Star Wars: Droidography book announced

From StarWars.com:

“Where would our Star Wars heroes be without droids? BB-8 completed Poe Dameron’s mission and delivered the map to Luke Skywalker. Plus, he drove an actual AT-ST and rescued Finn and Rose. Chopper saved the Ghost crew on numerous occasions, including some solid undercover work. R2-D2 managed to escape the stormtrooper-infested Tantive IV, find Obi-Wan Kenobi, and get the Death Star plans all the way to the Rebellion on Yavin 4. Because of that, the planet-destroying battle station was destroyed. (Also, without Artoo, Luke would’ve most likely followed in his uncle’s footsteps and never even picked up a laser sword. He certainly wouldn’t have gotten out of that trash compactor.)

So maybe the better question is: Where would Star Wars itself be without droids?

That’s why Star Wars: Droidography, a new book coming November 6 from HarperFestival and revealed here for the first time, is so exciting. Written by Marc Sumerak and illustrated by Joel Hustak along with Massimo Travaglini and Arianna Sabella, Droidography is a deep dive into mechanical beings across Star Wars — from icons like R2-D2 to new favorites Triple Zero and Bee Tee, i.e., Doctor Aphra’s psychopathic droid pals introduced in Marvel’s comics. And maybe best of all, it’s all told from the point of view of Roger, the good-guy battle droid from LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures. StarWars.com caught up with Sumerak over email to find out a little bit more, and also absconded with our own secret plans, as it were — your first look at Droidography‘s cover and a few interiors. […]”

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Padmé is on a mission in new excerpt and new art from Thrawn: Alliances novel

From StarWars.com:

“Padmé Amidala has never been one to shrink away from a fight, whether negotiating on the floor of the senate with her words or in the arena with her blaster. And when author Timothy Zahn’s follow-up to last year’s bestselling Thrawn novel debuts July 24, it includes an appearance by none other than the former Queen of Naboo herself, returning to the spotlight for a mission alongside Anakin and Thrawn in Thrawn: Alliances.

Today, StarWars.com is excited to bring you a new exclusive excerpt from the book, the first look at stunning poster art of Padmé on Batuu, available only in the Barnes & Noble exclusive edition, and a brand-new audio clip once again narrated by Marc Thompson.

In the excerpt below, we find Padmé headed to the planet’s surface to investigate the disappearance of an old friend…

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The Telegraph: “Jar Jar was the whole essence of Star Wars”

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From The Telegraph:

“[…] All that remained to be seen was the exact make-up of the new instalment. We knew about the dry characters of young Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker, and it didn’t take an X-Wing mechanic to guess that Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jin might not be a rollicking gag-fest. Who would provide the comic relief?

Jar Jar Binks, that’s who. A plucky but awkward Gungan: an amphibious biped with a heart of gold and the voice of a rasta on laughing gas. We met him just as he had been exiled by Boss Nass, the Gungans’ blimp-like ruler, for his clumsiness. Qui-Gon saved him from being run over by a spaceship in the woods. “Oh boy boy I luuvvv youuu,” said Jar Jar, pledging his service as a debt of gratitude.

A star should have been born – Rolling Stone magazine put him on the cover, with the headline “Jar Jar Superstar”. But what came into existence was a black hole, an inescapable anti-mass that became a locus for everything people hated about the new trilogy. Web pages were set up, listing ways to kill him. Ahmed Best, the actor who had the misfortune to play the character, recently admitted he “almost ended my life” in the wake of the backlash.

The critic Daniel Kimmell published a compilation of writing with the title Jar Jar Binks Must Die. George Lucas was picketed at events. Satire abounded: the Onion ran a story with the headline, “80 Billion Tons of Jar Jar Merchandise Now 70 Percent Off”. Jar Jar was proof that George Lucas had lost touch with what made Star Wars great.

More severely, there were accusations of racism. The American scholar and race theorist, Patricia Williams, said that Jar Jar’s character was reminiscent of the archetypes portrayed by blackface minstrels. Others said he traded on stereotypes of lazy Caribbean people. Lucas denied the accusations.

“How in the world you could take an orange amphibian and say that he’s a Jamaican? It’s completely absurd,” he told Kirsty Walk on Newsnight. “Believe me, Jar Jar was not drawn from a Jamaican, from any stretch of the imagination.” Still, surprised and hurt by the criticism, Lucas re-wrote Jar Jar’s parts in the following two films to minimise his contribution.

The loathing was so widespread that it is tempting to think it was universal. But it wasn’t, quite. Roger Ebert, in his very positive notice of The Phantom Menace, didn’t think Jar Jar worthy of criticism (and he had been sceptical about Chewie). Reviewing the film for the Telegraph, the novelist Andrew O’Hagan praised the Gungan debutant: “Jar Jar is the new star. A wise-cracking, pony-headed, flarey-nostrilled, slack-mouthed beast with giant feet and hands like shovels, he comes into our lives as someone who knows the ways of the universe a little better than the rest of us… He will soon be as loved as Winnie-the-Pooh.”

O‘Hagan says that he still stands by his judgment. “I might have overstated the case a bit with Jar-Jar,” he tells us. “But it surprised me that he wasn’t loved. I think children are now less impressed with awkwardness than they once were. A lot of my childhood heroes were ungainly and unlovely, but they had character. I liked Jar Jar for being a bit of a clod-hopper. But few other people did. In a way he was an old-fashioned kind of character who was willing to get on your nerves.”

He wasn’t the only one to be surprised by the response. Ahmed Best, who voiced Jar Jar and helped with his movements, thought he had landed the plum gig: the first completely computer generated main character in cinema history, in the biggest franchise on earth. (Michael Jackson had apparently been keen for the part, too, but Lucas felt his presence would be a distraction.)

“[The criticism] hurt a lot,” Best said in a 2014 Reddit interview. “You put your heart and soul into something groundbreaking for two years and it gets slammed, that hurts.” A lot of his inspiration came from silent film, he added. “George and I would watch a lot of Buster Keaton together and he would tell what he liked and what he wanted. The final battle scene in Phantom Menace is almost all Buster Keaton.”

He has taken the Jar Jar hate with good grace, and said he would have done it all again. “I’m a skinny kid from the Bronx. I’m not supposed to be alive, let alone a pro artist. Opportunities like Star Wars come once in a lifetime. Those are the ones you say yes to.”[…]

JJ Abrams, director of the eighth Star Wars film The Force Awakens, has kept the hatred going by recently telling Vanity Fair that he wanted to “kill off” Jar Jar by showing his bones in the background of a desert scene. But watching the films now I find it impossible to dredge up the loathing for him I felt 15 years ago, when hundreds of hours of X-Wing vs TIE Fighter meant I thought of Star Wars as a kind of high-tech gothic Battle of Britain to be treated with great reverence.

I was wrong. Jar Jar was hated because people thought he was out of place, but the opposite was true. The same people who went online to list ways to murder him are those who take the garbled mutterings of an antediluvian swamp-frog, Yoda, as great wisdom.

Jar Jar was the whole essence of Star Wars. He was awkward but trying his best in a complex galaxy, pitted against vast forces of evil. Unlike the po-faced Jedi he didn’t have magic on his side. He made mistakes but was capable of surprising feats under duress. He was funny and warm and slightly hapless. Meesa Jar Jar. We allsa Jar Jar. ”

Yoda actor Frank Oz says he “loved Jar Jar Binks”, “a great character”

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Frank Oz puppeteered Yoda and provided his voice in the Star Wars saga.

Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best says he almost killed himself because of media backlash

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Screen Rant: the Star Wars sequels take “far more thematically from the prequels” than from the original trilogy

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From Screen Rant:

“Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy is often credited for its original trilogy aesthetic, but it takes far more thematically from the prequels. […]

Star Wars fandom is no stranger to debate, and one of the biggest ones right out the gate with the sequel trilogy was the perception that it was actually ignoring the prequels for the sake of original trilogy nostalgia, and while it’s true that, to an extent, the sequels look more like the original trilogy, thematically they harken back to the more complicated story of the prequels.

When Star Wars first arrived in theaters back in 1977, Lucas drew inspiration from the adventure serials he had enjoyed as a youth, like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. These stories centered on a clear-cut division between good and evil, and it was the universal battle between the two that the original trilogy aims to communicate. The heroes, by and large, wear white and/or bright colors, while the villain is a part-man, part-machine creature in a terrifying black suit. Even the lightsabers are color-coordinated. […]

THE PREQUELS SUBVERTED WHAT AUDIENCES THOUGHT ABOUT THEIR HEROES

Then came the prequels. Suddenly, the badass Jedi-turned-Sith Darth Vader was a peppy little podracer prodigy, and the wisdom and power of the Jedi was ultimately revealed to be mired by arrogance. Blinded by the dark side and their own pride, the Jedi Council — epitomized by Yoda himself — consistently fails to make the right decisions, failing to see that the Dark Lord of the Sith was right under their nose the whole tie, allowing Chancellor Palpatine claim more and more power and ascend to the role of Emperor.

Even Obi-Wan Kenobi is first presented as a pompous padawan learner who doesn’t develop into the hero we know until well into Revenge of the Sith. The entire foundation of righteousness that Obi-Wan and Yoda represent in the original trilogy is recontextualized by the prequels, which aim to shed new light on the characters and explore the truth that led the Republic to its doom and the Jedi to near-extinction at the hands of the Chosen One.

THE DISNEY MOVIES ARE ABOUT PROCESSING AND MOVING ON FROM THE FAILURES OF THE PREQUEL TRILOGY

As you might imagine, that’s exactly what the new films, especially The Last Jedi, are commenting on. Luke himself even points out how the “hypocrisy” and “hubris” of the Jedi played an integral role in creating the Empire, and for this reason, he is convinced that the only way for the galaxy (i.e., the Star Wars saga itself) to survive is for the Jedi to be removed from the equation entirely. Meanwhile, his nephew — the main villain of this trilogy — worships his grandfather’s dark deeds, hoping to restore his greatness unto the galaxy. In a sort of meta-commentary, Kylo Ren could represent the fans who are yearning for the original trilogy, lacking the full context of how Anakin became Vader or why Luke won by throwing his lightsaber, not striking Vader down.

Yoda even reaches forth from the beyond to confess to Luke that “the greatest teacher, failure is.” His entire appearance in The Last Jedi is predicated on a need to let go of the Jedi’s past mistakes, drawing a smooth parallel between his failure to stop Darth Sidious from claiming control of the galaxy and Luke’s failure to recreate the Jedi Order in his own image. Although it remains to be seen how Episode IX will wrap up this thematic throughline, it doesn’t take much scrutiny to reveal the meta-commentary that the sequel trilogy is going for.

RECONCILING THE PAST TRILOGIES SO THAT THE SAGA CAN LIVE ON

While the Disney Star Wars films ultimately condemn not the prequel trilogy itself but the actions of its heroes, they certainly don’t shy away from referencing and incorporating certain elements into the stories they’re trying to tell. Take that Solo villain cameo, for example. In fact, every single one of the four films that Disney has released since taking ownership has included references, cameos and narrative ties to the prequels. You could even say that one of the greatest objectives of the sequel trilogy is the unification of all that has come before, equally legitimizing both trilogies while allowing fans to accept them all and move on.

In The Force Awakens, Maz Kanata discusses the never-ending fight against evil in its many forms, name-checking the Sith, the Empire, and the First Order as various incarnations of the same struggle. Then, of course, there is the philosophical debate between Kylo “Let the past die” Ren and Rey’s desire to salvage what remains of the Jedi, even if all she ultimately saves is the Order’s sacred texts. These two central pillars of the sequel trilogy find themselves in a philosophical quarrel over how to treat the future of the Star Wars galaxy, and no film captures that conversation as much as The Last Jedi.

In that respect, Rian Johnson’s film — and the vitriolic response some fans have had to it — embodies a transitional period for the saga. By bringing back the themes of the prequels and the cast of the original trilogy, the Disney films are tying the whole saga together once and for all. After all, what comes next in the main saga, spinoffs aside, will likely not be beholden to either the original trilogy or the prequels. And it shouldn’t have to. The Star Wars universe is a vast one with infinite storytelling potential. As J.J. Abrams once explained, the purpose of the sequel trilogy is to “reclaim the story,” and that mission is well on its way to being accomplished.”