Forces of Destiny: First Impressions

Rey and Leia's Short Stories in Cartoon Are Out

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The series of short clips, titled “Forces of Destiny”, has debuted on 3rd July on Disney’s official youtube channel. Forces of Destiny were first announced this spring and they should consist of short clips, featuring the iconic female characters of Star Wars universe.

Aside from Rey and Leia, who were the protagonists of the first few episodes, we can look forward to seeing Padmé Amidala, Jyn Erso, Ahsoka Tano, Hera Syndulla, Sabine Wren, Ketsu Onyo and others. Each episode is introduced by Maz Kanata’s voice. The total of eight episodes are scheduled to appear during the coming days, which more being released later during the year at so far unspecified time.

The episodes should present short, self-contained stories. For instance, the first clip (barely three minutes in length) presented a short story situated in-between the scenes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, when BB-8 follows Rey through the desert on Jakku. In the video, Rey protects BB-8 from a monster which feeds on metal junk.

Short, But Sweet

Forces of Destiny is obviously a sideway project. You cannot expect an amazing story from a two- to three-minute-long video. Nonetheless, there is clear effort behind it. The characters are voiced by the respective actresses, original soundtrack and sounds are used (for instance, the episodes with Rey included Rey’s theme from TFA). The animation, while obviously fairly simple, is still done with attention and not just hastily dumped on us “here we made something short, have it” (again, for example the cartoon Rey’s facial expressions mirror well Daisy Ridley’s actual portrayal of the character). Personally, I do appreciate the more “classic” cartoon style of drawing the series is presenting (vaguely reminiscent of some series of the Clone Wars) as opposed to “plastic” animation we sometimes see nowadays. It is again nice to see variety among the styles Lucasfilm uses for its various products. (And speaking of products, I am grateful for any Star Wars related content which is actually available freely for the fans, like this one.) Maybe in the future, we can get other media – the space is infinite, and I’m sure for example even a puppet show might work under the right circumstances.

What I liked the most about Forces of Destiny, however, is the idea behind the project. First, I am on board with those who believe SW female characters have so much potential (not only!) for girls to offer role models they can relate to (especially in this short cartoon form). Secondly, and even more importantly, the message of “the choices we make, the actions we take” and that even the small acts matter and shape us conveys something very important. When I watched the first story, I was happy that not only its message seemed to be consistent with the Star Wars’ chief themes, not only did it expand Rey’s character by emphasising some traits we were aware of but which maybe weren’t articulated as clearly in TFA, but it also stressed positive values like caring and kindness, something that I believe should get space ahead of bashing somebody’s head with a lightsaber.

It Has Something To Offer

If I am to evaluate the first three episodes that have come out by the time this article is published, I would say they had somewhat descending trend, but I assume that won’t last. The first episode was probably the best, it had a moral point, which got somehow reflected also in the second one. Together, they were two parts of one story, emphasising some of Rey’s character traits; namely, her kindness to everyone (reassuring the audience both times that the antagonists were going to be fine). The third episode with Leia was somehow arbitrary, especially because Leia herself did not really do much for most of the time, she was only an observer. Also, I am sorry to say, Leia is one of the characters (maybe the only one) who has to be voiced by a different actress, and Shelby Young’s voice does not cut it. I am not entirely sure why Disney couldn’t cast Julie Dolan, who has voiced Leia in Rebels and several late Star Wars games, and in my opinion her performance was excellent. I simply don’t hear Leia here, and that completely breaks any chance at immersion.

Nonetheless, Forces of Destiny seems like a nice and good small side-project. Even hardcore fans who would otherwise scowl at the “childish” style can probably enjoy it thanks to its length. Its advantage is that it actually has the potential to expand the characters’ personalities as much as the timeframe allows. At least Rey certainly got some “emphasise” treatment, and her relationship with BB-8 suddenly makes much more sense in the light of these short animated clips.

I have to mention one more thing for “old fans” – perhaps a small easter egg, not sure whether intentional or not – the finale of the first episode, with Rey standing on safe ground while the monster burrows in the sand, reminded me of a classic moment from the video game Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, where one whole mission was exactly about that (and anyone who has played the game will probably remember it until the remember it for the rest of their life).

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Rostislav Kurka
Rostislav is a Protestant theologian and a self-trained Sith, counting Jan Hus, Darth Revan and Darth Traya among his main influences. He hails from the hundred-towered city of Prague, where he had spent a large part of his life creating worlds and inspiring young generations to roleplay. His involvement in organising children's camps led him to accidentally writing a Lord of the Rings musical, which made him temporarily famous, and a Three Musketeer-Jedi fanfilm, which didn't. He has recently moved to the frozen waste of Finland, because that's it, the Rebels are there.