I’m not the only one…


Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person in the world that feels a particular way about a particular thing. Sometimes I can’t even tell you why I feel like i do. I just do.
But with regards to Star Wars, I am most certainly not alone. It has meant the world to me since I was a kid, from the first time I saw it until now. While I have suffered many disappointments in life, it was almost never in relation to the Star Wars universe.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve read in excess of 50 Star Wars books (probably closer to 100 or more) over the years, and I credit the existence of the Expanded Universe with keeping Star Wars alive between the original trilogy and the prequels.
While I don’t like that Disney effectively killed the Expanded Universe, as a writer I can understand why they did it: they have the opportunity to tell new stories without having to lug around the history and baggage of literally decades worth of history and attempting to build something consistent with it.
That said, there was so much history in the EU that Disney didn’t even have to bat an eye to have dozens of waiting films if they literally made each book or story into its own film. I didn’t expect The Force Awakens to be The New Jedi Order or Legacy of the Force, but as I’ve said before, there’s no reason it couldn’t have lived aside then.
In this, I’ve felt alone. Only a couple friends of mine have felt the same way. But,  today I’ve discovered that I’m not alone.
Give Us Legends” isn’t asking Disney to ignore the new direction of the franchise, but asking that they allow the old direction to live on. There were many storylines that began before the Disney purchase of LucasFilm that have simply died and gone unresolved since the purchase because no new Legends/EU books are being produced, only official canon material in the new direction.
I think it would be an absolute shame to never find out what happens to the Skywalker-Solo clan after Fate of the Jedi, and I’m now sure many others think the same.

So, I Didn’t Hate It…


Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was not a part of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens record breaking opening though I did see the film today. I liked it. Like, in fact, isn’t a strong enough word; I was impressed with it. Enough, in fact to see it twice today. This is the first time ever that I’ve paid to see the same movie twice in theaters on the same day. (Albeit, once was in IMAX and the other wasn’t, though both were in 3D.)
My summary is that it was a very enjoyable film and I found no major issues with it. A friend nitpicked a particular point where the Resistance didn’t attack some First Order ships, to which I countered the First Order was kind enough to not attack the Millennium Falcon despite the precedence they set earlier in the film. Nonetheless, that was the only item I think is really worth considering a possible flaw.
There is the presumed death of a major character that I think is worth discussing. Contrary to my normal spoiler laden attitude, I’m going to avoid specifics, but this particular character dies in a fashion that leaves room for debate as to whether he or she is actually dead. The thing is, even though we see the attack that leads to the presumption of death, we don’t see the final disposition of the body and there are two objects at the location that could be escape vehicles. In film, the presumption of death is but actual death; usually the body has to be seen laying dead with on screen to be actual death. Given the actor’s health and age, I think that the character may have actually died despite what I’m saying here, but there’s a chance, however slight the odds, that he or she might have lived. To quote Han Solo, “never tell me the odds”, usually because they can be beaten.
Now to the heart of this post… As much as I enjoyed the film, as good as I thought it was, there was no need it necessity to invalidate all of the expanded universe comics and novels. No need at all. With some relatively minor changes to the movie we got, the film could’ve been consistent with the novels leading up to and including the Fate of the Jedi series of novels without destroying the plot. You could make the argument that FotJ is built on 20+ actual years covering 30+ book years and thus too much baggage to carry into the new trilogy, but then The Force Awakens and its new trilogy is reinventing those fictional 30 years from scratch, and still has to explain what happened. It could be argued that it was too much work to research and properly place all that lore in context in order to write the script, but for the bulk of the Star Wars fans, that lore has been Star Wars since the original run of Jedi ended decades ago, and the effort to include and build on it would have been appreciated so much more than simply giving us a good film. Instead, there are a lot of rabid fans like myself that enjoyed this film, but are sitting on 30+ books that are now completely meaningless. I saw some Force Awakens books at Barnes and Noble, after the second time through, and I couldn’t even bear to read the synopsis because the new LucasFilm, the Disney LucasFilm, is willing to trample all over the memories, dreams and wallets of those that have helped this franchise not only live when there was no hope for new films, but thrive! I can’t abide that by purchasing books or merchandise that would give the impression that I find that forgivable. I just can’t.
Many, many years ago, I accepted that there would be no films beyond the original trilogy. Then Timothy Zahn wrote the Thrawn trilogy (as I call it; Heir to the Empire and its sequels) and I had hope that one day there would be more books and maybe a new film. Lucas then promised the prequels and made them; they weren’t perfect, but I mostly enjoyed them. The books were still there and the films were working in concert with the books; virtually nothing contradicted anything else in the films or the books. The books advanced over 30 years while expanding the events and scale of the characters and conflicts. They delighted and amazed, bringing joy and sorrow and we were thankful for them. Then in one fell swoop, it was all rendered obsolete in favor of the new regime. How can I support that?
I don’t blame J.J. Abrams for it; it probably wasn’t his call or even within the scope of his power or influence though he did build upon the new ground that paved over the Expanded Universe, its creators and writers, and its fans. But I sincerely feel that someone owes those creators, writers, and fans a sincere apology for the loss of both time and money by this abandonment. I think until there is such an apology, there will always be a rift between those of us that supported the Star Wars franchise in the years between the original trilogy and the prequels, between the prequels and the new era, and the new direction of the mythos. There’ll be an open wound that just won’t heal with time.

Or Is Disney Pulling Revisionist Tricks?


Just the other day I was commenting on how I was beginning to be cautiously optimistic about the new Star Wars, but I may have spoken too soon. On MoviePilot.com, there’s an article called Star Wars Episode 7: Kylo Ren and the New Empire in which the author discusses the 20 or so new novels, comic books, etc., that are scheduled to be released to fill in the 30 year gap between Jedi and The Force Awakens. Why does this sound as if all the novels and comics that already exist in this period are simply being swept away? This sounds an awful lot like what Lucas was doing for the Clone Wars cartoon, making the Mandalorians pacifists.
I’m suddenly no longer optimistic.
It could be argued that all the expanded universe work (which has now been rebranded as “legends”) was never canon, that all of this new work will be. I’d be fine with that if Lucas had licensed everything then was hands off with the outcome all these years. But that’s not the case. When Timothy Zahn was writing Heir to the Empire way back in the early 90s, he wanted to use Obiwan’s clone in the role he named Joruus C’Baoth, but he said in an interview that “Lucas had other plans for him.” Later, when R.A. Salvatore was writing the inaugural novel in The New Jedi Order series, Vector Prime, he was explicitly told to kill off a major character by Lucas. The sometimes silly, sometimes convoluted plots of the game The Force Unleashed also lend credence to the Lucas is overseeing everything argument I’m making here. 20+ years of creativity does not get spawned and set free without some specific guiding force (oddly, no pun intended). The expanded universe was even blessed by references to some of it in the films, such as the presence at the pod races of Aurra Sing in the Phantom Menace. Therefore I would say that the expanded universe was as canon as the films, because even Lucas is contradicting himself. (“Always two, there are, a master and an apprentice” yet Count Dooku, Darth Maul, and Darth Sidious/Palpatine running around more or less at the same time; yeah, I know, Yoda could’ve been wrong.)

I don’t know… I just have a very bad feeling about this.

A New Star Wars


It’s been several months since the release of the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I’ve been relatively quiet about it. In fact, I’ve only talked it over with friends and family as I still wasn’t sure what to think of it, and I didn’t want to ramble on without having an opinion on it. It should be clear, by now, that I have a very emotional attachment to Star Wars; if not, take a bit of time to read my other posts:

Back? Great! By my rough estimate, I’ve read around 80 Star Wars books. My favorite author, for comparison’s sake, has written approximately 60 (including two Star Wars books), most of which I’ve read. So you might say, I am more fully invested in the Star Wars universe than any short of the one in which we live. I know its character very well, I know much of it’s legends and mythology, I have a feel for the ebb and flow of its stories despite the myriad authors that have taken turns at shaping it. Star Wars has always been very near and dear to my heart, and even as an adult, I wish I could stowaway on board the Falcon, or grab the controls of a X-Wing and make the jump to light speed to escape the realities of this world. I honestly think that if the opportunity to do so suddenly presented itself before I could finish writing this post, I’d be gone in an instant and never look back.

So ever since it was announced that Disney bought the Star Wars franchise and would be producing new films, I’ve been dreading the outcome. Yes, I also saw it as an opportunity for the reduced Lucas influenced (LucasLite™) films to potentially get back to what we originally loved, but it’s also a great opportunity for them to ruin everything we (“I” really) ever loved about them. Given that I’ve liked much of J. J. Abrams’ work, I was (and still am) cautiously optimistic about the new main storyline films. I think there’s much to be hopeful about them, yet I can’t help but be nervous about them as well; after all, not everything that Abrams’ has touched has turned to gold nor have I loved all of his work.

That said, the trailer for The Force Awakens was released several months ago, and it looks amazing. The sound of the X-Wings give me chills, and while the radar dish on the Falcon has changed shape, the ship as whole does appear to be amazingly detailed and accurate enough to pass muster.

You of course know all this, and, by my own admission, I’m late to the party on writing about it. So why write about it now? After I finished my shift at work this evening, I wandered into the den to find my sister watching the Star Wars: A New Hope (Special Edition) on VHS. (Long story short, lets just say that due to a cable dispute and on-going renovations, her options for cinematic entertainment this evening were rather limited; my original non-SE VHS copies are inaccessible as are my DVDs.) Still, watching the Falcon maneuver and the X-Wings fly in formation to the Death Star… It gives me chills as much as it did 30 years ago, and the sound of those engines drew me back to the The Force Awakened trailer which faithfully recreated them.

There is still much to be nervous about with regards to this new film, and it’s still 9 months away from release, but I have to admit that I’m growing cautiously optimistic and excited about it.

Jedi Ruined Star Wars? WTF?!?!


I’m writing this post in response to a few of my fellow Cinema Studies majors wrote about on Facebook, How “Return of the Jedi” Ruined “Star Wars” Forever; forgive me for ranting and responding as if I was continuing an already in-progress conversation, because I am. As always, this is my two cents.

Continue reading

Serenity


There are some films that are so amazing that people continue to talk about them and be enamored by them years after they were no longer the focus of attention. As you can guess as a result of that statement and the title, I’m referring in this instance to the movie Serenity, the follow-up and conclusion to the even longer passed television series Firefly.
Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

When Firefly debuted, I refused to watch it because I was seriously pissed at Fox for canceling Dark Angel, especially the way they canceled it. So I didn’t watch it. Friday night would roll around and I’d watch something else, play a game, read a book, or go out with my wife. Then something odd happened.

On a particular Friday night, just before the end of the year, I decided to watch Firefly to know my enemy. And I liked it. Well, I liked it enough to decide to watch another episode, which would’ve been early in the new year. My luck being what it is, Fox canceled the series and never showed another episode.

Part of me was satisfied. Part of me was pissed.

Time went by and I thought little of Firefly during that time. Then one day, I heard that Joss Whedon had obtained permission to release the entire series on DVD ; at the time, this was quite rare and I thought it was pretty cool. But what got me on the Whedon bandwagon was that I figured he was going to use money earned through the sale of the Firefly series to help finance the movie Serenity. That, excuse the expression, took some balls! And a lot of dedication to fans, cast, and story. I still may not be a Joss Whedon fan per se, but I have a ton of respect for the man from that alone.

Without going into a description of the Firefly TV series or the plot of Serenity, let’s talk about why I love this film. (We’re skipping plot and storyline because the series and movie are both a number of years old now, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably already quite familiar with them.) First of all, there’s the cast. You should already be familiar with how I feel about Nathan Fillion, but suffice it to say I love the guy. Add a bit of sexual tension between him and Captain Reynolds’ love interest Inara, played by the drop dead gorgeous Morena Baccarin, and there’s enough to make the movie worth watching already. Zoe, played by Gina Torres, whose loyalties to her ship, captain, crew, and especially her husband makes her the perfect first officer in the very best traditions. (I really want to make a Star Wars comparison here but people would get the wrong idea. )

Alan Tudyk as Wash, the ship’s pilot, and occasional comic relief was awesome. I still think he got some of the best lines in the film. Joss if you’re reading this, I want you to know I borrowed one of those lines for a short story for a class recently! Tudyk was and is an awesome actor, and I was excited to see him in another Whedon show that was prematurely cut short by Fox: Dollhouse. I’m beginning to understand that I hate Fox about as much as I hate Siffie.

Kaylee, Kaylee, Kaylee. I’m not usually into gingers, but I’d make an exception for you. That is, if the lovely Jewel Staite weren’t married. Kaylee came to represent the heart of the series and movie, and was the motherly figure the show needed. But it was Shepherd Book that represented the soul.

While the show never preached any particular moral code, Ron Glass’ Book gave credence to some moral compass and opportunity foe redemption that each character in their own way needed. At the same time, there was a lot of unspoken backstory to Book that we never properly explored. My suspicion is that Book was a high ranking officer in Independents’ military and was granted special immunity by the Alliance at the end of the war. In fact, as I think about it, he may have been responsible for the end of the war, perhaps negotiating the surrender of the brown coats.

While I could cover all the rest of the characters in similar loving ways, I will mention by name just two more. The first is River Tam played by Summer Glau. Although she seems to be typecast to play weird roles, Summer seems to be a young actress with a lot of potential. (I say she’s being typecast because of her roles on the Sarah Connor Chronicles and Dollhouse.) Between her acting, grace, and physical agility, she’s proven to me she can do anything. When I write a female character into my stories that I want to be a total badass, I need only think of River Tam’s stand against the Reavers.

The final character I want to highlight is known only as the Operative. For years I sought a villain that was self aware and cognizant of his role, and that was never fulfilled prior to Firefly. I say and mean Firefly and not Serenity because the Operative was a rebirth and reimagining of the bounty hunter Jubal Early in the TV series. Again, we have a character that is supremely capable physically and mentally, that has fully embraced their role in the larger story, and that makes him unique and special in my book.

After all of this, you should see that the character development in the film and TV series really was quite special. The characters each play a specific role, but blend together to be an amazing ensemble. But I’m still not done.

You can’t talk about a science fiction movie without talking about the special effects. Although the special effects were nearly all done with blue screens and computer generated imagery as expected with the modern sci-fi films, they were well above average. In fact, I’d compare 2005’s Serenity with 2009’s Avatar favorably any day, and remember, James Cameron spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing the technology to film Avatar the way he felt it should be done. That kind of coup is on par with what George Lucas did back in the 70s with Star Wars: do amazing work years ahead of everyone else trying to do the same, and in particular do it on a budget and better than those later attempts. In my opinion, the only things that Avatar did in a superior fashion to any thing in Serenity were the floating mountains and the huge color palette.

I loved the variety of spacecraft in Serenity and their various states of repair or disrepair. Some of the funniest lines in the film, in fact, center on the title ship’s state of decay. “Stuff don’t fall off my ship”, Mal states at one point, and at another complains to Kaylee “You promised me that buffer panel would last two weeks!” To which she responds, “That was six months ago.”  Not to mention, slightly earlier, Wash’s response to Mal’s inquiry about landing without the buffer panel: “Oh god, oh god, we’re all going to die?” (Which, by the way, is the line I quoted in my short story.) Lots of awesomeness abounds. Hell, there’s something remarkable in Serenity that isn’t even significant to the storyline: when the crew goes to collect their pay for ripping off the bank at the start of the film, the ship is essentially grabbed out of mid-air by a docking arm, and brought to a birth. I’ve never seen anything even remotely close to as unique as that in either books or film.

In all honesty, I believe that Whedon’s Serenity should be considered among the best of modern science fiction films, and should be considered retroactively for an Oscar or two.

Mr. Lucas, Stop Tearing Down That Empire!


I’ve already confessed to being a major science fiction nut, so I don’t think I need to reiterate that fact. I profess and honestly commit to loving the Star Wars saga & universe as much as I love that of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, and Firefly/Serenity. These shows and films have kept me going when my life seemed unbearable, and they’ve given me much to shoot for in my own life and writing.

So, I’m feeling more than a little angry right now that I’ve discovered that the next book in Star Wars: Republic Commando series has not only been canceled, but the author, Karen Traviss, has been burned, and official Star Wars canon is being rewritten in favor of the Star Wars: Clone Wars PC, kid oriented stories.

Where to start? Where to start?

When Boba Fett was introduced in the Empire Strikes Back, everyone became awed by the Mandalorians, and their history was quickly written into the lore of the Star Wars universe. They were a war like people that had been long at odds with the Jedi, going all the way back to the to the great wars between the Sith and Jedi. So, needless to say, they were a major power. According to the the previously established storyline, at some point the Sith betrayed the Mandalorians and pretty much broke them as a power player in the galaxy. They didn’t, however, become pacifists as the current Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon has declared. Instead, they became mercenaries and assassins; the Mandalorians became some of the most feared and respected warriors in the galaxy. So much so that Palpatine, as Darth Sidious, used one of the best of them, Jango Fett, as the template for the army that he would use to first divide then control the galaxy.

That is how those of us that really know Star Wars have known it; not just from the films, but also from comic books, novels, histories and backstories given on toys, and even the Star Wars web site among other sources. Personally, I’ve read more than 30 Star Wars novels since Timothy Zahn practically single-handedly resurrected the world with Star Wars: Heir to the Empire twenty years ago. Even now, I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in the Fate of the Jedi series, and it was my search to find the next book in that series that reminded me that I hadn’t seen or heard of the next book in the Republic Commando series that I was also reading. The last book, under the new series name Imperial Commando, was 501st chronicling some of the missions of Vader’s elite troops, and furthering the escape plans of some of the major characters from the prior books. I had purchased that book about a year ago, but I’ve been too busy with school to do a lot of reading over the last year, so I thought the next books in the series had just slipped past me. Until my search last night, that is…

When I discovered that the next Fate of the Jedi book, Conviction, wouldn’t be out for some months, I did a search for “Karen Traviss” and “Republic Commando” which lead me to this Wookieepedia article which states that the next book had been canceled. Reading through that article, I found a link at the bottom to Karen Traviss’ blog, and her post on the canceled book. While it is just one side of the story, it’s my gut feeling that it’s probably accurate. Even if I only had one reason, the revision to A New Hope making Greedo shoot first is evidence enough that George Lucas and LucasFilm aren’t shy about making a revisionist history of the Star Wars universe. I can tolerate the less roguish Han Solo. I love Ewoks. (Yes, I said it.) And despite the vast numbers of people that hate him, I’m cool with Jar Jar. But I really don’t know what in the hell they’re thinking by completely nullifying decades worth story telling within the universe, and undermining the work of the numerous authors that have told these stories on behalf of George Lucas and his companies.

Beyond Ms. Traviss and Mr. Zahn, star authors R. A. Salvatore, Troy Denning, James Luceno, and Aaron Allston have all written pivotal and significant portions of the Star Wars universe for Lucas. I know that Star Wars is Mr. Lucas’ child and puts a significant amount of money in his pocket every year, but why undermine the work of these fantastic authors, and alienate the millions of diehard fans like myself that spend fortunes on these books with a new canon history that completely contradicts everything we’ve been told for all these years…

This pisses me off almost as much as the Sci Fi channel becoming Siffie. Almost. I’m not going to go around shouting “‘F’ you Lucas!”, though I really wouldn’t blame all of these Star Authors if they chose to break their contracts with the publishers and Lucas over this kind of revisionist bullshit.