George Lucas

Introduction to Star Wars

When George Lucas released the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, it created a bit of a conundrum: what viewing order should a Star Wars fan use when introducing the films to someone who has never watched Star Wars? On the one hand, the films could be shown to a newbie in “Release Order” with the Original Trilogy first and the Prequels second. On the other hand, the movies could be shown in “Chronological Order” beginning with Episode I (The Phantom Menace) and ending with Episode VI (Return of the Jedi)? Plus, while the “Release Order” and “Chronological Order” are the most obvious options, there are a number of other viewing orders that have been suggested (“Machete Order” being the most popular).

Ignoring, for the moment, that there now exists a Sequel Trilogy, stand-alone films, and television shows (not to mention novels, comics, games, and more), I have always felt that Star Wars should be introduced to a newcomer in “Release Order” and not “Chronological Order.” This belief is entirely predicated on my own interactions with Star Wars from youth to adulthood. I watched the Original Trilogy when I was a kid, and the Prequel Trilogy as a teen/young adult. But, that fact also makes me biased, and my suggestion to someone to start with A New Hope, while grounded in the fact that it was the first Star Wars film, is also grounded in my personal journey with Star Wars. Someone can have entirely different reasons for suggesting the “Release Order” or “Chronological Order” to a newcomer and that is perfectly fine by me. 

Actually, as a life-long Star Wars fan my only real responsibility is to offer suggestions, not to implement rules, and that goes far beyond the confines of the “Release Order” vs “Chronological Order” debate. Since A New Hope came out in 1977 (I was negative eight years old at the time), Star Wars has become a multi-headed beast, a hydra masquerading as an epic space fantasy. Which is to say this: Star Wars has so many stories across so many mediums that the whole “Release Order” or “Chronological Order” conundrum seems rather small. The films might be the natural starting point for most Star Wars fans – there are certainly those who have come to the franchise by another route – but the question of “where do I go from here?” is a far more difficult question I have been asked by a lot of people who are curious about exploring the depths of the Star Wars franchise after they have watched one or more of the films.

Thrawn Trilogy
“Heir to the Empire”, the first novel in The Thrawn Trilogy. Photo Credit – Bantam Spectra

Like the first world problem of cinematic watch order, I only have suggestions and no definitive answers for people who are eager to be introduced to Star Wars beyond the films. Naturally, I am predisposed to reduce my answer to the least common denominator – my own personal preferences. Shocking! Here is an example: I am a huge fan of The Thrawn Trilogy by author Timothy Zahn, and absolutely love the Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn who was introduced in the series. But just because I am a fan of Thrawn doesn’t mean anyone I encourage to read the trilogy will inevitably love it. Then again, perhaps they will enjoy it but for completely different reasons than I do. But isn’t that just the bare bones truth of Star Wars anyway, everyone loving certain aspects of the franchise motivated entirely by their personal tastes? Don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question.

So, where do we go from here? Oish, I have no idea. Like I said with my neat “Star Wars is a hydra” metaphor, the franchise is just too big at this point to really offer one direction, one way of “doing” Star Wars. I am going to punt on offering some really profound “Introductory” approach to Star Wars. Instead, I will just offer this all-encompassing suggestion for people who are interested in exploring Star Wars:

Start with A New Hope – it was the first Star Wars film after all so it just feels right to start there – and then just make it up as you go. Actually, just treat Star Wars like a big and exciting choose your own adventure, and no matter what you choose, you are doing Star Wars right. And, if you get confused along the way, or want more personalized suggestions, feel free to message me (I have a contact page). I am happy to offer my thoughts. Just, ya know, don’t be surprised when I start talking about Thrawn.

Women of the Jedi Council

The Jedi High Council: the ruling body of the Jedi Order for millennia until the Order’s downfall at the end of the Clone Wars. Consisting of twelve Masters, these experienced and wizened Jedi deliberated the best direction and course of action for the Order they were tasked with leading. At the head of the Council was a Grand Master, and during the last years of the Old Republic – years we see unfolding in the Prequel Trilogy, The Clone Wars animated show, and through other storytelling mediums – that title/role was occupied by Yoda, the mysterious Jedi introduced in The Empire Strikes Back. But while Yoda may have been the oldest and wisest of the Jedi, commanding infinite respect, and his opinions on Jedi matters carrying incredible weight, he was surrounded by Masters gifted in their own particular ways.

It is at this point, though, that I must acknowledge my intention for this post. Rather than trying to weave a path towards my conclusion, highlighting all of the Masters and the way their stories have been woven into the fabric of Star Wars, it is far easier to be direct. In short, this piece is titled “Women of the Jedi Council” because, upon reflection, I found myself shocked that there are not MORE women on the Council.

Introduced in The Phantom Menace, the Jedi Council of the first Prequel film has only three female characters:

Adi Gallia
Depa Billaba

In Attack of the Clones, the Council again only has three women:

Shaak Ti  (who replaced Yaddle)
Adi Gallia
Depa Billaba

And, in Revenge of the Sith, the Council only has two women:

Shaak Ti
Stass Allie (who replaced Adi Gallia)

Over a 13 years period, from The Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi High Council only has five different women. And, one will notice from the small lists above that none of the women in The Phantom Menace are on the Council when we get to Revenge of the Sith. On the flip side, the male representation on the Jedi Council remains steady. The breakdown is as follows…

The Phantom Menace:

Mace Windu
Plo Koon
Saesee Tiin
Even Piell
Oppo Rancisis
Yarael Poof
Eeth Koth

Attack of the Clones:

Mace Windu
Plo Koon
Saesee Tiin
Even Piell
Oppo Rancisis
Coleman Trebor (who replaced Yarael Poof)
Eeth Koth

Revenge of the Sith:

Mace Windu
Plo Koon
Saesee Tiin
Obi-Wan Kenobi (who replaced Even Piell)
Anakin Skywalker (who replaced Oppo Rancisis)
Kit Fisto (who replaced Coleman Trebor)
Agen Kolar (who replaced Eeth Koth)
Coleman Kcaj (who replaced Depa Billaba)

Like I said, the male representation on the Council remains steady throughout, particularly among the first 5 male Masters in each list. In turn, whereas there are only 5 different women on the Council over the 13 year period, there are a total of 15 different men (a 3:1 ratio of men to women). Plus, there are three other curious things to consider about this male-female breakdown:

  1. While we do hear women who sit on the Jedi Council speak in The Clone Wars animated series (Adi Gallia and Shaak Ti), a woman NEVER speaks during a Council session in any of the three Prequel films. Notably, the only Jedi woman who speaks in the Prequels is the Jedi Archive librarian Jocasta Nu, but she is not a member of the Council.
  2. A woman NEVER replaces a man on the Jedi Council. In fact, the opposite is true, with Coleman Kcaj replacing Depa Billaba. 
  3. More men (6) are added to the Council over those 13 years than the total number of women (5) who sit on the Council over that same period.

So, what gives?

Well, first and foremost, I will return to my initial admittance: as I reflected on the Jedi Council I was shocked that women are so underrepresented, and I am guilty for not recognizing this sooner. While I was growing up when the Prequel Trilogy films came out (the years 1999, 2002, 2005), and was not prone to deeper reflections on the franchise I loved at that time, as an adult I can say I am disappointed in myself for not recognizing this woeful disparity and lack of female voices sooner. Better late than never, though.

Secondly, while I do not have direct insight into the thought processes of Star Wars creator George Lucas, the writer/director of the Prequel Trilogy, I am never-the-less left to wonder why it is he did not recognize this paucity of women on the Council. As he worked on the Prequels, Lucas clearly took for granted the uneven representation, the lopsided ratio of men to women. Perhaps if he, or others around him, had noticed it then something would have changed with more women added, fewer men speaking, and so on. Or maybe it was pointed out and he just didn’t care. Frankly, I cannot say. But what I can say is that, at least for me, this is glaring red mark against the Prequel Trilogy, and it is incredibly unfortunate that more attention was not given to creating a Jedi Council with equal representation. Which leads me to my third point…

…what does this imbalance of the sexes say about the Jedi Council? In some respects, I suppose it isn’t all that surprising. If art imitates life, then the Jedi Council imitates many corporate board rooms where men still outnumber women. Or, since the Jedi are a religious order, we can think of religions around the world which place greater emphasis on the voices/actions of men (the hierarchy of the Catholic Church being one example). But just because it isn’t surprising that the Jedi are governed predominantly by men doesn’t mean it isn’t disappointing. The Jedi Order is supposed to be built around principles of egalitarianism and, as such, one would presume that the High Council would strive for a balance of the sexes. In fact, I cannot help but wonder: if more women – and newer voices in general – had been present, would they have stopped the march to war in Attack of the Clones which was led by the Council’s longstanding (male) Masters, Yoda and Mace Windu in particular?

Shohreh Aghdashloo
Iranian-born actress Shoreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala in The Expanse.
Photo Credit: SyFy

This is certainly not the only question one could ask, and there are any number of answers that are possible. Yet, my intention is not to dig into every single question, or find every answer. Instead, in presenting what I believe is a truly unfortunate reality about the make-up of the Jedi High Council, the lack of women and their voices on that Council, I want to end with a suggestion. As the Star Wars franchise moves forward, with more films being added over time, my hope is that if a film is set in the days of the Old Republic, long before the events of the Prequel Trilogy, that the Jedi Council (if included in the film) feature a perfect distribution of 6 women and 6 men. To this, I would add my desire that the Grand Master of the Jedi Council also be a woman. If left to me, the actress I’d place in the Grand Master’s seat would be Iranian-born actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, a woman with an incredibly commanding presence in SyFy’s show The Expanse. I am of the opinion that Aghdashloo is a natural fit for the Star Wars universe, and could be a remarkable Jedi Grand Master if given the opportunity. That said, there are many actresses who’d make great Jedi Masters if given the chance, and I hope the day it is not far off when we see them on the High Council and helping to lead the Jedi Order.

Star Wars Without End

I spend a lot of time pondering the internals of the Star Wars universe – the characters, events, factions, spaceships, philosophies, etc. – but I also spend quite a bit of time thinking about the Star Wars franchise in general. These days, it’s hard not to think about the trajectory of the franchise since Disney – which purchased the franchise from the original creator/owner George Lucas in 2012 – has been announcing and releasing new content left and right. Movies, TV shows, novels, comics, video games, and more are adding to the already rich trove of stories that populate the universe, while an endless line of new merchandise in every shape and form pops up on a seemingly daily basis. Plus, Disney is building two different Star Wars-themed lands where fans can enjoy “being in” the Star Wars universe.

As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, the fact that the franchise is going strong definitely makes me happy, but this also comes with a catch – too much of a good thing isn’t always great. While I am excited there are new Star Wars stories being told and merchandise being sold, there is also a certain amount of burn out that also comes with all of this. Admittedly, it is a bit odd for me to say this since I maintain this site devoted to Star Wars, but it is also the truth – at times, being a Star Wars fan can be utterly exhausting.

Some of this Star Wars exhaustion is a natural symptom of over-indulgence, a symptom which necessitates moving away from the franchise for a while so I can enjoy it more fully another day. Having a site like this where I write about Star Wars certainly adds to this particular form of burn out, and at times, I have to step away from the computer or notebook, giving myself time and permission to not even think about Star Wars.

I’ve never been to a Star Wars Celebration, the so-called “ultimate fan experience,” and have little desire to attend one. Perhaps someday I will if I’m feeling adventurous and want to put my crowd anxiety to the test.
Photo Credit : Lucasfilm/Disney

On the other hand, some of this burn out is just a general fatigue associated with having to maintain interest in such an expansive franchise, one that is not going to stop growing anytime soon. Just as I look up at the night sky and have difficulty processing the vastness of space, a similar feeling of being overwhelmed hits me when I think about the vastness of the Star Wars franchise, a vastness that encapsulates past, present, and future. While I can appreciate all that Star Wars has to offer, providing fans of every type with something they will love, on a personal level, the more Star Wars grows, the more exhausted I’ve become trying to keep up with it. 

And so, I have found myself trying to reconcile my lifelong exploration of the “galaxy far, far away” with the continued growth of the franchise and the gambit of ways it is making me feel: overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt out, and at times even uninspired and bored. In other words, I have found myself for some time now in the rather peculiar position of trying to decide how I will continue being a fan of the franchise (talk about first world problems). What do I mean by this? Well, it means I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my relationship with the franchise in general, and the content of the Star Wars universe in particular. It means that because I do not have an endless supply of time, energy, and money – especially money – to devote to a fictional universe that will probably still be growing when I am on my death bed that I have to decide which aspects of Star Wars I will continue to participate in/enjoy and which parts I am just uninterested in/do not feel are worth the effort.

Most people know that I’m obsessed with Grand Admiral Thrawn, but I’m also a huge fan of Admiral Natasi Daala who first appeared in the Expanded Universe novel Jedi Search.
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm/Del Rey

In truth, this isn’t an entirely new approach to the way I engage with Star Wars. We all have our personal preferences and gravitate towards certain things, and I have always been the type of person who likes parts of Star Wars more than others. Even before George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney I was selective about how I participated in the franchise, what merchandise I bought, and yes even which stories I gravitated towards. For example, I can honestly say that while I am well versed in the stories of the now Expanded Universe (EU; now officially called Legends…bleh), there are some Expanded Universe stories I have never touched and know almost nothing about. Case in point: The Old Republic online game. Perhaps one day I will get around to playing The Old Republic or checking out those EU stories I haven’t read, or maybe I won’t.

Like the Expanded Universe I am already treating the “new Expanded Universe,” the Disney Canon, the same way. While I have done my best to keep up with all of the stories being released, it became very apparent early on that it just wouldn’t be possible to do so. This hardly means I haven’t tried my best, but it does mean that I am well aware there are tales I have missed and probably will never experience. Since I have no interest in subscribing to Star Wars Insider magazine, I miss out on the short-stories that appear in each edition. I have certainly read a few here and there, but otherwise I’ve missed most of them and am not rushing out to read them. This is also true of the discontinued Star Wars Rebels magazine, each issue containing a story in the form of a comic. I’m sure those comics are quite fun, and perhaps I will check them out at some point, but for now I’m just not that interested in going out of my way to read them.

In turn, even of the new stories I have encountered in the Disney canon (and this goes for the EU as well), I’ve absolutely loved some, really disliked others, and have otherwise mixed emotions about a handful. I thought Kevin Hearne’s novel Heir to the Jedi was rather bland, have been underwhelmed by the novels in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath series, felt the Chewbacca comic series left a lot to be desired, and walked out of my first viewing of The Force Awakens asking myself what the hell I had just watched. On the flip side, I really enjoyed playing the now discontinued Star Wars: Uprising video game, absolutely love the Princess Leia and Lando comic series, was blown away by Christie Golden’s novel Dark Disciple and James Luceno’s novel Tarkin, and have really enjoyed the rich layers being added to the canon thanks to the animated show Star Wars Rebels.

The Grand Inquisitor, introduced in Star Wars Rebels, is now one of my absolute favorite characters. I am hoping he will get his own novel or comic series.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Rebels Season 1, Episode 14: “Fire Across the Galaxy”

But just because I love one particular story or dislike another doesn’t mean I find perfection/imperfection in everything. I might not love Heir to the Jedi but there are some very good moments in the novel, The Force Awakens has grown on me over time, the Uprising game was fun but also incredibly tedious, and even though I am really loving Star Wars Rebels I’ve been a vocal critic of the overuse of the Jedi and the Force in the series. For me, being a fan of Star Wars is not a zero sum game, a matter of either love or hate. Rather, more often than not it boils down to shades of gray, the acknowledgment that stories that I feel are wonderful still have flaws, and those I believe fall short do have some redeeming qualities. 

None of this is to say that my particular reactions/thoughts on each Star Wars story, or my moments of exhaustion, boredom and dispassion with the franchise as a whole, must be globally accepted. My personal fandom is no more or less important than any other fan, and my subjective experiences of Star Wars need not dictate the experiences others have. Besides, I can think of nothing more absurd than being a fan of Star Wars and lording my fandom over others. No, I am far more interested in sharing aspects of my fandom with others, engaging people in rich conversation about Star Wars. By maintaining this site, my hope is to always do just that: share aspects of Star Wars that stand out to me – the good and the bad, inspirational and discouraging – and open the floor for conversation. 

And that being the case, I have to ask: what are your feelings and opinions on the current state of the Star Wars franchise? Am I the only one who has moments of Star Wars fatigue and boredom, or are there others like me who are out there? If you care to share your thoughts and feelings, leave a comment. 

Jabba the (CGI) Hutt

When I first started this site, I asked people to send me topic ideas for posts. While I had a number of my own ideas, reaching out to my first followers was a way to get them involved and to help me think of new avenues to approach the Star Wars universe. One individual – the same person who asked me to discuss the Sith Rule of Two – suggested that I write a piece that would focus on some of the major changes George Lucas made in the 1997 Special Edition of the Original Trilogy. Long story short, I have never really had a chance to dive into this topic, at least not in any substantive way other than some references/allusions in various posts. 

Han and ’04 Jabba have a little chat.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

With it being Hutt Week, I thought it’d be worth discussing one of the most obvious changes Lucas made in the Special Edition of A New Hope. The change came in the form of a scene where Han Solo is confronted by a CGI version of Jabba the Hutt in the docking bay of the Millenium Falcon. While this scene had originally been filmed with Harrison Ford speaking to a human actor who stood in for Jabba, it was ultimately left out of the movie’s theatrical release. Re-inserted after Solo has his confrontation with the bounty hunter Greedo, this scene basically boils down to Jabba and Han discussing the shipment Han had been transporting  for Jabba which the smuggler dumped. Han, the smooth-talker he is, works his way out of a potentially deadly situation by agreeing to pay Jabba a little extra (15%) on top of what he owes the crime lord. Satisfied with the arrangement, the Hutt warns the smuggler that if the money isn’t paid, there will be serious consequences.

For the sake of being entirely on the same page, you can FOLLOW THIS LINK and go watch the scene for yourself.

Now, when the Special Edition of A New Hope was released in 1997, I really didn’t think much of this scene featuring a CGI Jabba, at least not in any critical way. I was in 6th grade at the time and the chance to see the films on the big screen was a treat, an experience I had never had before. Besides, this scene involving Jabba speaking with Han was completely new, something that was not in the previous version of A New Hope I had grown up watching. In every sense of the word, this scene and these remastered films were truly “Special” to my younger self, and because of that youthful sentiment, I will always have a place in my heart for them.

However, while the Special Edition were a formative part of my childhood experience of Star Wars, this shouldn’t be taken to mean that today I believe they are flawless. In my opinion, they aren’t. While I can and do appreciate that George Lucas wanted to “reinvent” his films using graphic/visual effects unavailable to him when he first released the movies, and while some of these changes are truly magnificent, this hardly means that I believe everything that was added/changed was executed to perfection…which brings me back to our CGI crime lord.

 Jabba’s CGI variant in the ’97 Special Edition of A New Hope isn’t just poor, it’s atrocious. As a kid, I probably knew this and didn’t really care, but now that I am older, it is clear as day that Jabba looks ABSOLUTELY. FLIPPING. AWWWWWFUL. One need only look at the CGI ’97 Jabba next to the original Jabba from Return of the Jedi to see just how starkly different the two look. Oh wait, I put the images next to one another for you, so here they are…

Original Jabba (left); ’97 Jabba (right)

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope & Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

…like I said, awwwwwwwful. To be fair, there ARE similarities between the two, but the differences are so great it really makes you wonder – why was George Lucas okay with such a poor rendering of Jabba? Then again, I think this is a slightly unfair question. While I might not personally like this CGI variation of Jabba today, Lucas obviously saw value in the way the Hutt looked and was fine with it. However, before this turn into a full-fledged debate about who “owns” a piece of art – creator or consumer – it is worth noting that at some point after 1997, Lucas decided the CGI Jabba needed a tune-up. 

Actually, tune-up might not be the appropriate term. When A New Hope was released for the first time on DVD in 2004 (another Special Edition), Jabba the Hutt was completely recreated using CGI. The monstrosity from seven years before was completely erased from the Star Wars canon. This updated version of the Hutt was not only far superior in quality than its 1997 predecessor, much closer in likeness to the original Jabba in Return of the Jedi, but it also has a closer resemblance to the CGI Jabba that appears in The Phantom Menace. As you might be aware, this ’04 Jabba is also the one you will find in A New Hope to this day. While I do think this version remains imperfect – it has some odd, cartoonesque expressions – it’s at least a rendition that I can accept and actually believe to be the infamous crime lord. That ’97 version, not so much. My youthful self may not have cared about the way Jabba looked, but the adult me would have a hard time watching A New Hope if that eye sore still appeared on screen.

Jabba at the Boonta Eve Classic.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Any way, for what it is worth, I do really like the CGI version of Jabba in The Phantom Menace. I’ve always enjoyed his brief appearance as the host of the Boonta Eve Classic, feeling that it was an appropriate way of fitting him into the Prequel Trilogy. Besides, as an added bonus, The Phantom Menace also gave us ANOTHER Hutt on the big screen, something I was definitely not expecting when I saw it the movie for the first time. Hmmmm, who knows, perhaps I will discuss this mystery Hutt in another post.

But I digress. I am curious to hear what you think about Jabba the CGI Hutt. I would enjoy knowing what YOU think about the ’97 and 2004 depictions of the notorious gangster, as well as other changes made in the (numerous) Special Editions. Leave a comment below (and don’t be afraid to disagree with me if you still enjoy the ’97 Jabba)!

Check out these other Hutt Week posts:

The Imperial Talker Presents: Hutt Week

Hutts: Galactic Gangsters

Hutt Week: “Cute” Jabba the Hutt Merchandise (by Jenmarie from Anakin and His Angel)

Why Ziro’s  My Hero (by Andrew – @AndrewinBelfast)

A Man in Debt to a Hutt (by Michael Miller)

Hutt Haiku Poems

The Hutts of Mataou

Hutt Profile: Gardulla

Heir to a Criminal Empire

Hutt Week: A Conclusion