Sunday, December 18, 2016

Trying to make sense of Starkiller base's demise

Rogue One felt like an old friend I never knew I missed. As several reviews have mentioned, many have considered it the best Star Wars film since the original trilogy, a true hearkening back to the films we grew to know so well and lovr. But Force Awakens came out last year, and wasn't it already quite a resounding success, a return to original trilogy form?

I certainly thought so, and that was why I bought the digital film as soon as it became available. I had little difficulty explaining away most of the plot holes, at least to myself, but one hole kept nagging at me. How did the Resistance take down the Starkiller base with such apparent ease? Or conversely, why did the First Order make their prized weapon so vulnerable, and especially in such a way as to replicate the vulnerability of the two previous Imperial death planets?

Perhaps one key to reconciling this apparently fatal flaws lies in another potential plot hole. Another criticism raised against the Starkiller design is that its attachment to a planet greatly limits its mobility. Unless it could somehow up and move its entire existing planet, the weapon could really only target nearby planets within its fiery canon's range.

Either this design was an incredible overlooked weakness, or it underlies the fact that Starkiller was not an end unto itself. If it could only target planets within a local radius or its orbital trajectory, perhaps the weapon was but a prototype, or at least a first of its class, one of many such weapons to come. We might conjecture that Starkiller was merely a new type of weapon that would be installed on many additional planets, each targeting local New Republic planets within reach.

As one of many, Starkiller would not be the end all, the prized possession which the First Order would defend at any cost. The base would be important, no doubt, but also important would be the ability to construct multiple such bases efficiently and within cost. Even as formidable as a Star Destroyer might be, for example, each ship would have to "cut corners" in the name of reasonable construction costs and time to make the construction of any similar designs feasible.

Similarly, Starkiller would have to work within its design constraints, which meant relying on less than impregnable defenses. And as the first of many similar designs, a 1.0 effort shall we say, of a weapon that harnesses an inherently unstable energy source, the system remained only vulnerable to demise with a critical perturbation of its inner workings.

The Resistance took advantage of this vulnerability and killed the Starkiller base, but their celebration perhaps underlies their own naive vulnerability. The base had destroyed its intended targets -- multiple surrounding New Republic planets -- and many more Starkiller bases are perhaps to come, each situated near additional ripe Republic targets. And if the First Order can in fact learn from mistakes, then these new Starkiller 2.0 bases will be do away with the trench-run-critical-vulnerability once and for all. Or so we hope, at least for the sake of believability.

What made Rogue One feel so fresh was not having to go through such mental exercises to justify the plotline. But hey, there are so many much more skilled people doing the creative heavy lifting to put these movies together in the first place, so props to them for painting the universe we so thoroughly debate and enjoy.