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NEWS: Star Wars: The High Republic revealed

by George William for @sw_holocron

At last, the long-awaited Project Luminous has finally been revealed as Star Wars: The High Republic, a series of comics, books and more set approximately 200 years before The Phantom Menace. Debuting this August, this publishing campaign will feature adult, teen and children’s stories from an array of publishers, including Marvel, Disney Lucasfilm Press, Del Rey, and IDW Publishing. Starwars.com notes that no currently planned films or TV shows will be set in The High Republic as to give the authors of these new works creative freedom to explore the characters and stories they want with fewer restrictions.

Star Wars: The High Republic will primarily follow a “group of heroes,” who are part of the Jedi Order at their peak power in the galaxy. The Jedi are akin to “Jedi Knights of the Round Table,” with the King Arthur legend clearly serving as an influence. The inspiration came from Ben Kenobi’s quote in A New Hope, “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace.” The High Republic is this era in which the Jedi Order guarded the peace, and these stories will delve into this deeper.

Concept art of High Republic era Jedi

The emphasis is not only on Jedi in these new stories, however, as bounty hunters, smugglers and scoundrels will also feature in leading roles.

Concept art of High Republic era bounty hunters, scoundrels and smugglers

The villains in The High Republic will be the Nihil, referred to as “space Vikings,” a collective of pillagers from different species and homeworlds. The story will begin after a galaxy-impacting event known as The Great Disaster.

Concept art of The Nihil

The High Republic era was first referenced in the Dooku: Jedi Lost audiobook, before also being mentioned in Charles Soule’s Star Wars 2 and The Rise of Kylo Ren 2.

The initial projects set within this era will be written by a range of seasoned Star Wars writers, including authors Claudia Gray, Justina Ireland, Daniel José Older, Cavan Scott, and Charles Soule. Their projects include:

⁃ The High Republic: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule (Adult novel)

⁃ The High Republic: Into the Dark by Claudia Gray (Young adult novel)

⁃ The High Republic: A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland (Middle grade novel)

⁃ The High Republic Adventures by Daniel José Older (IDW Publishing comic series)

⁃ The High Republic by Cavan Scott (Marvel comic series)

The High Republic era will kick off this August at Star Wars: Celebration Anaheim, where I’m sure there will be further announcements about future High Republic projects.

Concept art and news courtesy of Lucasfilm, Disney, and Starwars.com

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REVIEW: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 1 – “The Bad Batch”

By George William for @sw_holocron

Hearing Tom Kane’s booming voice introduce us to “The Bad Batch” was all we needed to get us prepared for and invested in the seventh and final season of The Clone Wars. This first episode of the season felt different than premiere episodes for previous seasons of The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Resistance, and The Mandalorian in that this episode was first seen with unfinished animation almost four years ago when it debuted at Star Wars Celebration and was soon thereafter released on starwars.com. Regardless of the extent to which the plot, character dynamics and mechanics of the episode were previously known to people who viewed the unfinished episode years ago, “The Bad Batch” was a thrilling, well crafted, intelligent installment of The Clone Wars.

From a technical standpoint, the episode is visually stunning. Every season of The Clone Wars progressively improved in regards to the animation and this season is no exception. The updated animations look incredibly detailed and smooth, a far cry from the imagery of the original Clone Wars film released back in 2008. While The Clone Wars as a show overall often leans a little too heavily into action, perhaps spending too much time in some action sequences, this episode balances intelligent story telling with engaging action that takes a different approach than some previous episodes. The build up to the action takes a slower pace at times and the music often cuts out in order to build tension with silence and subsequent warfare. This is best demonstrated near the end of the episode when Clone Force 99 and the other troopers raid the Cyber Center and the ‘camera’ continually tracks the action from the moment they enter the complex deep into the battle. Beyond the action, as demonstrated by some of the more recent trailers we’ve seen for this season, the character designs are once again really impressive. The detail rendered onto Rex’s face when he speaks to Cody about Echo or when Anakin asks Rex if he’s not telling him something, and countless other moments in the show are a huge improvement of already great looking previous seasons of the show.

The episode excels, however, in its character moments. The brotherly dynamic between Rex and Cody, Rex’s mourning of his old squad, and the combative attitudes of the different clone squads are all highlights in this episode. One of the best things to come out of The Clone Wars overall are how it has made clone troopers actual characters, rather than mindless soldiers blindly following orders. This is a pattern that began in the very first episode of the first season of The Clone Wars and has continued ever since. It has always been a strength of the show, to highlight the clones’ reactions to the war, their unique personalities, relationships with the Jedi and others, etc. This episode provides us with some of the best clone interactions of the show yet and something we’re looking forward to seeing more over the next several episodes in this arc. 

Without spoiling the ending of the episode for those who haven’t seen the 2015 unfinished version of the episode or this newly released version yet, the way in which the episode ends is a really intriguing cliffhanger moving forward. I don’t have many substantial complaints about this episode overall. If I’m nitpicking, I would say that it’s a shame that this season is only 12 episodes and 4 of those will be stories we’ve already covered with the unfinished versions released previously, especially given the fact that these episodes are only 22 minutes long approximately and are released weekly. This isn’t to say these episodes can’t still surprise us – “The Bad Batch” changes things up slightly, in particular the scene at the beginning in which Rex talks to Cody about Echo. But, either way, it makes me eager to see more of the new stories we haven’t seen yet, in particular the ones that breach into events covered in Revenge of the Sith as teased in the trailer. Overall though, it’s nice to welcome back The Clone Wars for a final season. Season Five did not naturally conclude and, even though Season Six was great at trying to wrap up many plot lines, it’ll be nice to have the rest of the Clone Wars fully fleshed out in order to conclude lingering plot and character arcs and seamlessly lead up to Revenge of the Sith and the fall of the Jedi. Looking forward to the next installment of this amazing show that is The Clone Wars and, if it’s anything like this premiere, we’ll be more than happy.

Score: 9/10

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NEWS: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker home release details revealed!

Two months to the day since the final chapter in the Skywalker Saga arrived in theaters, Lucasfilm have now given fans a taste of what will be on the home release of the film. Releasing March 17th on Digital HD and March 31st on Blu-Ray, fans will be treated to a variety of extras and bonus content, including a feature length documentary titled “The Skywalker Legacy”, detailing the making of the film, something that Star Wars fans have come to expect after the home releases of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. There are plenty of other extras, including a feature detailing Warwick Davis’ return as Wicket, along with his son Harrison (we’ve included a full list below). However, there’s still no word on any deleted scenes being included. For US fans, there are a few different retailer exclusives on offer, including a 4K UHD Steelbook Edition, which comes with 4K, Blu-Ray, and DVD discs from Best Buy. Over at Target, buying the 4K disc can also get you a Gallery Book, which dives further into the word of The Rise of Skywalker and Star Wars as a whole.

  • The Skywalker Legacy: The story lives forever in this feature-length documentary that charts the making of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
  • Pasaana Pursuit: Creating the Speeder Chase: Dive into the making of the movie’s epic landspeeder chase and discover how this spectacular sequence was brought to the screen.
  • Aliens in the Desert: See what it took to create the Pasaana desert scenes, from the sheer scale and complexity of the shoot to its colorful details.
  • D-O: Key to the Past: Explore the ship that connects Rey to the mystery of her missing parents and get to know the galaxy’s newest, irresistible droid.
  • Warwick & Son: Warwick Davis, who played Wicket in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, dons the Ewok costume once more; this time joined by his son Harrison.
  • Cast of Creatures: The team behind the film’s memorable creatures reveal the puppetry, makeup, prosthetics and digital magic that bring them to life!
  • The Maestro’s Finale (Digital Exclusive): Composer John Williams reflects on his body of work for the Star Wars saga and shares insights on scoring Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

(Source: Starwars.com)

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Why Anakin Really Turned to the Dark Side

Prior to the release of the prequel trilogy, the central question fans wanted the new films to explore was: why and how does Anakin turn into Darth Vader? And, while the prequels and subsequently The Clone Wars, offer valuable insights into this question, the answer is not directly, explicitly provided to fans on a platter. For better or worse, and to the dismay of many fans, the answer to this question requires more inference and extrapolation. On the surface, and as many Star Wars fans have argued, Anakin’s turn to the dark side may come across as weakly written in that the prequels, in particular Revenge of the Sith, fail to truly demonstrate how a seemingly good-hearted young Jedi very quickly progressed into a slaughterer of younglings and remained allied with Darth Sidious, despite an abundant failure to keep Padme alive. This is why we thought this would be an interesting topic to explore in this week’s blog post.

Reason #1: Palpatine manipulated Anakin to turn to the dark side.

This is perhaps the most clear explanation as to why Anakin lapsed into the dark side and evolved into Darth Vader. As has been demonstrated in his extremely detail-oriented, calculated plans to instigate The Clone Wars as a means to eventually gain more power and his similarly calculated, longitudinal plans to manipulate Ben Solo into becoming Kylo Ren, Palpatine is clearly extremely intelligent and plans everything out meticulously. If and the extent to which Palpatine was involved in Anakin’s birth remains a mystery, but, from his concluding line in The Phantom Menace in which he states to young Anakin, “We’ll watch your career with great interest,” Palpatine clearly exhibited an early interest in the prophesized Chosen One. Palpatine capitalized on the insecurities of Anakin losing his wife Padme, as he lost his mother Shmi, and, with the now infamous opera house scene, planted the seed in Anakin’s mind that the dark side of the force is home to a number of abilities “some consider to be unnatural.” Anakin’s attachment to and debilitating fear of losing Padme is the central motivation for his eventual fall to the dark side. He knows that the atrocities he will have to commit, including killing Mace and younglings and maybe even Obi-Wan, are necessary steps to delving deeper into the dark side, aligning himself closer to Palpatine, and learning these abilities from Palpatine in order to save Padme. Anakin explicitly states as much in Revenge of the Sith when he says, “Just help me save Padme’s life. I can’t live without her.” Many take issue, however, with the fact that Anakin remains as Darth Vader and, therefore, remains evil after killing Padme. In other terms, it may make sense that he turned evil in order to turn learn abilities to save Padme’s life, but why would he stay evil if this very pursuit led to her death? That’s where the other reasons to come in…

Reason #2: Anakin’s impulsive, unstable, aggressive personality.

There are shards of anger that shine through Anakin’s personality throughout the prequel era. From his outbursts about Obi-Wan to his vocal disapproval of the Jedi’s perceptions of attachment to his slaughter of Tusken Raiders to his brutal interaction with Clovis, Anakin often reacts to situations with aggression. And, like his son Luke, also reacts to situations with impulsivity, a failure to take a measured approach to calculating the benefits and pitfalls of actions. All of this is important to understand Anakin’s fall to the dark side as it’s not that these personality traits alone led to his transformation into Vader and betrayal of the Jedi order, but, rather, these personality traits make Anakin vulnerable to falling into Palpatine’s trap and poorly reacting to negative his events in his life. Without these underlying vulnerabilities in his personality, maybe Anakin would have been able to see through Palpatine’s lies and deal with his dismay over the Jedi’s values and his fears about losing Padme more productively. This is a core difference between Anakin and Ahsoka. On paper, Ahsoka has every right to turn to the dark side, or at least against the Jedi, as they swiftly cast her aside with little consideration for her perspective on things and tried to repair the relationship when it was too little too late. Unlike Anakin, Ahsoka did not react to the Jedi’s ways with aggression, but, rather, still stayed on the side of light, just not aligned with the Jedi. It’s the fact that she doesn’t have these underlying personality traits that she doesn’t respond to the Jedi’s actions with violence and aggression, like Anakin did. So, overall, Anakin’s aggressive and impulsive personality played an integral, underlying role in his path to the dark side.

Reason #3: A wish for a more just world

Coupled with these underlying personality vulnerabilities are core events in Anakin’s life that he reacts to in negative ways, none more evident than the enslavement and death of his mother. Anakin tells Padme in Attack of the Clones that he disapproves of the constant deliberation of a democracy, that someone intelligent should be able to unilaterally make good decisions on behalf of the galaxy to swiftly and sufficiently bring justice. When Padme says this is like a dictatorship, Anakin disagrees, almost viewing such control as necessary to bring justice to an unjust galaxy. An unjust galaxy that led to the enslavement of his beloved mother and eventual torturous death. Uniquely, Palpatine also shares these values, but for different reasons. This is a core component of their alliance – the belief that a “just” or “good” world can only be achieved through the unilateral control of one person.

Reason #4: The Jedi’s mistrust and conflicting values

With Palpatine pulling the strings, underlying personality traits, and a distorted view of how to bring justice to the galaxy, Anakin’s transformation still doesn’t fully make sense. That’s why his perceptions of the ways in which the Jedi order treated him is a key final step to his transformation to Vader and why he continues to be evil long after their destruction. First, there are the conflicting values between Anakin and the order. Anakin values attachment, to Shmi as a mother, to Obi-Wan as a brother and father-like figure, to Palpatine as a mentor and father-like figure, and most of all to Padme as a wife and future mother of his child. However, as he stated in Attack of the Clones, attachment is forbidden by the Jedi as they believe it will lead to the fear, anger, frustration and suffering associated with the Sith and the dark side. And while, in the case of Anakin, this is true, future information about the Jedi from Luke in The Last Jedi, Rey in The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine in the Darth Vader comics and other canon sources show that, perhaps, the Jedi were misguided in how bluntly and definitively they rejected attachment. Perhaps, there was a healthy middle ground for Jedi to experience attachment without being all-consumed by it. But Anakin suffering under this discrepancy between his values and the Jedi’s. He desperately wants to be a Jedi and progress in the order, but at the same time desperately wants to be with and take care of his wife and his future family. Ultimately, this became a choice for Anakin and a choice that, ultimately, led him to the dark side. And, while well intentioned, the Jedi were arrogant – assuming they had all the right answers, that their rules were perfectly constructed and thus not up for debate, and, in their hubris, assuming they had a right to everything related to the Force. This is key to Anakin’s journey as he feels as if they are hiding secrets related to the Force and potential ways to save Padme from “certain death,” as he states to Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. These things about the Force they’re not telling him is one of the core reasons Anakin turns to the dark side. If Anakin is endlessly devoted to saving Padme, the Jedi are apparently depriving him of ways to save Padme, and Palpatine is offering him a definitive way to save Padme, then it makes sense why Anakin would turn to the dark side, sacrificing his allegiance to the Jedi and doing the necessary evil in order to turn to the dark side and learn the abilities to save Padme.

Explaining why he continues to remain evil after Padme dies is the fact that Anakin feels as if he could’ve saved Padme if the Jedi had told him how to save her initially, making his allegiance with Palpatine pointless. If they divulged their secrets, he could’ve saved Padme, prevented her death and it would never have led to the destruction of the Jedi order. However, Anakin believes the Jedi did not trust him. Mace often acts antagonistically toward Anakin, Yoda and others questioned his Chosen One status and Anakin doesn’t take kindly to some of Obi-Wan’s overreaching mentoring style. Their growing distrust of Anakin and his relationship to Palpatine once again puts Anakin at odds with himself internally, caught in the balance between his loyalty to the Jedi and his loyalty to Palpatine, much like he is caught between his dedication to saving Padme and dedication to the Jedi Order. These conflicting values and sentiments directed toward Anakin from the Jedi further emphasize how he turned to the dark side.

Conclusion

Overall, Anakin’s turn to the dark side is a multilayered process that requires a lot of inference and interpretation. While the prequels could have done a better job fleshing out Anakin’s reasoning, fan interpretation and a wealth of canon materials since the prequels, including The Clone Wars, have added to his character substantially and made his transformation more logical and reasonable. Ultimately, Palpatine identified Anakin from a young age as a boy powerful in the Force and one he could manipulate into being his apprentice when he eventually took over the galaxy. Palpatine preyed on Anakin’s deepest vulnerability, his fear of loss, and this, coupled with already inherently aggressive and impulsitivity, set the stage for his transformation. On the other side of things, Anakin’s allegiance to the Jedi was dwindling as he thought they stood in his way of saving Padme and were wrong in their beliefs about attachment, in addition to their visible distrust of and doubt in Anakin. This culminated in Anakin siding with Palpatine in a desperate effort to save his wife, sacrificing many Jedi in the process in order to ensure Padme’s safety. When she died, Anakin’s personality traits and sentiments toward the Jedi did not go away. He was still fearful, angry, impulsive and he still hated the Jedi for forbidding his relationship, never truly trusting him, failing to intervene with Shmi, and preventing him from learning abilities that would’ve saved Padme. In the end, this culminated in Anakin’s transformation into Vader. Anakin’s arc is central to the Skywalker saga and one that is really interesting to explore and interpret. This is just one interpretation of his journey. There are many more that could shed light on arguably the most interesting character in Star Wars. Thanks for reading and may the Force be with you!

[All images courtesy of Disney and Lucasfilm]

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Why Han Solo Could Show Up In The Clone Wars Season 7

Many have started predicting some of the major plot arcs in the upcoming seventh season of The Clone Wars. The siege of Mandalore. The abduction of Palpatine. Order 66. All of these and many more are really interesting and are making us anticipate February 21 when we can (finally) start watching more of this amazing show. And although we can make predictions about season seven, there is still plenty more to explore and expand upon in canon this season. That’s why we wanted to dedicate this blog post, not to going over what we think is likely to happen in season seven, but a character we would love to see in the new season: Han Solo.

As seen in early concept art of Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas played around with the idea of a young Han showing up on Kashyyyk with Chewbacca during the Clone Wars. While this idea didn’t matriculate given Lucas’ shift to focus more on Anakin’s journey in the film, it’s completely possible that a young Han could appear in The Clone Wars. Han was born approximately 32 years before the Battle of Yavin and the Clone Wars began 22 years before the Battle of Yavin, making Han approximately 10 years old at the time of the war’s onset. Solo: A Star Wars Story and the Imperial Cadet series add substantially to Han’s back story, but, prior to his involvement in the criminal gang White Worms and fellow scrumrat Q’ira, there’s relatively little information about Han. We know his father worked in the Corellia shipyards building freighters. Corellia’s role in the galaxy during the Clone Wars is relatively vague in canon as well. In the Old Republic era, Corellians exploded and colonized the galaxy, but their next substantial inclusion in canon is during the era of the Galactic Empire. It is entirely plausible that the war reached Corellia in some way. It is plausible that the Republic or the Separatists ventured to Corellia for some reason during the war, potentially to access their shipyards. It is plausible that a band of clone troopers got stranded on Corellia during the war. Regardless of how the war, and therefore the show, could reach Corellia, if it does, Han and his father’s inclusion seems natural. Given Han’s stance on the Force in A New Hope, it wouldn’t make sense for him to bump into Jedi or Sith or any Force-sensitive individual during this time. But, given how far reaching the war is, Han’s inclusion is entirely possible and something we’d love to see. We’d like to think that more of Han’s pre-Q’ira backstory would’ve been explored in Solo sequels (fingers crossed for a Disney+ show!), but the Clone Wars is a really interesting platform to shed a little light on Han’s childhood, his relationship with his father, and a pre-Galactic civil war Corellia free of the oppressive empire. Han mentions his father in Solo and the Imperial Cadet series by saying he wasn’t close to him, that he took him to the shipyards one day, and that he said he’s destined to fly, rather than to build ships. Little moments like this would be really interesting to explore in the broader context of the Clone Wars in a story still relevant to the central arcs of the show. It would also be a poetic tribute to a concept Lucas played around with by finally including Han in the Clone Wars.

This is by no means a prediction or an expectation, but just something we thought we’d throw out there to see what others think. Han is one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars saga and his inclusion in future projects, including The Clone Wars, is something we’d welcome with open arms.