So, if you might have heard, author Chuck Wendig released a book.
Chuck is the author behind Star Wars: Aftermath, the first (of three) books bridging the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Since its release, both Jedi and Sith alike are losing their midichlorian-laced shit over this book.
The common threads amongst haters are:
Chuck wrote the story in 3rd person present tense. Very different from previous Extended Universe books.
In Aftermath, we meet a character that is gay.
There is an unexpected crossover between new Star Wars character Norra Wexley and Marvel favorites, Rocket Raccoon & Groot.
Okay, I might have totally made up that last one, but those other gripes are what a lot of panties twisted in special knots only learnt at Jedi Summer Camps. After reading thinly-veiled attempts at hiding homophobia or anti-Disney sentiments behind various “This is bad writing…” comments, I’m a bit stunned. Star Wars fans are pissed over a gay character and Chuck’s style? Seriously? After everything we’ve dealt with across six movies?
Over the decades, we fans have weathered some serious missteps. And no, I’m not talking about:
- Jar-Jar Binks
- The feeble attempts to have Han Solo appear to shoot in self-defense
We’ve talked about those (and continue to talk about them) at length. What I’m talking about is the kind of writing or direction that should have made fans call them out to the center of the octagon, but I’ve rarely seen happen. If you really want to be pissed off about something in the Star Wars universe, have you considered…
Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi, Last of the Jedi and Biggest Liar in the Universe. Let’s begin with how old Ben Kenobi first described Luke’s dad to him: “He was the best star pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior. And he was a good friend.” And then Obi-Wan sits back, smiles to himself, and gets a far-off look of nostalgia.
In 1977, we thought that was the smile of a man reflecting on a dearly departed comrade and brother-in-arms; but the prequels have turn that into a self-congratulatory “Can I sell the bullshit it or what?” smile. I have asked fans to show me in the prequels where Obi-Wan and Anakin come across as good friends. What I remember from the prequels? A lot of bickering, a lot of talking down to Anakin from Obi-Wan, some more bickering, and Anakin claiming Obi-Wan was holding him back.
Best buds? Nope. Just wasn’t feeling it.
But could Obi-Wan spin a yarn or what? “Your dad and me? Yeah, we were bros! Until that Vader douche murdered him…” and we all bought that until The Empire Strikes Back. Admittedly, an approach of “Your dad? Well, he’s Darth Vader. It’s simple, but it’s complic—how much time you got, Luke?” would have been less than elegant; but Obi-Wan’s “What I told you was true from a certain point-of-view.” excuse in Return of the Jedi really made this wizened warrior look like a prick. I don’t think I was alone in wanting Luke to come back with “You know, when British knights entered Jerusalem on their crusades, the locals there considered them from a certain point-of-view to be invaders.”
Anakin Skywalker, Character Creation Gone Out-of-Control. Where to begin with Anakin? Some fans usually start with either Jake Lloyd or Hayden Christensen, but I say look a little closer at the source material. Right off the bat, Anakin is written as an Immaculate Conception.
Sweet. Crap. Where do you go from there?
Well, I’ll tell ya…
As Anakin is described as “the best star pilot in the galaxy” we got to see him pilot two things in Episode I: a pod racer (that didn’t work until Qui-Gon Force-fixed it) and a fighter that, somehow, he instinctively knew how to fly after living in indentured servitude for…all his life? When in the pilot’s seat of this fighter he doesn’t blows up the enemy space station using mad skills, the Force, or a heaping bowl of Wheaties. No, it’s more like blind luck. Based on that and some joyriding in Episode II, I’m thinking Obi-Wan might have been making one of those “certain point of view” judgment calls concerning Anakin’s piloting skills.
Oh yeah, and in his spare slave-time, Anakin builds droids—specifically C3PO.
Immaculate conception, baby!
Fast forward to Episode II. Nobody really ages…
To add to the stress of being the only one going through bodily changes at .5 past light speed, everybody is calling him “Ani” and when this charming nickname comes from Padmé Amidala, it sounds like she’s talking to her pet pug. If in my teen years people were calling me “Annie” I might pick up a lightsaber and shiv me some children, too; but I’ll give Ani credit, he was mighty chill about that. He was also chill that Padmé, who in the previous film was all “big sisterly” when they first met, is now wearing backless dresses, showing off her rock hard abs in the Petranaki Arena, and wanting to wrestle tongues by the firelight. Gets even more complicated when Obi-Wan suddenly lays down “Bro, Padmé’s a No-Fly zone…” because that’s what “good friends” do: they cock-block you.
Ani wasn’t flawed. Ani didn’t suffer from extreme hubris. Ani was set up for failure. Obi-Wan gave him zero guidance. Yoda wanted him out of the Talent Pool. Padmé played the whole “Well, let’s fool around but keep it a secret…” game. Long before his boss fight with “good friend” Obi-Wan, Ani was a red hot mess with no one looking out for him, apart from R2D2. The bone Palpatine needed to throw Ani didn’t need to be that big. So when the succumbing to the Dark Side finally happened, it wasn’t a descent into madness and despair so much as it was “Seriously, no one saw this coming?” You would have thought one of the Jedi Council would have taken Obi-Wan aside and said “Dudebro, might want to ease up on Anakin. You’re pretty hard on the kid.”
I’m sure from Obi-Wan’s certain point-of-view…
…they were the definition of a bromance.
Tatooine. A Magical Place. Going back to something Luke said in the first Star Wars film: “Well if there’s a bright side of the universe you are on the planet that it’s farthest from.” It has been made clear through multiple characters that this sandbox in space was pretty much the ass-end of the Empire. It don’t get more remote than Tatooine…
…but man, did this planet see some action.
With the exception of Empire, all the films returned to Tatooine. Need a place to hide out? Tatooine. The Sith need to begin a search for wayward Jedi? Where do they start? Tatooine. Want to go off-grid and get freaky with a former-Queen-now-Senator? Tatooine. Tatooine is the bomb, yo!
I’m still trying to figure out how Tatooine earned this reputation of “a great place to hide” because everybody eventually goes to Tatooine! Seriously, I would imagine the catina where Han and Chewie hung out was probably run by Rick Blaine.
The good news is J.J. Abrams has promised us The Force Awakens doesn’t take place on Tatooine at any time. I believe the writer/director because when has he ever lied to us?
Now I’m going to wrap up with the one that has always bugged me…
Luke and Leia. Yeah, I’ve Kissed Boys Before and My Brother Says I’m the Best at It. Vader admitting that he’s Luke’s father was a scene rivaled by such classic “Gotcha” moments in science fiction as Taylor discovering he had actually landed on Earth and that Soylent Green was people. I think Lucas and his crew picked up on the impact of that revelation, and as Return of the Jedi was going to be the grand finale, Lucas and crew concluded everything had to be bigger. Bigger battles! YEAH! Bigger surprises! YEAH! Bigger revelations! FUCK YEAH! Luke and Leia are brother and sister!
Hold up. What?
There was a hint of “another”—one damn line—in Empire, and then we get the exposition from Obi-Wan that Luke had a twin sister and—woah-woah-WOAH, where the hell is this coming from?! We’ve clocked in two movies up to this point and we’re roughly half an hour into the third film and this the first we’ve heard of a twin sister?
And there’s poor Luke thinking “As in the chick I had the hots for in the first movie, Leia? As in the woman who planted one hell of a kiss on me when I was in the Med Bay, Leia? As in the one who gave me a tender kiss when she was nursing my wounds during the Bespin escape, Leia? As in this is like X-Files-Peacock-Family creepy, Leia, and oh shit, I have been kissing my sister through two movies!”
Unlike Vader’s big reveal, this revelation felt trite and just a bit ridiculous. How so? Again, Vader is all powerful in the Force, right? He clocks in a ton of time with Leia in Star Wars and picks up nothing—not even a glimmer—of the Force from her; but in the Death Star trench, separated by spaceships, Vader mutters “The Force is strong with this one…” about Luke. So how did he miss this with Leia when he was in the same room with her? Multiple times?!
Seriously, she’s standing right — there.
At this point, I can only assume the Force is a bit like a pair of fingernail clippers. Whenever you don’t need it, you are always coming across it no matter where you turn; but the minute you really need it to help you out, you can never find it even when you knew it was there just yesterday.
We have been thrown a lot in the cinematic Star Wars universe that should have called down the thunder but didn’t. It’s never really bothered me…well, okay, it’s kinda worked under my skin but I’ve just swallowed back my pride for various reasons…until now. Why? Because Chuck’s book is taking a lot of heat for being different. That is the real problem here. The Mary Sue has commented on it. Chuck has commented on it. It’s not the Star Wars we are comfortable with, but something very different; and the publisher knew that when investing into Wendig’s specific style. Chuck’s name wasn’t drawn out of a stromtrooper’s helmet, and Chuck himself knew the responsibility he was undertaking. There’s a good amount of serious whining of wanting Star Wars “just like the way it was” and that’s the point of my Star Destroyer-sized rant: Maybe “the way it was” wasn’t all that crash-hot as you think it is. When you look back on some of the gaping holes left behind in the cinematic universe, it’s nice to know that Chuck is on hand with a few sheets of drywall and a bucket of compound.