empire, seems to perceive Saw Gerrera’s violent men with fear and learns that Saw is happily willing to risk Bodhi’s sanity for his own safety.  When Jyn debates with the Rebel leaders that are deliberating around a table, the coalition almost looks to be a disorganized, spineless mess that doesn’t even make the decision to try attacking the Death Star. And for the Imperials and many citizens of Jedha, those fighting the Empire must look to be a group of troublesome, radical terrorists that stir up deadly skirmishes in their cities. These details show just how disorganized and dangerous the Rebellion truly was to itself and others around it.

captain-and-his-friend

Minutes in, Rebels are backstabbing.

Finally, Cassian Andor provides perhaps the most in-depth view of the Rebellion’s dark side. Within one of the first scenes of Rogue One, he shoots an unarmed man in the back. Soon after, he keeps Jyn behind in his ship for the purpose of shooting her father. Even after deciding not to assassinate Galen Erso, he later justifies his joining Jyn by stating that he’s done too many things that he wanted to forget. He speaks for perhaps twenty other rebels when he expounds that his dark deeds need a purpose. Instead of claiming to help the galaxy or serve some ethical code, he defends his loyalty to Jyn only with a desire to give his actions a sense of importance and meaning. This explanation takes away from a gaudy, heroic explanation for the Rebels’ actions, and shows how, sometimes, people in this war were only fighting and killing so they could remain part of something bigger than themselves.

 

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Rogue One took on a darker tone than most Star Wars films, and in so doing was able to make a profound impact. As I stated four months before this film was released, all the heroes needed to die to show the sacrifice it took to be a Rebel. But the movie also adds complexity to the dark side of the Star Wars franchise by showing how much one could suffer within its worlds, by ending a story with several uncompromising defeats, and by displaying just how uncertain the morality of the Rebellion could be. Perhaps most important of all, however, was one lesson the film could only offer because of its dark, grim content. Saw Gerrera himself explained the point of this takeaway in the newest Star Wars novel, Catalyst:

“That wasn’t the point.”

“What was?”

“Believing that your actions mattered, and believing that a good end would come of them, even if you didn’t live to see the results.”

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C-3PO Is Actually a Fantastic Character

C-3PO, the golden protocol droid in Star Wars, has received plenty of criticism throughout the decades, whether it be through online discussions, most-hated characters lists, or articles describing him as excrement. However, C-3PO’s critics may have missed some crucial details about the character that make him, frankly, awesome. Specifically, there are 3 aspects of the droid that should receive far more praise:

  1. Foil:

never-tell-me-the-odds

C-3PO is a perfect foil for other characters. His constant observing and fretting offers the audience a unique look at several characters in Star Wars: no one else remarks on their annoyance with Jar Jar Binks, but C-3PO’s dialogue hints at his own apprehension with him, suggesting others were probably not amused, either. “You know,” he says, “I find that Jar Jar creature to be a little odd.” Not only does C-3PO offer criticism here that could hint towards others’ opinions on Jar Jar, but his words throughout the films often incite comments that offer rare insights to the personality of other characters. Without C-3PO’s worrying and warning, the audience would never have Han’s line, “Never tell me the odds,” which clearly reinforces just how reckless and adventurous the smuggler was.

Along with dialogue, C-3PO’s actions, and other’s reactions to him, also provide greater looks into various characters. C-3PO shows how charitable Chewbacca is when the Wookie attempts to repair the droid on Cloud City—as soon as he wakes up, C-3PO realizes his head is backwards and shouts, “You flea-bitten furball! Only an overgrown mop-head like you would be stupid enough—” before Chewie shuts him off. However, despite the insults deriding his appearance, Chewbacca simply resumes repairing the robot and, when it’s time to move, carries the entire droid on his back. This instance is a rare one that few others could replicate to show just how loyal and dedicated Chewbacca was. Along with a wide variety of other actions and comments (from showing how eager Luke was to join the Rebellion against the Empire in Episode 4, to getting Leia to show her wariness when she asserts that Lando is “very friendly,” to displaying how calmly Luke helped convince the Ewoks of Threepio’s divinity) it seems that C-3PO has offered fans a uniquely in-depth look at the Star Wars galaxy.

  1. Dignified Accomplishments:

a-golden-god

C-3PO actually accomplishes a lot throughout Star Wars. Admittedly, he makes plenty of mistakes, and gets himself into trouble in a droid factory, Cloud City, and Jabba’s palace. But he also lives through plenty of dangerous missions and situations—he escapes the clutches of a Star Destroyer, survives the deserts of Tatooine, discovers the Imperials on Cloud City, recognizes that the Rebels should trust Lando first, translates for Jabba himself, and becomes a god that recruits the species which helps bring down the Second Death Star.

Additionally, as C-3PO repeatedly aids the Rebellion in its fight against the Empire, he performs each of his actions with a sense of dignity. Throughout the movies, he is constantly berating others for their foolish mistakes and defending his own decisions and capabilities. Much like his worrying, this grounds C-3PO as a useful, believable character. He is neither an unstoppable force of power and will, nor a foolishly bumbling creature, but a being of fearful yet dignified action, setting himself apart from the overconfident and the odd that we don’t always revere. This basis of a character that both defends his actions and asserts his opinions with earnestness (though sometimes coupled with franticness) provides a character that the audience will both take seriously and respect when he finally comes through.

  1. Relatability:

translating-for-the-biggest-gangsta-in-the-galaxy

Many in the audience should easily relate to C-3PO. While I’d like to imagine strutting into Jabba’s Palace like Luke, calm and collected, I’d probably be more like Threepio, worrying over all the possibilities of pain and death ahead of me. After all, Jabba is one of the greatest crime lords in the galaxy; C-3PO’s actions are equivalent to approaching Al Capone or El Chapo in an elaborate scheme to steal one of the gangster’s most prized possessions—so it would only make sense for the droid to be on the verge of panic, failing to warn Luke of the Rancor’s pit and constantly fretting over the danger he was in. Resultantly, C-3PO’s innate worry for his own safety in a variety of life-threatening situations should strike a chord with many fans.

Because C-3PO often gives off a vibe of ineptitude or incompetence, he also contrasts the heroes of the story while showing a more realistic role to play. Without C-3PO, Han’s recklessness and Luke’s adventurism could appear almost commonplace within the Star Wars galaxy, as the person who fights against these brave characteristics is often the golden droid himself. Without him, we couldn’t fully appreciate the courage of the heroes or the hopelessness of the common folk. Perhaps this is why his character is so often criticized; C-3PO often shows normalcy. For an audience seeking fantastic tales involving mystical energy fields and a story of good triumphing evil, seeing a character with an ordinary—albeit disappointing—feeling of despair is disheartening. Strangely enough, because C-3PO is often a more flawed, human character than his human counterparts, we can perceive him as weak—when he’s actually providing someone we can relate to and someone to realistically contrast against the undying valor of those we want to become.

auralnats-blessing-to-earth-in-rap-method

Despite C-3PO’s constant berating by some fans, it’s clear that he’s a reflective, accomplished, and relatable individual. While the Auralnauts’ rendition of him (see above) provides a fascinating (and hilarious) side of Threepio, his actions within the Star Wars films alone are enough to defend him as a useful and fantastic character.

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Rogue One’s Post-Election Release Is Perfect

The newest Star Wars movie, Rogue One, will be coming out on December 16th, and its timing is impeccable. It looks as though the film will focus on several themes that people around the world have contemplated during and after the Brexit vote and the American Presidential election. Specifically, there are 3 concepts that many have considered around these monumental political events which the movie could effortlessly capitalize on:

 

  1. “The World is coming undone.”

star-destroyer-looming-over-city

Within the last few months, the world has been shocked by two occurrences that will have gigantic international repercussions for years to come: Brexit, the UK’s chance to leave the EU, was disparaged around the globe by statisticians, politicians, and even the UK’s own treasury and the Institute for Fiscal Studies—yet the sovereign country still voted to separate. In the recent American election, people around the globe expressed fear in Donald Trump and asserted that he would be worse than Hillary Clinton at combatting terrorism, improving the U.S. economy, and promoting world peace, and yet he won. And figures on both sides of these conflicts have openly expressed a sense of their world falling apart—even Trump’s rhetoric constantly emphasized that America was being destroyed and corrupted, and many who opposed him now consistently speak of impending doom.

It’s clear that any who paid attention to these decisions have, at the least, felt discouragement at some point and, at the worst, experienced complete despair. Rogue One should easily capitalize on these powerful feelings of impending danger or even doom. In the second trailer for the film, the Rebel character Saw Gerrera explains, “The world is coming undone… Imperial flags reign across the galaxy.” The trailer shows several views of Imperial might, even focusing on a colossal warship looming over an entire city. These oppressing visuals, and the sense of hopelessness and despair they produce, should undoubtedly be more thoroughly explored in the movie and deeply resonate with some people around the world. Anyone who fits into Disney’s target audience and whom might be affected by recent political decisions will more thoroughly understand the effects of despair within their communities (whether such despair is exaggerated or not), and they may have even experienced such anguish themselves—making them all the more desperate to see how those in the film cope with it.

 

  1. “We have hope.”

donnie-being-a-freaking-boss

Also inherent in Rogue One’s themes is something the audience should be particularly fervent for understanding: hope. Those who’ve recently experienced a crisis—whether they consider it the rule of an evil Empire or an ignorant leader—constantly search for some kind of optimism, and it is clear that Rogue One will show how to do just that. At one point in the third trailer, one woman asks despondently, “If the Empire has this kind of power, what chance do we have?” Jyn Erso, the protagonist, appears to respond earnestly, “We have hope… Rebellions are built on hope.” Later, she adds further encouragement, “We’ll take the next chance, and the next—you’re all Rebels, aren’t you?” It’s clear that Rogue One should explore the concept of hope and of making positive change within the characters’ dire situations. With the currently zealous discourse over political surprises and possibilities of dying international relations, few things could strike Disney’s audience more powerfully than showing how to continue making positive effects in a faltering world.

 

  1. “What will you become?”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Felicity Jones) Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm LFL

When combatting something perceived as evil (whether it’s in the form of a tyrannical dictator or a misguided idealist), people also often seek to understand who they are—they must decide how they will act, what moral code to live by, and which side they will join. Such a soul-searching set of questions that people around the globe may be asking themselves requires plenty of focus and exploration—and, once again, Rogue One will hit it right on the head. Saw Gerrera ended the film’s first teaser trailer by asking, “What will you do when they catch you? What will you do if they break you? If you continue to fight—what will you become?” As he asks this, we see the main character even dressed in Imperial garb—possibly posing falsely with the Empire, but undoubtedly hinting at the dangers of attempting to fight such a dominant enemy. Clearly, Rogue One will need to thoroughly explore this question, showing how Jyn Erso and others respond to and change in a growing crisis—and audience members will connect in kind, undoubtedly relating to the protagonists in the film as they question their own choices and evaluate how far they must go to fix their world.

 

planet-explosion

“The power we are dealing with here is immeasurable.”

There have been a variety of reactions to recent political occurrences, and there have been interestingly varied predictions on the quality of the newest Star Wars installment. However, whatever one’s political and artistic opinions, it’s clear that Rogue One will blend perfectly with some of the expressions of despair, searches for hope, and definitions of character that have come about from the Western world’s most recent political events.

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Analyzing Semblance of Donald Trump in Jabba the Hutt

The American Presidential election of 2016 has displayed a tumultuous variety of words and speeches, and the resulting analyses about this election have followed suit. While many discussions have targeted the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and brought up many valid concerns, allegations, and conflicts of interest against her, there is one comparison that seems to be particularly fascinating to Star Wars fans: the association of Donald Trump with Jabba the Hutt (examples are here, here, and here). Most of these correlations have been satirical, or at the very least shallow in their analyses—but I’d like to seriously discuss if these are accurate parallels or mere semblances between the two figures. In doing so, I will exclusively examine three aspects in which they are often associated together:

  1. Business Transactions:

    the-art-of-the-deal

    These are both very real products.

Both Jabba and Donald Trump built their initial reputations from their businesses, and both can get a bad rap. Jabba is a crime lord, trading narcotics and illegal substances while taking effective political command of vast regions of space—according to Bloodline, he left such enormous black markets open that several different mob bosses claimed them after his death. And according to his critics, Donald Trump has also participated in a variety of shady (or at the very least, odd) transactions that may appear similar to Jabba’s. The accusations range from purchasing portraits of himself at charity auctions and a business scam in the form of an unlicensed university to allegations of broken anti-discrimination policies and monetary ties with mafias.

However, while Donald Trump has been involved in over 3,500 lawsuits, he still avoids convictions. And, more obviously, his business is nowhere near as deplorable as Jabba the Hutt’s. Jabba the Hutt’s entirety of wealth was built from illegal activities, and his reputation was one of purely unlawful dominion. So, are Trump’s questionable business activities truly resembling of Jabba the Hutt’s? Of course not. While he has several doubtful events in his past, Trump publicly condemns illegal practices and has at least a few businesses that can stand on their own as reputable organizations—which are two facts that Jabba cannot claim for himself, and so this comparison is relatively unsound.

 

  1. Remarkable Confidence:

that-confidence-tho

Another similarity that, on the surface, appears possibly valid between Donald Trump and Jabba the Hutt is their shared confidence. In the face of any danger, they both tend to scoff at risks, disregard accusations, or deny attackers, for better or for worse. When Leia threatens Jabba the Hutt with a thermal detonator, Jabba laughs and simply compliments his opponent before offering an ultimatum. When Donald Trump considered Hillary’s chances of winning aloud, he laughed and simply asked how embarrassing that defeat would be. Later in Return of the Jedi, well after Luke has proven his seriousness in slaying Jabba’s pet monster, he tells Jabba: “Free us or die.” Once again, Jabba laughs and then commands that his opponent be sent into the deadly Pit of Carkoon. In like manner, when Trump faced increasingly negative polls in mid-October that heavily predicted his loss, he balked at a legitimate defeat, explaining how the election was rigged and how he’d determine if the validity of any loss on his part was true when the time came.

It is here where a distinction should be made. Jabba’s confidence seems more direct in these situations, but he also more clearly has the upper hand. With Leia, he can very rationally understand that all he has to do is keep offering a higher amount of money to save his skin. And Luke, a single, unarmed warrior who barely had the luck to kill Jabba’s monstrous pet, appears to be the only person threatening Jabba and his surrounding entourage of thugs, mercenaries, and bounty hunters—Jabba’s confidence in Return of the Jedi seems, from his perspective, undeniably logical. Donald Trump, on the other hand, scoffed at the concept of a valid defeat in mid-October even though he was obviously challenged by his opponent at the time; even if certain polls and predictions had errors of over 25%, he was still more likely to lose against Clinton. Yet he was somehow able to maintain a confident position despite these statistics standing against him, managing to laugh at the high chance of losing and blame the possibility of defeat on something that had nothing to do with his quality as a winner. Subsequently, it seems Donald Trump actually has much more confidence than Jabba the Hutt—or at the very least, has had better situations to display such unfaltering self-assurance. It is up to the voters to decide if such conviction is a sign of an informed leader or an ignorant one.

 

  1. Treatment of Women:

i-dont-even-wait

The final link most commonly made between Donald Trump and Jabba the Hutt are accusations of misogyny. At first glance, an uninformed voter might mistake their behavior as vaguely similar but find one distinctly more condemnable—Jabba the Hutt forces Leia, a dignified princess and warrior, into a metal bikini and chains her around the neck while surrounding himself and his entourage by all sorts of non-consenting female dancers. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has over a dozen sexual assault allegations standing against him and has been accused of misogyny for saying that “I don’t want to sound too much like a chauvinist, but when I come home and dinner’s not ready, I go through the roof,” and asserting that “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the p***y.”

Though Trump’s words and rumored actions obviously must be renounced, the initial comparison between these two figures just doesn’t stand. It seems that Jabba the Hutt’s acts of sexual enslavement and public abuse are easily more incriminating at the moment than whatever Donald Trump has been proven to commit. Additionally, Donald Trump has attempted to deny or apologize for the most chauvinistic of these acts or accusations.

Yet another distinction must be made here. Jabba the Hutt undoubtedly has displayed more incriminating acts open to the view of the public—but Jabba the Hutt does not defend his actions. He makes no apologies for what is obviously inappropriate behavior, he offers no acknowledgement to even the slightest of his maltreatments, and he is not running for president. Donald Trump, however, can misleadingly offer excuses for a variety of actions while attempting to convince others of his moral character. In one case, he expressed regret about stating that he didn’t “even wait to start kissing [women],” later saying, “I was wrong, and I apologize.” However, when pressed upon the previous comments and informed that his words described sexual assault, instead of clarifying that he knew his words meant disregarding the idea of consent, he only replied, “No, I didn’t say that at all.” He then proceeded to repeatedly defend the unethical words as mere “locker room talk.”

Such an apology has distinctly different effects from Jabba the Hutt’s behavior. Donald Trump’s apologies minimize the seriousness of his words—and in so doing offer justification for others to continue in his footsteps, excusing their actions as something “done for the purpose of entertainment” or being only examples of “locker room” behavior. While Jabba is blatantly unrepentant, allowing the audience to easily call out his mistakes, Donald Trump can deny wrongdoings or justify completely unethical statements, making his missteps much more difficult to call out and correct. It is up to the voter to determine if brash behavior in a gangster’s palace is more damaging than a mitigating mindset towards violating human rights in the Executive Office of the President.

 

how-embarrassing-would-that-be

Upon analysis, we see that Jabba the Hutt and Donald Trump share little resemblance between each other. Jabba the Hutt clearly has more overtly questionable business transactions, while Donald Trump holds a particularly potent sense of self-confidence and more openly defends certain questionable acts against women. Apart from the possibility of both figure’s defeats coming from women of extensive political backgrounds, the comparison between the two should stay as satirical and shallow as most of its creditors originally intended—but voters need to consider the fact that this comparison is still being made. And they should understand the implications of voting for any candidate that arguably trumps Jabba the Hutt in some of his most distinct characteristics.

 

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Kylo Ren Should Be a Spy

(SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead)

There have been several disputes over whether or not Kylo Ren, the main antagonist of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is a spy (e.g. here and here). While these arguments bring up interesting points on both sides, it seems clear that there simply isn’t enough evidence to prove that the Master of the Knights of Ren is actually a double-agent. There is, however, plenty of evidence to see why he should be one: Rey should be evil, and there are 3 reasons Kylo Ren’s role as a spy would greatly improve the story of this new trilogy:

 

  1. Muse:

forgive-me

If the later films of the sequel trilogy explained that Kylo Ren was working against Snoke, the audience would gain an awesomely different understanding of Kylo Ren’s muse. He speaks to Darth Vader as a source of inspiration within The Force Awakens, and if Kylo’s trickery was revealed, we’d get a fresh outlook on the scenes involving Kylo Ren’s obsession with Anakin Skywalker—and the writers could use a number of details to convince us of this surprise:

Rey senses that Kylo Ren is seeking to replicate Vader’s actions. She knows his deepest fear is that he may never be “as strong as Darth Vader.” Nevertheless, future films could show that she failed to realize that his fear isn’t in failing to destroy a Rebellion—it’s in failing to overthrow Snoke, much like Darth Vader overthrew the Emperor.

its-your-boi-kylo-ren-on-another-react-video-here

“I will finish what you started.”

Additionally, Kylo Ren tells his idolized grandfather—whom he never actually addresses as Vader, but only as “grandfather”—that he will “finish what [Vader] started.” Here, if he were a spy, Kylo Ren wouldn’t be referencing the downfall of the Jedi; he’d be talking about returning balance to the Force and ending the reign of an evil leader, just like Darth Vader did. Since Darth Vader shifted into goodness in Return of the Jedi, it would make sense for him to stay there and for Kylo Ren to be talking about helping the light side of the Force when he explains that “I’ll let nothing stand in our way.”  This correlation to such a tremendous character as Darth Vader could make the audience appreciate Kylo Ren more, as he would no longer be a failing villain, but a lonely hero. It would also create a fantastic surprise for fans who could go back to these quotes and see that they fit perfectly for Kylo Ren playing a saboteur role.

A reveal of good intentions would also give further meaning to Kylo Ren’s words, “Forgive me. I feel it again. The pull to the light… the Supreme Leader senses it.” Later films could explain that Kylo utters these words because, for him to truly invade Snoke’s ranks, he has to be steeped in the dark side. He has to follow evil commands, slay his father, and massacre the Resistance until he’s finally close enough to Snoke to kill him. Such a character might be “torn apart” by the things he must do if he’s a spy. He might still feel the call to the light, which would bring out a compelling, desperate plea to help him stop feeling that call so Snoke would continue trusting him.

To continue receiving aid in this act of deception, however, it would also be logical for Kylo Ren to ask Vader to “show me again—the power of the darkness.” Anakin Skywalker, who destroyed his government, his community, and his own wife, would easily be able to show Kylo Ren the horrors of the dark side. So, when Kylo Ren asks to see the power of the darkness, he wouldn’t be asking for Vader’s bestowal of a dark ability. Instead, it would be much more interesting and unanticipated if he were asking for a vision of the awful things Snoke can do to the galaxy, and for a teaching of why he should sacrifice everything—his name, honor, and family—all in the attempt to stop the First Order.

It’s clear that there is a unique opportunity for fans to reinterpret these moments as Kylo’s attempts to remind himself of how and why he’ll take down the First Order. Such a surprise would offer fans a chance to rewatch The Force Awakens with their perspectives flipped upside down, and it would subtly make Kylo Ren a more interestingly conflicted character.

 

  1. Changing the Power Struggle:

i-can-show-you-the-ways-of-the-force

The Master of the Knights of Ren could also surprise the audience by providing an intriguing contrast to the Original Trilogy—and he could do this with a variety of captivating explanations. In The Force Awakens, he’s involved with a power struggle that is familiar to the fans of Star Wars: Episodes V and VI:

Vader tells Emperor Palpatine that Luke “will join us or die” in The Empire Strikes Back, much like Kylo Ren when he assents to Snoke’s command to “Bring [Rey] to me.” Later in Episode V, Darth Vader proposes to Luke that they join together and rule the galaxy, showing serious disloyalty to his master. In Episode VII, Kylo Ren mimics this action when he tells Rey that he can show her the ways of the Force—hinting towards the same perfidy his grandfather had by recommending himself as Rey’s teacher, not Snoke. Just as the struggle for Luke’s loyalty continued throughout the rest of the Original Trilogy, it seems that we could find a very similar tussle for Rey’s support in Episode VIII.

However, not only does Kylo Ren disregard Snoke’s command by offering his training to Rey, but he also offers training in “the ways of the Force”—not in the dark side. He makes an offer that is strikingly similar to Darth Vader’s proposal, yet in this case, it has nothing evil mentioned in it. If Kylo were a Resistance spy, then instead of asking for help in galactic domination in this scene, he would simply be checking if he can train this warrior and eventually unleash her against the First Order.  This ulterior motive would be a thought-provoking change—instead of a rote replication—of the power struggle seen in the Original Trilogy. This change would also help set this film apart from the exhaustive criticism marking The Force Awakens as a simple rehash of its predecessor.

you-need-a-teacher

“I can show you the ways of the Force.”

Of course, if Kylo Ren considered training Rey for a good purpose, the writers of these films would need great reasons for why he destroyed Luke’s Jedi Temple and his trainees, and why Kylo Ren wouldn’t send Rey to train with Luke. But these explanations behind Kylo’s altering of the power struggle could be even more intriguing than the altering itself.

Kylo might have been fully seduced by the dark side and killed all those in the new Jedi Order before realizing he was mistaken—much like Darth Vader did through Episodes 3 to 6. Or, if Kylo was ruthless enough and needed a way to prove his loyalty to Snoke, he may have slain Luke’s trainees under the belief that he’d eventually slay the leader who had no qualms about destroying entire star systems. Another—and possibly the strongest—explanation could be that both Kylo and Luke knew that subterfuge was the best idea, and they sent all other apprentices into hiding while Kylo spread the rumor that he’d murdered them. This justification could explain why we still haven’t seen Kylo killing an apprentice and why Rey had been “abandoned” (or, more accurately, hidden) on Jakku—and it would also clarify why Kylo Ren was so concerned that the First Order knew about “a girl” from the same planet.

Kylo’s position as a spy would have also made it especially difficult to send Rey to Luke—perhaps he wouldn’t trust this girl just yet with the knowledge that he was a saboteur deep in enemy territory. Perhaps Kylo Ren found himself to be more powerful, able, or willing to complete his dark task than Luke was, and didn’t want to send Rey to the lesser soldier. Maybe, if Luke somehow understood Kylo’s intentions, he would want to stay hidden so Snoke would waste resources searching for him, all while Kylo came closer to slaying the Supreme Leader. Whatever his reasons, however, it’s clear that Kylo could have a number of explanations for what happened to himself and Luke before changing the power struggle in The Force Awakens.

All of these possible explanations show how Kylo Ren’s being a spy would only add fascinating intricacies to the story in this trilogy. If Kylo Ren was actually seduced to the dark side and then later returned to the light, or all the trainees were sent into hiding or were abandoned, we could have a much more elaborate backstory behind the characters and the plot of the new trilogy—and such convoluted explanations might force the audience to choose which characters are truly good or evil.

 

  1. Complex Actions:

the-last-day

If he were a spy against the First Order, Kylo Ren’s actions would also be more powerful and intriguing. As a determinedly evil, albeit unstable villain, Kylo is a character more common to many stories and a little easier to analyze. But, if he’s a spy against the First Order, then he’s a multifaceted saboteur demonized by his allies, revered by his enemies, and plagued by his need to maintain a façade of evil loyalty to Snoke. A mix of these traits, combined with a borderline insane ruthlessness needed to continue fooling the Supreme Leader, would provide the audience with a riveting character to watch and understand.

Each of Kylo’s actions as a spy would attempt to maintain a balance between devotion and incompetence. There are several examples of these actions with possibly clandestine objectives in The Force Awakens: Kylo obtains the description of the BB unit from Poe Dameron, but when his troops attack Maz’s palace and nearly capture the droid, he calls off the fight. Though he captures Rey and sees that she’s very powerful, he only leaves her guarded by a single Stormtrooper. He defeats Finn in combat, but only grazes the traitor along the back and disables him instead of destroying him. While some have attributed these failures to Kylo’s incompetence, they are so consistent and repetitive that they could be intriguingly explained by his need to maintain a façade of evil while actually slowing down the First Order.

Of course, there are two other actions that would be even harder to justify, even from a dedicated spy’s standpoint: allowing the destruction of the Hosnian system and murdering Han Solo. However, a closer look shows that writers could draw on two fascinating reasons for Kylo’s genocide and patricide.

he-means-nothing-to-me

“He means nothing to me.”

First, if Kylo Ren is a spy, he would know his job is to sacrifice everything so that the First Order will fall. He wouldn’t just be offering up a lot of his time or his career to this mission; he’d know he might have to give up millions of others if it means he’ll eventually save the rest of the galaxy. If he were such a dedicated saboteur, he’d have to be cutthroat and merciless—allowing him to rationalize away the death of billions in the Hosnian system so he can kill the Supreme Leader who might destroy trillions. This kind of hard-hearted soldier would also know that if his father is within range, he must seek him out and kill him to make Snoke much more trusting. Commitment like this would force the audience to consider the fascinating question of whether or not such an awesomely determined character is truly good or evil.

Second, while killing his father may still be hard to do for the good of the galaxy, Han’s abandonment of the Resistance might have made his death worth the cost. If Kylo were a spy, it’s possible that Han’s eventual desertion of the fight against the First Order completely enraged his son. Kylo would have dedicated his services and his life to combating evil without receiving any thanks—to see his father return to smuggling in the midst of this raging war could easily infuriate Kylo and make him despise his father’s apathetic actions. This anger would be an interesting aspect to explore as a reason for his undying dedication to his mission.

Kylo’s carefully crafted appearance of dedicated incompetence would only add to the reasons he should perform the atrocities in The Force Awakens and blaze the secret path to the First Order’s downfall. And, while watching the death of billions and slaying his father in the name of righteousness would by no means be simple, Kylo’s merciless devotion and Han’s indifference to the galaxy’s fate might have made the actions worth the cost for Snoke’s increasing trust. All of this implied rationalizing, ruefulness, and ruthlessness would present the audience with an immensely complex hero. With pure intentions behind such evil actions, Kylo would clearly border on being psychotic, and such a questionable protagonist would be an incredible character to watch and analyze.

kylo-on-the-catwalk

“Your son is gone.”

This is an intricate, multi-faceted idea to tackle. Kylo Ren would have to use some seriously questionable explanations to justify his behavior. But whether or not he would accomplish all of his misdeeds through deceit, rationalization, or fury, a good cause behind such actions would create an intriguing, complicated story focused on a horrifying protagonist—and the actor for Kylo Ren, Adam Driver, gave a description in an interview that perfectly explains how such a fascinating person could exist: “When they think of their actions as morally justified, it makes them dangerous and unpredictable. There’s no level they won’t go to accomplish what they’re after. I never thought of [Kylo Ren] as an evil person.”

 

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Rey Needs to Be Evil

SPOILERS ahead for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

For the new Star Wars trilogy, Rey has been carved out as the main protagonist, and Kylo as the central antagonist. However, there are a variety of reasons I’d want to see these characters trade those positions through the middle of the trilogy. Kylo Ren should be a Resistance Spy, and there are several aspects that would make Rey’s transition into evil particularly powerful:

Rey:

rey-offering-lightsaber

If Rey is going to be evil, she needs to have good reasons why. While one inherent problem with understanding Rey is the fact that we have very little background on her, we can still find three things about her from The Force Awakens that could easily translate into fury and hatred:

  1. Loneliness: Rey was abandoned on a junkyard planet with no one but her boss to take care of her. This abandonment clearly takes a toll on her psyche, as Kylo Ren notes when he probes her mind and discovers that “[She’s] so lonely.” Though there might have been several motives for this abandonment (some of which are explained when looking at Kylo Ren’s possible transformation) this solitude on unruly Jakku still exposed her to harassment, exploitation, and abuse that she dealt with by beating her fellow desert-dwellers, like those trying to steal BB-8, into the ground. Over a decade of survival on this harsh planet would give Rey plenty of time to grow angry and resentful to her situation on Jakku. If part of the reason she seeks the people who left her on Jakku was because of a harmful rage against her abandoners, this could provide a thought-provoking internal conflict for Rey to come to terms with throughout the rest of the trilogy.
  2. Luke: Along with enduring utter loneliness for the majority of her life, waiting on a person that’s “never coming back,” Rey could also question something else that deepens her turn into evil—Luke’s hiding. There are a number of explanations for why Luke would hide, but at the end of the day, Luke left the galaxy for years, and he probably knew about Rey. For Rey, who just watched Han Solo die and helped take down Starkiller Base, she might perceive Luke as a useless figure wasting his time standing on a rock. Even if Luke didn’t know about Rey, she could still feel betrayed by a Jedi Master who wasn’t seeking to find and train other Force-sensitive beings like her, fueling a rage because Luke might have been “the father [she] never had” (yet another core fear Kylo Ren finds in Rey’s head). This perceived uselessness, even if Luke offers valid excuses for it, would be an interesting spark for a wide range of furies in Rey and, for a strange twist, could cause her to perceive the Jedi as hopeless or even harmful to the galaxy. Doing so would also help Rey connect to the audience—most of us also wonder why Luke would sit on a rock for years, as shown by multiple articles exploring his possible explanations here and here. If Rey were to turn evil because of any bewilderment or perceived abandonment, Episode 8 could use this confusion over Luke’s inactivity to explore just how desperately Rey desires the father she never had.
  3. Retaliation: Rey’s moment of retaliation comes when one of her few weaknesses are exposed (a concept that’s more thoroughly covered in the “Anakin’s Arc” section below). It arrives as Kylo Ren is preying upon Rey’s fears, searching her head and envisioning “the island.” Rey doesn’t respond defensively, but rather aggressively, to this rare feeling of weakness; instead of shielding herself, she invades Kylo Ren’s own head and states his greatest fear of failing to be as strong as Darth Vader until Kylo backs away, defeated. Writers could replicate and extrapolate on Rey’s reaction—immediately using Kylo’s own strategy against him—in later films by having her constantly utilize the same assaults used against her. She was willing to mentally invade Kylo and ultimately physically attack him with a lightsaber—it would be fascinating to see her eventually also resort to the same terror tactics used by the First Order. Rey’s abandonment and ruined view of Luke Skywalker, coupled with her retaliatory reactions, show that, if Rey were to turn evil, the audience would have plenty of interesting conflicts and characteristics to watch unfold.

 Weapon of Choice:

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Another aspect of The Force Awakens that showcases how Rey could turn to the dark side is the weapon she embraces in the film. This weapon, Luke’s lightsaber, is tainted with the slaughtering of dozens of Jedi younglings and the destruction of an entire camp of Tusken Raiders. It also gives Rey a frightening vision that includes the sound of Vader’s breathing, an image showing Rey’s abandonment on Jakku, an apparition of Kylo Ren, and Obi Wan’s words, “These are your first steps.” Future films could focus on this lightsaber’s ability to conjure up and project dark visions and powers to hint towards Rey’s possible shift into evil.

Even Maz hints toward the power of this lightsaber, saying, “That lightsaber was Luke’s and his father before him. And now… it calls to you.” However, Maz isn’t just pointing out that the lightsaber was used by a father and son—she’s naming the two other people who used this saber and also went from full-fledged Jedi to flawed warriors (even if that transformation was only for a moment). She’s also showing that the lightsaber has the power to call to another person—and this dark, powerful object has chosen Rey.

Most important to consider, however, is how Rey treats this tool: she only uses the lightsaber as a weapon, a means to an end, and shows that she’s more than willing to hack away at Kylo Ren. She refuses to take it when Maz tells her to, and only reaches for the weapon when she needs it to combat Kylo—a stark difference from Luke, who took the weapon as a noble artifact of his father’s and didn’t even use the weapon until Episode V. Each of these details could be used to offer intriguing explanations as to why or how Rey would turn evil—and her turn could also offer interesting implications on any future use of this weapon.

Changing the Power Struggle:

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Yet another facet of The Force Awakens that would make Rey’s dark future more interesting is the power struggle over her. In the film, Rey is desired by both Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren—Snoke asks for her to be brought to him, and Kylo tells her that he can be her teacher. This desire for Rey, displayed by both of the main antagonists, isn’t a new concept in Star Wars, however; it clearly reflects a dynamic seen in the Original Trilogy.

Kylo Ren makes an offer that is similar to Darth Vader’s in Episode 5. Both of the villains tell the heroes that they can essentially join together and grow in the Force. Rey’s reaction, however, is wildly different from Luke’s—Luke instantly steps away and says, “I’ll never join you!” Rey, on the other hand, only hears Kylo’s offer, repeats the word “Force,” and then keeps her mouth shut, never verbally addressing the proposal.

After this moment of pondering, Rey suddenly combats Kylo and defeats him. This reaction only displays that, if they were to join together, she’d be the one training him. But Rey never shows any malice towards the idea of a partnership, let alone clearly rejecting it immediately like Luke. Her response, only attacking Kylo instead of his shutting down his offer, clearly isn’t as decidedly noble, and, even if she decides to decline Kylo’s offer, Rey still has yet to face the power of Snoke, much like Luke had yet to face Emperor Palpatine. If Luke, who immediately refused Vader’s offer, seemed so tempted by Palpatine’s words that he actually chopped off his father’s hand before regaining control, then it’s clear that Rey—who didn’t even clearly reject Kylo Ren—could easily fall under Snoke’s temptations and offer a captivating contrast to the power struggle Luke once overcame.

 

Anakin’s Arc:

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A final detail filmmakers should consider for Rey’s possibly evil future is the fact that Rey is extremely similar to Anakin: none of her struggles are external. She’s a competent scavenger, mechanic, pilot, and combatant. Not only does she repair the Millennium Falcon and destroy several TIE fighters in a ship she’s never flown, but she also defeats the Supreme Leader’s right-hand man with a weapon she’d previously refused to hold.

Because she has no external opponents, the only conflicts Rey actually faces are internal—coming to terms with her past, accepting the future, and deciding how and when to fight. Given that Rey’s struggles are internal, it would make little sense for her to remain on the Light side—in doing so, she’d have less conflict for the rest of the Trilogy, just like Anakin would if he had no qualms with the Jedi in the Prequels. Rey’s already faced the equivalent of Luke’s external conflict throughout the entire Original Trilogy by defeating the leading antagonist’s right-hand man; now she has to decide what is morally right and which side she should join.

Again, this conflict is extremely similar to Vader’s. In the Prequel Trilogy, Anakin Skywalker is an ace pilot, an overpowered Jedi, and an unstoppable warrior—the only true problems he faces involve his sense of morality. He, too, has traumatic events that he experiences flashbacks to—like his mother’s death—and they fill him with self-doubt and anger, all of which help shatter his moral façade and turn him to the dark side. After seeing the beginning of this overpowering pattern reflect in Rey, it would be incredibly fascinating to watch her complete the same arc, possibly even counseling with Vader like Kylo did in The Force Awakens in an attempt to be like him. And if this parallel was explored by Rey turning evil in Episode 8, she could, with the right training, become even more powerful (and heart-wrenching) than Darth Vader ever was.

Rey’s turn to the dark side in Episode VIII should occur for a variety of reasons. The motivations, weapon, power struggle, and reflected arcs and choices are just some of the many facets that would be intriguing to explore with Rey’s evil transformation. And the possible results from this shift—from a fight between Luke and Rey to a betrayal of Rey against Finn—would be both horrifying and incredible.

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