So I really hate that fandom has devolved to the point that I have to justify how much of a fan I am in order to articulate a point, but I’ll put it this way: I’ve been running a site dedicated to fandom for some years now. I’ve put my money where my mouth is and have dedicated a large portion of my life to it, so before you say I’m not a real fan, I’m going to tell you to chill out and listen. I love Star Wars, I loved Rogue One, I’ve loved Rebels and Clone Wars, but the new movies are in trouble because the First Order doesn’t make any sense — like at all.
I’ve waiting a year and a half for the new extended universe to try and fill the gaps left by The Force Awakens, which was as devoid of answers as the first season of Lost. The thing is, as more and more books have come out, attempted to fill those narrative gaps, the universe, and the threat posed by the First Order, makes less and less sense.
How do they even exist?
Okay, so this is the easy one. After the Battle of Jakku, the imperial remnant and the New Republic, signed a peace treaty called the Galactic Concordance. After this the Empire was dissolved and remaining imperial officers were declared war criminals. Basically, think post World War II Germany, except the government is absorbed by the New Republic. Of course, there were a number of hardliners and loyalists who refused to submit to the Republic, and obeyed the Imperial Contingency plan set forth by the Emperor should he die.
This makes sense. Often times after a long and bloody civil war you see those who are unable to submit to the new order, but they’re always the minority. In Germany, these people were arrested and killed, or integrated back into society. These dissidents become guerrillas or terrorists. They’re pushed to the periphery. They can absolutely pose a threat on the small scale but not the large, because in order to pose a large threat you have to have resources.
So how does the First Order have resources?
Based on the aforementioned contingency, we can assume that Palpatine had a nice nest egg placed in the Unknown Regions. After all, why else would he put this contingency in place if he didn’t already have some backup plan. It’s also easy to assume that those hardliners snuck away with some newly outlawed Star Destroyers. So, it makes sense for them to have a small fleet of old relics of the good ole imperial days, but not only do they apparently have the resources to build a large navy, but also a massive star system killing weapon? The reason given for how they have the resources to do this … money laundering. I’m serious. They build a massive weapon, far exceeding the scale and power of the Empire at it’s height, by money laundering? The reason money laundering works because it’s small scale crime. One of the most successful money launderers in history was Frankin Juardo who laundered $36 million in drug money. That would get you exactly 0.385 percent of the USS Gerald Ford, which mind you, only floats on water and not in space.
So then, lets say that Palpatine’s nest egg was absolutely massive. Lets say he has enough credits to build this fleet all by himself. Well, who exactly is going to build it? What population do they have? I understand that the first order officers and officials were going to be a part of this, but they have to have a population.
So somehow, they managed to make their way to the Unknown Regions, and somehow find a population of humans to submit to the will of the first order. It’s not outside the realm of possibility to find one or two planets, but enough to sustain the military industrial complex of the First Order?
This would be like if the entire western world fell, and then a place with the population of Greenland is able to crank out a couple of US carrier fleets. That’s before you even get into the issue with walkers and such.
Why wasn’t the First Order wiped out by the New Republic?
The typical explanation follows thusly: after 30 years the Republic was fat and decadent. They didn’t believe that the First Order represented an existential threat to the New Republic. They thought Leia was warmongering. They even tried to assassinate her. Well, the fat cats ended up getting blown to smithereens when the New Republic’s capital was blown up in TFA. Let’s lay aside the fact that thirty years is a super short time for the galaxy to slip into decadent decay after suffering almost 30 years of nonstop war (the beginning of the Clone Wars [22 BBY] to the Battle of Jakku [5 ABY]). This apparently not only destroyed the New Republic fleet (ugh), but also caused the Republic to disintegrate? Whatever, this is dumb for the same reason that if I bomb Washington DC, it somehow destroys the entire US Navy, army, and causes every state to just say, “Meh, I didn’t like the US anyways.” But I digress…
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That reason above is also the reason why the Republic didn’t snuff our the First Order, even though they were responsible for murdering the Jedi, building a war fleet in violation of treaties, were implicated in the criminal underworld, and were actively agitating for war. This is before I even get into the bombings and murders claimed by the first order against the New Republic.
The New Republic knew about the First Order, they knew they were dangerous, and they purportedly had the ability to destroy them and didn’t. This means one of two things (or a combination of the two) either the First Order was so small as to not even be a blip on the radar, or there were First Order sympathizers within the Republic hiding how dangerous they were. This would make sense except for one small thing, LEIA ORGANA and LUKE SKYWALKER!?!?! Seriously, two of the biggest heroes of the war are disregarded? WHAT!? Okay, so let’s say we are in the 1970s, and somehow, lets say Patton and Eisenhower go public and say, okay, The Nazis are back. They live in this small country in Antarctica, and they’re dangerous. They’ve rebuilt Hitler’s war machine and they want to kill us all. What exactly do you think would happen in this scenario? People are still fantasizing about punching Nazis over eighty years later. All this leads to one simple fact …
It’s bad worldbuilding
When JJ Abrams and crew were writing TFA they wanted to reboot the franchise for a new generation and tell new stories that were similar to the old one. The price they paid was to undermine the ending of Return of the Jedi and created new versions of the Empire and the Rebellion in order to have scrappy rebels fighting an unstoppable evil empire. They did this instead of writing something new. The problem was, they didn’t bother to think through all the implications of this. They didn’t bother to make sure that the bad guys made sense. When I watch The Force Awakens, this is all I can think about. They took one of my favorite literary characters and turned his triumphant victory into a tragedy. It’s not just that I dislike it, it’s bad writing.
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