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Shabcast 35, Part 2 - More Chatting with Sam Keeper About Star Wars, Rogue One, etc

Hello everyone, here's Part 2 of my conversation with the excellent Sam Keeper.  Enjoy.

Also, here's a recent edition of Watching Robocop with Kit Power, in which I join Kit and Daniel to watch and talk about... um, Superman III.

 

Shabcast 35, Part 1 - Chatting Star Wars & Rogue One with Sam Keeper

At long last, here is Part 1 of an extra-special Shabcast, in which I am joined by the brilliant Sam Keeper, of Storming the Ivory Tower, to chat about Star Wars, with particular emphasis on Rogue One

Very pleased with this one.  There were some technical difficulties with it, but I've hammered it into eminently listenable shape.

Part 2 next week.

*

Here are Sam's articles on Rogue One:

A Galaxy Very, Very Near: Are Time And Space in Rogue One Core to its Resistance Narrative?

Modern Myth-Busting: Are Rogue One's Characters Worthy Star Wars Heroes?

Film Theory Theory: MatPat's Star Wars Theories Are Nazi Garbage

and

Nerd-On-Nerd Violence: Why Is Geek Star Wars Crit So Lousy?

and here is her announcement of the upcoming (expanded and revised) collection of these essays (plus bonus content).

 

Sex in the Time of Empire

I was a guest on Daniel & Shana's Oi! Spaceman podcast again, this time talking about 'Rose' and 'The End of the World'.  But now, back to the ongoing saga...

 

The last time I wrote about Star Wars, I said that it sees the galactic politics and history it depicts as being essentially powered by neurosis, specifically male neurosis.  Rogue One very explicitly adheres to this pattern - though, laudably, it represents a counter-strain in opposition.

In Rogue One, the Death Star openly represents the immense strength and immense vulnerability of any imperial system, the simultaneously terrifying and ridiculous urges and principles which animate such systems.  At a different-yet-connected level, it represents the same mixture of dangerous power and ridiculous vulnerability within one of the techno-bureaucrats who run that system.  It sees the causal throughline as very clearly running from inside the heads of at least two men, out into the universe.

I have mixed feelings about this.  The thesis that politics comes from emotions and psychology, though I believe it is ultimately wrong, doesn’t necessarily have to collapse into a reactionary ‘fix yourself first’ ideology.  Psychology clearly plays a role in politics, and in resistance ...

An Increasingly Inaccurately Named Trilogy: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

It is damning with faint praise to say that “George Lucas done right” is a task perfectly suited to J.J. Abrams’s abilities, which is of course why it’s such a fun thing to assert. It’s not quite true, for reasons we’ll get to, but there’s more truth to it than not, and for the most part the truth is more revealing. Certainly it’s very obviously the logic Disney applied in hiring Abrams for the job of making Star Wars into a viable property again, and their benign cynicism is on the whole easy to understand. The prequels had made Return of the Jedi a better end to the saga in more ways than one, their famous awfulness drying up the bulk of the cultural goodwill the franchise had while muddying the question of what Star Wars should look like post-1983 with a host of unsatisfying answers that nevertheless needed to be considered.

Abrams, in this context, was an eminently safe pair of hands. He’d already rebooted Star Trek with an aesthetic that could uncharitably be summarized as “wishing it was Star Wars,” and with Super 8 had shown himself a skilled practitioner of 1970s nostalgia. More broadly, he ...

An Increasingly Inaccurately Named Trilogy: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

The standard line about the original trilogy is that Return of the Jedi is its weak link. It will surprise nobody to learn that I’m suspicious of this logic, which is at its heart rooted in an aesthetic that says that big reveals like Vader being Luke’s father are good and Ewoks are bad, but it’s nevertheless worth recognizing that Return of the Jedi is the one film in the original trilogy that’s markedly improved by the presence of the prequels. This isn’t a new observation - it’s at the heart of the famous Machete Order, which suggests putting the prequels between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and which basically prompted this entire series with its argument for why you should skip The Phantom Menace while doing this, which was the immediate cause of my remarking that prequel criticism was generally worse than the prequels themselves.

The problem that Return of the Jedi has on its own merits is Luke’s constant assertion that there’s still good in Darth Vader, a claim that not only lacks justification in the films but is actively unjustified by the sheer degree that Darth Vader is an ostentatious force of pure evil ...

An Increasingly Inaccurately Named Trilogy: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Ring theory - essentially the best read on the interrelationships between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy to date - is based around nested correspondences among the films. The fringes of this, which pair Return of the Jedi with The Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith with A New Hope, are an inherently tricky business, with its interpretations standing in opposition to the more intuitive approach of reading The Phantom Menace and A New Hope as roughly analogous. But the middle, in which Attack of the Clones and The Empire Strikes Back are read as fundamentally related films, is a rock solid bit of interpretation that pays considerable and rewarding dividends.

The most obvious similarity is structural: both films spend their middle sections alternating between two roughly equally weighted storylines, to the point where they very clearly have two protagonists, in this case Luke and Han. This is most interesting in terms of Han, whose upgrade to co-lead serves as confirmation of his moral centrality to whatever the saga is doing in this second trilogy. And in this regard, the most interesting thing about The Empire Strikes Back is its ending, with Han encased in carbonite. Sure, it’s not the ...

Love in the Time of Empire

Spoilers 

Orson Krennic, director of the Death Star project, is a middle manager type who has achieved a position of authority above his abilities, possibly owing to his pre-existing relationship with engineer Galen Erso.  He climbed the greasy pole owing to his association with a brilliant technician, and their partnership working on a prestige project.  He’s ambitious and unscrupulous, but also essentially inadequate.  He spends the entire film playing catch-up, being bounced between various superiors, looking for recognition, taking his frustrations out on others, and generally failing. 

Tarkin’s attempted usurpation of Krennic’s control over the completed Death Star looks like a cynical power-grab, but could as easily be seen as a sensible management move.  As Tarkin correctly notices, Krennic is not suited to a command role.  In any case, Krennic’s shocked outrage is ludicrous given that this is just how the Empire works.  His own successes come from appropriating the work of others, yet he has the temerity to feel aggrieved when his own work is appropriated.  Moreover, the usual way you rise in the Empire is by showing more ruthless unscrupulousness than the other ambitious drones.  You ‘work towards the Emperor’, and fuck over any competitors as ...

An Increasingly Inaccurately Named Trilogy: Episode IV - A New Hope

Coming at A New Hope off of the prequel trilogy, what jumps out first and foremost is how much smaller and more intimate a story it is. No small part of this is because of the twenty-eight year backwards jump in film technology, which isn’t something that can be erased even by Lucas’s extensive efforts to tinker with the original trilogy. Which I suppose are a digression worth getting into at this point.

Obviously the special editions are easy to get cranky at. Hell, I’m on record making fun of the “redo old special effects for the DVD release” approach when it comes to Doctor Who. And the scholar in me is unsurprisingly appalled by Lucas’s active efforts to suppress the original theatrical versions of his films, to the point of denying film festivals focused on the 1970s permission to screen an original print. But these days there are multiple gorgeous reconstructions of the theatrical version up on BitTorrent for people who care, and while that doesn’t invalidate the understandable frustrations of people who spent decades wanting to watch the movie of their childhoods and not a CGI-ed over mess where Greedo shoots first and there are a bunch of ...

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