From a Certain Point of View: Which Side is More Powerful — the Empire or the Rebels?

StarWars.com

One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers discuss which side is really more powerful, the Empire or the Rebel Alliance.

Without a doubt, the Empire is the most powerful side, says Justin.

It depends on your definition of strength, doesn’t it?

From my point view, strength in this case means the ability to protect the over 3.2 million habitable star systems found throughout the galaxy far, far away. It means having the ability to make hard decisions quickly that are in the best interests of the people living on the planets in those star systems. And it means providing a mechanism by which those people can contribute their individual talents to this noble and shared goal. Where they can step up to lend a helping hand to their galactic neighbors.

The Rebel Alliance is not that mechanism.

Do I believe they have the best interests of the people at heart? I do. But in a galaxy filled with fearsome creatures, crime syndicates, and religious fanatics constantly engaged in shadow wars with each other, the Rebel Alliance’s ideals come at a very high price. And its leaders don’t pay… the galaxy’s citizens do.

Take, for example the New Republic’s (the Rebel Alliance by any other name still stinks) demilitarization after the Galactic Civil War. The admirable goal of peace took precedence over the safety of the galaxy, allowing the hyper-militarized First Order to conquer the galaxy almost overnight in The Force Awakens. Easily broken? That’s the literal definition of weakness.

Or, let’s look at the mess the Rebel Alliance made of the decision to attack Scarif to steal the Death Star plans in Rogue One. Jedha City destroyed, confirmed by their own agents, and their fear and aversion to fighting paralyzed them. The Empire’s iron grip on the galaxy was nearly unbroken because the Rebel Alliance lacked the will to do make the hard, yet necessary decision. Ineffectualness… yet another literal definition of weakness.

The leaders of the Rebel Alliance consistently place their idealized version of a galaxy at peace above the real needs of its people. Their selfishness informs decisions that are repeatedly shown to weaken their organization and the galaxy they claim to care about.

Darth Vader speaks with the Emperor.

While there are certainly moon-sized problems with the Galactic Empire, strength isn’t one of them. In fact, you could say that the Empire’s central issue is that it was too strong, and that its power was misappropriated by a small group of individuals acting on their own agenda. These individuals may have weakened the Empire, but the organization retained its inherent strength.

Unfortunately, sometimes strength isn’t enough.

“Even fools can get lucky.” -Darth Sidious, Star Wars Episode I Journal: Darth Maul

The rebels celebrate a victory.

The Rebel Alliance is more powerful than you could possibly imagine, says Kristin.

What Justin’s describing is, frankly, dictatorship. Strength wielded to keep the masses in check while those in seats of power exploit resources for their own personal gain is corrupt power and I refuse to accept that any group or government who would wield such a thing is stronger than the will of its collective people.

The first duty of an equal society is justice, and the Empire flouts that at every turn.

They’re not protecting those 3.2 million habitable star systems when they’re wielding a planet-destroying weapon of mass destruction. And besides, brute strength is only one type of power.

The Rebel Alliance is quantitatively poor by comparison to the Empire, with fleets of clunky, second-hand ships patched together again and again, but it is rich in optimism. Those who join the Imperials ranks are drones or corrupt politicians, power hungry and eager to please like Palpatine and his cronies.

Being part of the Rebel Alliance requires an iron will, a steadfast belief in the goals of freedom not just for oneself but the entire galaxy, and an idealistic future where democracy will rule once more. It often requires those who enter its ranks to give up personal security and act in secret to divert resources to the cause and avoid detection.

What is more powerful than the underdog rising up out of sheer will not because they believe they will triumph but because failing, and even sacrificing their own lives, is preferable to living in fear in the Empire’s shadow?

And what is more powerful than the example each of those individuals and tiny rebel cells set before they band together to become even more powerful and battle ready?

The Rebel Alliance draws its power from hope, from the ability to inspire the forgotten average inhabitants, and from the strength of those people rising up and refusing to accept a galactic dictatorship. They are willing to wage war against an opponent who outguns them because they know they can, eventually, overthrow them and create a free and equal society to benefit everyone.

The Rebel Alliance sounds a battle cry heard across the stars asking ordinary citizens of the galaxy far, far away to rise up and join them to fight their oppressors. That’s real power.

“For too long I have watched the heavy hand of the Empire strangle our liberties, stifling our freedoms in the name of ensuring our safety. No longer!” – Mon Mothma, Star Wars Rebels

What do you think? Do you agree with Kristin or Justin? Let us know in the comments below!

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.

Justin Bolger is ILMxLAB’s brand marketing manager and he doesn’t like the Empire…he loves it. Talk Star Wars with him on Twitter @TheApexFan.

Site tags: #StarWarsBlog

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From a Certain Point of View: What’s the Best Scene in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace?

StarWars.com

One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers mark the 20th anniversary of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace by defending their favorite scene in the film.

A scene from The Phantom Menace.

Qui-Gon kneeling kicks off the best scene, the Duel of the Fates, says Lucas.

During their fateful duel on Naboo, Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Maul, and Obi-Wan Kenobi are separated between energy gates.

Like many of the best confrontations in Star Wars, the Duel of the Fates has its own contained narrative. Throughout the fight, Darth Maul repeatedly attempts to separate the two Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. He finally succeeds, sending Obi-Wan far over a ledge within the massive generator plant, and leading Qui-Gon down a hallway filled with energy gates.

Good stories build suspense. For the lightsaber duel, George Lucas chose to halt the action when Qui-Gon, Maul, and Obi-Wan are each separated between the energy gates. Qui-Gon quietly kneels, closes his eyes, and breathes. Maul paces like a tiger. Obi-Wan, the farthest removed, hovers with expectation.

It’s a moment that brings an audience to the edge of their seats. It’s also a courageous move on the part of a director busily intercutting two epic battles, one in space and another on the fields of Naboo. Could such a contrast in energy work? Of course it can! And it’s not the only time George Lucas tried this.

The Star Wars saga is all about symmetry, sometimes subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle. One intention Lucas described was the symmetry between The Phantom Menace and Return of the Jedi. It seems like a head scratcher at first, but the more one contemplates, the more plainly the similarities appear.

In this case, take the third acts of each film, themselves smaller three-act stories intercut between a ground battle (opposing nature and technology), a space battle (to destroy the source of that technology), and a lightsaber duel (serving as the emotional fulcrum of the story).

The Phantom Menace - Qui-Gon and Darth Maul

The Duel of the Fates sits opposite Luke Skywalker’s confrontation with the Emperor and Darth Vader. Each presents a heated saber fight, but also, intense quiet in contrast to the raging battles elsewhere. It keeps us close to the heart of the story lest we stray off-trail amid the action.

“Duality is one of the main themes of [The Phantom Menace],” Lucas explained in 1999, the same year The Phantom Menace was released. It’s found to varying degrees throughout the film, one literal sense being this separation of Qui-Gon and Maul in the penultimate moment of the duel. Their body language even contrasts, their expressions differ. No one speaks. It’s essentially a silent film. Qui-Gon is patient, immediately deactivating his lightsaber. Maul is dubious, running his blade into the energy gate to see for himself if it holds.

It’s only conjecture, but Qui-Gon probably knows the likelihood of his fate in this moment. It’d be a daunting realization to most, but a wise Jedi lets go, even of their own death. The presence of the moment demands focus.

Qui-Gon isn’t necessarily thinking here, but feeling, using his instincts, to borrow a phrase. He is ready. His bodily life is just one step along the way. It’s worth noting that we’ve lost the sweeping score from John Williams at this stage. Only faint trickles of music, like magic dust, remain. We have come to the heart of the temple.

For some time, we leave the warriors and check in with the other plot lines. Lucas stretches the tension as far as he can. But then finally, we return to the pacing and breathing. In the last seconds of this intermission, drumbeats echo as if part of some ritual. The gates open. Sabers ignite. Lucas cuts to a few frames of Qui-Gon opening his eyes. The dance of death resumes. The myth cycle plays out.

This scene is one of those wonderful moments to stop and enjoy the view of George Lucas’s mythology. Star Wars is often fast and fun, but it’s also slow and thoughtful.

A scene from The Phantom Menace.

The podrace is the greatest scene in the film, says Dan.

Lucas has done an excellent job of breaking down the Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan/Maul duel, and why it’s so successful. It’s a marvel of choreography, drama, and anticipation. It’s my favorite duel in all of Star Wars, and I’ve always especially loved the moment that Lucas calls out: “Qui-Gon Waits,” as unofficially dubbed by Star Wars author Jason Fry. But, ultimately, we’ve seen lightsaber duels before. When it comes to the best scene in The Phantom Menace, I’ll quote a Jedi Master: “There is another.”

The podrace sequence — a fast and fun and original piece upon which the story and fate of our heroes completely hangs — stands as the film’s finest scene.

Consider the set up: Their ship damaged, Qui-Gon Jinn, Padmé Amidala, R2-D2, and Jar Jar Binks head into Tatooine’s Mos Espa looking to acquire the needed parts. They find a junk shop owned by the shifty Watto (“Mind tricks don’t work on me. Only money!”), and in the process discover the alien’s slave, young Anakin Skywalker. Watto has the parts, but he won’t accept Qui-Gon’s Republic credits. With his new friends out of options, the selfless Anakin devises a plan: he’ll enter the Boonta Eve podrace with his own racer, Watto can pay the entry fee, and Qui-Gon’s share of the winnings will pay for the parts. Sure, Anakin’s never won a race, let alone finished one, but that’s neither here nor there. Qui-Gon has faith in him, and believes there’s something special about Anakin; indeed, he soon confirms that the Force is strong with the boy. Before the race, the Jedi Knight extends the stakes of the deal — ultimately, if Anakin wins, he also wins his freedom, and will train to be a Jedi.

So there’s a lot riding on this race.

And then there’s the sequence itself, of course. To start, there are the podracers: two engines tethered to a rear, exposed cockpit. They’re super cool, strange, and each one is unique. Anakin’s podracer features slimmer engines and a curved seat chassis, with yellows and blues; the goofy Ben Quadinaros drives a podracer with four massive engines, which ultimately don’t serve him that well. Podracers are, to my mind, the dream vehicle of every kid and kid at heart.

A scene from The Phantom Menace.

George Lucas has always loved cars and racing, and I see this sequence as coming straight from his heart. That’s one reason the race itself is gloriously long — he loves racing and wasn’t going to rush this.

Throughout the race, drivers tear through the course, a mixture of an arena filled with fans and rough desert terrain. Racing, in our world, is dangerous; in Star Wars, that takes on a whole new meaning, and it’s really, really fun. From a filmmaking perspective, it’s masterful, mixing first-person POV, wide shots, and driver closeups seamlessly, all while the action is screaming by.

The race comes down to Anakin and his rival, the villainous Sebulba, who has sabotaged the boy’s pod. When they’re finally neck and neck, Anakin’s racer begins to fail; but Anakin, “the best starpilot in the galaxy” as once described by Obi-Wan, is too smart and too good. He works around Sebulba’s cheat, and figures out a way to restore full power. He eventually catches up to Sebulba, and when the Dug tries to ram Anakin, their pods become locked. The impatient Sebulba tries to pull his racer free; Anakin waits for the right moment and floors it, tearing ahead, while the force of his move pulls Sebulba’s engines apart, leaving him at a full stop in the Tatooine sands. Anakin streaks forward toward the finish line, winning in exhilarating fashion.

The podrace encapsulates so much of what I love about Star Wars. It drives (pun kind of intended) the story forward with smart, character-building action. It’s weird. And there’s nothing else like it in Star Wars. All of these traits make it completely Star Wars. And that’s why it’s the best scene in The Phantom Menace.

Lucas O. Seastrom is a publicity writer at Lucasfilm. He grew up on a farm in California’s Central Valley and is a lifelong Star Wars and Indiana Jones fan.

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

Site tags: #StarWarsBlog

From a Certain Point of View: What’s the Best Scene in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace?

From a Certain Point of View: What’s the Best Episode of Star Wars Rebels?

StarWars.com

One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers mark the anniversary of the series finale of Star Wars Rebels, one year ago today, by defending their favorite episode in the entire series.

Ahsoka in "Twilight of the Apprentice."

“Twilight of the Apprentice” is the best Star Wars Rebels episode, says Amy.

“I am no Jedi.”

With those words, Ahsoka Tano stood opposite Darth Vader, a grim and determined expression on her face. She’d seen the undeniable truth: Anakin Skywalker, her former master and friend, was no more. Her pain was our pain. Their reckoning was an encounter Star Wars: The Clone Wars fans anticipated from the moment the TV series was announced. But it’s only partially why “Twilight of the Apprentice” is the best episode of Star Wars Rebels.

Ahsoka’s character grew leaps and bounds in front of our eyes over the two-part Season 2 finale. She traveled to Malachor and confronted Maul before she crossed paths with Darth Vader. And once she battled the Sith Lord, she broke through her anger and promised she wouldn’t leave him again — even if no trace of Anakin remained. Every decision she made in the episode rang true and had an effect upon her (which we’d eventually see in Season 4) and the crew of the Ghost.

The superb writing extended to Ezra, Kanan, and our old friend Maul. This was not the same Darth Maul we knew. Not exactly. He was older, with a jaded attitude toward the Sith. Yet, he was more like Palpatine than ever, manipulating Ezra into trusting him and doing his bidding. It’s Maul at his most haunting as we watch this familiar face scheming anew, downtrodden but certainly not defeated.

Then we have Ezra and Kanan and their continuing evolution as makeshift Padawan and Jedi Knight. Kanan constantly questioned himself as a teacher to this point in the series, and when Ezra placed his faith in Maul, it gave weight to all of Kanan’s self-doubt. Their relationship changed permanently after “Twilight of the Apprentice.” Kanan lost his eyesight because of Maul, a physical and mental blow, and Ezra found a new respect for Kanan. The dynamic shifted between them as they departed Malachor. They became closer; they both matured.

And as usual, Kevin Kiner’s gorgeous compositions underlined each emotional beat. “It’s Over Now” and its heroic, melancholy tones played over the last few scenes; the audio cue helps a perfect episode stick a perfect landing.

Hera and Kanan in the "Siege of Lothal."

“The Siege of Lothal” is the best episode, says Jamie.

I’m a firm believer that the beginning of the story is more interesting than the end. Where characters begin their journeys is far more compelling than where they end up. Sure, the road can be engaging and dramatic and inspiring, but the promise of an unknown trip that lies ahead is downright exhilarating.

So, when tasked with naming the best episode of Star Wars Rebels, my natural inclination is to return to the beginning of the series. And I very nearly chose “Spark of Rebellion,” which kicked everything off.

However, I’m instead going with the two-part story that began the second season — “The Siege of Lothal” — which, as it turns out, provides a convenient bookend counterpoint to Amy’s choice.

As Ezra says, “I guess there is no going home.”

The first season of Star Wars Rebels introduced the characters, established their corner of the galaxy, and explained — to a certain degree — how their story fit into everything we already knew. But the stories were still mostly isolated. The show felt like an island in the Star Wars universe. Ezra, Kanan, and the gang mostly stayed on Lothal and assumed they were fighting a very small war against the Empire on their own.

The second season kicked down the door of storytelling possibilities, and it all began in “The Siege of Lothal.” The crew of the Ghost is finally forced to leave Lothal. They recognize they’re part of a much larger rebellion, and the show’s horizon widens exponentially.

“We’re fighting a bigger fight. But it’s still the right fight,” says Hera.

“Best” is such a subjective concept, but “The Siege of Lothal” succeeds so very well at almost everything is sets out to do.

After a season of standalone stories, this episode catapults Star Wars Rebels into the galaxy we all know and love. We’re given solid connections to both The Clone Wars and the first six episodic films, and we’re set up for a longer, more complex story that has the freedom to play out over many episodes.

As great as the core cast is here, it’s Darth Vader who steals the episode and brings it to the next level. This isn’t the obsessed, primed-for-redemption Vader we know from the original trilogy. This isn’t the reckless, conflicted Anakin Skywalker we know from the prequels and The Clone Wars. This is Darth Vader in all his terrifying glory.

James Earl Jones delivers a straight-up evil Vader we hadn’t yet seen (and wouldn’t until the climax of Rogue One). Our heroes feel like they’re in genuine peril. I defy you to watch Vader’s effortless fight against Kanan and Ezra — the scene where he lifts the crashed walkers off himself in particular — and not get chills.

And with this episode, Ahsoka finds her singular purpose, which could only belong to her. The “meeting of the minds” and mutual recognition she has with Vader is one of the episode’s most powerful scenes, and it sets up so many storytelling possibilities.

Plus, we’re blessed with the magnificence of Lando Calrissian and Billy Dee Williams. Need I say more?

“The Siege of Lothal” makes us giddy with anticipation. It sets the stage for so much of the action and drama to come. Which is why this two-parter is the best the series has to offer. Because of the possibilities it sets up. Because of the connections it makes. Because it raises the stakes. Because it shows us what Star Wars Rebels wants to be — a show that tells meaningful stories about relationships, oppression, and resistance on an intimate level. And because it establishes the beautiful, emotional, thrilling ride the series would take us on for the next three seasons.

Amy Ratcliffe is obsessed with Star Wars, Disneyland food, and coffee. She’s the author of Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy and a co-host of the podcast Lattes with Leia. Follow her on Twitter at @amy_geek.

Jamie Greene is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He’s also a contributor to GeekDad and runs The Roarbots, where he focuses on awesome geeky stuff that happens to be kid-friendly. On top of that, he cohosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates geek culture by talking to people who create it. With two little ones and a vast Star Wars collection at home, he’s done the unthinkable: allowed them full access to most of his treasure from the past 30 years, opening and playing with whatever they want (pre-1983 items excluded).

From a Certain Point of View: What’s the Best Episode of Star Wars Rebels?

From a Certain Point of View: Who is the Scariest Character in Star Wars?

StarWars.com

One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers debate which character from the saga is the scariest.

Governor Tarkin speaks to Darth Vader and Princess Leia.

Wilhuff Tarkin is the most terrifying Star Wars character, says Michael.

Palpatine, Vader, Snoke, Dooku — there’s no shortage of evil in the galaxy far, far away. So there’s really no wrong answer to the question, but only one person can truly claim the mantle of being most terrifying, and that person is Wilhuff Tarkin.

Think about it. While completely evil, every other candidate shares one thing in common: Their lives are dominated by the dark side. Consider Vader, in particular. If there’s one thing the prequel films showed us, it was how Anakin had been seduced and coerced into becoming Palpatine’s new apprentice. Palpatine, a master of manipulation, twisted Anakin’s soul so tightly that he almost had no choice but to bow at his master’s side. Through all this, Anakin ceased to exist, and Vader, a tortured slave not only to Palpatine but to the dark side itself, was born. The point here is that all these characters — Vader, Dooku, Palaptine — suffer under a powerful influence that enhances their evil.

But not Tarkin.

Tarkin has no time for the dark side. He’s more or less indifferent to the engine that powers his counterpart, Vader, and his leader, Palpatine. Tarkin’s a military bureaucrat who is committed to getting the job done. And that job is galactic domination through any means necessary. Tarkin doesn’t need the dark side to capture and kill rebels and whoever else, innocent or otherwise, who stands in his way. His cold pragmatism is the only power, supernatural or otherwise, that Tarkin requires to serve Palpatine’s dark agenda. (An agenda that Tarkin fully embraces.)

Also, let’s not forget the means by which these agents of evil achieve their ends. Sure, if you cross the Empire, Vader will hunt you down, torture you, and likely Force-choke you out of existence. But Tarkin? Cross the Grand Moff, and he’ll obliterate your entire planet, committing genocide in the blink of an eye. Not because he takes pleasure in death and destruction; he’s not a sadist like Palpatine. No, Tarkin is just getting the job done. And if the that requires extinguishing two billion lives, so be it.

It’s chilling math, and it’s the exact reason why Tarkin is the scariest character in the Star Wars universe.

Emperor Palpatine laughs.

No, Emperor Palpatine is the scariest Star Wars character, says Dan.

When considering who the scariest Star Wars character is, there really is no contest: Sheev Palpatine. The former senator from Naboo and later Supreme Chancellor-turned-Emperor is the last person you want to meet in a dark alley, and the first person you think of when considering who the most terrifying presence is in the mythology. And, it’s not just Force lightning or bad teeth that make Palpatine scary (although that certainly doesn’t hurt his case). There’s so much more to this fearsome Sith Lord.

For instance, let’s talk about the slow burn that is the rise of the Empire and the eradication of the Jedi Order. In The Phantom Menace, a seemingly mild-mannered Senator Palpatine “reluctantly” takes over as Chancellor of the Republic, and for thirteen years, helps create galaxy-wide tension that is a catalyst for creating armies on both sides of the conflict. In order to create a paradox for the Jedi philosophy, he is willing to cause untold suffering and conflict to the entire universe, in the hopes of tearing those ne’er do wells apart. And, he does it without anyone really noticing until it’s too late. When you consider that he sows these seeds of betrayal and destruction with planning, guile, and subtlety, right under the nose of some of the most powerful beings in the galaxy, and does so with a smile … that’s scary!

Not to mention that he corrupted the Jedi’s most promising young Padawan, creating the fearsome Darth Vader, and got him to believe in genocide as a career path. Not scared yet? How about the fact that he traded secrets with the Nightsisters to learn how to manipulate the Force for dark purposes, ordered a devastating attack on his home planet of Naboo (in the event his Empire came to an abrupt end), and made the Jedi Temple his home base after he wiped the Jedi out. All of them. And you thought Hoth was cold.

So, we’ve got the psychology part down, but what about his skills with a lightsaber? There’s only one Sith who defeated Yoda in a duel, beat three Jedi at once without breaking a sweat, and tossed Darth Maul and Savage Opress around like they were rag dolls. Darth Sidious is no joke. Plus, he’s the only person in the galaxy that Darth Vader is subservient to, even to the point of kneeling. He has no compassion, empathy, or kindness in him, and even pitted father against son. There can be no doubt that Emperor Palpatine is the scariest character in Star Wars.

What do you think is the scariest Star Wars character?

Michael Moreci is a novelist and comic book writer. His debut novel, Black Star Renegades, is a space adventure in the spirit of Star Wars. Michael is currently writing for the Star Wars Adventures comics series for IDW as well as Wasted Space for Vault Comics.

Dan Zehr is a high school English teacher with an MS in Teaching and Learning, and is the Host and co-creator of Coffee With Kenobi, a podcast that examines Star Wars’ mythology from a place of intelligence and humor.

From a Certain Point of View: Who is the Scariest Character in Star Wars?