Sunday, January 8, 2017

What Rogue One Did!

The newest Star Wars movie, Rogue One, accomplished something I did not think was possible; I liked it. In fact, I really liked it. But aside from just the simple thrill of watching the film (currently at three times and counting), the most important thing Rogue One did [for me], was provide me with a fresh perspective that may allow me to enjoy more Star Wars projects in the future.

I’ll explain.

I am a Star Wars Purist who celebrates the Lucas-era of Star Wars from 1977 to 2014. Even though Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, already scheduled or in-production projects were completed and released through mid-2014. The first Disney-Star Wars release under the “new canon” umbrella was in the fall of 2014. There are many types of Star Wars fans and even numerous types of Star Wars Purists. I only speak for myself. To me, the original chronology is gospel and the Expanded Universe will forever remain canon. I do not recognize, respect, or follow Disney/Lucasfilms’ “new canon”, and it will always be fake to me. Retelling history, albeit a fictional history, is just something I can’t get down with. I’ve grown up loving the characters, stories, and events of the original chronology, and I’ve studied the five thousand plus years of Star Wars history like I’ve studied actual human history. It’s not something I can, nor choose to, simply throw aside because Disney wanted to take Star Wars in a different direction. Lucky for me, because it is a fictional history, I can do that. The self-inflicted downside is that I’m now on the outside looking in on what could be an amazing time to be a Star Wars fan.

Side note: I know why Disney chose the path they did, and I know that the EU was not perfect or completely devoid of timeline/story/character conflicts. But neither changes how I feel.

Needless to say, the last few years [for me] have been rough from a Star Wars standpoint. There’s nothing to get excited for or latch onto. I keep hope that the rumors of new novels continuing the original chronology, but under the non-canon “Legends”, are true. But who knows when, or if, that will ever come to fruition. I started watching Rebels solely for Ahsoka. And while I do generally enjoy the show, it doesn’t do for me what The Clone Wars did. There’s a palpable lack of passion and zero emotional connection, even with new-Ahsoka. It’s simply not Ahsoka as she should be, and everything is just a little off. I’ll always picture adult Ahsoka as she appeared in Ahsoka’s vison on Mortis in The Clone Wars 3.15 Overlords episode. And while I thoroughly enjoyed the Twilight of the Apprentice Rebels season 2 finale, because it “wasn’t real” to me, I just wasn’t that emotionally invested. In fact, I had a show that night. The episode ended, I turned off the TV, jumped in my car and went to go perform like it was nothing. Funny thing is, I wanted to care more…I just didn’t. Now, when Ahsoka walked away from Anakin at the end of The Clone Wars 5.20 The Wrong Jedi season finale episode, I was messed up (and messed up for long time). I wouldn’t have been in the mindset to go perform live after that. Additionally, I feel that Ezra is by far the worst Star Wars character ever created. What a little bitch that kid is. He truly makes the show difficult to watch. However, I have all of the season 3 episodes (thus far), on my DVR and I do plan to watch the entire season at some point.

Next was The Force Awakens. I absolutely hated it. I wanted Episodes VII-IX to be a condensed version of The Legacy of The Force novel series. Obviously that was never going to happen. But it would have been perfect. To have Episode IX end with Jaina fighting Caedus... Man, it would have been incredible! Instead we got an Original Trilogy reboot crammed into one movie. John Williams and JJ Abrams are great at what they do, so those two aspects were solid. But with the exception of a few hilarious Harrison Ford lines, in classic Han Solo fashion, everything else was garbage. I saw the movie once on premiere night and a second time the following day on opening night. I won’t ever watch it again. To put that in perspective, I’ve watched the Star Wars Holiday Special twice in my life, and won’t ever watch it again… To be fair though, I do own a DVD of the Holiday Special, whereas I have no intention of ever owning a copy of The Force Awakens.

Since the “new canon” era began, there have been multiple novels, young adult novels and visual/reference guide books released. I’ve only picked up one, the Ahsoka novel. Ahsoka came out this past October, two months before Rogue One. In hindsight, I believe the Ahsoka novel was my tipping point. I loved it! The dormant pieces of my heart and mind reserved for Star Wars had a pulse for the first time in years. It felt like the Ahsoka of old and, in my head while reading, I could picture a slightly older version of her from The Clone Wars. The emotional bond, so strong in The Clone Wars and sadly void in Rebels, was reconnected. It was a story that didn’t contradict the original chronology because it was one that hadn’t been told yet. Now, is that how George Lucas and Dave Filoni would have scripted Ahsoka’s life had George not sold to Disney and things had remained on the same trajectory? Who knows? We know that at least some of it would have due to the publicized unfinished The Clone Wars episodes and the Siege of Mandalore arc. The downside came at knowing the final outcome, thanks to Rebels. However, given there is roughly a nineteen year span of time between when Ahsoka leaves The Clone Wars to when she leaves Rebels, there are still plenty of untold stories that can (hopefully), make their way into novel form.

I was not at all excited for Rogue One. Bria Tharen (Han’s ex-girlfriend), and her team of Rebels, in the novel Rebel Dawn (book three of the Han Solo Trilogy), were the ones who stole the Death Star plans on Toprawa. Period. And yes, it happened a few other ways in some video games and the Star Wars radio dramas. But for me, it was Bria Tharen. So going in, Rogue One felt like a piece of history I knew was going to be told wrong. What I was not expecting was how instantaneously I fell in love with Rogue One. I clung to every second of it and completely forgot about history re-told, about the chronology and the Expanded Universe, and about Disney and what they’ve done to something I love so much. I was just watching Star Wars. I was just there, in that galaxy far, far away, riding the current and not wanting to leave. It felt like home. For the first time in years, since The Clone Wars Lost Missions and the last few Expanded Universe novels, it felt like home. The pulse I felt when reading Ahsoka was now that of a healthy beating heart.

I left the theater reinvigorated. The entire catastrophe of the past two years had taken its toll in negatively impacting multiple facets of my Star Wars fandom. It affected my general fandom, my viewing habits, my reading habits, my collecting, my Star Wars Hip Hop music project (The Lost Holocron), and more. I think the only area it did not affect was my involvement in the 501st Legion. But seeming as my main reason for being a 501st Legion member is the work we do for charity and kids; it exists on a higher level than any of this. But now, after Rogue One, I have a rekindled energy. More importantly, I have a newfound, two-pronged perspective in regards to how I view and exist in the world of Star Wars. First, I can remain a Star Wars Purist but still enjoy certain Star Wars from Disney/Lucasfilm and the “new canon”. There is a grey area I previously failed, or refused, to acknowledge. But it is a place I can visit and leave as I so choose. Friends of mine who are into comics, superheroes, Star Trek, etc. explained to me how those genres/franchises have multiple universes where the same characters have different timelines and chronologies of events. Before Disney, and thanks to George Lucas’s foresight, Star Wars did not have that problem (with the exception of some minor EU contradictions). Thus, it had been a concept I struggled to wrap my head around. I’m not into any of that other stuff so I’d had zero experience with it. Thinking about it now however, I feel it’s a great way to look at it. Everything Lucas-era Star Wars (’77-’14) can remain my canon and everything Disney-era Star Wars (’14-on) can be some secondary universe. And I can just accept everything new for what it is, like what I like (like Rogue One), and hate what I hate (like EPVII-EPIX). Second, just because Disney owns Lucasfilm, the prequels and The Clone Wars were shelved, and the EU was reduced to Legends, does not mean that Lucas-era Star Wars is dead. Or will ever die. There’s thirty seven years’ worth of incredible content in the form of movies, television, novels, short stories, books, toys, collectibles, and more that can never be taken away. I’ve been alive for thirty five of those thirty seven years and old enough to enjoy it all for thirty two years. So there is no reason I can’t continue to enjoy it with the same passion for the remainder of my life. I didn’t take it for granted before, and I shouldn’t now.

So there it is. To Rogue One, the defibrillator to my Star Wars heart. Thank you!

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