Tag Archives: STAR WARS

Tales of the Lairians #1- TWL

WampasLair_SquareOur first episode of our new segment, TALES OF THE LAIRIANS, features good friend, Star Wars artist, and all around third-wheel to the Lair, Joe Hogan as he discusses some of his favorite aspects of the Star Wars universe!

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SWR Balance of the Force 1

Balance of the Force: Harmony

Balance of the Force: Harmony
shazbazzar

“May the Force be with you.”  Nearly forty years ago, movie-goers emerged from theaters with the phrase in their minds and on their lips.  For decades, it has prevailed in pop-culture, eventually leading to “May the Fourth” being regarded as “Star Wars Day” globally.  The Force has become part of our language, our heritage, and, for some, our mythology.  This pervasive concept struck a chord in the twentieth century that continues to intrigue the masses today.

Shrouded in mystery, elevated in mythology, the Force is the singular aspect of Star Wars that fuels imaginations, inflames passionate debates, and drives fans to theaters and television screens time and again to visit that galaxy far, far away.  From Old Ben’s vague explanation of the Force to Luke to Qui-Gon’s specific description of how the Force is sensed through microscopic midi-chlorians, viewers have learned about the Force through dialog and demonstration as characters on-screen have divulged what lies in the minds of George Lucas, Dave Filoni, Lawrence Kasdan, Christian Taylor, and other creators of the movies and shows in Star Wars canon.  Every revelation about the Force presented to audiences brings more questions as fans want to know more about this mystical energy field.  Fans want to know what the Force is, who can use it, how it works, and, of course, what “Balance of the Force” really means.

When Qui-Gon Jinn stood before the Jedi Council beside his padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, he revealed that he had discovered a vergence in the Force — a boy he believed may have been conceived by midi-chlorians.  Mace Windu countered, “You refer to the prophecy of the One who will bring Balance to the Force.”  This revelation of an ancient prophecy which may or may not relate to Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader penetrated the minds of fans and has generated debates and discussions (and essays like this one) for seventeen years.  What do we know and what can we infer about this “balance” from what we’ve seen on-screen in movies and television programs?

Obi-Wan explains the Force

Balance of the Force: Harmony
For those of us who saw Star Wars in order of release, rather than in chronological order, the Force was first mentioned by Obi-Wan Kenobi on movie screens in 1977.  “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power.  It’s an energy field created by all living things.  It surrounds us.  It penetrates us.  It binds the galaxy together.”  The words resound with the depth of hidden meaning in simple statements that sound as if they’ve been memorized from a catechism in the early years of a Jedi’s training.  For the moment, they satisfy the curiosity of young Luke, but on further reflection, there is much left unsaid.  However, the idea of balance is inherent in the harmony implied.  All living things touch the Force as well as create it.  The unity of the galaxy is dependent on each of the myriad components of the Force operating together in concert — each one gives and takes as the Force flows around and through everything.  Although all living beings contribute to and participate in the Force, Ben later explains, “…a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.”  Years later, on Dagobah, Yoda reiterates the same picture of harmony in the Force: “Life creates it, makes it grow.  Its energy surrounds us and binds us.  Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.  You must feel the Force around you.”

Yoda explains the Force

This idea of harmonious balance between all living things continued in the prequels.  When Anakin asked the question for all viewers, “What are midi-chlorians?”, Qui-Gon explained, “Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life form that resides within all living cells, and we are symbionts with them — life forms living together for mutual advantage.  Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force.”  While some fans charged that this seemingly scientific explanation removed the mysterious nature of the Force, Qui-Gon’s words did no such thing.  He simply expanded this idea of the unity of all living things inherently linked to the Force.  In the first episode of The Clone Wars, “Ambush”, Yoda encourages the three clones with him by explaining that each of them the nature of the Force and their connection to it as individuals, even though they may not sense it, “All around us is that which we need to prevail…In the Force, very different each one of you are…Clones, you may be, but the Force resides in all life forms.”

SWReport Balance Ambush

With this picture of the essential harmony of all living things in the galaxy connected by the Force, we gain some insight into what balance means.  Through the give and take of each living thing, the currents of the Force flow between every component part, linking distinct individuals together for the benefit of all through the penetrating, surrounding presence of the Force.

SWReport Balance Aleena

Nowhere is this harmony more evident than in examples of this recurring theme throughout The Clone Wars.  One example of this harmonious balance between living things is seen in in an episode which was initially disdained by many and likely largely forgotten.  in “Mercy Mission” from season four, while C-3PO and R2-D2 investigate the cause of earthquakes on the planet Aleen, they travel below ground and discover the source of the disruptions is due to a disturbance in the peace between the surface and underground realms.  Orphne, a peculiar entity seemingly composed of tiny, luminescent creatures, tells Threepio of a covenant between the Aleena and the subterranean world, saying, “We survive because the ground keeps us apart…Without going through the natural filtering process, the surface air is deadly to us.”  Those who dwelt underground believed the Aleena had broken the seal that separated their two worlds, responding by causing the earthquakes that followed.  This corresponds to what Kindaloo had already told Threepio when he rebuked the ‘droid for entering the subterranean realm:  “Why have the surface dwellers destroyed the peace?  The ground shakes to keep out the foul air which poisons and destroys us.”  It is notable that the surface dwellers were blamed for destroying the peace — the balance that had long been maintained between the two worlds — even though no evidence of this was ever mentioned in the episode.  Also intriguing was that Kindaloo seemed offended by the presence of the ‘droids, emphatically declaring that they did not “belong”.  Could this have been a reference to the idea that ‘droids, as mechanical beings, do not have a connection to the Living Force?

SWReport Balance Kindaloo

In the third season, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka experience an unexplainable phenomenon called “Mortis”.  In “Overlords, we discover that Mortis was “unlike any other, a conduit through which the entire Force of the universe flows.  This planet is both an amplifier and a magnet,” according to Obi-Wan’s vision of Qui-Gon Jinn.  On this unique world, days passed like seasons, as plants emerged with new growth every morning, matured, aged, and lost all signs of life as evening drew its last light.  When night fell, storms prevailed and visions emerged as the sleep of death overshadowed its domain.  This “conduit” of the Force reflected balance between life and death, as well as darkness and light.

SWReport Balance Mortis

Later, in the sixth season, Yoda learns more about this natural cycle of life and death as it is reflected in two distinct aspects of the Force which were sometimes alluded to but not previously explored.  In “Voices”, Yoda hears Qui-Gon’s voice while he is meditating.  Qui-Gon claims to be part of the Living Force.  When Yoda confesses that he has heard a voice from beyond the grave, Ki-Adi-Mundi responds, “The dead are part of the Cosmic Force and lose their individuality.”  The Living Force and the Cosmic Force are aspects of the Force that had been given little more than passing mentions previously.  On Dagobah, Qui-Gon’s disembodied voice instructs the old Jedi Master about these aspects of the Force: “Living beings generate the Living Force, which in turn powers the wellspring that is the Cosmic Force.  All energy from the Living Force, from all things that have ever lived, feeds into the Cosmic Force, binding everything and communicating to us through the midi-chlorians.”  In “Destiny”, Yoda reaches a planet inside which, he says, “life emanates.”  On this planet, he encounters five priestesses who again explain the balance between the Living Force and the Cosmic Force, saying, “When a living thing dies, all is renewed.  Life passes from the Living Force into the Cosmic Force and becomes One within it.  One empowers the other.  One is renewed by the other.”  After passing the various trials required by the priestesses, they inform the old Jedi that he would “learn to maintain [his] consciousness after death.  Enlightenment, spirit, balance.  There is another Skywalker.”  Yoda would be trained to retain his identity and individuality even after he died — perhaps in doing so he could help this unknown Skywalker…

When considering this harmony between all living things relative to both the Living Force and the Cosmic Force, the extreme positions of both the Sith and the Jedi seem to be disrupting this Balance of the Force.

SWReport Balance Witwer

The Sith are marked by their unrelenting desire for power.  Sam Witwer remarked in “The Mind of Maul”, a featurette on starwars.com, that the Sith cling to life because that’s all they have.  For years, fans of Star Wars have accepted that the Sith have no expectation of anything beyond this life.  Therefore, to retain their power, they seek to extend their own lives.  This, even Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, Darth Sidious himself, admits “some consider to be unnatural,” while telling Anakin the Sith legend of The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise. “He became so powerful, the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power…Ironic, he could save others from death but not himself.”  To the Sith, death was to be avoided, for that would mean the loss of power.  As the final temptation to lure Anakin to the Dark Side, Sidious promised the confused Jedi, “To cheat death is a power only one has achieved, but if we work together, I know we could discover its secret.”  Cheating death would disrupt the balance between the Living Force and the Cosmic Force, refusing to return the Force of life to the wellspring of renewal and rebirth.  The thirst for power and selfish passion of the Sith had tipped the scales.

SWReport Balance Jedi Loophole

But the Jedi were complicit, as well.  Though they gave lip service to the relationship of all living beings united together, they held themselves aloof from others, forbidding Jedi to form attachments and develop relationships.  They resided in their ivory towers and Jedi temples as guardians of peace, failing to recognize that in doing so, they, too, had disrupted the balance by failing to fully interact with other living beings except to solve problems and find promising young pupils to train as Jedi. Anakin, frustrated at the Jedi doctrine, strove to find a loophole, telling Padme, “Attachment is forbidden.  Possession is forbidden.  Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is central to a Jedi’s life.”  Later, when counseling Anakin about his visions of Padme’s death, Yoda displays this calloused view towards others:  “Death is a natural part of life.  Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.  Mourn them do not.  Miss them do not.  Attachment leads to jealousy.  The shadow of greed, that is.”  It seems that through their understanding of the relationship between the Living Force and the Cosmic Force, the Jedi had forgotten that life consists of more than simply being born of the Force and returning to it at death.  Life is to be experienced in relationship to other living beings.  Their cold devotion to doctrine may have disturbed the harmony between all living things.

Both the Sith and the Jedi expressed and demonstrated extreme views which could effectively unbalance the status of the Living Force and the Cosmic Force.  Bringing balance to the Force may imply a return to the peaceful, harmonious relationship of all living beings to one another.

Keep watching StarWarsReport.com for the next article in the “Balance of the Force” series addressing the symmetry between the Light and Dark sides of the Force and what that may entail in bringing the Force into balance.

 

Chewbacca Mom and Jimmy Mac Strikes Back – SWR #224

Jimmy Mac, the Lucas Museum, the Chewbacca Mom, more Rogue One details emerge, quick thoughts on Bloodline, Chewie’s Life Debt, and Solo parenting choices, and more! All on the this week’s STAR WARS REPORT!

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“The World According to Star Wars” Book Review

Star Wars Glasses (or how we see the world through the lens of Star Wars).

This is a book review of Cass Sunstein’s The World According To Star Wars.

We all have many different lenses with which we look at life; they can come from from an infinity of different places, but they all serve the same purpose: to provide context for our experience in the world, allow us to perhaps articulate that experience more accurately to others, and in doing so cultivate empathy for them, their lenses, and their experiences. In The World According to Star Wars, Cass Sunstein invites us to take a dive through one of his (and my) favorite life lenses: the Star Wars franchise.

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A Claudia Gray Book Review! No, Not That One

With the release of Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray, I thought it would be a great idea to not review it – because truly that would be the hottest of hot takes, right? Instead I’d like to go back to where it all began with her debut Star Wars young adult novel, Lost Stars. Before I begin I’d like to direct your attention to Nathan Butler’s review, which you can read alongside this, instead of this, leave it entirely or sail away into the sunset on your luxurious boat. I imagine you have a boat for some reason.

Hopefully you can pilot it better than the idiot flying this thing

Hopefully you can pilot it better than the idiot flying this thing

As is my wont, let’s briefly discuss the cover: it is pretty. Carry on.

Okay I should probably say more: I love the composition, it’s stylistically simple (my preferred design) and yet it contains an explosion of colour that I find quite appealing, and the almost comic-book effect of the dying Star Destroyer is a daring but appreciated touch. Also you’ll notice that the artist has given a subtle nod to JJ Abrams by providing not one but two muted lens flares. Truly we live in the renaissance of book cover art.

But – on to the book proper. MILD SPOILERS from here on out.

As M’colleague Nathan Butler notes, Lost Stars is somewhat known as the Romeo and Juliet of Star Wars.

Uh huh

Uh huh

Putting aside the problems with painting every romance as Romeo and Juliet, yes, this is a romance. This feels like a dirty thing to say, though it shouldn’t be. Perhaps it’s the success of the Rom-Com movie genre, but for many people ‘romance’ conjures up negative connotations. If this is so, if your standard is derived from a distaste of Rom-Coms (I mostly empathise) then let me assure you right now that it’s one of the better romances out there.

The story follows two characters from childhood and into adulthood, through the Imperial academy and throughout the Imperial civil war – where the two characters, Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, fight on opposite sides – and just briefly beyond. Throughout this entire story they maintain a deep and enduring friendship which, of course, blossoms into romance. So what makes that romance so good? For my money it was the fact that they both shared a deep passion about a subject – flying – that drew them together, and that they both shared a deep compassion for events and the people of the galaxy. But more than that, they had their differences of opinions – and still managed to maintain that relationship. As I said, one leaves the Empire to fight for the Rebellion, and one stays – this is the main difference, but not the only one. Ciena is, I suppose, a bit of a bogan, a backwards country girl, whereas Thane is the city boy. Though raised on the same planet, they’re from two entirely different communities, which affects their outlook and their actions and it is this that determines their paths later on in life. Because of this foundation, it makes their decisions all the more believable.

Especially after the worst happens. You know, like leaving your wallet on Alderaan.

Especially after the worst happens. You know, like leaving your wallet on Alderaan.

There are of course issues with being on different sides, and it’s not exactly smooth sailing, but for the most part they handle their relationship in a mature and clear headed way that is so very refreshing. This has to be one of the few moments when I’m cheering the lack of drama in a story!

Earlier I mentioned that this is known as the Story With The Romance (working title). This is not entirely the case: it is also the one known as The Story That Takes Place With The Story From The Films Happening In The Background and it’s at this point that we all collectively realise that I’m we’re not very good at naming things. To clarify the point of that explanatory-to-a-fault title, the story of Lost Stars takes place during the Imperial civil war, otherwise known as Episodes IV-VI. Like many in-the-gaps stories, Lost Stars features several characters and scenes from the films – the inclusion of which is often difficult to pull off well. And yet Gray ably succeeds and manages to deliver these old scenes with fresh eyes and new perspectives. So how does she tackle them exactly? Let’s look at the battle of Hoth, and in particular, Dak Ralter – AKA Luke’s co-pilot in the snowspeeder.

AKA The guy about to be squished

AKA The guy about to be squished

In the book there is a little scene between Thane and Dak where nothing of real importance is discussed or happens, but it does provide greater depth to a character who started off with little depth and ends up lacking all depth entirely (see above pic). As for the battle itself, there is an explanation to provide the larger scale context of the war, and Gray does a good job of describing the battle, but for the most part it focuses on Thane and his internal conflict, what this battle means to him and his fears of having to battle Ciena.

And this is something that happens at almost every instance: Gray uses the events of the films as a backdrop rather than the driving force of the plot. She does this by explaining exactly what’s going on – and does so not just out of due diligence, out of the need to be a good writer, but because it enhances her own story – and though she does acknowledge the importance of these events, she doesn’t let it overwhelm her own story. By using the story that we all know so well*, that acts as a sort of crutch, or comfort (without being too didactic about it) and allows both herself as the writer and us as the reader to explore these new characters and these new just-out-of-shot worlds.

*Hopefully; otherwise what are we doing on a Star Wars fansite?

Which brings me to my next point: these two characters are incredibly skilled pilots, operating in extraordinary times – times that are thought so even to the inhabitants of a galaxy that has the Force, Gray still manages to keep the story and characters … normal. Grounded. There’s a mundanity to it all. Trust me, I mean that as a compliment.

'For your sake, you better hope so.'

‘For your sake, you better hope so.’

By this I mean that, even though this is all taking place in the middle of a galaxy spanning war, Gray keeps everything small scale, and as such it feels much more personal. Our main characters aren’t going to win the war single-handedly, they just want to survive it and live their own lives. They’re us, really. So when one is in peril, or when someone close to them dies, or when their Alderaanian friend stays loyal to the Empire even after the destruction of his home planet (yeah, this may be a young adult novel but it tackles some pretty hefty subjects with admirable adeptness), those actions hit home with far more impact than they normally would. And because of it, these characters – for me at least – stuck with me long after I put the book down. Seriously, it’s been months since I’ve read it and I’m writing this!

Before I leave you, I want to bring up something else: the writing itself. There’s a distinct charm to the narration that makes the reading a pleasure in itself. The narrative voice is easy going (in the good way), warm and full of character; it feels like a friend is telling you their story, rather than someone recounting a story. And because of that I’m utterly delighted that Gray got to add a second story to the Star Wars Saga, and hopefully there’ll be many more to come.

Michael Dare