Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Loose Canons

Get it? Because I called our new characters loose cannons! lol

"Play it again, Sam." "Elementary, my dear Watson." "Luke, I am your father." Like famous movie misquotes, how often do we remember things that aren't really true?

I've been eating up analysis of The Force Awakens ever since watching it in the theaters. Right now, I am in middle of Screen Rant Underground's TFA-dedicated show [SPOILERS]. Screen Junkies has a few shows about it, especially the review with the now infamous Max Landis [more SPOILERS]. I listened to a fun episode of Cat Context last week—no wait, almost two weeks ago—where they discussed the movie [of course there are SPOILERS] without Liore. [yet another EDIT: I was seriously remiss in not including Dana Buckler's excellent two parter: The Phantom Mistakes and The Force Awakens Review.]

One thing that has come up several times—and I even went so far as to comment on it on the Cat Context episode page—is the question of canonicity regarding concepts and plot points in the Legends (formerly known as the Extended Universe).

[EDIT: For those confused what I am talking about, "Canon" (originally a religious term) refers to works (books, movies, etc.) that are considered official sources of information about a story or fictional universe. The current term used by Star Wars fans and Disney officials for works outside of SW canon is "Legends" (formerly the Extended Universe, EU for short).]

So many of the theories floating around on the Internet—about Rey's parentage, Finn's background, what will happen next—depend on a body of knowledge that is no longer canon:
As of April 25, 2014, the only previously published materials that are considered canon are the six Star Wars films and the Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series and film, while the Expanded Universe is no longer considered canon and was re-termed as the "Legends" brand. Most Star Wars material released after April 25, 2014—with some exceptions—is composed in collaboration with the Lucasfilm Story Group, making it part of the "new canon."
~~Wookiepedia, "Canon"
That's not to say that concepts or characters from the EU might not make their way into the films or other new canon works.
However, that doesn't mean a character drawn from a Legendary work necessarily makes the work itself canon. Arolaide is really excited that Revan is mentioned in the TFA Visual Dictionary. And I agree that it is cool. But that does not mean that any book or game that includes the character of Revan (KOTOR, SWTOR) is canon, too. After all, it's a safe bet that Luke Skywalker (or Anakin/Vader) features in the vast majority of EU books. But that doesn't make any of them canon.

Even when people acknowledge that the EU is now legend, they end up making assumptions about what they "know" versus what is actually canon information. So is it significant that Rey has a British accent, while Finn has an American one? After all, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley grew up mere miles from each other (though in wildly different circumstances). So that has to mean something, like she's Obi-wan's grandkid because he had an accent, or she's Luke's and Mara Jade's kid because Mara was Imperial and all Imperials have British accents.

Leaving aside the fact that the character Mara Jade is no longer canon—a fact highlighted by the Cat Context folks—nothing in the original movies states that invariably Imperials have British accents. (This is a plot point in SWTOR, but not supported by the films, which take place some 4000 years later.) All the stormtroopers in the OT and several Naval officers (notably, the admiral Force-choked by Vader in the war council scene of A New Hope) are Americans. Meanwhile, rebels like Mon Mothma and Obi-wan Kenobi (OK, he was never actually part of the Rebellion) have distinct accents.

Of course, we can chalk up at least some of these discrepancies to casting expediencies. But what about when actors use an accent that we know is not their native one? Surely that's significant, no? According to Mr. Boyega himself, his American accent was a decision made on set, rather than something planned out by the writers. So it was not meant to convey information to the audience. Now, is it possible a future canon writer (like Rian Johnson) may make something of Finn's accent? It's possible. But we have no reason to hang a theory on it; or Rey's accent, either.

Another question for debate was whether Finn is Force sensitive, based on his ability to wield a lightsaber.  There is no basis for that in the current canon. However, as pointed out by Arolaide, the kyber crystals critical to a functioning lightsaber must be attuned to the Force before they can be used. And guess who is capable of that? As a side note, the use of synthetic red crystals by Sith Lords is a "Legend." Canon kyber crystals are colorless, and any color they pick up is a reflection of the user (it's still a bit hazy when the color becomes fixed). So the crystals given to Jedi players in SWTOR may be pre-attuned, colored, and fully in line with canon. Or they may be the legendary colored crystals seen elsewhere. Sith players acquire lightsabers rather than constructing their own.

I much prefer the approach taken by the folks in charge of Star Trek. Paramount established over 30 years ago that the only canon is what you see onscreen. Anything you might read about Captain Kirk or Lieutenant Worf may be contradicted at any time by a new episode or movie. Of course, Star Trek has many, many more hours of screen footage than Star Wars. Even then, there are elements of characterization, plot, technology etc., that are contradicted by later shows. Even within current Disney Star Wars canon there are contradictions, some of them very aggravating.

So this rant got a little nitpicky. All I am saying is that we may need to unlearn what we have learned, and go with the flow of the actual canon, rather than try to force the stuff of Legends into our pet theories.
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  1. I think Kylo Ren made his lightsaber. I don't know if it's jagged edges are because he's not as good at building one, if it's a reflection of his inner turmoil, or if they just thought it looked cool. I'd love to see more about lightsabers, and their significance. I've always liked the "technical" drawings that often come out in books or posters for different shows;firefly, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc. I'd like to see canon schematic of a lightsaber, and all the various attributes of colors and crystals. It would be sweet if it was presented as an educational poster that would have graced the walls of a Jedi elementary school.

    1. You'd love The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary. According to it, Kylo made his own lightsaber using a cracked kyber crystal, hence the unstable blade and and need for "side vents."

  2. Been pondering all this as well - mostly because during the Tr-8R vs Finn fight, my first thought was, "oh man, the First Order has mad access to cortosis" - and then followed a few moments later by "but that's not canon anymore so maybe now anything can block a lightsaber." Nothing in canon says Finn can't pick up a lightsaber and whip some tail with it.

    Personally, I don't wish for a Star Trek situation - which brings its own issues. I wish for a Marvel situation - let each story stand in an alternate universe of its own.

    1. That's one of many reasons I could never get into comics, the multiple versions of almost every story and character. The Star Trek situation is actually somewhat similar I guess, in that one author might tell a story about the Enterprise crew that completely contradicts that of another author. A fellow fan cannot insist that "Kirk did such and such" if it didn't happen on screen. Even now, on the Screen Rant podcast I linked above, they were referring to Darth Plagueis as Palpatine's master, when in fact, Palpatine never states on screen in Episode III that Plagueis trained him personally. That's from the EU/Legends. (Unless it's stated in the Clone Wars animated series, in which case I would be mistaken.)

    2. Regarding Nines' (TR-8R's canon nickname) baton, it's not the first weapon we've seen go up against a lightsaber. General Grievous' droid bodyguards also had electrostaves. (Much as I dislike the prequels, they are canon.)

  3. Ah! I had forgotten about that scene, very true. Still, my only point was that I had some of the same ponderings.