Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 22:00 on 12-01-2018, Robinson L
Arthur: I'm pretty sure the reason was "the situation looks genuinely hopeless and they don't want to send their forces on a suicide mission which doesn't have any apparent chance of success". That may not be courageous from a Hollywood point of view, but it is not a ridiculous decision to make from a strategic standpoint.

Oh yeah, fair enough, that's just not how it came across in the movie - though really, I'm not sure how they could have gotten that across without showing at least a scene or two of the allies debating whether or not to go help, which would have muddied the focus and drawn out Climax 2 even further. But the movie could've come up with any number of justifications why help doesn't arrive in time; I'm just a little bit annoyed they went with the one which makes all the Resistance's potential supporters - in the context of the film if not from a real world pragmatic perspective - look like a bunch of craven jerks. For me it's only a minor point, though.

Also, I listened to the first episode of Expounded Universe earlier today, and I'm listening to the second episode now. I haven't laughed so hard in a while; seriously funny shit. Thanks again for putting it on my radar.
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at 10:22 on 12-01-2018, Daniel F
Coming back to a few things…

Robinson:

I don’t particularly mind the death of Anakin in NJO, though I think they could have done more with Jaina. I believe originally Jacen was slated to be the one who died, but George Lucas expressed the preference that Anakin Solo not be the protagonist (due to potential confusion with Anakin Skywalker), so they swapped it around, and I think I prefer that. One of the few things that stayed with me from Young Jedi Knights was that Jacen had an affinity for animals and living things, while Jaina was a tech-head like her father. It feels like a natural evolution of that, to me, for Jacen to end up this mystic who discovers new truths about the Force, and develops a special understanding of the Yuuzhan Vong and their biotech, whereas Jaina becomes a highly capable pilot and military leader. That way they’d both have very important but still distinct roles to play in ending the war, and as for sex stereotypes, I’d like to think that Jacen the healer versus Jaina the warrior is a little bit subversive.

As for the EU more generally… yes, I think it’s correct that most people who like the EU ended up developing their own ‘personal canon’ for it, and in that sense there’s no such thing as a stock ‘EU fan’. I felt that by the time of LotF, we actually found that different authors had their own personal canons, and these inevitably came into conflict. So, for instance, LotF was nine novels by three authors, and it seemed intended that each author had their own cast of pet characters that they would focus on. Allston had the Rogues, Traviss had the Mandalorians, and Denning had the Jedi. However, continuity errors and inter-author-conflict predictably piled up, with Traviss in particular spending a lot of time talking about how great and superior her pet characters are.

(re: lbmiller, yes, Allston’s were the best. He was almost certainly the best of the three LotF authors. The Wraith Squadron novels are also great fun.)

There was always some degree of personal canon or the favouring of pet characters going on, of course. Karrde, Noghri, etc. show up in Zahn novels, Wedge and the Rogues show up in Stackpole or Allston novels, Kyp shows up in KJA novels, and so on. But for a long time, the EU was expansive enough that each author’s little personal canon could remain quite isolated. An author didn’t have to deal with another author’s work if they didn’t want to. Del Rey, with the NJO and LotF, tried to run multi-year integrated stories, and that forced more conflict between different authors’ views. So then you find e.g. Denning in the Dark Nest trilogy trying as hard as possible to retcon everything the NJO and especially Vergere said about the Force.

Frankly, I’d rather authors just ignore each other entirely and do their own things than get caught up in such sniping.

(Yes, this includes Zahn’s potshots at Dark Empire in the Hand of Thrawn duology. Just because I agree with them doesn’t mean they should have been in there. Better to just ignore it.)

As to the sequel films, then, the best way for me to watch them, I think, is to treat them as just another ‘continuity island’, so to speak. No matter how hard the fandom liked to pretend, there was no way that e.g. Dark Empire and the Thrawn trilogy belonged in the same timeline. If I can treat them as separate, why not treat the Disney trilogy as separate as well?

This would be my take on characters like Mara or Thrawn as well. I love Mara Jade. She is a fantastic character. So is Thrawn, even if I think he’s often a bit overrated, and C’baoth is underrated. But I never want to see the Disney canon try to do Mara Jade. Mara, Thrawn, etc., have already had their stories. I don’t want to see slight variants on them. I think for me it would hit a sort of ‘uncanny valley’: new characters awkwardly pretending to be characters I know and love, but not being quite right. But perhaps that’s just the opinion of an unpleasable curmudgeon. ;)

Moving on a bit…

On Fisher and Hamill’s performances, I think the shortest take I can give is that they didn’t feel to me particularly like Leia or Luke. Sometimes Hamill would give a line and I’d think “wow, he sounded a lot like Luke Skywalker there”, but those lines weren’t the majority. Similarly, I felt as though Carrie Fisher spent the whole film playing Carrie Fisher, if that makes sense? I bought her as an old and revered Rebel general, but at no point did I have that instinctive, ‘yes, this is what Princess Leia forty years older’.

Arthur: Not at all - there were numerous sympathisers across the galaxy who they tried to contact for support, but who weren't able to send anything. That network by itself will allow the Resistance to rebuild.

I think all the film told us was that they didn’t come. That might have been because they weren’t able, but it might also be because they didn’t care. I’m not sure what was intended, but I did think the film was going to some effort to set up the twenty guys on the Falcon at the end as being the Resistance. The OT, on the other hand, seemed to have a slightly larger scope? Sure, the Rebel bases in ANH and ESB were the largest concentrations of Rebels, but I always had the impression that there was a larger network of Rebels across the galaxy.

One of my favourite bits of fanon for the new trilogy, actually, is that the First Order is only one or two planets and a dozen ships, and the Resistance is only a handful of ships and a few hundred people. The First Order and the Resistance are both tiny groups of fanatics obsessed with re-enacting a conflict that’s been over for decades, while the rest of the galaxy have grown up and are getting on with their lives. Obviously not what’s intended, but it gives me a laugh.
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at 09:39 on 12-01-2018, Arthur B
Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but my impression from the movie was that all those people heard Leia's call for help, but they chickened out of sending any assistance for some reason.

I'm pretty sure the reason was "the situation looks genuinely hopeless and they don't want to send their forces on a suicide mission which doesn't have any apparent chance of success". That may not be courageous from a Hollywood point of view, but it is not a ridiculous decision to make from a strategic standpoint.

If my reading is correct, then I don't see how we're supposed to credit that network spontaneously growing a collective spine and rebuilding the Resistance between VIII and IX

You're right. If only a Rebel leader had emerged from hiding for one last, inspirational stand against Kylo Ren. If only a core set of survivors had escaped so that their story of desperate survival against impossible odds could rekindle the morale of their supporters. If only the final scene of the movie hadn't underscored the point that the Force Is For All, and that even apparently irrelevant acts of kindness and heroism can provide the nucleus for lasting change and growth.

Oh, wait a second...
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at 05:30 on 12-01-2018, Robinson L
Re: Watson and Holmes
It was enjoyable, I just feel like I wanted a more finished product from a cool concept like that.

I guess I can understand that. The art style is great at setting atmosphere, but I'm not a big fan, and I noticed a lot of minor but glaring spelling and grammar mistakes. I suppose I let stuff like that stuff slide because I'm less of a Holmesian connoisseur than you are.

Ibmiller: Yes Disney Star Wars is 0 for 3 on movies, about 1.5 for dozens on books and comics.

Tough break, I'm sorry to hear that. Also a little surprised regarding the comics, actually - apart from Shattered Empire, which somehow managed to be memorably forgettable, I've found most of the Disney era comics to be well above average. Usually, they have a few too many plot holes or other writing hiccups to be genuinely great, but I find most of them very good.

Re: The Last Jedi
Poe's assault on the dreadnought is ridiculous, even for Star Wars standards

I found it funny, but yeah, I agree, it was downright cartoonish, even for Star Wars.

Rogue Podron is, unsurprisingly, a big highlight of the week for me. And if you keep listening, you'll hear a lot of my twitter responses read by the hosts. ;)

Oh hey, yeah. Man I'm bad at connecting the dots.

(I will defend the Wedge, Tycho, and Syal parts of Legacy of the Force a lot! But the rest of the books are pretty bad. Oh, wait, I also liked Seha. I also think that Legacy of the Force, for all that it's not good, is more enjoyable to me than the new films. Mostly because it has Wedge.)

Fair enough - the series had some well-written subplots, and I remember the humor in Allston's and Traviss' contributions being very good. I just couldn't get past the main plot, and I personally found having to read even a page of text from the viewpoint of the arrogant, murderous, monumentally blinkered little shithead of an unimaginative Darth Vader photocopy infinitely more excruciating than all the worst moments of the new Disney canon combined (including the loooooooooong melodramatic pause before Kylo Ren stabs Han in The Force Awakens).

I also think a lot of fans were so tired and burnt out that they just didn't go past Mara's death

That wasn't quite the breaking point for me, but that, plus making Luke a murderer (which I know you found less objectionable, but I still consider appalling) and the 'oh no, not another four books in Darth Character Assassination's head,' together turned me off the series. And unlike you, I've never managed to steel myself to finish it, or to crack open the sequel Fate of the Jedi series.

Arthur: there were numerous sympathisers across the galaxy who they tried to contact for support, but who weren't able to send anything. That network by itself will allow the Resistance to rebuild.

Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but my impression from the movie was that all those people heard Leia's call for help, but they chickened out of sending any assistance for some reason. This really annoyed me - similarly, I disliked the Rebel leaders' shortsighted refusal to approve the Scarif mission in Rogue One - because it makes it seem like everyone not in the main characters' near orbit is either feckless or useless.

If my reading is correct, then I don't see how we're supposed to credit that network spontaneously growing a collective spine and rebuilding the Resistance between VIII and IX (unless they learn that Snoke is dead and Kylo Ren is the Supreme Leader, and thought, 'That pushover? The First Order doesn't stand a chance,' which I think is an entirely reasonable conclusion to reach, but probably not how the filmmakers view him as a villain).


Arthur:
Re: the First Order being similar to the Empire - that's the whole point, the entire idea is that if you don't maintain vigilance about the resurgence of fascism the work done by past generations to drop it and keep it down is entirely wasted.

I've thought more about this point since you first brought the idea up several days ago, and it's occurred to me that I would probably find it more effective as social commentary if the films depicted the New Republic falling into the same traps of short-sighted greed and corruption among the decision-making classes which made Palpatine's fascism seem like a welcome alternative (to some) in the prequels.

And it would fit the Star Wars theme of history happening in cycles. Though by my reading, the capacity to break those cycles is also an important theme in Star Wars, exemplified by Luke and Vader together going off-script in Return of the Jedi and forging a new, better ending to the conflict.

This is why - apart from the sheer laziness - I get so irritated when Star Wars writers bring back the triumphant Empire, the Sith, the Fall of Anakin Skywalker plot, or some combination thereof in post-Jedi stories. To me it sends the message that "you didn't really break the cycle, and you can't. Whatever you do, you're always trapped in the eternal runaround of screw up and downfall, struggle, temporary victory, and then right back to screw up and downfall a couple decades down the line."

It's also probably why I'm so resistant to a non-redemption for Kylo Ren, despite my utter lack of investment or interest in him as a character. I feel like just having him repeat Anakin Skywalker's mistake undermines the enormity of the former's redemption, and not even having him redeemed in the end would walk it back still further.

Speaking of Kylo Ren and social commentary, though, I recently read this article about how eveyone's favorite pathetic wannabe is a terrific alt-right villain. It raises a lot of excellent points, but for me it all falls apart in how utterly unbelievable Adam Driver is in the role. Kylo Ren calls for someone who convincingly sell "dangerous" despite being laughably pathetic. He's certainly got the second part captured perfectly, but nothing in his performance convinces me that he's dangerous for any reason other than that the script says so.

(As long as I'm sharing links, the same website also published an article about how the Jedi Order's strict anti-emotion, anti-attachment maps closely onto the very worse forms of male socialization in Western societies. Not exactly an original observation - I remember Athena Andreadis positing much the same argument severals years ago.

Personally, I've always kinda read the prequel trilogy as ultimately an indictment of the Jedi Order's mandatory asceticism, as they failed to provide Anakin the emotional support he needed, leaving him wide open for Palpatine's corruption. Dunno whether that occurred to Lucas at all or not, but there's plenty of interpretive space within the prequels to defend that reading.)
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at 17:55 on 10-01-2018, Ibmiller
The network unseen is really unconvincing. I mean, sure, we didn't see the massive Alliance fleet in Empire Strikes Back, but we did see a lot of Rebel trasports get serious equipment off the base.

I mean, you're absolutely right that they might not follow the pattern of no time jump, but I wouldn't bet on it either. But it's no foundation for an argument, I would agree.
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at 15:21 on 10-01-2018, Arthur B
Not at all - there were numerous sympathisers across the galaxy who they tried to contact for support, but who weren't able to send anything. That network by itself will allow the Resistance to rebuild.

And I don't see why it should be implausible that there'd be a time jump between 8 and 9 even though there wasn't much of one between 7 and 8: what sets "zero time jumps" as a rule from now on? For that matter, what better way to finesse the lack of Carrie Fisher than to have a time jump?
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at 15:01 on 10-01-2018, Ibmiller
For all their flaws, both the original and prequel trilogies have significant roles for non-main cast members. Wedge, who I brought up before, is an important example. But The Last Jedi deliberately killed off EVERY pilot except Poe in the hanger explosion. You also have the fact that the entire Rebel fleet in Return of the Jedi, except for Lando, is composed of non-main cast members, and they are vital to the success of the plan.

I was referring to the events of the film when I said that the survivors haven't accomplished anything. Truthfully, only dead people accomplished anything - the bomber who destroyed the dreadnought - dead. Holdo, who destroyed most of the fleet - dead. Luke - delayed the First Order, played psychological warfare against Ren - dead. Everyone who could have accomplished something is prevented from doing so - Finn, Poe, Rey - all alive, all have less than they started with to show for their efforts.

I think survival in the face of the odds is probably the aim they were showing for, but this wasn't really survival to me. There is no plausible way, unless they have a massive time jump between 8 and 9 (which, since there was zero time jump between 7 and 8, seems implausible) for 10 people to have any kind of plausible chance to defeat even the force of the First Order that was left after the hyperspace ram. And that's not counting that we know there are other dreadnoughts. They haven't survived - they've used 90% of their forces as meat shields for the main characters.
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at 13:50 on 10-01-2018, Arthur B
Is it not the case that a non-speaking cast member will intrinsically seem less important in a movie because the very nature of the format puts attention on characters who actually say shit and do stuff?

I will note that Rose has been added to the main cast in this movie too, so it's not like the core cast is this impregnable elite which new characters cannot join.

How, exactly, would you make a non-speaking unnamed background cast member seem as important as Rose without having them speak and giving them a name?

I think it is entirely too soon to declare that the survivors have accomplished nothing since the film ends immediately after they escape. Exactly what do you expect them to have accomplished in the five minutes between them boarding the Falcon and the end credits rolling?

For that matter, isn't the entire thesis of the movie that survival in the face of implacable hostility is an accomplishment in its own right?
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at 13:08 on 10-01-2018, Ibmiller
Yes. About 10. From the thousands who originally crewed the one ship they had left. And even the ones who survived accomplished exactly nothing.

I've heard that argument about Holdo, and I don't find it convincing at all. Possibly because the actual plan wasn't that smart in the first place. So the reveal didn't sound like "Oh, Holdo had a great plan," more like "Oh, Holdo had a plan that was only slightly less dumb than the one she pretended to have."
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at 09:53 on 10-01-2018, Arthur B
But nope: if you're a non-speaking cast member, you're useless. The resistance only needs like 10 people to survive.

Hang on, don't numerous non-speaking cast members escape to form the core of the new resistance on the Falcon?

I said right after watching the film that it's only so long because everyone makes the dumbest choice possible, then refuses to talk about it with anyone. And it happens over and over again.

In defence of Holdo: her plan depended on surprising the First Order forces. Holdo could not 100% know for sure that nobody in the Resistance was a First Order spy, and given the extensive use made by the First Order (and the Empire before them) of spies and turncoats she would be entirely justified in keeping her plans to an extremely limited set of people on a need-to-know basis, because if the plans leaked to the Imperials they'd be scuppered.

Poe, of course, is not included in that need-to-know set of people, because he's been demoted for being a dumbshit.

Holdo's plan was one which you would fully expect to keep secret even from your own, and Poe's behaviour absolutely justified him being kept in the dark. People are determined to see a plot hole here where there just simply, objectively isn't one.

Re: the First Order being similar to the Empire - that's the whole point, the entire idea is that if you don't maintain vigilance about the resurgence of fascism the work done by past generations to drop it and keep it down is entirely wasted.
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at 01:46 on 10-01-2018, Ibmiller
Oh, wow, this got really exciting.

Yes Disney Star Wars is 0 for 3 on movies, about 1.5 for dozens on books and comics.

I read the first five or so issues of Watson and Holmes - it was fun, but felt a bit too much like amateurs, or pros who didn't feel like they got paid enough, so it wasn't very polished. It was enjoyable, I just feel like I wanted a more finished product from a cool concept like that.

I think Robinson is definitely right that the film is going for a bleak tone (since it is Rian Johnson, after all), but it's also annoyingly glib and cartoony. Poe's assault on the dreadnought is ridiculous, even for Star Wars standards, and I loathe the way the film is reinforcing the main-character elitism or red-shirtism that Star Wars has usually worked against a bit with characters like Wedge. But nope: if you're a non-speaking cast member, you're useless. The resistance only needs like 10 people to survive.

I still loathe Kylo Ren, but I think he had more to work with here, and I actually enjoyed his time on screen, as opposed to last film, where I just wanted to not be watching him.

Despite my dislike of Taran Wanderer (which I know some folk on the Ferretbrain love ;) ), I actually really like the reveal of "Rey Random," as some pissed of tumblr fans termed her. But it doesn't undo the main character elitism.

Holdo and Poe both deserve huge amounts of blame for literally destroying all but 10 rebels. Ugh. I said right after watching the film that it's only so long because everyone makes the dumbest choice possible, then refuses to talk about it with anyone. And it happens over and over again.

Rogue Podron is, unsurprisingly, a big highlight of the week for me. And if you keep listening, you'll hear a lot of my twitter responses read by the hosts. ;)

I do hope that Arthur is right and there won't be a redemption for Kylo. I don't hate him quite as much as I did after Force Awakens, but I still hate him a lot.

(I will defend the Wedge, Tycho, and Syal parts of Legacy of the Force a lot! But the rest of the books are pretty bad. Oh, wait, I also liked Seha. I also think that Legacy of the Force, for all that it's not good, is more enjoyable to me than the new films. Mostly because it has Wedge.)

I do think that at least the Allston X-Wing novels are very good. Definitely a ton better than a huge chunk of non-tie-in science fiction I've read.

I do feel for Robinson in the way the later EU books ruined the earlier ones - but except for Mercy Kill, I have basically written out all of the things I hate from my personal canon. I hate that I've become a "personal canon" Star Wars fan, but I am a lot happier about my old books than I used to be!

If they try to make an Old Republic movie, I'm going to be really disappointed in how much worse it will be than Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2. :)

As for Arthur's point that the rise of the First Order is a symbolic warning to always be vigilant - I think that's not super useful, since there's really nothing that distinguishes the First Order from the Empire other than the name. I think a different threat would have been much more interesting and useful even from a social commentary perspective.

Daniel - I think you make an excellent point with Invincible's Tahiri/Anakin grossness. I personally have never really seen why people give Denning such a pass on his series enders, since they're really not better than his middle books. I also think a lot of fans were so tired and burnt out that they just didn't go past Mara's death - I know I just stopped doing any Star Wars for about a year when that happened. I did get to Invincible, but by that point, it was clear that the Star Wars I loved wasn't coming back.

Robinson - yes, I have said that I didn't find Fisher's performance that interesting or strong in either of the two new movies. I quite like her in the originals, though.
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at 22:02 on 08-01-2018, Robinson L
Arthur: I will stick to vicariously enjoying Expanded Universe material through the hilarious Expounded Universe podcast's epic-length takedowns of it. They're working their way through The Crystal Star right now and it's delightfully goofybubbles.

Thanks for bringing this podcast to my attention: I'd never heard about it before, but I'm enjoying the other podcasts I've listened to that take an in-depth look at old Expanded Universe material. It's been ages since I read Crystal Star, and I don't remember thinking much about it one way or another except that the alien villain was certainly imaginative. Apparently, though, it has a legendarily bad reputation in fandom, so I'll be interested to check in and see why that is. But, because I'm a first things first kind of person, I'll have to check out what they thought of Shadows of the Empire.
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at 22:00 on 08-01-2018, Robinson L
Daniel F: For me, at least, that series is the worst and most unpleasant piece of Star Wars material ever published.

One thing we agree on, at the least, then.

I would, I suppose, support a retcon trimming of the EU down to The Unifying Force as the cut-off point, because once you cut the NJO I think you’ve probably lost too much that’s worthwhile.

That sounds reasonable, though I'd sorely miss Chewie and Anakin, and be highly exasperated at the god-modding of Jacen in contrast to Jaina.

Looking at it from the perspective of Disney/Lucasfilm, though, if they wanted to feature the original trilogy cast, and intended to retain any of the Expanded Universe, they'd pretty much have to wipe out New Jedi Order as well.

Everything that happened in the New Republic era is a fairly predictable extension from the end of Return of the Jedi. Which is to say, you could dump somebody who's seen the original films but not read any of the books into a story set after Survivor's Quest and have them up to speed in under five minutes: this is Luke's wife, these are Leia and Han's kids and their friends, they're at peace with what's left of the Empire, no problem.

Once you get to New Jedi Order, though, you'd have to include so much backstory to explain these scarred up baddies who use organic technology and they almost took over the galaxy, and Leia and Han had another kid but he's dead now, and so's Chewie (though that latter could make a really cool flashback), and the shape of the galaxy is entirely different, etc.

Really, though, that still leaves two problems from their perspective. The first is that even if you wipe out NJO and the Legacy Era, they've still got decades of continuity which - again, from their perspective - is only going to bog things down necessarily. Yeah, sorry, we can't do this really cool thing with, say, the Jedi, because it contradicts some plot point from a 20-year-old novel that got picked up by other authors and run with.

The second problem is that, as we may've touched on already, because everyone's interests in and sensibilities about Star Wars are different, everyone has different ideas about what constituted the best and the worst of the EU. Even if they just erased the Legacy Era and somehow resolved the weight of previous canon and the confusion of NJO, they'd still be dealing with fan outcry over eliminating the Legacy Era, because hard as it is for me to understand, there are probably fans for whom that era was the favorite. And I suspect the backlash in that scenario would actually be worse, because it would feel like Lucasfilm/Disney were playing favorites, supporting some parts of the canon while rejecting others. Whereas, if you just scuttle the whole thing and only leave the movies and Lucas-consulting TV show, you're pissing off everyone more or less equally, so the outcry is apt to be less vociferous.

Basically their options were 1) declare all of the EU to be canon and go on from there. I've already explained why this option was unattractive. 2) Create some weird hybrid canon/non-canon of the EU, which would be problematic for the reasons I gave above. 3) wipe out the whole EU and start out with an almost entirely clean slate.

Option 4) would've been to eliminate the EU officially, and do what they were going to do with the movies, but leave the first, say, 20 years post-Return of the Jedi deliberately ambiguous. Some parts of the EU would clearly be non-canon, but you could leave fans to decide for themselves whether they believed the general shape of the stories were still there or not.

4) would've been my preference, but I guess the story group decided they needed to have everything which happened between the original and the sequel trilogy mapped out for sure, perhaps with good reason.

So I can see why, from their viewpoint, option 3) was pretty much the only rational choice. There's a lot I don't like about it, and were it not for my having already been totally disillusioned with the EU as a whole (despite liking and admiring a great deal of the stories), I would've been outraged. But I believe I get the reasoning behind the decision.

Like you, I'm happy to continue the discussion some more, even though it looks like we're not going to reach an agreement on how we view the decision to phase out the Expanded Universe.

Regarding the Empire in the Legacy comics, I’m actually not sure whether you mean the One Sith or the Galactic Empire under the Fels. I tend to treat them separately, although the One Sith do take over a significant proportion of the Empire.

I meant the One Sith, which, as you say, took over a significant portion of the Fel Empire. It was at least as much the same Empire of the original trilogy under the One Sith as the First Order is.

In the sequel films, it seems as though the Empire has fallen apart except for its most radical elements, who double down and become a genuinely fascist cult. In the EU, the Empire goes through several rounds of civil war, most of the extremists get themselves killed off, leaving moderates with the reins, and they end up reforming the Empire into a less fascist, perhaps even moderately respectable government.

Except that, as per the Legacy comics (and Fate of the Jedi, if what I've gathered from other sources is accurate), the extremists weren't all killed off, and just keep popping up like cockroaches. They're the ones who turned the bulk of the Fel Empire over to the One Sith, and I think were up to some kind of shenanigans in the Fate books, also.

And according to the third book in Chuck Wendig's Aftermath trilogy, the Empire of the Disney canon was deliberately demolished by an agent of Palpatine's after the Battle of Endor (under the logic that they failed to keep Palpatine alive, so f*** them), and the surviving remnant reconstituted into the First Order over the following three decades. Which actually seems pretty in-character for Palpatine, but makes the First Order's ability to build itself up into a viable threat to the New Republic seem even more wildly implausible.

I prefer for the new canon to do something entirely new, rather than retread old plots.

Oh, I agree. It's why I'm so annoyed at the films recycling so many plot elements and character arcs from the original trilogy. If they're going to have Thrawn in the new canon, I don't want them to do a tweaked version of the Thrawn trilogy, I want him to have a new story - just so long as that new story is as clever and engrossing as the 90s trilogy, which sadly seems unlikely.

Likewise, with Mara: I want her to be in the new canon, as a former trusted agent of Palpatine, who hates Luke's guts and wants to kill him, but winds up becoming entangled in one of his adventures searching the galaxy for old Jedi lore, and they have to work together and they finally part as friends. Same basic arc as in the Thrawn trilogy, but a different adventure. (And sadly, they don't stay in touch and eventually get married, but hey, it's something; and it means she could still be alive out there, somewhere, rather than killed off.)

If they were just going to do characters like Thrawn or Mara again, why jettison the EU in the first place?

So they can retain elements from the EU that they like, and fit their vision for the saga, without being shackled to all the other continuity which didn't fit their vision? It's basically the same philosophy Lucas used in making the prequels - bringing in some EU elements he liked, and disregarding parts he didn't. Or Dave Filoni and the rest of his creative team with Clone Wars. Hell, Karen Traviss rage quit writing the EU after they retconned her interpretation of the Mandalorians - not that I, personally, was sorry to see her go.

Regarding the OT cast: I’m not sure I follow you here, because I felt their appearances here were not as robust as they were in the past, and sometimes do approach cameo status ... I suspect I am also in the minority in not being very impressed by Carrie Fisher’s performance

Maybe the minority, but hardly alone. I forget who else I've seen make that claim - was it you, Ibmiller? - definitely someone.

Personally, I rarely notice even an awful performance, so the fact that her acting worked for me says very little.

Regarding the Big Three; according to something my sister read or saw somewhere, the plan for the sequels was that the first would focus on Han, the second on Luke, and the third on Leia. Obviously that's cocked up with Ms. Fisher's untimely passing, but it makes sense to me why her roles in VII and VIII are glorified cameos, and Mark Hamill's in VII was an actual cameo.

As for being less robust: if you can give me some specific examples, I can try to explain why those elements worked better for me than they did for you, but failing that, I'm afraid I can't say more than I already have.

(I am relieved Anthony Daniels turned down the offer to reprise his role as Wedge in The Force Awakens, because apparently they were going to kill his character off on Jakku, which would've been an awful cheap shot.)

I suspect most EU fans get into the habit of picking and choosing the material they like and ignoring the rest.

I certainly tried, and it worked with obscure material like the Jedi Prince books, but the Legacy era stories were too central to the EU canon for me to ignore.

I was thinking of the bit in Invincible where a 28 year old woman sexually abuses a 14 year old, and the incredibly tasteless way in which it's presented.

As previously mentioned, I didn't even make it that far. The breaking point for me was watching a character I'd liked and followed for a decade go completely off the rails so the writers could stuff him into a recycled Fall of Anakin Skywalker arc - transforming all the characters close to him into clueless imbeciles in the process; short-changing the female twin in a twin pair to build up her brother's importance; fridging one of my favorite characters in the franchise in a massively inane cheap-shot death; and capping it off by having Luke fucking Skywalker save somebody's life only so he can go ahead and murder them personally. That last tidbit alone outstrips any alleged character derailment in the sequels by several quadrillion parsecs in my book.

Again, didn't make it as far as the sexual abuse scene, but eww. Seriously eww.
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at 20:30 on 08-01-2018, Robinson L
I find it really disappointing that the fandom bring up Mara's death or Jaina's disempowerment or the Mandalorian material as being the problems with LotF, and let this pass. All those things are problems - Jaina in Revelation is probably the worst of them - but it seems like the fandom just glided over the torture-and-sexual-abuse scene. Ugh.

In my case, it's a matter of having bailed on the series long before we reached that part. But yes, that's immensely f*cked up, and arguably worse than the other offensive aspects of the series, because most of those issues are only major problems from a continuity perspective*. Whereas mishandling torture and sexual abuse in such a flagrant manner is vile on the face of it.

*Well, disempowering Jaina and killing off Mara like that is still really sexist, but to me it feels like a different order of magnitude.
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at 04:26 on 07-01-2018, Daniel F
Chapter ten of Invincible. Review here.

I'm sorry to mention it, but... I find it really disappointing that the fandom bring up Mara's death or Jaina's disempowerment or the Mandalorian material as being the problems with LotF, and let this pass. All those things are problems - Jaina in Revelation is probably the worst of them - but it seems like the fandom just glided over the torture-and-sexual-abuse scene. Ugh.
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at 10:46 on 06-01-2018, Arthur B
Holy fuck, they actually put that in an Expanded Universe thing? That's abhorrent. :(

I will stick to vicariously enjoying Expanded Universe material through the hilarious Expounded Universe podcast's epic-length takedowns of it. They're working their way through The Crystal Star right now and it's delightfully goofybubbles.
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at 10:09 on 06-01-2018, Daniel F
You are saying there's Star Wars experiences more unpleasant than watching Itchy getting off to his VR holoporn?


I was thinking of the bit in Invincible where a 28 year old woman sexually abuses a 14 year old, and the incredibly tasteless way in which it's presented. I don't care which Star Wars movies you prefer, that's not okay.
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at 08:19 on 06-01-2018, Arthur B
As with Luke in The Last Jedi, I found myself much more comfortable with the film if I stopped trying to pretend that Hamill’s or Fisher’s characters were the same people as their OT characters.

Well... in a very real sense they're not. They're 30 years older and a lot of shit happens in that span.

30 years ago I was grasping basic reading and numeracy. 30 years from now and I could end up with adult offspring having kids of their own. If people don't change radically in 30 years that would be a sign of incredible personal stagnation.

(At least in human beings. C3P0 seems to be the same as ever, probably because they've never bothered reprogramming him. R2-D2 the same, though we don't see much of him because presumably he's a bit like that creaky old Amiga you're a bit careful about booting up because you can't get the parts any more to repair it. Chewbacca remains Chewbacca, but if I remember right wookies have an absurd lifespan anyway so 30 years might not be such a big deal to him. Yoda a force ghost he is.)
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at 08:12 on 06-01-2018, Arthur B
For me, at least, that series is the worst and most unpleasant piece of Star Wars material ever published. Even the likes of The Crystal Star, The Glove of Darth Vader, or the much-maligned Holiday Special are merely goofy and stupid.

You are saying there's Star Wars experiences more unpleasant than watching Itchy getting off to his VR holoporn?
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at 02:09 on 06-01-2018, Daniel F
Robinson:

Well, as I’ve said, I don’t think there’s any defending Legacy of the Force. For me, at least, that series is the worst and most unpleasant piece of Star Wars material ever published. Even the likes of The Crystal Star, The Glove of Darth Vader, or the much-maligned Holiday Special are merely goofy and stupid. LotF genuinely feels quite misanthropic and awful, and I don’t like to be reminded of its existence if at all possible.

So I would have supported a retcon of LotF. I would, I suppose, support a retcon trimming of the EU down to The Unifying Force as the cut-off point, because once you cut the NJO I think you’ve probably lost too much that’s worthwhile. Still, as it is, I would rather have the EU plus the awful black mark of LotF than have the post-Disney canon, since even with LotF I feel there is more there that’s worth building on.

I understand why you might feel the opposite, so I’d be happy to leave it there, I guess?

But a few more comments just for the hell of it. ;)

Regarding the Empire in the Legacy comics, I’m actually not sure whether you mean the One Sith or the Galactic Empire under the Fels. I tend to treat them separately, although the One Sith do take over a significant proportion of the Empire. One of the most striking differences for me between the new and old continuities is the direction they’ve taken the Empire. The Empire in the films was always at least quasi-fascist. In the sequel films, it seems as though the Empire has fallen apart except for its most radical elements, who double down and become a genuinely fascist cult. In the EU, the Empire goes through several rounds of civil war, most of the extremists get themselves killed off, leaving moderates with the reins, and they end up reforming the Empire into a less fascist, perhaps even moderately respectable government. It’s like seeing both a ‘bad ending’ and a ‘good ending’ for the Empire: really interesting stuff. I love it from a roleplaying perspective, as it gives me more resources to build the Empire into anything I need it to be, including both ‘dark’ and ‘light’ versions.

Regarding using the old continuity in the new canon… ah, I might sound hypocritical here, but I’m actually not a fan of that. The First Order is a good example: I prefer for the new canon to do something entirely new, rather than retread old plots. I don’t need a new canon version of Thrawn if he’s just going to do the same thing as the old Thrawn, for example. So my preference would actually be for a quicker divergence. The same for a character like Mara Jade. I’m obviously a big fan of Mara, but to me it would feel hollow to have a new, pseudo-Mara separate from any of the stories in which Mara originally featured. I’d rather the new material do something genuinely new. If they were just going to do characters like Thrawn or Mara again, why jettison the EU in the first place?

Regarding the OT cast: I’m not sure I follow you here, because I felt their appearances here were not as robust as they were in the past, and sometimes do approach cameo status. Leia, for instance, feels to me like she appears mainly in order to baptise the new leadership of the Rebellion. I suspect I am also in the minority in not being very impressed by Carrie Fisher’s performance, but perhaps the less said about that the better. As with Luke in The Last Jedi, I found myself much more comfortable with the film if I stopped trying to pretend that Hamill’s or Fisher’s characters were the same people as their OT characters. For whatever reason, I can’t quite make that connection.

As to nihilism again… I guess it comes back to what I said at the start. Yes, there are parts of the EU that I ignore, and LotF is among them. I suspect most EU fans get into the habit of picking and choosing the material they like and ignoring the rest. For me, the sequel trilogy so far is better than LotF… but not actually by very much, and it comes at the cost of potentially building on a lot of material that I did enjoy. So for me personally, it was not worth it. If it was to you, though, well, I’m glad that you’re enjoying the films!
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at 22:49 on 05-01-2018, Robjec
@Daniel F: I missed a.bit but I have to say I'm satisfied with what they have done with the characters.

And in general, I've always had a bit of a looser interpretation of star wars cannon then a lot of people. By the time I really started getting into star wars there were already conflicting books. The original trilogy had their "improvements" added to them. A ton of games of varying levels of cannon which also contrasted each other. I don't feel bad about losing the expanded universe because I could never get into it.

I care more about this trilogy standing on its own. I'm still going to dock it if it moves away from what I consider star wars. But my closest tie to anything that came before was the clone war trilogy, which is pretty dark, and the old battelfront games.

I also know that differnt people will view this differently. And thats a good thing. It would be a pretty boring world of everyone shared aesthetic taste. And I'm sure as they make more movies the chanve of one being in the vein you want it too, and that I don't, will only go up.
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at 03:00 on 05-01-2018, Robinson L
Let's just say that if they were making a sequel trilogy during a comparable period in the old EU continuity, instead of the Disney canon, "Jake Skywalker" isn't even on the map in terms of nicknames you'd need to get through it. I had to construct some pretty elaborate ones and I gave up part way through.
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at 00:36 on 05-01-2018, Robinson L
@Arthur:
Yeah, I think I said already that I thought The Last Jedi was a lot less derivative than The Force Awakens. Most of the stuff which feels like a rehashing rather than reconfiguation, as you put it, revolves around Kylo Ren, Snoke, and the First Order, which were already established in the previous movie, so Johnson and co.'s hands were somewhat tied. They could've tried to make Snoke a well-defined character distinct from the Palpatine archetype, but I don't really mind that they didn't. Likewise, while the Primary Climax in Snoke's Throne Room was painfully obvious due to how closely it paralleled the climax of Return of the Jedi, I've already explained why, in my mind, it still worked really well. The only other thing is that the Secondary Climax on Crait leaned a little heavily on Battle of Hoth imagery, but that's a trivial point.

I guess what worries me going forward is that because Kylo Ren plays so closely into the Darth Vader archetype, I find it difficult to imagine a conclusion to his storyline in IX that's 1) satisfying and 2) surprising. And because so much of the plot is bound up in defeating the villain, that means I have a hard time imagining a climax to the trilogy (and therefore the nine-movie cycle) that's satisfying and surprising.


Daniel F: I recognise that you can’t argue someone into changing an emotional reaction

Absolutely. And I'm not trying to change your mind on this - just trying to explain why, in my mind, swapping out the sequel trilogy for the old Expanded Universe is preferable.

I find it a bit difficult to parse your position on Legacy here.

Sorry for the lack of clarity on my part. I disliked the Legacy comics for several reasons, but they're not my main source of ire.

The point I was trying to make was mainly about the Legacy era novels, especially Legacy of the Force and Crucible, which between them managed to irrevocably wreck pretty much every single one of my favorite Star Wars characters in one way or another, sometimes killing them off in the process*. Those books did so many things I dislike which are either absent from the sequel trilogy or much less annoyingly executed (which is not to say that it isn't still very annoying). About the only thing the books didn't do which the sequels sorta did, is have the Sith and Empire win and take over the galaxy again so that the heroes would be forced to retread the Rebellion Against the Empire plot from the original trilogy all over again. Except that's exactly what happened in the Legacy comics (and again, even more annoyingly in my highly biased and subjective opinion).

*Said wrecking being my main reason for happily bidding farewell to the EU. Before the 2014 announcement, the canonical ending to all my favorite characters' storylines was pretty much universally miserable and awful, which to me made all their earlier adventures feel like at best worthless, and at worst a sick joke at my expense.

So while my main contempt is reserved for Legacy of the Force, the set up of the Legacy comics solidified the Legacy era (and hence, very sadly, the Expanded Universe as a whole), as a much less desirable ultimate fate for the Star Wars universe and my favorite Star Wars characters than the sequel trilogy from my perspective. Does that explain it any better?

(Another nice thing for me about the sequels as opposed to the Legacy comics is that at least the original trilogy heroes get to play an active role in fighting back against the Sith 2.0 and Empire 2.0, rather than, at most, playing Force Ghost mentors to arguably the least likable protagonist in any Star Wars product ever.)

My counterpoint responses:

1) Sorry, I meant the Sith Empire's total victory at the start of the Legacy comics, in contrast to the First Order's partial victory at the start of the sequel trilogy. I realize it's not the most rational distinction and likely doesn't hold up under close scrutiny; but again, I never meant to imply these reasons are anything but subjective, and they work for me.

2) A large part of my annoyance is that in the case of both the sequel trilogy and the Legacy comics, it's not an unrelated threat they're facing - it's the same Empire and the same Sith (or near enough), sometimes without even the serial numbers filed off. Granted, the Legacy comics did slightly better than the sequels in not having one of the main antagonists be yet another Skywalker descendant who fell to the dark side - it just had utterly bland, by-the-numbers villains with often silly names and silly costumes, with the big twist being that their leader used to be a minor supporting character in the Republic comics. *Yawn*. And, again, LotF dipped into the Fallen Skywalker well (totally rewriting several established characters in the process), so the Legacy era and EU as a whole don't get a point over the sequels in that regard.

3) Fair enough. Personally, I love Rey, Finn, and Poe, and I really like Rose, so I find the sequel trilogy much more enjoyable on the strength of that alone. And on the flipside, while I kinda liked some of the supporting characters in the Legacy comics, none of them stood out for me to a sufficient extent to make up for the walking black hole of personality that served as the series protagonist.

I think that while Legacy has its problems, it was not nearly as… well, I hate to say it, but spiteful towards the OT’s legacy as the sequel trilogy feels so far, at least to me.

If you mean juts the Legacy comics then, well, I don't share your opinion, but I suppose I can see where you're coming from. I'm sorry the sequels don't work as well for you as they do for me. (If we're talking about the Legacy Era as a whole, then I don't know about spiteful, but I would definitely argue it was more cruel and mean-spirited towards them. By, like, a factor of 80. Trillion.)

Even if we say hypothetically that Legacy and the ST are equally as bad, I can at least ignore Legacy and enjoy decades of more interesting post-RotJ material

I guess that's the main difference in our outlooks, and one that's never going to go away. I couldn't ignore Legacy before the Disney deal, because canonically, that was the fate of all the good post-Jedi stories. Didn't matter how good they were, because I knew it all came to shit in the end. If you can view those stories differently, then more power to you, and I'm sorry the Disney canon isn't working as well for you.

it’s a bit sad that I’m not going to see any more material that uses the wealth of resources that was in the EU

I absolutely agree. I think that even with the old continuity jettisoned, there are still so many pieces which could have easily been incorporated into the new canon. And other pieces which would've taken more finesse, but still would've been possible and worth doing (I'm still sore they aren't including Mara Jade - she wouldn't have to be Luke's wife, and the rest of her story would fit in the new continuity okay). Planets, species, and cultures seem to be having an easier way finding their way in, and that'll probably continue, with the exception of specific, obviously problematic examples such as the Yuuzhan Vong or ysalamiri. While I personally count it a net gain, I acknowledge that the loss was profound.

Even if you’re absolutely committed to reusing the OT cast, there’s nothing stopping you from, say, setting the sequels two hundred years after RotJ and having Luke appear as a Force ghost, or including a few flashbacks where relevant

Looking at it from a marketer's viewpoint, though, casual fans who go to the theater to see a Star Wars movie aren't going to see nothing but cameos by the original trilogy cast. They're there to see at least some of the original trilogy folks in prominent roles. (And from my highly subjective viewpoint of a hardcore fan, if it means keeping the Legacy Era in continuity, then Fuck that noise.)

Thanks for sharing that article: there's some things I disagree with in it, but the analysis is uniformly excellent, and it raises many terrific points. I particularly like the discussion of the character arcs and how they carry the themes. The cool dismissal both of sexist and racist complaints against the movie, and of claims that it's some sort of revolutionary addition to the saga, are also highly appreciated.

The alternative is an infinite variety of OTHER options which aren’t destructively nihilistic to the Star Wars legacy: Palpatine Loyalists rebelling against the New Republic. A cold war in a galaxy divided between the Imperial remnant and the New Republic. Droid War. Extra-galactic invasion. Cryogenically frozen Sith army from 10,000 years ago waking up.
The sequel trilogy simply lacks ambition.

Strongly agree with this - except the cryogenically frozen Sith army, give them a rest, already. Again, though, the Expanded Universe did the exact same thing, so we're stuck with this asinine option either way.

As for the point about the characters:

Arthur: They are for me.

In particular, Leia in The Last Jedi gets to be bigger and better and more convincingly a badass rebel leader than she was at any point in the original trilogy.

I heartily agree, especially about Leia. With notable exceptions, much of the Expanded Universe (not even just the Legacy Era) didn't really do the character of Leia justice. Whereas not only did I think The Last Jedi serve her well, but also supplemental material like the Moving Target middle grade novel, and Claudia Gray's Bloodline and Leia: A Princess of Alderaan*.

*As an EU fan, I'm still mad at her writing Winter out of continuity in the latter, even though Winter isn't a particular favorite character of mine, because I think she makes a fantastic foil for Leia, and I like the idea of Leia having actual friends growing up. On the other hand, I give Ms. Gray major props for taking Breha, Leia's adopted mom, a literal placeholder character in every previous appearance - which were damn few to begin with - and turning her into an incredibly badass leader and mother figure in her own right. I also love her interpretation of Mon Mothma, even if she only appears briefly.

I can't see where that article is coming from, insinuating the sequel trilogy makes out the original cast to be abject failures. While I dislike that their victory over the Empire and the Sith was largely walked back, that's largely not because of their personal failures. They did their part, and it wasn't enough - which is still pretty pessimistic, but doesn't reflect back on them.

Leia, in particular, is clearly depicted in both movies as an incredible leaders: granted her side is mostly losing, but not for any failures of leadership on her part. Just because the galaxy went to shit doesn't mean Leia personally screwed up. Hell, she's the primary augur holding the whole damn Resistance together in the movies.

She's also shown to have good relationships with friends and co-workers, for the most part. Her only personal "failure" is in her relationships with her husband and her son. Well, political leaders often have imperfect home lives; she doesn't have to be competent at absolutely everything. And from what we see, it doesn't look like Kylo Ren's fall was any fault of hers, either.

Han, for his part, is obviously going through a bad patch when we see him in The Force Awakens, and has devolved to somewhere before he was at the end of Jedi - but not so far back as he was at the beginning of A New Hope. It's not a complete character reboot - he's not indifferent to the plight of others, it's more like he's given up on his own ability to act heroically and do good. But when there's an immediate, pressing need, he leaps into action without hesitation.

In the movie's climax he 1) succeeds along with the other heroes in facilitating Rey's escape from Starkiller Base; 2) successfully helps the Resistance destroy Starkiller Base by bringing down the shields and blowing up the core; 3) overcomes all the fear and regret weighing him down and confronts his son. Kylo's redemption, or lack thereof, was never in Han's hands, so its failure can't be put on him - he stepped up and did the best he could, which is the most anyone can do.

He and Leia are estranged, but they're still on amicable terms, and readily agree they had a good run.

Just because the guy has made some major mistakes and has lost a fair bit of ground doesn't make him categorically a failure. Anymore than the failure of the Empire to stay dead after he helped kill it makes him a failure.

Luke is a harder one to argue. I really wish Johnson and his collaborators had come up with a better reason for Luke to go into hiding than "he was running away." (Like that he was learning ancient wisdom to bring back at some later point, or hiding and training some survivors of the massacre, or gathering up mystical energy or something.) I don't quite buy him giving up and running away from it all after he failed in training Ben.

The failure itself, though - I could just about believe that. Sure, the tragic misunderstanding at the heart of it was melodramatic as all get out, but to me it seemed fitting with Luke's character. I couldn't see him actually trying to murder young Ben in his sleep, but I could absolutely see him succumbing to a moment of weakness. Don't forget, he was on the brink of murdering Vader at the end of Jedi before he came to his senses.

Sure, he doesn't seem to have accomplished much else before his confrontation with Kylo Ren at the end of the film, and like Han, he's clearly made a lot of huge mistakes. But, oh, I dunno, for whatever reason, he doesn't read to me as an abject failure, even before his dramatic comeback.

And, not caring one little jot if I slip into being a broken record here: the complaint of destructive nihilism, and rendering the heroes' accomplishments rendered ultimately meaningless, applies seventy-fold to the old Expanded Universe (and specifically the Legacy Era). At least in this canon they weren't transformed into complete assholes whom we're inexplicably still expected to root for by the end. I really, really wouldn't want to see a movie set in that continuity.
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at 10:13 on 04-01-2018, Arthur B
Maybe you don’t think that would be satisfying for fans of those characters, but I have to ask… are the sequel films that they made satisfying for fans of those characters?

They are for me.

In particular, Leia in The Last Jedi gets to be bigger and better and more convincingly a badass rebel leader than she was at any point in the original trilogy.
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