Star Wars Archive

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A Mostly Pointless Spoiler-Free “Review” of Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens

Let’s boil things down to one simple, 80s CRPG-style preamble and question.

You see a movie theatre. It’s playing Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens. Do you buy a ticket? (Y/N)

Your answer should be yes.

This is mostly everything I’m going to say about The Force Awakens. Not because I’m lazy, but because I suspect it’s all people want to know, at least for now.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I want to say about this movie. I could fill pages discussing the way The Force Awakens hits every mythological beat in terms of telling a story that could be right out of Greek mythology. But that’s not what people want, is it?

Between little old ladies demanding blood oaths against spoilers on pain of a heavy sack beating, a general distrust of the Snakes on a Plane-level of hype surrounding TFA, and oh-so-many Attack of the Clones shaped scars courtesy of Lucas’ second kick at the can, I’m left to ask what’s the fucking point of writing a review? Anything I put together that wouldn’t risk offending sensibilities would be the sort of pale mockery of criticism that comes with the joke of the objective video game review.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a motion picture. It is filmed in colour. There are many actors representing both humans and non-humans. The story is set in a galaxy far from our own, at a point in time removed from our own. The film is paced into three narrative acts, with a prologue and epilogue. The actors convey a range of human emotions in their attempt to tell a story.

I trust the point is made.

While I submit that any story worth its salt can’t be spoiled on the grounds of plot details alone, I’ll not invite the scorn of the internet for my inability to perfectly divine what may or may not offend. To be honest, The Force Awakens is strong enough that I could summarize the plot and comment on its themes without diminishing the experience. But with various plug-ins and apps filtering out Star Wars related comments and content, what’s the point in writing for an audience that doesn’t want it? I write reviews with the expectation that that my words will provide some value to readers. The general buzz around the internet is that said value is neither welcome nor required at this particular juncture.

So if all people want is reassurance, then here it comes.

Is The Force Awakens better than episodes 1, 2, or 3? Absolutely.

Should you go see it? Without a doubt.

Is it going to make you feel feelings other than disgust and boredom a la Attack of the Clones? You bet. All of the feels.

Did Lawrence Kasdan write a good movie? Without a doubt.

Did JJ screw it up? Not even a little.

There. Are you not reassured?


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Book Review: Star Wars Aftermath

Wherever a reader lands on this novel, I have to marvel at the fury it has produced. The stream of festering vitriol I’ve seen directed against Chuck Wendig is as astonishing as it is tragic. Who knew a gay character turning down a taste of the alien strange would set a corner of the internet ablaze? Oh wait, it’s the internet, never mind.

Moving swiftly on, allow me to establish a baseline for evaluating this book. Star Wars, on screen, is as good as it is bad. From my point of view, the line between good and bad in Star Wars is Lawrence Kasdan, Dave Filoni, and Matt Michnovetz. I’m the guy who thinks that Empire is better than Jedi. I’m the guy who thinks the Darkness on Umbara arc of The Clone Wars is on par with Empire. I’m the guy who thinks that Star Wars is better when it goes deeper and dirtier (phrasing), and that’s why I think Chuck Wendig wrote a hell of a novel.

Whatever you think of George Lucas, one has to accept that he writes Star Wars for children. I don’t say this to cast aspersions, so much as to point out the obvious. Consider the good people of Coruscant pulling down a statue of Papa Palpatine after the Battle of Endor. A child would be fine with this scene because good is triumphing over evil – historical allusions notwithstanding. Adults look at that scene and ask why Stormtroopers aren’t cracking some skulls. Wendig begins his novel with the Imperial police opening fire on this very crowd.

A post-Endor Imperial summit on the planet Akiva, an Outer Rim world that houses the balance of the story, provides a necessary catharsis for Star Wars fans who dare to think about the mythos in a serious way. Here we learn how Imperial power fractures absent Palpatine. Likewise, readers encounter Imperial voices far removed from the jackbooted caricatures often seen on screen. Admiral Rae Sloane (don’t call her the new Thrawn) asks her Imperial cohorts why the people of the galaxy wouldn’t be afraid of the Empire.

To quote the Admiral, “We’re the ones that built something called a Death Star.”

In between the ever-so-brief interludes to fan favourite characters, Mr. Wendig focuses on players who embody the working people on both sides of the galactic civil war. Norra Wexley is a retired Y-Wing pilot with PTSD and a messed up family life. Sinjir Velus is an ex-Imperial Loyalty Officer (e.g. commissar), who escaped from Han Solo’s strike force on Endor, only to hit the bottle on Akiva. The aforementioned Admiral Rae Sloane is an Imperial starship captain intent staving off the Empire’s collapse while also demonstrating that not all Imperials are incompetent idiots. These are the stars of the novel, and they work because they buck the Star Wars convention of playing to easy archetypes.

Meanwhile, the novel’s penchant for politics manifests in the New Republic, the Rebel Alliance’s successor state, coming to terms with itself as a once and former military junta. Even as the Republic’s strength grows, Mon Mothma argues for military disarmament. As readers watch the story unfold on Akiva, while both the New Republic and Imperial Remnant wring their hands over what to do next, they see why both the Old Republic and the Empire were/are failed states. Simply, neither could offer the Galaxy Far Away stability or peace.

The Rebel Alliance, by its very nature was a destabilizing force. The Empire was as corrupt as it was brutal. Wendig takes it upon himself to build the New Republic as something that purports to let the galaxy find some semblance of calm. He’s not doing this singularly through high-minded speeches about peace and democracy. Nor is he pandering to what we might want in terms of epic space battles where Mon Cal Cruisers give Imperial Star Destroyers epic pastings. For that would only make the Republic a new sort of empire in and of itself.

Instead, Wendig gets his hands dirty with the inevitable, ugliness of war. Child soldier brigades on Coruscunt, for example. Not bleak enough? How about refugees fleeing the anarchy of their homeworlds in the aftermath of the Alliance freeing, but not holding, an Imperial world. Mr. Wendig uses the 20th century’s hangovers of military occupation and liberation as a thematic foundation for giving Star Wars some much needed depth. Some readers might cry foul at his making the Galaxy Far Away a dirty place, but like so many who lamented the loss of Star Wars: 1313, I’m content to roll around in the mud.

So no, gentle reader, you’re not going to learn about what happened to Han and Leia after Endor. Nor will you be treated to a story of Luke rebuilding the Jedi Order. Instead, you’re going to get a story that treats Star Wars’ adult fans like reasonably intelligent people. We all know there’s more to the Galaxy Far Away than the dysfunctional and incestuous antics of the Skywalker clan, so why not explore it?

Mr. Wendig, like Kasdan and Filoni, puts the war in Star Wars. War happens on many fronts, involving many people, and the line between those people is often a messy and changing thing. Aftermath effortlessly captures this notion, injecting a decidedly thoughtful and politically aware aesthetic into Star Wars. If you expect anything less than that in reading Aftermath, then (hand wave) this isn’t the novel you are looking for. Move along.


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A Brief Thought on Star Wars and Star Wars: Aftermath

At the time of this post, I’m about halfway through reading Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: Aftermath. I feel quite confident in saying it is an excellent entry into the Star Wars universe. Despite Aftermath’s obvious strength as a space opera, a war story, and a piece of a greater whole, some segments of the internet have registered their discontent with the book.

I would like to speak to that discontent, if only to get the following words out of my system before sitting down to write a proper review of Aftermath. So gather ’round, ye monsters of cyberspace; Uncle Adam is going to lay a little truth on you.

In an odd way, I think I understand why some people are angry about this book. It has nothing to do with Mr. Wendig writing in the present tense or inserting lesbian characters into the novel. Nor is it about the lack of movie characters in Aftermath. I suspect the ugly anger comes from a sense of Star Wars being taken away. Lucas might have cocked it up, but now shit is getting real.

Remember back in the late 80s and early-to-mid 90s when Lucasfilm didn’t really care about Star Wars? You know who did care about Star Wars? LucasArts, Timothy Zahn, and a lot of us nerds. Genre defining games like X-Wing, Tie Fighter, and Dark Forces took us deeper into Star Wars than three movies ever could. We were the ones blowing up the Death Star, never mind some farm boy from the Outer Rim. Alternatively, we were the ones flying TIE Interceptors in an attempt to maintain peace in a galaxy plagued with bounty hunters, pirates, and left-wing terrorists. Names like Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, and Kyle Katarn were as real to us as Han Solo or Leia Organa.

And then a bunch of suits came along and said that everything we loved about that mythology didn’t count for Bantha poodoo. Now we live in a world where Jar Jar Binks is more Star Wars than Mara Jade. Let that sink in for a moment. A character as asinine as Jar Jar should not be more Star Wars than anything.

Here’s the thing, angry internet people, Disney deciding what is and is not canon doesn’t take away from the fundamental truth that Star Wars was and is a piece of contemporary mythology. There are literally dozens of fan films and countless fan fics that allow people to participate in the communal story telling of Star Wars. Everything in the extended universe is still part of that mythos, regardless of what a corporate entity decides to expunge as to bring a sense of “order” to things. However, understanding that a mythology is a shared story is only half of the equation relevant to this discussion.

Myths and legends, within the Western tradition, at least, are ways of understanding society and one’s place within it. This means that Mr. Wendig’s choice to do “controversial” things like including a diverse host of characters within his novel, is not part of some grand conspiracy to remove “manly men” from Star Wars. Nor is it really controversial. If you’re the sort of person who thinks it is, then you’re likely an asshole.

Mr. Wendig is representing this world, as he sees it, within Star Wars’ mythological system. He’s also mobilizing some of the more complicated geopolitical narratives of our world in parsing the boring and binary nature of the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. I’d speak more on that, but you will have to wait for my review.

Angry fans do have a right to feel hard done by when the things they bought into are deemed lesser by the stroke of a pen. However, directing this outrage at an author whose contribution to the mythology is more than acceptable is as unfair as it is brainless. Building new places, forging new characters, and telling new stories, all while weaving a reflection of our world into the mythology, is exactly what a good story teller should be doing. To suggest otherwise, is to miss the point of literary criticism and engage in the most banal sort of butthurt.

Thus I shall close with a recommendation to the angry, outraged masses. As the floodgates seem to be open on refilling Star Wars‘ literary canon, those fans who can’t get over themselves and enjoy the thing they purport to love should pick up a pen and start writing. Really, I mean it. There’s probably never going to be a better time to break into writing a Star Wars novel. If you think you can do better, then fucking do better. I’ll help you get started…something about some clone troopers who get frozen in carbonite by the Hutts just before Order-66. When they get defrosted in 2 BBY, they aren’t sure if they should be loyal to the Empire or the Rebel Alliance. I call it Star Wars: Sundered Loyalties. Whatever, shut up, I’m not good with titles.

I await your evisceration.


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Video Game Review: Star Wars: Commander

Now it’s time for another episode of “Adam plays yet another social game, knowing full well he will probably hate it and write a scathing review.” Except, Star Wars: Commander isn’t quite what I was expecting i.e. Farmville on Tatooine.

At first blush, SW: Commander offers some of the traits I’ve come to associate with this particular sub-genre of non-game. Ideally, the game would have me playing it every three hours, or so, to collect resources that accrue in real-time. There are three types of currency: credits, metal, and gems, the latter can only be acquired through parting legal tender from hand. Unlike many social games, which use premium currency as a way of reining in the fun while exploiting the player’s need for more, much like a drug dealer giving a person a taste for free before jacking up the price, the gems of SW: Commander only seem to be used to speed up build times or to buy new construction droids. From this, Commander sets up a business model that will only make money from the most manic of players.

The game itself consists of a few phases. The main mode revolves around building a base and positioning fixed defenses for said base. Story missions see players sending troops into battle for either the Empire or the Alliance; picture Command and Conquer without any micromanaging of units, and you’ll have a good idea of Commander’s combat experience. The odd base defence mission is standard fare tower-defence. What’s surprising is there’s no mandatory cool-down period on playing the story missions. Show me a person who hasn’t been spammed with requests to click a link so a friend can have more energy in JuggaloVille, and I’ll show you a person who has never used Facebook. If I’m not playing a story mission in Commander it’s usually because I need to train some more storm troopers, a process which takes all of two to three minutes.

Instead of making me feel like the subject of the video game version of the Modified Ludovico, where not harvesting yams every eight seconds evokes soul piercing anxiety, Commander invokes memories of old BBS games where players had x number of encounters per day. It’s enough to keep me playing, but not so overt that I can feel the reward-denial matrix at work. Perhaps this is what happens when an established video game developer i.e. LucasArts (aka Disney) makes a social game. Since they’re stinking rich already, they don’t need to squeeze every penny out of players to break even on the production costs. This means they can actually build something that resembles a game into the “social game” experience.

That said, the game aspects of Commander are so pants-on-head easy that a player would have to try to not get a 100% rating in the story missions. Granted, I take no small measure of black-pleasure in watching a mix of storm troopers and dark troopers lay waste to a camp of Tuskan raiders – that’s right, I play as the Empire, baby –  but I wouldn’t call anything I’ve done in the game remotely challenging. Sure, it’s fun, but a deeply satisfying strategy game this is not. The same can be said for Commander’s multiplayer aspect.

Taking a page from the likes of Clash of Clans, Commander lets players launch PvP attacks against other players. Again, this is a pointlessly easy thing. I’ve scored 100% on both of the raids I’ve undertaken; meaning a small contingent of my storm troopers, dark troopers, and guys on speeder bikes destroyed another player’s entire base. However, if I use my own economy as a baseline for comparison, the spoils of my raids are relatively paltry. Also, if PvP combat follows the model of PvE, the bases I destroyed very quickly rebuilt themselves, offering little in the way of actual inconvenience to my foe.

What we’re left with is a game, and I suppose it’s fair to call this a game in the honest sense of the word, that will let players feel like they are winning great military battles against real-life foes, without visiting any lasting damage on the vanquished. This makes sense because Disney/LucasArts wants people playing Commander, not smashing their tablets in frustration because a week’s worth of building was crushed in two minutes. It reminds me of the episode of Star Trek where wars were played out in computer simulations, rather than with bombs and ships. You get the vague sensation of accomplishing something, the short-term gratification of laying your enemy low, and can rest safe knowing the inevitable counter-strike won’t hurt too badly.

So it’s an okay game, but it’s not the golden fleece of social games that will bring in legions of hard-core gamers.

Star Wars: Commander

Android version reviewed on an ASUS Transformer TF-101


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Where is Ahsoka Tano?

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Read on at your own peril.

Also, I wrote this before Lucasfilm announced that Lupita Nyong’o and Gwendoline Christie were joining the cast of Star Wars Episode VII. That said, my point still stands.

In the wake of being rather furious disheartened in the casting for Star Wars Episode VII: Something Something Darkside, I found myself all the more sucker punched by the season five finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Therein, Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s padawan, faces her great trial: the final ordeal a Jedi apprentice must endure before being promoted to the rank of full Jedi knight. In the aftermath of being wrongfully expelled from the Jedi Order, Ahsoka receives a half-hearted apology from the Jedi council and an offer to return to the fold. Instead, Ahsoka chooses to walk away from the Order. The scene itself is Star Wars at its most emotionally resonant.

Over five seasons of The Clone Wars, Ahsoka Tano became one of the best things to ever happen to the Star Wars franchise. Through Ahsoka’s growth as a Jedi, the audience gains a better view into Anakin Skywalker’s inability to embrace the Jedi virtue of detachment. Ahsoka also manages to rein in Anakin when his passions get the better of him. One episode in particular sees Anakin leading a squadron of Y-Wings on a raid against a droid battleship. When Anakin orders his squadron to press the attack, despite taking heavy losses, it is Ahsoka who forces him to recognize that he is throwing away the lives of his pilots.

Amid the moral ambiguity that defines Anakin during The Clone Wars, Ahsoka constantly reminds Anakin of what he should be as a Jedi. Absent his apprentice in the sixth season, we see Anakin rapidly transforming into a creature of anger and passion. This raises something of an interesting question for Anakin’s eventual transformation into Darth Vader. Specifically, does Vader forsake his bond with Ahsoka during the Jedi purge? Ahsoka left the Jedi because she felt that they betrayed her in the aftermath of the bombing of the Jedi temple. Similarly, Anakin rationalized his atrocities through a warped interpretation of the Jedi Council’s decision to arrest the Chancellor.

Suppose then that Vader saw fit to keep Ahsoka’s name off the proscription list. Let us also suppose that in the wake of the purge, Ahsoka managed to maintain a quiet life on the Outer Rim. Around the time Luke Skywalker was earning his stripes as a Jedi knight, Ahsoka would have likely been in her 40s, likely sensing a great disturbance in the force as her former mentor died at the hands of the Emperor. Skip ahead another twenty years to when Star Wars 7 is supposedly happening, and it is perfectly conceivable that Ahsoka would still be alive.

Alright, Adam, enough faffing about. What’s your damn point already?

My point is simple: where is Ahsoka?

Ahsoka may have left the Jedi order, but any half talented writer could see their way to writing her back into the story once Luke took it upon himself to restore the Jedi as the galaxy’s peacekeepers. When we get right down to it, Ahsoka has had more Jedi training than Luke, himself. She would be the perfect person to help him restore the Order. Yet, notwithstanding a J.J. Abrams mystery box stunt, there’s nobody in the cast who could possibly be playing the role of a sage 60-something female Jedi. I mean how is this not a no-brainer for Lucasfilm? How is that not a drop dead easy way to build continuity between the Star Wars television and film canon?

Perhaps Ahsoka will make her return in the upcoming Rebels animated series, but I doubt it. One of Rebels’ primary characters is already a Jedi-in-hiding from the Empire. I’m not sure if they would want to double down on the trope. Nevertheless, until something happens that clearly explains how Ahsoka Tano died between The Clone Wars and Episode VII, I’m going to keep asking this simple question:

Where is Ahsoka?


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An Open Letter to Disney and J.J. Abrams

Dear J.J. Abrams and assorted executives at Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures,

I’m writing in regard to your recent casting announcement for Star Wars Episode VII. In doing so, I’ll come right to the point; I find the lack of diversity disturbing.

Through the lens of Star Wars on film, the galaxy far, far away is not a particularly representative place. Though I’m inclined to give the original trilogy a pass as a product of 1970s and early 80s film making, I feel no such compunction toward the prequel trilogy. Therein, female characters exist primarily as love interests to male characters. People of colour, particularly Mace Windu as portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson and Jango Fett as portrayed by Temuera Morrison, are reduced to token character status for Episodes I, II, and III. In point of fact, Windu’s role in the films is considerably less substantial than what we saw from Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian in Episodes V and VI. Non-human characters see their innate sense of otherness established through obvious human racial memes, which in and of themselves border on Vaudevillian caricature. Even as an eighteen-year-old watching The Phantom Menace in 1999, I found the Gungan’s and Neimoidian’s patterns of speech to be problematic.

In so much as Star Wars on the big screen has mirrored the Galactic Empire’s preference toward white human males, Star Wars on the small screen is much more progressive. The Clone Wars offers genuine parity between named male and female characters. The series regularly passes the Bechdel Test for placing female characters in frame for purposes that don’t include discussing men. As people of colour, the clones themselves are as important to the story as the Jedi characters. Otherness in the aliens is generally represented through physical differences and in native environments (e.g framing the Mon Cala and Quarren within their aquatic home world). While The Clone Wars might not be perfect, and here I’m thinking about George Lucas’ directive to imbue Ziro the Hutt with Truman Capote’s voice, it is generally much more conscious in its efforts to include more than just white people in the story telling. Even the upcoming Star Wars: Rebels seems to feature gender parity within the primary cast.

It is for the above reasons that I find the recent casting announcement for Episode VII to be such a tragedy. How am I to view one person of colour and two female actors as anything but a return to love interests and token characters? Furthermore, how can it be that one arm of the Star Wars universe is happy to align itself with the fact that Star Wars has an audience beyond straight white men, while the other appears equally content to pretend that popular narratives have not evolved since the 1960s?

Though I acknowledge that my words are about as likely to affect real change as a Tauntaun is to make it past Echo Base’s first marker during a cold Hoth night, I nonetheless feel the need to make my futile gesture. To that end, I would invite Abrams and company to consider the Jedi philosophy of balance. If the current cast is any indication of the characters who will inhabit the next generation of the Star Wars Universe, then it will most certainly be a place without balance. The virtues of the New Republic and Jedi Order will seem shallow and vapid when espoused by a cast that treats women and people of colour as bit players in a story that is literally eclipsed by old white actors. Star Wars deserves better than that; indeed, a younger cohort of fans deserve better than that.

Thus will I exercise the Jedi virtue of patience, and hope that you come to see the error of your ways.

Yours,

Adam Shaftoe-Durrant, a straight, white, male, who demands more diversity in Star Wars.


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On Star Wars Canon and the Art of Letting Go

Bastila Shan Concept Art

This past weekend saw no shortage of Star Wars chatter across the internet. There were plot rumours for Episode VIII, behind the scenes photos from Peter Mawhew, and a revelation that Disney has plans to draw some clear lines as to what is, and is not, canon with respect to the Star Wars extended universe.

On the latter point, an Ars Techina op-ed brings the point home quite nicely. For the TL:DR crowd, Disney has appointed an arbiter to decide what parts of the Star Wars EU are going to make it into the film canon. As a fan of the extended universe, specifically Timothy Zahn’s novels and BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic games, this news was not absent a certain sting. Once when the initial shock wore off, and my Vulcan logic got the better of my fanboy outrage, I had an odd moment of clarity.

Taking a scalpel to the EU is a good thing. In fact, this is probably the best thing that could possibly happen to Star Wars.

My explanation comes down to a single question: What is the Star Wars EU? The answer: a body of work that kept the franchise alive in the late 80s and early 90s,  a time when Hollywood wasn’t interested in Star Wars as a film franchise. The novels, video games, RPG systems, and comic books consistently demonstrated that there was a demand for more Star Wars. If it wasn’t for nearly two decades of revenue funneling into Lucas Arts/Films without a single Star Wars movie, I doubt the prequels would have happened.

Yes, shut up, I know, we all hate the prequels. But do you know what I don’t hate? The Clone Wars television series, and we don’t get that without the prequels. Yes, yes, Jar Jar should die a thousand deaths in the deepest bowels of the Sarlacc. The point here is that the EU proved the franchise was viable when the powers that be might just have let it die. And so long as something is viable, there’s a chance for it to be good. That certainly wasn’t the case with Episodes I-III, but perhaps J.J. Abrams will get eaten by a Wampas and there will be some hope for Episodes VII to IX

It’s also important to note that EU properties fit into the Star Wars timeline in such a way that they can easily be bracketed and removed if the creative powers see fit to do so. Case in point: if Disney decides that the events of KOTOR are not part of the film canon, then what have we, as people who enjoyed those games and their narrative experience, lost? Since the entirety of Star Wars is a predicated on hand waving, can we not content ourselves with a communal lie about the story of Darth Malak and Darth Revan taking place in an alternate reality?

Moreover, if The Phantom Menace and its bastard offspring taught us anything, it’s that there’s a danger in tethering the franchise to certain fixed points. As much as I really want to see Hugo Weaving as Admiral Thrawn, I don’t want to see Zahn’s character get used as a crutch for an otherwise weak story. Worse still, I can’t imagine an Heir to the Empire film adaptation subject to a committee of script writers, who actually care about how a test audience “connected” with the idea of Thrawn getting a love story with an Ewok. Removing these and other good EU stories from canon doesn’t reduce them to a lower tier of fiction. If anything, it insulates the really great aspects of the EU against any of the crap that the Disney/Abrams profit machine might spew forth in the name of merchandising.

 

Kyle Katarn, Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, and all the rest deserve better than to be turned into scape goats for bad story telling. At the same time, Thrawn is not so great that I believe him to be the pinnacle of  science fiction writing. The Star Wars Galaxy is a big place, and certainly hopefully maybe Lawrence Kasdan can channel some of his Empire Strikes Back writing chops into new characters and conflicts.

In other words, we all love what we love about Star Wars. While we may have fond memories of Starkiller and Bastila Shan, those relationships are over. It’s time to move on and see if we can’t find someone new.


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I already hate you, Star Wars Rebels

I know I should be excited at the prospect of a new Star Wars series (I should be, right?), but the teaser for Star Wars Rebels only manages to evoke yawns of contempt.

In my imagination the time period time between Star Wars Episode 3 and 4 charts out in one of two ways. The first way is stunningly boring as the Empire systematically dismantles the Republic, which is really more of a federation of autonomous worlds, and installs a vertical system accountable directly to Coruscant. The second way is tremendously dark as Imperial Star Destroyers bombard dissident planets from orbit. Neither is Star Wars.

Consequently, the rise of the Alliance to Restore the Republic will either emerge out of high level political subversion e.g. Battlestar Galactica on Coruscant or, as the Episode 4 crawl suggests, terrorist strikes against Imperial holdings.

But Adam, the Rebel Alliance set out to restore democracy to the galaxy far far away.

Yeah tell that to the file clerk working in a shipyard that a squadron of X-Wings just blew to hell.

The Empire worked as an antagonist because they were obviously evil. Lucas’ refusal to put down the typewriter in the prequels turned the Empire into the Tea Party’s wet dream solution to big government. “Democracy dies to applause,” or so we are told at the end of Revenge of the Sith. In the eyes of the average Republic/Imperial citizen, the Empire isn’t an evil empire but an attempt at efficient government and a pillar of stability in the wake of perceived Jedi insurrection. Should we then look forward to an exciting first season of Rebels where the Alliance tries to win hearts and minds, lest they look like a bunch of left-wing militants. Throw in some Jedi-mysticism or talk of midichlorians, and the Rebel Alliance is about two steps away from being Al-Qaeda.

 

Thanks, George. The absolute shit that is your “wrote it in three days” conclusion to the trilogy that nobody asked for is ruining things before they are even made.

Even if the writers do find a way to sort through the creative dysentery that is the canon prequels, they will still be stuck dealing with the structural limitations of a prequel. This is why The Clone Wars was only interesting when dealing with the Clones. There are absolutely zero stakes – other than emotional angst – when canon characters come into play.

Nothing that involves Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, Lando Calrissian (and gods help us all if Lando shows up as a recurring character), Han Solo, or Darth Vader is ever going to have any real consequence to it in a prequel series.

Well that’s fine, Adam. They’ll just have to create new characters for the series.

Right, because there were so many episodes of The Clone Wars without Anakin, Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, the droids, or Yoda. If you want to attract the fan base, you need to make concessions to fan service. Do you know what happens when producers say, “We want to take the existing franchise in a new direction?” You get Stargate Universe – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that new directions are prone to getting canceled because they piss off the die hards who refuse to let things evolve.

Adam, aren’t you just one of those die hards?

First, shut up.

Second, no. I’m a person who objects to bad story telling. It just so happens there is more of that in the second trilogy than in the first. Furthermore, I object to “prequal” culture. What it should mean is exploring something new within an existing mythos. The reality is recycled stories tethered to pre-existing touch stones within the original works. This is why episode 7, 8, and 9 are moving into the comfy rent controlled neighborhood where the post-Endor Star Wars extended universe novels used to live. Who needs Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade when we can bring back Darth Vader and the Emperor through some sleight of hand.

Considering the thousands of years of internal history between Knights of the Old Republic and The Phantom Menace, is there a good reason why we can’t live there for a while? Why not tell a story far removed from the dysfunctional House of Skywalker. Perhaps a series should try appealing to the millions of gamers who flocked to KOTOR, KOTOR 2, and The Old Republic as the initial fan base? It could be a proper transmedia experience, something like Defiance, only better. Is that too much to ask for?

Yeah, probably. Okay. Fine. Pass the Totinos Pizza Rolls.


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Star Drunk: A Short Film that Delivers on What It Promises

Sometimes the internet presents something so utterly bizarre that it is impossible to ignore. Thus do I tip my hat to Beverly Bambury for linking me to Star Drunk: Space Alien V.

This short film purports to be both written by drunk people and also performed, without revisions to the booze soaked script, by actors in a similar state of inebriation. The production itself was sponsored by New Deal Distillery, a Portland based producer of craft vodka, gin, and liqueurs. PS to New Deal Distillery, call me if you ever want to sponsor a drunk podcast.

Star Drunk’s acting and writing certainly do seem inspired by a fair measure of liquid creativity. There’s an expected amount of slurring, stammering, and utterly nonsensical dialogue. The best comedic moments occur when stopping to ponder on if an actor botched a line, or if a writer intentionally got it wrong. As much as these instances are quite chuckle worthy, I think they’re somewhat dwarfed by the movie’s amazing post-production work.

There is a blink-and-miss-it battle sequence which matches anything seen in Battlestar Galactica. As well, and for want of a better adjective, there’s a distinct “cool” factor in the main starships’ design. The bow looks like two Star Wars Dreadnaughts fused together with the aft section of the Battlestar Pegasus. Quite honestly, I think the special effects might steal the show from the hammered cast.

Star Drunk also has me wondering if drunken comedy is becoming more of a touchstone within the pop culture spectrum. The obvious point of comparison here is Comedy Central’s Drunk History. Though the one thing that Drunk History brings to the table that’s missing from Star Drunk, and perhaps the essential selling point of “drunk” comedy, is having the sober straight man.

If everybody in a room is drunk, as is the case in Star Drunk, then, then there’s no chance for outsider/pariah driven comedy. In those situations the booze hound can be seen to say what the sober people are thinking but unwilling to speak aloud. Alternatively, the drunkard can demonstrate a comedic (in)ability to function because of their intoxication. Or if neither of those two options fit the scene, there’s always an appeal to schadenfreude; I would direct you to the landmark case of Kenny v. Spenny’s season two episode “Who can drink the most beer?

Is the trope slapsticky and juvenile? Perhaps. Does it glorify alcohol abuse to the point that some buzz kill will inevitably feel the need to talk about how alcohol addiction ruins lives and destroys families? Quite likely. Would I watch a whole web series of Star Drunk? Almost certainly, and I don’t think I would feel bad about it, either. So to the cast and crew of Space Drunk I say good on you for putting it out there. Now let’s have another round.

Star Drunk: Space Alien V

Directed by Chris R Wilson and Zach Persson

Written by Chris R Wilson, Zach Persson, Jacqueline Gault, Tim Feeney, Roman Battan, and Josh Persson

Starring: Greg James, Adam Elliot Davis, Kyle Smith, Britt Harris. Alexander Fraser, Bethany Jacobs


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Podcast Episode 26: Space Marine Space Marine Space Marine

Podcast Episode 26: Space Marine Space Marine Space Marine

Featuring the voices of Adam Shaftoe and Nick Montgomery.

Showcasing the fiction of K.W. Ramsey.

I present a slightly different, but no less entertaining, format for this episode of the podcast. We begin with a reading of K.W. Ramsey’s subversive piece of short fiction, The Marines of Space and the Gamma Rabbit. Head over to K.W.’s blog to read the story in all its glory, as well as his many other reviews and musings.

Following that, I’ve got a chat with Nick Montgomery, who is one half of the Limited Release Podcast. Nick and I recorded this conversation a few weeks ago, back when J.J. Abrams was only rumoured to be directing Star Wars Episode 7. Naturally, our conversation focuses on how we think J.J. might do at the helm of Star Wars. We also spend a few minutes speculating on some other directors we would have liked to have seen get the job.

Cold Intro Music: The Lady of Vastness by Dan-O at DanoSongs.com

Theme music:  Bionic Commando stage 4 (Dale vs Wray mix) (NecroPolo) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0