Astral Projection, the Force, and Logic

My generation could accept the idea that Force users could sent a thought, as a voice as in, “Run, Luke, run” or, “Hear me, Leia.” We could accept that a dis-corporation – the collapse of a garment that once had a person in it – and a ghost vision giving advice. The next level in mastery of the Force, full Astral Projection and the ability to transfer an object, was a bit harder to swallow in Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. I have spent many an hour from teen years into middle age defending anything in Star Wars that I could. If we have to accept this new force power, then retro-actively it solves as many problems as it creates. Especially knowing that a force user can choose their avatar seen by whomever they are contacting.
Luke chooses to show himself with a trimmed beard that is more pepper than salt. Leia locates a character as a silhouette and merely says his name to distract him in a fight – and either you believe the exertion of that brief flash of time takes much of her energy … or more likely it is extra effort of moments later manifesting the form of another character expected to have persuasive impact. So retro-actively it makes sense that in the prequel era Palpatine’s polite human-like mask might have been located directly over his actual form, which Lucas says is more the Darth Sideous look with disfigured forehead and yellow eyes. That veneer dropped when Mace Windu deflected force lighting back at him. In Return of the Jedi, in hindsight, it might make sense to say that The Emperor Palpatine did not even have to be physically in his throne room during Luke’s confrontation with Vader. Yoda as a ghost has been shown to summon lightning from the sky, so it is not much of a leap that an astral projection of Palpatine could attack Luke with Force lightning. The man himself might not even have been aboard the Endor Death Star while that was happening. There is that gray area with transfer of matter. Some fun is had with that in The Rise of Skywalker. I remember it being a head-scratcher in The Last Jedi when water droplets or a solid object like Han’s dice were handed over and later dissolved to nothing. That might explain how a physical body of Palpatine could be lifted and dropped by Darth Vader. We might not know just how much that astral projection weighted.
As I reach to excuse how the atomized space station had a surviving chunk, I might theorize that while the explosion is in full bloom as a fireball we can’t see the other side where the chunk might be hurling off into space and it is out of sight by the time we are only seeing white embers. When it landed perhaps the desert and ocean we see might be on a different planet than the forest moon of Endor. The chunk might have floated as debris for a while. Wherever it landed, it was still big enough that it might have caused an extinction event as described in another Jeffrey Jacob Abrams screenplay Armegeddon.
There is an industry of youtubers and columnists either defending these movies for ideological reasons or picking at them for assumed writing oversights due to behind the scenes information or things openly stated. Speculation could be eliminated if we had the opportunity to read whatever has been discarded. George Lucas had written outlines for the sequel trilogy. Some say that Bob Iger despite buying the outlines didn’t “buy” them because they dealt with elements of Star Wars lore that had little nostalgia and were more abstract. The original novelization and early drafts refer to Star Wars coming from The Journal of the Whills which are a microscopic network of beings that give witness to things. In a Japanese interview Kathleen Kennedy was asked about those discarded outlines and she said George had just written, “a couple of paragraphs.” I’d like to see those outlines even if they are just paragraphs. And not because I feel entitled to it, or that as a fan I have “ownership” of Star Wars (that spin has gone way past being tired). We know from the earliest Star Wars drafts Lucas referred to The Force of Others, which was a term that Rogue One ended up using and Ashlan and Bogon were terms for the light and dark side which eventually were used in the series Rebels by characters from yet another culture. I’d also like to read what Michael Arndt wrote for his pass at an outline for the new films. Those had been supposedly intended to cover all three sequel episodes. I’d sure like to read what Colin Trevorrow intended for Episode IX when he thought Snoke was to remain as the Big Bad and Carrie Fisher was still around. I would even gleefully listen to the recorded breaking of story between Lawrence Kasdan and Abrams if someone were so unethical as to hack JJ’s iphone.
The most angry sounding youtubers hoping for Lucasfilm to fail are those who have a hate-on for Rey (Daisy Ridley) and if someone does not like her chances are they won’t like The Rise of Skywalker. Much of the resentment comes from the suggestion that she is a Mary Sue who enjoys aptitude without explanation or struggle. She is said to represent the “participation award” society. If this were true, that might fit the concerns about trends toward not only calling Meritocracy an illusion created by white straight males but also suggesting there is no such thing as merit at all and it just a matter of jockeying for position and making connections to game the system. But I think Rey has merit. She is helpful to BB-8 and when tempted to sell him she respects his AUTOnomy and does not.
As for discovering her force abilities, they are a matter of visualization and focus. For years Rey might have assumed that she just has a knack for finding components of electronics that are of some value and safely dislodging them and understanding what things do, and how they connect. Much the same way that the little boy Annie Skywalker knew how to build vehicles and repair them on the fly and how Luke Skywalker (in less politically sensitive times) used to bulls-eye womp rats from his T-16 in Beggar’s Canyon. Rey’s mental focus had been exercised during that time. And it seemed clear to me that she knew the history of Unkar Putt’s acquisition of the Millennium Falcon and the condition it appeared to be in because the Force-back sequence shows her as a girl having her arm tugged by Unkar Putt so he must have either adopted her or more likely bought her as the sort of slave Annie and Shmi had been to Watto – doing tasks like fixing, testing, or piloting various vehicles or tackling mundane chores. In other words, such a tame version of slavery that in The Force Awakens the word is not used.
This is without having read the answers in other media. I started reading the novelization but there is enough to connect the dots in the movies. Even though Kathleen Kennedy irked a lot of fans with a “The Force is Female” spin, we’ve always wanted to see Leia using the Force so that seems organic (or Organa) and we miss Mara Jade who was most deserving of a TV series and a place in established lore. We have Ahsoka Tano, Ventress Asajj, The Seventh Sister, and the coven they come from as well as various Inquisitors who are force users. Like many elements of Star Wars (desert planet, sand worms, exotic spice) the Jedi have some inspiration from Frank Herbert’s Dune. We will be seeing more of the Bene Gesserit “witches” on TV after the Denis Villeneuve adaptation of Dune Part One in 2020. Movie producers might want to wave a flag of progressive intent, but as we saw with Simon Pegg announcing his ret-con of Mr. Sulu as gay and JJ Abrams trying to coax the LBGTQ crowd by saying there is representation of them in Rise of Skywalker, these things get people riled up on both sides and then it is a blink and you miss it kind of thing. Same with feminism in Star Wars. Princess Leia is now General Organa, fine. Like Jar Jar Binks was a general. Disney discontinued the “slave Leia” action figure immediately, and Carrie Fisher’s response was to remind them when asked for a reaction that story-wise the costume was Jabba’s imposition and that the slave chain came in handy to strangle him.
The Democratization of the Force is something people talked about after The Last Jedi, with the broom boy and with Rey’s background presented as supposedly having no lineage of consequence to the universe. This may be the a reversal of the Midichlorian count in the blood we heard about in The Phantom Menace which described organisms that allowed a person to use the Force. But it also stands to reason that while everyone can enjoy music and benefit from it very few have a clear talent for playing instruments or singing or composing. Whether or not they discover they have that skill or develop it and focus it is yet another issue. Everyone and everything may be one with the force and part of the force, and for me that is fine, and there will also be people with exceptional abilities and disciplines.
My own Star Wars interest is generally the Original Trilogy. I did not care for the Prequels, although Revenge of the Sith is the least weak of those. The current Disney trilogy is entertaining enough, although The Last Jedi wasted valuable running time with Canto Bight as Finn and Rose went on a wild goose chase so we Luke’s third lesson to Rey became a deleted scene on the BluRay bonus disc. There was a false conceit there that we want to spend out time on a side-bar jaunt that doesn’t pan out. They could have met their thief code breaker in the Rebel Brig where Rose was presumptuously dragging Finn after stunning him supposedly as a suspected deserter (from a volunteer Resistance Han, Chewie, and Lando could come and go from without being considered deserters). The character or Rose Tico (the mechanic who seems to know everything about the casino planet but routine protocol about permission to land) seems all about talking down to Finn, while Vice Admiral Holdo talks down to Poe Dameron and Rey often talks down to Luke from the superior positive position after Luke has been ret-conned as somewhat mentally ill or in a funk that robbed the target audience of a change to really see Luke at full power. So it is natural that half the fan base withdrew from Star Wars until the recent Mandalorian show brought back a familiar tone. The Last Jedi has entertaining moments but it lays its ideology on pretty thick. The Rise of Skywalker is not so antagonistic and not as off-putting, even though damage done by Episode VIII has turned some people off of seeing Episode IX just as it did with Solo in 2018. Kathleen Kennedy did assemble a “Lucasfilm Story Group” that reportedly disliked JJ but loved Rian Johnson and the most passionate fans and youtube pundits have carefully named and looked into the work history and background of each member to a scary extent to prove that ideology and not a mastery of the genre or storytelling is what got them hired. So to that extent there is blame to go around where anyone has baggage to bring to a brand. The hyperspace coordinates to Mustafar are twinkling with good intentions.
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is worth seeing if you have seen the previous entries in the Saga. Nobody overstays their welcome. (Can’t say the same for this post, I know.) The role of Ms Tico is reduced, causing some Last Jedi fans (many of whom did not call themselves Star Wars fans before they put the J in SW to make it SJW for that movie) to complain that the character wasn’t as prominent as the one that inspired punks on Instagram to unfairly go after the actress Loan “ Kelly Marie” Tran.
So the eye-roll discourse resumes. Now the director of Crazy Rich Asians has tweeted
that he would happily make a Disney+ series for Rose Tico. Somehow that gets reported as news.
The Mandalorian from what I’ve seen so far seems worthy of the name Star Wars. The Kenobi series with Ewan McGregor will also please a range of fans. Alan Tudyk will play K-2SO in the Cassian Andor series set before Rogue One so that might be fun. But a Rose Tico series just seems to be encroachment of sensibilities of people who typically have not been Star Wars fans but just want to pee in the soup. There is nothing we know about that character that screams a story must be told…. God damn it…. I suppose she said she wanted to destroy Canto Bight and those of us “man babies living in out mother’s basement” want to see that. If she deliberately found a pretense to go back to Canto Bight or get revenge against DJ and then instead of freeing Neverending Story horses ( fathiers) she could conceivably organize broom boy and the other slave kids to revolt. That kid has the ring and maybe can signal for help? I don’t know. I just hate the fact that I thought of something useful Tico can do in a show. Luckily, Disney will never read this rambling “note.” If you made it through to the end, you have more discipline and merit than I do because I failed to resist typing up my manic opinions. May the Force be with you, assuming you have a choice about it if it is in your blood.

 

Star Wars: The Last Straw

Anticipating the release of The Rise of Skywalker, Episode IX of Star Wars, this might be the right time to join the chorus and have a last rant.

Before The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson had been quoted as saying that he didn’t write in isolation but bounced ideas off of something called the Lucasfilm Story Group. I thought wow, they must be the cream of the dramaturgical crop to be in that circle of experts! We could speculate about some great writers that might be consulting there.  In the aftermath of The Last Jedi, Star Wars fans went on a mission to expose each member and examine the credits and education of each Story Group hired by Kathleen Kennedy.

Like  JJ Abrams’ wife Katie McGrath who went on to found the TimesUp movement on the heels of MeToo blowing up, Kathleen Kennedy is driven by identity politics.  In a movie like Lincoln or Schindler’s List, a social message is so central to the story that there needs to be no labored imposition of it.  Looking at something like Star Wars, is someone is not genuinely a fan of it and looks down on the genre at all, it might be seen as nothing more than a delivery device.

At no other time in the history of cinema has it been easier to find out what the core built-in audience for a brand wants to see.  By 2012, the bitter aftertaste of the Prequel trilogy meant that Star Wars fans could see room for improvement and the possibility of a fresh take if George Lucas was not 100% in control and jaded about his creation.  All Disney had to do was get the main characters back together.  The worst thing to do would be to sideline or disrespect them and taint the Original Trilogy.

Let’s look at intentions and whether the logic works.

They wanted to lure audiences with the possibility of getting the band back together. Mark Hamill was paid a bonus to say nothing about how drastically Luke Skywalker was sidelined in The Force Awakens, being a destination more than an active participant.

Harrison Ford’s career as a leading man had a lot of longevity, so his agreement to play Han Solo again opened the door to certain mischief. They would want Chewbacca to be in the movie, which is fine. Chewie died in a much publicized Lucasfilm-approved novel called Vector Prime, being on a planet when it exploded, around the time Han would have been 55.  This opened the door to totally abandoning over a hundred previously approved novels and beyond that also comics that were now branded Legends instead of canon.  Many fans, especially post-Last Jedi, would prefer to consider those novels as representing what “really happened” after Return of the Jedi as seen in 1983.  Some remember the old Marvel comics run that somewhat extended the story, and most refer to Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy.

What we got had the priority of setting up a few new heroes for the future, propped up by the classic Star Wars characters.  Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose Tico, and Kylo Ren were functional enough ciphers and the actors are talented but the writing – thanks largely to the priorities of the Lucasfilm Story Group – ring false.

Finn was raised as a storm trooper and chose humanity and abandoned the First Order, but The Last Jedi portrays his character as if he is an all-round deserter.  This partially through Rose Tico a mechanic who takes it upon herself to spend her hours loitering around escape pods looking for people to stun and drag to to the brig – including a known Resistance hero surely outranking her.  And for this, she is allowed to tag along on a mission.  The whole way, she is the person in the know about the meeting point Canto Bight and informing Finn about where he is wrong and sending them on a wild goose chase or two. She has to be in power and leading because TimesUpMeTooGirlPower.

Princess Leia / General Leia Organa says no to a magnetic bombing run Poe wants to do, so Poe switches off his intercom…. thus making sure he can’t hear her, but why the hell doesn’t the GENERAL have direct communication on the open line to all of the fleet, including the BOMBERS she could call off?

After Poe’s demotion, and aiding a covert mission that fails, and finally leading a mutiny, Leia asks people why they are looking at her and “Follow him.” Which confuses the woke narrative a bit.   Admiral Holdo decides that only she should be left in the rebel flagship, which is known to be a flagship and a one way trip whether she thought of ramming initially or not.  How brilliant is she that she couldn’t pick a droid to sacrifice itself? Rose Tico the mechanic who likes to zap war heroes considers saving the Fartiers (Neverending Story type horses) from the abusing racetrack by helping set them free gets onto a ship with Finn and leaves them in the fields to be easily rounded up again and brought back to their stables.

General Leia is sidelined by recuperation from FLOATING IN SPACE without oxygen.  Her replacement is Vice Admiral Holo, and one would think there would be great comedic potential if a great leader had to be replaced by an incompetent one but that can’t happen because she ALSO has to appear to know better than Poe and keep him in his subordinate place as a male.

Finn is reduced to pining for Rey, ostensibly concerned for her safety but – especially in this universe – isn’t she capable of looking out for herself?

Rey gets to be the enlightened and optimistic, right, and sympathetic one compared to Luke Skywalker’s ret con as a grumpy old Jedi gone to seed.  This is the most disappointing change to Star Wars.   IT ONLY went that way because Rey can’t be mansplained (what we used to call trained) by a white old male.  Master, schmashter. It strains credibility on the script level by finally having Luke (once his force connection is restored) collapse a shelter using “force-push” technique only to have Rey chase him down and fight until he lands on his back supposedly helpless and lets Rey stick her (formerly his) light-saber in his face to pin him down. He could use the very same force-push to flip the saber from Rey’s hand and then suspend her upside down. Instead he gives us his side of the most useless backstory about himself and his nephew.

If he thinks Ben Solo (Kylo) is going to turn to the Dark Side, WHY CREEP to his bedside in the night with a light-saber ready to kill him? Why not ask his mother, Leia, to go talk to him?

And no mention of what uproar happened politically when Luke and Leia’s parentage (Darth Vader) was outed ? There is a Disney-era novel called Bloodline that covers that, but they couldn’t be bothered to make that a pivotal point in the movies.  It makes sense if Ben distrusts his parents and his uncle for keeping a big secret from him.  But if it makes sense, it could not belong.

So there is much to account for.  The woke Lucasfilm Story Group, their boss Kathleen Kennedy, and Rian Johnson especially but also JJ Abrams.  When Lawrence Kasdan was co-writing The Force Awakens, at least the Han Solo material had humor and focus and felt like Star Wars.  And that movie at least flowed, even though it had its own share of head-scratchers and questions never to be answered.

And now they say retroactively that Luke trained Leia in the force and swordsmanship before the events of these new movies.  Okay, fine.  But we know it was not the plan all along because in The Force Awakens Leia refers to Luke as “a Jedi” when talking to Han. That might have been an opportunity to give SOME hint that she is also one.  Maybe Luke is a “better” or “lesser” jedi than her.  But even THEN, I’m sorry but I can’t buy even a Jedi waking up in the vacuum of space and force-pulling herself to safety.

I don’t know if the Sage – or what’s left of it – can force pull itself to safety now.  Too many of the most ardent fans already see Star Wars in a vacuum.  That is to say that – other than the unaltered Original Trilogy – it sucks.