Star Wars 7 Is An Amazing Movie. There, I Said It.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is an amazing movie.

There, I said it.

Most publications agree with me, but several of my friends on social media and elsewhere disagree. Many have called The Force Awakens “recycled”, “too derivative”, having “zero creative ambition”, and basically being terrible, largely because they think it cribs too much from A New Hope and that it’s uninspiring. Many don’t like the characters. Many think the plot is stale. And at least one has actually said that it’s worse than the prequels.

This is all utterly bunk.

I am not going to say that The Force Awakens is some marvelous exemplar of serious cinematic quality and technique. Well, actually, it kinda is, but just not like a serious, Cannes Festival, critic type quality. That’s because Star Wars itself, while imaginative and creative, speaking to our inner children, it’s still a schlocky comic book story. Yes, it relies on deep mythological themes, but just how deep is Star Wars, really?

In other words, people have seriously missed the point about this movie, and perhaps, the series in general.

I’ve now seen The Force Awakens three times (all in 3D, I might add, and twice at the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum, which has a six story tall IMAX 3D screen powered by laser beams and radness.) Now that’s it been out for two weeks, I think it’s okay to mention spoilers, so there will be some in here. To be courteous to those who haven’t seen it, I’m going to use a snippet cut here, but beyond there, spoilers abound. Tread carefully.
Continue reading Star Wars 7 Is An Amazing Movie. There, I Said It.

The Force Is Still Strong With the Star Wars Expanded Universe

A not so long time ago, in a boardroom not all that far away…

So the news is out. The Star Wars Expanded Universe – all the books, games, comics, etc beyond the movies and the Clone Wars show – is essentially being put into storage. It will still be available, printed, and even to be used by authors and creators in the “new” timeline. Already, some fans are complaining hard about this, feeling they’re being Force choked by this decision. Things like “I invested years and lots of money into this!” are getting bandied about.

These complaints are really childish, and I actually think this is a good decision for Disney to make.

First, why the decision is good. While I certainly have my favorites from the EU canon – the X-Wing series, Young Jedi Knights, anything by Timothy Zahn, and I, Jedi all stand out – we must face the fact that a great majority of the Expanded Universe is, to put it frankly, bantha poodoo. I said as much back in January, and I just want to reiterate it more now. The Courtship of Princess Leia is as schlocky as they come, and The Crystal Star is…well, perhaps the less said about it, the better. There are many horrible Star Wrongs in the EU. In no way, shape, or form should J.J Abrams and the crew working on the next trilogy be beholden to them. I’m glad they won’t be!

But then, that’s the thing, isn’t it? The EU was always secondary canon. Even though it was canon – unlike, say, Star Trek, which basically said that it’s “extended universe” was not canon, no way, no how – it was always secondary to the two film trilogies and later on Clone Wars. (Ugh.) So even they technically were not really Star Wars. And for the vast majority of people who have watched the movies, they aren’t, because they’re not the movies. How many people read Star Wars novels? I’m sure it’s a large number, but it is nowhere near as large as the many who have watched the movies and never delved into the EU.

Now, why the complaints, in most cases, are pretty childish: because this decision in no way takes away from your enjoyment of those stories. We are dealing with a fictional universe, and you know where fictional universes live? In your mind, and in your heart. And nothing that Disney can do can take them away from those places. Sure, they may not exist in the same timeline as the new movies…however, fiction loves alternate timelines, so there is nothing saying you can’t just push the old EU to a different timeline and enjoy that. People are doing it with Star Trek, why not Star Wars?

Fact is, the Star Wars universe is one you make of it. I myself have completely disavowed anything from New Jedi Order onwards and most of the stuff set between the Exar Kun saga and the earliest “Last Days of the Old Republic” type material. (KOTOR, KOTOR II, The Old Republic, etc – all that stuff doesn’t exist for me, because it is all hilariously dumb.) Does that mean that content doesn’t exist for other fans? Of course not.

I really think fans need to get over themselves. Saying “the death of the EU hurts” is almost pathetic. Having your dog die hurts. Having a friend or family member hurts. Losing a job hurts. A company making a change in what novels it will accept as a backstory to a movie series doesn’t hurt, and if does you may be overly attached. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but come on. I love fiction as much as the next guy, and I love writing it and yes I do get attached to things sometimes, but at the end of the day these are all stories that exist in your mind. (Well, until Heinlein’s pantheistic solipsism is proven correct, that is…)

It’s whiny, entitled bullshit. I see this all over the ‘Net on all sorts of topics, and when it comes to something as silly as this – yes, “silly” and Star Wars do go together in this case – it just makes me sad. Sad that people are wasting their time on this. Move on, you have more important things to do. The Expanded Universe you love will always be there for you, forever.

(And before you say “But Jeremy – shouldn’t you have more important things to do than write a blog post like this?” why yes, yes I do. Which is watch the rest of Gundam Unicorn.)

I AM NOT A COMMITTEE: Disney to form group to kill Star Wars Expanded Universe

Disney appoints a group to determine a new, official Star Wars canon.

Well, we all knew this was coming eventually. And to be brutally honest, it is way overdue. The Star Wars Expanded Universe has a lot of stuff in it that really shouldn’t be there, whether some poorly thought out children novels in the 90s (looking at you, Jedi Prince series) or, you know, the entire “New Jedi Order” era. Or really anything off of this list.

The sad thing is, though, the EU is probably going to just be killed off entirely, at least post-Return of the Jedi, because let’s face it, the EU’s fanbase is about as valuable as sand on Tatooine. Vibrant as it is, the vast majority–we’re talking about 99 out of 100, here–of Star Wars fans do not care about the EU, and indeed think it is an international alliance of Old World socialist nations that in 100 years will be fighting with the Asians over the last scraps of this planet. I mean I love it, there are other nerds who love it, but then they dress up as Twi’lek girls and it just gets awkward.

Besides, it would totally get in the way of JJ. Abrams’ lens flares, and we can’t have that!

Now, Leland Chee, the Keeper of the Holocron (and thus, for several years now, effectively the Director of Continuity Management at Lucasfilm Licensing) will be in on this, which means that all of us EU fans will be appeased like the good people of Alderaan…before our jewel is blasted to tiny, tiny bits. Remember, lens flares. Can’t get in the way.

But you know, maybe that’s a good thing. I have a list of things we could easily kill:

  • The New Jedi Order Series
  • Legacy of the Force
  • Fate of the Jedi
  • Courtship of Princess Leia
  • The Force Unleased (as well as its sequel)
  • Knights of the Old Republic
  • The Crystal Star
  • The Jedi Prince series
  • Galaxy of Fear series (seriously, what a joke)
  • The Ewoks series and movies

Well, that’s all I can think of at the moment, but I am sure there are more. There have been a flurry of Star Wars novels lately, many of whom involve Han Solo, that I hear aren’t that good. (Like one that was going to be Ocean’s Eleven but with Dash Rendar, but turned out horribly; and a couiple of ones with zombies. Look, I like zombies, and I like Star Wars. But unless your name is Eden Studios, Inc., you don’t have permission to mix the two. Or into the Sarlacc with you.)

But yeah, it’s not really a bad thing. I would like a fresh start. Still skeptical that whatever JJ will do with that galaxy far, far away will actually be good (I’m really not a fan of his Star Trek reboots) but I will give a shot. And by a shot I mean a dram of Corellian whiskey, because that is always good.

Emperor’s Black Heart – Director of New Star Wars Sequel Announced

Oh, sithspit.

J.J. Abrams To Direct New Star Wars Movie.

Star Trek director J.J. Abrams will be helming the next Star Wars movie. “It’s done deal with J.J.,” a source with knowledge of the situation told Deadline today. Argo director Ben Affleck was also up for the gig, the source says. Despite saying publicly that he didn’t want to direct a new Star Wars, Abrams was courted heavily by producer Kathleen Kennedy to take the job. Expected in 2015, Episode VII will be the first new Star Wars movie since 2005?s Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith. Michael Arndt is writing the script for the first installment of the relaunch of George Lucas’ franchise by Disney. The company bought Lucasfilm in October for $4 billion, with the Star Wars franchise the jewel in the crown. At the time, CEO Bob Iger said three more Star Wars films were in the pipeline. Abrams’ other space-based franchise sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, comes out May 17. This weekend, the PGA will honor the Lost creator and Revolution producer with its 2013 Norman Lear Award For Television. Abrams is repped by CAA and Oasis Media Group.

I never wrote my feelings up about the Star Trek reboot, but basically summed up, I gave it a 5/10–and all five points came from the soundtrack and the visual techniques. The story was an absolute train wreck, a senseless mishmash of one testosterone-fueled fantasy after another, completely lacking any of the logic or intelligence that was the original series of Star Trek had. The original series, from the 1960s, had serious science fiction writers writing the scripts, exploring topics of racism, sexism, collectivism vs. individualism, the rising might of technology, and what it meant to be human. Abrams’ movie was about kicking ass and scoring ass. I mean, the instant promotion from cadet to captain (oh, sure, that makes sense), the bar fight idiocy, even the very part about not going back and resetting the timeline, because they’ve always done that–there were a great many things about the plot that were just dumb.

It wasn’t all dumb–the characters were kinda enjoyable, in their own way, and there were some funny lines. But by and large, it was pretty bad.

I’m not going to all of a sudden write off Star Wars now that J.J. Abrams is directing it. He has done good stuff. Lots of people liked Lost. I’m a big fan of his show Fringe (except the last season). But, to paraphrase one rebel…

I have a bad feeling about this.

More thoughts on “#DisneyStarWars”: How “Passing On” A Story Doesn’t Quite Make Sense

“Hey hey, guys, let’s use the Force!” “Shut up, Mickey. And Goofy, put your pants on.”

Okay, so after getting the snark out of my system, as well as somewhat tempering the terror that I feel about a bunch of Disney execs now running the most beloved continuity in the history of mankind, there’s a line in the New York Times piece about this deal that bothers me:

“It’s now time for me to pass ‘Star Wars’ to on to a new generation of filmmakers,” Mr. Lucas said in a statement.

With all due respect, Mr. Lucas, no, you don’t.

I understand that we pass on stories between generations all the time. In the earliest era of human history, all stories were passed down orally. Different speakers, undoubtably, would change or alter these stories. But that was then, and I’m not talking about that. This is the 21st century, and to me, the very idea of an author “passing on” a story doesn’t really work.

When you write a story–really write one, and by that I mean create the characters, the backstory, the setting, the conflict, to generate all those players and then put them into action, arrayed against another–it is yours. It comes deep from the depths of your mind, and even, perhaps, your soul. Excellent writers do that; the story they create is not just a story, it’s a piece of them.

Imagine reading a story by a person with no opinions, no feelings, no real life experiences beyond the humdrum, and no real impetus to embue said story with those qualities. An automaton, if you will. (Or a droid, if you prefer.) It would be very wooden. Technically proficient, but utterly cold and dreadfully boring. It would have no spark, no life.

It would be dead.

Lucas, when he created Star Wars, didn’t do that. He took his childhood wonder and fully immersed his story within that, with the amazing scenery and boundless breadth of the Star Wars galaxy. He took his personal sense of heroics and swashbuckling bravery, the interest in mysticism, basically what was there and made it into one of–if not the–greatest franchises in the history of humanity.

I could not make the same story Lucas did. Neither could Spielberg. Or Michael Crichton. Or Faulkner. Or anyone else. Stories are personal. That’s why there are so many fanfic authors out there. Because when you write a story, you’re pouring a little bit of yourself out and presenting it to the world. (Don’t worry, though, you’re a never-emptying teacup, even when your throat is dry.)

I understand what Lucas is saying, in terms of pure commerce, but let’s be real here. He could never truly pass on Star Wars. Look at the Expanded Universe. Look where it has gone astray in recent years. That’s not George Lucas writing there. It doesn’t feel like Star Wars because it doesn’t have him in it. To be fair, this is understandable and to a degree acceptable in modern, large-scale, sprawling continuities with multiple authors and a large Expanded Universe. A media company is going to hire on writers to actually create the extra content, and generally selects authors who are similar to–or at least, can write appropriately close enough to–the original. (Unless they deliberately want to take a different tack, which is a technique that can, on occasion, work. But that’s dangerous ground to tread, in my opinion.) At the end of the day, however, it is still the baby of the original writer. None of the other Expanded Universe authors, even if they create new characters and new settings within that universe, really own it. They’re just playing in Mr. Lucas’ sandbox with his permission.

I’m not terribly afraid that Disney will totally destroy Star Wars. (I mean, it’s kinda been destroyed already, if you ask me and a bunch of other fans.) I just think that Mr. Lucas can’t do what he’s saying. He will never be separable from his creation. He can never pass it on.

Whatever Disney does, it will be “Disney Star Wars,” not Star Wars. We must all search our feelings. We all know this to be true.

Disney Buying Lucasfilm for $4 Billion – NYTimes.com

George Lucas in 2005, flanked by stormtroopers from his

Disney Buying Lucasfilm for $4 Billion – NYTimes.com.

Emperor’s Black Heart:

5:03 p.m. | Updated LOS ANGELES — The Walt Disney Company, in a move that gives it a commanding position in the realm of fantasy movies, said Tuesday it had agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. from its founder, George Lucas, for $4.05 billion in stock and cash.
The sale provides a corporate home for a private company that grew from Mr. Lucas’s hugely successful “Star Wars” series, and became an enduring force in creating effects-driven science fiction entertainment for large and small screens. Mr. Lucas, who is 68 years old, had already announced he would step down from day-to-day operation of the company.

Oh, how horrid! Can you imagine? Leia as a Disney Princess! Every scene involving magical talking animals? Lessons about the power of friendship? EVERY MOVIE WILL BE A NEW STAR WARS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL!

Snark aside, while Twitter is predicatably blowing up about this, I’m not terribly worried. It might even be good. They might reset the Expanded Universe, which after the horror of the Yuuzhan Vong and the New Jedi Order would be a good idea, and is absolutely mandatory for the garbage Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi series that came after. After all, the stories are more or less done, it’s not like they’re really going to make any new movies–

In a hastily convened conference call with investors Tuesday afternoon, Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said the company plans to release a seventh “Star Wars” feature film in 2015, with new films in the series coming every two or three years after that. Mr. Lucas will be a consultant on the film projects, Mr. Iger said.

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT.

I have a bad feeling about this….

George Lucas Has Ruined Everything

According to Gizmodo, this is an actual, bona fide product of Lucasfilm.

I very rarely actually “headdesk,” but for that one, I did. Seven times.

Someone needs to take the license away from Lucasfilm and just stop making new Star Wars products. It’s not funny anymore. It’s not fun anymore. It’s just another over-milked cash cow that is slowly dying in the field.

And that’s sad.

I Discover Star Wars Has Died Two Months Too Late

In a sign that I am really, really out of step with the mainstream, I have just discovered that this excrable piece of poodoo exists:

I know what you’re saying. “Oh, come on, it’s all in good fun.” And yes, I can buy that argument…up to a point. But there is a line upon which, if one crosses, it is no longer good fun. It is just stupid.

Pray tell, would you ever see a game where Sigourney Weaver would have to win a dancing competition, and that if she lost, the Xenomorph would get to eat her? Of course not. And I’m not arguing that Star Wars is the same thing as Alien–they are about as far as one can get while staying in the science fiction genre–but they do share some thresholds. This one was crossed.

Han Solo would never do those dances. Ever. Seeing him perform the “Trash Compactor” is just degrading. Leia I can see, yes (though she’d probably shoot you for making her do that), or maybe even Mara Jade (er, second thought, no.) But Han Solo is not, and never will be, some pop star singer/dancer that Neyo has signed on to his record. That’s not what his character is.

There is a part of its that charming and hilarious (I actually like the song they sing, by the way) but something about this deeply and inexorable grates on my soul. And I just don’t know how to say it, other than: THIS SUCKS.

#Breaking: George Lucas Retiring, Pretends he’s Hayden Christensen

Parallel Universe on MSN: George Lucas Blames ‘Star Wars’ Critics for Killing Series.

Sure, George, sure.

Don’t get me wrong. Star Wars is by far the greatest movie/fiction franchise ever created. I am still a Star Wars fan at the end of the day, even if I’m not the nut I used to be. It is absolutely expert blend of science fiction and fantasy, of wonder and excitement, of characters and plot. The mind-boggling simplicity of the original 1977 Star Wars still blows me away (and constantly tells me that I think way too damn much about these things.) It has completely transformed the way we look at the world. Even forty years later, we’re still using its phrases such as “The Force is strong with this one” and making new stormtrooper costumes and reading comic books and making Yoda Soda and on and on ad infinitum. George Lucas created something that redefined not just a generation, but an entire culture. He made a classic–nay, a legend–on par with Camelot, Atlantis, Sherlock Holmes, and Gulliver Travels. He created an entirely new genre for his work.

That still doesn’t excuse the fact that the prequels kinda…sucked.

The two big things for me is the dialogue and some of the acting. The majority of the writing is sound, and while fans can be a little depressed that the Clone Wars weren’t more grand and impressive (basically, they last for two years, kill some Jedi, and that’s about it, and they’re even about clones, they just use ’em) the stories themselves are not bad. The problem is that some of the dialogue is just unbelievably atrocious. Most of that comes from the romantic scenes involving Anakin and Padme (who, by the way, was dating someone 10-15 years younger than her) which, let’s face it, had none of the power of the Leia & Han scenes. And the acting in general was just poor. I don’t know who Lucas hired to be chief of casting, but he should shoot that guy with a Zarnok Butt Blaster and give him a short stint in the spice mines of Kessel. Natalie Portman was decent, and Ewan MacGregor and Liam Neeson were very good, but Hayden Christensen? Maybe he was directed to act that way–in which case, blame comes back around to Lucas–but I didn’t find his acting very good at all. Even the scenes in which he was being a whiner seemed shallow, artificial, and wooden.

That’s definitely not to say that they were the worse movies ever. Far from it. (I think either Manos: The Hands of Fate or Human Centipede have that title.) But they definitely didn’t capture the magic of the original trilogy either, and while I also agree that many times, lightning doesn’t strike twice, I think you could have pulled it off. At least you could have had better actors.

Also, I do think that many of the prequel critics went too far. Episode I: The Phantom Menace, was actually pretty good, even if the funniest character was CGI. Episode II and Episode III were the difficult ones for me, again because of the lousy dialogue and poor acting. Some of the critics I’ve read think these movies belonged in the junk heap in the middle of Mos Eisley. Their rage and animosity reached Coruscanti proportions (have you ever seen the bottom of one of those towers? Didn’t think so) in how George Lucas ruined Star Wars. None of this was really necessary nor warranted. George Lucas is Star Wars, if you haven’t noticed, and that’s just the way its going to be. Deal with it.

But seriously, George, none of that makes up for the fact that the prequels still kinda sucked. And then you made The Clone Wars. And that’s terrible. I don’t care if its being aimed at children, it’s terrible. Thank goodness your staff made it its own canon-level below the movies. I mean, Anakin having his own whiny Padawan? The Mandalorians–you know, Boba Fett’s people*–are all a bunch of pacifists? Why? Yes, yes, it is totally your work–but why?

Oh, and then there was the whole thing where you, like, took the old movies and made them nicer, and we were all like “yay! CGI!” and then you were like “Let’s make Han shoot second” and we were all like “Buh?” and then he replaces the older Anakin Skywalker ghost in Return of the Jedi with Hayden Christensen and we all went “Dude, lame,” and now he’s coming out with all six again in 3-D! and we’re just like “Laugh it up, fuzzball.” Enough is enough, you need to know when to stop tinkering.

I remember an interview George gave several years ago where he claimed that the prequels were supposed to be “the backstory.” Well, Orson Scott Card, writing in The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction & Fantasy said you don’t write the flippin` backstory, because that’s just background stuff and its not the story! In that case George, you should have never written the prequels. I don’t think that’s actually true, I think George was trying to cover himself in that interview, but if it was…that’s just a bad excuse.

Please, George, for all of our sakes, you could have just retired and that would have been it. You could have just said “I’m tired of making commercial films, I want to make art films now,” and that would be fine. Instead, you say the reason you’re retiring is because the fans complained. Waah, waah, waah. Let me call the waaaaaaaaaahmbulance. See this violin I’m playing (of course you can’t, it’s too small.) Come on, George. Sure, they complained, and maybe it was way over the top, but you opened the freaking blast doors for them.

And besides, you made out at least $4.4 billion on the prequels and merchandising, so don’t tell me that they hate your guts. They paid for it.

Retire if you wish, Mr. Lucas. You have certainly earned the right to do so. You have transformed our society and our culture and given us something to enjoy and cherish for generations. You deserve a salute from all of us, and you also deserve for the majority your critics to shut the hell up for once. You deserve all that and more.

But to say you’re retiring because some fanboys complained about your work–that’s about as bad as being Hayden Christensen in a Jedi robe being schooled by Old Ben. And that’s just lame.

Read the entire interview from the New York Times. It is quite interesting.

*Granted, that wasn’t determined in the movies, that was largely determined by the fandom and later brought into canon, with Mandalorian culture being mostly created by a writer named Karen Traviss. Now there’s a piece of work who deserves some scorn.

EDIT: Actually, if you ever thought the prequels were bad, there’s this new thing out called Star Wars Uncut. Yeaaaaahhhhhh……