Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Ackbar Maneuver

For most kids under the age of 10, Halloween is one of the major highlights of the year. I mean what kid wouldn’t love a day where you go around outside and collect candies from all the houses in the neighborhood. Of course, the usual catch is that you need to dress up in a cool costume, something that is also fun for most least those with vivid imaginations and unlimited resources. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite the resourceful kid back then and so trying to figure out what to wear on this most important day was usually rather stressful for me.

So there was one particular Halloween where my friend had this Admiral Ackbar mask. And I’m not talking about a cheap plastic mask held to your face by rubber bands around the ears. This was a full latex reproduction of the the Rebel Admiral from Mon Cala that went over the entire head. It was pretty amazing. Anyway, for whatever reason, my friend had absolutely no plans of being Ackbar for Halloween so I BEGGED him to let me use his mask which he agreed.

Unfortunately, now that I had a fantastic mask in my possession, I had no idea what to wear with it. I most definitely did not have anything in my closet that resembled Ackbar’s military uniform, so I chose to use the next best thing… brother’s altar boy cassock. I figured hey they were both white?

Seriously though, looking back I have absolutely zero idea what the hell my thought process was behind pairing my brother’s cassock with the Ackbar mask. Maybe I figured that I could be some generic alien ghost? Who knows? To make matters worse, I decided to go out without wearing any pants under the cassock, just my underwear. Again, don’t ask my why, but this was a decision I regretted the minute I showed up at my friend’s house to join his family for trick or treating. Once he found out that I wasn’t wearing any pants, he was became obsessed with lifting up my cassock skirt. And this went on THE WHOLE DAMN NIGHT! I never felt so exposed and uncomfortable in my life. After that night, I had a greater respect for women who wore skirts.

Anyway, that in a nutshell was the only time Admiral Ackbar really made any impact on my life. And to call it a positive experience would be lying. Truth be told, I never really cared much for Ackbar when I first saw him in Return of the Jedi. I only really wanted the use my friend’s mask because it looked so cool and lifelike, not because I was a fan of the character. And as the years passed. My indifference for him pretty much stayed the same, even after he became a pop culture icon with his famous “It’s A Trap” line.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Admiral Ackbar, he was just never a favorite of mine. I did recognize his importance and the role he played in the defeat of the Empire in Return of the Jedi. And I was also happy to see him alive and well over 30 years later serving with the Resistance. But it’s also the reason why I wasn’t overly bothered when he was blown out into space to his death when the bridge of the cruiser Raddus was destroyed.

Look I get it, for many, his death….sucked. Death sucks period. But in times of war, death is a given, casualties are guaranteed. And in the sequel trilogy, if your name isn’t Rey, Finn or Poe, chances are pretty high that you may die at any given moment. And if your name isn’t Rey, Finn or Poe, your death may be as inglorious as being sucked out into the cold emptiness of space and just be referred to as “all our leadership”. General Leia and Admiral Ackbar weren’t the only ones that died on that bridge. At least Ackbar’s death was specifically acknowledged and that was good enough for me.

It’s quite unrealistic to expect EVERY familiar or beloved character to die in some amazing blaze of glory. And let’s get things straight, as much as a lot of people might have loved Admiral Ackbar, he wasn’t a main character. He may have been cool, memorable and a nice familiar face, but he wasn’t close to what I would call integral to the plot of Return of the Jedi or The Force Awakens.

Case in point, I give you Senator Bail Organa. Although he didn’t feature much in the Prequels, he did aid in helping Yoda escape after he failed to defeat Darth Sidius. And more importantly he took care of Leia and raised her as his own child, which in itself kind of makes him one of those directly responsible for the formation of the Rebellion. But in A New Hope, he is just unceremoniously killed off screen when his homeworld Alderaan is blown up by the Death Star. And to my recollection, his death is not even acknowledged (I could be wrong). For all we know, he could’ve been taking a dump when his planet went boom.

Anyway back to Ackbar. There was a whole lot of noise going around from fans who wished that the role of Admiral Holdo in the Last Jedi should’ve been given to Ackbar instead. And a lot of fans wished that the Holdo Maneuver should’ve been Ackbar’s last great sacrifice. Why give the role to some new character when it could have had more meaning from someone fans already knew? Well yes true, I’ll concede that the “Ackbar Maneuver” could’ve held more emotional weight, but for me that would just be more of fan service. Again, going back to my point of him not being a main character, he didn’t NEED a glorious death.

And as for Ackbar taking the role of Holdo in the movie, it just wouldn’t work in my opinion. The Holdo character was created for one main purpose, to act as a foil to Poe’s character, to serve his story arc and character’s growth. In the movie is he starts out as a pilot who by pure skill and a little luck has survived all his battles up to this point. As a result, he has no qualms about taking on the First Order head on or disregarding direct orders from his superiors when he believes he is right. He is a man of action who would rather fight to the bitter and than run to live and fight another day. To that end, both General Leia and Admiral Ackbar had to be removed from the picture in order to make way for a new character who was more abrasive and well hostile towards Poe and his ways. Someone he would never think twice about disobeying and worse yet, suspect to be a traitor.

No one in the audience would ever believe Leia or Ackbar to be a traitor and so that antagonistic dynamic with Poe wouldn’t work. What was needed was a new character, one we didn’t know, someone we too could suspect of being a traitor. And that’s why Holdo makes more sense.

Of course in the end it turns out Poe was wrong in his suspicions of Holdo, and she cements her true loyalties when she sacrifices herself with the Holdo Maneuver to allow the remainder of the Resistance to escape. It’s important to establish Holdo as being right and Poe wrong, for him to learn from his mistake. It’s how Poe grows as a character. And his change shows when General Leia defers to his command on Crait and he orders the remaining Resistance to look for a way to escape while force projection Luke buys them some time.

So that’s really all I have to say about Admiral Ackbar. I get why people love the guy, and yes it’s well deserved. But for me, he’ll always be just...OK. In fact as far as Mon Calamari go, he’s not even my favorite. That honor goes to General Raddus, of which the ship on which Ackbar died on was named after.