Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Star Wars Story Group, you got some 'splainin' to do... (more about Snoke)

A few days ago I became an uncle.  Yaaaay me!  Okay, she was born to my best friend from college but the two of us are "brothers from other mothers" if there ever is such a thing.  I'm still going to be "Uncle Chris" and I plan on playing the eccentric relative bit to the hilt where the little lady is concerned.  What more could a kid possibly want?

Anyway, while Weird Ed and his lovely wife and their freshly-decanted spawn were basking in the first hours of being a beautiful family together, Yours Truly felt that  some measure of celebration was in order.  And what better way to mark the occasion than by seeing Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker for the fourth time?

The dovetailing of all that has come before, the symmetry, the complementing... it's a beautiful thing to behold.  Despite initial impressions that the first half of the film is exceedingly dense and loaded with exposition, subsequent viewings have mellowed that somewhat.  And in my mind there is a dire lack of exposition about things that could have been far more blatant.  It's the "less is more" approach.

Want an example?  It's just my personal theory but, I think The Rise of Skywalker did address midichlorians: that microscopic albatross of the prequel trilogy.  Without even invoking the word itself, Episode IX brought up midichlorians and lo and behold it makes sense.  Rey and then Ben using the Force to heal others: sounds a bit like the power Darth Plagueis is said to have wielded by influencing midichlorians, aye?  Except that  being a Sith, Plagueis wouldn't be imparting his own life energy, probably.  That's how Rey and Ben were doing it though: using the Force to influence the midichlorians to impart healing from their own being and onto another.  Try to NOT see midichlorians in The Rise of Skywalker now that you've read those words.

(I could also remark on how Ben giving Rey the full measure of his life force could be perceived as bestowing the Skywalker name on her in all proper sense.  Especially if somehow that life force made midichlorians conceive a child with Rey... but that's too wacky to suggest here.)

Yes, a lot to digest and muse upon about this movie.  We'll probably be doing it until the end of time.  I'm cool with that.  But even so, there is one matter about The Rise of Skywalker that sticks out like a gangrenous pus-seeping thumb, and there is no allocating some peace from it...

Snoke.

Yeah, I know: "Chris you've already written about Snoke on this blog!"  Maybe I don't like it that he was set up to be darker and more malevolent than Palpatine himself.  And he still could have been despite getting slain in The Last Jedi.  Instead we got a cheap trick of Snoke being a clone or an "artificial being" or some other bullcrap.

And it doesn't jibe at all with what the associated canon... emphasis on canon... literature was heavily indicating about the former Supreme Leader of the First Order.  Especially from the novelization of The Last Jedi.

Let's be fair: novelizations aren't necessarily a perfect reflection of their respective films (the novel for Independence Day still has the city destroyer taken out by Russell's crop-dusting biplane: a remnant of the original script prior to changes following test screenings).  And then there is the novelization of Return of the Jedi, which included dialogue between Obi-Wan and Luke revealing that Uncle Owen had been Obi-Wan's brother.  Oh, how much we speculated from that between 1983 and the prequels...

Still, the Star Wars novelizations are - or once had been - considered part of the official lore.  And to a lesser extent, so too could quotes by J.J. Abrams, Andy Serkis and others about Snoke be taken as veritable gospel.  But above all of those in large part it's the Star Wars Story Group guiding the mythology since it came under the Disney umbrella.  Nothing gets canonized without their blessing upon it.

Snoke, however, is Cathar-league heresy from the established doctrine of the saga.

The following is excerpted from chapter 25 of the novelization Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Expanded Edition) by Jason Fry:
Interpreting visions of the future was a dangerous game. Whether Jedi, Sith, or some other sect less celebrated by history, all those who used the Force to explore possible time lines kept that uppermost in their minds. Those who didn’t died regretting that they hadn’t.
Snoke had learned that lesson many years ago, when he was young and the galaxy was very different. These days, what struck him was how much visions of the future left out.
For example, who would have guessed that the girl Rey would be so slim and fragile-looking? She looked lost in the throne room, dwarfed by both her surroundings and the galaxy-shaking events for which she was the unlikely and unwitting fulcrum.
But Snoke knew appearances were often deceiving—sometimes fatally so. Underestimating Rey had nearly cost Kylo Ren his life, after all. Snoke knew better. For he had his own legions of uncounted dead, their ranks filled by those who had underestimated him.
Snoke knew he himself was an unlikely fulcrum, just about the furthest thing from what the tattered remnants of Palpatine’s Empire had imagined as a leader. The admirals and generals who’d survived the fury of the Empire’s implosion and the New Republic’s wrath had envisioned being led by someone else, anyone else: pitiless, devious Gallius Rax; dutiful, cautious Rae Sloane; the slippery political fanatic Ormes Apolin; or even an unhinged but ambitious military architect such as Brendol Hux.
All of those would-be leaders had been co-opted, sidelined, or destroyed, leaving only Armitage Hux, the mad son of a mad father. And that one was but a mouthpiece, a miscast tinkerer whose rantings could only persuade the sort of rabble who blindly worshipped rage and lunatic certainty.
Though galactic history would record it differently—Snoke would see to that—the evolution of the First Order had been more improvisation than master plan. That was another element visions tended to miss.
Palpatine had engineered the Contingency to simultaneously destroy his Empire and ensure its rebirth, ruthlessly winnowing its ranks and rebuilding them with who and what survived. The rebuilding was to take place in the Unknown Regions, secretly explored by Imperial scouts and seeded with shipyards, laboratories, and storehouses—an “enormously expensive effort that had taken decades, and been kept hidden from all but the elect.
But the Imperial refugees’ military preparations had been insufficient bulwarks against the terrors of the Unknown Regions. Grasping in the dark among strange stars, they had come perilously close to destruction, and it had not been military might that saved them.
It had been knowledge—Snoke’s knowledge.
Which, ironically, led back to Palpatine and his secrets.
Palpatine’s true identity as Darth Sidious, heir to the Sith, had been an even greater secret than the Contingency. And the Empire’s explorations into the Unknown Regions had served both aspects of its ruler. For Sidious knew that the galaxy’s knowledge of the Force had come from those long-abandoned, half-legendary star systems, and that great truths awaited rediscovery among them.
Truths that Snoke had learned and made to serve his own ends.
One obstacle had stood in his way—Skywalker. Who had been wise enough not to rebuild the Jedi Order, dismissing it as the sclerotic, self-perpetuating debating society it had become in its death throes. Instead, the last Jedi had sought to understand the origins of the faith, and the larger truths behind it.
Like his father, Skywalker had been a favored instrument of the will of the Cosmic Force. That made it essential to watch him. And once Skywalker endangered Snoke's design, it had become essential to act.
And so Snoke had drawn upon his vast store of knowledge, parceling it out to confuse Skywalker's path, ensnare his family, and harness Ben Solo's powers to ensure both Skywalker's destruction and Snoke's triumph.

So here we have it described in no uncertain terms that Snoke was already firmly established as a character who existed long before the Empire ever came about.  He observed the Jedi and made note of their decline and fall.  It was Snoke, and Snoke alone, who found the First Order and saved it from oblivion in the Unknown Regions.

This is nothing whatsoever like the face value of what was told to us about Snoke in The Rise of Skywalker.  We went from enticing hints about Snoke and his backstory, to his being a cheap and disposable gimmick and nothing more.

I'm not buying it.  Neither, apparently, are a lot of other fans who are just as honked-off that Snoke was treated so shabbily.

Or maybe there really is more to Snoke's history as a character that hasn't been revealed yet.  Yeah, Palpatine said "I made Snoke!"  But it could also be pointed out that Palpatine also "made" Darth Vader, figuratively and literally.  Or like with the Mafia: you aren't a "made man" until you've "made your bones" by killing someone for the benefit of the family.  There are all kinds of ways that "I made Snoke" could be interpreted.

That's what I'm hoping for.  That much is still left for Snoke and that it may reconcile the gaping disparity between the published smattering of detail and those floating Snoke clones on Exegol.

I'm leaning toward Snoke being a Paul von Hindenburg-type figure.  Yes, Hindenburg was the titular President during the Weimar Republic era.  But everyone in Germany knew that Hindenburg was merely a prop for the true ruler of the country: the Nazi party's Adolf Hitler.  Hindenburg became a puppet with Hitler pulling the strings.  And in time, when Hitler had no further use for Hindenburg, he crushed the revered general and tossed him aside.  Hindenburg died not long after.

Now THAT would be an effective and satisfying use for Snoke.  It would make Palpatine even more powerful: that he could co-opt the Unknown Regions' biggest threat into working for him.  Likely without Snoke even knowing he was being manipulated.

So to anyone sitting among the Star Wars Story Group: c'mon guys, fix Snoke.  Make him the villain he deserves to be.  Let him be his own man.  Not a meatbag created by Darth Sidious.  You've tantalized us about there being much bigger and better to Snoke's fictional history.  Time to bring him beyond the shallowness of mere clone-hood.