Friday, August 24, 2018

Reminder: L3-37 Deserved Better

In anticipation of the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story's official novelization, has released three excerpts, one of which re-opens the discussion on one of the film's most controversial elements: its treatment of L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Lando's droid partner who organizes a slave revolt on Kessel, is severely damaged, and is then uploaded into the Millennium Falcon by Lando and Qi'ra to serve as its navicomputer. 
The excerpt details L3's thought process as she integrates with the Falcon. As brilliantly explained by The Mary Sue and writer Donna Dickens on Twitter, it attempts to make it seem like her sacrifice was her choice, but fails miserably and paints the whole situation in an even worse light. Now that we have a better idea of L3's fate, it's time to remind ourselves that she deserved way, way better.

In the lens of gender politics, what happens to L3 would definitely be considered fridging. She is an independent female-coded character who is granted a moment of empowerment and true purpose when she frees her fellow droids, but is then killed just so Lando has a moment of grief for the droid he secretly loves. As if that weren't bad enough, rather than being allowed a peaceful death – with her last act fulfilling her life goal of droid liberation – she turns into his mute slave. 
And even if you ignore the sexist elements, L3's treatment is still indefensible. Introducing a character whose main characteristic is their quest for equality with humans, turning them into the eternal silent servant for humans, and never recognizing the horrible irony of the situation is objectively poor writing, no matter their gender. 

Maybe you're comforted by the idea that she's been in the Falcon this whole time, helping our heroes through their many adventures. But she's been robbed of her voice, unable to express the sharp attitude that Solo's writers, Jon and Lawrence Kasdan, gave her. And she's never once received credit for all the flights she's navigated—yes, including the Kessel Run. How are we supposed to be satisfied with her fate?

The lesson is that if you want to introduce an empowered female character who can stack up to new and popular heroines like Rey and Jyn Erso, retconning them as the franchise's most famous inanimate object is not a good idea, especially when you've already established their motivation to be freedom and social equality for their people.
It's also worth noting that L3's writing is problematic even before her death. In the film's only meaningful conversation between two women, she reveals to Qi'ra that Lando is attracted to her, though she doesn't totally reciprocate his feelings. The scene ends with a thinly-veiled joke about how sex between Lando and L3 "would work."

But droids aren't supposed to have sex! They never talk about sex! Even humans in Star Wars barely do that! So the idea that the Kasdans introduced the first female droid and immediately felt like they needed to sexualize her, like Lando's desire for her had to be a plot point, like her relationship with him couldn't possibly be a platonic partnership, is inherently sexist. 
It's possible that Episode IX will pay some tribute to L3, even if it's as subtle as Lando's affection for the Falcon when he inevitably (probably) reunites with his old ship. But there is nothing that will fix this. They introduced a likable, funny character, gave her a unique and refreshing motivation, and then ripped away her power and voice in one of the most horrifying ways possible. 

At least Val's too-soon death, which is a whole other issue, is a suicide that she chooses out of loyalty to her team. L3's just been in the Falcon this whole time, forced into the kind of servitude she dedicated her life to fighting.

What fate would you prefer for L3-37? Where do you want to see her next? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Friday, August 17, 2018

'Star Wars Resistance' Trailer Revealed

The first trailer for Star Wars Resistance, a new animated series premiering on Disney XD on October 7, has finally been released. It introduces us to the main protagonist, Kazuda Xiono, a Resistance pilot sent by none other than Poe Dameron (voiced by Oscar Isaac, of course) to a refueling station called the Colossus to identify potential allies and enemies. 
No doubt, some fans are already criticizing Resistance for being "too kid-friendly" to be taken seriously. But we have to remember that The Clone Wars and Rebels also pandered to younger audiences initially, and then transitioned into more mature and complex themes over time. Granted, Resistance will probably not be taking us to Mortis or the world between worlds, but we still can't dismiss it until we've seen at least a few episodes.

No, the biggest obstacle facing Resistance is the competition on the Star Wars landscape right now. The Clone Wars Season 7 isn't premiering for over a year, but it already has a huge fanbase, it's guaranteed to have more adult themes, and it seems to be the main focus of Dave Filoni and Lucasfilm Animation (which is why Resistance has cheaper animation and a more rushed marketing). 
Add that to Jon Favreau's live-action TV series (which will likely begin production in the next few months) and Episode IX (which is filming now), and Resistance will have a hard time making an impact on the fandom in the way Clone Wars and Rebels did. Though with all this other Star Wars content, maybe it's okay if Resistance is just a low-stakes cartoon that we can enjoy without obsessing over. 

At the very least, Resistance should be praised for its strong Asian, black, and Latinx representation among both its voice cast and its characters. Xiono is voiced by half-Japanese actor Christopher Sean and seems to be coded as Asian, so Resistance will be the first on-screen Star Wars story with a main protagonist of color and an actor of color portraying them. Regardless of the series' tone, that importance can't be understated.

In addition to Poe and BB-8, the series will see the familiar faces of Captain Phasma (voiced by Gwendoline Christie) and General Leia Organa (voiced by Rachel Butera).

What do you think of this trailer? What do you hope to see in Star Wars Resistance? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Friday, August 10, 2018

10 Ideas for Keri Russell's 'Episode IX' Character that are Better than Rey's Mom

*SPOILER WARNING* for Thrawn: Alliances.

Since 2014, fans have been theorizing connections between Rey and the other women of Star Wars. Leia, Jyn Erso, and Qi'ra have all been theorized to be her mother, even after Rey told us herself in The Last Jedi that her parents were "nobody." Keri Russell's casting brought on the same tired discussion, with THR even publishing a whole opinion piece on the topic.
To a certain extent, this is Lucasfilm's fault; when they consistently cast white brunettes, it's natural for us to see a resemblance. If they did a better job of diversifying their female characters by casting women of color (which, to be fair, they have been improving on), we wouldn't be talking about how they all must be related. 

But again, Rey's whole arc in The Last Jedi was about accepting that her parents are unimportant and her power comes from herself. It might be cool for Rey to learn that her long-lost mother is a badass Force-sensitive warrior, and Russell already shined in a complex, unconventional mother-daughter relationship in The Americans, but unless JJ Abrams decides to undo Rian Johnson's work (which by all accounts, he won't), we need to forget about Rey's parents. 
So I've compiled 10 alternative ideas for Russell's character that would call for the kind of steely performance she gave on The Americans and the "action-heavy fight scenes" that Variety reported are involved with her role. This ranges from silly ideas to actually serious, thought-out ones: 

10. Captain Phasma

After falling into flames in The Last Jedi, Phasma reconstructs her scarred face and ends up looking like...Keri Russell. But don't worry, Gwendoline Christie still has a role because Phasma made clones of herself at some point. Like, a bunch of clones. And Keri Russell Phasma leads the Gwendoline Christie Phasmas into battle. Or something.
(Okay, so this is the worst idea on this list, but you can't deny that Russell would rock that armor.)

9. Supreme Leader Snoke

Episode IX should probably just leave Snoke lying on the floor of this throne room with his lower half cut off and his tongue hanging out. But if they decide to bring him back in any fashion, why couldn't he look like a beautiful 42-year-old human woman? Hell, give her one of those golden bathrobes, too. 
8. Rey's older sister

Here's an idea that would actually justify Russell's vague resemblance to Rey while still staying true to the concept that her parents were "nobody." Rey's much-older sister may not share her Force sensitivity – that would suggest that their bloodline is important after all – but if she was similarly abandoned by their parents in the middle of nowhere, it would make sense for her to have the same self-taught fighting skills. 
Of course, it would be a waste of time to introduce an estranged member of Rey's family when she already has established relationships with Kylo Ren, Finn, Luke, and Leia that are surely more relevant to the plot. But this idea is still better than Russell playing Rey's mom! 

7. Maul and Qi'ra's daughter, Qy'lie Maul

Yeah, this is gross. Maul is at least 20 years older than Qi'ra and was weirdly predatory towards her in their one conversation. ("You and I will be working much more closely from now on"? Ew.) But could you object to the awesomeness of seeing Keri Russell with reddish skin, a double-bladed red lightsaber, and horns poking out of her hair? No. No you couldn't.
6. The leader of the Yuuzhan Vong Grysks

One of the key elements of the Expanded Universe is the Yuuzhan Vong, a species of terrifying extragalactic invaders. The newly-released novel Thrawn: Alliances introduces the Grysks, a similar species that seems to serve as the Vong's canon replacement. The book preludes their invasion of the known galaxy, but the story of how our favorite characters deal with this threat has yet to be told. 
The Yuuzhan Vong
The conflict between the Rebellion and First Order has more than enough excitement and intrigue without the introduction of a third party. But if the Grysks were to appear in IX, why not let Russell play their leader? Put her in enough makeup and prosthetics that she's unrecognizable. Let her chew scenery with long monologues about suffering and torture and all kinds of Grysk mythology—in a hoarse alien accent, of course.

5. Maz Kanata's girlfriend

Between referring to Chewie as her "boyfriend" in The Force Awakens and hinting at a sexual past with the Master Codebreaker in The Last Jedi, it's clear that Maz hKanata as been intimate with all sorts of beings—quite possibly, regardless of gender. We know for a fact that she'll be back in Episode IX, so maybe she'll bring along her latest lover, a fellow pirate played by Keri Russell either as a regular human or an alien.
No, just kidding. Maz belongs with Chewie. It just makes sense. This is the key romance of the Sequel Trilogy, not Reylo. He can send Malla the divorce papers in the mail.

4. Mon Mothma's daughter, Minnie Mothma

While Mon Mothma may not be an iconic legacy character like Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, and Lando, she was even more instrumental in the formation and success of the Rebel Alliance. Having Russell play her daughter – another Rebel leader who shares Mothma's integrity but isn't afraid to get her hands dirty – would be a great way of acknowledging her.
And as far as we know, Mothma is still alive (though pretty damn old) by the time of the Sequel Trilogy, so why not let Caroline Blakiston reprise her Return of the Jedi role for at least a scene or two? At 85, Blakiston is roughly the right age, too. Regardless of who Russell plays, Lucasfilm should seriously consider bringing her back. 

Bonus idea: Russell's character is half-Bothan; when Mothma famously lamented "Many Bothans died to bring us this information," she was actually mourning the loss of her secret Bothan lover, with whom she had a child. (Try saying "Mon Mothma's half-Bothan spawn" 10 times fast.)

3. A Jedi Knight

We've (finally) moved on to the more serious ideas. This theory mostly arises from the fact that Russell's part seems to have been the one reportedly codenamed "MARA." In the Expanded Universe, Mara Jade is Luke's wife and a fellow Jedi. While that same character can't possibly exist in the canon anymore, it's possible they were using her name as a placeholder for a similar female Jedi in the same general time period.
It would make the most sense for this character to be an experienced Light Side warrior who's been in hiding for the past several years but then re-enters the picture. It would also be fascinating to see her as Rey's much-older apprentice who's never learned to hone her Force sensitivity, but it's doubtful the film would take the time developing that relationship.

2. A Dark Side warrior

The Star Wars canon is sorely lacking in female Sith Lords and evil Force-users of the like. Russell would nail it as a cold, ruthless villain, and the revelation that Snoke trained "at least one other apprentice" in addition to Kylo has already set up the idea of another powerful dark warrior in IX.
Whether this character was a Knight of Ren, another leader in the First Order, or an old apprentice of Snoke's who re-enters the fray, it's doubtful that she would play second fiddle to Kylo—you just don't cast Keri Russell as someone who takes orders from someone as immature and unstable as him. That could mean some serious battles between her, Kylo, and Rey. 

1. The warrior queen of Mandalore

It's about time that a Star Wars movie highlighted the Mandalorian people in the way that The Clone Wars and Rebels have. Canonically, they seem to have sat out the Galactic Civil War, but as far as we know, they're still standing strong by the time of the Sequel Trilogy. Why not let Russell play their ruler who the Resistance seeks out for help?
Between Satine and Bo-Katan Kryze, and Sabine Wren and her mother Ursa, Mandalore already has a huge precedent for badass female leaders in the canon. The last time we saw the planet, Bo-Katan had taken the legendary Darksaber and the ruling power that came with it, so why not let Russell be Bo-Katan's daughter who inherited both the mantle and the sword? 

Just think of it: an armored Mandalorian warrior swooping in on a jetpack, slicing through stormtroopers with the Darksaber (which would look amazing in live-action, by the way), kicking all kinds of ass with Mandalorian blasters, flamethrowers, and other gadgets, and then taking off her helmet to reveal none other than Keri Russell. That's exactly the kind of role she deserves.
(The one hitch in this idea is that Making Star Wars just reported Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars TV will be centered on Mandalore, albeit in a different era. This series will likely premiere less than a year after Episode IX, so Lucasfilm may not want to overwhelm us with Mando content.)

Bonus idea: Russell's character is named Satine Kryze, after her aunt. This would make for a lovely tribute to the fan-favorite Clone Wars character who stole Obi-Wan's heart.

No matter who Russell plays, we can be sure she'll give a powerful performance, and we know for a fact she'll kick ass, too. At the end of the day, there isn't much more we can ask from a supporting female character in Star Wars.

Who do you want Keri Russell to play in Star Wars: Episode IX? Which idea on this list is your favorite? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all.